Books, Tack on Rules, and the Bidding Traveler

Today you’re going to get a little of bit of everything.  The last couple of days I’ve read some really great blog posts and found a web site that I think will be very useful to people looking for inexpensive hotels.

I read a number of blogs every day.  I think of them as my morning newspaper.  Nearly all of them are focused on travel and financial related topics.  One of these blogs, Money and Map, had a great article about how your child can get a book for free this summer at Barnes and Noble.  The post explains exactly how to participate in the promotion.  Essentially the kids need to read 8 books and then they get to pick one book for free from a list of books at Barnes and Noble.  I suggest checking out the other posts on her site as well.  She has great information about taxes, family travel and other financial topics.

Another blog that I love is One Mile at a Time.  This blog is very well known in the travel hacking community for good reason – he knows a ton about the game and knows how to explain it so everyone can understand.  I’ve also found him to be one of the definitive sources for information on the American Airlines frequent flyer program.  And a post this week shows just how well he understands the program.  He wrote about the rules for the North American gateway city stopovers.

Finally, I’m trying to plan a weekend getaway for my husband and 2 friends.  I was searching the various options for booking a hotel room such as using points and Priceline.  While researching the Priceline option, I came across a web site called The Bidding Traveler.  You may recall that a long time ago I wrote bidding strategies for bidding for hotels on Priceline where I talk about how you can get extra bids each day by including other zones that don’t have hotels in the category that you want.  It is a very effective yet manual process.  Well, The Bidding Traveler web site seems to make the process a whole lot easier.  You give the web site the minimum and maximum you’re willing to pay and they execute the bids using the permutations I talked about on the bidding strategies post.  You can read more about the site on this FlyerTalk thread.  I haven’t used the site yet, but I expect to once I know exactly which city they want to go to.

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Airline Reward Redemption Rules

Gosh, I love that my sister is getting into this travel game.  It’s great to have someone else to talk over the pros/cons of different deals.  She’s also relatively new to the game so she points out to me when I’m making assumptions about what people know and she asks great questions that make me realize that I should create a post on a certain topic.  This is one of those times. 

We had a conversation this weekend about how to maximize the use of airline miles, prompted by The Points Guy’s video post on stopover and open jaws.  I would be willing to bet that most people redeem their airline miles for travel that they can book on-line with that specific airline.  And I’d also be willing to bet that they redeem them for a round-trip ticket that simply goes between 2 points.  As a result, many people are missing out on the true potential of their miles.

Each airline has different rules about how you can redeem their points, but there are some concepts across all of them that you need to understand:

  1. Who are their partner airlines?  Most airlines have partner airlines.  These are airlines that you can earn and/or redeem miles on.  The big groups are the One World Alliance, the Star Alliance and the SkyTeam.  The One World Alliance officially consists of: airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Mexicana, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, and S7 Airlines.  There are other affliates, members elect and other airlines that you can redeem/earn miles on outside of the alliance.  For example, you can redeem British Airways miles on Aer Lingus (but you can’t redeem American Airlines miles on Aer Lingus).  The Star Alliance officially consists of: Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Blue1, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, Ethopian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Luftansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAM Airlines, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United, and US Airways.  SkyTeam consists of: Aeroflot, AeroMexico, AirEuropa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Saudia, Tarom, and Vietnam Airlines.  As you can tell from the lists, the One World Alliance and Star Alliance are usually preferred by frequent travelers because of the airlines in the alliances.
  2. What are the rules on redeeming miles on partner airlines?  This is a big one.  Each airline has different rules around how you can redeem miles in general and also how you can redeem them on partner airlines.  There are also rules around what direction you need to fly to certain destinations (e.g. on some airlines, you have to fly over the Pacific Ocean when traveling to Asia).  My go-to resource for these types of questions is FlyerTalk.  Most airlines have their own forum in the Miles&Points forum.  Go to the forum you’re interested in.  Within the forum, most of the airlines have a “sticky” post about the FAQs for that airline.  For example, the American Airlines thread is called: “FAQ: American Airlines and AAdvantage – Please check here first!”.  There is also another “sticky” post called: “Award Desk: Information about AA, Partner, and oneworld Awards”.  These are fabulous resources to learn about how you can use your miles.
  3. What are the rules on stopovers and open jaws?  I mentioned the Points Guy’s video post earlier about stopovers and open jaws. Essentially, stopovers are when you are traveling from destination A to C via another city B.  A stopover is when you stay in city B for a period of time before traveling on to C.  So you trip would look like, flight from A to B, stay for a few days, then continue on from B to C.  An open jaw is when you’re traveling from A to D, but you travel via airline from A to B, then you take another mode of transportation from B to C and then continue on via air from C to D.  So in this example, maybe you fly from Boston to Paris, take a train from Paris to Madrid, and then fly from Madrid to Rome.  In these examples, you’re booking all the airline segments at the same time (so they aren’t considered 2 one way tickets, they are one half of a trip, with an open jaw).  Again, check FlyerTalk to learn to use these to maximize your points.  Each airline has different rules.

