Sweetspots realized

13

We did it: Greg managed to book a round-the-world award trip for just 90,000 miles, I stretched a one-way business class award ticket to 6 countries over 5 days on 5 different airlines with Aeroplan, and Stephen managed to take a flight that lasts ninety seconds and one that lasts nearly nineteen hours on the same trip. Over the past 48 hours, we have all arrived back at “home” (or wherever Stephen may roam next) and I think I can speak for all of us in saying that it’ll be nice to stay put for a day or two. There will be plenty more to come over the next few days, but this week we discuss some of the sweet spots we uncovered and put to the test in our #3Cards3Continents trips.

Your chance to vote is coming soon. Be on the lookout in the next few days for an announcement for your chance to choose the #3Cards3Continents Champion as the winner will be selected by readers. We have some more posts to come on how and what we did over the next couple of days before we open up the voting.

While there is more work to come in the next few days covering our flights, hotels, activities and the things we learned or leveraged, we have a number of summaries this week of our various stops on the trip. Of course we also need to give space to Marriott’s big news this week with its newly-introduced Bevy and Bountiful cards, though the truth is that the new cards are surprisingly weak (and the Ritz card came out a dark horse winner). All this and more below.

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This week at Frequent Miler

Daily 3 Cards, 3 Continents Update: And just like that, the competition ends with a splash!

Whew! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks as Greg, Stephen and I have leapt around the world, putting three credit card bonuses and some creativity to the ultimate test. I think it is safe to say that all three trips included unexpected twists and and that those following along on Instagram have enjoyed the ride. We’ll spend the next couple of days catching up on blog posts about the trip that offer a bit more detail and insight into where we went and what we did before opening it up to readers to crown the #3Cards3Continents Champion.

#3C3CTeamStephen

World’s Longest Flight Review: Singapore Airlines SIN-JFK In Business Class (SQ24)

Singapore Airlines SIN-JFK SQ24 Business Class seating
Singapore Airlines SIN-JFK SQ24 Business Class seating

Stephen bookended his trip with the world’s shortest flight and this flight from Singapore to New York, currently the world’s longest. A flight blocked at nearly 19 hours certainly sounds like a marathon, though based on my past experiences with Singapore airlines it’s the type of marathon I wouldn’t mind running one more time. However, based on Stephen’ review, I’m a bit less certain. While the seat and service sound like they were mostly on par, the catering sounded disappointing — and when you’re stuck in a metal tube with nowhere else to eat for 19 hours, that could certainly detract from the experience. That said, it sounds like Stephen had a pleasant flight overall and timed it out to arrive rested and already-adjusted to Eastern time.

Singapore Sights & Airport Swimming: Stephen’s Sort-Of Final Day Of 3 Cards, 3 Continents

View from the Canopy Walk at Jewel Changi Airport
View from the Canopy Walk at Jewel Changi Airport

Stephen packed a ton into his final day of 3 Cards 3 Continents. He hit the major sights — from the Gardens to the Flyer to the Marina Bay Sands — and somehow packed in almost every activity imaginable at Singapore Changi airport, including swimming and labyrinths. I’ve often read about the things to do in the Singapore airport, but despite having had my share of layovers there, I’ve rarely made it beyond the lounge to check out all it has to offer. This post made it clear that I’ve been doing it wrong; I look forward to checking off some of Stephen’s boxes on my next trip through Changi airport.

From Egypt To Singapore With An AA Sweet Spot: Stephen’s 3 Cards, 3 Continents Day 5 & 6 Recap

My seat in Etihad business class
My seat in Etihad business class

Stephen used one of my favorite award chart sweet spots to fly from Egypt to Singapore in business class during his 3 Cards 3 Continents trip. While Greg and I each flew American Airlines partner Qatar Airways, Stephen chose to fly Etihad, which gave him an opportunity to take a look at their current business class offering. There is no doubt that this sweet spot from the Middle East to/from Asia is among the best values in the American Airlines award chart (though read on below for how I eked out a bit of first class experience with the same award chart sweet spot).

