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Reader Judy emailed to ask:

I’ve got a ton of American Airlines miles, and I want to go to Europe in Business Class. What is my best option?

A lot of people have a lot of American Airlines miles at the moment because the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, and the business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles and two Admirals Club lounge passes after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months.

That’s 106,000 American Airlines miles just for getting two cards and meeting the minimum spending requirements.

American Airlines miles also happen to be the most valuable miles because Delta and United jacked up the prices needed for Business and First Class awards last year, but American’s chart has been steady for years. At this point, the one way award prices to Europe in Business Class are:

  • 50,000 American Airlines miles
  • 57,500 United miles in United Business
  • 62,500 Delta miles
  • 70,000 United miles in Business Class on United’s partners

To other regions, the disparity is similar or larger.

But all miles are stronger to certain regions in certain cabins, and Business Class to Europe is a huge weakness for American Airlines miles. The problems:

  1. American Airlines releases almost no Business Class MileSAAver award space on its own flights to Europe.
  2. British Airways releases a fair amount of Business Class award space, but American Airlines collects fuel surcharges on British Airways award space. You’ll pay $1,000+ out of pocket for a roundtrip in addition to 100,000 American Airlines miles to fly British Airways Business Class.
  3. Other partners don’t release much award space, with Finnair releasing the most space.

Bad Space American Airlines Own Flights

American Airlines is revamping its Business Class offerings one aircraft at a time, so that it will feature all fully flat beds in Business Class in the coming years. That’s nice.

What’s less nice is that Business Class award space is almost non-existent on its flights. That includes off peak times. That includes the last few weeks before departure. American Airlines just doesn’t want to release a seat in Business Class to Europe for 50,000 miles to you.

British Airways Fuel Surcharges

Many of American Airlines’ partners impose fuel surcharges on their flights, but American only passes along the surcharges from British Airways and Iberia. British Airways’ fuel surcharges are punitive, which is a shame, because they do release the most award space to Europe of any American Airlines partner.

A roundtrip from JFK to London in British Airways Business Class costs 100,000 American Airlines miles + $1,160.50, which includes $828 in fuel surcharges.

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The Best of the Rest

American Airlines’ other partners to Europe are:

  • US Airways
  • airberlin
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • S7 Airlines (Moscow-based but doesn’t fly to USA)

US Airways offers very little award space on its European routes, even obscure ones like Philadelphia to Manchester that you imagine can’t have many business travelers.

Iberia award space can be searched on ba.com, and the airline flies to Boston, New York, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles without much Business Class award space.

Airberlin used to be a fount of award space, but now the Business Class space is very rare on its several American flights.

That leaves Finnair, which doesn’t release much award space, but sadly it’s the best option.

Finnair flies between New York and Helsinki, with connections throughout Europe. It will begin a 3x weekly summer service to Chicago on June 15, but I don’t see any award space on that flight yet.

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Finnair flights from Helsinki, via Wikipedia

On the New York route, there is award space 23 days out of the next 330 from New York to Helsinki. There is a lot more award space from Helsinki to New York, call it about two days a week on average, although it’s really more like four days a week in the off season and two days a month during the summer.

New York to Helsinki

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Helsinki to New York

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You can connect to/from New York on American Airlines or US Airways flights for no extra miles and connect throughout Europe on Finnair flights for no extra miles.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are not good to Europe in Business Class. There just isn’t a lot of award space. Other than surcharge-laden British Airways, Finnair offers the most award space, and for whatever reason offers a lot more westbound than eastbound.

If you’re creative–and flexible–you can use American Airlines miles to fly in Business Class to Europe, but I would argue that that’s almost like fighting American Airlines miles good uses. Use your United and Delta–yes, Delta–miles to fly to Europe in Business Class and use your American Airlines miles for its strong suits.

Update January 7, 2015: Here are the strong suits of American Airlines miles.

Key Links

Each card offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

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The purchase of American Airlines miles is now processed by American Airlines itself, meaning that you can use your Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® to purchase American Airlines miles and redeem Arrival miles to eliminate the purchase price.

Or you can use a card that earns bonus miles on American Airlines purchases like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, or Sapphire Preferred, which all earn 2x miles on American Airlines purchases.

Previously purchases of American Airlines miles were handled by points.com, so you couldn’t redeem Arrival miles to offset a purchase, nor would you earn bonus miles for purchases of American Airlines miles because no card offers bonus miles for purchases from points.com.

