Sunday, October 2, 2016

Don't Discount Delta and their SkyPesos and The Value of Transferable Point Currencies

Tonight is the beginning of the Jewish New Year which continues until late Tuesday night.  For that reason, there will be no Turnover Tuesdays post this week.  Happy New Year everyone!  

For today's post, most people probably won't learn anything new but it was something interesting that happened to me so I thought I'd share and maybe somebody can learn something from it.

I was booking a flight to TLV from the NYC airports this past week.  I had always been told that the best way to book miles from NYC to TLV was with United. Since I'm Jewish I assumed advice from Jewish friends on the best way to get to Israel must be true.

I knew about using Avios to do it very cheaply but it was complicated, the availability was very poor, it took a while to piece together everything and I always had domestic short haul flights as a way to use Avios.  I would always check but it usually meant an hour to piece it together only to find out it didn't work for my trip.

When I first got into miles it cost 80,000 miles roundtrip from NYC to TLV in saver level awards.  Since then the price has gone up to 85,000 miles.  I have been known to measure miles in terms of how many trips to Israel it will get me.  For example, if I was ordering $2,000 worth of iPads from Staples and they were offering 5x United miles on the portal (that actually used to happen last year), that was 2/17th of a roundtrip ticket to Israel for just purchase.

Either way, last year at some point someone pointed out to me that  United miles aren't even the best way to fly United to Israel.  If you use Singapore KrisFlyer miles to fly on Star Alliance, it actually only costs 75,000 miles.  

This was a revelation to me.  It meant that collecting United miles was no longer even close to collecting Ultimate Rewards points.  This should be true anyways since Ultimate Rewards can be used for cash and many other partners and booking flights as cash directly at 1.25x-1.5x but if you know you are going to use all your UR points on United anyways, so then collecting United miles was pretty much the same as collecting URs since the URs were heading into United.

Now, that's not so clear anymore.  URs can be transferred to Singapore instead.  Not only that, Thank you Points and Membership Rewards can be transferred to Singapore too.  Those can't be transferred to United.  It opens up a world of consolidating points.

There are important factors to know before doing this including timing your points transfers, how to book, etc.  All not for now, but the point is that the once obvious choice for me wasn't so obvious anymore.

Delta to the Rescue?

The next piece of information I was always told by lots of Bloggers was that I shouldn't bother collecting Delta SkyPesos.  Their availability was extremely poor and it was impossible to get good value out of their miles.  Sure, it's the best airline for service so great for cash, but useless for points.

When I booking this past week, it turns out that this piece of rock solid advice isn't really true either.

I asked a friend to help me out with the Singapore booking and he said, let me check Delta.  Delta!?

He checked and it turned out that Delta had flights that were available for 70,000 miles round-trip!  Not only that, but the availability was wide open.  Lots of different flights available, many more convenient than the ones from United/Singapore.

Well, I've never collected any Delta SkyMiles but that's were the transferable currencies come in.  I transferred the miles from Membership Rewards which had been sitting there since the $20k challenge and 5 minutes later I had enough Delta miles to fly.

So I'm flying to TLV on SkyMiles and I'm paying 70,000 miles per person round-trip.  That's certainly a lot of better than 85,000 miles on United and slightly better than the 75,000 from Singapore and there is no delay in having the miles transfer.  That can take a few days on Singapore.

There were a few takeaways from this turn of events for me:

1) Challenge the assumptions given to you.  Just because someone says BA is the best for short haul doesn't mean that there might not be something better out there

2) Have friends who are smarter than you

3) Transferable currencies are your friend.  You never know when you might find out that the "best way" to fly isn't really the best.  If you are collecting a specific airline's miles you are stuck with those, if you are collecting transferable miles, you can change directions very easily.

4) Don't keep a blind any to any airline's program.  You never know when they might become the cheapest and most convenient option.