Help consolidate my miles and target single FF program

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by Wherearemymiles?, Mar 30, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Hi,
    Not sure exactly where the best place to post this is, but here goes.

    My wife and I recently moved and our home airport (ABQ) has no single airline that predominantly provides the best service/routes. Some routes Southwest is best option (Most direct), others AA, others CO, UA, DL ect.

    While our airport has flights from almost all major carriers, there are some “required” connections that don’t make sense to me. For example, almost all AA flights require going to Dallas even if going to the west coast, from our location this is going backwards to get anywhere.

    We fly maybe once a quarter so not major travel at all, but we would like to consolidate our miles/earnings for future travel.

    We mostly fly to Dallas, Oregon (PDX or MFR) and Baltimore/Washington (BWI, DCA, IAD).

    We have a total yearly spend of about 30-35K on CC that we could target for miles (Currenlty all on 2% Cashback card).

    Our current mileage totals are:

    AA: 140k
    Southwest: About 5000 points short of free flight with points and old credits.
    DL: 60k

    Wife:
    AA: 100k
    Southwest: 2500 points short of free flight.

    So what is your advice as to which airline would make the most sense to focus on to build up our miles with and why?

    Thanks for your help!
     
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  2. secretsea18
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    secretsea18 Gold Member

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    I suggest that you look at the general flight schedules to destinations that are the most common for your needs and pick the carrier alliance that best serves those needs. When in a smaller city (I used to live in Little Rock, and there I nearly always had to connect somewhere at least once to get anywhere I wanted to go), you have to either decide that connecting is OK .... and gets you more miles (albeit at the cost of increased time in transit) .... or that it is not OK, and then you would pick the airline that is the non-stop flight. Rarely these two are the same.

    In my situation, I picked NWA (rip) because it offered a mainline plane (a real jet) in the DC9 to MEM. For me that made the difference between all the other carriers, as I was going to have to connect somewhere. I quickly earned Silver Elite, and then was a NW flyer for every flight, even if it meant double connecting.

    Only you can decide what airline/alliance will work for your needs, and your destinations. So good luck in figuring out what is best for you.

    BTW, I do use and collect miles from CC use for AA, UA and DL (and soon to be CO) so have a bit of a stockpile with all the alliances, cause no one airline works for every situation. :)

    Oh.... and I almost forgot: Welcome to Milepoint. We like you here!
     
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  3. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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    First, you need to think about what your goals are. Do you want an international award, C award or a F award? Or are you interested in hotel awards. These answers will help dictate what is probably best for you.

    In my opinion, I would tend to stay with Southwest UNTIL you have enough miles / points for the free flight. You are close enough that it does not make sense to abandon those miles.

    One question, since you don't fly that much, why not look at one of the hotel CCs? Depending on your stay patterns, this may be your best option. If the hotel CCs don't really work for you then you might think of staying with AA. With AA you can either use the miles on AA or its partners or transfer the points to HHonors for hotel stays.

    Just my opinion.
     
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  4. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    Do be aware that on AA, you'll be able to earn Lifetime Gold at 1 million miles. All other things being equal I would lean to AA for this reason. Especially combining CC spend with flying it can add up quickly.
     
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  5. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    I'm not an expert on all these programs, but I would agree with the advice to take further Southwest flights when convenient to claim the free tickets. Do your credits expire in the new program, especially if you stop flying them?

    AA sounds like probably your best match, especially since CC miles count for lifetime status, which is very generous. If it's not a small RJ, flying east to the AA hub at DFW might not be so bad; it nicely adds miles and seems to be a decent airport for connections.

    Check the details about whether your DL miles are covered by the new "never expire" policy, although note that DL miles are subject to extremely bad inflation. It's why they're called skypesos, Despite this, 60K should certainly get you a free ticket, even TATL in coach off season or close in with some luck and flexibility. If you travel as a couple and don't want more skypesos from a purchased companion ticket, think about a pair of domestic tickets. You can buy a few miles if needed (normally not a good deal) to round up to awards or use leftover miles for hotel nights, magazines, and gift cards, although the latter are priced much better for DL elites and DL AmEx credit card holders. You can also donate stray miles to DL charities or possibly use them partially for "pay with miles" tickets, again generally not a good deal.
     
  6. Wow! Thanks for the welcome!
    Also, thanks for the quick and detailed responses!

    I was afraid that the answer would be something like this. I have looked at the flight schedules of AA, Southwest, DL and UA/CO to the places we fly most frequently... and the answer is it really depends.

    Southwest has the most direct flights in general (Dallas, PDX, BWI)

    AA has direct to Dallas, and most other (PDX, BWI/IAD/DCA) require the stopover in Dallas.

    UA/CO has direct to IAD, but connections required for PDX and DFW

    DL has connections required for PDX, IAD, and no flight to DFW?

    More info that anyone wants for sure, but I needed to type it out to get a full feel for the positive and negative of each.

    So in my opinion our "best" options are Southwest and AA. I am a bigger fan of AA over Southwest, but that requires the sacrifice of connecting in DFW to go most places.

    As far as the CC spend, I was currently leaning towards the SPG Amex, since it can be used both for hotel or transferred to AA. If they bring back transfer to Southwest this would be a no brainer since we could keep all 4 accounts (AA and WN) active from the SPG points. As a backup we could use AA or Southwest visa.

    I am hesitant to stockpile a bunch of points with southwest mainly because I have not fully looked at the new RR to see if “points” would have as much value to me as the credits previously did.

    Or is there a better option in the Hotel CC arena that would also provide transfer to FF miles that I am missing?
     
  7. Tenmoc -Yes I was aware of 1mm on AA gets lifetime gold, that just seems so far away

    MSPeconomist - the AA flight to DFW is an MD80, so no issue. The old southwest credits do have expiration dates which is annoying. So the "value" of the RR account will start dropping if I don’t hit an award by year end. My DL are covered under the no expiration. I'll look at some options for those miles to see if they would have any value. just not sure If I want to direct future earnings / CC spending towards DL.
     
  8. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    I agree with your primary CC being SPG. They transfer easily.

    But you should also pick up if you can the AA personal and business cards for each you and your wife to get the bonus miles. That would be about 100k each. Once you get the bonus, you can look to trim down to the SPG only.
     
  9. Well then its a question of which to do first, because we need space between each othe offers to meet the spend/time requirements for each :)

    If we cant do both AA and SPG at the same time is their an advantage to doing one first?
     
  10. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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  11. Original Member
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    Alternatively, you can credit all your flights to Alaska Airlines (AS) and fly both DL and AA. DL has a better reciprocity agreement than AA with AS, but you will meet your stated goal of consolidating your mile earning. It doesn't sound like you'd hit the 25k lower-elite tier anyway.

    +1 on the WN idea, too... if you're flying mostly/entirely domestic and if you don't hit 25k miles/year, they aren't a bad choice since you get free checked luggage.
     
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  12. How can I credit all my flights to AS? Future flights or past? No we would most likely not hit 25k since probably 1/2 of the flights are to Dallas... which cant even be 1k miles...

    I agree WN provides great value for domestic and the free checked bags are great, but is that enough to move all future CC and flight activity to them?
     
  13. Gardyloo
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    Gardyloo Gold Member

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    I think you should divide your efforts to (a) what to do with existing accounts, and (b) what to do going forward.

    As to (a) since the bulk of your miles are with AA, just burn them off as you see fit. Remember AA has nonstops from ABQ to LAX (and now one of them is a CR7 with first class seats) and as a full partner, you can connect from AA to AS from LAX to PDX, no problemo. DFW is an easy hub for connections on AA to the east, so that's covered too.

    Going forward, I think AA would be okay as your main carrier. You'd be riding AA codeshares on AS metal from LAX to PDX, but the change at LAX is dead easy (and airside via the Eagle bus) and much faster than going all the way to DFW first. AS would probably be a good second program, as it would allow you to earn spendable miles on AA or DL flights, and AS' own redemption program is almost as good as AA's (and vastly superior to DL's IMO.)
     
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  14. Original Member
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    Original Member Silver Member

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    Get an AS frequent flyer number. You can credit all your miles forward to AS for flights on AS, DL, and AA as well as most hotel and car rental chains.

    I personally use AS this way. I live in ATL but fly AA preferentially from my time in TPA. AA doesn't work for East Coast flights for me except MIA and NYC and I end up flying DL. I credit the DL flights to AS since I can also credit AA flights to AS if I'm over the annual mileage "hump" of 25k or 50k miles (depending on what I'll actually be doing that year). I also collect AS miles through my Bank of America debit card which I use sparingly (only at places that refuse credit cards).

    As far as your last question: should you fly WN. They're a perfectly fine airline and lots of people like them. Sometimes they're the cheapest game in town, sometimes they're not. Depending on your credit card spend, it might be worthwhile... if you get 110k points through cc spend, flights, and other partners, you will get "Companion Pass (CP)". CP acts like a buy one get one free with previously identified "companions" (i.e. you can't continuously switch it to game the system).

    The only reasons to stick with the "majors" are:
    1. International options
    2. WN isn't always the cheapest game in town
    3. Chance of an upgrade
    4. Chance of a "meal"
    5. Chance of IFE
    6. WN doesn't fly where you want to go nonstop or in a reasonable way
    7. You fly >25k miles/year
    8. You MUST have pre-assigned seats
     
  15. Original Member
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    Original Member Silver Member

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    Whichever one has the best sign up bonus at the time... i.e. when AA had the 75k mile signup bonus, I'd definitely do that one over SPG.

    OTOH, before you go crazy with affiliated credit cards, consider getting a cash back card. It isn't offered anymore, but Schwab had a 2% card, so with $25k spending (enough to get a free domestic ticket on AA), you'd get $500 cash back. My domestic flights generally run $300 +/-, so I'd be ahead with a cash back card. The frequent flyer affiliated card is better for attaining million mile status and/or for miles if used on international "dream" trips.

    I'd also consider getting a Chase Southwest card... you can buff up your account to get a free ticket with your existing points. Look around at fatwallet to find the best deal for the day on these cards.
     
  16. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    I know that having a DL AmEx means free bags and I wouldn't be surprised if the same weren't true for the AA affiliated cards. Since you prefer AA and have a lot of miles with them, I think you should strategize on how to spend your WN and DL credits and work with AA going forward. Good mainline service to a hub and they anywhere isn't at all bad when you're not located at a giant airport.

    You will need to research the various AA credit cards and compare them to SPG AmEx, but I suspect that getting first tier elite on AA might be possible with help from their CC. SPG is a nice program even without using their credit card, although of course the CC gives additional benefits.

    Since you'll be connecting through DTW, you should also thing about lounge access. Unfortunately Priority Pass doesn't get you into an AA lounge, but it does work for the CO PC and what seems to be an independent lounge in Terminal D. Would an AC membership make sense for you or can you purchase single admissions or a book of coupons for when you have a longer wait for your flights? The answer might depend on having an AA CC (again, for DL this helps and many of the legacy carrier FF programs offer similar benefits), so this is something to factor into your evaluation of CCs.
     
  17. I have to admit I wasn’t aware of the connection between AS and AA/DL I will have to look into this. I also wasn’t aware you could credit miles to AS for flights.

    Since my goal is to consolidate, not expand my FF programs that would certainly help, and doesn’t seem like I would be losing any flexibility since I would still have access to AA and DL
     
  18. We actually have the Schwab card... well its now the FIA visa, and it is the primary card I referenced above.

    I am not trying to get affiliated cards with every airline out there, but was trying to see if there were better options than what we were doing currently that would provide greater rewards. So if there is a card that would provide a greater benefit (Even in the future) than I would want to explore that.
     
  19. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Sadly AA's credit cards don't offer much besides miles. No status provided, no free luggage, no lounge access. The only status boost you can get with an AA credit card is hitting a million miles which gives you lifetime gold status.

    You can get access to the Admiral's Club with an AMEX Platinum though. :)
     
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  20. Original Member
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    Most definitely. The key is 25k miles. If you think you're going to cross that threshold, then you need to put some serious thought into your primary program beyond "who flies there" and "who provides the best value to me".
     
  21. Original Member
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    Well, it's simple math. $25k in spending yields 25k miles vs. $500 on the Schwab. How much do your average tickets cost? Mine are $300ish, which means I'm $200 ahead with the Schwab.

    The signup bonus changes the equation and then we're talking about card churning, which is a different thread altogether.
     
  22. I am not aware of any AA card through Citi that provides checked bags for free, or even reduced fee...

    Hence why if AA is best option I thought the SPG amex was the best option due to the bonus miles on transfer.

    As far as lounge access, again I am not aware of any AA CC that gives lounge access either, but certainly could be wrong.
     
  23. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    But since the miles earned from AA CC spend count for MM status, they must also count for annual status too, no? If so, some use of AA CCs could bump the OP to AA's first tier, which must mean free bags and a few other benefits of a minor nature.

    Since AA gives AC access for the regular Platinum AmEx charge card and the OP would be flying AA almost exclusively, the AC membership dues (including any initiation fees) should be compared to the annual fee for AmEx Plat (not the same as the SPG AmEx), including spouse and guest policies with and without secondary cards/memberships. Remember too that AmEx Plat is good for US Air lounges even when not flying that airline.
     
  24. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Sorry, but no. AA only awards status to individuals who fly. You can spend all you want on an AA credit card and your lifetime miles count will sky rocket, but your elite qualifying count will be zero. :(

    Lifetime Gold and Platinum status at 1MM and 2MM are the only status AA awards without flying.

    If you want status on AA you need to fly (or be an employee of a major company that can negotiate the status). OP can perhaps enroll in a Gold or Platinum challenge with AA to get status, but that would only last a year if he didn't fly the minimum the next year.
     
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  25. Very true, I just wanted to make sure I explored all the angles. Certainly targeting a specific carrier for majority of travel does not require getting AA of DL underwear, but if there was a noticeable benefits when we do fly (beyond cash) that might be ultimately worth it.

    But then its also hard to beat the cash in pocket.
     

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