Point & Center: 10-20% off Virgin America Flights, $50 off Marriott Hotels with Amex Sync & Using Credit Cards to Pay Bills with Evolve Money

I am in the Phoenix this weekend attending the #westcoastDO where about 100 or so points & miles fanatics meet to hear some interesting speakers talk and to share stories, tips and tricks about manufactured spending, travel hacking and trips they have taken. It’s been an awesome weekend but here is a recap of what’s going on in the points & miles world.

1) 10-20% Virgin America Flights – It seems Virgin America is always offering some sort of discount on flights as there is yet another promotion going on right now in which you can take 10-20% off Virgin America flights with promo code DEAL20. This deal isn’t as good as the one a few weeks ago (that one had a much wider travel period) but this deal does include weekend travel so it might work for a quick weekend getaway. Here are the key details:

  • Must book by 11:59 PST TONIGHT (11/9) using promo code DEAL20
  • Travel must be between December 3rd and December 16th
  • You can take 20% off if you travel on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday
  • You can take 10% off if you travel on the other days of the week (including Friday and Sunday which were excluded last time)

I see roundtrip fares from NY to LA at $242 for this promotion which is fantastic for a non-stop transcon. Play around with the dates to get the lowest price.

VADeal20

2) Take $50 Off Your Next Marriott Stay with Amex Sync – There is an American Express Sync offer that will allow you to take $50 off your next Marriott stay by tweeting #AmexMarriott and then booking a reservation directly with Marriott with your American Express card that is enrolled with Amex Sync. It kinda stinks so many Marriott brands are excluded (see below) but this could work if you are traveling for the upcoming holidays at an eligible Marriott Hotel.

Here is a direct link to the terms and conditions but the big things to know are:

  • Tweet using #AmexMarriott to add this offer to your connected American Express Card
  • Must book directly with Marriott Hotels as reservations must be made online at http://www.marriotthotels.com
  • The total amount charged must be over $200 for the $50 credit to hit. So even if the room rate is under $200, you can still charge any incidentals to your room to get to $200 and make this promotion work for you.
  • You must stay in a Marriott hotel between 11/6/14 and 12/31/14
  • Several Marriott Chains are excluded including The Ritz-Carlton®, EDITION®, AC Hotels by Marriott®, Autograph Collection®, JW Marriott®, Renaissance Hotels®, MOXY(TM) Hotels, Courtyard®, SpringHill Suites by Marriott®, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott®, Protea Hotels(TM), Residence Inn by Marriott®, TownePlace Suites by Marriott®, Marriott Executive Apartments®, Gaylord Hotels® and Marriott Vacation Club®

3) Use Credit Cards to Pay Bills with Evolve Money – I don’t think I’ve blogged about this before but Evolve money is a bill pay service that in the past let you use gift cards or debit cards to make bill payments for student loans, mortgages, utilities and more.  There was even a short time where you could use credit cards to pay those bills without a fee. Unfortunately, Evolve made some changes a while back that stopped allowing credit cards and limiting you to make only one payment per bill in a month.

Well the good news now is Evolve is “evolving” (I’ll be here all week folks) and they are now accepting at the moment, just Discover credit cards to use for bill payments. They also noted that in early 2015 they will be introducing plans to allow users to use Visa or MasterCard credit cards to pay bills. There are no fees for this service from Evolve but I do wonder if the credit card companies will consider this a cash advance instead of a purchase. And if that’s true, there is no point to do this. I don’t have a Discover card to check it out but I am looking forward to testing it once Visa/MasterCards are accepted.

Two Virgin America Promotions – Are They Worth It?

Virgin America has a couple of promotions going on today, one of which I think is a solid deal if you can make it work for you and another I would pass on. Let’s break them down.

Offer #1 – Take $15, $35 or $50 Off Virgin America Flights via Living Social – I saw on Living Social this morning that you can purchase a voucher that will allow you to save either $15, $35 or $50 on a flight with Virgin America. There are a bunch of restrictions involved around dates that you can fly but it is valid for most of the places Virgin America flies to.

Virgin America Living Social

Here are some of the key restrictions:

  • Travel is valid between now and February 28, 2015 except for any Sunday travel and blackout dates around all the major holidays.
  • You must purchase a voucher in advance before booking your flight and the discount is related to the distance of your flight. You save $15 on short haul flights, $35 on medium haul flights and $50 on long haul flights. Thankfully the Living Social Website lists what is considered a short, medium or long haul flight on the voucher page.
  • You must book your flights by November 18th.
  • In the event you purchase a voucher but do not redeem it by November 18th, the voucher amount is automatically converted to Living Social Deal Bucks. So if you plan on shopping again at Living Social, there is no risk with this deal as you are not stuck with a voucher you cannot use.

