Velocity 7 Million Points Promotion

The good news?  Everyone will win SOMETHING!

The bad news?  That SOMETHING may not amount to much as the prize pool will be divided evenly among all the entrants.  If you already collect Velocity points, my guess is that they will get about 700,000 entries (10% of all members) an everyone will get about 10 points.  Whoopie!  If you don’t have other sources of Velocity points such as Flybuys, don’t bother with this promo.

Avianca’s New Buy Lifemiles Promo Through 28 Feb

Avianca has periodic promos throughout the year so only take advantage of them when you will be redeeming them within a few months.  Lifemiles can be very valuable to eco-tourists visiting Central and South America as it gives you access to all the birding hotspots such as Napo Wildlife Centre, Galapagos, many places in Colombia & Peru and more!

Only 3000 Lifemiles for Avianca’s subsidiary Aerogal from Quito to Coca!

Here’s the details of the current promo:

    • For LifeMiles members that have Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Chile or Venezuela as their country of residence in their Member’s profile the bonus percentage applies as follows: for purchases from 1,000 – 10,000 LifeMiles receive 2×1, for purchases from 11,000 –40,000 LifeMiles receive 2×1 + 15% additional miles, for purchases from 41,000 – 200,000 receive 2×1 + 25% additional miles.
    • For LifeMiles members that have any other country as their country of residence in their Member´s profile the bonus percentage applies as follows: The bonus percentage apply as follows: for purchases from 1,000 – 50,000 LifeMiles receive 2×1, for purchases from 51,000 – 100,000 LifeMiles receive 2×1 + 15% additional miles, for purchases from 101,000 – 200,000 receive 2×1 + 25% additional miles.
    • The bonuses are calculated based on the miles purchased per individual transaction without taking into account the 2×1 bonus.
    • The miles must be purchased in multiples of 1,000.
    • The minimum miles to purchase per transaction is 1,000 LifeMiles.
    • The maximum miles to purchase per transaction during this promotion to receive the bonus showed in the table above is 200,000 LifeMiles if the Member has not purchased miles in 2017 or 200,000 LifeMiles minus the miles previously purchased by the Member in 2017.
    • The Member may purchase miles outside of the limits showed in the table above but in such case the transactions will be processed but no bonuses will be granted.
    • The maximum amount of miles to receive by a member per calendar year outside of this promotion is 200,000 LifeMiles (including miles purchased and bonuses received). If the member surpasses the limit, through purchases made during this promotion and other purchases in 2017, taking into account the bonuses received for those purchases, he or she will not be able to purchase any more miles until the next calendar year.
    • Each package of 1,000 LifeMiles costs USD $33.00 without applicable taxes and USD $40.26* including applicable taxes according to correspondence country registered in the LifeMiles database**
    • Only form of payment through Avianca´s Call Center and LifeMiles.com: credit card or international debit card. Cash payments are only allowed at Avianca´s Information Centers. Other Conditions: The receipt of the transaction will reflect the total number of miles accrued to the member´s account, including the bonus miles and the total charge for the transaction.
    • This promotion applies for miles purchases made between February 15th and February 28th, 2017 (between 00.00-23.59 GMT -6, El Salvador).
    • The miles purchased and earned with this promotion do not apply to achieve or maintain the Elite status.
    • The purchase of miles is not reversible or refundable. The purchase of miles is an immediate execution contract. Once the payment is made, the miles will be accrued immediately on the members account. As of that moment the miles can be used according to the terms and conditions of the LifeMiles Program. For these reasons the purchase of miles is a contract that cannot be resolved and retraction or similar rights according to applicable law are not applicable.
    • Miles are not endorsable.
    • Miles purchase is available through Avianca´s Call Centers, LifeMiles.com and Avianca Information Centers. For residents of Curacao it is only available through LifeMiles.com and Avianca´s Call Centers. For residents of Venezuela, it is only available through LifeMiles.com.
    • Does not apply to the Flexible Redemption (miles + money) during the payment process of air ticket redemption.
    • Miles purchased, once accrued, can be redeemed in accordance with the conditions specified in the LifeMiles Program Terms and Conditions and the portfolio of products and services available for redemption.
    • LifeMiles Terms and Conditions apply. LifeMiles is a trademark of LifeMiles B.V.

*For residents in Colombia: the values are settled based on Colombia´s exchange rate on the date of the transaction. For residents in Peru each package of 1,000 miles has a cost of USD 38,94 or S/.128.23 including taxes. Prices in Nuevos Soles reflect the reference exchange rate to February 10th 2017: S/. 3.293 Per 1 USD dollar. Final prices in Nuevos Soles will be determined bases on the exchange rate of the date of the transaction. For residents in Costa Rica the values are settled based on the exchange rate as provided by IATA. For the rest of the countries the values are settled based on the exchange rate of the date of the transaction.
**The price can be lower depending of the correspondence country entered on the Member´s profile in their LifeMiles account.

 

Getting To Darwin, Northern Territory With Airline Miles

Darwin is the gateway to the vast Northern Territory of Australia and you’d be surprised how big it really is!  If you are already in Australia (see miles guide here), it’s pretty easy to pick up domestic flights to Darwin (DRW) from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

IMG_7101

INTERNATIONAL OPTIONS

STAR ALLIANCE

There are no Star Alliance carriers operating to Darwin, however if you have Singapore Krisflyer miles you can use Silk Air from Singapore.

ONEWORLD

Obviously in Australia Qantas is the main player and you can redeem your miles from any OneWorld partner.  Although Qantas has no direct international flights from Darwin, you can easily add on a Sydney-Darwin (for example) segment to any international award to Australia.

Malaysian Airlines flies direct from Kuala Lumpur and is a great choice for people arriving from Europe.

SKY TEAM

There are no Sky Team carriers operating to Darwin although people with Delta miles can redeem them on Virgin Australia.

NON-ALLIANCE AIRLINES & LOW COST CARRIERS

Virgin Australia is the big one and as mentioned above people with Delta miles can redeem with them.  Virgin is also partnered with Singapore Airlines, Etihad and others.

Jetstar is a partner of Qantas but not a member of OneWorld but they have frequent sales so you are better off keeping an eye on their sale page and just paying for the flights.  This is what I did, I got BNE-DRW-BNE for $210 each!

Air Asia flies direct from Denpasar.

Air North has some interesting destinations like Dili, Timor-Leste and some remote Aussie towns.

 

 

IHG Pointbreaks List Through 30 April

For the eco-tourist, there are a few good options in Central America but otherwise not a terrible inspiring list.  Loyalty Traveler has the whole list and Points with a Crew has a map of the properties.  The ones that jump out at me are as follows:

Intercontinental Maracaibo – I know Venezuela is not in a good position now for tourism but this hotel is in an area close to good birding and I am dying to go there.  But make sure they have toilet paper!

Crowne Plaza San Jose Corobici – Good for an early flight out but PLEASE don’t spend your whole time in Costa Rica in the city just because there’s a good deal.  Costa Rica has so much more to offer!

Intercontinental Santo Domingo – Lots of good birding in the Dominican Republic and this looks like a really nice hotel.  Just need to get up early and drive out to the birding hotspots.

Holiday Inn Panama Canal – Well positioned north of the city on the road towards Soberania National Park, an easy morning drive.

How To Maximize Australian Supermarket Loyalty Programs

In Australia we have two main supermarket loyalty programs – Flybuys (Coles & partners) and Woolworths Rewards.  Both of these can earn you valuable points that can either be redeemed for shopping vouchers in $10 increments or transferred to airline programs.

WHAT THEY HAVE IN COMMON

  1.  Both earn a base value of 1 point per $ spent in the supermarket.
  2. Both allow you to redeem 2000 points for one $10 shopping voucher which is stored on the card for use when you shop.
  3. Both have airline partners where you can redeem 2000 points for 870 airline miles.  Woolworths has Qantas and Coles has Virgin Australia plus Etihad where you redeem 10,000 Flybuys for 4000 Etihad.

On the surface, it would appear that it takes forever to get enough points to transfer to the airline to get an actual flight.  $2000 spent in the store gets 870 miles.  If a round trip to Fiji costs 36,000 miles, then you would have to spend $84,000 in the store to get 42 lots of 870 miles which could be exchanged for 36.540 miles.  Pretty daunting, huh?

PLAY THE PROMOS STRATEGICALLY

All is not lost!  Both supermarkets have gotten very competitive with shopping promos lately.  You can find these promos on shopping dockets, in your junk mail and sent to you by email or sometimes by snail mail.  Here is what they look like.

coles-dockets coles-dockets2 flybuys-dec2 woolies-offer woolies-offer2 woolies-offer3

Be sure to activate the email promos and bring the docket ones to be scanned!  If a Woolworths offer is for $10, this comes in the form of 2000 points which you can choose to transfer to Qantas.  Spending $100 on groceries is pretty easy and much better than spending $2000!  You can always stock up on non-perishable items like cleaning supplies, packaged goods and soft drinks, especially when they do the half price deals.

Do they work?  Well have a look at my earnings just for the last few months!

woolies-qf flybuys-dec

 

HOW TO SHOP LIKE A PRO AND GET REWARDS QUICKER

  1.  Swap your shopping each week according to which supermarket has the best promos.
  2.   Don’t exceed the target by more than a couple dollars otherwise your next target will go up substantially.  I mentally add up the prices as I put things in the trolley and usually come within $1 of the target.
  3.  If the targets start getting too high, then stop shopping at that supermarket for awhile and shop at the other one.  They will make you better offers to lure you back.
  4.  If you have a partner or spouse, have them join Flybuys & Woolworths Rewards.  When your targets are too high, then start using their card for a while.  You can always use the family pooling feature of Velocity & Qantas to get the points in your account or just redeem from their account.
  5.  Pay with an Amex Platinum Edge to get 3 Membership Rewards per $.  If you don’t have one, I would appreciate if you use my referral link which is on my review of the card.
  6.  Buy gift cards for other things you need at supermarkets (Bunnings, JB-Hifi, clothing stores, etc) but DON’T scan your rewards card or your next promo target will go up substantially!  I learned this the hard way when we renovated the bathroom last year and I bought heaps of Bunnings cards at Coles which made my monthly average go way up and my next goal was something ridiculous like “Spend $300 for 1000 bonus points.  Most people’s targets will be between $50 – $150 a week.  However you do want to buy the gift cards and pay with an Amex Platinum Edge, just don’t scan the Flybuys card!  You’ll still get 3x on your home renovations rather than the 1x per $ you normally get at Bunnings.

 

Travel/Miles/Points Wishlist – 2017

I’ve seen a lot of other travel/miles/points bloggers making predictions or wishlists for 2017 so why not?  Mine is from the point of view of a birder/eco-traveler so mine are pretty different.

  1.  LATAM – I wish that you would introduce one-way awards at half the price of a round trip.  Your other South American competitors have them so get with the program!
  2.  COPA – I wish that you would join Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi TYP to make it easier to get your miles.
  3.  AVIANCA – Same as COPA, who will be the first?  C’mon guys, COMPETE!
  4.  AUSSIE AMEX – How about adding more transfer partners, preferably in South America but I’ll take the AA or UA.
  5.  VENEZUELA – Get your economic act together,  You have too good a birdlist so take a page from Colombia, restore law and order so we can start visiting again.
  6.  ALL AIRLINES APPLICABLE – DItch the fuel surcharges, especially on award tickets!
  7.  AA & UA – Offer awards in Premium Economy for your partners that have this cabin.
  8.  QANTAS – Seriously, NO awards in J on SYD-SCL for the whole year?  Unacceptable!
  9.  GARUDA – Why don’t you have an Aussie credit card partner yet?  And while you are at it, offer easy online redemptions.
  10.  COLES & WOOLWORTHS (AUSTRALIA) – Keep the bonus promos coming!

 

 

10,000 Flying Blue Bonus Miles With Hotel Stay

This is one of those rare opportunities where even booking an eco-lodge can earn you a huge miles bonus!  Flying Blue, the miles program for Air France, KLM, Kenya Airways & more have teamed up with Pointshound to offer 10,000 bonus miles for a 2 night hotel stay booked before 31 Dec!  The stay can be after that date but you must book and pay on a credit card before then.  Some eco-lodges can be found here or you can try smaller independent hotels in cities where birding is easily accessible.  I have a few 2 night stays coming up in Uganda & Zambia next year so I will be taking advantage of this promo.

For a limited time, earn 10,000 Award Miles as a bonus for your first 2-night stay! That’s on top of the Miles you earn for each night of your stay… Make your booking via the special PointsHound for Flying Blue website before 31 December 2016. It’s our best deal yet!

  • Choose the ‘Earn Miles’ option and pay with your credit card
  • Make your first booking for 2 consecutive nights before 31 December 2016
  • Earn Award Miles every night you stay, plus an extra 10,000 Award Miles as a bonus!
  • Earn Award Miles towards your next short-haul flight!

Full details, T&Cs

Flying Blue is one of my recommended programs and is very useful if you are traveling to Africa as Kenya Airways is one of the core members.  They also run some excellent promos every month where they reduce the required mileage on specified awards so if you are lucky enough to be traveling to one of their featured destinations you can save a bundle!

 

Amex Platinum Edge – My Secret For Earning Miles & Points

Many people wonder how I manage to do all these amazing trips on such a tight budget.  The #1 thing I do is to take advantage of any credit card promotions that come along.  We all have daily expenses – groceries, petrol, bills that have to be paid regardless so why not earn miles and points on them?

