How I landed a business class suite on Qatar Airways for 36,000 miles

My upcoming travel schedule just got a bit more luxurious!

As a background, in a recent post I mentioned how you can earn 60,000 miles with a new Business Aviator American Airlines credit card. The business card has an annual fee of $95 and gets you priority boarding, free checked luggage, and a 5% bonus on miles earned each year, among other benefits.

Business Class Deals

I also currently have an American Airlines Red Aviator card. This card also has a $95 annual fee, gets your priority boarding, and free checked luggage. The Red Aviator has another benefit — you get 10% of award miles used automatically credited back each calendar year (up to a maximum of 10,000 miles per year).  Using a $0.014/mile valuation for American AAdvatage miles, this can net you up $140 per year.

In considering whether to keep both cards, I realized that I’ve been holding onto a ton of American AAdvantage miles for a few years, mainly because my experience is that the award redemption options on American Airlines are incredibly limited. Award flights will put you on convoluted routes, particularly to Europe, and a lot of business class tickets turn out to be mixed cabins, with the longest leg (i.e., LAX to Sydney) in economy. Because of this, the 10% redemption value is worth less and less to me, and so I’ve decided to cancel the card.

But I had 100,000 miles to burn before canceling the card, so that I could get my 10,000 bonus miles, and wanted to find the best way to use it.

Enter Qatar Airways. Currently, Qatar Airways is a part of the Oneworld alliance and award tickets are redeemable through American. In the last few days, the CEO of Qatar Airways has threatened to leave Oneworld, and based on other rhetoric from BA and American Airlines, I think this is likely going to happen soon.

Qatar Airways is well-known for having one of the best (if not the best) business class product around. Recently, they have launched their QSuite business class product, which is exactly like it sounds — you get your own suite (privacy door included!) with some pretty cool features, including a sitting area, ability to connect your beds if you’re flying with your partner, and also an ability to set up a conference table for 4 if you’re traveling with your family and/or on a business trip.

QSuite2.jpg
Image courtesy of QatarAiways.com

Right now, redeeming American AAdvantage miles is one of the best ways to book these suites, and the cheapest routes that I could find that utilized the QSuites were to Bangkok and Tokyo, at a ridiculously low 40,000 miles (which is 36,000 miles after deducting the 10%. Aviator Red benefit. Considering the purchase price of this flight is $2,897 and 36,000 miles are valued at $540, this is an incredible deal.

Although I love Bangkok, the flight from DOH to BKK is about 2 hours shorter than Tokyo, and I wanted to be on the flight for as long as possible.

Importantly, not every flight between Doha and Tokyo has the QSuite product. While you can determine if the flight has QSuite by using ExpertFlyer, the easiest way is to actually price it out on Google Flights and then try and book through CheapOair, which will give you a seat map.

This is what the seat map looks like for flights with QSuite (right now, it looks like flight 806 between DOH and NRT has it):

QSuite.jpg

This is what the seat map looks like for flights without QSuite (right now, it looks like flight 812 between DOH and HND does not have it)

QSuite1.jpg

So, with that, I’ve booked the ticket and am looking forward to check out the Qatar Airways QSuite! I added on this onto a round-the-world trip that I was able to book for a total of 101,1250 AAdvantage miles (including this amazing business class seat), and I’ll blog more about that later.

Have you flown the Qatar Airways QSuite? Let me know about your experiences in the comments!

2 credit cards for small business owners that will net ~$2,350 in sign-up bonuses

Some say that Americans are living in the golden age of credit credit offers.

This is especially true for small business owners (including a freelancers), as many airlines, hotels, and credit card companies are offering steep sign-up bonuses to compete for their business.

Right now, there are some especially great offers! Check out my 2 favorites, below:

Hilton Honors Business Card (125,000 bonus points, valued at $750)

This is currently my favorite business credit card. Before signing up for this card I hadn’t stayed at a Hilton in years, but this card offered enough benefits to get me to sign up, including:

  • 125,000 Hilton Honors points for signing up and spending $3,000 within the first 3 months (these points are valued at $750)
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status (which gets you thinks like automatic room upgrades, free breakfast, late check-outs, and an 80% bonus on all points earned)
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access (up to 10 free visits per year)
  • Free weekend night at a Hilton property after spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year

This card has an annual fee of $95/year.

