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!

 

 

Lost Opportunity – 15,000 US Dividend Miles – Spend $500 Nov, Dec, Jan

I waited ages for this one as I had seen so many people on Flyertalk get it but I never did.

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In normal circumstances this would be an easy one to do – except the email came 2 days after we left for Africa and I didn’t bring this card with me.  It’s not one I normally use on an overseas trip due to the forex fees, but I would have made the sacrifice for this type of promo.

After getting home I sent Barclays a secure message asking to postpone the promo to Dec, Jan & Feb since I had been traveling in Africa but no dice!  Now I have to decide whether to keep or cancel.  They did recently confirm that they would keep the 10,000 anniversary bonus even after the merger with AA so I am inclined to keep it.

 

September Buy Miles Promos

As usual, each beginning of a month brings an assortment of “buy miles, get bonus” promos.  If you live in the USA you probably won’t be interested as its cheaper to manufacture spend.  If you live anywhere else, these promos may be a good idea to top up your miles accounts but ONLY if you plan to use them within the next few months.  These promos aren’t good enough to buy miles on speculation.  Whether it is worth it to buy miles vs just paying for a revenue ticket depends on where you are going and what class of service you would be booking in so you need to do the math for both before jumping in on these promos.  Also be sure to click on the links and read all the T&Cs before buying.

US AIRWAYS

These will ultimately turn into AAdvantage miles when the programs combine next year.  The tiered system is very annoying because if you just need a couple thousand to top up you don’t get the maximum bonus.  You need to log into your account to actually see the tiers but most people seem to get this one.  At top levels you would be buying miles for $18.80 per block of 1000 miles.

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UNITED AIRLINES

This one is more unusual in that it is crowd-sourcing the actual bonus.  Everyone gets a minimum of 35% extra but that could go up to 100% extra if over 4500 people buy the deal.

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If the 4500 level is reached it would mean buying miles for $18.80 per block of 1000 miles.

AVIANCA-TACA LIFEMILES

Contrary to other bloggers out there, I use this program for bargain flights within Central and South America so no “tricks” needed for me!  It’s a straightforward 100% promo (gotta love airlines who keep it simple) but it is also the last chance to buy miles for $15.00 per block of 1000 miles as the price increases 15 October to $16.00.