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I was almost the star of a Quilmes Copa America commercial in Argentina. Quilmes is the biggest beer brand in Argentina. The Copa America is like the World Cup but only for South American countries (except this year for the 100th anniversary it is being held in the United States and six North American, Central American, and Caribbean teams are playing too.)

I assume this commercial will be running nonstop for the next month in Argentina, where the Copa America will be one of the biggest stories, and I auditioned for the lead role of American Border Patrol Agent!

Back Story

There is a very active Facebook group called Buenos Aires Expat Hub where all things interesting to expats are shared. Last month, a casting agent posted in that group that they were seeking Americans for a commercial audition for the next morning. I replied because I always seek out unique experiences, and she got back to me with the script and address for the audition.

I memorized the stilted English that only an Argentine could love.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 6.17.37 PMThe next morning I walked a few blocks to the casting office. They were casting commercials for several huge companies, and I was surrounded by professional actors and their girlfriends.

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One pretty actress came in to audition, and when she turned her head I noticed that her face and neck were completely different colors from all the make up she had caked on. These people were serious. I, on the other hand, was carrying the little bag they give you when you fly Emirates First Class with a water bottle and a protein shake so I could go to the gym afterwards.

About an hour after I was told to arrive, they called three of us into a small room to audition. There was a 40-something American guy who was clearly a professional actor who said he had been living in Buenos Aires for ten years. There was a Dutch guy who spoke English like a Dutch guy. There was a frequent flyer miles blogger.

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We had to stand up one by one and have pictures taken straight on and of our profiles. We introduced ourselves, and then we ran the lines.

When it was my turn, I channeled the menacing Border Patrol Agents who threatened to x-ray me on my way back from Central America. I tried to over-act my part, since subtlety doesn’t seem to be prized based on the TV I’ve seen in Argentina.

It was over in five minutes, and I was out the door. I figured I had a very slim chance of hearing from them again, but I actually got an email that night.

“QUILMES PRE SELECCION” the subject blared, and it asked several questions that they’d already asked me like whether I was available on the day of filming and whether I’d shave my beard.

Five days later I got another email telling me I was still in the “PRE SELECCIONADOS” (what is this a credit card mailer?) and telling me I’d get a call first thing in the morning and that wardrobe fitting was the next morning.

That was it. I never heard from them again.

I never expected to get the job, so I put the whole thing aside as a funny story and travel memory.

Then, last night in Prague, I got an text from my friend in Buenos Aires saying she had seen the commercial. Here’s what I am not starring in:

I’ll give the commercial a 7/10 and the actor an 8/10. He certainly did better than I would have.

Are any readers “big in Japan (or Argentina)”?

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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Regarding any information in this post about taxes: this is miles information, not tax advice. Consult a tax professional before paying your taxes with a credit card.

Plastiq is an online bill payment processing system that “empowers you to use your existing debit and credit cards to pay any bill, regardless of acceptance”. The charge for that convenience is 2.5% of each payment on a credit card and 1% on a debit card. At the moment they accept Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. You can pay with Visa, MasterCard, and American Express gift cards as well but the 2.5% credit card fee is applied.

You simply specify who you want to pay, and Plastiq pays them either via check or electronic transfer depending on what the recipient accepts. You are notified once your payment is received.

Who and What You Can and Cannot Pay via Plastiq

Examples of Who and What You Can Pay

  • Anyone providing a good or a service
  • Tuition and housing fees
  • Taxes (income and property)
  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Mortgages
  • Car payments
  • Home loan payments
  • Home repairs/construction

Examples Who and What You Cannot Pay

Plastiq’s Referral Program

Everyone that signs up on for an account on plastiq.com is given a referral link they can share with anyone new who is signing up. You and the person both receive benefits once they make a payment of $20.

The following screenshots were taken from Plastiq’s blog:

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FFDs are “Fee Free Dollars”–basically amounts of payments you can make without the card processing fee. You have 90 days to use the FFDs after you earn them.

If you decide to sign up for Plastiq after reading this article, please consider using my referral link.

Promotions

Previously (like April 2015, for example), Plastiq has charged only 2% for processing MasterCards for promotional spans of time. It also appears that they are charging (at least some people) only 2% for all MasterCards at the moment, despite the website claiming 2.5% for all card types. If anyone else has gotten this rate for a MasterCard let us know in the comments.

Also, last month they offered a fee of only 1.75% if you paid your taxes with a MasterCard. I believe this was only sent out to people with plastiq.com accounts. I received an email notification about it. Register now and see if you get the same email next year:Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 7.08.14 PM

The asterisk after MasterCard signifies that you can’t pay all types of taxes, only these kinds:

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The lowest fee I’ve seen in the past is 1.87% for processing taxes on credit cards, so this promotional rate is the best I’m aware of.

The Company’s Reputation Thus Far

The following statement is from plastiq.com’s terms and conditions page:

“Delivery of funds to the Merchant typically takes between forty-eight (48) and seventy-two (72) hours but may take additional time.”

We can all understand that sending a check takes longer than an electronic transfer. But these FlyerTalkers complained of waiting over a week or even longer, which can be a real issue when we’re talking bill payment. The good news is that it appears Plastiq has been improving on this front in recent months, at least on this FlyerTalk thread.

I think a wise move– when paying a bill to a new recipient– would be to send a small amount way ahead of the time the bill is due and wait to see how it long it takes. If it is received in a timely fashion, then send the remaining amount due. This way you’ll know how long it takes for future payments to that recipient and you can schedule accordingly. You can auto-schedule recurring payments on plastiq.com but only if the amount is the same each month.

Is it Worth the 2.5% Fee?

On the right cards and in the right circumstances, yes.

The only cash back card on the market right now that would be worth putting your bills on via Plastiq is the Discover it card, and only if you’ve opened one within the last year. The Discover it® Miles Card earns 1.5% back on all purchases and Discover doubles that at the end of the first year of card membership, meaning you get 3% back. 3% >2.5% processing fee, so you definitely come out on top.

But you can do much better with your returns.

Often the effective rebate on meeting a minimum spending requirement is 20% or more. That means if you pay your large bills via Plastiq that are otherwise not payable on credit cards in order to open more cards and meet more minimum spending requirements, the 1.87% fee can be a drop in the bucket compared to the rewards you’ll earn.

If you’re not trying to reach a minimum spending requirement for a sign-up bonus, I wouldn’t use Plastiq for bill payments on cards that earn 1 mile per dollar as I don’t value any miles at greater than 2.5 cents (for example, my highest valued point is SPG at 2.5 and highest valued mile is Virgin America mile at 2.3 cents each).

Meeting Minimum Spends for Sign Up Bonuses

Ink Plus

The Ink Plus by Chase is a Business credit card offering 70,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months, but only until May 15, 2016 and only if you apply in a Chase branch. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Singapore, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and more. The annual fee is $95, and it is NOT waived for the first year during this 70,000 point promotion.

If you paid $5,000 of your bills via Plastiq on this card, the processing fee would be $125. I value Ultimate rewards at 2 cents each, so you’d essentially be paying $125 for $1,500 worth of points (75,000 Ultimate Rewards, which you’d earn from the sign up bonus and the 1x on spending it takes to get there).

There is a similar offer with a 60,000 bonus point offer you can apply for online if you can’t make it to a branch. From meeting that minimum spend via Plastiq it’s like paying $125 for $1,300.

While I can not directly link to the current Ink 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.)

But don’t forget the Chase 5/24 rule. If you’ve opened five cards within the last 24 months, you will most likely get denied for this card.

Citi Prestige® Card 

This card comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first three months the account is open, along with a plethora of benefits that more than make up for the pricey annual fee. You can read all about it in my review of the Citi Prestige Card.

If you opened the Citi Prestige® Card and paid $3,000 worth of your bills with it via Plastiq, you’d be paying $75 for 50,000 ThankYou Points. I value ThankYou Points at 1.9 cents each, so that’s like paying $75 for $1,007 (53,000 ThankYou points from the sign up bonus and the 1x on spending it takes to get there). But you can stretch their value even more if you redeem on a premium cabin award like Singapore Suites on Singapore Airlines, considered to be the nicest First Class in the world by some people.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz

Until June 22, 2016, the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 75,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Membership Rewards transfer to around 20 hotel and airline programs including Delta, Singapore, British Airways, and Virgin America.

The card has a $475 annual fee in the first year. But, like the Citi Prestige® Card, it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status. If you paid $3,000 worth of your bills with it via Plastiq, you’d be paying $75 for 78,000 Membership Rewards. I value Membership Rewards at 2 cents each, so that’s like buying $1,560 for $75.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® 

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This card is similar to the Citi Prestige® Card in that in comes with many benefits that help offset the cost of the steep annual fee. If you spend $5,000 in the first three months after you open it, you get 50,000 American Airlines miles. If you paid $5,000 in bills via Plastiq on it, you’d be buying 55,000 American Airlines miles for a processing fee of $125. I value American Airlines miles at 1.5 cents each, so that sign up bonus along with the miles you earn to get it is worth about $825 to me.

While this isn’t the biggest return from a sign up bonus, people with a lot of bills to pay should consider it from the angle of meeting this card’s yearly spending threshold if status with American Airlines is something you’re eyeing. Spend $40,000 in a year and get 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles, which will send you on your way to earning status with American Airlines.

Application Link: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®

Bottom Line

Nearly any bill that you couldn’t pay before on a credit card you now have the opportunity to pay via Plastiq.com. It costs 2.5% for any MasterCard, Visa, or American Express payments. I would definitely use Plastiq to help meet minimum spending requirements, as that provides extremely fruitful returns. I would not use Plastiq for everyday spending, since it is difficult to get enough value out of your miles to make up for the 2.5 cent charge on every dollar.

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

You can now redeem American Airlines miles to the Indian Subcontinent via Cathay Pacific or American Airlines flights that connect in Hong Kong.

Until today, you could only connect in Europe or the Middle East. Routing via Asia would break your trip into two awards–USA to East Asia + East Asia to Indian Subcontinent. This additional routing option is very welcome, especially for folks who live on the West Coast, for whom routing via Hong Kong is faster than routing via Europe or the Middle East.

The change appears on American Airlines’ award chart.

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The new tilde on the chart is explained in the footnotes.Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.43.35 PM

The wording makes it clear that the routing via Hong Kong is only allowed to the Indian Subcontinent and not to the Middle East. Unfortunately, the AA award chart doesn’t separate those two regions.

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However, The Points Guy has confirmed with an AAgent that the following countries are considered to be the Indian Subcontinent:

  • Bangladesh
  • India
  • Kazakhstan
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan

Unfortunately since the March 22 devaluation, awards to the Indian Subcontinent in First Class are insanely expensive:

  • 40,000 American Airlines miles one way in economy
  • 70,000 in Business
  • 115,000 in First

Economy and Business are decent values, though Alaska charges only 62,500 miles one way in Cathay Pacific Business to India and 70,000 miles in First.

Bottom Line

To get the Middle East on a single American Airlines award, you need to:

  1. Fly directly there
  2. Connect in Europe

To get to the Indian Subcontinent on a single American Airlines award, you need to:

  1. Fly directly there
  2. Connect in Europe
  3. Connect in the Middle East
  4. New Option: Connect in Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific or American Airlines flights

All other one way trips to the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent–like Los Angeles to Tokyo to Mumbai on Japan Airlines or Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Dubai on Cathay Pacific–will require at least two awards.

For more information on American Airlines’ award routing rules, see “AA Award Rules & How Many Miles Do You Need.”

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Etihad is again releasing First Class award space on its daily A380 flight between New York and Abu Dhabi that you can book for only 90,000 American Airlines miles each way.

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Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Don’t be thrown off by the word “Platinum.” Both cards have no annual fee the first 12 months, and then $95.

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Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement in the next three months to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles, more than enough miles to fly Etihad First Class on the A380.

I am looking forward to flying the route in January because First Class features a shower, and each suite has a couch/bed and seat. The plane looks amazing.

In the past, award space on the route has alternated between brief plentiful periods and long non-existent stretches. Now we see a new pattern. Award space is only being released on the route in each direction at the last minute.

You can search for award space here on Etihad’s site.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.11.23 AMResults will look something like this. Remember that American Airlines miles can only book seats in the Guest Seat column.Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.11.39 AM

Right now I see one First Class award seat from New York to Abu Dhabi on the flight that departs in six hours (above) and three on the December 3rd flight from Abu Dhabi to New York.

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This story broke a few days ago, and in that time award space has existed on several flights within a few days of departure, leading to the conclusion that Etihad A380 First Class award space is being released at the last minute between the United States and Abu Dhabi.

Last time award space popped up on the route, I excitedly booked it from Abu Dhabi to New York. Since American puts the Middle East and India in the same region, I decided to start the award in India to explore it for the first time. Since American charges the same whether I ended the award in New York or anywhere else in North America, I also tacked on a First Class leg on American’s new A321T for no extra miles.

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The award priced out at 90,000 American Airlines miles and about $35. I paid with my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card to get 3x points on the taxes.Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 11.23.51 PM

Bottom Line

Etihad is now releasing its amazing A380 First Class as award space between New York and Abu Dhabi in the last few days before departure. You can book the space for 90,000 American Airlines miles one way.

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Don’t be thrown off by the word “Platinum.” Both cards have no annual fee the first 12 months, and then $95.

