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.
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.
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.
While Delta SkyMiles continue to devalue, there are still some solid uses. In this specific case, it isn’t the best use of SkyMiles, but SkyTeam was the only alliance with availability for my flights.
I’ve been watching availability on a Sunday flight from Shanghai (PVG) to New York (JFK). When I was finally ready to book – the seats were gone (remember, don’t wait!). I was able to be flexible with my dates and found space for the following day.
China Eastern operates two direct flights from PVG to JFK – one midday flight, and one evening flight. I prefer the evening flight so I can maximize time on the ground, and have an easier time falling asleep.
Why I Called Delta to Book My Award
Previous experience taught me that with Delta, there’s never a guarantee the award space is actually there. And they – kindly – don’t charge a phone booking fee so you may as well.
Prepared with flight numbers, dates and times, the representative was able to pull up my flights and award space for two. After submitting the first reservation (the flights were to be booked from two separate award accounts), the representative proceeds to book the second – when she hits ‘submit’ there was an error. After that, she went to search award space and it was all gone.
So what happened?
To most representatives, it would appear that the award space was already snatched up.
Well, award space is fickle so this is very possible. But this isn’t the first time this happened to me. This actually happened to me two other times with using SkyMiles to book a SkyTeam partner award.
Shame one me, sure – but three times, three different dates, three different cities? Smells like a problem.
I’ve deduced (and been confirmed by other frequent travelers/hackers) that there is an IT glitch on some end – if there is an error, either the reservation is held but not ticketed, or it errors out and pulls the award space, with no hold or no confirmed reservation.
In the end, I got the flight I wanted.
Heading into the second hour of our phone conversation (yes, this took nearly two hours), I kept refreshing the flight on Expert Flyer and – wham! – award space appeared for two business class seats from Shanghai to New York, giving me the evening flight and extra time to see the city.
Stay on the phone while award space hopefully comes back into inventory.
How to Avoid This In the Future
Having had this happen three times now (once with Alitalia, too) here’s what I learned:
Never book partner award flights using SkyMiles online – always call.
Have alternate flight options, if they exist
Escalate to a supervisor and explain what happened – this supervisor was wiling to get me on the PVG – Seattle – New York (operated by Delta) flights, and match the same mileage price of 80,000.
Ask that same supervisor, if you book an alternate or earlier time, to notate on the account that if award space on the preferred flight opens up, you can change without a fee. Get the supervisors name and employee number if you need to prove this.
Which Partners This Happens With
China Eastern (MU)
China Airlines (CI)
China Southern (CZ)
The ability to book award tickets online makes award booking a seamless and pleasurable experience, but sometimes you do need to call the airline to complete the award for you. Don’t be afraid and push for your award, or escalate the call.
For me, one of the most vexing aspects to award bookings is sometimes how to find a way to book the award.
What do I mean by that?
Learning the award program, best uses, tricks and ins-and-outs can be difficult, but once you do, finding a way to book online can sometimes even be more confusing.
The U.S. carriers have made it easy for us to just hop on over to their respective websites and search award bookings. You only need to sign-in once you’ve found what you’re looking for and are ready to make your redemption.
Other programs, however, have not made it as easy.
Let’s take a look at what requires you to log in and where to find the “redeem here” button for some of the more common mileage programs.
U.S. Legacy Carriers – American, Delta and United
Delta, American and United have made it really easy to search for award space. There is no sign-in required, except when you’ll be ready to make the redemption.
The only program where you would want to sign-in is with United – if you carry the United MileagePlus explorer credit card. If you do carry that card and sign-in, you’ll be able to unlock extra saver award space (upon availability) on certain routes.
With American, you cannot search round trip award tickets without signing in. You’ll be able to search and select the first leg, but the second one will require you to log in to your AAdvantage account.
