Saturday, April 27, 2013

Maximing intra-Asia travel by purchasing Avianca award miles

Intra-Asia travel is notoriously expensive, especially when you're looking into non-hub destinations like Sapporo and Hangzhou.  For example, fares between Sapporo and Hong Kong, a 5-hour segment, regularly run in excess of $800 USD roundtrip.  Even major routes like Tokyo to Beijing, a 3 1/2 hour segment, rarely fall below $500.  Due to outrageous pricing within these markets, award miles come in very handy for intra-Asia travel.

Avianca, the flag carrier of Colombia, joined Star Alliance last year and has a lucrative award redemption chart.  For example, flights between North and South Asia, which encompass all of East Asia, are only 30k award miles roundtrip. One-way awards can be purchased for half price at 15k miles, and there are no fuel surcharges.

Avianca's loyalty program, LifeMiles, is known for occasionally offering 100% bonus miles for purchasing award miles.  Their current 100% bonus miles campaign runs through April 30th, and $30 will get you 2k miles instead of the normal 1k miles, thus pricing miles at 1.5 cents per piece.  30k x 1.5 cents = $450, so from that angle alone, many intra-Asia destinations become reasonably priced.  Better yet, Avianca allows you to purchase 60% of the miles required for a redemption at the time of booking (in the case of a 30k intra-Asia trip: 18k miles) for 1.275 cents each, so you'll only need to buy 12k miles initially for $180.  When you're ready to book your award flight, simply purchase the 18k miles for an additional $229.68.  So in total, you're looking at $409.68 for all award travel within East Asia, which is an absolute bargain considering that you can fly with a combination of elite flag carriers like Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, ANA, Asiana, etc.

A real steal deal: roundtrip Sapporo to Hong Kong for $229.68 + 12k miles = $410

LifeMiles is a relatively new program, so changes, including award miles devaluation, can happen at any time.  But for now, this is the cheapest way to get around East Asia when they offer their 100% bonus miles campaigns.  Always check for award availability on their website before purchasing miles as availability may be sparse at best during the peak seasons.  Also, you need to have already been a LifeMiles member in order to take advantage of purchasing miles promotions, so be sure to sign-up for an account in order to be eligible for future 100% bonus miles campaigns.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Free Hilton HHonors Gold status with 6 easy steps

Hilton HHonors is one of the worst hotel programs in terms of points redemptions, but one of the most generous when it comes to elite status benefits.  Out of all hotel programs, only Hilton, Hyatt, and Starwood Preferred Guest offer free breakfast to top-tiered elites, and only Hilton offers it to their mid-tiered Gold elites.  In fact, one of the biggest gripes that top-tiered Hilton Platinum elites complain about is the general lack of differentiation between Platinum and Gold benefits.  That being said, Hilton is offering free Gold status for 1 year to Australian residents with a Visa Infinite credit card.  There are easy ways to circumvent the Australian residency and Visa Infinite card benefit, as outlined below:

1.  Login to your Hilton Honors account.  If you don't already have an account, you can create one for free.

2.  Create an Australian address by using this address generator.  Don't worry, you're not creating or replicating a real address.

3.  Change the address on your Hilton Honors profile to your newly generated Australian address.

4.  Generate a random Visa Infinite credit card number by using this website.  Scroll down to "Generate a credit card number" and select "Visa - Chase Manhattan Bank".  Replace the output with “4119 45xx xxxx xxxx” and hit generate.  Don't worry, you're not creating or replicating a real credit card number.

5.  Go to Hilton's Visa Infinite landing page and enter the credit card number that you generated.

6.   Gold status should be reflected on your account within 24 hours.  Then change the address associated your account back to your actual home address.

On top of free breakfast, Hilton Gold offers the following benefits as outlined on their website, many which are better than top-tier benefits for low-end hotel loyalty programs:
  • Space-available upgrade to a preferred room (Waldorf Astoria® Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™)
  • Quick Reservations & Check-In based on room preferences
  • Late Checkout
  • Express Checkout
  • Spouse Stays Free
  • Complimentary In-Room, High-Speed Internet Access during stays
  • Complimentary Access to Fitness Centers/Health Clubs
  • 2 Complimentary Bottles of Water per stay (Waldorf Astoria® Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Embassy Suites™, Hilton Garden Inn®, Hilton Grand Vacations®)
  • eCheck-in: Select your room and check in 24 hours in advance at participating properties
  •  Earn a 25% bonus on all Base Points
The Gold status offer is good through May 31st, 2013, but since Visa and Hilton can choose to pull it at any time, you should do it now.  You will be granted Gold status through March 31st, 2014.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard with 40,000 point sign-up bonus and 2.2% cashback

The Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard is offering a 40,000 mile sign-up bonus after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months of card membership, which is an easy threshold to reach.  Barclay "miles" are actual currency that can be converted to statement credit for 1 cent per mile, so the 40k mile sign-up bonus is worth $400.  But the real kicker is that the Barclaycard offers 2X miles for ALL purchases with no annual cap.  And if that's not already sweet enough, the card also gives you 10% miles back when you redeem your miles towards travel purchases, effectively increasing your cashback to 2.2% and your sign-up bonus to $440.

Typically, cashback cards aren't noteworthy because frequent flyer miles are worth more.  However, the Barclaycard is an exception with their 2.2% cashback.  One of the biggest advantage of cashback cards is the freedom to book without restrictions.  In the case of frequent flyer miles, you'll have to find an off-peak date with award availability in order to make your miles worthwhile.  But with Barclay miles, just book whatever flight, hotel, train, cruise, car, etc. that you want through any portal and you'll be able to redeem your miles towards it in the form of a statement credit.  You'll also be able to earn frequent flyer points with your respective carrier since your purchase still counts as a revenue ticket.  Some of the other card benefits include the following:

-No foreign exchange transaction fees
-$89 annual fee waived for the first year
-0% introductory APR for the first 12 months of card membership
-MasterCard's renowned purchase and travel protection coverage

The 40k sign-up bonus is for a limited time, so as always, don't delay.