Showing posts with label Tips and Tricks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips and Tricks. Show all posts

March 26, 2017

AAdvantage Shopping Portal Offering a 10x Bonus

One of the easiest ways to earn extra award miles is to make purchases through an online shopping portal.  American AAdvantage's portal is out with a pretty lucrative bonus that's good through 4/14/17.

Make 3 $50+ purchases and you'll earn 1,500 bonus miles.  That's on top of the miles you'll earn from each online merchant.  Generally the bonuses offered by these portals provide 3 - 5x/dollar spent so 10x is really good.

I'll definitely be taking advantage of this for purchases I would have made anyway.  There are a lot of stores paying out 5x+ so you should be able to earn 15x+ if you split up your purchases.

January 8, 2017

Using Travel Codex Award Maximizer

Travel Codex (f.k.a. Hack My Trip) is one of my favorite (besides this one) blogs.  Scott and team do a great job of posting about a wide variety of topics and they've ramped up their content production recently with even more contributors.

I've used the Travel Codex Award Maximizer a few times when looking to easily compare award costs across several programs.  The tool will compare mileage costs for a specific route across programs which is incredibly helpful.  I've memorized most of the major award charts for routes taken often (i.e. Continental US to Europe in Business Class) but it's a challenge to to lookup each program's mileage redemption cost for a more specific routing.

A few weeks ago, I was looking to book a flight between Tokyo and Hong Kong.  Ideally, we wanted to fly Cathay Pacific First Class but I was short of British Airways and American Airlines miles.  I hadn't initially considered that I could use Alaska Mileage Plan miles for the sector.

I keyed in the routing.
And the tool showed results across 14 programs.

My options on Cathay were as follows:
  • 40,000 American AAdvantage miles (each)
  • 27,500 Alaska Mileage Plan miles
  • 40,000 British Airways Avios
  • 40,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Well that was a no brainer.  After finding Cathay space on the British Airways site, I was able to give Alaska a call and book the routing for 55,000 total Alaska Mileage Plan miles.  The tool links directly to helpful posts on how to book an award with many of the programs.

Kudos to Scott and team for putting together such an awesome resource!

Churning the Barclaycard Arrival Plus MasterCard

I applied for the 50,000 point signup offer back in November.  I've completed the minimum spend requirement and received the 50,000 points in my account.  So that makes 3 signup bonuses in ~3 years.

Barclaycard offers the Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard in the US with a 50,000 point signup bonus.  This card is a great "cash replacement" for travel expenses as you'll get 2x miles on all purchases which can then be redeemed against travel purchases.  You also get 5% of the miles back in the form of a rebate on all redemptions.  The minimum redemption is a $100 purchase (used to be $25 and the rebate used to be 10%).

Effectively, this is a 2.10% cash back card on travel purchases with a $525 signup bonus.  The $89 annual fee is also waived for the first year.  Like the Alaska credit cards issued by Bank of America, Barclays will generally provide the signup bonus more than once.  Here's my experience:

  • January 2014 approved and received 40,000 mile bonus (cancelled prior to 12 months)
  • March 2015 approved and received 40,000 mile bonus (canceled prior to 12 months)
  • November 2016 approved and received 50,000 mile bonus

December 28, 2016

AwardWallet Price Increase Next Year

AwardWallet is one of my favorite travel hacking tools.  With so many programs, constantly changing point balances, expiration dates, and random "free nights," it's imperative to stay organized.  When people ask me to how to get started, AwardWallet is one of my top three recommendations.  I'm honestly not sure how I would manage without AwardWallet.

If you're not familiar, AwardWallet enables you to add your airline/hotel loyalty program info (username/account number/pword) so that all of your point balances can be aggregated in once place.  Think for miles and points.

While the service is free, they offer a "AwardWallet Plus" subscription which provides a few valuable benefits and I gladly pay the $10/year for the plus product.

I've long thought that AwardWallet Plus was inexpensive and have been pleased that they've kept the price so low for so long.

To that end, prices are going up from $10/year to $30/year effective 2/1/17.  They promise (note below) that existing customers will be grandfathered in at the $10/year rate.

If you're not already an AwardWallet Plus subscriber, I'd highly recommend signing up in the next 60 days!

December 10, 2016

Ritz-Carlton Rewards $300 Annual Airline Credit

While I love my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I'm quickly falling for the Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards card as well.  If you're just joining us:

Read my complete review of the Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards card and my review of the $100 off airfare benefit.

Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Amex Platinum, Citi Prestige, and Amex Gold, the Ritz-Carlton card comes with a $300 annual airline credit.  By getting the card before the end of the year, you can actually receive the credit twice for one annual fee.  Once in 2016 and once in 2017.

My $450 annual fee has hit and I'm trying to get as much out of that fee as possible.  While some of the other cards offer more flexible credits, this one is a bit more restrictive.  You have to actually call/write into Chase to have a purchase credited (other credits are automatically reimbursed).  This means that purchasing gift cards is a challenge.  You can find the complete terms on Chase's website but my primary use is going to be for checked bag fees (dropping to zero airline status next year) and seat upgrades to economy plus and first class.

$100 Off Airfare With the Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card

Last week, I shared my review of the Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards card.  One of the great benefits of the $450 annual fee card is the ability to receive $100 off airfare when you book through the Visa Infinite portal.  The ticket must be a round-trip in domestic coach and is available for 2-5 tickets.  There's no limit on the number of times you can leverage this benefit and I plan to get A LOT out of this perk.

Booking through the portal was surprisingly easy and prices matched United's website exactly.  There's even a place to enter your frequent flyer details and Global Entry/PreCheck number.  Once I completed the booking, the reservation showed up in my United account immediately.  Here's how to take advantage of this benefit:

First, go to the Visa Discount Air Benefit portal.

Login with your name and Ritz-Carlton Rewards card number.  One thing to note is that in order to receive the benefit, the ticket must be charged to the card.  Obviously a small price to pay to receive $50 off each ticket.

Second, search for flights.  This is a pretty standard airline search engine and I'm confident all of you will be able to figure it out.  Going through the process the first time, I was in disbelief that this would actually work.  It seems too easy and too good to be true.

Third, select flights and add personal information for each ticket.

 Here's the exact same flight itinerary pricing on for the same price.

Book.  It was that easy and took less than 10 minutes included price checking on United.

This is an incredible benefit and since we will likely book 5-6 domestic coach roundtrip flight in 2017 we should be able to save $500 - $600.  I wasn't expecting the card to be a keeper, but combined with the $300 airline travel credit, the $450 annual fee is easily offset.  Will have more details on my experience redeeming the $300 travel credit in another post.

December 4, 2016

Save Big with Verizon and Amex Offers

If you've been reading ATRP, you know that I'm a huge fan of American Express Amex Offers.  Over the last few years, I've saved over $2,500 by leveraging Amex Offers to obtain statement credits on stuff I was going to buy anyway.

Nearly $1K in savings on one card
The concept is simple - login to your American Express account online, scroll down to the bottom and you'll see the available offers. Scroll through the offers that make sense for you, and click "Add to Card."  Meet the spend requirements at that merchant and you'll receive the statement credit a few days later.

Amex is out with two targeted offers for big savings with Verizon.  First, 10% off a cell phone bill (could be any wireless carrier) up to $30 off ($300 in spend).

But the good news is that you can double dip this Amex Offer with one of two targeted offers that I received.  The first is $25 off $100 in spend with Verizon up to two times.  The second, is 2,500 American Express Membership Rewards points on $100 in spend with Verizon.  I value MR points around 2 cents each so this is like getting $50 back in addition to the 10% off.

Both of the Verizon specific offers are good through 2/21/2017.  Verizon will let you pre-pay up to $500 and I did just that to trigger several of these bonuses.  I'll make another round of pre-payments in February to finish them off.  In total, I will be putting $600 in Verizon spend on various Amex cards and receive 5,000 bonus MR points receive a $160 rebate on the payments.  That's 40% off my cell phone bill!

November 5, 2016

American Airlines Credit Card 10% Mileage Rebate

At the end of 2015, I picked up the Citi American Airlines AAdvantage card for Emily.  The targeted offer provided 60,000 AA miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days.  The card also offers a 10% mileage rebate (up to 10,000 miles) on award tickets booked with American Airlines miles.

We were able to take advantage of this in late 2015 for our trip to London and Abu Dhabi in March of this year.

Citi AAdvantage Award Ticket Rebate
We were also able to take advantage of this benefit this year for our upcoming trip to Dubai.  While we booked separate tickets with miles from each of our accounts, Emily's 115,000 mile award redemption triggered the credit and the next day she had 10,000 miles back in her account.

This turned out to be a pretty amazing card offer.  We earned 60,000 miles from the signup bonus and 20,000 miles in the form of award ticket rebates.

Going forward, the 10,000 mile rebate more than offsets the $95 annual fee (waived for the first year).

October 23, 2016

Amex Platinum Travel Credit Amazon Trick Still Works

One of the great benefits of the Amex Platinum card is the annual $200 airline incidental credit.  This reduces the annual fee from $450 to $250 and in the first year, actually pays you back $50 since you'll get the credit twice (it's a calendar year credit) for one annual fee.  That only works if you value airline fees as cash.  You can go one step further and buy airline gift cards which are pretty darn close to as good as cash.

But there's another way to actually get Amazon gift cards reimbursed if United is your selected airline.  Wait, what?  That's way closer to actual cash than airline gift cards for most people.

I read about this trick in 2015 and was successfully used it earlier in the year.  We picked up another Amex Platinum card earlier in the month and gave it another shot to see if the trick still works.  I can confirm that it does!

Amazon Gift Card Purchases
Amex Platinum Travel Credit
Here are the steps:

September 4, 2016

Making Itinerary Changes on the Fly

We were originally scheduled to fly home from Tokyo on ANA through Houston.  This meant an early (11:15AM) departure from Tokyo's Narita airport which is a long haul from the city.  We were also booked on United economy (no big deal) from Houston to Denver.  But with more stuff coming home than when we left, it's always nice to board first and have guaranteed overhead bin space.

I'll usually spend a few minutes here and there while traveling to see if I can come up with anything "better" in terms of flights home.  Airlines often release last minute award seats and we've had good luck "upgrading" our flights home on both Cathay Pacific and Etihad.

I was up early one morning in the Maldives catching up on email and checking out flights home.  We were so excited about our time in Tokyo and really wanted more time on the ground to explore.  I found a MUCH better option home that would give us 6 more hours in Tokyo and first class on the domestic leg home.  The only issue was that the tickets were booked separately.  Emily's via United MileagePlus and mine via Air Canada's Aeroplan.  Air Canada's call centre is only open until midnight ET and it was already 1AM when I found the space.

Emily and I discussed and decided this would be a better option.  United's change fee was $100 while Air Canada's was 90 CAD (~$70 USD).  We both have leftover Barclays Arrival points that would offset part of the cash outlay.  Later that afternoon, I called Air Canada via Skype and sat on hold for 45 minutes.  While annoying, at this point we were planning what to do in Tokyo with the extra 6 hours so really wanted to make the change.

I finally got through and had the change made in about 5 minutes.  The record locator number remained the same and I was able to select seats on ANA's website without any issue.  One down, one to go.

I called United and was through to an agent on the premier line in a couple of minutes.  Same thing...change was done in about five minutes...record locator number remained the same and the ticket issued without any issues.

ANA First Class
All in, I spent a little over an hour making the change.  In exchange for more time on the ground in an amazing city and a more direct routing home.  Flexibility is key in this game.  I generally want to plan as far ahead as possible so "locking" something in is important to me.  I know that I'll likely be able to improve an itinerary later with some cost (in dollars and time) and that works just fine for me.

August 13, 2016

Save $50 on Airfare with Amex Offers

If you've been reading ATRP, you know that I'm a huge fan of American Express Amex Offers.  Over the last few years, I've saved over $2,000 by leveraging Amex Offers to obtain statement credits on stuff I was going to buy anyway.

Nearly $1K in savings on one card
The concept is simple - login to your American Express account online, scroll down to the bottom and you'll see the available offers. Scroll through the offers that make sense for you, and click "Add to Card."  Meet the spend requirements at that merchant and you'll receive the statement credit a few days later.

Spend $300 on airfare, get a $50 statement credit

Amex is out with a targeted offer that will provide a $50 statement credit after spending $300 on airfare.  There aren't any restrictions on airline and it seems that a gift card would work to trigger the credit.  It's available through 10/31/16.  I'm pretty confident I'll be purchasing a flight between now and then so will just wait until I actually need to make a purchase vs. the gift card route.  Note that I was able to add this to my SPG Amex but the offer was not available on Emily's account.

$50 is $50.  Most people will be purchasing some sort of airfare for travel between now and next October so definitely worth checking to see if you can save $50 on the purchase.

August 7, 2016

My Pre-Trip Logistics Routine

This is an update to an older post (from 2014) on logistics preparation before a long trip.  Since then, I've taken another half dozen or so of these trips and each trip has gone smoother than the last.  Traveling is stressful and the more you prepare upfront, the better. Here are some of the things I do in the weeks leading up to the trip.

1)  Build an Itinerary

When I was a kid and we would go on family vacations, my Mom would make these intense folders containing all the information about our destination.  Maps, articles, restaurant reviews, etc...I think the internet has made things a lot easier where it's much more manageable to rely on your phone as both a guide book and a "trip folder."  But I've found (especially in Asia) that having a printed copy of things is super helpful.  You may be asked for a confirmation number, the address of your hotel, or the credit card in which you booked your flight.  

So I always build an electronic (and then print several copies) itinerary containing our flights, hotels, lounge options, who we confirmed activities with, has really come in handy on more than a few occasions.  The act of building the itinerary (probably takes 30 minutes) forces me to ensure that all flights are confirmed and on the right day, hotels are booked, and we have all of the confirmation numbers/addresses should we not be able to use our phones.  Plus, it's an easy way to provide your friends and family with your trip plans and contact information.

Selecting Seats on ANA

Our upcoming trip has a long-haul segment in ANA first class which we're really excited about.  It will be our first visit to Japan as well as our first time flying a Japanese carrier.  A new country and a new airline to the list!

I had to book us on separate awards using Air Canada Aeroplan and United MileagePlus miles and thus ended up with two ticket numbers, booking reference numbers, etc...This morning I went to select seats on ANA's website and found it to be surprisingly simple.

First, go to ANA's US website and click on "My Booking."

ANA US website homepage

July 10, 2016

A Trick to Buy United Miles on the Cheap

Buying miles can be a great way to acquire the incremental miles required for an award.  In that sense, they can unlock a ton of value"given that without the purchase of incremental miles, you'd be unable to redeem for the desired award ticket.

In planning our upcoming trip, we were short 1,500 United miles to book the final segment.  While I could have easily transferred 2,000 (you can only transfer in increments of 1,000) Chase Ultimate Rewards points,  I opted to buy some extra miles for exactly 2 cents each.

United's current "buy miles" promotion
United typically sells miles for 3.5 cents plus at 7.5% tax.  That amounts to 3.76 cents per mile.  United's pretty much always having a sale on miles including right now.  The sale is tiered and you can bring down the cost from 3.76 cents a mile to 1.88 cents a mile by buying 150,000 miles for $2,821.

Business Class Seat Selection Strategy

Selecting the "right" seats can make a huge difference in terms of comfort on a flight.  Especially during an international long haul.  Across 10+ hours, you are going to have to get up to use the restroom multiple times, you're going to want to get some sleep (thus minimal light/noise is key) and you're  probably going to want to look at the window at least once.  Balancing all three in first class isn't really an issue given that most first class cabins are configured in a 1-2-1 configuration.  Meaning if you want a window, that's no problem.  Everyone has direct aisle access and crews are typically great at ensuring the cabin stays quiet and dark during sleeping hours.

In business class, it's a bit of a different story.  While airlines are improving their cabin setup to provide aisle access for everyone, there is still a push to cram as many seats into each plane as possible.

Turkish Airlines 777-300ER Business Class

For our upcoming trip to the Maldives, we'll be flying two different Turkish Airlines configurations.  The first segment (from Houston to Istanbul) will be flown by a Boeing 777-300ER.  The second segment (from Istanbul to Male) will be flown by an Airbus A330-300.  While we've flown Turkish's 777 before, this will be our first time flying their A330.

June 19, 2016

Earning Free Miles with Airberlin's Referral Program

I've never flown Airberlin although I'd like to - they apparently have a solid product and award availability is decent from the US.  Their frequently flyer program (topbonus) is out with a fairly lucrative referral bonus where you can earn free points for referring your friends to topbonus.

You will 500 miles for the first referral and 1,000 miles for the next 9 (you can make 10 referrals per year and the bonus is good through 7/31/16).

That's a total of 9,500 topbonus miles - nearly good enough (10,000) for a free one-way economy flight within Europe.  Your referral will earn 1,000 bonus miles for signing up.  If you already have a topbonus account, you can create your own referral link here.

While I've had an Airberlin topbonus account for a few years (not sure why) Emily has not.  I went through the process of referring her and then creating her account.  Within a few days, the points had been credited to her account (1,000) and mine (500).

If you are interested in signing up for a topbonus account, feel free to use my referral link and we'll each earn 1,000 topbonus points.

Free points are free points and the ability to earn nearly enough for a free one-way is a great deal.  Flying within Europe is expensive and it's painful to burn hard earned United or BA miles (transferred from even harder earned Chase Ultimate Rewards) for an intra-Europe flights.  I'd recommend signing up for an account and if you have a handful of interested friends, refer them as well.

June 11, 2016

Booking IHG Free Nights

The IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card from Chase is one of the best hotel cards on the market.  The initial signup bonus is good enough (currently 80,000 points - post coming soon) for multiple nights in a higher end IHG property.

But the best perk is the free night certificate good for a free night at any IHG property around the world.  Emily and I have rotated having this card and each year, the feee night has easily paid for the $49 annual fee.

We're in the process of booking another RTW trip and we're going to have a 12 hour layover in Singapore.  We've been to the city a few times and really enjoy visiting.  But we land at 8:30PM and depart the next morning around 8AM so we wanted to stay close to the airport in the event we just want to sleep and then wakeup early to explore Changi.

So when thinking about hotels, the Crowne Plaza attached to the terminal was the easy choice.  If we want to go into the city, a taxi will be ~$25USD.

Rates (prepaid rates were lower but generally we try and stay away from those rates just in case we have to cancel a trip) were going for ~$246USD!  We certainly didn't want to spend that on a quick overnight.  While we could have used IHG points (40,000) we opted to redeem an expiring free night certificate.  Again, paying the $49 annual fee to get a hotel worth $246 in a pretty awesome deal.

Here's how to book an IHG Anniversary Free Night.  First, login to your IHG account and on the left hand nav, click on "Free Night Status."

If you have a free night available, you'll see the screen above.  Click on continue to search for a property.  Once you click on a property, you'll see "Rooms from FREE."  Click on "Check Rates."

Chase Anniversary Free Night will be selected.  Scroll down to your desired room type (in our case King, Nonsmoking) and click "Book This Room."

That is it.  Finish the booking and you're on your way to a free hotel night.

Nothing beats a free (or $49) hotel room
It's pretty awesome that you can book the IHG free night online.  Hyatt allows you to do so with their Chase card, Hilton does not (you have to call) with their Hilton Reserve card free weekend nights.

I am getting closer to finalizing the trip and will have more details soon!

June 4, 2016

United MileagePlus Explorer 75,000 Bonus

Back in March, I wrote about the 55,000 mile United MileagePlus Explorer offer from Chase.  It's been a while since we've seen super compelling credit card offers especially from Chase.

Well now is the time to check your United MileagePlus account to see if you qualify for the a great new offer!  The new offer provides 70,000 Unites miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days.  You'll also receive 5,000 bonus miles for adding an authorized user and $50 statement credit.  All of the standard benefits (including 2 free United club passes) still applies.  The annual fee is not waived for the first year.  After meeting the spend requirements, you'll have 78,000 United miles for a cash outlay of $45.  The offer expires 6/30.

I wasn't targeted but Emily was.  She recently received the card (in March) and after a quick secure message to Chase with a couple of screenshots showing that she's been targeted, she was matched to the higher offer!

If you haven't had this card, I would highly recommend logging in to your MileagePlus account to see if you've been targeted.  I value the 78,000 miles at around $1,500.  The value of the club passes is around $45 (you could sell them on eBay for maybe $30 total) so essentially you're getting 78,000 miles for free.

As an example, roundtrip business class ticket to Europe on United runs 115,000 miles.  If you've had the card before, you can get the bonus again as long as it's been 24 months since you last had the product.

May 21, 2016

How Long Does it Take for Singapore Airlines Miles to Refund After an Award Cancellation?

Singapore Airlines offers some of the most lowest cost award redemption change/cancellation fees of any airline.  For a complete overview, Lucky has a great post on change/cancel fees for all airlines.

Cancelling an award booking costs $30 USD and changing one costs $20.  That compares very favorably to United which will charge (without status) $200 to get your hard earned miles back in your account in the event of a cancellation!

Singapore Airlines First Class IFE

I recently had to make a change to an award that required a redeposit of miles.  Unfortunately you can't do this online and have to call.  Singapore Airlines has great customer service (24 hours) in the US and it only took 10 minutes to process the cancellation for the $30 fee.

Dom or Krug on SQ

The agent informed me that the taxes would be refunded to my credit card in 6-8 weeks and the miles refunded back to my account within 5-7 business days.

What?  That is an eternity to wait when award availability is limited.  Well good news - I can report that the miles posted back to my account in ~36 hours.

Singapore Airlines BMW designed First Class (777-300ER)

I did process the cancellation on a Sunday so perhaps that slowed things down.  Either way, being able to rebook within a couple of days was no big deal and the new award was still available once the miles were safely back in my KrisFlyer account.

May 15, 2016

Review: Abu Dhabi US Immigration Pre-Clearance

During our trip home from London and Abu Dhabi, we were able to use the pre-clearance facility to clear immigration and customs in Abu Dhabi.  If you're ever traveled to Canada, you've experienced a pre-clearance facility.

Essentially you are cleared to enter the United States prior to departure via a US Customs and Border Patrol facility that is managed and staffed by US officers.  Once through the checkpoint, you're in an isolated area prior to departure.  When you land back in the US, you head straight to baggage claim or the curb.

Beyond Canada, there are pre-clearance facilities in the Caribbean, Ireland, and in Abu Dhabi.  We've traveled to Vancouver and Toronto recently but I was interested to see how the experience differed on another continent.

Etihad AUH Premium Lounge bar
After a couple of hours in the Etihad Premium Lounge, we headed back into the terminal towards the pre-clearance facility which was well marked with signage.  At this hour (2AM) the facility was pretty empty despite three (JFK, Chicago, San Francisco) US bound flights.

We passed through another security checkpoint before entering the pre-clearance facility.  The hall looked like any other US immigration checkpoint complete with USCBP officers and pictures of The President and Secretary of Homeland Security on the walls.

The facility contained a half dozen or so Global Entry kiosks.  We soon had our printouts and were headed to speak to a USCBP officer before leaving the UAE.  Kind of a surreal feeling.  We were through after 30 seconds or so of conversation - essentially "back in the US" with 45 minutes to go before boarding.

Etihad AUH US pre-clearance lounge setup

Etihad has built a lounge specifically for these US bound flights which although small, was perfectly serviceable for 45 minutes.  The lounge contains a small amount of seating, a bar, food offerings, and restrooms.  We had a coffee and a few snacks before heading out to board the waiting A380 bound for JFK!

Waiting for us on the plane

I had heard horror stories about long lines and mismanagement of the pre-clearance facility.  That doesn't seem to be the case any longer.  Everything was clean and efficient - in many ways a more pleasant experience than going through this process in the US.  When we landing at JFK, we were in baggage claim in 10 minutes claiming our bags before our Etihad Chauffeur whisked us off to The New York EDITION!