Point & Center: $400 Flights to Italy, American Express Transfer Bonus to Virgin America, Last Call for Hyatt Reservations & More!

Sorry for the lack of post the past few days – I was down in Aruba for the long weekend and my schedule didn’t allow me to post any of the news going on from the past week or so. Here is quick roundup of some of the more notable news and developments that I missed.

1. 35% American Express Transfer Bonus to Virgin America – American Express is offering a 35% transfer bonus for all transfers of American Express Membership Rewards points to Virgin America. The normal transfer ratio is 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 Virgin America Elevate point (2:1) so with this promotion, it becomes 2:1.35. Virgin America points are worth ~2.2 cents each since that is the approximate rate they can be redeemed for travel on Virgin America. As in most cases when there is a transfer bonus (with perhaps the exception of the current 40% British Airways transfer bonus), I would not make any speculative transfers unless you needed to top off your account for an award you about to book. In general, I don’t recommend taking advantage of this offer for most people.


2. ~$400 flights New York to Milan on Emirates & United – Emirates is running a promotion in which you can snag a non-stop flight from JFK to Milan for only ~$400 a person roundtrip. United quickly matched the fare for Newark to Milan though availability seems to be more limited than Emirates. The catch for this promotion is this is valid for only groups of exactly of 2 people (Emirates) or 2+ people (United). A single traveler will price out at ~$660. You can travel from February to May though you will need to search to see what dates are eligible for the $400 fares. Here is more information from The Flight Deal.


3. No Foreign Transaction Fees on Barclays US Airways MasterCard – I recently received an email from Barclays informing me that they will no longer charge a foreign transaction fee on purchases made outside of the United States. Previously they would charge 3% for this but in what I’m guessing is an attempt to lure more customers to acquire the US Airways MasterCard before they are unable to offer it anymore, they have removed this fee completely. I’m glad to see another credit card offer no foreign transaction fee but there are much better cards to use for foreign purchases already so this announcement doesn’t make a big difference to me.

4. Last Call for Hyatt Reservations for Affected Hotels Before Award Category Changes on 1/22 – I posted last month a list of some of the key hotels that are changing categories (Park Hyatt Maldives, Andaz Amsterdam, Park Hyatt Seoul, Baha Mar and more) in the Hyatt Gold Passport Program as a result of Hyatt’s annual evaluation of category levels. The change in award category will occur on 1/22 so if you are targeting a reservation at one of the affected hotels, I recommend booking them now even if you don’t exactly have firm dates. There is no cost to cancel award bookings (as long as you do it before the hotel’s cancellation deadline) and generally, Hyatt has allowed you to change dates to a reservation made before the category change without charging you the increased amount of points (though this is a YMMV situation). Basically, I see no downside to making a speculative reservation now to save points.

Here is the complete list of affected hotels.

Point & Center: 100 Free American AAdvantage Miles, Only 26,250 Miles Roundtrip for a Award Flight to Europe and More!

Welcome to the first Point & Center feature of 2015. Let’s get to it with some real quick updates of what’s going on in the points/miles world.

1) 100 Free American AAdvantage Miles for Joining PointsHound – PointsHound, which is a site that offer miles or points for booking hotel rooms through them, is offering new users 100 Free AA miles simply for signing up – no purchase required. You will also get an additional 2,000 miles if you actually reserve a hotel room by March 31st. I definitely recommend signing up to get the free 100 AA miles but if you do book a hotel room through them, remember you will most likely not earn stay credit with the hotel program nor have your elite benefits recoginzed. I mainly use PointsHound if I have a non-chain hotel stay. (H/T View from the Wing)


2) How to Fly to Europe for 26,250 Virgin Atlantic Miles Roundtrip…with a catch – Virgin Atlantic is having an award sale that is discounting the amount of miles needed for an award flight by 25% for ALL destinations. If you orginate on the East Coast of the United States, that means a roundtrip award is only 26,250 miles but with one major issue – fuel surcharges of $500 per person.  The other approach is to use this for a one way TO London where the cost would be 13,125 miles + $134 in fuel surcharges (its more expensive departing FROM London). You must book your tickets by January 22nd and this is valid for economy only. This is similar to their award sale last year that I wrote about here.

Cost of Discounted Awards

Cost of Discounted Awards

3) Starwood Best Rate Guarantee Improves – Starwood has one of the easiest Best Rate Guarantees as you don’t need even need a current reservation to make a best rate claim to get a cheaper rate at Starwood branded hotels. Starwood recently announced an enhancement to their best rate guarantee by now offering customers 20% off the lower rate if it is found outside the Starwood reservations channels (website, mobile app & phone reservations). The old discount used to be 10% off. You also still have the option to select 2,000 Starpoints instead of the 20% discount.

4) A Pretty Awesome Club Carlson Promotion – Club Carlson is enticing its members to stay at Club Carlson hotels (Radisson, Radisson Blu, Country Inn & Park Plaza) in Q1 2015 by offering 15,000 points after staying 2 nights or 30,000 points after staying 3+ nights for stays from January 12 to March 29. This promotion called “Extend Your Stay, Earn 30K” is by far the best promotion of Q1 across all major hotel chains. Additionally, some Club Carlson members were sent an email offering them an extra 10,000 points on top of the bonuses if they registered by January 12th. Here is the link to register.

