Results from My Most Recent Round of Credit Card Applications

Yesterday, I said that I had applied for three different credit cards. I was instantly approved for the Barclays US Airways card, but I received pending decisions for the Citi Executive AAdvantage card and the Bank of America Alaska Airlines card.

I called reconsideration for both Citi and Bank of America. The Citi call was pretty straightforward: I had essentially exhausted the amount of credit Citi was willing to extend to me (I already have 4 open Citi cards), so they wanted me to transfer some amount of credit from an existing credit card to open this new card, which I was perfectly happy to do. Some of the numbers the phone rep was saying didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me (at one point, she said I had $x credit limit on one card, which meant I could transfer $x+2000 to the new card), but I was going to close one of the cards anyway so I just transferred over most of the credit limit to my new card.

For Bank of America, they had actually approved me instantly, but there was a fraud hold on my account. This meant that I had to go through a couple of identity verification questions with a phone rep before she was able to tell me that my application was already approved.

Reconsideration phone numbers from Flyertalk if you’re interested:
Citi – (800) 695-5171
Bank of America – (866) 811-4108 – this line connected me to someone who wanted to talk to me about existing credit cards, but she happily transferred me to someone who could resolve the fraud hold on my application

All in all, a successful churn. I’ve gotten all of these cards before, so this was a true churn and not just an app-orama. I need to spend $7500 on the Citi Exec AA for 75k bonus miles, I’ll get 40k US Airways miles after first purchase for an $89 annual fee, and I’ll get 30k Alaska miles for a $75 annual fee. The AA miles will be useful given that I just put some JAL F tickets on hold for a potential new year’s trip to Japan (again), the US miles will be useful as they put me over the edge for an F redemption to Asia, and the Alaska miles I’m vaguely stockpiling in case I feel like doing another trip in Emirates F.

My Most Recent Round of Credit Card Applications

I wrote last week that I was feeling pretty meh about credit card churning, which is true. But it’s also true that not applying for new credit cards is like leaving miles on the table, and so I got off my butt today and applied for a couple of new cards.

#1 was the Citi Executive AA card. The 100k mile offer is gone, but there’s still a 75k mile offer alive, which is still a whole lot of miles for a card that seems to be endlessly churnable. And in order to meet the minimum spend requirement, I’ll need up my manufactured spending game anyway (currently at $0 per month), so I’m okay with the lesser miles offer since it requires lesser spend ($7500 instead of $10,000). I got a pending decision, though, so we’ll see if I actually get approved. I currently have a version of this card that I got in January at the 100k offer.

#2 was the Barclays US Airways card. I’ve had this card twice before (and currently have one card open). The current offers aren’t quite as good as they’ve been in the past (i.e. no first year annual fee waived anymore), but I applied for a 40k after first purchase, $89 annual fee not waived, 10k miles upon first (and only first) anniversary. I surprisingly got instantly approved. Pretty happy about this, as this card might possibly be going away with the merger, and reports on Flyertalk have said that it’s been a lot harder to get approved by Barclays reconsideration recently.

#3 was the Bank of America Alaska card. I’ve also had this card twice before (one open, one downgraded and open). The offer that I chose was 30k for getting the card, $75 annual fee not waived. Unfortunately got a pending decision on this one as well.

And that’s it. I briefly contemplated a Chase card (like one of those Chase Ink cards that bloggers endlessly pump), but decided against it for completely arbitrary reasons. I might regret that, but I can always apply for more cards in a couple of months. I’ll post again once I finish calling recon.

Inefficient Things: The Hour-Long Massage for Thai Airways First Class Passengers

People make such a big deal about the free massages doled out for premium cabin passengers by Thai Airways at the Bangkok airport. Bloggers galore expound upon how the Thai Airways ground experience is one of the best in the world, even if their in-flight product doesn’t measure up (note: I don’t believe that their in-flight product doesn’t measure up, but this is also a meme that has spread due to certain bloggers). As far as I can tell, this praise is almost always due to the 1-hour massage provided to first class passengers departing from BKK, which I really don’t understand.

Thailand is of course known for their massages. Presumably, if you’re departing from BKK, you’ve spent some time in Thailand. And if you’ve spent some time in Thailand, you know that you can get an hour-long massage for a couple of US dollars. I think the last massage that I got in Thailand cost me 600 baht (~$19, including a generous tip) for a 2-hour long massage, and that was at a fancy spa place. You can find massage for much, much less.

So why do people go orgasmic over something that costs less than $10 USD? And why do they expect Thai Airways, a company in the business of transporting people from one place to another, to provide great massages? The Thai food in the lounges isn’t even very good, so why would the massages be?

It’s also not like Thai Airways is the only airline to offer massages to premium cabin passengers. I think they’re the only ones to offer hour-long massages, but I’ve gotten massages at DXB (via Emirates), LHR (via British Airways), and DFW (via Amex).Granted, I think they were all 15-minutes or so, but it’s not like my massage at the Thai Airways Spa was stellar. I’ve had better massages from massage chairs (which I admittedly am quite fond of).

I guess the other thing that Thai does that is actually unique is buggy rides for first class passengers. So everyone at the airport can stare at you as your driver narrowly misses plowing them down. Yes, BKK is quite large, so this is actually a somewhat nice benefit, but seriously, it’s just a buggy ride. I wonder what would happen if an airline started offering free wheelchairs and pushing to first class passengers…

This post isn’t to say that I don’t like Thai Airways–I actually like them a lot. I’ve had great experiences on the ground and in the air (although the food has been disappointing given that Thailand is possibly my favorite food country), but I’m just gobsmacked whenever I read someone being like, “OMG, Thai is the best evarrr (but their in-flight suxxx)” because of an hour-long massage. And to get that hour-long airport massage, you need to specifically depart from BKK in first class, which is non-trivial, and arrive at the airport with enough time to make sure that you can get an hour-long massage, which means potentially cutting into your time on the ground.

Anyway, what this is to say is that Thai Airways is nice. Getting massages is nice. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to get one, and you’re probably better off paying for as many massages as you want when you’re actually in Thailand rather than paying extra to depart out of BKK in Thai First Class to get a “free” hour-long massage at the airport.

American Airlines Admirals Club Membership Reciprocal Access to Alaska Airlines Board Rooms (SEA, PDX, ANC)

I have an AA Admirals Club membership through the Citi Executive AAdvantage card. I also no longer have an Amex Platinum card, as I cancelled that soon after redeeming my airline credit with them after they got rid of AA/US club access. By canceling my Amex Platinum card, I no longer have unlimited access to Alaska Airlines Board Rooms through Priority Pass Select.

For a long list of reasons, I recently found myself unexpectedly flying from DFW to SEA on AA and then SEA to SFO on Alaska Airlines instead of flying nonstop from DFW to SFO on AA. In Seattle, there’s no Admirals Club, so I thought I’d be out of luck for lounge access, but I figured that there might be a small chance that I could get into the Alaska Airlines Board Room through my Admirals Club membership since AA and AS are pretty buddy buddy. Turns out, this is true: there are certain circumstances where you can access an Alaska Airlines Board Room by virtue of having an Admirals Club membership.

The key thing that you need is a flight marketed by and operated by American Airlines/US Airways. If you have a same day ticket/boarding pass on a flight operated and marketed by AA/US, then you can access the Alaska Airlines Board Rooms at Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), or Anchorage (ANC). The AA/US flight can be either the inbound or the outbound flight at any of these airports, and it’s even possible that the boarding pass doesn’t even need to involve one of these airports provided that it’s same-day (it’s not specified in the rules, but YMMV with the lounge agents).

Domestic lounges generally aren’t anything special, but the Alaska Airlines Board Rooms generally have a marginally better food selection than most domestic lounges. They have pancake machines in the morning for breakfast, and there’s usually a hot soup later in the day. I also find AS employees to be friendlier than most airline employees, but maybe that’s my Pacific Northwest bias coming through.

For more information, check out the AA page about this policy and the thread on Flyertalk.



Best Economy International Flights Ever?

I’m sitting at DFW after a week-long trip to China, and I flew AA on their newish DFW-PVG route. On the outbound, the flight was empty enough that I could get a row of five seats to myself in coach and create my own “flat” bed of sorts.

On the return, I ended up getting an op up to business class. I saw signs at check-in that they might be looking for volunteers (offer of 800 USD travel voucher and a confirmed seat the next day) to take a next-day flight. It turns out they didn’t need any volunteers, but they did end up operationally upgrading a ton of passengers. Based on seat maps from the days prior to the flight, business class went from having a load of maybe 7 or 8 passengers to being a full cabin. I myself got one of those op ups, which I was very grateful to get. They almost took it away because I had ordered a special meal and they said they wouldn’t have enough non-special meals in coach, but with some puppy dog eyes the gate agent called catering and was able to order one additional coach meal so I could sit in business.

