I received two pretty exciting emails from Uber this evening. First, UberX is arriving to Philadelphia this weekend, and you can get 3 free rides (up to $20 each) on UberX starting now through Sunday! Also, Uber is launching in Nevada, in both Las Vegas and Reno! We have family in Vegas, so giving the overpriced taxis there some competition is a welcome change! (Please note, the above link is a referral link – for new Uber users, it gives you $30 free credit, and me as well. You don’t have to use it, but if you do, thank you).

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Rewards PlusI don’t usually write about promotions, but this one is very nice and I see no one else writing about it on Boarding Area (maybe they weren’t targeted).  Got a nice email a few hours ago from United.  They sent a promo to get double your UA miles (up to 50,000) and double your Marriott points (up to 30,000) from 1 November through 5 February.  This apparently was sent out to Rewards Plus members.  That is the name of the program where elite status with UA translates to elite status with Marriott and vice versa.  I can’t really use that program since I am 1K with United and Platinum with Marriott, but it never hurts to sign up for these things as is demonstrated by this nice offer.  Here is the link to register, but it is clearly targeted so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work for you.

There are a few catches (naturally):

1.  You must fly S fare or higher (not hard to do)

2.  Government fares don’t qualify

3.  Marriott double points only start on your second stay during the period

4. Ticketing can be between 24 Oct – 5 Feb

5.  Stays at Ritz-Carlton “count towards achievement”, wow even their promotion language is fancy!

I know the Gov’t fare one is a big bummer for most of this blog’s readers, but we do have veterans and others out there who can take advantage of that.  What really excites me is the double points with Marriott as you almost never see a double points promotion with them that applies to all their properties.

If you have elite status with either program, sign-up for the Rewards Plus program and you might still get this offer.  Anyone besides me get it?

 

Posted by glenn | No Comments

My wife and I just got back from an amazing trip to Hong Kong, Phuket, and Singapore, and I’m going to review it. Ok ok, my title is somewhat in jest, because I’m not going to review the WHOLE trip, but I flew some amazing airline products and stayed in some awesome hotels, so I figured I’d go over those.

 

I initially booked this trip back before US Airways devalued back in the early Spring, also back when they were still in Star Alliance. At that time, they still had business class redemptions to North Asia for 90k miles, which in my opinion was one of the greatest historical redemption options.

 

The other great aspect of US Airways award redemptions was, and remains, their “flexible” routing options. They are often geographically challenged, and you can redeem some “creative” routes depending on how you feed it to the agents.

 

For instance, Hong Kong is considered North Asia, whereas Singapore is considered SE Asia. The old US Airways chart had 90k miles in biz to N. Asia, whereas it’d be 120k in biz to SE Asia. The trip is supposed to be based on where the farthest destination is, irrespective of the stopover, so our trip should’ve priced at 240k for both of us. However, you can shape the conversation at US Airways, and this is still true.

 

First, I looked up available legs on the United website (since US Airways is now in Oneworld, you can do it now on aa.com or ba.com). When I called in, instead of just saying where I wanted to go, I said, “I want to fly roundtrip from JFK to Hong Kong, with a stopover in Singapore”. Technically, despite my wishes, it should’ve officially been roundtrip to Singapore with a stopover in Hong Kong. However, the very nice agent said “OK great”, then I mentioned that I’d already researched the legs and offered to give them to her. It saved her a lot of work, so she went for it.

 

After feeding her the legs, I asked, “so that’s 180k total miles right?”, and she confirmed that it was. Bam! After devaluing their miles this spring, US Airways charges 110k roundtrip in business to North Asia, but also only 120k in first class. With awesome Oneworld carriers such as Cathay Pacific, it almost doesn’t make sense to take business when first class is only 10k more per roundtrip.

 

They are still “flexible” in their routings, for instance allowing a stopover in Europe en route to Asia, and you can even go onwards transpacifically back to the US, in essence creating an around-the-world trip. You just have to work with the phone agents, and if you encounter a recalcitrant one, be polite, hang up, and call again (HUCA).

