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Trip Report: AA Main Cabin Extra LGA-DFW-ANC

I originally found this trip on The Flight Deal for $352 a person from NYC all the way to ANC. I’d just gotten the Citi AAdvantage Select American Express and it came with a $150 statement credit after buying my first American flight. I got two tickets, which came to $704, then was reduced to $554, or about 3 cents per mile – not only would I get to see Alaska for the first time, but that price was positively mileage run-worthy. Not to mention that I’d accrue nearly 20K AAdvantage miles in the process since I get a 100% mileage bonus for being Platinum, which I value at around $400. Schweeet!

I  held out hope that some twist of fate would land me an upgrade. But the day before, I checked out the first class cabin, and all the seats were already taken. Well.

Getting to La Guardia was easy enough via taxi, and once there, I breezed through security thanks to Pre-Check. GOD I love Pre-Check! There was no one in the line and it took literally 20 seconds. Right beyond security was the Admirals Club, and a few gates down was D6, our departure gate. We headed up to the Admirals Club using my American Express Platinum Card, had a few drinks and snacks, and I played a little Scrabble (my newest addiction). I didn’t take pictures. It was nearly empty and seating was easy to find. We got an entire huge room all to ourselves with a view of American planes on the tarmac. With that view, a rum & coke, and a game of Scrabble in front of me, I was in heaven.

When boarding rolled around, we went to the gate and I boarded with the other Platinums. It was one of the new planes in the livery, a 737-800 with the controversial new paint job. The first class cabin had 16 seats, but they really were all taken. I guess LGA-DFW (both American hubs) is a popular route. I had seat 8A, at the front – a Main Cabin ExtrAA seat. They advertise it as having more legroom and being more comfortable somehow, but I really didn’t see what the big deal was. I liked being closer to the door… I thought it came with a free premium beverage or something. Nope. They charged me for my white wine and I got one of their “hand made” sandwiches, which was actually pretty good, if a bit messy. They need to work on their packaging/presentation for that. And throw in a free drink to assuage the shame after walking through first class.

Anyway, we sat down and waited to take off. And waited. And then the A/C had to be fixed. Uh oh. TripIt Pro (which I got for free with my Barclay Arrivalcard) sent me an alert that we wouldn’t arrive to Dallas until 3:35. My flight to ANC was at 3:25. Fuck. I immediately researched alternate routes from DFW-LAX-ANC and DFW-PDX-ANC. There was hope, but I’d be getting in several hours late. So…

I tweeted to @AmericanAir.

 

Tweets from @AmericanAir

Tweets from @AmericanAir

 

I told them in advance that I was worried about missing my connection. Before I left LGA, while still on the plane, they wrote me back and said they’d monitor my flight and have me rebooked on the next flights heading to ANC by the time I landed. At that point I was already blown away. Anxious to leave, but soothed knowing I had options. And that’s what really felt the best. Knowing that it would be taken care of.

 

Goosenecks over Texas

Goosenecks over Texas

 

But then, the maintenance guys were able to quickly fix the problem and we pushed off. Even still, the connection would be tight at just 23 minutes. I feared I’d have to run all the way through Terminal C from gate 36 to 2.

 

Landing at DFW

Landing at DFW

 

The flight was nice enough. Pretty quick, smooth. Thoughts about “Main Cabin Extra” are above. We got to the gate and I leapt out like a gazelle ready to run. Someone called my name as soon as I walked off the jetway. It was a lady from American, standing in front of a cart. WHAT?! She hugged me, and told me to hop in and DROVE US TO THE GATE. I was blown away by this level of service. She said she recognized me from my Twitter picture and had been contacted about the tight connection. If we missed it, she had backup flights ready to go. Amazing, amazing, amazing.

We pulled up to C2 just as boarding began. Even with no upgrades, I was stunned at the level of service and professionalism American showed me today. Me, a lowly Platinum!

So now I’m on flight 279 to ANC on an old Boeing 757. Man, you can really tell this plane has seen better days. It’s got the old first class cabin, but I’ve got a great seat with tons of legroom – seat 10F – again, in Main Cabin Extra. And we’re flying over the Rockies right now. It’s gorgeous. And my birthday is in just a few days. Maybe I can convince American to upgrade me on the flight home. 🙂 I must say, I do like the new planes a lot better than the older ones.

