Free First Class Next Month 2014: Wrap Up and Index

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This is the final post in a monthlong beginners’ series that started here.

You did it! You passed Miles Collecting 101. You should now have the basic tools to accrue millions of miles through credit card sign up bonuses mainly, but also manufactured spending, online shopping, dining, flying cheap paid fares, and many other ways.

So what’s next?

Your mileage education is never complete. There’s always something more you can learn, so check back daily at this blog, and sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts. You should now have the basics down and can understand the more complicated posts.

Keep up with your new hobby, and maybe I’ll see you at the front of the plane in the flying bed across the aisle from mine. It’s your turn to enjoy Free First Class Next Month This Month.

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Here is a link to every post in the series in case you missed one. Reading the whole thing should take less than hour.

Free First Class Next Month 2014: Table of Contents

  1. The Beginners Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles and Points (Introduction)
  2. Signing Up For Travel Loyalty Programs and Award Wallet
  3. Introduction to Travel Credit Cards
  4. Best Current Credit Card Offers
  5. Transferable Points Program Basics
  6. Earning Miles from Flying
  7. Shopping Portals
  8. Manufactured Spending
  9. You Can Earn Miles Doing Anything
  10. Don’t Let Your Miles Expire
  11. Airline Mile and Hotel Point Redemption Basics
  12. Airline Hubs, Alliances, and Award Search Engines
  13. Basics of Redeeming American Airlines Miles
  14. Basics of Redeeming United Miles
  15. Basics of Redeeming Delta Miles
  16. Basics of Redeeming US Airways Miles
  17. Basics of Redeeming British Airways Avios
  18. Basics of Redeeming Alaska Airlines Miles
  19. Basics of Redeeming Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America, and Frontier Miles
  20. Basics of Redeeming Singapore, Aeroplan, Flying Blue, ANA, Lufthansa, and Korean Miles
  21. How to Book Complicated Awards with Segment-by-Segment Searching and Wikipedia
  22. How to Pick the Best Seat with Seat Guru
  23. Setting Kayak Price Alerts to Always Pay the Lowest Price for Flights
  24. Basics of ITA Matrix to Find Cheap Flights and Fuel Surcharge Info
  25. Should You Chase Status?
  26. Cheapskate Lodging with Hotel Promos, Hostels, airbnb, and CouchSurfing
  27. Name Your Own Price on Priceline to Save Hundreds on Hotels
  28. Cancelling Cards
  29. The End

Here are some other good beginners’ posts and resources while you’re at it:

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Citi Double Cash Card, Best Cash Back Card in America

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Citi has just released a new cash back card that is the best on the market:

Citi® Double Cash Card

You earn 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back as you make payments. You should, of course, pay in full every month to avoid interest. This has the added benefit of getting your cash back more quickly.

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The 1% + 1% cash back and no annual fee immediately make the Citi® Double Cash Card the best cash back card on the market.

This card is slightly better than the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express, which offers 2% back and no annual fee, for four reasons:

  1. The Citi Double Cash is a MasterCard, and the Fidelity card is an American Express. MasterCards are more widely accepted.
  2. The Citi Double Cash’s rewards can be redeemed in increments of $25 for statement credits. You have to wait until you have $50 in rewards on the Fidelity card.
  3. The Citi Double Cash offers 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers made in the first four months. (There is a 3% fee on balance transfers.)
  4. The Fidelity card requires you to have a Fidelity account. That’s one more step.

The Citi® Double Cash Card also clearly has a chip in its promotional images. I don’t see whether it’s chip and PIN (more useful) or chip and signature, so I’ll hold off on calling this a benefit.

  • How does the Citi Double Cash Card compare to the Arrival Plus and miles earning cards?
  • Who should not get the Citi Double Cash Card?

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Cheap Alaska Airlines Awards to Mexico and US This Fall

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Alaska Airlines is having a sale on award flights between select cities. One way flights are going for as little as 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles + $5.60 for flights between August 30 and October 31, 2014.

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Many cities are on the sale list. Check out the full list and sale prices here.

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Domestic awards and awards to Canada are discounted from their normal price of 12,500 miles each way to 5,000, 7,500, or 10,000 miles each way. Awards to Mexico are discounted from 15,000 to 12,500 miles.

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The sale cities have excellent award space, which is probably why they are so discounted.

Unfortunately this sale does not pair well with Alaska’s current bonus on purchased miles that allows you to buy up to 56,000 miles for 2.1 cents each. That sale is better if you want to fly Cathay Pacific and Emirates First Class, not Alaska Airlines economy.

  • Which city pairs are being offered for 5,000 miles each?
  • Are there any fees for booking Alaska Airlines award flights at the last second?

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Do This to Avoid an Error When Transferring ThankYou Points

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I got an error when I tried to transfer ThankYou Points to Air France Flying Blue miles. A Citi representative called me to let me know that my transfer would be cancelled, and I could re-initiate at my leisure.

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The problem was that I had put my 10 digit Flying Blue number in when asked my Flying Blue number. My number is written with 10 digits at airfrance.us and on Award Wallet.

The Citi rep who called and left me a message told me that I should have entered a 12 digit Flying Blue number, in my case starting with 00.

How could I have known, I wondered? Good thing this points transfer was just 1,000 points to test out the process and report back to you all like I did with my transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer miles.

The rep further explained that my points transfer would be cancelled, and I’d get my points back. She said I’d need to re-initiate if I wanted to transfer 1,000 points to Flying Blue.

  • How do you transfer from ThankYou Points to Flying Blue Miles?
  • What number should you enter for your Flying Blue account number?
  • Why would you want to do transfer to Flying Blue?

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Trip Report: The Wing (Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge)

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This is the fifth installment of a round-the-world trip report that started here. We pick up in Hong Kong.

In late February, I flew into Hong Kong International Airport for a 23 hour layover that I spent in Macau. (Don’t worry, I’m going to Hong Kong proper in a few weeks!)

I flew into Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class and out of Hong Kong the next day in Cathay Pacific Business Class. Waiting for that Business Class flight, I headed to The Wing, which is Cathay Pacific’s flagship lounge.

Anyone flying Cathay Pacific in a premium cabin can access the lounge, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed into the First Class area since my only First Class flight had landed the day before.

I presented my First Class boarding pass upon entering the lounge and asked: “I flew in in First Class. Can I access the First Class part of the lounge?”

I was allowed into the First Class area and headed straight for the dining room.

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The dining room is large, but the tables are packed in tightly. The room was practically empty, so I would have preferred fewer tables for a more spacious feel.

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A waiter came and presented the a la carte menu, which featured standard Western breakfast dishes like eggs, sausage, bacon, and hash browns.

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I don’t like eggs, so I asked for an order of every side dish, all of which I love. I also ordered an orange juice.

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While I waited for my a la carte order, I checked out the breakfast buffet. The breakfast buffet has pastries, meats, and several Chinese dishes.

  • How is the food?
  • The lounge?
  • The bar?
  • The Cabanas?

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American Express and Discover Have Highest Customer Satisfaction

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The J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study concludes that American Express and Discover have the highest customer satisfaction of any credit card issuers.

The study measures customer satisfaction with credit card issuers by examining six factors:

  • interaction
  • credit card terms
  • billing and payment
  • rewards
  • benefits and services
  • problem resolution

American Express has been #1 for all eight years of the study, and this year for the first time, it was tied for the top spot with Discover.

Interestingly, overall satisfaction with credit cards is at a record-high, surpassing last year’s record high. “Much of the bump is likely due to issuers piling on rewards, hoping to stand out from competitors, says Jim Miller, senior director of banking services at J.D. Power.”

The study has some very interesting nuggets for those of us who primarily use credit cards to earn miles and points.

  • What are my favorite findings of the study?
  • What is my ranking of issuing banks?

