frequent flyer and hotel points and other information

Starting at a company that travels frequently (like most consulting companies). Was wondering if anyone had any advice on:

1) frequent flyer
2) hotels
3) other possible benefits from lots of travel

Thanks in advance and by the way I am leaning towards getting some type of AA or UA flyer program.

Comments (77)

Jul 3, 2011
Jul 3, 2011

Without a doubt Starwood for hotel.

Jul 4, 2011

tried to look at flyertalk.com but its a bit too detailed and confusing to understand, does anyone have a more concise answer or a toned down version of flyertalk, i will check out starwood for sure

Jul 14, 2011
monkeymonkeybusiness:

tried to look at flyertalk.com but its a bit too detailed and confusing to understand, does anyone have a more concise answer or a toned down version of flyertalk, i will check out starwood for sure

If flyertalk is too detailed and confusing, then you will have bigger issues in your career. Loyalty programs are themselves detailed and confusing -- do you seriously expect the world's foremost site for such things to have simple answers?

If you are going to be in consulting, you will become an expert in something or another. It's not a bad idea to start off by becoming an expert in something that will definely benefit you.

Jul 4, 2011

Airline: Stick to one airline only and ensure the hub is in your home base. For example: Chicago: United or American, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Cincinnati, Memphis: Delta, Charlotte/Philadelphia/Phoenix: US Airway, etc. Look up Wiki sites to figure out who hubs where. Don't get the credit card from airline. If you are few thousand miles short year end from next status level, do a mileage run.

Hotel: You should be able to get top status in at least 2 (I'd suggest SPG and Marriott). For Marriott, you can email them and ask for a Gold/Platinum challenge (stay 12/18 nights in few months) to get the status quickly. For SPG, right now you just have to stay 50 nights to get Gold. Also get credit card for at least one (SPG first), preferably both (Marriott Premier as add on). SPG has better redemption. But it's good to have flexibility with both.

Rental Car: I prefer Avis because they have good arrangements with airlines for lots of miles (you can get up to 5000 miles each week). You will miss out on free rental coupons though (which you won't use anyway). If free rentals are important, Hertz can be more flexible (points vs. Avis's free weekend coupons).

There is no quick way to learn. Pick up tips from coworkers during lunch/dinner (the conversation invariably goes there). Read FlyerTalk enough and you will eventually catch on.

Jul 4, 2011

thanks abacab! would you recommend united or american? why?

Can you elaborate on SPG and Marriot, rewards, stays, etc since I assume you have more info on that than airlines (which im assuming you just have one)

Jul 4, 2011

get a platinum amex, automatic gold status in SPG. plus u can transfer whatever amex points to an airline of ur choice.

Get enrolled in all airlines' frequent flyer miles and chose the cheapest ticket each time.
I'm flying out of the country in a couple of weeks, and one of the airlines had tickets twice as expensive as another one. It just isn't worth paying extra to maintain "loyalty" at all costs. Know the value of points and unless the difference between the tickets is something like $20, go with a cheaper one.
Although your travel dept will probably be booking all of your travel, so you will take whatever you can get.

The benefits is that you can accumulate points for company-related travel (both on airlines and hotels) and then use those points to get free personal trips/vacation.

More is good, all is better

Jul 4, 2011

I'd get United over American if you are based out of Chicago. United/Continental have the biggest network now. Plus American sucks with upgrade limits.

I will go against Argo and say stick with one airline (do sign up for others in case something comes up). Don't hesitate to pay $50 more for your preferred carrier. As a US based consultant, most times you will travel within the country, and you need every singe BIS mile to ensure you get as high of a status as possible. With mostly domestic flights it will take you a while to get the status. Platinum in one is worth much more than Silver in 8 airlines.

SPG Gold is pretty worthless cause you don't get lounge access or free internet. Marriott Gold is equivalent to SPG Platinum when comparing benefits. Just look up the sites for Hotel and Airline programs for what entails what (they will explain how many points you get and what are different status levels, http://tinyurl.com/3tl8nzb). Just know that SPG has better redemption and nicer resorts but Marriott has a bigger footprint. And also keep an eye on quarterly promotions which are 'add ons' on top of the basic earnings. Most times you will get emails, but good to keep an eye on FT. For example, SPG now has this: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/starwood-preferred-...
For earning miles on rentals, keep an eye on similar threads: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/milesbuzz/1166514-q...

