Transferring points from AMEX MR, Chase UR, and SPG

Lucky of One Mile at a Time, has a post about transferring points within the American Express Membership Rewards (AMEX MR), Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR), and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) programs.  A good read to understand what you can and can’t do with the points in each of those programs.

Those are honestly the three favorite programs among the miles blogs, so I would expect everyone doing this to have a credit card that earns in at least one of those programs, and preferably two or all three of them.  Having points in all 3 not only gives you the best opportunity to take advantage of credit card signup bonuses, but lets you have options for getting points/redemptions in the majority of loyalty programs that exist.

Here’s a list of AMEX MR transfer partners and SPG transfer partners.

Also, on the credit card front, the American Express Platinum (and business version) or Premier Rewards Gold (and business version) card will get you started in AMEX MR.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Bold will get you going in Chase UR.  And finally, for SPG, you’ve got the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card (there’s also a business version).

Note: Gary of View from the Wing has given me permission to use his credit card referral links, as I have explained on the credit card offers page.  Thus, he will earn a commission if you apply through these links.  Before applying, do make sure that these are the best offers available.

 

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.

Starting my journey for AA Executive Platinum

So today, I’m on the first on 9 trips I have on AA this month, in an attempt to maximize their DEQM promotions currently running.  I’ve never flown on mileage runs (for the sole purpose of collecting miles), so this flight/month should be an interesting experience.  I’m hoping to make good use of the time I’m on the plane, although I may just end up sleeping a lot, which I guess is a fine way to catch up on sleep.

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.

Recent credit card posts – Time to Get in the Game!

There’s been a plethora of posts by various people over the past few days.  This seems like a natural time to assess the past year if you’ve been in the game, and to plan out next year’s strategy (or in some of your cases, first plunge).  Generally, everyone has focused on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card, and the AMEX SPG card as part of their past and future strategies.  Enjoy the links below, they all contain very useful and valuable information!  As always, with any of these promotions and/or credit cards, do your research, and feel free to send me questions or post on flyertalk/milepoint in the appropriate places.

 

Wow I think that’s it…I didn’t quite realize how many links there would be to post.  I think with all the information being generated, the main message is to review all of the credit cards and spending strategies that are popular now, and then to start applying and get in the game!  It’s a New Year’s resolution for all of you without one thus far 🙂

Posts about predictions for 2012

There’s been a couple of posts by other bloggers about 2012 predictions.  They’re interesting reads, so I wanted to link them here.

Lucky of One Mile At a Time has posted his predictions…interesting stuff, particularly about what AA might do in bankruptcy with their systemwide upgrades (rats, just as I am planning to go for EXP) and hotel promotions.

Frugal Travel Guy also offers some predictions for the new year.  Some of them are serious and some lighthearted.

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.

 

A (weak) case against frequent flyer miles

There’s an interesting article from National Geographic Traveler encouraging consumers not to collect frequent flyer miles.  Gary at View From the Wing brought this to my attention, writing a strong (long, but worth reading) rebuttal of his own.

The gist of the National Geographic article is that people are spending way too much on miles, from buying more expensive airfares to going on mileage runs (disclosure: I’m guilty as charged :), having booked 9 round trip flights on AA for the month of January…and I still need to write that promised post), and making purchases just for miles.  On the flip side, these miles are unable to be redeemed for any flights, and airlines are creating a class separation amongst the elite, frequently flying, extreme mile collecting  and the regular travelers who pay increasingly more fees (e.g. baggage fees), and get less value.

I could see why someone could feel this way about miles programs.  Redeeming your miles for a flight now can cost anywhere from 12,500 miles to 100,000 miles just for coach tickets, and you often have to get creative to get where you want to go.  However, part of the deal of playing the miles game is that you must exercise flexibility and commitment.  You won’t be able to find mile saver fares during a major holiday on a direct flight to your destination…that’s just a fact of life.  However, if you’re willing to travel at non-peak times (even just slightly off peak), you can derive tremendous value.   Additionally, to always have options, you should be committed to collecting miles in as many programs as you can.  This doesn’t mean you need to fly every airline and get elite status, but you should be going to for any credit cards/promotions that are within reach for you.  This does require you to keep track not only of all your accounts, but also which promotions are happening when.

If you can do all this, you do have the means to travel places.  And contrary to the notion that airlines are segregating elites out of the majority, getting yourself into some of the exclusive lounges is becoming more accessible.  You can book yourself premium class tickets for a fairly reasonable amount of miles (100,000 miles might seem like a lot, but if you can generate 500k miles per year through credit cards plus whatever you spend/fly, booking yourself a first class trip is well within reach), and with that comes access to elite lounges, preferential service, etc.  You can sometimes even pay as low as $100 to upgrade your flights to first class (not necessarily worth it, but you could), and experience all the great benefits that come with that (waived baggage fees, priority check-in and boarding lines).  If anything, preferential service on airlines is becoming less exclusive/more accessible, especially if you play the miles game.

There was a somewhat relevant point made in this post over at Things in the Sky, showing average airfares over the last 15 years or so.  Despite recent fare increases, airfares are still historically relatively low.  I recommend checking out that post, as well as the View From The Wing article and the original National Geographic article.