Saturday, April 28, 2012

Targeted Promotion For Up To 25,000 Bonus United MileagePlus Miles

This promotion has been making the rounds on all the blogs these past few days, and I just received my targeted email offer last night as well. In addition to being targeted, the terms even seem to be tailored to each individual as well, depending on who knows what. In all versions of this promotion, however, you can earn 5k, 10k, and 25k bonus MileagePlus miles for flying a certain number of roundtrips on either United or United Express-operated flights. United-marketed codeshare flights are not eligible. My bonus miles thresholds are as follows:

Unfortunately, only flights booked between April 15 and July 15, 2012 will be eligible for this promotion. Hence, if you have multiple flights that were ticketed before April 15th, you're out of luck unless you can cancel and rebook them. Travel must take place between April 15 and July 15, 2012, excluding July 3 through July 5, 2012. Bonus miles do not count towards Premier status, and will be credited 6-8 weeks after the promotion end date on July 15, 2012. You must register prior to travel.

For those of you who were not targeted and did not receive an email, you can still try to register for this promotion by following this link. Enter your MileagePlus membership number and see what your personalized offer is. Some people got a message saying they are not eligible at all, while others have reported a myriad of roundtrip thresholds, including 1/2/4, 1/2/5, 2/4/6, 5/6/7, 6/7/8, 7/8/9, and even 8/9/10! Obviously, this promotion only makes sense up to a certain number of roundtrip flights. If you were lucky enough to get one of the lower thresholds, it might be worth the effort, especially if you already have travel plans.

Friday, April 27, 2012

New Hotel Promotions For Earning Miles

The summer hotel promotions are already rolling out at a rapid pace, and there are a couple of decent miles-earning opportunities. Via View From The Wing, Hyatt's new promotion offers up to 5x the airline miles earned for stays between May 1 and August 31, 2012. Starting with your second stay, earn 4x the miles per stay. Then, starting with your fourth stay, earn 5x the miles per stay - all the way up to your eleventh stay. Guests must choose the miles-earning option as well as provide their Hyatt Gold Passport number and their airline program membership number upon check-in during each eligible stay.

Earning is capped at 24,500 miles per member, or 11 qualified stays. Be aware, however, that different airline programs have different earn rates, so take a look at the full list of partners for complete details. Listed below are all the airlines partners participating in this promotion, along with their registration links. You must register prior to your first eligible stay!

Note that you may only register for this promotion once (regardless of the airline partner). If you register for more than one airline program, you will only receive the bonus miles for the airline program you selected at check-in during your first eligible stay. And if you select a different airline program during your subsequent eligible stays, your additional bonus miles will still be awarded to the airline program you provided at check-in during your first eligible stay.

This is a great way to earn bonus miles if you can squeeze in multiple one-night stays during the promotion period. If I am traveling on my own for work and it's not too much of a hassle, I would hotel hop between different Hyatt brands in one local area to maximize the earning potential. Allow 4-6 weeks after checkout for bonus miles to post to your account.


Though not quite as lucrative, Radisson is also running a bonus miles promotion with United Airlines MileagePlus. From April 25 through June 30, 2012, all eligible stays at any one of the 425 Radisson and Radisson Blu locations around the world will earn 3x the MileagePlus miles. The standard earn rate is 500 miles per stay, while members can earn 1,500 miles per stay with this promotion. Guests must choose the miles-earning option and provide their MileagePlus membership number upon check-in during each eligible stay.

Best of all, there is no limit to the number of stays that can qualify for the bonus miles during the promotion period. By my calculations, if you complete one-night stays for every single night of this promotion, you can earn a total of 99,000 bonus miles. However, I would still recommend taking advantage of the Hyatt offer first, and if you are able to max out the earning potential there, then start with the Radisson offer. No registration is necessary. Allow 6-8 weeks after checkout for bonus miles to post to your account. Click below for full details:

Hawaiian Airlines And British Airways Awards Now Bookable On American Airlines Website

This functionality has been available for a few weeks now, but I thought it was important enough to make a brief mention here. American Airlines has been steadily improving their online award booking engine for the past few months, first adding Alaska Airlines availability and direct online booking last year, and now adding Hawaiian Airlines and British Airways as well. They've also promised that this functionality will be expanded to even more airline partners very soon!

Airlines have been quick to add fees to just about every aspect of flying lately, so any step in the opposite direction is always a welcome change. By allowing online booking of award tickets on Hawaiian Airlines and British Airways, passengers can avoid the $25 phone booking fee per ticket. I know first-hand how frustrating this can be since I actually booked Hawaiian Airlines flights using AAdvantage miles for my parents and myself a few months ago. So in addition to the normal taxes associated with the award tickets, I also had to pay $75 just for booking over the phone. Now this fee can be easily avoided by booking online.

