US Airways

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I naturally categorize miles and points into two groups:

  1. Broadly useful
  2. Niche programs

The first type of miles are the miles you want to stockpile if you’re hoping to follow a simple mile-accumulation strategy to meet all your future travel goals. Ideally these miles benefit from cheap award charts across all classes of service and to all regions without incurring fuel surcharges on awards.

By contrast, niche programs have some great values on their award charts, but lots of flaws. Maybe the program collects fuel surcharges on most awards, or charges too much for redemptions in premium cabins, or simply doesn’t release much Saver award space on flights.

Niche programs can be ignored by those who merely dabble in miles collection, but serious miles collectors should know the strengths of and collect miles in niche programs too.

  • Which miles do I consider broadly useful?
  • Which programs do I consider niche programs?
  • What are the niche programs’ strengths?

Broadly Useful

None of these programs is perfect, but I consider all the following programs to be broadly useful programs in which a person could exclusively collect miles and still get a fair deal on the vast majority of potential redemptions:

  • American Airlines
  • United
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Ultimate Rewards

American Airlines

American Airlines miles offer good value on most routes in all cabins. The oneworld alliance great members like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and LAN, and American miles can be redeemed on 24 airlines.

There are some weaknesses with American Airlines miles:

  • American Airlines collects fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. British Airways award space is the most available award space to Europe and Africa. If you avoid booking British Airways flights with American Airlines miles, you are hamstrung to Africa especially.
  • I–and the experts–anticipate a devaluation announced in late 2015 for awards booked in early 2016 or later.
  • Awards to the Middle East and India are overpriced.

United

Even after 2014’s devaluation, I still think United miles are among the most broadly useful airline miles to stockpile for a few reasons:

  • Award space is good on United and partners.
  • United is a member of the Star Alliance, the largest alliance in the world, with good coverage of every continent.
  • United never imposes fuel surcharges on awards.
  • United’s economy awards are fairly priced.
  • United’s Business Class awards on its own planes are not outrageously priced.

Of course, the big problem is that partner First Class awards are basically out of reach. Who has 240,000 United miles for one roundtrip to Asia in First Class?

Still, I’ll almost always be happy when folks come to my Award Booking Service with a stash of United miles.

Ultimate Rewards

Since Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles, Ultimate Rewards are at least as useful as United miles. With the added flexibility of transferring to niche programs like British Airways, Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest, and Korean plus hotel programs, Ultimate Rewards are the second most flexible currency overall.

Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints

The most flexible and broadly useful points are Starpoints, which transfer to American, Alaska, and 27 other airline programs mostly at favorable rates. Every day, 20,000 Starpoints transfers to 25,000 American Airlines or Alaska Airlines miles.

The big drawbacks with Starpoints:

  • Most transfers take days.
  • 2 Starpoints transfer to 1 United mile. Since United devalued, I’d love that transfer to get revalued to 1:1 like with American, Delta, Alaska, and dozens of other airlines.

Intermediate Usefulness

These three programs have bigger warts than the programs above, but are too broadly useful for me to call “niche” programs.

  • Delta
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Points

Delta

Delta has some definite strengths:

  • There are good value awards and decent space to Australia (Virgin Australia), Africa (Air France), Europe (various partners), Asia (various partners), and South America (AeroMexico). Very few of these awards have fuel surcharges.
  • The often-times higher prices are offset by the ease with which you can earn Delta miles from Delta cards, Membership Rewards-earning cards, and Starpoints-earning cards.
  • Since January 1, 2015, Delta allows one way award redemptions for half the price of roundtrips.

But the weaknesses are far greater than with competing US-based airlines:

  • Delta doesn’t offer much Saver award space on domestic flights, making it hard to get to a gateway to connect to partner award space abroad. This is a huge drawback.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on a bunch of its partners.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on all awards originating in Europe. This essentially means that its miles can be used for one ways to Europe, but are a terrible value for one ways home.
  • Delta miles cannot be redeemed for three-cabin international First Class.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has a hodge-podge of partners that fly all over the world.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 2.54.32 AMAlaska has access to some of the world’s most coveted award space like Emirates First Class space with no fuel surcharges.