Southwest, jetBlue, Alaska
Southwest and jetBlue mileage programs are based on the cost of the ticket. They too, make it easy to redeem their miles towards award tickets. When doing this on the mobile application for jetBlue, you may run into some buggy issues, but doing so online does not present any problems.
Redeeming Alaska MileagePlan miles for award tickets is always fun. Though you cannot search all partners on their search engine, you can find and redeem miles on many.
The only caveat?
If you forgot to click “search with miles” any destination that Alaska does not serve – such as an international one like Paris (CDG, ORY), you’ll receive an error:
These three airlines make it easy to search and redeem for award tickets.
ANA recently revamped their award searching tool and have made it easier to locate the ‘Award Booking’ button. Here’s the site instead of searching around and finding the correct landing page.
However, once you click ‘Award Booking’ you’ll be prompted to sign-in. Creating an ANA account is easy. You don’t even need miles in your account to search!
Once you’re in, searching is relatively straightforward. Remember, you can only book round trip award tickets using ANA miles.
FlyingBlue is the mileage program of Air France and KLM. So you’d think that redeeming awards would be on the FlyingBlue page, right?
They’ve too made it easier, but you log in via the Air France website, here.
When you get to the Air France landing page, you can toggle between ‘Purchase A Ticket’ and ‘Use Your Miles’.
Though I love British Airways Avios points, I really dislike their site (and their mobile app). Even after you sign-in on the main British Airways landing page, you’ll be prompted to sign in… Again. They seem to have extra layers of security *sigh*.
Once you’re in, you’ll need to navigate again to Book with Avios on reward flights – as opposed to using them on merchandise or hotels / car rentals.
After that, scroll down and select ‘Book a Reward Flight’
Air Canada’s mileage program is called Aeroplan – in this way, it’s similar to Air France/ KLM and FlyingBlue. The difference is that Aeroplan has it’s own site and you can redeem and search via that site. Here’s the link.
Navigate to ‘Flights’ under ‘Use Your Miles’ – after that, you’ll be prompted to log in and begin your search.
Just one specific note about Aeroplan – you cannot search city pairs. So city codes such as ‘NYC’, ‘LON’ and ‘WAS’ are invalid – you’d need to search ‘JFK’, ‘LGA’, ‘EWR’, ‘LHR’, ‘LGW’, ‘LCY’, etc., all separately.
There’s nothing I like about El Al’s website. Every time you want to do a new award search, you get sent back to the homepage. Here’s the direct link to the Matmid (El Al’s frequent flyer program) landing page. Once you’re logged in, searching is pretty straightforward.
I’ll make it easy for you and provide you with the Etihad Guest link – here – where after you search you’ll be prompted to log in. However, you do not need to log in and can continue as a guest.
After that, it’s easy to find and search your award space.
While Qantas frequent flier miles are not worth much, their membership in the Oneworld alliance (same as American and British Airways) allows you to view Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines award space, in calendar form. British Airways pulls up this space, but you need to search day-by-day.
In order to search, you do need to sign in – the link is here – but instead of a password and username, they also require a pin number.
Input your flight information and be sure to check the box that says ‘Search Classic Flight Awards’ – this is the indicator that you are looking to search for award tickets.
At that point, when you hit ‘Search Flights’, you’ll be prompted to sign in with your Frequent Flyer Number, Last Name and 4-digit PIN number
Though logging can be annoying, in this case the nice calendar view makes it worthwhile.
Unfortunately, you cannot book Singapore Star Alliance partner awards online, but you can search and book Singapore Airlines own award space online (and will receive a 15% off award bookings). Here’s the link and you will be prompted to sign in, but it’s relatively straightforward of a process.
Just select the radial button option of ‘Redeem Flights’ and you’ll be on your way!
Sometimes knowing where to start your search is almost as important as knowing how to start your search.