Anyway, for those of you who are traveling in coach on DFW-PVG or DFW-HKG, very light loads on the outbound to Asia and oversold flights returning from Asia seem to be relatively par for the course for the summer according to both the gate agents that I’ve talked to and reports on Flyertalk. This could make it an interesting gamble if you don’t want to spend any SWUs as you very well might be lucky enough to get a row to yourself on the outbound and an op up on the inbound.

Things I’m Meh About: Credit Card Churning

I have a confession to make: I’ve only applied for one new credit card in the past 9 months. Last year, I got 11 new credit cards for nearly 500k miles and points and 4 free nights at hotels. This year, I’ve only gotten the Citi Executive AAdvantage card once for 100k miles.

I’m not sure exactly why I haven’t been more active in applying for credit cards, as they’re one of the easiest ways to accumulate lots of points. Part of it is due to not having particular uses in mind for the points. A lot of my previous credit card churns were very targeted to specific trips that I was planning (e.g. getting a Chase Hyatt card to use at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, getting the Hawaiian Airlines cards to transfer to Hilton for the Conrad Koh Samui when that was still a good deal), but I currently have relatively healthy miles balances on Alaska, US Airways, and American, so I don’t really need more airline miles (although I guess I’m no longer diversified with the US/AA merger), and I don’t care that much about nice hotels.

Miles and points are only useful if you use them (I guess there is some benefit to having a stash for emergency trips), so I don’t really see that much of a point in accumulating miles from credit cards just for the sake of it. And while credit card sign-up bonuses are a really great deal, they’re not completely free: even if there’s no annual fee for the first year, you’re paying with a credit score check, and meeting minimum spending requirements takes a non-trivial amount of cognitive overhead for me since I don’t really spend that much money naturally. There’s also the fact that banks seem to be increasingly clamping down on the actual churning part (i.e. getting the sign-up bonus for the same credit card multiple times), which makes me think that I should save future apps for when I really have a need for them. (On the flip side, a lot of cards are much more churnable than people think, and part of this misconception is due to the credit card salesmen aka points/miles bloggers perpetuating false information on behalf of the banks).

Just goes to show that I must be a pretty bad miles/point blogger.

Musings from China (Not about China)

I’m currently in China, which has made it very challenging to do some very basic internet things like blog or check gmail (gmail blocking is a relatively recent phenomenon in China), so pardon the sporadic posts.

I think there’s a lot of mysticism around points and miles bloggers and how we accomplish the things that we do. There’s obviously a lot of variation: some people are really heavy in manufactured spending (think $40k+ per month), which combined with some recent credit card offers means that they actually don’t need to pay for anything out of pocket (lots of cash back MS) and instead pay with their time; some travel a lot for work; some make tons of money from their blogs and can pay cash for premium travel; many don’t travel much at all.

For myself, I don’t do anything special. I don’t travel for work, but I have a job that provides a flexible work schedule, and as a single twenty-something with a minimalist non-travel/non-food lifestyle (i.e. I rarely spend money on non-consumable goods; I think I’ve bought one thing from Amazon in the past year, and that was shaving soap), I choose to spend my discretionary income on travel. This means that I often travel in coach and do things like stay in capsule hotels as I don’t naturally generate enough points and miles to pay for everything that way, and I don’t mind “roughing” it. While I have had the fortune to travel pretty extensively in premium cabins, I probably do more flying in the back of the bus than not.

For this current trip to China, I flew AA coach through DFW (I was lucky enough to get a 5-seat row to myself from DFW to PVG as the flight was not very full), routing this way to get more miles and help me requalify for AA Executive Platinum. I stayed at a super crappy hotel in Shanghai, and I’m now at a hostel in Beijing. For many of my meals, I’m eating street food (super delicious in Shanghai, not quite as delicious in Beijing). The flights were a little pricier than I would have liked, but I’m spending about $25 a night for lodging (I’m traveling with a friend, which helps lower the cost), and we probably ate for less than $10 a day in Shanghai.

I’m probably not going to write a 20-part trip report about this trip because it’s not that novel. As far as I know, people don’t want to read a post about a flight in AA economy or read about a crappy hotel. But trips like this are enjoyable in their own right, and they enable the more luxurious trips that I am likely to write about.