5) Starwood Q1 Promotion – Starwood has also announced their Q1 promotion which is open for registration as well called the SPG Double Play Promotion. You can earn double points on stays of 2+ nights and 1,000 point bonus after every 5 nights. The 5 nights do not have to be consecutive to earn the 1,000 point bonus. Compared to the Club Carlson offer, this pales in comparison but is still worth registering for.

As always, I recommend registering now even if you don’t think you’ll have an applicable stay in the period because if the need for a stay unexpectedly arises, chances are you won’t remember to register for these promotions (this applies to the Club Carlson offer above as well).

6) Start Linking Your American & US Airways Frequent Flyer Accounts – The next step in the merger of American and US Airways is to combine the frequent flyer accounts of both program so members will have just one resulting frequent flyer program (which will be your American AAdvantage account and you will keep your existing AA number). However, before they can completely merge the frequent flyer accounts, American is asking members to link their AA account to their US Airways account.

Per One Mile a Time, American announced the following:

“The time has come – beginning tonight, members with accounts in both programs will be able to match their accounts on aa.com and usairways.com (full sites only; not on the mobile sites or the app). Members will automatically be presented with the option to match their accounts on either site when they log-in or by selecting the Match My Account link in the My Account section. Once a customer has successfully matched their account, they will see a success message online, receive an email and will see a success message in the My Account section on both sites. Matching accounts is simply a way to self-identify, so the process to merge the accounts in second quarter of 2015 is easier on the business.”

Hopefully this is a sign that members will soon be able to transfer miles back and forth between programs but this has not been announced yet. Here is to hoping its sooner rather than later!

Here is the Better Offer on the US Airways Mastercard – 50k Miles + 10k Miles On First Anniversary!

Update: Many people have reported Barclays is automatically denying everyone who is applying for this offer who is NOT a Preferred member. If you aren’t a Preferred Member apply for the standard 50k offer here (non-referral link) or feel free to use a refer a friend offer from someone. I’d be happy to refer you – Please email me at ralph@pointscentric.com)

As many of you probably saw, the blogosphere was blitzkrieged with dozens of posts from bloggers promoting the new offer on the US Airways Mastercard of 50,000 miles after 1st purchase. It is a good offer and an improvement over the old offer but most of the bloggers (except Frequent Miler) left out one key detail: There is actually an even better offer for the same 50,000 miles after 1st purchase PLUS 10,000 miles on your first card membership anniversary. Here is a link to that offer – US Airways Mastercard with Anniversary Bonus.

See that little notice in the bottom left? Bingo.

See that little notice in the bottom left? Bingo.

I think this is a very strong offer and one most people who currently do not have an open US Airways Mastercard should go for. Yes, it says this offer is for Preferred members only but in the past anyone has been able to get this bonus and I haven’t read any reports of this changing. Even on Frequent Miler’s post, someone commented they were approved for the card with no status with US Airways and a co-worker of mine was also approved who did not have status.

Here are a few reasons why I think this is a strong offer:

  1. Barclays will stop accepting new applicants for this card at some point in early 2015. This is a fact even though we don’t know the exact date yet. Get it now before you lose the chance to apply for this card for good.
  2. It truly is a strong offer as in the highest ever offer on this card. 50,000 miles for spending a dollar – when do you see those type of offers anymore? Yes, you have to pay the $89 annual fee upfront but would you pay $89 for two domestic roundtrip flights? What about a one-way business class ticket to Europe? Yup, I thought so.
  3. These miles will eventually convert to American Airlines miles at some point in 2015. So even if you think you have no use for US Airways miles, think of this as a way to accumulate extra AA miles that you can use in 2015.
  4. If you do fly US Airways, this card comes with perks such as free checked baggage, priority boarding, an annual companion certificate at $99 and a 5,000 mile discount when booking US Airways awards. That’s a pretty good set of ancillary perks.  

Now of course, you didn’t hear about this improved offer from other bloggers because it wasn’t their affiliate link – it’s really quite that simple as they don’t want to jeopardize their “sales”. Once Frequent Miler posted it, all of the other blogs could have at least mentioned it (I know many of them see his posts) but I didn’t see any other blog update their post (update: MilesforFamily and MommyPoints did mention the better offer later on). I know Travel Blogger Buzz brings awareness to this issue and I’m just doing my part to help.

With no affiliate links on my site, I try to bring you the best, unbiased offers and with several posts on increased offers that other blogs won’t post (75k Amex Business Gold, 50k HHonors Points, $50 bonus on Fidelity Amex) I’m helping my readers get the best bang for their credit card application. Be smart with who you follow and especially on whose credit card links you click on.

*Happy to report no affiliate links were used in this post*

(H/T as well to 4321ka on Twitter)

Amazing Deal Alert: $200 Roundtrip Flights NYC to St. Lucia!

Update: Deal Dead!

I know I have a large NY based readership so I wanted to highlight this deal which I found from The Flight Deal.

You can fly from Newark to St. Lucia on US Airways for only $200 roundtrip and it’s available in the winter and early spring next year! This flight normally goes for at least double so this is quite the savings. It’s even better then the $300 flights to the Caribbean I highlighted months ago.

I HIGHLY recommend reading the post by the Flight Deal on how to search for this fare on ITA Matrix. Click here for that post.

Congrats on those who can take advantage!