T-Mobile vs. Google Fi, and how to use Google Fi on an iPhone

Hello from Barcelona, where I am currently on the 3rd leg of my around-the-world trip [partially with Daniel]! 😀 I was inspired to write this post based on a recent Doctor of Credit post on Google Fi, and thought I’d throw in my two cents based on my experiences (and of course, my referral link too). I work remotely, which gives me the awesome flexibility to travel, as long as I have access to the internet during my shift. Therefore, in-flight wifi and international cellular data is key for my job.

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Check out my talk at Travel Tech Con’s SF Ignite Meetup

The challenge (from Dawn): 20 slides, auto-advancing every 15 seconds.

Starts at around 2:42:00. Sorry I can’t link directly to that point in time!

Here’s the slide deck, because you can’t actually see it in a lot of the video:

Trip Report: Complimentary Total Rewards Atlantis Bahamas Trip

Introduction

In May 2016, I signed up for Founderscard and detailed my experience here. One of the benefits of Founderscard is Total Rewards Diamond status, which is useful for people who go to Vegas and Atlantic City. I enjoyed the benefits of TR Diamond in my last 2 trips to Vegas since receiving the status, and recently booked my free 4 night stay at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. I had first heard about this benefit via TPG’s post, and originally people were skeptical about it and thought there would be some gambling requirement, etc. I thought I would write a post today for anyone who is planning to go. For the current benefit, the trip must be booked before Jan 31, 2017, with travel before the end of Feb.

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Musings on Premium Economy

Lately, cash prices to fly economy have gotten so cheap for international flights that points bookings are a terrible value proposition. At the same time, airlines are selling more and more business class seats at reduced cash rates relative to a few years ago, meaning award availability is more difficult on the routes that I want to fly. The options for someone loathe to pay cash for flights (and who mostly has fixed dates and locations in mind), therefore, have gotten fairly slim.

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There and Back Again (and again, and again, and again, and again)

Last year was something of a turning point for me in terms of my travel habits. Whereas two years ago I let my travel be largely dictated by mistake fares and other sales, this past year I had a very explicit list of places I wanted to go, and I used my miles and ‘hacking’ in order to reduce the cost as much as possible (and/or fly in premium cabins).

It’s pretty evident why this would be the case for someone. Once you have built up miles and points balances through credit card signups and manufactured spending, means are less of a bottleneck. Traditional award charts offer fixed miles prices for flights irrespective of the cash price, which means that (assuming you can find availability), a $500 flight to a random U.S. city near a national park costs you the same as a $200 ticket between two major domestic hubs. For premium cabins, the value proposition can be even greater, because the miles prices are typically marked up 50-150% relative to coach, whereas cash prices can differ by up to a factor of ten.

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My Experience Booking a Delta Skybonus Award

2017 has only just begun, but I feel like I’ve said the phrase, “Wow, this game has changed” more times in the last two weeks than all of last year. This, despite all of the ‘deaths’ and devaluations that made 2016 a pretty bad year to be a travel hacker.

One thing that remained relatively unchanged last year was Delta’s Skybonus program.  Skybonus is a rewards program for businesses as an incentive for them booking flights for their employees. Like AA’s equivalent, Business Extra (United’s is explicitly limited to corporations/large companies), rewards are earned as multipliers on ticket price, with higher multiples for higher fare classes.

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2016 Status Roundup: What I’ve Earned, and What I’ve Learned

At the beginning of the year, I did a reflection on 2015 and made some projections about what statuses I had earned, whether they’d be useful, and if I’d aim to re-qualify for them by the end of the year:

Elite Status Roundup: What I’ve earned, and what I’ve learned

Which of my predictions reached fruition?

I certainly reaped the benefits of Alaska status, whether they be the extra ~50,000 redeemable miles I earned, the Premium Economy seats on my upcoming AA flight to Madrid or the occasional exit row seat on Delta that isn’t considered part of its Economy Comfort offering. I also got upgraded a few times on Alaska metal itself, which, while nice, was nothing mind blowing. I still consider it an auxiliary benefit more than anything, although it might be more valuable now that Virgin America’s SFO-JFK route will be owned by Alaska. We’ll see when the upgrade policies coallesce.

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The Next Level of Manufactured Spending

I’m back! Well, sort of. Like Michael, I have a little more time around the holidays to write, so I’ll been getting my pen out and cranking out some posts. It’s also a welcome distraction from all the news that routinely induces aneurysms, although I don’t have much choice but to keep on keepin’ on and fighting the good fight.

Over this year, my involvement in travel hacking transitioned from raw churning (credit card sign-ups to receive the bonuses) to generating large stashes of miles and points by manufactured spending (buying cash equivalents like gift cards and selling them or otherwise converting them to cash). This was rooted largely in pragmatism. Going into this year, I had exhausted a lot of the low-hanging fruit in terms of credit card signups, and moreover, banks weren’t taking too kindly to all my new accounts and credit inquiries (I wouldn’t if I were them, either).

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Some useful roadside assistance cards for top credit cards

Many of the top of the line credit cards from the various issuers offer various roadside assistance benefits for free. Benefits include towing assistance, jumping a dead battery, bringing you emergency gasoline, and more.

Cards that include these benefits include the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards, the Citi Prestige, and the Amex Platinum/Premier Rewards Gold card. But how are you supposed to remember what your benefits are when you’re already in an emergency situation, and may not have internet access or need assistance quickly?

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Alaska is already matching Virgin America status

As you all know, the Alaska Airlines / Virgin America merger was finally approved recently. Alaska is taking more steps to merge the two airlines, and part of that process is a merger of the two frequent flier programs.

Many people got the following email stating that their Virgin America Elevate accounts and Mileage Plan accounts would be merged on January 9.

Dear Michael,

We have some exciting news about Virgin America’s integration with Alaska Airlines. Starting today, Elevate members can now earn points when flying on Alaska Airlines.

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