Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Citigold Checking & 50K AAdvantage Miles

I am not an avid credit card churner (someone who signs up for dozens of credit cards each year, just for the sign up bonuses, then cancels shortly thereafter).  I do get a couple new cards each year for the bonus, but it isn’t a major part of my mileage strategy. Firstly, we were looking to refinance our home and I didn’t want a ton of inquiries on my credit report impacting our ability to get a great rate.  We’ve refied and locked in a good rate (I can’t imagine us ever needing to refi again), so now I’m starting to look to rebuild my mileage cache.

I have several Citibank Credit Cards: Hilton Honors Reserve Card, AAdvantage Platinum and Citi Prestige.  I got each of these initially for the sign up bonus, but have found reason to keep them after the first year.  I don’t have any other banking relationship with Citi though.  Last week, I received a mailer suggesting I “Start a Citigold relationship and earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles”.

About 4 or 5 years ago, I did open a Citigold Checking Account in order to get 50,000 miles.  There were some issues though.  Back then the requirement to get the 50,000 miles were:

  • Two consecutive months of direct deposits greater than $500
  • Two debit card transactions each month for two consecutive months
  • Two bill pay transactions
  • All of these had to happen in the 60 days of your account being open

It took Citi nearly 3 weeks to get me my debit card and my office is slow when it comes to changing direct deposits.  I just barely made the deadline and my AAdvantage account was credited pretty quickly after I met the requirements.

This campaign on the other hand is easier to achieve.  You still get 50,000 AAdvantage miles, but the requirements now read:

“Within 60 days after account opening, complete these everyday banking activities:

  • 1 qualifying bill payment for 2 consecutive months
  • Spend $1,000 in purchases using your Citibank Debit Card”

No direct deposit required this time.  I don’t ever use a debit card, because I funnel all of my spend through point earning credit cards, so it will take me a little getting use.  Debit card transactions are defined as “using the debit card to buy goods and services and are net of returns and other adjustments.  ATM withdrawals, cash back and bill payments do not qualify as debit card purchases”  It doesn’t say whether you need to use your PIN or just swipe and sign though.

In any event, I signed up for this promotion.  It took me about 10 minutes to sign up and setup my account – I did this all online.  One thing to note, you don’t enter in your AAdvantage Member Number when you sign up.  Once you complete the minimum requirements you will receive an email from Citi and they will request your AAdvantage number.  I chatted with a customer services rep to confirm this, once I completed the sign up and realized that there was no place to enter my AAdvantage Number.  The rep said as long as my account had the proper offer code linked to it, I was golden.

So, how do you reap these benefits, you ask?  Easy. This isn’t a targeted offer.  You just need to sign up for a Citigold Checking account by March 31, 2016 – you can do so online at offer.citibank.com, call 1.866.422.0331 or visit a branch.  Just do it online, for god sakes!  The offer code is WD3QFS2Y4C.

This will not generate a hard hit on your credit report.  This checking account also has a $30 monthly fee unless you have $50K in account balance.  So, this isn’t a free 50,000 miles, but for me it is totally worth it.  I don’t get a referral bonus for this, I am just passing along information on a strategy that I am employing.

Are you signing up for this promotion? If not, why? Is there something I didn’t consider? If you are signing up, how do you plan to use your additional 50K AAdvantage Miles?

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Jacket Required

Last Friday, I visited a restaurant here in Chicago where gentlemen are required to wear jackets in the dining room.  To my knowledge this has been the first time I’ve been to a restaurant with this requirement.  I often wear a jacket in general, but I don’t remember seeing this requirement on a reservation that I’ve made.

This restaurant, Les Nomades, even had a sign prominently displayed outside reminding diners of this rule.  The coat check was immediately at the entrance and this coat check was a little different. Not only were they taking coats and bags, but you could check out a jacket, it you failed to realize this requirement.  I came prepared.

I did a little research and found an article from 2014 that lists the restaurants that still require a jacket for men in the dining room, but I found how quickly that list isn’t accurate any more.  The list includes 5 restaurants in Chicago that require jackets, but now only 2 of those still require jackets: Les Nomades and Tru.  While Spiaggia, Alinea (now closed for extensive renos, but scheduled to open again in Spring 2016) and Everest have all relaxed their dress code.

I really don’t like how America is getting so casual. You see more people at the grocery store or on a plane wearing yoga pants than the number who actually practice yoga.  I understand the need for being comfortable, but this is just extreme.  We look like slobs.  I don’t necessarily like the idea of a required dress code for restaurants, events (theater for example) or flights, but we need to step up our wardrobe.

