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I get a lot of questions about the Citi Prestige® Card because it is an awesome and complicated card.

The Citi Prestige® Card is the best card on the market now with:

  • 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 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
  • the fourth night free on hotel stays
  • three free rounds of golf per year
  • $100 statement credit to offset the Global Entry application fee
  • 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels
  • a $450 annual fee.

I have the answers to most of those questions I get asked, although there’s a big answer we just don’t know. Here’s are all your questions about the Prestige. If I missed one, leave it in the comments!

Lounge Access

How Long Until the Priority Pass Membership Card Comes?

You can’t get into Priority Pass affiliated lounges by flashing your Prestige; you need a Priority Pass membership card. My Priority Pass card arrived about a week after I was approved for the Citi Prestige® Card. The Priority Pass card comes automatically; you do not need to request it.

What is The Priority Pass Lounge Access and Guest Policy?

So many people get this wrong because they read Priority Pass’s website. The Citi Prestige® Card struck a better deal than Priority Pass offers its own members. The lounge access policy is:

  • you get in for free to all Priority Pass lounges except United Clubs and Copa Clubs
  • you can bring in any two guests for free on each visit OR you can bring in your spouse and all your children under 18 for free

All you need to get into a Priority Pass lounge is a Priority Pass membership card, not your Prestige, and not a boarding pass for any specific airline.

What is the American Airlines Admirals Club Lounge Access and Guest Policy?

To get into an Admirals Club you need to show your Prestige and an American Airlines or US Airways boarding pass for a flight departing within 12 hours OR one that has arrived within 12 hours.

You can use Admirals Clubs before and after the journey as long as you fly American Airlines or US Airways. If you fly another carrier, you cannot use the Admirals Club.

You get in for free to Admirals Clubs if you meet the entry requirements just listed. Just like with Priority Pass lounge access:

  • you can bring in any two guests for free on each visit OR you can bring in your spouse and all your children under 18 for free
$250 Air Travel Credit

How Do You Get $500 Worth of the Air Travel Credit in the First Year of Cardmembership?

The $250 Air Travel Credit is per calendar year. If you max out the $250 in 2015 and $250 more in early 2016 before your next annual fee is due, that is $500 worth of Air Travel Credit in the first year.

What Counts as a Purchase that Will Be Offset by the Air Travel Credit?

Basically anything that shows up as a charge from an airline. In my personal experience, this includes:

  • airfare (purchased from an airline, not from an online travel agency)
  • baggage fees
  • award taxes and fees

Citi also explicitly says “lounge access and some in-flight purchases” will count. I know that internet purchased from Gogo does NOT count, but presumably food and duty free purchases would count.

I’d also expect other fees like airline change fees, seat selection fees, and upgrade fees to count. If the charge shows up as being from an airline, it should count.

Do Airline Gift Cards Count?

If the charge shows up as being from an airline, it should count. As far as I know, all airline gift card purchases through an airline’s website do show up as purchases from that airline.

Do Mileage Purchases Count?

If the charge shows up as being from an airline, it should count. American Airlines and Avianca process their own mileage sales, so they’d count. Many airlines and hotels do not process their miles/points sales, using points.com instead. Those purchases would not count.

Do You Have to Designate One Airline to Receive the Credit With?

You automatically receive up to a $250 credit per calendar year to offset all purchases from all airlines.

 

You do NOT have to designate one airline. For that matter, you don’t have to do anything. The credit is automatic following the eligible purchases.

Hotel Stays

How Does the Fourth Night Free Benefit Work?

If you book a hotel by phone through the Citi Prestige Travel Concierge Service you should pay the same publicly available rate on the hotel’s website, and after paying with your Citi Prestige, you’ll get the cost of the fourth night including taxes refunded to you.

What Hotels are Included?

Not all hotels are eligible for the Fourth Night Free benefit, but all the hotels you can find by searching here should be.

Which Is Better for Paying for a Hotel, a Prestige or a Hotel’s Own Credit Card?

