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top stories 2023

Our Top 10 Most-Read Stories from 2023

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Another year of travel is in the books, and we're ready to close out another year of covering the constantly changing world of travel, airline news, and flight deals. I might be biased (note to readers: I am definitely biased), but I'd say it was our best year yet.

As travelers hit the skies in record numbers in 2023, our team has grown rapidly and shattered our own records, too. We didn't just beat our best-ever year of traffic in 2023: For the second consecutive year, we almost doubled it.

Scan through the list of our most popular stories from the last year, and it's undeniable: Travelers are hungrier than ever to find cheap flights, put their points and miles to use, and travel smarter. But some of our most-read posts from 2023 also reflect the occasional (and not so occasional) bad news, travel frustrations, and where flyers have their hearts set on going in 2024.

 

10. First Class for 45K Points?! Points & Miles Deals to Japan are Unreal Right Now

A full year after it reopened to international travel, it seems like everyone is aching to get to Japan. The past year has been good to travelers with an eye across the Pacific Ocean and a pile of points to do so.

From unbelievable (and unbelievably rare) availability to book first class suites to the cheapest economy awards, we found more points and miles deals to get travelers to Tokyo and beyond than ever this past year. It was an unmistakeable trend we figured travelers with their hearts set on Japan would like to know about.

Here's just a small taste of the alerts we've sent to our Thrifty Traveler Premium members:

 

fly to kyoto japan with ANA mileage club

 

Read the full story here!

 

9. Forget What You’ve Heard: Stop Searching Incognito for Flights

Can we please, pretty please, make 2024 the year we finally put this myth to rest?

No, no, no, no, and no: Airlines are not tracking your searches and raising prices accordingly. You don't need to search incognito or clear your cookies. We hunt for flight deals for our Thrifty Traveler Premium members 24/7/365. If airlines were tracking our searches, we'd never find a deal – and trust me, we find plenty of amazing deals.

Somehow, this myth has taken hold, passed on from beginners to even so-called travel experts and social media influencers. You've probably heard it – it's practically common knowledge.

But it's wrong. If you've heard this one, be sure to read the story so you understand what's actually going on when prices change.

Read the full story!

 

8. Cheap Business Class Flights: The Best Ways to Book

Travelers have come out of the pandemic with more points (or cash) than ever and a burning desire to fly those fancy lie-flat seats upfront. We've done our best to help make it happen.

Yes, booking business class on the cheap can be done. Airlines rarely slash pricing on these top-dollar fares, but it does happen: In just the last year, we've sent alerts to Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers to book business class down to Chile for $1,200 or Europe for under $1,700. Once- or twice-a-year mistake fares make it even better, like these sub-$900 fares flying United Polaris business class

 

Mistake Fare

 

But increasingly, the best way to fly business class is by turning to your stash of points and miles. It's the best way to get outsized value, as these tickets typically are triple or quadruple the costs of flying economy – but not triple or quadruple the miles. Case in point: There are a handful of ways to book business class flights for the rates you'll normally find flying economy.

Read the full story here!

 

7. Ouch: Amex is Making Some Ugly Changes to the Platinum Card

As Americans got back to travel these last few years, they picked up *amex platinum* in record numbers, annual fee of $695 (see rates & fees) be damned: They want perks like unbeatable lounge access, hotel status, hotel credits, and more.

But Amex dealt current and prospective Platinum cardholders alike a raw deal earlier this year with a slew of negative changes, like:

  • A higher spending requirement for new applicants to earn a welcome bonus of 80,000 points (or maybe if they're lucky, 150,000 points): It now requires spending $8,000 in the first six months, up from the previous $6,000 threshold.
  • Adding authorized users to share the benefits of your Platinum Card is now drastically more expensive: Instead of adding up to three users for a total of $175, they now cost $195 each.
  • Amex has added language that makes it harder to earn multiple welcome bonuses on different co-branded versions of the Platinum Card, including those from Charles Schwab and Morgan Stanley … though it may still be possible, depending on which order you apply for each card.

 

amex platinum changes

 

In the world of travel credit cards, the only certainty is change – and change is rarely good. The bad news didn't stop with Amex in 2023.

Read the full story here! 

 

6. Chase Guts Pay Yourself Back for Sapphire Cardholders

When travel screeched to a standstill during the depths of the pandemic, Chase gave cardholders a novel way to use points for everyday expenses like groceries, home improvement projects, and even Airbnb rental.

To ring in 2023, the bank basically killed “Pay Yourself Back” off. As of Jan. 1, 2023, travelers with the *chase sapphire preferred* or the *chase sapphire reserve* no longer get a bonus when using points through Pay Yourself Back for most categories. Since its launch in 2020, these Pay Yourself redemptions matched the same value you'd get booking flights or hotels through the Chase travel portal – but no more.

Worse yet, Chase also axed Airbnb from the Pay Yourself Back portfolio. It had been a solid option for over a year, one of the best ways to redeem points for Airbnb.

Read the full story here!

 

5. The Sad State of Delta SkyMiles in 2023

We defended Delta SkyMiles long after others had given up, but we finally hit a breaking point this year.

