Important things others are saying, and my own minor notes:

I’ve said that the American Express Centurion lounge in Dallas is probably the best airline lounge in the United States. Competition for that title would come from the New York JFK Lufthansa first class lounge, Concorde Room, and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.

The Centurion lounges do a fabulous job with food and drink. The Dallas lounge features local celebrity chef Dean Fearing’s creations.

The launch of their second menu was delayed, apparently pending Fearing’s approval (or so staff in the lounge had shared).

There are five known U.S. Centurion lounge locations either open or in the pipeline.

  • Las Vegas (open)
  • Dallas (open)
  • New York LaGuardia (coming by end of summer?)
  • San Francisco (coming by end of summer? at one point on track for a July open)
  • Miami (coming by end of year?)

The San Francisco lounge reportedly started looking to hire staff back in March.

And now another new detail about the San Francisco lounge – to be located on the mezzanine level above security in the United terminal 3 — has come out.

Conde Nast interviewed three star Michelin chef and James Beard award winner Christopher Kostow, and buried the leed as it were.

The article highlights his view of the worst airline food:

I flew [Frontier] yesterday for the first time and it’s like the Greyhound of the sky. You have to pay for, like, a Coca-Cola.

But the big news? He’s the celebrity chef for American Express’ new San Francisco Centurion lounge!

Somehow I had missed that when it was announced last month.

Here’s what we know about the San Francisco lounge’s offerings:

Kostow says he’ll source his menu for the lounge (which has a full kitchen of its own) from local purveyors, with a casual spin on the Napa Valley cuisine for which he’s become nationally famous. Dishes are still being worked out, but diners can expect vegetable-forward fare designed to be taken on the plane, with flavors that are “light and have lots of bright acid,” according to Kostow.

One additional tidbit:

“If I want to serve eggs, and it has to be grab and go, how in god’s name do you make that beautiful?” Kostow said. “So, we’re going to do a steamed omelette that’s Japanese style, and sliceable. It’s going to look sexy.”

Cedric Vongerichten, chef of Perry St and son of Jean Georges Vongerichten, will curate the menu for the New York LaGuardia location.

The co-brand credit card offered in conjunction with an airline or a hotel may not be the card card product for earning points with that program.

You may still want to get the card — for the signup bonus, for other benefits like lounge access, priority boarding, help towards elite status qualification — but don’t be confused and assume that a Citibank American Airlines card earns the most American Airlines miles.

Here are some of the surprising cards where — if you care about earning the loyalty program’s points — you may be better off with a different product:

  • United MileagePlus: It turns out that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is better for earning United miles than the United Explorer card is. Sapphire Preferred’s points transfer 1:1 into United miles (or other airlines and hotel programs) and the card earns double points on all travel and dining, plus a 7% annual bonus on points earned. If United miles are your goal, don’t get the United card for your spending — get the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card instead.

  • American AAdvantage: The Citibank American Airlines card will earn you one American mile per dollar. Don’t put your ongoing spending on that card. Get a Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card instead. Its annual fee is lower at $65 and effectively earns 1.25 miles per dollar because of its 5000 mile bonus for transferring points into 20,000 miles. And of course you can use the points for hotels or transfer them to other airlines as well.

  • British Airways Executive Club: You can earn 1.25 points per dollar with the British Airways Visa Signature. You can also transfer points to British Airways with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which earns 2 points per dollar on all travel and dining spend. And you can effectively earns 1.25 miles per dollar with the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card because of its 5000 mile bonus for transferring points into 20,000 miles. And both of those cards give you the option to move points to other programs, too.

  • Delta Skymiles: Don’t get the Delta American Express to earn Delta Skymiles. The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card is better for points earning. So is Amex Everyday Preferred which effectively earns 1.5 points per dollar (for which Delta is a transfer partner).

  • US Airways Dividend Miles: The Barclaycard US Airways card will earn you one mile per dollar. Don’t put your ongoing spending on that card. Get a Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card instead. Its annual fee is lower at $65 and effectively earns 1.25 miles per dollar because of its 5000 mile bonus for transferring points into 20,000 miles. And of course you can use the points for hotels or transfer them to other airlines as well.

  • Hyatt Gold Passport: Don’t earn Hyatt points with the Hyatt Visa. Earn them with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card instead, since you earn 2 points per dollar on all travel and dining, and points transfer to Hyatt (as well as several airline and hotel programs). I wouldn’t even pay for Hyatt stays with the Hyatt card if the goal is points-earning, since you can earn a 5% cash rebate with a small business American Express OPEN card like the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Business Card (plus earn a Starwood Point per dollar) on domestic Hyatt stays. And because I’d rather have 2 points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card than 3 Hyatt points per dollar on Hyatt stays, given the former’s flexibility to transfer elsewhere as well.

  • Marriott Rewards: The Marriott Rewards Visa Signature is good enough, but overall earning is far stronger with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — put your spending on the Sapphire Preferred and, if you must, transfer to Marriott rather than putting your spend on a Marriott card.

  • IHG Rewards Club: This is getting to be a familiar story since the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns more for your ongoing spend than the IHG Rewards MasterCard does. And though there are far better transfer partners, you can transfer those Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG Rewards if you wish.

(Products referenced here offer credit to me if you’re approved using my links. The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine and not provided or commissioned by American Express, by Chase, by Citibank, US Bank, Bank of America, Barclays or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered.)

There are few things out there quite as lucrative or easy as just signing up for a new credit card to pocket 40,000, 50,000 or even more miles in a single shot.

But there are plenty of other ways to earn lots of miles and at a low cost.

Whenever I mention Amazon Payments to people I get a quizzical look. I tell them that “it’s like Paypal but no one knows about it” and then I get a nod.

And since they’re a clear number two (at best) in the space, they try to make themselves more attractive and user friendly. They allow you to send up to $1000 each month charged to a credit card with no fee. So you can send money to parents or roommates or a spouse, anything you need to send them to make good on what you may owe. They can send you money, too, maybe you covered a meal or picked up the electric bill.

It’s a handy service, with the no fee $1000 each month. You can square away all sorts of transactions, and earn miles doing it.

Speaking of Paypal, some people find working with Paypal to just entail too much risk, paypal has a habit of freezing accounts and holding onto money for several months whenever they think strange account behavior is going on.

But there are also people that have had great luck using Paypal and who have been able to do so without raising their ire.

For those that always wanted to earn miles for paying their mortgage, there are two important discussions about Evolve Money that you should read. The idea here is that you can buy gift cards, and use those gift cards with PINs as debit cards to pay your mortgage.

I still find my Suntrust Delta debit card, extremely useful – a true debit card that earns 1 mile per dollar, I can use it where credit cards aren’t accepted or where credit cards are too expensive to make sense (like paying taxes).

Back in April it looked like the Suntrust Delta debit card, a tool I use to generate lots of miles, was no longer available. There was a limited window, though, to get the card in person or via online chat still. There are reports now that this window has slammed shut.

One of my favorite things is doing well while doing good, and for folks not worried about short-term liquidity, it’s great to fund microloans with Kiva. You can fund with your credit card, they have an amazing repayment rate, and when the loan comes back in you can withdraw your funds by transferring to your bank account.

Fly2Travel shares details on the new American-US Airways meals service going into effect September 1.

As I explained back on June 7, starting September 1 American and US Airways will align their meal service offerings — offering meals on flights of 2 hours and 45 minutes or longer.

For US Airways flyers this marks an improvement over what they had before the merger. And unsurprisingly, this is less generous than what American flyers have been used to.

US Airways got this as their new standard on April 1. (The previous cutoff had been 3.5 hours.) About 40% more flights, or 126 flights a day, saw meal service at US Airways.

American is going to reduce service to this metric starting September 1.

Here’s a chart of meal service offerings, and of cities that are ‘exception markets’ — city pairs that wouldn’t get meals based on the new standards but for competitive reasons will see food anyway (flights to and from competitor hubs, where the competitor offers meals for instance and key business markets).

You can determine what service you’ll receive based on the flight length/distance and the flight’s departure time.

Here are the markets that are getting more substantial service than the standard chart would allow.

Tampa and Ft Lauderdale were included in the list for JFK flights, even though those flights are not currently scheduled. And until I landed in Fort Lauderdale late last month on a delayed flight with more than 20 people connecting on to Port au Prince I had no idea that American even operated the route (as opposed to just flying to Haiti from Miami).

Ultimately sad to see the direction that American meal service is going but also good to know what to expect. And I haven’t enjoyed the meals over the past year as much as in the prior year anyway so I don’t place this all at the feet of new management in any case.

Both Dan’s Deals and Lucky note that British Airways has begun collecting fuel surcharges on award tickets issued for travel on US Airways.

Lucky posits that the change is a result of changes to the way US Airways files fares.

US Airways has long embedded fuel surcharges on tickets, meaning that the ticket didn’t show any fuel surcharges (instead they were “built in” to the fare).

This meant that no fuel surcharges were collected on tickets booked using British Airways Avios.

However US Airways has been adding fuel surcharges to their fares for the past few months.

A more likely reason for the change happening now, rather than months ago, is that US Airways is finally collecting fuel surcharges when issuing award tickets for travel on British Airways.

In other words, that British Airways wasn’t collecting fuel surcharges on US Airways flights when US Airways wasn’t collecting them on BA flights. That way the airlines didn’t have to make financial transfers to each other while the partnership glitches were being ironed out. Basically they were being good partners during the transition, and members of both programs benefited.

To be sure, if US Airways hadn’t changed their fare structure then British Airways wouldn’t add fuel surcharges to travel on US Airways.

But the change in US Airways fares is driven by their having joined the joint business venture across the Atlantic with American, British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair back in April.