Generally the Citi Prestige® Card with its 3x points on hotel spending and no foreign transaction fees, though there are a few exceptions.

Global Entry $100 Credit

Why Do I Want Global Entry?

For the time it takes to fill out an application and interview once with Customs and Border Patrol (maybe two hours between the two activities), you get to speed through immigration and customs for five years. Plus you can use your Known Traveler ID to get TSA Precheck and speed through security too.

It’s well worth $100 to me, but you can get it free by paying the application fee with your Citi Prestige® Card and collecting the $100 offsetting credit.

I Already Have Global Entry, Can I Use the Credit for Someone Else’s Application Fee?

Yes, either give them your credit card number to pay the fee or give them a Citi Virtual Account Number with a $100 limit.

Redeem Points

How Do I Combine my Prestige’s Points with Points from My Preferred, Premier, or AT&T Card?

The Citi Prestige® Card has the best redemption rate, but occasionally another Citi card offers a better earning rate or a big sign up bonus you want. You can redeem points from other cards at the better rate for redeeming Prestige’s points by combining your accounts. It is very easy. Here’s how.

How Do You Redeem Points for Free Flights on Any Airline?

Go to thankyou.com and search for flights. Prices are displayed in dollars and points. If you choose to pay with points, you will get 1.33 cents of value for each point for most airlines and 1.6 cents of value for American Airlines and US Airways flights.

The airline will see these tickets as paid tickets, so you will earn miles and status like on any paid ticket.

How Do You Get 1.6 Cents Per Point Toward Free Flights on American, US Airways, and Their Codeshare Partners?

American and US Airways market flights that are actually flown by over 20 airlines. All of these codeshare flights are available on thankyou.com and offer 1.6 cents of value per point.

Can You Partially Pay for Flights in Points?

Yes!

Imagine a $160 flight on American Airlines.

You can buy it for:

  • $160
  • 10,000 ThankYou Points
  • 5,000 points + $80
  • 3,647 points + $101.65

Or any other combination of points and cash. Each point is worth 1.6 cents off the cash price.

How Do You Transfer Points to Airline Miles?

ThankYou Points have 11 airline transfer partners. You can transfer ThankYou Points to them at a 1:1 rate on thankyou.com.

You would want to do this if the airline has an attractive award chart to where you want to go that makes transferring points to miles and booking an award a better deal than using points to pay for airfare like cash (as explained in the last few questions.)

What Are the Best Transfer Partners?

Golf

How Does the Prestige’s Golf Benefit Work?

You get three free rounds per calendar year at over 2,400 possible courses including TPC and PGA courses. Here are the full rules.

How Does Card Compare to Other Cards?

How Does Prestige Compare to AMEX Platinum?

A comparison of sign up bonus, benefits, fees, and more.

How Does Prestige Compare to AA Executive Card?

A comparison of sign up bonus, benefits, fees, and more.

How Does Prestige Compare to ThankYou Premier and ThankYou Preferred?

A comparison of sign up bonus, benefits, fees, and more.

Getting a Prestige

What are Citi’s Application Rules?

Citi will not approve more than one card in a week or two cards in two months. So to get three Citi cards, I recommend applying for them on Day 1, Day 9, and Day 66.

Permanence of 50,000 Point Offer

How Long Will the 50,000 Point Sign Up Bonus Last?

This is the one question I just don’t know the answer to.

The 50k offer started on April 9. Before that the offer was identical but only a 30,000 points sign up bonus.

I hope the 50,000 point offer lasts forever, but I don’t expect it to last forever, since the public offer on the AMEX Platinum–a competing card–is usually only 40,000 points.

Don’t delay and miss out on the #1 offer right now. Get the Citi Prestige® Card sooner rather than later.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

Japan's Cherry Blossoms

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Today I was with my friend as she applied for two credit cards. Her knowledge of miles and points is average for an American, which is to say, it’s almost non-existent.

The questions she asked me while we talked about which cards she should get were illuminating. They reminded me of a few facts that I’d like to drill into beginners’ heads. Please forward this post to anyone who has ever expressed interest in miles and points or envy at the way you travel.

My friend told me that she wanted to collect miles to go to Japan and London in economy. For Japan, the best miles are American Airlines miles because you can fly on American or Japan Airlines, and for six months per year, the price is only 25k miles each way. For London, many miles are roughly equal including American Airlines miles, which allow you to fly to Europe for 20k miles each way seven months per year.

Japan's Cherry Blossoms
Japan’s Cherry Blossoms

I suggested that she open the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® at the same time to earn 93,000 American Airlines by early next year by taking advantage of the merger between American Airlines and US Airways.

She accepted the advice, but she had a lot of questions.

  • What does she have to do to combine the miles?
  • What if the spending requirement is too much?
  • Will I see her financial information if she applies for the cards through links on my site?
  • What are the fees associated with the cards?
  • Will canceling these cards in the future cause her to forfeit the miles?
  • How can she check her credit score?
  • Should she close other credit cards she has?
  • How can she book her award tickets?

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Commenter RH Dailey asked me for a list of direct flights from the west coast to Europe and to let him know which ones have flat beds in Business Class.

There are direct flights from five west coast cities plus Vancouver and Las Vegas to Europe.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 11.53.38 PM

These flights are operated by all the major transatlantic players and by some airlines that perhaps you’ve never heard of.

For each North American city, I’ve listed the European cities served and by which carriers. Here I’ll list where to search for award space on each carrier and whether it has flat beds in Business Class.

  • American Airlines: aa.com, yes from Los Angeles to London
  • Aer Lingus: Expert Flyer, yes starting in 2015
  • Air France: delta.com, no
  • United: united.com, yes
  • British Airways: aa.com, yes (you will pay huge fuel surcharges to book British Airways flights with any type of miles)
  • Virgin Atlantic: delta.com, yes
  • KLM: delta.com, no
  • Lufthansa: united.com, on some aircraft
  • Scandinavian: united.com, no
  • Swiss: united.com, yes
  • Turkish, united.com, on some aircraft
  • Aeroflot, airfrance.us, no (fuel surcharges)
  • airberlin, aa.com, on some aircraft
  • Air Tahiti Nui, Expert Flyer, no
  • Air New Zealand, united.com, yes (never releases business class award space)
  • Delta, delta.com, yes
  • Alitalia, delta.com, on some aircraft
  • Iberia, ba.com, no
  • Air Canada, united.com, yes
  • Air Europa, Expert Flyer, no (fuel surcharges)

These next seven airlines don’t have award space that can be booked with traditional miles, and I don’t think any of them have flat bed business class either. You can, of course, book these airlines with your Arrival miles from the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® since you can book any airline with Arrival miles.

  • XL Airways France
  • Transaero
  • Norwegian
  • Condor
  • Icelandair
  • Edelweiss
  • Thomas Cook

What are the routes from the west coast to Europe?

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Longtime reader Eddy emailed me:

Do you know of someplace that has the rules of the various frequent flyer programs? I’m looking at trip to China next Spring and there are so many options, so I’d like to know for each program: (1) allow one ways? (2) permit stop overs? (3) charge for fuel? Any idea if this info is collected in one place anywhere? Thanks.

This seemed like something I absolutely had to put in one place, so this is the place.

This chart represents the rules for using the type of miles listed in the far left column.

Click the image to enlarge.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 2.28.55 AM

I’ve included 10 of my favorite programs on the chart. I toyed with how best to present the information of the chart, at one point including footnotes next to almost every entry. I ditched that, and instead will put longer form answers for each airline and explanations of the color-coding after the Continue Reading link.

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Let me clear up one of the most common types of questions I get from beginners.

There is no transitive property of miles.

Just because Airline A partners with Airline B and Airline B partners with Airline C does NOT mean Airlines A and C are partners.

