How I earned more than 20,000 British Airways Avios in a year

How I earned more than 20,000 British Airways Avios in a year


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Source: thepointsguy.com

Credit.Com’s Picks for Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Editorial disclosure: Reviews are as determined solely by Credit.com staff. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the reviewers and aren’t reviewed or approved by any advertiser. Information presented is accurate as of the date of the review, including information on card rates, rewards and fees. Check the issuer’s website for the most current information on each card listed.

Advertiser disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this website are from credit card companies that Credit.com receives compensation from. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers.

Figuring out which is the best travel rewards credit card can be a challenge. There are a lot of cards to choose from. Adding to the number of options is that most travel credit cards offer decent rewards. Fierce completion between banks in the credit card industry is to thank for that.

With so many travel rewards credit card options and so many good programs, there isn’t one “best” card for everyone. You simply want to choose the card that’s “best” for your travel needs and spending habits. Some cards work great for frequent travelers. Other cards work better for those who don’t travel as often. All cards have their perks and quirks. To make it a bit easier, here are a few of the favorite travel rewards credit cards of the Credit.com team to help you figure out which one is the right card for you.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases.
  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.

First on the Credit.com staff list of best travel rewards credit cards is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. What makes the Sapphire Preferred card our top choice is that it has one of the highest bonuses available for any card. If you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account, you earn 50,000 bonus points. That’s the equivalent of $625 that you can put towards travel when you redeem your points through Chase Ultimate rewards.

It didn’t hurt for us that Kiplinger’s Personal Finance named this card its “Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption” in June 2018, either.

Earning points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred is good too. You earn double points (2X) on travel expenses and at restaurants worldwide. And you earn one point on every dollar you spend on every other purchase.

This card let you use your points for airfare, accommodations, renting a car or taking a cruise. And when you redeem your points on Chase Ultimate Rewards, you get 25% more value for your points and have no blackout dates or other travel restrictions. You can even transfer your points to many other airline and hotel loyalty programs.

With no annual fee for the first year, you keep all your earnings for yourself. After the first year, your fee will be $95, which is one of the downsides of the card, but if you use your card a lot, you’ll quickly recoup that fee.

Our take: If you use your card a lot and you want rewards to use for travel, you can’t go wrong with this card in your wallet.

This card competes virtually equally with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. It offers 50,000 miles with $3,000 in purchases made in three months of opening the account. While the dollar value of those miles is less than with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card—$500 rather than $625—you get that bonus with a $1,000 less expense.

This card was named “The Best Travel Card” by CNBC in 2018. Unlike the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, it pays double miles (2X) on all purchases, not just those for travel and eating out. It also pays 10X miles for accommodations at thousands of hotels. And for global travelers, the Capital One Venture Rewards card can save cardholders up to $100 on Global Entry and TSA Pre✓® application fees.

You can use your points to fly on any airline and stay at any hotel with no restrictions or blackout dates. And you can transfer your miles to more than 12 leading travel loyalty programs. Miles are also good as long as you have your card account.

The Capital One Venture Rewards card has no annual fee the first year and a $95 annual fee after that.

All that said, this card is so close to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, it wasn’t easy to dub it “runner-up.” In fact, we had to do some arm wrestling between a few staffers to make our final decision. For you, this card could easily be your best card depending on what matters most to you. With either card, you can’t really go wrong.

The Final Verdict Is Yours

The Credit.com staff choices listed here offer solid value and cover a range of travel needs. If you’re looking for your absolute best travel or flight rewards card, check them out on Credit.com. You’ll also find other options listed there as well as each card’s APR.

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Source: credit.com

19 Things You Should Never Buy at a Grocery Store

Surprised man shopping for groceries
Bodnar Taras / Shutterstock.com

Do you love your neighborhood grocery store and buy everything you need there?

If so, your local grocery store probably loves you, too. It loves that you’re willing to spend so much on items you could get for a whole lot less money elsewhere.

You can continue supporting your local grocery store, but skip buying these goods there because cheaper options are available.

1. Greeting cards

Woman with greeting card
Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Anyone who’s bought a grocery store greeting card has felt the sticker shock — $4.95 for a piece of cardstock with a pretty design? You can do better.

Go to the dollar store and pick up some equally nice options for a buck. Greeting cards are one of the “21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store.”

If you don’t want to make a trip to another store, check out the options on Amazon. Or if you’re the crafty type, make your own.

2. Batteries

Couple in living room using remote control
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Batteries are an essential part of life, whether you’re a parent on Christmas morning or someone who relies on the TV remote. However, there’s no reason to overpay.

Head to the warehouse club of your choice, where you can stock up on bulk packages that bring your per-battery cost down. Amazon also sells bulk packages of batteries, including its own AmazonBasics brand.

3. Magazines

Kinga / Shutterstock.com

A single issue of a magazine at the grocery store can set you back $3 or $4. Or more.

For many publications, you can subscribe to have them delivered to your home for the entire year for less than $20.

There are also plenty of ways to get discounted access to your favorite titles, as we detail in “4 Ways to Read Magazines for Free or Cheap.”

4. Diapers

Baby drinking a bottle of milk
Flashon Media / Shutterstock.com

Who knew it cost so much to cover your little one’s bottom? Well, experienced parents know, but it’s often a surprise to new moms and dads.

Using cloth diapers that you wash and reuse is always cheaper and more environmentally friendly. But for many people, disposables are the only way to go.

Buying them from a grocery store is easy, but you’ll pay a lot less per diaper using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service. It gives Amazon Prime members up to 20% off diaper subscriptions (basically just recurring deliveries), depending on how many subscription deliveries you buy.

If you’re willing to watch and wait for sales to stock up, another option is drugstore-brand diapers. See “7 Things You Can Buy for Next to Nothing at the Drugstore.”

5. Alcoholic beverages

oneinchpunch / Shutterstock.com

Beer and wine are money makers for grocery stores. You can minimize the markup by shopping at a warehouse club instead.

You may not even need a membership, as we explain in “18 Best Buys at Warehouse Stores”:

“In some states, nonmembers can buy booze at a warehouse club due to state laws that regulate alcohol sales. So call your closest club and ask about its policy for selling alcohol to nonmembers.”

6. Toothbrushes

Mom and daughter brushing teeth together,
Creativa Image / Shutterstock.com

Are you really buying toothbrushes at the grocery store? Don’t you go to the dentist? If you do, you’ll find they have drawers full of them for the asking.

Yes, most people go to the dentist once every six months, and you should change your toothbrush more often than that. However, we’ll bet that, if you ask really nicely, your dentist will give you one or two extra to last until your next visit.

7. Special occasion cakes

Kzenon / Shutterstock.com

Getting a birthday cake at the grocery store is convenient, but it isn’t all that cheap, especially if you need to feed a crowd.

Instead, we’re going to send you back to your warehouse club, where you can get a giant decorated sheet cake for the same price many grocery stores charge for their small ones.

8. Pet food

woman kissing cat
garetsworkshop / Shutterstock.com

The grocery store isn’t the worst place to buy pet food, but you can do better.

These retailers are among those offering discounts when you set up automated shipments:

Some pet store chains also offer coupons and loyalty programs that can lower costs, as we detail in “8 Ways to Cut Your Pet Food Costs.”

9. Bottled water

Patramansky Oleg / Shutterstock.com

Unless you happen to live in a city where the water is unfit to drink, there is no reason to buy bottled water.

The water from your tap will hydrate you just fine. Invest in a couple of reusable water bottles, and fill them for cheap at home.

Does the local tap water taste iffy? Buy a water filter or a filtering pitcher, and keep it in the fridge for when you want a cold drink or need to refill those reusable bottles.

If you must have bottled water from a store, buy it at a lower price at your warehouse club.

10. Frozen pancakes

farbled / Shutterstock.com

It is a mystery why anyone buys frozen pancakes. Making pancakes at home is super easy. A basic recipe takes a few minutes to whip up, and slightly longer to cook. We know you can do it.

Cook up a big batch on the weekend and freeze the extras to eat throughout the week. Your cost will be pennies per pancake.

11. Basic baking mixes

antoniodiaz / Shutterstock.com

Let’s take it one step further and say you should banish buying all basic baking mixes from the grocery store. If you’re baking with Bisquick, you really aren’t saving any time if you think about how long it takes to mix together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. All you’re doing is paying more.

The same can be said for basic cookie, cake and brownie mixes. These things aren’t hard to make from scratch. By skipping the mixes, you’ll save money and possibly be a little healthier, too, because of those mysterious added ingredients in processed foods that you don’t put in at home.

Need a recipe? See “10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself.”

12. Kitchenware

lenetstan / Shutterstock.com

Speaking of baking, the grocery store knows you might need some equipment to cook up all the delicious food you’re buying. That’s why many have a selection of pots, pans and even small kitchen appliances for purchase.

Resist the urge. You can probably find better prices and quality at big retailers stores like Walmart and Costco, or at Amazon.

13. Spices

Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

Herbs and spices can be another item leading to sticker shock in the grocery store. That tiny little bottle costs how much?!

If you have a bulk food store that sells spices, you can save a bundle. Not only could the per-ounce cost be less than at the grocery store, but you can also buy only as much as you need. No reason to get a whole jar when you only want a teaspoon for a recipe.

You can also find cheap spices at the dollar store, but the quality and freshness may be questionable.

14. Party supplies

Family Together Christmas Celebration diverse multi ethnic family
By Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Like greeting cards, party supplies are sold at the grocery store for a premium. Don’t make the mistake of getting your candles, tablecloths and colorful napkins there.

Swing by the dollar store and buy them on the cheap instead.

15. Coffee

TORWAISTUDIO / Shutterstock.com

It’s the elixir of life for many people, which is probably why it costs so much at the grocery store. To get cheaper coffee, you have a couple of options.

Your warehouse store — noticing a theme here? — is a good place to stock up on bulk packages of whole-bean, ground and K-cup coffee.

If you have a Keurig machine, you can also register it at Keuirg.com, where they send out the occasional good deal.

Perhaps most surprisingly, you can find low sale prices on coffee at office supply stores, like Staples, for instance. These shops also have online coupons and loyalty programs to help you save even more.

16. Toilet paper

Toilet paper
Gavran333 / Shutterstock.com

There may be no more essential product to family harmony than toilet paper. And it’s shocking how much tissue paper rolled around a tube can cost in the grocery store.

Head to your warehouse club or office supply store for discounted bulk purchases. Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service is also your friend here.

17. Light bulbs

Rido / Shutterstock.com

It can cost a lot of money to light up your house. Walk past that display in the grocery store if you want to save some cash.

You could go to a warehouse club for lower prices, but you may find the best selection at Amazon.

18. Individually wrapped snacks

Woman eating cookies with milk
Ivan Cheremisin / Shutterstock.com

You know you should buy the jumbo box of goldfish crackers and put them in baggies for school lunches, but that’s way too much work. OK, fine. Just don’t buy those individually wrapped snacks at the grocery store.

You can get a big box of them at a much cheaper price per serving if you go to a warehouse club. Or, see what your local dollar store has in stock.

19. Gift cards

Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Forgot to buy a gift? No problem. Grocery stores have set up convenient displays of all sorts of gift cards by the checkout lanes.

Now, for many of these, you might only pay face value. So, you’re probably wondering why we’re saying that you’re overpaying. That’s because you can go to a warehouse club and get, for example, $100 worth of gift cards to many restaurants for only $80. Different chains offer different options, as you can see by looking at:

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

How to Reach Southwest Airlines Customer Service

No matter which airline brands you choose to support and do business with, it’s essential to be able to get a hold of the company’s customer service team during a time of need. Even if the brand provides excellent customer service, there may come a time when something goes wrong — whether you need to make contact for help with reservations, baggage issues or have a question that needs to be answered.

If you fly with Southwest Airlines, you’ll be happy to know that they have several customer service options. This makes it more convenient for you to get help when you need it. Here’s what you need to know about how to utilize Southwest Airlines customer service.

Ways to contact Southwest Airlines customer service

Phone

You can call the Southwest Airlines customer service phone line 24/7. To reach a representative, call this telephone number: 1-800-I-FLY-SWA or 1-800-435-9792. Since help is available 24 hours a day, you can call when it’s most convenient for you. For customers who need to call while outside of the United States, additional customer service phone numbers are available.

Nerd tip: Southwest Airlines has a flexible cancellation policy. As long as you call at least 10 minutes before a flight’s scheduled departure, you can cancel your flight and get travel credits for a new flight. In this kind of situation, calling customer service is probably best if you don’t have immediate access to your Southwest app or online account.

Email

Southwest also offers an email customer service option. Customers can go to the email section and choose whether they have a complaint, a question or a compliment. They will then be able to type up a message and include any relevant attachments. Requests may take up to 48 hours to be answered.

Twitter or Facebook

If you prefer to contact Southwest Airlines customer service through social media channels, you have options. Customers can contact the airline through Twitter by sending a direct message to @SouthwestAir.

Southwest Airlines also has a Facebook page. You can reach out to the customer service team via Facebook messenger.

Send a letter

For anyone who prefers a more old-school approach to contacting the Southwest Airlines customer service team, letters can be mailed to the following address:

P.O. Box 36647-1CR,

Dallas, Texas 75235.

Visit the Southwest Airlines Community

Finally, Southwest has an excellent online community. Within this web portal, customers can check the knowledge base for answers to common customer service questions. This is a great place to check before sending a message or making a call, especially if the problem isn’t specific to a reservation. If you’re unable to find an answer, you might try calling or sending a direct message on social media.

The Southwest Airlines Community also provides a discussion board and blog. This is a good place to learn more about the brand and see what other travelers are saying about it. You can communicate with other travelers and read about important brand news and updates.

Southwest credit card customer service

Southwest customer service won’t be able to assist with questions or issues related to a Southwest credit card. Instead, you’ll want to contact Chase, the bank that issues the co-branded Southwest credit cards.

Here’s a list of Southwest credit cards that you can call 1-800-792-0001 for customer support:

The bottom line

There are many ways to contact the Southwest Airlines customer service team. Whether you’re social media savvy, prefer to call or like to send mail the old-fashioned way, there is no shortage of ways to reach a customer service representative when you need assistance.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Rebook and Save When Southwest Flight Prices Drop

Southwest Airlines is known and loved for its lack of fees. As part of the airline’s “Transfarency” policy, all Southwest passengers can check up to two bags for free and can change or cancel their flight with no fee.

But, there’s one aspect of Southwest’s super-flexible change policies that’s not as well known: Southwest will credit you the fare difference if the price of your flight drops. This means you can book Southwest flights without worrying about the flight getting cheaper. Book a flight now, then claim any price difference if the fare drops in the future.

However, this refund isn’t automatic. You’ll need to keep an eye out for price changes and actively request the fare difference when the price reduces. The good news is that process is relatively easy.

Here’s how to rebook and save when Southwest flight prices drop.

Which Southwest fares can be changed?

All Southwest flight bookings can be changed or canceled without fees. Unlike other U.S. airlines — which are just loosening up change fee restrictions — Southwest doesn’t exclude the cheapest fares or require that your flight originates in a certain country.

Though Southwest doesn’t sell basic economy tickets, even their lowest fare (Wanna Get Away) doesn’t require you to pay more to be able to change or cancel your flights later. This isn’t the case when flying American, Delta or United.

Simply put: You can always modify any Southwest flights, no matter the ticket level.

Nerd tip: You can even change or cancel flights booked with Rapid Rewards points without fees.

Which Southwest fares can be refunded?

There’s a key difference between Southwest fare types that’s important to keep in mind. Only Anytime (mid-tier) and Business Select (top-tier) fares are fully refundable. Wanna Get Away fares (lower-tier) aren’t technically refundable.

While you can change or cancel Wanna Get Away fares, you won’t receive a refund to your credit card. Instead, Southwest will issue you Travel Funds that can be used to book future flights. These Travel Funds must be used by the original traveler and expire one year after the original purchase date. Note that Southwest extended some Travel Funds’ expiration dates until Sept. 7, 2022, as part of their policy changes during the height of the pandemic.

When you can change your Southwest flights

Southwest flight bookings can be changed or canceled almost anytime without fees, up until 10 minutes before a flight’s scheduled departure time. You can similarly score a price drop credit until 10 minutes before your flight — even if you’ve already checked in.

Though Southwest flights typically get more expensive the closer time ticks toward departure, if you keep your eye on the airfare price, you might get a deal.

How to rebook your Southwest flight at a lower fare

Say you checked the price on your Southwest flight and found that the fare dropped. Congratulations! But what’s the process to claim the fare difference? Let’s show you.

Log into your Southwest account

There are a few places where you can start, but it’s probably easiest to log into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account and scroll down to “My upcoming trips.” To get started with the process, click the “Change flight” link on the reservation you’d like to change.

Select your flight

On the next page, select the flight that you want to modify. If you booked a round trip, you’ll have the option to change just one way and leave the other.

Search for a new flight (or new ticket on the same flight)

Next, enter the departure and arrival airports, date and time of day to search for new flights. Southwest will display the flight options available; the search results will be in a format familiar to frequent Southwest travelers, including the same sort and filter options.

However, instead of showing the price of a flight, Southwest will list the price or point difference. If you’re traveling with multiple passengers, note that this price difference is per person.

If you want to travel on a different date, you can navigate via the dates at the top of the search results. Once you find the flight and date you want, click the flight option and then click “continue” at the bottom to move forward with the change.

Book your ticket and pay/get credited the difference

Southwest will then confirm the flight option, and at the bottom of this page, you’ll see the total price difference for all passengers that can be credited to your account as Travel Funds. If you’re changing to a lower cost award flight, you’ll see the amount of points that will be added back to your Rapid Rewards account.

View the reconcile summary

On the final page, Southwest will show a “Reconcile summary.” This will show the amount of points or cash that will be refunded to you, plus how much will be held as Travel Funds (if applicable).

Pro tip: How to figure out the new ticket cost

Interestingly, Southwest doesn’t show the price of the new flight at any point in this rebooking process. But, if you’re changing an award ticket, there’s an easy way to find these prices.

Southwest technically refunds the award price of the old ticket and then pulls the award price of the new ticket from your account. So, you can review the Points Activity page of your Rapid Rewards account to see the old and new prices for this booking.

The bottom line

Over the past few years, fee-free flight change and cancellation policies were unique to Southwest. However, other U.S.-based airlines have recently removed change fees on most flights. Plus, American and Delta travelers can also now request a travel credit when the price of a flight drops.

Southwest travelers can change or cancel any fare at any time up to 10 minutes before departure, and there’s no limit to the number of changes that you can make. Depending on your fare type, you’ll get a refund or Travel Funds of the price difference if the cost decreased.

But you need to know how the process works in order to take full advantage of this policy. Now that you’ve seen how easy it is to change a Southwest flight when the fare drops, you can feel even more comfortable booking a Southwest flight for the future.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Is IHG Ambassador Status Worth It?

IHG Ambassador status is a niche elite status tier that many travelers have never heard of. It provides exclusive benefits at InterContinental Hotels, plus automatic IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status for perks at other IHG brands.

Though there aren’t many hotel loyalty programs that offer elite status that you can buy, you still need to ask yourself: Is IHG Ambassador status worth it?

What does IHG Ambassador status include?

Benefits at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

When you sign-up for IHG Ambassador status, you’ll receive a suite of benefits that are good at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts locations around the world.

These benefits include:

  • Guaranteed one category room upgrade.

