I have to admit that if you asked me about the most exciting airline programs, Avios would never come to mind. However, given how easy Avios are to amass along with the ability to move your Avios between several different airline programs in order to take advantage of their respective sweet spots, this program is absolutely a workhorse that belongs in your toolbelt. On this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air, we talk about why that is true and what you need to know to maximize your use of Avios.
Elsewhere on the blog this week, Greg ponders his future with Delta credit cards, Carrie parses out the key points for a miles beginner, I cover the crushing devaluation to Turkish Miles & Smiles coming this week, and a lot more. Watch or listen to the podcast and read on for more from this week at Frequent Miler.
Frequent Miler on the Air Podcast
00:01:41 – Player Two chimes in (Mailbag)
00:03:37 – Chase British Airways Visa Signature® Card (Card Talk)
00:09:30 – Turkish award search shows random non-partner flights (Crazy Thing)
00:13:30 – Best Western: Stay Twice & Earn Free Night Voucher (Mattress Running the Numbers)
00:17:37 – Turkish devalues (Award Talk)
00:22:03 – SLH ditches Hyatt for Hilton (Award Talk)
00:26:10 – Bilt announces milestone rewards (Award Talk)
00:31:50 – Referral points don’t count towards Bilt status, h/t Chris from All the Hacks (Award Talk)
00:32:58 – Mastering Avios, the rewards currency for BA, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling, Qatar, and (soon) Finnair (Main Event)
00:33:22 – Earning Avios
00:34:30 – Moving Avios between programs
00:40:52 – BA Household Accounts
00:42:40 – Using Avios Read more about using Avios with Jet Blue
01:03:37 – How do you plan activities? (Question of the Week)
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This week on the Frequent Miler blog…
It’s interesting that after all these years of having both Delta Platinum and Reserve cards, Greg doesn’t really need them much anymore. I further found his analysis interesting in terms of the value that each card can provide. I imagine some cardholders will value companion certificates more highly than he did, but I’m actually somewhat surprised that he values the 15% award discount enough to make it worth evaluating one of the Delta cards at all. While I know he has lots of Delta miles and the discount makes those miles more valuable, I’d love to know how many Delta SkyMiles he expects to redeem per year — will this discount be a couple thousand miles or 15,000 miles per year or 150,000 miles per year? I’m further not convinced about Greg’s value for the Delta Stays hotel credit. Would I pay 50% of face value for a hotel credit that locks me into paying what is likely a higher price via Delta than my best alternative and making a booking where I can’t earn elite credit or earn hotel points? Greg stays at more boutique hotels than I do, so maybe his valuation makes sense for his situation, but ironically enough I think the Delta cards have become a really questionable value for someone who values hotel elite status and who also has multiple years of high-level Delta elite status already lined up.
Even as a non-Delta flyer, these companion certificates sound pretty hot now that they can be used for travel as far as Hawaii and Alaska. As a family traveler though, the idea of the certificate potentially not being able to be cancelled and reissued is a headache that I don’t really want. That said, a few commenters note getting them reissued in the event of cancellation. Overall, I find these certificates more interesting now than they were before, though I’m still not ready to shell out the annual fee for a Delta card to get them, particularly when it is relatively easy to get a repeatable Southwest Rapid Rewards Companion Pass.
If Delta is making changes that are broadly positive, Turkish going in an entirely opposite direction with a major devaluation to their award program coming in a few days. It is particularly disappointing that Turkish gave only one week of advance notice (and then only after multiple blogs had noticed and reported the new award charts). Partner awards will mostly be increasing by 80-90%, which is an epic devaluation that will make the program all but an afterthought for anything except domestic Star Alliance awards. While the long-time sweet spot to Hawaii, Alaska, and other domestic airports will finally increase in price more than 4.5 years after we first reported it, those awards are only increasing by 2,500 miles in both economy and business class, which means that Turkish will still likely be your best bet for flights to/from Alaska and Hawaii (and in at least some cases within the lower 48). Keep in mind that you’ll still need to pray that United actually releases partner availability, but if they do then you’ll still get a great deal via Turkish Miles & Smiles.
