Monthly Archives: July 2016

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Citi Prestige – New Sign-up and Benefits Revealed

Category : Uncategorized

Last week I discussed that the Citi Prestige would be changing – at the time, it was not clear to what it would change to, exactly.

This bonus will change Tuesday - to what? Only time will tell.

At first, some information was “leaked” that Admiral’s Club access when flying same day AA ticketed flights was ending in July 2017 (a year from now) and that earning 2X ThankYou Points on dining was going away completely.

So what does the Citi Prestige look like now?

The Bad

Let’s start with the bad (so we have something to look forward to!)

  • Sign-up bonus is decreasing from 50,000 ThankYou Points to 40,000
  • Spending is now $4,000 in three months instead of $3,000
  • Admiral’s Club Access is ending July 24, 2017

citi prestige new bonus

While the decrease in the bonus isn’t horrible (nor is the extra bit of spending), the primary reason I kept this card for the year was to have access to Admiral’s Club.

The good-ish news is that even if you sign up today, you’ll still have it for a year, just like anyone who signed up before.

I wonder if they’ll lower the annual fee next July or often some other compensation for card members.

The Good

  • Airline fee credit of $250 staying the same
  • Dining category still exists
  • 4th Hotel Night Free Benefit remaining (for those who take advantage of it, anyways)
  • $100.00 Global Entry credit/reimbursement
  • Redemption of ThankYou points on AA metal flights will remain at 1.66 cent/point

I think the biggest surprise was that the 4th Night Hotel Free Benefit is still remaining.

Is it worth it?

The unfortunate thing is that the Prestige card is Citi’s only ThankYou card currently offering a sign-up bonus. Both the Premier and Preferred don’t have a bonus. So if you’re in need of ThankYou points, then yes, it probably is worth it. You can always sign up, get the bonus, and cancel within 37 days of the annual fee posting to get it refunded.

However.

I would never sign-up for a premium credit card like the AMEX Platinum when it was at its lowest sign-up of 40,000 Membership Rewards. I don’t think any of my readers would either (I hope not, anyways).

With the exception of those needing ThankYou points, this card will probably be on the list of “I’ve gotten every other Citi card, so I have to get this, too.” Until then, for $450, I’d hold off.

50,000 Point Offer Link

Here’s a working link of the 50,000 offer. No telling how long it will remain up. Also, TAKE SCREENSHOTS if Citi gives you trouble once you’re approved.

The Miner


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New Credit Cards Coming from American and Avianca – SIGN ME UP

Category : Uncategorized

Some exciting credit card news surfaced last week that I wanted to share with you folks!

We often don’t get good news in the credit card/points/miles world, but alas, rejoice!

American Airlines, Citi, and Barclays Ink a New Deal

There are currently EIGHT American Airlines credit cards in circulation. Four are not for new applicants and are issued by Barclays; four are issued by Citi and are for new applicants.

Let me explain.

When US Airways and American Airlines merged last year, so did their frequent flyer programs. Dividend Miles became AAdvantage miles. When this happens, the US Airways Credit Card holders (then issued by Barcalys) would usually become Citi AAdvantage credit card cardholders – but this didn’t. In fact, Barclays retained their current portfolio of customers, but lost the ability to issue new products.

citi aa cards

You can sign up, and earn the bonus on each of these products.

Since then, Barclays has been incentivizing customers with bonus  miles and earning offers AND nicely waiving annual fees. After all, their former US Airways cards, now called Aviator cards, are pretty similar. If, after all, they cannot earn new customers, they’re going to do what they can to retain customers.

Barclays Aviator Silver - One of the Four Aviator Flavors

Barclays Aviator Silver – One of the Four Aviator Flavors

However, last week the news surfaced that Barclays would now have the ability to issue NEW American Airlines credit cards, just like Citi currently does. There are some important caveats, however.

Barclays will not be advertising these through the normal channels (online and mailers); rather, they’ll be able to advertise these cards in-flight and at airport kiosks.

You’ll probably have to close your Aviator cards to earn the bonus on these new products, but you will be eligible for them (only taking into account Barclays stringent churning rules).

There’s no word on how many of these new products there will be, but we can safely assume two:

  • An entry level, first-year fee waived (most similar to the Aviator Red and Platinum AAvantage) and a business version
  • OR, an entry level (as above) and a premium version, similar to Citi’s Executive AAdvantage product.

I guess I’ll need to time my applications to flights ;-).

LifeMiles Secures a New Credit Card Partner

Avianca, a member of the Star Alliance that has a strong presence in Latin America, has previously had a credit card relationship with US Bank. That has ended and LifeMiles, the frequent flyer program of Avianca, has inked a new deal with a different bank. No word on which bank or exactly when that will be rolled out, but it will probably be Quarter 1 of 2017.

Briefly, LifeMiles a separate company from Avianc, has firesales on miles. People often buy these miles for very cheap and use them to fly Star Alliance premium cabin flights, like Lufthansa first class. The best part is that LifeMiles never passes on fuel surcharges, even when Lufthansa First Class taxes are usually around $400.

I hope that Chase does not pick up the new card because of their new churning rules (see 5/24). I also do not think Chase will get this new card because LifeMiles is known to be all about profit (hence their year-round sales on LifeMiles: 5/24 rules are not very profitable).

 

It could be Barclays, but… They’re pretty stringent, too. I’d love to see it go to AMEX–they could use it–or Citi.

Wrapping Up

While we still have some time before either products drop, it’s still exciting to think about and keep in the back of one’s mind for the planning of earning points.

-The Miner


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Citi Prestige Sign-Up Bonus Changing on Tuesday?

Category : Uncategorized

Rumor in the blogosphere it that the Citi Prestige sign-up bonus will be changing on Tuesday.

This bonus will change Tuesday - to what? Only time will tell.

This bonus will change Tuesday – to what? Only time will tell.

Bloggers with affiliate links have been informed by their masters respective affiliate networks that they need to pull the current Citi Prestige links down by Monday at midnight.

Last time this happened with Citi, it was for their ThankYou Premier card. The Premier card went from 50,000 ThankYou points in three months to 40,000 ThankYou Points and now, zero.

There’s been lots of speculation, and the most popular one is that Citi’s marketing team did so well that they hit their quota for sign-ups and ran out of acquisition bonuses to award new card members. Since then, no word on when/if it will come back, though I’m sure it will at some point.

The same speculation has been applied to the Prestige card. Only time will tell.

Why It Won’t Go Up

In the world of miles and points, the Prestige card is unbalanced. It offers too many and too costly benefits for Citi to maintain in a world of constant devaluation. 

Currently, the card’s benefits are:

  • 3X ThankYou Points on Airfare and Hotels
  • 2X ThankYou Points Dining and Entertainment
  • 1X ThankYou Point on all other purchases
  • $250.00 Airline Credit — Unlike AMEX, this can actually go towards a ticket cymbalta 30 mg.
  • Priority Lounge Access for you and a guest
  • American Airlines Admiral’s club access for you and a guest when ticketed on a same-day AA itinerary
  • Hotel 4th Night Free Benefit – Pay for four consecutive nights with your card and get reimbursed for the 4th night (essentially 25% off your hotel stay)
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA-Precheck Reimbursement
  • Transfer your ThankYou points to a host of airline partners, or redeem for 1.6 points per dollar on American Airlines flights.
Those examples sure do look enticing...

Those examples sure do look enticing…

There are some pretty sweet benefits on this card, but as a premium credit card, it comes with a cost: $450.00 annual fee. That’s hefty. Even with that, it is, as mentioned, unbalanced. Though I’ve never taken advantage of the 4th Night Free benefit, it probably costs Citi a pretty penny!

I opened up the Prestige last May and recently closed it when the annual fee came due again. I really liked the card for it’s earning categories, airline fee credit, good value when redeeming on paid AA flights, and AA Lounge Access. However, for the foreseeable future, I won’t be on many AA flights to make it worth it. Though ThankYou points are good for redeeming on AA metal when there are no award seats available, I’m fresh out of ThankYou points! I do still have my Citi Premier open which earns me ThankYou Points and the ability to transfer to partners.

There’s a great article by The Free-quent Flyer where he discusses the actual value of the benefits for the average flyer–after all, he explains, being a travel hacker is about spending the least amount of money as possible. $450.00 is not least, even with the benefits. (It’s short, informative and worth the read).

So Why Even Bring It To Your Attention?

If you’re savvy, you can get value out of it. And more practically:

If you were going to apply for this card anyways, now is the time. And don’t wait until Tuesday, July 19. 

And, if the bonus miraculously goes up, then you can probably get matched by Citi.

I’ve already had this card and Citi’s churning rules restrict me from getting this product for another 24 months. My wife, however, has not had it.

I have until Monday to decide.

-The Miner


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A Review: Ritz Carlton Herzliya

Category : Uncategorized

[Disclosure: I may earn compensation if you click on any external links].

About a week ago I began toying around with the idea of staying at the Ritz Carlton Herzliya – the second of two aspirational point redemption hotel properties in Israel. You can review that here, where we reviewed the best redemption option for that property.

I ended up booking the Cash + Points option.

And now that I’ve completed my stay, was it worth it?

Review

The entrance of the Ritz Carlton Herzliya is nestled between two mall entrances. As you enter, the staff takes you up the elevator to the beautiful lobby where you can check in.

I’m a lowly Marriott Silver (granted through the credit card) so I was not expecting any upgrades, but we were granted late check out (2:00 PM – yay!) and given a corner room with a view of the Herzliya Marina.

All rooms at the Ritz have a balcony with views of either the marina, beach or street. Seemingly, the nicest ones would be the marina. And boy, those views were nice.

IMG_7274

Beach view

IMG_7277

View of the Herzliya Marina and Mediterranean Sea

But those views come at a cost. 

As expected, the room is modern, clean, and well furnished. But, it is not excessively opulent like the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. The best part about a corner room is that they’re usually bigger. Not having stayed in other Ritz room, I wouldn’t know for sure, but it did seem a bit bigger, especially in the hallway leading to the room.

IMG_7272

So what’s that cost?

The noise. The noise!

Having stayed at several hotels in major metropolitan cities, you’d think I’d be used to that?

Well, no. Why not? Because there’s no need to get used to it when hotels use thick windows (or glass patio doors in this case) that are designed to muffle as much sound as possible–which is indeed the case in cities like Paris, Tokyo, New York and Chicago.

I’d consider that a major design flaw.

I eventually fell asleep, quite late because of the noise. For context, right below the hotel’s side facing the marina are several bars and restaurants. Israel municipal laws dictate that establishments must turn off the music at 11:00 PM. However, it was the end of Ramadan and there was a Euro cup match on with the bar’s TVs on extremely loud, it may was well have been music.

I was offered to switch after calling the front desk, not once, but twice. There’s nothing worse than packing everything up, waking up your significant other and switching rooms at 2:00 AM. I wasn’t offered to move up and away (they were all “full”); rather on the other side, but the best part about the hotel is the Marina…

Listen–I understand you can’t make every guest happy about every little thing, but 1) this is the Ritz and 2) one of the best parts about going to hotels is the peace and quiet!

The pool.

I love the beach, but I’m a pool person 100%. The Ritz pool seats about 50 people and has marble beams which block the sun deck, placed at 10-foot intervals. If it wasn’t so frustrating, it was humorous to watch the pool attendant and guests maneuver through the overly packed sundeck to squeeze an inch here and an inch there to get out of the way of the sun-blocking beams.

Notice the sun-blocking beams in the background.

Notice the sun-blocking beams in the background.

With 150 rooms, at a minimum average occupancy of 2 guests per room... You get the picture

With 150 rooms, at a minimum average occupancy of 2 guests per room… You get the picture.

Understandably, the hotel tries to upsell the beach (it’s about 10 minutes walk). Granted, Herzliya probably has the cleanest beaches in Israel, but one would expect a hotel in a warm climate to have a stellar pool.

Overall

Finally, and maybe most importantly, those who travel to Israel on points and stay at Israel hotels on points, have talked this hotel up so much and set the expectations extremely high. Maybe that’s why I was disappointed. So, putting aside the pool, the noise and pretty disappointing customer service (each request to the front desk had to be called in two, and sometimes three, times) is it worth it?

Let’s tally up the options:

  1. 50,000 Marriott point redemption? No.
  2. $490.00 Cash booking (before taxes)? No.
  3. Ritz-Carlton Chase Credit Card certificates? Maybe, but probably not.
  4. Cash + Points? Maybe.

Why would I say “maybe” for option number four, after giving a scathing review? Because of the four options it’s the “cheapest” and best redemption value. It’s also the best points option in Herzliya, but if you were to full pay cash there are other options that may give you a better bang for your buck.

-The Miner