Scott Grimmer

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Wandering Aramean writes a Boarding Area blog and also has created a suite of tools that can be used for free by anyone. One I just saw (thanks Million Mile Secrets) is his Avios Map.

The Avios Map works like this:

  1. Type in any airport in the world.
  2. The map shows all the airports you can fly to directly for 4.5k, 7.5k, 10k, and 12.5k Avios in economy.

You can use the map to see where you can go from your home airport for what price. You can use the map to figure out when two awards will be cheaper than one (example below.) You can probably use the map for other creative uses I haven’t uncovered.

Before continuing, make sure you understand how British Airways Avios work. They are an essential currency for any American to understand.

How the Map Works

Along the top of the Avios Map, you type in the city or airport code and hit Go!

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If you choose an American Airlines hub like Dallas/Fort Worth, you get a crowded map like this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.49.45 PMThose icons are all the places you can go for 12,500 Avios or less one way.

  • Green is 4,500 Avios
  • Yellow is 7,500 Avios
  • Blue is 10,000 Avios
  • Red is 12,500 Avios

If you hold a cursor over any icon, you will see the airport name, city, code, and price.

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The DFW map is so crowded, the only useful information I’d pull from it are all my foreign options.

Here’s a less crowded map when I search Buenos Aires (AEP) on the Wandering Aramean Avios Map. This shows all your options to explore Argentina once you’re down there. You can use the Avios Map to search any airport in the world.
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The map includes all Avios partners, even the ones not on ba.com like Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines. (You call British Airways to book flights on these partners.) For instance, here is the map from Boston. You can see that Dublin and Shannon, Ireland are both just 12,500 Avios away. Plus there are some options to the Caribbean operated by US Airways.

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And here’s a map of all the 12,500 Avios flights to Maui, most of which are on Alaska Airlines.
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When Two Awards Are Cheaper Than One

Avios is distance based, but many programs are region based. Sometimes you can use a region-based award plus a distance-based award for big savings over just a single region-based award. An easy example:

  • North America to Israel is 45,000 American Airlines miles in economy
  • North America to Europe is 20,000 or 30,000 American Airlines miles in economy depending on the season
  • Europe to Israel is as little as 10,000 Avios one way

You can save up to 15,000 miles by booking the United States to Europe and Europe to Israel as two separate awards (plus you can then stopover in Europe as long as you’d like.)

I have a full post about this example, and there are other examples you can surely come up with when a region-based award plus an Avios award would be cheaper than a single region-based award.

This tool helps you find and plan those examples.

For instance, here is the map from Tel Aviv. You can see the airports in Germany with direct flights on airberlin for 10,000 Avios, plus Madrid and London to Tel Aviv for 12,500 Avios.

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From this map, you’d know that an off peak American Airlines economy award to Europe for 20,000 miles plus any of these flights for 10,000 or 12,500 Avios would be cheaper than a 45,000 American Airlines miles award to Tel Aviv. Plus you could stop in a European city on the way to Israel for zero extra miles for as long as you want. By contrast, on a single American Airlines award, no connections longer than 24 hours are allowed.

Bottom Line

Check out Wandering Aramean’s super easy and awesome Avios Map. You’ll instantly visualize all the direct flights you can take with Avios that cost 12,500 Avios or fewer in economy. Plus you can use it to hack situations where two awards are cheaper than one.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Hilton has just announced free wifi worldwide starting August 1, assuming you don’t book through a third party.

Hyatt, SPG, Marriott, IHG, and Fairmont all offer free internet in their hotels worldwide if you meet certain easy conditions.

Hilton will offer free wifi starting August 1, 2015 to all Hilton HHonors members who book their stay through a Hilton-controlled channel (like hilton.com, the Hilton app, or by contacting the hotel itself.) Join Hilton HHonors free here. Diamonds will get premium internet. All other members will get basic internet. Hilton operates the following brands:

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Finally the great hotels of the world are catching up with a standard benefit of hostels for the last decade. ;)

Hyatt offers free wifi in lobbies and guest rooms worldwide since February 1, 2015. This applies no matter how you book your room–yes even if you use Priceline–and even if you are not a member of the Hyatt Gold Passport loyalty program. Hyatt operates the Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Andaz, GrandHyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Hyatt Zilara, Hyatt Ziva, Hyatt Residences, and Hyatt Residence Club brands.

SPG offers free internet access since February 2, 2015. The free internet is only available to SPG members who book their stay through SPG.com or other SPG owned channels (ie the SPG app or sheraton.com.) Join SPG for free here. SPG operates the following brands.

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Marriott offers free internet access since January 15, 2015. The free internet is only available to Marriott Rewards members who book their stay through marriott.com or other Marriott owned channels (ie by phone or directly with the hotel.) Join Marriott Rewards for free here. Marriott operates the following brands.

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IHG has long offered free internet to IHG Rewards club members no matter how their stay is booked. Join IHG Rewards for free here. IHG operates the following brands.

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Fairmont has long offered free internet to Fairmont President’s Club members no matter how their stay is booked. Join Fairmont President’s Club for free here. Fairmont operates the following brands.

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Finally the great hotels of the world are catching up with a standard benefit of hostels for the last decade. ;)

Seriously though, this is great news for travelers. In the United States, I never bought internet from hotels anymore, opting to tether my laptop to my phone, but abroad I was often stuck paying 10 to 15 euros per day at hotels. I look forward to free internet at hotels worldwide for the rest of my life.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Every time you use your credit card, the bank is earning swipe fees from the merchant. It’s these swipe fees plus other ways that banks profit off credit cards–interest fees, late fees, advertising to cardholders–that pay for the perks we get from credit cards.

How much of these fees are rebated to us? According to a recent article in The Economist:

[C]ard issuers are providing bigger rebates on purchases, more frequent-flyer miles as a sign-up bonus and longer interest-free periods for those who transfer balances from other cards. Mercator Advisory Group, a consultancy, estimates that the amount of revenue from each transaction passed back to the customer has been growing for years. In 2012 it put it at 47% for three of the biggest issuers, up from 39% in 2010.

According to the Mercator Advisory Group (according to The Economist) we got back 47% of the revenue from each transaction three years ago. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the underlying study or press release anywhere online by googling all the relevant keywords. If you can, please post a link in the comments.

I get back a lot more than 47% of the swipe fees the bank collects on me. So much of my spending is going toward clearing sign up bonuses and maximizing category bonuses, that I definitely average more than 3 miles per dollar across all my spending. Even assuming credit card companies can buy miles for 1 cent each (I don’t think they get them that cheaply), that works out to costing credit card companies at least 3% of my purchases in rewards. There’s no way they are making that back off swipe fees (or any other fees, since I don’t ever pay interest.)

Of course, there’s nothing average about the way I approach credit cards.

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One other interesting chart from the article:

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from The Economist

 

Ignore the red line and focus on the blue bars, which show that the average bonus miles offered on new cards rose from about 9,000 in 2011 to about 14,000 in 2015.

