Category

Tips

When Do Minimum Spend Requirements Start?

I got a great question on Twitter yesterday that I figure most people might be interested in.

Vince wants to know when does the official clock start on completing the Minimum Spend Requirement when you get a new Credit Card.

In other words, if you have 6 months to complete the $5,000 minimum spend on the SPG AMEX, does AMEX start the countdown from when you sign up for the Card or is it when you actually call in and activate the Card?

This is a great question for 2 reasons!

1. The approval date is extremely useful information to know.

2. For people that apply for multiple Credit Cards at 1 time, knowing when Credit Card Issuers “start the clock” on Minimum Spend Requirements can impact how you apply for and spend money on your Cards.

Well if I had to guess, in a perfectly sensible World, I would hope that the Minimum Spend countdown doesn’t start until you actually have the Card in your hands and call in to activate it since you obviously can’t use the Card while it is in transit.

Although I have never had any issues, I certainly can imagine Cards getting lost in the mail etc and if your Minimum Spend Requirement has to be completed in 3 months, then having a Card lost in the mail for 2 weeks is 1/8 of your clock wasted.

That being said, we are dealing with Banks and Credit Card Companies who are in the business of making money, so the less Points & Miles they have to give out, the better for their business.

So I went ahead and called both Chase and American Express and asked what their policy was.

Not surprisingly, both Chase & American Express start the Minimum Spend Requirement clock as soon as you are approved.

Typically, you submit an application online and are instantly approved online, so it isn’t a huge deal.

However if you get a pending decision, I highly suggest you call the Bank’s Reconsideration Phone Number and get your application processed ASAP.

Also once you are approved, you can sometimes ask the Bank to expedite your Card for free. Just say something like you going on a trip in 1 week and you would like to use the Card.

Once your Card arrives in the mail, remember to call in and activate it immediately so you can start using it!

Don’t just put it on the counter and say, “Oh I’ll do it later”, because you may forget about it.

Helpful Questions To Ask When You Call To Activate Your Card

To avoid future headaches down the line, I’d highly recommend asking the 2 following questions when you call in to activate your Card:

1. When Was My Approval Date 

This way you won’t have to guess when you need to complete your spending by.

If they ask why you are interested, just say you want to have the exact date so you know when the Annual Fee will be due.

2. Can You Please Confirm The Sign On Bonus I Am Registered For

I’ll be honest, this isn’t a step I normally do but going forward it definitely will be. Occasionally the Customer Service Reps will read your the bonus to confirm, but most times they don’t.

Although it takes an extra minute on the phone, it is better to double check what offer you are signed up for rather than find out 3 months later that you were only signed up for the 25,000 Mile offer not the 50,000 Mile offer you thought you had signed up for.

In the event there is something wrong with your offer, you can then quickly get it taken care of instead of trying to call in months later and explain what happened to some Customer Service Representative based in the Philippines who has no idea what you are talking about.

Real Life Implications

As I said before, if you are only signing up for 1 Card, then hitting the Minimum Spend Requirement before the clock runs out shouldn’t be too big of a deal.

However if you are Card Churning, it is important to take into account the start days of Minimum Spend Requirements.

For example, if you want to sign up for both the SPG AMEX and SPG Business AMEX so you can essentially double down on the bonus and get 70,000 SPG Points after completing the Minimum Spend Requirements, depending on your financial situation it might make sense to apply for the SPG AMEX Card now, and then wait right before the 30,000 promotion ends on September 3rd, 2012 to apply for the SPG Business AMEX Card.

Although in total you will still have to spend $10,000 over 6 months, because you delayed the 2nd application by a month, you will have an extra month to hit the Minimum Spend on the 2nd Card.

Some people will argue that it is better to apply all at once to minimize any impact on your Credit Score, but if you can’t meet a Minimum Spend in the allotted time, it doesn’t matter if you apply all at once or not because you won’t complete the Minimum Spending Requirements thus you won’t get the full amount of points.

Other Card Issuers

Although I didn’t cover when the Minimum Spend Requirements for Citi, Bank of America, Capital One, US Bank, etc, if you are interested you can call them and simply ask.

However as a rule of thumb, to be on the safe side, just always assume that it starts on the day you were Approved.

Anyways hope that helps clear up any confusion over when Minimum Spend Requirements start.

If you have any questions about this or any other topics, feel free to Email, Text, Facebook, or Tweet me!

-Parag

Hidden City Ticketing & How To Save Money On Your Next Flight

I have some travel for work / fun coming up at the end of August so I am in the process of trying to book all those flights.

I will be traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles to Seattle back to Chicago.

Normally this would be pretty straight forward but much of the travel is unfortunately planned on the Thursday before and the Monday after Labor Day, aka extremely popular travel days.

I got lucky in that the Chicago – Los Angeles leg is already booked and I burned 12,500 AA miles for the Seattle – Chicago return, but I am still stuck on the Los Angeles – Seattle flight.

I have been trying to scourer the web for cheap one way fares from Los Angeles to Seattle but am having no luck, and much of the Saver availability for United and British Airways is long gone.

The difficulty in finding an affordable One Way fare reminded me of Gary from View From The Wing’s excellent post last week on “Using Hidden City & Throwaway Ticketing to Save Big Money on Airfare” that I think every one should read at least once.

Gary does an excellent job covering all aspects of Hidden City Ticketing, so I don’t want to step on his toes but basically Hidden City Ticketing can really save you a lot of money on Airfare if done right.

For those of you not familiar with Hidden City Ticketing, basically a “Hidden City” is a Airport Stop or Connection.

Since I live in Chicago and O’Hare is a United and AA Hub, not to mention the biggest Airport until you hit the East Coast, many of the smaller cities around Chicago like St. Louis, Milwaukee, Peoria, etc route their flights through Chicago before continuing on to their final destination.

Gary lays out how exactly to find Hidden Cities, the tools to use, etc but just to show you how much this can save you (especially when you have to book a One Way flight), here is an example so you get the basic idea.

Say you are in Peoria, Illinois and need a One Way ticket to get to Chicago O’Hare to catch an International flight.

If you booked a direct flight from Peoria to Chicago, the cheapest fare would be a cool $404!

However, if you plugged into Kayak.com that you needed a One Way flight from Peoria to NYC instead, it would only be $182.

This is really silly because in terms of distance Peoria to NYC is MUCH further than Peoria to Chicago.

What is interesting about these 2 trips is that the flight from Peoria to Chicago on both itineraries is the SAME EXACT AA flight, yet the longer Peoria to NYC flight is actually cheaper.

Since both flights stop in Chicago, hypothetically you could book the cheaper $182 Peoria to New York flight that has a connection in Chicago, and then hop off the plane in Chicago.

There are quite a few “Best Practices” when doing Hidden City Ticketing such as always carrying on your luggage, never providing your main Frequent Flyer Number, etc, so be sure to follow those suggestions.

Gary’s post covers all the ethics of Hidden City Ticketing, so I won’t go over them again but basically Airlines frown upon doing this because it takes away their ability to price gouge Customers (queue tiny violin).

I personally have never taken advantage of Hidden City Ticketing because I fly from O’Hare which is a United and American Airlines hub, so flights are fairly reasonably priced.

However obviously not everyone lives near a hub, and as Gary’s post points out, certain routes can cost over $1,500 for a single flight, while a “Hidden City” is only $150.

I wouldn’t suggest doing Hidden City Ticketing for every flight because it can be a hassle to set up, however if you are in a bind and the Airline is trying to extort you, it is definitely a tool you should consider to help get you to your destination at a fair price.

Given how many unnecessary fees Airlines LOVE to charge like my favorite $75 Close-In Ticketing Fee, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over the Airline’s loss in revenue from Hidden City Ticketing but that is just me.

For a full explanation of how to do Hidden City Ticketing and to see if you can save some money on your next Revenue Flight, check out Gary’s post.

-Parag

Close-In Ticketing Fees & How To Avoid Them

Reader Question:

Parag, I have a quick question. I am trying to book a Domestic Economy ticket on United for the first week of August. Although the taxes are only $5, there is a service fee of $75 on the ticket. Any idea what this fee is and is there a way to avoid it?

Thanks for your help,

Jessica

Jessica, great question!

You have unfortunately uncovered one of the dirty little secrets that Airlines use to get more money out of their Customers!

Below is an example I just pulled from United for a flight that departs next week:

As you can see, the taxes and fees are in fact only $5.00, however there is a mysterious “service fee” of $75.00 tacked on.

To the average Consumer because it is labeled as a “service fee”, they would most likely pay it without thinking anything of it.

However at Frequent Flyer University, I am not a fan of fees for any types of services including Banking, Credit Cards, or even Award Tickets, so I do my best to avoid these “service fees” at any cost. 