  • What is the proof that AA processes the miles purchases now?
  • How can you currently buy 125,000 AA miles?
  • Which other airlines and hotels process their own miles/points sales and which don’t?

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Last Monday, I flew from Medellin to Bogota to Buenos Aires in Avianca Business Class for 20,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles and $45. (How I booked the award.)

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The flights pleasantly surprised me. The main flight from Bogota to Buenos Aires was a six hour redeye, on which I wanted to sleep. The angled lie-flat bed was more comfortable than I expected.

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I couldn’t capture a great image of the bed. Image courtesy of http://www.the2milmoon.com/
  • How were the lounges, seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment?


My trip started in Medellin. Unfortunately the bigger Medellin airport with almost all the flights to Bogota (Jose Maria Cordova) is 45 minutes out of town and 60,000 pesos ($30) in a taxi.

I arrived to the airport at 5 PM for my 8:10 PM flight, hoping to take an earlier flight if possible, and if not, to hang out in the lounge and work.

The agent put me on the next flight out at 5:50 PM at no extra charge, maintaining my seat in Business Class. That flight ended up being delayed about half an hour, so I had time to check out the Avianca lounge in Medellin. As a general rule, flying international Business Class pretty much always gets you lounge access at all airports along the way where the airline has an affiliated lounge.

The lounge in Medellin is quite basic, though it does feature alcohol, hot food, and internet.

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Ice Cream, the Oreo flavor was delicious
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Club Colombia beer on tap and other drinks available also
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Peanuts and crackers to go
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Computers available
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Chicken wings, cheese balls, and a few other snacks
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View of my ride to Bogota from the lounge
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Seating areas of the Avianca Lounge in Medellin
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TV room

I headed down and caught my flight at about 6:15. It was just one hour to Bogota in seats reminiscent of domestic First Class in the United States. There was a drink service, and I spent the flight watching two episodes of Modern Family on the seat back TV.


I landed in Bogota three hours before my next flight. I had to exit security and re-enter the international terminal, clearing immigration and security. After that, I headed straight to the LAN lounge, not the Avianca lounge, because my last trip through Bogota showed me that the LAN lounge is far superior. Click here for a full review of both lounges.

Three pleasant and productive hours in the LAN lounge passed too quickly, and I headed to the gate for my six hour flight to Buenos Aires. The boarding gate had an extremely long line, and it took a moment for me to see the dedicated line for Business Class passengers to the right of the main line. It was empty, so I skipped the queue and headed to my seat.

Avianca 87
Bogota (BOG) – Buenos Aires (EZE)
Depart: 10:17 PM on Monday, December 1
Arrive: 6:37 AM on Tuesday, December 2
Duration: 6hr 20min
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Seat: 5D (Business Class)

My seat was in the back row of Business Class, which is split into two mini-cabins. The boarding door was between the two mini-cabins, so it would have been quieter to have a seat in rows 1-3 during boarding.

From http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Avianca/Avianca_Airbus_A330-200.php

I chose a middle seat in the 2-2-2 layout because if you choose a window seat, you need to climb over your seatmate to get to the aisle, and if you choose an aisle on either side, the window seat needs to climb over you. A middle seat–D or G–offers you aisle access without blocking anyone else’s.

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My seat–5D

The seat had a sealed package with a think blanket and a medium-sized pillow. The pillow was as thick as a pillow you might have on your bed, but was only as wide as the seat. I think it was the perfect size.

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In front of the seats were individual monitors and storage.

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There was ample leg room in the sitting position. I am 6’4″, and my feet did not reach the seat in front of me, even stretched out.

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Before take off, we were offered champagne, water, or juice plus room-temperature mixed nuts. My seatmate and I both indulged, which led to a crowded arm rest. Nearly every Business Class seat was full, so there were probably a lot of crowded arm rests.

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The flight attendants also brought around a small shoe sack. I’m not sure what my shoes needed to be protected from on the plane.

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Also before take off, amenity kits and menus were distributed. The menu surprised me because only dinner was listed. Most redeyes also feature breakfast.

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The amenity kit was Tumi-branded, though not the awesome mini-suitcase you get on Thai. The kit contained an eye shade, headphone covers, tissues, toothbrush and toothpaste, a pen, chapstick, hand lotion, and a sticker to put on your seat if you want to be woken for the next meal.

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The sticker concept is cool because nothing is more annoying than being woken for a meal when you’d rather sleep, but as I noted this menu didn’t even feature a second meal.

Before take off, the entertainment system was use-able, and I have to really compliment Avianca on their selection of entertainment. It’s rare that I see such quality shows available, and I easily could have spent the entire six hours watching TV.

I planned to eat, and try to sleep immediately, so I started with an episode of Modern Family expecting meal service to be soon and quick.

Unfortunately an hour passed after take off before the meal service began. On only a six-hour flight, I think that is unacceptable. The meal service should start within 15-20 minutes, in my opinion, so that we can get some sleep.

The service began with a room-temperature wet towel.

I finished Modern Family and looked through the movie selection. Shawshank Redemption!? Well, I’ll just watch the beginning…

Dinner was served from a cart in one course. Between the chicken breast and cheese ravioli, I chose the former. It came with potatoes and carrots. There was also a salmon side salad and a bread basket, from which I selected a roll.

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The chicken was absolutely delicious, and the carrots and potatoes tasted like carrots and potatoes.

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Thirteen minutes after I had been served, my plate was cleared. At that point, my water glass was refilled, and a bottle of water was distributed to each passenger.

Oddly, no cheese or dessert–both listed on the menu–was offered. No explanation of their absence was offered either.

I ended up being so engrossed in the Shawshank redemption that I watched the whole thing in a reclined position, which I found very comfortable. For part of the movie, I activated the seat’s massage feature, which felt good.

At 1:35 AM, I put the seat into bed mode. This picture from The 2 Million Mile Honeymoon shows the bed position. It is not fully flat. (Check out their full trip report there.)

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In the past, I have really struggled to sleep on angled-flat beds. But this time I fell asleep quickly. Perhaps this example of an angled-flat bed was more comfortable or perhaps I was more tired. Certainly the bed was flatter than I expected, and the pillow was comfortable.

I awoke two-and-a-quarter hours later to the announcement that we’d be landing soon in Buenos Aires.

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One extremely weird thing about take off and landing was that we were told over the PA system that we had to fold our blankets and not use them, a rule which the flight attendants did enforce.

I’ve been told many times that I had to buckle my seat belt over a blanket, so flight attendants could see it, but I have never been told not to use a blanket.

This strange rule made take off and landing much less comfortable.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.07.22 PM
View of the two row mini-cabin

We landed half an hour early, I took a 45 minute taxi into the city, got to my apartment, and slept for six more hours.

Bottom Line

Lounges: Avianca lounges have the bare essentials: snacks, booze, and internet. But they are not as good as many international business lounges. Use the LAN lounge in Bogota if you have Priority Pass.

Seat: The seat had plenty of leg room and comfortable positions for lounging.

Bed: For an angled lie-flat, the bed exceeded my expectations, but it is not as good as fully flat. The pillow was perfect, and the blanket was warm. If only I could have used the blanket during take off and landing.

Food: The main course was very good, but where was the dessert?

Service: On a six-hour redeye, the dinner service needs to start immediately not after one hour. Other than that, the flight attendants were friendly.

Entertainment: Fantastic quality and decent quantity especially since most of Avianca’s flights are medium-haul or shorter. Available from before take off to after landing. This could not be improved in any way.

Getting the Miles

Seven hours of flying in Business Class for 20,000 miles + $45 is a steal. The deal was so cheap because Singapore Airlines treats all of South America as one region with unusually cheap award prices.

Singapore miles are extremely easy to get because they are transfer partners of every transferable point. My favorite way to rack up Singapore miles is with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card, which has a 50,000 point sign up bonus.

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

Full Menu Photos

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Back in April, I won two tickets to a Capital Cities concert in Buenos Aires that came with a chance to meet the band and a cocktail reception for only 6,000 SPG Starpoints through an SPG Moments auction.

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I went to the concert on Thursday and had a blast. #spglife did a good job putting the show on, Capital Cities were great performers, and I met some fun people.


Play their hit song Safe & Sound while you read the rest of the post.

  • How was the concert?
  • How well was the experience run?
  • Why is Capital Cities wearing leis?
  • Are Moments a good use of Starpoints?
  • What current Moments offers catch my eye?

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This is pretty hilarious for anyone interested in currencies, McDonald’s, politics, Argentina, or The Economist. I happen to be interested in all five.

For years, press reports have suggested that the Argentine government has “leaned on Argentina’s McDonaldses to exercise restraint in their Big Mac pricing” because The Economist publishes a semi-tongue-in-cheek Big Mac Index that tracks purchasing power parity. See the full Slate article from 2012.

I snapped the picture above at a McDonald’s in Buenos Aires on December 3, 2014.


What’s so funny? 

