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Need advice and miles strategy for international adoption travel

Need advice and miles strategy for international adoption travel

Old Dec 21, 12, 8:33 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: SFO/OAK
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Need advice and miles strategy for international adoption travel

Well folks, its been about 3 years since I logged in here, probably 4 years since I posted.

Yet when this situation and challenge came up, I knew exactly the place to go.

My wife and I are hopeful in completing an international adoption within the next 12-18 months. I'm investigating if it's possible to accumulate enough miles to cover our airfare travel to Kinshasa in the DR Congo.

The reason I mention international adoption is not to evoke any feeling, but mainly because that will likely mean we won't be able to use any type of Saver awards due to short travel lead times. That, and, as FT knows, no advance purchase fare discount combined with a long travel distance would normally mean astronomical fares.

This is what I've got so far:

We'll be flying SFO-FIH. The main carriers I see flying this route (multiple stops) are:

United/Brussels/Lufthansa (Star Alliance)
Air France (SkyTeam)

Fares generally are $2k-$4k depending on the lead time.

Round-Trip "Standard Awards" on United to Africa are 160k miles.
From what I can gather on the Delta (SkyTeam) site, the mileage required is similar.

So, here is my question: How do I go about accumulating 160k mileage for either program in the course of 12-18 months? I don't have the ability to do any MRs. I'm not averse, however, to doing many/multiple credit card offers, canceling, and repeating.

I was on http://webflyer.com/ and was going through different scenarios for transferring miles into either program - but it seems like in many scenarios transferring miles through a couple different programs results in a huge value hit.

What's the most efficient accumulation of either Star Alliance or SkyTeam miles?

Thanks FT, and I look forward to any feedback whatsoever!
jumpmonger23 is offline  
Old Dec 21, 12, 9:13 pm
  #2  
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Originally Posted by jumpmonger23 View Post
So, here is my question: How do I go about accumulating 160k mileage for either program in the course of 12-18 months? I don't have the ability to do any MRs. I'm not averse, however, to doing many/multiple credit card offers, canceling, and repeating.
You need Chase' Ultimate Reward for the UA miles and AMEX Membership Reward for the Delta miles. Both programs are 1:1 transfer with occasionally bonus offers on the AMEX to Delta (not in 2012 but plentiful in 2011.)

Chase is your UA miles source - so you would need to get UA card, Sapphire Preferred and Ink cards - that would get you close enough to the 160K needed - you will NOT be able to do canceling and repeating - this is not 3 or 4 years ago environment. So in the case you are still in the mindset of that period, you would need to adjust - they are in the most part, one shot deals for the majority of folks. Though with Ink you can have 2 versions of it, therefore double your bonus by 2 to 50Kx2.

With SkyTeam, you are dealing with AMEX - Delta card and the AMEX own Membership Reward Cards namely both the personal and business version of Premiem Gold and Platinum.

Needless to say, even if you can get all these cards in a relatively short time span, the spend requirements to earn the sign up bonus is no small feat. You may be looking at 15K+ spend requirement for just one person's need of 160K miles.

Right on the top of this forum there is a STICKY pretty much gives you the best offers out there.
Happy is offline  
Old Dec 21, 12, 9:21 pm
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
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I think it is a good idea that you are aiming for standard awards to Africa. However, just keep in mind there are many times (a week to a few day lead) when the saver awards pop up.

With that said, I am sure everyone here will mention credit card spending as a way to gain mileage. However, it would be best to get an idea of how much money you could spend on CCs in a year. If you need help meeting these spends, check the thread labeled "getting spend up without the mint" alternatively PM me.

Anyway for United points, I suggest the following methods for both you and your wife:

Chase INK Bold & Chase INK Plus each card with 5k spend nets you 50k points, so you and your wife with 20k spending could net 220k (200k signup bonus + 20k regular points) Ultimate reward points, which are directly transferable to United.

