Andrea M. Rotondo is a writer covering cruise news and luxury travel trends for Fodor’s, Conde Nast Traveler online, and other outlets like Cruise Critic, Onboard, and Cruise & Travel Lifestyles. She also helps travelers leverage their miles and points at Frequent Flyer Toolkits.
She belongs to just about every frequent flyer program. She’s earned Lifetime Gold status with American Airlines and is a Hilton HHonors Diamond. Chase Ink Bold and American Express Business Gold Rewards duke it out for Andrea’s nod as her favorite rewards credit card. Her preferred use of miles and points is for first-class travel to Southeast Asia and southern Africa and OneWorld is her go-to alliance. Miles and points have taken her around the world to destinations like Bali, Tahiti, the Maldives, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Johannesburg. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens or on Google+ ( https://plus.google.com/+AndreaRotondo ).
American Express Membership Rewards is the granddaddy of programs offering point transfers to major airlines like Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, ANA, British Airways, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic among others. Having a stockpile of Membership Rewards points gives you the flexibility to book award flights on 17 different airlines without having to accrue miles in all of those programs.
No one likes paying taxes to Uncle Sam, but its something Americans must do every year on April 15. If you’re like most frequent flyers, you’re looking for ways to earn a few miles for paying your share. Here’s some advice to help you maximize your earnings at tax time and a warning about why paying taxes with a credit card is usually not the best idea.
Program devaluations are the bane of every frequent flyer. You go into this pastime with your eyes open. You study the program rules and award charts and make a plan to earn the miles that will net you award flights to your dream destination.
If you’re saving frequent flyer miles, there’s a good chance that you have plans to use them to get to and from Hawaii. Travel to these gorgeous islands is a rite of passage for nearly every loyalty program enthusiast.
JetBlue has been a favorite of frequent flyers since the low-cost airline came on the scene in 2000. Despite offering very affordable fares, the carrier didn’t skimp on service and that helped build a loyal customer base as well as industry accolades. In fact, JetBlue has won JD Power and Associates’ award for Top Low Cost Airline for Customer Satisfaction for 10 years in a row.
As you talk with travelers who are hard-core frequent flyer fans, you’ll often hear recurring themes when it comes to vacation destinations. That’s because miles allow you to visit exotic places that you might never visit if you had to pay for the airline ticket out of pocket. Once you’ve unlocked the secret value of frequent flyer miles, you suddenly see new possibilities when planning trips. Here are a few places that most frequent flyer gurus have visited using their miles.
When you’re looking for a Caribbean vacation, set your sights on St. Thomas. It’s one of the U.S. Virgin Islands just 1,100 miles southeast of Miami so it’s a snap for Americans to visit. Since the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix) are a U.S. territory, American citizens don’t need a passport if traveling from the mainland or Puerto Rico.
One of the most exciting new benefits offered by American Express is access to its new line of airport lounges. Dubbed The Centurion Lounge, the company has opened three locations so far in Las Vegas, New York’s LaGuardia, and at Dallas/Fort Worth. These private lounges are an oasis in the middle of three very busy and sometimes chaotic airports.
One of the most powerful tools you have when it comes to making the most of your miles and points is the strategic use of transfers.
Many frequent flyer gurus will tell you to never use your hard-earned miles to book a domestic award ticket. While it’s true that there may be more value when booking a first class ticket to somewhere exotic like Bali, there is definitely a time and place to spend miles to get to destinations closer to home.
There’s no doubt about it: Traveling in the first class or business class cabin of many international airlines is exciting. You’re treated like royalty, with preferred access to check-in and security lines, entry into the airlines airport lounge, a welcome glass of champagne when you board, a roomy seat that often transforms into a comfortable lie-flat bed and five-course gourmet meals. It’s easy to get used to.
When you rent a car, you may have a vague worry in the back of your mind that little nagging feeling you get when you don’t quite understand the rules of the game. Rental car companies have tons of terms and conditions, and many of them can leave the consumer holding the bag in case of an accident or damage to the car. Paying for your rental car with the right credit card can offer you some additional protection and peace of mind.
One of the great debates in the world of frequent flyer miles is whether you should hoard your miles or spend them as quickly as you earn them. At first, you might think that it makes the most sense to use miles as soon as possible. After all, the value of a mile almost always goes down over time due to airline devaluations, so why not hedge your bets and use your miles as quickly as you earn them?
Now that you’re learning the ins and outs of miles and points and are traveling the globe on the cheap, there’s probably one downside that you’ve discovered: the long wait to pass through customs upon re-entering the United States after a trip overseas. There’s good news though. Smart travelers can sign up for Global Entry, which eliminates waiting on that long customs line.
When it comes to earning miles for fabulous and nearly free vacations, don’t limit yourself in the ways in which you earn those precious miles. Sure, flying nets plenty of miles, as do credit-card sign-ups, but there are tons of everyday ways to build up your cache of miles or points. Something as simple as grocery shopping for your family can help you achieve your goal to fly somewhere for free or get a few free nights at a hotel.
There was a time when transcontinental travelers dreaded the flight from New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco. Aircraft comfort and amenities seemed to be going downhill. That’s changed.
There has been a lot of talk lately about a shift in the industry to revenue-based frequent flyer programs, where travelers are awarded miles based on the cost of the ticket and not the number of miles flown.
When it comes to buying airline tickets with a credit card and earning extra bonus miles or points while you’re at it you have a lot of choices. If your wallet is full of rewards cards, you may wonder which one will best leverage the money you spend on plane tickets each year.
We don’t want to scare you, but things can go wrong after you book an award but before you take the flight. The problem can happen immediately upon making the reservation or weeks and even months later. Your job isn’t done once you reserve the award flights you want. Instead, be vigilant. Check your reservations on a regular basis. Well show you why.