STOP! Rebates Ahead! Credit Cards That Offer Point Rebates

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You know what the best thing about opening up a new credit card is? The sign-up bonus, of course!

You know what’s even better?

Using those points or miles and then getting some back – just for using them! Some credit cards offer points rebates; either for being a cardholder, or using the card.

How Points/Miles Rebates Work

In most cases (with the exception of the American Express Business Platinum) you don’t even need to use the credit card in question for the purchase. You just need to be a card member to qualify for the rebate.

Which Cards?


The sign up on this card is typically 60,000 – 80,000 IHG points after spending $1,000 – $2,000 in the first three months of card opening. The annual fee is usually waived and each year you receive a annual free night certificate which can be used at any IHG property that has availability.

Rebate: Receive 10% of redeemed points back on a maximum of 100,000 points redeemed, per calendar year.

Want to stay at the Intercontinental Bora Bora with points? 54,000 Points after the credit card rebate!

Sounds complicated, but quite simply: if you redeem 100,000 IHG points, you’ll get a refund of 10,000 per year.

Points rebates typically post after the stay is completed.

Barclaycard Arrival+

Though the arrival card used to be a more lucrative, the sign-up bonus is solid (currently 50,000 Arrival points and no annual fee the first year). It does earn a consistent 2% back on each dollar spent, but the redemption benefits were nuked last year and now the minimum redemption must be on a travel charges over $100.

Rebate: Receive 5% miles back.

Example: You use 10,000 Arrival + points towards $100 hotel stay. You will receive a refund of 500 points back. (5% back from the total sign-up bonus would be about 2,500 points).

American Airlines AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard / Aviator Red MasterCard

Even with Citi’s restrictions on getting the sign-up bonuses again within a “card family”, there are still lots of ways to earn AAdvantage miles. Barclaycard recently started allowing new applications for the Aviator Red card – and if you’ve held this card over 2 years ago, you are eligible for the bonus.

Rebate: Both of these cards offer the 10% back on miles (max of 10,000) per calendar year. Even if you carry both off them, you cannot stack the bonus for 20% back.

Here’s how it looks if you carry both cards:

This award costs 160,000 AAdvantage miles.

Remember, you get 10% back up to 100,000 redeemed miles.

The 10,000 (or 10%) back was distributed across both awards for a total of 10,000 miles.

If you were to click ‘Promo: 4,000’, a box would pop up and either say “Citi Redemption Bonus” or “Aviator Redemption Bonus”.

American Express Business Platinum

In efforts to up the ante on their Platinum products, American Express added a new feature this year to the business version that is very similar to the other point rebate features listed in this article – but with a few catches.

Refund: 50% of points used via AMEX Travel returned (see conditions below)

Travel through the AMEX portal is 1 cent to the dollar, but with 50% of points refunded to you (provided you follow the conditions below), it’s effectively 2 cents per dollar.

This itinerary would cost 32,000 Membership Rewards

I wouldn’t recommend using Membership Rewards on this itinerary, but if you had the Business Platinum, you’d pay the 32,000 points upfront and then receive 16,000 back – or 50%.

  • You must book travel through the AMEX travel portal.
  • For itineraries booked in economy class, the rebate is only applied to travel that is booked on your airline of choice (the same airline you choose for your travel credits each year).
  • For itineraries booked in business and/or first class, this rebate applies to all airlines booked through the portal.

The terms say that the rebates take 6 – 8 weeks, but evidence here shows that it takes 1 – 2 days.

This benefit is really great, though somewhat restrictive (typical AMEX).


There are three JetBlue cards offered by Barclaycard

  • No annual fee, 10,000 point sign-up
  • $99 annual fee, 30,000 point sign-up after spending $1,000 within three months of card opening
  • Business version – $99 annual fee, 30,000 point sign-up after spending $1,000 within three months of card opening

Rebate: JetBlue and Barclaycard have some very clear Q&A about how this benefit works:

The terms here say every time – which is less restrictive than other rebates like that offered by the Citi and Barclaycard American Airlines credit cards.

Because TrueBlue award redemptions are based off of the price of a ticket, it’s rare that you award ticket will cost 80,000 TrueBlue miles (like an AAdvantage award). Though 10% miles back off of a award ticket that costs 6,000 miles doesn’t seem like a lot, it does add up over the course of a year.

Bottom line

In some cases, these rebates don’t seem to be that lucrative; however, in other cases, like with the AAdvantage cards, you’re effectively knocking all award ticket prices down by 10%, which is pretty decent.

Points rebates are an additional “bonus” and add an incentive for keeping the card a bit longer.

– The Miner

Your Guide to Flying Between the Hawaiian Islands

Category : Uncategorized

When flying to Hawaii from the East Coast (or anywhere not the West Coast), you’ll most likely need to connect in Honolulu (HNL) – unless you’re connecting somewhere in California. After connecting onto your final destination in HNL, you may wish to visit more than one island.

Inter-island flights are short, but can be expensive and overpriced. Most routes are direct, but some require a connecting (in HNL or Maui).

