When Does it Make Sense to BUY a Business Class Ticket?

British Airways Business Class Photo credit: Foter / CC BY

British Airways Business Class
Photo credit: Foter / CC BY

Does it ever make sense to pay cash for a business class ticket? For the average person, the answer to that questions is “no.” Most of us book our premium cabin seats with frequent flyer miles earned via credit card sign-up bonuses or manufactured spending. Normally, a domestic business class ticket costs 50,000 miles roundtrip (possibly less if you’re booking a distance-based award), a roundtrip to Europe is 50,000, while Asia is around 110,000. This varies somewhat by program, but you get the idea.

Every once in a while, airlines will offer heavily discounted business class tickets to Europe. These are not mistake fares but rather a result of airlines duking it out over competing routes. For example, Virgin Atlantic regularly offers round-trip Upper Class tickets to London for under $2,000 round-trip. A few weeks ago there was a fare war between OneWorld and SkyTeam airlines that resulted in sub $2,000 fares between the West Coast and Europe. Booking these fares on the Barclay Arrival Plus card and redeeming miles would require 200,000 Arrival Miles, with 20,000 miles redeposited since it would be classified as a travel redemption. 

Earning 180,000 Arrival Miles would require $90,000 in manufactured spending on the Arrival Plus card. This is at least $10,000 less than you’d typically need for a business class award with a major airline rewards program (100,000+ miles round-trip). Not to mention you’ll be responsible for taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges on award redemptions. Some discounted fares do earn miles, so keep that in mind when weighing weather to redeem miles or use Arrival Plus miles for your business class ticket.

Below is a chart outlining the miles required by the major frequent flyer programs for saver level business class tickets to various regions. Below that is a break down of when it makes more sense to pay for a business class ticket and redeem Arrival miles. This is based on the amount of manufactured spending required with a co-branded credit card that earns 1 mile per $1 as well as the SPG Amex with the 5,000 point transfer bonus (for every 20,000 transferred) factored in. 

Business Class Awards (Round-trip)

Note: Delta’s redemption rates are based on their award chart valid after January 1, 2015

 
Alaska
American
Delta
United
US Airways
US & Canada50,000 - 65,000 miles50,000 miles50,000 miles50,000 miles50,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs over $1,110 - $1,440


or

$885 - $1,220 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,110




or

$885 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,110




or

$885 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,110Ticket costs over$1,110





or

$885 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Hawaii80,000 - 90,000 miles75,000 miles80,000 miles80,000 miles80,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs over $1,775 - $2,000

or

$1,440 -$1,665 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,665



or

$1,330 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,775



or

$1,440 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,775Ticket costs over $1,775




or

$1,440 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Mexico60,000 - 65,000 miles60,000 miles60,000 miles60,000 miles60,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs over $1,330 - $1,440


or

$1,110 - $1,220 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,330




or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,330




or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,330Ticket costs over $1,330





or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Central America60,000 miles60,000 miles60,000 miles60,000 miles60,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs over $1,330

or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,330


or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,330


or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,330Ticket costs over $1,330



or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
South America70,000 - 125, 000 miles100,000 miles80,000 - 125,000 miles70,000 - 110,000 miles60,000 miles off-peak

100,000 miles saver
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs over $1,555 - $2.775


or

$1,330 - $2,220 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $2,220




or

$1,775 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,775 - $2,775



or

$1,440 - $2,220 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,555 - $2,440


or

$1,330 - $2,000 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,333 - $2,220




or

$885 - $1,775 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Caribbean60,000 miles60,000 miles60,000 miles60,000 miles50,000 miles off-peak

60,000 miles saver
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs over $1,330


or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,330



or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,330



or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $1,330Ticket costs over $1,110/$1,330



or

$885/$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Europe100,000 - 150,000 miles100,000 miles125,000 miles115,000 miles

140,000 on partner airlines
100,000 miles
When to Redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs over $2,220 - $3,330

or

$1,775 - $2,665 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $2,220



or

$1,775 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $2,775



or

$2,220 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $2,555


or

$3,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $2,220




or

$1,775 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Asia100,000 - 150,000 miles100,000 - 110,000 miles140,000 miles130,000 - 140,000 miles


150,000 - 160,000 miles on partner airlines
110,000 - 120,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs over $2,220 - $3,330


or

$1,775 - $2,665 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $2,220




or

$1,775 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $2,775




or

$2,220 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $2,555



or

$3,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $2,220





or

$1,775 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Middle East125,000 - 145,000 miles135,000 miles140,000 miles140,000 miles

160,000 miles on partner airlines
120,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs over $2,775 -$3,220


or

$1,885 - $2,665 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $3,000




or

$2,440 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $3,110




or

$2,555 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $3,110 or $3,555Ticket costs over $2,665





or

$2,220 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Africa125,000 - 155,000 miles150,000 miles140,000 - 160,000 miles140,000 miles

160,000 miles on partners
110,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs over $2,775 - $3,440


or

$2,220 - $2,775 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $3,330




or

$2,665 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $3,110 - $3,555



or

$2,555 - $2,885 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $3,110 or $3,555Ticket costs over $2,440





or

$2,000 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Oceania/Pacific110,000 - 160,000 miles135,000 miles160,000 miles130,000 - 140,000 miles


150,000 - 160,000 miles on partners
110,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs over $2,440 - $3,555



or

$2,000 - $2,885 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $3,000





or

$2,440 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over Ticket costs over $3,555



or

$130,000 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs over $2,885 - $3,555Ticket costs over $2,444






or

$2,000 vs. MS on SPG Amex

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3,000 Bonus Points for Booking with the Club Carlson App

3,000 bonus Gold points from the Club Carlson mobile app

3,000 bonus Gold points from the Club Carlson mobile app

Club Carlson has just announced a pretty generous bonus point promotion for mobile app bookings: Earn 3,000 bonus Gold points for using the app to book a hotel through November 16, 2014. No, it’s not another 50,000 point bonus, but you can get the 3,000 point bonus multiple times during the promotional period. Award bookings or Points + Cash awards are not eligible for the bonus. Eligible stays must be completed by November 16, 2014. The 3,000 bonus Gold points will post after your completed stay, along with your standard point earnings.

This 3,000 point bonus is enough to get you a third of the way to a free night at a Category 1 hotel, which requires 9,000 points per night. Or use it towards a Points + Cash award, which starts at 5,000 points and variable cash co-pays for a Category 1-3 hotel.

Club Carlson is one of the best hotel loyalty programs when it comes to earning free nights (along with Hilton HHonors, if you can believe it). It takes just $450 in spend for a standard Red member of the Club Carlson program to earn a free night at a Category 1 hotel (9,000 points per night). Compare that to a program like Hyatt Gold Passport, where the same amount of spend would get you barely halfway to a free night at a Category 1 hotel.

The bottom line is this 3,000 point booking bonus, stacked with Club Carlson’s already generous earning structure, can make for quite a point haul. When you factor in the last night free benefit of the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa, you can stretch the points you’ve earned even further.  

To recap, here are the details of the Club Carlson mobile booking promotion:

  • Earn 3,000 bonus Gold points when you book a hotel via the mobile booking app
  • Bookings must be made and stays must be completed by November 16, 2014.
  • Only point-earning rates are eligible for the 3,000 point bonus.
  • Award nights or Points + Cash awards do not qualify.
  • Download the Club Carlson app on iTunes or Android

Does this promotion coincide with your travel plans?

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Chase Freedom Quarterly Bonus: 5% Cash Back at Department Stores

Chase Freedom Quarterly Bonus Calendar

Chase Freedom Quarterly Bonus Calendar

Registration for the Chase Freedom quarterly bonus category is now open. Cardholders who register get 5% cash back/5 points per $1 spent at Amazon, Zappos, and select department stores between October 1 – December 31. The bonus is paid out on the first $1,500 spent during the quarter, which is still quite generous considering it falls right in the middle of the holiday shopping season. 

Most of us do a lot of shopping with these merchants during a regular quarter, so these categories are useful regardless of timing. However, considering Americans spend an average of $1,000 on holiday gifts each year, this presents a great opportunity to earn the full 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points/$75 cash back with the Chase Freedom card this quarter.

If you’re wondering what “select department stores” refers to, Chase has listed the following as qualifying for the 5% quarterly bonus:

  • Baskins
  • Bealls
  • Beiter’s
  • Belk
  • The Big Store
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Bon-Ton, including
  • Bergner’s
  • Boston Store
  • Carson’s
  • Elder-Beerman
  • Herbergers   
  • Parisian
  • Younkers
  • Boscov’s
  • Bradley’s
  • Burke’s
  • Cayman’s
  • Cee & Cee Department Store
  • Charles
  • Christensen’s
  • Conway
  • Cook Brothers
  • Dillard’s
  • Flemington Department Store
  • Getz’s
  • Hudson’s
  • JC’s 5 Star
  • Jeffery
  • Joe Brand
  • Loehmann’s
  • Lord & Taylor
  • Magic Mart
  • Max & Jill
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Rains
  • RH Renny
  • Saks Fifth Ave and Off 5th
  • Sam Moon
  • Stanley Korshak
  • Uhan’s Department Store
  • Uniway
  • Von Maur
  • Weaver Store 

This is a pretty vast list, though personally I haven’t heard of about half of these department stores. In addition, the following stores may also qualify for 5% cash back/5 points per $1:

  • JC Penney
  • Kohl’s
  • Macy’s
  • Nordstrom
  • Sears

Hopefully you can leverage this quarter’s 5% bonus along with coupons and promotions to get the most out of your holiday shopping. If you plan on shopping with some of these merchants online, you can often get a 10% discount for signing up to receive offers via email. This comes in handy later, when the store inevitably sends out special offers and coupon codes for additional purchases. Stacked with an online shopping portal, you can easily knock 20% off your holiday shopping this season.

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Plink App Shuts Down Without Advance Notice

Plink App Shuts Down

This isn’t quite as devastating as the news that Amazon Payments is shutting down, but it’s a loss nonetheless: The shopping app Plink has closed it’s doors without so much as a warning. I got an email at 5:00 PM today in my antiquated Yahoo email account, letting me know that as of that second, Plink would be shutting down for good. 

The eulogy email goes on to cite the lack of funding as the reason for Plink’s demise and expresses gratitude to “our loyal members who have supported us for the last three years.” You would think they would at least repay that loyalty with an advanced warning or allow them to redeem their points before making an abrupt exit, but I guess they were just too busy writing this lengthy email instead:

To Our Loyal Plink Members,

With much sadness and heavy hearts, we are sorry to tell you that Plink is closing its doors. As of today, the Plink site will be shut down and the program will cease to function.

As a start-up, we are reliant on continued funding and over the last year we have been unable to secure any additional funding. Unfortunately, without that funding, Plink can no longer continue to operate. As a team, we did everything we could to keep Plink alive, but we have now run out of time and options.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our loyal members who have supported us for the last three years. As a team, we want to thank all of our members, for their loyalty and continuing to stick with us to the end. We couldn’t have made it this far without such an amazing loyal, committed group of members.

We also want to thank all of our advertisers and partners who supported us over the last three years. It was their belief in us and willingness to support a small start-up that allowed Plink to grow. We are proud to have partnered with some of the largest restaurant and retail brands in the United States.

Moving forward, all Plink accounts will be closed. No further points can be redeemed. Thanks to all from the Plink Team.

Any further questions can be directed to support@plink.com

Plink was a pretty useful manufactured spending tool back in the day when Vanilla Reloads were sold at 711 stores. It was also great for the occasional double dip at movie theaters and other merchants. In the year that I’ve been using Plink (sparsely), I’ve never redeemed my points, though I doubt I had enough for a redemption to begin with.

If you had a huge stash of Plink points that have now disappeared into thin air, you can certainly try emailing them at the address above. Since they’ve shut down operations and their Twitter account has been deactivated, this appears to be the only way to get in touch with them – though, again, I wouldn’t count on it. The lesson in all of this? Always use your points, don’t hoard them. They could disappear into thin air, just like Plink.

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How I Keep Track of My Manufactured Spending Activities

Visa Mastercard gift cards

One of the toughest things about manufactured spending is keeping track of everything: There are large spending requirements that need to be met, gift cards to unload, credit card balances that must be paid off to avoid interest fees, and billing dates to keep in mind. If you’re doing all of this for more than one person, it gets even more stressful, not to mention the risk of screwing it up increases substantially. 

I’m in the midst of an $82,000 spending challenge and have gotten a few emails from folks asking how I’m able to keep track of it all. My system isn’t very sophisticated. I used to write it all down in a notebook, though that can get tedious fast. Excel spreadsheets are an eyesore, so I’ve resorted to a simple table I created using a word document. Here’s a mockup of what it looks like:

Credit Card
Balance
Due Date
Payoff
Spending Requirements
Due Date
Progress
Bofa Alaska$2,000October 5- Paid $2,000 on 9/10 with Bluebird$10,000October 30- $3,000 in July
- $4,000 in August

It contains all of the information I need to keep track of not only the progress I’ve made in meeting certain spending requirements, but also what the balance is on each card, when it is due and how much of it I’ve paid off. For example, if I’ve just made a $2,000 payment on my Alaska card using my brother’s Bluebird card, I’ll make a note of that under “Payoff.” At the end of each month, I add a note under “Progress” about how much of the spending requirement was met that month. This, along with the spending requirement due date helps me prioritize which spending requirements to focus on at any given time. It’s a fairly simple process and without it I know it would be much more difficult keeping track of my manufactured spending activities. 

I also have a separate place where I keep track of all my gift card balances, including American Express, Visa gift cards, and Amex for Target. Occasionally, I’ll use a Simon Mall gift card for a student loan payment via Evolve that results in an odd balance under $5. I keep track of them all in an email file so that when I’m at Starbucks, I can refer to it easily and use the right gift cards to load my Starbucks card with. This is an easy way to track and unload gift cards with small balances, as well as larger ones.

Manufactured spending is becoming increasingly difficult hese days, with Walmart making it a hassle via their broken Bluebird kiosks, shopping portals pulling American Express gift cards, and other inconveniences. Once I’m done hitting my $82,000 in spend, I’m taking a break from it for a while. It’s becoming way too time consuming, inconvenient, and risky. More importantly, all of the hassles are taking the fun out of it. 

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Amazon Payments Shutting Down on October 13, 2014

RIP Amazon Payments

RIP Amazon Payments

The last easy manufactured spending tool is coming to an end: Amazon Payments will be shutting down on October 13, 2014. If you’ve been using the fee-free service for manufactured spending or to meet credit card spending requirements, that will no longer be an option next month.

For years now, people have been using Amazon Payments to send up to $1,000 per month to family members free of charge, using mile-earning credit cards. It was also an easy way to unload American Express gift cards purchased at a profit via cash back portals. I’ve been steering clear of Amazon Payments until recently, being a bit overly cautious about getting shut down for this widespread activity. It seems Amazon has beaten us all to the punch and rather than shutting accounts down, the service will be discontinued altogether. 

The good news is now you can really go at this without worrying about attracting attention – granted the limit is still $1,000 per month and you only have two months left to take advantage of it. With my combined 4 family accounts, I can knock out an easy $4,000 from the $82,000 spending challenge I took up in July. That has been moving at snail pace thanks to me slacking off and opting to binge watch Revenge rather than fulfill my travel hacking duties. In any case, it’s nice that Amazon has at least given us a months warning.

There are other payment services like Google Wallet and Venmo, but they tack on hefty 3% transaction fees that makes manufactured spending with them less than ideal. Plus, now that shopping portals have pulled Amex gift cards, the 3% fee is no longer off-set by the cash back previously earned from the portals. 

If you’re holding onto gift cards after the Amazon Payment shut down, you can unload them via American Express for Target or Google Wallet, if you get absolutely desperate.

Maybe it’s the drama filled episodes of Revenge I’ve been watching nonstop, but Amazon Payments shutting down isn’t that shocking to me. All of these mile-earning cash cows (if that makes any sense) eventually come to an end and this one lasted way longer than I had expected it to.

What are your thoughts on Amazon Payments shutting down?

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Shopping Portals Pull American Express Gift Cards

Cash back on American Express Gift Card

I’m in the midst of wrapping up my $82,000 manufactured spending challenge and hit a brick wall today. It appears every shopping portal has pulled American Express gift cards. In addition to searching Cashbackmonitor and Cashbackholic, every major portal (cash back and otherwise) lists American Express Gift Cards but does not offer a payout. Hopefully, this is a temporary situation and we’ll see the Amex Gift Card store back on the list soon.

There has been a fair amount of drama surrounding American Express gift cards and shopping portals in the past. First, TopCashBack had some trouble tracking cancelled transactions and members ended up getting cash back on transactions that never went through. They announced a limit on the purchase amount that would be eligible for cash back, but by all accounts that limit was never imposed. Soon after, Barclays Rewardsboost removed American Express Giftcards from its portal altogether. Now it seems the rest have followed, hopefully temporarily.

If this really is the demise of Amex gift cards, keep in mind that you can still earn a profit by purchasing these gift cards with your Amex Fidelity card for 2% cash back. If your’e willing to settle for travel rewards instead, you can earn 2.2% in travel rewards with the Barclay Arrival Plus card.

I’m going to keep an eye out and report back in case of a come back, but if you beat me to the punch, please leave a comment in this post letting me know. Manufactured spending is much easier when you don’t have to do it $500 at a time, so fingers crossed the Amex gift card/shopping portal pairing isn’t dead.

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Book Overwater Villas at the Park Hyatt Maldives for Less

Source: Hyatt.com

Source: Hyatt.com

Recently, I wrapped up a brief series covering the cheapest way to book Hyatt stays on points. One of these posts dealt with the most efficient way to book Hyatt suites on points earned via manufactured spending. Generally, the best option is to book a Points + Cash award, charge the stay to your Arrival Plus card, redeem Arrival miles for the cash portion, and use a Hyatt Diamond upgrade to book yourself into a suite. Unfortunately, Diamond upgrades can’t be used at all-suite hotels like the Park Hyatt Maldives. So most folks have been booking the standard Park Villa on points and then paying $365-$580 per night for an upgrade to a Water Villa.

This method would require $25,000 in manufactured spending on an Ultimate Rewards earning credit card (not factoring in category bonuses) and $16,425 – $26,100 in spending on the Arrival Plus card for the upgrade fee (including the 10% discount on travel redemptions). In total, it would take $41,425 – $51,100 in spend to generate enough points for an Overwater Villa.

How to Book it for Less

Recently I came across a post on Travelsort that offers a cheaper alternative. The blog’s author is a Virtuoso agent and she discusses a promotion they’re having for bookings made at the Park Hyatt Maldives through September 27, 2014 for travel through December 25, 2015. Clients who book at least a 4-night stay through Virtuoso get a double confirmed upgrade. Booking the cheapest room, a Park Villa, would get you into an Overwater Villa if those are available at the time of booking. The following blackout dates do apply: December 24, 2014 – January 11, 2015 and February 18, 2015 to February 24, 2015.

The Virtuoso promotion creates an opportunity to book these Overwater Villas for fewer points. If you’re able to find a rate under $900 per night, it makes more sense to charge the stay to your Arrival plus card and redeem Arrival miles than to do an outright point booking with a cash upgrade. A rate of $900 per night would require 81,000 points per night or $40,500 in spending on the Arrival Plus card. 

You can certainly find lower rates than $900, which would make the Arrival redemption even more of a great value. For example, through the Hyatt Free Time promotion, guests booking at least 4 nights can get rates as low as $747.53 per night including taxes in September. Booking a rate like this would cost 67,278 Arrival Miles per night (after the 10% rebate) or $33,639 in manufactured spending. This presents a saving of almost $7,000 over the typical method of combining a point stay with a cash upgrade.

Not only is there potential to save points during this promotion, but you can also score a huge point pay day if your stay coincides with the latest Hyatt Gold Passport promotion and/or you stack it with the Hyatt Diamond Challenge. This is in addition to the standard 5 points per $1 Hyatt Gold Passport members earn on hotel stays.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of this promotion, contact a Virtuoso agent (in this case, go with the author of Travelsort since she’s the one who wrote about the deal) and they’ll walk you through the process. I’d like to point out that I don’t have any kind of relationship with Virtuoso, nor do I know the author of the post I referenced. There’s nothing in it for me if anyone take advantage of this promotion. With the Park Hyatt Maldives being on many people’s bucket list, I thought it worthwhile to bring it to the attention of my readers.

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Changes to Simon Mall Gift Cards

Simon Mall Visa Gift Card

I’ve been hearing rumblings for a while now about Simon Malls implementing changes to their Visa gift cards. I assumed this would involve lower limits on the number of cards that could be purchased or perhaps a ban on credit cards altogether. Reader Tim alerted me this morning to the changes that have been implemented, which are mostly positive. I have outlined them below:

1. Simon Mall Visa Gift Cards are now issued by Metabank. Previously, Simon Mall Visa gift cards were issued by U.S. Bank. This doesn’t change much, since the Metabank issued cards are PIN-enable and can be used to fund Bluebird cards at Walmart. The American Express version of the card is still available, but most of us don’t buy those anyway.

2. A new look. This isn’t really relevant in the grander scheme of things, but the card does look drastically different. So if you buy these in-store, don’t be thrown off when you get these:

The new Simon Mall Visa gift card

The new Simon Mall Visa gift card

3. A new way to buy them. Along with the actual cards, the Simon Mall gift card page has also been redesigned and the Visa and American Express logos aren’t initially displayed. Once you pick a card design, you’ll see an option to choose between the two versions. When you pick the Visa version, you’ll be redirected to a Simon Giftcard page “powered by Giftcardmall” and the order process is identical to the one involved when ordering GCM Visa gift cards. The difference is that you can only buy up to $500 in Simon Mall Visa gift cards at a time – including the $2.95 fee. So really, you need to enter $497 for the purchase amount. For a more direct path to the purchase page, go to giftcardmall.com/simon.aspx.

4. Change in fees, purchase limit. Previously, it cost $5.95 to purchase $500 Simon Mall Visa gift cards online. Now that Giftcardmall is processing the orders, a $2.95 card fee applies and shipping is $1.99. While the fees have been reduced by $1.01, the maximum denomination you can purchase has decreased by $3. For the maximum $497 gift card order, customers will pay a total of $501.94, including shipping and fees. 

Overall, these changes are positive and we’re in the clear to continue buying and unloading Simon Mall gift cards via Bluebird. 

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The Cheapest Way to Book Hyatt Club Rooms on Points

Hyatt Regency SF Club Lounge Spread

Hyatt Regency SF Club Lounge Spread

For those wondering what the makes them so great, Club Level Rooms have several advantages over standard rooms. Often, these rooms are on higher floors and offer better amenities. More importantly, they offer access to the hotel’s club lounge, where guests can enjoy complimentary breakfast, snacks/appetizers, drinks, and wifi throughout the day. This can be a great value if you can manage to get a club level room on points. So what is the best way to do it via manufactured spending?

In most cases, hotels will upgrade Diamond members at check-in free of charge. This is preferable to the other alternative – having to provide them with complimentary breakfast at the hotel restaurant. However, if you’re not a Diamond member and you want to ensure you get a Club Room, there are a few options:

1. Book with cash and upgrade with points. Sometimes you stumble upon a cheap standard rate, depending on the day of the week and other factors. It might make sense to use 3,000 points per night for a Club Room upgrade. Again, this depends on the rate you’re paying as well as the category hotel you’re booking – it may be more prudent to just book the Club Room on points entirely, but this will vary.

If you are considering a 3,000 point nightly upgrade, do take into consideration the nightly cash rate, how much manufactured spending is needed to off-set it, and compare that to the point redemption rate for a Club Room in that particular category.

2. Book a Club Room on cash. Sometimes (either online or at the time of check-in), you may be offered a Club Room upgrade for a heavily discounted rate. I’ve received offers as low as $40 extra per night. In these cases, it makes more sense to pay the cash rate with your Arrival Plus card and redeem a travel statement credit (since you are earning those at double the rate of other currencies) than to utilize a 3,000 point nightly upgrade. So long as the upgrade cost is under $66 (after tax), you are better off using Arrival Miles earned with the Arrival Plus card.

3. Redeem points for a Club Room. Club rooms can be booked for about 40% more points than a standard room. Club Room redemptions range from 7,000 – 39,000 points per night, depending on the hotel category. Sometimes, the difference between a suite and a club room is just 1,000 points – it goes without saying that in this scenario, booking a suite is a better value. In any case, you should always weigh the cost of a club room on points against the cash rate, factoring in the rate of point accumulation to decide which option is best.

Below, I’ve outlined the amount of manufactured spending required for each redemption type, as well as the amount of travel rewards you’d earn by putting the spend on the Arrival Plus card (factoring in the 10% rebate) instead of a co-branded or Ultimate Reward earning card. This part is important because if you’re able to find a paid club room rate at or below these rates, it’s better to charge the entire stay to your Arrival Plus card and redeem Arrival miles for it. The amount of manufactured spending required at those levels may be less for the Arrival card than the Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards (barring category bonuses).

Note: Scroll right to see calculations past Category 4

 
Category 1
Category 2
Category 3
Category 4
Category 5
Category 6
Category 7
Club Room Point Redemption7,000 points12,000 points17,000 points21,000 points27,000 points33,000 points39,000 points
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink Card$7,000$12,000$17,000$21,000$27,000$33,000$39,000
Rewards earned by the Arrival Plus card for the same amount of spend$154$264$374$462$594$726$858
Upgrade3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink
Card
$3,000$3,000$3,000$3,000$3,000$3,000$3,000

Someone asked me in an earlier post why I didn’t factor category bonuses into these calculations. All of the Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards offer category bonuses of 2-5 points per $1 spent. To keep things simple, I’m basing my calculations on earnings of 1 point per $1 and the assumption that these miles will be generated at non-bonus category merchants like Simon Malls and via American Express gift cards (breaking even on the Amex gift card purchases).

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