Point & Center: Marriott Stinks, US Airways 50% Bonus, American Express Premier Rewards Gold Improved & Lots More

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”.

Don't Do It!

Don’t Do It!

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!

LAST CALL: Hyatt Suite Upgrades, United Partner Award Sale & More Ending February 28th

With March right around the corner (and hopefully an end to this awful winter for us in the Northeast), there are several deals and offers expiring at the end of month. I’d figured it would be helpful to do a quick roundup of 3 deals you should consider taking advantage of before February 28th.

1) Hyatt Suite Upgrade Awards - Each year Hyatt suite upgrade awards expire on February 28th before Diamond members get four new awards on March 1st. While you must make your reservation by Saturday, you don’t have to stay by then. You can generally book rooms a year out so if you have future Hyatt stays in 2015 or early 2016, I’d consider locking in those stays now. While most rooms are cancelable up until a defined period beforehand, please note that if you need to change the dates of your future stay at any point, you will lose the suite upgrade. Essentially there is no risk to lock in an award to use your suite upgrade now and you can cancel or change without issue  All you lose is the suite upgrade which would have expired if you didn’t attempt to use it.

Andaz Maui Suite

Andaz Maui Suite

If you are like me and lost Diamond status for 2015, this will be your last chance to use ANY suite upgrade awards until you become a Diamond member again. I made sure to use mine so I am staying at the Andaz Maui in April and the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo in August on points + cash stays. You can use a suite upgrade award in conjunction with a points + cash stay but not an award night booked solely with points.

2) United Partner Award Sale - United has been offering discounted award flights on partner airlines for the past month or so but that sale is officially ending on Saturday. Ever since United devalued its frequent flyer program, certain award flights on partner airlines in Star Alliance cost more than flights on United’s own planes. For example, a one way business class ticket to Europe on United costs 57,500 miles while a flight on a partner airline like Swiss, Austrian or Lufthansa costs 70,000. If you have been eyeing an award flight to either Europe or Asia on a Star Alliance partner, I highly recommend booking it before Saturday to save 10,000-12,500 miles each way! You can book flights for travel between now and January 2016, so you do a wide range of dates to work with.

United Award Sale

United Award Sale

3) Citibank $400 Checking Account Bonus - I haven’t posted about this deal previously but Citibank has a promotion in which you can earn $400 for opening a Citigold checking account, depositing $50,000 and keeping it there for just 15 days. This promotion expires February 28th and while it requires you have to $50k in liquid capital, this could be a great way to make some quick money. You might get hit with a 1099 on this offer which reduces the value of it but you still come out ahead on this offer, especially considering it only takes 15 days. The good Doctor has a writeup here on this offer.

There are also others Citibank Citigold offers for 30,000 AA miles or 40,000 Thank You Points and you can fund all these checking accounts with a credit card.

Have I missed any other deals that expire February 28th? If so, please share in the comments and I’ll add it to this post.

Point & Center: Free Points, Free Miles, New Discover it Miles Credit Card & More

Happy Saturday everyone, I hope you are enjoying warmer weather than I am in New York. Here is a quick recap of some of the deals and offers from the past week.

1) 500 Air Berlin Miles - It feels like free Air Berlin miles comes around every few months or so. This time the offer is for 500 free miles for linking your Air Berlin topbonus number to Heinemann & Me which is apparently a German duty free store chain. You might need to first register for a Heinemann & Me account which is free.

AirBerlin

In the event you are not an Air Berlin topbonus member, you can first register for an account here and earn 500 free miles for joining. Then you can complete the offer above for an additional 500 miles.

2) New Discover it Miles Credit Card - Discover launched a new credit card, Discover it Miles, that sounds basic at first as it offer 1.5x  on all spending for no annual fee which isn’t that exciting, considering there are 2% cashback cards with no annual fee out there. However, instead of a traditional signup bonus,  Discover is offering double the points for the first year so this is really a 3% cashback card for the first year with no annual fee and the additional travel perk of $30 towards in-flight wifi via Gogo annually.

Discover

I personally prefer to collect airline miles or hotel points over cashback since I use my miles for international, premium travel and cashback is really only suitable for cheap, domestic travel. I’m passing on this card but Doctor of Credit had the best review I saw on the card and I agree with his conclusion. On a side note, kinda lame of Discover to name this card it Miles when it doesn’t even earn miles…

3) Delta Checked Baggage Guarantee – In a move that rivals Alaska Airlines, Delta is now offering customers a 20 minute guarantee on the delivery of their checked baggage or else customers are entitled to 2,500 SkyMiles. Delta claims checked baggage will be available within 20 minutes from the time the plane pulls into the gate. If not, Delta customers can go online and fill out a form to claim their 2,500 SkyMiles. This promotion is only valid through March 31st and is for domestic flights only. It appears Delta is giving this a test run and if successful, it wouldn’t shock me to see this rolled out on a more permanent basis going forward.

4) Refer a Friend Offer for Chase Sapphire Preferred - I’ve wrote about this offer before but Chase has recently reintroduced the refer a friend offer on the Chase Sapphire Preferred in which existing cardholders can refer others and earn 5,000 bonus points for doing so (the applicant will receive the standard 40,000 point offer currently). Not all cardholders are eligible however, including myself. You can check your eligibility here and if you keep getting an error message, then you are not able to refer others. I have no idea how Chase chooses who can participate in this offer but it can’t hurt to call or secure message them asking to be enrolled.

5) Free 300 La Quinta Points - Not a huge offer but I’ve seen various free point offers over the years for La Quinta so you might already have a small point balance there. You can earn 300 points for watching this quick video here or if you are lazy, you can just register at this page here without watching the video.

I didn’t include the promotion for the free 1,000 Hilton HHonors points for changing your password since that promotion is not yet valid contrary to what other bloggers posted. Once that promotion is confirmed to be working, I will post a separate entry about it.

20% Rebate on Hyatt Award Redemptions for Hyatt Visa Cardholders

Ok I’m probably the last blog to post about this offer (busy day job and all) but if you are a Hyatt Visa Cardholder, you can get a 20% rebate on Hyatt award stays through July 31st! This is a fantastic offer and in my opinion is one of the best hotel loyalty promotions thus far in 2015. However, since this is a rebate offer, you do need the full amount of Hyatt points in your account to book the award as the 20% back in points will only be posted after your stay.

Hyatt20Back

Here is how to take advantage of this promotion:

1. You must register for this promotion by March 31, 2015. Here is the direct link to register.

2. Complete an award reservation between now and July 31, 2015. The best part is full award nights, points & cash and suite upgrades (with points) all qualify for this promotion.

3. Wait 4-6 weeks and you will see 20% of your points deposited back into your account. That’s it!

I love that Hyatt is allowing previously booked award stays count for this promotion as I have a points & cash award with a diamond suite upgrade attached at the Andaz Maui for this April that I wouldn’t be able to cancel and rebook since the Andaz Maui doesn’t release points & cash space anymore (or does very infrequently). So all I have to do is register for this promotion by March 31st and get 20% of my points back which amounts to 15,000 points for my 6 night stay. Thanks Chase & Hyatt!

Even better is that Hyatt has confirmed that new cardholders who get the Hyatt Visa now and register by March 31, 2015 will be eligible for this promotion per Frequent Miler (even though the terms & conditions state otherwise). And here is where I have a bone to pick with some bloggers. The best offer on the Hyatt credit card is 2 Free Nights + a $50 statement credit as I’ve wrote about previously. Any blogger that doesn’t mention this $50 statement credit offer is just plain awful. I don’t believe the Hyatt card pays bloggers but why not mention it to your readers? If the excuse is they aren’t aware of it they are most likely A) Lying and B) If not, too focused on pumping credit cards to know about this easy hack. I’m looking at you The Points Guy (pushing the standard offer on the Hyatt card) and Milevalue (pumping his link to the Club Carlson credit club in a post about a Hyatt promotion but not including links to the Hyatt credit card seriously?!?!).