Everyone knows you should stretch your pennies, but what about stretching your points and miles. With Chase and American Express making credit card approvals more difficult, it only makes senses for us to spend our points wisely. Off season awards make your miles go a LOT further!
American Airlines offers “off-peak” mileage awards which nets you up to 25% in point-savings compared to “peak season” award flights. The good news is American Airlines lays it out very clearly in their award chart.
Notice in the first column the “MileSAAver Off Peak” rates. The best discount is for European off-season award flights, 22,500 one-way off-peak versus 30,000 points during peak seasons. Citi and Barclay both offer American Airlines credit cards with occasional bonuses in the 50k-60k range. If you fly to Europe in the off-season you would have enough points with just ONE credit card sign up bonus for a round-trip. Do keep in mind that the city you return from in Europe will dictate the amount of fees you will pay in addition to your points. Some of the cheaper countries are Spain and the Netherlands, only costing about $55-$60 in fees per passenger. On the flip-side, returning from England will cost you roughly $200 in fees on top of your miles.
If Europe isn’t your flavor, there are great redemption options for Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean for only 12,500 one-way. The same “cost per country” rule applies to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. If you use points to fly into Jamaica you will pay about $140 in fees, compare that to $75-$80 by flying to Aruba, Costa Rica, or Mexico.
Where is the catch? These are OFF PEAK awards meaning you will have to travel within a particular time frame. Let’s look at the windows you must travel in to qualify for off-peak savings. If you are wanting to heading to Europe for 22,500 each way, you will need to fly between Nov 1st and December 14th. Your second window for off-peak to Europe is Jan 10th through March 14th. I am sure you are thinking, “it is going to be pretty cool during those times”. For most of Europe you would be correct, however, keep in mind you can get to Madrid, Barcelona, and Rome for 22,500 points one-way off-peak! Those three cities would have relatively decent weather for walking around even during off-peak times, just be sure to pack a jacket.
Considering a one-way flight from the East Coast to Rome is going to be about $400 by paying cash, you are getting 1.7 cents per mile at 22,500, which is pretty good for American Airlines!
If you are planning on visiting the Caribbean or Central American during off-season you will need to do so between these dates: September 7 – November 14 & April 27 – May 20. Remember, you can book the flights at any time you just need to make sure the flight dates fly in between the date cutoffs. Make sure to check out the hurricane seasons if you are considering one of these areas in the fall.
Only 25,000 miles round-trip and $80 in fees to Sint Marteen. Compare that to the cash ticket price of $705 for the exact flights!
This round-trip to Sint Marteen would be a great redemption at 25,000 points off-season versus $705 cash price. Be sure to check out Maho Beach if you make it to Sint Marteen in the Caribbean!