Speaking of great deals, Qatar Airways Privilege Club offers an excellent deal on short JetBlue Mint flights to the Caribbean. I am personally pretty tempted by the thought of booking Mint class from New York to Aruba, St Thomas, or Sint Maarten for just 26,000 Avios each way, particularly given the fact that I’ve been in the Caribbean all of this week aboard an MSC cruise ship and asking myself why we haven’t spent a week on one of these islands in the past decade. Qatar may just encourage me to get back to the Caribbean sooner or later!
Carrie does an excellent job breaking out our core points from a question of the week that is broadly applicable to beginners in our hobby. At the heart of things is the fact that, in my opinion, a beginner is best off getting a pile of a single type of transferable currency and using an award search tool that enables them to filter to the transfer partners of that currency so they can begin to see which programs hold more value than others. Don’t focus on miles in a specific airline program but rather on transferable points that give you a wealth of options when you’re ready to book.
Well, this was some surprising news. I don’t think anyone should be surprised that Hyatt and SLH have ended their partnership given that Hyatt acquired Mr. & Mrs. Smith last year. However, I did not see the partnership with Hilton coming. I’m actually really excited about this. After a couple of wonderful stays at the Grand Hotel Victoria, an SLH property on Lake Como, I had assumed I’d likely never get to stay there again once they left Hyatt (because I’m not paying nearly $2,000 per night no matter how wonderful I think the place is). The partnership with Hilton gives me hope — and it really enhances the value of Hilton free night certificates in my opinion. I’m suddenly very interested in completing $15K spend on my Hilton business card because I see the possibility to get fantastic value out of a free night certificate assuming that SLH properties become bookable with Hilton points and free night certificates (fingers crossed!). In other words, if $15K spend can get me a minimum of 45,000 Hilton points and a free night certificate that I can use at the Grand Hotel Victoria, I am far more likely to meet that spending requirement.
On the podcast, I asked whether the Bilt team could hear my eyes roll over these Bilt Milestone Rewards. Frankly, I’m surprised that they put the time into developing these and building the IT to support them. It’s not that they won’t move the needle, it’s that they won’t touch the needle. They won’t even sneeze in the general direction of the needle. It’s not just the rewards maximizer in me that’s disappointed, I just can’t see how their core customers are going to care about such low-value rewards. Assuming those core customers probably redeem most points for rent (at terrible value!), some of these rewards amount to an extra six bucks. I mean, I like an extra six bucks as much as anyone, but I don’t see it motivating a lot of uptake on incremental spend.
Ever wonder what questions other people are asking? Once a month on the first Wednesday of the month, the entire Frequent Miler team takes your questions live on Youtube. And this month, by popular demand, we finally decided to release ask us anything as a podcast bonus episode as well — so you can watch on Youtube or listen on your favorite podcast platform.
We always end up getting far more questions than we get time to answer during our live hour, so Stephen has taken up the task of trying to rapid-fire answer questions that we didn’t get a chance to answer on the air. Read more Q&A here!
Bummer! I’ve been needing to downgrade a couple of consumer Platinum cards in my household and had been dragging my feet on it because my wife and I have never had the Green card and I was hoping that maybe Amex would launch an elevated welcome offer on the Green card and we could both apply and get that card bonus before downgrading our Platinum cards to Green (since downgrading to a Green would make us ineligible for a Green card welcome bonus if we did it before opening the Green card thanks to Amex lifetime language). Not only did they fail to do that, but they have added the dreaded family language that potentially excludes us from earning the welcome bonus at all. That really stinks. Keep in mind that the family language is not ironclad in the sense that it only says that you may not be eligible, but I don’t like our chances at the moment given our collection of Platinum and Gold cards. Argh….
The Business Gold card recently increased its annual fee, but the card arguably became more valuable for a wider array of customers last year given its couponization and 4x earning potential. I imagine that there are many folks who will find the 4x categories useful enough to consider this card a keeper after using the monthly coupon benefits.
This is one Amex card that belongs in the collection for almost any fan of Amex Membership Rewards points given the way it keeps points alive and transferable with no annual fee. It isn’t the most glamorous card on the market, but the Blue Business Plus is the closest thing to a card that I would universally recommend having.
That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Keep an eye on this week’s last chance deals to be sure that you don’t miss any set to end this week.