FFP for a hoarding cheapskate

Old Jul 14, 17, 11:20 am
  #1  
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Question FFP for a hoarding cheapskate

Recent changes in my circumstances require me to join a *A FFP. I have been reading up on *A for the last few days and, more importantly, know what I want so not another vague "which *A FFP is best?" thread.

UA's MP program seems to best fit my needs, I would like to know if I've got anything wrong and which one program you would suggest for me focus to do a final, detailed comparison against UA?

My priority is to accumulate over several years and redeem as cheaply as possible (hence the title), without ridiculous surcharge fees, taxes, etc. on mid/long haul in Economy.

Status would be a bonus, not a primary objective. I would be flying just enough to earn Gold on most programs, however flying benefits such as free checked bags and lounge access are not important as these are business trips which I can expense. Status would only be valued if it brings significant bonus earnings on award miles or frequent free upgrades from Economy Plus to Business on UA transatlantic.

I would be unlikely/unwilling to meet requirements to fly a minimum of segments/miles on the FFP's airline, I only plan to fly UA within *A.

Based on above UA MP looks good. Miles don't have expiration dates, only the need for some activity within 18 months which is easy. Redemptions look to be some of the cheapest, especially on charges, even if earning isn't the best. The 4 segment minimum on UA is not an issue.

By comparison-

Turkish M&S- my issue is the 3 year expiration on miles, I know these can be extended by paying but that isn't a good solution for me. It is significantly easier to qualify and renew status however still doesn't seem to make redemption better than UA.

Avianca Lifemiles- my main issue is the minimum requirement of flying on Avianca, this wouldn't be practical for me. I could forego the status, and just focus on earning miles, and Avianca has been recommended for cheap redemptions but the website availability (and website/customer service in general) doesn't look reliable. UA's site just works.

Asiana Club- this still looks promising, like a 2nd best of everything with easy status qualification/renewal (I think only Aegean requires fewer miles) without any requirements to fly on the carrier (unlike Aegean, etc.), has long enough expiration (10 or more years) and not awful mile earning. Unfortunately, redemption fees, etc. are apparently very high. I can't say how much, it is not possible to view/book reward flights other than on Asiana on their site.

EgyptAir Plus- similar, slightly worse, version of TK from my perspective.

LH M&M- this looks to be similar to UA MP, perhaps even better. Redemption miles are similar but I can't tell the fees, I will need to create an account first it seems. Status is valid for 2 years but this is fairly meaningless to me as the Gold requirement at 100k/year is too high and I don't need the protection for Silver. This does allow, even on Silver ("Frequent Traveller") status access to "Business Lounges" which I could possibly make use of on US connections even if it is a very basic setup like AA provides.

Copa- similar to Avianca's main issue of minimum segments flown on Copa, otherwise apparently good fit.

As a last question, what is probability UA would start charging surcharge fees in the next 5-10 years?

Thanks
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Old Jul 14, 17, 11:31 am
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Long thread about such in the *A forum that might be better for you.


As much as many people hate on the MileagePlus program it remains reasonably flexible and has easy ways to earn extra points with partners (for US residents with good credit).

That said, if you're mostly buying cheap fares and only about 50k miles/year I'd be focused on price and schedule, not points. And a cash-back credit card, too.

The type of award you've described is much more likely to be accessible that way and you're not tied to any one carrier for redemption either.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 12:42 pm
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I think you're absolutely right to go with UA. It's a very solid program for discount Economy fliers - most foreign airlines punish discount fares much more heavily (e.g. LH M&M only earns 25% of the distance on UA's lowest fares, which only outclasses UA if you're flying below 5 cpm). The 18-month rolling expiration allows you to hoard miles, and if you do make it to Gold (not easy unless you have a foreign address because of the PQD requirement), you'll enjoy E+ and booking and free SDC (and *G), both of which are huge benefits.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 12:58 pm
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Originally Posted by sbm12 View Post
Long thread about such in the *A forum that might be better for you.


As much as many people hate on the MileagePlus program it remains reasonably flexible and has easy ways to earn extra points with partners (for US residents with good credit).

That said, if you're mostly buying cheap fares and only about 50k miles/year I'd be focused on price and schedule, not points. And a cash-back credit card, too.

The type of award you've described is much more likely to be accessible that way and you're not tied to any one carrier for redemption either.
Thanks,I didn't know there was a forum for generic alliances outside of the programs, I might ask their later. Since my main consideration is UA, I think it's good to start here.

I'm not a US resident, I'm based in UK/Europe. I usually fly BA/AA to US, have had oneworld Emerald with BAEC last 10-15 years, but this client requires me to fly UA to US. Tickets are billed to the client and due to location/connection there really isn't any choice of schedule.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 1:09 pm
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Originally Posted by telescopic View Post
Avianca has been recommended for cheap redemptions but the website availability (and website/customer service in general) doesn't look reliable. UA's site just works.
Bolding mine Compared to Avianca website, .bomb does look good.

Originally Posted by telescopic View Post
I'm not a US resident, I'm based in UK/Europe.
Since you're not US based, then you should easily hit gold with no PQD requirement. This will let you book E+ at no charge which is nice and get you a multiplier on RDM's which is your real goal anyway.

UA just moderately increased some redemptions but economy remained pretty much in line. I think UA is a good choice.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 1:12 pm
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
I think you're absolutely right to go with UA. It's a very solid program for discount Economy fliers - most foreign airlines punish discount fares much more heavily (e.g. LH M&M only earns 25% of the distance on UA's lowest fares, which only outclasses UA if you're flying below 5 cpm). The 18-month rolling expiration allows you to hoard miles, and if you do make it to Gold (not easy unless you have a foreign address because of the PQD requirement), you'll enjoy E+ and booking and free SDC (and *G), both of which are huge benefits.
My requirement is precisely based on my experience in redeeming with BA where Economy ticket prices can be 80% of buying a ticket directly. BA is probably the worst at this.

I'm not a US resident and will mostly be flying S,H,Q type "specialty" buckets still based on distance not price and UA isn't any better than most in this area, typically 50-75% plus 25-50% status bonus. LH is similar, the few at 25% (G,K,L,T) aren't ones I fly.

https://www.miles-and-more.com/onlin...en&cid=1000243

It looks similar to UA's, in some cases better, H receives 100% before the 25% bonus. UA's advantage is I am more likely to get 50% bonus as Gold, LH only gives 25% whether Silver or Gold.

SQ is actually better by giving 100% across all Economy. I don't think either are as good on redemption however although I haven't been able to do direct comparisons.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 1:16 pm
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Originally Posted by telescopic View Post
SQ is actually better by giving 100% across all Economy. I don't think either are as good on redemption however although I haven't been able to do direct comparisons.
SQ's expiration rules are brutal, though; miles expire three years from when they are earned. Not a good choice for a self-proclaimed 'hoarder', in my opinion.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 1:16 pm
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OP,

Are you going to be buying expensive or cheap fares? If cheap your redeamable miles earning will be very low, 5 miles per $ spent with no status then 7 for silver and 8 for gold. A cheap international ticket from UK to states, you could earn a lot less miles than you flew quite easily. If you are buying cheap fares you might be better off getting a points earning credit card as suggested above then buy your tickets through that portal (make sure not bulk tickets) then even on your award flights you will earn miles for status.

But if buying expensive fares then stick with UA
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Old Jul 14, 17, 2:11 pm
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
SQ's expiration rules are brutal, though; miles expire three years from when they are earned. Not a good choice for a self-proclaimed 'hoarder', in my opinion.
Correct, I am not considering SQ, just wanted to illustrate that earning among big/household name programs like UA, LH, SQ, TK, etc are similar.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 2:32 pm
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Originally Posted by Baze View Post
OP,

Are you going to be buying expensive or cheap fares? If cheap your redeamable miles earning will be very low, 5 miles per $ spent with no status then 7 for silver and 8 for gold. A cheap international ticket from UK to states, you could earn a lot less miles than you flew quite easily. If you are buying cheap fares you might be better off getting a points earning credit card as suggested above then buy your tickets through that portal (make sure not bulk tickets) then even on your award flights you will earn miles for status.

