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What's New in Credit Card Technology

Posted by Ed Perkins on Thursday, October 9, 2014

Diners Club, the original Travel and Entertainment" (T-and-E) card, is reopening in the United States. That's the biggest news in the always-turbulent credit card world. For some reason, the pioneering card has been dormant in the U.S. for several years, servicing prior holders but not adding new ones. Now, it is again accepting applications, and it offers four key advantages over most other cards:

* Transfer of points to Air Canada, Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian, and Southwest among the domestic airlines, plus British Airways, El Al, EVA, Frontier, Icelandair, Korean, SAS, South African, Thai, Virgin Atlantic, Amtrak, and several hotel programs. Diners provides much better transfer options for domestic airlines than American Express.

* No-extra-charge primary rental-car collision insurance—available on a few other cards, but unavailable on most.

* Chip-and-pin security, making the card useable in some cases where other cards may not work.

* Access to more than 500 airport lounges around the world.

Diners is offering two versions: Premier, at $95 per year ($35 for a second card), earning one point per dollar on all purchases, and Elite, at $300 per year ($150 for a second card), earning three points per dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and drugstores, plus one point per dollar on all other purchases.

Both cards include the "usual suspects" list of other credit card benefits, including the increasingly common "no fee on foreign transactions" feature on travel-oriented cards. And Diners Club cards carry the MasterCard logo, so they're useful just about everywhere.

The big advantages of transfers to many airlines, primary rental-car insurance, chip technology, and lounge access move Diners Club near the top of your list of prospective travel cards. Even the Premier version outperforms some much more expensive cards from other issuers. Check it out and apply at dinersclubus.com.

If you haven't been looking lately, the formerly "strictly domestic" Discover card has expanded well beyond U.S. borders. It's accepted in much of Europe, Central and South America, and Asia, plus New Zealand and South Africa. The biggest exceptions in Europe are Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. Discover owns Diners Club International, so any outfit displaying a Diners Club sign will honor Discover, although that's a lot fewer than accept MasterCard or Visa. With its relatively high dollar-payback level, Discover is an attractive option for anyone who doesn't need airline miles. Check it out at discover.com.

Slowly but surely the United States is catching up with the rest of the world in adoption of chip (EMV) security for credit cards. American Express, MasterCard, and Visa have established a deadline of October 2015 to complete migration. This isn't an absolute deadline, but after that date, banks that do not issue chip cards and merchants that do not accept them will be accountable for any fraudulent charges. As a result of this "fraud liability shift" incentive, the industry estimates that about 70 percent of U.S. cards will have chips by that deadline date.

But not all chip cards are alike. Most chip cards issued in the U.S. are "chip-and-signature" cards, meaning that when you charge something, you still sign a conventional charge slip or an automated remote terminal. The rest of the world is focusing on "chip-and-pin" cards: Instead of signing for a charge, you enter a PIN, as you do at ATMs. Only a few U.S. card issuers currently use that system: Diners Club, as noted, along with some cards from Barclaycard, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and a few company-branded cards. But U.S. banks will ultimately move to chip-and-pin, too.

The industry claims that chip technology is inherently more secure than the older magnetic strip system, and their arguments are convincing. The big advantage of the chip system is that it makes counterfeiting cards harder, and the pin system prevents use of a lost or stolen card by an unauthorized person. But banks warn us that not even the best card technology can prevent hacking of merchants' databases and other assaults on your security. Even with a chip card, you have to remain vigilant. But you knew that.

Ed Perkins on Travel is copyright (c) 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title What's New in Credit Card Technology. Follow Ed Perkins on Google+ or email him at editor@smartertravel.com.

Categories: Frequent Flyer Cards

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Frequent-Flyer Programs for Infrequent Flyers

Posted by Ed Perkins on Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mighty Travels says American has the most generous frequent-flyer program among the three giant lines and Delta has the worst. IdeaWorks says Southwest and JetBlue are best among lines in the United States, followed by United, Alaska, American, and Delta. Some insiders like Alaska's program because it has good award deals on partner lines. Consumer Reports found Spirit was pretty bad, but didn't find any clear winners. Given the range of opinion, what should an occasional traveler do? Here are some considerations.

Location Rules: No matter what the relative merits of individual airline programs, your choice may well be dictated by where you live and where you usually travel. You have to go with that, no matter what.

Elite Status: Fuhggeddaboudit. Delta and United have already announced a switch from the miles you fly to the dollars you spend on airline tickets as a basis for elite status, and American will probably follow once its program fully merges with US Airways. Alaska and Hawaiian may follow. Elite status, with its access to upgrades, is the main goal of real frequent travelers. But occasional travelers, by definition, don't fly enough to earn elite status under the old rules and they surely don't spend enough to make it via the dollars. Occasional travelers will not get upgrades—period.

