Tag: Avios

2017: Chicago Albuquerque Round Trip

2017: Chicago Albuquerque Round Trip

Trip Synopsis

Economy Class Round Trip Chicago to Albuquerque, NM, on American Airlines for 15K British Avios.

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MMB Analysis

  • British Airways’ award chart is distance-based, great for short haul redemption on domestic AA flights. At a distance of 1118 miles, Chicago/Albuquerque falls just under Zone 2 of BA’s chart (up to 1150 miles) for 7500 Avios one way, a very affordable fall break proposition. The same trip would cost 25K in American Airlines AAdvantage miles. Revenue tickets easily exceed $300.
  • By default, when redeeming BA Avios on AA flights, the reservation is associated with your BA Executive Club account. To enjoy the benefits of credit card perks such as priority boarding and free checked bag afforded by Citi American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select or Barclay’s AAdvantage Aviator Red cards, remember to call AA to switch frequent flyer account to AAdvantage. If you have TSA Precheck saved to your AAdvantage account, this will also trigger TSA Precheck on your boarding pass. British Airway does not participate TSA Precheck as yet.

Trip Metrics

From  To Distance (Miles)
Chicago Albuquerque 1118
Albuquerque Chicago 1118
Total 2236

MMB Highlights

  • Although the focus of my award travel experience has been on flights, on the ground, hotel expenses could quickly add up with “free” trips. Fortunately, just like airlines, hotel loyalty programs from time to time offer irresistible deals that savvy travelers should not ignore. For this trip, I concentrated on a Wyndham Rewards promotion that gave bonus 7500 points for each stay booked online and paid for through MasterPass, up to two stays. I maximized the promotion by registering both myself and a family member and spent two stays each during the trip for a total of 30,000 Wyndham Rewards points. One nice feature about WR program is that any available room in their worldwide portfolio can be booked for 15,000 WR points, regardless of cash price. Chances are you will not redeem 15,000 points on an ordinary Howard Johnson or Days Inn, but if you aspire to visit tony Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel at Charleston during Memorial weekend, for example, a room there will knock you off with $409 per night, or 15,000 WR points. The MasterPass promotion is now over. Wyndham has replaced it with a less attractive but still decent offer of 15,000 points for three stays by 2/18/2018.

  • If our fall break is a little longer, I would go after another low-hanging fruit in Marriott’s MegaBonus promotion. Similar to Wyndham, two stays at Marriott hotels qualifies for one free night in category 1-5 hotels. You have to register before Nove 30, 2017. Granted, more and more Marriott hotels are drifting above category 5, damping my enthusiasm not so slightly. but you can still find decent hotels if you plan ahead.
  • Timing could not be better for discussing the value of Marriott free-night certificate as I redeemed one such certificate right on this trip at Residence Inn Santa Fe, a Category 4 Marriott hotel, earned through Marriott Rewards Premier card issued by Chase. Annual free night certificate that comes with the card more than offsets its annual fee of $85, making this card a keeper in my portfolio. Currently, Chase runs an all-time-high public offer of 80K Marriott Rewards points, plus an additional 7500 points for adding the first authorized user, after $3000 spending within three months of account opening. You don’t have to apply through my link to receive the best public offer, but if you do, I will receive a referral bonus and would appreciate your support of my efforts in sharing good deals such as this with you.

Marriott Rewards(Registered Trademark) Premier credit card

  • We stayed at Residence Inn at Santa Fe for two nights. The second night was also free, courtesy of Hotels.com’s stay-ten-nights-get-one-night-free ongoing offer. Unless you choose to book with chain hotels directly for status chasing or loyalty promotions (such as Wyndham Rewards promotion mentioned above), for other generic bookings, it often pays to book through hotels.com, an online travel agency, to collect the equivalence of its own loyalty benefits. To top it off, go through a portal such as TopCashBack.com to hotels.com, TCB will return another 5-6% of your pretax charge a few weeks after your hotel stay.
  • Not all the nights at New Mexico were either free (Marriott) or directly responding to free hotel stay offers (Wyndham). Hotels at Santa Fe are noticeably more expensive than in Albuquerque so one of nights we found ourselves settled at its suburb at Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder, a resort style hotel 15 miles north of the city. As a devotee to bargain travel, I charged the only “standard” stay to my American Express Hilton Surpass card that triggered a $50 cash back from American Express and enjoyed free breakfast for all of us at its onsite restaurant and balcony room upgrade for one of our rooms by virtue of Hilton Honor Gold status from both my wife and myself, thanks to American Express Hilton Surpass card. Through an affiliate link not related to or benefiting MMB, I found the best ever signup bonus offer of 125K Hilton points for $4000 spending with the opening of a new Surpass account. If you anticipate to stay at Hilton hotels for even a couple of times a year, the Gold status alone will likely pay for its $95 annual fee.

Hilton Honors Surpass® Card

  • When combining free flight with either outright free or free-earning hotels stays, what’s not to like spending a school break in a new state? My 50 state countdown continues, ND, SD, NE, AR, AL, I am looking at you on the map now.
2014: Chicago/Washington D.C. Round Trip

2014: Chicago/Washington D.C. Round Trip

Trip Synopsis

Round trip Economy Class Chicago to Washington D.C. on American Airlines for 9K British Airways Avios

MMB analysis

Redeeming British Airways Avios on domestic short haul on American Airlines often results in excellent values. BA used to charge 4500 Avios for flights less than 650 miles. Assuming a regular revenue ticket of $200 between the two cities, this redemption yields better than two cents/Avio.

How will it work out today

British Airways has rolled up 650 miles and under to 1150 miles range and charge 7500 miles instead for US domestic tickets, although the ultra short distance is still available outside of the US.

Trip Metrics

From To Distance (Miles)
Chicago Washington, D.C 612
Washington, D.C. Chicago 612
Total 1224

MMB Highlights

  • American Airlines Admirals Club lounges

I turned serious at travel hacking in 2014. Don’t take my words for it, I have my $450 annual fee Citi American Airlines Executive World Elite MasterCard that I obtained that year to prove, the most expensive card in my possession ever. It was an extraordinary offer when it was rolled out: an unprecedented 100,000 AA Advantage Miles for a whopping $10,000 in spending! I will not go into details how the spending requirement was satisfied but one of my teeth answered the call with a crack that resulted in dental implementation. Anyone who had been through or teetered on that procedure would know the rest.

Besides generous points offering, the card also came with $200 statement credit on travel (read: annual fee reduced to $250) and American Airlines Admirals Club membership, with lounge admission privilege extended to card holder’s family. Taking American Airlines flights between Chicago and Washington Reagan airports, both with Admirals Club presence, fed into the travel plan.

American Airlines Admirals Club entrance between Concourses H and K

Elevator the AC

Snack and drink (sorry, real food not included)

Shower facility at Chicago AC

A couple of hours later, we visited another Admirals Club at Washing Reagan airport.

Compared to Chicago, Reagan airport lounge was noticeably smaller with less patronage.

The card has faded in many travel hackers’ radar after it removed perhaps the best benefit associated with its ownership: last night free for any award booking of two or more days at Club Carlson hotels, which include Radisson Blu, Radisson RED, Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, and Country Inns & Suites. Our weekender involved only two nights, yielding the best award redemption value.

Card holders also receive Carlson Gold Elite status, eligible for room upgrade. At Country Inn & Suites at BWI Airport, we were lucky to have actually received King Suite upgrade. Total cost: 28,000 Gold Points for two nights. The signup bonus of this card alone, 85,000 Gold Points, was nearly enough to pay for this stay three times.

With free flights and free hotel stays, we enjoyed our meetup with friends who we hadn’t seen for over 10 years at L.P. Steamers, Baltimore’s premier place for steamed blue crabs. Blue crab season run from April through November. Crabs were meaty, I can assure you, during our visit in late August.

Beer and crab on the deck at L.P. Steamers.

We liked the crabs so much that we feasted in our upgraded room for a second time the next day.

2013: CHICAGO/Toronto Round Trip

2013: CHICAGO/Toronto Round Trip

Trip Synopsis

Round Trip Economy Class Chicago to Toronto on American Airlines for 9000 British Airways Avios

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MMB analysis

  • British Airways charges 4500 Avios for under 650 miles redemption
  • There is no round trip figure in BA award chart. A round trip is calculated as two one-ways.

How will it work out today

  • British Airways eliminated 650-mile award bracket in North America. The same flight would cost 7500 Avios each way, like other under 1150 miles redemption.
  • American Airlines have become very stingy in releasing domestic award seats. Flights like this are considered rare find, let alone between Christmas and New Year.

Trip Metrics

From To Distance (Miles)
Chicago Toronto 437
Toronto Chicago 437
Total 874