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This blog became famous because I was the first to articulate how to book free one ways on United and US Airways awards.

A free one way is a one way trip to or from your home airport that is tacked onto another award for no extra miles. Free one ways cut your flight bill in half for a second trip without adding to the price of the first trip!

American Airlines killed free one ways on its awards in April 2014 by nixing all free stopovers because free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport. Delta killed its free one ways on January 1, 2015 with the elimination of free stopovers on its awards (though in return, we do now get to book one way Delta awards.)

What’s the current state of free one ways with major frequent flyer programs?

If you get confused during this post, please read my Introduction to Free One Ways.

Alaska Airlines

Free one ways are possible on one way Alaska Airlines awards. That means you can book two free one ways per roundtrip awards.

Alaska has an amazing group of partners:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Horizon Air
  • AeroMexico
  • Air France
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways (fuel surcharges)
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Fiji
  • KLM
  • Korean
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska (flights within Alaska)
  • PenAir (flights within Alaska)

Unfortunately you must book only one partner each one way award (you may add Alaska Airlines flights as well.) And unfortunately most Alaska Airlines awards need to either start or end in the United States.

Abide by those rules, though, and enjoy some amazing free one way opportunities.

For full details, see Free One Ways on Alaska Airlines Awards.

American Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with American Airlines miles. Free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport, and American has eliminated the chance to take any free stopovers on awards.

British Airways

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with Avios. Every flight on an Avios award has a mileage cost (determined exclusively by its distance and the cabin you book.) If every flight has a cost, there’s no way to get one for free as a free one way.

Delta Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on Delta awards since stopovers were eliminated on January 1, 2015.

United Airlines

Free one ways are possible on both international United awards and awards between the mainland and Hawaii. Free one ways are not possible on awards wholly within the mainland United States and Canada.

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Roundtrip award from Los Angeles to Honolulu with a later free oneway to Newark

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You can either have a free one way BEFORE your main roundtrip award TO your home airport or AFTER your main roundtrip award FROM your home airport.

United’s routing rules are pretty lenient for free one ways. You can do some amazing backtracking. You can also do “cheap one ways” where you fly the extra leg to a distant land and pay far fewer miles than you “should.”

You will get a lot of errors trying to book free one ways on united.com because united.com’s multi-city search tool is broken. Don’t despair. Find all the space you need with one way searches, then call in to book.

For full details, see Master Thread: Free One Ways on United Awards.

US Airways

Free one ways are possible only on international US Airways awards.

US Airways only allows one stopover OR one open jaw on awards, and you ordinarily need both on a free oneway. Because of this limitation, free one ways are only possible on US Airways awards:

  • before your main roundtrip award
  • to your home airport
  • with a corresponding dummy leg(s) to where the free oneway began
  • after the main award
  • within 24 hours of landing at your home airport

That might sound a little more complicated than it is. Check out Master Thread: Free Oneways on US Airways Awards for an easy explanation.

While American and Delta killed its free one ways recently, and free one ways have never been possible with Avios, free one ways are still possible on awards booked with United, Alaska, and US Airways miles.

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I’m sitting on around 100,000 US Airways miles, and I can always get more by transferring in SPG Starpoints at a rate of 20,000 Starpoints to 25,000 US Airways miles.

If I do nothing more, my US Airways miles will be transferred 1:1 to my American Airlines account some time between April and June. I already took a minute to link my accounts to ensure a smooth transfer. You should too.

But, before then, I can redeem US Airways miles on the US Airways chart, which is often cheaper than the American Airlines chart.

  • Should I redeem my US Airways miles on the US Airways chart?
  • What are the best US Airways award redemptions I can make before the US Airways and American Airlines programs combine? From the United States and from abroad.

The US Airways Award Chart from the United States

Here is the full US Airways chart.

Below I’ve placed it alongside the American Airlines chart, so you can see where one is cheaper than the other.

Keep in mind while looking at the charts that American Airlines has more partners than US Airways does–like non-alliance partners Etihad and Alaska. On the other hand, US Airways has more generous routing rules. You can fly west to India on a US Airways award for instance. Finally remember that while AA awards can be booked one way for half price, US Airways awards cannot be.

All charts show the roundtrip price for awards in thousands of miles.

Economy

Where American has off peak awards, it is always cheaper to use those than a US Airways award. (The off peak domestic award is only available to AA cardholders.) Otherwise, the US Airways chart is generally cheaper.

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Business

Here are some big differences.

  • US Airways is way cheaper to Africa, though that isn’t super useful since oneworld has terrible options to Africa.
  • US Airways is also notably cheaper to the Middle East, India, and Australia.

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First

For First Class awards, US Airways miles generally offer the cheaper price. The exception is to Southeast Asia in Cathay Pacific First Class–American Airlines miles are your best bet there.
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My Other Four Favorite Sweetspots on the US Airways Chart

The first one is complicated, but very rewarding. You start your award in the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America and fly home. (Obviously you got to the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America on a separate or award or cash ticket.) You stopover at home and fly a true roundtrip (no open jaws) to Southeast Asia in First Class. Onto your return home, you add dummy legs that you don’t intend to fly that take you back to where the award started in the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America. The dummy legs have to start within 24 hours of getting back home.

This entire award–1.5 vacations–and a trip to Southeast Asia in First Class is 120,000 US Airways miles or 90,000 miles in Business Class. It might sound complicated, but it isn’t too tough to plan. Check out Anatomy of an Award: Southeast Asian and Mexican Vacations in Business Class for 90k US Airways Miles, 30k Arrival Miles, and Zero Cash for a full breakdown.

The other three awards are all under-priced awards that also take advantage of US Airways’ expansive regions:

  • Intra-South America: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 30,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class
  • Intra-North Asia: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 30,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class
  • Intra-South & Central Asia: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 30,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class

When planning these awards, keep in mind that you only get one open jaw or one stopover. If you use dummy legs, though, you can be more creative. For instance, you could book:

  • Bogota to Lima in LAN Business Class (stopover)
  • Lima to Buenos Aires in flat bed LAN Business Class (destination)
  • Buenos Aires to Santiago to Bogota in flat bed LAN Business Class (return to origin)

This would cost 30,000 miles total. You could fly the whole thing or get off in Santiago to see four different cities on the award. Similar tricks would be available in each region.

Bottom Line

I haven’t decided whether I’ll book any awards with my US Airways miles or just let them roll over into American Airlines miles. You can book US Airways awards up to 11 months in advance, so right now you can lock in the cheap US Airways awards through January 2016.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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Update February 3: I first wrote about this deal on January 18. At that time, it lasted less than 48 hours. The space came back over the weekend, and I didn’t write about because it disappeared in a few hours before I could.

It came back today, and it disappeared within 10 minutes of Gary Leff writing about it. Let’s say it lasted one hour. I can’t say why the space keeps coming back for ever briefer times, but if you can use Saver Business Class space to Europe this summer for 50,000 miles roundtrip and no fuel surcharges, keep checking aa.com and keep checking my updates on twitter. I will try to get the next emergence of space up quicker.

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Hurry! A glitch is causing US Airways flights to have a ton of Business Class award space to Europe. This will not last. In fact, it has been corrected substantially, but lots of space remains.

You can search the space on aa.com or usairways.com. American Airlines charges 50,000 miles one way in Business Class to Europe and US Airways charges 100,000 miles roundtrip.

Sample Space

Blue dates have space for four people on the direct US Airways flight in Business Class.

Philly to Munich has a ton of award space. Some other routes have just a litte award space for 4+ people, but that is still unheard of on US Airways transatlantic flights.

Philadelphia to Munich

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Charlotte to LondonScreen Shot 2015-01-19 at 12.12.23 AM

Philadelphia to MadridScreen Shot 2015-01-19 at 12.13.07 AM

Philadelphia to RomeScreen Shot 2015-01-19 at 12.13.42 AM

US Airways Business Class is fully flat, and all seats feature direct aisle access on the A330s that fly most of the transatlantic flights.

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Getting the Miles

You’re definitely too late to get miles for this glitch. The award space will be gone very soon.

But in general, American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time in the second quarter of 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles in early 2015.

Hat Tip Gary Leff

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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American Airlines and US Airways are both running sales on the purchase of their miles through March 3, 2015. This is right on the heels of their last sale ending, so these sales are becoming more common, and unfortunately pricier than last year.

