The Volatile Spirit Passenger Usage Fee Game

As you all might have heard, you can save a significant portion of the ticket price on a Spirit flight if you book in person and not online or on the phone.

On Sunday I asked my brother who was flying in to ORD to buy a ticket to fly from ORD to IAH on 06 Feb 2018 at the Spirit counter. The counter is open only from the hours of 3:30 am to 9:30 pm. His flight got in late due to fog so he could not get the ticket. On that day it would of only cost $23 for this one way flight. The website breaks it down like this:

Note the $9.99 usage fee would be waived when booking in person. The ticket would of cost $23.30 at the counter. I checked online today to see that the ticket price has gone up to $46.30! I was a bit disappointed until I broke down the new cost:

The bulk of the fee increase is the Passenger Usage Charge, note the ticket is now just 1 cent! If we compare the two tickets we see that there is a new fuel charge and compliance charge. I broke it down here:

20-Jan 23-Jan
Flight $8.37 $0.01
Regulatory Compliance $6.51
Fuel Charge $5.58
Passenger Usage $9.99 $18.99
Security Fee $5.60 $5.60
Passenger Facility $4.50 $4.50
Segment $4.20 $4.20
Federal Excise Tax $0.63 $0.91
Total $33.29 $46.30
Total Counter Price $23.30 $27.31

Online the ticket went from $33.29 to $46.30 ($13.01 increase (39%)). However if I compare the price at the airport it had just gone from $23.30 to $27.31 ($4.01 increase (17.2%)). These swings in prices are worse than bitcoin! More explanation is foind in the terms and conditions on the spirit site:

What a bizarre game these people play! If they are charging a fare of $8.37 then the fuel charges and compliance fee hits. When they are charging a cent then these fees appear and the usage charge doubles! I will be back on Sunday to pick up our most senior Derp Reporter. I will report on what happens to the prices then!


Maximizing the Hilton Aspire

Congrats to all the early adaptors into getting the Hilton Aspire Card! As my O-5 friend called and said to me that this card might even outshine the AmEx Platinum card for military! Right off the bat the $450 annual fee is waived (for Active Duty Military per MLA and SCRA), meaning the $250 Airline Credit and the $250 Hilton Resort credit pays $500 annually just to have this card in your wallet! The free night as well as the Diamond Status are just the cherry on top!

Getting the Card

Easiest way to get the card is to make sure you have less than 5 credit cards in your AmEx account, then applying here. There are no referral bonuses from having the card, or to upgrade the Ascend/Surpass, yet. This lack of referral links has been confirmed by three readers who currently have the activated card in hand. I was able to get the card in 2 business days via UPS by simply asking for expedited shipping for free. I was over 5 cards so I had to wait for a phone call to close one of my accounts.

Second easy way is to product change your Ascend/Surpass (by forfeiting the 100k sign on bonus) into the Aspire. Reader RWHR had this experience:

I already had the Hilton surpass which on my amex account said amex ascend. A couple of days ago, I went to all cards and saw the option to upgrade my ascent to the aspire. I did so and I upgraded it about 24 hours later.

I applied for the Aspire card in order to capture the 100k bonus, but I chose to close my Surpass/Ascend card to get under the 5 max. Not sure if I made the right call by closing my Surpass. I should of upgraded that Surpass to an Aspire in order to have double the $500 credits as well as the 100k points with the first aspire. I feel like an idiot!

For those with a current Ascend/Surpass, I would not be so quick to product change the Ascend to Aspire before getting the 100k bonus on applying directly for a new Aspire, in case it makes you ineligible in some quirk. I would wait till the 100k hits then do the Ascend to Aspire upgrade with the second card.

Another note worthy thing is the new card came with a different HHonors number despite entering it in the application. This can be corrected by simply calling in and merging the HHonors accounts.

$250 Airline Fee Credit

You can read all the terms and conditions here. The credit for $250 will work exactly like the AmEx Platinum $200 airline credit and PRG $100 credit. You will need to pick an airline for the year and then have till Dec 31 each year to spend it. No word if AA Gift Cards or United Gift Registry (when it is back up) will work. From the terms and conditions:

Card Account is eligible for up to a total of $250 per calendar year in statement credits across all Cards on the Card Account. Incidental air travel fees must be separate charges from airline ticket charges

$250 Hilton Resort Credit

Now this $250 credit follows the card membership year, so you only get a reset of the credit when one year has passed since getting the card. Note this is different than the $250 Airline Fee Credit. This also only works at the Hilton Resorts found on this site here. The military leave staycation ones I can see are:

  • Hilton Okinawa Chatan Resort
  • Hilton Hawaiian Village® Waikiki Beach Resort (Next to Hale Koa)
  • Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton
  • Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront
  • Hilton Guam Resort & Spa
  • Hilton Niseko Village
  • Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines
  • Hilton Pensacola Beach
  • Cape Rey Carlsbad, a Hilton Resort
  • Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center
  • Hilton San Diego Del Mar
  • Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa
  • Hotel Karlan San Diego – a DoubleTree by Hilton
  • DoubleTree by Hilton San Diego – Del Mar
  • Beach Village at The Del, Curio Collection by Hilton

From the terms and conditions this $250 can be used for:

Incidental charges (including charges made at restaurants, spas, and other establishments within the hotel property) must be charged to your room and paid for with your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card at checkout

When you pay your bill these credits should post on your credit card account unlike the $100 property credit which gets deducted from your bill.

$100 Property Credit

The $100 credit is only activated according to the terms:

When you use your Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card to book through or by calling Hilton Honors at (855) 292-5757, for a two-night minimum stay at Waldorf Astoria® Hotels & Resorts, and Conrad® Hotels & Resorts

So if we pair this up with the $250 resort we can squeeze out $350 of free shit at the following hotels:

  • Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

  • El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

  • La Quinta Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

  • Waldorf Astoria Orlando

  • Boca Raton Resort and Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

  • Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

  • Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah

  • Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

  • Conrad Maldives

  • Conrad Bali

  • Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts

  • Trianon Palace Versailles, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel

  • Conrad Bora Bora Nui

  • The Reach, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

  • Boca Beach Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

  • Las Casitas, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

  • Waldorf Astoria Park City

  • Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah

  • Conrad Koh Samui

  • Conrad Algarve

  • Ho’olei at Grand Wailea

  • Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach

  • Conrad Pezula

  • Conrad Punta Del Este

  • Conrad Sanya Haitang Bay

  • Conrad Cartagena

  • Waldorf Astoria Jeddah, Qasr Al Sharq

Note that the majority of these hotels are stupid expensive, with the exception of:

  1. $116 a night Punta Del Este, Uruguay
  2. $155 a night Algarve, Portugal
  3. $159 a night Nusa Dua, Indonesia
  4. $249 a night Paris, France

A two night stay at the Conrad Punta Del Este would cost you $116 a night or $232.80 with tax:

Then you would get $100 in property credit for being a 2 night stay at a Conrad, then a $250 credit for being a resort. You would get paid $117.20 to stay two nights in Uruguay. People have gamed this using the Fine Hotel and Resorts $100 credit on AmEx.

Unfortunately it would cost you $1,686 to fly there, but at least you get $250 towards that with the airline credit if United ever opens up the registry again!

Diamond Status

I have had diamond status for over a year now with my clever back matching. With Diamond, I got a suite upgrade in Iceland and free cupcakes and sparking white wine in Manhattan! At the Palmer House Hilton I was able to get lounge access as well as a two bathroom suite (a unique room indeed). Best part of Diamond Status is 48 hr room guarantee. I was even able to get a hotel during the BRK shareholders meeting in downtown Omaha when it was all booked up for normies.

Other diamond benefits include: 50% more points per stay,  as well as free breakfast at Hilton and Waldorf Astoria Hotels, lounge access, and a welcome amenity. All the benefits are listed and valued here.

Free Annual Weekend Night(s)

The free weekend night is nice, but not worth spending $60k to get another free night! From the terms:

The Annual Weekend Night Reward will be issued in the form of a redeemable code and sent in an email from Hilton Honors to the email address listed on your Hilton Honors account. You will receive the reward email within 8-14 weeks after opening your Card Account and each year within 8-14 weeks after your Card Account anniversary date. This benefit is only available to the Basic Card Member on the Card Account. The Annual Weekend Night Reward can be redeemed for one weekend night standard accommodation, double occupancy, subject to availability at properties in the Hilton portfolio, excluding those listed at A weekend night is defined as Friday, Saturday or Sunday night. To redeem the Annual Weekend Night Reward, Card Members must call 1-800-446-6677 and mention the code provided by Hilton Honors. The Annual Weekend Night Reward expires within one year from the date of issuance and must be redeemed on or before the expiration date. An Annual Weekend Night Reward will be forfeited if not redeemed on or before the expiration date. Card members are only eligible to receive this benefit once per year of your Card membership. You are only eligible to receive the Annual Weekend Night Reward once per year of Card membership, and you are only able to receive this benefit with an upgrade to the Hilton Honors Aspire Card one time.

