Friday, September 20, 2013

Booking BA Shorthaul Awards- my first experience

Like many, I got the Chase BA Visa way back when they were offering a 100K signup bonus.  Since then the miles... er, sorry, Avios... have been sitting in my account because I'm too cheap to pay BA's extortionate fuel surcharges.  I'd seen several bloggers and commenters mention that Avios were great for shorthaul partner awards, but, until now, I'd not had the opportunity to find out for myself.

I'm currently planning a trip to Peru in a couple of months.  My original plan was MGM-DFW-LIM-CUZ on a mix of AA and LAN flights, but AA had no availability for the DFW-LIM segment.  So, I searched Delta and after a little wheeling and dealing, I had enough Skymiles for MGM-ATL-LIM.  The problem was that Skyteam had no partners offering the LIM-CUZ route.  So, it was back to OneWorld and LAN.

Unfortunately, neither the AA nor BA websites would allow me to search for LAN availability intra-Peru.  So, I went to the phones.  AA had the flights I needed for 24K + around $50.  Not bad, but I decided to see if BA could beat it.  I called up and, Bob's your uncle, had two RT tickets for LIM-CUZ at a smashing $27.30tax + 18k Avios.  Deal!  It's sad when I'm happy about getting just over 2cpm value out of my miles.  Interestingly, I was prepared for a $25 telephone booking charge that the BA website warned me about.  However, I was not charged the fee for whatever reason.  Now if I can just figure out the bloody Machu Picchu ticket website!

Friday, September 13, 2013

IC Chicago- The Magnificent Mile

     I recently had a memorable stay at the IC Chicago- Magnificent Mile when I was in town for a Cubs game.  I've stayed here a couple of times before, and, to me, this is one of those ICs that I really enjoy despite some serious shortcomings.  The property is divided between the historic tower and the "Grand Tower" a newer addition.  The historic tower originally housed the Medinah Athletic Club (affiliated with the Shriners) in the Thirties.  The typical Shriner stylized "middle eastern" architectural details are present throughout the historic building.  The pool area is particularly amazing in it's ornamentation.

     One high point is that, as an RA, I've received some really great upgrades here when booking the lowest rate available.  Last time I was there, I was upgraded to a one bedroom suite on the 38th floor of the historic tower.  I was hoping for that upgrade again, but I was surprised with a different upgrade to room 4100, a memorable room on the 41st floor of the historic tower.  More accurately, I should say that my room was the 41st floor, since it occupied the entire floor.

Fire Escape Map

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chase INK cards

     A while ago, I mentioned that Chase INK cards offered a rare, but useful, benefit to cardholders traveling to Ireland:  CDW coverage.  Most cards don't offer this, but INK, being a World Mastercard, does.  Well, the writing is on the wall that this may be going away.

     Today, Gary at View from the Wing has an interesting post on Chase's decision to issue Visa-branded cards to new INK applicants.  He mentions, however, that current cards will remain Mastercards.  I'm not so sure about that.  There are some hints that Chase will also be transitioning current MCs to Visa.  Ink's "Think Tank" survey community recently hosted a survey regarding different formats for a letter informing current cardholders that their MC would be switching to a Visa.  Chase is at least thinking about it.

     Either way, the card remains a very attractive option for earning points, but I'll be sad to see that CDW benefit go away.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Discover Checking- Targeted Offer

I've had a Discover card for many years, and, frankly, I keep it for only three reasons: 1) no annual fee, 2) it's my oldest account; and 3) the occasionally useful 5% cashback offers.  Now, it appears that Discover is getting into the banking game in a more concrete way.  Today I received an apparently targeted offer to sign up for a Discover checking/debit account.  It's advertised as "no monthly fees (no balance or activity requirements)."  That's nice, but I already have a checking account.

So, why would I even consider this account?  Discover Cash Back.  I mean, I've got to pay fuel surcharges and taxes somehow, right?  So, I was very intrigued to see that Discover is offering cash back in connection with this checking/debit account.  Specifically, the offer is 10 cents per debit purchase, 10 cents per online bill pay, and 10 cents per check written.  That really got my gears turning.    1000 $1 Amazon payments?  10,000 10 cent Amazon payments?  How long could I possibly last before an account shutdown for "perk abuse?"

I'm guessing the answer is "not long."  Looking at the sign-up website, I see this in the FAQ:

"Can I earn more rewards by splitting up my normal bill payments or debit card transactions?

Your bill payments, debit card transactions and checks are rewarded for normal everyday transactions. As noted in the Deposit Account Agreement, we reserve the right to adjust the amount of your rewards or close your account due to irregular, unauthorized or fraudulent activity in your Checking Account. For example, splitting up one standard monthly bill payment into several payments to receive $0.10 per payment is deemed as irregular activity as it's not standard bill payment practice. Same holds true for debit card transactions. Asking a merchant to swipe your debit card repeatedly for each item at checkout instead of using your debit card to make a complete purchase of items at one time is recognized as manufacturing transactions and not normal everyday debit card behavior."

I guess  Discover learned something from the Citi Thank You point debacle.  Anyway, it might be interesting to find out where the "irregular activity" line lies.