United

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Through Friday (May 27, 2016) at 11:59 CT, United is offering a 100% bonus on purchased miles. The size of the bonus depends on the number of miles you buy, with the largest 100% bonus kicking in at 40,000 miles purchased.

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United miles normally cost 3.5 cents per mile plus a 7.5% tax, bringing the full price to 3.76 cents each. During the sale, the prices, including bonus, are:
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  • Get 1,000 to 4,000 miles: 3.76 cents per mile
  • Get 6,250 to 23,750 miles: 3.01 cents per mile
  • Get 30,000 to 58,500 miles: 2.51 cents per mile
  • Get 80,000 to 150,000 miles: 1.88 cents per mile

Buying 40,000 miles–the fewest you need to purchase to get the biggest bonus–costs $1,505, which is 1.88 cents each for the 80,000 United miles you get.

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Is This a Good Deal?

No, this is a bad deal for speculative purchases. Since United’s huge devaluation in 2014, I value United miles at around 1.6 cents. The bottom line on all mileage sales is that they’re a good deal if you have an immediate, high-value use and not a good deal otherwise.

There are a few United awards for which you’ll get more than 1.88 cents of value per mile, but even in those cases, you’d probably be better off buying LifeMiles for 1.47 each and redeeming them for the exact same award.

Math

To figure out if you have a high-value use, use this simple expression:

(A – B) / (C + D)

  • A: Value of the award. Important: this is the lesser of the cash price and your subjective value.
  • B: Taxes on the award
  • C: Miles used on the award
  • D: Miles you would earn if you purchased the award ticket with cash

This will spit out the dollar value you are getting for your miles. If that number is greater than 0.0188, and you can book the dream award now, and LifeMiles somehow is offering a worse deal, buy during this promotion. Otherwise, don’t buy.

Bottom Line

You can buy 150,000 United miles for 1.88 cents each until Friday (May 27). That’s way too high to buy speculatively.

United sales are processed by points.com, so you do not get category bonuses on cards that bonus airline or travel purchases like the Citi Prestige® Card, which offers 3x on purchases from airlines.

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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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Download a free app and get 1,000 free United miles in a few weeks.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 1.50.43 PM There are three steps:

  1. Register for the promotion here. (The promotion is that if you download a personal finance app called Prosper Daily and register your account, you get 1,000 free United miles. I don’t need a personal finance app, so I’m just in it for the miles.) You will be asked your name, zip code, United MileagePlus number, and phone number.
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  2. Click the link that’s texted to you to download the app.
  3. Give an email address, password, and PIN to register your account in the app.

That’s all I did. I didn’t link any bank accounts or give any personal information. I believe I’ve done enough to get the 1,000 miles. We’ll find out for sure in 6-8 weeks, though I suspect the miles will post much sooner.

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If you like free mini-miles like this, which are nice to reset the expiration date on your account, you still have a week left to get 700 free American Airlines miles in five minutes.

Hat Tip The Points Guy

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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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I know most people just want to go somewhere and come back with their miles, but I am biased toward BIG trips. For the most part, the best way to book such big trips is as a series of one way awards with many different types of miles, taking advantage of the sweet spots with each program. But if that’s too much effort or mental bandwidth, and you can only use one miles, use United miles.

United has a pretty good award chart (except for partner First Class), great worldwide award space on the largest alliance, and no fuel surcharges on awards. Plus if you’re stringing together a number of one way United awards, you can string three together onto a single award for big miles savings through what I call a United Three One Ways Award.

This post is an example of a round-the-world trip I’ve pieced together as two United Three One Ways awards. It took me ten minutes to plan and search for award space. It would take another 20 minutes to sign up for the credit cards necessary to get the 137,500 United miles (and there are only $230 in taxes.)

Three One Ways Awards

The following is an excerpt of Master Thread: United Three One Ways Awards. If you still are confused, read that whole post before continuing.

What are United Three One Ways Awards?

Imagine a roundtrip United award with a stopover.

  • New York to Frankfurt (stopover)
  • Frankfurt to Delhi (destination)
  • Delhi to New York

This is legal, and a little bit interesting. You get to see Europe for zero extra miles on your award to India. Now imagine that there is an open jaw between the origin (New York) and the final destination.

  • New York to Frankfurt
  • Frankfurt to Delhi
  • Delhi to Los Angeles

This is legal and a little more interesting, but you probably either live in New York or Los Angeles, so there’s little practical benefit.

Now imagine that you keep this structure of a stopover and an open jaw, but throw the idea of flying anything like a roundtrip out the window.

  • New York to Frankfurt
  • Frankfurt to Delhi
  • Delhi to Bangkok

Amazingly this too is legal. And it’s very interesting because it can be part of a New Yorker’s round-the-world or other very BIG trip. This map should make it clear why I call this a Three One Ways Award.

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The trick is that we book it as a single United “roundtrip” award and not as three one ways. Why?

Well in this example, if you booked all three segments as one way awards, you would pay 90,000 United miles in economy:

  • New York to Frankfurt (30,000)
  • Frankfurt to Delhi (25,000)
  • Delhi to Bangkok (35,000)

If you book the one ways as a single “roundtrip,” you pay 77,500 United miles.

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  • New York to Frankfurt to Delhi (42,500 with free stopover)
  • Delhi to Bangkok (35,000)

And we can find even bigger discounts and sweeter spots on the United chart.

How to Book a Three One Ways Award

You book Three One Ways Awards on united.com’s advanced search page by selecting “Yes” and “Multi-city” for the second and third questions.

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If you get an error online, you call United to book.

The RTW Made Up of a Pair of Three One Ways Awards

Starting in Los Angeles (chosen arbitrarily, home airport doesn’t matter), the award goes to Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii before heading home.

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The first award goes from Los Angeles to Barcelona, Barcelona to Bangkok, and then continues from Phuket to Sydney.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.47.30 PM For those scoring at home, Barcelona is the stopover, Bangkok is the destination, and the gap between Bangkok and Phuket is an open jaw (that you would fill with a low-cost carrier flight for well under $100.)

The first two parts are in economy, but Phuket to Sydney is in First Class because United charges a silly-cheap 40,000 miles one way in First Class between Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand. By flying Thai First Class out of Bangkok, you set yourself up for a world-class ground experience that includes a free hourlong Thai massage.

This award would cost 80,000 United miles + $123.Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.47.38 PMThe second award goes from Sydney to Tokyo to Honolulu to Los Angeles.

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In economy, this is only 57,500 United miles + $107. United considers Honolulu the stopover. Sydney to Tokyo is 22,500 miles, and Tokyo to Los Angeles is 35,000.
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Could You Do XYZ Instead?

Yes, you could choose different cities in the same regions for the same price.

Yes, you could choose totally different regions for a different price. (If you get an error booking online, call United to book.)

Yes, you could add an open jaw in Japan for zero extra miles.

Yes, you could use each point on the United awards as a stopping point to explore the region for weeks or months with other awards, low-cost carriers, trains, or other transportation.

Getting the United Miles

You can get 124,000 United miles just by getting the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus and meeting their spending requirements because both cards earn points that transfer instantly 1:1 to United miles.

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:

  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter

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

The Ink Plus is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:

  • 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
  • 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

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.)

Bottom Line

My preference is to collect many types of miles for big trips to maximize all their uses, but if you have to choose just one type, collect United miles.

Then string together your awards as Three One Ways awards.

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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.

Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to visit, and judging by the number of inquiries I get about booking awards to Hawaii, it’s clear that many people agree. There are a number of cheap ways to get there that I’ll list in order.

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Waikiki at Sunset

1. Allegiant Air $314+ roundtrip (ending 8/2016)

Allegiant Air is an ultra-low cost carrier that flies from Las Vegas and Los Angeles to Honolulu. The flights are as cheap as $314 roundtrip, but a carry on will cost $50 roundtrip and a checked bag is $70 roundtrip. Additionally if you want to select your seat or board early, you have to pay extra.

If you live in LA or Vegas, don’t mind a middle seat for six hours, and can travel with only one carry on, $364 roundtrip to Hawaii including a carry on is the best deal in my opinion–better than burning 25,000+ miles on the trip.

You can always pay for your Allegiant flights, bag fees, seat fees, and food with the $250 Air Travel Credit on your Citi Prestige® Card, which 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.

Check out my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

With $250 off the price of an Allegiant ticket, you could get one to Hawaii for about $100 roundtrip.

Here’s my review of paying $90 extra to get a “Giant Seat” up front from Los Angeles to Honolulu when I flew Allegiant.

Allegiant has announced that it will terminate Hawaii service in August 2016.

2. Avios Award: 25,000+ Avios and $11+ roundtrip

I love that British Airways Avios has a distance-based award chart. For 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly roundtrip on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines planes from the West Coast to Hawaii. Here are the possible routes.

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1: Seasonal

Avios can be used for one way awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, it’s still a good idea to go one way for 12,500 Avios and use another one way deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a one way award from Honolulu to Los Angeles with Avios.

Getting British Airways Avios

You can get Chase’s British Airways card, transfer Ultimate Rewards 1:1, transfer Starpoints 4:5, or transfer Membership Rewards 5:4.

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

    Spend $15,000 in the first 12 months for another 25,000 bonus Avios. The maximum bonus is 75,000 total Avios for spending $15,000 in the first 12 months of which $2,000 came in the first three.

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

3. Korean Miles Award: 25,000+ Korean Miles and $11 Roundtrip, First Class from 45,000 Korean Miles Roundtrip

Korean miles can book a roundtrip in Delta economy from anywhere in the United States to any of the four major Hawaiian islands for 25,000 Korean miles. A roundtrip in Delta First Class is 45,000 Korean miles.

You just have to find Saver award space on Delta flights on delta.com and transfer your Ultimate Rewards or SPG Starpoints to Korean miles.

More info on the process: Guide to Booking Delta Flights to Hawaii for 25k Korean Miles Roundtrip, 45k in First

Korean miles can also book Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines Saver award space, but the price is higher: 30k/60k Korean miles roundtrip in economy/First.

Getting Korean Miles

Korean miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards and 4:5 transfer partner of Starpoints.

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a personal card that earns 50k Ultimate Rewards after spending $4k in 3 months.

    You also get 5k bonus points for adding an authorized user while applying, so I think of this as a 55k bonus point card. (Adding an authorized user does not prevent that person from getting the card at the same time or in the future as a primary account holder and getting the full sign up bonus.)

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

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

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

4. Singapore Miles Award: 35,000+ Singapore Miles and $11 Roundtrip, First Class from 60,000 Singapore Miles Roundtrip

Singapore miles can book United economy from anywhere in the United States to any of the four major Hawaiian islands for 17,500 Singapore miles each way. One way in United First Class is 30,000 Singapore miles.

You just have to find Saver award space on United flights on united.com and transfer your Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, or SPG Starpoints to Singapore miles.

More info on the process: Guide to Booking United Flights to Hawaii with Singapore Miles

While it’s ideal to use one of the three previous options to book an award to Hawaii, you might not live in a place that can take advantage of Allegiant flights or Avios awards, and Delta is notoriously poor for releasing award space (which means Korean miles are useless.) The best bet on this list is definitely United opening up award space, which you can then book with Singapore miles.

Getting Singapore Miles

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

What Wasn’t On the List

  • United miles
  • Delta miles
  • American Airlines miles

Flights on those airlines can be booked cheaper with Singapore, Korean, and British Airways miles respectively.

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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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Which airlines has the best miles and frequent flyer program? United, American, and Delta are the big three legacy carriers that most directly compete with each other in the United States. For that reason, I publish charts that compare their award prices.

I have updated my charts to show the prices that United, Delta, and American Airlines will charge for awards flown October 1, 2016 and November 1, 2016 or later. For travel through September 30, 2016, Delta’s different award prices can be found here.

Economy

All charts compare the cheapest possible award you can book with the airlines, called Saver, MileSAAver, or Level 1. All charts show the price in thousands of miles.

The economy chart has an extra column because American Airlines has off peak dates for economy awards that are cheaper than their normal MileSAAver awards. The asterisk next to the Europe off peak award is because, it is the only off peak award bookable on American Airlines partners. All other off peak awards must fly American Airlines planes only.

The slashes in the American column show the price for flying on American (cheaper) and partners (more expensive.)

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American’s devAAluation has put its economy award prices roughly in line with Delta’s and United’s.

Delta’s October Devaluation for Business Class came with some economy reductions. Delta now has some of the cheapest economy awards.

The biggest steals I see are American Airlines off peak awards to Central America and Hong Kong.

Business Class

The slashes in the United and American columns show the prices for flying that airline (cheaper) and partners (more expensive) except the slashes in the American cells for flights within the United States and Canada show the price for flying First Class on a two cabin plane (cheaper) and Business Class on a three cabin plane (more expensive.) The slashes in the Delta column show the price for flying First Class (cheaper) and flat bed Business Class (more expensive.)

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Again American’s changes put it right in line with its competitors briefly until Delta’s changes made American Airlines awards look cheap by comparison again. American miles are still cheaper to Northern South America, Japan, and Korea.

First

Delta doesn’t have a column because Delta miles cannot be used to book three-cabin First Class. To book SkyTeam First Class, transfer Ultimate Rewards or Starpoints to Korean miles. Slashes show the price of flying that airline (cheaper) and the price of flying a partner (more expensive.)
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It is almost always cheaper to use American Airlines miles to fly one of its awesome partners’ First Classes than it is to use United miles to fly one of its partners’ First Classes, but both charts are terrible. The only possible value I see is paying 80,000 American Airlines miles to fly JAL’s very awesome First Class to Japan or Korea.

For First Class awards in 2016, look to use Alaska miles, Korean miles, or Singapore miles instead.

Bottom Line

Of course we all thought that American Airlines would devalue its charts roughly in line with United’s and Delta’s, but I didn’t realize how closely American had copied its competitors until putting this post together and seeing that the airlines have nearly the same prices on all awards originating in the continental United States.

Delta’s changes for travel October 1 or later are welcome for economy travel but terrible for Business Class travel.

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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.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one the best travel cards on the market at the moment. It ranks #4 out my Top 10 Travel Credit Cards for May 2016.

Quick Facts

  • Sign Up Bonus: 55,000 Ultimate Rewards after $4,000 in spending in the first three months and adding an authorized user on the card
  • Category Bonuses: 2x on travel and restaurants
  • Value of Ultimate Rewards: Worth 1.25 cents toward the purchase of any cash ticket OR can be transferred to any of these six airlines and four hotels for higher value:
    • British Airways
    • Korean Air
    • Singapore Airlines
    • Southwest Airlines
    • United Airlines
    • Virgin Atlantic
    • Hyatt Gold Passport
    • IHG
    • Marriott Rewards
    • Ritz-Carlton Reward
  • Global Acceptance: Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first 12 months, $95 per year afterwards

There are 10 reasons why I am a fan of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  

1. You will earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards for the sign-up bonus.

2. You will earn 5,000 Ultimate Rewards after adding an authorized user.

3. Ultimate Rewards transfer to a variety of airline frequent flyer programs that employ three different types miles.

4. You can get that sign-up bonus again after a little more than 24 months.*

5. It makes your Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited card MUCH more valuable

6. Transfer Ultimate Rewards to Virgin Atlantic to fly to Europe for only 17,500 miles!

7. The card is accepted globally with no foreign transaction fees.

8. No annual fee collected the first year.

9. Baggage delay insurance

10. A live human being picks up the phone when you call Sapphire Preferred’s customer service.

Top 10 Reasons to Get the Sapphire Preferred

1. You will earn at least 54,000 Ultimate Rewards with the sign-up bonus and the spending it takes to unlock it. 

I value Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents each, so to me 54,000 Ultimate Rewards are worth $1,080.

You will more than likely earn even more than that if any of your spending is in restaurants or on travel, since those categories earn 2x for ever dollar spent.

2. You will earn 5,000 Ultimate Rewards after adding an authorized user. 

Definitely do this. The authorized user does NOT get a credit check. The authorized user is NOT disqualified from opening their own Sapphire Preferred and getting their own sign up bonus. The extra card is sent to you, and need not ever be used to earn you the 5,000 points. That brings the my sign-up bonus valuation to $1,180:

 $1,080 + (5000 x .02) = $1,180

Not to mention your authorized user can help you reach that minimum spending requirement much faster than you could on your own.

