Monday, August 4, 2014

Is 2014 The Deadliest Year For Flights?

July was not a good month for the aviation industry. In one week, there was three crashes of airplanes with hundreds of casualties. Of course, people have started to question the safety of airlines. I think people questioning airline safety is good.

One question that has come up is if 2014 is on track to be the Deadliest Year for Flights?

CNN and the Airline Safety Network have the answer: not even close. According to their analysis, 1972 was the worst year for airline casualties (2429) with 1985 being a close second with 2331 casualties.

With 761 casualties this year, 2014 is not even close to the deadliest. Last year, "264 people were killed in flight incidents - the safest year in aviation since 1945"was

How about the most crashes? Again, 2014 doesn't even rank in the top 10.

With 55 crashes each, 1948 and 1972 have the most crashes. As of the end of July, there has been less than 20 crashes this year.

Personally, I feel airline travel has become much more safer. Recently, a family member asked me if I am sacred to fly. My response was no. I come from the belief system that if something is going to happen to me, I can't stop it.

I am going to live my life regardless of what happens....

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My 500 Bonus Miles Post

In June, I was offered a chance to earn 500 bonus MileagePlus miles for completing 2 partner offers. I completed my 2 partner offers within hours of receiving the email.

The following month, I was received a similar offer. This time I decided to pass on the offer due to difficulty of the partner offers.

Last week, I received the 500 points in my United Airlines account. Score!

I forgot about the offer, but was pleasantly happy they arrived.

Did you receive your points yet?

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Monday, July 28, 2014

When Would You Pay For An Upgrade?

In June, I went back to Connecticut for a family picnic. I booked a combination of tickets on JetBlue and US Airways.

The trip is about 70 minutes long via airplane from gate to gate. Both airlines sent me emails suggesting I pay to upgrade my seat.


JetBlue sent me the following email asking me to upgrade to "Even More Space," for $10:

                                                               US Airways

US Airways sent the following email inviting me to pay $95 to upgrade to First Class. Or better yet, be added to the upgrade list:

The question I asked myself, does it make sense to upgrade for such a short flight?

The JetBlue flight was 1/2 full. I had 4 rows of seats to myself; therefore, the "early access to overhead bin space" was not necessary. Therefore, my $10 would have purchased me only more legroom. On the other hand, the US Airways flight was oversold. The 2 free check bags is enticing. However, I only needed to check 1 bag and I used my US Airways Mastercard to purchase my ticket getting that bag checked for free.

Therefore, would getting more foot space be worth paying $10 or $95?

For me, not really. I can suffer for 70 minutes in typically coach.

Would you pay for an upgrade on this route?

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Wedding Challenge: Starting Point

Last week, I announced a challenge to earn enough miles/points to pay for a upcoming west coast wedding.

As a reminder for the challenge to be a success, I need to earn the following miles/points:

     1)     25,000 United MileagePlus

     2)     45,000 Hyatt (Gold Points)

     3)     Enough points for $100 gift cards

To ensure openness, here are my current balances of my accounts:

United Airlines:

Hyatt GoldPoints:



Ultimate Rewards:

With my starting balances laid out on the table, the hard part starts now. I need to start earning.

As a reminder, here are the rules;

  • No new credit cards ie no points earned from new credit cards can be used
  • Can't buy points
  • Have to earn the points by end of 2014
  • Can't just transfer miles from Ultimate Rewards; have to earn them from today on to transfer

Let's get earning.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What's In My Wallet

Every once and while, I like to share what credit cards are in my wallet.

Since I have not applied for any credit cards since January, the two credit cards in my wallet are my Barclay's US Airways Mastercard and the US Bank Club Carlson Visa.

The reason I choose these 2 cards is that, first, I need US Airways miles and Club Carlson points. After liquidating all my US Airways miles, I would like to start building up miles and Club Carlson points are always great to have.

The second reason is promotions. Both cards are offering bonus miles for using the credit cards in July and August:

  • US Airways Promotion: 20% bonus on all miles earned between July 1 and August 31st
  • Club Carlson Promotion: 1 bonus point per dollar spent between July 1 and August 31st

Neither promotion is earth shattering amazing, but something is better than nothing. Therefore, until further notice, I will be using these 2 credit cards.

What's in your wallet?
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Wedding Challenge

In your 20s and 30s, weddings seem to pop-up on a non-stop pace. Your friends from high school & college, your cousins and co-works are all starting to walk down the aisle for the first or second time.

Photo Credit:
Attending weddings is not cheap; especially, if you have to travel to the wedding. The costs of attending a wedding away from your where you live add up: airfare, hotel, rental car, food, booze, gifts etc. The cost only increases if you are a member of the wedding party. Last year, I wrote about Christopher Sledzik, "who racked up $10,000 in debt by attending 12 different weddings and being of 3 different wedding parties over an 18 month period."

10,000 Gs of debt from weddings. That's ridiculous. However, I can see how you can rack up debt by attending weddings. Its difficult to say no to a friend's wedding invitations. Your friends are getting married, your other friends will be there, and it you know its going to be an awesome time.  But I wonder is there a better way to reduce travel costs to weddings?

For this reason, I am coming up with The Wedding Challenge.

The goal of the challenge is to earn enough miles/points to pay for the airfare, hotel nights and a $100 gift for an upcoming wedding. Let's assume the following things:

  • Wedding is located on the West Coast i.e. requires air travel
  • 3 hotel nights 
  • $100 gift - which I feel like is average wedding gift

Like all of my challenges, there are rules:

  • No new credit cards ie no points earned from new credit cards can be used
  • Can't buy points
  • Have to earn the points by end of 2014
  • Can't just transfer miles from Ultimate Rewards; have to earn them from today on to transfer

Success on this challenge will be achieve by hitting the following milestones:

      1)  25,000 United MileagePlus 

      2)  45,000 Hyatt (Gold Points) - 15,000 a night or $200 worth of Hyatt GCs

      3)  Enough points (most likely from Swagbucks or MyPoints) for a $100 gift card to 
           some department store

My goal of this challenge is to show people that attending a wedding for cheap is possible not that I am cheap. For my friends and family, I would travel the world to celebrate their nuptials. However, the cost of attending weddings is one of the main reasons why people can't attend. 

Do you have a wedding you need to travel to in 2015? Join my Wedding Challeneg to see if you can reduce the cost of attending by earning miles & points.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Another Dining Rewards Offer

In the past two weeks, my inbox has been inundated by bonus point offers from Dining Rewards .

I have received offers from United, Hilton and IHG. I was a little shocked that I had not received one from US Airways. They were the first Dining Rewards program that I signed up for.

Less than 24 hours after uttering those words, a Dinning Rewards offer from US Airways came in.

Compared to other offers, this one isn't sexy. No major bonus miles/points to be earned. 

The offer is double miles for all dines in the month of July. Why might this offer be good for you? It doesn't require a large commitment of x amount of dines. You can dine as you normally would.

The bigger question: why all the bonuses from Dining Rewards? Are they looking to be bought?

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Monday, July 7, 2014

After the Wedding Comes The Honeymoon

Summer is the height of wedding season. Luckily for me, I have no weddings this year. However, next year is a different story.

Photo Credit:

As a traveler, I am excited about where the couple is headed for their honeymoon more than the wedding. For many couples, their honeymoon is the first time they travel outside the United States. Its an exciting time for the new couple. Add in a foreign location and the experiences to be had a numerous.

A survey by Hipmunk and Yahoo, revels that Fiji, Italy, Hawaii, New Zealand and Greece are the top Honeymoon Destinations. No real surprises there.

(Graphic: Jinah Kim)

What I like about the survey is that Disneyland, Mexico and California are the "least ideal honeymoon destinations." I had a college friend have here honeymoon at Disneyland, but the couple were major "Disney geeks." There description of themselves, not mine.

The survey reveled that 70% of men were more excited about the honeymoon than the actual wedding compared to 36% of women.

(Graphic: Jinah Kim)

Almost all couples would spend less on the wedding for a fancier honeymoon.

(Graphic: Jinah Kim)

This is where points and miles can help. Typically, weddings/honeymoons are planned a year or more in advance. A few strategic credit card applications by your fiance and you, can result in a significant portion of your honeymoon being paid for.

For instance, the Hyatt credit card offers 2 free nights worldwide. If both your fiance and you apply for the Hyatt credit cards separately, you can earn 4 free nights. For many couples, 4 nights is almost the entire honeymoon. Add in an airline credit card or 2, you could help reduce or eliminate the cost of the airfare to the honeymoon destination.

How will you hit the minimum spend on the credit card to earn the bonus miles?

Don't you have expenses for the wedding. Probably lots of expenses!

Parents paying for the wedding?

Ask them to allow you to put the charges on your credit card and give you a check. If you tell them its to help pay for the honeymoon, they might be more willing to help out twice!

A small amount of planning can result in significant savings on your honeymoon.

If you are married, do you wish you could have taken a fancier honeymoon?

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Another 500 Mile Bonus Offer from United Airlines (Targeted)

United Airlines is back with another chance to earn 500 bonus miles.

To earn the bonus miles, you have must complete two different offers from four partners by July 31st:

The partner offers are as followed:

1) Make one stay at a Hyatt Hotel and credit the stay to MileagePlus

2) Make one stay at any Hilton Hotel and credit the stay to MileagePlus

3) Use SuperShuttle and have miles credited to MileagePlus

4) Rent a car from Avis and have miles credited to MileagePlus

This is the second month that United has made this type of offer. Last months' offer was much easier than this one: complete a dine at a restaurant and survey and bank 500 miles.  This offer requires some type of planned travel.

Personally, I am going to pass on this one. I am not really traveling this month and 500 miles isn't worth spending money for no reason.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dining Rewards Summer Bonus (TARGETED)

Yesterday, I got an interesting offer from United Dining Rewards.

Yes, 10,000 bonus United MileagePlus miles for 10 dines before August 15. After registering for the promotion, I learned that for a dine to count, I must spend $40+.

Since I earn 3 miles per $1 spent normally with Dining Rewards, I will earn at least an additional 1,200 miles though this promotion.

                     3 x $40 = 120 miles   -  120 miles x 10 Dines = 1,200 additional miles

Will I participate?

I don't know. 11,000 miles is alot of miles to earn from a promotion, but require me spend at least $400. If I had a few client lunches or dinners, I could swing buying gift certificates to get to the 10 dines. But as a single guy, spending $40 on meals is not easy.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions to make.

Other Offers

I received another offer from Hilton HHoners Dinning Rewards. Unlike the United offer, this one was stingy.

2,500 bonus Hilton HHonors points after 10 dines of $40+ more.

If I am going to do 10 dines, its going to be for 10,000 United Miles not 2,500 HHonor Points. 

The decision between the two offers is a no brainier! Spending $400 for 10,000+ miles is not so easy.


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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Travelers Hate Change Fees, Not Taxes

A new survey indicates that most air travelers are willing to pay more fees, only if they help improve airports. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, that a survey conducted by the U.S. Travel association, indicates "found that government fees ranked as the least frustrating fee or tax imposed on travelers.The most fustrating fee, according to the survey, was the $200 charge that airlines impose on passengers for changing or canceling flights.

"I was surprised that the government taxes and fees were at the bottom on the list," said Erik Hansen, senior director of domestic policy for the U.S. Travel Association, "But if you think about what it pays for, it's aviation security and infrastructure. You need every single on of those."

Asked what bothers travelers most about taking a commercial flight, 30 percent said delays and 26 percent said airline fees. Near the bottom of the list was taxes, with only 1 percent.

Airlines are strongly opposed to proposals to increase government fees on airlines. Personally, I support an increase in the taxes if they help improve airports. My sediment is shared by a majority of commercial travelers as well. Get on board airlines!
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Monday, June 30, 2014

Saying Goodbye

Last week, I said goodbye to another credit card: Delta American Express Gold card.

I got the credit card as part my Delta New Member bonus. By getting the card, I earned close to 55,000 miles:

        45,000 sign-up bonus
         5,000 new member credit
         5,000 from credit card spend

The card did what it needed to do: earn miles.

Now, one year later, the annual fee of $95 was due. Could I justify paying $95 for the card?

  - Do I value Skymiles? No!

  - Will I use the free bag? No, I have flown Delta once in 24 months.

  - Do I want another AMEX card? Yes, but is $95 worth keeping it?

After thinking about it, the decision was easy. I called American Express and cancelled the card.

Goodbye Delta American Express . . . I am sorry that I used you.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Booking Tickets for Holidays Now!

Last night, I decided to start booking tickets for the holidays. Why in June? Because it other people aren't thinking about booking the holidays. There is less demand ie possible lower prices.

Photo Credit:

I am flush with Southwest Rapid Reward points through getting 2 Southwest credit cards. The benefit of booking with Rapid Reward points is the ability to cancel the ticket with no penalty. 

Last night, I was able to book my ticket back to DC for less than 3,500 points. Less than 3,500 points!

The other benefit of booking with Rapid Reward points is that if the price drops; you have an opportunity to get some points back. For that reason, I bit the bullet and book my ticket to Connecticut. The price was closer to 7,500 points.

My hope is that Southwest has a sale and the price of the ticket drops. However, I am not going to complain about spending 11,000 points for my ticket back to Connecticut for the holidays. Last year, I waited to long and paid close to $350.

If you don't have Southwest points, British Airways Avios points can be useful as well. With US Airways joining the OneWorld Alliance, cheap flights can be found.

The trip from DC to Hartford is less than 500 miles; therefore, a one-way ticket would cost 3,500 Avois points. Unfortunately, I could not find any availability. If I did find availability, I would have transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to my British Airways points.

Take a minute and look at December. It will be here sooner than you think.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sometimes You Can Leave Points On The Table

Frequently, I preach the motto: "Don't Leave Points On The Table." I love points and I hate seeing people not earning points for things they can. For instance, the time my boss bought a new TV from Best Buy without going through a points/cash-back portal. However, there are some points offers that are best left on the table or in your email account.

The other day I receive an email from Spirit Airlines that caught my attention.

The offer from Spirit looked great on first look, but absolutely terrible on further review.

This offer is similar to the United offer that I wrote about in February. Borrow money and earn miles. When I wrote about the offer last, I determined that you could buy the miles for cheaper than the interest paid on the loan. Overall, the offer is terrible. On top of this, United miles are worth a lot more than Spirit miles.

In conclusion, delete this offer out of email box.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

5 Thoughts On My Trip To Toronto

One day in March, I got an email from a friend asking me to go to Toronto in June. Not being one to turn down travel, I decided to go along without question. The trip was overall good.

Here are five quick observations from the trip.

1) Porter Airlines is a Great Airline

     The reason for the trip to Toronto was a fare sale with Porter Airlines. The ticket cost $200
     round-trip direct from Washington Dulles to Toronto.

     Never Hear of Porter? Porter Airlines is a low cost Canadian airline that has a hub is in
     Toronto. The airline flies Q-400 Turboprop Aircraft with a 2-2 seat set-up.

     My first trip with them was very positive. The trip was 90 minutes, but felt much quicker.
     The seat pitch did not feel tight like other regional jets. They offer you a snack basket
     and complementary soft drinks, beer and wine in real glassware. In addition, the airport
     waiting area at Toronto is a lounge with soft drinks, snacks, leather chairs, plenty of
     electrical outlets & strong WIFI.


       I would defiantly try them again.

2)  Toronto City Airport is Located On An Island

      Porter Airlines flies into Toronto City Airport, not Toronto Pearsons Airport. Toronto City
      Airport is built on a man-made island. The only way to get on/off the island is by ferry.
      Yes, there is no bridge to the airport. All cars and passengers must take a ferry.

      The ride takes about 90 seconds once the ferry leaves. However, you need to plan 15
      minutes total for loading and unloading. They are building a walking tunnel under the
      river which should eliminate the ferry.

      This is no airport to be late to. From arriving to getting through security, it took 30 minutes
      with light passenger traffic.

3) Courtyard Marriott Toronto is Average

      We decided to stay at the Courtyard Marriott due to price and a free night certificate I
      had.The cost per night was $200 CAD inclusive of taxes. Overall, the cost of hotels in
      Toronto this particular weekend were expensive.

      The hotel has 550 rooms and 25 suites. It is one of the biggest Courtyards, I have ever 
      stayed in. Our room was average unrenovated room.

       The common areas were renovated, but not our room. The hotel was packed with
       groups. Service was good, but not great.

4) Toronto has Islands?

      Looking for things to do, we learned that Toronto has islands covering 580 acres. They
      are located a short boat ride from the city.
Photo Credit :
        The islands have parks, places to grill, restaurants, bars, bike rentals, trails, kids
        amusement parks and of course, beaches. The place had a fun atmosphere. This was
        the place to be on hot sunny Saturday.

        We paid for a harbor cruise to get to the island. Only once on the islands, we learned
        about the free public ferry running until 11 pm.

5) I like Tim Horton's; Maybe Love

       You all know I love doughnuts. When in Toronto, I fell in love with Tim Horton's.

      I had way to many doughnuts from them. There was one right next to our hotel
      and I forced my friend to stop or get me one each time we/he passed it.

       What I really loved from Tim Horton's are their Timbits or small doughnut holes. I
       got a box of them and woke up in the middle of the night to snack on them. 

       Tim, Mr. Horton, we are going to be friends.

Overall, a great trip to Toronto.

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