For now, your American Airlines miles and US Airways miles will sit in separate accounts, and you can redeem them on separate charts, with different routing rules, and slightly different partners. Some time between April and June 2015, your US Airways and American Airlines miles will be combined into your American Airlines account, and the American Airlines chart, partners, and rules will control.

That means the chance to buy both kinds of miles at a discount could be a way to eventually have one huge American Airlines balance. Similar reasoning has led me to recommend getting the American Airlines and US Airways credit cards before the US Airways program disappears.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® is offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

We know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

From the credit cards, you could have 103,000 American Airlines miles in a few months. From the mileage sales, you could add another 260,000 miles. But is buying the 260k miles a good deal?

  • How expensive are the US Airways miles?
  • How expensive are the American Airlines miles?
  • How long do the sales last?

BOTH SALES

Both sales are identical and offer up to 30,000 bonus miles. Both sales end March 3, 2015. Both sales are offering a further 10% discount on the normal miles price, though this lasts only until February 9.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.26.07 AM

The bonus miles are tiered based on how many you buy.

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10% off only valid until February 9

Buying 75,000 miles with a 30,000 mile bonus (105,000 total miles) offers the best deal.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.29.43 AM

The price of $2,171 for 105,000 miles works out to 2.07 cents per mile. This will go up 11% next week to 2.30 cents per mile and $2,412 for for 105,000 miles. For context:

I value US Airways miles and American Airlines miles around 1.9 cents each, so there is no way I would buy these miles speculatively for 2.07 cents. The only way it could possibly make sense to buy miles at these prices is if you had an immediate high value use for them.

BOTTOM LINE

You can buy 260,000 American Airlines and US Airways miles that will combine into your American Airlines account next year. The cheapest price is buying 105,000 of each type (210,000 total) for $4,342 or 2.07 cents each. That’s way too high to buy speculatively. Hopefully cheaper sales come along.

The US Airways miles sales are processed by points.com, so you won’t get bonus points from any of your cards with category bonuses for purchasing US Airways miles. The American Airlines miles sales are now processed by American Airlines itself, so you can get category bonuses on cards that bonus airline or travel purchases, or you can use your Arrival Plus to get American Airlines miles for zero cash.

In the meantime, we can pick up 103,000 American Airlines and US Airways miles from the big bonuses on their credit cards.

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Buy your American Airlines miles with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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American Airlines and US Airways are both running sales on the purchase of their miles through January 30, 2015. This is right on the heels of their last sale ending, so these sales are becoming more common, and unfortunately pricier than before.

For now, your American Airlines miles and US Airways miles will sit in separate accounts, and you can redeem them on separate charts, with different routing rules, and slightly different partners. Some time between April and June 2015, your US Airways and American Airlines miles will be combined into your American Airlines account, and the American Airlines chart, partners, and rules will control.

That means the chance to buy both kinds of miles at a discount could be a way to eventually have one huge American Airlines balance. Similar reasoning has led me to recommend getting the American Airlines and US Airways credit cards before the US Airways program disappears.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® is offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

We know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

From the credit cards, you could have 103,000 American Airlines miles in a few months. From the mileage sales, you could add another 270,000 miles. But is buying the 270k miles a good deal?

  • How expensive are the US Airways miles?
  • How expensive are the American Airlines miles?
  • How long do the sales last?

Both Sales

Both sales are identical and offer up to 35,000 bonus miles when you buy up to 100,000 miles. Both sales end January 30, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 6.16.47 PM

Buying 70,000 miles with a 35,000 mile bonus (105,000 total miles) offers the best deal.

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 6.14.52 PM

 

The price of $2,250 for 105,000 miles works out to 2.14 cents per mile. That’s slightly worse than the 2.06 cents you could achieve in the past sale, the 1.88 cents you could consistently pay for US Airways miles last year, and the 1.13 cents you could pay for US Airways miles once a year for the past few years.

I value US Airways miles and American Airlines miles around 1.9 cents each, so there is no way I would buy these miles speculatively for 2.14 cents. The only way it could possibly make sense to buy miles at these prices is if you had an immediate high value use for them.

Bottom Line

You can buy 270,000 American Airlines and US Airways miles that will combine into your American Airlines account next year. The cheapest price is buying 105,000 of each type (210,000 total) for $4,499 or 2.14 cents each. That’s way too high to buy speculatively. Hopefully cheaper sales come along.

