Author Archives: Scott Grimmer

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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Jetstar from Singapore to Cambodia (Low Cost Carrier Tips in Asia and Europe)

This is the sixth installment of a round-the-world trip report that started here. We pick up in Singapore.

As the title of this series indicates, my trip was built around flying Cathay Pacific, Singapore, and Lufthansa First Class. I booked those long flights well before I had a plan for my time on the ground.

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When I looked into how I wanted to spend my time in Southeast Asia, I decided to spend eight days in Cambodia. I had to get there and back from Singapore, and the way to do that seemed obvious to me based on previous experience in Southeast Asia: low-cost carriers.

Similarly I decided to spend three days in Slovenia to get back to the Balkans, and I had to get there from London. I knew it was another chance to save my airline miles and book a low-cost carrier.

Both flights could have been booked with traditional airline miles like United miles or British Airways Avios. But they would have been inefficient redemptions where I was saving less than 1 cent per mile used. Instead I saved those airline miles for redemptions when I can get 2 cents of value or more. And I redeemed Arrival miles earned on my Arrival World MasterCard, which can be used for free flights on any airline. (Meeting the card’s spending requirement unlocks $500 in free flights.)

How can you find low-cost carriers on routes you want to fly? How can you book them? What fees do you need to be aware of? Are low cost carriers bearable?

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This is Your Last Chance to Get Some Mega Bonuses from American Express

This is your last chance to get repeat bonuses on your favorite American Express personal cards.

Currently you can get the sign up bonus on an American Express personal card every 12 months. So if you got the bonus on, say, the SPG card in February 2013, you can get it again today.

Starting May 1, you will not be able to get a sign up bonus on an American Express personal card if you have ever gotten that bonus in the past. (American Express Business Cards will still follow the 12 month rule for now.)

In fact, language has already been added to American Express personal card applications that “This offer is also not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”

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But, according to American Express chat reps, that language has been added in advance of the May 1 change only in case you apply today and your application isn’t approved until after May 1. According to those chat reps, you can still be approved for an American Express personal card until May 1 and get its bonus even if you got it in the past.

I am planning to apply today for a few American Express personal cards, which I have previously opened. I figure that applying now gives me the maximum chance to approved before May 1 if I am not approved instantly.

Leave your experiences in the comments.

Using Everything I Know to Help a Friend Plan Two Summer Trips

My friend has big trip aspirations for this summer, but nothing booked.

  • Approx July 12: Boston to France, Italy, or Spain
  • July 13/14 to 24/25: work on a vineyard in France, Italy, or Spain
  • July 25: vineyard location to Croatia
  • July 26 to August 2: Yacht Week
  • August 2: Croatia to Greece
  • August 10/11: Greece to Boston
  • August 22: Boston to Colombia
  • August 31: Colombia to Costa Rica
  • Sept ~7/8: Costa Rica to San Francisco

She emailed me for my suggestions. This is how I would book this trip.

Warning: this post combines a lot of my best material and ideas. It would be too much information to spell everything out, so in several spots I have linked to longer articles on the concepts I discuss. Click the links.

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Moments by SPG: Redeem Starpoints for Experiences

In general, you should use airline miles for flights only and hotel points for hotel stays only. There are a few exceptions.

For instance, Starpoints in your Starwood Preferred Guest account are great for hotels, but they also transfer at a favorable rate to 30 major airlines. Read my Starpoints Primer here.

Starpoints also occasionally offer incredible value through Moments by SPG. SPG Moments offer one-of-a-kind musical, sporting, or cultural experiences to Starwood Preferred Guest members.

Some of the packages are available for immediate redemption, and some are in an auction format. I was browsing the options the other day, and I ran across an “Exclusive Capital Cities Concert at Sheraton Buenos Aires.

For only 5,000 Starpoints, you can instantly get two tickets to see these guys perform in my favorite city, and two tickets to a pre-concert cocktail reception.

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At my valuation of 2.5 cents per point, that’s $125 worth of points for an awesome evening for two.

Even better, there are five auction packages that include the concert tickets, the reception tickets, and a meet-and-greet with the band.

Only two of them even have a bid.

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That’s probably because this is a band with only one hit playing a concert thousands of miles away from most SPG members eight months from now. But for me it means I can probably spend 5k points or just a little more for an option to have an incredible night in December if I’m in Buenos Aires.

There are a number of other live auctions to meet other musicians or sports stars all over the world.

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Again, this isn’t necessarily the best use of Starpoints. Nor will it appeal to everyone. But it is a nice option to have, and one to be aware of in addition to the bread-and-butter Starpoint redemptions:

Both the personal and business versions of the Starwood credit card offer 25,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on the card in the first six months. Getting both and meeting both spending requirements would give you 60k Starpoints (which can transfer to 75k American, Delta, or US Airways miles.)

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Azul Brazilian Airlines Award Space is Wide Open on united.com

United recently announced a new partner: Azul Brazilian Airlines. Azul is a low-cost carrier with flights throughout Brazil.

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United only flies to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, so being able to continue from there to anywhere else in the country on one award for no extra miles is a big benefit.

Or if you’re in Brazil this summer during the World Cup like I will be, being able to jet around the country for 12,500 United miles + $9 each way is a great deal when intra-Brazil prices are through the roof.

Where does Azul fly? How is award space? What miles can book Azul space?

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My Second Best Travel Tip (Don’t Get Lost Abroad)

I actually haven’t ranked my travel tips, but I love this one because it’s super simple and saves me from getting lost all around the world.