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Alaska Airlines Mile Sale 40% Bonus

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Until October 14, 2014, you can buy up to 56,000 Alaska Airlines miles for as little as 2.11 cents each.

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The sale is structured as a bonus on the normal number of miles you’d receive. The bonus is tiered, so the biggest 40% bonus comes from purchasing 35,000 to 40,000 miles at the normal price of about 2.96 cents each after tax.

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To buy 49,000 miles (35,000 + 14,000 bonus) during this sale costs $1,034.69, which is 2.11 cents per mile.

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I don’t think Alaska miles are worth 2.11 cents each, but they are worth close to that, and if you have a specific redemption in mind, it isn’t hard to get more than 2.11 cents of value per mile.

  • What are the best redemptions for Alaska miles?
  • Does this miles purchase count as airfare or travel spending for category bonuses?

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Only Flying Blue Award Chart Online

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Yesterday I wrote that Citi ThankYou Points had added Air France Flying Blue as a 1:1 transfer partner.

That’s big news because there are some amazing high value uses for Flying Blue miles, and ThankYou Points are so easy to earn from the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card with its 50,000 point sign up bonus and 3x category bonuses.

  • Earn 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember
  • Earn 3 ThankYou Points for every $1 spent on purchases for dining at restaurants and entertainment

When I was researching that post though, I couldn’t find Flying Blue’s complete award chart. All I could find was an award chart for awards originating in Europe:

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I took it upon myself to compile an award chart for awards departing the United States, which I believe to be the only Air France/KLM Flying Blue award chart online for awards departing the United States. I priced out awards from the continental United States to every region on the Flying Blue award chart.

  • What is the award chart?
  • Where is it cheaper than Delta’s award chart?

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Reminder: You Can Still Book United Awards at Pre-Devaluation Prices

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You can still pay United’s award prices from January 2014 and before for premium cabin awards.

The catch is that you need to be changing an existing award that you booked February 2, 2014 or earlier. Any award you booked before that date–no matter the origin, destination, cabin, and airline–that you haven’t flown yet should be eligible to be changed to any other award at the old award prices.

I recently changed a First Class award from North Asia to the United States to a different routing on a different airline and paid zero extra miles even though the current price for the award is 50,000 miles more than I originally paid.

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I get to fly in this suite after my change!

The MileValue Award Booking Service is ready to help you if you have an old United award you want to change to something better at the old prices.

  • How can you find out if you have any awards that are eligible to be changed at the old rates?
  • What are the old rates?
  • How do you make the change?
  • What change did I make?

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Citi ThankYou Points Now Transfer to Flying Blue Miles

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Citi ThankYou Points now transfer 1:1 to AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue miles.

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This is huge news because:

  • Flying Blue Promo Awards to Europe cost only 12,500 miles each way
  • Flying Blue miles can book one way awards on Delta flights, with no fuel surcharges
  • Flying Blue miles can book award flights on any of the 20 SkyTeam member airlines, a few with no fuel surcharges
  • Flying Blue charges only 15,000 miles each way between the continental United States and Hawaii

You can transfer Citi ThankYou Points at a 1:1 ratio to nine airlines across all three alliances plus Hilton points. Singapore KrisFlyer miles are still my favorite transfer partner, and Flying Blue miles are now my second favorite transfer partner.

Right now the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card is offering 50,000 bonus points: 20,000 after spending $2,000 in the first three months and 30,000 more after spending $3,000 in the first three months of year two.

  • What airlines can you book with Flying Blue miles?
  • What are the best value awards with Flying Blue miles?
  • How can you book Flying Blue awards?

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How and Why I Was Totally Wrong about the Avios Devaluation

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Sunday I read a post on Gary Leff’s blog that said that Iberia Avios had massively devalued its award chart for flights on oneworld airlines.

I looked up the Iberia award chart for oneworld flights and came to the same conclusion as Gary–that Iberia had put out a new, worse award chart. I wrote a post Sunday and another yesterday about the changes and how to beat them.