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Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement in the next three months to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles, more than enough miles to fly Etihad First Class on the A380.

The price of this award goes up to 115,000 American Airlines miles one way if booked after March 22, 2016.

Further 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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

1

American Airlines is releasing a ton of First Class award space from Miami and Dallas to Madrid for July though October, 2016.

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This award space is easy to connect to from anywhere in the United States, and you can get anywhere in Europe with an Iberia flight from Madrid. These connecting flights do not add to the First Class mileage price of 62,500 American Airlines miles each way. First Class awards go up in price to 85,000 American Airlines miles one way on March 22, 2016, but you can lock in your Summer or Fall vacation now at the current price. United and Delta both charge at least 62,500 miles for a Business Class award.

Madrid gets scorching hot in the summer, so September and early October are an ideal time to visit. I stayed in Madrid from May 11 to June 10 this year, and I enjoyed the food scene, nightlife, bike share program, weak euro, and weather immensely.

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Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Don’t be thrown off by the word “Platinum.” Both cards have no annual fee the first 12 months, and then $95.

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Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles. That’s just short of the 125,000 American Airlines miles needed for a roundtrip in First Class to Europe.

Product

Both the Miami and Dallas to Madrid flights fly older 777s that feature fully flat beds in First Class.

I reviewed this product on a 2013 flight to Buenos Aires. It is far from the newest product, and you don’t get much in the way of privacy or service, but the bed is plenty comfortable to sleep, and I actually really liked the food.

If you compare the product to Emirates First Class, you’ll be disappointed. If you compare it to economy, you’ll be ecstatic.

Award Space

Award space is really great from Miami to Madrid from July to October, 2016. Right now you can book through October 20, 2016, and you can book one day later every day.

These calendars are only for one award seat. The catch with all this award space is that I didn’t find any days with two award seats in First Class. Couples will either need to fly one day apart, in different cabins on the same plane, or one routing through Miami and one through Dallas.

Madrid to Miami: First Class Award Space 32/58 days in July, August, and September

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Madrid to Miami: First Class Award Space 22/54 days in July-October

First Class space is a little worse on the return. It really picks up for Tuesday through Friday returns in September and October.

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Dallas to Madrid: First Class Award Space 28/57 days

Dallas definitely has more space than Miami to Madrid. The pattern is reversed for when the space is though, with more space in July and August than later in the Summer and Fall.

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Madrid to Dallas: First Class Award Space 31/57 days

There is plenty of return space including the coveted Sunday returns to minimize necessary vacation days.

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Connections

If you don’t live in Miami or Dallas, you can still take advantage of this space. Those are two huge hubs for American Airlines with flights to most of the country. You can tack on Economy, Business, or First Class MileSAAver award space onto these international flights for zero extra miles.

If you don’t want to go to Madrid, or you want to fly an open jaw award, this space is still perfect. Iberia flies to dozens of European cities for Madrid.

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You can search economy and Business Class Iberia award space at ba.com (here’s how), and tack it onto these awards for zero extra miles.

For instance, the Miami flight lands in Madrid at 9:15 AM. You can connect to this 11:15 AM Iberia flight to Paris if that’s where you want to go.

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The Miami flight leaves Madrid at 11:15 AM. You can start your return in Sevilla for no extra miles on this 6:55 AM Iberia flight.

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Booking the Award

If your award contains only partners that are searchable at aa.com, you can book right on aa.com.

If your award contains Iberia flights, you must call 800-882-8880 to book the award. The phone fee should be waived, since you couldn’t book online, and make sure that it is.

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A roundtrip to Europe in First Class costs 125,000 American Airlines miles. A roundtrip to Madrid has $60 in taxes.
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Pay the taxes with your Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi Prestige® Card offers a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year that offsets your first $250 in spending on airlines with the card. Taxes on an award ticket definitely count.

The card also comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, which can be transferred to 13 types of airline miles or used like cash toward the purchase of any ticket.

Getting the Miles

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Don’t be thrown off by the word “Platinum.” Both cards have no annual fee the first 12 months, and then $95.

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Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles. That would be just shy of the 125,000 miles needed for this award. You could get the extra miles with extra spending or by purchasing them. Or you could go one way in First Class and one way in economy for 82,500 to 92,500 miles.

Bottom Line

Book your Summer or early Fall 2016 trip to Madrid or anywhere else in Europe with fantastic award space in American Airlines First Class.

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

13

The king of cash back cards is the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®, which isn’t even a cash back card.

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The card offers 2.15% back on all purchases in the form of free travel. To be clear, the card is not a cash back card since the rewards are in the form of free travel, but since all of us do a lot of travel each year, I consider cash back and rewards for travel to be equivalent.

Beyond that world-beating rebate percentage on all spending, the sign up bonus is worth $430 in free travel, making this card a must have.

There are two reasons to get this card:

  1. 2.15% back on all purchases
  2. a sign up bonus worth $430 in free travel

Let’s talk about them in turn.

2.15% Back on All Purchases

The rewards of the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® are simple. You earn two miles per dollar on all purchases. Each mile is worth 1.075 cents net when redeemed for travel.

See why Arrival miles are worth 1.075 cents each.

The way to redeem these miles is to purchase any travel expense with the card, then request a statement credit with your miles.

See how to redeem Arrival miles.

Travel expenses are defined broadly and include:

  • any flight on any airline (no need to search for award space!)
  • taxes and fees on an airline award ticket
  • any hotel expense (including bed & breakfasts, hostels, and non-chain hotels)
  • cruises
  • car rentals
  • taxis
  • ferries
  • passenger trains
  • much more

Example: You have 20,000 miles in your account. You use the credit card to purchase a $150 roundtrip ticket from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on any airline you want. You request to redeem your miles toward the purchase of that ticket in the form of a statement credit.

Barclay’s redeems 15,000 of your miles, and the $150 charge disappears. You got a free $150 flight for your 15,000 miles. In addition, of course, you will earn miles from flying a paid flight since the airline you are flying to Vegas was paid cash for your ticket!

Because of this redemption method, there are no blackout dates or capacity controls. You can redeem the miles for any seat, any time, on any airlines, to anywhere.

What I’ve described so far is only 2% back, but there are two other perks that take the deal up to 2.15%:

1. If you redeem Arrival miles for travel expenses you get 5% of the redeemed miles back instantly as a rebate. Let’s go back to the same example we just looked at.

Example revisited: We redeemed 15,000 miles for a $150 flight. Since the redemption was for travel, we get 5% of the miles back. 750 miles will be redeposited into our account.

2. You earn 2 miles per dollar even on purchases that you redeem miles to redeem from your statement.

Example revisited again: When we purchased the $150 flight, we earned 300 Arrival miles.

That means the net result is we spend 13,950 Arrival miles and get a $150 ticket, or 1.075 cents of value per mile!

