Sunday, November 20, 2011

Early interview planning

I was offered an early interview by an Emergency Medicine program in New York City, which I was glad to accept. Scheduling interviews early is advantageous, but ends up limiting your travel options because of proximity to travel date.

The rewards programs that I have tons of points in are American Airlines AAdvantage, British Airways Executive Club, Continental OnePass, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and American Express Membership Rewards. Before booking any tickets, I will go through these programs to see if I can get any award tickets.

Some limitations to note are that airlines will often only leave a few award seats per flight, so they can be sold out if you try and book to close to the travel date.  Additionally, airlines have recently imposed new fees for booking an award ticket within a week or two of travel. For example, American Airlines and Continental Airlines will charge $75 if the award ticket is booked within 21 days of travel, but is free otherwise.

I only wanted to purchase a one-way ticket from the West Coast initially, because I didn't know if I'd have another interview in the area immediately following this interview, though it was very early on.

My options were:
Continental Airlines 12.5k OnePass award, plus $75 in fees
American Airlines 25k AAdvantage award, plus $75 in fees

Additionally, I always have the option of just purchasing the ticket if it is cheap enough or is a better deal to me than spending frequent flier miles. Searching Kayak, I found that I could get a flight through Delta at an ideal time for only $195. Booking through the American Express Travel website, this flight would cost me 19,500 Membership Rewards points.

Because I'm in the Membership Rewards First program, thanks to my American Express Platinum Card, I get a 20% bonus back in points, so the net cost to me was 14,820 Membership Rewards points and no fees.  Besides not paying a dime for this ticket, I also earned miles for booking this trip, which I'll explain in the next post.

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