The Points Guy http://thepointsguy.com Thu, 28 Aug 2014 23:11:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Delta Same Day Confirm Policy Changes Yet Again http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/delta-same-day-confirm-policy-changes-yet-again/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/delta-same-day-confirm-policy-changes-yet-again/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:29:40 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=90764

Last year, Delta made some major changes to their Same Day Confirm policy, which requires that the same class of service must be available to change instead of just cabin to cabin availability. This means that if you were booked on a cheap fare, most likely you wouldn’t be able to Same Day Confirm and would be forced to do Same Day Standby.

Delta is making more changes to their SDC policy.

Delta is making more changes to their SDC policy.

Per this Flyertalk thread, there were rumors that Delta was making more changes to their Same Day Confirm policy, so I reached out to my official Delta rep, who confirmed that you can no longer Same Day Confirm from a connecting flight to a non-stop flight. This is a huge negative; Delta’s SDC rules are already extremely limited, and this just adds another obstacle.

As a reminder, Delta Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members can Same Day Confirm for no charge. If the same fare class isn’t available on the flight you want, you’ll be forced to use their Same Day Standby option, in which case you’ll only be confirmed at the gate if there’s a seat available.

The good news is that you can still Same Day Confirm from a non-stop to a connecting flight to earn more miles. One of the main reasons I think they did this was to protect their premium Fist Class Transcontinental routes such as JFK-LAX/SFO/SEA. Previously, you could book New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) via Salt Lake (SLC) and then switch to the direct New York (JFK)- Los Angeles (LAX) in the BusinessElite cabin, but this latest change nixes that option.

You will no longer be able to SDC from a non-stop to a connecting flight.

You will no longer be able to SDC from a non-stop to a connecting flight.

By comparison, American charges $75 for a confirmed change for everyone regardless of elite status level. The alternate flights must be for the same itinerary. Your flight change can be confirmed within 24 hours of departure of the desired flight.

As for United, SDC’s are Free for 1k, Platinum and Gold, or $75 for non-elite/Silver. The same-day flight change option is available within a full 24 hours before your originally scheduled flight, and the requested flight can be in any fare class and depart within 24 hours from when the request is made. The only requirement is that changes must be made prior to your original scheduled flight.

Hat Tip: Flyertalk

What do you think of the latest changes to Delta’s Same Day Confirm policy? Will they change the way you travel?

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Hotel Deals of the Week: SPG Hot Escapes, Marriott & More http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/hotel-deals-of-the-week-spg-hot-escapes-marriott-more/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/hotel-deals-of-the-week-spg-hot-escapes-marriott-more/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:44:27 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=90708

Looking for a last minute vacation? Each week, I’ll note some great deals, including some of the SPG Hot Escapes and other promotions that you can take advantage of to save some money on your next getaway.

SPG Hot Escapes Top Picks For August 27-31, 2014

SPG Hot Escapes is a promotion that offers weekly hotel discounts at Starwood properties. The deals go live every Wednesday at 6:00 am ET, and must be booked by that same Saturday in order to secure the discounted price. Your hotel stay must be completed in the next six weeks. Each week a new list of deals will come out, so check back weekly for more updates. If you’re an SPG member, you can save an additional 5%. The prices listed are the cheapest prices during the six weeks, but may vary by date and availability. Keep in mind that the rate is prepaid, and you’ll be charged a penalty for changes/cancellations. Also, remember that you will earn points for these stays even though the price is promotional.

The W Retreat & Spa- Vieques Island, Puerto Rico: SPG Member Rate, $189

A Fabulous Ocean front room at W Vieques

A Fabulous Ocean front room at W Vieques

Rates for this Category 6 resort start at $209 in mid September or 20,000 Starpoints per night. The W Vieques  is located just eight miles away from mainland San Juan, Puerto Rico. To arrive at this eco-paradise you can fly over on a small plane or take a ferry. Read about my past journey over by plane, and check out my review of the hotel from my stay there in 2011. The island is an undiscovered, unspoiled tropical oasis perfect for a relaxing getaway. The beachfront hotel itself was named as one of the “Best 500 Hotels in the World” by Travel & Leisure, and has beautiful, light and airy decor styled by Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola.

Le Meridien Etoile, Paris, France: SPG Member Rate $199

The Jazz Club at the Le Meridien Etoile

The Jazz Club at the Le Meridien Etoile

This isn’t what I would consider the most luxurious hotel in Paris by any means, but Paris is expensive and this is a great price, especially since rates for this Category 5 hotel normally start at about $220 or 12,000 Starpoints. Enjoy one of the 1,025 guestrooms, 22 suites, or the Jazz Club Etoile in the hotel, then walk over to the Arc de Triomphe or Champs Elysées. If you’re planning a romantic weekend in Paris, then check out our guide for tips.

Marriott

Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, GA: 20% Off Weekend Rates

A King City View Room at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis

A King City View Room at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Atlanta is one of the top Labor Day Weekend cities to visit, and even if you can’t make it for Labor Day, this 20% off promotion is valid until November 2, 2014, giving you plenty of time to plan a weekend trip there. Including the 20% discount, you can expect to pay about $127 per night for this downtown Atlanta hotel, and the promotion also includes free in-room internet (normally $15-$19 per day). Or, expect to pay between 25,000-30,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. The Atlanta Marriott Marquis is located just steps away from the main Atlanta attractions like the Coca Cola factory and the Georgia Dome, and offers 1,569 guestrooms and 94 suites, a spa, fitness room and both indoor and outdoor pools. Just make sure to enter the promo code M11 when making your reservation.

St. Kitts Marriott Resort and Royal Beach Casino, St. Kitts: 15% Off Suites

Relax at the St. Kitts Marriott

Relax at the St. Kitts Marriott.

Get 15% off while staying in a suite at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort until November 15, 2014. The prices (including the discount for suites) are as follows:

  • Royal Golf View Suite for $179/night
  • Royal Ocean View Suite for $199/night
  • One Bedroom Ocean View Suite for $199/night

This Category 6 property will cost you between 25,000-30,000 points per night if you prefer to use Marriott Rewards to stay there. The resort has a casino, spa, golf course, several pools, a fitness center and beach access, the perfect stop for an all inclusive family vacation or honeymoon. Make sure to enter the promo code M11 when reserving.

