Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Credit Cards (page 1 of 7)

3 reasons to consider the Citi ThankYou Premier card

The Citi ThankYou Premier card is the best card in the ThankYou Point-earning family, in my opinion. The Citi Prestige has its place as a premium product, but for the average Joe, the Citi ThankYou Premier is a solid enough card in its own right. And the current offer is nothing to sneeze at. Here are three reasons you may want to make it the next addition to your wallet:

Best sign-up bonus I’ve seen

The current sign-up bonus of 60,000 ThankYou Points is the highest public offer I’ve ever seen for this card. Previous offers have included both 40,000 and 50,000 bonus points, as well as an extended period where no bonus was offered.

The $95 fee is also waived the first year, which is huge. The Citi ThankYou Premier is much like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the card I tend to recommend as the best all-around starter travel credit card for most folks. It offers increased earning rates on travel (3x), dining and entertainment (2x). Travel also includes gas, so you earn 3x ThankYou Points (TYP) on these purchases as well.

The card also offers no foreign transaction fees, and you can use the points at 1.25 cents each when booking travel through the Citi Thank You portal, or you can transfer them to partner programs. In general, Citi’s partners aren’t quite as good as Chase or Amex, but there are a couple with great uses.

Two awesome transfer partners

While the Citi transfer partners are generally inferior to those of the other bank programs, there are a couple gems that make collecting ThankYou points a great strategy. My favorite is Avianca LifeMiles, mainly because of their short-haul award chart within the U.S. (SEE: 3 reasons I am SUPER excited for the new LifeMiles shorthaul awards).

LifeMiles awards on United metal are easy to book online, as long as they include only one connection. You can fly from California to anywhere within the western states (everything aligned with Colorado westward, with the exception of Montana) for 7,500 miles one-way. If you’re local to Humboldt County, these are an incredible value flying out of Arcata. We utilized Avianca LifeMiles short-haul awards for our flights to the Southwest in the spring (SEE: 2 Tips for Planning a Last-Minute Trip).

The second great transfer partner is Asia Miles. While the program saw a minor devaluation this year, there are still some great uses of the currency when flying with either Cathay Pacific or their Oneworld partners. For example, you can fly nonstop on American Airlines from Chicago, New York, Miami, Charlotte, Phildelphia or Dallas to a number of European destinations for only 45,000 Asia Miles one-way in business class.

There is also value in Flying Blue and Singapore KrisFlyer. Even Turkish Miles&Smiles has some sweet spots. But LifeMiles and Asia Miles are my top favorites. The biggest hurdle for people is learning how to use them effectively.

Diversification of points portfolio

Another benefit of picking up a Citi ThankYou Premier card is that you will have access to additional partners besides those offered by either Chase or Amex. Sure, I remarked that they are inferior to the other programs, but they are definitely not useless.

I’ve found that having a diverse portfolio of points is one of the best strategies for making trips happen. Don’t lock yourself into only one or two currencies (I always suggest having a plan). Bank programs with transfer partners are already a step above straight hotel or airlines cards. But holding more than one can make some sense. I love my American Express Everyday card as it is both free ($0 annual fee), yet earns 2x Membership Rewards points on groceries and leaves me the option of accruing Membership Rewards points. Having cards with all three currencies gives me a lot of options.

Conclusion

If you’re in the market for a new card, the Citi ThankYou Premier may be the way to go. With a $0 annual fee, you really can’t go wrong if you want to try the program out. If you find it isn’t for you, just drop it when you hit your first year.

As always, don’t apply because some guy on the internet told you to. Take a look at the offer and see if this card offers some value to you. ­čśë

Get up to 12 free nights from this hotel card offer!

You probably clicked on this due to the eye-popping headline. I know. It’s clickbait-y. But now let me convince you why you might actually want to consider the current offer for the new Chase World of Hyatt Visa card. You can get up to 12 free nights from this offer.

Why Hyatt is a great hotel program

While I’m not a huge fan of the refreshed World of Hyatt program in terms of elite status and benefits, if your goal is inexpensive free nights, it is one of the best.

Hyatt shines due to their reasonable award prices for lower tier hotels. Category 1 properties cost a mere 5,000 points per night. Most of these in the U.S. go for at least $100 per night, including taxes. And there are a good number of Category 1 properties across the U.S. You won’t fine them in urban areas, but they are common enough.

Category 2 and Category 3 properties aren’t all that far behind at 8,000 and 12,000 points per night, respectively. Even with just those three categories and Hyatt’s fairly small footprint, you still have much of the U.S. covered. Check out this complete map of Hyatt hotels.

The lower tier properties are almost always Hyatt Place and Hyatt House brands. But don’t think that means they aren’t good. Both brands are great! Hyatt House is one of the best hotel brands at which I’ve ever stayed (SEE: Hyatt House Portland Review).

So…all that said, the World of Hyatt Visa could have you well on your way to quite a few free nights.

I put friends up at this Hyatt Place hotel for only 5,000 points!

Chase World of Hyatt Visa card offer

Chase issues the co-branded World of Hyatt credit card which has recently undergone a bit of a refresh. The current sign up offer is for a total of 60,000 Hyatt points, which is equivalent to 12 free nights at a Category 1 hotel!!

The minimum spend is fairly large, however. You earn 40,000 bonus points after $3,000 in spending within the first three months. An additional 20,000 points are awarded after spending a cumulative $6,000 within the first 6 months.

The card earns 4 points per dollar at Hyatt hotels, 2 points per dollar at fitness clubs and gym memberships, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. The card carries a $95 annual fee that is not waived. But who can argue that paying $95 for 12 nights of hotel isn’t a good deal.

The card also gives you a free night every anniversary, as well as an additional free night annually if you spend $15,000 on the card within your cardmember year. The card gives you 5 nights of elite status credit as well, plus 2 more elite nights for every $5,000 in spend.

If you are interested in applying, I would appreciate it if you would use my personal referral link (I may receive points if you apply through my link).

Conclusion

As always, I’ll end my spiel by saying that you should always be wise with your card usage and pay off your balances monthly (SEE: 5 Commandments of Travel Credit Cards). I personally consider the World of Hyatt Visa to be a solid product, and one of the best hotel card offers available currently. However, do your own research and consider whether this product is something of value to you. Don’t just apply for a card because some guy on the internet says you should!

If you have any questions, you’re more than welcome to leave a comment or drop me a note on my contact page.

Increased bonus on this flexible point travel card!

While I tend to target hotel, airline, and bank cards with flexible transferable points, sometimes you just need some “miles” that just act like cash. This is for those random expenses you can’t cover with other currencies. It could be a night at a bed and breakfast or a ferry ride to Newfoundland. That’s where cards like the Barclaycard Arrival+ come in.

Elevated bonus on the Barlcaycard Arrival+

The Barclaycard Arrival+ is currently offering an increased bonus of 60,000 “miles” after $5,000 in purchases within the first 90 days and payment of the $89 annual fee. After hitting the spending requirement, you’ll have $700 worth of flexible travel points that cost you $89. Definitely worth looking into.

Redeeming your miles is easy. You simply charge a travel purchase to your card and then use your miles as a statement credit to offset the purchase within 120 days. One of the only “features” I dislike is that the minimum redemption is $100 or 10,000 miles.

Additionally, the card provides a 5% rebate when you redeem your “miles”. The card also waives foreign transaction fees and earns 2x miles per dollar spent on all purchases.

At the end of the day, it really isn’t an earth-shattering product. It’s essentially a 2% cash back card that has a $100 redemption requirement and gives you back an extra 5%. Things like the collision damage coverage may help make up for the annual fee, but a better card might just be a plain ol’ Citi DoubleCash (SEE: 5 of the best no-fee credit cards for travel)┬áthat will earn you 2% back on everything with no annual fee.

But that sign-up bonus is worth chasing. I used the sign-up bonus from my Arrival+ back in 2015 to pay for our ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland, something we never could have done without the flexible points.

