Bits ‘n Pieces for September 9, 2012

News and Notable Items from Around the Interweb:

  • Lucky points out that Delta isn’t currently adding fuel surcharges to awards on Virgin Australia. This space is even bookable on the Delta website, and offers the best availability in business class Down Under. Getting US domestic connections to Los Angeles to start the trip can always be a challenge with Delta, but remember that flying Alaska Airliens is also an option for some. The best availability on Virgin Australia, especially during peak travel periods, is flying Los Angeles – Brisbane. A great opportunity to grab business class awards to Australia for about $780 less out of pocket than usual.

  • Congratulations to Award Wallet on 100,000 members. Award Wallet is the tool I use to track my own miles, it’s free to sign up an lets you update all of your account balances (except for American and Southwest) with a single click and also log into your accounts with one click, once you’ve entered your account information a single time. For a modest fee (your choice the amount, starting at $5 for 6 months) you also get expiration notices for the miles in your accounts.

  • Christopher Elliott is frustrated by the high fees charged by rental car companies for using their EZ Pass toll payment devices. I say if you don’t like the fees, don’t use the rental companies’ devices. And eventually price will come down, at least one (of the few remaining!) companies will see offering this less expensively as a competitive advantage.

  • Apparently Lufthansa offers first class passengers pre-flight dining in their lounge at Washington Dulles. Common at some bigger stations elsewhere, but not something they featured the last time I flew Lufthansa’s first class out of DC (On points, naturally.). And congratulations to Alex of Points, Miles, and Martinis for his first international first class experience!

  • I did try the Uber free taxi thing in New York this morning, but I screwed up. As my own cab was supposed to be pulling up, so did another one. He acknowledged when I asked, “Uber?” and I got in. The ride wasn’t free, and I got a text from the driver who came for me asking where I was. Ooops. No cost to my mistake, but yellow cabs are everywhere it’s something folks will need to be mindful of, black cars are usually easy to spot.

  • Precheck worked for me this morning, there’s been much speculation that using a mobile app boarding pass is a factor that works against you but I have a better batting average with my mobile phone than I do with a paper boarding pass. Flight was delayed about an hour, but American’s JFK Flagship Lounge is a decent place to wait out such things, thanks to the Gold status I received from British Airways due to their acquisition of my beloved british midland.

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. “I say if you don’t like the fees, don’t use the rental companies’ devices.”

    Unfortunately in many cases (such as Hertz’ PlatePass system in Washington state), you don’t have a choice as the device is always on and can’t be disabled.

    Each time I rented a car from Hertz and crossed the 520 toll bridge over Lake Washington (no cash lane), I would be charged a $~14 initialization fee for using the device the first time. I managed to negotiate those charges away, but there was still no way to avoid the charge in the first place without taking a 30 minute detour.

  2. “I say if you don’t like the fees, don’t use the rental companies’ devices.”

    —Sometimes, it’s not a choice. At least not a meaningful one.

    Some places in Florida have cashless tolls now. Not realizing this, when I rented from Dollar down there recently, and they offered me a Sun Pass transponder for ~$8/day, I refused because I knew I was only going to use a couple of tolls, and I figured I’d just pay them.

    But you can’t pay cashless tolls on this spot. Either you have Sun Pass, or they record your plate and bill the owner of the car, in this case Dollar.

    But guess what, if Dollar gets one of these invoices, they turn around and bill you, plus an “administrative fee” of $25 per toll.

    I called the toll authority immediately after getting home and asked them if I could just pay them directly before they billed Dollar, and they told me there wasn’t.

    After some negotiation with Dollar, I got them to waive the $25 fees and just bill me for the toll.

    But it seems fundamentally unfair to me that if you rent a car for a week, and only use 2 tolls at 75 cents each, your options are limited to

    1) Pay the $56 for the Sun Pass transponder
    2) Refuse Sun Pass, an get a bill for the tolls + admin fees totaling $51.50

    Either way, you’re paying over $50 for $1.50 in tolls.

  3. My son and daughter used Uber yesterday in NYC from LGA, and loved the service. They sent the request upon deplaning (using carry-on) and the car was waiting at the curb for them.

  4. Ditto on the rental car companies’ devices. I was “supplied” with one but not told of the charge. Sixt reversed the charge for me.

  5. The “mobile boarding works against you for pre-check” is ridiculous. If anything it works in your favor. For example, when precheck launched in Seattle, ONLY mobile boarding passes were eligible. Last I checked, there were still some carriers (UA) where this was true.

  6. I’m new to Award Wallet. Do people really put all their credit card info in there? (I.e., ID and password) If that data was stolen, or leaked, wouldn’t you be in a heap of trouble?

  7. @David G – probably not and there’s generally no liability anyway if they did, data breaches are much more common from bigger databases than this anyway. Interestingly it isn’t the credit card companies objecting to the service!

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