Author Topic: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?  (Read 4270 times)

Angie55

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Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« on: December 23, 2014, 09:30:38 AM »
Alright, so hereís me being a little morbid. It may be too late but I figure it can't hurt to look into it. DHís grandfather is not doing very well. Its been awhile coming but the doctor has given him 6 months to live. Based on what his parents will say it will be much sooner (heís lost his will to live). Iím guessing sometime after the holidays, because that seems to be a time that old folks go for.

This has the potential to be a total repeat of last year. DHís other grandfather died in January. Last minute tickets from Denver to New England cost $1,200 for (2) roundtrip tickets! This is one of the primary reason it sucks living across the country from your family. Iím not complaining about a funeral and Iím grateful we finally got ourselves into the position where we have the excess cash that would allow us to book tickets without going into debt. But Iím not happy that it would effectively take away one of our vacations this year. And for the first time ever DH is a contractor so all days gone are without pay  (making the effective cost almost 2k on top of the plane tickets). I know money shouldnít factor into a situation like this, but I was thinking maybe there is a way I can do this a little smarter.

The credit card mileage game has always seemed convoluted and complicated for me. Iíve never really understood which were the best companies, how you could maximize it, etc. It seems to have a wide variance to which airlines or cards actually have miles worth something. Iíve always gone the cashback credit card route because it is much simpler and straightforward.

Help me figure it out. I need one where a reasonable amount of miles I could accumulate in 1-2months or with signup bonus could be used for last minute travel. We may have to do some arbitrage to get the points very quickly. Any signup bonuses that could cover the flights (even just one of them) would be great. I believe last time home we took United. Southwest and Jet Blue I believe also go to that airport if it makes a difference.

Alternatively, any advice on how to get last minute fairs cheaper?

Something else to keep in mind. We have finally got all the credit card inquiries off our credit report from previous rounds of chasing credit card signup bonuses. There is the potential for us to buy a house in the 2 year future it would take for any new hard pulls to come off our credit reports. Would having one hard pull if we every go loan shopping ding our rate noticeably? We both should have top notch credit scores from our 8 years of on time student loan repayment.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2014, 10:08:23 AM by Angie55 »

GizmoTX

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Re: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2014, 10:05:06 AM »
We usually use miles for last minute emergency trips. Even if we have to pay an expediting fee, it is much cheaper than a full fare hit. For the last 3 years, we've booked Christmas trips to see DH's mom using miles; since she's 98, we can use the reservations sooner or get most of the miles back. For us, American/AAdvantage has been our primary program.

However, the Barclay Arrival card has been offering a 40k miles bonus for spending $3k in the first 3 months that can be used for any airline, & it rewards 2x on all purchases.

We've also found reasonable fares on Southwest & Spirit.

I'd focus on your flight choices & pick the card that helps you minimize last minute costs.

Scandium

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Re: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2014, 10:16:41 AM »
I was going to say the Southwest credit card so went and looked it up. But damn; they've cut their singup in half! I remember it used to say "get two round trip flights", now it says ..a flight. You get 25,000 points rather than 50K before. Not so tempting then.
https://www.southwest.com/html/rapidrewards/partners/credit-cards/southwest-airlines-rapid-rewards-cards/index.html?clk=GSUBNAV-RR-VISA

Chase Ink also only give 50K points now (to United and a few others), was 70K a month ago. Glad I got that one.
https://creditcards.chase.com/ink-business-credit-cards/ink-plus-card?CELL=63WS&list=4,2,1

Is this a down season for signup bonuses or something?

Nothlit

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Re: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2014, 10:18:18 AM »
Barclaycard's Arrival cards give you "miles" (really just "points") that you can redeem as a statement credit against prior travel expenses up to 120 days after the fact. So depending on the card, you may not need to rush to earn the miles before your trip.

