Earlier this week Enoch of PointMeToThePlane shared the results of an experiment where he used the Citi ThankYou points portal to pay for part of an American Airlines ticket. While not something unusual at first glance, Enoch pointed out that the earning was based on the distance flown instead of the amount spent. Interestingly enough, the qualifying spend was also based on the distance flown. The reason for this is that the ticket is a special fare.
American is by no means unique in offering special fares. In fact, United and Delta also have these fares. The frustrating thing is that it isn’t always clear what kind of fare you are buying, particularly with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), because the fare type is different from the fare code. Bulk fares like this will still have the same letters you are used to seeing when purchasing tickets directly from the airline.
Julian over at FrequentMiler expanded on this information in the blog’s Devil’s Advocate column. You can see charts for the fares discussed on each airline’s website. These charts are also below, and each is accompanied by a link to the exception fare page for the respective airline.
While this might seem appealing, especially to earn more miles on cheap fares, be very careful with these bookings. As you might notice with the links above, the spend earning rate is sometimes 0% of the miles flown (as with United for non premium fares).
Another dangerous thing is that when you book using an OTA, you might wind up buying a ‘basic’ fare. Rene at RenesPoints detailed his experience comparing the prices at OTAs with what is offered from the airline, you sometimes don’t receive any warning in your booking. Like Citi, Chase allows you to spend their rewards points to buy tickets through their online portal. Rene pointed out that when booking this way, you don’t receive any warning that the ticket you are buying is Basic Economy.