Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Limited time Chase Ink Plus 70,000 point sign-up bonus!

The Chase Ink Plus credit card is one of the best cards for churning points with their standard 50k sign-up bonus and 5X points earned on purchases at office supply stores, including gift cards.  Chase has now sweetened the deal with their highest public online sign-up bonus yet at 70k points after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of card membership.

https://creditcards.chase.com/ink-business-credit-cards/ink-plus-card


Chase Ultimate Reward points are one of the most valuable currencies out there as they can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to the following frequent traveler programs:

Amtrak Guest Rewards IHG Rewards Korean Air SkyPass (Delta Airlines Partner British Airways (American Airline Partner Airline) Marriott Rewards Ritz Carlton Hyatt Gold Passport United Mileage Plus Southwest Rapid Rewards Virgin Atlantic (Delta Partner) Singapore Airlines - See more at: http://pointsmilesandmartinis.boardingarea.com/2014/09/amazing-70000-bonus-point-limited-time-offer-chase/#sthash.2DEZKnG0.dpuf
Amtrak Guest Rewards IHG Rewards Korean Air SkyPass (Delta Airlines Partner British Airways (American Airline Partner Airline) Marriott Rewards Ritz Carlton Hyatt Gold Passport United Mileage Plus Southwest Rapid Rewards Virgin Atlantic (Delta Partner) Singapore Airlines - See more at: http://pointsmilesandmartinis.boardingarea.com/2014/09/amazing-70000-bonus-point-limited-time-offer-chase/#sthash.2DEZKnG0.dpuf

Since United substantially devalued their award chart this past February, Hyatt is now probably the most valuable transfer partner, followed by Korean Airlines and British Airways.  Nonetheless, 70k can still get you from North America to North Asia with a free stopover using United miles.  Among the other notable features of the card:

Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year. Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year. No foreign transaction fees. - See more at: http://pointsmilesandmartinis.boardingarea.com/2014/09/amazing-70000-bonus-point-limited-time-offer-chase/#sthash.2DEZKnG0.dpuf
  • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • 2 free Lounge Club passes that can be redeemed at participating airport lounges worldwide.
  • $95 annual fee

  • Although this is a small business credit card, you don't actually need to own a business to open an account.  Simply the thought of opening a business or selling items on eBay qualifies you as a small business.  For more info on how you can or may already qualify as a small business, see Million Miller's post.

    Per the terms and conditions, this 70k bonus is available to new card members who have not received a bonus within the past 24 months.  Although Chase has been generous in matching sign-up bonus offers, there have been repeated reports that they won't match this 70k offer, which doesn't waive the annual fee for the first year, because the previous 50k and 60k offers had the first year's annual fee waived.

