Don’t Get Too Excited About The Etihad 25% Bonus

At least not if you are Australian!  Etihad is running one of it’s 25% bonus points when you transfer your partner points to Etihad Guest Miles.  Unfortunately, the main partners we would be using are specifically excluded – Amex Membership Rewards & Flybuys.

 

  • The offer is valid for all Points to Miles conversions made between 1 July and 31 July both days inclusive.

  • Participating points conversion partners: Accor Hotels, ADCB, Radisson Blu, Citibank, Emirates Islamic Bank, Heathrow Rewards, Hilton Honors, Hyatt, IHG, Joyalukkas, Marriott Rewards, NBAD, Shangri-La.

  • Non participating points conversion partners: HSBC, Etisalat Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards (All regions), Starwood StarPoints and Flybuys Rewards.

Full T&Cs here.  This is a good deal if you have Citi Thank You points but only if you plan to use the miles before they expire.

 

Velocity Adds Whopping Surcharges To Etihad Redemptions

On top of the most recent devaluation in which Virgin Velocity moved Etihad to the more expensive chart and jacked the prices up as of 1 June…………..now we have this shock-horror “enhancement”.

All Reward Seat bookings on Etihad Airways operated flights made from 18 June 2016 will incur an Etihad Airways Reward Seat Carrier Charge.

A charge of US$50 in Economy, US$205 in Business and US$300 in First Class will be applicable per flight sector for both adults and children. A reduced charge of US$5 in Economy, US$20.50 in Business and US$30 in First Class will be applicable per flight sector for infants not occupying a seat.

This charge will be payable when completing your Reward Seat booking.

I already spent my last Velocity points on an award from Australia to Abu Dhabi for next year.  We will be stopping over a couple days before the big “Godmother of all African Adventures” and I got business class since I knew the devaluations were coming anyway.  Looks like I dodged another bullet with these surcharges!  Yikes!

Lesson learned – don’t hoard miles, spend them as soon as you can because they will never be worth more than they are today.

Virgin Velocity Devaluation – 1 June 2016

I got an email with the following:

Last year we celebrated 10 years of Velocity. During this time we have built a world-leading loyalty program*.
As we move forward, I wanted to update you on some adjustments we are making to the program, which will come into effect on 1 June 2016.
Points Expiry
We are making some changes to the expiry of Velocity Points.
Firstly, from 1 June 2016 your Velocity Points will not expire provided you earn or redeem Points at least once every 24 months. Previously, the expiry period was 36 months. Any Points earned from eligible activity prior to 1 June 2016 are not affected by this change and will not expire for 36 months.
Secondly, transferring Points between family members or receiving Points from a Family Pooling relationship will no longer be considered eligible activity to prevent your Points expiring. This change will be applied retrospectively. This means, if on 1 June 2016 your only activity within the previous 36 months is Family Pooling or Points transfer between family members, you will be notified that you need to earn or redeem Points before 30 June 2016 in order to prevent your Points expiring.
Despite these changes:
● It is now easier than ever to remain active by earning Points across a broad range of partners including airlines, credit cards, fuel and online shopping. In the past year alone we have welcomed some major partners including BP, HSBC and Le Club AccorHotels.
● We continue to provide you with more time than any other Australian frequent flyer program to keep your Points active.

Please take comfort knowing you will be notified via email at least 30 days prior to your Points expiring, giving you ample time to earn or use your Points and keep your account active.

Reward Seat Pricing
New Reward Seat bookings flying Virgin Australia or our partner airlines, made on or after 1 June 2016, will be subject to revised Points pricing. As part of these revisions some destinations are increasing in price and others are decreasing. Please see some examples below^:

Velocity deval

This is the first time in over five years that we have made adjustments to Reward Seat pricing. During this time Virgin Australia has undergone significant changes to become a full service airline, providing all guests with complimentary checked baggage allowance, in-flight entertainment, food and beverages.
We remain committed to continue offering you all of the benefits that make us a world-class program, including our award-winning Reward Seat availability*. In addition, the taxes and fees payable when you book a Reward Seat will not be affected by these changes.
For more information on all these changes please refer to our Program Updates.
I look forward to keeping you up to date in the coming months as we introduce exciting new features and benefits, including innovative new ways to earn and use your Points.
Yours sincerely,
Karl Schuster
CEO, Velocity Frequent Flyer

*********************************************************************************

On first glance, the points expiry doesn’t worry me at all.  A simple purchase at BP for fuel or shopping, a purchase from the Velocity shopping portal or E-Rewards will reset the expiry.

The increases on most awards is minimal and some are actually going down.

The biggest devaluation is Etihad who have been moved from Table 1 (cheaper awards) to Table 2 (expensive awards) AND devalued on top of that!

I do have a travel plan for 2017 which includes using Velocity for Etihad on one sector so I am going to have to crunch some numbers and see if I can bring it forward.  I’ve already been messed up by the American devaluation!

Convert Your Points To Etihad & Get 25% Bonus Guest Miles

From now until the end of December, Etihad is offering a 25% bonus when you convert points from partners such as credit cards, hotels and shopping programs to Etihad Guest Miles.

That’s 25% more towards that upgrade, free flight or a special something from their Reward Shop. To convert your points, call your bank, hotel or loyalty program’s customer service centre or visit their website. Click here to see the full list of programmes and more details on how to convert your points.

Aussies will be especially pleased that Flybuys is listed under the Retail tab so for this next month you will get 5000 Etihad for every block of 10,000 Flybuys.

Complete T&C’s

I recently did a complete review of the Etihad Guest Program but I do want to remind you that Etihad has a hard expiration date 2 years after miles are earned.  You CANNOT extend the expiration by any means so don’t transfer your partner points unless you are sure you will be using them before Dec 2017.  This means that I can’t participate this time as I don’t have a use for them within these 2 years but it’s a great deal otherwise so I hope they offer this deal at least once a year!

Top 8 Airline Miles Programs – 2016 Edition

I last made my recommendations of which airline miles programs to join back in 2012 so with all the changes I think it’s time for an update!  Which programs are still good?  Which ones no longer exist?  Which ones are less valuable than before?  How can Australians and Americans get free miles from credit cards?  Read on!

WHAT MAKES A PROGRAM “GOOD”?

  • I attribute greater value to programs which require minimal outlay of cash (no fuel surcharges) and better opportunities to get miles from everyday credit card spend and sign up bonuses.
  • “Buy miles 100% bonus” deals may have value to people who have cash to outlay but since this is a guide for cash poor people who want to travel I am not including them here.
  • These recommendations are for eco-tourists so I haven’t considered luxury travel to Europe and Asia redemptions.
  • Free miles from E-Rewards is a plus.
  • I have not taken elite programs into account in any of the below programs.
  • I am not a credit blogger so please use other resources to find the best deals on sign up bonuses.

1.  American Airlines AAdvantageOne World member

Has more options between USA and Australia on Qantas, Air Pacific or Air Tahiti Nui, also great for LAN or AA to South America and Africa via Qatar or direct QF flights.  Can book several of their partners online with AA planning to add more as they go along.  One way awards at half round trip rates.  Save AA miles for long hauls if possible, use BA for short haul.  No fuel surcharges except BA and IB awards.  E-Rewards participant.

Americans get miles from Citibank co-branded cards and the grandfathered Barclays Aviator cards (not available to new applicants).  You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles by transferring preferably blocks of 40k Amex MR points to get 20k SPG, then blocks of 20k SPG to get 5k bonus.

2.  United Airlines Mileage PlusStar Alliance member

Good for awards to South-east Asia on UA, SQ & TG; Central & South America on Copa & Avianca and Africa on South African, Ethiopian and Egypt Air.  Also very good for intra-Latin America and intra-Africa.  E-Rewards participant.

Americans get miles easily via Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards and co-branded United Explorer card.

Australians have a much harder time getting miles as the SPG route is a poor value at 20k SPG gets 10k United plus bonus of 2500.  Most Aussies will find Singapore a better Star Alliance partner.

