Welcome to The MasterMiles. We are excited to be launching the site as a team, and will be posting an introduction post for each contributor every day this week. We have some exciting content coming soon, and will be hosting a meetup in Vancouver in the near future. Subscribe to our email list at the bottom of this page to be the first to hear about the latest news in the luxury travel scene.
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What is your favourite credit card?
Ah there’s so many to chose from! A personal favourite for me is the Platinum Card from American Express, with the AMEX Cobalt coming in a very close second. The Platinum Card has a decent earning rate of 3x on dining, 2x on travel and 1x on everything else, but the real benefits of holding this card are the numerous perks it offers. Things like unlimited Priority Pass for you and a guest, flexible points redemptions (transfer partners, fixed points travel, etc.), Fine Hotels & Resorts, excellent concierge service, the list goes on… It’s one of my “keeper cards” and I use it frequently. You can apply for either of the cards by clicking on the links above.
What has been your favourite flight you've taken using miles?
This is a bit different from the others’ responses, but I’m a huge fan of Lufthansa First Class. I took my first flight with them from Delhi to Chicago via Frankfurt, and immediately fell in love with the overall experience. I redeemed 110,000 Aeroplan miles for the one way itinerary, and paid about $500 CAD in taxes and fees, but it was well worth it seeing as the cash price is over $15,000 each way. I spent my last night in Delhi at the JW Marriott Aerocity, just a few minutes away from Indira Gandhi International Airport. I arrived at the airport about three hours before departure, and was greeted by the lovely check in agents at the Lufthansa counter. They escorted me through a separate priority security and immigration lane, and whisked me away to the Lufthansa lounge through the hidden hallways of the airport where I couldn’t be seen by other passengers. The same lovely lady then came to pick me up from the lounge as boarding began, and again took me through some hidden shortcut to the gate. My boarding pass was scanned, and I was taken right to the front of the jet bridge, past all the other passengers waiting to board. One of the flight attendants escorted me to 1A, and brought over pyjamas and an amenity kit. There was only 3 of us in First Class on the Airbus A380, and that was a flight to remember! I was wined and dined, and tucked into bed in the adjacent seat. Upon arrival in Frankfurt, I had a couple hours at the famous First Class Terminal (yes, you read that right, terminal) before being chauffeured to my next flight in a Porsche Panamera Turbo. The flight to Chicago was on the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747-8i and was just as lovely as the previous flight.
Lufthansa First Class is bookable through Star Alliance partner airlines, although they don’t release award availability until 15 days before the flight. While you may spend a few hundred on taxes and fees, it’s well worth it for one of the best products in the skies.
What has been your favourite hotel you've stayed at on points?
Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa without a doubt. This unique desert resort is located on the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve about one hour outside of of the city, not far from the Oman boarder. It is an all suites resort, meaning that even the “base” rooms are spacious suites with private plunge pools and beautiful handcrafted furnishings. The resort also offers a full board meal plan on almost all bookings, including those made with Marriott Bonvoy points. This allows for an exceptional value redemption, since cash rates are often over $2000 per night. All bookings also include two desert activities per person, per night. These activities include falconry, archery, camel rides, nature walks and more. I stayed here to celebrate my 22nd birthday last November, and fell in love with the property. I managed to book it for just 60,000 Bonvoy points per night, though I would gladly pay the new cost of 85,000 or even 100,000 per night for peak season. I look forward to returning again this year for my birthday on an epic round the world journey. I’ll be spending five nights at Al Maha this time, costing a total of 240,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points.
What has been your worst hotel or flight experience using points or miles?
I’ll just start by saying I’ve been very fortunate to experience the “other side” of travel. I am so grateful and never want to forget that this is all a wonderful privilege that not many people are able to experience. That being said, I’ve had my fair share of negative experiences when it comes to luxury travel, and my friends and I joke that there should be a camera crew following me along my adventures. This one is a bit hard to choose, since I have three that come to mind right away; Air India Business Class from Bombay to Delhi, the ITC Maurya Hotel New Delhi, and Ethiopian Airlines Business Class from Hong Kong to Bangkok. The Ethiopian flight is the only one I booked using points, so we’ll talk about that one today.