The US Airways miles sales are processed by points.com, so you won’t get bonus points from any of your cards with category bonuses for purchasing US Airways miles. The American Airlines miles sales are now processed by American Airlines itself, so you can get category bonuses on cards that bonus airline or travel purchases, or you can use your Arrival Plus to get American Airlines miles for zero cash.

In the meantime, we can pick up 103,000 American Airlines and US Airways miles from the big bonuses on their credit cards.

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In one minute, you can link your American Airlines and US Airways accounts online. In three to six months, when the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs are combined, your miles should then be combined seamlessly into your American Airlines account.

To link the accounts, sign into your American Airlines or US Airways accounts on their full–not mobile–websites.

Signing in on aa.com, I was hit with this pop up.

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I typed in my US Airways account number and clicked submit.

I immediately received confirmation of the link with a new pop up.Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 10.08.39 AM

I also immediately received two emails–one from each loyalty program–about the successful link.Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 10.10.27 AMSpend the one minute to link your accounts now to save time and hassle later. If you don’t link your accounts, the programs will have to guess which accounts to link when the combination of the programs occurs in a few months. I would hate for them not to correctly combine my miles immediately at that point.

It is worth noting that when you link your accounts, nothing happens for now.

There are still two separate frequent flyer programs, and you cannot voluntarily transfer miles between your two accounts.

The combination only makes life easier on American, US Airways, and you in a few months when the miles are combined. The exact date of the combination, we still don’t know. Everything still says the second quarter of 2015 (April to June 2015.)

 

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I got a request for a Free Credit Card Consultation that I thought would be informative to share with everyone. I was able to show a man how he could take his family of five to Europe by opening four cards by himself, divvying up his spending among the four cards, and paying just taxes and fees on his tickets.

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Here are selected answers from his Free Credit Card Consultation form:

Airports: Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT)

Goal: My goal is to take my wife and kids to Spain. (2 adults, 2 toddlers under 4, 1 infant under 2). Destination airports are Pamplona (PNA) or Bilbao (BIO) and Madrid (MAD) if we can get to PNA or BIO.

Current Balances: I have the Barclaycard Arrival +, I earned the 49k points, passed the 91 days.

How many people will be applying for cards? one

Current cards: I have the Barclaycard Arrival +, I earned the 49k points, passed the 91 days. I also have AMEX blue card, basic with no points. I got the AMEX card in 2006

Interested in earning: Airline Miles

Monthly spending: I could spend 2-3k a month

Here is a slightly modified version of my response:

If you travel between October 15 and May 15 each year, you’ll need 120k United miles and 80k American Airlines miles for 4x roundtrips–using one type of miles for 4x one way tickets and the other for 4x the tickets the other way. The lap infant will cost 10% of what United and American calculate to be the equivalent cash fare. Plan on the infant ticket costing around $200 roundtrip. Roundtrip taxes for the other passengers will be under $100 each.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two program will be combined as American Airlines miles. The current American Airlines chart, which is the world’s best and far better than United’s or Delta’s, will be the award chart at that time. To take advantage, you should open the American Airlines and US Airways credit cards now, and watch those bonuses be combined soon. This will get you way more than the 80k American Airlines miles you need.

To get the 120k United miles, get the United card and Sapphire Preferred. That puts you at 106k United miles + Ultimate Rewards (which transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles.) The last 14k miles can come from further spending.

Cards

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • US Airways MasterCard with 50,000 bonus US Airways miles after first purchase and payment of $89 annual fee
  • Sapphire Preferred with 40,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months and 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user. (Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles.)
  • United card with 50,000 bonus United miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months and 5,000 bonus United miles for adding an authorized user

To get the United offer, sign into your United account and see whether a banner appears advertising this offer.

If not, try this:

  1. Apply for the standard offer: 30k United miles after $1k in spending in the first 3 months card
  2. Add an authorized user on the application. That gets you a free 5k miles. Adding an authorized user does not prevent that person from getting the card at the same time or in the future in as the main user and getting the full sign up bonus.
  3. After the card shows up on your chase.com account, send Chase a Secure Message from inside your chase.com account saying you’d like to be matched to the 50k sign up bonus you’ve seen others offered. My friend wrote:
    “Hello,
    I opened the United MileagePlus account with the 30,000 bonus after $1,000 in spending in the first three months. However, I noticed that there was also an offer with a 50,000 bonus after spending $2k in the first three months. Can you please match me to that offer?
    Thank you,”
  4. Chase will say something like: “OK, when you meet the $2k minimum spend, let us know and we’ll give you 20k more miles.”
  5. Hit the minimum spend of $2k, then follow up with Chase.

In the email itself, I go into a lot more detail about the other benefits and fees of the cards. Here are recent reviews of the American Airlines and US Airways cards. Check the terms and conditions of the United and Sapphire Preferred cards for more info on them:

Minimum Spend

If you add up the minimum spending requirements on your new cards, it is $9,001 over three months. That’s at the top end of the $2k – $3k you report spending each month. To meet the minimum spending requirement, you can either try to put more of your spending on credit cards or stagger the applications by waiting to meet the spending requirement on three of the mentioned cards before applying for the Sapphire Preferred.

In return for meeting the spending requirements, you’ll get 103k American Airlines/US Airways miles and 106k United miles/Ultimate Rewards.

That leaves you 14,000 United miles short of your goal. Keep spending on the Sapphire Preferred, and you’ll get there in five months, fewer if a lot of your spending is on dining and travel where the card has a 2x category bonus.

Do not transfer any Ultimate Rewards to United miles until you are ready to book the awards, since the transfer is instant and irrevocable.

When you have 120,000 United miles and 80,000 American Airlines miles, search for award space in both directions before booking anything. Put the American Airlines award space on hold for 5 days for free by phone or online, ticket the United space, and then ticket the American Airlines space to avoid any award space disappearing during the booking process.

You can search united.com (here’s how) for the United award space. For award space using the American Airlines miles, you’ll want to use ba.com (here’s how) because Iberia award space appears there. You’ll probably have to construct the direction using AA miles with segment-by-segment searching. If this sounds like too much, hire my Award Booking Service.

A quick look at wikipedia shows Bilbao airport with a ton more service than Pamplona, so you’ll probably have better luck there with Madrid as a back up plan.

At the time of booking, mention the lap infant.

Recap

He’s got to get four cards, meet minimum spending requirements, spend a little extra on one card, wait for his American Airlines and US Airways miles to be combined, and by about June 2015, he should have all the miles and be ready to book an award for 5 passengers for about $500 in taxes and fees.

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Update 2/24/15: I’m not sending out any more referrals. Contact one of the commenters offering a referral.

Existing cardholders can earn up to 50,000 bonus US Airways miles by referring friends to the 50,000 mile bonus offer on the US Airways Premier World MasterCard. For every friend who applies through your referral, cardholders earn 5,000 US Airways miles up to a maximum of 50,000 bonus miles.

Check your email inbox for the subject “Refer your friends and earn up to 50,000 bonus miles”, and click the button Start Sharing.

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You are taken to an email form, where you enter the email addresses of people who you want to refer.

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Unfortunately there is no twitter or facebook option as Chase always offers for referral bonuses to the Freedom, Sapphire Preferred, and Ink Plus.

The Offer

The offer appears to be identical to the best offer available now, which is the best I’ve seen:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after your first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee*
  • First checked bag free on eligible bags for you and up to four companions on domestic US Airways operated flights
  • One companion certificate good for up to 2 guests to travel with you on a US Airways operated flight at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
  • Priority boarding Zone 2 on US Airways operated flightsRedeem miles for award travel on US Airways and American Airlines booked through usairways.com or US Airways Reservations
  • Earn miles on every purchase with 2 miles for every $1 you spend on US Airways and American Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every $1 on purchases everywhere else
  • Receive a 25% savings on eligible US Airways and American Airlines in-flight purchases

For more info and my review of the offer, see US Airways Card Now Offering 50,000 Bonus Miles.

The Conga Line

If you leave a comment asking for a referral, I will send you one. You don’t need to publicly disclose your email address because I can see what you filled in on the comment form.

If you want to refer people, leave your email address in the comments and ask them to email you. Then you can refer them via the email address from which they send you an email.