It’s still possible to use British Airways points for transatlantic travel with little or no fuel surcharges of course:

  • Air Berlin doesn’t file fares for paid travel with fuel surcharges, so there are no fuel surcharges redeeming British Airways points for Air Berlin travel.
  • Aer Lingus fuel surcharges are negligible. And the flights from Boston to Dublin and Shannon are quite short, so the mileage cost is low, too — just 12,500 points each way in economy and 25,000 points each way in business class.
  • When redeeming Iberia Avios for Iberia flights, the fuel surcharges are low. It’s possible to transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios if you have an Iberia account that’s been open 90 days and has earned points in some way (such as transferring 1000 points in from American Express Membership rewards). Transfer BA to Iberia, redeem for Iberia flights, save on fuel surcharges.

Spirit Air knows you hate airlines, so they want to give you magazine subscriptions.

Virgin America knows you hate airlines, so they want to offer bonus miles that can be used for more than just magazines.

Virgin American will give you 500 points for signing up. And then they’ll give you more bonus points for your first trip:

  • 2500 points if it’s Main Cabin
  • 5000 points if it’s Main Cabin Select
  • 7500 points if it’s First Class

What’s more, if you sign up using an existing member’s referral link, they get points for referring you too.

Here’s my referral link to sign up. You are welcome to leave yours in the comments as well.

Terms and conditions explain that the referrer earns the same 2500, 5000, or 7500 bonus points that the new member earns based on the first trip taken by December 31. (The referrer does not get the same 500 points the new member will receive for signing up.)

There are some really amusing videos they’ve made to promote their program and the idea of switching from a legacy carrier.

This is hardly a fair characterization (such as of their competitors not having wireless internet, and that their mileage program represents a better alternative).

Virgin America’s program doesn’t offer especially outsized value because:

  • Redemptions for its own flights is revenue-based, you get a fixed value per point.
  • Redemptions on partners incur mind-blowing fuel surcharges.

It can also be a frustrating process of hunting and pecking with Virgin America agents to actually use points on their partners. They don’t have great access to Singapore Airlines awad space.

The only saving grace is that, fuel surcharges aside, awards on Virgin America nad Virgin Australia can be quite reasonable in terms of points required. (For more see here and here.)

(HT: Lucky)

Here are the 10 most lucrative credit card signup bonuses right now.

You may have had many of them. Or you may be deciding when to pull the trigger on one or more you’ve had your eye on.

But you can’t get them all at the same time. Sometimes the most important question is: which ones do you need to act now to get, or risk losing the chance?

Here are that are considered limited time so you probably don’t want to wait.

Citi Executive / AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard

This card has a 100,000 mile bonus after $10,000 spend within 3 months. The card has a $450 annual fee, but also comes with a $200 statement credit against your first $200 in spend. You get American lounge access with the card, and $40,000 in spend earns 10,000 elite qualifying miles.

The offer appeared to be getting pulled, and the landing page is now gone. But it turns out it’s still available.

US Airways Premier World MasterCard

The card gives you 40,000 points after first purchase (no minimum spend reuqirement).

The card will no longer be open for new applications once the American and US Airways programs merge. Once the US Airways program is gone, you’ll never again be able to get a US Airways credit card signup bonus.

With no spend requirement, and a big bonus, for a card that is going away it’s worth jumping on this one.

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

This card comes with 2 free weekend nights at most Hilton properties in the world after $2500 spend within 4 months, and another weekend night after $10,000 in spend each year.

The card also comes with Gold status in the Hilton HHonors program which means breakfast, internet, and upgrades.

The limited-time element of the offer is an additional $100 statement credit after your first Hilton family hotel stay of $100 more charged to the card within 3 months. That basically covers the card’s $95 annual fee.

(Products referenced here offer credit to me if you’re approved using my links. The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine and not provided or commissioned by American Express, by Chase, by Citibank, US Bank, Bank of America, Barclays or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered.)

Hyatt is trialing a personalized reservation and concierge service for frequent guests.

Loyalty Lobby reproduced the message Hyatt sent out to members invited to participate in the trial.

What Hyatt is Trying to Accomplish With the Program

Here’s what Hyatt told me about the pilot project several days ago:

We are constantly in touch with our members and using their feedback to think of new ways Hyatt Gold Passport can provide value to our loyal members. One way we do this is by piloting new ideas with members. We recently selected a small group of Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond members to provide feedback on a new iteration of the Personal Line service in Omaha, which we’re currently calling My Hyatt Concierge. Members with current Personal Line service are not included in the pilot. We look forward to hearing member feedback, and we will use it to enhance the program for more members next year.

My understanding with the trial is that they’re trying to figure out how the existing private line program can be made better, and how they can offer customized service to members beyond what can simply already be done with a tweet to @HyattConcierge.

I’m sure the members who were chosen for the program will value it, and hope that the trial hits whatever marks Hyatt is looking for so that it can be expanded. The more customers with access to this sort of service the better, I suppose the relevant metric is how much incremental business it earns from frequent guests to justify the cost of personal service.

My Experience With Hyatt’s Personalized Service

I’ve been a member of Hyatt’s Private Line program since around 2010, back when any Diamond member could be added to it if they knew to ask. (You could simply ping Hyatt’s social media representative on an online forum and they’d get you added.)

I believe they closed that option a couple of years ago. Fortunately they didn’t kick out those that were already in it.

I’ve been through several dedicated agents since I was added to the program. I’ve found some to be excellent and others to be awful (when I had an awful agent, I asked to switch and the request was always granted, I had heard through the grapevine of other frequent flyers which agents were good and made specific requests).

In general I’ve found the program to be useful:

  • I love being able to e-mail an agent for reservation requests (combining different rate types into a single reservation, querying whether cash and points rates are available) and confirmed suite upgrade requests instead of having to call for things that cannot be accomplished on the website.
  • The better agents have done followup work for me — perhaps award nights weren’t available when I asked but they kept checking and made bookings for me without further prompting when the space did open up. The same goes for suite uppgrades. I wouldn’t have to place new calls constantly, they would check and even reach out to hotels about non-standard room types.
  • I’ve even had agents proactive check for lower room rates, and re-book reservations for me.
  • I have someone to query when I have questions like an email address for a reservations manager at a property.

At the same time as I say the quality of agents have varied. Some are less proactive than others. Some have consistently made mistakes with my reservations. And one – my first one – was simply non-responsive.

On the other hand, one was so good that they had a habit of sharing too much internal information with the members in her portfolio. When one of those members posted a list of hotels that were going to be changing in award category before Hyatt Gold Passport was ready to release it she was terminated.

How Well Will it Work?

Ultimately, the value in a program like this depends on several factors:

  • The parameters for the program, what expectations are set for agents.
  • The training offered to agents and the latitude they’re given to be helpful in ensuring stays are top notch (can they contact hotels on your behalf? can they lean on properties even for top treatment?)
  • The quality of agents assigned to the program.
  • The tools they’re given to do their job. Can they phone properties? Email them? Do they have full internet access, and full access to make adjustments to member accounts? (I love just emailing missing point requests and requests for hotel folios.)

In general I have found it easier to secure reservations, especially non-stqndard reservations, and simpler to confirm suites using Diamond suite upgrades or Gold Passport points.

But I haven’t seen any on-property benefits or better treatment booking through a private line agent. Others’ experiences may vary.

eBay has long been a place where you can buy lounge passes and also non-transferable coupons.

Goodness knows Craigslist is too, and people sell award tickets sometimes too although I think that’s generally a bad idea. Not only is it against airline rules but you’re dealing with people you don’t know while breaking the rules. If they’re busted by the airline, the first thing that happens much of the time is they ‘roll’ on their clients for leniency and you wind up out the cash and out the tickets.

Recently though what I’ve seen more of is selling elite status on eBay, which seems to be selling one’s knowledge and sketchy skills (photoshop?).

A couple of weeks ago it was Hilton HHonors Gold for $30.

Now today Kalboz points to a ‘Buy it Now’ for 90 days of United Platinum status for $100.

I have to imagine that the seller is just taking advantage of a status match offer, pretending to be you and sending in modified copies of their own frequent flyer status to get you 90 days of status and a flying challenge to keep that status.

So the price of a little bit of knowledge, a little bit of photoshopping skills, and less than a little bit of ethics? $100.

Lucky recently wrote about Uber’s fixed rate pricing for airport runs and some of the rates are pretty good.

For instance, 550 baht for airport to downtown in Bangkok. The Airports of Thailand service will set you back 1000 baht. (It’s still 2.5x the price of a taxi.)

I think that £37 for London Heathrow to downtown with UberX and £60 with UberBlack is a pretty good deal, since a taxi can be as high as £80.

There are cheaper ways to do it, but the pricing is pretty good for what you get.

In his post, Lucky offered as an aside,

There are some fair complaints about Uber’s surge pricing..

And I replied in the comments,

No, there really aren’t.

1. Surge pricing is disclosed clearly in advance. You can take them up on it or not.

2. It’s only during times of scarcity. And Uber isn’t keeping most of it (their percentage cut remains the same). It brings out drivers who would otherwise stay home or go home.

I’ve arrived at Penn Station in New York at 4pm on a Friday. Shift change. It’s raining. Cab line an hour long. Destination not convenient to subway. Will I pay 1.5x and have a ride right away? Darned straight. Better than not having a ride at all, or waiting an hour.

Is it better for everyone? No. The higher price suppresses demand as well.

But it encourages drivers who might have gone off shift to work a little while longer while demand is high.

Or during a snowstorm, gosh it’s just easier to stay warm and inside but they’ll come out and take people where they need to go for a higher fare. The regulated fare system doesn’t allow it, and creates shortages at key times.

Surge pricing isn’t just defensible, it’s actually brilliant, and I’m sick of listening to people complain about something that provides rides when without the system there wouldn’t be any.

Just days later comes an announcement that Uber has entered into an agreement with New York State’s Attorney General to curtail the practice, complete with quotes suggesting that the New York settlement could become a model systemwide.

I like Uber’s pricing transparency. Instead, though, in New York we get this government pricing formula:

Quite simply, since Uber can’t raise its prices during emergencies they won’t be able to entice more drivers to drive and people will just be left without rides. Which is apparently considered better than letting people have rides at a price they’re willing to pay and that makes it worthwhile for drivers, too.

