Doctor of Credit plays around with a website address and shows us the 2015 bonus categories for the Chase Freedom Card.

This is the card where you register anew each quarter to earn 5 points per dollar in a rotating set of categories.

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.)

We already knew the first quarter 2015 categories: grocery stores, Starbucks, and movie theaters.

Thanks for Doctor of Credit’s post, we now expect that the main bonus categories will be:

  • April-June: Restaurants
  • July-September: Gas stations
  • October-December:

I’d expect an additional merchant or two, or a merchant and another lesser-used spend category, to be bonused in each quarter as well.

This card has doubled its signup bonus for a limited time.

Via Tyler Cowen, the ‘Thanksgiving rush’ is something that many airports already experience at least one day a week, and some major airports regularly experience twice every week.

According to the group’s analysis, a true “Thanksgiving rush” involves passenger volumes that run between 108 percent and 259 percent above an average day.

..Of the 30 busiest U.S. airports (accounting for 70 percent of total U.S. passenger flow), 13 already feel like the day before Thanksgiving one day a week on average. Three airports — Midway, Las Vegas McCarran, and Orlando International — suffer those levels of congestion twice a week. Worse yet, the capacity improvements that are currently slated won’t help much. Within six years, the study notes, 27 of the 30 busiest airports will be Thanksgiving-busy at least once a week.

The piece argues that tens of billions need to be spend on airports, and notes that Singapore’s Changi airport has a facility charge of over $15 while in the US these charges are capped at $4.50.

But it’s not quite that easy. Because busy airports aren’t the problem, and more airport spending isn’t a panacea.

  1. Increasing airport costs drives away airlines, either to alternative airports (high cost Miami leads carriers to flee for low cost Ft Lauderdale) or out of the market entirely (low cost carriers setting pricing, rather than network carriers).
  2. Airport infrastructure projects in the US have little record of being particularly good investments. Washington Dulles built a train that stops where they plan to eventually build a terminal rather than where there’s currently a terminal — with no likelihood in sight of that new terminal being built soon. Miami is expensive because of massive capital investment, but that hasn’t made it a good airport, it’s one travelers want to avoid.

The notion that passengers or aviation are under-taxed is highly misleading. US domestic tickets are assessed a 7.5% tax, but the funds aren’t then dedicated to capital projects. The last budget deal increased ‘security fees’ but the revenue stream then plus the deficit.

Besides, merely having a ‘busier than usual airport’ tells us little about the ‘frustrating Thanksgivig experience’. Rather than a lot of passengers through a facility, there are specific issues that aren’t all or primarily airport issues.

  • Difficulty finding on-airport parking
  • Long security lines (we just raised security taxes while TSA has made a mess of precheck; the TSA administrator says we should abolish liquids rules but he hasn’t done so and won’t)
  • Packed planes (we’re at historically high load factors now, airlines have exercised capacity discipline, they’re finally making money and there’s little stupid money dumping capacity into markets)
  • Not only are planes full, but that means there’s little slack in the system for irregular operations. If your flight is cancelled or you misconnect it’s hard to get re-routed to where you’re going.
  • More leisure travelers and fewer business travelers. That means inexperienced travelers who don’t know the drill at security, crowd the gate, and board inefficiently.

Little of that has anything to do airport capital investment, which tends to spread out the airport.. building off-site rental car facilities… sprawling complexes that can lengthen travel times and frustrate passengers even more.

Meanwhile, there are some projects even now that seem to go quite well under current financing arrangements. San Francisco generally, the new LAX International (Tom Bradley) terminal, the Delta terminal at JFK (much of those dollars are Delta’s).

I’m not suggesting US airports are in fine shape, some are very bad. But it’s not clear that busy airports are the biggest problem in travel, or the most frustrating.

In a comment on my post about the card that earns 2 Delta miles per dollar on all spend, Tokyo Hyatt Fan points out that there’s also a card that gives you Delta Gold Medallion status.

It’s an American Express card. And it’s issued in Japan.

US carriers in foreign markets have unique challenges. Generally speaking their benefits are geared towards US consumers, but with a substantial presence elsewhere they may try to tailor their offerings.

Delta in particular inherited a big Japan presence from Northwest Airlines (formerly Northwest Orient) in their merger. Delta, through their Seattle hub and with longer range aircraft, are now overflying their Tokyo operation to a much greater degree than in the past. But there’s a large historic tie to Japan.

Several US carriers used to offer non-US members complimentary lounge access based on their elite status, which wasn’t offered to similar status members in the U.S. (and so they were quite concerned to validate members ‘moving abroad’). They did this because their foreign competitors offered lounge access even on domestic itineraries via status.

Delta also reduces the value of the program based on geography. Since European airlines generally add fuel surcharges to award tickets, Delta adds an ‘international origin surcharge’ to awards which begin in Europe (New York – Paris – New York wouldn’t have this fee, but Paris – New York – Paris would).

And while United and Delta have minimum spend requirements for elite status, those requirements don’t apply to members with addresses outside the United States.

Win asked whether or not he should mileage run.

I’ve not flown since before September 11, 2001 and am tired of driving around in the car. Time to get in the air! An American Airlines/US Air mileage run (using weekends only) to earn elite status might be fun – any thoughts on an optimal strategy? (I’ve got the US Airways Premier World MasterCard but not earned any preferred qualifying miles). Thanks for a great blog!

If you’re flying for leisure purposes, and you’re not flying constantly, you do not need and probably shouldn’t, mileage run.

Now, if you’re flying just for the fun of flying, then by all means. Fly a lot and focus on a single airline. Earn status, and the flying will become more enjoyable.

But that’s a pretty limiting case.

Someone who is already flying almost enough for their status level may find it worthwhile to take an incremental trip. But starting from zero odds on you spend more to get status than the value that will return to you.

A pure leisure traveler should:

  • Be a free agent, buy the cheapest tickets.
  • Earn lots of miles to redeem for premium cabin travel, where they get most of the benefits of status with the required flying.

The value of status is based on how much you’re going to fly in the coming year. If you’re not flying a lot in the year you’re earning status, odds on that’s a pattern for most that will repeat – meaning not enough flying to get the value of that status (and to amortize the cost of the mileage runs across).

So my advice, though it may sound strange coming from me, is not to mileage run – don’t earn status – and if you want many of the benefits attached to the introductory tier of status then consider your airline’s co-brand credit card which may come with priority boarding and free checked bags and maybe a couple of lounge passes as well.

Peter asked about “free one-way tickets on awards.”

If you can summarize which airlines allow for free one-ways on international award tickets, that would be helpful. I know there’s been some changes in the past few months.

The idea of the “free one-way” is that when you redeem a roundtrip award ticket, with an airline that allows stopovers, you can ‘throw in’ an extra flight at the end of your award without spending an additional miles.

For instance, if you need to fly Newark – London – Newark, why not fly Newark – London (destination), and then fly back London – Newark (your allowable stopover) – Los Angeles (destination). You fly Newark – Los Angeles at some later date, basically you get a free cross country flight to use later.

And changing dates on award tickets, where you don’t change the airline or routing, has often been free (no change fee).

Basically, if you need a roundtrip award you could often get a free ticket to use later … within a year of date of issue of your original ticket. Neat, huh?

But this practice relies on your mileage program allowing stopvoers as part of award tickets and several airline mileage programs have taken away the allowable stopover — in the process eliminating the “free one-way.”

United still allows stopovers on roundtrip awards. So you can still have a free one-way on a roundtrip United award.

Alaska Airlines allows stopovers on one-way international awards. That means you can do a free one-way in both directions, although for most people it will be more useful on the return. (Throwing in an ‘extra’ Hong Kong – Bangkok segment to use later is going to have limited usefulness for most.)

If the miles you’re using are in a program that permits stopovers, and you aren’t otherwise going to use the stopover in your itinerary, consider adding on an extra flight segment to the end of your itinerary for use alter on.

Thank you.

Thank you for stopping by to visit my blog. Thank you for commenting and sharing you experiences. Thank you for the e-mails — expressions of your own thanks, but also your questions, I love answering them and working through puzzles with you, and I love knowing when I’ve contributed in some way to you.

I’ve said this many times before but I really do consider myself one of the luckiest people, and certainly much more fortunate than I could have ever imagined.

I was a semi-frequent flyer as a young child. My parents divorced when I was young and I flew back and forth between the coasts. I remember boarding planes and looking at first class cabins — not imagining who would pay so much more for the seats, and knowing that i would never be one of those people.

And of course I haven’t ever paid for one of those seats — other than on a mistake fare I haven’t ever purchased an international business or first class ticket. I’ve been fortunate to travel the world, and to do it in the sort of comfort I couldn’t have imagined. I’ve stayed in remarkable places, met remarkable people, and I’ve seen and experienced interesting things — none of which I could even have imagined growing up or at the beginning of my professional life.

I started this blog in 2002 when I was first documenting my own learning. I wasn’t an expert, but I knew more than many, and I did get lots of questions about miles and points and it seemed interesting to people. I knew others who were blogging and I thought I had a unique voice to offer. And yet looking back through the archives of earlier posts I didn’t have much of a voice at all! I’m also deeply shy, which some people can find off-putting when I meet them (thinking that by not being outgoing with them I must not be interested). The written form has allowed me to connect so well with many.

This hobby has enriched my life in so many ways, and I’m very grateful for it.

This blog has, too. In many ways it’s still the same personal blog I first started, I write and share what is interesting to me. Now there are just a whole lot more people reading it, and I appreciate each and every one of you.

I leave the comments section pretty much moderation-free. I’ve only ever asked two people not to participate, and I only delete extremely graphic content and comments that include extraneous personal information about people. That takes a thick skin. This is, after all, the internet. I don’t always have as thick a skin as I should, but I try my best, because each and every comment has something to teach me or challenge me. And certainly the positive feedback touches me deeply.

So thank you. Thank you. I look forward to continuing to share this journey together, and I appreciate this opportunity to reflect — and to acknowledge.

Even the comments on the video, many from hotel employees, are priceless.

Starting January 1, discounted Delta airlines fares will no longer earn full mileage when crediting to Alaska Airlines.

We knew this had to be coming — with Delta moving to a revenue-based frequent flyer earning structure, with miles earned based on ticket price, it was too big of a leak to just let customers credit their flights to Alaska Airlines and earn full flown miles instead.

Here’s the new earning rates:

  • F and P first class fares increase from 150% mileage earned to 200%
  • A first class fares increase from 150% mileage earned to 175%
  • G first class fares decrease from 150% mileage earned to 125%
  • J and C business class fares increase from 125% mileage earned to 175%
  • D and I business class fares increase from 125% mileage earned to 150%
  • Z business class fares remain at 125% mileage earned
  • Y economy fares increase from 100% mileage earned to 125%
  • B, M, and S economy fares remain at 100% mileage earned.
  • H, Q, and K economy fares decrease from 100% mileage earned to 75%
  • L, U, T, X, and V economy fares decrease from 100% mileage earned to 50%
  • E economy fares decrease from 100% mileage earned to 25%

Basically Delta’s discounted economy fares, what are on sale most of the time and most of us buy, will no longer earn full mileage flown. This had to happen. I suspect Alaska would have been happy to continue offering full mileage-earning, having Delta continue to buy miles from Alaska at a rapid pace. But Delta wasn’t going to make it that easy for us — especially with competition heating up so quickly in Seattle.

Interestingly, Alaska even couches this as Delta’s fault —

Delta has recently announced changes to its frequent flyer program which will affect the way Mileage Plan™ Miles are earned when flying on Delta..

At the same time, Alaska is increasing mileage-earning for their most expensive fares, for instance full fare coach goes from 125% of miles flown to earning 150% and first class goes from 150% to 175%. They’re also increasing the elite status bonus for MVP Gold 75K members to 125%.

(HT: Delta Points)

Delta requires minimum spending in order to earn elite status in addition to the required miles you have to fly.

And since Delta does, United does also.

Both airlines allow you to avoid the requirement if you spend $25,000 or more in a year on their co-brand credit cards (United won’t let you avoid the requirement for 100,000 mile flyer status — only up to their Platinum 75,000 mile level).

And both airlines allow you to avoid the requirement entirely if you have a primary account address outside the United States.

Naturally the first thought many members had was to simply change the address on their frequent flyer account.

  • When Delta first announced that U.S.-based members had to meet minimum revenue requirements, they also instituted a requirement that you had to prove your new address if you told them you were moving out of the U.S.
  • United didn’t. Lots of MileagePlus members made a virtual move.
  • Untl two months ago — in September United started requiring proof as well.

Delta requires one piece of evidence. United requires two, probably because they weren’t ready with an IT system to require verification when the revenue requirement was first launched and so they’ve been getting gamed for the last 18 months.

Nonetheless, a virtual move remains a possibility for many. Delta will even accept as ‘proof’ a letter from your employer.

Of course at some point they could match your address against public records, or could analyze your flight patterns that would be highly suggestive of a US resident. Until then, no doubt some folks will continue to ‘move’ abroad.

News and notes from around the interweb:

British Airways’ top elite tier is Gold. But because theirs is an airline frequent flyer program, it’s more complicated than that. There’s an upper tier within the tier called Gold Guest List (and an invitation only Premier level as well).

BA is making it harder to earn ‘Gold Guest List’ status for the first time and for non-UK Europeans to requalify.

Presently, the requirement is to earn 5000 tier points in one year or 3000 tier points each of two consecutive years. This second method of two years of 3000 tier points each is going away.

It will still take the same 3000 tier points for UK members to re-qualify for this status. European members – who needed 2500 points in the past to requalify – will have to earn 3000 points going forward.

Now, everyone’s “member year” is different in British Airways. It isn’t a calendar year. There are some folks who just started a member year, earned 3000 points last year, and were on their way to 3000 more in the current member year. They get the rug pulled out from under them, sort of. British Airways will allow up through April 8th to earn 3000 tier points to qualify as the second year in a row. That’s the same deadline whether one’s member year ends in April or November.

Gold Guest List members get twice a year to book awards even when there’s no award space. (They can book for themselves and up to 4 passengers into revenue booking classes.) Another benefit is Hilton Diamond status. Although some might say that’s also a benefit that comes with merely eating breakfast or doing one’s own laundry.

Gold Guest List members who earn 5000 tier points in a year get Concorde Room access at London Heathrow and New York JFK even when not flying first class.

British Airways has made it a little harder to attain their top status within a status, although it doesn’t change things for those who already have it.

Every couple of years an aircraft undergoes a “C check” which entails a majority of the plane’s components to be inspected.

Emirates posted a time-lapse video of one of their Airbus A380s undergoing such a check. It’s amazing to watch.

(HT: Johnny Jet)

Over the weekend international award space on American Airlines flights for next year dried up almost completely.

Lack of award availability on American isn’t a new issue. Premium cabin transatlantic awards more or less went away two years ago. It was still possible to get plenty of transpacific first class space, but first class has become much harder in advance especially as American reconfigures 777-200 aircraft with new business class and no first class (and introduces new first class on their 777-300s).

But coach space has been pretty easy to get much of the time. Until a few days ago.

For sure, a major schedule change rolled out. We’ve seen those accidentally open the flood gates with way too much award space in the past. This time we saw the broad disappearance of space.

There were plenty of scary theories as to what was going on. One was that US Airways has historically been quite stingy with awards for their international flights (they’ve really just been generous with domestic first class awards, and great for booking awards on partners). And that US Airways folks are in charge now, tightening up was to be expected.

But things were much tighter than we’ve seen with US Airways, and indeed American had tightened considerably over the past few years as the economy has improved and planes have gone out full — even to the point where American wouldn’t release awards on flights that remain empty.

Now, to me international award space on American and in particular international economy awards aren’t much of a draw to the AAdvantage program. I use my miles for premium cabin award tickets on partner airlines. But it does matter to a large portion of the AAdvantage membership.

Fortunately, it was a glitch.

The Associated Press’ David Koenig, a good guy who has interviewed me several times, asked American what was going on and then tweeted:

@AmericanAir says glitch loading new schedules caused international low-miles SAAver awards to disappear, will be back by late Weds.

And a collective sigh of relief was heard.

Airline lounges are 75 years old. The first one was an American Airlines lounge in New York.

American has a great online history of its lounges.

  • The original club opened in 1939. New York’s Mayor LaGuardia was criticized for having too big an office at New York LaGuardia airport so he rented out some of the space to American.
  • They couldn’t name it “Admirals Club” because a judge determined people might think it was for Navy Admirals only, so it was named “Flagship Club” (American’s current lounges are Admirals Clubs while their first class lounges are Flagship Lounges).
  • The second club was at Washington National airport. They weren’t allowed to serve alcohol, so they stored bottles for members. This practice continued until liquor laws were changed in 1970.
  • American’s sales department gave out memberships, with paid memberships introduced in 1967 ($25 per year, or $250 for a lifetime membership).

Paid memberships became the norm across the industry after a 1974 Civil Aeronautics Board ruling. Paid club memberships were an anti-discrimination measure — lounges were open to anyone willing to pay the fee.

Here’s American’s new airport lounge strategy. Unquestionably lounges have come a long way since the advent of the lounge 75 years ago.

In the US we have American Express Centurion lounges far exceeding what we’ve become used to.

Of course little can match the Thai Airways spa in the Bangkok airport.

.. or Lufthansa’s tarmac transfers.

Or Cathay Pacific’s showers.

Who knew that in some sense we have populist outrage over Fiorello LaGuardia’s airport office to thank?

News and notes from around the interweb:

Reader George asked about the economics of rewards credit cards.

I was just mulling over the economics of credit card bonusing last night- are all of the costs absorbed by the credit card companies?

2x travel and dining are broad credits that capture a big chunk of credit card spend, so that’s a subsidy that makes sense. But 5x at office supply houses, or 5x on the Freedom categories?

The bonuses drive a lot of incremental traffic into those stores (albeit low margin gift cards, etc)- do the stores pay advertising fees or a higher credit card fee on these transactions to offset the cost?

What about the privileges on premium cards, like IHG Rewards Club Platinum status and free nights on card renewal – does Chase pay the cost, or does IHG comp it to them, because Chase buys so many IHG points already?

Generally speaking, credit card companies pay for the benefits they provide to cardmembers. An airline or co-brand partner gets paid not only for the points sold to the credit card company, but also for the perks.

There may be a few posts I’ve written that are of interest here:

The specifics of each deal are held in confidence, although they do make it into the public occasionally — for instance, SEC filings disclosing how the payments from banks to loyalty programs are accounted for. And when these deals become the subject of lawsuits (such as when Bank of America sued over Juniper Bank becoming the exclusive issuer of US Airways cards when US Airways and America West merged) the full, lightly redacted contracts become public. They aren’t fascinating reading for everyone, but they are for me!

It’s not entirely that simple, because the overall deal that a loyalty program and a bank strike (in conjunction with the payment network) is a complex negotiation that winds up with a total deal cost and value. How the funds are assigned to each element of the deal may wind up being somewhat arbitrary or based more on the accounting desires of each entity than anything else — for instance what revenue a loyalty program can recognize right away from the sale of miles, versus what they need to defer against the cost of future travel redemptions.

Here’s what I mean. Take the free checked baggage benefit that many airline cards come with. Credit card companies offer this because checked bag fees really get under travelers’ skins, so having an ‘out’ from paying these fees does a great job at prompting credit card signups. Card companies, under their co-brand contracts, pay for the checked bag fee waiver. And airlines book that revenue in the current year rather than booking a deferred liability. So the airline has an incentive to overweight the value of the checked bag benefit, in order to benefit their bottom-line now.

The credit card company pays the hotel program for an annual free night benefit. It’s at a discount compared to the number of points a similar redemption would cost, because the free night expires and so there may be breakage. The free night category is capped in order to further reduce the cost of that night to the bank.

The reason the annual free night is offered is as a way to encourage cardmembers to keep the card, instead of cancelling — it convinces them they’re getting something of ongoing value in exchange for paying an annual fee.

Premium rewards cards cost merchants more in fees than generic Visa or MasterCard products. But the payment networks are part of the negotiation, they offer cut-rate processing overall or for specific merchant categories to help the bank and loyalty program fund the rewards that the card offers. In that way, Visa or MasterCard expects to get more charging volume than they’d otherwise receive. And the bank sees a lower cost to provide the rewards.

Reader Megan asked,

What’s the best way to travel first class to Asia? Buy a ticket and upgrade, or go with miles?

Great question, because it gets at understanding several key issues about international airline travel, and about miles and points.

First of all — although once upon a time American Airlines used to allow double upgrades — no airline is going to permit upgrading from coach to first class. Business class is a different story, although many people use the terms interchangeably. If you want first class you need to buy a business class ticket (say, $3000 to $8000) and upgrade.

So for the rest of this post I’m going to read the question as, “should I book an award ticket, or buy a coach ticket and upgrade to business class?”

If you’re an American Airlines 100,000 mile flyer you get (8) confirmed upgrade certificates a year valid on any fare for any American flight, including international — provided upgrade space is available. Delta’s 125,000 mile Diamond flyers now get an option for a benefit of four such upgrades a year. United gives their 100,000 mile flyers six international upgrades, although there’s a minimum fare requirement attached.

Using these upgrade instruments it can make sense to buy a coach ticket and upgrade. You’ll earn miles and elite qualifying miles. But for a transpacific flight I’d only be interested in doing this is confirmable upgrade space is available at booking, not if I had to waitlist, because I wouldn’t want to risk having to take the flight in coach if my upgrade didn’t clear.

For anyone else, not using these certificates I recommend using miles for an award ticket rather than buying a ticket and upgrading. This is the opposite of the prevailing wisdom from a decade ago. That’s because several things have changed:

  1. Awards have gotten easier. Airline alliances have made it possible to spend miles easily across carriers, even combining multiple airlines on a single ticket. Upgrades across alliance partners haven’t kept pace, and at a minimum where it’s possible to use one airline’s miles to upgrade on another airline, purchase of full fare coach will be necessary.
  2. Upgrades have gotten more expensive. If you aren’t on a full fare ticket, American and United will charge you a cash co-pay (that may be more than $1000 roundtrip) in addition to the cost of your ticket and in addition to spending miles. That makes upgrades expensive. Delta will require you to buy a nearly full fare ticket to be eligible to even waitlist for an upgrade with miles. I never recommend playing that lottery.
  3. It’s harder to upgrade than get an award ticket. With flights full, upgrades that don’t get confirmed at time of booking can’t be counted on to clear — if you aren’t a top tier elite, your chances of getting the upgrade on a flight that wouldn’t have otherwise gone out with empty seats in business class may be low.

As a result, award tickets are – for most people – a better approach to premium class travel than paid tickets with a mileage upgrade.

News and notes from around the interweb:

Reader Rob P asked for,

[a] post on your “earn and burn” philosophy would be helpful. How do I know if I’m hoarding too many UR points and not spending them enough?

I explained ten years ago why points programs devalue. They’re private currencies without any binding constraints. The Supreme Court even limited your right to sue this year. Programs can do as they wish with impunity.

There’s tremendous value in frequent flyer programs but you should not save points now for some future day in which you might spend them.

In general your points will never be worth more tomorrow than they are today. The only real exception to that has been the introduction of alliances. The ability to redeem across partners, even on the same award ticket, made existing points more valuable not less valuable.

But the cost of awards goes up, and in most cases the rules associated with redeeming awards get more restrictive (the United-Continental merger is an exception, as it spelled an end to United blocking otherwise-available awards when the airline didn’t want to pay for the seats and also led to more generous routing rules).

In general I recommend points that transfer to other programs, you’re diversifying your points holdings even by accumulating a single currency. Starwood, Chase, American Express (and to a lesser extent Diners Club and Citi’s Thank You Points) are more desirable than individual airline miles because you can put your points where you need them when you need them later.

But this isn’t a panacea. Transferrable points can devalue. We just had a scare with Chase removing points transfers to Korean Air from its website, although it looks like this may be temporary and we’ll get these transfers back. But it serves as a reminder that even these programs can devalue – although usually with notice.

American Express has lost transfer partners many times in the past (US Airways, Continental, Northwest, to name a few). Starwood has devalued its transfer ratios… Qantas used to be 1:2. United used to be 1:1. For a time Singapore went down to 2:1 but was brought back up to parity.

There are two lessons:

  1. Burn as you earn. You don’t care about devaluations as much if you are earning and burning in roughly the same period, under the same award chart. It’s much easier to earn points than it used to be. What’s a problem is earning points 10 years ago, when it was harder to do so, and spending them now when awards are more expensive.
  2. Diversify your points. I like having Chase, Starwood, and Amex points.. and also points with various airline and hotel programs. That way I don’t take a hit to my entire portfolio when a single program devalues.

These two pieces of advice sound somewhat in conflict and they are. Diversifying involves building up large points balances that you aren’t likely to spend right away.

The truth is I earn points too quickly to spend them right away, so I want to have them spread out as best I can. Plus I don’t know what my future self will want or need in terms or rewards. I’m hedging not just devaluations but unknown future preferences.

I don’t want too many points. I want to have enough points in a given program to redeem them, and then earn points in the next program until I have enough for the redemption I’m likely to want. And then the next program. Meanwhile I’d be redeeming.

Although in practice I diversity, I spend points regularly, but I earn faster than I burn. So I will become the victim of devaluations, as I have in the past. Knowing that causes me to discount, now, how much I value the miles I’m accumulating — so I’m willing to spend less to accumulate them than if I were going to use them in the near-term.

Reader Denis asks about my elite status, and since I write about what I think people ought to do what I actually do is fair game.

How are you planning status (airlines) for year end? Do you need to MR? Lifetime status?

I’ve re-qualified for American’s Executive Platinum (100,000 mile) status already. I should end the year with about 120,000 qualifying miles, and 10,000 on US Airways from spend on their credit card, that will ultimately get combine when the two programs are joined next year — although there will be no benefit to me for being over 100,000 since I won’t hit 125,000 points (which would likely get me – upon request of AAdvantage Customer Service – 2 additional confirmed international upgrades).

I’m also a lifetime American AAdvantage Platinum member — American gives lifetime Gold at 1 million, Platinum at 2 million, and they used to count all account activity towards status. I’m a 3 million miler, much of the activity from credit cards, bank accounts, shopping portals and other activity. I’m headed towards 4 million, though it’s much slower going as only flights now count.

I’m a British Airways Silver, which was previously soft-landed from Gold, and I will lose that come March. I’m an Aegean Gold, and will lose that in a year.

I generally have no need to mileage run. I hit American’s top status without doing so. Combined with award travel I’ll fly about 200,000 miles this year.

I’ve also requalified as a Hyatt Diamond already, and hit Starwood Platinum on nights. I hit Marriott Silver as well (unintentionally) and received a targeted offer for Hilton Diamond.

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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.

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