Two weird redemptions I just made

I try to be as transparent as possible about my own mile and point redemptions because I'm absolutely atypical compared to most travel hackers: I don't have a family so I'm shopping for a maximum of 2 seats; I generally don't mind flying coach (as long as I get an aisle seat, preferably in an exit row); and I take 2-4 vacations per month, visiting friends and family all over the country, which means I need to stretch my miles and points as far as possible.

That colors my manufactured spend strategy, and makes my experience more or less irrelevant for some readers (you can't redeem SkyMiles for first class seats, so all my Delta posts are useless for those interested in flying in international first class cabins).

In that spirit, here are a couple weird redemptions I made on Saturday.

Ultimate Rewards points for a cheap American flight

Besides my Chase Freedom cards, these days I'm earning Ultimate Rewards points with a Chase Ink Plus card at 0.67 (office supply stores) and 0.49 (gas stations) cents each, and I have a lot of them. Those points can be redeemed for 1 cent each in cash, transferred to Hyatt, United, and Southwest for quite valuable redemptions, or redeemed for 1.25 cents each for paid airfare.

For an upcoming trip to Reno, I was looking at a $199.60 one-way flight on American Airlines (I had already booked the return with Flexpoints). I've long found these piddling airfares to be some of the most annoying to game: they're too cheap for 20,000 Flexpoint redemptions, but also too cheap to redeem a valuable mileage currency like Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles for. I could pay with my Barclaycard Arrival+ card, but I have plenty of travel purchases waiting for redemptions and don't need an additional one.

So instead, I redeemed 15,968 Ultimate Rewards points for the ticket. Those points cost me (on average) 0.58 cents each, or about $92 all together. In other words, I got a 54% discount on a paid ticket. That's nothing to aspire to, but there's a good reason why I did it: I don't need the points for any upcoming transfers and they're only worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash.

PayPal Extras MasterCard points for an even cheaper flight

Here's one that readers might actually find useful, if they've been following my PayPal adventures for the last few months. A PayPal Extras MasterCard is permanently linked to the PayPal account through which you applied for it. But when that PayPal account is closed (or "permanently limited" in their jargon), the Extras MasterCard continues to work and, importantly, continues to earn points.

Ordinarily, Extras MasterCard points are worth 0.83 cents each in cash: you can redeem 6,000 points for $50 deposited instantly into the linked PayPal account. With all my PayPal accounts permanently limited, that wasn't going to work for me, so I started exploring the other points redemptions available.

It turns out that for the month of February, virtually all redemptions have been cut in price, in some cases dramatically. For almost all gift card and travel redemptions, Extras MasterCard points are worth 1 cent each in February.

Two of those redemptions are for "flight discounts" of $100 or $300:

In late April I'm returning to Lexington, Kentucky, to visit an old friend and bet on some horses. I was able to easily book my outbound flight with 12,500 Delta SkyMiles, but there was no award availability for my return. There was, however, a perfect American Airlines itinerary that cost just $174.60. Whenever practical, my preference this year is going to be to book paid American flights in order to credit them to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.

So I redeemed 10,000 Extras MasterCard points for a $100 discount on the flight. When redeeming Extras MasterCard points for a travel discount, you're taken to an extremely primitive travel portal run by a 3rd party provider. Fortunately, that means you don't need to pay for your flight with your Extras MasterCard. That's unlike, for example, a partial Ultimate Rewards redemption, which requires you to use a Chase credit card for any remaining amount after applying Ultimate Rewards points.

I used my Arrival+ MasterCard, and the charge appears in my pending transactions as "American Airlines," so I'm confident I'll be able to redeem Arrival+ miles against the remainder.