What? Huh? What?

The only time I see an airline card with such a putrid bonus is the 10,000 mile offer on the JetBlue card. Every other airline card offers 25,000, 30,000, 40,000, or 50,000 miles (like on the American Airlines card at the moment.) And sometimes airline bonuses hit as high as 100,000 miles like on the American Airlines Executive card last year.

The only possible way to get such tiny averages (9,000 and 14,000) is if the calculation includes all credit cards, many of which come with zero bonus. That’s a weird way to construct the average: averaging in a bunch of zeros.

Bottom line: it’s always fascinating for me to read the mainstream media on credit cards and miles because, on the one hand, they have better access to certain data and can do more research, and on the other hand, they don’t get it.

 

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

  • Costco currently only accepts American Express cards.
  • Soon, Costco will accept Visa cards.
  • Starting April 1, 2016 (in 13 months), Costco will no longer accept American Express.

This is primarily of interest to me because many people who fill out my Free Credit Card Consultation Form let me know that they need an AMEX because they do a lot of their shopping at Costco. (And because Costco’s pre-cooked ribs are such a fantastic way for a bachelor to cater a party.)

It turns out Citi is taking over the contract to issue a Costco card and will issue a Citi Visa. But you will be able to use any card with the Visa logo, not just the Citi Visa Costco card to pay at Costco.

A quick refresh on what American Express, Citi, and Visa are:

  • Citi is a bank that issues credit cards like Chase, Barclaycard, and others.
  • Visa is a payment network like MasterCard and others.
  • American Express is both a bank that issues credit cards and a payment network. All cards issued by the bank American Express are processed by the American Express payment network. This includes AMEX-branded cards like the Platinum or Premier Rewards Gold and co-branded cards like the Delta credit cards. Some cards issued by other banks are processed on the payment network American Express. I used to have a Citi (issuing bank) American Airlines American Express (payment network.)

Citi will be the issuing bank for the Costco credit card, but any card on the Visa payment network will soon be accepted at Costco. Look in your credit card drawer, and I’m sure you already have quite a few cards with the Visa logo. These will all be accepted at Costco. If you don’t have any and want a new credit card, fill out this form for personalized suggestions based on your travel goals and other factors.

HT Dan’s Deals

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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In July and August 2015, United will put one of its p.s. 757-200s, configured with flat beds up front, on the Los Angeles to Boston route. These planes fly every flight between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Occasionally they are put on other routes on a one-off basis like Los Angeles to either Boston or Newark.

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The premium cabin on the 757-200 features flat beds in a 2-2 configuration meaning that window seats do not have direct aisle access. While the normal p.s. routes have special service and catering, non-p.s. routes that use p.s. planes like Boston to Los Angeles just feature the improved seat/bed without corresponding increases in service.

Which Boston to Los Angeles Flights Have Flat Beds

From July 2 to August 17, one of the two daily frequencies between Los Angeles and Boston will feature the 757-200 with flat beds up front:

  • Los Angeles to Boston, departing 8:30 AM and arriving 5:01 PM (UA528)
  • Boston to Los Angeles, departing 6:00 OM and arriving 9:11 PM (UA717)

The other daily frequency on the route does not feature a 757-200 with flat beds up front.

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United.com lists the aircraft for each flight. You can double check that your flight has beds by clicking “View Seats” and looking for the orange bed icon.

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Award Space

I checked award space during the entirety of the 757-200’s run on the Boston to Los Angeles route. From Los Angeles to Boston, there is no First Class award space on any flight in July or August at the moment. In fact, there is only one day with economy award space during the run.

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From Boston to Los Angeles, there is also no award space in First Class during the 757-200’s time on the route.

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Just because there isn’t space now on the route doesn’t mean it won’t open up later though.

United is notorious for opening up a lot of last-minute award space, especially in premium cabins. The best way to estimate the likelihood that such award space will open up is to search a route for the next few days and weeks to see how much space it currently has at the last minute.

That method doesn’t make me too excited about the chances to fly in a flat bed from Los Angeles to Boston this summer. In the next week, only 3/7 days have First Class award space.

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From Boston to Los Angeles, zero days in the next week and 3 in the next month have First Class award space.Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 2.23.32 AM

This method for estimating award space in July may be less useful than usual though because the 757-200 has a much higher percentage of its seats in First Class than the A320 that normally flies the route. That might mean more unsold First Class seats opened as award seats. At least, that’s what we can hope.

(HT View from the Wing)

Further Reading

Just this week I published:

AMERICAN VS. UNITED VS. DELTA: BEST FLAT BED TRANSCON AWARD SPACE

It analyzed the routes, the products, the prices, and the award space offered by the three legacy carriers on flat bed flights across the country.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

There are a lot of reasons to collect miles and points.

  • For free luxury hotel stays and first class flights
  • To travel to more countries than you could otherwise afford
  • To take your family on vacation
  • To visit home for the holidays
  • To earn big rewards for everyday spending

Whatever your reason for being here, there is a rewards card or cards that suit your needs.

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Want to spend four days backpacking in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. There’s a rewards card to get you there (but not to pitch your tent.)

In the last few years, I’ve been to dozens of countries, travel that would have been completely impossible without miles and points earned from credit cards. This has been my life thanks to miles:

  • Trekking four days in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile
  • Biking 25km around Bogota as part of the original Ciclovia
  • Hiking the Great Wall of China with my brother
  • Straddling the border between North and South Korea
  • Watching dragons dance at the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong
  • Eating more steak than anyone should in Brazil and Argentina
  • Cliff jumping in Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Leading an “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” cheer in Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia
  • Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Eating Thai-hot Thai curry in Thailand at Thai prices
  • Biking in the Lake District of Patagonia in Bariloche, Argentina
  • Spending three days at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
  • Seeing Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Getting some home cooking from my mom who lives 5,000 miles away
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The 55 Countries I’ve Visited

If you don’t have the money to take your dream trips, the good news is that you don’t need much money. By maximizing the sign up bonuses on rewards cards, anyone with good credit can take a dream trip anywhere in the world.

1. Citi American Airlines Personal and Business Cards (100,000 Bonus Miles Total)

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® (personal card) comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

The other huge benefit is that cardholders get a 10% rebate on all American Airlines award redemptions up to 100k redeemed/10k rebated per year. Example: You book Cathay Pacific First Class from San Francisco to Hong Kong for 67.5k miles. In a few weeks, you get 6,750 miles rebated to your account.

The card also comes with a free checked bag, priority boarding, 25% off onboard food purchases, 2 miles per dollar on AA flights, and one mile per dollar on everything else.

There is no annual fee the first year, then $95.

Right now American Airlines has the best award chart in the world, and it has committed to keeping the same award chart next year even though Delta and United have brutally devalued their charts this year and last.

Application Link: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

The business version of the AAdvantage card offers the same sign up bonus (50k miles after $3k/3 months) and no annual fee the first year, followed by $95. Plus the business card offers 2x mile category bonuses on popular business categories. Full MileValue review on the business card.

You can hold both cards at the same time.

Application Link:  CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®

I recently used American Airlines miles to fly between the United States and Colombia. I’m writing a multi-part series on how to redeem American Airlines miles. Here are the first 10 posts.

2. US Airways Premier World MasterCard

The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is now offering 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase for a limited time! US Airways miles are the most valuable miles right now because of how cheap business class awards are on the US Airways award chart.

Here are all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus on this card!

The other big perks are a free checked bag for you and four companions on paid US Airways flights purchased with the cards.

The card earns 1 US Airways mile per dollar on all purchases and 2 miles per dollar on US Airways purchases.

There is an $89 annual fee.

US Airways has an incredible award chart to use the miles now, or they will be converted to American Airlines miles in the second quarter of 2015, which is a fair conversion.

This card will disappear in the second quarter of 2015 when US Airways’ and American Airlines’ loyalty programs combine. Any miles you have will be safe and converted to American Airlines miles. Don’t miss out on getting this card and its bonus before the merger is complete.

If you get the American Airlines and US Airways cards right now, the miles will be combined early next year, and you’ll have at least 103,000 American Airlines miles.

Get Referred to the US Airways Card to Benefit Another Reader

3. Ink Plus

The Ink Plus is a business card that offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Singapore, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Amtrak, and more.

The Ink Plus earns 5x points on internet, phone, and cell phone bills; 5x points on purchases at office supply stores; 2x points on hotels and gas; and 1x points on everything else.

The annual fee is $95, though it is waived for the first year.

I recently used Ultimate Rewards (transferred to Hyatt points) to book the Grand Hyatt Macau and Ultimate Rewards (transferred to United miles) to book Slovenia-to-North Carolina in Lufthansa First Class.

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4. Citi ThankYou Premier Card

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card offers 20,000 bonus points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening and an additional 30,000 bonus points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember. That’s 50,000 bonus ThankYou points total.

ThankYou Points transfer to nine airlines and one hotel.

My favorite transfer partner is Singapore Airlines. For 50,000 Singapore miles, you can book a roundtrip award to South America with two free one ways to Hawaii, all on United flights.

My second favorite partner is Flying Blue. Flying Blue miles can book Promo Awards that cost only 12,500 miles each way to Europe or Israel. You can also use Flying Blue miles to book one way awards on Delta like 15,000 miles to Hawaii, Central America, or the Caribbean.

I also love this card’s big 3x category bonuses. Take a look at the current category bonuses and the (neutral-to-positive) changes that are coming April 19.

The card has no annual fee the first year. In April, the annual fee drops to $95 for this card, so by the time you pay your first annual fee for this card in 12 months, it will only be $95.

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

I recently transferred ThankYou Points to Singapore miles to book a Business Class award for 20,000 miles that would have cost 40,000 United miles.

5. Arrival Plus

The Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® is a great card for families that travel in economy, since Arrival miles can be used to book any flight on any airline with no blackouts. Miles can also be redeemed for any hotel or other travel expense.

This card comes with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days and earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases.

Miles are worth 1.14 cents each, so spending $3,000 on the card in the first 90 days earns more than $500 in free flights or other travel expenses.

With this card you can book any flight on any airline at any time, or any hotel, or rental car, then redeem your miles for a statement credit equal to the cost. Here’s how.

The 40,000 bonus miles could be used on any $400 flight without the need to find award space. You would even earn miles for flying the flight, since the airline will see it as a cash ticket!

Plus you get a 10% rebate after every redemption for travel, so after redeeming the 40,000 miles for $400 in travel, you get 4,000 miles back, worth $40 more dollars.

This card fills the gaps in a miles strategy because the rewards are perfect for cheap domestic flights or hotels that otherwise would be bad redemptions with traditional airline miles and hotel points.

There is no annual fee the first year, $89 thereafter.

Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

I recently used my Arrival miles to book myself a free Airbnb stay and to pay the taxes on an award booked with traditional miles.

6. Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a personal card that earns 40k Ultimate Rewards after spending $3k in 3 months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Amtrak, and more.

You also get 5k bonus points for adding an authorized user while applying, so I think of this as a 45k bonus point card. (Adding an authorized user does not prevent that person from getting the card at the same time or in the future as a primary account holder and getting the full sign up bonus.)

The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points on dining and travel. Dining includes bars, restaurants, and fast food. Travel includes airfare, hotels, taxis, rental cars, tolls, parking, and much more.

The Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee the first year, then $95 thereafter.

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7. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card is the best card for giving you free luxury hotel nights. The card comes with two free weekend nights at Hiltons worldwide after spending $2,500 in the first four months. The free nights are best spent at top-tier Hiltons and Conrads that can go for $500 or more per night.

This card is perfect to get aspirational stays at top tier properties like the Conrad Koh Samui that goes for 95,000 Hilton points per night and costs more than $1k per night.

The card also comes with Hilton Gold Status, so you can enjoy free internet and breakfast on those free stays.

The card earns 10x points on Hilton stays, 5x on airlines and car rentals, and 3x on all other purchases.

There card has no foreign transaction fee. The annual fee is $95.

Application Link: Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

8. Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz

The Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

The card has a $475 annual fee in the first year. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status.

For more info on setting up and maximizing the benefits, see Get the Most Out of Your Platinum Card.

Landing Page: Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz

9. British Airways Card

The British Airways Visa Signature card comes with 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $2,000 in the first three months on the card.

The card comes with 2.5 Avios per dollar on British Airways purchases and 1.25 Avios per dollar on other purchases.

British Airways Avios are perfect for short, direct, economy flights on British Airways partners that do not levy fuel surcharges like these partners.

For instance, the west coast to Hawaii on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flights for 12,500 Avios or only 4,500 Avios between New York and a dozen destinations are two of many sweet spots.

The card has a $95 annual fee that is waived for the first 12 months.

Application Link: British Airways Visa Signature Card

10. Citi Prestige Card

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 30,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $2,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open, $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

 

The Citi Prestige® Card is premium card that is designed to give travelers huge benefits to offset the big annual fee. For the first 12 months of holding the card, you are guaranteed to get more than $450 from the card if you maximize the $250 worth of statement credits to offset airline tickets or fees each calendar year, a $100 statement credit to offset Global Entry, and Priority Pass and American Airlines lounge access.

Beyond the 30,000 point sign up bonus, the Citi Prestige® Card earns:

  • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment

ThankYou Points transfer to nine airlines and one hotel. Or you can use the points for 1.33 cents off any flight on any airline with no blackouts or 1.6 cents off American Airlines and US Airways flights.

Click these links for a full explanation of the card’s benefits and for a comparison to the American Express Platinum Card.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card
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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

China Airlines is a Taiwan-based member of SkyTeam, whose flights are bookable with Delta miles.

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China Airlines recently started flying a world-class flat bed Business Class product between the United States and Asia on its brand new 777-300ERs.

