Here are two facts that I’m sure will (not) come as complete and utter surprises to anyone reading this site.

1.  I travel a lot.

2.  I like to help my family.

Because I travel pretty frequently (and get co-branded credit cards) I earn elite status with various hotel programs and airlines.  Because I like helping my family I leverage my elite status to benefit them when possible.  This might mean putting them in a suite, getting through to a real person on the phone faster, getting them economy plus seats, or even free breakfast.  The elite status authorities should be notified at once of my status-sharing crimes, so I’ll wait here while you dial them up promptly. 

Now that my status sharing confessional is out of the way, I’ll go through some of the things that I do to share status, and also mention a few things I don’t do.  My thought is that my status is only as valuable as what I am able to get for myself and others out of it, so the more my family benefits, the more the status is worth to me.  The more my status is worth to me, the more likely I am to spend my vacation dollars to earn it again.  In a way, both my family and the hotels/airlines benefit…as long as we don’t go overboard.  Naturally there is grey area in this arena and my line between black and white will be different than others.

Getting your family members in the lounge:

Recently I have taken many summer trips with my family, and on every occasion when there is a hotel lounge of some sort that I have access to, I have made sure my family members benefited as well.  Sometimes this is easy and legit such as when the rooms are booked in your name and therefore carry your elite status benefits.  Sometimes it might not be as legit such as when you loan your key card to a family member or just all go in together even if not everyone technically has lounge access.  This can be kept on (what I define as) a reasonable scale such as asking your family member to grab you a coffee from the club while you are still getting ready and they also grab one for themselves.  Or perhaps you hit the club to grab some treats “to go” for yourself and grab an extra bagel for your family member.  It may be done on a less reasonable scale, such as bringing in a small herd for a five course brunch when you take over half the lounge – no, we have not done that.

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Lounge breakfast spread

It is something to think about if you want to make sure everyone is able to grab a quick bite to eat in the morning or have access to some “free” bottled water in the afternoons.  The easiest solution is to just get the rooms under your name if you are the one with elite status.  With Hyatt this generally does the trick for me, but every chain/hotel will handle it differently.

Get free breakfast for “everyone”:

If your elite status carries with it free breakfast in a restaurant or room service then you aren’t going to be able to share it with your 47 cousins most likely – not that you would want to.  However, I absolutely have shared my room service and even restaurant breakfasts with a few family members.  For example, at a certain popular-on-points Park Hyatt in Europe, I ordered within the (unwritten) bounds of the included room service breakfast and then simply shared it with my mom and aunt when they came in from their room.

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This is seriously “breakfast for 2″

I’ve done the same at a certain popular-on-points Park Hyatt in Colorado.  This usually only works if you don’t usually eat a ton yourself, but works well for us since some breakfasts come with tons of food and I don’t need yogurt, eggs, pastries, coffee, orange juice, and bacon all to myself.  I’m good with just yogurt and coffee and can share the rest.

Too much for 1 - perfect for 2 or 3

Too much for 1 – perfect for 2 or 3

Another way we have shared is when the room/status comes with breakfast vouchers for the hotel restaurant and we  just don’t need a full sit-down breakfast that day then we are sure to pass them off to a family member before breakfast is over.

Put your family in a suite:

One of the oldest tricks in the travel playbook in terms of sharing status is to book a hotel reservation in your name (if you have elite status) and then add your friend/family member on to the reservation in order for them to be able to “check in first”.  In some cases this is actually because they are arriving before you, but in other cases you may never have plans to arrive and are simply leveraging your good name err status to benefit them.  There is risk to this strategy as the hotel could insist at some point that the status person come and actually check in, but I think most of the time that doesn’t happen, at least within the United States.

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Get a suite, share a suite

I’ve certainly put a reservation in my name, attached a suite upgrade, and then let other family members stay in that room.  I have never gone so far as to do that without even being at the hotel, but I know that it does happen.

