Alaska

With the proliferation of transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, Americans have access to cheap awards through tons of foreign programs.

Here are five underpriced awards on foreign award charts and how to get the miles needed to book the awards.

1. Singapore Awards Between Hawaii and the Americas

Singapore Airlines puts Hawaii and Central America–you know, those two places that are thousands of miles apart–into one region. This leads to awards “within” the region to price out at a ridiculously cheap 17,500 miles each way and 30,000 miles in Business Class.

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Roundtrip Award Prices

Similarly, Hawaii to South America is only 25,000 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in Business Class.

This is huge even if you don’t live in Hawaii because roundtrip Singapore Airlines awards allow for one free stopover and up to three more stopovers for $100 each.

That means you can book a roundtrip from Hawaii to South America with a stopover at your home airport in both directions for 50,000 miles + $100 + taxes. That would give you a roundtrip to South America plus two one ways to and from Hawaii on three separate trips.

Full details:

Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

2. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Southern South America

Virgin Atlantic has a number of partners including Delta. On Delta, to anywhere in South America costs only 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles roundtrip or 90,000 roundtrip in Business Class.

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Compare that to the 60k or 125k Delta miles the same flights to Southern South America would cost.

People disparage Delta award availability, but I find decent economy award space to South America on the carrier.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

3. Promo Awards to Europe, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, or the Canary Islands with Flying Blue Miles

Every month, Air France Flying Blue offers awards to Europe for 25% and 50% off from select cities. Here are the current offers to cities in North America.

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Oddly Flying Blue also classifies Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and the Canary Islands as a part of Europe, so sometimes you can find award prices as low as 12,500 Flying Blue miles (50% off) to these distant destinations.

There are fuel surcharges, but I often think the deal is still too good to pass up in economy.

I also really like Promo Awards from Brazil to Europe because flights leaving Brazil have no fuel surcharges by law. These enable a THINK BIG trip like your home airport to Brazil to France to your home airport.

Full details on Promo Awards: Fly to Europeflying blue or Israel for 12,500 Miles

Flying Blue miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

4. Alaska Awards to South Africa on Cathay Pacific

Alaska Airlines charges a very reasonable 70,000 miles one way between the United States and Asia in Cathay Pacific First Class.Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 4.58.42 PMIt charges the same amount to Africa from the United States in Cathay Pacific First Class.

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Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific Hub) to Johannesburg is now served by a plane without First Class, but you can still get 16 hours in First Class from the USA to Hong Kong plus 13 hours in Business Class more to Johannesburg for only 70,000 Alaska miles. If you love flying, this is the deal for you.

Alaska miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. You can also get Alaska Airlines miles from their churnable personal and business credit cards.

5. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Europe in Economy and Premium Economy

Virgin Atlantic economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one way flight to the United Kingdom.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are only $134.60!

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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 to the United States on a one way award with United or American miles for a very cheap European vacation.

You can also fly one way from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, or Detroit to London to in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles and $264.60.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Sweetspots with Virgin Atlantic Miles: Awards to Europe for as Little as 10,000 Points.

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 miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Plus there is the “90k offer” on the Virgin Atlantic credit card.

Purchasing the Award

Pay the taxes and surcharges for these awards with your Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi Prestige® Card offers a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year that offsets your first $250 in spending on airlines with the card. Taxes on an award ticket definitely count.

The card also comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which can be transferred to 12 types of airline miles or used like cash toward the purchase of any ticket. And tomorrow (8/31) is the last day to get the Prestige to be eligible for the American Airlines lounge access benefit!

Your Turn

Did I miss any of your favorite awards on the obscure foreign award charts? Tell us about it 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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The Hilton 75k offer has expired. For the current top offers, click here.

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Hainan Airlines is a new partner of Alaska Airlines, and their flights are now bookable on alaskaair.com. Their award chart is dirt cheap.

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That’s right, 50,000 miles one way in a flat bed for over 13 hours, with connections all over Asia. The only other deal that can compare is using Alaska miles to book Cathay Pacific flights for the same amount of miles and a little less out of pocket expenses (Hainan charges mild fuel surcharges– about $140 per one way). But award space on Cathay Pacific can be scarce unless it’s eleven months out or a week before, and Hainan award space is wide open at the moment.  If you wanna see the scope of what you can book for that price, look for the countries in Asia on Hainan Airlines destinations wikipedia page.

So there’s that.

And the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card  offers 75,000 bonus HHonors points after spending $2,000 on the card in the first three months.  Just from the sign-up bonus, the spending it requires to meet it, and then spending $500 more you will accrue at least 80,000 Hilton HHonors points.

And there’s that.

Combine those two deals and you get a very cheap award to Asia (potentially in Business Class with a flat bed), and free accommodation while you’re there. 

How to get to Asia in a flat bed for 50,000 miles and stay for free while you’re there…

  • Step 1: Get the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card
  • Step 2: Research where you want to go in Asia where Hainan flies and there are Hilton Hotels
  • Step 3: Meet the minimum spending requirement for the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card
  • Step 4: Accumulate Alaska Airlines miles by opening the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card as well as the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card
  • Step 5: Book your Alaska Airlines award flying Hainan
  • Step 6: Book your Hilton hotels

Step 1: Get the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card.

Step 2: Research the city in Asia you want to visit that Hainan flies to that also has Hiltons.

I did some of the research for you assuming you have 80,000 Hilton HHonors point to work with. These are some of the best deals I’ve found in cities where Hainan flies in Asia. There are probably more. Please let us know in the comments section if you find any.

Category 1 hotels – 5,000 points a night, but the fifth night free for Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Cardholders, so you could potentially book up to 20 nights for free

Category 2 hotels – 10,000 points a night, but the fifth night free for Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Cardholders, so you could potentially book up to 10 nights for free.

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Double Tree by Hilton Beijing

 Category 3 hotels – cost 20,000 points a night, but the fifth night free for Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Cardholders, so you could potentially book up to 5 nights for free.

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Hilton Chongqing
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Hilton Haikou Meilan
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Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Guangzhou
  • Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Sukhumvit in Bangkok, Thailand
  • While you might not want to stay out at the Narita airport in Tokyo for five nights, the Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport hotel is a Category 3 hotel and costs 20,000 points a night. It could be useful for an overnights after a flight or before a flight out of Tokyo Narita.

Category 5 hotel – 30,000 points per night. Pricey, but it could be used for two nights of a trip compounded with other cheaper hotels. It’s a beautiful property.

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Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa

Step 3: Meet the Minimum Spending Requirement for the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card.

Spend $2,000 within three months of the account opening and you’ll get 75,000 bonus points. As you get at least two points per dollar on everyday spending (three points for every dollar spent at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations, and six points for every dollar spent at a Hilton) you’ll accrue at least another 4,000 points just from meeting the minimum spending requirement. The most you would have to spend to get to 80,000 points is $500 more, and then you would have enough points to book 20 free nights in a Hilton Category 1 hotel10 free nights in Category 2 Hiltons, or 5 free nights in Category 3 Hiltons.

Step 4: Accumulate Alaska Airlines miles by opening the Alaska Airlines Cards.

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card earns 30,000 miles for spending $1,000 within three months of opening the account.

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

The Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card also earns 30,000 miles for spending $1,000 within three months of opening the account.

You would earn 62,000 Alaska miles for signing up for both, which is enough for a roundtrip for one person in economy to everywhere Hainan flies in Asia. Or you could use 50,000 miles to fly one way in flat bed Business Class and use another type of miles to get home (like 80,000 Korean miles in Korean Airlines First Class).

Starpoints also transfer 1:1 to Alaska miles with 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred.

Step 5: Book your Alaska Airlines Award flying Hainan.

Hainan’s award space is excellent for two passengers on many flights, but it’s still better to book airline awards before hotel awards since hotel awards aren’t as restrictive with availability. Airline awards are capacity controlled while hotel loyalty programs will you give you the last room available.

Read this post on booking Hainan flights with Alaska miles.

Step 6: Book your Hilton hotels with your Hilton HHonors Points.

And pat yourself on the back for being truly resourceful.

Bottom Line

Hainan is a new redeemable partner of Alaska Airlines, whose miles are easy to collect since the cards that earn them have low minimum spending requirements (and are still churnable). You can fly from the United States to all over Asia for 60,000 Alaska Airlines miles roundtrip in Economy or 100,000 Alaska Airlines miles roundtrip in Business Class, with a flat bed.

If you open the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card you will get 80,000 points from meeting the sign-up bonus and spending $500 moreand then you can book 20 free nights in a Hilton Category 1 hotel10 free nights in Category 2 Hiltons, or 5 free nights in Category 3 Hiltons for your trip to Asia.

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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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The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® 60,000 mile offer has expired. Check out the current best credit card offers here.

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Feeling spontaneous? You should be. You collect miles and points, which means you have the ability to fly all over the world without having to spend tons of hard earned money. Especially when the awards have the mileage price tags that all the redemption ideas listed below do.

I hope these examples inspire you to book a trip today, or start collecting to be able to do so!

All of the awards below (except #3) originate in the United States. None of them have fuel surcharges, just the standard taxes that apply to all awards.

Without further ado (and in no particular order of preference as I would go to all of these places without hesitation)…

1. 20,000 Etihad Miles to Venice

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By Moyan Brenn, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

You most likely don’t have Etihad miles, but there’s a good chance you have either Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, or SPG points. You can transfer any of those points to Etihad Guest at a 1:1 rate (if you transfer 20,000 SPG points, you’ll get an extra 5,000 bonus Etihad miles to boot).

You can book an American Airlines flight to Venice for only 20,000 Etihad miles one way if the trip is between October 15 and May 15 (because you can still book old American Airlines award chart prices/off peak dates with Alaska or Etihad Miles).

Surprise someone special in October, there’s plenty of award space for two people the second half of the month from Philadelphia:

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2. 15,000 Alaska Miles to Lima

As long as you fly American Airlines between January 16 – June 14 or September 7 – November 14, it will only cost 15,000 Alaska miles one way.

Lima’s food scene is one of the hottest in the world right now–so seriously– if you’re into food, don’t miss it. You can eat at restaurants like Maido pictured below, ranked the 13th best restaurant in the entire world (or Central, also in Lima, ranked #4!).

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Grab your biggest foodie friend and fly down in May. There’s availability for two almost every day between Miami and Lima.

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3. 20,000 United Miles to Seoul (from Australia)

Some readers recently commented on a post that there are more Australian-based MileValue fans like them than I think. So Aussies, this one’s for you.

For just 17,500 United miles, you can fly to Seoul one way. To get there direct, fly Asiana from Sydney.

Seoul, South Korea
By Emmanuel DYAN, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

There is award space every day for two people in January and February from Sydney to Seoul. You can ski by day outside the city and party in a major metropolis by night.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.22.02 PMEven if you don’t live in Australia, think of this as an option to add to an awesome round-the-world trip.

4. 12,500 American Airlines Miles to Cozumel

If you fly between April 27 – May 20 or September 7 – November 14 on American Airlines flights, it only costs 12,500 AA miles one way to get to Cozumel, Mexico.

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By Wilfred Hdez, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

Take your whole family to the Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea that’s known for diving. The calendar below shows award space for four people from Dallas:

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5. 20,000 SPG points to Tokyo

The award I am actually referring to is flying American Airlines to Tokyo between October 1 to April 30, which costs 25,000 Etihad miles. But if you transfer 20,000 SPG points to Etihad Guest, you will get a 5,000 mile bonus (which you always get for transferring increments of 20,000 SPG points to any airline transfer partner).

There’s tons of space for two mid September through Mid October from Dallas…Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.02.23 PM…which is prime season for watching Tokyo explode with cherry blossoms.

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By Yoshikazu TAKADA, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

I Don’t Live in the Cities Mentioned Above

You can add a leg from your hometown flying American to get to a gateway city for zero extra miles as long as the leg has economy Mile SAAver award space. This does not apply to #3.

Easy Ways to Get those Miles and Points

ThankYou Points

Citi Prestige® Card with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Starpoints (SPG Points)

The Starwood Preferred Guest®Credit Card from American Express earns 25,000 Starpoints after you spend $3,000 on the cards within the first three months of opening the account.

Alaska Airlines Miles

Alaska miles are easy to accrue since the Alaska credit cards are still churnable.

You only have to spend $1,000 in the first three months on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card to unlock the 30,000 Alaska mile bonus.

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

United Miles

You also only have to spend $1,000 in the first three months on the United MileagePlus Explorer card (by Chase) to unlock the 30,000 United mile sign-up bonus.

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

American Airlines Miles

 Limited Time Offer: The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® with 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership
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Bottom Line

There are lots of ways to stretch your miles and points, even redeeming on long distance international awards. Especially if you don’t mind economy. Read more suggestions for high value redemptions in this post about how to book a round-the-world trip in 2016 using underpriced 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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Update 6/30/2016: Alaska Airlines is changing the way you accrue redeemable Alaska miles when flying partner American Airlines for travel beginning August 1, 2016 to align with American Airlines’ changes to a revenue-based award earning structure. When I first published this post and crunched the numbers about which partner program was the most advantageous to credit miles to when flying American, Alaska Mileage Plan was among my top two choices. Due to the changes Alaska is making to their accrual rates, they are no longer a top contender. 

In light of the news that American Airlines is changing to a revenue-based award earning structure, and the fact that all three major US carriers now abide by a revenue-based award earning structure, I am wrote a series of posts about when and where you should diversify the award miles you earn through paying for airfare. This post is Part 1, and discusses when and to where you should diversify your award earning when flying paid tickets on American Airlines flights.

“When & Where You Should Diversify Revenue Ticket Miles” Series Index

As of August 1, American Airlines will award miles for revenue tickets based on two things: the ticket price less any government imposed taxes or fees, and the elite status you have with the airline.  

This is a big departure from the current system that awards miles based on the distance flown.

The new award earning structure will be worse for folks who fly far, cheap tickets and better for people who fly short, expensive tickets. That is, at least, if we’re talking about crediting miles to AAdvantage. But it is not obligatory to do that–you can enter your frequent flyer number with any American Airlines partner instead.

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In your mind, this fact should pose two questions.

  1. When should I choose to credit my award miles to American Airlines?
  2. If not American Airlines, then who?

I’m going to dive into both questions here to help equip you with the knowledge to make these decisions in the future.

Note that this post is specifically referencing the award miles earned from flying American Airlines flights. The amount of American Airlines miles earned for flying a oneworld alliance or other partner airline will be based on a percentage of the distance flown and the fare class. These rates have yet to be published, but should be available by July 15.

When Should I Choose to Credit my Award Miles to American Airlines?

The simple answer to this question: Not when you’re buying a cheap economy ticket, but maybe if you’re buying an expensive premium cabin ticket. American Airlines’ new revenue-based award earning system rewards those who generate more revenue for American Airlines, point blank. 

The more correct answer to this question is: when the math works out, and when you’re not chasing or trying to maintain status. Before I go any further, let me explain what I mean by the latter part of that sentence.

The value of status miles will factor into the decision too (in American’s case, they are called Elite Qualifying Miles, or EQM’s), if you’re trying to get or maintain American status. For example, even if an American Airlines Executive Platinum elite earns fewer redeemable American miles by crediting their butt in seat miles to American over Etihad, he might still prefer it to boost his Elite Qualifying Mile balance.

But if you’re not concerned with status, then all that should matter to you is the math.

 

The Math

To figure out how many American Airlines miles you’ll earn flying their planes, use the following equation:

Status multiplier x (ticket price – government-imposed taxes/fees) = award miles earned

The status multiplier depends on what tier elite status you might or might not have with the airline:

  • 5x– AAdvantage member
  • 7x – Gold
  • 8x – Platinum
  • 9x – Platinum Pro (will be introduced at some point in 2017)
  • 11x– Executive Platinum

We know the ticket price is how much aa.com tells us the flight costs.

But how can we isolate the government-imposed taxes and fees from that price? ITA Matrix. If you’re not familiar with ITA Matrix, here’s how to use it— it will show you the breakdown of a ticket by base fare, fuel surcharges, and government-imposed taxes and fees.

Look at this breakdown of a roundtrip American Airlines ticket between San Francisco and Zurich:

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This is a great example of the kind of cheap revenue ticket readers of this blog would buy, because it’s an example where you’re probably better off paying for the flight in cash rather than using miles that could be put towards higher value redemptions (since it’s only $414 for a roundtrip between the United States and Europe!)

The dollar amounts outlined in the red rectangle are the government-imposed taxes and fees (sum = $114.06). Fuel surcharges are always labeled as either YR and YQ (in this case YR). Fare 1 and 2 are the base fares in each direction on the roundtrip. 

Now we can plug in our equation.

5 x (414.06 – 114.06) = 1,500

So, assuming you are just normal AAdvantage member without status, you would earn 1,500 American Airlines miles for flying about 13,000 miles on an American Airlines plane.

Even if you are a Executive Platinum elite, you would only earn 3,300 American Airlines miles on this flight.

But let’s say you purchased a Business Class ticket on the same flight, which costs $7,059 (oh yea, now I remember why I collect miles!). Your equation would look like this:

5 x (7,059 – 114.06) = 34,725

Then you would certainly want to credit those miles to American Airlines, because you cannot beat that crediting to any other partner.  It is easy to see how this system rewards those that spend more. But I assume the majority of us will find ourselves with something closer to the first equation’s answer most of the time. 

Conclusion

When it comes time for you to make this decision, plug your own numbers in. If you get a number greater than 125% of the distance flown (if flying Business Class) or a number greater than 150% of the distance flown (if flying First Class), then stick with collecting American Airlines miles. Those percentages represent the maximum amount of miles you could get crediting to any partner (assuming you don’t have status with any of them.) 

Otherwise, read on to see your options for crediting to other partners. 

If Not American Airlines, Then Who?

Listed below are the award earning structures for some of American Airlines’ partners. Loyalty programs that generally lack valuable award redemption opportunities have been left out. What you earn for crediting miles to these airlines is represented by the percentages in the tables below. To figure out the total, you multiply the percentage by the distance flown.

Members of oneworld Alliance

British Airways 

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to British Airways Executive Club here.

Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles)

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Asia Miles here.

Iberia

Iberia Avios doesn’t have a published earning structure online, but I would assume it’s somewhat like British Airways Avios. This FlyerTalk thread has a homemade earning chart, but beware it is from 2014 and appears to have some errors. Let us know in the comments if anyone is aware of a more accurate and recently published chart.

Japan Airlines (JAL)

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Mileage Bank here.

Malaysia Airlines

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Enrich here.

American Airlines’ Other Partners

Alaskan Airlines

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Alaska Mileage Plan here.

Etihad Airways

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Etihad Guest here.

Hawaiian Airlines

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to HawaiianMiles here.

Conclusion

Again, the following conclusion is not considering the incentive of status. If you’re aiming for or trying to maintain status with American or one of its partner airlines, than perhaps the elite qualifying miles earned from crediting to them matter more to you than redeemable miles.

That being said, the best alternative airline to credit miles to when flying American Airlines is Etihad. It offers the highest percentages of distance flown, ranging from 100% for even the lowest economy fares (which are the most common types people like you and I buy) and 150% for First Class. I will choose to credit the miles I earn flying cheap American Airlines revenue tickets to Etihad Guest in the future.

The other options listed above offer similar ranges of percentages for distance flown, but with lower tiers for discount economy tickets that range from 0 to 50%. So if you’re flying a discounted ticket, like the one from the example in this post that is categorized as fare class “O”, then definitely choose Alaska or Etihad.

If your fare class is not one associated with a discounted economy ticket, then it doesn’t matter. Any full price fare will earn something in the 100% to 150% of distance flown range depending on whether it is full fare economy or First Class. If this is the case, then it’s a matter of choosing which miles are more valuable for you when redeeming awards. Click here to read about the top 11 most valuable miles to me.

Best Card to Buy Airfare With

Your top choice for buying American Airlines’ tickets with should be the Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that applies to airfare. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy the fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases, which is a higher category bonus than what any of the American Airlines’ co-branded cards offer for buying their own plane tickets (2x).

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many components like its annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 40,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Bottom Line

If you’re like me and only spend cash on the cheapest of airfares, then it is very likely you will not want to credit the miles you earn from flying American Airlines to AAdvantage anymore now that the airline has changed it’s award earning structure. If you haven’t started an account with Etihad’s frequent flyer program Etihad Guest, then do so today. Out of American Airlines’ partners, it is probably the most valuable program to funnel your miles into. 

If you want to jumpstart that Alaska miles collection, sign up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. Earn 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account.

While I can not directly link to Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

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

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

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.

cc-reward-320x50

Alaska Airlines is changing the way you accrue redeemable Alaska miles when flying partner American Airlines for travel beginning August 1, 2016. The number of Alaska Mileage plan miles you will earn for flying American will be based on a percentage of the distance flown, determined by the fare class. Business and First Class fares will rake in 150 to 200% of miles flown (compared to the prior rates of 100 to 150%), and the discount economy fares will earn as little as 25% of the distance flown (compared to 100% before…ouch).

This is not a surprise considering the switch American Airlines had already planned and recently announced a start date for– to a revenue-based award earning structure that also applies for travel as of August 1. Just like Alaska’s, American Airlines’ new system rewards the big spenders grandly while hanging the budget travelers out to dry.

New Rates Earning Alaska Miles on American Flights

Below is Alaska’s new award earning chart as of August 1, 2016:

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 5.34.13 PM

To show you how Alaska Mileage Plan’s award earning system is changing, here is a chart that compares post-August 1 and pre-August 1 accrual rates:

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 4.12.35 PM

Even if you’ve already bought a ticket flying American, the new accrual rates will apply if the travel date is on or after August 1, 2016.

Examples of Earnings at New Rate

The following section is taken from Alaska Airlines’ blog post “Customer Q&A on Mileage Plan earn rates change for American Airlines flights“. They give two examples on both ends of the spectrum, to show how one buying an expensive full-priced First Class ticket will earn a lot more miles with the new earning structure, and how one buying a discounted economy ticket will earn less.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 5.01.04 PM
Thank goodness for the 500 minimum mile guarantee! **insert eye roll here**

What this Change Doesn’t Mean

Alaska changing the way you earn Alaska miles on American Flights does not also mean Alaska is changing the way you earn Alaska miles on Alaska flights. Those earning rates are not changing, nor do I expect they will anytime in the near future as they have not announced any plans in that regard. And after the slaughtering Alaska went through for the un-announced devaluation of their Emirates award chart, I think (or hope, at least) that we’ll get some advance notice before changes of that magnitude in the future.

Alaska is already on the defense regarding the Mileage Plan award earning rates for their own flights:

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 5.47.42 PM

Where to Credit Butt in Seat Miles Now

After American Airlines announced the changes they are making to their award earning system, I wrote a post about when and where you should diversify your butt in seat miles when flying American Airlines. Alaska Airlines was at the top of the list, with stellar accrual rates (100%) even for the most discounted economy tickets, which most of the time are the only kind of revenue tickets people like you and I buy. I figured the shoe would drop at some point, and now it finally has. Once the new accrual rates hit, I wouldn’t even consider Alaska to be among my top three choices for crediting butt in seat miles when flying a discounted economy ticket on American. If you’re not considering the incentives of status or have an immediate redemption in mind with a certain airline, I would probably choose to credit miles earned from flying economy American tickets to Etihad Guest. But if you’re flying a more expensive fare, you’ll need to run your own numbers as rates vary for each partner and fare class.

Bottom Line

For travel beginning August 1, 2016 and on, Alaska Airlines is changing their award earning system for redeemable miles to more closely align with American Airlines’ new revenue-based award system. The amount of Alaska miles you will earn flying American Airlines will be a percentage of the distance flown based on fare class. Expensive tickets will earn more miles and cheap tickets will earn a lot less.

You can’t expect to accrue a bunch of Alaska miles from flying anymore, but at least it’s still easy to collect them via credit cards. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card comes with 30,000 Alaska miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months, as does the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card. Evidence points to these cards as still churnable.

While I can not directly link to the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, you may find them by clicking below if you decide to apply.

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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.

cc-reward-320x50

I have a friend who, after about five months off from applying for any new cards, decided to give it another go recently. He is writing a series for MileValue on his experience. Below is Part 2: applying for the Ink Plus and the British Airways Visa Signature by Chase, as well as the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature and Business credit cards by Bank of America. Read Part 1 if you haven’t, where he explains how he decided on those cards. Take it away, buddy:

In Part 1 of my story, I explained to you why I decided to apply for the following cards:

  • the Ink Plus by Chase
  • the British Airways Visa Signature by Chase
  • the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card by Bank of America
  • the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card by Bank of America

To put it simply, I decided on applying for the Ink Plus and the British Airways cards as a last ditch effort–to see if I could slip them in before the Chase 5/24 rule completely solidifies. People on FlyerTalk have been reporting lots of denials and some approvals, so I wanted to give it a shot. Might as well, since I don’t plan on taking any two year breaks from this hobby any time soon and the longer I wait, the less likely I am to be approved.

The Alaska cards I decided on because I didn’t want to add a ton of required spend to the $7,000 I would need to put out for the Chase card bonuses. I found a link to apply for the personal card in this Flyertalk thread that offers 25,000 miles just for signing up, and the business card’s official public offer only requires one purchase to earn the 25,000 mile bonus.

Read on to find out what happened when I applied.

Applying for the Chase Cards

I started with the Chase cards, the Ink Plus and the British Airways Visa Signature, and received the same response.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.55.36 PM

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 3.15.14 PM

Both applications would require further review. Buzz kill. All things considered, 90% of me was expecting this response, so I couldn’t be too disappointed.

I immediately returned to the FlyerTalk thread I found about applying for Chase cards, in search of the reconsideration phone number as it is standard practice to call when you receive this type of pending application response from a bank. But as I was skimming through the wiki at the top of the thread, I came across the following statement:

“It may be better to avoid calling Chase unless your application is denied. Many recent calls on pending applications led to denials, and many people report having success letting applications work their way through the system. Be patient. Time is on your side; increasingly, Chase [customer service representatives] are not.”

I found this to be interesting and also make sense, so I heeded the advice and didn’t call the reconsideration line.

Applying for the Bank of America Cards

Next up was the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card, which I was auto-approved for!

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 3.21.18 PM

The final application was for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. Perhaps it was because I filled out the application just minutes after I had applied for the business card, I’m not sure, but I received another “we can’t give you a decision right now” pop-up:

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 3.10.53 PM

The FlyerTalk thread that discusses the application process for the Alaska cards does not advise against calling Bank of America’s reconsideration line like the Chase thread did, so I called 1-866-811-4108 to discuss my application with a Bank of America representative.

I am accustomed to this conversation as I have had it multiple times before. I always start out with the same line:

“Hello, I recently applied for your ____________ card and was told that more time was needed to review my application. I am calling to see if there is any information I can provide you with that would help speed along that process.”

I always strive to sound extra friendly. The reps on the other end have never ask me more than surface level questions that I already answered on the credit card application.

And that’s exactly how this call to Bank of America reconsideration went. The rep asked me who I worked for and what I did for a living, to which I answered briefly and truthfully. And that was it. He congratulated me on approval, and let me know that I would get my card in the mail in the next seven to ten business days.

The 25,000 miles from opening the personal card have already hit my Alaska Mileage Plan account, and the other 25,000 from the business card will hit shortly, once I purchase something with it and this month’s statement closes.

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 9.27.13 PM

Waiting Out Chase

In the next post, I’ll have Chase’s decisions about my applications for the Ink Plus and the British Airways Visa Signature. Dun…dun…dun…cliffhanger!

Final Words by Scott

Curious as to how his luck turns out with the dreaded Chase 5/24 rule? I am. Tune in next time to see the results!

If you want to apply for the British Airways Visa Signature,  Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, or the Ink Plus (all mentioned in this post) please consider doing so through the links below. I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

cc-reward-320x50

In light of the news that American Airlines is changing to a revenue-based award earning structure, and the fact that all three major US carriers now abide by a revenue-based award earning structure, I am writing a series of posts about when and where you should diversify the award miles you earn through paying for airfare. This post is Part 3, and discusses when and to where you should diversify your award earning when flying paid tickets on Delta flights. 

“When & Where You Should Diversify Revenue Ticket Miles” Series Index

In January of 2015, Delta switched to a revenue-based award earning structure that is much like the structure American Airlines’ is adopting come this August.  The amount of Delta miles you earn flying Delta flights is based on two things: the ticket price less any government imposed taxes or fees, and the elite status you have with the airline.

A revenue-based award earning structure is worse for folks who fly far, cheap tickets and better for people who fly short, expensive tickets. That is, at least, if we’re talking about crediting to Delta SkyMiles. But it is not obligatory to do that–you can enter your frequent flyer number with any United partner instead.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 5.16.51 PMIn your mind, this fact should pose two questions.

  1. When should I choose to credit my award miles to Delta?
  2. If not Delta, then who?

I’m going to dive into both questions here to help equip you with the knowledge to make these decisions in the future.

Note that this post is specifically referencing the award miles earned from flying Delta flights. The amount of Delta miles you can earn flying a SkyTeam Alliance or other partner airline will be based on flight distance and the purchased fare class– see Delta’s website for partner-specific information.

When Should I Choose to Credit my Award Miles to Delta?

The simple answer to this question: Not when you’re buying a cheap economy ticket, but maybe if you’re buying an expensive premium cabin ticket. Delta’s revenue-based award earning system rewards those who generate more revenue for Delta, point blank.

The more correct answer to this question is: when the math works out, and when you’re not chasing or trying to maintain status. Before I go any further, let me explain what I mean by the latter part of that sentence.

The value of status miles will factor into the decision too (in Delta’s case, they are called Medallion Qualification Miles), if you’re trying to get or maintain Delta status. For example, even if a Delta Diamond Medallion elite earns fewer Delta redeemable miles by crediting their butt in seat miles to Delta over Alaska Airlines, he might still prefer it to boost his Medallion Qualification Mile balance.

But if you’re not concerned with status, then all that should matter to you is the math.

The Math

To figure out how many Delta miles you’ll earn flying their planes, use the following equation:

Status multiplier x (ticket price – government-imposed taxes/fees) = award miles earned

The status multiplier depends on what tier elite status you have with the airline:

  • 5x– SkyMiles member
  • 7x – Silver Medallion
  • 8x – Gold Medallion
  • 9x – Platinum Medallion
  • 11x– Diamond Medallion

We know the ticket price is how much delta.com tells us the flight costs.

But how can we isolate the government-imposed taxes and fees from that price? ITA Matrix. If you’re not familiar with ITA Matrix, here’s how to use it— it will show you the breakdown of a ticket by base fare, fuel surcharges, and government-imposed taxes and fees.

Look at this breakdown of a roundtrip Delta ticket between Seattle and the Zurich:Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 6.21.55 PM

This is a good example of the kind of cheap revenue ticket readers of this blog would buy, because it’s an example where you might be better off paying for the flight in cash rather than using miles that could be put towards higher value redemptions.

The dollar amounts outlined in the red rectangle are the government-imposed taxes and fees (sum =$114.56). Fuel surcharges are always labeled as either YR and YQ (in this case YR). Fare 1 and 2 are the base fares in each direction of the roundtrip.

Now we can plug in our equation.

5 x (595.56 – 114.56) = 2,405

So, assuming you are just a normal SkyMiles member without status, you would earn 2,405 Delta miles for flying about 13,750 miles on a Delta plane.

Even if you are a Diamond Medallion elite, you would only earn 5,291 Delta miles on this ticket.

But let’s say you purchased a Business Class ticket on the same flight, which costs $5,054.06 (oh yea, now I remember why I collect miles!). Your equation would look like this:

5 x (5,054.06 –114.56) = 24,698

Then you would certainly want to credit those miles to Delta, because you cannot beat that crediting to any other partner. It is easy to see how this system rewards those that spend more. But I assume the majority of us will find ourselves with something closer to the first equation’s answer most of the time.

Conclusion

When it comes time for you to make this decision, plug your own numbers in. Compare this first solution to the number you get from multiplying the distance you will fly by the percentage that corresponds to your fare class, which you can gather from the table in the “If Not Delta, Then Who?” section below.

If the first solution is greater than the second solution, stick with Delta. Otherwise, read on to see your options for crediting to other partners.

If Not Delta, Then Who?

I compared award earning charts when flying Delta from the following partners to see whose is the most lucrative:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Alitalia
  • Air France
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Hawaiian
  • Korean Air
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia

I chose those loyalty programs because they have at least some valuable redemption options. The table below is the analysis of my comparison:

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 1.20.45 PM
(click to enlarge)

Conclusion

Again, the following conclusion is not considering the incentive of status. If you’re aiming for or trying to maintain status with one of Delta’s partner airlines, than perhaps the elite qualifying miles earned from crediting to that partner matter more to you than redeemable miles.

That being said, the best alternative airline to credit miles to when flying Delta is going to depend on what type of miles you value more– Alitalia, Alaska, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia all offer good earning rates on discounted economy fares (which are the most common types of tickets people like you and I buy). Click here to read about the top 11 most valuable miles to me.

I would choose to credit my miles earned from flying the discounted fare example above, between Seattle and Zurich (fare class V), to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan because I value those miles much more than Alitalia, Virgin Atlantic, or Virgin Australia miles.

If your fare class is not one associated with a discounted economy ticket, then check out the table above to see the best option for you depending how much you value the miles from the top earning loyalty programs.

Best Card to Buy Airfare With

Your top choice for buying Delta tickets should be the Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that applies to airfare. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy the fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases, which is a higher category bonus than what any of the Delta’s co-branded cards offer for buying their own plane tickets (2x).

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many components like its annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 50,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Bottom Line

If you’re like me and only spend cash on the cheapest of airfares, then it is very likely you will not want to credit the miles you earn from flying Delta to SkyMiles since the airline uses a revenue-based award earning structure. If you haven’t started an account with Alaska Airlines’ frequent flyer program Mileage Plan, then do so today. Out of Delta’s partners, it is likely the most valuable program to funnel your miles into.

If you want to jumpstart that Alaska miles collection, sign up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. Earn 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account.

While I can not directly link to Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

cc-reward-320x50

I have a friend who, after about five months off from applying for any new cards, decided to give it another go recently. He is writing a series for MileValue on his experience. Below is Part 1, where he decides on a new round of credit cards: the Ink Plus and the British Airways Visa Signature by Chase, as well as the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature and Business credit cards by Bank of America. Take it away, buddy:

I travel often, and for me to keep my expenses down and maintain the lifestyle that I want, I sign up for credit cards that earn me a lot of rewards that I can cash in for basically free flights. I imagine many of you are like me, to some degree.

I tend to apply for credit cards in batches, all on the same day. This is because I subscribe to the school of thought that if I apply all at once, the banks won’t see what each other are doing as all of the credit inquiries are being processed at the same time. Whether I apply all on the same day or spread out over time, I know the affect on my credit score will be more or less the same. I choose to apply in batches because I think it improves my chances of being approved for multiple cards in a short span of time.

My last round of applications were done in this manner, all on Christmas Eve of 2015. What greater present could I give myself than a bunch of free travel? I applied for five different cards, and my credit score (expectedly) took a dip. This ain’t my first rodeo, so I didn’t panic.

One of the perks I really appreciate about my Citi Prestige® Card is that I can check my real FICO score,  so I monitored it on citi.com

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 7.34.35 PM

… and also expectedly, after a few months, my score bounced right back up.

So I started researching what cards would best suit my travel needs, considering what cards I had gotten before and what cards I currently have compared with the latest and best offers. Scott’s articles about issuing banks rules for approvals and new bonuses and the Top 10 Travel Credit Cards both really helped with the research.

I decided to set my sights on:

  • the Ink Plus by Chase
  • the British Airways Visa Signature by Chase
  • the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card by Bank of America
  • the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card by Bank of America

How did I reach that conclusion?

Thoughts on The Current State of Chase Credit Cards

Unless you stumbled upon this blog post by accident, there’s a good chance you already know what the Chase 5/24 rule is. In a nutshell, the rule is that if you have opened any five credit cards, not just Chase cards, within the last 24 months, then your Chase application will be denied.

About a year ago, Chase started enforcing this dreaded rule to the purely Chase-branded personal cards, i.e. the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Slate. Then there were rumors that in March of this year, this 5/24 rule would also start applying to Chase’s Ink cards, and in April, to the remainder of the personal and business co-branded cards.

chase screenshot

I was really bummed about that news since I have certainly opened more than five cards in the last two years, and the Chase cards offer some of the best sign-up bonuses and perks out of any of the travel cards out there.

I looked on FlyerTalk to see if the rumors were true. The reports I read on this FlyerTalk thread about applying for Chase cards were mixed– many denials but still some approvals. What was clear was that the longer I waited, the less chance I would have of getting any Chase cards as more people (with five or more cards opened in the last two years) were seeing more denials as time passed. I saw my options as either:

A) Apply now and risk the denials to see if I can slip in before the 5/24 rule solidifies

B) Go two years without any new card applications, and then go after the Chase cards I want

Option B was not appealing in the least as I travel often and burn through miles pretty steadily. I decided the risk of a denial was worth the possibility of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards and 50,000 Avios.

My spending power isn’t greater than the $7,000 in three months required to unlock the sign-up bonuses on the Ink Plus and British Airways Visa Signature (assuming I am approved), so in my mind that left only two more options for this round of applications: the Alaska Airlines cards, personal and business versions.

Thoughts on the Current State of Alaska Airlines Credit Cards

The Alaska Airlines cards are known in the miles community as an easy way to keep a stream of valuable miles coming in without any serious spending required.

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 8.12.22 PM

Prior to May 2016, the public offer for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card did not require any spending whatsoever– you received the 25,000 mile bonus after simply signing up and paying the $75 annual fee. The Alaska Airlines Visa Business card has always (and still does) require just one purchase to earn the 25,000 mile bonus, and also has a $75 annual fee.

Now the public offer for the personal card is a sign-up bonus of 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 within three months of opening the account, which is still quite a low spending requirement, but I didn’t want to add even $1,000 to the $7,000 I would need to spend to earn the bonuses on the Chase cards as a I don’t think I’ll have that kind of spending capacity. So I looked to FlyerTalk in hopes of finding an old link with the 25,000 mile bonus in exchange for the $75 annual fee. I found one here at the top of this thread that is still active: Alaska Airlines card offers, Personal & Business, 25K and up.

I already have two Alaska cards, one personal and one business card, but all evidence I read still points to the Alaska Airlines credit cards as being churnable. I decided to proceed with applying for two more (one each of the personal and business cards).

Preparing for My Applications

I learned from reading Scott’s primer about the Alaska cards that calling into Bank of America to lower the credit limits on my existing Alaska cards would smoothen the process of applying for two more. The logic behind that makes sense to me– it reduces Bank of America’s exposure to risk– so I called customer service (1.800.732.9194) to complete the process. The representatives didn’t ask many questions, just did as they were told.

As for the Chase cards, I had no preparations to make. After waiting a week to make sure the credit limit decreases on my existing Alaska cards were official, I was ready to start the application process.

Final Words by Scott

Stay tuned for more follow up posts to see how his applications turn out.

If you want to apply for the British Airways Visa Signature,  Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, or the Ink Plus (all mentioned in this post) please consider doing so through the links below. I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.

------------------------------------------------------------

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.

cc-reward-320x50

16

Still alive two months later. How long will it last?

On March 22, 2016, the American Airlines devaluation struck.

However, you can still book American Airlines flight at the old prices if you use Alaska or Etihad miles. I don’t know how long this will last, maybe a few days or months, until they notice and ape American’s higher prices.

Let’s back up a little bit.

It just so happens that Alaska Airlines and Etihad Airways, partners of American Airlines, charge the same number of miles for American Airlines flights as American Airlines did until yesterday. Both airlines even allow the booking of off peak awards on the same off peak dates as American allowed until yesterday.

I say “it just so happens” because there is nothing expected or ordinary about this. British Airways, another American Airlines partner never charged the same number of miles for American Airlines flights as American Airlines did, nor did it have discounts for American Airlines off peak awards. As a general rule: different miles, different rules, different chart. But for whatever reason, Alaska and Etihad decided to copy American’s chart when using Alaska or Etihad miles to redeem American flights.

And those copied charts are still in effect today.

Using Alaska Miles

For instance, if you go to alaskaair.com and search for an award to Buenos Aires in May…

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 1.58.06 PM

…you see a lot of flights for 20,000 miles.Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 1.59.20 PM Those are the price you would have paid until March 21 for American Airlines off peak awards.Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 1.59.38 PMThat is particularly amazing because American Airlines did away with off peak awards to Southern South America today. The same award costs 30,000 American Airlines miles today.

Alaska has different charts for every airline to every region. You can find the charts for using Alaska miles to Europe here. American Airlines awards still show yesterday’s generous off peak dates and price instead of today’s less generous dates and 22,500 mile price.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 5.16.43 PM

Using Etihad Miles

Similarly, Etihad’s chart for flying American Airlines flights is the same as it was on March 21 when it matched American Airlines’ old chart.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 5.19.05 PM
EO = off peak, EP = economy, B/F = Business, P = First

Here is a full post on using Etihad miles to book American Airlines flights.

What This Doesn’t Mean

These are Alaska and Etihad charts for flying American Airlines airplanes.

You can NOT use these charts to fly other American Airlines partners. For instance, don’t expect to call Etihad and say, “Hi, I found great award space to Sydney in First Class on aa.com that flies Qantas, and I want to pay 72,500 Etihad miles to book it.” Qantas is a partner of American Airlines, not Etihad. (And if it were a partner of Etihad, it would have its own award chart. The chart in this post is for flying airplanes that say American Airlines on the side.)

Getting Alaska Airlines and Etihad Miles

Thank You Points and Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Etihad miles.

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 40,000 ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

SPG Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Alaska miles with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. Right now the SPG cards have their biggest bonuses ever. The Alaska Airlines credit cards from Bank of America are churnable.

How Long Will This Last?

Etihad and Alaska clearly made conscious decisions to copy American Airlines’ chart (for whatever reason, this is actually unusual.) Now that the AA chart has changed, I assume Etihad’s and Alaska’s charts will change. We will see how long that takes.

If you want to book American Airlines flights, for the moment, you should use Alaska and Etihad 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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Today (May 11, 2016) is the last day to take advantage of the 30% discount on Virgin Atlantic economy awards that brings the price of an award between select U.S cities and London down to only 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles and $134.60 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

If you stack that Virgin Atlantic economy sale with the current deal American Express is offering– a 30% transfer bonus of Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic through May 31, 2016–then you can book an award to London for only 10,000 Membership Rewards +$134.60!! Book now, but not as a roundtrip.

Why You Shouldn’t Book Awards Departing Britain

It can cost upwards of $300 in departure taxes to leave Europe on an award from London. That is atrocious and can easily be avoided by returning home from a low tax country instead. You can use British Airways Avios or a low cost carrier to get to the low tax country.

Low Tax Countries

I’ve ordered the cities from cheapest to most expensive.

  • Oslo: $31.70
  • Istanbul: $32.50
  • Warsaw: $33.80
  • Stockholm: $36.30
  • Dublin: $39
  • Belfast: $42.20
  • Geneva: $42.90
  • Venice: $43.40
  • Barcelona: $43.50
  • Shannon: $43.60
  • Copenhagen: $43.80
  • Lisbon: $47.40
  • Amsterdam: $48
  • Madrid: $48.40
  • Brussels: $50
  • Milan: $50
  • Zurich: $56.50
  • Rome: $60
  • Hamburg: $82.70
  • Vienna: $87
  • Munich: $94.80
  • Frankfurt: $112.10
  • Berlin: $119.20

Cheapest Award Space From Low Tax Countries in Europe

I searched to find the cheapest award space from Europe to the United States– in economy and in First Class–that you can pair with your Virgin Atlantic Award to London. Depending on whether you want to keep up the savings or treat yourself to something more luxurious on your way home, here are two of the cheapest options doing either:

Dublin, Ireland to Philadelphia – 20,000 Alaska Miles + $54

Spend New Years in Europe and save money on the way home by flying American Airlines economy back to the U.S. from Dublin after the holidays. There are 24 days in January with award space for two people that you can book for only 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles and $54 in taxes per person.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 6.24.30 PMThe calendar barely changes if you modify the search for up to four people.

If you don’t have Alaska miles, you can also book the same space with Etihad miles for the same price. Both Alaska Mileage Plan and Etihad Guest program maintained the pre-American Airlines devaluation prices between the US and Europe, as well as the prior American Airlines Off Peak dates to Europe. You can fly between the US and Europe for that same price anytime between October 15 and May 15.

If you don’t live in Philadelphia and want to book this with Alaska miles, you can add another leg to get to your hometown without changing the mileage price as long as it’s on American Airlines or Alaska and is economy Saver space. You can also add a leg flying American Airlines to get to your hometown on an Etihad award without changing the mileage price, under the same conditions.

You can search for award space on aa.com or alaskair.com. If using Alaska miles you will need to book on alaskaair.com, and if using Etihad miles you will need to call Etihad Guest at (1 888 8 ETIHAD, available 24/7).

Oslo, Norway to Chicago – 50,000 Asiana Miles + $192.54

Pamper yourself after trotting around Europe with a luxurious Lufthansa First Class flight experience on the way home. You can fly it for 50,000 Asiana miles plus taxes and fuel surcharges that amount to $192.54 between Oslo and Chicago (fuel surcharges are much lower Europe to USA than vice versa on Lufthansa flights.)

Asiana is 1:1 transfer partner of SPG Starpoints.

Getting into Lufthansa First Class is a gimme if you can book at the last minute. Unfortunately Lufthansa doesn’t release its First Class award space to partners until about 15 days before departure, but once it does, space is quite available. If you’re comfortable booking the return last minute, it’s a great deal for First Class.

For example, here is a Lufthansa Business Class award from Oslo to Chicago in about two weeks:

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 8.37.58 PM
$247.60 CAD in taxes/fees = $192.54 USD in taxes/fees

This search result is from aeroplan.com, but the taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges there should equal what Asiana charges. For instance, this Oslo to Chicago one way award costs 247.60 Canadian Dollars ($192.54) out of pocket. (Ignore the 70,000 mile price, Asiana charges 50,000 miles.)

If you don’t live in Chicago, you can add a leg on United to your hometown without affecting the mileage price. It can be in any cabin since your transatlantic flight is First Class, just make sure it’s Saver space.

You can search for Lufthansa award space on aeroplan.com, like I did above, or on united.com (probably easier on united.com as you don’t need an account). To book with Asiana miles you will need to call 800-227-4262 (I’ve booked myself two Asiana awards– here is my experience).

How to Get the Miles

For the American Airlines flight from Dublin you’ll need 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles or Etihad miles.

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature cards (personal and business) both offer 25,000 miles just for signing up. The business card requires you to purchase one item to qualify for the bonus.

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

Etihad miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points. The Citi Prestige® Card earns 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open

You could also transfer SPG Starpoints to Etihad at a 1:1 ratio. See links for cards that earn SPG Starpoints below.

For the Lufthansa First Class flight you’ll need 50,000 Asiana miles.

SPG Starpoints transfer to Asiana at a 1:1 ratio. The SPG cards from American Express currently offer 25,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively in the first three months of card membership.

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic has a sale on economy awards between London and North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia that ends today. You can book awards to London from the U.S. for as little as 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles and $134.60 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

If you have Membership Rewards from American Express, you can stack that sale with the 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic to make that mileage price drop to 10,000 Membership Rewards. This transfer bonus lasts through May 31, 2016 so if you miss the opportunity today for the Virgin Atlantic economy sale, you can still book an economy award to London for 13,000 Membership Rewards through May 31.

For the return trip, fly back to the U.S. from Dublin in American Airlines economy for only 20k Alaska or Etihad miles, or from Oslo in Lufthansa First Class for only 50k Asiana miles. Departing from either city will avoid the high departure taxes you would incur on an award returning from London.

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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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7

Until June 13, 2016, you can buy Alaska Airlines miles for as little as 1.97 cents each. You have to log in to your account at this link to see your offer. People are being offered bonuses of 35% to 50% on purchased miles.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 1.18.11 AM

The sale is structured as a bonus on the normal number of miles you’d receive. The bonus is tiered, so the biggest 35%-50% bonus comes from purchasing 50,000 to 60,000 miles at the normal price of about 2.96 cents each after tax.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 1.18.03 AM

If you get a 50% bonus, it costs $1,478.13 to buy 75,000 miles (50k + 25k bonus) during this sale.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 1.18.57 AM

  • If your bonus for buying 50,000+ miles is 35%, you can buy miles for 2.19 cents each.
  • If your bonus for buying 50,000+ miles is 40%, you can buy miles for 2.11 cents each.
  • If your bonus for buying 50,000+ miles is 50%, you can buy miles for 1.97 cents each.

While each purchase is limited to 60,000 miles plus bonus, you can make unlimited purchases during the sale, so you can buy unlimited miles.

I don’t think Alaska miles are worth 1.97 cents each, but they are worth close to that, and if you have a specific redemption in mind, it is not hard to get more than 1.97 cents of value per mile.

Airlines on which You Can Redeem Alaska Miles

Here are the Alaska partners on which you can redeem. (Note: AeroMexico awards have been unavailable since October 2015.)

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 1.35.49 PM

Five Favorite Redemptions

Here are my five favorite redemptions with Alaska miles:

 1. Cathay Pacific First Class

Cathay Pacific First Class costs 70,000 Alaska miles one way from the United States to Asia or Africa with a free stopover in Hong Kong, or 80,000 miles one way to Australia or New Zealand, again with a free stopover possible in Hong Kong.

IMG_0051

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy to Asia is only 35,000 Alaska miles one way and Business Class is only 50,000.

If you buy Alaska miles for 1.97 cents each, any of these awards would be a significant discount off the retail price.

Here is my review of Cathay Pacific First Class.

2. American Airlines Flights at Pre-Devaluation Prices

Alaska still charges the same number of miles for American Airlines flights that American Airlines charged until its massive March 22, 2016 devaluation. Some steals (prices listed one way):

  • 20,000 Alaska miles for seven months out of the year in economy to Europe
  • 20,000 Alaska miles for five months out of the year in economy to Southern South America
  • 25,000 Alaska miles for six months out of the year in economy to Japan
  • 30,000 Alaska miles to Peru or Northern South America in Business Class
  • 50,000 Alaska miles in Business Class to Europe, Japan, or Southern South America
  • 62,500 Alaska miles in Business Class to Australia or New Zealand
3. Fiji Airways Business Class

You can fly from the United States to Fiji to New Zealand or Australia for only 55,000 Alaska miles one way in Business Class with a free stopover in Fiji.

4. Hainan Business Class

Alaska charges just 50,000 miles each way in Hainan flat bed Business Class to anywhere in Asia.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 1.07.29 PM

Unfortunately there are fuel surcharges of about $140 per direction.

Full details on booking Hainan flights with Alaska miles.

5. Icelandair

Icelandair awards start at 22,500 miles one way to Iceland or 55,000 miles one way in Business Class to Europe with a stopover in Iceland.

Unfortunately there are fuel surcharges of about $100 per direction on these awards.

Full details on booking Icelandair awards with Alaska miles.

Alaska Airlines Award Routing Rules

Alaska Airlines is extremely generous allowing a stopover on one way awards, anywhere you’d like en route.

Here are the basics for redemptions of Alaska miles.

Logistics of Buying Alaska Miles

Unlike many miles sales when you are capped at how many miles you can buy, with Alaska miles sales, you can make several maximum purchases to get all the miles you need.

Remember that Alaska Airlines miles sales are handled through points.com, so they are not considered airfare or travel purchases for the purposes of earning a category bonus on your credit card.

Bottom Line

Alaska miles are on sale until June 13, 2016 for as little as 1.97 cents each. While that’s too high of a price to buy speculatively, it is a good price if you have an immediate high value use for the miles.

Sale Link: Log into your Alaska account here to see the size of your 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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16

The current sign-up bonus available to the public for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card is 25,000 Alaska Airlines miles upon approval. There are higher offers out there however, and the official public offer is increasing in May, but with a new minimum spending requirement.

There is no minimum spending requirement to earn the current sign-up bonus of 25,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.25.23 PM

There is also a $75 annual fee. I currently value Alaska Airlines miles at 1.75 cents each, so that’s like buying $437.50 worth of miles for $75.

The current public sign-up offer for the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card is nearly identical, except a free checked bag for yourself and six others is not a benefit, and the bonus miles are earned after your first purchase as opposed to upon approval like the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card. The annual fee is $75 (unless you add an authorized user, then it will be an additional $25).

However Alaska Airlines filed a 10-K report with the SEC in February of this year (which is basically a summary of their financial performance and future plans) that revealed a new offer coming out in May. A section towards the beginning describing the Mileage Plan program states:

“…members can receive 25,000 bonus miles (30,000 beginning in the Spring of 2016) upon signing up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card”

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.53.17 PM

Note that there will be a minimum spending requirement of $1,000 to earn the 30,000 mile bonus. They clarify when Spring is in an asterisk underneath that table:

“*Expected launch of 30,000 bonus miles in May 2016. Currently, bonus miles are 25,000.”

These cards, issued by Bank of America, were unique in that they offered good sign-up bonuses with no minimum spending requirement. That is changing soon, albeit to a pretty minimal spending requirement. What makes them more unique is that these cards are churnable, so you can collect tons of Alaska Airlines miles relatively easily.

Or should I say what made them even more unique is that these cards were churnable, so you could collect tons of Alaska Airlines miles relatively easily?

Are the Alaska Airlines Credit Cards Still Churnable?

First, let me clarify what I mean by churnable. Generally a churnable credit card is one you can get the same sign-up bonus over and over.

From what I can see from reading through the last five weeks of the Flyertalk thread Alaska Airlines card offers, Personal & Business, 25K and up, everyone that has been churning Alaska Airlines cards in the past has continued to be approved for new cards. Most wait a span of at least 91 days before reapplying.

There is one exception– this Flyertalker who had opened 11 cards in the last six months was outright denied. Note that those weren’t 11 Bank of America cards per se, but credit cards across the board. So too many new accounts open in a shorter period of time could be a trigger for denial.

What I did see happen to more than one person was the receipt of a pending status on their applications instead of an immediate approval. But the ones who reported an update all said they were approved after calling the reconsideration line (note that phone numbers for the reconsideration line listed in the wiki summary at the top of the thread are outdated, try 1-866-811-4108 instead). This very recent post is from a Flyertalker who received a notice of pending applications for two out of the three Alaska cards he applied for, and he has not posted any update referencing a reconsideration phone call or an approval. But I wouldn’t consider this a negative data point against the churnability of the Alaska cards just yet.

A quick aside–you should always consider calling the reconsideration line if your credit card application comes back as status pending. Many times they will just ask you the same questions that were on the original application and then approve you.

So I will tentatively say that yes, Alaska Airlines credit cards are still churnable for the time being. But we will have to wait and see what May brings before I’m ready to give a firm yes to that question. The changing of a sign-up bonus offer could also mean the changing of the policies regarding that sign-up bonus offer.

Lowering Credit Limits of Existing Cards Before Re-Applying

What is abundantly clear from nearly everyone’s posts in the Alaska Airlines card offers, Personal & Business, 25K and up Flyertalk thread is that if you are planning on opening another Alaska Airlines credit card and you already have one or more, the best way to improve your chances of approval for another one is to lower the credit limit on the ones you already have. Think about it this way– Bank of America isn’t blind to your already existing credit lines, and they only want to lend you a certain amount of credit to minimize their risk. How much credit they will give you depends on the person and their credit score, but it certainly won’t hurt to get the credit limits dropped of your already existing Alaska Airlines cards. As you aren’t (or shouldn’t be!) holding a balance on any of them, this doesn’t matter anyways.

You can accomplish this by signing in to your Bank of America account online and going to the Contact Us page (accessible from the Help & Support drop down menu). From there choose credit cards in the drop down menu and a box will pop up like this one:

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 11.31.39 AM

You can also call 1.800.732.9194 (for help with the personal card) or 1.800.673.1044 (for help with the business card) but people have reported a smoother process using the chat function.

Current Best Sign-up Bonus Offers

25,000 Alaska Miles is what is being offered to the public for signing up for either the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card and the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card. But there are better offers out there:

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 11.44.04 PM

Coolest Things You Can Do With Alaska Miles

While not a part of any of three major alliances, Alaska Airlines miles can be used to book a diverse array of oneworld, SkyTeam, and non-alliance partners.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 1.20.49 AM

There are some great redemption options and they are flexible with routing and award rules.

You can…

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

Bottom Line

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card’s and the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card’s current public offers are 25,000 miles for each of them, but it is possible to get an even better offer from this link or by checking your email for the targeted promotion with a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus. The public offer will increase to 30,000 miles in May, but you will be required to spend $1,000 in the first three months to earn it.

Alaska Airlines has some high value redemption opportunities and allows for flexible routings, so take advantage while you can. All signs point to these cards still being churnable–for now. We can reevaluate once the first hand reports start rolling in later in the year about how or if Bank of America’s policies change post-May (when the sign-up bonus offer changes).

Help the Milevalue community make informed decisions about their own Alaska Airlines credit card strategy by leaving your experiences 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.

cc-reward-320x50

You can book yourself a tour around Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia stopping in four places for only 100,000 miles total with nearly half the trip in a flat bed. By stopping in four places, I am referring to actual destinations, not connections that have to be under 24 hours.

Much like the Mega Trip to the Caribbean and South America I wrote about a few days ago, this deal relies on piecing together some sweet spot awards (and this time also a low cost carrier flight within Europe) into one big trip. Even if you never take a trip like this, knowledge of the sweet spot awards is useful.

For the purposes of this example, this will be the route we examine:

Chicago > Paris > Istanbul > Doha > Bangkok > Chicago

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 1.54.50 PM

You can tweak the route to your liking and keep the same prices as long as each destination falls in the right region for the pricing of the award.

What does that mean exactly?

  • Chicago could be replaced by anywhere that American Airlines flies to.
  • Paris could be replaced by anywhere that is in Europe, but that will affect the cost of the low carrier flight to Istanbul.
  • Istanbul could be replaced by any nearby city with low cost carrier flights from Europe, although this would affect the out of pocket cost as well as the miles price which will probably go up if you choose a different city since the following award is flown with distance-based Avios to the Middle East.
  • Doha can really only be replaced by Amman as the two oneworld hubs in the Middle East.
  • Bangkok could be replaced by a different Asian city that is anywhere from 3,001 to 4,000 miles away from Doha or Amman.
  • Chicago could be replaced by anywhere that Cathay Pacific or Alaska Airlines flies to.

United States to Paris

Before American Airlines devalued their award chart, you could book economy flights to Europe for 20,000 American Airlines miles during the Off Peak season (October 15 – May 15). With American Airlines’ devaluation, the price went to 22,500 miles one way and, more alarmingly, the available dates were dramatically reduced. However you can still use Alaska or Etihad miles to book American Airlines flights in economy to Europe from October 15 to May 15 for 20,000 Alaska or Etihad miles. Here is such a flight on alaskaair.com:

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 3.13.32 PM

You can search for and book award space right on alaskaairlines.com’s home page, just check the “use miles” box in the search tool. You don’t even need an account with Alaska’s Mileage Plan loyalty program.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 3.27.07 PM

There is space every day of November.

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You can book this same award flying American Airlines flights for 20,000 Etihad miles. 

Some other options you might want to consider depending on what kind of miles you have and where you live:

Paris to Istanbul

Low cost carriers are an economical way of hopping around Europe, especially when you’re trying to save your miles for higher value long distance redemptions.  I found the following flight from Paris to Istanbul with Pegasus Airlines for under $100:

pegasus flight

As is often the case with these discount airlines, the catch is that you have to watch how much you pack. You get one free carry on that can weigh 17.5 pounds. I am a proponent of one bag travel, but understandably you might want a little more room if you’re going on a trip with as many climates as this one. Luckily it’s only $6 more to bring about 44 pounds of luggage.

Istanbul to Doha

The next two legs are Avios awards. Why? Avios are ideal for short, direct, economy flights, especially between regions on award charts. Why pay 20,000 American Airlines to fly Istanbul to Doha (the same price that London to Delhi would be), when you can pay 10,000 Avios?