Experience with Barclays approvals

Some people struggle to be approved for products with Barclays. I don’t know why. I’ve never hit them furiously like I have…uh…Amex. But they’ve approved me for almost everything I’ve applied for.

Just take it slow and steady. If this is your first card with Barclays and you don’t have a lot of hits on your credit report and otherwise good credit, you’ll probably be fine.

Downgrading to the Barclaycard Arrival

After holding onto the Barclaycard Arrival+ for a year, my wife and I both downgraded ours to the plain Arrival card (without an annual fee). I typically would have straight-up canceled, but in this case, there is still an ongoing benefit from having the card: ability to earn miles by writing travel stories.

If you sign up for the Barclaycard Travel Community and link your Arrival+ or Arrival card, you can earn miles by writing travel stories. You can actually earn points towards Amazon gift cards if you don’t have the card, but the earn rate is significantly worse. I can easily earn the equivalent of $2 per story if I write a┬á quick 100 word summary, add a photo, and add a handful of travel detail “points of interest” that each give you 10 miles.

Conclusion

With the elevated bonus and the ability to use the miles flexibly for any travel purchases, the Barclaycard Arrival+ is a great option if you’re on the lookout for a new card. As always, do your research for yourself. Don’t just sign up because a random guy on the internet told you to. ­čśë

Complete guide to American Airlines reduced mileage awards

One of the lesser-known perks of holding an American Airlines co-branded credit card is the ability to book American Airlines reduced mileage awards. These will allow you to save up to 7,500 miles per round-trip depending on the card you hold and the length of the trip.

Save miles with AA reduced mileage awards

There are groups of cards that give you different levels of savings with the reduced mileage awards. Typically, the free or cheap co-branded cards offer less savings. There are also two tiers of awards. Because American Airlines already requires only 7,500 award miles for trips under 500 miles one-way, the savings aren’t as good on these routes.

Many credit cards offer a savings of up to 7,500 miles per round trip for itineraries over 500 miles and 2,000 miles per round-trip for itineraries of less than 500 miles. Here is the list of credit cards that offer these savings:

  • Citi┬« / AAdvantage┬« Executive World Elite™ MasterCard┬«
  • Citi┬« / AAdvantage┬« Platinum Select┬« MasterCard┬«
  • CitiBusiness┬« / AAdvantage┬« Platinum Select┬« MasterCard┬«
  • CitiBusiness┬« / AAdvantage┬« Select MasterCard┬«
  • AAdvantage┬« Aviator┬« Silver World Elite MasterCard┬«
  • AAdvantage┬« Aviator┬« Red MasterCard┬«
  • AAdvantage┬« Aviator┬« Business MasterCard┬«

This reduces the cost of a typical round-trip saver award from 25,000 miles to only 17,500 miles, and makes using your miles for domestic economy tickets far more lucrative. The cool thing is, some of the same cards that offer access to the American Airlines reduced mileage awards also offer 10% of your miles back when you redeem them, so you’re looking at a net cost of 15,750 per round-trip.

Here are the credit cards that give you access to a 5,000-mile discount for awards over 500 miles and 1,000-mile discount on round-trips itineraries of less than 500 miles:

  • Citi┬« / AAdvantage┬« Gold MasterCard┬«
  • AAdvantage┬« Aviator┬« Blue MasterCard┬«

Holding one of these cards will let you book a ticket to one of the listed destinations for only 20,000 miles per round-trip. A hop of 500 miles or less will only cost you 14,000 miles round-trip.

The cool thing is, you don’t have to book a round-trip award. If you book a one-way, the savings are simply half of the round-trip savings.

There are some other cards included in both of the lists that offer access to the American Airlines reduced mileage awards, but I’m not sure they are offered anymore. I don’t recognize them. I believe all the ones listed are the products that are currently available.

How to find a qualifying award

American Airlines offers a good number of destinations every month on their reduced mileage award chart. There are some major airports that never make the list. But they typically offer several dozen destinations every month. The chart is updated every other month, and you’ll only ever find the current month and the three upcoming months included. Don’t expect to be able to lock these in way ahead of time.

