US Airways moves to oneworld alliance: Let the status matches begin!

Congratulations, US Airways, you’ve taken another step toward the merger’s culmination by switching alliances, in particular, moving from Star to oneworld.  Now, US Airways members will have a completely different list of carriers on which they can use their miles.

One of the big benefits of alliance changes is that previous alliance members start offering status matches.  In other words, you may have had Star Alliance status previously through US Airways, but now your have oneworld.  But Star, or at least certain carriers within Star, don’t want to lose your business, so they offer status matches.  How does that work?  Glad you asked, since it works very easily.

In this case, Air Canada is throwing the first grenade.  Send them a scan of your US Airways card before April 30 and fly at least one flight on them before May 31 and you’ll earn the equivalent status on Air Canada through the end of February 2015.  Check out all the details here.

Why does it matter?  Well, you might like your Star Alliance status.  And besides, having status in two alliances is better than one.  But most importantly, there is a little-known rule regarding lounge access: Members who have Star Gold status (in this case, the equivalent of US Airways Gold or Altitude Elite on AC) on an airline from outside the United States get lounge privileges when flying Star Alliance carriers that day.  No membership card necessary, just show them your boarding pass with the appropriate status.  This access does not apply to members who earned their status on US Airways or United, so having that Air Canada status will get you into any Star Gold lounge.  For those who have never been in a lounge, while they’re not quite the quiet oasis that they once were, they are a much nicer place to wait for your flight and have agents who can work miracles.

Bottom line: One cheap flight will get you a nice status match.  If your US Airways status is high enough, it’s worth it.

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Cleaning up errors

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Thank you for your patience.

Note: We appear to be fixed for now.  Thanks again.

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My favorite use of miles on American Airlines (domestic)

Here’s why small amounts of miles can add up.  My favorite use of miles is domestic upgrades.  A one-way upgrade from coach to first on a two-class plane costs only 15,000 miles and $75.  15,000 miles may seem like a lot, but considering that they will give you as many as 100,000 for signing up for a credit card (albeit one with a high annual fee), it’s not a level that is truly hard to attain.

Let me assure you that if you are flying a six-hour transcon flight, that first class seat makes all the difference.  You deserve it, treat yourself!

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American Airlines: 1,050 free miles (free and easy)

GIMME ALERT!

American Airlines is giving you 1,050 miles for a few clicks.  You do need a Facebook account (Read here if you hate FB and don’t want to give up your personal info.) to play, but you simply answer a few trivia questions and earn your points.  It goes through May and can be found here.

Note: If you have any questions about the answers, pick the ones that make American Airlines look good.

Frankly, 1,000 miles is not a lot.  One might even ask why bother?  Two reasons:

First, every mile counts.  As few as 15,000 miles can get you an upgrade on AA anywhere in the US.

Second, any activity keeps your account from expiring.  Go too long without any activity in your account and it goes dormant, causing you to lose your miles.

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Delta changes may shift buying patterns

A few weeks ago, I discussed the changes that Delta is making to its frequent flyer program, which will emphasize dollars spent over distance.  I hypothesized that travelers, particularly those who have someone else paying for their ticket, would look to spend more money.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal had an article on just that subject.  If it actually happens, corporate travel managers are going to be much busier.

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Elite Status Challenge on JetBlue

Elite Status on an airline is a pretty powerful loyalty program.  The benefits from status often save you annoying fees and bump you to the front of the line for boarding, security, etc.  It’s normally earned by flying a large number of miles, spending a large number of dollars, or both, on a single airline/partnership in a single year.

Every once in a while, airlines will offer a “challenge” to earn or maintain elite status.  This challenge usually consists of earning a certain number of elite points in a particular time frame and is meant to draw new members into the loyalty program or cement the loyalty of those already there.

JetBlue just jumped into the pool with an offer for existing elite (Mosaic) members.  Sign up by April 18 and you’ll have 90 days to earn 3,750 base points, which equates to $1,250 in spend on JetBlue (JB doesn’t measure miles for elite status purposes.).  Do so and you’ll extend your elite status through Decenber 31, 2015.  It’s a great deal, particularly if you were already planning on flying during that period.  Click here for the details.

