Free First Class 2014: Save Hundreds on Hotels with Name Your Own Price on Priceline

This is the twenty-seventh 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 flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Today I’ll continue the theme of cheap paid travel when you don’t have or don’t want to use points.

This is a topic I love: saving 60% on hotels using Priceline.com. If you aren’t being reimbursed for your hotel expenses, and you have any flexibility over which hotel you can stay in, Priceline.com’s “name your own price” bidding tool can save you hundreds of dollars per stay, so bookmark this post!

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As the commercials say, hotels give their unsold inventory to Priceline to sell at a steep discount to get at least some revenue. We can swoop in and book hotels through Priceline for a fraction of the retail price, but you have to know the system.

  • How does “Name Your Own Price” work?
  • What trick allows us to circumvent the rules and make it work even better for us?
  • What are the drawbacks of using Priceline that you need to know?
  • How have I saved hundreds with the Name Your Own Price tool?

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How Much Does Award Space Change Day to Day?

If award space isn’t available on a flight you want, keep checking. Award space changes all the time. This is a truism, but I have never tracked one route and flight for a few days to show exactly how true the truism is until now.

I’ve tracked First Class availability on the brand new Asiana A380 this month and next for the past few days. There were changes every day.

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Enclosed Suite for First Class on Asiana A380

I started tracking the award space for selfish reasons. I have a United award from Seoul to Los Angeles next month to return to the United States from the Asian vacation I’m taking with my brother.

The award goes the long way and features Asiana and Lufthansa First Class. Since booking the award, I’ve flown Lufthansa First Class and been to the Lufthansa First Class terminal, so I think I’d prefer to change the award to a direct flight to Los Angeles on Asiana’s stunning new product.

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I’ve started checking every day to see if award space opens up on a day that works for my schedule. I am also checking award space patterns right near departure to estimate the likelihood that award space will open up for me right before departure.

  • How much has award space changed daily?
  • What is the pattern near departure?
  • Can I automate my search?

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New, Lower $3,000 Spending Requirement on SPG Cards

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Longtime reader Scott forwarded me an offer for the Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards that I’ve never seen before. Instead of the normal $5,000 minimum spending requirement in 6 months, these cards come with a $3,000 minimum spending requirement in the first 3 months.

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Both cards come with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. That is a lower total spending requirement, but actually works out to more per month ($1,000) than the standard offer of $5,000 in 6 months ($834.)

This offer seems targeted in the sense that it was emailed to Scott, but I can open it in my browser. In my experience, banks always honor the terms of the offer that you apply for.

  • How do these offers compare to the standard offer?
  • Are you eligible for these offers if you’ve had Starwood cards before?
  • Should you wait for a 30k offer on the Starwood cards?
  • What are the best uses for Starpoints?

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Free First Class 2014: Cheapskate Lodging

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

This is the twenty-sixth 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 flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I probably spend fewer nights in hotels than any other miles and points blogger, despite traveling plenty. Why am I down on hotels?

  1. frequent traveler- I spend probably about three to nine months away from my apartment
  2. frugal traveler- $100 a night or more is never going to cut it for more than an occasional splurge
  3. social traveler- hotels are isolating
  4. anti-tourist- I don’t want to spend all my time in a touristy part of town, eating at touristy restaurants, and drinking with other Americans

I pursue a mixed lodging strategy when traveling.

I stay some nights at top-tier, fancy-pants, several-hundred-euros-per-night hotels. I stay the majority of my nights for free with friends or through CouchSurfing, and I round out the rest of my nights cheaply at hostels or through airbnb.

  • What is CouchSurfing?
  • What is airbnb?
  • When do I stay at fancy hotels, and how do I avoid paying for them?
  • Hostels? Really!?

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Uber and United Team Up, Up to 1,000 Bonus United Miles

Uber is my favorite way to get around. I no longer call or flag down taxis. And on a recent trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles, I didn’t rent a car, using Uber to get around instead.