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My friend has a destination wedding in Roatan, Honduras over the July 4th weekend. He asked me to write a post explaining to his guests how they can get there with miles. This is the specific example I’ll use, but this post is broadly applicable when you need to plan airfare for any destination wedding. Follow the same three steps in this post.

Destination weddings don’t need to break the bank for attendees. Airfare can cost as little as the roundtrip aviation taxes to your destination ($29 to Honduras), and, worst case scenario, you can always get $500 off the cheapest fare to your destination.

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Roatan, from infinitybay.com

There is a simple three-step process I would use to minimize the cost of airfare to a destination wedding.

For Roatan over July 4:

1. Search on united.com for award space from your home airport to Roatan.

2a. If there is space you want, open the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Meet its minimum spending requirement to unlock its bonus. Book the space you found on united.com.
2b. If there is not space you want, open the Arrival Plus.

3. If you open the Arrival Plus, set a Kayak Price Alert and purchase the ticket with your Arrival miles when the cash price dips.

For other destination weddings:

  1. Fill out a free credit card consultation form, and I will tell you what card(s) to open for the destination, time of year, and cabin of service you want.
  2. Meet the minimum spending requirements on those credit cards, and redeem your miles for the flights.

Let me go over these simple steps in detail at a beginners’ level, so anyone can follow along. No excuses for not showing up in Roatan!

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The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is now offering 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase and the payment of an $89 annual fee. This is the best offer I’ve ever seen on the card, and by far the easiest 50,000 point sign up bonus to earn.

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Most Valuable Miles

I consider US Airways miles to be the most valuable airline miles because the US Airways award chart is so cheap, and the routing rules are so lax. From the post “Comparison of United, Delta, US Airways, and American Airlines Latest Award Charts,” here is a comparison of roundtrip Business Class award prices from the United States.

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One correction since I made the chart: US Airways now charges 110k miles roundtrip to North Asia

The consistent blue numbers in the US Airways column explain why I value the miles more highly than United, Delta, and American miles.

If you have a chance to use the US Airways miles in the next few months, you can take advantage of these amazing prices. If you don’t, US Airways miles will be converted to American Airlines miles on a 1:1 basis between April and June 2015.

Many people are getting The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® and the miles in anticipation of the miles becoming American Airlines miles, trying to create a large balance of American miles.

American Airlines has the second best chart in my opinion, behind only US Airways, and American Airlines has committed to NOT devaluing its chart in 2015 at the time of integration with US Airways miles.

Amazing Partners

US Airways miles can be used on any oneworld alliance member.

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My favorite uses would be for premium cabins on Cathay Pacific, Qatar, and Qantas.

Lounging in Cathay Pacific First Class, bookable with US Airways miles

In addition, US Airways miles can be redeemed for flights on:

  • Aegean (Greece)
  • Air China
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Jet Airways (India)
  • Shenzhen Airlines (China)
  • South African Airways
  • TAP Portugal

Here are all the places you can go with the sign up bonus.

10% Back on Redeemed Miles and Other Benefits

The card comes with the following benefits now:

  • Receive one companion certificate for up to two guests to travel with you on US Airways operated flights at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
  • Take advantage of priority boarding Zone 2 on US Airways operated flights
  • Relax with a complimentary Club day pass
  • NEW! 25% in-flight savings on food, beverages & headset purchases on US Airways and American Airlines

In the Second Quarter 2015, the following benefits will be added, to match current benefits on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®:

  • $100 flight discount on your account anniversary each year when you spend $30,000 on purchases
  • Also receive 10% of your redeemed miles back, up to 10,000 annually.

That 10% of redeemed miles up to 10,000 miles back annually is a huge benefit that I take advantage of.

Unlike past versions of this card, I do not see anywhere mentioned that it comes with a 5,000 mile discount on awards entirely flown on US Airways planes. That’s a shame to lose, but the 10% of redeemed miles back is probably better.

Can You Get This Card?

This card is separate from, and even offered by a separate bank as, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

Whether you have an American Airlines card is irrelevant to whether you can get The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®. Many people have gotten both, even on the same day.

If you have had The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®, you may be able to apply again and get the bonus again. My friend got three bonuses recently.

People tend to have more success if they don’t currently have a US Airways card open when they apply for a new one.

Share your application experiences in the comments.

Don’t Get This Card

Don’t get this card to go to Africa (unless South Africa AND you plan to book in the next few months.)

Oneworld alliance is very weak to Africa, but strong to Asia, Latin America, and Europe.

