Tag Archives: mileage

Avoiding Regret: My Travel Goals For Next 12 Months

12 Jun

Regret. There is nothing like regret to motivate a person to throw themselves at a project, or to avoid making past mistakes by researching and seeking advice. I’ve been blessed to do some pretty amazing travel in the past 20 years. Sometimes I wish I could go back and do it again, but do some more research this time, take more pictures, actually keep up with the travel journals I ALWAYS start and ALWAYS forget about by day two. Another major regret: I wish I had joined a frequent flyer program (or three) before I started traveling back then.

**random thought: I wonder if people sign their kids up for FF programs? Is that allowed? Do you have to be a certain age? If not, that would be such an awesome gift to give your children upon adulthood – 18 years of mileage built up over their childhood.**

So back to my own regrets. I’ve flown Quantas round trip from LAX, as well as round trip between Cairns and Sydney, and Sydney and Auckland. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have credit for those? I mean, sure, that was in 1996, but maybe I could have used it for something? I flew round trip to Paris in 1997, and London in 2002. I don’t even remember what carrier we flew on! (I do remember that on the 2002 trip, we checked in at the airport, and my 6’7″ father requested seats in the bulkhead, and they happily sat my family in that row. Like, no big deal. It seems like a million years ago!) I’ve flown to Mexico several times, and again – I couldn’t tell you what airline. I certainly didn’t accrue miles.

I did sign up for OnePass about 5 years ago, and started to funnel any travel opportunities to Continental, and then post-merger United. Thank goodness! I mean, I wasn’t doing anything with them, but at least I wasn’t “leaving money on the table”, as they say.

So here we are now, mid-2013. Andrew and I have four round trip flights planned for the rest of the year, and we are trying to maximize our mileage, credit card spending, hotel stays and all the rest of it with one goal in mind – a trip to Ireland in spring 2014! And to really wring every drop of value from that trip, I want to fly there (practically) for free, and use that savings to do things we otherwise couldn’t afford.

I’ve already learned so many things from reading the ‘frequent flyer’ blogs that have helped. I learned about “open jaws” and “stopovers” from [Hack My Trip](http://hackmytrip.com/2013/06/award-routing-rules-united-airline/). This has inspired me to consider adding a 2 or 3 night stopover in London to our itinerary. London is my favorite city – where else might I bump into Mr. Darcy, Sherlock, and Dr. Who? We can do this without increasing the miles needed for our round trip tickets, which with the Saver Award fares at United should be 60k round trip each.

That’s why our goal right now is 120,000 miles. It feels like a race against time, because Saver Award availability seems to change all the time, so I’m trying to accrue the miles asap! As of today:

Beginning Balance as of 06/10/2013: 106,365

Airline Activity: 0

Non Airline Activity:

– MileagePlus Dining: 144
– ERewards Welcome Bonus (signing up through United.com): 250

Ending Balance as of 06/11/2013: 106,759

MILES TO GO: 13,241

Whoa. We have some work ahead of us! I am looking forward to my CC spend hitting for June – that should give me a nice boost.

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Judging Mileage Offers

11 Jun

I’ve found a few new places to gather miles, and places NOT to as well, thanks to helpful travel bloggers!

[New Girl In The Air has a helpful post that brings together 52 ways to earn miles and points](http://boardingarea.com/blogs/newgirlintheair/2013/06/11/ways-to-earn-frequent-flier-miles/). Many of them don’t apply to United MileagePlus, or are for credit card offers, which I am not currently using as a strategy right now. The remainder were very interesting, and even though I didn’t see much that helps me now, it was great to learn about programs and some strategies for determining their usefulness.