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 11.51.54 AMFor instance, in yesterday’s post Fully Flat Business Class to Europe for 25,000 Miles, I wrote:

I searched award space on Aer Lingus’ routes from Chicago, Boston, and New York to Dublin for one passenger next April through July.

I searched on united.com. Any space seen here is bookable with United or British Airways miles.

Often when I write such things I’ll get a comment or an email like, “I have American Airlines miles, which is a partner of British Airways. Can I use those miles to book Aer Lingus flights as a British Airways award?”

  • Well, can you?
  • What about using a partner’s more favorable fuel surcharge rules?
  • Can you use American Airlines and US Airways miles to book all the partners of either airline?

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Overnight, I wrote about the current Starwood/American Airlines promotion: for all of July, 20,000 Starpoints will transfer to 30,000 American Airlines miles.

I gave the facts in this post, but I was called out in the comments for not analyzing the promotion. Said DH:

“Is this offer an indication there’s an AA devaluation right around the corner? If so, is this transfer still a good idea? Starwood points are really valuable, and I doubt devalued AA miles would be anywhere close. It’d be nice if you could discuss a bit about the merits and drawbacks/risks of the transfer instead of just saying the offer is available. It’s usually your analysis of an offer that sets this site apart. Thanks.”

DH is totally right that I want this site to stand apart because I don’t just say there is a promotion, I analyze it.

In my defense, I was coming back from a night out in Brazil celebrating the USA’s World Cup run, so I wasn’t up to the analysis. But I am now, and there’s 1,500 words of it below!

  • Should you transfer Starpoints to AAdvantage miles speculatively this month?
  • What are the 30+ airline partners of Starpoints?
  • What are the 10+ to which I’d transfer?
  • What are the three best?
  • What are the strengths of those three airline programs?
  • What is my forecast for upcoming devaluations?
  • What are four other great uses of Starpoints besides airline transfers?
  • Will I transfer?
  • Should you?

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Arrival miles never expire as long as you hold your Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®. They do disappear the second you cancel the card though.

Arrival Plus Card Image

Other than cancelling the card, the only time constraint on using Arrival miles is that you have 120 days after any travel purchase to redeem miles for an offsetting statement credit.

If you forget to use your Arrival miles to offset a travel purchase within 120 days though, it’s usually not a big deal, since all travel redemptions get the same value per Arrival mile. You can just use your Arrival miles to offset the next travel purchase.

These are great redemption rules for us:

  1. Since Arrival miles never expire, you don’t need to earn Arrival miles with a specific redemption in mind. Once you earn Arrival miles, they stay in your account until you’re ready to use them.
  2. With 120 days after any travel purchase to redeem miles, you have the ability to take a trip, then earn miles, then redeem the miles to make the trip free retroactively.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is the king of cash back cards without even being a cash back card. I got one myself in February and have included it as one of the June 2014 top ten credit card offers for travel. The Arrival Plus earns 2.28% back toward travel on all purchases, offers flexible redemption options, and just clearing the sign up bonus is worth $500 in free travel!

Since I got the card, Barclaycard has expanded its definition of a travel purchase, which increases redemption options, and now offers Chip & PIN technology, which means it can be used abroad more easily where it has no foreign transaction fees.

  • What are the best uses of Arrival miles?
  • How do you earn and redeem Arrival miles?
  • Who is the Arrival Plus card best for?

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An active duty military member emailed me:

This December I am getting out of the Military. When I initially get out I get 2 (one for my spouse and one for me) one-way airplane tickets to anywhere in the world. We want to use this to start our trip around Indo China and Europe. We want to go to Vietnam, Thailand, India, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, and England. After visiting these places we will fly to Dayton, Ohio. What is most important to me is flying from London to Dayton, Ohio for hopefully free.

She was writing to me because she didn’t currently have any major frequent flyer mile balances.

My first thought is: don’t fly home from London. Departing the United Kingdom–not transiting it or arriving there–incurs a massive tax called the Air Passenger Duty. While Dayton to London one way would have $5 in taxes, the direction she needs–London to Dayton–has $206 in taxes.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 3.21.51 AM

Not only does she have the London departure tax problem, but she currently has no miles and puts only $1,500 per month on credit cards, which makes it hard to quickly accrue miles.

