Monthly Archives

July 2018

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How I Did It: A Luxury Maldives Honeymoon

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

By: Travis Cormier

Hi Travel Junkies,

Like many of you, I got started in the points and miles world when planning my honeymoon. And boy am I glad I did! Without points and miles, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy such an amazing honeymoon.

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We flew first class, stayed at the wonderful Park Hyatt Maldives, and amazingly didn’t even get a serious sunburn.

There’s many great ways to travel to the Maldives, but I’m going to walk you through how I did it – including some of the speed bumps we ran into along the way.

Etihad Apartments and American Airlines First Class

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This was a crazy itinerary but travelling across three different continents only cost us 230,000 American AAdvantage miles and $174.32 per person.

We flew a pretty busy route for this trip. Our outbound itinerary included:

  • Austin (AUS) to Dallas (DFW) on American Airlines First Class
  • Dallas (DFW) to London (LHR) on American Airlines Flagship First Class
  • London (LHR) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) on Etihad First Class
  • Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Male (MLE) on Etihad First Class

For our return flights we flew:

  • Male (MLE) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) on Etihad First Class
  • Abu Dhabi (AUH) to New York (JFK) on Etihad First Class
  • New York (JFK) to Miami (MIA) on American Airlines First Class
  • Miami (MIA) to Austin (AUS) on American Airlines First Class

If you’ve read our guide to redeeming AAdvantage miles, you may have noticed that this violates one of American Airlines’ routing rules as it transits Europe on way to the Indian Subcontinent.

The reason I was able to book this route was because I was originally booked on Etihad’s flight from DFW to AUH, but Etihad discontinued that route 5 days before my honeymoon! I called American Airlines with the alternative routing in hand and they were happy to accomodate because of the flight cancellation.

Now, let’s look at how much this trip would have cost if we had booked with cash. Spoiler! They would have been really expensive.

It’s a little tricky to put the exact price together, because these exact routings won’t show up on either Etihad or American’s websites so I did my best to piece it together accurately.

Our flight from Austin to London prices out as $9,308 per person one way. Continue Reading

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Reader Success Story: A First Class Honeymoon In Switzerland

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

By: 10xT Reader Matthew F

After getting into the points and miles game almost two years ago we decided to take the plunge and go all out for our honeymoon.

We started planning almost a year out. At first, we couldn’t decide where we wanted to go, but knew we wanted to go to see snow since we were getting married on December 16 and the mountains are very special to us.

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W Hotel in Verbier

We finally decided to go to Switzerland, as it was at the top of our bucket list.

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Ski Slopes Verbier

How we earned the points and booked the trip

We had enough American AAdvantage miles thanks to the sign-up bonus we each earned with the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select credit card. At the time, the sign-up bonus was 60,000 American miles. We also opened a Citi gold checking account which offered 50,000 American miles for doing so.

For a round-trip first class award ticket, we each needed 170,000 American miles. However, one of the perks of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card is that you get a 10% rebate on the miles you redeem up to 100,000 miles (10,000-mile rebate). Since we both have the card, we each maxed out the rebate and now have American miles left for another trip.

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British Airways 787-9 First Class, London to Atlanta

British Airways, London to Atlanta

We still had to figure how to get our hands on the rest of the miles, so we ended up doing a few things such as transferring some SPG Starpoints (and other obscure hotel points) and buying some American miles during a sale.

Editor’s note: Make sure you understand the pros and cons of buying miles as the times when it makes sense to buy are few and far between.

To make the experience really special, we decided to see if we could experience a true international first class flight. We found first class award space on American’s partner British Airways from Atlanta (ATL) to Geneva (GVA) with a connection at London Heathrow (LHR). Our return started in Zurich (ZRH) and again connected at LHR on our way to ATL.

The cash rate for this would have been over $5,700 round-trip per person. While we did have to pay taxes and fees including the high surcharges required by British Airways, we felt it was more than worth it for our honeymoon. Continue Reading

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Making The Most Of The Amex Platinum Welcome Bonus: What The 10xTravel Team Would Do

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By: 10xT Staff

The Platinum Card from American Express has long been a staple in the travel world thanks to the ability to earn valuable Membership Rewards points and a long list of perks to take your travel experience to the next level.

Did that sound salesy and overdone? Well, stick with us.

The Platinum Card has been a staple in the points/miles world for a long time

To start, the Amex Platinum ranks first on our list of card of best cards for lounge access. As a cardholder, you’ll receive a Priority Pass Select membership which allows you to access over, 1,200 airport lounges and restaurants around the world—you can even bring 2 guests with you. On top of that, you’ll also have access to Centurion Lounges and Delta SkyClubs—when you fly Delta.

Platinum Card by American Express: Learn More

You’ll also receive complimentary gold elite status with Hilton and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)—soon, this will be with Marriott). While gold status with Marriott won’t be crazy valuable as of August 1, 2018, gold status with Hilton is enough to get you free breakfast at a number of Hilton brands.

The standard offer is 60,000 Membership Rewards points with a $5,000 minimum spend. However, some have had success getting a higher welcome bonus of 100,000 points with a $5,000 minimum spend by using the Card Match Tool.

Here are some of the other details you should know about the Amex Platinum:

  • 5X on airfare purchased directly with airlines and airfare/hotels purchased through AmexTravel
  • 1X on all other purchases
  • $200 Uber credits—$15 per month with an additional $20 in December
  • $200 airline fee credit
  • $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck credit
  • Access to Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR)

To provide you with a little travel inspiration, the 10xTravel team has put together how we would use the Amex Platinum’s welcome bonus. For the purposes of our examples, we’ll assume that you earn 1X point per dollar on $4,400 while spending $600 on airfare purchased from airlines and prepaid hotels with Amex Travel.

This leaves us with 68,000 Membership Rewards points to use.

We’ll also cover how we’d use 108,000 Membership Rewards points just in case you happen to get that offer through the Card Match Tool.

Now, let’s get into it! Continue Reading

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Just Launched! New Southwest Priority Card

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By: Julie Szpira

Southwest Airlines is popular for business and leisure travelers alike. The airline offers low fares, friendly service, the ability to change/cancel flights for free, and every ticket includes two free checked bags!

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Due to the popularity of the airline, Chase’s co-branded Southwest credit cards are also hugely popular. Since getting started in the points and miles world, I have become incredibly observant of the credit cards people are using at grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants. Let me tell you, I see a Southwest credit card almost every time I’m out!

This is likely because Southwest offers different versions of personal credit cards, as well as a business credit card. With three options, this comes as no surprise.

The cards that have previously been available include two personal credit cards—the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card—and a business version, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card.

(You can read more about these cards and others on our credit cards page)

Just yesterday, Chase launched their fourth co-branded credit card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card!

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card Details

Here’s a quick summary of the card details you need to know:

  • 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first three months
  • 25,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $15,000 in the first year
  • 2X per $1 spent on Southwest flights
  • 1X per $1 on all other purchases
  • $75 Annual Southwest Travel Credit
  • 4 Upgraded Boarding purchase reimbursements per anniversary year
  • 20% Back on Inflight Drinks/WiFi/Movies
  • No Foreign Transaction fees
  • $149 Annual Fee

The launch of a new card is always exciting, but upon reviewing the card details, I’m not terribly impressed. With a sign-up bonus of 40,000 Rapid Rewards points, this Southwest card will join the other Southwest credit cards in the same spot in our monthly card rankings. That being said, it is better than the other Southwest credit cards if the sign-up bonuses are the same.

Who Can Get This Card?

The new Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card has a couple restrictions as to who can get it.

You cannot get this card if you are a current cardholder of any personal Southwest Rapid Rewards card. Additionally, if you’ve received a new cardmember bonus on a personal Southwest card in the last 24 months, you won’t be eligible for this card. This follows the personal card restrictions put in place on the Southwest card family in April 2018.

While Chase has not specifically disclosed the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card is subject to the 5/24 Rule, the other Southwest credit cards are 5/24 restricted, so it would be surprising if 5/24 is not applied to this card.

If you are over 5/24, it’s almost guaranteed that you won’t be approved for this card. Continue Reading

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Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards [2018]

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

By: Travis Cormier

Hey Travel Junkies,

Getting into points and miles can really change your life but there’s one golden rule you should always follow—even more important than the Chase 5/24 rule. Do you know what it is?

Don’t go into credit card debt for points and miles.

Interest accruing on credit card debt will quickly eat away the value you get from points and miles. And by “quickly”, I mean “immediately”.

Unfortunately, life has a fun way of throwing situations at us that we don’t always have the financial means to handle. If this has happened to you, you’re not alone. Did you know that less than 40% of Americans are able to cover an emergency expense of $1,000?

For whatever reason you have credit card debt, whether it is from college or a lost job, you really need to get it paid off before starting in the points and miles world. Not only will it be a weight off your shoulders, it will improve your credit score, making it more likely that you’ll get approved for lucrative sign up bonuses in the future.

Of course, interest fees can make it a challenge to pay off your existing credit card debt. If your current card has a 20% interest rate and you have a balance of $10,000, that’s $2,000 every year that the bank is getting from you that isn’t counting towards your original debt!

Instead of paying interest, you should look into doing a 0% balance transfer. A balance transfer can help you tackle your debt and get it paid off faster. Instead of giving your money away to the bank, you can put it towards your balance. With a 0% balance transfer, you’ll have a better chance of paying it off quickly.

Before we look at some of the best balance transfer credit cards available today, there are some factors to consider.

Factors to Keep in Mind for Balance Transfers

There are a few key factors to keep in mind when you’re doing a balance transfer. Banks will put a lot of information in the fine print, so what should you be paying attention to?

First, you should look at the duration of the 0% interest time frame. Will you be able to pay off your card in this time frame? If not, you should consider another option if possible, otherwise you will need to apply for another balance transfer credit card once your 0% promotional period has ended.

You should also pay attention to the bank from which you’ll be transferring your balance. Most banks won’t let you transfer balances you already have with them.

For example, if you have a $5,000 balance on a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you would not be able to transfer the balance to a Chase Slate. Chase won’t let you do this because they don’t want to refinance themselves. You can only transfer balances from other banks.

One big asterisk that often gets hidden is the balance transfer fee is that many banks will charge you a percentage on the balance transfer even if there is 0% interest. Balance transfer fees are typically 3-5%, but some cards offer a promotional 0% period. Keep in mind, if you can pay off your current balance in 3-4 months, your current APR may make it cheaper to pay the interest instead of the balance transfer fee.

With all that considered, let’s look at some of the best balance transfer credit cards on the market as of today. Continue Reading

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What To Do If You Don’t Meet Your Minimum Spend By The Deadline

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By: Luke Sims

I’ve been there. I know that gut punch feeling when you sign into your new credit card account and realize you came up just short of hitting the minimum spend requirement needed to earn that 50,000-point sign-up bonus.

Don’t panic, you might still be able to get that coveted sign-up bonus!

Don’t panic! You still might be able to earn that signup bonus

Without question, earning points and miles through credit card sign-up bonuses is the best way to get big travel for next to nothing. Clearly, it’s important to cash-in on these opportunities for big chunks of points when you have the chance.

So, what should you do if you don’t hit your minimum spend by the deadline?

First, let’s talk about a few common reasons people miss their minimum spending requirement so you can avoid these mistakes!

1. Annual Fee Does Not Count Toward the Minimum Spend Requirement

Some people will see that they owe $4,000 on their credit card and their minimum spend requirement is $4,000 so they assume they’ve met the minimum spend. But, if you owe $4,000 and the annual fee is $450, you’d be $450 short on getting the bonus. Always remember, annual fees do NOT count toward your minimum spend requirement.

2. Some Purchases Do Not Count Toward the Minimum Spend Requirement

That’s right, your balance might show you’ve spent above the minimum spending requirement, but you can’t trust that number further than you can throw it (can you throw a number?). Two things to watch out for are refunded purchases and cash advances.

If you get a cash advance from your credit card to hit the blackjack table one more time, it won’t count toward your minimum spend. Also, please don’t use your credit card for cash advances. The fees are obscene.

Additionally, if you return those skinny jeans that are just a bit too tight, that purchase will not count toward your minimum spend either. Continue Reading

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Co-Branded Airline Credit Cards: Should You Use One To Pay For Flights?

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By: Caroline Lupini

The best credit card to use to purchase tickets for a specific airline is rarely that airlines’ own co-branded credit card. Yes, you heard that right. If you’re buying a ticket on United Airlines, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to use the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer credit card. Likewise, if you’re flying American American, you shouldn’t assume that using the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select or Barclays Aviator Red card are your best bets.

The best credit card to buy an airline ticket is rarely that airline’s credit card

Why? And What’s Better?

There are a couple reasons why using an airlines’ co-branded card usually isn’t the best option. The two primary reasons are that other cards earn more points per dollar on airfare and that some other credit cards have better travel benefits automatically included so you don’t have to shell out extra cash to get the same benefits.

The one reason that it could make sense to use an airlines’ co-branded card to book your ticket is if it is required in order to get your free checked bag benefit that comes with your card. Some airlines require that you use their co-branded card, while others do not. We’ll go into more detail about this below.

So, now that you know that there are often better options than an airlines co-branded card, let’s look at a couple of those options. Two of the front runners are the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred (learn more)

Chase Sapphire Reserve (learn more)

We’ll take a look at a couple of examples below to see when one card might be better for you than another. Depending on exactly what cards you are comparing and what your travel needs are, you might have to do a little bit of digging on your own to see what the best option is for you.

$300 Domestic Flight: United MileagePlus Explorer vs Chase Sapphire Preferred

Let’s assume you’re buying a $300 round-trip domestic ticket on United. The United MileagePlus Explorer card earns 2X United miles per dollar on United purchases, so you would earn 600 United miles.

If you had the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you would earn 2X Ultimate Rewards per dollar, so you would earn 600 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Ultimate Rewards can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to United, so you have effectively earned the same thing. However, your points aren’t tied to United so they could be transferred to another transfer partner.

Both of these cards have a $95 annual fee. In this case, both cards offer very similar trip delay, baggage delay, and trip cancellation coverage.

If you booked with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’d have earned 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. It comes with a higher annual fee, but a $300 travel credit helps offset it thought—and a ton of other benefits.

Now, the only time you would want to forgo the more flexible Ultimate Rewards points is if you don’t have status with United and you want to check a bag at no extra cost. To use the free checked bag benefit from the United Explorer card is to actually book your ticket with your United MileagePlus Explorer card.

To use the free checked bag benefit from the United Explorer card is to actually book your ticket with your United MileagePlus Explorer card

If you simply have the card but use a different card to book, United will not honor your free checked bag. If you have status or are on an itinerary that already includes a free checked bag, this won’t matter to you. Continue Reading

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5 Fun Ways To Redeem Iberia Avios

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By: Julie Szpira

Recently, Iberia ran a promotion that offered 9,000 Avios for every new reservation made between June 21, 2018 and June 24, 2018.  The promotion allowed for a maximum of 90,000 Avios to be earned in conjunction with the promotion.

As an Iberia Plus member, I received an email about the promotion, but I didn’t have plans to fly Iberia anytime soon. I figured I’d just sit this one out. Maybe, I would fly 1 or 2 Iberia flights in the next year, but I didn’t have any plans set in stone, so it wasn’t worth it to me to blindly book flights.

There were very few restrictions on the promotion, though. The flights could be one-way, round-trip, domestic, international, short-haul, long-haul, etc. The only conditions were that the flights had to be operated by Iberia, Iberia Express or Air Nostrum, and you had to book your tickets through iberia.com and add your Iberia Plus number to your reservation at the time of booking.

The Avios would be deposited into the your Iberia Plus account 10 days after the reservations were made, and the bonus Avios need to be redeemed by December 1st; but the flights could be flown after the December 1st deadline.

Unlike other airline miles, Avios can be transferred between Iberia Plus and British Airways Executive Club, however, these promotional Avios must be redeemed directly through Iberia.

I was still hesitant about booking, until I saw the tweet heard around the points and miles world:

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Iberia confirmed that flights that are cancelled would not receive the promotional Avios, but if a passenger missed a flight, they would still receive the bonus Avios.

That information started to get me excited. Iberia offers some incredibly reasonable fares within Spain, with flights between Madrid and other Spanish cities as low as $19 one-way. If could book a bunch of low fare, one-way flights, I would be able to “buy” a bunch of Avios for much less than one cent a piece.

Many people in the points and miles community had the same idea, so the $19 flights got snapped up pretty fast. A bunch of people found a sweet spot at $27.33—which could be reduced further by using a cashback portal—so, for ~$270, travel enthusiasts were able to snap up 90,000 Avios!

Now, earning miles is great, but knowing the best ways to use the miles is where the fun really begins. Continue Reading

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American Airlines Business Class Review – Seoul to Dallas

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

By: Caroline Lupini

I recently had the opportunity to try out business class on American Airlines on a Boeing 787 from Seoul (ICN) to Dallas (DFW).

Booking

I originally booked this flight in economy class for just a hair over $400 for the one-way flight from Seoul to Flint, Michigan via Dallas and Chicago. This review not discuss the domestic American Airlines flights.

I used my Citi Prestige Card to book my ticket and earned about 1,200 Citi ThankYou Points and ensure I had trip delay insurance as well as some other travel protections.

Since the flight from Seoul to Dallas is a pretty long one, I didn’t want to fly economy if there was a way around it. However, based on my needs as a digital nomad who spends much of the year traveling, the price was too good to use miles for business class.

Instead, I banked on being able to use an American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade (SWU). Four SWUs are giving to American Airlines AAdvantage who reach top-tier Executive Platinum status.

Pro-tip: Executive Platinum status with American Airlines requires 100,000 Elite Qualifying Miles plus $12,000 in Elite Qualifying Dollars. If work isn’t paying for your travel, it is very rarely worth spending your own money to earn elite status with an airline.

When you use a SWU, upgrade space must be available. Unfortunately, it wasn’t when I booked my flight so I put myself on the waitlist for an upgrade. About two weeks before my flight my upgrade request cleared, so I knew well in advance that I wasn’t going to be flying in economy.

American Airlines Business Class Seat and Cabin

I’ve flown American Airlines business class before, but never on their 787. The 787 is one of my favorite planes due to the dimming windows, lower cabin pressure, and higher humidity that makes flying just a bit more comfortable—of course, business class helps too.

The business class cabin features a 1-2-1 layout. This is a great configuration for solo travelers because no matter where you sit you don’t have to worry about climbing over other travelers if you need to get up.

On this flight, I chose a window seat on the right hand side of the plane for maximum privacy! Better yet, American Airlines features fully flat seats on their 787 so you can get comfortable when you’re ready to take a nap.

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American Airlines 787 Business Class Seat

I found the space of each business class seat to be very comfortable while sitting up, but a little narrow in the leg area when fully flat. Keep in mind that I am a side sleeper and tend to ball up a little bit, and there just wasn’t quite enough room to sleep comfortably that way. If you’re a back, stomach or slightly less balled up side sleeper, you’ll probably be totally comfortable. Continue Reading

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Minimum Connection Times: What Are They and How Do They Affect Ticketing?

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

By: Julie Szpira

I love to travel, and it’s not just because I like to experience new places and new cultures. I am someone who enjoys airports. I know, it’s weird.

I love the energy of a place full of people getting ready to board planes that will literally take them across the world. I love that at 7am, you can see a man in a business suit drinking a margarita, a woman in her pajamas reading a gossip magazine and a child having Skittles for breakfast.

While I love airports, I do NOT love connecting flights. Whenever possible, I book my flights to take me directly from my origin to my destination. While that means I might miss out on a lounge or a free meal compliments of my Priority Pass, I would rather just get to where I want to go.

I live in Chicago and fortunately have O’Hare International Airport (ORD) as my main airport, so I have a ton of options for non-stop flights. However, I love traveling to Southeast Asia, and there are no non-stops from ORD to anything south of Hong Kong (HKG).

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Chicago O’Hare has a bunch of international direct flights, but getting to Thailand means I’ll have to book a connecting flight!

Booking connections are part of traveling, but it’s important to book the right connections. A surefire way to start your trip off on the wrong foot is by sprinting from one flight to the next, and boarding the plane stressed out and sweaty!

How do you know if you’re booking an itinerary that will give you enough time to make your connecting flight? You’ll need to know your airport’s “minimum connection times”.

Minimum Connection Times

In order to ensure a smooth transit from the arrival of your first flight and the boarding/departure of the second flight, airlines have instituted a minimum connection time (MCT) that varies depending on the type of flights being operated, and the airport at which the connection occurs.

A transit between a domestic flight to another domestic flight at a small airport might only have a MCT of 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the MCT from an international flight to a domestic flight at a large airport might be 120 minutes.

Figuring out the minimum connection time for your airline and the airport you are transiting might seem like an impossible task. How is a casual traveler supposed to know what length of a connection is acceptable? Continue Reading