Author Archives: user

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To Ritz, or Not To Ritz?

Category : Uncategorized

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

When points and miles enthusiasts talk about aspirational properties and redemptions, you always hear about the showers on the plane and the lavish suites. But when miles and points enthusiasts talk about aspirational properties and redemptions in Israel, they don’t talk about the flights (because El Al’s business class is eh); they talk about the Ritz Carlton Herzilya and the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem (covered here).

As many of you know, I am currently in Israel on assignment for my day job through the end of July. Currently, I’m based in Jerusalem, but will be heading to Tel Aviv shortly for the remainder of the summer. Tel Aviv has tons to offer and I’m excited to explore the culture hot spot of the Mediterranean. Being in Tel Aviv also gives me access to the western and Mediterranean coast of Israel, which has a convenient quick train stop to the city of Herzliya.

The Ritz-Carlton Herzliya

The Ritz-Carlton Herzliya is a Tier 3 (of 5) Ritz property. The property will cost you 50,000 Marriott points; rooms go for about $500.00 a night, giving you  about 1 cent to the point. Not bad, especially for Marriott points which are somewhere between .5 – 1 cent per point.

So 50,000 isn’t too bad, considering the Marriott Personal card from Chase is offering 80,000 points after spending $3000.00 in three months. (Both my wife and I took advantage of this offer to stay 5 nights at a wonderful Category 8 Marriott in Tokyo.)

The Ritz looks like a beautiful property. All rooms have an sea view and can see the marina.

I ask this question a lot, and I’ll ask it again – but can we do better?!

Cash & Points

Earlier this year, Marriott introduced a cash & points option. This is subject to availability on all their properties.

Here’s what the rate is at the Ritz-Carlton Herzilya

c&p ritz herz

You are buying about 24,000 points from Marriott for the cost of $170. How much would that cost outright?

 

 

buy marriott points

24,000 points, without any promotions would cost you $300.00, almost double the cost of paying the cash portion.

What about for 3 nights?

rits c&p 3 nights

If you didn’t want to do cash and points, you’d need to buy 72,000 Marriott points. Marriott only allows you to purchase 50,000 a year for a total of $625.00. Now, if you could, at $12.50 per/1,000 point, you’d pay $900.00. Again, cash and points wins.

Though this won’t always be the case, Cash & Points at the Ritz-Carlton Herzilya will get you farther with a sign up bonus like 80,000 points. You’d pay $510 and 78,000 points for three nights. If your significant other signs up, you can share your points (for free) and either book 3 nights for 150,000 and no cash, or 6 nights and $1020.00. Oh, you’d actually get seven, because of the 5th night free benefit Marriott and Ritz offer.

Other Ways to Earn

Chase has a business version of the Marriott card which get’s you 100,000 Marriott points.

They also have a Ritz-Carlton premium card which after spending $4000.00 in three months you can get two Tier 1 – 4 certificates. The downside is that there is a $395.00 annual fee. Though the card comes with $300.00 in airline incidentals, unlike AMEX and Citi, this is not an automatic benefit. You need to call in those purchases to be reimbursed. The Ritz card also falls outside of Chase’s 5/24 policy–for now.

Finally, a gray market exists for selling these certificates. They go for roughly $300.00 each. If you were to buy two or three, or even one, you’d be better off using Marriott points (if you have them) with cash & points.

So, is it worth it?

I do not have any Ritz certificates (and I wouldn’t pay for them on the gray market), but I have enough Marriott points for 1 night outright, or by paying Cash & Points. I”m inclined to pay with Cash & Points, considering Chase’s new rules and my desire to spread out my points as much as possible.

Is it worth it?

Click here to sign up for the Marriott Personal Card from Chase and be on your way to earn 80,000 Marriott points.

-The Miner

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


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jetBlue Will Match Your Points – Worth it?

Category : Uncategorized

On the heels of their easy and amazing Mosaic Status Match, jetBlue is again looking to capture clients from the upcoming Alaska and Virgin America merger with a points match.

They’ve done the status match, now they’re doing a points match. It’s exactly how it sounds, but there are some rules to follow:

  • Apply for the points match, once approved…
  • …You must submit a screenshot with your name and current Virgin America elevate points no later than Monday, July 4. (Don’t wait until the last minute!)
  • You then must take one round trip flight on jetBlue before August 31, 2016 – again, don’t wait until the last minute!

What They’ll Match:

B6 Points Match

The sweet spot here is in red.

You only need 50,001 to get 75,000 jetBlue points.

Who This is Good For

If you already have Virgin America points, then you have nothing to lose (even if you don’t take the flight, though it may be worth it, depending on how cheap the flight is).

Though you can transfer Membership Rewards (MR), Citi ThankYou Points (TYP) and SPG, the first two transfer at a 200:100. Practically, if you have 1000,000 TYPs or MR you’ll only get 50,000. So you’d have to transfer 102,000 to get the sweet spot above 50,001 for a total of 51,000 (after the transfer).

MR to VA XFER

What everyone is talking about transferring are your precious SPG points.

Why?

SPG transfer 1:1 except when you are transferring 20,000 points. For every 20,000 point increment, SPG will give you a 5,000 point bonus. So if you transfer 40,001 points from SPG to Virgin America, you’d receive 50,001 points, enough to receive 75,000 jetBlue points.

This is a really good deal. You’d be transferring 40,000 to receive 10,000 bonus PLUS 75,000 jetBlue points. Even with the flight of $150.00 or so, it’s a win-win.

I think that this promotion is only good for those flush with SPG points. With AMEX cards (both personal and business) now once-in-a-lifetime, your transferred SPG points from a bonus, let’s say, is all you’ll get outside of spending and staying at properties on cash stays.

Who This is Not So Good For

  • Low SPG balances
  • Membership Rewards hoarders/holders
  • Will not take a jetBlue flight by August 31, 2016.

I value membership rewards very highly and at 200:100, I’d need to transfer 121,000 Membership Rewards to Virgin Elevate to receive the match from jetBlue. After those jetBlue points post, I’d only net 25,000 points.

True, not all of them are equal, but I value my Membership Rewards higher than jetBlue. There are a lot of redemeptions to be had with that many MRs.

Even if you live in a jetBlue hub or focus city (Boston, JFK, Puerto Rico, Long Beach), really analyze if you would use your points to fly jetBlue. Remember: TrueBlue points operate like Southwest points–they’re based on the price of the ticket. In my experience, whenever I want to take jetBlue (after my successful status match), other airlines are cheaper.

One last thing: you could argue that Citi TYPs are not as valuable as MR so those, which also transfer 200:100 may be worth it. I found a lot of value in mine, flying on AA–especially on cheap flights–flights cheaper than jetBlue that also earn qualifying flying miles.

What would swing my decision is if I was a Caribbean junky. jetBlue offers some of the most non-stops to many, if not all, of the Caribbean islands. TrueBlue points can certainly get you to many of them, sometimes for fairly few miles.

The green are all the direct flights from JFK.

The green are all the direct flights from JFK.

So before you make the jump to transfer any of your currencies, really think long and hard about this move: because there are no take backs.

 

The Miner


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Costco Now Takes Visa – And a New Costco Card from Citi

Category : Uncategorized

The big news this week is that Costco began its switchover to accepting all Visa debit and credit cards. For a long time now, Costco only accepted American Express credit cards and Visa and Mastercard debit cards.

Of course, many people had the AMEX Costco card–in fact, it was a huge percentage of their revenue and credit card portfolio.

To make a long story short, Citi outbid AMEX for the Costco account (and paid steeply). Not only that, they upped the card by adding 1% more cash bag than AMEX did.

Here’s the new earning structure:

The best part? It earns high cash back worldwide.

The best part? It earns high cash back worldwide.

The earning structure is as follows:

  • 4% cash back on eligible gas, including Costco
  • 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases
  • 2% cash back on other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

What’s most intriguing about this is that Citi is allowing you to earn cash back on these categories… WORLDWIDE. That’s pretty huge. AMEX, for example, is notorious for only having their bonus categories work in the U.S. (on their proprietary cards, not their co-branded). So if you’re traveling abroad and swipe your Premier Rewards Gold at a supermarket, you won’t earn 3X Membership Rewards.

 

What’s the Catch?

There always is one, isn’t there?

For me, it would be the Costco Cash Rewards structure.

As opposed to a regular cash back card where you can receive the cash back in statement credits or a check, you “Receive a [cash back] coupon annually in your February billing statement, then redeem it anytime before December 31 [of the same year]. Just visit a Costco warehouse to exchange your coupon for merchandise or cash.”

Let’s break that down:

  1. “Receive a [cash back] coupon annually…” — Practically, this probably means if you apply for the card today and start earning cash back, you’ll receive your coupon of cash back in February 2017, which expires Decemeber 31, 2017. This gives you almost 11 months to use the “coupon”.
    1. Most cash back dollars don’t expire.
  2. “Just visit a Costco warehouse…” – You need to go to a physical location to use that coupon for merchandise or cash.
    1. That doesn’t make much sense to me, but I guess someone who spends a lot of money at Costco and Costco Gas could make some worthwhile profit off of this.
    2. Why do I think Citi did this? Well, most people like to shop online and if you have to go into the store to redeem it and them come back to shop with it, chances are you’re going to forget or it’ll just expire and never be redeemed.
    3. The only upside is that those who religiously shop at Costco won’t forget because they’d want to use it at Costco anyways to offset their expenditures. That’s probably true.

And the earning structure… You can do better.

If you’re looking for cold hard cash (back), you can do much better for some of the categories.

Let’s say that this card hard a straightforward cash back redemption like other products then it would outclass most cards in Gas, Travel and Restaurants. BUT, there is a convoluted earning structure for all categories.

The main sell of the card is earning Cash Back at big warehouse stores, like Costco (duh!). But you only earn 2X, all the time.

Guess what?

From now until the end of the calendar year, those with the Chase Freedom cards will earn 5X cash back per dollar at Costco and other warehouse stores like BJ’s and Sam’s Club.

Yes, there is a limit, but for your first $1,500 in Costco spending (if you can/will spend that much until December 31, 2016) you’d earn $75.00 cash back (or 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points if you prefer), as opposed to the $30 cash back you’d earn on $1,500 worth of purchases at Costco.

Now once that promotion ends (though it usually comes back during the third quarter, especially now that Costco takes Visa, which the Freedom is), you are better off using your Costco Visa–unless you hate the earning structure and redemption policy. In that case, go with the Citi double cash which will earn you 2X cash back per dollar.

A few other things…

  1. This card does not carry foreign transaction fees, which is unique for some cash back cards. If the Costco cash redemption option works for you, this could be a solid cash back option when traveling abroad (for dining and travel).
  2. You have to be an existing Costco member to apply for the card–the application will ask you for your membership number–that is the annual fee for the card, too.
  3. The 4% cash back on gas purchases (including Costco gas) is limited to the first $7,000 per year.

Click here to register your Chase Freedom Q3 bonus

Click here to apply for the Citi Costco Anywhere Visa.

Weigh the pros and cons, but I’d hold off applying for this card until January 1, 2017… At the earliest.

-The Miner


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Celebrating [Fifth] Freedoms to the Caribbean

Category : Uncategorized

“Why am I flying Air New Zealand between Los Angeles and London?”

“Why the heck is everyone telling me to use my miles on that Singapore Airlines flight between New York and Frankfurt?!”

The above quotes are representative of unique routes that airlines fly called “Fifth Freedom Routes”. What are Fifth Freedom Routes?

Before we get there (and take advantage of them), this type of routing is part of a larger body of laws and regulations known as the Freedoms of the Air: a set of international aviation laws governing which sovereign airlines can fly to and from which country; which can transport cargo and personnel, only cargo, perform maintenance or refuel in different countries. You can read more about Freedoms of the Air over at wikipedia, but the relevant one to us (for this conversation) is the Fifth freedom, which:

The fifth freedom allows an airline to carry revenue traffic between foreign countries as a part of services connecting the airline’s own country. It is the right to carry passengers from one’s own country to a second country, and from that country to a third country (and so on). An example of a fifth freedom traffic right is an Emirates flight in 2004 from Dubai to Brisbane, Australia and onward to Auckland, New Zealand, where tickets can be sold on any sector. Fifth freedom traffic rights are intended to enhance the economic viability of an airline’s long haul routes, but tend to be viewed by local airlines and governments as potentially unfair competition.

Source

So what does that look like?

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.44.41 PM

This entire route is operated by Singapore Airlines

This route is extremely popular among bloggers and miles and points enthusiasts because you can use points to book the JFK – Frankfurt route and fly in Singapore Airlines’ wonderful Suites Class–Without going all the way to Singapore. A lavish way to get to Europe, indeed.

Yes - Those are two beds

Yes – Those are two beds

So as the “consumer”, why would you want to fly a Fifth Freedom route?

  • Sometimes great award availability
  • More options for connecting to harder to get regions (think Bangkok and Singapore)
  • Cheaper cash tickets
  • Ability to try premium products at a discounted rate that would otherwise be out of reach (like flying JFK – Toronto on LAN in business class for about $115 each way)

There are many, many Fifth Freedom routes–see them all here. Plenty of these routes are covered elsewhere, like:

  • London – Los Angeles on Air New Zealand
  • JFK – Frankfurt on Singapore Airlines
  • JFK – Vancouver on Cathay Pacific
  • JFK – Milan on Emirates
  • Sydney – Auckland on LAN

This list goes on and on, but there are some really practical, untouched ones that we’ll look at today.

Here are all the Fifth Freedom Routes British Airways operates in the Caribbean:

  • Nassau, Bahamas (NAS) – Grand Cayman (GCM) – NAS
  • Antigua (ANU) – Tobago (TAB) – ANU
  • ANU – Grenada (GND) – ANU
  • ANU – St. Kitts (SKB) – ANU
  • ANU – Turks & Caicos (PLS) – ANU
  • St. Lucia (UVF) – Port of Spain (POS) – UVF
  • UVF – GND – UVF

A lot of these routes can be paid for using cash (but who does that?!); however, British Airways is a Oneworld partner and there are several points currencies which transfer to British Airways Avios. The British Airways credit card also currently falls outside of the new Chase churning rules and comes with a 50,000 point bonus after spending $2,000 in three months and then another 25,000 points after spending $15,000 total in one card member year (you may be able to get matched to their recent 100,000 point offer–secure message them, it’s always worth asking).

The Fifth Hopper: Turks & Caicos – Antigua & Barbuda – St. Kitts

 

With all the choices, the most common one is Antigua. So you could use another currency to fly directly (or connecting) to Turks & Caicos and then hop around the Caribbean very cheaply using Avios. Here’s what it would look like

pls-anu-skb

PLS – ANU

 

This route operates Sunday and Thursday.

This route operates Sunday and Thursday.

ANU-SKB

anu-skb only

The route currently only operates on Wednesdays

(Please note: These schedules are usually not loaded very far in advance; check back frequently for dates farther out.)

So for 11,500 Avios and $55.00 you can see two additional islands (not three–the first you would arrive at anyways). This is just an example and there can be many more variations.

But what about cash prices? Let’s take a look…

That's too steep for me!

That’s too steep for me!

You’d get almost 3 cents to the miles with these redemption and you’d save over $350.00.

Getting to the Caribbean

Before you can do this hopper, you need to get there first! There are lots of options from North America. The greatest number of options are coming from Orlando, Miami (the gateway to Latin American and the Caribbean), Houston and Atlanta. There are scattered and seasonal flights from other east coast hubs like D.C., New York and Chicago.

Here are some of the best options for using miles to the Caribbean.

Airline Economy Business Transfers From Notes
American 25 – 30,000 50,000 SPG No stopovers; lower price is off-peak
Alaska 35,000 60,000 SPG 1 Stopover, but must be same ariline (so American or Delta only)
Air France 30,000 75,000 AMEX, Chase UR, SPG, Citi TYP 1 Stopover; must be called in
United 35,000 60,000 Chase UR 1 Stopover, 1 Open-jaw
Delta Variable Variable AMEX, SPG Cheapest 15,000 Roundtrip, can be much more
British Airways Distance Based Distance Based AMEX, Chase UR, SPG Best value from AA hubs like Miami & Charolette
JetBlue Revenue Based Revenue Based AMEX Based off price of ticket, but good values on off-peak times

Fixed-Cost Currencies

For those that are based off of region and therefore “fixed”, your best bets are American’s off-peak or Air France on Delta metal. The only thing that American has that Delta does not is the amount of non-stops from Miami and the East Coast. With Delta, you may have to connect via Atlanta.

Revenue and Distance Based Currencies 

The crux of this post is about British Airways, so it could also provide good options for getting to your first Caribbean destination. JetBlue offers the most non-stops to the Caribbean from the New York area so if you are going off-peak, there are some extremely cheap redemption’s to be had.

Earning the British Airways Miles

I briefly mentioned above, but the British Airways card is currently at 50,000 Avios for spending $2,000 in the first three months, and then an additional 25,000 Avios after spending $13,000 more (for a total of $15,000). You can also, after approval, Secure Message Chase and ask them to match you to the previously higher offer of 50,000 for spending $2,000; an additional 25,000 Avios when spending a total of $10,000; and finally another additional 25,000 Avios after spending $20,000 total in a card member year.

You can also earn Ultimate Rewards via cards like the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Sapphire and Ink  business cards which can be transferred 1:1 to British Airways.

 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to try out one of these routes.

 

-The Miner


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Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem – Redeeming Hilton Points

Category : Uncategorized

I recently completed a long, three day holiday weekend at the Waldrof Astoria Jerusalem. Though I never intended on checking in to the Waldorf while in Israel, it was a last minute decision that I’m happy to have made.

Point Hotels in Israel

hotel hustle israel

Twelve point redemption properties–excluding Wyndham–in Israel

Israel, but Jerusalem in particular, is pretty devoid of points hotels.

Dead Sea Area

  • Crowne Plaza Dead Sea, IHG, 25,000 points

Eilat

  • Hilton, 40,000 points

Herzilya 

  • The Ritz-Carlton, 50,000 Marriott or Ritz points

Jerusalem

  • Jerusalem Crowne Plaza [IHG], 20,000 points
  • Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, 80,000 Hilton points

Tel Aviv

  • Sheraton Tel Aviv, 12,000 Starwood [SPG] points
  • Renaissance Tel Aviv, 35,000 Marriott points
  • Hilton Tel Aviv, 70,000 points
  • Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv Beach, 30,000 points
  • Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv City Center, 30,000 points
  •  Hotel Indigo Diamond District [IHG], 25,000 points
  • Intercontinental David [IHG], 40,000 points

Sure, Israel is a small country but there are only 12 (!) point redemption hotels in the entire country, and most of those are IHG. That leaves aspirational 5-star properties few and far between. (There are Ramada-Wyndham properties scattered throughout the country but they’re usually cheap enough and using points isn’t worth it). A majority of these properties are in Tel Aviv.

The three nicest ones are the Ritz-Carlton Herzilya, Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem and the Intercontinental David in Tel Aviv.

Finding Availability at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem

Because I recently stayed there, we’re going to look at award night availability at the Waldorf .

There’s been a lot of back and forth between Dan from DansDeals and the Waldorf management about releasing award space. It’s an interesting and fun read. Briefly, hotels are supposed to release award space if there’s a basic room available. The Waldorf, however, has not been doing so; or, it has only been releasing award space above the standard rate of 80,000 Hilton points per night.

Let’s take a closer look at the availability for 2 guests and two night stays from today (6/15) and around some holidays. Be sure to do an ‘advanced search’ and select both ‘flexible dates’ and ‘Hhonors awards’.

Award nights throughout this week and next

Award nights throughout this week and next

How about around the Jewish New Year, which starts the evening of October 2 this year?

No standard award nights during the New Year

No standard award nights during the New Year

From the Waldorf’s perspective, this does make a lot of sense. People are willing to shell out a lot of cash to stay there during the holiday season, so why release award nights? There are nights in between which are available.

What about Hanukkah 2016, which coincides perfectly with Christmas and New Years?

The first night of Hanukkah is December 24

The first night of Hanukkah is December 24

I was not expecting that–maybe no one has made their plans yet?! Jump on it!

In perspective, here are cash prices for the hotel:

Basic room, no breakfast

Basic room, no breakfast

Around $650 for one night, after taxes, not including breakfast. I’d rather use points!

Which cards?

Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card A Hilton Credit Card from Citi Citi.com

The best card to get, hands down, for stays at top-tier Hilton properties (anything above 80,000 points a night) is the Citi Hilton Reserve. There is an annual fee, but you only need to spend $2,500 within four months, not the usual three, to earn two Hilton certificates which can be used at any Hilton property worldwide on weekend nights (Friday, Saturday or Sunday night). The card also comes with automatic gold status which qualifies you for free breakfast and two beverage vouchers to use at the hotel bars. Some hotels (not Waldorf’s) have Executive Lounges where they serve snacks and food.

A Taste of Luxury

It’s kind of a bummer for those who want to be at this property during some of the holiday seasons, but it makes sense from Hilton’s revenue management. I would say, nevertheless, that it’s a luxury hotel worth splurging Hilton points on (especially if you picked up a lot from the recent increased Hilton credit card sign up bonuses).

With apparently expanded award night availability, jump on these days before they’re all snatched up.


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Flight Cancellation Compensation – My Experience

Category : Uncategorized

Those who follow me on Instagram (@miningformiles) know that I’m currently in Israel. (I’ll be here for two months on assignment, but that’s besides the point).

Flying is always a fun experience (heavy sarcasm intended), but miles, points and the perks that come with credit cards can make it a bit more enjoyable. Sometimes, a wrench is thrown into the highly operationalized system of airline operations. Most commonly this is bad weather, but sometimes this is because of pilot strikes or a mechanical error.

In any event, sometimes fliers are eligible for monetary compensation for delayed or cancelled flights.

The laws are numerous and complicated, but you are almost always entitled to some sort of compensation when there is a mechanical error which severely delays or cancels a flight.

On Wednesday evening I headed to the airport and of course, I received a notification of my delayed flight after already arrived and made it through the security and into the lounge. Delays on DL 468 (from JFK to Tel Aviv) were apparently commonplace.

However, I began to wonder why: there was some bad weather, but only earlier in the day. After all, this flight was leaving pretty late (11:55 PM) in the night. Ah, a mechanical malfunction. They needed to send a new plane from Atlanta instead of the flight from San Francisco (the one with mechanical issues).

The delay notifications on Delta app and TripIt continued to roll in. I wentto the lounge agent and ask what the problem is: now they have a working plane, but that aircraft is delayed because of bad weather out of Atlanta. Great.

Airline employees (baggage handles, flight attendants, pilots, etc,) are heavily unionized. What happens when a severely delayed flight from Atlanta lands in New York? Delta needs to pay everyone overtime and that’s it. They can’t continue working because they’ve “timed out”. At 2:30 AM, they’d be pretty hard pressed to find a fresh crew!

After several minutes of getting rebooked (knowing that the flight would indeed be cancelled), I proceeded to collect my luggage… at 2:30 AM, as instructed. Baggage claim was closed. Delta check-in counters were closed. Delta baggage customer service center? Closed.

To make a long story short, I ended up getting my bags and on a better flight than the one they had rebooked me on.

My Compensation

Because this cancellation was mechanical, Delta owed me compensation. In situations such as this, a $200.00 voucher is pretty standard. The voucher expires within one year and can be used in any class of service on any flight bookable on Delta.com. Pretty good… But I knew I could do better.

  • $100.00 voucher
  • 50,000 Delta Skymiles
  • All transportation to/from airport covered with taxi vouchers – I received four of these; roughly about $280 in value.

Woah.

That’s like the new limited time Delta AMEX credit card sign ups!

Isn’t $200 better than 50,000 miles? Probably, but not in the form of a voucher. Cold hard cash is the best. But the voucher’s a bit more limited in Delta’s case. They expire. Delta miles do not. And as we already explored, Delta has some good partner uses (discussed here) to take advantage of. All I had to do, was miss my flight 😉

Receiving Compensation

  1. Know the rules. Even in severe weather, you can usually get the airline to cover transportation to/from hotel, the hotel and food. They usually will not cover lodging if that airport is your home airport. Right after my flight was cancelled, I read the Contract of Carriage for Delta. This is the binding agreement between you and the airline in which you purchased your ticket from. How to find the Contract of Carriage? Google ‘[Insert Airline] Contact of Carriage]’. They’re usually pretty reader friendly. It explains the rules in the event of a cancellation or severe delay.
  2. Be prepared… 
    • With alternative flights. Airlines will rebook you on one of their flights, or a partner flights. Know your alliances.  They will only rebook you on a non-alliance partner (in this case, with Israel, that would be El Al) if there are no other options.
    • Willingness to be flexible. If you’re booked in a business class ticket, they are obligated to rebook you in the same class of service, but if it’s all full, and you need to get to your destination, decide which is more important.
      • PRO-TIPSites like ExpertFlyer can help you be prepared with seat-class availability and alternative flight options.
  3. Don’t be afraid. A cancelled flight is a headache. No doubt about it. But don’t be afraid to ask for compensation for food, lodging or transportation; call and even send a message to customer service. You’ll usually get something.
  4. Be nice. You can get some really helpful and friendly gate agent or lounge agents if you come to them with a smile. Remember, they’re at the airport with the delayed and cancelled flights, too.

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Limited Time Credit Card Offers

Category : Uncategorized

Credit card offers are more or less cyclical. There are historically certain times of year that you can get a higher offer than normal. Sometimes there are nice surprises, but there is some consistency.

That being said, here are some limited time offers I wanted to bring to your attention, and the churning rules associated with.

Delta Skymiles Gold Personal – 50,000 Delta Skymiles, $2,000 spend in three months, $50 Statement Credit 

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.05.06 PM

  • Churnable? No. AMEX Cards are currently once per lifetime. This is the highest public offer for this card.
  • Benefits: First bag checked free (does not include shuttle flights LAX-SEA, LAX-SFO, LGA-ORD, LGA-BOS, LGA-DCA), priority boarding.
  • Foreign transaction fee? None.
  • $50 Statement Credit: You can buy a $50 Delta gift card and get reimbursed for that expense, or use it towards an upgrade to economy plus.
  • Annual Fee: Waived for the first year, then $95
  • Offer ends: July 6, 2016.

Combine this card with an AMEX charge card (like the Gold or Business Gold) to merge pulls. See here for tips on pulling up that higher offer.

Delta Skymiles Platinum Personal – 60,000 Skymiles, $2,000 spend in three months, $100 statement credit, 10,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles)

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.13.35 PM

  • Churnable? No. AMEX Cards are currently once per lifetime. This is the highest public offer for this card.
  • Benefits: First bag checked free (does not include shuttle flights LAX-SEA, LAX-SFO, LGA-ORD, LGA-BOS, LGA-DCA), priority boarding.
  • Foreign transaction fee? None.
  • $100 Statement Credit: You can buy two, $50 Delta gift cards and receive a credit for those expenses, or use it towards an upgrade to economy plus.
  • Medallion Status Boost: Receive 10,000 MQMs to boost you towards Delta elite status; earn an additional 20,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 and $50,000 a year, respectively.
  • Annual Fee: $195, not waived.
  • Offer ends: July 6, 2016.

Combine this card with an AMEX charge card (like the Gold or Business Gold) to merge pulls. See here for tips on pulling up that higher offer. The annual fee is high, but it’s the highest public bonus and if you are seeking status with Delta, this can help.

Not sure what to do with your Skymiles? Find some great uses here.

[Targeted] Chase United Mileage Explorer Plus – 70,000 United Miles, 5,000 for adding authorized user and $3,000 in three months

This is a targeted offer, so be on the lookout. See here if you’re targeted for the 70,000 point offer; here if you’re targeted for the 50,000 point offer. If you are only targeted for the 50,000 point offer, apply and Chase should match you to the 70,000 point offer within 90 days of applying.

  • Churnable? Sort of. With Chase’s new rules, you probably can’t get this card after 24 months; the only exception is if you’ve been targeted by Chase or United.
  • Benefits: First bag checked free, priority boarding, expanded award availability when signed in to linked Mileage Plus account.
  • Foreign transaction fee? None.
  • Annual Fee: $95, not waived.
  • Offer ends: Supposedly June 30, 2016.

The annual fee is most definitely worth it for 75,000 points.

 


  • 0

Chase, So You Can’t: Update on 5/24 – The Other Shoe Drops

Category : Uncategorized

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

A few days ago, Doctor of Credit reported that his sources (and as posted on DansDeals Forum and Reddit) confirmed the “5/24” rule from Chase went into effect a few days ago. Briefly, the 5/24 rule from Chase means that if you have opened up 5 of any card (read: from all banks, not just Chase) within a 24 month period, you will not be eligible to open a new card, even if you check out on their other approval factors. Many data points seem to indicate that this is indeed the case for many cards.

This first started over a year ago with the Freedom, Sapphire and Slate cards. Doctor of Credit reported that March and April would be for business (Ink) and then co-branded cards, respectively. March and April came and went, but we all hoped to skate by unscathed. Not so anymore.

5/24 is indeed in effect for the following products:

But, there’s a silver lining.

Multiple data points indicate that the following cards fall outside these new rules:

  • British Airways
  • IHG
  • Hyatt
  • Fairmont
  • Disney
  • Amazon
  • AARP

Does this mean that these cards will be exempt forever? I’d imagine if Chase gets its way with the co-brand relationships, then no, these cards will fall under the 5/24 rule as well. For now, it seems like we’re safe. No promises on how long…

Moving forward, what are my best options?

Well, there are a few scenarios. I reviewed some of these here, but considering the cards that are okay and those that are not, let’s review.

If you are not over 5/24…

Travels internationally (all classes of service)

If you are just getting started and have 0 cards:

  1. Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited – This is a great no fee card which is a powerful earner of Ultimate Rewards (UR), especially if this is your first card. Conventional churning wisdom would tell you to apply for this and another Chase card, but if you have no credit history, go for one at a time, and this is an easier approval than other premium cards.
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred – Great sign-up and when paired with the Freedom or Freedom Unlimited; see some great transfer partner uses here.
  3. Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer – Because you can transfer points from the Sapphire (or Ink Plus) to United, this is a good card when it’s at the highest bonus of 50,000. Currently at 30,000 (that’s why no link has been provided) Rumor has it that chase will up this bonus to 70,000 in June.
  4. Chase Ink Plus – This is a business card. If you have a small business, I’d even recommend getting this before the Sapphire Preferred. Sign up and bonus categories earn greater.

You could fill your last two slots with Southwest (which are best for domestic airfare), or the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton cards. Just depends on what uses you have.

Travels domestically (coach)

  1. Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited – This is a great no fee card which is a powerful earner of Ultimate Rewards (UR), especially if this is your first card. Conventional churning wisdom would tell you to apply for this and another Chase card, but if you have no credit history, go for one at a time, and this is an easier approval than other premium cards.
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred – Great sign-up and when paired with the Freedom or Freedom Unlimited; see some great transfer partner uses here.
  3. Chase Southwest Premier – This card is currently offering 50,000 points after $2,000 in spending. If you get this with the Plus, you’d be on your way to earn the vaunted Companion Pass which is crucial for saving tons of money on domestic traveling.
  4. Chase Southwest Plus – This card is currently offering 50,000 points after $2,000 in spending and it will go a long way towards the Companion Pass.

These two categories are very similar because of the flexibility URs provide. For this last slot, I’d go for British Airways (even though it’s outside 5/24) or the Ink, if you have a small business.

If you are over 5/24… Or close

Interestingly, the cards which currently fall outside the 5/24 rule are a lot of Chase’s hotel co-branded products. As a churner, I’d say go for two at a time if you can handle the spending.

  1. British Airways – Very good for domestic short-medium haul traveling in most of the continents where One World has partners. Currently at 50,000 points for spending $2,000 and then 25,000 more for spending a total of $15,000 in a card member year.
  2. Chase Hyatt – One of the best hotel credit cards in the business, offering 2 nights at any category Hyatt worldwide, as long as there is availability. Using this at high category hotels is highly recommended. Spending is also really low at $1,000 in three months.
  3. Chase IHG – The sign up bonus fluctuates between 50 – 80,000 points (currently at 70,000). The sign up can be stretched for several nights or just 1 or 2 at a top tier IHG property, but the best part about the card is the annual certificate. You pay the annual fee of $49 and it can be used at any IHG. Great deal.
  4. Chase Fairmont – This card was a recent acquisition of mine, having had most of the Chase products in the past 24 months. The sign-up is two nights at any Fairmont hotel (most are pretty expensive). The only catch is that there are black out dates–usually around holidays. See them here. If you have a specific use, then go for it, otherwise, hold off.

Hopefully this helps you prioritize your applications if you fall in, or outside the 5/24 rule. As we move forward, I’ll continue to update this page with cards that fall into the 5/24 rule.

 

-The Miner

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


  • 2

Best & Worst Award Cancellation Fees

Category : Uncategorized

Fees are never good, but sometimes you have no choice but to cancel an award. Some of those cancellation fees hurt more than others. (Fees for cash tickets may be different. This is only for award tickets).

Keep in mind that if you use Delta miles to book an Air France award flight, you will be subject to Delta’s rules, not the more flexible rules of Air France’s Flying Blue.

From best to worst, in alphabetic order.

Best

ANA

As I’ve wrote about elsewhere, the ANA program is great, but you can only book roundtrips. Either way… NO FEES.

  • Refund/redeposit = 3,000 miles

British

British Airways Avios are really great for booking U.S.-based short/medium -haul awards, and having the ability to easily cancel the ticket if necessary makes them all the more valuable.

  • Refund/cancellation is $55, unless the taxes paid on the flight are less.
    • For example, a New York – Los Angeles flight using British Avios is 12,500 miles + $5.60. If you cancel this ticket, you will get the miles back (for no cost), but you’ll lose the taxes.
  • You’re better off fully canceling an award and then rebooking; as opposed to paying $55 to change the ticket.

Etihad

  • Refund/redeposit = 2,000 miles

Korean

Currently, Korean does not pass on any fees for date change or cancellations, but beginning August 2017, they will. Here’s the info that will go into effect August 1, 2017.

  • 3,000 miles for redeposit
  • 10,000 miles for redeposit for itineraries that are one year after the ticket was issued

Southwest

Southwest has the most generous cancellation policy of any airline in the U.S.

  • Free cancellation and redeposit of miles
  • Taxes will be refunded to credit card, or can be used at a later date for an alternative flight (be sure to keep track of the confirmation number, as that’s how you’ll apply the funds at a later date.

Not Bad

Air Canada’s Aeroplan

A solid Star Alliance award chart, and reasonable fees (well more reasonable than $150!).

  • About $69 (90 CAD) for refund/redeposit or other changes.

Air France/KLM Flying Blue

Flying Blue is the award program of Air France and KLM. Compared to most U.S. based carriers, their award cancellation and change fees aren’t too bad.

  • 45 Euro (about $50) for refund and redeposit of award tickets, with the exception of promo awards.
  • Having recently done this on a flight with taxes around $140, they automatically subtracted the $50 from the refund to my credit card, and I was credited back the balance to my credit card. Painless

Alaska

Alaska airlines is the Swiss Army Knife of frequent flyer programs. They also have a respectable cancellation policy.

  • Free cancellations and award changes 60+ days before departure.
  • After the 60-day mark or less to departure, $125 for cancellation and redeposit of miles.

Emirates

  • $75 refund/redeposit fee

jetBlue

If you were able to take advantage (and you still can!) jetBlue’s top-tier Mosaic Status Match, all these fees are waived.

  • For refund/redeposit 60+ days prior to departure, depending on your fare booked (Blue, Blue Plus, Blue Flex) will be $70, $60, or $0.00.
  • Within 60 days of departure, fees may be the same or higher depending on your flight.

Lufthansa

  • About $56 for refund/redeposit

Singapore 

  • $30 for refund/redeposit, and must be 24 hours before departure.

Virgin Atlantic

  • $50 for refund/redeposit and must be 24 hours before departure.

Worst

American

  • Redeposit of miles for the first passenger is $150 and then $25 per passenger on the same reservation (so if you have two different reservations you’ll need to pay $150 per!)
  • You can make changes and pay any extra award miles if you satisfy the following:
    • Date, time, routing as long as the origin and destination remain the same
      • JFK – LHR – FCO and change to JFK – ORD – LHR – FCO would be okay
      • JFK – LHR – FCO and change to JFK – LHR – MXP would not be okay
    • You can go up a class a service, but not down (you will be charged the award miles difference)
    • This must be within one year of booking, not a year from the date of the flight.

Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific) 

  • $120 or 12,000 miles for refund/deposit

Delta

As we’ll see, the U.S. Big 3 carriers charge exorbitant fees across the board, but particularly with cash refunds and mile redeposits. (Side note: Delta makes many schedule changes and if there is one and you need to cancel your ticket anyways, you may be eligible to do so at no additional cost).

  • $150.00 for refund/redeposit or change of ticket

El Al

  • $60 – $150 depending on when the cancellation request is made

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Refund and redeposit are $150 and only $30 for intra-island.
  • Change of date or destination is only $50

United

  • $200 for refund/redeposit

Notice that Big 3 U.S. are in the ‘Worst’ category. Shameful. It’s also a shame because these programs have mileage that are easy to accrue and have a lot of good uses.

 

-The Miner

 

 

 


  • 0

Finding Hidden AMEX Sign-Up Offers

Category : Uncategorized

Some credit card sign-up offers stay the same year-round (like the Citi Reserve – 2 Weekend Nights), while others stay lower year-round and then increase–Starwood Preferred Guest Personal & Business goes from 25,000 to 30,000 around August each year.

American Express sign-up bonuses on their own products (charge cards, EveryDay Preferred) change constantly. There are times when cards like the Platinum and Gold (both personal and business) go above their standard 25,000 and 50,000, but more often than not, savvy churners rely on targeted offers and what I’d term, “hidden” offers.

Because AMEX sign-up bonuses are now once in a lifetime (i.e. you can only earn the sign-up bonus once, no matter the sign-up offer), it’s important to sign-up for the card when it as its highest.

For reference, here the varying sign-up bonuses for some of their (common) products:

  • American Express Hilton No Fee – 40,000, 50,000, and 75,000
  • Hilton Surpass – 75,000 and 100,000
  • EveryDay – 10,000 and 15,000
  • EveryDay Preferred – 15,000 and 25,000
  • Starwood Personal – 25,000, 30,000 (and most recently), 35,000
  • Starwood Business – 25,000, 30,000 (and most recently), 35,000
  • Delta Personal and Business – 30,000, 50,000 (and mail offers of 60 – 70,000)
  • Delta Platinum Personal and Business – 35,000, 50,000 and 60,000
  • Personal Gold – 25,000 and 50,000 (sometimes higher)
  • Business Gold – 25,000, 50,000 and 75,000
  • Personal Platinum – 40,000, 75,000 and 100,000
  • Business Platinum – 40,000, 75,000, 100,000, 150,000, and 250,000 (this last two are extremely rare and only targeted)
  • Mercedes-Benz for AMEX – 50,000 and 75,000

This is not all their products (the cash back ones are missing), but as you can see there is a lot of variance with their sign-up offers. The personal cards usually have the same spending requirement across the level of bonuses. The business products usually require more spending as the sign-up increases.

So how do I access these “hidden” sign-ups?

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed method by which one can access these “hidden” sign-ups, but there is a way many people (including myself) have applied for the highest offer per product.

Step 1: Clear your cookies.

Step 2: Copy and paste the application link into Chrome Incognito or Safari Private Browsing.

Step 3: If you do not receive the higher offer, close the window, and start again.

Two important notes:

  1. If you do get the high offer, do not wait to sign-up for it. There is no guarantee the next time you open that page you’ll see the higher offer.
  2. Try the above steps multiple times, on different days and different devices. 

First attempt at the Premier Rewards Gold yielded 25,000 Membership Rewards after meeting the spending requirements:

Let's do better than that!

Let’s do better than that!

After several attempts at doing this in incognito, I got the 50,000 sign-up bonus after the same spending as the inferior offer:

Read that text carefully

Read that text carefully

As I mentioned above, if you navigate away from this page you will definitely lose the offer: “This offer is available to you by clicking through this web page. If you love or close this web page and return late, this offer may no longer be available.”

PRO-TIP: When applying for AMEX cards, you can be approved for both a charge card (Platinum, Gold, Green) and credit card (Delta, Starwood, EveryDay, etc.)

This is not such a major “hack”, but with AMEX’s once per lifetime language, it is important to only apply for these cards when they are at their highest.

-The Miner