ORD to SAN for $8.20 A Segment, 1 cent per Avios or 2.4 Cents per MR

My very understanding and accommodating wife has allowed me to take advantage of a a excellent direct flight deal to San Diego from O’Hare for February 2018 for only $8.20 a segment! This was achieved by taking the red eye flight both ways in conjunction with the $200 fee credit waiver on my AmEx  Platinum Card from Ameriprise. As some of you may have experienced, there has been a serious month long shutdown of the United Gift Registry.

This has been the message on the site to add to the registry since 07 Sep 2018. As of today (27 Sept 2018) there seems to be no sign of the site coming back online. I had failed to do my due diligence and check FlyerTalk for their data points. Stupidly, I had chosen United Airlines as my airline for my new Ameriprise AmEx Platinum card, which now had no way to add to my United registry with the shutdown.

In the end this turned out to not be a big deal, I called 1-800-615-0403 and just asked nicely to switch to American Airlines (I checked here to verify AA was still working). I explained that my travel patterns have changed. This was not a problem since I had not spent any of the credit. I got an email right away:

Dear Derp,

We received and processed your request to change your airline selection for the $200 Airline Fee Credit benefit to American Airlines and US Airways. You will continue to receive up to $200 in statement credits each calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your eligible Platinum Card® Account.

Eligible incidental fees include:
  • Checked baggage fees (including overweight/oversize)
  • Itinerary change fees
  • Phone reservation fees
  • Pet flight fees
  • Seat assignment fees
  • In-flight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, headphones)
  • In-flight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet because it’s not charged by the airline)
  • Airport lounge day passes & annual memberships
Please allow 2-4 weeks after you charge the incidental fee(s) for the statement credits to appear on your Account. We rely on airline transaction data to identify incidental fee purchases, so if you do not see a credit after 4 weeks, simply call the number on the back of your Card and we’ll be happy to assist you.

So keep in mind the gift cards are not listed, but because of the magic of merchant category codes (search for them here) some times a gift card codes as an additional covered fee and will trigger the $200 rebate. I charged two $100 gift cards on American Airlines in June, and sure enough they credited me the $200 two days later. I would of used my newly charged gift cards but there is a 72 hour hold on the gift cards when purchased. I figure I will switch my cards to American if the United Gift Registry never comes back.

Now I looked at other options before resorting to using my $200 in gift cards. Since the distance between ORD and SAN is over 1,152, but less than 2,000 miles they want 10k Avios for it. This seems like a great deal, until you pull up the actual cost of the flight:

It would only be 1 cent per Avios which is pretty low when compared to some amazing redemption I have gotten before. I decided to look at using the Visa Discount Air via my Ritz Carlton Card:

Again this would be an amazing deal at $83 a segment, but I could not find anyone to fly with me, and gift cards cannot be used on this site. I then settled on using my $200 gift cards and booking directly on the AA.com site:

It was easy, you just enter the card number and PIN when checking out. I was left with a $16.80 charge of which I paid with my AAdvantage Silver card from BarclayCard to earn 50 AAdvantage miles (3x miles per $1):

That is $8.20 a segment, free checked bags (military waiver), free Admirals Club (military CAC), free $10 Airspace Lounge at SAN (AmEx Plat), and all thanks to the $200 gift card bought with the reimbursement from the annual fee waived AmEx Platinum. I thought this was a screaming deal, but I made the mistake of still looking after booking. I checked the AmEx Travel site to see that my flight pair had an insider deal:

If I had booked the same flight with 20,511 MR points via AmEx travel, I would of gotten 10,256 MR back as my 50% as well as 1,085 from the 5x personal booking. I would have only spent 9,170 MR for a $217 flight at a whopping 2.4 cents per point! Lesson learned, even if you have the Avios and the gift cards, don’t be quick to just dump miles or use credits for the sake of a free flight. Make sure you do your due diligence and maximize those points and bonuses!

-Derp

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