Our good friends over at United Airlines thought it would be a good idea to make economy even worse. Didn’t think it was possible? Think again. United announced the launch of Basic Economy, set to roll out early 2017. Basic economy strips you of the overhead bin space, advanced seat reservation, and puts you in the very back of the boarding groups.
United, along with Delta and American, are trying desperately to offer competitive fares with the likes of Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant Air. Budget airlines, such as Frontier, charge extra for baggage, seat reservation, and even water. In return for nickel-and-diming you on pretty much everything, budget airlines offer rock-bottom ticket prices all over the country. (Spirit does fly international, BTW). I can fly one-way on Frontier from Phoenix to Detroit for $34. Talk about cheap.
Keeping it Basic
Delta was the first to roll out their version of Basic Economy, which is being “offered” on routes shared with Spirit and Frontier. Delta Basic Economy does not allow you to assign a seat, rather they give you whichever seat is left while waiting at the gate. At least United Basic allows you to pick a seat during online check-in, up to 24 hours before your flight. United and Delta Basic will still give you free beverages and a very light snack, a benefit since Frontier charges $2 for water.
United Basic only permits a single personal item to be placed under your seat, no overhead bin access which means no carry-on suitcases allowed. Delta still allows two carry-on items for customers flying in Basic Economy, one personal item (like a backpack) and one carry-on bag to be placed in the overhead bin. If you value seat reservations (albeit you can’t pick until 24 hours in advance), go with United for Basic Economy. If you value bringing two items with you on-board, choose Delta’s low-cost option.
Skirt the rules
Furthermore, I have and love the Samsonite Underseater which works great as a personal item. Because it fits under your seat, it is still considered a personal item and not a carry-on bag (which would have to go above your seat). This bag helps skirt the extra fees of the budget airlines and now even United Basic Economy. The bag fits enough stuff for a quick weekend trip or getaway.
10% off Southwest + 5x Points with Chase Ink
If you don’t have the Chase Ink card with 5x earning, you are missing out. Chase officially launched a new version of the card today consequently, the Chase Ink Business Preferred. The previous version, (which is better. IMO) the Chase Ink, earns 5x points on several categories like internet, phone, TV, and office supply stores (where you can buy tons of gift cards at 5x). A well-known trick is buying gift cards on eBay through PayPal Digital Gifts. Gift cards bought through PDG on eBay classify as utilities which means you earn 5x points with the original Chase Ink card. Those points can then transfer 1:1 to Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt, United, and British Airways, to name a few.
The new Chase Ink Business Preferred (the new version) card now earns only 3x points, albeit the categories are a bit broader. If you still want to sign up for the Chase Ink 5x card, you can do so here for a limited time. Keep in mind, as with most Chase cards, including all Ink cards, you will likely be denied if you’ve opened more than five new credit cards in the last 24 months. (read; Chase 5/24)
That said, eBay via PayPal Digital Gifts, if offering $220 Southwest Airlines gift cards for only $200. That means you are receiving 10% off your Southwest airfare! In addition, if you use your Chase Ink 5x card, you will earn 1,000 Ultimate Rewards which can be transferred to the aforementioned partners. ($200 gift card x 5 = 1,000 points Ultimate Reward points). You can use up to four Southwest gift cards in a transaction when purchasing airfare.
Link to $220 Southwest gift card for only $200. (these sell out quick!)
Do you have a minimum spend to meet?
Walgreen’s is offering American Express gift cards with NO activation fee. These gift cards typically charge up to $6 per card to activate. If you had just one month left to meet your minimum spend on a new credit card, you could buy $500 worth of these American Express gift cards at Walgreen’s and then use the gift cards like cash, at your leisure. (therefore you’d have no rush and now your minimum spend would be met). In addition to meeting your minimum spend with no fees, Chase Freedom card holders (the original Freedom card with 5x rotating category bonuses), will earn 5x points at drug stores through the end of the year.
If you purchased $500 worth of these gift cards at Walgreen’s with your Chase Freedom 5x card, you would earn 2,500 points worth $25 in cash-back. Better yet, if you have a linked Ultimate Rewards earning card, like Chase Ink or Sapphire, you can transfer those 2,500 Freedom points over to Ultimate Rewards. (and then on to Southwest, Marriott, etc)
Furthermore, be sure to take advantage of your Chase Freedom 5x rotating categories this quarter. Qualifying merchant categories include: Department stores, Wholesale Clubs, and Drug Stores (ie: Walgreen’s). Do keep in mind, not all Walgreen’s permit using a credit card to purchase American Express pre-loaded gift cards. You may have to try a few stores if the cashier gives you flak.
The new Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers a flat 1.5% cash-back rather than rotating 5x category bonuses. If your Freedom card says “Unlimited”, you won’t be able to activate your 5x quarter 4 bonus, here. This is the list of merchants which qualify for 5x cash-back through the end of 2016. Be sure to activate your bonus BY December 14th.