It turns out my posts were mistaken. Iberia hasn’t touched its award chart since November 2011.

The reason I was wrong is that I had misunderstood Iberia’s program. I had thought it was identical to British Airways’ program (except that Iberia charges lower fuel surcharges on its own flights.) In fact, it had always had a far worse award chart for most flights than British Airways offers.

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Iberia’s Terrible Award Chart (Then & Now)

My goal is to know everything about every frequent flyer program to wring out the best deals for myself and pass them along to my readers. I came up short of that goal in my posts about an Avios devaluation that never happened. I’ll keep working towards my goal though, (and tomorrow I expect to make a very valuable contribution to the milesphere.)

  • Who gets credit for figuring out my mistake about Iberia Avios?
  • Why do I now think that we won’t see a no-notice British Airways Avios devaluation?
  • What will I do not to repeat my mistake?

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British Airways Avios Chart Still Unchanged. Devaluation Imminent?

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See above.

Free First Class 2014: Cancelling Cards

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This is the twenty-eighth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Most travel credit cards have an annual fee. One of the main questions people email me to ask is whether they should cancel one of their rewards cards before the next annual fee.

Whether you got a card from my list of top current credit cards or from a personalized suggestion during a Free Credit Card Consultation, eventually you’ll probably wonder whether the card is worth keeping through its next annual fee.

I’ll lay out the two-step process you should use to determine which cards to keep and which to cancel.

How do I approach the decision of whether to keep or cancel a card?

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Massive Avios Devaluation? No, I Was Wrong

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Well, this is embarrassing. As it turns out, there was no devaluation of the Iberia Avios program. The rates in this post have been consistent since November 2011.

Almost no one in the world knew the rates for Iberia Avios oneworld redemptions because they weren’t bookable online. Thankfully this FlyerTalk thread and in particular these two posts set the record straight.

Travellair said:

“I don’t know what the fuss is all about. These have been the same Avios amounts for Oneworld redemptions through IB Plus since 2011. (I have printouts).

Surely they are not competitive, but there have been no changes at all.
Back in November 2011, what IB Plus did was maintain their own distance bands for Oneworld redemptions and simply adjust x15 the original IB Plus Point amounts, therefore, causing such disparities. (Even though the amounts shown are for return trips, compulsory for Oneworld redemptions under IB Plus)

My guess is that whoever first stated that this had been a devaluation simply hadn’t studied or compared the chart before and assumed they were the same as BAEC and that now an increase had taken place.”

Raffles said:

“I just found this in an FT thread from 2005:

As for a Oneworld-award the price seems to depend on the amount of miles your journey covers. AGP-MEX direct is 5678 miles, and AGP-MAD-LHR-MEX (for example) would be 6582 miles. Most routings would fall into the 5,001 – 8,000 mile category, which costs 3200 points in Tourist (economy) class.

… which corresponds to the above, and to the 48,000 quoted on the new table.

So nothing happened ….?!

Here is the thing. You cannot book OW redemptions online with IB, never could. And as they were non refundable, no-one did. So no-one knew the rates.”

Here is the current (and past Avios) prices for flights on Iberia:

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  • What is the partner award chart?

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Up to 90,000 Bonus Miles on the Virgin Atlantic MasterCard

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The Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® is offering up to 90,000 bonus miles until September 7, but there are quite a few strings attached. (Thanks to long time reader Drew for first emailing me the offer.)

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You can earn 127,500 Virgin Atlantic miles after spending $25,000 on the card. The offer breaks down like this:

Immediate Miles, $1 Spending

  • 20,000 Flying Club bonus miles after your first retail purchase
  • Earn up to 5,000 Flying Club bonus miles when you add additional authorized users to your card
  • The card has a $90 annual fee that is NOT waived the first year.

This is 25,000 total miles just for opening the card, adding an authorized user, and making one purchase.

  • How can you earn the last 65,000 bonus miles?
  • What are the best uses of Virgin Atlantic miles?
  • Should you open this card?

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