Most people know that airline-affiliated cards provided certain benefits for those taking flights of particular carriers. This usually means a reduced (or no) checked baggage fee and some kind of priority boarding. This has become even more relevant as larger airlines are beginning to try to squeeze even more revenue out of their customers (Air Canada and Westjet, plus JetBlue, for example).
So, it is nice when an extra benefit comes in handy. When my wife and I were traveling home from San Francisco recently we were late arriving to the airport so we didn’t have enough time to get sufficient food for the 5 hour journey. Instead, we relied on the food provided by JetBlue. It wasn’t just the free snacks that held us over, it was the tremendous amount of food in the Eat Up Boxes that gave us the meals that we wanted in-flight. And, since we have the JetBlue Plus Mastercard, the costs was literally cut in half.
As reflected on my most recent credit card statement, instead of spending $46 for this food (which would be a pretty absurd price), we spent $23 (something more reasonable). While I don’t want to rely on this in the future, it is nice to know that it is an option.
There are a few credit cards that have big bonuses that can be transferred to a variety of airlines and hotels at the moment. Some are higher than usual; others are the normal bonus but allow for lots of flexibility.
As usual, the Chase Sapphire Preferred tops the list as one of the most valuable credit cards to have. After spending $4,000 in 3 months, you earn 40,000 bonus points. And if you add an authorized user (i.e. someone else you trust to use the card) you get an extra 5,000 bonus points. So, with an authorized user and the minimum spend, that’s 49,000 points to spend on travel. Just ask me for a referral and I’ll be happy to oblige. I’ve written much before about this card.
The Citi ThankYou Premier card is currently offered a bonus of 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of use. These points can be transferred to a variety of partner airlines and hotels much like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. A bonus over the other cards is its 3x bonus on travel (including gas stations).
The British Airways Visa card is offering 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $2,000 in the first three months. You may be thinking, “why should I get a British Airways card if I don’t live in England?” Well, with a great distance-based award travel chart, you could fly from PHL/NYC/BOS to Toronto for 4,500 Avis one-way + tax. Or you could go from NYC/PHL/BOS->Florida for 7,500 Avious one-way + tax. Amazing deals for flights that normally cost 12,500 miles from airlines like United or American.
I wrote about other big bonuses recently as well.
I have had the US Airways Mastercard for many years now and while I used to not understand its benefits, I have learned quite a bit and now think it is a great card to have for a variety of reasons. The cost is its $89 annual fee but the benefits are quite substantial: a $99 companion ticket for domestic air travel, the new combination of the AAdvantage program gives access to a wide variety of new flights as well, and it gives status on a few rental car companies like Avis.
I didn’t totally understand this until I started renting cars recently but it is well worth it. Not only are there discounts and special deals on rental cars across the globe, but there is also the benefit of not having to wait in line ever.
The most recent example I have is my trip to Pittsburgh last weekend during which I bypassed the Avis check-in desk and walked directly to the Avis Preferred booth in the parking lot. I’m sure others were waiting in line to check in and order their vehicles when it took me about 45 seconds to walk up, show my driver’s license, and get the keys to my car.
A previous example is probably even more start: my fiancée and I went to a wedding in Los Angeles in August and due to our status with Avis we were dropped off at a different area of the Avis rental car parking lot. In this area, my name was listed on a screen with the location of a car that all I needed to do was walk up, take the key from the ignition, and drive away. If I wanted to change the type of car I reserved, I could do so simply by walking up to it and taking it. This has saved me time and money already probably to the tune of $89 already.
I recommend signing up ASAP.
Over the past few months I have begun my journey into the world of frequent flyer miles, travel blogs, points-gathering, and annoying my fiancée in earnest. I have signed up for a few credit cards, referred a few people to them, and am eagerly waiting the time when I can use these points/miles for their intended purpose: near-free travel.
I suppose I really entered this game in January 2014 when I left a conference and was convinced to sign up for the United MileagePlus Club Card by a friend. The card itself was a big bonus over most others in that every purchase provided 1.5 miles per $1 spent. As my friend said, “it adds up faster than you think.” While the $395 annual fee was daunting, there was a one-year fee waiver that I accepted because I signed up at a Chase bank branch near my house.
Since then I’ve accumulated about 110,000 miles with purchases made through the card or through rental agreements, dining out bonuses, and more. I used the card to get one free plane ticket to Toronto with Air Canada but have yet to use its benefit of free first and second luggage check. We currently pay our rent with the card, a service that nets us over 3,000 miles per month due to the large multiplier on standard purchases.
In full disclosure, however, I will be ridding myself of the card in December as the annual fee is not worth it for us now that I have a better understanding of other credit cards I can use.
Since then I have also applied for and received the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the United MileagePlus Explorer card, the Chase Ink Plus card, and retained my old US Airways Premier World Mastercard. I’ve started learning about credit scores and their tracking through CreditKarma.com and make my Internet purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal.
I’m so excited to start this blog and share with you stories of travel, transit, and miles/points accumulation from my view. We’ll see what turns up around the corner!