Category Archive for 'Miles'

Bye Bye Bluebird

Monday, July 28th, 2014

I finally did it. I closed my Bluebird. And I joined ISIS.

No, not that ISIS. And no, DansDeals hasn’t been hacked Domino’s Pizza style by Islamic terrorists (though I love the person that made the Ninja Turtle connection).

I got an NFC SIM card from Verizon (you can get one in-store or order one over the phone for free) which allowed me to finally signup for the (unfortunately named) ISIS wallet app.

The ISIS wallet is a method of paying for items via NFC technology.  You can add your credit card to it to make payments with your phone. And you can signup for an AMEX Serve prepaid card in the app.

If you have Verizon and signup for ISIS and apply for an AMEX Serve card in the app by 07/31 you’ll get $25.  MY $25 credit showed up within minutes of opening a Serve card in the ISIS app. If you have AT&T you’ll get $15.  If you have T-Mobile there is no signup bonus. If you have Sprint you’re out of luck, ISIS doesn’t work with Sprint.

iPhones don’t have NFC and will require a special NFC case that you can buy from your carrier to work with ISIS.

You will also get $1 back every time you buy something $1 or more with your Serve card via the ISIS wallet. That offer is valid up to 50 times per month until 12/31/14, so a potential $300 can be had like that.

Serve vs. Bluebird:

Serve is a prepaid card from AMEX that is awfully similar to Bluebird. So similar that AMEX only allows you to have one of them.  If you have a Bluebird card you’ll have to first have a zero balance and then call to have it closed before you can get a Serve card.

Both Bluebird and Serve can be loaded at Walmart with gift cards like the ones sold by Staples. The limits are the same, $2,500 per day and $5,000 of loading per month in-store.

But Serve can also be loaded at Family Dollar with $500 of Vanilla gift cards per day. Vanilla gift cards are sold at CVS with a credit card. Some 7-Eleven’s allow credit cards to buy Vanilla gift or debit cards as well and they qualify for 5.5 points per dollar with Chase Freedom this quarter.

And Serve can be loaded online directly with your credit card and debit card as long as your name is on them.  More on the limits for that below, but that’s easy free miles there!

Just like with Bluebird, loading gift cards online is a big no-no. You have to do that in stores.

Serve has a 2.7% foreign exchange fee. Bluebird has no foreign exchange fees.

Note that while Bluebird gives free checks that you can use to cash out your account balance, Serve has no checks. Instead you can pay off your bills and credit cards with your account balance.

However Serve allows you to withdraw cash ($750 per day and $2,000 per month) from a MoneyPass ATM for free. With Bluebird that would incur a $2 charge unless you have a direct deposit going to your Bluebird card.

You don’t need ISIS to signup for Serve but there are several advantage to doing that:
1. While Bluebird has no fees, Serve has a $1/month fee. That fee doesn’t apply if you live in NY, TX, or VT. It doesn’t apply if you have direct deposit. It doesn’t apply if you load $500 to it that month.
But for everyone else there’s also no fee for Serve as long as you keep a virtual Serve card in your ISIS wallet.

2. The regular Serve card allows you to load $200 per day online from a debit card and $200 per day online from a credit card. Those are both capped at $1,000 per month of loading.
However Serve with ISIS allows you to load $500 per day online from a debit card and $500 per day online from a credit card. Those are both capped at $1,500 per month of loading.
Don’t load Serve with an AMEX online as you won’t earn points for that.

I don’t have a physical Serve card yet, I just have the virtual card in my app now. It let me load $400 on the first day with my credit card and another $100 on the second day with a credit card. Once I activate my physical Serve card I’ll be able to load the full amounts.

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07/27 Snapshot Of Saver Level Awards Between The US And Israel Through October

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

For obvious reasons, saver award tickets to Israel have never been easier to obtain than right now.  United miles are great for Israel but I’ve never seen anywhere near amount of United nonstop award space.

For people redeeming round-trip coach saver awards to Israel in advance you are probably better off accumulating points on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus rather than traditional miles as the 2.22% cash back will probably be easier to use and require fewer points.

Saver awards typically open up within a month of the flight.  Here is a look at some of the nonstop options from North America to Tel Aviv.

I didn’t include El Al in this snapshot as their industry trailing website makes it too time intensive to search for lots of award space, but their nonstop coach award can be booked by American for 45K miles each way and their nonstop business award can be booked by American for 67.5K miles each way.

I also didn’t include Delta in this snapshot as their award calendar and the Air France award calendar have ridiculous amounts of false positives.    You can book a Delta coach award one-way with 25K Air France Flying Blue/AMEX miles with no fuel surcharges or a round-trip for 85K Delta miles.  You can book business class one-way with 62.5K Air France Flying Blue/AMEX miles or round-trip with 140K Delta miles.

Note that if you’re willing to fly with connections that there’s much more availability, but this post is just looking at nonstop flights.  Of course if you’ve been to a DansDeals seminar hopefully you know of even more ways to find award space.

United: Newark-Tel Aviv nonstop saver award space
-A coach round-trip with ANA/AMEX miles is 60K or a one-way “workaround” ANA coach award is 38K. A business round-trip is 90K or a one-way “workaround” ANA business award is 63K. No fuel surcharges for United flights
-Bookable in coach one-way with 40K Air Canada/AMEX miles. Business would be 82.5K one-way. No fuel surcharges for United flights
-Bookable in coach one-way with 42,500 United/Chase miles. Business would be 70K one-way. No fuel surcharges for any flights

Notes:
-You can also redeem 70K United miles for business class even when there is only coach available. Read this post for how to do that.
-The Chase United Explorer card gives expanded saver and standard award space. Read more about the unique benefits of the Chase United card in this post.
-Read about how to use and decrypt United’s powerful expert mode here.

07/27: UA84, 9+ coach and 7 business saver awards.
07/27: UA90, 9+ coach and 9+ business saver awards.
07/28: UA84, 9+ coach and 9+ business saver awards.
07/28: UA90, 9+ coach and 8 business saver awards.
07/29: UA84, 9+ coach and 9+ business saver awards.
07/29: UA90, 9+ coach and 9+ business saver awards.
08/02: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/03: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/03: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/04: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/04: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/05: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/05: UA90, 9+ coach and 7 business saver awards.
08/06: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/06: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/07: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/07: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/09: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/10: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/10: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/11: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/11: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/12: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/12: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/13: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/13: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/14: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/14: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/16: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/17: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/17: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/18: UA90, 2 coach saver awards.
08/19: UA84, 3 coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 2 seats for non cardholders/elites.
08/26: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/26: UA90, 5 coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 1 seat for non cardholders/elites.
08/27: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/27: UA90, 8 coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 4 seats for non cardholders/elites.
08/28: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/28: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/30: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/31: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/31: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
09/27: UA90, 3 coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 0 seats for non cardholders/elites.
09/29: UA84, 9+ coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 5 seats for non cardholders/elites.

United: Tel Aviv-Newark nonstop saver award space
08/03: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/03: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/04: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards and 4 business saver awards.
08/04: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/05: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards and 9+ business saver awards.
08/05: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/06: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/06: UA91, 4 coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 3 seats for non cardholders/elites.
08/07: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards and 9+ business saver awards.
08/08: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards and 9+ business saver awards.
08/09: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/10: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/10: UA91, 9+ coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 7 seats for non cardholders/elites.
08/11: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards and 6 business saver awards.
08/11: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/12: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/12: UA91, 9+ coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 7 seats for non cardholders/elites.
08/13: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/13: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/14: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/14: UA91, 8 coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 6 seats for non cardholders/elites.
08/15: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/16: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/17: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/17: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/18: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/18: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/19: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/19: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/20: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/20: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/21: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/21: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/22: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/23: UA91, 8 coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 5 seats for non cardholders/elites.
08/24: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/24: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/25: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards and 8 business saver awards.
08/25: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/26: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/26: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/27: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/27: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/28: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/28: UA91, 9+ coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 6 seats for non cardholders/elites.
08/29: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/30: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/31: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/31: UA91, 9+ coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 6 seats for non cardholders/elites.
09/01: UA85, 9+ coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 5 seats for non cardholders/elites.
09/01: UA85, 8 business saver awards.
09/04: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
09/05: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
09/07: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
09/07: UA91, 9+ coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 5 seats for non cardholders/elites.
09/08: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
09/08: UA91, 8 coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 4 seats for non cardholders/elites.
09/09: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
09/09: UA91, 9+ coach saver awards.
10/13: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
10/14: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.
10/15: UA85, 9+ coach saver awards.

Air Canada, Toronto-Tel Aviv coach nonstop saver award space
-Bookable one-way with 42,500 United/Chase miles. No fuel surcharges for any flights.
07/27: 8+ saver award seats
07/28: 1 saver award seat
07/29: 8+ saver award seats
07/30: 8+ saver award seats
08/03: 6 saver award seats
08/04: 8+ saver award seats
08/05: 8+ saver award seats
08/06: 2 saver award seats
08/07: 8+ saver award seats
08/10: 8+ saver award seats
08/12: 8+ saver award seats
08/13: 7 saver award seats
08/14: 8+ saver award seats
08/17: 8+ saver award seats
08/18: 4 saver award seats
08/21: 3 saver award seats
08/28: 8+ saver award seats
09/01: 8+ saver award seats
09/02: 8+ saver award seats
09/07: 1 saver award seat
09/08: 1 saver award seat
09/10: 1 saver award seat
09/11: 7 saver award seats
09/14: 8+ saver award seats
09/15: 8+ saver award seats
09/17: 7 saver award seats
09/18: 7 saver award seats
09/21: 8+ saver award seats
09/22: 5 saver award seats
09/28: 8+ saver award seats
09/29: 8+ saver award seats
09/30: 3 saver award seats
10/12: 2 saver award seats
10/13: 2 saver award seats
10/20: 7 saver award seats
10/26: 8+ saver award seats
10/29: 4 saver award seats

Air Canada, Tel Aviv-Toronto coach nonstop saver award space
08/04: 8+ saver award seats
08/07: 8+ saver award seats
08/10: 8+ saver award seats
08/11: 3 saver award seats
08/12: 4 saver award seats
08/13: 8+ saver award seats
08/14: 8+ saver award seats
08/17: 8+ saver award seats
08/18: 8+ saver award seats
08/19: 8+ saver award seats
08/20: 8+ saver award seats
08/21: 2 saver award seats
08/24: 1 saver award seat
08/25: 4 saver award seats
08/26: 8+ saver award seats
08/27: 8+ saver award seats
08/28: 8+ saver award seats
08/31: 1 saver award seat
09/01: 2 saver award seats
09/02: 6 saver award seats
09/03: 6 saver award seats
09/04: 8+ saver award seats
09/07: 6 saver award seats
09/08: 8+ saver award seats
09/09: 8+ saver award seats
09/11: 6 saver award seats
09/14: 8+ saver award seats
09/15: 1 saver award seat
09/16: 2 saver award seats
09/18: 8+ saver award seats
09/21: 8+ saver award seats
09/28: 8+ saver award seats
09/29: 5 saver award seats
09/30: 8+ saver award seats
10/01: 5 saver award seats
10/02: 3 saver award seats
10/05: 6 saver award seats
10/06: 8+ saver award seats
10/07: 6 saver award seats
10/12: 8+ saver award seats
10/13: 8+ saver award seats
10/14: 8+ saver award seats
10/23: 6 saver award seats
10/26: 8+ saver award seats
10/27: 8+ saver award seats
10/30: 8+ saver award seats

USAirways, Philadelphia-Tel Aviv nonstop saver award space
Coach, Bookable one-way with 45K AA miles with no fuel surcharges or 30K BA miles plus fuel surcharges.
Business, Bookable one-way with 67.5K AA miles with no fuel surcharges or 60K BA miles with fuel surcharges.
07/27: 6 coach saver award seats, 9+ business saver award seats.
07/28: 9+ coach saver award seats, 2 business saver award seats.
07/29: 9+ coach saver award seats, 8 business saver award seats.
07/31: 5 coach saver award seats
08/03: 2 coach saver award seats, 1 business saver award seat.
08/05: 1 coach saver award seat, 2 business saver award seats.
08/07: 6 coach saver award seats.
08/11: 1 business saver award seat.
08/17: 9+ coach saver award seats.
09/01: 1 coach saver award seat
09/03: 1 coach saver award seat
09/18: 1 coach saver award seat
09/23: 2 coach saver award seats

USAirways, Tel Aviv-Philadelphia nonstop saver award space
07/29: 1 business saver award seat.
07/31: 6 coach saver award seats.
08/03: 9+ coach saver award seats.
08/07: 2 coach saver award seats
08/17: 1 coach saver award seat
08/18: 3 coach saver award seats
08/19: 1 coach saver award seat, 1 business saver award seat.
08/20: 3 coach saver award seats
08/21: 2 business saver award seats.
08/26: 2 coach saver award seats
08/27: 9+ coach saver award seats, 2 business saver award seats.
08/28: 6 coach saver award seats.
08/31: 4 coach saver award seats
09/01: 9+ coach saver award seats, 1 business saver award seat.
09/02: 7 coach saver award seats, 3 business saver award seats.
09/03: 9+ coach saver award seats, 4 business saver award seats.
09/04: 9+ coach saver award seats, 3 business saver award seats.
09/06: 1 coach saver award seat
09/07: 8 coach saver award seats
09/08: 7 coach saver award seats, 1 business saver award seat.
09/09: 1 coach saver award seat
09/10: 2 coach saver award seats
09/21: 2 coach saver award seats
09/27: 4 coach saver award seats
09/28: 4 coach saver award seats
09/29: 2 coach saver award seats
10/13: 1 coach saver award seat
10/14: 9+ coach saver award seats

It’s important to stress that award availability is very fluid. What’s available now may not be available in a few minutes. What’s unavailable now may become available later today, so you just need to keep checking!

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HOT! $25 Off $100 At Staples.com With Visa Checkout Works For Visa Gift Cards!

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Visa Checkout Offer Linky

Checkout on Staples.com with Visa Checkout and you’ll automatically save $25 on $100+ orders.  You can use any credit card type with Visa Checkout.

A $200 Visa gift card sells for $206.95 and a $100 gift card sells for $106.95 on Staples.com

If you buy a $100 gift card you’ll pay $81.95 and if you buy a $200 gift card you’ll pay just $181.95 shipped. Use your Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Cash cards and get 5 points per dollar spent. If you’re registered at visasavingsedge.com and you spend $200+ from Staples in a single order you’ll also get 1% cash back.

Visa gift cards from Office Max (and Staples) are issued by MetaBank which still work at WalMart (Vanilla gift cards no longer work well at WalMart).

The pin on the Visa gift card is the last 4 digits of the card number, no need to set anything.
-You can cash out the Visa cards using EvolveMoney to pay bills like your mortgage, property tax, auto loan, insurance, store charge card (Gap, Macy’s, Target, etc).  There is no fee for this. As of June 1st there is a limit of 4 payments per bill per month.
-You can load Visa cards to your Bluebird or Serve card at a WalMart ATM machine.
-You can load Visa cards to your Bluebird or Serve card with a WalMart cashier or customer service.  Just say you want to use your debit card, no need to mention that it’s a gift card. (Note that some Visa cards like Vanilla branded ones don’t load at Walmart but the Visa cards from Office Max or Staples should still be easy to load).
-You can buy a money order with the Visa card at any store that accepts debit cards as payment (except the post office).  Such stores exist even in manufactured spend deserts like NYC.
-You can pay your credit card bill at WalMart with BillPay at Customer Service.
-You can send the funds from the Visa card to a friend via Amazon Payments.
-You can load Visa cards to your Serve card at Family Dollar.
-You can gift a Visa gift card as a wedding gift instead of giving a check.
-You can just use the cards for your everyday spending to earn 5 points per dollar everywhere!

HT: menachem_m, via DDF

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Citi Thank You Points Now Transferable To Select Airlines

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Over 2 years ago I wrote that Citi was in the process of making their points transferable to airlines.

It’s taken some time, but it’s finally been implemented.

However the current transfer selection is very weak when compared to the 3 powerhouse transferable currencies, AMEX Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Starpoints.

Citi Transfer Partners:
-Cathay Pacific
-Etihad
-EVA
-Garuda Indonesia
-Malaysia Airlines
-Qatar
-Singapore
-Thai
-Hilton

-You must have a Citi ThankYou Premier, Citi Prestige, or Citi Chairman card to make a transfer.
-Points earned from checking accounts can’t be transferred.
-It may take up to fourteen days for the ThankYou Points to post to your participating travel loyalty program member account.
-The first and last names on both the ThankYou Member Account and the participating travel loyalty program member’s account must match in order to transfer points using the Points Transfer feature.

HT: AsherO, via DDF

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Complain About An Airline, Get A Free Subscription To Time, Fortune, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, And More!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Update: My 8,000 miles just posted. I ordered The Economist, Time, Fortune, and Money for 8,000 miles on the nose.
Thanks Spirit!
—————————————————
Originally posted on 07/08:

Spirit is offering 8,000 miles for complaining about an airline. Any short complaint will do.

At first I ignored this. After all getting free Spirit miles is sort of like winning a contest for a trip on Greyhound to Pittsburgh where the grand prize winner gets 1 free trip and the 2nd prize winner get 2 free trips ;)
And frankly I think going Greyhound may just be preferable to Spirit…

However DDF member springles correctly points out that the best use of these miles isn’t to save up for what’s sure to be a torturous flight, but for using for free magazines!

-Click here to view the free magazines you can get with your Spirit miles.
-Here is an alternate link with some other redemption options.
Sample redemptions:
Conde Nast Traveler: 12 issues, 900 Miles
Entrepreneur: 12 issues, 900 Miles
ESPN The Magazine: 26 issues, 800 Miles
Fortune: 20 issues, 1,700 Miles
Money: 12 issues, 1,200 Miles (I’m partial to the June cover issue they show…I’m in it :) )
People: 26 issues, 3,300 Miles
Sports Illustrated: 56 issues, 2,100 Miles
Sports Illustrated KIDS: 12 issues, 1,500 Miles
TIME: 52 issues, 1,800 Miles
TIME + Fortune: 52 issues+20 issues, 2,000 Miles
The Economist: 51 issues, 4,800 Miles
The Wall Street Journal: 228 issues, 4,100 Miles

Bear in mind that Spirit’s industry-worst miles expire in just 90 days and it will take 10 days to get your 8,000 free miles, so be ready to attack the magazine offers as soon as your miles post.

HT: wayfe and springles, via DDF

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Get 50 Free Iberia Avios; Better Award Availability With Lower Fuel Surcharges To Israel

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

British Airways and Iberia both participate in the Avios program.  Most people have points in the British Airways Avios program due to cards like the Chase British Airways Visa , transfers from other Chase cards, and the bonuses that AMEX used to run for transfers to BA, but you can also transfer AMEX points to the Iberia program.

If you have an active Iberia account that is at least 3 months old you can also transfer points from British Airways to Iberia.

Iberia Avios have much better award availability and much lower fuel surcharges for Iberia flights.  An Iberia coach flight to Israel is 65K Avios round-trip. With BA Avios you’ll also be charged $655.42 but with Iberia Avios the charge will be $329.90.   The fuel surcharge difference in business class is even greater.

Of course you can avoid fuel surcharges altogether with Avios by flying on carriers that have no fuel surcharges as covered in this recent post, but Iberia has very good availability and it’s always good to have another option.

So if you don’t have an Iberia account go ahead and open one here to start the 3 month countdown until you can transfer BA Avios to Iberia Avios.

You also need to earn Iberia Avios to activate your account and allow transfers from BA.  You can do that by transferring 1,000 AMEX points to Iberia.

Or you can click here to open the Iberia Newsletter. Scroll 3 pages to the right and you’ll see the Great Avios Conquest.  Click start and provide these answers to the 4 questions, “My Shoes,” “La Panza es Primero,” “All of the above,” and “Cash Card.” Then enter your Iberia Avios number and you’ll get 50 points “shortly.”

Once you have had an Iberia account for 3 months and have earned Iberia Avios you can logon to your BA Avios account, go to Executive Club>Manage my account>Combine my Avios>Transfer to Iberia Plus.

Iberia flies from the following US cities:
Boston
Chicago
Los Angeles
Miami
NYC

HT: yitzf, via HFP

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Updated Snapshot Of Saver Level Awards To Tel Aviv This Summer

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

For obvious reasons saver award tickets to Israel have never been easier than right now.

For people redeeming round-trip coach saver awards to Israel in advance you are probably better off accumulating points on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus rather than traditional miles as the 2.22% cash back will probably be easier to use and require fewer points.

Saver awards typically open up within a month of the flight.  Here is a look at some of the nonstop options from North America to Tel Aviv.

I didn’t include El Al in this snapshot as their industry trailing website makes it too time intensive to search for lots of award space, but their nonstop coach award can be booked by American for 45K miles each way and their nonstop business award can be booked by American for 67.5K miles each way.

Note that if you’re willing to fly with connections that there’s much more availability, but this post is just looking at nonstop flights.  Of course if you’ve been to a DansDeals seminar hopefully you know of even more ways to find award space.

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United: Newark-Tel Aviv nonstop saver award space
-A coach round-trip with ANA/AMEX miles is 60K or a one-way “workaround” ANA award is 38K. A business round-trip is 90K. No fuel surcharges for United flights
-Bookable in coach one-way with 40K Air Canada/AMEX miles. Business would be 82.5K one-way. No fuel surcharges for United flights
-Bookable in coach one-way with 42,500 United/Chase miles. Business would be 70K one-way. No fuel surcharges for any flights

07/13: UA84, 9+ coach and 9+ business saver awards.
07/13: UA90, 9+ coach and 9+ business saver awards.
07/14: UA84, 9+ coach and 9+ business saver awards.
07/14: UA90, 9+ business saver awards.
07/15: UA84, 9+ coach and 3 business saver awards.
07/28: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
07/29: UA90, 6 seats for credit cardholders or elites, 3 seats for non cardholders/elites.
07/30: UA84, 1 coach seat for credit cardholders or elites, 0 seats for non cardholders/elites.
08/03: UA90, 3 coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 1 seat for non cardholders/elites.
08/04: UA84, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/04: UA90, 9+ coach saver awards.
08/03: UA84, 8 coach seats for credit cardholders or elites, 4 seats for non cardholders/elites.

Notes:
-You can also redeem 70K United miles for business class even when there is only coach available. Read this post for how to do that.
-The Chase United Explorer card gives expanded saver and standard award space. Read more about the unique benefits of the Chase United card in this post.
-Read about how to use and decrypt United’s powerful expert mode here.

Air Canada, Toronto-Tel Aviv coach nonstop saver award space
-Bookable one-way with 42,500 United/Chase miles. No fuel surcharges for any flights.
07/13: 8+ saver award seats.
07/14: 8+ saver award seats.
07/21: 8+ saver award seats.
07/22: 6 saver award seats.
07/24: 3 saver award seats.
07/27: 8+ saver award seats.
07/28: 8+ saver award seats.
07/29: 3 saver award seats.
08/04: 3 saver award seats.
08/05: 2 saver award seats.
08/13: 1 saver award seat.
08/14: 3 saver award seats.

Air Canada, Toronto-Tel Aviv coach nonstop saver award space
07/31: 4 saver award seats.
08/05: 3 saver award seats.

USAirways, Philadelphia-Tel Aviv nonstop saver award space
Coach, Bookable one-way with 45K AA miles with no fuel surcharges or 30K BA miles plus fuel surcharges.
Business, Bookable one-way with 67.5K AA miles with no fuel surcharges or 60K BA miles with fuel surcharges.
07/14: 9+ coach saver award seats, 3 business saver award seats.
07/15: 4 coach saver award seats, 8 business saver award seats.
07/16: 5 business saver award seats.
07/17: 6 coach saver award seats
07/21: 1 coach saver award seat, 1 business saver award seat.
07/24: 9+ coach saver award seats
07/28: 9+ coach saver award seats, 5 business saver award seats.
07/29: 3 coach saver award seats, 5 business saver award seats.
08/03: 1 coach saver award seat
08/11: 1 coach saver award seat

USAirways, Tel Aviv-Philadelphia nonstop saver award space
07/17: 2 business saver award seats
07/19: 3 coach saver award seats
07/22: 3 coach saver award seats
07/26: 1 coach saver award seat

Delta, JFK-Tel Aviv nonstop saver award space
Coach, Bookable one-way with 25K Air France Flying Blue/AMEX miles. No fuel surcharges for Delta flights.
Business, Bookable one-way with 62.5K Air France Flying Blue/AMEX miles. No fuel surcharges for Delta flights.

07/14: 5 coach saver award seats.
07/15: 9+ coach saver award seats, 8 business saver award seats.
07/16: 1 saver award seat.
07/17: 9+ coach saver award seats, 8 business saver award seats.
07/19: 8 coach saver award seats, 8 business saver award seats.
07/22: 5 coach saver award seats.
07/23: 4 coach saver award seats.
07/24: 3 saver award seats.
07/26: 9 coach saver award seats, 7 business saver award seats.
07/28: 9 coach saver award seats, 8 business saver award seats.
07/29: 1 coach saver award seat.
08/02: 2 coach saver award seats.
08/04: 5 coach saver award seats.

Delta, Tel Aviv-JFK nonstop saver award space
07/17: 1 business saver award seat.
07/22: 2 coach saver award seats, 3 business saver award seats.

It’s important to stress that award availability is very fluid. What’s available now may not be available in a few minutes. What’s unavailable now may become available later today, so you just need to keep checking!

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Avianca Lifemiles Transfer Bonus

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Update: After years of fun, Lifemiles has moved Guam from the US48 to the Philippines, killing some of the easy 12.5K Lifemiles awards from North America to Asia. Oddly coincidental timing after a travel blogger decided to file a complaint with the DoT when he had an issue on a Lifemiles ticket to Guam via Taipei.
The lesson? There’s a time and place for everything, complaints included.
Just because you can complain doesn’t mean you should.
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Originally posted on 07/03:

Avianca Lifemiles Transfer Bonus Linky

-Through 07/17 if you transfer Lifemiles to someone they will get double the amount transferred.
-You can transfer up to 75,000 miles.  A 75K transfer would incur a $1,125 fee and the recipient will get 150,000 miles. Effectively you are buying additional miles for 1.5 cents each.
-Several times per year they also sell miles outright for 1.5 cents each.
-Use a card like Chase Sapphire Preferred so that you don’t pay a foreign transaction fee and in order to get the 2.14 points per dollar on travel spending.
-LifeMiles is the Star Alliance program run by Avianca/TACA.  Miles don’t expire as long as there is activity every 24 months. You can book partner travel online and one-way awards are allowed at half the rate of round-trip awards.
-LifeMiles has a good award chart and don’t charge any fuel surcharges, though they don’t sell mixed cabin awards.
-Beware that their call center customer service is notoriously poor.
-If you have attended a DDS you’ll (hopefully!) already have an account and know some pretty cool stuff to do with it…and that’s all I’m going to say on the matter ;)

HT: menachem_m, via DDF

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British Airways Now Collecting Fuel Surcharge For International USAirways Flights

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Related posts:
-Chase British Airways Visa: Earn 50,000 Avios for spending $2,000.
-22 Things To Keep In Mind When Using Avios
-British Airways Avios Knowledgebase, A Collection Of Tips For Using Your BA Avios
-Click here to view Direct Flights From Philadelphia That Can Be Booked With British Airways Avios
-Click here to view Direct Flights From NYC That Can Be Booked With British Airways Avios
-Click here to view Direct Flights From Chicago That Can Be Booked With British Airways Avios
-Click here to view Direct Flights From Los Angeles That Can Be Booked With British Airways Avios
-Click here to view Direct Flights From Miami That Can Be Booked With British Airways Avios
-Find more articles like this by clicking on the “Mileage Posts” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
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Since USAirways joined the OneWorld alliance there have been some lots of new flight bargains using Avios, including 30K flight to Israel with no fuel surcharges.

Unfortunately effective today British Airways has started collecting fuel surcharges for USAirways flights that begin or end outside of the Western Hemisphere. That’s the same policy that applies to AA flights.

A round-trip from Philadelphia to Israel in coach will now cost 60,000 Avios plus $692, effectively making Avios worthless for tickets to Israel.  Business class will now cost 120,000 Avios plus $928.
Similar fuel surcharges will also apply to European cities. For example a round-trip flight from Philadelphia to Paris will now cost 40K Avios plus $648 in coach or 80K Avios plus $1,044 in business.

The fuel surcharge only shows up after selecting flights and continuing on to the booking page.

What’s left for avoiding fuel surcharges with Avios?
Luckily a lot still remains. Nothing like a program like United where you will never ever pay a fuel surcharge, but then again an Avios flight can require far fewer miles than United.
-American and USAirways flights within the western hemisphere remain a bargain, starting at just 4,500 Avios for a free flight with no fuel surcharges.
-Air Berlin flights still have no fuel surcharges systemwide and remain the cheapest way to get to Israel. They have flights to Israel from Berlin and Dusseldorf for 10K Avios and flights to several US cities from 20K Avios.
-Niki flights have no fuel surcharges systemwide. They fly from Israel to Vienna for 10K Avios.
-Aer Lingus flights have no fuel surcharges systemwide. A flight from Boston to Ireland is just 12,500 Avios. These flights can only be booked over the phone.
-Alaska flights have no fuel surcharges systemwide with flight starting at just 4,500 Avios. These flights can only be booked over the phone.
-LAN flights have no fuel surcharges systemwide. Many of their flights can only be booked over the phone.
-Flights within Australia, Europe, Japan, and many other countries and regions have little to no fuel surcharges.

HT: netzih, via DDF

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Reminder: Earn 3.21 Points Per Dollar With Sapphire Preferred At Restaurants And Caterers Today

Friday, July 4th, 2014

Today and on every first Friday of every month you will earn triple points with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card on all dining purchases. Normally you earn 2.14 points per dollar on dining, airfare, hotel stays, timeshares, car rentals, taxis, Uber, parking, limos, buses, trains, EZPass, bridges, ferries, etc.

Together with the 7% annual dividend that means 3.21 points per dollar. For example if you spend $100 in any restaurant you’ll get 300 points on your next statement plus 21 additional points as part of your annual dividend.

Dining on the Sapphire Preferred card includes all sit-down restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, catering, bars, lounges, and more.

Don’t want to eat out today? Ask your favorite eatery if they sell gift cards or will allow you to have a credit balance in your name and lock bonus points by purchasing them today!

Need to pay a caterer? Do it today and pocket the extra miles!

Are you outside of the USA? Not to worry, the Sapphire Preferred card does not charge any foreign transaction fees. (Which also makes it the best card for car rentals in Israel: 2.14 points per dollar, free primary CDW insurance with no deductible, and no foreign exchange fees).

Sapphire Preferred comes with a 40,000 point signup bonus and another 5,000 point bonus for opening a free additional user card. The $95 fee is waived for the first year. Having a Sapphire Preferred card allows you to transfers all of your Chase points(including points earned on Chase Freedom) to lucrative currencies like United (Star Alliance), Singapore (Star Alliance), British Airways (OneWorld), Korean (Skyteam), Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Priority Club, and Amtrak.

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20,000 Starpoints Transfers Into 30,000 USAirways Miles This Month; Where Should You Transfer?

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

-USAirways Offer Linky
-SPG-US Transfer Linky

Yesterday I wrote about the promotion for transferring Starpoints into American miles.  Turns out there’s also a promotion for turning Starpoints into USAirways miles through July 31st with the same rules I wrote about yesterday for the American promo.

Sure, in 2015 the American and USAirways programs will be combined. But in the meantime there are several differences:

1. You can transfer Starpoints into anyone’s USAirways account, the names don’t have to match (though this can change at any time). Transfers into American require matching names.

2. USAirways requires round-trip award travel while American sells one-way award travel.

3. USAirways allows for a free stopover while American doesn’t (with the exception of when 2 awards price out lower than 1 award like US-Europe-Israel off-peak)

4. American allows free date changes on award tickets. USAirways charges $150 for that.  American charges $150 to cancel a ticket but just $25 to cancel additional awards at the same time. USAirways charges a flat $150 per ticket. American charges a phone fee for tickets that can’t be booked online while USAirways waives the phone fee, however USAirways charges a $25-$50 award processing fee which applies even for tickets made online.

5. American has very strict routing rules. You can’t fly to Australia via Asia for example. USAirways has much more lenient routing rules.  American also requires a “paid published routing” on awards, USAirways does not.  American’s system prices awards correctly. USAirways has booked several 40K awards to Israel and South Africa for DD readers like this one among several other “bugs” I’ve heard of.

6. American can book travel on El Al, USAirways can’t.

7. USAirways charges 50,000 miles for domestic first awards on 3 class planes, such as JFK-Los Angeles, JFK-S. Francisco, and Miami-Los Angeles on American as well as JFK-Vancouver on Cathay Pacific.  That rate goes up to 65,000 if you book after July 31st which is the same rate American charges.

8. USAirways charges just 120,000 miles to fly first class to Asia on Cathay Pacific, the biggest bargain in the entire mileage game. People have even been able to book the 110K business class ticket to Asia with a stopover in Israel along the way.

9. If you have a Barclays US Airways Premier World MasterCard you can get a 5,000 mile discount on USAirways awards (besides for free checked bags and pre-boarding). That means round-trip domestic awards are just 20,000 miles, off-peak coach awards to the Caribbean for cardholders are just 20,000 miles round-trip, and off-peak awards to Europe or South America are just 30,000 miles round-trip if you fly on USAirways. Off peak First Class/Envoy awards to the Carribean are just 45,000 miles and to South America are just 55,000 miles round-trip if you fly on USAirways.

10. Round-trip coach to Israel is 80K, business to Israel is 120K, and first class to Israel is 180K. With the card USAirways flights to Israel are 75K in coach and 115K in business.  On American round-trip coach nonstop to Israel is 90K coach, 135K business, 180K first.

