50% Bonus Miles on US Airways Mastercard Spend + Aviator Red Card on the Way!

The Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard is on the way! In the meantime, enjoy 50% bonus miles on select categories!

The Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard is on the way! In the meantime, enjoy 50% bonus miles on select categories!

If you’re a US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard holder, you’ll be pleased to know that the BarclayAAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard is “on it’s way.” Don’t get too excited because “on it’s way” could mean it within 1-4 months. Barclays estimates that cardholders will receive their newly converted cards between April 1 – July 15, 2015. To tide you over until then, Barclays is offering cardholders a 50% bonus on all spending. This 50% bonus applies to purchases made through June 30, 2015. Cardholders can earn up to 10,000 bonus miles this way, though the miles won’t be deposited into your account until 6-8 weeks after the promotion end date.

To register for the 50% spend bonus, check your email for a registration link. I would provide it here but I’m not entirely sure it works. After clicking on the registration link, I was taken to the Barclays homepage and instructed to log into my account. I did, but I was simple directed to my account page – displaying my Barclay Arrival Plus Mastercard information. There was no indication that I had actually been registered for the promotion. I also didn’t receive an email confirmation, so I guess calling Barclays is inevitable. I recommend you do the same to avoid putting your bonus spend on this card and not getting the bonus miles credited. I don’t know about you, but I sure as heck am not going to remember to follow up on this promotion in July, so calling (866-419-0881) seems like the safest option. 

Keep in mind that Barclays will not be accepting applications for the AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard once the US Airways – American Airlines merger is complete. The only way to get a hold of this card is to have the Barclays US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard, which will then be converted to the Aviator Red card. I’ve compared the Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Red card with the Citi Platinum AAdvantage card, coming to the conclusion that the Aviator card is superior. That’s mainly because you’ll be able to use the card for American Express gift card purchases without incurring cash advance fees. Not to mention Barclays frequently offers bonus miles for certain merchant categories, which isn’t something Citi offers. Plus, I’ve had one too many identity theft instances with Citi, so while I do think there is value in having both versions of the AAdvantage card, I’ve closed my Citi card and probably won’t reopen it for any long-term business.

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Points and Miles Checklist: Things to Do in March

Things to do for March: Get a new stock photo

Things to do for March: Get a new stock photo…

Between the many hotel devaluations and the airline industry’s continued assault on it’s most loyal customers, it’s been a rough month for those in the points and miles game. There’s nothing to be done about these things except to adjust – or say “screw it” and walk away from it altogether. For those choosing the first option, there’s a long list of things to get through before the end of the month. Here is the points and miles checklist for March:

❑ New Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades. To start things off on a positive note, congrats to those of you who’ve managed to earn Hyatt Diamond status! Not only do you get to feel superior to us lowly Platinum members, but you’re in for a treat because four new Suite Upgrade Awards were added to your account yesterday! These are good for stays of up to 7 nights (both paid rates and Points + Cash rates qualify) and must be redeemed by February 28, 2016. Also worth noting is that starting this month, Guest of Honor benefits kick in, which means Diamond members can extend their elite benefits to friends and family members on award stays.

❑ Club Carlson Triple Points Promotion. Check your email this morning and you may be in for a pleasant surprise. Club Carlson is targeting some members with a triple points offer on all stays through March 31, 2014. There’s no need to register for anything – just book your stay and rake in 60 points per $1. On a $150 hotel booking, that translates to earnings of 9,000 points – enough for a free night at a Category 1 hotel! Just make sure you hold onto the promotion email, in case there are issues with your points getting credited and you’re told it’s because you were not targeted for this promotion.

❑ Link Your SPG and Uber Accounts. You’ve probably heard it elsewhere since I couldn’t be bothered to write about it in a timely manner (too many episodes of Real Housewives of Atlanta to get through last week), but Starwood and Uber have partnered up, allowing SPG members to earn at least 1 Starpoint per $1 spent on their Uber rides [Que shameless plug for referral link]. To take advantage of this new partnership, you’ll need to link your SPG and Uber accounts and complete one qualifying Starwood stay this calendar year.

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Marriott Rewards Implements New Point Expiration Policy

Marriott Points Expiration

Starting February 1, members with inactive accounts will forfeit their points 

Marriott wants you to know you’re a valued member (according to their email) and as such, they’re going to start imposing expiration dates on your hard earned points. Starting February 1, 2016 Marriott and Ritz Carlton Rewards members with no account activity in the previous 24 months will lose their points. At least they’re giving you a head start. Following this week’s massive category changes which saw 986 hotels moving up in category, they’re really not giving us much incentive to keep accruing points, so maybe it makes sense that they’re going to start taking them away. 

If you’re wondering what counts as “qualifying activity” on your account, Marriott outlines the following:

  • Make a paid (or redemption) stay at any of Marriott’s 3,800+ participating hotels worldwide.
  • Redeem points
  • Make a purchase using a Marriott Rewards credit card
  • Earn points with program partners
  • Purchase points
  • Hold a qualifying meeting or event, including earning points through the Rewarding Events  Program.
  • Earning points or miles on incidental charges at qualifying brands.
  • Marriott Vacation Club owners exchanging their weeks or MVC points for Marriott Rewards points.
  • Converting points to airline miles or airline miles to points.

Transferring, gifting, or earning points through “social media programs” like #MRPoints (am I the only one hearing about this for the first time?) do not qualify as qualifying account activities. At least not when it comes to keeping your points from expiring. Marriott Lifetime Silver, Gold, and Platinum members are the only members exempt from this new point expiration policy.

Your best bet for keeping your Marriott points from expiring is to pick up a Marriott Rewards credit card or transfer Ultimate Rewards points from time to time. While point transfers don’t fall into the qualifying activity bucket, Ultimate Rewards points are a form of earned points, so it should be fine. No word yet on whether Marriott wants to piss off their members further and disqualify Ultimate Rewards transfers as a method of keeping accounts active.

If you don’t see much use for a Marriott or Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card, you can always just use Marriott’s Shop My Way portal for online purchases instead. You’ll earn at least 1 Marriott point per $1 spent and keep your points from expiring.

I actually don’t think Marriott’s new point expiration policy is that terrible, since ideally you shouldn’t hold onto an account balance for that long without earning or redeem part of it anyway. This new policy really just affects hoarders and those people who have orphan points from a random Marriott stay (guilty).

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

Marriott and Ritz Carlton Hotels You Can’t Book with a Free Night Certificate After March 19, 2015

Redeem your free night certificate at the Ritz Carlton St. Thomas by March 19, 2015

Redeem your free night certificate at the Ritz Carlton St. Thomas by March 19, 2015

Yesterday, Marriott announced its annual category changes, which will go into effect on March 20, 2015. Over 1,300 hotels will be affected. I got pretty dizzy scrolling through the list, so my count may be slightly off, but it looks like 986 hotels are moving up one category while 359 are moving down. Quite a few of the hotels moving up are currently Category 4/Tier 4 properties on the Marriott and Ritz Carlton rewards chart. So if you picked up a free night certificate (good at Category/Tier 1-4 hotels) through the Chase Marriott Rewards or Ritz Carlton Visa, you may not be able to redeem it for the hotel of your choice after March 19. Please note, that the free night certificate from the Marriott Visa can only be redeemed at Category 1-4 Marriott hotels while the free night from the Ritz Carlton Visa can only be applied to Tier 1-4 Ritz Carlton hotels.

