The Amex Centurion Lounge Network Is Growing

American Express has the largest lounge network of any credit card provider, and the Centurion Lounges are the crown jewel in their collection. Located in major cities, they provide a relaxing experience that is almost unmatched (with the occasional exception of the First Class lounges of some airlines at their home airports). There are currently nine locations, with another six scheduled to open by the end of 2020.

The Centurion Lounges feature open bars, a food buffet with dishes designed by local celebrity chefs, cocktails created by mixologist Jim Meehan and wines selected by expert Anthony Giglio, work areas, family areas, Wi-Fi, plus showers and complimentary spas in some locations. They are open to Platinum and Centurion cardholders, regardless of where in the world your card is issued.

They have become so popular, in fact, that overcrowding has become a problem and Amex has put some restrictions in place. Access is now restricted to three hours before your flight’s departure (connecting passengers are exempt from this rule); you are required to present your card, a government-issued ID, and your boarding pass. Members may bring in two guests free of charge, and they must purchase a $50 day pass for each additional guest. These are day of departure lounges, and arriving passengers are not admitted.

Here are the details on the nine current locations:

Dallas (DFW):

Location: Terminal D on the mezzanine, opposite Gate D12.

Size: 12,500 square feet.

Hours: 5:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

Special Amenities: Cuisine designed by James Beard award-winning chef Dean Fearing, plus shower suites, a spa, conference rooms, semi-private workspaces and large, flat-screen TVs, arrayed in two separate wings.

Hong Kong (HKG):

Location: Terminal 1, inside security (use escalator near Gate 60).

Size: 8,000 square feet.

Hours: 5:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m.

Special Amenities: Meeting rooms; shower suite.

Houston (IAH):

Location: Terminal D (use elevators near Gate D6, down to mezzanine level).

Size: 8,500 square feet.

Hours: 5:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Special Amenities: Tranquility area; dedicated work area; shower suite.

Las Vegas (LAS):

Location: Concourse D, opposite Gate D1.

Size: 8,000 square feet

Hours: 5:30 a.m.-11 a.m.

Special Amenities: Cuisine designed by Cédric Vongerichten; conference suite, shower suite, semi-private workplaces and large, flat-screen TVs.

Miami (MIA):

Location: Concourse D, near Gate D12, on the fourth floor.

Size: 12,300 square feet.

Hours: 5:00 a.m.-10 p.m.

Special Amenities: Cuisine designed by James Beard award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein; semi-private workspaces, large, flat-screen TVs, two bars, shower suite and complimentary spa.

New York Laguardia (LGA):

Location: Terminal B, before security, on the upper level.

Size: 5,350 square feet.

Hours: Sunday through Friday, 5:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 5:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Special Amenities: Cuisine designed by Cédric Vongerichten; semi-private workspaces.

Philadelphia (PHL):

Location: Terminal A, West, near Gate A14.

Size: 6.300 square feet

Hours: 5:00 a.m.-9 p.m.

Special Amenities: Cuisine designed by Michael Solomonov, winner of four James Beard awards; personal workspaces; shower suite.

San Francisco (SFO):

Location: Terminal 3, near Gate 74.

Size: 8,200 square feet.

Hours: 5:00 a.m.-11 p.m.

Special Amenities: Cuisine designed by James Beard award-winning chef Daniel Patterson; semi-private workspaces, open kitchen, wine tasting area, shower suite.

Seattle (SEA):

Location: Concourse B, opposite Gate B3.

Size: 4,500 square feet.

Hours: 5 a.m.-10 p.m.

Special Amenities: Healthy snacks; large, flat-screen TVs; shower suite.

Here’s what we know about the six lounges that are scheduled to open:

Charlotte (CLT):

Opening Scheduled: 2020.

Location: Central atrium, between Concourses D and E.

Size: 13,000 square feet.

Amenities Planned: Semi-private workspaces; shower suite.

Denver (DEN):

Opening Scheduled: 2020.

Location: Concourse C.

Size: 14,650 square feet.

