Alternatives To Being Loyal To Hilton HHonors?


Reader Adam left the following comment on the Ask Lucky page of the blog:


I had a HORRIBLE experience at the new Hilton Garden Inn Oceanside in VA Beach this past weekend. The funny part is that the Hurricane weather was the least of any issues! The breakfast was horrible. We waited over 90 minutes to be seated and served, and the food was disgusting. The lady who checked us automatically signed us up for the points vs. breakfast (we are GOLD), so i had to go and fix that before breakfast even started. The night before the hotel restaurant was on an hour long wait (due to being understaffed, as was breakfast). Room service made up the room and did a horrible job, including leaving beach sand all over the entry way. We checked out less than 24 hours later on Friday morning and I demanded all my points back (180K). Waste of a July 4th weekend.

What’s your opinion of Hilton brand compared to SPG, Hyatt, etc for stays in the US? I realize that there aren’t as many SPG and Hyatt’s but this was not a good view.

I’ve stayed in nice HGI’s before but I wonder if it’s really still worth achieving $40K in spend to get diamond status on Amex Surpass… versus focusing on SPG???”

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No Change Fee To Upgrade American Award Ticket


Over the past few years we’ve seen airline award tickets not only get more restrictive, but also come with increased fees for changes and cancellation.

One of the more generous programs when it comes to award ticket change and cancellation fees is American AAdvantage.

American AAdvantage cancellation/redeposit fees

In order to redeposit an AAdvantage award ticket, American charges $150 for the first passenger, and $25 for each additional passenger on the same record locator. In other words, if you need to redeposit an award ticket and have three people on the same record locator, you’d pay a total of $200 in cancellation fees, which is quite reasonable.

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Review: Korean Air Lounge New York JFK


I had spent the week prior to this trip in New York City (staying at the Grand Hyatt and St. Regis). Rather than going straight to JFK, I actually had dinner with Andrew and his mom. She’s quite a fascinating character, and as much a fan of Neil Diamond as I’m a fan of One Direction.

Anyway, we made it to JFK Terminal 1 shortly after 8PM, plenty early for our 10:55PM flight to Warsaw. While I think JFK is a horrible airport, there’s something that makes me so excited every time I pull up to it as the sun begins to set, knowing just how many different places in the world people are jetting off to.

LOT’s check-in counter was located in the middle of the terminal, and to my surprise there weren’t many people at check-in. There was no wait at all for business class check-in.

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Star Alliance Air India Award Availability


GOOD MORNING! There are certain milestones we all remember in our lives. For some it may be their wedding. For some it may be the day they met Justin Bieber. For some it may be the day they were deflowered by Lufthansa first class. For me it’s definitely the day that Air India joined the Star Alliance, which is today.

The courting process between the Star Alliance and Air India started back when I was still in diapers, and today it actually finally really actually really finally happened…. really! As of today — July 11, 2014 — Air India is a member of the Star Alliance!

Anyway, I’ve always wanted to try Air India’s first class product, which is available on their 777-300ER aircraft. They have a total of four first class seats, so in terms of the overall first class “cabin footprint,” it’s probably very similar to TAM.

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Which Credit Cards Are In My Money Clip Now?


Yesterday I wrote a post about which credit cards are in my wallet. The name of the post may have been a bit of a misnomer, because they aren’t actually the cards that are physically in my wallet, but rather the ones that I have open.

Reader Michael T left the following comment on the post:

“As per your title, do you actually keep all those cards in your “wallet”? Or are some locked away somewhere? If so, which of those cards are actually in your wallet?

PS It occurs to me that since you’re living in hotels, you may have no choice but to literally keep all those cards in your wallet. But 14 cards makes for one thick wallet…”

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Flying Lufthansa First Class During World Cup!


Hallo van de Nederland! I would say good day, but for most people here that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Let me start off by saying that I’m not some crazy soccer nut. I’ve been Tweeting occasionally about the World Cup, and I’ve gotten a lot of responses along the lines of “since when are you a soccer fan?” The answer is only when it’s convenient and my country is doing well — I suppose you could call me a “bumper sticker” soccer patriot. ;)

It has been exactly four years since I previously watched soccer. Ultimately I enjoy soccer a lot more than American football or baseball as it’s more “continuous” (why bother having a clock in football when you stop it every six seconds?). So oddly I get really into soccer during the World Cup, and then don’t give a crap again for another four years.

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Best Credit Card For Maximizing Hyatt Points & Benefits


I’m a huge fan of Hyatt, and end up staying at their hotels more than any others. I find they do an amazing job of managing expectations with elite status, and rarely have stays that leave me disappointed (even if some of their properties — particularly in the US — are a bit bland).

Anyway, regarding Prem’s question, I figured I wouldn’t just answer it, but also answer the bigger question of “how do you use credit cards to maximize Hyatt stays?” which isn’t quite as straightforward as one might expect.

If you’re not a Diamond member, Hyatt also offers one of the most generous top tier status challenges of any hotel program.

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Around the World on 90k Part II: Blowing Through the Horn of Africa


At the airport, we visited the Air China Business Class Lounge. They seemed to be going for a mid-90s motif, which made me wonder if they stocked Zima and free AOL installation CDs. I took a quick shower (it wasn’t exactly luxurious, but did the trick). We debated whether to change our plans due to a terrorist threat, and decided against it. Then we boarded our flight for Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Airlines’ 787 seemed to be in better condition than the one we flew with LOT a few days earlier. The cabin itself was beautiful – I loved the color scheme. My remote control was working, and there was no masking tape holding the seat together. I had heard really positive things about the friendliness of Ethiopian’s cabin crew. Ours was merely ok – their smiles seemed as genuine as Joan Rivers’ face, and they didn’t seem interested in making conversation. It was strictly business.

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Maximizing Virgin America Elevate New Member Bonus

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Yesterday I posted about Virgin America’s promotion for new Elevate members. Not only are they offering new Elevate members 500 points just for signing up, but they’re also offering bonus points after you take your first flight.

They’re basically offering bonus points to both the person being referred and the person doing the referring to Virgin America Elevate. When the new member takes their first flight by December 31, 2014, both members will earn the following number of bonus points:

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Air India Improving First & Business Class Meal Service


Travel experts worldwide recognize Air India as offering the world’s ninth best first class product. ;)

According to some, what really sets them apart is their meal service:

“Don’t forget about the most important feature to any flight: the food. From lamb chops, to kabob’s, you’ll never be disappointed—because who actually eats those pretzel bags they hand out?”

Air India will be joining the Star Alliance tomorrow, July 11, 2014, and it seems like they’re sprucing up their first & business class meal service on select flights as a result.

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American And US Airways Align First Class Meals


When airlines merge they have to “align” policies, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the mergers we’ve suffered through the past two years, it’s that this usually translates to taking the worst policies of both airlines as the new “standard.” As of April, US Airways adopted some American premium cabin service standards, including adding glassware in domestic first class on all flights, adding meals on slightly shorter flights (previously only on flights of over 3hr30min, then on flights over 2hr45min), etc.

Still, there’s quite a discrepancy between American’s premium cabin meal policy and US Airways’ policy, so we knew there would be more aligning on the way.

As of September 1, 2014, American and US Airways will fully be aligning their meal policies, and if you’re used to American’s system, you won’t like it.

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Which Credit Cards Are In My Wallet?


Last November I wrote a post sharing which credit cards are in my wallet. More accurately I should say which credit cards I currently have “open,” since I sure don’t carry all my cards in my wallet.

Which credit cards do I have in my wallet, and why do I keep them? A rundown of the cards I have, their annual fees, and what motivates me to keep them. I pay annual fees on many cards which I don’t spend a dime on, and it makes perfect sense to do so.

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