Reader Question: Should I 0% balance transfer $7700 for $230 just for the miles?

This is another of our Reader Question series of articles.  One of our readers recently asked:

“I received the older version of the US Airways card with 30,000 miles (the current offer is 40,000 mile sign up bonus after spending $1).  As part of that offer they will give me 1 mile/$ transferred up to $10,000.  I have a balance I could transfer for $7700 but they would charge me a 3% fee of $230 to do it.  Is it worth it?”
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Is it safe to fly right now?

With the not too distant disappearance of MH370, the recent shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine, the crash of TransAsia Airways G222 in Taiwan in inclement weather, the FAA banning flights to Tel Aviv after a rocket hits just a mile from the airport and just today Al Algerie flight 5017 crashing, it begs the question Is it safe to fly right now?

Armed pro-Russian separatist stands on part of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk regionI personally have been to both Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur so I feel a little more of a connection to the recent missile attack.  This isn’t the first time the FAA has blocked access to certain country’s airspaces.  In fact, they even have a graphic prepared about the most dangerous places to fly.FAA AirspaceBut as I do with anything when I want to make a decision, I want to look at the numbers: The Wikipedia page for Aviation Incidents and Accidents makes me feel even worse showing 20 major incidents since 1980 with hundreds of lives lost in each one.  Air FatalitiesAck!  I don’t want to be in a plane at all looking at that graph!

But when I look at the total number of Airline Movements for 2007, I see numbers like 76 Million airline movements per year so you do have to put things in perspective.  This quote from that Wikipedia article puts it better than I could summarize:

Per every billion kilometers traveled, trains have a fatality rate 12 times over air travel; by comparison, fatality rates for automobiles are 62 times greater than air travel. By contrast, for every billion journeys, buses are the safest form of transportation. By the last measure, air transportation is three times more dangerous than car transportation, and almost 30 times more dangerous than bus”

So that means on any given trip, it is more dangerous to be in a plane than a car. But when you are deciding between air travel and car travel you have to look at the number of miles you are going because each additional mile in a car increases the danger of an accident.

The best statistic to look at to make you feel better is that your odds of dying in a plane crash are 11 million to one.  The odds of being struck by lightning in any given year is 700,000 to one.Back to the FutureSo if you don’t sit around worrying about dying from 2.31 Gigawatts of electricity, then I wouldn’t think twice about getting onto a plane.   Especially if it is going somewhere fun like Ibiza!  And remember too, that 74.2% of all statistics are made up on the spot! 😉

As always, reply with any questions and follow me on Google+FacebookTwitter and Instagram to make sure you don’t miss any great info!  And don’t forget to share this article with anyone who might be interested using the handy social share buttons right below this post!

11 Must Have Travel Apps

This is another of our Reader Questions series of articles. I’m also including it in our No Credit No Problem series because these can be useful even if you don’t have a credit card yet!

Stacy writes: “I recently received the 40,000 bonus miles from the US Airways card you recommended and am planning a trip to Europe this summer using the bonus! Thanks!  You talk a lot about using your smart phone for different things while you travel.  What are your favorite apps?”

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while because my smartphone (an unlocked 64 GB iPhone 5S) is so important to me when I travel.  I often joke that whenever I start to worry if I have everything before a trip, I say “iPhone, Macbook AIr, Passport.”  As long as I have those three everything else I can buy / replace on the trip.  These are my favorite apps and 9 out of 11 are completely free! (the other two are just $1.99 and $4.99 so they won’t really break the bank.)  These all make my travel experience less frustrating and more rewarding.

1. Awardwallet

Awardwallet keeps track of all of my frequent flyer and loyalty accounts so I always have my number handy (no more of those plastic cards cluttering my wallet!) and keeps track of my balances and when miles are expiring so I can do something about it before they do.  This is the second item in our Getting Started program, and there is a code in that article for a free 6 month upgrade to AwardWallet Plus, so check it out! Seriously.  Get this!
AwardwalletAwardWallet on IOS

AwardWallet on Android

2. GlobeConvertFree

This app converts anything to anything!  I use it most often for currency conversions and it downloads updated currency tables whenever it starts if you have a data connection.  But if not, it uses whatever the last rate you downloaded was.  Useful when you are trying to figure out the price of gas in other parts of the world (Liters what?) or temperature (I’m so American LOL)

GlobeConvertConvert on IOS

I don’t think this is released on Android but if anyone knows a similar one that they have experience with, leave a comment below and I will add it.

