Travelling on Points? You gotta buy a lot of garlics.

Loyalty cards. We all have them. Sometimes multiple memberships. But when I was taking a closer look at travelling on points to get an air ticket, I decided to just buy the ticket with cash and use my points elsewhere.

Every program is a bit different in points accumulation and what they are worth. Some will make you collect 20,000 points for a short haul domestic flight and others 1200. But in general, on a dollar to dollar basis, every dollar you spend towards your chosen loyalty program, should get you 1 to 4 points. (Aventura, Canadian Tire etc.)

I was looking at some flight deals and wanted to use some points. Here’s a screen shot of the random sale airfares from Calgary with Flight Centre.

So I checked with Airmiles to see how many miles I’d have to use to get a ticket from Calgary to China.

Looks like 8000 miles. I checked to see how much I’d have to buy at participating merchants that I regularly shop at.

Shock number 1. I’d have to buy $160,000 worth of groceries at Safeway or build a small house from Rona materials just to get a ticket to Shanghai? Now read the fine print. Maybe you can’t because it’s extra tiny, but if you could you’d see that you have to pay all fees and taxes extra.

Shock number 2. Look at the fare to Shanghai again. $106? It may be a ridiculous number of stops, but it’s a real fare (at time of screen snip).

Shock number 3. Redeem 8000 miles for a cash fare of $106 and then pay $510 in taxes plus pay the Airmiles ticket booking fee up to $50 per ticket.

Somehow, this does not compute, yet people fervently want to use their points for travel when they are so much better off using them for anything but travel. For example, if you accumulated 8000 cash miles you get $10 for every 95 reward miles used. So your 8000 miles would get you $840 in merchandise. That’s quite a few garlics. And there’s no tax on groceries (so far).

I’m not trying to pick on Airmiles. All the air reward programs use a similar system, but details vary. My point is that people get hung up trying use points on airfares when a high percentage of the ticket actually goes to taxes that you can’t use your points to pay for. But I do have one other word of advice.

If you do want to use use your points for air travel, use them in Canada or the U.S. where the fares are at least higher than the taxes.

For some other tips on collecting and using loyalty rewards see this post from VanCity Credit Union.

If you want to check any airfare deals with me at Flight Centre you can go to this page on my IFC site . Also check the right side bar of his post for a link to other specials for tours. If you can’t see anything published that you are interested in, contact me directly. I have access to a lot of inventory that is unpublished. Just click the image below.

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