It gets better.  Even if you don’t have elite status with JetBlue, if you do with another airline, click the above link and JetBlue will give you status until the end of the year.  And if you complete the challenge, you’ll also get it until December 31, 2015.

Pretty sweet, any way you look at it.

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American and JetBlue get divorced

But it was a nice marriage while it lasted.

American Airlines recently announced that it was eliminating its partnership with JetBlue Airways.  It was really a partnership of convenience for American and a seat-filler for JetBlue, so the latter will be the loser in this deal.

Prior to the announcement, AA had an agreement with JB that its members could earn AA miles on certain flights out of Boston and New York.  American had a lot of international traffic that fed into those cities, particularly JFK, but not many connecting flights internally.  For example, a passenger traveling from London to Charleston, SC, could fly AA (or a partner) to New York, but there was no way to connect without taking a second stop.  That passenger would have ended up on Delta.  The partnership with JetBlue, however, allowed that passenger to fly into New York and connect to JetBlue flight to earn AA miles.  Voila!  AA got the expensive trans-Atlantic flight and JetBlue filled another seat.

The AA/US Airways merger eliminates that need.  For passengers flying into a non-gateway city in the US, the new combined airline connect the traveler in the powerful Philidelphia hub (formerly a US Airways hub) and route them pretty much anywhere from there.

Goodbye, JetBlue.  We hardly knew ye.

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Out of office notice

It’s my silly season for travel, so I’ll be out the next week.  I’ll try to keep up but can’t make promises.  See you in a week or so!

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Meeting credit card minimum spend

The easiest way to get miles, bar none, is to sign up for a new credit card.  Many are offering up to 100,000 miles to sign up and hit a certain amount of spending within a particular period of time, usually three months.  But suppose you aren’t a big spender?  In that case, you have to “manufacture” spend.

Manufacturing spending is a method for spending money without actually buying anything.  No, I’m not talking Brewster’s Millions here.  Rather, it’s a method of exchanging one form of currency for another.  Confused?  Here’s an example:

Let’s say your credit card requires you to spend $5,000 within three months to earn the mileage bonus, but you don’t normally spend that much.  One thing you can do is go to American Express’s website and buy an Amex gift card for $5,000, or any amount you feel comfortable with.  You have now taken that spending and turned it into a prepaid gift card that you use just like an American Express credit card!  You’ve met your minimum spend and aren’t out of pocket anything, since the gift card functions just like a credit card.  True, you have to be able to pay off the amount of the credit card bill, so don’t buy a gift card for more than you can afford to pay next month.  You may also want to verify that your credit card issuer won’t charge the purchase as a cash advance, although very few do.

Want to work the system even better?  Go to Big Crumbs to make the purchase and they will give you 1.2% of the purchase price back as a reward.  The $60 in extra rewards that you earn will more than offset the $12-13 in fees that you pay to order the card.  

Bottom line: There are ways to accomplish those minimum spend requirements, even if you aren’t a big spender.

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Two thoughts on magazines

Not always a hot topic in the world, but magazines are a big topic for airline miles.

1) Earning miles: Somebody always has a promo going for magazines.  It’s a purchase you should never make without getting something back for it.  In this case, Delta is offering 15 miles/dollar at their online store.  But the better deal is at Mr. Rebates, which is offering a whopping 22% back for all magazine purchases.  All other things being equal, cash is always better, particularly when it’s at such a premium.

2) Redeeming miles: Here’s another thing to consider: Miles on certain airlines often expire.  Check with your program to see the expiration date, but if you have a few miles sitting in an account and don’t plan on flying the airline anytime soon, cash out for a magazine.  The cheapest ones are usually only about a thousand miles and any activity generally resets the clock on expiration.  You don’t even have to want the magazine you purchase with miles, you just need to keep your account active.  1,000 miles is a cheap price.

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