Interesting Message from American Airlines

19 January, 2011

So I am about to go to Brazil tomorrow and I received this little message:

“Dear Points Addict,
We would like to inform you, one of our most valued customers, that due to a technical issue, we have recently deactivated the DC power ports on our 767 aircraft. Your upcoming trip on American from MIA to GRU will be operated by one of these 767 aircraft, so there will not be DC power at your seat.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. To thank you for being a loyal American Airlines customer, we will be depositing 5,000 AAdvantage® miles into your account.

We wish you a pleasant trip, and as always, appreciate your loyalty.”

This was an interesting little surprise.  Since the flight is overnight I planned to sleep and will not be using the DC power anyway so I am essentially getting a bunch of extra miles for an inconvenience I will not have.  This will not affect my loyalty to American since I am loyal to them already (yes I know, many people hate AA because they don’t have all the new perks and gizmos of other airlines but they have always been good to me so I see no reason to switch my allegiance anywhere else).


What are some good free ways to get miles?

14 January, 2011

Many people know about getting miles from credit cards and of course from actually flying but there are other ways to get miles for free as well. 

Online Shopping

One of the most common is through online shopping.  Many airlines have online shopping malls where you enter in your flyer number and use their special link in order to earn miles per $ you spend.  For example you can earn 2 miles per $ you spend at Walmart.com if you do it through the AAdvantage e shopping link.  Air Canada, Continental, USAir, United, Delta, Cathay Pacific and many others also have shopping portals like this.  The miles are essentially free (assuming you were going to spend the money on the stuff you order anyway)

Toolbars

So far, AA and US have released toolbars to download which offer miles for using their search feature.  For every 3 searches you earn 1 mile up to a maximum of 100 miles per month.  The two toolbars mentioned here (also linked on this page) also help with online shopping so that you do not always have to use a link but the toolbar itself will help you get mileage credit.  Not every merchant allows this though, so sometimes you must still use the links.  In addition to the airline toolbars, the Bing Rewards toolbar gives Bing points for searches and various other things.  While these do not help with earning miles for shopping, the points can be exchanged for American miles at present.  For all of you thinking that you can just get the toolbar and make 300 searches in about an hour to get all the miles… think again, the toolbar uses some formula to determine if you are actually using it for searching or trying to game the system.  It will not award miles if you have an irregular search pattern.

Club Bing

Club Bing is a game website which awards tickets for playing various games.  The whole thing seems to be a huge excuse for Microsoft to increase its search traffic because you must search in order to complete many of the games but the games can be quite fun and the tickets can be exchanged for miles on American, Delta, USAir, Alaska Airlines, Frontier and Hawaiian.  You can earn a maximum of 11,100 miles this way to be all on one airline or split up between them in various denominations.  If you are really obsessed you could play the games and get the required tickets in about a month but for the rest of us it will take a while.  If you search on the internet there are various ways to cheat and bot the website but I cannot recommend this because if Microsoft figures this out you will never get the prizes you redeem the tickets for.  In addition to miles, the tickets can be used for all sorts of things such as books, jackets, digital cameras and netbooks.

Dining Programmes

This has had various names over time including Rewards Network and iDine.  I not think the name matters much but the programme itself is quite useful.  After registering your credit or debit card you will earn miles (or points, or cash back or various things) for every dollar you spend at participating restaurants.  This is offered by AA, USAir, Delta, Alaska, United and Southwest.  You can also earn PC or Hilton Points if you wish or even college loan savings contributions.  They all work on the same basic system, you sign up, register the card(s) and earn 3 miles per $ for the first 10 dines and then 5 miles per $ after.  From time to time they have bonuses as well which help miles rack up.

Thanks Again

Thanks Again is a bit like the dining programme but it works with dry cleaning, golfing and a few other places as well as an online shopping mall like the airlines have.  This is available for United, Delta, USAir, Continental and Alaska Airlines.  Instead of miles you can also decide to earn American Express gift cards.  For a while, if you “like” them in Facebook you would get 100 miles for free.  I am not sure if this is still happening though.

