The Danger of Using Credit Card Points to Buy AA and UA Tickets

Yesterday both American Airlines and United Airlines rolled out their new basic economy fares in limited markets.  These are cheaper fares that come with a number of restrictions like no carry-ons in the overhead bin, no seat selection, no flight changes (even for a fee), last boarding group, limited mileage accrual and lesser credits toward elite status. (Some of these restrictions are waived if you have elite status and/or hold one of the co-branded credit cards.) When you book these fares on their website, there should be clear indication of what is and is not included in your fare.2017-01-18-aa-basic-economy

Award Flights

Yesterday, Summer at Mommy Points investigated whether or not award tickets would fall into the basic economy structure.  The good news is that they do not.

Credit Card Points

We often tout credit cards that earn flexible points, like Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards.  Our normal use of MR and UR points is to transfer them to an airline or hotel partner’s frequent flyer/guest program to use on award flights/rooms.  But those points can also be used to book via the MR or UR travel portal directly.  The points are worth a fixed amount and you can book flights that might not otherwise be available as award flights.

Today Summer delved into the fares that are displaying on these booking portals.  What she found is that many of the flights displayed were basic economy fares but there was no way to know that when booking the ticket.  How much of a hassle would it be to carefully pack your carry-on for a weekend trip only to arrive at the gate and find that not only are you not allowed to bring it on board but that since you didn’t check it at the counter you’ll be charged an additional fee to check it at the gate!

I won’t duplicate Summer’s post here but it contains a lot of great information about the research she did and things to keep an eye on.

For now United has only rolled out basic economy on flights between Minneapolis (MSP) and their hubs (EWR, ORD, SFO, IAH).  American is offering basic economy on these routes impacting these airports: Baltimore-Washington (BWI), Charlotte (CLT), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Miami (MIA), New Orleans (MSY), Orlando (MCO), Philadelphia (PHL) and Tampa (TPA):

  • MSY and PHL/MIA
  • CLT and MCO/PHL
  • DFW and PHL, TPA, BWI
  • MIA and PHL/TPA

The big takeaway from this is to know what type of fare you’re getting before spending your hard-earned credit card points.

Categories: American Airlines, United | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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