Advice

Dear Alaska Airlines: This Is How You Win Back The Loyalty You Lost Today

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Early this morning I posted about the horrible devaluation Alaska Mileage Plan made to their award chart for travel in Emirates first class. The cost of Emirates first class award tickets increased between 67% and 100%. Those are some insane increases. It’s one thing if they had provided notice of these changes, but they didn’t, which I have a serious problem with.

When I first wrote about this, some people responded by saying “it’s their program, they can do as they choose.” That’s definitely true. All mileage programs are solely at the discretion of the airlines — they can change any aspect of the program at anytime without even having to provide a reason. Given what a commodity miles are becoming (and the direct opportunity cost to earning them, in many cases), that can be worrisome.

For example, over the weekend a friend of mine spent ~$1,000 to purchase Alaska miles so he’d have enough miles for a one-way Emirates first class ticket, as flying Emirates first class was his dream. He was planning on booking it this weekend, as he was just firming up his travel plans. And this morning he’s pissed, and texted me a bunch of four letter words — he spent cold hard cash on those miles, and based on the redemption he was pursuing, the value of those miles was halved overnight.

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How To Maximize Starpoints For Free Night Redemptions

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The biggest ever sign-up bonuses on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express are only available for one more day, through tomorrow.

Both the SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex are offering sign-up bonuses of 35,000 Starpoints upon completing minimum spend, with the card’s $95 annual fee waived for the first year.

I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each, meaning 35,000 Starpoints are worth $770 to me.

Starpoints are so valuable thanks to how versatile they are, including the ability to convert them into airline miles, redeem them for Nights & Flights packages, and redeem them for free night hotel stays. While we’ve talked about several types of ways to redeem Starpoints, I figured I’d talk about the most popular redemption of Starpoints in a bit more detail — how do you maximize Starpoints for free night redemptions?

If you’re exclusively looking to redeem Starpoints for hotel stays, you have three main options:

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Review: Baby Boss City Taipei, Taiwan

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I’ve already covered most of the things we did with the kids in Taipei. But I thought our visit to Baby Boss City deserved its own review as it is a fairly unique attraction, at least for those of us in the US, and I would have liked to have had more information to help plan our visit.

Baby Boss City is a simulated city where children aged 3-12 get to role play various jobs and get paid (in funny money), sort of like the real world. The idea is that it gives kids the opportunity to explore a variety of different occupations, and learn a few things along the way.

Apparently these type of “edutainment” attractions are becoming a thing. By my understanding, Baby Boss City is basically a copycat of Kidzania, which debuted in Mexico in 1999 and has since spread to 16 locations around the world. But there still aren’t any Kidzanias in the US, nor anything similar, at least that I’m aware of (the Kidzania wikipedia page says that one is opening in Pensacola, Florida, later this year).

Baby Boss City is not just an indoor playground, children’s museum, or amusement park. In fact, it’s nothing of the sort. The activities — or role-playing jobs — are highly structured affairs that occur at scheduled times throughout the day. Each job is led by one or more staff members and lasts for 20-35 minutes.

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Why Frequent Travel Can Lead To Sadness and Loneliness

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Back in 2014 I first shared a comment left by reader DJ, called “The Curse Of The Traveler.” I consider it to be the three most profound paragraphs you can read about frequent travel. The story explains why travel can be enlightening while also making one feel sad and lonely.

I know many of you have read this before, but it’s too good not to share again, for anyone who is new to the blog or missed it last time. I was reminded of it a couple of days ago, when a reader asked for a link to the story on Twitter.

Here it is:

“An old vagabond in his 60s told me about it over a beer in Central America, goes something like this: The more places you see, the more things you see that appeal to you, but no one place has them all. In fact, each place has a smaller and smaller percentage of the things you love, the more things you see. It drives you, even subconsciously, to keep looking, for a place not that’s perfect (we all know there’s no Shangri-La), but just for a place that’s “just right for you.” But the curse is that the odds of finding “just right” get smaller, not larger, the more you experience. So you keep looking even more, but it always gets worse the more you see. This is Part A of the Curse.”

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6 Things To Do In Taipei With Kids

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We really enjoyed our week in Taipei. Our trip coincided with Chinese New Year, and there were pluses and minuses to being there for the holiday. On one hand, traffic was very light around the Grand Hyatt, and some places had festive decorations. On the other hand, some attractions were very crowded, though I’m obviously not calibrated enough to know if it was any more crowded than usual.

The weather during our trip was fantastic. It was sunny and in the low 70s the entire time, which apparently isn’t necessarily the case for Taiwan in February. That really helped us enjoy being outside, which is probably one of the best ways to beat jet-lag.

I thought I’d share some of our favorite family activities for the week. For reference, my daughter and son were 3.5 and 5, respectively, at the time of the trip. Our youngest son was 5 months old.

Our family likes to hike and climb mountains, so a quick climb up Elephant Mountain was near the top of our list. The trail is very close to the Grand Hyatt, and would make an awesome early morning workout before a day of meetings.

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JetBlue Card & JetBlue Plus Card Benefits

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Early last year we learned that JetBlue and American Express would be cutting ties, after having a credit card co-brand relationship for about a decade. It was eventually revealed that Barclaycard would be taking over the contract, and that we’d see a lot of changes with the card.

This month Barclaycard launched their co-brand JetBlue credit cards — The JetBlue Card and The JetBlue Plus Card — and they’re actually rather compelling. In this post I’ll be sharing my overall thoughts on the card benefits, along with which card represents a better value.

To start, here’s a simple chart with the basic benefits of The JetBlue Card and The JetBlue Plus Card:

First let’s talk about how much JetBlue points are worth, since the above information is pretty useless without context on how much each point is worth. JetBlue has a revenue based frequent flyer program, meaning the number of points required for an award redemption is entirely dependent on how much a ticket would cost in cash.

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How Much Are American Miles Worth Post-Devaluation?

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Today is March 22, which is probably the most dreaded day of the calendar for us American AAdvantage loyalists. American’s huge award chart devaluation just kicked in, and many of my favorite awards went up in price by 60%+.

Doing an award search this morning and seeing that a US to Asia first class award now costs 110,000 miles one-way is pretty brutal, given that previously you could book such an award for just 67,500 miles.

Bye bye first class on Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, etc.

For reference, here’s what American’s new first & business class saver level award chart looks like for travel to/from the US:

With the above in mind, I figured I’d share how much I think American AAdvantage miles are worth post-devaluation. As a point of reference, before the devaluation I thought American miles were worth 1.8 cents each.

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Getting Approved For SPG Business Amex As A Sole Proprietorship?

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As I’ve mentioned many times before, we’re seeing the biggest ever sign-up bonus on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express through March 30, 2016. The details of the offers are as follows:

— For the SPG Personal Amex, get 35,000 bonus Starpoints after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within three months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
— For the SPG Business Amex, get 35,000 bonus Starpoints after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases within three months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

Keep in mind that you can be approved for both the SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex, for a total of up to 70,000 Starpoints.

Both cards are worth it for the fantastic sign-up bonus, return on everyday spend, and bonus elite qualifying stays & nights towards status annually. But between the two cards, the SPG Business Amex is the most compelling, given that it offers Sheraton club lounge access, which is a huge perk.

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Should You Visit Mauritius? Here Are My Impressions

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Different people look for different things when planning vacations centered around relaxation. Some people relax by hiking in mountains, while others relax by plopping down by the pool or on the beach with a good book.

Even within the category “beach/pool relaxation,” there are several types of amazing destinations you can visit. For example, Bali and the Maldives are both destinations known for relaxation, though they’re completely different.

The Maldives is spectacularly gorgeous, with the most perfect beaches and water I’ve seen anywhere. The catch is that it’s really expensive and secluded. Most resorts are on individual islands, so you won’t be able to experience much of the local culture. Instead you’ll just be exposed to artificial life at the resort. Which is great if your goal is simply to relax, but less great if you’re looking to mix relaxation with sightseeing.

Bali is completely different than the Maldives. Contrary to popular belief, most of the beaches in Bali aren’t that incredible, and the ocean isn’t crystal clear. I love Bali for the resorts with beautiful pools, the (comparatively) reasonable prices, the cool cultural activities (Bali has amazing coastline and also beautiful rice terraces and jungles), and most importantly, the people. The Balinese people are among the friendliest in the world, in my opinion.

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6 Awards NOT To Book Before American’s Devaluation

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As I posted a reminder of yesterday, today is the last day to redeem American AAdvantage miles before the devaluation kicks in. Some of my favorite awards are going up in price substantially, while others are staying the same, while some awards are even going down in price.

I know a lot of people still have awards to book today, and I’d expect hold times to be really long. Obviously if you’re wanting to book a first class award from the US to Asia, or a first class award from the Middle East to Europe, you absolutely should put in the effort to book today.

But I thought it would be interesting to talk about six awards you don’t have to book today, and in some cases shouldn’t book today. These are all for travel to/from the US, though there are certainly awards in other regions which aren’t going up in price either, and in some cases even going down in price.

The single most popular award for AAdvantage members is a domestic economy award, which starts at just 12,500 miles one way. It’s not surprising that American isn’t raising the cost of this, given how popular it is with members.

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Last Chance: Redeem Your American Miles Before They Devalue

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As was first announced last November, American AAdvantage will have a huge award chart devaluation for bookings as of Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

This post is a reminder that you have less than two days to lock in American awards before the devaluation kicks in. Don’t wait until the last few hours to do this, as I expect phone hold times will get quite long.

Remember that award prices are based on when you confirm your reservation, and not based on when you hold it. In other words, holding an award before March 22 and then ticketing it after won’t get you the pre-devaluation price.

However, you’ll get the old price as long as you confirm the reservation before March 22. It can take American a while to ticket reservations, so as long as you pay for it before March 22 you’re good to go, even if it only ends up being ticketed after.

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$20 Back On Dining Through LivingSocial Restaurants Plus

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Via FrequentMiler, there’s a new opportunity to earn cash back on dining purchases through the new LivingSocial Restaurants Plus program.

These are not the restaurant vouchers that LivingSocial typically offers. Instead, this new program allows you to link your credit card to your profile and receive automatic rebates when you dine at participating restaurants. This works similarly to the iDine/Rewards Network program which allows you to earn miles for dining — and there is even a possibility of a double-dip for cashback and miles!

After you signup for Restaurants Plus you receive 100% cashback on your first meal within 30 days of registration (up to $20), and then varying amounts up to 30% going forward.

At the moment only a handful of cities are part of the network (namely Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C), so if you don’t plan to be in one of those cities in the next 30 days I would wait to register until Restaurants Plus expands to a city near you or that you’ll be traveling to.

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Getting Approved For Chase Cards Could Soon Be More Difficult

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Credit card companies have been making changes lately to try and encourage profitable behavior and also cut down on the number of people applying for the same cards over and over. For example, American Express now restricts credit card bonuses to once in a lifetime, on both personal and business cards.

Last year Chase also instituted a new policy on their personal non co-brand credit cards (cards not issued in conjunction with another brand), like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Freedom® Card. Specifically, Chase is generally no longer approving people for these cards if they’ve applied for more than five credit cards in the past 24 months. We’re not talking about five Chase cards in the past 24 months, but rather five cards of any kind.

The logic is likely that they assume those with more credit cards are more likely to be getting the cards just for the sign-up bonuses, and therefore are less likely to be profitable customers.

As reported by Doctor of Credit back in February, this 5/24 (five cards in 24 months) policy will apparently be extended to Chase’s co-branded credit cards as of April 2016. Of course this comes from an unnamed source so I can’t confirm it, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s true. I assume the timeline has the potential to change, though if you want to be on the safe side you’ll want to pick up these cards in the next couple of weeks.

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Should Airline Employees Be Able To Fly First Class For “Free?”

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Different airlines have different policies when it comes to the flight benefits that employees receive.

At many airlines in Europe, employees can fly up to business class on a space available basis, but never first class.

At other airlines it depends on your rank, and only select employees can fly first class. For example, at Emirates only captains can fly in first class on a space available basis, while first officers and pursers can fly business class, and all other employees can only fly economy.

Meanwhile at American and United, all employees can fly any cabin, including international first class, on a space available basis.

In the above examples I’m of course excluding select management employees, who may get first class benefits regardless of what the airline’s policy is otherwise.

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