Opinion Place

For those interested in American AAdvantage miles, Opinion Place allows you to earn between 50 and 150 miles for surveys.  Qualifying is not always easy so you could go months without getting anything but you never know.  If you have too many miles you can also opt for Paypal credits or AOL credits.

E-Rewards

This is somewhat like Opinion Place except you must be invited to participate.  Getting an E-Rewards invite is not terribly difficult if you are signed up for one of the participating programmes.  After getting invited you answer a bunch of questions about your preferences and such so it can find surveys to match your interests.  Unlike Opinion Place, if you do not qualify you still get some bit of reward, it is not huge but it is nice.  I will not list them all here but some of the partners include Priority Club, USAir, Hilton, Continental, La Quinta and Virgin Atlantic.

E-Miles

E-Miles is sort of a survey site but also gives miles for buying or doing certain things.  For example you may answer some questions for how soon you plan to buy a car for 5 miles but if you buy something from company A or donate to charity B you can earn extra miles.  I suppose if you are really into it you could earn quite a few miles but for the totally free ones you will probably get about 1,000 miles per year.  It is available for Frontier, USAir, Continental, Delta, Hilton, AirTran and Alaska Airlines.  You can sign up for multiple programmes if you use a different email address for each one.

This is all for the intro for now.  As I find other ways I will add some new descriptions


150 Free AAdvantage Miles

7 January, 2011

Bose is offering 150 miles for watching a video and answering a question about its new bluetooth gizmo.  If you get an demonstration in the shops you can get another 250 miles.

https://www.aadvantagemilesforbose.com/


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.

Continental

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.

USAir

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.


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…


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 AA.com, 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!
Sincerely,

Angela M. Hill
Manager, Member Services
AAdvantage Customer Service


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 MyISIC.com or to isic.org.

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.


AAdvantage and Dividend Miles Toolbars

7 December, 2010

I know I have been missing for a while but I hope that people continue to read now that I will be updating much more than I was before.

 

First, I have been checking out these search toolbars for earning miles.  They are not terribly efficient but they do seem to be a good way to prevent miles from expiring and they seem to be excellent for making sure miles are awarded for shopping online.  I have been using the one for American Airlines (or AAdvantage E-Shopping Toolbar as it is officially called) since June or so.  It has been good and I have earned a few miles with it.  Unfortunately though, something has gone horribly wrong since early November and getting it to credit miles for searching is quite difficult.  It is very inconsistent and I have been corresponding with the Vesdia people to get it fixed but no luck so far.

In addition to American, USAir has been getting in on this strategy as well, found here.  It is done by exactly the same company and you can get 500 bonus dividend miles just for signing up.  As I said before, it is not the most effective way to earn miles but it could be useful for getting an extra 100 or so.  Hey it is free, it is hard to complain about that.


AAdvantage Shopping Mall

19 September, 2010

So about this time last year, the AAdvantage shopping mall was run a bit differently than it is today.  First of all, it was run by a different company and second of all it actually worked fairly well.  Around November or so of last year, it was run by a new company.  Ever since then it has been a bit of a disaster.  Not only it is nearly impossible to get anything to post after following all of their instructions, the customer service people (the email version) are rather nice but cannot really give a solution to anything.  I wonder if I am the only one who has this problem.


Win 1,000,000 miles

16 September, 2010

For those of you with an iPhone of an iTouch, it seems that both American and Delta are offering the possibility of winning one million miles through their new iPhone applications.

For American, you need to register within the app after downloading it, details can be found here: http://fly.aa.com/index.aspx

For Delta, all you need to do is log in with your SkyMiles number in order to get your entry chance.  The Delta Details are here: https://www.delta.com/traveling_checkin/travel_tips/mobile/iphone/index.jsp

Aside from the possibility of free miles (which is always a good reason) these apps also allow flight searching, booking, flight status, mobile check in and other features that could be useful if you use an iPhone for everything.


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