The Samsung Galaxy S5 really does take good photos, even in low light and even with someone at the controls who cannot do more than point and shoot (and isn’t great at holding steady).

And Las Vegas is beautiful at night… from a distance.


    View from Mix at the Delano

Many thanks to Randy Petersen and his staff for hosting a great weekend conference on blogging.

Thanks to Lucky from One Mile at a Time, to Summer from Mommy Points, and Ed from Pizza in Motion for great conversations as always.

It was wonderful to re-connect with folks like Jetsetter’s Homestead and Chris McGinnis, and finally meet others like Head for Points and Travel is Free.

Congratulations to Heels First Travel for being added as ‘featured’ at BoardingArea.com.

The speakers — from Google, USA Today, Associated Press, Barclaycard, Delta Airlines and others were all first-rate.

The other thing about Vegas is that it is impossible not to be tired. Even before layering in a conference. For most people, you can guess the reason. For me because I was trying to ensure I’d keep getting up on East Coast time so I’d hit the ground running again Monday morning and because I tried to keep up with work (my busiest time of year) throughout the weekend. Oh well, I suppose most Vegas visitors just figure they’ll sleep when they’re dead…

I really do consider myself one of the truly lucky people. I’ve gotten to see and do more than I could ever have imagined growing up. And that leaves me much more excited each day for the next, to see what it will bring.


I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, and other banks are advertising partners of this site. I do not write about all credit cards that are available — instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).

I’m a big fan of American Express Centurion lounges in US airports, which I get complimentary access to as a Platinum Card from American Express cardholder.

I was in Las Vegas the past couple of days, and I stopped off in the lounge on arrival for a quick bit to eat and freshen up, and on departure for a meal so that I wouldn’t have to rely on what US Airways would have on-board my flight.

Naturally, where there’s an American Express Centurion lounge it’s about the best place to be in the airport.

What Is An American Express Lounge?

American Express has begun operating their own network of “Centurion lounges,” which are a step above what travelers have become accustomed to from US airline-operated lounges.

I consider the American Express Centurion lounge in Dallas my favorite lounge in the U.S.. It’s one of the two I visit most often, along with my home American Airlines Admirals Club at Washington National airport.

Other contenders for best lounge would be the New York JFK Virgin Clubhouse, first class section of Lufthansa’s club, and British Airways Concorde Room.

There’s a Centurion lounge also at New York’s LaGuardia airport. And additional known lounges in the pipeline for San Francisco and Miami. Others will surely come.

Access:

  • Centurion and Platinum cardholders: Cardmember may bring in their spouse and children or two guests
  • Other American Express cardholders: $50 per adult (children complimentary when accompanied by paying adult)

I keep my Platinum Card from American Express largely for access to the Centurion lounges. Here’s a full review of the card that explains why the signup bonus and airline fee credit make the card a no-brainer to me. (American Express even added a couple additional benefits since I reviewed the card.

Come inside to see the design elements, food and beverage offers of the lounge..

News and notes from around the interweb:


In early July I wrote a post about the most useful and interesting developments in miles and points over the previous month>

It turns out, surprisingly, that the feature was really popular, at least judging by the emails I got — people that don’t read the blog every day really appeciated the recap and not having to dig through all of the posts to find the most enduring ones.

I didn’t do a similar feature in August, but I thought I’d revisit the 170 posts I wrote in August. I hope you were happy with some of the posts and got something out of them. These are some that were my favorites from August.

Saving money

Earning

Award redemption

Understanding the programs

Travel Knowledge

Travel News Stories


AutoSlash for Hotels Monitors Prices and Upgrades

Point Hacks writes about new pay service Stay Angel which will:

  • Keep checking your hotel reservations for price drops
  • Compare your bookings against better rates at online travel websites to identify opportunities for best rate guarantee claims (and submits the claims for you)
  • Identify when prices of suites drop to close to your room rate in case you want to buy up.

They monitor Hilton, Starwood, and Hyatt. And they also flag big price movements, letting you know when hotels that they track are at least 50% below their normal price. (See also How to Find Airline and Hotel Mistake Fares.)

There’s a free membership and a free trial for their premium service. The free account only tells you when your reservation has been upgraded, and alerts you to hotel promotions. They have two paid plans at $99 and $199 per year.

While they offer an affiliate program I am not including any affiliate links for their service. This offering sounds great, for frequent travelers who stay in hotels often and don’t want to spend the time managing all of this themselves it could be a great time and money saver. But I can’t yet endorse it through direct experience.

HotelUpgrade Gets You Perks for Reservations You’re Making Anyway

Meanwhile HotelUpgrade.com promises upgrades and amenities like free parking, drinks, and room service as throw-ins for hotel bookings.

Here’s the trick: you actually just book your reservations through the hotel chain’s website. Then you send them your confirmation number and they apply the perks each hotel has negotiated with them.

You can only see what perks are available through their iOS app [Android not presently available], although you can submit your confirmation numbers through the app or via email.

And since you book direct with the hotel chain, you still get points, elite status credit, and loyalty program benefits for the stay.

They start off with a limited number of hotels in a limited number of cities, and the official launch won’t come until later this month.


Companies use managed travel programs to get bulk discounts and limit the conflicts of interest inherent to having travelers make their own travel decisions. But many of those companies don’t do a very good job of it, and the tools provided to travelers are frequently not very good.

Skift interviews the CEO of Concur about the future of booking corporate travel.

Bottom line is that employees don’t do what they’re told, despite incentives and even threats if they don’t use corporate travel booking tools. Over 50% of hotels booked by business travelers in managed travel programs are booked outside of corporate policy.

Part of this is that employees get better deals outside their corporate booking channels. Travel managers protest that they have booking goals to get big rebates and travelers don’t understand how good a deal booking negotiated rates really is. But that’s often self-serving and only part true at best.

Most airfares are available through corporate tools. There are very few fares that can be had better outside of a standard global distribution system (because of the nature of their contracts which don’t permit it). But that’s not true for hotels or rental cars.

Concur has made a big bet on their TripLink initiative which is a way for business travelers whose companies have negotiated rates with – say – United – to book at United.com and still get their negotiated rates and use their standard corporate travel expense reporting tools. That in turn makes do-it-yourselfers no longer “rogue bookers.”

I think the overriding concept, and how we look at the world, is that you want to embrace the behavior of the individual. And you want to make it easier for them to do whatever it is they need to do. The patterns we are seeing in the world, the patterns we are seeing by cloud computing, by mobile computing, allow the individual to work in the model that they want to work. Embrace that behavior, capture the information that is necessary for them to get the results they are looking for. And then work behind the scenes to make sure you are meeting corporate objectives.

The bottom-line here is that business travelers in managed travel programs have a future to look forward ot in which they can… avail themselves of advanced technology like United.com.

Not very inspiring, but we’ll take what we can get!


News and notes from around the interweb:


This past week Lucky noted that the first Qatar Airways A380 was delivered. It’s been a bizarre, bumpy road getting there not least of which because of the Qatar Airways CEO’s truthiness problem.

Interestingly, Qatar doesn’t actually own their A380, it’s leased through a UK leasing company. And UK regulations required the aircraft to be in UK airspace when the transaction took place.

So from Thursday…

    Qatar Airways a380

The Qatar Airways A380 needs to be filed under: Things that make you go hmmm.

Last month I asked whether the Airbus A380 is a failure.


Not sure how I missed this story last week.

A passenger was detained on a Southwest plane at Seattle-Tacoma Airport after using ominous names for his Wi-Fi hot spot, sources said.

Passenger Alayna Keagle said people became concerned Thursday after noticing strange and disturbing hot spot names emerge, such as “Southwest – Bomb on Board.”

…“He changed it to ‘the bomb is on this seat,’ and then he changed it to something about the stewardess being hot,” Saldi said. “And so that’s why once we found all that stuff out we realized he was probably just goofing off.”

Apparently this happened on September 11th.

The plane’s pilot pulled off the active taxiway, police surrounded the plane and then boarded it. The man was detained.

All passengers were then pulled from the plane, and all bags re-screened with dogs, before passengers were allowed to make their journey to Denver.

It’s been only two months since armed gunmen stormed a Canadian plane bound for Panama.


I was recently engaged as an expert witness for a federal criminal trial. It’s a fascinating story that I plan to tell. But in order to explain how a program member got embroiled in what was seen as a conflict of interest, how this person came to be at odds with her employer, and how the federal government got involved we need to start at the beginning.

And that’s that loyalty programs are all about creating an incentive for individuals to choose their product over another — whether the choice comes at the best price, or in the case of purchases using an employer’s money whether or not the individual is acting in the best interests of their employer.
Read about the conflicts of interest that travel programs are trying to create, which led one miles and points junkie to the crosshairs of the federal government…

I checked into Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas yesterday. Quickly up to my room and there was a strong smell of chlorine. Back down to the check-in desk.

Now, it was noon (so not yet check-in time). The hotel was full. They had no rooms to offer.

I could have waited for a room, something was going to open up and they were still cleaning rooms. That would certainly have been a reasonable solution if they didn’t have a room to give me initially. But they gave me a room, it just wasn’t one that was habitable. So I thought it was reasonable for them to find me a solution right away.

Some of the Las Vegas hotels are mega-properties, and certainly Mandalay Bay is one of them since it’s a complex that also includes the Luxor (moving there wasn’t going to be – ceteris paribus — ok) and also the Delano (formerly THEhotel) and even the Four Seasons.

The solution we found was the Delano. It’s just been re-opened, it’s part of MGM M Life so I would still get my Hyatt credit, and it’s an improvement.

I’ve rarely gotten pushback when something is genuinely wrong with a room. The constraints are what’s available, which was true even in this case but they had ‘another hotel’ to put me in.

Sometimes though you do have to ‘push’ at the check-in counter. Although not an inferior room, I have to think way back to when when I arrived at the former Westin Rio Mar at 4pm for when I had to push and get an upgrade in order to have a room.

My pre-blocked junior suite wasn’t ready. They suggested I go have a drink or a late lunch and wait. I asked whether they were buying me lunch? Or if they’d like to find me a better room that was ready? The front office manager came over, typed a bit… did not even look up at me, and put me into a giant Atlantic Suite.


I’m liking the new Citi Double Cash product as the best cash rebate card but the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express currently has a $50 signup bonus.

I favor points over cash back. But I also recognized that if I’m doing any un-bonused spend, I’m effectively buying points at 2 cents apiece, since I could otherwise be earning two cents per dollar spent. I don’t want to do that with most points currencies. So as I’ve long said, a cash rebate like this may be the best option for spending that isn’t going to earn a bonus on a points and miles credit card.

Now, Bank of America can get you a 2.625% rebate but only if you put $100,000 on deposit with BofA.

For most, though, that’s going to be a bit out of reach so the Citibank card is my favorite because of the rebates plus not being an American Express, although Fidelity has long been the benchmark with 2% back into a Fidelity investment account but issued as an Amex. A signup bonus makes it a bit more attractive than usual.


The San Diego airport is requiring cab drivers not to smell bad. And the cab drivers are livid.

For years, inspectors with the San Diego Regional Airport Authority have run down their checklist for each cabbie — proof of insurance, functioning windshield wipers, adequate tire treads, good brakes. Drivers are graded pass, fail or needs fixing.

Anyone who flunks the smell test is told to change before picking up another customer.

The cab drivers say it’s racism and unfair. And indeed, cab drivers do tend to be immigrants.

A 2013 survey of 331 drivers by San Diego State University and Center on Policy Initiatives found 94 percent were immigrants and 65 percent were from East Africa.

Here’s the thing. Smell can be subjective. But smell can also be bad and if there’s an issue, and the government is in the business of licensing cabs and granting authority to operate (and until Uber and similar services, allowing little competition) then there ought to be minimum standards.

This objection from the cab drivers struck me as unpersuasive:

Others drivers question how inspectors distinguish between them and their cars. The checklist has a separate item for a vehicle’s “foul interior odors,” which Bloomfield says may include gasoline, vomit or mildew.

It’s unfair to assume they smell, when it really could be their cars — which would somehow be.. ok?

Now, I do feel for them being required to take any passenger willing to pay, since apparently another objection is that customers smell too. (The “I know you are, but what am I?” defense.)

I’m generally more concerned with the state of repair of taxis that pass inspection, they usually don’t have suspension systems in proper working order in my personal experience. And I’ve gotten into more than a few cabs late at night in my time where I’m convinced the driver has been drinking or the driver hasn’t slept in way too many hours to be driving.


News and notes from around the interweb:


You can get airline meals delivered to your home — premium cabin meals from LSG Skychefs.

    “I wish I could eat what they serve on the plane all the timeSaid no one, ever.

But Air Food One thinks there is a business is distributing excess airline meals. The marginal cost is low, they will go bad (eventually) if unused. And surely someone will think the food is worth the $12 or $13 cost.

Unfortunately it appears that I’m outside of their delivery area (they’re currently only serving Germany), because if I had my choice of airline meals I think I’d love to order at home the American Airlines beef enchiladas (Not..! Though anything but the stuffed shells, I suppose).


Mommy Points yesterday has a post summarizing hotel ‘best rate guarantee’ policies.

The idea is that each hotel chain wants to convince you to book directly through them. That’s because booking through a third party website like Expedia or Orbitz is expensive for them, commissions can exceed 20%.

One strategy is to only offer credit towards elite status when you book directly (most chains, although they general exempt certain non-direct booking outlets) and another is to only offer benefits and points accrual when you book direct. Hyatt and Marriott will at least recognize your status if you don’t book directly, even though you cannot earn credit towards elite status under their rules if you don’t.

The best rate guarantee is a marketing technique to convince you that you’ll get the best rate through the hotel’s own site, so why bother looking elsewhere? Marriott’s is even dubbed the “Look No Further” guarantee.

Hotels can be fined if they don’t load the lowest rates into the chain’s own booking engine. Learn How to Use This Technique to Get Free Hotel Nights Every Week! Read On…

Walking into a Westin lobby last night — Thursday — I was confronted with this projected onto the floor.

To a frequent flyer business traveler this makes all the sense in the world. Thursday is done. The work week is, for all intents and purposes, done.

If you’re walking into the Westin lobby you weren’t one of the lucky ones that got to catch a flight home Thursday night. Maybe your engagement took you through to the end of the business day and it was too late to make it to the airport and get back home to your base. There aren’t as many late evening flights as there used to be, especially late evening flights that will still connect if you aren’t headed to a major hub.

But either way you probably aren’t at a client site, or remote location for your own company on Friday. On Friday morning you’re headed to the airport. The upside of that is that you don’t have to spend Friday catching up on administrative tasks either in the office or from home. You’re flying. Home in time to drop things off at the dry cleaners, hopefully pick them up on Saturday so you’re ready to start the work week. One of your greatest wishes is that dry cleaners all opened on Sundays. That one hour window between when clothes are ready for pickup on Saturday and when the cleaners closes puts a real crimp in your Saturday plans.

To the median American, the Frequent Flyer Weekend seems just as odd as the Friday-Saturday weekend of much of the Muslim world. In fact, the Friday weekend day is probably why we get so much screening by the TSA.

Filed under: the culture that is business travel.


Pizza in Motion is happy to see some movement extending the Export-Import bank’s charter, even temporarily.

I don’t think Ex-Im should go away. I say this narrowly from the perspective of someone who’s a Boeing supporter.

Here’s a video my employer put out a month ago to explain Ex-Im winners and losers.

The Export-Import Bank backs $37 billion worth of exports, which amounts to 1.6% of the U.S.’ $2.28 trillion in exports. The bank states that $12 billion of that (0.54% of total US exports) is justified based on foreign competition.

The Export-Import bank itself claims to support 200,000 – 300,000 jobs each year out of ~ 10 million export-related jobs in the U.S.

Now, the Export-Import bank is small as far as federal programs go. CBO projects $2 billion in losses over the coming decade, which is peanuts compared to the budgetary impact of other agencies. So the flashpoint in Congress is mostly symbolic — the agency is supposed to sunset without reauthorization, which is what generates the attention now. And it’s corporate welfare for some large US companies — the single largest beneficiaries are Boeing and GE.

But if the goal were to make US firms competitive, corporate tax rates is one place to start..


American Airlines CEO Doug Parker gave good marks for merger progress so far with plenty of work to do.

He cited progress implementing “the world’s largest code-sharing arrangement” between American and US Airways; US Airways joining oneworld and the transatlantic joint venture ith British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair; and re-banking the Miami hub to make for more attractive flight connections.

They’ve co-located facilities for the two airlines at 80 airports are “are negotiating for new contracts covering workers from both carriers.” (I’m not sure how it’s an accomplishment already to be negotiating as opposed to, say, ‘have negotiated’).

The airlines are profitable, though there are certainly some gaps in the operation like weakness in South America that American has bet heavily on.

I’d paint a slightly different picture. Here’s what the merger has meant for flyers so far…

I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, and other banks are advertising partners of this site. I do not write about all credit cards that are available — instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).

No Annual Fee Chase Freedom®

  • Has a limited-time 10,000 point signup bonus after $500 spend within 3 months
  • Gives you another 2500 points for a free authorized user (and making a purchase within 3 months)
  • Can Give You an ‘Extra’ 24,000 Points Per Year, Each Year

This is one of the very best no fee cards.

Even though the Chase Freedom card is a no fee card, it has strong earning because it offers 5 points per dollar in a different set of categories each quarter.

You have to register anew each quarter for the bonus, and then you can earn the 5x offering on up to $1500 in spend for that quarter.

    Registration for the 4th quarter of bonuses (October – December) is now open. You can register now, through December 14, to have this quarter’s spending earn 5 points per dollar in eligible categories.

Here’s the 5 points per dollar categories for October through December.

    Amazon.com, Zappos.com and select department stores

Since this represents an extra 4 points per dollar on top of the standard 1 you’d earn with most cards and in most categories of spending, you pick up an extra 24,000 points per year with Chase Freedom. Which is pretty good on a no annual fee card. (The math is 4 extra points per dollar x $1500 per quarter x 4 quarters, so 4 extra points on $6000 spend or 24,000 points.)

To Get the Most Value from the Freedom Cards, You Need Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold Too

The Freedom Cards are cash back cards only — 1% for normal spend, 5% for the 5x bonuses spend each quarter — unless you have one of the premium Ultimate Rewards cards.

If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (or Ink Bold or Ink Plus business card) you can move your points earned with Freedom over to an account with one of these cards.

That makes all of the points transferable to miles with Ultimate Rewards partners.

  • Airlines: United, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Airlines, Southwest, Singapore Airlines
  • Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, IHG Rewards
  • Ground: Amtrak

That’s because you can transfer the points from your Freedom card to one of the other card accounts that allows transfers to miles and points… so you wind up with transferable points instead of 1% cash back.

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. 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, either.


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View from the Wing is a project of Miles and Points Consulting, LLC. 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.

Advertiser Disclosure: Many (but not all) of the credit card offers on the site are from banks from which we receive compensation if you are approved. Compensation does not impact the placement of cards other than in banner advertising (we do not currently control the banner advertising on this blog). We don’t include all US credit card offers available on this site. Instead, I write primarily about cards which earn airline miles, hotel points, and some cash back (or have points that can be converted into the same).

Editorial Note: The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine and not provided by any bank including (but not limited to) American Express, Chase, Citibank, US Bank, Barclaycard or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say.