Monthly Archives: September 2016

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Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards – 4 Increased Offers

Category : Uncategorized

American Express usually increases their Delta co-brand credit card offers in the summer, but it seems we’ve lucked out and they’ve done it again. Remember, you can only get these cards once-per-lifetime per person, so if you were thinking about it, it may be the right time.

Before applying, consider what type of uses you’d have for the SkyMiles, but there are some decent redemptions to be had.

American Express co-branded points tend to post before or right after the statement in which the minimum spending requirement was met. If you have plans to got o Europe this coming winter, your SkyMiles can be put to good use before the increase from 62,500 one-way in business to 70,000 one-way in business.

The Offers – All offers expire November 9, 2016

All offers include no foreign transaction fees, Zone 1 boarding (except on Delta shuttle flights) and free checked bags.

Delta SkyMiles Gold Personal – Earn 50,000 SkyMiles after spending $2,000 in three months. $50 statement credit after certain Delta purchases. Tickets excluded. Annual fee waived for the first year, then $95.

Direct Link

Delta SkyMiles Gold Business – Earn 50,000 SkyMiles after spending $2,000 in three months. $50 statement credit after certain Delta purchases. Tickets excluded. Annual fee waived for the first year, then $95.

Direct Link

Delta SkyMiles Platinum Personal – Earn 70,000 SkyMiles and 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 in three months. $100 statement credit after certain Delta purchases. Tickets excluded. Annual fee not waived: $195.

Direct Link

Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business – Earn 70,000 SkyMiles and 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 in three months. $100 statement credit after certain Delta purchases. Tickets excluded. Annual fee not waived: $195.

Direct Link

The Statement Credits

Purchasing a Delta ticket will not trigger the statement credit, but any other purchase should. The purchase does not need to be $50 or $100, it can be less or more. The statement credits typically post within a few business days of the purchase.

Qualifying purchases:

  • Economy + seat upgrades
  • In-flight wi-fi
  • Mileage booster
  • Gift cards (purchase $50 gift card, receive $100 or $50 statement credit and use gift card for a cash flight at a later date).
DL CC statement credits

Statement credits post quick – it’s like free money

Bottom Line

The Delta Gold cards, both business and personal often times go up to 50,000 for the sign-up. People do receive higher targeted offers. As for the Platinum, that 70,000 point sign-up is the highest public offer we’ve seen. What’s most interesting to me is that they’ve increased the spending requirement for the Platinum cards. Both personal and business have typically been $2,000. The increase to $3,000 definitely makes sense, but the increase to $5,000 on the business card is unique for the rewards gained on this card – but definitely in line with the difference in spending on AMEX personal versus business products.

These offers are set to expire November 9, 2016.

If you’re having trouble finding these offers even with the direct links provided, consider opening the link in Chrome’s Incognito or Safari’s Private Browsing.

– The Miner


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Earning, Churning & Burning: Quarter 3 Update

Category : Uncategorized

As the third quarter of 2016 comes to a close, I wanted to share with you all my progress in the past three months; some hiccups and my strategy going forward.  You can read Quarter 1’s update here and Quarter 2’s update here.

Q3 Earned

Let’s start off by taking a look at 2015 and then move on down to 2016.

2015
Bank Card Bonus
Chase Marriott 80,000
Citi Reserve 2 Nights
Total  2 cards 80,000 + 2 Nights
 YTD     895,000 + 2 Nights
  2016  
Bank Card Bonus
Barclays Arrival + 40,000
Citi Prestige 50,000
Chase Fairmont 2 Nights
BOFA Alaska 30,000
Citi Hilton Reserve 2 Nights
AMEX Mercedes-Benz 50,000
AMEX Personal Gold 40,000
AMEX Delta Platinum Business 60,000
Citi AA Executive 60,000
Citi AAdvantage Gold 25,000
Barclays Miles & More 50,000
Total  11 Cards 405,000 + 4 Nights

Year-to-Date: So far in three quarters, I’ve earned 1,495,000 points + 6 Nights, as opposed to almost 900,000 and 2 nights at the same point in 2015.

Where’s the Difference?

Q3 of 2015 was very, very slow for me. Only two cards, as opposed to 11 of this year’s Q3.

Because of all the changes in churning rules from Chase, AMEX and Citi, I’ve had to be strategic in this quarter to really maximize sign-up bonuses. You’ll notice there are a lot of cards from Citi (but that will soon cease) and two from Barclays.

In particular, I was able to net 85,000 AAdvantage miles from the two AA cards I’ve never had – the Executive and Gold – from Citi before their new rules went into affect on August 28, 2016.

What’s next?

Having focused so much on cards from the big banks, I’m slowly moving in the direction of looking at offers from other lenders – US Bank, Bank of America, TD Bank, etc.

  • I will hit my two year anniversary in a few weeks from earning the sign-up bonus on the Hyatt card and I will be eligible to earn the sign-up again. These aren’t points, they are nights, but they’re very valuable if used wisely.
  • There are rumors swirling around about changes coming to the American Express Platinum card in order to compete with the popularity of Chase’s newest premium card, the Sapphire Reserve. I’ve never had the Platinum card, but if they’re looking to compete with sign-up bonuses, I’m all there!
  • The AMEX Delta cards have increased sign-up bonuses so there are a few my wife has never got before.
  • I’ll look to apply for a card from TD or US Bank, as I’ve never had products from them.

Q3 Burned

As fun as it is to read about churning and earning, what about burning?

Redemption* Points Used Taxes / Cash Paid Cash Value
New York – Rome, Business Class 125,000 Delta SkyMiles $11.20 $5,500
Various AA Flights 45,000 ThankYou Points None $650
Chicago – Phoenix – Chicago
Chicago – New York
New York – Chicago 9,400 Southwest** $11.20 $316
Chicago – New York None $116 N/A
New York – Chicago None $115 N/A
New York – Chicago 26,000 Southwest $11.20 N/A
Ritz-Carlton Herzilya, 1 Night 26,000 Marriott $170 $450
1 Fairmont Night Certificate Monte Carlo None None $500
Conrad London 80,000 HHonors None $465
Total  311,600 + 1 Night $434.60 $7,881

* All redemptions are for one-way for two passengers unless stated otherwise

**Companion Pass Used

What this means:

  • I’ve burned significantly less than last quarter as I’m not sure what I’d like to do next summer (my travel is booked through New Years of 2016/2017). I typically slow down travels in that winter/early-spring shoulder season.
  • I’ve spent more on actual travel because of good, cheap deals on flights. As talked about here, I’m working to conserve miles on some redemptions which are cheaper to use cash than points.
Helpful and Related Links:

– The Miner


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The Difference Between Saver and Standard Awards

Category : Uncategorized

Airlines release award seats at different levels, some of which are available to partners that allow you use your miles to book those award seats, and others which are not released and then restrict you from using your miles to redeem an award.

For example, you want to fly American Airlines from New York’s LaGaurdia to Chicago and see available space on American Airlines website, aa.com. But then you go to British Airways to book that seat with Avios because it will require the least amount of mileage for that trip – and the seat isn’t available.

What gives?

The Difference in Saver and Standard Awards

Here is what an American Airlines Saver award looks like on their website…

AA saver

American Airlines Saver awards are called ‘MileSAAver’

If you notice the top key, there are several colors of awards available. The light green, or ‘Economy MileSAAver’ and the light blue ‘Business/First Mile SAAver’ are the Saver awards. These can be booked using partner miles, like on British Airways’ website.

Here’s what these same – and bookable – flights looks like on British Airways…

BA Saver

Book these American Airlines flights on partner British Airways for 7,500 Avios per direction, as opposed to 12,500 American Airlines miles

The flught numbers and flight times are the same.

Now here is what a non-Saver award seat looks like on American Airlines…

AAnytime

For this day of travel, there are no direct MileSAAver Awards available.

For this day of travel from New York to Chicago, there were no MileSAAver awards, only ‘Anytime’ awards. Anytime awards can be nearly double, or more in many cases, of the MileSAAver price.

Because these are not Saver awards, they will not show up on British Airways…

No space!

No space!

This principle holds true for booking other partner awards on other airlines.

So if you want to book a United ticket using Aeroplan miles the United space needs to show up in either of these two columns.

united standard vs saver

United flights need to show up in the ‘Saver Award’ columns in all classes of service.

We covered this with Delta, which has a more screwed up complicated award redemption scheme. (HINT: Look for the awards that are O and N class on Delta).

Bottom Line

Just because you see award space on a airline’s website, does not mean it will be available to partners. If you’re looking to book an award flight using partner miles, your best bet is to verify that the flight indeed has Saver space that the partner can pull up.

