Want to maximize miles earned

Jan 23rd, 2007, 05:26 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 127
Want to maximize miles earned

I am new at the miles accumulation game, so bear with me. I have earned a lot of miles, but probably not enough to make a dent in the cost of this trip (plus my travel dates are pretty defined based on family obligations this vacation).

I will be traveling to Ireland and London with my two kids and mother in June, departing Boston. I was planning on charging the trip on my AA-linked Visa card, flying Aer Lingus (part of AA's One World program) Boston to Shannon, then from Dublin to London and back to Boston from London (thru Dublin). I also wanted to stay two nights at a Hilton while in London. I will also need to rent a car for the five days I'll be in Ireland (no particular rental company in mind yet).

What is the best way for me to earn points on this trip? Will I need to call the airline directly to book my flight? how about using Orbitz or Expedia? Any tips?
Liam is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 05:43 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,785
The best way to use your card is to charge as much stuff as possible in Dollars in the US. While in Europe, don't use the AA card for anything. You'll incur a 3% currency conversion fee on top of the 1% Visa charges (I think that's what my AA charges), which will cost you more in hard dollars than what you will earn in miles (do the math to convince yourself of this). If you have a brokerage card, or a Capital One card, they don't charge these conversion fees (or not as much), so use those cards. Use your ATM card to get cash (no fees), I believe. Never use your AA card to get cash in Europe.

3% of $50,000 worth of purchases in Europe is $1,500. You get a very restricted free trip for the 50,000 miles you have earned with these purchases - but you've paid an extra (un-necessary) $1,500 for it. I bet you can get a flight from Boston to anywhere in Europe for less than $1,500.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 05:51 PM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 36,507
"You'll incur a 3% currency conversion fee on top of the 1% Visa charges (I think that's what my AA charges), which will cost you more in hard dollars than what you will earn in miles (do the math to convince yourself of this)."

Stu, your math is different from mine. I save my earned miles and always use them for Business Class tickets to Europe with two stopovers -- like three destinations for one. Those tickets if purchased would cost in excess of $7000. I get them for 90,000 miles. That's about 13 cents per mile. If I have to pay an extra 3 cents to get each mile, my math says I'm still 10 cents a mile ahead. Of course if you cash in your miles for trips that you could buy for cheap, then of course, spending that extra money to get the miles is foolish.

One point is wrong. My Citibank AA card charges 2% plus the 1% or 3% total, not 4%.

By the way, Liam, have you signed up for AA newsletter by email? That used to (and I think still does) get you some nice bonus miles.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 06:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 127
Thanks for the replies. When I said I was going to charge the trip, I meant that I was going to use my card to pay for the hotel, airfare, rental car, etc. I was planning on using cash/ATMs while traveling, with the occasional use of one of my credit cards while overseas.

How about booking the flight? Will I earn any AA miles by using Aer Lingus? If so, will I earn more by calling them directly or will it be the same amount as I'd get if I booked online? Or would a travel agent be any good for this?

Liam is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 08:45 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,785
>>Those tickets if purchased would cost in excess of $7000.<<

Patrick - my math is sound, except I think we might differ in how we travel. I would never hand out $7,000 to travel to Europe - first class or even private jet. I usually sleep on the way over, and think of air travel as a "penalty" for spending 4-5 weeks in Europe.

When I can't travel on FF miles, I've paid between $700 to $1,200 to travel to Europe from the west coast in peak season. The $700 tickets don't seem to be as prevalent as they were 5 years ago. Spending $1,000 to $1,500 extra for purchases to accumulate $700 to $1,200 worth of free tickets on bankrupt airlines, traveling to different cities than I want, 2-5 days different from days I want to travel on, and then having to "play the game" to even figure out how to secure the tickets, is much too much for my tired old bones.

If you usually travel first class & spend $7,000 for tickets, then I admit that the excess $1,500 is a good expenditure to secure the $7,000 first class ticket, instead if the $700 to $1,200 ticket in Coach Class.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 09:24 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,121
Liam, let me address the flying part, then the rest...

First, Aer Lingus is leaving the Oneworld Alliance effective 31 March this year. Although they have indicated they'll continue to partner with AA and most of the remaining OW members, there are no details at present.