Let’s take a look at some of the best uses for inter-island flights with miles and the various options available.

Route Maps

There are four air carriers in the State of Hawaii and the Hawaiian islands, however, only two have partnerships with airlines from the mainland that allow you to redeem your miles on their flights:

  1. Hawaiian Airlines
  2. Island Air

Here is a convenient map of the routes operated by Hawaiian Airlines (the largest carrier in the Hawaiian islands):

Image courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines

Here’s what Island Air’s route map looks like:

Island Air Route Map

You can redeem the following miles on Hawaiian Airlines flights:

  • United MileagePlus
  • American AAdvantage
  • Delta Skymiles
  • Virgin America Velocity miles
  • HawaiianMiles
  • Korean SkyPass
  • ANA MileageClub

And, you can redeem United MileagePlus miles on Island Air as well.


Here are the various costs for one-way travel between the islands:

Program Miles Required Transfers From Comments
Virgin America Velocity 3,000 Citi ThankYou, American Express, SPG Call to book
Korean SkyPass 10,000 Chase Roundtrip only
United MileagePlus 6,000 Chase, Starwood Redemptions on Island Air or Hawaiian Airlines
Delta Skymiles 7,500 SPG, American Express
AAdvantage 7,500 SPG Segments priced separately
ANA Mileage Club 10,000 American Express
HawaiianMiles 7,500, 10,000, 15,000 American Express Hawaiian Airline Barclaycard holders receive discounted award prices

Many airlines have partnerships that allow members to redeem miles on Hawaiian Airline flights. However, these partnerships only allow you to redeem miles on inter-island flights.

A few years ago, American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines had a partnership where you could redeem AAdvantage miles on flights from the mainland to Hawaii (New York – Honolulu, for example). That partnership has ended.

Prices are coach only as it would be silly to waste extra miles to fly for 25 minutes in business.

Korean Skypass

The only option here which is roundtrip is when redeeming Korean Skypass miles. Korean Skypass redemptions requires all travel to be roundtrip. However, I would argue that if you’re visiting two islands on your trip to Hawaii, you’re probably arriving into one and departing out another, defeating the purpose of an inter-island roundtrip flight.

Virgin American Velocity Miles

Though Virgin America represents the cheapest option, I’d caution from using Vigrin America miles on Hawaiian Air.

Virgin and Alaska have merged and you can transfer your Virgin America miles to Alaska Airlines for much better value on other, more expensive flights.

You can search Hawaiian Airlines flight award by creating an account (for free) and then calling Virgin America Velocity program at 877-359-8474 to book the award. For more information check out Virgin’s dedicated Hawaiian Airlines redemption page cikoywc.

United MileagePlus, American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles

Delta and American are at the higher end (and skip American because of the multi-segment pricing; see below) and United is right in the middle at 6,000 one-way.

However, I value United miles at a pretty high value and would want to save them – due to Chase making it really difficult to earn the sign-up on the United and Ultimate Rewards cards.

American AAdvantage miles and Delta Skymiles are relatively easy to earn, so if you need to burn some points those don’t represent a bad option.

Hawaiian Miles

While using HawaiianMiles is at the higher end of point requirements, you’ll notice that there is some variability. The 10,000 and 15,000 points per flight option represents the non-saver space. (See: The Difference Between Saver & Standard Award Space). This space isn’t bookable via partners and sometimes might be more desirable times.

Various levels of award space on Hawaiian Airlines

And here’s what this looks like on United (or Delta, or American):

HA 306 is the flight with saver availability.

Earning HawaiianMiles

HawaiianMiles is a transfer partner of American Express (1000:1000).

Hawaiian Airlines has two co-brand cards with Barclaycard. The typical sign-up bonus is 35,000 miles after spending $1,000 in three months. The annual fee is $89. There is also a business version.

However, the bonus does go up to 50,000 (for the same spending requirement) several times a year. The card also unlocks discounted award tickets, valid on Hawaiian metal only.

Multi-segment flights (for now)

As you can tell from the route map, most of the islands are pretty well connected only requiring one flight from Maui to Kauai, for example.

A common example that requires connecting, which Hawaiian is going to be relaunching this spring is Kona, The Big Island (KOA) to Lihue, Kauai (LIH). Currently you need to connect via Honolulu or Maui.

On most partners it will be one redemption:

But on good ole’ American Airlines, it will be two!

So for any multi-segmented flights, do NOT use American miles.


There’s large variability in cash prices on inter-island Hawaiian flights. It depends on the route and most often, the time of year you’re traveling.

Honolulu to Maui, $69

Here’s that multi-segment flight, Kona to Kauai, which is a bit pricier (and would be double if roundtrip).

Kona to Kauai, $104

The one thing to keep in mind is that you will have to pay bag fees on these flights and because Hawaii is a leisure destination, I always take bags (as do many of my clients). It is $25 for each passengers first checked bag.

Bottom line

Points, cash? Roundtrip, one-way?

You know the drill! You decide!