Plus AA Cards

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting both personal cards now and meeting both spending requirements means you will have at least 103,000 American Airlines miles in early 2015.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles passes after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® is a business card that offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months. Getting both American Airlines cards plus the US Airways personal card, and meeting their minimum spending requirements, would mean having at least 156,000 American Airlines miles in early 2015.

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Aspire to Cathay Pacific Business Class.

  • It is one of the world’s nicest Business Classes, featuring a fully flat bed on flights of up to 16 hours between the United States and Hong Kong.
  • It is dirt cheap at 55,000 American Airlines miles one way or 110,000 US Airways miles roundtrip. This is just 10% more than flying half the time in a far inferior product to Europe.
  • Award space is widely available. Cathay Pacific releases 2 Business Class seats on a ton of flights 11 months in advance.
  • It is so easy to earn the miles needed to fly. The American Airlines and US Airways cards both offer 50,000 point sign up bonuses. These two types of miles combine into your American Airlines account early next year.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 3.35.18 AM

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

We know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time in the second quarter of 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting both cards now and meeting both spending requirements means you will have at least 103,000 American Airlines miles in early 2015.

Cathay Pacific Business Class serves fascinating destinations like Southeast Asia, the Maldives, and Australia.

There are better products in the world (like Cathay Pacific First Class for instance), but for excellence, cheapness, ease of finding award space, and ease of getting the miles, I anoint Cathay Pacific Business Class the best premium cabin product in the miles world.

  • Where does Cathay Pacific Business Class fly?
  • How can you book it?
  • How many miles do you need?
  • What is the award space picture?
  • Why is booking Cathay Pacific Business Class then changing to First Class a good deal?

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US Airways off peak award space to Europe is wide open. For travel between January 15 and February 28, 2015, you can pay as little as 30,000 miles roundtrip to tons of top cities like London, Paris, Madrid, and Dublin.

Reminder of US Airways Off Peak Awards

US Airways has incredible discounts on the miles needed for a roundtrip award to Europe and the Caribbean during off peak dates (January 15 – February 28 for Europe and September for Caribbean).

Off peak awards require finding Saver award space on all legs from your home airport to your destination, and flying all US Airways planes. That is, you cannot fly partners, including American Airlines.

The off peak price is 35,000 miles roundtrip to Europe. Folks with the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® get an automatic 5,000 mile discount on all US Airways awards that fly only US Airways planes, which is a requirement of off peak awards. That means US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® cardholders pay only 30,000 miles roundtrip to Europe during off peak dates.

Right now the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase and payment of an $89 annual fee.

 

  • How good is the award space during off peak dates?
  • What are the taxes and fees? (lower than you might expect)

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Not all miles are equal. My favorite miles are US Airways miles because US Airways has a cheap award chart and lax routing rules. For a limited time, you can pick up 50,000 US Airways miles after your first purchase when you open the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 2.05.32 PM

 

Maybe 50,000 US Airways miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s enough to book two roundtrip tickets:

  • within the continental United States
  • to Canada
  • to Alaska
  • to the Caribbean

Or with 50,000 US Airways miles, a cardholder can book one roundtrip ticket to:

  • Hawaii
  • Central America
  • Mexico
  • Europe

Fifty thousand US Airways miles are enough to book a roundtrip award flight to hundreds of destinations on US Airways and partners like American Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

  • What destinations are available using just the sign up bonus from the US Airways MasterCard?
  • How can you book a roundtrip ticket to South America or Europe using only sign up bonus miles?
  • How can you book two roundtrip tickets to the Caribbean with the sign up bonus from one card?

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American Airlines and US Airways are both running sales on the purchase of their miles through January 2, 2015.

For now, your American Airlines miles and US Airways miles will sit in separate accounts, and you can redeem them on separate charts, with different routing rules, and slightly different partners. Some time between April and June 2015, your US Airways and American Airlines miles will be combined into your American Airlines account, and the American Airlines chart, partners, and rules will control.

That means the chance to buy both kinds of miles at a discount could be a way to eventually have one huge American Airlines balance. Similar reasoning has led me to recommend getting the American Airlines and US Airways credit cards before the US Airways program disappears.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® is offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

We know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

 

From the credit cards, you could have 103,000 American Airlines miles next year. From the mileage sales, you could add another 250,000 miles. But is buying the 250k miles a good deal?

  • How expensive are the US Airways miles?
  • How expensive are the American Airlines miles?
  • How long do the sales last?

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Updated 12/4/14 because the bonus on the US Airways card has increased to 50,000 miles after first purchase!

American Airlines and US Airways are currently offering huge sign up bonuses on their co-branded credit cards. While the miles will temporarily go to separate accounts, everyone’s American Airlines and US Airways miles will be combined in early 2015 as part of the airlines’ merger, so that you can earn enough miles for a round-the-world trip just from opening three credit cards.

Getting all three cards and meeting their combined minimum spending requirement of $6,001 will earn you 156,000 American Airlines miles when your US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer accounts combine in the second quarter of 2015.

  • What timing rule should you follow on the applications?
  • What can you do with 156,000 American Airlines miles?
  • What is the one other killer benefit of the American Airlines personal card?

What Can You Do with 156,000 American Airlines Miles?

1. Take a Round-the-World Trip

a. For 150,000 miles, you can take a round-the-world trip with stops in Sydney, Tokyo, Bangkok, Mumbai, Abu Dhabi, and Paris. Or choose any other cities and continents of your choice.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 2.32.56 AM
Lines indicate travel, but not direct flights. From gcmap.com.

b. For 122,500 miles, you can take a trip to Peru, Chile, Australia, Japan, and back.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 2.35.50 AM
Lines indicate travel, but not direct flights. From gcmap.com.

2. Take Your Family Somewhere

  • almost 4 roundtrips to Europe (160,000 miles from Oct 15 – May 15 each year)
  • 5 roundtrips to South America (150,000 miles to Peru and north most of the year)
  • 3 roundtrips to Japan or Korea (150,000 miles Oct 1 – Apr 30 each year)
  • 4 roundtrips to Hawaii (140,000 miles half the year)
  • 6 roundtrips to the Caribbean or Alaska (150,000 miles to Alaska year round or Caribbean Sep 7 – Nov 14 each year)

South America is as little as 30k miles roundtrip, Europe 40k roundtrip, Asia 50k roundtrip, Africa and Australia 75k roundtrip, and the Middle East and India 90k roundtrip. For the full chart, see here.

Sunset over Waikiki

3. Treat yourself to the world’s nicest First Class

IMG_0052
Stretching out in Cathay Pacific First Class

4. Head to the South Pacific

American partners with Fiji Airways, Air Tahiti Nui, and Qantas, so it has the best miles for the South Pacific. American charges only 37,500 miles each way in economy, 62,500 miles each way in business class, and 72,500 miles each way in First Class. (Qantas First Class looks unreal.)

Overwater bungalows in the South Pacific

5. Machu Picchu in a Bed

60,000 miles is enough for a roundtrip from the United States to Northern South America in business class. That means you can fly to anywhere in Peru–like Machu Picchu–with both directions in fully flat beds on a 787 Dreamliner on American Airlines-partner LAN Airlines.

I talked more about this award in depth here. The only drawback with this award is that once you experience flying in a fully flat bed, you might not ever want to go back to economy!

American has the biggest route network from the United States to Latin America and partners with LAN and TAM, the biggest airlines in South America, so American has the most and best award space to South America

Wow! Machu Picchu

6. Europe in Business or First Class

100,000 miles is enough for a roundtrip from the United States to Europe in Business Class. 125,000 miles is enough for a roundtrip in First Class. Several American Airlines partners fly to Europe with fully flat beds. I wrote about American’s Los Angeles to London route featuring flat beds in business class here. The newest planes feature an on-board bar in business class, pictured below.

How Exactly Do You Get the 156,000 Miles?

You apply for one American Airlines personal card, one American Airlines business card, and one US Airways card.

If you apply for the American Airlines and US Airways personal cards on the same day and the American Airlines business card 8 days later, you should have no problems. Some people have been approved for both American Airlines cards on the same day, while some have had the second application rejected.

You make a single purchase on the US Airways card and receive 50,000 bonus miles after your first statement closes. You spend $3,000 in the first 3 months on each American Airlines card and earn 50,000 bonus miles on each card.

The bonus miles plus the spending add up to 106,000 American Airlines miles and 50,000 US Airways miles.

