A week and a half ago I wrote about how you can get instant and free car rental status from Avis and from National.

PointCentric points out that when you sign up for your Avis status you will be given a free 2-day weekend car rental.

[W]hen I got my confirmation email from Avis above, notifying me of my Avis First status, it included the perk of a free weekend rental! No previous rentals required! That email happened a few days ago but I waited to blog about until I received the coupon code and could test whether it works and it does.

Sign up online for Avis First status. You’ll need to enter a MasterCard credit card as your payment choice.

Just pay attention to the welcome email!

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. 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).

Last week I wrote a detailed explanation of the three different kinds of value that a credit card can give you. Understand which kind a given card product gives you, and choose and use accordingly.

This simple distinction is key to unlocking the value of rewards credit cards. And Forbes carries my explanation in simple form.

“There are three different ways a credit card can provide value and it is worth separating them out. First is the signing bonus,” explains Gary Leff, frequent flyer and founder behind website Milepoint.com.

A signing bonus is the amount of points that you receive when you start a new credit card. Signing bonuses change all the time, but a decent amount of points would be around 50,000. Some cards require you to spend a certain amount of money in the first few months in order to redeem your bonus. Others will just give you the points, even if you don’t rack up thousands of dollars on the card.

“After the signing bonus, there are some cards that offer you a lot of value for your ongoing spending,” says Leff. For ongoing spending, look for a card that offers your double points for spending money certain ways. Investigate your card options and see which ones might give you the best dollar to point deals.

“Finally, there is a whole set of cards that offer value for having the card,” says Leff. These tend to be airline credit cards like United or American that will give you access to lounges, priority boarding or free baggage when flying that specific airline.

“Alaska Airlines has a card that comes with an annual companion ticket, where the second person pays $99 plus tax no matter where you fly,” says Leff. “Having a card with one of those types of benefits doesn’t actually mean you need to spend money on it. Use the benefit and stick the card in the drawer.”

The best all-around rewards card is Chase Sapphire Preferred which has:

  • One of the best signup bonuses, at 40,000 points after $3000 spend within 3 months and 5000 more points for adding a fee-fre authorized user to the account and making a purchase in the same timeframe.
  • One of the best earning cards with double points on all travel and dining.
  • Some of the most valuable points, that transfer to several airlines (United, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Korean, Southwest, and Virgin Atlantic) plus hotel programs and Amtrak.
  • Has good benefits too, now including a primary collision benefit for renting cars. And has no foreign currency transaction fees.

The Chase Ink Plus Business Card has a 50,000 point bonus and earns the same points potentially even faster with quintuple points at office supply stores and on telecommunications services and double points on gas and hotels.

And the best benefits card is American Express Platinum although regular though non-elite flyers with a given airline may get the best benefits (like free checked bags, priority boarding) from their airline’s co-brand card.

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.

As American and US Airways split the difference on meal service and eliminate meals from nearly all flights under 1000 miles, United decides to go the opposite direction.

Scott Mayerowitz reports that United will add back meals in domestic first class for flights of 800 miles or more.

That would make United the most generous of the big 3, since Delta is sandwiched in the middle at 900 miles. Here’s what it means for United and its strategy

News and notes from around the interweb:

When the US Airways and American merger finally got the go-ahead, airline President Scott Kirby promised that US Airways would adopt American’s higher standards.

For meals, though, what’s actually happened is that the two airlines are splitting the difference.

Roughly speaking American served meals on two hour flights and US Airways on three and a half hour flights — they’ll settle in the middle at two hours forty five minutes.

Here are the specific time, distance, and offering standards that go into effect on September 1.

One additional September 1 change that I hadn’t seen reported before, but that is being discussed on Flyertalk (HT: Jeremy F.) is a change to the order in which meal preferences will be taken from customers. Continue to See the New Meal Ordering Procedure

The winner of the crown among the World’s Largest Airlines – such as it is, since it’s hardly as meaningful a metric as ‘best airline’ or ‘most profitable airline’ — is American Airlines, now that they’ve merged with US Airways.

When Delta merged with Northwest it became the largest airline in the United States.

Then United merged with Continental and overtook Delta. That left American at number 3.

Now, by most measures, things have shaken up again:

  • American and US Airways merged to create the nation’s – and world’s – largest airline by a comfortable margin.
  • United has struggled and Delta has grown. Delta has overtaken United as number 2 by aircraft, daily flights and passengers carried. (United still flies to more destinations than either American or Delta.)

Now, if you’re going to include American and US Airways as a single entity already – before they obtain a single operating certificate and fully combine operations – it might be fair to look at other airlines around the world and see what their combined operations look like. For instance, Lufthansa and Swiss and Austrian form the Lufthansa Group. And they also have equity investments in other carriers like Brussels Airlines. Taken together, Lufthansa has more revenue than anyone else. But excluding ‘mere’ equity investments they’re not as large as American.

Here’s the size of the four largest U.S. airlines at mid-year by the most common measures:

    largest airlines

These four airlines also carry more passengers annually than any other single carrier.

Number five – surprisingly, to me – is European low cost carrier Ryanair at 81 million.

Two European low cost carriers are in the top 10. The other, easyJet, is number 9 at 61 million.

The only European flag carrier in the top 10 is Lufthansa, number 7 at 76 million. China Eastern, China Southern, and Air China round out the top 10.

Interestingly, Emirates – which doesn’t carry the most passengers or have the most aircraft – comes in at number 4 for passenger miles flown (behind the 3 largest US airlines). That’s because they fly the most Airbus A380 superjumbos and they fly them long distances. And Dubai is a major cargo hub as well.

Emirates, in fact, flies nearly as much cargo as UPS does. Cathay Pacific and Korean follow Emirates as the commercial airlines carrying the most cargo.

News and notes from around the interweb:

Back in June I said that National Car Rental would bring back their 1-2-Free promotion.

And indeed they have.

You earn a free rental day for every two qualifying rentals (mid-size or larger for 2 days or longer) between now and the end of January — that’s more than a five month earning period. And of course it is on top of the usual credits earned.

Registration is required. And there are opportunities to earn points towards additional free days. Each qualifying rental earns 300 points, 600 points is a free rental day. Lots of small point activities, hard to earn the 300 points needed for a credit. I’ll get 50 points for connecting to Facebook. Add virtual credentials, downloading and making a reservation via the mobile app, and that only gets to 200 total points.

Referring a friend is as good as a single qualifying rental (300 points). That you can do pretty easily. Although to earn the points the friend must not just register but also make a qualifying rental. You can earn 3000 total points this way.

I don’t generally do week long rentals (200 points) or rent from neighborhood locations (200). I do not plan to rent in Mexico (300 points), add fuel service (250 points), or rent a GPS (250 points).

I also don’t generally reserve a specific premium car class (“Emerald Reserve Service” for 25 points). Although I did pick up my 25 points for visiting the ‘Drive Alliance’ website to learn about how National, Enterprise and Alamo are tied together.

Here’s how to get easy rental car elite status including from National. And how to maximize National’s free rental days.

Unfortunately, of course, the free rental days earned via the 1-2-Free promotion are good for a full size car at best, regardless of elite status. That’s fine of course, just not as generous as the free rental days earned normally — Executive Elite members can reserve premium cars on those free days.

Intercontinental’s Royal Ambassador elite level is in some ways the best elite status of any hotel program. It’s also one of the most vexing.

The positives are remarkable. On top of the usual elite level benefits one finds with the major chains, they offer:

  • Guaranteed 8am check-in, not just 4pm late checkout
  • Complimentary free drinks from the mini-bar

The minibar thing is ultra-cool. But after a few times over-indulging, and hosting parties in your suite, at least I find that you really just appreciate it for always having a bottle of water handy.

8 a.m. check-in is huge for arrivals in Europe and even some parts of Asia — knowing you’ll have a room after a long flight and without having to pay for the previous night. Read More…

Through August 31 — less than two weeks left! — ANA’s co-brand credit card a whopping 10,000 bonus miles for signing up.

Now, ANA has a pretty good frequent flyer program. It’s distance-based. Chicago-Tokyo roundtrip, for instance, is just 90,000 miles in business class. New York – London roundtrip is 63,000 miles roundtrip in business. They do add fuel surcharges to most awards.

Here’s the thing. Just to get 10,000 miles has to be the most convoluted process I’ve seen. It involves signing up for a TV subscription. And you have to submit your first bill to get credit.

It’s so complicated, in fact, that they’ve developed an infographic to try to make sense out of it.

Personally I think you’d be better off churning DirecTV subscriptions across different members of your household.

But I guess if you were going to get this anyway…

Lots of hotel coffee in the U.S. is bad, but tends to be so much better in Asia.

Coffee is important to me, a basic that I expect to be well provided-for by any full service hotel.

I was frustrated when the Andaz Wall Street got rid of their 24 hour complimentary espresso machine in the lobby as a cost-cutting measure. Without coffee machines in the room, and without 24 hour room service even that can be a big deal when you wake up at 5 a.m.

I always thought that the W brand’s ‘Whatever, Whenever’ concept was a good one though execution hasn’t often measured up. Like when the Whatever, Whenever line at the W San Diego couldn’t get me coffee at 5 am. The whatever part should have been easy since all I wanted was coffee.

None of which is bad, of course, as a hotel accusing you of stealing coffee.

Barbara DeLollis asks which hotel brands have decent coffee.

My wants:

  • A Nespresso machine in the room, with access to real cream
  • Illy brand coffee in the restaurant, or a good local quality brand

      Beans from the Andaz 5th Avenue, New York

I’ll often choose an airport hotel based on the availability of made to order coffee in the lobby, like at the Hilton JFK (although they have a problem showing up on time in the morning there…), knowing that if I’m staying near the airport it’s likely because I have a very early morning.

Does coffee matter to you, the way it does to me? What are your coffee needs?

In some markets, Uber is introducing Corner Store. They’ve just sent an email out in the DC market, for instance.

They’ll bring you what you want from about 100 items so far.

Items include things like sleeping aids, pain relievers, envelopes, Clorox, tissues, batteries, candy, baby wipes, and condoms:

If they’re in your market, here’s how it works:

  • Toggle to the CORNER STORE option Mon-Fri, 9am-9pm
  • Set your delivery location within our coverage area and confirm your address
  • Be prepared when your driver calls to take your order from our inventory list below
  • Upon arrival, meet your driver outside & confirm your order
  • As always, no cash required! Only the items you ordered will be charged to your Uber account (no additional fees)
  • Clearly Uber has to extend itself to other industries if they’re going to actually become worth their $18 billion valuation. I’m not sure they’ll get that by competing with the Stop ‘n Shop, and it isn’t nearly as cool as UberChopper but I could certainly see it having a use.

    If you haven’t used Uber yet they’ll give you $30 off of your first ride. (And I get the same for referring you.) In DC, UberX (a dude with their car) starts at $7 while a black car starts at $12. So make it a worthwhile ride to maximize the credit. For me, a black car from work to the airport is $29 or so for instance.

    Complimentary deodorant is apparently the number one wish from airlines by UK travelers. *

    I think this is misguided.

    1. Most people don’t smell because others fail to give them deodorant.
    2. Very few people who say they want deodorant are the same people who smell.
    3. We don’t really want to be given free deodorant. We want other people to be given free deodorant.

    Deoderant is cheap. Price — at least for those with incomes to support air travel — really isn’t a barrier.

    According to the CheapFlights UK survey, 40% of English adults have flown business or first class. If that were true, British Airways’ financial performance would be stronger. This is simply a reason to doubt the survey. Along with the following claim:

    Passengers who have received a free upgrade from economy are more likely to get one by flirting than by pretending to be ill or other deceitful means.

    Or their deceitful means are focused primarily on answering survey questions. Most passengers receiving complimentary upgrades are not doing so by flirting or faking sick. Although I suppose it’s possible that “more likely” means that 1 customer reported getting an upgrade by flirting (they could simply have been delusional) and none reported getting an upgrade by faking sick. We haven’t seen the underlying data…

    (HT: Alan H.)

    * I might have expected responses of “free dental work” or “food with flavor.”

    Today is free hotel status day here at View from the Wing.

    To add onto earlier posts about signing up for accounts that start off with elite status, it’s worth highlighting that you can still get Le club Accorhotels top tier Platinum status without actually staying at Accor Hotel properties.

    It turns out that Frequent Flyer Italia (yes, the blog is written in Italian but Google translates) flags that you can get this status when you own 50 shares of Accor hotels.

    You used to be able to sign up for Le club Accorhotels instant top tier Platinum status at will almost anytime.

    I last saw an opportunity at the end of 2013, though.

    So worth having your pocket that once you own 50 shares you can record them with Accor for top tier Platinum status. And current rules suggest you keep the status as long as you own the shares.

    As I write this the share price in Euros suggests a cost of 50 shares at ~ US$2368.

    What Platinum Status Gets You

    Platinum status usually requires 60 nights or 25,000 points earned.

    This status is far from the most rewarding, set your expectations accordingly. Earlier this year at the Sofitel London Heathrow, Platinum status meant an upgrade to a king bed.

    Your experiences should be better than that since the program has improved its elite benefits and in addition to bonus points-earning, Platinums now get free internet, early checkin and late checkout subject to availability, and lounge access when the eligible hotel has that amenity.

    Use This Status to Match to Another Program

    Many hotel programs now offer challenges rather than matches, but some like Club Carlson are willing to match Accor status generally.

    Get a Rebate for Your Accor Hotels Booking, Too.

    In addition to frequent sales offering discounts of 30% or more on the room rate, TopCashBack sometimes offers 8% or larger rebates on Accor hotels bookings. Start out at TopCashBack, your mileage may vary as to whether the offers will be stackable (whether your cash back will report). But it makes sense to try, as there’s no reason to leave money on the table.

    News and notes from around the interweb:

    The free mid-tier elite status offer has been extended through the end of 2014 for Visa Infinite cardholders and HSBC Premier members and perhaps others.

    Langham Hotels 1865 Voyager status normally requires 5 stays within 12 months.

    Key benefits are:

    • complimentary room upgrade subject to room availability)
    • free internet access
    • 6pm late checkout
    • welcome amenity

    Use this link to go to the enrollment page. Then enter the invitation code 453826123 into the top box and click ‘enter’. Membership tier should change to ‘Voyager’.

    The offer is valid through December 31, and status is scheduled to last for 12 months once you register. Status should get renewed with just two stays per year.

    A Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card comes with Gold status and United MileagePlus Gold members and above get free Marriott Gold status.

    But if you don’t have any Marriott status, then the company you work for may give you Silver just for showing up. I’ve covered this before, two years later the advice is the same.

    Here’s how Marriott signs up people at the Silver status level from a variety of companies that they have corporate agreements with.

    There’s a simple link, the format is http://www.joinmarriottrewards.com/account/silver/default.aspx?source=COMPANYNAME

    So the link for Accenture is http://www.joinmarriottrewards.com/account/silver/default.aspx?source=ACCENTURE

    And the link for the University of California is http://joinmarriottrewards.com/account/silver/default.aspx?source=UniversityofCalifornia

    … to give a few examples, each of which open new accounts at the Silver level. You can try to enter your own company name to see what’s offered, if anything. (For instance, Microsoft has a page which gives silver status, the IBM page does not.)

    The benefits of Marriott Rewards silver status aren’t exceptional, but it’s better to be Silver of course than a non-status guest.

    Whatever link you use, Silver status should be instant. It’s simple, they don’t need to check with Accenture’s travel manager to confirm employment, they just give you the status.

    More big news out today in frequent flyer-world:

    Thrillist has a piece today declaring the airline route that’s “the most popular/busiest in the world” Hong Kong – Taipei.

    At 4.9 million passengers last year.

    Wait just one second.. That didn’t sit right. That’s only about half the passengers as the route with the greatest passenger volume. And it took me a couple of minutes to figure out what’s going on here.

    The data being reported was for the busiest international routes by passenger volume. All of the many routes with more passengers are domestic ones.

    Here are the busiest international routes by passenger volume last year:

    And here are the busiest routes with most passengers, without excluding domestic flights.

      (Passenger count reported in thousands.)

    The latter data is showing 2012 passengers, and the chart with international routes only is passenger totals for 2013, but order of magnitude this should be correct.

    Six of the eight busiest routes in the world are Asian domestic routes. A seventh – also dubbed busiest international one in the world – only counts on international depending on whom you ask (flying between a Chinese ‘special administrative region’ and the Republic of China).

    Interestingly, this list doesn’t include any US domestic routes. Department of Transportation data suggests that 3 US domestic routes might squeak into the top 10.

    San Francisco – Los Angeles transports the most people, and that’s followed by another Los Angeles route — to New York — and another New York route — to Miami.

    Interestingly, though not on the list above, New York – Chicago actually has more daily flights between the two metropolitan areas than any other domestic route.. albeit with smaller aircraft and not always full.

    Unquestionably, the most important US market is New York followed by Los Angeles. San Francisco, Chicago, and Miami are key as well though a notch below.

    I answered a question earlier today that I realize could be useful to others — it’s basic stuff for the seasoned international traveler, but worth sharing for the first-timer going abroad: power adapters and converters.

    A converter alters the power so that it matches the needs of your device. For instance, Europe runs on 220 volt electricity while the US is 110 volt. Most devices do not need a converter. Nearly all modern electronics are dual voltage meaning they work on both 110 and 220 volts. You do not need a converter just an adapter so you can plug them straight into the wall. This almost certainly true for your laptop and mobile phone.

    On the other hand hair devices (curling irons, flat irons, hair dryers) that aren’t dual voltage [and most aren't] will need a converter, and you need one rated for the wattage of the device you’re using.

    An adapter makes your cord, shaped for US outlets, stick into a socket where the shape in other countries is different. You can by a cheap ‘universal’ adapter for ~ $10 or buy country-specific ones for ~ $3 with shipping.

    The question I was asked was specific to Europe and there’s no such thing as a Europe-wide plug. This underscores that while there are just a handful of different outlet types they do vary by country and for differing historical reasons.

    The UK has its own 3-prong outlets (also used in places like Hong Kong, I wonder why…). That’s different from France (2 prong, rounded) and also different from Italy. France’s is what’s usually termed ‘Europe’ though parts of Europe do use different outlets. If you’re buying country-specific adapters, make sure you have the adapter that will work where you’re traveling.

      European Power Adapter

    I’ve made a mistake before and used a device that required a converter, simply plugging it into the wall. I fried the (cheap) device and also blew a fuse in the room.

    One thing I do that both protects my device (a little) and means I don’t need as many converters or adapters is I’ll have one, plug into the wall, and plus a compact travel power strip into them. That way I can run multiple devices off a single outlet.

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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.