(HT: Katherine Mangu-Ward)

Spirit Air will give you 8000 miles in their FREE Spirit program for sending a short message of hate about any airline, theirs included.

I love this line, “Airlines mess up – but at least Spirit Airlines is willing to admit it.”

Here’s Spirit’s CEO on why it’s good to have customers who think you’re bad.

To fill out the form you need to be a member of the Spirit Airlines FREE Spirit program, so think of this as an 8000 point signup bonus.

Then choose the airline you want to hate on.

And then enter your message up to 140 characters.

Why I Won’t Even Bother:

  • Spirit’s miles expire after 90 days of inactivity unless you have their co-branded credit card and charge to it every month (although presumably charging somewhat less frequently can meet the 90 day requirement).
  • Some airlines have close-in redemption fees. Spirit’s fees start within 180 days of travel.
  • They do not have redemption partners. The reward for traveling on Spirit is… more travel on Spirit.

And unless you have their co-brand credit card (not worth the hard pull on your credit) 8000 miles won’t get you much. And you don’t want to earn with their partners — like their dining program — since that means not earning with another program (there’s an opportunity cost).

Plus when you fly Spirit… well, they could give you a million miles and still come out ahead on their fees.

Spirit may have a 13 year old boy’s sense of humor but they are a very unpleasant airline.

Back in November they passed the ‘Affordable Fare Act’ (because their website works!). When the Anthony Weiner sexting story first broke two years ago, Spirit ran an Anthony Weiner sale. And a More Bang for Your Buck sale on flights to Cartagena when secret service agents were revealed to have frequented prostitutes there.

In 2010 they invited customers to check out the (suntan) oil on the beaches that they fly to… during the BP oil spill. (At the time I was just thankful they hadn’t advertised ‘a flood of low fares to New Orleans’ after Hurricane Katrina.)

Their most famous ad has to be their “MILF Sale” (Many Islands, Low Fares)… and in keeping with the ‘theme’ they ran a TV commercial, “Think that’s low? Spirit Airlines fares are even lower!”

Update: Dan’s Deals points out you can redeem Spirit points for magazines.
(HT: Million Mile Secrets)

US Airways will regularly sell miles at 1.88 cents apiece. Those miles will become American AAdvantage miles sometime next year.

American, though, wants a hair over 2.3 cents per mile – at best – even with their new purchase miles bonus promotion.

Until July 31: Earn up to 16,500 bonus miles
Didn’t plan a summer getaway? Here is your chance to fuel your AAdvantage® account with the extra miles you need to squeeze in a summer break.

To get even this price you have to buy exactly the number of miles that qualifies for the bonus threshold. Buying more miles gets you the same bonus, meaning your cost per mile is actually higher.

US Airways has traditionally sold miles far less expensively than American has. They’ve made their miles more expensive, and in some ways their award chart more expensive as well, since merging with American. But it still seems strange at some level to continue to undercut American’s mileage pricing, although it may just be a matter of price discrimination and gradually shifting Dividend Miles member expectations.

Anyone making a longer term play for these miles presumably would pick the lower price. Except one also imagines that not everyone who would get American’s e-mail knows about the US Airways lower priced offers. In fact, with a combined membership of over 100 million people between the two programs, I’m quite confident that most do not.

The only scenaario where I would take American up on this offer is:

  • If I needed the miles for a specific award.
  • I put that award on hold, and then needed to top off the account.
  • I didn’t have Starwood points to transfer in to cover.

American will allow 5 day award holds. Purchased miles can take up to 48 hours to post. Starwood points post more quickly than they used to AAdvantage, such that it is possible to hold an award, transfer in points, and have those arrive in time to issue tickets.

Purchased points are serviced by, so purchase transactions do not earn credit card bonuses as airfare spend.

Southwest probably takes the title for best onboard safety announcements but no airline even comes close to Air New Zealand’s videos.

One of those videos — their Sports Illustrated swimsuit video “Safety In Paradise — has been pulled, ostensibly because of the number of complaints.

Air New Zealand says it wasn’t pressure that led them to pull the safety video, just their normal rotation,

The process of phasing in the previously recorded “Bear Essentials of Safety” video featuring Bear Grylls began on their fleet about a week ago, and the process is almost complete, she said.

I’m skeptical, because ‘Bear Essentials of Safety’ is a video from early 2013 that pre-dated the swimsuit one.

Air New Zealand has been pushing the envelope on its safety videos for at least five years. Anything to lull passengers out of complacency and get their attention for safety, right?

Here’s the first one of the genre that I recall, flight attendants otherwise-naked with their uniforms painted on.

Last fall brought us Betty White and something out of Cocoon

Though as nearly 12 million views on YouTube will attest, it will be hard to ever match their Lord of the Rings video.

(For those so inclined, you can also see ‘the making of’ the swimsuit video, with interviews and candids.)

Several card offers that were among the best last month are no longer available, and still others are on life support. So there are several changes to what I consider the 11 best miles and points credit card signup bonuses right now for July.

