- JetBlue has lowered the minimum amount of miles required for Award travel. The Award redemption now starts at 3500 TrueBlue points only instead of 5000 they used to charge earlier!
- IHG into the nights promotion can earn you up to 50,000 IHG points or 2 free nights with only 3 stays even for new members. You can enroll in IHG Rewards Club program NOW and avail of this offer. If your plan includes any travel and hotel stay from now till 31st December 2014, you might want to look at this promo.
- Choice privileges is also having a promo where you earn 1 free night (technically 8,000 points) just after 2 stays from now till 12th November 2014. The best usage of Choice privileges free night is for stay in Europe specially in Sweden.
- Get FREE AVIS First Status if you have any World Elite MasterCard. As a bonus you also get 2-day weekend car rental certificate after you activate your membership. Get more scoop on this here.
- You can also get National Executive Platinum status for free if you have World Elite MasterCard. Also do not forget there 1 free night car rental for every 2 rentals of 2 days or more which runs from now till January 2015.
- Also Mighty Travels has launched a cool tool to identify best award ticket price by just entering Source and Destination. Also do for Hotel Awards, there is already a cool utility called AwardMapper. It does not cover all the hotel chains, but is pretty good and covers eight chain of hotels.
I wanted to cover some of the interesting developments in travel arena within last month. Here they come:
The latest "IHG INTO THE NIGHTS" promo is out and most folks can now see there targeted offers. The biggest question everyone has is; Is it worth doing? The short answer is "It depends". If your set of offers include "50K points or more" in total or "2 free nights" for easily attainable stay of 2 or 3 nights then I would say "BIG YES!". But as some other folks have been targeted with "meh..." offers or difficult to achieve goals than I would say "NOT WORTH IT...".
So, lets quickly analyze if it is worth going after the promo based on my personal offer. Here is my personal offer:
Let's breakdown the above set of goals to see what it means in simple words. I need to complete 4 of 5 offers below to get additional bonus of 26,800 IHG points or 2 free nights.
So from above let's say If I only do last 4 offers, which would require me to stay 3 nights and 2 of those nights has to be Holiday Inn, I would earn 14,800 bonus points for the tasks above in addition to 26,800 bonus points or 2 free nights. As you can see from above math I can choose to earn either a total of 41,600 bonus points only OR 14,800 bonus points and 2 free nights. As IHG promo terms does not state where the 2 nights can be used except that it expires 12 months from the date it is earned. Assuming that it can be used for any property worldwide then it could be quite valuable 2 nights.
As IHG points can easily be bought for 0.7 cent/point, let's analyze the value of the offer assuming my average cost for staying on cheap would be ~$70/night. So, If I decide to just go for points I would earn 41,800 bonus points in addition to ~2,100 IHG points ($70 x 3 nights x 10 points/$ for Holiday Inn Stay). So, it would be as good as earning points at 0.47 cent/point (43,900 points for $210), which is a good deal if I have real use for those points at expensive IHG properties. So, I would say check-out your offer and run a quick analysis and may be it might be worth participating in this promo!
In the previous installment we talked about how Hidden City Revenue Ticket can be booked. Let's see how we can apply the same to book award tickets with hidden city which can either reduced the "fuel surcharges" or the "number of miles" required for the award. Below are the traits of booking such an award:
Lets see the usage of above with few examples:
Going from South Asia to Central Asia using United Miles:
United typically charges 35k/60k/110k miles in Economy/Business/First respectively for travel between South Asia region and Central Asia region yet it only charges 20k/35k/45k miles for travel wholly within "South Asia" region. As you can see from below a trip from Kathmandu (KTM) to Bangkok (BKK) requires 35k miles in Economy and 60k
Now, lets try one of the "hidden city" concept to see if we can reduce the price. Let's see what happens if we change our destination to Colombo (CMB) which is in South Asia region.
As you can see from above the mileage cost has reduced from 35k/60k to 20k/35k and you are still travelling via Bangkok (BKK). The idea here is you can book the flight from Kathmandu to Colombo via Bangkok and can get down at Bangkok as long as you do not have any checked-in Bags and have "visa" for Colombo (you will need Colombo visa to board the flight from Kathmandu).
Going from North America to South Pacific using Delta Skymiles:
Most of you would consider Delta Skymiles to be useless but one of the sweet redemption is travelling to Australia on Virgin Australia using Delta Skymiles. You can only book Delta flights round trip but can have one-stop over and one open-jaw in the route. Ideally Delta would charge 100k/160k in Economy/Business to fly Australia as shown below:
Lets now change to destination in some other region where Virgin Australia flies. How about some another vacation spot? If you change the destination to Bali (DPS) which is in Southeast Asia you can reduce the mileage cost to 80k/140k in Economy/Business as shown below:
As you can see there are quite a few opportunities which reduces the mileage cost with the help of "Hidden City Ticketing". On similar lines changing the destination to something which has "low fuel surcharge" when booking through mileage currency from programs such as ANA or Aeroplan which typically levies fuel surchage can provide good amount of savings.
So, look around for such opportunities before you book your next vacation.
Either you are occasional traveler or a regular traveler looking to travel on the high demand route, knowing hidden city ticketing could help you save $$ for your next trip or reduce the cost to some extent. So what does the "Hidden City Ticketing Mean"?
The idea of Hidden City ticketing is knowing the cheaper or "low fare" markets around the "high demand / high cost" market and using it to our advantage on saving the cost. Let's see few examples:
San Francisco (SFO) to Los Angeles (LAX) for close in Thursday Evening ticket (08/21)
A quick search on ITA Matrix gives the below results. As you can see the price is pretty much standard across the board to be $210 (whoops!!). I have purposefully shown details of one of the flight and soon you will see why?
Now let's check out some of the so called "low demand" markets around LAX and see if that gives any better pricing. The way to do this is, enter "LAX" in advance routing code field as highlighted below and let's change the destination to San Diego (SAN). Check out the below screenshot for pricing..
As you can see from above, the direct flight from SFO to LAX on AA1143 was costing $210, but now the same flight is available for $152, if you decide to booked SFO - LAX - SAN route. There are few important things you should remember before you decide to fly SFO - LAX only for $152.
As you can see you saved almost 33% flying the same Airlines you wanted, but with the help of hidden city ticketing. The concept could be applied to other routes and destinations as well. Also if you fly "hub-to-hub" you might want to check the "non-hub" location for savings (as the routing would be always through hub! ).
Ever wondered, which airline flies which route and what are the flight options for the given city? Would that not be much easier if there was single source or page listing all the flights departing a airport? or showing flight details between two city pair?. Although no single website exists which could satisfy this needs there are several resources which could help you find that info. Below are some of the useful websites which can help you get that info, which would help you finalize that missing puzzle of your successful award or revenue travel.
Currently in beta flightconnections will help you find what are the "destinations" served from the airport of your desire and if you key in source/destination pair the available airline/flight options between those two airport/city pair. Of-course you could click on one of those airlines and go to one of their "affiliate" booking web-page, but at least you get the info you need.
Open Flights is like a wikipedia of flights. As it is open-source it is maintained by community of volunteers, and thus would have good info albeit some of the info might be wrong. The interesting part is you could view or list flights from a given "airport" or "city" and the data could be either seen as a map or read as a list. You can even sort the data as well as filter per the "airlines". As seen from below snapshots!
This tool would be useful if you know the source and destination as well as the dates of your travel and want to know all the available flight options. So, although limited compared to open flights or flightconnection it is still useful as it can quickly list all the options on various airlines as can be seen from below search.
This website requires a little more info before spitting out the route-map but it is useful if you are looking for a route map by "region" or "airline". You could plug in your short-listing criteria and get set of route-maps which are available. You can see a simple search for American Airlines below yields links to various route maps by region as well detailed info on the "hubs".
Airline Route Mapper
Airline route mapper is another tool which was created by flyertalk member cockpitvisit. You need to download this tool but it does list a fairly comprehensive and updated route map. So, if you are one of those who do lot of search and do not mind installing this tool on your laptop/desktop then this is for you.
Apart from above there is a route map (which might be a little limited in its usage but still useful) for One World Alliance routes which can be found here and Star Alliance routes which can be found here.
In the miles/points collection one of the important ingredients is having credit cards which provide category spend bonuses. This would help speed up the collection time as well as reduces the overall cost for earning points/miles. Some of these might be limited time offer while others would be limited to $dollar amount cap you could earn in a given year or a quarter. Still having these cards would get you going faster then not having them in your arsenal. Below is the list of few cards which has great potential in maximizing your miles/points earnings! (I have purposefully omitted the cards which have 5% rotating category bonus which changes every quarter. Some of them are Chase Freedom, Citi Dividend, Discover It.
Old Blue Cash:
This card gives 5% category bonus at U.S. Supermarkets, U.S. Stand alone Gas stations and Select U.S. Drug Stores which are classified as "Everyday Purchases" after you hit initial spend of $6500 on the card. This card is not available for application directly from the American Express Website, but you could still get to working application. Below are some interesting details:
You need to click on the "link" in Chrome Incognito mode to load the application. Similarly you could use "private browsing mode of other browsers". You can get more detailed information on this flyertalk thread.
Blue Cash Preferred:
This card is newer version of "Old Blue Cash" and gives 6% cash back at U.S. Supermarkets up to $6000 of spend per year (after that only 1% cashback), 3% cash back at stand alone U.S. gas stations, and certain department stores without any cap limits (details about different stores and Supermarkets eligible can be found here).
Wells Fargo Rewards Card:
This card gives 5 rewards points/$ spend or 5% cash back for gas, groceries and drugstore purchases without any cap for the first 6 months you have this card. After that the cash back goes to 1% only. Also note that the folks who had any credit card from Wells Fargo earlier are excluded from getting this bonus. Since there is no spend cap, it is real good for folks who are heavy on spending and can maximize this limited time promotion. You can redeem the reward points for travel and get good value based on your redemption. For more discussion about this card check out this flyertalk thread.
This is another limited time promotional card which gives 10% cash back on gas purchases (maximum $1000 purchase) and after that 5% unlimited cash back on gas, groceries and drug store purchases for the first 90 days of keeping this card. After first 90 days you earn 1% cash back on all the purchases regardless of category. In my personal view having this bonus available for first 90 days only is a limiting factor but still would be useful for some folks who would have niche for high spending within the 5% category for the 90 days of promotion period.
Ink Bold and Ink Plus Business Card:
Given that both Ink Bold (Charge Card where you need to pay your card balance in full) and Ink Plus (Credit Card) are Business Cards, this might not be something available to all the folks. But given that these cards provide "5% cash back at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year" up to first $50,000 spend each year makes them a "must-have" cards for lot of folks. Also these points can be transferred to lot of Ultimate Rewards partner airlines & hotels or can be redeemed as statement credit for 1:1 basis or can be used to book travel through Ultimate Rewards Travel for 1:1.25 ratio makes them really valuable.
Also currently (as of 08/03/2014) there is 70,000 points bonus offer after $5k spend in 3 months available at chase branches for the Ink Plus Credit Card Application for new applicants. So, if this is something you are looking for it would be a good time to get this card.
Disclosure - None of the above links provide me with any referral credit or bonus. Some of the links might not give the best sign-on bonus available. Credit Card application requires your own due diligence and is worth only if you pay your bills on time and in full. Thanks for reading!
One of the biggest advantage of keeping American Express Credit Cards is the various offers where it provides a statement credit for purchase at specific merchant (either in-store or online) or for travel related activity such as hotels or airlines purchase. American Express has a dedicated website for information regarding this offers which can be found here. While some of the "deals" would be directly related to you as you might be shopping at that merchant anyways, there will be times where there are offers which you would feel are not useful to you.