Chase Hyatt sign-up bonus, again. October 2016 will be two years from when I last earned the Hyatt sign-up bonus of two free nights at any Hyatt. I’m really excited to get this card again because of the sign-up. Currently this card falls outside of Chase’s 5/24 rule, but at some point, it may become part of it. We can hope not, but you never know.
Upgrade my American Express No Fee Hilton to Hilton Surpass – This card has no fee, but considering that I cannot get anymore Hilton related AMEX bonuses (they’re all once-per-lifetime, now) I may as well upgrade and get the smaller sign-up bonus – 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in three months.
Book my way home from Asia – I’ve just been lazy to transfer the points and call Delta to make the transfer. Currently this award costs 80,000 SkyMiles – but who knows?! Delta changes their mind every other day..
What redemptions or plans are you waiting to complete?
The U.S. to Europe currently (and has for a long time) costs 62,500 SkyMiles. That’s 125,000 roundtrip. But after January 1, 2017 this will increase by 7,500 points each way, or 15,000 round trip – for a total of 70,000 each way or 140,000 total for the roundtrip.
It’s not surprising that Delta made another devaluation without giving notice, but at least it does not affect travel or award tickets before that.
Though 62,500 SkyMiles is more than the competition, the award availability and excellent premium products across the pond usually made the 57,500 (United and American) vs 62,500 on Delta / SkyTeam partners, worth it. This is more in line with United’s 70,000 U.S. to Europe in business class on Star Alliance partners (they charge more for using their miles on partners). Where United beats Delta, though, is that they don’t pass fuel surcharges, particularly on the way back from Europe. And Delta does.
And although SkyTeam has less European partners than the Star Alliance, the availability is usually plentiful on Delta, Air France, Alitalia, Aeroflot and non-alliance partner Virgin Atlantic.
Though I’m disappointed by this increase, Delta has a bad history with its frequent flyers so it’s not too surprising that something like this happened. If you wanted to head to Europe and were planning to use Delta miles, maybe you can shuffle around plans to see some of the sights this coming fall and winter. Paris is beautiful in the winter, and usually not too cold.
On Sunday Citi’s new credit card rules went into effect, essentially limiting you to one product per credit card family, per two years. Unfortunate, but if you keep track of openings and closings, you’ll be better off and know when you’re ready to apply next.
A bunch of Citi bonuses are changing tomorrow, September 1. If you still can, get on it today.
Citi Hilton Visa – 75,000 HHonors Points
The no-fee Citi Hilton card is currently offering 75,000 HHonors points after spending $2,000 in three months. The status it comes with is garbage (Silver), but these points are easy to earn and you can find good redemptions at Hiltons across all point ranges.
If you can get a Hilton card, I’d get the Citi Hilton Reserve – which comes with Gold status and 2 Free Weekend nights to use at any Hilton, but if this is the only one you can get – go for it today.
Citi Prestige – Admiral’s Club Access
Citi made some negative – but not surprising – changes to the Citi Prestige earlier this summer. One of those was that the card would lose Admiral’s Club access starting next July (July 27, 2017, to be precise). However, those who have the card already or open it before tomorrow September 1, 2016, will still receive access.
So if you were thinking of getting this card and would like the Admiral’s Club access, now would be the time to apply for it.
American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Card – 60,000 AAdvantage Miles
Similar to the Citi Hilton No Fee – Visa offer, this 60,000 AAdvantage Miles offer is set to expire tomorrow, September 1. This card requires $5,000 in spending over three months but carriers an annual fee that is not waivedof $450.
It does come with the standard Priority Boarding and free checked bags. The nice part about this card is that it comes with Admiral’s Club membership – this means you can use the AA lounges even if you’re not flying on American that day. (The Prestige provides access which only let’s you enter with an itinerary ticketed on American Airlines).
Several Citi offers are supposed to change tomorrow. If you were thinking about getting these cards before and are still able due to the new rules, there’s no time like the present.
With constant devaluations and tightening of rules by banks (see here, here and here), the gravy train is slowing down.
While there has been a lot of conversation about the why it’s happening, there isn’t much conversation on conserving those points and maybe saving them for a rainy day.
The point (pun intended) to churning, earning and burning is to take trips not specifically to take trips you otherwise wouldn’t; rather, to earn points to make those trips you were always going to take for less, or free. There’s a big difference.
Sure, I’d love to travel abroad more than I go to Chicago, but holidays and other obligations mean I’m going to Chicago 5 – 6 times a year, if not more. Anything else is extra. Fun, and extra. But not necessary.
So what can we do to stretch these points a bit farther while having our cake and eating it too?
1a. Rethink First Class: Go Business or Coach *Gasp*
Before you get all bent out of shape, let’s take this extreme example.
Lufthansa First Class is really, really nice.
The most common way to redeem Lufthansa First Class is using United MileagePlus miles, as they do not on pass on fuel surcharges.
But how much will that redemption set you back?
110,000 United MileagePlus miles – each way – or 220,000 round-trip.
For two people that’s 440,000 United MileagePlus miles. What can you do with that?
Seven – yes, seven – round-trip coach tickets from U.S. to Europe
Almost four round-trip tickets in business from U.S. to Europe on United metal flights [alternatively, that would be 3 round-trips and 1 one-way on Star Alliance partners in business from the U.S. to Europe].
You can still go in business, but there’s potential to take the entire family in either class of service.
1b. Rethink Business Class: Go Coach on Flights 6 – 8 Hours or Less
Raise your hand if you’ve flown from coast-to-coast in coach? *Everyone raises hand*
The flight distance and time between the East Coast and West Coast is only slightly less than flights between the East Coast and destinations like Dublin, London and Paris.
If your butt can survive 6 hours from New York to Los Angeles, it can probably survive 7 hours from New York to London.
Another way to think about – would you really pay a premium of miles to only get 6 or 7 hours in business class?! I wouldn’t. Save them for those truly long-hauls.
2. Always Look at Cash Prices
This may seem obvious, but sometimes we rush to make redemptions without thinking about the “cent per mile” value – don’t worry about that. Just look at the cash price.
Here’s a good example (continuing with the New York to Chicago trend):
This same flight using British Airways Avios would be 7,500 Avios. If you value avios at .1 cent a point, then it’s a decent redemption; however, you can definitely do better than that with Avios. I’d prefer to pay cash for this ticket, earn some miles, and save a lot more.
Follow and subscribe to @theflightdeal on twitter for updates on cheap travel (particularly from hubbed airports around the U.S.).
3. If You Need to Book Non-Saver Space…
The major frequent flyer programs in the United States have the lowest level redemptions per class of service titled ‘Saver Award’ space – or something similar. They also have a non-Saver Award chart and those are the redemptions we’re all told to avoid.
Sometimes you need to get somewhere (a family wedding, sick family member) and the cash prices are outrageous. So you book that non-Saver space.
United’s non-Saver space is pretty simple: it’s usually double the saver price (in coach/business on domestic routes). American’s has gotten really complicated and over priced so avoid that.
Delta, on the other hand, does not have reliable award prices – in fact they did away with their award chart – but in that unreliability is a certain amount of reliability.
There are four different prices listed here: 32,500, 17,500, 12,500 and 10,000.
That 17,500 is still less than American and United would charge for redeeming non-Saver coach/domestic awards.
4. Maximize Stopovers and Open-Jaws
In our Europe example (1a), those round-trip tickets provide you with a free stopover and open-jaw. So you could book something like this for 60,000 in round-trip/coach for you and the whole fam:
This is an open-jaw example on United (you can also have a stopover) and fill in that Lisbon (LIS) to Frankfurt (FRA) flight with a cheap intra-European ticket.
United and American, amongst others allow you to have a 23 hour “connection” in a city without paying more miles – that feels like a stopover to me!