HT: Freddie, via DDF

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New Flying Blue Promo Awards Now Bookable: Dallas To Tel Aviv For 12.5K In Coach Or Montreal To Tel Aviv For 31,250 Miles In Business

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Flying Blue Promo Awards (Click here to view worldwide promo awards)

Air France Flying Blue Award Search (Login required to search for award flights)

Flying Blue is the joint program of SkyTeam member Air France and KLM.
They consider Tel Aviv to be part of Europe which can make for some decent deals.

They do charge fuel surcharges on their own flights but not on Delta flights. However availability is much better on their own flights than on Delta flights. They normally charge 25,000 miles each way in coach and 62,500 miles in business to Israel but they run rotating promo awards valid for select cities.  Fuel surcharges in business are much more than in coach.

Currently for North America that includes coach flights from Dallas and business flights from Montreal.  Travel is valid in either direction and is valid for one-way or round-trip travel.

You need to book the current promo awards by 07/31 and travel between 09/01 and 10/31.

In some cases it may make sense to use BA Avios to get to Dallas or Montreal.

You can transfer AMEX points to Flying Blue at a 1K:1K ratio or Starpoints to Flying Blue at a 20K:25K ratio.

You can see the miles and fees for one-way tickets in the images below:

Montreal-Tel Aviv:

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Dallas-Tel Aviv:

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20,000 Starpoints Transfers Into 30,000 American AAdvantage Miles This Month

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

-AA Offer Linky
-SPG-AA Transfer Linky

From now through July 31st you’ll earn 30,000 AA miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred. Normally you would earn 25,000 miles for a 20,000 Starpoint transfer.

You can transfer up to 60K Starpoints per day to maximize the bonus (which would earn 90K AA miles per day).

No, this isn’t like 2010 when 20K Starpoints became 33,750 AA miles and those miles counted towards lifetime AA elite status. And AA still allowed free stopovers and had a killer OneWorld round-the-world award chart.  No, those days are long gone and are never coming back.  But take what you can get.

Note that AA is notorious in zealously shutting people’s account down if there’s even a suspicion that miles in it were sold or bartered.  They also shut down people’s account without warning or appeal for manufacturing signup bonus threshold spend on their credit cards by dabbling in refundable tickets like some unscrupulous brokers are known to do to unsuspecting prey.

American’s award chart is by far the most generous out there, and it will be hit with a major devaluation in early 2015 when their program is merged with USAirways.

In the meantime there are some great values to be had, like 55K in business or 67.5K in first on Cathay Pacific one-way to/from Hong Kong.
-You can fly nonstop on El Al to Israel for 45K coach or 67.5K business.
-Between 10/15-05/15 you can fly to Israel with a free stopover in Europe for 40K in coach.
-Between 10/15-05/15 you can fly to Europe for just 20K in coach each way.
-Between 03/01-05/31 and 08/16-11/30 you can fly to South America for just 20K in coach.
-Between 01/12-03/08 and 08/22-12/15 you can fly to Hawaii for just 17.5K in coach.
-Between 10/01-04/30 you can fly to Japan or Korea for just 25K in coach.
-A flight between Tel Aviv and the Maldives is just 17.5K coach, 25K business, 35K first.
-A flight between Tel Aviv and Thailand or Hong Kong is just 22.5K coach, 30K business, 40K first.
-A flight between Tel Aviv and Australia is just 30K coach, 45K business, 60K first.

There are only major fuel surcharges for flying on British Airways, but there are plenty of other partners to choose from to avoid them.

HT: AJK, via DDF

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Snapshot Of Saver Level Awards To Tel Aviv This Summer

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Saver awards to Israel can be tough, especially during summertime which is high season. For people redeeming round-trip coach saver awards to Israel in advance you are probably better off accumulating points on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus rather than traditional miles as the 2.22% cash back will probably be easier to use and require fewer points.

Saver awards typically open up within a month of the flight.  Here is a look at some of the nonstop options from North America to Tel Aviv.

I didn’t include El Al in this snapshot as their industry trailing website kept crashing as I was searching for award space, but their nonstop coach award can be booked by American for 45K miles each way.

Note that if you’re willing to fly with connections that there’s much more availability, but this post is just looking at nonstop flights.  Of course if you’ve been to a DansDeals seminar hopefully you know of even more ways to find award space.

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United: Newark-Tel Aviv coach nonstop saver award space
-A round-trip with ANA/AMEX miles is 60K or a one-way “workaround” ANA award is 38K. No fuel surcharges for United flights
-Bookable one-way with 40K Air Canada/AMEX miles. No fuel surcharges for United flights
-Bookable one-way with 42,500 United/Chase miles. No fuel surcharges for any flights

07/03: UA90, 5 seats for credit cardholders or elites, 2 seats for non cardholders/elites.
07/05: UA90, 9+ seats for credit cardholders or elites, 9+ seats for non cardholders/elites.
07/07: UA84, 6 seats for credit cardholders or elites, 5 seats for non cardholders/elites.
07/07: UA90, 9+ seats for credit cardholders or elites, 9+ seats for non cardholders/elites.
07/09: UA90, 3 seats for credit cardholders or elites, 0 seats for non cardholders/elites.
07/14: UA90, 2 seats for credit cardholders or elites, 0 seats for non cardholders/elites.
07/23: UA84, 9+ seats for credit cardholders or elites, 9+ seats for non cardholders/elites.
08/13: UA84, 9+ seats for credit cardholders or elites, 3 seats for non cardholders/elites.
08/13: UA90, 4 seats for credit cardholders or elites, 0 seats for non cardholders/elites.

Notes:
-You can also redeem 70K United miles for business class even when there is only coach available. Read this post for how to do that.
-The Chase United Explorer card gives expanded saver and standard award space. Read more about the unique benefits of the Chase United card in this post.
-Read about how to use and decrypt United’s powerful expert mode here.

Air Canada, Toronto-Tel Aviv coach nonstop saver award space
-Bookable one-way with 42,500 United/Chase miles. No fuel surcharges for any flights.
07/13: 8+ saver award seats.
07/14: 5 saver award seats.
07/21: 4 saver award seats.
07/22: 2 saver award seats.
07/27: 7 saver award seats.
07/28: 8+ saver award seats.

USAirways, Philadelphia-Tel Aviv nonstop saver award space
Coach, Bookable one-way with 30K British Airways/Chase/AMEX miles. Alternatively bookable for 9K BA/Chase/AMEX plus $240 with BA cash and points. No fuel surcharges for USAirways flights.
07/17: 2 saver award seats.
07/24: 2 saver award seats.
07/28: 9+ saver award seats.

Business, Bookable one-way with 60K British Airways/Chase/AMEX miles. No fuel surcharges for USAirways flights.
07/15: 6 saver award seats.
07/16: 2 saver award seats.
07/21: 2 saver award seats.
07/28: 1 saver award seat.

Delta, JFK-Tel Aviv nonstop saver award space
Coach, Bookable one-way with 25K Air France Flying Blue/AMEX miles. No fuel surcharges for Delta flights.
07/14: 2 saver award seats.
07/17: 7 saver award seats.
07/21: 1 saver award seat.
07/22: 1 saver award seat.
07/24: 2 saver award seats.
07/28: 9+ saver award seats.

Business, Bookable one-way with 62.5K Air France Flying Blue/AMEX miles. No fuel surcharges for Delta flights.
07/19: 5 saver award seats.

It’s important to stress that award availability is very fluid. What’s available now may not be available in a few minutes. What’s unavailable now may become available later today, so you just need to keep checking!

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Last Day To Finish Freedom Q2 Spend And Last Day For Freedom Double Signup Bonus; Activate Q3 Categories Now

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

The Chase Freedom Visa has a 20,000 point signup bonus that will be going away midday Monday, 06/30. That bonus is marketed as $200 cash back as points can be used for cash back, though you would be wiser not to. Additionally it also offers another 2,500 bonus points (marketed as $25 cash back) for adding a free additional user.  You’ll have 23,000 points for opening a new card, adding an additional user, and spending $500.  That’s enough points for 5 free short-haul flights.

Chase Freedom is one of the best no annual fee cards.  It’s an easier card to get that most other Chase cards as it doesn’t require a Signature level $5,000 credit line. The real beauty of the card is in the quarterly 5% categories. Again, while they call it 5% cash back you’ll really get 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent which can be worth much more than 5% cash. For $1,500 in spending per quarter you will earn at least 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points (7,500 points per quarter at 5 points per dollar spent). The $1,500 quarterly limit is per Freedom card.

If you have a Chase checking account you will also earn a 10% bonus on all points earned during 2014 on your January or February 2015 statement.  That means you’ll earn a whopping 5.5 points per dollar in these categories or 8,250 points each quarter plus 1.1 points per dollar elsewhere.

Tomorrow, 06/30, is also the last day to complete your Q2 5% category spending.

Freedom alone can’t transfer points into much more lucrative airline/hotel/train currencies, but if you or your spouse has a Sapphire PreferredInk Plus, or Ink Bold then you can transfer points from Freedom to one of those cards and from there to your favorite travel currency.  You can read at the end of this post which currencies they can transfer to and why those points are much more valuable than just taking cash back.

The 5 point categories for the rest of 2014 are as follows:
Q2: Restaurants and Lowe’s.
Q3: Gas stations and Kohl’s.
Q4: Amazon.com, Zappos.com, and Department stores.

So go out to eat from now until June 30th and you’ll earn a whopping 5-5.5 per dollar spent.  Buy a gift card from your favorite eatery tomorrow to lock in savings on future dining

Or buy gift cards from Lowe’s.  See this post for gift cards that they sell for all kinds of other stores where you’ll be able to earn 5 or 5.5 points per dollar.  You can buy gift cards for BP for example and best yet, you’ll pay the cash price at BP when using gift cards at the pump while you will have earned 5-5.5 points per dollar!

Of course if you have an Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Ink Cash card you will earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent all year round on telecom, cable, internet, as well as everything from office supply stores, which includes gift cards to other stores and prepaid cash cards that can be used anywhere.With the Bold/Plus cards that’s capped at $50,000 per year and with the Cash card that’s capped at $25,000 per year. Plus the Ink Visa cards earn 1% cash back on top of 5 points per dollar for $200+ purchases at Staples and other stores with Visa Savings Edge.  The cards also earn 2 points per dollar year-round at gas stations and either hotels (Bold/Plus) or dining (Cash).

Q3 Activation now open:

Additionally you can click here to activate next quarter’s Chase Freedom 5% categories. After activation you’ll earn 5-5.5 points per dollar at Gas stations (including gift cards and everything sold in the convenience store) and Kohl’s.
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Other Chase consumer cards you can simultaneously include the Chase British Airways (50K signup points, 1.25 Avios per dollar, and an annual companion award ticket if you spend $30K+ in a  year), and the Chase United Explorer (30K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, and it gives free luggage, free primary car rental insurance including in the US, expanded saver and standard award ticket availability, priority boarding, and more), the Chase Sapphire Preferred (40K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, no fee the first year, plus 2.14 points per dollar on travel and dining with no Foreign Exchange fees), and the Chase Southwest (50K signup points scheduled to end tonight!).

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both offer 50,000 signup points.  They offer 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and office supply stores, 2 points per dollar for gas and lodging, no foreign exchange fees, free lounge visits, and a waived annual fee for the first year. The Chase Ink Cash offers 20,000 signup points.

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Chase Freedom Signup Bonus Doubled For A Limited Time

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Update:  This offer will end on June 30!

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The Chase Freedom Visa now comes with a 20,000 point signup bonus. That bonus is marketed as $200 cash back as points can be used for cash back, though you would be wiser not to.  This is double the previous signup bonus and is available for a limited time only.

Additionally it also offers another 2,500 bonus points (marketed as $25 cash back) for adding a free additional user.

DDF members are already reporting success getting matched from the 10K offer to the 20K offer by sending a secure message.  Typically if you applied within the past 90 days Chase will match your bonus to the current bonus offer.

Chase Freedom is one of the best no annual fee cards.  It’s an easier card to get that most other Chase cards as it doesn’t require a Signature level $5,000 credit line. The real beauty of the card is in the quarterly 5% categories. Again, while they call it 5% cash back you’ll really get 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent which can be worth much more than 5% cash. For $1,500 in spending per quarter you will earn at least 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points (7,500 points per quarter at 5 points per dollar spent).

The 5 point categories for the rest of 2014 are as follows:
Q2: Restaurants and Lowe’s.
Q3: Gas stations and Kohl’s.
Q4: Amazon.com, Zappos.com, and Department stores.

So go out to eat from now until June 30th and you’ll earn a whopping 5 per dollar spent.  Buy a gift card from your favorite eatery to lock in savings.

Or buy gift cards from Lowe’s.  See this post for gift cards that they sell for all kinds of other stores where you’ll be able to earn 5 or 5.5 points per dollar.

I coined the term “Chase Trifecta” several years ago and it still applies today.  It refers to having a Chase checking account, a Chase Freedom card, and your choice of either a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Chase Ink Plus Card, or Chase Ink Bold card.

The Freedom card earns a 10% annual point dividend every February on all points earned during the previous calendar year if you have a Chase checking account.  That means you’ll earn an effective 5.5 points per dollar on purchases from the 5 point categories and you’ll earn an effective 1.1 points per dollar everywhere else.

Freedom alone can’t transfer points into much more lucrative airline/hotel/train currencies, but if you or your spouse has a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold then you can transfer points from Freedom to one of those cards and from there to your favorite travel currency.  You can read at the end of this post which currencies they can transfer to and why those points are much more valuable than just taking cash back.

If you use those points for a trip worth where they are worth 2 cents each and then you’ll have effectively earned 10-11% back on those “5 point categories.”  My coach tickets to Kansas City this week were worth 3 cents each, which means I really get 16.5% back from purchases in “5 point categories” thanks to the Chase trifecta.
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Other Chase consumer cards you can simultaneously include the Chase British Airways (50K signup points, 1.25 Avios per dollar, and an annual companion award ticket if you spend $30K+ in a  year), and the Chase United Explorer (30K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, and it gives free luggage, free primary car rental insurance including in the US, expanded saver and standard award ticket availability, priority boarding, and more), the Chase Sapphire Preferred (40K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, no fee the first year, plus 2.14 points per dollar on travel and dining with no Foreign Exchange fees), and the Chase Southwest (50K signup points).

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both offer 50,000 signup points.  They offer 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and office supply stores, 2 points per dollar for gas and lodging, no foreign exchange fees, free lounge visits, and a waived annual fee for the first year. The Chase Ink Cash offers 20,000 signup points.

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Even In An Age Of Mileage Devaluation, Awesome Uses Abound

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

As the airlines have undergone relentless consolidation they have been able to devalue their mileage programs with less worries of passengers jumping ship.  They’ve been able to get rid of excess inventory, leading to fuller planes and more expensive flights. They’ve made the cost of awards go up faster than the cost of dollar inflation and they’re going to limit the miles you get when flying on most airfares next year (though that may make miles earned from credit cards that much more valuable and useable).

While the old advice may have been to concentrate on one program so that you would be able to get to an aspirational award more quickly that is hardly the case anymore.

Although many mileage programs have been devalued, they have also improved in some ways.  While prices for domestic tickets continue to climb, there are still 25K domestic saver awards and even better yet, awards for as low as 9K round-trip via British Airways on American and now on USAirways as well.

Many programs now allow for one-way redemptions. That allows you to redeem for an aspirational award, like a one-way ticket on your own private walled-in suite on Singapore for just 57,000 miles.  And you can return with miles from another program, as low as 20K with American for example.

Of course there’s no need to have those miles parked in a Singapore account where they’re subject to devaluation and expiration, you can transfer points over from AMEX, Chase, or Starwood whenever you’re ready.

As for me, this week is the 6th consecutive week I’m flying somewhere with my miles. In that time period I’ve flown to Chicago twice (BA and United short haul awards), Kansas City (United short-haul award), NYC (United short-haul and Flying Blue), Fort Lauderdale (United award), and NYC again later this week.

Many of the tickets were booked last minute, all of them would have been ridiculously expensive without miles.
When I flew to NYC I purchased a ticket just 75 minutes before the flight. Paid flights were over $1,000. Delta only had saver award availability going to NYC and United only had saver award availability for the return later that day.

Of course Delta doesn’t allow you to book a one-way saver award (they will next year) so I hopped onto the Air France Flying Blue site to book the Delta flight. Unfortunately their site can only book flights 3 hours prior to departure so I called them up and booked over the phone while getting them to waive the $20 phone booking fee due to it not being bookable online.

I typically only bank miles I use frequently, like American, BA, and United miles. So as soon as the agent told me they he was able to book the Delta flight for me for 12.5K miles I hopped onto the AMEX MR site and transferred over the miles I needed for that flight to Flying Blue. No reason to stock Flying Blue miles when they transfer instantly when I need them.