3. Google Translate

I use this all, all, all the time.  You do need a data connection, but it is invaluable to me. This app is a front end for the Google Translate web page.  It isn’t perfect, but it is good enough.

TranslateGoogle Translate on IOS

Google Translate on Android

4. World Travel Guide Offline

Probably my most important app when it comes to enjoying my trips.  It has awesome recommendations for every city in the world for places to eat, things to do and see, how to get to the city from the airport and so much more.  And it is all offline and downloaded to your phone so you can access it when you are on a plane or when you don’t have a data connection.  It is an offline version of a lot of the wikitravel site which is awesome. This one is $4.99 but I would pay $49.99 for it!

World Travel GuideWorld Travel Guide on IOS

World Travel Guide on Android

5. Kayak

I use this app most of the time to price out airline tickets that I can’t use miles for but it can be useful for hotels as well.

KayakKayak on IOS

Kayak on Android

6. TripAdvisor

I use this app when I want to look at picturess of a hotel and read reviews before I decide to book (either for paid stays or for miles).

TripadvisorTripAdvisor on iTunes

TripAdvisor on Android

7. Google Maps

I use the built in Apple Maps most of the time since it is more convenient especially with Siri, but for public transportation such as trains, subways, and buses, Google Maps is the king!

Google MapsGoogle Maps on iTunes

Google Maps on Android

8. Waze

You think Google maps is the best until you travel to Central America such as Panama or Costa Rica.  Waze maps are much more accurate in places where Google Maps hasn’t driven their cars around.  And you will really appreciate the crowd sourced traffic routing that it has when you are stuck in the legendary traffic of Panama City!

WazeWaze on iTunes

Waze on Android

9. Uber

Uber is a taxi alternative in major cities around the world and it makes sure you avoid the sometimes horrible experience of hailing a cab in some cities.  No stinky cab drivers talking away on their phone, long hauling you, and talking on their phones here.  Professional drivers with clean cars at similar rates to the taxis is the way to go.  I have a promotional link that will give you $30 in free credit, so click on this link and sign up first then download the app to get free credit

UberUber on iTunes

Uber on Android

10. Skype

This app is so useful not just for video chatting with friends and family, but also for calling your credit cards if there is a problem since toll free calls are completely free even using audio only.Skype

Skype on iTunes

Skype on Android

11. Whatsapp

When you meet people from around the world, whatsapp is how they communicate since you can send messages without paying expensive international SMS and MMS rates no matter what country you are from.  $1.99 but worth it!


Whatsapp on iTunes

Whatsapp on Android


There you have our top 11 smartphone apps that we can’t live without!  Do you have another travel app that you love?  Tell us in the comments below!

As always, reply with any questions and follow me on Google+FacebookTwitter and Instagram to make sure you don’t miss any great info!

Reader Question: How close to my vacation date should I start getting credit cards to earn miles?

Our reader Adam asked on our Easy Quarter Million page “Thanks so much John for compiling this information and putting it together in such a user friendly format. One quick question for you is should I wait to sign up for all of these credit cards until I’m sooner/closer to going traveling? Will these miles expire? If so do they within a year? If I cancel the credit cards do I lose the miles at that time? Let me know ASAP. Thanks again for all the great information.”

These are great questions so I decided to write this article to explain.  I would suggest starting as soon as you can can because the credit card bonus process can take a while to get the miles.

The Credit Card Bonus Process

US Air Bonus Banner
The US Airways card only has a $1 spending requirement!

You are awarded the credit card bonus the first time your statement closes after meeting the spending requirement. This might take longer than you think so here is an example of how the process might go.

  • Day 1: You apply for the card using the TravelWithMiles links to get the best bonus possible.
  • Day 10: If you are instantly approved, you will probably get your new credit card in the mail today. If your application requires additional processing time or credit analyst approval then this day will get delayed until 10 days from approval (unless you call in to expedite things)
  • Day 30-60: Your first statement closing date will be set 30-60 days from approval. Once you receive the card, you can find out your closing date by calling the number on the back of your card, or by looking online after you have registered the card for online access.