 

Anyways, I’ve got a bunch of reviews coming up over the next few days, as below:

 

Review: United Business Class 757-200 JFK to San Francisco

Review: United Business Class 747 San Francisco to Hong Kong

Review: Singapore Business Class 777-200 Hong Kong to Singapore

Review: EVA Royal Laurel (Business) Class 777-300ER Singapore to Taipei to JFK

Review: Intercontinental Hong Kong Deluxe Junior Suite

Review: Westin Singapore Seaview Suite

Review: Intercontinental Singapore

 

I’m not going to be able to post every day, as I have a full-time job, but will do my best. Thanks to all our readers!

 

-Andy

 

Posted by glenn | No Comments

This is a guest post from one of our enthusiastic readers – I think he is a badass spec ops guy or something, because he will only let me publish his first name, Brian; no other identifiers.

Anyways, the JTR, or Joint Travel Regulations, goes over official military policies for reimbursing military travel expenses and per diem…in a word – MONEY! The most recent changes are not positive, but I’ll let Brian take it away:

 

“Here is a link to the DOD Defense Travel Website describing significant changes to official travel and per diem.  http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/changesjtr.cfm

 

Announced earlier this month, the following changes impact all DOD travelers on official orders.

 

  1. Incidental Expenses (Effective 01 Oct ‘14). Adds ATM fees, baggage tips, laundry/dry cleaning (regardless of location), and transportation tips as part of the daily incidental expenses when performing official travel. The aforementioned expenses were previously separate miscellaneous reimbursable expenses incurred by an eligible traveler when authorized by the responsible AO in the GOV’T’s interest.  Estimated annual cost savings across DOD is $15.6M.  See Item No. 186-13 at the link above for detailed explanation and examples.  

Bottomline, you can no longer submit ATM fees, baggage tips, laundry for reimbursement while TDY.

 

  1. Flat Rate Per Diem for Long Term TDY (Effective 01 Nov ‘14). Establishes a flat rate per diem allowance for long term TDY that would authorize a traveler 75% of the locality per diem rate for TDY periods over 30 days but not exceeding 180 days. This item also establishes a flat rate per diem allowance for TDY in excess of 180 days to be set at 55% of the locality per diem rate.  See Item No. 118-13 at the link above for detailed explanation and examples.  

Bottomline, your lodging and meals & incidents both go down to 75% on day 31 of a TDY and down to 55% on day 181 of a TDY.

 

In my opinion change #2 is a big deal.  My concern and the concern of those I work with is not so much about M&IE, but about lodging.  This means if you’re TDY for over 30 days, which happens to many people (schools, training, LNO duties, etc…), you’ve got to negotiate or find a hotel rate that is either 75% or 55% of the authorized lodging rate, depending on your length of stay.  No longer can you just rely on the “Government Rate” to ensure you get reimbursed for your lodging.  However,  the accompanying memo (item 118-13) does state on page 4 “if the CTO determines that lodging is not available at the reduced per diem rate [75% or 55%], the AO may authorize actual lodging, not to exceed the locality per diem rate.”  This means if you haven’t already, you’ll need to start using your CTO to book hotel rooms/lodging over 30 days.

 

Maybe these changes are needed to cut the Defense spending, force Service Members to use “On Post” or “On Base” lodging, and ultimately bring down expenses associated with official travel, but this is going to be a big culture shift across the Services when it comes to official travel.  Until the reduction in per diem rates becomes the norm and understood by all, it will take some creativity on the part of Service Members and DOD Civilians and a lot more reliance on the CTOs for booking lodging.

 

What are your thoughts on the reduction in per diem rates?  How are your command and fellow Service Members/DOD Civilians adapting to these changes?

