Archive for the ‘frequent flyer’ Category

Frequent Flyer Tip – Assign Value Your Frequent Flyer Miles To Help Decide How to Use Them

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Thanks to credit card offers and frequent travel you may be sitting on a LOT of frequent flyers miles, but that doesn’t always mean you should use them up quickly.   Here are some tips on effective collection and use of frequent flyer programs and miles:

Collect more frequent flyer miles:
I’m amazed how many people don’t take advantage of frequent flyer programs, which will save a frequent traveler *tens of thousands* of dollars over a lifetime.     So the first tip is USE THESE PROGRAMS!      Second tip is  DON’T LET MILES EXPIRE!.      That usually involves simply spending a bit with credit card linked to your miles program, buying or gifting a few miles through the program, and other cheap approaches.    Even at the low valuation of a penny a mile, losing 25000 miles is like losing $250 cash and is often easily avoided.

Travel is NOT the easiest way to get miles.    Credit Card sign ups with flyer miles programs  are increasingly generous, so it’s not uncommon to get 50,000 or even more miles for a simple credit card sign up, often using cards sponsored by United Airlines, Delta Airlines, US Airways, British Airways, and more.     Although using these and other credit cards will often allow you to collect a few miles, a good trick if your record keeping is good is to cancel the cards after a year (before the fee kicks in) and then sign up again with the new offers that will come your way soon.    Depending on your credit and other factors, you can get hundreds of thousands of extra miles by simply signing up with different cards via different airlines over the course of a few years.   The best online resource I’ve found to help with this is The Points Guy.    Tips there are very helpful and he’s usually got the best offers current credit card offers highlighted and explained.

Using your miles wisely:
I like to assign a value to my miles to help compare offers.     I generally use a penny per mile but that may be somewhat low for most people.    I’d say .02 per mile would be on the high side.      For example if I can use 25,000 miles for a round trip but the ticket would cost me $350 I’d tend to use miles.    On the other hand if I’d need to use 50,000 miles for that $350 trip I’ll pay for the ticket.

Miles values will vary for different people since people have different levels of comfort (first class upgrades can be relatively cheap using miles vs cash), flexibility  (more flexibility means your miles will be a lot easier to use), inconvenience (miles are often somewhat trickier to use compared to booking a paid flight) and the fact that people’s time differs in value   (for example if you value your time at minimum wage and can spend more time looking for deals the miles may be worth *more* to you than if you value your time at, say,  $50+ per hour.

To get an idea of how many miles you’ll get for various trips, use the mileage calculator at Airport City Codes – just enter your two airports and add up the miles from different legs of the journey.

 

IMPORTANT: Defer the Expiration of your Frequent Flyer Miles

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

All the Airlines seem to be both giving away more and more frequent flyers miles but also making it harder to use the programs.    Through credit card offers, not to mention actually travelling on planes, you can rack up hundreds of thousands of miles – enough for many trips.   Unfortunately it’s not easy to use these so you’ll need to strategize a bit, plan travel far in the future to obtain most of the lowest miles deals, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, you’ll need to hang on to your miles.

I just used a nice offer by American Airlines to extend my wife’s miles for 18 months.   She gave away 1000 miles to the “Miles for Kids in Need” program at AA, and this kept her from losing the rest of them.  Here’s the link to AA’s charity miles giveaways:  http://www.aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/redeemMiles/charities.jsp

Another way to preserve your miles is simply to buy 1000 miles for about $30 from AA.     http://www.aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/purchasingMiles/main.jsp

One of the WORST things you can do is let them expire and then pay over a penny per mile to have them reinstated – unless you have a very specific use of your miles, in my opinion it’s not worth, say $200 to keep 20,000 miles.   Some would (wrongly) suggest that the calculation would be along these lines:    “You can get a $400-500 ticket for 25,000 miles so they are worth about .02 each”.    The problem, however, is that you usually CANNOT get a ticket easily with miles and also you won’t tend to have exactly the right number for a tickets, leaving some unused or you unable to use some.    So my rule of thumb is that miles are worth about 1-2 cents per mile assuming you travel and lot are will use them.

FYI “selling and buying miles” is a risky proposition.   I’ve not done this and the laws seem fairly complicated, but I think you risk losing miles if you try that game.

British Airways Miles tips from “The Points Guy”

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Brian Kelley is “The Points Guy“, a frequent flyer who helps others get the best from their credit card frequent flyer deals and other travel offers out there.

In an excellent and detailed series of articles linked below, Kelley offers a lot of advice on the British Airways points system, which based on my limited experience offers some challenges in terms of fuel surcharges and other added on fees.   After signing up for new cards my wife and I now have over 200,000 miles to use, but I’m concerned that the “free trips” to London I thought we’d score from this are fading away fast, though it appears BA may allow us to combine several segments – a promising development.   I’ll be reading Kelley’s advice carefully to try to maximize the benefits of the British Airways Frequent Flyer Program.