But it’s not my #1 travel tip, which would probably be “use miles” or “travel more” or “travel solo” or something like that.

It may not even be my #2 travel tip because you can save a lot of money with these two:

Anyway, here’s how I avoid getting lost worldwide when I don’t have cell phone data. I used this trick in Slovenia last month because T-Mobile doesn’t offer free data there, and I’ve used it to navigate the dusty streets and alleys of Kampala, Uganda without issue.

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How to Get Free Texts and Cell Phone Data (Almost) Worldwide

T-Mobile offers an incredible deal for travelers. All of their monthly plans offer free text messages and mobile data in over 120 countries worldwide.

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On previous trips, I’ve done everything from buy a local SIM card in every country to pay AT&T upfront for way-overpriced international phone, text, and data packages. On this round-the-world trip, I kept my phone and phone number and got free text messaging and mobile data in five of the six countries I visited. In all my trips abroad, this was the most stress-free when it came to staying connected.

How does the T-Mobile plan work? What countries does it cover? What was my experience?

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17 Changes to US Airways and American Airlines Loyalty Programs Ranked by Importance

US Airways and American Airlines officially merged in December 2013. They are still independent brands with separate loyalty programs, but they are making major changes in unison, especially in the last few weeks.

Below are 17 changes made, mostly yesterday, in the order of my take on their importance. As I said yesterday, I am much more upset about how these changes were made (most of numbers 3-17 were made with no notice) than the fact that they were made.

1) On March 30, US Airways left the Star Alliance.

US Airways lost valuable partners for award redemptions like United, Lufthansa, and Thai. US Airways did maintain several Star Alliance partners including EVA, South African, and Turkish.

Some of those Star Alliance partners are disappearing this year, so make sure you book those partners in 2014 for travel through 2015.

2) On March 31, US Airways joined oneworld opening up great partners like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and Qatar.

Unfortunately you cannot combine oneworld and the remaining Star Alliance partners on a single award.

Despite the change from Star Alliance to oneworld, no award routing rules changed for US Airways awards.

All the other changes were made yesterday, most with no notice.

3) American Airlines is no longer allowing stopovers on awards.

You used to be able to get a stopover in each direction at the North American International Gateway City. That opened up the chance to get two free oneways on roundtrip awards. That chance is no more.

Check out this award I priced out from Los Angeles to New York, stopover, New York to London. This would have cost 20,000 miles total. Now it costs 32,500 miles.

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4) American Airlines has eliminated the Explorer Award.

This is a huge blow for me personally because I was planning on booking myself one of these up-to-16-flights around-the-world awards that I’ve explained here.

American Airlines had by far the best round-the-world awards until yesterday, and now it has no option for round-the-world awards.

5) US Airways increased the amount of miles for a business class saver award from the US to North Asia from 90,000 to 110,000 miles roundtrip.

I covered this in detail yesterday.

The takeaways: Book your next US Airways award to North Asia in First Class for 120k miles instead. Or use the even sweeter spot of Central America to South Asia for 90k miles roundtrip in business class.

6) American Airlines is increasing the phone fee it charges on award tickets to $35.

It was $25 until yesterday. This phone fee is unavoidable on tons of American Airlines awards because most oneworld partners are not searchable and bookable on aa.com.

7) Starting April 30, customers who have the US Airways MasterCard® will receive one free checked bag for themselves and up to four companions.

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8) American Airlines AAnytime awards are going to a three tier system.

Until yesterday, American Airlines had the best value “standard” awards. For double the price of a MileSAAver (saver) award, you could get the last seat on the plane.

I had never taken advantage, but there were some circumstances where that would have been a good deal.

No more. The new American Airlines award chart has three levels of AAnytime awards, so if you’re getting the last seat on the plane, expect to pay through the nose.

By the way, if you click that link, you might notice that MileSAAver awards have two levels too. That’s not a substantive change, just a change from the old nomenclature. What used to be called “off peak” awards, which are only possible to certain regions, are Level 1. What used to be peak awards are Level 2. No MileSaaver prices changed.

9) US Airways is ending black out dates.

Even with three tiers of award prices, US Airways had some routes and dates with no availability at any price. That’s no more, but I’m sure the former black out dates will have exorbitant price tags that I’ll avoid.

10) US Airways High Level awards are splitting into two tiers starting June 1, 2014.

The US Airways award chart will soon have Low, Medium, High Level 1, and High Level 2 awards.

11) For tickets issued April 8, 2014 and later, US Airways Silver and American Airlines Gold will only get one free checked bag on American Airlines flights.

12) For tickets issued April 8, 2014 and later, full fare economy passengers on American Airlines are going from two free checked bags to zero.

13) For tickets issued April 8, 2014 and later, people flying economy AAnytime awards on American Airlines are going from two free checked bags to zero.

14) For tickets issued April 23, 2014 and later, US Airways Gold and Platinum Elites and American Airlines Platinum Elites are going from three free checked bags all the time to only two free checked bags when they fly economy on US Airways flights.

15) For tickets booked after April 8, 2014 on American Airlines flights, the free checked bag between the US and Mexico/Caribbean/Central America for all passengers is gone. New prices: $25 for the first bag, $40 for the second.

16) For tickets booked after April 8, 2014, the you will only get one free checked back on American Airlines flights to/from Brazil. You used to get two.

17) American Airlines’ unacocompanied minor fee is going from $100 to $150 each way.

I may have missed some other changes because US Airways and American Airlines didn’t communicate all of these is one place. Please let me know what I’ve missed in the comments.

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