“After years of steady cuts, award rates creeping up, skyrocketing business class rates, and even more recent troubling developments, it's time for a wake-up call: Flyers, readers, and Thrifty Traveler Premium members alike should stop focusing on earning SkyMiles or swiping their co-branded Delta Amex cards to earn miles.”

 

state of delta skymiles

 

It struck a chord, and there's no wonder why.

Travelers who have loyally flown Delta and piled up SkyMiles felt the insulting sting of 400,000-mile (or more) redemptions for a business class seat abroad, even as other competitors charge 60,000 miles or less. The once-steady stream of international Delta SkyMiles flash sales like 32,000 SkyMiles to Europe had disappeared. Delta's still the only airline selling stingy basic economy award tickets when redeeming miles – and in 2023, those spread across the globe.

But within a matter of days of hitting publish, the tide for SkyMiles began to turn. Outstanding SkyMiles deals roared back in the second half of 2023, like:

  • Out of nowhere, Delta slashed award rates to Auckland (AKL) in New Zealand as low as 37,400 SkyMiles roundtrip – from almost any airport nationwide!
  • Days later, we sent Thrifty Traveler Premium members another alert for roundtrip flights to Santiago (SCL) for just 37,4000 SkyMiles, too
  • Delta slashed award rates to Tahiti (PPT) to the lowest point we've ever seen: As low as 39,000 SkyMiles roundtrip!
  • We've even seen some incredible deals to book Delta One suites, like a recent find to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) and Seoul (ICN) from just 85,000 SkyMiles each way!

 

new zealand premium deal

 

Whether someone down in Atlanta was reading or it was merely coincidental timing, we're just glad SkyMiles are ending the year in a better place than where they started.

Read the full story here!

 

4. No Appointments? How to Get a Global Entry Interview Faster

Global Entry is one of the best tools for international travelers, giving you a fast pass through customs and immigration on your way back into the U.S. plus TSA PreCheck benefits, too. But as international travel demand soared this year, getting signed up has become a royal pain – especially finding a Global Entry interview.

It's the last step in finalizing enrollment … and often the hardest part: Travelers often scan through months and months worth of interview calendars without seeing a single appointment available. How good can Global Entry be if you can't actually, you know, get it?

 

Global Entry Enrollment Delay

 

That's why we put together this helpful guide with all our best tips and tricks to find an appointment, from scouring the schedule for last-minute cancellations to paying a service like Appointment Scanner to do it for you or using Enrollment on Arrival after your next international trip.

Read the full story here!

 

3. Why TSA PreCheck Isn’t Showing Up on Your Boarding Pass

Our newest writer, Long, had a hunch: Travelers regularly glance at their boarding pass only to find their beloved TSA PreCheck benefit is nowhere to be found. And they don't understand why.

He was right: This story blew up, clearly resonating with frustrated readers who have been subjected to the standard security line – shoes and jackets off, electronics out of your bags, please – one too many times. What's the point of paying $78 or more for an expedited airport security service when you don't get to use it?

 

security checkpoint at msp airport

 

If you're in that boat, you're in luck. His story has everything you need to make sure you never miss out on PreCheck again.

Read the full story here!

 

2. The Best Day to Book Flights: What You've Heard is Wrong…

Looking back, 2020 was travel's great hibernation and 2021 was the beginning of the long climb back to normal. We almost got there in 2022, but in 2023 it was clear: People are ready to travel again – and they're hungrier than ever to find a great deal.

That's why we put together this story debunking one of the biggest myths surrounding travel and cheap flights: “Flights are cheapest on Tuesdays.”

No matter how many times you've heard this from friends, family members, or influencers, it's not true. The fact of the matter is that the best day to book flights is whenever you find a cheap deal. And cheap flights can pop up at any hour, every day of the week. It’s less about the day, and more about using the right tools – and having the right mindset – to find a great deal.

It’s a convenient but outdated myth that ignores the fact that airfare pricing is constantly changing. Airlines tweak their pricing by the hour to try to win over more customers and undercut their competitors. So don’t assume you’re getting the best deal on your flights just because you’re booking on a Tuesday night.

Take it from us: Our team of flight deal analysts spends all day, every day searching for the cheapest fares to send to Thrifty Traveler Premium members. The best fares and sales don’t happen on only one day of the week. We find crazy cheap flightsmistake fares, and unadvertised award sales every single day of the year – be sure to check out the best deals we found in 2023!

Read the full story here!

 

1. How to Use Google Flights to Find Cheap Flights Like a Pro

We love you, Google Flights. We really, really love you. And it seems like our readers do, too.

Forget KAYAK, Expedia, Hopper, Skyscanner, and every other flight search engine out there. Google Flights is better than them all. Yes, that’s right: The search engine behemoth is also king when it comes to finding cheap flights. It’s incredibly powerful, with tons of features that will help you zero in on the best price.

 

google flights

 

Somehow, it continues to get even better thanks to new features added recently like gauging your carbon emissions from flight to flight, setting price alerts on almost any date, and some automatic refunds if prices drop after booking.

We've put a ton of time and energy into this guide to explain the ins and outs of Google Flights – its benefits, a few drawbacks, and the best ways to use it to find cheap flights no matter where you're going. And as Americans traveled in record numbers in 2023, it's clear that they found it helpful.

Read the full story here!

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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