Steals & Deals for Early March, 2015
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STAR ALLIANCE: Easter, Passover, Summer, Europe, Business Class, Some Bargains
With business picking up and airlines cutting down on inventory across the Atlantic, the Easter/Passover and Summer business-class sales to Europe are no longer the frenzy-creating, joy-inducing events they once were. Prices have doubled or even tripled from springs and summers recently passed and most of the eye-popping bargains are gone. Still, if you've arranged your travel life to cash in on some of these deals, careful combing will turn up some useful offers. I've focused on Star Alliance carriers because they've traditionally been the most aggressive with the sales. You should find matching prices on most routes from SkyTeam and Oneworld carriers.
    For the Easter/Passover period, outbound travel is permitted between March 29 and April 10 and returns at the lowest prices are available between April 6 and April 16. You'll have to book 14 days in advance and it looks like a Saturday stay is required on most fares. (Look for P class this season with code PNC1S. Sample prices: $2,958 roundtrip Newark-Paris on United; $2,834 roundtrip New York/Kennedy-Geneva on Swiss; $3,348 roundtrip Houston-Amsterdam (United); $3,314 roundtrip Atlanta-Frankfurt (Lufthansa); and $3,688 Los Angeles-Zurich roundtrip (Swiss).
    The much-broader summer sale seems to be available between June 25 and August 29 for departures with returns permitted until September 7. Tickets must be purchased by March 9 and there's a 7-day minimum stay. Sample prices: $2,895 roundtrip between Newark and Copenhagen (SAS); $2,169 roundtrip between New York/JFK and Dusseldorf (Lufthansa); $2,599 roundtrip Charlotte to Munich (Lufthansa); and $3,798 roundtrip Los Angeles to London/Heathrow (Air New Zealand).

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAIN
HILTON: Double Rubles, er, HHonors Points for the Spring
Hilton's endlessly devalued HHonors program is out with another extremely modest promotion: double HHonors points or double airline miles for stays between March 1 and May 31. You have to choose whether to earn points or miles and the choice can't be changed during the promotional period. (By the way, even in their devalued, ruble-like state, it's better to choose the HHonors points rather than the shriveled amount of miles you could earn.) There is also a huge list of hotels that won't be honoring the promotion and most of them are in the United States. (See the list here.) Advance registration is required, of course. INFORMATION: the DOUBLE YOUR HHONORS page.


HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
HYATT GOLD PASSPORT: 20 Percent Rebate on Award Stays
Frequency programs ain't what they were, but every once in a while we still get a winner. And this is a winner. Hyatt and Chase are offering 20 percent rebates on award prices until July 31. All you need to do is be in Hyatt Gold Passport and have the Chase Hyatt Visa card. When you claim an award, 20 percent of the cost will be redeposited in your Gold Passport account 4-to-6 weeks after your award stay. The only catch? You have to register, which is hardly a catch at all. Information: the GET 20% OFF YOUR POINTS.

CHICAGO: A New Property in a Crowded Hotel Market Wants Your Attention
The 400-room Loews Chicago hotel is set to open next month in the Streeterville neighborhood. Located in a new 52-story tower at Ogden Plaza, it's a block from the Chicago River and two blocks from North Michigan Avenue. In other words, smack in the middle of two dozen other hotels, most of which are part of a larger chain. Loews' response? An opening offer of 30 percent off its "best rate" if you stay between March 2 and April 6. Of course, if you're getting 30 percent off the "best rate," wouldn't the rate you're paying actually be the "best rate?" Anyway, your call. Information: the SPECIAL OFFERS page.

IHG HOTELS: Double Airline Miles, Dozens of Choices
If you're a player in the IHG Rewards Club and your preferences are set to miles accrual, then you can earn double miles on each IHG stay until April 30. Among the dozens of participating carriers are American, Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian, United and US Airways. The one trick? Double miles begin with the second stay. Information: the LEAVE ROOM IN YOUR LUGGAGE page.

BEST WESTERN: Stay Twice and Gets Lots of Coffee, Doughnuts or Tunes
Frequent travelers are often torn between hotel promotions that offer free-night certificates and those that offer bonus points. But Best Western is circumventing that entire debate by offering cold, hard cash--well, cash in the form of gift cards--in exchange for your repeat business. If you complete two stays by March 15, Best Western will reward you with a $25 gift card valid at Dunkin' Donuts, Best Buy, Amazon.com or the iTunes store. If you'd prefer to keep it in the family, however, you can select a $35 gift card valid for a future Best Western Stay. Advance registration and membership in the Best Western Rewards program are required. Information: the REWARDS OFFERS page.

HYATT: Gold Passport Jumps Back Into the Quarterly Bonus Promotion Game
After several years out of quarterly bonus promotion competition, Hyatt Gold Passport has returned to the game for 2015. They're not back with a bang since hotel occupancy is high and Hyatt's competitors aren't setting a particularly high bar (see below). In its Stay More Play More promo, Hyatt has gone the mass-customized route. You may be offered a simple 2,000 bonus points per stay or get some variation that requires a minimum number of stays for 20,000 or more points delivered in a bundle. You'll have to log in to see your particular offer. The promotional period lasts until April 30. You'll also have to register to play. Information: the STAY MORE PLAY MORE page.

FAIRMONT: Free Nights and Percent-Off Sales This Winter
The strange mashup that is Fairmont (a merger of the U.S. Fairmont and Canadian Pacific chains owned by a Saudi firm) would naturally have strange sales. So don't be surprised by its winter sale that promises "up to 15% off OR a free night" because neither claim is accurate. The hotels in the promotion actually offer discounts of 10 to 25 percent off their rates or they offer a free night when you purchase two or three nights. In other words, the effective discount is 10 to 33 percent. The promotion is valid for stays until April 30. Blackout days and payment requirements vary by property. Is the convolution worth it? Depends on whether you like the Fairmont property involved. Information: the SEASONAL SAVER page.

HOTELS: A Discouraging Start to the 2015 Promotions
Even as hotel occupancy firms up and nightly rates inch up, the major chains continue to offer regular frequent-guest program promotions. But they're often dreary reruns at best and diluted retreads of old names at worst. Sadly, the first promos for 2015 aren't particularly encouraging. I don't think any will lead you to switch your loyalty or book additional nights, but your mileage may vary.
    Marriott Rewards continues to use the MegaBonus moniker for its latest promotion, which runs from February 1 to April 30. MegaBonus wasn't that great when it was new and this version is even less rewarding. The publicly available offer is 25,000 points doled out 2,500 points per stay. But, as always, the MegaBonus is a mass-customized offer that differs based on your booking patterns and history with Marriott. You may be offered as much as 55,000 points. If you don't like what you get when you register (do it here), call Marriott Rewards and negotiate. One thing that is standard: You must register by March 31.
    IHG Rewards Club is pumping what it calls Set Your Sights, another mass-customized scheme that is based on activities: downloading its app, staying in particular chains, completing weekend stays, etc. At least in format, it's an exact copy of last season's Into the Nights promotion. It seems as if earnings are capped at 50,000 points for the January 1-April 30 promotion period regardless of the combination of tasks you're required to complete. And, of course, registration is required. You can do that here.
    Club Carlson may have the best of this tame/lame field so far. It is offering 15,000 bonus Goldpoints for each two-night stay and 30,000 points for each stay of three or more nights. The earning period is January 12 to March 29 when you register in advance.
    Starwood Preferred Guest is promoting a so-called Double Play. You'll receive double Starpoints for stays of two or more eligible nights and 1,000 additional points for every five nights stayed during the promo period. The earnings period lasts through April 15, but you must register by March 31. There's also a hefty list of properties opting out (view it here). I get the Florida and California opt-outs, but Chicago? Because we all want to be in Chicago in the winter without an incentive...

GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
ALASKA AIRLINES: Double Miles in the Fight Against Delta
With Alaska Airlines in a potentially life-and-death struggle with Delta Air Lines for control of the Seattle-Tacoma market, it's time for another underdog promotion. Alaska is offering double miles on key routes from Sea-Tac and Salt Lake City, where Alaska is running a rear-guard action at Delta's hub. The routes won't surprise you since they are mostly to Delta hubs as well as some other highly competitive destinations. Once you register--do it here--you can earn the double miles until May 15.

MILAN: An Odd Player Makes Milan The New London of Cheap Fares
Not too long ago, when travelers wanted a cheap coach flight to Europe, they started a search in the New York-London market. But high aviation taxes on the British end and too many pond-pounding bankers have made New York-London flights surprisingly pricey. So where are the cheap fares now? Believe it or not, New York-Milan. Ever since Emirates launched a daily flight on the route, coach prices to Milan have plummeted. They are now the cheapest in Europe and cheaper than flying to Rome by hundreds of dollars. Alitalia, the route's incumbent, is selling tickets for as little as $658 roundtrip this winter. Emirates, which started the price war, is matching, too. And Lufthansa is charging $639 roundtrip on its Star Alliance/code-share partner United's Newark-Milan nonstop. The restrictions are relatively light: assume you have to book 14 days in advance and travel midweek. Tickets must be purchased within the next week.

AIR NEW ZEALAND: Return of the $2,000 Pacific Business-Class Fare
Air New Zealand promoted exceptionally cheap business-class fares to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands spasmodically last summer and fall using its nonstop flight from Los Angeles. The eye-opening price was just $1,998 roundtrip. When the deal was revived for the holidays and early this year, the price jumped to $2,199. But now the $1,998 fare is back if you can travel April 5-26 or May 31 to June 28. You should know that the LAX-Rarotonga flights still use Air New Zealand's cradle-seat business class, not its newest flat beds. And there's only one flight a week in each direction, departing Sundays from LAX and just before midnight Saturdays from Rarotonga. Still, for a South Pacific trip at such a low price, those aren't tough conditions, especially since there's only a two-day advance purchase restriction. Tickets must be purchased by March 4. You even earn frequent flyer miles. Information: the Air New Zealand SPECIAL OFFER page.

LA COMPAGNIE: The $1,000 Roundtrip Business-Class Ride to London Returns
La Compagnie, the French start-up that sells an all-business-class product between Newark and Paris/CDG, has unveiled its plans to add a London run. Effective April 24, it'll operate four weekly flights between Newark and London's Luton Airport using its 74-seat Boeing 757s. We can quibble with the product's designation as business class--it has angled lie-flat seats, more rudimentary in-flight entertainment and meal service than its better-known competitors and you won't get frequent flyer miles--but you cannot quibble with the eye-popping introductory price: Just $1,007 roundtrip for travel through June 30. It's been years--about seven, in fact, since back in the heyday of the all-business-class transatlantic operators--since we've seen a fare that low. And when you consider the full-line operators are charging $1,000 for coach seats to London, La Compagnie's combination of price and cabin seems unbeatable. Seats are capacity controlled at that price, of course, but there seem to be plenty available. Information: the SPECIAL OFFERS page.

CATHAY PACIFIC: Book Way Early, Get Way Deep Business-Class Asia Discounts
We've gotten comfortable with 30-, 45- and even 60-day advance-purchase fares, but Cathay Pacific has a new category: 90-day advance-purchase prices. The payoff for booking so early? Deep business-class discounts for travel around Asia via Cathay's Hong Kong hub. Prices start around $5,000 roundtrip to destinations in China and Taiwan, although I've found a few fares as low as $4,950 roundtrip. Other areas in the 90-day promotion come in under $5,300 roundtrip and include Singapore; Cambodia; Japan; South Korea; Thailand and Vietnam. The lowest prices are from Cathay's Los Angeles gateway and tickets must be purchased by March 31. Information: the LATEST OFFERS page.

ALASKA AIRLINES: First Bag Free for Three Months for Cardholders
Alaska Airlines does a terrific job differentiating itself from its legacy competitors. It's also doing a more than credible job fending off Delta Air Lines' full frontal attack on its Seattle/Tacoma hub. But there's one area where Alaska Air lags: Its credit cards with Bank of America don't offer a free first checked bag. But at least for the moment, Alaska and BofA are fighting back. If you have a consumer version of the Visa Signature card, your first bag will be free on flights during February, March and April. The details are here. If you don't have an Alaska card, the acquisition bonus is 25,000 miles and you can apply here.

HAINAN AIRLINES: Insanely Cheap Coach Fares to Beijing Get Even Cheaper
Hainan Airlines, generally considered the best of the mainland China-based carriers, is now thisclose to giving it away in coach. Its latest promotion: Just $480 roundtrip on its Boston nonstop between March 10 and May 7. There is also a $930 fare on certain dates until July 31. It has also slashed fares on its Seattle-Beijing nonstop. Now it's just $559 roundtrip for travel between January 18 and May 4. That's about $120 cheaper than its previous best offer of $680 roundtrip, which is still available for flights into July. But it doesn't end there. Hainan has posted a $760 roundtrip fare from Chicago/O'Hare for flights between March 10 and September 7. There are hefty restrictions, of course, but only a 3-day minimum stay. Now coach on long-hauls stinks, of course. But at this price, buy two seats together (make sure to call and inform the airline of your plans) and create a poor man's business class. Information: the Hainan OFFERS page.

GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
NATIONAL/SOUTHWEST: Quadruple Rapid Rewards Points for Three-Day Rentals
Southwest Airlines and National Car Rental have teamed up to offer an intriguing payoff for rentals if you need a car for three days or more. Instead of the standard 600 Rapid Rewards points, a three-day National rental before May 17 will earn 2,400 points. To score the quadruple points, rent a midsize or larger and use Contract ID code 5030924. Information: the SPECIAL OFFERS page.

AMTRAK: Three Winter Trips in the East Mean a Summer Freebie
Let's just say government-owned and bureaucratically marketed Amtrak isn't at the pinnacle of promotional activity. Still, its annual version of BOGO (okay, buy three, get one) isn't too bad. If you take six Acela one-way trips (or three roundtrips) before February 28, Amtrak will buy you back a roundtrip (or two one-ways) between July 1 and August 31. It is offering the same buy three (or six), get one (or two) promotion for trips on the slower Northeast Regional runs. You must register independently for both offers. Registration for the Acela offer is here and the Northeast Regional registration is here. There are some modest blackout dates on the freebies and some minimum-spend rules for the winter purchases.

AVIS/CARLSON: 9,000 Club Carlson Points for Three-Day Rentals
Car rentals are suddenly a valuable source of points and miles again thanks to the proprietary bonus deals that the rental chains are cutting with airlines and hotel chains. Avis, for example, has once again teamed with Club Carlson, the loyalty program of Radisson and Country Inns. The offer: three-day rentals from most airport locations earn 9,000 bonus points. Use code MUHA021. And, boy, are these guys convinced they're BFFs: The promotion is available until December 31, 2015. Information: the ALWAYS ROOM FOR MORE page.

THRIFTY/UNITED: Three-Day Midsize Rentals Earn 1,000 MileagePlus Miles
Hertz and its Dollar and Thrifty subsidiaries are now the exclusive rental partners of United Airlines. That means if you want to rack up the MileagePlus credits, you'll need to look to those rental brands. The latest deal: 1,000 United MileagePlus miles from Thrifty Car Rental if you rent a midsize or larger vehicle for three days or longer. The deal is available until June 30 when you use promo code UA31. Rentals must be reserved at least 24 hours in advance. Information: the PARTNER DEALS page.

AVIS: Quadruple American AAdvantage Miles Worldwide Until February 28
Mileage offers are drying up everywhere else, but there continue to be relative gold mines in the car-rent arena. The latest from Avis is quadruple American AAdvantage miles on virtually any rental worldwide. Use coupon code #MUAA088 for rentals before February 28. Information: the Avis WINDOW SEAT'S OPEN page.

ENTERPRISE: The Return of the $10-a-Day Weekend Rental
Even as it has rocketed to the top of the car-rental heap, Enterprise continues to do things differently. For starters, all of its locations are company owned, astonishing in this era of franchised everything. It has expanded rapidly at airports, but its roots remain in the we'll-pick-you-up local station. And many of those local stations close on Sunday with short hours on Saturday. The result: a ridiculously wonderful promotion that offers cars as low as $9.99 a weekend day, so long as you return the car on Monday. The $9.99 rate covers economy or compact cars. Larger cars are $14.99-$19.99 a day. The rates include 100 miles per day and are valid for rentals that start on Fridays. Best of all, the promotion is valid at local stations until May 20. Information: Enterprise's WEEKEND SPECIAL page.

TRAVEL PACKAGES TO CONSIDER
ENGLAND: Of Course Downton Abbey Has Its Own Tour Groupies
Here's a dirty little secret: I haven't seen a moment of Downton Abbey, either here in the States or when I've been in Britain. And I don't think I'm missing anything since I'm a fan of the original Forsyte Saga and used to tramp around London visiting all the sites that John Galsworthy mentioned in his novels. But I understand that the Julian Fellowes soaper about a titled British family is appointment viewing for many business travelers. And where appointment television is, location tours are sure to follow. Enter Tours International, a British packager that has crafted a Downton Abbey Tour. From July 27 to 30, tour participants will visit 35 Belgrave Square (the exterior of Lady Rosamund's home), Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) and several other show locations. Also included: lodging in a four-star London hotel; a ride on the London Eye; afternoon tea at Byfleet Manor, which the show uses as the residence of Violet Crawley and other perks. The package price: $1,750 each for a couple or $2,200 for a solo traveler. The tour is limited to 25 travelers. Some meals, but not airfares, are part of the package. Information: the DOWNTON ABBEY page.

SCOTLAND: Seven Islands, 11 Days--and David Rowell, Too...
As you surely know, Travel Insider David Rowell used to be a travel packager in an earlier life. And several times a year, he still hosts a select group of travelers on a trip he personally plans and conducts. This spring, Rowell is taking a party of favorites on a tour of the Scottish islands. And, boy, David does it right: transportation in a huge luxury coach for a small group; an expert driver and guide; stays in hotels and inns he personally chooses; daily breakfast; daily touring and nearly a dozen ferry rides; and visits to seven islands and some of mainland Scotland, too. The trip begins in Glasgow on June 8 and you're free to arrange your own flights (or cash miles for a freebie). Tour prices start at $2,995 each for two people traveling together. (There's a $495 single supplement.) Information: the SCOTLAND'S ISLANDS page.

SAN FRANCISCO: A Beer Tour, a Wine Reception and a Boutique Room
Kimpton Hotels, the well-regarded boutique hotel operator, was picked off by InterContinental this week for a cool $400+ million, so you might want to check out a Kimpton before it gets homogenized beyond recognition. Choice of the moment: The Hotel Triton just off Union Square in San Francisco. And to drown your sorrows over another independent hotel operator disappearing into the maw of the gigantic global chains, consider the Triton on Tap package. Besides accommodations, the bundle includes a bucket of craft beers on arrival; a pair of beer steins; and a tour of four San Francisco craft breweries. The tour covers Magnolia Dogpatch; Speakeasy Ales & Lagers; ThirstyBear; and Triple Voodoo. Hate beer? Well, there's always Kimpton's signature evening wine reception. To book, call 800-800-1299 and use promo code BEER. Information: the Hotel Triton PROMOTIONS page.

ROME: Archeology, Food, Great Guides--and 10 Percent Off for Members
As you can see by the Elifant Tours Web site, the company's Rome tour from April 13-20 is a fine combination of archeological discovery, delightful dining, museum visits and personal discovery. The focus is on small-group, top-drawer experiences. Your base of operation will be an exquisite five-star hotel in the heart of Rome that you can't get with frequent stay points. You'll be met at Rome/Fiumicino airport (or train station) by a private car to whisk you to the hotel. And the guides, Maureen Fant and Elizabeth Bartman, have put together a wonderful series of site visits, private tours, food and wine tastings and extras in Rome and surrounding areas such as Ostia and the Pontina. The all-inclusive price is $6,900 a person, but Elifant is extending a 10 percent discount exclusively to JoeSentMe members. If you want to join the small group at the discount, contact Maureen and Elizabeth at Elifanttours@gmail.com and identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.

OXFORD: So You Never Got to Be a Rhodes Scholar...
So you never got to be a Rhodes Scholar. Fear not because there is always The Oxford Experience, the summer session at Oxford University that offers dozens of week-long courses to travelers of all ages, social classes, intelligence levels and interests. One-week packages include the tuition and lectures for your course; lodging in Christ Church College dorms; and three meals daily. There are dozens of courses from which to choose, including studies in archeology, history, literature, politics, art and music. Courses are held in the morning, which leaves afternoons free for touring and optional excursions and evening for everything from whisky tasting to lessons in Morris dancing. At the end of the week, you even get a farewell dinner and something like a diploma. It's then up to you whether you want to run for the House of Commons or buy yourself a seat in the House of Lords. (Okay, I made that last part up, except, you know, the buying your way into the House of Lords.) Prices start at 1,260 pounds per person and upgrades to private accommodations with private baths start at 90 pounds each for two traveling together or 180 pounds if you go solo. The weekly sessions take place from July 5 to August 15. My choice for favorite course in the 2015 offerings? The Black Death because it sounds like something from a Monty Python or Black Adder skit. Information: the University of Oxford SUMMER SCHOOLS page.

NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
CHASE: Take a United Business Card, Get 50,000 MileagePlus Miles
With the major airlines now essentially locked in to a partner bank, lavish super-duper acquisition bonuses have largely disappeared. But here's a way to pick up a 50,000-mile bonus essentially free. Chase has bumped up the acquisition bonus on the business version of its MileagePlus Explorer card to the 50,000-mile plateau. All you need do is spend $2,000 on the card during the first three months. Chase will even comp the first year's annual fee of $95. The card itself has some good benefits: no foreign exchange fees; first checked bag free; a pair of United Club passes each year, and primary car-rental coverage. Carrying the card also means United waives the expiration date on your MileagePlus balance. Information: the FOR BUSINESS OWNERS page.

CITI/AMERICAN AADVANTAGE: A Big Acquisition Bonus With a Reasonable Required Spend
Competition is good, even in credit cards tied to frequency programs. Because of a variety of factors, almost all of them due to pre-merger contracts, there are at least three banks issuing American Airlines and US Airways credit cards. That forces Citi, which eventually will be the last bank standing in the combined American AAdvantage program, to push harder to get your business. The result? A 50,000-mile bonus for taking its AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard. To earn the miles, you must spend $2,000 within three months of opening the account. That's a modest required spend for a bonus of that size. The card even waives the first year's $95 annual fee. Information: the EXPERIENCE TRULY REWARDING TRAVEL page.

CITI: Price of Hilton's 'Best' Elite Level Is $95 Again--With Two Free Weekend Nights
Hilton has brutally devalued the Hilton HHonors program and its most-elite level, Diamond, is hardly better than HHonors Gold, which normally requires 20 stays or 40 nights a year. Gold Elite offers free Internet, room upgrades and continental breakfast. It's arguably Hilton's best elite level. And guess what: You don't even have to stay at Hilton even once to achieve its HHonors Gold. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa card includes Gold Level HHonors status and the annual fee is just $95 a year. You'll also earn two free weekend nights if you spend $2,500 during the first four months you have the card. So here's the best lodging strategy ever: Take the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa, pay the $95 annual fee, get Gold Level, earn and burn the two Hilton freebies--and then stay at Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, Carlson or other hotels so you can earn elite status there. Book a Hilton Family property only when there are no other options. You'll still get Gold Level treatment and all of your other paid stays will be earning elite status elsewhere. Information: the EARN TWO page.

BARCLAYS/US AIRWAYS: Fastest, Cheapest Way to Get (Even More) AAdvantage Miles
With the merger of the US Airways Dividend Miles program into American AAdvantage due in the first half of next year, many flyers are thinking of exotic ways to earn miles fast. But sometimes the simple and direct way is the fastest, richest route. Case in point: The Barclaycard US Airways Premier World MasterCard. Once the merger is complete, Barclays won't be able to issue AAdvantage cards, so now is the time to act. For the price of the $89 annual fee, you'll now earn 50,000 US Airways Dividend Miles after your first purchase. (Yup, you read that right, no required spending. And, yup, that's up from 40,000 miles just a few weeks ago.) And, of course, those Dividend Miles will convert to AAdvantage miles on a 1:1 basis when the two plans merge. Information: the WORLD GOT BIGGER page.

CHASE: How to Get the $395-a-Year United Club Card for Free for a Year
The Chase United Club Card does well both as a must-carry credit card for perks (it includes a membership in the United Club) and one that earns lots of frequent travel points (1.5 miles per dollar spent). If the card has a drawback--besides being shackled to United Airlines, of course--it's the $395-a-year annual fee. But there is a way get the fee waived in the first year. It's pretty simple: Go into a Chase bank branch and apply for the card there. Branch bankers are empowered to waive the fee when you apply for the card in person.

This column is Copyright 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.