AAdvantage Aviator Card Promo – Will I Make It?

In late November, I received an email from Barclaycard to register for a promotion offering 30,000 miles for spending $2,500 each month on my AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard.  The promo runs from December 2015 until May 2016.  So essentially I would earn 45,000 miles after adding the 2,500 a month for 6 months.

promo

$2,500 is a lot to spend each month without doing any Manufactured Spending.  At least, for me, it is a lot to spend each month!

I got through December pretty easily thanks to a couple VISA GC purchases at Walmart.

And then this happened.

BB

Ahhhh that dreaded e-mail that we all knew was coming.  Don’t say you didn’t know.  This could not go on forever.  Eventually AMEX would wise up and realize they were losing money.

I got that e-mail on January 8 and I’m totally kicking myself for not buying a gift card the first week of January.  But I have always been very conservative in this hobby.  I don’t buy $40K worth of gift cards every month!  So my plan was to wait until the end of each month and see how short I was.  If I was within $1,000 of the $2,500 (likely) I would buy a couple gift cards to make up the difference.  That’s pretty much what I have always done.  I usually bought $1,000-$1,500 a month and paid my mortgage with it.  I rarely used Bluebird to pay off the credit card I used to buy the gift cards.  I think I did that once.  And I didn’t pay the whole balance.  I would usually pay $378.55 or some other odd amount.

So again. I am really surprised that I was shut down by Bluebird.  I have heard that some people are still going at it.  I’m not sure how they managed to stay under the radar, but at this point, I hope they ride it hard.  I know I would.

Yesterday I got this e-mail from Barclaycard.

aacard

That’s very nice.  I was wondering how (if) they were going to keep track of the monthly spending for this promo.  I WISH they had some kind of calculator on their web page so you could track your monthly purchases.  You can look up your month to date purchases, but you have to whip out the calculator to get the total.

According to my calculations, I am at $1829.26 for the month of January.  And that is with a large $1,000 purchase that I would not normally make.  So in reality I have only spent $800 so far this month.  That is probably about average for us, unless it’s Christmas time, someone’s birthday or we are on a trip.   So at $1829 for this month, I am $670 short.  I don’t see myself spending that much in the next week.  Maybe another $100-200.

Unless I buy a gift card.

I’ve been thinking about this.  People are still buying the Visa GC and then buying money orders.  I have only done that once, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.  But I might give it another try.  Worst case, I am stuck with a $500 gift card that I will have to liquidate by regular spend.  And at that point it won’t matter because I will not be able to complete this promotion.

Do you still do any manufactured spending?  Do you think the end is nigh?

My Experience With Frontier Airlines.

Frontier Airlines began service to CVG in the spring of 2013 and I was excited about a low-cost carrier finally entering our market. Last fall I read a blog post about Frontier Airlines and their “great award availability”.  This seemed like a great opportunity to open a Frontier Airlines credit card! Frontier awards start at only 20,000 miles for roundtrip and you can redeem one way awards for 10,000 miles.

I added a “free one way” from CVG to LAX on the end of our Thailand tickets and I needed to find a way back from California in June 2014.  So I signed up for the Barclay’s Frontier Airlines Mastercard, which was offering 40,000 miles after spending $500 in 90 days.  Easy peasy.

TRYING to Book

So….I had 40,000 miles in my account in September 2013 and wanted to get busy booking a one way flight from LAX to CVG in June 2014.  The first thing I found out was that Frontier, like most low-cost carriers, does not release their schedule until 5-6 months out.  In Frontier’s case, it was 5 months.  And a few days.  I called every day starting on December 16 (6 months before my return flight from LAX) asking when they would release the schedule.  Every agent I talked to said they did not know exactly what date the schedule would be released.  It finally came out some time in mid January.  At this point I was very nervous because if this didn’t work out, I would be scrambling to find one way award seats on another carrier.  I like to book award tickets a year in advance, so doing it 5 months out was nerve-wracking.

Frontier serves 10 cities in California and I decided that I would be willing to fly out of any one of them.  We have family in Northern California that we could visit, so driving up for a few days would not be a big deal.

When the schedule finally opened, I looked at LAX and Orange County and award seats were 20,000 miles for one way tickets.  They did not release any 10,000 mile award seats and I was ON IT the day it was released.  I called Frontier and all they could tell me was that low level awards were not available.  I checked every city in California within a 3 day window and found NO 10,000 mile award seats.  What happened to that “great availability” the other blogger was talking about?  I waited a few days and nothing changed.  Every award seat from every city was pricing out at 20,000 miles.  I suppose it is possible they could have released some 10,000 mile seats a month or two down the road, but I was scared to wait that long.  I had to get home from California.

I could have used American AAdvantage miles for 3 one way tickets at 12,500 each.  But I value those American miles A LOT more than I value the Frontier miles.  Though I suppose a smarter Travel Hacker would have used the American miles for the better “value”.  But I just wanted to be rid of the Frontier miles because I felt they were useless.

I decided that we would drive up to San Jose to visit family for the last 4 days of our trip and fly home from there.  Since I now had to buy a one way ticket, I had to start looking at prices.  One way flights on Frontier from San Jose were over $500!  Low cost carrier you say?  The cheapest flights were out of San Francisco and I was able to book a one way  for $175 on the same flight as our award tickets.  It was not in my plans to pay for a ticket, but that’s what happened.

Since my award was 20,000 miles, it was a “Choice” award, rather than a “Standard” award.  The Choice award gives you Stretch seating with 5 to 7 more inches of legroom! This is awesome when you have a sleepy child!

frontierleg

Look at all the room!

Frontier Airlines charges for things that other airlines do not.  Like drinks, snacks and carry on bags.  With the Choice award we were given all of those things for free, plus our one checked bag was also free.

The ticket I paid for was my husband’s and I did not buy a “Classic Plus” fare that gives you all of those free amenities.  He was seated back in row 14 and would have had to pay $2 for a Coke.  And by the way, I would not mind paying $2 for a Coke if my fare was discounted hundreds of dollars less than a ticket on the Big Boys.

Baby Let Me Upgrade You

A week or so before our trip, I got an e-mail from Frontier about a schedule change.  Our original departure time was 6:10am and had now been changed to 5:55am.  The big problem was that our seat assignments were changed and I was no longer sitting next to my son.  I went online to try to change the seats back and kept getting an error message.  (Frontier’s web page is very buggy and seems to constantly freeze up) I called the Customer Service number and asked them to get our seats together.  While I had the very nice agent on the phone, I asked if it was possible to have my husband sit with us since all our seats had been changed.  Without any questions or hesitation she moved him up to Row 2 with us.  Incidentally, during the flight when the beverage cart came around the flight attendant knew he was on a standard fare and not eligible for the free Coke!

Would I Fly Frontier Airlines Again?

Possibly.  I would still try for the “cheap” awards and I would miss the amenities that come with the “Choice” awards.  But you get what you pay for.  If you want to fly for free for only 10,000 miles one way, you have to suffer a bit.  Although having to sit in a regular coach seat on Frontier would not be much different from a regular coach seat on any other airline.  And it could be even better.  The Frontier planes were very nice.  Each seat had it’s own video screen with Live DirecTV.  Yes, there was a fee, but the point is – it was available.

Barclay’s cards have historically been churn able, so I may try for another one for my husband and also get one for myself.  Here is the link for the Barclay’s Frontier World Mastercard.  I do not receive a commission if you use that link.

The only thing I don’t like is the charge for not only checked bags, but carry on bags as well.  I mean, you have to travel with Something!  There is no way ’round that with Frontier.  So is it worth it to pay $20-$50 for a checked or carry on bag to only save 2,500 miles on a one way ticket? That’s for you to decide.

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!