I Uber’d around to NYC, finished up what I needed to get done, and even had time for another sublime meal at Mike’s Bistro.  He had a corn soup special that night which was just phenomenal and of course his other other-worldly standbys: duck gnocchi, short ribs, fries, and a passion fruit frozen daiquiri.  And made it back home that night carrying a goodie back from Mike’s for my wife as well.  Truly the best kosher restaurant in the US east of Oxnard, CA.

Sure, miles are “worth the most” when used for aspirational international travel, those business and first class flights that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but are easily attainable for the masses by opening a single credit card.

But as longhaul travel gets harder with a growing family I have no shame in redeeming miles domestically, whether it’s to Banff or Miami. Next month we’ll fly to LA using 25,000 United miles for each of the 4 of us rather than paying $613 for the nonstop flight. No shame whatsoever.

If you only redeem for round-trip coach travel you’ll want to put your spending on the Barclay Arrival card, no doubt.

But if you want to book one-way tickets, trips with stopovers to multiple places, business or first class trips, trips to Canada, or more crucially, last-minute tickets, real airline miles simply can’t be beat. As long as airline miles aren’t tied to the cost of a ticket this game remains fun and lucrative.  The day the airlines make miles worth a set amount each, is the day I switch all of my base spending to a card like the Barclay Arrival.  Hopefully the airlines realize that and won’t kill the most (only?) profitable segment they have, the zone or distance based mileage redemption program.

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AMEX Points No Longer Transferrable To Others?

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

AMEX Membership Rewards points have long been valuable because you can transfer them into anyone’s airline account.

Chase officially says that you can only transfer to your own or your spouse’s mileage account, though people haven’t reported issues transferring Chase points to other people’s mileage accounts. (Note that people have had Chase cards closed for transferring points into other people’s Chase accounts who don’t reside at their address.)

According to several DDF reports though as of today it is no longer possible to link other people’s frequent flyer account to their AMEX account.  In the past this was easily doable online but now it’s blocked.

For now you can still link and transfer to authorized user accounts, so if you do want to transfer to someone you would have to open a secondary card for them on your account.  To open a secondary account they will ask for a social security number, but you can get it without providing them information by just saying that you don’t have that information on you right now.

Some people are reporting that some reps may still allow you to make transfers to others over the phone. If you have success with that post a comment!  That’s likely something that will be short-lived though…

This comes on the heels of AMEX limiting bonuses on consumer cards to once per lifetime. Ouch.

HT: mordy44, via DDF and AJK, esquire.

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USAirways Share Miles Promotion Is Back, But It’s Not Nearly As Valuable This Time

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Share USAirways Miles Promo Linky

Several times per year USAirways allows you to share miles with a friend and the friend gets double the miles you sent.  This effectively allowed you to buy 50,000 miles for $567.50, or 1.135 cents per mile.

Unfortunately since the last promotion in April, USAirways has raised the cost to share 50,000 miles to $836.25, or 1.6725 cents per mile.

Additionally your friend no longer gets the full bonus. This time around you’ll split the bonus.  In other words if you send 50,000 miles to your wife she’ll wind up with 75,000 miles and you’ll have 25,000 miles. Previously your wife would have the full 100,000 miles in her account.

Can it still make sense to buy miles at that price? If you’re using them to fly Cathay Pacific first class from JFK to Vancouver or on American first class from JFK to Los Angeles or S. Francisco or from Miami to Los Angeles for 50,000 miles round-trip, it may make sense.  Though that rate goes up if you don’t book that by 07/31.

But this promotion is no longer the golden goose it once was.

You can read more sample uses and about the promotion in this post from April before the promotion was devalued.

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Buy $300 In Visa Gift Cards From Staples And Get A Bonus $20 Visa Gift Card Via Easy Rebate

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

If you buy $300+ in Visa gift cards from Staples between 06/15 and 06/21 you can send in an Easy Rebate online to get a bonus $20 Visa gift card.

Seemingly this is valid in-store only and not for the $200 Visa Gift Card sold online.

If you buy 2 of the $200 gift cards in store you’ll pay $13.90 in card fees. Use your Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Cash cards and get 5 points per dollar spent. That’s 2,070 points for a $413.90 purchase. In addition if you’re registered at visasavingsedge.com you’ll also get 1% cash back.

$413.90 (Outlay)
-$4.14 (1% cash rebate)
=$409.76 out of pocket for $400 face value
-As usual with Ink you’ll get 2,070 points (worth $31.05 at a 1.5 cent per point value).
-This week you’ll also get a $20 Bonus Visa gift card via easy rebate just to sweeten the deal even more. That makes your $409.76 cash outlay get $420 worth of gift cards, so the 2,070 points cost you negative $10.24 :D

The pin on the Visa gift card is the last 4 digits of the card number, no need to set anything.
-You can cash out the Visa cards using EvolveMoney to pay bills like your mortgage, property tax, auto loan, insurance, store charge card (Gap, Macy’s, Target, etc).  There is no fee for this. As of June 1st there is a limit of 4 payments per bill per month.
-You can load Visa cards to your Bluebird card at a WalMart ATM machine.
-You can load Visa cards to your Bluebird card with a WalMart cashier or customer service.  Just say you want to use your debit card, no need to mention that it’s a gift card. (Note that some Visa cards like Vanilla branded ones have gotten a bit trickier to load in recent weeks. You have to hit cancel immediately after swiping and change the payment method to debit. However the Visa cards from Office Max or Staples should still be easy to load).
-You can buy a money order with the Visa card at any store that accepts debit cards as payment (except the post office).
-You can pay your credit card bill at WalMart with BillPay at Customer Service.
-You can send the funds from the Visa card to a friend via Amazon Payments.
-You can gift a Visa gift card as a wedding gift instead of giving a check.
-You can just use the cards for your everyday spending to earn 5 points per dollar everywhere!

HT: Moes Tavern, via DDF

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Buy Miles For Under A Penny A Piece With Giftly!

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Update: Giftly has been cancelling all gifts made today.

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Giftly allows you to send money to a friend for a 1% fee.

I sent my wife 2 gifts of $999 each with my United Club credit card for a $10 fee each time.
She then cashed them out right away. She sent one $999 gift directly to her paypal account (from where she’ll have it sent to her bank account) and another $999 gift to a credit card that she doesn’t normally use (from where she’ll request a refund check). Soon they will even support transfers to debit cards so that it will go directly to your checking account. It takes a few days to get the funds.

Probably a good idea to make the payment and then collect the gift from a different IP address.

If you’re trying to meet a spend threshold Giftly is a no-brainer, but even without that it’s a great deal.

For example if you have a Chase Freedom card and a Chase checking account, a $999 purchase+$10 fee will earn you 1,110 miles. That’s buying miles for .9 cents each.

If you have a Chase Sapphire card, a $999 purchase+$10 fee will earn you 1,080 miles. That’s buying miles for .93 cents each.

If you have a Barclaycard Arrival Plus a $999 purchase+$10 fee will earn you about $22.42 cash back.

With a United Club card (click on Club card on the right side) , a $999 purchase+$10 fee will earn you 1,514 miles. That’s buying miles for .66 cents each.

Of course you can “buy” miles for .47 cents with Visa gift cards at Staples, but that takes more effort to cash out.  With Giftly it goes directly to paypal  You can read examples of awards you can get when buying miles for .47 cents here, just run the numbers on your credit card to see the cost per mile and what those awards would cost you.

I don’t see any limits for Giftly, which means it probably won’t last long in its current form. Enjoy it while it lasts!

HT nate, via DDF

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United Duplicates Delta’s Revenue Based Mileage Earning System For 2015

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

United has once again duplicated a flyer unfriendly move initiated by Delta and will move to a revenue based fare structure effective 03/01/15.

United’s CEO Jeff Smisek has once again shown that he’s not one to ever miss an opportunity to match an unfriendly move made by Delta (though he never copies the good).  He seems to think he can deliver all of the cuts that Delta does without improving the actual product as Delta has done.  And this is all a copy-paste of what Delta already announced for 2015.

I doubt it will be too long before AA mAAtches, but boy they will get a lot of new frequent flyers if they don’t.

-Base members will earn 5 miles per dollar, Silvers will earn 7, Golds will earn 8, Platinums will earn 9, and 1K and GS members will earn 11.  Just like with Delta, there is a limit of 75K miles that you can earn per ticket, so if you are flying on an ultra-expensive ticket be sure to book it as 2 one-ways.

-Miles are earned on base airfare and fuel surcharges. They are not earned on taxes.

-Revenue based earning will apply for all United flights when credited to the United program.

-Revenue based earning will apply for all partner flights when the ticket is issued by United and the flight are credited to the United program.

-Mileage based earning will apply to partner flights when the ticket is issued by partner airlines and when the flight is credited to the United program.

-I’d presume that United flights credited to partner airlines will still earn miles based on the distance flown.

-Currently a non-elite flying round-trip between JFK and Los Angeles on a $300+tax ticket earns 4,950 miles.  Come 2015 and that flight will earn a paltry 1,500 miles.  A silver elite currently earns 6,188 miles but come 2015 and they will earn 2,100 miles. A gold elite currently earns 7,425 miles but come 2015 and they will earn 2,400 miles. A platinum elite currently earns 8,663 miles but come 2015 and they will earn 2,700 miles. A 1K elite currently earns 9,900 miles but come 2015 and they will earn 3,300 miles.

-Elite status will continue to be earned based on mileage actually flown.

-In early 2015, you will have the ability to use miles for new options such as Economy Plus one-time purchases, Economy Plus subscriptions and checked baggage subscriptions.

-Miles earned from credit card spending will remain unchanged. If anything they become more valuable as there will be fewer miles in the system earned from actual flights.

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Azul Flights Now Bookable on United.com (And A List Of Other Partners Not Yet Bookable Online); USAirways Domestic First Award Going Up As Program Integration Continues

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Azul awards now bookable on United.com:

United partnered with Brazilian carrier Azul as they lost TAM to Oneworld.  Azul’s CEO and founder is David Neeleman who also founded JetBlue and WestJet and brought that model (and his favorite color?) to Brazil.

Until now award flights had to be booked over the phone but they are now bookable on United.com and availability is incredible.  I took a gander at nonstop flights from Sao Paulo to Iguassu Falls, Manaus, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador and availability was perfect at the 12.5K domestic award level.

Later this year Azul will announce new routes between the US and Brazil, hopefully availability will be just as good!

For those keeping score at home here is the remaining list of United partners that must be booked over the phone:
-Brussels Airlines (Can sometimes be booked online)
-Cape Air
-Great Lakes Airlines
-Jet Airways
-LOT Polish (An excellent option with great availability in coach and business for flights to Israel)
-Shenzhen
-Singapore

And here’s the list of partners now bookable on United.com.:
-Adria Airlines
-Aegean Airlines
-Aer Lingus
-Air Canada
-Air China
-Air New Zealand
-ANA
-Asiana Airlines
-Austrian Airlines
-Avianca Airlines
-Azul Brazilian Airlines
-Copa Airlines
-Croatia Airlines
-Egyptair
-Ethiopian Airlines
-EVA Air
-Germanwings
-Hawaiian Airlines
-Island Air
-Lufthansa
-Scandinavian Airlines
-Shenzhen Airlines
-Silver Airways
-South African Airways
-Swiss International Airlines
-TAP Portugal
-THAI
-Turkish Airlines

HT: Ya’alili, via DDF

USAirways award chart change:
Effective 08/01/14 you’ll need 65K miles to book a domestic first class flight on a plane with 3 classes of service.
That matches the rate that American charges.

Through 07/31 you can still snap up one of the great bargains of the USAirways chart, 50K miles for lie-flat first class on routes like:
-JFK to Los Angeles or S. Francisco on American’s A321T:
aa7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Miami to Los Angeles on American’s 777-200 (777 Buenos Aires Trip Report here):

-JFK to Vancouver on Cathay Pacific’s 777-300ER (Vancouver Trip Report here):

The USAirways program will be rolled into the American program in 2015, but in the meantime you can still get 40,000 miles for opening the churnable USAirways credit card before it’s discontinued.

Other USAirways bargain routes as described in this post still remain in place.

You can also transfer Starpoints to USAirways at a 20K:25K ratio or AMEX points to USAirways via Air Canada at a 1K:840 ratio.

In other news, USAirways and American will start reciprocal upgrades on June 11th.  That means free upgrades for all American elites flying on USAirways, free upgrades for USAirways Chairman’s members flying on American, and upgrades for purchase for lower tier USAirways elites flying on American.

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Chase Freedom Earns More Than Sapphire Preferred At Restaurants On This “First Friday”

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Today and on every first Friday of every month you will earn triple points with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card on all dining purchases. Normally you earn 2.14 points per dollar on dining, airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals.

Together with the 7% annual dividend that means 3.21 points per dollar. For example if you spend $100 in any restaurant you’ll get 300 points on your next statement plus 21 additional points as part of your annual dividend.

Dining on the Sapphire Preferred card includes all sit-down restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, catering, bars, lounges, and more.

However through June 30th you can earn 5 points per dollar when eating out with your Chase Freedom card, so if you aren’t going to max out the $1,500 in quarterly spending at Lowe’s you’ll be better off using Freedom at restaurants. That bonus is bumped up to 5.5 points per dollar if you have or will open a Chase checking account in 2014.

Don’t want to eat out today? Ask your favorite eatery if they sell gift cards or will allow you to have a credit balance in your name and lock bonus points by purchasing them today!

An exception will be if you are catering an event.  You’ll likely blow past the $1,500 limit on the Freedom bonus, but the Sapphire bonus has no limit, so consider putting $1,500 on Freedom and the remainder on Sapphire Preferred today to take advantage of the first friday bonus.

Another exception will be if you are located outside of the USA.   The Freedom card has a 3% foreign transaction fee, but the Sapphire Preferred card does not charge any foreign transaction fees.  (That also makes it the best card for car rentals when abroad: 2.14 points per dollar, free primary CDW insurance in every country in the world with no deductible, and no foreign use fees).

While Freedom points can’t be transferred into lucrative airline miles or hotel/train points that are worth far more than 1% cash back, if you or your spouse has a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus card you can transfer points from Freedom to one of those cards and from there to an airline, hotel, or train program.

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Air France: Houston-Tel Aviv For 12.5K Miles Each Way, Boston-Tel Aviv For 18,750 Miles Each Way

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Flying Blue Promo Awards (Click here to view worldwide promo awards)

Air France Flying Blue Award Search (Login required to search for award flights)

Flying Blue is the joint program of SkyTeam member Air France and KLM.
They consider Tel Aviv to be part of Europe which can make for some decent deals.

They do charge fuel surcharges on their own flights but not on Delta flights. However availability is much better on their own flights than on Delta flights. They normally charge 50,000 miles round-trip in coach to Israel but they run rotating promo awards valid for select cities. Currently for North America that includes Boston and Houston. You need to book the current promo awards by 06/30 and travel between 08/01 and 09/30.

In some cases it may make sense to use BA Avios to get to Boston or Houston.

You can see the miles and fees for one-way tickets in the images below:

Houston-Tel Aviv:

af

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tel Aviv-Houston:

fb1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston-Tel Aviv:

af1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tel Aviv-Boston:

fb2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to pickup some Flying Blue miles?
-The Starwood Consumer AMEX and Starwood Business AMEX award 30K signup points for spending $5K in 6 months. 20K Starpoints can transfer into 25K Flying Blue with the permanent 25% transfer bonus.  Transfers can take 2-9 days.

-AMEX MR points can be earned from cards like the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold. These points can transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio.

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Ink Is Beautiful: 12 Reasons You Should Have A Chase Ink Card

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Update: The Ink limited time offer will end on Sunday, 06/01. Grab the limited time offer while you can, the last time it was offered was a year ago so it probably won’t return for another year.

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The Chase Ink cards are some of the most powerful tools in any mileage junkie’s arsenal.  They are truly a must-have.

-Chase Ink Plus Card Linky
-Chase Ink Bold Card Linky
-Chase Ink Cash Card Linky

Many people don’t even realize that they can get a business card. If you or your spouse own a business, even if it’s not your primary source of income, or even if you are just in the planning stages of a business, you can get a business card.  For example if Joe Smith sells items or wants to start selling items online and wants a credit card to better keep track of business expenditures he can open a business credit card for “Joe Smith Sole Proprietorship” as the business name. You don’t need to file any messy government paperwork to be allowed to do that.
Just be sure to select “Sole Proprietorship” as the business type and just use your social security number in the Tax Identification Number field as well as in the social security number field.

Here are some of the reason that Ink Is Beautiful:

1. The signup bonus.
For a limited time only the Ink Bold and Ink Plus offer an extremely generous 60,000 point signup bonus for spending $5,000 in 3 months.  The $95 annual fee on those cards is waived for the first year.

If you are approved for an Ink card, you will get the signup bonus even if you have had an Ink card in the past, simple as that.

You can also have the same Ink card at the same time for different businesses, each with their own signup bonus.

If both spouses are involved in the same business, they can each apply for their own card and they will each get the signup bonus.

The Ink Cash card has no annual fee and for a limited time only has a 30,000 point signup bonus for spending $3,000 in 3 months. It says $300 cash back but that’s just because you can use the 30,000 points for $300 cash back. I sure hope you don’t.

The Ink Plus and Ink Cash cards are credit cards that can be paid off over time if needed.  The Ink Bold is a charge card that must be paid off in full monthly.

2. 5x points on telecom.
You’ll earn 5 points per dollar on internet/cable service and landline/cellular purchases.  That’s a nice rebate when you purchase a new cell phone and off your telecom/internet bills.

3. 5x points on office supplies.
You’ll earn 5 points per dollar at office supply stores.
Office supply stores like Office Max, Staples, and Office Depot sell gift cards to hundreds of other stores. You can click here to view a list I compiled last year.

By buying gift cards you can get 5 points per dollar at hundreds of places you shop at anyway, including Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond/Buy Buy Baby, Marriott (You can even use these to cater a wedding!), Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Whole Foods, and hundreds of others.

Plus Office Max and Staples accepts credit cards for Visa prepaid gift cards.  Even when there isn’t a sale the 5 points per dollar easily is worth more than the $6.95 fee on a $200 gift card.  But they often go on sale where they sell them for less than the $200 face value AND you get the 5 points per dollar.  They can be loaded onto Bluebird , Evolve Money, or just used anywhere you shop and you’ll still come out ahead.

You can buy the $200 Visa gift card from Staples here.

On the Ink Plus or Bold card you can earn 5 points per dollar on up to $50,000 of spending per cardmember year per card.
On the Ink Cash card you can earn 5 points per dollar on up to $25,000 of spending per cardmember year per card.

4. Earn 5x points on Charity and Gifts.

Your local school or other charity will be more than happy to accept donations of Amazon gift cards for supplies or any other useful gift cards for chinese auctions, raffles, fundraisers, etc.

They will give you a tax deductible receipt for the full face value-the price you paid for the gift cards.  And at the same time you’ll earn 5 points per dollar.  So while doing good you can still get a nice chunk of points and you’ll save on your taxes.  Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

You can also gift a useful gift card as a gift. What Bar Mitzvah kid wouldn’t want an Amazon gift card to buy whatever they really want instead of what you might think they want? Plus you’ll get 5 points per dollar!

5. Cash back on top of points.

Ink cards used to be issued as Mastercards though now all Ink cards are issued as Visa cards.

Programs like Mastercard Easy Savings and the Visa Savings Program offer cash back on top of points at select stores just for registering your card.

For example with an Ink Visa you’ll get an additional 1% cash back on top of 5 points per dollar every time you spend $200 or more at a Staples store or online.  That makes gift cards even more lucrative!

With Visa you’ll also earn 1% cash back at Chevron, and Texaco, 2% cash back at TigerDirect, 4% cash back at Alamo and National, 5% cash back at Lenovo, Sony, and several hotel brands, etc.

With Mastercard you’ll 5% cash back at Avis or Budget and cash back at 19,000 participating gas stations nationwide on top of 2 points per dollar.

6. Double point categories.
The Bold and Plus cards offer 2 points per dollar for spending on gas and hotels.
The Cash card offers 2 points per per dollar for spending on gas and dining.

7. Free lounge visits.
The primary cardholder and additional cardholders (which are free!) can each get a free Lounge Club membership that allows access 2 free lounge visits per year.

There are participating lounges all across the globe.

A recent addition to Lounge Club is the new Art & Lounge in Newark. That lounge is intended for use by El Al business and first class passengers and offers kosher food.

8. No foreign exchange fees.

The Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards have no fees for using their cards when abroad. Just opt to pay in the local currency and you’ll always get the best exchange rate with no fees.

9. Spending won’t hurt your credit score.
The really great thing with these business cards is that they don’t report your spending on your personal credit report.

On personal cards if you spend money on your card, your credit score will be hurt even if you pay your bill on time. A whopping 30% of your credit score is based on credit utilization. You can pay off your card before your statement is generated to avoid that, but that takes a lot of effort and laying out money well before you have to. Additionally it’s good to have the statement close with a few dollars to show the card is active and being paid every month.

On an Ink business card it’s just not reported, so you can wait until the money is due without it having a negative effect on your score. That makes life a lot simpler.

Plus if you close a business card it won’t ever have an effect on your score.

10. A year of 0% APR

The Ink Cash card offers a full year of 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers.  So do many other cards.  The difference is that because spending on the Ink cards won’t show up on your credit report (unless you’re delinquent), carrying a balance on an Ink card won’t hurt your credit score like it will on other cards.  The 0% APR is just icing on the cake.

Note that there is a one-time 3% balance transfer fee. If you want a card with 0% APR and no fees for balance transfers you’ll want to look into Chase Slate which gives 15 months of 0% APR. However that is a consumer card, so carrying a balance there will hurt your score.

11. The Chase Trifecta.

Years ago I coined the term “Chase Trifecta.”

It refers to having a:
-Chase checking account
AND
-A Chase Freedom card
AND
-Either a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, a Chase Ink Plus card, or a Chase Ink Bold card.

The reason is that the Chase Freedom is a very generous no annual fee card thanks to its rotating 5 point categories (such as gas stations, restaurants, etc).  Plus if you have a checking account you’ll even get an annual 10% bonus making those 5.5 point categories and making all purchases earn 1.1 points per dollar.

The problem is that Chase Freedom points can’t be transferred into much more valuable airline miles and hotel points.  To rectify that either you or your spouse has to have either a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, a Chase Ink Plus card, or a Chase Ink Bold card.  That way you can transfer the Freedom points to one of those cards and from there into airline miles or hotel points.

12. Chase UR points are still awesome.

Chase Ultimate Rewards offer instant and fee-free transfers to top-notch mileage and points programs at a 1:1 ratio.

Transfer partners include:
-Singapore (Star Alliance) offers private walled-in first class suites that can only be booked with their miles. A suite one-way from JFK to Europe is 57,375 miles. Travel to the US48, Hawaii, Alaska, Europe, and Israel can all be had on the cheap. There are no close-in booking fees and changes and cancellations are very cheap. Fuel surcharges apply when flying on most airlines besides United. More info here.
-United (Star Alliance) is still an excellent currency, even after their devaluation a few months ago.  They never charge fuel surcharges, have very flexible routing rules, they allow one-way awards for half the mileage, they have short-haul awards for 10,000 miles, they allow for a stopover and an open-jaw so that you can really maximize a single award ticket into several free trips, and they have dozens of partners to fly on, most of which can be booked on their website.
-British Airways (OneWorld) is awesome for short-haul awards. Just 9,000 miles for a round-trip zone 1 or 15,000 miles for zone 2 short-haul award. The zone 3 award for 25,000 miles round-trip can also be a bargain, for example for flights between the west coast and any of the Hawaiian islands or between Boston and Ireland with no fuel surcharges. Flights to Israel on USAirways or Air Berlin are just 60,000 miles with no fuel surcharges. They allow one-way awards for half the mileage. There are no close-in or expedite fees. You can cancel an award for as little as $2.50. Infants are only charged 10% of the miles on international trips instead of 10% of the full fare like US carriers charge. Plus they don’t collect fuel surcharges on AA within the western hemisphere, on Qantas within Australia, on USAirways, Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Alaska, or LAN and you can transfer points to Iberia to limit fuel surcharges there as well.
You can read more in the BA knowledgebase. And you can see 102 places you can go to nonstop from NYC with Avios.

Don’t forget about these 22 things to keep in mind when using Avios!
-Korean (Skyteam) offers unbeatable first class availability (A380 First Class Trip Report here) and they also have true bargains on partner travel, just 30,000 miles to fly round-trip on Hawaiian or Alaska to Hawaii in coach or 60,000 miles in first. And it’s just 20,000 miles to fly to Alaska in coach or 40,000 miles in first. You can even get a free stopover on the way to or in Alaska!
-Southwest offers a value of about 1.7 cents per point towards award travel.  Plus you get 2 free checked bags, free flight changes or flight cancellations. and you can even get a point refund if the price of your flight goes down. You can also transfer points to Airtran for flat-rate awards like business class upgrades or free tickets at a flat rate instead of a rate that corresponds to the ticket price. From Airtran they can even be converted back into the old Southwest program that also offers flat rate awards.
-Virgin Atlantic has some niche uses with awards on Delta and Cyprus Air.  For example a round-trip from Tel Aviv to Cyprus is just 5,000 miles!
-Hyatt is a powerful hotel currency. They have added a new cash and points option that offers some excellent values and more importantly those stays earn points, elite stay credits, promo credits, and you can use suite upgrades on cash and point stays as well.  It remains far less expensive for high-end hotel stays than any other hotel program, a $1,500/night villa at the Park Hyatt Maldives would run just 25,000 points or 12,500 points+$150.
You can also funnel points through Hyatt to Southwest to qualify for a free Southwest Companion Pass which gives you a free companion every time you pay for or redeem for a free ticket.
-You can also transfer points to Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Priority Club, and Amtrak. I’ve never been on an Amtrak in my life, but some people have reported getting some really nice bargains on Amtrak travel via their program.

The beauty of miles over points or cash-back:
The great thing about being able to transfer points into airlines or hotels are the incredible values you can attain.
-A first class ticket to Hawaii can cost $3,000 but you can use 60,000 miles for that same ticket, a value of 6.7 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 300,000 points per ticket.
-A last minute ticket or a ticket where you don’t stay for 3 nights from New York to Detroit costs $1,500 in coach but just 9,000 miles. That’s a value of 16.7 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 150,000 points per ticket.
-A first class ticket to Asia can cost $27,000 but you can use 135,000 miles for that same ticket, a value of 20 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 2,700,000 points per ticket.
-A night at a Park Hyatt in Paris, Sydney, or the Maldives can run $1,500 with tax but you can use 25K-30K points for that room, a value of 5-6 cents per point. Or you can use less points and get even better values with cash and points. If you were using Capital One points you would need 150,000 points per night.
And that’s all besides for the fact that getting a Capital One card costs a minimum of 3 credit pulls whereas you can get several Chase cards with just 1 credit pull.

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94 Direct Flights From Baltimore/Washington DC That Can Be Booked With British Airways Avios

Monday, May 26th, 2014

6th in a series.
Related:
-Chase British Airways Visa:
Earn 50,000 Avios for spending $2,000.
-Click to view Direct Avios Flights From Chicago
-Click to view Direct Avios Flights From Los Angeles
-Click to view Direct Avios Flights From Miami
-Click to view Direct Avios Flights From NYC
-Click to view Direct Avios Flights From Philadelphia
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British Airways Avios can’t be beat for short-haul nonstop flights thanks to ultra-low award rates, no expedite/close-in fees, and practically free award cancellations.  Below are all of the direct flights from Philadelphia that can be booked with Avios.

Be sure to read the British Airways knowledgebase and the 22 Things To Keep In Mind When Using Avios for everything you NEED to know about the BA program and how to best search for BA award availability with tips like always booking one-way awards.  If you have a question it’s probably already been answered there!

Notes:
1. Rates in the chart are for one-way flights.
2. Routes that are displayed in bold are subject to fuel surcharges.
3. There are no fuel surcharges for flights on: Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, Alaska, LAN, TAM, and USAirways. There are also no fuel surcharges for American flights within the western hemisphere and for Qantas flights within Austrlia. Fuel surcharges for intra-Europe flights are also typically quite low. Fuel surcharges for travel on Cathay Pacific aren’t too bad while fuel surcharges to fly on British Airways borders on the criminal.
4. In the charts below I’ve only included direct flights as BA charges Avios for each flight segment. For example Maui isn’t on the chart as BA does not have any partners that fly nonstop from Washington DC-Maui.  Though you can always fly to Maui via Los Angeles, Portland, or Seattle, for 12.5K for the Washington DC-west coast segment and 12.5K for the West coast-Maui segment with no fuel surcharges. Plus you can stopover in the connecting city for as long or short as you want.
5. BA.com does not display availability for all airlines! If you want to book travel on airlines like Alaska, Aer Lingus, and LAN you’ll need to pick up the phone and call BA! You can search Alaska award availability on AA.com before calling BA to book it.
6. In rare cases connecting flights can be cheaper than nonstop flights when using Avios and I’ve noted that in the chart.
7. Cities in the chart may only have seasonal nonstop service.
8. A dash means that class of service isn’t offered on that route.
9. If you are originating in NYC and don’t want to drive to WAS to pickup a flight you’ll probably be better off searching for and booking the NYC-WAS leg for 4.5K separately from the WAS-XYZ leg.
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Want to pickup Avios? You’re in luck as you can transfer points from all over the place to BA.

-The Chase British Airways Visa Signature offers 50,000 Avios for spending $2K.

-Chase Ultimate Rewards points are earned from consumer cards like Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Non-Preferred, Chase Freedom and business cards like Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Cash. These points also can transfer instantly 1:1 to Avios.
Through 06/01 the Ink cards receive 10K more signup points than usual.

-The Starwood Consumer AMEX and the Starwood Business AMEX each award 25K signup points with no fee for the first year. 20K Starpoints can transfer into 25K Avios with the permanent 25% transfer bonus.

-American Express Membership Rewards points can be earned from cards like the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold. These points can transfer instantly 1:1 to Avios.

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View the complete 94 route chart after the jump:

Click here to keep reading this post!

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Daily Getaway For 05/23: IHG

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Related: Highlights Of Daily Getaways 2014
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Daily Getaways Linky

With Daily Getaways you can purchase discounted travel packages, but you have to be really quick.  At 1pm EDT every weekday from May 19 until June 20th there is a new offering.

The best ones will sell out in seconds, so you need to be waiting on the page at 12:59pm and refreshing the page.  Be sure to have a IHG number handy.

There are 4 IHG packages available (If you use an AMEX you will automatically get 10% off the listed price) :

1. 15K points for $90 (0.6 cents per point)

2. 25K points for $150.30 (0.601 cpp)

3. 50K points for $292.50 (0.585 cpp)

4. 100K points for $567 (0.567 cpp)

IHG runs PointBreaks which allows you to book rooms at rotating hotels for just 5,000 points per night.   That’s just $28.35 at .567 cpp or $30 at .6 cpp.

There are also good values to be had at high-end properties.  An overwater bungalow at the Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora that would be 50K points or $283.50 at .567 cpp. Checking a random date, January 18th, shows the lowest paid rate of $849 with tax.

Will you be a buyer today? What hotel redemption are you gunning for? Sound off in the comments!

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Daily Getaway For 05/23: Hilton

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Related: Highlights Of Daily Getaways 2014
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Daily Getaways Linky

With Daily Getaways you can purchase discounted travel packages, but you have to be really quick.  At 1pm EDT every weekday from May 19 until June 20th there is a new offering.

The best ones will sell out in seconds, so you need to be waiting on the page at 12:59pm and refreshing the page.  Be sure to have a Hilton HHonors number handy.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the amount of DansDeals readers who reported being able to nab the prized Hertz package #2 that was offered on Tuesday. Good job guys!

There are 3 Hilton packages available (If you use an AMEX you will automatically get 10% off the listed price) :

1. 100,000 points for $495

2. 150,000 points for $742.50

3. 250,000 points for $1,237.50

Hilton points require activity every 12 months or else they’ll expire.

A Hilton member can buy 1 of each package.

Last year Hilton points were devalued like no other points in history. A night at the Bora Bora Nui or Conrad Koh Samui that used to be as little as 37,500 points skyrocketed to as much as 95,000 points per night.  However the Daily Getaways price is still the same, all packages still cost .495 cents per point.  While people would kill to be able to buy most point currencies for under half a cent per point, Hilton points are just awful and even at .495 cents it won’t generally be a good investment.  Especially because they eroded the trust that anyone had in their brand, and what is a loyalty program worth if loyalty and trust doesn’t run both ways?

A notable exception is the brand new Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem due to its stratospheric room rates.  A free night there (which includes free kosher breakfast) costs 80,000 points.  If you stay 5 nights you’ll need 320,00 points as the 5th night is free, bringing down the nightly cost to 68,000 points per night.
At .495 cents per point that’s like paying $396 per night or $336.60 per night on a 5 night stay.

Rates at the Waldorf Jerusalem can vary, but it does always seem to be a very good points value:
May 25th: $705+tax=$832
June 15th: $645+tax=$761
June 28th: $775+tax=$915
July 2nd: $750+tax=$885.
July 13th: $530+tax=$625

The hotel used to have very valuable cash and points awards, but they no longer have that available for any night.

Buy points for stays that you plan on taking this year, but don’t buy for the future.
The Waldorf can:
-Cost more points at any time
-Stop giving free breakfast on points stays
-Relabel standard rooms as deluxe rooms to avoid giving out 80K point rooms
-Leave the Hilton Chain. There have been a couple Hilton properties in Jerusalem over the years that have left Hilton. In the early 2000s the brand new Hilton Jerusalem left Hilton and successfully re-branded as the David Citdael.
Chain hotels never seem to stay long in Jerusalem. Hyatt used to have a Jerusalem hotel and of course Starwood had the Sheraton Plaza. I stayed at the Sheraton in 2007 for just 2,300 points+$45. In 2009 I was booked there when it left Starwood and Starwood re-accommodated us at the Mamilla. We all hoped that was a sign that the Mamilla might join Starwood, but of course that never materialized.