The other card you would be interested in is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (which I signed up and was approved for today). This card will net you each 43k (40k bonus + 3k regular) ultimate reward points after 3k in spending.

With those methods you will net 306k united points.
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Old Dec 21, 12, 9:23 pm
  #4  
 
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http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/miles...er-thread.html This is the best thread on flyertalk for credit card info.

Also, on a personal note, I'd like to hear more about the process, it's something I'm real interested in supporting. Heck, it's the kind of thing flyertalks could give back in.
travelisfree is offline  
Old Dec 21, 12, 9:30 pm
  #5  
 
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Points are a good option, especially if you're savvy. However, my dad owns a travel agency (called Golden Rule Travel) that specializes in adoption travel. We have special contracts with the airlines that allow free or inexpensive changes, one-ways for half the price of round trips, 24/7 emergency customer service, and all sorts of other benefits tailored specifically for international adoptive parents. To top it off, we can often beat published fares. We also have several competitors in the niche that you can feel free to Google. Definitely price out revenue tickets through a specialist agency as they can provide 21 AP prices with 0 AP and free or cheap changes.
HansGolden is offline  
Old Dec 21, 12, 9:37 pm
  #6  
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Originally Posted by Happy View Post
You need Chase' Ultimate Reward for the UA miles and AMEX Membership Reward for the Delta miles. Both programs are 1:1 transfer with occasionally bonus offers on the AMEX to Delta (not in 2012 but plentiful in 2011.)

Chase is your UA miles source - so you would need to get UA card, Sapphire Preferred and Ink cards - that would get you close enough to the 160K needed - you will NOT be able to do canceling and repeating - this is not 3 or 4 years ago environment. So in the case you are still in the mindset of that period, you would need to adjust - they are in the most part, one shot deals for the majority of folks. Though with Ink you can have 2 versions of it, therefore double your bonus by 2 to 50Kx2.
Originally Posted by DL172 View Post
If you need help meeting these spends, check the thread labeled "getting spend up without the mint" alternatively PM me.

Anyway for United points, I suggest the following methods for both you and your wife:

Chase INK Bold & Chase INK Plus each card with 5k spend nets you 50k points, so you and your wife with 20k spending could net 220k (200k signup bonus + 20k regular points) Ultimate reward points, which are directly transferable to United.

The other card you would be interested in is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (which I signed up and was approved for today). This card will net you each 43k (40k bonus + 3k regular) ultimate reward points after 3k in spending.

With those methods you will net 306k united points.
Thanks for the tips on United, that was the program I was leaning towards since we have about 15k of those right now.

Really appreciate the quick feedback!
jumpmonger23 is offline  
Old Dec 21, 12, 9:38 pm
  #7  
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Originally Posted by travelisfree View Post
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/miles...er-thread.html This is the best thread on flyertalk for credit card info.

Also, on a personal note, I'd like to hear more about the process, it's something I'm real interested in supporting. Heck, it's the kind of thing flyertalks could give back in.
Duh, I should've checked that link first, I'm a bit rusty in the miles realm. Thanks for the feedback.

Feel free to PM me if you have any questions on the process, too!
jumpmonger23 is offline  
Old Dec 21, 12, 9:39 pm
  #8  
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Originally Posted by HansGolden View Post
Points are a good option, especially if you're savvy. However, my dad owns a travel agency (called Golden Rule Travel) that specializes in adoption travel. We have special contracts with the airlines that allow free or inexpensive changes, one-ways for half the price of round trips, 24/7 emergency customer service, and all sorts of other benefits tailored specifically for international adoptive parents. To top it off, we can often beat published fares. We also have several competitors in the niche that you can feel free to Google. Definitely price out revenue tickets through a specialist agency as they can provide 21 AP prices with 0 AP and free or cheap changes.
I'll definitely keep that in mind as the time approaches. Thanks for the referral. I'll probably PM you first if we try to investigate that route!
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Old Dec 21, 12, 9:50 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
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You can usually find really good availability into the region at really short notice on UA. A quick look and most of Jan and Feb is pretty open on saver awards. The end of Dec is bleak, but some of that I'm sure is due to Christmas and the connection flights. I think *A has the best availability into the region at saver mile levels.

