Award and Earning/Spending Strategy

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by webdes03, Sep 2, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. webdes03

    webdes03 Gold Member

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    Note: I don't want this to become another argument about the spend-based status. Obviously the game is significantly different now, I'm really looking for advice on the value of miles to replace fares vs. buying upgradable fares.

    We're wrapping up our vacation (second to last day in Vienna, then the VIE-STR-EWR-RDU routing home). I'm going to post this outside of Teh Box because I'm so far behind and don't want to read replies and miss other stuff. We'll see if anyone notices my little poast here.

    As there's been much discussion around my travel plans for next year, I wanted to solicit some advice from those who have been playing this game longer than I. I know much of the game, and I'm pretty savvy, but I'm relatively new to turning left at the door.

    The quick overview is that my better half (now soon to be wife) got a bit spoiled on this trip. We will normally fly E+ TATL, and now that she's experienced J (even UA J at that) she's already excited about more premium cabin travel. I travel for work, though in my new position travel will be down from what I was previously doing, and I don't expect more than a trip or two between now and the end of the year. I've had about 6-months travel free, and I'll just barely requalify as silver in just over a month. I'm somewhat sad to see my gold status go, but getting back to gold this year is just unattainable.

    We've got about 280K miles banked, and I generally earn 150K or so a year through CC spend (UA cards). She also has a UA card and does about 50-60K). I have the added benefit of being able to pass-through business expenses and get reimbursed, so it helps me meet the 25K spend pretty easily, and I'll typically buy things like vitamins through Mileage Plus Shopping to get the bonus miles. We're no where near the volume as others, but collectively we can get to 200K+ a year. To date, our strategy has been to hold miles and use them for big trips (like this one) every year or so; and to buy paid travel for smaller trips.

    My cousin is getting married in the UK late next year. Now originally, my plan was to switch to AA in January, commit to them as my new go-to airline, and burn the remaining miles in the account for UA award travel to that wedding. We will also likely have some wedding planning travel next year and such, so maybe more personal travel next year than typical for us.

    Now that's a long winded opening, but here's where I'm looking for advice. With the change to a spend-based model, and knowing that we have these wedding plans, I'm inclined to perhaps stay with UA for next year. If I'm going to stay with UA, I want to get at least back to Gold if I can.

    My strategy has always been to avoid buying expensive international tickets by using miles; but that strategy isn't going to work in a spend-based FF program (we're loyal to UA currently, but even at say 10K or so a year spend, we're still avoiding buying the big value tickets by using miles). Instead I'm wondering about buying upgradable coach tickets and using miles for the upgrade. That would let us build the spend while still flying premium cabins. That said, when I bought my upcoming HNL-IAD trip, the difference between discounted coach and P fare was significantly less than the co-pay required to upgrade discounted coach with miles- so maybe that strategy isn't all that practical. Thoughts? Do folks here use or consider mileage upgrades?

    I'm also "confused" on how the mileage upgrade on other Star carriers works out. I tried doing some searching last night for MUC, FRA, VIE, etc. fares using the "award upgrade" filter, just to play around... and everything that came back on partner metal said no upgrades were available. I know they're capacity controlled, but I would have expected to see at least one for any of the random dates I tossed in; or does UA.bomb just not work well for that? As I understand the verbiage, UA spend/FF credit only counts on 016 tickets, but the partner upgrade verbiage on the *A website made it sound like you could upgrade say an OS ticketed flight (OS stock) using UA miles through the Star upgrade process; is that the only way, or can you actually find UA codeshares on partner metal that can take mileage upgrades at booking?

    I'm hoping those of you with more experience with premium travel can clarify this for me, or tell me I'm completely wrong. ;-)
     
  2. snod08
    Original Member

    snod08 Gold Member

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    on UA: Buying a coach fare and using miles plus money to upgrade - indeed becomes an expensive deal in the end. Yes, it is probably better to buy a P-fare that is within a few hundred dollars of the total you would spend on the Y-ticket plus upgrade money ( the miles required for the upgrade have some $ value too).
    I strongly suggest that you apply for these miles/money upgrade only if you can confirm it immediately. Waitlisting is a risk as other people with higher status will come ahead of you.

