Any good (in)frequent flyer programs?

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CarefulBuilder14
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Any good (in)frequent flyer programs?

Postby CarefulBuilder14 » Mon Aug 04, 2014 9:06 am

When I've flown before, I've usually just gone to Travelocity and the airline websites to get the cheapest option (or the near-cheapest if the cheapest flight leaves at 4 am).

Usually, that means I end up flying US Airways, Delta, or Virgin.

I know US Airways has Dividend miles but I'm not really sure what fees are in that or how much good it would do me.

I probably spend about $1000-$1500 each year between tickets and baggage fees, so an airline card with an AF near $100 probably won't do me much good. All my flying has been personal, and not for business.

Can anyone suggest any airline 'loyalty reward programs' that might make economic sense for me? Or is it best, at my level of travel, to just look for the cheapest options? Do any airlines have credit cards or other reward programs without annual fees (or where a light user can call and probably have the annual fee waived)?

I am more interested in getting the occasional (probably very rare) free flight or getting baggage fees waived than I am in seating upgrades.

Edit: Also, is there a way to edit a thread's subject line after posting?
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SD with activity alerts, might close: Arrival

Might add: Proper business card, CSR, Ritz, Delta Gold, First Tech, BofA Travel PH, Aviator Red


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kcm7
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Postby kcm7 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:23 am

I'm pretty sure (and I'm sure others will correct me if I'm wrong) that only the airline cards will give you free bags. And those ALL come with annual fees (but they're waived the first year).

I actually had the American Airlines AAdvantage card for a while and just cancelled because I don't fly them much anymore, so I wasn't getting much out of the bag benefits. I posted a few days ago about how I TRIED to get the annual fee waived, and no dice.

I'm a book-the-cheapest-ticket kind of person (like you are), and, personally, I have the no-fee Barclaycard Arrival. I get double points on travel (even on Travelocity/Expedia and the like). If I redeem for a statement credit against travel, my points are worth 1 cent each. So it's basically a cash-back card that gives you a little extra for travel. But obviously, no free checked bags. Yeah, it's true you can get "more" value out of true airline points, but, since I mostly travel over holidays, airline points are next to worthless to me.

Another no-annual-fee option would be the no-fee AmEx Everyday, which gets you membership rewards points, which you can transfer into a bunch of airlines. No free bags or at-the-airport perks, but you get real FF miles that way.

For me, membership rewards still sounds like too much effort, so I take the money (statement credit) with my BC Arrival and run. I'm getting *something* back, and that's enough for me.
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-Capital One Quicksilver
-Barclaycard Arrival (no AF)
- US Bank (no rewards)
-IHG

Darrvao777
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Postby Darrvao777 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:48 am

Hmm, had a long post deleted

I was going to suggest the Fidelity Amex which is along the same line of reasoning as the poster above
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djrez4
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Postby djrez4 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 11:56 am

If you're a "cheapest flight" kind of flyer, loyalty isn't worth your time. However, there are some factors that may make it worth your while to get an airline specific card: if you spend $100 or more on baggage fees a year; if you value priority boarding, which allows you to make sure your carry-on gets into an overhead bin instead of being gate-checked; if you'd like an airline lounge once or twice a year (included). Do the math for yourself. If the perks/value of the card outweigh an $89 or $95 annual fee, you should get a co-branded card. If not, get a general, travel-oriented card like the Arrival.

This is also location dependent. It makes no sense for you to get a United credit card if you live in a Delta hub.

United's card offers priority boarding, first bag free, 2 miles/$ on UA purchases, between 30-50k bonus miles, and two lounge passes for $95.
American's card offers priority boarding, first bag free, 2 miles/$ on AA purchases, 25% off in-flight purchases, $100 of AA flights per year, 30-50k bonus miles, and 10% of your AA miles back when redeemed for AA flights for $95.
US Airways card offers priority boarding, first bag free, 2 miles/$ on US purchases, up to two $99 companion passes on a flight costing $250+, and one lounge pass for $89.
Delta's card offers priority boarding, first bag free (for up to nine people on an itinerary), 2 miles/$ on DL purchases, 20% off in-flight purchases, and up to 30k bonus miles for $95.

Also, remember that US and AA are going to merge their programs sometime next year and the US card is going to be converted into some other Barclay's product, likely an Arrival+.
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CarefulBuilder14
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Postby CarefulBuilder14 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 4:54 pm

Thanks, everyone, for clarifying in detail what I had suspected - with my travel habits, loyalty to a particular airline doesn't make sense.

I do travel generally around holidays. Am I right in thinking that transferring Amex MR points to airlines means I can't use them around holidays?

I like Amex but I think cash back will be better than the MR system.

I will follow the AA/US card changes and see what happens.

What are the pros and cons of Barclaycard? How is the customer service? Any complaints about them?
Very useful: SchwabPlat, CSP, IHG, Costco (was AA Plat), Freedom, SPG, Prestige (retention)
Somewhat useful: Discover, ED (was EDP), BCE, Hyatt
SD with activity alerts, might close: Arrival

Might add: Proper business card, CSR, Ritz, Delta Gold, First Tech, BofA Travel PH, Aviator Red

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kcm7
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Postby kcm7 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 5:11 pm

CarefulBuilder14 wrote:
I do travel generally around holidays. Am I right in thinking that transferring Amex MR points to airlines means I can't use them around holidays?


