Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011 Roundup: All The Credit Card Offers I Didn’t Sign Up For…And Why I Should Have

Ah, New Year’s. The time of year for spending time with friends, and all of us blogger types to brag about how many miles we got this year.

Well screw that. Not this blogger type. In a somewhat more humbling moment, I thought I’d share with you all of the credit card offers (and a couple of other offers) that I did not take advantage of this year for various reasons. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of those that are still available (I know I’ll be doing some of these), but I know that I sometimes start to feel like an idiot when I read what others are doing in regards to sign up bonuses — I start to feel like I’m missing out because I’m not going completely nuts. The hell with that. You should feel good about whatever you’ve signed up for this year. Any free miles is better than none.

So to make myself feel better (?) here’s a list of offers that I have not (or have not yet) taken advantage of (but probably should):

Cheap Flights
I did not go to Stockholm and/or Copenhagen for $149 on Delta, even though that fare was available for a little while. I had just gone to Copenhagen (stopover on trip home from Amsterdam) so I didn’t feel it was necessary. I’ve been to Stockholm and I like it there but, again, not necessary. Having kids also puts a damper on running all over the place.

I did not go to Madrid for $249 on American. I probably should have done that one. As Three Dog Night once sang, I’ve Never Been to Spain.

I did not sign up for the $500 fare to Koror on Korean, though that one was not honored so good thing I didn’t waste a chit with my wife on that.

I did not purchase the $500 BMI flight to Kyrgyzstan. I actually though long and hard about that one. The rest of my family was traveling when that was available and I could’ve gone. But then I shut my eyes and thought about 24 hours in coach on BMI and I just couldn’t do it.

Credit Card Offers

The most obvious one I should have done but have not is the Chase Business Ink BoldĀ® Charge Card. You’ll earn 25,000 points after first purchase, then an additional 25k points after $10,000 in spend in 3 months There was a little while where I felt I was going a bit nuts with the credit cards, so I thought I’d hold off. The two of us will jump on this in January.

The Hawaiian Airlines Bank of America card and the Hawaiian Airlines Bank of Hawaii card have somehow slipped by me (even though I keep writing about it). 35k points after first purchase, $79 annual fee. You can get both cards and your spouse can get them to. Hawaiian then allows you to transfer miles between accounts. Then transfer those miles into Hilton at 1:2 and presto, 280,000 Hilton HHonors points. I’m still ambivalent about these cards, if only because we stay at hotels so rarely (I’ve grown fonder of condos, since it’s the 4 of us), and I’m sitting on 400k Starwood points. Still, with Hawaiian Airlines starting nonstop service to New York, it’s a possibility for us.

Alaska Airlines Visa card gets you 25k miles now (though it’s been 40k in the past), as well as a $99 companion ticket that’s good on any fare (even in first). I’ve passed on this, even though it appears to be somewhat churnable – ie, wait a year – primarily because there’s a $75 annual fee. Alaska miles are very flexible, though, and can be used on Delta, American and others. Still, I’ve passed.

I really don’t know why I haven’t done the United Mileage Plus Explorer card. There’s a 60k offer for elites (check in your account when you sign in to the site), though the regular offer is 25k, plus 5k for adding a user, plus 10k for spending $25k. I’m a Continental/United flyer, so again, I’m not sure why I passed on this. Probably because I felt I had too many Chase cards, but that’s a bit of nonsense. I’ll get this one next year.

I didn’t do the US Airways card, though it’s 40,000 points + up to 10k for a balance transfer (and 10k on each anniversary of having the card). The nice thing about it is that it appears to be churnable (thanks, Gary!). I’ve been too lazy to get involved with that, but I’ll likely do in 2012.

Those are the big ones I haven’t bothered with, to my partial chagrin. I’ll sign up for the Bold for my wife and I to start the year off with 100k Ultimate Rewards points and go from there.

Are there any cards that you haven’t signed up for that you’ll jump on in the new year?

(If you care, the Amex, Bold, and United cards are affiliate offers. The US Airways, Alaska, and Hawaiian cards are not).

American Airlines Will Let You Buy Your Elite Renewal

Are you an American Airlines Gold or Platinum Elite flyer who didn’t quite get enough miles in to hit your Gold or Platinum level again? Fret not, American will let you buy your Elite renewal through February 2013 (details here). Here’s how:

If you’re currently Gold and have flown 20k miles or 24 segments, you can buy Gold back for a year for $409. If you haven’t hit 20k miles or 24 segments, you can have Gold for $559.

If you’re currently Platinum and have flown 40k miles or 48 segments, you can buy back Platinum status for $619. If you haven’t flown those miles or segments, Platinum is yours for $769.

Whether that’s worth it to you will certainly depend on your future travel plans. For many people, paying that amount beats having to do an end-of-year mileage run (which, at this point, it’s probably too late to do anyway). Still, while the $409 seems at the high end of acceptable, I’m not sure Platinum status on AA is worth $769.

AA will launch a website on January 26th to make the renewal purchase, and you’ll have until April 30th to make the decision.

What to Do When Only One of You Gets the Upgrade

Flying down to Florida the other day, 2 notable events occurred:

1) Somewhere over North Carolina I hit Platinum status on Continental for the first time ever. Yay me.

2) I was upgraded, but my wife (nor my children) was not. When I saw the upgrade go through, I told Susan that she could have the seat (lest I appear to be a gentleman, 10 years ago – the only other time this has happened to us – I took the upgrade and she sat in the back. We were not yet married, and I cannot imagine why she married me after I allowed that to happen. I also can’t imagine why I would have sat up front on that America West flight while she sat in coach. Live and learn, I guess…)

Susan protested, and said she would sit in the back with the kids, but I insisted (in no small part because we had friends on the flight and if they saw me sitting in the front with Susan in the back with the children, I would be thought a bigger schmuck than I already am). Susan relented and took 1E. We told the girls that they’d be sitting with daddy, which I consider to be a prize unto itself. They did not consider themselves to lucky. Sage went bananas, screaming that mommy is more fun, etc, that I suck (in so many words), and that her vacation has now been ruined by my presence sitting next to her. Scarlett was a bit more stoic about the whole thing (“Mommy better be sitting with us on the way home.”)

I received the upgrade for our flight tomorrow, and it looks like I’ll be taking the seat up front (unless 1 of the girls is also upgraded as my companion), if only to appease my children, since spending 2 1/2 hours with them on a plane is apparently the worst thing that’s ever happened to them (I swear I let them have whatever crap they wanted out of the Giant Bag O’ Crap ™ we brought with us).

So, I thought I’d ask today’s poll question:

[poll id=”19″]

A Word about Children on Airplanes

I flew down to Florida a few days ago and I was seated next to my 2 5-year-old children. I was seated behind 2 small children. And in front of 2 small children. And across the aisle from 2 small children. That’s what happens when you fly to Florida from New York on Christmas Eve.

Florida flights are funny, because they are really unlike any other domestic trip. A Chicago-to-Kansas City flight on a Monday morning is primarily businessfolk, who board quickly and quietly (assuming they’re not yapping on cellphones) and the cabin is quiet enough to nap in at 7am.

A South Florida-bound flight is chock-a-block with the older folks, the much much younger folks, and their exasperated parents. Continental, which usually leaves 30 minutes to board a domestic flight, allows for 45 minutes for the Florida flights, presumably because the older folks walk slower, require wheelchairs, complain, etc. Unaccompanied minors being sent off to Grandma also require some extra time. And those who fit into none of those categories know to wait until the last second to get on the plane because, let’s be honest, who wants to be surrounded by children and old people?

As roughly 80% of the passengers on the 757-300 were traveling with young children I was thinking about those who suggest that there should be a “family” ghetto (er, “section”) on planes. To that, I say this: Get over yourself. We all have annoying quirks and tendencies. I don’t want to listen to you yap to your co-workers when we’re sitting at the gate. Perhaps you’d like a section of the plane. I don’t like people who bring tuna sandwiches. Or Yankees fans. We all have our issues. So for those of you who want a family section, you are welcome to create one when you fly private.

With that, I’ve created what I think is a helpful mockup of where everyone on the plane should sit.

Which Loyalty Programs Allow Households to Pool Their Miles?

After mentioning yesterday how Hawaiian Airlines allows credit card members to transfer miles between accounts for free, I thought it would be helpful to point out which loyalty programs allow households to share miles between family members:

British Airways: Up to 7 members in a household can pool miles, which was useful for those who took advantage of the 100k credit card bonus earlier this year. The current signup bonus is 50,000 points, which isn’t too shabby either (funny how spoiled we got with that 100k deal), and would allow you and a spouse to quickly get 100,000 Avios points (if you have kids over the age of 18 at home, they, too, can get the credit card and pool the miles with you).

Starwood: SPG allows you to transfer miles between accounts as long as the accounts share the same address. Again, this is useful for the SPG personal Amex card (info here) and SPG business Amex card (info here) since you can pool those bonuses (now 25k miles after $5k in spend).

Delta (sort of): If you have a mailing address in Asia, Delta will allow you to create a shared account, where you can transfer miles between up to 4 accounts. The initial fee is $200, which includes one transfer partner, and an additional $100 for every additional account you add.

Qantas: Qantas will allow you to transfer miles between family members 1 time per 12 months, for up to 100,000 miles (with a 5,000 mile minimum).

Japan Airlines: JAL allows family members to pool their points through their Family Club program. Family members earn miles on their own, but those miles can be pooled. Members must be in North, Central or South America, and a $30 annual fee is required.

Korean Air: Korean Air allows families to transfer miles between accounts. Family members must be registered to a given account in advance of transferring miles.

Etihad: Etihad Guest will allow you to create a Family Membership where up to 8 family members can pool their miles together into one account.

Any others I’ve forgotten?

Brussels Airlines Launches JFK; More Star Alliance Connections to Africa

Brussels Airlines, a Star Alliance member, will launch JFK-Brussels service beginning in June on their A330s.

The service will feature their new business class, which offers the same flat beds as those in SWISS, which most people find to be quite comfortable.

Most importantly, this offers Star Alliance members an additional way to get to Brussels (United offers 3-class 777 service with pretty good award availability from Newark), and take advantage of Brussels Airlines’ extensive connections to Africa. US Airways Africa awards only require 70k miles in coach and 110k in business.

Combine Hawaiian Airlines Accounts for 280,000 Hilton HHonors Points

I’m not the only one who has written in the past about the fantastic deal you get when you sign up for the Hawaiian Airlines Bank of America Visa and the Bank of Hawaii Visa (if you care, those are not affiliate links). There are $79 annual fees for each, but both earn you 35,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles after spending $1k in 4 months, which can be converted to Hilton Hhonors points at a 1:2 ratio). In other words, $158 will get you 140,000 Hilton points. Fantastic. And yes, you can apply for both cards.

But I’m bringing that up because of a little-publicized feature of those credit cards — you can transfer Hawaiian miles between accounts for free if the receiver has a Hawaiian Airlines credit card (details here).

This is helpful if you have a spouse or significant other. Each of you can sign up for both cards, netting you a total of 70,000 Hawaiian miles each. You can then transfer those points for free into one Hawaiian Airlines account.

That account now has 140,000 Hawaiian miles. Those miles can then be transferred into 1 Hilton Hhonors account, giving you 280,000 Hhonors points for only $316. That’s 4 nights at most Waldorf Astoria hotels. Or, if you’re inclined, 37 nights at a Category 1 hotel. That might come in useful after your wife kicks you out of the house for mileage running.

How to Turn Your New Hilton HHonors Gold into Hyatt Diamond Status

I suspect many of you have newly minted Hilton HHonors Gold status thanks to this promo. That’s fantastic, but what if you’re more interested in Hyatt’s Diamond status because of their 4 suite upgrades, lounge access, breakfast and more? You may be in luck.

Hyatt is offering a status challenge to Hilton Gold members that will net you Diamond status if you meet the requirements. They’ll give you trial Diamond status for 60 days. If you stay 12 nights during that period, you’ll be Diamond through February 2013 (plus they’re throwing in 1,000 bonus points per night for the first 6 nights). Not too shabby.

Just email Hyatt Gold Passport here, and they’ll email you back requesting proof (screenshot) of your Hilton status, and they’ll lay out the rules of the challenge.

UPDATE: Or maybe not. Hyatt now seems to be requiring you to show that you have some Hilton activity before they’ll let you do the match. In other words, they’re aware of the Hilton Gold promo. YMMV.

Get Double Southwest Rapid Rewards Points on All Flights from 6 Airports

Southwest is offering double Rapid Rewards points on all flights into or out of Boston, Manchester, Providence, Orlando, Newark and LaGuardia between January 4 and February 15th. Register here. The bonuses don’t count toward Elite qualification or Companion Pass.

You’ll get 24 points (instead of the standard 12 points) per dollar spent on Business Select Fares, 20 points (instead of 10 points) per dollar spent on Anytime Fares, and 12 points (instead of six points) on Wanna Get Away? Fares.

This can be pretty lucrative for A+ members. As someone on Flyertalk points out, a $900 Business Select ticket will earn you 32,400 points, which is enough for a $324 Amazon gift card. Consider this promo to be a 36% rebate in the form of Amazon gift cards.

You must book your travel by December 30th to qualify.

Full T&C:
Terms and Conditions: Member must register for this promotion between December 22, 2011 and December 30, 2011 and registration must be completed prior to commencement of travel. Valid on new reservations only. Member must book between December 22, 2011 and December 30, 2011 for travel into or out of these Southwest destinations: Boston Logan, Manchester, Newark, New York (LaGuardia), Orlando, and Providence. Travel must be completed between January 4, 2012 and February 15, 2012. Member will receive 12 bonus points per dollar spent on Business Select Fares, 10 bonus points per dollar spent on Anytime Fares, and six bonus points on Wanna Get Away? Fares. The maximum number of bonus points a Member can earn for each one-way travel is 12 bonus points per dollar spent on Business Select Fares, 10 bonus points per dollar spent on Anytime Fares, and six bonus points on Wanna Get Away? Fares, regardless if one-way travel includes two qualifying Southwest destinations. Bonus points are in addition to the standard flight points earned through Rapid Rewards. Rapid Rewards account number must be entered at the time of booking. Member will receive bonus Rapid Rewards Points within four days after completion of entire ticket. Award, Companion Pass, Southwest Vacation Packages, Jackpot Deal Packages, and reward travel do not qualify for promotion. Bonus points do not count toward A-List, A-List Preferred, or Companion Pass qualification. Changes made to the itinerary after purchase may eliminate qualification for this promotion. All Rapid Rewards rules and regulations apply.

Get a 30% Points Refund When You Book a Hilton Points & Money Award Stay

Hilton Hhonors is offering a 30% refund on the points you use when you book a Points and Money award stay before January 31st and complete your trip by June 30th. You must register here.

Hilton is also offering this deal on their ridiculously priced “premium room awards” and while 30% points back may help alleviate the pain there, it’s still a miserable value in most cases (though a quick check just showed that the 30% points back in a few cases will make the “premium room” cost the case as a regular award redemption). But that’s not the case at most hotels.

However, the points and cash deal (which I’ve used at Starwood many times), represents a great bargain, generally requiring half the points plus a co-pay ranging between $30-100 depending on the hotel. Availability can be limited, though, so it may take a bit of searching to find a hotel that offers Points & Money. With the the 30% rebate, you’re looking at paying only 35% of the points required for a regular stay, plus the small co-pay. A solid deal.