Advice

Best Oneworld Emerald Lounges?

Qantas-First-Lounge-Sydney-18

Reader Robert asked the following question in the “Ask Lucky” forum:

“I spend quite a bit of time travelling long-haul Business Class on OneWorld with Emerald status. I have found that on a lot of airlines, traveling out of their home airport in business with Emerald status, can leave the lounge experience feeling like a cattle call (DFW on AA, LHR on BA etc). With that in mind, I would like to pose a “corner case” question. What, in your opinion, is the best long-haul RT you can take in business as a OneWorld Emerald?

I would propose MEL-HKG-MEL on Cathay is your best option. Cathay consistently has an excellent business class hard and soft product; and this trip would let you use the Qantas First Class Lounge in Melbourne then the new Cathay “The Pier” or “The Wing” or even the new Qantas lounge in Hong Kong.”

This is a fun question! So if I’m understanding correctly, Robert is asking about the best combination of a great business class onboard experience and great oneworld Emerald ground experience for a given roundtrip.

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Airline Vs. Airlines Vs. Air Lines: Which Is Correct?

Delta-Air-Lines

Totally random Sunday night observation/question/topic of discussion. What’s the correct term for those companies we fly with?

You have American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates Airline, etc.

All the time I see airlines quoted in the media by incorrect names. Today I saw an article about Delta Airlines and Emirates Airlines. Neither of which are how the companies choose to refer to themselves.

But aside from what these companies self identify as, what’s actually the correct term?

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3 Tips To Get More Value From Economy Awards

That's some impressive award availability. Is this really Delta?

Last week I wrote a three part series about how to think about the value of your frequent flyer miles. The entire series could have been boiled down to three points.

1. The awards for which you redeem set an upper bound on your valuation.
2. The time and effort you expend to earn miles set a lower bound.
3. You should only redeem miles when you can get more value out of them than you “paid” to acquire them

Well, some folks read a little too much into it and got the idea that I was saying you should never redeem for economy awards because they have a lower redemption value. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The irony is that the original concept for the post was supposed to be about why it’s OK to redeem for economy awards. I intended to show that by explaining how you just need to make sure you are getting a decent redemption value.

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Pay Any Bill By Credit Card — For A 1.99% Fee

Promotional rate sign-up screen

It has long been a challenge to pay certain bills with a credit card. Personally, I’ve long wished for a convenient and easy way to earn miles while paying our mortgage every month. It just always seems like a big sink-hole of an expense just sitting there begging for a way to get some mileage out of it.

Well, that wish has been granted.

Plastiq is a somewhat new service that allows you to pay any bill by credit card for a 2.5% fee. But for a limited time, they are lowering the fee to 1.99% for those paying with an American Express or Mastercard. (Visa is still 2.5%.)

I’ve used the service for about a month with good results.

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Should You Complain On Flight About Bad Service?

American-A321

Reader Craig posted an interesting question in the “Ask Lucky” forum. While it’s a fairly long story/question, I do think it raises an interesting question, which is why I think it’s worth answering here:

I have the utmost respect for the majority of crew. I understand parts of their jobs are tough and rather thankless and I generally give them alot of leeway in regards to attitude but when should you challenge something that I believe is incorrect behaviour? I am sitting in 1A on a AA transcontinental fight JFK-LAX. It was a 10am departure so it’s not a red eye fight but I had a long previous night and a quick look around the cabin show 9 other pax trying to get some sleep with the seats flat and blinds down. I say trying as the crew (5 currently with the odd guest) are in the forward cabin, lights on, no curtain drawn having what could only be described as a loud gossip session with the requisite loud talking, laughing etc. This has been going on since the rather rushed and rote lunch service.

My question is: do you complain about crew whilst on the flight? After being unable to sleep even with Bose headphones on I got up and went in and asked, politely, that I and from the look of it the rest of the cabin would like to sleep so could they draw the curtain and perhaps talk quieter?

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Miles Aren’t Free: Establishing An Overall Value

mind the gap

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the idea of free travel. The reality is that miles have a value just like any other currency you hold. You can choose to redeem them for a first class ticket, or for an economy ticket, or for a toaster. And in each case, you are getting different redemption values. It’s not to say that any of those redemptions are wrong, per se, but you should at least be aware of how much value you are getting each time you redeem miles. You can use that information to set an upper bound on your personal mileage valuation. I explained that concept in Part 1 of this series, How To Value Your Redemptions.

On the other side of the coin is mileage earning. Nowadays it’s possible to earn miles in a lot of different ways, from credit card sign-up bonuses, to shopping portals, to mileage running, to plain old actual flying. Even though it may seem like it, most of these miles aren’t really free. They either took some effort to obtain or there was a choice to earn cash instead, so there was a trade-off. The fact that you chose to earn miles instead of cash — or not at all — says a lot about how you value your miles. Just by undertaking a given activity, you are implicitly stating that you value your miles at more than it costs you to obtain them. This was the focus of Part 2, How To Value What you Earn.

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Miles Aren’t Free: How To Value What You Earn

money tree

Figuring out how to value frequent flyer miles is tricky business. Most people have a vague concept of what a mile is worth to them, but if you press them on it, they don’t really know how they arrived at that number. Worse yet, if you start to question them about how they earn or redeem miles, their past behavior is likely to tell a very different story.

In Part 1 of this series, I showed how to calculate the redemption value for your award tickets so that you can start to think about what your redemption behavior says about how you value a mile.

— If you redeem 25,000 miles for a $500 domestic economy ticket, you redeemed your miles at 2 cents per mile (CPM)
— If you redeem 100,000 miles for a $4,000 international business class ticket, you would have gotten 4 CPM
— Neither of those redemptions is right or wrong, but they do tell us something about how you value miles.

If you are willing to accept a 2 CPM redemption, then that must be the upper bound on your personal mileage valuation. Simply put, if you valued your miles higher than that, you wouldn’t have redeemed that award and would have chosen to pay cash instead. But it could be lower than that. We just don’t know yet.

Now we need to think about establishing a lower bound. To do that, we’ll look at the money and time you invest to acquire miles. But first we have to get past the notion that you got the miles for free.

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How To Choose A Credit Card Outside The US

Sicily-5

There have been oodles of questions over on the Ask Lucky forum about credit cards lately, from all corners of the globe. In the US, maximizing credit cards are one of the easiest ways to earn miles and points, so it makes sense that people would want to find ways to get similar benefits in other countries.

I have a decent handle on international credit card options, but my understanding is by no means exhaustive. So I thought it would be helpful to go through what I look for in a credit card, and what you should look for in a travel card. This is somewhat separate from taking advantage of promotional welcome bonuses, and is intended to be general advice that will help you choose the best option no matter where you live.

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Miles Aren’t Free: How To Value Your Redemptions

Redemption range for miles

One of the first things I try to encourage people who are just starting out is to think of their miles as currency — you generally paid something to get them either in time or money, and you will get something of value when you redeem them. In other words, you might have Delta SkyMiles, American AAdvantage miles, or United miles in your frequent flyer account just like you might have Dollars, Euros, Pounds, or Yen in your wallet. All of them have some value, and they all have different values relative to each other. Determining those values, however, is tricky.

The reason you want to start treating your miles like currency is so that you can make smart decisions about when and how to acquire miles and when to redeem them . Simply put, you should want to get “good” value when you spend your miles the same as you want to get “good” value when you spend your cash. Because in some ways, the two are fungible in the sense that pretty much everything that can be bought with miles can also be bought with case. (The converse is not true.)

I’m not going to tell you how you should value your miles, and honestly, nobody else can tell you that either. (Though you can see how Ben values his miles here.) What I am going to do is describe a framework that you can use to think about what your behavior says about your intrinsic mileage valuations. By examining how you earn and spend miles, can establish some rough bounds around where your real valuation lies.

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When Should You Buy Miles?

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-54

As I’ve explained in the past, there are generally three main ways I accrue points:

— Through flying. I fly 400,000+ miles per year, and over half of those miles are flown on revenue tickets, which allows me to rack up quite a few miles that way.
— Through credit card spend/sign-up bonuses. Through a combination of big credit card sign-up bonuses and maximizing credit card points through everyday spend, I rack up quite a few points that way.
— Through buying miles. Often times airlines will sell miles at a discount, and in many cases it can represent a great value, in particular for international premium cabin award tickets.

So when people ask me about the best way to earn miles, I typically won’t say that flying is the best way to earn them. That’s because for the most part mileage running is “dead,” so my 200,000+ flown miles on revenue tickets are mostly for travel I have to make. In other words, I’d generally argue it doesn’t make sense to get on a plane to earn miles.

For American consumers with good credit and responsible spending habits, I’d argue credit cards are the single best way to earn points. There are many great sign-up bonuses out there, and also many cards which are extremely rewarding for everyday spend.

But what if you don’t usually travel a lot for work, and/or aren’t in the US with a good credit score?

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6 Words You Should Never Hear At Hotel Check-In

St-Regis-Beijing-07

On a high level, I think the major hotel chains do an amazing job delivering a consistent experience and executing elite benefits.

There’s an important distinction to understand between airlines and hotels. Airlines operate their own planes, train their employees in a consistent manner, etc. In the case of hotels, the major hotel chains basically just have management contracts with the individual hotels, and don’t actually own them.

This is why you’ll notice that some hotels are really stingy with elite benefits, while others aren’t. Some hotels only reluctantly “buy” into the loyalty program business model, while others are huge supporters of it, and see the value in treating guests who are loyal to the chain (as opposed to just the individual hotel) well.

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