I’ve talked about how to use some of these tricks to book a free one-way to Hawaii when traveling from South America on American Airlines and the magic of the stopover.  Get creative and you can really stretch the value of your miles!

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My First Churn

One of the first questions that someone in the travel hacking game will have is what is a churn?  A credit card churn is when you apply for a credit card you’ve already had to get another sign-up bonus.  Most credit cards are not churnable.

Some of the first cards that I got when I started this game two and a half years ago were the American Airlines personal cards.  I’ve heard of people having success re-applying for these cards after about 18 months and I was reminded of that on yesterday’s Million Mile Secret’s post.  (Check out the post, it has some great information in it.)

I’ve been trying to figure out which card to apply for next and the 50,000 mile American Airlines sign-up bonus is one of the best ones out there (there is are Visa, Amex and Business versions of the card).  After confirming that I believe we can meet the spending requirements of the 2 cards (one Visa, one Amex), I decided to apply for both of them.  I could have used the 2-browser trick that Daraius talks about in his post.  But instead, I just used 2 computers and submitted the applications at the same time.  And I’m happy to say that I was approved for both cards!

After spending $3,000 on the card within 4 months, you get 50,000 miles, 1 Companion Pass for paid tickets and $100 statement credit for an eligible American Airlines purchase (e.g. a food purchase on the plane, baggage fee, etc).  Here are the links for the Citicard Visa and the Citicard American Express. I’m taking American Airlines down to North Carolina near the end of the month, so I’ll be able to meet the eligible American Airlines purchase part of the deal too and get the $100 statement credit!

We’re on our way to another 100,000 American Airlines miles!  And it’s great to see that I was able to get a bonus from a card that I’ve had before. 

The further you get in this game, the less cards are available to you because you’ve already had them.  I try to reserve my applications to the best deals.  As a result, I’m applying for far fewer than a lot of bloggers.  But I don’t want to miss out on an amazing deal in the future because I’ve already had the card that has the amazing deal.

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British Airways Offer

Bummed that you missed out on the British Airways 100,000 mile offer back in 2009/2010?  If so, this may be for you.  There is an offer floating around for 50,000 miles after first purchase, another 25,000 after you spend $10,000 on the card in the first year and another 25,000 after you spend another $10,000 on the card in the first year.  This is the card that many frequent flyer bloggers have been touting because they get a referral bonus for it.  I won’t even put a link for it because there’s an even better offer out there.  I give credit to Darius from Million Mile Secrets for actually talking about this offer.

The other offer you can get is 50,000 miles after first purchase and another 50,000 miles on your first anniversary.  You will have to spend 2 annual fees (total of $150), but I think that’s well worth it to get 100,000 miles.  You can read about how to get the offer in this Flyertalk thread.  Essentially, you have to pretend like you’re going to purchase a ticket on British Airways web site.  A credit card offer link will come up when you’re going to the payment options.  It will have buttons that say you’re going to purchase with the new card, but you don’t actually have purchase the flights after doing the credit card application. 

I can’t personally verify that this works because I’ve already had the British Airways card.  I could verify that the offer came up, but I can’t apply for the card because I’ll get denied for already having it.

I’m a big fan of British Airways points for shorter haul trips when redeeming on partner airlines.  We are traveling to Ireland next Spring using British Airways miles (redeemed on Aer Lingus).  We’ve also used British Airways miles on American Airlines to go to Hawaii (before they changed their award chart).

So if you haven’t already gotten the British Airways credit card, this is definitely something to consider.

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We’re Going to Ireland!

We finally booked our flights for next year’s Spring Break.  We’re going to Ireland!  Our last several trips have been warm weather destinations – Hawaii twice, Wyoming in the summer and Disney World. 

We were originally thinking of going to Belize based on my cousin’s recommendation.  We were going to use American Airlines miles because they are the best deal when traveling to Belize (it would have only been 30,000 miles round-trip).  However, as a mentioned in a post recently, I think that American Airlines is limiting award tickets within the US so I couldn’t find any availability. 

When that didn’t seem to be working, I began looking at other locations.  I still wanted to use our American Airlines miles because I wanted to save our United miles for a future summer trip to Europe and our British Airways miles for trips to NC.  I found some availability to Caribbean locations out of JFK but none of the islands excited me.

Then I saw a post on The Points Guy where he talked about redeeming British Airways miles on Aer Lingus between Boston and Dublin for only 25,000 miles round-trip!  Nearly 13 years ago, my husband and I took a trip to Ireland years ago, 2 weeks before our wedding (he had a work conference).  We called it our pre-wedding honeymoon.  It was fantastic to get away before the wedding – I highly recommend it to anyone who is planning their wedding.  We had an amazing time and were talking about when we could go back before we even left.  But life happens (work, house, kids) and we haven’t made it back.  We’re so happy that we are finally making the trip back and the boys are thrilled for their first trip out of the country!  Plus one of my husband’s cousins married an Irishman and moved there so we’ll get to see family while we’re there.

Now the real planning starts.  We need to get passports for the kids and figure out where we want to go.  I imagine it will be a much different trip than the last time we went.  But I’m excited to show the boys where some of my ancestors came from.  And, come on, what little boy doesn’t want to go see some castles?

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