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Caroline Lupini

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How to Use Points/Miles to Get to Israel

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By: Caroline Lupini

Israel is a highly popular travel destination for all who are fascinated by history and want to experience some gorgeous natural scenery. With all of this demand for travel, award seats are tough to come by – in any class of service.

If you want to use your miles to fly to Israel, the best way might be whatever award space you can find when you need it. That being said, it’s good to keep in mind what airlines offer better redemptions to Israel.

Below, we’ll discuss you some of the best ways to get to Israel with points and miles in economy and business class.

Economy

25,000-29,000 Air France-KLM Flying Blue Miles

Air France/KLM Flying Blue gets a lot of press when it comes to redeeming miles between the U.S. and Israel. That’s because Flying Blue considers Israel to be part of Europe. So, you’ll pay the same number of miles to fly from the U.S. to France as you will pay to fly from the U.S. to Israel when you use Flying Blue miles.

There are some changes coming to the Flying Blue program coming June 1, 2018, but awards from the U.S. to Israel will still be an absolute steal! Depending on your departure city, you’ll be able to find one-way economy awards for 25,000 to 29,000 Flying Blue miles

Note that when booking with Flying Blue, you will pay fuel surcharges. In economy class, these will likely run you about $300 on a round trip booking. You can keep the surcharges lower by flying out of the U.S. on Delta.

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, SPG Starpoints, and American Express Membership Rewards to Flying Blue at a 1:1 ratio.

Chase Sapphire Preferred (learn more) Continue Reading

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Full Details of the New Marriott Credit Cards

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By: Caroline Lupini

As the Marriott and Starwood merger continues to move forward, more has become known about what the new program is going to look like. Part of that is the new credit cards that are going to be issued by both Chase and American Express.

New Marriott credit cards will be issued by both Chase and American Express

In this article, we’ll take a look at each of these cards. Some of the new cards are available already, so let’s take a look at those first!

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card

The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card is the refreshed version of the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. The sign-up bonus for this card is a respectable 100,000 Marriott points after spending $5,000 within the first three months.

Image result for marriott premier plus credit card

Additionally, you’ll get the following benefits:

  • Annual free night award after card renewal (up to 35,000 points)
  • Silver elite status
  • Gold status after spending $35,000 (starting in 2019)
  • 15 elite night credits (starting in 2019)
  • Complimentary in-room premium wifi (starting in August 2018)
  • 6X points per dollar spent on Marriott and SPG purchases
  • 2X points per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

Marriott Premier Plus credit card (learn more)

Overall, the Marriott Premier Plus card is a slight upgrade from the Marriott Premier card, but also comes with a slightly higher annual fee. The Marriott Premier card capped the free night at Category 5—equivalent to 25,000 points per night—and only offered 5X points per dollar spent on Marriott and SPG purchases and 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases. It also only has an $85 annual fee.

Those who have the Marriott Rewards Premier Card have the option to keep their card with the old benefits or upgrade their card to the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus. Chase has offered upgrade bonuses from 10,000 to 50,000 Marriott points, but this upgrade bonus is instead of the 100,000-point sign-up bonus. My upgrade offer was 20,000 bonus points and I elected not to take it for the time being.

Marriott Premier Plus credit card (learn more) Continue Reading

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How to Get to South Africa with Points and Miles

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

South Africa is a great country to visit with something to fit every travel style. You have amazing hiking, world-class vineyards, safaris and more! Unfortunately, travel times to South Africa are generally quite long with many routings going through countries in the Middle East or Europe.

When you’re flying that far, upgrading to business class is the best way to make your journey more comfortable and when cash tickets for economy class are high, it can be a pretty good deal.

Below, I’ll show you some of the best ways to get to South Africa with miles and points in economy, business, and even first class!

Economy

32,500 ANA Mileage Club Miles (Round-Trip Booking Required)

ANA Mileage Club offers the cheapest award flights between the U.S. and South Africa, but only if you book round-trip flights. This means you’ll need to have plans for round-trip travel and be able to find award availability in both directions.

