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Issuing Bank: Barclay’s

Card: US Airways World MasterCard

Sign Up Bonus: 40,000 US Airways Dividend Miles after First Purchase

Application Link: US Airways World MasterCard

US Airways has a new credit card out with a 40,000 mile sign up bonus after first purchase. This matches the highest offer from the last two years; the difference is that you actually qualify for the offer.

(Brief history: For most of 2012, there has been an expired 40k offer targeted to top tier US Airways elites that many people including me have had success with. That offer waived the first year annual fee. The official offer was 30k on first purchase. The official offer is now 40k on first purchase.)

US Airways miles are my absolute favorite type of mile. I rank them #1 on the MileValue leaderboard at 1.95 cents each because the US Airways Award Chart is the best by far among legacy carriers. (Virgin America is making a claim for best award chart in the world.)

US Airways Award Chart Sweet Spots

US Airways has the standard price for the most common award I book for my clients, which is USA to Europe. US Airways charges 60k/100k/125k for roundtrip economy/business/first.

Where US Airways shines is on other awards that I’ve booked for creative, once-in-a-lifetime journeys.

For instance, it costs only 100k roundtrip in business class from Europe <-> South America with US Airways miles, a 40k+ discount over competitors. I used this amazing sweet spot to book myself my best award ever:

Buenos Aires to Johannesburg

Johannesburg to Munich

Munich to Chicago

That is 30 hours of flat beds on 2 of the nicest business class products in the world–South African and Austrian–across 4 continents for 100k miles. See Anatomy of an Award: South America, Africa, Europe, and North America in Flat Beds for 100k.

This award was only possible with the insanely generous US Airways chart and insanely generous US Airways routing rules (more on those later.)

Off Peak

US Airways has the most generous off peak awards. A month or two each year when you can fly to Europe for 35k miles or 60k in a bed roundtrip. Similar incredible deals exist to the Caribbean and South America.

For more on US Airways Off Peak awards, see All of US Airways Off Peak Award Space to Rio de Janeiro Loaded for 2013. There is still great off peak availability to Europe for next month.

North Asia

Or how about the USA or Canada to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and the rest of North Asia for 90k US Airways miles roundtrip in flat bed business class. United charges 120k for the same trip, so US Airways saves you 30k miles.

Australia via Asia

US Airways also charges way less than the going rate for a flat bed from the US to Australia. In business class roundtrip, this award goes for only 110k US Airways. Compare that to 135k United miles.

And you can even get more value from the trip by stopping one way in Asia. You can get a vacation in two continents, flying business class all the way for only 110k miles.

US Airways Sweet Spot: Australia via Asia

Asia

Or how about an award I booked for my sister and niece that they’ll be flying in a few days? Intra-South and Central Asia is only 30k miles roundtrip in business class, so they’re flying from Thailand to India roundtrip in Thai Business for just a few more miles than an economy class ticket from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

This award was only possible with US Airways miles.

Anatomy of an Award: South Asian Sweetspot

South America

For instance, it costs only 30k miles roundtrip in business class anywhere within South America also. That means you can fly into smaller airports or cross the continent from South to North (6+ hours) and still pay only 5k more miles than a roundtrip economy class ticket in the US.

US Airways Sweet Spot: South America

Routing Rules

The other half of the value proposition from US Airways miles is its routing rules. US Airways partner awards are booked by phone–only US Airways own flights can be booked online–by agents, not computers. This leads to some inconsistent applications of the rules in your favor.

In practice, I don’t have trouble getting US Airways awards booked unless I try to book more than eight segments. But if I stick to eight or fewer segments, I can route pretty much any direction I’d like between two points. Take my master award above from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg to Munich to Chicago.

I am flying to four continents. And I routed between South America and Europe once via Africa and once via North America. These routings would be completely impossible with American or Delta miles.

What Can 40k Miles Do?

The 40k miles you earn on first purchase can do a few things. First, they can get some of the roundtrip business class tickets I talked about above that cost only 30k.

Second, they can pay for two roundtrips within the US and Canada on US Airways. One of the benefits of getting the card is a 5,000 mile discount on any award flown on US Airways planes. So if you find a domestic economy award on US Airways planes, the award costs 20k miles instead of the normal 25k, meaning the credit card gets you two such awards at first purchase.

Or you can take one roundtrip to Hawaii, which costs 40k in economy or 35k in economy if you find space on US Airways flights.

I would try to avoid doing those things. I would try to collect 90k+ miles for a bigger award. This is actually pretty easy to do with a 40k head start from the credit card. Why? You can actually take advantage of this offer at least twice. Barclay’s will approve you for at least two US Airways MasterCards with full 40k bonus as it has done for me.

Alternatively you can buy US Airways miles when they are cheap. US Airways miles are almost constantly sold with a 100% bonus making them 1.88 cents each. And occasionally there is a transfer bonus making the points as cheap as 1.1 cents each like the one this October.

Features of the Card

  • 40,000 Dividend Miles with first purchase
  • 1 mile per dollar for balance transfers in the first 90 days up to 10,000 miles
  • 1 mile per dollar on purchases
  • 2 miles per dollar on US Airways purchases
  • 5,000 mile discount on award redemptions on US Airways flights
  • One Free US Airways Club Pass Annually
  • First Class Check In
  • Zone 2 Boarding
  • Two $99 Companion Tickets Annually: Up to two domestic tickets for $99 plus tax with the purchase of a $250+ ticket on the same route. This is actually a decent benefit–far better than the Delta card’s companion ticket benefit.
  • $89 Annual Fee Not Waived the First Year

More Good News

The card is a MasterCard issued by Barclay’s. All things equal, MasterCards and Visas are preferable to carry since they are accepted more places than American Express.

All things equal, an offer piques my interest more if it’s from Barclay’s than one of the bigger banks. We can only apply for a finite number of cards from each bank, so it’s nice to enjoy another bank’s offerings. Also, different banks tend to pull your credit report from different agencies, so this can spread around the credit pulls.

Bad News

US Airways awards have some drawbacks that I discussed in When to Use United Miles and When to Use US Airways Miles. Those drawbacks are all baked into my 1.95 cent valuation, but I’ll mention them here for completeness.

Awards are priced at the roundtrip price whether you fly roundtrip or oneway. You can’t fly oneway for half the price of a roundtrip award.

Any change to an award costs $150, and no changes are permitted after travel begins. Depending on your traveling style this can be no big deal or a huge problem.

International and Hawaii award tickets have a non-refundable $50 “award processing fee.” That means the cash outlay on US Airways awards is $50 more than on United awards on the same flights. This is annoying but generally swamped by the way cheaper US Airways award chart.

Verdict

Am I getting this card? I have already gotten it twice with the exact same bonus to earn myself 80k miles (wait 3-6 months before getting a second). I just closed the first card as its annual fee came up, and I’ll look to get a second one again in the near future.

I can’t get enough US Airways miles because they are my favorite currency to work with: the same great Star Alliance partners United has with cheaper awards and better routing rules.

So getting 40k miles on first purchase on a credit card issued by a bank that I don’t have any other credit cards from is a no-brainer for me.

Application Link: US Airways World MasterCard

Bonus

For pro-level redemptions, check out the Master Thread: Free Oneways on US Airways Awards.

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