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AAdvantage Miles and Thoughts on American

So I am love love loving the AAdvantage program the more I get into it. I recently discovered that American has what’s called an “Explorer Award” – an award that permits one to make 16 stops in a RTW ticket for 150,000 AAdvantage miles.

That would be a great reason to take a few months off of work to just travel. It’s pie in the sky  for me at this point, but considering my balance is about half of what’s needed, I still have some time to think about it. I do, however, think it’s a tremendous value, and a way to see many cities for dirt cheap and save a lot of miles doing it.

aadvantage-balance

 

So far, I have about 77,000 AAdvantage miles. So I’d need 73,000 more. That sounds like a lot, but it’s totally do-able. The motivation is definitely there.

Orrr, I could make an award booking, like a weekend in Vancouver on Cathay Pacific, or maybe pop over to Europe for a long weekend this summer. But nothing beats the intoxicating thought of traveling all the way around the world.

I’d wanna hit Prague, Vienna, Tokyo, Sydney, Auckland, Cape Town, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and some great Canadian city before slithering back to New York. My heart explodes just thinking about it.

 

The other thing is that this, along with my upcoming trips to Easter Island and Alaska on American, have got me really considering switching my loyalty over. I just dread what the US Airways merger is going to bring. But in another way altogether, I’m genuinely curious, too. American also just released some awesome elite rewards, so more than ever, I’m considering challenging for Platinum status.

Delta continues to spiral down while American seems interested in being a better airline. Sure, they both have their pitfalls. American can be stingy with upgrades for lower elites, but on Delta they’re pretty much impossible. There’s the issue of American’s tiny regional jets out of NYC. But their miles are a hell of lot easier to redeem. Harder to earn, true, but the fact that Delta partners with Amex really bugs me because Amex is a stingy, bitchy little company (more on that later).

Anyway, thinking of all these wonderful options, including an award redemption Delta could never touch, makes me think about what I want for myself in the future. I did slash do like Delta, but I can feel myself starting to sing a new tune. After my upcoming trips, there will be a few really fierce trip reports… then more comparisons. The only wild card here in US freaking Airways. I said it one and I’ll say it again: I Hope US Airways Doesn’t Ruin American’s Culture.

Got the Staples Rebate Checks, But Not the AAdvantage Miles… Yet.

See original posts here and here.

So I did get those darn Staples checks after all. Yup, two checks for $250 each. Buying that software helped me to meet the minimum spend on my Citi AAdvantage Amex, and I’ve received my 50,000 bonus miles + $150 statement credit for my upcoming trip to Alaska. All good things. But, I clicked through the AAdvantage shopping portal before buying the software, and to date, have not received the additional 1,000 miles. Grrr.

I wrote to them a week ago, and immediately received an auto-reply that said to give it an additional 4-8 weeks for research and processing. So, I’m still holding out hope that I make good on my original post and get 1,500 free AAdvantage miles.

Now that my balance is reaching 70,000 miles, I’m torn between an awesome redemption or saving up for an around-the-world Explorer Award. TO BE CONTINUED.

 

Best Credit Card for American AAdvantage Miles

Right now, as of writing this on a cold, damp day in Brooklyn, the BEST credit card for quickly accruing AAdvantage miles is this one: 

 

Citi Select® / AAdvantage® American Express® card

Citi Select® / AAdvantage® American Express® card

 

Here is the link to the application. Note that it goes directly to the landing page and does not specify the terms of the application, but here they are:

  • 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within four months
  • $150 statement credit on an American flight (I used mine to book a trip to Anchorage)
  • 2 Admirals Club lounge passes
  • $85 annual fee waived the first year

You also get the usual perks:

  • 1 free checked bag
  • Priority boarding
  • 10% of miles redeemed back (up to 10,000 miles per year)

Note that this card does carry a foreign transaction fee of 3%. So don’t pack it when traveling internationally.

There are two versions of this card, those being a Visa Signature and an Amex. The both have the exact same signup bonus, but I picked the Amex.

Here’s why: Small Business Sunday. Amex gives you $25 to spend for FREE every year at nearly any small business. I now have four Amex cards, so that’s $100 worth of free gifts from local businesses. And that’s pretty amazing. Amex also gives you the opportunity to sync your card to your Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook and offers lots of perks and statement credits for checking in, tweeting, etc. Having a Visa Signature gives you access to concierge service and the Visa Signature Hotels collection, but since I already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, I don’t need another card with the same perks. I’d much rather have the $25 credit, which, when you think about it, brings the annual fee down to just $60. The ability to have access to sales and promotions throughout the year is also just a really nice way to stay engaged with the card. And, all else being equal, that’s why I picked the Amex version.

About the signup bonus: the link above is the exact same one I used to apply. I was a little leery about not getting it, but I’m close to making my spend, and called Citibank to confirm I’d get a statement credit before I booked the Anchorage trip. The rep went over the details of the signup bonus, and they were exactly what’s written above. 50K miles, club passes, $150 statement credit. When she told me, I hit the “Pay Now” button as I had my flights pulled up on aa.com at the same time. Also of note was that the call was answered immediately with no hold time. Pretty nice.

This offer will probably not be around for much longer, and 50K is as generous as the signup bonus gets. The usual offer is just 30K, so if you’re thinking of getting this, I’d go ahead and pull the trigger on it. As with all offers, YMMV, so make sure you keep an eye on your AAdvantage account when you expect the miles to post.

American has quite a few sweet spots in their award chart, including a discount for cardmembers every quarter and 10% of redeemed miles returned every year. This can really add up to some great discounted trips. I really love the idea of taking Qantas to Australia, airberlin to Europe, or Finnair to somewhere in Scandinavia. Of course that’s just the trip of the iceberg. I wish AAdvantage miles were easier to earn. Nevertheless, this card is a huge step in the direction of a great award booking, and, in my opinion, the best offer available at the time of writing.

Booked: Anchorage in August!

Yes! Thanks to this alert from The Flight Deal, I went ahead and pulled the trigger on this one. It’ll be a trip for my birthday, which is August 26. 🙂

As with everything travel-related, I had a few reasons for going through with this one:

  • Great deal, obvi. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska
  • I just got the Citi AAdvantage Amex and called to confirm I’d get a $150 statement credit. I will, which made it a no-brainer. I also get 2 miles/dollar spent, and this counts toward the minimum spend to get 50,000 more AAdvantage miles
  • I plan on being Executive Platinum by that time and hope to get upgraded automatically, or can use e-certificates to upgrade the fare
  • It’ll will net me about 10,000 RDMs and EQMs, nearly halfway to a free R/T domestic trip
  • I have BusinessExtrAA, and get points there, too

Check out this sweet itinerary:

Screen shot 2013-03-11 at 9.14.27 PM

 

Looking forward to the trip, and to seeing how American fares on a long-haul flight. Be sure to sign up for The Flight Deal’s daily newsletter – they’ve been on fire with the great deals lately!

Update: Kaspresky Staples Rebates

See original posts here and here.

Valid

Valid

Looks like it’s gonna go through. I chatted the Help Desk on the rebate site, and they say I have to wait for 30 days – they want to make sure I don’t return it. But after that, the checks should come in. Thus giving me 1,500 free AAdvantage miles. But since it’s helping me to meet spend on my new Citi AAdvantage Amex, the real haul is way more.

Excited that it’s clearing just fine. That being said, I’ve got this software if anyone needs it… :p

Looking forward to getting those checks in early/mid April!

 

I Hope US Airways Doesn’t Ruin American’s Culture

Don't eff this up

Don’t eff this up

Being on a Delta flight today made me realize I’ve quite gotten used to the style of Delta. Everything from the blue seat covers to the logo to the service offered by the flight attendants. There’s a certain no-nonsense, practical attitude that just feels right – it’s what I like most about travel on Delta metal.

That being said, I’ve quite warmed up to American Airlines over the past year. I think their upgrade policies are a lot more lenient than Delta’s, and as an Executive Platinum later this year, I really look forward to putting that to the test. Although it’s a bad comparison, I’ve been Silver Medallion on Delta and have taken all sorts of flights: hub, non-hub, short-haul, mid-haul, direct, etc. Never once have I received an upgrade. Compare that then, with the free upgrade I received on American over Christmas with no status and on a discount economy fare. How did I do it? I asked. Nicely. I’ve tried that with Delta a few times, and they laugh and roll their eyes cuz it ain’t gonna happen.