Special Treatment: Lacking elite status, the other way to get preferential treatment is to use a credit card cobranded with an airline. American's AAdvantage World MasterCard, Delta's Skymiles AmEx card, and United's Mileage Plus Explorer Visa card, all $95 per year after the first year, offer one no-charge checked bag each per trip for a couple (up to four travelers on some) and other benefits; Hawaiian's World Elite MasterCard offers the no-charge checked bag to just the cardholder. United's card provides primary rather than secondary collision coverage for rented cars, a big plus. Even if you don't travel much, one of these cards could easily pay for itself in reduced fees—especially United's, if you rent cars. Cards from Southwest and the smaller lines also offer benefits, many tied to faster earning of credit.

Mileage Basics: For now, the general formula that 25,000 miles gets you one domestic coach round-trip looks pretty safe for Alaska, American, Delta, and United. First class generally requires double. For an economy round trip to Europe, American's 40,000-mile off-season award is a lot better than the 60,000 miles on Delta and United. Business class to Europe is 110,000 to 125,000 miles. As an occasional traveler, you'd probably take two to three years to pile up enough miles for a domestic round-trip, and far too long for the bigger awards.

The Value of Miles: These days, long-haul coach round-trips cost around $400 and often more, so as long as the basic domestic coach award remains at 25,000 miles, the value is inching up past 1.5 cents per mile. Of course, you have to adjust the value of miles to reflect the difficulty—sometimes extreme, on Delta—of getting an award seat when and where you want it. You get at least double that value when you use miles for first or business class.

Augmenting Miles: The only practical way to augment your airline miles is to use a credit card that pays one mile per dollar charged to the card (two miles for airline tickets), as several airline cards do. If you put as much as you can on a mileage credit card, say $1,500 a month, you'd earn that award trip in about a year and a half.

Dollars or Miles: Good cash-back cards pay 1.5 to 2 cents per dollar charged, so charging that same $1,500 a month would earn $270 to $360 each year, which you could use to buy tickets with no limitations. Whether to go with airline miles or cash back is a close call for earning domestic coach tickets, but miles are a no-brainer if you use them for business-class or first-class awards anywhere.

Ed Perkins Seniors on the Go is copyright (c) 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Frequent-Flyer Programs for Infrequent Flyers. Follow Ed Perkins on Google+ or email him at editor@smartertravel.com.

Categories: Frequent Flyer Cards

It's Back! 100,000 British Airway miles for $95

Posted by Ricky Radka on Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It's back! It has been almost a year and a half since British Airways offered the well received and applied for Visa Signature card which allowed new card members up to 100,000 BA miles. If you missed out on it last time around, here is another shot.

Apply by May 6, 2011, to receive British Airways "most generous" offer of the year. You will earn 50,000 miles upon your first purchase with the card and an additional 50,000 bonus BA miles after spending $2,500 within the first three months of activation.

That should be enough to earn you two "free" (we use that word loosely, since there are always taxes and sometimes fees associated with frequent flyer programs and airline tickets) trans-atlantic tickets to the many European destinations served by British Airways and the Oneworld team.

Other benefits include:

• No foreign transaction fees.

• BA Miles for every dollar spent—Earn 2.5 BA Miles for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases.

• Earn 1.25 BA Miles for every $1 spent on everyday purchases.

• BA Miles Travel Together Ticket—With the BA Miles Travel Together Ticket, you can bring a companion on your next reward flight without using any additional BA Miles. Every year you spend $30,000 on your card, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.

As with any airline affiliated credit card there are pages of terms and conditions, so please read carefully before deciding if this is the right deal for you. The annual fee for this card is $95. (Allthough it does state $75 on the Pricing and terms link on the main page, $95 appears on application page) Apply here.

To learn more, visit Ricky Radka's profile on Google+

Categories: Frequent Flyer Cards

Delta Eliminates Mileage Expiration

Posted by Ricky Radka on Tuesday, February 15, 2011

While it seems that most of the time airlines are busy raising checked baggage fees or adding more restrictions to drive their clientele mad. In rare instances they actually do like to throw their customers a bone.

In another effort to improve it's SkyMiles program Delta Airlines has announced that it is now the only major U.S. carrier without mileage expiration. Quoting the email I just received from the carrier:

"You now can earn miles without worrying if and when they will expire as we have eliminated our mileage expiration policy - no asterisk, no fine print, no ifs, ands or buts."

Previously, SkyMiles would expire 24 months after a flier's last qualifying mileage activity. For most Delta SkyMiles frequent fliers this won't have much of an impact but for those who fly less often or use different carriers from time to time, it's a nice gesture. Let's hope other U.S. carriers follow the lead, eliminating last minute jaunts just to save expiring miles or buying items from airlines sponsored shopping sites in order to keep your account active.

