Category Archives: How to

How to Search for Award Space on Aeroplan.com

Aeroplan is Air Canada’s spun-off loyalty program. Aeroplan.com is an awesome search engine that displays award availability on almost all Star Alliance flights.

You should know how to use aeroplan.com whether or not you ever plan to redeem Aeroplan miles because you shouldn’t necessarily search the website of the miles you’re using. You should just search the website that is easiest and best at displaying award availability. Any award availability shown at aeroplan.com will be bookable with Aeroplan, United, Singapore, ANA, Lufthansa, and Avianca miles.

Aeroplan.com is usually my backup search engine. I start my searches for Star Alliance award space at united.com because you can search without signing in, its two-month calendar is useful, it shows most partners, and it’s pretty good at finding available space.

I also use the ANA search tool to if I want to be sure whether there is space on an award segment or not because it is the most accurate Star Alliance search engine. Complete guides on how to perform those searches can be found here:

There are a few instances, however, when it makes sense to search for Star Alliance award availability on aeroplan.com:

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Star Alliance members courtesy of staralliance.com

Aeroplan.com is better for those airlines simply because united.com doesn’t display their award space at all.

Aeroplan’s search engine has also been programmed better than United’s to find itineraries with multiple connections. I frequently find award space on aeroplan.com for two or three layover itineraries that I did not find on united.com. That’s why I always search aeroplan.com before moving on to more complicated segment-by-segment searching.

  • How do you go about searching for award availability on Aeroplan.com?
  • Are there any limitations when using Aeroplan.com?
  • If United.com is flawed, why shouldn’t you just use Aeroplan.com for all Star Alliance searches?

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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

TheBarclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® is a tool every frequent flyer should have in their wallet, especially big spenders and families. In essence, the card earns 2.28% back toward travel on all purchases. (Not to mention the sign up bonus worth $456 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 Plus, 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.

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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.