 

British Airways Frequent Flyer Travel Tips from “The Points Guy” Brian Kelley:

General tipsPost 1 – Booking BA Awards, Post 2 – Booking Partner Awards, Post 3 – Oneworld Alliance, Post 4 – Taxes and Fees, Post 5 – Household Accounts, Post 6 – Companion Ticket, Post 7 – Using ExpertFlyer for Partner Award Availability, Post 8 – The Art of the Stopover, Post 9 – Leveraging Miles and Cash Redemptions, and Post 10– Using Qantas.com to Find Oneworld Award Availability. Also, be sure to check out my post on the credit card deal itself and the lengthy Q&A in the comments section.

Venture Card Frequent Flyer Miles – unrestricted but “expensive” to use

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Unless you lost your television you’ve seen the ads for the new Capitol One Venture Card.    They feature Alex Baldwin talking about the benefits of using the Venture miles anytime and on any airline.   If you were among the lucky folks who participated in their initial “billion mile” promotion, you had up to 100,000 existing miles matched by Capitol One, a value of about $1000 for reasons you’ll see if you read on.

Whereas most frequent flyer programs such as United’s Mileage Plus or Delta’s Skymiles have a separate reservation system for you to use to book your frequent flyer tickets, Venture offers that option OR the option of simply purchasing a ticket with real dollars and any system using your Venture Card.    Afterwards you can apply for a rebate of the cost of the ticket using your Venture miles which are valued at a penny each.     For example if my ticket cost $400  I would buy it with dollars and then ask them to credit back my $400 and deduct  40,000 miles from my account.     Neat, right?    Yes, but note how expensive the ticket can be compared to the “old” standards of needing only about 25,000 frequent flyer miles for a round trip.     Complicating matters is the fact that mileage programs – especially Delta Skymiles and American Airlines in my experience – seem to be getting stingier in terms of offering good options for frequent flyers.    Unless you have a lot of flexibility you’ll probably find it hard to get cheap seats using regular miles.     To this extent they are lining up with the Venture style miles – options are good as long as you are willing to use a LOT of miles.

Important DELTA Skymiles Tip:   Sometimes the ONE WAY will cost as many miles as a ROUND TRIP, so in some cases you should simply add a “return” leg to your trip to get a second one way ticket.     Even if you wind up paying a change fee of up to $150 later to change the dates, this is probably worth it.        Delta now seems to offer both the least and most expensive frequent flyers deals with one ways as low as 8500 miles but short term round trips often at 60,000.

The golden rule as always with frequent flyer programs as well as life in general, if you are not rich, then:

BE FLEXIBLE.

Frequent Flyer Miles Madness

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

IMPORTANT:   This post is  simply a collection of notes from a recent flurry of activity using miles programs.   It may NOT represent the general experience for frequent flyer programs at United, American, or Delta.  If you’ve had different experiences please feel free to comment below, and if you are an industry representative also feel free to guest post or comment.

Frequent Flyer programs: You’ve got to love them for allowing you free or very cheap flying options, but the logistics are often intimidating even for experienced travelers.   Until this past week *thought* I was pretty familiar with the basics of the frequent flyer game but … no.   Due to a sudden illness in the family I’ve been arranging last minute trips back and forth from Oregon to Minnesota using the frequent flyer miles my wife and I had on three airlines:  United, Delta, and American Airlines.   I also just booked four paid tickets to Virginia on Delta’s very compromised online booking system which I learned (the HARD way) is not yet compatible with Google’s  Chrome browser.

More on that later but the tip of the day is “for Delta Airlines bookings, don’t use Google Chrome yet!”

Frequent Flyer tips from this experience learned:

United Airlines Frequent Flyer System  was great

1.  Kudos to United Airlines who came through with an excellent online booking system and excellent ticket availability without gauging me in miles.    If you are in a rural area like me, you may find your miles won’t work from your regional airport.   Here at MFR Medford in Oregon both Delta and United allow me to travel to and from here, but for American Airlines I need to drive to tt cities served by American which in our case are Sacramento, California and Portland, Oregon – both about 4 1/2 hours from home.     For me during this experience, United was the big winner by providing one way trips to Minnesota at the last minute for only 12,500 miles with only a $5 processing charge.

Delta’s Frequent Flyer System was expensive and somewhat confusing.  Delta Assist Twitter help was great.

The quirky tip I learned from Delta’s excellent online twitter help was that sometimes (always?) the cost in miles of a ONE WAY is the SAME as a Round Trip!     I was getting charged 40,000 miles for a last minute one way home for my wife, but thanks to the @DeltaAssist  I learned I could book a return for no extra miles.

Watch for Credit Card Miles offers that can be worth thousands of dollars in free tickets:

Watch out for sneaky tricks that aren’t worth the money for the miles:

Here’s a sneaky trick from Delta disguised as an “offer” (!)

Transfer Miles: Limited-time Offer
Bring your friends and family with you on your next vacation. Transfer miles to that special someone between May 1 and June 30, 2011 and we’ll give them a 50% mileage bonus.1

To be continued….