How does 2.15% back on all purchases compare to other cards?

It is 7.5% better than any other cash back card I know of. I haven’t seen better than 2% back on all purchases.

It is better than almost all rewards cards. It’s a bit beyond the scope of this post, but the only cards that come close are the Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express and the United Club Card. See more on the best card for non-bonused spending here.

$430 in Free Travel

The card’s sign up bonus is 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of card membership.

Those 40,000 miles can be redeemed for $400 in free travel. And doing that will trigger a 5% rebate in points. You can use that 2,000 points for $20 more in free travel. Of course, you’d also get 100 points back, which is $1 more in travel, which means 5 points back…

The 5% rebate is an interesting lock-in feature from Barclaycard. I think they’re betting it will keep you using the card since you will have a hard time zeroing out your balance with the constant miles rebates. Whatever Barclaycard’s reasoning, I just love that the 5% rebate on travel redemptions increases the value of a miles from 1 cent to 1.075 cents.

Who Should Not Get This Card

Do not get this card if you want to collect miles to fly international First Class. Paid international First Class is exorbitantly expensive–think $10,000. A $10,000 ticket would cost 1,000,000 Arrival miles, which is far more than the number of traditional airline miles that paid first class costs.

It’s always sad to tell Award Booking Service clients who have accumulated miles on a card like the Arrival Plus and want to fly up front that they don’t have enough miles.

Who Should Get This Card

This card is ideal for people who fly economy, families, domestic flyers, and points omnivores.

  • Economy Flyers– If you mainly fly economy class, it’s hard to get even 1.5 cents of value per traditional mile. Most miles credit cards earn 1 mile per dollar, meaning they get economy flyers 1.5 cents of travel per dollar spent–if that! The Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® gets economy flyers (and everyone else) 2.15 cents of travel per dollar spent.
  • Families– Families have two things working against them. It’s tough to book four capacity-controlled award seats on the same flight, and they usually have little date flexibility since they want to travel over school breaks. The “miles” earned on the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® don’t require you to find award seats. They can be redeemed toward any travel purchase. A family can book four tickets to Disneyland and use their miles from this card to make that flight–whatever flight they want–for free.
  • Domestic Flyers- You’d have to spend $25,000 on a United, American, or Delta credit card AND find award space on the flights you want to get a domestic roundtrip. You’d have to spend far less on the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®, and you can book any flight you want.
  • Points Omnivores- This is my category. I’ll collect any mile or point I can to get more travel. I collect other types to get into international First Class. I’ll collect this type to fly more mundane planes–but not necessarily more mundane places–in economy class. A dollar saved is still a dollar saved.

Other Card Info

Here are the main things to know:

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that’s enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Chip card technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad
  • No foreign transaction fees on anything you buy while in another country
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months for each Balance Transfer made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, currently 16.24% or 20.24%, depending on your creditworthiness.
  • Complimentary online FICO® Credit Score access for Barclaycard Arrival cardmembers

The car has no annual fee the first 12 months, then $89 thereafter.

Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

Recap

The Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® is currently offering a sign up bonus worth $430 in free travel, plus the card earns 2.15% back toward travel on all spending!

This card is ideal for economy flyers, domestic flyers, families, and points omnivores. The card is also ideal for anyone who doesn’t like to search for award space. The miles earned from this card can be used on any airline for any flight. (And you’ll even earn miles on that flight!)

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Because you can use any type of Star Alliance miles to book any Star Alliance flight, I’ve put the eight best Star Alliance award charts into one spreadsheet. Check out why I chose these eight award charts and how Americans can get these miles here. Check out the cheapest awards within the mainland USA, to Canada, to Hawaii, and to Alaska, the cheapest awards to Latin America and the Caribbean, the cheapest awards to Europe, the cheapest awards to Africa and the Middle East, and the cheapest awards to North Asia.

Today let’s look at the cheapest Star Alliance Awards to Southeast Asia.

Remember, the spread sheets in this post only capture one part of an award: its mileage price. The routing rules and fuel surcharges matter too. Where relevant, I will note those as we go through the regions, but here are a two big things that apply to all charts:

  • United, Copa, and LifeMiles never collect fuel surcharges. All the others collect fuel surcharges on most awards.
  • All programs allow one way redemptions for the prices listed on the charts except ANA. It only allows roundtrip redemptions for double the price on the chart. I used its fictitious “one way price” that you can’t actually book just to more easily compare to the programs that do allow one way bookings.

Cheapest Awards to Southeast Asia

For awards starting in the mainland United States and flying to Southeast Asia, these are the prices:

Screen-Shot-2015-10-06-at-12.30.44-AM

I’ve only included the award chart for flying United partners since United only flies to Singapore in the region

Fuel Surcharges

United, Copa, and LifeMiles don’t collect fuel surcharges on award tickets.

Asiana, ANA, and Singapore don’t collect fuel surcharges on awards on United-operated flights. They do collect fuel surcharges on all other flights that have fuel surcharges as part of a normal cash ticket.

Lufthansa collects fuel surcharges on all flights that have fuel surcharges as part of a normal cash ticket.

Aeroplan collects fuel surcharges on Air Canada, ANA, Thai, and Asiana flights. Aeroplan does not collect fuel surcharges on Air China, Singapore, and United flights.

You can figure out the fuel surcharges by calling the airline whose miles you want to use or just looking on ITA Matrix. Take fuel surcharges into account when determining which miles to use.

Best Deals

ANA has by far the cheapest awards (remember that ANA awards must be roundtrip), but you will pay fuel surcharges unless you fly United. United Business Class for 115,000 miles roundtrip from the United States to Singapore is a steal. ANA’s prices are so low, fuel surcharges may even be worth paying. You can go to Southeast Asia for 115,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class, when the cheapest fuel-surcharge-free award is 156,000 LifeMiles.

If you want to completely avoid fuel surcharges, book with United miles. You can pay 80,000 miles one way in Business Class.

If you don’t mind buying miles, LifeMiles offers fair prices to Southeast Asia with no fuel surcharges.

Searching and Booking the Awards

A truism of miles is that–with few exceptions–award space is equally available to all partners. One corollary is that you can search any award search engine that displays an airline’s award space, and if space is there, you can book it with any partner.

All Star Alliance partner award space is searchable on aeroplan.com. Here’s how to search for award space on aeroplan.com. All the award space you find there is bookable with all the miles discussed in this post. Ignore the price quoted on aeroplan.com. You will pay the price on the award chart of the miles you’re using.

To book, call the airline whose miles you’re using (or go to their website to book online if you can.) Feed the agent the award space you found on aeroplan.com.

Getting the Miles

ANA miles, United miles, and LifeMiles are the best to Southeast Asia.