-The Miner

Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 


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Back to Basics: How to Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Category : Uncategorized

[Disclosure: I may earn points referral bonuses for card links you click on this site].

With a new Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards, I thought it would be a good time to go back to basics and review the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and how point transfers work.

Transfers enable you to pool a single points currency  and then send them over to a host of airline or hotel partners.

Transferable Points

There are four major transferable points currencies – this means points earned on credit cards – that transfer to airlines and hotels.

  1. American Express – Membership Rewards
  2. Chase – Ultimate Rewards
  3. Citi – ThankYou Points
  4. Starwood Preferred Guest (Only transfer to airlines)

Here are the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners

Airline

Points Transfer - Airlines

Hotels

Points Transfer hotels

MV[T]P Options – MOST VALUABLE TRANSFER PARTNERS

Not all transfer partners are created equally. The best transfer partners – without getting bogged down in too much detail – are:

  • British Airways Avios – For short/medium-haul flights on Oneworld partner American Airlines
  • FlyingBlue – Frequent flyer program of Air France / KLM, Flying Blue unlocks SkyTeam award availability and has the cheapest option for redeeming flights to Israel
  • Korean Air SkyPass – Allows long holds on award tickets
  • Singapore KrisFlyer – KrisFlyer is a transfer partner of all major programs, giving you plenty of options for pooling points
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards – Southwest is great for cheap flights throughout the U.S., particularly valuable if you have the Companion Pass
  • United MileagePlus – Excellent for flights on Star Alliance partners, as they never pass on fuel surcharges
  • Hyatt – Best hotel transfer option for Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Cards That Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards

There are currently six Chase products which earn Ultimate Rewards.

Chase Freedom – Earn 15,000 / $150.00 cash back after spending $500 in three months. Earn 5X points on various categories (rotating) every three months. No annual fee.

Chase Freedom Unlimited – Earn 15,000 / $150.00 cash back after spending $500 in three months. Earn 1.5X points on all purchases, no caps. No annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Preferred – Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in three months and an additional 5,000 points after adding an authorized user; 2X points on Travel and Dining. Annual fee $95.

Chase Sapphire Reserve – Earn 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in three months; includes $300 travel credits per calendar year; Priority Pass lounge access; 3X points on Travel and Dining. Annual fee $450.

Chase Ink Cash (Small Business) – Currently offering 30,000 points or $300 in cash back after spending $3,000 in three months; earns 5% cash back on first $25,000 spent at office supply stores, cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services; and 2% cash back on the first $25,000 on gas stations and restaurants. No annual fee.

Chase Ink Plus (Small Business) – Earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in three months. Earn 5 points per dollar spent at office supply stores, cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services up to $50,000; earn 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations and hotels up to $50,000 per card member year. Annual fee $95.

Being Mindful About 5/24

Because of Chase’s rule restricting those who have a lot of new cards, you’d be unable to get any of these products (as of now) later in the game. My recommendation would be to make sure your first five cards are some of these specific Chase products – if you qualify, some of the above cards may be your best bet in terms of sign-up bonuses, earning structure, transfer abilities and perks and benefits.

Cash Back, Points and Transfers

If you notice, the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited  and Ink Cash offers mention cash back. If you only have those cards, you can only redeem your Ultimate Rewards for cash back. But if you have a premium card with a fee (Ink Plus, Sapphire Preferred or Reserve) you can then transfer your points from the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited or Ink Cash to one of the fee/premium cards and onto the transfer partners.

cash back freedom

7,003 Points are equal to $70.03 in cash back

While these points are being held on the no fee Ultimate Rewards earning accounts they are only good as cash back – but the ‘PTS’ or Cash Back can be transferred to my Sapphire (Preferred or Reserve or Ink Plus) at a 1 : 1 ratio.

Those points can then be transfer to the airline or hotel of choice.

Here’s an illustrated graphic.

Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 2.18.45 PM

You can transfer back and forth as many times as you want. If you are planning on cancelling one of the cards which have the ability to transfer points to airlines or hotels, be sure to hold them in a no fee card like the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited or Ink Cash.

How to Transfer

Step 1: Sign into your Chase account

Step 2: Underneath the left-hand panel, below all your Chase products, you’ll see ‘Ultimate Rewards’.

Chase UR segment

Step 3: After selecting that, you’ll be brought to a landing page that shows all your Chase Ultimate Rewards earning accounts where you can select which account you’d like to view.