Jul 4, 2011

This is a great thread, but can anyone maybe do an Asian version of this? I am a member of both Asia Miles and Krisflyer (Cathay and Singapore Airlines) but am trying to get in on the hotels gig. Any tips?

Don't mean to distract from the discussion on NA - keep that flowing!!

Jul 4, 2011

Airlines-also be aware of alliances. For example Unitinental and US Airways flights can all go into one or another, as can Lufthansa flights, since they're all members of the Star Alliance. Delta and Air France, Skyteam, and American and BA, Oneworld. In terms of members worldwide, Star has the most, and then Oneworld and Skyteam are sort of the "leftover" alliances but Oneworld is overall a stronger alliance than Skyteam, with Star being far stronger and better run than both.

IMHO, Star member carrier>>>>>>>>Oneworld member carrier>>>>Skyteam member carrier>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>non-aligned carrier, as far as FFPs go. When you're clocking in at 200k miles a year, you can really shop around and get benefits on multiple carriers, but for anything less than 100k, you're better of sticking with one. Whatever you do, make sure you get the highest level on whatever frequent flyer program you get to join. That way, if your firm cheaps out and decides to make you fly Economy on a 16 hour flight from NY to India, you'll be able to upgrade yourself.

Think about it this way: You have Premier status on UA, therefore you do not have to pay to check bags. Let's say you have to choose Chicago-LA-Australia on UA or Chicago-LA-Australia on AA/Qantas. You have no status on AA, Qantas, or any other Oneworld carrier. You are flying Economy because your firm cheaped out on you. You'll be away for a month, so you have to check bags. That will cost you $50 each way on AA but nothing on UA (you pay to check bags if a domestic leg is the first leg). So a UA ticket is worth $50 more than an AA/Qantas ticket. When your BIS goes to something like 200k, then it might be worth splitting amongst two alliances. Otherwise, stick with one.

If you're going to use your FFP just to get elite status, for Star Alliance Asiana Club is the easiest program to get status (but beware, redemption rates SUCK, as do the benefits). 40k in 2 years get you 2 years+whatever of Star Gold, but 20k a year doesn't even get you 2P on Mileage Plus. For North America Air Canada's Aeroplan gives you Star Gold at 35k miles a year and they still have the 500 mile minimum.

"We are lawyers! We sue people! Occasionally, we get aggressive and garnish wages, but WE DO NOT ABDUCT!" -Boston Legal-

Jul 14, 2011

Obviously go for Lufthansa or British Air depnding on whether you travel to london or continental Europe more

Jul 14, 2011
Unionbusters without Borders:

Obviously go for Lufthansa or British Air depnding on whether you travel to london or continental Europe more

Well you could fly whatever carrier you want either way but you'll have to go through Heathrow for BA and Munich or Frankfurt for Lufthansa.

"We are lawyers! We sue people! Occasionally, we get aggressive and garnish wages, but WE DO NOT ABDUCT!" -Boston Legal-

Jul 14, 2011

10 million miles, anyone?

Jul 20, 2011

If you can tolerate it, do seg running rather than mileage to stay an elite, when I fly US from FLL to BDL or HVN I take a routing like FLL-CLT-DCA-PHL-BDL rather than fly AA MIA-BDL that way silver is only 5 RTs. If you have silver on US you can get Starwood Gold instantly and a fast track Gold and instant silver with HHonors.

Jul 20, 2011

I am soo close to continental silver and most likely will be gold this year, how can i parlay this into starwood gold?

Jul 20, 2011

Call the preferred number and ask. They don't list all the benefits in the membership packet.

Jul 20, 2011

Sweet, thanks.

Jul 20, 2011

Does your company pay for your hotel stay airlines and other traveling fees such as breakfest lunch and dinner? Or do you use your own money and company pays you back?

Jul 20, 2011

my company gives you an option of both ways.

Jul 21, 2011

If you are in a city with Southwest Airlines, consider flying them when possible. Most likely your boss won't want to fly SWA, so you may have to reserve it for trips you take alone. But their business rewards program is BY FAR the best in the industry. They are making a hard push to attract more business travelers and have an unreal program.

For example, a flight from Chicago to NYC next Monday thru Wednesday earns you $102 towards a free personal flight. Can't beat it.

Jul 21, 2011
onemanwolfpack:

If you are in a city with Southwest Airlines, consider flying them when possible. Most likely your boss won't want to fly SWA, so you may have to reserve it for trips you take alone. But their business rewards program is BY FAR the best in the industry. They are making a hard push to attract more business travelers and have an unreal program.

For example, a flight from Chicago to NYC next Monday thru Wednesday earns you $102 towards a free personal flight. Can't beat it.

Um ... you can most certainly beat it.

LUV has no first class or international destinations. Heck they don't even fly to Hawaii or have assigned seats.

Sufficiently elite passengers on other airlines, at a minimum, get exit rows and bulkheads, and depending on the airline and the route, often fly first domestically, and the option of flying business on international awards.

Jul 21, 2011
NYC:
onemanwolfpack:

If you are in a city with Southwest Airlines, consider flying them when possible. Most likely your boss won't want to fly SWA, so you may have to reserve it for trips you take alone. But their business rewards program is BY FAR the best in the industry. They are making a hard push to attract more business travelers and have an unreal program.

For example, a flight from Chicago to NYC next Monday thru Wednesday earns you $102 towards a free personal flight. Can't beat it.

Um ... you can most certainly beat it.

LUV has no first class or international destinations. Heck they don't even fly to Hawaii or have assigned seats.

Sufficiently elite passengers on other airlines, at a minimum, get exit rows and bulkheads, and depending on the airline and the route, often fly first domestically, and the option of flying business on international awards.

What the hell do you need an upgrade for as a 22-year old? Show me another airline that will give you a free one-way flight for every business round trip flight you book. Yeah, SWA is no-frills but you can get to all major cities and get to travel most of the United States for free while you're young and single.

Jul 21, 2011

Yes you can, if you fly mainly east coast US, then the ease of upgrading on US makes it by far and away the best. LUV (Southwest) has no upgrades and if you're going to fly LCCs B6 (Jetblue) is oftentimes cheaper than LUV, seats are preassigned and crews friendly.

Jul 25, 2011

You can bank a decent amount of miles even when flying 500 mile trips. Last year Marriott had a promotion where you could get 5K miles for every stay, so I was getting 500X2X2+5KX3 = 17K miles/wk through hotel hopping. Before that Delta had a promotion where you'd get 5K for each rental, giving me about 7.5K or 12.5K depending on if I was proactive enough to switch the car midweek. I managed to earn about 800K miles in two years (and another 600K in hotel points and 120K in AmEx).

Jul 25, 2011

Get a Chase Sapphire Reserve ASAP

    • 2
Jul 25, 2011

SB'd. What an unbelievable deal; had to sign up. Even the annual fee gets earned back for the most part. Thanks for that.

Jul 25, 2011

I like rewards of Turkish airlines. You can buy a lot of things for your miles

Jul 25, 2011

Airline will be relevant to your home base (e.g. don't work on Delta status if you are based out of Denver). I prefer not getting an airline card since the points are very devalued compared to hotel ones and we use travel agents to book flights. For hotel, you should do SPG for sure, and if you spend enough nights per year (50 SPG + 75 Marriott), you can do Marriott as well to make double Platinum. Marriott Premier Visa is a good Visa back up for those who don't take AmEx. Don't bother with a basic credit card, you need to combine all the spend in one card.

Jul 25, 2011

Starwood is best for hotels, and the best card to get, for the reasons abacab said. I've been on one case where there was some travel where a Starwood wasn't available, but that's the exception rather than the rule.

In terms of flights - just dependent on where you get staffed. If you want to be strategic, pick the airline which services the most places out of the airport you want to fly out of, or at least the one that serves cities with likely/major clients and destinations. That said, certain cities (e.g. Atlanta) really force your hand. Make sure you put all spend on partner airlines (i.e. USAir and United) through the same account.

Jul 25, 2011

I stay at the Hyatt exclusively. I fly out of United whenever possible. I rent cars from National exclusively.

Jul 25, 2011

It can be dictated in part by your firm, too, if you have preferred vendors - we only rent cars from Hertz, so I only have a Hertz rental car account. Same for Starwood hotels.

Might want to check on vendors before signing up for credit cards, etc.