Clicking on the “service fee” link at the bottom of United’s page, it is easy to find out that this “service fee” is in fact a Close-In Ticketing Fee.

Unfortunately United does not have the decency to flat out say that it is a Close-In Ticketing Fee, instead they just cleverly disguise it as a generic “service fee” and hope you won’t notice.

What Is A Close-In Ticketing Fee?

Depending on the Airline, a Close-In Ticketing Fee is typically charged for the “convenience” of being able to book and Award Ticket with less than 3 weeks until departure.

Although I have no idea why 3 weeks was chosen as the arbitrary deadline, the fee is really just another way for Airlines to nickel and dime their Customers.

At a time when the Internet didn’t exist, I can understand the justification for this fee.

Back then it may have taken 3 weeks to print and mail you a ticket. So in the event you booked an Award ticket less than 3 weeks from departure, they may have had to rush the process and there was an additional cost to the Airlines which they passed on to you. 

Flash forward to 2012 when there is this beautiful thing called the Internet and you don’t even have call in to book your Award ticket.

Instead you do it all online and your ticket can be processed and emailed to you in a matter of seconds.

To the untrained eye, it would thus make these “Close-In Ticketing Fees” look like they are really just a blatant money making scheme since the Airlines don’t have to do anything extra if you book your ticket less than 3 weeks out besides charge you the fee.

Can you imagine if you tried to withdraw your money from a Bank ATM and the Bank decided to charge you a Close-In Withdrawal Fee because you didn’t give them 3 weeks notice that you wanted to use your money.

Although that analogy may sound ridiculous, it is basically the same thing because the Airlines are holding your miles similar to how a Bank hold yours money. 

The worst part is that these Close-In Ticketing Fees have nothing to do with availability or anything like that.

I’d honestly be happy to pay a $75 Close-In Ticketing Fee if in return the Airline would release a Saver Award to me.

Instead with the current Close-In Ticketing Fees, you have to pay the same fee regardless if you are getting a One Way Domestic Saver Ticket for 12,500 miles or a First Class trip to Hong Kong for 320,000 miles.

How To Avoid These Types Of Fees

Unfortunately if you are a normal Customer, it is more or less impossible to avoid these fees if you have to book an Award Ticket with less than 21 days until departure on United or American.

If you fly on Delta or British Airways, to my knowledge they do not impose these Close-In Ticketing Fees anymore.

The only other way to avoid these Close-In Ticketing Fees is by using a trick I outlined a while ago.

Basically you actually buy the ticket with a Chase Credit Card that earns Ultimate Rewards, and then you get reimbursed by Chase after you fly. 

Although this technique is not practical to use in all situations, if the ticket price is right, it can be an effective way to avoid Close-In Ticketing Fees and earn some miles at the same time!

Link On How To Get Reimbursed For Tickets With Your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

If you have Elite Status, depending on your Status Level and Airline, sometimes the Close-In Ticketing Fees are waived.

Ultimately the best way to avoid Close-In Ticketing Fees is also the simplest one.

Just book your Award Tickets more than 21 days out!

Close-In Ticketing Fees By Airline

American Airlines

  • Close-In Ticketing Fee: Yes
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Effective: Less than 21 days to departure
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Cost: $75
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Waived For: 
    • Advantage Executive Platinum
    • AAdvantage Platinum
    • AAdvantage Gold
  • Link To American Airlines Fee Schedule

 British Airways

  • Close-In Ticketing Fee: No
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Effective: N/A
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Cost: N/A
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Waived For: N/A 
  • Link To British Airways Fee Schedule

Delta

  • Close-In Ticketing Fee: No
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Effective: N/A
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Cost: N/A
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Waived For: N/A 
  • Link to Delta Fee Schedule

United Airlines

  • Close-In Ticketing Fee: Yes
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Effective: Less than 21 days to departure
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Cost: Variable
    • $75 – No Status
    • $50 – Premier Silver
    • $25 – Premier Gold 
  • Close-In Ticketing Fee Waived For: 
    • Global Services
    • Premier 1K
    • Premier Platinum
  • Link To United Fee Schedule

Recap

Hopefully this post has given you a better understanding of Close-In Ticketing Fees and how to avoid them in the future.

My hope is that everyone now knows to either fly on an Airline that doesn’t have Close-In Ticketing Fees or book your Award flights more than 21 days out to avoid fees.

If you have any questions about this topic or anything else, feel free to email me at FrequentFlyerUniversity@gmail.com

-Parag