AAdvantage and Dividend Miles Are Now Officially Combined

As I’m sure you have seen by now, American Airlines and US Airways have officially merged their mileage programs.

It looks very pretty!

aacpmbo

that’s half a million, baby

 

Together we have 508,360 miles!  Love it!  I am hoping to use those for 3 business class tickets to Australia in 2016.  Actually, my plan is to use American miles for one direction and some of my 375,000 Delta SkyPesos for the other direction.  But I will do whatever it takes to make it work.

This is just a quick post to share my happiness over the combined miles.  We are leaving for Florida at 1pm today.  Well…technically we are leaving for Louisville at 1pm today.  Our flight to Orlando leaves at 5pm from Louisville.

Were you happy to see your AA and US miles combine?  Tell me your plans for them!

Possible Regret and A Couple Good Bonuses

I hope I don’t regret this

Until midnight last night, you could transfer SPG points to American Airlines or US Airways and receive a 20% bonus.  This was on top of the 25% bonus you already get for transferring SPG points to airlines.  I have just over 40,000 points, so I could have turned those into 58,000 AAdvantage miles.  (or Dividend Miles)

Conventional Wisdom in this game tells you not to transfer miles unless you have immediate plans to use them.  I don’t.  Plus I am pretty flush with AAdvantage Miles and Dividend Miles right now thanks to 3 Citi Executive cards and Matthew’s recent bump in business travel.  I have more than enough for my planned trip to Australia (in BUSINESS class) in 2016.  But this was a heck of an offer to pass up and one that may not return for some time.

I have lots of hotel points in other programs, so I don’t necessarily NEED SPG points for hotels; although you can sometimes find some Great Redemptions.

I would also probably not transfer the points to any other airline.  Except maybe Delta if I needed some points to redeem some of their ridiculously over-priced awards.

Too late now to do anything about it.  It’s just something I decided to think about this morning.  I will probably end up using my SPG points to stay at the Westin in Whistler, which is why I got the card in the first place.

westinwhistler

The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler

Rooms at the Westin Whistler are 16,000 SPG points per night during Christmas break and most of ski season, but you can find rooms for 9,000 points per night in late ski season.  As long as I have my SPG American Express card open, I will get the 5th night free when I book 4 on points.  So, I still need to earn 24,000 points to get enough points.  SPG points aren’t easy to earn, but if I concentrate some MS on the card over the next year, I should be able to do it.  (then I will watch for the inevitable devaluation)

A Couple Good Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses

Right now, Chase is offering the United Explorer card with an increased sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 in 3 months.  I would love to get this one, but Matthew and I just canceled our previous United Explorer cards in July of 2013.  The wait time for churning Chase cards is generally 24 months.  So hopefully next summer they will offer a similar bonus.  But if you have not had a Chase United Explorer card in the past 2 years-go for it!

Chase is also offering the Marriott Rewards Premier VISA card with an increased sign up bonus of 70,000 points PLUS 1 Free night at a category 1-4 hotel after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months.

Matthew and I will definitely be signing up for the Marriott card.  We both just canceled the basic Chase Marriott Rewards card, but this Premier card is a different product so we are eligible for the sign-up bonus even though it has not been 24 months.

Incidentally, I do not earn any commissions if you use the links above.  Those are just public links that I copied and pasted.

Happy Travels!

American Express Serve

I have been reading a lot about Serve by American Express – especially the part about directly loading it online with a credit card. You are limited to loading $1,000 per month ($200 per day) unless you link your Serve card to Isis.  (which I am not doing)

I opened the account in my husband’s name because you cannot have a Bluebird account AND a Serve account at the same time.  Since I like the convenience of being able to write Bluebird checks to people and businesses that I cannot pay electronically, I am still a BB girl.

I did a $200 test load with Matthew’s new Citi AAdvantage Executive card.  I kept my fingers crossed that it would work because I am still trying to bang out that $10k spend!

