All Posts By

Julie Szpira


Baggage delay claim process with Citi Prestige


By: Julie Szpira

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

In September, I spent two weeks exploring Europe. I booked a flight on Aegean Airlines from Amsterdam (AMS) to Rhodes, Greece (RHO), with a connection in Athens (ATH).

The connection time was about 55 minutes, but since Aegean Airlines offered that connection time as acceptable, I wasn’t worried about missing my flight. Well, the flight from Amsterdam was delayed. I started to get a little antsy and thought, “What if I don’t make my flight to Rhodes?!”

Luckily, the pilot made up some time in the air, and I was able to quickly transit through the Athens airport to arrive at the gate for the next leg of my trip just as boarding started.

I landed in Rhodes and waited at baggage claim, watching bag after bag arrive and be happily reunited with their owners, until no bags remained. No sight of my bag. “This is not good,” I thought.

I approached an airport employee with my baggage claim ticket, and she replied “Oh, yes. I am so sorry, Miss Szpira, but your luggage did not get transferred correctly. We will put it on the first flight in the morning and have it delivered to your hotel.”

It turns out my bag was not as good at navigating the Athens airport as I was, and it didn’t make it onto the flight.

Fortunately, I booked my flight with the Citi Prestige Card, which provides baggage delay insurance.

Baggage Delay Insurance

There are many credit cards that offer trip delay insurance and those benefits are often used by flyers when weather or mechanical issues delay flights.

Due to enhanced technology being implemented by airports across the world for baggage handling and tracking, baggage delay insurance is a less commonly used benefit.

Airlines will reimburse a traveler if checked baggage is completely lost, however, a delayed bag usually comes with a “sorry” and maybe a toiletry kit. Airlines also have different definitions of what is considered a reasonable baggage delay.

For the major US carriers, Delta is the most generous. They provide $50 per day for up to five days if your baggage is delayed. United does not offer anything for a baggage delay, however if the bag is still missing after three days, they will consider the bag lost, and compensate you $1500. American rings in dead last, with compensation only being provided after the bag has been missing for five days.

If you and your checked luggage don’t make it to your destination at the same time, that can leave you without a change of clothes, shoes, or essential toiletries. While the airlines will work to locate your luggage, any replacement items you purchase in the interim would be out-of-pocket expenses.

Unless, of course, you booked your trip with a credit card that provides baggage delay insurance.

Continue Reading


The Basics of Award Change and Cancellation Fees


By: Julie Szpira

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

Award booking can be tricky. You have to choose an airline, the class of service, and then choose your dates. If the dates correspond to a special occasion and you absolutely must travel on specific dates, you are going to want to book your flight as early as possible.  

Most airlines open their flight schedules, and their corresponding award availability, 11-12 months in advance of departure. If your dates are set in stone, booking early is a great way to secure your flights. You can then spend the time leading up to your trip planning excursions, dinners, and sunset cruises.

However, booking flights a year in advance can backfire if your plans need to be cancelled due to a job change, a move, an illness, or other life events that get in the way of travel.

Airlines recognize that award tickets might have to be cancelled. Airlines also recognize that they can profit off these cancellations, so many airlines charge award ticket cancellation fees. These are fees that airlines charge to give you back your miles. Some airlines have no fees (yay for Southwest), while others have fees up to $150 (boo to you, Delta Air Lines).

Hopefully, you will never have to cancel an award ticket. Yet, things happen, so here is a breakdown of airline fees and rules, just so you are prepared.

Domestic Airlines

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska Airlines charges $125 per ticket to make changes or cancellations to award bookings if the change or cancellation is made within 60 days of departure. If changes or cancellations are made more than 60 days before departure, the cancellation fee is waived.

Any changes or cancellations need to be made prior to your flight departure, otherwise, the miles will be forfeited.

For those who have earned Mileage Plan MVP Gold or 75K elite status with Alaska Airlines, the change and cancellation fees are waived.

American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines charges $150 per account for the first cancelled award ticket. Tickets reinstated to the same account at the same time will be charged $25 per ticket. For example, if you booked a ticket for yourself and your friend, wholly using miles from your account, cancelling both tickets and having the miles reinstated would cost $175.  

If you and your friend had decided to book your tickets from your individual accounts, the cost of reinstatement would be $300, as each of you would have to pay the $150 per account.

This fee is waived for Executive Platinum members when using miles from their account.

American Airlines does allow for free award ticket changes, provided the origin and destination cities remain the same. This means you can change your dates of travel without a fee, but you can not change your departure or destination cities.

Continue Reading


How Are Award Tickets Actually Priced?