In my experience, I’ve always found that using miles for inter-island flights has been cheaper, but I do always browse cash prices to see if I can save miles. As for which currency I use, I’m partial to Delta Skymiles – as I have many – or HawaiianMiles as American Express Membership rewards are easy to earn, too.

-The Miner

Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia

Credit Card Application Failures & Lessons Learned

Category : Uncategorized

My last round of applications (colloquially known as an “APP-O-RAMA”) was in October 2016. I actually got really lucky, considering how many cards I had opened throughout the year. Of the seven applications at that time, all were approved with no calling in necessary.

I like to space out my applications in three month periods – this gives me enough time to complete the spending between new rounds of applications and approved cards. This time, I wasn’t as lucky…

The Failure

I applied for nine cards. I knew full well that it wouldn’t be as easy as last time… but the results were disheartening.

Here is the order in which I applied, and the decisions.

Bank of America

Of all the major banks, Bank of America has been the most churner friendly. Though it’s only a matter of time before that changes (and it already has started), I wanted to get some more Alaska cards while I was still able. I’ve also been eyeing the Merrill+ Visa for myself, which I recently picked up for my wife.

1. Bank of America, Merrill+.

Decision: Denied, with eventual approval.

Reason: Too many new accounts, too many inquires for credit.

2. Bank of America, Alaska Airlines Personal Visa.

Decision: Denied.

Reason: Too many new accounts, too many inquires for credit.

3. Bank of America, Alaska Airlines Business Visa.

Decision: Approval after some fraud verification.

Though I was disappointed not to have been approved for the personal Alaska Airlines credit card, I figured two from Bank of America was still pretty solid… And from here, it went downhill.


4. Marriott Business Visa

Decision: Denied.

Reason: Too many new accounts, too many inquires.

While the personal Marriott card from Chase is affected by Chase’s “5/24” rule, the business version isn’t. Never having had a Chase Business card before (I know – surprising, isn’t it?), I thought I’d give this one a chance. I also called reconsideration several times, with ultimate failures.

American Express

5. Mercedes Benz Platinum

Decision: Initially pending, then email approval.

American Express will merge credit pulls and will approve you for two cards on the same day. However, I’ve had most other charge and credit cards from AMEX so I went with this – and was pleased with the ultimate decision.


6. Arrival+

Decision: Denied.

Reason: Too many new accounts, too many inquires.

Over the past few years, in my experience and in that of others, Barclays tends to have some of the toughest (and most stubborn) reconsideration department reps. The last Barclay card I applied and was instantly approved for was the Aviator Red World MasterCard. That was about two months ago. I did know that this was a long shot because of my recent application… Oh well!


7. AAdvantage Platinum World Elite MasterCard

Decision: Pending, followed by approval email.

I recently received a targeted mailer for this 50,000 point bonus and  no restrictive language. I wasn’t surprise that this went pending – nor was I surprised when I received the approval email a few days later.

Capital one

8. Venture

9. Spark for Business

Decisions: Pending, followed by denial emails.

Reasoning: Too many new accounts, too many inquires.

Though Capital One does pull all three credit bureaus, there are two ways you can minimize the impact:

(1) Freeze Experian, and they’ll pull Transunion and Equifax.

(2) Capital One does merge credit pulls for business and personal (unlike Chase or Bank of America), so going for a business and personal in the same day can’t hurt.

Though Capital One does get a bad rap – mainly because they pull from all three credit bureaus – I figured it’s time to start branching out as I’m limited more and more by other banks.

Total cards applied for: 9

Total cards approved for: 4

Total points: 180,000 points/miles

The Lessons Learned

I knew some of these would be  long shots (I’m still going to try reconsideration a few more times), such a monumental failure of applications hasn’t occurred to me in a long, long time.

The most common decision for denials?

Too many new accounts and too many inquiries.

Though inquiries make up the smallest part of your credit profile, to a representative, that many inquires and new accounts can look risky. (See, Let’s Talk About Credit).

The conversation went something like this:

Representative: “I see you have… 10 new accounts in the past 6 months and… 5 requests for credit in the past 4 months. Sir, why are you asking for so much credit?”

Me: “Uh…”

While I am not planning on fleeing the country with my lines of credit, I do see how this could look risky to a representative.

So what’s the lesson I learned? 

Though inquires matter less than other factors to your overall credit health (and score), they do matter on your report when a human being is conducting a review.


Bottom Line

Part of sharing successes, is also sharing failures.

I used to be so nonchalant about credit pulls – giving myself the idea that they didn’t really. Practically, this meant I’d apply for a card here, a card there, etc. And while many of us in this hobby understand how small of an impact the inquires actually have on our credit score and the technical impact on the calculation – we must remember that if not automatically approved, a human being may see our obscene number of inquires and be rightfully concerned and cautious.

So now? I’ll consolidate applications and be more judicious about freezing Experian.

-The Miner

Guide to Using Merrill Lynch Points

Category : Uncategorized

How to Redeem Your Points
How Redeeming Points Actually Works
Where Can I Fly for $500?
Starting Your Search
How to Maximize on Flights Less Than $500?


Several weeks ago I wrote about an “obscure credit card from a familiar bank” – the Merill+ from Bank of America. As a recap, here’s what the card offers:

  • Annual fee $89, but waived the first year.
  • Spend $3,000 in three months and earn 50,000
  • 1X points on all purchases
  • Spend $50,000 or more during the year and recieve
    • $200 travel credit that can be used towards airline incidentals
    • Or Complimentary Delta Sky Club lounge membership

We’ll look at point values below.

How to Redeem Your Points

Log into your Bank of America account and select the Merrill+ account.

After you’ve selected the appropriate account, select ‘View my rewards’

After that, you’ll be shown a different view of your total available points and anything pending. Select ‘Redeem Points’.

You’ll then be taken to the Merrill Lynch travel portal page where you can find more information about using their portal. Select redeem (‘Learn more’).

Finally, after selecting ‘Redeem’, you’re brought to the below page. For airfare, selecting ‘Redeem Now’ under the ‘Travel’ section with the nifty airplane.

Now, you’ll land on a page that looks like any other online travel agency (OTA) – just be sure to toggle ‘flights only’ – as opposed to ‘Flights + Hotels’.

How Redeeming Points Actually Works

Before looking at and comparing fares, here’s the most simple way of understanding how redeeming points through the Merrill+ travel portal actually works.

Points are worth 2 cents per dollar when tickets cost at or about $500. Anything significantly under $500, the points will be worth 1 cent per dollar. 

For a flight that is $500 (or a bit less), you’re getting about 2 cents to the dollar.

For a flight that is $502, you’ll pay 25,000 points for that first $500 and then the additional points for the $2.

Where Can I Fly For (About $500)?

I wrote about subscribing to The Flight Deal on Twitter. The Flight Deal posts mistake fares – yes – but they also post really solid deals from all major hubs in the US. Europe appears to be the new standard for $500 or so roundtrip tickets.

Example of a less than $500 fare to Europe via The Flight Deal [Fare gone]

Starting Your Search

Two words: Google. Flights.

While Google Flights does not allow you to book travel – for most airlines – they do have an excellent calendar, map, and they allow you to add multiple destinations. Starting here will make it easier once you’ve found your desired flights. Just plug that information into the Merrill Lynch travel portal and you’ll be on your way.

For our first example, I looked at New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP). This route is served by Delta, United, American, Alitalia and a fifth freedom flight by Emirates.

In March, a roundtrip ticket is going for about $500.

The calendar view makes it easy to view prices.

For my selected dates (at less than $500) here are all the options:

I chose these options as they’re direct.

Let’s take a look at Merrill…

The red X indicates a transatlantic codeshare

The flights with the big red Xs are not operated by those carriers – they’re codeshare flights and operated direct by American, Delta (Delta) and American – respectively. But notice the Delta, United and Alitalia options are what Google Flights told us they would be.

If you scrolled over to the right you’d get more options, including American.

The flights are matched automatically with returns, but you do have some flexibility to mix and match departures and returns.

What about Emirates, which was slightly over $500?

On the lefthand side of the results you’ll see several filtering options: flight departure times, return times, non-stop, as well as airline.


$530 points, or 27,546 points.

So we’re $30 over $500 – and 2,546 points over 25,00. This seems like a bit over 1 cent per point! But the main take away is that the first $500 of the ticket value is equal to 25,000 points, or 2 cents per point.

Here’s what these fares (the $495 ones) look like for two people when going to check out:


But remember – because the first $500 are valued at 25,000 you can’t find a fare thats $1,000 and pay only 25,000 points! It has to be $500 per ticket – or passenger in this case.

What about different priced tickets?

Tickets around $400

From this, it would appear any ticket that costs $250 – $500 will require 25,000 points. However, this would not be how to maximize this card.

Tickets around $200

This $193.80 ticket is giving you a bit less than 1 cent per point.  Not such a good value, eh?

Tickets around $100

This is the same as above: less than 1 cent per point.

What do we learn?

Minimum point redemptions using the Merrill Lynch portal start at 10,000 points.

How to Maximize on Flights Less than $500

Though not recommended and removes some “bang for your buck-ness”, here’s how you’d be better off maximize these points on tickets which are significantly less than $500.

Use your points as a statement credit.

Purchase the ticket with your Merrill+ card. Call the rewards conceirge on the back and have them use points as a credit towards the flight. These credits are valued at 1 cent per point.

So if you’re ticket is $80? That would be 8,000 points – as opposed to 10,000 (the minimum required) when booked through the Merrill Lynch travel portal.


I spent some time talking to the travel advisors asking questions about booking travel through their site. (If you have any other questions, feel free to hit up the comments and I’m happy to look into it for you!)

What is the cancellation policy when booking travel through the Merrill Lynch Travel rewards portal? Travelers can cancel anytime without penalty by the next day, no later than 11:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. (If you book Monday morning at 8:00 AM, you’ll still be able to cancel the next day at 10:30 PM EST, even though it’s more than 24 hours).

Are there any fees for booking over the phone? No, there is no phone booking fee.

Are one-ways flights eligible for the 25,000/$500 benefit? Yes, one-ways, roundtrips and open-jaws are all eligible.

How can you determine the fare class of the ticket? Can it be determined over the phone? No. Fare classes can only be determined after booking has been completed.

Can you book travel on Southwest and other low-cost carriers? Flights that don’t show up on the travel portal can be booked as follows:

  • Book the ticket – like Southwest – with your Merrill+ Bank of America Credit Card
  • Call the number on the back of the card and you can use your points as a statement credit at 1% (as opposed to 2%).

How many points would a $1,000 ticket cost? An $1,000 ticket would cost 75,000 points – the first $500 of the ticket is 25,000 points and the remaining $500 of the ticket is 1 penny per point – or an additional 50,000 points.

How do these fares compare to searching other OTAs? These fares are the same as Google Flights. In most cases, the fare on the Merrill Lynch travel portal should be the same.

Bottom line

As we’ve seen, you’ll get the most value out of these points on flights that cost about $500. Sometimes, though, you’ll need to redeem for a cheaper ticket. If that’s the case, be sure to use your Merrill+ card for the charge, and have them apply the points as a statement credit.

If you have any questions about redemptions, feel free to ask in the comments!

– The Miner

PSA: Where to Find The Best Flight Deals – Without Points

Category : Uncategorized

Sometimes it’s not always worth using points – sometimes, it’s a better value paying cash. (See here: Cash Vs. Points).

That being said, shelling out several hundred dollars for a trip to Europe isn’t always doable for a lot of people. So where do your friends find these “hacker fares”? In reality, a lot of these discount fares are shared amongst people in this community and then blasted out to the masses.

A lot of those fares (though not all) originate at an amazing Twitter handle known as @theflightdeal.

They tweet out several deals a day from the following airports (and then some)

  • New York City – LGA, JFK, EWR
  • Boston – BOS
  • Philadelphia – PHL
  • Washington D.C. – DCA, IAD, BWI
  • Miami – MIA, FLL
  • Dallas – DFW
  • Phoenix – PHX
  • Los Angeles – LAX, LGB
  • San Francisco (Bay Area) – SFO, OAK
  • Portland – PDX
  • Chicago – ORD
  • Seattle – SEA

They’ll not only post “hacker fares” or price mistakes, they’ll post real airfare deals, sub-$500 to Europe. There’s nothing shady about these!


You can subscribe to receive notifications on your phone from specific users. I’d definitely recommend subscribing to them.

First, you’ll need to follow them. After that, select the gear next to the word “following”.

One of the options on the drop-down will be ‘Turn on Mobile Notifications” – select that and verify your information.

Congrats! You’re on your way to cheaper airfare!

Bottom line

If you don’t have a Twitter profile, make one – even if it’s just for this. I highly recommend following @theflightdeal. I’ve scored several dozen $80 roundtrip tickets between New York – Chicago last year, and for 2017.

-The Miner

Cover image courtesy of The Flight Deal.

Credit Card Strategies in a 5/24 World

Category : Uncategorized

With Chase decreasing the sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve in a few days (January 12) some may be interested in applying sooner, rather than later.

That being said, Chase’s 5/24 rule is still in affect. Though many of you may be over that – this should be helpful if you’re just getting started out, or want to increase your credit card rewards portfolio.

As a reminder, the following cards ARE affected by the rule:

  • Sapphire Reserve
  • Sapphire Preferred
  • Freedom / Freedom Unlimited
  • Business: Ink Cash / Preferred
  • Marriott
  • Southwest cards (Premier, Plus and Business)
  • United MileagePlus Explorer (Personal and Business)

Keeping that in mind, it would be my recommendation that you only apply for five of these cards from Chase before applying for any other personal (and some business cards) from other issuers.

Disclaimer: As always, what works for some, may not work for others. Be sure you will get the most ‘bang for your buck’ with these various strategies. 

The Ultimate Rewards Junkie

This strategy is designed for those who like the flexibility Ultimate Rewards offer. Remember, these are transferable points and give you lots of options. Additionally, some of the perks offered by the Sapphire Reserve – such as redeeming your points for 2 cent per point against travel – are invaluable, depending on your type of travel.

  1. Chase Sapphire Reserve (100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, $4,000 spending)
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5,000 for adding an authorized user, $4,000 spending)
  3. Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, 2,500 for adding an authorized user and $500 spending)
  4. Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card (50,000 United MileagePlus miles, 5,000 for adding an authorized user, $2,000 spending)

The fifth would be a free slot, but I’d recommend holding off (if you can), as Chase may be offering some new products soon. If you need hotel points, you can go with Marriott, though they’re inflated.

If you’re a small business owner, I’d definitely go for the Ink Preferred and Cash as my last two slots.

Domestic Traveler

Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

The first three slots would be the same as the ‘Ultimate Rewards Junkie’ but the last two would change:

4. Southwest Plus

5. Southwest Premier

Remember – wait until these cards are offering 50,000 points each so you can snag yourself the coveted Companion Pass.

