Frequent Flyer Tips for Experienced Travelers

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Best Use of Citi ThankYou Points for Flights to Asia

Best Use of Citi ThankYou Points for Flights to Asia

Tickets to Asia are usually north of $1,000 and sometimes close to $2,000. You can use Citi ThankYou points to fly there free by booking your flight with the Citi Travel Center or by transferring the points to one of the Citi’s airline partners. Booking through the travel portal is rarely a good deal though, due to the high cost of the ticket. Transferring points to a frequent flyer program is generally a more prudent choice. We give you the lowdown on which programs are the best transfer options.

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The Best Apps for Tracking Miles and Points

The Best Apps for Tracking Miles and Points

One of the first things you need to do when you start collecting points and miles is get the right app to keep track of your accounts. You’ll never have to worry about points expiring, forgetting passwords or losing account numbers again, and you’ll always know how many points and miles you have. And while some apps are dedicated to tracking, you might be better off with an all-around good travel app like Tripit, which offers miles tracking in its pro version.

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What to Do If You’re Declined for a Travel Credit Card

travel credit card

You’ve done the research. You’ve figured out which one of the myriad of rewards credit cards you want. It’s the perfect card to earn a free flight fast to wherever you want to go. You apply and… you get declined! Don’t worry; we know what you should do next.

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Chase Ultimate Rewards: Best and Worst United MileagePlus Redemptions

Chase Ultimate Rewards: Best and Worst United MileagePlus Redemptions

United is arguably the most popular Chase airline transfer partner, and transferring Ultimate Rewards points to United often makes sense when the price in points on the Ultimate Rewards website is too high compare to what you could pay for the flight using alternative currencies — frequent flyer miles. Since the United MileagePlus program is region-based and isn’t linked directly to the price of a revenue ticket, you will come ahead if the Ultimate Rewards cost is more than $300 (for a Sapphire Preferred cardholder) or $375 (for a Sapphire Reserve cardholder).  For better understanding of how this valuation works, read the first installment: Best and Worst Examples of Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points – The Portal.

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How to Upgrade Your Flight with Delta SkyMiles

How to Upgrade Your Flight with Delta SkyMiles

Many travelers who earn frequent flyer miles aren’t always interested in booking an award ticket. Instead, they want to use their miles to upgrade a ticket they’ve already bought with cash. Upgrades and award travel have a lot in common, but the rules are unique for every loyalty program. This post discusses how to upgrade a ticket purchased with Delta Air Lines.

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How to Navigate Award Routes

How to Navigate Award Routes

It can be frustrating to redeem award miles for an overseas trip. But, keep in mind that not all hope is lost since many airline websites fail to show award space from all of their partners. This means that there are many routes with open seats available for award tickets going empty, but you may have to call the airline mileage program to find them.

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Can You Downgrade Barclaycard, BofA, Capital One and U.S. Bank Travel Credit Cards?

Can You Downgrade Barclaycard, BofA, Capital One and U.S. Bank Travel Credit Cards?

The time to think about downgrading a premium credit card is when your annual fee is due and you don’t feel that the benefits you’re getting from the card are worth it anymore. There are many reasons to downgrade instead of just closing your account.

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Best Uses of Citi ThankYou Points for Flights to South America

The Citi ThankYou program has 12 airline transfer partners, but none of them would be considered household names by Americans. Citi has members like Malaysia Airlines, Eva, Singapore and Virgin Atlantic, and many people don’t quite understand how to use these airlines to fly from the U.S. But this is where airline alliances are especially helpful.

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JetBlue Has the Cheapest Cost To Cuba on an Award Ticket

JetBlue Has the Cheapest Cost To Cuba on an Award Ticket

Cuba is all the rage now. Since the U.S. Department of State announced a new course in relations with Cuba in December 2014, we’ve come a long way in getting people there. Traveling restrictions have been considerably relaxed – actually, traveling to Cuba has never been illegal, but spending money on the island was, and it’s hard to do one without the other. Technically speaking, it’s not like anyone can fly to Cuba just as you fly to any other place in the world, as you must cite one of 12 reasons so the airline could sell you the ticket.

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Delta Quietly Raises Business Class Redemption Levels to Europe

Delta Quietly Raises Business Class Redemption Levels to Europe

In the last three years, all the major U.S. airline frequent flyer programs have had devaluations. Delta has gone further than everyone else though, by removing its SkyMiles award charts early last year. The goal was probably to stop complaints about program’s frequent devaluations because if you don’t have a chart you may not know that the award levels have increased. But what they are doing now has completely changed devaluations as we know them. Read on to see what we have uncovered about upcoming changes and when they take effect.

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How to Upgrade Your Flight with United MileagePlus Miles

How to Upgrade Your Flight with United MileagePlus Miles

Many travelers who earn frequent flyer miles aren’t always interested in booking an award ticket. Instead, they want to use their miles to upgrade a ticket they’ve already bought with cash. Upgrades and award travel have a lot in common, but the rules are unique for every loyalty program. This post discusses how to upgrade a ticket purchased with United Airlines.

There are two important rules for booking upgrades on United. It’s very important to understand these before you book a ticket as any mistakes could require expensive change and cancellation fees. Please ask your questions here or contact a United representative for clarification.

First, you must use miles in your United MileagePlus account to upgrade your United-operated flight; any miles earned with another loyalty program will probably not be helpful. Second, upgrade inventory is limited. Just because there are business class seats for sale does not mean that you can upgrade your economy class ticket. Like award flights there are only so many available (because the airline would rather get cash instead of miles), and this changes often. However, if a business class award is available then it is likely that an upgrade is also available.

Because award availability is often limited, upgrades make it easier to secure travel on the flights you need when the destination and dates aren’t very flexible. You may need to fly even if your upgrade doesn’t clear. You’ll be stuck in economy, but will get to your destination anyway.

Rules to upgrade flight with United MileagePlus Miles

There are also some people who don’t want to travel any more than they already do, or they need to continue booking paid tickets in order to earn the miles they need for elite status. Booking more award travel doesn’t appeal to everyone. Knowing how to use your miles for an upgrade is still a better option than redeeming them for merchandise or gift cards, which deliver very poor value.

Searching for Upgrade Inventory

United’s program is more complex than most other airlines’ but has the advantage that many more flights are eligible for an upgrade and much of the process can be performed online.

You can use United’s website to search for available upgrades before or after you book your flight, enabling you to compare options if you have some flexibility in your schedule. You can also specify certain fare classes when searching for airfare, since the fare class is a big factor in determining your rank in the upgrade hierarchy and the amount of the cash co-pay, if any, that you must provide in addition to the miles.

For example, on the United homepage you should click on the link for “All search options” to visit the advanced search page. Near the bottom of that page is a section for fare preferences. Select “MileagePlus Upgrade Awards” from the menu and which kind of ticket you want to pay for (not the ticket you’ll have after the upgrade). You can enter one or more fare classes if you wish to take advantage of special upgrade rules for those fares.

United upgrade search

The results page will show not only the cheapest available fare (without an upgrade), but also the cost when booking an upgradeable fare that includes the necessary miles and the co-pay. You can also view the details under each itinerary — without jumping through all these hoops — to look at the inventory in specific fare classes. United classifies its upgrade inventory in the R fare class. (Some of these features may require that you activate United’s Expert Mode).

United upgrade results
United upgrade results

Calculating the Necessary Miles

To upgrade a flight operated by United Airlines, United Express, or Copa Airlines, you will need to redeem miles and provide a co-pay that vary depending on your destination, route, and the fare class purchased. Pricing for mileage upgrade awards can be found on pages 5-7 of this PDF or by using United’s interactive search tool. A small portion is copied below.

United upgrade award chart
United upgrade award chart

For example, upgrading a one-way domestic flight within the Continental U.S. will cost 7,500 miles for a Y fare or 20,000 miles for a S, T, K, L, G, or N fare. There are other levels in between. These upgrades also require a co-pay that ranges from $0 to $250. On international routes between the U.S. and Europe, a typical upgrade to business class costs 20,000 miles and $550.

The co-pay can be the biggest inhibition against redeeming miles for an upgrade. You should determine if purchasing a more expensive fare that allows you to reduce the co-pay is more sensible. Or it may be worth paying for a discounted business class ticket.

Co-pays are waived entirely on the following routes if you have elite status (or if you’re a general member and the miles come from the account of a elite member):

  • Travel within Canada and the continental U.S. (excluding p.s. routes)
  • Travel from Canada or the continental U.S. to Hawaii (excluding service between Honolulu and Newark, Washington-IAD, or Houston)
  • Travel from Canada or the U.S. (excluding Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico) to Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean)
  • Travel within Oceania (excluding Honolulu and Guam)

Upgrading Flights on Other Airlines

If you want to upgrade a flight on any other Star Alliance member, then you must book a full price Y or B fare. These can be very expensive for international travel, and a discounted business class fare may be cheaper. It is also possible to upgrade from business class to first class, but there are still restrictions that require you to purchase a J, C or D business class fare. Fortunately there is no co-pay for Star Alliance upgrades.

Upgrade_Flights_On_Other_Airlines_With_Mileagplus_Miles

Not every Star Alliance member participates in upgrades, but most do. A typical price is 25,000 miles each way for travel between the U.S. and Europe. You can learn more about the special requirements of Star Alliance upgrades on United’s website.

Upgrades for Full Fare Tickets

You don’t have to upgrade at the same time you buy. There is an online tool that checks availability inventory and provides an option to upgrade at any time before check-in. The same system is also used to apply other sorts of upgrades for full fare tickets or systemwide upgrade instruments.

Travelers with elite status who purchase Y or B fares can receive complimentary upgrades on domestic routes and select international flights that travel shorter distances. Premier 1K members also get an instant upgrade when they purchase an M fare. These upgrades must be requested after ticketing; if upgrade inventory is not immediately available you can go back and request the upgrade again at any time.