 

Ample legroom in Main Cabin ExtrAA

Ample legroom in Main Cabin ExtrAA

 

But wow. I am just so very impressed with American right now. Would Delta have done this? That’s what I keep asking myself. But it doesn’t matter now. I’m resolved to keep flying American. I want to be a Million Miler and everything. And EXP next year. This trip to ANC puts me about 10K closer. Now if I could only repeat it nine more times.

Big kudos and thanks to American. They transformed a potentially stressful trip into a great customer service experience. As I heard EXPs being thanked, I wanted to be one of them. Soon enough. Wish I’d gotten in on that promo they had up for a few hours. With my upcoming trip to Santiago and Mexico City, I would’ve been a shoe-in. But that was a fluke. Small moves, small moves.

 

Done with Delta

delta-sucks

 

I read Rene’s blog post about this year’s changes on Delta Points and it got me thinking. Not about Delta, but about American. How they haven’t cut anything from their loyalty program this year. How good they are about upgrading elites. And how nice ‘n’ easy it was to achieve Platinum status after only one trip this year. In all reality, I will hit Platinum again for next year, although Executive Platinum is my stretch goal. And even if I don’t, their Elite Rewards program makes me want to continue flying with them even if I don’t hit the 100K mile/point threshold.

Delta, by contrast, has fierce upgrade competition in New York, despite expanding their presence and perhaps because of it (I’m thinking the new T4 @ JFK). They’re switching to MQDs in 2014. And they have American Express as a credit card partner.

At this point, the only downside to being loyal to American is the inability to transfer in miles from an outside program, like you can with United and Delta (from Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, respectively). American will be the only legacy airline that doesn’t have an outside transfer program linked up to it. That, and the tiny regional jets they like to fly out of JFK. But that’s soon changing as they beef up their fleet.

This post isn’t meant to bash Delta, but rather to extoll American. Which means, by default, that I guess I’m done with Delta. I tried it, but it didn’t work. I loved how they have a nonstop from LGA-MEM (my hometown), their aircraft, and route network. And I’ve got to give it to them: their on-time performance is amazing. 

Their airline partners are “just OK.” American, though oneworld is a much small alliance, has more premium partners (Cathay Pacific, Qantas, British Airways, Etihad, JAL, LAN) and they have generous earning privileges when flying them. Delta really wants you to stick to Air France, KLM, Aeromexico, or Virgin Atlantic (the ones they co-own!), otherwise you get… pretty much nothin’.

That’s the root of it all right there: American is generous and Delta is getting more and more stingy. No doubt there will be further hacks to Skymiles in 2014. I have hopes for AAdvantage, merger and all.

For now, the images below can summarize my feelings for me. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen.

 

delta-fuck-off

 

fuck-you-delta-ted

Blog Giveaway: 2 Admirals Club Passes

I got these passes as part of the signup bonus for the Citibank AAdvantage Select American Express card, and I’d like to give them to a reader.

2 Admirals Club Passes

2 Admirals Club Passes

 

To enter:

01. Leave a comment on this post telling me when you’d use the passes.

02. Follow me on Twitter, then retweet THIS status: https://twitter.com/harlanvaughn/status/352995490054406144

 

I’ll randomly pick a winner on Thursday, July 11th at 11:59pm. Residents of US and Canada only. You must be over 18 and have same-day ticketed travel on American Airlines to use the passes.

 

A big thanks to all my readers and supporters so far! This blog is a bit new, so I want you to know I truly appreciate all of you!

First upgrades on American as a Platinum

I took two flights on American last week as part of my courier work: IND-ORD and ORD-LGA.

It was booked into K class, which doesn’t earn complimentary upgrades. I arrived at IND a little early and asked to get on the next flight. The agent re-booked me into Y class (as a full fare) for the entire trip back and took four upgrade “stickers” out of my AAdvantage account.

Whatever about the stickers. I knew she was wrong, but loved being re-booked into a higher fare bucket.

