Travel Brainstorm

Travel for Less Beginner Series: Step VI – Final Tips and Tricks

Final Tips and Tricks

by Jon Mohatt

We’ve now come to the end of the travel for less beginner series.  I hope it has been helpful and rewarding.  I thought I would wrap up by sharing a few final tips and tricks that can help one maximize their travel.

1)  Stopovers, Open-jaws and Free One-way Tickets

A wonderful way to maximize international award tickets is by utilizing stopovers and open-jaws.  A stopover is when one spends more than 24 hours in a city between their origin (departure city) and final destination.  The key to this definition is the 24 hour time period.  Anything less is called a connection, layover or transfer and those don’t have the same benefits and rules.  An open jaw is when you arrive in one city, but leave from another.  One can include both stopovers and open-jaws in the same award ticket for the same price as an out and back award.  Since United allows one stopover and two open-jaws on round trip international tickets that means that your return flight can result in a free one-way ticket to any city in the United States with the only restriction of having to use it within one year.  This is because the city you arrive at in the US (i.e. New York or Washington DC) is technically your return stopover and those can be up to a year in length.  I know this may be a bit confusing at first so please check out one the many extended guides posted below.  I didn’t see any reasons to rehash what other have already explained quite well.  I just want to make you aware that it is available to be utilized when booking your next international award ticket.

Airline Open-Jaw Rule Comparison Table (Well Traveled Mile)
Maximize Your Miles: Stopovers and Open Jaws on United (Extra Pack of Peanuts)
How to Add Free One-Way Trips On United Airlines Awards (The Miles Professor)
Stopovers, Open-Jaws, and Free One-Ways (Million Mile Secrets)

2)  Gift Cards and Credit Cards to Accelerate Point Accumulation (Triple Dip)

I’ve talked about both gift cards and credit cards in Step II: Earn Points but I want to add another twist.  There are ways to use both gift cards and credit cards to double or triple dip on points from the same purchase if done correctly.  I know that most people will not go to these lengths on minor purchases for a few additional points so I really just advocate thinking this way for major purchases where the extra effort is worth the extra points.  Here is just one example to demonstrate how this works.  First you buy a gift card through the Ultimate Rewards Mall (or shopping portal of your choice) at an office supply store (i.e. Staples, Office Depot of Office Max) earning 1-3X points for each dollar.  One then also uses their Chase Ink (Ink Bold, Ink Plus) credit card for the purchase as it earns another 5X points per dollar spent up to $50,000 in a single year.  The third step (to complete the triple dip) is to then use that just purchased gift card to purchase something through another merchant via the Ultimate Rewards Mall, once again earning X number of points per dollar that the chosen merchant is currently offering (i.e. Macy’s was giving 5/$ as of 12/1/14).  If you followed my logic you can see where you can accelerate your point accumulation by 10-15X, using this triple dip method.  This can turn 100 points into 1500 points making the very same purchase.  If one was buying a $600 laptop or tablet you can see how it may be worth the little extra effort.  All your Christmas spending could result in a free flight to get out of the cold come January.

Here are some additional examples:
Triple Dipping to Get 8X Points and 10% Off at Lowe’s
How to Double or Triple Dip When Dining Out
Getting The Most Points Out of Double and Triple Dipping When Booking Travel

3) Status Matters

If you are partial to one program or another then it pays to pay attention to your status within that program as many times your point accumulation will accelerate along with our status.  For example, with United’s MileagePlus program you will earn additional award miles and Premiere qualifying miles (PQM) on flights if you have Premiere status.  This means that once you earn Premiere status it is easier to keep it and you will rack up award miles faster.  You have to be careful to pay attention to the fare class as the additional miles don’t normally apply to many of the discount economy fare classes.  If one typically buys full-fare economy (Y or B) then they will get 125% of miles flown in award miles and 150% PQMs.  The PQMs don’t get higher than 150% but award miles will go all the way up to 250% for F or A class Global First tickets if you have any of the Premiere statuses.  The same holds true for many of the other airline and hotel programs.  The higher your program status, the more earning potential you have for the same amount of spend.  So, if you are close at the end of a year it may just be worth a mattress run or mileage run to earn that higher status.  Of course there are also other benefits to having status like free breakfast and Internet at hotels but that is a whole other blog.

This brings us to the end of our travel for less “beginner’s” guide as we are really starting to touch upon some more advanced techniques when we discuss triple dipping.  I will continue to touch upon more advanced methods and go further in depth on the one’s mentioned in this guide in future posts so please continue to check back and sign up to be notified when new posts are added.  The main page and most sub-pages have a place in right sidebar to subscribe to my blog.  By doing this you will receive a notification each time I post a new blog entry.  Most of this guide will remain current well into the future, but some will also change a bit so it’s always a good idea to stay caught up with the several blogs so you know the latest changes.

Here’s to your productive brainstorming and happy travels!

Your thoughts are always appreciated