You can book a one way ticket between Istanbul and Doha in Economy for 10,000 British Airways Avios and $86 in taxes and fees.

avios price

You can search search and book this award right on ba.com– here’s how use the search tool. There is space in Economy every day I checked between these two cities.

avios award space

Doha to Bangkok

It costs 20,000 British Airways Avios and $62 in taxes and fees to fly from Doha to Bangkok, Thailand.

doha to bangkok price

You can search and book this award right on ba.com– here’s how use the search tool. There is space in Economy every day I checked between these two cities.

doha to bangkok avios space

Bangkok to United States

You can fly Cathay Pacific’s Business Class featuring a fully lie flat bed for only 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles…

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.35.25 PM

…and about $55 in taxes and fees. The following screenshot is from ITA matrix, which breaks down the costs of a normal revenue ticket. Alaska Airlines does not collet fuel surcharges on Cathay Pacific awards, so we know that the amount of out of pocket expenses will be approximately the sum of the taxes and other fees:

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.41.40 PM

You cannot search for Cathay Pacific award space on Alaska’s website. Use British Airways’ search tool instead– here’s how to search ba.com. The easiest time to find award space in premium cabins on Cathay Pacific flights is immediately prior (a couple weeks or less before travel) or about 11 months out from travel. For example, the availability shown below is for about 11 months from now, and five out of the seven days displayed have three to eight Business Class seats available each day.

bkk to us

bkk to us

Cathay Pacific flights can be booked by calling Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan at 1-800-654-5669.

What Do Those Awards Add up to?

     United States to Paris = 20,000 Alaska Airlines Miles and $19

     Paris to Istanbul = $80

     Istanbul to Doha = 10,000 British Airways Avios and $86

     Doha to Bangkok = 20,000 British Airways Avios and $62

 +  Bangkok to United States = 50,000 Alaska Airlines Miles and $55


    100,000 Miles and $302  

Or, if you wanted to fly the leg between the United States and Paris in Business Class it would cost an additional 30,000 Alaska miles for a total of 130,000 miles and $302.

How to Get the Miles Needed for this Trip

Alaska Airlines Miles

The Alaska Airlines credit cards from Bank of America are churnableEach one has a 25,000 mile sign-up bonus for simply signing up– no minimum spending requirement. For the Business Card you have to charge one purchase to earn the bonus.

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

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by American Express, personal and business versions, both are offering 25,000 Starpoints each for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively within three months of the accounts opening. SPG Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Alaska miles with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. SPG Starpoints also transfer 1:1 to British Airways Avios.

Etihad Miles

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Etihad is a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

British Airways Avios

Cards that earn Ultimate Rewards are ideal, since they transfer 1:1 instantly to British Airways Avios miles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line

You can see four destinations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia for 100,000 miles and $302 with about half the trip in a flat bed. The deal relies on using Etihad or Alaska miles to fly American Airlines off peak economy to Europe; using a low cost carrier in Europe; using Avios for direct, region-connecting flights; and using Alaska miles to fly Cathay Pacific home.

The exact destinations in this post are mostly guidelines and can be subbed out for your preferred spots, as long as you understand how these sweet spot awards work.

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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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8

There used to be two programs that offered Emirates First Class and Business Class redemptions at reasonable rates:

  • Japan Airlines Mileage Bank
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Now there is only one.

Current State of Alaska/Emirates Awards

Sadly, Alaska Airlines massively devalued their Emirates chart with no notice. Emirates First Class prices have gone up 67%-100%.

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And you still can’t book Emirates First Class on all routes with Alaska miles, just between the United States and Asia, Africa, or Europe.

Current State of JAL/Emirates Awards

Now the best miles for booking Emirates First Class are, by far, Japan Airlines (JAL) miles.

For Emirates flights, JAL uses a distance based award chart, so the price of your award is determined by the summed distance of all segments and cabin, which you can check on Great Circle Mapper.

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Unlike with Alaska Airlines miles, you JAL miles can book all Emirates routes.

Here are some high value examples:

Economy/Business/First Class Roundtrip Prices in Thousands of JAL Miles

  • 21/42/65 Auckland to Sydney (flight distance of 2,690 miles roundtrip)
  • 39/63/100 New York to Milan (flight distance of 7,990 miles roundtrip)
  • 55/85/135 New York to Dubai (flight distance of 13,698 miles roundtrip)
  • 60/100/155 Los Angeles to Dubai to Sydney one way (flight distance of 15,819 miles one way)
  • 60/100/155 Los Angeles to Dubai (flight distance of 16,678 miles roundtrip)
  • 60/100/155 New York to Dubai to Bangkok (flight distance of 19,798 miles roundtrip)

All of these awards are either unbookable with Alaska miles or more one way with Alaska miles than roundtrip with JAL miles.

Routing Rules

You can book one way awards, however they cost a lot more than half the roundtrip price because JAL’s charts for Emirates flights starts expensive and then goes up little by little. For instance, Auckland to Sydney in First Class is 60,000 JAL miles one way (1,345 miles flown) but only 65,000 JAL miles roundtrip (2,690 miles flow.) Similarly New York to Dubai is 100k one way in First Class and 135k roundtrip in First Class.

You can take two stopovers on an award. For instance, you could fly New York to Milan (stop) to Dubai (stop) to Asia or Africa (destination) and return home. If you want to have an open jaw, it will count as one of your stopovers and the distance between the open jaw cities counts as distance traveled on the chart.

You get six segments per award, whether you fly one way or roundtrip. It’s pretty hard to jam more than six Emirates segments onto one roundtrip, so this shouldn’t come into play often.

If your origin and destination on an award aren’t the same, they must be in the same country.

Fuel Surcharges

There has been some question over whether or not Japan Airlines collects fuel surcharges on Emirates redemptions as their loyalty program’s policy has waivered over the last few years. When I first wrote about the Best Program to Redeem Miles for Emirates First Class,  JAL was not collecting fuel surcharges, but if you read the comments section you can see that policy changed sometime in 2013. In 2014, JAL updated their website with a statement regarding taxes and carrier fees on partner redemptions, which holds today as the current policy and says all taxes and carrier fees on Emirates redemptions will cost a maximum of $78.20 between the United States and United Arab Emirates. So at least on a roundtrip to Dubai, there are no fuel surcharges.

I also called JAL Mileage Bank and asked a customer service representative to quote the taxes and fees for a couple other awards flying to different places. From what he told me it does not seem that fuel surcharges are collected on Emirates redemptions:

  • New York to Bangkok: $44
  • Los Angeles to Sydney: $66

Both of those amounts are very similar to what the taxes and fees would be on revenue ticket, less the fuel surcharges.

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Please let us know in the comments if anyone has booked an Emirates flight with JAL miles to a place other than the United Arab Emirates recently and what the out of pocket expenses where.

Product

Emirates First Class on an A380 has showers available onboard.

Both First Class and Business Class passengers have access to an onboard bar (First Class also has another private bar with premium liquors and champagne).

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.45.42 PM

Here are links to past trip reports–each one as an index at the top to see other posts in the series.

Booking an Award with Your JAL Miles on Emirates

Find award space at alaskaair.com and book by calling JAL at 1-800-JAL-FONE (1-800-525-3663) from 9 AM – 9 PM ET Monday through Friday and 10 AM – 6 PM ET on weekends and holidays. You can’t book online, and despite that fact, there is a $20 phone booking fee.

How to Get Japan Airlines Miles

The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express come with 25,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively in the first three months of cardmembership. Starpoints transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Japan Airlines Mileage Bank.

The sign-up bonuses from these two cards coupled with the points earned from spending to meet the requirements for the bonuses garners you at least 58,000 Starpoints. Sixty thousand Starpoints transfer to 75,000 JAL miles.

SPG is currently running a promotion through April 15, 2016. You can buy 20,000 Starpoints–which transfer to 25,000 JAL miles–for $525 or 2.625 cents per point (2.1 cents per mile). The maximum amount you can buy is 30,000 Starpoints for $787.50 (2.6 cents per mile). I wouldn’t buy these points speculatively, but if you have an Emirates redemption in mind and are short some Starpoints I would consider purchasing to top off your account. The Starwood Preferred Guest program is known for running these purchase discounts relatively often, so keep an eye out if you have your sights set on showering at 35,000 feet.

Transferring Starpoints to JAL Mileage Bank

One of the variables to remember when using your Starpoints for airline redemptions is how long it will take them to transfer from your SPG account to the airline you want to redeem on. The transfer time to Japan Airlines varies. The latest FlyerTalk post on the subject reports a wait time of 5 days, but some people report having to wait two weeks. Online information as to whether or not Japan Airlines will hold your award is not defined, but it’s certainly worth trying– call and speak to a representative at JAL Mileage Bank 1-800-JAL-FONE (1-800-525-3663) and explain you have to wait for your Starwood Preferred Guest points to transfer to your Japan Airlines Mileage Bank account.

Bottom Line

Redeeming Alaska Airlines miles used to be an affordable way of booking premium cabin awards on Emirates. That is no longer the case as award prices have inflated 67% to 100%. Japan Airlines miles, which are most easily accumulated as Starwood Preferred Guest points since the airline is a 1:1 transfer partner, are now the best miles to use to book the sought after Emirates First Class on an A380.

JAL’s routing rules and fuel surcharges’ policy have improved in the last few years, so it’s now even easier to book the award you want. Just remember it can take some time move points between accounts if you plan on using your SPG points for the redemption.

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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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