Point Hacks NZPoint Hacks NZ https://www.pointhacks.co.nz The best frequent flyer deals & offers for New Zealand. Mon, 21 Aug 2017 13:33:38 +0000 en-NZ hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 103018514 New email course to help you earn more points from your credit cards – reserve your spot now https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/launch-earning-points-credit-cards/ https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/launch-earning-points-credit-cards/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:00:09 +0000 Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:00:09 +0000 This is me enjoying (perhaps a bit too much) Cathay Pacific’s A350 Business Class earlier this year – and I’m keen to help more people travel better by earning and using points. Today I’m launching a new way to get the knowledge you need to get started.

If you’re new to all this, it’s hard to find a focal point to move you forward – the world of frequent flyer points is made murky by the number of programs, credit cards, their rules, benefits, and promotions. All up, it’s a bit of a nightmare for the average consumer.

Yet there’s heap of value to be had if you spend a little time learning the basics – you’ll end up earning more of the right kind of points that will help you accomplish your travel goals and dreams. If this sounds familiar, this email course is for you.

We’ve also launched a new weekly email – email course subscribers will receive the weekly email once they have gone through the course, and existing ‘instant’ update subscribers will now also receive the weekly emails.

Readers who want to adjust their email subscriptions can do so by heading to http://join.pointhacks.com/nz-emails/


Who’s it for, and what will I understand by the end?

This course is totally free, and focused on Kiwi travellers.

It’s ground zero for understanding and deciding:

  1. Which rewards programs and points currencies will work for you
  2. How to earn more points and take advantage of benefits from your credit cards

The course is aimed at people who aren’t sure that they are using loyalty programs, credit cards and points effectively.

If you are already comfortable with your choice of frequent flyer program and credit card, there will still be useful, actionable information, but you are not the target audience for this content.

The syllabus looks like this:

  1. Why points are worth bothering with, and how people get great value from them
  2. The basics of earning points – starting with frequent flyer program choice
  3. The factors to consider when choosing the right rewards credit card for you
  4. The key things to know about the Air New Zealand Airpoints program, and how than can impact which points you might want to earn
  5. The different credit card loyalty programs and how they relate to Air New Zealand Airpoints
  6. The basics of international frequent flyer programs – which are most important and give most value to New Zealand travellers, and why they are worth knowing about
  7. Basic considerations before choosing a rewards credit card
  8. Different credit cards that offer specific reasons to use them
  9. Discussing low, medium and high annual fee cards, and which might be right for you
  10. The basics of rewards credit ownership and usage once you’re using a card you’re happy with
  11. Types of rewards credit card ancillary benefits – lounge access, travel discounts, insurances and elite status
  12. Reward program account management – tips and tricks to keep on top of your balances

How it works?

My motivation is to have more people understand the world of different frequent flyer and rewards programs, in more detail, so they can make more informed decisions when it comes to transactions, purchases and deals that they may be presented with.

You’ll receive an email once very few days with new, bespoke content on the topics above.

Each email will be concise, to the point and tell you the basics of everything you need to know about that topic.

At the end of each piece, you’ll be prompted to take action based on what you’ve learnt, and do some further reading on intermediate and advanced concepts, if you have time.

You can also reply to the email and ask any questions you need.

What’s my time commitment?

The full course of emails will take around 5 weeks to run through, and you’ll need around 15 minutes to read through each topic.

From there, you’ll have the option to read through more advanced topics and tricks that I’ve written about on Point Hacks, for which you could set aside another 15 minutes.

To do this properly, you’ll need to set aside around 30 minutes once every few days.

By the end of the five weeks, you’ll feel like you have better understanding of the why, who with, and how, to earn more points.

Earn more rewards points from your credit card – sign up for this course here →

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Earn up to 5x more Airpoints Dollars with select Airpoints Mall retailers until 13 September https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/air-new-zealand-airpoints-mall/ https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/air-new-zealand-airpoints-mall/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 21:30:33 +0000 Thu, 17 Aug 2017 21:30:33 +0000 Online Malls work by making you log in with your account details before then being referred out (with a click) once logged in to make a transaction over on the retailer’s website.

The Airpoints Mall is no different, and it is New Zealand’s largest, with over 160 retailers. This is an overview of the Airpoints Mall for those who aren’t familiar with the concept or the retailers in it, or want a refresher.

The Airpoints Mall can be found at: https://airpoints-mall.co.nz.

Their website is also mobile optimised, which makes it easy to shop on the go.

The Airpoints Mall have prepared a ‘how to use’ video and guide and it’s helpful to watch and read for first time users. Their FAQ page is also helpful, and clarifies some questions, such as whether you need to have a New Zealand address tied to your Airpoints account (you do), and how to make sure cookies on your computer are working properly (they need to be allowed and not blocked so Airpoints Mall can track your purchases and award you Airpoints Dollars for your spend).

The standard earn rate for retailers at the Airpoints Mall is 1 Airpoints Dollar earned per 100 dollars (NZ) spent – so an effective return of 1% on your online shopping.

Here’s the full list of retailers – we’ll update the list and re-promote this guide if any good bonuses come along.

RetailerAirpoints Dollars earned
per NZ$100 spend
aboutgiving1
Accessorize1
@cquisitions Gifts1
Agent Provocateur1
AEO1
Ali Express2
Ann Taylor2
Anthropologie2
Apple1
Asos2
Autograph2
Aveda1
Baby Gap1
Banana Republic1
Barkers1
Beauty Bay2
BetterWorld Books2
Bijoux Collection4
Birdsnest2
Bloomingdale's2
Blue Nile2
Bonds5
Boohoo.com2
Book Depository2
Booktopia4
Dell2
Disney Store1
DKNY1
Dorothy Perkins1
Dotti2
eBay1
Ecc2
Edwin Watts Golf2
Esprit2
Etsy2
everme.co.nz1
Ezibuy4
Farfetch2
1Above Flight Drink1
Footlocker.com2
Forever New2
Forzieri3
Free People1
GAP1
General Pants Co.1
Glassons3
Golfetail.com2
Hallenstein Brothers4
Hype3
iSubscribe3
iTunes2
Jacquie E2
Jessica Buurman1
Just Jeans2
Karen Millen3
Karen Walker1
Kathmandu4
Kobo2
Kogan.com1
Latest Buy4
Leona Edmiston4
Lenovo2
Linden Leaves4
Livingsocial1
Loft2
Lorna Jane2
luggage.co.nz5
Macy's2
Marcs1
Marks & Spencer3
Matches Fashion2
Mattel1
Max5
Menulog1
Merchant5
Microsoft2
Miss Selfridge2
Missguided3
Molten Store2
Molton Brown London1
Mothercare1
Mr Vintage4
Nespresso2
Norton5
NoteMaker3
nzgameshop.com1
Onsport4
Overstock1
Oxford2
Petals Florist Network1
Peter Alexander2
Photobox1
Pillow Talk3
Portmans2
Pumpkin Patch1
Queen Bee Maternity4
RedCurrent1
Rivers2
Rodd & Gunn4
Saba1
Saks Fifth Avenue2
Sears1
Selfridges4
Sephora2
Shaver Shop2
Shoe Clinic1
Shoe Connection1
Shopbob1
Smiggle2
Smith + Caughey's1
Sporting House Direct3
Sportscraft1
Stylebop.com4
Strawberrynet5
Superdry1
Superette5
SurfStitch1
T M Lewin2
Tarocash2
Teleflora5
The Baby Factory1
The Baby Store4
Book Depository1
The Iconic3
The Nile2
Tony Bianco1
Torpedo71
True Religion2
UK Soccer Shop2
Urban Outfitters2
Value Basket1
Van Heusen1
Vision Direct4
Vistaprint4
Wiggle1
Wild Earth3
Wildfire Sports1
Xbox2
Yd2

Make sure you confirm the Airpoints Dollar earn at the Airpoints Mall directly, as the earn rate can go up if there is a special. Each store will also have their own Terms and Conditions, in addition to the overall Airpoints Mall Terms and Conditions.