Other

Expedia Pick: Suites Sina Cancun for $54 per night

The Suites Sina in Cancun, MX

The Suites Sina in Cancun, MX

If you’re looking for a last minute getaway, rates at the Suites Sina Cancun are starting at $54 per night for the weekend of September 5-8, 2014 when you book on Expedia. The rate includes free parking and free internet during your stay. Room rates typically start at $65-$72. The hotel is small and prides itself on being intimate and comfortable. Each suite comes equipped with AC, a kitchenette, living room, dining area, bathroom, cable TV, telephone, WiFi, and a lagoon view, and the hotel is a short walk from the beach.

Stay tuned for new deals next week!

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Thursday Giveaway: $500 United Airlines Gift Card http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/thursday-giveaway-500-united-airlines-gift-card/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/thursday-giveaway-500-united-airlines-gift-card/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 14:14:47 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=90548

As we have been talking about all week, there is a huge 50,000 point sign-up bonus for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card which is a limited-time offer ending on September 2nd. There are many perks of this card, including a $50 Statement Credit after your first purchase, Priority Boarding, free first checked bags, 2 United Club passes per year and more.

The United MileagePlus Explorer Card, offering a limited time 50,000 point sign-up bonus!

The United MileagePlus Explorer Card, offering a limited time 50,000 point sign-up bonus!

In honor of this limited-time offer, we are giving one lucky TPG reader a $500 United Airlines gift certificate! To enter to win, visit our Facebook Page. Remember, when you share it on your wall, tweet it out or send an invite, you get an extra entry!

Where would you travel if you won? Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Where would you travel if you won? Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Last Week’s Winner

Last week we gave away a deluxe travel set from Genius Pack including their luxe Entrepreneur Brief, a travel umbrella and more. We had thousands of entries and we randomly selected one lucky winner. Congrats to TPG reader Ann W. on winning the prize!

Congrats to TPG reader Ann W. on winning!

Congrats to TPG reader Ann W. on winning!

Congrats to our winner, and stay tuned for more great giveaways here on the blog and on TPG TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Safe travels!

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List Calories on Airline & Airport Menus: the Weekly Wish http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/list-calories-on-airline-airport-menus-the-weekly-wish/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/list-calories-on-airline-airport-menus-the-weekly-wish/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:08:06 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=90480

Today TPG Contributor Nick Ewen continues his series The Weekly Wish, looking at flaws, shortcomings, and room for improvement in the world of travel and loyalty programs. Today’s wish: include calorie counts in airline and airport menus.

Eating healthy on the road isn’t easy. Sometimes your only option is the drive-thru of a local fast food joint in between meetings, and crossing time zones can wreak havoc on your internal clock and destroy your carefully planned eating habits. I do everything I can to stay away from junk food and maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling, but sometimes it feels like an uphill battle. This brings us to today’s Weekly Wish: that airports and airlines would post calorie counts and other nutritional information for travelers.

Who knows how many calories are lurking under that foil? Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Who knows how many calories are lurking under that foil? (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

I’m sure many of you are frustrated with pre-flight or in-flight dining simply because of a lack of options, especially when traveling domestically (or in coach on international flights). This holds true not only in airports, but also in airport lounges, and extends to 38,000 feet as well. Uncertainty abounds. What if my upgrade doesn’t clear and I’m stuck buying a snack box or pre-packaged sandwich in coach? What if it does clear and the only entrée choice is a creamy pasta dish? For many travelers, this means covering their bases by indulging in lounge snacks, having a sit-down meal before their flight, or purchasing lunch/dinner to take on board.

At over 1100 calories, my whole wheat burrito sure doesn't seem so healthy anymore!

At over 1100 calories, my whole wheat burrito sure doesn’t seem so healthy anymore!

Unfortunately, it’s hard to know what you’re putting in your body at many airport eateries. A salad may sound healthy, or a sandwich may appear simple and wholesome, but without detailed nutritional information, you’re really flying blind. As a frequent Delta flyer, I find myself in Atlanta’s Concourse A on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. I love Mexican food and Qdoba is a regular stop for me, so I’ll use it as an example.

Suppose you order a burrito in a whole-wheat tortilla with brown rice & pinto beans. You then add two different kinds of salsa (also very low calorie), and top it off with lettuce, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and fajita vegetables. This may not seem like a splurge, but according to Qdoba’s online nutritional information, this meal weighs in at a whopping 1135 calories. By comparison, you could get a medium Big Mac meal with a Diet Coke at McDonald’s, add a vanilla ice cream cone, and still come out ahead in terms of calories (that order totals 1030 calories according to their online meal builder).

This is not meant as a criticism of Qdoba (nor is it an endorsement of McDonald’s). Instead, this information highlights that we often don’t really know how healthy a meal is when we order it, and the same holds true in an airport lounge or in-flight. Plain, unprepared fruits and veggies are easy to account for, but a small portion of a snack mix could be anywhere from 100 calories to 600 calories,  What about that creamy pasta dish? Is the “salad” option really better than the “sandwich” option? The lack of clarity can be frustrating.

Panera is one chain that posts their calorie counts online AND on their large in-store menus.

Panera is one chain that posts their calorie counts online AND on their large in-store menus.

Airports and airlines could take a cue from some chains that are already doing this. Panera, for example, is one fast-casual restaurant that I tend to seek out when I’m on the road, partly because they post nutritional information on their menus. This makes choosing a healthy item a lot easier. If I absolutely have to grab fast food, McDonald’s is another chain that I’ve found will post calorie counts on menus. I’m all for making an informed decision, and having the calorie counts posted conspicuously is a great help to me (though studies have shown that posting this information at McDonald’s in particular doesn’t lead to healthier choices for all diners).

Salt adds flavor, but too much sodium is not a good thing!

Salt adds flavor to your dish, but too much sodium is not a good thing!

Keep in mind, though, that calorie counts are only part of the nutritional equation. There’s also fat, carbs, sodium, and other key components of the foods we eat that need to be taken into account. Let’s take a closer look at sodium. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from 2010 (an updated version is scheduled for next year), your daily intake of sodium shouldn’t exceed 2300 mg, and it should be no more than 1500 mg for children, those over 51, and adults with other known risk factors for heart disease/diabetes/hypertension. The “healthy” whole-wheat burrito at Qdoba that I mentioned above has 2645 mg of sodium… in one meal. That’s not exactly a health-conscious choice!

The new online menu for Delta Sky Clubs includes links with nutrition information.

The new online menu for Delta Sky Clubs includes links with nutrition information.

I know it’s unrealistic to expect airport restaurants (or airlines) to post detailed nutritional information on every menu, but calories are a good start. The great thing is that if you’re like me and you want those details, more and more restaurants and airlines are making them readily accessible (if not right in front of the customer then online or housed in an app). For example, Delta’s new Sky Club menu includes nutritional information, allowing you to make an informed decision about your snacks when visiting one of their locations.

Wendy’s nutrition page provides a ton of information, or you can download their app to access information on the go. My favorite way to double-check myself is by using the Restaurant Nutrition app. With over 250 restaurants and thousands of menu items, it helps you quickly identify how healthy (or not) a dish is at your favorite chain without visiting their specific website. For example, did you know that a pepperoni personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut is only 30 calories more than a plan cheese one?

Unfortunately, this information is still significantly lacking when it comes to in-flight dining options, especially those in economy. Here are the links to the main domestic airlines and their in-flight dining pages:

Of all of those links, I only found one with any nutritional information: the Eat Up Café portion of JetBlue’s online menu, which is only available on transcontinental flights.

JetBlue eat up cafe nutrition

Only a small portion of JetBlue’s inflight menu includes nutrition facts.

Again, I’m not asking airlines to reprint every menu on hundreds of flights and in thousands of seat back pockets. However, including this information on their respective websites seems reasonable. Since more and more airlines are equipping planes with Wi-Fi (and giving free access to their respective homepages), it would be easy for passengers to visit the site and investigate the different options before purchasing. Airlines could even put a QR code on their respective menus that would link directly to the corresponding page.

You road warriors out there probably have your own tips for staying (somewhat) healthy on the road. I bring a water bottle with me everywhere, and at times I feel like airport water fountains were built with people like me in mind. More water = less Diet Coke! I also try to always have nutritious snacks in my briefcase and/or carry-on in case hunger strikes while I’m in the air. My favorites include trail mix, Kind bars, and dried fruit. I’ve been known to snag an apple or banana from a hotel’s breakfast buffet, and if I can add a packet of peanut butter and a plastic knife to make a protein-packed mid-morning snack, even better!

Would calorie counts posted on airplane and airport menus be useful to you? What are your tips for staying healthy on the road? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Using the United Explorer Bonus in a Post Devaluation World http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/the-best-ways-to-use-united-miles-in-a-post-devaluation-world/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/the-best-ways-to-use-united-miles-in-a-post-devaluation-world/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 19:45:29 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=90529

In light of the limited-time sign-up bonus offer for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card of 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months, I thought I would revisit what I think are the best United award options since the recent United devaluation. (Note that there’s a better offer of 50,000 miles plus a $50 statement credit for existing United members.)

This card comes with priority boarding, free first checked bag, no foreign transaction fees, and 2 United Club passes per year. You’ll also get 5,000 bonus miles for adding an authorized user and making a purchase within the first three months. The card does have a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year.

Even will all the recent United Airlines devaluations, some redemptions still make sense.

Even with all the recent United Airlines devaluations, there’s plenty of value to be found.

How To Still Maximize United Miles

In my August valuations of miles and points, I list United MileagePlus miles at 1.5 cents apiece, so at a bare minimum, 50,000 miles is worth $750 in travel to me. However, some redemptions can get you a much better return. Below are some ideas of different ways you can maximize your United miles. As a reminder, Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to United at a 1:1 ratio, so if you have the Chase Sapphire PreferredInk Plus, or Ink Bold, you can transfer your Chase points over to United to top off your account.

While United massively devalued their MileagePlus program earlier this year by introducing two new award charts with higher redemption levels on United flights and even more exorbitant award requirements on its airline partners, United miles can still be quite useful thanks to their versatility and ease of redemption. Plus, many of the economy redemption levels both on United and its partners either did not go up or went up very little, so you can still cover a lot of distance in coach.

Earning the signup bonus will just about get you a roundtrip award to Europe in coach, or one-way in business class (57,500 miles).

The signup bonus from the Explorer card will just about get you a roundtrip award to Europe in coach, or one-way in business class (57,500 miles).

Europe: Even though United increased their award pricing to Europe, two great features of United MileagePlus miles are that you can easily book on United Airlines partners, and you can book one-way awards. Delta doesn’t presently allow for one-way awards, and if you were to book using American Airlines AAdvantage miles, you’d most likely pay high taxes/fees to travel on British Airways via London (at least if you want saver seats). Economy awards on United start at 30,000 miles one-way, and first/business redemptions are 57,500 miles each way on United or 70,000 miles each-way on partner airlines.

110,000 United miles for a Southern South America award in Business Class.

110,000 United miles for a Southern South America award in Business Class.

Southern South America: Redemptions on United for Southern South America (including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile) are 60,000 miles roundtrip in economy on United and its partners, and 55,000 miles each way in business class on United metal.

Round-trip flights to Hawaii are 45,000 miles on United in Economy

Roundtrip flights to Hawaii are 45,000 miles on United in Economy.

Hawaii: United award flights to Hawaii are 40,000 miles one-way in business or first class (50,000 miles when both business and first are offered), or 45,000 miles roundtrip in economy.

You can use your United MileagePlus miles to upgrade on transcon flights.

You can use your United MileagePlus miles to upgrade on transcon flights.

Upgrades: You can also use your United miles to pay for upgrades. Your original fare class will determine whether you can upgrade solely with miles or if a co-pay is required. For instance if you wanted to upgrade to Business Class on JFK-LAX from a discount fare such as a N, G, L, K, T, or S, it would cost you $250 plus 20,000 miles each way, but an upgrade from M, E, or U would cost 15,000 miles and a $75 co-pay, which is waived for Premier members. I recently flew on United’s lie-flat business class from JFK-LAX and was quite impressed with the seats, so upgrading can be a worthy use of miles for longer flights.

United Sydney-Bangkok for 17,5000 miles in economy.

United Sydney-Bangkok for 17,5000 miles in economy.

Australia: For United flyers living in Australia or for those who want to travel from Australia, some of the recent changes actually meant a reduction in the number of miles needed for award travel. Award prices from Australia to South Asia have actually decreased and are now 17,500 miles for economy, 30,000 miles for business, or 40,000 miles for first class each way.

You can also redeem your United miles for hotel and car rentals.

You can also redeem your United miles for hotels and car rentals.

Hotel/Car Rental Awards: While not the the most valuable redemption, United allows you to redeem your miles for hotels and car rentals at a fixed value. If you don’t have enough miles, you can also use the Miles & Money option which lets you pay for part of the redemption with miles and the other part with cash. This can be useful if you’re looking fro a cheap car rental or hotel stay and don’t want to shell out the cash.

Even with the recent devaluation you can still get good use out of 50,000 United miles, so I think the current offer is strong, and encourage those who are on the fence to get it while it’s available.

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First Class Dining Policies of the Major Domestic Airlines http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/first-class-dining-policies-of-the-major-domestic-airlines/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/first-class-dining-policies-of-the-major-domestic-airlines/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:44:02 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=90571

Over the last few years – and even in recent weeks - major domestic airlines have been attempting to up their First Class dining game, achieving varying degrees of success. With food, wine and cocktail and service options going through some changes this fall, I thought it was a good time to take a look at the landscape of First Class dining policies aboard the major domestic airlines: American, US Airways, Delta and United.

Each of these airlines offers a range of dining options depending on the distance and duration of the flight, and American, US Airways and United are instituting the biggest changes. All these carriers have similar official policies of serving pre-departure beverages prior to takeoff in First Class (and in the case of American, US Airways and United, warm nuts as well), but be aware that this service can be affected by operational factors like the need to facilitate boarding access or staff being needed elsewhere on the plane.

American's First Class dining service includes full meals on flights longer than

American will now serve full meals in First Class on flights over 2 hours and 45 minutes long.

American & US Airways

As these two carriers continue to merge, their First Class meal service will begin to merge as well. Both carriers recently announced that as of September 1, 2014, they’ll be scaling back their First Class meal service and switching from full meals to snacks on flights of 2 hours and 45 minutes or less.

As an American Airlines Platinum elite, I’ve had several opportunities to try the cuisine in American’s premium classes, and I’ve rarely been impressed – and sometimes, as in the case of my transcon first class flight from LAX to JFK, I’ve been downright disappointed. I’ve had limited personal experience with US Airways’ First Class, but I enjoyed the food in the carrier’s Envoy (Business) Class on a recent transatlantic flight from Philadelphia to Athens. It will be interesting to see if the two carriers can find an appetizing middle ground in the blending of their First Class service.

Each carrier will offer the following First Class meal service and options between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., listed by flight time and distance:

American Airlines options, per flight times/distance:

  • Less than 1 hour: Packaged snacks (e.g., fig bars, cookies or pretzels)
  • 1:00 to 2:45:  Snack basket with choices that include fresh fruit and sandwiches
  • 2:45 to 3:30: Warm nuts and beverage service, as well as three-course meal service with a cookie for dessert
  • 3:30 to 4:30: Warm nuts and beverage service, and your meal service will include cake for dessert
  • 4:30 +: Warm nuts and beverage service, and your meal service will also include a choice of ice cream or a fruit-and-cheese plate for dessert, as well as pre-arrival snacks.

For the time being, American will still offer its usual three-course meal service on some flights that are less than 2 hours and 45 minutes long, such as Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD), and ORD to New York’s LaGuardia (LGA) and JFK airports. You’ll also continue to have the option to reserve your choice of entree up to 30 days in advance of your First Class (or Business Class) flight.

American’s wine list was created by winemaker Ken Chase, and the First Class selections offered on North American flights include a Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc from the Napa Valley, an Italian Prosecco and a Chilean Malbec. 

US Airways’ options, per flight time/distance:

  • Up to 699 miles (under 2 hours): Packaged snacks (e.g., fig bars, cookies or pretzels)
  • 700-999 miles (2:00 to 2:45): Snack basket with choices that include fresh fruit and sandwiches
  • 1,000-1,298 miles (2:45 to 3:30): Warm nuts and beverage service, as well as three-course meal service with a cookie for dessert
  • 1,299-2,200 miles (3:30 to 4:30): Warm nuts and beverage service, and your meal service will include cake for dessert
  • 2,200 miles+ (4:30+): Warm nuts and beverage service, and your meal service will also include a choice of ice cream or a fruit-and-cheese plate for dessert.

Flights between Hawaii and either Dallas (DFW) or Chicago (ORD) will also include a custom sundae and pre-arrival snacks.

The wines generally offered in First Class on US Airways’ North American flights are Two Tone Farm Merlot from California’s Napa Valley and Labrune Chardonnay Vine de France.

Delta

Delta serves meals in First Class for flights over 2 hours and 900 miles.

Delta

Amidst a slew of negative changes to their Skymiles frequent flyer program, Delta’s First Class dining program appears to be holding steady, though there are rumors that they’ll be enhancing their offering sometime this fall (perhaps due to United’s recent up-gauge of first class food?).

For most of Delta’s North American flights, the First Class meal menu was designed by Napa Valley-based chef and restaurateur Michael Chiarello, who focuses on a blend of Southern Italian and northern California cuisine. His menus include antipasto plates, different flavors of gelato, and cheeses that often hail from California wine country. Aboard flights to and from Mexico, Delta’s First Class menu was created by Miami-based and James Beard-award-winning chef and restaurateur Michelle Bernstein, who is known for highlighting Latin flavors. Delta’s First Class wine program was designed by Napa-based master sommelier Andrea Robinson.

Delta’s First class snack and meal service is based on the following flight distances/lengths:

  • Up to 250 miles (up to 1 hour): Light snacks (e.g., peanuts, pretzels and cookies)
  • 251-899 miles (1 to 2 hours): Morning flights (departures between 5-9:45 a.m.) offer the same light snacks as shorter flights, as well as heartier offerings like bananas, packaged muffins, and granola bars. Flights at other times offer an array of snacks that include nuts, apples, candy bars, packaged chips and cookies.
  • 900-1,499 miles (2 to 3:30): A three-course meal will be served during meal times, in addition to the snack selection.
  • 1,500 miles+ (3:30+): A three-course meal with several entree selections and expanded dessert options will be served, in addition to a snack selection.
United is enhancing their first class meals on domestic flights.

United is enhancing their First Class meals on domestic flights.

United

Ever since its merger with Continental, United has been criticized by its most loyal customers for operational missteps, poor service, and lately, switching their MileagePlus frequent flyer program to a revenue-based system. In what appears to be a bid to win back the hearts of premium customers, now through February 2015, United will be expanding its First Class meal service on North American flights that are 2 hours and 700 miles or longer, and adding Prosecco to its present red and white options. Aboard flights of less than 2 hours and 699 miles, United will continue to offer a selection of snacks (e.g., cookies or pretzels) and/or warm breakfast breads.

