Last Day of 2010, What New Plans for 2011

31 December, 2010

As 2010 comes to an end it might be good to review what bonuses I was able to get over the course of the year and what might help all of you in the next year.  Before I get emails and such telling me about all the stuff I missed, let me say this is a blog for the beginner.  I know I missed many things and I am getting better at it but I am not a pro yet so give it time.  We have to be patient before we can all get tonnes of miles.

American Airlines

Nothing huge, only the normal miles from flying, using my Mastercard and the dining programme.  in addition to these I have done almost all of my shopping through the AAdvantage shopping mall to gain miles that way too.  I do expect more in the next year when I get to take advantage of the 100,000 mile bonus from the business visa card.  With the travel to Brazil I will be doing next year this should also bring in loads of miles here since AA is my main airline now.


25,000 miles from the Chase bank account offer.  Mileathon is also coming back next year.  I skipped it last year because I figured Continental miles were useless to me but now that they are combining with United that is no longer so.  If anyone wants to get the new Continental Mastercard from Chase, it may be a good idea to wait for Mileathon to begin before doing that.


Yes I know, they have been US Airways for years now but that just takes too long to write.  The Grand Slam promotion netted about 98,000 miles in bonus and in the miles that came with the activities.  Not sure if it will happen again next year but if it does I will be on board for sure.

Priority Club

With all of the promotions this year I ended up getting nearly 100,000 points and that does not count the Crack the Case promotion which is not over yet.  PC points are incredibly easy to come by by both staying and not staying.  I have not found them to be a good deal though unless they are used for PointsBreak rewards in which case they are invaluable.


Air Canada miles for Canadians

29 December, 2010

We have gone over some of the other airline cards in Canada already but have not really talked about Air Canada yet.  The reason for this is because I have found that while Air Canada is great for redemption, they have this pesky 7 year expiry rule so you must use them within 7 years or else they expire.  This makes saving up over the long term difficult (more than 7 years out).  The best way in Canada (as in the US) to earn these miles is to use American Express membership rewards points.  The reason for this is because they transfer 1 to 1 with Aéroplan but as long as you keep them with American Express… they do not expire.

If however you are set on earning AC miles the bank with the near monopoly on it is CIBC.  There are two main ways to earn them.  With the unlimited chequing account (cost of $12.95 per month) gets you 100 miles per month and a welcome bonus of 5,000 miles.  Not bad if you are using the account package anyway and are loyal to CIBC (since Royal Bank offers the exact same account without the miles for $2 less per month), but not really worth it just for the miles.

The other way CIBC can help you with with their Visa cards.

The credit card flavours are Aero Classic, Aero Gold and Aero Gold Visa Infinite.  The main difference is that the Classic earns one mile per $2 spent with an annual fee of $29 and the Gold (and Gold Infinite) earns 1 mile per $1 spent with an annual fee of $120.

Neither of these offers is particularly appetizing unless of course you have a huge loyalty to CIBC in which case you may get some sort of discounts for having multiple products with them.

American Express in Canada also has some Aéroplan cards as well.  They are Gold and Platinum.  Other than substituting AC miles for Membership Rewards points, there is really no difference in benefits or fees from the regular gold and platinum cards.  In fact, the regular gold and platinum cards can help you to earn miles too but without the pesky 7 year expiry time. 

The last AMEX option in Canada is the SPG card.  Down in the US, it is the favourite card of the Frugal Travel Guy.  It has a low fee and gets you a 5,000 mile bonus when transferring Starpoints to miles.  Not exactly the case in Canada.  While it does offer the SPG benefit of transferring with the bonus, the fee is $120 per year.  Which is more than double the US card cost.  This of course brings me to the American Express Green card.  If you do not need the extra benefits of a platinum or gold Amex card and want to gain miles without expiry, this is the best card for you.  It costs $105 per year (with Membership Rewards) which is the lowest of all cards (except the Aero Classic at CIBC) and it gives some decent benefits for the card.  All with no expiry date.

More Points for Canadians

22 December, 2010

So, if you are living in Canada and you want to earn miles to go places what are the options you have?  As mentioned earlier, there is the AirMiles programme and I have gone over some of the good and bad of it.  There is also Air Canada’s Aéroplan which we will talk about later on (or write and read about later on as the case may be).  American Express has its Membership Rewards for transferring as well.  Royal Bank has its Avion cards which allows transfers of RBC points to American Airlines, Cathay Pacific or British Airways miles at 1 to 1, but the annual fees are not cheap.  TD has it’s travel cards which earn TD points which you can transfer to American Airlines but 1 AA mile costs 4 TD points.  TD also offers the AAdvantage Visa card which earns one mile per dollar spent but this also has a fee which is quite steep.  The Royal Bank has the Cathay Pacific and British Airways Visa cards but they have small bonuses and high fees.  So what is one to do?

For the most miles, you would want the RBC Avion Visa Infinite because it comes with 15,000 bonus points upon enrolling and you can transfer them 1 to 1 to AA, CX or BA.  The $120 fee is not cheap though.  On the plus side, it includes just about any type of insurance you can imagine (except lost baggage insurance).  If you do not meet the income requirements for the Infinite, there is also a platinum version which offers the same bonus and most of the same benefits except fewer insurances.  If you want to add even more points, you can enrol in Rewards Network RBC points dining.  While you get fewer points than with Delta, AA or US dining, the RBC version does allow you to choose more than one airline.

For the lowest cost, I would suggest the TD Travel classic.  It is $29 and at 2 TD points dollar spent and redeeming them at 4 TD points per AA mile it is certainly not the fastest way to earn… but it does allow the possibility.

Tomorrow we will examine the Air Canada options…

Tips for Getting Started in Collecting Miles

22 December, 2010

Instead of coming up with my own list of these, I can just steal and footnote someone else’s hard work on this.  Gary over at A View from the Wing put together a good set of beginner tips for those just starting out.  I have linked to him here.

American Airlines Challenge

21 December, 2010

Since I am going to Brazil in January, I figured it might be worth it to get elite status nearly immediately.  American Airlines does not have status matching, instead they offer a challenge of sorts.  How it works is that you have to earn a certain number of points within 90 days.  These are different from miles however.  If you want to go for gold status you need 5,000 points, and for platinum you need 10,000 points.  The CSR on the phone will help you decide which status to challenge for by looking at the fare class you will be travelling in.  Since I am travelling in V for about 11,000 miles earning one point per mile, the platinum one worked best.

So why do I care about elite status with American?  Since AA is my primary airline now (sorry Air Canada, I just don’t fly to Canada all the time anymore), the perks would be quite nice, priority boarding, priority security lines and not to mention the mileage bonus when flying.

I have included the letter American sent me:

Dear Points Addict,
Thank you for registering for the American Airlines AAdvantage PLATINUM® challenge. We have charged your credit card $200.00. If you successfully earn 10,000 points by 04/15/2011, you’ll enjoy AAdvantage PLATINUM status until the last day in February 2012.
Here are some tips to help you succeed:

  • Be sure to fly AA (we know you want to anyway!) since only points earned on American Airlines, American Eagle and AmericanConnection® flights (including AA codeshare flights operated by other carriers) count toward Challenges
  • Since Challenges are based on points, not miles, you’ll meet your goal more quickly if you select fares with high point values. If, for example, you use Deep Discount Fares, remember that those fares earn points at half the rate of miles – so you’ll have to fly twice as much! But if you buy Discount Fares, the rate is one point per mile and you can meet your Challenge by flying 10,000 elite-qualifying miles. And if you select premium fares, you earn 1.5 points per mile and can meet the Challenge by flying just — OK, you do the math!
  • Know the point values you’ll earn for the booking codes you select. Yes it may look like alphabet soup, but there’s a point to these codes. In fact, there’s anywhere from 0.5 — 1.5 points!
    • Earn 1.5 points per mile when the purchased fare on your American Airlines ticket is booked in one of these booking codes: A F P D I J B Y
    • Earn 1.0 point per mile for these AA booking codes: H K L M V W
    • Earn .5 points per mile for these AA booking codes: G N Q S O (excludes tickets between North America and Latin America booked in O inventory, which are not eligible for mileage credit)
  • How can you determine what booking code is used for the fare you’re purchasing? Simply ask the booking agent, whether that’s your travel agent, corporate travel planner or AA Reservations representative. Or, even better, when you book your flights on, the Flight Summary screen displays the booking code in the same column as the cabin booked.
  • If you have the opportunity to upgrade, good for you! But with respect to the points you will earn, traveling in a premium cabin is not the same as purchasing a premium fare. When you upgrade, the points for your flights are still calculated on the fare and booking code you purchased, not the cabin that you were lucky enough to travel in!
  • Remember that the charge for your Challenge is nonrefundable – even if circumstances beyond your control (or ours!) prevent you from meeting the goal. But we’re thinking positive thoughts and we know you can do it!

Keep in mind that a Challenge is intended for members who are in a hurry to get to the elite level they desire and begin enjoying their benefits. Think of it as a shortcut to the status you would probably earn on your own during the normal qualification period. Assuming you’re successful, please be prepared to meet the normal criteria when it comes time to requalify for your status, since we offer only limited opportunities to earn status via a Challenge. That’s fair, right? Now you’re all set — Good Luck!

Angela M. Hill
Manager, Member Services
AAdvantage Customer Service

Wall Street Journal Article on Travel Cards

16 December, 2010

For the pros out there, this is probably not going to bring to light anything you do not already know but for the beginners, it outlines some of the basics of miles earning cards.

Air Miles in Canada

14 December, 2010

This is not a programme which receives very much attention in the blogs from what I see.  For my Canadian readers who may not know much about Air Miles, the general idea is that you earn miles which you can use for travelling.  At first glance this seems to be just like any other.  However, after looking closer, you will notice it is nothing like a regular frequent flyer programme.  First of all… it is not associated with an airline, also it is focused on spending with partners rather than flying.

So if it is not based on flying, how do you earn these things?  Well it is both simple and complicated…  The simple part is this, you sign up for the programme (for free) and you get a little blue card in the mail with your member number.  This card is then used when you go to shops which participate and you are awarded miles based on how much you spend.  It is not as simple as most programmes in this regard though.  It is not 1 mile per dollar, each store is different, some are 1 mile per 20 CAD spent, some are 1 mile per 5 and others are one mile per 100 spent.  Of course the key here is to remember to bring the card with you.  As with most other programmes, you can also earn through credit card spending.  Bank of Montréal offers credit and debit cards which earn Air Miles.  BMO has a regular and a gold MasterCard which earn miles.  The main difference is that the gold card earns 1 mile per 15 CAD for a 99 CAD fee as opposed to the free one which earns 1 mile per 20 CAD spent.  Like AAdvantage, there is also a toolbar which earns miles for searching and when shopping with online partners.  Earning the most miles per transaction would likely be the same as with a purely airline based programme which is using the miles earning credit card while shopping at participating shops.  The toolbar can also help with that online so that you do not have to use the special links all the time.

So why would anyone care about this complicated system to earn miles to travel with?  The short answer is that if they are primarily motivated to travel, they would not care to use this system.  Air Miles has already thought of that though.  Which is why they offer many other options for redeeming your miles.  In fact, I am not sure why it even retains the name Air Miles since travelling is not the main focus of redemption either.  Aéroplan may find this a threat to their programme which is why they have been offering rewards other than travel as well.  The Air Miles programme would appeal to those who do not earn loads of points and do not plan to use then quickly.  The reason for for this thought it that unlike Aéroplan miles which disappear after 7 years, Air Miles never expire.  This gives the ability to save over a long period of time.

Who said the Pre-Flight Talk has to be Boring?

13 December, 2010


More Student Travelling Tips

13 December, 2010

Other than getting the great airfares and discounts and all… there is also a more practical aspect of travelling.  This is planning where to go and what to do and what you are going to bring with you.

Library Card – Before you can go anywhere you need to know where you want to go in the first place.  While this can be done by ordering guidebooks and downloading apps to your iphone or itouch, or e-books through Barnes and Noble, etc… one of the best (and free) ways is to go to your local library with your handy library card and do your research the old fashioned way.  If you do not have a library card, get one! They are free as long as you are a resident or a student in the town or city (and sometimes if you are a resident of the state) and they take at most about 5 minutes to issue one to you.  Aside from being free, the other benefit to using the library is that you can photocopy the sections of the books or magazines you need (unfortunately, this part is not free).  While this may not be as high tech or cool as the gps location and talking personal guide assistant of the iphone guide, you will be quite happy to have the paper version in the event your iphone, kindle or fancy electronic whatever is lost, stolen, confiscated by customs inspectors or the batteries run out while you are on a jungle safari in the middle of the Amazon.

AAA and CAA – If you (or your parents) are members of an automobile club it is highly likely you will be able to take advantage of their free maps and travel books.  As I said before, not as flashy but the paper map could be a life saver so it does not hurt to take one with you.

Student (and general) Travelling Tips

12 December, 2010

Now is usually the time students begin to plan where they will be “studying” during reading week.  Before buying the tickets and all it is important to know some of the smart things to do in order to prepare for your great excursion.  Over the next few days I will be writing about different things to keep in mind.  While most of these suggestions are for students, many of them will also be useful for those who are not currently studying.  There will not be anything about miles collecting in these but rather about planning for the actual travel.

International Student Identification Card – If you are a student, this is almost a must.  The ISIC will allow you to get airfares at student prices and allow you to receive other discounts available for students in most major cities around the world.  You can get one though STA Travel in the United States, from Travel Cuts in Canada and from various other places within the European Union.  The ISIC official website has a little tool you can use to find the closest place to get an ISIC in your country.

In the United States, the card has many other benefits as well.  It offers:

For the full list in both the United States and abroad you can go to or to

Passport – In addition to the ISIC card it is important to have a valid passport.  Passports are valid for 10 years in the United States and most European Union countries and for 5 years in Canada.  Trust me, the last thing you want to have happen is that all of your buddies are taking a trip to Costa Rica on some fabulous last minute airfare but you cannot go because you need to wait 6 weeks for your passport to be issued or renewed.  In both the United States and in Canada, passport applications can be submitted at the Post Office or at Passport Agency offices.  If applying through the post office you will usually receive your passport in the mail in about 4 – 6 weeks.  The post office route is usually the best one unless you need to have it quickly.  If this is the case, you will need to pay an extra fee, have a reason why you need the passport so quickly, which is usually need for a foreign visa or travel within 14 days or so (and proof to this effect) and you must appear in person at the passport office.  For expedited passports they can be issued in as little as 3 hours from the time of application but this is rare and it is unlikely your spring break trip will be seen as a valid reason to issue one so quickly, besides the expediting fees can nearly double the cost of the passport so it is always better to do it through the mail if at all possible.  In addition to these methods, there are also passport delivery services.  Essentially what these services do is appear in person at the passport office for you and charge you extra money for this service in addition to the fees from the government.  In my opinion these are really not worth it since it can add between 45 and 200 USD to the price depending on how fast you want the passport issued.  I have outlined the possible costs below for the issuance of a US Passport.

Post Office: 110 USD for the passport + 25 USD execution fee = 135 USD total
Expedited Post Office: 110 USD for the passport + 25 USD execution fee + 60 US expedited fee + 14.96 USD overnight delivery for the application + 14.96 USD overnight delivery back to you = 224.92 USD total
Passport Office: 110 USD for the passport + 25 USD execution fee + 60 US expedited fee = 195 USD total

As you can see, the original post office version is definitely the most cost effective so plan ahead.

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