 

Brian”

 

Thanks Brian, I’m with you. I hope hotel chains will adapt to these changes, but with reimbursement rates so low, I don’t know how they could and remain financially viable. I foresee some serious backlash on this change.

-Andy

 

Posted by glenn | 4 Comments

If you don’t subscribe to The Flight Deal, but you like hearing about really cheap flights, you need to start! They’ve always got pretty good deals, but lately they’ve been having some incredible ones. Two recent examples:

 

Philadelphia – Bali on Delta: $541 roundtrip including taxes.

I live in Philly, and wish I could take advantage of this deal, but will be working the whole time it’s valid.

 

Emirates – $200 – $500: Emirates US Gateways – India. Roundtrip, including all Taxes

This is another deal that I am fantasizing about, but I just can’t get time off to take advantage of. I know some of you can though, so take advantage!

 

(I have no financial relationship with The Flight Deal, I just love seeing awesome prices)

 

Posted by glenn | No Comments

(I receive a referral credit if you use the link below. However, you also get $20 off the $155 price. Feel free to not use my referral link if you don’t feel comfortable, but if you do, thanks!)

 

I subscribe to this website called Uncrate, where they send you a list of cool, manly stuff that I will never buy. However, there was a VERY interesting new product on the latest list that I just preordered.

plastc

Just for reference, I’m super pumped about Apple Pay, which can store multiple cards, work with NFC readers and seems very secure. However, there are many places where it won’t work, and where you’ll need a traditional card.

 

The Plastc card is a different, and in my opinion a better version of Coin; they are both credit card-sized devices that can store multiple credit cards, debit cards, loyalty cards, etc. They both will solve some problems that us with multiple credit cards (some disparagingly call us “churners”, a label I carry with pride) have – namely, carrying a wallet big enough to house all our cards. These two products promise to keep all our cards on one central card, although there are differences.

 

First, let me highlight some similarities:

-Both have a card reader and apps for easy card loading, so you don’t have to load card numbers manually.

-They both have what seems to me to be strong security programs (not holding your card numbers centrally, 128 bit encryption, etc.).

-They’re both made of plastic and flexible.

-Both can only be paired or connected with a single device, for security purposes.

-They both have e-ink screens for seeing which card you’re using, although Plastc’s product has a much larger screen that spans almost half the card.

-They both can store all types of cards, including credit cards, debit cards, they can both be used at ATMs, and loyalty cards.

-Neither can duplicate the magnetic strip on your driver’s license or passport. Both are loaded and accessed via the card reader and the included app, and both are available on both iOS and android (no idea about Windows).

-They both have referral programs, although there’s a slight difference (below).

 

They’re list of differences, however, is slightly more impressive:

Plastc Coin
EMV (chip & PIN), NFC (contactless payments), RFID (accessing doors, garages, etc.) Y N
Waterproof Y N
How long until battery is drained 30 days 2 years
How many cards can it store (both apps store unlimited cards) 20 8
Biometric authentication on phone app Y N
Full credit card details contained on card Y N
Password PIN Tap Code
When is it supposed to ship Sum 15 Spr 15
Display barcodes and QR codes Y N
Display photo and signature Y N
Warranty 1 year Limited

 

 

Coin has been around longer, but is already running into problems. The biggest one that I foresee, a problem that Plastc doesn’t have, is the lack of an EMV chip, which will be mandated by October of 2015. The CEO of Coin said they’re currently working on it, and I truly hope they are; I’d love to see more competition and products in this space.

 

The biggest differences for me, and the reason I’m picking Plastc, are the included EMV chip, and the fact it can hold 20 cards instead of just 8 cards (both apps hold unlimited cards). In addition, I love the huge e-ink screen, and the PIN code. I just don’t understand what Coin means when they say tap code, and they don’t really explain it. They also don’t really explain how long their “limited” warranty covers. The one thing I don’t like about Plastc is that you need to recharge it every 30 days; I wish they merged with Coin and had the 2 year battery.

 

One problem I foresee with any of these technologies is that it’s unlikely or very difficult to copy all of the information from a card’s embedded EMV chip, and therefore still might not be the ultimate solution. I’m excited to find out though.

 

What are your thoughts?

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

I know today is supposed to be a Holiday (albeit one I don’t personally believe should be a holiday; I prefer to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day), but today is not a good day for many of us manufactured spenders.

What is manufactured spending (MS)? Some of us, like GEN Glenn, fly a lot for business and can accrue many “butt-in-seat” miles that way. Others, like myself, don’t fly much at all on paid flights. I’m in ER residency so therefore must be in the hospital pretty much all the time. Therefore, the only way to accrue many miles is through either credit card signup bonuses, or manufactured spending. The latter is using your rewards-earning credit cards to purchase cash-like equivalents, essentially “buying” miles at a very low cost. I recommend reading Frequent Miler or some of the Saverocity bloggers for more tips.

-One of the easiest ways over the past couple years to MS was Amazon Payments. Alas, as of yesterday, you are no longer able to send fee-free credit card payments through it.

-Also, today I went to one of my standbys, Rite Aid, to purchase some Paypal MyCash cards. It seems as though they’ve now hard-coded it into their registers that you can no longer pay with credit cards for these either.

-The Walmarts in my area don’t accept prepaid gift cards for money orders, and Kate (the moneycenter kiosk) is constantly out of service, so buying prepaid gift cards with a credit card and loading it onto Bluebird or Serve is not an option for me. I know of many people who previously relied on gift cards loads are having a much harder time now at Walmarts.

As I mentioned in my prior post, an interesting option just surfaced recently – the prepaid REDcard at Targets, that ostensibly will allow up to $5k of credit card loads per month. This looks like an amazing new option; however only certain Targets are offering this product now, and none in my area. My brother, who is visiting another brother, is in Michigan at the moment, where there are many Targets offering it. He went to two different ones on the list, but because of “technical reasons”, they weren’t able to give him one. I think this option could be huge, akin to Vanilla Reloads back in the day, but it needs a larger roll-out.

There are still positives though. I’ve only been playing this game now for about two years, but in that time I’ve seen many previously viable MSing options fall by the wayside (most notably Vanilla Reloads – RIP); however just as soon as they don’t work anymore, a new one pops up to take it’s place.

-REDcard, when it rolls out wider, will be huge

-Amex SERVE is still allowing credit card loads, and even though there was a scare, most credit card companies are not posting as cash advances.

-If you’re fortunate enough to have the old Citi Forward card, the Amex Campus Edition is great for loads.

 

Things are changing, but keep your chins up, and keep reading. I’ll try to keep you up to date with all the MSing opportunites I find out about!

Posted by glenn | 9 Comments

Good morning everyone, sorry about the paucity of posts over the past 3 weeks. A lot was going on, most importantly, my co-blogger, and founder of this blog, Glenn, got promoted to Brigadier General – Bravo Zulu Sir! We finally got to meet at BACon (BoardingArea Convention) in Vegas, and we had a great time. I got to meet some of my blogging heroes, including legendary Randy Petersen, who, like me, loves tequila.

 

After that, my wife and I finally got to fly, just the two of us (thanks mom and dad for babysitting!), in business class (thanks US Airways pre-Oneworld conversion!) to Hong Kong, Phuket, and Singapore. The trip was paid for almost entirely with points – I’ll be going over in the next several posts about the flights, the hotels, and how I booked them. Unlike some bloggers, I don’t blog on vacation :)

 

A couple of random things:

 

-If you haven’t read Frequent Miler’s post on the new Target REDcard, check it out, it’s a game changer…unfortunately, it’s only available in a very limited number of stores.