ANA miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of SPG Starpoints (or 20k Starpoints to 25k ANA miles), and a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards.

United miles can be earned on the personal, business, and Club cards from Chase. United is also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

LifeMiles can be purchased. Right now, they are on sale for a very cheap 1.4 cents each.

Bottom Line

ANA offers really cheap awards to Southeast Asia that are all the more attractive if you can avoid fuel surcharges by flying United. Otherwise, United’s chart to the region in partner Business Class is fair, and there are no fuel surcharges on any United awards. If you want to fly ANA or Asiana First Class, I’d book with LifeMiles.

For the most part, all Star Alliance partners have access to the same award space on all airlines. There are differences in routing rules and fuel surcharges, so pay attention to more than just the mileage price when deciding which miles to use to book your award.

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

8

This 75k Hilton offer has expired. Check out the best current travel credit card sign up offers here.

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Yesterday I reviewed the improved offer on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, which now offers 30,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

There’s another hotel card with a temporarily increased sign up bonus. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card is offering 75,000 bonus Hilton points after $2,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening My review of the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card explains how the sign up bonus is worth 18 free nights at Category 1 hotels

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 2.12.34 PM

So which limited time offer is better?

This comparison will be useful for anyone considering getting a hotel card. I’ll break down the comparison by:

  • value of points
  • sign-up bonus
  • category bonuses
  • status
  • annual fee

Value of Points

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns 1+ Starpoint per dollar, which I value at 2.5 cents each. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card earns 2+ HHonors points per dollar, which I value at 0.4 cents each.

Starpoints can be used to book free nights at SPG properties for 2,000 to 35,000 points per night or can be transferred to 30 airlines, and most partners offer a 25% transfer bonus.

HHonors points can be used to book free nights at Hilton properties for 5,000 to 95,000 points per night.

Sign Up Bonus

Multiply the points by your value of the points to figure out which offers you the more valuable sign up bonus. The bonus on the Starwood card is worth $750 after spending $3,000 to me. The sign up bonus on the Hilton card is worth $300 after spending $2,000 to me.

Your point values could be vastly different based on how you plan to use the points. If you use Hilton properties exclusively at Category 1 and 2 properties and take advantage of the 5th night free on awards, you could get 1 or even 2 cents of value per point. That would bump the bonus to being more valuable than the SPG bonus. Do the match based on your likely redemptions.

Category Bonuses

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: 2 Starpoints per dollar at SPG properties
  • Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card
    • Earn 6 Hilton points per dollar on Hilton stays
    • Earn 3 Hilton points per dollar at gas stations, supermarkets, and drugstores
    • Earn 2 Hilton points per dollar on all other purchases

After hitting the minimum spending requirement on the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card, it doesn’t offer an attractive proposition to continue spending on the card. Even its 6x category bonus on Hilton stays isn’t as good as putting the same purchase on a Starwood card for 1x according to my point valuations.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, on the other hand, is one of three cards you should consider for non-bonused spending, along with the Arrival Plus and United Club card.

Status

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card offers Hilton Silver status for as long as you hold the card. Silver members get a 15% points bonus on Hilton stays, late checkout, and free access to fitness centers. Plus only folks with Hilton status get the 5th night free on award stays.

Better yet, if you complete four Hilton stays in the first 90 days of card membership, you get bumped up to Hilton Gold status, which earns a 25% points bonus on Hilton stays and maybe a little better treatment at the front desk.

The Starwood card does not give you automatic status. The cards confer 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward elite status, leaving you 8 stays or 20 nights short of Gold Status.

Gold Status entitles you to free internet and a 4 PM checkout.

Annual Fee

Which Card is Better?

For most people, the SPG card is better, which is an important lesson in looking past the number of points to the value of those points.

However the Hilton card could be better for you if you use it optimally, for Category 1 and 2 Hilton stays. The card offers a strong value proposition for a card with no annual fee ever.

The good news is that this is not really an either/or decision. You can get both the Starwood and Hilton cards to rack up both bonuses and to use each type of points in situations that offer maximum value.

Application Links:

 

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

5

Follow @MileValueAlerts on Twitter and follow these directions to get a text message every time I tweet from that account. I’ve tweeted from @MileValueAlerts only once this month, for this deal, because it is designed to be used only for the best and most limited-time deals–like mistake fares–so that you aren’t bombarded by text messages.

Share your experience trying to search and book in the comments.

Contents:

  1. Pay In Norwegian Krone
  2. Cheap Fares
  3. Optional Extra Fees
  4. Why Oslo in Winter
  5. Best Way to Buy the Ticket

Pay In Krone

Start on the Norwegian version of Norwegian.com because prices are lower in Norwegian Krone than US Dollars. Use Google Chrome to translate the page to English. Pay with a card with no foreign transaction fees.

$277 Roundtrip from New York to Oslo

Sample Dates: January 22 – February 5 on Norwegian

Search and book on Norwegian.com with their low fare calendar by selecting “Show budget calendar” on the search screen.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 6.41.18 PM

You’ll get a calendar like this for a month at a time. The cheapest outbounds cost 871 DKK and are on January 22, 28, and 29 and February 4 and 5. The cheapest returns cost 966 DKK and are on February 2, 4, and 5 and March 1.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 6.41.58 PM

The cheapest total of 1,837 DKK is $277.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 6.45.15 PM

Other Cheap Dates

There are plenty of other dates for around $300 or $330 in winter 2016. Here’s a nine day trip during which you’d only need five vacation days for $290.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 6.42.34 PM

Extra Fees

All the cheapest fares are in the “Lowfare” bucket. That comes with one carry on that weighs up to 10 kg (22 lbs.) Check out my post on one bag travel.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 10.57.47 AM

Everything else costs extra.

Your first checked bag is 240 DKK ($36) each way. Your second is 270 DKK ($41.) Check the city pair chart and see that New York to Oslo is zone F, then read the zone F direct flight checked baggage price off this chart. Similarly a seat reservation is $36 each way.

The eat on board menu is limited, but you can preorder from a bigger selection.

All the add ons are expensive, so I suggest traveling with just one carry on, eating before take off on the outbound, packing a meal for the return, and taking whatever seat they give you for free. Then you can’t beat a $277 roundtrip to Norway.

Why Norway in Winter

You can see the Northern Lights from September to March with the best chance in February and March.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.09.43 PM
Source: http://www.visitnorway.com/en/what-to-do/attractions-culture/nature-attractions-in-norway/the-northern-lights/when–where-to-find-northern-lights/

You can stay in an igloo hotel sleeping under reindeer skin.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.11.24 PM
Source: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g226916-d1179315-Reviews-Sorrisniva_Igloo_Hotel-Alta_Alta_Municipality_Finnmark_Northern_Norway.html#photos

Oslo is a lovely waterfront town though it will be freezing cold.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.10.47 PM
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oslo

Best Way to Buy the Ticket

Buy with the Citi Prestige® Card. It has no foreign transaction fees, so you will get the interbank rate on the conversion from krone to dollars. The first $250 in flights per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. This includes fees like the checked bag fee, seat reservation, or meals that you purchase at the time of ticketing or later. After the statement credit, your roundtrip ticket will cost $27 plus any optional fees.