    Bottom line

    This offer won't be available for long and can be pulled anytime by Chase, so apply now before it's too late.  If you're one of those where a $5k spending threshold may be difficult to meet, the Points Guy lays out a number of simple techniques for meeting credit card spending requirements.
    Amtrak Guest Rewards IHG Rewards Korean Air SkyPass (Delta Airlines Partner British Airways (American Airline Partner Airline) Marriott Rewards Ritz Carlton Hyatt Gold Passport United Mileage Plus Southwest Rapid Rewards Virgin Atlantic (Delta Partner) Singapore Airlines - See more at: http://pointsmilesandmartinis.boardingarea.com/2014/09/amazing-70000-bonus-point-limited-time-offer-chase/#sthash.2DEZKnG0.dpuf
    Amtrak Guest Rewards IHG Rewards Korean Air SkyPass (Delta Airlines Partner British Airways (American Airline Partner Airline) Marriott Rewards Ritz Carlton Hyatt Gold Passport United Mileage Plus Southwest Rapid Rewards Virgin Atlantic (Delta Partner) Singapore Airlines - See more at: http://pointsmilesandmartinis.boardingarea.com/2014/09/amazing-70000-bonus-point-limited-time-offer-chase/#sthash.2DEZKnG0.dpuf
    Amtrak Guest Rewards IHG Rewards Korean Air SkyPass (Delta Airlines Partner British Airways (American Airline Partner Airline) Marriott Rewards Ritz Carlton Hyatt Gold Passport United Mileage Plus Southwest Rapid Rewards Virgin Atlantic (Delta Partner) Singapore Airlines - See more at: http://pointsmilesandmartinis.boardingarea.com/2014/09/amazing-70000-bonus-point-limited-time-offer-chase/#sthash.2DEZKnG0.dpuf
    Amtrak Guest Rewards IHG Rewards Korean Air SkyPass (Delta Airlines Partner British Airways (American Airline Partner Airline) Marriott Rewards Ritz Carlton Hyatt Gold Passport United Mileage Plus Southwest Rapid Rewards Virgin Atlantic (Delta Partner) Singapore Airlines - See more at: http://pointsmilesandmartinis.boardingarea.com/2014/09/amazing-70000-bonus-point-limited-time-offer-chase/#sthash.2DEZKnG0.dpuf
    Amtrak Guest Rewards IHG Rewards Korean Air SkyPass (Delta Airlines Partner British Airways (American Airline Partner Airline) Marriott Rewards Ritz Carlton Hyatt Gold Passport United Mileage Plus Southwest Rapid Rewards Virgin Atlantic (Delta Partner) Singapore Airlines - See more at: http://pointsmilesandmartinis.boardingarea.com/2014/09/amazing-70000-bonus-point-limited-time-offer-chase/#sthash.2DEZKnG0.dpuf
    Amtrak Guest Rewards IHG Rewards Korean Air SkyPass (Delta Airlines Partner British Airways (American Airline Partner Airline) Marriott Rewards Ritz Carlton Hyatt Gold Passport United Mileage Plus Southwest Rapid Rewards Virgin Atlantic (Delta Partner) Singapore Airlines - See more at: http://pointsmilesandmartinis.boardingarea.com/2014/09/amazing-70000-bonus-point-limited-time-offer-chase/#sthash.2DEZKnG0.dpuf

    Monday, August 4, 2014

    United Airlines Explorer credit card now with 50,000 miles sign-up bonus

    Through September 2nd, the United Airlines Explorer credit card is offering a beefy sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months of card membership.  50k is the best sign-up bonus we've seen in years for this card, and a $2k minimum spend is very reasonable.

    https://www.theexplorercard.com/50kAFWLTO/highlights


    The UA Explorer card by Chase is one of the best cards for those who don't fly enough to attain elite status with UA as it offers priority boarding and a free checked bag.  Some of the other useful benefits include no foreign exchange transaction fees and complimentary primary vehicle rental insurance coverage.  The vast majority of credit cards only offer secondary rental insurance, which only kicks in if your personal auto insurance coverage is insufficient.  However, with car rentals paid with the UA Explorer card, damages to your rental vehicle will be covered in full, and your personal auto insurance won't even be notified.  This also further negates the need of buying collision waiver damage coverage from the rental company, which could easily add $10-$15 per day to your rate.

    UA's mileage award chart took a serious beating this past February, and Star Alliance partner travel was affected the most.  Nonetheless, 50k miles can still get you 2 roundtrip economy flights in the contiguous U.S. or one roundtrip first class flight, which is best redeemed towards UA's transcontinental premium service (p.s.) between SFO/LAX and JFK.  These seats feature international business class configurations, which are fully lie-flat.

    UA p.s. B752 configuration featuring int'l biz class seats


    Among the other notable benefits of this card:
    • 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 in net purchases on your card each year
    • 5,000 bonus miles when you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months
    • No foreign exchange transaction fees
    • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United
    • Earn 1 mile per dollar spend on all other purchases
    • Miles don't expire
    • Complimentary trip cancellation insurance and trip delay reimbursement
    • $95 annual fee waived for the first year

    Bottom line

    Even in light of recent devaluations, this is still a really good sign-up bonus.  Chase Ultimate Rewards points from the Sapphire and Ink Plus/Bold cards can also be transferred to UA miles at a 1:1 ratio, which is a good way to top off miles.  Offer expires on September 2nd, but can be rescinded by Chase at anytime, so best not to delay.  Only new applicants who have not received a sign-up bonus with this card within the past 24 months are eligible for this card.

