Category Archives: How to

How Long Does It Take Me to Manage My Credit Cards?

When you get deeper into the world of opening rewards cards to get free or luxury travel, there is an inevitable amount of bookkeeping that comes with managing your credit cards.

You have to track:

  • when you opened each card
  • when the annual fee is due on each card
  • how much you’ve spent toward the minimum spending requirement associated with the sign up bonus
  • when each statement closes
  • when payments are due on each card
  • category bonuses

While that looks like a lot to track, and may seem daunting, I estimate that I spend about 30 minutes per month on everything credit card related.

I think about a credit card’s life cycle as having four stages:

  1. Application
  2. Getting the bonus (minimum spending)
  3. Regular use (category bonuses)
  4. Renewal/Cancellation

Here’s what I do at each step to keep track of my cards and minimize my headaches.

What are the steps you need to take to put your credit card tracking on auto-pilot?

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Manipulating United.com to Save Miles

With this week’s United devaluation, the most popular award that the MileValue Award Booking Service books–premium cabin awards to Europe with United miles–went up in price as much as 63%.

Last week, one passenger flying one way from the continental US to Europe in business class would pay 50k United miles for the privilege, whether the flights on the award were operated by United or one of its many European partners like Lufthansa and Swiss. In first class, the price was 67.5k miles.

Today, a business class award to Europe on United flights costs 57.5k miles, while partner business class like TAP or Austrian costs 70k miles. For first class, the United-metal price is 80k miles, while the partner price is 110k miles.

Partner business class space now prices out 22% higher than United business, and partner first is 38% more than United first. Those are premiums I don’t want to pay because United business and United first are both nice products that I’ve reviewed:

This post will show how to most quickly find United-metal award space on united.com to book awards with United miles on the cheaper United-metal chart.

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How to Redeem Barclaycard Arrival Miles

Update 2/21/14: The minimum spending requirement is now $3,000 in the first 90 days to unlock the 40,000 bonus miles. Full offer details:

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. 40,000 bonus miles equates to $400 off your next travel redemption!
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months after account opening. After that, variable APR, currently 14.99% or 18.99%, based upon your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • No mileage caps or foreign transaction fees
  • Get 10% miles back when you redeem for travel statement credits (i.e. redeem 25,000 miles for travel and get 2,500 miles back)
  • Use your card to book through any airline, hotel or discount travel engine with no blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Easily redeem your miles for statement credits towards all or a portion of your travel purchases within the last 90 days
  • Complimentary online FICO® Score access for Arrival cardmembers

Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases

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The Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases is a tool every frequent flyer should have in their wallet, especially big spenders and families. In essence, the card earns 2.22% back toward travel on all purchases. (Not to mention the sign up bonus worth $444 toward travel after spending $1k in the first three months on the card.)

With Arrival miles, you can book any flight on any airline with no blackouts and no need to search for award availability. You can even use the rewards to pay for the taxes and fees on other airlines’ award redemptions.

 

For Scott’s complete breakdown and analysis of the Arrival Card, make sure to check out his comprehensive review here, and his ways to leverage the lucrative signup bonus here.

This post is a simple walk through of how to redeem your Arrival miles for travel purchases, as well as some pitfalls to avoid when doing so.

How do you redeem Barclaycard Arrival Miles on travel? When do you receive your 10% rebate? Can you use Arrival miles as partial payment towards a charge? Is the redemption process simple? How do you avoid lower value redemptions?

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How to Request United to Manually Sell Award Seats

Here’s how I got United to “manually sell” me award seats for an itinerary. While this technique is not possible in most circumstances, in my case, it turned no award into my dream award!

I was in the midst of constructing a simple roundtrip itinerary from the US to Europe when I ran into some big trouble.

United’s online award calendar displayed Austrian award space on the only day I could return to the States. Unfortunately, when I clicked to select those flights, I was met with a message saying the seats were no longer available.

Rapid Partner Availability

I used other Star Alliance search tools to discover that the seats were actually available to all partners, but United agents simply couldn’t see them.

The only thing left to do was request that United ask Austrian for the seats directly, often called a manual sell. Agents are extremely hesitant to do this, and often cite the company rule book in declining to do so. It usually takes some serious convincing to pull it off, but if you are calm, confident, and polite, it can be done. It’s critical to know how to pull this off, especially if you think your preferred flights have award space while a phone agent insists they don’t.

After a lengthy call, I finally convinced a United agent to manually request the unavailable seats. By requesting the manual sell, the flight I wanted instantly became bookable with my United miles. The segment was added to my itinerary, and I got the perfect set of flights for a summer trip to Europe.

How did this problem occur? Is this a phantom award space issue, or something completely different? What is a “manual sell”? How do you get a United agent to manually sell partner award seats?

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How to Get to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil for Cheap with Miles & Points

I just booked myself a roundtrip First Class award from Honolulu to Sao Paulo, Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. I also booked myself five nights at a hotel in Sao Paulo.

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 3.44.06 PM

Rooting for the Home Team (Poland) at the 2012 UEFA Euro Cup!

The cost?

  • 125,000 US Airways miles
  • 100,000 IHG Rewards points
  • $109

If you want to go see the biggest sporting event in the world in the world’s best footballing (soccer) country, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don’t let the cost of the flights and hotels hold you back, when you can book them with miles and points.

This two-part series will cover:

  • The flight award possibilities including my three best recommendations for the exact routes to book
  • The hotel award possibility (singular) that I’ve found
  • Intra-Brazil flight options with miles and with cash
  • How to get tickets to the games

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How to Transfer SPG Starpoints to Airline Miles

Update: My transfer took two days. I made the transfer on December 18 and received the miles on December 20. Yours may take more or less time.

Starpoints (or SPG points) are the points earned from the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

Starpoints are the most valuable mile or point in my opinion–worth about 2.5 cents each.

They can be used for free hotel nights, complete vacations, discounted hotel nights, or transferred to airline miles with over 30 airlines. It’s not uncommon for hotel points to be usable for hotel stays and airline tickets. What’s unusual is to get a good value for your points doing both things. That’s true versatility.

Some of the airline transfer partners are some of my favorite mileage programs like:

  • American Airlines
  • US Airways
  • Delta
  • British Airways
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Alaska
  • Hawaiian
  • Japan Airlines
  • Lufthansa (Miles & More)
  • Singapore
  • Virgin Atlantic

All the airlines listed have miles that are ideal for certain awards, so to be able to transfer Starpoints at a 1:1 ratio to all those airlines is a huge boon! Even better, for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, you receive 25,000 miles in your airline account, a tidy 5k mile bonus.

I recently opened both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express on the same day, so I am sitting on 70k Starpoints, mulling my redemption options.

Yesterday, I decided to transfer 20k Starpoints to my US Airways Dividend Miles account to receive 25k US Airways miles. My US Airways account had 100k miles in it (from a recent Share Miles promotion), and the award I want–roundtrip first class to South America–costs 125k US Airways miles.

How did I transfer the Starpoints (with screenshots)? What tips do I have for miles transfers?

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The Eight Habits of Highly Effective Award Bookers

Our Award Booking Service has been rocking and rolling lately. Busy frequent flyers love the personal attention we give each itinerary, as well as our expert knowledge of award programs.

The MileValue crew has a battle-tested recipe for award booking success. By following a few easy tips, doing your homework, and being flexible, you too can be an expert award booker–and get yourself your dream trip.

Emirates First Class Suite

What are MileValue’s eight tried-and-true tips? How can you book an award like the pros do?

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How to Save 70,000 Miles on US Airways Awards to Southeast Asia

By using the principles of free oneways and an incredible sweet spot on the US Airways award chart, you can save up to 70,000 miles on your next US Airways award booking to Asia.

I’m flying Turkish Airlines Business Class on My Next US Airways Award

US Airways charges ordinarily charges 120k miles roundtrip in business class to India or Thailand and 160k in first. We can cut that to 90k miles roundtrip in business class to South or Southeast Asia and 120k miles in first!

What is this awesome sweet spot on the US Airways chart? How do we take advantage of it? Can I really save up to 70,000 Dividend Miles per person by taking advantage?

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How to Search for Nonstop Award Space on AA.com

American Airlines’ website is a great place to search for oneworld award space, especially on oneworld partners such as airberlin, Qantas, and Finnair. American’s site is also useful for searching award space on non-oneworld partners like Hawaiian and Alaska. Scott wrote up a good introductory post on AA.com earlier this month.

This brief post will show you a quick tip on how to search for nonstop award segments on AA.com.

How do you manipulate aa.com to show only non-stop results? When would you want to do this?

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How to Get 10 Nights in Hawaii and First Class Flights for Free

This post will explain how a couple can get 10 nights for free at a top-tier hotel in Hawaii plus First Class roundtrip flights all for about $150 per person total. Similar techniques could achieve:

  • 10 free hotel nights and economy class tickets to anywhere in the world that the Star Alliance flies including: Buenos Aires, Madrid, London, Krakow, Berlin, Tokyo, New Delhi, or Beijing
  • one person getting 5 free hotel nights and economy class tickets to the same places and many others

Do you want to be here? (Sheraton Kona)

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A Major Problem with Delta.com and The Only Solution

You can use delta.com to search Delta, Virgin Australia, Air France, KLM, Korean, and now Alitalia space. Korean space isn’t searchable anywhere else. Virgin Australia space isn’t convenient to search elsewhere. Air France and KLM have stopped releasing all their space to Delta, so delta.com is the only place to figure out what space Delta has.

One huge annoyance about searching Korean and Virgin Australia space is that the calendar view doesn’t factor it in, so you have to search day-by-day.

Example: There is space on June 7 from LAX to Sydney at the Low Miles Price on Virgin Australia. (Yes, Delta charges 100k roundtrip for this route in economy. US Airways charges 110k roundtrip for this route in business, with a stop in Asia if you want.) But the Delta flight is at the medium price of 140k roundtrip.

As you can see, the calendar only takes the Delta space into account, listing June 7 as a Medium Price day.

I’ve told you how to trick the united.com calendar. There is no way to trick the Delta.com calendar.

if you want to book on Korean or Virgin Australia, ignore the calendar and search day-by-day. It’s a frustrating solution, but it’s the only solution to make sure you get the Low Miles Price on your awards.

Free First Class Next Month: Searching BA.com to Redeem American Airlines Miles

This is the twenty-first 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Searching AA.com to Redeem American Airlines Miles.

Knowing how to use ba.com is crucial for making award bookings with British Airways Avios and American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

Why? ba.com displays award space for more oneworld partner airlines than does aa.com. That means you often need to search ba.com even if you are redeeming American Airlines miles. For instance, ba.com is a great place to search space on Cathay Pacific before calling American Airlines to book with American Airlines miles.

Award Searches on ba.com

First, you need to sign up for the British Airways Executive Club to be able search. The link is on the top right of BA.com. Next, you must log in.

Along the left side of the screen after logging in, click on Spending Avios. Several choices will emerge beneath where you clicked. Choose Book Flights with Avios.

On this screen, type in the details of your potential award trip. One trick is that if you’re willing to fly either of two classes, select the higher one. ba.com will always display worse classes with space available if the class you want doesn’t have space.

If you’ve selected a route British Airways flies, a screen will pop up asking if you want a stopover in London. Leave No Stopover selected, and click Continue.

If you’ve queried a route not served by British Airways, you’ll be brought directly to results.

The results are displayed by airline. British Airways is at the top and the rest are ordered alphabetically. You can change the sorting to Total Journey Time in the dropdown menu.

If your day comes back with no results, you can click on the nearby dates one at a time on the results screen or move one week at a time.