Vouchers and Special Offers

The Airpoints Mall provides a list of vouchers that can be used to save money at some of the different retailers. Be wary using promo codes not provided on this page, as this could preclude any Airpoints Dollars earn due to the way the affiliate arrangements work between Airpoints and the retailers.

Missing Airpoints Dollars?

Sign into your Airpoints account and then fill in the Claim Missing Airpoints form.

How to maximise your Airpoints Dollars earn

The best way to maximise the number of Airpoints Dollars you earn through the Airpoints Mall is to use an Airpoints earning credit card. So not only will you get Airpoints Dollars for shopping through the Airpoints Mall but you also get the Airpoints Dollars from your credit card spend.

For example, say you have the Airpoints Platinum American Express, you can pick up 1 Airpoints Dollar for every NZ$59 spent.

And then for the Westpac World Airpoints credit card, you’ll earn 1 Airpoints Dollar for every NZ$65 you spend, or 1 Airpoints Dollar for every NZ$50 equivalent spend in a foreign currency.

If you make a purchase for $100 (excl GST and delivery) at an Airpoints Mall retailer that has an earn rate of 1 Airpoints Dollar for every NZ$100 you spend, and your purchase is from a retailer that charges in foreign currency, using your Westpac World Airpoints credit card will see you earn 3 Airpoints Dollars for that spend.

You can review all Airpoints earning cards in the NZ market in our full cards table.

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Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi overview https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/reviews/etihad-airways-first-class-lounge-spa-abu-dhabi-overview/ https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/reviews/etihad-airways-first-class-lounge-spa-abu-dhabi-overview/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 20:00:06 +0000 Thu, 17 Aug 2017 20:00:06 +0000 Refurbished and reopened in May 2016, the First Class Lounge & Spa at Abu Dhabi Airport is Etihad Airways’ flagship lounge.

I visited this lounge in February 2017 on my layover in Abu Dhabi after arriving on my A330 First Class flight from Geneva and before departing on my A380 First Apartment flight back to Sydney.

The Etihad A380 First Apartment

Lounge Details

The lounge and spa are open 24 hours a day but the spa and salon are closed between 2:30 and 5:30am.

A separate facility inside is available for passengers travelling in The Residence, Etihad’s three-room suite onboard the A380.

Lounge Location

The lounge is located just past security checkpoint in Terminal 3 if departing from Abu Dhabi; if connecting from other flight, clear transit security in Terminal 3 before proceeding to the lounge.

You just take an elevator up to the second floor after entering.

Lounge Seating

There’s plenty of seating options if you aren’t dining, chilling out in the relaxation room, or grabbing a massage.

There are three dining areas: an interior main area, tables by the windows, and another area at the opposite end of the lounge.

There is also a gym, cigar room and kids’ play area (not pictured.)

Views

There are views of the interior apron, although it is hard to see at night, and the lounge is somewhat set back from what’s going on outside.

Food & Drink

The lounge offers a full à la carte dining experience. Here is the menu from when I visited:

The service was very personal and the staff insisted I tried the tasting menu. Naturally, I had to oblige.

Staff wander around the lounge offering drinks, coffee, or anything else you might want from the bar, but didn’t partake as I was pretty shattered from a busy day in Abu Dhabi (OK, I mostly napped and hung out at my hotel, but I’d had a busy week!).

There is also a self-service snack and beverages bar but the selection is limited to encourage you to eat à la carte.

Entertainment

The relaxation room was empty when I visited and has a few seats with a changing light display on a giant screen in front of you. Maybe this is more to admire rather than put you to sleep – it wasn’t not relaxing but I would have preferred a proper nap room.

Primarily, your main entertainment in the lounge is to sit back and enjoy the dining and service.

Spa & Salon

As a First Class passenger, you can choose between a complimentary 15-minute Spa or Style & Shave Salon treatment; guests accessing the lounge with status pay a fee.

Some of the services at the salon include the nail bar, blow dry or wet-shave – I opted for a massage.

Lounge Access Options

  • By class of travel: departing in Etihad Airways First Class or The Residence or arriving in Etihad Airways First Class or The Residence and connecting onto another flight in the highest class available, usually Business Class
  • By airline frequent flyer status: Etihad Guest Platinum
  • By airline partner frequent flyer status: equivalent status with a partner airline, e.g. Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum
  • By paying a fee: Etihad allows Gold Members travelling in Business Class to access the First Class lounge for $100 USD. Those travelling in Economy or Business Class and are not Gold Members will have to fork out at least $200 USD to gain access to the lounge for 2-6 hours

All of the passengers above except for paying guests can invite one companion.

The Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi – my take

Etihad’s First Class lounge is up there with the world’s best. Each airline has their own take on what a First Class lounge should be and Etihad’s is distinctly theirs.

I enjoyed the full sit-down dining service, however, I think this is best enjoyed if you aren’t in transit as would be the case for many Aussie travellers. Personally, after flying into Abu Dhabi from Europe or the US, I just want a place to shower, grab a drink or a quick bite to eat, and then move onto my next flight. Five tasting courses are overkill, for me at least. Of course, you can order à la carte though.

As I visited in darkness, I didn’t really get a sense of place. This is what makes the Qantas First Class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, for example, unique – you can see out of large windows and know where you are in the world. Maybe that’s different during the day.

The lounge was also very quiet, and the service discrete. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but the atmosphere did seem a little lacking in life and a bit subdued. These aren’t criticisms though, just observations.

All up, the Etihad First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi is well worth seeking out, and if departing from Abu Dhabi, it’s definitely worth scheduling an early arrival for to really make the most of it.

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Flash sale: 80% bonus on IHG Rewards Club points purchases until 12 September https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/ihg-rewards-buy-points-guide/ https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/ihg-rewards-buy-points-guide/#comments Wed, 16 Aug 2017 19:00:41 +0000 Wed, 16 Aug 2017 19:00:41 +0000 IHG Rewards are offering a bonus of up to 80% on points purchases until 12 September US time, which is on par with their best offers in previous points promotions.

IHG Rewards points can be leveraged into some cheaper hotel nights than you’d pay versus paid rates at InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Indigo and other IHG brand hotels. In this guide, I’ll run through some examples of how to get a deal.

At the upper end of the market, InterContinental and Crowne Plaza hotel rooms can often go for fairly hefty nightly rates, so buying points to redeem immediately offers a neat way to potentially reduce costs.

The Current Promotion

With the current deal of 80% bonus on points purchases, the cost per point goes down to 0.639c at the highest tier, with a total cost of $690 USD for the maximum purchase of 108,000 IHG Rewards points including the bonus.

You must purchase at least 15,000 points to get the 80% bonus; purchases of 5,000 – 14,000 points will only earn you a 40% bonus.

Buying IHG Rewards points in a bonus period gives you a much better chance of coming out ahead for cheap redemptions.

There is a hack to purchase them at 0.7c per point indefinitely – just buy a points+pay room and then cancel, and you’ll be given the cash back as points in your account – but there’s some risk to your account in this approach, and this deal has them cheaper.

Offer History

Previous promotions have run as follows:

  • August/September 2017 – up to 80% bonus, 0.639c USD / points (current offer)
  • February 2017 – up to 100% bonus, 0.575c USD / points
  • January 2017 – up to 75% bonus, 0.675c USD / point
  • December 2016 – up to 100% bonus (targeted), 0.575c USD / point
  • November 2016 – up to 100% bonus (targeted), 0.575c USD / point
  • September 2016 – 100% bonus, 0.575c USD / point
  • August 2016 – 80% bonus, 0.64c USD / point
  • June 2016 – up to 100% bonus (targeted), 0.575c USD / point
  • February 2016 – 100% bonus, 0.575c USD / point
  • November 2015 – 100% bonus, 0.575c USD / point
  • October 2015 – 60% bonus, 0.7c USD / point
  • June 2015 – 100% bonus, 0.575c USD / point
  • March 2015 – 60% bonus, 0.7c USD / point
  • September 2014 – 100% bonus, 0.58 USD / point

Under the current promotion if you get the maximum bonus, you’ll be able to buy enough points for a single night at hotels in the following categories / price bands for this cost:

Example hotels in this categoryIHG Rewards points neededCost of points per night (USD) in this promotion
Holiday Inn Rotorua, Queenstown and Auckland Airport20000$127.8
Holiday Inn Resort Bali, InterContinental Jakarta25000 $159.75
Crowne Plaza Auckland and Christchurch30000$191.7
InterContinental Wellington35000$223.65
InterContinental Resort Fiji, Bali, Tahiti, Resort & Spa Moorea, and Crowne Plaza Queenstown40000$255.6
Crowne Plaza Melbourne45000$287.55
InterContinental Singapore, Grand Standford Hong Kong50000$319.5
InterContinental Melbourne55000$351.45
InterContinental Sydney60000$383.4

Clearly, you’ll want to run the numbers for your intended redemptions and compare points purchasing vs a paid stay to ensure you are better off buying and redeeming points than paying outright.

However, like other hotel program redemptions, IHG Rewards redemptions are flexible and can be cancelled at no cost.

This is a big difference compared to the lowest paid rate which is usually non-refundable, so if flexibility of your reservation is important, don’t forget to factor that benefit in.

Example IHG Rewards Redemptions

A great resource for points pricing at IHG hotels is from Travel is Free, who has a map of the complete set of properties in the group and their pricing, and embedded here for your convenience.

Another great resource is Award Mapper, which gives points pricing for all the major hotel loyalty chains.

Personally, I’ve redeemed points (a mixture of purchased and earned) at a range of properties, including:

InterContinental Singapore

Club Premier Room - InterContinental Singapore

Club Premier Room (not booked using points) at the InterContinental Singapore – review here

InterContinental Resort Fiji

3-InterContinental-Fiji-Garden-View-Room.jpg

Garden View room at the InterContinental Fiji, booked using points – review here

InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto

InterContinental Melbourne Standard Room

InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto Standard Room booked using points – review here

InterContinental Sydney

Sydney InterContinental Harbour Bridge View Bedroom

InterContinental Sydney Harbour Bridge View room (not booked using points) – review here

In addition, some of the best value to be had from IHG Rewards is the PointsBreaks promotions, where rooms are available for 5,000 points per night.

These are released on a limited basis from a limited set of hotels once every 4 months. Keep an eye on the PointsBreaks site for these.

Notable terms around buying and redeeming IHG Rewards Points

The terms of purchase for IHG Rewards points state that you can buy a maximum of 120,000 IHG Rewards points per calendar year and receive as a gift a maximum of 120,000 points per calendar year.

You’ll also need to allow 24-48 hours for points to post and appear in your account

There’s no requirement I know of around the age of an account that’s eligible to buy points, so you should be able to sign up and purchase immediately if it makes sense to do so.

Rooms available with IHG Rewards points, and benefits on offer with IHG Rewards redemptions

You’ll find that the rooms on offer using IHG Rewards points in each hotel are usually the base room type. If you’re after a premium or larger room, bear this in mind.

I have had some success in contacting the hotel in advance to try and pay my way up to a better room. It’s worth a shot.

You’ll also not be eligible for any IHG Rewards status benefits, or IHG Ambassador benefits, on points stays – unfortunately. Not that IHG Rewards status gets you much, but the IHG Ambassador confirmed room upgrade can’t be used, which is a bummer.

Summary – buying IHG Rewards Club points

As with any points purchase promotion, you need to run the maths for your own intended redemption and personal circumstances to see if this will yield some good value for you.

I’d argue that the best places to look for value are the resorts that are priced in the mid-range of the points category prices, such as the InterContinental Bali and Fiji resorts.

It will be harder to get great value out of the top end category 9 50,000 points redemptions if buying points outright to redeem, but it’s worth keeping it in your back pocket in case you need to stay at a city hotel at a super expensive time of year – points redemption rooms are often available when you wouldn’t expect it and you may be able to save then too.

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Buy AAdvantage miles and get up to 85,000 bonus miles plus 10% discount – until 31 August https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/aadvantage-purchase-miles-guide/ https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/aadvantage-purchase-miles-guide/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:45:07 +0000 Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:45:07 +0000 American Airlines is now offering up to 85,000 bonus miles and an additional 10% discount when buying AAdvantage miles before August 31 – this equates to around 1.83 US cents per mile.

This is worth taking a look for those who have an upcoming redemption in mind and need to top up their account – but only if you know you’ll get the most from a large purchase.

So, how does this work for cheaper Business and First Class flights?

The current AAdvantage purchase miles promotion

  • Bonus: 3,500 to 85,000 miles (tiered)
  • Discount: 10% starting from 15,000 miles
  • Valid until: 31 August 2017
  • Best value redemptions: domestic Qantas Business Class, Fiji Airways Business to Fiji, Qantas/Cathay Pacific/Japan Airlines Business or First to Asia, and oneworld Business to Europe
  • Book awards online: for AA, Qantas, British Airways, and some others (full list)
  • Book awards over the phone: for other partners, you can only book over the phone and are charged a $75 USD booking fee
  • You can buy miles in this promotion through this link

This promotion yields the cheapest per mile price of 1.83 USD cents per mile when buying at the maximum 150,000 miles (235,000 miles total including the bonus) with a 10% discount.

Why purchase AAdvantage miles?

  1. For oneworld partner redemptions: American Airlines is a member of the oneworld alliance, so you can redeem AAdvantage miles across any oneworld airline, including all those who fly direct from New Zealand – Qantas, Cathay Pacific, LATAM, Malaysia Airlines, Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways
  2. For other partner redemptions: American Airlines have other partner airlines that fly to New Zealand that you can redeem AAdvantage miles for, including Fiji Airways, Hawaiian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui
  3. Very helpful award hold policy: with AA, it is possible to hold award bookings for up to five days (if booking more than two weeks from departure) or 24 hours (if booking closer), allowing you to pencil in plans and then confirm the ticket once you’ve bought or transferred the miles into your account. This policy makes it easy to make risk-free redemption holds while you re-confirm total costs of making your booking and buying the points
  4. More generous point promotions than Qantas and Air New Zealand: AAdvantage offers the option of purchasing miles outright at a fixed value, unlike Qantas Frequent Flyer and Air New Zealand Airpoints, where points purchases are both expensive and limited in the amount and circumstances in which you can buy

The best value AAdvantage redemptions for NZ travellers

Here are some of the better-priced and more readily-available awards for travellers from NZ:

Example RedemptionAAdvantage Miles requiredCost (USD) with latest promotion at highest purchase tier (150,000 miles)*
* All redemption prices are in USD, one way and do not included booking fees, taxes and other charges
Australia to/from New Zealand in Business Class with Qantas or LAN 25000$457.5
New Zealand to Fiji in Fiji Airways Business Class30000$549
New Zealand to Tahiti or Air Tahiti Nui Business Class30000$549
New Zealand Business Class to Asia Zone 1 (Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam)40000$732
New Zealand Business Class to Asia Zone 2 (Japan and Korea)40000$732
New Zealand Business Class to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines65000$1189.5
New Zealand Business Class to Contiguous 48 U.S. states80000$1464
New Zealand Business Class to Europe85000$1555.5

Factors to consider when purchasing AAdvantage miles

Just like any miles purchase deal, you’ll need to take into consideration the following factors:

  • The cost of the miles required for your intended route
  • The $75 USD phone booking fee for some partners
  • The USD:NZD exchange rate
  • The taxes that come along with the booking, which are most easily confirmed by American over the phone
  • The time taken to research award availability and make the booking
  • AAdvantage accounts less than 30 days old are not permitted to buy or gift miles, so register for an account now so you can take advantage of future promotions
  • AAdvantage usually lets you purchase or gift 100,000-150,000 miles (not including the bonus miles on offer) per year per account receiving the miles, so ensure you are buying into a deal when you have a redemption in mind OR you think it’s a really good one
  • Be sure to get to the checkout page to see the full cost of your purchase including all USD fees and taxes

Previous offers

The simplest way to track historical AAdvantage offers is with the US cents per mile cost for the best offer tier for that period:

  • 1.83c per mile in August 2017
  • 1.72c per mile in July 2017
  • 1.72c per mile in June 2017
  • 1.77c per mile in May 2017
  • 1.80c per mile in March 2017
  • 2.24c per mile in February 2017
  • 2.13c per mile in January 2017
  • 1.77c per mile in December 2016
  • 1.90c per mile in November 2016
  • 2.02c per mile in September 2016
  • 2.00c per mile in August 2016
  • 1.72c per mile in June 2016
  • 1.89c per mile in May 2016
  • 1.81c per mile in March 2016
  • 2.02c per mile in February 2016
  • 2.13c per mile in January 2016
  • 1.81c per mile in December 2015
  • 2.00c per mile in November 2015
  • 2.10c per mile in October 2015
  • 2.09c per mile in August 2015
  • 2.00c per mile in July 2015
  • 2.06c per mile in May/June 2015
  • 2.09c per mile in May 2015
  • 2.00c per mile in April 2015
  • 2.07c per mile in February 2015
  • 2.14c per mile in January 2015

Why purchasing AAdvantage miles is easier than earning them

The most common way to acquire AAdvantage miles for New Zealand travellers outside of flights would be to either:

  • purchase them (the purpose of this guide)
  • earn them through hotel stays, car rental or the AAdvantage online shopping mall for purchases from US retailers

Starwood Preferred Guest is also a points transfer partner, and they also run promotions for discount or bonus points a couple of times per year, which may also be worth taking advantage of.

Purchasing miles directly from American Airlines is usually the most cost-effective method if you have a specific flight you are targeting.

With most of these promotions I am usually quite risk-averse, and would only recommend purchasing miles for topping up an account or buying the full chunk of miles if you have a specific redemption in mind, but not to purchase speculatively. Your preferences may differ though!

Making your booking

Bookings using your miles can be made online if looking to fly American, Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas or and a few other airline partners.

If not, they’ll have to be made over the phone with the (usually excellent) call centre for the region, which happens to be in Fiji.

From New Zealand, you can contact them on (09) 308 4014, selecting option 3 for award travel.

Be sure to check the taxes and fees that will be incurred with your booking as well. I find the easiest way to do this is simply to research availability online on the Qantas website and call AAdvantage to price up the booking.

Summing up

The appeal of AAdvantage has declined since their devaluation in March 2016, but Australia and New Zealand still do have some well-priced redemption opportunities available to use for cheaper premium cabin flights by buying miles and immediately redeeming them.

AAdvantage’s generous award hold policy makes the process much less risky, allowing you to hold an award, buy the miles and then call back to get it ticketed once they are added to your account.

Buying miles to redeem for flights in this way is still time-consuming, requiring you to research availability to death before you can book.

Whilst there aren’t many valuable deals for Economy travellers here, if you are keen for a Business or First Class bargain, you can still pick one up when buying AAdvantage miles.

You can purchase AAdvantage miles here.


Are you new to the purchasing points game?

If you’re new to the world of buying points/miles, I’ve written a full intro guide.

You can also access more comprehensive guides for buying points in each individual frequent flyer program below.

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The definitive Point Hacks guide to Qantas lounges https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/qantas-lounges-overview/ https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/qantas-lounges-overview/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 20:00:52 +0000 Mon, 14 Aug 2017 20:00:52 +0000 With the largest lounge network in Australia and a respectable offering in New Zealand and overseas, Qantas lounge access is a valuable perk to passengers travelling in Business or First Class, and higher-tier oneworld frequent flyers.

In this guide, we outline the six different types of Qantas lounges, where they are located, which ones are the most basic and which are the best, our experiences of select lounges, and the methods to gain access.

The six lounge types in Qantas’ lounge network

Qantas doesn’t really win out in New Zealand in terms of lounges, with the Koru International, Domestic and Regional lounges being wonderful in their design and offerings. However they obviously have a great lounge network in Australia and at their key international destinations overseas.

Qantas has six different types of lounges (which we have ranked in order of service quality and facilities):

  • Domestic Qantas Club: the most common type and lowest-tiered Qantas lounge, with 24 across the network, in all Australia capital cities as well as far afield as Karratha, Devonport and Mackay
  • Domestic Business Lounge: a step up from a Qantas Club, it has better food and drink offerings, and is quieter and smaller. There are five Domestic Business Lounges, in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra
  • International Business Lounge: for departing international flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, plus a number of overseas locations, including Auckland, Wellington, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Tokyo Narita
  • International (Premium) Lounge: there are three of these combined Business and First Class Lounges, in Brisbane, Hong Kong and Singapore
  • International First Class Lounge: for First Class passengers and elite frequent flyers in Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, and Los Angeles
  • Chairman’s Lounge: invitation-only lounges in major Qantas hubs such as Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane, for members including politicians, high court judges, CEOs and celebrities. Number of members is said to be around 7000 – and I’ve always wondered whether there are any Kiwis on this list!

You can see a full list of Qantas lounges here.

Eligible Qantas customers also have access to associated lounges run either by partner airlines (such as Emirates, American Airlines and British Airways) in key airports where Qantas does not operate its own lounge, such as London Heathrow, Dubai, New York, San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth, Johannesburg and Bangkok, or generic airline lounges shared by numerous airlines, such as the Manaia Lounges in Queenstown and Christchurch.

Key lounges which the Point Hacks team has reviewed

Auckland International Business Lounge

Whilst functional and conveniently-located, this lounge is old and tired, and one of the more disappointing in the Qantas network.

Partner airline Emirates’ lounge is a good alternative in Auckland, if you can gain access.

Qantas-Auckland-Lounge-1

Qantas-Auckland-Lounge-5

Qantas-Auckland-Lounge-13

Sydney International First Lounge

Consistently ranked as one of the world’s top ten airport lounges, we gave it a five-star rating.

This lounge goes above and beyond by allowing you to tailor your experience, with table service either in the restaurant area or at your lounge seats, a good menu, spa offerings and a full bar.

Sydney-Hong-Kong-Qantas-First-Class-Lounge-review-101

Sydney-Hong-Kong-Qantas-First-Class-Lounge-review-032

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Melbourne International First Lounge

The Melbourne lounge is like a mini clone of the Sydney lounge, but has a bit less of a ‘wow’ factor.

Having said that, the Melbourne lounge is more intimate than Sydney’s, and we found it a more relaxing, personal experience, with staff members really willing to interact and give decent personal service.

Qantas-Melbourne-First-Class-Lounge-review-10

Qantas-Melbourne-First-Class-Lounge-review-08

Los Angeles International Business Lounge

We gave this lounge a solid four-star rating for its spaciousness, fast wifi and well-stocked bar, but it is let down by dark lighting, some disappointing food and no tarmac views.

It is run by Qantas in partnership with oneworld partners British Airways and Cathay Pacific. As such, complimentary passes cannot be used at this lounge, nor can Emirates Skywards frequent flyers gain access as it is technically a oneworld, not Qantas, lounge.

Thanks to the new link path between Thomas Bradley and Terminal 4, eligible passengers heading to Auckland on American Airlines flights can also make good use of this lounge.

Passengers eligible for access include Qantas and American Airlines Business Class passengers and higher-tier Qantas and oneworld Frequent Flyers.

Qantas-LAX-lounge-review-entrance-1-e1465864491666

Qantas-LAX-lounge-review-communal-table-e1465864344952

Qantas-LAX-lounge-review-shower-e1465867412495

Hong Kong International (Premium) Lounge

This is the type of model Qantas is moving towards by combining First and Business Class passengers in one space, with three lounges currently in operation in Brisbane, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Here, Qantas operates this mixed lounge to service their daily flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with some table-service dining options and a full-service bar. The lounge can also be used by eligible passengers heading to Auckland or Christchurch on Cathay Pacific.

To be honest, this lounge is a massive improvement over the Sydney and Melbourne International Business Lounges.

The new Hong Kong and Singapore lounges also keenly highlight how Qantas needs to invest in their domestic Business Class lounges to bring them up to the same level – or maybe this isn’t a priority for them given their more captive audience at home.

You can read our full review of the lounge here.

10-Bar-Qantas-Lounge-Hong-Kong

7-Qantas-Lounge-Hong-Kong

11-Buffet-Qantas-Lounge-Hong-Kong

What to expect when you use the Qantas lounges

Obviously, with six different types of lounges, you’ll receive quite a different experience in each.

Starting at the bottom, at most Qantas Clubs, you can expect:

  • Snacks
  • Tea, coffee and beverages
  • Barista
  • Toilets
  • Wifi
  • Computers
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Family zone

In addition to the above services and facilities, Domestic and International Business Lounges will also tend to offer:

  • Lounge dining
  • Bar service
  • Showers

Moving up, the International (Premium), International First and Chairman’s Lounges will have more attractive interior design and more personal service from staff, as well as wider food and drink offerings.

Other ways to access Qantas lounges

Obviously, whether paying in cash for a flight or redeeming an award in First or Business Class, you will have access to the lounge corresponding to the cabin in which you are flying.

Higher-tier Qantas (starting at Gold status) and oneworld Frequent Flyers (starting at Sapphire status) also have access to these lounges, regardless of the cabin in which they are flying.

Buying a Qantas Club membership (starting at $600 + one-off $269 joining fee, or 140,000 Qantas Points) will give you a year’s access to Qantas Clubs, International Business Lounges and associated lounges. You can earn 3 points per $1 spent when you join or renew your Qantas Club Membership.

And, as we reported in June last year, Qantas is running a trial to give lower-tier frequent flyers the opportunity to buy a day pass for Qantas lounges in Australia and overseas from $49.

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Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Review https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/reviews/qatar-airways-a350-business-class-review/ https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/reviews/qatar-airways-a350-business-class-review/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 20:00:32 +0000 Sun, 13 Aug 2017 20:00:32 +0000 As part of an annual trip to Europe in May this year I booked a return Asia Miles First Class redemption booking from Sydney to Frankfurt flying Qatar Airways to Frankfurt and Cathay Pacific return to Sydney.

Qatar doesn’t offer First Class on the flight from Doha to Frankfurt, nor does Cathay offer First Class from Hong Kong to Sydney, but I specifically selected this routing to tick off several personal firsts; first time experiencing Qatar, first time on an Airbus A350, and first time flying Cathay Pacific First Class.

Qatar Airways A350 Fleet & Routes

As of May 2017, Qatar Airways has 13 Airbus A350-900 aircraft in its fleet with another 30 A350-900 and 37 A350-1000 still to come.

Qatar Airways flies its A350s between Doha and:

  • Adelaide
  • Boston
  • Frankfurt
  • London
  • New York
  • Paris
  • Philadelphia
  • Singapore
  • Zurich

and plans to fly the A350 to the following destinations by the end of 2017:

  • Barcelona
  • Brussels
  • Dublin
  • Geneva
  • Tehran
  • Tokyo Haneda
  • Vienna

It unfortunately seems that Auckland will be waiting a little longer before the A350 flies here, and we’re stuck with the older 777 for the time being.

The Cabin & Seats

The Business Class cabin has a total of 36 seats split into two zones separated by the second door entrance and the bar.

Up front there are 24 seats arranged in a reverse herringbone 1-2-1 configuration and there are another 12 seats behind the bar.

Further back there are 247 economy seats arranged 3-3-3.

There are no overhead bins down the centre of the cabin, making the cabin feel very spacious.

Qatar Airways has installed its latest generation Business Class seats onto its new A350. The seat is manufactured by B/E Aerospace and is also the same seat used on its Boeing 787 and Airbus A380.

The excellent ‘Super Diamond’ seat may look familiar to some Australian frequent flyers as it’s also the same seat used by Virgin Australia in ‘The Business,’ although both seats are heavily customised by their respective carriers.

The only downside to the Qatar Airways version was the lack of wings on the seat shell to provide some privacy at head level.

Here is the seat adjustments and seat belt detailing:

There is excellent storage around the seat, with a bench along the window with literature holder; drawer under the seat in front which was perfect for shoes; armrest which had a water bottle; and noise-cancelling headphones plus a large storage bin next to your knee which has USB adapters nearby.

This storage bin was great to charge valuable electronics in the with the lid closed with everything out of sight.

The tray table slides out from under the TV and flips over:

The cabin LED lights transitioned from pink/blue during boarding to completely pink after the meal service:

The seat converts to a lie-flat bed, however, as it was a daytime flight to Frankfurt, no pyjamas or turndown service was offered. Instead, a light blanket was provided.

The lid of the storage bin and lowered armrest also become part of the flatbed, providing excellent width:

Seat Map & Seat Choice

You can’t go wrong with any seat.

Window seat lovers will choose any A or K seats, which angle towards the window, whilst those travelling together will want an E and F centre pair which angle towards each other.

Even if you are assigned an E or F seat and you’re travelling solo, the privacy dividers are raised between the centre pairs on boarding so you don’t have to worry about any awkwardness between you and your neighbour when someone raises it.

Service: Food & Drink

Before take-off, I was offered a glass of classic or rose champagne, mimosa, orange juice or water:

I was impressed that the Cabin Service Manager, Mee, personally introduced herself to everyone in the Business Class cabin by the time the meal service started.

Although I had just been served breakfast on the flight from Sydney, breakfast was the first meal offered on the flight to Frankfurt. The menus are beautifully presented and have extensive meal options.

There are no trolleys through the cabin or meal trays, and the crew sets your tray table before the meal arrives. The breakfast was cooked to perfection and I’m not sure if it is due to the quality of the galley equipment or the lower cabin pressure of the A350 but everything had more flavour compared to the First Class A380 meals from Sydney.

Although the crew didn’t come through the cabin offering a second meal service, you could order anything from the ‘light options’ menu at any time during the flight. Two hours before landing I ordered the linguine pasta in Pomodoro sauce which was delicious.

Here are the menus from the flight:

Inflight Entertainment

The 17″ touchscreen was very responsive, with a wide selection of movies and TV shows:

A personal favourite feature was the progress bar, which you could drag to any position during a show which made it convenient to get to a point in a movie I didn’t finish on the flight from Sydney:

Although wifi was available, I did not get a chance to test it.

Inflight Amenities

The onboard bar is located between the two Business Class zones, with bathrooms on either side:

After the meal service a selection of Godiva chocolates, fresh fruit and champagne was setup on the bar:

Business Class passengers receive a BRICS amenity kit which include products from Castello Monte Vibiano Vechio, with lip balm, hydrating facial mist and anti-ageing moisturiser, eye mask, ear plugs and socks:

How to redeem points for this flight

Other Qatar Airways Flight Reviews

Summing up

Both Qatar Airways and the Airbus A350 aircraft lived up to my high expectations, unlike my First Class flight to Doha, which was very similar to Keith’s experience on the A380.

The seat is consistent and comfortable for all passengers with many storage spaces and is wide enough when converted to a bed.

The service provided by the crew was professional yet personable. They also anticipated my requirements by offering me another coffee during breakfast and top-ups to my wine over lunch.

There was extensive food and beverage options and everything I tried tasted wonderful. Plus, the fact there were no trolleys or trays during the meal service made it feel like a truly premium Business Class experience.

I would have no hesitation booking another Qatar Airways Business Class flight.

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Save an upfront 18% off hotel bookings with CheapTickets until 28 August https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/promo-codes-for-cheaper-hotel-bookings/ https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/promo-codes-for-cheaper-hotel-bookings/#respond Sat, 12 Aug 2017 23:45:59 +0000 Sat, 12 Aug 2017 23:45:59 +0000 You can always save between 8 – 20% off your hotel bookings by using promo codes on CheapTickets, Orbitz, Expedia and Hotels.com.

While these codes cannot be used on bookings with most of the major hotel chains, they can be used with thousands of independent hotels around the world.

In this guide, we’ll look at the different promotions on offer, the relevant terms / exclusions for each, and the credit cards you can use that have low international transaction fees (as CheapTickets and Orbitz charge in US Dollars).

We’ll republish this guide each time new promo codes are released.

It’s usually a prerequisite to have an account with these sites if you want to use their promo codes, so if you don’t already, you can join up via these links:

Orbitz

Beach Resort

If you frequently stay at independent hotels, use Orbitz for most of your bookings, and you’re happy to use their mobile app, this offer works out to be the best available (even taking into account any international transaction fees).

The Orbucks you earn can be used on future hotel bookings, and you don’t require any minimum amount to redeem (e.g. if you only have 2 Orbucks, you can redeem them for a $2 USD discount off a future stay).

  • Promo Code: TRAVELTIME
  • Discount: 15% + 5% back in ‘Orbucks’ if you use their mobile app
  • Valid until: 21 August 2017 4.59PM NZST
  • Travel finished by: 31 December 2017
  • You can see the full offer details and how to use the promo code through this link

You are limited to two redemptions of the promo code (they usually offer a new one each month), and up to a maximum saving of $150 USD per booking (excludes Orbucks earn). After those two bookings, this promo code will not be able to be used again, even if one or more of those bookings is cancelled.

Below is another Orbitz offer that we are aware of:

Save $25 USD on bookings via the Orbitz app

  • Promo Code: 25DOWNLOAD
  • Discount: $25 + 5% back in ‘Orbucks’ if you use their mobile app
  • Valid until: 31 December 2017
  • Travel finished by: 31 December 2017
  • Only available on bookings that are $100 or more, and for 2 or more nights. Limit one discount per hotel room, and one promotion code per booking.
  • You can see the full offer details and how to use the promo code through this link

CheapTickets

Hammock on the beach

CheapTickets usually have the best offer available if you want an upfront discount, and will be best for those who don’t travel or stay at independent hotels regularly.

  • Promo Code: FEELINHOT18
  • Discount: 18%
  • Valid until: 28 August 2017 4.59PM NZST
  • Travel finished by: 31 March 2018
  • You can see the full offer details and how to use the promo code through this link

You are limited to two redemptions of the promo code (they usually offer a new one each month), and up to a maximum saving of $150 USD per booking. After those two bookings, this promo code will not be able to be used again, even if one or more of those bookings is cancelled.

Expedia

Bagan Myanmar

The offer below is exclusive to New Zealand Mastercard credit card holders.

Although you won’t incur any international transaction fees when booking through Expedia, you’ll find that Orbitz and Cheaptickets still offer a greater discount overall. However like Orbitz, you can earn Expedia+ Points towards future bookings, once you have at least 140 points (which is equal to $1 NZD).

  • Promo Code: Randomly generated, visit this page
  • Discount: 12% + at least 2.85-5.7% back in ‘Expedia+ Points’ if you use their mobile app, depending on whether you end up redeeming your Expedia+ points for normal hotels, or VIP Access hotels
  • Valid until: 31 December 2017
  • Travel finished by: 30 June 2018
  • No blackout dates, can be combined with special +VIP hotel offers, such as free nights, discounts, upgrades, and dining and spa credits (where available)
  • Only one Coupon per transaction may be used. In a multiple-room booking, the discount will be applied to only one room.
  • You don’t need an account to use the Mastercard code, but you must have an account to earn Expedia+ Points
  • You can see the full offer details, including excluded hotel chains, through this link

Hotels.com

Pool by the beach

Hotels.com generally offer the least appealing offers out of the booking sites in this article. Using any of these promo codes will also cause you to miss out on earning any Welcome Rewards nights, so if you book regularly with Hotels.com, you’re generally better off sticking to the free nights rather than using promo codes.

On the plus side, there are lots of offers available, and you won’t incur any international transaction fees when booking through Hotels.com.

Winter Offers

You can see the full offer details for the winter coupon codes below at this link (scroll to end of the page).

Only one coupon per transaction may be used, up to a maximum of five bookings. In a multiple-room booking, the discount will be applied to only one room. Only for stays of up to 28 nights.

  • Promo Code: TRAVEL8
  • Discount: 8%
  • Valid until: 31 August 2017
  • Travel finished by: 10 September 2017

Or

  • Promo Code: 10TRAVEL
  • Discount: 10% when using the Hotels.com app
  • Valid until: 31 August 2017
  • Travel finished by: 10 September 2017

Mastercard Offer

This offer is exclusive to Mastercard credit card holders.

  • Promo Code: MASTERCARD – must book via this page
  • Discount: 8%
  • Valid until: 31 December 2017
  • Travel finished by: 31 March 2018
  • Only one Coupon per transaction may be used. In a multiple-room booking, the discount will be applied to only one room. Only for stays of up to 28 nights.

Visa Offer

This offer is exclusive to Visa credit card holders.

  • Promo Code: VISA8 – must book via this page
  • Discount: 8%
  • Valid until: 31 December 2017
  • Travel finished by: 31 March 2018
  • Only one Coupon per transaction may be used. In a multiple-room booking, the discount will be applied to only one room.

Key points that are common for all Hotels.com offers:

  • If you subscribe to their emails, you’ll receive an exclusive promo code every month or so.
  • Most major hotel chains are excluded, you can see the full list at this link.

Factors to consider when using these promo codes

As with any promotion, there are different factors you’ll need to consider before booking:

  • All of these offers are for stand-alone hotel bookings only, not in conjunction with any other product types (unless otherwise mentioned above).
  • The discounts will not apply to taxes/fees.
  • You must pay up front and not at the hotel (though the codes can still be used on refundable rates, it just means you’ll need to wait for a refund back to your credit card account if you choose to cancel).
  • CheapTickets and Orbitz charge in US Dollars, which means that you’ll incur international transaction fees with most credit cards, effectively reducing your ‘discount’ by up to 2.5% for the NZD amount, depending on your credit card (we have listed all the available rates in New Zealand below). Though in saying this, they still generally offer a better discount than the sites that don’t incur credit card fees.
  • Sometimes – and it’s less likely when the discounts are as large as some of those listed above – it can be better value to contact the hotel and enquire what deal they can offer, if you book direct. All hotels pay commission to these sites for each booking, and if you book direct instead, the hotel saves on these fees. While they may not offer a discount, they could offer a room upgrade or daily free breakfast (from my experience), and that could work out good value for longer stays. If they offer you something like this, make sure you get it in writing!

Minimising your international transaction fees

CheapTickets and Orbitz charge in US dollars, so you’ll more than likely incur an international transaction fee when booking through these sites with a credit card.

Most credit cards in New Zealand issued by the major banks charge on average about 2.5% on the NZD converted amount of international transactions. However, there are quite a few that are lower than this.

We have listed the different card providers below so you can compare. Remember that your credit card may have a reward program that provides a return on your spend (cashback, frequent flyer miles etc.), so make sure you factor this in when deciding which card to use.

E.g. the American Express Airpoints Platinum will see you earn 1 Airpoints Dollar for every $59 you spend on your Card, which will reduce the ‘currency fee’ to an effective 0.8%.

Note that we have not included the fees charged for any discontinued products.

Credit CardInternational Transaction Fee
Flight Centre Mastercard1.4%
Q Mastercard1.4%
Kiwibank1.85%
Countdown Onecard1.9%
Diners Club New Zealand2%
Gem Visa2%
Warehouse Money2%
ASB2.1%
BNZ2.25%
American Express2.5%
Westpac2.5%
TSB2.5%
The Cooperative Bank2.5%

Do you need help finding the best deals on hotels?

Hotel

While the offers above are simple to redeem, I do offer a service that helps you find the cheapest prices for hotel bookings, including liaising with hotels directly to see if they can offer better prices or stay offers when booking direct. This is especially useful for those who are short on time, but would still like to save money.

If you ever need help with a hotel booking, please feel free to contact me.

Summing Up

Saving money on your hotel stays isn’t hard – I’m always surprised to hear people say that they’ve paid full price for accommodation on their holidays.

CheapTickets is generally your best choice for up front discounts, and Orbitz is best where you make frequent bookings and can take advantage of the Orbucks earn. These sites however have a savings cap of $150 USD. If you’re booking expensive stays, it could be cheaper to use Expedia or Hotels.com.

Always do your comparisons and sums to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your booking. Prices can vary between sites, even in spite of promo code usage, and sometimes the best deal can be found by contacting the hotel directly.

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American Express opening lounge at Melbourne Airport later this year https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/american-express-lounges/ https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/american-express-lounges/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 22:20:12 +0000 Fri, 11 Aug 2017 22:20:12 +0000 Australia’s second-busiest airport in its fastest-growing city is set to get a new lounge courtesy of American Express in the second half of 2017.

The design will most likely be consistent with the sole American Express lounge currently operating in Australia, which is located in Sydney’s International Terminal.

It will include barista-made coffee, a self-service food buffet and drink station, free wifi and business facilities, as well as local and international newspapers and magazines.

For now, one can assume the access policy will be the same as the Sydney lounge, offering unlimited access to top-tier Amex cardholders and two passes a year for others holding select cards, like the American Express Airpoints Platinum.

I would speculate that lounge passes will be usable at either location, but not two entries at each lounge.

The exact opening date or month has not yet been confirmed.

About this guide

American Express has a network of well-designed Centurion Lounges, which some Amex cardholders have access to on an unlimited basis.

You can usually enjoy access to these lounges for free with any same-day ticket, on any airline, as long as you are an American Express Platinum Charge, Business Platinum Charge or Centurion cardholder. Some other American Express cards offer a certain number of lounge passes each year too.

Essentially, these lounges are an alternative for Business and First Class passengers who do not want to access (generally sub-standard) US lounges, such as American Airlines Admirals Clubs.

However, as their popularity has grown due to Amex increasing its cardholder base and the offering of superior food and facilities, they may be becoming a victim of their own success.

Having said that, with an increasing number of lounges cropping up, if you’re flying Economy or Premium Economy frequently and value lounge access, using the American Express lounge network can free you from the likes of paid membership programs like Qantas Club and Koru Club.


Locations

The Amex lounge network is of course not as broad, not available in as many cities, as airline lounges. There is currently no Amex lounge in New Zealand.

As of August 2017, there are 14 Centurion Lounges across the network, with one in Sydney, seven in the US, four in Latin America and two in India.

The lounges in Australia and the US are the most modern, with the Houston lounge the latest addition to the offering; Melbourne, Hong Kong, Philadelphia and Los Angeles are slated to open next.

Those lounges in bold are reviewed in more detail later on. Note that depending on the country, each lounge type has a different name.

American Express Lounges in Australia

Centurion Lounges in the United States

  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Houston
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles (opening date unclear)
  • Miami
  • New York LaGuardia
  • Philadelphia (opening second half of 2017)
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle (expanded in March 2017)

Platinum Lounges in India

  • Delhi
  • Hong Kong (opening second half of 2017)
  • Mumbai

The two lounges in India are smaller than those in the rest of the network and can get crowded as they are shared with Jet Airways Business and First passengers. There is complimentary food off the menu, but you need to pay for alcoholic drinks.

The lounge in Hong Kong will be called a Centurion Lounge; the lounges in India are Platinum Lounges.

Centurion Clubs in Latin America

The American Express lounges outside of the US and Sydney are generally a few years older and don’t have the same design aesthetic and facilities.

The 24-hour lounge in Buenos Aires, Argentina is the biggest of them all in Latin America. The other three lounges are located in Mexico, with Toluca serving as Mexico City’s low-cost airport.

  • Buenos Aires
  • Mexico City
  • Monterrey
  • Toluca

Amex used to run two lounges in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but these seem to have been taken out of the network, according to the Centurion website.


What’s on offer

  • Food and wine, beer and spirits, usually complimentary in the US and for purchase elsewhere
  • WiFi
  • Shower suites
  • Family room
  • Workspaces

Centurion TV

Centurion Childrens

Depending on the location, lounges usually open between 5 and 6am and close between 8pm and midnight.


Key lounges in the US

Centurion Lounges are much nicer than those offered by a US airline, but inferior to many lounges in Asia.

Dallas

The Dallas lounge is consistently included in lists of the best lounges in the US, and is generally the best-regarded in the Centurion network.

It is located in Terminal D across from Gate D17, and is accessible from any terminal through the airport’s Skylink train.

It receives positive reviews for its decent Tex-Mex food, with breakfast served from 6:30 to 11am, and lunch/dinner from 11:30am to 10pm.

Centurion Dallas Food

Guests can schedule a complimentary 15-minute spa treatment at the Exhale Spa (this is also available at the Miami lounge).

Centurion Dallas Spa

Separately, there are only two showers, so book in for one as soon as you enter the lounge.

Note that it can get crowded earlier in the day but is generally a bit roomier prior to the Qantas A380 flight QF 8 to Sydney leaving around 8:15-10:30pm (depending on the season). Keep in mind that the bar closes at 9/9:30pm.

Centurion Dallas Chairs

San Francisco

The Centurion Lounge at SFO is located after security in Terminal 3, which conveniently connects to the International Terminal. So if your departing flight is from Terminal 1 or 2, whilst you can enter any terminal you like, make sure that you allow enough time to clear security again in your respective terminal.

It has Californian-inspired food and local Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada, and Brew Free or Die beers on tap.

The exclusively Napa Valley-sourced wine offerings at the automatic tasting area is very cool.

As you can see here at 8am on a Monday morning, it can get quite crowded.

My tip would be to grab one of these black private pods if you can.

Houston

The Houston lounge can be a bit hard to find, tucked away via an elevator located in the duty free store at the top of the escalators after security in Terminal D.

The good news is that if you are departing from another terminal at Houston, you can connect to Terminal D without having to re-clear security.

Like the other Amex lounges in the US, it is beautifully appointed.

Las Vegas

This was the first Centurion lounge to open (in 2013).

Centurion Las Vegas Seats 2

Centurion Las Vegas Seats

It has some of the best food in the network, with a complimentary buffet and full-service bar.

Centurion Las Vegas Food

Centurion Las Vegas drink menu

Access rules for lounges

Access is free for Platinum Card and Centurion members, as well as either their immediate family (spouse or domestic partner and children under 18) or two other guests (except for the Centurion Studio in Seattle, which allows only one guest).

One-day passes can be purchased by other American Express cardholders for $50 USD subject to space availability and one child under 18 can enter with you for free.

Summing up

American Express Centurion Lounges are a valuable alternative for customers who:

  • lack access to traditional airline lounges, which may be restricted to passengers in premium cabins or with elite status
  • prefer a superior product to US domestic lounges
  • want generous guest and family access privileges
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How to redeem Velocity points for Business & First Class flights to the US https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/redeem-velocity-points-usa/ https://www.pointhacks.co.nz/redeem-velocity-points-usa/#respond Sun, 06 Aug 2017 20:00:17 +0000 Sun, 06 Aug 2017 20:00:17 +0000 The United States is one of the most popular routes for New Zealanders to redeem frequent flyer points. However, it is also one of the hardest routes to find Business Class or First Class award availability due to high demand.

Velocity redemption availability for Virgin’s direct flights is quite restricted. That said, there are a few options available to use Velocity Points to fly to the US from New Zealand, such as using partners Singapore Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines – in this guide, we look at the different routes and the number of points required for a redemption.

The methodology

For each program, we’ll generally cover off on:

  1. An overview of the award options and points required for redemptions
  2. What the best uses for your points are to get the most value

For the purpose of this series, we’ve picked three example cities favoured by travellers based in New Zealand to use as comparison point: Los Angeles, New York and Honolulu.


Key Velocity partners with flights to the US

From New Zealand, Velocity points can be used to redeem flights on Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines.

  • Virgin Australia flies from Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch and Queenstown via Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Los Angeles
  • Singapore Airlines flies from Auckland, Wellington (via Canberra) and Christchurch to Los Angeles (via Asia) and New York (via Frankfurt)
  • Hawaiian Airlines flies from Auckland to Honolulu, and also onward to Los Angeles and New York

Velocity has two award charts, and it is more expensive to use your points to redeem flights on these two partners (Table 2 of the Velocity award chart) than on a Virgin Australia flight (Table 1).

With all three you can search for availability on the Velocity website by logging in and click on “Search and Book Flights”.

A unique feature of Velocity is the ability to transfer points to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles, where you’ll get better award availability despite losing some points due to the 1.35 Velocity points : 1 KrisFlyer mile transfer cost.

Although you can also redeem Velocity Points with Air New Zealand on Trans-Pacific flights (until 1 November 2017), they almost never release any award seats to Velocity members, so they are discounted from this guide.

Redeeming Velocity points to Los Angeles and New York

One-way redemption pricing in points is as follows:

Route (costs are one way)Velocity on Hawaiian AirlinesVelocity on Virgin AustraliaVelocity on Singapore AirlinesKrisflyer on Singapore Airlines (assuming online redemption for Saver award)Velocity points required for transfer to Krisflyer on Singapore Airlines
NZ to Los Angeles - Business Class92,000111,500 for all except AKL/WLG via MEL, which requires 127,500139,000110,000148,500
NZ to Los Angeles - First ClassN/AN/A203,000154,000207,900
NZ to New York - Business Class121,000N/A204,000^118,000159,300
NZ to New York - First ClassN/AN/A298,000^152,000205,200

^ Forced by Velocity as two seperate redemption due to mileage limit. This is the cheapest split redemption (NZ – Frankfurt, and Frankfurt – NYC)

Note that Velocity allows you to use extra points to ‘buy out’ the taxes and fees. This generally works out to be 10,000 Velocity points = ~$67 in taxes and fees.

Flying Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian-USA-Virgin

Note: some readers have had difficulty in booking Hawaiian redemptions through Velocity. Let us know in the comments section below if this has happened to you.

Hawaiian Airlines is the only option available to redeem Velocity points for travel to Honolulu, and they can also connect you through to Los Angeles and New York.

The distance between Auckland and Honolulu is 4,389 miles, so it will cost 35,000 Velocity points to fly one-way in Economy or 65,000 for Business Class.

Flights through to Los Angeles and New York in Business Class will cost 92,000 and 121,000 Velocity Points respectively.

This is the cheapest out of the Velocity redemption options from New Zealand.

All flights from Auckland to Honolulu, and Honolulu onto NYC have Hawaiian Airline’s new Premium Economy cabin.

You need to call the Velocity membership centre to book on 0800 230 875. However, to save you some time you can use the American Airlines award search engine to find availability on Hawaiian Airlines before calling Velocity.

Flying Virgin Australia

Virgin-NZ-US-map

Most of Virgin’s New Zealand to Los Angeles flights via Australia fall into the 8501-9500-mile bracket, so 111,500 Velocity points are typically required for a one-way Business Class flight.

The exception to this is Auckland/Wellington flights via Melbourne, which just fall into the 9,501-15,000 bracket, and require 127,500 points. For this reasons, it’s best to avoid these flights where possible.

Virgin Australia new 2015 Business Class A330-777 Seat

Virgin Australia’s new Business Class seat rolled out during 2015 and 2016

Velocity used to be generous with releasing award seats in the past and the program won awards because of that reason but, in 2017, we have found that you are most likely to find (very limited) award space in Business Class six months out and (more) Premium Economy space six months and one week out from departure.

The lack of award space could be attributed to Virgin Australia having arguably one of the best Business Class product on the Transpacific route, meaning the airline prefers to sell the seats rather than give them away for free on awards.

Flying Singapore Airlines

Singapore-Airlines-NZ-USA

Flying to Los Angeles falls within the 9,501-15,000-mile bracket, costing 139,000 in Business Class and 203,000 in First.

As mentioned earlier, you cannot do a single redemption for New Zealand to East Coast (NYC) on Singapore Airways because it exceeds the 15,000-mile limit, and Velocity will force you to redeem the flight as two awards.

However a unique feature of Velocity is the ability to transfer to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program. This makes single redemptions on flights to East Coast USA possible.

Singapore Airlines also releases more saver award space to its own members, so it could be worthwhile to transfer your Velocity points to KrisFlyer, full stop.

The transfer rate is 1.35 Velocity point for 1 KrisFlyer mile. Singapore have eliminated fuel surcharges on award redemptions too, making it even more appealing.

Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class Cabin (1)

It’s possible to fly in Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class all the way to New York via Frankfurt from Auckland

And if you transfer enough points and book a return ticket on KrisFlyer, you can get another perk, which Virgin does not offer: a free stopover. Given that you have to fly from New Zealand to New York with two transits (in Singapore and Frankfurt), you can request a stopover (stop in a city for more than 24 hours) in one of those cities. You can buy another one for $100 USD.

The same rules apply for redemptions to other US cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, with a stopover allowed in cities like Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo, which act as transit stops for some flights.

As an alternative option, if you transferred to KrisFlyer, you can book award flights on other Star Alliance partners over the phone. This is primarily useful for United Airlines redemptions from Auckland, however, availability in Business Class is usually fairly limited. It’s worth bearing in mind, though.

Summing up: maximising value for your Velocity points on flights to the US

Flights to Los Angeles

If you can find availability, the Hawaiian Airlines flights from Auckland to Los Angeles via Honolulu is the cheapest redemption option, at 92,000 points. It’s a direct route, and won’t require any backtracking to Australia or Singapore.

Flights to New York

Again, your cheapest option will be a redemption with Hawaiian Airlines, at 121,000 Velocity Points.

Virgin Australia does not fly onwards from Los Angeles to New York like Qantas does, and availability between Los Angeles and New York is hard to find on partner Delta. So you’re unlikely to be redeeming on Virgin Australia metal for this route.

Redemptions with Singapore Airlines from New Zealand are over the 15,000 one-way mileage limit, and therefore have to be redeemed as two awards (and are much more expensive as a result).

If you want to redeem your Velocity Points for flights with Singapore Airlines on flights to New York, your best bet is to transfer your points to KrisFlyer and redeem through them.

Supplementary images courtesy respective airlines.

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