International Premium Cabin Travler

Though this can be part of the ‘Ultimate Rewards Junkie’ strategy/scenario, the difference is that you’re working to use your points solely for international travel in premium cabins. This will require a lot of points that can be transferred to partners like United, Korean and Air France/KLM FlyingBlue program.

I’d keep the first four slots the same and wait for a fifth card to come – if you can hold off!

Another alternative would be the United Business card – but if you have a small business, you’re probably better off getting the Ink products.

Bottom line

Because of restrictions by card issuers like Chase, it is important to be hyper-strategic about your applications. If you’re a rewards junkie, chances are you’re way over 5/24 – if you’re just getting started: stay organized and get strategic.

-The Miner

Chase Sapphire Reserve – Bonus Changes January 12th

Category : Uncategorized

Per The Points Guy, Chase has informed its affiliates that the highly lucrative bonus of 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards on the Chase Sapphire Reserve will decrease to 50,000 points on January 12, 2017. The spending requirement of $4,000 in three months will remain the same.

The silver lining? Rumor has it that this offer will remain at 100,000 when applying in branch until March 12, 2017. 

It’s not too surprising that Chase is making this move, considering how much money they’ve spent to acquire their new and returning customers. Many of you may already have this product – but if you were thinking about getting it, there’s no time like the present

Chase Sapphire Reserve – Pros

There are a lot of great benefits on the card, but the most useful (aside form the sign-up) are:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth 2 cents per dollar when booking travel through the Chase Travel Portal. For example: If your ticket is $400, it will cost you 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • 3X Points on travel and dining.
  • $300 in travel credits reimbursed, per year.
  • Global Entry Reimbursement once per five years, $100 value.

Chase Sapphire Reserve – Cons

The annual fee is $450 – and even with the $300 in credits, remember – it’s not free money!

Bottom Line: Should I get this card?

Remember – what works for me and your neighbor, may not work for you. Only you can decide if you’ll get the full benefits out of this product.

There are other Chase products which earn Ultimate Rewards (Sapphire Preferred, Freedom, Ink Preferred, Freedom Unlimited.) Just remember the key dates of January 12 and March 12.

-The Miner

Please note: I may receive a referral bonus with the above links.

A Year in Review – 2 Million Miles Earned

Category : Uncategorized

Earlier this week I shared with you an updated fourth quarter of earning and burning. (You can view quarters 1, 2 and 3).

I write and share this information for the following reasons:

  1. Transparency. I’m a big believer in sharing my knowledge – after all, that’s why I started this blog! If I’m not open and transparent, how is this blog different?
  2. It’s not impossible. Earning millions of miles and points per year is time consuming and there is a learning curve. BUT, it’s not impossible, regardless of your academic or professional background.


Before diving head first into the nitty gritty, here are two changes I made to compiling and analyzing my data this year.


Previously, when listing miles earned per card, the only values provided were the sign-up bonus itself. This never included the spending requirements. However, considering the amount of cards my wife and I opened up this year, I thought it was important to add on. After all with 40 cards opened (!), $3,000 and $3,000 and $3,000 etc., adds up.


Last year I fell subject to the sticker shock valuation of writing that I saved thousands and thousands on travel. While that sounds lovely, and certainly would be, it is not realistic. The ‘value’ column is divided into “maximum” – what the value would be if I paid out of pocket; and “realistic” – what, in reality, I’d pay.

Realistic values were determined based on the cost of a economy ticket for that destination and time of year. Hotel nights were calculated based on what I’d look to pay (if I were to pay cash) at a 3 – 4 star hotel, per night.

Total Miles Earned 2016: 2 Million

Program Cards Amount Certificates
AAdvantage 5 237,000
Alaska MileagePlan 5 150,000
Arrival + 1 43,000
British Airways Avios 2 240,000
Citi ThankYou Points 1 53,000
Delta SkyMiles 3 164,000
Fairmont 1 2
Hilton HHonors 5 333,000 2
Hyatt Gold Passport 1 1,000 2
IHG 1 81,000
JetBlue TrueBlue 1 31,000
Lufthansa Miles & More 1 55,000
Marriott/Ritz 1 5,000  3
Merill-Lynch 1 53,000
Membership Rewards 9 438,000
Southwest 1 52,000
Starwood Preferred Guest 1 38,000
Refer-a-Friend 45,000
Totals  40 2,019,000 9

I was also able to earn (almost) a sign-up bonus with a refer-a-friend bonuses. (Thanks, guys!)

Compare this to:

Totals for 2015: 29 cards, 1.3 Million Miles Earned

Several of the cards – Hyatt, Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton and Hilton – provided certificates instead of points or miles.


