Airline devaluations, convoluted awards, #milemadness, Serve on-again, and Staples gift cards

AA and US Airways begin their merger devaluations

The following bullet points are borrowed from One Mile at a Time:

  • American has eliminated distance based oneworld Explorer awards
  • American has eliminated stopovers at the gateway city on AAdvantage awards
  • American has created multiple tiers of AAdvantage standard award levels
  • US Airways has created multiple tiers of Dividend Miles standard award levels
  • US Airways has raised the cost of Dividend Miles business class redemptions between the US and North Asia from 90,000 miles to 110,000 miles

More details about these changes can be found here.  Wandering Aramean dove into the details of the new AAdvantage 5-ish tier award chart here.

Getting to Charlotte on Delta via Air France. Returning on US Airways via British Airways

JuggleAirlines

The #milemadness Seminar to be held in Charlotte is unfortunately sold out, but I reserved my place in advance (by agreeing to be a speaker).  I recently booked flights to the event in a fairly convoluted way that may interest a few of you.  First, I booked a late evening return flight for Saturday evening using BA Avios (which is possible now that US Airways is part of the OneWorld alliance).  There was no economy award space available so I didn’t get to use the awesome 4500 point one-way short distance award.  First class was available though, so I snagged that for 13,500 points.  I could have returned more cheaply on Sunday, but I didn’t want to miss Mother’s day for the Nth time in a row.

Booking a flight to Charlotte was a bit trickier.  There was no award space on US Airways.  I could have booked United or Southwest one-way awards but each would have involved a stopover which I was hoping to avoid.  Delta awards were wide open at the saver level (25K miles round trip), but they currently charge just as much for a one-way award as for a round trip so that would have been a poor value redemption.  In January 2015 Delta will allow one-way awards so I could have tried the following: I could have booked a round trip with the return scheduled for sometime in 2015.  Then, after Jan 1, I could have called to cancel the return portion of the award.  The change would have been free due to my Platinum elite status, but there’s no way to know whether they would refund the extra 12,500 miles in that situation.  Technically the 2015 award chart is only for flights booked starting Jan 1 2015 so they would be entirely within their rights to deny refunding miles.

Instead of using Delta miles, I checked the Air France web site to see if the same awards were available there (Air France is a SkyTeam partner with Delta).  Air France already allows one way awards for half the price of round trip, so I figured that was my best option.  Fortunately, the flight I wanted was listed as available for only 12,500 miles.  I transferred 13,000 miles from my Membership Rewards stash, then tried to book the award online.  I got an error.  I tried again.  Another error.  I called the number on the screen.  I was shuffled around from person to person because my call had gone to a combined Delta, Air France, KLM call center.  It took about an hour to get a guy with a French accent on the phone who could actually help me.  It was painful, but he did succeed in booking the award for me.

Speaking of #milemadness…

The Manufactured Spend tournament ended a couple of weeks ago without fanfare as it took us a while to compile the final data.  Anyway, the week 4 scores are now, finally, updated on the #milemadness 2014 scoreboard.  Congratulations to Miles, Points & Mai Tais for topping the week 4 earnings leaderboard.  We will reveal overall winners at the #milemadness seminar and then will report back here afterwards.

Serve again

After my recent post debating the relative merits of Bluebird vs. Serve (you can only have one or the other), a few readers reminded me that Serve allows reloads not just with Vanilla Reload cards, but also with MoneyPaks.  So, if you have a convenient place to buy MoneyPak cards with a credit card, you’ll probably want to hang onto your Serve card after all.  And, if you’re new to Serve altogether, consider going for the Isis Serve card instead (details here).  That one has higher online credit and debit limits ($1500 per month each vs. $1000 per month with regular Serve) and many ways to get free cash back (see this SlickDeals thread, for example).

Staples gift cards

Staples has long been a great place to buy gift cards (see “Staples Rocks”), but for those of you who got in on the recent Amex Sync Offer it is now even better (see “Amex Sync Offer: $20 off $100 at Staples!”).  I’m working on putting together a complete list of gift cards available in-store and online.  In the meantime, here are the cards I recently found in-store:

Aeropostale, AMC Theatres, American Eagle Outfitters, Amex gift cards (e.g. $200 with $6.95 purchase fee), Applebee’s, AT&T Go, BabiesRUs, Barnes & Noble, Bass Pro Shops, Bath & Body Works, Bed Bath & Beyond, Boost Mobile, Buffalo Wild Wings, California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory, Chili’s, Cold Stone Creamery, Google Play, Home Depot, Hulu Plus, iTunes, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Maggiano’s, Marshalls, Net10, Nordstrom, Old Navy, Olive Garden, Panera, payLo, PF Chang’s, Pottery Barn, Red Lobster, Sears, Sephora, Skype, Southwest, Staples, Starbucks, Stub Hub, Subway, T-Mobile, ToysRUs, Tracfone, Virgin Mobile, Visa gift cards (e.g. $100 with $5.95 purchase fee), Xbox

