Hotels.com_ObviousChoice_RGB_center_1.jpg Loyalty Rewards


I stayed at the Grand Prince Hotel in Kyoto using my loyalty points, which would have otherwise cost me $330... and since there are almost no major US-branded hotels in Kyoto, I would have been out of luck!

I stayed at the Grand Prince Hotel in Kyoto using my loyalty points, which would have otherwise cost me $330... and since there are almost no major US-branded hotels in Kyoto, I would have been out of luck!

When you're staying somewhat off the grid and no major hotel chains are available, it can pay to have a loyalty account with The booking service is owned by Expedia, the world's largest travel provider, and basically sits overtop any individual hotel's online booking service. Basically, stay ten times with a hotel and you can then stay one night for free at the average price you paid for those ten previous stays. 




A few other important facts to know:


  • If you have any "overage" in redemption value versus the price of the hotel you wish to stay in, that credit is lost. For example, if the average value of your ten hotel stays leading up to the award is $200, and you stay in a hotel that only costs $150, you lose that $50 value upon redemption. 


  • rewards are flexible to redeem, meaning that you can redeem for a $500/night hotel even if your free stay is only worth $200, and then pay the difference
  • You can accrue points at more than 100,000 hotels
  • You can redeem a free night anytime (no blackout dates)
  • Members get access to special pricing on hotels



Sign up for a loyalty account at's loyalty page


Complete 10 stays 


Book your hotel as normal on, then on the Reservation Summary page, select  redeem™  rewards. Simple as that!

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Book an Amazing First-Class Award Flight With American Airlines Miles

A Step-by-step guide

American Airlines miles are some of the most valuable out there, especially for first-class international tickets. Because AA belongs to the OneWorld alliance, your miles give you access to seats on some of the world's finest airlines, like Cathay, JAL (review here), Qantas, and others. 

American Airlines' reward chart has some especially interesting "gaps,"- for example, first-class from North America to Asia Region 1 (which includes Japan, Korea, and Mongolia) is only 62,500 miles. That's the same number of miles as a trip to Europe, and if you're leaving from, say, Chicago, it's a 14-hour flight to Japan, but only 8-9 hours to Europe- almost twice as much flight for the same number of miles. There are 20+ Three Star restaurants in Japan I need to visit, so this is particularly interesting to me.

Asia Region 2 includes places like Hong Kong, which has 7 Three Stars. For only 67,500 miles, you can fly first class on Cathay Pacific, (review coming soon) which is one of the finest flying experiences available, I'm told.


If you haven't already, create an American Airlines frequent flyer account, then create a British Airways frequent flyer account. You only need to create the British Airways account to find the tickets- don't worry about collecting BA miles because those are mostly worthless anyway.


Get enough miles to book a ticket. A quick way to get 75,000 miles (as of this writing) is the Citi Executive Aadvantage Card. Alternatively, you can apply for the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card and transfer the 30,000 bonus points they currently offer to AA. You'll get a 20% bonus for the transfer (which is normal,) but AA is also offering an additional 20% bonus until the end of August, yielding you 43,200 miles with their current promotion. Or, fly a lot, obviously. 


Here's where things get awesome. American Airlines isn't stupid, and they know that their OneWorld partners are some of the best-service, highest-end airlines in the world. So, given a choice between flying AA's direct flight from Chicago to Tokyo versus Japan Air Lines (which is awesome) you'd be ridiculous to pick AA. In addition, the JAL fight is probably a few thousand more dollars than the AA flight, so to protect themselves from high-value redemptions, AA has chosen not to publish all OneWorld alliance award fares on their website.

But British Airways has.

So, we can use BA's website to find award fares that American Airlines must honor, and in a later step call American Airline's contact center to book the ticket. 


Log in to the British Airways award website:


Set up your From and To cities- I live in Chicago, so naturally I pick O'Hare's code- ORD. 

In this example, I'll be booking tickets to Tokyo, which has two major airports- Haneda and Narita. Both are great and are served by major airlines, so to capture both I put in TYO:


British Airways will ask you if you want stopovers. Say no, unless you're an expert and already know what you're doing. 


Find the specific date you're looking for, which can take some finagling. The best approach is to scan for flights far in the future while your plans are still flexible. You can navigate between days by clicking the days on the week calendar in the middle left of the page.

 Hitting gold looks like this: 


Now that you've located a viable flight on a viable date, it's time to call American Airlines at 1 (800) 433-7300 and book the ticket. The people working in those call centers won't be terribly helpful- they will likely suggest terrible American Airline routings over the partner fares, once again because this arbitrage opportunity exists- but stay persistent and they will book your ticket. It helps to have the specific flight number on-hand (in this example, JAL flight 9).

A quick note- since American Airlines has not published these fares on their website, you do not have to pay the Telephone Ticketing Fee of $40. Make sure to mention this to the agent before you hang up! No sweat if you forgot- just call back and ask for a supervisor; they will remove the charge from your card.

That's it!

Just so you can see that I wasn't kidding about British Airways miles being useless, that same exact flight that would have cost you only 62,500 AA miles and about $50 in fees would cost almost double the number of miles and double the fees with British Airways:


The Citi Executive Aadvantage Card

Advertising disclosure- I do not get an affiliate/application bonus from Citi to discuss this card. The only advertising on this site is Google Adwords links. 

November 2015 UPDATE: the bonus has been reduced to 50,000 AA miles, but the purchase requirement dropped too- now only $5,000 in 3 months. 

Via Mommypoints and The Points Guy, Citi recently announced a 75,000 American Airlines bonus for opening and meeting a (hefty) minimum spending requirement of $7,500 in the first 3 months. A few other important facts to know:

The Good

  • Membership to American Airlines' Admirals Club is included- so if you live in a hub city, you can snack on hors d'oeuvres and enjoy inexpensive beer and wine if you decide to show up to the airport a few hours early
  • $100 towards Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check applications
  • 2 miles for every $1 spent on the card. Pretty standard.
  • 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (miles that progress you towards elite status, but aren't spendable on award tickets) after you spend $40,000 on the card
  • Free checked bags on domestic itineraries. Also pretty standard for airline cards, especially one this expensive
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Concierge service
  • Especially for international first/business-class travel, American Airlines Aadvantage miles are some of the most valuable out there. 

The Bad

  • The (also hefty) $450 annual fee is not waived in the first year
  • $40,000 spend for 10,000 EQMs? Concierge service? This is a high-spenders card; those who won't take advantage of most card features should take pause
  • If you're already an elite traveller, the free checked bag service is useless