In case that doesn't make sense, here's a sample timeline that might work:
  • Dec - apply for card
  • Jan - start using card
  • Feb - need to travel; just outright buy the tickets (using the rewards card)
  • Mar - continue normal spending; reach bonus threshold
  • Apr - bonus points are awarded; redeem as statement credit against Feb. ticket purchase
This is my understanding of how the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card works, but you should confirm for yourself before you take my word for it.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2014, 10:26:55 AM by Nothlit »

gecko10x

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Re: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2014, 10:21:44 AM »
I don't think you'll have the time. Sign up bonus points may appear after the 1st purchase, but many points won't appear until the statement closing date. Then you usually have to wait for a transfer to take place, which could be weeks (unless maybe the card is issued by the airline?).

MustachianAccountant

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Re: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2014, 10:37:43 AM »
I don't think you'll have the time. Sign up bonus points may appear after the 1st purchase, but many points won't appear until the statement closing date. Then you usually have to wait for a transfer to take place, which could be weeks (unless maybe the card is issued by the airline?).

I concur, there may not be enough time to get/spend/wait for points to post.
Of course, you don't know how much time you do have.
I'd agree with the poster upthread about the Barclay Arrival+ for the reason stated - you can redeem those points AFTER the travel, instead of needing the points ahead of time to book the flight.
Plus, the Barclay card will appeal to your "straightforward" nature - it's a "2% cashback on everything" card, except you can only use that cashback towards travel expenses.
The only downside to the Barclay is you'll still be stuck looking for a cheap fare.

rubybeth

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Re: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2014, 10:48:34 AM »
I don't think you'll have the time. Sign up bonus points may appear after the 1st purchase, but many points won't appear until the statement closing date. Then you usually have to wait for a transfer to take place, which could be weeks (unless maybe the card is issued by the airline?).

I concur, there may not be enough time to get/spend/wait for points to post.
Of course, you don't know how much time you do have.
I'd agree with the poster upthread about the Barclay Arrival+ for the reason stated - you can redeem those points AFTER the travel, instead of needing the points ahead of time to book the flight.
Plus, the Barclay card will appeal to your "straightforward" nature - it's a "2% cashback on everything" card, except you can only use that cashback towards travel expenses.
The only downside to the Barclay is you'll still be stuck looking for a cheap fare.

The bolded part is not true. You can also redeem the 'miles' for cash back, gift cards, etc. like other rewards cards, it's just a better deal to reimburse yourself for travel. Points get logged on my account balance within a couple days of the purchase. I think you'd have time to get this card, because you have 90 days to rack up the $3,000 in expenses, and if you buy your airline tickets anytime during that period, they count toward your $3,000 plus you get to reimburse yourself for them later with the points you rack up on the other purchases you make, and the 40,000 bonus (you must reimburse yourself within 90 days... though ours recently got upgraded so now we have 120 days to reimburse ourselves). So, you'd get the 6,000 miles for spending $3,000 plus 40,000 bonus miles and save about $450 on tickets. Also, they do this weird thing where, if you redeem miles for travel, they give you some of them back (I think it's 10%), so you never really get to 0 miles. This card has saved us over $1,000 this year, I'd highly recommend it:

https://www.barclaycardus.com/

Gerard

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Re: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2014, 11:05:35 AM »
I agree with other posters that the card-rewards game (or travel, period) doesn't lend itself to last-minute buying if you have to be at a particular place at a particular time.

The only potentially useful advice I have is to consider all the airports within range, and maybe take a train or bus the last few hours. It might be cheaper to book two one-ways instead of a return, with different airports involved. You might fly into Boston and out of Manchester, NH, or NYC, for example. Play around on the ITA Matrix site for different possibilities (there's a "nearby" button on it that can be helpful).

I also wonder... is there potentially more value in having one last chance to hang out with the old dude before he passes, rather than actually attending the funeral? Could you advance-book some cheap tix and just head cross-country for a few days?


MustachianAccountant

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Re: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2014, 11:26:18 AM »

The bolded part is not true. You can also redeem the 'miles' for cash back, gift cards, etc. like other rewards cards, it's just a better deal to reimburse yourself for travel.