Oh, you can totally use them over the holidays. I can't think of any airlines these days that have outright "blackout dates." Thing is, reward flights during the holidays are more "expensive" points-wise. You're probably not going to find a round trip for 25,000, so you'll be stuck redeeming 50,000 miles at least for a trip to Cleveland to visit the folks. 50k miles would get you to Cleveland and back twice, during non-peak times, or even abroad. So some people see it as a waste of points to use them during holidays, that's all. But I used 50k points to get home for Thanksgiving once when I couldn't afford to pay for a flight, so YMMV.


What are the pros and cons of Barclaycard? How is the customer service? Any complaints about them?


It's a mixed bag. Lots of number pressing and requests to say your password out loud for all to hear, only to have the system say, "I'm sorry, I did not recognize that" and put you on hold. But once I DO get to a real person, they've all been pretty helpful and knowledgeable. Their concierge kinda sucks though, when it comes to helping you book travel/find accommodations. I asked them to help me find a hotel in a certain neighborhood once, and they came back saying "no hotels fit your specifications on the dates you requested." After taking 10 minutes to research the matter on my own, I found many, many hotels that "fit my specifications on the dates I requested" and booked the dang thing myself.
Cards:

-Capital One Quicksilver
-Barclaycard Arrival (no AF)
- US Bank (no rewards)
-IHG

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CarefulBuilder14
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Postby CarefulBuilder14 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 5:23 pm

kcm7 wrote:Oh, you can totally use them over the holidays. I can't think of any airlines these days that have outright "blackout dates." Thing is, reward flights during the holidays are more "expensive" points-wise. You're probably not going to find a round trip for 25,000, so you'll be stuck redeeming 50,000 miles at least for a trip to Cleveland to visit the folks. 50k miles would get you to Cleveland and back twice, during non-peak times, or even abroad. So some people see it as a waste of points to use them during holidays, that's all. But I used 50k points to get home for Thanksgiving once when I couldn't afford to pay for a flight, so YMMV.


Is the higher price in points only because the cash price of a ticket is proportionately higher during the holidays (compared to the rest of the year)? Or the buying power of airline points - relative to cash - is reduced during holidays?

If the relative buying power of points (compared to cash) is reduced around holidays, would I be correct in thinking the most efficient use of points is to book tickets that are on low-demand flights - where the cash price is low and where points are powerful compared to cash?
Very useful: SchwabPlat, CSP, IHG, Costco (was AA Plat), Freedom, SPG, Prestige (retention)
Somewhat useful: Discover, ED (was EDP), BCE, Hyatt
SD with activity alerts, might close: Arrival

Might add: Proper business card, CSR, Ritz, Delta Gold, First Tech, BofA Travel PH, Aviator Red

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djrez4
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Postby djrez4 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 5:54 pm

CarefulBuilder14 wrote:Is the higher price in points only because the cash price of a ticket is proportionately higher during the holidays (compared to the rest of the year)? Or the buying power of airline points - relative to cash - is reduced during holidays?

If the relative buying power of points (compared to cash) is reduced around holidays, would I be correct in thinking the most efficient use of points is to book tickets that are on low-demand flights - where the cash price is low and where points are powerful compared to cash?


Depends on the airline. Southwest, for example, uses fixed-value miles. Each mile is worth a certain dollar amount toward airfare. So, yes, more expensive holiday tickets cost more points.

For other airlines that fix redemption levels, it's slightly different. United charges 25k one way for domestic travel but offers 12.5k saver awards sometimes. The price of the ticket doesn't matter. You may find that saver awards are few and far between during the holidays, so you end up paying more miles for your ticket, but it's not directly related to the ticket price. American has a similar system, but also runs peak and off-peak schedules for some routes - to Europe, for example - and charges fewer miles for off-peak travel. Again, not directly related to ticket price.
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CarefulBuilder14
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Postby CarefulBuilder14 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:27 pm

So a lot of the value in United-style programs comes on longer flights - like Los Angeles to NYC - where the cash price is high? But using points on the same United-style program to fly from, say, NYC to DC would be a big waste since the cash price would be so low?

I think I begin to see how people like the MR transfer options, even though the list of carriers isn't super-comprehensive. For the United-style programs (but not Southwest-style) it isn't about saving a little money on short flights, but about saving a lot of money on the long flights?

For Amex MR transfer partners, do you usually have to pay an annual fee to each airline whose program you use to transfer points into? (To be clear, I'm not talking about getting a co-branded airline-specific card.) Or fly a minimum amount each year? Or can you freely 'shop around' among the 20ish carriers on the list, so long as you register a free account with each one?

I would really like to be able to shop among carriers and just transfer points to the necessary program in between choosing a flight and paying for it. I know there is a 6% excise tax, but that is small compared to paying annual fees or opening a lot of cards I'd cancel in a year.
Very useful: SchwabPlat, CSP, IHG, Costco (was AA Plat), Freedom, SPG, Prestige (retention)
Somewhat useful: Discover, ED (was EDP), BCE, Hyatt
SD with activity alerts, might close: Arrival

Might add: Proper business card, CSR, Ritz, Delta Gold, First Tech, BofA Travel PH, Aviator Red

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Postby Battery111 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 11:14 pm

I have A LOT of loyalty programs, and I'm not aware of any that charge an annual fee for membership. There's really no reason to not have an account with everyone and just use them as they are convenient for you.
Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
AMEX Platinum
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