Wendy Perrin and Randy Petersen Do Lunch

Wendy Perrin writes about her lunch with Randy Petersen in the Conde Nast cafeteria.

Having enjoyed lunch with Wendy there myself, I’m curious to hear how the pad thai was (I picked sushi), but I’m not sure I agree with all of the advice and predictions that Randy offered.

Wendy points out that Continental miles haven’t in practice been expiring (despite a policy that would allow the program to deactivate dormant accounts), whereas United expires miles after 18 months of account inactivity. Radny sees this as a huge issue:

Randy’s #1 piece of advice to the heads of the new combined program is: Do NOT impose an expiration date on Continental miles!

To me it’s a no-brainer for the combined entity to adopt United’s approach. United recently reported that they recorded a $64 million gain from expiring miles even beyond the revenue gains they expected and that was just for the first quarter of 2010.

Those are a lot of expiring miles that United will never have to redeem, it’s a lot of money, and I can’t imagine that a combined program won’t see the value in that for their bottom-lines. Perhaps it does erode the loyalty of infrequent customers, but as a very engaged member I find it really easy to keep accounts active and if that revenue funds the program improvements that are really necessary during the integration (no more Starnet blocking!) then I’m comfortable with the combined entity following United’s lead.

Randy says you can earn miles paying your mortgage from a Capital One bank account, and of course Capital One doesn’t charge foreign currency transaction fees with their credit card. Those are two perfectly valid reasons to engage Capital One. But it’s still worth underscoring that you shouldn’t use Capital One for anything else. A little advice is dangerous, and it’s important to remember that those points and that savings is worthwhile compared to alternatives in those very limited cases, but for everything else almost any major program’s airline mileage will be more valuable (even Delta’s… barely).

Wendy is considering the changes to the Continental credit card lineup and what they mean for her card of choice:

There’s a brand-new Continental Onepass Plus credit card ($85/year) from Chase that is not nearly as expensive as the Continental Presidential Plus MasterCard ($395/year) I currently carry. The main difference? The Presidential Plus card provides airport club access, while the Onepass Plus card does not. I’m scrutinizing the differences at this very moment to determine which better suits my needs.

Except, here’s the thing. The “Onepass Plus” card isn’t really a new card. It’s the same thing as the existing World Mastercard, plus an annual 10,000 mile bonus for spending $25,000 on the card. Continental has made elites who carry any Continental credit card eligible for upgrades on award tickets. But that’s not really part of the ‘new vs. old card’ question. And the unique selling propositions for the more expensive Presidential Plus Mastercard remain the same — Continental lounge membership, earning elite qualifying miles from spend, elites earn an extra 25% mileage bonus on flights, Avis Presidents Club status and Hyatt Platinum.

I do much agree with Randy on the value of one-way awards. I miss the ability to have stopovers on American Airlines awards (they now only permit stopovers at a North American gateway on international awards), but with American you also have their distance-based oneworld awards that’ll often work as a nice substitute. United’s one-way awards are way behind in value, but they’re still new. United needs to permit booking one-way awards by phone in addition to online, and to permit booking partner flights on one-way awards. Until then they’re of limited use (in part because of how stingy United has been with award availability this year).

Sounds like it was a fun lunch!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. The Continental card is available with first year fee waived. Since your system won’t allow posting of URLs in t his comment, see the Credit Cards > Annual Fee Cards page of my website, Free Frequent Flyer Miles.

  2. Stealth expiration of miles (as opposed to warning members, as Hilton does) sends the message that this company will stab you in the back you whenever and wherever it can unless you constantly watch over your shoulder.

    For some companies, this message merely confirms what the customer already believes, so there is no damage. I don’t put Continental in that category, but now that it’s United perhaps the balance of equation has changed…

  3. How do you earn miles for mortgage payments through Cap One? And why the anti-Cap One sentiment?

    Are they worse, or other banks/credit cards better?


  4. I wish you could have been there with us! The pad thai in the Conde Nast Cafeteria is not as good as the sushi, by the way. I’ll have to lure you back next time the lunch theme is Chinese New Year. 🙂

  5. Please give me a specifics on paying morgage with capital one? Do you need to have a bank account with them and a credit card? I looked on their website, but there is no information there. Can Capital one points be transferred to AA or other airlines?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *