In this blog post we ask the eternal question posed by philosophers throughout the ages:
The quickest, easiest, fastest way to do this right now would be as follows:
As per this offer, the CITI / AADVANTAGE PLATINUM SELECT WORLD ELITE MASTERCARD (what a mouthful) is offering 60k American Airline miles with $3k of spend within 3 months. It has an annual fee of $95, which is waived the first year. You can cancel the card later if you don’t want to keep it and never pay the fee. The card has no foreign transaction fees, so it’s a decent card to actually use when traveling and charging things internationally.
You may charge 3k worth of stuff after getting the card in 3 months anyway, particularly with Christmas coming up now, but if you don’t or just want to be fast/lazy (not the cheapest way of making artificial spend happen) – then just paypal your sibling/spouse/friend etc. and be done with it. Per the PayPal fee calculator, if I send my friend 3k, they receive $2,912.70. They can withdraw that money to their bank account then just send you a check, or however you get it back. Now you have 60,000 bonus AA miles and 3,000 AA spend miles totaling 63k. What can you do with that? Go to Europe in economy class, of course. I arbitrary chose ORD to DUS and back in April 2017, and there’s a ton of saver availability at 30k each way.
AA actually flies to DUS although availability seems rare on their metal. One could look for the carrier of choice or flights with nicer stops/layovers but I’m lazy and just looking for a quick win here. I should say a moment of potential pain is introduced here in that a lot of AA flights will partner with British Airways and hop through LHR (on BA or AA metal) – and going through England will screw you as an American, as it’s pretty much the only place you have to pay fuel surcharges to fly to/through on any AA or United award flight. Thus I have never visited London and avoid it like the plague. Point trips probably *never* make sense to England.
I hopped some days to avoid LHR and ended up with an Iberia through Madrid and Finnair through Helsinki itinerary. I think it’s more fun to try non-US airlines anyway. With points, no extra charge for flying into DUS and home from FRA or somewhere else either. I could probably keep putzing with this to find a more beneficial tax situation.
Ok flying from MAD lowers them a little, but still, gdamn Europeans and their taxes. I thought AA would be good for doing a straight up trip to Europe but AA you are disappointing me again.
Meanwhile, this is not a challenge at all over at United… it was trivial to find this, even direct of Lufthansa birds, which are of course highly rated.
It’s probably possible to get taxes and fees under $100 from other birds/cities, but I’m feeling lazy right now. I’m surprised this cost is 60k miles instead of 70k. I didn’t start hear because I didn’t think there was a 70k single card score, but since we don’t need one… the Chase Ink Business Preferred is 80k miles right now. However, their $95 annual fee is waived. One can of course get a business card, see can I get a business card? Hitting the spend by buying gift cards from an office store would also turn those 1x spends into 3x, slower than paypal, but a lot more points. 5k spend in 3 months. Shit, we rich then, may as well find something in business, we’re at 95k miles if we do that.
Now we’ve got a non-stop on one of the top rated airlines, Lufthansa, and I changed to coming back from Istanbul to get Turkish Airlines, also one of the top rated (with an amazing lounge you’d have access to) in Business (of course, you’d have to get from MUC to IST somehow in this itinerary. Surprisingly enough, it hops through LHR yet the taxes/fees are still under $100. 90k points, for 100k you can probably fly Turkish the whole way back and not hop through LHR. I’m feeling lazy and hungry at this point though.
In the end, I’m surprised it wasn’t easier to swing an economy trip for 60k miles on either and with < $100 in taxes and fees. Nonetheless, you can certainly do it more cheaply here than with most methods, relatively easily as well. If you ever want to fly business class, this is certainly the way to do it instead of paying stupid amount of money for it. I rate this article attempt at a mild success, it's close-ish to $100 at least! Doing the actual accounting and not looking for better flights:
- $87.30 paypal fees + 182.96 airline taxes and fees = $270.26 for the latter AA award itinerary
- $95 annual fee + 145.3 paypal + 106.66 airline = $346.96 for united award economy
- $95 annaul fee + $81.86 airline + 25 * 6.95 act fee gift cars + 0.80 money order liquidation * 5 = $354.61 worst case, most painful scenario for buying the economy + business united award (presently the direct flight alone from ORD to MUC is $1000. any business class flight is going to be $2-10,000.