Uber $30 First Ride Bonus Is Back

Uber-30

As I’ve explained many times in the past, Uber is one of those companies that uses technology to make life better. When public transportation in a city isn’t good, I used to get really frustrated by the lack of options and taxi “mafias,” though for the cities in which Uber operates I love them. They have UberBLACK, which is the “standard” service and a bit more than a taxi, while they also have UberX, which is usually cheaper than a taxi. And thanks to the instant feedback loop (you rating the driver and the driver rating you), service is excellent across the board, in my experience.

Uber has long offered sign-up and referral bonuses, whereby both the person referring and the person being referred get a bonus. For much of last year, Uber offered a $30 referral bonus, though they ended that on November 23, 2014. Since then the bonus has instead been $20.

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Introduction: South America Via MileagePlus

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So you want to go to South America over the holidays like we did. Great! Lucky has plenty of reviews on getting down there… on American and LAN. But if you, dear reader, are like me and have a glut of United miles at your disposal, you don’t have a lot of options to get to Latin America. And god help you if you have SkyMiles!

Ultimately, there are three Star Alliance carriers that can get you to South America: United, Copa, and Avianca. If you’re aiming to go to the “Southern Cone” – that is, Argentina, Uruguay or Chile – as directly as possible, you’re really only left with United and Copa, which is what we flew on our trip to Argentina and Uruguay over Christmas and New Years’.

Being a reader of Ben’s blog, you may be used to trip reports about lavish turndown service on spacious first-class beds, about tins of the most exclusive Russian caviar served with free-flowing coupes of Krug or Dom.

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Guide To The Emirates A380 First Class Shower Suite

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In my over four million miles of flying, possibly the only time I’ve giggled uncontrollably was when I took my first shower on the Emirates A380. The state of modern aviation never ceases to amaze me, when you look at how far things have come. You have everything from flat beds to endless entertainment to wifi.

But there’s something indescribably awesome about flying 500mph at 35,000 feet and showering!

So while Etihad now has a shower on their A380 as well, I think Emirates still takes the cake for their onboard shower facilities.

I get asked lots of questions from first time Emirates first class passengers about the shower, so figured I’d make a quick tutorial on using/booking the Emirates A380 shower. Perhaps the most “first world” tutorial I’ll ever write.

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My 2015 Credit Card Strategy (And Why It’s Different From Ben’s)

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A few weeks ago Ben complied his breakdown of how he earned miles last year, which led to some interesting conversations about how us “normal people” go about earning miles.

One of the things I like to do at the beginning of each year is go through my credit card portfolio and draft up a bit of an outline for the coming months. Ben is constantly telling people to determine their travel goals and apply all this to their own lifestyle, and I thought it might be interesting to share a few more details about the approach my husband and I take when choosing the best travel credit cards for us.

So there are a few things that are different about our situation in comparison to Ben’s (but are maybe similar to yours):

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British Airways Reduces Award Fuel Surcharges… Slightly…

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British Airways is notorious for their outrageously high fuel surcharges, which are only exacerbated by the hefty UK Air Passenger Duty (APD), which applies if you have travel originating in the UK. While oil prices have dropped, for the most part fuel surcharges haven’t. Why? The most simple answer is because the airlines can… no one is holding them accountable.

Anyway, Head for Points notes that British Airways has lowered their fuel surcharges on longhaul award tickets.

Earlier in the week British Airways lowered fuel surcharges as follows:

— The fuel surcharges on roundtrip longhaul economy class flights was reduced from £229 to £209
— The fuel surcharges on roundtrip longhaul premium class flights was reduced from £359 to £329

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Hilton HHonors Changing The Way They Do Promotions

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There’s no denying that over the past few years hotel loyalty program promotions have become significantly less rewarding.

During the recession we got used to them offering a major global promotion just about every quarter, which made sense at the time, given that hotel rooms were empty, and those promotions got heads into beds.

However, now that hotel occupancy and rates are at a near all time high, hotel loyalty programs have certainly been less generous with promotions. For the hotel programs it’s a balancing act between:

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Last Call: United Global Entry Fee Payment Code

United Global Entry Benefit

Global Entry is an expedited immigration program that can make traveling internationally a relative breeze. It allows you to bypass the lines at immigration by using a kiosk rather than speaking to a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent.

The application process for Global Entry requires you to complete a lengthy application and then schedule an in-person interview at one of the various CBP offices, most of which are at airports. It also requires a $100 application fee.

For the past several years, United has had a Global Entry benefit whereby Mileage Plus members with Global Services, 1K, or Platinum status have been eligible for a payment code that covers 100% of the fee. It’s a very easy and seamless process — quite a rarity for United these days.

Sadly, United has announced that the Global Entry fee reimbursement will not be a benefit of the 2015 Mileage Plus program. So if you’re eligible and haven’t done so already, I would request a payment code ASAP.

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Qatar Airways Buys 9.99% Stake in British Airways Parent Company

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Qatar Airways is taking a page from Etihad’s playbook, as they’ve just announced a deal whereby they’ll take over a 9.99% stake in IAG, which is the parent company of British Airways and Iberia. The deal is worth $1.7 billion, and comes at a time when IAG’s stock is at an all time high.

Here’s the press release Qatar Airways has put out regarding the deal:

“As part of efforts to enhance operations and strengthen existing commercial ties initiated through codeshare agreements with IAG as well as its membership of the oneworld alliance, Qatar Airways has acquired a 9.99% stake in IAG.

Non-EU shareholders of IAG including Qatar Airways are subject to an overall cap on non-EU ownership as a result of the requirement for EU airlines to be majority owned by EU shareholders. Qatar Airways may consider increasing its stake further over time although this is not currently intended to exceed 9.99%.”

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The Search For MH370 Isn’t Over

Malaysian Airlines

Possibly the greatest mystery of 2014 was the disappearance of MH370, which disappeared shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014.

Today the story came out that Malaysia has officially declared MH370 an accident. Via Reuters:

“We officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident … and that all 239 of the passengers and crew onboard MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives,” Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said in a statement.

The announcement is in accordance with standards of annexes 12 and 13 in the International Civil Aviation, said Azharuddin. It will allow families of the passengers to obtain assistance through compensation, he said.

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Update Regarding Emirates First Class Awards Using Alaska Miles

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For a while now there has been an issue whereby Alaska Mileage Plan doesn’t seem to have access to Emirates first class award space for travel after March 28, 2015.

In the past we’ve seen blocking of award space between partner airlines when there’s too much of a redemption imbalance. This started back in the day between United and Lufthansa, whereby MileagePlus members didn’t have access to Lufthansa first class award space once a quarterly quota had been reached. We later saw the same between US Airways and Lufthansa, which ended up being even more punitive for Dividend Miles members.

A couple of weeks I speculated that Alaska not having access to Emirates first class award space wasn’t a coincidence. The partnership between Alaska and Emirates isn’t huge, though I have to imagine there’s a huge imbalance in terms of award redemptions between the two carriers.

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Why You Should Always Wait To Transfer Points

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By now I’m sure that everyone and their Grandma has heard about the upcoming devaluation to the British Airways Executive Club program, so I won’t recap it here.

Instead, I want to discuss the optionality of miles and points programs, particularly flexible points currencies such as American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or Starwood Preferred Guest points. These currencies have inherent “transfer options” built into them, meaning that you always have the option to transfer them to other miles and points programs, sometimes with a bonus. As a result, these programs have a degree of optionality implicit in their programs, meaning that you are presented with a choice, perhaps one you weren’t expecting.
In this post, I plan to discuss lessons from the stock market, and in particular options theory, to managing our miles and points most efficiently.

For roughly the past six weeks, the US American Express Membership Rewards program has had a promotion running whereby you receive a 40% bonus when transferring points to Avios. It’s the largest transfer bonus in several years and it’s set to expire on Jan 31, 2015, only a few days from now.

Therefore all of us with Membership Rewards points implicitly hold options that entitle us to convert 1000 Membership Rewards points to 1400 Avios. We can choose to redeem these options, or we can choose to let them expire. (Sadly, we can no longer easily “trade” them to someone else since American Express only allows points transfers to authorized users on the account.)

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How To Still Get Emirates Chauffeur On Alaska Award Tickets

Emirates-Chauffeur

At the beginning of the year I wrote about how Emirates eliminated chauffeur service for those booking through partner airlines.

Emirates has always been among the most generous airlines with chauffeur service, and has offered it free of charge to first and business class passengers regardless of the type of ticket or where they booked. In other words, even award tickets booked through partner airlines qualified for a complimentary chauffeur service.

However, as of 2015, only tickets issued through Emirates and Qantas qualify for chauffeur service. It’s an unfortunate though justifiable change.

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