If you are wanting to pay for the trip instead, be careful because some of the fares will not earn miles on some airlines, even though it's a paid ticket.
DavidAL is offline  
Old Dec 21, 12, 10:23 pm
  #10  
 
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I'd also recommend looking at churning the US Airways MC. There's a thread on that in this forum. US Airways gets you access to the same availability as United. Ethiopian Airlines is in Star Alliance and usually has great availability. I checked their route map and they fly to Kinshasa out of their hub in Addis.
Kay_nyc is offline  
Old Dec 21, 12, 10:27 pm
  #11  
 
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Originally Posted by DavidAL View Post
If you are wanting to pay for the trip instead, be careful because some of the fares will not earn miles on some airlines, even though it's a paid ticket.
Until very recently, that's been an old urban legend that may have been true decades ago, but mostly isn't today. I have experience with a wide range of consolidator fares and of course our own specialty contracts and I know of only one airline on which consolidator/unpublished fares earn differently than published fares: Delta. And that's only been a very recent change (Sep 2012). If you're interested in full details of consolidator mileage earning across a wide range of carriers, peruse all my posts in that thread.
HansGolden is offline  
Old Dec 21, 12, 10:41 pm
  #12  
 
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Assuming you are going for the Chase cards, make sure you don't apply for all of them at the same time. Suggest you and your wife each applying for one card immediately and then, in about 2 month intervals, apply for other Chase cards. Make sure you keep your utilization percentage very low (which means paying off balances before they are billed).

Also, with the Chase Ink cards, look at buying gift cards at Office Depot or other "bonus" locations.
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Old Dec 22, 12, 2:53 am
  #13  
 
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Originally Posted by deant View Post
Assuming you are going for the Chase cards, make sure you don't apply for all of them at the same time. Suggest you and your wife each applying for one card immediately and then, in about 2 month intervals, apply for other Chase cards. Make sure you keep your utilization percentage very low (which means paying off balances before they are billed).

Also, with the Chase Ink cards, look at buying gift cards at Office Depot or other "bonus" locations.
Just to add...several of us have had great success applying for a Chase Business card (Ink) at the same time as applying for a personal card..so in reality you could apply for the personal/biz at the same time.

Make sure you are routing all of your telecommunication/internet/etc spend through your Ink and as mentioned above, look into the $500 dollar visa gift cards at Office Depot to use for your normal 1x purchases. Depending on your spending patterns, getting 5x on virtually everything can help nicely.

Also take a look at Amazon Payments..

Good luck!
stealph is offline  
Old Dec 22, 12, 12:09 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: May 2012
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I'm usually not one to volunteer others for stuff but it would be incredible if one of the award booking services helped jumpmonger out.

It's obvious looking at FIH's carriers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIH_Airport) that knowledge of alliances and partners will be huge.
PresskittJon is offline  
Old Jan 1, 13, 3:01 pm
  #15  
 
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Originally Posted by HansGolden View Post
Until very recently, that's been an old urban legend that may have been true decades ago, but mostly isn't today. I have experience with a wide range of consolidator fares and of course our own specialty contracts and I know of only one airline on which consolidator/unpublished fares earn differently than published fares: Delta. And that's only been a very recent change (Sep 2012). If you're interested in full details of consolidator mileage earning across a wide range of carriers, peruse all my posts in that thread.
You're right Hans. I should've clarified. I spoke to a couple different agencies including Hans's families, and all the rates were about the average of what I would've paid using ITA, except the agencies were much more flexible (change, refund, etc). I was primarily looking to fly ST/DL so I could earn more MQM's, and the 100% RDM bonus is nice also. But I was told that some DL fares were not eligible at 100% for MQM's/RDM's.
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