3.  Singapore Airlines KrisFlyerStar Alliance member

Don’t keep miles in here if you can’t use them within 3 years because they expire whether you have activity or not.  Be careful of fuel surcharges on Asian routes.  Good for redemptions on NZ between Australia and Pacific islands & redemptions on Avianca & Copa for Central/South America trips as no fuel surcharges.

Americans get miles from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards, Citibank Thank You cards, American Express Membership Rewards & SPG.

Australians get miles from American Express Membership Rewards 1000:1000 and transferable rewards programs from Westpac and ANZ.

4.  British Airways Avios and Iberia AviosOne World members

Same Avios currency but you need to join both BA and IB’s versions to maximize it.  Pretty easy to earn Avios via E-Rewards and can also credit stays at Accor hotels to Iberia’s program and transfer easily between BA and IB.    Not a great program for long haul or itineraries needing connections but excellent for short haul within South America on partner LAN, the BA-Comair flights within Southern Africa or within Australia on partner Qantas.  Some nice 5th freedom flights in the Caribbean – Trinidad to St Lucia gets you between 2 islands with good birding.

Americans get miles from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards and co-branded British Airways card. You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles by transferring preferably blocks of 40k Amex MR points to get 20k SPG, then blocks of 20k SPG to get 5k bonus.  Aussies need to use a European or American address as they don’t accept memberships with Australian addresses.

5. Flying BlueSky Team member

Be careful as most redemptions here attract fuel surcharges.  Flying Blue can get you some places that are otherwise very difficult to get to such as Kenya Airways flights to Madagascar and Garuda domestic Indonesia flights (no surcharges).  Also use on short haul flights on Gol, Aerolinas Argentinas (no surcharges) and some other interesting partners.  Participates in E-Rewards.  Miles expire after 20 months of when they were earned unless you credit a Sky Team flight to Flying Blue.  Non-flying activities such as credit card spend and E-Rewards don’t renew your expiration date.

Americans get miles from Citibank Thank You cards & Amex Membership Rewards.  You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles by transferring preferably blocks of 40k Amex MR points to get 20k SPG, then blocks of 20k SPG to get 5k bonus.

6.  Virgin Velocity – Not in an alliance. 

Good for short-haul to New Zealand and Pacific islands, domestic Australia flights and sometimes long haul to USA and Asia.  Participates in E-Rewards.

Americans get miles from transfering SPG points best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.  You need an Aussie address to join.

Australians have numerous credit cards (basically every bank in Australia) that earn Velocity points directly or transfer there.  Keep an eye out for huge sign on bonuses which have greatly improved in the last year or so.  There is a new partnership with BP to get 2 points per litre with occasional targeted bonuses.

7. Etihad Guest – Not in an alliance

I never looked twice at this program until they partnered up with Flybuys.  I did a recent review with Aussies in mind (sorry Americans) and found some interesting options with partners and decent value to Africa.  Probably not a good program for Americans to join, better to use AA redemptions on Etihad awards.  Beware of miles expiring after 2 years, don’t transfer them until you are within booking range.  Activity does not renew the expiration.

Americans get miles from Citibank Thank You cards.  You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles from American Express Membership Rewards 1000:1000 and the new Flybuys partnership FB 10,000: EY 4000.

8.  Qantas Frequent FlyerOne World member

Use for domestic Australia or short-haul to NZ, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.  Has fuel surcharges on most routes with the possible exception of LAN intra-South America.

Americans get points from Citibank Thank You cards.

Australians get points from co-branded Qantas cards, just about every bank in Australia has them.  Unfortunately the Woolies and Optus partnerships are gone so much harder to get points now outside of credit cards.

Dream TravelObviously not everyone needs to use ALL these programs.  It depends on where you want to go.  Situations change so you need to be constantly evaluating.  A month ago I wouldn’t have considered Etihad Guest but now I can see getting at least 16,000 free miles each year just by grocery shopping at Coles and using bonuses.  From the previous list US Airways Dividend Miles is gone and the Avianca Lifemiles program is no longer as valuable as it once was due to devaluations.  It is no longer so easy to get Qantas miles as they eliminated their best “every day spending” partners.  American may lose it’s #1 position if they devalue their awards.  I say as long as it’s free to join a program, then do so as you never know what deals may come in the future!

 

Etihad Guest For The Aussie Eco-tourist

Etihad Guest is a program that wasn’t really on my radar as I have been concentrating on other programs.  (I really need to update my old Top 8 Programs list.)  Now that it will become easy for Aussies to get Etihad miles via Flybuys by simply doing their grocery shopping at Coles, it’s time for a closer look at Etihad Guest.

HOW TO GET ETIHAD GUEST MILES

This is geared for non-frequent fliers as there are other blogs who cater for frequent fliers as well as business travelers and airlines status seekers.  I am concentrating on the non-frequent flier who is into birding and eco-tourism and wants to get free miles for a free airline ticket to somewhere they can watch birds.

  1.  Newest partner Flybuys as detailed in my other post.
  2.  Amex Membership Rewards (Australian) transfer at 1000:1000 with occasional bonuses where you get 10-25% extra if you are ready at the right time.
  3. Etihad partners with E-Rewards so you can get miles doing surveys.  Be sure to join using the Etihad invitation or one from a hotel chain.  If you join with another airline’s invitation, you won’t get options for other airlines.

Be careful as Etihad Guest miles expire 2 years from date of activity so don’t transfer your points until you are close to booking an award.  There is no way to reset expiration by performing any activity.

BEST USES OF ETIHAD GUEST MILES FOR ECO-TOURISTS

This is where it really helps to have a bucket list, dream travel list or whatever you want to call it.  Then you can start analyzing a program and where it can help you go.  With Etihad you can obviously redeem on Etihad and on their partners as well.

FLYING ON ETIHAD

Awards on Etihad are based on distance so amounts vary depending on the exact distance.  You need to do an individual quote so I will show you an example.  Since I like birding in Africa, I would possibly redeem between BNE and EBB since Uganda is on my bucket list.  Business class is roughly double economy and more tax & fees but on such a long flight it would be nice if I could get that many points!

EY BNE1 EY BNE2FLYING ON PARTNERS

You can also use Etihad Guest miles to fly on partner airlines.

EY PartnersBearing in mind my travel bucket list, I can see that partners that could be useful in the next few years are Air New Zealand, Garuda, Gol, South African and Virgin Australia.  Lets have a closer look at their award charts to see what is the best value.

Air New Zealand

I don’t like the looks of this chart for anything over 1750 and NZ is notoriously stingy about giving space to partners so this is probably not going to be my choice.  Possible short haul between AKL and Pacific Islands but then again these flights can often be bought cheaply on “happy hour” type sales.

EY4Garuda Indonesia

Again I can see good value in the shorter hops under 1000 miles.  If I hadn’t already ear-marked Flying Blue miles for my 2017 trip to Indonesia, I’d be seriously considering this option.  Using Great Circle Mapper one of my potential routes is Palu-Ujung Padang-Denpasar whic is 679 miles so 10k Etihad is great value here.  Business class is also really good value.

EY1GOL

Brazil is one of my favourite countries to go birding in so I would be very interested in this option.  Since we would usually be landing in Sao Paulo I checked a few random cities around Brazil, most are well under 1500 miles so 9000 Etihad miles would be excellent value here!

EY2South African Airways

As I mentioned before, I am planning a future trip to see birds in certain parts of Africa we didn’t get to before.  Namiba, Zambia & Uganda are all part of this plan.  WDH-JNB-LVI is coming in at 1317 miles so would cost 15,556 Etihad.  It’s another option if I don’t go with BA Avios on this route.  It will all depend on which miles are easier to obtain at the time.

EY3Virgin Australia

For Virgin Australia, Etihad doesn’t have a nice, neat little chart.  It’s all on one big pdf categorized by distance/mileage required so please look here.  Find your home town and take note of where you can go and for how many miles.  Just looking at my home town of  Brisbane I can see a few interesting options.

