Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Nov 21

Delta Adding A SkyMiles Perk For Transcon Elites

The general direction of frequent flyer programs has been downward. While airlines occasionally offer a carrot to improve the benefits, it’s much more common to get the stick. So even if the perk they add only affects a few people, it’s nice to get something.

Free Elite Upgrades on Domestic Delta One

delta one

An international lie-flat seat on a domestic route

One of the best perks of elite status on many airlines is free upgrades to either business class or premium economy seats. The upgrades apply to almost all domestic flights. I say “almost” because there are certain transcontinental routes where airlines fly their international first or business class product, and complimentary elite upgrades often don’t exist on those flights.*

In April, though, that will be changing, as Delta is bringing elite upgrades to domestic flights that use the international business class, known as Delta One. It won’t be the standard upgrade procedure, though. Instead of getting your bump up a few days in advance, the upgrades will only be confirmed on the day of departure. Those flights don’t tend to go out with a lot of empty seats, but having a slight chance at a Delta One bed is better than none at all.

So why is Delta making this change? My guess, and it’s strictly a guess, is that it has to do at least in part with the JetBlue Mint product. Instead of charging thousands of dollars for a seat up front, JetBlue is making the market more competitive by selling Mint for numbers that rarely exceed triple digits. As JetBlue expands its corporate presence, Delta (and its competitors) will be forced to offer at least a few crumbs to its passengers. Consider this the first.

 


*It makes sense that the coast-to-coast market is as competitive and expensive as the east coast to Europe. If you’re flying for six hours between large cities, why should it matter if you are flying east or west?

 

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Nov 20

Good Luck, Thanksgiving Travelers

I don’t have to tell anyone here that Thanksgiving is among the worst times for air travel. Flights are packed, cost a fortune and lines are interminable. Here are a few hints that might help to speed you on your way:

  • Do Anything You Can At Home: The less you have to do at the airport, the better. This means printing your boarding passes at home (or checking in by mobile) and deciding what you are going to do with your luggage. If you are checking, have everything tagged and ready to go for your airline’s designated “baggage drop” area. If you have Pre-Check, make sure your boarding pass indicates as such.
  • Have Your Kids Prepared: Traveling with little people? Assume that you will have delays and pack snacks appropriately. Make sure that the iPads are charged to 100%. Don’t forget the books. Etc.
  • Know Your Airport: Remember, you don’t have to sit right next to your gate. Get to your airport early. If you have lounge access, take advantage of it. Secluded area? Good, sit and enjoy lunch.
  • Know Flight Alternatives: Chances are, every flight is packed but, just in case, know a few alternatives to your destination in case your flight is cancelled. Also, check with your credit card company to find out what kind of travel insurance you have. Last-minute tickets are a fortune.
  • And Finally (And Probably Most Important): Don’t be “that guy.”  Something will go wrong and it’s likely not the fault of the gate agent or, for that matter, anyone else at the airport. This is definitely a situation where honey>vinegar when it comes to catching flies. As the person in my family most likely to turn into “that guy” when I get frustrated, I read this point a couple of times.

Good luck out there! Go in prepared and expecting the worst and you’ll have a great trip.

 

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Nov 18

American’s Holiday Miles Offer Comes From Scrooge

Way back when, US Airways used to offer a partner offer called the Grand Slam promotion. The object was to earn miles through as many of its partners as possible and, based on the number you used, you earned miles. The top prize was 100,000 miles and it was always fun to see how little money you could spend with its partners to earn the 100,000.

The American Airlines Version

american

I was excited to see American bring what appeared to be a similar promotion, as I received an email offering me up to 50,000 points by earning through their partners.

But this new evolution of the promotion is not nearly as good as the old one. Not only can you only earn 50,000 miles but the cost to accumulate the miles is much higher. They only give you ten partners to use, and you have to do something with every one of them.

Some of them are easy. For instance, one partner is “Miles for Opinions” and requires you to take a couple of surveys.

Others are more difficult. For example, one requires earning miles with Sprint (Does anyone even have Sprint anymore?), while a different one makes you sign up for the wine delivery service.

The Bottom Line: As promotions go, this one really trails its predecessor.

 

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Nov 17

Delta Sky Clubs Making Admission Changes

Delta is making it a little more difficult to get into its lounges, with the odd caveat that the new rules start in 2019, not 2018 (giving you the choice to renew before they go into effect).

No Ticket, No Entry

Delta, sky club

That guy won’t be so happy if he’s flying American

Airline lounges are a great place to relax for your flight and Delta has definitely improved its product, after a big price increase a few years ago. But it’s going to be a little tougher now for you to use it.

Starting in 2019, you will have to be flying Delta to gain access to the Sky Club, regardless of your means of entry. In other words, even if you bought the membership outright, as opposed to getting it for free from a credit card or elite status, you’ll no longer be able to get in if you aren’t flying the airline that day.*

One other big change: Currently, membership gets you access to partners’ lounges. Yeah, not so much in 2019.

When Too Many People Buy Your Product

Delta has a problem that most companies would love to have: too much business. The issue that they’ve run into is that they’ve sold Sky Club access to so many people that the lounges are overcrowded and customers are complaining. The price increase a few years ago served to thin the herds a little bit. I don’t know how many people use the lounges on days that they are not flying Delta, but I can’t imagine it’s many. Still, a less crowded lounge is a better lounge.

 

HT: A lot of different blogs. We’ll credit this one to View From The Wing.


*Beginner’s Hint: Currently, travelers who get Sky Club privileges through their credit card have Sky Club access, which means that they have the right to use the lounge if they are flying on Delta or a partner. If you purchase the membership, you have the right to use the lounge no matter which airline you are flying. With the change in policy, I no longer see the advantage of paying for it. It’s now much easier to get it for free by getting a credit card that offers it. The American Airlines premium credit card will be the only one that allows you entry regardless of who you are flying.

 

Nov 15

American Airlines Announces Reykjavic Service

Yesterday, American Airlines announced that it would start flying to Reykjavic* in June from its hub in Dallas (DFW). Here’s what we know so far and what I think of it.

Reykjavic And…Dallas?

reykjavic, iceland

A new American Airlines destination. Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Reykjavic has become an incredibly popular tourist destination. At one time, it was seen solely as a cheap way to get to Europe, but people are finally beginning to discover Iceland on its own, where you could easily spend a week or more. I was, however, surprised to see Dallas as the launch city for AA to Iceland, as opposed to one of the east coast hubs.

It’s clear that AA is going after leisure traffic with Iceland as a destination, rather than use it as a connecting point and trying to compete on one-stop trips to Europe (which would not make its partner British Airways particularly happy). There is some element of American protecting Dallas, since both Icelandair and WOW Air fly there, but there’s not a lot of business traffic into the market. Furthermore, there is virtually no connectivity for American passengers. You would have to buy a separate ticket from KEF (Reykjavik’s airport), which would kill any cost advantages for you. AA looks to be connecting traffic from the west coast with this flight.

The other piece worth noting is that AA is flying on a 757-200, which has lie-flat seating in business, as well as upgraded bedding and amenities. Since this is an overnight flight, it might make a good use of your miles. In the back, it’s 3 X 3 seating.

I’ve heard nothing but great things about Iceland, and now you have one more way to get there.

 


*There is no truth to the rumor that you get a free upgrade if you can spell “Reykjavic” without googling it.

 

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Nov 14

Help, Delta Gave Me Extra Miles And Won’t Take Them Back!

Delta gave me 10,000 extra miles and now I can’t get rid of them. While that may sound like a bank error in my favor, I happen to have found the one circumstance where it isn’t. At least for now, I seem to be stuck with them.

Here’s What Happened

The first set of miles

As you may know, Delta offers an American Express card* that gives you 10,000 miles after you spend $25,000 annually and another 10,000 miles after you spend another $25,000. They call it the “mileage boost,” and what’s interesting about these miles is that they also count toward elite status. You can get most of the way to Silver status before you even step on an airplane. So how could more Medallion Qualifying Miles (miles toward elite status) be bad?

The second set of miles

It’s actually because of a second benefit which, ironically, was added to help flyers. If you achieve at least Silver status (25,000 MQM), any elite miles that you earn above your current level but before your next one carry over to the following year. For example, Silver status starts at 25,000 MQMs and Gold status starts at 50,000. Let’s say you end the year with 45,000 elite miles. You’re not quite Gold, but that’s okay because when the counter resets in 2018, the 20,000 “extra” MQMs that you earned will roll over, and you will start with 20,000 MQM on January 1, 2018.

You can see where this is going. I was supposed to end the year with 47,000 MQM. There isn’t much difference between Gold and Silver, so I was happy to carry over the remaining 22,000 toward my 2018 status. Now, I’ll only be carrying over 7,000.

So I called Delta, and they referred me to American Express. I called American Express, but they told me that they didn’t have any record of a duplicate mileage transfer. I’m sure that it will eventually get sorted out, but how can I not appreciate the irony of this situation. For once, the airline makes a mistake in my favor, just at the time that I didn’t want one.

 


*It’s a good card and I have it but, unless you have an immediate need for it, I’d wait on getting it until they offer a better sign-up bonus than the standard 35,000 miles. They have promotions for the card every few months.

 

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Nov 13

JetBlue Rolls 2018 Schedule Forward

JetBlue recently extended its schedule through September 4, allowing you to book your travel through Labor Day of 2018. It’s time to take a look and see what’s on offer.

A Schedule Update

jetblue

And they come with pretty pictures

The discounters schedule their flights slightly differently than the legacy carriers do. While American, Delta, United and all of their friends tend to schedule flights 330 days in advance, the low cost carriers tend to do so only 6-9 months out. In this case, JetBlue gave us ten months worth of notice, which is more than usual but also indicative of slight changes that the airline is making.

