How to Manufacture Spending with Visa Gift Cards and Walmart Money Orders

Over the weekend, I manufactured $506.23 in spending at a cost of $6.93 (1.37%) and 3 minutes of time.

The first step was to buy a reloadable Visa gift card with my credit card. I live in Hawaii where the options for this are bleak. I found a Safeway with a sign saying that variable value gift cards had to be purchased with cash, but I decided to see if the sign was mistaken and took this Visa gift card issued by MetaBank to the register.

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Note that the green sticker is actually not on the back of the gift card packaging. It is on the card itself.

  • What were the rest of the steps?
  • Why did I unload the gift card on a money order?

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How and Why I Just Booked Myself an Allegiant Air Flight

Looking at my travel plans for 2014, I realized I needed a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu in September.

I ended up booking myself a oneway flight on Allegiant Airlines instead of using traditional miles for the ticket.

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I paid for the ticket with my Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases, and I plan to remove part or all of the flight charge from my credit card statement by redeeming Arrival miles for the flight. (Here’s how.)

  • Why didn’t I use Avios for the flight?
  • Why did I choose Allegiant?
  • Won’t Allegiant nickel-and-dime me with hidden fees?
  • Why did I book with my Arrival card?

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Award Space is Wide Open to the World Cup with American Airlines Miles

Saver Economy award seats are wide open from the United States to Sao Paulo during the World Cup for only 30k miles per direction per person.

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This is a marked change from four months ago when I wrote How to Get to the World Cup with Miles and Points. Back then there was very little Saver award space on any airline, and I even suggested that spending 95k Delta miles for a roundtrip award at the Standard (Medium) Level could be a good value.

Now a roundtrip flight, which is going for $1,300 to $2,000 can be had for 60k miles plus $54.

What route has all the award space? What miles can book it? Can you take advantage of the award space?

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The Cheapest Way to Get to Hawaii is Not the Best Way

A teenager hopped a fence at San Jose Airport (SJC), climbed into the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines 767 and survived almost six hours at heights up to 38,000 feet on his way to Maui (OGG).

He was apparently unharmed and released by the FBI after they realized he wasn’t a security threat. Although another article I read quoted a doctor saying it is “more likely than not” that the boy suffered permanent brain damage during the flight.

CNN even included a video showing you exactly how to get into a 767′s wheel well.

I don’t recommend copying this teen’s free flight to Hawaii. There are a ton of cheap ways to get to the islands without having to stowaway.

What are the cheapest awards to Hawaii? Trust me that you probably aren’t aware of all of the cheapest options because they often require easy-to-obtain foreign miles.

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Correcting a Common Misperception: The Seat Map and the Award Space Don’t Line Up

Lately I’ve gotten several emails that feature a common mistake. The readers assume that the online seat map for a flight should or will match up with award Saver availability for a flight.

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Just because an online seat map shows empty seats on your flight does not mean that there will ever be Saver award space on the flight.

Here’s a representative email I just received from a couple that wants to change an economy booking to a premium cabin for a flight home from Australia:

We happened to check award availability for our flight home last night, and saw online that first class had opened up. We called united and they said we have enough points and wouldn’t have to use any additional points, but that there was only 1 seat available for reward travel in first class, so we couldn’t change our tickets. However, according to the seat map on the website there are 3 open seats in first for our flight, so we’re hoping maybe another seat opens up – do you think there’s a chance another seat will open up so we could switch to first class?

What does it mean that three First Class seats are open on the seat map? Will an extra seat open up at Saver award prices for this couple?

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Best Passports for Visa-Free Travel

I really like my passport. It’s gotten me into almost 50 countries and has a great plea from John Kerry to would-be annoyers:

“The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.”

For almost all the countries I’ve visited, I just showed up at the border and handed over my passport to get in, sometimes having to pay for a visa on arrival that cost $20 to $100 (Tanzania!).

I’ve only had to do something other than show up three times:

  • Australia required filling out an Electronic Travel Authority form in advance online and paying 20 AUD.
  • Argentina required paying $160 in advance online and printing out the receipt. That payment is good for 10 years.
  • Paraguay required a $160 visa from an embassy in advance. (I got mine in Argentina for only about $100 due to currency arbitrage.)

Having a United States passport is excellent for travel since so few countries require a cumbersome visa for Americans to enter. Even when you do need a visa, it’s usually pretty automatic to get and just takes planning and money.

But we don’t have the best passport for visa-free travel. Which countries do? Where does the US rank? Which are the worst passports for access?

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Get 10% Off Summer Flights on Frontier Airlines. (Book by Thursday)

Frontier has announced a 10% discount on domestic flights bought by Thursday April 24, 2014 and flown by September 21, 2014 with promo code SPLASH. Blackout dates of May 22-23, May 26, June 29, July 3, July 5-6, August 28-29, and September 1, 2014 apply.

This is Frontier’s first fare sale for summer travel dates!

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This 10% discount does not apply to Frontier’s international destinations like Jamaica, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic.

To get to those places, your best bet is to redeem 15k Frontier miles each way. You can get The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard® with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in the first 90 days, which is more than enough for a roundtrip anywhere Frontier flies or enough for two roundtrips within the USA.

How does the 10% discount work?

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Shouldn’t It Say Get 1 and 5/7 Roundtrip Flights?

