ITA matrix is a great tool with variety of advance search features available. This features are useful when you are trying to search for flights with specific criteria and want to quickly look what is available. They also help determine the fare for upgrade-able tickets using upgrade instruments provided to their loyalty program member elites by United Airlines, Delta Airlines or Alaska Airlines. The few of them are listed below:
Let's look at an example below for a flight from San Jose (SJC) to Philadelphia (PHL) in Virgin America through some snapshots below on ITA matrix. You could look up the 2 letter IATA code for airlines here.
As you can see from above that the Virgin America flights are available for $248 on few dates. Now let's see how can we replicate the same using Hipmunk from snapshots below. Hipmunk does not allow wide range of dates, so having a search done on ITA matrix helps us narrow down on potential dates which we feed to Hipmunk. You can see the results in below snapshots.
As you can see from above ITA matrix helps to narrow down the dates for cheaper fares and dates for San Jose (SJC) to Philadelphia (PHL) flight which in turn could be fed to Hipmunk for quick reservation. Of course not all features supported by ITA matrix could be directly used by Hipmunk, as well as there is limitation on how many segments could be fed in Hipmunk, but you could do lot of stuff by plugging in similar "coding language" from ITA matrix to Hipmunk.
ITA MATRIX is one of the best "free" tool available to search for the flights with variety of options. This is really useful if you are looking to fly a specific airline carrier, or you want to know which near-by airport has the cheapest available fare to your destination, or you are looking for the specific fare class which would still earn full 100% miles. Below is a sample list of things you could do using ITA MATRIX but by no means is exhaustive:
Although you can search different combination's as mentioned above the "ITA MATRIX" does not allow you to make a final purchase nor directs you to one. But most of the time knowing the fare exists would enable you to book your ticket either through OTA (Online Travel Agent) website such Expedia, Priceline or Orbitz or book through other meta search engine sites such as Skyscanner or Hipmunk. You can also book the tickets through various airlines own websites as well if you so desire. Also note that the search does not include any OTA or airline specific coupons or discounts which you could use if available.
Q: How to do a basic search with price per mile enabled?
A: To do the search with price per mile enabled you need to add "?showPricePerMile=true" at the end of webpage link of ITA MATRIX or use this link. Let's do a search for a 2 to 3 day roundtrip from SFO to MIA on any day in the month of September 2013 for Economy Cabin Class.
The result of the above search can be seen below in Fig 2. As you can see the rates are different for different dates as well as it shows if it is for 2 or 3 days turn as well. You can modify the highlighted box in "red" for search for different month or days of trip.
As you can see from Fig. 3, selecting the cheapest trip shown in Fig. 2 loads up variety of flights at different times as well as showing "price per mile" for those trips.
As mentioned this was a simple search with single source and destination. If you want to depart from either of SJC or SFO and your destination could be either of FLL or MIA, you could put that in the search box as shown in Fig. 4
For searching flights operated by only "American Airlines", you can enable "advance routing codes" field and add "AA+" or change the "Departing from" field to look like "SFO, SJC::AA+"
As you can see there are "tons" of possibility of advance code combinations you can use to make your search more specific, but remember if you put "too many generic" options the ITA MATRIX tool will simply time-out or exit with only "partial" results. So, it is prudent to make your search as specific as possible as well as having broad characteristics of details important to you. Below are some examples of advance routing codes which would be useful. We have assumed the "Departing from" to be SFO, but you have any other airport code for your search. The "two letter" code of each airline can be found here.
There are many more such codes which are useful to trim down to the flights you are looking for. more information about these can be found on the flyerguide post here. Hope this would be useful for planning your next trip with cash and knowing what were your options before making the purchase.
Most of the airlines in US have a co-branded card between themselves and the merchant bank. But there are few credit cards which earn points that can be converted to miles of number of airlines. These cards have advantage of filling out the void of few thousand miles required in specific airline program as well as help in accumulating enough points which can be converted to miles for a reward travel. Lets explore these cards further:
1. American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card: This is one of the go-to card for earning points which can be converted to lot of partner programs, most of them at 1:1 ratio. This card has following features:
The best part of this card is the redemption options available. You can redeem your points into miles for following airlines at the time of this writing:
There are other airlines as partners but for them you can redeem the points only for specific tickets. You can also redeem for various hotel partners but that's not the focus of this article. The complete partner list can be found by going here and selecting "Use Points -> Airlines"
2. Chase Sapphire Preferred: This is one of the favorite personal credit card for lot of people simply because of the ability to earn bonus points on purchases through its "Ultimate Rewards Mall". This card has lot fewer airline partners compared to American Express Premier Rewards card and it transfers the points at 1:1 ratio as well. United and Korean airlines offer great redemption value. This card also has some great features as listed below:
The airline partners are listed below:
3. Starwood Preferred Guest: The value of this credit card lies in points+cash redemption in its brand hotels as well as 1:1.25 points to miles transfer ratio to most of its partner airlines. So for every transfer of 20k points you end up getting 25k miles. Also the long list of partner airlines makes this credit card a good to keep. Below are the features of this card:
The amazing airlines partners list can be found here although few of them are listed below
Note: I do not earn any referral credit from the links above. Also I advise to look for best available offer before applying for the credit cards.
Your Problem: Imagine the situation that you have earned miles for flying one of your less favorite airlines last summer and accumulated few thousand miles but have no use for them. Or you stayed in that wonderful and expensive hotel and earned some of their loyalty program points but do not know what to do of those?
If you have face one of the above situation and want to get some value out of otherwise "wasteful" miles and points than you have "points.com" at your rescue.
If you have never heard about points.com or have heard bad things about points.com than stay with me as I would take you through some hidden gems of this program while avoiding the popular mistakes. Below are few features listed:
1. The program is free to join.
2. It allows to exchange, buy or trade miles and points between various participating airline and hotel programs albeit at some cost.
3. You can redeem the unused miles or points for either Paypal cash or gift cards.
Analysis of Points.com: Since points.com is free to join and you can potentially exchange, buy or trade your miles/points, it has some great value to offer if you use it correctly. Remember airlines and hotels do not want you to exchange or trade your otherwise useless miles and points as they know exactly that they are "useless". Points.com comes to rescue by getting some value out of those "useless" miles/points. Below are few hypothetical but could be real scenarios which would give you great value out of this program.
Scenario A: You have 2000 Elevate miles accumulated in Virgin America from the last flight you took for which you have no use of. You are planning to just forget about those miles and move on...
Solution: Hold on.. below I have listed few of many options available using points.com. You can trade 2000 Elevate points for:
1. 1580 US Airways Dividend miles
2. 878 United Mileage plus miles or American Airlines AAdvantage miles
3. 1700 Cathay Pacific Asia miles
4. 1700 Priority club points
You can check the complete list of available options here.
Scenario B: You are short by 43 miles for United Airlines Mileage plus reward level of 12500 points. You want to book the reward within next few days but do not know the cheapest way of getting those 43 miles quickly. Ideally if you want to buy from United Airlines you will need to buy in multiples of 1000 points at a cost of $35/1000 points without any ongoing promotion.
Solution: You realize that you are member of US Airways Dividend miles and you have about 250 dividend miles accumulated from the new member promotion they had some time back. You quickly log-on to points.com and you find that you can get 43 United Mileage plus miles in exchange of 200 US Air Dividend miles. Although looks like a poor conversion ratio, but hey mind you are saving $35! The complete list of option's for US Airways can be found here.
Scenario C: You have accumulated 6500 points on your flight with Cathay Pacific Asia miles more than 2 years ago. These points are going to expire soon and you do not want to transfer to any other airline partner
Solution: You can redeem 6353 points for $27 in Amazon credits good towards any purchase on Amazon.com
You can also trade miles from one program to another, but these are generally based on availability and usually costs almost the same as buying points from the Airlines directly. Your specific situation might vary depending on trade available etc
As you can see from above scenarios, that points.com best value lies in exchange where you have few thousand "useless" miles and sometimes in redemption of soon to expire miles. Also programs like Frontier Airlines do not allow you to redeem their miles for anything except flight reward or magazines, so you could potentially extract more value by using points.com for Frontier Airline transaction.
Below is the list of few popular points.com participating airlines and hotels:
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