Authors Posts by Rookie Alli

Rookie Alli

17 POSTS 17 COMMENTS

19

One of the most common reasons why people think frequent flyer miles are worthless is because they had a bad experience with miles expiring. After all the effort put into collecting miles, it would be quite a shame if they expired without taking you on a dream vacation.

If you’ve ever had any of these questions, you are in the right place for answers: How long do you have until your miles expire? What can keep them from expiring? If you close a credit card, do the miles expire? Are the rules the same for all miles and points? Answers to the these FAQ are addressed below.

Will closing my co-branded card cause my miles to expire?

Closing a credit card that is co-branded with an airline (such as the Citi AAdvantage card or Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card) will never, by itself, cause your miles to expire. Co-branded credit cards deposit the miles you earn from signup bonuses and spending directly into the account you have with the airline, so they are no longer linked to the credit card. I have an AAdvantage Citi Business card. You can see the section to the bottom of the screenshot of my credit card account that is dedicated to my AAdvantage miles accumulation.

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If I click the View Miles Earned, it will redirect me to the AAdvantage home page. 
Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 2.46.46 PMThat means the accounts are separate– the miles earned with the Citi AAdvantage card are automatically transferred to American Airlines.

And I confirm that by logging into my AAdvanatge account. So if I ever cancelled that card, the miles would still be safely in my AAdvantage account.

What will cause my miles to expire?

What does cause miles to expire, however, is a lack of activity in the program account for a specified period of time.

Examples:

  • Aeroplan miles expire after 12 consecutive months of account inactivity
  • American Airlines, United Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines’ miles expire after 18 consecutive months of account inactivity
  • British Airways Avios expire after 36 consecutive months of account inactivity

Miles that Expire Despite Account Activity

Etihad Guest miles expire two years after the last day of the month in which they were earned- despite whether or not there is account activity (unless you have status–then they last three years). ANA and JAL follow similar policies– they expire 3 years after the month in which they were earned.

All Asiana miles earned after October 1, 2008 will expire seven to 12 years after accumulation (depending on your status). All Korean SKYPASS miles earned after July 1, 2008 will expire 10 years after accumulation.

Those are the only commonly used miles I know of that have an expiration policy apathetic to account activity. If you know of others, let us know in the comments.

Miles That Never Expire

  • Delta
  • JetBlue

Full details on the expiration policies for some major airline loyalty programs can be found here:

The danger of mile expiration does often come when you cancel a credit card. If I cancel my Citi AAdvantage card, I am no longer earning American Airlines miles on purchases. I have to make sure that there is some sort of activity–either earning or redeeming–in my AAdvantage account within the next 18? months, or I will lose all my miles.

Luckily keeping your miles from expiring is trivially easy. Any earning or redeeming keeps them active.

How can I keep my miles from expiring?

If you are coming up on the 18 month deadline and need a way to keep your miles active, there are a number of things you can do.

  • Dining programs: Signing up for dining programs allows you to earn miles when you eat out at certain restaurants. Read more details on how to use dining programs to keep your miles active here.
  • Purchase miles: Purchasing miles is normally a bad idea, as you end up paying more than the value of the mile. However, if you need to keep your miles active, you can purchase a small number of miles in the program you need to keep active. United charges $70 + 7.5% tax for 2,000 miles for example. Google “purchase [airline] miles” to quickly be taken to any airline’s mile purchase page.
  • Donate miles: All the major carriers allow you to donate miles to non-profits such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Operation Hero, UNICEF, and various other charities. While this is best done out of the goodness of your heart, a donation of miles will also keep your account active. Learn more about donating miles here.
  • Flying: These seems like an obvious one, but if your miles are danger of expiration, don’t foret to input your frequent flyer number when booking a revenue ticket with the airline or one of its partners. The activity from earning miles will extend the life of your account.
  • Shopping Portals: Shopping portals allow you to earn miles by making your normal online purchases through your favorite online stores. Just by starting at the loyalty program’s portal and using its link to your favorite online retailer, you can get extra miles for your purchases.
  • Move some transferrable bank points: You can’t normally move points around willy nilly between mileage accounts (there are some exceptions– but it’s not the norm). But points like Citi ThankYou Points, Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints are a different story entirely. They do transfer for free to dozens of types of airline miles, at which point they become those airline miles. The influx of miles is activity that counts towards extending the life your miles.
  • Watch out for free giveaways and/or promotions, like this AAdvantage one from Rocketmiles I wrote about last month.
  • Rent a car: for example, you can earn AAdvantage miles by renting a car through aa.com. This is the case with many major airline loyalty programs.