Head over to the American Airlines reduced mileage award page to view the list of destinations offered. The first paragraphs explain the discounts and process, after which you’ll find the table of current reduced mileage destinations. Note the months in the header at the top and then scroll through the list (or use the web page search) to find your destination. The green checks indicate that a destination is available for the reduced mileage price for that month.

American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards

For example, if I’m interested in flying to Akron, Ohio, I can book a reduced mileage award for any of the months shown above. I can also fly out of any nearby airport served by American Airlines, which for us would be Santa Rosa, Sacramento, San Francisco, or Oakland. It doesn’t matter if your origin airport isn’t on the chart; all that matters is the destination. If I’m interested in flying to Albany, notice that I can only book that at the reduced mileage price for flights in September.

The current list for September 2018 is a gold mine. Most of the airports shown on the list are available for reduced mileage awards this month, which comes to a total of over 100. Chances are you’ll find the destination you’re looking for if you’re willing to travel outside of peak summer season.

Some people have previously reported that if your origin is included in the reduced mileage list for a given month, this gives you reduced mileage prices anywhere in the U.S. Not all agents would abide by this, but by using the “hang up, call again” (HUCA) trick, you could typically book them.

However, I don’t see this in the terms. Everything refers to the destination being on the list. Only the destination airport has to be on the list for a one-way or round-trip. The origin doesn’t seem to play into the equation at all. I could be wrong on this, though, or the terms could have changed such that they are now in line with my understanding. In any case, you’re more than welcome to try to see where you can get with an agent. Some airports are routinely available, and it would be amazing to fly for reduced mileage prices much of the year.

How to book a reduced mileage award

You have to call reservations at┬á800-882-8880 to book American Airlines reduced mileage awards. However, you’ll first need to make sure there is space available for the award you want, and I suggest doing this online. Head to aa.com and look for MileSAAver space. You cannot use the reduced milage award codes for standard awards.

You’ll also need the award code for the credit card you hold. You can find these on the American Airlines reduced mileage awards web page. The agent will ask for a code when you go to book the award.

My experience booking a reduced milage award was pretty painless. I called American Airlines reservations, spoke our date, origin and destination into the automated system, and was connected with an agent within only a few minutes. I explained that I wanted to book a reduced milage award. The lady was completely familiar with the process and asked for the code. She spent a minute confirming that our destination was on the list, and our tickets were booked a minute or two later.

The reservation service charge is waived for these awards since they are not bookable online, which totally makes sense.

Final notes on the American Airlines reduced mileage awards

American Airlines reduced mileage awards offer fantastic value for families since you can fly round-trip domestic itineraries for so much less. A family of 5 flying to a reduced mileage destination only needs 87,500 miles rather than 125,000 miles. Given that some of the American Airlines co-branded cards sometimes offer a sign-up bonus of 60,000 or even 70,000 miles, an application plus some spending can easily get free flights for the whole family.

A few final things to note:

  • The terribly (might I say AAwful) $75 close-in booking fee still applies to itineraries 21 days out or less.
  • The discounts only apply to awards within the United States. Even if you live at an airport on the list where flights should be at reduced cost to anywhere, don’t expect to head to Europe with a mileage discount.
  • You can actually apply the discount to business and first class domestically. I’m just never interested in premium cabin domestic awards, so details like this tend to slip my mind.
  • Finding American Airlines award space might be a real issue at times, but it can be done. Don’t expect to see wide-open awards to any of these destinations, but expect to be able to make something work if you are flexible with your dates.

Hope you make great use of the American Airlines reduced mileage awards!

Featured image courtesy of Grant Wickes. 

Centurion Lounge Las Vegas Review

Work sent me to Las Vegas for a couple days right at the end of 2017. Well, I actually was headed to Needles, California, but I had to fly into Las Vegas and drive the 2 hours south. Which was an adventure (nightmare?) in itself. When I headed home, I decided to check out the Centurion Lounge Las Vegas.