On the same note, there are 21 Marriott hotels moving down from Category 5 to 4, so if none of the current Category 4 hotels appeal to you, then simply wait until after March 19 and you’ll have a few more options to choose from. I’ve done the dirty work and gone through the entire list of 1,300+ Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels, picking out the ones you will and won’t be able to book with a free night certificate after March 19, 2015: 

Ritz Carlton Hotels Moving up from Tier 4 to 5

  • Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne
  • Ritz Carlton South Beach 
  • Ritz Carlton Bal Harbour 
  • Ritz Carlton Naples
  • Ritz Carlton St. Thomas 

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Reminder: Use Your Hyatt Suite Upgrades Before February 28!

Hyatt Carmel Highlands Townhouse Spa Suite living room

Use your Suite Upgrade Award to book the Townhouse Spa Suite at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands

If you’re a Hyatt Diamond member with expiring Suite Upgrade Awards that you haven’t redeemed yet, you have until February 28 to do so. These upgrades can be applied to paid rates and Points + Cash awards of up to 7 nights. I wouldn’t recommend using them for 1-2 night stays, since you’re better off upgrading shorter stays with 6,000 Gold Passport points per night instead. Each Suite Upgrade Awards can be applied to stays after February 28, so you don’t have to worry about redeeming them in the near future. Regardless of whether you’ve qualified for Diamond status past February 28 and are expecting 4 more suite upgrade awards on March 1, it would be a real shame to let these go to waste. You can always make a refundable booking, call Hyatt to apply the Suite Upgrade Award to the stay, then cancel or ask for a date change if your travel plans don’t pan out. 

The advantage of applying a Suite Upgrade Award to a stay isn’t just that it will get you into a better room, but at some hotels you get club room access which is otherwise reserved for Diamond members and/or premium room bookings. So if you’re like me and will be losing your Diamond status on March 1, you can at least still retain these two benefits of elite membership for 1-3 stays.

Re-qualifying for Hyatt Diamond Status

If you want to extend our Diamond status past February 28, 2015, you can do it cheaply by mattress running with Points + Cash stays. Picking up the Chase Hyatt Visa can make this feat slightly easier, since cardholders can earn 5 stays/10 nights towards elite status by spending $60,000 in a calendar year. Not only do you get 1/5 of the way towards Diamond status (based on stays rather than nights), but you can use 50,000 of those points earned from the card to cover 20 Points + Cash nights, earning you the 25 stays required for Diamond status. You’ll still need to cover $1,000 for the cash portion of these awards, which will require another $45,000 in spend on the Barclay Arrival Plus card. Overall, you’re looking at $105,000 in manufactured spending and 20 mattress runs to reach Diamond elite status and earn another 4 Suite Upgrade Awards.

If you’re mattress running coincides with Hyatt’s 20% award rebate promotion, you’ll have the benefit of receiving a total of 10,000 points back, which essentially saves you $10,000 of future manufactured spending. This brings your total spend down to $95,000. Whether the benefits earned are worth channeling all of that spend towards a series of mattress runs will depend on your travel needs. 

This is my long-winded way of reminding you to use your Diamond Suite Upgrade Awards before they expire, book a stay and cancel later if it doesn’t work out, and if you want to get a shiny new set of upgrades after February 28, just spend $100,000+ and you’re good to go (sounds insane, but it’s totally doable). Once you have this task checked off your list, be sure to refer to the February points and miles checklist for other expiring promotions and action items to complete before the end of the month.

Where do you plan on utilizing your Hyatt Diamond suite upgrades? 

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

Full IHG Rewards PointBreaks List: February 25 – May 31, 2015

Crowne Plaza Suites Tequendama Bogota

Crowne Plaza Suites Tequendama Bogota

IHG has released the full PointBreaks list for the quarter, after sharing a preview with us on Sunday. As promised, I’ve gone through the list and picked out all of the Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, and Hotel Indigo properties – since these are the hotels most of you are interested in anyway.

