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My friend was working for a corporation headquartered in Baltimore. In 2012, the company was bought by a competitor based out of Nashville. As a valued upper-level manager, she was given the choice of taking an attractive exit package or relocating to Nashville, with a promise to be promoted to Senior Vice President.
She was going through a divorce at that time, so her choices were a little more challenging than they otherwise may have been. In addition to considering the effect on her career, she had many concerns about how all of these changes would impact her relationship with her 10-year-old son. Coming to grips with joint custody seemed difficult enough. But leaving her hometown, the house that she loved and the complications of motherhood from a distance, brought an entirely new level of complexity to her dilemma.
After weighing the pros and cons of her choices, my friend realized that, if she accepted the promotion, it would catapult her into an income bracket that would allow her to retain her home here in Baltimore, rent an apartment in Nashville, and have the resources to travel back and forth on a regular basis. She wouldn’t have to depend on a dual household income in order to manage her new life. Being a strong, independent woman and mother was really important to her.
The decisions she made during those difficult times paid off professionally. By the next year, she was promoted to President of the company’s subsidiary office in Chicago. She sailed right through another relocation ordeal. And, thanks to her Southwest Rapid Rewards® miles, she was able to master a travel plan that permitted her to be with her son every weekend.
I was more than impressed with her ability to juggle all of the craziness in her life, and still seem so composed and energized. When I asked her how her son was holding up with all of the changes and travel, she confessed that much of her success with making everything work is, in large part, due to the benefits of her participation in the Rapid Rewards program. With all of the flights that she’s required to take for her job, she’s racking up miles from her reimbursable business expenses and using those points to commute back and forth from Chicago to Baltimore so she can be with her son as often as possible. It seems as though her son has enjoyed being an airline commuter kid as well.
It’s a pretty sweet deal when the company authorizes her to book Business Select® tickets. She gets to enjoy perks like no penalty flight cancellation refunds, priority boarding, and extra points. With her insane schedule, it’s amazing just how valuable these extras can be when trying to get a last-minute email sent or when she needs to change plans at a moment’s notice.
When my friend books flights for personal travel, she looks for the best possible rate. Needless to say, Southwest’s Wanna Get Away?® tickets are substantially less than their Business Select® fares. However, the bonus points earned with Wanna Get Away?® purchases are 6 points for every dollar spent vs. 12 points earned for every dollar spent with the purchase of Business Select® ticket.
Southwest Rapid Rewards loyalty program also has a tiered status structure. And thanks to her combined personal and business travel, my friend quickly moved up from Southwest’s A-List tier, which requires buying 25 qualifying one-way tickets annually, to Southwest’s A-List Preferred status, which requires 50 qualifying one-way flights. She also comfortably satisfied the requirements for Southwest’s Companion Pass by flying a minimum of 100 one-way flights or earning 110,000 points in a calendar year. That’s a lot of time in the air, so every opportunity my friend can find to make her travel easier and more comfortable is greatly appreciated.
Here are some of the benefits that each Southwest Rapid Reward’s membership tier offers:
- Priority Boarding
- Priority Check-in & Security Lane Access
- Standby Priority
- 25% Earning Bonus
A-List Preferred status:
- All of the benefits above plus:
- Free In-flight WiFi
- 100% Earning Bonus instead of just 25%
Companion Pass status:
- Allows one designated person travel with you free for one year
Needless to say, she listed her son as her designated companion. It’s a perfect benefit for them.
My friend also discovered a few other goodies to enjoy by expanding her membership to include Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Shopping & Rapid Rewards Dining programs. Before she makes an online purchase, she checks the Southwest site to see if she can purchase it there from one of the Southwest partners. If so, she can earn even more points and get products at great prices. If she dines at any participating Rapid Rewards partner, she can earn 3 points for every dollar spent, plus more bonus points if she submits a review of the establishment. With all of her travel, she probably makes out like a bandit.
It comes as no surprise that Point Savvy has become a part of the way I think about everything. Her Southwest Airline relationship was well thought out and a perfect fit for most of her travel. However, I was curious about how she found time to wind down and take some time for herself. She said that when she travels for pleasure, she tends to take other airlines because Southwest doesn’t fly to many destinations that she would like to visit. American Airlines was another favorite of hers. Of course, my head was working a mile a minute trying to match her lifestyle with other programs and cards that would yield her an even nicer return on her spending.
When my friend revealed that she loved going to Dallas and Miami on weekends when she was not with her son, and that American Airlines was one of her favorites, I immediately thought of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® Credit Card. I use this card myself, so I was quite familiar with its benefits. I’m confident that it would make a sweet addition to my friends’ “financial tools” collection. And here are some of the reasons why:
- Earn 30,000 American Airline AAdvantage bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
- Group 1 Boarding on American Airlines flights
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
- Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights
- Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases
- Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back – up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year
One of the perks of the card is that you earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back – up to 10,000 miles each calendar year. There’s no cap on the miles you can earn and the bonus miles can be redeemed for a domestic round-trip MileSAAver® award. But, watch out for foreign transaction fees. You may want to use another card when traveling abroad.
With this insane amount of activity, putting one’s head down at night has got to be a real treat.
Hilton HHonorsTM Card from American Express
When this non-stop girl isn’t traveling on business or to her home in Baltimore, she’s going somewhere to get away from it all. She said that her favorite hotel is Hilton Hotels and Resorts, not only when she travels for business, but for vacations as well.
She carries the Hiltons HHonors Card from American Express, and received 40,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points when she signed up for the card. She also maximizes her benefits by getting 7 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged at a hotel within the Hilton HHonors portfolio of brands. In addition, she earns 5 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points for every dollar spent at US restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, and 3 Bonus Points for all other purchases on her card. That’s a whole lotta Hilton HHonors points.
She never fails to reach HHonors Gold status by spending at least $20,000 in a calendar year. With Gold status, you can enjoy a 25% bonus on HHonors Base Points earned from Hilton HHonors, room upgrades at participating hotels and resorts (when available) and in-room, high-speed Wi-Fi at select properties.
She is one smart cookie, not only in the office but in her personal life, too. She knows how to make the most out of a difficult situation. Some folks used to say that it’s like turning lemons into lemonade.
Being loyal to your brands reaps more benefits than any other strategy. Her loyalty to Southwest and Hilton Hotels is real proof of that theory.
I don’t know when we’ll run into each other again, but I hope it’s at the Admirals Club at one of American Airlines’ hubs, where we can share a complimentary drink together.