  • Complimentary weekend night.

  • Automatic IHG Platinum Elite status.

  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout.

  • Complimentary mineral water and internet.

  • Single room rate for double occupancy.

In China, there are additional benefits for Ambassador members. Mainland China hotels provide complimentary breakfast for one person each night that you stay, while Greater China (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) properties include a welcome fruit platter.

These benefits are exclusive to stays at InterContinental hotels, so they do not apply for reservations at other IHG brands. Through Dec. 31, 2021, Ambassador benefits will also apply at participating Regent Hotels & Resorts.

Free weekend night extended to Kimpton and Regent

In 2020, IHG extended the complimentary weekend night so that it could be redeemed at Kimpton and Regent properties as well. In fact, the free weekend night is actually more flexible at these other brands because it can be used any night of the week. At Kimpton and Regent, you are not restricted just to the weekends.

When you book your Ambassador free night, do not be alarmed if the full price is listed on your reservation. The second night will be manually adjusted and credited to your bill so that you’re not charged for it.

Perks at other IHG brands

When staying at other IHG brands, Ambassador members receive the benefits included in the complimentary IHG Platinum Elite status that comes with your membership. Many of these benefits are similar to what you’ll receive as an Ambassador at InterContinental properties.

Platinum Elite status includes:

  • Complimentary room upgrades.

  • Guaranteed room availability.

  • Extended checkout, when available.

  • Elite rollover nights.

  • 50% bonus earnings on top of base points.

  • Free internet.

How to get Ambassador status in IHG

Unlike most other hotel loyalty programs, IHG Ambassador status is not earned by points, hotel nights stayed or how much you spend on the hotel’s credit card. So, here’s how to get Ambassador Status in IHG.

Buy it

IHG Rewards Club members can buy Ambassador status by paying $200 or redeeming 40,000 IHG points per year. You can purchase it online on the IHG Ambassador page or at any IHG hotel property, and your membership is good for 12 months from the date you sign up.

Use credit card perks, maybe

Some data points suggest that the $200 fee codes as travel, so you may be able to use your credit card’s travel credits to cover the fee. Otherwise, you can earn 10x points per dollar when you use the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

Exclusive Invitation: IHG Royal Ambassador Status

Although you can buy IHG Ambassador status, IHG Royal Ambassador Status is by invitation only. IHG rewards their most loyal guests with this top-tier elite status based on an undisclosed formula that factors in qualified activities at Kimpton, InterContinental, Regent and participating Six Senses locations.

IHG Royal Ambassador status is based on a calendar year and includes the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed two category room upgrade.

  • Free night at any IHG property up to 70,000 points.

  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. check-out and 10 a.m. check-in.

  • Club InterContinental lounge access.

  • Complimentary weekend night.

  • Automatic IHG Spire Elite status.

  • Complimentary minibar up to $50 per day.

  • Premium internet.

  • Choice of snack or fruit.

  • 24-hour room guarantee.

  • Waived destination and amenity fees.

  • Single room rate for double occupancy.

  • Invitation to Kimpton Inner Circle.

The complimentary weekend night is good for 12 months from the date of issue, and is valid on the second night of a minimum two-night stay over a weekend. The weekend night can be redeemed at any InterContinental hotel around the world, except InterContinental Alliance Resorts.

Benefits of IHG Royal Ambassador status are only available at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. However, the benefits you receive as part of your automatic IHG Spire Elite will apply to your stays at all other IHG brand properties. Through Dec. 31, 2021, IHG Ambassador benefits are also available at participating Regent Hotels & Resorts.

The bottom line

Is IHG Ambassador status worth it? Travelers who frequent InterContinental Hotels & Resorts should invest in IHG Ambassador status. It provides exclusive perks when staying at InterContinental hotels, plus automatic IHG Platinum Elite to receive benefits at other IHG brands.

Although Ambassador status costs $200 or 40,000 points per year, the benefits outweigh the cost. Simply redeeming the complimentary weekend night should cover that upfront investment, and that’s even before factoring in other perks like room upgrades, $20 in dining credits per stay and guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out.

For IHG members who don’t typically stay at InterContinental properties, you can receive the same Platinum Elite status automatically by having the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. With an annual fee of $89 and an annual free night, it is the better deal for you.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

A Points Collector’s Guide to Air France-KLM

Flying Blue is a joint loyalty program of two European airlines: Air France (headquartered at Charles de Gaulle Airport in France) and KLM (headquartered in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands).

In 2004, the two airlines merged and created a combined Air France-KLM Group. Both of the airlines are part of the SkyTeam alliance, which consists of 19 carriers.

Here’s what a strategic points collector needs to know and understand about Air France-KLM and its loyalty program, Flying Blue. We’ll cover how earning and redeeming works, how to get the maximum value from your miles, plus other facets that make this rewards program worth a second glance.

About Air France-KLM

Here’s a quick overview of a few key features of Air France-KLM.

  • Fare types: Air France operates aircraft with economy, premium economy, business class and first, or La Première, class. KLM operates service in economy and either World Business Class (on international routes) or Europe Business Class (on international or domestic routes within Europe) cabins.

  • Main U.S. routes: Both Air France and KLM cover quite a bit of the world with their routes. In the U.S., Air France flies to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas (seasonally), Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis (seasonally), New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. KLM operates service to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami (seasonally), Minneapolis, New York City, San Francisco, Salt Lake City (seasonally) and Washington, D.C.

  • Points currency and loyalty program: The two airlines’ joint loyalty program is called Flying Blue and it’s free to join. As a member, you’ll earn Flying Blue miles redeemable for award flights.

How to earn Flying Blue miles

Earn by flying

You can earn Flying Blue miles by flying on the following airlines and crediting the flights to Flying Blue. Note that the list includes non-SkyTeam partners of Air France-KLM.

When you fly partner airlines, the miles earned are credited based on the percentage of distance flown, which is calculated based on the fare code of a flight you purchase and vary by which partner airline you are on. You can click through the individual partner pages on the Flying Blue website to get specifics.

When you fly Air France or KLM, the miles you earn are determined by how much you spend on each ticket — minus taxes — and your elite status with the airline. Keep in mind, Flying Blue works in euros. In terms of an exchange rate, 1 euro has typically been worth $1.10 to $1.25 over the past five years.

Elite status

Earning rate

4 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)

6 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)

7 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)

8 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)

Flying Blue is an example of a revenue-based rewards program, at least on the earning side for Air France- and KLM-operated flights. The more money you spend, the more rewards you earn.

Earn by spending on credit cards

With the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard®, Air France-KLM flyers will earn extra bonus miles and a statement credit after spending a set amount on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

After this initial welcome bonus, you’ll continue earning 3 miles per dollar spent with Air France, KLM and other SkyTeam airlines, and 1.5 miles per dollar on all other purchases.

Each membership year you spend $50 on the airline credit card, you’ll earn 5,000 anniversary miles that are automatically added to your Flying Blue account.

Earn by transferring points between programs

Perhaps the easiest way to get your hands on Flying Blue miles is by transferring flexible currency from one of the bank rewards programs. Luckily, Air France-KLM partners with all of the major transferrable point programs.

You can transfer the following points to Flying Blue:

Of all the flexible point programs listed above, we recommend using American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards® or Citi ThankYou Points as they provide the highest conversion rates.

Nerd tip: Occasionally, AmEx and Citi add bonus miles to point conversions. During these promotional transfer periods, the bonus can be as high as 30% more miles in your Flying Blue account, which can make certain mileage bookings really attractive.

Other ways to earn

  • Hotels: Earn Flying Blue miles on hotel stays at brands like Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt, among others.

  • Car rentals: Earn Flying Blue miles on car rentals made with car rental companies such as Hertz, Avis and Budget.

  • Shopping: Collect more miles when you shop with Batavia Stad Amsterdam Fashion, the Bicester Village Shopping Collection and Voyageurs du Monde.

  • Buy miles: In a pinch, you can buy Flying Blue miles starting at around $66 for 2,000 miles. Purchasing as many as 75,000 miles will set you back upward of $2,500. The program sometimes runs bonuses on mileage purchases.

Nerd tip: Since miles are always at risk of being devalued, we don’t recommend making speculative points purchases without a redemption in mind.

How to redeem Flying Blue miles for maximum value

Book award seats early

Flying Blue uses a dynamic-style chart for its award flights. In other words, redemption rates start at a certain point and can increase based on when and where you fly.

Flying Blue sells a certain number of award seats at the lowest redemption level before it hikes the rates based on demand. To find out what that level is, enter a city pair into the Miles Price Estimator and watch what comes up on your preferred route.

For example, say you want to fly from Salt Lake City to Budapest, Hungary. According to the Miles Price Estimator, the lowest redemption level is set at 24,000 Flying Blue miles for a one-way ticket in economy and 53,000 miles for a one-way ticket in business class.

So if you’re flexible with your travel plans, look for dates when tickets are available at the low-level rates for mileage redemption.

Use Promo Rewards

One of the sweet spots of the Flying Blue program is its Promo Rewards. Every month, the airline releases discount routes for certain city pairs, and you can get up to 50% off standard award rates in economy, premium economy and business classes of service.

The promo page is updated the first day of the month, and you have the whole month to book a discounted flight for travel during a specific time period. Keep in mind that some trips sell out quickly — we don’t recommend waiting too long to snag one of these promotional fares if you see one you like.

Delta partner flights

Because Air France-KLM is an alliance partner of Delta Air Lines, use Flying Blue for the following mileage redemptions on Delta-operated flights.

  • U.S. to Hawaii: This redemption will set you back 35,000 miles on a round-trip ticket from the continental U.S. to the Aloha State.

  • U.S. to Mexico: Another great redemption that will cost you 29,000 on round-trip flights from the U.S. to Mexico.

Flying Blue’s elite status program

Think of reaching Flying Blue elite status like playing a game. The more experience points, or XP, you earn by flying Air France-KLM or their partners, the quicker you level up. The number of XP earned per flight depends on travel class and flight type.

Tiers

Flying Blue flyers are divided into four elite levels: Explorer, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Everyone starts at the Explorer level when they join the loyalty program, then members can make their way up as they fly.

Once you reach a status level within 12 months of being a member, you get the benefits associated with it for 15 months (unless you qualify for a higher tier in that time — then the clock resets). On the flip side, if you fail to re-qualify for the same status tier within 12 months, you’ll drop to the previous tier.

What status holders get

Here are the perks associated with each elite status level. As mentioned previously, Flying Blue works in euros. We’ve listed a typical range in dollars for comparison.

It’s worth mentioning that one of the desirable benefits of holding either Gold or Platinum elite status with Flying Blue is the ability to redeem miles for La Première awards — Air France’s first-class cabin. The redemption option isn’t available to Silver elites or Explorer members of the program.

What makes Air France-KLM unique?

Passengers flying in KLM’s World Business Class cabin receive a unique gift: a miniature Delft Blue house filled with jenever, a juniper-flavored drink of the Netherlands. The airline designs a new Dutch house every year and has presented these souvenirs to KLM premium-cabin flyers since the 1950s.

To add a porcelain Delft house to your collection, simply book an intercontinental flight in World Business Class.

The bottom line

Flying Blue may be a foreign loyalty program, but U.S.-based travelers shouldn’t overlook it.

Its miles are easily accessible via multiple transferrable programs, which means that pooling rewards into a single account when you’re ready to redeem miles for an award isn’t difficult.

Although the program uses dynamic pricing for its redemption rates, it still makes low-level awards available to those whose schedule is flexible. On top of that, transfer bonuses from certain bank programs can drop redemption rates even lower.

If you’re looking to fly a SkyTeam partner on an award ticket, consider Flying Blue and its redemption options.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com