Free First Class Next Month 2014: Introduction to Travel Credit Cards

This is the 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.

If you’re new to miles and points, you could easily open credit cards today with sign up bonuses totaling more than half a million miles and points.

There are other ways to earn miles and points, but none is as easy, quick, and cheap as opening up travel rewards cards. I’ve earned over 90% of my lifetime miles and points from credit cards, mostly from their sign up bonuses.

A startling amount of fun I’ve had in life has been the direct result of trips taken with miles earned from opening a credit card and meeting its minimum spending requirement. I don’t want to over-sell credit cards, but I don’t want to under-sell them either. They are the bread and butter of this hobby.

Today’s post will be one of the longest of the entire Free First Class Next Month 2014 series because I want the entire introduction to travel credit cards to be in one place.

  • How do travel credit cards affect your credit score?
  • How can you get three free credit reports per year?
  • What are the three things I look for in a credit card?
  • How do I double my miles with business cards?
  • How long do I hold my credit cards?
  • What about annual fees?
  • Will you ever run out of credit card bonuses to get?

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Air India Joins Star Alliance

Air India has joined the Star Alliance. Its direct flights between the United States and India are now bookable with United miles, Aeroplan miles, Lufthansa miles, Singapore miles, ANA miles, and any other type of Star Alliance miles.

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Award space is searchable at and widely available.

Air India flights from the United States to Europe have fuel surcharges on cash tickets, but awards with United miles never have fuel surcharges, and Aeroplan is currently not collecting fuel surcharges on Air India award flights.

  • Where does Air India fly in the United States?
  • What cabins does it operate?
  • What is the price of an Air India award with United and other Star Alliance miles?
  • How can you search for and book an Air India award?
  • What amazing deal related to Air India award space probably won’t last?

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Free First Class Next Month 2014: Signing Up For Travel Loyalty Programs and Award Wallet

This is the 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.

In just a few days, you’ll be earning hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles, and you need a place to put and track them. Below are the bare minimum airline and hotel programs that Americans should be members of, and as you get more involved with the miles game, you’ll probably sign up for more.

By signing up for these programs, you’ll be able to take advantage of most major miles promotions, and you’ll be able to fly domestically and internationally for pennies.

Each program should just take a moment to sign up for, so don’t skip any even if you’ve never flown the airline. Trust me that they all have a lot of value. For instance, you might not expect that British Airways is often the best program for domestic flights within the United States.

If you already have an account, then try to sign into it, so you can figure out your account number and password. Write down your user name or number and passwords all in one place because you’ll add them into your new Award Wallet account today.

  • What airlines and hotel programs should you join today?
  • What is Award Wallet and why should you join it?

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Free First Class Next Month 2014: The Beginners Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles and Points

This is the first post in a monthlong series. 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.

Frequent flyer miles are your ticket to travel more, better, and cheaper.

Mastering frequent flyer miles, hotel points, and credit card programs truly is life changing, so I am revising and updating my Free First Class Next Month series for beginners, which I first ran in March 2012.

Frequent flyer miles from travel credit cards have allowed me to visit nearly 50 countries at the age of 27, with enough miles left over to go anywhere in the world tomorrow if I wanted to. I pay less for these trips than you probably did for your last vacation, and I’m usually flying in Business or First Class.

First Class

When I say “First Class,” I’m not talking about those slightly wider seats at the front of the plane you see as you board your flight to Cleveland. International First Class means your own fully flat bed in your own enclosed suite while being waited on and served fine foods and wine.

My suite in Emirates First Class. My personal mini-bar pops up. The seat turns into a flat bed, and a few minutes after taking the photo, I took a shower eight miles high.

I’m not writing this to brag. I’m writing because my techniques are very easy to repeat. For instance, MileValue’s Rookie Alli went from having no frequent flyer miles to flying in a fully flat bed internationally in just four months.

She used to fly economy like you.

Luxury is attainable with frequent flyer miles, and it usually costs far less than a paid ticket. I flew in Cathay Pacific First Class for the miles I had gotten for opening one credit card plus $43 out of pocket. Do you have $43?


More Travel

I know for many people luxury travel is not the goal. They just want to get their family on vacation or to visit grandparents, and they don’t have the money in the budget for these trips. These techniques can also help a family travel for peanuts. I recently described how a family of four could fly to Europe for only $274 total!

What’s the catch? You’ll have to learn a few things and open the right credit cards.

In this series, I’m going to be showing you the tricks that experts use to fly in First Class anywhere in the world for pennies. By next month, you’ll be a pro at earning frequent flier miles for doing things you already do and redeeming them for dream first-class vacations you thought you could never afford.

In addition to frequent flyer miles, I’ll be teaching you about how to find incredibly cheap cash fares and hotels, so that you’ve got a full arsenal of ways to travel cheap or free.

If you have two minutes a day, you can enjoy Free First Class Next Month! Bookmark this page, and check back tomorrow when we take the first step to Free First Class Next Month. Or better yet, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts

Forward those emails to your friends, so they can also learn and become your travel companions.

For those who can’t wait until tomorrow, here is a link to every post in the last series. This series will follow roughly the same topics.

Free First Class Next Month: Table of Contents

  1. The Beginners Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles and Points (Introduction)
  2. Signing Up For Travel Loyalty Programs and Award Wallet
  3. Introduction to Travel Credit Cards
  4. Best Current Credit Card Offers
  5. Transferable Points Program Basics
  6. Earning Miles from Flying
  7. Shopping Portals
  8. You Can Earn Miles Doing Anything
  9. Keeping Miles Active with Dining Programs
  10. Redemption Options
  11. Airline Hubs, Alliances, and Award Search Engines
  12. Basics of Redeeming American Airlines Miles
  13. Basics of Redeeming United Miles
  14. Basics of Redeeming Delta Miles
  15. Basics of Redeeming US Airways Miles
  16. Basics of Redeeming British Airways Avios
  17. Basics of Redeeming Alaska Airlines Miles
  18. Basics of Redeeming Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America, and Frontier Miles
  19. Basics of Redeeming Singapore, Aeroplan, Flying Blue, ANA, Lufthansa, and Korean Miles
  20. How to Book Complicated Awards with Segment-by-Segment Searching and Wikipedia
  21. How to Pick the Best Seat with Seat Guru and Trip Reports
  22. How to Find Cheap Flights and Mistake Fares with the FlyerTalk Mileage Run Deals Forum
  23. Basics of ITA Matrix to Find Cheap Flights and Fuel Surcharge Info
  24. Status
  25. Cheapskate Lodging with Hotel Promos, Hostels, airbnb, and CouchSurfing
  26. Name Your Own Price on Priceline to Save Hundreds on Hotels
  27. Cancelling Cards
  28. The End

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Book Now: Only 12,500 Miles to Europe Each Way

Flying Blue–the loyalty program of Air France/KLM, Air Europa, Kenya Airways, and TAROM Romanian–has released its newest Promo Awards that let you fly from select US cities to anywhere in Europe for as little as 12,500 miles each way with only modest fuel surcharges.

Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards and Starpoints.

These Promo Awards must be booked in July 2014 for September and October 2014 travel. You can fly from Dallas to anywhere in Europe roundtrip for only 25k Membership Rewards or 20k Starpoints + $264 out of pocket.

  • What cities are these Promo Awards good for? What if you don’t live in one?
  • How do you book a Promo Award?
  • How do these awards compare to awards with lower fuel surcharges?
  • What Promo Award routes can you fly without fuel surcharges?
  • How can you eliminate the out of pocket cost of the award?

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You Can Still Get 110,000 American Airlines Miles from a Single Sign Up Bonus

Update 7/15/14: The link to the 100k application is dead again.

The strange saga of the Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard with 100,000 bonus American Airlines miles keeps getting stranger. The good news is that the offer, after disappearing for three days, is back. You can still get 110,000 American Airlines miles from a single credit card sign up. That’s enough miles to fly anywhere in the world roundtrip on American Airlines partners.

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The saga:

  • January 2014: The Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard’s sign up bonus increases from 60,000 to 75,000 to 100,000.
  • June 27, 2014: I wrote that the landing page for the 100,000 mile offer was gone but that a direct link to the card’s application (with no mention of the 100,000 mile bonus) still worked. Several readers confirmed getting the bonus through that link.
  • July 11, 2014: The direct link stops working. There were still offers available for 75,000 miles on the card.
  • July 14, 2014: The same direct link works again.  FlyerTalkers are reporting applying through the link, getting approved, and confirming with a phone agent that they are in line for 100,000 bonus miles on the card.

It is still be possible to quickly earn 110,000 American Airlines miles by getting the card and meeting its minimum spending requirement of $10,000 in the first three months, but there are major drawbacks to the Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard that you should consider before getting the card.

  • What is the direct link to the Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard application?
  • What is the full offer on the Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard?
  • Can you get the card if you’ve had other Citi American Airlines cards?
  • Can you get this sign up bonus more than once?

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Why Are Airline Miles the Key to Traveling More, Better, and Cheaper

I’ve collected and redeemed millions of frequent flyer miles over the last three years. By the end of 2014, I will have visited over 50 countries, often flying in First Class. Without frequent flyer miles, I’d probably only have managed half the travel I’ve been able to enjoy.