    Thursday, May 29, 2014

    SIN-HKG-CTS in Cathay Pacific business class

    Since economy class to Singapore was painful, I spend the extra 10k AAdvantage miles to book business class for my return.  In order to make it onto the token 9 am flight for HKG-CTS, I had to fly on a redeye flight for SIN-HKG, which would be killer in coach.


    SIN-HKG Cathay Pacific biz

    SIN is a massive Star Alliance hub and one of the best airports in the world.  With access to Europe and North America, it's strategic location makes it a good stopover for the Kangaroo Route.  However, Oneworld flights are limited to a handful of intra-Asia routes, Australia, and London.  CX flies mostly regional planes to SIN, so the seat disappointingly wasn't even angled lieflat, which is the standard for intra-Asia biz.



    I was one of 3 passengers in the cabin as it appears that all the business travelers skipped out on this one.  The seat was similar to AA's old transcontinental business class recliners, which are comfy but not conducive for sleeping.




    Recliner seats defeat the purpose of biz seats for a redeye flight, but I was so tired that I passed out nonetheless promptly after dinner.


    HKG layover

    The flight arrived into HKG at 5 am, which gave me nearly 4 hours at the CX Wing first class lounge.  I grabbed breakfast at the lounge's famed Haven Restaurant, booked a private Cabana room, and crashed on the futon.  The next thing that rang was my 8:30 am alarm clock reminding me of my 9 am flight.  Since my gate was at the opposite end of the terminal, I essentially raced to make it.  For a full review of the Wing first class lounge, see my previous post.

    A la carte breakfast menu

    HKG-SIN in Cathay Pacific biz

    I got to the gate 15 minutes before departure and was amongst the last to board the plane, thanks to the Wing's awesome sleeping room.  I had pre-selected the upper deck seat right behind the cockpit, which is as private as they get for a biz seat.  It's also been a good 15 years since I last got to sit on the upper deck of a 747, which CX is phasing out within a year.

     

    CX uses their old herringbone seats on their 747s, which offer good privacy but can be claustrophobic and overly seclusive if flying with a companion.  The vast number of complaints stemming from claustrophobia prompted CX to change to their flagship reverse herringbone configuration that can be found on 773s and A333.  Fortunately, my flight was only 4 1/2 hours and I only wanted to sleep.


    Shortly after takeoff, lunch was served.  I opted for the seafood meal, which consisted of a shrimp appetizer and grilled sea bass main course.





    As usual, I wasn't especially hungry after coming out of the first class lounge.  After finishing the food, I slept until landing.  Behind the cockpit, I could hear the captain and first officer verbally issue altitude readings upon landing: "50 . . . 30 . . . 10 . . ."


    Bottom line

    Cathay Pacific intra-Asia biz seating configuration is a mixed bag, so be sure to do your homework to make the most of your miles.  I wasn't given much of a choice with only 1 daily flight between HKG-CTS and only one SIN-HKG flight that could connect me there in time.  I was surprised that CX would use a subpar product on SIN-HKG, which is a heavily traveled business route.  Last year, I flew on their flagship 773 on a 1 1/2 hour flight between HKG-TPE, which is a second-tier route with over a dozen daily flights.  Always shoot for the 773 and A333 to maximize your experience.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2014

    US Airways 40,000 miles credit card sign-up bonus and 100% bonus miles sale


    US Airways 40k Barclays credit card

    Newly minted oneworld member US Airways has been at it lately with their new 40k miles credit card sign-up bonus, which is awarded after the first purchase using your card.  This takes a substantial burden off frantically meeting spending thresholds, which can be as high as $10k.  The US Airways Barclays card also gets you a good spread of useful benefits when flying with US Airways:

    • Enjoy your first bag checked free on eligible bags for you and up to 4 companions on domestic US Airways operated flights
    • Get one companion certificate for up to two guests to travel with you on US Airways operated flights at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
    • Take advantage of priority boarding Zone 2 on US Airways operated flights
    • Relax with a complimentary US Airways Club day pass
    • Check in at the First Class counter 

    http://www.worldgotbigger.com/us-airways/bold/?campaignId=1995&cellNumber=18&referrerid=PTRBA89FEE

    The $89 annual fee is NOT waived for the first year.  Spending $25k+ in a year will also net you 10k miles towards elite status.  With the merger scheduled to be fully implemented by early next year, the Barclays cards' days are numbered as AA has stated that they're going with Citi.  So now would definitely be a good time to sign-up for this card as these miles will be merged with your AA miles.


    100% bonus miles sale

    US Airways' trademark promo seems to be their quarterly 100% bonus miles sale, where you can purchase award miles for as low as 1.88 cents each.  Although US Airways meticulously devalued their award chart overnight without notice last month, they still have phenomenal redemption rates.  With this promo, a business class flight on Cathay Pacific between Sapporo and Hong Kong (~5.5 hours) will only cost you $564 plus taxes and fees (30k miles), which is a steal considering that you get to fly on CX's flatbed biz product.

    https://www.usairways.com/en-US/dividendmiles/programdetails/purchasemiles/default.html


    North America to North Asia in biz was recently upped to 110k ($2,068), so you're better off in first class for 120k ($2,256).  However, North Asia to Europe in biz has remained at 80k ($1,504), which is by far the best deal on the market.  Add that to the fact that you get a free stopover possibly even in North America, buying miles for the sole purpose of flying in a premium cabin could be cheaper than buying a discounted economy class ticket.

    $1,504 in business class

    Be on the lookout for swift devaluations in the near future, so buy miles only as needed.  US Airways phone agents are generally lousy to say the least, which is frustrating but at the same time rewarding when they allow you to book ridiculous routes such as Tokyo to Paris to San Francisco and back to Tokyo for 80k miles.  The double miles sale is a tiered bonus, and you'll only get 100% bonus miles if you purchase 30k+.

    Limited time offer!
    Buy miles from May 3rd until May 25th, 2014 and get up to a 100% bonus – up to 50,000 miles.

    • Buy 10,000 to 19,000 miles, get 50% bonus miles
    • Buy 20,000 to 29,000 miles, get 75% bonus miles
    • Buy 30,000 to 50,000 miles, get 100% bonus miles


    Bottom line

    US Airways still carries the best mileage purchasing promos, and these deals most likely won't survive the merger.  If you've always been dreaming of that trip in premium class to Asia or Europe this summer, then this would be your ticket for the best value.  The Barclays card for sure won't outlast the merger, so mooch those miles while you still can, because chances are that we've got rough waters ahead with devaluations and stripped benefits.

    Thursday, May 1, 2014

    Chase Ink cards with limited time 60,000 point sign-up bonus

    A while back, I posted on how the Chase Ink Plus card is the master when it comes to churning points coupled with a juicy 50k sign-up bonus.  Although the Ink Plus has recently lost some ground in the churning business with retailers no longer accepting credit cards for Bluebird transactions, the new 60k sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of card membership is now the king of card sign-up offers.  This bonus is good for both the Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards.

    https://creditcards.chase.com/ink-business-credit-cards/rewards/ink-plus-card/#


    Ultimate Rewards, which is the points currency used exclusively by Chase, is one of the most valuable point currencies out there.  Points can be transferred to the following partners at a 1:1 ratio:
    • United
    • British Airways
    • Korean Airways
    • Southwest
    • Virgin Atlantic
    • Hyatt
    • InterContinental Hotels Group
    • Marriott
    • Ritz Carlton
    • Amtrak

    I value UR at 1.8 cents per piece, thanks to Hyatt, Korean, and British Airways.  United was formerly their best transfer partner until their royal devaluation earlier this year.  That being said, 60k points is worth roughly $1,080 if redeemed with their top partners.  Among the other benefits of the cards:
    • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services.
    • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and for hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel.
    • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limits.
    • Points do not expire.
    • No foreign transaction fees on international purchases.
    • $95 annual fee waived for the first year.
    • 2 free airport lounge passes per year with Lounge Club.
     