5. Pick Transfer Partners That Are Immediate
When transferring award points from American Express Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, Citi ThankYou points, and Chase Ultimate Rewards, there’s always a risk that once your transfer is complete, the award space will be gone. And then you’ll be stuck with miles and unable to redeem the award you had in mind.
Remember, transfers are generally one-way – so there’s not reverse transfers. It would be a waste to have miles in a program where, perhaps they expire quicker than they otherwise would, or the other redemptions represent a poor value.
Many programs are instantaneous (or a few hours later, at most), but most of the Starwood transfers can take over that. There are occasions when the common Starwood – AAdvantage transfer can happen the same day, but usually it’s more than that. Here’s a Flyertalk thread with data points of transfer points.
Chase Ultimate Rewards – Most airline transfers are instantaneous, with the exception of Singapore which should happen the same day. Marriott, Ritz and IHG can take a bit longer, but in my experience they’re relatively instantaneous.
Citi ThankYou Points – Unfortunately, all transfers can officially take 1 – 2 days, but there are many reports of FlyingBlue miles being transferred instantly.
American Express Membership Rewards – Most transfers are instantaneous with the exception of Singapore, Iberia, Aeromexico, ANA, Virgin Atlantic. Cathay Pacific Asia miles can take some time, but in my experience they’re the same day.
It’s already happened to me several times where I planned what points I’d earn from which new card and which bank, and then wham! The bank changes its rules and I can’t take that trip the way I wanted to.
At the end of the day, you know how many points and miles you’re earning each month or year. If it’s a finite amount, be smart about the redemptions to save them for a rainy day, emergency, or a ‘just because’ trip.
[Disclosure: I do not earn any compensation from the links on this article]
Beginning on/around Sunday, August 28, Citi bank’s new rules regarding churning their credit card products will go into place. This may be that Sunday is the last day under the old rules, or the first day of the new rules. Either way, I’d apply now (especially since you’ve probably applied for the Sapphire Reserve already).
Their new cards state that the card member bonus:
American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi®/AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.
Keeping this in mind with their other rules – only one of any Citi product within 8 days – let’s assume this is the last card you’re going to get from Citi per family for the next two years, you want to be strategic and apply for the card that will give you the best short- and long-term returns.
This is the standard offer, which sometimes goes up to 30,000, for $750 spending in three months. There are no Priority or Group 1 benefits, so unless you’ve gotten all other Citi cards, I’d skip this.
Annual fee is waived for the first year.
TIP: After being approved for this card, send a secure message to Citi asking them to match you to the higher offer of 30,000 AAdvantage miles.
This is the Citi AAdvantage workhorse (but thankfully Barclays is coming out with new AA-earning cards soon!) and I’ll be sad to not be able to churn it for the next two years. It comes with free checked bags on domestic travel for you and several companions and Group 1 or Priority boarding.
This is Citi’s AAdvantage premium card with a $450 annual fee. There are of course the Priority and Group 1 boarding/security and free checked bag benefits, but where it outclasses all other Citi cards is that it provides Admiral’s Club membership. Membership. Not access. Membership. This means that you, and your authorized users can enter the Admiral’s Club anytime you’re near one. You don’t need to be flying on American – which is what the Prestige requires.
There are other benefits for those seeking status – but let’s skip that for now.
The sign-up requires $5,000 in spending over three months. Though that’s doable, it’s a bit more than the standard $3,000 AND the bonus is only 10,000 AAdvantage miles more than your workhorse Platinum version.
This product is currently exempt from the new rules. Though, there’s no time like the present because who knows when Citi could change that? Either way, you could always get your last Citi product before August 28th and then this product sometime after.
Sign-up, annual fee and benefits mirror that of the Platinum product. The one exception is the earning structure.
(My) Winner: You probably already have the regular Citi AAdvantage Platinum, so I’d go for the Citi Executive AA – the annual fee isn’t worth it, so chuck it after the sign-up bonus is earned. Of course, if you don’t have the Platinum, get that – it’s also easier to swallow that annual fee after the first year.