  • Between me and my wife, we opened up 40 credit cards.
  • Our highest and most lucrative bonuses came from AMEX Membership Rewards, which often include bonuses of 100,000 for spending anywhere between $3,000 – $10,000. (Transferable point currencies provide the most flexibility).
  • We’re both ineligible for earning the lucrative Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi ThankYou cards – for now – leaving me to overcompensate with Membership Rewards.
  • Due to Citi’s changes in August of 2016, we went ham for AAdvantage miles. Barclaycard’s recent release of the Aviator card has helped pad those balances, too.
  • Because of some of these changes, I’ve moved to earning cards which provide hotel night certificates. These are inherently less lucrative and more restrictive because of category caps and/or expiration dates.

Total Miles Burned in 2016: 892,500

Please note, this only includes redemptions and travel for 2016.

Redemption Points Used Taxes Estimated Cash Value: Maximum / Realistic
New York – London, Business Class35,000 Delta SkyMiles + 28,000 AMEX Membership Rewards 35,000 Delta SkyMiles + 28,000 AMEX Membership Rewards $5.60 $3,256 / $400
New York – London, Business Class35,000 Delta SkyMiles + 28,000 AMEX Membership Rewards 35,000 Delta SkyMiles + 28,000 AMEX Membership Rewards $5.60 $3,256 / $400
Cash N/A $100 $100
100,00 AS 100,000 Alaska Mileage Plan $110 $3,500 / $800
Three nights at The Edition: London 3 Ritz-Carlton Certificates N/A $1,500 / $750
Two Nights at the Alexandra Doubletree Barcelona 150,00 HHonors Points $523 $500 / $400
One-way New York – Chicago, Companion Pass 6,000 Southwest points $11.20 $240 / $240
New York – Chicago 7,500 Britsh Airways $5.60 $120
New York – Miami 15,000 British AIrways $11.20 $240
Miami – New York 15,000 Delta SkyMiles $11.20 $300
New York – Chicago Cash $70
Tel Aviv – New York, Business 62,500 Membership Rewards $200 $2,500 / $750
New York – Kiev – Tel Aviv, Cash, Economy Cash $500
London Gatwick – Barcelona (two) Cash $100
New York – Pheonix – New York (two) 39,500 ThankYou Points N/A $650 / $500
New York – Chicago – New York, Multiple 44,000 ThankYou Points N/A $650
New York – Chicago 10,000 Delta SkyMiles $11.20 $300
New York – Chicago – New York, Multiple 51,000 Southwest $43.80
3 Nights Waldrof Astoria Jerusalem 240,00 HHonors Points $2,250 / $750
1 Night RItz-Carlton Herzilya [Cash + Points] 26,000 Marriott $170 $400 / $250
Total 892,500 $1,208.40 $20,402 / $7,530

A few things…

  • I didn’t burn as much as I had hoped, keeping in with my ‘earn and burn’ philosophy.
  • I spent cash on a lot of short-haul tickets like New York – Chicago which represented better values than using points.
  • A lot of my points were spent on hotels, like the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem.

Total Miles Traveled in 2016: Approximately 70,000

Last year I traveled a bit more (75,000 miles flown and 35 flight segments), but 70,000 and 31 flight segments isn’t too bad.

Here’s how it looks on the map:

Screen Shot 2016-12-27 at 5.38.01 PM

My Credit!

No, these screenshots aren’t to brag – they’re to show you that it’s possible to maintain a really solid credit score and earn lots of rewards. If you’re responsible, don’t let yourself get into debt, you too can reap the benefits of rewards earning credit cards. However, with this many cards open, we can’t not talk about my credit score.

Experian – Provided by American Express

Sure - I'd love for this to be higher, but in New York, Chase, Bank of America & AMEX all pull from Experian
Sure – I’d love for this to be higher, but in New York, Chase, Bank of America & AMEX all pull from Experian

Transunion – Provided by Barclaycard

Screen Shot 2016-12-27 at 4.38.51 PM

Equifax – Provided by Citi

While I was surprised by this, it is over a month old.
While I was surprised by this, it is over a month old.

Bottom line

While I only have a few itineraries booked (subject to change, of course), I’m looking forward to 2017 and the changing landscape. There were definitely a lot of points and miles pitfalls that hit the community this year. Personally, this made me more resilient and interested in finding more deals. Perhaps these deals weren’t as easy or straightforward, but they were definitely lucrative.

Cheers, to 2017!

-The Miner

Virgin America & Alaska Airlines Merging Loyalty Programs – The Right Way

Category : Uncategorized

A few days ago Virgin America and Alaska Airlines completed their long awaited and much delayed merger. As we’ve seen with airline mergers, the first thing the companies focus on is allowing customers to book (revenue) flights on each others websites. From there, they move onto other priorities such as integrating the fleet, the crew and then, the loyalty programs.

Alaska and Virgin seem to be putting their loyalty programs at the forefront, already having announced some exciting and unexpected changes.

Let’s highlight some of the most important changes:

  1. Virgin America to Alaska Airlines transfer ratio;
  2. Updated award redemptions
  3. Updated mileage accrual
  4. Delta and Alaska partnership coming to an end

Virgin American & Alaska Airlines – Transfer Ratio


Changes related to the transfer will go into affect January 9, 2017. (That’s a few weeks from now). Virgin Elevate members will be able to transfer their points at a 1:1.3 ratio to Alaska Airlines.