    A $5k spending threshold within the first 3 months of card membership may be difficult for some, but there are easy ways of meeting it, like using Amazon Payments or buying Visa gift cards at Staples, which shells out 5X points per dollar.  The Points Guy lists 10 unique ways of easily meeting credit card minimum spend.  The Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards are nearly identical with one major exception in that the Ink Bold is a charge card that needs to be paid back in full monthly, whereas the Ink Plus is an actual credit card.  Remember that you also don't need to own an actual business to be eligible for these cards.  The "thought" of opening a business or even an eBay sale technically qualifies you as a small business.  For more on how to qualify as a small business proprietor, see Million Mile Secrets' post
     
    Key links:

    Friday, April 25, 2014

    CTS-HKG-SIN in Cathay Pacific economy class

    As my 2-year tenure as an American Airlines Executive Platinum member came to an unfortunate close, it was time to reap the benefits one final time: no close-in award ticketing fee, no phone agent booking fee, no cancellation fee, and, of course, unparalleled first class lounge access, even when flying in lowly coach class.  I redeemed for Singapore to meet up with a handful of friends.  AA charges 20k each way for Y and 30k for biz.


    CTS international terminal

    Much of Japan is about saving face, particularly to the international community.  This is evident in the way they treat tourists compared to their treatment of Japanese nationals.  More so than in any other sector, nothing reflects that better than domestic vs. int'l travel.  ANA and JAL both act like LCCs for domestic flights, but they go above and beyond for the int'l product.  If Skytrax had taken ANA's domestic product into consideration for their airline rankings, there's no way on earth ANA would have scored 5 stars.  However, CTS int'l terminal is one exception that is in desperate need of a facelift.  With rude service, long lines, and an unoriginal terminal, you'd honestly think that you're in LAX or ORD.  Perhaps there is an obvious reason as to why the Japanese government hasn't invested a whole awful lot into improving CTS int'l as they have with HND and NRT: the lack of western biz travelers.  Most passengers are leisure travelers from China, Korea, and Southeast Asia, which, as most of us know, tends to be looked down upon in Japan.

    Economy class check-in line that spans past the duty-free shops

    Not a first class passenger or a Cathay Pacific Diamond, but being a oneworld Emerald pulls the trick.

    Due to the overfill of int'l leisure travelers checking bags on widebody jets, check-in lines at CTS int'l can be more horrendous than any airport in the U.S.  Even the B737 that I flew on with Air China en route to PEK had a line that spanned the length of the terminal.  So this is actually where being an elite alliance member comes in huge; not because of any special offerings, but simply in the form of entitled premium check-in lines.


    Cathay Pacific CTS-HKG-SIN

    During the winter, CX operates daily service to HKG on rotating B772s and B744s.  The 6-hour flight is one of the farthest destinations out of CTS, short of only Honolulu.  CX utilizes their updated regional economy class product, which is identical to their int'l product.




    The slimline seats have zero actual recline as your bottom seat cushion moves forward for a reclined feel.  The advantage of this configuration, which is being slowly adopted worldwide, is that you'll never have to worry about the passenger in front of you.  The disadvantage, of course, is that you thoroughly crippled your pitch space when in the "recline" position.  Every seat is equipped with AC power, USB connection, personal AVOD, a cup holder, and a coat hanger, which is the best you'll ever get in coach.


    The food and service was what you'd expect in coach from a 5-star carrier: marginally better than United and American, and in-line with JAL and ANA.


    CX First Class Lounge - The Wing

    Fortunately, having an abbreviated meal on the plane was no problem because I'd be visiting the best lounge in Asia on landing: the CX Wing first class lounge.  As always, the service and complimentary food were phenomenal at the Haven, which is a restaurant catered by the iconic Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon.

    Buffet seafood menu: smoked salmon, chili squid, and roasted cod

    Made-to-order menu: seabass grilled to perfection

    For a full review of the Wing and why it stands above the rest in Asia, see my prior trip to HKG.


    Bottom line

    Despite what anyone might say, economy class will always be economy class.  Having elite status does mitigate the pain with priority check-in, boarding, baggage handling, and lounge access.  However, that doesn't change the fact that you'll still be cramped into a 32" shell for 6 hours.  Four hours into the flight, I began feeling claustrophobic and attempted to sleep, but that wasn't about to happen in an uncomfortable seat.  By the time I landed into HKG, it was obvious that the extra 10k miles would be well worth the upgrade to business class, so I called AA and confirmed an upgrade for my return.

    Saturday, March 29, 2014

    MH370: supernatural searching

    After over 21 days, Malaysia Airlines (MAS), the Malaysian government, and the 26 countries involved in SAR are still where they started off at: nowhere.  Malaysia has been directing SAR like a wild goose chase since day 1, initially starting in the South China Sea before heading over Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca and finally to the depths of the Indian Ocean.  China, Australia, France, and now New Zealand have all claimed to spot suspicious debris in the search area, but nothing has proven conclusive.  Even as vast conspiracy and supernatural theories abound, perhaps the most abnormal performance of this saga has been the handling of a lost plane by this developing country and the media.

    Earlier this week, MAS resorted to text messaging the passenger's families that "MH370 has been lost".  Really??  After being lost for 18 days, MAS then decides to text the families that their plane is lost.  Apart from stating the obvious, it's remarkable how MAS chose texting as the preferred communication channel for such an announcement.  And to add insult to injury, MAS made initial "payments" of only $5,000 USD to each family, which is probably barely enough to cover lodging and food expenses of those who have been housed in at PEK for 18 days.  One has to wonder if Skytrax is going to be taking all these moves into consideration before ranking MAS as a 5-star carrier in 2014.


    Needless to say, Malaysian PM Najib Razak yesterday stated that "according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean."  This is, of course, based on the most recent ACARS and satellite handshake messages.  Many have criticized Malaysian authorities for their lack of transparency in determining aircraft communication signals, but analyzing satellite ping signals is no easy task.  Think of your Internet service provider, be it Comcast, AT&T, or whatever incompetent corporation, being assigned to filter through all the Internet traffic in their database and find that one important webpage that you have accessed.  This is only easy if you're the NSA.

    What next?

    Until the wreckage, particularly the black box, is recovered, we won't know what in the world happened to MH370.  Probable speculations include pilot suicide, unsuccessful hijacking, on-board fire, and mass electrical failure.  Based on satellite imagery, the most probable location of the plane is somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean, some 2,000 miles southwest of Perth, Australia (aka the middle of nowhere).  It could still be weeks before anything is found since you need to locate the haystack before you can find the needle within.  But without a black box, which will cease pinging 30 days after the crash, we'll never know what happened in that cockpit.  Air France 447, which crashed in the middle of the Atlantic in 2009, was found a few days after the accident due to functioning ACARS and a transponder.  The black box, however, wasn't recovered until after another year, and the investigation didn't conclude until 2012.  MH370 could take longer, assuming it can ever be found.



    It should be noted that the $5,000 initial payment was mostly intended for lodging and meals reimbursement for the families.  It's unclear as to how much each family will receive, but it could be anywhere from $400,000 to $10 million depending on the lawsuits.  MAS, which has been in the red for the past 3 years, is already in need of a government bailout, and MH370 is going to be more than just a dent in their financial recovery efforts.

    Meanwhile, British Airways, which was marketing their "To Fly, to Serve" campaign, chose the wrong words that dissed their partner MAS.  Fortunately, this was flashed months ago, and BA has wisely discontinued it.


    Let's hope they find the plane soon, and thoughts and prayers to all the families.  Oh, and more bucks from MAS too.
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