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Advice for Using Credit Cards for Miles

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Jan 28th, 2013, 10:57 AM
  #1
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Join Date: Apr 2007
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Advice for Using Credit Cards for Miles

I have not been able to find any current information in regard to using credit cards for accruing air/ travel miles,and wonder if any of you are still trying !! For many years,we have consistently used our AA Mastercard in order to accumulate those miles that so extend our travel budget.With our airfare paid for,we are financially free to put our dollars into planning a wonderful trip.Frustratingly,each year the process has become more time consuming and frustrating.This year it was a nightmare of multiple calls trying to fly from D.C. to Italy, and back.We vowed to find a better way.Problem is,we do not know where to search.I am appealing to Fodorites to share their experiences and expertise.How do YOU do it ???What makes sense??Our AA miles are mostly gone and now is the time...... !!
4carolina is offline  
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Jan 28th, 2013, 11:59 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
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The first thing that you have to learn, at least with AA, is to be flexible.

I've been flying AA since 1989. I haven't had to pay for a trip to Europe or SA since 1995 (only fly Biz class).

My wife and I are going to Ireland/Scotland in August. The original plan I had, my wife delayed too long, and the seats were gone.

I switched things around and have found something similar for a similar timeframe.

Going to Italy, check the alternate airports, such as Bologna.

Also, it seems that AA changes partners almost every dance. What was a partner yesterday is not one today. Most of your flights are now probably routed through LHR on BA if you're flying from Dulles.

Get creative and fly from Reagan. Probably to JFK and then to Italy on another carrier. You can fly Reagan-JFK-BCN-BOl and avoid the fees at LHR by BA. One example: You should be able to find more. The JFK to BCN route is on AA.

For me, instead of flying SFO-JFK-LHR-DUB, I'm flying SJC-ORD-LHR-DUB. This way I'm flying AA into Europe. Seems like more of a hassle, but I don't like BA's Biz Class, where 1/2 the seats face backwards.
Rastaguytoday is offline  
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Jan 28th, 2013, 02:52 PM
  #3
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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You have not become FF miles incompetent all of a sudden - every airline is making it harder and harder to use mails. It used to be easy to check availability on-line and go from there - but now it often involves a phone call, especially if travel is using partner airlines. For trip Boston-Italy last summer, I was on the phone for 2 hours with USAir trying to find seats. Tedious enough to almost make me stay home but it eventually worked out.
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Jan 28th, 2013, 04:27 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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We have used AA miles for years as well and find that planning far ahead and being flexible is the key to using our miles. We also prefer to use our miles primarily to upgrade to Biz Class altho this past year I was able to get "free" RT tickets to Hawaii (economy class going and biz class returning) for 55,000 miles each.

We had some miles with Continental a few years ago and had a terrible time trying to use them. I find AA much easier to deal with and can usually accomplish what I want using the website.
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Jan 28th, 2013, 07:43 PM
  #5
 
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Try Delta if you want the worst FF experience.

What would cost me 12,500 miles to fly from coast to coast on AA is 40,000 miles on Delta.
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Jan 28th, 2013, 07:58 PM
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The answer is to educate yourself in the methods used to find "award" seats. (I hate that term - along with "free tickets" it misses the point; you paid for your miles by some means, be it credit card annual fees, merchant markups on credit card charges, whatever.)

Anyway, you need to figure out how to find mileage redemption seats on carriers besides AA and the couple of partners that AA will show on its website.

For example, Iberia is an AA partner, but you can't see Iberia availability on AA's site. So just sign up for the Iberia FF program (free) and look for it on Iberia's site. When you see something, write down the details and phone AA; inevitably AA will say "Oh, great," and let you redeem your miles for the Iberia flight(s.)

Or sign up for British Airways' FF program (Executive Club) and do the same. BA shows availability on some partners that you can't see with AA.

But the end result is the same - know where the seats are before you phone AA.

Does this take some work? Definitely, and it also takes patience and flexibility - different flights, dates, routes. But it's totally doable, if you're willing to spend the time to learn to use the system to your benefit. No pain, no gAAin.
Gardyloo is offline  
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Jan 28th, 2013, 08:11 PM
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Have you tried using the online award search?
mrwunrfl is offline  
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Jan 28th, 2013, 08:14 PM
  #8
 
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I get the point that Gardyloo made about searching on the Iberia website, but trying aa.com first might help.
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Jan 28th, 2013, 09:09 PM
  #9
 
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You can see availability on AA's site for British Airways, Alaska Airlines, airberlin, Qantas, and a couple of other Oneworld or non-alliance partners. For other partners, you need to phone, which is why it's important to know who flies where, and do your best to find flights on your own, rather than relying on AA phone people to make all the effort. Sometimes they don't even know that you can get to, say, Rome via Madrid or Dusseldorf on partners; they'll just look for space on AA or BA, and if nothing "easy" turns up, they'll say "Nothing's open."
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Jan 29th, 2013, 06:35 AM
  #10
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
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I prefer cash in my pocket to nebulous promises of rewards in the future. Some credit cards refund a percentage of purchases in cash or the equivalent. Mine gives me 1 per cent of everything in groceries, which I can redeem immediately at my local store. No searching for flights where the free seats are limited or wrestling with recalcitrant airline websites. The other way of saving is to limit credit card charges for the services provided. However glossy the promises made by cards connected to airlines, there are going to be costs. Better to save money now and forget about the rewards struggle.
Southam is offline  
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Jan 30th, 2013, 06:33 PM
  #11
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Thank you,all of you !! The problem is we can only accumulate enough miles to place us in the LOWEST category,with the fewest options.We get our miles from using our credit card for all our expenses and now have enough miles for two round trips totaling 80,000 miles.When the AA agents look at the various options,there are no seats available at our lowly level.Gardyloo,I was told that while tere may be seats open,they are not available to us,at our 40,000 miles per R/T level.So....to get back to U.S. from Milan,I spoke with 5 or 6 different agents and one supervisor,all of whom checked Barcelona,Madrid,Berlin...Nada !!!!!!There are seats,but not for us.We have a flight from Milan to Heathrow.We pay for an over-night at a Heathrow Hotel and then the next day, Chicago and D.C. We are at the lowest priority level,as explained to me by the supervisor.Very sad....... I will keep checking,and hope something opens up.Any other inspired ideas ????Thanks so much for your suggestions !!
4carolina is offline  
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Jan 30th, 2013, 07:24 PM
  #12
 
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I really doubt there were seats open for some but "not for us." Since AA now only allows one-way redemptions (so two for a "round trip") what I suspect might have been going on was that you may have had one or both of the flights fall into the "high" season, when AA requires 30,000 miles in each direction. This is between mid-May and mid-October; the rest of the year it's 20,000 miles in each direction.

I don't know what the supervisor meant when he/she said you were in the "lowest priority level." For redemptions there's no such thing, unless he/she was referring to so-called "AAnytime" awards, which cost twice the amount in miles of the "SAAver" awards, and which are treated the same as paid tickets, i.e. if there's a seat available on the plane, you get it. If there were no "SAAver" seats on your chosen flights but there were still seats for sale, then they'd be available for "AAnytime" redemptions, and thus would have a higher "priority" than your request.

What are your travel dates and how many are traveling?
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Jan 31st, 2013, 08:11 PM
  #13
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Hi Gardyloo......I appreciate your informed interest.We,two of us, depart 9 April to Rome via BWI and JFK and return 29 April from Milan to Heathrow for an overnight.Repeatedly,I was told,that "at our level" there were no seats available.There were seats for AAnytime,as you indicated.Our dates fall into the low season and are 20,000 miles each way for each of usAny ideas???
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