A Nostalgic Look Back At US Airways Dividend Miles

Today is the day the programs merge.  It’s the 28th of March in Australia and now also in around half of the USA.  Soon we will wake up with increased AAdvantage balances and the US Airways Dividend Miles (USDM) program will be history.   I can’t help but think back fondly on all the opportunities we never would have had without it.  USDM was the game-changer that put extravagant premium class awards within reach of the ordinary person who had little money but was willing to put in some time and effort.

I never was a big player in the miles and points games until 2008.  It always seemed to me that the best benefits were always for those who traveled a lot – actual FREQUENT flyers and were elites.  I booked our trips on the cheapest routes although trying to use Star Alliance programs as much as possible as we were collecting United Miles.  If we managed a free trip from BNE to RAR or PPT every 2 or 3 years we were happy.

GAMING THE GAME-CHANGER

Then United started blocking partner awards – Starnet – and I had to look for an alternative.  Right around this time, one of the best ways for people to earn miles without spending money was playing Live Search Club games.  I was already playing for our AAdvantage accounts so it was a natural step to add a few more accounts and start playing for US Dividend Miles.  Anyone remember Chicktionary?

US-lsc chick US-lsc

LSC was a great little earner while it lasted.  An anagram-solver and a desk in front of the tv was all I needed to rake in around 4000 miles in 4 accounts (mine & husbands – US & AA) roughly every 2 weeks. It was a pretty hot topic on FlyerTalk while it lasted.  LSC later morphed into Club Bing and by using a never ending supply of new accounts I was able to keep the miles rolling in for around 18 months until they finally shut down in 2010.  But the best was yet to come!

GRAND SLAM PROMO

I was too late for the 2008 Grand Slam but ready and waiting for the 2009 version.  There was a whole thread in FlyerTalk dedicated to this killer promo where you could earn 50,000 miles by using USDM’s partners.  The game was to use as many free hits as possible or to use purchases you were already making at certain hotels or car rentals to create hits.  Then find the cheapest item to buy from partners such as Biscoff spread (yummy!), batteries from SkyMall, screen-wipes from some telephone company, sandwiches from dining partners, GAIAM trees from the mall, churned Netflix accounts and stickers from Track-it-Back.  We opened brokerage accounts for $5 with Sharebuilder, bought the cheapest Lifelock packages, swapped miles for magazines.  Since I live in Australia, my Mom in California was the lucky recipient for several bouquets of flowers and assorted junk.

In 2010, the Grand Slam upped their game to 100,000 miles and in 2011 they upped it again to 110,000 though the last 4 hits were too hard for me so I had to settle for 100,000.

Grand Slam 2011In the latter years, I would prep for the upcoming Grand Slam by getting hotel points for free by doing Foursquare check-ins, Facebook promos and E-Rewards.  The Daily Getaways promos which used to be so much better were also a source for cheap hotel points and Grand Slam hits.  I estimate that I paid around $600 between both our accounts that I wouldn’t have spent otherwise to get 200,000 miles between us those last 2 years.

TRACK-IT-BACK TAKES IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Remember those Track-it-back (TIB) stickers I mentioned?  They became another game-changer in the 2009 Holiday promo.  You had to spend a certain amount with various shopping partners and there were tiers to multiplying the bonus.

TIB promoIn a nutshell, you made the cheapest possible purchases for the first 4 transactions, then the 5th you bought as many TIB stickers as possible and got 100 miles per $!  I don’t remember how much I spent, I got as many as I could manage the cash flow for.  Some people on FlyerTalk spent $1000’s and got LOTS of miles!

CHURNING THE CREDIT CARD

I only managed to do this twice – once in 2011 and once in 2013.  Each time I got 40,000 miles and on the 2nd one it comes with a 10,000 miles anniversary bonus so I’ve kept it.  Barclays Bank has since cracked down on churners.

BUY/SHARE MILES PROMOS – UP TO 100% SHARE

The last great way to get USDM relatively cheaply (although not as cheap as Grand Slam & TIB) was to share miles back and forth between two accounts.  Obviously this works better for couples than single people unless they knew someone very trustworthy.  When the Grand Slam promo didn’t return in 2012 much to everyone’s disappointment, this became the best way to get USDM and on the bright side it worked equally well for people all over the world.  You shared miles to your partner, they got double, then they shared back to you and you got double.  USDM kept this promo up until last year, then they scaled it back to 50% bonuses.

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The best seat I ever got for free from USDM – Turkish Airline’s wetleased Jet Airways plane used the first class suites as business class so if you were clever with your seating assignments you could sit in a suite for the price of a J award!

SO WHAT DID I DO WITH ALL THOSE MILES?

USDM’s fantastic promos allowed us to go places we otherwise had no chance of affording – usually in business class (bolded)!

2011 – BNE-BKK-ICN-LAX-PHX-MEX /-LAX-ICN-BKK-BNE

2011 – BNE-SIN-KTM /-BOM-SIN-BNE

2012 – BNE-AKL-RAR-AKL-BNE

2013 – BNE-BKK-ICN-YVR-IAH-BZE /-HNL-ICN-BKK-BNE

2013 – BNE-BKK-BLR /- CMB-SIN-BNE

2014 – BNE-BKK-IST-TLV /-BCN-ZRH-FCO-PEK-SIN-BNE

And I still have some USDM left to transfer to AA!

In no alternate universe could someone of my economic level even dream of trips like those!  USDM and their crazy promos made it all possible!  We visited some of the world’s finest eco-tourism locations and saw some amazing birds that we could only dream about before.

IMG_2462So here’s to you, US Airways!  It’s been a wild ride the past few years and I am sad that it’s over but really happy and grateful that it happened it all.  From the bottom of my heart (and my champagne glass) thanks for the memories!

 

 

Out Of The Sock Drawer – Barclay’s Finally Axes Forex Fees

What a pleasant surprise to find this email!

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Just 2 months ago this card was on the chopping block as I didn’t want to pay the $89 annual fee.  Otherwise the benefits to this card are pretty good and the US miles will soon become AA miles. I have an older version that gives 10,000 anniversary miles and now I will get 10% of miles redeemed (up to 10,000 annually) as a rebate.  On top of all that, I got them to give me a statement credit for the annual fee!  The only thing holding me back from using this card more often is the forex fee but now that is gone!

I will still give preference to cards that have category bonuses such as Chase Ink & Freedom (this quarter is grocery stores!) but for non-bonused spend, this card will be going back into my wallet.

If you want to apply within the next 2 days, I can refer you as per below.  Please comment below and ask for a referral.  I will need your real email address but no one can see it but me.  50,000 points will get you a free trip to Central or South America!

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US Dividend Miles Bonus Promos Going Downhill

Anyone who can either churn credit cards or manufacture spend won’t be interested in this, especially since the days of the 100% buy/give miles promos are over.  But since I have readers in many different countries who can’t access US credit cards, I still decided to share this.  These miles will be merged to AAdvantage in the 2nd quarter of 2015.

Remember, you shouldn’t buy miles on spec as devaluations can be sudden and unpredictable.  Only buy them if you need to top up for an award and planning to redeem immediately.

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