It loaded with no problem and I waited a couple days and made some payments.

serve

But the real test was whether the charge posted as a regular charge or a cash advance.  Citi is notorious for posting such things as cash advances.  You cannot buy American Express Gift Cards directly from American Express with a Citi card or they will post as cash advances.  Anything posting as a cash advance will not count toward your minimum spending requirement and you’ll have to pay fees and interest!

Knowing that, I was not sure how this $200 charge to Serve would post.  I was not able to log onto our Citi account online, so I had to call.  (the horror)  I did not want to  come right out and ask about the Serve charge specifically, so I just asked the agent to go over the recent charges to my account.  He read through the list that included “$200 to American Express Serve”, wedged between “$20 to Soft Touch Car Wash” and “$7.30 to The Noodle Company”.  Good news! I made a point of asking about a couple pending charges that I knew were coming up, just to keep the call as innocent as possible.  I also did NOT ask for my cash advance limit to be lowered to $1, as so many people do.  I just think that is rather suspicious and I like to keep my activities as benign as possible.

serve-1

 

As long as I am able to continue to load Serve directly with a credit card, I think I will keep it for a while.  I don’t think it will completely replace Bluebird for me, but it will be a nice companion and an additional way to meet Minimum Spending Requirements.  Serve does charge a $1 fee per month unless you set up a Direct Deposit or load $500 during your monthly statement period.  I don’t think loading the $500 will be an issue. Apparently you can also withdraw cash with no fee from MoneyPass ATMs.  Apparently the US Bank at my local Kroger store has a Money Pass ATM.  Next time I am there, I will have to try to withdraw some cash and verify that it works.

Does anyone else have any experience using Serve?  As a Serve “newbie” I would love to hear your opinion!

Happy Travels!

 

Another $10,000 Spend Requirement

Can I Do It?

I think so.  I hope so.  There has been a lot of talk in the blogs lately about people getting 2 (and sometimes even 3) Citi AA Executive cards with the 100,000 AAdvantage miles sign-up bonus.  My husband and I each got one earlier this year, but with people getting multiples, I had to try again.  So I had my husband apply last week.  He got “pending” status, but did not call in to push it.  Frankly he was busy at home with installing hardwood floors and taking care of Parker while I was in Europe.  But even without calling, the card arrived by UPS a few days ago.  He called to verify the 100,000 miles after spending $10,000 in 3 months and the $200 statement credit.  The Citi rep verified that this was indeed the offer he will receive.

Citi-Executive-100000-001

Fortunately I have a couple big expenses in the next couple months that will take a chunk out of the 10K.  The second half of the installation charge for the hardwood floors mentioned above and the final payment on our Beaches vacation.  I’m pretty sure I can cover the rest with bill paying through Bluebird and every day spending.  I may have to throw in an Amazon payment or two as well.

Only One Card This Summer

This Citi Executive card will be the only card we apply for this summer.  I am going to give it a rest for a few months and let our credit scores rise by a few points.  We are both still well over 800, but I don’t want to take any chances.  If some great bonus comes along I will go for it, but otherwise I will do my next round of applications in the fall.

Happy Travels!

 

Run, Don’t Walk, To Sign Up for the US Airways Mastercard!

One of the Best Cards

On my page, Top 5 Credit Cards for Beginners, I listed the Barclay’s US Airways Mastercard as one of the best cards for beginners (or anybody) to get.

Application Link: US Airways Mastercard

You will earn 40,000 miles after your first purchase.  That’s it.  One and done.  Of course, Barclay’s would appreciate it if you would use their card often.  And you really should put one or two purchases on each of your cards every month, just to keep the banks happy.

usairwayscard

As you can see, in addition to the 40,000 miles, you will also get two companion certificates allowing 2 people to travel with you for only $99 each plus tax.  You also get Priority Boarding, a free checked bag and a US Airways Club day pass.  The $89 annual fee is not waived for the first year.  But $89 for 40,000 miles that can get you to the Caribbean or Hawaii – that’s a no-brainer.  You can also travel from the US to Europe in their off-peak season (Jan 15-Feb 28) for only 35,000 miles.  I have traveled to Europe in the winter many times and yes it’s chilly, but the sites are still there and the crowds are not.  It’s actually quite nice.

