Category Archives: Links

My Travel Year in Review

I’m a little bit late, but the new year is only a few days old.  I wanted to review my travels of the past year and how I did with collecting frequent flyer miles.

Travels

In 2011, I probably traveled the most distance-wise that I ever have (although I don’t think it’s the most new places I’ve visited).  The year started out pretty routinely (my memory of it is not completely clear) and not too heavy on travel.  I started out living in southern California, and had a couple of business trips to the east coast.  I also made several trips to visit my parents at the beginning of the year.

Everything was routine until I had to make a week long business trip to Afghanistan over the summer.  That trip was actually my first time out of the country in a few years, and it was probably one of the most unique places I’ve ever been, to say the least.  Also I made that trip via Germany, which marked the first time I’ve ever set foot in Europe (albeit only a day on the way in and another day on the way back).  I found it a bit hard to believe that it’d been so long since I made an international trip, since I’d enjoyed my first long international trip a few years prior, but hopefully I don’t repeat that dry spell any time soon.

Later in the summer, I ended up accepting a new job on the east coast and moved at the end of the summer.  Before moving, I went on a family vacation to Banff, Alberta, Canada, in the Canadian Rockies.   It was pretty nice to get out to an outdoorsy place, and to see the mountains and glaciers there.

Chicago Seminars

After moving, I seemed to travel quite a bit over weekends…one of the highlights was attending the 2011 Flyertalk Chicago Seminars.  Attending this event put the icing on the cake for the mile collecting hobby that I started over the last year.  I met a lot of other people interested in this hobby (including all the bloggers that I’d begun to follow), heard many great stories, and found out about more bloggers to follow.  It’s been pretty motivating to see so many people interested in this.

While we’re on the topic of Chicago Seminars, Rick of Frugral Travel Guy announced today announced in a blog post the dates and hotel for the 2012 Chicago Seminars.  I highly recommend that everyone attend this event.  You will meet many people with their own interesting stories, and undoubtedly learn a thing or two (or more) that you didn’t know.  I am a bit disappointed that the event is still at the Holiday Inn, as it did not seem quite large enough to handle the crowd we had back in October (and my guess is this event is only going to get larger this year).

Anyway, the information I learned from the Seminars gave me more ideas to gain elite status in various programs, as well as showed me new ways to use the status I already had…

Elite Status Progress

The large majority of my travel this year was on United.  Most of my work trips were on United, which motivated me to use United (or other Star Alliance carriers like Continental and US Airways) as much as possible for personal trips.  By the end of the year, I was able to make Premier Executive status on United, which is the 2nd/mid-level tier in the Mileage Plus program, requiring 50,000 EQM.

Note that to earn that status, I didn’t actually fly 50,000 miles.  I previously had Premier status (25k level) on United, and because of that, I earned bonus miles whenever I flew.  On a full fare coach (Y class ticket), those bonus miles are all elite qualifying, and it just so happens the trips I made for work were generally all on Y class fares…so that definitely helped a lot.

In addition, I managed to get to Gold Medallion status on Delta.  I pretty much lucked out on this one, and it involved only one flight on Delta.  I earned a large chunk of my miles through signing up for the American Express Platinum card (link is courtesy of The Points Guy, and does pay him a commission if you apply through it).  Earlier this year, AMEX was running a 50k Membership Rewards (MR) points signup bonus, which some were able to bump to 100k by simply asking, including yours truly.  I converted the initial 50k that I received into Delta miles, and at the time, there was a 50% bonus on AMEX MR points converted to Delta miles, with up to 25k of those elite qualifying.  Thus, I turned the 50k signup bonus into 75k Delta Medallion miles, with 25k MQM, giving me the lowest elite status on Delta.

A couple of months later, I received a mailing from Delta offering me Delta Gold Medallion status if I completed one international trip or two domestic trips on Delta.  As luck would have it, I just happened to already have a trip booked to Canada on Delta a couple of weeks after I received the mailing.  Thus, with a single DL flight, I was able to earn Gold Medallion 🙂

On the hotel front, I was able to earn Hilton Gold status through a 4 stays or 9 nights promotion (if that wasn’t easy enough, Hilton was/is also giving away Gold status these days.  In addition to that, with some inspiration from Lucky from a Chicago Seminars talk on Starwood, I was motivated to secure Starwood Platinum status by doing mattress runs by paying for cheap stays near where I live.  I had already stayed at Starwood a number of times last year, so I decided to go for Platinum.  Hopefully, I am able to take advantage of that status this year (and requalify again).

That’s all for me this year!  I hope to make a post about my credit card bonuses for the year, at least to the best of my memory and records, and I am also going to have one linking to various other bloggers’ posts regarding credit card strategies for the new year.

 

Earning miles with credit cards

There’s a couple of posts about credit cards today.  View from the Wing writes about how the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card has been a long time favorite and Million Mile Secrets writes about the United MileagePlus Explorer card and the Continental OnePass card, specifically what your strategy should be right now for applying/cancelling the cards.

I highly recommend the View from the Wing article, because it is the same credit card strategy that I follow, and that I think most people would agree with.  The AMEX SPG card was actually the first affinity program card that I applied for, my ‘gateway drug’ into collecting miles if you will.  When I applied for it, I decided that I wanted a good hotel chain credit card, because I’d noticed that whenever I take vacations, my biggest spending generally seemed to be hotels, rather than airfare.  While airfare to international destinations can be quite expensive, and it is great to earn miles to get that for free, staying at hotels can add up to be much more than the airfare.  So I decided it made sense to start collecting hotel points, and I had heard the SPG card was considered one of the best all around travel cards.

Interestingly enough, I soon learned that it wasn’t considered a great card just because you could use the points to stay at Starwood (Westin, Sheraton, W, St. Regis, Le Meridien properties, among others, are all under Starwood).  I mean, there are great redemption options, even for a hotel program.  You can often get 2 cents of value from each SPG point just redeeming for rooms, but they also offer points and cash rewards, where you use fewer points but pay a co pay (typically $25-$50), and various free nights promotions if you use points for so many consecutive nights.  However, you can also transfer your SPG points to over 30 different airline frequent flyer programs (generally at a 1:1 ratio, with some exceptions such as United/Continental), and for every 20000 SPG points that you transfer, you get a 25% bonus.  Now the card only earn 1 points per dollar, except at SPG properties, but it is still considered one of the best values for general credit card spending.

The programs that offer flexible award redemptions are currently “in”, as you can see from the View from the Wing post.  The other cards that he uses/recommends are the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which is linked to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program (which allows transfer to United, BA, Hyatt, Priority Club, among others), and the American Premier Rewards Gold (or Business Rewards Gold) card, which is linked to the American Express Membership Rewards program.  The Amex cards generally come with steep fees, (the gold card has a $175 fee which is waived for the first year), but I think they are worth it for access to Membership Rewards, and in the case of the gold card, the 4X points on airfare, if you book a lot of airfare on your own credit cards.

At any rate, I recommend reading through both of the linked posts, and applying for some of these cards if you haven’t already!  As long as you can make the minimum spend (of there is one), it’s perfectly acceptable to apply for both an American Express and Chase card simultaneously to jump start your mileage accounts.  Not only that you could apply for the business versions of any cards that you apply for, and your applications will be considered (and approved if you are creditworthy).

On a side note…I decided over the weekend to go “all in” on the AA DEQM (TEQM for IL/TX and CA flights).  I’ll make a separate post about that, but the gist is, I’ve booked 9 roundtrip flights on AA in the month of January, all on weekends no less!  it’s gonna be one hellish month of flying, but hopefully i’ll get 70-80k for EQM on AA, and be well on my way to executive platinum status with them.

The latest hotness…

at least until a better promo comes along, is AA’s announcement of double EQM (DEQM) for all flights/fares now until January 31, 2012.  The gist of this is that on all flights, you get twice the miles in your account, and they all count towards elite status.  So low level elite status can be obtained by flying 12, 500 miles in the month of January, and the highest elite level requires only 50,000 miles.  See this post at View From the Wing for more info.  The most intriguing take on this was from lucky at One Mile At A Time, who outlines how easily you can qualify for top tier AA status under this promotion over several days of flying.  It is pretty extreme, but being able to get top tier status on AA seem well worth it under this promotion, and it is quite tempting to me…

At any rate, I do recommend reading that article, even if you aren’t planning to be a hard core mileage runner.  It shows the value of being aware of your promotions and stacking them together, as well as the amazing wealth of knowledge that some of the old timers in this game have 🙂

On a side note, there has also been some speculation that this offer will be matched by UA/CO, as they share several hubs/markets with AA, and will not want to lose business due to this promotion…for now, that is pure speculation though.

Instead of packing and sleeping for my trip tomorrow…

I decided to start reading blogs instead, and then I was inspired into posting some links for all to see.

Check out Mommy Points scoring $3000 worth of travel!  The article’s a bit long, but she’s planned next Christmas vacation on Hyatt points.  This article as well as View from the Wing’s post about Hyatt hotels in New York has inspired me to start working on my Hyatt account in the new year (although I indirectly have Hyatt points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program).  While the Hyatt chain has very few locations compared to say, Hilton or Starwood, they tend to be very nice hotels, and it’s always fun to get to stay in those.  Especially in a place like New York, where hotels tend to be quite pricy anyway!

Also, Lucky talks about his love for Apple products.   I fully endorse Apple products as well.  Additionally, I ran across this post saying the iPad 3 will be out next spring!  Looking forward to that one 🙂  All right everyone, enjoy the reading!

In case you didn’t get enough about credit cards…

Today’s Friday Rookie Travel Trips post at Frugal Travel Guy covers some credit card basics.  It discusses what factors affect your credit card score and gives a sample credit card churn and what you can net from it in terms of points and miles.  Enjoy!

Also, hot off the press, in the non-rookie section of Frugal Travel Guy, is a post that illustrates, first of all, some of the crazy lengths we go to to get our miles and status, and also the value (in business class trips) you can get out of all this.

Are you in the 1%??

No, I’m not referring to the Occupy movement.  You’ll have to go somewhere else to read about them (they can’t really earn you free travel, so I don’t know why you’d bother :)).

I’m referring to a recent post by Rick @ Frugal Travel Guy.  Flyertalk recently held a seminar over a weekend in Chicago, organized by Rick and a few others, where we all heard various presentations about a wide variety of reward and loyalty programs, as well as some of the more famous exploits of certain members.

Anyway, Nightline did a story on frequent flier miles and the “hacking” we do (see the full video at the link).  The report features Rick from Frugal Travel Guy, so after the story aired just before Thanksgiving, Rick tracked how the traffic changed after the Nightline report.  In the post linked above, he estimates (not with the most scientific methods, but close enough) that about 1% of the people that visited his site after the story aired actually reading the blog.  The common held belief in the frequent flyer collecting / travel hacking community is that maybe 1% of people are actually willing to invest the time and effort and dedication to this game.

So are you in the 1%? 🙂

A few good deals (and credit cards!)…

Got a quick post on a few good deals…

Million Miles Secrets posts about getting 500 free Hawaiian Airline miles for connecting your Twitter account to your Hawaiian Airlines account.

Also, you can currently get 1,500 United for a (now $25 minimum) purchase at Gilt Groupe.  It’s only for new members though.  However, I’m sure most of us also have multiple email accounts that have not registered on Gilt yet.

Also, this a little bit older, but Million Mile Secrets had a post on a couple of good credit card deals

From Mommy Points: Chase Ultimate Rewards 101

Hey everyone,

I’ve had a couple of long days at work, so I haven’t had time to post.  However, I am still keeping tabs on my blogs 🙂  Mommy Points wrote a through primer post about the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program.  Acknowledgements to her for creating this resource for us all.  I’ll summarize the main points below:

  • Ultimate Rewards points are the points earned by certain Chase credit cards.  These points can be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise, or travel at a value of about $.01 per point (more on certain things, less on certain things).  However, the maximal value of these points lies in their ability to be transferred at a 1:1 ratio into Continenal OnePass/United Mileage Plus, British Airways, Korean Air, Amtrak, Hyatt, Marriott, and Priority Club miles/points.  The best values in that list are generally considered to be transfers to United or Hyatt…but it’s nice to have the flexibility of transferring to any of those programs, depending on your particular needs at a given time.  Transfers are instant into the award program of your choice.
  • The cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points are the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold (business card), and the Chase Freedom.  Get one of these cards!  I have links for the Chase Sapphire Preferred on the Credit Card Offers page.
  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold both currently offer a 50k Ultimate Rewards points sign-up bonus, while the Chase Freedom offers a 30k bonus.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 points per dollar on dining and travel (their definition of travel is very broad, including but not limited to airlines, hotels, rental cars, taxis, buses, and subways).  The Ink Bold earns five points per dollar at office supply stores, on cable and wireless service, and landline communications.  It also earns 2 points on hotel and gas expenses.  The Chase Freedom has quarterly rotating 5x points categories (limited to $1500).  On all other purchases, these cards earn 1 point per $.
  • When buying stuff online, check if the store you’re buying from is on the Ultimate Rewards Mall.  if it is, you can generally earn an extra 2 to 20 points per dollar by using the Ultimate Reward Mall’s link.
  • Do click on the link above to Mommy Points’ post  and read it through when you have a chance!

A Credit Card Churn by View From The Wing

Following up our recent post on credit card churning, View From The Wing is out with a post on a recent credit card churn that netted nearly 200,000 miles.  Combine that with his recent post on taking a dream vacation on credit card signup bonuses, and you can see how with a bit of attention, those bonus miles can really count!

Acknowledgements to Gary at View From The Wing for these two excellent articles.