Well I did it! Next year’s trip to Bolivia and Brazil is officially booked and my USA based airline miles accounts are pretty much wiped out. This is the culmination of what I had been working towards, after all what good are miles sitting in cyberspace? You need to use them and enjoy them! So where did I end up?
Brisbane-Santa Cruz, Bolivia: Used AA miles on QF & LA taking my account down to a measly 25,000 although I do have the Barclay’s Aaviator card with the annual 10,000 mile annual bonus so this account will slowly rebuild.
Santa Cruz-Sao Paulo-Fortaleza: Used Flying Blue miles for the Gol connecting flights, account is wiped out.
Sao Paulo-Auckland: Used British Airways Avios sourced from Ultimate Rewards, only had enough to get as far as Auckland. BA charges a higher amount if you use 2 or more partner airlines so I had to use Latam all the way and Sydney would have put us into a higher bracket. BA account now under 1000 miles.
Auckland-Brisbane: Used United (husband) & Singapore (me) small balances for this short segment. First time we have been on 2 separate PNRs but I got seats assigned in the same row (window & aisle) so no worries! Both accounts down to less than 500 orphaned miles.
All flights are in Y, I expected that J wouldn’t be available (it wasn’t) and that was all I could afford miles-wise.
SO WHAT NEXT?
Now that the 2018 trip is safely booked, I have discovered to my shock that I don’t need the US based accounts anymore. For the next 3 years, all trips are easily covered with miles/points earned through Aussie shopping programs (Coles-Velocity & Woolworths-Qantas) and use of my Aussie Amex 3x on grocery store shopping.
2019 – We will use Velocity and Qantas points to do some Pacific Island hopping with birding of course. I have all the miles & points required already!
2020 – We will use a combination of Singapore, Velocity & Qantas for birding in Indonesia (with some domestic flights paid in cash). I have about half the points required, will easily get them all by year’s end via shopping at Coles & Woolies. For now the plan is to fly in Y but maybe I can get enough shopping points to upgrade at least the BNE-SIN segment.
2021 – I’m eyeing a Papua New Guinea Cruise which can combine birding and a bit of luxury. Princess often has discounts on this cruise which sails from Brisbane. No flights this year, except maybe domestic Australia.
2022 – The Last Hurrah! I have 4 years to get as many as possible: Amex Membership Rewards, Qantas & Velocity for one last mega-trip to South America. This is so far ahead of the game I can’t even be sure miles and points programs won’t be obsolete. Worst case scenario would be using the Amex points to pay for tickets on the Amex travel portal.
So I have come to the surprising realization that I no longer need the USA credit cards or mileage programs. I have lost all interest in United due to devaluations and the routing restrictions. If I have any Ultimate Rewards left, I will send them to BA as I can always use them for Qantas or Latam and I can keep the account alive with the shopping portal. I’ll be cancelling the USA credit cards with annual fees when they next come due but will keep the AAviator for the annual AA 10k bonus well worth a $89 fee and the IHG card whose $49 fee gives us a free night in any of their hotels and platinum status.
It’s kind of hard and bittersweet to cut the USA programs loose as I have gotten some incredible flights out of them over the past 10 years but the Aussie game has been steadily improving and I find I can easily get what I need simply by strategic grocery shopping!