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Now all China Airlines award space is searchable and bookable on delta.com. Award space is excellent from the United States to Taiwan and beyond to the rest of Asia.

Routes

China Airlines flies from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu to Taipei. The three mainland routes are the most important because they feature the 777-300ER with its top-of-the-line Business Class product.

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from gcmap.com

From Taiwan, China Airlines, China Eastern, and China Southern–all SkyTeam members–connect you to the rest of Asia.

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Wherever you end up in Asia should cost 70,000 miles one way in Business Class (but don’t tell Delta I told you that. They 1984-ed their award chart last month.)

Product

Only China Airlines’ 777-300ERs feature fully flat Business Class with aisle access from every seat. Its A340s and 747s feature an old, non-flat Business Class. Delta.com lists the plane flying the route. Choose wisely.

By the end of 2015, all the routes from North America (excluding Hawaii) should be operated by the 777-300ER.

Here’s a full post with many pictures of the 777-300ER experience on China Airlines.

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Other Info on China Airlines Awards: Blackouts and Fuel Surcharges

China Airlines has blackout dates when it releases no award space to its partners. For 2015 and early 2016, those are:

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China Airlines flights have fuel surcharges. Delta SkyMiles awards usually collect fuel surcharges when the underlying cash ticket would have them. In this case, fuel surcharges are about $120 per direction–annoying but pretty low as fuel surcharges go. The cost of a one way award from the United States to Taiwan in Business Class on China Airlines with SkyMiles is 70,000 miles + $143.

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Award Space

I searched a few of the routes for one and two passengers in Business Class. There’s very good award space for one passenger outside of the blackout dates. For two passengers, there’s only space on about half as many days.

For instance, here is San Francisco to Taipei for two passengers in Business Class in September and October. There’s award space on 14/35 days.

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Here’s Los Angeles to Taipei on similar dates for one passenger. There’s award space 29/35 days.Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.55.21 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.55.26 AM

Bottom Line

China Airlines award space is now searchable and bookable on delta.com.

Award space is excellent in China Airlines new, top-of-the-line Business Class on its 777-300ERs for one passenger and pretty good for two passengers outside of published blackout dates.

Delta does collect fuel surcharges of $120 per direction in China Airlines Business Class between the United States and Taiwan.

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Pay your China Airlines award taxes and fuel surcharges with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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Flying Blue–the loyalty program of Air France/KLM, Air Europa, Kenya Airways, and TAROM Romanian–has released its newest Promo Awards that let you fly from select North American cities to anywhere in Europe or to Israel for as little as 12,500 miles each way with only modest fuel surcharges.

Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points, Membership Rewards and Starpoints. You can get over 50,000 ThankYou Points from the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card: 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening and an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember.

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

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These Flying Blue Promo Awards must be booked in March 2015 for travel in May and June 2015. There are three Canadian cities, one American city, and Mexico City on the discounted list with discounts for economy and Business Class travel. There is also one Brazilian city on the list, which is a huge deal, since Promo Awards leaving Brazil are the only Promo Awards with no fuel surcharges.

  • What cities are these Promo Awards good for? What if you don’t live in one?
  • Why do you care that Rio de Janeiro is on the Promo Awards list?
  • How do you book a Promo Award?
  • How do these awards compare to awards with lower fuel surcharges?
  • How can you eliminate the out-of-pocket cost of the award?

Flying Blue Promo Awards Explained

Miles Price

Every month, Flying Blue releases a new list of Promo Awards, which allow travel from specified American cities to anywhere in Europe for 25% or 50% off the normal miles price. Flying Blue’s definition of Europe includes Israel.

The current list of promo awards is available for booking through March 31, 2015 for flights from May 1 to June 30, 2015.

There are five North American cities on this list: Dallas, Edmonton, Mexico City, Montreal, and Toronto.

 

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  • Flights from Dallas in KLM Business Class are 25% off and 46,875 miles one way.
  • Flights from Edmonton in KLM Business Class are 50% off and only 31,250 miles one way.
  • Flights from Mexico City in Air France economy are 25% off and only 18,750 miles one way.

Dallas is an American Airlines hubs, which greatly expands the number of cities from which you can get in on the deal with Avios. For 4,500+ Avios each direction, you can get from much of the country to Dallas and from there to Europe. Unfortunately the deal out of Dallas is pretty weak after factoring in fuel surcharges, and the list in general this month is weak. That’s probably because the bookings cover part of the peak North America to Europe travel season, so Flying Blue doesn’t need to give discounts to fill seats.

Out-of-Pocket Cash

Promo awards have the same out-of-pocket taxes and fuel surcharges as normal Flying Blue awards. The taxes are the same as you would pay on any award ticket. The fuel surcharges are listed on this table (click to enlarge):

From the US to Europe, the fuel surcharge each way is 50 euros in economy, 110 euros in premium economy, and 180 euros in business or first.

That works out to:

  • a modest $112 + taxes out of pocket on roundtrip awards to Europe in economy
  • an annoying $246 + taxes out of pocket on roundtrip awards to Europe in Premium Economy
  • a punitive $403 + taxes out of pocket on roundtrip Business Class awards to Europe.

Booking

To book a Flying Blue Promo Award, go to the Flying Blue Award Search and sign in or create an account. You can search with zero miles in your account, but you need to be signed into an account.

Promo awards are valid for one ways or roundtrips.

Under “Which class?”, select your cabin and leave “Show Flex options only” unchecked.

In your search results, the discounted Promo Award prices are already coded into the price displayed on the calendars, which will display the one way price.

Examples

These examples are from a previous round of Promo Awards. Everything is basically the same this time except that the euro keeps weakening making the out of pocket expense in dollars lower.

Here was a roundtrip economy class search from Detroit to Paris. The green dates are days with Promo Award space available for 12,500 miles each way. That’s basically every day in November.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.40.55 AM

Flying Blue classifies Israel as part of Europe, so the Promo Awards can fly to Tel Aviv.

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Many days had multiple possible routings available at the discounted price.

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I priced out an award from Detroit to Barcelona roundtrip in November. It came to 25,000 miles + $283 all in, including $132 in fuel surcharges. (This would now be only $112 in surcharges.)

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.58.52 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.59.02 AM

I priced out the Washington DC to Paris roundtrip in Air France Premium Economy in November. It came to 50,000 miles + $433, about $300 of which is fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.49.14 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.49.47 AM

By the way, the Air France Premium Economy product is roughly equivalent to domestic First Class on American airlines.Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.54.00 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.54.15 AM

Triangle Trip to Brazil and Europe

In “Incredible Trick: Flying Blue Promo Awards with No Fuel Surcharges,” I explained that Brazilian law prohibits fuel surcharges on all tickets including Promo Awards.

Rio de Janeiro to Europe is on the current list with discounts for Premium Economy travel.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 1.05.35 PM

If a triangle trip to South America and Europe in a few months sounds amazing, this is an unbeatable deal for the hypotenuse of that triangle.

