United Award Accelerator Rates Improved

United Airlines Award Accelerator is a product that United offers on its itineraries, domestic or international, in order to allow you to purchase United miles. You can purchase both redeemable miles (miles for which you redeem an award) and Premier Qualifying Miles (miles for which you qualify for elite status).

These rates are dynamic. They depend on what type of itinerary you have and the time of year, among other things. I have a mix of domestic and international flights booked so I was able to check out some rates. The rates for PQMs are still terribly high, ranging from 11-14 cents per mile, so I disregard them.

The rates for redeemable miles on my domestic itineraries aren’t great at 3.3 cents per mile (CPM). However, on my international itineraries, the rates for redeemable miles have gotten to a low point that I haven’t seen in a while – as low as 2.1 cents per redeemable mile.

ua-award-accel-2

$378  for 18,000 redeemable miles works out to be exactly 2.1 cents per mile.

How to View Your Award Accelerator Offer

View your existing reservations while signed into your United account.

You will then see your award right below your flight details and it will look like this:

ua-award-accel-1

Click “Get Extra Miles” and you will see your offer.

Is it a good deal?

That’s always the question. For the most part, I don’t advocate buying miles at a rate of 2.1 CPM.

There are much easier ways of earning miles at much lower rates – credit card sign-up bonuses, Bluebird, buying & liquidating gift cards.

Even though the 2.1 CPM rate is the lowest the Award Accelerator has been in a while, the only reason I might utilize it is if I was just short of an award that I had to book right away and needed the miles ASAP.

Otherwise, look to more cost-effective ways to earn miles.

Facebook American Airlines AAdvantage Passport Challenge – 700+ Easy Miles

I love when airlines and hotels dive into the social space. American Airlines is doing just with their latest Facebook game – AAdvantage Passport Challenge. American is marketing this as a way to earn over 10,000 miles, but we’ll be realistic about it.

  • Play trivia and other games to earn up to 700 miles
  • Share and complete social actions to earn up to 350 miles
  • Fly our expanded network to earn over 9,000 miles

You must have a valid American Airlines AAdvantage loyalty account to participate. The challenge runs from today until May 23, 2014. Here are the full terms & conditions.

I spent 15-20 minutes running through all the easy ones (trivia & sharing) and ended up with 1,200 miles.

Not bad for a few minutes of clicking around

Not bad for a few minutes of clicking around

Here’s a tip so you don’t spam your friends on Facebook. When the share to Facebook popup appears in some of the Learn & Earn tasks, click the bottom left dropdown to adjust with whom you’d like to share. Click “Custom” and select Only Me. Now you won’t be spamming everyone your news feed and you still get the extra sharing points!

There are also up to 9,500 bonus miles for actually flying on American, US Airways, or oneworld partners.

All in all, this is a nice game and a good method of marketing for American Airlines!

A Machu Picchu Anniversary: Introduction

Introduction
Avianca Business Class New York (JFK) – Bogota – Lima
Sheraton Lima Convention Center
Avianca Business Class Lima – Cusco
Palacio del Inka & Cusco

I think a place as epic as Machu Picchu is on almost everyone’s list of places to visit before they die. For Joann and me, the list is pages long but I’d say the great Incan estate appears on the top half of that bucket list.

The idea of going somewhere for our anniversary first came up when I wrote about a very lucrative US Airways promotion. Basically, the targeted promotion stated that if you redeemed your US Airways Dividend Miles by March 31, 2014, you would receive 10-50% of them back. It really made us think.

I remembered a discussion we once had about the New7Wonders of the World and how any of them would be awesome places to visit.

After a few days of brainstorming and figuring out time off, we decided to go for Peru and Machu Picchu. Even though we’d be headed there during the rainy season, at least there would be fewer tourists and it would be an experience nonetheless.

Machu Picchu, Peru

By Pedro Szekely at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/

Planning

The best way to make the most of this promotion was to travel in Business Class. Since most Business Class awards are around 100,000 round trip (according to the award chart), this would be great for us to maximize the mileage rebate that US Airways was offering.

With Dividend Miles, searching for Star Alliance award space is easy with Wandering Aramean Travel Tools (WATT). What Seth does over there is great. The specific tool I used was his Star Alliance Award Search. More or less it mimics the results that United.com will give you but in a more efficient way (i.e. +/- 2 days per search). For $15 a year, it is a must-have and a bargain compared to other tools out there.

Hotels for this trip were very easy. We are flush with Club Carlson points, due to Joann having the credit card, so we booked two nights at the end of our trip at the Radisson Miraflores in Lima. We’ll also be utilizing the best perk of the Club Carlson Visa – redeem at least two award nights and receive the last night of the stay FREE! So we are redeeming 38,000 Club Carlson points for two nights.

The rest of the hotels went to Starwood, another program that we need to whittle down. We are doing an overnight in Lima on the way to Cusco so we redeemed a measly 3,000 Starpoints at the Sheraton Lima Hotel & Convention Center. Not bad when the rate was $135.

While in Cusco and Sacred Valley, we’ll be staying at two Luxury Collection hotels by Starwood – Palacio del Inka and Tambo del Inka.

The Palacio del Inka is a Category 4 hotel where we used Cash & Points – 5,000 Starpoints + $75 per night.

The Tambo del Inka, which will be our base for exploring Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, is a Category 5 hotel. We used 12,000 Starpoints per night for this.

In the end, this is the routing we ended up with. We’ll be exploring Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley and, of course, Machu Picchu.

Not bad for 100,000 miles each in Business and receiving 30,000 of those back!

Our Routing to Lima & Cusco
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

One Week Remaining to Book Your Pre-Deval United Awards

With the United devaluation looming, I hope everyone’s ducks are in a row when it comes to booking awards. I’ve been busy booking awards for friends, family, and clients who definitely want to use their United miles before they become worth a lot less.

As I detailed before, the biggest hit comes to the best part of the United MileagePlus program – premium cabins on partner airlines. Some awards are going up as much as 80%!

Should you burn your United miles?

Yes… but only if you have somewhere you’d actually like to go! If you’re planning a trip in 2014, definitely figure out if you can utilize your United miles for it before February 1. Consider this your last minute push to start planning a trip.

If you primarily redeem your miles for Economy travel, I wouldn’t worry so much. Most coach travel will remain unchanged. The ones that do increase only do so by 5-15K miles; nothing outrageous.

Here is the differences in the current and future award chart in Google doc form.

Am I burning my own United miles?

Not exactly. While I have just booked 3-4 awards out of my own United account (for my parents), they were in Economy. As I said before, most Economy awards are either staying the same or going up a reasonable 5,000 miles round trip.

However, the North America to South Asia coach award is going up 15K miles round trip.

ua-south-asia

Since my parents travel to the Philippines often, this would be a problem. That’s why I booked a few trips for them while the award only cost me 65K round trip. Saving 15K miles per trip is definitely a reason to burn miles!

In Closing

So long to some of the greatest travel experiences I’ve had in First Class thanks to United miles! No need to sulk; it’s just time to hustle harder and find the next big way to game the system!

Seat 2A

Thai Airways First Class – Seat 2A

Royal Orchid Spa

Royal Orchid Spa

Notice those sweet lamps

Swiss First Class. Notice those sweet lamps

Laurent-Perrier champagne

Laurent-Perrier champagne

All the first courses

All the first courses

Reminders Before the End of 2013

As we come to the end of the year/quarter, there are several bonuses and promotions wrapping up. Tuesday, December 31st will be the drop dead date.

Chase Freedom 4th Quarter Bonus

5x Ultimate Rewards points on Amazon.com and select department stores. This was an easy set of categories to rack up $1,500 worth of spend. If you haven’t, buy some Amazon e-gift cards for yourself for future use!

Discover IT 4th Quarter Bonus

The Discover IT card is basically their answer to the Chase Freedom, with rotating category bonuses every quarter. This quarter’s was “online purchases” which made it really easy with all the online shopping for the holidays + the points-manufacturing schemes like Amazon Payments.

American Express Membership Rewards British Airways Transfer Bonus

Get 20% more Avios bonus will end on Tuesday as well. Obviously, don’t transfer points without an award in your sights. The only exception to that rule is when you plan on cancelling a card. We’ll be cancelling Joann’s Platinum card so instead of downgrading or straight up losing the points, we’d rather get a transfer bonus on points we’ll be sure to use.

Cathay Pacific’s Last London 747 Flight

Gary writes about Cathay’s last London Boeing 747 flight, as these Queens of the Sky are being retired from service. As of now, there are 6 First Class award seats available! That’s the kind of New Year’s Party I could get into. You can use the aforementioned Amex-Avios transfer bonus to redeem for this momentous occasion. It will cost you 90K Avios + $456.

American Express Platinum $200 Airline Credit

Don’t forget that one major perk of being an Amex Platinum cardholder is a $200 airline credit every calendar year. It’s meant for incidentals like baggage fees or buy-on-board food, but it absolutely works when buying gift cards to your designated airline. I recently purchased a $200 American Airlines gift card and was reimbursed in 2 days.

American Express Sync Promotions

Amex has had some great promotions going throughout the year that are scheduled to end on the 31st. My favorite was the Amazon one, just in time for the holidays. Deals We Like has compiled a comprehensive list of the promotions along with their expiration dates. Be sure to take advantage of them if they fit your needs!

Although most of the Sync promotions are due to end on the 31st, my guess is that they’ll be re-upped for 2014.

Other Things To Remember

In 2013, the year of the devaluation, be cognizant of the upcoming changes. Hyatt is the first to change in the new year, making several changes to their award chart that go into effect on January 7, 2014.  United’s new, more expensive award charts will go into effect February 1, 2014.