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Suites are more fun when shared

Get better seats on the plane for your family:

This is generally an above-board practice as elite airline status generally carries with it some perks for companions on the same reservation.  For example, my United 1K elite status lets 8 others on the same reservation also have complimentary Economy Plus seats.  I could also have one companion (family member) eligible for first class upgrades with me.  Other airlines all have their own variation of this, but even airlines get that better seats for one person aren’t as useful as better seats for the whole family.

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Make a family member smile with first!

That’s the above board version, but I have certainly had times when some family members have been on different reservations from me either due to buying tickets at different times, or using miles for some, or being split off from my reservation against my wishes when I have still called the elite line and asked for their seats to be assigned next to my extra legroom seats.  Most of the time this has been done as a courtesy without a charge.

It’s also useful to note that when using United miles to book a flight for someone else that their ticket carries with it the elite status of the account from which the miles were used.  That means that when I use my United miles to book a flight for a family member they get E+ seats and are even eligible for complimentary first class upgrades on those award tickets as if they were me.  While we are on the topic of United you can also use your confirmed regional and global upgrades for anyone you like, so that is another easy and legit way to give a family member a better seat on the airplane.

Share your drink coupons and lounge passes:

As an elite traveler (or even just a travel rewards credit card holder) you may get things like free drink coupons, airline lounge passes, etc. that don’t mean much to you, but could make the trip noticeably more enjoyable to a family member who doesn’t travel quite as often.  As a frequent traveler I have had the luxury of enjoying domestic airline lounges so often that they don’t have the same impact for me that they used to.  Now I would honestly rather just not get to the airport until minutes before boarding than go to the lounge (thanks Pre-Check), but I know very well that some family members who travel less frequently still very much enjoy the luxury of a complimentary glass of wine, free cheese, and a peak “behind the curtain” of airline lounges so I am sure to share passes and drink coupons that I sometimes get along the way.

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Send your relative to the lounge

My approach to sharing status perks when it isn’t explicitly within the program rules is usually to simply take a little less for myself, not necessarily just get more for everyone.  When you travel frequently you get used to many elite perks that are truly special and novel to those who don’t get them as often, so sharing can be really fun.  It can also just isn’t practical to have say four out of six traveling companions full with a free breakfast when you are traveling together.  You are still going to have to do something to get the other two fed, so why not just brainstorm a way to share in the first place.  You get more value from your elite status, your traveling companions start to understand why status can be so valuable as they get a “taste”, and the hotel is out an extra doughnut and cup of coffee.

I personally think that is an all around win if done in moderation, but what do you think?  How do you share your elite status perks with others?

 

Posted by Mommy Points | No Comments

I get questions regularly about what type of seating arrangement is most comfortable and practical for a traveling family with a child under two who does not yet require their own seat.  I received this question again this week and thought I would share the situation and my suggestions in case they are helpful for anyone else thinking through a similar situation.  Of course, I’m most interested in hearing what your family would do – and why!

The family who emailed me recently had their first baby and plan to fly St. Louis – Los Angeles – Kauai on American Airlines when the child is six months old.  They have a seven figure balance of American Airlines miles and are looking for the best seating arrangement for the three of them.  Miles are not a problem, but instead they are simply looking for the “best” solution for their new family of three.  They were picking between getting each person their own first class seat, getting two first class seats and holding the infant, getting three economy plus seats, or getting two economy plus seats and holding the baby.

There are pros and cons to all four situations, many of which may be obvious, but that I’ll go through them just for fun.  Depending on their travel dates and award availability issues they are looking at from 35,000 – 45,000 AA miles round trip for each confirmed seat to travel in economy or 75,000 AA miles for each confirmed seat for first class in a two cabin plane (assuming MileSAAver availability).  For the purposes of this exercise I will assume the economy tickets were 45,000 miles each and the first class seats were 75,000 miles each.

