Rumor: Southwest Airlines Coming to Hawaii? Get Your Companion Pass Ready!

UPDATE: Richard Kerr from Award Travel 101 has received word from a Southwest Airlines employee that the first routes to Hawaii will launch in early 2018. The first routes will include Oakland (OAK), San Diego (SAN), and Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL). San Jose (SJC) is also a possibility.

Hopefully, we'll get the official word Wednesday!

For years, rumors have circulated about Southwest Airlines finally starting flights to Hawaii. Those rumors just got a jolt of life today when Beat of Hawaii reported that Southwest would be participating in the Hawaii Global Tourism Summit.

The expectation is that Southwest will make an announcement on Wednesday of this week that they will begin flights between California and Hawaii in 2018. This would be HUGE news for Hawaii, anyone who visits Hawaii regularly, or those who have always dreamed of an island vacation.

I can only imagine that this is Southwest's move to compete with Alaska Airlines which has acquired Virgin America and already flies to Hawaii but is now stepping up the competition in California.

This exciting news could make the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass even more valuable. If you use the Companion Pass for 2-for-1 flights - either award tickets or cash tickets - this news is HUGE.

For those new to the Southwest Companion Pass... once you earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points, you automatically receive the Companion Pass. There are some restrictions as to which points count toward it but the easiest way to earn qualifying Rapid Rewards is paid flights and, even better, using one of the three co-branded Southwest cards provided by Chase:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Thanks to the sign-up bonuses provided by these cards, you can easily reach the required 110,000 points with little more than getting 2 of these cards and hitting the minimum spend required for the bonus.

Once you have earned the required points, you can designate a companion who can then fly with you for only the cost of the taxes and fees of their ticket. That's right, you book your flight with points or cash, they get to tag along with you for next to nothing!

Now, you can see why Southwest starting flights to Hawaii is such a big deal!

What do potential Southwest flights to Hawaii mean for you?

Check out 10xTravel's guide to the Companion Pass if you'd like more info.

Photo by louis magnotti on Unsplash

$200 All-Inclusive Trip To Italy For 50 Lucky People with the Pasta Passport

Perhaps the most amusing promotion I've seen in awhile, Olive Garden is upping the stakes to their Pasta Pass promo.

On September 14 (TODAY!) at 2pm ET, they are offering 22,000 Pasta Passes which provides eight weeks of unlimited pasta, sauces, and toppings and all the soup, salad, and breadsticks you can eat. Total cost is $100 + tax.

Honestly, this doesn't do much for me. But, here's the fun part...

A $200 all-inclusive trip to Italy with the Olive Garden Pasta Passport could be fun.

They are offering 50 Pasta Passports to Italy for $200 + tax. This pass gets you an eight day and seven night trip to Italy from April 7 to 14, 2018 and it includes:

  • Airfare
  • Hotel
  • Meals
  • Ground Transportation
  • Daily Activities

Even better, you can bring a guest! That's 2 all-inclusive spots on a trip to Italy.

At 2pm ET sharp, the buy buttons will go live. If you can somehow be one of the fastest 50 people to click, you will have 8 minutes to complete the purchase. If you don't complete the purchase in time, someone from the "virtual waiting room" will get your spot.

Expect this to sell out in a matter of... let's say 0.6 seconds. So, get your clicking finger warmed up and ready to go! Best of luck to all who give this a try.

Oh, the Pasta Passport also includes the Pasta Pass, but meh. Go eat real Italian food in Italy!

Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

BREAKING: Huge Equifax Data Breach

This is a developing story that CNN reported less than an hour ago, but here's what you need to know right now.

Equifax is one of the three credit bureaus that provide credit reports and credit scores. For those who utilize credit cards, this is of particular concern since Equifax has a lot of our personal information.

This massive hack has exposed the personal info of over 140 million people in the United States. Equifax says that roughly 209,000 credit card numbers were exposed in addition to 182,000 customers dealing with credit report disputes.

This personal information includes names, social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and even driver's license numbers.

Equifax has said that there is "no evidence of unauthorized access to core consumer or commercial reporting databases."

To see if you have been impacted by the breach you can sign-up for complimentary credit monitoring and identity theft protection called TrustedID Premier which is provided by Equifax. With this, you'll receive free access to your Equifax credit report, credit file monitoring for all 3 credit bureaus - Experian and TransUnion are the other two, Equifax credit report lock if you choose, social security number monitoring, and identity theft insurance.

