Citi Prestige Trip Cancellation Benefit doesn’t cover miles refunds

In an attempt to recoup the value of a ticket my wife and I had to cancel I called the phone number on the back of our Citi Prestige card in order to file a trip cancellation refund request. We had used the card to pay the taxes on a mileage trip on Korean Airlines, whose generous refund rules allow you to recoup much of your losses for not that much money (miles, actually). That being said, they still deduct miles in order to process the refund according to this chart:

So, due to the international nature of our travel we each lost 3,000 Korean Air Skypass miles in the transaction (and we got the rest back, including the taxes). So, when I called Citi, I wasn’t necessarily expecting anything magical, but I was hoping they would refund some kind of dollar value of the 6,000 miles that we lost. Turns out the answer is no. They don’t refund miles. I’ve been a happy customer of Citi Prestige for a while and love all their insurance benefits but it turns out this one they don’t help with. It’s not that big a deal – 6,000 miles is a small price to pay to get everything back easily, but it’s annoying.

Good to know for the future, though, I’m sure.

The big miles post: comparing what we paid for what we would have paid

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I truly love finding a great miles/points deal. So when my wife and I started planning our honeymoon I realized this was the opportunity of a lifetime to use our points to maximize our enjoyment of flights and hotels wherever possible. While we couldn’t use them all over the places we visited (specifically, in Indonesia) we received such benefit that our honeymoon was that much better and that much cheaper.

This all started about 2 years ago when I got involved in the miles/points game. We started signing up for credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom, Chase Ink Plus, and Chase Ink Cash. Each had a lucrative bonus of Ultimate Rewards points that we stored away for safekeeping. I also signed up for the Citibank American Airlines cards (both personal and business) in order to get 100,000 AA miles to supplement some I had from before the US Airways merger. I added the CitiBank ThankYou Premier card as well as Citi Prestige to get 100,000 ThankYou points as well. Finally, we signed up for a few hotel-based cards: We got the Starwood Personal and Business cards when the bonuses were 30,000 and 35,000 instead of the base level of 25,000 and we also both got the Chase Marriott cards. Sufficed to say, we had a lot of points to spend.

So, in this post I want to analyze the difference between what we paid and what we should have paid if we hadn’t used any points.

The first use of our points was our flights from New York-JFK to Denpasar, Bali. We decided to use Korean Airlines because they are a transfer partner of Chase as long as you have either the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Plus. We took two flights to get there: one from New York to Seoul and another from Seoul to Bali. We decided to take a one day layover in Seoul so the flights below are not entirely accurate.

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The total cost using miles was 190,000 points + $166 in taxes. 

If we bought the tickets outright, the cost would have been significantly higher.

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As you can see, the tickets from New York to Seoul alone would have been $20,063.60 in total. For some reason I can’t seem to price out the Seoul->Bali ticket right now, but it likely would have been at least $2,000 each.

For our next major journey on miles we flew from Singapore to London on British Airways. We used American Airlines miles to purchase these tickets before the big devaluation it actually cost us less than quoted below: only 70,000 American Airlines miles each.

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With taxes and fees, the total cost was 140,000 miles + $588.40 in taxes and fees.

Running total: 330,000 miles + $754.40.

The actual cost would have been much more (although less than Korean Air):

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Total cost for this flight with two people: $13,057.60.

Running total: $33,121.20

The last major flight was our return home from Frankfurt to New York-JFK with Singapore Airlines. Our two tickets used quite a few miles because the saver award was not available. I had two transfer over 100,000 Citi ThankYou points and Chase points to get it, but it was well worth it.

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With conversion from the date of purchase, the total cost was 221,000 miles + $621.62.

Final total for flights: 551,000 miles + $1,376.03.

From the example below our flight cost would have been $10,183.12.

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Final total for flights: $43,304.32.

One major aspect of this travel I am not including in cost was all the lounges we visited. As a first class passenger we had access to a number of lounges at each airport and with the Citi Prestige we had access to even more through the Priority Pass network. Even in Lombok Airport – a tiny blip on the screen in Indonesia – there was a Sheraton Lounge that took it. We must have saved a few hundred dollars on food and time due to this benefit.


Now we can start discussing the hotels we stayed in because they were also heavily discounted. The first use of points was at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Singapore. As it is a newly rebranded hotel there was a discount in the price although we used our points anyway. We booked to stay for 3 nights on points instead of paying the full price.

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Total hotel points used: 30,000

If we had paid for it outright, the cost would have been around $120/night, totalling $360.

Next, we stayed at a wonderful Sheraton property in London called the Park Lane Hotel. It is a beautiful old world hotel that has been converted to a Sheraton but retains much of its charm. Since we decided to stay in London for five nights we benefited from Starwood’s 4 nights + 1 free promotion when redeeming points. Normally the hotel is 20,000 points/night but it averaged to 16,000/night due to this deal.

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Total hotel points used here: 80,000. Running total of hotel points: 110,000.

Had we booked our room and paid fully, each night would have been a whopping GBP £218. Based on when we booked the hotel (i.e. before the Brexit), that would have been $316/night. Total cost would have been: $1,580. Running total: $1,940.

In Paris we switched gears a bit and stayed at a Marriott Hotel instead since we had all those points to use. I found a great location with the Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel. It was conveniently located to many restaurants, museums, and right on public transit lines. We stayed four nights there at a cost of 40,000 points/night.

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Total was 160,000. Running total is: 270,000 points. At this point it is important to mentioned that not all points are created equal, especially when it comes to hotels. Obviously Marriott properties require more points than Starwood ones. Just keep that in mind for the future.

Had we stayed there paying outright, the room would have been 243 Euro/night, translating to $275/night. Total cost: $1,100. Running total: $3,040.

For our last night we stayed at the Hilton City Centre Frankfurt. I had accumulated many Hilton points and even had Gold Status due to the Surpass Card I had signed up for two months prior. While the standard room rate is 50,000 points I actually found a discounted Deluxe Park View room for even less!

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So the total amount of points spent overall for 13 free hotel nights was 311,157 points.

Had we paid out-of-pocket for that room it would have cost 139 Euro, or $157/night. Total cost of hotels would have been: $3,197.


This was a truly amazing trip. The sites we saw were fantastic (and more blog posts to come in that regard). The transportation we took was lovely and speedy. And the places we stayed were welcoming and enticing. I can’t wait to do this again in the future!

An amazing start to a honeymoon: Korean Airlines A380

My wife and I recently began our honeymoon to various destinations worldwide and I brought a small netbook so I could document parts of our travel experiences. Originally, she was a bit skeptical of the work I did with miles/points to maximize our benefit but over the past year she has been “turned”, let’s say, to understanding how amazing it can truly be. With a little work (and a lot of patience) you can get some amazing things in the travel world. So, here is the first installment for our honeymoon: our time flying from New York-JFK through Seoul, South Korea, to Denpasar, Bali. I will focus just on the flights for now (with other anecdotes about our specific time in each place later).


I’ve spent about two years now accruing miles for the specific purpose of travel (as opposed to just benefiting from random purchases later on). I plan and scheme specific credit bonuses to get, clubs to enter, and referrals to get, all for the purpose of getting to far places for cheap. My first major version of this was booking our Korean Airlines tickets from New York to Bali.

In order to book award travel on Korean Airlines you need to start by signing up for a free SkyPass account. It’s not difficult – much like anything else it requires your contact information and some other details. Then you can search for the dates you want. Here is an example of the flight plan that my wife and I took (this is not the exact plan we took, FYI).

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We did take these flights but I called to book them in such a way that we had 25 hours in Seoul on our way to Bali. One of the nice things about Korean Airlines is their stopover rules on award travel. I’m not sure exactly how many are allowed, but we could have had multiple weeks between our flight to Seoul and then to Bali. Since our focus was Bali, we made sure it was only one day (more on that day on a later blog post). Also, if you have these kinds of layovers in Seoul, their tourism bureau offers some pretty amazing free bus tours and hotel stays.

One specific note about this award ticket before we go on: in order to get the ticket for my wife, I had to verify that we were married. I put the award ticket on hold (which you can do for up to 30 days on Korean Airlines) and then had to upload a copy of our marriage certificate and have them agree that it was valid before I could officially book it. It was a strange thing to do, but still worth it.

So, now, onto the main event. We arrived at JFK about 2 hours early in order to take advantage of the pre-flight lounge access we had. We breezed through check-in thanks to our tickets being in first class.IMG_5923 We then went to the Korean Airlines lounge and were given access to the prestigious First Class section (they differentiate between First and Business, also called Prestige class). It was not really much to write home about. Some small snacks, drinks, and comfortable chairs. The bathrooms were nice and there was a conference room you could use.IMG_5930IMG_5932

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Because it was not the nicest, we decided to utilize an important benefit of the Citi Prestige card that I have: access to Priority Pass lounges. Air France happens to also have a lounge in the same terminal so we went there and had a MUCH nicer time.

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The food and drink were way more plentiful and tasty and the views were spectacular. We stayed there for the duration of our wait. Unfortunately, our flight left at 2pm, otherwise we would have partaken in the complementary 20 minute spa package included in the lounge. Next time.

After waiting in the lounge for a while, we finally took it upon ourselves to board the flight.

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I was a bit surprised by the fact that there was one entrance for First, Prestige, and Economy class passengers. In the past I’ve read about different gateways, but I guess it was okay. What was more important was the seat we were about to sit in is one of the most comfortable in the world. It is large with an incredible amount of storage and we were given a wonderful amenity kit, Bose headphones, and pajamas for our flight.

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My wife and I have never experienced this kind of luxury in the sky. The food options for meals were incredible (and are more extensive if you need vegetarian or other limited options – just ask further in advance than we did). We had such nice meals and were able to watch their in-flight entertainment system without noise thanks to the headphones.

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The best past for us during this 13 hour journey was that we could really sleep. I changed into my pajamas quickly after getting on the plane and lied down for sleep after dinner. My wife slept longer than I did but it was very enjoyable for both of us. The seat flattens down and a pad is put on top followed by a very comfy duvet cover. Sometimes during the night it got a bit too hot with the duvet but mostly it was a great time.

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Since I woke up earlier than my wife I asked the flight attendants if I could have my second meal early and they happily oblige (side note: they were the most attentive attendants I have ever had. I don’t know if it is the same in Economy but it was incredible up front).

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Overall, the A380 is an amazing way to fly, be it on First Class or otherwise. But if you can get a chance to fly up front at some point, you should definitely take it!

Starwood card sign-up bonuses and adding a new transfer partner

One thought that is always considered in the miles+points game is to diversify your portfolio. Arguments can be made to focus on one or another airline to get elite status but for the average user this is probably not going to happen quickly. So, having cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred that have myriad of transfer partners is a very good idea.

Every August, one of these cards, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card increase their Starpoints bonuses, which have numerous transfer partners to choose from. In fact, they recently added Korean Air to the list.

Each card is available for a $95 annual fee (waived in the first year) with bonuses of 30,000 points for each card after reaching the purchase threshold. You can also get referral credit of up to 55,000 points if someone you refer gets the card also.

The bonuses will stop soon so if you do not have either of these cards, now is the time.

Trip to the United Club at Newark Airport Terminal C

Over this past weekend I had the opportunity to view the United Club at Newark Airport Terminal C. Unfortunately I was only passing through on the way to my gate so I had a limited view of what was going on. That being said, as Newark is a hub for United flights it looked well-attended with some nice amenities.

I walked into the main entrance and was asked for my boarding pass. Once through I noticed a lot of people milling around – some doing work at a seat, some talking, some reading, etc. There was a convenient business center where many people were holed around laptops, getting some work done. A bit further in there was a lovely bar, fully-staffed with a variety of drinks. Unfortunately, the snack area left something to be desired – just some cheese, crackers, cookies, candy, and some fruit and carrot sticks. There was a coffee/cappuccino maker that did not have any hot chocolate (that I wanted).

Other amenities included a room to store luggage and the availability of showers upon request. I did not have time so I did not avail myself of them like I had once at the Korean Airlines lounge at LAX International Terminal.

Overall it is a nice lounge for getting some work done if you do not mind many people milling around and some noise.

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Yes, there were showers available!

 

A view of the general seating area.

A view of the general seating area.

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The bar area was crowded but with plenty of booze.

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There was a convenient location to store your luggage.

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The snack area left something to be desired.

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There was a vast business center to get some work done.