In reality some of these non-relevant or non-useful offers might have a potential to make some free money or earn free miles/points if you are willing to put little effort. Let's look at couple of these offers to see how can you walk away with either "free money" or earn miles/points for free using these AMEX offers!
Buca di Beppo - Get a one-time $15 statement credit by using your enrolled Card to make a single purchase of $50 or more in-restaurant at Buca di Beppo by 8/17/2014.
Buca di Beppo is an Italian dining restaurant chain which currently has an offer on Amex for earning $15 statement credit for spend of $50 or more. You could get this offer added by using the Twitter Tag #AmexBucadiBeppo on your Twitter Synced Amex Account. Now lets see how to make money on this offer!
1. Buy a gift card of $50 in the store with your synced amex card. You will get $15 back as statement credit. So, total out of pocket cost is $35
2. Sell this gift card to "cardpool" which pays 75% of the card value ($37.5).
3. Topcashback typically provides 4% cash back for sell transactions at cardpool website (The cash back is limited up to the purchase of $1k in buy/sell gift card). Thus you would earn $37.5 x 0.04 = $1.5 cashback!
Thus looking at above, you would earn a cool profit of $37.5 (from cardpool) + $1.5 (from Topcashback) + $15 (Amex statement credit) - $50 (purchase cost) = $4 profit while earning 50 points/miles for spend on your American Express card. If you have 4 American Express Cards with this offer loaded you could make $16 of profit while earning the points/miles at the same time.
Best Buy - Get a one-time $25 statement credit by using your enrolled Card to spend a total of $250 or more at Best Buy by 9/2/2014 (In store or Online).
Most of the folks would have something to be bought at BestBuy. But buying something of $250 or more might not be something they would have planned. You could get this offer added by using the Twitter Tag #AmexBestBuy on your Twitter Synced Amex Account. It should be noted that most BestBuy stores do sell generic visa gift cards which are pin-enabled in the denomination of $200 and has a purchase fee of $5.95. These Visa gift cards could be used in any other store and thus a potentially lucrative option. Let's see some math here.
1. Buy a $200 visa gift card and $45 BestBuy gift card. Your total cost would be $200 + $5.95 + $45 = $250.95. You will get back the statement credit of $25.
2. Sell the BestBuy gift card to "cardpool" if you do not have any use of it, which sells at 89% of the card value ($40.05).
3. Topcashback will provide 4% cash back for selling BestBuy gift card. $40.05 x 0.04 = $1.6
Doing the final tally we have $200 (visa gift card) + $40.05 (from cardpool) + $1.6 (from Topcashback) + $25 (Amex statement credit) - $250.95 (cost of purchase) = $15.7 profit while earning 250 points/miles on Amex Credit Card Spend.
Hopefully this will help you to look at the American Express offers from a different perspective going forward!
SPG in partnership with American Airlines/US Airways is running a promotion where you get 20% bonus on the miles converted from SPG to American Airlines or US Airways. The sweet spot is of-course when converting 20k points from SPG you typically get 5k bonus from SPG, thus making 25k AA/US miles. With the 20% bonus offer you get additional 5k AA/US miles thus getting 30k AA/US Miles for 20k SPG points.This is a limited time offer and runs till end of July 31st, 2014. No registration is required for this. SPG allows a maximum of 79,999 points transfer in a day, so at max you should do only 60k points in a day to get 90k AA/US Airways miles. Below is the link for the transfer:
Below is the details of the American Airlines (AA) offer:
From July 1 through July 31, 2014, simply convert your Starpoints® to American Airlines AAdvantage miles and earn a 20% bonus. As always, for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred within the same transaction, SPG® will automatically add another 5,000 miles. With the additional 20% mileage bonus offered by the AAdvantage program, you will receive a total of 30,000 miles from the transaction.
20,000 Starpoints = 20,000 AAdvantage miles
Standard SPG bonus = 5,000 AAdvantage miles
AAdvantage 20% mileage bonus = 5,000 AAdvantage miles
Total = 30,000 AAdvantage miles
Below is the details of the US Airways offer:
From July 1 - 31, 2014, convert your Starpoints® into Dividend Miles and earn a 20% bonus.