Getting the Miles

Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points, Membership Rewards, and Starpoints. And as usual, increments of 20k Starpoints transfer to 25k Flying Blue miles.

You can get over 50,000 ThankYou Points from the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, which has a huge sign up bonus and big category bonuses.

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

 

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  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points. Bonus points are redeemable for up to $500 in gift cards, up to $625 for airfare or other great rewards
  • Earn 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember
  • Annual Fee: $125 (fee waived for the first 12 months). On  4/19/2015, this fee will be reduced to $95 on all accounts
  • Points do not expire and earn unlimited Thank You Points
  • Travel with ease and enjoy chip based technology

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Bonus

The drawback for the Promo Awards is the out-of-pocket cash needed to book them. You can eliminate the out-of-pocket cash needed by paying for the Promo Award with your Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®.

The Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® comes with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3k in three months, and the Arrival miles are worth 1.14 cents toward any flight, hotel, car rental, cruise, or other travel expense.

The $250+ out of pocket for these roundtrip awards can turn into zero out of pocket by redeeming about 25,000+ Arrival miles.

Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

Recap

Book by March 31, and fly in May or June, and you can enjoy up to 50% off awards from five North American cities to Europe or Israel. Unfortunately there is only one American city on the list, with only a 25% discount in Business Class. This is probably due to the travel period covering part of the peak season to Europe. Hopefully the next list for bookings in April is better, but we may need to wait until lists for Fall travel to come out to get the best deals.

Get Flying Blue miles by transferring points earned on the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, and avoid the out of pocket expenses with Arrival miles from the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®.

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American Airlines, United, and Delta fly flat beds on their daily flights between New York-JFK and San Francisco and Los Angeles. Delta also flies its flat beds between New York-JFK and Seattle.

All three airlines compete in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Only Delta flies between Seattle and JFK with flat beds.
All three airlines compete in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Only Delta flies between Seattle and JFK with flat beds.
  • Which has the best flat bed award space on the routes?
  • What are the prices? 
  • What are the products?

The Products & Prices

Delta

Delta throws 757s and 767s configured with flat bed seats at its transcontinental routes. Like all Delta planes, there are only two cabins–in this case sold as economy and BusinessElite. The 767s (on the right) are more comfortable in Business because their 1-2-1 layout gives full aisle access to every seat. The 757’s (on the left) 2-2 layout means climbing over your neighbor.

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For Business Elite at the Saver level, Delta charges 32,500 miles one way. Here’s Delta’s page on what to expect on its transcontinental service.

United

United has a dedicated fleet of 757-200s for all of its transcontinental service that it sells as p.s. Premium Service. The fleet has two cabins, and Business Class is laid out 2-2 as on Delta’s 757s, meaning no direct aisle access from every seat.

United charges 25,000 miles each way in Business Class at the Saver level.

American

American’s transcontinental fleet is the newest and best. Its A321s have five rows of 1-1 First Class and five rows of 2-2 Business Class. All 30 seats convert to flat beds.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.20.50 PM
AA Transcon First Class

American charges 25,000 miles one way in Business Class and 32,500 in First Class. Here’s AA’s page on what to expect from the service.

Award Space

All of that, especially the Saver award prices, is just theoretical if the airlines don’t consistently release award space on their flights at the Saver level.

From my searches, I found that Delta doesn’t release much–if any–Business Class award space on its transcontinental flat beds. Between Seattle and New York, the space is mainly 45,000 mile Level 2 space. Between California to New York, it is 67,500 mile Level 4 space. United releases some award space in Business Class at the last minute but has none released over the summer. American releases little Business Class space, but a lot more First Class space.

American Airlines

For one passenger, there is award space in Business Class from New York to Los Angeles three times next week. That’s it for the next month.
Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.42.20 PM

But in First Class, there is space six days in the next week and 13 days in the next month.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.42.24 PM

This pattern repeats. In June and July, there is only one day with Business Class space from San Francisco to New York.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.22 PM

The same time period has 17 days with First Class award space.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.26 PM

From Los Angeles to New York, I searched for two passengers. There’s one day in the Fall with award space in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.59 PMBy contrast, First Class space for two is available most Saturdays.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.44.03 PM

The bottom line on American Airline space: way more First Class than Business Class award space, way more award space for 1 passenger than for 2, and award space is released at the last minute.

Delta

Here’s the next month from Los Angeles to New York. No award space even close to the Saver price of 32,500 miles one way. The best I find is Level 4 space for more than double that price.
Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.46.00 PM

Here’s the month after that. Still none.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.46.27 PM

In fact, I didn’t find 32,500 mile space between California and New York in either direction.

Nor did I find any between New York and Seattle, though it is widely available for the Level 2 price of 45,000 miles one way. Here’s a calendar of July dates. Every single day has 2+ award seats on multiple flights from Seattle to JFK for 45,000 miles per person.

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We get the same view from New York to Seattle in the Fall.

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The bottom line on Delta Saver space on transcontinental flights is that there basically is none.

United

United is coasting on its reputation from a few years ago of having the best award space. Right now its space on its transcontinental service is bad.

There is some space for one person from Los Angeles to New York in the next two weeks–six out of 14 days.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.51.10 PM

New York to Los Angeles shows a similar pattern for one person: 12 days in the next month with space.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.51.31 PM

But other than the next month, there is basically no space. New York to Los Angeles in June and July has zero Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.52.38 PM

Los Angeles to New York in the Fall has one day with award space in Business Class: Thanksgiving day.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.52.54 PM

San Francisco to New York has one day too: the day after Thanksgiving.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.53.50 PM

For two people, award space is even worse. One day in the next month from San Francisco to New York.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.55.39 PM

Three days between New York and San Francisco.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.55.55 PMThe bottom line on United transcontinental Business Class award space: almost all of it is in the next month on flights with only one award seat.

Bottom Line

United, Delta, and American put fully flat beds on 5-6 hour flights because there is a demand for such premium products that rich people are willing to pay. Either because most of the flat beds are being sold or because the airlines just want to protect the products, award space on these routes is very hard to find.

The best space is for one person within a month of departure in United Business Class and American Airlines First Class.

Getting the Miles

Singapore miles are a partner of every transferable points program. Cards I like that earns points that transfer:

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time by June 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.
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Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Generous reader g is giving away 20 Delta coupons that are each good for one beer, cocktail, “wine split,” or headset on board. I’ll pick FIVE WINNERS who each get FOUR COUPONS. The coupons are valid through December 31, 2015, so you’ve got 10 months to use them on Delta flights.

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By all accounts, Delta is the most pleasant legacy carrier to actually fly, and having four drink/headset coupons would make it even better.

There are two ways to enter this contest, and you can enter each way to double your chances of lounge access.

  1. Comment on this post with your opinion of Delta for a chance to win four passes. Include your real email address while commenting, so I can contact the winner. (Your email address will not be displayed and will not be used for any other purpose.)
  2. Retweet this tweet:

That means everyone can enter twice! I’ll pick a winner next Friday.

