Mashable readers: Welcome to the best blog on redeeming frequent flyer miles. The way that I’ve traveled to over 20 countries this year and spent nine months abroad is by signing up for credit cards and using the miles to book business and first class awards.
Here is a post that explains to beginners what I do and why I do it. I wrote it for the benefit of new readers who were attracted to the site when MileValue was featured in the New York Times.
The card Alissa got was the US Airways Premier World MasterCard with 30,000 bonus US Airways miles after first purchase, enough for a roundtrip award to Europe or South America. It is a great card to get started with US Airways miles, which are the best to North Asia and Australia among other places.
Here are some other great posts on some US Airways awards I’ve booked, including my all time favorite award:
- Anatomy of an Award: South America, Africa, Europe, and North America in Biz for 100k
- How to Combine US Airways Promotions to Get Two Tickets to Europe for $284 Each
If you already have miles and think they’re worthless, you just don’t know how to use them. Subscribe to this blog by entering your email address in the top left corner. You’ll receive one daily email with all my posts, and you’ll be up to speed in no time.
Or you can skip the learning and use my Award Booking Service, which charges $111 per person to book your awards with your miles.
If you have a trip in mind but no miles yet, you should get a Free Credit Card Consultation from me, in which I tell you which cards to open to take your dream trip for free.
A Mashable article titled “How I Flew Around the World in Business Class for $1,340” was just posted by a self-described MileValue reader about her round-the-world business class award.
Most of my knowledge I gleaned on how to book this reward ticket came from the travel blog Milevalue. It’s a travel blog run by a 26-year-old guy who writes easy-to-read blog posts on how to find and book overly complicated reward flights.
Alissa Haupt used that knowledge to book a ten segment US Airways award from Minneapolis to Shanghai via Europe and back for only 90k US Airways miles in business class, 30k of which she got on first purchase from the US Airways Premier World MasterCard.
I’m very proud of the student I didn’t know I had, who did a pretty good job–with room for some improvement–on what sounds like one of her first awards.
What did she get right? What did she get wrong? How can you do better?
She got 30k miles by opening a US Airways Premier World MasterCard and bought the other 60k during a US Airways 100% bonus promotion for about $1,200.
This is a great way to get a business class award trip to Shanghai. As she points out later, her flights would have cost at least $5,000, and she paid less than a third of that.
I can’t give her an A+ for miles acquisition though. She could have “bought” 50k of the miles during the recent 100% Share miles promotion for about half the price she paid. Or she could have opened the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Business Card to get all the miles from credit card sign up bonuses. The 60k Starpoints from getting both cards equals 75k US Airways miles.
She chose US Airways because it has by far the cheapest business class awards to China, great partner availability, and the most liberal routing rules. Excellent choice.
US Airways is a part of Star Alliance, so with those miles I was able to book travel on any of the company’s airline partners. (In fact, despite booking with US Airways, none of my flights were on that carrier.) US Airways is unique as its awards are booked without a computer to tell the booking agent whether or not the reward flight travels over too many miles or segments.
She searched award space segment by segment on united.com. Perfect choice.
I used United.com to search for reward availability, segment by segment, starting with the hardest first.
Not content to simply get to Shanghai, she added a three day stopover in Seoul and 23 hour layovers in Chicago, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Bangkok, Zurich, and Munich. And it sounds like she’s pretty happy she did.
More so, it was really wonderful to have the ability to hop around the world for one week. I ate wild-roast sausage in the rain in Frankfurt, attempted to only speak German for 24-hours straight (with mixed success) and fired a BB gun at a balloon over the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul (my first time firing any gun, ever). I partied the whole night long with hostel-mates in Bangkok, then had a Thai massage (hangover cure?). I ate Bi Bim Bap in Seoul, and toured tunnels dug by North Koreans under the Demilitarized Zone.
Once she found her award space, she called US Airways and fed the segments to the agent. Brilliant.
I called US Airways to book the award and fed the agent each flight segment.
I would not have held this award. If the agent was ready to book, I would have booked. Holding the award can lead to the problem that Alissa ran into of having the next agent balk at ticketing your award. Luckily Alissa knew how to solve that too: hang up; call back.
I was able to put the flights on hold for three days…Once I was certain I wanted to travel on these dates, I called back to book the reward. I had to hang up and call again several times before I found a booking agent who was able to book the tickets for me.
In the end she paid 90k miles plus $140. She got 30k of the miles from a credit card sign up and bought 60k for $1,200. Her total outlay was $1,340 plus one credit pull.
That’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative.
According to my quick search on Kayak, it would have cost somewhere between $5,000 in cash to fly between Minneapolis and Shanghai business class on my dates, and $19,000 to book the trip around the world.
Overall, she did a very good job for what sounds like her first award. Positives:
- She identified the best program for her trip.
- She took advantage of lax routing rules and 23-hour layovers.
- She bought miles when they went on sale to get to the amount she needed.
- She searched on the right website.
- She led the call with the US Airways agent.
- She hung up/called back when she ran into a dead end.
She could make a few improvements:
- She could have gotten all the miles from credit card sign ups by getting two more of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Business card, and US Airways business card.
- She could have bought the miles cheaper during a Share miles promo.
- She could have ticketed when she got a friendly US Airways agent instead of holding.
- She could have saved herself a lot of time by using the MileValue Award Booking Service for only $111, though it sounds like she enjoyed the process.
And the article had a few minor errors that I corrected in a comment.
Congrats to Alissa for a fantastic and super cheap award that met her needs. I would like to correct a few minor errors though.
“US Airways also is unique because it allows you to have an unlimited number of layovers that are 24 hours or less, and one stopover — of any time length — in a city in the same region of your destination. My region was North Asia, so I used my free stopover in Seoul.”
In fact, all major airlines allow virtually unlimited layovers up to 24 hours on awards. I just did six on an intra-Europe United award to see seven countries in a week. Also, her greater than 24 hour layover could have been in any region including Europe.
It’s always very exciting for me to hear about a reader using knowledge they learned at MileValue to book a dream award. Whether you share it on a blog like Mashable, show me the award routing in person like reader Victor did at the Chicago Seminars, or just drop me an email, please share your success stories with me!
Check out the full Mashable article and share it with your newbie friends, so they have an idea why we’re into this hobby and the tangible benefits one can get from collecting miles.
Full Article: How I Flew Around the World in Business Class for $1,340