Jul 25, 2011

Is it a good idea to sign up for rewards programs prior to starting a consulting gig or does it not matter? I know you can claim your missing nights afterwards but I'm not sure if you're required to have been a member during the nights you're trying to claim. That, and it seems like a hassle.

Jul 25, 2011
Western:

Is it a good idea to sign up for rewards programs prior to starting a consulting gig or does it not matter?

Turn that question around: what possible reason do you have NOT to sign up for loyalty programs? They are, after all, free.

Sign up for SPG plus Hilton or Hyatt or Marriott as a backup. Sign up for all of the airline programs--even if you have one primary airline, there will be times when you don't have any choice but to fly on another airline, you might as well get the miles and you can always status-match if your spend isn't high enough.

I don't travel much--almost none, by consultant standards, but a fair bit by regular people standards--and I have SPG gold, HHonors gold, Delta/UA silver and AA gold, Hertz and National 5star/Executive elite status. No reason not to.

Jul 25, 2011

starwoods the best hotel. once you reach platinum at starwood you can usually get marriott and hilton to match the status, or get you on an express route. but i usually still only stay with starwood cus they tend to have better promotions and it is easier to earn points.

pick your flight based on where you are located and where you want to travel to (e.g. i go to FL a bunch, and so i use jetblue and delta)

Jul 25, 2011

This reminds me of that movie where George Clooney has like a billion miles and the hot chick is pale and crusty and not so hot

Jul 25, 2011
BlackHat:

This reminds me of that movie where George Clooney has like a billion miles and the hot chick is pale and crusty and not so hot

Hahahah, true, but in the movie Clooney is just trying to hit a number. In terms of actual BENEFITS with status, it's not that hard to hit those status levels. I shit Hilton points. Seriously, I've only had a Starwood property near me ONCE and I'm on my sixth project now. Ridiculous foolishness. Stupid Starwood. And Marriotts are ALWAYS booked out. Hilton is by far the most reliable brand with the most locations.

And yah...airline is really just based off your home airport. However, my company does provide me with free Delta status ;)

Jul 25, 2011

Can't go wrong with Starwood hotels. Just stay where the rest of the firm does, I'm sure there has been hundreds if not thousands of consultant hours spent on how to maximize points. Hell, we have partners that negotiate with specific SPG hotels to get 2x points his team.

Airlines just go w/ whatever hub is closest to you. Also your firms should be able to give you status upgrades on one or two airlines. Although united has the best redemption value based on my experience, esp booking last minute flights.

Jul 25, 2011

Both Starwood and Marriott (maybe the other hotel chains as well) let you fast track to Platinum. All you have to do is call them and ask for status challenge. You do not need to have elite status with any other hotel. What they do require is that you stay x number of nights/stays in a three months period which shouldn't be a problem if you are traveling weekly. If I remember it right it's 20 nights for Starwood and 9 stays for Marriott.

As many have mentioned my recommendation is Starwood because 1) there points are more valuable than other hotels 2) higher chance of room upgrade, in particular to suites 3) better benefits for Platinum members.

Marriott has a lot more hotels (at least in the US) but there benefits for Platinum is terrible.

I heard good things about the Hyatt loyalty program but I feel there are just too few Hyatt hotels around.

At least at my firm, projects do allow you to stay at the hotel you prefer and in particular the managers will go in great length to stay at their preferred chain. However, there are cases where you have to share a car and more than likely the more senior person makes the call.

Jul 25, 2011

It seems like the consensus everywhere is that Starwood tops all. In second place, it looks like it's a toss up between Hilton Honors and Marriott. Anyone have a preference between these two? I know that Hilton allows double dipping - receiving both hotel and airline points together.

Jul 25, 2011

Just curious which credit/debit cards/programs do people in MBB generally use?

Jul 25, 2011
xmasboy:

Just curious which credit/debit cards/programs do people in MBB generally use?

For almost everyone else I've seen: Starwood SPG Amex predominantly (let me know if you want a referral), but also a smattering of Chase Sapphire Preferred (also awesome card), Amex Platinum, United MileagePlus, etc.
For the ambitious: All of them with sign up bonuses

Jul 25, 2011

Hilton points are extremely devalued and they don't have many 'nice' properties in fancy locations (or at least I never ran into one). Good for Hampton Inn in some random town though (or the DoubleTree in Times Square if you need space).

