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10 Things Travel Hackers Can Look Forward to in 2015

Fireworks New Year's Eve

2014 hasn’t exactly been the best year for travel hackers, with massive devaluations and the downfall of manufactured spending (until redbird makes an appearance in Northern California, I will maintain my position on this topic). Regardless of how grim things may appear right now, there are plenty of things travel hackers can look forward to in 2015:

1. Free hotel wifi all around. IHG announced free global wifi last year, Marriott will begin rolling it out in January 2015, followed by Hyatt and Starwood in February 2015. The only stipulation is that guests at Marriott and Starwood properties must be members of the respective hotel loyalty program and book their stays directly with the chain. Hyatt imposes no restrictions, making wifi available to all guests. Elite members who normally receive wifi as a benefit will have access to faster speeds at no additional cost.

2. Hyatt Diamond Challenge making a comeback in 2015. The popular Hyatt Diamond Challenge was eliminated in October, to the dismay of many. I’m losing my Diamond status next year and since I have a family vacation coming up, I had planned on signing a family member up for the challenge so we could still enjoy elite perks. The good news is, the Diamond Challenge will be making a comeback in 2015, although elite benefits don’t kick in until after the challenge has been completed. 

Under the new system, everyone is eligible for 60-day mid-tier Platinum status. If it wasn’t for the 1,000 point bonus on the first six nights, this status challenge would be pretty worthless.  The only distinctive feature of Hyatt Platinum status (especially now that they’ll be offering free wifi to everyone) is 15 % bonus points on paid stays. Try to contain your excitement.

On the up side, once you reach Platinum status, you can upgrade to Diamond by completing an additional 6 nights. If you’re already a Platinum member like I will be, you can participate in the Diamond Challenge and keep your status through February 2016 by completing 12 nights. The first six nights will also earn you 1,000 bonus points each. You can easily get Platinum membership through the Chase Hyatt Visa, but you will still need to complete 12 nights for Diamond status either way. Whether you decide to mattress run or complete the entire challenge on planned stays, be sure to read my tips for doing it cheaply.

3. Evolve Money will start accepting credit cards. Last month, Evolve announced that they would begin accepting Visa and Mastercard credit cards for bill payments. This is great news because there’s no longer a need to buy PIN-enabled gift cards in order to pay student loans, store branded credit cards (i.e. Macy’s, Disney, Neiman Marcus), and other bills that can’t be paid with a credit card directly. An exact date hasn’t been announced, but it will happen some time in 2015.

4. AAdvantage and Dividend Miles will merge. The US Airways/American Airlines merger can be good or bad, depending on your perspective. While I’m personally anticipating a devaluating now that there is less competition, I’m going to put my rose colored glasses on and be glad about my stray Dividend Miles merging with my stash of AAdvantage miles.

5. New Chase Freedom categories. Earlier this month, Chase released it’s 2015 quarterly bonus categories. The calendar looks pretty much like the one from 2014, but the prospect of an extra $300 cash back/30,000 Ultimate Rewards points is one we can all look forward to. Now that gas prices are at the same levels as when I first got my driver’s license, I will probably have more difficulty maxing out the full $1,500 in Q3. Maybe gas prices will skyrocket to $5 again in July, or maybe I’ll find a gas station that will sell me Reload IT cards. Either way, I’m looking forward to more easy bonus points next year.

6. It’s the final year for the 7% Sapphire Preferred dividend. Maybe this isn’t exactly something to look forward to, but when Chase announced that it would be doing away with the annual 7% dividend on the Sapphire Preferred card, I was glad that the benefit would still be available for existing cardholders through 2015. This gives us an entire year to maximize non-bonus category spend (that is, if you prefer earning Ultimate Rewards over Arrival Miles) before getting one last payout in February 2016.

7. $200 Amex Platinum Airline Fee Credit. If you just picked up the American Express Platinum card and were horrified after paying the $450 annual fee, it’s good to know that you’ll recoup another $200 in the form of the annual Airline Fee credit. In the past, I’ve had success redeeming the credit for both American and United Airlines gift cards, in $50 increments. You have until January 31 to pick an airline to receive the $200 credit. 

8. Redeem one-way Skymiles awards for half the miles. Most Skymiles members aren’t happy about some of the changes being implemented in 2015, but one good thing coming of all this? Delta Skymiles will allow one-way redemptions for half the miles of a round-trip. If you’re like me and don’t quite have enough miles for a round-trip domestic flight but sure as hell don’t want to transfer more miles into the program to put them to use, this is good news. It’s almost like Delta knew they were going to alienate customers and decided to give them an “out.” Or maybe I’m trying way too hard to see things in a positive light… 

9. New hotel promotions. Let’s be realistic: We won’t see another Club Carlson Big Night Giveaway, but we can still look forward to bonus point promotions from every major hotel loyalty program. If the past is any indication, we’re in for much of the same old (i.e. double Hilton points, an extra 1,000 – 2,500 Hyatt points per night, etc.).

10. A new year of suite upgrades. If you’ve hit Hyatt Diamond status this year, you can look forward to a shiny new set up suite upgrade awards in 2015. These suite upgrade awards allow you to upgrade any cash or Points + Cash stay for up to seven nights. Hyatt’s 2014 Diamond upgrade awards issued in 2014 expire on February 28, 2015, so be sure to put those to use while you can.

These are just a few of the many things we can look forward to next year. It’s much longer than the list I made last year (and I was really struggling to get the list up to 5 that time). What aspect of the travel hacking game are you looking forward to in 2015?

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Ariana Arghandewal

5 Comments

  1. After reading your December post regarding AMEX to discontinue Vanilla Reload and MoneyPaks alas well as September post “My Last Trip to Walmart: Why I’m Officially Done with Bluebird”, I just would like to check in if MS is still possible at Bay Area WM because I have seen other bloggers posting their recent positive experience at a non-Bay Area WM.
    I thought walmart in Bay Area no longer takes any PIN enabled gift card and they make it an official policy. Definitely NO at money center but a hit or miss at register depends on who rings you up. Somebody nice and friendly might let you swipe a few GCs. However, there is no guaranteed result after a long wait in line and worst case is the WM staff insists you to pay using a bank issued debit card with your name on it. Are you aware that if any Bay Area WM still take Simon Mall gift cards or other Visa GCs at register to unload Serve or BlueBird? My last successful WM trip was last September. Thank you for advice.

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