Should You Redeem Your Starpoints At Ritz-Carlton Hotels?


It’s now possible to transfer points from Starwood Preferred Guest to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, and vice versa. I think that’s a fair ratio, so I’m quite pleased with that aspect of the merger.

As much as I love Starpoints, I’ll be the first to say that all around Marriott has more attractive redemption rates for most hotel stays; a lot of the value I derive from Starpoints comes from their flexibility, including being able to efficiently convert them into airline miles in virtually any quantity.

As a reminder, here’s Marriott’s free night chart:

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What Can Newly Minted Marriott Platinum Members Expect?


Well, I think Marriott has a lot of new Platinum members in the past 24 hours, thanks to all SPG Platinum members being able to match to the status. I think we all have a certain comfort in staying with our preferred hotel chains, as there’s a sense of familiarity and loyalty. We know what to expect. Learning a new system can be tough.

Several readers have asked if I could provide a rundown of Marriott Rewards Platinum benefits, and what can be expected. So that’s what I’ll do here.

Let’s start with a very simple rundown of Marriott Rewards benefits by status level:

Let’s talk about the straightforward perks first, which don’t require further explaining:

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What Are Miles Worth?


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.

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.) Last year I wrote a detailed series about how to determine the value of your miles, but there have been lots of questions lately as to how to know whether or not something is a good deal, so it seems a refresher is in order.

By examining how you earn and spend miles, we can hopefully establish some bounds around where your real valuation lies.

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7 New Opportunities Thanks To Marriott & Starwood Account Linking


It’s now possible to link your Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest accounts. You can also request status matches between programs, and even transfer points.

The “new Marriott” isn’t planning on launching a single loyalty program until 2018 at the earliest, so in the meantime there are tons of sweet spots for both programs to consider. Of course it’s entirely possible that over time they’ll start to align aspects of the programs, but in the meantime there are some great opportunities.

Anyway, I figured it would be interesting to look at some of them. I’m sure there are plenty more, but these are some of the first that come to mind. In no particular order:

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JetBlue Plus Vs. Barclaycard Arrival Plus: Which Card Should You Apply For?

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Barclaycard has really raised their game the past few months in terms of their US card offerings.

A few months ago Barclaycard introduced The JetBlue Plus Card, which I find to be fantastic, and also recently applied for. Meanwhile this past week they’ve increased the sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® by 25%.

With that in mind, I’ve been getting some questions from readers about which card is more compelling. Given that you typically have to wait a while between Barclaycard applications, are you better off applying for The JetBlue Plus Card or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®?

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within 90 days. Those miles can be redeemed for one cent towards the cost of a travel purchase, and you get a 5% refund on miles every time you redeem. Given that the card’s annual fee is waived the first year, I value the sign-up bonus at $525.

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Why Is First Class So Expensive?


Reader Weymar asked a question in the Ask Lucky forum about first class pricing. I’ll share the full post below, though if you don’t have the time to read it, the question ultimately comes down to why first class is disproportionately expensive, more so than the space it takes up on the plane. Do people really pay that much?

Here’s the question:

“Now I know that sounds like a really stupid question. First Class is so expensive because it costs more to provide; feel free to call me an idiot. But it seems to me first class fares are disproportionately priced. I’m going to use the example of the IAH-DME-SIN (and onwards to BKK on a separate aircraft) flight which I bought a few weeks before they announced they would cancel the route because of low yields. Also, I’m not trying to do meticulous scientific research on this, only to get a general idea so my math is’t going to be a 100% accurate.”

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Should You Transfer Hyatt Points To American With A 25% Bonus?


Recently we saw a 20% bonus on points transfers from Starwood Preferred Guest to American AAdvantage, which in many cases represented a good deal. That’s because one of the best uses of Starpoints is converting them into airline miles, given that they transfer at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. That means you can essentially get 1.25 airline miles per Starpoint.

Well, now another hotel chain is offering a bonus on points transfers to American AAdvantage, and I figured I’d look at the value of that.

You can receive a 25% bonus when you convert Hyatt Gold Passport points into American AAdvantage miles between September 15 and October 14, 2016. Bonus miles should be posted to your AAdvantage account within 6-8 weeks of when the transfer is requested.

The catch is that unlike with Starwood, Hyatt points don’t convert into American miles at a 1:1 ratio. Now, in fairness, Starpoints are a bit more valuable than Hyatt points on a per point basis, so that shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Instead, Hyatt points convert into American miles at 5:2 ratio.

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Everything You Need To Know About Clearing US Airport Immigration


If you’ve traveled to the US many times before then by all means skip this post. I realize that probably covers a vast majority of readers. However, there are also plenty of people who haven’t been to the US or who aren’t familiar with US immigration procedures.

Reader Newbietomiles asked a question in the Ask Lucky forum regarding immigration procedures on an upcoming trip from Dubai to Los Angeles to Seattle. So I figured I’d address that in general terms in this post, since I assume it’s a question many people have. The US is also pretty consistent when it comes to airport immigration procedures.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re terminating your travel at that point, connecting domestically, or connecting internationally. All passengers have to clear immigration and customs at their first point of entry in the US.

The US is one of the only countries that doesn’t offer sterile international transit, which can be quite frustrating. In other words, even if you’re merely connecting in the US between two international flights (like flying from Tahiti to Los Angeles to Paris) you still have to clear US immigration, which means you’ll need a US visa even for transit. It’s an annoying policy for sure.

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Why I Didn’t Request Miles For My British Airways Flights

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A bit over a week ago I posted about my mileage conundrum, where I was trying to decide whether to credit my British Airways flights between San Francisco and Rome to American AAdvantage or Alaska Mileage Plan.

British Airways partners with both programs, and I’ve already requalified for Executive Platinum status with American for the year.

As I explained, there’s merit to crediting to both programs:

— If crediting to American AAdvantage I’d earn marginally more redeemable miles, and I’d end the year at over 150,000 elite qualifying miles, getting me an extra two systemwide upgrades
— If crediting to Alaska Mileage Plan I’d earn MVP Gold status, which would get me useful benefits when flying Alaska, and the ability to change and cancel their awards for free

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My 2 Favorite Amex Cards For Maximizing Points


Reader Victor asked the following question by email:

“I’m a bit new to this frequent flyer travel world. I got the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Freedom® Card. Got the bonuses on both cards. I’m just under 90k ultimate rewards points. I’m looking to get another credit card and I’m leaning towards the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card. I’ve pretty much learned the combination of Sapphire and Freedom to maximize my value of points. I really want to start traveling the world starting in 2017. I was wondering if you can help out by guiding to which Amex’s would you say work best like the Sapphire and Freedom, or if you can give me any pointers.”

It sounds like Victor is off to a great start. In general American Express sign-up bonuses aren’t quite as generous as those offered by Citi, though on the plus side there are a few Amex cards that offer an exceptional return on everyday spend.

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Is There No Good Way To Get To Tahiti On Miles Anymore?


As much as I suck at relaxing, I do love traveling to relaxing destinations. Having a beautiful place from which to work is my definition of relaxing, so I’d like to think I appreciate an overwater villa in the Maldives as much as the next person.

While I’ve been to the Maldives a couple of times, I’ve never made it to Tahiti (or more specifically, Bora Bora). That’s unfortunate, given that it’s actually much closer to the US, and only about an eight hour flight from LA.

Starwood recently announced their annual 35% off sale for resort points redemptions, and one property in particular caught my eye — the St. Regis Bora Bora. The hotel is available for 39,000 Starpoints per night, and with a fifth night free it would cost an average of 31,200 Starpoints per night.

That’s still a lot of Starpoints, but it seems like a great motivator to finally check out Bora Bora, given how stunning it looks in pictures.

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We Just Redeemed 150,000 Airline Points For Gift Cards… Oops?


I don’t think there’s more of a mileage faux pas than redeeming your hard earned miles for gift cards or merchandise. With saver level award availability seemingly more limited than ever before, airlines are offering more ways for you to redeem your miles, including for merchandise and gift cards.

For example, through the United MileagePlus Merchandise Mall, you can redeem 40,600 MileagePlus miles for Bose headphones that would retail for $300. That’s like getting less than three quarters of a cent of value per mile.

Or you can redeem Membership Rewards points for gift cards at the rate of one cent per point. Given how many great uses there are of Membership Rewards points, I couldn’t imagine redeeming points that way.

So this isn’t how you should redeem your points… but I also just advised Ford to redeem 150,000 airline points for gift cards. Let me explain.

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Do You Ever NOT Want To Sit Next To Your Travel Companion?

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Pretty soon Ford and I will be headed to Italy via London in British Airways business class. This is thanks to a super cheap ~$1,100 business class fare that British Airways published a while back, making this a no brainer.

I’m not a huge fan of British Airways business class, to put it mildly, but at least this time I’m coming in with the right expectations. I’m paying slightly more than economy would cost, and for that I’m getting a great deal in what I consider to be one of the most underwhelming fully flat business class products out there.

However, I still can’t decide whether or not to sit next to Ford on the flight.

Why, you might ask? After all, presumably you’re traveling with someone because you want to spend time with them, and in my case there’s no one I’d rather spend time with than Ford. However, in British Airways business class the window seats are significantly better than the other seats.

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What Everyone Ought To Know About Redeeming Miles


It’s one of those weeks where I’m answering a ton of questions about the basics of using miles. The mechanics are important of course, and understanding how alliances work and how to transfer points is critical for booking an award ticket.

There are some almost philosophical considerations as well. I think that most people would have a much easier time redeeming miles if they considered some of these factors.

I consider myself to be more-than-decent at ferreting out award space (though many, including my colleagues, are way better). I have a good sense of trends, know what is likely to be available when and on what airlines, know all the transfer partners, and most of the sweet spots.

And sometimes, none of that matters.

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