How to save $183.80 on your next weekend getaway

And why everyone needs at least a small stack of frequent flyer miles

By Ben Gelsey

Recently an All Access member emailed me, asking if I knew of any good deals for August 16th - 18th from SLC - SEA (Salt Lake City to Seattle).

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Being peak summer travel season, unsurprisingly a basic Google Flights search was disappointing. At $295 roundtrip for the cheapest option, this route was way overpriced on these dates (it's only a 2 hour flight each way).

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Unlike in our Flights Machine deals, where we use the freedom of dates and destination to consistently find cheap deals, in this case our member's plans were fixed.

As an experienced points maven, this is where I reach for frequent flyer miles. As we can see from Google Flights, the airlines that fly nonstop between SLC and SEA are Alaska and Delta. While Delta wasn't competitive for this route, with Alaska I struck gold:

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By ever so slightly tweaking the itinerary (early Monday morning flight), we are able to fly from SLC to SEA for 10,000 miles and $11.20 out of pocket. Using the standard 1 cent per point valuation, 10,000 miles is like paying $100, for a total "price" of $111.20 when adding in the taxes and fees.

Just having a mere 10,000 frequent flyer miles in our back pocket allowed us to save $183.80 in "value" and $283.80 in actual cash. Now all of sudden this weekend getaway is costing just $11.20 out of pocket instead of $295. I can sure think of a lot better ways to spend that money that paying for exact same flight.

Strategically using our miles for this flight made them worth:

  • (295 - 11.20) * 100 / 10,000 == 2.838 cents per mile

2.838 is almost triple our conservative valuation of 1 cent per mile, so this is clearly a great use for them. They key is to be patient and to use your miles on trips that will actually save you a good amount of money, versus just burning them on any old trip (possibly for even less than 1 cent per point).

And just so you don't think I cheated by making the return flight on Monday instead of Sunday, the cash prices for Monday are still over $260:

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If you are wondering at this point how to actually acquire miles, the answer of course is signing up for credit cards and earning the signup bonuses (read the article to hear my story on doing this for the last 5 years).

If you have never done this before, the main airline cards are the:

For all the cards, as long as you use your miles the math works out to a nice profit. At the conservative 1 cent per mile, these cards earn you anywhere from $225 - $605 dollars after subtracting the annual fee. And in reality, if you are judicious in your redemptions and get at least 2 cents per miles (like the above example of 2.8 cents), your profit doubles (or more), now at $525 - $1305 for just 1 card.

While applying for the card, making sure you earn the bonus, and cancelling it before the second year's annual fee hits are tedious and might take a few hours, is your time worth more than the $200 per hour you might "earn" in value from doing this? As a small website owner mine sure isn't!

As for which card to start with, I recommend visiting FlightConnections.com and exploring where all the major airlines fly to from your home city. Here's Salt Lake City:

American Airlines (One World)

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United (Star Alliance)

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Delta (Sky Team)

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Alaska

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Southwest

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As we can see, Delta dominates in terms of coverage for Salt Lake City. But if you happen to be going to the one city that another alliance flies to, it sure is handy having their miles too. So I recommend starting with the main airline for your city and then strategically accumulating miles with the other airlines in advance of your travel plans (think about where your relatives live, next year's holiday plans, vacation ideas, etc).

Have any questions about this? Feel free to email me at [email protected] and I'd be happy to give some advice.

Lastly --- we're writing an ebook that is going to include 3 entire chapters on points collecting/spending. If you're interested just scroll down and drop your email to get access to early chapters and a discount when we release it 👇👇👇

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