Getting the US Airways card this week is almost a no brainer … but I’m not doing it

The Barclaycard US Airways card is going away after this week when the US Airways and American frequent flier programs merge, and everyone that has one is going to be issued a new American Airlines card.  But Barclays will no longer have the rights to issue *new* American cards, so this is your last chance to get it.

Use AA miles to book Etihad first class

Use AA miles to book Etihad first class

In an effort to ramp up applications before they’re shut out, they’ve increased the sign up bonus from the typical 40,000 miles to 50,000 (after paying $89 annual fee).  The other benefits include things like free checked bag, zone 2 boarding, etc.

Getting it now, before it goes away is almost a no brainer because:

  • It doesn’t preclude you from getting any sign-up bonus on a Citi-issued card at a later date (or even today).
  • The card is going away, so it’s truly your last chance this week.
  • The 50,000 miles requires no spend at all (just payment of annual fee).
  • Barclays usually pulls your Transunion credit report, which almost no other bank uses (for credit card purposes), so it’s a “free” credit pull.

So, essentially, you’re just buying 50,000 miles for $89–a cost of 0.18 cents per mile–since you’re not really incurring much in the way of an opportunity cost as it pertains to other methods of earning AA miles.

Here’s the Application Link: US Airways Mastercard

However, I’m still not applying for the card.   [Read more…]

Dubai and Mauritius 2014: Preview

We just got back from our last (I think?) intercontinental trip of 2014 where we visited the UAE and Mauritius.

Mauritius

Mauritius

I’ll have a full report coming in the next few days (week, max!), but I wanted to briefly preview what’s upcoming as well as their associated costs. [Read more…]

Secret Weapon to Europe 2.0

Business class space to Europe over the Summer can be some of the toughest award space to come across when most folks are looking for award space–roughly 3 to 9 months in advance.  Check out United.com’s calendar for Star Alliance availability for DC to Paris next Summer [all of my pictures will be for 2 seats, the blog name is WE Fly Free, after all]:

IAD-CDG Star Alliance

IAD-CDG Star Alliance

One day in June or July with award space in business class!   [Read more…]

Greece and Turkey 2014: Planning, Costs, and Intro

We love the Mediterranean in the Summer… it’s a very welcome, and crisp, change from DC’s muggy summers.  Last Summer we planned a trip around Croatia, and this Summer we wanted to go to Greece.

I spotted an SPG Property that looked good, and since we were staying 8 nights, being SPG Platinum saves us about 50 Euro/day in free breakfast.  We decided to stay at Blue Palace in Crete–which is known for beaches and sun.  [Side note, we’ve seen about 3 total clouds in the 7 days we’ve been here, so the sun part is 100% true].

Blue Palace Main Pool

Blue Palace Main Pool

[Read more…]

Getting to Israel in Business Class… this Summer!

One of the most popular requests of my award booking service is getting to Israel in premium cabins–often for families of 2-5 people–which can be a challenge with miles.  Add to that, that often they don’t contact me until a few months before travel, and it really becomes a challenge.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

[Read more…]

5 Cards You Should Consider Now-ish

These are roughly in the order in which I would prioritize them personally, but your calculation may be different based on the pro/cons of each.

1.  Citi Executive AAdvantage Card – 100,000 AA Miles – 100,00 mile offers are pretty rare these days, so being able to rack up enough miles for a round trip business class ticket to Europe or Japan in one card application is pretty killer.  The catch is that the $450 annual fee is NOT waived the first year, however they do offer a $200 “statement credit” which seems to mean the annual fee is effectively $250.  Given that it gives you full Admirals Club membership (and, you know, 100,000 miles), however, that’s a very good deal–particularly for Amex Platinum Card customers who will be losing access in just a couple months.

Link – Citi AAdvantage Executive 100k Offer

2. Bank of America Alaska Airlines Card – 40,000 Miles – This is a large bonus and represents a 15,000 mile premium above the “normal” offer for this card.  Alaska miles are tremendously valuable due to the large number of partners they have.  We used Alaska Airlines miles to book 2 first class tickets to Seychelles on Emirates for this Summer.  The $75 annual fee is not waived, but if you’re a Bank of America wealth management client (which you may even be eligible for if they are your mortgage provider) they may give you an offsetting statement credit if you call the wealth management department.

Link – Alaska Airlines 40k Offer

3. Barclays US Airways Card – 30,000 Miles – This isn’t an eye popping number and doesn’t represent a bonus compared to the normal offer, but this one is based on merger timing.  The post-merger credit card picture is a bit murky.  So far, Barclays says they’re not going to re-brand this card as an Arrival or other non-cobranded card.  So that means you may still be eligible for grandfathered benefits even after this card is no longer issued… including a 5,000 mile discount on all award bookings.  Given that the Citi Aadvantage cards also offer 10% of redeemed miles back (up to 10k), stacking the two discounts could be extremely lucrative.  A 100,000 mile business class ticket comes down to ~85,000 in that case.  Another interesting thing to watch is whether you’ll continue to get the $99 companion certificate.  I’ve personally [re-] applied for the card hoping that all of the above is the case.

Link – US Airways World Mastercard 30k Offer

4. Citi American Airlines Business Card – 50,000 Miles – Who knows how long this card will be around, but to me the most valuable benefits of this card are: 1) It doesn’t sit on your personal credit report because it’s a business card, so applying for it has very little effect on your credit and doesn’t really preclude you from applying for other cards; 2) you can apply for and receive this card and the bonus several times (I have 3 and have gotten the 50,000 mile bonus each time); and 3) the retention offers are, in my experience, much better than the retention offers on the personal card and very much worth the annual fee.   I would consider it now if for no other reason than so you can get it again sooner.

Link – American Airlines Business 50k Offer

5. Barclays Arrival Card – 40,000 “Miles” – With United’s devaluation beginning tomorrow and US Airways leaving Star Alliance, our options for redeeming Star Alliance miles without fuel surcharges gets pretty bleak very soon.   I think this makes ANA, Aeroplan and Singapore miles the currency of choice for some redemptions going forward, though unfortunately all of them impose fuel surcharges on many Star Alliance carriers.  I think Arrival miles, which can be redeemed against the cost of fuel surcharges, are going to be a pretty compelling option for lots of folks.  Not to mention the double miles on every purchase and 10% rebate on every redemption (raising the effective total to 2.2 miles per dollar assuming you redeem 100% of your miles).

Link – Barclays Arrival World Mastercard 40k Offer

Maldives Trip 2013-2014! Overview and Preview

Here’s what you can look forward to on this trip report [assuming all goes according to plan]:

Chauffeur + Washington Dulles Airport

Dulles to Abu Dhabi Etihad Diamond First

St. Regis Abu Dhabi Nation Towers

Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island

Abu Dhabi to Male Etihad Pearl Business

Conrad Lounge & Seaplane

Conrad Maldives

Male to Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Business Class

W Hong Kong

Hong Kong Airport and Cathay Pacific Lounge(s)

Hong Kong to New York Cathay Pacific First Class

JFK Airport and AA Flagship Lounge

New York to DC American First Class
We’re enjoying our first morning in Abu Dhabi right now, and I have to say, I was very impressed with our first flight on Etihad!
Etihad Diamond First Class

Etihad Diamond First Class

Reader Question: American Merger & Credit Cards

I’d gotten this question a few times in the past few weeks, but reader Alex contacted me and asked:

“With the merger of AA and US Airways finally approved, is now the time to get the US airways card since the miles will roll over to American? It seems like a slam dunk, but I am also wondering if I need to get BOTH the US and AA cards now because I am worried if I get a US card they will grandfather me in, and then when I in the future apply for an AA card they will say I already ‘have’ one, and be restricted from some signup bonuses. Whats your view?”

Not everything is known yet about what the credit card picture will look like after the merger, but what we do know is that Citi will issue the credit card for the new, merged airline.

Also, we know that as of January 7, 2014, that the airlines will be offering “reciprocal frequent flier benefits,” though we don’t exactly know what that means (h/t Lucky).  The best case scenario is that they’ll allow you to transfer miles between accounts and redeem with either US Airways or American, so it’s possible you’ll be able to combine your balances very soon–and hopefully before any devaluation.

And this one is pure speculation on my part, but given that the combined airline is basically one of three major international airlines left in the post-merger world (the others being United and Delta), and as of February both of those airlines have some pretty expensive award charts, I think we can expect the combined airline to offer their first “joint” award chart that more closely mimics their competitors than their current, more reasonable award charts.

So my plan of action would be to get whatever you are eligible for right now, and continue to earn & burn as fast as possible.  This may be the best opportunity to earn in two different programs to combine for a single award which is a great advantage.

It’s also possible that the “new” AA gets an entirely different card lineup from Citi, so the current lineup may not be available anymore (and their bonuses gone with them).  But regardless, getting the US Airways card now will not prevent you from getting the AA card in the future, because the card follows the issuing bank more so than the airline.  When there is no more US Airways, Barclays US Airways cards will be converted into other Barclays cards (I would guess the Arrival card), not the Citi AA card.

What cards are available?  What are the application rules and best practices?
[Read more…]

United Devaluation… Thoughts a few days later

If you live under a rock, or don’t follow the points world at all: United massively devalued their award chart overnight on Thursday/Friday.  It was written about extensively in the blogosphere and on the message boards, but I wanted to add a few thoughts after I’ve had time to digest this a bit… [Read more…]

My Hitlist: Five Goals & Plans

As I discuss in the Beginner’s Guide, I think it’s very important to regularly take stock of your travel goals and align your earning strategy in such a way that you achieve those travel goals as fast as possible.  That means always thinking 1-2 steps ahead of your next trip, and planning anywhere from a few months to a couple years out.

So rather than lecture you, I figured I’d show you a few examples of my planning… maybe some of you have even been some of these places or experienced some of these and can offer some advice?

Goal #1: Amanpulo

Do I really need to keep talking?

Do I really need to keep talking?

Why: Do I really need to explain why after that picture?  Amanpulo is a private island resort in the Philippines which certainly rivals places like the Maldives or Tahiti for postcard-ness, and, of course, offers the renowned Aman service.

My Plan: This is a tough one because Amans don’t have any loyalty program that I’m aware of, so you can’t use hotel points on the stay.  And it’s expensive.  This is one instance in which it might be advantageous to use a fixed value currency which can be redeemed for any travel related expense–including non-chains.

The best such program is from the Barclaycard Arrival credit card, which earns 2 points on all spending and also earns a 10% rebate on all redemptions.  So for every 100,000 points you redeem, they give you 10,000 points back… not a bad deal!  Given that the flights will likely be [nearly] free, I could live with splurging on a few nights lodging costs.

So really my plan is simply to try and build up a small stash of Barclay Arrival points until I feel comfortable with the amount I’ll be able to offset.

[Read more…]