3. Ultimate Rewards transfer to a variety of airline frequent flyer programs that employ three different types miles.

Out of the airline transfer partners’ frequent flyer programs, four use region-based miles, one uses distance-based miles, and one uses airline points. You can read more about the different types of miles here.

It’s important to diversify across the types of miles because they all have different strengths. You want to have the best mile for the job, and you want to use the types of miles in concert.
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4. You can get that sign-up bonus again every 24 months.*

You can get the bonus on the same Chase card once every 24 months. This 24-month clock starts when you got the last bonus (which may be up to three months after you got the card).

5. It makes your Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited card MUCH more valuable.

The Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited are marketed as cash back cards. The Freedom earns 5x spending on rotating category bonuses (as well as 1x on normal sepdning) and the Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5x on all spending. But in fact, the card earns points that can be converted to cash back or can be converted, through a process I call the Freedom Two Step, to much more valuable airline miles and hotel points.

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The basic idea is that while the Freedom’s Ultimate Rewards do not transfer to airline and hotel partners, if you have a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus, you can transfer the points to those cards’ accounts, and from there to airlines and hotels. Having a Sapphire Preferred turns the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited into the most valuable cards for non-bonused spending. No other cards come close to offering 1.5 United/Korean/Singapore/BA/Southwest/Hyatt miles or points per dollar (Freedom Unlimited) or definitely not 5 United/Korean/Singapore/BA/Southwest/Hyatt miles or points per dollar on non-bonused spending.

6. Transfer Ultimate Rewards to Virgin Atlantic to fly to Europe for only 17,500 miles

You can fly Virgin Atlantic economy from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London for 17,500 miles and $134.60 in taxes and fees (yes, there are fuel surcharges).

Using American Airlines miles, United miles, or Delta miles, the same flight would cost you 30,000 miles. I think it is worth saving 12,500 miles for $129 in fuel surcharges. That’s like buying miles for 1 cent each.

With the Ultimate Rewards you earn from the sign-up bonus + spending to get the sign-up bonus + adding an authorized user (59,000), you could fly to London three times and still have miles left over.

7. The card is accepted globally with no foreign transaction fees.

The Sapphire Preferred’s chip technology provides added security so you can feel safe trotting around the globe with it. And you won’t pay any pesky foreign transaction fees that can really kill the value of your awards (on many cards these fees amount to 3% of every transaction– yikes!).

When you travel as much as I do, cards with foreign transaction fees get very little to no love. And all those foreign frequent flyer programs you transfer your points to to book awards? You need a card like the Sapphire Preferred to put the taxes and fees on, unless you want to pay 3% on top.

8. No annual fee collected the first year.

The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year that your account is open. Most cards with as many perks as the Sapphire Preferred do not waive the annual fee.

9. Baggage delay insurance

This screenshot is from the Sapphire Preferred’s Featured Benefits page:
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That is stellar travel protection, offering a nice silver lining to an otherwise aggravating situation. I don’t have any personal experience with this but I did meet someone traveling in Argentina who held a Sapphire Preferred card. She was without her luggage for about a week, but an extra $100 in her budget every day made for some quality souvenirs and a good time shopping.

10. A live human being picks up the phone when you call Sapphire Preferred’s customer service.

Every Sapphire Preferred card has a customer service phone number on the back. When you call, you are not put through 19 prompts and transfers until you reach an actual (helpful) human being. A short recording plays that informs you the call will be recorded, and then a person that speaks English natively picks up. This is something that all companies–not just credit cards–could learn from in these days of never ending menus to get to a person who can solve your problem.

*Chase 5/24 Rule 

I put an asterisk by reason #4 because of a rule Chase enforces that must be considered before you apply for their cards, whether it’s for the first time or as a repeat. Make sure you haven’t opened five credit cards (any cards from any bank) within the last 24 months, or your application for the Sapphire Preferred will be denied. This is called the Chase 5/24 rule.  If you can’t remember if you’ve opened five cards in the last two years, check by requesting a credit report from one of the three national credit bureaus:

The dates in which you opened and closed accounts should be listed on all of them. You are entitled to one free credit report from each bureau per year.

Bottom Line

I am a big fan of the Chase Sapphire Preferred for numerous reasons–the high value and diversified reward earning potential, lack of foreign transaction fees and impressive customer service are just a few.

What do you love about your Chase Sapphire Preferred?

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

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

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

Earn 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.

Not sure where your miles can take you? Not sure if you have enough miles to contact the MileValue Award Booking Service?

In order to determine if you have enough miles to take that trip you’re planning, look at the award chart for the loyalty program in which you have miles. Don’t worry what partner you want to fly. Look at the chart that corresponds to the airline with which you have a miles balance.

Here are the award charts for the three major US carriers:

All three of the legacy carriers have region-to-region miles. Their award charts group travel destinations into regions, and set a fixed number of miles needed to travel from one region to another.

That means it doesn’t matter whether you are going Los Angeles to Paris or New York to London–both trips are North America to Europe and cost the same number of miles.

You will have to determine what region your departure and arrival cities are located in by using the chart’s region legend. Then you’ll read the miles price off the chart, which varies based on three factors:

  • Cabin: Is your award in First Class, Business Class, or economy?
  • MileSAAver/Saver/Level 1 or Level 2-5/Standard/AAnytime: Only a small fraction of all seats can be had for the headline price on the chart. These seats are called low or saver award seats by the airline, and are what we strive to book. Other seats are usually available at double the price of these seats and go by names like standard space or AAnytime space.
  • Peak or off peak: American Airlines, Alaska, Etihad, ANA, British Airways, and a few other programs offer discounts for flying certain routes at less popular times of the year.

American Airlines

For the purpose of pricing awards, American Airlines awards are all one way awards. If you’re booking a roundtrip, think of it is as two one ways.

If your award is a single, direct flight, you can just read the price of the flight off one of American Airlines’ two award charts:

American splits the world into 15 regions. Start off by finding out what region your departure and arrival cities are in by scrolling to the bottom of the partner award chart page and clicking on Region Definitions, which triggers a drop-down menu with the countries in that region. Here are the first two regions displayed in the drop-down menu, for example:

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 12.07.36 PM

Differences Between Chart for Flying American and Chart for Flying Partners

The two charts are nearly identical. There are only three differences:

  1. The chart for an award with all American Airlines flights has four potential miles prices for each cabin because there are several levels of AAnytime awards, the expensive awards we never want to book. We only want to book MileSAAver awards, the cheap awards that are more highly capacity-controlled.
Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 11.15.29 AM
Award prices for travel originating in the Contiguous 48 U.S. states flying American Airlines

The chart for partners only has one price for each cabin because all partner awards price at the MileSAAver level.

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Award prices for travel originating in the Contiguous 48 U.S. states flying partner airlines
  1. The chart for an award with all American Airlines flights has economy Off Peak dates to several regions, while the partner chart only has economy Off Peak dates to Europe. To see economy Off Peak dates look at the American Airlines award chart, and click Details on Award Travel at the top. These are the current economy Off Peak dates:

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 12.10.27 PM

  1. The partner award chart covers all regions of the world while the AA-only chart has all awards starting or ending in North America. That makes sense since all American Airlines flights start or end in North America.

If you’ve found a direct flight, go read the price off the appropriate award chart. Otherwise, how does the award price? That’s where American Airlines’ award routing rules come into play. Read about them in Redeem American Airlines Miles: Part 4– Award Rules and How Many Miles You Need.  

Let’s look at a specific example pricing a direct flight. 

If I wanted to fly from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires, Argentina in LAN Business class, I would first determine which region those two cities are in–North America and South America Region 2 in this case. I would then find the region where my award begins on the partner chart (since LAN is a partner), click the drop-down menu for Contiguous 48 U.S. states and then look for how much the MileSAAver Business Class price is to South America Region 2. As you can see, this award would cost me 57,500 miles each way.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 12.48.30 PM

American Airlines also flies this route, so if we looked it up on the American Airlines award chart, you’ll see the price listed there as well. It is the same, 57,500 miles each way.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 12.46.38 PM

United Airlines

United publishes an interactive award chart that lets you visually select your origin and destination.

Below you can see that I selected an award originating in the Mainland US, Alaska & Canada region of the North America zone with a destination in the Southern South America region of the Latin America and Caribbean zone. You can check United’s region definitions by clicking the hyperlink in the corner of the Select An Award box (View list of countries and regions):

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.09.36 PM

Once you have made your selections, a box will pop up below the map detailing how many miles your award will cost you. As you can see, United lists both the oneway and roundtrip prices for Saver and Standard–their names for low- and high-miles-price–award space in economy, Business, and First class. United allows you to book a oneway for half the price of a roundtrip.

An economy roundtrip Saver Award from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires prices out to 60,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.12.52 PM

United’s interactive chart is my favorite chart to use because it is so easy and straightforward. However, it’s tough to compare prices between zones. Sometimes it’s nice to see how much more or less one trip is compared to another.

If you like to compare this way, United also provides a PDF of its award chart in the more traditional spreadsheet layout. You read it by picking your origin on the left column, your destination on the top row, and then finding where those meet on the chart. The boxes are divided into Saver and Standard prices.

The PDF also includes the Star Alliance award chart, which makes no distinction between Saver and Standard awards because all partner space is low-miles-price space.

Delta

Note that while it’s the last we have of what was published by Delta, this collection of Delta award chart screenshots is over a year old and Delta has suffered various devaluations since then. Some recent devaluations include:

The only way to truly know if you have enough miles for a Delta award is to look it up via an award search on either delta.com, or call a Delta agent and ask for the award price.

These are the partners whose award space you can search on delta.com:

  • Delta
  • Delta Connection
  • Aeroflot
  • Aerolineas Argentina
  • Aeromexico
  • Air France
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • GOL
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia

These are the partners it does not show. To price out awards flying these partners, you’ll have to call Delta (1-800-323-2323):

  • Air Europa
  • Czech
  • Kenya
  • Tarom
  • Xiamen Airlines 
  • Air Tahiti Nui 

Bottom Line

To figure out how many miles you need for a trip, you need to know your way around an award chart. Hopefully with this rundown of United, American, and Delta’s charts, you are ready to read any airline’s award chart.

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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.

Last week my friend flew 24 hours of Lufthansa First Class and had a 3.5 hour layover in the famous Lufthansa First Class Terminal, which he booked for 125,000 United miles and $58. I helped him book the award, and this post will illustrate:

  • Where to Search for Lufthansa Award Space
  • When Lufthansa First Class Award Space Opens Up
  • How to Predict Whether There Will Be Lufthansa First Class Award Space on Your Desired Flight
  • How to Book Lufthansa First Class with United miles
  • How to Save $75 When Booking Lufthansa First Class

My friend was in Tokyo and wanted to move to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had tons of United miles from opening United cards and cards that earn Ultimate Rewards in the past. He wanted to fly a fancy First Class product.

He contacted me in December, 2015 about a series of awards that he wanted to book to go from Buenos Aires to Southeast Asia to Japan and eventually to Rio. We booked most of his awards then, but I suggested we hold off on booking the flights from Japan to Brazil until the last minute. Why?

  1. There wasn’t award space in Business or First Class on any reasonable routing when we first searched
  2. I thought Lufthansa First Class would be a great product for him to fly with a great routing and fancy amenities, including the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt
  3. Lufthansa only opens up First Class award space for partners 15 days before the flight

When I made the suggestion, I wanted to be fairly sure that we could book him Lufthansa First Class when the time came. So I followed my own advice in “How to Estimate Your Chances of Last Minute Award Space.” I searched for award space from Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro for the next two weeks and found award space on 7 of 15 days. That was a good sign since he had some date flexibility, and May isn’t peak time on the routes.

He originally planned to fly May 10 +/- one day, so I set a calendar alert for April 25 and searched for award space for May 9 and May 10 on April 25.

I found some decent Business Class itineraries that I relayed to him, but I didn’t find the holy grail: Tokyo-Haneda to Frankfurt in Lufthansa First Class, 3.5 hour layover at the Frankfurt First Class Terminal, and Frankfurt to Rio de Janeiro in Lufthansa First Class.

That itinerary had First Class space on May 9…

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.45.01 AM …and May 7…Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.48.38 PM …but for a May 10 departure, he’d need to fly ANA Business Class on the first leg and have an all day layover in Frankfurt (a curse if you’re in a hurry, a blessing if you like to see cities on 23 hour layovers en route.)Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.47.04 PM
These First Class itineraries are very pricey since United devalued its award chart massively in February 2014, so I also mentioned the Business Class awards he could book, like 75,000 miles one way if he flew United Business Class (flat bed)…
Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.45.15 PM …or 85,000 miles if he flew partner Business Class.Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.43.33 PM

Finally I let him know that if we waited a few more days, I thought we could snag the all Lufthansa First Class award because at the time 5 of the next 7 days had First Class award space on that route.

He said he didn’t mind spending 125,000 miles one way. His main priority was ultra-luxury, and he would happily wait a few more days to book.

A few days later, he told me that he changed his ideal departure date by a week and now wanted to travel May 2. There had already been award space on May 2 when I first searched on April 25, and it was still there, so we were ready to book.

However, instead of heading straight to united.com and booking the award for 125,000 miles + $58 in taxes + $75 for ticketing an award within three weeks of departure, I told him to use this trick to avoid the $75 close in ticketing fee.

He went to united.com and booked himself an economy award from Haneda to Rio de Janeiro on Lufthansa for June 2016 for 55,000 miles + $58 and immediately called United at 800-UNITED-1. He told the agent he’d like to make a change to an award which he had booked within the last 24 hours and fed her the Lufthansa First Class segments on May 2. She made the change, deducting 70,000 extra miles (125,000 total as expected) and informed him that the taxes hadn’t changed. As we had hoped, she forgot to add a $75 fee for changing an award’s departure to within 21 days.

The Product

Both his segments were on the Lufthansa 747-8, which I have flown in First Class from Frankfurt to Washington-Dulles. The Lufthansa 747-8 First Class product is a large seat

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 7.34.41 PM

that folds into a comfortable flat bed.

IMG_0702

There is unlimited wine (I’ve heard of people requesting wine tastings) and caviar onboard (ask for seconds since they serve everyone out of one large containers instead of individual small containers.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 7.35.41 PM

If you have a flight out of Frankfurt in Lufthansa First Class, you get access to the First Class Terminal, which is my favorite ground experience in the world.

This is an entire terminal just for First Class passengers with a top-notch buffet and a la carte food, a cigar bar, and warm baths with rubber duckies.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 7.35.00 PM

Since you are in a separate terminal, when it is flight time, you are ferried to your plane in a Porsche.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 7.35.19 PM

My friend loved his trip. He texted me from the First Class Terminal several times excitedly, and said that the ground experience alone was worth the miles.

While I think 125,000 miles is too much for a single one way trip, I think 62,500 would be an amazing price for either Tokyo to Frankfurt or Frankfurt to Rio de Janeiro in Lufthansa First Class (both of which are 12 hour flights), so I didn’t begrudge him the redemption.

Cheaper Ways into Lufthansa First Class

I am hoping to fly Lufthansa First Class in September for 50,000 Asiana miles (transferred from 40,000 SPG points) + $200-$300 from Eastern Europe to Washington-Dulles. Flying from Europe to the United States in Lufthansa First Class with Asiana miles is the best deal if you find a route with low taxes and fuel surcharges.

Getting the Miles

You can get United miles from the United Explorer and United Business Explorer cards. You can get Ultimate Rewards, which transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles from the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus.

While I can not directly link to the current United Explorer or Sapphire Preferred offers, you may find them by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus or Explorer Business Card offers, you may find them by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Bottom Line

If you want to book Lufthansa First Class, do research many months out to figure out if award spaces usually opens on your route of interest within 15 days of departure. Have your miles ready (and ideally some date flexibility), and then start searching again 15 days before departure. If you find your dream space, book some dummy space more than 21 days out (ideally on the same routing and airlines, but it doesn’t have to be), and immediately call in to change to the real space you want to likely avoid the $75 fee for ticketing within 21 days of departure.

