Welcome Million Mile Secrets Readers!

Welcome New Readers! This morning Daraius at Million Mile Secrets posted my interview on his site in which I discuss a little bit about myself and my obsession background with points & miles. I’ve been fully immersed into our amazing hobby since 2011 and I’ve taken some amazing trips around the world that would otherwise be impossible without points & miles.

Eiffel Tower - May 2014

Eiffel Tower – May 2014

My wife & I at Formal Night on Celebrity Millennium Alaskan Cruise - June 2014

My wife & I at Formal Night on Celebrity Millennium Alaskan Cruise – June 2014

Here is a quick summary about what you will see on my site:

  • Consulting Service - This is a staple of what I do and what really makes PointsCentric stand out from other blogs. For a nominal fee, I work with clients to create customized guides on how to earn points and miles for their dream vacation. I don’t simply just tell you to apply for a credit card – I correspond with clients on weekly/monthly basis (as decided by the client) via email or on the phone to make sure everything is going well and to be there for any question, comment, concern or change that comes along. Please check out my Consulting page for more detail.
  • Award Booking Service - Compared to my peers, I have some of the lowest rates in the business. While many people who are well-versed in miles do not need an Award Booking Service, I offer it for clients and readers who simply don’t want to waste time and figure out all the nuisances of an frequent flyer program. I personally enjoy the challenge and in the event, I can’t get anything booked for you, there is no fee due. Please check out my Award Booking Service page for more detail.
  • Unlike many blogs, there are NO affiliate links anywhere on this blog. I believe that in order to offer a truly independent view in my consulting services, I can’t be incentivized to recommend certain credit cards because it offers me a higher commission. This is similar to the belief in fee-only financial planners – those based on commissions inherently have bias and are undoubtedly influenced to push certain products over others (I know caused I work for a commission only financial planner in my college days).
  • There are also no revenue-generating ads on this site. The only ads are the ones occasionally put in automatically by WordPress on the bottom of a page. I don’t like seeing ads on other website so I chose not to clutter my site with them either. I don’t need to earn $.04 a day cluttering my site with useless ads if it turns off readers.

I hope you’ll check out my site and become a follower either via Twitter, Instagram, Feedly, and/or Email (signup box is in the right sidebar, make sure to check for a confirmation email!). I love engaging with my readers so I make sure to answer every email or comment posted. I will also be attending the #westcoastDO in November so I would love to meet any fellow miles & points nuts enthusiasts in person. Feel free to email me or leave me any questions or comments!

Deal Alert! $250-$300 Roundtrip Flights to Iceland, London or Copenhagen!

Wow Air, an Icelandic low cost carrier, is launching new service from Iceland to the United States with flights to Boston and Baltimore (listed as Washington on their website) starting at $250 roundtrip! You can also tack on additional flights to either London or Copenhagen in some cases for the same price or little bit more!

Before you write off WOW Air just because they are low cost and you most likely never heard of them, they actually have a bunch of positive reviews on at Airline Equality and a newer fleet of Airbus A320 planes that average only 5 years old. As a low cost carrier, they will tack on fees for carry on luggage (except for a personal item), checked baggage, food/drinks and seat assignments. However, with roundtrip flights starting at $250!, even if you paid another $50-$100 in fees, you still come out way ahead.

Here is what you need to know:

  • To search for flights and dates go to their website at wowair.us
  • For flights from Boston, search for flights after March 26, 2015.
  • For flights from Baltimore (which again is listed as Washington on their site), search for flights after June 3, 2015
  • You can book flights up to a year in advance so almost through the end of October 2015.
  • Please make sure to check their fee schedule here and include that as a cost when factoring in the total price of your flight
  • You will not earn any frequent flyer miles as Wow Air does not have a program and is not affiliated with any other loyalty program

I am finding the best availability to be for the summer months when flights typically skyrocket to Iceland (and Europe in general). Prices can be well over a $1000 for these flights on Icelandic Air, so this is an absolute bargain! Even if you don’t live in Boston or Washington, consider taking a train or positioning flight (great use of Avios for short, direct flights) to take advantage of these fares. Here are some screenshots of some fares I was available to find at 11:30pm on 10/22.

Under $300 Roundtrip!

Under $300 Roundtrip!

$99 to London One Way!!

$99 to London One Way!!

The flight to Iceland from Boston is only 4.5 hours while its closer to 5.5 hours from Washington so even if I’m not fed a subpar meal like I would on Delta or Icelandic Air, I don’t care if it saves me several hundred dollars or miles that I could use for another trip. Iceland in the summer is supposedly gorgeous and I’m trying to find a way to spend my birthday there next June. Feel free to meet me there but book these fares NOW as I guarantee this will not last much longer!

(H/T The Points Guy)

Two Virgin America Promotions – Are They Worth It?

Virgin America has a couple of promotions going on today, one of which I think is a solid deal if you can make it work for you and another I would pass on. Let’s break them down.

Offer #1 – Take $15, $35 or $50 Off Virgin America Flights via Living Social - I saw on Living Social this morning that you can purchase a voucher that will allow you to save either $15, $35 or $50 on a flight with Virgin America. There are a bunch of restrictions involved around dates that you can fly but it is valid for most of the places Virgin America flies to.

Virgin America Living Social

Here are some of the key restrictions:

  • Travel is valid between now and February 28, 2015 except for any Sunday travel and blackout dates around all the major holidays.
  • You must purchase a voucher in advance before booking your flight and the discount is related to the distance of your flight. You save $15 on short haul flights, $35 on medium haul flights and $50 on long haul flights. Thankfully the Living Social Website lists what is considered a short, medium or long haul flight on the voucher page.
  • You must book your flights by November 18th.
  • In the event you purchase a voucher but do not redeem it by November 18th, the voucher amount is automatically converted to Living Social Deal Bucks. So if you plan on shopping again at Living Social, there is no risk with this deal as you are not stuck with a voucher you cannot use.

My Thoughts: Before purchasing a voucher, start pricing out flights for your intended destinations and dates. Make sure they do not violate any terms of the deal above. If you know the chances are likely you will fly in this timeframe and Virgin America’s prices are competitive (but maybe not necessarily the cheapest), I would go ahead and purchase the voucher, especially if you ever shopped at Living Social before or plan too again (since the money paid will convert to Living Social Bucks if not used). Remember to shop through a cash back or other portal (such as Shop Through Chase) for up to 9% cash back (Big Crumbs) or 3x points (Shop Through Chase) for even more savings.

I don’t see the risk in locking in the voucher and monitoring the flights in question until the hard deadline of November 18th in which all flights must be booked. One interesting route I found was New York to Fort Lauderdale, a new route for Virgin America that is launching 1/8. The price I found was $252 roundtrip which was $4 more than the next cheapest option, which was JetBlue. This would be considered a medium haul flight so you can save $35 on the flight, bringing it down to $220 roundtrip, which is quite reasonable to escape the NY winter.

Take $35 off with this promotion

Take $35 off with this promotion

Offer #2 – 80% Bonus on Purchases of Virgin America Elevate Points - Tomorrow from 9am to 5PM EST ONLY, Virgin America is offering an 80% bonus on the purchase of Virgin America Elevate points. To purchase points, they normally cost 5.2 cents per point (which is quite high) but with this promotion, the price per point comes down to 2.9 cents a point.

Virgin America Promo

To elevate whether this is a good deal or not, you need to know at what rate can Virgin America points be redeemed for. Unlike legacy airlines, Virgin America points can be redeemed for ~2.1 to ~2.3 cents per point on Virgin America flights. You can also redeem points on some of their partners including Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines.

My Thoughts: Nothing stands out as an exceptional deal so I recommend passing on this promotion. They have been “good” buy miles promotions in the past (hello 100% US Air Buy or Share Bonus) but this does not compare to that promotion. Please also remember if you are looking to top off your account to make a reward redemption with points, Virgin America is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. I would look to that first before considering buying these points to top off your account for a free flight.

American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Bonuses to Starwood, Hilton & Virgin Atlantic

American Express is currently running three different transfer bonuses to convert Membership Rewards points into either Starwood, Hilton or Virgin Atlantic points/miles. I’ll recap each one briefly and give you my opinion whether any of them are worth taking advantage of.

1. 50% Transfer Bonus to Starwood SPG (Targeted) - The biggest transfer bonus on the list at 50% but unfortunately all that means is that you can convert Amex points at a 2:1 ratio instead of the standard 3:1 ratio. Starwood points are more valuable than Amex Membership Rewards points but not double the value in my book. One possible way this promotion could work though is to transfer to an airline that is not a transfer partner of Amex but is a partner of Starwood.

As you might know, if you transfer 20,000 Starwood points to an airline, you automatically get a 5,000 point bonus so if you were to transfer say 40,000 Amex points over to Starwood, you could end up 25,000 airline miles in programs such as Alaska or American, places you cannot transfer to Amex points too normally. By using Starwood as the “middleman”, you can backdoor your way into all of Starwood’s transfer partners here. I don’t have a personal need to do this but this could make sense for some. This transfer bonus expires on 11/30.

SpgTransferBonus

2. 35% Transfer Bonus to Virgin Atlantic – Even though Amex is offering a 35% on transfers to Virgin Atlantic, I’ve discussed how Virgin miles can be difficult to use (though View From the Wing has some great uses of Virgin miles). You can’t depart London without incurring huge fuel surcharges but Virgin Atlantic is a great option to go TO London which is only 13,125 miles + $134 as I’ve written about before here.  Another possible use of their points is on Virgin America, especially if you live on the West Coast as it is only 10,000 miles one way on certain routes, such as LA to San Fran. I am going to sit the transfer out as I just applied for the 90,000 Virgin Atlantic Mastercard and I have no pressing needs for more Virgin miles. This transfer bonus expires on 11/30.

3. 33% Transfer Bonus to Hilton HHonors (Targeted) – Amex’s hotel partners are historically pretty bad so its not that surprising to see that even with a transfer bonus, this is a bad deal. In this case, a 33% transfer bonus to Hilton means Amex points convert at a ratio of 1:2 instead of the standard 1:1.5. Unfortunately, Hilton gutted their award chart a few years ago and any upscale property is for the most part an unreasonable amount of points. I’m talking 95,000 HHonors points for a single night stay when you used to be able to get a 4 night stay at the same property for 145,000 points (ex. Hilton Bora Bora). I don’t mind plan on taking advantage of this transfer bonus and don’t suggest it either unless you need to top off your account for an award stay. This transfer bonus expires on 11/30.

FREE 7,500 American Airlines Miles for Test Driving a Cadillac!

American Airlines has a new partnership with Cadillac in which certain elite members can receive a tarmac transfer in a Cadillac at some of American’s hubs when making a tight connection. To promote this partnership, American Airlines is offering 7,500 free AA miles to members who test drive a Cadillac!

Yes Please!

Yes Please!

The only way to take advantage of this promotion is to call the Cadillac Concierge at 844-469-2234 and schedule an appointment for a test drive. There is no commitment to buy the car or do anything other than take it for a test drive lasting “approximately 10 minutes”. This might cross some people’s ethical line to take a test drive and waste someone’s time when you have absolutely no intention to buy the car, so do what makes you feel comfortable.

I called to schedule my own test drive but did have to wait on hold about 30 mins until a rep picked up. They took down my personal information and AA # and asked which dealership I’d like the appointment at – it was a breeze and took all of 5 minutes to book a Saturday appointment to test drive a CTS. Here are the full terms and conditions:

*At participating dealers only.  Must have an AAdvantage account and be 21 years or older with a valid U.S. driver’s license.  Employees of General Motors are not eligible. Retail value: $221.00. Test drive lasts approximately 10 minutes.  Offer valid while supplies last.  Limit one test drive per person.  Allow 4-6 weeks for miles to be awarded after confirmation that test drive has been completed.  Offer is nontransferable, nonnegotiable and not redeemable for cash.

If you live near a Cadillac dealer and don’t mind spending some time testing out a brand new Caddy, this is a no-brainer promotion. The 7,500 AA miles are worth roughly $100 to me. Essentially, I am getting paid (in miles) to test drive a new luxury car – Sign me up!