It’s been about two weeks since my last post but I’ve been quite busy with something not quite points and miles related…
Our daughter was born this early Sunday morning and both mom & baby are doing quite well. Before the birth, it was a rush to get everything together, build baby furniture/accessories/swings etc. and simply try to prepare for the greatest change to our lives. That explains no posts thus far in July.
I plan to return to posting at some point once I get into a routine and figure everything out. Thanks for understanding.
I subscribe to emails from United’s MileagePlus program and occasionally, they have some very cool offers to redeem United miles in non-traditional ways. This is similar to SPG’s Moments in that you can redeem miles for private or exclusive events, once in a lifetime type events or to mingle with celebrities. I just saw one today that any New York Giants fan would love – an opportunity to practice like you were on the New York Giants at their training center in East Rutherford, NJ. The cost is only 10,000 United miles per person and includes the following:
As of this writing (9:40am EST) there were still 76 spots available. I imagine this will go quick as most diehards would love to the opportunity to be a football player for a day, mingle with ex-Giant players, have dinner/non-alcoholic drinks included and earn a Giants jersey. For only 10,000 United miles (which I value around $150) this seems worth it to me if you are a Giants fan.
I’m a big NY Jets fan (and season ticket holder – please don’t bring up the fact we don’t have a QB) so I won’t be participating in this but it sounds really, really cool to me. I generally don’t advocate the use of airline miles outside of flights but the value here seems pretty good for what could be a once in a life time experience (not mention it includes a NYG jersey which is probably worth $100 by itself).
I know this isn’t points/miles related (though I guess it could be travel related) but I came across something useful when it came to E-ZPass. Did you know you can order additional E-ZPass supplies for free directly from E-ZPass? It turns out you can order replacement Adhesive Strip Sets & Read Prevention Bags right from their website (you can also order replacement E-ZPass tags online as well).
To access the “Request Supplies” page, simply log into your E-ZPass account and select “Vehicle & Tags”. From there, select Request Supplies and order what you need. The above screenshot is from the E-ZPass New York website (not sure if other states look the same). You can order four of each at a time (hey those little adhesive strips have multiple other uses around the house).
This came up when I got a new car recently and needed new adhesive strips – figured it was worth a shot to see if E-ZPass would provide them and found out they did. Yes, I know this at most saves you maybe a few dollars but hey free is free!
When you hear “Selection Sunday”, most people immediately think of the day the teams are chose for March Madness – the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. However, I had a different type of Selection Sunday – actually two different types with one of them being points/miles/travel related. Let me explain.
I’ll start with the more relevant example for the readers of this blog. It was application day for my wife which means I apply for several credit cards on her behalf (with her permission of course). The big decisions involved which cards I was going to select to apply for on her behalf. As a rule of thumb, I tend to focus on earning points/miles in transferable programs though I will gladly take advantage of an increased offer for the right airline or hotel credit card. In the end, here is what made the final cut:
- American Express Starwood Business Card – 35,000 SPG Points for spending $5k in 3 months
- Chase Ink Plus – 60,000 Chase UR Points for spending $5k in 3 months
- Bank of America Alaska Airlines Credit Card (w/ $100 Statement Credit) – 25,000 Alaska miles upon account approval. The $100 statement credit is earned for spending $1,000 in 3 months.
- Bank of America Alaska Airlines Business Credit Card – 25,000 Alaska miles upon first purchase.
Unsurprisingly all four are pending and I am planning for my wife to not call reconsideration on any with the possible exception of the BofA cards after a week or so. We’ll see what the next week brings and I’ll report back with the final results as well as my thinking behind each card.
I’ll end this post the more important selection I had to make on Sunday though it has absolutely no bearing on the points/miles world. You see my wife and I are expecting this July and we hosted a gender reveal party yesterday with some close family/friends. The big decision was each guest had to choose a color to wear based on whether you thought it was a girl or boy. Since we didn’t know ourselves, I chose a nice pink polo while my wife opted for blue. I’ll let the pictures speak for the final result….
This was a little different than what most people think of “Selection Sunday” but I wouldn’t change anything about it (well maybe some instant approvals would be nice). Even if we go 0 for 4 on the applications, I had at least one win on Sunday.
Update: I guess there was some good news this year.
2016 is barely two months old and since my involvement began in 2011, I cannot think of a worse 2 month stretch for “The Hobby”. These changes have been rough and a lot of veterans with big manufactured spending routines have been absolutely decimated with the unexpected shutdowns. Some of the changes even affect the newbies in the hobby as now anyone with 5 credit inquiries is cut off from Chase for good. It is foolish to think anything will remain status quo for long in this game but below is a list of all the negative changes that have been announced or occurred in just 2016 alone.
- American Express Business Cards Now Once a Lifetime – This one hurts. I’ve churned Amex business cards once they restricted personal cards to once a lifetime but now this option is gone.
- All Chase Cards Under the 5/24 Policy – Forgot churning Chase cards, you can’t even get a Chase card you never had once you get a few cards.
- BlueBird/Serve Shutdowns – On one day, American Express unexpectedly shut almost everyone who used these cards to MS.
- NW Buxx Neutered – Loading limits were lowered to $200 effectively ruining this as a viable MS option.
- Citibank Kills Credit Card Funding for Bank Accounts – This was a fun gravy train that was ruined by the big bloggers.
- Citibank Shuts Down Many Accounts – Another unexpected shutdown as Citibank got rid of many who either did a lot of MS on Citi cards or were aggressive credit card churners (think 4 or 5 Executive cards in a year).
- Huge AA Devaluation upcoming on 3/22 – Ok this hasn’t happened yet but there is no question the devaluation coming in a few weeks is a big deal if you redeem AA miles for premium cabins.
- Annual Category Changes for Marriott & Starwood Seemed Particular Egregious This Year – Maybe it was just me but the annual categories changes seemed overwhelmingly negative this year.
- Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades Policy Change – I’ve covered this earlier – you can no longer use DSUs for stays past the expiration date.
- IHG created a new rewards tier that requires 55,000 to 60,000 points a night – IHG is vying with Marriott for the worst hotel loyalty program in my opinion. The points requirements for top hotels increased by 20%.
- British Airways Eliminates 4,500 Avios Flights in North America – This became effective February 2016.
- Visa Gift Card Opportunities Drying Up – A lot of Simon malls have stopped selling VGCs and in general, it is getting harder to find stores that are willing to let you use a credit card to buy lots of these at a time.
Any other deals I miss (I do feel like I’m forgetting some)?
Either way, that is a lot to deal with as many of the big deals I’ve mentioned (Bluebird/Serve Shutdown, Citibank Accounts Shutdown, Citibank Credit Card Funding, American Express New Business Card Policy) came completely unannounced out of left field. There was no last minute opportunity to get one more load in, get one more Amex Business card or fund one more Citibank Savings account. If you were an MS’er, the Bluebird/Serve shutdowns were potentially devastating. A lot of the easy (or at least easier) opportunities to rack up a ton of points quickly including certain credit card options with large signup bonuses are all now gone for many.
I want to end this post on an uplifting note and that is to say many opportunities still exist and that it should still be no problem to earn hundreds of thousands of points/miles a year to help fund your future travel. Citibank/Barclays/Bank of America still are decent to deal with (though nowhere near as easy nor rewarding as a few years ago) and the BBVA Compass NBA card has been proven useful to manufactured spenders. Reselling is still a viable mainstream way to make money AND earn points/miles along with other MS methods that are still alive and will remain underground (which is probably for the best).
Do you need to be smarter, more practical and exercise more caution than before? Yes, you do. But there is nothing stopping you from racking up the points/miles to take that dream trip. I mean a new person to this hobby can still apply for a few credit cards, transfer some points around and end up flying first class on Emirates eating caviar, taking a shower and drinking 2005 Dom Perignon on their way to the other side of the world. Or they could fork over $20,000+ for that privilege – I know what route I’d choose (no pun intended).
Emirates First Class Our Anniversary Trip – October 2015 to the Dubai & Maldives
My “personal” bottle of 2005 Dom Perigon