You Can Still Get the 50,000 Mile United Offer

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Earlier this month, the 50,000 mile bonus offer on the United Explorer Card publicly ended. Reader Solomon sent along two places you can still get the card with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months.

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Where You Can Get the United 50k Offer, photo from Solomon

Chase issues the United Explorer card and usually lets folks who have applied for a lower offer match to a better public offer. That means that the 50k mile United card offer might be available to everyone.

  • Where can you get the United 50,000 mile offer?
  • How can anyone possibly be matched to the 50,000 mile offer?

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The Cheapest Ways to Get to Hawaii

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Update on 9/23/14 to Remove Reference to American Airlines award stopovers and free one ways, which are no longer possible.

Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to visit, and judging by the number of inquiries I get about booking awards to Hawaii, it’s clear that many people agree. There are a number of cheap ways to get there that I’ll list in order.

1. Allegiant Air $358+ roundtrip- Allegiant Air is a super-low cost carrier that announced flights to Hawaii that will start in November. Flights to Honolulu from Bellingham, Eugene, Fresno, Las Vegas, Monterey, Santa Maria, and Stockton; and flights to Kahului from Bellingham begin in November. The flights are as cheap as $308 roundtrip, but a carryon will cost $50 roundtrip and a checked bag is $70 roundtrip. Additionally if you want to select your seat or board early, you have to pay extra.

But if you live in one of the cities serviced by Allegiant, don’t mind a middle seat for five hours, and can travel with only one bag, $358 roundtrip to Hawaii is the best deal in my opinion.

One key caveat is that Allegiant flights don’t earn any frequent flier miles or credit of any kind. Since normally flying from the west coast to Hawaii earns about 5,000 miles, and I value 5,000 miles at around $85 depending on the carrier, Allegiant flights must be $85 or more cheaper than the legacy carriers for this to be a good deal. Since the legacy carriers want $600+ from the west coast to Hawaii right now, Allegiant easily meets the criterion.

You can always pay for your Allegiant flights, bag fees, seat fees, and food with a Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®. Then you can redeem Arrival miles to remove those purchases from your statement. You could even use your Arrival miles for an airbnb stay in Hawaii or interisland flights.

2. Avios Award 25,000+ Avios and $11+ roundtrip- I love that Avios is a distance-based award chart. Flights like the west coast to Hawaii cost only 12,500 Avios each way plus taxes. For 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly on AA planes from LAX to the four major Hawaiian airports.

Alaska Airlines has way more gateways on the mainland to the four major Hawaiian airports. For 25,000 Avios and $36, you can fly from Anchorage, Bellingham, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle to Hawaii. The extra $25 on Avios awards comes from the fact that awards on Alaska Airlines can’t be booked on ba.com, and calling BA incurs a $25 phone fee.

Avios is also the best option for anyone who lives close to one of the airports mentioned in this section, since a short hop flight only adds 4,500 Avios and $2.50 to the price each way. That means Tuscon to Los Angeles to Lihue roundtrip would be 34,000 Avios and $16.

Avios can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, it’s still a good idea to go oneway for 12,500 Avios and use another oneway deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from Honolulu to LAX with Avios.

3. Hawaiian Airlines Award 35,000 miles and $11- Hawaiian Airlines awards start at 35,000 miles for Hawaiian Airlines branded card holders. The normal price is 40,000 miles. While this price is no cheaper than an American Airlines off peak award to Hawaii, I think it’s a better deal because Hawaiian Airlines miles are worth less than most programs’ miles. (The reason Hawaiian miles are worth less is their lack of partners, junk long haul first class product, and lack of destinations.)

Hawaiian also has the only direct flight from Honolulu to JFK, which at 35,000 miles and $5 is a fantastic value in terms of low cost and getting a direct flight. The other flights Hawaiian operates from Honolulu to the mainland go to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle.

Hawaiian miles can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, this can be combined with a oneway Avios deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from LAX to Honolulu with Hawaiian miles. The post also includes information on the very useful mile pooling allowed by Hawaiian.

4. Star Alliance options from as little as 35,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 60,000 miles in First.

See this post.

 

American Airlines Still Allows Stopovers on Awards

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My sister asked me a few weeks ago: “Didn’t you say there are no stopovers allowed on American Airlines awards?”

“Yes,” I replied. “In April, American removed the ability to add a free stopover to awards under all circumstances. It was a super bummer because I used to use the free stopovers for free one ways.”

“I just got a free stopover on my American Airlines award.”

She gave me her American Airlines number and password, so I was able to go into her account and check everything out.

She did indeed add a 2+ day stopover in Los Angeles on an award between Hawaii and the continental United States.

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  • How did she get this stopover?
  • Is it repeatable?

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Review: Great Wall Hiking Company

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Last week, I did a 2 day/1 night hike on the Great Wall of China near Beijing that included 10 miles of hiking on the Wall, several meals, transportation, lodging, and a massage. My brother and I paid $370 per person.

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Hiking the Great Wall was one of my best travel experiences ever. The history, the scenery, the outdoor exercise, and spending time with my brother were a potent combination.

I went with Great Wall Hiking (which gave me no discount and doesn’t know I’m writing this review), and I enjoyed the tour immensely. I wish it had been cheaper, and there may be similar options out there that are cheaper. I’ll give my experiences to help you plan your Great Wall adventure if you head to Beijing. (See also How the 72 Hour Transit Without Visa Works in Beijing, China and Award Space Home from the Great Wall.)

  • What was the itinerary?
  • How was the service?

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Buy IHG Rewards Points for 0.575 Cents Each, $30 Hotel Rooms

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Through Monday September 22, 2014, you can buy 100,000+ IHG Rewards points for 0.575 cents each.

Buying IHG points for under 0.6 cents each means you can book certain IHG hotel rooms for less than $30 per night.

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This sale virtually ties the cheapest I’ve ever seen the points for sale. In May, during Daily Getaways, 100k points were sold for $567 (0.008 cents cheaper per point), and that package sold out quickly.

  • How does the sale work?
  • How can you get $30 hotel nights?
  • Is this a good deal?

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Trip Report: Seoul to Los Angeles in Asiana First Class A380

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I just arrived in Los Angeles after 10 hours flying Asiana First Class on its brand new A380. I booked my seat last month for 70,000 United miles (at pre-devaluation prices using this trick.)

This is a really important trip report because Asiana First Class is a true luxury product that is extremely easy to book with miles!

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Champagne wishes & caviar realities in Asiana First

Award space on the Asiana A380 is wide open in Business Class and First Class between Los Angeles and Seoul, especially at the last minute. Here’s a search for 4 passengers between Seoul and Los Angeles for the next two months. The blue and green days all have award space in Business or First Class or both for 4 passengers on the same flight.

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This flight has 4+ Business Class and 4+ First Class award seats on the same Asiana A380.

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I very much enjoyed my Asiana First Class experience, though there are some things the airline can improve.

  • How was the seat, bed, food, service, lounge, and airport experience?

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50 Free Award Wallet Upgrade Codes

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Enjoy one of these 50 free upgrade codes to six months of Award Wallet Plus. Award Wallet is the free way I track my 35 miles and points balances and store my login information for those programs.

Read more about Award Wallet.

Sign up for Award Wallet.

Click “Continue Reading” to see the codes. You may need to try a few before you find one that is unused.

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How Rich Would I Need to Be to Buy First Class

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I’m sitting in the Asiana First Class Lounge in Seoul, about to fly one of the newest and hopefully best First Class products in the world on the Asiana A380.

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First Class Suite on Asiana A380

I booked the ticket for 70,000 United miles and around $150 all in because you can still book awards at the old pre-devaluation United award prices.

On a whim, I checked the cash price for the ticket. United is selling today’s Asiana flight for 3.7 million Korean won, about $3,560 one way in First Class.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 12.58.45 PMI am actually surprised that the flight isn’t much more expensive. This year I flew Cathay Pacific First Class from New York to Hong Kong for 67,500 American Airlines miles and $27.50. A similar flight goes for $11,271 one way if you buy it from American Airlines (oddly $5,000 cheaper than buying the Cathay Pacific flight from Cathay Pacific.)

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These eye-popping prices made me think: How rich would I need to be before I bought these flights with cash?

  • How rich would you need to be before you bought First Class with cash?
  • Why do I redeem miles for First Class instead of economy?

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New Virgin Atlantic Routes, Best Use SkyMiles?

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I recently received an email about changes to the Virgin Atlantic route network.

Virgin Atlantic is a London-based carrier that is not a member of any of the three major alliances, but does have a partnership with Delta.

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Using 125,000 Delta miles for a roundtrip in Upper Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Europe is a fantastic use of SkyMiles.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Marketing

I checked a few of the Virgin Atlantic routes for award space for May 2015 and found award space nearly every day on one route, many of those days featuring two award seats in Upper Class, bookable with Delta miles with no fuel surcharges.

Virgin Atlantic serves 11 cities in the United States from London and the rest of Europe from there.

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  • How is award space in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class?
  • How can you book it with Delta miles?
  • How can you greatly reduce taxes on awards that involve Virgin Atlantic Upper Class?

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Get 5x United Miles at Amazon, Zappos, Sears, and More

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Chase Freedom is offering 5% cash back at amazon.com, zappos.com, and dozens of department stores from October 1 – December 31, 2014. You must activate those category bonuses, and you can do so now.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 11.19.01 PM(It’s too late to activate the 5x at gas stations and Kohl’s that runs through September 30. If you haven’t hit $1,500 in spending yet, hurry.)