Step 4: After selecting the relevant account, notice the top navigation bar says ‘Use Points’ and ‘Earn Points. Hover over ‘Use’ and then select the second option from the top ‘Transfer to Travel Partners’

ur panel

Step 5: Once arrived, you’ll be prompted to add travel partners. You need to verify your name and frequent flyer number. It is usually instantaneous and that will allow you to begin the process of transferring points to partners.

Bottom Line

Unfortunately the no fee options only provide you with a cash back option. However, coupled with a premium card like the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve or Ink Plus you’ll have unlocked the ability to transfer your points to some very lucrative airline and hotel members.

– The Miner 


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Marriott and Starwood Merger Complete – Begin Transferring Points

Category : Uncategorized

[Disclosure: I may earn points referral bonuses for card links you click on this site].

Yesterday I wrote about the changes to the American Express SPG cards – specifically, their sign-up bonuses went from 25,000 Starpoints to 2 free night certificates for any category 1 – 5. This is definitely an inferior offer, and considering how things went today with the announcement Starwood-Marriott merger, I think it makes more sense why AMEX did this.

Today Starwood stopped publicly trading and is officially part of Marriott Worldwide. That brings the Marriott-Starwood family to 5,500+ hotels in over 110 countries and over 30 hotel brands.

While there are still a lot of things that need to happen, now that the merger is complete, we did get some answers to the questions related to points conversions and elite status reciprocity.

Marriott <–> Starwood Conversation Ratios

Starwood points will transfer to Marriott points at 1:3 and Marriott will transfer to Starwood 3:1.

marriott to spg conversion

Marriott to Starwood Conversion Ratio

All things considered, this is a really fair and respectable conversion – probably something most SPG loyalists were surprised by. If you look specifically at credit card sign-ups (before AMEX changed the SPG sign-up bonuses)

  • 25,000 Starwood Points is now 75,000 Marriott Points
  • 80,000 Marriott points (the standard credit card sign-up) can be converted to Starwood for a total of 26,667.

That brings them to relative parity.

Elite Status

We will not get into elite status too much, except where it’s relevant to credit card holders – after all, if you want to be a travel hacker, being hotel brand agnostic when using points is really the only way to go…

The Marriott Premier personal and business cards from Chase both offer Silver status – the lowest level of Marriott loyalty status. The SPG personal and business cards offer basically the same thing status-wise.

Where it gets interesting is with the American Express Platinum card and the Ritz Carlton Visa Infinite card from Chase.

Take a look at the reciprocity of elite status and matching:

status matches

The key is the mid-level (Gold) status

The American Express Platinum card offers SPG Gold status; whereas the Ritz Carlton card offers Gold Elite status to members after spending $10,000 in a year (the $5,000 for the sign-up offer goes towards that).

That means if you have the AMEX Platinum card, you can then get Gold Elite at Marriott and Ritz. And if you have the Ritz card, you can get Gold at Starwood properties. The Marriott/Ritz Gold Elite is a pretty solid option that includes breakfast and lounge access. You can view the Gold Elite status benefits here.

Rewards Packages: Marriott Flights & Hotels Package

What are Marriott Flights & Hotels packages?

Essentially, you can redeem a large amount of Marriott points – starting at 200,000 for 7 nights at a category 1 – 5 Marriott property AND earn airline miles with their airline partners. There are different tiers, partners, amount of nights at various category levels, but that’s the basics.

 

Marriott hotel + air

Not pictured – United MileagePlus

Hotel + Air Package 3 is one of the more interesting options because of its participating Airline, Southwest Airlines. Why is that so great?

If you transfer 270,000 Marriott points as part of this package, you’ll earn:

  • 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points
  • 7 Nights at a Category 1 – 5 Marriott property

But 270,000 Marriott points is a lot!

With the new Starwood to Marriott conversion, you’d only need 90,000 SPG points. 

Sure that sounds awesome – you know what’s even more awesome? The Southwest Companion Pass. Yup. These 120,000 points will count towards the Companion Pass.

As an aside, you may want to hold off doing this transfer and package until after January 1, 2017 so that your Companion Pass will be good for all of 2017 AND 2018 – the Companion Pass is valid for the year in which it was earned and the following year.

There are a bunch of other options and I recommend, if you have the points for this promotion, to take a look at the full terms and conditions and host of participating airline partners. You can view the full promotion here.

Sharing Points

Remember, Marriott allows you to share up to 50,000 points a year with another member each calendar year. Not only can this help if you want to transfer to SPG, but it can help with consolidating points for a Flights & Hotels package.