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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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Elite members of United’s MileagePlus frequent flyer program get access to extra Saver award seats in economy class. (Platinum and higher members also get extra business and first class seat availability.)

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 3.16.55 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-05 at 3.16.51 AM

United credit card holders also get the extra Saver economy award space set aside for elites. That includes people with the United Explorer, Business Explorer, and Club cards.

I consider this one of the biggest benefits of the cards, and, oddly, it is a benefit that is completely unadvertised and possibly unintentional.

Recent Example

I have the United Business Explorer card and no elite status with United. I was recently looking for award space from Virginia to Hawaii in October as part of my Summer/Fall travel plans.

Here was all of the Saver award space in economy from Washington-Dulles to Honolulu before I signed into my account.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 3.52.36 PM

That’s three possible itineraries. (The fourth, which costs “45k” is Standard award space.)

I signed in–alerting united.com to show me the extra award space reserved for elites and credit card holders–and ran the same search. There were about ten itineraries with Saver award space. Here are the first six.
Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 3.53.34 PMLet’s look closer at that 3:50 PM to 9:45 PM itinerary that shows up when I sign in (second screen shot), but not when I don’t (first screen shot.) Once signed in, I am in Expert Mode, which allows me to see the number of seats in each fare class on a flight.
Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 3.54.37 PMThe problem is that the second flight has X0 and XN9. “X” is the Saver economy award space open to everyone. “XN” is the extra set aside for elites and credit card holders. This award has nine Saver seats for elites and credit card holders but none for Joe Schmo. That’s why it showed up when I signed in but not before.

This flight is an extreme example of extra seats available to elites, but it illustrates how valuable the benefit can be to elites.

And It’s a Secret Benefit

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

The offer page touts an extra award space benefit, but not the one I’m talking about.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 3.01.17 AM

This benefit refers to cardholders being able to book any seat, any time as a Standard award. There is some value to the benefit, but in general I try to avoid booking Standard awards, which tend to cost double the price of Saver awards. I would much prefer to get more Saver awards than be able to get any seat as a Standard award.

No, You Can’t Book This Extra Space with Partner Miles

I’m not going to book a a trip from the East Coast to Hawaii with United miles. The same United flights are much cheaper with Singapore miles. Unfortunately, when using Singapore miles you can only book United Saver award space in the “X”, “I”, and “O” fare classes–that is, the Saver award space open to non-elites and non-credit card holders.

So I had to sign back out of my United account to search for that space. Any United Saver award space you find when searching united.com without signing in should be equally bookable with all Star Alliance miles.

Bottom Line

United credit cards give you access to extra Saver economy award space on United flights when redeeming United miles. This is an unadvertised benefit and puts you on even footing with United elites.

The extra award space is not available for booking with other Star Alliance miles.

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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.

0 747

United Airlines is releasing tons of space flying flat bed Business Class from Newark to Paris for two people–and nearly as much in Business Class for up to four people–throughout July and August. Award space in Business Class isn’t quite as ubiquitous for the return back to Newark from Paris, but options are plentiful.

Award Space

Newark to Paris: 2 People

ewr > cdg 2 pax

Paris to Newark: 2 People

Green and blue days have Business Class award space for the indicated number of people.

cdg > ewr 2 pax

Newark to Paris: 4 People

ewr > cdg 4 pax

Paris to Newark: 4 People

cdg > ewr 4 pax

Product

There are two daily United flights from from Newark to Paris

One flies a Boeing 767-400ER, which has a 2-1-2 seat formation in Business Class. I would choose the middle aisle seat to avoid having to climb over or being climbed over during the flight. The seats all lie fully flat.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 7.25.00 PM

The other flies a Boeing 777-200 with a 2-4-2 seat formation in Business Class. Unfortunately there’s no seat you can choose to avoid being climbed over.  All of these seats also lie fully flat.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 7.38.07 PM

 

I’d rather fly the 767-400ER, but the difference isn’t huge.

Connections

If you don’t live in the New York area, you can still take advantage of this space. Newark Liberty International Airport is a United hub with flights to most of the country. You can tack on Economy, Business, or First Saver domestic award space onto these international flights for zero extra miles.

If you don’t want to go to Paris, or you want to fly an open jaw award, this space is still useful. United partners Austrian, Brussels, Croatia, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, Scandinavian, SWISS, and Turkish Airlines have tons of flights from Paris on to the rest of Europe.

Award Prices (Including Taxes and Fees)

United never collects fuel surcharges on its own flights. There are no fees for online bookings made more than 21 days before departure either meaning that you just pay unavoidable government taxes of $6 to Europe and $122 from Paris to the USA.

Newark to Paris

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 7.53.23 PM

Paris to Newark

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 7.53.15 PM

Note that the miles prices for these awards are based on flying United’s own planes; there are options flying United partners, but those cost 70,000 miles per person one way in Business Class as opposed to 57,500 miles per person one way in Business Class.

Other Miles?

You can book all the United Saver award space you see on united.com (before signing in) by calling any other Star Alliance partners. Here are the one way prices to Europe (except ANA which charges double the listed price for a roundtrip or one way award.)

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.31.05 AM

Lufthansa would collect fuel surcharges on the award, but none of the other programs would. That means you are better off booking this space with Asiana miles (SPG partner), Aeroplan (SPG, Membership Rewards partner), and ANA (SPG, Membership Rewards partner).

Taxes?

Taxes are higher on awards leaving Great Britain and France than most places in Europe, and can really start to add up when factoring for multiple people. Avoid Paris’ departure taxes by taking a train or low cost carrier flight elsewhere and continuing your journey home from a low tax country.

Getting the Miles

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer at a 1:1 ratio to United miles. If you don’t already have a stash of United miles, you can sign up for:

1. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months and another 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user on the application.

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

2. The Chase Ink Plus Business Card earns 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

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.)

Together those will earn you at least 124,000 Ultimate Rewards which is more than the 115,00 United miles necessary for one person to fly roundtrip in Business to Paris from the US.

Searching For and Booking the Award

To find this award space, you can search right on united.com.

You can also book these awards on united.com. Pay the taxes and surcharges 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 12 types of airline miles or used like cash toward the purchase of any ticket.

Bottom Line

If you want to go to Paris this July or August, you can easily use your United miles (or Ultimate Rewards that transfer 1:1) to fly yourself and up to three others roundtrip to Paris in Business Class with flat beds.

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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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United miles are the easiest major miles to get. There are several United cards:

  • United Explorer
  • United Business Explorer
  • United Club Card
  • United Club Business Card

Plus Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles, so you can earn United miles easily with:

  • Sapphire Preferred
  • Ink Plus

Plus Chase’s “cash back” cards actually earn Ultimate Rewards that can be redeemed for cash back or can be transferred to a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus and from there to United miles in a process I call the Freedom Two Step. So that adds:

  • Freedom
  • Freedom Unlimited

United devalued its award chart in February 2014–is that long enough ago that I can stop mentioning it?–but many great deals remain to spend your easily earned United miles.

  • What is the best strategy to earn United miles?
  • What is the best strategy to redeem United miles?

Earning United Miles

Can You Get the Card/Bonus?

Every card that earns United miles is issued by Chase. Chase limits who can collect the bonuses on credit card offers. The three main rules:

  1. Chase will deny your application if you have five new credit cards opened in the last 24 months. That means the ability to get Chase cards is probably restricted to people who are just entering the miles world.
  2. You have to be approved for the card. For personal cards, that requires a good credit score. For business cards, that requires a good credit score and a business.
  3. Bonuses are only available to new applicants who haven’t gotten the bonus on the same card for at least 24 months. So if you opened the Sapphire Preferred in January 2014, got its bonus in March 2014, and it is now April 2016, you can get its bonus again.

Assuming you can get the card and the bonus, the question becomes what cards to get.

A Rundown of the Cards

I don’t see any value in the United Club cards–because they have no sign up bonuses–unless you have to have United Club membership, which is what the $450 annual fee gets you. Sure the card earns 1.5 United miles per dollar, but you can also get 1.5 United miles per dollar by pairing a Freedom Unlimited with a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus.

The United Explorer and Explorer Business cards are an easy 50,000 United miles after spending $2,000 in the first three month, plus 5,000 more miles for adding an authorized user, as long as you are targeted for that offer. This FlyerTalk thread explains how to see if you are. If you are not targeted, the 30,000 miles/$1,000 spending standard offer should be skipped.

The Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus are the crown jewels.

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:

  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter

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

The Ink Plus is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:

  • 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
  • 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

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.)

The Freedom or Freedom Unlimited pair well with a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus. The Freedoms have small sign up bonuses–15,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $500 in the first three months and 2,500 more for adding an authorized user–but earn points quickly and have no annual fee. The Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on all purchases. The Freedom offers 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on categories that rotate quarterly.

The Freedoms’ Ultimate Rewards do NOT transfer to United miles, but they do transfer to your Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus accounts, and from there to United miles. That’s the Freedom Two Step.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 12.26.46 PM

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

How to Spend 124,000 United Miles

Just getting the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus, adding an authorized user to the Sapphire Preferred, and meeting the spending requirements will net you 124,000 Ultimate Rewards, which you can transfer instantly to 124,000 United miles if you’d like.

You can get a lot more United miles from the United Explorer and United Explorer Business Cards plus Freedoms, but let’s just look at spending 124,000 United miles.

Traditional Ways: Flat Bed Business Class to Europe or South America

United charges 57,500 miles one way in United Business Class to Europe or 55,000 miles one way to Australia, Chile, and Brazil. You’d have enough for a roundtrip in a flat bed to those places with a few miles left over.

Business Class to Asia or Australia is a bit pricier, but you could go to either place one way in Business Class and one way in economy.

Add a free one way onto the end of these roundtrip awards to get half of your next trip for zero miles.

Advanced Way: Three One Ways Award

United allows one stopover and two open jaws per roundtrip award. You can combine the stopover, one open jaw, and United’s very generous definition of “roundtrip” to book a Three One Ways Award.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.44.55 AM

First Class from the USA to Honolulu (stop as long as you’d like), Business Class to Bangkok (stop as long as you’d like), and First Class to Sydney (stop as long as you’d like) would be 120,000 United miles. You would need a separate award to come home.

Digital Nomad: Obscure Awards that Don’t Touch the USA

In Six Under-Priced Awards on the United Award Chart, I show some insanely cheap awards like Thai First Class from Southeast Asia to Australia/New Zealand for 40,000 United miles one way including the incredible ground experience in Bangkok that features a free hourlong massage.

Unfortunately none of the awards touch the United States, so they are most useful for round-the-world trips and digital nomads.

Bottom Line

United miles are easy to get and present amazing redemption options.

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

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.)

 

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

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

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

Earn 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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Update: I used this trick successfully. Here was my experience.

As I led a session at the Chicago Seminars this weekend on “Special Awards,” someone chimed in with an intriguing tip:

There is a simple method to avoid the $75 “close in ticketing fee” on United awards that is triggered when you try to book a ticket within 21 days of departure.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 8.03.21 AM

I tested out the proposed method yesterday, and I have some input on how it works. (The trick does work!)

  • How can you save $75 per ticket on your next last minute United award?
  • What number do you need to call?

Facts

  • “Booking a MileagePlus award ticket through any channel, less than 21 days before departure” incurs a fee of $75 per ticket. This fee is reduced or waived depending on your status.
  • You can make free changes or cancellations of your United award within 24 hours of ticketing by phone or online. This is designed as a safety valve if you make a mistake in the initial ticketing, but you can use the free changes and cancellations however you’d like.

The Proposed Trick

If you want to book a United award within 21 days of departure, book the same flight for 1+ months in the future, then immediately call in to change it to within 21 days of departure. No close in ticketing fee will be charged.

My Test

I tested out the trick with a simple one way award from Kona to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines. The award normally costs 6,000 United miles + $5.60. Note that there is nothing special that made me choose this award except that it is the cheapest award on the United chart. If this test succeeds, all other awards should be the same.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 9.24.26 AM

Within 21 days of departure, this award costs 6,000 United miles + $80.60 because of the $75 close in ticketing fee.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 9.22.12 AM

I decided to book the ticket for March 31, 2015 for 6,000 miles + $5.60 and to try to change in to October 31, 2014 without paying the close in ticketing fee. I booked March 31 online in just a few seconds.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 9.26.32 AMScreen Shot 2014-10-20 at 9.28.27 AM

Then I called the number for United web support. They can make award changes, I rarely have to wait on hold, and the Houston-based agents are good. In this case, too good.

I told the agent I wanted to change an award and gave her the confirmation number. I gave her the flight information for the October 31 flight, and she quickly made the change. She told me that since I was changing to a flight within 21 days of departure, there would be a $75 close in ticketing fee! Failure!

I thanked her and told her I would prefer to just keep my original itinerary before disconnecting.

From my knowledge of changing United awards, I suspected that agents have to remember to collect this fee on changes. I suspected calling a less competent agent might get me around the fee.

I called United back at its general 800-UNITED-1 number. I asked the next agent to change me to the same October 31 flight.

First she said that there was no award space even though there is award space on over a dozen Kona-to-Honolulu flights on October 31. This was a great sign; she seemed incompetent! I asked her to look again since I could see the space online.

Eventually she found the space and made the change. She noted that I had booked my award within the last 24 hours, so changes were free. She never mentioned any additional $75 charge. Success!

Inside my United account, my ticket had been updated to the October 31 flight.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 10.52.29 PM

United agents won’t charge you an additional fee without getting your credit card info again or at least confirming which stored credit card you want to charge, but just to double check that no $75 charge had been snuck onto my credit card, I signed into my credit card account.

A pending charge for $5.60 in taxes on the award was present, but no $75 charge was present.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 8.33.37 AM

Aftermath

I went into my online account and cancelled the award altogether to get my 6,000 United miles and $5.60 back. The $5.60 will post back to my credit card within a week or two. The miles re-posted to my account instantly.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 10.53.02 PM Bottom Line on the Trick

The trick to avoiding the $75 close in ticketing fee on United awards–booking farther out and changing it close in within 24 hours of booking–works. I wish I had gotten the name of the person who gave everyone the tip.

The trick works because phone agents have to remember to charge you the $75 close in ticketing fee, and only well trained agents will remember to do that. If your agent remembers, thank her for her time, and tell her you have decided not to make the change. I think very few agents at the 800-UNITED-1 number will remember to charge you the $75.

If you liked this post, you will also like:

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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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It is cheaper to book the exact same United flights to Hawaii with Singapore KrisFlyer miles than with United miles.

  • United charges 22,500 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii
  • Singapore charges 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles each way in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii

That’s a humongous difference. Instead of costing 90,000 United miles to get two people from your home airport to Hawaii and back, you could pay 70,000 Singapore miles. Instead of paying 160,000 United miles for two roundtrip First Class tickets, you could pay 120,000 Singapore miles–even occasionally for flat beds!

To reiterate, these are the exact same flights with vastly different prices depending on which miles you use. Singapore has access to all the same Saver award space United releases to people with United miles (except for some space set aside only for United elites and credit card holders.)

For a very similar example, look at this post about booking Delta flights to Hawaii with Korean, not Delta miles.

What’s the catch? For bookings to Hawaii, there really isn’t one.

  • Singapore awards cost fewer miles than United awards
  • Singapore awards are way cheaper to change or cancel than United awards if your plans change
  • Singapore awards do not have a fee for booking within three weeks of departure like United awards do (though here is how to get out of that fee on United awards)
  • Singapore awards of United flights do not have fuel surcharges, so both types of awards will just have identical taxes of around $11 roundtrip.
  • Singapore miles are easier to get than United miles, and even share a key transfer partner.

Getting Singapore Miles

Singapore miles are a partner of the four major transferable points program:

  1. Chase Ultimate Rewards, 1:1
  2. Citi ThankYou Points, 1:1
  3. American Express Membership Rewards, 1:1
  4. SPG Starpoints, 1:1 with a bonus. Every 20,000 Starpoints transferred earns a 5,000 mile bonus, so the ideal transfers are in exact increments of 20,000 Starpoints to 25,000 Singapore miles.

Right now, I carry the two best cards to earn Singapore miles:

To compare this to earning United miles, United has its own co-branded personal and business cards plus is a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards but not any of the other three transferable points programs.

