Newbie looking to refocus mileage earnings.

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by Junebuggy, Aug 25, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. Junebuggy

    Junebuggy Active Member

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    Hello all!

    I'm new to register, but have been lurking for some time. To give you a brief rundown-- I’ve been a casual member of several frequent flyer/hotel programs for a decade or so. Given some great recent life/financial changes--recently married, husband landed a sweet new job with a huge pay increase, and me finishing grad school and now working--we’re looking to ramp up our travel over the next 5-7 years, before we (theoretically) have kids. As such, we’re looking to focus our mileage earning streams, to make the most of our travels. To give you some context:

    1. What is your origination city/airport? RDU
    2. Where do you tend to travel? NYC, several times per year, but otherwise varied. (I go to several professional conferences per year-- some international, etc.) Husband’s travel usually limited to pleasure.
    3. What is your goal for the frequent flyer program (status, upgrades, rewards, etc.?): Rewards and upgrades, primarily. Status is nice, too, of course.
    4. How much do you travel in an average year? Previously, between 40-55,000 miles per year. I expect more in the coming years.
    5. Do you fly for business, pleasure, or a mix? mix - 50/50%
    6. How much of your travel is paid by someone else? I usually get some/all recompense for business travel, but I book it myself.
    7. How much control do you have of choosing flights, airlines, etc.? Total.
    8. What days of the week do you typically travel? Any!
    9. Can you book flexible fares? Yes.
    10. If you are likely to qualify for elite status will it be miles or segments? Varies from year to year-- but usually by miles.
    11. Do you have a preference or imposed requirement of hotel/rental car/credit card partners? No.
    12. Can you get extra miles from credit cards, surveys, other partners? Yes.
    13. How would you like to use your miles for awards? (Intl F & C trips, domestic flights, other non flight awards). International/domestic travel.
    14. What benefits do you hope to receive for elite status?
      1. upgrades: free, with instruments, paid - free or discounted upgrades!
      2. lounge access: domestic vs international travel - sure, but not a hard requirement.
      3. premium lines for check in - Yes.
      4. premium security lines - Yes.
      5. IROPs handling (How are you treated when things go wrong?) - It’s helpful, sure.
      6. elite phone line - sure.
      7. early boarding - Doesn’t matter to me, except on Southwest.
      8. free bags - Since I often have to check equipment for work I do, this is certainly helpful for business travel. Less necessary for pleasure travel. (I pack lightly!)
      9. OPUPs (Upgrades without fees, miles, or upgrade documents) - Yes!
      10. last minute flight availability - not worried about it.
      11. fee waivers - Yes.
      12. free same day confirmed/standby flight changes. Not a requirement.
    In the next several years, husband and I would like to travel to the following places (or most of them, at least): general Europe (on several different itineraries), Japan, Singapore, Thailand, India/Nepal, New Zealand/Australia, Iceland, Alaska, various locations around the US and Canada (we’re especially into outdoors/national parks/etc.), and if we can swing it-- Antarctica. I’m sure other places will be added to the list as we figure it out.

    I’m primarily looking to streamline our mileage earnings, to take advantage of more awards, and have better access to upgrades and other perks. One huge perk would be free/reduced price business/first class on longer-haul flights, especially to southeast Asia.

    Right now, I seem to fly Delta a lot (usually maintain Silver Elite status) or Southwest (sometimes make A-list, sometimes not), but have accounts with most other airlines flying out of RDU, with small mileage balances on each. With hotels, I’m generally less discriminate-- I have numerous accounts, but end up booking whatever is the cheapest. (However, I’m happy to be more strategic here, as well.) For other mileage avenues, I use mileage bonuses on the occasional rental car, take advantage of occasional merchant/credit card spending bonuses (i.e. 2,000 miles for opening a Netflix account).-- but I am in no way consistent with these alternative mileage options. (Very sporadically, I use the Rapid Dining program for my Southwest account, and take surveys via E-Rewards, e-Miles, etc.)

    For credit cards, husband and I share a Capital One Venture card. I also have a CashRewards card through Bank of America, but now use it infrequently. (Our motivations have primarily been cash-back rewards, but we can certainly change that.) I am open to additional credit cards, as long as I’m strategic with them, but want to avoid churning for the next couple of years. My credit is solid, other than a high income/debt ratio-- which will become less of an issue now that I’m no longer a grad student (and hopefully much less of an issue within a couple of years, as I pay down some student loans). Husband’s credit is rock solid, so he probably has more leeway.

    Given the above information and my travel goals, what suggestions do you have for focusing my earning methods? I’m not scared of trial and error!-- but any advice to get me pointed in the right direction would be most appreciated!

    (Some additional specific thoughts: Should I try gaining elite status on AA or another airline, to have better access to award bookings and international upgrades? I’ve found Delta pretty lame for that, as consensus seems corroborate. I’m also intrigued by the Southwest Companion pass-- would certainly be a nice perk for domestic travel! Thoughts there? Or would I be better off channeling my miles in another program?)
     
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  2. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    Welcome to Milepoint.

    You seem to have your goals quite well organized. If you are looking for perks and want to fly internationally, I would avoid Southwest. They in reality are good for cheap fares, but not much else. American is a good place to have status if you can get to executive platinum as their systemwide upgrades do not require any special fare. The only drawback is that if you are gold or platinum you have to use upgrades that you earn or buy in order to get upgraded on domestic flights. There are no free upgrades other than executive platinum. Delta on the other hand has free upgrades when available for silver or higher. Do not expect many upgrades if silver or gold. Their systemwide upgrades require an expensive fare or most people find cheaper ticket to buy outright.

    Although credit cards do not earn elite miles on any airplane now, you can generate some very nice signing bonuses to acquire miles for upgrades or free tickets. I personally like using American miles for Cathay first class to Asia, At present there are still some bonuses through Citibank offering 50,000 miles for a credit card sign up with a certain minimum spend. you can apply for two cards through Citibank on the same day and it only shows as one hit on your credit report.

    You will find a lot of information on Milepoint and if you go to Boarding area.com there are many bloggers who constantly have tips.

    Good luck in your travels.
     
  3. BuckleandBoots

    BuckleandBoots Silver Member

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    Wow JuneBuggy, I think I know some travel companions for y'all.

    Short Version:
    Try to get Mid-Tier status on a Major Carrier and supplement with 2nd choice to keep options. For example, Gold or Plat on Delta and Proletariat+ on Southwest. Heavily consider an Airline miles card, depending on what supplements your chosen program(s). Don't worry about hotels until you've experienced some trial and error. Read a lot!

    Long Version:
    Because you asked, here are my thoughts with caveats:

    Based out of RDU, have you considered US-Air? Hopefully someone else can speak to the Dividend Miles redemption rates into the rest of the *A airlines (UA, SQ, Asiana, TG, etc.) I've found *Gold to be pretty good when traveling internationally. Unfortunately, the whole potential merger confuses the issue, but even if they (US) goes OW there are lots of options to get where you want to go.

    Flying UA, you'll have lots of connections and I'm not sure it would win in a Head to Head with Delta. Both fly to Alaska/Asia but Delta would let you redeem with Alaskan Air. That said, UA redemption has historically been easier.

    I wish I could recommend Southwest, but if you want to fly international it becomes a non-starter.

    I can't speak to AA, so I won't.

    Regarding hotels, If you're not going to stick to one chain you may want to stick with a Cash/Cash Based rewards like Capital One. Just stay where you want and get a free night every now and then from Cap One. You also have to honestly ask yourself if your going to stay in chain hotels on your own travel. From experience, the campsites at Denali National Park don't care about hotel status. :p

    Personally, I like Hilton's fast track to gold with the no-fee Hilton card for business. It's nice to stay at a respectable hotel and get comped breakfast and free internet. Plus they're everywhere, but I've heard really good things about both IHG and Marriott.
     
  4. Photonerd71

    Photonerd71 Silver Member

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    I'll echo what the others have said. Plus I'll add this, southwest isn't always the cheapest (regardless of what the fanboys say) plus they don't always fly to the big international airports if you want to use a combo platter of airlines for international travel. (Houston, Dallas and Chicago are three major examples. SW uses hobby, love field and midway. None of these are really all that close to the big airports in these cities). Just something to keep in mind when thinking about southwest
     
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  5. TravelBear

    TravelBear Gold Member

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    Actually, you can earn QMs for DL with with the DL branded American Express Platinum and Reserve card.
     
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  6. cennas
    Original Member

    cennas Gold Member

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    Welcome to MP Junebuggy!
     
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  7. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    silly me, I have the card and forgot about one of it's perks.
     
  8. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    yeah you just gotta spend $30k i think?
     
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  9. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    the wife can take care of that in a week
     
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  10. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Lmao you accepting applications for adopted children :p
     
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  11. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    sorry, my three kids don't want anymore siblings
     
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