Bulk Fares on @Delta, @United, and @American

Earlier this week Enoch of PointMeToThePlane shared the results of an experiment where he used the Citi ThankYou points portal to pay for part of an American Airlines ticket. While not something unusual at first glance, Enoch pointed out that the earning was based on the distance flown instead of the amount spent. Interestingly enough, the qualifying spend was also based on the distance flown. The reason for this is that the ticket is a special fare.

American is by no means unique in offering special fares. In fact, United and Delta also have these fares. The frustrating thing is that it isn’t always clear what kind of fare you are buying, particularly with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), because the fare type is different from the fare code. Bulk fares like this will still have the same letters you are used to seeing when purchasing tickets directly from the airline.

Julian over at FrequentMiler expanded on this information in the blog’s Devil’s Advocate column. You can see charts for the fares discussed on each airline’s website. These charts are also below, and each is accompanied by a link to the exception fare page for the respective airline.

American Airlines Exception Fares
American Airlines Exception Fares

 

United Airlines Exception Fares
United Airlines Exception Fares

 

Delta Airlines Exception Fares
Delta Airlines Exception Fares

While this might seem appealing, especially to earn more miles on cheap fares, be very careful with these bookings. As you might notice with the links above, the spend earning rate is sometimes 0% of the miles flown (as with United for non premium fares).

Another dangerous thing is that when you book using an OTA, you might wind up buying a ‘basic’ fare. Rene at RenesPoints detailed his experience comparing the prices at OTAs with what is offered from the airline, you sometimes don’t receive any warning in your booking. Like Citi, Chase allows you to spend their rewards points to buy tickets through their online portal. Rene pointed out that when booking this way, you don’t receive any warning that the ticket you are buying is Basic Economy.

@United – Last Seat Availability

Greg over at FrequentMiler recently shared his experience with United’s Last Seat Availability guarantee that he received thanks to his Marriott status (Marriott’s Platinum status grants you Silver with United, once you link the accounts), and that reminded me that since the acquisition of SPG by Marriott went through on Friday, those who had SPG Platinum would also have this once they linked their accounts!

United Benefits
United Benefits

If you don’t have status with United (or SPG/Marriott), don’t worry – you can still get access to this feature with United’s credit card through Chase. In fact, Greg goes on to detail a few other very helpful perks offered by a variety of credit cards that cardholders might not know to take advantage of. Though some of them won’t apply in the near future, such as Citi Prestige’s golf, the list is a good resource for those wanting to make the most of their cards.

Don’t forget to link your accounts – you never know when you will need to buy a last minute ticket!

Free Nights and Free Flights

Well… mostly free!┬áThe reason I say mostly free is that though the cost of the night or flight is covered, you are still responsible for paying the security costs and taxes (for flights), and resort fees and taxes (for hotels).

It’s no secret that I am a fan of responsible credit card use, and all the perks that come with them. One of the biggest perks offered by certain credit cards is that of free nights at certain hotels, or free flights for companions. Most of these are limited to once a year, with the coupon code reissued each cardholder anniversary.

I’ve broken down a few of the more common certificates, broken apart by hotel and airline. I have omitted the Companion Pass from Southwest as it is in a category of its own. After 100 one-way flights on Southwest, you get unlimited companion flights anywhere Southwest flies! You can also get it through credit card signup bonuses and creative spending. By timing when you get the Companion Pass, you can have it last for two years.

None of the credit card links below are affiliate links. Please check with the bank directly to see if you are eligible for a better promotional offer, though!

Airlines

Alaska Airlines

Bank of America offers both personal and business versions of the Alaska Airlines co-branded credit card. In addition to the 30,000 mile signup bonus after spending $1000 within the first 3 months, you get a coupon code for a companion ticket. The coupon code can be applied directly when booking online – you will see an icon next to the prices for eligible routes. Note that you can only apply this discount to flights on Alaska Airline metal, not code-shares or partner flights, and all seats must be in economy.

However, you don’t need to be the one flying, nor do you need to use this credit card for the flight purchase. I used this for my brother and his girlfriend last year, and further reduced the price by paying with my Citi Prestige card to apply the $250 airfare credit.

American Airlines

Before the merger between American Airlines and US Airways, BarclayCard offered a credit card for US Airways that had a companion fare offer. As these cards have been converted into American Airlines Aviator cards of varying tiers, many of their perks also translated. The companion fare is only available for the Silver Aviator card, though.

As with the British Airways card, below, the cardholder must spend $30,000 in a calendar year to earn this ticket, but unlike the other coupons in this category, you can apply this to two guests at $99 (plus taxes) each. This is only valid for economy class travel in the 48 contiguous States. You also earn 5,000 elite-qualifying miles for every $20,000 you spend annually, to 10,000 miles.

It is not currently possible to apply for this card, but there has been talk of BarclayCard being allowed to allow new applicants for credit cards starting January 2017. They are limited to advertising in airports and on flights, though.

British Airways

Chase is no stranger to the co-branded credit card game, and I be going into their other offerings below. Their British Airways credit card has a standard signup bonus of 50,000 Avios for $3,000 spend in 3 months, and can easily peak to 75,000 or 100,000 Avios. If you collect Avios, you might want to hold off until one of those offers return.

The companion ticket offered with this card is known as a “Travel Together” ticket. Unlike other cards, this offer requires a hefty spend of $30,000 per calendar year, but the coupon code is offered for two years. The nice thing is you can apply this code for any cabin class: Economy, Business, or First, so long as you pay the associated fees. These associated fees can easily reach into the thousands of dollars when you look at fuel surcharges, though, so book carefully! Also note that this ticket applies specifically for reward tickets, not purchased tickets – you must use Avios to book your ticket, and your flight must originate from and return to the US.

