I Under Diversified My Points… Oops!

Filed Under: Awards, Etihad

I find one of the biggest mistakes that people make in this hobby is that they over diversify their points.

I get emails all the time from people that saying “I have half a million miles and I can’t even get a business class ticket to Europe with them.” Then they provide me with a breakdown of their points balances, and as it turns out they have fewer than 50,000 points per account spread across a dozen programs.

But there’s also something to be said for under diversifying. For example, I’d rather have 500,000 miles with a program in each of the three major alliances than 1.5 million miles in one program, as I’d have a lot more flexibility when it comes time to redeem.

That’s why I wrote a post a while back with tips for diversifying your points. These tips included things like:

  • Never have more miles in an account than you could reasonably burn in the next six months
  • Focus on programs with many transfer partners
  • DON’T think of points as a commodity you should save long term

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I just don’t bother earning miles, embarrassing as it may be. For example, I flew Icelandair on a paid ticket earlier in the year and I didn’t collect points. I flew Bangkok Airways last year and didn’t collect points. On one hand it seems like a sin, but on the other hand I don’t see myself flying them again in the next couple of years, so didn’t even bother with signing up for a frequent flyer account (which I realize is a cardinal sin in this hobby).

And then there are cases where I’ve sub-optimally credited miles to an account.

Let me explain in the form of an example. For whatever reason I’ve been incredibly opposed to signing up for an Etihad Guest account. Why? Because Etihad partners with American, so I figured it would make a lot more sense to credit miles to American than Etihad.

When I had an issue on an Etihad flight earlier in the year they offered me 10,000 Etihad Guest miles as compensation, which I turned down. Why? Because I figured 10,000 miles just wasn’t worth the effort, since I didn’t think I’d ever credit more miles to them, and I assumed 10,000 Etihad Guest miles wasn’t enough for any useful redemption.

Similarly, for my paid first class travel on Etihad I’ve credited those miles to American AAdvantage, where I’ve earned 150% of miles flown:


Meanwhile if I had credited to Etihad Guest I would have earned 180-400% of miles flown:


So what’s my point? A few nights ago I had to book a one way ticket from Bahrain to Abu Dhabi. Etihad had plenty of award availability, and American partners with them, so I redeemed American miles for the ticket.


The one way business class ticket cost 25,000 American miles. That’s quite steep for an hour long flight:


But as I was searching for award space I noticed just how attractive Etihad’s redemption rates are on their own flights for intra-Middle East travel.

That same ticket in business class would have cost me just 6,490 Etihad Guest miles:


And the rates for other routes within the Middle East are equally attractive, like from Abu Dhabi to Doha or Muscat:



I spend a ton of time in the Middle East, so was quite regretting my opposition to Etihad Guest miles.

Bottom line

I’m not exactly sure what the teachable lesson here is. I guess there are a couple of ways to go:

  • Never turn down free miles, even if it’s in a program you don’t expect you’ll have much future activity in
  • Before deciding where to credit miles, look at the “sweet spot” redemptions in all programs, as there might be some sweet spot redemptions that prove incredibly valuable

In retrospect would I have credited my Etihad paid first class flight to Etihad Guest instead of to American AAdvantage? Maybe, maybe not. But I certainly would have at least accepted Etihad Guest miles for the delay. After all, booking that award through Etihad Guest rather than through American AAdvantage would have only cost me a quarter as many miles. Those 10,000 Etihad Guest miles they offered to give me would have saved me 25,000 AAdvantage miles.

So fess up — has anyone ever turned down free miles or not created a frequent flyer account for a flight because you assumed you wouldn’t have any use for those miles?

Shame on me, I know…

  1. I also didn’t bother with creating an Icelandair Saga Club account when I went. It was the $60 KEF mistake from 11 years ago.

    Flew AF/KLM for the first time this year and made the mistake of crediting that flight to Flying Blue instead of Delta and only got 25%. Didn’t feel bad until someone told me I earn 100% on Delta. Oops.

  2. I just had a couple short hops on Bangkok Airways and didn’t bother with it either. I felt a slight twang of guilt at first, but is has since passed. Ha.

    Qantas recently gave me 10k miles when they discontinued their chauffeur service for an upcoming flight in F I have out of LAX. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like they have any redemption sweet spots under 10k like your Etihad examples. Out of curriosity, did Etihad offer you anything else when you turned down the miles?

  3. Great Post! I just had a moment, where I booked those oober low priced tickets to abu dhabi and on to India from eithad… and well, I was just going to forget about the miles since I cannot redeem them with AA. Looks like I will go sign up.. you never know when they may come in handy!

  4. EY does charge very steep fuel surcharges so you might have ended up paying quite a bit in cash alongside those EY miles, so may not have been such a terrible outcome overall.

  5. Not quite the same, but this summer my work paid for me to travel for free on Fiji Airways to NAN and back, Qantas to BNE and back, and KLM to JRO and back via AMS. WHAT I WOULDN’T GIVE TO GO BACK AND CREDIT THOSE TO ALASKA AIRLINES!!!

