Register Now for American Express Small Business Saturday

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American Express Small Business Saturday is back the Saturday after Thanksgiving–November 29, 2014. You can register your American Express cards now.

This year, you can get up to three $10 statement credits per American Express card. Since I have five American Express cards, I could get $150 in statement credits.

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  • How can you register for Small Business Saturday?
  • How do the statement credits work?
  • What counts as a small business?

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Buy Up to 250k AA Miles. Good Deal?

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American Airlines and US Airways are both running sales on the purchase of their miles through November 30.

For now, your American Airlines miles and US Airways miles will sit in separate accounts, and you can redeem them on separate charts, with different routing rules, and slightly different partners. Some time between April and June 2015, your US Airways and American Airlines miles will be combined into your American Airlines account, and the American Airlines chart, partners, and rules will control.

That means the chance to buy both kinds of miles at a discount could be a way to eventually have one huge American Airlines balance. Similar reasoning has led me to recommend getting the American Airlines and US Airways credit cards before the US Airways program disappears.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® is offering 50,000 bonus miles and two lounge passes after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

We know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

From the credit cards, you could have 93,000 American Airlines miles next year. From the mileage sales, you could add another 250,000 miles. But are they a good deal?

  • How expensive are the US Airways miles?
  • How expensive are the American Airlines miles?
  • How long do the sales last?

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Delta Improves Award Searches Dramatically

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An actual improvement to delta.com!

Previously, you could search award space one month at a time with a calendar on delta.com, but that calendar only took into account award space on Delta flights. Because much of the Saver award space available to people with Delta miles is available on partner airlines, that meant that in practice, you really had to search delta.com one day at a time to get the full picture. See “A Major Problem with Delta.com and the Only Solution.”

The nearly useless delta.com used to display

Now, multi-day award searches can display a grid of +/- 3 days, and do take into account partners. This is a big improvement in my mind. It will certainly save me a lot of time when I am booking awards for clients of my Award Booking Service.

  • How does the new delta.com search work?
  • What airlines are searchable on delta.com?
  • Why should you still call in to book most Delta awards?

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Questions My Beginner Friend Asked as She Applied for Two Credit Cards

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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

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?

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Transfer Bonus from ThankYou Points to Hilton HHonors

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ThankYou Points are a transferable points program offered by Citi on select credit cards. ThankYou Points transfer to nine airlines and Hilton. Normally 1,000 ThankYou Points transfer to 1,500 Hilton points. Until January 8, 2015, 1,000 ThankYou Points transfers to 2,000 Hilton points!

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This is exciting to me because there are some high value uses of Hilton points, and also because this is the first Citi ThankYou Points transfer bonus. Hopefully the first of many.

We have seen transfer bonuses from American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest points, but never from Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou Points until now.

Citi ThankYou Points are extremely easy to earn. The Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card offers 20,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months and 30,000 more bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of your second year of cardmembership. That’s 50,000 total bonus points.

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card also earns 3x points on dining and entertainment and 2x on airfare and hotels.

Before you rush off and transfer all your Citi ThankYou Points to Hilton HHonors points, though, make sure you are moving toward a high-value redemption.

  • What are the high value redemptions for Hilton points?
  • What are the other options with your ThankYou Points?

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How to Maximize the National Car Rental ONE TWO FREE Promo

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Disclosure: National offered me compensation to write this post, and a $200 gift card for MileValue readers. All views are expressed are mine and (other) Scott’s, not those of National Car Rental.

National Car Rental’s popular ONE TWO FREE has returned through January 31, 2015. For every two qualifying rentals, you earn one free* rental day for use on a future trip. ONE TWO FREE is a points-based promo, so you can also earn free days by referring friends to the program, using the mobile app, and more.

*Like “free” award tickets, you are responsible for taxes on your free rental day.

To promote ONE TWO FREE, National put me in touch with (another) Scott, an active member of National’s Emerald Club program since 1999, to get his perspective on the Emerald Club, the ONE TWO FREE promo, and how National Car Rental works for business travelers.

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Scott in Pinnacles National Monument in Paicines, CA

How the ONE TWO FREE Promo Works

During the ONE TWO FREE promo, which runs until January 31, 2015, registered Emerald Club members can earn one free rental day for every 600 points earned. Members can combine up to three free-day certificates into a single rental.

Once you register for ONE TWO FREE, you earn 300 points for any qualifying rental of 2+ days. You can also earn points in a variety of  other ways:

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Scott said that he usually takes business trips that include car rentals paid by his employer. Those rentals earn him free rental days that he uses on personal trips.

Some other ways to earn points require just a few clicks:

  • 50 points for connecting your Emerald Club account and Facebook
  • 50 points for opting in for emails
  • 25 points for downloading the National Car Rental app
  • 25 points for visiting the Drive Alliance, a site about the partnership between National, Alamo, and Enterprise

There are ways to earn extra points on every rental:

  • 75 points for renting on the mobile app (up to 4 times)
  • 250 points for renting a GPS
  • 250 points for using the fuel service option

Scott highlighted the bonus points for using the mobile app and how easy it is to use. He said that he once took an earlier flight to Seattle for a conference near the airport. He hadn’t originally planned on renting a car at all, but he realized he had enough time to make it to Mount Rainier, which had always been a dream of his.

He used the mobile app during the plane’s taxi to the gate, and within 15 minutes of landing, he had rented his National car and was headed south. Within a few hours, he had one less item on his bucket list.

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Scott at Mount Rainier

You can also earn 300 points for each friend you refer to the Emerald Club after their first paid rental (up to 10 referrals.)

A combination of paid rentals and taking advantage of the other points-earning methods can quickly get you free rental days.

You can combine up to three free days for each free rental.

You can earn up to 50 free days during the promotion period.

Why Everyone Should Join Emerald Club (even if they won’t be frequent renters)

There are two reasons you should join the Emerald Club even if you only plan to rent a single time.

  1. At most locations, Club members do not have to go to the desk. They go straight to their cars.
  2. Club members who rent a mid-sized vehicle can pick any car off the Emerald Aisle.

1. Save time with stored preferences and skipping the desk.

When you join the Emerald Club, you input your driver’s license information, credit card information, car type, and preferences for options like insurance.

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Insurance options in your Emerald Club sign up

Scott explained that then when you rent a car as an Emerald Club member, you can skip the counter and go straight to the Emerald Aisle at most locations. Flash your credit card and license at the exit, and you are on your way. He estimated he is usually driving away from on-site lots within 10-15 minutes after walking out the airplane door. Scott raved about the speed of the process.

Scott said there’s nothing worse than showing up at your destination tired and then facing a line at the rental-car counter. And then when you get to the front, an agent goes through each option that you don’t want. Just by joining the Emerald Club, you skip that forever, which is well worth the 5 minutes it takes to sign up.

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Scott driving across the Golden Gate Bridge

Plus if you want something other than the default options you set, you always have the option to go to the counter and pick new options for your current rental.

2. Access the Emerald Aisle with a mid-sized rental

Club members who rent at least a mid-sized car get to go to a special section of the lot where they can pick any car.

Scott gushed about the control and choice.

When he anticipated a long drive, he’d look for a hybrid to save on gas or a car that had free XM radio to enjoy the drive more. He’s picked cars with lower mileage on their odometers to get the benefits of a newer car, or cars that he’s been wanting to test out in anticipation of perhaps one day buying them. He’s gotten a bigger car when he needed more room when traveling with his family, and a convertible when he was alone and wanted a more fun drive.

Bottom Line

National’s Emerald Club is free to join and lets members skip the counter and head straight to the Emerald Aisle, where they can pick any car. There’s no reason not to join.

The Emerald Club’s ONE TWO FREE promotion allows members to earn free rental days after every two qualified paid rentals. You can earn free days even more quickly with actions like linking your account to Facebook and referring friends.

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Scott at the Louisville Slugger Museum

Giveaway

National Car Rental is offering an amazing giveaway to MileValue readers. One lucky reader will win a $200 American Express Gift Card and a year of complimentary Emerald Club Executive status. There are two ways to enter:

  1. Share this blog post with hashtag #OneTwoFree and @MileValue on Twitter
  2. Leave a comment on this post about your favorite business-turned-sightseeing trip

At 11:59 PM Hawaii time on November 21, 2014, entries will close. I’ll add up the total number of entries and randomly pick one winner of the $200 American Express Gift Card and a year of complimentary Emerald Club Executive status.

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Award Space on United 787-9 Dreamliner to Melbourne Australia

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United flies from Los Angeles to Melbourne directly with its newest plane the 787-9 Dreamliner.

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15 hours 45 minutes

Award space on United’s Dreamliners in Business Class has been abysmal, but I wanted to check in and see if anything was different on this route.

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We want to get into these flat beds up front

The good news is that there is award space on the route in both directions for two people in Business Class.

  • What is the award space picture? 
  • How many miles does the flight to Australia cost?

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(Bleg) Where Should I Go in 2015 to Maximize Festivals, Parties, and Events?

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I am generally planning on being in South America through March and then in Europe from April to August.

I’ll have a blast no matter what, but I’ll have even more fun if my time some of my trip to coincide with festivals, events, and other parties.

For instance, I would have had a blast in Brazil in June no matter what, but I had 10x the fun because I was there during World Cup.

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Before I go into the guidebooks, I’ll go the infinite wisdom of my readers. What should I not miss over that time frame on those continents. The stranger and more obscure the better.

This post was inspired by One Mile at a Time’s Asian Festival Bucket List.

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United Offering 20% Discount on Awards to Europe

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United is offering a 20% discount on economy awards to Europe flown this winter.

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Instead of the normal 60,000 miles roundtrip, Saver awards to nine airports in Europe will cost only 48,000 miles roundtrip.

This is a good deal if you were already planning to use United miles to fly to Europe this winter, but there are better deals for winter travel to Europe.

  • How does the deal work? (One ways?)
  • What are the better off peak awards to Europe?

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Best Lounge at Bogota El Dorado Airport, Colombia

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This post should have narrow appeal, but should be of great use to people flying through Bogota El Dorado International Airport in Colombia. Priority Pass members–free with an American Express Platinum–get free access to the Salon VIP LAN and Avianca Sala VIP. Which is better?

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How to Get to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia with Miles

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I went to Angkor Wat this February, and I was blown away.

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View from Inside Angkor Wat

The 900 year-old Hindu-turned-Buddhist temple just outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia is up there on the list of the most impressive historical sites I’ve visited with Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China.

And it isn’t just Angkor Wat. The rest of the Angkor Temples like Angkor Thom and Banteay Srei are just as amazing and all within a short drive of the very lively Siem Reap.

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Admiring a Gate of Angkor Thom

Beyond the destination, Southeast Asia happens to be one of the best places to go with miles in a premium cabin for five reasons.

  1. It’s super cheap! American Airlines charges just 55k miles one way in Business Class or 67.5k miles one way in First Class
  2. Cathay Pacific–an American Airlines partner–has one of the world’s best Business and First Class products.
  3. Award space is abundant in Cathay Pacific premium cabins.
  4. The flight between the United States and Hong Kong is around 16 hours, meaning you get to fully enjoy your flights and arrive rested.
  5. The  Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® are both offering huge bonuses, the two types of miles will be combined in early 2015, and American Airlines has committed to keeping the cheap prices I just quoted at the time of combination.
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Lounging in Cathay Pacific First Class

Right now is an amazing time to plan a 2015 vacation with luxurious flights to Angkor Wat.

  • Where can you search Cathay Pacific award space?
  • How can you book Cathay Pacific award space?
  • What are the very regular rules that Cathay Pacific Business and First Class award space follow?

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Here’s When Buying Hyatt Miles for 1.85 Cents is a Good Deal

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Until December 10, 2014, you can purchase Hyatt Gold Passport points for 1.85 cents each.

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The sale offers a 30% bonus on the number of miles you receive for all purchases of at least 5,000 points, and you can purchase up to 55,000 points per calendar year. (If you purchases 55,000 points, you’d receive 71,500 points after the bonus.)

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 11.17.22 AMSince the bonus is constant, and the price of Gold Passport points is constant at 2.4 cents each, you pay 1.85 cents each for any purchase of at least 5,000 points (6,500 after bonus.)

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In general, I’d value Hyatt points at 1.2 cents, so as usual, this sale is not the time to stock up on points. However, there are a lot of uses, for which buying points now and then immediately redeeming them makes great sense.

  • Under what circumstances, should you buy Hyatt points for 1.85 cents?

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35% Bonus on Purchase of Alaska Miles. Good Deal?

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Until December 20, 2014, you can buy Alaska Airlines miles for as little as 2.19 cents each.

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The sale is structured as a bonus on the normal number of miles you’d receive. The bonus is tiered, so the biggest 35% bonus comes from purchasing 35,000 to 40,000 miles at the normal price of about 2.96 cents each after tax.

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To buy 47,250 miles (35,000 + 12,250 bonus) during this sale costs $1,034.69, which is 2.19 cents per mile. This is the cheapest amount of miles that gets the maximum 35% bonus.

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I don’t think Alaska miles are worth 2.19 cents each, but they are worth close to that, and if you have a specific redemption in mind, it isn’t hard to get more than 2.19 cents of value per mile.

  • What are the best redemptions for Alaska miles?
  • Does this miles purchase count as airfare or travel spending for category bonuses?
  • How does this compare to past miles sales on Alaska?

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Top Ten Credit Cards for Travel, November 2014

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There are a lot of reasons to collect miles and points.

  • For free luxury hotel stays and first class flights
  • To travel to more countries than you could otherwise afford
  • To take your family on vacation
  • To visit home for the holidays
  • To earn big rewards for everyday spending

Whatever your reason for being here, there is a rewards card or cards that suit your needs.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 2.37.59 PMWant to Hike the Great Wall of China with Your Brother? There’s a Card for That

Since the start of last year, I’ve been to over 30 countries, travel that would have been completely impossible without miles and points earned from credit cards. This has been my life thanks to miles:

  • Biking 25km around Bogota as part of the original Ciclovia
  • Hiking the Great Wall of China with my brother
  • Straddling the line between North and South Korea
  • Watching dragons dance at the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong
  • Eating more steak than anyone should in Brazil and Argentina
  • Cliff jumping in Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Leading an “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” cheer in Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia
  • Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Eating Thai-hot Thai curry in Thailand at Thai prices
  • Biking in the Lake District of Patagonia in Bariloche, Argentina
  • Spending three days at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
  • Seeing Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Getting some home cooking from my mom who lives 5,000 miles away
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2013 Flights

If you don’t have the money to take your dream trips, the good news is that you don’t need much money. By maximizing the sign up bonuses on rewards cards, anyone with good credit can take a dream trip anywhere in the world.

  • How can you earn rewards for the trips of your dreams?
  • What are the best credit card offers for September 2014?
  • Which of the cards on the list expire in the next few days?

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