Amenities Planned: Tranquility area; semi-private workspaces; large, flat-screen TVs; beer and wine tasting area; shower suite; spa and wellness services.

London Heathrow (LHR):

Scheduled Opening: First half of 2020.

Location: Terminal 3.

Size: 7,000 square feet.

Amenities Planned: Private workspaces; shower suites.

Los Angeles (LAX):

Opening Scheduled: 2020.

Location: Tom Bradley International Terminal

Size: 13,000+ square feet.

Amenities Planned: Enhanced tranquility area; spa.

New York Kennedy (JFK):

Opening Scheduled: 2020.

Location: Terminal 4.

Size: 15,000 square feet on two levels.

Amenities Planned: Shower suites.

Phoenix (PHX):

Opening Scheduled: November, 2019.

Location: Terminal 4.

Size: 9,500 square feet.

Amenities Planned: Personal workspaces; shower suite.

There’s considerable speculation about where American Express is heading with the Centurion lounges, and where they will ultimately fit into Amex’s global lounge collection. One theory is that Amex will eventually drop Priority Pass in favor of their own expanded group of proprietary lounges. This seems unlikely: even though only 28 Priority Pass lounges are located in the U.S., there are still over 1,200 worldwide. Retail space in airports is expensive. It’s true that the Platinum and Centurion cards are substantial profit centers for American Express, but not profitable enough to compete with Priority Pass. Either way, by the end of 2020, 13 out of 15 Centurion lounges will be in the U.S.—a boon for the American road warrior.

 

[Image: Flickr/ Dion Hinchcliffe]

Source: frugal travel guy

The Cost of Living in Argentina for Expats

cost of living in Argentina

Many a traveler has landed in Buenos Aires and within less than 24 hours started to ponder the question, “Could I find a way to live here?” Some don’t just ponder it; they actually move to Argentina. Author and book coach Helen Wilkie echoes the feeling that many have with her story of what happened […]

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Source: Cheapest Destinations

Fly Free on Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is one of the world’s great carriers, and it has accumulated more accolades than almost any other airline. In this year’s Skytrax list of the 100 best airlines, Singapore was listed at #2. They won a number of World’s Best categories (cabin crew, First Class and First Class seat) as well as Best in Asia (airline, First Class lounge, Business Class seat and Premium Economy class). They were also named World’s Best International Airline for the 24th year in a row by Travel & Leisure magazine. The list goes on and on.

In addition to extremely comfortable seats and a superlative cabin crew, the airline is also known for its food. They’re famous for their Book the Cook program, which allows passengers in premium cabins to pre-order meals from a menu containing dozens of choices (Lobster Thermidor, anyone?). Dishes are designed by a culinary panel of eight celebrated chefs from around the world.

It’s little wonder, then, that booking Singapore’s Business, First or Suites class with frequent flyer miles is a redemption that travel junkies dream about. A round-trip, First Class flight between the U.S. and Singapore costs well over $10,000, and their luxurious Suites class can be twice as much.

The good news: Singapore is a member of the Star Alliance, a robust coalition of 27 member airlines, and has three dozen codeshare partners as well. The bad news is that Singapore is stingy with award space on partner airlines, particularly in premium cabins. Booking the flight of your dreams can easily turn into a time-consuming nightmare.

Fortunately, there’s a way to work around this. Singapore is much more generous with award space for members of Krisflyer, their frequent flyer program. The first thing you need to do is go on their website and sign up. However, if you don’t fly frequently in Asia or other routes where Singapore concentrates, don’t despair.

The best news of all is that four different point currencies transfer to KrisFlyer: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy points. The first three transfer at a 1:1 ratio; transactions usually must be in 1,000-point increments. In most cases the transfer occurs the same day, or within 1-2 days at the most. Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a 3:1 ratio—but you receive a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 60,000 points you transfer.

Here are some important things to bear in mind:

Make sure you find the award space first before initiating the transfer, since all transactions are final.

Whenever possible, try to find a Saver rather than a Standard award. The difference can be significant: a one-way flight in Business class from Los Angeles to Singapore costs 125,000 miles for a Standard award, but only 95,000 for the Saver version.