As for SPG, you can also transfer points between members who have been registered at the same household for 30 consecutive days.

Credit Card Rules & Links

It’s a bummer that AMEX changed the sign-up bonus (we’ll see what happens in October when that 2 certificate night offer is set to expire), but if you have SPG points, there are some good hotels to be had. Remember, these offers are once-per-lifetime.

Starwood Personal Card Link – Old sign-up bonus of 25,000 points after spending $3,000 in three months. Annual fee waived the first year.

Unfortunately the Chase Marriott card is affected by their ‘5/24′ restriction, however the Marriott Business card is not affected and can help boost your points balances for whatever promotion or hotel you’re looking to stay at.

Chase Marriott Premier Card Link – 80,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 in three months; annual fee is $85. Add an authorized user to earn an additional 7,500 points.

Chase Marriott Business Card Link – This card is not affected by Chase’s restrictions. Spend $3,000 in three months and earn 80,000 Marriott points. Annual fee is $99.

Bottom Line

You can already link your accounts at this site by Marriott and began sharing points back and forth between accounts. Points should post within a few hours of the transfer.

There’s lots more to discuss and cover, but go ahead and link your Marriott and SPG accounts to take advantage of any elite status you have.

-The Miner

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AMEX Changes SPG Sign-Up – For the Worse!

Category : Uncategorized

Sometime last night American Express changed the pretty standard sign-up bonus on the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) cards. This all comes after the news earlier this week that the Marriott-Starwood merger would indeed close. Though that’s one of the early and first steps, it is a major one. However, based on past airline mergers, loyalty programs take time to successfully come together.

And, just as we saw with US Airways and Barclays, they pushed that card and sign-ups until the last minute to get as many new acquisitions as possible. One can assume AMEX will be doing the same.

So why the change in sign-ups?

It could be AMEX testing the waters. After all, when Marriott and SPG programs merge, the value of SPG points will change. 25,000 SPG points from a sign-up is not the same as 80,000 Marriott points.

The Benefits

The benefits for both personal and business versions have stayed the same. As a reminder

Personal

  • Annual fee $0 for the first year, then $95
  • Earn up to 5 Starpoints per $1 spent at Starwood properties (varies based on membership level)
  • As a cardmember earn 5 nights and 2 stays towards SPG elite status each year you hold the card
  • Free-in room premium internet
  • Unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at a time
  • No foreign transaction fees

Business

  • Annual fee $0 for the first year, then $95
  • Earn up to 5 Starpoints per $1 spent at Starwood properties (varies based on membership level)
  • As a cardmember eaern 5 nights and 2 stays towards SPG eltie status each year you hold the card
  • Free-in room premium internet
  • Unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at a time
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Complimentary access to Sheraton club lounges

The Sign-Up Bonus Change

The SPG cards typically offer 25,000 points after spending $3,000 (personal) or $5,000 (business). Once a year they usually go up to 30,000 points, and most recently they increased to the unprecedented 35,000.

SPG Updated biz offer

A new and inferior offer.

Now these cards offer two certificates at any category 1 – 5 Starwood. Starwood has 7 categories – unlike Hyatt, Hilton, Fairmont and even Ritz, these card leaves off two of the best and highest categories.

With the points sign-up bonus, you could redeem 25,000 points for about eight nights at a category 1; four nights at a category 3 (after spending), and almost three nights at a category 4, etc. Now you can only redeem a maximum of two nights at a category 5 – about 32,000 points if you’re redeeming at a category 5 and it’s at the higher rate.

The terms say that this offer will end October 19. At that point, I hope it will revert back to it’s old offer of 25,000 (or maybe even 30,000) points, but we’ll have to wait and see.

I did find this old link – use at your own risk. Take a screenshot of it before you apply.

Old link spg

Bottom Line

This is definitely an inferior offer. Not only are you limited to the categories and amount of nights, you’re losing the ability to transfer your points to SPG’s multitude of airline partners. Ironic considering they just announced Avianca as their thirty-sixth airline transfer partner.

Who knows – maybe AMEX will loosen the reigns of once-per-lifetime as they get closer to losing the ability to add new accounts…

-The Miner


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Review: Chase Fairmont Credit Card

Category : Uncategorized

Chase has had a Fairmont credit card for a while, but for a variety of reasons, it’s gotten little play on points and miles blogs. But, now with Chase’s restrictions on getting approved for some of their best products, it’s time to expand our horizons.