Some of the award charts are very cheap–there is a different one for each partner to each region–you can book one way awards for half the roundtrip price, and you can even get a stopover on one way awards.

The only thing that holds Alaska miles back from being more widely useful is that you cannot freely combine partners on Alaska awards. Each direction needs to be all one partner’s flights or all one partner’s flights plus Alaska flights. This rule hampers your options incredibly, especially if you don’t live in a city where Alaska flies!

Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards have a large number of partners, but none of them is in the most useful category above. All are 1:1 partners in case otherwise noted.

  • Delta Airlines
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Alitalia Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • British Airways Avios
  • Cathay Pacific
  • EL AL Israel Airlines 1,000 MR to 20 EL AL point
  • Air France & KLM Flying Blue
  • Emirates
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus Avios
  • JetBlue 250 MR to 200 TrueBlue Points
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin America 200 MR to 100 Elevate Points

Delta is in this intermediate category, and the rest of the programs are in the niche category below including Virgin Atlantic, Aeroplan, ANA, British Airways Avios,  Flying Blue (Air France), Hawaiian, and Singapore. The big problem is that all the global partners impose fuel surcharges on most of their awards.

You can creatively mostly avoid fuel surcharges, but you have to work hard enough that this program can’t be in the “Broadly Useful” category.

Citi ThankYou Points

ThankYou Points now transfer to 11 airlines at a 1:1 rate:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchard Plus
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Qantas miles

I don’t know of a single high value use of the eight programs that are not in bold. But between Singapore KrisFlyer, Air France Flying Blue, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and the ability to use ThankYou Points for 1.25 to 1.6 cents each toward any flight on any airline, this program belongs in the intermediate category.

Singapore miles allow fuel-surcharge-free awards on United flights often for fewer mile than United would charge for the same award including to Hawaii, Europe, South America, and within the continental US; they’re the only way to book Singapore Suites; and they have awesome stopover rules.

Flying Blue miles allow you to book some Delta flights for fewer miles than with Delta miles, and allow access to Promo Awards like 12,500 miles one way to Europe or Israel.

Virgin Atlantic miles aren’t just about 17,500 mile awards to London or 27,500 mile Premium Economy awards to London. They also allow 45,000 mile roundtrips to South America on Delta and a few other high value awards.

Citi partners with American Airlines. If Citi ever adds American Airlines as a 1:1 transfer partner, ThankYou Points will shoot to the most useful category.

Niche Usefulness

The absolute wrong conclusion to draw about the programs in this section is that they are not useful. Each program listed here–and many programs not listed here have some incredible, high-value awards. But most of their awards are a poor value.

You shouldn’t focus all your miles collecting in these programs, but you should know their strengths in case your travel goals overlap with their strengths, and you have transferable points. Here are some of my favorite niche programs and their strengths:

Of course, each of these programs has major flaws. Southwest points can’t be used for First Class, international travel beyond the Caribbean, or any partners. Any Avios awards with layovers get pricey very quickly. Almost all the international programs collect big fuel surcharges on most awards (but not on the awards mentioned above where there are no or small surcharges.)

Because of the weaknesses, I rarely collect miles in niche programs unless there’s an extremely attractive credit card sign up bonus, but I constantly consider the programs as transfer options for my Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, ThankYou Points, and Starpoints to take advantage of their one or two sweetspots.

Action Item

If you’re currently collecting niche miles with your day-to-day credit card spending, put more of your spending on cards that earn more widely useful miles and points like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months, which earns the most versatile points of all.

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Your Take

Are any of the programs listed here mis-categorized for you? Is one of the niche programs perfect for all your awards? Does one of my “generally useful programs” never seem to offer you value? Am I letting United miles off too lightly for its big devaluation last year?

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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.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.24.10 PM
Roundtrip award from Los Angeles to Honolulu with a later free oneway to Newark

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.24.16 PM

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.

While American, US Airways (by ending its mileage program), 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 and Alaska miles.

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Update 3/24/15:

American Airlines has confirmed that the integration of AAdvantage and Dividend Miles will begin, though the process could take several days.

