Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: September 2014

My Favorite Elite Benefits – United

When flying or staying  a certain number of miles or nights, loyalty programs will give you some extra perks just for being…well…loyal.  Some of these are great, others are great on paper and even others are just useless to me.  I’ve put together a list of my absolutely favorite elite benefits for my two favorite programs: United Mileage Plus and Starwood Preferred Guest.  Today I’ll talk about United and next time Starwood.

By flying 50,000 paid miles a year with United, I earn Premier Gold Status in their Mileage Plus Program.  This mid-level elite status offers some great benefits that I use every single time I fly.

  • Ability to book an Economy Plus Seat when I book my airfare – without a charge.  I’m not crazy tall – but my 6′ (ish) frame really struggles with airline seats that have a whopping 32″ pitch.  Economy Plus seating makes a ride in coach that much more tolerable — actually for me it is a necessity.
  • Ability to select an Exit Row seat when I book my airfare – without a charge.  Just like above, but here I get even more leg room.  I always try to book the second row of the over wing exit rows in United.  This seat gives you the ability to recline your seat, if you want (the first row of exit row cannot recline as it could impede exit in an emergency).  So this seat selection gives me extra leg room, the ability to recline a bit and removes the opportunity that the person in front of me will fully recline.  Win-Win-Win.
  • 500 award mile minimums. This might seem silly, but if you are on a flight that is only 440 miles, with Elite status you’ll get credited 500 miles.  A few years ago I ended the year with a whopping 50,024 miles. Without this 500 mile minimum I wouldn’t have kept my Elite status for the following year.
  • Bonus Miles on all United (and some partner) flights.  As a Premier Gold flyer I earn 50% more redeemable (not elite qualifying) miles on all flights.  For example a flight from ORD-PHX is 1,440 miles. Without this bonus, I would earn just 1,440 miles.  With this bonus, I earn 2,160 miles.  This even works with the 500 miles minimum above – so if I fly 440 miles, I actually earn 750 redeemable miles.
  • Priority Boarding.  Being a Premier Gold flyer, I get to board with Group 2 — and so does most of the plane.  We get to board after First Class flyers and Premier 1K and Premier Platinum flyers.  The only reason I want to get on the plane earlier is to guarantee I will have a space in the overheard bins for my hand luggage.  I hate checking a bag and I hate gate checking even more.

These are the Elite Benefits with United that I love and use the most.  You get a bunch more perks – I’ll write about some of the other ones that are great on paper but they don’t really matter because they never in a practicality come into play.

Next time I’ll write about my favorite Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum Benefits.

What are you favorite United elite benefits?  What about other airlines?

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Bonus United MileagePlus Miles to London

United is offering bonus miles on flights to London.  For your first round trip you earn 7,500 miles, fly a second round trip you earn 10,000 and fly a third and earn 17,500 miles — for a total of 35,000 miles (these are redeemable miles only, not Premier Qualifying Miles).  You have to register for the promotion, which you can do here.  According to the terms and conditions you have to register before you fly — but not before you buy – so if you have already booked something, register and you should get the bonus miles.

London is calling…

You have to fly between September 23 and December 12, 2014.  Unfortunately this isn’t available for all fare classes either – only fare class  F, A, J, C, D, Z, P, Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V and W.  While some economy options are available, the deeply discounted tickets (on which I usually fly).  This promotion is also working with Air Canada tickets and flights — read more about it on the registration page.

I don’t believe this is a targeted promotion (where only people who received the email are eligible). I received the email and registered and gave the info to a co-worker who did not receive this promotion and he registered just fine.  No guarantees though of course.

Is this promotion worth flying to London just for the miles – absolutely not.  If you are heading off to London should you register – absolutely! You’d be foolish not to in my opinion.  Even if you don’t think you’ll be going to London (or you are but aren’t sure if you’ll be flying in W Class or higher) register anyway.  In any event, I’m happy that United is offering these miles to us all.

What are your thoughts on this promotion?

Starwood Preferred Guest Q4 Promotion

Hotel loyalty programs, like Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), often offer a rotating bonus each quarter. Sometimes these bonuses are enough to make you find a reason to stay in a hotel and earn the extra points or other benefits (usually when the economy is in the toilet – anything to encourage additional stays or encourage you to move already planned stays from one hotel to another) and sometimes they aren’t really worth anything.

From September 15 through December 15, 2014 Starwood is offering members of their SPG Program Double Starpoints on stays two or more eligible nights and triple points for eligible stays that include a Friday or Saturday night stay (if you are staying in the Middle East the triple points are available for Thursday and Friday stays).

As is the case with most SPG promotions there is a large list of hotels that are not participating in the promotion (find that list here).  Surprisingly, of my next five SPG stays only two are not participating – which beats some of the prior promotion for me!  You can find all the terms and conditions here and their Frequently Asked Questions here.

So, what do I think of this promotion.  I think it is perfectly fine.  Believe me, I love the idea of bonus points and I don’t even hate the idea that 2/5 of my upcoming stays are not eligible for the bonus.  I don’t stay at Starwood properties for the bonus points – I stay at these properties because I enjoy them, the service, the location, the perks, etc.  The bonus points are just that – a bonus that I would hopefully parlay into a room that I otherwise wouldn’t pay for (or use for a visiting friend).  The economy is in such a state that hotel chains don’t have to really encourage us to stay with them – business travel is up and hotels are running at decent occupancy (depending on City and the specific property, of course).

This promotion isn’t worth doing a mattress run (booking a hotel room just for the stays/points credit), but if you have some upcoming stays it may make sense for you to change your current hotel to a participating hotel – again, I wouldn’t spend too much time thinking/worrying about this.

Here’s my recommendation – sign up for the promotion (here’s the link – it isn’t targeted either), if you stay at a participating property for two nights, you’ll get some bonus points. If not, no harm no foul.

What are your thoughts on the promotion this quarter?  Are you going to be shifting some of your Marriott or Hilton stays to Starwood?

Booking a Park Hyatt Award Stay When You Have Zero Hyatt Points??

We spent part of this weekend working on a  late fall trip.  We’ll be starting in Paris and ending in Zurich – two cities that are not cheap.  We decided to stay one night at a Park Hyatt – I’ve never stayed in a Park Hyatt before and haven’t stayed in a Hyatt since long before I started the points/miles game.  We’ll be spending just a single night in Paris and Zurich each.

Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme‎

The highly rated Park Hyatt was going for 540 €/night (or about 750USD).  I have never spent that much on a hotel for a night and I can’t imagine being in a situation where I would.  My flights to Stockholm in January and my flight to Shanghai the January before each cost about 750USD — and I’d much rather fly someplace across the planet instead of spending a single night someplace.

Park Hyatt Zurich – not as glamorous exterior as the Park Hyatt Paris, eh?

This Park Hyatt is a Hyatt Category 7 hotel – there are only 7 Category Hotels throughout the world (New York, Beaver Creek, Sydney, Tokyo, Paris, Zurich and Milan).  A Category 7 Hotel costs 30,000 points per night for a standard room.  Since I haven’t stayed at a Hyatt property in about a decade, I don’t have 30,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points to spend.  Luckily, I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card that allows card members to instantaneously transfer Ultimate Reward Points (the point currency used by the various Chase cards – including Freedom, Sapphire, Ink, etc).  Since I put most of my spending on either my Sapphire Preferred (or my AmEx SPG) card I had ample Ultimate Reward Points.

I confirmed one final time that the room was still available at the Park Hyatt for the night in question, then headed on over to Chase.com and transferred (instantly, mind you) to my Hyatt Gold Passport Account and booked the room.  It’s important to note that once you transfer the points from Chase to Hyatt (or any of the other partners like United, Marriott, Southwest, British Airways, etc) you cannot transfer them back – so make sure the award you want is available right when you transfer.  Some airlines allow you to hold a ticket while you transfer points in from another source — I don’t think you can hold a hotel room, has anyone out there had experience with this?

Have you stayed at a Park Hyatt before?  What should I expect as a non-elite member staying at one of these beautiful Category 7 properties?

How to Transfer Starpoints Between Accounts

Do you ever find yourself just shy of enough points for an upcoming Starwood award stay?  Many people don’t realize that you can transfer points between members as long as both members have the same mailing address on their account.  The members don’t have to be married – or share a last name, just a mailing address.  You also have to have the same mailing address for at least 30 days prior to the request.

Hotel Alfonso XIII – Seville, Spain. One of the best hotel experiences I’ve had. Consolidate household Starpoints for a stay here!

You can make the transfer yourself without, calling customer service, by logging into your SPG account – you’ll need the SPG account number of the recipient account, but you’ll need to initiate the transfer from the original account.  Once you have the recipient account number and the last name on that account (which matches both the sending and the receiving account) log into the sending account.

To transfer click: Quick Links > My Account > Redeem / Transfer Starpoints > Transfer to Another Member.

There are just three simple questions to answer: 1) How many points do you want to transfer? 2) Recipient SPG Number and 3) Last Name on Recipient.

SPG claims it can take about 5 business days for the points to be available for use in the recipient account – so be sure you plan ahead – you’d hate to make a wonderful plan then have your room snaked out from under you while you wait for points to be transferred.

I’ll report back and let you know how long the transfer take in practice.