However, you will also pay fuel surcharges of $500-600 round-trip depending on which airline partner you fly. It may not be worth paying extra cash to save 5,000 miles, but it depends on how many and what type of miles you have as well as what airlines have award space when you want to travel.

You can transfer SPG Starpoints or American Express Membership Rewards points to ANA Mileage Club at a 1:1 ratio. Don’t forget, if you transfer 20,000 Starpoints, you will receive a 5,000-mile bonus with any of its airline partners.

(Also note that Starwood is being fully merged with Marriott on August 1, though this will not fundamentally change this strategy)

 You can fly round trip to South Africa for just 32,500 ANA miles. Just watch out for those fees!

37,500 American AAdvantage Miles

American Airlines partners with two airlines that can get you to South Africa with your miles: Qatar Airways and British Airways. Either way, you’ll pay 37,500 American AAdvantage miles to fly one-way between the U.S. and South Africa. However, British Airways does pass on steep fuel surcharges so you’ll pay a lot more cash if you fly on British Airways than Qatar Airways.

You can transfer SPG Starpoints to your American AAdvantage account at a 1:1 ratio. You can also earn American miles directly through one of their co-branded cards provided by either Citi or Barclays. Both banks provide business and personal versions of these co-branded cards Continue Reading

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Stopovers and Openjaws

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By Caroline Lupini

Stopovers and open jaws are a great way to stretch your miles even further, but what are they exactly? And how can you make the most of them? This article will help you understand the basics of stopovers and open jaws, what airlines allow them, and how you can best use them for your next mileage redemption.

What is a Stopover?

A stopover is an extended stop enroute to your destination. Extended has a different definition depending on whether your trip is domestic or international. On domestic trips, a stopover is any stop greater than four hours but on international trips, a stopover is any stop greater than 24 hours.

A stopover is an extended stop enroute to your destination

Let’s say that you are flying from Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to Milan (MXP). On that trip, you stop in London for 4 hours. This would not be a stopover because it is less than 24 hours. If, however, you stopped in London for 72 hours, this would be considered a stopover.

Note that not all airlines allow stopovers on award tickets, but we’ll look at what some popular airlines allow below.

What is an Open Jaw?

An open jaw is a little bit simpler to understand, and it doesn’t depend on whether your flight is domestic or international. When you fly to a destination and then fly back from a different airport, you have an open jaw. For example, if you fly from ORD to MXP and then you fly from Paris (CDG) back to ORD, you have an open jaw between MXP and CDG.

An open jaw is when you fly to one destination and home from another

An open jaw doesn’t necessarily have to be between two cities that are close together, but what is allowed depends on the miles that you are using to book your tickets.

What Do Airlines Allow?

As mentioned above, different airlines allow different things when it comes to stopovers and open jaws, and these rules aren’t always straightforward or easy to find. Below, I’ve collected information for the airlines you are most likely to use for award tickets. Continue Reading

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10 Great IHG Hotels Where You Can Still Use Your Free Night Certificate

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

The Chase IHG Reward Club Credit Card (no longer available for new sign-ups) used to be one of the best kept (not so) secrets in the points and miles world. It had a $49 annual fee but came with an annual free night certificate (issued on your cardmember anniversary) that was good at any hotel in the world.

Yes, even the $1,000+ per night InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso Resort. Of course, that only got you one night there, but what an incredible free night nonetheless!

InterContinental Bora Bora, image courtesy of ihg.com

Sadly, a new restriction has been put in place for old cardholders as well as for people who apply for the new IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit card ($89 annual fee). The annual free night certificate will now be capped for use at hotels that cost 40,000 points per night or less. Continue Reading

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How to Meet Chase Freedom’s Q2 5X Spend

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By: Caroline Lupini

The Chase Freedom—no-annual-fee—is attractive to many miles and points enthusiasts because of its quarterly bonus categories. For each quarter of the year, Chase announces categories that will earn 5% cash back on up to $1500 in purchases.

Screenshot 2018 04 13 19.44.20

This “cash back” is actually provided in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, meaning you get 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent—if you also have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred, you can combine your Ultimate Rewards points and transfer them to airline partners. You can learn about these cards and more by visiting our credit cards page.

This also works if you happen to have one of the no-longer-available business cards – the Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Bold.

If you maximize the bonus categories every quarter, you’ll earn 30,000 points per year—$450 towards travel purchases if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or 30,000 points to transfer to airlines such as United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, British Airways or Korean Air.

Very important: these bonus categories are not automatic, so you must manually activate them. You have until about two weeks before the end of the quarter to register. As long as you register before the deadline, you will receive bonus points for all transactions made during the quarter—even ones made before you registered. Continue Reading

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Chase Sapphire Reserve: Everything You Need To Know

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

Chase really shook up the premium credit card landscape when they launched the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. It’s a direct competitor to The Platinum Card from American Express and the Citi Prestige Card.

If you’re a member of the 10xTravel Insiders Facebook group, you’ve probably noticed that tons of people have made this card has earned a place in many wallets.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a 10xT favorite!

The Basics

  • Earning: 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel and dining, 1X on  everything else
  • Current sign-up bonus: 50,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months
  • Key benefits: annual $300 travel credit, Global entry fee credit, Priority Pass Select membership (unlimited guests), premium travel benefits and protection, no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Authorized user fee: $75 per authorized user

Learn more about the full offer details here.

Bonus Categories

·       Earn 3X points on travel worldwide from airfare and hotels to taxis to trains (and more)

·       Earn 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide from fast casual to fine dining

·       Earn 1X point per $1 spent on all other purchases

The earning structure for the Chase Sapphire Reserve makes it a great card for frequent travelers and people who like to dine out regularly. This combination of 3X on travel and dining is unmatched and can even be improved when paired with the Chase Freedom (rotating quarterly 5X categories) and Freedom Unlimited (1.5X on everything) cards.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3x on all travel purchases

Redeem Your Ultimate Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are, of course, best used for travel. One of the key benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is that each point is worth 1.5 cents towards travel when redeemed directly through the Chase travel portal.

When you redeem your points this way, you’ll always know exactly what you’re getting for your points. Better yet, flights booked will still earn miles.

This is a great redemption option when flight prices are low. For example, JetBlue regularly has transcontinental Mint Business class flights on sale for $399 each way, which would only require 26,600 Chase Ultimate Rewards points – and you’ll earn JetBlue points!

You can use points earned from Sapphire Reserve to book JetBlue Mint. Image courtesy of JetBlue.com

Assuming you could find availability, United would charge 25,000 miles (which can be transferred from Ultimate Rewards) for the same flight itinerary, but United’s transcontinental flights generally aren’t thought to be as nice as JetBlue’s and you won’t earn miles when you fly.

Even better redemptions can usually be achieved with Chase’s numerous airline and hotel transfer partners:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Iberia Plus
  • Korean Air SkyPass
  • Singapore KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

On the hotel side, you can transfer to:

  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards
  • World of Hyatt

Continue Reading

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What to Do With 35,000+ Starpoints

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

In March, the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express was offering a limited time offer of 35,000 Starpoints after spending $7,000 in the first 3 months after opening the card.

(This offer is no longer acvailable as of March 28, 2018)

This offer only comes around about once a year, so I hope you had the opportunity to sign up for it if you were eligible! If you signed up for the card and completed the minimum spend requirement, you’ll have at least 42,000 Starpoints in your account.

So, now that you’ve got a good chunk of Starpoints, here are a few ideas of how to redeem them on your next trip.

Transfer Starpoints to Airline Miles (With a Bonus)

One of the reasons Starpoints are so highly valued in the miles and points community is that they can be transferred to a wide variety of airline partners, including several partners unique to SPG. Almost all of these partners have a 1:1 transfer ratio, so 1 Starpoint = 1 airline mile.

On top of this, Starwood gives you a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred.

20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 miles, 40,000 Starpoints = 50,000 miles, etc. You can transfer a maximum of 79,999 Starpoints per 24 hours, so to maximize the bonus you won’t want to transfer more than 60,000 points per day.

(The math is slightly different for Air New Zealand, Gol, LATAM, and United, but the same principle applies – when you spend 20,000 Starpoints, you get the equivalent of 25,000 Starpoints.)

Here are a few specific examples of redemptions you could make with your SPG points:

  • Book Cathay Pacific business class from the U.S. to Southeast Asia for only 50,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles (40,000 SPG)
  • Fly to South America on LATAM in business class for only 45,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles (40,000 SPG) and you’ll have 5,000 Alaska miles already saved for your next trip!
  • You only need 25,000 Flying Blue miles to get to Europe in economy class (20,000 SPG)
  • Korean Air SkyPass only requires 25,000 miles round-trip for an economy trip to Hawaii (that’s only 20,000 SPG)!

You can transfer your Starpoints to Alaska Mileage Plan to book Cathay Pacific

Continue Reading

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Flying Blue Awards To Book Before the June 1 Changes

By: Caroline Lupini

Flying Blue is the loyalty program of Air France-KLM, their subsidiaries, and a few other partners including Kenya Airways, Tarom, and Aircalin. It’s one of Europe’s major frequent flyer programs, along with the British Airways Executive Club and Miles & More (Lufthansa group).

This year marks a major change in the Flying Blue program, which will become fully revenue-based as of April 1, 2018 for earning purposes. To make matters worse, the award chart will disappear on June 1, 2018, with a pricing based on the origin, the destination and the date, in a similar way to what Delta has done with Skymiles.

Considering these changes, there’s truly a lot we don’t know. What we do know, however, is that some awards are definitely going to cost more miles while some are staying the same or even going down. Due to this, there are some awards that you should book before June 1, 2018 to get the best deal and some others that you might be better off booking after the change.

Air France-KLM Flying Blue Awards To Book Before June 1

1. Longer Flights Within the Continental US

Domestic redemptions are changing and, while not all of the city pairs are loaded into the system, it appears that short-haul redemptions are going down slightly—Boston (BOS) to New York (JFK) decreases from 12,500 to 11,500 Flying Blue miles in economy class and from 31,250 to 28,000 miles in first class).

Transcontinental flights will go up with JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) increasing from 31,250 to 34,000 miles in first class and economy class increasing from 12,500 to 14,000 miles. Awards to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean will be priced similarly.

2. Flights to Hawaii

Award flights to Hawaii are getting hit with a sharp devaluation. LAX or Atlanta (ATL) to Honolulu (HNL) will start at 43,000 miles for first class, up from 30,000 miles. The mileage cost from the cities on the east coast are not yet available.

3. Flights Within Asia

Intra-Asia redemptions also take a hit. While they were a sweet spot at 10,000 miles one-way in economy class and 25,000 in business class as long as you stayed in the same region, those awards will now require 20,000 miles—a 100% increase—and 45,000 miles, respectively.

4. West Coast USA to Europe

Most destinations from the west coast to Paris (CDG) or Amsterdam (AMS) will also see a substantial increase of 8,500 to 9,500 miles for business class awards which means awards that were previously 62,500 miles will be 71,000 or 72,000 miles. With business class awards from LAX, San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA) and Salt Lake City (SLC) surpassing 70,000 miles one-way with the change, you’ll definitely want to book those now.

Note that Vancouver (YVR) will be much more reasonable after the change with a saver level award rate of 59,500 miles one-way with the launch of the new award chart.

Since Flying Blue charges only 45 euros to change or cancel an award, it might be worth securing one of these awards at the current price, even if your plans aren’t set in stone, as you could potentially save thousands of miles.

Air France-KLM Flying Blue Awards To Book After June 1

One word of caution before we look at redemptions that could become a better deal under the new program. The new award calculator clearly states that the mileage required is the minimum number of miles required between two airports. This means that not all flights available for redemption will be available at this saver level. If this seems familiar, you can look at how Delta prices awards.

It does’t even guarantee that low-level awards (those that are available to other SkyTeam partners as well) will always be priced at that level, since the mileage cost of a ticket might also vary depending on the season. The new Flying Blue website states (bolding mine):

We’ll calculate the number of Miles needed to book your ticket based on the origin, destination and date of your flight.

 

As a comparison, British Airways and Iberia awards vary between peak and off-peak days, but a calendar of peak dates is published way ahead of time. At this points, Air France-KLM Flying Blue haven’t indicated that they will do so.

On the more positive side, if you need to get on a particular flight, it will now always be possible (but we don’t know at what cost). From June 2018, they will offer a new Miles & Cash option. Instead of using just Miles, you can pay for up to 25% of your ticket with cash. This way, you won’t have to wait to book your favorite seat, even if you are a few miles short.

With these changes in mind, here are some award tickets you might want to book after June 1. Keep in mind that just because the saver-level award rate will be reduced, there is no guarantee that awards will be available at that rate.

1. Flights From Some East Coast Cities to Europe

Some direct flights from the East Coast will require fewer miles such as JFK or Miami (MIA) to CDG will decrease from 25,000 to 22,000 one-way in economy class and from 62,500 to 57,500 in business class.

Unfortunately, BOS to CDG goes up from 62,500 to 63,500 in business class. It gets better when Paris or Amsterdam aren’t your final destination, though. For example, Boston to Brussels (BRU) drops from 62,500 to 53,000 miles one-way in business class.

2. East Coast To India

If you want from JFK to Delhi (DEL), the mileage cost drops significantly from an overpriced 100,000 miles to 85,000 miles one-way in business class. This brings it more in line with the competition—United MileagePlus requires 75,000 miles on its own flights and 85,000 miles for partner flights.

3. West Coast US to French Polynesia

Finally, LAX to Tahiti (PPT) on Air France’s fifth-freedom route could become an interesting redemption as it drops from 75,000 to 64,000 miles in business class and from 30,000 miles to 25,500 in economy class.

4. Business Class flights to North Africa and Israel

Air France-KLM Flying Blue continues to consider North Africa and Israel as part of the European region and that’s good news for us. Business class awards from the US are actually getting even better. For example, JFK to Tel Aviv (TLV) will be 53,000 miles one-way in business class which is down from 62,500 miles one-way.

Air France-KLM Flying Blue Redemptions That Remain The Same

While we’re seeing some positive and some negative changes to the Flying Blue award chart, there are some awards that will remain the same.

1. First Class Awards

To be honest, this is unlikely to affect the vast majority of travelers in the states. First class awards on Air France can only be booked by those who have earned elite status in the Flying Blue program.

If you happen to have to elite status with Flying Blue, the new mileage rates aren’t going to help you book first class awards on Air France. First class awards between JFK and CDG will continue to be a staggering 200,000 miles. That’s just for a one-way ticket!

2. Economy Class Flights to North Africa and Israel

Economy class flights from the U.S. to North Africa and Israel remain untouched and we consider that a good thing. You can continue to book these award flights for 25,000 miles one-way after the changes are made on June 1.

Promo Awards Become Promo Reward Tickets

At this time, it does not appear that the mileage cost to fly partner airlines will be different—unlike the Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus programs. Of course, not all redemption prices seem to be set, so we shouldn’t feel entirely safe from a bad surprise.

The monthly Flying Blue Promo Awards, one of the major sweet spots of the Flying Blue program, seem to be unaffected at this point with only their name changing to Promo Reward. These discounted awards can reduce the mileage requirement by either 25% or 50%. The discounted award rates are only eligible for flights operated by Air France or KLM. If you find a Promo Reward ticket from the U.S., expect a 25% discount.

So, even though you might want to book some awards before June, always watch out for these promotions as it can be worth paying the 45 euro change fee to get up to 50% of your miles back if your destination goes on sale.

Bottom Line

It’s almost never a good thing when an airline makes changes to their award program. While we know about some of the changes coming to Flying Blue, we don’t have all the details yet. We might learn more Before June 1st, but we may have to wait until then to see exactly how things will play out.

If you have Flying Blue miles and are thinking about booking an award, make sure you look up the post-June 1 award rate with their mileage calculator and compare it to the current award rate.

We’ll keep an eye out for more important changes to the Air France-KLM Flying Blue program.