  1. Citi Executive / AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard (Citibank) 100,000 miles after $10,000 spending within 3 months. It’s a $450 annual fee card which comes with American Airlines lounge access, and has a $200 statement credit as well in the first year.

  2. Ink Plus Business Credit Card (Chase) is a small business card that offers 50,000 points as a signup bonus after $5,000 spend within 3 months. It has a $0 fee the first year, $95 thereafter.

    Points transfer to United, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, IHG Rewards, and Amtrak.

    Ink Bold Business Charge Card (Chase) is nearly identical to the Ink Plus card above, except that it is a charge card (must pay bill in full each month) rather than a credit card (should pay bill in full each month).

    Both cards earn 5 points per dollar on telecommunications (cable tv, cell phone, internet) and at office supply stores; earns 2 points per dollars at gas stations and hotels; and has no foreign currency transaction fees.

    If you’re wondering whether a small business card makes sense for you, read Why You Should Add a Small Business Card to Your Wallet.

  3. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (Chase) offers a $0 fee the first year ($95 thereafter); 40,000 points after $3000 in spend within 3 months, 5000 additional bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.

    It has no foreign currency conversion fees, double points on travel and dining, points transfers to United, Hyatt, Southwest, Amtrak, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Airlines, Marriott, IHG Rewards, and Ritz-Carlton. Probably the best all-around credit card, and with a great signup bonus.

    This is the card I recommend most to beginners in the hobby for getting started, but it’s one that beginners and experts alike can benefit from.

  4. Citi American Airlines MasterCard (Citibank) 50,000 bonus points after $3000 spend within 3 months, no fee the first year.

  5. British Airways Visa Signature® Card (Chase) 50,000 points after $2000 in purchases within 3 months,

    If you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year you earn a companion certificate so you can redeem miles and a second passenger travels on the award for no additional miles (but does pay the taxes and fuel surcharges). Here’s my full discussion of this offer.

    British Airways offers family accounts so you can pool your miles. One person could get the card, spend $30,000 on it this year and earn 87,500 points (signup bonus plus 1.25 points per dollar for spending). A second person gets the card, and spends only enough for the 50,000 point bonus. Together they then have 140,000 points that can effectively be used twice for 280,000 points worth of travel as long as they fly together and exclusively on British Airways.

  6. Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum card (American Express) 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after $3000 spend within 3 months, $475 annual fee (which also gets you a $200 airline fee credit, $100 credit if you are signing up for Global Entry, and lounge access with Delta — plus a Priority Pass Select card for Alaska Airlines and many international lounges).

  7. US Airways Premier World MasterCard (Barclaycard) 40,000 points after first purchase, $89 fee (not waived the first year).

    The card will no longer be open for new applications once the American and US Airways programs merge so worth getting before that happens.

  8. American Express Business Gold Rewards (American Express) 50,000 points after $5000 spend within 3 months, $0 fee the first year then $175.

  9. United Explorer Card (Chase) There’s a 50,000 mile signup bonus with additional miles possible, it is targeted but many have been able to get the card. I love that the card comes with primary collision damage waiver benefits for rental cars. If the offer was generally available to everyone it would be higher up on my list. There’s also a small business version of the card — log into your MileagePlus account and click on the Explorer card for business. Some people click around to other cards and back and see the 50,000 point card offered to them.

    There’s also a business version of the card that offers 50,000 miles after $2000 spend within 3 months, $0 fee the first year.

    I’ve only knocked down the ranking of the offer because of the complexity in getting it to come up, which has frustrated some readers (also why I link to Flyertalk’s wiki on it, and it’s not possible to link to the card offers directly).

  10. Club Carlson Premier Visa Signature Card (US Bank) 85,000 points — 50,000 after first purchase and 35,000 more after $2500 spend within 90 days.

    This $75 annual fee card comes with 40,000 more bonus points each year old card renewal and Gold elite status just for having the card.

    It earns 5 Club Carlson points per dollar on most spend, 10 points per dollar on Club Carlson hotel spend.

    And most importantly, the “Bonus Award Night” — your last night on an award redemption is free. So every two-night award stay costs you just one night’s points, effectively doubling the value of your points by having this card.

    The key here is that Bonus Award Night. On a two night award stay, it’s two for the price of one. Redeem 2 nights at a top tier property, pay for only one night. Even if the room is a suite.

    Accounts with elite status can still transfer points to other accounts with few restrictions. And award nights now count towards elite status.

  11. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card (Citibank) 2 free weekend nights at most Hilton properties in the world after $2500 spend within 4 months, and another weekend night after $10,000 in spend each year.

    The card also comes with Gold status in the Hilton HHonors program which means breakfast, internet, and upgrades. The card is also currently offering for a limited-time an additional $100 statement credit after your first Hilton family hotel stay of $100 more charged to the card within 3 months. That basically covers the card’s $95 annual fee.

Reasonable people can disagree on the ordering — how you will value points depends on how many you already have and what awards you’re after.

(Products referenced here offer credit to me if you’re approved using my links. The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine and not provided or commissioned by American Express, by Chase, by Citibank, US Bank, Bank of America, Barclays or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered.)

Delta is offering bonus miles for each trip to several destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean regardless of class of service.

Registration is required prior to ticket purchase and no later than September 30, for travel between September 2 through December 11.

The promotion is open to residents of the US 50 states (though the promotion terms do not say so, presumably residents of the District of Colombia are eligible — they’re really just intending to exclude folks already in the area like Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands but exclude residents of Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas by extension).

All paid mileage-eligible tickets earn bonus miles, and one-way tickets earn half the bonus of roundtrips. There is no limit to the number of times the bonus can be earned.

The offer isn’t just to fly to places at risk for hurricanes of course. Fly far enough South in the Caribbean and you’ll be outside the path. And Mexico bonuses apply to both East and West Coast as well as inland.

The idea for this offer is to incentivize travel to the Caribbean and Mexico when people in general aren’t going there — hurricane season and through shoulder season.

So much for Delta’s plans to move towards only awarding miles based on ticket price. They’re giving more miles for flights to the Caribbean when those flights are empty and prices tend to be lower. (And, really, a $400 ticket from the West Coast to the Caribbean ought to be worth fewer miles under their new “miles for profits” model than a $400 ticket between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but Delta’s blunt instrument doesn’t recognize that.)

As I’ve said since the beginning of revenue-based discussions, airlines will still incentivize flying when it suits their purposes… with bonus miles, and with bonus elite qualifying dollar earning.

US Airways is offering a targeted bonus of up to 100% additional miles when you buy miles through July 31.

The offer is targeted, then you go to the buy miles page you have to enter your account information to see whether you’re being offered a bonus.

I was able to see the offer on able half the accounts I manage. If the offer is available to you, buying miles at a 100% bonus means buying them at a cost of 1.88 cents per mile.

US Airways is almost always selling miles on the cheap, which is to say at a price higher than I’m willing to pay but much lower than the ‘retail’ price that almost never prevails.

    Seriously, has the Federal Trade Commission really never launched an investigation of US Airways Dividend Miles for deceptive marketing practices?

    They claim to be offering a 100% bonus — meaning getting twice as many points as ‘usual’ — but since they offer it pretty much all the time it is the usual.

Their 100% bonus on shared miles used to be one of the best deals out there. Even with a very large mileage balance with both US Airways and American AAdvantage I jump on buying miles at 1.1 cents apiece. Last month their transfer miles bonus got a bit more complicated and also more expensive.

Of course US Airways miles aren’t as cheap as they used to be or even as cheap as they used to be.

And you can’t get 90,000 mile Hong Kong awards in business class anymore. But now that those are 110,000 miles, you might as well go for first class which is just 120,000 miles roundtrip. Hard to argue first isn’t worth it, for just 5000 miles more each way eh?

Still, US Airways 100% bonus on purchased miles used to be a fantastic deal — when the miles were cheaper and the award chart was cheaper.

They run these offers all the time. (Sometimes structured a little too clever by half.)

And buying miles from US Airways is cheaper than buying the miles from American, even though US Airways miles should become American miles sometime next year.

But while it’s a strategically valuable play for some, but not for me.

US Airways mileage purchases are processed by which means they don’t show up as airfare, and thus don’t earn bonuses from credit cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred (double points) or American Express Premier Rewards Gold (triple points) that bonus airfare spend.

Avianca’s LifeMiles is the new king of transferred miles and also purchased miles on the cheap and also the new way to access those Star Alliance awards now that US Airways has left Star Alliance and joined oneworld. LifeMiles is the new ‘consolidator of Star Alliance premium cabin seats’.

I’ve certainly driven across the tarmac in Frankfurt. Finding yourself behind a Boeing 747 is perfectly common.

But what happens when that 747 is replaced by an Imperial AT-AT vehicle?

I didn’t even realize that the new Star Wars film directed by JJ Abrams was filming. It is. And someone has faked footage of the Lufthansa airport being used as part of the production. It’s been viewed about 1.5 million times on YouTube over the past 5 days.

Not that an airport can’t close down its apron for a video, of course, Munich did it and the results were awesome.

Star Wars: Episode VII debuts in theaters in December 2015. Driving behind a 747 in Frankfurt requires only booking an award ticket that gains you access to Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal.

(HT: Ron A.)

I’ve never entirely understood how VIP immigration services work in much of the world — how private firms are able to arrange for expedited immigration clearance, in some places you do not even have to be present when the ‘service’ gets your passport stamped.

No doubt there are places where there is an official fee charged, and the firm has a contract or official arrangement. But I’ve also used services where it’s seemed there’s an ‘understanding’ between the person escorting me and the official working the VIP or diplomatic immigration queue with no line.

It’s against U.S. law of course to bribe a public official of another country. Fortunately the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is specific in its prohibition, focusing on intent to obtain or retain business.

Still, bribery is frowned upon when made public in much of the world, even in places where it’s widespread.

I am shocked, shocked, to find that immigration officers in Phuket have been soliciting cash from tourists in exchange for expedited immigration!

