There was a TON going on last week in the points & miles but yours truly was dealing with audit deadlines and other work requirements so posts were on the light side last week. With most of that now past me, here is a quick roundup of the big items from last week.
1) Marriott Devalues Twice In One Week - I admit “devalues” might be too harsh a word here but that gives you a sense of what I think about Marriott and their loyalty program. This week they announced their annual hotel category changes that affects over 36% of their hotels with many more hotels increasing a category level (27%) than decreasing a category (only 9%). Of course, they didn’t give us a nice way to sort or look through all the changes – you need to look on this page and search for the hotel you are interested in. You have until March 18th to book awards before the devaluation occurs. This also effects the annual free night from the Marriott Rewards credit card as that can only be booked for a level 1-4 category hotel and you now have less options as more hotels shift out of a level 4 category. I very much prefer the annual free nights from the IHG or Hyatt credit cards.
On top of that, they also announced they will begin enforcing their point expiration policy which is that points will expire after two years on inactivity. That’s really not a big deal except they specifically prohibit transfers from external parties such as Chase Ultimate Rewards as a form of qualifying activity to extend the life of the points. Yes, there are still plenty of other ways to extend the life of points but transferring points from flexible rewards currencies to either airlines or hotels is such an easy & quick way to extend the life of points in most cases. The only Marriott points I have are from the Ritz Carlton 140k credit card offer (yes I used my Marriott # and the points were deposited into my Marriott account, not a Ritz Carlton account) so I once I burn these points, along with my wife’s 140k points, on an air and hotel package, I am officially done with Marriott in any capacity.
2) American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card Improved - Last year, American Express eliminated the extra 15,000 point bonus for spending $30,000 or more on the Premier Rewards Gold card in a year but now they have made some improvements designed to make this card more competitive. Each year, cardholders will be entitled to a $100 airline credit that works in the same way the $200 airline credit works on the Platinum card. Additionally, you will now earn 2x points at US restaurants and there are no longer any foreign transaction fees on the card. The downside to these changes? The annual fee is increasing from $175 to $195, though effectively it is $95 if you use the airline credit correctly each year. This card is now more designed to compete with the Chase Sapphire Preferred though I still don’t think this card is a keeper after year one.
Side note: If you decided to apply for this card, you might be able to get a 50,000 bonus by clicking through CardMatch or trying this link (https://www304.americanexpress.com/credit-card/premier-rewards-gold/25330) in an incognito browser. DO NOT signup for this card with a 25,000 point bonus despite the claims from other bloggers calling the 25k offer a “no brainer”.
Here are some items you should know about:
3) 50% Bonus on Spending on US Airways MasterCard - If you have the US Airways credit card (and you should by now since there is maybe a month or so left to get it before it is gone for good), you can earn a 50% bonus on all spending until you’ve hit an extra 10,000 miles. Miles4More has the details but this card is coming out of the safe for a while for me so I can earn 1.5 future AA miles per dollar. This offer is available to all US Airways cardholders so if you don’t see it when you log in to your account online, call or message Barclays to get the offer.
4) Starwood Category Changes - Just like Marriott, Starwood also announced their annual hotel category changes but thankfully they are much more reasonable in scope. About 22% of their hotels are changing categories but there are actually more hotels decreasing a category than increasing, which is a great for SPG members. You can check out the full list here but I find these changes reasonable compared to Marriott’s changes.
5) SPG & Uber Partner Up - More Starwood news includes a new partnership with Uber in which you can earn Starpoints on every Uber ride (in addition to the points you already receive from your credit card on Uber). The one downside – you do not earn any Starpoints until you’ve had at least one stay with Starwood in the calendar year. After that, you earn 1 SPG point per dollar on Uber with additional points for elite members if they use Uber while staying at an SPG hotel. You need to first link your SPG and Uber accounts here before you can earn additional Starpoints on Uber.
6) IHG PointsBreak - Several times a year, IHG announces their PointsBreak hotels in which you can book hotels for only 5,000 points per night. While that is obviously a great value, I’m never excited by this promotion as the hotels are just really random and almost never in places I have an interest in going to. I’m sorry but places like Candlewood Suites Huntsville – Research Park don’t excite me. However, if you do find yourself in these random areas, then do book these awards.
7) Hilton HHonors Double Points or Miles Promotion - Pretty straightforward promotion from Hilton to earn either double Hilton HHonors points or double miles on Hilton stays from now until May 31, 2015. You can register here and I highly recommend choosing double Hilton HHonors points for the stay. As usual with Hilton, there are a ton of non-participating properties, including one I have a planned stay at in the next two months. That said, still register as you never know when you might actually stay in an eligible Hilton Hotel.
8) Save $25 on Virgin America Flights – Virgin America is now the first airline to accept Visa Checkout for payment and as an incentive to get customers to try it out, you can save $25 on your next Virgin America flight. You must book by July 31st to take advantage of this offer.
That’s it, enjoy your Sunday!