But if buying expensive fares then stick with UA
$1300 fare without taxes and fees, travel option bundle (E+ upgrade). Is that cheap or expensive, I don't know, all relative.

Looking up a few dummy itineraries, I'd say I would earn between 30-50k PQM and RDM a year. I'll definitely be Silver, isn't that just 3 UK-US trips even on cheap fares?

Tickets have to booked on company card, I can't charge to my own unfortunately.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 2:34 pm
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For completeness, one FFP you didn't mention is Air Canada and their Aeroplan partner. You'd have to check earning potential, and they do have higher redemption surcharges, but the expiry policy is similar to UA. On the other hand, AC has recently announced an intent to separate from Aeroplan and launch their own FFP in a few years, so it is unclear where you'll be able to spend any Aeroplan-accumulated miles.

On the whole though, UA is probably your best bet.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 2:38 pm
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Originally Posted by silver_halide View Post
On the other hand, AC has recently announced an intent to separate from Aeroplan and launch their own FFP in a few years, so it is unclear where you'll be able to spend any Aeroplan-accumulated miles.
This is a very, very good reason to avoid starting an Aeroplan collection today.

A $1300 ticket for that distance traveled is neither particularly cheap nor expensive. A return trip should earn 6500 points. A couple of those converted to shorthaul awards in Europe (8k o/w as of 1 November) isn't a horrible deal.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 3:07 pm
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Originally Posted by telescopic View Post
$1300 fare without taxes and fees, travel option bundle (E+ upgrade). Is that cheap or expensive, I don't know, all relative.

Looking up a few dummy itineraries, I'd say I would earn between 30-50k PQM and RDM a year. I'll definitely be Silver, isn't that just 3 UK-US trips even on cheap fares?

Tickets have to booked on company card, I can't charge to my own unfortunately.
As stated, $1300 is average.

Elite Qualifying miles are 100% of miles flown but you can't spend those. As a general member you will get 5 miles per dollar spent (taxes don't count but fees do) as spendable miles then when you qualify as silver it will be 7 miles per $ spent.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 3:27 pm
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Originally Posted by telescopic View Post
My priority is to accumulate over several years and redeem as cheaply as possible (hence the title), without ridiculous surcharge fees, taxes, etc. on mid/long haul in Economy.....

Status would be a bonus, not a primary objective. I would be flying just enough to earn Gold on most programs, however flying benefits such as free checked bags and lounge access are not important as these are business trips which I can expense. Status would only be valued if it brings significant bonus earnings on award miles or frequent free upgrades from Economy Plus to Business on UA transatlantic.
UA is currently a good choice if you can match to/maintain gold. Alaska (strong partnership with AA) is also a good choice and has arguably the best FF program of all US carriers. I would have thought those would be your two main choices considering your criteria.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 3:43 pm
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Originally Posted by silver_halide View Post
For completeness, one FFP you didn't mention is Air Canada and their Aeroplan partner. You'd have to check earning potential, and they do have higher redemption surcharges, but the expiry policy is similar to UA. On the other hand, AC has recently announced an intent to separate from Aeroplan and launch their own FFP in a few years, so it is unclear where you'll be able to spend any Aeroplan-accumulated miles.

On the whole though, UA is probably your best bet.
There are several I didn't mention, I realized it was time to post here when I noticed it was 2AM and I was reading terms and conditions of Phoenix Miles!

Big warning against Aeroplan was on surcharges. I didn't have a detailed look but I didn't see the appeal, it didn't stand out as offering anything significant or different over UA, etc. so didn't get a mention.
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