Friday, November 30, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bump, what’s it all about?

Have you heard the term “bump”? Essentially aka VDB (Voluntarily Denied Boarding), you give up your seat back to the airline company in order to exchange some future travel credit, vouchers or anything lucrative to you.

Let me give you an example, 10 years ago, my wife and I were waiting in a long queue and preparing to get our boarding pass from PEK-YYZ (Beijing to Toronto). I heard the broadcasting of looking for two volunteers that giving their seats and changing to next day flight. I immediately reported to the gate agent and started to negotiate the “compensation”. Since they were looking for two, our one booking confirmation fits perfectly. I secured the deal of
1.      $1000 Air Canada credit each
2.      One night hotel stay. (I didn’t accept, instead of a round trip taxi fee from airport to downtown my parents’ home)
3.      We can check in in first class counter the next day to expedite our waiting time.
4.      Two lounge passes we can use within 12  months

We purchased our flight with ~$1000 each, so we not only will take the flight back to YYZ next day, also a free around trip to Beijing from Toronto in the future. J all we have to do is to hang-in with our parents with one more day. (I don’t think my in-law were really concerned about this. ;-) )

Why airline companies do that?

They do this all the time, primarily “oversold”, to make most of profit, airline company is inclined to oversell 20% of their flight capacity if possible. Secondly, there are always full refund customers don’t show up and reschedule, since they pay 2x or 3x times then the cheapest T class, airline companies are very grateful to honor you a few hundred dollars to accommodate those bigger spenders. J (every ticket can easily make $2000 profit for airline companies)

How do I qualify?

Unlike priority boarding or some other elite benefits, everyone can be qualified, it’s just matter of the following criteria

1.      You need to be flexible, if you are catching an important business or you can’t afford the delay, don’t bother. A few years ago, I was in a thanksgiving evening from SFO-SEA, everyone seemed concerned to go back home on time and nobody wanted to take the VDB. I took it for the morning flight and $400 voucher plus a very comfortable hotel stay.

2.      You need to ASK. When you check-in in the computer, there might be a prompt whether or not you want to be a volunteer, take it, it doesn’t guarantee you, but you are recorded. See below picture. If the computer doesn’t have this info, most likely the flight is not full. You can always press the change “seat” when you check-in, if you see the plane is full, now you know you don’t have to change seat, but you need to ask gate agent.

Negotiate the compensation

If you are lucky enough to be on the first volunteer list, the gate agent will offer their compensation, here are tricks
1.      the international flight is better than domestic, typical $400 for domestic (or free ticket) and $800~1000 for intl’
2.      the longer or more inconvenient of the changed flight, the better offer. Say, they put you in the flight in 2 hours later, $400 is pretty good, 6 hours later, I’d ask for a bit more for sure.
3.      you need to know how many volunteer, the more, the unlikely they want to negotiate. Last time, in SFO, there was no volunteer at all besides me, I was in a good position to talk, right?
4.      The closer to departure time, the better offer. The same principle, airline companies don’t want to delay their flight.
5. the important point is if you dislike the offer, you don't need to take it.

Recap

Don’t be greedy, if you think the offer is reasonable, take it. If you think you can’t afford the reschedule, don’t even ask. For others' experience and how much they got, take a look at here and here

Monday, November 26, 2012

A few AMEX benefits (Free Money)

During the Black Friday and 11/24, I’ve got $200+ free money as AMEX card holder. If you missed below #1 promotion, don’t feel bad, you can still register #2/3 and the upcoming gigs in the future.


Every year, AMEX prompted this one-day event that each AMEX card can get you $25 statement credit if you shop in your local small business to support them. I’ve knocked down 7 cards x$25=$175 literally free money this past Saturday. And I bought a lot of wines and spirits and had a fancy dinner and lunch with family. I asked the server to split the bill to two cards if it exceeds $25.

2.      Bestbuy buy $200 save $20

a.      Spend $200 or more, get $20 back

b.      Get a one-time $20 statement credit by using your synced Card to spend a total of $200 or more online or in store at Best Buy by 12/31/2012. Offer excludes Best Buy Express locations.

c.      I bought two iPad with $460 each at Bestbuy 11/23 Black Friday per AMEX card, the $20 credit posted within 2 days.

d.      I actually saved 9.5% tax as I bought in Oregon. J see how much I saved last time.

e.      You need to register and sync your AMEX card to the facebook here. If you still can’t find the link or the offer, it’s under my facebook here

3.      Costco spend $100, get $25 back

a.      Get a one-time $25 statement credit by using your synced Card to spend a total of $100 or more online at Costco.com by 12/31/12.

b.      I bought two Costco gift card and got my $50 credit back within 2 days

c.      You need to register and sync your AMEX card to the facebook here. If you still can’t find the link or the offer, it’s under my facebook here

Recap

During the holiday reason, I saved $175+$50+$50=$275 with just swiped my cards a few times and took a few minutes to register AMEX/Facebook sync app. I will highly recommend you to watch out for AMEX "free money" in the future.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cashback and on-line shopping

As BF(Black Friday, not boy friend, even though he will pay the bill. :-) ) is around the corner, if you shop a lot online, you probably already know the cashback and miles/points you can get back. I don't understand people just go to on-line shopping without getting the cashback or points/miles, it's a HUGE waste!!!

My experience is
1.      Firstly, you need to compare which cashback websites and on-line shopping portal offers the best rate. I always go to www.evreward.com and let it compare for me. (it doesn't list topcashback however)

2.      Once you lock down which website or portal you have the max rebate, click the link

3.      For cash back
      a.      I have huge successful rate with Topcashback ( my referral link is http://www.topcashback.com/ref/benlucanada, both you and me will get $10 to start with). I personally like it most, for example, Groupon offers 16% cashback and IHG(holidayInn) threw in 21% recently and etc..

      b.      My second choice is fatswallet.com (my referral link is http://www.fatwallet.com/?referral=benlucanada and both you and me get $5)

4.      For miles/points shopping portal, I prefer United/Chase UR as I value their miles $0.02/mile. however, if Citi thankyou (last time, I managed to snag a iPAD with deep discount) offer 3x than other portal, go for it.

Free $25 statement credit on 11/24 by enrolling your AMEX Card and supporting your local Small Biz

Link: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small/#
1.      Corp card doesn’t count
2.      11/24 only
3.      Go to above website to check which merchant qualifies
4.      You have to spend above $25 per transaction
5.      Multi-card is ok, technically, you can get $25 x N back. If you have 10 AMEX cards, you will get $250 back in total
6.      Enrollment has limit, so act quick!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Never Hurt to Ask

If you love this hobby of traveling around the world for free or saving tons of coins on Air tickets/hotel stays. You should be familiar with what the title of this post says. Essentially, anything is possible, it is just matter of fact “Are you going to Ask?”.  Let me give you a few examples.

 1.      Chase SM (Secure Message)

Chase is very friendly in terms of matching Credit card offer, say you applied 30 days ago for a 40,000 points(miles) card and Chase bumped the offer to 60,000. Send them a SM and most likely they will match you. I’ve explained how here

2.      A few hundred miles short for Elite Status

I missed my flight two weeks ago and I posted my story here. After I returned home, I asked MMS Daraius what's my options, Daraius suggested me to email them and  try the "never hurt to ask".
I sent UA MileagePlus an email and they said “ no problem” within 24 hours. I am very happy that I avoided a mileagerun

Dear Mr. Lu:

Thank you for contacting the MileagePlus Service Center.

No problem. I gave you credit for your original scheduled flights on 11/5/2012 and removed the others. Please check your account in 24 hours. For technical reasons, I had to post the new flights with a date of 11/6/2012.

Regards,

MileagePlus® Service Center

Original Message Follows:

Hi, I was late for my flight from SEA-IAD-FLL, confirm# , ticket#: . The gate agent managed to rebook me to SEA-IAH-FLL. Thanks for that!

However, I am now short 246 miles to elite for 2013, which I intended to fly IAD vs IAH for the extra miles. :-)

I don't have travel plan for the rest of 2012, is that possible for you to credit me the same amount miles SEA-IAD-FLL-IAH-SEA vs SEA-IAH-FLL-IAH-FLL?

3.      Complaint and compensation

I can’t remember how many times that if I have some negative feedback(or complaint) about ground agent or flight attendant or hotel staff or room or literally anything that I feel I’m obligated to feedback to them to improve in the future.  Most of time, I received “apologized letter” and often time, I receive flight voucher/coupon/miles/points or some small gift to compensate and appreciate my feedback.

Being in the customer services industry for many years, I know this is the way we apologized to our customers and kept our customers’ loyalty and why not take it with a 5 minutes email? Never hurt to ask, right?

4.      Rule is rule, exception always occurs

Every company has their rules that they ask us to stick to it, this is quite understandable. However, tell you what, they do have exceptions. For example, Priceline.com has strict rule of no change, no refund once you booked their hotel or air flight. But if you do have some emergencies, call them, they will accommodate once you can approve it, such as email them your family doctor’s visit record.

Bottom line

Take 5 minutes of your time and don’t be afraid to ask, what do you lose anyway? Never hurt you to ask for something, the worse scenario is a “Nope”.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Free Experian Report from Wells Fargo by 11/15

Go to your Wells Fargo branch and ask for free report code by 11/15.

They don't check whether or not you are their customer. it's free and it's for Experian, most of Credit card companies, Chase/AMEX/Citi hard pulls against Experian in most states.

If you are not sure which credit card company pulls which credit bureau, take a look at here  (MMS has a great post here to explain everything you need to know)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My thoughts on the DEAD of Vanilla Reload card at Office Depot of 5x UR points

Based on recent blog posts, like MMS one here, it’s coming to an end of this “deal”. I am actually very happy of this news, seriously?!

Not because I didn’t even try it in the first place, it’s due to the fact that there is no business in the world will always turn into profit without someone actually paying the bill for ever. No exception. It could happen for a short period of time though. The biggest reason I didn’t try is I don’t want to be at risk Chase shutting down all my cards as I don’t know the “moderate” rule of taking advantage of this deal, it’s all about Chase thinks you are a perk abuser or not. If I earn extra 20k or 30k UR points, it doesn’t worth the effort, if I earn 100k or 200k, I catch some attention from Chase. Either way, I have other ways to get a million of miles/points each year, it’s enough for my family’s vacation. I am not greedy.
Apparently, those buying $5000 VR cards on a day, aka “abusers” killed the deal, not those bloggers, nor Flyertalk. However, when this kind of insane deal spread out enough to some Jr dummy beginners, things will lose control and deal will die sooner or later. Time to move on, it’s as simple as that.

In terms of applying credit card to accumulate points/miles, I always suggest to my friends, “don’t bite more than you can chew”, be a moderate gamer, don’t abuse the system, then you will never be at risk of Chase’s action against you, or AMEX’s so called “financial review”………

Bottom Line

So far, we have earned over a million points/miles this year and we have redeemed lots of trips with paying only tax or a fraction of true cost. I am taking a break applying credit cards until 2013 and my credit score as of yesterday is 750. Cheers! J

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A $150 Starbucks Mocha

I missed my flight yesterday in the terminal of my route SEA-IAD-FLL. Unbelievable?! Here is what happened:

I got up 4:30am and managed to get to the Sea-tac Airport. I thought I was safe so I grabbed a cup of Starbucks and the gate closed 2 minutes when I heard my name was called. L

The agent said she paged me 5 times, but I wasn’t able to hear. It’s not sky falling, United managed to rebook me to SEA-IAH-FLL in a late flight. However, I intended to choose IAD(Washington DC) route, because based on gcmap.com it’s 6046 miles and I need 6000 miles to get Elite for 2013. The IAH(Houston) route is only 5679 miles. ( I short for 321 miles, kidding me!!!)

Jesus, since I have no plan for United by end of this year, I might have to rebook my return ticket via Newark which $150 change fee applies. Hence, the title of this post. J

While I had 3 hours lay-over in IAH which is United hub city, there are tons of United clubs in their 5 terminals, I don’t have club access( and I don’t want to waste my one-day pass which you get two when you apply for ChaseUnited MileagePlus card), I sat beside a seat near one of the club, and they have free Wi-Fi. (Hint: if you travel to those airports don’t have free Wi-Fi, approach United clubs to “steal” their free Internet)

In short, if you miss your flight, the ground customer service desk has MORE power than the phone agent and they don’t charge you anything as long as there is an open seat. However, I don’t recommend you to intentionally miss your flight, say, the flight you missed is cheaper than the later flight and you want to take the late flight. Because YMMV. In my case, I apologized for the CSR for my ignorance and asked any alternatives. You never want to yell at CSR, nothing they can do, as the gate is closed. If you are calm and be polite, it always helps you in all circumstance. I don’t really understand people believe if they yell at the CSR, they will treat differently, being in the domain of customer service for the last 10+ years, I know it won’t work, not at all.