This was one segment of a complicated one way itinerary. I started the day in Rio de Janeiro, and flew Lufthansa First Class to Hong Kong via Frankfurt. When booking, I had the option of Thai Airways or Ethiopian for the flight to Bangkok, and chose the latter since I had never flown with them before. My layover in Hong Kong was about 5 hours, and I wasn’t able to check in online for my next flight and Lufthansa wasn’t able to print my boarding pass ahead of time. As is the norm, the Ethiopian check in counters don’t open until 3 hours before the flight, so I had to kill some time at the airport pre-security. Not a good start, but also not really a big deal. When the check in counters finally opened, I handed my passport over and asked for a window seat as close to the front of the plane as possible (I ask this on every flight if I can’t select the seat myself). The Ethiopian Dreamliner is set up in a 2-2-2 configuration for Business Class, and I was told it was a full flight. I was assigned seat 1D, an aisle seat in the centre portion of the cabin. Again, not really a big deal and I understand if it’s a full flight. They then weighed my carry on bag, and almost forced me to check it in because it was 12kg, just over the 10kg “cabin limit” - for a business class passenger with no checked bags! I finally convinced them to let me keep it, and went off to security and the lounge. Boarding was delayed, and a little chaotic, but I eventually made it to my seat. That’s when I realized that it was not indeed a full flight, but there were only six(!!!) passengers in the entire cabin, including myself. There were plenty of window seats available (there’s 4 rows/24 seats) so there was no reason I couldn’t have had seat 1A or 1L which were both empty. The ground experience had left me with poor first impressions, and I was just exhausted at this point, so I asked for a water bottle and amenity kit, and went off to bed. The experience overall was not a good one, and I would never spend points or cash on this product again unless it was the best/only option to get somewhere and was part of a larger trip.
What is your biggest regret since starting this hobby?
I started pretty much as soon as I could get my first credit card, but I wish there was a way I could’ve started sooner. Maybe doing some reading up before then would have set me up a little better, but I’d say I’ve done alright over the last 3 years in the game.
I’d say my biggest regret is not getting my family involved sooner. My parents only just recently got into the game with the Canada Post AMEX offer last year, and took their first redemption trip in Business Class in April for their 25th anniversary. They’re hooked now, and they understand why I’m so seemingly obsessed with points and miles. Mom keeps asking which card she should get next and where they can go for their next trip. It’s so wonderful being able to share this hobby with those who you love.
What is your best piece of advice for those who are interested but haven't started in this hobby yet?
I have two. First, be aware of the minimum spend requirements on each card you apply for, and make sure you’re able to spend the amount within the timeframe. I have a friend who applied for the AMEX Business Platinum card, paid the $399 Annual Fee at the time, and missed the spend requirement by $47. He lost out on the 75,000 point welcome bonus, which would have been enough to fly to Europe one way in First Class or Asia in Business Class.
Second, do some research and figure out what your goals are. I know lots of people who just aimlessly collect points, and then have no idea what to do with them. Don’t be “that guy” who redeems an absurd amount of points for a coffee maker or TV just because you have points you don’t know what to do with; those are almost never a good value. If you have questions or aren’t sure where to start, there’s plenty of resources available online; this blog included. You’re always welcome to reach out if you have specific questions, and the team is more than happy to help.
What is your favourite Vancouver hotel?
I don’t often stay at Vancouver hotels, but got to know the Fairmont Pacific Rim fairly well in my teenage years when a friend of mine lived there. The hotel amenities and restaurants are world class, and the location is unbeatable - just steps away from the Coal Harbour Seawall, Downtown Vancouver, and Stanley Park.
If you’re looking for a points hotel, the JW Marriott Parq is a beautiful new property close to Yaletown and can be had for decent rates depending on the season, or 50,000 Bonvoy points as a redemption. Elite recognition is great, and I was upgraded to a one bedroom suite on the top floor as a Titanium Elite guest with Marriott. The lounge is among the best in North America, and is almost comparable to some in Asia which are well known for being the best in the world. The views of False Creek and the North Shore mountains are unbeatable.
What upcoming trip are you most looking forward to?
I go away every November as a birthday treat to myself, and this year is no exception. I am taking Cathay Pacific First Class, and visiting the St. Regis Maldives Vomulli with a few friends, which we were able to book for just 60,000 Bonvoy points per night. I will then be spending 5 nights at Al Maha in Dubai, and continuing on to London where I will be catching a special flight that I’m very excited to share with you guys.
Ijaaz has been fascinated by air travel since he was a child, and his goal is to become an airline pilot. Ijaaz’s family enjoys travel and takes a trip at least every couple years. His first trip to Asia was for a family wedding in 2015, when they visited Thailand and Hong Kong. Ijaaz was hooked at this point, and has since returned to Hong Kong at least a dozen times. He applied for his first credit card right after his 19th birthday, and has been in the points game ever since. His travels have taken him to over 30 countries all over the globe, and he is known to book flights last minute to new and interesting destinations.