Newbies looking for advice . . .

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by RonWeber, May 2, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. RonWeber

    RonWeber Member

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    Hello,

    Our youngest will be going to college soon, and we will be empty nesters (hooray!). Once our kids have moved out, we plan to travel quite a bit. We want to make sure we pick the best program(s) to maximize frequent flier benefits and would appreciate any advice you (the experts) can give us.

    Thank you!

    Ron and Diane
    1. What is your origination city/airport? Denver
    2. Where do you tend to travel? Mainly within the U.S. (including a lot of trips to Hawaii), with occasional trips to Europe
    3. What is you goal for the frequent flyer program (status, upgrades, rewards, etc.?) Mainly free flights and/or upgrades
    4. How much do you travel in an average year? We wil be traveling at least 3 - 4 weeks/trips per year, maybe more (if we can afford to).
    5. Do you fly for business, pleasure, or a mix? Pleasure
    6. How much of your travel is paid by someone else? None
    7. How much control do you have of choosing flights, airlines, etc.? Complete control
    8. What days of the week do you typically travel? Fri, Sat, Sun
    9. Can you book flexible fares? Yes
    10. If you are likely to qualify for elite status will it be miles or segments? Don't know
    11. Do you have a preference or imposed requirement of hotel/rental car/credit card partners? We own 4 weeks of RCI timeshare in Kona and are members of Starwood, Hyatt, and Hilton hotel rewards
    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). Not sure yet
    14. What benefits do you hope to receive for elite status? Business or first class, lounge access, priority boarding
     
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  2. Steven Schwartz
    Original Member

    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Wonderful - that's a lot of useful info but your first big decision is #13 - what cabin do you want to fly in? Twice the miles usually for business and that also means how many miles can you accumulate a year.

    I am one of the lucky ones and have a business which generates miles, but I still have no issue flying coach in the states if it's 2-3 hours. If you want to spend most of your time in the states, those miles will obviously go a lot further.

    Since you have 4 weeks in Hawaii, I would also ask what airline you have been using up to now? Do you fly non-stop and, if so, are you committed to doing that or are you willing to have a stop if you can get a free flight? Looks like only United flies NS to HNL and if that's the direction you want, I would recommend a combination of the Chase Sapphire (double miles for restaurants) and the United Club Card (1.5 miles for everything).

    More than anything, I'm impressed that with your kids in college, you can afford to travel!!! I had to wait for them to all graduate and then get married!
     
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  3. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Both United and American will offer you the best travel opportunities to Kona from a points perspective. For United redemptions there are the United CCs and also Chase Sapphire Preferred. For the AA redemptions you can use BA Avios (a bit more expensive with the connection to/from DEN) but those BA points can also be ued to fly on Alaska Airlines which has a lot of Hawaii service.

    UA miles are better than BA for Europe, mostly due to fees and partners available across the Atlantic so it might be worth saving the UA points for those trips and pushing the others towards the Hawaii travel.
     
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  4. iolaire
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    iolaire Gold Member

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    A nice start might be to try to earn the Southwest Companion pass, that requires finding a 50,000 bonus for both the personal and business SW credit cards from Chase, plus earning another 10,000 points - via spend or other means.

    What that will get you is buy one get one free fairs on SW for any flight, including those booked with your 110,000 SW points for 2013 and 2014.

    That would get you off to a good start with affordable trips around the states well you work towards bigger more complex international trips.

    As an example these are the trips I’ve done with my wife (my companion) for the SW points, and I still have bout 40k left.
    2013: BWI – Buffalo
    2014: BWI – Austin – DCA
    2014: BWI – Providence RI for Cape Cod
    2014: DCA – St. Louis
    2014: DCA – San Antonio (on AirTran)

    I hope to also get in Cabo San Lucas and San Juan Peroto Rico (Maybe twice) before the year runs out and the companion pass ends.

    I only book saver fares and pay with points, plus $10 each in taxes, if the fair drops I cancel and rebook with lower points. Also it should be noted that we are employed (no kids) so most of these trips are very quick two night or long weekend trips – so the companion pass is great for anyone with the flexibility to go away at least only days at time. We also went on a cruise paid for with AA vouchers from 2013 and have a trip to Budapest partially paid on a Delta voucher from 2013.

    Here are a few links:
    http://boardingarea.com/blogs/dealswelike/2013/03/25/earning-the-southwest-companion-pass/
    http://millionmilesecrets.com/2013/03/06/50000-point-southwest-premiere-companion-pass/
    http://thepointsguy.com/2013/02/cha...offers-companion-pass-quicker-than-you-think/[/list]
     
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  5. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    The Southwest companion pass won't help for Hawaii, at least not for a couple years yet. But it could be quite useful otherwise, especially out of DEN where WN has a lot of options.
     
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  6. iolaire
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    iolaire Gold Member

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    Nor will it help for europe :)
     
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  7. RonWeber

    RonWeber Member

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    Thank you everyone for your responses. We just bought the RCI timeshare weeks in Kona last month and will be banking most of the weeks to use elsewhere and occasionally trading them for other islands. We have two years until our youngest starts college and we start traveling extensively. So we're doing all of our research now. We have a Capitol One Venture card which doubles our miles and would like to sign up for for a good FF program now and start accumulating miles. Eventually, we'd like to work our way up to free flights and better cabins over time. We just read an article on CNN which said that American Airlines has the best program. But since we fly out of Denver, we're thinking United might be better for the kind of trips we'll be planning. Is there a better FF program for us? If not, which of those two would be better?
     
  8. flyforawg

    flyforawg Silver Member

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    You'll have more flight choices with United as that's a hub for them. You'll have to figure out what program you like better.

    I live in a United hub, but have been flying with AA. I like the program for AA better than UAs and the lack of non stops hasn't been a deterrent so far. If my flying patters were to change, I might consider switching.

    Considering the probability of high frequency to Kona and the other islands, I'd suggest United as your best choice since you'll have more frequency and flexibility if you plan on sticking with just one carrier. Just a random pick of 5/13/13 there are twice as many (6) flights to KOA from DEN on UA as there are on AA.

    As for credit cards, Citi Premier card is a decent choice for racking up lots of travel points and provides a small discount on airfare as well as a once a year companion pass (but you pay taxes/fees) for each card you have. It has a fairly high annual fee, but the benefits could be worth it for you. You get flight points as well as money spent, so when using for lots of flights they add up pretty quickly.
     
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  9. RonWeber

    RonWeber Member

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    Thank you. I was thinking about the hub situation as well. Plus, when I randomly checked airfare from Denver to Kona on United and American, American was way more (even with a connection through DFW) than United's direct flight. As for credit cards, American has AAdvantage and United has the United Plus Explorer. United's mileage bonuses look better, but it has a higher annual fee. At this point, unless someone tells me something different, I think we're probably going to go with United. But I'll wait a few days and see if anyone tells me about a better plan.
     
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  10. iolaire
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    iolaire Gold Member

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    credit card bonuses will give you a huge amount of points, there is nothing saying you need one card only.

    If going united you also can add the chase Saphire cards and transfer those points to united. But it's completely feasible to also get aa cards, meet the spend bonus and build points in that program over the next few years as well. (that's without talking about getting a us airways card which will be AA in a year or so, again increasing your AA points.)
     
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  11. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    If you fly to Kona 4X per year you will be at the 25K miles needed for entry level elite status on most airlines. On UA this level gets you some modest perks such as a free bag for you and others on your PNR (I believe the cards only get the cardholder the free bag), 25% bonus miles, E+ at check-in, better availability of saver awards in coach, the possibility of CPUs (the California to islands other than Oahu flights sometimes do have reasonable availability), Y-ups and a number of Premier travel services. Milepoint and TOBB have several threads on the value of Silver on United. Please ignore the gnashing of teeth on what was and focus on what is.
     
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  12. RonWeber

    RonWeber Member

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    That's a good idea. Our Kona weeks are consecutive. So we won't be going there 4x's per year. However, we will usually be banking those weeks and often using them for other islands (mainly Maui). So we'll keep that in mind. Can you please tell me what PNR, CPUs and Y-ups are. (sorry, I'm new).
     
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  13. RonWeber

    RonWeber Member

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    Thank you. I've heard a lot of good things about the AA program. So I may go ahead and do that. The only concern I have is that by splitting my annual spending between the two programs, I will dilute the potential benefits I could have received had I concentrated everything on one card/program. I need to look further into what it takes to reach the various levels with each program and see if we spend enough per year to achieve them both.
     
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  14. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    Combine the Chase Explorer card with the Sapphire Preferred and Ink products, and you have quite a few miles to be used on United. I would also agree that using the Southwest Companion Pass would be ideal for the lower 48 domestic trips, but they're also Chase cards, and it sounds like Kona is going to be the primary focus, so I'd second the United recommendation and use the Ultimate Rewards to transfer into your United accounts. 1 card per spouse of each kind would double the benefits!

    For traveling 3-4 times per year, I would say forget about status on an airline (unless as 8mihi mentioned above with paying for 4 RT's to Kona - although I think the point of you asking about this stuff is so you don't have to pay out of pocket all 4 times) and focus on points acquisition via credit cards. I honestly don't think domestic First Class is really worth the points spent, and United's 1st Class product to Hawaii isn't really that special from what I've heard. Everyone says Alaska Airlines offers the best front cabin service to Hawaii. A 1st class trip to Europe would be worthwhile, because of using the miles on partners that offer a great 1st/business product.
     
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  15. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    As you get more involved in this, you might decide to get into "manufactured spending". That will make reaching the minimum spend limits on cards relatively easy. It's really a decision that newbies in the points game have to get out of the way early. How much effort am I willing to put into this for the benefit of flying on the cheap? I initially said I wasn't going to mess with it, but then I read the Frequent Miler's blog and saw how many points I was leaving on the table by not getting involved with manufactured spend. My true average monthly family spend is between $4,000-5,000, but I'm churning about $20k total a month right now in manufactured spend to earn miles, even when not trying to meet minimum spends to earn card bonuses. It's a good 10-20 hours per month of work, but is completely worth it to me.
     
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  16. RonWeber

    RonWeber Member

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    Great advice, thanks! If I'm understanding you correctly, we should each apply for Chase Explorer and Sapphire Preferred cards separately (rather than adding a spouse) so we can double the benefits. Is that correct?

    Also, not having done this before, should we each get our own frequent flyer accounts to link to these cards or do all the points go into one account?
     
  17. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    Welcome to Milepoint. Some definitions can be obtained by double clicking on the term which will cause a box to pop up in the upper right corner of the screen.
    PNR is Passenger Name Record. If you and a child fly together and you booked your child's flight at the same time, you will both be flying under the same PNR. This can get family members (and others) some of the same Premier perks that the Silver/Gold/Platinum/1K/GS member get such as free luggage.
    CPUs are Complimentary Premier Upgrades. Premier members are eligible for unlimited (but not often available for lower tier elites) domestic upgrades. I was Gold last year and was upgraded on 20% of my flights. As Platinum this year I am over 50%. Silvers coming out of Hubs such as Denver (I am out of Newark) appear to be running 0 to 10% generally, but higher when they fly low-business traveler routes. Mommypoints has a great article on her experience as a Silver out of Houston.
    Y-ups (also YB-ups) are upgrades available at time of reservation to all elites when they buy a Y or B fare seat in coach. These are full fare (usually) unrestricted fares and can sometimes be more expensive than discounted (but restricted) business class fares. These Y/B fares do have the advantage of being easily changed if your travel plans are uncertain.

    All members have a shot at TOD upgrades (Tens of Dollars) just by paying the fee listed on the website. I have occasionally seen upgrades on empty flights offered to General Members 3 to 48 hours prior to a flight for very modest fees. Twice I have gotten my Mother upgraded EWR-PBI for just over $100 on a New Year's eve flight. You never know.

    I do suggest you concentrate on one program, it's usually better to be elite in one program than non-elite in several. While some here suggest AAs program is better, I have read some good rebuttals in favor of UA. Being in New Jersey near Newark (EWR), it would be foolish of me to choose any program other than UA. I have been quite happy with how Continental and now UA have treated me.
     
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  18. RonWeber

    RonWeber Member

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    If it's not too much trouble, can you please tell me how that works? Thanks!
     
  19. RonWeber

    RonWeber Member

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    United makes the most sense to us as well. Thank you for the detailed response and advice. I really appreciate it!
     
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  20. particlemn

    particlemn Silver Member

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    One thing i have found is many time shares are a saturday to saturday stay, but when looking for award tickets to hawaii it is often easiest to get low rate miles tickest on tues-thursday. also have you banked and used your timeshare at another property yet? I know of people whom have them and while it is said you can trade to another property, to actually get the other reservation on a highly desired property is easier said in a sales pitch than done in real life, I know many who end up buring their saved weeks in vegas where its easy to spend raather than the hawaii they were hoping for.
    you might look at a good cash back credit card also, RT coach to hawaii is 40k miles on united, but can often be found for around $400 especially off season
     
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  21. RonWeber

    RonWeber Member

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    We banked our weeks last week and have already booked a trip to Maui in November 2014. RCI has a variety of check-in days if you're flexible. However, as you've said, finding a highly desired property at a time we want to go is a challenge. Fortunately, we're semi-retired. So we have a lot of time to peruse the website and find something that works for us. It will also be a lot easier when we're not trying to match our kids' school schedule.
     
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  22. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    We own several Hilton Grand Vacations Club properties. They offer RCI properties at a very reasonable exchange. In the several attempts we have made, we have had no success in getting Maui reservations. Big Island, Oahu and Kauai have been easy and great alternatives, but no reasonable Maui. We may just burn HHonors hotel points to stay on Maui sometime.
     
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  23. RonWeber

    RonWeber Member

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    Depe
    Depending on when you want to go, there are quite a few RCI Maui properties available over the next couple of years. If you decide to check them out, I recommend trying to find a Gold or Silver Crown property. Also, check the reviews on RCI and Trip Advisor (if available) before you book as some are better than others. Good luck!
     
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  24. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    Exactly. Each person should get their own account, as combining miles/points is not possible with most major airlines (it's possible with some, and a few hotels, but not many) and then each apply for your own credit cards separately getting 1 of each card type a piece (you and your wife apply separately for the same card type, but separate accounts, in other words). You could book awards out of either account if you have enough miles to cover for you and your spouse so you can book 2 at the same time (which has its advantages), or you could each book your own award out of your own accounts.

    As for manufactured spend, I'd probably refer you to Million Mile Secrets or The Frequent Miler. Start with this post, and that should get you started with the idea of manufactured spending.
     
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  25. RonWeber

    RonWeber Member

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    That's what we're going to do. Thanks again! I'll check out those other sites too.
     
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