Fairmont Visa Signature® Card

Bad News First

The primary reason the Fairmont card doesn’t get so much action is that they have very few properties. More importantly, those properties have blackout dates. The nice thing is that those blackout dates are explicitly published. And outside of that, availability is pretty decent at most properties.

You can view the 2016 blackout dates here – but, for the most part, they’re pretty logical.

The Fairmont Monte Carlo, for example, is blacked out for certificate or points redemptions during the Grand Prix.

Fairmont Credit Card Review

Card Issuer: Chase

Annual Fee: Waived the first year, then $95.

  • This is a standard benefit on Chase products for their first years.

Sign-Up Bonus / Minimum Spending Requirement: 2 Certificates / $3,000 in three months.

  • Certificates can be used at any Fairmont with availability to the exclusion of the blackout dates (see here).
  • You must call Fairmont customer service to redeem certificates – excellent and friendly customer service team.
  • Certificates post to your account after the statement closes in which you completed the $3,000 in spending.

Bonus Categories: 5 Fairmont points per dollar at a Fairmont property, 2 for every $1 spent on airlines, car rentals and local transit (public transit, Uber), and 1 point per $1 on everything else.

  • You currently cannot transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Fairmont, but the earning on this card is subpar because of the limited options for redeeming certificates. For hotel purchases at Fairmont properties you’re better off using the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi Prestige which both earn 3X on hotels.
  • The best way to use Fairmont points is for Gift Cards – this must be done via Chase (‘Redeem rewards’ on your Fairmont card section).

Hotel Status: Premier Status

  • Premier status is provided upon opening the card and it’s the second tier of Fairmont stauts. The real benefit is that it gives you
    • A room upgrade certificate
      • Entitles you to one category upgrade from what you booked (excludes suites)
      • Non-transferable, unless you have Platinum (top-tier) status
    • A suite upgrade certificate
      • Entitles you to one category upgrade within the Suite category
Fairmont suite certificate

Book a basic level suite and use your certificate to upgrade to a suite twice the price at the Fairmont Monte Carlo!

    • Two $25 dining certificates or Willow Stream spa certificates (applied at check-out), good at any Fairmont property
    • Third night free certificate – applies only to cash bookings
  • These certificates are good for six months from issuance
  • The full terms and conditions for the certificates can be found here.
Fairmont Status benefit certificates

The Fairmont Credit card provides Premier Status, which comes with a host of ancillary certificates

Foreign Transaction Fees: None.

Best Properties? Best Properties, FOR YOU

As mentioned above, your ability to redeem these certificates is limited by their amount of properties. The map they provide is interactive, but here is what it looks like in Europe

fairmont europe

You can’t use your certificates at Swissotel or Raffles

Fairmont has more properties in Asia and the United States. They also have several historic properties around the world and many beautiful and popular properties in Canada – where Fairmont is headquartered.

‘Best’ is completely subjective – the typical mantra is that the more money the property costs, and the “free’er” (yes, I’ve just made that a real word) it is, the better.

Probably the two most expensive and famous Fairmont properties are in New York and London. Fairmont restricts you to using only one certificate at a time if you stay at either of these locations. 

For example, Fairmont has a beautiful property in Scotland – and as much as I want to go to Scotland, I’m not a golf person. That’s what the property (the St. Andrews) is known for, and places it in a bit more of a remote and random location within Scotland. Sure, it might cost a lot if you paid cash, but it’s not the most practical place to stay.

That being said, there are some unique properties in places that don’t have many points options.

  • There are two Fairmont properties in Bermuda. There currently no other major chain hotels or point redeeming properties on that island. This card and these certificates offer that.
  • As Fairmont is headquartered in Canada, they have a lot of nice properties, particularly in remote locations or ski destinations such as Whistler, Canada.
whistler fairmont

Image courtesy of the hotel

One last tip.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts are known for their exclusivity. They offer unparalleled customer service. I can’t wait for my stay at the Fairmont Monte Carlo. Though it doesn’t cost as much as the Savoy in London, this redemption makes sense for me.

The tip? You can use your certificates for kosher food. Wait… what? Some Fairmont properties will bring in kosher food from local restaurants. If so, they’ll charge you at the end of the stay – you wouldn’t pay directly to the restaurant. You can just use your dining certificates towards that charge! I’ll be doing this at my upcoming stay in Monte Carlo.

Bottom Line

While the Fairmont card has its limitation, it’s a no-brainer if you have a specific use of the certificates. I would not recommend opening this card if you have no use for the certificates, as they expire a year from issuance. Don’t plan a trip around the certificates – plan a trip, and then see where the certificates may fit in.

The link for the card can be found here.

-The Miner


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Why I’m Closing All My Citi American Airlines Credit Cards

Category : Uncategorized

At the end of August, Citi instituted a new rule to clamp down on churning; whereby those who open or a close a card from a product family – take any American Airlines, Hilton or ThankYou points earning card – the card member must wait 24 months before earning the bonus on any other card from that same product family.

So if you opened up the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Mastercard today, you’d need to wait until September 20, 2018 to earn any AAdvantage (so Executive or Gold) bonuses again.

Practically, this means you’d need to keep your AAdvantage Platinum open for two years. The annual fee is waived the first year, but in 2017 and 2018 you’d have to pay it. Or close it. But if you close it in 2017 because of an annual fee, you’d then need to wait until 2019 – so essentially three years from today.

Strategically, you could keep the card open for two years – assuming you can justify the annual fee – and then earn the bonus again. Or, as I will probably do, you can earn the bonus and then close the card.

If I just had the AAdvantage Platinum, I’d probably keep it open and be okay with paying the annual fee… But, I have:

  1. AAdvantage Platinum – $95 annual fee
  2. AAdvantage Gold – $50 annual fee
  3. AAdvantage Executive – $450 annual fee

The first two cards have their fees waived the first year, the Executive is charged after the first statement. That’s almost $600 in annual fees and the only real benefit is the Admiral’s Club membership given by the Executive card.

American_Airlines.Admirals_Club.2007

The Admiral’s Club is nice, but for $450 a year?

Priority boarding and free checked bags are also part of the Barclays American Airlines Aviator cards – which I’d much rather keep as they not only offer the same benefits, but Barclays is really generous when it comes to waiving the annual fee on this product.

I had opened up the Executive card when Citi announced their new rules – so pretty recently. My opening resets the clock by two years. If I close the card, it’s only two years and a month (or so) from when I opened. Much better than paying $450 in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Bottom Line

Ethically, I don’t love being in this spot. I really do advocate being a good customer to Citi, building a relationship with them that is beneficial to both of us. And while I don’t love these new rules (obviously), I do understand Citi’s motivation for instituting them – and who knows? They may change, but for now they’re here to stay.

-The Miner


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NO LONGER AVAILABLE: Amazing Hotel Offer – Hilton 2nd Night Free Offer

Category : Uncategorized

UPDATE: This offer is no longer available as of Friday, September 16. The promotion was ended early due to its unexpected popularity.

Two days ago, Visa Signature’s Luxury Hotel Collection partnered with Hilton to bring an amazing hotel promotion. Essentially, if you book two nights at participating Conrad, Waldorf or Curio hotels – you get the second night free. The catch is that you must use a Visa Signature or Visa Infinite card.

The Nitty Gritty

Here’s the direct link to the offer – all you need to do is select the hotel you’re interested in staying at – through the site, and book your two nights. You won’t be charged until check out. When you get the folio at that time, you’ll see your bill cut in half.

Here are the rules…

  • Stays must be booked by December 31, 2016
  • Stays must occur between booking and be completed by March 31, 2017
  • Stays can be over two nights, but you’ll only get one free.
  • You must book with a Visa Signature card.

What’s a Visa Signature card?

citi hilton visa sig

Underneath the Visa logo, you see the word ‘Signature’ – this is pretty standard on cards. Most Visa issued cards are branded as Visa Signature, particularly if one has over a credit line of $5,000 or more.

This also works with the Visa Infinite cards issued by Chase on the new Chase Sapphire Reserver and revamped Ritz-Carlton card. Most

Other Benefits With This Promotion

In addition to the free night, you get the following benefits:

  • Any elite Hilton HHonors benefits, depending on your level of status
  • Automatic room upgrade when available, upon arrival
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Complimentary continental breakfast
  • $25 USD food or beverage credit
  • 3 PM Check-out upon request, when availabile

These are pretty standard if you are a HHonors Gold or Diamond. You can receive HHonors Gold from the Citi Hilton Reserve or American Express Surpass cards. Hilton HHonors Gold is one of the best statuses given from a credit card.

The real benefit here is that $25 food or beverage credit which is also applied at check out.

Properties

Sure, some Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and Curio Hilton properties are pretty pricey, but there are some cheap ones out there (particularly the Asian properties).

If you look at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, you’ll be paying $2,100 for two nights, or $1,050 per night.

WA NYC

Whereas the Conrad Bangkok  you’ll pay $250 for two nights, or $125 for two! I’ll be in Thailand later this year and was able to take advantage of the offer. I’m trying to take advantage of my Hilton Diamond (via status match) before it expires.

2 nights conrad BKK

The total for two nights after taxes is about $500. At check-out, the promotion will knock this down to $250, essentially costing me $125 a night for a top property like the Conrad Bangkok.

There are some really great top-tier Hilton properties out there like the Grand Wailea in Maui or the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem.

WA entrance

The beautiful atrium of the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem – Image courtesy of the hotel

Since becoming a Hilton Diamond, I’ve stayed at several Hilton properties in North America, Asia and Israel. I’ve really enjoyed my stays at their luxury properties. In particular, I’ve found that the Waldorf properties (unlike the Ritz properties) are really unique to the destination and are anything but cookie cutter.

Cancellation / Changes

As you’ll be charged at check out, you can usually cancel 24-hours before the reservation with no penalty. Be sure to check the terms & conditions of the entire booking before you make the purchase.

The cancellation will not follow Visa’s policy; rather, it will follow the individual hotels policy.

And remember, if you check out early, you’ll be charged the full amount and not be eligible for the rebate at check out.

Elite Benefits and Maximizing Hilton HHonors Earnings

As mentioned above, you should be able to take advantage of any elite benefits you have with HHonors Gold or Diamond status. Upon making the reservation, you’ll be prompted to enter your HHonors number – this implies you’ll also earn points for your stays.

There are a few promotions going on to help you earn even more points!

If you stay at a Waldorf or Conrad before December 31, 2016, register here to earn 5,000 additional HHonors points on a two-night stay.

Earn double points on every stay through December 31, 2016. Register here.

If you make this purchase with your Citi Hilton Reserve Visa Signature card you’ll earn an additional 10X points per dollar.

Bottom Line

This is a really great way to rack up a few extra thousand HHonors points and get a free night. Like any other promotion or great sale, it only makes sense to take advantage if you were planning a trip with a eligible property – otherwise it’s a waste of money and you’ll have some buyer’s remorse.

– The Miner

Cover photo courtesy of the hotel


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Earning the Sign-Up on Chase Cards Again

Category : Uncategorized

When Chase added their new rules restricting customers from earning card member bonuses if they’ve opened up more than five cards in a 24-month period, they fortunately did not include all their cards in that rule.

Exceptions to Chase’s 5/24 Rule

  • Chase Hyatt
  • British Airways
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • IHG
  • Amazon
  • Disney
  • AARP
  • Marriott Rewards Business

While you can keep getting these cards if you’re over 5 cards in 24 months, you cannot earn the bonus on them if you received a specific bonus in the past 24 months.

For example:

You earn the sign-up bonus on the IHG card on August 15, 2014. You must have waited until August 16, 2016 to be earn the bonus on this card once again.

Unlike AMEX, which will approve you but not give you the bonus, Chase won’t even approve you for the product. In some ways, that’s annoying (say you want the card benefits, but not the sign-up, at least); but the positive is that they do not pull credit.

I confirmed this with the Chase Representatives after applying for the Hyatt card.

I last opened the Hyatt card in September 2014. According to my records, I received the 2 night free certificates in October 2014 which means I’d be eligible next monht.

So why did I apply in September and not wait it out?

I called Chase and Hyatt and received two different answers:

  • Chase: After calling the number on the back of my old card, they said they couldn’t find it in the system – which according to them, meant I was good to go.
  • Hyatt: Hyatt said that I received them October 31, 2014. This, I knew, was off in some way.

After applying, my application went pending.

Instead of waiting for the letter to come in the mail, I called up Chase and was informed of the following:

  • I received the card member bonus on this product within the past 24 months
  • Specifically, they were able to give me a date: October 9, 2014.
  • No credit pull was done – this was confirmed by the letter I recieved in the mail which did not provide information on contacting Experian.

Lessons Learned

So if you’re not sure – your records aren’t kept straight, Chase or the co-brand partner doesn’t know when you last received the sign-up bonus – you can apply and not only will you get more accurate information, but it won’t even be a credit pull.

– The Miner