Southwest and Chase market their Southwest card in a misleading way. The big bold letters say:

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The 50,000 points the card offers in no way correlate with two roundtrips. All Southwest Wanna Get Away fares are available for 70 points per dollar, so 50,000 points are worth about $714 in Southwest flights, however many one ways or roundtrips that is.

What I find really strange about the marketing, though, is that it still says “2 Roundtrips.”

That’s the same thing it said when Wanna Get Away fares were available for 60 points per dollar up until last month.

Now the points are worth 17% less.

Shouldn’t the bold letters now say “1 and 5/7 Roundtrips“?

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30% Transfer Bonus from Membership Rewards to Virgin America Opens Up Great Deals to Hawaii and Europe

There is currently a 30% transfer bonus on Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin America.

Until April 30, 2014, 200 Membership Rewards transfer to 130 Elevate points. (The normal rate is 200 Membership Rewards to 100 Elevate points.)

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What are the sweetspots on the Virgin America chart that might make a transfer worthwhile?

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Last Chance for 50k Limited Time Offer on Hilton HHonors Card

Update 4/18/14: This post describes a previous, expired offer. The current offer on the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card is 40,000 Hilton Points after spending $1k in the first three months.

  • Earn 40,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points after spending $1,000 within 4 months of account opening.*
  • Earn 6 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent at a participating hotel within the Hilton HHonors portfolio.*
  • Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on purchases at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations.*
  • Earn 2 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on all other purchases.*
  • No annual fee.*

Application Link: Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card

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Last month the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card increased its sign up bonus to 50,000 bonus Hilton points after spending $1,000 in the first 4 months of cardmembership.

In addition, you earn a $50 statement credit after spending $50 on your first stay at a Hilton property.

That special limited time offer expires tomorrow April 18 at 5:00 PM ET.

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The card even comes with free Hilton Silver Status and the ability to earn Gold Status after only four stays.

This is the best offer I’ve seen for a no-annual-fee Hilton card.

How does it compare to my favorite Hilton card?

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MileValue Was Down Twice in the Last Week!

MileValue has gone down twice in the last week.

The site was down for almost 48 hours starting last Wednesday because I screwed up while moving the site to a private server to keep up with growing readership.

Luckily a loyal reader helped get the site back up about 24 hours earlier than it otherwise would have been up. Check out @pcg on twitter. He’s a wizard with WordPress and web hosting (and judging by his twitter handle, an early adopter of twitter.)

Yesterday, the site also went down for about 12 hours. This time, it was swept up in a huge problem my hosting company, Host Gator, was having with a lot of its sites.

These are two of only three times that the site has had any serious down time in the last two years.

What can you do when the site is down to still get the latest information about miles and points?

Make sure you are

signed up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! It’s totally free, and you can unsubscribe at any time (if you like making huge mistakes.) Subscribers saw my latest posts from right before each of the site’s meltdowns.

In the meantime, it looks like all the site’s hosting issues are solved, so you can look forward to an uninterrupted stream of news and analysis from here on out. (And not the boring kind, the kind that gets you free travel in luxury!)



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Current State of Free Oneways

This blog became famous because I was the first to articulate how to book free oneways on United and US Airways awards.

A free oneway is a one way trip to or from your home airport that is tacked onto another award for no extra miles. Free oneways cut your flight bill in half for a second trip without adding to the price of the first trip!

American Airlines killed free oneways on its awards last week by nixing all free stopovers because free oneways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport.

What’s the current state of free oneways with major frequent flyer programs?

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Fifteen Percent Discount on Frontier Flights This Spring (Must Book by Tomorrow)

Frontier has announced a 15% discount on domestic flights bought by Thursday April 17, 2014 and flown by June 12, 2014 with promo code REFUND. Sale fares apply every day except Fridays and Sundays.

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This 15% discount does not apply to Frontier’s international destinations like Jamaica, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic.

To get to those places, your best bet is to redeem 15k Frontier miles each way. You can get The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard® with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in the first 90 days, which is more than enough for a roundtrip anywhere Frontier flies or enough for two roundtrips within the USA.

How does the 15% discount work?

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Where are the Bright Spots on the Airline Award Charts after the Devaluations

The last year has seen all four of the American legacy carriers make their miles less valuable.

But great value awards still exist with all four types of miles. What are some of my favorites?

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Why I Got the Citi ThankYou Premier Card

In February, I opened several credit cards. I am writing posts explaining my logic for opening each one. See previously “Why I Got the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard” and “Why I Got the American Express SimplyCash Card.”

I got the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card because of its sign up bonus…

  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points. Bonus points are redeemable for up to $500 in gift cards, up to $625 for airfare or other great rewards
  • 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

…and category bonuses:

  • Earn 3 ThankYou Points for every $1 spent on purchases for dining at restaurants and entertainment
  • Earn 2 ThankYou Points for every $1 spent on purchases for airfare and hotels
  • Earn 1 ThankYou Point per $1 spent on other purchases

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card is one of the top bank point earning cards. The 50k point sign up bonus is worth $625 in free flights on any flight, any time, on any airline with no blackout dates.

And when you fly those $625 in free flights, you will earn miles as if you were flying tickets you had paid for! So getting this card earns points, which lead to free travel, which leads to earning miles, which leads to free travel. The technical term for this is “a virtuous cycle.” :)

Why did I get the Citi ThankYou Premier card? Who would benefit most from this card? How does the sign up bonus work? What are my experiences with the card?

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