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Pingbacks

  1. […] Here’s a writeup of the last time I booked an award using Air France Flying Blue miles to book a Delta flight: Instead of using Delta miles, I checked the Air France web site to see if the same awards were available there (Air France is a SkyTeam partner with Delta).  Air France already allows one way awards for half the price of round trip, so I figured that was my best option.  Fortunately, the flight I wanted was listed as available for only 12,500 miles.  I transferred 13,000 miles from my Membership Rewards stash, then tried to book the award online.  I got an error.  I tried again.  Another error.  I called the number on the screen.  I was shuffled around from person to person because my call had gone to a combined Delta, Air France, KLM call center.  It took about an hour to get a guy with a French accent on the phone who could actually help me.  It was painful, but he did succeed in booking the award for me. […]

Comments

  1. I picked up 4X$25 Amazon cards at Staples, no fee. Happy to have $100 queued up at Amazon, especially when it only cost me $80. I’ll buy them all day long for 20% off, like the 10 off 50 deal at Lowes.

  2. I recently used BA Avios to book flights. I had a combination of AA one way, then US returning, but the BA Avios website wanted to price the award at 30,000 Avios, instead of the expected 15,000. When I found flights that were both AA or both US, it priced correctly. Anyone else experience this?

    • Both were non-stop, PHL to ORD back to PHL. I made sure to find economy space that had no stops. Each way should price at the 7500 Avios level.

  3. I have multiple Amex cards with the $20 off $100 offer, so I chose to buy a $200 Visa GC. I had them put $100 on the first Amex and $106.95 on the other. Should be a $33.05 MM.

  4. Regarding Serve and Moneypaks: be careful with MPs. MPs/Greendot is notorious for blacklisting. When first using MPs, you have to give Greendot personal info, including SS#, and they monitor the number of MPs you use. Their stated limit is 5k per month, yet I’ve read of blacklisting for less than this.

    • I thought buying a MP was like buying a VRC. Why would they need your info, and why would it matter if you were loading it to a non greendot card. Maybe if you were loading it onto a greendot card, like gobank, then they would shut it down. I don’t see any difference between loading a VRC and a MP though to serve. If there is one, can you please expound on it further. Thanks

      • Greendot issues MPs. They also sponsor several PP cards. Greendot requests personal information, including SS#, the first time someone uses an MP. Greendot can then monitor MP usage for that individual, regardless of what card they are loading. There is uncertainty and debate how effectively they do this. I’ve read of MP blacklistings for people that don’t even have a Greendot pp card. (They were loading too much on other cards). . . Two separate things: Greendot monitoring their Greendot prepaid card AND Greendot monitoring MP usage on any card.

      • ” Why would they need your info, and why would it matter if you were loading it to a non greendot card.” Because Greendot issues MPs and they don’t want MPs abused.

  5. @Grant, I haven’t experienced that particular, but rather poor Avios award availability. I had to burn 27,000 Avios/person for “first” class triple redemption from BNA.

    I’ve struck out on my last 7 attempted award economy Avios redemptions. 9K and 15K roundtrip are darn near impossible to get now.

  6. Following up on your trials and tribulations booking flights for Charlotte, we all know that booking Delta awards can be a real challenge and that change fees vary by airline and elite status. But as you collect miles/points, do you consider the difficulty not just in finding award space but also in dealing with a particular airline by phone or via website?

    For example, when we flew Turkish Airlines this past summer, it was not easy to get them on the phone since they did not have 24 hours service and the time change made it more difficult to find a convenient time to call. Ditto for Aegean. (I was gardening the reservation and wanted to be sure they had ticket numbers as well as to pick seats.) When the TK flight was delayed, and our connecting flights had to be rebooked, their incompetence was glaring and caused additional troubles that almost made us miss the rebooked flights and made me think I should swear off TK in the future. BTW, elite status and cabin assignment seemed to make no difference in how TK dealt with increasingly unhappy passengers that day.

    If you keep a list of potential blog topics, I’d love to see you tap your experience and knowledge to do a chart of airlines with categories for:

    > ease/difficulty finding award seats
    > ease/difficulty in using website
    > ease/difficulty in dealing with agents by phone (language issues, different time zones, agent understanding what you are trying to do, etc.)
    > competence at the airport should things go wrong
    > change fees
    > ease/difficulty in amassing miles/points (including ability to transfer in points from MR, SPG, UR, etc.)

    I have seen these issues addressed anecdotally but never in a comprehensive way. Thank you!

  7. Since When did Flying Blue offer 1 ways on delta?

    I looked at this a few months ago and it was not possible.

    GRRR.

    If you had written this post last week I would have booked the save availability from CVG-BOS but its gone now.

    I did manage to bring the cost down to $282 from $475 so I will count that as a min.

  8. Hey Greg, where are you seeing the cc load limit of “Serve Isis” is 1.5k as opposed to 1k? From what I can tell on the Amex website, serve is still the product, its just that isis allows you to use your serve card on your phone. I had trouble finding a load limit, and when I wanted more information it redirects you to the serve webpage.

    Also, have you used isis at all? Ive heard you can load it with gift cards, making it a nice way to get past the troubles caused by clerks when using gift cards that have “gift card” written all over them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *