Points

Flying Delta First Class For $10

It's no secret that points and miles are a great way to not only get flights to all parts of the world, but to do so in the best seats on the plane. Rarely do I fly in economy anymore and if you asked me if that was worth it 2 years ago, I would have told you no... but when I can fly to my hometown for $10 in first class, how can you argue that.

Knowing your points and credit cards is key here. I am always trying to minimize the amount of points I spend while still trying to maximize the amount of miles I earn. It can be a juggling act that requires you to keep up on the best methods with multiple different companies in a constantly changing market. 



So how did I do it?

There were two aims on this flight booking, I am at the end of a status challenge with Delta. I'm about 4,200 miles short of meeting that challenge. So I needed to get those miles on a single round trip, to a location that isn't far enough away to give me that many miles in a normal trip. On top of all that, my current job situation means I don't have much money to spend on this flight.

There is a way to make all of this happen. Citi ThankYou points can be redeemed through their website for flights on any airline. While ThankYou points are usually more valuable as a transferable currency, using these points right now is better at a less than optimal rate, if only because I can't really spend money on a flight right now.

Next, we need to tackle the problem of the short flight distance. Normally the flight to Central New York would not grab me the 4,200 miles that I would need to meet the Delta challenge I'm currently undertaking. This is partly where first class comes in. On a paid ticket, first class earns 150% Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM).

Still this does not meet the full 4,200 miles I needed... now we need to get creative with the routing. By adding a short extra flight to the itinerary, it gains me the additional miles needed. Knowing the rules of a program can turn things in your favor.

Delta like many domestic carriers has a minimum mileage guarantee, meaning that no flight will earn you less than 500 MQM's ever. In first class, that means short flights of 500 miles or less will always earn you 750 miles. So if I take a short flight from Syracuse to JFK, then that 200 mile journey equals 750 MQM's. Same thing from Atlanta to Greenville. Using these routing rules to my advantage turns a short round trip flight into 4,500 MQM's, well over the 4,200 I still need to earn status.



How did I pay for it?

This one was tricky. I debated using all points for this through Citi ThankYou rewards. ThankYou points allow you to use your points to purchase a ticket, costing me nothing, but to Delta it still acts as a paid ticket meaning miles and MQM's are still earned like a paid ticket. Problem is, I don't want to spend all of my points if I can help it. 

Now my Chase Sapphire Reserve card steps in. This credit card comes with a $300 credit toward airfare, meaning that my purchase of a ticket will automatically be $300 off... to Delta they don't see this discount since it is applied on the credit card end of the transaction, once again earning me full miles with Delta.

To maximize both the credit from Chase and pay the least amount possible, I actually split the flight in two. Setting up a one way flight in each direction. I paid each of the flights separately, one with the Chase credit card and one with Citi ThankYou points. In this way I used the Chase credit which will expire at the end of the year before I am issued another $300 credit (it's a yearly perk). At the same time I minimized the amount of points used from my Citi card.

Points fully paid for one direction, no money out of pocket. The Chase credit and a small credit already on the card almost fully paid for the other direction, leaving only about $10 to pay out of pocket. Using all of your credit card perks and points you've built up, you can make a flight virtually free, just knowing how all of this works to your advantage will save you massive amounts of money.

Virgin America Offering Even More Free Points

Virgin America is on a points offering spree it seems. September brought 2 seperate promotions that allowed everyone to sign up for email offers and recieve 500 Elevate miles after roughly 10 days. Some of my points just posted from the previous signup.



Well Virgin is back with another 500 miles if you sign up for more promotions, this time with their Virgin Produced newletter. The website doesn't go into much detail on what Virgin Produced is, after looking it up, it appears to be a media company of some sort. Regardless of what Virgin Produced is, you are able to sign up and recieve 500 free miles from Virgin America. If you have taken advantage of the previous offers, this will bring the total to 1500 free miles in the last 1-2 months, not a bad deal for signing up for some mildly annoying email offers that you can cancel later.

Sign up prior to Oct 26th, and you'll grab 500 miles within 10 days of the end of the promotion, much like the terms of the other two signups. I will never argue with free miles, so go grab them while they are hot!

Back To Basics: Points and Miles

Currently I'm in the middle of my trip to London, Cape Town, and Dubai. This seems like a great time to get back to the basics of earning and collecting airline miles, hotel points, and other travel rewards. For me these loyalty programs are essential to travelling the world not only for extremely low cost, but also in some of the best seats you can find on the plane.



Airlines

Airline miles are some of the most well known loyalty programs in the travel world. Flying on board airlines will earn you miles with all of the airlines. If you focus on a single airline and remain fairly loyal to them, you may even earn those higher level elite statuses. These elite status programs come with flying perks, and extra earned miles that can then be put toward more free trips.

In the United States, all the major carriers have a loyalty program. Even if you travel very little, grabbing an account with them may be well worth it. Those miles will add up and maybe faster than you realize, you might be able to grab a free one way or even round trip ticket in the US, or internationally. If you want to maximize your miles, business class is usually the most bang for your miles.

Hotels

Hotels are very similar to airlines, if you are new to points and miles, you may have already joined a hotel loyalty program in the past. My suggestion is to make use of Starwood hotels and the SPG program that comes with those hotels. The SPG program is the best points you can own almost anywhere since they are transferable to almost any airline you can think of. 

Like airlines, hotels earn miles based on stays with the hotel, often earned points are linked to how much you paid, much like all the major airlines in the US. Points earned can be used toward free nights at hotels. Also just like airlines, there is elite status based on how many stays or nights spent with the hotel. Elite status again brings extra points for use toward free nights or events.

Credit Cards

Credit cards  can be used in conjunction with airlines, and hotel, but many also have their own points that can be transferred to partner airlines and hotels. Citi has ThankYou Points, Chase has Ultimate Rewards points, and Amex has Membership Reward points. Each of these can be transferred, often at a 1:1 ratio to airlines selectively partnered with the credit card company.

Taking advantage of big sign up bonuses and using the right card at the right time will help grab many points and build up large stores of points that can be used quickly and often. Credit cards have become a quick way to earn lots of points fast.

Shopping/Dining Portals

Airlines often partner with stores and restaurants to provide additional miles when you dine/shop with these companies. Shopping portals work for online purchases. First going through the airline specific shopping website, you'll be directed to the online store you'd like to make a purchase from. This will then act like a normal checkout procedure. Once the purchase is completed, you'll receive miles in a few weeks for that purchase. No additional cost, just a bonus for shopping through the portal.

For the dining programs, you sign up with the airline specific dining portal and register you credit card with them. Any time you eat at a partnered restaurant and use your registered card, you'll receive a miles bonus for eating their. Once again, no additional cost.

Others

There are other methods to gain miles and points, being on the lookout for them can boost your miles wallet and make your next trip free or even put you in a business class cabin.

Rental cars have loyalty programs, and there are even mortgage companies that will give miles for getting a mortgage with them. Use what there is available and take advantage of these offers. Always keep in mind that you do not want the use of a service to cost more money in the long run or else the miles may not be worth the effort and money that may come with acquiring them. 

Starpoints to United, The New Way

Starwood has always had one of the best loyalty programs out there. The hotel company has partnered with over 30 airlines to give really great points transfers to many of those airlines. Almost all airline partners have a 1:1 point transfer rate, nothing quite beats the 1:1 transfer rate when it comes to points and miles. 



Up until the merger with Marriott though, Starwood did not have a good transfer rate to United. Transferring to United came at a soul crushing 2 Starpoints to 1 United mile. When almost every airline that Starwood partnered with was offering a 1:1 transfer rate, the idea of transferring to United was terrible, you'd have to spend twice as many points to get the same number of miles that a rival airline would give you.

Now that has changed with the linking of accounts between Marriott and Starwood since Marriott has a very good partnership with United.

Using Marriott points, you can convert 112,000 Marriott Rewards points to 50,000 United miles, this is quite good for Marriott hotel rewards. However, when you look at the SPG points to Marriott rewards points conversion, things look even better. 

SPG points now convert to Marriott rewards points at a 1:3 ratio, for every 1 Starpoint you transfer, you get 3 Marriott Rewards points. That means for 37334 Starpoints, you can transfer those to Marriott Rewards points and then to United MilagePlus miles. So for 37,334 Starpoints, you get 50,000 United miles! That's better than the 1:1 ratio that is offered by SPG to most other airlines, even when you factor in the free 5,000 miles SPG gives for every 25,000 points transferred. 

This is the best way to use your Starwood points toward United. It might very well be one of the best redemptions possible on SPG all together now. If you have a trip you are planning on united, this may be a great way to boost your miles. 

500 More Free Virgin America Miles

A few weeks ago Virgin America offered 500 free miles to anyone who signed up for their Virgin hotels newsletter. While this might lead to more spam in your email, it can always be turned off once the points get posted to your account at the end of the month. In my opinion it's well worth the free air miles.

Well Virgin America is back again today with an almost identical offer for another 500 free miles. This time it is directed at the Virgin Sport and like last time it merely requires you to use your Elevate number to sign up for their newsletter. 

Free miles are never a bad thing, so ready your Virgin America Elevate account number and hit the Virgin Sport link to sign up.