Still I was able to offer a really easy strategy to get two one way tickets from London to Dayton completely free.

Which two cards did I recommend she open? How did I recommend she book the award?

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We just got an interesting comment on Bill’s great recent post about Booking Etihad Business Class Using American Miles.

MojoMama is trying to go from Los Angeles (LAX) to the Maldives (MLE) in First Class.

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 8.42.57 AM

The United States to the Maldives should be 90k miles each way in First Class according to American Airlines’ chart. But she’s getting charged 115k miles:

Trying to book LAX-JFK(stopover)-AUH-MLE in first for August, but it’s pricing at 115,000 miles. Being told AUH-MLE is separate award because it’s not in the same region, which I know is false. Also, was told must route over Pacific via HKG to get to Maldives on one award ticket, which I also know is false. My question is, is LAX-JFK-AUH-MLE a valid routing? It comes up on ITA, but I don’t see it on the Etihad website.

There’s a lot to unpack in this comment because it gets at several of the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

In the end, as is often the case, American Airlines is trying to charge her the correct amount of miles even though its phone agents are giving tons of misinformation about why the price is what it is.

What are the phone agents getting wrong? Why is Los Angeles to the Maldives 115k American Airlines miles in First Class? How can it be cheaper? What should MojoMama do?

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A reader emailed me to ask what card she should use to pay the taxes on a United award:

I’m trying to book an award ticket on United ORD-EZE-ORD. [Scott: Chicago to Buenos Aires, taxes are about $82.]

Which credit card would you suggest I use to pay the fees and are there any particular advantages to one or the other?  We have United Explorer, United Club, Barclay Arrival, Sapphire Preferred, Starwood, Amex Platinum, and some that I imagine you wouldn’t recommend (Freedom, Citi Aadvantage, Barclay US Airways, Citi Thank You Preferred, Ink Bold).

Of the cards she has, she should use either the Sapphire Preferred or the Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases.

If she had the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card or The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, those would also be great options.

Under no circumstances should she use her United card for this purchase.

Why should she use the Sapphire Preferred, Arrival, Premier Rewards Gold, or Enhanced Business Gold card to pay the taxes on her award ticket?

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The best advice for collecting miles is to earn and burn. Miles tend to fall in value, and they don’t earn interest, so most people shouldn’t stockpile them.

But maybe you’re too busy to travel this year, so you’re earning miles for future travel. Or maybe you need a ton of miles to take a lot of people on a trip together. In these or other cases, you may need to stockpile miles.

If you are stockpiling miles, I would choose which miles to stockpile based on three criteria.

  1. Value
  2. Versatility
  3. Devaluation Risk

Which miles come out well as miles you should stockpile? Which are the worst miles to stockpile? How do transferable points play into the analysis?

0

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Many people ask me a variety of the question: should I focus my earning on one airline program, or should I try to earn miles in all programs?

Let’s divide mileage accrual into two categories:

  1. Miles earned from flying on paid tickets. (Butt-in-seat miles)
  2. Miles earned from other sources. (Mainly credit card miles but also other promos, dining programs, opening brokerage accounts, and more.)

There is a different best strategy for mile accrual of each type that depends on your flying and spending habits.

What’s your best play? Diversify or concentrate?

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Dawn writes:

I wanted to ask a question that I didn’t see an answer for on your site or clearly on the interwebs.

I am hoping to do a trip this winter to SE Asia and NZ. The way my schedule is looking, I won’t have the 80,000 miles I need until about a week and a half before the trip…

My question is, how difficult is it going to be to get an economy seat that close in? Any info I’ve found always seems to be about business class.

Thanks again for your great site and have fun on your travels.

Keep reading for my answer to how difficult getting last minute economy space will be for Dawn and how to estimate this for your own trips.