Searching for Award Space, Transferring Miles, and Booking the Awards

You will have to search for award space on the United flights on united.com; then you will call Singapore Airlines at 213-404-0301 to book the awards.

Here’s how to search united.com. Make sure that you do NOT sign into united.com when searching for award space that you plan to book with another type of miles because signing in can cause award space set aside for elites or credit card holders to appear, and that space is not bookable with other types of miles like Singapore miles.

How to Interpret the Calendar

The first thing you’ll notice when you search for award space to Hawaii on united.com is that it’s widely available for much of the year. Here’s a calendar from Houston to Honolulu. Yellow days have Saver economy award space; blue days have Saver First Class space; green days have Saver space in both cabins. Singapore miles can book all the Saver space that is depicted on these calendars.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.08.25 PM

How to Interpret the Itineraries

Once you select a date, the itineraries will be displayed from fewest miles in economy to most miles in economy. Most results will have three columns of award space. You can ignore the First Standard Award column. Singapore miles cannot book that space.
Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.08.52 PM

We’re looking for award space in the Economy column that says “Saver Award 22.5k” and award space in the First Saver column. Singapore miles can book all such space.

For instance, Singapore miles can book this itinerary in economy and First Class because the economy column says “Saver Award 22.5k” and because there is space in the second column (First Saver.)

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.10.31 PMSingapore miles cannot book this award space because the economy column doesn’t say “Saver Award 22.5k.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.09.03 PM

Two vs. Three Cabin First Class

The vast majority of United’s domestic flights have two cabins that are sold as Economy and First. Internationally, United’s two cabin flights are sold as Economy and BusinessFirst. Whenever United operates a two-cabin plane, the premium cabin’s awards are priced at the Business Class award price by United and by Singapore. And in fact, you should call the award space “Business Class” when talking with a Singapore agent.

Extremely rarely, you will encounter a plane on a domestic route with three cabins: Economy, Business, and First. Whenever any itinerary is available with any flight with three cabins, the three columns you’re used to seeing on the search results turn into five columns.

United charges 50,000 miles if any of the segments is in First Class on a three cabin plane. Singapore would charge 40,000 miles. But again, these flights are rare, and you can get flat beds in two cabin planes for 30,000 Singapore miles.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.05.53 PM

Flat Beds

Both Business and First Class on three cabin planes have flat beds.

On two cabin planes, you can occasionally find flat beds in First Class. To find out if your plane has flat beds, click View Seats on the itinerary. Regular seats look like squares with rounded edges.
Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.01.21 PM

Beds look like little beds.Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.02.26 PM

Some 777-200s feature flat beds, and all 767-400ERs feature flat beds. Flights from Newark and Washington-Dulles to Honolulu all feature flat beds, and some San Francisco and Houston flights feature flat beds.

Mixed Cabin Awards

Many awards on united.com in the premium cabin columns say “Mixed cabin?”

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.09.13 PM

Holding your cursor over “Mixed cabin” launches a pop up that says which cabin is available on each flight.
Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.09.19 PM

You always have to pay the full price of the premium cabin award even though part of the award is an inferior cabin.

Singapore Airlines also lets you book mixed cabin awards for the full Business Class price.

In April, I booked myself a mixed cabin award to Hawaii because my first flight was about 2 hours in economy, and the next was 8.5 hours in a flat bed. That seemed worth paying 30,000 Singapore miles.

Transferring Miles

Transfers from Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Points to Singapore miles all take about 19-48 hours. My most recent transfer in July, 2015 from Citi ThankYou Points to Singapore miles were in my Singapore account when I checked 19 hours after the transfer. SPG transfers take at least as long as the other three.

Once I find award space, I initiate the transfer.

Award space changes all the time, so in a worst case scenario, your award space could disappear before your miles posted. If you can’t handle this outcome, transfer Ultimate Rewards to United miles instantly instead, and pay the extra miles.

I can handle the small chance that my award space will disappear. Maybe it will reappear later. If not, I can always use Singapore miles in the future for a different high value award.

How to Book Singapore Awards

Once your miles post, you have to call Singapore Airlines to book the award. Call 213-404-0301 and be ready with your Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account number and six digit PIN.

Feed the agent the date, flight number, and cabin of each flight you want.

For cabin, call United First Class on its two cabin planes “Business Class” because that is what the agent needs to search for.

The agent will charge you taxes denominated in Singapore dollars. If you convert that price to US dollars, it should be about $5.60 per person per direction, the standard taxes on domestic awards.

Within a few minutes, you should get an email from Singapore Airlines with an attachment like this.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 3.13.16 AM

Picking Seats

To pick your seats and confirm that your reservation was ticketed correctly, head to united.com and input the Singapore Airlines confirmation number on the home page where it says “My trips.” The Singapore Airlines confirmation number is the six letter/number code listed on your email attachment next to “Booking Reference.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.42.41 PM

United.com will recognize the Singapore Airlines confirmation number. You can select your seats and note your United confirmation number, which will be a different six letter/number code. You can also permanently add this reservation to your united.com account, which will be convenient for checking in without having to search for it again. To do that, click “Add to Account” from the tiny links above “United Confirmation Number.” That option isn’t available in the screen shot below because I clicked it a few days ago.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 2.04.58 PM

Other Benefits of Singapore Airlines Awards Over United Awards

  1. United charges $75 to book an award within 21 days of departure. Singapore charges no fee for such bookings.
  2. United charges $200 to cancel an award booking and get your miles back. Singapore charges $30.
  3. United charges $75 to $100 to change an award booking. Singapore charges $20.

My Experience Booking United to Hawaii with Singapore Miles

April 2015

In April 2015, I found out that my mainland plans had fallen through, so I could start my trip to Hawaii a few days later. Booking so late in the game is no problem because United offers excellent last minute award space to Hawaii.

I needed to book an award from Atlanta to Honolulu, so I searched united.com and found a mixed-cabin award with Atlanta to Houston in economy and Houston to Honolulu in a flat bed in United First Class on a two cabin plane.

A short hop in the back before a long flight in a bed
A short hop in the back before a long flight in a bed

The award would have cost 40,000 United miles and $80.60 to book including United’s $75 fee for booking within 21 days of departure. I noted the flight number, dates, and cabins plus my KrisFlyer number and PIN.

I already had 30,000 Singapore miles in my account because I transferred Citi ThankYou points and Chase Ultimate Rewards weeks earlier in anticipation of booking an award to Hawaii in First Class when I knew what date I wanted to fly.

I called Singapore Airlines and fed the agent the information and called the First Class cabin on my United flight “Business Class.”

He priced the award at 30,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles + 7.8 Singapore dollars ($5.66.) I booked the ticket with my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card because it has no foreign transaction fees and earns 3x points for airfare purchases and got an email confirmation a few minutes later. I input the Singapore confirmation code into the United app on my phone and selected my seat and bed.

July 2015

I had to book myself a one way award from Houston to Honolulu.

From Houston to Honolulu, there is usually a lot of First Class award space if you connect in Los Angeles or San Francisco and a lot of economy space on the direct flight. If you want First Class on the direct flight, which some days features flat beds, you normally have to book within a few days or weeks of departure.

But I got super lucky!

When I searched for award space, the monthly calendar of the direct flight looked like this. There was literally one day with First Class award space, and it was the exact date I wanted to fly.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 2.08.23 PM

I transferred my 30,000 ThankYou Points to Singapore miles, and they posted within 19 hours. Within 20 hours, I had ticketed the award for 30,000 Singapore miles + $6.

Bottom Line

Use Singapore miles instead of United miles to book economy and First Class awards to Hawaii on United flights. You’ll pay fewer miles, lower fees, and be able to book the exact same seats. Plus Singapore miles are so easy to get as a transfer partner of pretty much everyone.

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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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Update 4/13/16: Expert Mode was down for weeks, but now it is up and working again. Enjoy!

United has a setting you can activate called Expert Mode that allows you to see how many seats are in each fare bucket on a given flight.

I mentioned it first in “Booking Two Tickets on the Same United Flight” and I got some questions in the comments about what Expert Mode is, how to use it, and why you’d want to use it.

What is a fare bucket?

Every ticket you book with cash or miles has every segment come out of a fare bucket or fare class.