Second, even now not all fare classes on EI (Aer Lingus' symbol, like AA or BA) earn AAdvantage miles (AA's miles program.) Part of the reason EI is leaving Oneworld is that the previous CEO determined that they should become more of a discount or low-cost carrier (to compete with the likes of Ryanair) so things like earning award travel on EI was inconsistent with that mission. (Said CEO is now CEO at British Airways, they of striking cabin crew and pending chaos in UK air travel.)

Thus you need to confirm that your ticket will indeed earn miles with AA. Look at the booking code - a six-letter/number hodgepodge that should be visible under the "fare rules" heading in your booking. If it begins with any letter other than Y, K, H or B, you'll get no AA miles for your flights. (Those are the most expensive economy fares; if you bought your ticket online or paid the lowest available cost, they are almost certainly NOT in one of those classes.)

If you haven't purchased your tickets yet, and if this is important to you, then I would look at re-booking on an American flight to Ireland via Chicago, or take AA to London and then Aer Lingus (preferably using the AA "codeshare" flight number) back to Ireland from LHR.

By doing this you may pay a bit more for your tickets, but you'll get full mileage credit, which in your case is over 8000 miles, not to be sneezed at.

You can earn AA miles with the purchases, with the flying, with the hotel stay and with the car hire. If you prepay the car and hotels in USD online, you may be able to avoid some of the markup on the credit card, but not necessarily. On that matter, it's really Hobson's choice - use the card and get knicked for exchange fees, or use travelers checks and get a lousy exchange rate, or use an ATM and get whacked for service fees and currency conversions. No escape.

If you want to join us in the snake pit of mileage program obsession, come on over to the AA forum on flyertalk.com and see the dark side of this affliction.
Gardyloo is offline  
Jan 24th, 2007, 12:53 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,000
hopscotch is offline  
Jan 24th, 2007, 03:02 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 127
Thanks for the info. For what it's worth, I priced one suggested itinerary (bos-lon, lon-dub, dub-lon, lon-bos) via AA.com ($4226 for the 4 of us) and expedia ($4130 for the 4 of us). Expedia never gave me AA as an option, even on the Bos-Lon leg.

On expedia, my original itinerary (bos-shannon, dub-lon, lon-bos) totalled $3594 for the four of us. All travel on expedia was via Aer Lingus.

I think I might just use the AA-linked Visa and book online via Expedia, even if it means missing out on some miles the airline will probably never honor!! *LOL
Liam is offline  
Jan 24th, 2007, 06:06 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,121
Liam - try using Orbitz or Travelocity. Expedia and AA are in the middle of a p*##ing contest over commissions, and the week before last Expedia cut off its nose (IMO) by de-listing AA from all foreign (also business and first class domestic) booking alternatives.

I just priced out BOS - xLHR - SNN // DUB - LHR // LHR-BOS on aa.com and got a total of $3957 for 4, using made-up dates in June. The outbound would be on AA's flight to Heathrow (a 777) connecting to Shannon on Aer Lingusb but using an AA flight number (thus qualifying for miles); then on an Aer Lingus flight from DUB back to LHR (no miles but short hop) and returning to Boston on AA's 777 at the end. The 777 has in-seat video vs. "main screen" if that's of interest to your family.

One side note - each passenger would get 7030 miles added to their account (plus you'd get the credit card and hotel miles in addition.) However, you could phone AA customer service before you fly and sign (everyone) up for AA's "Gold Challenge." If you earn 5000 points (not the same as miles) in 90 days, you'll be awarded "Gold" frequent flyer elite status good for up to 18 months (depending on when in June you fly.)

As Gold members, you can use the elite check in lines, select exit-row or bulkhead seats in coach (more legroom) and also receive a 25% bonus on flown miles, starting with the flight on which you cross the 5000-point barrier. In your case that would be the return LHR-BOS flight, so you and all your family members would net an additional 817 miles for the 25% bonus on that flight, for a total of almost 7850 miles for the trip, and then earn more miles or use the Gold status perks for additional travel on AA or partners for the rest of the year or possibly the next. Not a bad deal IMO.
Gardyloo is offline  

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