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I get a lot of emails from people who want to travel with a companion, but their companion can’t open credit cards. Maybe the companion doesn’t have a social security number or just has bad credit. Whatever the reason: can one person get enough miles for two people to take a vacation in style?

Here’s a typical email from Dan:

I am interested in using you for award booking for a European vacation for Summer 2014 in business class.

I am also interested in having you help me determine a strategy for which cards to get in order to execute this trip.

Let me tell you my situation:

My wife can open credit cards for herself and a business, but I can’t. We dipped our toe into the awards card world by signing up for 3 cards over 3 months:

  • Delta Gold Amex, 12/12
  • SPG Amex, 1/13
  • Barclays US Air, 2/13

The more I read, the more I realize that going with Delta was probably a mistake.

I’m coming to you for advice as we plan our first app-o-rama. For the trip we want, should we stick with Delta? Or do we have time to focus on another carrier?

Our current balances are:

  • Delta 31k
  • SPG 30k
  • US Airways 40k

Not only can Dan and his wife get to Europe in business class, they are only one three cards away.

The Plan

US Airways and United are partners, both members of the Star Alliance. That means US Airways miles can be used on

  • US Airways flights
  • United flights
  • Star Alliance flights
  • or any combination thereof.

United miles can be used on those same

  • US Airways flights
  • United flights
  • Star Alliance flights
  • or any combination thereof.

Both US Airways and United charge 100k miles roundtrip to Europe, so if you get 100k of each type of miles, two people are all set to fly roundtrip in business class on the same flights.

Dan’s current balances are very helpful, so his wife just needs to get three cards to fill the gaps.

  1. US Airways Premier World MasterCard with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred with 40,000 Ultimate Rewards after $3,000 in spending in the first 3 months
  3. Chase Ink Bold with 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after $5,000 in spending in the first 3 months

Dan already has one US Airways MasterCard, but in pretty much everyone’s experience, you can get two. See Easily Earn 110k US Airways Miles. (And by the way, be on the lookout for the targeted 15k offers in the mail for continued spending on the card.)

There isn’t much to say about the Sapphire Preferred. It has been the “it” card for the last 18 months in the frequent flyer world. Dan would be better off getting the Chase United Explorer card if he can find it with a 50,000 mile bonus offer, but if not, then he should get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Chase Ink Bold is a business card.

Get those cards and meet the minimum spends, and your new balances will be

  • Delta 31k
  • US Airways 70k
  • SPG 30k
  • Ultimate Rewards 98k

Dan will probably have over 100k Ultimate Rewards since the Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points on dining and travel, and the Ink Bold offers 5x points at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, land line, internet, and cable TV services (on the first $50k of spending annually.) Worst case scenario: he buys the last 2k Ultimate Rewards for $50.

Remember that his goal is to have 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles. Here’s how to get there.

Transfer 100k Ultimate Rewards to United. Now he has 100k United miles.

Transfer 25k SPG to US Airways. This will show up as 30k US Airways miles with the automatic transfer bonus. Added on to his balance of 70k US Airways miles, he will have 100k US Airways miles.

Dan has now met his goal of having 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles.

That’s enough to get two seats on the same flights on a roundtrip in business class to Europe.
Dan’s QuestionsDo I combine the United and US Airways miles?

No. You use the United miles to book one award on united.com or by calling United at 800-UNITED-1. You use the US Airways miles to book one award by calling US Airways at 800-622-1015. You just make sure each award has the same flights, so you’ll be on the same planes with each other.

We are booking through different carriers, I assume we will attempt to book seats together, and that the only differences will be what counter we go to for check-in?

The way to choose seats is to call the operating carrier and request seats. So if your flights are on Lufthansa, you call Lufthansa.

You check in at the operating carrier of the first flight, so you check in at the same counter at the airport.

Recap

One person can earn enough miles for two people to travel in style to Europe. The key is to earn 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles. The miles can’t be combined, but they can be used to each book one seat on the same flights, so the two companions can travel together.

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