I have had a few people ask me lately what the best airline is for earning rewards. If you search the web, you can find a huge amount of information on the topic, but it can be tough to understand what it all means. I really wish that there was an easy answer to this question and I could just tell people to concentrate on X Airline and everything will be great. Unfortunately, like most things in the world of miles and points, it is not that simple. In today’s post, I will attempt to sum up some of the more important pieces of information on the topic and hopefully provide you with the tools to answer the question for your specific situation.
There are many factors that need to be taken into account when choosing a primary airline. Perhaps the most important question that needs to be answered is why you are trying to pick just one. There are a few common answers to this question. Some people believe that the only way to earn miles is to continue to fly on the same airline until you have built up enough miles for a reward. Although many years ago this was the case, today it could not be farther from the truth. Let me use my family as an example. In the past year and a half, we have earned close to 2 million miles and points in loyalty programs and we have actually flown less that 10 miles-earning flights. Rather than concentrate on a specific airline’s program, we have used alternate techniques such as credit card sign-ups, mileage shopping malls, and individual airline promos to build up our balances in as many programs as possible. If your goal is simply to gather miles and work towards award flights and low cost travel, you probably do not want to limit yourself to earning miles in a single program. Different airlines are better for travel to different parts of the world, so if you are like me and want to see as many new places as possible, it will be better for you to build up balances in several programs.
A second reason you might want to concentrate on a single airline program is if you think that you will fly/earn enough to qualify for elite status. Each airline has multiple levels of elite status that will give you benefits ranging from priority boarding and free checked bags to lounge access and upgrades to first class. Whether you spend a lot of time in the sky or only take a few flights a year, having elite status can make your travel experience much more enjoyable. If you are want to become elite, it is best to concentrate on a single airline.
Another reason for choosing a primary airline program is that you might fly regularly on paid tickets. This usually applies to those who fly for business purposes and either their company only uses one airline or they are allowed to book their own travel and choose who they fly with. Being able to travel consistently and regularly with the same carrier will allow you to get comfortable with that airline’s procedures and facilities and will also let you build your way up to elite status as mentioned above.
If you have read this far, you should now be able to decide if it is actually a good idea for you to try to choose a specific airline program to concentrate on. If the answer is yes, keep reading and I will try to help you with that task. If the answer is no, keep reading anyway. You never know, you might just learn something.
The next thing you will want to consider is your location and what your primary airport of departure will be. You will often see this referred to as your home airport. Most people will have a single airport that it is most convenient for them to fly out of. In some cases, you will have a local airport that is closest to you. These smaller airports are usually more expensive to fly out of and often only have connecting flights to nearby international airports. For these purposes, you will most likely want to look at the closest major international airport to your home. If you are flying for work and cost is not an issue, you may also want to consider the local airport.
For me, the closest airport to my home is the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP). This is just really an international airport in name. To get anywhere from AVP, you usually just connect to Philadelphia, NYC, or Chicago. I don’t even think they have direct flights to Canada. Although they are growing and increasing flight schedules, I have never found a flight that is close enough in price to make it worth flying out of there. After ruling out AVP, I am in a good position. Sure it takes me about two hours to get to the airport for a flight, but I am just about equal distance from both Philadelphia (PHL) and Newark (EWR). This usually gives me far more options for flights than if I was only looking at one airport.
Once you have chosen your home airport, or in my case 2 home airports, you want to see what the primary carriers are that fly out of that airport. You may already know this information but if you don’t, you can check out AirlineRouteMaps.com. They have over 1000 airline route maps and break them down by region, so it should be pretty easy to find what carriers serve your city. If you live in the United States, you can check out this page for US Airline Hubs and Focus Cities. For me, the primary airlines are Continental (United) out of EWR and US Airways and Southwest out of PHL. If you travel to the same destinations regularly either for personal or business reasons, you will want to do the same type of analysis for those destinations. You will want the airline that you choose as your primary miles earning airline to be one of the ones that is the easiest for you to travel on for most destinations that you will be traveling to.
At this point, you should have been able to narrow your choices down to just a few airlines. In some cases, you will be down to just one logical choice. To be sure that you have made the right choice for your primary airline though, there are a couple of other things that you should look at. Most likely, if you are looking at choosing a primary airline, your ultimate goals are to gain elite status and/or to earn miles and redeem them for award flights. Knowing this, it would be a mistake to choose an airline without looking at the options for redeeming miles and the benefits or becoming an elite.
To find the specific benefits for the different levels of elite status, you will need to check out the website of each of the airlines you are interested in. The benefits can vary between programs and so can the requirements for reaching the different levels. You will need to look at each program’s benefits and decide how valuable they will be to you. Also make sure that you will be able to qualify for elite status with your normal travel patterns. You can do things like mileage runs to qualify more easily and some airlines even let you buy your way up to elite status, so these are also things to consider if you are really determined to get to that next level.
When it comes to redeeming miles for award travel, it is important to look at not only the airline in question, but also their partners and whether they are a member of a major alliance. The three big alliances are Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and OneWorld. You can check out their webpages to see the member airlines for each. There are two main reasons that this is important. First, miles flown on partner or alliance airlines can often be banked to your primary airline of choice. This will allow you to build up miles in your preferred program when flying in other regions of the world, instead of leaving a few thousand miles in the account of an airline that you may never fly again. Second, when you are trying to redeem miles for award flights, you can often use your primary airline’s miles to book flights on many of their partner or alliance airlines. This opens up a huge array of destination options that may not be possible if you were just looking at the route map for your airline of choice.
Each alliance can be easier to redeem miles for different regions, so if you have specific award travel destinations in mind, this is something that you should be aware of. For example, Star Alliance is often the best for Asia, SkyTeam for Australia, and OneWorld for South America. This is not to say that you can’t find award flights to these locations with the other alliances, but only that it would likely be easier using the ones that I mentioned. These are also not the only destinations that you can get to with each of these alliances, but merely the areas where there has historically been the best award availability. I will not go into a full alliance analysis here, but you can find plenty more information online if you are interested.
The question of alliance is easily answered for my situation. Southwest is not a member of a major alliance so for these purposes, I can rule them out. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Southwest is a great choice if you are planning to primarily fly domestically. I like to travel to as many new places as possible though, so the lack of international flights in addition to the lack of partners is a deal breaker for me. That leaves me with Continental (United) and US Airways. Both are members of Star Alliance so I could really choose either one. Whether I fly out of EWR on Continental (United) or out of PHL on US Airways, since the two carriers are members of the same alliance, I would be able to bank my miles to whichever one I want.
In my case, I don’t have to make that final decision and choose one primary airline. I am more concerned with low cost flights than I am with reaching elite status. I already have lounge access and free checked bags on several airlines through my American Express Platinum Card and my airline specific credit cards. When I plan to travel, I usually just check flights from EWR and PHL and choose the option with the lowest price. Traveling most often with a family of four, it is more important for me to get us to our destination with as little cost as possible than to have us sitting in first class. For the time being, I just build up miles and points balances with as many programs as possible and when it is time to plan a vacation, I have a variety of options.
For many of you, choosing a primary carrier will be the best move. I hope that if that is the case, you now have a basic idea of the steps you need to take to identify the best airline or alliance for your specific situation. Even if you choose an airline or alliance to concentrate on, make sure you are staying aware of promotions and miles earning activities on other carriers too. You don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity just because you weren’t paying attention. Always remember that even though you are choosing an airline for the majority of your flights, the more you are able to diversify your miles earning, the better your chances of finding the specific award itineraries you are looking for.
Feel free to comment if you think that I left something out. I tried to cover the major items that should be considered, but like all of you, I’m still learning so I may have missed something. As always, if you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask.
This week the first ever OneWorld MegaDo is taking place. It started on Monday with the optional international leg of the trip going from JFK to LHR. There were some events in London and then the participants headed back to the States with a flight to DFW. Dallas is where the domestic portion of the MegaDo took flight and also where most of the people joined the trip. In addition to several exclusive airline and hotel industry events, the domestic portion of the trip includes charter flights from DFW-SEA and SEA-LAX. If you would like to see a full schedule, you can look on the official OneWolrd MegaDo 2012 page.
Basically, the OneWorld MegaDo is a big party with all of the participants being crazy about miles and points. To quote the MegaDo site, this event is “The world’s ultimate travel junkies on a once-in-a-lifetime field trip.” When registration was announced for this event, I couldn’t make a decision on whether I should book or not. I thought I would have some time to decide, but I was very wrong. The event sold out in less than an hour and my decision was made for me. Since that time, I have started this blog and my
travel consulting business and now that the MegoDo has taken off, I am unbelievably sad that I am not taking part in this event. I can guarantee that if at all possible, I will be one of the first ones booked for the next MegaDo.
In the meantime, there are a few things that are easing my pain. First, Mommy Points and The Points Guy are doing a great job of sending pictures and updates direct from the event to their twitter accounts. You can follow @ThePointsGuy or @Mommy_Points to see everything they are sharing. You can also check out the OneWorld MegaDo Blog for the official updates of what is going on. I’m not 100% sure if these pictures and updates are making me feel better or worse about not being there, but at least I can see some of what I am missing.
The other thing that is helping to comfort me is that I am already planning to definitely attend the Chicago Seminars in October and I am working on getting things into place so I can be at the Frequent Traveler University in NYC in April. Although neither of these events actually involve any flights or special treatment from the airlines, I will still be able to meet many of the people I have only read about in the forums and blogs, and I should be able to gain a tremendous amount of miles and points knowledge.
The one thing I have taken away from my experience with the OneWorld MegaDo is this. If you are thinking about going to an event but can’t decide, you better book it before it’s too late. I have a similar belief about award seats and great airfare prices. If you wait to think it through, you might just miss a fantastic experience. Sometimes it is better to just make the reservation and then figure out how to make it work later. It’s pretty difficult to Indulge the Wanderlust while sitting in your house, so get out there and experience more, spend less, and travel the world.
This post has been left up as a history of the blog, but at this time, due to changes in my situation, this business is not operating.
If you have been looking around the website over the past few days, you may have noticed that there are some new pages under the heading of Wander the World Travel Services. I started adding them last weekend, but wanted to make sure everything was ready before making any announcements. Today, I am happy to say that we are now going live with our new travel consulting business. You will see a general information page, as well as pages for our Vacation Planning Services and our Award Flight Booking Services. Of course, as with any business or website, you will also find a Terms and Conditions page with all of the important (but not so fun) information that you should know.
As I have spent more time lately talking with friends and communicating with readers, a couple of things have become more evident to me. First, not everyone has the time or desire to learn all of the ins and outs of awards programs, flight and hotel booking, and the travel industry in general. Most people like the idea of traveling the world and seeing new things, but very few are willing or able to put the time and effort into learning what it takes to make a dream vacation work. Planning an outstanding vacation takes a tremendous amount of work and it is not something that everyone can do on their own.
The second thing I have realized is that no matter how much myself and other bloggers teach you, it is not possible to become an expert overnight. You may want to learn everything and be able to book that first class ticket using miles tomorrow, but it takes time to learn the tips and tricks that will help you get the most value out of your miles and points. I started this blog to teach people how they can experience more, spend less, and travel the world. Everyone is welcome to learn what I am sharing, but if you are new to this and want to take a vacation now, Wander the World is here to help you.
There are two main components of Wander the World Travel Services, Award Flight Booking and Vacation Planning. Everyone knows that frequent flyer miles can be very difficult (if not impossible) to use if you don’t have an excellent grasp of the rules and restrictions for each program. Our Award Flight Booking Service makes using your miles easy by taking care of the hard parts for you. With the growing number of people trying to use miles and points to travel, having help from a professional may mean the difference between flying first class to Asia or finding no availability and ending up sitting home on your couch. We are aware that there are already several successful award booking services available to you, but we think that we have something valuable to add to the market. We have set our pricing to be quite competitive and if you need more planning help, we won’t stop once we have your booked your flights.
Having flights to a destination is great, but it won’t do you much good once you get there. This is where our Vacation Planning Services come in. Whether you just need a ride from the airport and a place to stay, or a detailed daily itinerary of what you should do, we can take care of everything for you. We have structured our services so you can pick and choose just what you need us to do. If you would like us to plan everything for you, there is even a discounted full service package available too. Our Vacation Planning Services are available to you whether you have an award flight to book or not. We will also be happy to take care of your standard airfare booking.
We are very excited about our new travel consulting business and can’t wait to plan our first client trip. We will be running a short commercial on local TV next week, but I wanted to make sure that my loyal readers were aware of what we are offering first. Rest assured, I will still be providing the same types of free content here on the blog, helping you to learn how to Indulge the Wanderlust in you. All I ask for now is that for you take a look at the new business pages and let us know what you think. Then for your next trip, consider using Wander the World Travel Services for all of your booking and planning needs. We would love to put our knowledge and experience to work for you.
Starting this week, there are going to be a few changes in the advertising and reservation rules that airlines are required to follow. FareCompare has been doing a great job keeping us up to date about these changes and you can read their news stories on the subject HERE and HERE. For those of you who just want a quick overview, here it is.
The biggest change is that starting January 26th, all published or advertised airfares must include all mandatory taxes and fees. This includes advertisements from airlines, travel agents, or anyone else trying to sell you a ticket. The bad news is that starting that day, all of the emails you get and the ads you see online will have higher advertised prices for the same flights. The good news is that when they were advertising the lower prices, you would still end up paying the higher price because they would add in taxes and fees at the end. In effect, you will still be paying the same amount for airfare as you were before the change, but you will know what that price is upfront instead of being lured in by unrealistically low fares and having the price go up when you try to book.
