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Upgrade mileage requirements among various carriers

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Dec 17th, 2004, 10:08 AM
  #1
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Upgrade mileage requirements among various carriers

Which airlines offer the most liberal deals on upgrading from coach to business using ff miles? Is there a credit card that will accumulate their points on all purchases?
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Dec 17th, 2004, 11:40 AM
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AA used to offer the most liberal upgrade policies (upgradeable with miles from any published fare) but no longer. They now charge $250 each way plus miles to upgrade from the lower fare classes.

All other US major carries have similar policies on restricting mileage upgrades to only those tickets booked in higher fare classes. On Delta, only Y/B/M fare classes are upgradeable with miles. M fares from LAX to CDG are usually in the $1600 range, whereas for about $500 more you can buy discounted business.

I don't know what the upgrade policies are for foreign carriers.

What do you mean by "accumulate their points on all purchases"?
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Dec 17th, 2004, 11:50 AM
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Last question first - most major airlines have credit cards associated with them where all purchases are turned into FF miles - 1 point for one dollar. (For example, we have USAir Visa card from Bank of America). Check your junk mail - I think we get new offers weekly - if you don't get enough junk mail, you can have mine. Also, airline websites sometimes have links to credit card offers.

First question - this is getting more difficult and complicated. It used to be, buy a coach ticket, give the airline a certain number of miles (usually around 20,000 for Continental US) and get an upgrade. Now, it depends on rate class, and sometimes there is a fee. In addition, first class seats available to upgrade into are not always available. The "pecking order" is something like most elite FF first, then other premium level FF, then seats are available for "purchase" with points.

I would actually suggest you go about this research in the opposite order - decide which airline you are most likely to be flying on, then enroll in their FF program and get a credit card associated with that airline.
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Dec 17th, 2004, 12:45 PM
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When shopping for a credit card, stay away from the ones that only give you 1/2 mile for every $1 spent. I know of at least 2 fee free credit cards that only offer 1/2 mile per $1 (one associated with NW, the other with DL) and there are probably others. Cards that give 1 mile per $1 usually have an annual fee, although you can often get the first year waived and perhaps subsequent years if you keep calling and threatening to cancel
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Dec 17th, 2004, 04:45 PM
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Most upgrade copays are only charged on overseas flights, not domestic. Then again, most business fares are international, too.
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Dec 18th, 2004, 08:21 AM
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As to the first question, it depends on whether you fly enough to have status in their frequent flyer program, and whether you are flying domestically or internationally. All these programs have enough caveats to make them difficult to use, and I think a universal policy is to restrict the number of front-cabin seats eligible for upgrades so that even if you have the miles, your chance of getting an upgrade is marginal. Its also a certainty that once you ferret out the best program and join it, they will revise it to make another program more attractive, or go out of business. On some airlines, you have to buy certain non-refundable tickets, then later they will tell you if they have deigned to upgrade you, and take your money and miles. I don't think that's a game worth playing, especially when to earn the miles you have to concentrate on one airline, rather than taking the best bargains you can find.

As to the second, I would suggest you look very carefully at all costs involved before getting an affiliated card. For example, you can get a non-affiliated card that has no annual fee and pays you a cash rebate of 1% of purchases. I have not seen an affiliated card that doesn't have an annual fee (although apparently some will waive the fee if you whine enough) or that gives any kind of rebate, other than the FF miles (which often do not count in maintaining FF program status) which are of questionable value. Let's assume you are serious about the game and charge $40,000 a year on your card. The non-affiliated card nets you $400 cash a year. The affiliated card costs you perhaps $85 a year for the annual fee, and nets you 40,000 FF miles, limited to the affiliated airline (I know, I know, there are some cards that are not limited to one airline). 40,000 may seem like a lot of miles, but it will get you almost nothing; many frequent fliers have balances of half a million or more because of the difficulties in using the miles. On my favorite airline a round trip front cabin ticket to Europe costs 200,000 miles, subject to limited availability, so to get that with an affiliated card would take five years (at 40,000 per year) and cost about $400 in annual fees, plus taxes and fees on the ticket itself. With a non affiliated card, you would have amassed about $2000 cash, and a deep discount front cabin round trip to europe, subject to limitations on availability similar to those on the ff miles purchase, has been going for about $1250.

As to the second
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Dec 18th, 2004, 08:46 AM
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Hey ClevelandBrown --
$1250 deep discount front cabin USA-Europe? How do you/I find this?
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Dec 18th, 2004, 03:17 PM
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Continental has offered it sporadically, and the number is very limited so they are sold almost immediately.
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Dec 18th, 2004, 03:53 PM
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clevelandbrown,
Do you have a recommendation for a no annual fee card which offers at least a full 1% rebate (not one that's 'up to 1%'), is a visa or mastercard, and has no annual rebate cap (or at least a higher cap)? I currently have a Citibank dividend visa, but the rebate maxs out at $300 annually. My two mileage earning cards are both Amex's, so I'd like another visa or m/c that I can use where Amex isn't accepted, but I don't want to pay an annual fee. Thanks!
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Dec 19th, 2004, 09:15 AM
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Patty,
I don't do enough charging to warrant digging out the best card. I do use discover domestically, and they return 1% of charges in excess of, I think, $3k per year, and their terms do not appear to have a cap. In my area, it is not uncommon that "merchants", such as utilities, that allow use of a credit card make a charge for that privilege, while many lenders offer special incentives if your loan is automatically drawn from a bank account, and the market we usually use is on the cash and haggle basis.
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