If you haven’t met the spending requirement by the first closing date, then you will have to wait until the next closing date (30 days later) to get the miles.  On those high spending requirement cards it might take a little bit to spend enough.  Of course we would recommend you read our article on How to Spend Monday without Spending Money!  If you follow that article, you can meet even the highest spending requirement in only 5 days!

So on average it can take a minimum of 30 days and possibly up to 90 days for you to see the miles post to your account, so it is best to get started right away.  Keep in mind that getting the miles is just one part of the equation and to get award seats a lot of people recommend booking 335 days out when the seats come available.  And that dovetails into his next question.

When will these miles expire? If so do they within a year?

Expiration_DateAirline miles typically expire 18-36 months after they are earned if there is no account activity.  Some programs like Delta Skymiles have no expiration date.  It is easy, however, to ensure you have some account activity.  If you earn even just one mile, your expiration date for all of your miles will be extended another 18-36 months.  You can do this by charging $1 on your cobranded credit card (that will give you 1 mile and reset the clock), by flying, or by online shopping using their shopping portal (a box of paperclips at works quite well).  There are a few exceptions to this guideline (like Aeroplan) so the best way to keep track of by using the free AwardWallet service we recommend on on our Getting Started Page.  It will email you when you are getting close to the expiration time as well as showing all of your accounts on one page for an easy review.

If I cancel the credit cards do I lose the miles at that time?

cancelledIt depends on the type of card.  With cobranded cards (where they are associated with a single airline) such as the Citibank AAdvantage Mastercard with a 50,000 mile bonus, the miles are sent monthly on your closing date directly into your frequent flyer account.  This means that you could cancel the card right when you get the bonus if you wanted and keep the miles.  This usually isn’t the best idea for two reasons. 1) The banks don’t really like it when people show they are obviously just getting the card for the bonus. 2) The cards usually provide some benefits that might come in useful such as a free checked bag or priority boarding.  Since the annual fees are typically waived the first year, it usually makes sense to keep the card so you can enjoy the benefits during the year and then think about canceling the card when the annual fee is coming due after 12 months.

With hybrid cards that award points such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card) or the American Express Membership Rewards cards, the answer is a bit different.  These cards offer the additional flexibility of transferring your points to many different airlines and hotel programs.  This is great because if you you are not seeing availability on United for the award flights you want, then you can check British Airways availability and transfer the points to either one.  In this case, I would keep the card for as long as you can and in my case it is worth paying the annual fee to keep this flexibility.  If you do want to cancel (and you can’t get a good retention offer by calling in and threatening to cancel), then you will need to pick the airline program that you think you will use and transfer all of your points out before you close the card.


Thanks very much for the great questions.  I wanted to do a separate article instead of a quick reply because the answers can be a bit complex and I thought other readers would benefit as well from the information.

As always, feel free to comment with any questions and follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

Reader Question: What is the difference between miles and points?

One of the things that trips up newbies as they go through our Getting Started Guide and our Easy Quarter Million program is that we sometimes use Miles and Points interchangeably.  Why do we sometimes say one and sometimes the other and is there a difference?  To understand, you need to look at the history of the frequent flyer programs.

History of Mileage Programs

Texas InternationalBack in 1979, Texas International Airlines created the first Frequent Flyer program that gave you “miles” for each mile flown and then gave you rewards for the accumulated miles.  Other airlines eventually followed suit with mileage based frequent flyer programs of their own.  So far, so good.  The problem came when hotels wanted to have loyalty programs too.  Miles doesn’t make as much sense when it comes to hotel rooms and while “Nights” would have been easy, it made it hard to offer promotions without strange fractions so they came up with “Points” instead.  Almost all of the hotel programs award points based on dollars spent which makes it fundamentally different than airlines which are independent of price.

Things get more complicated

Chase Ultimate RewardsWhen they started to tie credit cards to award programs, it initially was pretty straightforward.  One mile or point for each dollar became the standard.  But when American Express came out with their Membership Rewards program and then Chase followed with Chase Ultimate Rewards it created a new type of Hybrid program.  If you look at our Top Credit Cards page you will see what I mean. Hybrid programs allow you to redeem your points for cashback, merchandise, or transfer to both airline and hotel programs.  This additional flexibility increases the value substantially.  If you are a few thousand miles short for an award ticket, transfer some points to your airline of choice.  If you have a great fare where you will earn a ton of miles, maybe using the points to pay cash for the ticket makes sense, etc.

Things get even more complicated

Arrival BannerIf that wasn’t enough, some new credit cards have programs that call themselves “miles” programs but really are cashback programs.  For example, the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® gives you two “Miles” for each dollar spent, but those miles can’t be transferred to any airline or hotel program.  Rather they have a fixed redemption value of 1% when you use them for travel expenses.  So this is really a cashback card masquerading as a miles earning card.  But that is why you are reading this blog to make sense of all of this, right?

So what is the value of a point or mile?

I will give you some rules of thumb in a minute, but first want to say that the value can be highly variable depending on how you want to use them.  For example, if you redeem 25,000 American Miles for a flight from Miami to Orlando that would have cost you $119 to buy, you are only getting about 1/2 a cent per mile ($0.005 cents per mile).  If you redeem 100,000 American Miles for a business class ticket to Europe that would have cost you $5,000, you are getting 5 cents per mile ($0.05 cents per mile).  So you can get 10 times the value for your miles if you are smart about it! Whether I would actually ever pay $5,000 for that ticket is something that needs to be considered in determining value but I’m not going to discuss that today.

For some rules of thumb I usually won’t redeem airline miles unless I get at least 2 cents of value on the ticket.  Hotel points are more variable than airline miles, with SPG and Hyatt points being the most valuable at around 1 cent per point (although I have gotten as much as 8 cents per points with SPG before with cash and points bookings) but with other hotel programs you are lucky to get 1 cent per point in value.  Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are the most valuable I would say at a minimum of 2 cents per point since you can transfer them to multiple airlines.


I hope this shows you the difference between miles and points and how the value can vary depending on how you redeem them.  The best way to learn the tricks of how to get the most value is by reading our articles here on Travel With Miles!

As always, feel free to comment with any questions and follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

Reader Question: Best Card for a Balance Transfer?

A reader contacted me recently and said while it is great that I am showing them how to get lots of miles with our Easy Quarter Million program , they had a $3000 balance that had been hanging around for too long making minimum payments!  They wanted to get rid of this balance before they could really focus on getting miles for their dream vacation. They weren’t paying a horrible interest rate, 12.9%, but it could be a lot better!  The $32 in interest that they were paying each month could be going to principal instead!

We have negotiated a special TWM link with Discover It for 0% for 18 months on balance transfers.  You can’t get this offer by going directly to their site.  This is the very best offer on the market right now for balance transfers.

Discover It also has no annual fee which is always important in addition to giving you a free FICO credit score every month right on your statement.  This means you can watch your score go up as you pay down your balance!  There is a 3% transfer fee, but that fee will be added to your balance and from that point on you will pay no interest for 18 months as long as you pay on time. This is great idea for anyone paying on a balance and the transfer will pay for itself quickly depending on your current interest rate. Here is a chart that shows you how quickly you will profit depending on how much your current interest rate is.

Current APR Months before profit after transfer fee
5% 7.2
10% 3.6
15% 2.4
20% 1.8
25% 1.4

So for most people as long as you aren’t going to pay the whole balance in the next 3 months it make sense to go ahead and transfer the balance to a 0% card.

Discover It is also one of the more lenient cards when it comes to past credit history so it makes sense to apply even if your credit isn’t 100% perfect or is still somewhat new.  The amount you save in interest can be a lot! Make sure to use my link to sign up by clicking here or on the banner above because the standard offer at the Discover site is only for 14 months instead of 18.

After you get the balance paid off, Discover It also has a great CashBack program that gives 5% cash back in rotating categories such as gas, home improvements, restaurants, and holiday shopping.  Their ShopDiscover shopping portal is also one of the most generous with 5-20% cash back.  I just used it today for a K-Mart purchase I made to get 10% cash back so it can really add up.

I hope this helps you get your balance paid down so you can focus on earning some miles!