    On partner airlines:
    I think you are asking about "Star Alliance Upgrades". This is an expen$$$ive option because, you have to buy Y/B fares (for economy to business) on the partner metal. And then, use miles to upgrade.
    Anyone can ticket the partner metal.
    It has to be a partner flight number (e.g., LH440). Cannot be a UA codeshare of partner flight.
    These upgrades cannot be wait listed. You either get it or dont. You can keep trying every day or even every hour to apply the upgrade....until you get it.
    Also, these upgrades are "per segment". So, it becomes even more expensive.

    The Star Alliance upgrades would work great for someone whose work routinely buys refundable Y/B or C/D fares and then they use their own miles to upgrade to business or first.

    Hope this helps a little bit.

    For your honeymoon, if you cannot afford buying a business class ticket for $$$, consider buying an award ticket using miles...in business....if IRROPS happens, at least you will be re-booked in business.
     
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  3. webdes03

    webdes03 Gold Member

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    Thanks for the reply. At the end of the day, maybe I should just buy a P fare or two early in the year to get the status qualification then go back to our old habits.

    We're looking to get married in Sedona possibly... That's something we've talked on and off about for about a year. I expect we'll have a scouting trip or two out there next year, wedding sometime 2016, and honeymoon (likely road trip across Italy) in 2016. We'll see if I'm still with UA in 2016. I think I may stay here for next year, but we'll see. I'm hopelessly optimistic that UA can/will improve to the point where I think it's worth waiting a year given how invested we are with UA CCs and such.
     
    snod08 likes this.
  4. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Given that the lion's share of your earning comes from CCs and not travel I don't see the new earning rules affecting you too much. Redemption rulles have not changed (yet) and you are still earning plenty.

    Forget about upgrdes. Definitely not a good deal on partners and likely not on UA metal.
     
  5. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    With respect to *A upgrades, they are usually not worth the miles because one needs to have a fairly expensive ticket to start with:
    In general, using miles to upgrade flights is not the best use of miles...
     
    webdes03 likes this.
  6. webdes03

    webdes03 Gold Member

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    Pretty much what has always been my position anyway. So I think the using of our miles won't likely change, and we'll consider purchasing some P fares when available to aid my status requalification.

    Thanks for all the feedback!
     
    NYCUA1K likes this.
  7. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    BTW, I just posted info on a promo that UA is running for the next couple of days, whereby one gets a 35% bonus for a solo purchase, 40% for a duo, etc, up to 100% bonus if a group of people can purchase together. The promise of a 35% bonus, at least, seems to check out...

    You and your soon-to-be fiancee could purchase together and earn 40% extra...
     
    webdes03 likes this.
  8. webdes03

    webdes03 Gold Member

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    I saw that this morning (UA email)... Not a bad deal at around 2 com, figured I'd check to see what the bonus was up to tomorrow. When I looked this morning it said only 8 people had participated.
     
  9. Terry Yap

    Terry Yap Gold Member

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    yes, the UA promo used to be called People Power in the last round, needs to go up to a high percentage bonus to be really attractive rate, i think
     
  10. webdes03

    webdes03 Gold Member

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    I'm tempted to do it tomorrow evening (Austrian time) if it has gone up to a decent percentage. We fly out at 710a Austrian time Thursday, so if I'm going to do it I need to do it before I leave. When I checked it this morning it said 8 transactions... now it says 161... so it still has quite a ways to go to get to even 40% bonus.
     
  11. lapointdm

    lapointdm Silver Member

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    Really think about what you want to do with those UA miles. Will you be able to buy and redeem at a rate that is worth the cost? Buying miles won't help with status either if status is your real goal.
     
  12. eponymous_coward
    Original Member

    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Why do you need status if you aren't flying that much and can generate miles without flying?

    I guess it's a pretty plastic card, but what is the value really worth in dollars and cents? The entire point of loyalty programs is to get you to spend money to get locked in. I am not clear on why you need to lock in.
     
  13. Terry Yap

    Terry Yap Gold Member

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  14. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    It's up to 40% now and highly doubtful it'll get to 50% by the deadline tomorrow. :oops:
     
  15. Terry Yap

    Terry Yap Gold Member

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    maybe it'll be a little like the Dow Jones index sometimes and you see a sharp increase in % of people coming in, over the last 15 min prior to closing...:D
     

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