#3C3CTeamGreg

A hidden Avios sweet-spot #3Cards3Continents

Greg made an amazing find with this Qatar business class award for just 6K Avios. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to stick around long enough for anyone else to take advantage. Still, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that this isn’t the only anomaly, so it’s probably worth looking for where else you might make a big find with Avios.

Greg & Maisie’s Great Adventure: Welcome to Happy Bulgaria (3 Cards, 3 Continents)

Out of Greg & Maisie’s many amazing stops on their trip around the world, Bulgaria may be the one of which I’m most jealous. I have long been intrigued by Sofia and despite having had trips booked to Sofia multiple times, I haven’t yet made it there (I had to cancel each time so far). To say that I love bread would not begin to give you a sense of magnetism I feel when I pass a bakery window full of baguettes, so when I say that I wanted to teleport to try the UNESCO-protected bread, know that I am 100% serious. Read more about their adventure in Bulgaria here (and do check out the Instagram reels within!).

Greg & Maisie’s Great Adventure: Istanbul (3 Cards, 3 Continents)

Just looking at Greg’s food pictures from Istanbul made me walk over to the pantry to look for something to snack on. The Chips Ahoy cooking I am chewing as I type this paragraph just isn’t doing it after seeing how Greg and Maisie ate their way through Istanbul. While I also stopped in Istanbul for the fun factor of visiting two continents in one city on the second day of my trip, I have to hand it to Greg and Maisie in that their tour of Istanbul was far more complete – and completely delicious.

Greg & Maisie’s Great Adventure Qatar (3 Cards, 3 Continents)

I’m impressed that not only did Greg and Maisie make the effort to leave the airport and see a little bit of what Doha has to offer, but that they were able to successfully get a taste of the local cuisine at 1am and find the time for a little boat cruise, too. One day I’d be interested in checking out what Doha has to offer, but this time around I was happy to spend my 15 hours in Doha lounging in luxury in the Al Safwa first class lounge instead (more on that below).

#3C3CTeamNick

Istanbul: Yacht cruise across the Bosphorus and a junior suite at the Crowne Plaza (Nick’s #3Cards Day 2)

While I did not eat nearly as well as Greg and Maisie did, I managed to squeeze three continents into my first two days of our 3 Cards 3 Continents trip with my long layover in Istanbul. The Crowne Plaza Harbiye was as great of a value as I could have hoped at just 10K points per night and while the weather was questionable at the start of my Bosphorus cruise, the sun came out and shined on us as we made it across to Asia and back before I had to return to the airport.

Aeroplan short haul awards: a nice value in the Atlantic zone

I obviously leaned heavily on Air Canada Aeroplan for the first half of my trip, but I also strongly considered using Aeroplan to connect dots in the second half of my trip as well (and I may have if not limited by budgetary constraints as it would have enabled me to stopover in another locale on my way to Europe from the Middle East). While I previously highlighted Aeroplan’s long-haul sweet spot, this post shows that they can also be great for short-distance redemptions, particularly when you are connecting what would otherwise be separate regions on other airline award charts.

Taking the “long route” for extra luxury: A day in the Qatar Al Safwa first class lounge

Unlike Greg and Maisie, I did not leave the airport during my long layover in Doha. Instead, I intentionally planned for a 15-hour layover that would get me access to Qatar’s Al Safwa First Class Lounge for the business class price. Just 40K miles and $51 got me more than 10 hours of business class flying and 15 hours of first class lounging in Doha, which seemed like a stellar deal to me. This post explains how you can leverage this hidden sweet spot in the AAdvantage award chart.

Snorkeling with whale sharks and sea turtles in Oman (#3C3CTeamNick)

Did you watch the Instagram reel yet? ‘Cause that’s me in the orange.

One of the two absolute highlights of my 3 Cards 3 Continents trip was swimming with whale sharks and sea turtles in Oman. When I booked a long layover in Muscat on this trip, I had no idea that it was a snorkeling hot spot and whale sharks certainly were not at all on my radar for this part of the trip (I had intended to snorkel with whale sharks in Cebu, Philippines, but I changed up that part of the trip after I had this amazing encounter in the open ocean with at least half a dozen whale sharks in the incredibly clear waters off the coast of Muscat). There is no doubt that I will remember this stop forever and it has certainly made me want to plan a return to Muscat to see more of what Oman has to offer.

Credit card news

Marriott releases its new card lineup: Is it a Bevy of Bountiful Brilliance?

Well, the new Marriott cards are out and might better be described as the Bonvoy Baffling Befuddlement. I really don’t see where they are going with the $250 cards as the target market there had to be people who were willing to pay $95 but not the $450 they’d have previously shelled out for a premium card. I just don’t see the average Marriott business traveler who fits that profile being enticed to pay $155 more for a card that doesn’t come with an annual free night certificate versus getting a card that offers a free night that easily exceeds its annual price tag. However, all that said, the Ritz card is the clear winner here. Whether you currently have one or have been thinking to upgrade, the Ritz is the card to have in my opinion if the now-$650 Brilliant card isn’t the one for you.

The best Amex Platinum and Gold welcome offers ranked

Now that the increased referral offers are back on the Gold and Platinum cards, Tim has re-ranked your best options between these cards. There is no doubt that the welcome bonuses on various versions of the Gold and Platinum cards are still hot, so if you’re eligible for one of these bonuses I think it makes sense to plot out a strategy to get it. As we have shown in the 3 Cards 3 Continents challenge, these Amex cards can provide monster value when you leverage the points appropriate — playing in two player mode, the possibilities are endless.


That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Keep an eye out for this week’s last chance deals.

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Vaibhav Shetge

Greg, for ANA, when you say depart from west and arrive at east, and they wont count the middle part, do you mean miles for your first flight DTW-SFO is not counted either?
I am planning travel to BOM, and was wondering if I do west coast to east coast, stopover, and then international, would ANA count miles from the international flight, or from our point of origin in west coast…

Greg The Frequent Miler

Sorry for the very late reply. I just now saw this. Simply add up the miles in every flight segment that you book through ANA as part of the RTW award. My DTW to SFO leg didn’t count because it wasn’t booked with ANA

LarryInNYC

In the podcast you stated that Greg did a 90k point around-the-world ticket. But, not really. He had to use an additional 40k or so points (transferred to Avios) in order to fill in the distance he couldn’t fit into the 14k miles allowed by the ANA ticket.

A bit of math shows the he spent a total of 130k “points” to make the trip — similar to the 125k points that would yield a much more flexible (and complete) routing on ANA. (Although, of course, within the constraints of the competition he didn’t have the additional ANA points and so had to use this technique).

[…] I always like to see how people can stretch the system to the limits, which is why I’ve been following the 3 Cards, 3 Continents competition on Frequent Miler. The contestants (Greg, Nick and Stephen) had to use sign-up bonuses from only 3 cards to visit (at least) 3 continents, so they needed to find all of the award program sweet spots. […]

Steve

Thank you gentlemen for your ongoing content. In part due to your recurrent knowledge spill, I enjoy this hobby greatly. I recently spent British Avios for Qatar Airways Business Class MIA to WDH via DOH and return using Amex and Chase points with their respective recent transfer bonuses. All legs booked separately. Never mind my other booking victories to SIN, HEL, LHR, MAD, and on and on. It’s wonderful when your travel is booked out 10 months in advance in a tremendous class of service with very little outlay of energy, planning, and money. No flexing here, just a thank you and to advise your experience and efforts aren’t wasted on me.

JDilla

Couldn’t find this video on the YouTube channel

Big Ern Mckracken

Nick you are a Classy Dude, but Mr. Pepper has my vote

LarryInNYC

Looking forward to a month (at least) of blog posts dissecting each segment of each competitor’s trip.

Cavedweller

Yes of course the Bench Warmers will just tear them apart..But on the other side we may learn something we can use. Lets hope they have good Med Ins.and time to deal with the What If”s? V Bernie

Last edited 4 months ago by Cavedweller
Alfred

Just wanted to give a big thanks to the whole FM crew! You guys are pushing the envelope of what is possible, and making yourself the flying “guinea pigs” on these theoretical redemptions.

Readers like myself (and other blogs) benefit from all of your hard work.

Thanks again!

Reno Joe

Question: was Greg the only one who shaved on the trip?

Cavedweller

i bet sitting next to them would’ve been just fine..V Bernie

Last edited 4 months ago by Cavedweller