You probably felt the disturbance in the Force a couple of days ago as travel blog after travel blog screamed in pain as they revealed that Korean Air and Chase will part ways next week. While I was never able to take advantage of the great opportunities that Korean Air presented to some, I still had that option on the back of my mind for a future trip to Hawaii, Korea or Europe. At this point, we are getting ready to go on our big vacation of the year, but you can’t blame us for proactively working on the following one. It’s what we do! While we are well on our way to securing our hotel stays, it’s time to revisit the airline strategy.

With Korean Air out of the running, we could try a couple of things, however the clearest option would be to go after American Airlines miles. The point would not be to travel on AA planes alone, but also look into booking partners across the Atlantic and South America. Both Citi and Barclays offer cards with appealing sign-up bonuses. Since the trip would be next year, we have time to get the bonuses with enough time to be able to book business saver awards.

In theory, it would take as little as spending $5,002 ($2,500 x 2 with Citi, $1 x 2 with Barclays) on 4 AA co-branded credit cards to obtain 200,000 miles. For those who qualify as a business, the AA- Citi business card is offering 70,000 after spending $7,500 as of this writing. A roundtrip MileSAAver award in business/first costs 115,000 miles. Unlike Marriott, AA is not yet limiting our ability to get bonus offers from 2 partners. Since Marriott just came up, it seems that with SPG gone, Marriott will now be only way to transfer points to AA. While one can earn AA miles with both Citi and Barclays cards, AA won’t allow points to be transferred. Both Delta and United allow transfer of points from their respective partners. The rest of this year and next will be AA-focused, we already deployed similar strategies with Delta and United.

Besides the availability of 4-6 different AA miles earning cards with decent bonuses, another encouraging sign came to us from the excellent blog Travel is Free which recently looked at award availability among the big 3 US airlines and found that AA is not as bad as we feared. We highly recommend reading the entire article and doing your own award comparison search since availability varies by destination and time of the year, etc.

A few things to keep in mind, pooling AA miles can be an extremely expensive and unfair proposition thus we have to find creative ways to book a trip for 4. We will also have to look into the AA portal and any other opportunities to generate AA miles without actually flying AA.

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