What I learned helping a friend get to Japan (pt 2, Booking)

In just over a year's time, Jim had 60,000 points – enough to fly ANA even during high season. The second half of the story is how to cleverly spend them…
Booking Booking reward flights can be a bit tricky – award seats are generally added to an airline's inventory either: 11-ish months out or at the last minute if a flight isn't selling well. That means the points game is best when you plan really far in advance or completely last-minute.

In Jim's case, doing the spontaneous thing isn't going to work for him. He wants to go in spring of 2020 during cherry blossom season. There won't be many last-minute bargains or empty award seats during such a peak travel time. Once those award seats are added to the airline booking system, every day of delay means more of the seats have been snatched up by other travelers and your options start to dwindle.
TIP: Some airlines put restrictions on new accounts, so don't wait until the last minute to create your acc…

Amex invalidating bonuses from self-referrals

Given that mainstream travel bloggers like The Points Guy are indirectly employed by the credit card industry, it's not surprising that I've not seen any of them reporting on this development.

The short backstory is that you can actually use your Amex Refer-A-Friend link to refer yourself to a new type of Amex card (e.g., you have a link from your existing Platinum card and then use it to refer yourself to an Amex Gold). It always seemed a little strange to me to do so, but plenty of people have done it.

Today, without any warning, Amex began deleting those referral bonuses (this process is often referred to as a "clawback"). In several cases, people have lost over 100,000 points. Folks in Reddit's Churning forum were the first to report on it, you can read the full details over there. DoctorOfCredit (one of the few bloggers who isn't indirectly employed by the credit card industry) has a summary here.

ANA announces new First and Business Class, deisgned by Kengo Kuma!

ANA announced that they're refreshing the cabin in interiors on many of their 777 planes. These are their long-haul workhorses, so hopefully the North American runs will see these beauties sooner rather than later!

Check out the video here:

The full story is on One Mile At A Time.
Our trip report from the current ANA First is here.

Great new Amex offer for NYC Subway riders

New York City transit has been putting off a upgrading to a modern farecard for so long it's become a joke. In May, though, the first signs of of a new system – called OMNY – appeared on the 4/5/6 line between downtown and Grand Central. Though this seems like a small trial, keep in mind this subway line carries more people per day than the entire Chicago El, San Franciso's BART, and the Boston T combined.

At this point, the new card readers are only being used for cash fares (i.e., you cannot load a monthly pass onto your phone), but if you want to give it a try, this Amex offer will give you 4 bonus points per dollar spent on OMNY – putting it ahead of the Chase Sapphire Reserve's 3.

The OMNY gates work several ways:
directly with your physical card, if it has the little Wi-Fi-like tap card symbol on it traditional ApplePay (i.e., authenticate on your phone or watch, then tap the reader)Suica-style instant pay (i.e., you just tap your phone on the reader, no authenticati…

Time to get rid of my Amex Platinum

I've been on the fence for a while now, but the latest round of American Express feature cuts is the nail in the coffin of the Platinum card for me.
In April, they got rid of the Boingo Wi-Fi benefitThen, in May, they announced the end of the Priority Pass restaurant benefitNow they're taking it from "hard" to "next-to-impossible" to use the airline fee credit option That last one is the straw that broke this camel's back. Those $200 Delta credits were essential in making the math for this card work out. Yes, they're still there, but there's no way I'm going to spend $200 on baggage fees and on-board food/bev in a year. If this credit were across all airlines I could, but they make you choose a single airline in January for the entire year. Their bean counters rely heavily on these flaming hoops so they don't have to pay out for features that they used to sell you the card in the first place.

Yes, I love the 5x on airfare but the Platinu…

Trip Report: China Airlines 777 Taipei to New York in Business Class (TPE - JFK)

A nice SkyTeam alternative to EVA: while the food and amenities weren't quite as good as EVA's, the comfortable cabin temperature and soft lighting meant a much better night's sleep…

PROScabin was at a reasonable temp (below 25C the whole time) espresso (and staff willing to make it for you)reasonably-priced wi-fi CONSsuper crowded loungeno pajamasno air personal vents HOW I DID IT85,000 Delta points + $33 per person, one way
JETLAG MATH Once I did the math and realized that jetlag fasting would require skipping two meals in Taipei (and city meals, not crummy airport ones!) I stopped right there. I’d rather have jetlag when I get home than miss out on any chance to eat more of the city’s amazing food.

That said, the flight leaves at 17:30, which means you’d wake up early the day of the flight and eat “dinner” at 8am, and then fast until the first meal is served on the plane (a.k.a. “breakfast” in the New York time zone).
Airport and Lounge Despite the great airport metr…

Trip Report: Japan Airlines 787 Tokyo Narita to Taipei in Business Class (NRT - TPE)

Just enough time for a full dinner and a couple rounds of mahjong and you're there PROSvast, if a bit crowded, lounge with a full dining setupturn-left boardingwi-fi personal air ventstake-what-you-need amenity basket cuts down on wastesmall cabin feels quiet and privateToto Washlet toilets onboard!  Hakushu whisky!
CONSdeparts when the airport is at its busiest (6pm)no pre-departure beverages
HOW I DID IT14,500 Amex points + $57 for a flight that was retailing for $1900 – not too shabby! Airport and Lounge We took the Keisei Skyliner to Narita (when we arrived in Japan we'd purchased the round-trip + 24-hour Tokyo Metro pass ticket package I talked about in this post). The schlep to Ueno from Ebisu on the Yamanote line was a little irritating with all of our bags, but it wasn't rush hour so it wasn't too bad. And it was definitely better than paying US$250 for a taxi.

For international flights I find it tedious to do online check-in considering that it usually won’…