Reminder: Don’t waste points by adding extra legs to an existing journey
Visiting another city might only cost you $20 if you do it the right way.
If you have a small stash of points sitting around, it can be tempting to spend those on a domestic flight that's attached to a longer-haul journey. But before you do that, make sure that you're not wasting the points. If you book a through flight, you might find the extra leg is actually much cheaper.
I was reminded of this recently when helping my mum plan a trip to Calgary. As a result of regular visits there, she has around 30,000 points with Air Canada's Aeroplan scheme. Air Canada runs direct flights from Sydney to Vancouver (and also Brisbane to Vancouver), and it seemed like it might be sensible to use the points to add on the Vancouver to Calgary leg.
However, closer examination suggested that wasn't a good idea in this case. For a return flight from Sydney to Calgary around the time I was investigating, Air Canada quoted between $1,841 and $2,052 depending on the travel dates. The cost for flying Sydney to Vancouver ranged between $1,831 and $2,032. So adding the extra Calgary flight leg only cost an extra $20 or so.
At that price, there's no point in booking the internal flights separately, or using points to pay for them. That's a terrible dollar return per point spent, as well as the potential hassle of having your luggage listed on two separate bookings. Far better to just book the through ticket and be done with it, and keep the points for other purposes (perhaps a separate side trip in Canada).
Yes, that won't always be the case, and yes, if the points were just about to expire, it might be worth getting something for them rather than nothing. But if you're considering using points in this way, make sure you've found out the actual ticket cost first, so you can maximise the value. Using points for a flight that only costs $20 is potentially even worse value than using your points to pay airline taxes, another common mistake.
Side note: yes, there are potentially cheaper flights to Canada to be had with United, Air New Zealand and others. However, those nearly all involve passing through the USA, and that means having to clear US customs when you land, even if you're not staying in the country. You can also route via South-East Asia, but that sucks up even more time. Everyone has a different balancing point for frugality, timeliness and points earned.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.
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