I think this is a great change. I can’t count the number of times I have been excited about an advertised fare only to find that the final price was more than twice what was advertised. With these new rules in effect, it might not happen quite as often, but at least I will know when I should actually be excited about a price. You should know that add-on fees such as baggage or preferred seating fees will still not be included in the prices, since not all passengers are required to pay them.
In addition to the new advertising requirements, there are a couple of other changes that will be happening starting today.
Reservations will now be held for 24 hours without payment. Some airlines were already doing this, but they will all be required to now.
If booked at least 7 days before departure, reservations can be cancelled within 24 hours with no fee. This will be nice if I find a good deal but need to check with my wife to make sure we can go. I will be able to book the tickets before they disappear and then cancel if Chrissy reminds me of a reason we can’t take the trip.
Finally, passengers must be notified promptly if their flight is delayed more than 30 minutes. I think this will have the least effect since with all of the flight tracking tools available to us, I think most of us would probably know about the delay before we even get this notification.
All together, I think these new requirements will have a positive effect on my planning, booking, and flying experiences. It might not be much, but every little bit helps. How do you think these new rules, if at all, will effect you?
In about a month and a half, mine and my wife’s Platinum American Express Cards will come up for renewal. The card carries a hefty $450 annual fee, so for the two of us, that would be a $900 investment for the year. That may sound crazy to many of you, but the benefits of having the card are really quite spectacular. At this point I am confident that I am going to renew one of them, but not 100% sure about the second. As I try to calculate whether renewing both is a good move for me, I thought I would do a summary of some of what I believe to be the Platinum Card’s most valuable benefits. This is not an all encompassing list of the card benefits, but instead, some of the ones that I think should be highlighted.
Airport Lounge Access – Just by having the Platinum Card, you have access to American Airlines, Delta, and US Airways Clubs. In addition, you get a free Priority Pass Select membership which will give you access to over 600 international lounges in countries across the world. If you have never been in an airport lounge before, you don’t know what you have been missing. I highly recommend it.
$200 Airline Fee Credit – You can get this credit once a year and although they say it is only for incidental charges, it seems to work for gift card purchases on a few airlines. I used ours last year for a total of $400 of AA gift cards ($200 x two cards).
Global Entry – You will get a refund of the $100 application fee for global entry if you pay with your Platinum Card. This program allows you to fast track through customs when returning from international trips and can be a real time saver. We are in the process of enrolling in this service and look forward to using it on our upcoming trips.
Car Rental Program – As a cardholder, you will get automatic Elite Status with Avis, Hertz, and National. This will give you discounts, upgrades, and some other nice features when renting cars.
Starwood Preferred Guest – You will get automatic Gold Preferred status with Starwood as a Platinum Cardholder. This will give you room upgrades and late checkout in addition to other benefits when staying at Starwood Properties.
Platinum Concierge and Dedicated Platinum Service Number – This is a benefit that I don’t use as much as I should. The concierge team will get you reservations, tickets, or even help you plan events. The dedicated service number really does give you better service too. I once had an issue with my Starwood Amex card and after talking to two people and getting nowhere, I decided to call my Platinum service line. Within 2 minutes, the issue was taken card of.
There are lots of other smaller benefits that I haven’t listed, including baggage insurance, travel accident insurance,B and roadside assistance. For a complete list, take a look on the American Express website.
If you are a first time applicant for the Platinum Card, you can also get a sign up bonus in addition to all of the benefits outlined above and on the website. As far as I know, the best currently available offer for the Platinum Card can only be accessed if you have a referral from a current cardholder. The offer is for 50,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $3000 in the first 3 months. This is the offer that was publicly available last year when I applied, and if I were not already a cardholder, this would definitely be on the list for my next churn. I value American Express points at a minimum of 2 cents per point and that works out to a $1000 value for the 50,000 bonus points. You can only get this kind of value when transferring to airline or hotel programs, but f you just want to use their pay with points option for travel, you still end up with a value of 1 cent per point. That would work out to $500 in value for the sign up bonus.
However you use the points, the sign up bonus along with all of the other benefits easily outweighs the $450 fee. If I could get the sign up bonus again, my decision would be simple. In my case, I need to decide if the other benefits are worth the $450 fee. I am leaning toward yes because the airline fee credit and global entry payment make up for $300 of the fee just to start with. I think the other benefits are worth more than $150 to me, so I will probably end up renewing both cards. Of course, I will call first to see if I can get some sort of retention bonus too. If you have an opinion about what I should do, please leave a comment for me below.
If reading this post has convinced you that you need the American Express Platinum Card and you want me to refer you, send me an email at email@example.com. I will need your full name and an email address where you would like to receive the referral. You should know that if you are approved from my referral, I will get a referral bonus from American Express. I think you can tell from what I have outlined in this post that the referral bonus is not at all what makes me recommend this card, but I still thought I should mention it.
The American Express Platinum Card is definitely a card that will help you to experience more, spend less, and travel the world. It’s vast array of benefits make it one of my favorite cards and if you decide to get one, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Maybe we will even cross paths one day at one of the many International Airport Lounges that the Platinum Card gives us access to, and we can spend some time discussing miles and points.
In my post about Chrissy’s January Churn, I mentioned that there was a reporting error on her credit report. I wanted to take the time today follow up on that and to explain the issue in a little bit more detail. Errors on your credit report are much more common than you might think, and I want to use myself as an example to show you why you should always read through the details of the report to check for accuracy.
Chrissy and I have a ValuePlus Checking account with KNBT bank here in PA. One of the benefits of this account is a free account with Privacy Guard. Since we have a joint checking account, we are each entitled to our own separate Privacy Guard accounts. This is something that I found out several months after I started the service for myself, and I quickly signed Chrissy up as well. When first signing up for the service through the bank, they send you a printed copy of your credit report along with your membership information. We did this for Chrissy back in August of 2011. Since then, I have been using Privacy Guard to run credit reports on a regular basis. We are allowed to run one report a month for each of us, and I always make sure that I check our scores before doing a credit card churn.
When I ran the report for Chrissy during the first week of January, the scores came back lower than I had been expecting. I looked at the section of the report titled “Top Factors That Make Your Score Lower”. I always scan through this section, but this time there was something that caught my eye. One of the things that was keeping the score from going up was a credit card from Discover Financial Services that had a high balance of $22,500 and a current balance of around $6000. My automatic first fear was fraud. A couple of years back, Chrissy had a bad habit of getting her purse stolen. In fact, it was stolen on the exact same weekend, two years in a row, in different states. Needless to say, we have experience with Discover Card Fraud and they have always been quite helpful. I was worried that somehow someone had opened up a new account and was using Chrissy’s name and credit.
Upon further investigation, I determined that if it was fraud, the person committing it was the worst thief ever. In the detailed section of the credit report, I found that the card was opened in April of 2004, and although it was carrying a balance, the payments were being made on time each month. Why would someone fraudulently open a credit card and then be working on paying it off? It just didn’t make sense.
The next step was a call to Discover. Before I started with churning cards, my Discover Card had been my primary card since I was 16. It pains me to think about all of the miles and points I missed out on, but that’s the way it was and I am quite familiar and satisfied with Discover Customer Service. I first spoke with someone in the credit card department and after searching by name, zip code, and finally social security number, he was unable to find the account in question. Then I was transferred over to the loans department and had the same lack of success. The second representative told me that my best course of action would be to dispute the account with the credit bureaus. She said that most likely, a wrong number was pushed in a data entry system somewhere and the account ended up registering to Chrissy’s credit report. This was not exactly what I wanted to hear, but since Discover could not locate the account, it seems like it is my only option.
That is where we stand at this point and I am in the process of disputing the incorrect information. I am not sure how much Chrissy’s scores will go up once this account has been removed, but I think it will be more than a couple of points. This one account represents the majority of the available credit she was using. The worst part about this situation is that when I pulled out the printed report that they sent to me in August, sure enough, there was the account listed in the details. If I had just read through the whole report back then, I could have had this whole mess cleared up 6 months ago and I wouldn’t have to be worrying about it as we start our 2012 churns.
In this case, even with the errors on Chrissy’s credit report, her score was still high enough and did not effect her ability to be approved for all 4 of the cards we applied for on her churn day. We were lucky. In some cases, credit reporting errors can cause you to be unnecessarily denied for credit or in the case of major loans, can cause you to pay a higher interest rate for the lifetime of the loan. By running a credit report on a regular basis and always checking for errors, you can make sure that your scores are as high as possible. When you are planning to churn credit cards, a high score is essential and even if you don’t plan to churn, your credit score is definitely something worth protecting. So next time you get a credit report, make sure you read and understand all of the details and dispute anything that is not correct. One piece of inaccurate information on your credit report could be the difference between an approval and a denial the next time you apply for a new credit card with a 100,000 mile bonus.
Every day, so much information is added to the world of miles and points that it is surely impossible to read it all. For those items that I think will be most valuable to my readers, I will always try to do a detailed blog post. Occasionally, there are news items that I can’t take the time to do a full write-up about, but I still think you might want to know. To get that information to you, I am going to try this “Updates” style of post. Each item will have a sentence or two to summarize and a link to a far more detailed write-up. I hope this helps you to keep a little more up to date with the latest happenings and at the same time introduces you to some of my favorite bloggers and news sources.
Hyatt is offering up to a 30% bonus on purchases of Gold Passport points through March 15, 2012. This isn’t a great deal for their less expensive hotels, but can be quite good for Hyatt’s high end properties. Details HERE.
Emirates will be added as an Alaska Mileage Plan member on March 1, 2012. This is a great new redemption and earning partner for Alaska Airlines. Details HERE.
Perhaps to avoid giving a Valentine’s Day gift, Continental is terminating their relationship with Virgin Atlantic effective February 13, 2012. Details HERE.
Here’s a HUGE congratulations to Rick and the whole team at Frugal Travel Guy. They have announced that Internet Brands has acquired the Frugal Travel Guy site and we can look forward a new design and new features. The current staff will remain in place after the acquisition. Rick and his team were my first daily read when I got started with all of this, so it’s nice to see their hard work paying off. Details HERE.
For an amusing story about what elite status can get for you, read about FrequentMiler’s take on making the most of the middle seat. Story HERE.
For those of you who have been following my posts on credit card churning, Jared has a great summary of the best currently available offers from each of the US based airlines. Remember, you don’t necessarily want to apply for all of these cards today. You can expect that some of these offers will get bigger throughout the year, so do your research before applying. Details HERE.
Starting in the second quarter of 2012, United will be offering their 1k and Platinum Elites reimbursement for the $100 application fee for Global Entry. This is a fee that is already reimbursed for Amex Platinum Cardholders, but will be a nice addition for elites that don’t have that card. Details HERE.
Frequent Traveler University will be held this year April 27-29 in New York. More information will be coming soon and registration will start on February 10th. I don’t know as much about this one as I do about the Chicago Seminars, but since I am so close, I am hoping to attend. Details of the announcement HERE.
This is one in a series of posts that I am doing based around the January credit card churn that we did for Chrissy. Before reading this post, I would suggest reading my previous posts on What You Should Know about credit card churning and How to Pick Your Cards, if you haven’t already. Remember that you always want to protect your credit and at least in the short term, card churning will definitely have an effect on your scores. For more information about what factors effect your credit score, check out myfico.com.
Today I will be running you through the process I use for a churn day, using Chrissy’s churn as a specific example. Before you decide on a churn day, you should have spent some time to come up with a list of cards that you will be applying for, along with the links that will give you the highest bonuses for applying to each card. Make sure you are taking into account the required minimum spends and are not trying to take on more than you can financially handle. As you look at the specific cards that I am using for the example below, remember that this is Chrissy’s third churn day and she has already been approved for 13 other cards. The ones used for this churn may or may not be the best options for you to apply for at this point in time.
I follow several travel blogs and read message boards on a regular basis, so I like to think that I have a pretty good idea of what the current available credit card offers are. This really helps when preparing to do a churn because I already have a basic idea of what cards we will be applying for. Chrissy’s churn days are a little more challenging than mine because she doesn’t like to do the applications or make the follow-up calls. I have no problem doing this for her, but if a call is necessary, I need to make sure that I am making the call when she is home so that she can give permission for me to speak on her behalf. Once you have this many cards with all of the banks, a call is quite often necessary to get an approval. On your first churn, you might not need to make any calls.
For this churn, I did all of the applications during the afternoon and we made the follow-up calls as soon as Chrissy got home from school (she is a teacher). The cards for this churn are almost identical to the churn I did for myself back in October. Until then, I have been churning cards on the same day for both of us. In October, I decided to only do a churn for myself since I did not think we would be able to meet the spending on these cards if we got two of each at the same time. If you have the ability to meet higher minimum spends then by all means, you should be getting the best cards for your spouse at the same time as yourself. That is what we did for our first two churns, since we had lower total spend requirements with those cards, and it helps to build up your miles and points even faster.
As always, when applying for any credit card with a bonus offer, I recommend taking as many screen shots as you can with the bonus offer showing. This includes the page that you link from for the application, the actual application page in some cases, and the confirmation page if it shows you the offer. In certain cases, you may be using a link for an offer that the bank meant to end, and it is best to have proof of the bonus that you were offered in case they try to give you something less. This has not happened to me, but I have read many stories of this happening and I always make sure to have the screen shots on file until the bonus miles or points have posted to my account.
My plan for the day started out with 4 cards, then changed to 2, then I decided to add back in the 3rd, and finally after a conversation with Chrissy when she got home, I applied for the 4th one as well. Even the best laid plans can be changed by last minute thoughts, so make sure you are being flexible on churn day.
The first card “Chrissy” applied for was the Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa. Many people believe that this is the best card currently on the market and I tend to agree with them. I won’t get into details here, but it has some excellent benefits. This card didn’t exist with this offer when we did our first two churns and I got one in October, so this was the first opportunity to get one for Chrissy. Chase recently changed their advertisements to read “For a limited time only”, so if you are interested, you might want to get one in the near future. No one knows when the offer will change or what it will change to, but it would be a shame to miss out on the current offer of 50K Ultimate Rewards points with a $3000 spend in the first 3 months. I did this card first because I though it would give me the most problems. Chrissy already has 3 other Chase cards, and Chase seems to be the most strict out of the major banks in terms of number of cards, amount of total credit, and time between applications. To my surprise, a few seconds after filling out the application and submitting it, a congratulations came up on the screen explaining that she had been instantly approved. I think the last time we were instantly approved for a Chase card was in our first churn, so apparently waiting 6 months between applications did the trick.
Nothing puts me in a good mood on a churn day like instant approvals, so I moved right on to the next application. Next on the list was the Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines Card. This is also available as a Bank of America Card and people claim that you can get both cards on the same day. I was only approved for one of the two in October, so I decided to play it safe for Chrissy and only apply for one. The current offer is the same for both cards and is 35k miles for $1000 spend in 4 months. This is not a huge amount, but I have not seen or heard of a larger bonus on this card and it has a pretty easy minimum spend requirement. Also, Hawaiian miles transfer 1:2 to Hilton, so this is really a 70,000 point Hilton bonus if I would prefer. After filling out the application and submitting, I got the following screen.
This screen will only show for about 2-3 seconds and then it will reload to a page that doesn’t have the phone number on it. I remembered this from my application, so I was ready for the screen shot. What I found extra amusing was the reference number they told me to have available when I call. I think they might have a coding error somewhere in their programming. I kind of expected we would have to call for that application, so I was not too surprised when I got this message.
Early in the day I had decided to only do two cards for Chrissy because I was concerned about the high spend limits for a couple of the cards and due to a reporting error by Discover, her credit score is not as high as I would have liked. I will discuss that more in another post, but let me just say that you should read through all of the details when you get a credit report and not just look at the scores. The first two applications took a total of about 5 minutes and I wasn’t ready to stop, so I decided to take a gamble on the third card.
The card in question is the Barclays Bank US Airways MasterCard. The reason this is not a sure thing is that Chrissy already had a US Airways MasterCard from Barclays. It appears, however, that this card is churnable for the bonus and there are even reports of people having more than one of the same card at the same time. I decided to give it a try and we will see in a few weeks if it worked. The offer I used was for 40k miles with a first purchase and an additional 10k miles on the one year anniversary. I was not too surprised when after applying, I was told that they needed to review the application further and would email a decision within 10 days. This is not an acceptable time frame for me to wait, so we would need to make another call when Chrissy got home.
Once Chrissy was home from school and settled, I started making the necessary calls. The first call was to Barclay’s regarding the US Airways MasterCard. Calling 1-866-369-1283 will get you directly to a credit analyst and in my experience, a real person actually answers the phone within a couple of rings. I spoke with a very nice gentleman who quickly confirmed with Chrissy some personal information and that it was alright to speak with me. Then I handled the rest of the call, and we ended up getting an approval for the new World MasterCard and cancelling her old card. I am not sure how this will effect the bonus miles, but when she got the last card a few years ago, she had been approved for a lower level card and had only received 5k miles. For the couple points on the credit score, it was worth it to me to apply for the new card with the higher bonus and see if they allow it. You should know that when applying for a card with Barclay’s or with Bank of America, if you do not qualify for the highest tier card with the large bonus, they will automatically approve you for a lower tier card EDIT[which will sometimes come] with a significantly lower bonus. When I apply for a card with either of these two banks, I always call to confirm that the approval was for the highest tier card with the bonus that I am expecting. EDIT[Katherine reminds me in the comments that if you apply through THIS LINK for this card, you will get the 40k bonus miles if you are approved for either the Premier World MasterCard or the lower tier Platinum MasterCard.]
Our next call was to Bank of Hawaii, which is really Bank of America. I used the number that was on the screen I had captured, but of course did not have a reference number because they didn’t give me one. They were able to pull up her application, but even after she gave permission to talk to me, they insisted on talking to her directly. This was little awkward at some points because she had to ask me for things like what password and security questions I had used. They asked a whole bunch of questions about income, personal details, and why she wanted the card. Chrissy already has two other Bank of American Cards, but simply explained that we like to travel and prefer to use a card specific to the airlines that we are flying. She said that our next trip was to Hawaii and that was the reason for the card. This is not completely true, but it is important to note that you should always have a reason prepared for why you want a card. If you need to call, they will almost always ask you this question, and your chances of approval are pretty low if you just say you want the bonus miles. Finally the woman came back on the line and told her that she was approved for the card, but not before giving Chrissy a little bit of advice about her credit and how it is easy to get into credit trouble if you have too many cards.
At this point, we were now 3 for 3 and I was chatting with Chrissy and explaining that I didn’t apply for the 4th card because of the minimum spend required. She pointed out that we would have a large bill in the next couple of weeks for her tuition (she is two classes away from her second master’s degree) so we would probably be able to easily meet the requirements. Within minutes, I was back on the computer applying for the Citi Thank You Premier Visa. This card is another one of the best offers out there right now. They are offering 50k Thank You points with a $2500 spend in the first 3 months. Thank You points are not as valuable as Ultimate Rewards points since you can’t transfer them, so that along with the additional $2500 of spending is why this card originally got bumped from the churn. On the last step after the application was submitted, we were once again given a phone number to call. This time, in contrast to Bank of America, I was actually given a reference number so the call went smoothly. They confirmed and few quick pieces of information with Chrissy and then she passed the phone bank to me. After a couple of minutes on hold, the gentleman I was talking to came back and explained to me that Chrissy had reached her credit threshold with Citi and he could approve the card but would only be able to give her a $5000 limit. If we wanted, he was also willing to transfer up to $3400 of credit from one of her other cards over to this one. I decided to move some of the credit over from her Hilton Visa so she ended up with a $8400 limit on the new card. He finished up the processing and said she was all approved.
We ended up going 4 for 4 on this churn day. Any way you look at it, this is a success. There was only one instant approval and we had to make three follow-up phone calls, but her total bonus miles and points will come to 175,000 once she meets the minimum spends. That’s not too bad for a couple hours of work and the best part is, we can do it again with a whole other set of cards in as little as three months. I think I covered most of the process here, but if you have any questions about churn day specifics, feel free to ask. Hopefully this information along with your other research will help you to do your first credit card churn and give you a huge bump on your way to seeing more, spending less, and traveling the world.
Back in late 2011, TGI Friday’s and Club Carlson did a combination promo that gave you 4500 Club Carlson points if you were a member of the Friday’s Give Me More Stripes loyalty program and then became a new member of Club Carlson. Many people were puzzled by this odd combination of a hotel group and a restaurant chain, myself included. Then I did a little more digging and found out that the TGI Friday’s chain is owned by Carlson. With that piece of information, the promo made a little more sense. The goal was to get their current restaurant customers involved with their hotel loyalty program too and they could potentially grow business.
Now fast forward to the present and Carlson / TGI Friday’s has me puzzled again. I got an email today announcing a new promotion from TGI Friday’s Give Me More Stripes program and Travelocity. I already know that Travelocity is owned by Sabre Holdings and not Carlson, so I am not sure where this promotion partnership came from. Maybe Travelocity is going to start increasing their promotion of Carlson properties in some way or maybe they just wanted the Travelocity name on a big promotion that was focused on a different customer base. I guess we will have to wait and see.
In the meantime, here are the details of the promotion. Every time you eat at a TGI Friday’s restaurant between now and February 13th and you present your Give Me More Stripes card when paying, you will be entered to win a trip for 2 to anywhere in the world. In the fine print, you find out that they will be awarding 4 of these prizes and the prize is actually a $7500 one-time-use promotional code to be used at Travelocity. In addition, each day of the promo period, they will award 3 additional prizes of a $100 Travelocity promotion code voucher.
If you are not a member of Friday’s Give Me More Stripes program yet, you can go sign up and they will give you an entry just for joining. This is a great, easy to participate in promotion for my family. We already like dining at Friday’s and now we will have a chance to win free travel every time we do. Of course, when we pay, we will be using a Chase Sapphire Preferred card so that we are also getting 2 points per dollar on our bill. This just seems like a win-win deal to me and hopefully we are able to do just that. I could sure use a $7500 travel credit, couldn’t you? What would you do with yours?
This is one in a series of posts that I am doing based around the January credit card churn that we did for Chrissy. Before reading this post, I would suggest reading my previous post on What You Should Know about credit card churning, if you haven’t already. Remember that you always want to protect your credit and at least in the short term, card churning will definitely have an effect on your scores. For more information about what factors effect your credit score, check out myfico.com. Today I am going to explain a little bit about how I pick which cards to apply for. This is the process that I use and my recommendation for those starting out, but once again remember that I am not a credit professional, so take my advice accordingly.
When thinking about doing a credit card churn, the first thing you should look at is what, if any, your specific travel goals are. If you have specific travel goals, you need to look at each airline, hotel, and bank partner and decide which ones will help you reach those goals. For example, if you only like to stay at Starwood Properties, it wouldn’t make much sense for you to apply for a Hilton credit card. If your main goal is to get your family to Europe, the great sign-up bonus on the Southwest Airlines Visa card isn’t going to do you much good. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you will apply for all of the relevant cards at once, but it gives you a starting point. You should look at the available cards for each applicable partner and decide which ones have a big enough bonus to make it worth your application.
If your goal is just to travel more and you don’t have any specific trips in mind, you need to look at things a bit differently. Many people who churn credit cards fall into this category. We want to gain as many miles and points as we can, and once we have them, we start looking at the best ways to use them. If this is your goal, you will want to start out looking for the cards with the best offers and benefits out of all the cards that are currently available. It will not be as much about picking specific programs as it is about finding the highest available bonuses.
Once you have determined which set of cards you should be looking at, it is time to actually find the offers that you will be applying for. There are many places you can look for currently available credit card offers. These include airline and hotel program websites, issuing bank websites, online ads, and message boards. Most travel bloggers will also have a list of what they believe to be the best available offers. Since I am fairly new to the game, I don’t have a dedicated page up for credit cards yet, but you can see plenty of offers over at the Frugal Travel Guy, Million Mile Secrets, and many of the Boarding Area Bloggers. There are also forums at MilePoint and FlyerTalk that are dedicated to credit card offers. Many of the credit card links on blogs are affiliate links, so if you apply through those links, the blogger will receive a small commission when you are approved. If you enjoy reading a specific blog, this can be a nice way to give a little back to the blogger. You do need to be careful because sometimes the best available offers are not available through the affiliate links. As I said before, most of the blogs I mentioned will only have ads up for the best available offer, but you should always double check to make sure something better isn’t offered elsewhere.
I hope to have a dedicated credit card page up and available to you soon here at Indulge The Wanderlust. I do not have any affiliate accounts with any of the card issuing banks, so you can be sure that I will always do my best to only list the best available offers that I am aware of. In addition, whenever a really great new offer becomes available, I will be sure to share it in a post here on the blog as soon as I hear about it.
It is important to look in multiple places because as I hinted above, you are likely to find different offers available for the exact same credit card. There might be a significantly different bonus available if you click through an affiliate link rather than going right to the issuing bank’s webpage. Most bloggers try their best to only post the best public offer available. I have found that going directly to the Bank, Airline, or Hotel website will often give you an offer that has a lower bonus than you can get by applying for the same card through a different link. Sometimes, however, the best offer will only be available directly from the bank, and they won’t release it to anyone else to promote. You will never know until you check. Whenever there are different offers available, you want to click the “apply” link for the highest offer. I recommend that you also take screenshots of the offer page and any confirmation screens that show the bonus you are expecting to get. I have not had an issue with incorrect bonuses being applied, but several people have and you want to make sure you can argue your case if you have to.
Keeping all of the details of the available credit card offers straight can be a little bit confusing. I use a spreadsheet to assemble the main information for each offer and compare it to others. My spreadsheet categories include Issuing Bank, Bonus, Spend Requirement, and Annual Fee. I also usually make a note of the page where I found the link for that offer so I can go back and apply if that card ends up being one of my finalists. I browse through the available card offers on the web and anything that looks like a potential choice for me goes into the spreadsheet. Once I have compiled all of my information, I go back to the list and narrow the offers down to those that make the cut for this churn. Each time I do a churn, for myself and for my wife, I follow this process. This ensures that I am choosing the most lucrative offers available to me at that time.
When looking at your list, it is important to keep yourself from getting carried away. You will probably see all of those bonuses and want to apply for all of the cards right now. This would be a very bad idea for several reasons. First, applying for too many cards can really bring down your credit score. Second, It is unlikely that a bank will approve you for more than one new card at a time. Third, if you apply for all of the cards now, what will be left 90 days from now when you want to do another churn?
My general rule of thumb is to try to narrow my choices down to no more than one card for each main issuing bank. These banks include Chase, Citi, American Express, Barclays, Bank of America, and Capital One. Using this method, the most cards I would apply for on a single churn date is 6. Sometimes, especially with Chase or American Express, you might find more than one card that you are interested in for a single issuing bank. If this is the case, I would recommend choosing the best one and accepting that you will just have to wait a few months for the others. Applying for more at the same time will reduce the chances that you will have 100% approval, and you do not want to waste an inquiry for a card you are not approved for. Please understand that 6 is the maximum that I would recommend applying for and does not necessarily mean that you should apply for a card from each bank every time you churn. Barclays, Bank of America, and Capital One have limited credit card programs and I sometimes find that there is not a big enough offer for me to apply for one of their cards.
It is very important that you are happy with the bonus being offered before applying for a card. Most credit cards will only let you get a sign-up bonus once, so if you apply when there is a 25k mile bonus, you might end up missing out later in the year when they offer 50k or 75k. I am generally satisfied with a 50k sign-up bonus unless I know that the card in question has a history of offering higher amounts. For example, the Chase British Airways Visa offered a 100k bonus last summer and there are rumors they will repeat that offer, so I certainly wouldn’t sign up for a lower bonus offer right now, even if it was 50k. On the lower end of the spectrum, I applied for the Barclays US Airways MasterCard with a bonus of only 40k because I knew that they did not have any history of offering a larger amount. Before applying for a card, you should try to research past offers to make sure you are not losing out on potential miles or points. If you have trouble finding information about a specific card, leave a comment here and I will try to help you out.
Remember that the guidelines that I went through are just my suggestions and the process that I use. Everyone is free to make their own choices and even I sometimes deviate from what I described to you. This occurs most often with targeted offers or special limited time sign-up bonuses that will expire before my next scheduled churn.
Once you have your list of finalists, you are ready for your churn day. I usually set aside a couple of hours to do all the applications and make any follow-up calls that are necessary. I will describe the actual process for churn day in my next post, using Chrissy’s January churn as an example. Until then, if you want to get into credit card churning, spend some time researching the currently available offers. The cards that we will talk about for Chrissy’s churn will not necessarily be the best options for you since this was the third churn we did for her and she already has several of the cards that may be of interest to someone starting out.
Today we did a credit card churn for my wife, Chrissy. I plan to explain the process in detail with a couple of posts over the next few days, but I thought I should go over some general information first.
For those of you that are just getting involved with miles and points, churning credit cards is the process of signing up for multiple cards to get the often high sign-up bonuses for each card. A true credit card churn involves signing up for several new accounts, usually on the same day. People who are serious about credit card churning usually do this 3-4 times a year. In the past year, Chrissy and I have signed up and been approved for a total of 26 new credit cards and banked around 1.5 million miles and points as a result. In many cases, we are each getting one of the same card, but in a few cases, we have different cards as well.
Although the rewards can be huge, there are a few things you should know before jumping right in and applying for a bunch of credit cards. First of all, you should not even be thinking of doing this unless you have excellent credit. If you do not know your credit scores, you should definitely find out what they are before even looking at the options for card churning. There are several online services that will let you check and monitor your credit reports for a fee. I am not going to recommend a specific one here because I don’t have personal experience with any of them. I have access to Privacy Guard credit services for both myself and my wife as one of the perks for the type of checking account we have at our bank. The service doesn’t cost us anything and we can have a credit report run for each of us once a month. I always run a report the day before I do a card churn and then again a month later so I can see how my credit was effected by the churn.
Every time you apply for a credit card, an inquiry is placed on your credit report and in my experience, your score will usually drop between 2 and 8 points per inquiry. If you are planning to apply for multiple cards, it is very important to know the credit score you are starting with so you can estimate what your score will be after the churn. If your estimate is lower than you would like your credit score to be, you should not apply for as many cards. As Rick, the Frugal Travel Guy says, “Your credit is your most important asset.” Maintaining an excellent credit score is far more important that getting a few sign-up bonuses for credit cards. If you plan to buy a home or car within the next year or two, you should take a break from credit card churning and concentrate on getting your credit scores up as high as possible.
You should also only be considering churning if you do not have a problem paying off your credit card balances each month. For most of the cards, you do not get the bonus until you meet a minimum spend threshold. If you are not able to pay off the charges you made to get to that threshold, you can easily get into serious debt trouble. If you currently have unpaid credit card debt, you should work on paying that off before opening any new cards.
This type of credit card application process is known as churning because basically you are turning over your main credit cards every 90-120 days. This is usually done in bulk with several applications on the same day. Once you get the new cards, you switch most of your spending over to them in order to meet the new spend thresholds for the sign-up bonuses. I carry anywhere between 3 and 6 credit cards in my wallet at any one time. Those usually consist of a couple of my favorites that I keep for the benefits and a few that I am trying to meet spending requirements on. I would not recommend doing another churn until you have met the spend on all of your current cards. Once you have met the spend for a card, you can set that card aside and work on the next one. You do not want to cancel the cards as this will negatively effect your credit. Instead, I keep a stack of them in a file in my office and wait to negotiate when the annual fee is due. More on those negotiation tactics to come in a future post.
The reason that you want to apply for all of the cards on the same day is similar to the reason why you would want to wait 90 days between churns. Every recent inquiry on your credit report will make it less likely that you will get approved for a new card. Waiting 90 days pushes that last round of inquiries far enough away that the credit card issuers are a little less interested in them. 90 days is also a common time limit for meeting sign-up spend thresholds, so waiting this long will insure you have met the limits for most of your current cards. Applying for all of the cards in the same day will allow all of the banks to pull your credit file before any of the new inquiries are showing up on the report. If you space out the applications every few days, the inquiries will start to appear on your credit reports. You are much more likely to get approvals if you don’t have new inquiries within the past few days. Too many recent inquiries can be a warning sign for banks, so if you are planning on applying for 4 or 5 cards at the same time, you want to make sure you do the applications all at once.
I am providing you with what I consider to be the most important things to consider before deciding to do a credit card churn. I am by no means a credit expert and can not put enough emphasis on the fact that you need to make your own decisions when deciding to apply for credit. Please feel free to ask questions, but if you are not comfortable with what I have presented, make sure to consult a credit professional before moving forward with your churn.
My next post will explain how to pick the cards you want to apply for and how to find the best available offer for those cards. After that, we will get into the specifics of today’s churn for Chrissy.
I just wanted to send a quick note out to remind you about the Hilton Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale 24-Hour Bonus Event that is taking place on Facebook starting at noon today. I wrote about the sale last week and then did an update with additional stackable promos the next day. If you are planning to participate, make sure to read both posts so you are registered for the most points possible. I am still trying to decide on a reason and destination for my weekend stay, but hopefully even with a busy day today, I will be able to come up with something by the time the bonus event ends tomorrow at noon.
In addition, I wanted to make you all aware of a Hyatt promotion that seems to be sort of trying to match or at least compete with the Hilton sale. Hyatt posted the following information on Facebook this morning.
When you click on the link, it takes you to the Hyatt promotion page with all of the details and participating hotels. Now this promotion is not nearly as all encompassing or as rewarding at the Hilton Sale, but they are marketing it as a 48-hour sale that goes all day today and tomorrow (January 17-18). I can’t imagine that those dates were just a coincidence. They are not offering any bonus points in addition to the sale and discounts are only valid at hotels in the US, Canada, and the Caribbean. There are only 56 participating Park Hyatt and Andaz hotels and out of those, only 14 are giving the full 30% discount. If you are going to book and want the sale rate, you need to make sure to use the promo code C48JAN when making your reservation. I haven’t had a chance to check these discount rates against the normally available rates at these properties, so make sure to do your homework if you are going to book a room with this sale. Also, these sale rates are fully pre-paid and non-refundable, so make sure your plans are firm before booking.
Overall, if you have plans for a weekend stay coming up and you are confident that those plans will not change, today and tomorrow seem like a great time to book a place to stay. It looks like the Hilton promotion is still a much more valuable deal in terms of pricing, participating locations, and rewards. However, if you were planning a specific stay at a Park Hyatt or Andaz hotel, hopefully you can use this deal to save yourself some money.
I am writing this post to make sure everyone knows that even though you might get a fancy notification of a promotion, you always need to read the fine print and determine if the value you will get makes it worth participating. Sometimes airlines, hotels, and credit card companies launch promotions that will benefit almost no one but themselves and you will be better off if you just ignore them altogether. Here is my latest example from Chase.
Yesterday afternoon I received a mailing from Chase regarding my Continental OnePass Plus card. The front says “Math has never been so fun. Earn 50% more miles.” I was intrigued so I opened it up. There is a lovely picture of a tropical resort and it says “50% more miles could add up to a more exotic destination.” Sounds great. Then I got to the details.
Now through 2/29, I can earn 50% more miles. But wait, there are restrictions. I can only earn 50% more miles on transactions that earn 1 mile per dollar, so purchases such as Continental airline tickets that earn 2 miles per dollar do not count. In addition, the bonus doesn’t kick in until after I have spent $1000 on the card in each month. The maximum bonus mile accumulation during the promotional period is 50,000, which equates to $100,000 of spend.
Let me tell you why I think this is a terrible promotion.The biggest reason for me is that 1.5 miles per dollar is not that good of a deal. If I am spending money on travel or dining, I can earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar regularly on my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. For most of my online purchases, I can go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to earn 2 or more points per dollar. Those points can then be transferred 1:1 to Continental or United, so there is no way I would put those types of charges on this card.
That is just one example of a card that would be better to use in most cases. There are many other cards that have category spend bonuses as well. Also, many serious miles and points earners are almost always working on at least one minimum spend for a new card sign-up bonus. For me to take advantage of this OnePass card promotion, I would first need to spend $1000 on purchases that I am not applying to either bonus categories on one of my current cards or minimum spending requirements for a sign-up bonus on a new card. Then, and only then, if I make additional purchases in that month, I can earn an extra half mile per dollar. With my spending patterns, that really wouldn’t add up to much.
To compare with another promo with similar timing, my US Airways Mastercard has an offer that I am working on that will give me 15,000 miles for spending $1250 each month for 3 months, or a total of $3750. To get that same number of bonus miles with my Continental OnePass Card, I would have to spend $2000 before the bonuses kicked in and then another $30,000 over the course of the promotion. So I could either spend $32,000 or $3750. Which one would you pick?
In addition, the fact that they put a maximum of 50,000 bonus miles for $100,000 in spend of this offer is laughable. You would have to be crazy to put $100,000 on this card. Just off the top of my head, I can think of several cards that will get you far more in rewards for $100,000 or often much less in spend. The following benefits are in addition to the normal miles per dollar that you get for spending on these cards.
Chase British Airways Visa – $30,000 in spend will get you a Travel Together Ticket, which will let you bring a companion with you on you next reward flight for no additional miles.
Amex Delta Reserve Card – $60,000 in spend will get you 30,000 Delta MQM’s, which can be a huge help in attaining that next level of Elite Status.
Chase Southwest Visa Card – $100,000 in spend will put you just 10,000 miles away from a Companion Pass with Southwest that will allow you to take someone with you for free on every flight you fly with Southwest for a year. If you are spending $100,000 in two months, you will have no problem spending another $10,000 during the rest of the year.
There are other cards with similar offers as well, but I just wanted to give a couple of examples here to illustrate my point. You would be much better off going for a major bonus with a high spend threshold on another card than putting $100,000 on your Continental OnePass Card and getting just 50,000 extra redeemable miles.
To top it all off, they actually spent money to mail this to me. I can understand direct mail for an awesome promotion that you wouldn’t want to miss out on, but don’t you think that an email would have been enough to let me know about this one? Even if they were going to insist on mailing it, why didn’t I get it until 13 days into the first month of the promotion? By this point, the promotion is a quarter of the way over.
Overall, I would qualify this as a failed promotion and a tremendous waste of marketing dollars. I can’t see anyone reading the details of this offer and deciding to switch their spending over to this card to take advantage of it. This is especially mind boggling to me because some of the other cards that a person would do better to put their spend on are actually Chase cards. Next time Chase, please save your postage and printing costs and give me a bigger sign-up bonus instead.
When I wrote yesterday about the Hilton HHonors 24-Hour Bonus Event, it seems that I left out a couple of additional earning opportunities. Ric, the Loyalty Traveler, wrote a post detailing how you can combine a couple of other promos with the Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale and the 24-Hour Bonus Event if your stay occurs before March 31st. I won’t get into the details here, but I highly recommend that you go and read his post.
The quick version is that there are several airline programs currently running bonus promotions with Hilton HHonors. If you choose to bank your stay to one of these airlines, you will get the bonus airline miles for your stay and you will also get the Hilton HHonors bonus points that they are offering with the sale and bonus event.
In addition, Hilton HHonors is also currently running their More Points Promotion that gives you 1000 bonus points for each night stay or 5000 bonus points for each 2 night weekend stay. There is a list of non-participating hotels for this promo, so make sure you check before making a reservation.
Both the More Points Promotion and the Airline bonus promotions have expiration dates of March 31st. If you need a hotel within that time frame for a weekend stay, you can potentially earn 8500 HHonors points and 1000-2012 airline miles for a two night stay or 3500 HHonors points and 1000-2012 airline miles for each single night stay.
One thing you should note that I didn’t mention yesterday is that bookings made through the Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale 24-Hour Bonus Event are fully pre-paid, non-refundable, and not able to be changed. I don’t think that I have ever personally needed to cancel a hotel room, but I understand that this is an issue for a lot of people and you should be aware of it before booking.
With these added HHonors and airline bonuses, the first quarter is looking better and better for Hilton hotel stays. You will really have to look at the numbers when deciding if you should take advantage of the multiple Hilton promos or the Club Carlson Triple Points promo. Whichever works best for you, I am really excited that we are only 13 days into the new year and we are already seeing some great bonus earning opportunities from the hotel industry. These promos are especially nice for me because I do not travel at all for work and as a leisure traveler, weekends are usually when I need a hotel room. If this is how we are starting out, I can’t wait to see what the rest of this year has in store for us.