While that’s not the 1:3 of Starwood and Marriott, to me to seems pretty fair.

The Virgin Elevate program is a revenue based program while Alaska’s mileage plan is a distance based award chart (region and partner depending).

Also, Elevate Silver and Gold members will be matched to Alaska’s varying tiers of elite MVP status.

Updated Award Redemptions

Though seemingly separate from the merger, Alaska has made some positive changes to their award redemption options (they already have many). As with transfers, beginning Monday, January 9, you’ll be able to redeem Alaska Mileage Plans miles for Virgin America flights.

Furthermore, Alaska has lowered the redemption costs of several short-haul routes. Now with an increased West Coast presence, short-haul redemptions will begin at 5,000 miles one-way, all the way up to 12,500 (the standard domestic price).

The Alaska MileagePlan updated short-haul redemption chart.
The Alaska MileagePlan updated short-haul redemption chart.

Some of these are real bargains if you live on the West Coast, considering the cost of some of these flights.

Updated Mileage Accrual Rates

Mileage accrual?! But this site is about flying for free, not revenue flights and earning butt-in-seat miles!

True, but these changes are pretty positive so I thought I’d briefly highlight them!

Starting now it’s possible to earn MileagePlan miles for Virgin America flights.

Here’s some of the updated accrual rates and a really good breakdown over at One Mile At A Time of how you can work this to your advantage.

Screen Shot 2016-12-20 at 7.38.54 AM

Delta & Alaska Partnership to End

Image Courtesy of Seattle Business Magazine
Image Courtesy of Seattle Business Magazine

Delta and Alaska have had a interesting partnership over the past few years, slowly and slowly chipping away at the benefits as they slug it out for Seattle.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s not too surprising, but Delta and Alaska will be formally cutting ties on April 30, 2017. After that date, you’ll be unable to earn reciprocal miles (Delta SkyMiles on Alaska flights or vice versa) or redeem reciprocally.

(Note: you’ll be unable to make changes to Delta flights booked on Alaska after May 1, 2017 – though travel will still be honored after this date).

It’s always disappointing to lose a partner, but Alaska is not only gaining a larger footprint because of the merger, MileagePlan is always at the forefront of adding new and exciting accrual and redemption partners.

Bottom Line

While there’s a lot of information available, I’ve tried to drill down to some of the most important aspects that will impact readers. Feel free to read the entire FAQ here.

Mergers tend to be tumultuous times for frequent flyers, but if Alaska and Virgin’s moves are any indication, it seems like this one will run pretty smoothly…

-The Miner

Cover photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines

Quick Hit: New Barclays Credit Card Is Here!

Category : Uncategorized

Several months ago I reported that Barclays would once again earn the right to issue their Aviator cards to new cardmembers.

Under the previous agreement, all US Airways cardholders had their products converted to one of the four flavors of the Aviator card. The caveat was that Barclays could not issue new products.

Now that’s changed – which means more competition and more cards which earn AAdvantage miles.

It was assumed this card would be released in early 2017, but it’s here now and ready for sign-ups!

The Sign-Up

aviator sign up bennies

“Earn 40,000 AAdvantage miles after making one qualifying purchase and paying the annual fee of $95”.

Though there is an annual fee, it’s like you’re “buying” 40,000 AAdvantage miles for $95. That’s a very solid deal.

The rest of the card benefits are very similar to the AAdvantage Platinum Mastercard from Citi, but here’s a recap:

  • First checked bag free
  • Earn 10% of your redeem miles back, up to 10,000 miles, per calendar year
  • Priority 1 boarding where applicable
  • 25% inflight savings (on onboard food and beverages)
  • No foreign transaction fees

My Experience Getting This Card

I was last approved for my first (and only) US Airways card in December 2014, prior to the merger. My Aviator card has been open since then as Barclays tends to be pretty generous with retention offers and annual fee waivers – particularly with this product.

<a href=" you could try these out.png”>aviator terms

This one-time AAdvantage bonus mileage offer is valid for first time cardmembers with new accounts only. Existing cardmembers, existing accounts and previous cardmembers with accounts closed in the past 24 months may not be eligible for this offer.

As mentioned above, my account was opened – and never closed – since December 2014. It’s now two years later and I was instantly approved for the card with a sizable credit limit.

Barclays can tend to be a bit more strict with approvals (though if you’re approved you will get the bonus, in my experience) than other banks. Here are some tips that I’ve found help with approvals from Barclays:

  • If your application goes pending, give them a call as soon as you can
  • Barclays likes to see some activity on your current cardmember accounts
  • They will shift over credit lines to open new products
  • Getting multiple products from Barclays in one day is difficult, but not impossible.
  • If possible, space out your applications by 3 – 4 (or more) months)

Bottom Line

As always, if this card doesn’t make sense for you – hold off! There are plenty of other great products out there. However, if you’re in need of AAdvantage miles and are limited by Citi, here’s a new option.

-The Miner

All images are courtesy of the author.