Reader Question

I received the following email from a reader.

Dawn writes:

I wanted to ask a question that I didn’t see an answer for on your site or clearly on the interwebs.

I am hoping to do a trip this winter to India. The way my schedule is looking, I won’t have the 85,000 miles I need until about a week and a half before the trip…

My question is, how difficult is it going to be to get an economy seat that close in? Any info I’ve found always seems to be about business class.

Thanks again for your great site and have fun on your travels.

Keep reading for my answer to how difficult getting last minute economy space will be for Dawn and how to estimate this for your own trips.

Will You Find Last Minute Award Space?

Some airlines, but not all, release seats as award seats close to departure that they think would otherwise be empty. I see more of this in premium cabins–probably because a higher percentage go unsold–than in economy, but I see it in all cabins. “Close to departure” varies by airline, and I see some seats released as late as the day of a flight.

The best way to see what a route’s last second availability is likely to look like when you want it is to search the award space for tomorrow (and the following days).

Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future space, but it is the best gauge of which airlines and routes tend to see last second openings.

Keep in mind when doing this what season tomorrow is (peak or off peak) and what season your travel will be (peak or off peak), so you can adjust your estimation of the likelihood of award space opening up in the future accordingly.

Dawn’s Trip

I’ll just look at one part of Dawn’s proposed trip: a return from India to the US, specifically Delhi to the New York City area.

Right now is off peak time in India because of the extreme temperatures and monsoons. Dawn’s trip during the US winter will be more a more popular time to travel to Delhi, when temperatures are more agreeable and the weather is drier. For that reason, I would expect to see more last second availability now then when she actually plans to travel, and we should temper our predictions accordingly.

Here’s Delhi to New York for tomorrow and the next few weeks. The good news is that four out of the next 12 days have at least one way to return from Delhi to New York for 42.5k miles in economy class.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.26.15 AM
Blue = premium award space. Yellow = economy award space. Green = both.

Analyze More Closely to Find Patterns

At this point, I would dig even deeper, clicking on each day to see what the actual itineraries are. I’m looking for patterns in what routes and airlines have economy award space to see what Dawn can expect in a few months when she looks to book.

There is one direct flight, flying United, that leaves today.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.32.53 AM

Here are some of the multi-segment itineraries scattered over the next 12 days that have economy award space:Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.34.19 AM

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.50.30 AM Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.50.50 AM

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.34.41 AM
Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.37.15 AM

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.37.49 AM

While there are lots of different routing options (flying United, SWISS, Lufthansa, Air China, and Ethiopian), the airline with the most flights available with award space overall is Lufthansa.

At this point, I would dig even deeper and look at a few segments for their availability.

Checking Individual Segments

The first I wanted to check was Delhi to Frankfurt since the Frankfurt to New York route has the most economy award space over the next 12 days.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 12.19.14 PM
Direct flights from Delhi to Frankfurt

This route has three days over the next 12 that have economy award space options.

That means that DEL-FRA-NYC could be a good last minute routing option.  Let’s check out Delhi to Munich, Lufthansa’s other hub.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 12.26.43 PM
Direct flights from Delhi to Munich

There are two days with economy space between Delhi and Munich over the next 12. So while DEL-MUC-NYC could be a possibility, it looks more likely that Dawn will find space flying DEL-FRA-NYC.

Neither of Lufthansa’s routings are the most direct way to get from Delhi to New York, but from the pattern we’ve seen there is more of a chance that she will find last minute economy award space for 42.5k United miles flying Lufthansa rather than the direct United flight from Delhi to Newark.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 12.38.57 PM

Repeat the Analysis

For Dawn’s other segments, she can perform a similar analysis to see the likelihood of finding last minute award space.

What routes and airlines have you found with consistent last minute economy award space? First class space?

Pro Tip if Booking a United Award Last Minute

United charges a $75 fee when you book an award within 21 days of departure.

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

Bottom Line

The best way to predict last minute award space patterns is to search your desired routes for tomorrow and the following days, adjusting your expectations based on what the tourism patterns are for right now compared to when you actually want to travel.

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

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

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

MG asks:

I’m not too well-versed with AA miles, but I have about 100k. I really want to use them for off-peak to either Chile or Argentina and somehow use them to get down to either country’s Patagonia region. Where do you recommend searching for LAN and TAM to get to Patagonia… the airport codes don’t seem to show up on BA.com???

 

If you search ba.com for award space, which you should do a lot when trying to redeem American Airlines miles, you will notice some missing airports. A lot of the airports that LAN serves in Patagonia for instance don’t seem to be on the site.

Or if you type in Buenos Aires, you are directed toward EZE, the mostly international airport far out of town.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.20.14 PM

If you try to type in AEP, the mostly domestic airport closer to town, no prompt comes up, as if the airport isn’t searchable on ba.com.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.20.20 PM

But ba.com can search AEP. It can even understand BUE, which searches both Buenos Aires airports at once.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.20.57 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.21.09 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.22.18 PM Similarly FTE doesn’t prompt you to El Calafate, Argentina, but it is searchable.Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.22.23 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.22.29 PMAnd PUQ doesn’t prompt Punta Arenas, Chile, but it is also searchable.Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.27.27 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.27.46 PM

Bottom Line

Just because ba.com doesn’t appear to recognize an airport code doesn’t mean you can’t search that airport on ba.com. Hit “Find flights” any way and enjoy the results.

If you find award space on ba.com, you can book it with Avios or with American Airlines 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.

cc-reward-320x50

13

 

You can check out the updated version of this post here.

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I get a lot of questions about the Citi Prestige® Card because it is an awesome and complicated card.

The Citi Prestige® Card is one of the best cards on the market now with:

  • 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open
  • $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year
  • access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges
  • the fourth night free on hotel stays
  • three free rounds of golf per year
  • $100 statement credit to offset the Global Entry application fee
  • 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels
  • a $450 annual fee.

I have the answers to most of those questions I get asked, although there’s a big answer we just don’t know. Here’s are all your questions about the Prestige. If I missed one, leave it in the comments!

Lounge Access

How Long Until the Priority Pass Membership Card Comes?

You can’t get into Priority Pass affiliated lounges by flashing your Prestige; you need a Priority Pass membership card. My Priority Pass card arrived about a week after I was approved for the Citi Prestige® Card. The Priority Pass card comes automatically; you do not need to request it.

What is The Priority Pass Lounge Access and Guest Policy?

So many people get this wrong because they read Priority Pass’s website. The Citi Prestige® Card struck a better deal than Priority Pass offers its own members. The lounge access policy is:

  • you get in for free to all Priority Pass lounges except United Clubs and Copa Clubs
  • you can bring in any two guests for free on each visit OR you can bring in your spouse and all your children under 18 for free

All you need to get into a Priority Pass lounge is a Priority Pass membership card, not your Prestige, and not a boarding pass for any specific airline.

What is the American Airlines Admirals Club Lounge Access and Guest Policy?

To get into an Admirals Club you need to show your Prestige and an American Airlines boarding pass for a flight departing within 12 hours OR one that has arrived within 12 hours.

You can use Admirals Clubs before and after the journey as long as you fly American Airlines. If you fly another carrier, you cannot use the Admirals Club.

You get in for free to Admirals Clubs if you meet the entry requirements just listed. Just like with Priority Pass lounge access:

  • you can bring in any two guests for free on each visit OR you can bring in your spouse and all your children under 18 for free

 

$250 Air Travel Credit

How Do You Get $500 Worth of the Air Travel Credit in the First Year of Cardmembership?

The $250 Air Travel Credit is per calendar year. If you max out the $250 in 2016 and $250 more in early 2017 before your next annual fee is due, that is $500 worth of Air Travel Credit in the first year of cardmemebership. I got $500 in Air Travel Credits in my first year of cardmembership.

What Counts as a Purchase that Will Be Offset by the Air Travel Credit?

Basically anything that shows up as a charge from an airline. In my personal experience, this includes:

  • airfare (purchased from an airline, not from an online travel agency)
  • baggage fees
  • award taxes and fees

Citi also explicitly says “lounge access and some in-flight purchases” will count. I know that internet purchased from Gogo does NOT count, but presumably food and duty free purchases would count.

I’d also expect other fees like airline change fees, seat selection fees, and upgrade fees to count. If the charge shows up as being from an airline, it should count.

Do Airline Gift Cards Count?

If the charge shows up as being from an airline, it should count. As far as I know, all airline gift card purchases through an airline’s website do show up as purchases from that airline.

Do Mileage Purchases Count?

If the charge shows up as being from an airline, it should count. American Airlines and Avianca process their own mileage sales, so they’d count. Many airlines do not process their miles sales, using points.com instead. Those purchases would not count.

Do You Have to Designate One Airline to Receive the Credit With?

You automatically receive up to a $250 credit per calendar year to offset all purchases from all airlines.

You do NOT have to designate one airline. For that matter, you don’t have to do anything. The credit is automatic following the eligible purchases.

Hotel Stays

How Does the Fourth Night Free Benefit Work?

If you book a hotel by phone through the Citi Prestige Travel Concierge Service you should pay the same publicly available rate on the hotel’s website, and after paying with your Citi Prestige, you’ll get the cost of the fourth night including taxes refunded to you.

What Hotels are Included?

Not all hotels are eligible for the Fourth Night Free benefit, but all the hotels you can find by searching here should be.

Which Is Better for Paying for a Hotel, a Prestige or a Hotel’s Own Credit Card?

Generally the Citi Prestige® Card with its 3x points on hotel spending and no foreign transaction fees, though there are a few exceptions.

Global Entry $100 Credit

Why Do I Want Global Entry?

For the time it takes to fill out an application and interview once with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (maybe two hours between the two activities), you get to speed through immigration and customs for five years. Plus you can use your Known Traveler ID to get TSA Precheck and speed through security too.

It’s well worth $100 to me, but you can get it free by paying the application fee with your Citi Prestige® Card and collecting the $100 offsetting credit.

I Already Have Global Entry, Can I Use the Credit for Someone Else’s Application Fee?

Yes, either give them your credit card number to pay the fee or give them a Citi Virtual Account Number with a $100 limit.

Redeem Points

How Do I Combine my Prestige’s Points with Points from My Preferred, Premier, or AT&T Card?

The Citi Prestige® Card has the best redemption rate, but occasionally another Citi card offers a better earning rate or a big sign up bonus you want. You can redeem points from other cards at the better rate for redeeming Prestige’s points by combining your accounts. It is very easy. Here’s how.

How Do You Redeem Points for Free Flights on Any Airline?

Go to thankyou.com and search for flights. Prices are displayed in dollars and points. If you choose to pay with points, you will get 1.33 cents of value for each point for most airlines and 1.6 cents of value for American Airlines and US Airways flights.

The airline will see these tickets as paid tickets, so you will earn miles and status like on any paid ticket.

How Do You Get 1.6 Cents Per Point Toward Free Flights on American and its Codeshare Partners?

American Airlines markets flights that are actually flown by over 20 airlines. All of these codeshare flights are available on thankyou.com and offer 1.6 cents of value per point.

Can You Partially Pay for Flights in Points?

Yes!

Imagine a $160 flight on American Airlines.

You can buy it for:

  • $160
  • 10,000 ThankYou Points
  • 5,000 points + $80
  • 3,647 points + $101.65

Or any other combination of points and cash. Each point is worth 1.6 cents off the cash price.

How Do You Transfer Points to Airline Miles?

ThankYou Points have 12 airline transfer partners. You can transfer ThankYou Points to them at a 1:1 rate on thankyou.com.

You would want to do this if the airline has an attractive award chart to where you want to go that makes transferring points to miles and booking an award a better deal than using points to pay for airfare like cash (as explained in the last few questions.)

What Are the Best Transfer Partners?

  • Singapore
  • Air France
  • Virgin Atlantic
Golf

How Does the Prestige’s Golf Benefit Work?

You get three free rounds per calendar year at over 2,400 possible courses including TPC and PGA courses. Here are the full rules.

How Does Card Compare to Other Cards?

How Does Prestige Compare to AMEX Platinum?

A comparison of sign up bonus, benefits, fees, and more.

How Does Prestige Compare to AA Executive Card?

A comparison of sign up bonus, benefits, fees, and more.

How Does Prestige Compare to ThankYou Premier and ThankYou Preferred?

A comparison of sign up bonus, benefits, fees, and more.

Getting a Prestige

What are Citi’s Application Rules?

Citi will not approve more than one card in a week or two cards in two months. So to get three Citi cards, I recommend applying for them on Day 1, Day 9, and Day 66.

Permanence of 50,000 Point Offer

How Long Will the 50,000 Point Sign Up Bonus Last?

This is the one question I just don’t know the answer to.

The 50k offer started on April 9. Before that the offer was identical but only a 30,000 points sign up bonus.

I hope the 50,000 point offer lasts forever, but I don’t expect it to last forever, since the public offer on the AMEX Platinum–a competing card–is usually only 40,000 points.

Don’t delay and miss out one of the best offers right now. Get the Citi Prestige® Card sooner rather than later.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

 

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

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

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

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

cc-reward-320x50

21

Longtime reader Eddy emailed me:

Do you know of someplace that has the rules of the various frequent flyer programs? I’m looking at trip to China next Spring and there are so many options, so I’d like to know for each program: (1) allow one ways? (2) permit stop overs? (3) charge for fuel? Any idea if this info is collected in one place anywhere? Thanks.

This seemed like something I absolutely had to put in one place, so this is the place.

This chart represents the rules for using the type of miles listed in the far left column.

Click the image to enlarge.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 2.07.14 AM

 

I’ve included nine of my favorite programs on the chart. I toyed with how best to present the information of the chart, at one point including footnotes next to almost every entry. I ditched that, and instead will put longer form answers for each airline and explanations of the color-coding below.

Color Coding

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 2.07.14 AM

 

  • The first three airlines in light blue are the United States’ three legacy carriers. Since they have long competed on their programs, I grouped them together.
  • The four in the orange-brown are four foreign Star Alliance programs. (United is the American airline in the Star Alliance.) Since these programs can all book basically all the same partner flights, I grouped them together. By the way, here is a post comparing the eight Star Alliance award charts to see which has the cheapest awards.
  • The red on the chart indicates a bad answer.
  • The green indicates a good answer.
  • The yellow indicates a mixed answer.

Longer Explanations

American Airlines AAdvantage

  • American Airlines miles can book one way awards for half the price of roundtrip awards.
  • Since April 2014, American Airlines awards do not allow any stopovers other than the destination. A stopover is a layover greater than 24 hours on international awards.
  • Any program that allows booking one way awards, allows up to two open jaws by booking a roundtrip as two one ways.
  • Any program that doesn’t allow stopovers, doesn’t allow free one ways.
  • American Airlines only collects fuel surcharges on British Airways and Iberia flights.
  • I don’t know of any maximum segment rule on American Airlines awards. American Airlines does have some complicated routing rules though.

Delta SkyMiles

  • Delta SkyMiles can book one way awards for half the price of roundtrip awards.
  • Since January 2015, Delta awards do not allow any stopovers other than the destination. A stopover is a layover greater than 24 hours on international awards.
  • Any program that allows booking one way awards, allows up to two open jaws by booking a roundtrip as two one ways.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on all these partners and on all awards that originate in Europe.
  • I don’t know of any maximum segment rule on Delta awards. Delta’s routing rule tends to be that award tickets need to comply with the same routing rules as paid tickets.

United MileagePlus

  • United MileagePlus miles can book one way awards for half the price of roundtrip awards.
  • United awards allow one stopover on roundtrip awards that are not wholly within one region on the United award chart and zero stopovers on one way awards.
  • Any program that allows booking one way awards, allows up to two open jaws by booking a roundtrip as two one ways.
  • United awards that allow a stopover allow a free one way.
  • United awards never include fuel surcharges.
  • United awards are capped at four segments per one way award and eight per roundtrip.

British Airways Avios

The British Airways Avios program is COMPLETELY different than all the other programs in this post. All the others are region-to-region miles.

In the other programs, you pay a certain number of miles based on what region you start in, what region you end in, and what cabin of the plane you fly.

Avios are distance-based miles. In the British Airways Avios program, you don’t pay a single price for an award, you pay a single price for each flight on the award. The price of each flight is based only on its distance and the cabin you fly. Add up the price of each flight to get the price of your award.

  • You pay for each flight, so of course one way is half the price of a roundtrip.
  • You pay for each flight, so it doesn’t matter whether you stop for 1 hour or 1,000 hours in each city you fly through. In that sense, you get unlimited free stopovers on British Airways awards.
  • You pay for each flight, so you have unlimited open jaws on Avios awards.
  • You pay for each flight, so you can’t have a free one way.
  • British Airways collects fuel surcharges on any award flight that has fuel surcharges on the equivalent cash flight. Here are the surcharges by partner.
  • British Airways awards can have unlimited segments. You pay for each one.

Singapore KrisFlyer

  • Singapore miles can book one way awards for half the price of roundtrip awards.
  • Singapore allows zero stopovers on one way awards. Singapore allows one free stopover on roundtrip awards. You can get up to three more stopovers on roundtrip awards for $100 each.
  • Any program that allows booking one way awards, allows up to two open jaws by booking a roundtrip as two one ways. However if you book your roundtrip as a roundtrip, you get only one open jaw.
  • Singapore allows up to two free one ways per roundtrip award.
  • Singapore collects fuel surcharges on any award flight that has fuel surcharges on the equivalent cash flight except that Singapore doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on United flights.
  • Singapore roundtrip awards are capped at six segments.

Air Canada Aeroplan

  • For awards departing the continental United States and Canada, Aeroplan miles can book one way awards for half the price of roundtrip awards. That is not the case for awards departing other regions.
  • Aeroplan allows two free stopovers or one stopover plus one open jaw on roundtrip awards.
  • Any program that allows booking one way awards, allows up to two open jaws by booking a roundtrip as two one ways.
  • Aeroplan allows free one ways.
  • Aeroplan collects fuel surcharges on many partners. Aeroplan doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on United flights.
  • Aeroplan roundtrip awards are capped at 10 segments.

Lufthansa Miles & More

  • Lufthansa miles can book one way awards for half the price of roundtrip awards.
  • Stopovers:
    • Lufthansa does not allow stopovers on one way awards.
    • Lufthansa does not allow stopovers in your region of departure.
    • Lufthansa allows one stopover per direction of travel on roundtrip awards, two total per roundtrip.
  • Any program that allows booking one way awards, allows up to two open jaws by booking a roundtrip as two one ways.
  • Because you can’t stopover at your home airport, no free one ways are possible.
  • Lufthansa collects fuel surcharges on any award flight that has fuel surcharges on the equivalent cash flight. United, Copa, and Avianca flights within the Americas have no fuel surcharges.
  • Segments:
    • Roundtrip Lufthansa awards within one region are capped at four segments.
    • Roundtrip Lufthansa awards from one region to a second are capped at six segments.
    • Roundtrip Lufthansa awards that touch three regions are capped at eight segments.

Avianca LifeMiles

  • Avianca LifeMiles can book one way awards for half the price of roundtrip awards.
  • Stopovers are not allowed on LifeMiles awards, and a layovers becomes an illegal stopover at 8 hours, not the standard 24.
  • Any program that allows booking one way awards, allows up to two open jaws by booking a roundtrip as two one ways.
  • Because you can’t stopover at your home airport, no free one ways are possible.
  • LifeMiles awards do not have fuel surcharges.
  • I do not believe there is a segment maximum for LifeMiles awards. There is a crazy rule that all flights must be in the same cabin. That is, you can’t mix economy and business or business and first even when your cabin of choice isn’t available on a flight you need.

Alaska Mileage Plan

  • Alaska miles can book one way awards for half the price of roundtrip awards.
  • A stopover is allowed on one way Alaska awards. Two stopovers are allowed on roundtrip awards.
  • Any program that allows booking one way awards, allows up to two open jaws by booking a roundtrip as two one ways.
  • A free one way is allowed on one way Alaska awards. Two free one ways are allowed on roundtrip awards.
  • Alaska awards only include fuel surcharges on British Airways flights.
  • I do not believe there is a segment maximum for Alaska awards.
  • You cannot combine partners on an Alaska award. You must fly one partner only (plus Alaska Airlines flights if you’d like) in each direction.

Did I make any mistakes? Correct them in the comments.

 

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

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

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

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

cc-reward-320x50

Japan's Cherry Blossoms

All credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

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

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

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

Japan's Cherry Blossoms
Japan’s Cherry Blossoms

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

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

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

What does she have to do to combine the miles?

American Airlines and US Airways miles will be separate until the second quarter of 2015 at which point, they will be combined into her American Airlines account. Theoretically this will happen automatically. In practice, I recommended that she contact me on April 1, 2015 to ask how to link her American Airlines and US Airways accounts. (I’ll cover it on the blog when the info is released.)

American Airlines hasn’t told us how we will be able to link our AAdvantage and Dividend Miles accounts, but it will probably take just a few clicks and will guarantee that our accounts are combined seamlessly instead of having problems arise from having a common name on your account.

What if the spending requirement is too much?

The spending requirement on The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is one purchase to unlock the 40,000 bonus miles. The spending requirement on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® is $3,000 in the first 3 months to unlock 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles.

That’s $3,001 total in three months or about $1,000 per month. She’s 95% sure she can handle that. If she can’t, I suggested that she go to her regular grocery store or gas station and buy herself a gift card to that store or gas station that she could then use in the coming months.

Will I see her financial information if she applies for the cards through links on my site?

No. Links on my site take you to the banks’ websites. I receive no personal information about any applicant.

What are the fees associated with the cards?

The US Airways card has an immediate $89 annual fee. The American Airlines card has no annual fee for the first 12 months after you get it; then you pay $95.

You can cancel either card at any time to avoid future annual fees if the value proposition of keeping the card open longer is negative. I told her to mark her calendar for November 1, 2015 to decide then whether she wants to hold or cancel each card.

The bigger fees, of course, are in the form of interest or late fees when you run a balance or miss payments on your rewards cards. Set up your online account to auto-pay in full, and you’ll never pay these fees.

Will canceling these cards in the future cause her to forfeit the miles?

No. Cards that earn airline miles deposit those miles into your airline account. Canceling your credit card doesn’t make the miles instantly disappear from your airline account.

The miles will only eventually expire if there is 18 months of inactivity in the frequent flyer account. Generating activity to restart the 18 month clock is very easy.

How can she check her credit score?

Barclaycard has been offering its cardholders free access to their real FICO credit scores for a year now.

Barclaycard issues The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®, so after she gets that card, she can check her credit score for free on the Barclaycard website.

Should she close other credit cards she has?

She has five other credit cards including an American Express Blue Sky, a United card, a store credit card, and more.

Whether to keep or cancel any individual card is a simple math problem, and only she has the inputs.

Here is what you need to know for yourself: Should I Keep This Card? Whether to Hold or Cancel a Rewards Card When an Annual Fee is Due.

How can she book her award tickets?

Her best option to Japan will be a direct flight on Japan Airlines, an American Airlines partner. Award space on Japan Airlines flights is not searchable on aa.com. She will need to search for award space on ba.com. Any award space on Japan Airlines flights on ba.com is bookable with American Airlines miles by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

To London, some partners are searchable on aa.com, and some are not. She can search more comprehensively on ba.com or hire the MileValue Award Booking Service to book her award.

Do you have any other questions?

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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

Commenter RH Dailey asked me for a list of direct flights from the west coast to Europe and to let him know which ones have flat beds in Business Class.

There are direct flights from five west coast cities plus Vancouver and Las Vegas to Europe.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 11.53.38 PM

These flights are operated by all the major transatlantic players and by some airlines that perhaps you’ve never heard of.

For each North American city, I’ve listed the European cities served and by which carriers. Here I’ll list where to search for award space on each carrier and whether it has flat beds in Business Class.

  • American Airlines: aa.com, yes from Los Angeles to London
  • Aer Lingus: Expert Flyer, yes starting in 2015
  • Air France: delta.com, no
  • United: united.com, yes
  • British Airways: aa.com, yes (you will pay huge fuel surcharges to book British Airways flights with any type of miles)
  • Virgin Atlantic: delta.com, yes
  • KLM: delta.com, no
  • Lufthansa: united.com, on some aircraft
  • Scandinavian: united.com, no
  • Swiss: united.com, yes
  • Turkish, united.com, on some aircraft
  • Aeroflot, airfrance.us, no (fuel surcharges)
  • airberlin, aa.com, on some aircraft
  • Air Tahiti Nui, Expert Flyer, no
  • Air New Zealand, united.com, yes (never releases business class award space)
  • Delta, delta.com, yes
  • Alitalia, delta.com, on some aircraft
  • Iberia, ba.com, no
  • Air Canada, united.com, yes
  • Air Europa, Expert Flyer, no (fuel surcharges)

These next seven airlines don’t have award space that can be booked with traditional miles, and I don’t think any of them have flat bed business class either. You can, of course, book these airlines with your Arrival miles from the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® since you can book any airline with Arrival miles.

  • XL Airways France
  • Transaero
  • Norwegian
  • Condor
  • Icelandair
  • Edelweiss
  • Thomas Cook

What are the routes from the west coast to Europe?

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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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Let me clear up one of the most common types of questions I get from beginners.

There is no transitive property of miles.

Just because Airline A partners with Airline B and Airline B partners with Airline C does NOT mean Airlines A and C are partners.

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 11.51.54 AMFor instance, in yesterday’s post Fully Flat Business Class to Europe for 25,000 Miles, I wrote:

I searched award space on Aer Lingus’ routes from Chicago, Boston, and New York to Dublin for one passenger next April through July.

I searched on united.com. Any space seen here is bookable with United or British Airways miles.

Often when I write such things I’ll get a comment or an email like, “I have American Airlines miles, which is a partner of British Airways. Can I use those miles to book Aer Lingus flights as a British Airways award?”

  • Well, can you?
  • What about using a partner’s more favorable fuel surcharge rules?
  • Can you use American Airlines and US Airways miles to book all the partners of either airline?
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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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Overnight, I wrote about the current Starwood/American Airlines promotion: for all of July, 20,000 Starpoints will transfer to 30,000 American Airlines miles.

I gave the facts in this post, but I was called out in the comments for not analyzing the promotion. Said DH:

“Is this offer an indication there’s an AA devaluation right around the corner? If so, is this transfer still a good idea? Starwood points are really valuable, and I doubt devalued AA miles would be anywhere close. It’d be nice if you could discuss a bit about the merits and drawbacks/risks of the transfer instead of just saying the offer is available. It’s usually your analysis of an offer that sets this site apart. Thanks.”

DH is totally right that I want this site to stand apart because I don’t just say there is a promotion, I analyze it.

In my defense, I was coming back from a night out in Brazil celebrating the USA’s World Cup run, so I wasn’t up to the analysis. But I am now, and there’s 1,500 words of it below!

  • Should you transfer Starpoints to AAdvantage miles speculatively this month?
  • What are the 30+ airline partners of Starpoints?
  • What are the 10+ to which I’d transfer?
  • What are the three best?
  • What are the strengths of those three airline programs?
  • What is my forecast for upcoming devaluations?
  • What are four other great uses of Starpoints besides airline transfers?
  • Will I transfer?
  • Should you?
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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

The minimum spending requirement is now $3,000 in the first 90 days to unlock the 40,000 bonus miles. Full offer details: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® 

————

Arrival miles never expire as long as you hold your Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®. They do disappear the second you cancel the card though.

Arrival Plus Card Image

Other than cancelling the card, the only time constraint on using Arrival miles is that you have 120 days after any travel purchase to redeem miles for an offsetting statement credit.

If you forget to use your Arrival miles to offset a travel purchase within 120 days though, it’s usually not a big deal, since all travel redemptions get the same value per Arrival mile. You can just use your Arrival miles to offset the next travel purchase.

These are great redemption rules for us:

  1. Since Arrival miles never expire, you don’t need to earn Arrival miles with a specific redemption in mind. Once you earn Arrival miles, they stay in your account until you’re ready to use them.
  2. With 120 days after any travel purchase to redeem miles, you have the ability to take a trip, then earn miles, then redeem the miles to make the trip free retroactively.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is the king of cash back cards without even being a cash back card. I got one myself in February 2014 and have included it as one of the top ten credit card offers for travel. The Arrival Plus earns 2x miles back toward travel on all purchases, offers flexible redemption options, and just clearing the sign up bonus is worth $500 in free travel!

Since I got the card, Barclaycard has expanded its definition of a travel purchase, which increases redemption options, and now offers Chip & PIN technology, which means it can be used abroad more easily where it has no foreign transaction fees.

  • What are the best uses of Arrival miles?
  • How do you earn and redeem Arrival miles?
  • Who is the Arrival Plus card best for?

Best Uses of Arrival Miles

There are a lot of fantastic uses for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® and Arrival miles. They include:

  • Paying for any flight on any airline. This is a great use of Arrival miles if you’re flying economy and the flight you are looking at would be a low value redemption with traditional airline miles or if you are looking at flying during periods or no/low Saver award ticket availability. Pay for the ticket with your Arrival Plus card without any need to search for award space and within the next 120 days, log into your account and use your Arrival miles to offset the cost.
  • Paying for travel expenses that you can’t use traditional miles for. These include taxes and fees on airline award tickets, hotel expenses at non-chain hotels, taxis, ferries, campgrounds, etc. This flexibility makes Arrival miles a great complementary program to other programs.
  • Paying for travel expenses while you are still earning enough Arrival miles to cover the purchase. The unique redemption scheme of Arrival miles, where you have 120 days from the date of your travel purchase to log into your account and offset the expense with your miles, means that you can make purchases as soon as you get the card and then offset their expenses once you have cleared the sign up bonus, for example.
  • Buying Avianca LifeMiles to turn your Arrival Plus into a card that earns 1.52 LifeMiles per dollar on all purchases. You can use this trick to take advantage of the sweet spots on the LifeMiles award chart and turn Arrival miles, which are good for economy flights, into LifeMiles, which are good for business and first class awards. With LifeMiles, you can get into great premium class products, like Lufthansa First Class.

Earning Arrival Miles

Barclaycard offers two cards that earn Arrival miles.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, which I call the Arrival Plus:

  • Earns 2x miles on all purchases
  • Gives you 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months
  • Has an annual fee of $89, which is waived for the first year

The Barclaycard Arrival™ World Mastercard®, which I call the “no-annual-fee-Arrival” card:

  • Earns 2x miles on travel and dining and 1x on all other purchases
  • Gives you 20,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months
  • Has no annual fee

Both cards’ miles can be redeemed for a statement credit to offset travel purchases in the same way and both offer an instant 5% rebate on redeemed miles. Additionally, both cards have no foreign transaction fees and offer cardholders access to their FICO credit scores for free.

I recommend the Arrival Plus card for most people because of its larger sign up bonus, better earning rate, and the fact that the annual fee is waived for the first year.

Redeeming Arrival Miles

Redeeming Arrival Miles is easy too. All the travel purchases you make are put together in one place in your online Barclaycard account, and you can use miles to remove those charges from your bill any time in the 120 days after making the purchases.

After signing into your Barclaycard account, you’ll see Manage Rewards where your Arrival miles balance is shown. If you’ve met the minimum spending requirement, your balance should be 46,000+ Arrival miles.

 

Who Should Get the Arrival Plus Card?

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

  • Economy Flyers– If you mainly fly economy class, it’s hard to get even 1.5 cents of value per traditional mile. Most miles cards earn 1 mile per dollar, meaning they get economy flyers 1.5 cents of travel per dollar spent–if that! The Arrival Plus gets economy flyers (and everyone else) 2.28 cents of travel per dollar spent.
  • Families– Families have two things working against them. It’s tough to book four capacity-controlled award seats on the same flight, and they usually have little date flexibility since they want to travel over school breaks. Arrival miles don’t require you to find award seats. They can be redeemed toward any travel purchase. A family can book four tickets to Disneyland and use their miles from this card to make that flight–whatever flight they want–free.
  • Domestic Flyers- You’d have to spend $25,000 on a United, American, or Delta credit card AND find award space on the flights you want to get a domestic roundtrip. You’d have to spend far less on the Arrival Plus, and you can book any flight you want.
  • Big Spenders- While most of us are best served using our monthly spending to clear minimum spending amounts to earn credit card bonuses, big spenders will have monthly spending left over that they need to put on a card. The Arrival Plus card is a great card for big spenders because of the great return it earns at 2.28% on all purchases. Unless you have a large purchase that you can earn a category bonus on with another card, consider putting it on the Arrival Plus card.
  • Points Omnivores- This is my category. I’ll collect any mile or point I can to get more travel. I collect other types to get into international first class. I’ll collect this type to fly to more mundane places in economy class. A dollar saved is still a dollar saved.

Recap

Arrival miles are a great, flexible mileage program that is an important part of a diversified mileage earning strategy. Arrival miles never expire, and you have 120 days after any travel purchase to use your miles to offset its cost.

Application Links

 

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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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An active duty military member emailed me:

This December I am getting out of the Military. When I initially get out I get 2 (one for my spouse and one for me) one-way airplane tickets to anywhere in the world. We want to use this to start our trip around Indo China and Europe. We want to go to Vietnam, Thailand, India, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, and England. After visiting these places we will fly to Dayton, Ohio. What is most important to me is flying from London to Dayton, Ohio for hopefully free.

She was writing to me because she didn’t currently have any major frequent flyer mile balances.

My first thought is: don’t fly home from London. Departing the United Kingdom–not transiting it or arriving there–incurs a massive tax called the Air Passenger Duty. While Dayton to London one way would have $5 in taxes, the direction she needs–London to Dayton–has $206 in taxes.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 3.21.51 AM

Not only does she have the London departure tax problem, but she currently has no miles and puts only $1,500 per month on credit cards, which makes it hard to quickly accrue miles.

Still I was able to offer a really easy strategy to get two one way tickets from London to Dayton completely free.

Which two cards did I recommend she open? How did I recommend she book the award?

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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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We just got an interesting comment on Bill’s great recent post about Booking Etihad Business Class Using American Miles.

MojoMama is trying to go from Los Angeles (LAX) to the Maldives (MLE) in First Class.

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 8.42.57 AM

The United States to the Maldives should be 90k miles each way in First Class according to American Airlines’ chart. But she’s getting charged 115k miles:

Trying to book LAX-JFK(stopover)-AUH-MLE in first for August, but it’s pricing at 115,000 miles. Being told AUH-MLE is separate award because it’s not in the same region, which I know is false. Also, was told must route over Pacific via HKG to get to Maldives on one award ticket, which I also know is false. My question is, is LAX-JFK-AUH-MLE a valid routing? It comes up on ITA, but I don’t see it on the Etihad website.

There’s a lot to unpack in this comment because it gets at several of the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

In the end, as is often the case, American Airlines is trying to charge her the correct amount of miles even though its phone agents are giving tons of misinformation about why the price is what it is.

What are the phone agents getting wrong? Why is Los Angeles to the Maldives 115k American Airlines miles in First Class? How can it be cheaper? What should MojoMama do?

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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 offers for the cards listed in this post have expired, so their links have been removed. Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

A reader emailed me to ask what card she should use to pay the taxes on a United award:

I’m trying to book an award ticket on United ORD-EZE-ORD. [Scott: Chicago to Buenos Aires, taxes are about $82.]

Which credit card would you suggest I use to pay the fees and are there any particular advantages to one or the other?  We have United Explorer, United Club, Barclay Arrival, Sapphire Preferred, Starwood, Amex Platinum, and some that I imagine you wouldn’t recommend (Freedom, Citi Aadvantage, Barclay US Airways, Citi Thank You Preferred, Ink Bold).

Of the cards she has, she should use either the Sapphire Preferred or the Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases.

If she had the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card or The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, those would also be great options.

Under no circumstances should she use her United card for this purchase.

Why should she use the Sapphire Preferred, Arrival, Premier Rewards Gold, or Enhanced Business Gold card to pay the taxes on her award ticket?

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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 best advice for collecting miles is to earn and burn. Miles tend to fall in value, and they don’t earn interest, so most people shouldn’t stockpile them.

But maybe you’re too busy to travel this year, so you’re earning miles for future travel. Or maybe you need a ton of miles to take a lot of people on a trip together. In these or other cases, you may need to stockpile miles.

If you are stockpiling miles, I would choose which miles to stockpile based on three criteria.

  1. Value
  2. Versatility
  3. Devaluation Risk

Which miles come out well as miles you should stockpile? Which are the worst miles to stockpile? How do transferable points play into the analysis?

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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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0

Many people ask me a variety of the question: should I focus my earning on one airline program, or should I try to earn miles in all programs?

Let’s divide mileage accrual into two categories:

  1. Miles earned from flying on paid tickets. (Butt-in-seat miles)
  2. Miles earned from other sources. (Mainly credit card miles but also other promos, dining programs, opening brokerage accounts, and more.)

There is a different best strategy for mile accrual of each type that depends on your flying and spending habits.

What’s your best play? Diversify or concentrate?

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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

The offers for the cards listed in this post have expired. Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

I get a lot of emails from people who want to travel with a companion, but their companion can’t open credit cards. Maybe the companion doesn’t have a social security number or just has bad credit. Whatever the reason: can one person get enough miles for two people to take a vacation in style?

Here’s a typical email from Dan:

I am interested in using you for award booking for a European vacation for Summer 2014 in business class.

I am also interested in having you help me determine a strategy for which cards to get in order to execute this trip.

Let me tell you my situation:

My wife can open credit cards for herself and a business, but I can’t. We dipped our toe into the awards card world by signing up for 3 cards over 3 months:

  • Delta Gold Amex, 12/12
  • SPG Amex, 1/13
  • Barclays US Air, 2/13

The more I read, the more I realize that going with Delta was probably a mistake.

I’m coming to you for advice as we plan our first app-o-rama. For the trip we want, should we stick with Delta? Or do we have time to focus on another carrier?

Our current balances are:

  • Delta 31k
  • SPG 30k
  • US Airways 40k

Not only can Dan and his wife get to Europe in business class, they are only one three cards away.

The Plan

US Airways and United are partners, both members of the Star Alliance. That means US Airways miles can be used on

  • US Airways flights
  • United flights
  • Star Alliance flights
  • or any combination thereof.

United miles can be used on those same

  • US Airways flights
  • United flights
  • Star Alliance flights
  • or any combination thereof.

Both US Airways and United charge 100k miles roundtrip to Europe, so if you get 100k of each type of miles, two people are all set to fly roundtrip in business class on the same flights.

Dan’s current balances are very helpful, so his wife just needs to get three cards to fill the gaps.

  1. US Airways Premier World MasterCard with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred with 40,000 Ultimate Rewards after $3,000 in spending in the first 3 months
  3. Chase Ink Bold with 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after $5,000 in spending in the first 3 months

Dan already has one US Airways MasterCard, but in pretty much everyone’s experience, you can get two. See Easily Earn 110k US Airways Miles. (And by the way, be on the lookout for the targeted 15k offers in the mail for continued spending on the card.)

There isn’t much to say about the Sapphire Preferred. It has been the “it” card for the last 18 months in the frequent flyer world. Dan would be better off getting the Chase United Explorer card if he can find it with a 50,000 mile bonus offer, but if not, then he should get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Chase Ink Bold is a business card.

Get those cards and meet the minimum spends, and your new balances will be

  • Delta 31k
  • US Airways 70k
  • SPG 30k
  • Ultimate Rewards 98k

Dan will probably have over 100k Ultimate Rewards since the Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points on dining and travel, and the Ink Bold offers 5x points at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, land line, internet, and cable TV services (on the first $50k of spending annually.) Worst case scenario: he buys the last 2k Ultimate Rewards for $50.

Remember that his goal is to have 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles. Here’s how to get there.

Transfer 100k Ultimate Rewards to United. Now he has 100k United miles.

Transfer 25k SPG to US Airways. This will show up as 30k US Airways miles with the automatic transfer bonus. Added on to his balance of 70k US Airways miles, he will have 100k US Airways miles.

Dan has now met his goal of having 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles.

That’s enough to get two seats on the same flights on a roundtrip in business class to Europe.
Dan’s QuestionsDo I combine the United and US Airways miles?No. You use the United miles to book one award on united.com or by calling United at 800-UNITED-1. You use the US Airways miles to book one award by calling US Airways at 800-622-1015. You just make sure each award has the same flights, so you’ll be on the same planes with each other.We are booking through different carriers, I assume we will attempt to book seats together, and that the only differences will be what counter we go to for check-in?

The way to choose seats is to call the operating carrier and request seats. So if your flights are on Lufthansa, you call Lufthansa.

You check in at the operating carrier of the first flight, so you check in at the same counter at the airport.

Recap

One person can earn enough miles for two people to travel in style to Europe. The key is to earn 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles. The miles can’t be combined, but they can be used to each book one seat on the same flights, so the two companions can travel together.

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

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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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