Monthly Archives: May 2016

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Limited Time Credit Card Offers

Category : Uncategorized

Credit card offers are more or less cyclical. There are historically certain times of year that you can get a higher offer than normal. Sometimes there are nice surprises, but there is some consistency.

That being said, here are some limited time offers I wanted to bring to your attention, and the churning rules associated with.

Delta Skymiles Gold Personal – 50,000 Delta Skymiles, $2,000 spend in three months, $50 Statement Credit 

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.05.06 PM

  • Churnable? No. AMEX Cards are currently once per lifetime. This is the highest public offer for this card.
  • Benefits: First bag checked free (does not include shuttle flights LAX-SEA, LAX-SFO, LGA-ORD, LGA-BOS, LGA-DCA), priority boarding.
  • Foreign transaction fee? None.
  • $50 Statement Credit: You can buy a $50 Delta gift card and get reimbursed for that expense, or use it towards an upgrade to economy plus.
  • Annual Fee: Waived for the first year, then $95
  • Offer ends: July 6, 2016.

Combine this card with an AMEX charge card (like the Gold or Business Gold) to merge pulls. See here for tips on pulling up that higher offer.

Delta Skymiles Platinum Personal – 60,000 Skymiles, $2,000 spend in three months, $100 statement credit, 10,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles)

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.13.35 PM

  • Churnable? No. AMEX Cards are currently once per lifetime. This is the highest public offer for this card.
  • Benefits: First bag checked free (does not include shuttle flights LAX-SEA, LAX-SFO, LGA-ORD, LGA-BOS, LGA-DCA), priority boarding.
  • Foreign transaction fee? None.
  • $100 Statement Credit: You can buy two, $50 Delta gift cards and receive a credit for those expenses, or use it towards an upgrade to economy plus.
  • Medallion Status Boost: Receive 10,000 MQMs to boost you towards Delta elite status; earn an additional 20,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 and $50,000 a year, respectively.
  • Annual Fee: $195, not waived.
  • Offer ends: July 6, 2016.

Combine this card with an AMEX charge card (like the Gold or Business Gold) to merge pulls. See here for tips on pulling up that higher offer. The annual fee is high, but it’s the highest public bonus and if you are seeking status with Delta, this can help.

Not sure what to do with your Skymiles? Find some great uses here.

[Targeted] Chase United Mileage Explorer Plus – 70,000 United Miles, 5,000 for adding authorized user and $3,000 in three months

This is a targeted offer, so be on the lookout. See here if you’re targeted for the 70,000 point offer; here if you’re targeted for the 50,000 point offer. If you are only targeted for the 50,000 point offer, apply and Chase should match you to the 70,000 point offer within 90 days of applying.

  • Churnable? Sort of. With Chase’s new rules, you probably can’t get this card after 24 months; the only exception is if you’ve been targeted by Chase or United.
  • Benefits: First bag checked free, priority boarding, expanded award availability when signed in to linked Mileage Plus account.
  • Foreign transaction fee? None.
  • Annual Fee: $95, not waived.
  • Offer ends: Supposedly June 30, 2016.

The annual fee is most definitely worth it for 75,000 points.

 


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Chase, So You Can’t: Update on 5/24 – The Other Shoe Drops

Category : Uncategorized

[Disclosure: I may earn compensation if you click on any external links].

A few days ago, Doctor of Credit reported that his sources (and as posted on DansDeals Forum and Reddit) confirmed the “5/24” rule from Chase went into effect a few days ago. Briefly, the 5/24 rule from Chase means that if you have opened up 5 of any card (read: from all banks, not just Chase) within a 24 month period, you will not be eligible to open a new card, even if you check out on their other approval factors. Many data points seem to indicate that this is indeed the case for many cards.

This first started over a year ago with the Freedom, Sapphire and Slate cards. Doctor of Credit reported that March and April would be for business (Ink) and then co-branded cards, respectively. March and April came and went, but we all hoped to skate by unscathed. Not so anymore.

5/24 is indeed in effect for the following products:

But, there’s a silver lining.

Multiple data points indicate that the following cards fall outside these new rules:

  • British Airways
  • IHG
  • Hyatt
  • Fairmont
  • Disney
  • Amazon
  • AARP

Does this mean that these cards will be exempt forever? I’d imagine if Chase gets its way with the co-brand relationships, then no, these cards will fall under the 5/24 rule as well. For now, it seems like we’re safe. No promises on how long…

Moving forward, what are my best options?

Well, there are a few scenarios. I reviewed some of these here, but considering the cards that are okay and those that are not, let’s review.

If you are not over 5/24…

Travels internationally (all classes of service)

If you are just getting started and have 0 cards:

  1. Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited – This is a great no fee card which is a powerful earner of Ultimate Rewards (UR), especially if this is your first card. Conventional churning wisdom would tell you to apply for this and another Chase card, but if you have no credit history, go for one at a time, and this is an easier approval than other premium cards.
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred – Great sign-up and when paired with the Freedom or Freedom Unlimited; see some great transfer partner uses here.
  3. Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer – Because you can transfer points from the Sapphire (or Ink Plus) to United, this is a good card when it’s at the highest bonus of 50,000. Currently at 30,000 (that’s why no link has been provided) Rumor has it that chase will up this bonus to 70,000 in June.
  4. Chase Ink Plus – This is a business card. If you have a small business, I’d even recommend getting this before the Sapphire Preferred. Sign up and bonus categories earn greater.

You could fill your last two slots with Southwest (which are best for domestic airfare), or the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton cards. Just depends on what uses you have.

Travels domestically (coach)

  1. Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited – This is a great no fee card which is a powerful earner of Ultimate Rewards (UR), especially if this is your first card. Conventional churning wisdom would tell you to apply for this and another Chase card, but if you have no credit history, go for one at a time, and this is an easier approval than other premium cards.
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred – Great sign-up and when paired with the Freedom or Freedom Unlimited; see some great transfer partner uses here.
  3. Chase Southwest Premier – This card is currently offering 50,000 points after $2,000 in spending. If you get this with the Plus, you’d be on your way to earn the vaunted Companion Pass which is crucial for saving tons of money on domestic traveling.
  4. Chase Southwest Plus – This card is currently offering 50,000 points after $2,000 in spending and it will go a long way towards the Companion Pass.

These two categories are very similar because of the flexibility URs provide. For this last slot, I’d go for British Airways (even though it’s outside 5/24) or the Ink, if you have a small business.

If you are over 5/24… Or close

Interestingly, the cards which currently fall outside the 5/24 rule are a lot of Chase’s hotel co-branded products. As a churner, I’d say go for two at a time if you can handle the spending.

  1. British Airways – Very good for domestic short-medium haul traveling in most of the continents where One World has partners. Currently at 50,000 points for spending $2,000 and then 25,000 more for spending a total of $15,000 in a card member year.
  2. Chase Hyatt – One of the best hotel credit cards in the business, offering 2 nights at any category Hyatt worldwide, as long as there is availability. Using this at high category hotels is highly recommended. Spending is also really low at $1,000 in three months.
  3. Chase IHG – The sign up bonus fluctuates between 50 – 80,000 points (currently at 70,000). The sign up can be stretched for several nights or just 1 or 2 at a top tier IHG property, but the best part about the card is the annual certificate. You pay the annual fee of $49 and it can be used at any IHG. Great deal.
  4. Chase Fairmont – This card was a recent acquisition of mine, having had most of the Chase products in the past 24 months. The sign-up is two nights at any Fairmont hotel (most are pretty expensive). The only catch is that there are black out dates–usually around holidays. See them here. If you have a specific use, then go for it, otherwise, hold off.

Hopefully this helps you prioritize your applications if you fall in, or outside the 5/24 rule. As we move forward, I’ll continue to update this page with cards that fall into the 5/24 rule.

 

-The Miner

[Disclosure: I may earn compensation if you click on any external links].


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Best & Worst Award Cancellation Fees

Category : Uncategorized

Fees are never good, but sometimes you have no choice but to cancel an award. Some of those cancellation fees hurt more than others. (Fees for cash tickets may be different. This is only for award tickets).

Keep in mind that if you use Delta miles to book an Air France award flight, you will be subject to Delta’s rules, not the more flexible rules of Air France’s Flying Blue.

From best to worst, in alphabetic order.

Best

ANA

As I’ve wrote about elsewhere, the ANA program is great, but you can only book roundtrips. Either way… NO FEES.

  • Refund/redeposit = 3,000 miles

British

British Airways Avios are really great for booking U.S.-based short/medium -haul awards, and having the ability to easily cancel the ticket if necessary makes them all the more valuable.

  • Refund/cancellation is $55, unless the taxes paid on the flight are less.
    • For example, a New York – Los Angeles flight using British Avios is 12,500 miles + $5.60. If you cancel this ticket, you will get the miles back (for no cost), but you’ll lose the taxes.
  • You’re better off fully canceling an award and then rebooking; as opposed to paying $55 to change the ticket.

Etihad

  • Refund/redeposit = 2,000 miles

Korean

Currently, Korean does not pass on any fees for date change or cancellations, but beginning August 2017, they will. Here’s the info that will go into effect August 1, 2017.

  • 3,000 miles for redeposit
  • 10,000 miles for redeposit for itineraries that are one year after the ticket was issued

Southwest

Southwest has the most generous cancellation policy of any airline in the U.S.

  • Free cancellation and redeposit of miles
  • Taxes will be refunded to credit card, or can be used at a later date for an alternative flight (be sure to keep track of the confirmation number, as that’s how you’ll apply the funds at a later date.

Not Bad

Air Canada’s Aeroplan

A solid Star Alliance award chart, and reasonable fees (well more reasonable than $150!).

  • About $69 (90 CAD) for refund/redeposit or other changes.

Air France/KLM Flying Blue

Flying Blue is the award program of Air France and KLM. Compared to most U.S. based carriers, their award cancellation and change fees aren’t too bad.

  • 45 Euro (about $50) for refund and redeposit of award tickets, with the exception of promo awards.
  • Having recently done this on a flight with taxes around $140, they automatically subtracted the $50 from the refund to my credit card, and I was credited back the balance to my credit card. Painless

Alaska

Alaska airlines is the Swiss Army Knife of frequent flyer programs. They also have a respectable cancellation policy.

  • Free cancellations and award changes 60+ days before departure.
  • After the 60-day mark or less to departure, $125 for cancellation and redeposit of miles.

Emirates

  • $75 refund/redeposit fee

jetBlue

If you were able to take advantage (and you still can!) jetBlue’s top-tier Mosaic Status Match, all these fees are waived.

  • For refund/redeposit 60+ days prior to departure, depending on your fare booked (Blue, Blue Plus, Blue Flex) will be $70, $60, or $0.00.
  • Within 60 days of departure, fees may be the same or higher depending on your flight.

Lufthansa

  • About $56 for refund/redeposit

Singapore 

  • $30 for refund/redeposit, and must be 24 hours before departure.

Virgin Atlantic

  • $50 for refund/redeposit and must be 24 hours before departure.

Worst

American

  • Redeposit of miles for the first passenger is $150 and then $25 per passenger on the same reservation (so if you have two different reservations you’ll need to pay $150 per!)
  • You can make changes and pay any extra award miles if you satisfy the following:
    • Date, time, routing as long as the origin and destination remain the same
      • JFK – LHR – FCO and change to JFK – ORD – LHR – FCO would be okay
      • JFK – LHR – FCO and change to JFK – LHR – MXP would not be okay
    • You can go up a class a service, but not down (you will be charged the award miles difference)
    • This must be within one year of booking, not a year from the date of the flight.

Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific) 

  • $120 or 12,000 miles for refund/deposit

Delta

As we’ll see, the U.S. Big 3 carriers charge exorbitant fees across the board, but particularly with cash refunds and mile redeposits. (Side note: Delta makes many schedule changes and if there is one and you need to cancel your ticket anyways, you may be eligible to do so at no additional cost).

  • $150.00 for refund/redeposit or change of ticket

El Al

  • $60 – $150 depending on when the cancellation request is made

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Refund and redeposit are $150 and only $30 for intra-island.
  • Change of date or destination is only $50

United

  • $200 for refund/redeposit

Notice that Big 3 U.S. are in the ‘Worst’ category. Shameful. It’s also a shame because these programs have mileage that are easy to accrue and have a lot of good uses.

 

-The Miner

 

 

 


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Finding Hidden AMEX Sign-Up Offers

Category : Uncategorized

Some credit card sign-up offers stay the same year-round (like the Citi Reserve – 2 Weekend Nights), while others stay lower year-round and then increase–Starwood Preferred Guest Personal & Business goes from 25,000 to 30,000 around August each year.

American Express sign-up bonuses on their own products (charge cards, EveryDay Preferred) change constantly. There are times when cards like the Platinum and Gold (both personal and business) go above their standard 25,000 and 50,000, but more often than not, savvy churners rely on targeted offers and what I’d term, “hidden” offers.

Because AMEX sign-up bonuses are now once in a lifetime (i.e. you can only earn the sign-up bonus once, no matter the sign-up offer), it’s important to sign-up for the card when it as its highest.

For reference, here the varying sign-up bonuses for some of their (common) products:

  • American Express Hilton No Fee – 40,000, 50,000, and 75,000
  • Hilton Surpass – 75,000 and 100,000
  • EveryDay – 10,000 and 15,000
  • EveryDay Preferred – 15,000 and 25,000
  • Starwood Personal – 25,000, 30,000 (and most recently), 35,000
  • Starwood Business – 25,000, 30,000 (and most recently), 35,000
  • Delta Personal and Business – 30,000, 50,000 (and mail offers of 60 – 70,000)
  • Delta Platinum Personal and Business – 35,000, 50,000 and 60,000
  • Personal Gold – 25,000 and 50,000 (sometimes higher)
  • Business Gold – 25,000, 50,000 and 75,000
  • Personal Platinum – 40,000, 75,000 and 100,000
  • Business Platinum – 40,000, 75,000, 100,000, 150,000, and 250,000 (this last two are extremely rare and only targeted)
  • Mercedes-Benz for AMEX – 50,000 and 75,000

This is not all their products (the cash back ones are missing), but as you can see there is a lot of variance with their sign-up offers. The personal cards usually have the same spending requirement across the level of bonuses. The business products usually require more spending as the sign-up increases.

So how do I access these “hidden” sign-ups?

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed method by which one can access these “hidden” sign-ups, but there is a way many people (including myself) have applied for the highest offer per product.

Step 1: Clear your cookies.

Step 2: Copy and paste the application link into Chrome Incognito or Safari Private Browsing.

Step 3: If you do not receive the higher offer, close the window, and start again.

Two important notes:

  1. If you do get the high offer, do not wait to sign-up for it. There is no guarantee the next time you open that page you’ll see the higher offer.
  2. Try the above steps multiple times, on different days and different devices. 

First attempt at the Premier Rewards Gold yielded 25,000 Membership Rewards after meeting the spending requirements:

Let's do better than that!

Let’s do better than that!

After several attempts at doing this in incognito, I got the 50,000 sign-up bonus after the same spending as the inferior offer:

Read that text carefully

Read that text carefully

As I mentioned above, if you navigate away from this page you will definitely lose the offer: “This offer is available to you by clicking through this web page. If you love or close this web page and return late, this offer may no longer be available.”

PRO-TIP: When applying for AMEX cards, you can be approved for both a charge card (Platinum, Gold, Green) and credit card (Delta, Starwood, EveryDay, etc.)

This is not such a major “hack”, but with AMEX’s once per lifetime language, it is important to only apply for these cards when they are at their highest.

-The Miner


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[News] What You May Have Missed – May 15 – May 22

Category : Uncategorized

Points

Aviation

Credit Cards

Hotels


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#IHateTheWait – Let’s Talk About the TSA

Category : Uncategorized

Ah, the TSA.

An important and vital role, but often criticized for they inefficiency, their inability to actually protect and be proactive, and their overall treatment of travelers, our nation’s Transportation Security Administration is about to face an onslaught of summer travelers.

Overall, I can’t say I’ve had horrible TSA experiences, but I know many others who’ve had nasty ones. The last time I sat in a really long line was over ten years ago in the summer of 2006, a month after the Transatlantic Liquid Terrorist Plot. At that point, we really did need to get to the airport 3+ hours before to make our flights.

Since then, I have flown a lot more, but have been relatively successful  in flying during less busy times of the day. Sometimes, even with strategy, there’s just nothing you can do or control: inclement weather, increased security measures, or any number of delays one faces at the airport.

However, the TSA has recently been in the news (and not for shady bonuses given to staff members who haven’t lived up to expectations), but for increasingly long wait times. And I’m talking wait times. Not the 15+ minutes or so you wait in line to get into a Trader Joe’s on a Monday at 6:00 PM.

We’re talking in excess of three hours. THREE HOURS. That’s longer than the flight between Chicago and New York.

Airpots across the country are feeling the wait, but most recently there has been an upsurge in flyers complaining. In fact, airlines are encouraging and promoting passengers to tweet #ihatethewait. Airlines are getting on board as well.

Just a few days ago, Chicago International O’Hare airport (ORD) saw monstrous three hour wait times. American Airlines, which along with United has a hub at ORD, is even looking into privatizing airport security with the City of Chicago. Here’s a nice graphic to sum up the issue:

One word: personnel.

Without digging too deep, or getting too nuanced, even if the numbers don’t look that drastically different, take a look at the number of increased passenger traffic–clearly security personnel are not keeping pace.

Here’s total passenger traffic at both O’hare and Midway airports: Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 2.07.07 PM

Aside from the fact that Midway saw some really tremendous growth in the past ten years, whereas O’Hare has fluctuated significantly–look at traffic in 2014 and 2015 at O’hare; it rose by an astounding 9.81%, yet there was a decrease in personnel. (Exactly the decrease the first chart does not give us, but eyeballing it, I’d say about 200 less personnel between ’14 and ’15.)

Now, if you were to say that they were more efficient so less personnel were necessary, then I’d agree–why not cut and save taxpayer dollars where we can? But that’s most definitely not the case.

So what can you do to ease the pain of long lines, or more importantly, not missing flights?

TSA Pre-Check, the cure all to long lines. This is where bloggers obligatory push the AMEX Platinum Card and Citi Prestige cards which come with Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check reimbursement. Are these cards with $450.00 annual fees worth it just for Global Entry/Pre-Check? No, definitely not. If you already have these cards and not redeemed your Global Entry/Pre-Check credit, sure do that. If you’re flying a lot this summer, then it could be worth it to just pay the $100 or $85 fee. I would say that for most, it is not worth it.

I, for one, only applied for Global Entry/Pre-Check because I had the cards and had no reason not to use the credit. But, even with all my flying, I would not have paid out of pocket for either.

What can you do?

  • Throw all your previous notions about airport security lines out the window. Literally. Assume a long wait. Be prepared for that and come early.
  • Other cards offer lounge access–if you are there early, take advantage of the lounge access. See full article here.
  • If you use your miles to fly business or first class, it will usually come with priority access of some sort or dedicated check in lines to get to the TSA agent a bit quicker.
  • If you are checking bags, consider paying the $2.00 – $3.00 tip to curbside your bags (only if the line is non-existent or short).
  • Travel leanly and logically. Take your laptop out before you get to the bins. Untie your laces. Every few seconds can help you and your fellow passengers.

#ihatethewait

-The Miner


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Let’s Go to Europe This Summer – Greece (and its islands)

Category : Uncategorized

This is Part III in a series. See Part I: Let’s Go to Europe this Summer – Dublin and Part II: Let’s Go to Europe This Summer – Rome. All screenshots showing award space are reflective of the day posted.

Every summer thousands and thousands of tourists migrate over the Atlantic ocean and flock to European cities.

Though the ideal time would have been September 2015 to start looking at summer to Europe award availability, sometimes it’s hard to know summer schedules so far in advance.

Can we find any available now?

This week we’ll be looking at a few of the interesting Top 10 Trending European Summer destinations according to Kayak.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 3.01.53 PM

Before we get started, here are the search parameters:

  1. All travel will be searched roundtrip, originating in the United States
  2. Connecting flights are acceptable; direct are preferred
  3. All travel will be for two passengers in both economy and business, if available
  4. The peak months of travel to Europe, June and July will be examined.
  5. NYC will be used as the departure location as it has hubs for all the airlines; plus it is geographically the closest location to Continental Europe.
  6. Searches will be conducted on United (Star Alliance) Delta or Air France (SkyTeam) American or Alaska (One World)

Which Miles to Use?

Here are redemption prices to Europe. All values are roundtrip and in the thousands.

Economy Business About Fuel Surcharges & Tax Stopovers? Comments Tranfers from:
United 60 115 – 140 None; avoid returing from London On roundtrip and one open jaw Higher price is partner award pricing Chase
American 60 115 Avoid flying British airways or returning from London None SPG
Delta 60 125 All one-way flights returning from Europe have fuel surcharges; avoid connecting through Moscow None Delta award pricing is variable, but these are the lowest and most desirable redemption prices SPG, AMEX
Air France 50 125 No fuel on Delta & low when departing fromthe U.S.; highest when connecting through Moscow One stopover and one open-jaw AMEX, CIti
Air Canada’s Aeroplan 60 – 75 110 – 115 No fuel on United, Brussels, Scandinavian, Swiss, Turkish and low on LOT Polish One stopover or one open-jaw, or two stopovers on a roundtrip Europe is diveded up into two regions AMEX, CIti
Alaska 60 100 Avoid flying British or returning from London One per direction of travel, but no mixed airline awards Pricing based off of flying on American SPG
Singapore 55 130 Fuel surcharge on most except United Not within Europe SPG, Citi, AMEX, Chase

Overall, Star Alliance has the most options for getting to Europe from the U.S. United miles are really excellent option as they never pass on fuel surcharges. If you are going to leave from Europe, avoid London and other London-area airports at all costs. Fuel surcharges range between $150 – $300 depending on the class of service.

Sometimes it will make sense or be necessary to book two one-ways. Practically, this means you’ll lose that stopover.

Coach redemption prices are pretty reasonable across the board. The cheapest are on Singapore, United and using Alaska miles to fly American metal to Europe. (They still price out awards like the old American award chart.) 

In terms of business, they are also pretty standard, but if you want to avoid fuel surcharges, that usually means when redeeming Star Alliance miles you’ll be limited to United flights and the occasional SAS, Swiss and Brussels planes. Lufthansa, with the exception of booking on united, can run $300+ in fuel surcharges.

If you’ve been saving those Delta miles, business class to Europe represent a great redemption at 62.5K one way, 125K roundtrip. You can fly on solid partners like Air France, Alitalia or Virgin Atlantic.

Award Availability: New York to Athens (and the Islands)

Athens, or Greece in general, is a peculiar award destination.

Greece does have a major airline carrier, Aegean Air, which is part of the Star Alliance, but they do not have any direct flights to the United States or North America. In fact, from what I can tell, they have never operated flights that go across the Atlantic.

Even with miles, it’s a seasonal destination for United (Newark), Delta (JFK), American (out of Philadelphia), Air Canada (Montreal and Toronto):

Seasonal North American routes to Athens

Seasonal North American routes to Athens

But from within Europe:

Intra-European routes to Athens

Intra-European routes to Athens

That being said… Most people are heading to Greece to go to the islands. Let’s look at top three busiest airports, outside of Athens, in Greece by passenger traffic (and the ones we’re all familiar with and able to pronounce!):

  1. Heraklion – HER
  2. Thessaloniki – SKG (not an island)
  3. Rhodes – RHO
  4. Though not top three, Santorini (JTR) is a popular, if not pricey, destination in the Grecian Islands

Click the links to see their list of destinations. As you’ll see, many are seasonal.

Back to North American Departures…

Assuming you can find availability direct to Athens on a seasonal flight from New York (JFK and EWR) or Philadelphia, or the Canadian gateways, you may need to connect via Athens. Or, if you get on a flight to Europe, you may have to make a connection in Athens also to get to your final destination (if that’s the islands).

Let’s look at award availability!

One World

I’m not too optimistic on the outset here for any month this summer… You’d have to get on that direct flight from Philadelphia to avoid going through London (and injuring high fuel surcharges). We already know availability to Madrid, Helsinki and Berlin are limited. Theoretically, if you found availability via those One World partner hubs you could create the itinerary from Madrid, Helsinki or Berlin to Athens or any of the Greek islands.

Philadelphia – Athens – Philadelphia (June, Coach and Business)

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 4.40.36 PM

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 4.40.45 PM

Philadelphia – Athens – Philadelphia (July, Coach and Business)

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 4.42.11 PM

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 4.42.22 PM

As you can see, there are no non-stop flights from Philadelphia to Athens. Because you cannot search Iberia award availability via the American search engine, you won’t see all the options. It’s also easier to search one leg at a time: New York – Madrid, Madrid – Athens, Athens – Madrid, Madrid – New York, etc.

Alas, do not despair if you have American miles you’d like to use. There is some coach availability via Madrid on Iberia to Athens. Use the Qantas search engine to find those flights. Be sure to click the exact date (and not just rely on the flexible date calendar). Many flights will be routed through Dubai! (You can also do a day-by-day search on British Airways).

Skyteam

I’ll spare you the screenshots and wasted word count: there is no non-stop saver space on Delta in either direction of travel or coach or business class.

There is some business class space in June and July from New York to Athens via Moscow. Typically, I would avoid flying partner Aeroflot via Moscow because of the high fuel surcharges, but if the first leg is on Delta the taxes will come out to $130 (better than $300, but still too much).

Because it’s Europe, and it’s Skyteam, the return will incur fuel surcharges regardless of the airline you fly. Avoid it if you can.

Star Alliance

Not surprisingly, Star Alliance will probably yield the best results (as it has in our previous installments) in both classes of service. Additionally, you may find availability via a European destination to get directly to one of the above islands, in addition to Athens. So, without further ado…

New York – Athens (Coach & Business, June/July)

Of Dublin and Rome, this represents the most options in June and July, it seems.

Of Dublin and Rome, this represents the most options in June and July, it seems.

Athens – New York (Coach & Business, June/July)

There's even decent space in July!

There’s even decent space in July!

Non stop from Newark – Athens – Newark

Coach only, but some direct from Newark to Athens for 2 passengers in the beginning for June

Coach only, but some direct from Newark to Athens for 2 passengers in the beginning for June

Also in coach, but some direct from Athens to Newark in Coach for 2

Also in coach, but some direct from Athens to Newark for 2

Now using this direct award availability, let’s see if we can piece together an itinerary to one of the islands (Santorini, in this case):

 

30,000 per passenger, 60,000 total

30,000 per passenger, 60,000 total

Yes! It’s possible. To find something similar, search one leg at a time. You could also fly from New York (or Chicago, Miami, etc.) to Europe and then catch a partner flight to Santorini, Heraklion or Rhodes. In this case, you also have a connection that’s about 19 hours. You would get in early enough to see of Athens before you head off to island paradise.

And here’s some connecting availability to Rhodes from North America:

Chicago – Rhodes (June, Coach/Business)

Some of these have two stops--One in Athens and one in Europe.

Some of these have two stops–One in Athens and one in Europe.

And here are some limited options, coach and business from Chicago to Rhodes with one stop (so Chicago – Europe (-Athens) – Rhodes)Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 8.53.55 AM

Summary

Lots of screenshots, lots of words, but a lot of availability.

I hope this paints a picture of the beautiful availability if you want to head to Athens or Greece’s islands in June (and somewhat in July). Try your hand at piecing together itineraries–it can be helpful for more complicated award bookings.

-The Miner


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Product Changing with Bank of America

Category : Uncategorized

Historically, Bank of America has been the most churner friendly bank. Up until about a year ago, it was possible to open up five (yes, you read five) Alaska Airlines credit cards and earn the bonus in the same day.

After a enterprising blogger post about that, the deal effectively was killed. That being said, it’s still possible to open up two personal and one business card products in the same day and earn the bonus. In fact, you can earn the bonus multiple times a year. Not as good as five in one shot, but I’ll take it.

So how is this relevant?

Well the Alaska Airlines cards from Bank of America comes with a $75.00 annual fee. Annual fees the first year are really annoying. Especially for cards that don’t have such great benefits. The Alaska card’s sign up bonus is all it is good for.

Open the card, get the points, and cancel the card, right? Not anymore.

After the beans were spilled about the five-in-one-day method, Alaska and Bank of America began clawing back (that is taking back awarded miles) bonuses for cardmembers who opened the card and then just cancelled them. Now, the Alaska Airlines mileage program is one of the best in this game. Their program is the swiss army knife of mileage programs: they partner with 17 other mileage programs, across all major airline alliances and some non-alliance airlines like Hainan, Icelandair, and Emirates. They’re redemption rates are also great. So you can see why these points are so popular. I’d say $75.00 is worth it!

You don’t even need to spend any money to earn the bonus

There is no spending requirement, just paying the annual fee, to earn 25,000 points

There is no spending requirement, just paying the annual fee, to earn 25,000 points

(Now, there is a backdoor link to get 25,000 bonus miles + $100.00 Statement credit after spending $1,000 in three months, effectively canceling out the annual fee–but they don’t always honor that if you get approved for multiple cards in the same day).

When I opened two Alaska cards in June 2015 I had intended to cancel them after the miles posted, so as to not pay the annual fee. And then the hammer fell with news about the clawbacks and even threatening to charge cardmembers for the value of the redeemed flights(!) surfaced. I kept them open, earned the bonus and paid the annual fee–and then threw them in my drawer–my graveyard of credit cards, where they go to die and collect dust.

Earlier this month I received a friendly reminder from Alaska that my annual fee for this cardmember year was due soon.

The card does not have strong earning capabilities. I could have just called to close the card. What’s the benefit to keeping it open?

Sure, my credit report and overall credit. Not worried about that.

When I apply for another Alaska card–which I’m sure will be soon–I’ll have this credit line to bring over to the new application to get approved for the new card!

But that mean’s paying an annual fee… right?

WRONG

Bank of America will convert your Alaska airlines card to one of their no-fee Bank of America cards that either earn cash back or points. Your account on your credit report and credit limit remain the same, you just receive a new card with different earning structure and no annual fee.

Bank of America reps can be difficult when it comes to converting your product. Here’s what I recently did and have done in the past to have them approve the conversion:

  1. Call the number on the back of the card;
  2. Ask for a retention bonus (because the earning isn’t strong, you don’t use it as much as you thought) because you cannot justify paying the annual fee;
  3. If they do not come back to you with a reasonable and agreeable offer, ask to downgrade it to a no-fee version
  4. They will offer you a lower fee non-Visa signature version–decline that;
  5. Push them and ask for the Bank of America no fee cards. Come prepared: they offer the BankAmericard Cash Rewards, BankAmericard Travel Rewards and BankAmericard. (NOTE: You will not earn the sign up bonus on these cards when you convert).
  6. They may say it is impossible. HANG UP AND CALL AGAIN. Or push the rep and say that you’ve done this before. He/she will then tell you they will put the request in. Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 6.04.07 PM
  7. Wait for piece of mail indicating your request has been approved (7 – 10) days.

I’d hold off applying for an Alaska card now. At some point in June, the offer will go up to 30,000 points after spending $1,000 in three months.

Good luck!

 

-The Miner


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Let’s Go to Europe this Summer – Rome

Category : Uncategorized

This is Part II in a series. See Part I: Let’s Go to Europe this Summer – Dublin.  All screenshots showing award space are reflective of the day posted.

Every summer thousands and thousands of tourists migrate over the Atlantic ocean and flock to European cities.

Though the ideal time would have been September 2015 to start looking at summer to Europe award availability, sometimes it’s hard to know summer schedules so far in advance.

Can we find any available now?

This week we’ll be looking at a few of the interesting Top 10 Trending European Summer destinations according to Kayak.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 3.01.53 PM

Before we get started, here are the search parameters:

  1. All travel will be searched roundtrip, originating in the United States
  2. Connecting flights are acceptable; direct are preferred
  3. All travel will be for two passengers in both economy and business, if available
  4. The peak months of travel to Europe, June and July will be examined.
  5. NYC will be used as the departure location as it has hubs for all the airlines; plus it is geographically the closest location to Continental Europe.
  6. Searches will be conducted on United (Star Alliance) Delta or Air France (SkyTeam) American or Alaska (One World)

Which Miles to Use?

Here are redemption prices to Europe. All values are roundtrip and in the thousands.

Economy Business About Fuel Surcharges & Tax Stopovers? Comments Tranfers from:
United 60 115 – 140 None; avoid returing from London On roundtrip and one open jaw Higher price is partner award pricing Chase
American 60 115 Avoid flying British airways or returning from London None SPG
Delta 60 125 All one-way flights returning from Europe have fuel surcharges; avoid connecting through Moscow None Delta award pricing is variable, but these are the lowest and most desirable redemption prices SPG, AMEX
Air France 50 125 No fuel on Delta & low when departing fromthe U.S.; highest when connecting through Moscow One stopover and one open-jaw AMEX, CIti
Air Canada’s Aeroplan 60 – 75 110 – 115 No fuel on United, Brussels, Scandinavian, Swiss, Turkish and low on LOT Polish One stopover or one open-jaw, or two stopovers on a roundtrip Europe is diveded up into two regions AMEX, CIti
Alaska 60 100 Avoid flying British or returning from London One per direction of travel, but no mixed airline awards Pricing based off of flying on American SPG
Singapore 55 130 Fuel surcharge on most except United Not within Europe SPG, Citi, AMEX, Chase

Overall, Star Alliance has the most options for getting to Europe from the U.S. United miles are really excellent option as they never pass on fuel surcharges. If you are going to leave from Europe, avoid London and other London-area airports at all costs. Fuel surcharges range between $150 – $300 depending on the class of service.

Sometimes it will make sense or be necessary to book two one-ways. Practically, this means you’ll lose that stopover.

Coach redemption prices are pretty reasonable across the board. The cheapest are on Singapore, United and using Alaska miles to fly American metal to Europe. (They still price out awards like the old American award chart.) 

In terms of business, they are also pretty standard, but if you want to avoid fuel surcharges, that usually means when redeeming Star Alliance miles you’ll be limited to United flights and the occasional SAS, Swiss and Brussels planes. Lufthansa, with the exception of booking on united, can run $300+ in fuel surcharges.

If you’ve been saving those Delta miles, business class to Europe represent a great redemption at 62.5K one way, 125K roundtrip. You can fly on solid partners like Air France, Alitalia or Virgin Atlantic.

Award Availability: New York to Rome

One World

American flies from both New York (JFK) and Philadelphia to Rome (FCO). With One World, you can connect to rome via Madrid, Berlin or Helsinki. I’d avoid going through London due to high fuel surcharges.

Coach from New York-Rome-New York in June

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 2.40.21 PM

Based on our Dublin route, this seems pretty consistent. Some of these dates are direct, but many go through Philadelphia. You’ll notice the return has higher fuel surcharges ($84.00), but nothing like going back from London.

Business from New York-Rome-New York in June

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 2.45.00 PM

Not surprising–nothing in business for two. I also checked on AA and via Madrid, Helsinki and Berlin. Nothing.

Coach from New York-Rome-New York in July

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 2.44.09 PM

Several dates on the ex-NYC, and only one (!) returning.

Business from New York-Rome-New York in July

I’ll spare you the screenshot. Nothing.

Overall, unless these dates work for you exactly, you’re probably better off with other carriers and miles. And forget about flying premium.

Star Alliance

United operates one daily direct flight from Newark to Rome. As you’ll see, there’s plenty of availability for two passengers in all classes of service (even first class on United metal!). More premium options if you connect, of course.

Coach/Business from New York-Rome-New York in June/July

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 2.57.06 PM

Coach/Business from New York-Rome-New York in June/July

Plethora of business and first class space returning from Rome in June.

Plethora of business and first class space returning from Rome in June.

Overall, if you want to fly United’s aged but comfortable business class, or Lufthansa’s new business class via Frankfurt, there are lots of solid options. And remember, if you book using United miles (regardless of who you are flying), you can hit up a few more cities by taking advantage of the stopover.

 

Sky Team

Alitalia, the national carrier of Italy and major hub in Rome (FCO), is a member of Skyteam. They have a solid business class. Let’s see how much availability there is across the pond…

Coach from New York-Rome-New York in June

New York - Rome (Coach)

New York – Rome (Coach) – June

 

Rome - New York (Coach) - June

Rome – New York (Coach) – June

Business from New York-Rome-New York in June

New York - Rome (Business) June

New York – Rome (Business) June

I would not recommend book this flight–after takes on the roundtrip, you’ll owe around $450, if not more.

Rome - New York (Business) - June

Rome – New York (Business) – June

Coach from New York-Rome-New York in July

New York - Rome (Coach) June

New York – Rome (Coach) July

Great availability on the outbound, but less so on the return (only 6 days at the saver level):

Rome - New York (July) - Coach

Rome – New York (July) – Coach

Business from New York-Rome-New York in July

As with June, business class fuel surcharges are too high to justify the flight… There is one day: July 11 from Newark – Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Rome that has business class seats on Delta. Get it now!

It’s unfortunate that all Alitalia and Delta direct space is booked in all classes of service. These awards that originate in New York or the U.S., but don’t show up on Delta, should be bookable. You may just need to call them in (and avoid fuel surcharges). Remember, one-ways from Europe using Skyteam miles will incur high fuel surcharges, almost on par with flying British Airways out of London.

Summary

I was disappointed that there wasn’t better availability on Alitalia and Delta, but not surprising considering that (as of this writing) it’s May 16 and the summer travel season is almost in full swing–and who wouldn’t want to fly direct?

You can’t go wrong with United. Plus, there’s a lot of direct availability to take advantage of; because of the nice direct availability on United metal, you can’t go wrong using any Star Alliance partner miles.

Later this week we’ll look at availability going to… Athens.

-The Miner


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Let’s go to Europe this Summer – Dublin

Category : Uncategorized

This is Part I in a series. All screenshots showing award space are reflective of the day posted.

Every summer thousands and thousands of tourists migrate over the Atlantic ocean and flock to European cities.

Though the ideal time would have been September 2015 to start looking at summer to Europe award availability, sometimes it’s hard to know summer schedules so far in advance.

Can we find any available now?

This week we’ll be looking at a few of the interesting Top 10 Trending European Summer destinations according to Kayak.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 3.01.53 PM

Before we get started, here are the search parameters:

  1. All travel will be searched roundtrip, originating in the United States
  2. Connecting flights are acceptable; direct are preferred
  3. All travel will be for two passengers in both economy and business, if available
  4. The peak months of travel to Europe, June and July will be examined.
  5. NYC will be used as the departure location as it has hubs for all the airlines; plus it is geographically the closest location to Continental Europe.
  6. Searches will be conducted on United (Star Alliance) Delta or Air France (SkyTeam) American or Alaska (One World)

Which Miles to Use?

Here are redemption prices to Europe. All values are roundtrip and in the thousands.

Economy Business About Fuel Surcharges & Tax Stopovers? Comments Tranfers from:
United 60 115 – 140 None; avoid returing from London On roundtrip and one open jaw Higher price is partner award pricing Chase
American 60 115 Avoid flying British airways or returning from London None SPG
Delta 60 125 All one-way flights returning from Europe have fuel surcharges; avoid connecting through Moscow None Delta award pricing is variable, but these are the lowest and most desirable redemption prices SPG, AMEX
Air France 50 125 No fuel on Delta & low when departing fromthe U.S.; highest when connecting through Moscow One stopover and one open-jaw AMEX, CIti
Air Canada’s Aeroplan 60 – 75 110 – 115 No fuel on United, Brussels, Scandinavian, Swiss, Turkish and low on LOT Polish One stopover or one open-jaw, or two stopovers on a roundtrip Europe is diveded up into two regions AMEX, CIti
Alaska 60 100 Avoid flying British or returning from London One per direction of travel, but no mixed airline awards Pricing based off of flying on American SPG
Singapore 55 130 Fuel surcharge on most except United Not within Europe SPG, Citi, AMEX, Chase

Overall, Star Alliance has the most options for getting to Europe from the U.S. United miles are really excellent option as they never pass on fuel surcharges. If you are going to leave from Europe, avoid London and other London-area airports at all costs. Fuel surcharges range between $150 – $300 depending on the class of service.

Sometimes it will make sense or be necessary to book two one-ways. Practically, this means you’ll lose that stopover.

Coach redemption prices are pretty reasonable across the board. The cheapest are on Singapore, United and using Alaska miles to fly American metal to Europe. (They still price out awards like the old American award chart.) 

In terms of business, they are also pretty standard, but if you want to avoid fuel surcharges, that usually means when redeeming Star Alliance miles you’ll be limited to United flights and the occasional SAS, Swiss and Brussels planes. Lufthansa, with the exception of booking on united, can run $300+ in fuel surcharges.

If you’ve been saving those Delta miles, business class to Europe represent a great redemption at 62.5K one way, 125K roundtrip. You can fly on solid partners like Air France, Alitalia or Virgin Atlantic.

Need a refresher on which points transfer where? See here!

Award Availability: New York to Dublin

One World

When flying One World partners to Europe, your best bets are on Finnair (connecting in HEL), Air Berlin (connecting in TXL), Iberia (connecting in MAD), or going direct on American. In my experience, American and Iberia have the best availability. Finnair rarely has more than 1 seat. (Also, for Dublin, going direct is the fastest option).

alaska jfk-dub summer

Availability is not so good for the outbound, but there’s some decent availability for two passengers in coach coming back.

alaska coach roundtrip on aa

How about business? Not one day in either direction for June or July. Pretty standard for American.

No business class seats for two passengers in either month of June or July.

No business class seats for two passengers in either month of June or July.

To be thorough, I checked for direct flights from JFK to Madrid and Berlin (so on Iberia or Air Berlin), to then connect to Dublin–No business class seats either. Not surprising.

Star Alliance

Specifically for Dublin, United is non-alliance partners with Aer Lingus, the flag carrier of Ireland. They have a solid business class product and are a fun airline to fly. Maybe we’ll have more luck!

Here’s connecting flights from New York to Dublin:

Non-stop:

Believe it or not...

Believe it or not…

And for the way back (I’ll spare you a screen shot) there is currently tons of premium and coach space. Less when you want to go direct, but still better than I expected.

Overall, Star Alliance looks pretty good! There’s decent availability (you may just need to scroll down!) on a lot of the connecting flights in both directions. Not as much premium space, but some if you can be flexible.

Skyteam

There are no direct flights, but there's some availability via Paris.

There are no direct flights, but there’s some availability via Paris.

For June, there's plenty of options to go back... But be wary of the fuel surcharges.

For June, there’s plenty of options to go back… But be wary of the fuel surcharges.

Not as good as June, but still via Paris for July.

Not as good as June, but still via Paris for July.

Have fun living in Dublin ;)

Have fun living in Dublin 😉

Unfortunately there are no direct flights on Delta from the U.S. to Dublin, but there are options to connect via Paris or Rome. You’ll run about $200 per passenger (roundtrip) in fuel surcharges.

As you can see, there are no saver flights in July to return from Dublin. Have fun living there.

And as far as business goes, you’ll pay almost $400 roundtrip in fuel surcharges. It’s not even worth looking at.

Please note: I did not search Delta, as they were not pulling up any of these flights. Sometimes Air France shows phantom availability. Be sure to click through your date to make sure that flight is pricing out correctly. 

Alright, I get it, but which miles are the best to use?

If you you’re willing to go coach (for reference, the flight from New York to Dublin is about the same time as flights from New York to Los Angeles are), your best off using your United miles as you’ll get the stopover and open jaw. If you need to split up because you do not have enough miles, either United or America are good options for either direction (in coach). In business, go with United and Star Alliance miles, preferably on United flights if using miles from Aeroplan or Singapore.

-The Miner