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Updated: 08/26/02

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Monday, 26 August, 2002

Went over to the house at 8:00 this morning to meet with Oscar. Unfortunately, it ended up just being me and the pigeons. I called him and he said he had a meeting at his attorney's office and couldn't make it. I was pretty pissed off at him for not even bothering to call me.

Today was pretty quiet in the office. Went to lunch with my boss, John, to do my mid-year performance review. I guess I did OK since he didn't fire me and he paid for my lunch.

He lives out in Unionville, PA - about an hour and change outside the city, big time horse country. He and his family own six horses plus two ponies for their kids. His wife fox hunts, and that is a big sport out in that area. I went to see a "point to point" race out there a few years ago.

I mentioned to John that I would be out in that area this weekend: Nick and Beth - the owners of Blue Horizons' Dive Center - are having their annual "Bug Bake" on Sunday. For those of you non-divers, the bugs in question are lobsters, and they will be ritually sacrificed Sunday afternoon. I am renting a car to drive out there, and John invited me to stop at their place before I go to Nick's. A full day!

I've decided I'm becoming obsessed with frequent flyer miles. Oh well, I guess there are worse things to obsess about. The amazing thing is, it is really very easy to rack up a huge pile of miles without even getting on a plane.

Here are some examples:

Grocery shopping. United Airlines has a partner program with Safeway companies, which includes Vons, Pavilions, Pak N Save, Genuardi's and Dominick's store. For every $250 (cumulative) you spend at one of these stores, you get 125 United miles. OK, it's not a huge amount, but if you shop at any of these stores regularly, what the heck. It's money you'd spend anyway, and over the course of a year, it can add up.

iDine. I mentioned this one last week - you can sign up your credit cards and whenever you eat at a participating restaurant, the miles are automatically credited to your account. It works with a variety of airlines, so you can pick the one that you use the most. Again, it may not be much depending on your dining habits, but a) it's free and b) it doesn't take any effort - you don't have to present a coupon or tell your waiter in advance. When your designated credit card is billed, your Frequent Flyer account is notified. If you have one $100 dinner a month at one of the participating restaurants, you've added 12,000 miles to your account in a year.

Car Rentals. Most of the standard Frequent Flyer programs have kind of cheesy car partner mileage bonuses - usually 50 miles per rental. Big deal. Some require a flight in connection with a rental to get the mileage. Ehhh. But check this out: Virgin Atlantic offers 1,000 miles per rental, no flight required.

Now if you never rent cars, this isn't very helpful, so I may be the person that this applies to most of all, because between my personal and business travel, I probably rent a car at least twice a month. Over the course of a year, that's 24,000 miles, without ever even flying with Virgin! In less than two years, I'll earn enough for a free round trip flight to London, just by renting the same cars that I would normally rent.

Shopping. This one is pretty sweet, if you shop on-line. Various carriers have teamed up with on-line retailers to offer miles for dollars spent. Some of them, like US Airways, have a huge number of stores available and tend to offer pretty good incentives: 2 miles/dollar at Brooks Brothers and Sharper Image, 4 miles/dollar at Fossil Watches. They also offer 1 mile per dollar at Amazon.com. Other programs, like America West, aren't as generous per dollar, but have a wide selection of stores, including WalMart.com, Old Navy, Lands Ends and Barnes & Noble.

Again, it's not going to add up dramatically - although the way I shop on-line, especially during the Holiday Season . . .

Another way to add to miles with shopping is to have a Frequent Flyer Credit card. Most offer a mileage bonus to sign up for a card as well. Mine is with United's Mileage Plus program, so I get one mile for every dollar I spend. When I buy something at one of the participating on-line retailers using that credit card, I get double miles - for the purchase itself as well as the credit card. I have been putting as much of THE HOUSE's building materials on my credit card, so I have been racking up serious miles for that.

Hotel stays. Many of the major hotel chains (excluding the real economy hotel/motels) offer airline miles for staying in their hotels. Some, like Hilton, offer not only air miles, but hotel points as well.

Again, Virgin is one of the highest point awards, with most of the big chains crediting 1,000 miles per stay. Qantas is also good about this with credits of 1,000 to 1,500 miles per stay, while most of the major US FF programs allow 500 miles. Marriott Hotels offer 3 miles per dollar spent for most airlines - for a business traveler like me, that can really add up, especially if I'm at a conference or convention.

OK, so now you have all these miles on Virgin and Qantas, but you don't plan to go to London or Sydney? Partner airlines. Your Virgin miles may be redeemed for tickets on America West - for 25,000 miles, you have a free round trip economy ticket anywhere America West flies. Qantas partners with American (among others), so you can cash in your Aussie miles for flights in the states.

[And luckily, Qantas gives credit for miles flown on Air Niugini!]

~ ~ ~

Quote du jour:

"You've got to get obsessed and stay obsessed."

-- John Irving (1942 - ____) US novelist, short-story writer The Hotel New Hampshire

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