In Australia, the Amex Platinum Edge is the best card for normal everyday spend.

amex-plt-edge0

Here you can see the benefits of this card.  You may notice a 10,000 points bonus for applying but I can do better than that!

amex-plt-edge1 amex-plt-edge2

However if you use my referral link, you get 15,000 Membership Rewards points!  I also get a referral bonus……………….and then you will become eligible to refer people yourself so you can pick up some more points!

There are 9 airline transfer partners –  Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Air New Zealand Airpoints, THAI Royal Orchid Plus, Malaysia Airlines Enrich and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.  Most of these transfer at 1:1 ratio.  You can also transfer to Starwood Preferred Guest at a ratio of 2 Amex = 1 SPG.  From SPG, you have access to over 20 airlines worldwide including American Airlines, British Airways, Flying Blue & more!  When you transfer from SPG to an airline, you should do so in blocks of 20,000 SPG to get a bonus 5000 miles in your airline account.

Earning Amex Membership Rewards is easier than you think!  First of all, your groceries not only get the 3 points per $ but you also get the Coles Flybuys or Woolworths Rewards by scanning your supermarket loyalty card.  Then you can buy gift cards to all kinds of stores like Bunnings, BCF, several clothing stores, Netflix, iTunes and more so almost all your purchases can earn 3x!  It all adds up and you soon will have enough points for your dream trip!

Amex T&Cs

Getting To The Caribbean Islands With Airline Miles

There are so many islands in the Caribbean that it would take forever to list them all but I will concentrate on the islands that will appeal to birders.  The bad news is that very few islands are served by a member of the main three alliances (Star Alliance, OneWorld, Sky Team) so you would be able to book a ticket with miles.  The easiest island with the most connections, especially via the USA is Puerto Rico and I have a separate post with the details.  So lets look at the rest of the Caribbean.  On the map below, I have highlighted in yellow the islands that are most attractive to birders.

caribbean-map

LIST OF ISLANDS WITH AIRLINES BOOKABLE WITH MILES

ARUBA –  American & LATAM (OneWorld), Avianca, Copa, United (Star Alliance), Delta, KLM (SkyTeam)

BONAIRE – United (Star Alliance), Delta, KLM (SkyTeam)

CAYMAN ISLANDS – American & British Airways (OneWorld),  United (Star Alliance), Delta  (SkyTeam)

CUBA – American, Air Berlin, Iberia & LATAM (OneWorld), Avianca, Copa, Air Canada, Swiss, Austrian, United (Star Alliance), Aeromexico, Air France, Delta, KLM (SkyTeam)

CURACAO – American, Air Berlin  (OneWorld), Avianca, Air Canada,, Copa, United (Star Alliance), KLM (SkyTeam)

DOMINICA – Seaborne is a partner of American Airlines (OneWorld) but not a member of OneWorld.  In my experience they rarely release seats, I tried over several months then had to settle for LIAT.

DOMINCAN REPUBLIC (Punta Cana) – American, British Airways  (OneWorld), Avianca, Air Canada, Swiss, Copa, United (Star Alliance), Delta, KLM, Aerolineas Argentinas (SkyTeam)

JAMAICA – American, British Airways  (OneWorld),   Copa, Air Canada (Star Alliance), Delta (SkyTeam)

ST LUCIA – American, British Airways (OneWorld), Air Canada, United (Star Alliance), Delta (SkyTeam)

ST VINCENT – no alliances

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO – American, British Airways  (OneWorld),   Copa, United (Star Alliance)

 

HOW MANY MILES WILL IT COST?

Every airline member of the 3 main alliances has it’s own frequent flier program. They often have alliances with other airlines outside the program. I have made some reference charts for the airline alliances and I strongly recommend that you check out the program of the airline in your country and the USA based partners of each program as the USA airlines tend to have the most lucrative bonuses. Americans can get very generous credit card bonuses. Details of credit card partners (and other partners) will be on each airline’s website, however often there are more lucrative sign up bonuses. Details are usually posted in the Flyer Talk thread so I strongly suggest you read this thread and the Miles Buzz forum before you apply for any cards just in case a better bonus has been offered. I don’t have any affiliate links and I recommend you do extensive research on your own when applying for airline credit cards.  I’m going to use Port of Spain (POS), Trinidad for my example airport in OneWorld & Star Alliance and Curacao (CUR) for Sky Team.

USING ONE WORLD

AMERICAN AIRLINES

No matter where you live, frequent flyer programs based in the USA usually offer the best deals but it’s still a good idea to look at other members of the alliance. Try to avoid carriers that charge a fuel surcharge. Looking at AA’s award chart, we can see that the Caribbean has it’s own region.  These are the miles you will need when traveling to the Caribbean.

aa-caribbean

You will notice there are taxes and fees with certain routes and that the awards are prices as one way trips.

We can see that a South Pacific to the Caribbean award will cost 45,000 miles each way (90,000 round trip) in economy, 82,500 (160,000 round trip) in business class and 112,500 each way (225,000 round trip in first class.

If you are based in North America, economy will cost 17.500 each way (35,000 round trip), business class is 27,500 each way (45,000 round trip) and first is 52,500 each way or 105,000 round trip. You would be flying on AA or LATAM.

AVIOS (BA OR IB)

Avios can be a great bargain for shorter flights. The awards are priced by distance flown per segment rather than zone to zone.

Avios

Avios chart

Using the Great Circle Mapper, we can see that a direct flight from Miami to Port of Spain, Trinidad would cost 10,000 Avios each way, a direct flight from LAX to Port of Spain would cost 20,000 Avios and a direct flight from NYC to Port of Spain would cost 12,500 Avios. If you are using credit card miles, transferring them to Avios rather than UA or AA could save you some points. If you need a connection from elsewhere in the USA to the gateway city, you need to pay for that segment separately with the Avios cost for the distance flown. Example OKC-MIA is 1222 miles so you need to add 10,000 Avios to the total price of the ticket.  There are also some attractive 5th freedom routes on British Airways such as Port of Spain to St Lucia for a mere 4500 Avios!

avios-caribbean

 

QANTAS FREQUENT FLYER

For Qantas, it is easiest to use their points calculator to see how many points you need, then look for availability. Not all itineraries can be booked online, sometimes you have to call them. Using the example of Sydney to Port of Spain we can see that they route through London or the USA  and economy is 75,000 points one way.  Be careful with the business class offering, if you hover over it, you will see that the SYD-LHR segment is in economy.  On the last screen you see the miles required and the taxes including YQ fuel surcharges you have to pay.

pos-qf1 pos-qf2 pos-qf3

 

If you are based somewhere else, leave a comment if you don’t understand this part and I will help you out. Meanwhile, here is a reference list for other One World carriers.

USING STAR ALLIANCE

United, Avianca and Singapore are probably the most common Star Alliance programs in use because of good credit card deals and buy miles promos.

UNITED AIRLINES

United Airlines is a USA based carrier that offers one way awards on its own flights and other Star Alliance carriers. Due to the size of their award chart, I can’t paste it here so will link to it and give examples. For example Orlando to Port of Spain has availability on several dates which I picked at random. They are colour coded for economy, business/first or all three classes. Make sure you scroll all the way down to see all the options. Some routes are only 17.5k and others are a whopping 37.5k! And beware of routes where it is cheaper to fly business class than economy!

pos-ua1 pos-ua2

 

AVIANCA TACA LIFEMILES

Lifemiles has some very attractive promos to buy and share miles. While this doesn’t give you a free trip, it can greatly reduce the cost of a trip especially if you are after business or first class awards. You need to be an existing member of Lifemiles when they announce a promo so join now if you haven’t already. Use their calculator to get an idea of award costs. This will be a range which depends on class and any promos.

 

They have a Star Alliance Award chart and you can see that they divide the continent of South America into northern and southern regions and the Caribbean is on it’s own region. Australia and New Zealand are in the “Others” category. The chart shows one-way awards. I prefer to keep my Lifemiles for intra-South/Central America awards which can get pricy but are bargains using awards.

av-chart-carib

Avianca2

SINGAPORE AIRLINES

SQ miles have become much easier to get in recent years. Americans can use Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You, Amex Membership Rewards. Aussies can use the Australian Amex Membership Rewards. Everyone can use SPG. Just beware of the high fuel (carrier) surcharges when you use Krisflyer. Personally, I would be happy to use SQ miles for intra-South America awards where surcharges are low or even non-existant but would use other programs to get from Australia to the Caribbean. The one oddity is that they include Hawaii, Central America & the Caribbean in the same region so you can get really good value if you are making a multi-centre holiday!

sq-carib

 

SKY TEAM

FLYING BLUE

The only Sky Team program I use and can personally recommend is Air France/KLM.  The awards are reasonably priced and fuel surcharges aren’t TOO bad!  Let’s use a sample route of Madrid to Curacao.  You can do even better than this if Flying Blue is running a promo but these promos are usually only for the next couple months so you can’t book far in advance.

af-cur

 

I don’t use all the programs that are out there but these are the most commonly used programs by travel hackers in the USA and Australia so do some research to see which one works for you! Bear in mind that the tickets are not completely free, there is usually a booking fee of $25-50 and various taxes, but you would have to pay the taxes whether you pay cash or miles for the ticket in any case.