Monthly Archives: July 2013

$125 Off $300 Hotel at Travelocity….Ends Today

I’ve had some wacky technical issues with OTR today (that I hope are now fixed, which they are if you are reading this) so I apologize for getting this deal up so late:

Through a combination of the following 2 offers, you can get $125 off $300 worth of hotels when you book at Travelocity. Here’s how it works:

1) Sync your American Express card to Twitter (details here).

2) Then Tweet #AmexTravelocityOffer to get $50 off $200 in hotels at Travelocity. The credit will appear directly on your Amex statement.

3) Use code 48HR75E when you reserve a 2-night hotel worth at least $300 and you’ll save $75 immediately (it must be a GoodBuy hotel – it will say it on the hotel listing — there are lots, don’t worry).

Voila, you’ve saved $125 on your hotel booking. Book this offer now.

Unfortunately this expires at midnight tonight (July 31st).

(Thanks, Slickdeals)

British Airways Visa Now Waiving the Annual Fee in the First Year

I just received an email from British Airways noting that they are waiving the annual fee for the first year on the British Airways Visa.

The normal offer has been for 50,000 Avios points after $2,000 spend in 3 months, though you had to pay the $95 annual fee. With this offer, the fee is waived in the first year but you still get 50,000 points after $2,000 spend in 3 months. There are no foreign transaction fees with this card, and, as has been discussed ad infinitum, the Avios points are great for their 4,500 point short-haul redemptions (and lots of others recapped here).

Use this non-affiliate link to apply.

My Recent Churn, Where I Debunk A Bit of Common Wisdom about Barclay Cards

I got a handful of credit cards for my wife and I my wife and me yesterday and, as always, I start with this caveat: everyone’s card needs are different. I share this information to show what my thinking was rather than (in most cases) to suggest a specific card for you. As I often mention, I help people plan their card churns (free!) — if you’re interested fill out the short form on this page.

Let’s start with rule 1: I see churning as a long game. You can get a ton of cards in any churn – people have gotten 10 or more. But I think about this conservatively: I’ve been churning cards for a few years, and my credit score is roughly where it was when I started (if not slightly higher). I err on the side of fewer cards each churn, and I think you should too.

With that out of the way, here are the cards I got, and why.

The basic strategy was that I have gotten a bunch of Chase personal cards already, so I thought I’d take a bit of a breather there. I know there are a bunch of hotel cards out there that I haven’t gotten (Hyatt, Marriott, Fairmont) but I don’t have any trips coming up where I need hotel points, so I figured I’ll go after them later. (I also have a bit of a different opinion than many about hotels: After a certain level, I don’t really care where I stay. I know that people go on and on about the Hyatt Paris Vendome and whatever, but honestly I’d prefer to rent an apartment through Air BnB. Or if I’m going to get a hotel, I’m happy to Priceline a 4-star place. I know that makes me an outlier in the miles & points world, but there ya go.)

Here’s where we ended up:

Me:

BARCLAYS ARRIVAL CARD (LINK)
I haven’t written anything about this card, but the basic deal is this: After spending $3,000 in 3 months you’ll get “40,000 bonus miles” which is equal to a $400 credit when you redeem those points to pay off travel spend that you’ve put on the card (it’s $200 if you use it toward non-travel spend). You’ll also get 10% of the points back when you redeem, which is why some people say it’s $440 in travel credits. The $89 annual fee is waived the first year. There’s a version with no annual fee, but it only gets you $200 in travel credits. If you’re a churner there’s no reason to get this since the annual fee card waives the fee in year 1.

I liked this card because with my upcoming Hawaii trip my $400 credit will cover my car rental (a convertible!), while my wife’s $400 credit will cover the one-way inter-island flight the 4 of us are taking.

My wife and I had both applied (and received) US Airways cards 3 months ago. The common wisdom about Barclay cards is that you have to wait 6 months to get them (but if you bundle a bunch of apps in one day, you’ll be approved for all of them). Well, apparently that is not true. After applying for the Arrival card I called the Barclays Reconsideration Line at (866)408-4064, where I spoke with a very nice gentleman who asked a few questions about my US Airways card (I see you haven’t used it much, but it’s new; your credit is good; what’s your income; how long have you had your job), and lo and behold I was approved for a 2nd Barclay card 3 months after the first one. My wife did the same (despite having a ding on her credit report due to my being a moron), and they approved her after she assured them that the $6 delinquency was due to her husband being a moron.

I believe the short version is this: Barclays will not AUTOMATICALLY approve you if you apply for 2 cards in less than 6 months, but if you have good credit they will give you the card.

UNITED EXPLORER BUSINESS CARD (Log in to your United account, then go to this LINK).

1) This will sound nutty, but once you’re signed in and click on that link, then click on the Explorer Business Card.

2) Go back to the previous page, then click on it again (I know, this sounds crazy).

3) Click on MILEAGE PLUS CLUB BUSINESS CARD (yes, the CLUB card).

4) Finally, click on MILEAGEPLUS EXPLORER BUSINESS CARD. For some reason, the offer then changes to be 50,000 miles. Voila! (There’s probably an easier way to do that, but I don’t know what it is – if you do, let me know and I’ll update).

I’m getting it for the 50,000 miles (targeted) when I spend $2,000 in 3 months. The first year fee ($95) is waived.

AMERICAN AIRLINES PLATINUM VISA (LINK)
It’s 50,000 miles after $3,000 spend in 3 months, with the first year fee waived.

Here’s the most up-to-date low-down on AA card churning (per this thread):
You can get 2 cards in 65 days, but the 2 applications have to be spaced at least a week apart (people say 8 days). You can apply for the same card twice (the old two-browser-trick no longer works). Instead, you have to apply 8 days apart. You can get a business card once every 90 days. So I got this card now, and in a week I’ll get the same card again. On my next churn I’ll get the business version.

MY WIFE:
Did basically the same churn, though because of my moronic forgetting to pay a $6 bill of hers last year, I’ve been more conservative and I skipped the United Business card this time (on what planet is getting 4 credit cards in a week conservative?)

$510 Round Trip Fares to Dublin this Fall and Winter

We haven’t seen low, low fares to Europe in quite some time, but I thought I’d give credit where it’s due and let you know that Travelzoo just sent out a note that fares from New York to Dublin from November to March are in the $510 round trip range (taxes included!), which is lower than I’ve seen it in a few years. Flights are available on Delta, though similarly priced flights seem to also be available on American and British Airways (for a few dollars more).

Now that Travelzoo has sent out there email it looks like availability is dropping, but there are flights out there in that range. Have fun in the cold and rain.

A Recap of Rules for Stopovers on Award Tickets to Hawaii

The whole OTR family is heading off to Hawaii (Brady Bunch style?) in August, and I’ve booked the award on United with a 3-day stopover to visit some friends in Los Angeles on the way back to New York.

The rules about stopovers on award tickets to Hawaii vary pretty significantly for each airline, so I thought I’d recap it here:

ALASKA
Alaska Airlines allows TWO stopovers per roundtrip ticket, or ONE stopover for a one-way ticket (this is true for all of their destinations). This is quite generous, as you’ll see from the other airlines below.

AMERICAN
American treats Hawaii as part of the US, so they do not permit a stopover (even at a gateway city). You can’t even do a fake stopover (ie, less than 24 hours) because American only allows a 4-hour stop as part of a domestic ticket (international tickets allow a 24 hour stop without counting as an award ticket).

DELTA
Delta allows a stopover on an award ticket, though this is just kinda hilarious because good luck finding availability to Hawaii, especially in business class.

UNITED
The fine folks at United do not allow free stopovers on award tickets in the lower 48 and Alaska but, lo and behold, Hawaii is treated more like an international destination. You are permitted both one stopover AND a double open jaw (ie, you can book Newark-Honolulu-LAX-Philadelphia). I would call that “two one-ways,” but you are free to call it a double open jaw (it’s a double open jaw because you cannot book a stopover if you’re just going one way). In any case, this is ridiculously generous.

That said, there’s another way of looking at this: United charges 80,000 miles roundtrip for a business class award to Hawaii. Singapore only requires 60,000 miles (you can transfer in via Starwood or Membership Rewards). However, you cannot do a stopover using Singapore miles. In other words, the “free” stopover is costing you 20,000 miles on a ticket to Hawaii. Just saying.

One other thing to note: You can tack on a one-way trip to Hawaii to a roundtrip international award ticket for just 5,000 miles in coach or 7,500 in business. In other words, if you book a round trip business class ticket from New York to London. You can “stopover” in New York as long as you’d like (up to a year) and continue on to Hawaii for just 5,000 additional miles in coach (or 7500 in Biz).

US AIRWAYS
You are allowed a stopover at a US Airways gateway city for Hawaii Award tickets.

Newbie Tip: Remember, Not Every Fare Will Earn You Miles

A reader sent me a note over the weekend describing this annoying situation:

She had purchased an Air New Zealand (ANZ) ticket on Orbitz and wanted to earn the miles on ANZ’s partner United. So far so good. She even called Orbitz to confirm that Air New Zealand flights are eligible to earn earn miles on United. Orbitz said that yes, ANZ flights will absolutely earn miles on United.

Well, as you may have guessed, that’s not 100% true. MOST ANZ fares earn miles – but that’s not the same as ALL ANZ fares earning miles. Fares in “S” class, it turns out, do not earn miles on United. After lots of phone calls, she walked away without any miles for the nearly 20,000 mile journey. That’s disappointing, to say the least.

So how can you avoid this situation?

First, check to see which classes of fare are eligible to earn miles. Premium Economy fares are notorious for having odd rules around whether they can earn miles or be upgraded – my recent Premium Economy ticket on Aeroflot wasn’t eligible for Delta miles (I know that it makes no sense that deeply discounted economy tickets are eligible for miles accrual, but far more expensive Premium Economy tickets are not. Go figure.) I ended up crediting the miles to KLM/Air France Flying Blue. But check these charts from the major US airlines to see which fares on partner airlines earn miles:

American’s Chart (Click on the individual airline)
Delta’s Chart
(Click on the individual airline)
United’s chart (Click on the individual airline)
US Airways’ chart (click on the individual airline)

The airlines make it pretty easy to determine which fare class you’re booking into. Delta and United show it to you immediately when you search for a fare on their site. For American just click on the “+” symbol. For US Airways, click on the flight number.

This is another reason to book directly with the airline, rather than an online travel agency. I actually have no idea where you see the fare class when you book a flight with Orbitz.

Of course that doesn’t help you if you’re traveling on a partner airline – I ALWAYS check with the airline before booking to see what the fare class is if it is not apparent when booking.

Summer Churn-i-versity Day 6: So, Where Do I Start?

Now that you’ve gotten an overview of all of your options, how do you decide where to start?

As I wrote in the beginning I think it’s best to focus on a specific trip and earn the points for that. You can build up to more complicated application strategies from there, but at least get a trip under your belt. Remember that your best bet may be to start with an Ultimate Rewards-earning card, because those points can be transferred to United.

But let me share some basic strategies:

– Include at least 1 personal and 1 business card in each churn.

– Apply in groups, and don’t apply more often than every 3 months.

– Keep a spreadsheet so you know what you’ve done — I promise, you’ll forget.

– Always get the US Airways card once a year, since there’s no annual fee and no minimum spend to get those points.

– Include a Chase card in each churn, but only apply for 1 personal and 1 business at a time. There are lots of Chase cards – you have to manage the applications to get them all in.

– Remember – although Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards points disappear when you end those cards, once points are in a hotel or airline program they’re yours, even if you drop the credit card.

– Always keep cards open for 11 months.

– Figure out how much you want to bother with having specific cards for specific purposes. I like the Amex Blue Preferred card because it offers 6% cash back at supermarkets (with a $79 fee, effectively making it a just-under-5% cash back card if you hit the $6,000 annual spend limit). I keep that card open every year. I also keep the Sapphire Preferred for restaurants and travel. Only you can determine how many cards you want to juggle. I have friends who only keep 1 card open at a time. You do what’s best for you.

– You need a day-to-day card for when you’re not trying to hit minimum spend. If you don’t travel much, you should have the Fidelity Amex card — it offers 2% cash back on everything, and that’s the best deal out there for many people. Remember – if you spend $25,000 in a year, that would be $500 cash back. If you put it on an airline card, you’d have enough for one domestic roundtrip ticket — that’s worth less than $500 in many cases.

– People generally choose between the Starwood Amex and the Chase Sapphire Preferred for their day-to-day cards if they aren’t doing cash back. Either of those is fine. I do the United Club card, which gives me 1.5 points per dollar and lounge access. But if I didn’t want the lounge access I’d get that Fidelity card. Don’t let other people pooh-pooh cash back cards. You can spend cash however you want.

– Remember: this is fun. You’re getting to take trips you probably otherwise would not have taken. That’s amazing. Keep it simple: focus on a trip, earn the points, and go. Rinse. Repeat.

Summer Churn-i-versity Day 5: Hotel Credit Cards

We’re just about there! Let’s take a look at the major hotel credit card offers that are available for your churning and bonus pleasure.

Club Carlson Premier (US Bank)

Pro: There are 2 versions. The “Premier” version earns you 50,000 points after first purchase then 35,000 additional points after spending $2,500 in 3 months. Plus you get 1 free night when you redeem 2 nights. And you’ll get Gold Elite status. $75 fee is not waived ($60 fee on their Business version). The “Rewards” card gets you 50,000 points after first purchase and 10,000 points after you spend $1,500 in 3 months. You’ll also earn Silver elite status. $50 annual fee is not waived.
Con: They’re redeemable at Radissons, which in the US are generally quite average 3-star properties. However, overseas they’re generally nice hotels.
Overall thought: It’s actually a really good bonus that, unless you’re planning on using it overseas, will get you free nights at hotels you can pick up on Priceline for $60.

Fairmont Credit Card (Chase)

Pro: 2 free nights after with breakfast after spending $1,000 in 3 months. Fairmont Premier elite status.
Con: $95 annual fee isn’t waived. Though if you apply through this link the first year fee is waived.
Overall thought: Also a really solid bonus. Shame there are barely any Fairmonts. I would only get this card if you plan on actually staying at a specific Fairmont in the next year.

Hilton (there are a bunch of cards)

Hilton Amex: 50,000 points after $750 spend in 3 months. Silver elite status. No annual fee
Hilton Amex Surpass: 40,000 points after first purchase, 25,000 after $3,000 in 3 months. Gold Elite status first year (free breakfast and Internet). $75 fee is not waived. You can only get the bonus on one of these cards.
Citi Hilton Hhonors Reserve: 2 free weekend nights at any Hilton after $2,500 in 4 months. Gold status. $95 fee not waived.
Citi Hilton Visa: 50,000 points after spending $1,000 in 4 months. No annual fee.

Pros: Really easy to earn Hilton points through credit card signups. You can churn the Citi versions of the card (2 cards in 65 days)
Cons: Hilton recently changed their program so top properties now cost a wayyyyy lot more than they used to. Not a ton of great properties, but plenty of solid 4-star options.
Overall thought: I used to be very hot on Hilton points, but considering the recent devaluation I’m staying away from them.

Hyatt Credit Card (Chase)
Pros: 2 free nights at any Hyatt after $1,000 spend in 3 months. Platinum Status.
Cons: $95 fee not waived. There aren’t a ton of Hyatts (compared to Marriott, Hilton or Starwood).
Overall thought: Hyatt’s top properties are only 22,000 points a night (32,000 for a suite) so it’s great to transfer Ultimate Rewards points into here.

Marriott Rewards Visa (Chase)
Pros: 70,000 points PLUS 1 night at a category 1-4 hotel after you spend $1,000 in 3 months. $85 fee is waived the first year.
Cons: Perhaps that the regular offer is 50k, but this 70k deal has been around for a while. And that the extra free night is only at category 1-4 hotels.
Overall thought: Marriott’s program is solid, but not spectacular. You do have a wide range of property options, though.

Priority Club Visa (Chase)
Pros: 80,000 points (through this link) after $1,000 spend in 3 months. $49 fee waived the first year. Platinum Status.
Cons: Crowne Plaza? Holiday Inn?
Overall thought: Generous initial bonus, but I can get most of these hotels cheap on Priceline. No thanks.

Starwood American Express Cards

Pros: The granddaddy of all hotel cards and widely considered to be the best hotel program (if not the best loyalty program) out there. 10,000 points after first purchase then another 15,000 points after $5,000 spend in 6 months. $65 annual fee waived the first year. A huge range of properties, including some incredible ones.
Cons: Those 25,000 points are basically 1 night in a top hotel. That bonus is good, not great. Also earning points via stays will get you nowhere – what they give you (5 points per dollar at Starwood Hotels) is horrible.
Overall thought: This was my day-to-day card for quite a while. They allow you to transfer points into a whole bunch of airline programs and you get a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer. That’s a huge benefit. Add that to the incredible array of properties they have, and this program is a winner.

Summer Churn-i-versity Part 4: Airline Credit Cards

Still with me? Maybe? Good.

If you’re a newbie and you’re actually reading through these, it can seem overwhelming, but the point of this is just to be a resource when you need to come back and search for some info – there’s more detail in all of this then you’ll (likely) ever need.

So, let’s spend today talking (high level) about airline credit cards. There’s a tremendous amount of minutia behind airline frequent flyer programs (how many stops and open jaws can you have on an international itinerary? Can you fly to Asia via Australia? Etc…) and I’m not going to get into that. I’m just going to share quick pros/cons of the major airline cards for when you’re thinking of grabbing some points in your next churn.

AirTran A+ Rewards Visa (Chase)

Pro: 32 credits (2 free roundtrip tickets) after you spend $2,000 in 3 months.
Cons: Limited network; $69 annual fee not waived
Churnable: No
Overall thought: Meh

Alaska Airlines Visa (Bank of America)

Pro: 25,000 miles after first purchase; you can use Alaska miles on Delta, American, British Airways and others. $99 coach companion ticket that you can actually use because it’s good on any fare. It’s a really underrated program with lots of airline partners to help with redemption.
Cons: $75 annual fee is not waived.
Churnable: Yessiree, Bob!
Overall thought: I’ve never bothered with it, but lots of people love it because points can be used on so many partners.

American Airlines (Citi)

Pro: They offer several cards – a Platinum Visa, a Platinum Mastercard, a Gold Visa, and a Citi American Express (this is not a regular Amex card). Plus there’s a Business Mastercard and a Business Visa. Although the “official” offers for the card are generally for 30,000 bonus miles, you can almost always get 50,000 miles – check out this ever-changing Flyertalk thread for the latest links.
Cons: The biggest con is that they charge a ridiculous fuel surcharge when you redeem on British Airways.
Churnable: Oh yeah. You can get 2 cards every 65 days or so as long as you wait a week between opening the cards. It’s the granddaddy of all churnable cards.
Overall thought: These cards are the gifts that keep on giving.

British Airways Visa (Chase)

Pros: 50,000 Avios points after $1,000 spend. Avios has some great redemptions (4500 miles for a short-haul redemption, for example – you can find an enormous amount of information about Avios searching this site – it’s too much to write here. Just know that it’s worth grabbing the points, though not to use on British Airways because they charge absurd fuel surcharges. But you can use the points on AA in North and South America, as well as on LAN and there are no fuel surcharges). Also there’s no foreign transaction fee.
Cons: $95 fee is not waived. The fuel surcharges on British Airways redemptions are ridiculous.
Churnable: No
Overall thought: British Airways Avios is both one of the best programs out there and one of the worst. Stick with smart redemptions and you’ll love it.

Delta (American Express) – there’s a Gold and Platinum version

Pros: 30,000 miles after $500 spend.
Cons: Delta’s miles are so worthless that I’m not even going to bother writing anymore here.
Churnable: Yes, after you haven’t had it for a year.
Overall thought: Unless you are captive to Delta (or want to go to Australia, where they have pretty good redemption options through V Australia), I would just avoid it and move on with your life.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier (Chase)

Pros: It’s 50,000 points (2 roundtrip flights) after $2,000 spend (though this is sometimes only 25,000 points).
Cons: $99 annual fee not waived. If you don’t live in a Southwest city it’s pretty worthless.
Churnable: No
Overall thought: If you live in a Southwest city, people love it. If not, you could just get the card and redeem the 50,000 points for $500 worth of gift cards at one of their retail partners.

United Explorer (Chase)

Pros: 30,000 points after $1,000 spend in 3 months. Annual fee ($95) waived the first year.
Cons: Hm….are there cons?
Churnable: No
Overall thought: In my book, United has the best frequent flyer program — great redemption rules, lots of availability (usually), tons of partners. You basically can’t go wrong.

US Airways Dividend Miles Visa (Barclays)

Pros: 35,000 miles after first purchase (the only airline credit card offering a bonus on first purchase). Annual fee waived first year when you apply through this link. Great redemption opportunities on Star Alliance partners. For some reason they charge fewer miles (90k) to go to Japan in business class than to go to Europe in business class (100k). And for the same 90k miles, you can go via Europe and do a stopover. Go figure.
Cons: The biggest is that US Airways doesn’t allow one-way redemptions. Oh, and their online redemption tool is worthless.
Churnable: Yep, once a year (possibly more – but why take the risk?)
Overall thought: Everyone should get this card once a year.

2 Quick Ones: Frontier’s TVs and United’s Mercedes

– Frontier Airlines is telling its elite Ascent and Summit customers that they will now have to pay for the previously-free television. Access to programming costs up to $8 (depending on the length of the flight). Summit members get a free snack and Ascent customers will get a free drink.

– United Airlines will offer Global Services passengers and some Global First passengers a ride between terminals in a Mercedes at Houston Bush Intercontinental airport. Apparently you can’t reserve the service, and passengers won’t know it’s available to them until, I guess, they’re whisked away in a car.

– After losing the Hawaiian Airlines personal credit cards last month (an easy way to build up your Hilton Hhonors balance), the business version of the card disappeared this week, too.