So, to the point. I’m warming up to American. But the things I see in US Airways, I don’t like at all. I know they have crazy generous routing rules with their Dividend Miles award redemptions, but what about service at a basic level? They feel stingy to me, nickel-and-dimed to death, and the markets they serve are places I don’t consider destinations. If I stick with American instead of Delta, I may connect in Charlotte or Philly every once in a while. I just hope US Airways doesn’t ruin the generous and attentive vibe that American has worked really hard to develop over the past few years.

I love that most of American’s FAs are “career” flight attendants. They run a tight ship, and I like that. They are also eager to serve snacks and meals in biz and first cabins, and overall just feel more open. I really dread Doug Parker stepping in and removing a lot of the things customers have gotten used to, introducing more fees, and overall cheapening the “New American.” I also hope US Airways simply fires all of their phone agents instead of combining them with American’s responsive crew.

Not to say American is all roses. In NYC, it’s a competitive market, obvi, and American loves to fly little regional jets out of LGA and JFK. Why, I’ll never know. They also don’t have a lot of transfer partners (I’m thinking Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards here). And their Admirals Clubs are set up to make you spend money, whereas I feel Delta is freer with the booze and snacks. Little things. But it’s the little things that end up mattering the most, right?

I’m cautiously watching from the sidelines as Delta implements a revenue component to their status program, and as American’s will undoubtedly take a few blows when it fully combines with US Airways. It’s not a question of if, it’s one of how much. Until then, I hope the “New American” doesn’t become worse.

I also cannot freaking wait to use Avios on the places US Airways flies. 2014 will certainly be interesting for the FF community.

Staples Update: Order Cleared, Rebate Still Pending

Staples called me today to confirm the validity of my order of 10 three-user Kaspresky Anti-Virus software downloads. It was from a 902 area code, which is Nova Scotia. The guy from Staples made me verify my name, address, and email. He said that because of the popularity of the deal, they were calling to confirm that the orders were legitimate. While I was on the phone with him, I refreshed the Orders page on the Staples site, and my order status changed from “Researching” to “Transmitted for fulfillment.”

I don’t need the software, but I did receive the download codes as soon as I hung up the phone. So the first part is over, that being the order clearing through Staples and my bank (Citi, in this case). The next step is to get the rebates processed and in hand. Wonder how long that’ll take… As soon as I get the check, I’d like to look into donating and/or selling the software. It would be my first time to actually profit from a deal in both points and cash.

Will update when the rebate status changes. Hope it isn’t a protracted process like the Thanksgiving Kaspresky deal.

Woo hoo! Just got 1,500 free AAdvantage Miles!

Thanks to the Frequent Miler for posting this opportunity today.

Nice lil' haul

Nice lil’ haul

 

I’ve done this FAR (Free-After-Rebate) thing once before, and it worked like a charm. The Staples people say you’ll get the check within 4-6 weeks, but for me it was more like 8. I also had to do the live chat help thingy a couple of times to coddle them into moving the process along. That last check was for $60. This time I upped the stakes and spent $500 (not the full $800 as suggested in the post linked above.)

 

It actually was pretty easy. Thanks, Staples.

It actually was pretty easy. Thanks, Staples.

 

This accomplishes many things. It will help me meet the minimum spend on my brand new Citi Amex card, which is $3,000 within four months.

I’ll get 500 AAdvantage miles for putting this on the Citi Amex. I clicked through the AAdvantage Shopping Portal to get an additional 2 miles/dollar. Total haul of 1,500 FREE AAdvantage miles. The redemption value for me is .02 cents per mile, so I value this at $30. But more importantly, it brings me closer to getting 50,000 more miles when I reach the $3,000 mark with the new card.

The software is for Windows computers, and I have a Mac, so it’s pretty much useless to me. I’m thinking I could sell it online or perhaps donate it to a local non-profit and write it off on my taxes next year, either of which would help me to turn a further profit on clicking a few links and floating $500 for a month or two. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The only thing that bugs me is that status that says “Researching.” Researching what? Hmmmz.

Thinking of doing an American Airlines Status Challenge

So I got in on the awesome fares to South America during American’s great fares that emerged around Valentine’s Day. I’m going to Easter Island, Chile in May. So excited. Round-trip in business/first class was a touch over $1,000. Check out this sweet itinerary:

There...

There…

and back...

and back…

 

So now I’m thinking of doing a status challenge on American Airlines.

You only need 10K points to get Platinum during a challenge, but there are reports that 20K will get you Executive Platinum.

Points are calculated as miles flown * fare class.
So 15,088 * 1.5 = 22,632.

Here’s the info I found:

Challenge (AA) – FlyerGuide Wiki

Here are the LAN earning rates, by class, on American:

http://aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/earnMiles/travel/airlines/lan.jsp

And the miles calculations:

Screen shot 2013-02-17 at 1.43.03 PM

 

I’ll also get 25K+ redeemable miles for another free domestic R/T at some point in the future based on the fare classes.

I’ve read that an Exec Plat status match is $250 – well worth it for the unlimited domestic upgrades and the 8 system-wide upgrades on ANY fare class. I’ll also earn 2 500-mile upgrade certificates on this trip (one for each 10K points earned), too.

So when I saw the fare and trip for the first time, I thought:

• EASTER ISLAND
• Exec Plat Status
• Eight system-wide upgrades
• Two upgrade certs
• Free domestic R/T
• and all in biz and first class

Can’t beat that with a stick.

I think there are still goes good fares to Buenos Aires and Santiago. You can play around on the Matrix and see what comes up.

matrix.itasoftware.com –> such a good tool.

American’s giving Delta a run for their money (literally) with this one! Excited to experience their premium products. And if all goes according to plan, I may switch the bulk of my flying over to American. At least until the ahem, MERGER goes through.

Thoughts, anyone? Are my calculations correct?

My First App-O-Rama 2.22.13

On the evening of February 22, 2013, I had a little too much tequila and decided to do an app-o-rama. Not the best idea ever, as I caused myself to miss out on yet ANOTHER Amex bonus by not paying close enough attention to the T&C. I think I was little nervous about applying for three cards in one night.

I would’ve applied for four, but I’m sorta between jobs/projects right now and didn’t want to push it with the minimum spend requirements. Here’s what I ended up getting:

british-airways-visa

Chase British Airways Visa Signature® Card

  • 50,000 Avios after spending $1,000 within three months
  • 25,000 more Avios after spending $10,000 in the first year
  • 25,000 MORE Avios after spending $20,000 in the first year

Why I got it:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Smart Chip Technology
  • Great earning structure: 2.5 Avios/dollar on BA and 1.25 on everything else. Pretty fantastic.
  • Avios are GREAT for short-haul trips under 650 miles – only 4,500 Avios each way in economy. But for short flights of ~2 hours, I couldn’t care less about class of service. This is great for visiting Montreal, Toronto, Boston, and other cities in the near-Northeast region. And it’s only 7,5000 Avios to Chicago (I love Chicago).  They’re also great for repositioning for mileage runs (I haven’t done one… yet.) This post from Extra Pack of Peanuts has a lot of great info about the Avios program.

AAdvantage Citi card

Citi Select® / AAdvantage® American Express® card

  • 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within four months
  • 2 Admirals Club lounge passes
  • $150 Statement Credit on American Airlines

Why I got it: 

  • To build up my AAdvantage balance
  • I am thinking of switching the bulk of my flying from Delta to American
  • 1 free checked bag, priority boarding, and get 10% of miles redeemed back (up to 10,000 miles per year)
  • $85 annual fee is waived for the first year (so why not)

premier-rewards-gold amex

And the sore spot. The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

I got in didn’t get in on this offer:

50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 within three months

Why I wanted it:

To build up my Membership Rewards balance

It has the best earning structure of all the MR cards (three points/dollar on airfare (four if booked thru Amex Travel), two at gas stations (moot point for NYC) and grocery stores (which could encourage me to not spend so much eating out!), and one point everywhere else.

I went ahead and put $1,000 of spend on it the first day JUST TO SEE if it would trigger the bonus or not. I’m not eligible for it because I already have the Platinum Card, but whatever. Anyone know how good Amex is about blocking bonuses for this reason? It’s entirely my fault – I should’ve read the T&C more closely. I blame first app-o-rama jitters and too much tequila.

I also really wanted to pick up the Ink Plus card from Chase while I was at it, but alas. The $5,000 spend within three months was a little bit much. Plus, I’ve got a lot of spending to put on the new British Airways card to unlock the full 100,000 Avios.

So that’s it. My first app-o-rama. I was instantly approved online for all three with nice credit lines on each, which made me feel really confident about my credit health. My travel goals for this round of apps are Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Dublin, Seattle, Alaska, and eventually, Australia. I’d also LOVE to fit in Vienna/Prague sometime this summer. 🙂