To get more info on a flight, click the linked flight number, and a new window will open with pertinent info including the aircraft and flight duration.

To see the price of an award including taxes and fees, select one and click the red Continue button.

If you don’t have enough Avios in your account, you will just be shown the Avios price and dollar amount without a breakdown.

LAX-HKG-MNL in First Class price

If you do have enough Avios, the price screen looks a bit different.

If you click on the little “i” icon, you will see how the cash component of the award breaks down. This is how the $311 in addition to the Avios needed to get from LAX to Budapest breaks down.

If you want to book the award you found with Avios, enter your credit card info, and you are all set. If you want to book the itinerary with American Airlines miles–both itineraries above are way better deals with American Airlines miles–note the flight dates, numbers, cabins, and taxes.

American Airlines will charge all the same taxes, but not the fuel surcharges. Call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 and feed the agents the flights you found.

ba.com shows space on airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, and S7, which is all of oneworld.

Continue to Using Qantas.com to Redeem American Airlines Miles.

Free First Class Next Month: Searching AA.com to Redeem American Airlines Miles

This is the twentieth 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 flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Searching United.com to Redeem United and US Airways Miles

This post presents the basics of using aa.com for award bookings. It is not a comprehensive guide to booking American Airlines awards. For that, start at the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

When to Use aa.com

Use aa.com when you are searching for award space on flights operated by American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, airberlin, Finnair, Qantas, or British Airways regardless of what type of miles you are redeeming.

The reason I recommend starting on aa.com to get on one of those airlines is that aa.com has an easy-to-use search tool with easy to visualize and manipulate results.

Starting on the home page, type in your departure and arrival cities. Put in your dates, number of travelers, and click the box that says Redeem Miles.

I’ve typed in Los Angeles to Honolulu from 5/1 to 5/8. After clicking Find Flights, the following screen comes up:

Along the top, color coded, are the possible redemption classes and rates; mine range from 22.5k per direction for Economy MileSAAver to 47.5k per direction for First MileSAAver.

The calendar below shows the lowest mileage cost per day. You can broaden the calendar from one week to one month by clicking Show Full Calendar. You can see availability for a different class of service by clicking on that class of service above the calendar.

When you select the date and class you want, you are taken to the screen where you choose itineraries.

On this screen, you can select an itinerary. If you don’t see one you like, you can toggle the dates or the cabin.

If there are more options than you want, you can remove whole airlines or airports from the results by unchecking their boxes on the left.

On the itinerary screen, itineraries are ordered by shortest duration. If you click the “+ Flight Details” button, you can see the class and aircraft for each leg.

You can use this information on seatguru, or you can click View Available Seats to see the seatmap.

After you’ve picked your itinerary, you can continue to book the award. The payment screen looks like this:

If you are using another carrier’s miles, say Hawaiian’s, now would be the time to go to their site, and search for the same flights you just found and book.

(If you are using Avios, you should have unchecked the Hawaiian Airlines box on the results screen since BA doesn’t partner with Hawaiian. They do partner with Alaska, but you have to call to book.)

The reason to start on American Airlines’ site if you want American Airlines flights but want to use Hawaiian miles or British Airways Avios is that aa.com has a more convenient, easier-to-use calendar that makes finding the perfect itinerary easy.

Again these are just the basics of using aa.com to find award space on American Airlines, Alaska, Hawaiian, Qantas, Finnair, airberlin, and British Airways flights. For more complex itineraries, you’ll need to learn more, perhaps from my Anatomy of an Award series, or you can hire a professional award booker like me.

Continue to Searching BA.com to Redeem American Airlines Miles.

Can One Person Earn Enough Miles for Two?

I get a lot of emails from people who want to travel with a companion, but their companion can’t open credit cards. Maybe the companion doesn’t have a social security number or just has bad credit. Whatever the reason: can one person get enough miles for two people to take a vacation in style?

Here’s a typical email from Dan:

I am interested in using you for award booking for a European vacation for Summer 2014 in business class.

I am also interested in having you help me determine a strategy for which cards to get in order to execute this trip.

Let me tell you my situation:

My wife can open credit cards for herself and a business, but I can’t. We dipped our toe into the awards card world by signing up for 3 cards over 3 months:

  • Delta Gold Amex, 12/12
  • SPG Amex, 1/13
  • Barclays US Air, 2/13

The more I read, the more I realize that going with Delta was probably a mistake.

I’m coming to you for advice as we plan our first app-o-rama. For the trip we want, should we stick with Delta? Or do we have time to focus on another carrier?

Our current balances are:

  • Delta 31k
  • SPG 30k
  • US Airways 40k

Not only can Dan and his wife get to Europe in business class, they are only one three cards away.

The Plan

US Airways and United are partners, both members of the Star Alliance. That means US Airways miles can be used on

  • US Airways flights
  • United flights
  • Star Alliance flights
  • or any combination thereof.

United miles can be used on those same

  • US Airways flights
  • United flights
  • Star Alliance flights
  • or any combination thereof.

Both US Airways and United charge 100k miles roundtrip to Europe, so if you get 100k of each type of miles, two people are all set to fly roundtrip in business class on the same flights.

Dan’s current balances are very helpful, so his wife just needs to get three cards to fill the gaps.

  1. US Airways Premier World MasterCard with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred with 40,000 Ultimate Rewards after $3,000 in spending in the first 3 months
  3. Chase Ink Bold with 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after $5,000 in spending in the first 3 months

Dan already has one US Airways MasterCard, but in pretty much everyone’s experience, you can get two. See Easily Earn 110k US Airways Miles. (And by the way, be on the lookout for the targeted 15k offers in the mail for continued spending on the card.)

There isn’t much to say about the Sapphire Preferred. It has been the “it” card for the last 18 months in the frequent flyer world. Dan would be better off getting the Chase United Explorer card if he can find it with a 50,000 mile bonus offer, but if not, then he should get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Chase Ink Bold is a business card.

Get those cards and meet the minimum spends, and your new balances will be

  • Delta 31k
  • US Airways 70k
  • SPG 30k
  • Ultimate Rewards 98k

Dan will probably have over 100k Ultimate Rewards since the Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points on dining and travel, and the Ink Bold offers 5x points at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, land line, internet, and cable TV services (on the first $50k of spending annually.) Worst case scenario: he buys the last 2k Ultimate Rewards for $50.

Remember that his goal is to have 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles. Here’s how to get there.

Transfer 100k Ultimate Rewards to United. Now he has 100k United miles.

Transfer 25k SPG to US Airways. This will show up as 30k US Airways miles with the automatic transfer bonus. Added on to his balance of 70k US Airways miles, he will have 100k US Airways miles.

Dan has now met his goal of having 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles.

That’s enough to get two seats on the same flights on a roundtrip in business class to Europe.
Dan’s QuestionsDo I combine the United and US Airways miles?

No. You use the United miles to book one award on united.com or by calling United at 800-UNITED-1. You use the US Airways miles to book one award by calling US Airways at 800-622-1015. You just make sure each award has the same flights, so you’ll be on the same planes with each other.

We are booking through different carriers, I assume we will attempt to book seats together, and that the only differences will be what counter we go to for check-in?

The way to choose seats is to call the operating carrier and request seats. So if your flights are on Lufthansa, you call Lufthansa.

You check in at the operating carrier of the first flight, so you check in at the same counter at the airport.

Recap

One person can earn enough miles for two people to travel in style to Europe. The key is to earn 100k United miles and 100k US Airways miles. The miles can’t be combined, but they can be used to each book one seat on the same flights, so the two companions can travel together.

Best Practices for Maximizing the PointBreaks List for $35 a Night Hotels

There are several posts on yesterday’s new PointBreaks list. Even if you’ve read those, read this. I’ve honed my strategy for getting $35 per night rooms quite a bit, and I want to share it, so everyone can have access to the best practices.

This post will tell you how to book any hotel on the list of Priority Club’s PointBreaks hotels for only $35 per night, even the ones that ordinarily cost $400 or more per night. And I’ll explain how to give yourself maximum flexibility to pick the exact dates you want as the trip approaches.

Priority Club PointBreaks

Priority Club is the loyalty program for InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, and Staybridge Suites. As we covered here, Priority Club recently devalued its award chart, so it now takes 10,000 to 50,000 points for a free night depending on the property. But every few months, Priority Club releases a list of a select few hotels where you can stay for 5,000 points per night. That’s a 90% discount on some hotels!

The new list of PointBreaks hotels is good for stays now through 3/31/13.

We can stay at any hotel on the PointBreaks list for $35 just by exploiting one loophole!

The basic premise is that Priority Club lets you buy 10,000 points for $70, which is 0.7 cents per point.

In this post, I’ll give my full strategy for taking advantage of the PointBreaks list. This strategy ensures I get all the $35 per night hotel stays I want with maximum availability of nights and maximum flexibility to change my plans. My strategy solves a number of problems.

Problem #1: Not every hotel is on the PointBreaks list.

Solution: There is no solution for this problem.

When a new list comes out, I check its end date then look at my Meet Up page to figure out where I’ll be between now and then that I might want a hotel. I also consider trips I haven’t planned, but have been mulling. And finally I look for the incredible properties that normally cost 50,000 miles to see if I want to take an impromptu trip.

I note all the hotels that I might want to stay at.

Problem #2: Not every night is available at hotels that are on the list–and what availability there is can disappear quickly.

Solution: Book award space now.

This leads to Problem #3.

Problem #3: I may want to change my plans later, but I may have to cancel the entire award to do that, costing me the chance at 5,000 point ($35) nights.

Solution: Book awards as a series of one-night stays.

If you think you want to stay at the InterContinental Fiji for five nights before March 31 during a two week period, but you’re not sure which five nights, book 14 one-night stays.

Booking 14 stays will take under 20 minutes, and you’ll have the flexibility later to cancel the nine you don’t want one at a time, leaving you the five consecutive nights you want. Then you can call the hotel to ask them to merge the five reservations or just show up and note to the front desk that all five are yours, and you don’t want to move rooms. They don’t want to move you either, since it increases their costs.

To book the 14 stays in this example, you would need 70,000 points, which leads to problem #5.

Problem #5: I don’t have any Priority Club points.

Solution: We can transfer in 5,000 Ultimate Rewards to have 5,000 Priority Club points. Once we have 5,000 Priority Club points, we can buy unlimited quantities for 0.7 cents each.

The first step if you don’t have 5,000 Priority Club points is to get them. Ultimate Rewards points transfer in at 1:1 ratio in about 14 hours in my experience. You can make the transfer at ultimaterewards.com by clicking the Priority Club Rewards link under the transfer points tab.

Then give your Priority Club account info and select the points to transfer in increments on 1,000.

You want to have 5,000 points after making the transfer. I feel bad moving Ultimate Rewards to Priority Club because Ultimate Rewards are worth almost three times as much as Priority Club points, but to be able to buy more Priority Club points for 0.7 cents, we need to have at least 5,000 Priority Club points.

The way to buy Priority Club points for 0.7 cents is to make a cash and points award booking then cancel it. Once you have a Priority Club account with 5,000 points, the next step is to book a 15,000 point award. Why? When booking a 15,000 point award, you are given the option to purchase the 10,000 point shortfall for $70, which is 0.7 cents per point. Here is such an award:

As you can see, this award costs 15,000 points or 5,000 and $70. Select 5,000 points and $70 and pay for the award. The confirmation screen makes it very clear that the $70 is going towards buying 10,000 points that would be immediately used to book the award.