Three first class seats:

  • Everyone has the “roomiest” seat possible
  • Meal service
  • More attention from the flight attendants
  • Less competition for the lavatory
  • Highest number of miles required
  • Baby won’t get anything out of the roomier seat
  • Seating assignment will be 2-2 so only one parent will be within arm’s reach of the child
  • 225,000 miles

Two first class seats + lap infant:

  • Roomy seats for the adult + infant
  • Meal service
  • More attention from the flight attendants
  • Less competition for the lavatory
  • Two parents can sit right next to each other and take turns holding the infant
  • Fewer miles than having a seat for all three in first
  • Someone will have to hold the child the entire 10 hours of travel
  • No car seat to securely strap the child in
  • 150,000 miles

Three economy seats (with extra legroom):

  • Seats aren’t as big as first, but decent legroom
  • No complimentary meal service
  • Less attention from flight attendants than in first
  • More bathroom competition for diaper changes
  • All three are right next to each other within arms reach and with no “strangers” seated with them
  • Child can be firmly strapped in the car seat or held when desired
  • Under seat space for all three seats for baby supplies
  • 135,000 miles

Two economy seats with extra legroom + lap infant:

  • Lowest number of miles required
  • Have to hold the child for 10 hours of travel
  • Likely a “stranger” next to one of you
  • Under seat space only under two seats for all the gear
  • No car seat to securely strap the child in
  • Seats aren’t as big as first, but good legroom
  • No complimentary meal service
  • Less attention from flight attendants than in first
  • More bathroom competition for diaper changes
  • 90,000 miles

Coming to a recommendation:

Since they have a healthy mileage balance and don’t mind spending the miles I would immediately rule out getting just two economy seats as it is clearly the least comfortable of all four scenarios.  I would next rule out getting three first class seats as it just seems unnecessarily expensive on miles without having a good return for what you get.  If the seats were lie-flat seats, or the infant was a toddler who was less happy to sit still, or their family had an even number of people in it, then my recommendation here might have been different, but this just didn’t seem like the best option to me personally.

Ultimately I think the decision in this case comes down to two first class seats or three economy seats.  I think that is actually a decision that lots of new traveling miles and points parents have to make.  I know, I know, #firstclassproblems.  Those two scenarios are similarly priced in terms of miles with the slight edge going to three economy seats at being at least 15,000 miles cheaper.  I think which option is best can obviously only be made by the parents who know their own child, their own preferences, and their own risk tolerances of having or not having a car seat in use on the flight.  I think some snuggley six-month-olds who are being cared for by parents (who like to take turns holding the little one for hours at a time) may be most comfortable with two first class seats.

However, I know that my family would have done best with three economy seats, and ultimately that was my recommendation.  Having the whole family together in one row is very helpful for the first big trip with a little one.  Having the kiddo securely strapped into their own car seat is helpful in terms of having your hands free, but also gives peace of mind if you hit a patch of nasty turbulence.  The under seat storage for three seats is also helpful for the baby toys, diaper bag, emergency changes of clothes, etc.  Though of course some bulkhead seats do not have any under seat storage, so think about that trade-off before selecting the bulkhead.

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My recommendation was to get three economy seats together with extra legroom, and ultimately that is what the family did.  I just didn’t see being in that particular first class cabin with a six-month-old to be worth the additional miles since the layout puts you all further apart from each other.  First class wouldn’t have been a bad choice, but it wasn’t my first choice in this scenario.

I’m curious as to what you would have done in this situation and why?

 

 

Posted by Mommy Points | 18 Comments

Let’s say that you had a specific rewards earning credit card a couple of years ago that you cancelled because you no longer flew that particular airline or your spending patterns simply didn’t align with what that card hard to offer anymore, or whatever.  Fast forward to a couple of years later and your spending patterns or type of points you desire changes again and the card you cancelled a couple years ago now looks useful one more time.  The question becomes can you get the card again?  If you are a points junkie the second question is probably can you get the sign-up bonus again?

Like with most things in life, it depends.  Assuming you have good credit, you can usually get the card again, but whether or not you get the sign-up bonus can be more variable.  Some banks give you the sign-up bonus the second time more freely than others (ahem Bank of America).  Some banks now have language on certain offers indicating that you can only get the sign-up bonus once for the card (cough, Amex personal cards).  However more and more I have been seeing clearer terms when it comes to obtaining Chase credit cards.  This is great so you can know what to expect if you decide to get a credit card that you have had in the past.

I checked the terms of several different personal and business Chase credit cards and the terms often stated that:

This new cardmember bonus offer is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this consumer credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of this consumer credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this consumer credit card within the last 24 months.

Of course you need to check the terms of each offer individually before applying as the terms could vary, but this language is relatively new to Chase offers.  I very much appreciate that the language in the terms indicates that after 24 months of having the card you could get the new cardmember bonus again if you decide the card again meets your needs.  Life just isn’t predictable enough with moves, mergers, award chart changes, etc. to be able to know if a certain rewards earning card is perfect (or wrong) for you forever, so being able to be treated as a new cardmember after 24 months gets a big thumbs up from me.

Have you noticed this type of language on some offer terms recently?

Posted by Mommy Points | 13 Comments

Given our pretty easy driving proximity to the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort and Spa we get a chance to visit the property at least 1-2 times per year.   Thanks to my stash of points we get to do it, even during peak season, without breaking the bank.  Hyatt Resorts in general are fantastic, and this one specifically has a very special spot in my points loving heart.  I’ve written about… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 19 Comments

For the last several months I have successfully been paying some of our recurring monthly bills via Evolve Money with gift cards that I purchased using rewards earning credit cards.  I usually buy these gift cards at office supply stores, grocery stores, or even gas stations.  I do this mainly to hit minimum spending requirements on cards that would otherwise be tough for me to hit, though also to occasionally… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 17 Comments

The Marriott Rewards program is very popular, especially to those outside of the core miles and points community I interact with online, day in and day out.  I am always blown away by how many awards their loyalty program receives each year at the Freddie Awards and this loyalty/popularity is backed up by how many business and leisure travelers I talk to in everyday life who almost always bring up… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 12 Comments

The new round of IHG Rewards Point Breaks hotels is now bookable!  As usual, the Point Breaks rooms are available for 5,000 IHG Reward points per night and rooms are now available bookings (and stays) from July 28- September 30th.  Even though IHG has introduced some limits on how many Point Breaks reservations folks can book to help with limited inventory, you should still grab the nights you want ASAP before… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 6 Comments

During a recent stay in Washington DC for the 4th of July we split up our stay between two different hotels – the W Washington DC that is located virtually across the street from the White House, and the Grand Hyatt Washington that was located just a couple blocks away.  We split our stay in part to stretch points/dollars and in part because while we wanted the W for its… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 13 Comments

Chase Ultimate Reward points are one of my favorite types of points because they are transferable to hotel and airline partners including United, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG Rewards, and more.  You earn points by obtaining and using Ultimate Rewards earning cards and then the points sit safely in your Ultimate Reward account until you want to use them.  You can then transfer them 1:1 to any… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 5 Comments

With IHG Rewards you can unofficially buy points for .7 cents each any time you want via a little bit of ‘work’ (as described here), however if you are starting from zero that method doesn’t work.  It also is a method that not all people are 100% comfortable with, so I think it is worth mentioning that right now you can purchase IHG points via a legit sale for almost… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 2 Comments

The preview list of IHG Point Breaks hotels is now available on the IHG Community Forum. The Point Breaks rooms will be available for 5,000 IHG Reward points per night for bookings (and stays) from July 28- September 30th.  This is just a preview list and the bookings do not go live until Monday of next week.  That is actually a good thing since popular hotels get snapped up relatively quickly… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 8 Comments

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