Check out Equifax for the latest updates and to sign up for TrustedID Premier.

If your credit card number or credit report disputes were impacted by the breach, Equifax will be sending you a notice in the mail.

For now, keep an eye on your credit report. You might be impacted by this breach and not even realize that you are in Equifax's system.

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

Alaska Airlines Partnership With Aeromexico

We've seen a lot of changes in Alaska Airlines partnerships with North American carriers in 2017. They ended their partnership with Delta in early 2017 and have already announced a devaluation of their partnership with American Airlines starting January 1, 2018.

Now, we can add Aeromexico to that list as this partnership will also cease to exist on January 1, 2018. If you've already booked flights on Aeromexico for 2018 and plan on crediting the miles you'd earn to Alaska Airlines, these tickets will be honored. However, from today (September 6) going forward, Aeromexico flights booked for 2018 will not earn Alaska miles.

It sucks seeing airlines discontinue partnerships as it removes an opportunity to earn your desired miles when flying. This is particularly disappointing with Alaska Airlines as they have some great partnerships and some of the better award redemption rates in the industry.

That being said, I'm not entirely surprised by the developments this year.

Delta is clearly trying to compete with Alaska Airlines in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, so we can't be surprised that relationship fell apart.

The change to the American Airlines partnership could also be expected as they overlap on too many routes out of Seattle. In fact, the devaluation of the partnership hits residents in the Pacific Northwest and California the hardest. With Alaska's acquisition of Virgin America, they hope to blunt the impact of this change for its Mileage Plan members.

The end of the Aeromexico relationship isn't that surprising either as Alaska with its acquired Virgin American routes has more options to Mexico now. On Aeromexico's side, they entered into a joint venture with Delta this year and I can't imagine Delta wants them partnering with an airline they are going after themselves.

In the end, none of the changes are surprising. However, I know it will be disappointing for those affected the most as many preferred crediting their flights to Alaska Airlines as it is one of the last domestic carriers that seems to treat its loyalty programs well - they're not perfect, but they're better.

Let me know in the comments if this change affects you.

Earn Miles on Your Mortgage with Plastiq Promo

Plastiq is a bill-pay service that allows you to pay bills that would otherwise not accept a credit card for payment. Thanks to this service, you can earn miles and points on pretty much any payment you have to make.

The downside is that they charge a 2.5% processing fee, but they occasionally run promos that reduce this fee. Today, they launched a promo for mortgage payments that could reduce the fee to 1.5% if you schedule 3 mortgage payments and pay with a MasterCard.

These are the details from Plastiq:

  • Schedule 3 or more monthly mortgage payments by checking the box next to recurring.
  • Use a Mastercard.
  • Set up the first 3 payments so they are set to process between September 5, 2017 and December 31, 2017 11:59 p.m. EDT.
  • Look for a notification of eligibility on the payment review screen.

This is a great promo as points including Chase Ultimate Rewards, SPG Starponts, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Points can be worth enough to outweigh the fee. This is not always the case so consider how you would use your points before making a decision.

When the fee is 2.5%, it often outweighs the value of the points you would earn - there are some exceptions to this, but we'll discuss that another time - unless you are trying to hit the minimum spend requirement to earn a sign-up bonus. If this is the case, it can be tremendously useful.

To top it off, if you sign up for Plastiq with a referral (this is mine!), you will receive 1,000 fee-free dollars (FFD) once you spend $1,000 via Plastiq. What does this mean exactly? Well, once you have earned your 1,000 FFD bonus, the next $1,000 you spend via Plastiq won't have any fees attached to it.

Personally, I have used Plastiq with my Citi Access More MasterCard - no longer available for application, but you can product change to it from another Citi card - when it was earning 3X points per dollar on my rent payments. Now, the best option for me might be my Blue Business Plus Card from American Express as it earns 2X points per dollar on all purchases (up to $50,000 per calendar year)

Since I can redeem these points for far more than the processing fee, even at 2.5%, this is a decent option for me to earn easy points. I guess if I'm going to pay Washington, DC rent prices, I should really get something out of it!

Since you want to be smart about how you use Plastiq and only use it when it's a net-positive for you, let's get straight to the points. The best ways to use Plastiq are as follows:

  • Your first use with a referral during a promotion to hit a minimum spend to earn a sign-up bonus
  • During a promo to hit a minimum spend
  • To hit a minimum spend
  • During a promo to earn valuable miles and points

While using Plastiq won't always be the right move for you, it can really help you earn enough points for your next big redemption.

