As the saying goes, “Paris always a good idea”. We love visiting Paris and had a trip planned for May 2020. The flight was booked with Air France Miles. The trip was cancelled due to Covid 19. We called Air France, cancelled the flight, and the Air France miles were redeposited into our frequent flyer account. So far so good.
The problem is, these miles, along with our existing balance, resulted in over 300,000 Air France miles that were set to expire in May 2021. This is over $3000 worth of travel that would evaporate unless we took action. Air France miles expire after 24 months unless there is qualifying activity. Qualifying activity costs of a paid flight in which miles are credited to Air France, or miles earned via the Air France credit card. In order to save our trip to Paris for a future date, we needed to either rebook by May, or find a way to extend the expiration date of our 300,000 miles.
Here Are the Options We Considered
- Rebook the trip for May – One way to keep the miles from expiring was to use them. Could we book 300,000 miles worth of Air France flights prior to the end of May, 2021? Probably not. The uncertainty of travel and the accompanying health concerns weighed against this option.
- Book a Paid Flight and Credit the Miles to Air France – Earning new miles from flying is a qualifying activity to extend the life of our existing miles. We considered booking a short domestic flight on Delta and crediting the miles to Air France. This would get the job done, but…we’re not so excited about air travel at this point. On top of this, the cost of the flight, plus the cost for airport parking, plus the time and the hassle factor made this a less than exciting alternative.
- Apply and Earn Miles with an Air France Credit Card – Another option was signing up for the Air France Credit Card. Miles earned through this credit card would result in a qualifying activity to extend the life of 300,000 miles. Bank of America offers the Air France card, the welcome bonus at the time was:
- A $100 statement credit
- 25,000 Air France miles
- 60 XP points (Experience Points, which earn status with Air France)
Receiving this welcome bonus requires $1000 in spending in the first 90 days.
Narrowing Down Our Options
In considering the above three choices, we immediately narrowed it down to the following two options.
- Book a paid flight and credit the miles to Air France
- Apply and earn miles with an Air France credit card
Which would be a better choice? Here’s a quick back of the envelope analysis in comparing both the costs and benefits of both options.
1) Book a Paid Flight and Credit the Miles to Air France
- Cost of the airline ticket, the cost of parking at the airport, cost of gas to airport. We’ll put this at $200.
This cost would be offset with…
- The value of the miles we earned from the paid flight.
- The value of the 300,000 miles which are extended.
- Time Spent – We estimate a total of 8 hours to book and complete the travel.
- Hassle Factor – Significant. Even in the best of times, driving to the airport, parking and flying requires a certain level of hassle and hoop-jumping, this is multiplied by current travel restrictions.
- Safety Factor – With Covid-19, we have been avoiding flights.
- Air France Points Earned – We estimate earning less than a 1000 Air France miles for this paid flight.
2) Apply and Earn Miles With an Air France Credit Card
- The $89 Annual fee
- The opportunity cost of not putting $1000 in spend on a higher earning credit card
- The opportunity cost of passing up a credit card with a stronger sign-up bonus
- The cost of a hard inquiry on our credit report
This cost would be offset with…
- A $100 statement credit
- The miles earned through spending $1000 to meet requirements for receiving the welcome bonus
- The 25,000 mile welcome bonus
- The value of the 300,000 miles which are extended
- Time Spent – We’ll assign 3 hours for signing up for the card and record keeping in meeting the spend assuring the points posted.
- Hassle Factor – Very little, we would integrate the credit card spending into our normal weekly return.
- Safety Factor – Very little, we would spend online and at stores that we would otherwise visit.
- Air France Points Earned – Total of 26,500, this included 25,000 miles for the welcome bonus, and 1,500 miles for meeting the minimum spend.
The Winner: Apply and Earn Miles with an Air France Credit Card
We chose the credit card. Given travel restrictions, this was the best way for us to extend our 300,000 Airfrance Miles.
This is Not Our Normal Path for Picking Credit Cards
Normally we apply for cards that offer a combination of….
- A Strong Welcome Bonus
- A Strong Return on Spending
And if the card comes with an annual fee, we look for a strong set of benefits that help offset any annual fee.
The Air France card did not score high on any of these three criteria.
- A Strong Welcome Bonus – The welcome bonus was 25,000 Airfrance miles, which is better than nothing, but not a motivation to sign up for the card. (On a side note: Bank America bumped up the welcome offer to 50,000 points after we applied for the card, but prior to receiving our 25,000 point welcome bonus.) We called in and requested to be matched to the higher offer. The representative said no. We followed up with a letter reiterating the same request. We’ve yet to hear back. We’ll see what happens.
- A Strong Return on Spending – The return on spend for this credit card includes 1.5 Air France miles for every dollar spent. This is actually a decent multiplier if you fly Air France, but it’s not a reason we would sign up for the card. At this point I’m not looking to earn more Air France Miles, I just want to prolong the life of the existing miles.
- A Strong Set of Benefits that Help Offset any Annual Fee – The benefits of this card include 60 XP, or Experience Points that count toward status. It also includes opportunities to earn additional XP’s at certain spend thresholds, and at the annual renewal of the card. This could be valuable to some, but we don’t take enough paid flights to earn the additional XP’s required for status.
Where We Landed
All this to say, this is not a card we would normally apply for. The compelling factor was the ability to extend miles. We valued the expiring miles high enough, that applying for the card was the best way to extend their life in a travel restricted environment.
How the story ended
We meet the minimum spend and the bonus miles successfully posted and as a result, reset the odometer. We have not given up on our trip to Paris and will rebook with the time is right. Applying for the Air France credit card saved our miles, and our (hopefully) soon to rescheduled, trip to Paris!
We are now ready to go when travel opens up!
- Have you ever signed up for a card, or taken a flight to extend the life of expiring miles?
- If you were in our place, what path would you chose?
- Did we miss a better option given our situation?
- What factors do you weigh when signing up for a credit card?