So does the schedule roll-out mean anything to you? Darn tootin’ it does. If you’re the type of person that likes to book fares as soon as they become available, hold off, particularly if you are on a route that competes with a discounter.* For example, Delta used to be the only carrier that flew Boston-Minneapolis. Now, JetBlue has jumped into that market. But if you are booking that flight 330 days in advance, you won’t find any JetBlue fares, since they haven’t been announced yet, so the Delta fares will be sky-high. Remember, airline pricing is about competition. Once JetBlue’s fares are available, though, Delta may have to bring down their prices to compete. They may not match JetBlue, but the overall fare structure for the market will be lower.

 


*The caveat is, of course, if you are flying during a high-demand period, it might not matter. Discounters usually shave a few bucks off the price, but they’re still high. Just keep your eyes open.

 

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Nov 11

JetBlue Offering 15% Point Rebate On Awards

JetBlue does a lot of “flash offers,” which are promotions that are good for a short time period. Right now, it is offering 15% point rebates for award trips booked between today and November 14, which is a little bit longer than the traditional two-day JetBlue flash sale.

Three Months Of A Rebate

Please don’t forget to register before booking your flight

One thing I like about JetBlue promotions is that they are usually not complicated, and this one is no exception. Simply buy an award ticket using points before November 14 for travel through February 14 and you’ll get a 15% rebate on the points that you used.

Other than remembering to register, there is not a lot that you need to do for the promotion. Simply sign up, book your ticket and look for your TrueBlue points sometime in March.

 

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Nov 10

Friday Tidbits For The Weekend

As we head into the weekend, here are a few deals that are worth looking at…

Win Miles And Cruises from AA

american airlines

Win a $3,000 cruise voucher and a bunch of miles.

This sweepstakes shows up from time to time but it costs you nothing and could earn you a nice vacation. Sign up for weekly cruise deals from American and you’ll have a chance to win miles and/or a cruise. First prize is 500,000 miles and a $3,000 cruise voucher, with five other lucky winners picking up 100,000 miles each.

Okay, maybe you’re not that lucky, because you’ll be out of pocket for the taxes, and American values 100,000 miles at $1,990, or about two cents per mile. That valuation used to be legitimate but, sadly, the true value is declining at a rapid rate as mileage inflation takes place.

Total Rewards Survey Love from Say And Play

Casino programs generally have lousy loyalty programs (If you need to earn actual points, you’re not valuable enough to get the big comps.), and Total Rewards (Caesars, Harrah’s, lots of others) is among the lousiest. Points are generally difficult to earn and will only get you a penny each in comps. If you want slot machine credit, they’re worth 0.5 cents each.

Still, free is free, and you have the chance to pick up some easy TR points through Say And Play, a survey company. Sign up and complete your first survey and they’ll give you 500 points, which isn’t bad, considering that it will get you a $5 credit in the casino or keep your points going if they’re about to expire (Total Rewards has a vicious policy of zeroing out your account after just six months of inactivity.).

The Uber Credit Card

uber credit card

Returns are actually pretty good

Wow, everyone has a credit card these days, and the next one up is Uber. It’s a pretty simple hook, with a $100 credit (10,000 points) after spending $500 in the first 90 days, and various lower-valued goodies. But the real juice comes in the bonus categories, with dining earning you 4% back and travel (hotel and airfare) getting you 3%. If you spend heavily on those categories, this free card is worth a look.

 

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Nov 08

What We Learned From Marriott

Every quarter, publicly traded companies report earnings to Wall Street and provide commentary on the quarter.

Marriott’s turn was last night, and it’s one that I pay particular attention to, since it is now the owner of both all of the Marriott brands and all of the former Starwood brands. What they say matters.

What We Learned

marriott flights and hotels

Hawaii would be a nice place to be right now

  • Things are still good in hotel-land. RevPAR*, an important measure of growth, was up 2.1% over the same figure last year. Although it was flat in the United States, it was up around the world, with Europe leading the charge at 9%. It’s expected to continue in the fourth quarter, with North America up 2-3% and 3-5%.
  • Marriott is currently renegotiating its credit card agreement with JPMorgan Chase and American Express. This one matters. Those credit card agreements allow banks to bid for business, and travel providers have been winning big concessions from the banks over the past few years. American Express currently offers the Starwood credit card and is in no position to lose a contract to Chase, so expect the outcome to be highly beneficial for consumers (and Marriott). We should know something in the next few months.
  • Management said little about the loyalty programs, but CEO Arne Sorensen implied that it would not be in 2018. I’m hoping that it’s sooner rather than later, since managing multiple accounts and not being able to count Starwood nights to Marriott (or vice versa) has become bothersome.

 


*Beginner’s Hint: RevPAR stands for “revenue per available room.” It measures how many dollars the hotel brought in per room that was available for sale, whether the room was actually used or not. Thus, it accounts for both hotels that fill 100% of their rooms at bargain basement prices as well as those that have very low occupancy, but at very high prices. The best place to be is that point where occupancy*room rate is highest.

 

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