Last week (pre SEZ-DUB mistake fare), I began thinking about my future travel plans for Fall and Winter 2013 / 2014.
While I have a pretty decent stockpile of miles / points, the one thing I always try to stress is the value of long term planning.
Much like retiring where you don’t just wake up and decide you are ready to retire, you need to slowly save money in your earlier years, the same thing applies to traveling on miles / points.
In order to use miles / points to take a free trip, you need to start earning and saving in advance!
Currently I have the following balances:
- United – 108,000 miles
- AA – 50,000 miles
- British Airways – 170,000 miles (family account)
- US Air – 55,000 miles
- Delta – 16,500 miles
- Southwest – 46,000 miles
- Hawaiian Airlines – 72,000 miles
- Hyatt – 7,000 points + 2 free nights in a Suite certificate
- Club Carlson – 17,000 points + 1 free night certificate
- Starwood – 18,000 points
- Hilton – 2,000 points
- Priority Club – 7,000 points
- Marriott – 600 points
Although it is a very diverse collection of various miles and points, one big trip could deplete my balances (little did I know how big of a trip it would be…). Therefore I figured last week, it would be a good time to start build a reserve for future travel.
My two big trips planned (prior to SEZ-DUB) for Fall 2013 & Winter 2014 were going to Asia to visit my Brother while he studies abroad in Singapore and going skiing in either Colorado or Canada.
Those trips are still on but now Africa / Europe is included.
While for most flights to Europe, I will suck it up and fly in Coach.
I have also done Australia and India in Coach and it was not fun. Therefore my rule is anything above 12 hours, I try to do Business Class if possible. I don’t really care about the food, service, or alcohol, I really only care about the seat and if it is a lie-flat.
Typically the difference between Coach (80,000 miles) and Business (120,000 miles) to Asia is only 40,000 miles (or 20,000 each way), so in my opinion it is well worth it to be able to sleep in a lie-flat seat.
I currently have 108,000 United miles, so to fly to Asia in Business Class, I will need another 12,000 United miles.
Depending on availability, I could also do a one way using United miles and come back on Cathay Pacific using British Airways Avios.
As for Hotels, I currently have 3 free night certificates which will be useful in expensive cities like Tokyo.
I talked about going skiing last year and all the different options available. Unfortunately those plans fell through, so I will try again this year.
Since the distance to ski resorts isn’t that far, depending on where I am going, I will either use Southwest Points (in the US) or British Airways to Canada.
Given how expensive ski resorts in Colorado and Canada can be during the peak winter season, this also would be a great use of hotel points or free night certificates!
Africa / Middle East / Europe
Given that the SEZ – DUB fare just happened, I haven’t really begun researching much for it. Given we will probably be gone for close to two weeks, hotel points and free night certificates are going to be a necessity to minimize our out of pocket expenses.
To fly Business Class to Africa will take 60,000 United miles (One Way) and coming back from Dublin should be around 25,000 – 35,000 Avios in Business Class on Aer Lingus. Just finding availability will be tricky!
Credit Card Applications
I actually applied for all the Cards below last week with the belief I was going to use them for Asia and skiing.
Plans obviously changed but because I am always working towards to collecting miles and points even if i don’t have a destination in mind, I should still be fine.
Chase INK Plus – 50,000 points after $5,000 minimum spend requirement in 3 months
Since I currently only have 108,000 United miles, I know I will need another 12,000 United miles to redeem for a Business Class ticket to Asia.
I picked up this Chase INK card because it earns Ultimate Rewards Points that can be transferred to United. As for the leftover 38,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, I might transfer them to Hyatt for a 2 free night hotel nights.
To complete the $5,000 minimum spend requirement, I plan on buying Chase giftcards for free and then loading them onto Bluebird.
Fairmont – 2 free nights after $1,000 minimum spend requirement in 3 months
While this Fairmont Card is not heavily advertised on travel blogs (primarily because there is no affiliate link…), in my opinion the Fairmont Card is as good as the Hyatt Card.
There certainly aren’t as many Fairmont properties (map) in the world compared to Hyatt, but what Fairmont lacks in quantity they make up in quality.
There is a really nice Fairmont property in Whistler that I have visited (not stayed at unfortunately), which could be a good use of the 2 free nights.
Also Fairmont has these cool Safari Resorts in Africa that look pretty amazing. I am not sure if you can use the 2 free nights at those properties because the safari in included in the price, but if you could that would be unreal!
Delta Gold AMEX – 30,000 miles after $500 minimum spend in 3 months
Link To Application (if you aren’t seeing the offer, try clearing your cookies or using a new browser. I was having problems earlier)
To be honest, I have never gotten a Delta credit card before.
This is because it is fairly common knowledge that Delta SkyMiles are called SkyPesos for a reason.
That being said, there weren’t really any great AMEX offers available that I hadn’t already applied for. Also given that the minimum spend was only $500, it was a hard offer to pass up.
Since I currently have 16,500 SkyMiles, might as well add another 30,000 and hopefully be able to use them for something in the future.
Bank of America
Alaska Airlines – 25,000 miles after 1st purchase
Alaska Airlines is probably one of the strangest frequent flyer programs out there, in that they aren’t part of an alliance but seem to be partners with every airline.
This Card was also like the Delta AMEX in that I don’t really have a need for Alaska miles but I figure they are good to have since they can be redeemed on Delta and American Airlines.
In addition, the card comes with a $99 companion certificate that could be useful.
Since there wasn’t any minimum spend requirement and the Card is issued by Bank of America, there wasn’t any really downsize to getting this card.
Club Carlson – 85,000 points after $2,500 minimum spend in 3 months
US Bank just recently got into the hotel credit card business with their Club Carlson card.
While Club Carlson’s brand of hotels isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, their card is fairly lucrative in that 85,000 points can get you 2 – 4 free nights at some of their Radisson Blu properties.
In addition, with the card if you redeem points for 2 nights or more, you get the last night free! So if you only stay for 2 nights, then the 2nd night is free!
Not to mention that every year you renew the card, you get 40,000 additional points!
While the card is great, unfortunately US Bank is EXTREMELY STRICT and won’t approve you if you have too many credit card applications, regardless of your credit score.
Unfortunately I fell into that category and was denied for this card which stinks because I could really use the points in Europe and Middle East!
I am guessing this credit vigilance by US Bank is to stop people who just sign up for credit cards for the sign up bonus and then cancel them later.
However the irony is that this card is so lucrative with the 40,000 point annual renewal bonus and “Stay 2, Get 1” perk, that most people (including myself) would probably pay the annual fee and keep that card.
US Airways – 30,000 miles after 1st purchase
For those of you paying attention, this is the same exact US Airways card I got back in November during my last round of apps.
From what I have heard, Barclays will approve you for the same US Airways card again if you tell them you need the new card to keep your “expenses separate”.
For me, I didn’t even have to call in and was approved online!
The best part is that there is no minimum spend on the card!
I already have 55,000 US Airway miles so another 35,000 will be nice.
Worst case is that my 90,000 US Airway miles turn into AA miles after the merger, which wouldn’t be the worst thing.
Hilton Reserve – 2 free weekend nights after $2,500 minimum spend in 4 months
While Hilton has severely devalued their hotel points program, this Hilton Card comes with 2 free weekend night certificates.
There are some limitations on where you can’t use the weekend night certificates (full list here), but it actually is a fairly small list and mostly covers Hilton Vacation Club properties and all inclusive properties.
That being said, from my understanding you can use the free weekend night certificates at any of the non-excluded properties like the Conrad Maldives, which is famous for its underwater restaurant, not to mention the ridiculous scenery.
All in all, I was approved for 6 out of 7 applications.
Besides for the Fairmont card, all the other cards were approved without having to call the reconsideration line!
In total, I will receive around 135,000 miles / points and 4 free night certificates after completing $9,000 in minimum spend requirement in 3 months.
While this round of applications wasn’t as lucrative as last time (due to the 85,000 point Club Carlson denial), the 4 free hotel nights will be useful for my future trips and it will be good to diversify some of my other accounts like Delta, US Airways, and Alaska.
Thankfully, the minimum spend requirement isn’t as steep as last time. I should be able to do almost all of it with Chase giftcards / Bluebird, Amazon Payments, and the new Google Wallet service. If I am a little short, I can always hit up CVS and buy some Vanilla Reloads.
All in all, although it wasn’t the best round of credit card applications, I am glad I did it because I am going to need more miles and hotel points for the new Africa / Europe trip.
Although I applied for these cards without knowing of the upcoming trip, it just goes to show you the importance of long term planning.
You never know what deal could be coming down the pipeline, so it is best to be prepared!
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