I have been to the Centurion Lounge SFO (SEE: Centurion Lounge SFO Review) several times and the Centurion Studio SeaTac once. While not the primary reason I picked up a Business Platinum Card from American Express (it was during the 100,000 MR bonus offer), the lounge access it provides has come in handy this year, most recently in Oakland (SEE: Escape Lounge Oakland review). I honestly didn’t expect to visit a Centurion Lounge after I won my first access from a Mommy Points giveaway, but I ended up getting the card the next month. Ironically, I’m probably going to drop it soon.

Arriving at the Centurion Lounge Las Vegas

The Centurion Lounge Las Vegas McCarran is located in Terminal 3. I dropped my rental car, quickly passed through security, and was on the tram under to the terminal in no time. Once in Terminal 3, you take the escalators up and turn left to head to the Centurion Lounge Las Vegas.

The front of the lounge is a bit more nondescript than the glass entry, greenery and vertical sign at SFO. I honestly almost missed it.

The lady at the front desk was friendly and professional, and she welcomed me as a first-timer to the Las Vegas location after asking whether I had visited previously. She provided a brief description of the facilities and services provided.

The space

The Centurion Lounge Las Vegas feels a bit larger than its counterpart in SFO. The space has similar seating, with some of the same pods and benches featured. I can imagine that all Centurion Lounges likely use the same style furniture.

A long wall separates the bar, food, and main dining area from much of the rest of the lounge. Facing the windows on the other side, the wall has several seating alcoves. I chose one of these initially to work from for a while.

centurion lounge las vegas

At the end there is a variety of seating. This also seemed like the quietest part of the lounge, as foot traffic is lessened. Had there been any open seats, I would have chosen to sit here.

There is a kids room at the Centurion Lounge Las Vegas, just like in San Francisco. It is a bit bigger. If only American Express hadn’t changed their entry policy and completely hosed families with more than one kid (SEE: American Express devalues lounge access, sticks it to families). Sigh.

Food at the Centurion Lounge Las Vegas

I didn’t bother checking out what the offerings were for breakfast. As I’d arrived at 10:00, it was still running. Instead, I simply got a coffee and sat down to write for a while.

The food changed after 11:00 to the lunch offerings. I eventually joined the line to grab myself a plate.

There was a decent salad selection that included peppers, carrots, cucumbers, cheese, and other items.

There was some ginger rice that I enjoyed. It was probably the best thing offered. There was also a sweet pea puree that I wasn’t keen on.

The meat offering was salmon. I found it mediocre. Definitely not full of flavor.

At the end was udon soup, which I didn’t try.

On the whole, the food at the Centurion Lounge Las Vegas wasn’t quite as good as what I’ve had at SFO. It was a decent lunch, but nothing stood out to me.

Per usual, I didn’t try anything at the bar. I’m sure it had a good selection of alcoholic beverages.

Overall experience

I was happy with the seating, food, and experience overall. The WiFi caused me some issues a few times, but I the root cause might have been my own computer. Each time it would cut out for about 3 minutes, before finally coming back. I would turn my WiFi on and off a few times until it would finally reconnect.

The lounge was fairly crowded when I arrived, and it got an even bit more so as lunchtime approached. I had not expected this, but it rivaled the insanity of the Centurion SFO for a while.

When I got up to go to the bathroom, my seat was occupied when I returned (since I took all my stuff with me), and I had trouble finding another. Things got better after 1:00 p.m. and then even kinda quiet by 2:30.

The line for the food around noon was definitely a turn off. I watched and waited for a good 15 minutes before getting up to grab something to eat.

Conclusion

The ability to grab lunch, sit somewhere quiet and comfortable, and be productive for a few hours in the Centurion Lounge Las Vegas was invaluable. It is also nice to have access to better WiFi (except for a few blips) and cleaner bathrooms than in the terminal. Nothing stood out to me as “above and beyond”, but the lounge is still definitely a step up from the typical United Club or Delta SkyClub.

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