Bits ‘n Pieces for 11-5-2011

  • Live and Let’s Fly says there’s progress on what an Amtrak-United relationship will look like come 2012. While transferring points between programs will go away, train codeshares will continue and it should be possible to earn miles on some Northeast corridor trains.

  • Matt M. passes along an old Forbes piece but a conceptually useful one on cell phone taxes. I’m home sick on this Saturday morning and my project is going to be figuring out whether AT&T bases its cell phone tax calculations based on my phone’s area code or my billing address, at least as of this six year old article different companies use different methods. If they are calculating taxes based on billing address, and especially since I use paperless billing, it’s especially easy to create a virtual move – say to Nevada or Idaho – in order to minimize taxes. It’s shocking, really, that total taxes on cell phones can be over 20% but varying widely across states. Choosing to base your cell phone activity in a lower-tax state can mean significant savings, maybe $50 a year or more.

  • Mark your calendars for Wednesday night’s live chat with Hyatt Gold Passport’s Jeff Zidell.

  • chitownflyer explains how to use United “systemwide upgrades” (given to 100,000 mile flyers) on Continental flights.

  • UsingMiles hails 6 travel experts: The Points Guy, Randy Petersen, Tommy Danielsen, Tim Winship, Seth Kugal, and me. They grab an old photo from an old New York Times piece which highlighted this blog’s influence over the loyalty industry, I really thought that particular photo had disappeared down a memory hole. They get my bio/life history more than a little wrong, I think someone messed up a cut-and-paste somehow, but that’s alright it makes me sound much more impressive, like the over-the-top college entrance essay (“I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat 400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.”)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Too bad about the Amtrak-Continental partnership, because it’s a fairly easy high value redemption — several months ago we took a trip in a family bedroom (5 people including one infant) using 20K points for what would have been a $970 ticket (we did pay $70 in gratuities over the 30-hour trip, but that was our choice). Now between various accounts we have about 100K Continental/United miles remaining, and the question is to transfer or not to transfer, given the higher devaluation risk with Amtrak. I’m guessing we will end up transferring, basically ending our earning activity with Continental and United — once the balances are zeroed out, it probably makes more sense for us to start accruing Star Alliance miles on a BMI family plan.

  2. Please report back when you learn about the basis for taxation of AT&T cell phones. I hope to keep my (DC) number, I live in MD, and I use paperless billing, so I’m a potential “mover.”

  3. Just be aware that changing your mailing address to reduce your cell phone taxes (without really moving to a new address) is tax evasion, and is illegal. You’ll very likely get away with it, but there’s no guarantee.

  4. @Rob actually it may be the case that the taxes being collected are different than those which are supposed to be collected, as I understand it actual collection should be based on where you are predominantly calling from not where you actually live, and if there is tax miscollection it’s driven by the cell phone provider using the wrong method to assess and collect the tax.

  5. About 18 months ago I moved our billing address on our Verizon family plan from the City of Chicago to my in-laws house in rural Indiana. It dropped our monthly out-of-pocket taxes by just over $9/month.

  6. @Rob If tax billing is based on domicile, then there is no choice (legally). But if tax billing is based on billing address, then I’m unaware of any legal obligation that one’s domicile also be one’s billing address. Anyway, as Gary intimates, it seems most likely that taxes be based on the “from” location of outgoing calls (in my case, that would be lower-tax Virginia). So this is a complicated issue.

  7. @NYBanker and others, as I mentioned under the weather today, intended to call and find out but didn’t do it.. If y’all want to find out and report back to me, it would be much appreciated!!

  8. I’m not sure which is more absurd, your fake college essay or the bio they wrote for you. It reminds me of the letters I volunteer for my students writing fellowship applications.

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