Crown Plaza Hotels and Resorts announced this rather interesting and unusual promo where a customer can get Nike Golf Gear by staying at their hotels until Dec 31, 2011.
Registration is required in order to participate in this promo. Gold gear awards start with 2 nights stay (Nike 20XI balls) and continue up to 30 nights that gets you a full set of Irons (Nike SQ MACHSPEED iron).
If you have any stays planned or are planning for your business, vacation or pleasure trips,and if you value these Nike Golf Gears, you might want to opt-in to this promo.
Remember, you will also earn Priority Club points for all your stays.
A good value redemption using Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club miles and earn up to 65,000 bonus miles with Virgin Atlantic credit card sign-up
I have mentioned in the past posts about Virgin Atlantic's (VS) excellent award availability. However, as they charge a heavy fuel surcharge for their awards, it is not a such a great deal to accumulate and use Virgin Atlantic miles. A better deal to book virgin flights would be either using Hawaiian Airlines miles as described here or by using Continental OnePass miles which will soon become United Mileage plus miles. Once that happens, we don't know if the reciprocal award redemption relationship between Virgin Atlantic Airways and the new United-Continental will continue. My guess is that it would be terminated.
Lets take a look at one good use of Virgin Atlantic miles. That would be redeeming for Inter-island flights on Hawaiian Airlines which is a mere 6,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for a round-trip award. Whats more, you can even have an open-jaw in your award meaning that you can fly to up to three islands on a single award ticket, i.e., 6,000 miles. It is to be noted that Hawaiian Airlines charges a minimum of 15,000 HawaiianMiles for a round-trip inter-island award ticket. Also, VS will not charge you a fuel surcharge for these awards on Hawaiian.
You can currently get up to 65,000 bonus Virgin Atlantic miles by applying for Virgin Atlantic American Express credit card offered by Bank of America. No, annual fee ($90) for the first year is not waived. I would like to point out that you earn 1.5 Virgin Atlantic miles for every $ spent, which means, you can get an inter-island round-trip (or open-jaw) award ticket worth ~$200+ by spending only $4,000. Comes out to 5+ cents per $ in return value. You can even transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club when they have 20-30% bonus and get yourself an awesome deal.
Before I talk about two obscure "good deals" using HawaiianMiles, I want to mention that if you want to fly Hawaiian Airlines between west coast and Hawaii using miles, there are very few options other than using HawaiianMiles. AA, UA, CO, DL and US allows only inter-island flights on Hawaiian Airlines and not US Mainland-Hawaii flights on Hawaiian Airlines. One partner that I know that allows Mainland-Hawaii flights is Virgin Atlantic Airways but their mileage requirements are 25% higher than when using HawaiianMiles (however, if you have Virgin Atlantic's credit card, you earn miles at 1.5 miles per $, more on this at another time). Edited on 11/2/2011: AA now appears to allow redemptions on Hawaiian Airlines between US and Hawaii and not just inter-island flights.
So, apart from using HA miles for Hawaiian Airlines flights, what else is a good use of these miles? Two excellent values that I recommend to everyone is transfer to Hilton HHonors program and using HawaiianMiles for booking Virgin Atlantic Airways flights, economy as well as Business Class (best value).
For transfer to Hilton HHonors, the transfer ratio is very attractive at 2 HHonors points for every 1 Hawaiian Mile transferred, in blocks of 5,000 miles. Plus, there are no transfer fees involved. This means, you could apply for Hawaiian Airlines credit card that offers 35,000 bonus HawaiianMiles and transfer those to Hilton yielding you 70,000 Hilton HHonors points. Please note that HawaiianMiles earned by transferring AMEX MR points into HawaiianMiles program are not eligible for transfer to Hilton HHonors.
As for award flights on Virgin Atlantic Airways, these to me are a fantastic value. First of all, Virgin Atlantic's award availability to/from their US gateway cities is fantastic, both in coach and business class. Secondly, Hawaiian's award chart for Virgin Atlantic is attractive and even better than Virgin's own award chart. And third and importantly, HA charges no fuel surcharge for Virgin Atlantic awards.
Virgin flies to/from the following gateway cities in the US for travel to and connecting onwards to India, Australia, Africa, Dubai and Asia:
- Boston - Logan International Airport
- Chicago - O'Hare International Airport [seasonal]
- Las Vegas - McCarran International Airport
- Los Angeles - Los Angeles International Airport
- Miami - Miami International Airport
- Newark - Newark Liberty International Airport
- New York City - John F. Kennedy International Airport
- Orlando - Orlando International Airport
- San Francisco - San Francisco International Airport
- Washington, D.C. - Washington Dulles International Airport
For one round-trip ticket on Virgin Atlantic using HawaiianMiles, you need only 50,000 and 100,000 in economy and business respectively to UK and 70,000 and 140,000 in economy and business to all other destinations. Compare that with at least 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for Los Angeles-London round-trip in coach, 200,000 in business class to Delhi or South Africa and 280,000 in business class to Sydney, Australia. And not to forget, huge fuel surcharge that you have to pay to Atlantic Virgin for these Virgin Atlantic mileage awards (can easily be over $1,000).
For me, these are the two best ways to use your HawaiianMiles. Best bang for your buck. Go ahead and opti-maxi-mize your Hawaiian Miles.
1. American Airlines AAdvantage miles can be transferred for $30 processing fee for every transfer to:
- Hilton HHonors program at 10,000 points for every 6,000 AA miles transferred.
- Intercontinental Priority Club points at 4,000 points for every 5,000 AA miles transferred.
- Diners Club points at 5,000 points for every 10,000 AA miles transferred.
2. Continental OnePass miles can be transferred to:
3. Delta SkyMiles cannot be transferred outside their program.
4. United Mileage Plus miles cannot be transferred outside their program.
5. US Airways Dividend miles cannot be transferred outside their program.
6. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles cannot be transferred outside their program.
7. Hawaiian Airlines miles can be transferred to:
- Hilton HHonors points at 10,000 HHonors points for every 5,000 HawaiianMiles transferred (completely free).
8. American Express Membership Rewards points (US version) can be
9. Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to:
- Continental, United, British Airways, Amtrak, Intercontinental Priority Club, Marriott, Hyatt and Korean Air at 1:1 ratio.
10. Bank of America WorldPoints can be transferred to:
- 29 different Airlines across the world.
12. Marriott Rewards points can be transferred to:
- Various Airlines at varying ratios depending on the Airline.
- Various Airlines as a Flights + Hotels redemption, varying ratios (better deal).
- various Airlines at varying ratios.
14. Best Western points can be transferred to
15. Hilton HHonors points can be transferred to
This post will be updated with more transfer options and more information on the those options.
You can now earn 40,000 bonus US Airways miles (after first use) when you apply for US Airways Visa Credit Card offered by Barclays Bank. The card has first year annual fee waived and will be charged $89 on card anniversary every year thereafter. Note that you will earn 10,000 bonus miles every year which will more than easily cover the annual fee. Note that the application suggests 50,000 bonus for application but it really is 40,000 as an additional 10,000 bonus will be awarded to those who do a balance transfer (1 bonus mile per $1 transferred up to $10,000).
An interesting point to note here is that US Airways has extremely attractive off-peak award redemption (only when traveling entirely on US Airways-operated flights) in their award chart where you can get an economy round-trip to Caribbean, Europe and South America for 25,000, 35,000 and 35,000 respectively. Their off-peak business class round-trip awards to the same destinations are even more attractive at 50,000, 60,000 and 60,000 in the same order.
With some creativity, you can get even more bang for your buck. For example, these awards are valid from Hawaii, US, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America to Europe or South America and US Airways allows stopovers at their hub cities.
And Cardholders can also avail 5,000 miles rebate/discount on all award redemptions. "The Primary Cardmember will receive a five thousand (5,000) mile discount off of each eligible Award Ticket. For example, if twenty-five thousand (25,000) Dividend Miles are required to redeem an award ticket, then as an US Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard Cardmember who met the criteria set forth in the Terms and Conditions, the Cardmember's Dividend miles account would only be deducted by twenty thousand (20,000) miles instead of twenty-five thousand (25,000) miles. For more information visit www.usairways.com."
Register for US Airways Grand Slam promotion and earn even more US Airways bonus Dividend Miles. With little effort, you can earn a good amount of US Airways miles. Rules for the promotion can be found here: http://www.usairways.com/en-US/dividendmiles/grandslamrules.html.
Other features of the card includes a $99 companion ticket valid for up to two passengers for $99 each when you buy a ticket of $299 (base fare) or more. You also get one US Airways Club Pass every year. Also note that the card also fetches you 10,000 elite qualifying miles after each card anniversary if you are after an elite status on US Airways. As an additional benefit, the cardholders will also get priority boarding (zone 2) on US Airways flights.
If you haven’t had a US Airways card from Barclays in the past 4 years or so (this card was offered by Bank Of America ~4 years ago), it’s a good time to grab one. This is an extremely lucrative offer and shouldn't be missed.
Earn 70,000 Marriott Rewards points when you apply for a new Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Credit Card
You can now earn 70,000 Marriott Rewards points (after your first purchase with the card) when you apply for a new Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. You will also receive a free night certificate valid at any of their category 1-4 hotels. Click here for explore the list of hotels within each category. You can get up to 11 free nights with 70,000 points as their free night redemption start at 7,500 points per night in Category 1 hotels. Please note that you get 5th night free when you redeem for 4 nights at a property. Marriott also frequently releases a list of hotels where they are running PointSavers promotion resulting in up to 33% savings in points for award redemption.
The first year annual fee is waived and will be charged $85 on card anniversary every year thereafter. And on every card anniversary, you also get a free night certificate at any of their category 1-5 hotels (plenty of good hotels) which will easily cover the annual fee. The bonus points, first year annual fee waiver and a free night certificate makes this deal really attractive. Points will post to your Marriott Rewards account after the statement closes in which you have at least one qualifying purchase. Please note that most qualified applicants will be issued a Visa Signature card which comes with no pre-set spending limit. To learn more about cards with "no pre-set spending limit" please visit my earlier post.
- This card is among the very few cards out there that do not charge a foreign transaction fee (which can be as high 4% for some cards).
- You will earn 5 points per $ spent at any Marriott Rewards properties (more than 3,400 locations).
- You will also earn 2 points for every $1 spent on eligible dining, airline and rental car purchases.
- You will earn 1 point per $ spent on all other purchases.
- There is no limit to the number of Marriott Rewards points that you can earn.
Further, you can achieve your Marriott Elite Status Faster with Annual Credit and Everyday Purchases:
- You will receive 15 Nights Credit toward your next Elite membership level every year upon account anniversary.
- You will also earn 1 Elite Night Credit for every $3,000 spent on this card.
I value Marriott point at least at 1 cent per point and you can easily get 10-20 cents per point in value by redeeming at their high-end properties as well as by redeeming points for vacation packages which effectively lets you convert some of your Marriott Rewards points to most Airlines' miles at 1:1 ratio.
Chase is really turning the heat on with their extremely tempting card sign-up bonuses. And they have such a huge line of affinity cards that it's really hard to decide what to apply for. Unfortunately, for most of us, they only allow and approve one card application every 60-90 days.
Go ahead and apply for this awesome Marriott Rewards credit card offer.
7,000 SPG points plus 5 days, 4 nights in 1-Bedroom Villa at the The Westin Mission Hills Resort Villas for $389
Following up on my previous post for the 7,000 SPG points plus 6 days at Westin Kaanapali deal for $798, I would like to add a similar deal for The Westin Mission Hills Resort & Villas. I find this to be a good deal considering like the previous one as it is for 5 days in their one bedroom villa with queen size bed and full size sleeper sofas. This deal also includes 7,000 SPG points which I value at the minimum at ~3 cents a point (thus $210 in value). Thus your total for 5 days at this fabulous resort in Pal Desert/Palm Springs area, CA (close to Los Angeles) comes to under $179.
Disclosure: I am not affiliated to the promo in any ways and do not stand to gain from the promo. Further, I would like to bring it to readers attention that this deal is part of a timeshare promo and you will need to attend a two-hour on-site presentation.
Just fill out the form to right of the webpage and somebody from Westin Promotions will get in touch with you. You do not need any invitation code or offer code. If they ask, just tell them that you got the information about this offer from one of your friends. Also note that room reservations must be made at least 60 days in advance and are on a space-available basis. Availability is limited. Holiday and special event periods are excluded.
Last week, I took a last-minute weekend getaway with my family that incorporated a trip on Amtrak back to Chicago on Amtrak's California Zephyr route aboard Amtrak's Superliner Sleeper Bedroom Cabin. I wanted to write a full-fledged trip report of my experience from booking that award using Amtrak points to the actual trip and travel on Amtrak (was my first long distance train journey in the US). But that trip report is taking its own sweet time to come together. I thought in the meanwhile, I will write a brief summary that is more related to award booking and opti-maxi-mizing the value.
For those who are not aware (I bet that would be most of the readers from outside of the Northeast Corridor), Amtrak has a frequent rider (flyer) program by the name Amtrak Guest Rewards. The program has rather some exceptional awards in its award charts. Amtrak Guest Rewards (AGR) has tiered awards in terms on zones and has a neat (though a little inaccurate) zone map on its website that comes in handy when planning an award redemption. Our Amtrak ride was from Colorado Grand Junction to Chicago Union Station. Although, the zone map shows our starting point in western region of the zone map, however, the phone agent booked us the trip using 1-zone award for 20,000 AGR points.
I have to admit that we had been contemplating taking an overnight trip on Amtrak (of course in a Sleeper Bedroom) using AGR points for the last 4 years. Finally got a chance, though on a short notice and we decided to go for it. I had already transferred/converted 30,000 Continental OnePass miles to 30,000 AGR points knowing that a much desired trip may happen soon. This transfer feature is one of the relatively unknown to most. CO program lets you convert CO miles to AGR point at 1:1 ratio in blocks of 5,000 miles at no charge.
AGR has some exceptional redemptions which can be highlighted from our award redemption. It cost us 20,000 AMEX MR points (transferred to CO before it ended) to book 3 of us in the bedroom. Paid reservation in this cabin would have cost us $1,275+ (not that I would have paid that). Thus, we got 6 cents per AMEX point worth of value and most of those AMEX points were earned at ~ 2.5 points per $ on average. Thus, I can boast that I got 15+ cents per dollar that I spent on my AMEX PRG card.
Back to AGR award table, their special routes are listed for 1,000 points in coach or 1,500 points in business, which to me is a steal, if you can make use of. Other exceptional value are the roomettes and bedroom awards in all category of awards alike, 1-zone, 2-zone or 3-zone as these will easily get you 5+ cents per point in redemption value. And of course, another excellent value is award in the northeast corridor, especially last-minute travel which can also fetch you 5+ cents per point in value.
One would ask, what about availability. Unlike awards on Airlines, Amtrak awards do not have limited availability but are rather bookable up to the last seat/cabin. Thus, as long as there is a seat/cabin to be sold for real $$$, they will book it for you using points. And unlike Airline awards, there are no taxes or booking fees. The best part is, you can cancel the awards for a full refund as long as you have not picked up your printed tickets from the station. Also note that all dining car meals and non-alcoholic drinks are included in your roommette or bedroom ticket.
AGR points can also be used for a bunch of other redemptions like gift cards, certificates, cruises at close to 1 cent per point. But really, the best value is in booking for Amtrak travel. And to all those who have not had a chance to ride Amtrak long distance in a bedroom, it was a memorable experience that we plan to do repeat, may be on another route. It was so much fun, comfortable, stress-free.
Sounds good, doesn't it?
There have been some interesting attractive mailings from most card issuers inviting their targets to apply for their card. In return, they are offering some really hefty bonuses. Please keep an eye on your mails for any offers. And feel free to post them here if you want to know my and other readers' opinions on those offers.
Since such offers are usually mailed out in batches, it can be safely assumed that if a few people receive the offers, others can expect it too. However, they will usually target those potential customers who have never been a previous customer with them, for that specific product. It's rather sad state of affairs where current customers receive nothing, zilch, nada, but new customers keep on receiving excellent offers. It is all about customer acquisition and sometimes customer retention too. Existing customers can try calling their card issuers to cancel the account and most likely they might offer something interesting to not lose them as customers. Having an educational background in business, I understand the reasons and economics behind it.
1. Citi has recently started mailing out 100,000 bonus TY points for applying for their Thank You Premier card.
2. Citi has started mailing out 50% bonus miles on every dollar spent for their existing AAdvantage card customers.
3. Citi has started mailing out 50% bonus points on every dollar spent for their existing Thank You card holders.
4. Chase has started sending out 80,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards Points for applying for their Chase INK BOLD business card.
5. Chase has started sending out 60,000 bonus United Miles for applying for their United Airlines Visa credit card.
6. Citi has sent out targeted offers for 50,000 bonus AAdvantage miles for applying for their AAdvantage Visa card, plus 2 miles per $ spent in the first year.
7. Chase - 60,000 bonus Priority Club points for applying for their Priority Club Rewards Visa credit card.
8. American Express - 75,000 bonus AMEX MR points for applying for their Business Gold Premier Rewards card.
And many more that I may have missed. Please feel free to post your comments or send me a message directly with the information on your targeted mailings and I will update them here. Remember, targeted offer are unlikely to be available to the masses unless the card issuers decide to do so.
Hawaiian Airlines has just released their sale fares to Hawaii for travel after New Years. I check some sample city pairs (San Jose-SJC and Oakland-OAK to Honolulu-HNL and Maui-OGG) and there was some decent availability at the sale fare within the valid dates.
To take advantage of these fares, you have to book your flights before 10/31/2011 for travel dates that fall between 1/5/2012 - 3/14/2012.
You can earn ~5,000-6,000 HawaiianMiles with this trip which can be transferred at no cost to your Hilton account at 1:2 ratio in block of 5,000 miles. Thus, it will essentially earn you 10,000 Hilton HHonors points, per person. And you may be able to transfer these miles into a single Hilton accounts. Also note that, you may be able transfer and combine miles between two Hawaiian Miles account as long as the recipient of miles has a Hawaiian Airlines Visa credit card associated with the account. Also see this post for more information.
If you hold a Citi ThankYou Premier or Prestige credit card (Primary Cardholder or Add-on, either is fine), you can reduce your paid base fare and for additional 3 people travelling with you on the same itinerary by 15% by using their 15% Travel Plus Discount program by calling Spirit Incentives at 886-553-2082. See this post for more details.
Sample round-trip fares excluding taxes (note that these fares includes Fuel Surcharge):
Las Vegas - Honolulu $348*
Los Angeles - Honolulu $338*
Oakland - Honolulu $328*
Phoenix - Honolulu $338*
Portland - Honolulu $328*
Sacramento - Honolulu $338*
San Diego - Honolulu $338*
San Francisco - Honolulu $328*
San Jose - Honolulu $328*
Seattle - Honolulu $338*
Portland - Maui $328*
Seattle - Maui $338*
Las Vegas- Maui $348*
Oakland - Maui $298*
San Jose - Maui $298*
From Hawaiian's website: * Book: 10/21 - 10/31/2011. Fares available for roundtrip travel between Las Vegas, NV, Los Angeles, CA and San Diego, CA and Honolulu, HI from 1/5/2012 - 3/14/2012. Fares available for roundtrip travel between Oakland, CA, Sacramento, CA, San Francisco, CA and San Jose, CA and Honolulu, HI from 1/5/2012 - 3/14/2012. Fares available for roundtrip travel between Phoenix, AZ and Honolulu, HI from 1/5/2012 - 3/14/2012. Fares available for roundtrip travel between Portland, OR and Honolulu, HI from 1/5/2012 - 3/14/2012. Fares available for roundtrip travel between Seattle, WA and Honolulu, HI from 1/5/2012 - 3/14/2012. Fares available for roundtrip travel between Seattle, WA and Kahului, HI from 1/5/2012 - 3/14/2012. Fares available for roundtrip travel between Oakland, CA, San Jose, CA, and Kahului, HI from 1/10/2012 - 3/14/2012. Portland, OR to Kahului, HI service will end on 1/9/2012. Kahului, HI to Portland, OR service will end on 1/10/2012.
* Limited seat availability for fare offers. Fares shown above are based on routes between San Jose, CA and Kahului, HI and Oakland, CA and Kahului, HI. Fares are subject to seat availability during the travel period shown and may change at any time without notice. Prices displayed include Base Fare, Fuel Surcharge and U.S. Taxes. Additional cost of $3.70 ZP tax per segment (defined as one takeoff and one landing), a $2.50 per enplanement September 11th Security Fee (not to exceed $10) and PFC surcharge of $4.50 (not to exceed $18 roundtrip) where applicable will be applied. Other restrictions apply. Additional baggage charges may apply.
In the last 10 years that I have been into credit cards rewards, miles and points, I have come across so many people who have thrown away or discarded excellent promotional invitations for credit cards offering exceptional bonuses for applying. In fact, I have taken advantage of many such mailer in my lifetime earning me a bulk of miles and points.
As an example, five years ago, one of my friend received a targeted mailing offering him 100,000 bonus United Airlines miles just for applying for the card, yes just for applying, no purchase necessary, no spend required, all that with first year annual fee waived. He asked me and my response was to jump on it - 100K bonus was the first time I had seen in my life, until then. Guess what, he didn't and the next time I met him, he asked me if I had the link to the offer as he had trashed that mailer. I obviously didn't have that offer as such offers are targeted and they have a special invitation number and code on it that only the addressee can use to apply. Their system matches the names on the invitation with the one on the application and will go forward if it mismatches.
Another story if from three years ago when my colleague received an offer from American Express to upgrade his American Express Green Charge Card to American Express Gold Card for which the invitation offered him 75,000 Membership Rewards points, yes 75,000 points. That offer to upgrade to a gold card was pure gold as it was unheard of at that time. And the first-year annual fee was waived for him. I coerced him into taking it up which I am glad he did! He got the 75K points which he stupidly redeemed for gift cards without checking with me. That is one of the worst ways to waste your valuable AMEX MR points. This does not end here, in 6-9 months, he received another offer from AMEX to upgrade his Gold Card to Platinum AMEX card and this time, the offer was 100,000 bonus AMEX MR points, with first annual fee waived. This time, he jumped on it without even checking with me and called me once he received his card to seek my advice to opti-maxi-mize his points. I helped him plan his and his wife's trip to London using those points, from New York (JFK) non-stop in Upper Class (business class) on Virgin Atlantic Airways by transferring the points to ANA's (All Nippon Airways) frequent flyer program who partners with Virgin Atlantic Airways. Retail cost of those tickets were in the range of $7,000, per person.
I am glad he had learnt his lesson the second time the opportunity came knocking on his doors (read mailbox). Now, he has learnt to play this game smartly and with little guidance, is as savvy as other players in this interesting and often lucrative game.
Earn 50,000 Southwest Airlines points (worth upto $833.33 in Southwest Airfare) when you apply for new Southwest Airlines’ Visa Credit Card
You can now earn 50,000 Southwest Airlines points (after your first purchase with the card) when you apply for the new Southwest Airlines Visa Credit Card. The card comes with $69 annual fee (no first year fee waiver) but the bonus points easily cover the annual fee and makes the deal attractive. Points will post to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account after the statement closes in which you have at least one qualifying purchase (Annual fee charged to your card does not qualify). Please note that most qualified applicants will be issued a Visa Signature card which comes with no pre-set spending limit. To learn more about cards with "no pre-set spending limit" please visit my earlier post.
Southwest has 3 types of fares available and bookable on its website, Business Select, Anytime, and Wanna Get Away. When you redeem the southwest points for Wanna Get Away fares, each point is worth 1.66 cents in value towards that airfare. Thus, if your base fare for paid revenue ticket is $60 under "Wanna Get Away" as listed on www.southwest.com, you would need 80,000 points to purchase that flight using points.
However, the value of points starts going down if you try to purchase Anytime or Business Select fare for your redemption. These same points will valued at 1 cent per point for Anytime fare and it drops even further to 0.83 cents per point for Business Select fare. Thus, your get best value when you redeem your points for Wanna Get Away fare. And Remember, Southwest does not charge a change fee or a penalty for changes, you only pay the actual fare difference, if applicable. And you are also allowed up to 2 free check-in bags.
Other interesting redemptions include redeeming 50,000 points for $500 worth of Amazon.com gift card or gift cards for select restaurants, retails stores and travel like cruises. Interestingly, these points can also used to purchase international flights on airlines other than Southwest as well as for hotels stays and rental cars.
One thing I have truly come to hate is Southwest's new website design. It is somewhat user unfriendly, unintuitive, buggy and broken. Their previous website was so much better, very intuitive and a breeze to use. However, it is work in progress and chances are that Southwest already knows about the issues with their website while they work on fixing them in the background.
Back to the original topic on hand, Southwest Visa Signature Card by Chase. It is an excellent deal considering that you get up to $833.33 in Southwest Airfare. Even if you don't fly Southwest or the Airline does not serve your preferred Airport, you can use these points for other stuff that may be of interest to you. And for a limited time, Southwest is having a sale when you redeem your points for gift cards. You can get 20% discount for most gift card redemptions. Thus, $500 worth of gift cards will cost you only 40,000 points.
I have formed a habit of using seatguru before I book any airline ticket for anybody to understand the aircraft that the flights will be flown on. Especially for longer flights, flying on a better airplane can make a big difference in terms of flight comfort, even in coach.
Disclaimer: Please note that I am not affiliated or connected to seatguru or any any other websites in mentioned in this post in any ways, commercial or otherwise.
For example, if you are flying New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG) on Air France, there are 4-5 daily flights operated by Air France between the two city pairs in consideration. Of these, 1-2 flights are on Airbus A330-200, some are on Boeing 777-200ER, and one is on Airbus A380 (the new double-decker plane, world's largest commercial aircraft). Please note that there are two configurations in Air France's fleet for Boeing 777-200ER. It has been reported that flight comfort is superior on A380 as compared to any other aircraft in the world as it roomier, quieter, newer, has better designed cabin and has a better entertainment system. It shouldn't be surprising as it is a newer model of airplane. I recommend folks to try to take the A380 flight over others, if the flight schedule works for them and if the fare is the same (or the difference is not significant).
One website that I use more often is seatguru which has a list of aircrafts used by most major airlines in the world as well as their seatmaps. Seatguru also identifies which seats to prefer and which seats to avoid on a particular aircraft type for each airline. Please note that seats type, layout, configuration, entertainment system and in-flight service can vary from airline to airline, and aircraft to aircraft, even within the same airline. In fact, same airplane model within an Airline can have multiple configurations.
And one should always know what type of seats they are going to fly in before booking a business class or first class ticket. Some airlines have completely flat-bed seats in their business class cabin where as some don't. It can make a world of difference to your condition after a long-haul flight by flying on these flat-bet seats, having a good sleep and arriving refreshed at your destination. And as mentioned above, be aware that some airlines have flat-bed seats as well as basic reclining business class seats on the same aircraft model. Look carefully.
Other interesting websites for aircraft types and seats that I use are seatexpert, seatmaestro and flatseats. So, go ahead and use these available tools to understand and identify better seats on nicer aircrafts before you book your tickets.
Fidelity Rewards American Express credit card is a hidden gem. You can earn 2 points on every dollar you spend, anywhere. The card also carries no annual fee. The point system is Bank of America's (formerly MBNA's) Worldpoints Rewards. You have the choice to automatically have the points transferred to your Fidelity account (if you have one or if you want to sign up for one) or keep them in your Worldpoints account. This card is issued by FIA card services, an affiliate of Bank of America and not directly by American Express. Thus, it is an American Express branded card but not an American Express issued card.
One of the hidden feature of the points earned through this card (and perhaps, some of the other Worldpoints earning cards) is that you can instantaneously transfer them to an Aeroplan (Air Canada's frequent flyer program) account converting them Air Canada miles. Interestingly, names don't have to match on the two accounts. Air Canada is a member of Star Alliance and you have the choice of redeeming these miles for travel on any Star Alliance partner.
Back in April, I wrote a blog about the devaluation of Air Canada miles. However, I reckon like some other experts out there that Air Canada's miles are still a very good value. The reason being their relatively relaxed award routing rules and ability to have up to two stopovers in your round-trip award ticket, in addition to your final destination (or point of turn-around).
Unfortunately, the card does not have any sign-up bonus and hence makes it less attractive to apply. But for those who are a big fan of Star Alliance, Air Canada's Aeroplan Program and No annual fee credit card, you cannot go wrong with this card. Plus, don't forget, you get 2% cash back on every $ you spend, anywhere.
My recent award booking using Delta Miles – 120,000 miles award in business class to India over Christmas-New Year
So, I recently used 120,000 Delta miles for my cousin's trip to India. This is a business class booking all the way! Astonishingly, the award is for departure in the week before Christmas and return the week after New Years.
The flights were bookedusing Delta Skymiles on SkyTeam partner Air France from Toronto (YYZ) to Bombay (BOM) via Paris (CDG). The lowest economy ticket was pricing on any Airline was a little over $2,000 at that time and the lowest economy ticket on the same Air France flights, same route, same date was $3,200+. And whats more, we transferred her father, i.e., my Uncle's Membership Rewards points to his account during the 50% transfer bonus which means, the tickets cost them 80,000 Membership Rewards points plus ~$200 in taxes in fees.
My uncle and cousin were totally unfamiliar that this could be done and were pleasantly surprised when I pulled it off. He would have normally converted his points to cash at 1 cent per point or less. Thus, this ticket effectively cost them $1,000. Whats more, my cousin is flying Business Class all the way. Plus I also got her an additional one-way from Toronto (YYZ) to Los Angeles (LAX) via Atlanta (ATL) next summer to visit a relative, again in Business/First class on Delta. This ticket alone would have cost them $1,000+ in First Class or $350+ in coach.
Isn't this an awesome way to maximize the value of their points?
I have many such success stories of maximizing the value of airline miles, hotel points and proprietary rewards points that I am going to share. I recommend everyone to learn to earn cheaply and then use those earned rewards effectively while opti-maxi-mizing their value...
Multiple Citi AAdvantage Credit Card offers – options include 50,000 bonus miles, $100 credit, 2 Admirals Club Lounge Passes, Companion Certificate, various spend requirements
I have gathered multiple offers from Citibank for AAdvantage Cards, Personal American Express, Personal Visa and Business Visa cards. Each of these are listed below:
Visa, AMEX and Business Visa - 40,000 AAdvantage miles with $1,000 spend in 4 months - 41,000 miles by spending $1,000. Comes to 41 miles per $ spent.
Visa, AMEX and Business Visa - 40,000 AAdvantage miles with $2,000 spend in 4 months - 42,000 miles by spending $2000. Comes to 21 miles per $ spent. Get $50 statement credit after qualifying AA purchase. Get 5,000 additional miles for every $6,000 you spend in the first year up to $12,000. Thus you earn an additional 20,000 miles by spending $10,000 which comes to 2 AA miles per $. Cumulative, you earn 72,000 miles by spending $12,000, equates to 6 miles per $, not so great.
MasterCard - 40,000 AAdvantage miles with $1,000 spend in 4 months - 41 miles per $. Comes with a Companion Certificate after you become a card member. Enjoy domestic round trip travel for 2 on American Airlines for the price of 1 when a minimum coach fare of $299 per passenger is purchased with your Citi® / dvantage® credit card. Honestly, it a worthless benefit as the companion certificate has plenty of restrictions that makes it not so easy to use. Pretty much a throwaway certificate for me. (I have one lying around if anybody wants it).
Visa, AMEX, Business Visa - 30,000 AAdvantage miles with $1,000 spend in 4 months plus 30,000 bonus at first anniversary if you spend $10,000 within 1 year. 70,000 miles by spending $10,000. Comes to 7 miles per $.
MasterCard - 35,000 AAdvantage miles with $750 spend in 4 months. 35,750 AA miles by spending $750. Comes to 47.66 miles per $.
Visa, AMEX, Business Visa - 35,000 AAdvantage miles with $1,000 in spend in 4 months. Comes with 35 miles per $. Plus, get $100 statement credit after qualifying AA purchase. Get 5,000 additional miles for every $6,000 you spend in the first year up to $12,000. Thus you earn an additional 21,000 miles by spending $11,000 which comes to 1.9 AA miles per $. Cumulative, you earn 46,000 miles by spending $12,000, equates to 3.83 miles per $, plus $100 statement credit after qualifying purchase. Not so great in my opinion.
Visa AMEX, Business Visa - 50,000 AAdvantage miles with $3,000 in spend in 4 months. Comes to 17.66 miles per $. Plus get 2 free one-day AAdmirals Club Lounge Passes.
Visa, AMEX, Business Visa - 45,000 AAdvantage miles with $2,500 in spend in 4 months. Comes to 19 miles per $. Plus one-time $100 statement credit when you make a qualifying AA purchase within 1-year.
AA miles holders can now redeem AA miles for Etihad Airways flights. This is an excellent addition to the already fantastic list of airlines that you can redeem your AA miles on. Etihad Airways flies to 3 gateway cities in North America, New York JFK and Chicago ORD is the US and Toronto YYZ in Canada.
Redeem your AA miles on Etihad ASAP for the peak travel season before the seats are all snagged up. I had 5 calls placed to AAdvantage Elite desk this morning and the availability was fast dwindling. This is a real 5 star airline with excellent service in all class of service, first, business and coach alike, brand new airplanes with superior seat comfort and excellent entertainment system, efficient hub at Abu Dhabi and an expanding route network that takes you to 6 continents of the world (of course, except Antarctica).
Often the question is raised, how will the credit card applications affect the credit score and the credit file. I though it best to put my thoughts down in one of my post.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliations with any credit reporting agencies or the finance industry in anyways. What I am going to write below is for my personal notes and is based purely on my understanding of the credit file. I have gathered knowledge from several trials and errors while closely following the changes on my personal credit score after various credit inquiries and events in life. I am not claiming to be a professional in this field and cannot be held responsible for any consequences resulting from my post. I am posting here my personal observations for my record keeping.
Any new credit card application results in a hard inquiry on your credit file. And any hard inquiry on your credit file is invariably considered a negative and results in a drop in your credit score. How much the drop will be is dependent on a lot of factors like the credit profile at the time of inquiry, type of lender making an inquiry, frequency of inquiry, number of inquiries and many others, this list can be rather long.
Most people with clean credit history meaning no minor negatives in their credit file in the last three years and no major negatives in their credit file for seven years, perfect on time payments, diverse portfolio of credit accounts, total debt to total credit line ratio of less than 10% with at least seven years of active credit file should have healthy credit profile. The credit scores should be in the range of 725+ which is considered to be excellent for US markets.
In many cases, a hard credit inquiry should result in a drop of 10-30 points which should recover pretty quickly within 2-4 months. But I should point out that it can and really does vary from case to case and person to person. No two credit files are same and thus the effect of a credit inquiry will also be different.
One strategy that I follow is not to apply for credit cards too often. And when I do apply for credit cards, I pool them together and apply for all of them in the space of 30-60 minutes on the same day. Such a round of applications in our world is called app-o-rama where people club multiple (can be 2-12) credit card applications. I have 2-3 app-o-ramas every 12 months; thus an average of 4-6 months between two app-o-ramas. I should say that it has worked well for me. After every round, my scores take 20-25 point hit which recovers rather quickly in 2-3 months of diligent up-keeping of my credit file like on time payments, no additional unnecessary credit inquiries, low total debt-total credit line ratio, etc.
Before any app-o-rama, I sit down and gather 6-8 applications that are most lucrative at that time and that help me achieve my goals for airline miles, hotel points or proprietary reward points. Happy to say that it seems to have worked well for me. Some factors that are considered when processing your credit application in addition to your credit file include your employment history, your employer, your annual pay, your marital status, your residential status and some more.
Once again, please note that your credit file is the most powerful that you have. Learn to use it wisely. It will be worth it!
A lot of times when we are shopping for award seats, we tend to avoid Airlines that charge a fuel surcharge on award tickets, even if it is a small amount. Though, Airlines like British Airways and Air France are known to charge huge amount (in the range of several hundreds to over a thousand for a round-trip ticket, depending on the distance of flight segments on the booked ticket) of Fuel Surcharge, and misleadingly, pass it on to the passengers as a tax. Is it fair to charge this fuel surcharge "tax" on award tickets?
Award tickets are tickets purchased using miles. What are miles? Miles are Airlines' own currency that they award to their loyal customers as perks for giving the Airlines repeat business. And these miles can be used to earn free flights. When you purchase a ticket on the Airline and fly that ticket, you earn miles. Point to be noted here is that most Airlines already charge you a fuel surcharge "tax" on paid revenue tickets on which you earn miles. Thus, the cost of fuel or fuel surcharge is already build into the miles that you earn using those tickets. Then why are airlines double charging for the fuel surcharge? Is it fair to those frequent flyers or loyal repeat customers to be overcharging for their loyalty? No, absolutely no!
For the sake of this discussion, lets ignore the other modes on earning miles in today's world and stick to the classical definition of miles. After all, Airlines are making money off their loyal, repeat business customers.
Updated on 10/20/2011:
Most Airlines based outside US charge a hefty fuel surcharge. in general, it is best to stick to US based Airlines’ frequent flyer programs. In near future, I will compile and publish a comprehensive list of Airlines that charge fuel surcharge on award tickets.
For a limited time, you can earn 50,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards Points when you apply for a new Chase Ink Bold Business Card and spend $5,000 within the first 3 months. The annual fee for the first year is waived after which you will be charged $95 every year at account anniversary. It is not necessary for applicants to be a registered business owner. Any consumer can apply for this card under “sole proprietorship” and use their own name as business name and put in the SSN for Tax ID.
Some of the key highlights of this card include:
- Earn 50,000 Bonus UR Points when you spend $5,000 in 3 months.
- Points can be used to purchase airfare at 1.25 cents per point. That's $625 towards airfare when you redeem online through Ultimate Rewards website.
- Transfer your points to UA, CO, BA and Hyatt at 1:1 ratio, making it an excellent option to earn UA and CO miles (which are no longer easy to accumulate as AMEX points can no longer be transferred to CO as of October 1). I recommend converting the points to Hyatt points which are generally a better value than other Airline miles. An unadvertised benefit is that the points can be transferred to anybody else's account and names don't have to match making it easy to top-off the accounts for that elusive award.
- Enjoy a one-year complimentary Priority Pass™ membership which gives access to over 600 Airline lounges across Airports in over 100 countries. Your first 2 visits are free every year after which your card will automatically be charged $27 per visit, per person.
- Earn an additional cumulative bonus of 45,000 UR points when you spend $100,000 in the same calendar year, under the following structure. | Earn 7,500 bonus points when you spend $25,000 on your card in one year. | Earn 15,000 more bonus points when you spend another $25,000 on your card in the same year. | Earn 25,000 more points when you spend another $50,000 on your card in the same year.
- There is no limit on the number of reward points you can earn. These points will never expire as long as your account is open and in good standing.
- FREE employee cards or add-on cards
- This is a Visa card and thus comes with the benefit of wider worldwide acceptance, wherever Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted.
- First year annual fee WAIVED, $95 thereafter at each account anniversary.
Once again, please note that Chase INK BOLD is a charge card and not a credit card, so you pay in full each month in order to accrue no monthly interest charges.
Please note that this is a business charge card meaning that you will have to pay in full every month. Further, note that Business Cards do not fall under the new Card ACT and thus will not offer the same protection under ACT that personal cards do. It is because of this reason that we will see more banks offering Business cards with hefty sign-up bonuses in the coming months and will not be enforcing strict application reviews at the same time. They have to make money some way after all! As long as you are aware of this and understand the implications and are going to be paying off the balance in full every month, you may want to consider this offer. For most savvy people who like to milk the sign-up bonuses, and who use cards as a mode of payment and not a mode of credit, this offer is golden.