More rules than a strip club to use one of these things and they can be found here. I have no experience in using the free night, but I guess the CitiBank card holders of the Hilton card got them before.

Card Upgrade Strategy

Well I fumbled on canceling the Surpass before I realized that I should of upgraded it to an Aspire, but the no-fee Hilton AmEx is currently offering 50,000 HHonors for a mere $1,000 spend. I should get this one and in a year move it up to another Aspire to get another $250 resort, $250 travel credit.

For those who haven’t had the Surpass or the Ascend use this link here:

It is nice to have another $450 card hitting the market that we get the annual fee waived. I say it’s going to be good churns for 2018 as the Marriott SPG elite card will be the next one to look out for!


Surpass to Ascend to Aspire: 300,000 total HHonors Points!

I read a pretty interesting article here about why in reality we may get the bonus for Ascend even if we had the Surpass in the past. This goes against my experience outlined here.  Despite what customer service says, there is no written rule regarding Surpass counting as Ascend. Basically there is no language in any of the application documentation specifying Surpass ownership, rather they say if you had this specific product, then no bonus.

I had the Surpass for many years and when I called in to close it before 18 January 2018, they offered me 5,000 points to keep it open, and convinced me that I could never get the Ascend bonus because I had the Surpass in the past. They also said that I would not have the physical cards until this card expired, but I would have the card benefits of the new Ascend card (no foreign transaction fees).

I also called in on 18 January 2018 and tried to get a bonus to upgrade my Surpass (now an Ascend) to an Aspire, but there was no upgrade offer given. I was then told the 5 card limit no longer existed and I was encouraged to apply for the Aspire. I took her advice, but of course the rep was wrong and I went into pending as the 5 card limit is still true.

Today i got a call from 1(801)945-5000 (Midvale, UT) asking me to call AmEx back at 1(800)266-1260 about my application. The rep on the phone apologized for the wrong information regarding the 5 card rule. She reiterated that you can only have 5 cards and unlimited charge cards. In order to get the Aspire, I had to close one of the cards and there was no need for 2 Hilton Cards. I said “Close my Ascend!” and she was confused, and asked “I see you only have the Surpass, do you want me to close the Surpass!?”.

So there is no record of me ever having the Ascend in the AmEx credit department, only Surpass! I am thinking of getting that Ascend for yet another 100k HHonors points for only $3k spend. Since I got 100k for Surpass in the past, and then 200k for a total haul of 300K HHonors! Use the link below to apply for your own Ascend, Aspire link coming soon:

Hope this is true!


How To Survive The Ultra Basic Bitch Fare at ORD

There is an amazing loophole where you can skip the $19.98 “Passenger Usage Charge” that Spirit Airlines charges for booking online or over the phone by booking in person at the airport. Here is an example flight from ORD to DFW booked on the Spirit website:

Note that the $19.98 fee counts for 30% of the ticket price (and more than the $16.74 fare). Even the people at One Mile At a Time were skeptical, but it totally works. If you would go in to ORD and book the flight in person you would only pay $46.60 for the same round trip ticket. This way we can beat the airlines at their own tax evasion game. Fares are taxed at 7.5%, but fees (which there must be a way to get out of) are not taxed at all. Notice how any options like carry on luggage, baggage, seat picking, and priority boarding are “fees”. This is the bulk of their revenue. This is much like a movie theater making most of their revenue on concessions rather than the movie ticket. We are also in a unique position because our Active Duty Military status gets our luggage fee waived on Sprit Airlines. From their own site:

Free Bags For Active Duty U.S. Military

For active duty military traveling on Spirit, we will provide two free checked bags and a free carry-on, in addition to the already free personal item.  The U.S. military member should arrive early enough to have their bags checked at the counter, and present their U.S. military ID. As much as we would like to extend this policy to your family and loved ones, it only applies to the active military member. Active duty U.S. Military can now save time at the airport by validating their active duty affiliation online during their booking using ID.ME, a third party verification service. Simply click on the “verify” button at checkout via to validate your active duty status and claim your free checked and carry-on bags.