  • 700–2,299 miles (2 to 5 hours): These flights will still include full meal service during traditional meal times, or a lighter snack in between traditional meal times. Throughout September, the airline will begin to roll out four new entrée salad choices and eight new sandwich/wrap options in First Class (as well as Business Class) at lunch, dinner or both, depending on the length/distance of the flight. These new meal options will include an Asian-style noodle salad, prosciutto on tomato focaccia, a Thai-style chicken wrap, a Cobb salad wrap, and ham and Swiss on a pretzel baguette. The new entrees will be paired with a gluten-free soup, bread and a cookie, but note that not all of these options will be available on each flight.
  • 2,300 miles+ (5 hours+): On North American flights in this range, you’ll still receive full meal service (as well as pre-arrival snack service), but for dinner you’ll have enhanced pasta, chicken or beef options with newly designed recipes. During late-night departures, a light snack will be served, followed by a pre-arrival warm scone.

On United Express flights longer than 700 miles (and about 2 hours in length), United First and Business customers will receive snack boxes.

Between November, 2014 andFebruary, 2015, United will expand from snack service to full meal service on all of its shorter-haul flights. The airline will continue to offer full meals on flights that currently receive a full meal service in the following markets for flights of less than 900 miles: Chicago to/from Boston, Denver, New York/La Guardia and Newark; Denver to/from Houston Intercontinental and Los Angeles; and Newark to/from Atlanta.

Have you recently traveled throughout North America in First Class on a major domestic airline? Please share your experiences of the food service in the comments below. 

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10 Unexpected Things I Learned On My First Trip to Southeast Asia http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/10-unexpected-things-i-learned-on-my-first-trip-to-southeast-asia/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/10-unexpected-things-i-learned-on-my-first-trip-to-southeast-asia/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 14:53:36 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=90290

Foreign correspondent Lori Zaino just returned from an incredible five week trip through Southeast Asia. Here, she recounts the most surprising encounters from her journey, packed with travel tips you can use.

Fully vaccinated and backpack in tow, I embarked on my first journey through Southeast Asia for five weeks. In Thailand I visited Bangkok, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. In Cambodia I ventured to Siem Reap and Angkor Watt. And in Vietnam I traveled to Hanoi and Halong Bay.

Having previously been to Japan and South Korea, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I arrived. Needless to say, those five weeks may have been some of the most astonishing and wonderful of my life. I had many unexpected, eye-opening moments that made me smile, laugh and occasionally blush. I hope these moments of surprise will entertain you, but also prepare and inspire you for a trip to South East Asia–tips included!

1. Respect Buddha

If you plan on paying your respects to Buddha, don't dress like a Kardashian

If you plan on paying your respects to Buddha, don’t dress like a Kardashian

I am decidedly agnostic, but one can’t help but appreciate the abundance of magnificent temples all over Southeast Asia. I knew I’d have to take off my shoes and cover my shoulders and legs while inside the temples, so I took great care finding lightweight linen pants as part of my “temple exploring outfit.”

Upon entering the main temple in the Grand Palace in Bangkok, I stretched out my legs, enjoying a moment of relaxation after a morning of walking, when a guard rushed over and sternly said, “Don’t point legs at Buddha”. Oops. Shame on me for disrespecting Buddha! I didn’t do my homework, and I was mildly embarrassed.

Avoid these awkward moments if you plan on visiting any temple by wearing long pants, a shirt with sleeves, shoes you can easily take on and off, and by no means should you point any appendages at Buddha. Ever. Namaste.

2. No Credit Cards Accepted. Anywhere.

Make sure to have plenty of cash in the local currency--they'll accept it, I promise!

Make sure to have plenty of cash in the local currency–they’ll accept it, I promise!

As avid TPG acolytes, we are all here for the same reason, points and miles! The constant opportunity to swipe that card and avoid cash at all times to get more points is ever present. Unfortunately, that won’t get you far in this part of the world.

Obviously, most large hotels will take credit cards, but beyond that, many restaurants and shops won’t, and neither will night or street market vendors. During my trip, I used cash almost exclusively. Be prepared with local currency. There are plenty of places to change money once you arrive, so either bring cash and change it there, or plan on using the ATM.

3. So. Many. Motorcycles (Very. Few. Helmets)

Motorcycles house pretty much everything, including a mini restaurant side car!

Many locals use their motorcycles for more than just transport like this guy, who runs his mini restaurant from his scooter!

Luckily, after living in Europe for several years, I’m well versed in the laws of the scooter, but driving on the opposite side of the road can be rather stressful as they do in Thailand. It’s crazy to simply watch the scooters drive by, sometimes with items such as ladders, huge packages or boxes, or entire families of five, baby included.

Although locals rarely wear helmets, I highly suggest you wear one if you plan on renting a scooter. And only rent one if you truly feel 100% comfortable maneuvering it–ohand driving it on the wrong side of the road. In Hanoi, I wouldn’t even dare brave the scooter-filled, traffic signal-less streets on a motorbike.

4. Barter. They Love It.

Barter, bargain, haggle away! Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Barter, bargain, haggle away! Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Not going to lie, I was a little nervous to barter. I’ve done it in Mexico, but it seemed easier for me there, as a rubia spitting out rapid fire Spanish and surprising the locals. I was worried about the language barrier across Southeast Asia, getting cheated (which of course happened at times–such is life) and bartering over such small amounts of money.

Once I arrived, I realized: they love it! They haggle with a smile, and it’s almost like a game . In fact, they seem to respect you more if you can drive a sharp bargain. Just don’t offend them by shooting too low. Who cares if you’re haggling over 20 cents? It’s a fun way to interact (almost all sales people spoke excellent English) and if you can’t come to an agreement, simply move on, no big deal. Or suck it up, and pay that extra 50 cents with a smile.

5. Pack Nothing, Buy Everything

I'd advise against packing the six kimonos.

I’d advise against packing the six kimonos.

All women overpack. It’s just a fact. I tried to take as little as possible for my five week trip, but alas, I packed too much. And when I wanted to buy all those cute tank tops on the street that cost $2, well, I didn’t have enough space to bring them back. Two pairs of gym shoes? Way too much. I wore flip flops everywhere (When in Southeast Asia, do as the Southeast Asians do–no one wears close toed shoes, and for good reason, it’s 105 degrees outside.)