Having signed up for this credit card about 4 months ago, I’ve had an incredible experience so far — receiving upgrades on each of my Hilton stays (including to a suite in Philadelphia and to a room with executive lounge access in Budapest). I’ve also been able to use my Priority Pass lounge access twice and have earned a free weekend night (and have confirmed with Hilton that I could use this at the Conrad in Bora Bora!).

Support Josh Trips by signing up via this link:

SIGN UP FOR HILTON HONORS BUSINESS CARD

 

Chase Ink Business Preferred (80,000 bonus points, valued at $1,600)

This is my go-to business credit card. Chase Ultimate Reward points are incredibly flexible, as they can be converted to cash, used to book travel through the Chase portal, or can be converted on a 1:1 basis at many partners, including United, British Airways, Southwest, and JetBlue.

Because of this flexibility, The Points Guy values Chase Ultimate Reward points at $0.02 per point, making this 80,000 bonus worth an incredible $1,600.

Because you can convert these points to miles with a number of airline, you can actually make out better than $1,600 — I used my points to book a one-way, business class flight from Cape Town to San Francisco, which currently retails for around $5,000.

Aside from the sign-up bonus, there are some other great benefits that come along with card:

  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in the following categories:
    • Travel, including airfare, hotels, rental cards, train tickets, Ubers, and taxis
    • Shipping
    • Internet, cable, and phone services
    • Advertising purchases made through social media websites
  • Cell phone protection (up to $600)
  • Trip cancellation insurance (have used this before, and had Chase refund my airfare and hotel purchase when I needed to return home from Europe early for a medical reason)

This card has an annual fee of $95.

I use this card for nearly all of my travel purchases, including Ubers and local public transit, and also for all of my cell phone bills, so my phone is covered under the card’s cell phone protection plan.

SIGN UP FOR CHASE INK BUSINESS PREFERRED

Is your favorite business credit card not listed? Let me know in the comments!

This post was accurate at the time of posting, offers may be unavailable at a later time.

3 easy steps you can take to start spending less on travel

If you’re at the point where you want to travel more but don’t want to spend a ton of money doing it, this post is for you.

Below are 3 steps that you can take right away to start spending less on travel:

1) Apply for credit cards with significant sign-up bonuses

If you’re based in the United States, you’re living in the golden age of credit card sign-up bonuses. It’s not uncommon to see sign-up bonuses of 50,000, 100,000, or even 125,000 points, which can be worth as much as $2,000 (or more, depending on how you redeem the points).

There are plenty of blogs that track these credit cards offer and the worth of these points (such as The Points Guy, who offers this helpful point valuation chart, which is updated monthly).

For example, just today, after reading a post on the Boarding Area, I was able to sing up for a Chase Ink Business Cash credit card that has a 50,000 point signing bonus, which is valued at $1,000 based The Points Guy’s valuation. These points can be transferred directly to United and other airlines on a 1:1 basis (as an example, a one-way ticket to Europe is 30,000 United miles), or can be redeemed for cash or travel at varying rates.

2) Subscribe to cheap flight newsletters

There are a few websites that are dedicated to showcasing amazing flight deals — my favorites are The Flight Deal and Secret Flying.

Both of these sites have daily newsletters which are worth signing up for. Even if you’re not in the market to book a trip, keeping track of these flight prices can help you later determine what constitutes a good deal and can give you ideas for future travel.

Remember that these deals are usually only live for a few hours or a few days, but that American airlines are required to give you 24 hours to cancel penalty free. So if there is an incredible fare that you’re interested in, it’s sometimes worth booking it and then cancelling within the 24-hour deadline if you’re not able to make concrete plans.

3) Look into flights from nearby airports before booking trips

Traveling from a nearby airport can sometimes save you hundreds of dollars on airfare. For example, I was recently looking up a flight to Hawaii and the cost from SFO was roughly $200 more than the cost of leaving from Oakland (OAK). Although OAK airport is actually closer to the city of San Francisco than SFO, based on conversations I’ve had throughout the years, I’d wager that most San Francisco-based travelers won’t even look up airfare at OAK before booking a trip.

When it comes to international travel, the difference in airfare between two cities can be substantial.

As a result, whenever you book travel — particularly international, long-haul trips — you should use Google Flights to check the price of flights departing from nearby airports. If you’re based out of Philly,  for example, you should look into flights departing from JFK, EWR, IAD, and LGA, and if you’re in SF, look at flights leaving from LAX and Portland.

What are your favorite tricks to saving money on travel?

San Francisco Trip Deal: $258 round-trip from SFO to Rome, Italy on Air Canada

Air Canada, along with a few other Star Alliance airlines (including SWISS International Air Lines and Lufthansa), are putting Europe on sale and one of the best deals active right now is SFO to Rome, Italty. Flights start at $258 round-trip, after taxes with open availability (note that the lowest prices are for travel in February and March 2019, but great deals can be found through May 2019.

Also, this deal is for new, “basic” economy type fares, where you’ll have to pay to check luggage (even if you have Star Alliance Gold or above status) and you can’t select a seat without paying. You do, however, collect full Premier Qualifying Miles from United (I booked this trip and will be accruing 13,016 miles).

There are similarly low fares across the country to Europe right now from a ton of different airports (including EWR, LAX, and Houston and flying to Paris, Milan, and London).

The best way to book is through Skyscanner, or you can support my blog by booking via the below link!

BOOK THIS FLIGHT

New York Trip Deal: $311 round-trip from JFK to Copenhagen on Icelandair

Icelandair is putting Europe on sale and one of the best deals active right now is JFK to Copenhagen, Denmark. Flights start at $311 round-trip, after taxes with open availability between October 2018 and March 2019.

Sample dates:

  • October 7-14
  • November 11-18
  • December 9-17

Some of these flights include a layover in Reykjavik and offer enough time to explore a bit (with some tour companies offering sight-seeing tours specifically suited for these types of layovers.

BOOK THIS FLIGHT

San Francisco Trip Deal: $256 round-trip from SFO to Costa Rica on Copa Airlines

Copa Airlines has some pretty amazing flights from San Francisco to San José Costa Rica right now. Flights start at $256 round-trip, after taxes with open availability between October 2018 and May 2019.

Copa Airlines is part of the Star Alliance and these flights are coded “T,” which earn 100% Premier Qualifying Miles on United, so this can make for a great mileage run.

To find this deal, use my Expedia link to search for flights between SFO and SJO.

CLEAR – Is it worth the cost?

Last fall, I arrived at the airport early for a trip to Hawaii. I had plenty of time to spare due to a delay, so decided to sign up for a CLEAR (referral link) free 3-month trial.

What is CLEAR?

CLEAR is an expedited security checkpoint service that allows you to cut the line (even in PreCheck!) for an annual fee.

How does CLEAR work?

The way it works is that when you arrive at a participating airport (many major ones now have it, including … ), you find the dedicated CLEAR signs, usually near PreCheck, scan your fingers, and a CLEAR agent will escort you either to the very front of the security line. Note that if you have PreCheck, you’ll be escorted to the front of the PreCheck line but if you don’t, you’ll be escorted to the front of the regular security line.

Where is CLEAR available?

Currently, CLEAR is available at these airports:

  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Austin (AUS)
  • Baltimore (BWI)
  • Dallas (DFW and DAL)
  • Denver (DEN), Detroit (DTW)
  • Houston (IAH and HOU)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Minneapolis (MSP)
  • New York (JFK, LGA, and HPN)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • Salt Lake City (SLC)
  • San Antonio (SAT)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • San Jose (SJC)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • Washington, D.C. (DCA and IAD)

How much does CLEAR cost?

I initially signed up for a 3-month free trial and didn’t decide to purchase it at the standard annual rate ($179), mostly because I had no immediate travel planned when the trial membership ended.

Luckily, right before my next trip, CLEAR offered me a promotional rate of $99 for the year. I’m not sure if they offer this to everyone who fails to convert from trial to annual paid membership, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was standard, either.

Is CLEAR worth it?

Yes. Definitely.

Today, CLEAR saved me about 20 minutes in line at SFO (the airport was packed for the 4th of July). Over Thanksgiving, it saved me at least 15 minutes, and even on slower travel days, I’d estimate it saved me between 5-10 minutes.

While it is kind of cool to be escorted to the front of the line, it also makes me feel a bit… douchey. But I’m willing to overlook awkwardness for convenience (which is basically my life motto).

My prediction is that like, like PreCheck, as people get more word of it and more credit cards offer it as a service, it will become less convenient. But until then, I am one happy camper.

Interested in signing up for CLEAR and getting your first 2 months for free? Use this referral link.