The Freedom markets itself as a cash back card, but it actually earns Ultimate Rewards that do NOT transfer to airline or hotel partners like United and Hyatt.

You can, however, transfer the Freedom’s Ultimate Rewards to your Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold account or your spouse’s. From there, you can transfer the Ultimate Rewards to a dozen incredible airline and hotel partners like United and Hyatt.

That means that if you play this right, you can earn 5x United miles per dollar at amazon.com, zappos.com, and select department stores for the fourth quarter of the year.

  • How can you register for the Freedom 5x categories?
  • How can you indirectly transfer the Freedom’s Ultimate Rewards to airline miles and hotel points?
  • Why is transferring the points more valuable than cash back?
  • Who are the Ultimate Rewards partners?
  • What department stores will earn 5x? Which are excluded?

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Using IHG Rewards Into the Night Promotion for Free Luxury Hotel Nights

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IHG Rewards has a fantastic promotion called Into the Nights in which you can turn a few cheap stays into free stays at top tier hotels worldwide.

Everyone is given several tasks to complete that vary in difficulty. Each task has an associated amount of bonus points. Complete a set number, and you also earn another set of bonus points or the two Free Nights.

This promotion began two weeks ago, but I avoided writing about it until I knew what “Free Nights” meant.

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The word has come back to Gary Leff that these Free Nights are identical to the Free Nights earned by the credit card and can be used at any IHG Rewards property whenever there is award night availability with points.

  • What is my targeted offer?
  • What is yours?
  • Am I participating?
  • How should you calculate whether participating is a good deal for you?

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The Cheapest Awards within One Region

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If you THINK BIG, and take an amazing multi-destination trip, you’ll need to book several tickets to hop between destinations.

In the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia, flights are fairly cheap because of the many competing airlines, including low cost carriers. In other regions, like Africa and South America, short flights can be exorbitantly expensive as a lack of competition drives up prices.

When ticket prices are expensive, that’s the time to use miles. I’ve already laid out the cheapest intra-region bargain awards with American Airlines and United miles. There are also some excellent deals within a single region on the American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways award charts.

Hop Around My Favorite Continent for 12,500 of Which Miles? (from google.com)

Hop Around My Favorite Continent for 12,500 of Which Miles? (from google.com)

The key to finding great miles uses within a single region is finding award charts with big regions.

For instance, Singapore Airlines categorizes all of South America as one region and charges only 12,500 miles each way in economy within the region. One route I’m looking at for a big trip in December is from Medellin, Colombia to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The ticket would cost $755 or 12,500 Singapore miles + $75. That’s over 5 cents of value per mile on an economy ticket!

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With the demise of American Airlines Explorer Awards, big trips will require many awards. Choosing the right miles for each of the small awards will really add up, so make sure you know the top intra-region awards.

  • What are the top intra-region awards with American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways miles?
  • What about British Airways Avios?

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Announcing Los Angeles MileValue Dinner Sunday 9/21

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All 30 spots are full and there is a wait list for cancellations that is already 10+ deep, so no new RSVPs can be accepted. I love the great response, so I’ll try to have more.

I’m excited to announce a MileValue dinner this Sunday, September 21, in Los Angeles (90006) at 6 PM. I chose an earlier start time, since it’s a work night.

This is the first one in Los Angeles in eleven months, and I think the fourth LA dinner overall. I love the MileValue dinners in Los Angeles, which have had attendees from all over Southern California at all miles collecting and redeeming levels.

Full details and how to RSVP

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End of Amazon Payments Free $1,000 Transfer

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Amazon Payments is a payment service very similar to PayPal with one major difference.

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Amazon Payments charges no fee to pay someone with a credit card. You can send $1,000 per month per account without fees on Amazon Payments. You can also receive $1,000 per month per account without fees.

People use this to pay for things that ordinarily couldn’t be put on a credit card, like your half of your rent to your roommate, or to manufacture spending.

Starting October 13, 2014, the person-to-person payments option will be eliminated. You will no longer be allowed to send and receive $1,000 per calendar month fee-free. From an email sent to Amazon Payments users:

“Additionally, we have updated the terms and conditions of our User Agreement (https://payments.amazon.com/help/Personal-Accounts/User-Agreement-Policies/User-Agreement) that apply to your use of the products and services provided by Amazon Payments.  Our updated User Agreement revises certain terms (including, among other things, the elimination of person-to-person payments).  Our new User Agreement will become effective on October 13, 2014, which is more than 30 days from when we first posted our updated User Agreement.  By continuing to use our services after October 13, 2014, you are agreeing to be bound by the terms and conditions of our new User Agreement.”

That means you can only send $2,000 more fee-free, $1,000 during September and $1,000 from October 1 to 12, 2014.

There are still ways to manufacture spending, including my preferred method, Kiva.

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