Authors Posts by Scott Grimmer

Scott Grimmer

2384 POSTS 7254 COMMENTS

2

Most airline miles charge exorbitant fees to transfer miles from one person’s account to another’s. For instance, United is currently charging $82.50 to transfer 5,000 miles from one account to another, which is more than the 5,000 United miles are even worth!

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However, SPG Starpoints can be freely transferred from one SPG account to another as long as both accounts have had the same address on file for 30 days. You would want to transfer points between SPG accounts for at least five reasons:

  1. Because you can now transfer SPG points to Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio (or Marriott to SPG at 3:1.) With transfers between SPG accounts, you can get all of your family’s SPG and Marriott points into the same SPG or Marriott account. Just transfer everyone’s Marriott points to their SPG accounts; transfer everyone’s SPG points into your SPG account; then leave the SPG points there or transfer all of them to your Marriott account.
  2. Because the name on the SPG account and airline miles account must match when transferring SPG points to miles. So if I want my brother to get Alaska Airlines miles, I need to transfer my SPG points to him and have him transfer them to Alaska miles because I can’t transfer directly to his Alaska account.
  3. To maximize transfer bonuses. SPG offers 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred to 1:1 transfer partners. So my 10,000 SPG points and your 10,000 SPG points could transfer to 10,000 Alaska miles in my account and 10,000 in yours or could be combined to 20,000 SPG points to transfer to 25,000 Alaska miles in either account.
  4. To maximize elite status. If you and I will be splitting an SPG hotel on a free night award and you have Platinum Status and we each want to pay our half of the award, I could transfer half the points for the free nights to your account, and you could book from there to lock in your Platinum benefits.
  5. To top off an account for an award. Are you a little short of an award (whether Free Nights, Nights & Flights, or an airline transfer)? I could send you the necessary points for free.

Transfer Process

There are only two steps.

First, align the physical addresses on the two relevant SPG accounts and wait 30 days.

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This only takes a few clicks. Sign into your SPG account and click My Profile.Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.35.34 PM Then click Edit in the Contact Information box.Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.35.57 PM

Second, fill out the household transfer form at spg.com. You must transfer in increments of 1,000 points.

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The transfer is not instant. The points should show up in their new account in a few days.

Bottom Line

SPG allows free transfers of Starpoints between accounts that have shared an address for at least 30 days. Thanks, Starwood, for the customer friendly policy!

SPG and Marriott allow free transfers back and forth between your SPG account and your Marriott account. These two policies combined mean that you can get all of your family’s Marriott or SPG points into a single Marriott or SPG account of your choosing. This can be 26.

There are also several other reason to take advantage of free SPG transfers whether you use SPG points primarily for hotel stays or to transfer to airline miles.

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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12

I love Spirit and Frontier. Not flying them–I think I’ve flown them three total times, which weren’t particularly pleasant experiences. I just love what they represent. As the two largest ultra-low-cost carriers in the United States, they put downward pressure on all airlines’ fares, which benefits flyers immensely.

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We are all used to paying for checked bags and meals, but Spirit and Frontier charge for a lot more including carry on bags, seat assignments, and even water. A lot of people hate them for that, but I actually agree with their marketing that it’s fairer to charge a la carte pricing and have customers only pay for the services they want. Everyone reading this site is astute enough to compare apples to apples and figure out whether he is getting a better deal on an ultra-low-cost carrier even after the nickle-and-diming.

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Another thing Spirit and Frontier have in common: paid membership clubs. You pay $50 to $70 per year in exchange for discounts only available to Spirit $9 Fare Club and Frontier Discount Den members. Are the Spirit $9 Fare Club and Frontier Discount Den worth the price? Let’s check them out.

Spirit $9 Fare Club

The Spirit $9 Fare Club costs $20 for the first two months or $60 for the first year. Both plans automatically recur for $70 per year.

Members get discounted fare sales and discounted checked and carry on bag fees. Spirit claims that members save an average of $75 per booking.

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Most fares are not discounted for $9 Fare Club members, but some are. Most fare sales offer a cheaper price for $9 Fare Club members. The discount is $11+ per person per direction.

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The Terms & Conditions do not specify how many people can get the discounted fare on the same reservation as one $9 Fare Club member, but I believe that all members of the reservation get the discounted fare if booked from the $9 Fare Club member’s account. (“2.3. Members must always be one of the customers traveling when booking a special fare.”)

In addition to sometimes getting fare discounts, $9 Fare Club members always get bag discounts of $9 per bag per direction.

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Since the only free bag you get on Spirit is a personal item, most members will save at least $18 per roundtrip on baggage fees and $36 if you fly with a companion.

If you fly Spirit roundtrip twice per year ($36+ saved in bag fees) and book at least one roundtrip on a fare sale ($22+ saved), then you should probably join the $9 Fare Club. Do the math, and see if you get more in benefits than you pay as a membership fee.

However even if it makes sense to join, don’t join today. Wait until you need to purchase a Spirit ticket, so that your membership period extends as far out into the future as possible.

What about if you need to book one Spirit roundtrip, and you’re not sure if you’ll fly them again? If there’s an 11% chance you’ll need to book another Spirit roundtrip in the next two months, pay for the $20 trial membership. You’ll save $18 guaranteed on bags on the first roundtrip, and if you do book that second roundtrip, you’ll save another $18+.

Are there any $9 Fare Club members reading this post? How much money have you saved with membership?

Frontier Discount Den

The Frontier Discount Den only offers discounted airfare only, no savings on Frontier baggage fees. The Discount Den costs $50 per year, and membership renews automatically.

Certain sale fares are only available to club members, and the sale page says as much.

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Flight searches have a separate DenDeals column.

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Not all routes and flights offer discounts for club members.
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Discounted fares are available for up to six people on a member’s itinerary, as long as he is one of the passengers.

Again do the math, and see if you get more in benefits than you pas a membership fee.

Just like with the $9 Fare Club, don’t join today. Wait until you need to purchase a Frontier ticket, and choose the Discount Den price. You’ll be prompted to join then, which maximizes how far into the future your 12 month membership runs.
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Are there any Discount Den members reading this post? How much money have you saved with membership?

 

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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Marriott and Starwood have merged. With admirable speed, Marriott has announced that you can now status match between the two rewards programs and transfer your Marriott points to Starpoints or vice versa, and that the programs will remain separate until at least 2018.

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I’ll break down the news from the perspective of how to maximize the separate programs.

Status Match Angle

This one is a no-brainer. Link your Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest accounts now, so that any status you have in either program matches to the other program.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-33-05-pm For instance, I am an SPG Gold member, and now I am Marriott Gold member too.
screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-35-04-pm That’s pretty nice since Marriott Gold is better than SPG Gold and includes free breakfast and club access.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-38-14-pmBelow is a table of how the statuses match. The only complaint would be from top-top tier elites who only match the top of the other program and not the enhanced top of the other program reserved for those who spend half their lives in hotels.

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United Angle

United has a partnership with Marriott. If you’re United Gold or higher, you get Marriott Gold Status, which means you can match to SPG Gold also and have mid-tier status at two chains without ever having made a paid stay.

If you’re a Marriott Platinum member, you get United Silver elite status. So if you have SPG Platinum, match to Marriott Platinum and claim your United Silver status.

American Express Platinum Angle

If you have any American Express Platinum (the best one is currently the Mercedes-Benz AMEX Platinum), you can get free SPG Gold status–that’s how I have mine. You can match that to Marriott Gold Status.

Combining Stays for Status?

Sorry, no dice here. (The third loyalty program referenced is Ritz-Carlton Rewards, which has been maintained separately of Marriott Rewards despite the companies’ prior merger.)

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Points Transfer Angle

Once you link your accounts, you can transfer from Marriott to SPG at a 3:1 ratio or the other way at a 1:3 ratio. There are a lot of times you’d want to do this.

Hotel Booking

If you have an upcoming hotel stay that you want to book with points, go to both sites and check your award options. All other things equal, if the Marriott option is less than three times the number of points, you might want to transfer from SPG to Marriott to make the booking. But if the Marriott option is more than three times the number of points, you might want to transfer from Marriott to SPG.

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SPG Chart
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Marriott Chart

At the top end, Marriott free hotel nights will be a better deal. At the bottom end, SPG free nights will often be a better deal.

SPG to Marriott for Hotel + Air (including Southwest Companion Pass)

The best value redemption of Marriott points is Hotel + Air packages. You redeem a certain number of Marriott points for seven free nights at a Marriott or Ritz Carlton hotel plus a certain number of miles in the airline program of your choosing. Here is the chart to convert Marriott points to Southwest Rapid Rewards.

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Along the left, you see the Category of the Marriott hotel or Tier of the Ritz Carlton hotel where you’d get your seven free nights. Along the top, you see the number of Southwest points you’d get.

For 270,000 Marriott points, transferred from 90,000 Starpoints, you can get a week in a Category 5 Marriott and 120,000 Rapid Rewards and a Southwest Companion Pass valid until December 31 of the next year.

The Rapid Rewards are worth about 1.4 cents each ($1,680), and the Companion Pass gets a designated person onto Southwest flights for free (plus taxes of $5.60 one way on domestic flights and a little more internationally) every time you fly Southwest, whether you book your ticket with cash or your 120,000 new Southwest points.

Read more about the Southwest Companion Pass (and other ways to get it) here. For those with a regular companion who like to go where Southwest flies, the Companion Pass is the best deal in travel.

To maximize this deal, you’d want to redeem for the Hotel + Air package in January 2017 or January 2018 to get the companion pass for two full years. Redeeming now would get the Companion Pass for only 15 months.

If you don’t want a Southwest Companion pass, you can redeem a Hotel + Air package for dozens of airlines’ miles.

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You get 10% more miles if you choose United miles because of the special Marriott-United relationship.

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18,667 SPG to Marriott to 25,000 United Miles

While SPG points have a great transfer rate of 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 miles with a few dozen airlines–my favorites being Asiana, American, and Alaska–United is not on that list. Twenty thousand Starpoints is a measly 12,500 United miles.

Now, with an intermediate step, you can turn SPG points into United miles at a better rate.

  1. Transfer 19,000 SPG points to 57,000 Marriott points
  2. Transfer 1,000 Marriott back to 333 Starpoints (necessary step because the starting amount of transfers from each program has to be an even thousand)
  3. Transfer 56,000 Marriott (18,667 Starpoints) to 25,000 United miles

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Or you can turn 8,000 Starpoints into 10,000 United miles.

Speculative Transfers

I value SPG points at 2.5 cents and Marriott points at 0.8 cents.

My SPG valuation is pretty steady no matter how many you have because SPG points are valuable for free nights, Cash & Points stays, transfers to airline miles, SPG moments, and Nights & Flights awards.

My Marriott valuation changes a lot depending on how many you have. If you only have a few thousand, you can really only redeem for free nights, and I’d value your points around 0.5 cents. If you have enough to book Hotel + Air packages, a few hundred thousand points or more, then I’d value the points at 0.8 cents or even higher.

Your valuations may differ.

Under my valuations, there is some value in transferring 3 Marriott points to 1 SPG point. If you’re afraid that transfers will be cut off without notice, or the ratio will change, maybe you should transfer speculatively. I don’t see either thing happening, though, so I think there is no point in speculative transfers. Keep your balances as they are until you see an arbitrage opportunity for on an immediate redemption.

Credit Card Angle

Until at least 2018, we will see the Marriott and SPG credit cards stick around.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-37-24-pm You’ll want to get all the cards before 2018 when one or more might be killed off. Right now the SPG personal and business cards each offer 25,000 SPG points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The Marriott card offers 87,500 Marriott points after spending $3,000 in the first three months and adding an authorized user.

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After meeting minimum spending requirements, you’d have:

  • 56,000 SPG and 90,500 Marriott points
  • or 86,000 SPG points
  • or 258,500 Marriott points (which is just $4,000 more in spending on an SPG card short of the best Hotel + Air package values which cost 270,000 points)

Bottom Line

In the long run, it’s bad for our rewards when hotels or airlines merge. It means less competition and less need for the airlines or hotels to offer lucrative rewards programs.

But for the next two years or more, there will be a lot of ways to take advantage of the Marriott-Starwood merger by combining points and matching status.

Hat Tip Dan’s Deals

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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2

LifeMiles has been offering a 125% bonus on purchased miles this month, and now it is offering a 140% bonus on purchased miles through September 27, 2016.

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LifeMiles cost 3.3 cents each, so with a 140% bonus, you get the miles for 1.375 cents each.

The cheapest I’ve ever seen LifeMiles was 1.32 cents each.

The Steps to Purchase LifeMiles for 1.375 Cents

This deal is a bit more complicated than previous sales because it requires pre-registration. Then you have to wait 24 hours to purchase miles. You should get an email telling you when you can purchase miles.

You must register by Monday (9/26) and purchase by Tuesday (9/27.)

When to Buy (Math)

Here are the prices for each number of miles (including bonus) that you can purchase.

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  • 4,300 to 107,500 miles for 1.53 cents each
  • 117,300 to 230,000 miles for 1.43 cents each
  • 242,400 to 360,000 miles for 1.375 cents each

I value LifeMiles at 1.5 cents per mile at the moment. Buying them for 1.375 or 1.43 cents per mile is not enough of an inducement for me because I don’t have an immediate use for them, and miles get devalued all the time. I don’t want to shell out $1,700+ on such an uncertain investment.

Many people should have a similar view of this sale and buy zero miles. As with most mile sales, the main way it make sense to buy miles at these prices is if you have an immediate high value use for them.

Possible Immediate High Value Uses

There are a ton of deals on the LifeMiles award chart, which allows one way redemptions with no fuel surcharges on all 27 Star Alliance partners, so an immediate high value use is very possible.

Do not just use the award chart, though. Make sure you can book what you want to book on lifemiles.com. You can do an award search with zero miles in your account. The reason for this extra step is that if you can’t book your award online, LifeMiles call centers are nearly useless.

My stock example of a possible good deal during this buy miles sale is to buy miles to book a Business Class award to Europe.

Europe in Business Class

The United States to Europe is 63,000 LifeMiles each way in Business Class. The Star Alliance has great award space.

You could buy 64,500 miles (30,000 + bonus) for $990. That would get you a one way in Business Class for about $1,000 total after taxes.

See How to Consistently Buy Business Class Tickets to Europe for about $1,000 and Anatomy of an Award: Using LifeMiles to Buy Business Class Ticket Between Europe and USA for $1,040 for full details on these awards.

There are similar deals all over the world and in all cabins through this sale, too many to list here. Investigate where you want to go on the award chart and then make sure you can book the award you want. If the math works out, buy LifeMiles.

Buy LifeMiles with These Credit Cards

LifeMiles purchases are processed directly by Avianca. That’s great news!

It means you buy them with Chase Sapphire Reserve, and its $300 Travel Credit will refund the first $300 of the purchase price. Plus the spending will count toward the minimum spending requirement that unlocks the present 100,000 point bonus.

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It means you can buy them with your Citi Prestige® Card, and its $250 Air Travel Credit will refund you the first $250 of the purchase price of the miles (plus you’ll earn 4x ThankYou Points on the first $250 of the miles purchase.)

It means you can purchase LifeMiles with your Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, then use your Arrival miles for an offsetting statement credit.

Bottom Line

You can buy up to 360,000 Avianca LifeMiles for 1.375 cents each. That’s too high to buy speculatively, but there are a lot of immediate awards you can book where that price offers great value.

The LifeMiles sales are now processed by Avianca itself, so you can get category bonuses on cards that bonus airline or travel purchases like the Chase Sapphire Reserve which offers 3x on travel purchases and a $300 travel credit or the Citi Prestige® Card which offers 3x on purchases from airlines and a $250 Air Travel Credit.

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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Award space is wide open in Business Class on Austrian flights from Los Angeles to Vienna for Spring and Summer 2017 for 2-6 people per flight. Flat bed award space from the West Coast to Europe is rare, so hop on this now!

Product

Austrian Business Class features a staggered layout so that your bed’s foot area is under the arm rest of the row in front. This is not ideal because you can feel a little cramped, but this is a mere quibble with a flying flat bed.

I flew the product in 2013 from Vienna to Chicago, and I was impressed by the food (prepared by an onboard chef.) Others rave about the coffee selection.

Antipasti Cart

Award Space

Award space is wide open for 2-6 people in Business Class from Los Angeles to Vienna and back.

Connections are widely available to/from Los Angeles and to/from Vienna for no extra miles. From Vienna, Austrian serves all these destinations:

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Award Space to Vienna

All screen shots in this post show award space for two people. Dotted lines indicate Saver Business Class award space; solid lines indicate Saver economy award space.

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Los Angeles to Vienna starts five times a week on April 10, 2017 and increases to six times a week in June 2017.

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-1-24-09-amHere is the award space for six people on the direct flight.

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You can see that basically every day has economy award space for six people and most days have Business Class award space for six people. If you look for award space for only two people, even more days have Business Class award space.

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Award Space Back from Vienna

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Here is award space for two people from Vienna to Los Angeles. Almost every day has economy and Business Class award space.screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-1-28-22-amscreen-shot-2016-09-20-at-1-28-35-amscreen-shot-2016-09-20-at-1-28-45-am

Cheapest Miles

The award space is on Austrian Airlines planes, but you can use any Star Alliance mils to book it. Here are the award prices for this award space one way between the United States and Europe with different types of Star Alliance miles.

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Let me explain a few things:

  • United has two award charts. The cheaper one for flying United (or mostly United if you follow these rules) and the more expensive one is to fly its partners like this Austrian route.
  • Aeroplan divides Europe into two regions. The cheaper region is for Western Europe (including Vienna) and the more expensive region is Eastern Europe. You can see the complete region definitions here.
  • United, Copa, and LifeMiles don’t collect fuel surcharges on Austrian flights. Asiana, ANA, Singapore, Lufthansa, and Aeroplan do.

You can figure out the fuel surcharges by calling the airline whose miles you want to use or just looking on ITA Matrix. In this case, Los Angeles to Vienna roundtrip in Business Class has $873.50 in fuel surcharges (YQ + YR) and $1,005 in taxes plus fuel surcharges.

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Often fuel surcharges vary dramatically by route, so I also searched Los Angeles to Oslo roundtrip because I have seen low fuel surcharges out of Oslo before. It also had about $1,000 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

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However, a one way ticket from Oslo to Los Angeles in Austrian Business Class has only 1883 Norwegian Krona ($227) in taxes and fuel surcharges.

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For a one way award back from Europe on a low-surcharge route, I’d use 40,000 Asiana miles for Business Class and pay the fuel surcharges. For a roundtrip, I’d rather pay 126,000 LifeMiles or 140,000 United miles to avoid fuel surcharges.

Getting the Miles

The only ways to get Asiana miles are from the Asiana credit card or transfers from SPG points.

The easiest way to get LifeMiles is to buy them when they are on sale for under 1.5 cents like they are until September 30, 2016. You could buy enough LifeMiles for a roundtrip award in Asiana Business Class for under $2,000, which is quite a bit under the retail price of the flights.

The easiest miles to get are United miles since United releases several credit cards and is a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards.

Right now the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months.

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The card earns 3 points per dollar on travel and dining expenses and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

After spending that $4,000 in the first three months, you will end up with at least 104,000 Ultimate Rewards–more if some of that $4,000 was spent on travel or dining. That’s almost enough (115,000 miles) for a roundtrip United award in Business Class to Europe.

The card also offers a $300 statement credit each calendar year to offset travel expenses including the taxes you’d pay on the United award. (And including hotels, car rentals, or flights in Europe.)

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Bottom Line

There is excellent Austrian Business Class award space from Los Angeles to Vienna next spring and summer for up to six people with connection options throughout the United States and Europe. West Coast to Europe Business Class award space for so many people is almost unheard of.

Book the space with any Star Alliance miles. I recommend Asiana miles for one ways from Europe to the US and United miles or LifeMiles for roundtrip awards.

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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4
Scott and Daraius (Million Mile Secrets)

The Chicago Seminars is the oldest and best conference of frequent flyer miles enthusiasts. This year it is again being held near O’Hare Airport at the Holiday Inn Elk Grove from October 14 – 16 and again features a great line up of speakers, including:

I’d make a special effort to see Drew, Tiffany, Daraius, and Stefan.

Scott and Daraius (Million Mile Secrets)
Me and Daraius (Million Mile Secrets) at Chicago Seminars 2012

I’ll speak twice on Saturday.

At 9:45 AM: AA Live Booking (Scott / MileValue) – A step-by-step live demonstration of a booking using American Airlines miles. Using an example routing, I will look at the award chart to find the price, consult the award rules to determine valid routings, find the useful partners, search for award space on the appropriate search engines (using advanced searching techniques when necessary), and call American Airlines to put the award on hold (if technologically feasible.)

At 2:30 PM: Award Chart Sweet Spots (Scott / MileValue) – Whether you dream of a huge, round-the-world trip or just want to find the best use for each of your mileage balances, you need to know the sweet spots on each miles’ award charts. This presentation will cover some sweet spots with United, American, Delta, Alaska, Singapore, Korean, Flying Blue and many more miles. Plus there will be example itineraries that string together several miles’ sweet spots into amazing trips.

And I’ll be around all weekend to swap travel stories, meet readers, and learn some things myself. The whole seminars have an informal air, and if you go, you are almost certain to meet anyone you’d like to meet and can probably grab dinner with them too on Saturday night when big groups go to local restaurants.

The event costs only $105, and tickets remain. If you’ve never been to a frequent flyer miles conference, I recommend you go to this one.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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I’m mentally preparing for the Cigar Room, bubble bath, “First Class” stamped butter, Porsche rides, and the rest of the Lufthansa First Class Terminal and First Class experience because I just booked Lufthansa First Class from Zagreb to Washington-Dulles for 50,000 Asiana miles + $442.

This month I’ll get to spend a day in Munich at Oktoberfest with my sister and then luxuriously fly back to the United States. And I booked the ticket for less than half the miles United would charge for the identical ticket.

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I did have to start planning my trip a month before booking and wait until within 15 days of departure to finally book. Plus I had to endure a 30 minute phone call that doubled as a free lesson for the Asiana employee on how award tickets work and pay a few hundred dollars in fuel surcharges. But I still think I came out way ahead!

Asiana Miles

Asiana Airlines is a Seoul-based member of Star Alliance. Its miles can be used to book any Star Alliance airlines’ award space. Some of its award prices are terrible, but between the United States and Europe and the United States and South America, Asiana’s prices are incredibly cheap.

  • 27,500 miles one way in United First Class from US mainland to Hawaii
  • 27,500 miles one way in Business Class from US to Northern South America
  • 35,000 miles one way in Business Class from US to Southern South America
  • 40,000 miles one way in Business Class from US to Europe
  • 50,000 miles one way in First Class from US to Europe

Asiana collects fuel surcharges on flights that have fuel surcharges, except United flights. Flights to South America don’t have fuel surcharges, though, so those awards can be a great deal.

Flights from Europe to the United States have much lower fuel surcharges than vice versa, so I have recommended using Asiana miles to book Lufthansa First Class to the United States in the past. For as little as $150 in fuel surcharges, you can book Lufthansa First Class for 50,000 miles one way instead of the 110,000 miles one way United charges (with no fuel surcharges.)

Preparation

Lufthansa First Class is only ever made available to partners, like United or Asiana, within 15 days of departure. Transfers from SPG Starpoints to Asiana miles can take a few weeks.

About a month before you want to fly Lufthansa First Class with Asiana miles I recommend searching for award space on the route that interests you to see if you are reasonably likely to find it in a few weeks, and if you are, to transfer Starpoints to Asiana miles.

I did that a few weeks ago, and I detailed the process here.

Award Search

Once I got within 15 days of departure, I started award searching. I was looking for a very specific set of flights:

  • The 6:45 AM flight from Zagreb, where I’ve been most of the last few months, to Munich, where I had convinced my sister to meet me for a day of Oktoberfest.
  • The 7:00 AM flight the next day from Munich to Frankfurt because it takes off 23 hours after I land in Munich and because it gives me a 5 hour 15 minute layover in the First Class Terminal before…
  • The afternoon Lufthansa flight on a 747-8 from Frankfurt to Washington-Dulles

I could have instead looked for the quickest itinerary from Zagreb to DC. That would have been a one stop award with the layover in Munich or Frankfurt. If I’d chose Munich, though, I’d miss the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, and if I’d chosen Frankfurt, I’d miss Oktoberfest in Munich. So I wanted this more convoluted itinerary.

The first two flights have economy and Business Class. Like almost all intra-Europe Business Class, you get no extra legroom compared to economy; you just have the middle seat in your row blocked off for more elbow room. I’d slightly prefer that, but I was almost indifferent between finding economy and Business Class award space on those flights.

For the longhaul flight, I needed to find First Class award space for maximum enjoyment in the air and all the attendant benefits of flying Lufthansa First Class out of Frankfurt: namely access to the First Class Terminal and car rides over the tarmac to and from my flights.

I searched united.com for the award space because it is an easy place to search Lufthansa and Croatia Airlines award space, and any award space for those airlines on united.com is bookable with Asiana miles. (Miles truism: in almost all cases, airlines release award space equally to all partners.)

The rarer space was the Lufthansa First Class award space, so I started by searching for that. I was looking for this exact itinerary, and after a few days of searching, it became available for my preferred dates. I noted the flights times, flight numbers, and cabins.

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Then I searched for Zagreb to Munich for the day before the First Class flight, and found award space on the morning flight like I needed. I noted the date, cabin, and flight number.screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-8-43-17-pm

Award Booking

To book, always call the airline whose miles you’re using, so I called Asiana. Asiana has a weird two-step system for award booking. You have to call reservations Monday through Friday between 8:30 AM and 5:30 PM PT to reserve the ticket, and then you have until 5:30 PM PT the next day to ticket the award with Asiana Club.

I called Asiana at 213-365-4500 and followed automated prompts to reservations. The agent asked for my date and cities of travel. I gave them to her, and her computer spit out some convenient one stop First Class itineraries that I didn’t want because I wanted the complicated one discussed above.

I asked her to to look up the three flights I wanted by date, cabin, and flight number, and she said she couldn’t do it on one ticket. She could only ticket the options her computer gave her.

I said, “Fine, let’s just look up all three of these flights separately and see what they cost.” She had no problem finding the award space I fed her from united.com.

She confidently quoted me a price of 90,000 Asiana miles and $442.

I had no idea where 90,000 came from, and I told her that my reading of Asiana’s award chart and award rules indicated that the price should be 50,000 miles one way. (I wasn’t 100% sure I was right because maybe Asiana has a maximum layover time other than 24 hours, which is the award ticket standard but is not universal. But I figured it might pay off to be polite and confident.)

She put me on hold and came back to quote me a price of 75,000 miles. I knew where this price came from. The intra-Europe Business Class price is 25,000 Asiana miles and the Europe-to-USA First Class price is 50,000 miles. The ticket was apparently pricing as two separate awards, presumably because of my 23 hour layover.

I pushed back again and said, “I don’t understand. Flyasiana.com shows a price of 50,000 miles. Can you double check this?” She put me on hold for 10 more minutes and came back with good news.

“The [I forget what she said, maybe “Asiana Club experts” or “Star Alliance desk” or something] confirmed that the price is 50,000 Asiana miles and $442.

At this point she offered to connect me to Asiana Club to ticket the award, but this 30 minute call had made me late for something else, so I just took down the 8 digit reservation code to call Asiana Club back the next day before 5:30 PM PT.

A word on the $442

I have discussed how you can limit the out-of-pocket price of a Lufthansa First Class award booked with Asiana miles to $203 by returning to the US from a city with low taxes on a route with low fuel surcharges.

I didn’t have flexibility on my return city, though. A normal Lufthansa First Class ticket from Zagreb to Washington-Dulles has 1,860 Croatian kuna ($276) of taxes and fuel surcharges according to ITA Matrix.

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My ticket has $442 because the taxes and fees are being calculated as Zagreb to Munich plus Munich to Washington-Dulles because of the long layover in Munich.

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I considered other options like taking a seven hour bus ride to Munich for 20 euros and then starting the award there, but that would actually have only saved me about $60 on the award because awards from Munich have high taxes and fuel surcharges.

So I could have spent a lot less than $442 out of pocket, but I paid that high of a price to get the exact cities I wanted. This $442 out of pocket is ripe for the use of a Travel Statement Credit from the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which gives you a $300 credit per calendar year to offset any travel expense, including fuel surcharges and award taxes. That’s in addition to the card’s 100,000 point sign up bonus.

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Ticketing

I called back the day after I reserved my Asiana award to ticket. This time I followed prompts for Asiana Club and gave my reservation number. The agent found my award, quoted me the 50,000 miles + $442 price, and took my credit card number.

A few hours later, I had my ticket by email.

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Seat Selection

To double check that the airline I’m flying sees my ticket, and to get the seats I want, I always contact the airline I’m flying to select seats.

In this case, I entered the six character “Reservation No.” from the email Asiana sent me into the home page of Lufthansa.com to manage my reservation. I was able to select seats or special meals for both the Croatia Airlines flight and Lufthansa flights.

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First Class on the Lufthansa 747-8 as three rows in the nose of the main deck. The first and second row just have two window seats each. The third row has window seats and a pair of connected middle seats, ideal for people traveling together. I chose seat 1K to be right in the nose.

Getting the Miles

Asiana miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of SPG Starpoints, which you can get from the American Express SPG personal and business credit cards. For every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, you get 5,000 bonus Asiana miles, so this award cost me 40,000 Starpoints.

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Additionally, Bank of America just increased the sign up bonus on its Asiana credit card to 30,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Bottom Line

I had to plan ahead, use obscure miles, wait until the last 15 days before departure to finally ticket my award, pay fuel surcharges, and endure over 30 minutes on the phone.

But all that was worth it to pay 40,000 Starpoints (50,000 Asiana miles) to fly Lufthansa First Class from Zagreb to Washington DC with a 23 hour layover at Oktoberfest and a five hour layover at the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt. For the same ticket, United would charge 110,000 miles.

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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Application Quick Links (thanks for your support!):

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For a limited time, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus comes with 50,000 bonus Arrival miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. The old bonus was 40,000 points.

The card earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. You can redeem the miles to offset any travel expense greater than $100 inside your Barclaycard account within 120 days of the purchase. Here is How to Redeem Arrival Miles.

Arrival miles can be redeemed for any travel expense like any flight (no blackouts), taxes and fees on award tickets, hotels, Airbnb, car rentals, cruises, and more. You also get a 5% miles rebate on all redemptions and earn miles on any flight redemption.

After meeting the minimum spending requirement on the card, you’ll have at least 56,000 Arrival miles, which you could redeem to offset a $560 charge.  And when you redeem the miles, you get the 5% rebate back instantly, so redeeming 56,000 would offer 2,800 miles back, worth another $28. It’s great for travel as it has no foreign transaction fees and is a Mastercard, which means you will probably pay less in currency conversion fees.

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There are two reasons to get this card: 2% back on all purchases and a sign up bonus worth $500 in free travel. Let’s talk about them in turn.

2% Back on All Purchases

The rewards of the Arrival Plus are simple. You earn two miles per dollar on all purchases. Each mile is worth 1 cents when redeemed for travel.

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

See how to redeem Arrival miles.

Travel expenses are defined broadly and include:

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

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

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

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

What I’ve described so far is only 2% back, but you can do better:

  1. If you redeem Arrival miles for travel expenses you get 5% of the redeemed miles back instantly as a rebate. Let’s go back to the same example we just looked at.
    Example revisited: We redeemed 15,000 miles for a $150 flight. Since the redemption was for travel, we get 5% of the miles back. 750 miles will be redeposited into our account.
  2. You earn 2 miles per dollar even on purchases that you redeem miles to redeem from your statement.
    Example revisited again: When we purchased the $150 flight, we earned 300 Arrival miles.

That means the net result is we spend 13,950 Arrival miles [750 + 300 – 15,000] and get a $150 ticket, or 1.075 cents of value per mile!

How does 2% back on all purchases compare to other cards?

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

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

$500 in Free Travel

For a limited time, the Arrival Plus has increased its sign up bonus to 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of card membership.

Those 50,000 miles can be redeemed for $500 in free travel. And doing that will trigger a 5% rebate in points. You can use that 2,500 points for $25 more in free travel.

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

Who Should Not Get This Card

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

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

Who Should Get This Card

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

  • Economy Flyers– If you mainly fly economy class, it’s hard to get even 1.5 cents of value per traditional mile. Most miles cards earn 1 mile per dollar, meaning they get economy flyers 1.5 cents of travel per dollar spent–if that! The Arrival Plus gets economy flyers (and everyone else) 2 cents of travel per dollar spent.
  • Families– Families have two things working against them. It’s tough to book four capacity-controlled award seats on the same flight, and they usually have little date flexibility since they want to travel over school breaks. The “miles” earned on the Arrival Plus don’t require you to find award seats. They can be redeemed toward any travel purchase. A family can book four tickets to Disneyland and use their miles from this card to make that flight–whatever flight they want–free.
  • Domestic Flyers- You’d have to spend $25,000 on a United, American, or Delta credit card AND find award space on the flights you want to get a domestic roundtrip. You’d have to spend far less on the Arrival Plus, and you can book any flight you want.
  • Points Omnivores- This is my category. I’ll collect any mile or point I can to get more travel. I collect other types to get into international First Class. I’ll collect this type to fly to more mundane places in economy class. A dollar saved is still a dollar saved.

Other Card Info

Here are the main things to know:

  • No annual fee for the first 12 months, then $89
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that’s enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Redeem for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise. Redemption values vary
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on anything you buy while in another country
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.24%, 20.24% or 23.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers.

Recap

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus is currently offering a sign up bonus worth $500 in free travel, plus the card earns 2% back toward travel on all spending!

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

I predicted that the Arrival Plus would increase its sign up bonus to 50,000 miles by February 2016, so I was seven months off.

Get the Arrival Plus now during the increased sign up bonus!

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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There are a lot of reasons to collect miles and points.

  • For free luxury hotel stays and First Class flights
  • To travel to more countries than you could otherwise afford
  • To take your family on vacation
  • To visit home for the holidays
  • To earn big rewards for everyday spending

Whatever your reason for coming to MileValue, there is a rewards card that suit your needs.

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Swimming in a Cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

In the last few years, I’ve been to dozens of countries, travel that would have been completely impossible without miles and points earned from credit cards. This has been my life thanks to miles:

And I’ve generally flown Business or First Class between those adventures on tickets that cost me not thousands or hundreds of dollars, but tens of dollars.

If you don’t have the money to take your dream trips, the good news is that you don’t need much money. By maximizing the sign up bonuses on rewards cards, anyone with good credit can take a dream trip anywhere in the world.

Where I've Been Through July 2016
Where I’ve Been Through September 2016

Here are, in my opinion, the top ten rewards credit cards right now.

1. Sapphire Reserve

I think the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the best credit card offer ever.

It offers an astounding 100,000 Ultimate Rewards after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Singapore, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and more.

You get a $300 travel credit each calendar year, which can be applied twice within the first year of card membership for a total of $600 in travel credit.

Chase Sapphire Reserve holders also get a free Priority Pass Select membership, which gives you access to over 900 lounges around the world, and free unlimited guest access to those lounges for anyone you’re traveling with.

The Sapphire Reserve offers 3x Ultimate Rewards on travel and restaurants. Travel and restaurants are broad categories and include flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, tolls, parking, Uber, taxis, restaurants, bars, fast food, and night clubs.

The $450 annual fee is not waived, but you can see how the benefits more than make up for it.

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2. Ink Plus

The Ink Plus is a business card that offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Singapore, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and more.

For the reasons presented in this post, this is one of the first three cards I recommend you get if you can get a business card.

The Ink Plus earns 5x points on internet, phone, and cell phone bills; 5x points on purchases at office supply stores; 2x points on hotels and gas; and 1x points on everything else.

The $95 annual fee is not waived.

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3. Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a personal card that earns 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, Singapore, British Airways, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and more.

For the reasons presented in this post, this is one of the first two cards I recommend everyone get.

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

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

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

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4. Citi Prestige® Card

The Citi Prestige comes with the best perks of any credit card and big bonus points as well. Earn 40,000 bonus points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. You can read my full review of the Citi Prestige here. 

You’ll also get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, which can be applied twice within the first year card membership for a total of $500 in Air Travel Credit.

You’ll also receive a statement credit, up to $100 every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre √®, a complimentary 4th night for any hotel stay at hotels booked through Citi Prestige® Concierge, and a free Priority Pass Select membership.

Transfer points to 12 airline loyalty programs or 1 hotel program for the most outsized value. Points are also redeemable for 1.33 cents each on any airline’s cash tickets (sign-up bonus is worth $532 redeeming this way).

The category bonuses are stellar as well: earn 3x points on air travel and hotels and 2x points on dining at restaurants and entertainment. This is a great card to put the majority of your spending on as I assume all of us as avid travelers spend a good amount within those categories.

Application Quick Links (thanks for your support!):

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5. British Airways Card

The British Airways Visa Signature card comes with 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the card.

The card comes with 3 Avios per dollar on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios per dollar on other purchases.

British Airways Avios are perfect for short, direct, economy flights on British Airways partners that do not levy fuel surcharges like these partners.

For instance, the west coast to Hawaii on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flights for 12,500 Avios or only 4,500 Avios between Cuzco and Lima, Peru are two of the sweet spots.

The card has a $95 annual fee that is NOT waived.

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6. Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Membership Rewards transfer to around 20 hotel and airline programs including Delta, Singapore, and British Airways.

The card has a $475 annual fee in the first year. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status. For more info on setting up and maximizing the benefits, see Get the Most Out of Your Platinum Card.

Landing Page: Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz

The “regular” Platinum card is worse than this offer because it has a smaller sign up bonus and only a $25 lower annual fee.

7. Asiana Visa Signature Card

Bank of America’s Asiana Visa Signature Card comes with 30,000 Asiana miles after spending $3,000 on the card within three months of opening it.

Category bonuses included 3 Asiana miles per dollar spent on Asiana purchases and 2 miles per dollar spent on gas and at grocery stores.

You’ll also get a handful of valuable annual benefits, like:

  • a $100 rebate on Asiana tickets
  • a 10,000 mile bonus when you book an Asiana award flying Asiana (internationally or within Korea)
  • two invitations to Asiana lounges within the United States.

Here are some of Asiana’s high value awards:

To some regions, Asiana’s award chart is so under-priced that some awards are a good deal even after fuel surcharges. Plus, I love flying to South America, and no Star Alliance flights to South America have fuel surcharges, meaning I get the insanely good award chart without having to pay much cash out of pocket.

The $99 annual fee is not waived. You can read our full review of the Asiana Visa Signature Card here.

8. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card is the best card for giving you free luxury hotel nights. The card comes with two free weekend nights at Hiltons worldwide after spending $2,500 in the first four months. The free nights are best spent at top-tier Hiltons and Conrads that can go for $1,000 or more per night.

This card is perfect to get aspirational stays at top tier properties like the Conrad Koh Samui that goes for 95,000 Hilton points per night and costs more than $1k per night.

The card also comes with Hilton Gold Status, so you can enjoy free internet and breakfast on those free stays.

The card earns 10x points on Hilton stays, 5x on airlines and car rentals, and 3x on all other purchases.

There card has no foreign transaction fee. The annual fee is $95.

Application Quick Links (thanks for your support!):

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9. Barclaycard Arrival Plus

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus comes with 50,000 bonus Arrival miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

The card earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. You can redeem the miles to offset any travel expense greater than $100 inside your Barclaycard account within 120 days of the purchase. Here is How to Redeem Arrival Miles.

Arrival miles can be redeemed for any travel expense like any flight (no blackouts), taxes and fees on award tickets, hotels, airbnb, car rentals, cruises, and more. You also get a 5% rebate on all redemptions.

After meeting the minimum spending requirement on the card, you’ll have at least 56,000 Arrival miles, which you could redeem to offset a $560 charge.  And when you redeem the miles, you get the 5% rebate back instantly, so redeeming 56,000 would offer 2,800 miles back, worth another $28. It’s great for travel as it has no foreign transaction fees and is a Mastercard, which means you will probably pay less in currency conversion fees.

Application Quick Links (thanks for your support!):

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10. Freedom Unlimited

The Freedom Unlimited comes with 15,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $500 in the first three months and 2,500 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user.

For the reasons presented in this post, this is one of the first two cards I recommend everyone get.

The Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on all purchases.

Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed at a rate of 1 cent each– that’s why all the marketing of the card features cash back language. BUT if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus card (#1 and #5 on this list), there is a second way of redeeming the Freedom Unlimited’s Ultimate Rewards: transfer them to your Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus account and from there to airline miles or hotel points. I call this the Freedom Two Step.

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I value several of the transfer partners’ miles in the 1.6 to 1.8 cent range, so the Freedom Two Step should allow you to get far more than 1 cent of value from those same Ultimate Rewards.

Check out my full post on the Freedom Two Step for more explanation, screenshots of the process, and high value awards with the partner programs.

The Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee.

Application Quick Links (thanks for your support!):

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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3

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months.

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The card earns 3 points per dollar on travel and dining expenses and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months, 5,000 bonus points for adding an authorized user, and 2 points per dollar on travel and dining.

The “dining” category on each card has just taken a hit. The following sub-categories are no longer considered dining:

  • bakeries
  • catering
  • dairy product stores

That means purchases in those sub-categories will now only earn one point per dollar on the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve. That’s a mild bummer.

The sub-categories that still earn 3x on the Sapphire Reserve and still earn 2x on the Sapphire Preferred are:

  • Restaurants
  • Fast Food
  • Bars
  • Coffee Shops
  • Flights
  • Hotels
  • Car Rentals
  • Cruises
  • Uber/Lyft/Taxis
  • Parking
  • Tolls
  • Airbnb
  • Subways
  • Trains
  • Travel Agencies
  • Online Travel Agencies
  • Airline taxes and fees including change fees, upgrade fees, fuel surcharges, and cancellation fees

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Hat Tip Dans Deals

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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3

Award space is wide open in Business Class on United flights to Brussels and Amsterdam for Summer 2017 for 2+ people. That means you can book your family flat beds to Europe for as little as 40,000 miles plus taxes with no fuel surcharges.

Product

United Business Class features a comfortable flat bed, but it isn’t up to the standards of the absolute best products in the world because there are as many as eight narrow beds per row.

Only true aficionados will complain. The rest of us will just get a good sleep on the flat bed that features improved meals and new bedding from December 1, 2016.

Here are trip reports from flying United Business Class, so you know what to expect:

Award Space

Award space is wide open for 2-4 people in Business Class from Washington-Dulles, Chicago, and Newark to Brussels and all those American cities plus Houston to Amsterdam.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to connect on United flights from your home airport to Houston, Chicago, Washington, or Newark. All four airports are huge United hubs with flights from all over the country. Connecting flights within the continental United States and Canada will add nothing to the mileage price of the award.

If you’re not interested in Brussels or Amsterdam, you can connect in Brussels to Star Alliance carrier Brussels Airlines. They have a big route network in Europe and Africa. From Brussels, they serve all these destinations:

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Add in a layover or stopover in Brussels for street waffle time.

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Award Space to Brussels

All screen shots in this post show award space for two people. Dotted lines indicate Saver Business Class award space; solid lines indicate Saver economy award space.

Chicago has excellent award space to Brussels next July and August with economy award space on 42/46 days and premium award space on 37/46 days.

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Washington-Dulles has even better award space between the United and Brussels Airlines flights.screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-12-22-04-pm There is economy award space on 43/46 days through August 15 and premium cabin award space on 42/46 days.screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-12-22-15-pm

Newark has the spottiest award space, but it is still excellent: 35/46 days in economy and 25/46 days in Business.
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Award Space to Amsterdam

There is great award space in economy and good award space in Business Class from Houston and Chicago to Amsterdam. There is even more Business Class award space from Dulles and Newark.

Houston has only 19/46 days with Business Class award space.screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-12-24-46-pm screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-12-24-55-pmChicago has only 17/46 days with Business Class award space to Amsterdam next July and August.screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-12-25-39-pm screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-12-25-47-pm But Dulles has 44/46 days with Business Class award space for at least two people to Amsterdam.screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-12-26-35-pm screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-12-26-43-pm And Newark has 30/46 days with Business Class award space.screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-12-27-13-pm screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-12-27-18-pm

Cheapest Miles

Just because the award space is on United planes does not mean you should use United miles to book the space. All United partners have equal access to the Saver award space on United flights you see on united.com (as long as you don’t sign in before searching.)

Here are the award prices for the United award space one way between the United States and Europe.

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Let me explain a few things:

  • United has two award charts. The cheaper one for flying United (or mostly United if you follow these rules) and the more expensive one is to fly its partners.
  • Aeroplan divides Europe into two regions. The cheaper region is for Western Europe and the more expensive region is Eastern Europe. You can see the complete region definitions here.
  • All these miles allow one way bookings except ANA. The real ANA price is twice the ones listed here for one ways or a roundtrip.
  • None of these programs collect fuel surcharges on United flights to Europe except Lufthansa.

So, for a one way award Asiana is clearly the best at 40,000 miles one way in Business Class. For a roundtrip, ANA awards are not far behind at 88,000 miles. United charges 57,500 miles one way for its own flights.

Getting the Miles

The only ways to get Asiana miles are from the Asiana credit card or transfers from SPG points.

You can get ANA miles by transferring from American Express Membership Rewards or SPG points.

The easiest miles to get are United miles since United releases several credit cards and is a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards.

Right now the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months.

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The card earns 3 points per dollar on travel and dining expenses and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

After spending that $4,000 in the first three months, you will end up with at least 104,000 Ultimate Rewards–more if some of that $4,000 was spent on travel or dining. That’s almost enough (115,000 miles) for a roundtrip United award in Business Class to Europe.

Bottom Line

There is excellent United Business Class award space to Brussels and Amsterdam next summer with connection options throughout the United States and Europe. Book the space with any Star Alliance miles.

Hat Tip Mile Cards

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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3

Avianca LifeMiles is offering a bonus of up to 125% on purchased miles through September 30, 2016. You can buy up to 150,000 LifeMiles during the sale and get up to 187,500 bonus miles.

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LifeMiles cost 3.3 cents each, so with a 125% bonus, you get the miles for 1.47 cents each. For instance, 227,250 total miles would be $3,333 or 1.47 cents each.

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The cheapest I’ve ever seen LifeMiles was 1.32 cents each.

When to Buy (Math)

Here are the prices for each number of miles (including bonus) that you can purchase.

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  • 4,000 to 100,000 miles for 1.65 cents each
  • 109,650 to 215,000 miles for 1.53 cents each
  • 227,250 to 337,500 miles for 1.47 cents each

I value LifeMiles at 1.5 cents per mile at the moment. Buying them for 1.47 cents per mile is not enough of an inducement for me because I don’t have an immediate use for them, and miles get devalued all the time. I don’t want to shell out $3,000+ on such an uncertain investment.

Many people should have a similar view of this sale and buy zero miles. As with most mile sales, the main way it make sense to buy miles at these prices is if you have an immediate high value use for them.

Possible Immediate High Value Uses

There are a ton of deals on the LifeMiles award chart, which allows one way redemptions with no fuel surcharges on all 27 Star Alliance partners, so an immediate high value use is very possible.

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Do not just use the award chart, though. Make sure you can book what you want to book on lifemiles.com. You can do an award search with zero miles in your account. The reason for this extra step is that if you can’t book your award online, LifeMiles call centers are nearly useless.

My stock example of a possible good deal during this buy miles sale is to buy miles to book a Business Class award to Europe.

Europe in Business Class

The United States to Europe is 63,000 LifeMiles each way in Business Class. The Star Alliance has great award space.

You could buy 26,000 miles (13,000 + bonus) for $429 and buy the last 37,000 miles for $555 at the time of booking. That would get you a one way in Business Class for about $1,000 total after taxes.

See How to Consistently Buy Business Class Tickets to Europe for about $1,000 and Anatomy of an Award: Using LifeMiles to Buy Business Class Ticket Between Europe and USA for $1,040 for full details on these awards.

There are similar deals all over the world and in all cabins through this sale, too many to list here. Investigate where you want to go on the award chart and then make sure you can book the award you want. If the math works out, buy LifeMiles.

Buy LifeMiles with These Credit Cards

LifeMiles purchases are processed directly by Avianca. That’s great news!

It means you buy them with Chase Sapphire Reserve, and its $300 Travel Credit will refund the first $300 of the purchase price. Plus the spending will count toward the minimum spending requirement that unlocks the present 100,000 point bonus.

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It means you can buy them with your Citi Prestige® Card, and its $250 Air Travel Credit will refund you the first $250 of the purchase price of the miles (plus you’ll earn 4x ThankYou Points on the first $250 of the miles purchase.)

It means you can purchase LifeMiles with your Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, then use your Arrival miles for an offsetting statement credit.

Bottom Line

You can buy 227,250 Avianca LifeMiles for $3,333 or 1.47 cents each. That’s too high to buy speculatively, but there are a lot of immediate awards you can book where that price offers great value.

The LifeMiles sales are now processed by Avianca itself, so you can get category bonuses on cards that bonus airline or travel purchases like the Chase Sapphire Reserve which offers 3x on travel purchases and a $300 travel credit or the Citi Prestige® Card which offers 3x on purchases from airlines and a $250 Air Travel Credit.

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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39

The Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® is offering up to 90,000 bonus miles but there are quite a few strings attached.

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The bottom line is that you earn 127,500 Virgin Atlantic miles after spending $25,000 in the first year on the card and paying $180 in annual fees. The offer breaks down like this:

25,000 Immediate Miles after First Purchase, Adding Authorized Users, and Paying Annual Fee

  • 20,000 Flying Club bonus miles after your first retail purchase
  • Earn 2,500 Flying Club miles for each authorized user you add to the card up to 5,000 Flying Club bonus miles
  • The card has a $90 annual fee that is NOT waived the first year.

This is 25,000 total miles just for opening the card, adding two authorized users, making one purchase, and paying the $90 annual fee.

Miles as Soon as You Spend $12,000 within 6 Months

  • 50,000 additional Flying Club bonus miles after you spend at least $12,000 in qualifying purchases within 6 months of your account open date

We’re up to 75,000 bonus miles. Plus the card earns 1.5 miles per dollar on all purchases, so you’d have 93,000 Virgin Atlantic miles after spending $12,000 on the card.

Miles Next Year

  • Earn 7,500 bonus miles upon anniversary if you spend $15,000 in a year on the card
  • Earn 15,000 bonus miles upon anniversary if you spend $25,000 in a year on the card
  • The card has a $90 annual fee that you’d have to pay again to get these anniversary miles.

The first anniversary bonus threshold is only $3,000 beyond the minimum spending requirement, so that seems like a no-brainer if you’ve gotten this far. You’d get 12,000 miles for that $3,000 in spending (4,500 for the normal spending and 7,500 bonus) or 4 miles per dollar.

The last 7,500 bonus miles would cost another $10,000 in spending, so the return isn’t nearly as good.

If you spent $25,000 on the card in the first year (and $12,000 was in the first six months, and you added two authorized users), your total haul would be 127,500 Virgin Atlantic miles.

  • 90,000 for the various bonuses
  • 37,500 for $25,000 * 1.5 miles per dollar on all spending

You would also have paid $180 in annual fees.

Three Reasons Why You Want Virgin Atlantic Miles

1. AMONG THE CHEAPEST ECONOMY AND PREMIUM ECONOMY AWARDS TO EUROPE (IN MILES)

The first reason to get Virgin Atlantic miles is that economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one way flight to London.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are only $135!

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $135 and return from a low tax country–like Spain or Switzerland–to the United States on a one way award with United or American miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Limited Time to Europe: 14k Points.

Or you can fly one way from parts of the United States to the United Kingdom in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles (22k ThankYou Points) and $231.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video.

Virgin Atlantic has frequent 30% off sales on awards between the United States and Europe. One is happening now through September 22. It offers one way in economy to London for 12,250 miles and one way in Premium Economy for 19,250 miles. If you transfer speculatively during a 25% transfer bonus from ThankYou Points (like this one that ended last April) and another 30% off sale comes up in the future, you” pay only 10,000 ThankYou Points one way to London or 16,000 ThankYou Points one way in Premium Economy. That’s un-freakin-beatable!

Here are the sweet spots on the Virgin Atlantic award chart.

2. INCREDIBLE VALUE PARTNER AWARDS

Virgin Atlantic has several airline partners. Each has its own award chart, and the values can be good. Best of all, on many partners, Virgin Atlantic doesn’t collect any fuel surcharges!

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Award prices including unavoidable government taxes (none include fuel surcharges):

  • Atlanta to Buenos Aires roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 45,000 miles + $99
  • Los Angeles to Auckland roundtrip in Business Class on Air New Zealand: 125,000 miles + $69
  • London to New York roundtrip in Economy Class on Delta: 40,000 miles + $186

Here are the sweet spots on the partner award charts.

3. VIRGIN ATLANTIC UPPER CLASS

Virgin Atlantic’s Business Class–called Upper Class–is world class.

Virgin Atlantic offers its Flying Club members the best award availability, but the catch is the fuel surcharges (plus departing London taxes) of around $1,000 per roundtrip award in Upper Class.

While the out-of-pocket cost is a big drawback, the miles prices are very low. New York and Chicago to London are only 40k miles one way in Upper Class and Los Angeles and San Francisco to London in Upper Class are only 50k miles one way.


Roundtrip Miles Prices to UK with Flying Club Miles listed Economy, Premium Economy, Upper Class from left to right

Right now award space is excellent in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for two people who want to fly next summer. For instance, here is Atlanta to London’s calendar. Dates with a purple line underneath have two Upper Class award seats (which is every day in May except one).

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If you want to avoid fuel surcharges, Delta miles can be used to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 62.5k miles one way plus taxes and no fuel surcharges.

Should You Get the Virgin Atlantic Credit Card?

Probably not. I know the headline bonus miles number is humungous, but the miles are not as valuable as American, United, or Alaska miles, and the spending requirement is huge.

Only get the card if you have gotten other, better cards already, you can easily meet the big spending requirement on this card, and you can get good value from one of the few truly good uses of the card’s miles.

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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5

If you live in a western city with a direct American Airlines or Alaska Airlines post, skip this post and read All the 12,500 Avios Routes to Hawaii instead of this post. Currently that’s Los Angeles, Phoenix, Anchorage, Bellingham, Seattle, Portland, Oakland, San Jose, and San Diego.

Destination weddings don’t need to break the bank for attendees. Airfare can cost as little as the roundtrip aviation taxes to your destination ($11 to Hawaii), and, worst case scenario, you can always get $460 off the cheapest fare to your destination.

Lanikai MidPac Country Club
Lanikai and the Mokulua Islands from MidPac Country Club

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

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

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

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

For other destination weddings:

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

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

Step 1. Search for Award Space on United.com

Ideally you could use 35,000 miles and about $11 for a roundtrip from anywhere in the United States to Honolulu.

I say “ideally” because United will need to release award space at the Saver level for your award to cost 35,000 miles. Saver award space is capacity controlled, and airlines only release it when they expect there to be empty seats on the plane.

The low season in Hawaii is basically everything except summer, so if the wedding is in, say, February, your chances of finding Saver award space are great.

To search for Saver award space from your home airport to Honolulu, go to united.com. The search box is right on the home page. (Do NOT sign into united.com before searching for reasons beyond the scope of this post.)

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Enter your home airport as the starting point and Honolulu (HNL) as the destination. Select your preferred dates, the number of passengers, and “Search for award travel.” Click “Search.”

On the results page, you’re looking for an itinerary in the “Economy (lowest)” column that says “22.5k miles” and “Saver Award” like these three.

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Itineraries that say “45k miles” are useless to you.

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You’re looking for a desirable itinerary in each direction with Saver award space. Click through to the pricing page and it will say 45,000 United miles + $11.20 per person. All searches in this post were for two people, so my pricing page said double that: 90,000 miles and $22.40 for two people…

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…for this roundtrip from Columbia, South Carolina to Honolulu.

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If you’ve gotten this far, you are in good shape and will proceed to step 2a, getting a Sapphire Reserve. If no desirable itineraries appear with Saver space, proceed to step 2b, getting an Arrival Plus.

I think most people will find a desirable Saver itinerary outside of the summer months. United has tons of daily flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Denver, and Newark to Hawaii with connections to everywhere else in the country. If you’re starting in a big United city like Chicago, there is Saver award space most days during the winter for two passengers.

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Even if you start in a small city like Columbia, South Carolina there is plenty of award space if you are flexible with departure and arrival dates by a day or two.

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First Class

You can easily fly First Class with miles instead of economy. This will cost less than double the miles. Unfortunately First Class to Hawaii is often just standard domestic First Class, which is hardly luxurious, though sometimes you get “Hawaii-configured” planes with a little more leg room or true flat-bed First Class.

The process to book First Class is the same as above except you need to find Saver award space in the “First Saver Award column.” Any itinerary listed as “40k miles” there is good. Beware, though, of “Mixed cabin” warnings. By clicking the warning, you can see which segment is in economy and which is in First class. You can book these Mixed cabin awards for the full First Class price.

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You can book one way in economy and one way in First Class for 62,500 United miles per person.

Step 2: Get the Right Credit Card

2a. If there was good space on United.com, get the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

If you found space in the previous section get the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It’s the best rewards credit card ever.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months.

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The card earns 3 points per dollar on travel and dining expenses and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

After spending that $4,000 in the first three months, you will end up with at least 104,000 Ultimate Rewards–more if some of that $4,000 was spent on travel or dining. That’s enough for two roundtrips to Hawaii with one way in First Class and one in economy or 1,000 points short of three roundtrips to Hawaii in economy.

Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to miles with several airlines including United and Singapore miles.

Once all your Ultimate Rewards post to your Chase Sapphire Reserve account–which will happen when your first statement closes after you meet the minimum spending requirement–you’ll want to go back to united.com and make sure award space still exists on your dates. If it does, you could transfer 45,000 points per person to United miles and book the award. That’s instant and easy and dumb.

Instead, transfer 35,000 points per person for economy, 60,000 points per person for First Class, or 47,500 points per person for one way in economy and one way in First Class to Singapore miles. Singapore miles can book all the same Saver United award space you found, but for fewer miles. Look, I’m sure at this point your head is spinning, and this all sounds complicated, but this is easy as pie. Just read this post for the step-by-step process to do this all in 15 minutes.

If instead, when you go to united.com after getting your points, Saver space has disappeared–and airline award space is dynamic–all is not lost. The Ultimate Rewards from the Sapphire Reserve can be used for 1.5 cents toward the cost of any flight. In this case, skip to step three.

One final note on the Chase Sapphire Reserve: The card has a $450 annual fee due immediately. But in addition to the 100,000 bonus points, you get a $300 travel credit each calendar year: the first $300 in “travel” expenses you put on the card between now and December get refunded and the first $300 in “travel” expenses you put on the card after January 2017. That’s $600 you can use toward hotels, Airbnb, other flights, taxis, parking, car rentals, cruises, Uber, etc., etc. for the first $450 annual fee. That means you make $150 ($600 – $450 = $150) in the first 12 months you have the card. And you get the 100,000 bonus points. And you get free airport lounge access with the card. You can cancel the card any time in the next 12 months to avoid another $450 annual fee.

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2b. If there was NO Saver space on United.com, get the Arrival Plus.

If your search in Step 1 turned up empty, get the Barclaycard Arrival Plus with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days.

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This card earns 2 Arrival miles per dollar on all purchases.

These are not true airline miles. They are just bank points–like those ones that Capital One is always advertising–that can be used to book any flight on any airline like cash.

The miles are worth 1 cent per mile toward any airfare you find.

After meeting the minimum spending requirement, you’d have 46,000 Arrival miles, which are worth $460 in free travel.

One cool thing about Arrival miles is how they are redeemed. You put any travel expense on the credit card including airfare, hotels, car rentals, and much more, and then you have 120 days to go online and redeem Arrival miles for a full or partial credit to offset that travel expense. (Redeeming is super easy. Here’s how.)

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That means if you get this card, you can immediately look to purchase your ticket to Honolulu with the card. Then whenever your bonus miles post, you can go in and use your 46,000 miles for $460 off the cost of your flight.

One final note on the Arrival Plus: the card has no annual fee for the first 12 months, then it is $89 per year. You can cancel the card any time before that annual fee to avoid it. Before canceling make sure to redeem any points, or you will lose them.

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Step 3: Set a Kayak Price Alert to Stretch Your Arrival Miles Farther

When using Arrival miles, your miles go farther if you find the cheapest possible cash ticket.

(The same thing applies if you got the Sapphire Reserve, but United award space disappeared, so now you are here looking to use your points to book paid flights at a rate of 1.5 cents per point.)

The way I consistently get the best deals on paid tickets is to set Kayak price alerts.

Basically you set up an alert for a certain route on certain dates with a few clicks, then you get an email every morning with the price of those flights. When the price dips, you buy!

Go to kayak.com, and perform a search for your cities and dates. I like to start with a multi-city search when I am flexible to see how day of the week affects price. To perform a multi-city search, select “Show flexible dates” and “+/- 3 days,” and then select your flexibility from the dropdown.

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Results of a flexible search look like this with a matrix of prices depending on departure and return dates.

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From that info, narrow down your desired dates to one or two dates in each direction. Go back to the home search screen.

Search each possible pair of departure and return dates one at a time.

In the top left corner of the search results, click the orange button that says “Create a price alert.”

Repeat for each possible pair of departure and return dates.

You will start to get emails every morning from Kayak with all your price alerts. At the top of the email, you’ll see your dates and any change in price from the previous day. This is an email I used to get when I had three price alerts set.

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Down below is a graph with how the price has behaved over time.

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 3.28.53 PMIn ten seconds per day, you’ll quickly see how the price of the flights is moving. You’ll be surprised how often the price moves. At some point, when the price dips, BUY!

There is no science to this, but for me, when to buy has always been obvious. One day I’ll see a multi-hundred dollar drop. Or it will be stable for so long that the trip is now only three weeks away, at which point I would expect the price to rise.

I would expect someone who monitored a price alert for several weeks or months to shave a few hundred dollars off the current price from their home airport to Hawaii.

If you have the Arrival Plus, you can purchase the flights through the cheapest website with your Arrival Plus at any point, even before you earn its sign up bonus. Then sign into your Arrival Plus account and redeem miles to offset all or part of the ticket price.

If you have the Sapphire Reserve and made it to this step, you need to sign into your Sapphire Reserve account when the price drops and enter the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal to book your tickets through there.

Not Going to Hawaii?

Combine Steps 1 and 2 into this: Fill out a free credit card consultation form, and I will tell you what card(s) to open for the destination, time of year, and cabin of service you want.

That consultation will also include basic instructions on how to redeem the miles I suggest getting. If those aren’t enough, you can hire my Award Booking Service to book your ticket for $125 per person.

Recap for Hawaii

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

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

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

Questions? Leave them in the comments.

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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2

In May, I visited the Sala VIP Pau Casals at Barcelona Airport. In August, I visited the very similar Sala VIP Miro. Here’s what you can expect from these Priority Pass lounges that you can enter for free with a Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, or American Express Platinum Card.

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The Sala VIP Pau Casals is available to passengers flying within the Schengen Area, and the Sala VIP Miro is after passport control for passengers leaving the Schengen Area.

Both offer a comfortable place to sit, free wifi, enough food for a meal, and free alcohol. Additionally, the Sala VIP Pau Casals offers day beds for naps.

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The lounges have a similar motif with lots of wood, leather, and glass.

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I was in the Sala VIP Pau Casals before a 7 AM flight, and it offered breakfast options…
screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-39-46-pm screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-39-58-pm screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-40-05-pm …like toast…screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-40-13-pm …breads, jams, cheese, cold cuts…screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-40-19-pm …pastries…screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-40-33-pm …cereals…screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-40-39-pm ….yogurt…screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-40-51-pm …and juice.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-40-56-pm I was in the Sala VIP Miro before a 9 PM flight, and I had a dinner of cold cut sandwiches and Spanish tortilla.screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-41-04-pmAt dinner time, there are pastries…
screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-41-31-pmtortilla (Spanish potato omelet)…screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-41-35-pm …chips and olives…screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-41-41-pm …salami, ham, prosciutto, and cheese sandwiches…screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-41-54-pm screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-41-59-pm…cut up fruit, and pasta salad.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-42-18-pmThere is also a selection of juices…screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-42-08-pm

…wine…

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-41-10-pmscreen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-41-17-pm…and liquor.screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-41-24-pmIn both lounges, I passed the time before my flight more comfortably than I would have at the gate while working on the free wifi. At both lounges, I ate and drank my fill, saving the cost of a meal.

These lounge experiences were average. They are far worse than the best International First Class lounges like the Etihad Lounge in Abu Dhabi, but they are better than standard domestic airline lounges like United Clubs and certainly better than waiting at the gate.

Get Into Priority Class Lounges for Free

The Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and Amex Platinum all offer free Priority Pass membership.

Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent airport lounge access program with free access to 900+ lounges worldwide.

Getting Priority Pass Membership

  • If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, you have to request your free Priority Pass membership on chase.com with a few clicks.
  • If you have a Citi Prestige, you’re automatically enrolled in Priority Pass and your membership card arrives a few days after you get your Prestige.
  • If you have an Amex Platinum, you have to make a few clicks online to enroll in Priority Pass.

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I’ve been in a few dozen Priority Pass lounges around the world. They vary in quality, but you can always count on free drinks, snacks, and wifi, and you can usually cobble together a meal with a glass of wine or a cocktail.

Guest Access

The Amex Platinum Card’s Priority Pass membership doesn’t include free guests. You pay $27 per guest. The Citi Prestige’s Priority Pass membership lets you bring two free guests or your spouse and children under 18 into Priority Pass lounges with you for free.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is better than either. It allows unlimited free guests. It is also the best card of the three because of its 100,000 point sign up bonus and $600 in statement credits to offset travel purchases you make in the first 12 months you have the card.

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

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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

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