Then when I got to ORD, I was actually supposed to fly back to EWR, which I despise. I noticed a shit ton of flights headed for LGA and asked if I could do to SDC onto the next LGA flight. The agent rebooked me (staying in the Y fare bucket), and my upgrade cleared instantly. I flew first class on both segments with instant upgrades both times. Easy peezy (and to LGA).

I knew they should’ve used three upgrade stickers instead of four. I called the Platinum desk, they answered on the first ring, and gave me back two certs instead of just one – for the trouble – although flying in first was really no trouble at all. I took the certs and enjoyed the upgrades.

All-in-all, loving American’s service. They seem more willing to do more “behind the scenes” stuff for higher tiers than Delta will, and with no cost. Delta is all about the nickeling and dime-ing these days.

Content to stay with American.

Although, I must say, Delta makes it so freaking easy to earn MQMs with credit card spend. Especially with the newest offer to get 20K MQMS with the Platinum Biz card. Damn, that’s nearly Silver right there. But oh well, can’t win ’em all, right? At least American lets you qualify on points instead of just miles – which might end up being my saving grace if LAN keeps pumping out these cheap deals to South America.

 

Platinum on American…

…with only one trip this year!

AA-Platinum-Status

After Chile and booking the Xmas trip

American was kind enough to let me complete a status challenge. To achieve Platinum, I had to accrue 10,000 points in the three months following May 16th (my start date). Well, on May 18th, I headed down to Chile and was Platinum by the time I arrived in Easter Island.

Now that I’m back, I have a nice amount of activity in my AAdvantage account:

AA-Activity-2013

 

The Easter Island trip netted me 15,088 EQMs, 22,634 EQ points, 4 upgrade “stickers”, and a lot of redeemable miles. Beyond that though, it really makes me want to hit 50K miles on American this year to keep the status. And this, combined with Delta’s move toward a revenue-based system and other assorted asshat-ery makes me want to stick withAmerican from here on out. I’m also highly unimpressed with Amex, Delta’s credit card partner, as has been noted often.

I also really liked redeeming 81K miles (90K – 10% back) for business class MEL-AUH on Etihad yesterday. I dunno. I’m warming up to it. My only regret is not buying another $900 ticket to Chile while I had the chance…

I have my first revenue flight on American in August to Anchorage (and maybe sooner!) and am really curious to see the Platinum benefits in action. Already, I’ve experienced better phone service. To book the award last night, I got a great agent after only one ring.

Yes, I think I’m going to kick damn Delta to the curb. Two final thoughts:

  • The little things.
  • Devil’s in the details.

🙂

Just booked: JFK-LAX-NAN-AKL-SYD-MEL-AUH-CAI-JFK

And I’m super freaking excited about it.

So the title is a bit of a fib: I have a flight alert and fare tracker set for LAX-NAN and will buy it if I have to, and I haven’t gotten the initial JFK-LAX but am not really so worried about it.

This is what the trip will look like:

25,000 miles and all around the world

25,000 miles and all around the world

 

So far, I’ve used 132K miles per person and gotten over 6 cents of value out of each one. This trip would be nearly $17,000 if bought at retail price.

It’ll be from Dec 24th, 2013 to January 7th, 2014. It includes Christmas in Fiji, New Years in Sydney, stopovers in New Zealand and Melbourne, and a quick trip to see the pyramids on the Gaza strip in Cairo.

So how’d I book it? Segment by segment, and with a combination of AAdvantage, MileagePlus, and Avios miles.

The breakdown (notice there’s no Delta!):

JFK-LAX: will most likely use AAdvantage miles when I earn a few more, or maybe MileagePlus if necessary

LAX-NAN: would like to use AAdvantage miles for this. Might have to purchase it, and it would be the only leg I’d have to buy. However, it’s only $750 right now and would net me a nice amount of miles as I’m Platinum on American and the flight is on Air Pacific. Still, I’m holding out for award space.

NAN-AKL: 17,500 x 2 (so 35,000) MileagePlus miles on Air New Zealand

AKL-SYD: 9,000 AAdvantage miles for one and 10,000 Avios for the other – both on Qantas

SYD-MEL: 4,500 x 2 (so 9,000) Avios on Qantas, baby. Wonderful redemption rate!

MEL-AUH: 45,000 x 2 (so 90,000) AAdvantage miles for Etihad business class to Abu Dhabi

AUH-CAI-JFK: 60,000 x 2 (so 120,000) MileagePlus miles transferred in from Ultimate Rewards. Includes a 17-hour stopover in Cairo, then back to NYC in business class on Egyptair.

All-in-all, a very good award IMHO. 5 new countries, four new airlines, and two new business class products (I didn’t feel the need to book the short hauls in business) – not to mention an amazing life experience! This is exactly why I’m so crazy about collecting points and miles: I can go on awesome trips like this and actually 1) afford them and 2) travel in style. And the best part is that, with a little strategic planning, you can really maximize what you get for free.

As a litmus test, I went and found the exact flights over on Kayak and priced out how much the itinerary I booked would cost on the retail market. Here’s what I found:

FIJI

 

When I factor in the two remaining legs to book, I estimate this itinerary will be over $17,000. Cray!

Here’s where I was able to extract even MORE value out of this booking aside from the goal value of 2 cents per mile:

  • Having the Citi AAdvantage Select card gives me 10% of redeemed miles back per year, up to 10,000 miles. I just redeemed 100K miles and will get 10K back – making my cost here only 90K miles. I value 10,000 AAdvantage miles at roughly $200, so it’s totally worth paying the annual fee of $95 to get those miles back.
  • The Barclaycard Arrival came with a $440 signup bonus, which I will redeem for the taxes, booking fees, and fuel surcharges. This means that there was literally ZERO out-of-pocket expense in booking these awards. Amazing.
  • My partner has a Chase United Explorer card which gave us access to Saver awards even when the site told us none were available. That’s huge.
  • I just need to add that this booking really shows the value of Avios. I know the program gets knocked quite a bit, but I was able to get some great value out of it. I also am factoring in the flight times into the equation. I had the pick of literally dozens of flights – all for free. Having all those choices is something I really loved.
  • Lastly, thinking of this award booking as one project instead of individual segments really helped me justify the “not amazing” redemption values of some segments. The first on Air New Zealand, for example, only got 3 cents of value per mile. However, on the Etihad segment, I got over 13 cents of value for each mile. That is a huge WOW. By thinking of it this way, the average value of all my miles really came into focus.

 

Very much looking forward to the flights, trip reports, and of course all the amazing new places. I’ve always wanted to visit Australia, and my heart is bursting with excitement and gratitude at being able to actually do this. More soon as always.

Trip Report: AA Flight 1769 JFK-MIA First Class

Writing right now from the lovely America Club “J” (quotes not mine), near gate 5 in the J concourse of MIA. It’s basically a large open room with a lot of screaming babies AKA HELL. When I came in, I noticed there were two directions to go from the checkin desk. To the right was the catchall lounge. And to the left, the First Class and Business Class lounge (two separate rooms). I’m in the First Class lounge and it feels anything but. The food offerings are alright: finger sandwiches, soups, and cookies, and the drinks are behind the bar. They ain’t got power outlets for shit, though there is a lovely view of the skyline through the large windows. At least the wifi is fast. I suppose this is only marginally better than sitting at the gate, but not by much.

America Club "J"

America Club “J”

N-E-WAYZ

The flight down to this pit called Miami was wonderful. Very relaxing. As a “business” customer, it definitely did all the things that I wanted in a flight. For one, we landed over 40 minutes early, which was pretty sweet. The service was immediate and attentive, but never overbearing.

The flight started with pre-departure OJ and water. I downed an OJ and settled into my seat. I in 3J and was one of the last to board. We were supposed to board at 2:25pm. I left the Admirals Club at 2:27pm (which was next to the gate) and walked out to find they were already making last boarding calls. WTF? Has American somehow sped up their boarding process?

Anywho, I pre-ordered the Thai chicken wrap, which was brought to me right after the hot nuts were distributed. I was addressed by name, which was nice. The wrap itself was fine. The pita was a bit mushy, but overall OK.