Point being: Caveat Emptor. Invest in Hilton points at your own risk.

Will you be a buyer today? What hotel redemption are you gunning for? Sound off in the comments!

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Chase Adds Singapore As 11th Transfer Partner; When You Should Transfer Your Points To Each Chase Partner

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

This news broke yesterday as I was in middle of traveling all day, but hey better late than never, right ;)

Even as AMEX Membership Rewards has lost valuable transfer partners over the years seemingly without any effort to replace them, Chase has continued to beef up their Ultimate Rewards transfer options.

The latest addition is Singapore Airlines, one of the finest airlines in the world.  You can now transfer points from AMEX Membership Rewards, Starwood, or Chase Ultimate Rewards to Singapore.

The current Chase transfer lineup includes:
Airlines: United (Star Alliance), Singapore (Star Alliance), British Airways (OneWorld), Korean (Skyteam), Southwest, and Virgin Atlantic.
Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, and Priority Club.
Trains: Amtrak.

I flew Singapore in Suites class on an A380 to Frankfurt (from where I connected to get to Paris) in 2012 and it was a flight that dreams are made of:

 

But even their business class is awesomeI flew it nonstop from Newark to Singapore on the way to the Maldives on an 18.5 flight that is now discontinued. The service is the best in the air, even better than first class on most airlines.  Even Singapore coach is great, with amenity kits for adults and toys for kids.

Some things to keep in mind:
-Singapore charges fuel surcharges for travel on Singapore and most partner airlines besides United.
-You can generally only book Singapore first class with Singapore miles.
-Availability in Singapore business class is much better with Singapore miles than with partner miles.
-Seats often open up as the flight gets closer if the cabin isn’t selling. I’ve even seen 6 suites available for saver award redemption from JFK to Frankfurt within a week of the flight.
-There is a 15% discount when redeeming for Singapore flights online.
-There are no close-in/expedite fees.
-Award flight changes are only $20 ($12 if they can be done online)
-Award flight cancellations and redeposits are only $30.
-Singapore allows for one-way award redemption at half the miles of a round-trip.

Here are some sample first/suites class one-way saver award rates and fuel surcharges from the US:
Only A380 flights have private suites, but their “regular” first class is nothing to sneeze at either, it’s among the very best in the world!
JFK-Frankfurt: 57,375+$218.50
JFK-Frankfurt-Singapore Direct flight: 93,500+$353.80
JFK-Frankfurt-Singapore Stopover flight: 93,500+$471.81
Houston-Moscow: 57,375+$226.90
Houston-Moscow-Singapore: 93,500+$333.90
Los Angeles-Tokyo: 74,375+$172.80
Los Angeles-Tokyo-Singapore Direct flight: 91,375+$340.96
Los Angeles-Tokyo-Singapore Stopover flight: 91,375+$323.81
S. Francisco-Hong Kong: 70,125+$112.40
S. Francisco-Hong Kong-Singapore Direct flight: 91,375+$325.50
S. Francisco-Hong Kong-Singapore Stopover flight: 91,375+$154.60
S. Francisco-Seoul: 74,375+$216.50
S. Francisco-Seoul-Singapore: 91,375+$325.50

People flying in suites class have had success requesting kosher wine and even kosher champagne on-board.  At JFK, suites passengers have access to the Virgin Clubhouse where there are complimentary kosher meals that are much better than typical airline food.

Personally we had double wrapped food from nearby Carlos & Gabby’s and our personal Singapore flight attendant was more than happy to heat it all up for us and serve it next to some fine scotch.

In Singapore first class passengers have access to the “private Room” where you can order kosher meals as well.

Partner rates are also very good, here is their partner award chart.
-Domestic business class is just 40K round-trip. A flight from NYC to the west coast in lie-flat seats is just 40K with no fuel surcharges. United charges 50K.
-Coach to Alaska is 25K and business class is 40K round-trip. United charges 35K coach and 60K business to Alaska.
-Coach to Hawaii is just 35K and Business class to Hawaii is just 60K. That’s an incredible deal for a lie-flat seat on a long flight to Hawaii. United charges 45K coach and 80K business.
-Coach to Israel is 80K and business class is 120K. United charges 85K coach and 140K-160K in business.
-Coach to Europe is 55K, business is 130K, and first is 160K. United charges 60K coach, 115-140K in business, and 160K-220K in first.

-Partner awards must be booked over the phone. That means if you want to fly to Tel Aviv (on a route like JFK-Frankfurt in Singapore suites and then from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv on Lufthansa) you will have to call.
-Awards with Singapore and partner flights will price out using the partner award chart, not the Singapore award chart.
-In addition to dozens of Star Alliance partner there are also 6 non-alliance partners that you can fly on with Singapore miles.

So where should you transfer your Chase points to?
-Singapore miles are excellent if you want to fly in Singapore business or first/suites class. You’ll pay some fuel surcharges, but they’re not as high as other airlines like British Airways and the product/service is top-in-class.
Singapore miles are also great for travel on United as many routes require fewer miles and there are no fuel surcharges for United flights. Plus change/cancellation fees are much lower with Singapore and Singapore will allow you to hold awards if you have miles in your account.
Transfers to Singapore aren’t instant, they can take a day or 2. Miles expire after 36 months regardless of activity.

-The advantage of United miles is that you will never pay fuel surcharges. That makes it an excellent all-around program. Now here’s the trade-off, United charges more miles than Singapore for most routes, so if you want to fly on a United partner airline you’ll have to decide whether you want to use more miles to redeem a United ticket without fuel surcharges or whether you want to save miles and use Singapore but pay fuel surcharges. Fuel surcharges vary greatly based on the airline and route so unfortunately there’s no one-size fits all answer. You’ll just have to compare the mileage requirements between United and Singapore and weigh them against fuel surcharges that Singapore will collect.
Transfers to United are instant. Miles don’t expire as long as you have any activity every 18 months. Miles never expire if you have a Chase United card.

-British Airways Avios are unbeatable for short-haul nonstop flights which start at just 4,500 miles each way.
However they stink for flying long-haul internationally on BA and most of their partners because you pay more miles for every flight leg and you pay heavy fuel surcharges.
Use BA miles on airlines where you don’t pay fuel surcharges, like Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, Alaska, USAirways, and TAM. You also won’t pay fuel surcharges on American within the Western Hemisphere or on Qantas within Austrlia. Fuel surcharges on Cathay Pacific and on intra-Europe flights are relatively low. Transfers to BA are instant. Miles don’t expire as long as you have any activity every 36 months.

-Southwest points are very good for domestic flights. Southwest has no award cancellation fees and gives 2 free bags. If you get a free companion pass from opening Southwest cards or tranfers from Hyatt you’ll double the value of your points! Transfers to Southwest are instant. Miles don’t expire as long as you have any activity every 24 months.

-Korean is excellent for awards on Alaska to Alaska or Hawaii or on Hawaiian to Hawaii. They’re also great for first class awards on Korean. Transfers to Korean are instant. Miles expire after 10 years regardless of activity.

-Hyatt points are incredibly valuable and you can get a ton of value from new point options like cash and points which are also eligible for promotions and upgrades. Transfers to Hyatt are instant. Miles don’t expire as long as you have any activity every 24 months.

-Virgin Atlantic has some niche uses with awards on Delta and Cyprus Air. For example a round-trip from Tel Aviv to Cyprus is just 5,000 miles! Miles don’t expire as long as you have any activity every 36 months. Transfers to Virgin Atlantic are instant.

-I’ve never been on an Amtrak in my life, but people have reported getting some amazing bargains on Amtrak travel from regular short-trips to longhaul sleeper cars. Transfers to Amtrak are instant.

-Marriott, Ritz Carlton, and Priority Club are generally weaker hotel currencies and you’ll probably find better uses of your Chase points elsewhere.

Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points:
Business cards:
You can earn up to 5 points per dollar plus get cash back on Chase Ink Visa cards:

-Chase Ink Plus Credit Card has a 60K bonus for spending $5K. This limited time increased offer ends 06/01.

-Chase Ink Bold Charge Card has a 60K bonus for spending $5K. This limited time increased offer ends 06/01.

-Chase Ink Cash Card Linky has a 30K bonus for spending $3K. This limited time increased offer ends 06/01. Note that while you can earn points on this card, you or your spouse needs an Ink Bold, Ink Plus, or Sapphire Preferred card to actually transfer points into miles, otherwise you will only get 1% cash back.

Consumer cards:
-Chase Sapphire Preferred has a 40K bonus for spending $3K and another 5K bonus for adding a free additional user card. You can earn 2.14 points per dollar on all travel and dining charges and 1.07 points per dollar elsewhere.

-Chase Freedom has a 10K bonus for spending $500 and another 2.5K bonus for adding a free additional user card. You can earn up to 5 points per dollar in rotating categories. If you have a Chase checking account you’ll earn 5.5 points per dollar in rotating categories and 1.1 points per dollar elsewhere. Note that while you can earn points on this card, you or your spouse needs an Ink Bold, Ink Plus, or Sapphire Preferred card to actually transfer points into miles, otherwise you will only get 1% cash back.

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Evolving; Thoughts On Glitches

Friday, May 16th, 2014

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Gift cards that have evolved.

I’ve written about Evolve Money several times this year.  It’s a great service that’s intended to let you use debit cards to pay bills like your mortgage, property tax, auto loan, health insurance, utilities, store charge card (Gap, Macy’s, Target, etc).

I wrote about buying Visa gift cards from Staples to pay bills with Evolve to get miles for dirt cheap. (Of course Bluebird continues to work for that as well).

What I neglected to write was what was already brought up more than 3 months ago on DDF, that you can also use credit cards from many banks with Evolve.  The reason for the neglect is simple, it’s not the intended use of the product and I don’t break news on hacks that could last for a long time if they’re not written about explicitly.  I cover glitches like airfare that are always short-lived.  It’s not like $50 first class tickets to Hawaii, all expenses paid Vegas vacationsBahamas vacations, or $300 United (and Delta, El Al, and USAirways) tickets to Israel are going to just stick around because they’re not blogged about. And I talk about some mileage glitches at seminars where the info can be better contained.  But in the wild, wild internet it’s just stupid to break the story on glitches that will be killed by the coverage just for the benefit of a few extra clicks.

A couple weeks ago I covered the news that USAirways wasn’t collecting fuel surcharges on British Airways only because other major sites were covering it as as well and once that happened I felt that it was on borrowed time. Indeed within a week that loophole was plugged.  I posted it here at that point because once it was going to die anyway, my readers ought to benefit from it as well.

I covered the news that my United award hack was incredibly successful despite naysayers saying it would never work. Once it did work people didn’t like that I wrote about it, but it was a simple bet that United wasn’t going to spend the resources to close a loophole that was already closed to people that didn’t listen to me while it was still open. And it still works for those lucky folk.

At any rate many other sites are now posting this Evolve glitch as breaking news. A glitch like Evolve taking credit cards is really one that anyone worth their salt in the mileage game should have figured out on their own months ago even if they weren’t on DDF.  All it entailed was trying 1 bill payment with a credit card instead of a gift or debit card just to make sure that it worked and posted as a purchase and not a cash advance.  That’s barely even thinking outside the box, it’s just making your box a little bigger.

I have no idea how much longer credit card payments will last, but it’s on borrowed time now, so enjoy it while it lasts.  Then again the entire Evolve business model makes little sense.  Especially because the box is bigger than just paying bills you owe.

The truth is that while it’s really nice to be able to use credit card payments to meet minimum spend thresholds for a signup bonus, you’re still better off generating 5x the miles plus cash back thanks to $200 Staples gift cards when you’re not trying to meet a spend threshold.

In short, don’t expect to be spoonfed every aspect of a deal, don’t necessarily believe terms and conditions or what reps tell you, get involved on DDF/make new friends, and learn to expand your box by testing the fences for yourself.

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Register For United MileagePlus Dining And Get 500 Miles

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Register For United MileagePlus Dining And Get 500 Miles

There’s no need to eat out to earn the 500 miles.

Rules:
-Valid for new United MileagePlus Dining members only.
-You must register via link above, create a web login, opt in and remaining opted in to receive emails from MileagePlus Dining with a valid, deliverable email address, and register at least one credit card in your dining account.
-Offer expires July 10, 2014.
-Allow 6–8 weeks for miles to post.

You can also earn 500 miles every time you eat in a participating restaurant within 30 days of registering, up to 2,500 miles.  If you are planning on dining out all you need to do is use your registered card to pay for your meal.  The Chase Freedom card earns 5 or 5.5 points per dollar for up to $1,500 in restaurant (and Lowe’s spending) through 06/30. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card always earns 2.14 points per dollar for all dining and travel purchases and it has no foreign transaction fees.

United miles require activity every 18 months, so this will extend the life of your miles for another 18 months. Chase United Explorer cardholder’s miles never expire for as long as they remain a cardholder.

HT: mdrills, via DDF

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How To Use And Decrypt United’s Powerful Expert Mode

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

-Find more articles like this by clicking on the “Mileage Posts” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
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United.com’s Expert Mode can tell you a lot about a flight. Here’s how to use it.

Step 1: Enable it by clicking this link, logging into your United account, checking to enable expert mode, and then saving your preferences. You’ll only have to do this once though you will always have to be logged into your United account to access Expert mode results.

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Step 2: Search for a paid flight and then click on “Fare Class” which should be highlighted in blue once you enable expert mode.  In this example I searched yesterday for a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv on 08/04/14:

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Let’s zoom in a bit on those expert mode results:

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Here’s what that alphabet soup means for United flight 84:
J9: Paid bucket. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to sell at full fare.
JN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to allow elite members and United cardholders to use standard miles for.
C9, D9, Z9: Paid buckets. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to sell at these fare levels.
ZN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to allow non-elites to use standard miles for.
P0: Paid bucket. United is not willing to sell any business class seats at this discounted level.
PN0: Award bucket. On domestic flights this is the number of seats that United is willing to give to 1K/GS elites as an instant upgrade from an M class fare or to any elites an an instant upgrade from a paid Y or B class ticket. This bucket is also the upgrade bucket for GS elites for all domestic and international upgrades, in this case there are no upgrades available for GS elites either.
R0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow non-elites to have instant upgrades using miles from coach to BusinessFirst. (Also used for complimentary elite upgrades on domestic routes.)
RN0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow elite members to have instant upgrades using miles or upgrade certificates from coach to BusinessFirst. (Also used for complimentary elite upgrades on domestic routes.)
IN0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow Plat/1K/GS elites to redeem Saver level miles for a BusinessFirst seat.
I0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow non-elites/lower tier elites to redeem Saver level miles for a BusinessFirst seat. This is also the only business award bucket that partner airline miles can access.
Y9: Paid bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to sell at full fare.
YN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to allow elite members and United cardholders to use standard miles for.
B9, M9, E9, U9, H9: Paid buckets. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to sell at these non-discounted fare levels.
HN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to allow non-elites to use standard miles for.
Q9, V9, W9, S9, T9, L9, K9: Paid buckets. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to sell at these discounted fare levels.
G0, N0: Paid buckets. United is not willing to sell any coach seats at these discounted levels.
XN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to allow elite members and United cardholders to use saver miles for.
X1: Award bucket. There is 1 coach seat that United is willing to allow non-elites or non-cardholders to use saver miles for. This is also the only coach award bucket that partner airline miles can access.

You’ll notice a few differences for the next flight, United flight 90.
1. United isn’t willing to sell any D or Z paid BusinessFirst seats, this flight will be more expensive to book in business class as the minimum fare class is C. (D0, Z0)
2. United isn’t willing to allow non-elites to use standard miles for BusinessFirst seats on this flight (ZN0)
3. United has 4 seats on this flight for elite members and United cardholders to use saver miles for (XN4)
4. United has no seats on this flight for non-elites or non-cardholders to use saver miles for. And that means no partner awards as well for this flight (X0)

 

Notes:

1. Fare classes can’t be added together.
Just because there is 1 seat in X class doesn’t mean there are 10 seats in XN class. If the X seat is booked the XN class may go down to 8 or it may stay at 9.

2. On a United flight with 3 classes of service there are more letters to know about.

F is full fare paid first class. FN is a first class standard award. A is discounted paid first class. ON is upgrade space into first class. O is a saver first class award.

3. Forget “Remember Me”
If you click “Remember Me” then it will looked like you’re logged in, but after a short period of time you will no longer have access to expert mode results.  I never use remember me as it also messes up my award searches by excluding the elite buckets from the calendar.

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4. A Plan B BusinessFirst saver award requires X or XN class availability. Read all about that awesomeness here as XN class really helps cardholders sit in front of the bus for saver miles.

5. Expert mode can only be accessed when searching for paid flights.  However you can verify the results by searching for an award flight.

I searched for awards and clicked on “Nonstop flights only.”  Note that nonstop button will only work if United.com can find nonstop awards for that day.  If it doesn’t find any for that day you need to find a day with awards and then resubmit the nonstop search with that date.

Here’s what it looks like from a cardholder’s account. As you can see, there are saver awards available on both flights.

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Here’s what it looks like from a non-cardholder’s account. As you can see, there is a saver award available on only the earlier flight, UA84:

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Of course those screens don’t give the complete picture as they don’t say how many awards are available.  As you now know from expert mode the XN (elite or cardholder) bucket has 9 seats on UA84 and 4 seats on UA90.

The X bucket has just 1 seat on UA84 and no seats on UA90.

6. A quick way to verify if United.com recognizes you as a cardholder:

If your card is properly linked you will see the following message that your miles won’t expire as long as you remain a cardholder:

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If your card isn’t properly linked then you will see the following message that your miles will expire if you don’t have activity every 18 months:

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7. Award space and fare buckets are extremely fluid. 

Those buckets chang multiple times per day based on people booking up awards and United releasing more awards as the flight gets closer when they feel they won’t sell the seats to someone else.  Newark to Tel Aviv is one of the toughest awards in United’s entire network, but by diligently checking award space and by having a United card you can vastly improve your odds of nabbing seats.

8. The Chase United Explorer card and the United Club card are the only currently available credit cards that gives you access to expanded award ticket availability.  If you have the discontinued Presidential Plus card that will work as well.

The extra availability is significant, I’ve booked saver awards to Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles this year where there was lots of space for cardholders while there was none for non-cardholders.

The cards have other great benefits besides expanded award space:
-Your miles won’t expire as long as you remain a cardholder.
-It is one of the only cards that comes with primary rental car CDW insurance. Almost every other card only has secondary coverage when you rent a car in your home country. This means that if you damage your rental vehicle you must file the claim with your own personal insurance policy first, and only if they won’t cover the damage will the credit card cover the damage. Even additional cardholders get primary coverage when they rent.

With primary rental car CDW insurance you will not have to file anything with your own insurance company. Chase will cover the entire bill for any damage to your rental car. Just be sure to decline the rental agency’s CDW coverage. This primary coverage applies in every country in the world.
The Sapphire Preferred is what I use in Israel and other foreign countries, but that’s just because of the 2.14 points per dollar it awards on car rentals. In the US, the United card is the way to go.
-First checked bag free.
-Priority boarding so that you’ll have space for your carry-ons.
-No foreign transaction fees.
-2 free United passes per year.
-10K mileage bonus every year that you spend $25K, a 40% mileage bonus which means you’ll have earned 1.4 miles per dollar everywhere. Spending $25K in a year also waives the requirement to spend $2.5K on United flights to get Silver status, $5K on United flights to get Gold status, and $7.5K on United flights to get Platinum status. You only need to fly the 25K, 50K, or 75K miles like in the good old days.
-Double miles on United purchases.
-Elite members can get upgrades on coach award tickets on upgrade eligible routes if they have a United card.

The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.

-You can also get the business version of the Chase United Explorer card.  Just click on “Are you a business owner” in the top-right of the Explorer card link.

-Want a 2nd free bag, a 50% mileage bonus per dollar spent everywhere, United club access for you and your entire family, post-security terminal access without a ticket, priority baggage handling and priority security access, and waived award expedite fees? The United Club card comes with all of that.  Just click on the MileagePlus Club tab on the right side of the Explorer card application page.

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Other Chase consumer cards you can apply for at the time as the United card using multiple browsers include the Chase Sapphire Preferred (40K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, no fee the first year, plus 2.14 points per dollar on travel and dining with no Foreign Exchange fees), Chase British Airways (50K signup points and 10% off BA flights), Chase Southwest (50K signup points), and Chase Freedom (which gives 5 points per dollar in rotating categories and 10% bonus points if you have a Chase checking account).

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both give 60,000 signup points if you apply this month and offer 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and office supply stores, 2 points per dollar for gas and lodging, no foreign exchange fees, free lounge visits, and a waived annual fee for the first year.
The Chase Ink Cash business card gives 30,000 signup points if you apply this month and has no annual fee.

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United Plan B: Pretty Much The Most Awesome, Underutilized, And Underappreciated Thing Ever.

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Update: The article below was written before the massive #UnitedUnfriendly devaluation that happened on 02/01/14.  However it’s worth noting that even post apocalypse, DDF’ers are reporting that Plan B is still alive and kicking.  Plan B makes your United miles a whole lot more valuable if you take the time to understand how it works and utilize it properly.

Note that as the article below was written prior to the devaluation, the rates and examples listed were with pre-devaluation numbers that I haven’t updated.
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Originally posted on 12/12/13:

I’ve been booking Continental and United award tickets using Plan B for years. I blogged about in passing here in 2009 and here in 2011. I blogged about it still working with United last year as well.  Several DDF members have used it over the years and they have flown in business class every time!

Business class award tickets are typically a sweet spot in award redemption charts.  While you can fly to Israel for $1,000 in coach you would have to shell out 5 times that to fly in business.  Whereas with miles the difference is much smaller, United currently charges 40K miles for a one-way coach ticket or 60K miles for a one-way business ticket.  (Note that for awards booked after 01/31 those rates will go up to 42.5K in coach and 70K in United business.)

Of course that creates a lot of competition for business class award seats which is why they’re harder to find than coach award seats.  Nonstop business class awards to Tel Aviv are among the most challenging award tickets out there.  Not that it’s impossible, I recently booked a friend who is in the air right now on a USAirways business saver award to Tel Aviv and is returning in 2 weeks on a United business saver award.  But it means constantly checking to see if award seats have opened up and possibly waiting until the last minute to book.

And that’s where Plan B comes in handy.  It works as long as there is United saver coach award availability.  I find that I have the best luck booking a Plan B using this web support callback link. Ex-Continental agents staff that line and some are still familiar with this procedure that survived the merger.

Unfortunately Plan B is just the internet name for this type of ticket, there’s no easy way to describe what you want to an agent. You need to tell the agent that you found United coach saver award availability but would like to purchase and be issued a business class saver award, be seated in coach, and waitlisted for a business class seat.  I often tell the agent that I have done this in the past over the phone and was wondering if they know how to set it up.

At this point most agents will think you’re nuts and say that no such thing exists.

Indeed in preparation for this post I had the web support desk call me and the first agent just laughed at my suggestion.  She told me to book the ticket online and call in to waitlist for a business class seat. However that is NOT what I wanted as that would not have the benefits of a Plan B booking, as I’ll soon explain.

Then I called the 1K Premier line and the agent was more courteous but couldn’t help me.  Afterward I used the web support callback link again (I always take note of an agent’s name when I play HUCA (Hang up, Call again) so that I don’t bother the same incompetent agent again) and got Gary H, who turned out to be fantastic.

At first Gary said he recalled such a thing being possible in the Continental days but he hadn’t heard of it being done in years and he wouldn’t even know how to go about doing it.

Then he asked me to hang on while he was looking up documentation.  He found the exact procedure and proceeded to book my Plan B award!

He correctly debited my account the 60,000 miles needed for a one-way business class seat to Tel Aviv while he seated me in coach.  He said that I would need to call back in after the itinerary had ticketed (United itineraries can take anywhere from a minute to an hour to be ticketed with an eticket number) in order to waitlist for the business class seat.  However just 2 minutes later I actually got a call back from Gary letting me know that my reservation had ticketed and that he had waitlisted me for a business class seat!  Now that’s great customer service!

I asked him if there was anything I could tell an agent in the future so that they don’t think I have mushrooms growing out of my head.  He said they have a documentation system called CORE.  In there an agent can lookup the procedure for award waitlist guidelines and it will tell them how to manually issue a business class saver award when there is only coach saver available. If you have to refer an agent to look there I’d tell them that a previous agent who booked such a ticket for you told you to reference that system in case you have any problems in the future.

If you have correctly setup your ticket it will look something like this online:

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Notice how I was charged the full 60,000 miles, the business class rate.  However my fare class is Economy.  The letter code for a coach saver award is either X or XN.  X refers to saver coach award space for general members. XN is expanded saver coach award space for logged-in elites and people who have the Chase United Explorer credit card. (That’s an incredibly valuable benefit of having the card, especially for a Plan B award as you’ll have expanded coach, business, and first class saver award space as well.  The card also gets you free baggage, priority boarding, and it might just be the only credit card in the world that gives free primary car rental insurance in every country in the world-even in your home country and Israel.  Almost every other card only gives weak secondary coverage in your home country).

Then notice how IN class is requested.  I class refers to saver business class award space. IN is expanded saver business class award space for Platinums/1Ks/Global Services.

If you have I or IN class requested AND you were debited the miles for a business class saver award then you’ve properly setup a Plan B award!

If business saver award space opens then you may be automatically moved into business or there may be a message to call in to clear you from the waitlist.  It’s important to keep checking as it may or may not automatically clear you and when you see that it says the space is available you should call in right away.

But what happens if that space never opens up?  The system will stop checking at 24 hours before your flight for that space you need.

Because you paid for a business class seat you are considered a displaced business class passenger.  Thus you should be prioritized ahead of all upgraders trying to nab business seats on the day of departure.

Unfortunately the system is not setup to automatically give you that priority, only an airport agent can do that.  So show up at the airport as early as possible for your flight (or if possible you can go to the airport 24 hours before your flight) and explain to the agent that you are not upgrading with miles but you paid for a business class ticket and are only seated in coach.  This is true as you have paid the full business class rate already.  If the agent doesn’t understand this you should ask for a supervisor, it’s crucial they understand that you’re not a coach passenger trying to upgrade with miles but a displaced business class passenger.

The agent should give you “PR-1 status” which gives you top-priority status and moves you to the very top of the upgrade standby list, ahead of employees and everyone else trying to upgrade with miles+cash.  If one agent won’t put you on the list as a displaced Business class passenger with PR-1 status then find another one who will.  With this status the odds of you getting a business class are very high if there are still open seats (or if anybody no-shows).

If the agents in the airport are all clueless you should direct them to look up “gg onestandby” in their system (they’ll know exactly what this is) and look around lines 85-89 which spell out the details of the procedure for this award. (Parenthetically, when trying to get a gate pass to access a club as a United Club cardholder when I’m not flying I sometimes need to tell an agent to look up “gg checkpoint line 53″ which instructs agents to give you a security pass for you and your guests to access post-security United and USAirways clubs even if you aren’t flying.)

If they don’t believe that you really paid the business class award rate then have them call up the reward desk.  Like I said, it’s good to leave plenty of time at the airport for Plan B tickets.

I can’t stress enough how imperative it is to have this setup correctly: If you don’t get an airport agent to properly give you top-priority status then there is very little chance that you will be flying in business class.

With the United app or on United.com you can search for the upgrade standby list for any flight by searching under flight status.  You will see how many business class seats are still open and you should see your name at the very top of that list.  If you’re on a Plan B ticket and are at the bottom of the business class upgrade list then the agent didn’t give you the right priority status as a displaced business class passenger.

Everyone I know who has properly setup and followed through on a Plan B ticket had flown in business class.  But what if you don’t clear?  Just contact United after the flight (Again, I’d use the web support callback link) and they will refund the extra miles you paid for business class.  For EWR-TLV this means a refund of the extra 20,000 miles each way they charge to fly in business saver over coach saver.

Of course this also works on connecting flights.  If you are on a connecting flight you should be sure to be waitlisted for First Class on all of your flights.  Say you are coming from Los Angeles, even if you clear into first class on the LAX-EWR flight, as long as you don’t clear on the international EWR-TLV flight you will still get the 20,000 miles each way refund!

All of this only works with United flights, it won’t work for partner flights (partner flights can be on the same itinerary, you just can’t use Plan B for them).

This Plan B process would also work for routes with global first class that has only coach or business saver awards available (Tel Aviv does not have Global First class).

Happy flying!  And when you’re flying in a lie-flat business class seat you’re guaranteed to be a whole lot happier, especially when you’re just using the miles you got from opening a single credit card :D

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22 Things To Keep In Mind When Using Avios

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Related:
-Chase British Airways Visa:
Earn 50,000 Avios for spending $2,000.
-Click to view Direct Avios Flights From Chicago
-Click to view Direct Avios Flights From Los Angeles
-Click to view Direct Avios Flights From Miami
-Click to view Direct Avios Flights From NYC
-Click to view Direct Avios Flights From Philadelphia
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BA has an excellent mileage program with their Avios thanks to award flights from just 4.5K Avios each way with no last-minute booking fees and practically no cancellation fees.  Booking a last-minute flight that would otherwise cost $1,500 or require 150,000 Capital One points feels great, but it helps to know some of the program’s quirks though.

Read the BA knowledgebase for program basics, then come back and read this.

1. If you’re flexible with availability, use AA.com to help find award availability. 

By limiting the AA.com calendar to nonstop flights only you can quickly figure out exactly what BA.com will find.  Remember that BA.com will only book MileSAAver awards.

Also remember that AA.com does not search all partner airlines.  It can search for flights on AA, Air Berlin, Alaska, BA, Finnair, Open Skies, Qantas, Royal Jordanian Airlines, and USAirways. AA.com does not search Aer Lingus, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, JAL, LAN, Malaysia, TAM, Qatar, S7.

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2. Search BA.com segment by segment.

The BA site is downright terrible at finding any flight that requires a connection.  That means if you want to fly from Vancouver to Boston you’re going to have to search for 2 separate tickets.  As BA charges a flat rate for each flight segment you’ll pay the same amount of Avios whether you book 2 flights on 1 ticket or on 2 tickets.

Search for a paid flight on Orbitz to find possible connection cities to know which segments to search for.

Searching from Vancouver to JFK:

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Searching from Vancouver to Boston:

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Searching from JFK to Boston:

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3. Call BA to book airlines not bookable on BA.com and ask for a fee waiver.

BA.com can’t book awards on Aer Lingus, Alaska, or LAN.  There are lots of Avios bargains with those airlines (Boston-Dublin for 12.5K, Seattle-Kauai for 12.5K, Buenos Aires-Iguassu Falls for 7.5K, etc) but you need to call to book.  Be sure to get them to waive the phone booking fee.

You can also call to piece together a flight from JFK to Berlin to Tel Aviv onto 1 ticket.  If you’re willing to take a long connection or an overnight stopover BA.com won’t find that when you search for JFK-Tel Aviv but you may find JFK-Berlin and Berlin-Tel Aviv award space when searched separately.  Either way you’ll pay the same 15K Avios for each segment, but when booked together you’ll save on German taxes that only apply to non-connecting flights.  Call and BA will be able to book both segments on one ticket to avoid those taxes.

4. Book one-way tickets.

When you book one way tickets you’ll have more flexibility to make changes if you only want to change or cancel one-way and not the other.
You may also find better award availability and better award pricing with one-way tickets.

5. Avoid booking 2 partner airlines on 1 ticket.
Booking at least 2 partner airlines will generally cause much higher award pricing. Book the segments on each airline separately to avoid that situation. Bonus perk is that BA.com will find more flight options when searching each segment separately.

6. Know when to book a lap child and when not to.
-DO NOT book a lap child on a domestic flight. Just have the child added by American or USAirways at the counter, free of charge. Be sure to have a passport or birth certificate to prove your child is under 2.

-DO NOT book a lap child on a flight to Canada. You can add a lap child at the airport or on the phone with American or USAirways either for free or for just a few dollars.

-DO book a lap child at the time of booking for international travel. BA is very generous in only charging 10% of the Avios instead of 10% of the full fare ticket.
When we flew with Rafi to Buenos Aires in first class in 2012, American wanted $1,000 just to bring him on as a lap child. BA charged just 15,000 Avios. Just be sure to book the domestic portion separate from the international portion so that you don’t pay 10% for the domestic legs where the child shouldn’t need to pay anything.

7. Use Finnair to add your American mileage number onto a BA ticket booked from your account.

If you have elite status or just a credit card with AA you may deserve benefits like better seating, free bags, priority checkin, priority boarding, etc.
However if you booked the BA ticket out of your account then the AA website won’t let you switch your BA mileage number to your AA number to get those benefits.

I wrote about the workaround over a year ago and it continues to work like a charm for me.

8. Get your American/USAirways record locator and select seats.
Your BA record locator will be different that your American/USAirways record locator. Just go to manage your booking and click on “View or change seats for this flight.” You’ll be sent over to the partner airline site to choose seats and view your record locator.

9. Have lots of bags? Look into business.
-Flying in coach with 3 bags from Chicago or NYC to Toronto: 4,500 Avios plus $2.50 tax plus $210 in bag fees.
-Flying in business with 3 bags from Chicago or NYC to Toronto: 9,000 Avios plus $2.50 tax plus no bag fees.

10. Business can be twice or three times as much as coach.
-Within the US, business class costs three times what coach costs except on flights like JFK to/from Los Angeles and S. Francisco which have 3 classes of service. On those flights business class is twice coach and first class costs 3 times coach.
-Internationally business class generally costs twice what coach costs.
-Alaska business class always costs triple coach. So Los Angeles-Cabo in business is 15K on AA or 22.5K on Alaska.
-USAirways business class within North America and northern Latin America is triple coach, otherwise its double coach. So JFK-Toronto in business is 9K on American but Philadelphia-Toronto in business is 13.5K on USAirways.

11. Don’t change flights, cancel them. And do it online.
The fee to cancel or change a BA Avios ticket is $55 online or $80 over the phone.
However online you can cancel an award for just the lower of $55 or the taxes paid.
For a domestic ticket that means a cancellation fee of just $2.50 (nonstop one-way), $5 (connecting one-way or nonstop round-trip), or $10 (connecting round-trip).

That’s another reason I like one-ways, I can cancel and rebook the return flight for just $2.50 and I won’t lose my outbound flight. That’s a $55 savings.

Flight cancellations must be done more than 24 hours before the time of departure or else you will not get your Avios back.

After cancelling a flight just logout of your BA account, and then log back in and the points should be back in your account.

Note that you have to call to cancel a flight within 24 hours of when you booked it.  There is no fee for award cancellations done over the phone if they were booked within the past 24 hours.

12. Search multiple airports.
Searching NYC can pull up different results than searching EWR, JFK, or LGA, so search all 4 of those.

13. Be cognizant of nearby airports.
Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach may be only 42 miles away, but a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago is 10K Avios in coach or 30K in first. A flight from West Palm Beach to Chicago is 7.5K Avios in coach or 22.5K in first.
That’s because the former is band 3 award and the latter is a band 2 award. More on award bands in the knowledgebase.

Award space from Philadelphia to Miami will often be much better than from NYC, it may be the same rate, but searching surrounding airports can open up more flight options.

14. BA.com glitches.
No, when you see BA doesn’t have the rights to fly this route” that’s not a glitch, that just means you search for a cash ticket instead of switching to an Avios ticket.

But there are lots of other glitches. Sometimes those work out in your favor (though that entails several other great stories that I’ll be saving for another time ;) ) while other times it will mean that searching for the same flight with the same date will give different results, definitely an annoyance.

Or if you click change when you’re searching for an award without going back to the home page but it gives unexpected results:

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That’s because the change calendar during the booking process spits out the international version of the date with May 7th being 07/05/14 but when you search it then gives you the results for July 5th.

That’s an easy fix, just manually type in 05/07/14 instead of clicking May 7th on the calendar before searching.

Another glitch is the tax display when you click on a flight on the search results page.  That rate can be off by hundreds of dollars in either direction and it fools lots of people.  Always continue onto the next page to view the true tax rate.

15. Transfer times.
You can transfer points from AMEX Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards instantly into British Airways, so keep them by AMEX or Chase until you need to book a flight.
There are 3 Chase cards that can transfer points into miles: Chase Sapphire PreferredChase Ink Plus , and Chase Ink Bold. (The Ink cards currently earn 60K points for a limited time only).  Cards like Chase Freedom and Chase Ink Cash can’t directly transfer points into miles, you’ll have to transfer those points to a card that belongs to you or your spouse that can transfer points into miles.

Just make a transfer, logout of your BA account, and then log back in and the points should be waiting for you.

Starwood Starpoints transfer at a 20K:25K ratio, though transfers can take 2-12 days.

16. Be aware of when fuel surcharges apply.
There are no fuel surcharges for flights on: Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, Alaska, LAN, TAM, and USAirways. There are also no fuel surcharges for American flights within the western hemisphere and for Qantas flights within Austrlia. Fuel surcharges for intra-Europe flights are also typically quite low. Fuel surcharges for travel on Cathay Pacific aren’t too bad while fuel surcharges to fly on British Airways are just criminal.

If you want to fly on British Airways you should be using USAirways miles for those flights, as they currently don’t charge fuel surcharges.

17. Mileage expiration

As long as you have activity every 36 months your Avios don’t expire. You don’t lose Avios by closing their credit card.

Need to extend your Avios quickly? Just book a domestic 4.5K award, wait a day, cancel it for the $2.50 fee, and your Avios are good for another 36 months.

Lost Avios due to expiration? Call them up and they’ll often reactivate them for free!

18. The Iberia Shuffle
If you want to fly on Iberia you can save hundreds of dollars per ticket by transferring BA Avios into Iberia Avios.
To do so you’ll need to have an Iberia account open for 90 days and you’ll have to activate it by transferring 1,000 points from AMEX to Iberia before you can transfer BA Avios into Iberia Avios.

19. Family Pooling
You can pool a households Avios together.
Frankly I’ve never looked into this option too much as Avios award start at just 4.5K anyway and becoming a household creates rules on who you are allowed to redeem for and how points are pulled out of each account that it seems like more of a headache than it’s worth.

If you use a household account and disagree though I’d love to hear about it.

20. Award Bands make for interesting results based on the connecting city.

In general nonstop flights are going to be cheaper than connecting flights with Avios.  You can see the “related articles” in the beginning of this post with links to lists of all nonstop flight options from 5 major cities in the US.

However there are exceptions:
-Los Angeles to Sydney nonstop is a band 9 award, or 100,000 Avios round-trip.
-Los Angeles to Honolulu is a band 4 award, or 25,000 Avios round-trip. Honolulu to Sydney is a band 6 award, or 50,000 Avios round-trip. That’s a total of just 75,000 Avios round-trip when booked separately…

-Los Angeles to Dublin via JFK=65,000 Avios round-trip.
-Los Angeles to Dublin via Chicago=60,000 Avios round-trip.
-Los Angeles to Dublin via Boston=50,000 Avios round-trip.

 

21. Award availability is fluid.
This has nothing to do with Avios specifically, but some folks seem to think that if they check award space and see nothing then that’s it.

Award space is always very fluid and can open up as the flight gets closer. You just have to keep checking a few times a day to make sure you can grab it when it opens.

22. Be willing to stopover.
Again, not unique to Avios, but something that applies to it in particular.

There might not be availability JFK to Hawaii on the day you need it, but there may be if you stopoff in Los Angeles for a night.
There might not be availability JFK to Tel Aviv on the day you need it, but there may be if you stopoff in Berlin for a night.

As BA charges by the segment you can take as many “stopovers” as you want without paying extra by just booking separate tickets for each flight. Creating your own adventure can be a blast and it can help you find award space when it might not otherwise exist.

Have more tips? Let’s hear about them in the comments!

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Why Is BA.com Mispricing Some Round-Trip Avios Awards?

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Update: As commenters point out, this pricing is intentional.  After booking dozens of BA flights you’d think I’d realize this by now, but if you book at least 2 BA partner airlines on the same ticket then the pricing will be based on the multi-carrier award chart which is completely different than the low per-segment Avios pricing we’re used to.

At any rate, the lesson remains the same, book one-way (or one-segment tickets) if needed to avoid that situation.

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Related: The Chase British Airways Visa Signature offers 50,000 Avios for spending $2K. Points are also transferable to BA from Chase UR, AMEX MR, and Starwood.
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DDF techie wiz BAHayman asked me why the following round-trip itinerary is pricing out at 90K Avios and frankly I’m stumped:

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When booked as 2 one-ways the price is correct at 64,500 Avios total.

Tel Aviv-Berlin is 10K, Berlin-JFK is 20K as it should be:

 

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LGA-Philadelphia is 4.5K and Philadelphia-Tel Aviv is 30K, as it should be:

 

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I was able to replicate this for several dates.  Anyone have any idea as to what the BA.com pricing logic might be?

In the meantime as I wrote in the BA knowledgebase (albeit for other reasons), book one-ways when using Avios.  Sometimes you’ll even have to book the ticket above as 4 separate tickets to get BA.com to show the flights, but the price will still be 64.5K Avios.

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Reminder: Earn 3.21 Points Per Dollar With Sapphire Preferred At Restaurants Today

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Today and on every first Friday of every month you will earn triple points with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card on all dining purchases. Normally you earn 2.14 points per dollar on dining, airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals.

Together with the 7% annual dividend that means 3.21 points per dollar. For example if you spend $100 in any restaurant you’ll get 300 points on your next statement plus 21 additional points as part of your annual dividend.

Dining on the Sapphire Preferred card includes all sit-down restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, catering, bars, lounges, and more.

Note that through June 30th you can earn 5 points per dollar when eating out with your Chase Freedom card, so if you aren’t going to max out the $1,500 in quarterly spending at Lowe’s you’ll be better off using Freedom at restaurants. That bumps up to 5.5 points per dollar if you have or will open a Chase checking account in 2014.

Don’t want to eat out today? Ask your favorite eatery if they sell gift cards or will allow you to have a credit balance in your name and lock bonus points by purchasing them today!

Need to pay a caterer? Do it today and pocket the extra miles!

Are you outside of the USA? Not to worry, the Sapphire Preferred card does not charge any foreign transaction fees. (Which also makes it the best card for car rentals in Israel: 2.14 points per dollar, free primary CDW insurance with no deductible, and no foreign use fees).

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USAirways Not Collecting Fuel Surcharges For Travel On British Airways

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

I’ve flown on tons of airlines, but never on British Airways.  They may be a great airline with some of the best kosher meals in the sky and in the lounges, but they impose such heavy fuel surcharges that I’ve never had much of a desire to fly on them.

Don’t get me wrong, British Airways runs a good mileage program as long as you stick to airlines without fuel surcharges.  That includes flights on Alaska, Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, LAN, USAirways, American flights within the Western Hemisphere, Qantas flights within Australia, etc. Flights within Europe and on Cathay Pacific also have low surcharges.

But flights on British Airways are just ridiculous.  JFK-London-Tel Aviv and back in first class is 195,000 Avios plus $1,054.

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I’ve heard through the grapevine about USAirways not collecting fuel surcharges for BA flights but posting something like that is sure to get it killed.  I think it could have lasted a while had it stayed within the grapevine and talked about at seminars and the like. However lots of major websites and blogs are covering this story now, so I’m posting it now as well as it will surely die soon anyway.

BA forces airlines like Alaska and American to collect fuel surcharges for their flights, something that other airlines don’t do.  You can use LAN kilometers to book BA flights without fuel surcharges, but that got much less attractive after Starwood slashed the overly generous transfer ratio to them.

I called USAirways to hold the first class itinerary pictured above and was quoted 180,000 miles plus $158.70 in tax and $50 award processing.  In business class it would have been 120,000 miles.

The easiest way to search for availability for BA flights is on AA.com. Once you find what you want just call USAirways to book.  You can’t book BA flights on USAirways.com. Be aware that USAirways has lots of incompetent agents, so it may take a few calls to find a rep who knows how to book BA flights.

You can transfer Starpoints to USAirways miles at a 20K:25K ratio.

You can transfer AMEX MR points at a 1:1 ratio into Air Canada Aeroplan and then from Air Canada to USAirways via Points.com. Up to 100,000 miles can be transferred out of one Aeroplan account per year and 100,000 miles would yield 84,011 USAirways miles.

It’s a great deal, enjoy it while it lasts as it won’t last long.  And bear in mind that while you can hold tickets with USAirways for 3 days, they can add fuel surcharges into the quote until you actually confirm your ticket.

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$200 Visa Gift Cards Now Available At Staples.com; Miles For Under Half A Cent Each

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Update #1: The Visa gift cards are all pouring into my house, my mailman must think I’m nuts :D
Some notes:
1. I had no problem paying for Visa gift cards with Staples gift cards online. That means if you have a Chase Freedom card you can buy Staples gift cards from Lowe’s and earn 5 or 5.5 points per dollar and then buy Visa gift cards online.  Of course if you have a Chase Ink Visa you can earn 5 points per dollar plus 1% cash back directly from Staples or Staples.com
2. Don’t order more than 10 Visa gift cards per order.
3. EvolveMoney makes these ridiculously easy to cash out online without any fees.
  Just be sure allow at least 10 minutes between paying the same bill for the same amount of money when using Evolve. Otherwise the funds on the gift card will be frozen for about a week.

Originally posted on 04/28:
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$200 Visa Gift Card Linky

Total with fees is $206.95 with free shipping.  These have always been available in stores, but they can be hard to find at some stores.  Now you can have them shipped right to your home for free.

-If you have the Visa Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Cash then you can register for 1% cash back at visasavingsedge.com.  You’ll get a $2.07 rebate on your statement, dropping the price to $204.88 per $200 card.  The 1% cash back is valid without limits on all $200+ purchases from Staples stores or Staples.com.

Don’t have an Ink card? It’s one of the best mileage cards you can get. Learn more on how to get one and the benefits of having one in this post.

Only have an Ink Mastercard, not an Ink Visa? This is still a great deal, but you just won’t get the 1% cash back.  If you apply for a new Ink card then it will be an Ink Visa by default and you’ll get the signup bonus for it as well.

-With an Ink card you’ll earn 5 points per dollar, or 1,035 Ultimate Rewards points on each Visa card.  At a cost of $4.88 that’s like buying points at 0.47 cents each.  On the Bold and Plus cards you can earn 5 points on dollar on $50,000 in annual spending (250,000 potential points per card per year), on the Cash card it’s capped at $25,000 of annual spending (125,000 potential points per card per year).

Cashing them out:
The pin on the Visa gift card is the last 4 digits of the card number, no need to set anything.
-You can cash out the Visa cards using EvolveMoney to pay bills like your mortgage, property tax, auto loan, insurance, store charge card (Gap, Macy’s, Target, etc).  There is no fee for this.
-You can load Visa cards to your Bluebird card at a WalMart ATM machine.
-You can load Visa cards to your Bluebird card with a WalMart cashier or customer service.  Just say you want to use your debit card, no need to mention that it’s a gift card…
-You can buy a money order with the Visa card at any store that accepts debit cards as payment (except the post office).
-You can pay your credit card bill at WalMart with BillPay at Customer Service.
-You can send the funds from the Visa card to a friend via Amazon Payments.

Or just use the cards for your everyday spending to earn 5 points per dollar everywhere!

Why should you buy points at .47 cents each?
-You can use 25,000 points transferred to Hyatt for a $1,500 villa in the Maldives.  That costs you $117.50 at .47 cents per mile.  With Hyatt points and cash this category 6 redemption is also available for 12.5K points plus $150.  That’s enough for a stay at other incredible hotels like the Grand Hyatt Kauai and the Andaz Maui at Wailea.
-You can use 30,000 points transferred to Korean for a round-trip to Hawaii on Alaska or Hawaiian, for example nonstop from JFK to Honolulu. That costs you $141 at .47 cents per mile
-You can use 9,000 points transferred to BA for a free round-trip short-haul flight like NYC to Montreal or Miami to the Caribbean/Mexico. That costs you $42 at .47 cents per mile
-You can use 15,000 points transferred to BA for a free round-trip medium-haul flight like NYC/Philadelphia to Miami. That costs you $70.50 at .47 cents per mile
-You can use 25,000 points transferred to BA for a free round-trip flight like from the west coast to Hawaii or from Boston to Dublin. That costs you $117.50 at .47 cents per mile
-You can use 30,000 points transferred to Southwest for about $500 worth of paid flights. That costs you $141 at .47 cents per mile
-You can use 85,000 points transferred to United for a round-trip to Israel. That costs you $400 at .47 cents per mile
-You can use 160,000 points transferred to Korean for a round-trip in Kosmo Suites class to Asia. That costs you $752 at at .47 cents per mile. That’s a flight that would normally cost $20,000.  Just be sure to enjoy the open bar with $200 bottles of scotch :D

HT: jj1000, via DDF

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Visa Gift Card Special At Staples Stores This Week

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Been meaning to write about this since last week but haven’t got around to it between traveling with the family and Passover festivities that run through next week.

Through 04/19 you can get a bonus $20 Visa gift card via Easy Rebate when you buy $300 in Visa gift cards in Staples stores.  Officially there’s a rebate limit of 1 per address.

Lots of ways to play this one.  A $100 Visa card sells for $105.95 and a $200 Visa card sells for $206.95.

If you registered your AMEX cards for $20 off $100 at Staples then that’s definitely the way to go.  If you registered 3 AMEX cards for example then buy a $100 and $200 card in one transaction and have them split the transaction payment between the 3 AMEX cards.

Total cost would be $312.90 less $60 from AMEX less $20 Easy Rebate=$232.90 for $300 in cards. Plus the points of course!

If you have an Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Ink Cash Visa card then you can get 5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar plus 1% cash back with Visa SavingsEdge cash back.

Even without the $20 rebate it’s worth buying Visa gift cards at Staples thanks to 5 points per dollar plus 1% cash back, but with the $20 rebate it’s a bargain.

There are lots of ways to unload Visa gift cards. The PIN is just the last 4 digits of the card number:
-Upload them to your Bluebird card at a WalMart ATM machine.
-Upload them to your Bluebird card with a WalMart cashier or customer service.  Just say you want to use your debit card, no need to mention that it’s a gift card…
-Buy a money order at any store that accepts debit cards as payment (except the post office).
-Pay your credit card bill at WalMart with BillPay at Customer Service.
-Send funds to a friend via Amazon Payments.
-Pay all kinds of bills like your mortgage, rent, student loans, store credit card, and more using Evolve Money with no fees. Through 04/21 you can even get $5 free on your next bill pay with Evolve Money with code: Save5april

Or just use them for everyday purchases knowing that you already got the cards below face value and that you earned lots of points!

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