Educational Posts on Loyalty Programs

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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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How to Book a Positioning Flight for Award Travel

How to Book a Positioning Flight for Award Travel

When we are talking about air travel, positioning can mean one of two things.

In the aviation industry, a positioning flight occurs when an airline needs to send a plane to another place for conducting a flight. It can be a passenger or cargo plane that ended one flight in one airport, but must start another commercial flight in a different airport. In the past, these flight used to be conducted without passengers, but that has changed. There is a whole underground science of spotting these flights because many people believe airlines sell discounted tickets for them. But for award flights, it’s different.

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15 Mistakes to Avoid When Your Are New to Loyalty Programs

award ticket

If you’re just getting into collecting miles and points for free flights, it can be a bit overwhelming. There’s a lot of information out there and it can be hard to sift through it all. To help out, we’ve compiled a list of fifteen tips for rookies. Hopefully you’ll avoid some of these mistakes now that you know about them.

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Which Airline Programs Let You Pool Miles?

Which Airline Programs Let You Pool Miles?

Most airlines allow you to purchase award flights for other people. While this is a great option to have, it’s not as powerful as the ability to pool or share miles. Combining miles with family or friends can help you purchase award flights that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

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Allegiant Gets in the Game, Lie-flat on all AA long-haul Routes and Marriott Partners With TED Talks

Allegiant Gets in the Game, Lie-flat on all AA long-haul Routes and Marriott Partners With TED Talks

It might not be your favorite airline, but there is a new player in the game when it comes to travel loyalty. Allegiant is launching an “infrequent” flyer program while Marriott expands the minds of its frequent travelers with a new TED Talks partnership.

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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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Best Credit Card Combos: Chase Freedom Unlimited and Sapphire Reserve

Best Credit Card Combos: Chase Freedom Unlimited and Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is quite possibly the best credit card combination in the entire travel rewards industry. The combined benefits of this combo provide just about everything a travel hacker could want in their credit card portfolio – high points earning rates, a very valuable currency, a diversified array of travel benefits and purchase protections, and point transferability.

In addition, the ability to get so much out of only 2 cards allows travelers to simplify their wallets and reduce the cost of the annual fees they pay relative to a traveler who carries many cards. The Freedom Unlimited card has no annual fee while the Sapphire Reserve card carries a $450 annual fee.

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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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How Small Business Owners Can Maximize Rewards

How Small Business Owners Can Maximize Rewards

Some of the best credit cards for points and miles collectors are small business credit cards. However, many people believe that since they do not have a business with employees, that they are not eligible to apply for one of these cards. In fact, for most small business cards, individuals are eligible to apply as a sole proprietorship, even if you are just starting out.

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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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Cocktails Predicting the Next President? Why You Might Need a Drink When You Hear About Delta

Cocktails Predicting the Next President? Why You Might Need a Drink When You Hear About Delta

Delta Air Lines is at it again. The airline is raising rates on award tickets without any notice to flyers, which seems to be its practice since deleting its award chart. That’s why Omni’s latest promotion might be of interest for some travelers. Also, take note of several hotel promotions scheduled for the fall.

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Which Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards Are Worth Holding Long Term?

Which Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards Are Worth Holding Long Term?

With so many good travel credit cards on the market, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which ones to keep in your wallet long-term. If you keep too many, you will end up paying a significant amount of money in annual fees which may end up costing you more than the value you receive from these cards. On the other hand, if you cancel a card and later decide you would like to have it again, you may be prevented from getting that card again due to Chase’s much-maligned 5/24 rule.

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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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Sapphire Reserve Hits the Market, Bye to Etihad Limos, Birthday Bonuses From Virgin

Virgin America bonuses

This week’s roundup has both good and bad news. The Chase Sapphire Reserve applicataion went live this past week with its 100,000 point sign-up bonus. But while there are lots of great ways to earn bonus miles, Etihad has squashed one of our favorite benefits on first class award tickets. Read it and weep amidst the plethora of other good deals out there.

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Ranking the Three Major U.S. Airlines

Ranking the Three Major U.S. Airlines

There have been numerous changes implemented and announced by the three major U.S. airlines, United, American and Delta, in recent months with modifications to frequent flyer programs, credit cards, bank relationships, planes, routes and service.

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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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