Negative Miles and Points Changes for Argentina

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m a big miles and points junkie. I regularly use miles and points to reduce the cost of traveling internationally with a family of four. Of course, good things don’t last and there are two major negative changes coming to redeeming miles on American Airlines and Delta for travel to Argentina.

For bookings made as of March 22, 2016, American Airlines is making three negative changes to their award charts for southern South America.

First, American is eliminating MileSAAver Off Peak Awards. These were 20,000 one-way coach awards for travel to and from Argentina during non-peak times. My family used these many times – booking roundtrip flights for 4 people for only 160,000 miles! It was an incredible deal, and apparently too generous for American to continue. They will now only offer MileSAAver awards at 30,000 miles one-way. That means for our family of four, flights will now cost 240,000 miles roundtrip.

Not content with that, American is also increasing the cost of one-way business class saver awards from 50,000 miles to 57,500 miles. They are also drastically increasing one-way first class saver awards from 62,500 miles to 85,000 miles! That’s a 36% increase.

Not to be outdone, Delta also decided to increase the number of miles needed to travel from the US to Argentina. One-way business class fares will go from 62,500 miles one-way to 75,000 miles. This applies to all travel from October 1, 2016 on and also applies to their partners Aeromexico and Aerolineas Argentinas. Luckily, economy fares stay the same at 30,000 miles one-way.

So, any good news here?

Amazing Business Class Award Space

Tons of business class award space!

The only potential positive is that you have until March 22 to book travel on American Airlines at the old prices. You can also make free date changes to those award tickets and keep the old pricing. So, if you have any potential travel plans, I’d recommend booking now.

The other positive is that American Airlines has opened up an incredible amount of business class and first class award saver space (see chart). While they were usually quite stingy with award space, their award calendar now shows a ton of space with many seats available.

We decided to take advantage of this and just changed our flight back to the US from coach to business for 50,000 points each. What’s the point of earning miles and points if you can’t spend them, right? And with these devaluations, there’s no point in hoarding them as they just decrease in value over time.

Where to sit with kids?

Where to sit with kids?

It will be interesting having a 2-year old and a 5-year old in business class, but they’re seasoned travelers at this point. The toughest decision was figuring out how to pick our seats since American has a 1-2-1 herringbone seat configuration on their 777-200. While we originally had the middle seats, the partition between the two means it would be difficult to reach across to the other side to help. I decided to change the seats to one middle and one window, so we’re just across the aisle from each other. I’ll let you know how that goes!

– You can get more info on the rest of American Airlines award changes at the View from the Wing blog.

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Moving Sale!

We’re having a moving sale!

Lots of household items, furniture, appliances, electronics, baby items and much more are for sale at http://enventa.discoverbuenosaires.com

Check it out! We’re adding more things daily…

(And yes, we are leaving Argentina. More on that in a future post.)

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The End of US Netflix in Argentina

Netflix Streaming from Outside of the USIt was bound to happen sooner or later…

Netflix has announced that they will begin cracking down on those who use proxies or “unblockers” to access content outside of their geographic region.

Of course, many expats use these tricks to get the version of Netflix from their home country. I love being able to have US Netflix titles in Argentina rather than the Argentine content. It’s also nice to switch to other countries to get content that is not licensed for your area.

Netflix announced these coming crackdowns in a blog post that lamented that they could not offer the same content across all regions “given the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories.” They also stated that they keep pushing towards that goal, but I would not expect any changes there for many years.

Netflix has been pretty lax on blocking these unblockers in the past. They had the technology to do more, but chose not to – because it was not in their best interest. Now it seems that the media owners have finally forced their hand.

We’ll have to see if the unblockers and proxies can come up with new technological solutions to get around these new blocks.

Let’s hope Netflix does not start to eliminate the sharing of account passwords!

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Guide to Using the ATM in Argentina – And Should You?

I did something today that I haven’t done in over 4 years… I used the ATM in Argentina to withdraw money from my US bank account.

Argentina Money Transfer Services Require CUILThat’s right, with Macri’s new government recently eliminating restrictions on buying dollars and devaluing the peso, the gap between the blue dollar rate and the official rate has dropped to only about 5-10% from a high of almost 60%. You can once again use your foreign debit card or credit card in Argentina without having to worry about losing a lot of money.

So, what do you need to know about using the ATM in Argentina?

First, get ready for a whopping ARS $79.80 (U$S 6) fee per transaction regardless of the amount you withdraw. To help offset this, we recommend using a debit card that refunds your ATM fees (like Charles Schwab Bank) or, if you have a Citibank debit card, using a Citibank ATM with no fee.

Because of this hefty fee, it makes sense to withdraw as much money as possible at one time. Unfortunately, the maximum amount you can withdraw per ATM transaction is ARS $2400 (some people report $2500, but in our tests Supervielle and Galicia are both $2400). You may make multiple transactions (up to the daily withdrawal limit imposed by your bank), but you’ll pay the U$S 6 fee each time.

The exchange rate you get at the ATM is based on the previous day’s rate as calculated by Visa. You can find this rate on the Visa Exchange Rate Calculator website. For my withdrawal today, I got a rate of $12.90. If I would have had to pay the ATM fee, the effective rate drops to $12.49.

Also, make sure your bank does not charge additional debit card fees for foreign currency transactions or using another bank’s ATM. Bank of America has some crazy fees – U$S 5 – U$S 10 for using a non-Bank of America ATM plus a 3% international transaction fee. Paying these additional fees is going to lower your exchange rate as well.

So, how much did I lose by using the ATM versus exchanging dollars at the blue rate?

Since cuevas were offering a blue rate of $13.90 today, I lost about 8%. (U$S 13.39 on my ARS $2400 withdrawal.)

How does this compare to using Xoom?

If I had used Xoom to transfer the same amount of money (U$S 186), I would have gotten a rate of $12.53. Xoom beats the ATM if you have to pay the transaction fee ($12.53 v $12.49). Xoom also works better for larger amounts of money, paying up to $12.80 today for bigger sums and not requiring you to make multiple transactions.

So, what’s the best thing to do?

If you have have dollars, exchanging on the blue market is still the way to go. In my example from today, I would have made 8% more on my money. While I still have USD, I’ll keep exchanging on the blue market, but it’s nice to know that I can use the ATM again in an emergency.

If you don’t have USD and need larger sums of money, Xoom is the way to go. If you transfer the maximum U$S 2999, you’ll get a rate of $12.80. It would take seventeen separate ATM transactions over a couple of days to get this same amount of pesos.

Of course, the blue market fluctuates daily so we’ll have to see if it differs more than the five to ten percent it has been. One just never knows in this country…

UPDATE
Here are some recent transactions to compare the ATM to the blue rate:

1/15/16: ATM, $13.23 / Blue, $14.10 / 6.37% difference
1/29/16, ATM, $13.76 / Blue, $14.05 / 2.09% difference

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