So when you’re packing, get everything together that you think you need, then cut about 2/3 out. I promise, you can buy whatever you might have forgotten there (probably for an eighth of the price). Not to mention, it’s extremely cheap and convenient to do laundry there.

6. Water Taxi’s–Take ‘em!

Water taxi, anyone? I took this one from Chakolum to Bottle Beach in Koh Phangan.  Price? $2.

Water taxi, anyone? I took this one from Chakolum to Bottle Beach in Koh Phangan. Price? $2.

I was pleasantly surprised at the simple concept of the water taxi. Fifteen bahts (that’s approximately $0.50) to go up the river to the Grand Palace? Yes, please. In Koh Phangan, there are beaches you can’t arrive to by road, and you must take a water taxi. DO THIS. It’s awesome–and for obvious reasons (see photo).

7. Delicious, Flavorful and CHEAP Food. And It Won’t Make You Sick!

Delectable food everywhere you look

Delectable food everywhere you look

I was ready for food to be cheap and yummy. I was also prepared for long, horrible stomach problems, lugging along enough Pepto, Immodium and Tums for an army. Luckily, the food was delicious and tummy issue were non-existant.

Daily fresh mango smoothies, local Chang beer and Paneang curry (served in a coconut, of course) so spicy my lips are still burning. All of that for under $3. In five weeks, I adventurously ate as much as possible and didn’t get sick once, though I do recommend some Tums if you plan on going the spicy route.

Just use your best judgement. If food looks like it’s been sitting out in the hot sun for awhile, or just plain looks gross, stay away. Other than that, eat everything you can find, and wash it down with a Singh beer or a fresh fruit smoothie.

8. Beware: Creepy Crawlies Everywhere

Expect to find lizards in unexpected places

Expect to find lizards in unexpected places

This is the jungle. There are bugs and lizards and spiders. Everywhere. Inside your hotel room, the bathroom–everywhere. You will get mosquito bites. Tons of them. I knew this was going to happen, but waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and finding a frog in the toilet, well, that I was unprepared for. Stepping in armies of fire ants, probable. Bring your bug repellent, and just be ready. Those little lizards…they’re kinda cute, after all!

9. Elephants are the Most Amazing Creatures Ever

IMG_8876

Elephants are smart and special creatures

There are plenty of tacky elephant shows and rides you can take. Avoid them at all costs. In many cases, the animals are mistreated.

If you want to do something meaningful with elephants, find a rescue camp to visit and go for a ride. Patara and Rantong are both notable centers that rescue abused elephants and treat them right. Elephants are sweet, intelligent and magnificent creatures, and being able to feed, ride and play with them is an unforgettable experience that you should definitely do if you find yourself in Northern Thailand. Just do your homework and try to find a place that treats them well.

10. Zen, Peace and Tranquility

So many peaceful spots in South East Asia...ohm...

So many peaceful spots in Southeast Asia…ohm…

Although the larger cities in Southeast Asia are busy and hectic, something I found surprisingly special is a sense of inner peace that seems to come from simply being in this part of the world. Perhaps it’s the temples or the Buddha, or perhaps it’s the connection that Southeast Asian culture seems to have with nature. Something I decided to take home from my travels, inspired by this zen connection, was to try and find time each day to channel some inner peace. I think it will make the daily grind just a little… happier.

Ok maybe becoming friends with a rock is a little extreme, but I love that it's part of the Asian culture to respect nature

Maybe becoming friends with a rock is a little extreme, but I love how it’s part of the Southeast Asian culture to respect nature

Anyone else have similar experiences while in Asia? Anything unexpected or something that surprised you? Please share your tips and thoughts below in the comments section.

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Travel Refunds: How to Save Money After Your Trip http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/travel-refunds-how-to-save-money-after-your-trip/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/travel-refunds-how-to-save-money-after-your-trip/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:08:23 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=90365

Today TPG Contributor Jason Steele discusses the importance of getting what you paid for (and not paying for what you didn’t get), and offers some strategies for collecting refunds on travel and service that comes up short. 

Award travel enthusiasts pride themselves on planning vacations with points and miles and very small cash outlays. Unfortunately, the cost of award travel in actual dollars continues to rise as airlines impose ancillary fees and fuel surcharges. Furthermore, there are always going to be what I call “ground costs” in terms of hotels, rental cars, surface transportation, or other expenses that can’t easily be covered with points. While minimizing those expenses can help stretch your travel budget, it’s equally important to make sure that you actually get what you pay for when they do arise.

When an airline, hotel, or other travel company fails to meet expectations, you have legitimate grounds for seeking a partial (or in some cases full) refund. Both TPG and I have become more adept at recovering some of our dollar costs from vacations that have gone awry, or from service that didn’t deliver. For example, TPG was able to receive a check for $476.19 earlier this year when his flight home from Brazil was cancelled for mechanical reasons and he had to pay out of pocket for overnight lodging, transportation, and long distance telephone charges. While it took over two months until he received his check from American Airlines, he was eventually reimbursed.

So clearly it’s possible to get a refund from travel providers, although you might have to prepare yourself for this kind of reaction to your request. In this post I’ll provide some more examples of reimbursable charges and share my own experiences seeking refunds.

Your refund won’t look like this, but it’s still worth asking. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Getting an airline refund for a rerouted flight

When delays or cancellations occur, the most important factor in getting a refund from an airline is the cause of the problem. When weather or air traffic control is the issue, airlines may offer some compensation in terms of miles or vouchers, but will not give you an actual check. On the other hand, mechanical issues or “crew scheduling” are both considered to be factors within the airline’s control, and are eligible for a refund, as TPG discovered.

Another situation where you should be able to get a refund is when you have paid taxes and fees specific to a particular route, but you never flew that route. For example, on my most recent trip to Italy, I booked two award seats using American Miles for flights on Iberia to Rome, connecting in Madrid. Yet on the day of travel, weather delayed my connecting flights, and we were re-routed on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Rome.

I was happy to receive the shorter connection, but also felt that I was entitled to a refund of most of the $139.10 in taxes and fees I paid per ticket for the flights on Iberia to Madrid. Had I originally booked my flight entirely on AA flights (which were unavailable at the time), I would have only paid $2.50 in TSA fees.

I requested a refund for the $328 in taxes fees and fuel surcharges specific to Iberia, which I ended up not flying.

I requested a refund for the $328 in taxes, fees and fuel surcharges specific to Iberia, which I ended up not flying.

While my claim is still pending, American’s own rules appear to back me up. In their International General Rules, under 0080 Revised Routings, Failure to Carry and Missed Connections, it says that in the case of in involuntary revised routing, the airline will:

reroute the passenger to the destination named on the ticket or applicable portion thereof by its own or other transportation services; and, if the fare, excess baggage charges, and any applicable service charge for the revised routing or class of service is higher than the refund value of the ticket or applicable portion thereof as determined by Rule 90 (REFUNDS), carrier will require no additional payment from the passenger, but will refund the difference if it is lower.” (emphasis mine).

Therefore, I requested a refund of $136.60 per ticket, which is the amount of the taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges imposed by Iberia or the Spanish government, which were never incurred on our non-stop flight from Chicago to Rome on American. In addition, I can try to claim the $50 telephone booking fee, which was only necessary because award availability on Iberia doesn’t show up on American’s web site. I’ve made my claim to American using their customer relations email, and it is currently pending.

Other ways to get airline refunds

American
When a flight is cancelled and you choose not to reschedule it, you’re entitled to a refund. On American, you can simply apply for a refund online.

If your flight is oversold and you are denied boarding (either voluntarily or involuntarily), you can request a refund (including baggage fees, flight change fees, seat upgrades, and priority boarding) using the same link above. For more details, see their refunds page.

United
United has a refund page on its website that allows you to attach supporting documentation. This page even covers a surprising amount of refund scenarios, including:

  • Cabin upgrades. When you pay an upgrade fee but don’t end up with the seat you paid for.
  • Baggage subscriptions. Although this fee is non-refundable, they appear to be willing to consider “extenuating circumstances.”
  • Checked bag refund.  United offers these in cases where you “don’t fly due to flight cancellations or schedule changes.” Nevertheless, I would attempt to get a refund if the bag you paid extra for did not arrive with your flight.
  • DirecTV refunds. Presumably if the service becomes unavailable after you pay for it.
  • e-ticket refunds in the event of death or illness of the ticket holder or an immediate family member.
  • Economy Plus refunds when you are unable to sit in that section.
  • Food purchase refunds when the food is unsatisfactory.
  • Economy Plus Subscription refunds in extenuating circumstances.
  • Premier Access refunds in the event of flight cancellation or involuntary schedule change.
  • WiFi refunds when it doesn’t work, except where GoGo was the provider.
  • United Club Membership refunds only in extenuating circumstances.
Here are all of the things that you can request a refund for from United.

Here are all of the refundable expenses when flying United.

Delta
Delta has a standard refund page that allows passengers to request a refund for unused tickets or other trip purchases, although it doesn’t specify what “other trip purchases” may include. I would expect Delta to offer refunds for all of the same situations as those offered by United.

US Airways

Their page for refunds, ticket changes and receipts explains that:

If we change or cancel your flight, change equipment or cause you to miss a connection, or if you’re denied boarding on an oversold flight and we’re unable to provide your ChoiceSeats, checked bags, upgrade or move to an earlier flight, we’ll refund your fees proactively. If you have already checked in (either online or at the airport), you should check with an agent at the airport or call 800-428-4322 to request a refund.

EU Passenger Rights Compensation

If your flight to or from a country within the EU is delayed or cancelled, you may be entitled to generous compensation under the EU Passenger Rights legislation. For more information, read TPG’s guide on How to Get EU Passenger Rights Compensation From US Carriers for Delayed Flights.

Refunds for other travel expenses

On my recent trip to Italy, my family spent about $100 for tickets on a high speed train from Rome to Florence operated by Trenitalia. Unfortunately, the train broke down just outside of Florence, and it took an extra 90 minutes to transfer us to another train to complete the trip. Thankfully, Trenitalia’s site has an easy way to request compensation, which we immediately received in the form of about $25. It’s not much, but it only took a few seconds to make the claim, and it quickly appeared on the credit card that I used.

Receiving a $25 refund from the Italian railway was easy.

Receiving a $25 refund from the Italian railway was easy.

We then rented a car in Florence from Hertz, which clearly showed my reservation for the car as 352.67 and that we would be paying Euros. Yet on the receipt that was emailed to me afterwards, Hertz converted that to $494.87 USD and charged my card.

Hertz charged me an additional 4.5% by using "dynamic currency conversion" without my authorization, but their executive customer service refunded it upon my request.

Hertz charged me an additional 4.5% by using dynamic currency conversion without my authorization, but their executive customer service issued a refund upon my request.

You don’t have to speak Italian to understand that “Commissione incl” means they were adding a commission to their exchange rate and charging me in dollars. The remaining text says something along the lines of: “I was offered a choice of different currencies and I chose to pay the rental charges with the currency of my card,” which is false in this case.

Since I was never offered a choice, this amounts to an unauthorized charge on my credit card, a “service” known as dynamic currency conversion, which is supposed to require the consent of customers. The unauthorized charge was equal to 4.5% of the bill, which is 50% more than the 3% foreign transaction fee that some cards charge, although I used one of the many cards that don’t have this fee.

Upon my return, I contacted Hertz and received a reply from their executive customer service agreeing to refund this charge (approximately $21).

I know how you feel, but there are better alternatives to freaking out.

When your refund request is denied, don’t lose your cool. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

What to do when the travel provider refuses your request

If you feel you have a legitimate claim to be compensated by a travel provider, and your request is denied, don’t give up. Escalate your request to a manager, or at least to the company’s executive customer service. If the problem involves a common carrier traveling to, from, or within the United States, copy the Department of Transportation (DOT) using their consumer complaint form.

Another option is to file a chargeback with your credit card issuer claiming that you did not receive the goods or services you paid for. In the case of dynamic currency conversion, there’s even a specific code (called “reason code 76″) that covers this situation. For example, see page 67 of this Visa Merchant Guide. Finally, you always have the option of taking a travel provider to small claims court in your jurisdiction, although that’s an extreme measure.

Thankfully, none of those options have been necessary for me so far. Assuming American Airlines takes their due time complying with their own written refund policy, I stand to have recovered nearly $400 in cash outlays from American, Trenitalia, and Hertz. So if you’re ever mistakenly charged or not given the travel services that you paid for, take a few minutes when you return to request a refund. Its just one more way to stretch your travel dollars, even as an award traveler.

What refunds have you been able (or unable) to get? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments below!

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Chase Freedom Ends 10% Annual Bonus & Other Changes http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/chase-freedom-major-changes-10-annual-bonus-ending-and-more/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/chase-freedom-major-changes-10-annual-bonus-ending-and-more/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 22:10:33 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=90627

On the heels of the recent Chase Sapphire benefit changes (like the addition of primary auto rental insurance and the elimination of the annual 7% points dividend), Chase is making some major changes to the Chase Freedom program as well. However, unlike the changes to Sapphire Preferred (which were a mixed bag), these appear to all be negative.

Chase just announced major changes to their Chase Freedom card.

Chase just announced major changes to their Chase Freedom card.

Per the Chase Freedom site, the new changes are as follows:

For Chase Checking Customers: After the closing date on your December 2015 billing statement, you will no longer earn the 10% annual bonus that you get on the cash back you’ve already received for new purchases. If you have an open Chase checking account on that date, you will receive your final 10% annual bonus award in early 2016.

This is bad – if you max out the $6,000 a year in 5x categories, you earn 30,000 total Ultimate Rewards points. The 10% bonus in that case would be 3,000 UR points, which I value at 2.1 cents apiece, so that’s a yearly loss of $63 in value (and that’s only if you max out the 5x categories).

Getting cash: You can continue to redeem your rewards points for cash through a statement credit or direct deposit into an eligible checking or savings account. Paper checks will no longer be available after November 15, 2014. (Same change as Sapphire Preferred- no big deal).

Earn on travel: You will continue to earn an extra point for each $1 of airfare and hotel accommodations booked through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Center until December 31, 2015. After that, you will no longer earn an extra point. Chase says they may periodically offer you ways to earn bonus points through the program. (Same change as Sapphire Preferred - disappointing, but there are other portals to buy and earn extra points from).

Phone booked round-trip ticket redemption: You can continue to use your points for travel with no blackout dates. However, after October 25, 2014, all options to redeem for airline tickets based on a fixed amount of points will be discontinued. All travel redemptions will be calculated based on the actual cost. This too is bad – you used to be able to get up to 1.34 cents per point via this method; after the change is implemented, that will drop to 1 cent.

My Analysis

The major negative here is that Chase is removing the extra 10% annual bonus that you get on cash back. It was only last year that Chase modified the Chase Freedom 10% Bonus by removing the 10% bonus on all purchases and the 10 point per transaction bonus. They replaced it with the 10% annual bonus at the end of the year on all purchases; however that bonus is now going to be removed as well.

Amex Everyday Card

Amex Everyday Card

These changes are all varying degrees of bad, and I hope Chase decides to add some perks back to the card before they all go into effect. In the meantime, I’d consider the American Express Everyday card, which (like Freedom) has no annual fee, and earns full Membership Rewards points rather than a cash back equivalent.

The Amex Everyday also earns 2 points per dollar at supermarkets and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere. In addition, if you make 20 or more purchases in a billing cycle, this card earns a 20% points bonus on all purchases that month (the bonus is retroactive, so you’ll earn it on the first 20 purchases as well as any future purchases that month). Taking out the rotating 5x categories and without the 10% bonus, the Freedom card will only earn 1 point per dollar spent, with no fixed category bonuses and no transfer partners (unless you also have a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold/ Plus, in which case you can combine points from your Freedom card with Ultimate Rewards points, and then transfer to one of the 11 Ultimate Rewards partners).  I imagine the marketing team for the Amex Everyday card is cheering these changes, but as a longtime Chase Freedom cardholder, I’m not happy about the loss of benefits.

What are your thoughts? Does Freedom still have a home in your wallet, or will you look into other no-fee options?

Hat Tip: TPG Reader Daniel

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Alaska Airlines 40% Buy Miles Bonus & Award Redemption Sale http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/alaska-airlines-40-buy-miles-bonus-award-redemption-sale/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/alaska-airlines-40-buy-miles-bonus-award-redemption-sale/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 20:30:38 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=90561

Alaska Airlines is running a Buy Miles promotion through October 14, 2014, where you can buy miles with up to a 40% bonus.

Get up to a 40% bonus on purchasing Alaska Air miles

Get up to a 40% bonus for purchasing Alaska Air miles.

It’s a tiered bonus, and the amounts are as follows:

  • Buy 5,000 – 19,000 miles, get a 20% Bonus
  • Buy 20,000 – 34,000 miles, get a 30% Bonus
  • Buy 35,000 – 40,000 miles, get a 40% Bonus

You’d need to purchase between 35,000 to 40,000 miles in order to obtain the full 40% bonus. Each set of 1,000 miles costs $27.50 plus a 7.5% Federal Tax, so buying the full amount would total $1,182.50 for 56,000 miles (40,000 miles plus the 16,000 mile bonus). That comes out to 2.1 cents per mile. While that’s more than my current valuation of 2 cents for Mileage Plan miles, this offer is useful if you have a specific and immediate redemption in mind and need miles to top up your account.

Beyond that, Alaska miles are handy even if you don’t have a specific redemption in mind, since you can redeem them to fly on one of Alaska’s partner airlines, such as Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Qantas or Korean Air. You can even redeem them on Fiji Airways, which is intriguing to me personally as I’ve always wanted to go diving in Fiji. Keep in mind that miles are non-refundable and do not count toward MVP and MVP/Gold status. The offer is subject to change and all terms and conditions of the Mileage Plan Program apply. 

Alaska Airlines Fall Award Sale

Alaska Airlines Fall Award Sale

Alaska Airlines Fall Award Sale In addition to the buy miles promotion, Alaska Airlines is also having a fall award sale in which award flights are starting at just 5,000 miles each-way. This sale is for flights between select cities from August 30, 2014 to October 31, 2014.

LAX-SLC for only 5,000 miles.

Los Angeles-Salt Lake City for only 5,000 miles.

For instance I was able to find plenty of award space from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City in October for only 5,000 miles each-way. Alaska competes on this route with Delta, who offers several daily flights, so possibly they aren’t seeing the demand of Alaska flyers.

Seattle-San Francisco for 5,000 miles each-way.

Seattle-San Francisco for 5,000 miles each-way.

Another route where the fare sale is being offered is from Seattle to San Francisco, which has some decent availability in coach for only 5,000 miles each-way. You can view all the routes where the fare sale is offered to see if they would be useful for your upcoming travels.

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