Great Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Deal Through AMEX Membership Rewards

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

Here is a crazy brilliant scheme I came across this morning in the Fatwallet Finance forum. In a thread discussing the best use of AMEX Membership Rewards points, user jairocon posted the following way to use AMEX points for Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credits. Keep in mind that you need 16 Rapid Rewards credits to get a free flight on Southwest.

There is currently a nice transfer for AMEX->southwest:

If you go directly 1.5k AMEX MR = 1 Southwest RR credit
Free Southwest flight = 16 RR credits so you need 24k AMEX MR for 1 free Southwest flight

However, if you have a few weeks time and don’t mind a phone call or two that you’d need to make – there’s a better way:

5k AMEX MR -> 5k Continental OnePass
5k Continental OnePass -> 5k Amtrak GuestRewards (5k is the transfer interval CO allows)
5k Amtrak GuestRewards -> 25k Choice (hotels) Points
25k Choice Points -> 10 Southwest RR credits

If we used 25k AMEX MR – you’d get 50 Southwest RR credits! That’s 3 free flight tickets!

– You can only transfer out 25k Amtrak Guest Rewards/calendar year
– Transfers might take a while
– Transfer ratios might devalue over time

You can make it even better by transferring 25,000 AMEX points prior to year-end, and then again after January 1. Why? Because another cool feature of the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is that if you earn 100 Rapid Rewards credits over any 12-month period, you are given a companion pass that is good for a year. The companion pass allows you to name a specific individual who is allowed to fly with you on any Southwest flight for a year, even if your ticket is an award ticket. So essentially you get 6 free flights plus the companion pass that can become the same as 6 more free flights.

With two little ones on the way, we probably won’t be traveling much in the coming year, but hopefully someone else out there can use this.


October 26, 2007 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

8 Free Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credits (New Users)

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

Here’s a pretty good promotion for those who haven’t signed up for Southwest Airline’s Rapid Rewards program. Enroll in their program using this link and they give you 8 RR credits to start your account:


Also part of the promotion is they give you double credit for flights into and out of San Francisco (SFO).

The program is pretty simple – you get 1 credit for each one-way flight, and after 16 credits in 24 months you get a free round-trip flight. So with this you are already halfway to a free ticket.

August 22, 2007 Posted by | Deals, Travel | 3 Comments

Get bumped and fly free

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

As I mentioned a few days ago I had to travel for work early last week, and as I waited for my delayed flight at Newark Airport (as if New Jersey wasn’t crappy enough, I had to spend hours in a crappy airport in New Jersey) I noted several flights which were oversold and were requesting volunteers to be bumped to a later flight. The standard seemed to be a $400 travel voucher, hotel accommodations (these were late evening flights), meal vouchers, and a seat on any flight to the destination the following day. Continental seemed very desperate for volunteers for its last flight out to Miami, as they offered a $500 voucher, hotel, meals, and a first class seat on the first flight out the next morning. As the airlines are running at historically high load rates (the last data I saw said the average in July was about 90% of all seats filled), the opportunities for taking a bump are becoming more frequent.

If you are relatively flexible in your travel plans, this can be an easy way to rack up free travel. I did this a while back on a trip back from California where they offered a $500 voucher for volunteers to go on a later flight. I still got back home that night, and have enough for a free flight to visit a buddy in Boston the following summer. One thing worth noting is that these vouchers often have expirations of a year from issuance, so consider whether you’ll actually be able to use the voucher before volunteering.

The flight I had out that evening was also seeking volunteers for bumping, but I decided not to take it since I wouldn’t have a direct flight the next day and I had a mid-morning conference call. Looking back though, I’m wondering whether I should have taken it since we were delayed an extra hour at the gate because Continental loaded cargo first and didn’t leave room for everyone’s baggage, putting me pulling into the driveway in Houston right about 2:15am Central time. If I would have taken the bump I would have missed my call, but then I probably would have been better rested and not come down with a cold, plus I would have had a $400 travel voucher. Oh well…

August 13, 2007 Posted by | Travel | Leave a comment

Off-topic: Cool travel site

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

OK, not really personal finance related, but I thought this site was pretty cool. There’s some other crap there too, but the cool feature is that you can create a customized map showing what states and countries you have visited. Mine is below. The site is http://www.travbuddy.com .