The fare bucket is a one or two letter code that represents what cabin you’re in, whether you got the seat with cash or miles, and how much you paid.

Everyone walking through this door has a ticket that booked into one fare bucket

Airlines are willing to book a certain number of tickets in each fare bucket. If the Saver economy award fare bucket has zero seats, you can’t book a Saver economy award on the flight, but if it has six seats, you can book up to six Saver economy award tickets.

Knowing how many seats are in each bucket will let you know whether you can expect an upgrade, whether you can book an award, and whether elites have better award access on a certain flight.

  • How can you enable Expert Mode on united.com?
  • How can you use Expert Mode on united.com in award bookings and to secure upgrades?

Turning on Expert Mode

To enable Expert Mode in your United account, click this link and sign into your united.com account.

You’re on the Search Preference page, and you can turn on Expert Mode by checking a box saying you “acknowledge these considerations”…

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 9.16.22 PM

…and then clicking Save at the bottom of the page.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 9.16.39 PM

Now any time you are signed into your united.com account and do a flight search, you can use the tools of Expert Mode.

Using Expert Mode

To use Expert Mode, do a standard flight search on united.com, selecting “Search for award travel.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.20.08 PM

On any search result, click Details.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.19.17 PMEach entry next to “Available fare classes” is a fare bucket and the number of seats available in that bucket.
Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.19.31 PMIt’s not just United flights that show fare buckets; even partner flights like Avianca, Swiss, and ANA show their fare buckets.Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.23.18 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.23.58 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.24.34 PM

In fact, the only partner whose fare buckets showed up incorrectly for me was Copa. All fare classes showed as having zero seats.Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.22.44 PM

Key Fare Buckets for Awards & Upgrade

Remember that Saver award space is the cheaper award space that we try to book. Standard award space is the (approximately) double priced award space we try to avoid booking.

Saver Award Space
  • O: Saver award space in international three-cabin first class
  • I: Saver award space in international three-cabin business class or domestic two-cabin first or business class
  • X: Saver award space in economy

Extra Saver Space for Elites

  • IN: Extra Saver award space in international three-cabin business class or domestic two-cabin first or business class. Available only to Platinum elites and higher.
  • XN: Extra Saver award space in economy. Available to all elites and United credit card holders.

Standard

  • FN: Standard award space in international three-cabin first class
  • ZN: Standard award space in international three-cabin business class or domestic two-cabin first or business class
  • HN: Standard award space in economy

Extra Standard Award Space for Elites

  • JN: Extra Standard award space in international three-cabin business class or domestic two-cabin first or business class. Available to all elites and United credit card holders.
  • YN: Extra Standard award space in economy. Available to all elites and United credit card holders.

Upgrades

  • R: economy to the next highest cabin

In this screen shot–for a Washington to Frankfurt flight–we can see that the flight has no zero space in the O bucket (First Class.)

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.19.17 PM

The flight has zero Saver award seats in Business Class (I). There are 9+ Saver award seats in economy (X) and the same number listed for elites and credit card holders (XN).

There are four Standard First Class awards (FN) and nine Standard Business Class awards (ZN).

When to Use Expert Mode

Using Expert Mode quickly tells you exactly how many seats are available for awards and upgrades in every cabin at the Saver and Standard level.

That information would be slower to gather from awards searches as you’d have to change the number of passengers manually and repeat your search many times to figure out this info for a single flight.

If you’re thinking of buying a ticket with the plan to use an upgrade, Expert Mode lets you know which flights have confirmable upgrade space.

If you want to know whether getting the United credit card will open up extra economy Saver award space on a route you’re eying, Expert Mode will show you how much extra space is hiding in the XN bucket.

If you want to see exactly how many Saver award seats are available in each cabin on a flight without having to manually change the number of passengers on your award search over and over, Expert Mode will save you a few clicks.

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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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United.com is the fastest way to search most Star Alliance award space. I frequently use the search engine even if I’m using another type of Star Alliance miles.

I often use the site’s calendar to search two months of award space at a time on a single route. Sometimes I’ll check “Nonstop only” if I am searching segment-by-segment, and sometimes I’ll check “United flights only” if I am using United miles (because United charges fewer miles for its own flights) or even partner miles (because some partners don’t collect fuel surcharges on United flights while collecting them on other partners.)

Yesterday I uncovered a problem with searching for United flights only.

How to Do an Advanced Search on United.com

On united.com, click Nonstop if you want the search results calendar to display nonstop flights only.

If you want to see only United flights, click “All search options” in the bottom left corner of the search box on United’s homepage….

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 8.06.57 PM

…where you will be directed to an advanced search page. In the locations and dates section, clicking My search preferences triggers a drop down menu. Clicking “United and United Express® only” puts a filter on the search that should leave out any partner flights.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 8.10.47 PMRight now the “nonstop” filter is working but not the United-only filter.

Examples of the United-Only Filter Glitch

Yesterday I discovered a malfunction in the United-only filter when running some searches for United award space to Europe. Putting the United-only filter on my searches was yielding calendars that reflected results with partner flights as well.

I know this because the list of flights available for the specific day searched, listed underneath the calendar, were not showing the Saver space that was reflected in the calendar’s color coding (green = Saver Economy and Saver premium cabins available, blue = Saver premium cabin available). The United-only filtered calendars were matching the non-filtered searches, which should not be the case. Simple logic tells us there should be fewer United flights available than United and Partner flights available.

This means you’ll need to search day-by-day to check if the Saver space you want is actually available on United metal until a software tester at United figures out the bug.

Below are search results on different routes that illustrate and prove what I’m talking about.

This calendar shows the standard search results for two people from New York City to Frankfurt, with space on United flights as well as partners:

United only filter

This calendar shows the search results for two people from New York City to Frankfurt, filtered for only United flights (not partners):

United only filter

Despite my request for the second calendar to filter any partner flights and only leave United flights, it is the same as the first. The flights available for May 1 (the day selected on the calendar here) displayed under this calendar did not show any Saver space available in Business or First Class which is what the green color is supposed to symbolize.

To further prove my point, here is the same search query from New York to Frankfurt, filtered to show only nonstop flights (United and partner flights):

Non-stop filter

And here it is again, but filtered for Nonstop and United flights only:

Non-stop filterThe calendars are the same. And the flights available for May 1 (the day selected on the calendar here) displayed under the calendar did not show any Saver space available in Business or First Class, which contradicts the green shading.

Don’t Believe Me Yet?

Here are two other routes that exemplify the same problem.

These calendars are for two passengers traveling from Houston to Paris, unfiltered, showing all United and partner flights.

no filter iah to par

The calendars for the same route during the same two months, but filtered to only show United flights and not any partners, are exactly the same.  Flights listed underneath were not reflective of this Saver space.

no filter iah to par

These calendars are for two passengers traveling from Washington, D.C. to London, unfiltered, showing all United and partner flights.

no filter IAD to LON

The calendars for the same route during the same two months, but filtered to only show United flights and not any partners, are exactly the same.  Flights listed underneath were not reflective of this Saver space.

no filter IAD to LON

Nonstop Filter Only Half Working

I also noticed another small malfunction, although this one isn’t nearly as annoying as the United-only filter glitch as there are two simple ways to work around it.

The Nonstop box in the search tool on United’s home page and the “New Show only nonstop flight availability” check box on the search results page don’t fully work.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 11.45.07 AM

Checking either will update availability on the calendar (i.e. the colors change) but the actual flights available listed under the calendar don’t update.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 11.45.17 AM

I mainly care about the calendar, and “nonstop only” does correctly display on the calendar, so this really isn’t a huge deal. If it bothers you though…

The Work Arounds

You have to either:

  • Un-check the 2+ and 1 stop boxes on the advanced search page, making sure only the Nonstop box is checked or
  • Un-check the 1 stop box on the left hand side of search results page. This will update the flights listed under the calendar.

Bottom Line

United.com‘s search tool is buggy at the moment, so if you’re trying to find United flights to book with United miles and would like to see more than a day’s availability at a time, you’ll need to pay for it on a site like Award Nexus– read more here about how to use it. I will keep an eye on the situation and let you know when it appears that the bug has been resolved. Likewise, let us know in the comments if you see any progress.

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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.

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