We have just returned from a wonderful 3 week trip to Thailand booked entirely on Miles & Points. Once all my bills come in, I will share with you the complete total cost of our trip, including meals, activities and transportation costs.
There were definitely some not-so-great moments on the trip, such as P getting sick, Hubby taking his iPhone for a swim and me getting an ear infection after our first dive. But those small negatives in no way outweighed the many positives of the trip. Over the coming weeks I will post some trip reports and hotel reviews AND how P met his school goals in science, culture, reading and math on the trip.
Wow…did many things change while I was gone. I’m sure if you read other Miles & Points blogs you already know all about them.
The worst one for me was the decision by CVS to go “nationwide” with their policy of not accepting credit cards for purchasing Vanilla Reload cards. That really hurts!
My precious. No more.
In my area, it was already difficult to buy Vanilla Reloads with a credit card. The 2 CVS stores in my area would sometimes allow it, depending on the clerk. There was a sign on the register stating that they could only be purchased with cash, however, the register would still allow a credit card purchase. So if you pushed the clerk a bit, they might try it. But I was denied more times than I was allowed. There were a few CVS stores in Ohio that would do it, and Hubby had some luck buying them in other states on business trips. There are a few other retail outlets that will still allow you to purchase VRs with credit cards but sadly, none are in my area. Hopefully I can have Hubby do some recon on his next business trip, as there are a few stores in Oklahoma City where he travels most often.
There are still other options to load your Bluebird card to pay bills. Such as buying VISA gift cards from giftcardmall.com. This is not a good option if you require immediate gratification, as it takes about a week to receive. I usually only do 2 of these a month.
Yesterday I did a “test purchase” of a VISA gift card at Kroger. I got burned once in the past with a Mastercard gift card I bought at Kroger. I was stuck with the $500 gift card after it would not load to my Bluebird account. (of course there are other ways to liquidate it, but it was still a pain) But I read recently that people have had luck with the VISA version of the card that looks like this:
I bought a $50 card, which cost $4.95. That’s kind of an expensive test, but it will be worth it if it works. I plan to take it to Walmart today and try to load it to Bluebird. Remember, you can load $1,000 a day and up to $5,000 a month to your Bluebird account and then use their online bill pay or checks to pay your every day bills such as mortgage, car payments, utility bills etc.
Award Program Changes
Both American Airlines and US Airways made some pretty big changes to their programs in the past couple weeks. American did so without warning! Ouch!
One of the big changes at American was no longer allowing a stopover at a North American gateway city. This didn’t really impact me personally because CVG isn’t an international gateway (for anyone). But I could have made it work with some creative routing. Basically if you lived in (or near) a city with international service on American Airlines you could basically book 2 flights for the price of one. Your home city being your stopover. This would only work in cities like New York, Miami or Chicago on American. Partner airlines could open a few more possibilities but again, not for CVG. I won’t get into any more details about how it worked because you can’t do it anymore.
American also changed the structure of their award chart and the names of their redemptions, but fortunately the miles required for awards did not change. Only the names. They also kept their “off peak” awards in place which was a huge relief to me. I have used those several times for off-peak travel to the Caribbean.
US Airways Free Checked Bag
The US Airways credit card was unique in that it did not allow cardholders a free checked bag, which is usually a standard benefit of other airline credit cards. That is changing on April 30, 2014. If you have a US AIrways card with at least a $79 annual fee, you will receive a free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to 4 companions.
One Bright Spot!
IHG announced that redemption levels for 100 IHG properties will be going DOWN on April 15, 2014 and that for the remainder of 2014, there will no increases in reward night pricing! Yay! I have not yet seen a complete list of properties, which is surprising as this change takes effect today. I am hoping that the property in Munich I want to stay at this summer is one of the 100 properties! Once I come across a list, I will post it here for you!
Use Those Miles!
The fact that these American Airlines changes were made without any advance notice just shows how fast the value of your miles can change. Earn ’em and burn ’em! They may not be worth as much next month (or tomorrow) as they are today!