To learn more, visit Ricky Radka's profile on Google+

Categories: Frequent Flyer Cards

Free 250 AAdvantage miles from Best Western Rewards

Posted by Ricky Radka on Thursday, January 27, 2011

To be honest, I've never stayed at a Best Western, therefore I've never had a reason to sign up for the Best Western Rewards program. Until now.

By signing up for Best Western Rewards, which is a free rewards program and setting your earning preference to airline miles then selecting American Airlines as your airline of choice on the information screen you will earn a free 250 AAdvantage mile boost in your account. While probably not enough miles to get you that international flight you've been saving for this is a great way to keep your account active and get some extra miles for a couple minutes of your time.

Stays booked during this Spring Promotion (February 6 - April 11, 2011) are entitled to earning even more bonus AAdvantage miles for those who are registered. Earn 500 miles on the first stay, 750 on your second, and 1,000 for each stay thereafter. No limit cap to the number of bonus miles during the promotion period.

While entering your AAdvantage number on the information page make sure to use all CAPS because the entry field is case sensitive even though it's not listed as so. Register here to get your free 250 AAdvantage miles.

To learn more, visit Ricky Radka's profile on Google+

Categories: Frequent Flyer Cards

Earn an easy 150 free AAdvantage miles from Bose

Posted by Ricky Radka on Monday, January 10, 2011

Got a couple of minutes to spare? Bose and American Airlines have put together an exclusive offer for AAdvantage members to earn 150 miles simply by watching a video of the new Bose bluetooth headset.

We know that 150 miles aren't going to get you that upgrade you've been wanting, but for those of you who want to keep that AAdvantage account active or give your account a little boost for free, this fits the bill.

We are big fans of the Bose QuietComfort noise canceling headphones for travel so this bluetooth headset is definitely worth a look.

Simply click here for the offer, watch the video then answer the question at the end, plug in your AAdvantage number and info, then you are good to go. Offer ends January 17, 2011.

To learn more, visit Ricky Radka's profile on Google+

Categories: Airfare Tips, Frequent Flyer Cards

Southwest may buy Frontier Airlines

Posted by George Hobica on Friday, July 31, 2009

This is very interesting news. As the Wall St. Journal points out, if the acquisition goes through, Southwest would become an international airline (unless it drops Frontier's routes to Mexico). More importantly, a merger would eliminate yet another player in the domestic airline industry. Frontier has been a low cost leader, frequently launching fare sales that other airlines have to match. Taken to an extreme, as consolidation continues, there may be fewer sales and higher fares.

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Categories: Frequent Flyer Cards

American Airlines introduces newly spruced frequent flyer program

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Listen up, AAdvantage frequent flyer members! American has now halved the points required to book a one-way economy class ticket, from 25,000 points down to just 12,500.

Also under the new One-Way Flex Awards program, Members may purchase as many as four one-ways at a time, making it a great option for those booking multiple destination trips, or travel for family members.

For details, visit the Aadvantage One-Way Flex Awards page.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Categories: Domestic US Fares, Frequent Flyer Cards

Are frequent flyer credit cards worth the plastic they're printed on?

Posted by George Hobica on Wednesday, January 30, 2008

We've been wondering. Does it make sense to spend $25,000 on a frequent flyer credit card in order to earn 25,000 miles, which is typically what you need for a free domestic roundtrip ticket. If, that is, there are seats available to frequent flyers, which there often are not.

All too often, you have to spend 45,000 or 50,000 miles for a domestic ticket, right?

And what if that ticket would only cost you $179, or $225, the typical price that we often list for cross country fares when there's a sale?

Maybe you'd be better off with a cash back credit card instead. For example, after you've spent $6500 using your card, the American Express Blue Cash card pays 1.5% on all purchases, and 5% back on supermarket, gas station, and drugstore purchases. So let's say you take that same $25,000, and let's say $15,000 of that is "other" purchases, and $10,000 is gas, food, and drugstore.

The calculator please! You'd earn $225 plus $500 for a total of $725 in cash back. And then you take that cash and buy yourself a nice airline ticket without being told, sorry, there are no seats.

Honestly, seems like a no brainer to us.

To learn more, visit George Hobica's profile on Google+

Categories: Frequent Flyer Cards

20% Bonus for Purchasing Sky Miles

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Thursday, November 8, 2007

Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles is offering a 20 percent bonus for members who purchase miles for themselves or as gifts for friends and family. For example, buy 10,000 miles and you (or your recipient) will receive an extra 2,000 miles for a total of 12,000 miles. This promotion is available through December 31, 2007.
 
SkyMiles costs $0.0275 per mile (with a minimum purchase of 1,000 miles, and a maximum of 30,000 miles per calendar year) plus a 7.5 percent Federal Excise Tax per mile. More information or complete rules and restrictions are available at www.delta.com/buymiles.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Categories: Frequent Flyer Cards
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