US Airways Award Travel Chart

All Good Things Must Come To An End

Unfortunately.  Yesterday I received a card in the mail from US Airways announcing changes to the program and the credit card after the merger with American Airlines.  These changes will most likely come in early 2015.

  • No more companion certificate.  Final companion certificates will be issued soon for current cardholders and they must be booked within 9 months and travel within 12 months.  If you apply for a card today, you will get your companion certificate after your first purchase.
  • Miles earned through credit card spend will no longer count towards Preferred Status.  When you spend $25,000 or more, they will convert 10,000 miles into Preferred Qualifying Miles toward 2015 status.  You must complete this spending by the end of 2014, as this will no longer be offered after the merge.
  • US Airways Club day pass and Membership Discount.  You will receive a Club day pass valid for 12 months to visit a US Airways Club.  But you will not receive a $75 discount coupon towards Club Membership.
  • First Class check in. Continue to enjoy First Class check-in until the end of 2014.

It’s Not All Bad News

There are some positive changes coming to the US Airways award program that are aligned with American’s AAdvantage Program.  These new benefits will be implemented in 2015.

  • 10% of your miles back.  This is a feature of American’s program that I really like.  When you redeem miles for award travel, you’ll receive 10% of your miles back into your account.  Currently US Airways offers a 5,000 mile discount on award bookings if you hold the credit card,  (i.e. 20,000 miles for a domestic ticket rather than 25,000) but only if you fly completely on US Airways metal.  I have never been able to do that.  Seems like American operated flights come up more often than not.
  • 25% off in-flight purchases.  Save 25% on your in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card.
  • $100 flight discount.  As a cardmember, you can earn a $100 flight discount each year in which you spend $30,000 or more in purchases and you maintain your card membership.  Not a great deal, in my opinion.
  • Additional redemption flexibility.  Enhance your award travel experience with redemption for one-way travel and First Class upgrades.

No mention of those off peak awards that both carriers currently offer.  I have used the American AAdvantage off peak awards several times to travel to the Caribbean in the fall.

Do It Now

I can’t stress enough how great of a deal this US Airways card is.   Just do it.

Happy Travels!

How I spent $20,000 in 3 months…Without Going Broke!

I did it all for 200,000 American Airlines Miles!

Earlier this year, Citibank began offering their Citi Executive / AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard with a sign up bonus of 100,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles! That was too good to pass up.  There were a couple obstacles that made me pause though.  The spend requirement: $10,000 in 3 months.  And the annual fee: $450 not waived for the first year.  Although they do give you a $200 statement credit, so you can actually say the annual fee is only $250.  Still very high, but if you were to purchase miles from the American Airlines website, it would cost you $2,200 for 80,000 miles (the highest amount they sell) and $250 would only get you about 9,000 miles. Continue reading

BOGO Movie Tickets!

A quick non-travel related post!

I love going to movies (and now P does too) , but it is getting so expensive! Here’s a great way to save some money on movie tickets this summer.

If you have a valid, U.S. issued VISA Signature card, you can get a buy-one-get-one-free movie ticket on Fandango on Fridays from April 25-August 8.

VISA_moviefridays_microsite_FINAL

Visit this site and enter your ZIP code for a theatre near you.  For my Northern Kentucky friends, Fandango issues tickets for Florence, Wilder and Newport! Select 2 or more tickets to a Friday showing and get the lowest priced ticket free! (up to $19.50)  You have to purchase the ticket on Friday as well as go to the Friday showing. Continue reading

Coming Home to Changes

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.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

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!

VanillaReload

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:

VisaGiftCard_USBank

 

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!

Happy Travels!

 

 

Can I spend $10,000 in 3 months?

Welcome to my new Family Travel Miles & Points blog in an already saturated Family Travel Miles & Points blog world!

I’m starting off with a doozy of a post.  But first, a brief history.

