RedBird’s Dead, Free Points/Miles & Other Items I Missed

I just got back from an excellent trip to Dubai and the Maldives in which I got to fly some of the world’s best first class products (Emirates & Etihad) and stay at some luxurious hotels (Park Hyatt Maldives) using points & miles. I plan to post a trip report in the coming week or so but I wanted to put together a post summarizing some important updates I missed while I was away.

Here is a very brief rundown of changes, updates & promotions you should know about that I missed blogging about.

Marriott Points & Cash

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Point & Center: $5 Free at iTunes for Virgin Atlantic CardHolders, Increased Delta Offers, a 10% Cashback Card & More

I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things after our latest trip so here are a few real quick items to know.

1) $5 Free at iTunes for Virgin Atlantic Card Members – I got an email from Virgin Atlantic below offering me $5 off a $5+ purchase at iTunes if I paid with my Virgin Atlantic credit card. I’m unable to tell if this is for all Virgin Atlantic card members or whether it is targeted. I admit the email did look like spam at first so check your email inbox for an email with the subject “An iTunes® offer that’s music to your ears”. This is an easy and free $5 so check your email if you have a Virgin Atlantic credit card.

iTunesOffer

2) Increased Delta Credit Card Offers – American Express has increased the offers on the Delta Gold SkyMiles and Platinum Delta SkyMiles credits cards through June 30th. The Delta Gold card is offering 50,000 miles + $50 statement for spending $2,000 in 3 months with the annual fee of $95 waived for the first year. The Platinum SkyMiles card is offering 60,000 miles + $100 statement + 10,000 MQMs for spending $2,000 in 3 months with the annual fee of $195 NOT waived for the first year. The offers have also increased on the business version of these cards as well.

DeltaOffer

While these offers are among the highest I’ve seen on the Delta cards, Delta miles are worth less than other airline miles. My most recent SkyMiles redemption? 20,000 miles one way for SEA to JFK as the flight was selling for over $300. Sure I got 1.5 cents in value but paying 20,000 miles one way for a domestic flight in economy left me feeling dirty. If you can’t tell, I’m not a huge fan of Delta right now.

3) 10% Cashback Card – Discover is having a promotion in which they are doubling their normal cash back percentages on the Discover IT card for a year. Since the card offers a rotating list of 5% cash back offers quarterly, this mean those quarterly promotions are now offering 10% cash back on purchases. Unfortunately that is limited to $1,500 in spending per quarter but that’s still $150 a quarter ($600 a year) in your pocket if you max it out. This offer is valid for both new and existing cardmembers.

I would read this Doctor of Credit post for more details about the offer and how to get it. 

4) American Express Premier Rewards Gold Changes Now In Effect – I’ve posted previously about some of the changes coming to the Premier Rewards Gold card and as of yesterday, those changes are now in effect. The biggest changes are a $20 increase in the annual fee to $195 but it now also offers a $100 airline credit, no foreign transaction fees and 2x points on US restaurants. The airline credit should be similar to the airline credit offered on the Platinum card in that it is calendar year based so you can take advantage twice before having to pay another annual fee and buying gift cards for certain airlines should still work. I don’t think this card is worth keeping past the first year but I will look to add this card to my collection soon.

Point & Center: Two Offers for Free Miles, 60k Citibank Hilton Visa Offer, & Discounted United Awards to South America

It’s been a while since I posted one of these roundups so let’s get to it. Here is a very quick rundown of some items from last week.

1) 250 Free Virgin Atlantic Miles – If you agree to install their shopping portal toolbar “Shops Away”, Virgin will award you 250 miles for doing so. To get this offer, click this link for Shops Away and then click shop today. After logging in and hitting shop now, click Mile Finder up top to see this offer. I would install this in a browser I normally don’t use such as Internet Explorer.

VAToolbar

2) 100 Free Aeroplan Miles – Signup to receive emails from Home Hardware and they will give you 100 Aeroplan miles for doing so. This is the frequent flyer program for Air Canada and while 100 miles isn’t a significant amount at all, it is an easy way to reset the expiration date on the miles in your account. Make sure to use a backup email address for this (unless you actually care to receive these newsletters).

3) Citibank 60,000 Hilton HHonors Points Visa – Citibank has temporarily increased the offer on this no annual fee Hilton HHonors credit card from 40,000 to 60,000 for spending $1,000 in 4 months. This card will not be useful for many of you except for those trying to top off their Hilton HHonors balance. I picked up this card last year when it was 60,000 points as I was out of Hilton cards to get.

CitiHilton

4) Discounted United Awards to Brazil & Chile – United has had several discounted award sales this past year and the latest is a 25% discount on award flights to either Brazil or Chile for travel through June 25th. All travel must be booked by April 25th and it must be roundtrip to get the promotion rate. Instead of an award flight costing 60,000 miles, it is now only 45,000 miles roundtrip. Click here for more details from United.

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!

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.