Chase Sapphire Reserve – NEW Credit Card

Category : Uncategorized

There’s a new credit card in town, and it’s called the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Officially, it will be launched August 21, 2016, but yesterday…

Well, yesterday the card accidentally went live and eagle-eyed churners over at Reddit posted the link and begin to apply.

About 20 minutes after that, Chase shut down the link.

Why? Because it wasn’t ready. It was their beta landing/application page. The URL had “.wip” in it, which means “work in progress” – and once the page was shut down, if you refreshed, you were asked for developer credentials to log in and access the page.

Oops.

Though it’s a false start, there isn’t too much to be disappointed by. In fact, a few things were confirmed!

Image courtesy of Frequent Miller.
Image courtesy of Frequent Miller.

Card Benefits

Sign-up bonus: 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points

Spending requirement: $4,000 in three months

Annual fee: $450 and $75 for authorized users

Lounge access: Priority Pass

Travel credits: $300 per calendar year (so it resets after Dec. 31 each year, effectively giving you $600 in travel credits this year). These will function like Citi Prestige travel credits, but will also include hotels and car rentals – basically anything that codes as travel! 

Bonus categories: 3X on Dining and Travel (whereas the Sapphire Preferred is 2X)

This card will also be issued as a Visa Infinite and have the usual suite of benefits like auto collision waiver insurance when renting a car.

That sign-up bonus is mouth watering, but so are the travel credits and the bonus categories.

5/24 Exempt?

For now.

Frequent Miller compiled some useful data from Reddit and found that 80% of applicants (who shared their stories, anyways) were over 5/24 and were approved. Apparently, when the Chase Freedom Ultimate launched, it too was exempt from 5/24, but only for the first few days.

So what should you do?

Here’s what I’m going to do, as my wife and I both have a lot of Chase products which significant credit limits.

  1. Lower credit limits. We have sufficient credit with Chase and I’ve previously found that when I lose/remove $5,000 – 7,000 in available credit, we have easier times getting automatically approved.
  2. Hold off on any other cards, including authorized users. Don’t give Chase less of a  reason to approve you. Even with Citi’s new rules. You can apply for this on 8/21 and then a Citi card after that Chase application has gone in.
  3. Unfreeze your Experian reports. I’ve kept my frozen for a better part of two years so that when I apply for Citi or Bank of America cards, those banks won’t pull Experian (which is dominated by AMEX and Chase in New York). Be sure to unfreeze your Experian (if Chase pulls that in your area) so you’re ready to go once the application is live. You can find out more information on freezes/thaws here.

Bottom line

Not only does this card have an incredible sign-up bonus, there are also some key benefits that make it worth keeping, even with the hefty annual fee. I really hope for all of us over 5 cards in 24 months that this card is exempt from the rule.

If the link actually goes live before August 21, I’ll be sure to post it.

-The Miner


Citi Churning Rules – Bad News

Category : Uncategorized

Another one bites the dust.

Earlier this year, Chase began limiting card members in a rule that’s known as “5/24” (see Chase – The Other Shoe Drops’), followed by AMEX which hammered another nail in the coffin by limiting ALL of their credit card bonuses to once per lifetime.

Well, yesterday it was Citi’s turn. I was planning on waiting for more data points to come out, but I thought I’d quickly share this.

citi new restriction

Here’s what the box in red reads:

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.

Let’s break that down and analyze it:

  • “American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles are not available if you have had any…” – This means, other than the Business version, you cannot get the bonus of any AAdvantage card type, if…
  • … You opened OR closed that card type in the past 24 months.

Example Scenario:

January 1, 2015: Open and approved for Citi AAdvantage Platinum World Elite Mastercard

January 1, 2016: Annual fee on the above card comes due, you close the card. You will be unable to open ANY Citi AAdvantage cards.

Some FAQ that have emerged over the past few hours:

  1. Does this apply to other Citi Cards? YES. This applies to Citi ThankYou, Citi Expedia, Citi AAdvantage and Citi Hilton products.
  2. What’s excluded? Costco Business and Citi AAdvantage Business cards.
  3. What should I do with my Citi cards that are currently open? KEEP THEM OPEN, or reset the 24 month clock from closing. Even if this means paying an annual fee. Try for retention; and if they don’t budge, keep trying. Keeping the card for another year is worth the ability to reopen the product.
  4. Which Citi cards should I get if I am able? That’s up to you, but I’d recommend getting the AAdvantage Platinum, or Executive (but not the Gold), Citi Hilton Reserve over the No Fee Citi Hilton; in terms of ThankYou products, only the Prestige has a bonus. Wait to apply for Premier, as the Premier has no annual fee for the first year, and only $89 after that
  5. I just opened a new Citi card – what should I do? That depends on your specific situation. If it’s your first of the co-brand, like a Citi Hilton Reserve, you could just keep it open, or get the bonus and close. But once you close, your 24 month clock resets. (I personally would keep the card as the annual fee is manageable and it comes with Hilton Gold status). The only product to consider closing after you get the bonus, if you just opened it, is the Citi Prestige.

There’s No Time Like the Present + Tracking

In this constant changing game of devaluations and churning, there really is no time like the present. Only last week I applied for the Citi Hilton Reserve for my wife (and was approved). I’m glad I did. We’re both pretty maxed out on our Citi products (they don’t have many), but I was looking forward to getting some more American Airlines Miles from the Citi Executive card.

A Word About Tracking

If you don’t have an Excel spreadsheet/Google sheet for your credit cards, open one NOW. Being able to go in, filter by bank (Citi in this case), I was able to see when I can reapply for my next Citi card.

Some Thoughts

We’ve seen this trend by the major banks to crack down on those of us who churn and chase sign-up bonuses.

American Express’s once-per-lifetime limitation is draconian and alienates all consumers, whereas Chase is in a position to limit the products they offer (because they have so many products and customers). Citi, on the other hand, has never had the strongest co-branded portfolio. This move is actually pretty smart.

Think about it: most consumers probably have 2-3 credit cards. Having multiple American Airlines credit cards from the same bank probably doesn’t make much sense to most people.

They’ve also, smartly, excluded business cards.

Don’t despair! Things change. It’s definitely a blow. But like we discussed when Chase and AMEX changed their rules, this requires further adaptation and planning.

As more data comes out on whether or not Citi is strictly enforcing this new rule, if there are any zombie links, or workarounds, I’ll be sure to post an update.

– The Miner


AMEX Membership Rewards to Avios – 50% Bonus!

Category : Uncategorized

Last October, American Express decreased the Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios from 1:1 to 250:200, respectively.

Since this “devaluation”, there has not been a British Airways Avios transfer bonus (though there historically have been many in the past).

Today, it seems, was the launch of a new transfer bonus – 50%! This offer is good through October 10, 2016. The new transfer ratio is 300:250, or more specifically, 1000 Membership Rewards become 1,200 British Airways Avios:

MR to BA Bonus

Though isn’t as great as a 50% bonus on a 1:1 transfer ratio, it still comes out to about 20% if there wasn’t a change in the ratio last October.

The Best Use of Avios Are…

The best use of Avios are for short/medium-haul flights in the United States. In particular, British Airways partners with American Airlines. This allows you to redeem Avios for American Airlines (and Alaska Airlines) flights.

Unlike American, though, British Airways Avios redemptions are distance based and not based on region. So in the U.S., anything that is between 1 – 1,151 miles flown, will be 7,500. Compare this to your standard 10,000 – 12,500 for U.S. domestic one-ways, and you have a steal!

The best tool for determining Avios price based on your location is the ‘Award Destinations by Price‘ tool. You simply enter the three letter airport code, and the return is a map of all airports you can fly into with your Avios – and more importantly, how many Avios miles it will require.

For example, if you enter ‘LGA’, here’s what you get:

avios destination by price lga

This works for every airport in the U.S., assuming American or Alaska flies there.

So routes that normally cost 7,500 Avios now only require 6,250 AMEX Membership Rewards. That’s a great deal. Probably the best you’ll get on any mileage program. And unless you’re flying Spirit, most of your tickets will cost over $60 one-way.

Short-Haul Travel Outside the U.S.

While the Oneworld alliance is not massive, there are some solid partners in different continents that are well connected. Because British Airways is part of the Oneworld alliance, you can redeem your Avios for other partner airlines. Even better, for truly short haul flights that measure between 1 -650 miles, you’ll need only 4,500 Avios or 3,750 Membership Rewards.

Here are the airline partners by region, outside the U.S.

  • Europe – Air Berlin, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, S7 Airlines
  • Asia – Cathay Pacific, Japanese Airlines, Malaysia Air, SriLankan Airlines
  • Middle-east – Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian
  • Australia / South Pacific – Qantas
  • Latin America – LATAM Chile, LATAM Brasil

Let’s use Helsinki, Finland (HEL), Finnair’s European hub, as a starting point.

Avios Destinations by Price HEL

According to our tool, you could fly all over the Baltic states (and then some) for only 4,500 each way. Or, with the transfer bonus, 3,750 Membership Rewards. Doesn’t get much better than that, and it is not a low cost carrier!

If you’re planning any intra-country travel like a Euro trip, I’d really encourage you to look into transferring Membership Rewards to Avios while there’s a bonus.

-The Miner


Citi Prestige – New Sign-up and Benefits Revealed

Category : Uncategorized

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

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

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

So what does the Citi Prestige look like now?

The Bad

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

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

citi prestige new bonus

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

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

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

The Good

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

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

Is it worth it?

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

However.

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

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

50,000 Point Offer Link

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

The Miner


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

Category : Uncategorized

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

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

American Airlines, Citi, and Barclays Ink a New Deal

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

Let me explain.

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

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

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

Barclays Aviator Silver - One of the Four Aviator Flavors
Barclays Aviator Silver – One of the Four Aviator Flavors

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

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

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

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

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

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

LifeMiles Secures a New Credit Card Partner

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

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

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

 

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

Wrapping Up

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

-The Miner


Citi Prestige Sign-Up Bonus Changing on Tuesday?

Category : Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why It Won’t Go Up

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

Currently, the card’s benefits are:

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

Those examples sure do look enticing…

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

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

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

So Why Even Bring It To Your Attention?

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

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

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

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

I have until Monday to decide.

-The Miner


A Review: Ritz Carlton Herzliya

Category : Uncategorized

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

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

I ended up booking the Cash + Points option.

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

Review

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

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

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

IMG_7274
Beach view
IMG_7277
View of the Herzliya Marina and Mediterranean Sea

But those views come at a cost. 

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

IMG_7272

So what’s that cost?

The noise. The noise!

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

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

I’d consider that a major design flaw.

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

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

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

The pool.

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

Notice the sun-blocking beams in the background.
Notice the sun-blocking beams in the background.
With 150 rooms, at a minimum average occupancy of 2 guests per room... You get the picture
With 150 rooms, at a minimum average occupancy of 2 guests per room… You get the picture.

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

Overall

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

Let’s tally up the options:

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

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

-The Miner


Credit Card Churning, Earning & Burning – Quarter 2 Update

Category : Uncategorized

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

Q2: Earned

Here’s my churning results from Quarter 2 of 2015:

  2015  
Bank Card Bonus
Citi Premier 50,000
Citi Prestige 50,000
Chase United 55,000
AMEX Personal Gold 50,000
AMEX Hilton No Fee 40,000
BOFA Alaska 25,000
BOFA Alaska 25,000
AMEX Delta Personal Platinum 60,000
     
Total   355,000

And from 2016…

  2016  
Bank Card Bonus
AMEX Delta Business Gold 50,000
AMEX Hilton No Fee 75,000
AMEX Personal Platinum 100,000
AMEX Delta Business Gold 50,000
     
Total   275,000

So why did I earn less?

  • I went absolutely HAM last quarter, earning 815,000 points and 2 nights; as opposed to 480,00 in Q1 of last year
  • Meeting spending requirements from last quarter took a while; my rule is that I will never bite off more than I can chew and always finish up spending my most recent card before moving onto the next.
  • Offers got a little slow until June (i.e. Delta AMEX cards)
  • Most importantly, as I’m working abroad, I knew it would be a bit difficult for me to reach the spend (not to mention get the physical card), I wanted it to all be set up before I left.

What’s next?

Considering all the new churning rules in affect, I’m a bit limited with banks like Chase and AMEX; but with a significant other, there’s more opportunities. Here’s my thoughts!

  • There’s a distinct possibility I’ll apply for the Delta Business Platinum (60,000) between now and when the offer expires, July 6.
  • When I come back, if it’s still an offer, Alaska upped it’s Bank of America cards (personal and business) from 25,000 to 30,000. Rumor has it that they will only approve you or one personal and one business–I may need to check that out ;).
  • Small, small possibility of the Ritz-Carlton card, if I know I’ll get a good use out of it.
  • For my SO, definitely the Barclay Arrival+ –they seem to like her more than they like me.
  • A Citi card–I hope the Premier goes up to 50,000, or maybe the Prestige, as I’m closing mine soon.

What other cards should I go for?

Q2: Burning

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

As I’ve started to keep track…

Redemption Points Used Taxes Estimated Cash Value
Madrid – New York, Business Class / AA Miles 57,500 $52.00 $2,363.00
Madrid – New York, Business Class / AS Miles 50,000 $62.00 $2,363.00
New York  – London, Business Class / DL Miles, two people 125,000 $11.20 $6,521.00
London – Nice, Econmy Class / BA, two people 8,000 $52.00 $256.00
Nice – Madrid, Economy Class / BA, two people 9,000 $47.00 $538.00
New York – Chicago, Economy / Citi TYP, 3 one-ways 34,000 None $540.00
Category 1 – 5 Marriott Certificate, Madrid None None $115.00
New York – Chicago, Economy / BA, 3 one-ways 22,500 $16.80 $270.00
3 Nights Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem / Hilton 240,000 None $2,100.00
2 Fairmont Certificate Nights – Monte Carlo None None $1,000.00
       
Totals 546,000 $241.00 $16,066.00

What this means:

  • I’ve burned about half of what I’ve earned this year (not the same points earned, but in terms of numbers)
  • The business class tickets, for example, have a value but not really what’s listed. Why? I’d never spend $3000.000 on a business class ticket.
  • The Waldorf regular room rate is cheaper, but I got upgraded so I priced it out based on that.
  • I’ve also managed (yay!) to keep taxes pretty low these past few months. When flying back from Europe, which traditionally has the highest fuel surcharges, I’m flying on American, which doesn’t pass those on.

With a little bit of planning (see here on when to start planning), you too can earn enough points to take lots of trips for little out of pocket expenses.

-The Miner

Want to learn how to churn? Concerned about credit score? Read these informative articles:


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].


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