Southwest Airlines is better than Alaska, Amex’s tricky welcome offers and staying safe from porch pirates (Saturday Selection)


How to keep packages safe from porch pirates, Amex’s tricky, new offer wording and is Southwest better than Alaska, even if you live in an Alaska hub? All that and more in this week’s Saturday Selection, our weekly round-up of interesting tidbits from around the interwebs (links to each article are embedded in the titles).

Even in an Alaska hub, Southwest is better

a woman holding a model airplane

Anyone who reads the blog or watches “Ask Us Anything” regularly probably has gathered that I’m an Alaska Airlines homer. The airline isn’t perfect: it has substandard first class products and its award chart has been a rickety rollercoaster over the last couple of years, with tectonic overnight shifts in both partners and award pricing. That said, mileage-based earnings, a competitive and diverse partner award chart and an incredibly powerful companion fare make it a very rewarding program for this West Coast-based traveler. Samantha Holland, a Portland(OR)-based writer for AwardWallet, disagrees. Kinda. She’s actually comparing the value of a family of four having two Southwest companion passes vs being a bottom-tier MVP elite and using two Alaska companion fares for round-trip travel only (although they can be used for much more). She says the hassle of losing nonstop flights and access to partner awards is worth the savings that two SW companion passes provides. Although I might consider some additional factors, she’s probably right. It’s a good example of walking through the needs of an individual’s financial and travel situation and making decisions based on that, rather than simply doing what you’ve always done.

What do banks actually pay for points and miles?

a plane and ticket falling from money

Here at Frequent Miler, most of our favorite credit cards are those that offer what we call “transferable currencies;” or points that you can transfer to a variety of travel partners. Examples would be Citi ThankYou Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One “Miles,” and American Express Membership Rewards. All of these programs have welcome offers that award thousands upon thousands of points which can then be moved to any of that bank’s airline or hotel partners, according to what your travel needs are. But have you ever wondered how much the bank pays for those partner miles? When American Express gives you 200,000 Membership Rewards and you move them to an airline, what does Amex have to give the airline for compensation? These numbers are held tightly to the vest by each issuer, but the arrangement has made loyalty programs into the most profitable part of most airlines. The common joke that most airlines are just “loyalty programs that happen to fly planes.” There have been a couple of interesting posts about this topic recently, starting with One Mile at Time guessing at the various amounts and mechanics of these transfers. OMAAT makes it clear that he’s guessing, but Gary over at View from the Wing says that he’s wrong (although, from what I read, generally right). Both posts are worth reading to get a sense of how that delicious points and miles sausage is made.

How to keep your packages safe from porch pirates

a statue of a man in a pirate garment on a porch
A porch pirate in action.

Argh, matey! The porch pirates be back! It’s the holidays, and packages full of jewelry, toys and electronics are flying around the country and then being left in terribly conspicuous places outside of our homes and apartments by harried UPS, Fedex and Amazon drivers. Going for a walk though my neighborhood the other day, after the UPS and Amazon vans came through, I counted 70% of the houses on my street having some sort of clearly exposed package somewhere in the front of the property. That kind of booty would make even a part-time porch pirate (PPP) take notice. Although I’ve never personally had a package or credit card stolen from outside my home, most estimates are that 70-80% of households have. Johnny the Jet offers some good advice from Safewise about how to keep your treasure safe and run a shot across the bow of a prospective pirate before they have a chance to crush ye barnacles.

What’s Amex “up to” with this new offer language?

a woman looking at a phone
Some of Amex’s new offer language can be a little tricksy.

American Express has probably been our favorite credit card issuer over the last couple of years, making it rain Membership Rewards points like candy with gaudy welcome offers and repeated entreaties for us to “expand our membership” by getting several Business Gold or Business Platinum cards with high triple-digit bonuses. Yes, the points parade has been quite a ride. But Amex has been less friendly of late, hiking minimum spend requirements and annual fees while adding yucky “family rules” that exclude you from getting a welcome bonus on some cards if you’ve previously had another card in that “family.” Now there’s even more chicanery. We recently wrote about Amex starting to feature welcome offers that sometimes show wording something along the lines of you’ll earn “up to” or “more than” a certain number of points. In order to find out what you’ll actually get, you have to apply first, then you’ll find out if you’re approved and the points of your welcome offer. At that point, you can decide to proceed or cancel the application. Blech! It’s like McDonalds saying that a Big Mac will cost “more than” $1, but you’ll find out how much you’ll actually pay after you order it. Thrifty Traveler digs into this disturbing development, while sharing our hope that this bait and switch doesn’t continue to spread across more Amex cards.

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I came across a Ring camera video of an Amazon driver staging three packages being dropped off, taking pictures for proof of delivery, and then taking the packages. Inside jobs are disheartening.


Where do you live that is so safe? I had package stolen from even a Post Office box.