Episode 22: “Etihad Awards, New Avios Rates, Fee Free Visa and MCGC, and More of Robert’s European Vacation”

Last week we had our first ever cliffhanger episode–this week we’re back to finish the story of Robert’s European Vacation.  We also cover some great news on the redemption side, as well as options to earn miles without flying on Today’s No Annual Fee Edition of the podcast.


0:32 Etihad Awards Booking on AA.com (link)

  • Still not seeing JFK-AUH Apartment show up even though there is space
  • Have to call New Zealand for that one still (link)

3:24 British Airways Avios Partner Award Devaluation Coming (link)

  • 0-650 miles: 6,000 Avios (was 4,500, unclear whether this range will become bookable on North America routes)
  • 651-1,150 miles: 9,000 Avios (was 7,500)
  • 1,151 miles-2,000 miles: 11,000 Avios (was 10,000)
  • 2,001 miles-3,000 miles: 13,000 Avios (was 12,500)
  • Goes into effect May 30th, 2019

4:06 [Targeted] Amex Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic 30% Transfer Bonus (link)

  • Good for awards on Delta metal, ANA roundtrip…
  • …and Necker Island

4:46 Fee-Free Visa GCs at Staples (link)

  • 5/5/19-5/11/19
  • Said to be limit one $200 VGC pp

5:11 Stop & Shop $15 Off Groceries with $100 GC Purchase (link)

  • Purchase $100 3rd party GC, get $15 voucher towards future grocery purchase
  • 5/3/19 to 5/23/19

7:14 $15 off two $100 MCGC & 8X Happy cards at Safeway Branded stores

  • Need to add to J4U app

7:30 [Targeted] 5,000 MRs for Adding Authorized User to Amex Personal Gold

  • Add up to 4 users, 5,000 MRs each
  • Each AU must spend $500 to receive the bonus
  • AUs are free on Personal Gold
  • Received via email, subject “Earn 5,000 Membership Rewards® points by adding an Additional Card Member”
    • Amex clearly listens to the show
  • Link to check whether you’re eligible
  • (will say “We are sorry, you are not able to apply for an Additional Card online.” if ineligible)

8:59 Part II–Family Travel to Venice and Rome. 

Be sure to listen to Episode 21 if you haven’t already. 

9:05 Rome

  • Hotel dei Mellini
    • Boutique hotel just west of the Tiber
    • 10-20 minute walk from most major sites
    • Booked family room
    • Upgraded to 2 BR/2BA Suite
    • Complimentary breakfast, free WiFi, nightly turndown service
    • Who needs status with this kind of treatment?
  • Dal Bologenese was very good for dinner
  • Colosseum/Roman Forum/Palatine Hill Tour (not a fan)
  • Pasta Making Class was amazing
    • 4.5 hour tour
    • Booked “Once in Rome” through Chase Expedia portal
    • Started off with some confusion because the tour time said 10:30a yet the vouchers said it started at 10:00a
    • Hard to access vouchers through Chase’s wonky site, especially on mobile
    • Nobody there at the meeting point when we arrived at 10a
    • Called Once in Rome, they said they’d call me back but didn’t/couldn’t figure out what my number was
    • Finally connected with the guide a half-hour late, but it ended up being by far our favorite tour of the week
    • The tour ended up getting routed to an AirBnB “Experience” which was very similar to the tour we initially signed up for (link)
    • The re-routing may have been responsible for the confusion over meeting point and time
    • It actually ended up working in our favor because the AirBnB Experience was more expensive than what we paid for and, I’d have to guess, much better
    • Highly recommend this AirBnB Experience if you’re in Rome
  • Checked out Trastevere and had dinner at the No 2 restaurant in Rome on TripAdvisor out of 10,000+ (link)
    • It actually was pretty terrific
    • Kind, friendly service
    • Got us right in on a Friday night
    • Great food & drink (a little more trendy than traditional)
    • Discussion about restaurant selection process while travelling: Location vs format vs local vs traditional vs modern take
  • Ride to the airport in an E-Class Mercedes set up through the the hotel (cheaper than Uber Black, the cheapest Uber option in Rome)
  • MyTaxi app is supposedly the way to go, but when I tried calling one it took like 5 minutes at the Rome train station and I was never assigned a ride. So we just did Uber Black the entire time in Rome. A little more expensive but generally nice.

24:12 Rome-LHR

  • Delta award ticket with Alitalia Economy on first leg, 4 hour layover, then Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
  • Couldn’t check-in on Delta app
  • On desktop could check-in and email boarding pass, but just for the Alitalia leg
  • Flight was fine and on-time but they took our bags on the jet bridge
  • By the time we got through Passport Control, got our bags, and took the train to the right terminal our layover was down to 1.5 hours
  • On the bright side we got the full Virgin Atlantic/DeltaOne check-in/lounge experience which aims (and delivers) to get you from the curb to the lounge in 10 minutes. Very nice. Great experience, great lounge.
  • I kept telling myself that the purpose of taking that Alitalia flight was to reduce fuel surcharges as much as anything

30:54 Random observations

  • Google Pixel hotspot for connectivity (cheap, but a bit of a nuisance)
  • Did see space for 4 open up on Lufthansa First through Frankfurt close-in on the return. I didn’t consider switching (it would be a lot more miles) but still: Good to see there are always options close-in if you’ve got the constitution for it.
  • Empty Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on the way back. What to make of that? How to leverage it going forward if the flight remains in operation?
  • Every hotel booking through Chase UR portal went through without a hitch
  • 3 out of 4 activity bookings went through without a hitch (and the one that did start with a hitch ended up being the best one)
  • First Republic fee-free ATM withdrawals was quite nice. Made it easy to get just enough cash when needed.

Overall, a great trip. Love the European Vacation.

Like what you heard in the No Annual Fee version?

Subscribe to the paid version of the podcast here:


On this week’s subscriber podcast:

We talk about 3 different Pajama Liquidation methods, as well as unique news, and a discussion of Sam’s recent trip to San Francisco.

Subscribe to the No Annual Fee Edition

Subscribe below to the Free, No Annual Fee Milenomics² podcast on Apple Podcasts:



Or on Google Play Music:

Listen on Google Play Music

About the author

- Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I'll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *