What’s in Dia’s pockets: Panama on Factors

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One morning throughout Spring Break as I sipped espresso from my resort balcony whereas watching ships enter the Panama Canal, I questioned why nobody appears to be speaking about how Panama is an absolute steal if you’re redeeming your miles and factors. So let’s try this. 

I used factors in three alternative ways—a Panama hat trick, if you’ll—to pay for my airplane ticket, resort, and actions for my Panama Metropolis journey. Every manner allowed me to get outsized worth from my factors, so I’ll undergo them one-by-one so you possibly can see how the sausage is made. I’m a little bit of an outlier in that I’ve a bigger bank card assortment than most, however the rules are the identical and I hope will allow you to assume strategically about how and the place you spend your hard-earned factors.

Trick #1: There may be wide-open availability on Copa Airways award tickets

Copa Airways is a vastly under-rated Star Alliance companion that’s based mostly in Panama Metropolis. The airline has a hub-and-spoke route community between North, Central and South America and serves extra cities in america than you’ll think about:

Atlanta Fort Lauderdale Orlando
Austin Los Angeles San Francisco
Baltimore Las Vegas Tampa
Chicago Miami Washington DC
Denver New York

As a result of there are such a lot of gateways, there are additionally so many extra choices when you find yourself on the lookout for award tickets. As an example, right here’s coach saver availability in October from Baltimore to Panama Metropolis trying on United’s web site:


20,000 United MileagePlus miles in coach for a five-hour flight is a reasonably whole lot. However just a little magic can flip good to nice. Let’s head over to Air Canada’s frequent flyer program, Aeroplan, and look for a similar flight on the identical date:


That 20,000 miles simply dropped to 12,500. And even higher, enterprise class on the identical flight is just 25,000 miles. So for simply 12,500 extra miles you will get a comfortable seat up entrance (on a five-hour flight, price each penny), an additional checked bag, and lounge entry. And on some routes, you might even get a lie-flat seat. Evidently, that’s the choice I took. For me IT was an particularly whole lot as a result of though I used to be touring throughout Easter week, award tickets on Copa have been nonetheless plentiful. 

To seek out this deal, I used certainly one of my favourite instruments of the commerce: level.me. The excellent news is that by way of a partnership with Bilt Mastercard®, I used to be capable of search each United and Aeroplan availability at no cost.

To get Air Canada miles, I turned to my useful Capital One Enterprise X Rewards Credit score Card card and transferred 50,000 Capital One Miles for a round-trip ticket in enterprise class. Aeroplan has a ton of switch companions that every one switch 1:1, so I additionally might have used Amex Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, or Chase Final Rewards® . 

You’ll discover within the wonderful print that Air Canada costs a better tax ($79 CAN or $58 USD) vs. United ($5.60) so if not spending a penny is your precedence, you should still need to go along with United. And United lets you cancel at no cost, whereas Air Canada might cost a charge so preserve that in thoughts as effectively. 

Capital One Enterprise X Rewards Credit score Card

Intro bonus

Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases throughout the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Payment $395
Buy APR 19.99%–29.99% variable
Overseas Transaction Payment None

Trick #2: A number of factors applications switch 1:2 to Selection Privileges

Selection Privileges is the TJ Maxx of resort rewards applications. You’ll be able to’t go in guaranteeing you will discover one thing that matches, however once you do you’ll get an incredible deal. That’s what occurred for me in Panama Metropolis.

Selection motels

The Radisson Panama Canal sits smack dab in entrance of the canal and Easter week went for 8,000 factors an evening. In the mean time nights can be found for 16,000 factors per night time. The resort, which was a Nation Inn and Suites, is not at all luxurious. However IT is clear, has a beautiful pool and the aforementioned good location for ship-spotting. Ubers are low cost and plentiful so though IT’s a bit out of the town most Ubers I took have been round $5 USD. 

The key sauce for Selection Privileges is the 1:2 switch ratio from Citi Premier ThankYou Factors and Autograph factors. This implies I solely paid 4,000 Citi factors per night time for my resort room. And I used to be even capable of guide an ocean-view suite as a result of Selection had each the usual room and the suite bookable for a similar quantity of factors.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Intro bonus

60,000 bonus factors after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

Annual charge $550
Common APR 22.49%–29.49% variable

Trick #3: Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 1.5 cents per Final Rewards level for actions

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is my go-to card for journey bills as a result of not solely does IT earn 3X factors on journey (after incomes the $300 journey credit score), IT gives complete cancellation insurance coverage and auto rental protection. However the Sapphire Reserve’s superpower is that Final Rewards factors are price 1.5 cents every once you redeem them on Chase Journey℠’s web site.

Dia Adams: Chase Screenshot

I used my Final Rewards level to guide a whopping 5 actions whereas in Panama—two airport transfers, a strolling tour, a cooking class and a catamaran tour. The fascinating factor I discovered whereas researching my journey is that if a tour was provided on Viator, I might discover the very same tour on Chase Journey for a similar value. Excursions add up and I saved a whole bunch of {dollars} out of pocket by redeeming factors in Panama.


The takeaway

I might have been thrilled to attain low cost enterprise class award tickets, to snag a deal on an ocean-front suite, or to redeem factors for actions at an elevated price. The truth that I discovered all three for a similar journey made for a Spring Break that was not solely memorable, however guilt free as a result of my solely out-of-pocket bills have been meals and a Panama hat to take house as a memento of my hat trick.

Welcome to What’s in Dia’s pockets. On this month-to-month column I’ll share what’s, sure, in my pockets but additionally what’s on my thoughts. After over a decade masking bank cards, touring a mean of 100 nights a yr, and incomes and spending over one million factors annually to do IT, I’ve realized just a few issues. When you’ve got questions or concepts for future matters please attain out to me at creditcards@fortune.com. Dia Adams, Senior Editor

Fortune Recommends™ has partnered with CardRatings for our protection of bank card merchandise. Fortune Recommends™ and CardRatings might obtain a fee from card issuers. 

Please be aware that card particulars are correct as of the publish date, however are topic to alter at any time on the discretion of the issuer. Please contact the cardboard issuer to confirm charges, charges, and advantages earlier than making use of. 

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