By: Julie Szpira

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

Every traveler is trying to maximize the value of the miles and points they have earned. Understanding how award tickets are priced is essential when trying to maximize the value of your hard earned points and miles.

Award ticket pricing is not standard across all airlines, so you need to learn the different award pricing schemes to find the best use of your miles and points.

There are three basic types of award programs: revenue-based, region-based, or distance-based. Which program is best for a particular trip will depend on a few variables including the cash cost of the ticket and particular region definitions.


Revenue-Based Award Programs

In revenue-based award programs, the award ticket cost is directly related to the cash price of the ticket. As the cash price of the ticket increases, the number of points or miles needed to book the ticket will increase as well.

The U.S. carriers that use revenue programs are Southwest and JetBlue. It is most advantageous to book flights when prices are low, as low cash prices mean the amount of points needed to book the award will be low as well.

Unfortunately, this type of award system does not allow for spectacular redemption values, as far as cents per point calculations go. Within these revenue based award programs, the maximum value is generally between 1.3 and 1.7 cents per point.

However, these systems are generally free from “blackout dates”. If there is a seat available for purchase, you would be able to use your points or miles to purchase the seat.

For example, when booking a one way flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Boston (BOS), the cash price on Southwest is between $137 and $359.

Award Tickets Continue Reading


Using Miles to Upgrade Your Cash Flights

By: Julie Szpira

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

For many travelers, flying in economy is the most accessible way to travel. With rock-bottom cash fares available to locations around the world, a cash booking is often a decent way to fly economy.

After people book these cheap economy tickets, we get one question over and over again.

“How can I upgrade my economy ticket?”

This is usually for those who discovered the points and miles game after booking a long flight in economy. For many of us, once we try the luxury of business or first class, the idea of flying in economy is horrifying!

While using miles to upgrade economy tickets to business class is usually a poor use of miles, it’s a good idea to understand your options.


General Upgrade Rules

Upgrade rules vary between the airline programs, however, there are couple pretty standard guidelines.

  • You can only upgrade one class of service. So you can only upgrade from economy to business, or from business to first. You can not use miles to upgrade from economy to first.
  • Upgrades are dependent on availability. There may be premium cabin seats available for purchase, but that does not mean that they will be available for upgrades.
  • The miles earned for the flight are based on the original fare class you booked, not the upgraded fare class that you actually fly.

Modern Airport -

Upgrade Rules By Airline

United Airlines (MileagePlus)

You can use MileagePlus miles to upgrade paid tickets booked in any fare class.  

However, tickets that are booked as discount fares will require miles as well as a cash co-pay.

The miles and cash co-pay vary depending on the fare class you originally booked in and your origin and destination regions.  All upgrades awards are for one-way travel, but apply to all the segments of the one-way trip.

The upgrade price can vary from 7500 miles and no-copay to upgrade a full fare economy ticket to business class for a US domestic flight, up to 35,000 plus a $600 co-pay to upgrade from a discount economy ticket to business class for a flight to the Middle East region.

10xTravel MileagePlus AwardChart Continue Reading


Using Positioning Flights for the Best Flight Deals

By: Julie Szpira

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

As a travel junkie, I’m constantly looking for the best flight deals. When I was living in Los Angeles (LAX), deals were always popping up: $377 to Europe! $545 on ANA to Japan! $798 on Singapore Airlines to Bali!

I even snagged an error fare from LAX to Auckland (AKL) for $211!!

Right now, I’m living in New Orleans (MSY), which is a great city, but has only six international routes operating from the airport. New Orleans is not a hub city for any airline, so in order to take advantage of great flight deals, I often have to use positioning flights.


What Is A Positioning Flight?

A positioning flight is a flight booked separately from your main flight, in order to get you from your home airport, to the airport where the main flight originates. Positioning flights can be used to when booking award flights, as well.


Using A Positioning Flight For A Flight Deal

I have friends and family living in Chicago, so I often use Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) as a starting point for international travel.

I recently saw a fare sale for economy flights from Chicago (ORD) to Prague (PRG).  The flight cost $437!

Using A Positioning Flight

Roundtrip to Europe for less than $500? Yes, please!! Continue Reading


United Routing Rules: The Excursionist Perk (Part 2)

By: Julie Szpira

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

In The Excursionist Perk Part 1, you learned the basics of United’s routing rules.

The Excursionist Perk allows for a free one-way segment when booking multi-city awards, provided certain conditions are met. The conditions can be summarized as follows.

  • The Excursionist Perk is triggered when three or more segments are booked as part of a single award ticket.  
  • Travel must start and end in the same region. The Excursionist Perk (or free one-way segment) must be within a single region, but that region has to be different than the first region.
  • Only one free segment is allowed, no matter how many segments the multi-city award comprises.

In Part 1, simple examples of the Excursionist Perk were discussed.

The Excursionist Perk was designed to allow you to explore a second city in your destination region as part of a round-trip ticket.  

What United figured people would use the trip for was be a flight similar to the one illustrated below. The trip comprises three separate segments: Chicago (ORD) to Prague (PRG), Prague to Athens (ATH) and Athens to Chicago.  

The Excursionist Perk - 1

If booked in economy, as separate one-way tickets, the price would be as follows:

ORD-PRG: 30,000 miles

PRG-ATH: 15,000 miles

ATH-ORD: 30,000 miles

The itinerary would cost a total of 75,000 miles plus $142.66 in fees and taxes.

However, when booking as a multi-city trip, the Excursionist Perk is triggered for the PRG-ATH segment.

The Excursionist Perk - 2 Continue Reading


United Routing Rules: The Excursionist Perk Part 1

By: Julie Szpira

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

(Note: here is The Excursionist Perk Part 2 with detailed examples)

Over the past couple months, we’ve provided articles detailing the best credit card offers, as well as application bonus rules for Citibank and American Express.  

We’ve talked about how to maximize points by navigating Chase’s 5/24 rule, using United’s MileagePlus X app and opening cards when they are offering their peak bonuses.

Now that you have put in all the hard work accruing points, it’s time for the fun part… booking trips and traveling!!

Today, we’re going to detail how to get the most of United miles and help you understand their routing rules.

In Part 2, we’ll cover advanced routes and how to maximize your miles.


Earning United Miles

There are a few ways to earn United miles. The quickest way way to accumulate a lot of miles is through credit card sign-up bonuses.

The United MileagePlus Explorer card provides many benefits when flying on United, such as earning 2 miles for every dollar spent on United and 1 mile for every dollar on all other purchases. The card has a sign-up bonus that can help you accrue miles to use within the United MileagePlus program.   Continue Reading


The Ultimate Guide to the United MileagePlus X App

By: Julie Szpira

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

When I’m shopping, I use whatever credit card is most appropriate in the situation to help me earn the most points, which I then use toward future travel.

Unfortunately, there are many places I shop where my credit cards do not earn 2x or 3x category bonuses. For example, when shopping at most stores in the mall, I am earning just ONE point per dollar spent!!!

When you’re planning a trip, and every point counts, you want to make sure that every purchase allows you to maximize your points-earning opportunities. The United MileagePlus X app allows you to do just that.

MileagePlus X

What Is the United MileagePlus X App?

MileagePlus X (MPX) is a mobile app that is available in the Apple store and Google Play that allows MileagePlus members to earn United MileagePlus award miles when shopping or dining at participating merchants.

The United MPX app allows members to purchase gift cards for various merchants through the app, all while earning bonus miles with United. Continue Reading


TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry: Programs That Make Traveling A Breeze

By: Julie Szpira

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

During the busy summer travel season, airports can be chaotic. One of the worst feelings while traveling is the stress of arriving at the airport with plenty of time before your flight, seeing a mass of people jammed into the TSA security line, and having to sprint to the gate to board just before the door closes.

TSA Precheck

An unpleasant sight at Denver International Airport

One of the best feelings while traveling is the triumph you feel from walking up to a TSA PreCheck line and breezing through security in under 5 minutes.

An empty line is my favorite line

If you thought that expedited security lines were only for elite frequent flyers, or those traveling in business or first class, you thought wrong.

There are a variety of different Trusted Traveler programs which provide travelers with easier security and immigration clearance.  The most common programs used by US based travelers are TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.

TSA PreCheck is a program which requires an application and pre-screening to identify travelers as low risk, and allows for faster screening at security lines at airports in the US. Continue Reading


Using Household Income for Credit Card Applications

By: Julie Szpira

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with a friend and her husband. We were talking about frequent flyer miles, credit card points and sign up bonuses (my favorite topics), and I asked if they had each signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

My friend said “No”, and explained that since her husband was in school, his student income was too low to apply for credit cards.

We were thankfully in a loud restaurant, because I pretty much screamed, “You’re married! You can use HOUSEHOLD INCOME!”


What Counts as Income

Prior to 2009, credit card companies were generous in their credit card approvals. Almost everyone was approved, and huge credit lines were extended to some that did not have the ability to pay the bill. This resulted in many people experiencing default, bankruptcy and ending up with terrible credit scores.

In 2009, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) became law. It requires credit card companies to assess an applicant’s ability to pay, before opening a new account or increasing an existing credit line. Continue Reading