Author Archives: Scott Grimmer

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)

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.

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I made myself a plate of noodles and potatoes, and another of cheese and crackers.

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When I got back to my table, my orange juice had arrived.

 

 

 

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The food was delicious. The potatoes were seasoned and cooked just the way I like them.

After finishing my buffet plates, I took a lap around The Wing, while I waited for my a la carte plate.

The bar was modern and sparse with marble counter tops. It was empty since it was early morning.

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The main seating area felt really spacious because of the terminal’s high ceilings.

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The lounge area was crowded although some of the seats have high backs which makes them kind of private. If you want your privacy, hang out in a Cabana or even the dining room.

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From the seating area, you can look down at the gates and tarmac, which is such a gorgeous view with all the international traffic Hong Kong airport gets.Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 12.10.02 AM

The lounge had a modern workstation. These are the exact desktop computers I would want if I stayed in one place long enough to justify a desktop.

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Moet champagne was self-serve.

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Past the seating area were the famous cabanas.

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The five Cabanas feature a tub, a day bed, a shower, a sink, and a toilet–ample space to relax for a few minutes or a few hours while you wait.

The 12 shower suites provide additional showers if that’s all you want.

I didn’t have time to make use of a Cabana, but I wanted to see how they looked in case I come back through Hong Kong in First Class.

The bath looked inviting for a slow soak if you have time to kill.

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The day bed looked very comfortable for a quick nap if you had a few hours.

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The mirrors provided a good place to freshen up. This picture also gives some perspective on how large a Cabana is, about the size of a living room.

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There was also a full shower in the Cabana.

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My overall impression of the Cabana was that it was a really beautiful and spacious place to relax alone or with a companion if you have a few hours to kill in Hong Kong.

I headed back to the dining room, and my food arrived shortly.

All the sides were delicious. There’s nothing like crispy bacon in the morning.

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Comparison to Lufthansa First Class Terminal

Later in the trip report, I’ll have an installment about the Lufthansa First Class Terminal. I enjoyed the Lufthansa First Class Terminal more than the Cathay Pacific Wing overall, but the Cabanas in the Wing are far superior to the private bathrooms in the First Class Terminal.

I liked the design and space better of the Cabanas, plus the day bed looked great for napping.

Getting in the Wing

You can book Cathay Pacific First Class roundtrip to Hong Kong for 135,000 American Airlines miles or 120,000 US Airways miles. You can earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase with the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®.

We know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time in early 2015. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

Full Trip Report

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American Express and Discover Have Highest Customer Satisfaction

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

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

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

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

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

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

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

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?

See above.

Free First Class 2014: Cancelling Cards

 This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

 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

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

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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Can You Get the Bonus on the US Airways MasterCard Twice?

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

I get frequent reader emails asking whether you can open a second US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® with 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase and paying the $89 annual fee.

The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will disappear in 2015 when American Airlines and US Airways integrate their frequent flyer programs, so people understandably are rushing to get the card or get it again and get the bonus one more time. (When the card disappears, the US Airways miles will become American Airlines miles.)

I got the card in twice in 2012 and 2013 without cancelling the first one, and I got the bonus twice, but I want to share a more recent success story of getting the bonus more than once.

My friend Jake, who has come to MileValue dinners in Los Angeles, tweeted me to let me know that he just got the card and its bonus a third time!

  • When did he open each card?
  • Did he close each card before opening the next?
  • When and why did he get denied for a US Airways card along the way?

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Free First Class 2014: Save Hundreds on Hotels with Name Your Own Price on Priceline

This is the twenty-seventh 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.

Today I’ll continue the theme of cheap paid travel when you don’t have or don’t want to use points.

This is a topic I love: saving 60% on hotels using Priceline.com. If you aren’t being reimbursed for your hotel expenses, and you have any flexibility over which hotel you can stay in, Priceline.com’s “name your own price” bidding tool can save you hundreds of dollars per stay, so bookmark this post!

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As the commercials say, hotels give their unsold inventory to Priceline to sell at a steep discount to get at least some revenue. We can swoop in and book hotels through Priceline for a fraction of the retail price, but you have to know the system.

  • How does “Name Your Own Price” work?
  • What trick allows us to circumvent the rules and make it work even better for us?
  • What are the drawbacks of using Priceline that you need to know?
  • How have I saved hundreds with the Name Your Own Price tool?

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How Much Does Award Space Change Day to Day?

If award space isn’t available on a flight you want, keep checking. Award space changes all the time. This is a truism, but I have never tracked one route and flight for a few days to show exactly how true the truism is until now.

I’ve tracked First Class availability on the brand new Asiana A380 this month and next for the past few days. There were changes every day.

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Enclosed Suite for First Class on Asiana A380

I started tracking the award space for selfish reasons. I have a United award from Seoul to Los Angeles next month to return to the United States from the Asian vacation I’m taking with my brother.

The award goes the long way and features Asiana and Lufthansa First Class. Since booking the award, I’ve flown Lufthansa First Class and been to the Lufthansa First Class terminal, so I think I’d prefer to change the award to a direct flight to Los Angeles on Asiana’s stunning new product.

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I’ve started checking every day to see if award space opens up on a day that works for my schedule. I am also checking award space patterns right near departure to estimate the likelihood that award space will open up for me right before departure.

  • How much has award space changed daily?
  • What is the pattern near departure?
  • Can I automate my search?

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