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Where I’ve Been in Red

This is an extremely basic post designed to explain why airline miles are the key to traveling more, better, and cheaper, especially intended for anyone who caught me on Rudy Maxa’s World this morning.

If you’re a long time MileValue reader, this post really isn’t intended for you, but consider emailing it to friends who have expressed interest in copying your international, luxury travel.


I just booked myself a one way flight from Honolulu to Chicago for a conference for 20,000 miles and $2.50. The exact, direct flight I booked cost $1,205 when I booked it with miles.

I paid $2.50 for a $1,200 flight.

Without miles, I would have booked a less convenient route with layovers for about $500 and had $500 less in my bank account.


Before I discovered frequent flyer miles, I only ever flew in economy class. I distinctly remember one 14 hour redeye on Turkish Airlines from Los Angeles to Istanbul when I couldn’t sleep at all in my tiny space and felt like a zombie for the next few days.

For the past two years, I’ve flown all my longhaul international flights in flat beds in Business and First Class.

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These flights are easy to book with miles. I paid only 67,500 American Airlines miles and $43 for a one way redemption in Cathay Pacific First Class (pictured above, trip report) from New York to Singapore. You can get that many miles from one credit card sign up bonus.

Or you could book the flights I flew with miles for a whopping $16,689 cash.

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International First Class makes the trip a whole lot better. It’s easy to book with miles and completely out of reach with cash for 99.9% of people.


When I can open a credit card and have enough miles to fly anywhere in the world in First Class for just a few dollars in taxes, I definitely travel a lot more. Everywhere seems within reach–because it is.

  • What are the absolute basics you need to know to get started right now toward your travel goals?
  • How do you get the miles you need for your travel goals?
  • How do you redeem the miles for your dream trip? This is the catch, right? (Wrong!)
  • How do you become a globetrotting miles expert?

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50 Free Award Wallet Upgrade Codes

Updated with all new codes at 5:28 PM ET on July 12:

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.

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Deals Bloggers Have Killed and Will Kill

Yesterday I wrote about the death of the Guam-in-United-States mistake on the Avianca LifeMiles award chart. Until yesterday, we could book awards to Hawaii, Japan, or Guam for 12,500 miles or less than $200 each way.

I thought that Avianca finally realized their mistake after months of it being openly discussed online, but the real cause might have been a Department of Transportation complaint filed by a miles blogger. Either way, a blogger probably killed the deal.

It got me thinking of other deals that were possibly killed by the blogs, and a few other deals that might be killed by the blogs.

  • Which deals did the blogs kill?
  • Which deals might have already been poisoned by the blogs?
  • Is killing a deal bad?

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LifeMiles Corrects Mistake on Chart (Another Deal Bloggers Killed)

Avianca LifeMiles has re-classified Guam as part of the Philippines. This ends the ability to book an award from the continental United States to Japan, Hawaii, or Guam for 12,500 LifeMiles in economy or 25,000 miles in business class that lasted as long as Guam was mis-classified as part of the continental United States.

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Now an award from the United States to Guam costs 32,500 miles each way in economy and 65,000 miles in business. (Hilariously Guam is still mis-categorized; this time as part of the Philippines.)

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.18.31 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.18.37 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.19.02 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.19.56 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.21.14 PM I am partially responsible for this deal ending because I wrote about the deal openly in “$200 Flight to Japan with Hidden City Ticketing on LifeMiles Awards.” That post caused a backlash from the “hoard secrets” camp who predicted the award’s immediate demise after my post.

I countered that I doubted Avianca noticed or cared enough to swiftly fix a mistake that had persisted for months. I bet another blogger dinner that Guam would still be mis-categorized as part of the continental United States for at least a month after I wrote the post in December 2013. The mistake lasted another seven months.

Avianca has several mistakes in its categorization of airports and allowed routings. It’s a big deal because you can often buy Avianca LifeMiles for 1.5 cents each or for zero cash by redeeming Arrival miles for LifeMiles.

  • What does the end of this deal mean for sharing LifeMiles mistakes?
  • What other mistakes on the Avianca chart were not corrected?

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Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: How to Do Angkor Wat

This is the eighth installment of a round-the-world trip report that started here. We pick up in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Angkor Wat is a 900 year old Hindu-turned-Buddhist temple complex just outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia. It is the world’s largest religious monument, and the number one tourist attraction in Cambodia.

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Angkor Wat is actually just the most famous of many temples in the area that are collectively known as the Angkor Temples, named after Angkor, the seat of the former Khmer Empire.

The Angkor Temples were the highlight of my six-week trip around the world in Cathay Pacific, Singapore, and Lufthansa First Class this winter. I spent four days in Siem Reap, going to the Angkor Temples for part of every day. Based on my experiences, I have suggestions for the best ways to enjoy your time in Siem Reap and the Angkor temples.

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  • When should you go?
  • How much time should you budget?
  • What miles should you use to get there?
  • How should you see the temples?
  • Where should you stay?
  • What else is there to do around Siem Reap?
  • Plus dozens of pictures!

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Amazing Flat Bed Award Space to Australia During Peak Season

Award space is wide open in Virgin Australia Business Class between the United States and Australia during February and March 2015 for 160,000 Delta miles roundtrip.

Premium cabin award space between the United States and Australia on direct flights on United and Qantas is scarce, so this Virgin Australia award space is all the more valuable.

Since 2012, Delta has not collected fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia flights. Roundtrip Delta awards between the United States and Australia cost 100,000 miles in economy and 160,000 miles in Business Class. Virgin Australia Business Class features flat beds that get rave reviews.

  • Where does Virgin Australia fly?
  • How good is the award space?
  • How can you collect Delta miles quickly?

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Award Booking Secret: Return on United via Brussels

United releases a ton of award space in all cabins–economy, BusinessFirst, and Global First–from Brussels to Washington-Dulles, Newark, and Chicago. These are three little-known routes that allow easy returns from Europe to the United States, even at peak times like May and June 2015, at the lower prices for United awards on United flights.

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United partner, Brussels Airlines, has service to Brussels from the rest of Europe, and awards that feature United’s flights are very reasonably priced from Europe to the United States:

Click the cabins for trip reports.

  • economy: 30,000 United miles
  • fully flat BusinessFirst: 57,500 United miles (vs. 70,000 for partner business class)
  • fully flat Global First: 80,000 United miles (vs. 110,000 for partner first class)

Other routes have more award space to Europe, but returning from Europe, United’s Brussels routes are tough to beat.

Now is a great time to book awards to Europe for May and June 2015 for 2+ passengers with United miles!

  • How good is the award space out of Brussels?
  • What if you don’t want to go to Brussels?
  • What routes have more award space to Europe?
  • Africa, anyone?

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The US Airways Sweet Spot to North Asia in Economy

US Airways charges only 60,000 miles roundtrip in economy to North Asia. This is one of the cheapest economy awards on any American airline’s award chart.

Sixty thousand miles is the same price US Airways charges to Europe and South America even though it is quite a bit farther to China than it is to Europe or South America.

US Airways defines North Asia as:

  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Macau
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia

Delta and United charge 70,000 miles roundtrip to North Asia. American charges 70,000 miles to China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and 50,000 to 65,000 miles to Japan and South Korea depending on the season.

Like Delta and United awards, roundtrip US Airways awards allow one free stopover. American Airlines awards do not allow free stopovers.

US Airways awards have extremely lax routing rules, enforced only by human agents. This means you can get away with any routing you can imagine and have the patience to attempt to ticket as long as it has at most 10 segments.

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Even though it has no flights of its own, US Airways has partners in both the Star Alliance and oneworld alliance that service North Asia. You can use either set of partners, though you can’t combine both sets on a single award.

Currently, The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is offering 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase, and you can transfer 20,000 Starpoints to 30,000 US Airways miles during July 2014.

  • With whom does US Airways partner to North Asia?
  • What are the routing rules for US Airways?
  • How can you get US Airways miles?

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Amazing Summer 2014 Award Space to Hawaii

American Airlines releases a ton of award space on its routes to Hawaii at the last minute.

On almost all of American Airlines’ routes from Los Angeles to the four major Hawaiian islands and Dallas/Fort Worth to Oahu and Maui, there is award space for 4+ people in the next few weeks.

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If you live in Southern California or North Texas, this is a great chance to use as few as 12,500 Avios per person per direction to get to Hawaii during high season when the weather is a perfect 85 degrees and sunny.

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If you live somewhere else, this is a great chance to use 17,000+ Avios or 22,500 American Airlines per person per direction to take advantage of the last-second award space.

If you’d rather fly a different time of year when American Airlines has released no MileSAAver award space, this is a great reminder to look again within a few weeks of departure because American Airlines has been routinely releasing award space a few weeks out on its routes to Hawaii.

  • What is the award space for four people from the continental United States to Hawaii on American Airlines flights?
  • How can you book that space for 12,500 Avios each way?
  • Why might you want to book the space with Avios even if it costs fewer American Airlines miles?

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