Is Selling your Frequent Flyer miles to a “Mileage Broker” legal?

Friday, May 13th, 2011

The mileage broker market was once a thriving industry, buying frequent flyer tickets from people and then reselling them at a profit. Understandably the airlines don’t like this practice of monetizing their frequent flyer / mileage plus type systems. These are marketing tools and they arguably lose both control of things and lose paid tickets to free ones (though a mileage broker could make the argument that they are simply making the process more efficient by letting people turn one form of compensation – free tickets – into cash.

In any case this practice is still in play, but appears to be scaled down and risky for both buyer, seller, and especially for the airlines mileage brokers who can wind up in court.

A case that may set the new standards is Alaska Airlines vs Carey et al, where Alaska Air is suing mileage broker Carey (I think a small, husband and wife online business) for what they feel is an illegal resale of frequent flyer / mileage program tickets. I don’t think this case has yet resolved in the courts, though it may have by now.

It should actually be very cost effective to resell miles benefits at the 1.5-2 cent per mile rates we just reviewed at a mileage broker website assuming your travel plans are flexible. My rule of thumb is that miles are only worth about a penny. This calculation assumes you’ll have trouble getting a 25,000 mileage award and probably have to use 37,500 or even 50,000, and also assumes that a bird (cash) in the hand is worth more than a ticket in the bush (mileage award). A lot can happen to those miles in the new frenzied airline business where, for example, shorter – often only 18 month – mileage expiration time limits can easily kill your miles.

QuickAid at this time recommends you do NOT buy this type of ticket as the risks seem to outweigh the benefits, but we’re open to changing our minds depending on how the courts view the legality of mileage brokering.

Calculating Value of Credit Card offers. Value of Mileage

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

As these tumultuous economic times continue many of us are once again seeing a flurry of credit card offers with many different sets of bonuses and conditions.

We thought it might be helpful to give a few simple rules of thumb for evaluating card offers.

1.  Just say NO to fees or high interest cards.    Even as general interest rates have fallen to some of the lowest levels in history, “normal” credit card interest rates and fees remain exorbitant and usurous in all but the legal sense. Credit card laws allow large fees for small trangression and huge interest rate caps, and are a great example of how market greed and government incompetence combine to create terrible conditions for most people even as they create opportunity for the clever among us).   Summary:  Avoid cards with annual fees.

2. PAY OFF your cards before due dates.    Even for credit cards with borrowing rates that are outrageous   (which, these days, is pretty much any rate over about 6%), you get a 0% loan from the time you buy to the time you pay IF you pay off the balance by the due date.     Do it.

3. DO NOT take “cash advances” on cards except at introductory rates and then ONLY if you’ll be paying it back as soon as the rates rise.   Cash advances, unlike purchases, usually start dinging you with interest the minute the check  or advance is processed.    Avoid these cash advances with one exception – low introductory rate offers can be used to your advantage if you are clever and calculating enough to pay off the balance as soon as it is due.  This is critical as the 0% offer can skyrocket to 20% or more overnight, leaving you with no deal whatsoever.    To complicate matters different cards have different dates calculations and often even representatives on the phone will not advise you correctly on when the rate skyrockets, so when in doubt pay early on these “cheap loans” from introductory rates.    ONLY do this if you have other sources (e.g.  low interest equity line of credit) from which to pay the card.   Letting an introductory rate “ride” as it skyrockets is a recipe for disaster.

4.  What are miles worth?    Consider mileage program miles to be worth about a penny when the program gives you a round trip USA plane ticket for 25,000 miles.   For example, if a card offers you 25,000 bonus miles consider this value to be $250 cash (.01 x 25000) .     Why this number?   Generally you can get a round trip ticket in the USA for 25,000 miles with some restrictions.     I compare the mileage ticket with paying 250-450 cash for a less restricted, easier to book ticket.    Also, cash is almost always better than less fungible forms of value like certificates so it is not reasonable to say a certificate worth a ticket is the same as the cash it would take to buy a ticket.  This is a rough measure, but it helps with the calculations when comparing credit card offers.

5.  SWITCH to “no fee” cards.    If you have a fee card or if you participate in an offer where the card is “free for the first year”, be aware that many cards will allow you to switch to “no fee” cards when you threaten to cancel.    Often, cards with a second year fee have great introductory offers  (we just signed up for 75,000 bonus miles from an AA Mileage card offer), but the catch is that after the first year you’ll be paying a huge fee.    In these cases consider avoiding the card altogether or, if the offer is great, call in after 11 months and insist on cancelling – often you’ll be offered a new “no fee” card.

6.  Keep good records.    Don’t play the credit card games unless you have good systems for keeping track of card due dates, offers, fees, etc.  Those with excellent credit can save thousands using introductory offers and rates, but only if they avoid the huge penalties and interest that follow mistakes in paying off cards or following directions.    Always remember that these offers are basically marketing tricks to get you “hooked”.  However unlike most other gambling environments there is a path here to net gains if you play carefully.