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A Reader’s Question

by Jason Steele

A reader asks:

What is happening with US Airways Visa (Bank of America) being switched to US Airways Master Card (Barclays/Junpiter)? They are giving the present card holder a new card with out the new customer benefits, many fewer bonus miles AND a higher annual fee of $90 for both Platinum or Visa Signature to MC World Elite vs $79 for MC Premier World (same overall benefits). No choice to go to $49 World card. I have applied for the MC so I can switch manually and get the new customer benefits

Bill

A Confusing Situation

This seems to be a real confusing situation as US Airways is shifting their allegiance from Bank of America to Juniper. This thread over at FlyerTalk seems to delve into all of the gory details. Not being a cardholder or even a member of the US Airways program, I have no direct personal experience with this transition.

Your suggestion that you cancel your Bank Of America card and apply for the new Barclays/Juniper card seems like a good one. Unfortunately, they seem to specifically be trying to prevent Bank Of America customers from doing this, at least at first. Nevertheless, it is worth giving it a try.

Ultimately, you will have to decide for yourself if the new card is worth it. In many instances, you might find that a flexible program card such as the Amex Membership Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest card might fit your needs better. If your location near a US Airways Hub dictates that you must frequent travel with them, you still have other options. Since US Airways is a member of the Star Alliance, you can choose to accumulate miles with any of their partners. United Airlines is a partner, although one strongly recommend against. Continental is soon to be a partner. If you are unsatisfied with the new card situation, yet you still need to travel with US Airways, and want a credit card that earns miles, you might consider a Continental Airlines credit card, once they join the Star Alliance. When you fly US Airways, you can earn miles with Continental just as easily.

Why United Cards Aren’t Worth It

Graham Atkinson, the president of United Airlines’ Mileage Plus frequent-flier program recently gave an interview with the USA Today newspaper. The subject of Starnet blocking came up and his answer was very, very weak. If you don’t know, Starnet Blocking is United’s policy of preventing it’s customers from redeeming seats on it’s partners, even when those seats are offered to other members of the alliance.

The question was submitted by a reader: “How can United continue to justify filtering Star Alliance awards when other members of the alliance make them available for their members?”

The meat of his answer is:

I don’t think we are failing our customers, but there will be occasions on which someone could call the carrier and find there is availability and (then) call us and we would say that there wasn’t availability. (That) might fall into that category of (customers) feeling that we’re behaving in a way which they don’t understand or is not consistent with the offering in the program.

So there you have it. We don’t fail our customers, except when we do. In that case, it is the customer’s fault for not understanding how bad our program is.

Of course, you can’t blame them, as it was only last year that United finally confessed to the practice. That confession sparked a thread of outraged fliers over at FlyerTalk that has reached an amazing 1,200 comments. It also flies in the face of what you hear from their customer service agents when you attempt to book partner award travel. Invariably, they will tell you that the partner themselves has no availiblity.

It is your choice, but when choosing an airline or a reward card, I highly recommend you avoid the dishonest and customer unfriendly practices of United. They may be the “Friendly Skys”, but they are downright nasty when you want to redeem an award.

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