Monday, May 13, 2013

Barclay’s Lufthansa Mastercard 50,000 Mile Bonus

The Barclaycard Lufthansa Miles & More Premier World Mastercard usually comes with a bonus of 20,000 miles upon first purchase and up to 15,000 additional award miles when you complete an initial balance transfer.

However, Barclay's just launched a new bonus offer on the card where you can earn a combined total of 50,000 award miles – 20,000 miles with first purchase and an additional 30,000 award miles when you spend $5,000 on a purchase within the first 90 days.

While 50,000 miles isn't earth-shattering, from what I can find, the bonus on this card hasn't been this high since April 2011, so if you've been thinking about getting in on this card, now is the time to do it.

You might be asking yourself why you'd want to get a mileage credit card with a non-US program, but there are a few good reasons you might want to consider it.

First, this card is a Barclay's product, so if you're all applied-out on American Express, Chase and Citi cards for the moment, it might be time to look at another issuer. However, Barclay's has tightened up on accepting new credit applications and has been known to deny applications for people with a lot of recent credit inquiries. No one knows what the threshold number is, but that can make it difficult to get a new line of credit with them.

Second, Miles & More is the award program not only of Lufthansa, but also of SWISS and Austrian airlines. Finding premium award space on these airlines in advance (they tend to open up a lot more just a few days out) can be notoriously difficult, especially on SWISS unless you have a Miles & More account since the airline holds back award space for its own frequent flyers. So if you're thinking about awards to Europe, it could be a good idea to bank some of these miles simply for that award space availability.

According to the Miles & More award chart, 50,000 miles is enough for an economy class roundtrip ticket from the US to Europe on Lufthansa, SWISS or Austrian – other carriers will be 60,000. That's also enough for a one-way business class award on these three carriers – highlighting another positive feature of Miles & More: you can book one-way awards.

Third, Lufthansa (and SWISS and Austrian) is part of Star Alliance, so you can use these miles on any of 27 partner airlines, including United and US Airways. Also according to the award chart, domestic flights are 25,000 in Economy, 35,000 in Business and 50,000 in First roundtrip, so you could potentially score some business class tickets for a real discount at that 35,000-mile level, and if you complete the minimum spending requirement, you will have more than enough miles for 3 one-way business class award tickets domestically.

Fourth, Lufthansa Miles & More is a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, so you could always use some of these points to top up your account for a specific award, and remember, when you transfer in increments of 20,000 points, you get a 5,000-mile bonus – 25% more miles.

Fifth, this card entitles you to a companion ticket. According to the card terms, "Cardmembers will receive an Economy Class Companion Ticket upon the first use of your new Account for a Purchase or Balance Transfer and on your Account opening anniversary every year you are a Cardmember." This companion ticket is good only for economy travel from the US to Europe/Middle East/Africa and Far East and must be booked in H class (not full-fare economy, but not the most discounted either) or higher on Lufthansa-operated flights only, so you will be paying more for the first ticket, but getting the second one for free.

Like other companion tickets, taxes and fees must be paid for the revenue ticket as well as the companion ticket – the companion portion is only the airfare. While most people buy the cheapest fares, with Lufthansa, you only earn 50% of the mileage on these, so this program isn't for anyone who wants to get full mileage on the cheapest fares. However, if you do pay for refundable or high-fare classes the companion ticket could be a decent value in some cases.

For a quick example, I looked at economy roundtrip tickets from Chicago-Frankfurt in June. A non-refundable economy ticket was going for $2,227 – $1,547 in airfare and $680 in taxes and fees.

While those in B class, which is actually a higher fare class thank H, the ticket was $2,804 – $2,125 in airfare and $680 in taxes and fees.

To pay for two discount economy fares, you'd be paying $4,454. For the companion-eligible fare, you'd pay $2,804 on the first ticket and $680 in taxes and fees on the second for a total of $3,484. Still very steep, but it saves you almost $1,000.

With the higher fare class you earn 150% miles on the paid ticket instead of just 100% for the lowest fare class. That said, this was an extreme example, and with a bit of flexibility, in many cases you'll likely find discount economy fares that will be much cheaper to book two of than using this companion ticket. As with all things miles-related, do the math!

As the above example also pointed out, Miles & More is also notorious for charging high award ticket surcharges, so those award tickets might incur hundreds of dollars extra in fees. According to this FlyerTalk thread on the topic, even roundtrip economy awards from the US to Europe regularly top $500 in fees, while intra-European flights can range between $200-$300 in fees. Something to keep in mind.

Also beware, there is a Platinum version of this card that only offers a bonus of 15,000 miles upon first purchase and up to 10,000 miles with a balance transfer, and which only earns 1 award mile per dollar.

Still, if you're in the market for a new card and are looking to diversify your miles portfolio with some more Star Alliance miles, this could be a card for you to consider. I'll cover specific features of it in future posts, but feel free to comment with your questions below.

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Link: Aquileia, a not so well known in the North of Italy historic city

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