If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes. The Citi Prestige® Card also comes with a 50,000 ThankYou Point sign up bonus.

Hat Tip Secretly Flying

 

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Yesterday I reported that some Delta domestic awards cost only 5,000 SkyMiles one way, a 60% discount on the prevailing 12,500 mile rate we expect from legacy carriers. Other routes cost 10,000 SkyMiles one way. From playing around on delta.com, I’ve discovered a few more things.

  • So far, there are no known 5k segments that can be combined onto one award, so we don’t know how that would price.
  • Combine a 5k segment and a 10k segment, and you get a 10k award.
  • Combine a 5k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • Combine a 10k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • City pairs do not have a price. Segments have a price. (Explained below.)
  • All 5k and 10k awards are only bookable for flights through December 31, 2015.

Segments Have a Price, Not City Pairs

  • A “city pair” is your departing and arrival city no matter how many stops you have in between.
  • A “segment” is one wheels up and wheels down of an airplane.

The 5k and 10k prices we’ve uncovered on delta.com are for segments, not for city pairs. How do I know? Portland/San Francisco as a city pair doesn’t have just one price. The direct flight costs 12,500 miles. The routing via Seattle costs 10,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.50.21 PM

Why is that? Because Delta has clearly assigned prices to each segment.

  • The Portland-to-San-Francisco segment costs 12,500 SkyMiles as we can see above.
  • The Portland-to-Seattle segment costs 5,000 miles.
  • The Seattle-to-San-Francisco segment costs 10,000 miles.

Proof SEA-SFO segment is 10k:

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.51.31 PM

Proof SEA-PDX is 5k:Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.51.58 PM

When you fly a connecting domestic Delta award itinerary in which one segment prices at one price and the other at another, you just pay the higher segment price.

That’s why PDX-SFO is 12,500 miles and PDX-SEA-SFO is 10,000 miles.

You can see this rule over and over if you try to combine a 5k and 10k segment, a 5k and 12.5k segment, or a 10k and 12.5k segment.

For instance, San Diego to Sacramento prices at 10,000 miles via Los Angeles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.23.46 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.23.52 PM

That’s because the San Diego-to-Los-Angeles segment costs 10,000 miles, the Los-Angeles-to-Sacramento segment costs 5,000 miles, and delta.com goes with the higher price on connecting itineraries.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.24.52 PM

This logic implies that combining two 5k segments would cost just 5,000 total miles. Unfortunately we can’t test that because no two current 5k segments can be combined into a legal route.

I tried to combine the Sacramento-to-Los-Angeles and Los-Angeles-to-San-Jose 5k segments, but that’s not a legal routing, so I got this error.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.47.10 PM

All the 5k and 10k segments disappear after December 31

When Delta first made some SkyMiles awards 10,000 miles in March, they put out a press release and said that the discount was for awards flown by December 31, 2015 only. That rule appears to still be in place for both the 5k and 10k awards.

San Diego to Los Angeles only offers 10k awards until December 31, and the best price after that is 12,500 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.56.27 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.56.34 PM

Similarly, Seattle to Portland jumps to 12,500 miles from 5,000 miles after December 31.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.55.26 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.55.33 PM

That’s everything my digging has uncovered:

  • So far, there are no known 5k segments that can be combined onto one award, so we don’t know how that would price.
  • Combine a 5k segment and a 10k segment, and you get a 10k award.
  • Combine a 5k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • Combine a 10k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • City pairs do not have a price. Segments have a price.
  • All 5k and 10k awards are only bookable for flights through December 31, 2015.

Do you have any questions? Have you uncovered anything else?

 

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

I just spent a completely legal week in Cuba, split between Havana and Viñales. An American in Cuba in 2015 is a six part series on the trip. This post will focus on how Americans can book flights to Cuba.

Other Posts

Coming soon posts on money, internet, nightlife, lodging, transportation, Havana, and Viñales.

Ways to Get to Cuba

This post will focus on those last two ways because those ways can use frequent flyer miles and are going to be more convenient for people who don’t live in Florida.

One Ticket to Cuba

Copa Airlines, based in Panama, will sell you a roundtrip ticket from the United States to Cuba, but it can cost over $800.

You can also book Copa Airlines award space from the United States to Havana, Cuba via Mexico with several types of miles including:

  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • Singapore KrisFlyer miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • maybe other types of Star Alliance miles

You cannot book these awards with United miles because United is afraid, as an American company, to book you a flight to Cuba.

Copa flies to 10 American destination and adds New Orleans on June 24, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.32.47 PM
Source: gcmap.com

If you don’t live in one of these cities, you can add United flights to one of these destinations or to Panama City for no extra charge to your Lufthansa, Singapore, or Avianca award.

You may also be able to fly via San Salvador, El Salvador on TACA/Avianca flights, but I haven’t found that award space.

Getting Lufthansa, Singapore, or Avianca miles

  • You need 35,000 miles roundtrip for a Lufthansa award from the United States to Cuba. You can get 50,000 bonus Lufthansa miles from the Miles & More credit card after spending $5,000 in the first three months and paying a $79 annual fee. Or you can transfer SPG points to Lufthansa miles.
  • You need 70,000 Singapore miles roundtrip from the United States to Cuba. Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, and SPG points all transfer to Singapore miles.
  • You need 35,000 Avianca miles roundtrip from the United States to Cuba. The only reasonable way to get them is to buy. You can buy them for less than 1.65 cents each until May 29. This means you could basically buy a roundtrip to Cuba for about $600 roundtrip including taxes by buying enough Avianca miles to book the award.

Searching and Booking the Awards

Searching for Award Space

To search for the Copa flights to Cuba on lifemiles.com, click on Air Tickets under the Enjoy tab.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.51.59 AM

You may need to log in to a LifeMiles account to search. Sign up for a free account here.

On the search screen, next to “Preferred carrier,” select the carrier that serves the route you’re searching. Not specifying an airline will cause the search engine to miss results.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.28.22 PM

If You Live in One of the 11 Cities Served by Copa

Here are sample results for economy awards from Washington to Havana.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.28.55 PM

All of the options go from Washington to Panama City to Havana on Copa with varying layovers in Panama City. If award space shows up on the days you search, note the dates, cabins, and flight numbers for the booking step below.