Asia, Middle East, Africa

  • Intercontinental Phnom Penh (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
  • Crowne Plaza Chongqing New North Zone (China)
  • Crowne Plaza Jinan City Center (China)
  • Crowne Plaza Tianjin Jinnan (China)
  • Crowne Plaza Xiangyang (China)
  • Crowne Plaza Zhongshan Wing On City (China)
  • InterContinental Lhasa Paradise (China)
  • Crowne Plaza Ube (Japan)

Europe

  • Crowne Plaza Vilnius (Lithuania)
  • Crowne Plaza Bucharest (Romania)

Central and South America

  • Crowne Plaza Suites Tequendama Bogota (Columbia)
  • Crowne Plaza San Jose Corobici (Costa Rica)
  • Hotel Indigo San Jose Forum (Costa Rica)

Mexico

  • Crowne Plaza Tuxtla Gutierrez

These hotels can be booked for 5,000 points per night between February 25 – May 31, 2015. There are also some decent Holiday Inn properties in Europe, which might come in handy for those of you who are headed over there to take advantage of the weaker currency. Since the more popular chains are in slightly more obscure destinations, these Holiday Inn properties will be more appealing in comparison – especially at just 5,000 points per night. 

If you’re interested in booking one of these properties, be sure to refer to my earlier post on how to quickly stock up on points in time for a redemption. Remember, you can only make two bookings per hotel. I would advise against speculative booking, since it means someone else with more solid travel plans might miss out. 

What do you think of this quarter’s IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks list?

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

A (Better) List of Starwood Hotels Changing Categories in 2015

St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort Abu Dhabi - one of the many hotels moving up one category

St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort Abu Dhabi – one of the many hotels moving up one category

Starwood Preferred Guest has announced its annual category changes, which will affect a total of 255 properties that will either move up or down one category. These changes will go into effect on March 10, 2015, so if a hotel you want to book is moving up in category, you should definitely book it before that deadline. The PDF outlining the changes isn’t very well organized, so for the sake of convenience, I’ve sorted all 255 hotels by the category they are moving from/to. 

Hotels Moving Up 

Category 6 to 7

  • W Retreat Koh Samui
  • The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort
  • The St. Regis San Francisco

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My Week in Manufactured Spending

The coveted Target Prepaid REDcards

The coveted Target Prepaid REDcards

Lately, I’ve been slacking when it comes to manufactured spending. So much so, that other than a monthly $1,000 credit card load, I’ve been letting someone else use my Serve card. I did put forth some effort and pick up five Redbird cards on my trip to Michigan but after a conversation with Kendra from Points and Pixie Dust, I realized I need to step it up. The one trip I have planned so far is covered. At this point, I’m trying to stock up on Arrival miles in case of mistake fares, cheap summer business class tickets to Europe and hotel stays. I’m beginning to step things up a bit and thought I’d share a summary of my week in manufactured spending:

The Redbird nightmare. Activating my temporary Redbird cards has been nothing short of a masochistic nightmare. Canceling the old Serve accounts was easily done online. The whole thing took a minute, tops. However once the account was closed, I knew (based on my experience switching from Bluebird to Serve) that activating Redbird was not going to be easy. So I started by registering one of the cards in my younger sister’s name. Since she’s never had a Bluebird or Serve card before, I figured it would be hassle-free. Not so. After in-putting all of the information, I was instructed to fax Amex a copy of her Social Security Number and driver’s license to verify her identity. 

Putting that on the back burner, I went about registering the other Redbird cards. After two hours on the phone, I was told that even though my mom’s Serve account was closed, it appeared she had another one open with her SSN but someone else’s name. I asked if they could just close that account, but was told they can’t do that unless I fax them a copy of her SSN and driver’s license. Not wanting to deal with that drama at the moment, I decided to focus my attention on the other three accounts, expecting the same hassle. It ended up being surprisingly easy, with each registration going smoothly without any paperwork required. First thing Tuesday (or Wednesday, depending on how worn out I’ll be by this saga), I’m faxing over the information Amex requested and keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t result in some kind of identity theft.

American Express Gift Cards. Maybe I’m being greedy, but in case Redbird takes a nosedive, I want to have a back-up ms tool. I’ve been buying Amex gift cards and unloading them via American Express for Target for a while and decided it was time to finally put that EIN to use. I ordered $8,000 worth of business gift cards, which were approved shortly after. While I was at it, I decided to place an order for my brother as well. Since I had just purchased $8,000 worth of business cards, it totally slipped my mind that I couldn’t order more than $5,000 worth of personal gift cards. It wasn’t until after the order had been placed that I had realized I’d gone over the $5,000 daily limit by $1,000. I expected the order to be cancelled, but about an hour later I got an email verifying that my order had been approved. 

American Express for Target loads. What I find really annoying is how I can purchase $8,000 worth of Amex gift cards without a problem but a $900 charge at Target gets sets off a security alert. So when I was out stocking up on non-essentials at Target, I thought I might as well load $1k or two on my Amex for Target cards. I should have known better than to whip out a Bank of America card because that waste of plastic always gets declined for anything over $500. My Club Carlson Visa, which is normally such a trooper, declined as well. Thankfully I was spared the embarrassment of a third decline when the Barclay Arrival Plus card went through.

Next, I had to reassure the banks that I wasn’t an identity thief nor had my card been compromised by one. US Bank was very easy – a simple text message response and my card was working again. Bank of America, always the troublemaker, wouldn’t let me off that easy. After responding with a text message, as instructed, they asked me to call them to verify that the purchases I’d made were legitimate – 45 minutes later I still had made no progress, other than finishing last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, so I gave up. They called me back, oddly, and proceeded to put me on hold for another 20 minutes. Seriously Bofa, get it together! 

All the complaining aside, I think I had a pretty productive week when it comes to manufactured spending. I did $14,900 worth of Amex/Amex for Target purchases and managed another $3,000 of online Serve loads before those cards were cancelled. I do hope the Redbirds arrive before the end of the month so I can get at least one load in before my limit resets to $5,000 next month. Either way, Redbird is going to make meeting future spending requirements much easier, so whatever hassles I’m enduring now will be worth it.

What have you done in terms of manufactured spending last week?

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

IHG PointBreaks List Coming February 24, 2015!

Crowne Plaza Suites Tequendama Bogota

Crowne Plaza Suites Tequendama Bogota

It’s that time of year again: IHG Rewards Club will be announcing the first PointBreaks list of the quarter, consisting of 140 properties that can be booked for just 5,000 points per night. A preview has just been released to drum up excitement:

  • InterContinental Lhasa Paradise (Lhasa, XZ, China)
  • Crowne Plaza Suites Tequendama (Bogota, Colombia)
  • Hotel Indigo San Jose Forum (San Jose, Costa Rica)
  • Holiday Inn Genoa City (Genova, Italy)
  • Holiday Inn Express Tampa-Anderson Rd/Veterans Exp (Tampa, Florida)
  • Staybridge Suites West Edmonton (West Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
  • Candlewood Suites Bloomington (Bloomington, Indiana) 

The full list will become available for booking on February 24, valid for stays between February 25 – May 31, 2015. The properties in the preview list look promising, though I will definitely check out the entire list once it’s published and provide a post summarizing the most desirable properties (i.e. mainly Intercontinental and Crown Plaza hotels). 

While the full list isn’t available yet, it’s good to keep at least 5,000 – 10,000 points in your IHG Rewards account in case any great redemptions come along. Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers to IHG can take a day to complete, so you might want to start the transfer process now so the points arrive in time for a possible redemption on Tuesday.

You can also buy points for $11.50 – $13.50 per 1,000 depending on the number:

  • 1,000 – 10,000 points for $13.50 per 1,000 points
  • 11,000 – 25,000 points for $12.50 per 1,000 points
  • 26,000 – 60,000 points for $11.50 per 1,000 points

If you’re able to book a great hotel for $57.50 – $67.50 per night, buying points for a PointBreaks redemption can definitely be worth it. Points can also be purchased at a cheaper rate of 0.7 cents each through the Points & Cash trick, bringing the cost of a PointBreak award down to $35 per night. The folks at IHG Rewards are well aware of the Points & Cash trick. Once they figure out how to stop it, they may start penalizing accounts that took advantage of this trick excessively. So proceed with caution on that one.

Each member is limited to two reservations per hotel, to prevent some of the mass bookings/cancellations that occurred in the past. This policy should still provide you with plenty of flexibility to make travel plans around a PointBreaks award.

What do you think of this quarter PointBreaks preview list? Do any of the hotels appeal to you?

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

How to Maximize Point Savings with Hyatt’s 20% Award Rebate

Save 6,000 points per night at the Park Hyatt Sydney

Save 6,000 points per night at the Park Hyatt Sydney

As most of you know by now, Hyatt is offering Chase Hyatt Visa cardholders a 20% rebate on award redemption through July 31, 2015. This 20% discount applies to award stays, Points + Cash redemptions, suite upgrades, dining and spa activities. If you don’t already have a Chase Hyatt Visa, you can still get one and be eligible for this promotion as long as you register  by March 31, 2015.

Some of you have been asking me whether this 20% rebate affects my previous assessment that using Arrival miles for Points + Cash awards is cheaper than straight point redemptions, if you’re earning miles from spend (manufactured or otherwise). Now that Hyatt award redemptions are discounted by 20%, are Arrival Points + Cash redemptions still cheaper? I’ve put a new table together, listing the discounted point requirements along with the amount of spending required to accrue those points.

Scroll right to see calculations past Category 6

 Category 1Category 2Category 3Category 4Category 5Category 6Category 7
Points Per Night with 20% discount4,000 points6,400 points9,600 points12,000 points16,000 points20,000 points24,000 points
Spending on Hyatt/ Sapphire/ Freedom/ Ink Card$4,000$6,400$9,600$12,000$16,000$20,000$24,000
Points + Cash2,000 + $503,200 + $554,800 + $756,500 + $1008,000 + $12510,000 + $15012,000 + $300
Spending on Hyatt/ Sapphire/ Freedom/ Ink Card + Arrival Plus Card$2,000
+ $2,250 Arrival Miles


Total: $4,250
$3,200
+ $2,475 Arrival Miles


Total: $5,675
$4,800
+ $3,375 Arrival Miles


Total: $8,175
$6,000
+ $4,500 Arrival Miles


Total: $10,500
$8,000
+ $5,625 Arrival Miles


Total: $13,625
$10,000
+ $6,750 Arrival Miles


Total: $16,750
$12,000 +13,500
Arrival Miles


Total: $25,500
Cash Rate
When to book through Ultimate RewardsCash rate is $48 or lessCash rate is $80 or lessCash rate is $120 or lessCash rate is $144 or lessCash rate is $192 or lessCash rate is $240 or lessCash rate is $288 or less
When to Redeem Arrival Plus MilesCash rate is $88 or lessCash rate is $142 or lessCash rate is $213 or lessCash rate is $266 or lessCash rate is $355 or lessCash rate is $444 or lessCash rate is $534 or less

Based on the rate of point accrual, Points + Cash redemptions combined with Arrival miles aren’t always going to be cheaper. This applies solely to Category 1 and 7 redemptions. At these levels, the amount of spend required to accrue points is less spend than for a Points + Cash award. For the remaining categories, you are still looking at saving $725 – $3,250 in spend per night by redeeming a Points + Cash award.

Before redeeming Gold Passport points, be sure to scroll down further and check the rates at which it makes more sense to redeem Ultimate Rewards points (through the Ultimate Rewards travel site) or Arrival miles for a Hyatt stay. This way, when a Category 1 Hyatt stay comes to $88 per night, you’ll know that using Arrival miles is better than a Hyatt Gold Passport redemption, regardless of the 20% rebate. This should give you a good sense of how to maximize your points and miles during this promotion.

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram