Category Archives: View From the Wing

Throwaway ticketing

View from the Wing has an extensive post about how you can skip the last segment of a ticketed reservation and potentially save money.  It’s a pretty interesting read, although this strategy generally does not work well in the US any more (the carriers have eliminated most ticket pricing quirks these days).

I recommend reading the full post for details, but the gist of doing this is that, sometimes, booking a ticket that terminates in a non-hub city is much cheaper than booking a ticket that terminates in the hub city itself, so if your final destination is the hub city, you can book the cheaper fare that flies through the hub to some other city, but just throw away the last segment to that other city.

There’s a bunch of logistic issues to consider, for example not having any checked luggage and or making sure and making sure your carry-on luggage is either with you on the plane or checked to your intermediate (hub) destination rather than the final, non-hub, destination.  Additionally, you have to do this only for the last segment of your flight, otherwise you risk the airline cancelling the rest of your itinerary.

To be honest, when I’ve run across this concept, it has resulted poorly for the person/people involved.  The cases I’ve heard are where people  have a round trip ticket to a certain destination, but they decide to skip one of the legs on the way to their destination and take alternate transport to the destination.  Since you’ve “missed” one of the flights in the itinerary, the airline takes the liberty of cancelling the rest of your trip.  Which usually results in some last minute scrambling as well as expenditure to book a return ticket home!  Be careful about skipping legs of your itinerary!  If you’re doing it for convenience or because you have alternate transportation to replace a leg, definitely check with the airline to see if it is ok with them so that they do not cancel your entire itinerary…however if you’re intentionally throwing away a ticket at the end of your trip, then there isn’t as much a need to talk to the airline.

Time to sign up for frequent flyer accounts

This will definitely help anyone who is just starting with collecting miles and points, a great way to start the new year.

Via View From the Wing, New Girl in the Air has posted a list of frequent flyer programs that currently offer free miles for signing up for an account.  So if there’s any chance that you might use these accounts, or that you might participate in a promotion for these account, do sign up for these accounts and immediately add them to your AwardWallet, so you don’t have to worry about remembering your login (and you remember that you actually even have that account).

As New Girl in the Air points out, it’s good to act on this now because signup bonuses for loyalty programs come and go.  Also, while 500-2000 miles/points might not seem worth much (you certainly can’t book a room or flight for that amount), getting a few hundred miles here and there can add up over time (and lead to free travel).  Additionally, if a lucrative promotion for a program comes along, it saves you a step if you already have an account.

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!

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.

A Bit of Inspiration

Hello everyone,

I’m actually in Las Vegas this weekend, celebrating a friend’s birthday…I made it here earlier today after a long day of travel (it’s much more effort getting here from the east coast, especially for someone used to making the journey from SoCal).

Gary Leff of View From the Wing recently wrote a post titled “Using Credit Card Offers to Construct a Free Dream Trip Quickly”.  I just remembered a little while ago, and I think it is a good overview of where collecting frequently flyer miles and take you.  Enjoy!

I was also able to draft a few more posts during my flight over here, so I will be posting more content soon, but I hope this can tide you over for now 🙂

-ffc