In addition, being able to search for and book British Airways award availability on the American Airlines website is a huge relief, since their own website is so incredibly clunky and bug-ridden. Now you can see an entire month and more of availability all at once, and jump directly to the date you prefer:

On the left side of the page, you can also select "Non-stop only" in the pull-down menu. For direct routes that are operated exclusively by British Airways, Alaska Airlines, or Hawaiian Airlines (and not American Airlines), only partner availability will then be displayed. Do note that the massive fuel surcharges imposed by British Airways will still be collected even if you book on the American Airlines website, as evidenced below:

Easy 3,000 Priority Club Rewards Bonus Points

The first promotion is nearly identical to this one from Hilton I wrote about last month. The first part is very straightforward: simply register your mobile phone and an eligible Visa card and agree to receive up to three special offers each week via text message (messaging and data rates may apply - check with your mobile phone carrier). Just for enrolling, you will earn 1,000 bonus points. You must register by May 31, 2012, so there is still plenty of time to take advantage of this offer. You can also choose to opt-out of the enrollment at any time here (although I would only suggest doing so after receiving the bonus points).

Next, you can also earn an additional 5,000 bonus points by paying for your next stay using your enrolled Visa card at any participating U.S. hotel or resort in the InterContinental Hotels Group portfolio after enrolling in the program. The spend must be completed by July 31, 2012.

Allow four to six weeks after enrollment for the 1,000 bonus points to post in your Priority Club Rewards account, and four to six weeks after completing the hotel spend for the additional 5,000 bonus points to post. You must be a Priority Club Rewards member and enter a valid account number when enrolling to receive the bonus points. You can also enroll multiple Visa cards in this promotion (but only one enrollment bonus will be given).

Note that not all Visa cards are eligible, including Visa Buxx, Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Visa cards, EBT Visa cards, and other Visa-branded cards whose transactions are not processed through the Visa U.S.A. payment system.

The next promotion is just as easy, and you can earn up to 2,000 Priority Club Rewards points. There are three parts to this offer:
  1. Earn 500 bonus points by setting your account to receive special offer emails from the Priority Club Shopping portal. Plus, earn an additional 500 bonus points when you register a credit or debit card to earn points at participating retail store locations. No purchase is necessary. 

  2. Earn 500 bonus points by simply creating an online profile for the Priority Club Dining program. You will also need to register a credit or debit card in order to complete your profile.

  3. Earn 500 bonus points by signing up to receive Deal Emails from Priority Club Cruises. You will also be entered into their One Million Points Sweepstakes when you register.
Priority Club Rewards members who complete one, two, or all three parts of this promotion before May 31, 2012 will receive the corresponding bonus points 6-8 weeks after the promotion ends. Your accounts must be set to receive special offer emails when the bonus points post in order to be eligible. Likewise, you must still have your credit or debit card registered for the Priority Club Shopping portal when the bonus points post in order to be eligible.

Unfortunately, if you have already opted-in for these emails, created your online profile, or registered a credit or debit card, you may not be eligible. It doesn't hurt to try opting-out and then re-registering, or registering a second card, but I wouldn't count on receiving the bonus points. Your miles may vary.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

50,000 Bonus Membership Rewards Points American Express Business Gold Rewards Card

This promotion is valid for today only! Not the best offer ever, but definitely one of the higher ones I've seen in a while for the American Express Business Gold Rewards card. Earn 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within your first 4 months. You earn 3x points per dollar spent on airfare, 2x points per dollar spent on advertising, gas, and shipping, and 1x points per dollar spent everywhere else. The annual fee of $175 is waived for the first year.

Despite losing some of its luster recently (with the British Airways and Aeroplan devaluations as well as the exit of Continental Airlines and pending exit of Priority Club Rewards on June 30, 2012 as transfer partners), Membership Rewards still retains some great airline and hotel transfer partners. Best of all, they appear to consistently run transfer bonus promotions throughout the year, especially with British Airways and Delta Airlines. In fact, through May 31, 2012, you can earn a 50% bonus on all points transfers to British Airways, although it might be difficult to complete the $5,000 spend requirement and earn the 50,000 bonus points before the deadline hits.

I would rank this promotion below some of the more lucrative offers in the big list of credit card sign-ups I posted two weeks ago. However, if you haven't had an American Express Business Gold Rewards card before and can meet the spend requirement easily, then I say go for it. Click on the link below to apply:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Asiana Airlines 24-Hour Sale On Vayama

This is a great deal if you have any Asia travel plans this year. In celebration of Asiana Airlines' 24th anniversary, you can save 24% on travel to 24 destinations for 24-hours only. Today, from 12:00 am to 11:59 pm PDT, you can save 24% on an Asiana flight departing from the following US cities:

San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, New York, and Honolulu

The 24 Asiana destinations included in this promotion are:

Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Manila, Clark, Cebu, Ho Chi Minh City, Palau (Koror), Hanoi, Da Nang, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Bangkok, Phuket, Kota Kinabalu, Delhi

Booking period is April 24, 2012 only, for travel between April 24 to May 15, 2012 and September 1 to November 30, 2012. The 24% discount is valid for Asiana Airlines flights only. Code-share flights are not eligible. To book, click on the link below, search for your travel dates, and enter the promo code ASIANA24 in the payment information section. I did a few searches to some popular destinations and verified that the 24% does indeed work. However, be aware that the discount is on the fare portion only. Taxes and fees, which constitute a large chunk of the total cost, still apply at normal rates. However, I've often found that Asiana has some of the lowest fares to many destinations in Asia, so there may be some very good deals to be had using this promotion!

Cambodia April 2012 - Introduction

***This post is part 1 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Planning for this trip started more than a year ago, when I decided I wanted to visit Cambodia and Laos. I already had two long vacations planned for 2011 (Tokyo/Vietnam and New Zealand), so of course, this trip had to be pushed back to spring of 2012. One of the benefits of committing almost a year in advance is that award availability is often wide open - and that's exactly what I saw when I started to do some preliminary searches online. I decided I wanted to try out Cathay Pacific's business class going there, and a variety of first class flights on Star Alliance airlines coming back.

I had miles on both American Airlines as well as British Airways (pre-devaluation), but it made more sense for me to use AA since it only cost 5,000 more miles in business class one-way, and I could save hundreds in fuel surcharges that were imposed by BA. In addition, as I described in my trip report on Zion National Park, I was able to tack on a LAS-(LAX)-SFO leg months in advance of my actual departure date due to American Airline's one-stopover-at-a-North-American-gateway rule. In the end, my itinerary looked like LAS-(LAX)-SFO-(HKG)-PNH, with a five month "stopover" in San Francisco. Total cost was 55,000 AAdvantage miles and $32.50 in taxes and fees. SFO-HKG was on Cathay Pacific business class, and HKG-PNH on Dragonair business class.

Curiously though, despite the nearly universal rule that no changes are allowed after travel has already begun on an award ticket, I was not only able to change my SFO-(HKG)-PNH departure date after I had already flown the LAS-(LAX)-SFO leg, but the routing as well! In late January, I realized that I would have to push back my departure date from San Francisco as well as cancel the entire Laos portion of my trip due to crazy deadlines at work. I called up American Airlines hoping and praying that they would let me change the dates, but I was pretty much prepared to just cancel the entire vacation. Amazingly, the agent I got happily pushed my departure date back by a month, and even allowed me to change the routing to SFO-(LAX)-(HKG)-PNH (since no direct SFO-HKG flights were available)! I was floored at how flexible she was, and best of all, I realized I would be able to try out Cathay Pacific's new business class on the LAX-HKG flight! I definitely think I lucked out with this particular phone agent, but it really speaks to how important it is to simply hang up and call back if you ever get an uncooperative customer service representative.

For my return flights, I had originally booked VTE-BKK-(HKG)-ICN-LAX-SFO using United Airlines miles in first class (with some business class segments). The total cost was 72,500 MileagePlus miles (pre-award chart changes in June 2011) plus $79.60 in taxes and fees. However, due to the work commitments I mentioned, I had to cancel the VTE-BKK leg and push all the dates back by a month as well. Again, I got lucky with the phone agent because usually, changing the origin/destination incurs an additional $75 fee for non-elites. However, I was able to convince her that I was simply removing one segment from my itinerary. After getting approval from her supervisor, she agreed to make the changes without any fees! In the end, I had a BKK-(HKG)-ICN-LAX-SFO itinerary, with BKK-HKG on Thai Airways first class, HKG-ICN-LAX on Asiana Airlines business and first class, and LAX-SFO on United Airlines first class.

In early 2012, Cambodia Angkor Air finally fixed their website and I was able to book a one-way PNH-REP flight very easily, for a total cost of $88.00. Although this is only a 45-minute flight gate-to-gate, they can pretty much charge whatever they want since flights are almost always full of tourists. Similarly, for REP-BKK, Bangkok Airways has a complete monopoly over this route, so the one-hour, one-way flight ended up costing a whopping $276.68! Luckily, I was able to use 20,751 ThankYou points to offset the cost.

So with all the flight dates finally set, I was able to start planning for hotel stays and places I wanted to visit during the week I would be in Cambodia. In addition, I had stopovers in Bangkok and a very long overnight layover in Seoul which I had to plan for. It just so happened during this time that Starwood Preferred Guest announced category changes for their hotels, and I noticed that both the Le Meridien Angkor and the Aloft Bangkok were going down one category (3 to 2 and 2 to 1, respectively). I quickly took advantage of these changes and booked my cash and points stay for both hotels. In the end, the Le Meridien Angkor only cost 1,600 Starpoints + $30 per night, and the Aloft Bangkok only cost 1,200 Starpoints + $25 per night!

For my stay in Phnom Penh, there was actually an InterContinental in town, but the location wasn't convenient and the reviews were just ok. So I went with The Pavilion Hotel, a smaller local chain that was reasonably priced and very close to the Royal Palace and National Museum. For Seoul, I had a 23-hour layover, which gave me plenty of time to go into the city and visit a friend of mine. I had a category 1-4 free night e-cert from my Chase Marriott Visa that was expiring in May, so it worked out perfectly. I booked one night at the Courtyard Seoul Times Square, which was in a good location... although location really matters very little in Seoul since the metro system is so vast and efficient.

Total amount spent out of pocket for all airfare (including taxes and fees) and hotels ended up being $480.10, in addition to 55,000 AAdvantage miles, 72,500 MileagePlus miles, 20,751 ThankYou points, and 8,800 SPG points. There would be some adjustments later on, however, after my interesting stay at the Le Meridien Angkor!

Friday, April 20, 2012

American Airlines And US Airways Merger?

Via Reuters, a very interesting development today from the American Airlines bankruptcy proceedings. AMR unions have had an extremely nasty public feud with management the past several months, and it only looks to deteriorate further next week as the company seeks permission in bankruptcy court to void labor contracts and impose new terms for restructuring.

In a dramatic twist, however, the unions representing American's pilots, flight attendants, and ground workers have struck a deal with US Airways that supports a merger between the two airlines. The deal would preserve 6,200 of the 14,200 jobs American says it would cut if they proceed with current plans. According to airline consultant Robert Mann, a scenario where airline unions actively support a merger is virtually unheard of, since it almost always means job cuts. He goes on to say, "For the American unions, it's a real indictment to the company's plan. In fact, they are casting their lot with the devil they don't know rather than the devil they do." Yikes.

US Airways has been actively exploring the possibility of a merger with American Airlines since news of the bankruptcy broke last fall, hiring advisers and even giving a presentation to representatives of AMR's unsecured creditors detailing the benefits of integration. But despite the support of the unions, any eventual deal will still require approval from AMR creditors, the management team, and its board of directors - which, at this point in time, seems highly unlikely.

As for the technical aspects of a potential merger, David Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association, said in a letter to its members that a combined carrier would be branded American Airlines and be based in Fort Worth, Texas, which is where AMR is currently located. More importantly, the new airline would remain in the OneWorld global alliance. In addition, American's orders for narrow-body aircraft would proceed and the former US Airways system would be aligned with American Airlines routes to add more cities.

Personally, I don't see a huge downside to a merger. American is still quite a bit larger than US Airways, with a more well-known international presence, so it does make sense to maintain the branding. And with US Airways's reputation as the ugly stepchild of Star Alliance, and American's dominance of OneWorld, it's only logical that the combined airline would remain within OneWorld. I just hope they continue American's relatively generous award availability rather than follow US Airways' lead in tightening inventory. It's all speculation now though, as we'll see in the coming months what exactly will happen to American Airlines.

Very Weird Activity On My MileagePlus Account

Today, I was on AwardWallet and noticed that my United MileagePlus account increased by 2,500 miles. I was a bit confused since I hadn't flown on a revenue flight with them in quite some time and I don't remember signing up for any offers lately. In addition, the only flights I've flown this month were for my return from Cambodia using MileagePlus miles on a variety of Star Alliance airlines in first class. So I logged into my account and this is what I saw (click for larger view):

Since I booked this itinerary before the MileagePlus award chart changes in June 2011, my one-way first class ticket cost 72,500 miles. Whereas after the changes took place, it only cost 70,000 miles. I didn't mind since I just wanted to lock in my flights as early as possible. Anyway, I returned from Cambodia almost two weeks ago, and today I suddenly see that they've redeposited my miles from the award ticket, and then re-deducted it again immediately. However, they only deducted the current amount required, 70,000 miles, and not what I originally paid, 72,500 miles - hence the additional 2,500 miles.

Very weird indeed. I have absolutely no idea why they would do this, but I'll take it. Perhaps it has something to do with the program merger between MileagePlus and OnePass? Has anyone else experienced this lately?

Fun With Call Centers: Chase Reconsideration Line And British Airways Hell

I have spent a considerable amount of time on the phone these past two days speaking to credit analysts and customer service representatives, so I thought I'd share my stories in case anyone else runs into the same situation.

Earlier in the week, Chase sent out a warning that all affiliate links for their Ink Bold business card with the old sign-up bonus offer would have to be pulled by Wednesday morning at 10:00 am EDT. This is the same bonus I have linked to my blog currently: 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 within 3 months. While my link (non-affiliate) still seems to be working, the new offer on the official Ink Bold website now advertises 25,000 bonus points after your first purchase, and the final 25,000 bonus points only after spending a whopping $10,000 within 3 months!

Since I've never owned an Ink Bold card before, I decided to jump on the gravy train and apply before the old offer is completely pulled. I had also planned to apply for the new United MileagePlus Explorer card for some time now, so I pulled the trigger on that one as well. As expected, I didn't get instant approvals for either of them (you should see the stack of old Chase cards I've owned). But no worries, many folks have shared their experience of calling the awesome Chase reconsideration line and gotten previous denials turned into approvals. I was determined to have the same outcome no matter what.

First, I called up the Chase personal credit analyst line (1-888-245-0625) and got a friendly female agent. I asked what the status of the United MileagePlus Explorer card was and she said unfortunately, it had been denied due to multiple applications. I explained to her my situation, saying that I had applied for the Ink Bold card at the same time, and also listed off the reasons why I actually needed the MileagePlus Explorer card. I told her my company has a partnership with United Airlines for all of our work travel, and that I would be putting the charges onto this card. She told me to hold for a minute, then came back and said that she could approve this card, but that I would have to close down one of my other Chase accounts first - my Priority Club Visa in this case. I debated for a minute and told her to go ahead and cancel that account and approve the United MileagePlus Explorer card.