Tomorrow (3/25/15) is the last day you can book US Airways Dividend Miles awards.

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The reliable rumor is that American Airlines and US Airways plan to combine their mileage programs on March 28, which is this Saturday.

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 5.55.12 PM

Now the word is that the programs plan to combine March 28, though that could be backed up if there are problems with the combination.

Reliable Rumor?

The most recent word from the Traveling Better forum features input from JonNYC, a legendary source of inside info on American Airlines.

When he talks about what American Airlines is about to do or what its computers say a routing rule is, I believe him.

We can’t be 100% sure that we’re about to see an announcement that the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs will merge March 28, but I am going to make prudent preparations as if they will. Here’s what JonNYC says:

The date of “single frequent flier program” is…March 28.

Listed as a target date, so I’d imagine could change, but that’s the date being aimed for.

What You Need to Do

  1. Link your US Airways and American Airlines accounts, so that your US Airways miles are seamlessly transferred to AA miles when the programs combine.
  2. Burn US Airways miles for the awards on which its award chart is cheaper than AA’s.
  3. Get the US Airways card before it disappears to get its 50,000 mile bonus.

Hat Tip View from the Wing

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Here’s Barclaycard’s page listing “all” its credit cards. Conspicuously absent from the list is the US Airways card.

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 next 23 days. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and the US Airways card itself will become an American Airlines card issued by Citi.

I’ve mentioned it dozens of times, but you don’t want to miss getting the US Airways card and its 50,000 bonus miles. American Airlines miles are super valuable, so getting 50,000 miles after first purchase and the payment of an $89 fee is a no brainer. Plus, at the same time, you can get the American Airlines personal and business cards for over 100,000 more American Airlines miles.

Right now the personal 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.

Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines after meeting their minimum spending requirements.

This is possibly the last time I’ll be reminding you about this mega deal because the US Airways card has disappeared from Barclaycard’s website. My friend even messaged by at 12:30 AM today saying he’d “heard” that the ability to get the US Airways card had ended today at midnight. Well that’s not true.

Here is a working link to the 50k US Airways card offer.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 9.50.31 AM

Who knows how long that will last? I would treat the offer like it could end today and will certainly end in the next three weeks. If you haven’t gotten it yet and want to, get it now.

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Update at 5:55 PM ET: An email today from Dividend Miles says that Dividend Miles will be ended within 30 days:

In October, we announced we would combine our frequent flyer programs in the second quarter of this year. And now, we’re on track to bring the US Airways Dividend Miles® program into the AAdvantage® program within the next 30 days. We’ll be providing you with more information on timing in the next few weeks.

That means we’ll see US Airways combined with AA miles by April 12.

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Every month, the Dividend Miles program emails members their balances. I haven’t gotten mine for March, but apparently those who have received this message:

Your final US Airways Dividend Miles e-Statement

Next month, we’ll reach the next milestone on our path to integration by bringing Dividend Miles into the American Airlines AAdvantage® program. We’ll transfer your mileage balance and elite-qualifying activity into your new (or existing) AAdvantage account.

So the US Airways program will end in April. What day in April?

Well several commenters from yesterday’s post noted that their bonus for referring people to the 50,000 mile US Airways MasterCard ends April 17. That leads me to believe that the US Airways program will last until at least April 17.

But I suspect we’ll get an official end date for the US Airways program very, very soon. In the meantime:

  1. Link your US Airways and American Airlines accounts, so that your US Airways miles are seamlessly transferred to AA miles when the programs combine.
  2. Burn US Airways miles for the awards on which its award chart is cheaper than AA’s.

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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.

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The US Airways MasterCard issued by Barclaycard is disappearing very soon, but we don’t know when. The card offers 50,000 bonus US Airways miles on first purchase as a sign up bonus. US Airways miles will become American Airlines miles some time between April 1 and June 30. (Again, we don’t know exactly when.)

This is a no-brainer card you want to get before it disappears because the 50,000 US Airways miles can be added to the 106,000 American Airlines miles you can get from two other cards.

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.