Jul 25, 2011

Yes, you should be able to.

Jul 25, 2011

Sign up for the platinum challenge at Marriott Hotels. If you are going to stay for that long it will give you status for all of 13 & 14. It was how I got first status when I started consulting.

Jul 25, 2011

And you should also get a few points. Hence, once you have Platinum, and fail to renew it the following year, you can call them and spend 30,000 to have the status for another year.

Jul 25, 2011

It is also very likely that they have booked all the analysts on a specially negotiated long-term/group rate which is not eligible for points. This was the case for me when I went for my analyst training so don't take the points for granted just yet.

Jul 25, 2011

Interested as well.

Jul 25, 2011

The best value is Business class reward ticket on alliance members. For example, I have a stash of Delta miles and got my parents two business class on Virgin Atlantic. Came out to be lowest tier on Delta (vs. DL/AF/KLM on same route would be highest tier).

Jul 25, 2011

How many miles did that cost?

Jul 25, 2011

For absolute average values see: http://thepointsguy.com/2014/08/what-are-points-an...

Aside from British Airways Avios (which transfer from AMEX or Chase UR) which should be used for short Economy hops in the US under ~1,500 miles (point value can be > 3c) and AA/UA points domestically, points are best used in the following scenarios:

1. Using AA / US miles to nab off-peak award tickets to Asia (i.e. Japan)

2. Using AA / US / Avianca Lifemiles to find aspirational First / Business class awards.

And to your rhetorical question, "who would want to spend that many miles [on Business / First award tickets]? Consider this scenario:

During US Airways regular 100% bonus on award miles, you can purchase 55,000 miles (which = 110,000 miles, due to the promotion) for $1,770. For that price, you could fly the following sample itinerary, all in Business: NYC-LHR (stop)-BKK (stop)-NRT-LAX-NYC. An itinerary worth north of $8,000 (if you paid cash) and you are paying less than you could have if you bought it in Coach. Value, fact.

Jul 25, 2011

For that example, I can see how that works, but I feel like finding an itinerary like that for 110,000 miles would be rare.

Jul 25, 2011

Short distance segments on US or AA booked via BA Avios is the absolute move. I get 5.5 cents per point on my go to route. Very hard to beat that value.

Jul 25, 2011

Well with Virgin Atlantic it'd be $5K minimum and $7K on average. Can be had for $3.5K-$4.5K with Middle Eastern carriers for specific dates.

Jul 25, 2011

International is the way to go except for British Airways (US flights) or Southwest.

Jul 25, 2011
brj:

International is the way to go except for British Airways (US flights) or Southwest.

Finally, some validation on the Southwest thing!

Jul 25, 2011

Biggest piece of advice with award tickets is to piece your award redemptions together segment by segment. An itinerary like that I posted above is more than possible but if you just plug it in to an airline's website it would not show up.

You generally have to spoonfeed agents via the telephone and know your flight numbers and make sure no stopovers are more than 24 hours (unless you are allowed them). For most US airlines, you can have between 6 - 9 segments per round trip. And for US Airways, you can cross both oceans if you get the right agent (effectively making your "roundtrip" a RTW itinerary).

Jul 25, 2011

The key to good value on United is getting saver tickets. I consistently get over 2 cents / point on international united flights.

If you live in a hub, and you are going to a hub, then it is more likely that you can find save tickets.

I've done US -> Australia (3 days) - > New Zealand (10 days) -> Japan (3 days) -> US for 92k miles round trip each person

I found a NZ flight for $1,600 *just* to NZ and back, without the Australia + Japan stops. That alone put it at about 1.7 per mile.

I've done US - > South Africa (few weeks) -> Ethiopia -> US for 80k miles round trip each person

So yeah...get the saver awards and it's generally pretty solid.

    • 1
Jul 25, 2011

Sapphire has a $500 bonus for signing up now. Worth it,

Jul 25, 2011

$500?

You can do a lot better than that. There are always a couple of cards out there which offer a fuckton of miles

Jul 25, 2011
Attack_Chihuaha:

$500?

You can do a lot better than that. There are always a couple of cards out there which offer a fuckton of miles

But usually not with an annual fee <$100.

Jul 25, 2011
Comment

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

Jul 25, 2011