Here's how it works:
Note: Do not transfer the points speculatively if you do not really have any intended use already. SPG points are valuable as they can be transferred to many other airlines at 1:1.25 ratio for most partners.
Google acquired ITA a while ago. Most of the brain used by Google Flights comes from ITA and thus no doubt its pretty good at what it does. You can use the "google flight functionality" to easily narrow down to your desired flights by using few of the techniques below:
The search itself is very easy to use if you understand how to use it. Below are some sample example search to get you going.
San Jose City to New York City Round trip for 4 days length of stay:
As you can see from below snapshots, entering the source/destination and initial set of dates and by clicking in the "date field" will show prices for various dates in the given month. You can then use the "right arrows" to look up the prices for various months as well as you can change the date range on the bottom with "+/- 0 days" to add flexibility to 4 days of stay.
San Jose City to XXX destination for 4 days of stay:
You can enter the "Source" and the length of stay and Click on the Map to see what are the possible "destinations" which could fit your price range. In fact you do not have to restrict yourself to the U.S.A but you could select any region where you might want to visit.
Los Angeles to Tel Aviv (TLV) or Rome (FCO) with default 4 days and +/- 2 days of stay:
You could also search for multiple destinations by specifying the airport names separated by comma and thus browse through "days range" where the fare would be cheaper. As you can see from below the fare could vary from range of $1600 to almost half at $821.
Search for Specific "Alliance" such as One-World or any airlines:
You could even narrow down the search based on the alliance or airlines you would like to fly from the available ones. Sure this might be more costlier then the cheapest option available, but a preferred one for you.
As you can see from above the Google Flights could be quite useful in your search for that flight. It could also help you narrow down to the specific destination, dates or airlines and thus make your travel fit your budget or time constraints.
Flying the airlines used to be the traditional way of collecting miles on airlines for that dream trip, but thanks to the advent of "mileage earning" credit cards (where you earn miles/points based on spend on the credit card) it has become easier than ever to earn those miles to redeem for your dream vacation trip or that future trip which you have been planning for a while. With the help of credit cards, some effort from your end and lot of available techniques you could rack up those miles for your "award travel redemption". Some of these techniques are:
Let's see few methods which you can follow to generate the miles/points on the credit card of your choice by "Buying/Selling gift cards".
Method 1: Buy gift card online for merchants that awards points/miles for their gift card purchase and exchanging those gift card in store for more valuable gift card.
A common example where above method is used is Sears. Sears usually awards miles/points for purchase of their physical gift cards through various portals. For example if you earn 10 miles/$ spend ( or 10% Cash-back) on purchase of sears gift cards through the portal, later on which you can use to purchase Visa/MasterCard in the store (provided the store sells those and cashier is fine doing it). You could also use Sears gift card to buy other merchant gift cards such as Amazon or Shell (provided they are available and cashier is fine doing it). Purchasing $1k of Sears gift card would generate 10k miles/points ( or $100 cash-back) which could help you for that future trip.
Method 2: Buy gift cards online at discounted rate and sell these gift cards at minimal loss on "gift card exchange sites".
A common example of these would be to Buy gift cards online on Ebay when Ebay bonuses it by giving percentage discount of 8% or more or 4X or greater bonus Ebay Bucks. These could be then sold to various gift card re-sellers. You could scan through "giftcardgranny" for the resell value you would get before you buy the gift card on Ebay so that you know your profit/loss before hand.
Method 3: Buy discounted gifts cards online for merchants that allow buying Visa/MasterCard or other better value merchant gifts card in-store or online using their gift cards.
Again Sears would qualify here for in-store gift card purchase using Sears gift card. There are other stores which would allow you to do that. A useful place to browse for this is at Frequent Miler Laboratory. Walmart used to allow using their gift cards to purchase Visa/MasterCard online, but no longer does that.
Hope these data helps you to get going in your miles quest for the upcoming trip.