When the US Airways card disappears, existing cardholders will be converted to an American Airlines card issued by Barclaycard. I just got this email from Barclaycard about the transition.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 8.59.17 PM That says my US Airways card will be converted to an American Airlines card between April 1 and July 15. That fits in with the time frame of the end of the US Airways program.

But there is some speculation that the US Airways card will disappear to new applicants today (March 12.) The speculation is based on those referral emails Barclaycard has sent out. My referral email is below, and it said that I would earn miles for referring friends to the US Airways card by January 18.Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 9.01.36 PM

Some people’s referral email says that they will earn miles for referring people until March 12–today!

Was that date–March 12–chosen because that’s the last day the card will be available to new applicants? I don’t think so. I think the card will be available until some time next month (at least) because I know of no reason why Barclaycard would have to stop issuing new US Airways cards until the US Airways Dividend Miles program is ended. That would mean the US Airways card is open to new applicants for at least three more weeks and maybe three more months.

But if you’ve been planning to get the card and putting it off, maybe you should get the US Airways card today to get it over with. If you get the card, get it through a referral link of a fellow reader on this page, so you both earn big miles.

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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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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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.10.36 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.11.08 PM

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.
Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.11.31 PM

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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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

 

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Update 5/4/15: US Airways card doesn’t exist and American Airlines card now offers only 30k miles.

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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 10.32.42 AM

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 30,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $1,000 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 4/26/15: You can’t get the US Airways card anymore because there is no US Airways Dividend Miles program anymore. It merged with the American Airlines AAdvantage program in 2015. You can get 106,000 American Airlines miles very easily from two cards (50k per card.)

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, which would be 106,000 American Airlines miles after meeting the minimum spending requirements.

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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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 2.41.11 PM

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

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 2.41.43 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 3.35.18 AM

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

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?

Where Cathay Pacific Flies in North America

(Boston Starts May 2, 2015), from gcmap.com
(Boston Starts May 2, 2015), from gcmap.com

If you don’t live in one of the above cities, connect on American Airlines or US Airways flights to one of the cities. You can fly in domestic First Class on an international Business Class award for zero extra miles.

Booking Cathay Pacific Business Class

Search for Cathay Pacific Award Space on ba.com. Here’s how.

The best time to book the award space is 11 months out, when it is released, because Cathay Pacific loads their schedule with 2 Business Class award seats very often.

Here’s a search I ran on ba.com (via Award Nexus) for 2 seats in Business Class from Los Angeles, Newark, JFK, Boston, or San Francisco to Hong Kong 10 months from now. There is space on at least one route on 10/15 days, and 14 total flights in the 15 days with award space for 2 passengers in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.51.30 AM

Once you find award space, you need to call American Airlines or US Airways to book the space depending on which miles you want to use.

American Airlines charges:

US Airways charges:

  • 110,000 US Airways miles roundtrip to Hong Kong, anywhere else in North Asia, or Australia in Cathay Pacific Business Class
  • 120,000 US Airways miles roundtrip to Southeast Asia, the Maldives, or the Indian Subcontinent in Cathay Pacific Business Class

You can connect in Hong Kong to Cathay Pacific’s or its subsidiary Dragonair’s flights. Both are searchable on ba.com. Between them, they cover much of Asia plus Australia and the Maldives.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.52.33 AM

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Cathay Pacific and Dragonair Flights from Hong Kong

Cathay Business as a Path to Cathay First

The most reliable time to find Cathay Pacific First Class award space is within 48 hours of departure when Cathay Pacific releases all but one of its unsold seats as First Class award space.

Most people don’t want to wait until 48 hours before departure to book award space.

Book 2 Business Class seats 11 months out, and if space opens up in the last day or two, you can switch to First Class for just the difference in miles plus a change fee.

  • American Airlines generally charges no change fee to upgrade an award like this, however the stated change fee is $150 for first passenger plus $25 for each additional passenger on the same record locator.
  • US Airways will charge $150 per ticket to change an award, but doesn’t even allow changes to the return once you’ve flown the outbound.

Getting the Miles

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® with 30,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months

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

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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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