To request these upgrades after ticketing, or to upgrade with miles, go back to United’s website to access your reservation online and then select the “Redeem Upgrade” button at the bottom of the itinerary. The next page presents two tabs: the first lets you buy up to first class and will re-fare your ticket (not a real upgrade), and the second will let you use miles to confirm an upgrade. The cash co-pay will also be displayed.

United upgrade confirmation

If a flight doesn’t have upgrade space immediately available (green check mark) then you’ll be placed on the waitlist (yellow triangle) and given priority ahead of any complimentary elite upgrades.

You can even use your miles to upgrade someone else’s flight. Log into your United MileagePlus account and then access your friend’s reservation using his or her last name and confirmation number. Following the same steps as above you’ll be presented with some options to upgrade. However, your miles will be deducted if you choose to proceed with the upgrade.

Priority for Each Upgrade Type

Assuming your upgrade does not clear in advance, United will process upgrades in the following order:

1.Full fare tickets, which may be eligible for an instant upgrade, are processed first. These are ranked by fare class (Y > B > M). Within each fare class they are ranked by the passenger’s elite status.

2.Upgrades using miles or systemwide upgrade instruments are processed next. Neither one is prioritized above the other. These are ranked by the passenger’s elite status first, then fare class, and then the time of request (typically when the flight was booked).

3.Complimentary elite upgrades for passengers and their companions are processed last.

Because of the importance of fare class in the upgrade hierarchy, you might find that it is helpful to buy a slightly more expensive fare to improve your odds. For example, K and L fares require the same co-pay and miles to upgrade a flight to Hawaii, but the K fare will be upgraded first. If the difference in price is $10, that may be worth paying to move up the list. You can search for specific fare classes on United’s website.

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10 Ways to Redeem Miles with Air Canada Aeroplan for Maximum Value

10 Ways to Redeem Miles with Air Canada Aeroplan for Maximum Value

Air Canada no longer operates Aeroplan, its own loyalty program, but it still offers plenty of great redemption options. There were significant changes to how miles are valued in recent years following the spinoff, yet you can find great value if you know where to look and what to book. For instance, Aeroplan still allows stopovers and open jaws, which are a great way to increase award ticket value. And it has a round-the-world in business class fare for just 300,000 miles. Read on for more details.

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These Credit Cards Offer Special Savings on Your Next Hotel Stay

travel credit card

RewardExpert is dedicated to helping you earn free travel with airline miles and points, which can be earned more easily using certain credit cards. But did you know that these same cards sometimes provide special discounts and promotions when you book a hotel?

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8 Ways to Redeem Miles with ANA Mileage Club for Maximum Value

8 Ways to Redeem Miles with ANA Mileage Club for Maximum Value

ANA Mileage Club used to be one of the best ways to book awards on Star Alliance partners such as United Airlines, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines. That changed after they completely updated the program. Now there are actually four different award charts depending on when, where, and who you fly.

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8 Ways to Redeem Miles with Lufthansa Miles&More for Maximum Value

Lufthansa miles

How much value you can you get with Lufthansa’s Miles & More loyalty program? These miles don’t have a big presence in North America, but it’s still possible to accumulate them with Star Alliance carriers, by transferring points from Starwood Preferred Guest, or getting a credit card from Barclaycard. The program offers a few unique values despite collecting additional carrier surcharges on most international award tickets.

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How to Upgrade Your Flight with American AAdvantage Miles

american airlines upgrade options

Many travelers who earn frequent flyer miles aren’t always interested in booking an award ticket. Instead, they want to use their miles to upgrade a ticket they’ve already bought with cash. Upgrades and award travel have a lot in common, but the rules are unique for every loyalty program. This post discusses how to upgrade a ticket purchased with American Airlines.

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New Chase Sapphire Reserve Details and Analysis

Chase Sapphire card

New Chase Sapphire Reserve Details and Analysis

Since details on the upcoming release of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card were originally leaked, there has been a ton of new information hitting the internet. On August 15th Chase officially announced the card via Twitter. However, the biggest news was that on the same day, a developer application link was accidentally made publicly available for a few hours.

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9 Ways to Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards

10 Ways to Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards

1. Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses

This is the fastest way to earn tons of Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you have opened relatively few credit card accounts over the past 2 years, it should also be one of the easiest.

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Rent An Apartment In The Air With Rewards Points

Rent An Apartment In The Air With Rewards Points

If you happen to be flying on an Etihad Airways route between Abu Dhabi and New York (JFK), London Heathrow, Melbourne, Mumbai or Sydney, and have enough airline miles, you can exchange that annoying cramped economy seat for an apartment with more amenities than you can imagine.

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10 Ways to Redeem Miles on Alaska Airlines for Maximum Value

10 Ways to Redeem Miles on Alaska Airlines for Maximum Value

Everyone talks about the amazing trips you can take by redeeming frequent flyer miles, but just how much value do they really provide? This article takes a closer look at ten great ways to redeem miles through Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. What, you’ve never flown on Alaska? It doesn’t matter. They have almost a dozen international partners, including American Airlines and Delta Airlines, which makes it easier than you’d expect to earn and redeem miles.

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