Monthly Archives: November 2013

Tuesday Roundup: Kuwait Airways, Belle Air, and Turkish Airlines

– I don’t even fully understand this, but Kuwait Airways’ chairman was in talks to purchase 5 A330s from Jet Airways. When news of the talks was announced, Kuwait’s Transport Minister suspended the Chairman of the airline. I don’t get it either, but that’s what happens when governments are involved in airline ownership.

– Albania’s lowfare carrier Belle Air has suspended operations. The airline served 25 destinations, including many in Italy.

– Turkish Airways will offer 3X weekly service to Montreal beginning in June.

– I loved this piece of advice from the Wall Street Journal about how to save money on Spirit by not buying water on board: “Order a glass of ice—which is the one free thing on board—and wait for it to melt.”

– This British Airways billboard in Piccadilly Circus displays the flight number and destination of BA planes flying overhead. Worth a look.

– Hawaiian Airlines is launching nonstop 3X/weekly service to Beijing from Honolulu beginning in April.

– Royal Jordanian is looking to start nonstop service from Amman to Miami and Los Angeles beginning mid-2014, which would connect nicely with American Airlines service at Miami.

Flights to Europe $150 ROUND TRIP…Dubai $275…Mumbai $300…

The Flight Deal posted that because a Norwegian online travel site is not correctly pricing fuel surcharges, which is letting people book flights to Europe for $150. It’s good on United flights from the US to Europe, the Middle East and India. Milan appears to be the cheapest at $150 or so round trip. Dates are good sporadically in December and then January – March.

We just booked our February break in Dubai for $275 round trip.

Read the details on the Flight Deal (above). You book at Wideroe.no.

I have no idea whether these will be honored, but you can get in on the fun at this FT thread.

Tiger Airways Launches Lowfare Service to Maldives from Singapore

I know that every blogger is obsessed with talking about going to the Maldives for some reason, so given that I thought I’d pass along that Tiger Airways is launching nonstop lowfare service between Singapore and Male, Maldives, beginning in late January.

The 4x weekly flight costs about US$200 round trip, which is a bargain compared to other options. Plus there are lots of ways to get to Singapore on miles and you can just add on a ticket on Jet Airways. Though from what I read elsewhere nobody ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever flies coach to the Maldives, so perhaps I being a heretic by even suggesting someone fly part of that trip on a cheap ticket in coach.

Flights are Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, departing Singapore at 9:50am, arriving 11:25am; depart Male at 12:15pm, arriving Singapore at 7:40pm.

I Completely Forgot about This 1 Nice Shopping Perk from the Amex Blue Cash Preferred…

I’m a big fan of the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card because of the 6% cash back it offers for grocery stores (up to $6,000 spend per year), and the 3% cash back at gas stations (there’s a $75 annual fee).

I had completely forgotten that it also offers 3% cash back at department stores – both brick-and-mortar AND online, a really nice perk right before the crazy holiday spending season.

Which stores? Here ya go:

Bealls, Belk, Bloomingdale’s, Bon Ton Stores, Boscov’s, Century 21 Department Stores, Dillard’s, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sears, and Stein Mart.

If you pair that card with a cash back portal (like our sister site Classbuxx, which I will continue writing about here until some of you readers sign up your schools), you can earn a nice chunk of cash back (including the 11% we’re offering at Nordstrom.com on men’s apparel and shoes).

In any case, I thought it was helpful to point out the department store 3% back – I’ve left a few dollars on the table because I had forgotten about it.

(You can support the OTR if you apply for that card through this link and search for “blue cash preferred.” – you’ll get a $100 statement credit PLUS a free year of Amazon Prime after $1,000 spend in 3 months.)

Classbuxx Great Offer: 11% Cash Back from Nordstrom

On OTR’s sister site Classbuxx, which offers cash back to your child’s school for your online purchases, we have an amazing cash back offer from Nordstrom:

We’ve increased our cash back to 11% on men’s apparel and shoes from Nordstrom.com (up from 1.5%) for the holiday season. This is the HIGHEST CASH BACK available anywhere (at least from what I can tell). If you’re thinking about holiday gifts for the dudes in your life, why not also earn 11% cash back for your child’s school?

(Even if you don’t have children in school, when you sign up with Classbuxx pick a school of a relative or friend – they’ll be happy to help raise money without having to go door-to-door selling magazines, y’know?)

Tell your friends!

(If it hasn’t been clear, Classbuxx is a site I’ve built to help schools raise money when parents shop online…if you like the OTR, I’d love if you could help support Classbuxx by letting your friends with school-age kids – especially if they’re on a PTA – know about it). Thanks!

And Now the Sapphire Preferred Is 50,000 Points (Plus 5,000 for Authorized User)

I’ve seen a number of blogs saying that the Sapphire Preferred was briefly offering a 50,000 bonus after $3,000 spend in 3 months, but it appears to be widely available now. Their new offer is:

– 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after $3,000 spend in 3 months.
– 5,000 points for adding an authorized user.
– First year fee, but 2nd year is now $125, not $95, which makes me start to question whether I’ll keep the Sapphire Preferred next year.

You can add your spouse as an authorized user even if they have their own card, so each of you can get the 55k bonus.

The new offer is available here.

If you’re also starting to re-consider paying $125, here’s what I’m thinking about:

I’m going to keep the Chase Ink Bold (or Ink Plus). Yes, it’s $95/year, but I put my cellular, cable and Internet spend on it, which offers 5X points (at a minimum, that’s 5% cash back). That more than pays for the $95 annual fee. If you have one of those cards, you can earn Ultimate Rewards points if you get the regular (non-preferred) Chase Sapphire card, which has no annual fee. It’s like the Preferred in that it earns 2X points at restaurants (but it only earns 1X on travel).

Just a thought.

In any case, use the link above for up to 55k points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

If You’ve Been Waiting for the Chase Freedom Card: Now It’s $200 Cash Back (20,000 Ultimate Rewards Points in Many Cases)

The Chase Freedom card is a solid option for many people because:

– With no annual fee you can keep it open forever, helping your credit score because of the longstanding open credit.
– They offer a rotating set of 5% cash back categories each quarter
– If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Plus and/or Chase Ink Bold, you can transfer your Freedom points to Ultimate Rewards

They’ve generally offered $100 cash back (10,000 points) after $500 spend in 3 months, but an offer came out today for $200 cash back (20,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you have the cards mentioned above) after you spend $500 in 3 months.

If you haven’t gotten a Chase card in your last churn, this is a great option. Sure, we used to see 35,000 point bonuses on occasion, but it’s been ages. I would jump on this one if you’re considering your churn.

Application here.

Convince Me That You Should Not Use a Cash Back Card As Your Every Day Card

The spate (spate?) of devaluations lately has made me re-consider the whole value proposition of frequent flyer miles. I’ve discussed before how any time you put miles on anything other than a cash back card, you’ve basically made the decision to purchase miles at 2.2 cents a piece (as the Barclay Arrival card essentially rebates you 2.2 cents per dollar, as long as you spend that rebate on travel purchases).

For me (and many others) that tradeoff made sense because of the pretty wide availability of business class international awards at what most considered to be reasonable mileage levels. That has changed pretty significantly recently.

As I’ve thought more about it, I’ve become hard-pressed to find a reason to use anything but that Arrival card as my everyday card. A few points:

– I’m not talking about signup bonuses, which are still worth getting (though remember, those are not free — the $5,000 spend necessary for the 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for the Ink Bold are costing you $110. That’s a good deal, but it’s not free).

– There is not an unlimited amount of manufactured spend. For most people, doing $1,000/month through Amazon Payments and $5,000/month through Vanilla Reload/Bluebird is the most you’ll be able to manufacture at this point (assuming you can find $5,000 worth of VR, which I cannot). And if you are using manufactured spend to meet minimums or just to get points on a card, you are NOT using it for cash back. Maxing out on manufactured spend on a cash back card results in $91 in cash back each month after VR fees (almost $1100 a year).

– If you’re taking cash back it really makes you think about how much you’re “spending” for that “free” business class ticket when you earn through credit card spend. United now charges 140,000 miles for a business class ticket (on United metal) to much of Asia. Earning that through spend means you’re paying $3,080 in forgone cash back for that ticket. Maybe that’s a bargain to you, I don’t know. But for me, I’d be more likely to buy a coach ticket with the cash back for $1,000 and buy up to Economy Plus. Is business class really worth $2,000 out of pocket? Not to me. You may be different.

– I think of the Arrival cash back as a Travel Savings Account. It’s money I’m putting away that can only be used on travel, as a way to replace what I otherwise would have earned in points. That way I still travel for “free” but I believe I’m getting more value than if I put my spend on a points-earning card.

– I could be convinced that if you’re going to use the points exclusively for international business class travel that you would earn some points at least on the Starwood Amex. Though the more I think about it, the less I’m convinced that makes sense for me. Sure, I like sitting in business class for a trip to Tokyo. But with that cash back option, that’s a lot of actual cash that it’s costing me for business class.

– The other option I see is if you have a specific trip planned at an expensive Starwood hotel where it would be worth earning the points to pay for the hotel. There are Category 6 hotels that require 20,000 points but would otherwise cost far more than $440, for example.

What am I missing here? Why wouldn’t the Arrival card be the best option for everyday spend for people who like to travel?

Tired of Carrying a Zillion Credit Cards? Check Out Coin…

This is very cool:

A new company called Coin has introduced an electronic credit card that stores all of your credit cards within it. Or let me put it another way: it’s a credit card sized device that acts as a credit card. You choose which card you want it to be when you swipe it, then you swipe and pay for whatever you want. That’s it.

If you’re a dork like me, you may have 7 cards in your wallet right now. I do. Whatever – don’t judge me.

This will take care of that problem.

The card also comes with an app so you can disable it if it’s lost.

This is not that mythical electronic card that chooses the best card to optimize points (and at this point, all frequent flyer programs kinda suck, don’t they? Isn’t that what we’ve decided this week?)

The card costs $50 (plus $5 shipping) and will be sent out next summer, at which point I will have forgotten that I paid for it.

Learn more (or purchase) here (that’s a referral link – if you buy I get $5…feel free to use the link or not).

(Thanks, Jeremy!)

Why Is United Adding Daily Service from Chicago and Houston to Atlantic City? (Answer: Trains)

An OTR reader passed along this article noting that United Airlines announced that it will begin once-daily service from Atlantic City to both Chicago and Houston beginning in April.

Spirit Airlines is currently the only carrier serving Atlantic City, focusing on getting people out of Southern New Jersey and down to Florida and Myrtle Beach.

So is there demand for a 6am flight to Houston? Well, no. I was thinking that UA must want something from the Port Authority (which now runs the Atlantic City Airport), and as that thought crossed my mind, the reader who sent me the original story pointed out this piece that says Governor Christie offered to extend PATH train service to Newark Airport in exchange (in part) for United flying to Atlantic City. (BTW – if you can’t read that Wall Street Journal article because you don’t have a subscription, just Google the phrase “Mixed Signals on New PATH to the Airport” and you can get to the article for free).

There you have it: United is flying from Atlantic City to Houston to encourage more people to take the train from Hoboken to Newark. Obviously.