This is where I realize I had made a mistake in the previous way I handled all of my Chase accounts. Every time I was approved for a new card, I would lower the credit limit to the minimum allowable. I did this because 1) I wanted to save more credit "space" in the future for more accounts and 2) I just didn't see a need for such large credit limits. Well, I realize now that a higher credit limit probably could have saved me from closing my Priority Club Visa account in this situation. She probably would have allowed me to just shift some of the credit line over to my new United MileagePlus Explorer card, but since the credit line for my Priority Club Visa (and all my other existing accounts) was already at the minimum, she was unable to do that. Oh well, live and learn.

Happy with the outcome with my United MileagePlus Explorer card, I proceeded to call the Chase business credit analyst line (1-800-453-9719) to ask about my Ink Bold application. I got a very gruff-sounding gentleman on the phone who was definitely no-nonsense. He said the application was still in process, but he could go ahead and take a look at it right now. After holding for a few minutes, he came back on the line and began asking a series of detailed questions regarding my business. Now, granted, you don't have to have a real business per se with high income and employees, but it's always to good to prepare yourself during these calls so you can answer their questions without hesitation. I told him what my business does, how long it's been active, how much expected income I'd have within the next 12 months (with how much of that being profit), expenditures, etc. Finally, after the quick grilling, he came back and said he'd gone ahead and approved my application!

The moral of the story is, never, ever just give up if you receive a denial from Chase. Always call their reconsideration line, but at the same time, be very well prepared to answer questions regarding why you need the card. Also, be ready to bargain for your credit line by moving them from existing accounts.


Next, I'll detail what happened when I called the British Airways Executive Club customer service line. First off, I have an Avios award booking on LAN to Easter Island this November. My one-way itinerary includes two legs: SFO-LIM and LIM-IPC. I have about a one-and-a-half hour layover in Lima, which is cutting it a bit close (especially given LAN's propensity for changes and delays), but I figured it should be fine.

Well, low and behold, last night, I received an email from British Airways stating that my LAN flights had a schedule change. The funny thing is they changed the time of my SFO-LIM flight so that it now arrives almost six hours after my LIM-IPC flight has already left! Needless to say, I would not be making it to Easter Island given my current itinerary.

On the email, it said to call British Airways Executive Club immediately, so that's exactly what I did. I told the gentleman my situation, who said he would have to check availability to make changes. I had already checked online first, of course, and noticed that I could move my SFO-LIM flight back by two days, enjoy a nice stopover in Lima, and then continue on to Easter Island. The British Airways website was showing the new flight as available as well.

Unfortunately, this agent could not see the new award seat. He insisted it wasn't there (not sure if the website was wrong or if he was wrong)... and then here's where it got good. He said I had two options, either wait it out to see if any award seats become available, or I could just cancel the booking. I found this slightly incredulous... so if an airline makes a seven-hour time change to a flight and renders it impossible for passengers to continue on their connecting flights, all those passengers are basically screwed? Even on award bookings, I've always had airlines accommodate me on a new flight - regardless of if an award seat was available or not - since this is really their fault, not mine.

I explained all this to the agent, but he was having none of it. He said it was not their responsibility to fix the itinerary if no other award seats are available. If anyone knows the official policy, I'd love to hear it, but his excuse just sounded completely illogical to me. Finally, I said to him, "so you're saying that because LAN changed their flight time, making it all but impossible for me to complete my itinerary, I have to cancel my entire vacation, hotel bookings, rental cars, etc?" His answer was "yep". Absurd.

I hung up and decided to call LAN directly. After a total of less than 10 minutes on the phone, the friendly agent reissued my ticket on the earlier SFO-LIM flight, allowing me to connect on the LIM-IPC flight two days later with no problem. Yet another lesson learned.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spirit Airlines Marketing Stoops Even Lower

Just when you thought Spirit Airlines couldn't go any lower with their marketing campaigns, they've found a way to dig even deeper. Capitalizing on the recent Secret Service scandal and the GSA overspending debacle, Spirit is running a "More Bang For Your Buck" sale to (where else?) Cartagena, Columbia, warning that "upfront payment is required" and also a "GSA" (Great Savings Always) sale, promising that "even interns can afford it".

Remember this is the airline that also brought you the "MILF" (Many Islands Low Fares) sale, the "MUFF" (Many Unbelievably Fantastic Fares) sale, and the "Weiner Sale" in honor of the Anthony Weiner scandal ("With fares too hard to resist"). And who can forget the infamous ads inspired by the BP oil spill ("Check out the oil on our beaches!").

Over the top? Hilarious? Incredibly inappropriate? I have a hard time deciding. All I know is, I never, ever, ever want to fly Spirit Airlines. Ever.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 Trip Report

I've been feeling a little reticent since coming back from Cambodia last week. Perhaps it's the post-vacation blues... or maybe it's just laziness. Regardless, I'm finally ready to begin writing my full trip report, and I'm actually very excited to recap the truly epic highs and sadly, dismal lows, of my week and a half in Asia.

This will be a rather abbreviated report in terms of destinations, given that I really only visited two main places: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The good thing is that I was able to pack in quite a number of flights in such a short time. Unfortunately, not all of them turned out to be enjoyable, and I apologize in advance for a few of the entries, since they will be rather, shall we say, lacking, to say the least. Read on for all the details:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Earn Double American Airlines AAdvantage Miles On Select Alaska Airlines Routes

Between April 16 and June 30, 2012, you can earn double American Airlines AAdvantage miles when flying on the following non-stop Alaska Airlines routes:
  • Burbank, CA - Portland, OR
  • Honolulu, HI - Oakland, CA
  • Honolulu, HI - San Jose, CA
  • Kansas City, MO - Seattle, WA
  • Los Angeles, CA - Mammoth Lakes, CA
  • Oakland, CA - Portland, OR
  • Ontario, CA - Portland, OR
  • Portland, OR - San Francisco, CA
For the above routes, travel on codeshare flights marketed by American Airlines and operated by Alaska Airlines is also eligible (booked under the American Airlines flight number). Bonus miles do not count towards elite status qualification or Million Miler status. Double miles will be calculated at 100% of the base miles earned. You must register prior to traveling:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Big List - Credit Card Bonus Offers Galore

It's always frustrating being out of the internet loop for an extended period of time. Case in point, I go on vacation for a week, and there are tons of new credit card bonus offers that have already come and gone. A flurry of credit card deals recently hit the market, some of them lasting only a few days or less. It's unclear if these were meant to be targeted only and thus were pulled prematurely, but many people were still able to sign up and have the bonus offers confirmed.

While some deals may have already expired, there are still many others out there for the taking. Therefore, I've gone ahead and compiled a list of what I feel is the best current bonus offers available. As always, I never use affiliate links, nor do I ever make money off of referring a credit card. Feel free to leave a comment if you know of better promotions!

Chase Ink Bold Business Card - 50,000 Bonus Points (EXPIRED)

I previously wrote about the Chase Ink Bold back in September of last year. Well, a newer version of this card has come out since then, with slightly modified earn rates. Here's the basic rundown on the offer:
  • Earn 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months
  • Earn 5x points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
  • Earn 2x points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and hotels (when purchased directly with the hotel)
  • Earn 1x points per $1 on all other purchases, with no limits on how much you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee waived for the first year
Last week, for less than a day, there was a 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points offer with the same spend requirement floating around. Unfortunately, the website was pulled very quickly as news spread. Thus, the the offer I detailed above is still the best one that is currently available. However, Gary from View From The Wing just mentioned that even this may be pulled soon. The standard offer now gives you only 25,000 bonus points after your first purchase, and requires a $10,000 spend within the first 3 months to get the remaining 25,000 points. I would go ahead and apply via the link below before it gets pulled!

50,000 Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for a $500 check or statement credit. If you book airfare directly through the Chase travel tool, 50,000 points can be redeemed for tickets worth up to $625. Otherwise, the best way of utilizing these points, in my opinion, would be to take advantage of the 1:1 transfer ratio and move them over to one of the many airline and hotel partners, including United, Southwest, British Airways, Korean Air, Hyatt, Marriott, or Priority Club accounts. There are a number of other (less valuable) ways to redeem your UR points through their website as well. Apply here.

Citibank American Airlines AAdvantage Card - 50,000 Bonus Miles
I previously wrote about the Citibank AAdvantage card back in December of last year. Unfortunately, those links have already expired. However, the same sign-up bonus still exists! Here's the basic rundown on the offer:
  • Earn 50,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within the first 4 months
  • Receive a one-time $150 statement credit after the first eligible American Airlines purchase you make within the first 12 months (there is no minimum purchase amount, so you can buy a drink on your next American Airlines flight and you should still receive the $150 statement credit)
  • Receive 2 Admirals Club one-day passes
  • Earn 2x miles per $1 on all American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1x miles per $1 on all other purchases
  • $85 annual fee waived for the first year
In addition, it has been confirmed that Citibank has added a bunch of new benefits to all of their American Airlines co-branded cards starting April 2, 2012 (including existing cardholders):
  • A 10% rebate on miles redeemed that will post each month, up to a maximum of 10,000 miles per year
  • First checked bag free for up to four passengers on the same reservation
  • $100 American Airlines flight discount after spending $30,000 on the card each year
  • 25% off inflight purchases made with the card
Personal Visa
Personal American Express
Business Visa

There are also a number of other current Citibank AAdvantage card offers that vary in sign-up bonuses and benefits. Take a look at the first post in this Flyertalk thread for all the links. I do think the offer I detailed above is the best of the bunch, however.

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card - 65,000 Bonus Miles
I previously wrote about the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card back in January of this year. That promotion has not expired, since if you log into your United account online, you should still be able to see the 60,000 bonus miles offer (as long as you have a balance of at least one mile). However, an even better deal is now available, giving you an extra 5,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after your first purchase! Note: you must be logged into your United account when you click on the link below. Here's the basic rundown on the offer:
  • Earn 50,000 bonus MileagePlus miles after your first purchase. Earn an additional 10,000 bonus MileagePlus miles after spending $25,000 within one calendar year
  • Earn an additional 5,000 bonus MileagePlus miles for adding an authorized within 2 months
  • Receive a $50 statement credit after your first purchase
  • Earn 2x miles per $1 on all United purchases
  • Earn 1x miles per $1 on all other purchases
  • First checked bag free for you and a companion when you fly on United-operated flights
  • Priority boarding privileges
  • Two complimentary United Club passes every year
  • $95 annual fee waived for the first year
Apply here

Chase British Airways Card - 100,000 Bonus Avios
Chase has offered a 100,000 bonus Avios promotion on it's British Airways card every year for the past three years. This year, the spend threshold has gotten significantly tougher though. Here's the basic rundown of the offer:
  • Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after your first purchase. Earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after spending $10,000 within the first 12 months. Earn another 25,000 bonus Avios after spending an additional $10,000 within the first 12 months.
  • Receive a Travel Together Ticket after spending $30,000 on your card in one calendar year. This is a free companion ticket that can be used when redeeming your Avios for an award flight. It is good for two years. Taxes and fees apply (and they are a doozy).
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 2.5x Avios per $1 on all British Airways purchases
  • Earn 1.25x Avios per $1 on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee is not waived for the first year
Unless you are a high spender, this is actually a 50,000-75,000 bonus Avios offer. While nothing to sneeze at, do remember that British Airways massively devalued their awards chart last November. However, there are still some good deals to be found in short-haul awards on partner airlines that don't tack on fuel surcharges. Speaking of which, British Airways is known for the outrageous fuel surcharges they include on award tickets, even with partner airlines - so don't be shocked when you see more than $1,000 charged in addition to the Avios points redeemed for a business class flight from New York to London! Apply here.

Citi ThankYou Premier Card - 50,000 ThankYou Points
As I wrote in a detailed post about this card last October, Citibank ThankYou points have not interested me in quite some time. That being said, 50,000 points is still a huge sign-up bonus by any measure. Add to that a recent flurry of rumors that ThankYou points will soon be transferable to British Airways Avios and Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles (with more airlines on the way) at a 1:1 ratio, and the program has suddenly become a lot more valuable! Here's the basic rundown of the offer:
  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $2,500 within the first 3 months
  • Earn 1.2x ThankYou points per $1 on supermarkets, gas stations, drugstores, commuter transportation and parking merchants
  • Earn 1x ThankYou points per $1 on all other purchases
  • Receive an annual anniversary bonus calculated as a percentage of the total ThankYou points earned from purchases, starting at 1% after your first year to 5% after your fifth year (increasing 1% every year). Beyond your fifth year, the bonus stays at 5%.
  • $125 annual fee waived for the first year
You'll notice on the application that this card can be issued as a MasterCard or Visa. Many people have tried applying for both versions at the same time using two browsers, with some actually getting approved for both and earning 100,000 bonus ThankYou points. Your miles may vary, so proceed with caution.

Redemption is rather limited for Citi ThankYou points - you can redeem 50,000 points for $500 in various gift cards. Otherwise, if you book flights using the ThankYou Travel Center, you can get 33% more value for your ThankYou points, and your 50,000 points can be redeemed for $665 in airfare. However, as I mentioned above, the best value for redeeming points will come when airline transfer partners become a reality very soon! Apply here.

Bank of America Alaska Airlines Card - 35,000 Bonus Miles  (EXPIRED)
Last year, I wrote about the 40,000 bonus miles offer from the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. While that promotion already expired long ago, a new offer that's almost as good has recently surfaced. Here's the basic rundown on the offer:
  • Earn 35,000 bonus Mileage Plan miles upon approval
  • Receive a $99 (plus taxes and fees) round-trip companion ticket upon approval and every year on your account anniversary
  • Earn 3x miles per $1 on all Alaska Airlines ticket and vacation package purchases
  • Earn 1x miles per $1 on all other purchases
  • Two complimentary Alaska Airlines Board Room lounge passes that can be used at select airports with an Alaska lounge presence
  • $75 annual fee not waived for the first year
Although 35,000 bonus miles doesn't seem like much, there are two very big benefits that set this card apart from the others. First of all, many people on Flyertalk have reported applying for and receiving this card multiple times, and earning the sign-up bonus each time as well. Now, I would still be cautious and wait at least a few months between applications, but at the very least this is still one of the few cards left that can be churned. Second, the $99 companion ticket can be used on any published fare - even first class. And both tickets earn miles for the flight as well! Every other airline that offers these companion tickets heavily restricts the fares they can be used on, and even has blackout dates.

Now here comes the bad part. First, the annual fee of $75 is not waived for the first year like most other cards. In addition, Bank of America has a bad habit of sometimes automatically downgrading an application to a lower-tier card that offers significantly less benefits. For example, if I apply for the Visa Signature card, Bank of America may deem me "not qualified enough" for that card, but instead of an outright rejection, they will send me their Platinum Plus card, or even their Preferred card, which offers only 15,000 and 13,000 bonus miles, respectively. Definitely frustrating and not worth it in those cases. However, if you have excellent credit and high income, you should have no problem getting the Visa Signature card. Apply here.