You cannot combine these miles, but…

Your American Airlines and US Airways frequent flyer accounts will be automatically combined in early 2015 as part of the merger between the two airlines. At that point, you’ll have 156,000+ American Airlines miles.

Other Benefits Besides the Sign Up Bonus

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with two Admirals Club airport lounge passes after meeting the minimum spending requirement, and the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® comes with two more.

The personal card also comes with my favorite feature by far of any airline credit card. While you’re a cardholder you’ll get a 10% miles rebate on all your American Airlines award redemptions up to 10,000 miles rebated per calendar year.

That means that if you booked a roundtrip award ticket to Tahiti with your American Airlines miles while you were a cardholder for 75k miles, you’d get 7,500 miles back for a total cost of only 67,500 miles roundtrip!

With these cards, you can mentally take a 10% discount on all award prices. Now Europe is only 18k miles each way, a business class bed to Machu Picchu is 27k miles each way, and Cathay Pacific First Class is 60,750 miles each way.

If you redeem the 156,000 miles next year, that’s another 10,000 miles rebated because of this benefit.

The benefit is automatic, no enrollment necessary. Here’s my experience with the rebate.

I value the 10,000 extra miles a year at about $180, so this is a huge ongoing benefit to me and one reason that I hold a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®.

The 10% rebate on awards is in addition to a free checked bag for you and four companions when flying American Airlines, Group 1 boarding to get that overhead bin space, a 25% discount on in-flight purchases, and double miles on American Airlines purchases.

The business card also comes with 2x miles at certain office supply merchants, telecommunications merchants, and car rental merchants and a 5% mileage bonus when you renew your card.

The The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® comes with a free checked bag for you and four companions when flying US Airways, Zone 2 boarding to get that overhead bin space, and double miles on US Airways purchases.

Full Offers Rundown

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months

 

  • For a limited time, earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Your first eligible checked bag is free*
  • Group 1 boarding and 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases*
  • Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back – up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year*

Application Link: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months

 

  • Designed for businesses with an established credit history
  • For a limited time, earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Get the first checked bag free for you and up to 4 traveling companions*
  • Enjoy Group 1 Boarding*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, including US Airways codeshare flights booked through American Airlines.*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on purchases at certain office supply, telecommunications and car rental merchants. Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases.*
  • Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines and US Airways flights*

Application Link: CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®

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

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after your first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee*
  • First checked bag free on eligible bags for you and up to four companions on domestic US Airways operated flights
  • One companion certificate good for up to 2 guests to travel with you on a US Airways operated flight at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
  • Priority boarding Zone 2 on US Airways operated flightsRedeem miles for award travel on US Airways and American Airlines booked through usairways.com or US Airways Reservations
  • Earn miles on every purchase with 2 miles for every $1 you spend on US Airways and American Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every $1 on purchases everywhere else
  • New! Receive a 25% savings on eligible US Airways and American Airlines in-flight purchases
  • Please see terms and conditions for complete details

Application Link: The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®

Recap

You can earn 156,000 American Airlines miles in the next few weeks by:

  1. Applying for the American Airlines personal and business cards and the US Airways personal card. Apply for both personal cards the same day and wait eight days on the business card.
  2. Meeting the $3k minimum spending requirement on each American Airlines card and making a purchase on the US Airways card
  3. Waiting until early 2015 for your American Airlines and US Airways miles’ balances to be combined.

Once you have the cards, you can enjoy the 10% rebate on the miles needed for AAdvantage awards up to 10k miles per calendar year and other benefits like a free checked bag and priority boarding on both airlines.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months

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

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American Airlines, United, Delta, and US Airways all release several co-branded credit cards with various benefits, bonuses, and fees.

I have attempted to summarize the following cards on one table for easy comparison:

I consider these to be the “basic” personal card for each of the four legacy carriers in the United States. Each airline also has a lower-tier cards which earn miles at a lower rate and come with no sign up bonus. And several of the airlines have higher tier cards that come with gigantic annual fees and even better benefits. But these are the four basic cards.

  • Which cards have the best sign up bonus?
  • Which have the best benefits?

Japan's Cherry Blossoms

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

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

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

Japan's Cherry Blossoms
Japan’s Cherry Blossoms

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

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

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

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