The Great Value Of Buying Etihad Miles When Booking Awards

The Etihad Guest program is becoming increasingly interesting to me. The program is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Starwood Preferred Guest, and we’ve even seen several transfer bonuses.

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Not only can Etihad Guest miles be valuable for travel on Etihad (especially now that American AAdvantage has devalued those awards), but they can also be extremely valuable for travel on partner airlines, with some very lucrative redemption rates (unfortunately the process of booking can be a bit of a pain, as you have to call to book). Their best partners include Air Serbia, American, and Brussels.

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Etihad A380 First Class Apartment

Anyway, one of the lesser known aspects of the Etihad Guest program is that you can buy miles at the time you ticket your award, and it represents an exceptional value.

Some of you may be familiar with this concept from Avianca’s LifeMiles program, as they let you buy up to 60% of the miles needed at the time of ticketing for as little as 1.5 cents each.

Well, in the case of Etihad Guest the good news is that they let you buy miles at a significantly better rate, while the bad news is that they cap you at purchasing miles for 25% of your ticket’s mileage cost.

Let’s use a flight between New York and Abu Dhabi in first class as an example, which costs 117,556 Etihad Guest Miles, plus $179.30 in carrier imposed surcharges and taxes.

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When you get to the booking page you’ll see the “Miles Plus Cash Option” section, which has a sliding scale. At one end of the scale you’ll see the mileage needed for an outright award ticket, as well as the minimum number of miles you have to redeem.

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When you move the slider to the other end of the scale, you’ll see the price if you purchase the maximum number of miles at the time of booking.

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In this case, you could redeem 88,170 plus $443.77, rather than 117,556 plus $179.30. That means you’re paying $264.47 in order to save 29386, which is essentially an opportunity to “purchase” miles for ~0.9 cents each. That’s incredible.

You’ll find a similar rate for most other awards. Let’s use a business class award between Muscat and Abu Dhabi as an example.

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You can pay 13,043 miles plus 49.30OMR…

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…or you can pay 9,675 miles plus 60.92OMR.

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That means you’re saving 3,368 miles for 11.62OMR, or ~$30. Again, that’s like buying Etihad miles at ~0.9 cents each.

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Etihad Airways A380

Bottom line

If you are redeeming Etihad Guest miles through Etihad’s website, it’s a no brainer to pay for 25% of your ticket at the time of booking in cash, given that it’s an opportunity to pick up miles for ~0.9 cents each. That’s an amazing deal, and significantly less than what I value virtually any currency at that you’d otherwise be transferring points for.

The catch is that I believe this is only possible online, so you can’t use this when redeeming for partner airlines by phone.

This is definitely something to be aware of the next time you’re transferring points to Etihad Guest for the purpose of a redemption.

(Tip of the hat to LoyaltyLobby)

Comments

  1. Ben,

    A few questions. Is this processed by Etihad meaning you receive 3x/5x points on your credit card? To get the points for this price do you have to actually book a ticket? I don’t know if the Middle East carriers are subject to the 24 hour cancellation rule. Also, given partner awards usually need to be booked over the phone, will the agent give you this option for a partner award?

    Thanks

  2. @Jeremy – Lucky does say that this option is only online and not available for booking partner awards via phone. I do believe that it’s processed directly by Etihad though and it’s charged along with all the taxes and fees when booking the ticket. Not sure how it works if you cancel the ticket and ask for a refund. I believe all tickets that involve flying to or from the US, regardless of carrier, is subject to the 24 hour cancellation rule

  3. I recall there was a Residence price for LHR-AUH but didn’t realize that JFK-AUH is now available for points redemption at a whopping 2.44 million EY miles! WOW! Thinking more about it, I believe you can put 2 people in Residence for that same award price so at 1.22 million it’s not *that* bad. Remember the days when SQ Suites class was 1 million miles per person… hopefully someday EY will lower the award price.

  4. Does this allow you to book awards that you don’t have enough miles for straight up but you do if you buy up the last 25 percent? Or do you need enough to cover the award fully first?

  5. Can you do this with phone bookings? Like when you try to ticket oman air awards, will the agent allow this cash and points option?

  6. I am trying to get 2 First Class JFK-AUH but limited availability at 117k miles…nothing if you want to plan for next year :0(

  7. Hi Everyone, The question from @Joey was quite a good one, deserving of an answer (Oh knowledgeable Lucky, please) as to whether for the Residence, with two people flying together, you are booking the Residence itself as a total ticket (good for up to two people), or if one books the Residence tickets entirely on a per person basis. PS: This question possibly has a”double” answer… based on cash-purchase, versus a booking with points!

  8. So if my flight redemption is, for easy math’s sake, 100K miles, I would only need to transfer in 75K miles from Amex MR to be able to get to the redemption screen and book using this method? If that’s the case, this could then be combined with a transfer bonus (whenever the next one comes) for some serious value.

  9. Hi, Etihad used to award 25% of the miles & Tier miles for these bookings and published that fact BUT when I queried my missing miles from my last flight they said “Flights booked on these fare classes prior to 01-Jan-2017 were earning miles for the cash part due to a system anomaly which has now been fixed.” Has anyone else encountered this?

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