 

-If you’re worried about catching Ebola on planes, don’t be. It can only be spread by contact with bodily fluids, it’s not aerosolized, so unless a person with Ebola coughs some phlegm into your mouth, you’re safe. Medpage says that medical providers have a small risk of contracting it while taking care of hemorrhaging patients, so you shouldn’t be worried. Besides, passengers from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone will be screened by airports anyways, so unless (or until, depending how pessimistic you are) Ebola mutates to become aerosolized, you’re far more likely to die from almost everything else.

 

-I just applied for and got the Citi Prestige and the 70k Chase Ink, and got confirmation that I’ll get the annual fees waived as per the SCRA (servicemembers civil relief act). If you have questions about how to do that, check out my prior posts on the subject.

 

I’ve always been high on Ultimate Rewards points, given their strong transfer partners (all 3 major alliances represented), and am now avidly collecting ThankYou points, given their new transfer partners, including EVA, Singapore, Thai, Qatar, Etihad (all of which I’ve flown), Garuda, Cathay Pacific, Air France, Malaysia, and Hilton for hotels.

 

In addition, I was bummed because I previously had but cancelled the old Citi Forward card which gave 5 Thank You points per dollar at restaurants, bookstores, and entertainment. However, my brother still has it but never uses it, so he made me an authorized user, and I’m now I’m get huge points. If you still have that card, check out Frequent Miler’s post on how to capitalize on bookstores.

 

-Seems like the General’s last post inspired some people – we might have some guest posts coming up this fall.

 

-Finally, GO EAGLES!!!

 

 

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Truth be told, Andy and I are pretty busy guys.  This is why you will see us only write about once a week each or write a bunch because we know we’ll be tied up with something for the next week or two.

We’d like to invite others to contribute and try their hand at writing for this blog.  There is a whole community of military frequent flyers out there and you all have your own views or may find out about subjects or specials which we haven’t covered.  Think about it and send us your 200-500 word Word file and we’ll vet it to throw it up here.  We’ll get back with you if there are other than minor edits required or if we think the content is not pertinent to the Military Frequent Flyer.  You can send to either mine or Andy’s email.

Give it a shot and see if you have what it takes!

Posted by glenn | 4 Comments

So you read Boarding Area hourly, know your mile totals on five different airlines, and calculate what year you are going to reach lifetime status in your favorite program.  You are officially a frequent flyer guru, but do you share that with others?

It can be a problem at work and with friends.  You would love to share all this hard won knowledge especially of the tricks to maximizing your returns, but how not to be thought of as the “frequent flyer geek”?  I know for myself, I will gladly help out a person who comes to me with a question or if I hear someone with a dilemma, however, I don’t go around handing my Boarding Area business card and tell people to let me solve their problems.  Of course, I have to be aware of my position and not to be seen as giving inappropriate advice or direction.  The last thing I need is some E-4 being brought into my office because he went out and got 12 mileage earning credit cards because he heard from me that that would be a risk-free way to a fabulous vacation.

So what do you do?  Tell a friend who is in a quandary about how to pay for a nice honeymoon some tips?  Go with some of your buddies on a flight and you sit up front while they go to the back and they want to know what the deal is?  It can be tricky to handle and certainly some people will hear what you have to say and think it is too good to be true.

Personally, I am more than glad to help them out, but I am careful how much information I give them.  I try to give them enough to fix their immediate problem, but don’t geek out by telling them  everything I know.  IF they show more and more interest, I am more than happy to explain it all, but frankly, the entire frequent flyer game can be overwhelming and is best taken in digestible bites.  And, of course, I feel you need to be well versed in that before getting into things like credit card churning which has definite risks.

So how do you handle it?  Actively try to spread the word or keep it close hold?  Family, but not co-workers?  Tell the basics or launch into the advanced course?

Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

A photo from 11 days ago.  I don’t think I need to say more, except that this is really going to cut into my blogging…

DSC_1527

 

Yes, that is my lovely family by my side.  Thanks in advance for all my well-wishers.

Posted by glenn | 6 Comments

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