Thai chicken wrap

Thai chicken wrap

 

Afterward, we were given dessert cookies and I had a glass of chardonnay. By that time, I typed on my computer for a few minutes and we were already descending. Incredible! Now, if Miami had been my final destination and I was flying American for business, I’d rate this flight 5 stars. Quick, easy, quiet, and early. Wonderful. However, I’m connecting in Miami and am thinking of switching over from Delta to American. Even still, this flight gave me everything I wanted. The food could’ve been a bit better, but the service was top-notch.

The seat laid back really far and was very comfortable. I had a lot of room to stretch out my long legs!

Seat 3J (sorry it's blurry)

Seat 3J (sorry it’s blurry)

All stretched out

All stretched out

 

This is not the “new” First Class product, but it was perfectly serviceable, especially for a flight only a bit over two hours.

I’m liking American. It could grow on me to feel as comfortable as Delta does now.

For reference, here are a few images of the Admirals Club at JFK:

2013-05-18 14.24.23

2013-05-18 14.24.30

2013-05-18 14.27.46

 

 

Right now, I’m letting my thoughts evolve about American, life, and the state of travel in general (god that sounds dramatic). My next two flights are on LAN, not American, but I figure it’s good to see what their partners are like. Looking forward to that lie-flat seat in Premium Business in a few hours. I’m sleepy!

Btw, here’s my view for the next hour or so:

Happy travels!

Happy travels!

It’s On: AAdvantage Platinum Status Challenge 2013

Man, I’m liking American a lot lately. Today, I called the AAdvantage desk about doing a status challenge for Platinum level, beginning May 16th. I’d been thinking about doing it for a while. I have three flights that end up in Easter Island beginning on the 18th, and since it’s all in first and business class, it’s more than enough to qualify me for Platinum. The rep carefully explained the terms of the challenge, which were the same as described here, so I knew what to expect. But it was still nice to confirm. She actually pulled up my flights and assured me that I’d be Platinum by the time I landed in Easter Island, which was very kind and thorough. Then she put me on hold.

When she came back she said, “I’m gonna help you out. I’m gonna go ahead and upgrade you to Gold so you’ll have a better trip and earn more miles on the way down there.” I was blown away. Now that’s something Delta would never do!

Per the Wiki linked above, I was prepared to pay $240 for the challenge. However, I was only charged $180. Perhaps this is a new thing? I chatted with the rep a bit about the upcoming merger, Explorer Awards, and thanked her profusely for the free upgrade to Gold. That’ll net me 7,000+ free miles in addition to the class bonus. Awesome!

The rep then said I’d get an email with more information, which came as soon as we hung up. Here’s the full text of the email I received from American:

Here’s the Info You Requested on Your Elite Challenge:
Thank you again for registering for an American Airlines AAdvantage elite Challenge. To help you meet
your goal, we are resending information on completing the Challenge. Additionally, if you wish to have a
receipt of the amount you were charged to register, please follow these steps:
1. Go to https://www.refunds.aa.com/
2. Locate the form “Request a Refund or Receipt”
3. In the field for “Ticket Number” input the MSR number I provided to you today
4. Input your Last Name in the next field
5. Select “Go” and the amount you paid is displayed
Now here are some tips to help you succeed:

  • Plan your qualifying flights to meet your goal within the 3-month time frame we discussed. Travel outside this time frame will not qualify toward your Challenge.
  • Be sure to fly on an eligible carrier. Points earned on qualifying flights on American Airlines, American Eagle, the AmericanConnection®carrier, British Airways, Iberia, Japan Airlines and Qantas (including eligible codeshare flights marketed by these carriers) count toward your Challenge.
  • If you upgrade, please keep in mind that points earned are based on the fare and booking code purchased, not the cabin in which you travel.
  • Learn more about point accrual and qualifying fares for each airline:
  • o American Airlines
  • o British Airways
  • o Iberia
  • o Japan
  • o Qantas
  • How can you determine what booking code is used for the fare you’re purchasing? Simply ask the booking agent, whether that’s your travel agent, corporate travel planner or AA Reservations representative. Or, even better, when you book your flights on AA.com, the Flight Summary screen displays the booking code in the same column as the cabin booked. 
  • Remember that the charge for your Challenge is nonrefundable — even if circumstances beyond anyone’s control prevent you from meeting the goal. 

A Challenge is intended for members who are in a hurry to get to the elite level they desire and begin
enjoying their benefits. Think of it as a shortcut to the status you would probably earn on your own
during the normal qualification period. Assuming you’re successful, please be prepared to meet the
normal criteria when it comes time to requalify for your status, since we offer limited opportunities to
earn status via a Challenge. We wish you every success in completing this Challenge.

Then I logged into my AAdvantage account and saw that I was indeed instantly upgraded to Gold.

Screen shot 2013-05-13 at 6.29.18 PM

 

Looking forward to being Platinum on American this time next week. 🙂 Amazing that I’m now Gold with zero American flights this year and will be Platinum after spending a little under $1,000 on a deal of a fare (+$180). The status will be good through the end of February 2014.

I did ask, out of pure curiosity if Executive Platinum challenges were still on the go. The rep told me they were not, and that they’ve stopped doing them altogether.

So that was my experience with American today. Very generous. Feeling good about making the switch. Can’t wait to post the trip reports next week!

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.

 

American Express Vs. Chase: Why Chase Is Winning

Quite simply: signup bonuses with no BS.

I’ve been hating on Amex a lot lately, and with good reason. I now have four Amex cards, three with Amex as the actual issuing bank, and with two of those three, I’ve had to make numerous phone calls, write emails, and send tweets to their support team about not getting a signup bonus. After a lot of back and forth, they usually award me a fraction of what I missed out on as “good will”, but it always leaves a bad taste behind and is like pulling freaking teeth with them.

In my opinion, if an Amex cardmember holds the Platinum Card, their most premium card offering with a hefty $450 annual fee, any other cards should automatically come with an enhanced signup bonus. Something extra. Instead, we see this sentiment in a lot of the T&C:

Eff u 2!

Eff u 2!

What?! Why? That’s so stupid to punish people for wanting to open more cards. This is where Chase excels.

They have a few cards that feed into their Ultimate Rewards program the same way Amex has multiple cards that can be linked to Membership Rewards. But Chase doesn’t impose rules on signup bonuses with multiple cards. You can get a Freedom, a Sapphire, an Ink, and whatever else you want to get and get the FULL bonus on all of them. If anything ever goes awry, just give them a call and it’s taken care of almost instantly.

Not with Amex. They’re notorious for their Financial Reviews and for not awarding bonuses… at all. They’re also really slow and claim to have to “research” your claim. Not only that, but their Membership Rewards program has lost a few key transfer partners in the past couple of years, along with a few other consumer unfriendly changes while Ultimate Rewards continues to improve.

There are a few sweet spots with Membership Rewards. For me, it’s the British Airways Avios. They’re a transfer partner for both Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, which is pretty fantastic. Membership Rewards also transfer instantly to Delta, which would help me out a LOT with my dream trip to Australia if Amex would ever give me the points I deserve as a customer and card holder.

It goes beyond this, though. It’s about how the customer starts to view the company after a while. I’ve been screwed over by them a few times by now to the point where I’m thinking of switching all my spend over to Chase and giving Amex the finger. I wish it weren’t like this, though. Delta is pretty much forcing their customers to have a co-branded Amex to avoid the upcoming dreaded MQD component of the SkyMiles program, and I love having lounge access with the Platinum Card. But Chase always treats me so right while Amex continues to kick me to the proverbial curb.

So to Chase, I’d say keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working, and it’s so great. I have such a positive association with the company at this point. And Amex. Oh, Amex. Step up your game, because you’re getting your butt beat. I look forward to the day where I’m down to just the Platinum Card. In fact, Delta’s bid for more revenue is kinda sorta slowly driving me over toward American. But that’s a post for another day, and that post will be highly speculative.

When I think of Chase: I trust them, like them, want more of them.

When I think of Amex: Starting to shudder, need energy to deal with them, apprehensive about continuing to use their products. TOO. BAD.

Winner = Chase, hands down. Thoughts, anyone?

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.