I started collecting airline miles back in 2002 when I was working for Delta Air Lines.  They offered the new SkyMiles credit card with no annual fee to employees.  Sure, why not?  I used that card, and only that card, for the next 9 years.  Fast forward to 2014 and I am sitting on over 300,000 (almost worthless) Delta SkyMiles (aka SkyPesos).  Do as I say, people! Do not do as I do! DO NOT HOARD MILES!  Earn ’em and burn ’em.  We’ll talk more about Delta later.

A short time after my son was born, I realized that it was going to be harder to travel cheaply when I had to buy that 3rd ticket.  So I started getting some mileage earning credit cards.  I started with United and American.  And I kept those cards for a year or two.  I didn’t start “churning” cards until about 2 years ago.  I was scared of hurting my credit and scared of getting declined.  We took some great trips on miles over the last 4 or 5 years.  We went to Morocco, Paris, Brussels, Turks & Caicos (twice), Cancun, California, and Arizona.  (and I STILL have 300,000 SkyMiles)

Churning

What is churning? It is basically finding 2 or 3 (or 6) credit cards that offer a sign-up bonus you are interested in.  You apply for all of them (in one day), spend the amount required to get the sign up bonus and then stop using them and cancel before you have to pay an annual fee.  Sounds simple enough, right?  It is.  But it can also be very dangerous if not done correctly.  Hopefully within the next week I will organize my “Where do I start” section and map out every step you need to take if you want to try this.  I am a very conservative churner compared to most Miles & Points bloggers.  But I think I have just turned a corner.

Can I spend $10,000 in 3 months?

Of course I can! Most credit cards have pretty modest spend requirements to get the sign up bonus.  Maybe $1000 in the first 3 months or sometimes you get lucky and they give it to you after the first purchase.  One and done!  But there are a few cards out there that have a very high spend requirement and a high annual fee, but give you the sweetest rewards.

It was a couple weeks ago that this little nugget popped up on my computer screen.

Citi-Executive-100000-001

 

Oh yes.  100,000 miles in one of the best programs out there.  But look at the small print “after you make $10,000 in purchases in the first 3 months”.  Yikes!  But look – they will give you a $200 statement credit! Yay! Oh no, there is an annual fee of $450 that is Not Waived for the first year. (as many are) Yikes!  Another Bonus, Admiral’s Club membership for a year! Yay!

Offers like that do not come along every day.  In fact, if you Google “Citibank American Executive”, it will take you to an application page that offers you only 30,000 miles.  Many times they will have an offer for 60,000 miles.  But this is 100,000 miles! How could I pass this up?

Fear.  That’s how. If I could not meet that $10,000 spend within 3 months, it would all be for naught. But after doing some math, I figured out that I COULD do it.  It will take some effort, some trips to Wal-Mart (ugh) and some careful Manufactured Spending (a post on that coming soon! I promise) But I think I can do it!

The $450 annual fee will be partially covered by the $200 statement credit.  If I purchased 100,000 miles from American Airlines, that would cost around $1,800.  That is not a good deal.  I am paying $250 for 100,000 AA miles and That is a Very Good Deal.

And then there’s the lounge access.

admiralsclub

Admiral’s Club

 

A one year membership to the American Airlines Admiral’s Club costs $500 for a basic Frequent Flyer member.  To be honest, I have never been in an airport lounge before.  But I know they offer free drinks, snacks and wifi.  Some even have showers and children’s areas.  That’s good enough for me!

The card has other benefits as well:

  • 2 miles for every $1 spent on American Airlines
  • Priority boarding and check in
  • Free checked bag
  • No foreign transaction fees

If you are new to collecting miles and points, I DO NOT recommend getting this card.  Start off small with a regular American Airlines Citibank card with a low spend requirement.  Don’t get in over your head! You likely won’t get out.

However, if you have been playing for awhile, I suggest going for it if you think you can meet the spend.  You may be able to apply even if you already have another American Citi card.  I opened this card in Hubby’s name and he just cancelled his previous AA card a few months ago.  He was approved after a brief call to Citi to verify his information.

Here is the link.  Tread carefully.

Good luck! If you like this post, please share it!