Q: My family and I travel frequently between New York and Zurich, Switzerland and have noticed that fares from Zurich to New York are much lower than those from New York to Zurich. Why is this and is there a way to "game" the system? Can I buy a round-trip fare from Switzerland to the United States while I'm physically located in the U.S.?
A: We've noticed the discrepancy as well, on many routes between the U.S. and international destinations. Besides the all the taxes and innumerable fees involved in international travel, which vary by country and itinerary, airlines charge what they think the market will bear in each country. Currency exchange rates may also play a role. If you're starting your journey in Europe and flying round-trip to the U.S., then there's no reason why you can't buy a fare in the local currency at the local price. But if you're physically in the U.S. and don't have a European-based credit card, then this may not be possible.
Q: Perhaps it was inevitable that after forging so close a relationship with Chase Bank, Continental would leave the American Express membership rewards program next year. But I'm worried: I have about 450,000 miles in the Continental OnePass frequent flier program, and about 600,000 points with American Express. I was hoping to pool these and upon retirement do something fancy. What's your advice? Where will my points do more in the end?
A: A couple of things to consider: You can certainly transfer your Amex points into the Continental program (although this is non-reversible once done) and you'll have over one million points in Continental, which will next year mean that you have that amount in United's MileagePlus program. Plus, any miles you might have in United's program will be added to the pot. You should be able to fly almost anywhere the combined United-Continental flies in first class. But there's no need to decide this year since Continental won't leave the Amex program until Sept. 30 next year.