How I Got A Free Continental Airlines Flight With Membership Rewards Points?

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I just arrived yesterday at Atlanta for a weekend conference. What is interesting is how I got my airline ticket from my reward points.

The situation was that I am in Philadelphia, and was trying to book this trip 2 weeks ago (kind of last minute). I had a lot of Membership Reward points which I had gotten from using my American Express Gold Card.

Through several internet searches and phone calls, I found that Delta Airlines had the best direct flight. So I thought I could use just transfer 25,000 Membership Reward points to Delta Skymiles and get a free ticket. Turns out that seats allocated to frequent flyer miles have been taken up and I would need about 50,000 miles to get that free ticket!

So I checked with American Express to see what they could do. Turns out that they could get a Delta ticket for $430 (or thereabouts – which turned out to be cheaper than what the Delta rep was quoting me). Because my Gold Card was a “Gold Plus Card”, I could use my Membership Reward points for any airline without transferring points into air miles. In this case, I needed 43,000 points (1% reward ratio).

But I was still looking to use only 25,000 points! So a phone call was made to Continental Airlines. After some investigating, the rep told me that it was better to go to Newark and fly direct to Atlanta than to leave from Philadelphia International Airport and take a roundabout trip. Turns out that all I need was 25,000 miles and even the AMTRACK train ride to Neward was included in the package!

So I duly opened a new Continental Airlines OnePass account, transferred 25,000 points into the account and I was set.

At that moment, I did not have enough points in my Chase Flexible Rewards card and program and hence I could check to see if having that 25,000 points in Chase would help out at all. Furthermore, you need to book 21 days in advance!

But it just goes to show that depending on the situation, it may be better to use air miles, while in other cases, it may be better to use points from a regular credit card reward program. One of the key factors is how far in advance do you book your tickets. If you are always booking last minute flights, you may have to use more points than what is stated in the reward program. But I appreciated the flexibility of my American Express Preferred Gold Card as I could either transferred Membership Reward points to a frequent flyer account (if it made sense), or use it to books flights on any airlines. In this case, transferring points to Continental Onepass miles made the most sense for me.

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