Category Archives: Best Of

Roundtrip to South America, Two Free One Ways to Hawaii for 50,000 Miles

Recently, I posted about how we can get amazing value from the fact that the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program considers Hawaii to be part of the same region as Central AmericaWe can also use this sweet spot for great value on travel to South America too!

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On the Singapore Airline’s award chart, it costs fewer miles to fly between Hawaii and South America, routing through the continental United States, than it does to fly directly between the continental United States and South America.

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Adding Honolulu to Houston lowers the price of Houston to Buenos Aires

On the Singapore award chart:

  • Continental Unites States to South America: 60,000 miles roundtrip in economy
  • Continental Unites States to South America: 100,000 miles roundtrip in business
  • Hawaii to South America: 50,000 miles roundtrip in economy
  • Hawaii to South America: 80,000 miles roundtrip in business

This is great news for people that live in Hawaii or South America, but it is just as good for people who live in the continental United States!

People who live in the continental United States can use this sweet spot to get a complete vacation to South America and two half trips to Hawaii, all on one award redemption, for fewer miles than simply booking a roundtrip award between the continental United States!

Singapore miles are some of the easiest to get, since Singapore is a transfer partner of Chase, American Express, and Starwood Preferred Guest.

  • What are the relevant rules and tricks for this award?
  • What variations on this award could we book?
  • How can you book this award?
  • What about using United miles?
  • How can you get Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles?

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Four Ways People Make the Biggest Mistake in the Miles Game

The biggest mistake in the miles game is collecting the wrong miles for the job.

That’s why I always advocate that people start at their end goal and work backwards. Figure out your dream trip and then figure out the best miles and points to collect for that trip. If you can’t narrow down your plans yet, at least collect flexible points that can cover the most possible trips.

And yet people make the mistake of collecting the wrong miles over and over and in a lot of ways.

  • What are four ways that people collect the wrong miles?
  • Are you collecting the wrong miles?

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Why Are Airline Miles the Key to Traveling More, Better, and Cheaper

I’ve collected and redeemed millions of frequent flyer miles over the last three years. By the end of 2014, I will have visited over 50 countries, often flying in First Class. Without frequent flyer miles, I’d probably only have managed half the travel I’ve been able to enjoy.

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Where I’ve Been in Red

This is an extremely basic post designed to explain why airline miles are the key to traveling more, better, and cheaper, especially intended for anyone who caught me on Rudy Maxa’s World this morning.

If you’re a long time MileValue reader, this post really isn’t intended for you, but consider emailing it to friends who have expressed interest in copying your international, luxury travel.

Cheaper

I just booked myself a one way flight from Honolulu to Chicago for a conference for 20,000 miles and $2.50. The exact, direct flight I booked cost $1,205 when I booked it with miles.

I paid $2.50 for a $1,200 flight.

Without miles, I would have booked a less convenient route with layovers for about $500 and had $500 less in my bank account.

Better

Before I discovered frequent flyer miles, I only ever flew in economy class. I distinctly remember one 14 hour redeye on Turkish Airlines from Los Angeles to Istanbul when I couldn’t sleep at all in my tiny space and felt like a zombie for the next few days.

For the past two years, I’ve flown all my longhaul international flights in flat beds in Business and First Class.

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These flights are easy to book with miles. I paid only 67,500 American Airlines miles and $43 for a one way redemption in Cathay Pacific First Class (pictured above, trip report) from New York to Singapore. You can get that many miles from one credit card sign up bonus.

Or you could book the flights I flew with miles for a whopping $16,689 cash.

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International First Class makes the trip a whole lot better. It’s easy to book with miles and completely out of reach with cash for 99.9% of people.

More

When I can open a credit card and have enough miles to fly anywhere in the world in First Class for just a few dollars in taxes, I definitely travel a lot more. Everywhere seems within reach–because it is.

  • What are the absolute basics you need to know to get started right now toward your travel goals?
  • How do you get the miles you need for your travel goals?
  • How do you redeem the miles for your dream trip? This is the catch, right? (Wrong!)
  • How do you become a globetrotting miles expert?

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Singapore KrisFlyer Sweet Spot

Singapore Airlines’ award chart has an amazing sweet spot: Hawaii and Central America are in the same region!

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Flights “within” the Hawaii/Central America region are only 35,000 Singapore miles roundtrip in economy and 60,000 miles roundtrip in business class.

That 35,000-Singapore-miles award would cost 80,000 United miles. That 60,000-Singapore-miles award would cost 140,000 United miles.

One Region!?

One Region!?

Singapore is a Star Alliance member, so you can fly United flights on these awards, and Singapore never collects fuel surcharges on United flights.

Singapore miles are easy to get, since Singapore is a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards.

You Don’t Live in Singapore, Hawaii, or Central America. So What?

The primary beneficiaries of the Hawaii/Central America mega-region on the Singapore award chart are people who live in the continental United States. Mainlanders can use this sweet spot to get all the flights for one trip and half the flights for two other trips for a bargain price.

I priced out what amounts to a roundtrip from Denver to Honolulu plus two one ways between Central America and Denver for 35,000 total Singapore miles and about $177. That’s one complete roundtrip and halves of two others for less than what United charges for just the roundtrip to Hawaii.

The award is 80,000-United-miles-worth of flights for 35,000 Singapore miles.

singapore trip

  • How does this award fit together?
  • Who can take advantage of this trick routing?
  • What are the routing rules for Singapore awards?
  • How can you get Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles?
  • How can you book a Singapore award?

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To See a Third City on a United Award, Use Avios

You can see three “destination” cities on one United award, but you need to book a separate ticket with Avios or cash to tie the trip together.

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  • Why is three the limit?
  • Why does seeing even three cities require a second award?
  • How can you see four or more cities with United miles?

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How to Use Delta Miles to Book an Open Jaw Across Regions

Delta allows one open jaw per roundtrip award that you can use to see more cities on a single award and to unlock free one ways.

A simple, valid open jaw routing on Delta.

A simple, valid open jaw routing on Delta. The open jaw is between Amsterdam and Paris.

Delta allows an open jaw to straddle two regions, so that your outbound can go to Bangkok in Southeast Asia and your return can start from Sydney, Australia. However Delta requires that the distance of the unflown open jaw be less than the distance between the origin and the destination of both your outbound and your return.

While Delta miles consistently get a bad rap, using the methods outlined in this post can allow you to see multiple cities on multiple continents on a single, incredible Delta award.

  • What is an open jaw?
  • What are Delta’s open jaw rules?
  • Where is the value on Delta’s award chart for open jaws?
  • How do you book open jaws on Delta?
  • How do you add a free stopover to your open jaw itinerary?
  • What is the best way to travel between open jaw cities?

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Two Counter-Intuitive Truths about Miles

I looked at the upcoming reservations in my United account. There are three trips:

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  • Honolulu to Sao Paulo
  • Frankfurt to Los Angeles
  • Honolulu to Chicago

One trip was booked with United miles, one with US Airways miles (before US Airways lost United as a partner), and one with Lufthansa miles.

The award booked with United miles flies Asiana, Lufthansa, and Air Canada. The awards booked with the other types of miles both fly United planes.

These three awards illustrate two simple and counter-intuitive truths about frequent flyer miles that I want everyone to understand.

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British Airways, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, and American First Class on the Same Award to Australia for 140k Miles Roundtrip

Tuesday news broke that US Airways is not collecting fuel surcharges on British Airways flights on award tickets, which is surprising since American Airlines and British Airways have long collected fuel surcharges on British Airways flights.

US Airways miles are the most valuable miles around because of:

Combining those three elements, I just put on hold a US Airways award from New York to Sydney with a stopover in Hong Kong one direction for 140k US Airways miles + $192.76 out of pocket.

Outbound in Red, Return in Blue

Outbound in Red, Return in Blue

The award features British Airways First Class, Cathay Pacific First Class, Qantas First Class, and American Airlines First Class and routes one direction via Europe and Asia with stops in Hong Kong and Sydney. It’s a fantastic award for destination lovers and luxury-flight lovers.

The award is really easy to book, and the miles necessary are very easy to earn. Right now the US Airways Premier World MasterCard is offering 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase.

  • How can you book an award that maximizes destinations and luxury with US Airways Dividend Miles?
  • How can you search for award space?
  • How can you rack up US Airways miles?

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Free Spreadsheet to Download of Category 1, 2, 9, and 10 Hilton Properties Plus the Only Two Good Hilton Strategies

Update: Super reader Dave made a map of the locations of the Category 9 and 10 properties for visual learners.

Super reader Jeremy has created the most valuable spreadsheet imaginable for the Hilton HHonors program that you can download for free here.

The spreadsheet lists:

  • all 34 Category 1 hotels
  • all 131 Category 2 hotels
  • all 46 Category 9 hotels
  • all 10 Category 10 hotels

For each hotel, the name, location, and a link to its Trip Advisor reviews are listed.

Jeremy took the information from Hilton’s PDF of all its hotels’ categories and made it much more useful and streamlined.

The three main improvements he made:

  1. His spreadsheet is sortable by city, state, country, or hotel name (which often starts with the hotel brand.) This can be very useful if you want to know if there is a Category 1, 2, 9, or 10 Hilton on the route of your next trip.
  2. He added links to the Trip Advisor page of each hotel for more information quickly.
  3. He cut out Categories 3-8.
  • Why is cutting out Categories 3-8 an improvement?
  • What are the only two viable Hilton redemption strategies?
  • What card offers up to 10 free nights at Hilton properties after spending $1,000 in three months?