My map here!

June 28, 2007 Posted by | Off Topic, Travel | Leave a comment

Off-topic: My brother-in-law’s travelling issues

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

I posted a little while back about my brother-in-law’s adventures with Northwest Airlines trying to get from Houston to Gatlinburg Tennessee. In summary, he missed his original flight due to unusual traffic backups, a fender-bender in the airport parking garage, a change in gate to a different terminal, and a broken metal detector (none of which were his fault). He retried the trip the next day only to have what was supposed to be a four-hour journey take a 16 hours due to a very small delay in the arrival of his first flight followed by Northwest Airlines gate agents closing the gate for his next flight a full 10 minutes early and numerous other instances of incompetence by Northwest Airlines employees which gave him the run-around (both figuratively and literally) throughout the Memphis airport. As a follow-up to that, on the flight back he lost his trusty Cleveland Indians hat, which had survived (if you can call it that) nine years of use and for whatever reason he absolutely loved. He filed a missing item report (surprisingly the phone representative didn’t laugh at him when he made it) with Continental, which operated the flight he lost it on, and was told he could check the lost and found in Houston in five days for the item. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem Continental has a lost and found, or if they do they didn’t tell the ticketing agent at Houston Intercontinental he talked to this past week, as my brother-in-law received a look that I would imagine most closely resembles that of a monkey doing a math problem.

Anyway, late Saturday night he and a friend were coming back to Houston from Austin on US Hwy 290 when a vehicle came at them at a high rate of speed going the wrong way on the freeway. Luckily the wrong-way vehicle didn’t hit them, but did cause them to crash into the concrete wall of death blocking the median, severely damaging both axles and the undercarriage and rendering the car undrivable. They both walked away from the accident, and the police tracked down the other driver shortly thereafter, still going the wrong way on the freeway, whom they described as a “very confused old man”. It remains to be seen if the other driver even has insurance, and even if he does whether my brother-in-law will get compensation to fix the car (preferable) or if the car will just be totaled out. It is an older vehicle in excellent shape, so the fear is that he couldn’t find anything in as good of condition or as reliable for the book value of the vehicle. He got the car for a steal used a couple of years ago and is very mechanically inclined and has taken great care of it. Perhaps I can talk him into doing his own blog to chronicle his fight on this.

It occurred to me this morning that he is a disastrous train ride and an overly friendly yet sadly lonely fat man away from being Steve Martin’s character in “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. At least we can be thankful that no one was hurt in this.

April 23, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service, Off Topic, Travel | 2 Comments

Northwest Airlines General Incompetence

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

I got this from my brother-in-law (the same one I referenced in my last CVS post) and thought I would share his experience with the world. And just when I thought the US Postal Service had taken the prize for poor customer service and general incompetence, here comes Northwest Airlines to claim this dubious distinction. Here is his tale of a trip this past week from Houston (IAH) to Tri-Cities (Tennessee), which was supposed to be just a simple connection in Memphis:

This is a brief recap of the 16 hour trip.

Basically, northwest selected me to refine their customer disaster plan policies.