For example, you can [trade in gift cards for miles](https://www.plasticjungle.com/united/web-exchange/gcWelcome). I actually did not end up doing this, as I don’t have any gift cards I don’t eventually plan to use. Also, there’s this:

> In 99% of cases, I’d suggest NOT turning your gift cards into miles. If you really can’t use them, re-gift them, donate them to local organizations, or turn them into cash with Plastic Jungle. However, here are a few times when you might consider using this option: 1. You need mileage activity on your account to keep it from expiring. Your miles will be posted within 5 days, which is a lot faster than a lot of other partner activity. 2. You are just short of an award and don’t want to buy the minimum miles normally required (2,000 miles for $75.20). 3. You are just short of an award and have gift cards to spare but no free cash! I have no intention of participating this offer, but it’s worth knowing about – and worth keeping an eye on in case they ever offer a bonus promotion. – See more at: http://boardingarea.com/blogs/newgirlintheair/2012/07/02/trade-gift-cards-for-miles/#sthash.54DHRYWo.dpuf

Sometimes the best thing to learn is what NOT to do to earn miles. I hadn’t considered the overall cost. We are still looking to earn 12k in the next couple of months, so this offer is not for us.

It seems like the majority of frequent flyers use “churn and burn” and manufactured spending strategies to accumulate mileage through signing up for new credit cards. We are thinking about buying a house next year, so I can’t afford to have a bunch of inquiries dragging my credit score down. This does not seem like a good strategy for us.

I have, however, been considering the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for the future. There is a [sign up bonus of 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points](https://creditcards.chase.com/credit-cards/sapphire-preferred-card.aspx), which can be transferred to United Miles 1:1. Other than my current quest for mileage, I don’t really *need* more credit, so I’m going to wait on this one. I might look at switching my current Chase Amazon card into this product, as I don’t really love the benefits of the Amazon card.

**POINTS IN MY ACCOUNT:**
From 3/1/13 to 5/31/13

Beginning Balance as of 01/01/2013: 104,687

Airline Activity: 0

Non Airline Activity: 1,678

– all CC Spend

Ending Balance as of 03/31/2013: 106,365

None of my “extra” mile-accruing activity hit in this time period, but I am hoping this month sees a big jump as some of these bonuses start hitting my account. The goal is 120,000 miles by the end of July, hopefully!

Earning Points Without Flying

5 Jun

In my quest for more and more miles (I’ll talk about why another time), I’ve had to find ways to accrue them other than flying. We’ve had one trip this year, and the tickets we’re a gift from my in-laws and not on United. No complaints from me, it was an awesome vacation!

In addition to my United MileagePlus Visa Signature, I’ve signed up for some other programs that will help dump more points into my account. None of these programs contribute to status, which is not a goal for me, personally. I’ve seen the forums at FlyerTalk roll their eyes and grumble about it, but the credit card gives me enough perks to make flying bearable for me: a free checked bag and Group 2 boarding. So here’s a rundown of some of the programs I’ve tried:

+ Hotel loyalty/rewards programs: Marriott Rewards and Hilton HHonors

I spoke about this in [yesterday’s post](https://courtneyhoyt.com/2013/06/04/obsessed-with-travel-the-beginning/). When I first started actively trying to gain points, one of my first big accruals came from converting points earned through the Marriott Rewards program. Marriott features an [Airline Miles Program](http://www.marriott.com/rewards/earn-points/miles.mi) which gives 2 miles per dollar on most stays. Some of the lower-end properties give 1 mile per dollar. I also signed up for Hilton HHonors to provide another option. Hilton allows you to earn a combination of points and miles, depending on what your goal is. I’ve chosen to earn through the [Points & Fixed Miles](http://hhonors3.hilton.com/en/earn-use-points/hotel/earning/index.html) method, with 10 Hilton points + 500 miles per eligible stay. Another option is Points + Variable Miles, which seems to benefit you if you are paying more than $500 per stay, as it gives 10 points plus 1 mile per $1 spent. I rarely spend that much on a weekend stay in a hotel.](link)

+ MileagePlus Dining Program

I joined this through an email bonus offer to join and use by the end of December for a 1500 mile bonus. The way it works is you sign up and use your United Mileage Plus Visa at a participating restaurant. They will see it on the statement, and you earn 3 miles per $1 for the total bill. Unfortunately, the restaurant we went to to fulfill the bonus terms must not have shown up correctly, because the bonus never came. I called, and they requested I send the itemized receipt. I just couldn’t be bothered at the time, so I let it go. Now every so often I see a restaurant x3 reward pop up on my MileagePlus account, it’s always a welcome surprise! I haven’t been actively seeking these miles out as we’ve been eating at home much more.