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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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Where to Search for Award Space on All 26 of US Airways’ Partners

Since US Airways joined the oneworld Alliance on March 31, I think they have the most valuable miles of any airline. The three main reasons:

  1. The world’s cheapest award chart. See a comparison with AA, Delta, and United.
  2. The laxest routing rules of any major airline because only agents–not computers–need to validate your routing.
  3. The most diverse partners.

For partners, US Airways has the rest of the oneworld alliance, plus it maintained several Star Alliance partners, and it even has a few other bilateral partnerships.

If you want to use your Dividend Miles to book an award, you must book it on usairways.com or by calling US Airways at 800-622-1015. Only American Airlines and US Airways award space is bookable online, so you’ll mostly call US Airways to book awards. (Luckily there is no phone fee for awards that can’t be booked online.)

It’s very helpful to search for award space before calling US Airways agents because they aren’t very good at it. You want to have all your flights picked out to read off to the agent to ticket the award.

So where do you search for award space for each of the 26 airlines bookable with US Airways miles?

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TAM Joining Oneworld Means Flights to Brazil for 4,000 Avios and $97

TAM, the largest airline in Brazil, joined oneworld today March 31, 2014.

 

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The oneworld roster with the addition of TAM.

You can now book a one way flight from the United States to Brazil for 4,000 Avios and $97.50!

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TAM flights are bookable with American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios and searchable on ba.com. American Airlines and British Airways do not collect fuel surcharges on TAM flights.

TAM has flights between Brazil and New York-JFK, Miami, and Orlando. All three American cities have flights to Rio de Janeiro–Galeão and São Paulo–Guarulhos. Miami also has flights to:

I am very excited about TAM joining oneworld for three reasons:

  1. On short TAM flights, awards will cost very few Avios. For instance, Miami to Manaus is only 12,500 Avios each way or even fewer Avios with the Cash & Avios option.
  2. TAM First Class looks awesome. TAM First Class space is wide open between the US and Brazil, and American Airlines has the cheapest remaining award chart for partner first class redemptions. Between the US and Brazil, American Airlines awards are only 62,500 miles each way in TAM First Class.
  3. TAM segments are now bookable as part of an American Airlines Explorer Award, which is by far the best value around the world award.

Why am I so excited about TAM joining oneworld? What do you need to know about TAM awards?

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How I Pay Zero ATM Fees Worldwide

During my recent trip to New York, Macau, Singapore, Cambodia, England, Slovenia, and Germany, I had a wallet full of six currencies. For my several stops at ATMs, I paid zero ATM fees.

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I didn’t pay a fee to the bank that owned the ATM. I didn’t pay a fee to my bank for using some other bank’s ATM. And I didn’t pay a transaction fee for taking out foreign currency.

With all that fee avoiding, I saved at least $50. If I save $50 per trip for the foreseeable future, that will add up to quite a lot more money in my pocket.

The secret to the savings was opening a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account. The account is free to open, has no account minimum, and no monthly service fees. Once you have the account, Schwab will never charge you an ATM fee no matter what ATM you use to access your money, and it will cover any fee that the ATM owner charges you.

The opening of the account may require a hard pull on your credit report. I don’t see one on my credit report, but other people do report seeing a credit pull.

How do you open one? What is my experience with the account and ATM card?

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Master Thread: Holds on United Awards

Two weeks ago, I wrote that United had ended free holds online for award bookings.

Luckily, JB from the MileValue Award Booking Service came up with an extremely simple hack to regain all of the lost award-hold functionality.

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The ability to hold awards is crucial when booking a trip has many moving parts–hotels, flights for more than one person, several awards booked with different types of miles, etc–that you want to lock in completely before booking any part of the trip. That means it is great news that we can hold United awards so broadly!

Award holds on United are possible again under two circumstances:

  • You have enough miles in your United account to book the award. (PayPal trick)
  • You do NOT have enough miles in your United account to book an award AND the award contains a partner segment. (DoNotTrackMe trick)

That means there is only one time when you cannot hold an award on united.com:

  • You do NOT have enough miles in your account and the award contains only segments on United airplanes.

And even here, there’s a workaround.

How do you hold a United award when you have enough miles in your account? What about when you don’t have enough miles? What’s JB’s hack?

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Value in First Class on the United Chart

On February 1, United miles became much less valuable for premium cabin flights.

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Not only did all first class awards outside of the western hemisphere go way up in price, but partner first class awards went way, way up.

Since people who want to fly first class awards want the swankiest, most aspirational flights, the increase in the partner award price is a big problem.

United Global First is good. But Thai First Class is great.

There’s no perfect solution, but I’ve come up with the strategy I’ll use to book premium cabin awards for myself with United miles going forward.

What do I think is the best value way to convert United miles into premium cabin awards?

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