So you wanna stay at the Intercontinental Thalasso Spa Bora Bora? Not with your rewards points

If you think loyalty programs are a win-win, meet Elizabeth Poon. She doesn’t feel like much of a winner right now. Read more “So you wanna stay at the Intercontinental Thalasso Spa Bora Bora? Not with your rewards points”

OK, now airlines have gone too far (or have they?)

Just when you thought you’d seen it all, they’ve done it again.

Here’s the latest outrage, courtesy of Josh Dare. He booked five tickets to Europe on United Airlines (sigh, yes — United Airlines) and then had the audacity to purchase a sixth ticket using points earned through his credit card.

Well, no one’s perfect.
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Are new loyalty programs fair to travelers?

Ranglen/Shutterstock
Ranglen/Shutterstock
If you’re unhappy with your loyalty program, join the club. So is William Beeman, a Delta Air Lines frequent flier who’s been trying to score an upgrade from San Francisco to Geneva after surgery to reattach his quadriceps at the knee.

Trying and failing.

For him, the process feels like a bait-and-switch. To avoid being wedged into a Lilliputian economy-class seat for 14 hours, Beeman says he worked hard to earn elite status on Delta. But when he tried to redeem his miles for an upgrade, the airline wanted even more.
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In 2014, beware of the word “free”

Mega Pixel/Shutterstock
Mega Pixel/Shutterstock
How dumb do they think you are?

As the dust settled on the now-finished holiday shopping season, I couldn’t help but wonder. One study concluded it was one of the strongest seasons in recent memory, adding that more than seven shoppers said they plan to take advantage of “free shipping” offers, while nearly half expect “free” returns.

I nearly choked on my espresso when I read that. Did they just say “free”?

Right about now, half of you are saying to yourself: TANSTAAFL! That’s shorthand for “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” and you’re right, of course. Bonus points if you can tell me which Robert Heinlein book it’s from. (Yeah, I grew up reading sci-fi novels.)

The other half? “Grinch!” (Belatedly.) Or worse.
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They confiscated 201,780 points — can you help me get them back?

Cookiat/Shutterstock
Cookiat/Shutterstock

Question: I recently applied and received a co-branded credit card from Chase and AARP. The card had in introductory offer of 5 percent for the first six months of card usage. I used the card and earned 201,780 points. Every single charge was legitimate and I have receipts. Furthermore, every single charge was authorized by Chase.

This week, I logged into my online account to find my account was closed and I would not be getting the points accrued the last fiscal month of activity. I called Chase and they told me because the card was not “used as intended” they had closed my account.
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What does Marriott owe me for a reflagging nightmare?

Olly/Shutterstock
Olly/Shutterstock
When Donna Larkin booked a room at the Hotel Ashbourne Marriott near Dublin last year, she had no way of knowing it was about to change owners. Or that some of the information on the hotel’s former website was less than accurate.

But that’s exactly what happened when she and her family arrived in Ireland for a two-week visit. The hotel was no longer a Marriott and it wasn’t as close to Dublin as promised. And that’s not all.

“Upon arrival at the hotel, we were informed that the hotel was not 10 minutes from Dublin but 40 minutes from Dublin,” she says. “It was not near any public transportation and it did not have rooms that would accommodate our party as requested on our reservation. Of course, we were told that no room was guaranteed, even though we booked well over two months in advance so that our party could be accommodated in a comfortable manner.”
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Are airlines moving the loyalty program goalposts?

Who moved my post? / Photo by rbrw - Flickr
Every week or so I get a complaint about the elusive nature of loyalty programs.

They follow a formula: Someone has given all of their business to a particular airline, but when they try to redeem their miles for a “free” ticket or an upgrade, they find it costs a lot more than they expected.
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Can this trip be saved? No miles for my flight — can you retrieve them for me?

Here’s a type of case that crosses my desk often, and to which I almost always say “no.” But should I?

Oscar La Torre recently took two flights — one from Miami to Sao Paolo on TAM and the other on from Lima to Piura on LAN Airlines. He’s entitled to miles on OnePass for the TAM flight and through his AAdvantage account for LAN, he says. Both airlines are denying him.

Can I save his miles?

Before I answer, a disclaimer: I am, as many of you know, a frequent flier program skeptic. I believe loyalty programs benefit airlines more than they do travelers, and they also divide us into “haves” and “have-nots” on the plane, which makes this egalitarian, idealistic crusader bristle. But enough about me.
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