Delta

American Express offers two credit cards that have companion ticket offerings with Delta, and they are slightly different from one another. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card offers an economy class companion ticket, while the Delta Reserve SkyMiles card offers an economy or first class companion ticket (matching that of the paid flyer). Both flyers are denied upgrade opportunities when companion tickets are used, officially, though not always in practice according to FlyerTalk.

The Platinum SkyMiles card offers 35,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months. Of those, 5,000 are Medallion Qualifying Miles. You can also earn 10,000 MQMs every $25,000 you spend annually. There is currently an offer with a $100 statement credit, as well, which helps offset the annual fee of $195.

Similarly, the Delta Reserve card offers 10,000 miles after your initial purchase. All of these miles are also MQMs, which helps you maintain status. You also earn an extra 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend annually. Though this comes with a $450 annual fee, you get unlimited SkyClub access in addition to the companion ticket to help soften that blow.

Lufthansa

The Miles and More credit card by BarclayCard was recently upgraded from a World MasterCard to a World Elite MasterCard, and given a visual makeover as well. In addition to the standard co-branded card perks (extra miles earned for related spend), you receive a companion ticket annually. There are quite a few restrictions associated with this application, unfortunately, specifically in the fares you can apply the ticket against. The good news is there is no minimum spend associated with this as with British Airways.

Hotels

Fairmont

The Fairmont card from Chase has an introductory offer of two free nights after meeting the $3,000 spend, and follows up with an annual certificate for a night – every year you spend more than $12,000.

Hilton

Citi offers two Hilton cards, though only one comes with free nights. The Hilton Reserve card starts with two weekend night certificates after spending only $2,500, and also has an annual weekend night certificate for years that you meet a spend of $10,000. Keep in mind that these are only for weekend nights. There are limitations where you can apply these nights.

Hyatt

Hyatt currently has a promotion where you can get two nights at any Hyatt, world-wide, once you meet the $1,000 minimum spend. You are also given a complimentary night on your cardholder anniversary for hotels that are categories 1 through 4. There is no minimum spend associated with this certificate.

International Hotel Group

Just like the Hyatt card, above, Chase has a credit card for the IHG family of hotels that offers an annual certificate that is good for a free night at any IHG property. Not bad at all for $49 a year!

Marriott

Chase (told you they knew the co-branded game!) offers both personal and business variants of their Marriott credit card that will give you 80,000 points for meeting the minimum spend of $3,000. There is also an annual certificate that you receive after your first year as a cardholder that is good for a free night at any category 1 to 5 hotel.

Ritz-Carlton

The last card on my list is the newly upgraded Visa Infinite Ritz-Carlton from Chase. For completing the minimum spend of $5,000, you receive three nights at participating category 1-4 hotels. You do not receive an annual certificate with this card, however.

Credit Card Referrals: Chase

For those of you in the market for a new credit card, Chase offers two that are particularly attractive for travelers: the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP), and the Chase Freedom. There is going to be a new member of the Sapphire family known as the Sapphire Reserve, but it won’t be available until later this month.

The links in this post are affiliate links, and I will get credit from Chase if you use them, so thank you in advance if you do! That said, if you find a better link (directly from Chase, or otherwise), please use it instead.

One word regarding foreign transaction fees before we get started — the CSP does not have any (so you pay the converted rate, per Visa standards), but the Freedom does have a fee of 3%. Be careful what you use, where!

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Application Link

Currently, you can receive 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points with Chase by meeting the minimum spend requirement of $4,000 within a 3 month period. While these points can be used towards travel at 1.25 cents / point, you can also transfer them to various frequent traveler programs (such as KLM/Air France, United, Hyatt, and so on) at a 1:1 ratio. A full list of travel partners can be found over at The Well Traveled Mile.

The CSP offers quite a few perks that other bloggers extol, but my favorites are the Primary Rental Insurance (CDW), guaranteed access to a human representative (24/7), and great trip and product protection. In addition to the 50,000 point bonus for completing the minimum spending requirement, you will earn 2 points per dollar on almost all travel purchases (air, train, taxi, dining out, etc.), and 1 point per dollar on other spending. The downside is that this credit card does have an annual fee of $95, but it is waived the first year so you can see if it is a good fit for you.

In addition to the perks offered by Chase, as a Visa Signature card, you get quite a few treats from Visa directly. A full list can be found on Visa’s website, but some of the nicer ones include: a 24/7 concierge, deals on wine tastings in California, and access to the Signature Hotel Collection – similar to American Express’s Fine Hotels and Resorts.

Chase Freedom

Application Link

The Chase Freedom is an interesting card in that while it advertises itself as a cash back card, if you have either a CSP or Chase Ink Plus, you can use them in their “native” form of Ultimate Rewards Points. This offers a lot more versatility as you can get more than the 1 cent per point that you would get with the Freedom alone. The link above offers $150 cashback after meeting the minimum spend of $500 within 3 months, but that is stored in your account as 15,000 Ultimate Rewards Points. There are occasionally offers of $200 cashback (20,000 Ultimate Rewards Points) available, however.

Similar to the Discover family of cards, the Freedom is built around rotating 5% earning categories with 1% earning otherwise. This is particularly nice as Amazon has been available as a category for both last year and this year, and gift cards count! Adding to the perks – this card has no annual fee, so keeping it around will strengthen your credit score over time.