Chase Freedom Card - 20,000 Bonus Points (EXPIRED)
First of all, I would not recommend applying for this offer. I'm only writing about the Chase Freedom card because while I was on vacation last week, a deal for 30,000 bonus points appeared, and then another for 35,000 bonus points! Unfortunately, those only lasted for less than a day before they were pulled by Chase. Since the 30,000 bonus points offer has appeared multiple times in the past few months, I would bet that it's going to come back sometime this year (perhaps even the 35,000 bonus points offer). However, if you're desperately in need of this card right this moment for some reason, the best deal is the 20,000 bonus points offer.

I've written extensively about the Chase Freedom card here, and I still say it is the best fee-free rewards card out there. You earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on rotating categories every quarter (up to a maximum of $1500 spend in those categories per quarter), and 1x Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on all other purchases with no limits. The categories for 2012 are as follows:

January 1, 2012 March 31, 2012 
      - Gas stations
April 1, 2012 June 30, 2012
      - Grocery stores
      - Movie theaters
July 1, 2012 September 30, 2012
      - Gas stations
      - Restaurants
October 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012
      - Hotels
      - Airlines
      - Best Buy
      - Kohl's
Apply here


Here is an additional list of links to decent credit card offers that I would highly recommend. However, the first two are just standard offers, and you may want to wait until a better promotion appears. Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest cards have had bigger sign-up bonuses in the past.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card - 40,000 Bonus Points
The standard offer had been 50,000 bonus points for most of the past year. But finally, Chase has reduced that amount to 40,000 bonus points. While not as good as before, 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points is still a fairly decent amount - worth up to $500 in airfare booked with the Chase travel tool, or transferable at a 1:1 ratio to many airline and hotel partners. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Apply here.

AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest Card - 25,000 Bonus Starpoints
Each summer, the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card seems to come up with a special sign-up offer for 30,000 bonus Starpoints. While we wait to see if they do it again this year, the standard offer still remains 10,000 bonus Starpoints after your first purchase, and an additional 15,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 within 6 month. The $65 annual fee is waived for the first year. I would be very happy to refer anyone for this card - I get 5,000 Starpoints per referral and you still enjoy the same standard bonus offer. Just send me your name and email address at Or if you prefer, you can just apply directly from website. Apply here.

Barclays US Airways Premier World Card - 40,000 Bonus Miles
I've written extensively about this card in a previous post. This is the best current offer for the US Airways Premier World MasterCard, and the only one I know of that waives the $89 annual fee for the first year. There are actually some very good benefits offered with this card, so make sure you read my earlier post for all the details. Best of all, Barclays still allows churning on their cards, although you may need to call in to get multiple cards approved. Apply here.

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card - 50,000 Bonus Points
I've written extensively about this card in a previous post. Just when it seemed like all the 50,000 bonus points versions of this card were finally pulled, there appears to be one more working link to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card. 50,000 Rapid Rewards points translates into $833 in Wanna Get Away fares, which would more than pay for two round-trip flights. The $69 annual fee is not waived for the first year, but there is also no spend requirement to get the bonus points (just after your first purchase). Apply here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Back From Cambodia!

I've finally returned from my trip to Cambodia last night, and first I must apologize for the dearth of posts this past week. Apparently I live in the Stone Age and still don't own a laptop, so updating my blog was pretty much out of the question. I do have an iPhone, but navigating the Blogger site on a 3.5-inch touchscreen is an absolute nightmare. Ultimately, I gave up and decided to just leave things be until I got back to the States.

Needless to say, there have been a ton of amazing, curious, and even terrifying things I've wanted to post about while traveling. I will save all the gory details for the full trip report (which I hope to get started on this weekend), but I wanted to cover a few of the highlights (and lowlights) of the past week:

  • The most terrifying hotel incident I've ever experienced happened at the Le Meridien Angkor. I don't want to spoil all the details here, but let's just say it involved me, completely naked and hysterical, and a hotel employee who refused to leave my room. This is an incident that the general manager of the hotel said he's never even heard of in his 22 years in the industry.
  • Complete and utter disappointment with the Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. Want a private room? Sorry, they're all taken. Want a full-body massage? Sorry we're all booked. I've never felt so let down by expectations... especially since I planned a rather roundabout itinerary just so I could experience the lounge. 
  • Jaw-dropping amazement with Asiana Airlines First Class service from Seoul to Los Angeles. I've never in my life received such spectacular service - on any airline, anywhere. And there are no superlatives fitting for the eight-course dinner that was presented, except to say that it rivals any Michelin star restaurant I've ever visited at the very least. This experience literally put Cathay Pacific's First Class service to shame, and I can say that Asiana is truly in a class of its own.
  • Cambodia was simply beautiful. Angkor Wat was every bit as stunning as everyone has made it out to be. Just be ready for the crowds. I tried to go to the temples as early as possible to avoid the hoards of people. Also, the ruins of Beng Mealea about an hour and a half outside of Siem Reap is an absolute must. This is the only place where you can still literally climb through a completely unrestored temple. The place was just surreal.

I will try to get started as soon as possible with the full trip report, but of course, I'm already back at my day job and have a backlog of work piled up. A vacation from my vacation would be nice right about now! I'll leave you with a picture I took of Angkor Wat at sunrise on my last day there... one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.