Note that your child or spouse would not get this benefit! However I have reports that they will seat you with your party when you check you bags in for no additional charge, even if you were placed on separated seats on check in. Now the question is, how do you survive a  super basic bitch ticket?

Pre Flight Drinks

I am based in Chicago, and all Spirit flights depart from ORD Terminal #3 with the American Airline Flights. I sent my most senior correspondent on a trip from ORD to LAS for the weekend. She is an AU on my Citi American Airlines Executive Card which I get the $450 waived per the MLA. Just being an AU and not active duty, she got access to the Admirals Lounge in terminal 3 just down the way from the Spirit gates. I also have a SCRA waived United Club card which would get me into the United Club without flying United. The Delta club will not let you in for free since your not flying delta, but the USO in terminal 2 outside of security or the one in the rotunda will let you in if you show your CAC.

In Flight Drinks

Next is in flight amenities. If you notice, Spirit is one of the airline choices for your annual AmEx $200 reimbursement. If the Gift Card loophole gets shut down we might just have to drink away our credit this way. Other cards like the Chase Ritz card have a $300 credit that would count for “In flight Meals”. I made the mistake of asking the CSR in a Secure Message at Chase to reimburse a “Beverage” which was declined. I then re-asked as a “in flight meal” reimbursement and they gave me my $25

What $25 will buy you in flight

Arrival Lounges

Be careful about terminal access and Spirit. For example when my senior writer arrived in LAS she could not easily get to the Centurion Lounge as it was all the way over in terminal 3. Plus the flight got in at 11 pm meaning it would of been closed. Her return flight was luckily on United so she had access to the centurion lounge on the way back. Coming soon will be a break down of lounge access per destination Spirit goes to and what lounges are accessible. In the mean time here are the locations that they fly to from ORD:

I then mapped the for all the Florida locations:

At $20 a segment to 5 destinations in Florida, this sure beats the MAC flights! More to come with a lounge access chart!


Last Call For Hilton Surpass

It is too late for me get the AmEx Hilton Ascend Bonus offers coming out in two days (18 January 2017). When I log into the Hilton Website they already have my current Surpass earnings coded as Ascend.

AmEx has given me the bad news that my current Surpass card will be counted as an existing Ascend in the future, meaning I will never ever get the bonus (“lifetime” product year limit). No one really knows what the Bonus Ascend will be, but there was mention that it would be one free weekend night which kind of sucks since you have to pay for one night to get another free (possibly). I think the better bet is to get the 85k points now and hope for an upgrade to Aspire bonus in the future. If you look at the Value Penguin site, there is a nice chart of what 85k can get you. More datapoints of not being able to double dip surpass and ascend are here.

So go ahead and use my links if you want to capture the 85k points today instead of waiting for what is to come with a direct Ascend application.


Proof: MLA Waiver for Citibank’s $450 Cards

When I applied for the AAdvantage Executive Card from Citi, I got a call from 1-423-467-6460 which is the Citi Fraud Department asking me to call 1-800-825-0393 just to verify that I was applying for this card. I never called back, and my card came in via FexEx anyways. Activation took a little longer because they had to clear up the hold on the application for the new account. Reader Dan in a previous Citi MLA post writes:

I followed up that message with a phone call to the citi military response unit directly at 877-804-1082, where I reached a very helpful lady who was able to look me up and see my requests in the system already for both me and my wife. She verified my information and asked me to email, fax, or mail a current LES to substantiate my service. She said turn around time should be within 30-60 days. I will let you know what happens

Fax 18665330503

military response unit
po box 790398
st louis, mo 63179

I followed up Dan’s advice and applied for MLA benefits by faxing in my LES to 1-866-533-0503. I didn’t hear back, but then some one at 1-904-954-1207 (Citi Fraud Department #2) called yet again to verify that I had applied for the card. They then asked me to fax another LES to 1-866-532-5470. I finally got a letter from Citi, but it said my Citibank Costco card did not qualify for the SCRA! I never did get a letter stating that MLA was applied to my AAdvantage Executive card. I however got my normal statement the next day, and it said this:


and below had this:

and the back had this:

There you go! No official letter saying that the MLA will cover annual fees, but defacto waiver of annual fees! This is the least they can do for making us get that crappy Citi Travel card that charges Uncle Sam foreign transaction fees as well as an annual fee.


Awesome Pay Changes For 2018!

Wish I was an Admiral in SF

I was blown away by two things today when my paycheck posted for the first time in 2018. First off there has been a 12% increase in the BAH of the Great Lakes Military housing area (NAVTRACEN, IL (IL092)) as well as a overall base pay increase of 2.4%. You can find the new 2018 Pay Table Here. This should get you thinking of how you want to contribute to your TSP to get the BRS match. If you want to maximize your match you will need to enter new values to make sure you don’t top out too early for the year. Keep in mind the new maximum is $18,500 for the 2018 year. Here is how I calculate my contributions for the year:

Step 1: Make a Spreadsheet of your pay and years in according to the new chart

Make sure you adjust for any pay bump that puts you in a new catagory:

 O-4 Base Pay Years In
Jan $5,900.70 5
Feb $5,900.70 5
Mar $5,900.70 5
Apr $5,900.70 5
May $5,900.70 5
Jun $6,238.50 6
Jul $6,238.50 6
Aug $6,238.50 6
Sep $6,238.50 6
Oct $6,238.50 6
Nov $6,238.50 6
Dec $6,238.50 6

Step 2: Divide out $18,500 for 12 months, you should get $1,541.67 then divide per month base pay

Base Pay TSP Deposit  % Contribution
Jan $5,900.70 $1,541.67 26.1%
Feb $5,900.70 $1,541.67 26.1%
Mar $5,900.70 $1,541.67 26.1%
Apr $5,900.70 $1,541.67 26.1%
May $5,900.70 $1,541.67 26.1%
Jun $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Jul $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Aug $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Sep $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Oct $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Nov $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Dec $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Total $18,500.04

For the year I should put 25-26% of base into my TSP a month to hit the $18,500 max for the year by December. If we look at the matching 5% funds and compare them as a function of “Return on Investment” we get this chart:

Gov’t 5% Base Match My Deposit % “return”
Jan $295.04 $1,541.67 19.14%
Feb $295.04 $1,541.67 19.14%
Mar $295.04 $1,541.67 19.14%
Apr $295.04 $1,541.67 19.14%
May $295.04 $1,541.67 19.14%
Jun $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Jul $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Aug $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Sep $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Oct $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Nov $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Dec $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Total $3,658.65 $18,500.04 19.78%

Now if you only put in 5% of base pay you are getting 100% ROI! The only catch is you got to wait till 59.5 to get this money. If you don’t contribute anything to TSP consider the tax loss of putting the same amount into a bank account or investment and paying capital gains taxes on top of paying income taxes on the money. I would take 20% ROI any day and keep it safe in G fund till I hit 59.5 years old.



MLA Datapoint for US Bank

Good news is US Bank acknowledges the MLA exists, but the bad news is it only applies to accounts opened in the past 2 months!

Such bullshit! Any takers for the tasker of applying for the Altitude card and then requesting MLA protections within 60 days? Might be worth a try to get the $400 annual fee waived for the $325 travel credit that resets at each renewal month (12 months from when you got the card). You also get the Andrew Harper Magazine, GoGo inflight WiFi, 3x on Electronic Wallet transactions.

Despite the MLA denial, and paying the $400 annual fee I am still way ahead because of the 50k free points and the $325 credit. I am going to keep this one open for the 3x Apple Pay worth 4.5% cashback.


HHonors Surpass Will Count As Ascend

Good news out there is HHonors is going to have some changes for 2018! Mainly we all get free breakfast at the Waldorf-Astoria with our free HHonoros Gold via AmEx Platinum. Bad news is I called AmEx to clarify if I would be eligible for the new signing bonus for the Ascend. My plan was to cancel my Hilton Surpass before the 18 Jan 2018 product change, and reapply for Ascend to get the new bonus. Unfortunately they said that the Surpass would count as the Ascend in the future so I WOULD NOT be eligible for any future Ascend bonus. This revelation kind of goes against Greg’s advice to downgrade the Surpass card to the fee free one, just to get the bonus in the future. It sounds like the Ascend bonus is not advalible to theose who geo the surpass bonus in the past. However, they gave me 5k HHonors points just to keep it open for at least 6-8 weeks. They informed me that the Surpass card would become the Ascend in use, but the physical plastic would be replaced only on card renewal.

Hope that clears things up!