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What if my miles have already expired?

Hopefully you are reading this before your miles expire. If, however, you let your miles expire, some programs let you buy back the miles you lost for a fee. These reactivation policies vary from program to program.

For example, American Airlines allows you to reactivate any miles that expired dating back to 2002. They charge $200 for up to 50,000 miles, $400 for up to 75,000 miles, and $600 for 75,000+ miles. Alaska Airlines will even let you buy back expired miles for only $75–any amount of miles– for up to one year after they were deleted.

In general, buying back your miles is a good deal. But of course it’s better not to let your miles expire and have to pay the fee. To keep track of all your loyalty programs and miles balances, try Award Wallet. It will help you keep tabs on the expiration dates.

What about my bank points?

All that was about frequent flyer miles. Bank points are quite different.

Closing a credit card that earns bank points can cost you all of the points in the account. These cards hold the points that you earn in the credit card account–for example, the Ultimate Rewards points that you earn using your Chase Sapphire Preferred card are held in your Chase Sapphire Preferred account. If you were to simply cancel this card, you would lose all the points you worked to accumulate.

Luckily, transferrable points are easily transferred to another account within that loyalty program. In order to avoid losing transferable points when you cancel a card, transfer them into another account within that loyalty program before you cancel.

In our example of canceling a Sapphire Preferred, you would need to transfer your Ultimate Rewards into another account of yours that holds Ultimate Rewards to avoid the points disappearing. You could achieve this by transferring them into your Chase Ink Bold account or your Chase Ink Plus account. Just be careful before doing this, because sometimes it doesn’t work and is only a temporary solution, like in the case of cards that earn Citi ThankYou Points. Let’s say before you canceled your Citi Prestige, you moved the ThankYou points earned by that card to your Citi Premier ThankYou Account. That would extend the life of those points by 90 days, but they would expire nonetheless after that point.

Of course, you could always transfer bank points to one of the airline, hotel, or rail partners, but just make sure the program you transfer to is a type of mile you find valuable and useful.

Bottom Line

Frequent flyer miles do not expire when you close the credit card used to earn them, but they do usually expire after a set number of months of inactivity within that airline’s loyalty program account (and in some cases with foreign programs, they expire despite account activity after a set amount of time).

In order to keep the majority of your miles from expiring, do anything that changes the account balance like redeeming miles, signing up for a dining program, purchasing miles, or donating miles. If you accidentally allow your miles to expire, some airlines allow you to reinstate them for a fee.

Transferable bank points will disappear from your account when you close the credit card used to earn them. In order to avoid losing these points, transfer them to a transfer partner or another account within that bank’s loyalty program before you close the credit card.

Don’t want to worry about your miles expiring? Collect Delta Skymiles or JetBlue TrueBlue points

The JetBlue Plus Barclaycard earns 30,000 TrueBlue Points after spending just $1,000 on the card within the first three months of opening the account. 

While I can not directly link to current JetBlue Plus offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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31

Previously:

I have finally decided where to redeem my two free nights that I got from opening a Citi® Hilton HHonors™  Reserve Card. I am going to use them for a weekend stay at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria in June.

As much as I would have loved to used my two free weekend nights for a stay in Asia or the South Pacific, the amount of travel it takes to get to those locations was a huge deterrent to that plan. Europe seemed like a much more feasible destination. Thank you to all the readers who commented with their reviews, suggestions, and opinions on where I should stay!