+ ERewards.com

I found this opportunity through the MileagePlus website, and have tried it out. I don’t think it will earn me miles too quickly, but it’s free. It’s market research and you fill out targeted surveys. For every completed survey, you receive $0.25 up to $5, maybe more. Once you reach $25, you can redeem for 500 miles to MileagePlus (or other loyalty programs.) I received a 250 mile bonus for signing up thought my MileagePlus account, so there is that! I’ve done about 4 surveys and now have $5.10. Not my favorite thing to do, but if I remember to keep doing it, why not?

+ PointsHound

I’m really excited about this one. PointsHound is a 3rd party website to book hotel rooms. Unlike Priceline, rather than deep discounts, they offer mileage bonuses. In addition, you can “Double Up” and earn points and status through certain hotel loyalty programs! The prices are the same as those posted on the hotels’ websites (from what I’ve seen), and cancellation policies vary, so be sure to check before you purchase! Here’s what a search looks like:

Note the Marriott Rewards and Hilton HHonors rates available on some of the listings. Apparently you receive slightly fewer miles for those rooms, but you may value them more. It seems to me, based on the rate I earn through the hotel programs, that Doubling Up is a better return than through PointsHound alone, so I’ll take the slightly lower bonus. I also like the way they post the TripAdvisor score and link right at the top of each hotel listing – helps with the obsessive research! I’ve booked a stay in July through PointsHound, so I’ll report back if I’m satisfied.

There are different levels, and I am currently at Level 2, which increase the miles earned to 5-8 per dollar. If you join through this referral link –> [PointsHound.com](https://PointsHound.com/rvjicz) < — you will earn an additional 250 miles upon your first booking. Full disclosure: I will also earn 250 points at that time.

+ Rocketmiles

Like PointsHound, this is a 3rd party hotel booking site. The major differences are they give many, many more miles per booking and they limit the search to just a few options per location. While PointsHound may offer 150 options in a big city, RocketMiles may offer 6 (they call it a "curated" search.) They offer miles in the thousands for each booking, however. Here's what a search looks like:

(There’s a double miles promotion now, hence the crazy high mileage returns!) For comparison, this search for a random weekend in Denver provided 7 (seemingly good) choices, while PointsHound offered hundreds. However – wow, look at the miles!!

I’m trying them out on a one night stay booked in September, so I will fill you in on how it worked for me. For that booking, PointsHound offered a price of $199 and 300 miles, while Rocketmiles offered $199 and 2,000 miles, both for the same property. On the hotel’s website, the same room was listed for $199. I went with Rocketmiles in this case because they happened to have the specific hotel I wanted – just a lucky coincidence. This is not for the super-researchers who need to know every available hotel option at their destination. Also, I may miss out on earning points + miles (it’s a Hilton property), but I’m still going to ask when I check in if they will give me credit. Even if I don’t, though, I’m earning 2,000 miles on my stay!

To sign up and try Rocketmiles, you can earn 1,000 miles on your first booking by signing up here –> [Rocketmiles.com](https://www.rocketmiles.com/refer/COURTNEYMHURST) <– Full disclosure: I will also earn 1,000 miles.

**POINTS IN MY ACCOUNT:**
From 1/1/13 to 3/1/13

Beginning Balance as of 01/01/2013: 88,253

Airline Activity: 1,091 (CLE-IAH)

Non Airline Activity: 15,343

– Chase enrollment bonus for adding AU: 5,000

– CC Spend: 10,204

– MileagePlus Dining: 139

Ending Balance as of 03/31/2013: 104,687