After booking, immediately cancel the reservation online by following a link from the booking confirmation page. That brings you to this screen:

As you can see, my reservation has been cancelled. As you can also see in the top right, the points immediately credit back to my account. My account now has 15,000 points, 5,000 that I transferred from Ultimate Rewards and 10,000 that I just bought for $70 while making a dummy booking.

If you need more points–say you want to make 14 speculative one-night bookings–then you repeat this step. For instance, I recently increased my account balance from 5,000 to 45,000 in two dummy bookings. I just showed the first. In the second, I selected the same hotel on a three-night cash and points booking. That booking cost 15,000 points (my new balance) plus $210 to buy the other 30,000 points needed. Then I cancelled that booking, and I had 45,000 points from a 5,000 Ultimate Rewards transfer and $280 in cash.

If $280 sounds like a lot of cash, don’t forget that my 45,000 points is enough for nine nights in a hotel.

Caveats

You have to have 5,000 points in your account to buy points for 0.7 cents each. Buying points is a much better deal than transferring in your Ultimate Rewards that are worth way more than 0.7 cents each, but you may have to transfer in 5,000 Ultimate Rewards to start the point-buying madness.

Not all hotels are on the PointBreaks list. Not all nights are available as 5,000 point award nights at the hotels that are on the list. Check availability before buying points.

Make sure your account has 5,000 more points than you need for your speculative bookings. You always want a balance of 5,000 points at the end for your next round of buying points. It would be a shame to have to make another Ultimate Rewards transfer.

Example from Summer 2012

I scoured that summer’s PointBreaks list to see if any of my travel plans coincided with any of the hotels, and they did in one case: I would be in Krakow, Poland and the Holiday Inn Krakow City Centre was on the list.

I was in Krakow June 6 – 9, and I didn’t have a hotel booked. While the Krakow Holiday Inn was hardly the nicest property on the PointBreaks list, its cheapest room June 6 was 531 Polish Zloty, which was $153.

The first thing I did was search availability, and I found space June 6 and 8, but not June 7. I decided to book June 6 and 8, so I needed 10,000 Priority Club points.

I had zero Priority Club points in my account, so I transferred in 5,000 points from Ultimate Rewards. I bought 10,000 more points for $70 exactly how I outlined above leaving me with 15,000 points after I cancelled my dummy booking.

With my new points, I made two one-night bookings on June 6 and 8.

I noted the cancellation policy, which varies by hotel, in case I had to cancel. At the Holiday Inn Krakow, I just had to cancel by 4 PM the day of arrival.

I ended up very much enjoying the stay at the Holiday Inn Krakow, and I wrote about it in my Krakow, Poland Hotel Guide.

Booking two nights left me with 5,000 points in my Priority Club account, which set me up perfectly for the current list. I have just made five one-night bookings on this list after buying new points for 0.7 cents each because several of the hotels line up with my travel plans.

Recap

The new PointBreaks list is out from Priority Club. This is a list of hotels you can book for 5,000 points or $35 per night. The best way to take advantage of the list is to be active right now.

  1. Scour the list for hotels you may want to stay at. The list is organized by continent.
  2. Search for availability at those hotels for every possible night you might want to stay.
  3. Book now a series of one-night stays that cover the time periods when you may want to stay.
  4. Get the points you need for this by transferring in 5,000 Ultimate Rewards, then buying the rest for 0.7 cents.
  5. Note the cancellation deadline at each hotel. This varies.
  6. As your plans firm up, cancel the nights you don’t want before the deadline for a full refund of the points.
  7. Leave at least 5,000 points in your account to repeat this cycle on the next list.

I have booked a $153 hotel room for $35 using the techniques in this post. And there are much nicer, more expensive hotels on the list of PointBreaks hotels. There are Intercontinentals that go for over $400 per night that you can get for $35 per night using the technique outlined in this post. And with my advanced techniques for holding availability that you can later fit your needs, you can be a master at staying in great hotels around the world for $35.

Which hotel will you stay at for $35?

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