If You Don’t Live in One of the 11 Cities Served by Copa

You should search your home airport to Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), and Washington (IAD) and then hook up that award space to award space from those cities to Cuba on Copa. This is just segment-by-segment searching.

Booking the Award Space

If you’re booking with Avianca LifeMiles an award you can book online, book it on lifemiles.com.

If you’re booking with Lufthansa, Singapore, or another type of miles, call a foreign call center of the airline whose miles you’re using. The American call centers won’t book trips to Cuba, so pick a foreign call center in an English speaking country that is open to help you. Consider England, Canada, and Australia.

Feed the agent the dates, flights numbers, and cabins of each flight that you found award space for on lifemiles.com. You can pay the taxes with any credit card, so I of course suggest the Citi Prestige® Card, since it has an annual $250 Air Travel Credit that can refund your award taxes, and you will earn 3x-4x on the taxes paid.

I used these methods to fly from Washington DC to Havana, Cuba with Lufthansa miles on Copa flights.

Two Tickets to Cuba

You can book two awards or cash tickets to get from the United States to Cuba. Since you can get to Cuba with one ticket, the only reasons you’d want to use two tickets are if you wanted to see another country on your way or you didn’t have any Star Alliance miles to fly those Copa award flights mentioned above.

I booked my return from Cuba on two tickets because I wanted to stop in Bogota on the way.

The two ticket options include flying cash tickets or awards from the Caribbean or Mexico to Havana. These flights tend to be expensive in miles and in cash. I paid 17,500 Asiana miles from Havana to Bogota, Colombia.

Flying Blue Awards

Air France’s loyalty program Flying Blue is the best way to book AeroMexico flights from Mexico City to Havana.

Flying Blue charges 15,000 miles one way in economy and 30,000 in Business Class.

Award space was far better in Business Class (29/35 days) than economy (3/35 days) this spring when I searched last month.

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Mexico City is quite out of the way from the East Coast, but pretty much on the way from the West Coast.

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Source: gcmap.com

If you search from the United States to Havana on flyingblue.com, you will get an error message, so these awards are only to get from Mexico to Havana as part of a two award solution.

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Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards and ThankYou Points. ThankYou Points transfers take about 36 hours as long as you know how to correctly input your Flying Blue account number–it is not intuitive.

My favorite two cards to get ThankYou Points are the:

Cash Flights

Here are all the airlines and destinations that serve Havana. Here are the other airports in Cuba.

I searched on Kayak for many of the destinations and on Cubana’s and Aerogaviota’s sites for their fares. Flights to and from Cuba are shockingly expensive. For instance, I considered entering Cuba from Bogota to visit friends in Colombia first, and the 3.5 hour flight was around $500 one way. Even one hour hops in the Caribbean are almost always over $200.

Here are the cheapest fares I found to and from Cuba when I searched last month:

$158 from Havana to Nassau on April 25, 27, and 29

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$209 from Havana to Grand Cayman on April 26 and 30

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$214 from Havana to Mexico City on April 28

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If you find cheaper fares, put them in the comments. (Include airline, route, and date please.)

Bottom Line

Two ticket trips to Cuba is that it isn’t cheap in miles or cash. You are better off using just one roundtrip award, and I really recommend using 35,000 Lufthansa miles to fly Copa roundtrip, unless you want to stop in another country on the same trip.

US airlines won’t let you use their miles to Cuba or even search their sites for awards to Cuba, but foreign Star Alliance airlines will let you book Copa flights to Cuba by calling their non-US call centers.

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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Via The Points Guy, Delta has posted blackout dates for award travel on the following three partners online:

  • China Airlines (hub: Taipei)
  • China Southern (hub: Guangzhou)
  • Korean Airlines (hub: Seoul)

The blackout dates announced for 2015 and 2016 are as follows:

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Don’t shoot the messenger, me or Delta. These have always been the enforced blackout dates for trying to use Delta miles to fly these partners. The only news is that Delta has taken the transparent step of posting the blackout dates online.

That’s a bit surprising that Delta has taken the opaque step of removing its award chart from delta.com, but it is good news.

The MileValue Award Booking Service can still get you to Asia during these blackout dates with your Delta miles. Hire us for as little as $125 per person.

Also see: Basics of Redeeming Delta SkyMiles

 

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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Right now the Citi Prestige® Card comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Beyond the sign up bonus, the card competes with the American Express Platinum card by offering a host of travel benefits like:

  • $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year
  • $100 credit for applying for Global Entry
  • 3x points on Airlines and Hotels, 2x on Dining and Entertainment
  • American Airlines lounge access
  • Priority Pass Select Lounge Access

It is these two lounge accesses that are the focus of this post.

American Airlines Admirals Club Access

Citi Prestige offers American Airlines lounge access on any day you are flying American Airlines flights.

  • You must present your Citi Prestige and a boarding pass on American Airlines for a flight that takes off in the next 12 hours (or landed in the last 12 hours.)
  • You can bring in your spouse and all your children under 18 for free, or you can bring in any two guests for free.
  • Only the primary cardholder of a Citi Prestige account receives the Admirals Club lounge access benefit. Authorized users on the same account do not.

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Full Admirals Club membership, which costs $500, allows lounge access even when you aren’t flying American Airlines. This Prestige’s lounge access is a little less valuable since you need to be flying American Airlines to access the lounge.

Admirals Clubs feature free:

*only at select Clubs

My favorite Admirals Club is at Honolulu Airport with lots of food and overlooking the gardens. There are more than 50 Admirals Clubs worldwide.

Priority Pass Select Membership

Within a week of your Citi Prestige arriving, you should get a Priority Pass Select card in the mail.

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You can use your Priority Pass Select membership for free access at over 700 lounges worldwide. Download the Priority Pass app to your phone or search for lounges here.

Just like with American Airlines lounge access, you get free access for your spouse and all children under 18 or free access for any two guests. Normally Priority Pass access costs $399 per year, and doesn’t allow for any free guests.

Priority Pass Select membership is available to the main cardholder on a Citi Prestige account and all authorized users.

When accessing a Priority Pass lounge, it doesn’t matter what airline you’re flying. For instance, yesterday I accessed the LAN lounge in Bogota while flying American Airlines.

Bottom Line

The Citi Prestige doesn’t just offer a huge sign up bonus and amazing statement credits, it also offers worldwide airport lounge access.

American Airlines lounge access is available to Citi Prestige account holders and their guests when flying American Airlines or US Airways. Priority Pass lounge access is available to Citi Prestige account holders and authorized users and their guests all the time.

The sticker price of such lounge access is about $800 per year. If you fly a lot, the lounge access swamps the $450 annual fee.

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

18

My friend and I stayed two nights at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa Ka’anapali last weekend that cost me 12,000 SPG Starpoints and $31.25 per night. I really enjoyed my stay and recommend the Westin Maui and Ka’anapali area generally.

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The hotel is on the beautiful, wide, miles-long Ka’anapali white sand beach just a few miles north of Lahaina on the west coast of Maui with perfect views of sunset over the ocean.

My friend and I spent three nights on Maui (and three on Oahu), and our plan was to camp the first night and stay at a nice hotel the next two nights. I wanted to use Starpoints, and both the Westin and Sheraton on the same beach should cost 12,000 points per night during most of the year. (During peak dates, they go for 16,000 points a night.)

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Unfortunately on our dates, the base room at the Sheraton was unavailable, so I was offered a better view for 13,500 points per night. I figured I’d get an ocean view for my 12,000 points at the Westin, so I picked the hotel that cost me fewer points.

I would summarize this FlyerTalk thread comparing the Sheraton and Westin as saying that some people prefer each one. On our travel dates, the Westin was more expensive with cash, but that isn’t always the case, and you can get it for a $269 base rate next month.
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Check In & Parking

We arrived at the hotel at 2:45 PM in our rental car and pulled to the valet stand to ask about self-parking. The valet had to check that we were actually hotel guests, which took about 2-3 minutes before opening the self-parking gate for us. This system is in place because once you are in the self-parking area, exit is free. Waiting around to park was not a great first impression.

Self-parking is included in the $31.25 (including tax) resort fee. We were given a second card for free at check in for our friends to use when visiting us. That’s not actually necessary, as we could have swiped the one card we got at check in to let our friends in, and they could have exited freely. The self-parking lot is right near the entrance, so it is convenient enough.

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When we checked in, we had to wait a few minutes in the Gold/Platinum line. While we waited, someone came out to give us cowrie shell leis. The hotel often had someone right at the main entrance doing this. We were given a fourth floor “Ocean View” room in the Ocean Tower, two towel cards, and two parking cards at check in. I accepted the “make a green choice offer,” which turned down some cleaning service for 500 points per night. That was a nice 1,000 points back.

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Room

Our room was nice enough, although Ocean View was a bit of a stretch for the 4th Floor. It was mainly tree view with a little ocean peaking out.

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We got two queen beds, which were very spacious and comfortable.

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The room had a flat screen TV and a mini-fridge to store the Kona Brewing Company beer we had picked up at Walmart in Kahului. Unfortunately the room had a corkscrew, but no beer bottle opener. Luckily YouTube has a great video on opening one bottle with another. 😉

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The sink and mirror were outside the bathroom, which made it easy to chat while one of us got ready.

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The bathroom was standard. The hot water and water pressure in the shower were on point.

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The little balcony was perfect for two people to hang out with a drink.

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Resort Fee

Resort fees are a scam in my opinion. This $31.25 per night scam included:

  • High Speed Internet Access in your guestroom and public areas (basically a lie since everyone already gets free internet at SPG properties just for booking through an SPG platform)
  • Local and toll free calls up to 60 minutes
  • Two (2) bottles of water replenished daily as needed
  • Self-Parking
  • Shuttle service to Kapalua West Maui Airport, upon availability (this is not the airport that serves the mainland)
  • Shuttle service to Lahaina and to our three Starwood resorts
  • Logo souvenir eco bag
  • Outdoor portrait sitting and free 4 by 6 color photograph through Reflections Photography

We thought the 4″ by 6″ portrait sounded like a funny perk, so we took advantage. This service is only available Monday through Saturday with 3:40 PM Saturday the last slot. You sign up in the lobby, and the pictures took us just a few minutes. They’re hoping to sell you a more expensive package, and they hold the images hostage to entice you to buy.

They won’t email you the pictures. They will just print one out and put it on their table for you the next business day. Unfortunately we took our picture on a Saturday, so that meant we’d be checking out on Sunday before the picture was ready on Monday. The photographer said she could mail us the one photo for $16.

Service

All the employees I encountered were friendly, and two went above and beyond.

The front desk check in agent offered me a second self-parking access key when I asked where our friends could park when they came to visit.

A manager picked up our 4″ x 6″ portrait and mailed it to us for free. We were walking through the lobby, and she asked how our stay was going. We had just taken our portrait, and we mentioned we were bummed we would not actually receive the final product. She took my friend’s address, and the photo was there when he got home.

I’ll also give good marks for how quickly extra cups were brought to our room and how quickly my to-go burgers from Relish were ready.

Facilities

The only area I checked out were the swimming pool and ponds between the hotel and beach, which are the star of the resort.

The ponds have waterfalls, koi fish, and flamingos.

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Waterfall into koi pond
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Pink flamingos

The all-ages pool has a volleyball net, waterfall, basketball net, balls floating around, a water slide, and turns blue at night.

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Volleyball net, free balls are floating around
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Shot of the Ocean Tower from the Pool
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View of the Waterslide
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Basketball hoop
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Poolside
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Blue pool at night

Above the main pool is an adults-only pool and hot tub open until 10 PM. I never spent more than half an hour at a time in the pool area, but I really enjoyed it because I like pool games like basketball and volleyball.

The free poolside chairs, some of which had some shade, filled up very quickly. Renting a gazebo or caban is ludicrously expensive.

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Beach

Ka’anapali Beach is stunning and has views of Molokai and Lanai.

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Molokai in the distance
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Lanai in the distance

Two chairs and an umbrella is $45 per day. I’d recommend a towel instead.

My favorite part of the beach is at the very end in front of the Sheraton, a rocky outcropping called Blackrock. Every day dozens of people ignore the “Don’t Walk Past This Sign” signs and jump from the 20 foot rock. Every day at a sunset, a local guy paid by the Sheraton comes out and does a swan dive. Some days he even does other tricks like flips and handstand jumps.

The snorkeling especially near Blackrock must be pretty good as there is a steady stream of people out there. I saw several turtles from the rock and one dolphin.

Food

I got burgers to go both nights from Relish. At about $20 after tip, they were fine. Next door is Whaler’s Village, which has a food court including pizza, Mexican, plate lunch, and Subway. There are several beach front dining options, but they were out of my price range.

Location

Here’s a map I made for my review of the Andaz Maui at Wailea. Ka’anapali is just north of the underlined Lahaina on the northwest coast.

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The Westin Maui is 39 minutes from Kahului Airport and 8 minutes from West Maui Airport. I consider Ka’anapali’s location a little better than Wailea’s. Both are about the same distance from the airport, Haleakala, and start of the Road to Hana.

Ka’anapali is right next to Lahaina, which is a nice little town on Maui, so I give it a slight edge.

Overall

I definitely am happy with my 12,000 points per night redemption to stay at the Westin Maui.

Ka’anapali Beach, the pools, and the service were highlights.

I would have liked to have stayed on a higher floor and gotten out of that resort charge, but I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

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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 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 a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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