If you can use the miles in the next few months as US Airways miles, you can find space on South African Airways flights to Southern Africa, so that’s an exception to the general rule not to get these miles if you want to go to Africa.

What Will Happen to This Card Next Year?

When the US Airways Dividend Miles program ends and your miles become American Airlines miles, this card will begin to earn American Airlines miles.

Bottom Line

I’ve never seen such a large publicly available offer on The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®. Right now you can earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase!


The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase and paying $89 annual fee

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TIA: This is Argentina.

It’s an admonition, popular among expats, to lower your expectations when dealing with the government or businesses in Argentina.

I think about it like this: there is an ‘Argentina Tax‘ in money and time when you want to do anything in Argentina, and Monday I paid that tax a few times.

It started the night before in Medellin, Colombia when I realized my trip to Buenos Aires was 24 hours away, and I had to do two things before I flew that I never have to do before heading to other countries.

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Not Before I Complete Two Errands
  • Why did I have the most stressful 24 hours before my flights to Argentina?
  • What two things do you have to do before your trip to Argentina?

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On Monday, I published “Free One Ways on Alaska Airlines Awards.” You haven’t read it yet? What? Read it!

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Add a Free One Way to Mexico or Hawaii onto Your Next Alaska Airlines Award

I got some questions about people having trouble with the search function, not finding as much award space as they were expecting to find.

  • What’s the one tip I would give to find more award space when searching for free one ways on Alaska Airlines awards?

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I recently redeemed 20,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles and $45 for a one way trip in Business Class from Medellin, Colombia to Buenos Aires.

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Avianca Business Class, not flat, but much better than coach

That’s over seven hours of flying up front for only 20,000 miles. United would have charged 40,000 for me to book the exact same award space. American Airlines would have charged 32,500 to fly its partner LAN Airlines in Business Class.

I got the 20,000 Singapore miles by transferring Citi ThankYou Points 1:1 to Singapore miles in about 24 hours. (Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints also transfer to Singapore miles.)

I earn ThankYou Points with my Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card, which comes with 20,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months, and 30,000 more bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of the next year. That’s 50,000 total bonus points.

The card also comes with 3x points per dollar on dining and entertainment and 2x on airfare and hotels. It is one of only three cards I usually carry abroad.

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

Getting the miles and searching for award space were very easy, but something very surprising happened while booking that got me an even better award than I was expecting.

  • How did I discover this sweet spot on the Singapore award chart?
  • How did I search for award space?
  • How did I book the award?
  • What weird thing happened during the award booking?

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You can add a free one way to one way awards booked with Alaska Airlines miles. That means you can add two free one ways to roundtrip awards.

A free one way is a separate trip, separated by days or months from your main trip, that adds zero extra miles to the cost of your award.

For instance, if you live in Los Angeles a free one way would be:

  • fly from Sydney to Los Angeles for 42,500 miles in economy
  • months later fly from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on the same award for zero extra miles
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Free One Way in Green is Taken Months Later and Adds Zero Miles to Price

(Yes, this is a legal free one way with Alaska miles.)

Alaska Airlines has the most generous free one way policy in many ways.

  • You can add free one ways to one way awards
  • You can add free one ways to Mexico
  • You can add free one ways to Hawaii (even when the main award goes to Asia or Australia)
  • You can backtrack on your free one way
  • You can end your main award at one airport in a city and start your free one way at another airport in the city (like flying into Newark and out of JFK)
  • Alaska has amazing partners, and free one ways are available on awards that use any partner.
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You can book awards on these airlines with Alaska miles

But there are limitations on free one ways. The biggest one:

  • On any one way award with Alaska Airlines miles, you can only fly one Alaska Airlines partner in addition to Alaska Airlines.

I’ll talk through this limitation and others in my full explanation of how to book free one ways with Alaska Airlines miles.

  • How do you book a free one way with Alaska miles?
  • Which partners are searchable online?
  • Where can your free one way go?
  • In which cabin can you fly your free one way?
  • How can you get Alaska miles?

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Disclosure: National offered me compensation to write this post, and a $200 gift card for MileValue readers. All views are expressed are mine and (other) Scott’s, not those of National Car Rental.

National Car Rental’s popular ONE TWO FREE has returned through January 31, 2015. For every two qualifying rentals, you earn one free* rental day for use on a future trip. ONE TWO FREE is a points-based promo, so you can also earn free days by referring friends to the program, using the mobile app, and more.

*Like “free” award tickets, you are responsible for taxes on your free rental day.

To promote ONE TWO FREE, National put me in touch with (another) Scott, an active member of National’s Emerald Club program since 1999, to get his perspective on the Emerald Club, the ONE TWO FREE promo, and how National Car Rental works for business travelers.

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Scott in Pinnacles National Monument in Paicines, CA

How the ONE TWO FREE Promo Works

During the ONE TWO FREE promo, which runs until January 31, 2015, registered Emerald Club members can earn one free rental day for every 600 points earned. Members can combine up to three free-day certificates into a single rental.

Once you register for ONE TWO FREE, you earn 300 points for any qualifying rental of 2+ days. You can also earn points in a variety of  other ways:

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Scott said that he usually takes business trips that include car rentals paid by his employer. Those rentals earn him free rental days that he uses on personal trips.

Some other ways to earn points require just a few clicks:

  • 50 points for connecting your Emerald Club account and Facebook
  • 50 points for opting in for emails
  • 25 points for downloading the National Car Rental app
  • 25 points for visiting the Drive Alliance, a site about the partnership between National, Alamo, and Enterprise

There are ways to earn extra points on every rental:

  • 75 points for renting on the mobile app (up to 4 times)
  • 250 points for renting a GPS
  • 250 points for using the fuel service option

Scott highlighted the bonus points for using the mobile app and how easy it is to use. He said that he once took an earlier flight to Seattle for a conference near the airport. He hadn’t originally planned on renting a car at all, but he realized he had enough time to make it to Mount Rainier, which had always been a dream of his.

He used the mobile app during the plane’s taxi to the gate, and within 15 minutes of landing, he had rented his National car and was headed south. Within a few hours, he had one less item on his bucket list.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 12.37.24 PM
Scott at Mount Rainier

You can also earn 300 points for each friend you refer to the Emerald Club after their first paid rental (up to 10 referrals.)

A combination of paid rentals and taking advantage of the other points-earning methods can quickly get you free rental days.

You can combine up to three free days for each free rental.

You can earn up to 50 free days during the promotion period.

Why Everyone Should Join Emerald Club (even if they won’t be frequent renters)

There are two reasons you should join the Emerald Club even if you only plan to rent a single time.

  1. At most locations, Club members do not have to go to the desk. They go straight to their cars.
  2. Club members who rent a mid-sized vehicle can pick any car off the Emerald Aisle.

1. Save time with stored preferences and skipping the desk.

When you join the Emerald Club, you input your driver’s license information, credit card information, car type, and preferences for options like insurance.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 5.49.14 PM
Insurance options in your Emerald Club sign up

Scott explained that then when you rent a car as an Emerald Club member, you can skip the counter and go straight to the Emerald Aisle at most locations. Flash your credit card and license at the exit, and you are on your way. He estimated he is usually driving away from on-site lots within 10-15 minutes after walking out the airplane door. Scott raved about the speed of the process.

Scott said there’s nothing worse than showing up at your destination tired and then facing a line at the rental-car counter. And then when you get to the front, an agent goes through each option that you don’t want. Just by joining the Emerald Club, you skip that forever, which is well worth the 5 minutes it takes to sign up.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 12.36.11 PM
Scott driving across the Golden Gate Bridge

Plus if you want something other than the default options you set, you always have the option to go to the counter and pick new options for your current rental.

2. Access the Emerald Aisle with a mid-sized rental

Club members who rent at least a mid-sized car get to go to a special section of the lot where they can pick any car.

Scott gushed about the control and choice.

When he anticipated a long drive, he’d look for a hybrid to save on gas or a car that had free XM radio to enjoy the drive more. He’s picked cars with lower mileage on their odometers to get the benefits of a newer car, or cars that he’s been wanting to test out in anticipation of perhaps one day buying them. He’s gotten a bigger car when he needed more room when traveling with his family, and a convertible when he was alone and wanted a more fun drive.

Bottom Line

National’s Emerald Club is free to join and lets members skip the counter and head straight to the Emerald Aisle, where they can pick any car. There’s no reason not to join.

The Emerald Club’s ONE TWO FREE promotion allows members to earn free rental days after every two qualified paid rentals. You can earn free days even more quickly with actions like linking your account to Facebook and referring friends.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 12.36.40 PM
Scott at the Louisville Slugger Museum


National Car Rental is offering an amazing giveaway to MileValue readers. One lucky reader will win a $200 American Express Gift Card and a year of complimentary Emerald Club Executive status. There are two ways to enter:

  1. Share this blog post with hashtag #OneTwoFree and @MileValue on Twitter
  2. Leave a comment on this post about your favorite business-turned-sightseeing trip

At 11:59 PM Hawaii time on November 21, 2014, entries will close. I’ll add up the total number of entries and randomly pick one winner of the $200 American Express Gift Card and a year of complimentary Emerald Club Executive status.

Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

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Can you use Arrival miles to get free lodging from airbnb, the easiest way to rent someone else’s apartment while you travel?

I talked my brother into getting the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® earlier this year for the same reasons that I got one, the big sign up bonus and the two miles per dollar on all purchases. He quickly spent $3,000 in the first 3 months to unlock 40,000 bonus miles. That 46,000 miles–40,000 bonus plus 6,000 from spending–is worth $500 in free flights, hotels, car rentals, and more.

We are in Hong Kong now as part of two week trip through Asia. We’re using my cheapskate lodging techniques, avoiding hotels altogether with nights in airbnb, a hostel, and a Chinese farmer’s house.

He booked us five nights in Seoul through airbnb for $571. I told him to make sure that he booked the stay with his Arrival Plus, so we could test whether he could redeem Arrival miles (link) for an offsetting statement credit.

  • Were we able to redeem Arrival miles for a free airbnb stay?

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This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Citi recently announced that ThankYou Points now transfer to seven airlines and one hotel chain.

Since you can earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou points with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card, I’ve been looking into those transfer partners to find the high value redemptions that maximize ThankYou points. I’ve harped on the sweet spots, luxury, and generous stopover rules of Singapore KrisFlyer miles already.

Today I want to show how to maximize Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for trips to Europe and South America.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 3.38.53 AM

Asia Miles has two distance-based charts for travel on oneworld partners and non-oneworld partners like Alaska Airlines, Air New Zealand, and Aer Lingus. If you maximize your routings and fly partners without fuel surcharges, there are a lot of high value redemptions in the Asia Miles program.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 1.41.49 PM

  • What airlines can be booked with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles?
  • How many stopovers and open jaws can an award have?
  • What fuel surcharges are imposed on awards, and how can you avoid them?


Cathay Pacific is a member of the oneworld alliance. That means you can use Asia Miles miles on all these airlines:

  • American Airlines
  • US Airways
  • airberlin
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)
  • Finnair
  • Iberia (Spain)
  • Japan Airlines
  • LAN (Chile and Peru)
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas (Australia)
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines (Russia)
  • SriLankan Airlines
  • TAM Airlines (Brazil)

Asia Miles can also be used on:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Air New Zealand (between Hong Kong and Auckland only)
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Dragonair
  • Gulf Air
  • Jet Airways
  • Royal Brunei Airlines

Asia Miles awards include fuel surcharges when an equivalent cash flight has fuel surcharges. Luckily there are a lot of options to avoid fuel surcharges on Asia Miles awards. These partner flights do not have fuel surcharges:

  • American Airlines flights within the Americas
  • US Airways flights within the Americas
  • airberlin
  • TAM
  • most LAN flights
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Aer Lingus
  • Air New Zealand

Other partner flights do have fuel surcharges often in the hundreds of dollars per segment. You can verify the fuel surcharges on a flight by using ITA Matrix.

Getting to Europe (airberlin, Aer Lingus), the Caribbean, Central America, or South America (US Airways, American Airlines, TAM, LAN) without fuel surcharges is easy. Getting to Asia, Africa, and Australia without fuel surcharges is difficult or impossible.

Mileage Price

Asia Miles has two award charts.

One Partner or Two Airlines incl. Cathay Pacific/Dragonair

The first is for awards on a single partner airline OR awards on two airlines when one is Cathay Pacific or Dragonair.

Add up the distance of all award segments in a single direction using gcmap.com, and read the miles price off the chart. One way awards are about two-thirds the price of roundtrip awards.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 3.37.52 PM

Award Chart For 2 Partners or 3+ Including Cathay Pacific/Dragonair

This award chart is only used in very specific cases. Use this award chart if:

  • You are using exactly two partners, neither of which is Cathay Pacific/Dragonair, and you are flying a roundtrip.
  • You are using three or more airlines, one of which is Cathay Pacific/Dragonair, and you are flying a roundtrip.

This award chart is cheaper than the other award chart.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 3.38.07 PM

I tried to price out an award that used three partners (airberlin, TAM, American), and I expected it to be on this chart. Unfortunately, as the first bullet point indicated, when not using Cathay Pacific/Dragonair, this chart only applies when using exactly two partner airlines.

I asked the agent to remove my last leg and just price the rest on this chart. She couldn’t even do that because I was left with New York to Europe to South America on airberlin and TAM, and I no longer satisfied the rule that this award chart is for roundtrips. (I started in New York and ended in Sao Paulo.) She ended up bouncing me back to the first award chart and charging all three segments as one ways on that chart.

There is a lot of value on this second award chart if you can comply with its rules. For instance, if you flew New York to Berlin with Aer Lingus on the outbound and airberlin on the return, the flights would be 7,962 miles flown and would cost only 85,000 Asia Miles + taxes.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 3.57.57 AM

A roundtrip in business class to Europe with American Airlines miles would cost 100,000, for comparison, and American doesn’t even partner with Aer Lingus, so you couldn’t even book these flights.

Routing Rules

I don’t exactly know them. There is conflicting information online, and the phone agent didn’t sound too confident. I do know that they are basically generous.

First Chart (One Partner and/or Cathay Pacific/Dragon Air)

These award terms and conditions state:

“The member or the Nominee may make two stopovers, two transfers or one open-jaw at either the origin, en route or turnaround point on all airline partners except Air China and Iberia where no stopovers or open-jaws are permitted. If the open-jaw is at the origin, the member or Nominee must return to the country of origin, though not necessarily to the same city.”

That explains why my award that started in New York and ended in Sao Paulo was not a roundtrip. Open jaws are OK, but the origin and the end of the award need to be in the same country to be considered a roundtrip.

The terms go on to say: “For one-way award travel…only one en route stopover is allowed. ”

My read is that if you are on the first award chart, you get two stopovers plus your destination on a roundtrip, and if you book a one way award, you get one stopover plus your destination.

Second Chart (Roundtrip 2 Partner or 3 Incl. Cathay Pacific/Dragonair)

“You can make a maximum of five stopovers, two transfers and two open-jaws at either origin, en-route or turnaround point, subject to airline partners’ terms and conditions.”

I actually don’t know Asia Miles means by a transfer. My guess would be that a “transfer” is any layover that isn’t a stopover, but it would be surprising to get fewer layovers than stopovers. At a minimum, it looks like you can stop at 5-6 destinations plus stopovers on these two-partner awards.

If I book a Cathay Pacific Asia Miles award for myself or a client, I will push harder to understand these routing rules. If you book one, leave your experience in the comments.

Awards I Priced Out

I found the following award space and tried to price it out:

  • airberlin economy from JFK to Berlin to Frankfurt
  • TAM economy from Frankfurt to Sao Paulo
  • American Airlines economy from Sao Paulo to JFK

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 11.54.31 PM

I chose these flights because none include fuel surcharges and “triangle trips” like this are something that should be better value on a distance-based chart but would be expensive on a region-to-region chart like American Airlines has.

I called Asia Miles at 866-892-2598.

The agent shot down my award request since I included three partners and none were Cathay Pacific/Dragonair.

I had her remove the American Airlines segment, so the award went from New York to Europe to South America and stopped. That meant that it wasn’t a roundtrip (the award needs to start and end in the same country), so she had to price each segment on the first chart. These were the prices:

  • New York to Berlin: 25,000 Asia Miles + 94 HKD ($12)
  • Berlin to Frankfurt: 10,000 Asia Miles + 381 HKD ($49)
  • Frankfurt to Sao Paulo: 40,000 Asia Miles + 917 HKD ($118)

For these individual flights, British Airways Avios would cost about the same out of pocket, and would charge the following prices, which are cheaper in all cases:

  • New York to Berlin: 20,000 Avios
  • Berlin to Frankfurt: 4,500 Avios
  • Frankfurt to Sao Paulo: 30,000 Avios

Asia Miles are less valuable than Avios for this award, but Asia Miles will be more valuable than Avios if you can get onto the second award chart, and if you book business or first class. British Airways charges huge premiums (2x and 3x the economy price) for those awards, and Asia Miles charges a much smaller premium.

Bottom Line

There is value in the Asia Miles program if you book partners that don’t collect fuel surcharges on routes to Europe and South America.

To get onto the cheaper award chart, you need to use exactly two Asia Miles partners. Stopover rules look generous, but are not totally clear to me.

Search award space on oneworld search engines like aa.com and ba.com and call Asia Miles to price out your award.

Citi ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 to Asia Miles. You can earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou points with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card, I think Singapore Airlines remains a more attractive transfer partner overall, but it’s nice to know there is value in two transfer partners.

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card


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

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

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