Don’t forget to join the 6,251 geniuses on Twitter and 4,731 mavens on Facebook who follow MileValue for more chances to win.

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Meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Arrival Plus give you about $500 worth of free flights on any airline with no blackouts.

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from Wikipedia

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In a recent Free Credit Card Consultation, Matt wrote:

Goal: April 4 – 7 from Chicago (preferably ORD) to San Francisco Bay Area for 2 adults. Ideally, we’d like to fly both ways (economy or business) and stay at a hotel entirely on points earned from new and current cards. Thank you for your help! We love your website and plan on using your Award Booking Service in the future – especially for international adventures.

from Wikipedia
from Wikipedia

Here’s my response:

There’s a lag time when earning miles. You need to get the card, meet the spending requirement, then get the miles concomitant with the next statement closing, then redeem. So it is too late to get miles for a trip in April.

The exception is the Arrival Plus. You can use this card to charge flights and hotels and soon as the card arrives in the mail next week. Then after you meet its minimum spending requirement and your bonus miles post, you can redeem those miles to retroactively remove the flights/hotels charges. Each one of you who gets the card can take $500 of your flights/hotels bill. Any flight. Any hotel.

So basically as long as he can front the initial hotel and airfare expenses, Matt and his travel partner can eventually get $1,000 off those expenses. There’s no other card you could open right now that would definitely be useful for this trip because the lag time in getting other cards’ miles is too long.

Matt and his travel partner need to:

  1. Both open their own Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3k in the first 90 days.
  2. They each need to spend $3,000 on their new cards in the next 90 days. Part of this spending can be on their flights to San Francisco and hotels. (Here’s how to book the cheapest flights.)
  3. Since the card earns 2x miles per dollar on all purchases, and the bonus is 40,000 miles, they’ll each have 46,000+ Arrival miles.
  4. The can redeem Arrival miles against their flights. If the flights were $400, they’d redeem 40,000 miles online and then get 4,000 miles (10%) rebated automatically. Now they’d each have 10,000 miles to redeem for $100 off hotels, Airbnb, and more. That’s $500 total saved by each person or $1,000 off the cost of the trip.

Here’s the full post on Three Steps to Get $500 in Free Flights, Hotels, and Car Rentals from the Arrival Plus Card.

If Matt didn’t follow this advice and instead opened, say, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card, here’s what would happen:

  • Both cards arrive in a week, let’s say March 5. While he had 90 days to meet the minimum spending requirement on the Arrival Plus because he could use the bonus miles retroactively, he needs to meet both these spending requirements in the first month because he needs the miles and points before using them. He spends $5,500 in the first month between the two cards.
  • His statement closes a month after he gets the card, say April 5. His points post about the same time.
  • He has 53,000 American Airlines miles and 97,500 Club Carlson points, but he missed his trip, which was set to start April 4.

Bottom Line

The right card depends on where you want to go and in what cabin; it also depends on when you want to go. The Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® earns a big sign up bonus–40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days–that can be used retroactively to erase charges from your statement. That means you can get the card now, and then use the miles after you earn them for travel costs incurred before you earned the miles.

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Meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Arrival Plus give you about $500 worth of free flights on any airline with no blackouts.

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Singapore Airlines has lowered the fuel surcharges on its flights, which means your Singapore Suites Class bookings are now cheaper. You know Singapore Suites Class as the only cabin that offers a double bed on an airplane (besides the three-room suite on Etihad’s A380.)

Singapore Suites is the First Class cabin on the Singapore Airlines A380. The only way to book Singapore Suites or First Class on the Singapore 777 is with Singapore miles. Luckily Singapore miles are super easy to get as Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase, American Express, Citi, and Starpoints. (Transfers from the first three programs take less than 48 hours.)

Singapore collects fuel surcharges on awards when the underlying cash ticket would have a fuel surcharge. That means that every dollar Singapore dropped its fuel surcharges today is a dollar you save next time you book Singapore Suites Class.

  • What is the Singapore Suites product?
  • What are the fuel surcharges on Singapore Suites awards?

Product

Singapore Suites Class is a fully enclosed suite with over the top service, fancy alcohol, and delicious food.

The cabin is laid out 1-2-1 and is most famous because the two suites in the middle can be combined into one double bed. If the cabin isn’t full, sometimes they even offer the double bed to a solo traveler!

 

This is one of the best, if not the best, product in the world.

 

Award Pricing

There are no nonstop flights from the United States to Singapore. Singapore Airlines serves New York, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, all with a stop somewhere en route to Singapore. For instance, Houston to Singapore stops in Moscow. You can book Houston to Moscow, Moscow to Singapore, or Houston to Singapore.

Singapore Suites and First Class awards have an eye-popping headline miles price, but you get an automatic 15% discount for booking online, so the prices become a lot more palatable.

  • Los Angeles or San Francisco to Singapore: 91,375 miles one way in Suites/First Class
  • Houston or New York to Singapore: 93,500 miles one way in Suites/First Class
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo and San Francisco to Seoul: 74,375 miles one way in Suites/First Class
  • Houston to Moscow and New York to Frankfurt: 57,375 miles one way in Suites/First Class

New York to Frankfurt to Singapore

New York to Singapore costs 93,500 mile s+ $286.70 when booked online.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.42.24 PM

That’s a drop of about $70 from last week.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.43.15 PM

New York to Frankfurt

Just the New York to Frankfurt leg is 57,375 miles + $203.30. That’s a $15 break from last week.

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Los Angeles to Tokyo

Los Angeles to Tokyo now goes for 74,375 miles +$183.60.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.52.35 PM

That’s actually $11 more than it was last week!Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.52.39 PM

 

Singapore to London

This is the route I booked for myself in Singapore Suites two years ago. It now costs 91,375 miles + 278.9 SGD ($223.)

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.53.42 PM

When I booked the route, I paid 315 SGD, about $30 more.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.53.48 PM

Award Space

In a word: pitiful. You can search award space on singaporeair.com as explained in Booking Singapore Suites. I didn’t find any Saver award space on a Singapore A380 in Suites Class from the United States on my searches. I didn’t search every day on every route, but I searched some off peak times for a few weeks at a time. There’s probably some space out there, but not much.

Singapore Suites Class is not a product you can easily fit into a schedule. It’s a product that you schedule around.

Bottom Line

Singapore Suites Class is fantastic. Awards to get into Singapore Suites Class got cheaper today as Singapore Airlines dropped fuel surcharges. None of it matters if you can’t actually book the Saver awards, which at the moment are very rare to/from the United States. Check between Singapore and Europe for better space.

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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The brand new PointBreaks list allows us to book hotel rooms through May 31, 2015 for $35 per night.

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Crowne Plaza Bucharest (Romania), $35

Even if you’ve read other posts on the list, read this. I’ve honed my strategy for getting $35 per night rooms quite a bit, and I want to share it, so everyone can have access to the best practices.

Plus I’ve stayed in PointBreaks hotels several times in the last few years, so I want to say a word on their quality.

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Holiday Inn Fortaleza (Brazil), $35

 

This post will tell you how to book any hotel on the list of IHG Reward Club’s PointBreaks hotels for at most $35 per night, even the ones that ordinarily cost $200 or more per night like InterContinental hotels.

  • What’s my strategy to make the most of PointBreaks?
  • What are the top properties on the newest PointBreaks list?
  • What change to PointBreaks rules has changed my booking strategy?

IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks

IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty program for InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, and Staybridge Suites.

As we covered here, IHG Rewards Club normally charges 10,000 to 50,000 points for a free night depending on the property. But every few months, IHG Rewards Club releases a list of a select few hotels where you can stay for 5,000 points per night. That’s a 90% discount on some hotels!

The new list of PointBreaks hotels is good for stays now through 5/31/15.

We can stay at any hotel on the PointBreaks list for $35 just by using one loophole!

The basic premise is that IHG Rewards Club lets you buy 10,000 points for $70, which is 0.7 cents per point.

Problem #1: Not every hotel is on the PointBreaks list.

Solution: There is no solution for this problem.

When a new list comes out, I check its end date then consult my travel schedule to figure out where I’ll be between now and then that I might want a hotel. I also consider trips I haven’t planned, but have been mulling. And finally I look for the incredible properties that normally cost 50,000 miles to see if I want to take an impromptu trip.

I note all the hotels that I might want to stay at.

Problem #2: Not every night is available at hotels that are on the list–and what availability there is can disappear quickly.

Solution: Book award space now.

This leads to Problem #3.

Problem #3: I may want to change my plans later, but I may have to cancel the entire award to do that, costing me the chance at 5,000 point ($35) nights.

Solution: Book awards as a series of one-night stays.

The solution used to be to book awards as a series of one-night stays then later cancel the ones you didn’t need. That is now prohibited by the terms and conditions, which say:

“Due to the limited availability, each member may only book two PointBreaks® Reward Nights reservations per hotel during the special offer time period.”

Now you have to make your best guess for when you’ll want to stay at a hotel. Or you can always make two reservations each from multiple accounts.

If you book more nights than you need, I also think it’s possible that by calling IHG or the hotel, you can trim some dates off a previous booking, but I can’t say for sure that would work.

Problem #4: I don’t have any IHG Rewards Club points.

Solution: We can transfer in 5,000 Ultimate Rewards to have 5,000 IHG Rewards Club points. Or we can buy 5,000 points for $67.50. Once we have 5,000 IHG Rewards Club points, we can buy unlimited quantities for 0.7 cents each.

The first step if you don’t have any IHG Rewards Club points is to get to 5,000. From there you can buy more points cheaply.

The best way to get 5,000 IHG Rewards Club points is to buy 5,000 for $67.50.

If your cash poor, you can also transfer Ultimate Rewards points transfer to IHG Rewards Club points at 1:1 ratio in about 14 hours in my experience. You can make the transfer at ultimaterewards.com by clicking the IHG Rewards Club link under the transfer points tab.

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Then give your IHG Rewards Club account info and select the points to transfer in increments on 1,000.

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You want to have 5,000 points after making the transfer. I feel bad moving Ultimate Rewards to IHG Rewards Club because Ultimate Rewards are worth almost three times as much as IHG Rewards Club points, but to be able to buy more IHG Rewards Club points for 0.7 cents, we need to have at least 5,000 IHG Rewards Club points.

Purchasing Points for 0.7 Cents

Once you have 5,000 or more points in your account, you can buy the rest of the points you need for 0.7 cents each.

The way to buy IHG Rewards Club points for 0.7 cents is to make a cash and points award booking then cancel it. Once you have an IHG Rewards Club account with 5,000 points, the next step is to book a 15,000 point award. Why? When booking a 15,000 point award, you are given the option to purchase the 10,000 point shortfall for $70, which is 0.7 cents per point. Here is such an award:

As you can see, this award costs 15,000 points or 5,000 and $70. Select 5,000 points and $70 and pay for the award. The confirmation screen makes it very clear that the $70 is going towards buying 10,000 points that would be immediately used to book the award.

After booking, immediately cancel the reservation online by following a link from the booking confirmation page. That brings you to this screen:

As you can see, my reservation has been cancelled. As you can also see in the top right, the points immediately credit back to my account. My account now has 15,000 points, 5,000 that I transferred from Ultimate Rewards or bought for $67.50 and 10,000 that I just bought for $70 while making a dummy booking.

If you need more points, then you repeat this step. For instance, I recently increased my account balance from 5,000 to 45,000 in two dummy bookings. I just showed the first. In the second, I selected the same hotel on a three-night cash and points booking. That booking cost 15,000 points (my new balance) plus $210 to buy the other 30,000 points needed. Then I cancelled that booking, and I had 45,000 points from a 5,000 Ultimate Rewards transfer and $280 in cash.

If $280 sounds like a lot of cash, don’t forget that my 45,000 points is enough for nine nights in a hotel.

Caveats

Not all hotels are on the PointBreaks list. Not all nights are available as 5,000 point award nights at the hotels that are on the list. Check availability before buying points.

Make sure your account has 5,000 more points than you need for your speculative bookings. You always want a balance of 5,000 points at the end for your next round of buying points. It would be a shame to have to make another Ultimate Rewards transfer next PointBreaks list.

Best Hotels on this PointBreaks List

As usual, the list is mostly Holiday Inns and Holiday Inn Expresses abroad plus Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites in the United States.

At $35, even those are steals, but if you want something more upmarket, check out:

NEW HAMPSHIRE
CROWNE PLAZA NASHUA

LITHUANIA
CROWNE PLAZA VILNIUS

ROMANIA
CROWNE PLAZA BUCHAREST

CAMBODIA
INTERCONTINENTAL PHNOM PENH ($177 per night in April)

JAPAN
CROWNE PLAZA ANA UBE

TIBET (CHINA)
INTERCONTINENTAL LHASA PARADISE ($270 per night in April)

 

BRAZIL
HOLIDAY INN FORTALEZA ($108 per night in April)

COSTA RICA
HOTEL INDIGO SAN JOSE FORUM COSTA RICA

I’ve got my eye on the CROWNE PLAZA SUITES SUITES TEQUENDAMA BOGOTA. I think I’ll head back to the city for a few days in April, but honestly I prefer to stay farther north, so I probably will just get an Airbnb aprartment.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.07.57 PM
Crowne Plaza Bogota (Colombia)

Examples of My PointBreaks Stays

Example from Summer 2013

I scoured that summer’s PointBreaks list to see if any of my travel plans coincided with any of the hotels, and they did in one case: I was in South Africa in August and there was a Holiday Inn Express in Pretoria and a Holiday Inn in Sandton (Johannesburg) on the list.

I booked three consecutive one night stays at the Holiday Inn in Sandton and three consecutive one night stays at the Holiday Inn Express in Pretoria.

The Sandton Holiday Inn goes for $117 per night, but I got the rooms for $35.

I used three of the six nights, and I canceled the ones I didn’t need within a few days of check in when I finally knew my plans. (Check the cancellation policy when you book as it varies by hotel, but you always have until the last few days at a minimum.)

Neither hotel was luxurious, but both had free internet and the Holiday Inn Express had a free hot breakfast buffet that saved me the cost of a meal.

Both hotels were clean and comfortable, so I was very happy with my stays as I reported in my post about saving 88% on my hotel bill in Stockholm.

Example from Summer 2012

I checked that summer’s PointBreaks list to see if any of my travel plans coincided with any of the hotels, and they did in one case: I would be in Krakow, Poland and the Holiday Inn Krakow City Centre was on the list.

I was in Krakow June 6 – 9, and I didn’t have a hotel booked. While the Krakow Holiday Inn was hardly the nicest property on the PointBreaks list, its cheapest room June 6 was 531 Polish Zloty, which was $153.

The first thing I did was search availability, and I found space June 6 and 8, but not June 7. I decided to book June 6 and 8, so I needed 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points.

I had zero IHG Rewards Club points in my account, so I transferred in 5,000 points from Ultimate Rewards. I bought 10,000 more points for $70 exactly how I outlined above leaving me with 15,000 points after I cancelled my dummy booking.

With my new points, I made two one-night bookings on June 6 and 8.

I noted the cancellation policy, which varies by hotel, in case I had to cancel. At the Holiday Inn Krakow, I just had to cancel by 4 PM the day of arrival.

I ended up very much enjoying the stay at the Holiday Inn Krakow, and I wrote about it in my Krakow, Poland Hotel Guide.

Recap

The new PointBreaks list is out from IHG Rewards Club. This is a list of hotels you can book for 5,000 points or $35 per night. The best way to take advantage of the list is to be active right now.

I have booked a $153 hotel room for $35 using the techniques in this post.

Which hotel will you stay at for $35?

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All airlines release award space 11 months out.

I’m not sure where that idea came from. Many flights never have any award space released, and flights that do have award space released have the space released at all different times from 11 months (or 11.5 months depending on the airline) before the flight to 24 hours.

One airline that has a unique pattern of releasing its Business Class award space between North America and Europe is Austrian Airlines: on Austrian’s five routes, it never releases Business Class space until three months before departure.

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from gcmap.com; I like the German spelling of Vienna

 

The Product

I flew Austrian’s 767 in Business Class between Vienna and Chicago in 2013. Check out the full trip report.

Austrian flies 767s and 777s to North America. Both feature the staggered fully flat beds pictured in this video.

Your feet go under the divider between seats in the row in front of you. The 767 features four Business Class beds in all rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. The 777 alternates 1-2-1, 2-2-2. Obviously use Seat Guru to pick a row with the 1-2-1 configuration if you are traveling alone on an Austrian 777.

The bed is very comfortable like most Business Class beds. Austrian tries to differentiate itself with an onboard chef in full costume.

And its antipasti cart.

I thought the food was good, but the portions were too small–the only time I’ve thought that during a multi-course meal in a premium cabin.

Award Space

How can you get into this very good Business Class space? The easiest way is to pay 70,000 United miles one way in Business Class (on sale for 57,500 miles if you book by Saturday and travel in 2015.)

Award space in Business Class on Austrian’s routes follows a common pattern. Zero is available more than three months before departure. Within that three month window, some is available. (Economy space is available up to 11 months out. I see zero economy award space often in the summer months and great space for the fall and winter.)

Chicago

There are 14 days in the next three months with Business Class award space (blue and green days) from Chicago to Vienna, and no space beyond May 18.

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In September and October, there is economy space almost every day, but Business Class space won’t open up in these months until June and July.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.18.09 PM

New York Area

From JFK and Newark–which I searched together with city code NYC–there is by far the most space. I count 38 days in the next three months with award space with the last day on May 23.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.18.44 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.19.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.19.12 PM

Some days have award space on both flights, which are annoyingly scheduled at exactly the same time, so you can’t pick between different flight schedules.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.20.32 PM

Washington DC

Washington-Dulles has terrible award space, with only five days with Business Class space in the next three months ending on May 17. Beyond that, there is no Business Class space.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.23.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.26.38 PM

Toronto

Toronto has award space in Business Class on 15 days in the next three months, ending on May 20.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.29.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.29.31 PM

Bottom Line

Not all airlines release award space 11 months out. Austrian releases economy space 11 months out, but only releases Business Class space between Europe and North America three months out if it releases the space at all on a given flight. I’ve noticed this pattern for at least a year.

The most plentiful award space by far is on Austrian’s JFK and Newark to Vienna flights.

This could be good news for people looking for Business Class awards to Europe this summer, but based on the dearth of economy award space to Europe on Austrian flights over the summer, I don’t think Austrian will release much summer award space. (I hope I’m wrong.)

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A few weeks ago, United’s Danish website was way under-pricing First Class tickets from London to the United States, about $100 to anywhere you wanted to go. United said it would not honor those tickets, and I sided with United while noting that United States Department of Transportation (DoT) rules seemed clear that United couldn’t unilaterally cancel its tickets.

Now the DoT has weighed in with a statement.

The statement makes clear that United will not have to honor the mistake fares. It leaves open whether any mistake fares in the future will be honored, and I really don’t like some of the language. Here’s the part that could kill mistake fares:

Additionally, the Office is concerned that to obtain the fare, some purchasers had to manipulate the search process on the website in order to force the conversion error to Danish Krone by misrepresenting their billing address country as Denmark when, in fact, Denmark was not their billing address country. This evidence of bad faith by the large majority of purchasers contributed to the Enforcement Office’s decision.

Most mistake fares do not require you to change the country of purchase (though that trick often saves money on airfare), but I’m worried about what else the DoT could classify as “bad faith” that could then “contribute” to the next decision that a mistake fare doesn’t have to be honored.

Will a mistake fare going viral be enough evidence on its own that a majority of the people who purchased it read about the fare on a blog or website and knew the fare was a mistake? Is that “bad faith”? Will that be enough to make the next mistake fare unenforceable?

I don’t know the answers, but my take is that the DoT didn’t want to enforce this mistake fare and “back-filled” reasons to get there. The DoT had some useful facts at its disposal this time, since almost everyone who got in on the fare lied about having a billing address in Denmark. Those facts probably won’t be present in the next mistake fare that the DoT has to adjudicate, but will DoT simply expand its definition of “bad faith”? If the DoT doesn’t want to enforce the next mistake fare, will it back-fill new reasons?

We shall see.

In the meantime, I set up a twitter account last week that I haven’t tweeted from yet. I’ll only tweet from @MileValueAlerts when there is a you-need-to-know-right-now deal on the level of a mistake fare. Set up free text message alerts every time @MileValueAlerts tweets as explained in this post.

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