Thursday, January 12, 2017

JetBlue makes streaming Wi-Fi free for everyone

JetBlue was a little late to the in-flight Wi-Fi game – early on they said that they were waiting for the much faster second-generation options to become available. I also think they expected their DirecTV to tide people over while they waited.

I've used their "Fly-Fi" internet on many of their flights and it's fast and free – like 10x faster than the GoGo option that most other carriers have but it still didn't allow you to stream video. For that they offered an un-throttled paid Wi-Fi option that was fast enough to stream Netflix, Hulu, and the like.

Well, JetBlue put out a big press release yesterday that seems very oddly-worded, so allow me to rephrase it: JetBlue now offers streaming-speed Wi-Fi for free on all of their flights. The pay option is gone. This might completely change what I watch on board...

They also made a point to mention that it works even when the plane is on the ground, which is nice considering how crummy my reception often is on many airport tarmacs.

JetBlue now has DirecTV at every seat AND free streaming-speed Wi-Fi

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Finally found a way to earn bonus points at Amazon.com

I'm not a huge Amazon customer mostly because I try to buy as much as I can from the amazing Essex Market near my house. It's a slice of old school New York that's still hanging on and I want it to be around forever. But there are lots of times when I need something they don't carry, and since I have zero loyalty to the dozen local Walgreens I could walk to, I'll buy online.

One of the nice parts of buying online is that you can use shopping portals to get airline points from your purchases on top of whatever points your credit card gives you for the purchase. The EV Reward website lets you comparison shop which portal is offering the highest bonus for a given merchant. It may seem small, but it adds up – last year I earned 50,000+ points with shopping portal bonuses.
EV Reward results for Macy's (click to enlarge) 

Unfortunately Amazon.com basically never partners with any of these portals (I'm guessing they want you to use their own Amazon credit card if you want rewards). But there are those times when Amazon's price and availability means that zero bonus is still the best option.

Recently, though, JetBlue announced that they're offering 3x points per dollar when you shop on Amazon via their affiliate link. To get your JetBlue bonus points:

  • Log in to your TrueBlue account, 
  • go to the TrueBlue home screen if you're not already there,
  • click Our Partners, 
  • then Amazon, 
  • then Click Shop and Earn

This passes a unique token to Amazon so you get your JetBlue bonus for your purchase. The token expires after 24 hours and you'll have to repeat the process if you want to buy more. It doesn't work for their mobile app.






Monday, January 9, 2017

I just converted my Virgin points to Alaska points...

Alaska's buyout of Virgin became official last year. The two airlines slowly merging operations and we've reached the point where you can transfer your Virgin points to Alaska points. Each Virgin point will get you 1.3 Alaska points. Make sure you have your logins for both programs and then head here.

Once I clicked Confirm, it took about 10 minutes for the transfer to complete. There's also some talk over at The Points Guy that some people are getting 10,000 point bonuses as part of the points plan merger (that's not happened for me yet, though).

They're also reporting that you can now redeem Alaska miles for Virgin America flights...

UPDATE: and there's now a page (log in to your Alaska account before you click) where you can link your Alaska account to your Virgin one so if you have Elite status on one, you'll have status on the other.



AARP

I'm in my mid-40s and that's about the time junk mail starts showing up encouraging you to join the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

EEEK! 😜
My first reaction was always to scream and rip the letter up and throw it into the trash. Well, it seems that in recent years they've drifted away from identifying as an association for old people and are much more like a buyers' club – like the AAA (American Automobile Association). I have to admit, I actually joined largely because they have a standing offer of $400 off British Airways Business and First Class flights. Yes, I'll happily slay my silly youthful pride for $800 off a trip for two of to England.


As I've been planning our trip to Hawaii, I've found that having an AARP card also managed to knock $40 a night off of the hotel we wanted to stay at in Honolulu, and around $40 off the cost of our car rental in Kona. Considering a one-year membership costs $16, it's more than paid for itself just on the Hawaii trip. There doesn't appear to be any age limit for joining, so take a look at the vast list of discounts they offer and see if you think it's worth it.

One hotel stay paid for our membership several times over!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hawaii planning


When I first started nerding out on points years ago, I noticed that FlyerTalk.com forums were full of posts from novices pleading for advice for getting to Hawaii. The subject line was always, "HELP!!!!" and then continued with:
"It's my honeymoon so you HAVE to help me!  …And the honeymoon is in 10 days!  …And I want to fly direct to Maui from Omaha!  …And I want to be in First Class! …And I have 8,000 points total spread across six frequent flier accounts!" 
Needless to say there weren't many happy endings on those posts 😜

Well, now it's my turn to start sifting through all of that advice I skipped over all those years – I'm taking my first trip to Hawaii. My in-laws are there on a work assignment outside of Hilo, so we're going to try to get out to see them at the tail end of New York winter, when you're 110% sick of the snow and slush.


Here's a few things I learned:

  • Flights to Hawaii are all during the day
  • Flights from Hawaii to the East Coast are all 11-hour overnight flights, so a lie-flat seat would be ideal on that leg
  • Most of the First Class seats to Hawaii are normal 38" domestic recliner seats
  • A few airlines have lie-flat seats on flights from the East Coast (Delta, United), but you have to be really careful to make sure you're booking the right flight. (SeatGuru.com is your friend!)
  • Delta's direct JFK service is Winter-only (ending 25 March). Their lie-flat Business Class is around $1700 round trip – less than half the cost of United's lie-flat service, and still cheaper than Hawaiian's domestic recliners. 
    As is so often the case, United is laughably more expensive for an inferior product
  • An economy round-trip is around $800 on all the carriers, so Delta's First Class is essentially double that price. United and Hawaiian want a minimum of triple the economy price for first. 
  • I still have around 100k United points, but after looking there's basically zero Saver rewards in First and spotty Standard reward availability on the non-stop flight. So that's 180k miles (per person, round trip) in lie-flat First on days I don't like, with a per-point redemption value below 1¢. (Remember, anything below 1¢ is a terrible deal). But it's irrelevant in any event because I don't have 360k points, even if I transfer in from Chase.

    You're going to need 180,000 miles AND flexible dates if you want an award seat on that non-stop flight
  • Hawaiian airlines is slowly rolling out lie-flat First, but the rollout isn't complete until 2018. From this thread on Flyertalk.com, it sounds like their flights to Asia will get the lie-flat service first, but then The Points Guy posted that the JFK-Honolulu run will get the lie-flat seats starting Feb 2017...
    Hawaiian's new lie-flat seat (click to enlarge)
  • You can use JetBlue points to redeem for Hawaiian Airlines flights but you have to do it over the phone and you get about 1¢ per point. Of course AFTER I did all of this research The Points Guy publishes a full guide to the various JetBlue/Hawaiian redemption values :) 
  • Many carriers offer direct service to smaller Hawaiian cities like Hilo, but only from the West Coast. Most everything from the East Coast routes through Honolulu.
  • If you're connecting through Honolulu to other parts of Hawaii, double-check the cost of booking that leg separate from your long haul. I saw several instances where a cheap island hop connection was adding $500 to my itinerary. 


What we did

Since there were no good point options we decided to pay for our flight. Once I actually priced out a split itinerary (Economy there, First on the way back) we'd only be saving around $300 a person by flying in Economy on the leg out there. For a 10-hour flight it seemed worth it to spring for First both ways. I booked through the Amex Travel portal so I'd get another bonus point per dollar in addition to the 3 points I get on airfare from my Amex Premier Rewards Gold card. During checkout, I noticed this (the framing of the window says I get 2x points from the Amex portal for Delta flights). If this is correct I'll earn 5 Amex points per dollar (8500 Amex points!) for my flight in addition to the 5 Delta points per dollar.  




Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 Points roundup

Looking back on 2016, the travels we got to take were truly the bright spots in an otherwise dismal year. But it also makes me grateful for the health and prosperity that allows us to travel. I started this blog in 2013 largely because I wanted to share the knowledge I'd gained about traveling for less. Travel opens your eyes to the world and ergo to yourself, and I think it generally makes the world a better place when we see how others live. 

That said, the most common question I've gotten in 2016 is "love the blog, but how are you making all of those miles?" And to that question, I decided to compile a list of 2016's point earnings and churnings.

Earnings



Korean Airlines Credit Card targeted signup bonus – 40,000. This came in super handy paying for our flights to and from Japan...


Chase Sapphire Reserve signup bonus – 100,000. I think half of the United States got this card this year! I recently read that Chase is spending several hundred million dollars just to pay for all of the perks that come with this card.

Chase Sapphire spending – 90,000. Chase has bonuses in Dining and travel so those helped me boost my earning on everyday spend here. I also had the Boracay trip in mind and knew they had tons of award space yielding well above 2¢ per mile so I chose to put one of my company's estimated quarterly tax payments on my card. With Payusatax.com you pay a 2% convenience fee, so as long as you know you can redeem above 2¢ in the near future it can be worth it.



Amex Offers Bottega Veneta – 20,000. What can I say, I was grief shopping after the election...

Amex spending – 100,000. Looking over the year the biggest "pop" I get on monthly spend is buying paid airfare through the Amex travel portal so I get 4 Amex points per dollar spent in addition to whatever I earn from the airline for the flight. Some tips for using their portal.

The second-biggest item is the shipping charges for my company (I have a personal and a work Amex). FedEx earns a 3x bonus and that also adds up.


LOL the only United pic I have on this blog is my "goodbye United" shoe pic
United – 11,000. I didn't fly United at all this year! I despise flying out of Newark so United starts off at a "-3" rating even before I get off the AirTrain. Once they pulled their PS planes from JFK, there was no escaping it. Even our normal Puerto Vallarta flight ended up being on Delta this year. Still, they have some great partner redemptions with their miles and many have super reasonable co-pay prices. I use the United Mileage Dining program to earn bonus miles at select restaurants, and I use their shopping portal to take advantage of bonuses at places I'm going to buy holiday presents at anyway.


Earning Delta miles on a China Airlines flight
Delta – 6000. Our flight to Vallarta was paid on Delta, as was our flight to Kalibo from Taipei on their partner, China Airlines.



JetBlue – a lot :)

This one is too hard to calculate. My husband flies a lot for work and we have a family account so that complicates the math. He used to fly United for work, but then they did this at the end of 2014 and he decided to jump over to Mint for work travel. On top of his flying:
JetBlue.com shows the two of us accruing a total of 180,000 points, including all of those bonuses. Oddly, though, we didn't redeem JetBlue points for any of our flights this year. Since "earn and burn" is the mantra I'm guessing we'll try to burn some of these points in 2017. Given that their points are fixed-rate (around 1.4¢) and that they only have one redemption partner (Hawaiian Airlines for 1¢ each), the miles aren't the best to have, but they're free. 


Churnings

  • Closed my Chase Sapphire Preferred card (in favor of the Reserve Card)
  • Closed my Barclays Arrival card in favor of the new JetBlue Plus card (they both offer Chip + PIN backup, so your card will work in foreign train ticket machines)
  • Closed my JetBlue Amex/Mastercard in favor of the new JetBlue Plus card
  • Closed my Chase Ink Business in favor of Amex Business Gold
  • Looking ahead to 2017, I might get the Chase United card again if I'm eligible for the 60k signup bonus (Chase got grumpy about churners and instituted a "5/24" rule)


Monday, December 19, 2016

Korean Airlines canceling flights due to pilots' strike


I just got an alert from Korean Airlines that a pilots' strike is going to cause a bunch of flight cancelations the 22nd through the 26th of December. Details here, but so far it looks like no North American flights are going to be impacted.

International cancelations (click to enlarge)