Uber is the world’s best taxi service because it has clean, courteous drivers and the easiest ride-ordering app imaginable. Tap, tap, tap, and a car whose progress you can track towards you is on its way.

Now Uber and United have teamed up, with United putting an Uber button directly in the United app. Update your United app, and a tile should appear on the home screen for Uber.

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There is a chance to earn 1,000 United miles by using the Uber service through the United app. I don’t think that’s as good as my referral link for new users, through which new Uber users can get a $30 credit toward a free ride when they sign up. (I also get a free ride up to $30. Feel free to post your referral link in the comments.)

  • How does the Uber/United partnership work?
  • How can you get 1,000 United miles by using Uber?
  • Is there a better offer for new Uber users?

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Anatomy of an Award: Three Cities in Asia on Two Awards

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Anatomy of an Award posts highlight real awards I’ve booked to show you the techniques needed to book your dream trip.

I recently booked my brother a pair of awards that will allow us to visit Hong Kong, Beijing, and Seoul together. His awards cost about 100,000 airline miles and bank points and zero out of pocket.

from gcmap.com

from gcmap.com

The main award was a United award, but United awards only allow one stopover in addition to your destination, so I needed to add an extra Avios award for one segment between Hong Kong and Beijing.

We are not getting Chinese visas for Beijing, so I also had to time our flights to get us as close to 72 hours in the city as possible without exceeding the limit for visa-free transit.

Finally, he had enough miles for one way in business class and one way in economy.

These awards demonstrate the limits of United awards, how to see more cities than a United award will allow, and the problems with multi-city searches on united.com. They also showcase, the kind of award planning you can get from my Award Booking Service.

  • Why could I not book the entire trip as a single United award?
  • Why did I choose Avios for the second award, and how did I choose which flight to book with Avios?
  • How did I ensure I got as close to 72 hours in Beijing as possible?
  • How did I book one way in economy and one way in business class on his United award? How did I choose which direction for each class?

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Free First Class 2014: Should You Chase Status

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

This is the twenty-fifth 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 flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Airlines and hotels offer elite status that rewards frequent travelers who are loyal to a single brand of airline or hotel. These perks can be incredibly valuable, or they can be not worth the time and money taken to earn them.

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Airline status typically comes with better seats and fewer fees. Lower tier elites might get access to those extra-legroom seats in coach and a reduction in some fees. Top tier elites will get upgrades to first class on domestic flights, a few upgrades to business class on international flights, and waivers of change and cancellation fees.

Hotel status comes with freebies like late checkouts, free internet, free breakfast, suite upgrades, access to a club room, and more points per stay.

  • How do you earn hotel status?
  • How do you earn airline status?
  • Is status worth chasing?

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Incredible Asiana First Class on A380 Flying to US

Asiana has started flying an A380 between Seoul-Incheon and Los Angeles. The daily flight includes fully enclosed suites in First Class and fully flat beds in Business Class.

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First Class on Asiana A380

Asiana is a member of the Star Alliance, so Asiana flights are bookable with United miles and Avianca LifeMiles without fuel surcharges.

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Business Class on Asiana A380

Award space is wide open in summer 2015 on the route in all cabins. Award space for this summer is less available, but if you are flexible, you can be among the first to fly the Asiana A380 in any cabin you’d like.

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  • How many miles does United charge to fly Asiana First Class and Business Class?
  • How many miles does Avianca LifeMiles charge?
  • How is the award space?
  • How does the product look?

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Free First Class 2014: Cheap Flights, Fuel Surcharges on ITA Matrix

This is the twenty-fourth 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 flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I use the ITA Software Matrix for two reasons:

  1. to find cheap flights
  2. to find the fuel surcharges on award tickets.

You can search ITA Matrix for roundtrip paid flights for departures over a 30 day period and trip lengths of your choosing. That makes the ITA Matrix another tool for finding cheap paid flights like Kayak price alerts.

On ITA Matrix, you can see a breakdown of a ticket price into base fare, taxes, and fuel surcharges. This makes ITA Matrix invaluable for estimating the out-of-pocket cost of booking an award ticket when fuel surcharges will be included on the ticket.

  • How does the ITA Matrix’s monthlong search work?
  • How can you find the fuel surcharges included on a paid ticket and why does that matter for award tickets?

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JetBlue Cross-Country Suites for 26,250 Points until Tomorrow

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Two amazing JetBlue promotions are stackable today and tomorrow that allow you to fly JetBlue Mint Class, the best Business Class Suite in the United States for only 26,250 points Membership Rewards.

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Enclosed Suite, Live TV, Free WiFi

  • What are the two stackable promotions?
  • How good of a deal is this?
  • How can you ensure that you get an enclosed suite (not all Mint seats are)?

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Basics of Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (ThankYou Transfer Partner)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Citi recently announced that ThankYou Points now transfer to seven airlines and one hotel chain.

Since you can earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou points with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card, I’ve been looking into those transfer partners to find the high value redemptions that maximize ThankYou points. I’ve harped on the sweet spots, luxury, and generous stopover rules of Singapore KrisFlyer miles already.

Today I want to show how to maximize Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for trips to Europe and South America.

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Asia Miles has two distance-based charts for travel on oneworld partners and non-oneworld partners like Alaska Airlines, Air New Zealand, and Aer Lingus. If you maximize your routings and fly partners without fuel surcharges, there are a lot of high value redemptions in the Asia Miles program.

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  • What airlines can be booked with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles?
  • How many stopovers and open jaws can an award have?
  • What fuel surcharges are imposed on awards, and how can you avoid them?

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Free First Class 2014: Setting Kayak Price Alerts

This is the twenty-third 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 flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Over the last few years, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars by setting Kayak price alerts to track the price of a plane ticket I need to buy for a few weeks before booking when the price drops.

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Kayak price alerts are an extremely simple tool that everyone should know about to save money on cash tickets for trips you know you need to take.

  • How can you set a Kayak price alert?
  • When should you book a trip with cash versus miles?

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Free Giveaway Friday: 50 Free Award Wallet Upgrade Codes

Happy Aloha Friday! Enjoy one of these 50 free upgrade codes to six months of Award Wallet Plus. Award Wallet is the free way I track my 32 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.

Check back next Friday for more giveaways, and follow @MileValue on twitter for the first notification when I give away upgrade codes like this.

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What Properties are Excluded from the Hilton Reserve Free Nights

Every time I mention the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card, I get confused comments about which properties are excluded from the sign up bonus of two free weekend nights at Hilton properties worldwide.

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card comes with two free night certificates that can be used for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights after spending $2,500 in the first 4 months after opening the card.

Plus any cardmember year you spend $10,000 on the card, you get a free night certificate on your anniversary.

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Conrad Koh Samui: A Hilton property that goes for $847 per night in January

These free night certificates can be used at top tier properties that go for up to $1,000 per night, but they cannot be used at the excluded property list. Except that they kind of can, and that’s where the confusion comes in.

  • Where can you use the Hilton Reserve’s free night certificates?
  • Where can’t you use the Hilton Reserve’s free night certificates?
  • Can you use them at the Conrad Koh Samui?

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Free First Class 2014: SeatGuru

This is the twenty-second 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 flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Today I’ll be explaining a tool I use every time I book a flight or research an award to ensure I get the best seat possible, seatguru.com. SeatGuru is an online compendium of airline seat maps.

Using SeatGuru can be the difference between picking an award routing with a fully flat bed in Business Class versus an angled lie flat seat. It can be the difference between sitting in privacy and sharing an elbow rest with a stranger.

Along the left top of the site, hold your cursor over Browse Airlines. Select from the list.

  • How do you use SeatGuru to snag the best flights and seats?
  • How do you select seats on awards?

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