Category Archives: American Airlines

US Airways MasterCard – How do you keep me hangin’ on?

Set me free, why don’t you baby?
Get out of my life, why don’t you baby?
‘Cause you don’t really love me
You just keep me hangin’ on

– Said The Supremes (and Barclaycard)

Yes, this song pretty much describes my relationship with the US Airways Premier World MasterCard. I never planned on maintaining a long-term relationship with this card. When I applied for it, I fully intended to take a very mercenary SWAT-team like approach to owning the card – swoop in, meet my minimum spend, collect my bonus miles and cancel the card before the next year’s annual fee kicked in. However, Barclaycard had other plans for me …

So why collect miles on an airline I never fly?

US Airways is the primary carrier for a lot of people – just not for me. To this day, I’ve never set foot on US Airways metal. However, at the time I originally applied for the US Airways MasterCard, the airline was, along with my primary carrier United, a member of the Star Alliance. This fit in very neatly with my “miles & points accumulation & redemption” (aka Pointing) objectives. In addition, US Airways’ Dividend Miles frequent flyer program offered a number of “sweet spots” on its award chart (e.g. only 90,000 miles to China, Hong Kong, Korea or Japan) and historically the program regularly offered 100% bonuses for either purchasing or transferring miles. I looked on the Dividend Miles program as a way to diversify my Pointing efforts and protect myself against potential devaluations (like United’s earlier in the year!).

US Airways Chairmans Offer

Note: This offer is no longer available.

In the end, as I outlined in an earlier post on this subject, I opted for a signup offer that not only gave me 40,000 miles after my first purchase but also 10,000 miles after the first anniversary of account opening, an additional 10,000 miles on each subsequent account opening anniversary AND waived the first year’s annual fee. Barclaycard had me hooked.

For the times (and airline alliances) they are a-changin’

However, a few months after receiving my card, US Airways and American airlines announced plans to merge. Upon hearing this news, I naturally assumed that the days of the mileage gravy train I was riding were numbered and that within a year or so I would lose these great benefits. Sooner or later I’d have to say buh-bye to my US Airways MasterCard. However, it looks like I have a reprieve.

The argument for holding on to my card

This week, I received an email that officially announced the news that US Airways & American Airlines would be merging their frequent flyer programs in the second quarter of 2015. The companies provided a timeline for the key integration events.

US Airways American Airlines Integration

Once the programs merge, my existing Dividend Miles will be converted into American AAdvantage miles. This upcoming event is what served as the catalyst for me to encourage (umm … push) my Partner F to simultaneously apply for both a Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantageWorld MasterCard and the US Airways Premier World MasterCard. I go into more detail on this particular Pointing strategy in my earlier post: Combining American and US Airways Miles – Taking Advantage of Reaping Dividend Miles. Post-merger, the US Airways MasterCard will become an American Airlines AAdvantage MasterCard and will be closed to new applications. Therefore, the clock is ticking on this particular offer.

However, the US Airways MasterCard isn’t going away quietly. I received another email this week that provided me with a pretty lucrative bonus mile offer.

US Airways MasterCard 15,000 Bonus Miles Spending Offer

By spending a minimum of $500 per month on the card over the next three months, I’ll receive 15,000 bonus miles. The timing is “perfect” (for BarclayCard that is) in that my annual fee will be coming due in the middle of this period. That creates quite the incentive for holding on to the card for another year.

Finally, rounding out this AAdvantage / Dividend Miles charm offensive was a third email.

US Airways 10,000 Mile Anniversary Bonus

BarclayCard will be continuing my anniversary bonus and provide me with 10,000 AAdvantage miles annually.

Taken together, these developments build a pretty compelling case for holding on to my card. The value of the bonus miles that I’ll be receiving justifies the cost of the annual fee. In addition, the big bump I’ll be receiving in a major loyalty “currency” like AAdvantage miles fits into my broader Pointing strategies and provide me with another option for mixing and matching awards.

The Moral of the Story

These are factors that I considered in making the decision to keep my US Airways MasterCard. All of these changes also emphasize the importance of regularly monitoring the shifting landscape of the miles and points world. You need to be prepared to assess how much value you’re receiving from your cards and make adjustments to “what’s in your wallet” as appropriate.

How about you? How do you decide whether to “keep or cancel?”


Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that I am NOT a professional financial advisor by any means.  My discussion of credit card strategies or other financial matters are based on my own personal experiences and financial situation. In addition, I am not an employee of any of the financial institutions that issue the cards discussed nor do I receive any compensation for discussing these products. The reader is solely responsible for any financial actions that he/she may choose to undertake. Make sure you read of the “fine print” in the Terms & Conditions for all of the offers mentioned.

Redeeming Frequent Flyer Miles – Mixing and Matching Awards to get us Back to Bangkok

Earlier this year I was going through a period of travel withdrawal. I was sitting in our condo reminiscing about our great summer trip to Italy and London.

Positano Fruit Stand Lemons

Our new jobs on the Amalfi Coast

Posing with Londi Character on Thames South Bank Centre London

New Friend in London

In addition, we just returned from spending our New Year Holiday in Amsterdam and Paris …

Amsterdam Canal and Houseboats December 2013

Eiffel Tower Paris January 2014

… and I realized we had no travel plans on the horizon. It was time to start planning our next trip!

My Partner F and I funded both of those journeys largely through the redemption of our household stock of miles and points – our Points Kitty.  In fact, it’s through Pointing that we’ve been able to afford to treat ourselves during the limited amount of vacation time that we both have.  Since, I booked those trips about ten months earlier, through a strategic use of credit cards for our daily spending, we were able to rebuild a pretty healthy miles and points balance.

However, my diversification strategy meant that my miles and points were spread out across various accounts. How, then, do you craft an itinerary that gets you where you want to go ? The key to mixing and matching is through the use of two features of many frequent flyer programs: One-Way Awards and Airline Alliances.

For example, most of the major airlines allow you to redeem one-way rewards for half the cost of a round-trip award.  There are, however, notable exceptions (e.g., US Airways charges you the round-trip mileage price for one-way awards) so it’s important that you check the specific rules for the airline on which you’re redeeming your frequent flyer miles.

In addition, you should realize that you don’t have to redeem the miles on the airline you usually fly.  The major legacy U.S. carriers each belong to one of the three major airline alliances. Specifically, United is aligned with Star Alliance, Delta with SkyTeam and American with OneWorld.  What this means is that passengers can earn as well redeem miles with any of the members of your “home” airline’s alliance partners.  In addition, the upcoming merger of American and US Airways also creates additional opportunities for redeeming awards with the OneWorld alliance.

So where do we go from here? Well, having survived the Midwest Polar Vortex and the transformation of my hometown into Chi-beria, I knew that I wanted to go someplace warm for our next winter holiday.

Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort Infinity Pool

Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort

In addition, with United’s major devaluation earlier in the year, I knew I wanted to burn up the remaining stock of MileagePlus miles on which I was sitting before the new award chart kicked in. As I geeked around on United’s website running through various potential itineraries, I discovered availability for two First Class award seats from Chicago to Bangkok for the late Winter dates I was seeking.

Wat Arun Bangkok Sitting on the temple steps

Wat Arun  – Temple of Dawn Bangkok

Although we’ll be flying United on the initial leg of the trip, the airline’s Star Alliance affiliation enabled me to book space for the next segment on Thai Airway’s new Airbus A380 super jumbo jet (something very important for an aviation geek like me!). One of the great things about United’s reservation website is that it allows you to check award availability not only on its own planes but also those of most of its Star Alliance partners (LOT Polish Airlines and Singapore Airlines being notable exceptions).

Star Alliance LogoI find United’s website the most user-friendly for Pointing newbies and for researching relatively straightforward award itineraries.  Other options for searching Star Alliance availability include the reservation sites for ANA and Air Canada’s Aeroplan.

However, once we made it to Thailand, how were we going to make our way home? Since I had just used up my MileagePlus reserve, I turned next to my bank of American Airlines AAdvantage miles.  American is part of the OneWorld alliance.

OneWorld Logo

The airline’s reservation website only allows you to search partner award inventories for airberlin, British Airways, Finnair, Qantas, Royal Jordanian and US Airways.  Since we were returning home from Asia and I needed to check availability on partner carriers originating in that region, I used British Airways’ award reservation site to check for availability. Fortunately, I found two Business Class award seats on Cathay Pacific that would get us home via Hong Kong. Once I found the flight numbers, I called back American and booked the itinerary over the phone using my AAdvantage miles.

In the end, our mix-and-match award itinerary looked like this:

Chicago to Frankfurt in United First Class (Star Alliance)
Frankfurt to Bangkok in Thai Airways First Class (Star Alliance)
Bangkok to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific Business Class (OneWorld)
Hong Kong to Chicago in Cathay Pacific Business Class (OneWorld)

We’re definitely looking forward to this trip and to escaping the Chicago winter. In addition, we’ll have the opportunity to experience premium class service on Thai Airways and Cathay Pacific – two airlines I’ve heard great things about and which will be “new” to us.  Finally, this trip will represent another travel “first” for us.  As you can see, this itinerary will enable us to circumnavigate the globe on a single trip. In other words, we’ll be going “Around-the-Word in 12 Days.” I see some fun trip reports ahead for us – stay tuned!

How about you? Have you ever booked an award trip by mixing-and-matching loyalty programs? I’d love to hear about it.

Combining American and US Airways Miles – Taking AAdvantage of Reaping Dividend Miles

I’ve never flown on a US Airways flight. It has been two years since I’ve stepped foot on American Airlines metal.  Why, then, am I collecting miles on airlines that I never fly?

Well, a good Pointer, umm, makes it a point, to diversify their balances across multiple loyalty programs.  I’m already directing my daily spending towards accumulation of the major points currencies. However, another element of my Pointing strategy is to participate in selected frequent flyer programs that align with my broader award redemption goals.  For example, I’m a member of Lufthansa’s Miles & More program because I’ve developed a somewhat unhealthy fascination with the airline’s First Class service (oh, and the Rubber Duckies that are available in its First Class Terminal). Similarly, amassing American and US Airways miles provides me a way to access awards available through another one of the major airline alliances.

combining american and us airways miles

Most of my awards to date have been redeemed on such major Star Alliance carriers as United, Lufthansa and Thai Airways. However, both American and US Airways belong to the OneWorld alliance whose fellow members include such airlines as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Qantas. In addition, the ongoing merger between American and US Airways has provided a window of opportunity to collect (and eventually combine) a lot of frequent flyer miles pretty quickly.

Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage World MasterCard 50,000 Bonus Miles Offer

Currently, an offer for 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles (after making $1,000 in purchases within three months) is available through both the American Airlines and Citi websites for the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World MasterCard.  However, a better bonus offer is out there! For example, my Partner F recently received a targeted credit card promotion in the mail from Citi that offers 50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months of cardmembership.  The same offer (along with the full terms and conditions) is available online at this link and a summary is listed below.

Citi AAdvantage 50000 Mile Offer

Both offers waive the $95 annual fee for the first year.  You’ll just have to decide which of the spending requirements you’ll need to meet in order to receive the mileage bonus best aligns with your budget and purchasing patterns.

US Airways Premier World MasterCard 40,000 Bonus Miles Offer

Another Pointing opportunity is available by applying for the US Airways Premier World MasterCard issued by BarclayCard. This offer (along with full terms and conditions) may be found at this link and a summary is listed below.

US Airways MasterCard 40000 Mile Offer

Although the $89 annual fee is not waived for the first year, what makes this offer stand out is that you’ll receive your 40,000 bonus miles after only your first purchase.

Why Apply For Both Cards?

American Airlines and US Airways are in the process of merging.  Both carriers have started to align the various elements of their frequent flyer programs.  Although American’s AAdvantage program and US Airways’ Dividend Miles program are currently operating as separate entities, it’s now possible for you to redeem awards for travel across both carriers.  In addition, the airlines are also members of the OneWorld alliance which further widens the award redemption possibilities. However, things start to get even more interesting once the two programs combine.

Given that you only need to make a single purchase on the US Airways MasterCard to receive your bonus miles, this allows you to direct the rest of your spending to meeting the bonus mile requirements on your AAdvantage MasterCard. It’s anticipated that the Dividend Miles program will merge with the AAdvantage program in 2015.  Although an exact date has not been announced, many sources anticipate that the consolidation of both frequent flyer programs will occur during the first quarter of 2015. Once this happens, you’ll have a nice balance of 90,000 miles in your account.

What Can You Do With Those Miles?

Well, if all those miles are burning a hole in your virtual wallet (and you don’t wish to wait for the merger of the programs), you can start redeeming them for round-trip domestic Economy awards for as low as 25,000 miles per person.  Getting to Hawaii on American in Economy is possible for as low as 35,000 miles round-trip per person while on US Airways it will cost you 40,000 miles. In addition, holders of the AAdvantage MasterCard earn 10% of their redeemed miles back while US Airways MasterCard holders receive a 5,000 mile discount on awards flown on US Airways metal.

If you do wait for the combination of both programs, you’ll have a great head start toward having enough miles for an international premium cabin award. In addition, both American and US Airways are Starwood American Express transfer partners.  Therefore, you’ll be able to turn your Starpoints earned on that card into airline miles should you need to “top off” your AAdvantage and/or Dividend Mile accounts.

For more information on the different award possibilities, check out each of the airlines award charts found in the links below:

American Airlines Award Chart

American Airlines OneWorld Partner Award Chart

US Airways Award Chart

US Airways OneWorld Partner Award Chart

However, a major caveat to waiting for the program merger is that CHANGE WILL BE INEVITABLE.  Although, I’m not expecting a major bloodbath like the United Devaluation earlier this year, it’s certain that there will be changes to the various award charts once the programs are combined.

Where Do We Go From Here?

However, it’s just this type of uncertainty in the Pointing world that reinforces the need to hedge my bets.  The diversification that I exercise in my various miles & points accumulation strategies not only protects me from future devaluations but also creates options for some really exciting award possibilities.  In fact, in an upcoming post, I’ll talk about how this type of “mixing and matching” of award programs allowed me to craft a pretty awesome First Class Round-the World award. Stay tuned and be prepared!

How about you? Have you given any thought to simultaneously applying for multiple credit cards in order to earn the extra bonus miles?

Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that I am NOT a professional financial advisor by any means.  My discussion of credit card strategies or other financial matters are based on my own personal experiences and financial situation. In addition, I am not an employee of any of the financial institutions that issue the cards discussed nor do I receive any compensation for discussing these products. The reader is solely responsible for any financial actions that he/she may choose to undertake. Make sure you read of the “fine print” in the Terms & Conditions for all of the offers mentioned.