There’s apparently a mini-scandal in the resort city of Phuket, Thailand where immigration queues can back up but where such petty annoyances can be circumvented for a fee. It sounds as though the issue is that immigration wasn’t fully staffing its booths, backing up, and then officers would directly solicit (rather than work with a third party to sell to) tourists.

“We have heard that many immigration counters are not open when tourists arrive on international flights, so officers are supposedly soliciting money from them to use a ‘VIP’ lane to avoid the long queues,” said Capt Somphong Narkthong of the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command.

“A total of 19 counters are supposed to be open during international arrivals to support incoming tourists. From now on, every time a counter is closed during this time, immigration will have to explain the reason to Army officers.”

…Col Watcharapol told the national media, including television reporters, “In the past, we have had problems with our computer systems and a lack of staff on hand. But right now we are fully prepared to serve all incoming tourists.”

Have you ever paid a fee to expedite an immigration process?

When I first got involved in miles and points credit cards generally didn’t have minimum spending requirements to earn signup bonuses. Some cards triggered the bonus with card approval, others with first purchase.

Of course signup bonuses were much lower then. More or less standard was 15,000 mile bonuses. It was April 2003 before I saw a 20,000 mile signup bonus for the United Visa.

Sometime around 2006 we started seeing minimum spend requirements — $250 (you gotta at least use the card!), $750, and eventually $2500. But we didn’t really see anything like $5000, $10,000, or thresholds like $20,000 to earn a card’s full signup bonus.

The reason for increasing spend requirements vary, but center around trying to incentivize you to not just get the card, but make it your primary card – if they’re going to spend a lot to acquire you as a customer, they want to make it more likely that you’ll become a profitable customer.

  • They want to make sure you’re going to use the card before investing in your business.
  • They want to get you used to using the card, so you keep using it.
  • With a high spend requirement, they want you using the card exclusively in hopes that it remains your go-to.

Not everyone in the frequent flyer game spends a lot on credit cards and so they don’t sign up for things like a 100,000 mile bonus for the $450 Citi American Airlines Executive card with a $10,000 spend requirement.

So I’ve put together a current list of the best cards with signup bonus offers that require no more than $1000 in spend to earn.

  1. US Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard (Barclaycard) 40,000 miles after first purchase and $89 annual fee not waived the first year.

  2. Alaska Airlines Visa Signature (Bank of America) 30,000 miles on card approval with no spending requirement or 25,000 miles and a $100 statement credit. The card has a $75 annual fee, and comes with a $99+tax companion ticket valid in conjunction with any paid coach ticket.

  3. United MileagePlus Explorer Card (Chase) offers 30,000 miles after $1000 spend within 3 months, $0 fee the first year then $95. There’s also an offer for the card that’s more than 50,000 miles but with a $2000 spend requirement so beyond the scope of this post. I like that the card lets United elite members upgrade on domestic award tickets, and non-elites have access to last seat availability when redeeming for standard (extra miles) awards, plus that it comes with primary collision damage waiver coverage for rental cars.

  4. Amex Everyday and Everyday Preferred (American Express) have a spend requirement of just $1000 in 3 months for their 10,000 and 15,000 point signup bonuses. The former is a free card (I believe, the best no fee card) and the latter $95 but a big earning card.

  5. Chase Freedom (Chase) bonus is 10,000 points after $500 spend within 3 months plus 2500 points for adding a free authorized user and making a purchase within 3 months. It’s a no annual fee card, and earns 5 points per dollar in rotating categories that can be good for earning 24,000 points a year — points that can be combined into a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card account, and then moved out to miles and points in airline and hotel programs.

  6. IHG Rewards MasterCard (Chase) offers 80,000 points after spending $1000 within 3 months. Fee is $0 the first year, then $49. It has no foreign transaction fees and comes with an annual free night on renewal. There are big fans of this card, I’m not one of them because the program’s terms and conditions don’t require hotels to honor most elite benefits on reward nights (although some properties do anyway).

  7. A two-fer: three hotel cards with low spend requirements offering two free nights as a signup perk: (Chase) the Hyatt Visa offers 2 nights at any Hyatt in the world after $1000 spend within 3 months and the the Marriott Rewards Visa offers 70,000 points plus a free night up to category 4 after $1000 spend within 3 months.

(Products referenced here offer credit to me if you’re approved using my links. The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine and not provided or commissioned by American Express, by Chase, by Citibank, US Bank, Bank of America, Barclays or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered.)

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View from the Wing is a project of Miles and Points Consulting, LLC. Some links to credit card and other products on this website will earn an affiliate commission, and this website has a financial relationship with several credit card issuing banks. All content unless otherwise noted or quoted is the author's own, and not provided or commissioned by any other entity. Opinions have not been reviewed, approved, endorsed, or likely even edited for typos and grammatical errors by any other entity. Occasionally a travel or other product provider may offer a complimentary item, most often that is the source of giveaways, but the author of this blog may also occasionally benefit from the blog's popularity and your travel experiences may differ This site is for entertainment purpose only. The owner of this site is not an investment advisor, financial planner, nor legal or tax professional and articles here are of an opinion and general nature and should not be relied upon for individual circumstances.

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