Remember that all points are not created equal. If you redeem points for flights through credit card travel portals, Amex and Citi points would be worthless (one cent per point) than Chase points (1.25 to 1.5 cents, depending on which card you have). In this scenario, it makes sense to use your less valuable points first, since they all translate to miles at the same rate.

Once you do find and book award space, Singapore’s taxes and fees are negligible compared to outfits such as British Airways. It’s not completely free, but it’s pretty close.

The moral of this story, once again:

Transferable points are the most valuable reward currency you can have.

Source: frugal travel guy

My Most Profitable Credit Card

Lots of bloggers talk about the cards in their wallets. I’m going to break mine down by profitability for my own set of circumstances.  My number one card is no longer available. The Ink Business Plus Card was revamped several years ago, but mine is still chugging away. It offers 5X on office supply stores, Internet and cable along with my cell phone bill. The maximum 5x is $50,000 per year for a total of 250,000 Ultimate Rewards points and the annual fee is $95 per year.

Chase has replaced this card with two separate cards that offer similar benefits but in a slightly different lineup.

The Chase Ink Business Cash offers the 5X (up to $25K per year) on office supply stores, internet, and cable. It also pays 2% of gas stations and restaurant spending BUT, it is a cash card. You can only use these earnings for cash back, gift cards or to pay for travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at 1 cent per point. In order to convert these earnings to Ultimate Rewards that you can transfer to Ultimate Rewards partners, you must also have a Chase card with an annual fee like the Chase Sapphire Preferred,  that truly earns Ultimate Rewards points. The sign-up bonus for the Business Cash card is $500 with no annual fee.

Your other option is the Ink Business Preferred card with a nice 80,000 point sign up bonus and a $95 annual fee. The earnings rate is not 5 points but only 3X on the office supplies, internet, cable, phone services, travel, and shipping BUT the maximum spend for the 3X is a hefty $150,000 per year

Both choices offer additional employee cards at no extra cost

Would I replace my existing Ink card with one of these two alternatives? No. For me, I like my existing combination. But we all have different wants and needs. Would I be thrilled at 3X? No. Would I like to have just $25K at 5X and no annual fee?  Chase now makes you pick and choose one or the other and if you want Ultimate Rewards points, you are either going to have to get a Preferred card with a fee and the lower 3X category bonus OR pay an annual fee on a companion Sapphire card.

I’ve got to admit though, I’ve always been a sucker for a big sign up bonus and 80K sure sounds better than $500.

My next most profitable credit card is the American Express Gold card, but that may be changing next year. I love it for 4X restaurants. We’ll talk about that card in the next post.

BTW, just for clarification, I am compensated for each post I write and have no financial interest in which cards you chose to match your own circumstances.

Source: frugal travel guy

Find a Cheap Flight, Then Go Elsewhere

village life in Portugal for expats and retirees

Is there another way to get where you’re going other than the most obvious route? Can you find a cheap flight to somewhere nearby instead? Often the answer is yes, and it can save you a small fortune if you’re a bit flexible. It’s a given that if you want to go to Antigua, you […]

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Source: Cheapest Destinations

The Curiously Short History of Nonstop Flights to Iceland from DFW

In just two years DFW Airport went from having zero flights to Iceland to having three of them. In a little over a week, it’ll be back to zero. Click through because you love reading about random airline competition between the little guys and the big guys.

The post The Curiously Short History of Nonstop Flights to Iceland from DFW appeared first on Andy's Travel Blog.

Source: Andys travel blog

Are Citi Credit Cards Still Competitive?

The credit card universe is volatile these days. If you doubt it, consider this: Citibank abruptly removed most travel and consumer protections from its cards on September 22. If you’re a casual consumer (as opposed to a points and miles junkie), you may not be familiar with the details. Here’s a list of benefits that have been removed from all Citi cards (Prestige included):

  • Worldwide Car Rental Insurance
  • Trip Cancellation & Interruption Protection
  • Worldwide Travel Accident Insurance
  • Trip Delay Protection
  • Baggage Delay Protection
  • Lost Baggage Protection
  • Medical Evacuation
  • Citi® Price Rewind
  • 90 Day Return Protection
  • Missed Event Ticket Protection
  • Roadside Assistance Dispatch Service
  • Travel & Emergency Assistance

All cards will keep Extended Warranty and Purchase Protection, except for the Double Cash and Dividend Cards. Prestige retains cell phone protection and fourth night free on reward bookings. The Costco cards also kept car rental and travel accident insurance, roadside assistance and travel and emergency assistance.

The list is staggering, even though the value of specific benefits varies from one person to another. What’s behind the move? Most speculation centers on the constantly escalating signup bonuses and reward offers, which have created an arms race in the credit card world; the cost of attracting new customers keeps going up, particularly if those customers are churners who won’t hold the card long-term. In their wholesale elimination of benefits, Citi may be relying on the assumption that most cardholders don’t use them very often (and in fact, many people may not even be aware they existed in the first place).

Ever since the announcement, the travel blogosphere has been filled with advice on how consumers can retain certain benefits by switching cards. Given the rapidly changing landscape, it would be wise to proceed carefully with that strategy. Chase eliminated price protection from all cards last year, along with return protection from every card except Sapphire Reserve. With all the recent changes, it’s hard to make a case for the $450 Citi Prestige; if you want the broadest possible collection of benefits, though, your best bets are still high-end cards such as Sapphire Reserve or Amex Platinum. Here’s a quick recap of the perks offered by each (for purposes of this discussion, we’re only focusing on travel and consumer protections and not all the ancillary benefits of these cards):

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Primary rental car insurance (up to $75,000 for theft and collision); roadside assistance (up to $50 per call four times each year); trip cancellation (up to $10,000 per trip); trip delay (up to $500 per ticket for delays over six hours that require an overnight stay); lost luggage (up to $3,000 per person); baggage delay (up to $100 per day for five days); travel accident insurance; purchase protection (up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year); emergency medical and dental benefits (up to $2,500); emergency medical evacuation assistance. The annual fee on the card is $450, but there’s a $300 rebate applied automatically with your first travel purchase.

The Platinum Card from American Express and The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN: Secondary car rental insurance (up to $75,000 for theft and damage, which picks up after your own insurance exhausts coverage); extended warranty (up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year); return protection (up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year, if the merchant won’t accept your return); purchase protection (up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year); premium roadside assistance (up to $50 per call four times per year); emergency medical evacuation assistance. The annual fees are $550 and $595 respectively.

The Bright Spot in the Citi Credit Card Lineup

Amid all the negative changes, there’s a piece of good news. Rewards earned on the Double Cash card now transfer to ThankYou points on a 1:1 basis ($1 in cashback translates to 100 ThankYou points). This is a potentially lucrative offer, given that the Double Cash card earns 1% when you make a purchase and an additional 1% when you pay for it.

To get the maximum value out of this situation, first, transfer your cashback to ThankYou points. If you hold the Premier or Prestige card, you can then transfer your points into miles on 14 airlines: Singapore Airlines, EVA Air, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines and Avianca LifeMiles (all Star Alliance); Air France/KLM in Skyteam; four unaffiliated carriers (JetBlue, JetPrivilege, Virgin Atlantic and Ethiad).

Depending on your priorities, this benefit should take some of the sting out of Citi’s canceled travel and consumer protections.

Bottom Line: Everyone gets credit cards for different reasons. If your primary goal is the accumulation of points and miles, the new perk of the Double Cash card should work to your advantage. If you relied to any extent on those lost benefits, though, you may want to reassess your strategy.

Source: frugal travel guy

American Express Overhauls Benefits for Delta Cards

The competition among banks in the points and miles space continues to intensify, which is a boon for consumers. For banks, the challenge is simple: How do you appear to constantly rachet up rewards, benefits and signup bonuses without giving away the store? The answer appears to lie in creating a set of complex and nuanced changes, which have positive effects for cardholders without destroying the bottom line.

American Express is introducing sweeping changes in benefits for its exclusive line of co-branded Delta cards. If you’re an existing cardholder, there’s no need to do anything: these changes will officially take place on January 30, 2020. If you’re thinking about applying for any of the cards, there are limited-time offers in place until September 30 (more on this in a moment).

Here’s how the personal cards are affected:

Delta SkyMiles Blue: No changes.

Delta SkyMiles Gold: Positive: double miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (currently one mile per dollar); $100 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 in a calendar year. Negative: annual fee goes from $95 to $99; discounted Sky Club access goes away (currently $29); loss of MQD waiver (Medallion Qualification Dollars), making it harder to earn elite status.

Delta SkyMiles Platinum: Positive: triple miles on Delta purchases (currently double), and double miles at hotels, restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (currently one mile per dollar); credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee. Negative: annual fee goes from $195 to $250; Sky Club access goes from $29 to $39; cardholders still receive 10,000 MQMs after $25,000 and $50,000 in calendar-year spending, but the regular bonus miles are going away.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve: Positive: triple miles on Delta purchases (currently double); two one-time guest passes to Sky Club, on top of existing individual membership; access to Centurion lounges when flying on same-day Delta ticket purchased on the card; Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit; access to upgrades for non-Medallions; additional 15,000 MQMs after spending $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year. Negative: annual fee goes from $450 to $550; Sky Priority security access goes away; you still earn 15,000 MQMs for spending $30,000 and $60,000 in a calendar year, but the regular bonus miles go away.

What does it all mean? On the Gold and Platinum levels, the big news is the increased earning rates, since folks who hold those cards are likely to use them for everyday spending. The annual fee increase for Gold is negligible, but the Platinum hike from $195 to $250 might make some people stop and think. If you hold the gold card and relied on it to help you reach elite status, the loss of the MQD waiver is definitely a blow.

For the Delta Reserve, the increased earning on Delta purchases won’t move the needle for most, but the biggest perk is the increased ability for big spenders to earn MQMs—and thus enhance their elite status. Access to the Centurion lounges is a very nice benefit; however, those lounges already tend to be overcrowded, so holders of the Amex Platinum and Centurion cards aren’t likely to be thrilled. Is it worth the extra $100? If you’re cold-blooded and do the math, maybe not.

Between now and September 30, American Express is offering incentives for new applicants:

  • Gold: 70,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 in the first three months; $50 statement credit after using the card to make a Delta purchase in the first three months.
  • Platinum: 80,000 bonus miles and 5,000 MQMs after spending $6,000 in the first three months; $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase with the card in the first three months.
  • Reserve: 80,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $6,000 in the first three months.

If you’ve tried to redeem miles for a Delta flight recently, all these mileage incentives might not strike you as too enticing. However, don’t forget that Delta is a member of the Skyteam alliance, so you have the ability to use your miles on 18 partner airlines including Air France/KLM, Aeromexico, Garuda Indonesia, Korean Air, and others.

Bottom Line: Those who use the Gold card for everyday spending come out ahead; it’s harder to obtain elite status with the card, but you receive many of the benefits anyway (priority boarding and first checked bag free). The Platinum card increases by $55, which may be offset by the enhanced earning rates and other benefits such as the companion certificate. Big spenders get the most out of the Reserve card changes, and they also receive access to the American Express Centurion lounges.

Source: frugal travel guy

Why Travel Around the World? 5 Reasons to Spend a Year or More on the Road

Buddhist stupa in Patan Nepal

  Back in 2003, the first year this blog existed, I wrote a lengthy (for the blogging standards of the time) called “Why Travel Around the World?” Back then it was kind of a radical question. This was long before the 4-hour Work Week book, before the terms “location independent” and “digital nomads” had entered […]

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Source: Cheapest Destinations

United Revamps Status Qualification, Increases Spend Requirement, American and Delta next?

United makes the first move, revamping how its flyers qualify for status. Come check it out because you fly United or are nervous your airline is going to follow suit.

The post United Revamps Status Qualification, Increases Spend Requirement, American and Delta next? appeared first on Andy's Travel Blog.

Source: Andys travel blog