Houston Thanksgiving Week: How I Got My Business Class Flights for $0 Cash

November 14, 2017

Thanksgiving is only less than 10 days away and I haven't visited Houston in 10 years. I figured now would be the perfect time to take advantage of my stash of credit card points for some rewards travel without paying the steep cash cost, as well as enjoy a bit of lounging at the airport before the holiday feasts! Oh the excesses....!

 

Over the coming days, I will be posting details about what I have used to book this trip, as well as all the extra features and perks from credit card and loyalty programs.

 

 OMA - IAH, Nov 20th, 2017

 

I will be departing Omaha for an early morning flight, flying into Houston for 5 days. In Houston I will be staying at the JW Marriott Galleria for the entire trip, thanks to a certificate from a Marriott Flight and Hotel package that I got spare (details on this later).

 

Focusing on the flight component of this trip, I am pretty happy to report I managed to score an award without any cash cost for this redemption.

 

I have an American Express Platinum Business that I signed up for earlier this year in May. One of the great perks of the card is that if you buy any fare on American Express' Travel Portal flying with your annually selected airline, or with any business/first class travel on ANY airline, you can choose to pay with points and AmEx will refund 35% of your points used!

 

 

 

While this is a good option, it was even better earlier in the year when they offered to refund 50% of your points spent! I still managed to get grandfathered in on the 50% rebate rate as AmEx announced the change after signing up for my card, thus I was locked in for 12 months from my signup date rebating at a higher rate, so I still have around half a year of great values from this program.

 

At the 50% refund rate, it equates to 2 cents of travel value for every point you used for flights. At the 35% refund rate, each point equates to 1.5 cents of flights with the revised refund rate. Even at the lower rebate rate, it is still an equally competitive feature in my opinion compared to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which has a similar pay with points feature at their own travel portal at the 1.5 cents per point rate.

 

The downside with the AmEx is that you are limited to your selected airline if you are looking at economy seat options. Chase has a slight edge on offering more flexibility.

 

I managed to snag a business class direct flight on United for $550 on AmEx Travel. Using 55,000 points, I will be rebated 27,500 points once all is said and done. 

 

What's even better is that since the rebate is handled through the AmEx backend, the airline treats this as a revenue ticket so that I will earn miles for the flight along the way! Not bad for a double dip!

 

Granted, this is a grandfathered in perk and once it reverts to the 35% rebate rate it may be more beneficial for me to be using partner airlines to award this flight. However, this may still be a good option to research before booking, especially if you ever find discounted business class flights to compare those numbers with mileage redemptions.

 

All told, I spent 27,500 Membership Reward points for the flight, while earning an additional 2,455 miles on United that could go towards another future award with them. Best part is that I have not dipped into any of my cash reserves for traveling!

 

I will have more later this week going over my hotel award stay, as well as a trip report next week. What other options would you use to redeem for domestic travel on Star Alliance? Let me know in the comments section below!

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