If you have any questions about how to get the most out of Plastiq, comment below or email me.

For my friends in Europe, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and otherwise... unfortunately, Plastiq is not supported outside the U.S. and Canada.

Amazing Business Class Deal: $795 Europe to San Francisco

This is particularly useful for those in the UK and Europe, but could be very useful to those in the US too. We're seeing business class flights on Star Alliance partners as low as $795 from Nice to San Francisco and flights from Munich at less than $875.

If you are looking for a flight from Europe to the states, this might be just what you want. I've seen travel dates as early as September 2017 and as late as April 2018. I'm even seeing flights from Munich right after Oktoberfest for those will be visiting for the festivities.

There are flights available on Swiss Air, Lufthansa, United, Air Canada, and more. If you can find flights on Swiss Air or Austrian Airlines, I'd strongly suggest you book with them. Swiss has a solid business class seat and Austrian Airlines has amazing catering from DO&CO.

To give yourself the best chance of the ticket being honored by the airline, book directly with the airline if at all possible. Remember the crazy ANA business class deal? Booking with the airline was the key to getting these tickets honored.

Now, go have some fun booking one of these!

Cathay Pacific Adds New Routes to Europe

Cathay Pacific recently teased their launch of three new long-haul routes. Well, they have now announced their destinations and they're all in Europe. Sad for me, but great news for my friends across the pond!

The three new routes will operate between Hong Kong (HKG) and Brussels (BRU), Copenhagen (CPH), and Dublin (DUB) and will be the only non-stop flights on these routes. They will use new Airbus A350s on these routes. These aircraft have economy, premium economy, and business cabins but do not have a first class cabin.

Cathay Pacific already operates between Dusseldorf (DUS), Frankfurt (FRA), Madrid (MAD), Paris (CDG), Rome (FCO), Zurich (ZRH), and a seasonal route to Barcelona (BCN). It's always great to see airlines add routes and these new additions will only make it easier to travel between Europe and Asia.

For those flying from Hong Kong, you'll have the added benefit of not being hit with carrier-imposed surcharges as Hong Kong does not allow airlines to add these sometimes egregious fees to tickets. This is important for cash tickets as well as many award bookings.

New Route Schedules

These new routes will not be operated daily but, as you can see below, they will regularly operate three or four days per week depending on destination.

Hong Kong-Brussels

Hong Kong-Copenhagen (Seasonal)

Hong Kong-Dublin

With so many short flights from the UK and other European cities to Brussels, Dublin, and Copenhagen, this will hopefully give travelers more award flight options departing from Europe.

Now, I'll just sit here and hope that Cathay Pacific launches some more routes to the US. I'm thinking Washington, DC would be a fun place to start.

Book with Miles and Points

These new routes are already bookable with miles and points and you have a couple of solid options for booking.

If you have SPG Starpoints thanks to hotel stays or one of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards from American Express, your best option by far is to transfer them to Japan Airlines Mileage Bank or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. You can use 80,000 Japan Airlines miles to book a round-trip business class award from either Brussels or Copenhagen while round-trip in business class from Dublin will cost 85,000 miles.

Even better, when you transfer blocks of 20,000 SPG Starpoints, you'll receive a 5,000-mile bonus. This means you can transfer 65,000 SPG points and receive 80,000 Japan Airlines miles for the Brussels and Copenhagen routes or 70,000 SPG points to fly from Dublin.

Alaska Airlines will charge your 85,000 miles roundtrip in business class on each route. For many, it will be easier to earn these miles as Bank of America provides business and personal co-branded credit cards which can be topped off by transferring SPG Starpoints.

If you don't have SPG Starpoints or Alaska miles, your next best option will be using the American Airlines AAdvantage program. The mileage cost from all three cities will be 150,000 American miles for a round-trip (75,000 for a one-way) award ticket in business class.

Final Thoughts

I love seeing airlines expand to new markets. Just living close to a new route can make it easier for you to find award space or better cash fares if you can find a cheap positioning flight to get you there.

*Featured image courtesy of Australian Business Traveller

Chase Sapphire Cards: New Restriction Confirmed

Rumor confirmed: Doctor Of Credit received a copy of the memo showing the new restriction. You cannot receive the bonus on a Chase Sapphire Card if you have received a bonus on any Chase Sapphire card in the last 24 months.

This morning on Reddit, a user shared their experience applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card yesterday (August 27, 2017). They indicated that they already had the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and had only opened 3 cards in the last 24 months so the application was not impacted by the Chase 5/24 Rule.

5/24 Rule: If you have opened a total of 5+ personal credit cards (and Capital One business cards) in the 24 months with any bank, Chase won't approve you for some of its products.

The applicant was not initially approved but called Chase to see if they could move some credit from another card so they could open the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The Chase representative did so and thought everything was fine until the system rejected it. She then told the applicant that as of August 27, 2017, Chase has instituted a new rule:

If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card open, you cannot open the other.

The Chase representative indicated that this was an automatic denial by their system that she couldn't override, but would see if there is anything she could do since the initial application was submitted prior to the rule change.

Since the original post, another Reddit user has commented that they experienced the same thing when they applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card today.

I'd like to see more data points on this one before jumping to conclusions but, if this is true, it's just another restriction from Chase to make it harder to open their cards that earn valuable Ultimate Rewards cards.

You might wonder why a person would want both of these Chase cards. Well, if you want to add authorized users to a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can do so for free. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, it costs $75 per authorized user. If you want family members to help you earn points for a family vacation, it's much cheaper to add authorized users to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

So, what does this all mean?

I'd hate to see Chase make it even more difficult to earn Ultimate Rewards. They're a great way to earn award flights and award stays at some awesome Hyatt properties.

At this point, it's too early to tell. It's not uncommon for customer service representatives to be misinformed. However, with the direction that Chase has been moving the last couple of years, I wouldn't be surprised to see this.

When you consider the fact that those who applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve when it launched last year are just now seeing their annual fees hit, I wouldn't be surprised if Chase is trying to lock people into that card.

If you hear any new information on this, please let me know in the comments.

*Featured image courtesy of Associated Press

Crazy Fare Deal: $197 San Francisco to Europe, More City Pairs Available

This morning, Fly4Free shared a deal to fly economy class from Europe to many cities in the US, Canada, and the Caribbean for as low as $135. There are some clever ways to utilize this deal which we will discuss later but, for now, let's look at how you can get to Europe for less than $300 (or even $200).

Air Canada is showing flights from cities including Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Available dates will vary based on city, but I've seen departure dates as early as September 6 and as late as May 2018. This should give you plenty of options based on your schedule.

Remember: You have 24 hours to cancel flights booked from the US and get a full refund, so you can book now and see if you can make the dates work. As always, hold off on booking hotels and making other plans until it's confirmed that the deal will be honored by the airline.

Unlike low-cost carriers such as Wow Air and Norwegian Air - which often run cheap flights like this to Europe - your booking includes a checked bag which makes this even better. However, these economy class fares do not come with a seat assignment immediately.

You can select a seat for around $20-30 if you want to ensure you can sit with a companion or just really want a window or aisle seat. Even selecting a seat, these fares are still great deals.

Here are a couple examples:

$197 - San Francisco to Berlin

$223 - Washington, DC to Oslo

You'll see many suggest searching on Momondo or Priceline and booking through them. However, these fares are very low and there's a chance Air Canada will not honor them. To give yourself the best chance of Air Canada honoring the fare, I strongly suggest booking directly with Air Canada.

As an example, I booked the ANA business class fare deal a couple weeks ago directly through ANA. The fare is being honored so I'm all set to take my trip but those who booked through third party online travel agents (OTAs) such as Expedia, Priceline, etc. did not have their bookings honored.

Save yourself the hassle and book this deal directly with Air Canada.

Now, what bout booking from Europe to the US. You have a few options for doing so...

You could find a good fare on a low-cost carrier (Wow Air or Norwegian Air) to get you to Europe, then use the Air Canada booking to get home. You could choose not to take the return flight back to Europe or schedule the return far enough out that you can take another trip to Europe. To get back to the US (again), you can book another flight on a low-cost carrier.

Alternatively, you could book your initial flight to Europe with miles and do the same on the return to the states after your second trip to Europe.

Using low-cost carriers in addition to this deal, you could potentially get two trips to Europe for under $600! If you choose to combine this deal with award bookings, you could get two trips for less than $300 and some points.

Either way, you're getting a great deal.

Let me know if you book one of these fares! Maybe I'll see you in Europe.