The Property

The Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria is a Category 9 hotel, and the King Deluxe room that I am staying at (for free) is going for $557/night the weekend that I am staying there, or 80,000 HHonors points. I could never have afforded spending $1,100+ on a hotel for the weekend, so the free weekend nights have put an otherwise unattainable luxury within my reach.

Why did I pick the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria? What was the booking process?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Earlier this month, I received my two Free Weekend Night certificates from Hilton after spending $2,500 in four months on my Citi Hilton Reserve card.

Hilton has some incredible properties around the world that cost as much for a night as my rent costs for a month, so I want to use my two free nights for truly aspirational stays I could otherwise never afford. And I want you to help me pick a property, since I’m sure MileValue readers have stayed at all these properties.

Hilton Bora Bora Nui, I could stay here…

I decided that I only wanted to redeem my certificates outside of the US at either a Category 9 or Category 10 hotel–why settle for less, especially when it’s free? I want to take a nice trip next summer, so I am looking at redeeming the certificates for a consecutive Friday night and Saturday night stay in June. I came up with five finalists.

What are my options? Where should I stay?

Each of my two certificates is valid for one free weekend night (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) at most category 1-10 Hilton hotels. The list of all Hilton hotels is here, and the very short list of hotels that are excluded from redemption with these certificates can be found here.

Note: When pricing these hotel rooms, I used the Easy Cancellation price. The free weekend night certificates allow you to cancel your reservation and refund your certificate, so the Easy Cancellation price is the closest equivalent.

Conrad Koh Samui Resort & Spa, Thailand (Category 10)

I have heard incredible things about the Conrad Koh Samui Resort and Spa in Thailand, and I was encouraged to check it out by commenters on my previous post. The resort offers trips to surrounding islands, diving excursions, and some pretty breathtaking views.

The standard room at the Conrad Koh Samui is the One Bedroom King Ocean View Pool Villa, and it sounds exactly like the type of place I would want to spend the weekend relaxing. Here is the room description, from the hotel’s website.

The price to book this room for June 13 and June 14 is $693/night, or a total of $1,386 for the weekend.

 

Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa (Category 10)

I have always wanted to travel to the South Pacific, and a free stay at the Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort and Spa would definitely encourage me to check that destination off of my list. Days here are passed snorkeling, sailing, and soaking up the sun on those white sand beaches. Seriously, have you ever seen such beautiful water?

Unfortunately, the certificates will not get you into one of the signature overwater villas that you see in 90% of pictures of Bora Bora.

However there’s no reason you can’t use the certificates then contact the hotel directly about paying to upgrade to an overwater villa. Have any readers tried this? Sounds like it is worth a shot!

The room that the certificates are good for is the King Guest Room.

For a June 13-15 stay, this room costs $583/night, putting the two night stay at $1,066 plus tax.

 

Conrad Tokyo (Category 10)

For those who want a little more hustle and bustle than is offered on a tropical island, the Conrad Tokyo seems like a great place to see a little slice of Japan. The hotel looks luxurious, with views of both the city and the water.

The hotel’s restaurant.

The certificates get you into a King Room with a city view.

This room is priced at $407/night, or $814 for the weekend plus tax, in the middle of June.

 

Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri (Category 9)

A number of people in this FlyerTalk forum said that they loved their stays at the Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri, so I thought it would be worth checking out.

In addition to standard amenities, the Rome Cavalieri houses its own art collection and offers gladiator training (!) and tours of the private Vatican gardens, access to which is normally highly restricted.

The King Deluxe room is priced at $551/night when checking in on June 13th and checking out on June 15th. A weekend stay would cost $1,102 plus tax.

 

London Hilton on Park Lane (Category 9)

The London Hilton on Park Lane hotel is located in the Mayfair neighborhood of London, close to Hyde Park and a number of upscale restaurants and shops. I have never visited London, and I think that this hotel would be a great place to stay and see all of the famous landmarks (and perhaps a Royal baby sighting?).

In June, the King Hilton Deluxe room is priced at $548 a night, for a weekend value of $1,096 plus tax.

Other Considerations

I’m not going to take a two-day international trip, so my pick needs to fit within a larger trip that won’t include every night in such luxury.

London and Rome would be very easy to get to with miles, and either could be part of a larger two week trip to Europe. Similarly Tokyo is very easy to get to with miles.

Koh Samui would be a little tougher. There are flights on Thai and China Southern that could be part of an award, or I could buy a cheap ticket on Bangkok Airways. Either way Koh Samui is very manageable as a two-day stay on a longer trip to Southeast Asia.

Bora Bora would be the hardest to get to for a weekend. There are no award flights to Bora Bora. (I could use miles to Tahiti and pay cash for the flights to Bora Bora.) And French Polynesia is not very easy to combine with other places as part of a larger trip. This one may be a pipe dream for me.

Recap

You can find a PDF list of all Hilton properties here, and those hotels that are excluded from redemption with the to free weekend nights certificates can be found here.

Stays at the hotels that I looked at varied in price from $814 to $1,386 for two nights during the weekend of June 13-15. But I can get the nights for free from opening one credit card.

Where should I book my stay? Did I overlook any can’t-miss properties?

Application Link: Citi Hilton Reserve

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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This past February, I applied for a number of cards, including the Citi Hilton Reserve. I got the card for the free Hilton Gold status and the big benefit:

  • Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio after $2,500 in eligible purchases within 4 months of account opening.

I am excited to report that I now have my free night certificates!

What was my experience? How did I receive the certificates? How quickly did they arrive? Where am I thinking of using them?

I originally applied for the card on February 16. I applied online, and after a quick call to Citi’s reconsideration line, I was approved. I received the card in the mail less than two weeks later and activated it.

In order to receive the two free weekend nights, I had to spend $2,500 within four months of the account opening. I met this spending requirement on my statement that closed on June 10. I met the requirement in about three-and-a-half months. Over that time period, I kept track of how much I had spent and how much more I had to go using my Citi online account. When I was sure that I had spent $2,500, I tucked the card away and moved my spending over to another card.

The Terms and Conditions for this card state, “Please allow 6-8 weeks after purchase requirements have been met to receive your certificate.” I received mine after only four weeks.

On July 12, I received two separate emails from Hilton HHonors that each contained the following e-certificate. Each certificate is good for one weekend night stay at select Hilton hotels.

Interestingly, the certificates were issued on July 3 but were not sent to me until July 12. They expire one year after the date of issue — July 3, 2014 in my case.

Because you earn two one-night certificates, you don’t have to use them consecutively or even at the same property.

I plan to use my free nights at top-tier Category 10 Hilton hotels that can go for up to $1,000 a night, so that the card can give me a little taste of luxury I otherwise could never afford.

In addition to the certificates, I have earned about 8,400 Hilton points by spending $2,800 on the card at its base earning rate of 3 Hilton points per dollar. This is actually enough points for a free night at a Category 1 hotel and almost enough for a night at a Category 2 hotel.

Recap

It took me a total of five months to receive the biggest perk that the Citi Hilton Reserve offers–two free weekend nights at Hilton hotels across the globe.

The only question is: Where am I going to redeem my two nights? Any suggestions?

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card with Two Free Nights worldwide at top tier Hiltons after spending $2,500 in four months

Application Link: Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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1

Today is the second day of the third week of five weeks of discounted travel packages sponsored by the US Travel Association and American Express called Daily Getaways.

Every weekday at 1 PM ET, a discounted travel package or packages will go on sale and will usually sell out in a few minutes. Some of the offers will be awesome; some will be duds. Today’s deal will offer good value for people seeking a luxury hotel experience.

Today’s deal is for two-night stays at a number of Loews Hotels and Resorts.

View of the Pacific at Loews Santa Monica.

How can you get in on the deal?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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4

Today is the first day of the third week of five weeks of discounted travel packages sponsored by the US Travel Association and American Express called Daily Getaways.