There are two Hilton products provided through Citi.
This is the superior of the two cards, offering Hilton Gold status (very similar to their top-tier Diamond status) as long as you hold the card and the most lucrative part is the sign-up bonus.
You’ll earn two weekend nights (Friday, Saturday or Sunday night) after spending $2,500 in four months of opening the card. These nights can be used at any Hilton that has availability. Some great properties include the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem and the Conrad Tokyo – amongst many, many others.
The only downside is that these nights expire one year after earning them. So if you have no use for them (or don’t anticipate having a use for them), you may want to skip this card. After all, let your travel wishes drive which points/miles/certificates you earn, not the other way around.
This card offer also comes with $100 statement credit after a purchase at any Hilton of $100 or more. So that purchase can’t be less, but if it’s $105, you’ll get a statement credit of $100 – and yes, there are rooms that are nice and cheap for not much more than $100.
Finally, after spending $10,000 within a cardmember year (so 12 months from opening), this card earns you a free weekend night at any Hilton. I think with Citi’s new rules, this card is a keeper, at least for me.
For a limited time, this card is offering 75,000 Hilton points after spending $2,000 in three months. There is no annual fee. The status provided is the lowest level at Hilton: Silver.
While the Reserve seemingly blows this card out of the water, your Hilton points take longer to expire (and making a purchase on this card would extend them). So if you have no use, you’re probably better off with this product.
(My) Winner: Citi Hilton Reserve for its sign-up, status and yearly benefit.
ThankYou Preferred – 10,000 ThankYou Points
If this is the last Citi ThankYou card you can get from that family (and no other Citi cards at the moment), then go for it. Otherwise, if you haven’t had any other Citi cards, I’d hold off for a more lucrative offer.
ThankYou Premier – No bonus at the moment
Citi pulled the bonus from the product several months back and we have yet to see it reappear. For a mid-level card (similar to the Chase Sapphire Preferred and American Express Premier Rewards Gold), it offers no-fee the first year – then $95 – but a solid earning structure and a decent sign up bonus at the time: 50,000 or 40,000 ThankYou points.
This is the only ThankYou product with a sign-up bonus. So, if you have no ThankYou products, you’re probably better waiting it out to see if this goes back up to 50,000 or the Premier comes out at 40/50,000. If, however, you already have opened a Premier or Preferred, I’d go for this product.
(My) Winner: If you have no ThankYou cards, it doesn’t matter now – wait for the premier and then decide; otherwise, if you’ve gotten other ThankYou family products, go for the Prestige.
Could be interesting once you run out of other cards, but this is a lackluster product with not much to offer. Review coming soon…? #DesperateTimes
Scenario 1: You have not had any Citi cards – Wait for the best offers, but it will be two years from opening or closing any of the above products.
Scenario 2: You have one Citi per product family (Premier and AAdvantage Platinum, for example) – you will be ineligible from receiving the bonus on the Gold/Executive or Preferred/Prestige for two years – go for one of the other one’s before Sunday.
Scenario 3: You have/had every Citi card recently and are ineligible for the bonuses. Keep those cards open, otherwise you’ll have to reset the 24 month clock for each family once a particular product is closed. If you’re opening or recently opened a premium card (Executive or Prestige) – try to keep it open, or close right after you earn the bonus to keep the 24 month ineligibility window short.
Between now and Sunday (or Saturday), you’ll only be able to get one Citi product of a certain family for two years. Make the strategic choice and don’t listen to others – just yourself!
If the hardest part to swallow is the annual fee – work out the math – does it make sense to keep the product open for another year? Or is the product just good for the sign-up bonus?
Citi’s rules have gotten more complicated. Hit the comments if you have any questions about Citi churning policy or procedures
[Disclosure: I do not earn any compensation from the links on this article]