My Thoughts: Before purchasing a voucher, start pricing out flights for your intended destinations and dates. Make sure they do not violate any terms of the deal above. If you know the chances are likely you will fly in this timeframe and Virgin America’s prices are competitive (but maybe not necessarily the cheapest), I would go ahead and purchase the voucher, especially if you ever shopped at Living Social before or plan too again (since the money paid will convert to Living Social Bucks if not used). Remember to shop through a cash back or other portal (such as Shop Through Chase) for up to 9% cash back (Big Crumbs) or 3x points (Shop Through Chase) for even more savings.

I don’t see the risk in locking in the voucher and monitoring the flights in question until the hard deadline of November 18th in which all flights must be booked. One interesting route I found was New York to Fort Lauderdale, a new route for Virgin America that is launching 1/8. The price I found was $252 roundtrip which was $4 more than the next cheapest option, which was JetBlue. This would be considered a medium haul flight so you can save $35 on the flight, bringing it down to $220 roundtrip, which is quite reasonable to escape the NY winter.

Take $35 off with this promotion

Take $35 off with this promotion

Offer #2 – 80% Bonus on Purchases of Virgin America Elevate Points – Tomorrow from 9am to 5PM EST ONLY, Virgin America is offering an 80% bonus on the purchase of Virgin America Elevate points. To purchase points, they normally cost 5.2 cents per point (which is quite high) but with this promotion, the price per point comes down to 2.9 cents a point.

Virgin America Promo

To elevate whether this is a good deal or not, you need to know at what rate can Virgin America points be redeemed for. Unlike legacy airlines, Virgin America points can be redeemed for ~2.1 to ~2.3 cents per point on Virgin America flights. You can also redeem points on some of their partners including Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines.

My Thoughts: Nothing stands out as an exceptional deal so I recommend passing on this promotion. They have been “good” buy miles promotions in the past (hello 100% US Air Buy or Share Bonus) but this does not compare to that promotion. Please also remember if you are looking to top off your account to make a reward redemption with points, Virgin America is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. I would look to that first before considering buying these points to top off your account for a free flight.

Quick Deal: 500 Virgin America Elevate Miles for $.99

Virgin America has launched their own shopping portal called Elevate Fly Store and they are offering all users 500 bonus Virgin America Elevate miles for making their first online purchase through the store by September 30. All you need is your Virgin America frequent flyer account details to log into the Elevate Fly store. It seems to have most major retailers so it should be relatively easy to find something you were going to buy anyway to get the extra 500 bonus miles.

VA500

I titled this post “500 Virgin America Elevate Miles for $.99” because even if you had no plans to shop through this new shopping portal, you could still get the 500 mile bonus for simply buying a single $.99 cent song in iTunes since the terms and conditions do not specific a minimum purchase amount. This is most likely the cheapest and easiest way to take advantage of this promotion. Make sure you search for iTunes and NOT the Apple store.

iTunes

Here are the full terms and conditions of the offer (which surprisingly isn’t long at all). Note there is no language on the minimum purchase amount. 

Bonus Point Offer Terms & Conditions:

The First Purchase 500 Bonus Point Offer is valid on your first purchase made via the Elevate Fly Store site from August 27 through September 30 2014.

Please allow up to 50 days from the date of purchase for bonus points to be credited to your account. If bonus points have not been credited within 50 days, please fill out the missing points claim form which can be accessed by visiting “Contact Us” on the Fly Store website.

Quick Deal: Take 10% Off Your Next Virgin America Flight!

Virgin America is running their “Travel Brilliantly” promotion and they are giving away 10% off promo codes to users who register! It took all of 10 seconds to fill in my information at the promotional page here (scroll down a little bit to see the text fields) and a 10% off code was sent to my inbox. It’s just about the easiest way to take 10% off a flight.

VirginAmerica

Here are the restrictions with the 10% off codes.

  • Must purchase ticket by September 1st
  • Travel Dates must be from September 3rd to February 11, 2015
  • Flights on Sunday are excluded
  • There is an unfortunate amount of blackout dates, mostly around the holidays. 10/10, 10/13, 11/7, 11/10, 11/26 – 12/1, 12/19 – 12/31, 1/1- 1/4, 1/16, 1/19

Even with the restrictions, this could still be a good opportunity to save 10% on a flight you may need to take anyway!

(H/T Deals we Like)