Every weekday at 1 PM ET, a discounted travel package or packages will go on sale and will usually sell out in a few minutes. Some of the offers will be awesome; some will be duds. I imagine that today’s deal will be great for many families out there.

Today’s deal is discounted packages for visits to the Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Universal Orlando Resort

How can you get in on the deal?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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0

Update at 1:55 ET: These deals are not very popular it seems. None have sold out. You can still snag one if you’d like!

Today is the second day of the second week of five weeks of discounted travel packages sponsored by the US Travel Association and American Express called Daily Getaways.

Every weekday at 1 PM ET, a discounted travel package or packages will go on sale and will usually sell out in a few minutes. Some of the offers will be awesome; some will be duds.

Today’s deal is discounted hotel stays from various Omni Hotels and Resorts across the country.

The pool at the Onmi Tucson.

How can you get in on the deal?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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16

My sister recently visited me in Buenos Aires. She was here for eight days, arriving on a Saturday morning and leaving the following Saturday night–meaning she took one full week off from work. We managed to pack a whole lot of sightseeing, touring, and eating into that time! I figured I’d share the things we enjoyed, the things we would pass on, and the things we would have done with more time, so you can plan one perfect week in Argentina.

Argentina is the world’s eighth largest country, so you can’t do it all in a week, but here’s what you can do. (With lots of photos!)

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Rookie Alli just flew her first international business class flight. I asked her to share the perspective of someone seeing the front of the plane for the first time. She flew United BusinessFirst, which is widely accessible to Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America with miles, so if you haven’t flown up front, pay attention to this trip report. For my perspective on the same cabin, see my trip report from London to Los Angeles.

I recently experienced my first flight that wasn’t in economy, flying from Buenos Aires to Newark in United BusinessFirst on my way to Washington, DC.

Was it worth the extra miles? What can you expect on your first trip in business class? How comfortable are those beds? Fly with me, and find out.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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16

Read Part 1 First.

In Part 2: Ruta de Siete Lagos, beer tour, and more

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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15

San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina is a mountain town in the Lake District of Patagoina, located about 50km from the Chilean border. It sits right on the edge of the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, drawing visitors from all over to admire the spectacular lake and mountain views.

 Scott and I recently decided to use Avios to fly LAN from Buenos Aires to Bariloche for five days. The southern hemisphere has just entered fall. In Patagonia, that means cold weather quickly. Because of this, we wanted to get there as soon as possible to enjoy what little good weather remained (before ski season’s “good” weather.) We knew that the town would be relatively empty as Bariloche’s two peak seasons are the summer and the winter.

For the wonders of Patagonia, keep reading.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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6

Raise your hand if you like calling credit card companies. Seeing no hands, let me give you some tips to avoid a few calls.

If you’re a beginner to the miles-collecting game, signing up for airline and hotel loyalty programs before you apply for that program’s credit card can save you a few calls to the credit card companies.

Let me give an example.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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The second you move abroad, you become a lot more popular! That far flung country looks a lot better to family and friends as soon as they know they’ll have a free bed and tour guide. My sister wanted to come visit me in Argentina in mid-May, so we set out to find her the best award ticket possible. Only one minor problem. As of two months ago, she had zero miles.

We ended up booking her n roundtrip from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires for a weeklong trip for 60,000 United miles. We even added a free oneway to Hawaii for next year for no extra miles and only $2.50 in taxes. This Anatomy of an Award should illustrate how to get from zero miles to a dream trip in two months, United free oneways, United’s hold policy, and the secret United award space open to United card holders.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Unfortunately, all great trips must come to an end. Three-and-a-half months before the end of my stay in Argentina, it is time to book my oneway return to the US: from Buenos Aires (EZE) to Denver (DEN).

Planning

I need to be in Denver for a wedding at the end of July. Because of this, my travel dates are limited–I want to maximize my time in Argentina while still arriving in Denver before the wedding. This gives me about five days of wiggle room.

As this is a oneway trip, I only want to book an award with an airline that will allow me to book a oneway award for half the price of a roundtrip. Luckily, the American Airlines AAdvantage miles I currently have will allow me to do this. I got 105,000 AAdvantage miles last fall using the (now defunct) two-browser trick.

I really wanted to use these miles instead of my new United miles, which I plan on using to Europe at some point.

Searching for American Space

I began with the most simple of searches on AA.com: Buenos Aires to Denver. There was no MileSAAver (low-priced level) award space available in any class–only AAnytime (high-priced level). MileSAAver space would be 30,000 miles, and I am not going to pay double that just to sit in the back of the plane.

 

Rookie tip: just because my first search showed no space at the miles price doesn’t mean there is no way to find the low miles price. Many airlines’ award search engines don’t show all their partners’ award space, which always prices at the low miles price.

This is such a case. AA.com doesn’t show LAN–a South American member of oneworld–space.

Searching for LAN Space on ba.com

Knowing that American Airlines does not show the available space for all of their partner airlines, I next searched ba.com because it displays more oneworld airlines than aa.com does, and American Airlines miles can be used to book all the oneworld space found on ba.com.

My first search was for Buenos Aires to Denver. The original date I searched returned no available award space in either Economy or Business.

Something to remember when searching for partner space on ba.com is that you must use the tabs that list the surrounding dates in order to see if there is available partner space. Skipping this may result in you missing out on available space. Additionally, you have to run a new search in order to change the class that you want to search for.

Unconvinced that there was zero available award space in any class on any partner flight during the week I needed, I decided to search segment-by-segment.

Rookie tip: award search engines often miss possible itineraries that have connections because of flaws in their computer programming. You can search possible routes segment-by-segment to construct awards yourself that you will later call the airline whose miles you are using to book.

I used Wikipedia to see what US destinations LAN flies to out of Buenos Aires.

So this time instead of searching Buenos Aires to Denver on aa.com, I searched Buenos Aires to Miami. A quick search showed me that there in fact was business class space on a number of LAN flights that week!

They weren’t the direct flight I wanted, but I could handle a stop in Santiago. And they weren’t in economy class, but I was willing to spend 50,000 miles for a business class award. That sure beats the 60,000 aa.com wanted for an economy ticket.

I had found my way to Miami! Now I just needed to find space on a flight from Miami to Denver. Because I was flying international business, I would be allowed to fly domestic first.

Rookie tip: On international business class awards, your domestic portions can be in economy or first class on planes with only two cabins.

I ran a search on aa.com looking for first class award space from Miami to Denver, and found that there was availability on the day that I needed.

Unfortunately, the only direct availability comes with a 12 hour layover in Miami. Any suggestions on ways to pass the time?

I can live with this three flight business class award with a 12 hour layover in Miami to get to Denver when I want to and for a good price.

Booking

Knowing I would be unable to book this award online, and that I was booking with American miles, I called American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to make the reservation. I gave the agent my account information, and the flight numbers I had picked out. I requested to hold the reservation for a few days before ticketing. The agent complied, telling me that they would hold the award for five days–standard operating procedure for American Airlines. Two days later, I received a rather cryptic email from American:

When I called the number, I was told by the American agent that they were not supposed to hold reservations for seats on LAN flights, and that I would need to ticket the reservation immediately. By politely explaining that I had to confirm a detail before ticketing, the agent allowed me to hold the reservation for a few more days before purchasing the ticket.

Here is my complete itinerary:

This complete itinerary cost my 50,000 miles and $102.30 in taxes including that unavoidable $25 American Airlines Telephone Ticketing Services fee.

 At least I’ll be getting 5,000 miles back because I have an American Airlines credit card. And I’ll have a chance to enjoy lie flat business class on the LAN segments, which is something I haven’t yet experienced.

What I Could Have Done

I could have booked a free stopover in Miami if I had more flexibility in my travel dates. Since Miami is my international gateway city, it is the only place on the itinerary that I would have been able to book a free stopover.

I could have had a shorter layover in Florida. When I searched aa.com for availability from Miami to Denver, I saw a few routes that would allow me to leave Florida hours earlier by flying out of Ft. Lauderdale (FLL). I could have had a three hour layover–rather than a twelve hour one– by taking a taxi to and flying out of Ft. Lauderdale instead of Miami on my last leg.

I could have rolled the dice: after not finding any space on American for a date remotely close to the one I needed, I consulted Scott. He told me that American rarely opens up last second award space, but United open up a ton. If I wanted to use my United miles and book in the last week, I could probably have snagged an easy Buenos Aires to Houston to Denver itinerary.

Here’s what Buenos Aires to Denver looks like for this week for instance.

EZE-DEN for this month. Pretty good space is open at the last minute.

In terms of getting the best deal, this may have been the way to go–simply wait until mid-July and start searching for available space on United. I could have potentially saved 20k miles by flying economy. However, I am extremely risk averse and would prefer to have my flight locked in more than a week or two prior to departure. Plus I really would prefer to use American miles instead of United miles for this trip.

Recap

This award is a relatively simple one, but it highlights some good rookie tips too.

If you are searching for a route and keep coming up with zero availability, that does not necessarily mean that you will have to adjust your dates. Use Wikipedia to see where your airline flies to from your origin airport, and then do your search. This often yields hidden space that did not show up before.

Know where to search for each partner. In this case I searched for LAN space at ba.com and American space at aa.com then combined them by calling American.

Don’t forget that you can fly domestic first class on international business awards.

Every airline has different stopover rules on awards. American’s rule allowed a stopover in Miami that I won’t be using, but it’s nice to know the option.

Some airlines open last second space, and some don’t. Even if you think you have the miles to get space at the last minute, you might prefer to lock in your award in advance to save yourself the stress.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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The American Express Platinum personal and business cards come with annual fees of $450. But they also come with a litany of valuable benefits worth more than $450, at least for the first year.

Unfortunately none of those benefits is automatic. In order to get the most out of the card, you need to spend a little time signing up for each one.

All American Express Platinum cards–including the “regular” Platinum, Business Platinum, Mercedes-Benz Platinum, and Ameriprise Platinum–receive the following benefits in the first year:

$500 in Free Statement Credits

$200 ($400) Airline Fee Credits

Platinum cards come with a $200 airline fee credit each calendar year. That means in everyone’s first year of holding a Platinum card, you can get $400 worth of airline fees credited back to your card.

For instance, I got a Mercedes-Benz Platinum (personal) card in February 2013, so I took advantage of this benefit in 2013 and January 2014 for $400 in statement credits.

The airline fee credit is supposed to be for fees likes change fees, cancellation fees, and bag fees. The fee credit is not supposed to apply to ticket purchases, miles purchases, or gift card purchases.

But American Express’s computers decides whether a certain purchase qualifies for a fee credit, and in the experience of thousands of people, certain airline gift card purchases will result in a statement credit. That makes this benefit like getting $400 in free flights, which almost completely offsets the annual fee in one swoop. Here is the lowdown on which airline gift cards are being reimbursed as of October 2015.

In order to get the $200 airline fee credit, you have to choose a single airline on which you will receive credits for fees incurred. Designate that airline from the list of eligible airlines here.

It can take a few weeks for the offsetting statement credit to appear–though it usually takes just a few days. If yours doesn’t appear after a few weeks, you can call the number on the back of your card or initiate an online chat to get your statement credit.

$100 Global Entry Fee Credit

Platinum card holders are entitled to a $100 statement credit when they pay the $100 Global Entry enrollment fee with their Platinum cards.

Having Global Entry allows you to skip the immigrations and customs queues when arriving in the US. Instead of spending time in line and talking to an agent, you tap a few buttons at a kiosk and get to the curb in a few minutes. Global Entry membership is valid for 5 years. I love Global Entry. And having Global Entry also lets you skip immigration queues in Australia and New Zealand.

There are two steps involved in obtaining Global entry: an application and an interview.

First, you need to fill out the online application.  To do this as efficiently as possible, make sure you have on hand: Proof of Citizenship documents (passport works); your driver’s license, if you have one; and both your address and work histories for the past five years. The online application process took me about 30 minutes to complete.

If you have never registered with GOES (the Global Online Entry System), you will be prompted to register when you click the online application link above.

Once you are registered with GOES, log in to the system. You will see that you are not a member of any programs. Click “Enroll in a New Program” to begin your Global Entry application.

Select the link that allows you to start the application for the trusted traveler program.

From here, you will have to fill out a variety of personal information. There are 16 categories of information.

Fill out all the sections and submit your application. You will be prompted to pay the $100 application fee–make sure you use your AMEX Platinum to pay this in order to have the fee credited back to you!

Unfortunately, the GOES system doesn’t email you when your application is approved or denied. I set a reminder in my calendar to check on the status of my application in a week. Once your application is approved, you can use the GOES system to schedule your in-person interview, which will take place at any airport that participates in the Global Entry program.

Free Lounge Access

You can get free lounge access at Delta Sky Clubs by showing your American Express Platinum Card and boarding pass–no set up required! You also get free access to American Express Centurion Lounges with their expanded footprint. American Express Centurion Lounges are the nicest domestic lounges.

You can get even better lounge coverage–especially internationally–by signing up for a free Priority Pass Select membership to complement the automatic free lounge access.

Priority Pass Select

Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent airport lounge access program. Platinum Card holders get free Priority Pass Select membership, which entitles them to free access to hundreds of lounges worldwide (everything on the list except United Clubs).

Sign up for your free Priority Pass Select account here. I received my shiny black and gold Priority Pass card in the mail only 5 days after I called.

This card has to be shown and swiped at participating Priority Pass Select lounges. I downloaded the app on my phone, so I can search for participating lounges by airport while I travel.

There’s more information about this benefit here.

Hotel Status

Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Status

Platinum Card holders are entitled to free Gold status in the Starwood Preferred Guest program. Gold status will entitle me to late checkout, free internet, and other benefits on any stays at a Sheraton, W, Westin, Four Points, and other hotel brands.

Call the number on the back of your card to get free SPG Gold Status. You will be transferred to an SPG agent who can even create a new SPG account for you and give it Gold Status.

Hilton Gold Status

To get Hilton Gold Status, click this link.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 4.03.28 PMEnter your Hilton number, and you will get a pop up saying the status should appear in 72 hours.Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 4.04.36 PMIf you have additional cardholders, they can get Hilton Gold Status too, just not online.Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 4.06.57 PM

Hilton Gold Status entitles you to better rooms, late checkout, more points, and other freebies. Click here for all the benefits of Hilton Gold.

Recap

The American Express Platinum cards come with big annual fees, but even bigger benefits. The benefits require a little bit of work to set up: a phone call, some gift card purchases, and a Global Entry application. But setting up and enjoying your benefits is easy.

Call American Express at the number on the back of your AMEX card:

  1. Designate an airline to receive your $200 annual (calendar year) airline fee credit (or enroll online)
  2. Ask to be enrolled in Priority Pass Select (or enroll online)
  3. Ask to be given Gold status in Starwood Preferred Guest. You will be transferred to SPG.

Get Hilton Gold Status online.

Buy gift cards with your AMEX Platinum on the airline you designated that will be reimbursed by the airline fee credit. Then use those gift cards for free flights.

Apply for Global Entry, paying the fee with your AMEX Platinum. Then enjoy plane-to-curb times under ten minutes on international flights.

There are even more benefits of holding a Platinum Card–many more than would fit here, and most of little use for the majority of people. For a complete list including benefits at Neiman Marcus, Equinox Fitness Clubs, car rental agencies, and more, see here.

Bonus

For me, a ten minute phone call was the easier way to enroll in these benefits. If you prefer not to speak to an agent, you can enroll for most benefits online here.

Double Bonus

For many people, the Citi Prestige® Card offers better lounge benefits and statement credits. Find out which is better for you in:

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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