  6. Etihad is like BA Avois. It’s distance based. Short haul flights in business include all the fixings like the Limo transfer. It’s super handy in the middle east since flights around the GCC are very expensive.

  7. What wonderfully convenient advice – to never have much of a balance, but one which will always keep suckers clicking affiliate links on a regular basis…

  8. Also keep in mind that Etihad Guest is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Rewards.

    So even if you don’t credit enough miles from flying, you can always top up for an award.
    In addition to distance based redemption on EY, their partner redemption rates are also very reasonable (90k RT in F between NRT-SFO/LAX on NH).

  9. Well, I didn’t join Angkor Air’s FF program to get miles for the short flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap because I’m pretty sure I won’t be returning to Cambodia any time soon. More egregiously, I passed on miles for a short Delta flight I took a while back.

    Realistically, however, I’ve become resigned to earning no (or very few) miles from flying at all. The revenue-based program at UA has essentially fired me as a loyal customer, so I’m a free agent now when it comes to choosing airlines. I get the majority of miles via credit card spend now. The tiny amounts of odds-and-end miles I can get from flying have no motivating value for me whatsoever, so I tend to leave them on the table.

  10. @Daniel on the off chance you didn’t redeem those miles in another program you can ask Alaska for credit. I once did that with an emirates flight about 6 months later.

  11. As EY miles can literally be redeemed for cash via PointsPay you should have taken them. 10k would have been $60.

  12. Bangkok airways can still be credited to United right? Only 500 miles, but no reason to not get credit for USM-BKK

  13. not the same, but when i flew Air France to the middle east, i credited flights to Delta. Wish i knew about AS then.

  14. I have 50,000 delta sky pesos that I can’t figure out how to use.

    I’m under diversified in that I bank almost everything to Alaska, but their partner network is hard to beat.

  15. Just how much of a spoilt brat are you? Did you really need to waste 25k on a 1 hour flight when you could have saved a ton of miles or just spent cash and flown in Y?

  16. Hehe I never turn down some free miles! I was offered a chunk by Continental after helping out with an in flight medical problem – I’ve subsequently tripled that pot and made good use of them on what would have otherwise been a very expensive one-way intra-European flight. I also took a small chunk of LH miles and ended up cashing them out via Heathrow Rewards. I think its worth first checking if you can credit (at a semi-reasonable rate) to an existing programme you use more and if not then I still tend to sign up. Not sure I’ll ever have much use for my Hawaiian Airlines miles mind you, but joining the programme at least reduced the checked bag fee!

  17. Hi Ben,

    I’m checking your blog multiple times a day in anticipation of a full review of your EY apartments flight. Like how you usually do. Like you did for QR 388 F. Where you can provide pictures and discuss not only the space but the food, the service and the entertainment system etc.

    In the meantime you’ve discussed about a dozen other topics. So, is such a review coming soon or should I give up waiting for it ?


  18. @ Nizar — A full trip report is coming eventually, but I never publish those days after a segment. I publish the full trip reports when I’m completely done with a trip.

  19. @ Angus — To be clear, I’m a “spoilt brat” because I consider it to be worth a 7,500 mile premium to have priority check-in, priority security, lounge access, priority boarding, and a comfortable seat for an hour flight? Especially when I have millions of miles.

    Interesting perspective…

  20. i don’t think anyone really cares. In fact, I think quite a few people were hoping you would miss the Etihad inaugural flight.
    And to hear you gushing about the flight is really disgusting.

  21. LOL no-one is forcing you to read the blog, Brian – since you dislike it so much perhaps best to go find another one you prefer? I thought Ben wrote an excellent summary of his flight and I enjoyed the last minute tension as to whether he’d make it or not!

  22. @ Brian — Clearly no one cares. Clearly that’s also why you bothered to comment on this. Because you don’t care.

  23. OK, I’m gonna be direct today. Whatever it is what you do is just disgusting.
    You pollute the planet with your meaningless flying. Do you bring back anything?

  24. @Brian

    I care. I was truly interested to read a first hand account of Etihad’s new take on first class. Many of us who follow Ben’s blog are commercial aviation fanatics and we truly enjoy reading about his exploits. I don’t really get into amassing frequent flier miles, though I have used Ben’s highly efficient and effective service, PointsPros, to help me use some of my Skymiles. And his advice is obviously highly valued by very many.

    So why the petty, juvenile bitterness, Brian? If you don’t appreciate this blog then go somewhere else with your pitiful snarkiness.

  25. I opened a saga points account for our flights on Icelandair, and was able to exchange them for ~2500 aeroplan miles through points.com

  26. You could have also credited your Bangkok Airways flights to Etihad Guest, assuming you flew on an eligible fare code.

    Though, if you had done so but they didn’t credit, the time spent dealing with Etihad Guest’s service team to make the points claim probably wouldn’t be worth your time!

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