Today I was with my friend as she applied for two credit cards. Her knowledge of miles and points is average for an American, which is to say, it’s almost non-existent.
The questions she asked me while we talked about which cards she should get were illuminating. They reminded me of a few facts that I’d like to drill into beginners’ heads. Please forward this post to anyone who has ever expressed interest in miles and points or envy at the way you travel.
My friend told me that she wanted to collect miles to go to Japan and London in economy. For Japan, the best miles are American Airlines miles because you can fly on American or Japan Airlines, and for six months per year, the price is only 25k miles each way. For London, many miles are roughly equal including American Airlines miles, which allow you to fly to Europe for 20k miles each way seven months per year.
Japan’s Cherry Blossoms
I suggested that she open the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® at the same time to earn 93,000 American Airlines by early next year by taking advantage of the merger between American Airlines and US Airways.
She accepted the advice, but she had a lot of questions.
- What does she have to do to combine the miles?
- What if the spending requirement is too much?
- Will I see her financial information if she applies for the cards through links on my site?
- What are the fees associated with the cards?
- Will canceling these cards in the future cause her to forfeit the miles?
- How can she check her credit score?
- Should she close other credit cards she has?
- How can she book her award tickets?
Commenter RH Dailey asked me for a list of direct flights from the west coast to Europe and to let him know which ones have flat beds in Business Class.
There are direct flights from five west coast cities plus Vancouver and Las Vegas to Europe.
These flights are operated by all the major transatlantic players and by some airlines that perhaps you’ve never heard of.
For each North American city, I’ve listed the European cities served and by which carriers. Here I’ll list where to search for award space on each carrier and whether it has flat beds in Business Class.
- American Airlines: aa.com, yes from Los Angeles to London
- Aer Lingus: Expert Flyer, yes starting in 2015
- Air France: delta.com, no
- United: united.com, yes
- British Airways: aa.com, yes (you will pay huge fuel surcharges to book British Airways flights with any type of miles)
- Virgin Atlantic: delta.com, yes
- KLM: delta.com, no
- Lufthansa: united.com, on some aircraft
- Scandinavian: united.com, no
- Swiss: united.com, yes
- Turkish, united.com, on some aircraft
- Aeroflot, airfrance.us, no (fuel surcharges)
- airberlin, aa.com, on some aircraft
- Air Tahiti Nui, Expert Flyer, no
- Air New Zealand, united.com, yes (never releases business class award space)
- Delta, delta.com, yes
- Alitalia, delta.com, on some aircraft
- Iberia, ba.com, no
- Air Canada, united.com, yes
- Air Europa, Expert Flyer, no (fuel surcharges)
These next seven airlines don’t have award space that can be booked with traditional miles, and I don’t think any of them have flat bed business class either. You can, of course, book these airlines with your Arrival miles from the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® since you can book any airline with Arrival miles.
- XL Airways France
- Thomas Cook
What are the routes from the west coast to Europe?
Longtime reader Eddy emailed me:
Do you know of someplace that has the rules of the various frequent flyer programs? I’m looking at trip to China next Spring and there are so many options, so I’d like to know for each program: (1) allow one ways? (2) permit stop overs? (3) charge for fuel? Any idea if this info is collected in one place anywhere? Thanks.
This seemed like something I absolutely had to put in one place, so this is the place.
This chart represents the rules for using the type of miles listed in the far left column.
Click the image to enlarge.
I’ve included 10 of my favorite programs on the chart. I toyed with how best to present the information of the chart, at one point including footnotes next to almost every entry. I ditched that, and instead will put longer form answers for each airline and explanations of the color-coding after the Continue Reading link.
Let me clear up one of the most common types of questions I get from beginners.
There is no transitive property of miles.
Just because Airline A partners with Airline B and Airline B partners with Airline C does NOT mean Airlines A and C are partners.
For instance, in yesterday’s post Fully Flat Business Class to Europe for 25,000 Miles, I wrote:
I searched award space on Aer Lingus’ routes from Chicago, Boston, and New York to Dublin for one passenger next April through July.
I searched on united.com. Any space seen here is bookable with United or British Airways miles.
Often when I write such things I’ll get a comment or an email like, “I have American Airlines miles, which is a partner of British Airways. Can I use those miles to book Aer Lingus flights as a British Airways award?”
- Well, can you?
- What about using a partner’s more favorable fuel surcharge rules?
- Can you use American Airlines and US Airways miles to book all the partners of either airline?
Overnight, I wrote about the current Starwood/American Airlines promotion: for all of July, 20,000 Starpoints will transfer to 30,000 American Airlines miles.
I gave the facts in this post, but I was called out in the comments for not analyzing the promotion. Said DH:
“Is this offer an indication there’s an AA devaluation right around the corner? If so, is this transfer still a good idea? Starwood points are really valuable, and I doubt devalued AA miles would be anywhere close. It’d be nice if you could discuss a bit about the merits and drawbacks/risks of the transfer instead of just saying the offer is available. It’s usually your analysis of an offer that sets this site apart. Thanks.”
DH is totally right that I want this site to stand apart because I don’t just say there is a promotion, I analyze it.
In my defense, I was coming back from a night out in Brazil celebrating the USA’s World Cup run, so I wasn’t up to the analysis. But I am now, and there’s 1,500 words of it below!
- Should you transfer Starpoints to AAdvantage miles speculatively this month?
- What are the 30+ airline partners of Starpoints?
- What are the 10+ to which I’d transfer?
- What are the three best?
- What are the strengths of those three airline programs?
- What is my forecast for upcoming devaluations?
- What are four other great uses of Starpoints besides airline transfers?
- Will I transfer?
- Should you?