6900 miles each way gets me to Tasmania, Vanuatu, basically anywhere Virgin flies in eastern Australia.

10,900 miles gets me to Papua New Guinea, Solomon  Islands, New Zealand & Fiji.

16,900 miles gets me to Darwin, Perth, Samoa & Bali.

60,000 miles gets me to LAX.

Considering all the options, I am happy to see that my everyday grocery shopping at Coles will get me some valuable miles which can be used in some pretty amazing places!

 

 

 

Introduction To Flybuys

I have to admit this is almost as much an introduction for me as it is for you.  I’ve been in Flybuys for many years since it was once the only shopping rewards program in Australia although it didn’t get interesting until it revamped a few years ago and started sending out targeted email promos.  They’ve also added a lot of new partners I wasn’t aware of since I wasn’t really paying attention to the program as I was chasing Qantas points with Woolies.

Using these promos and the quarterly coupon books they mail out is the secret to acquiring large amounts of Flybuys points in a short time.  You usually get triple points or a target of (for example) spend $120 for bonus 1000 points.  These offers can also appear on the bottom of your shopping docket so you have to save the docket to scan the offer next time.

Flybuys offers

Last year, I redeemed about 50k Flybuys on 4 Photobooks using a double value rewards and a weeks worth of free groceries so I started out with zero this year and now have just over 20k without even trying by shopping at the Flybuys partners, espcially Coles.

Flybuys partners

I wasn’t trying because I had been focusing on Woolies Everyday Rewards program to get Qantas points which I deemed more valuable.  Now that that option is coming to an end, it’s time to take a 2nd look at Flybuys and especially their latest partner – Etihad.  You can redeem in increments of 10,000 Flybuys points for 4000 Etihad miles.  Flybuys also has some introductory offers to earn triple tier miles on Etihad which you can read about here.  This is mostly of interest to those who are cashing status as you would need some flights to get you to a silver tier even with these bonus points.

EY FlybuysTomorrow, we take a closer look at Etihad and ways to maximize it as it deserves its own post!

 

Mileage Earning Credit Cards – Asia, Latin America, Middle East And Africa Edition

There are probably locally based blogs for these areas which would cover how to earn miles from credit card sign up bonuses so what I will do here is create a reference for the major airlines so you can see who partners with what bank, then Google for a local blog that tracks special offers on these cards.  No matter which country you live in, always check with American Express as they have the Membership Rewards program available in most countries but the partners vary widely.

A good rule of thumb no matter where you live is to sign up for your local airline’s program (preferably one in Star Alliance or One World) to get credit card miles and any possible points from everyday living such as shopping, phone, internet, petrol, insurance, etc.   While you are looking at the credit card pages I linked below, always check for any other “everyday” promos.

Then join the 5 main programs I recommend for eco-tourists as I will be concentrating on these when I post special promos.  These programs have the best redemption levels to places where people usually want to go birding and offer the best promos throughout the year.

ASIA

Asians will have a lot of choices as it seems that the main Asian based airlines have partners not only in all Asian countries but some have partners in Australia and the USA as well.  The links below will take you to the airline’s credit card page.  Also check on FlyerTalk in the airline’s forum as people will usually post any new signup bonuses there.  This blogger specifically caters to Indians with mileage earning credit cards and he would be more familiar with that market.

Cathay Pacific

Singapore Airlines

Thai Airways

Malaysian Airlines

Garuda

Air China

ANA

Japan Airlines

Asiana

Korean Airlines

EVA Air

Air India

Jet Airways

 

Kingfisher (currently suspended)

LATIN AMERICA

American Airlines (has many partners in Latin America and Caribbean)

Avianca Taca

LAN

TAM

GOL

 

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

Emirates

Qatar

Etihad

Gulf Air

Kuwait Airways

EgyptAir

South African Airways

El Al

 

Please feel free to add any other good airline credit cards you know of in these geographical locations or ask any questions in the comments.

If you live in the USA, please see Airlines, Hotels and Flexible Points

If you live in Australia, please see Part 1 and Part 2

If you live in the UK or Europe I have basic guidelines