I will make this pledge that I will never wear sweatpants, yoga pants or pajamas in public.  I will also wear a jacket more often than not on a flight and I will never wear a t-shirt of a polo to the symphony, theater or opera. These are special events and we need to treat ourselves and other with respect and dressing the part is a great foundation.  I don’t think one needs to be in a suit all the time, but we need to shed the idea of “being comfortable” means wearing sweats or tees.  When you buys clothes, buy items that fit you and they will be comfortable.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money to look nice either.

Am I nuts? Am I out of touch with the real world?  Am I being elitist?  What am I not understanding here?

 

Austrian Airlines / OS 66 ORD-VIE (Business Class)

My first flight ever from the International Terminal at O’Hare left from the farthest possible gate.  Once I finally arrived at the gate, I was surprised at how many contract workers were milling about with portable luggage scales, weighing peoples hand luggage and requiring them to check their bag.  Mine was definitely overweight, but a quick flash of my business class boarding pass was enough to frighten them away.

At 15h35 we boarded – it was the model of efficiency too. After announcing pre-boarding for families or people needing additional time (which no one took them up on), Business Class was announced and every single person in the gate area hurried to board. I had to push my way through the crowd – the contract workers weren’t letting economy passengers on, but they weren’t moving them away from the boarding door either.

Flight: Austrian Airlines 66 (Business)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 7K
Departure: 16h20 (16h35)
Arrival: 08h35 (08h25)

I stowed by bag in the overhead bin directly above my seat.  The bin was already full of extra pillows and blankets, but I still just shoved my bag in there.  I took out my tablet, my Bose headphones and my charger and stowed my laptop bag as well.  I had no intention of working on this flight – I wanted to enjoy the seat, the food and the entertainment.

We boarded through door 1L, which meant the entire plane had to walk past me. Which also meant that the stew couldn’t make his way back to me with the drink tray for quite a while.  I had probably been in my seat for about 25 minutes before the drinks arrived.  The tray had orange juice, water and sparkling wine.  I grabbed an orange juice and a sparkling wine.  Imagine my surprise when the sparkling wine turned out to be apple juice.  Now, I don’t mind apple juice, but I do mind when I think it is wine.  Let’s just say I was shocked.  Unfortunately, they weren’t serving any booze on the ground at ORD.  If you open a bottle on the ground you have to pay taxes on that bottle, so I had to wait until we were airborne before I could cocktail.

As I perused the menu, which was waiting for me at the seat, as was the amenity kit, I struggled with my selection.  Too many things looked good.  I reached out on Facebook for guidance – and to rub it in that this was how I was spending my evening, while they were all hanging out at home.

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Austrian Business Class Menu from Chicago to Vienna

Austrian Airlines employs an actual chef on board as well.  When there was a bit of a lull in the boarding of coach passengers he made his way through the cabin asking about our dining preferences.  I was really keen on the steak.  He said the steak was an amazing cut of meat and so full of flavor.  He also said that if I enjoy my steak anything less done that medium well, I should steer clear.  He tried to explain why he had to cook it to that temperature, but something was lost in translation.  In any event, I was happy he provided that guidance.  I would have been very disappointed he hadn’t.

I made my decision and the chef shook my hand and said I would not be disappointed.

The door closed at 16h25 and we pulled away from the gate 10 minutes later.  My juice glasses were collected as we taxied to the runway.  We were second in line for takeoff and were int he air by 16h45.  We had a bit of turbulence and were kept in our seats, as were the flight attendants, for the first 30 minutes of the flight.  As soon as it was clear, the flight attendant serving my aisle immediately brought me a glass of French sparkling wine.  It was a nice touch since he hadn’t taken orders from anyone else yet – I think he was trying to make up for the shock I endured when drinking the apple juice.  Very nice.

Austrian Napkin

DO&CO catering prominently displayed on the Austrian napkin

Warm nuts and a bread basket were delivered when everyone else was getting their drinks.  I opted for a pretzel roll.  For my main appetizer I selected the smoke salmon carpaccio, mostly because of the prawn and mango ceviche.  I’m not a big fan of salmon in general, but I figured I should push myself.  It as about 30 minutes between the time the nuts were served and the salmon was delivered.  I decided to have the soup as well as the salmon and it was really good.  It had a great fall flavor with the squash and pumpkin seeds.

Austrian Appetizer

Smoke Salmon Carpaccio with a side of Gingered Butternut Squash Soup

I was looking forward to the food, the drink, the IFE (in flight entertainment) but also the sleep.  A fully flat bed is a fantastic way to visit Europe, but with a late afternoon departure, I’m really in no mood to sleep.  By the time I’m getting ready for bed (whilst on land), is the time we’d be getting breakfast served before landing.  I was hoping the dinner service would be quick, but not rushed.  I wanted to curl up into bed and rest/relax while watching some movies.

Appetizers were cleared pretty quickly and dinner was served just 15 minutes after the appetizers were placed in front of me.  I decided to have the pasta for my entree.  The chef had steered me away from the steak and I was really torn between the fish and the pasta.  It was the eggplant and the cherry tomatoes that pushed me over to the pasta.

Austrian Entree

Ricotta Spinach Ravioli – a really great dinner choice on Austrian Airlines

The pasta was perfectly prepared – it didn’t have those hard crunchy edged nor was it so over cooked it just fell apart, two common issues with airplane pasta.  I do wish there was just a little more sauce – I am a tomato whore, I just can’t get enough of them.

The dinner was quick as well – I had finished the course and it was cleared at 18h20, just 10 minutes after it was served.  I didn’t feel rushed at all, it was just the natural course of the meal.  I took notes on the timing only for this post and as I look back it seems rushed on paper, but not at all in person.

We had a long break between the dinner plates being removed and the cheese and fruit course being delivered.  The cheese was delivered via cart and I could pick out various cheeses and fruits.  The other courses were plaeted in the galley and brought out individually.  I opted to skip the cheese as I was getting pretty full, but I still wanted the fruit and the dessert, despite the fact that I’m not a big dessert guy.  I had the crumbled almond cherry cake with vanilla sauce, which was wonderful.  The portion size was perfect any larger I think it would have been just too much – the law of diminishing returns, you know.

Austrian Dessert

Fruit and dessert course, which ended the main meal service

With dessert I asked the flight attendant for a recommendation on wine – throughout the flight I had been nursing both a sparkling wine and a light red from France.  I don’t remember, nor did I make not of it. In any event, it was tasty. For dessert I had a nice dessert wine from a region just outside of Vienna.  It paired really nicely with the dessert, but it wasn’t something I would want to continue to drink all night.  Sweeter wines only go so far for me.

At 19h00 the final plate from the dinner service was cleared and I turned my seat into a bed and finished watching the remake of Vacation, which I had been watching throughout the dinner service.  After that I continued to enjoy the sparkling wine and rest while watching various TV shows.  I enjoy watching reruns of Big Bang Theory while on flights – since I’ve already seen most of these episodes, I find that I can doze while watching the shows and wake up and not feel that I’ve really missed anything.

Unlike our flight in Thai First, the temperature in the cabin was reasonable and I could sleep pretty comfortably, even though it wasn’t even near bedtime.  That flight on Thai was like a sauna.

When I spoke with the chef while still on the ground in Chicago, he had taken my breakfast order and had asked what time I wanted to be woken up for breakfast.  I opted for the last possible second, so if I were sleeping, I could get a bit more rest.

Breakfast was served at 00h20 (CST), just over 5 hours from when the dinner plates were cleared.  For breakfast I chose some orange juice and some more sparkling wine to start.  I grabbed a croissant from the bread basket, which was very tough and cold and disappointing.  For my hot breakfast I had a grilled tomato, with a ham, cheese and veggie omelette.  Since these omelettes are made to order, I got mine cooked “dry” – I hate runny eggs.  The chef did a great job and I really loved the omelette.  Unfortunately, the flight was so short, I wasn’t really hungry for breakfast, but I forced myself to eat it anyway.

Austrian Breakfast

Made to order omelette, grilled tomato and fresh fruit – my kind of breakfast

The cabin was prepared for landing at 01h15.  The sun was barely poking through the heavy cloud cover as we approach Vienna.  I was excited to hit the ground and make it to the hotel.  We landed at 08h25 (CET) and were at the gate just 7 minutes later.  Most of the gates at the small Vienna airport were occupied by Austrian planes, but I also saw some Lufthansa and British Airways planes plus a Croatian Airlines plane as well.  I love seeing planes that are uncommon to me, planes that aren’t in Chicago or the US.

The door opened almost immediately once we reached the gate and I was off the plane in a matter of minutes.  We weren’t given priority customs cards (like I’ve received at Heathrow) and all the economy fliers were in a near sprint to the customs and immigration areas – I was concerned they knew something I didn’t and I sure as hell didn’t want to be stuck in a slow moving line at 08h45 in the morning, so I kicked it into high gear.  There was no reason to fear, there were at least half a dozen agents available and the lines moved very quickly.  I was through customers/immigration by 08h45 and on my way to the express train into the City.

It was a bit of a walk to the train station and as my luck would have it, I just missed the train into the City and by JUST missed it, I mean the door closed on my face and the train pulled away.  I had to wait 15 minutes for the next train.

Have you flown Austrian TransAtlantic Business Class? What was your favorite part?  Do you did the seating configuration or do you have another airline configuration you prefer?  Do you think I was nuts to spend 70,000 United MileagePlus miles on a one way ticket to Vienna in Business?