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Novice: travel goals and strategy help

Discussion in 'questions. answers. conversations.' started by Frivolous, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. Frivolous

    Frivolous New Member

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    Hi Lucky,

    I am new to the game of miles and points, have been following your blog for a few weeks now. Thank you!

    I am working on setting my travel goals for 2017 and deciding on a strategy to achieve them through miles and points if possible. I am based in SF Bay Area.

    Present situation:
    SPG Amex card: 80k points, Gold status
    IHG Gold status
    Alaska mileage plan: 40k points
    Etihad Airlines: Gold status valid until Aug 2017
    Cathay Pacific MarcoPolo Green status (through status match request through Etihad)

    Goals:
    Mar/ Apr - Paris, Berlin, Venice trip
    May - Amtrak one-way trip from SF to Chicago, return by flight
    July - SF to Vancouver round trip flight
    Nov - St. Thomas US Virgin Islands trip
    Dec - SF to Sydney/ Melbourne trip

    Typical travel:
    Once a year visit from SF to India, with stopovers in countries based on airlines - open to airline options
    Occasional business trips within US to NYC and WBU
    At least 2 personal travel trips within US

    Strategy so far:
    I have applied for the 30k bonus BoA Amtrak card and will use those points to redeem for a Amtrak train one-way from SF to Chicago
    I am hoping to accumulate more SPG points through credit card spend to redeem for a RT flight from SF to Sydney for my end of year Dec trip

    Suggestions/ thoughts on other ways to support part of my travel goals?

    Apologize if this is not the kind of request for this forum.
     
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  2. MidSouth Skier

    MidSouth Skier Well-Known Member

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    Welcome @Frivolous - are you ok with economy travel for these trips or are you looking for premium cabin travel? I suspect that for your trips to Chicago and Vancouver that you may be better off just purchasing a ticket and earning some miles but want to be sure we're all on the same page before we start making recommendations.
     
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  3. David W

    David W Well-Known Member

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    If your goal is travel in premium cabins, I recommend that you get cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve, Amex Everyday/Everyday Preferred/Premier Rewards Gold/Platinum and/or Citi Premier/Prestige cards when there is a high bonus in order to boost your transferable points currencies. You'd be able to transfer the points to airlines to book award seats in premium cabins for your planned international trips to Europe, Asia/India and the South Pacific. For your trips to Vancouver, Chicago and the USVI as well as future domestic travel, I'd look into paid tickets. Premium cabin products on those routes arent anything to get excited over. If you're lucky, you may be able to get on a wide body for SFO-ORD since both are United hubs.

    I'd also consider getting cobrand airline cards to boost mileage balances as well.
     
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  4. Frivolous

    Frivolous New Member

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    Thanks for the reply MidSouth Skier.

    I am comfortable with economy travel and premium cabin travel would be a bonus. If I can pay for my Europe, USVI and Australia trips with points/ miles Vancouver and Chicago I can definitely pay out of pocket. Or is that too high a goal when I am just starting?
     
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  5. Frivolous

    Frivolous New Member

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    Thanks for the reply David W. I am definitely considering the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and will apply for the same in their offices soon. I have been putting it off mainly because I am not sure if it aligns with my travel goals or not.

    One of my biggest struggle in this is understanding which airline to focus on. I have miles and accounts with most US domestic airlines like United, Delta, American, Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin/ Alaska etc. Any recommendations on which cobrand airline card would make most sense for me?
     
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  6. David W

    David W Well-Known Member

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    I think the Chase family of cards as well as the United co-branded cards are a fantastic option for you. UR points are pretty flexible and they can be transferred to United.

    San Francisco is a large United hub which offers many fantastic non-stop and one-stop itineraries to destinations. Furthermore, it's under the Star Alliance group of airlines which has some pretty fantastic options to Europe as well as decent saver award availability. United has a few flights to Australia but there are also a number of great airlines that serve Asia, which can be a great place to connect to India and the South Pacific.

    Furthermore, while the new UA online award pricing engine kind of sucks, it does still generate some interesting itineraries, such as US to Asia via Europe, which can be a fantastic use of points and miles. Also keep in mind that UA does not pass on fuel surcharges so generally the cash outlay on the award will be low.

    Alaska might be a great secondary program to look at. They have a presence in SFO due to their merger with Virgin America and they also work with a number of different airlines for some unique award opportunities.
     
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  7. Frivolous

    Frivolous New Member

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    Thank you David W

    Would CSR be a good option? GlobalEntry and TSA Pre would not apply for me. So the 450$ annual fee is only offset by the 300$ travel credit.

    United sounds like a good option for me. Any particular co-branded card?

    Do you recommend focusing on both United and Alaska?
     
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  8. David W

    David W Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, I should have clarified a bit further.

    By "Chase family of cards" I mean any Chase card that earns their UR points - Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserved, (and if you have a business) Ink Business Cash,& Ink Business Preferred. You can earn points across all these cards, and combine them into one UR points account. You can get all of these cards (staggered, staying under the 5/24 rule) when there is a great sign-up bonus and then cancel cards you dont want to hold onto long term. Picking a few to keep will help maximize points earned as each card has their own unique benefits.

    The CSR is still a good option even if you cant make use of the Global Entry credit. The annual fee is decent, once you factor in that travel credit. Also, remember that it's based on calendar year so you'd get two credits before the annual fee is due a second time. While you cant make use of the Global Entry credit, consider gifting it (or offering to pay for in exchange for cash back) from friends/family who are interested and can make use of the benefit. I did this when I had an extra credit that I had no need for.

    United co-brand credit cards are also issued by Chase and there are two. I'd apply for them when there is a great sign up bonus.

    I think focusing on both United and Alaska are good options, provided you can make use of miles in either program. Many people have miles in different programs for flexibility. Just dont over diversify.
     
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  9. BKT

    BKT New Member

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    @Frivolous - Keep in mind that the Sapphire Reserve also comes with Priority Pass Lounge access, so there is still additional value beyond the travel credit to be considered.
     
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