I made it to the Houston Airport at 6:00am. The flight from Houston to Memphis was slightly delayed but landed with about 15 minutes until the next flight’s departure to tri cities at 9:15am. It was two terminals over so I ran as fast as could in dress shoes (I now am experiencing shin splints for the first time ever) and made it there 7 minutes before departure. The girls at the counter wouldn’t let me on because they “closed” the flight 10 minutes early. That decision doomed me for the rest of the day. I found it odd that they would do that knowing there was a connecting flight that had just arrived a few minutes earlier. They then made me step aside for the next 20 minutes so they could “finish” something, though they didn’t appear to be doing anything at all. Finally, they re-booked me on a flight that was going through Detroit to tri-cities but was departing in, guess what, 20 minutes and was two terminals over. So yet again, I was running as fast as I could (did I mention shin splints?). Once I go the gate for this flight, it was delayed until 11:30am, so there was no way I was making the connecting flight in Detroit. So the lady at the counter re-re-routed me through Atlanta to tri-cities which was scheduled for 1:40pm. That gave me a little time to eat lunch. I ran into a friend from high school, so we hit up interstate BBQ, which was quite good. After lunch I went to check what gate the flight was leaving from only to sa in big red (I think) letters “Cancelled, See ticketing Agent”. I went to the nearest ticketing counter and the lady there re-re-rerouted me through charlotte scheduled to leave at 2:30pm with the last connecting flight to tri-cities being at 6:14pm. That flight actually boarded and was on the runway accelerating for take-off when the pilot put on the brakes and returned to the terminal for maintenance. That took about an hour and a half, so there was no way I would make the connecting flight. My last option was a 7:30pm flight from Memphis to tri-cities (the same flight the ladies wouldn’t let me on earlier). So I told the ticketing agent that they needed to re-re-re-reroute me on that flight. He kind of mumbled and wasted about 45 minutes saying he was working on getting me on that flight but once 4pm hit, he said that another guy would take care of me and punched out. So the other guy boarded everyone that was still going to charlotte, and when that was done I asked him to put me on the tri-cities flight. He looked at my itinerary for a second, and then (I’m not joking) went and sat down in a chair by the window and started drinking a coke. I asked for his manager and he said one was coming in about 45 minutes. I wasn’t very happy with that and told him to get on the phone and get someone down there immediately. A lady came about 10 minutes later and said started trying to explain the “intricacies” of northwest airlines and how different companies actually ran the planes and there was no way she could put me on that flight… Basically, she was pawning me off to someone else. So I had to go to the gate where the flight was leaving from and talk to the agent there. When I arrived, the agent was there but was “off the clock” and couldn’t help me until 5:15pm (about 45 minutes later). Instead of getting angry, I sat down and played my guitar a little (I had been carrying it the entire day). Once she was officially “on” the clock she looked at my ticket and said she couldn’t help me b/c US Airways had “control” of the ticket. That made absolutely no sense seeing I hadn’t dealt with US Airways the entire trip. So I had to go find the only US Airways counter which was, of course, two terminals over. Once I finally talked to that ticketing agent, she looked at everything and just shook her head. She said there was no reason they couldn’t have helped me as NWA had control of my ticket the entire time. Using my itinerary she managed to print me out a boarding pass and handle everything so that I didn’t have to deal with them anymore. She said my experience was typical with the regional flight workers for northwest. So finally at 6:30pm I had a ticket in hand for the flight. So I went and ate Corky’s BBQ (also quite good) and waited for the flight. A guy who was sitting down had a guitar too and asked if I wanted a seat. I said sure. It turned out, we were on the same flight and we talked guitars and music for over an hour. It was great.

I arrived here last night at about 10:30pm…

So after 16 hours and walking/running for roughly 6 miles, I was happy to finally go to bed. It was a pretty long day.

What makes this all worse is that his experience was after being booked to go the previous day on the same routing only to miss his flight because of a backup coming off the beltway to the airport, a backup getting into the parking garage at the airport, once in the airport some woman backing into his car busting his turn signal and putting a hole in his front bumper, and then his flight being moved from one terminal to another and finding the security line for the other terminal is out the door because one of the metal detectors went down. Just to think he elected to try his trip again the next day rather than to try and be re-routed the day he was originally scheduled because he wanted to avoid this type of disaster.

April 13, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service, Travel | Leave a comment