Using Points & Miles to Upgrade Travel Experiences
While credit card points and frequent flyer miles allow you to book free flights and hotel nights in standard rooms, savvy redeemers can utilize their rewards balances in other ways to upgrade the travel experience. Understanding options to use points and miles for premium cabin seating, elite status perks, and posh hotel suites allows you to splurge on dream vacations.
Upgrade Options with Frequent Flyer Miles
Common ways to use airline miles for flight upgrades include:
First Class Tickets
Redeem more miles to book first or business class award seats on flagship routes offering lay-flat seating and premium service.
Elite Status Upgrades
Leverage your status earned through credit cards, miles, or paid flights to confirm space-available upgrades to premium cabins.
Premium Cabin Awards
Some loyalty programs open limited award availability in first class cabins bookable with miles.
Cabin Upgrade Rewards
Use miles to bid and upgrade regular economy tickets to business class at check-in or online pre-departure.
Premium Hotel Redemptions
Hotel co-branded credit card points unlock options like:
Redeem extra points for free nights in spacious multi-room suites with upgraded amenities and elite perks.
Book points rewards at high-end luxury properties in coveted destinations like the Maldives, London, or Dubai.
Guaranteed Late Checkout
Hotel elite status through cards provides guaranteed late checkout up to 4pm for POINTSd guests.
Annual Free Night Certificates
Use annual free night certificates provided by hotel cards at expensive high-tier properties to maximize value.
Airline Elite Status Fast Track Opportunities
Co-branded airline credit cards allow shortcuts to priority boarding, lounge access, fee waivers, and premium seating upgrades through:
Automatic Top-Tier Elite Status
Cards like the United Club Infinite Card include instant Premier 1K status with UNITEDH as a benefit.
Priority Mileage Earnings
Certain cards provide bonus elite qualifying miles from spending, accelerating status.
One-Time Elite Status Boosts
Offers like the American Airlines Admirals Club card confer one-year Platinum status, up from basic membership.
Fee Waivers for Paid Elite Status
Having the airline’s credit card waives some or all the fees for status levels you must pay outright to qualify for.
Using Points for Travel Luxuries
Exchange points for indulgent experiences like:
Private Jet Charters
Some programs allow transferring miles to book hourly private jet flights.
Limousine Airport Transfers
Arrive to your hotel in style by reserving a private sedan or SUV transfer service.
Cruise Cabin Upgrades
Bid points to get a balcony stateroom, spa suite, or exclusive dining privileges.
Trade miles for bucket list sightseeing trips like Everglades swamp tours or Hawaiian volcano excursions.
Ways to Earn More Points for Upgrades
To maximize balances for upgrades, leverage:
Lucrative Welcome Bonuses
Apply for premium travel cards with large new member bonuses after meeting minimum spend.
Bonus Earning Categories
Use cards that provide extra points on frequent purchases like gas, groceries, restaurants.
Activate special offers then visit online retailers through mileage program shopping sites.
Frequent participating restaurants to earn bonus miles for meals.
Buy Points Promos
Purchase extra miles when programs offer discounts like a 25-50% bonus.
Transferring Points Between Programs
Combine flexible credit card points and hotel programs to maximize redemption options:
- American Express Membership Rewards transfer to airline partners to top up frequent flyer accounts.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards® move to United, Hyatt, Marriott, and more.
- Citi ThankYou® Points transfer to airline programs like JetBlue.
Transfer only amounts needed for a specific redemption and avoid sitting idle.
Points + Cash Co-Pays for Upgrades
If short points for a premium room or airline service upgrade, cover the gap by:
- Using airline miles to book and paying cash for added fees only
- Splitting hotel costs between free night certificates and cash rate
- Combining points transferred from multiple loyalty programs
- Paying cash toward an upgrade after redeeming for the base experience
This unlocks aspirational redemptions without needing huge points balances.
Maximizing Co-Branded Credit Card Perks
Use cardholder benefits that make the travel experience more luxurious:
- Lounge access for premium food, drinks, and amenities before flights
- Annual free night certificates for high-end properties
- Elite status for room upgrades, late checkout, and club lounge access
- Airline fee credits reimburse in-flight WiFi and dining purchases
- Travel credits and annual points help offset indulgent onboard costs
Premium card benefits unlock VIP treatment and services when used strategically.
Managing Accounts and Points for Upgrades
Best practices for maximizing points balances include:
- Maintaining cards open to benefit from renewal bonuses
- Preserving credit history by keeping old accounts open
- Opting out of expiration policies if programs allow
- Monitoring account changes, mergers, or sudden policy shifts
- Pooling household points under primary collector accounts
Proper ongoing account management prevents losing hard-earned points over time.
Key Takeaways for Upgrading with Points
- Understand award charts and redemption options for your programs
- Transfer flexible credit card points to desired loyalty accounts
- Pool points across cards and household members
- Combine rewards from paid travel, bonus categories, transfers
- Use perks from premium cards to enhance the experience further
- Pay cash to supplement points if redemption just shy of goal
With diligent rewards maximization and opportunistic transfers, dream vacations upgrading the entire travel experience become more attainable through strategic points and miles redemptions.