Yeah, sorry, I was simplifying a little bit. If you redeem for cash/statement credit, the card becomes just another vanilla 1% cash back card.

seattlecyclone

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Re: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2014, 11:41:06 AM »
A few bits of advice:

* If the nearest airport to your house is a hub for any particular airline, you may want to look at their credit card first. This will give you more opportunities to use your miles on more direct flights to more places, plus the flights you pay for in the future are more likely to be on that airline. Most airlines have limited availability for award tickets on their flights, so even if you can't use the miles for your upcoming funeral you may be able to book your next vacation when you're able to snatch the award tickets early.

* If you don't travel often, it probably doesn't pay to sign up for more than one or two mileage programs. Most airlines expire your mileage account after 18-24 months if you don't earn or use any miles during that time. There are a few pretty cheap ways to drag this out. e-miles.com, e-rewards.com, and others let you take surveys to earn a few miles (and extend your expiration date) on many airlines. Some airlines let you register your credit card to earn a few miles when you eat at certain restaurants, while others let you spend a few miles to subscribe to magazines. Other options exist as well. But if you're just starting out with the points game, it's best to keep things simple and stick with one or two mileage accounts.

* Last-minute fare prices really go across the whole spectrum. If the flight is sold out, they will gladly sell you another ticket, but you are literally paying someone else to change their plans (when they ask for volunteers to accept a few hundred dollars to take the next flight, this is why). If there are a dozen seats left on the plane at the last minute, the fare will often be pretty cheap, whether you pay with miles or dollars.

* Sometimes airline pricing is weird. For example, a flight from A to C (connecting in B) might sometimes be cheaper than a direct flight from A to B or B to C, even though you have to take both of those flights to get from A to C. There's a site that will help you search for these weird fares. In my case it's showing me that if I wanted to go from Seattle to Minneapolis on Friday, I could pay $198 for a one-way ticket to Minneapolis, or I could pay $162 for a ticket to Omaha connecting in Minneapolis. Nobody can stop me from "missing my connection" in Minneapolis and walking out of the airport there. Airlines hate this though. So if you do it, buy a one-way ticket because if you buy a round trip they'll cancel your return trip out of spite. Don't check any bags because they'll go to the wrong city. Doing this too many times on one airline could even get you banned from purchasing tickets on that airline in the future. It's a good tool to keep in your back pocket when you really need a lower fare, though.

Poorman

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Re: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2014, 12:40:23 PM »
So, you'd get the 6,000 miles for spending $3,000 plus 40,000 bonus miles and save about $450 on tickets. Also, they do this weird thing where, if you redeem miles for travel, they give you some of them back (I think it's 10%), so you never really get to 0 miles. This card has saved us over $1,000 this year, I'd highly recommend it:

If they are able to meet the spend, each spouse could apply for the card separately and effectively save $900 by having two cards.  Then book the tickets separately, by charging one ticket to one card and the other ticket to the other card.  If meeting the combined $6,000 in spend over 90 days is too much, then they could stagger the applications by 1-3 months before buying the tickets.  Have one spouse apply for the first card and once the spend is met, have the second spouse apply for the second card.  Then buy the tickets.  That's the way I would approach it.

Also, to answer the question about the effect on credit scores.  Each hard pull will drop your score by 3-5 points, but that should clear up as your record of on-time payments posts to the account.  It could affect your interest rate in the short term if that drop takes you to a worse risk category, but if your FICO's are currently well above 740 than you shouldn't have anything to worry about.

JoJo

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Re: Last Minute Plane Tickets - Credit Card Signup/Miles Strategy?
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2014, 02:08:12 PM »
Is driving an option?  With 2 people you could drive around the clock and be there in ~30 hours.  Assuming you get good mileage, the cost of gas would be in the range of $250.  (obviously there's depreciation/wear & tear).