5 Things Travel Hackers Can Look Forward to in 2014

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Many rewards programs are introducing changes in 2014 – some good, some bad. United will be requiring more miles for premium redemptions, especially on partner airlines. US Airways Dividend Miles will be merging with American Airlines AAdvantage on March 31, which means one less Star Alliance redemption option and no more 90,000 mile business class awards to Asia and Europe.

Hyatt is adding a new tier to their award chart and moving their most aspirational properties up. Hilton is removing the ability to earn points + fixed value miles. So what, exactly, is there to be excited about in the points and miles game in 2014? Here are at least 5 positive developments:

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred Dividend Payout. It’s easy to lose track of what makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred a great card – that is until January/February when your Ultimate Rewards balance receives a sudden boost. Suddenly, all that manufactured spending is paying off for a second time. So keep an eye out for that 7% bonus that should hit your account any day now.

2. Amex Platinum fee credit. I have to admit, that $450 annual fee from the American Express Platinum card really stung. Even after I received my $200 in airline fee credits, it still felt wrong. This month, I will have another go at the $200 credit, which will largely offset the $450 annual fee. So for those of you upset about shelling out a $450 annual fee last year, you’ll get most of it back this month.

3. The American Airlines/US Airway Merger. You might wonder why the merger is a positive development. I’m a glass half full kind of girl, so I choose to look at the upcoming merger as a good thing. It gives those of you who have been hoarding your miles a  push to finally redeem them for a great Star Alliance award. Considering United is devaluing its award chart on February 1, and US Airways will leave the Star Alliance on March 30, now is the time to unload those miles for an aspirational award you may not be able to book later on.

If you decide to hold off on redeeming until the merger completes, your Dividend Miles will convert to AAdvantage miles and you can use them for aspirational One World awards, including on Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Etihad, to name a few. So whether you redeem your Dividend miles before the big day or hold on to them until after, you’re in a win-win situation.

4. Hyatt Improves Gold Passport. Starting January 7, Hyatt Gold Passport is rolling out several new features. The biggest one is by far the addition of a cash + points option. Platinum and Diamond members will be eligible for 20% off the daily rate on standard rooms, and the inactivity period will be extended from 12 to 24 months. This doesn’t quite take the sting out of the upcoming devaluation, but at least Hyatt is making an effort to somewhat balance it out with a positive change.

5. Alaska Mileage Plan. While all the other programs are devaluing their award charts and making premium redemptions difficult, Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan program is looking more and more appealing. With great partners like Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Qantas, it’s still possible to redeem aspirational awards at reasonable levels. A roundtrip to Australia in Business Class, for example, is just 110,000 miles – as opposed to American, which requires 135,000 miles roundtrip on the same partners.

Starting January 5, Mileage Plan members will also start earning elite qualifying miles on partner airlines.

As you can see, it’s not all bad. Yes, there are several devaluations on the horizon, but there is still lots to be positive about in 2014.

Which developments are you most excited about?

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8 thoughts on “5 Things Travel Hackers Can Look Forward to in 2014

    • Nothing has been announced, but since the programs will merge on March 31, it will be before that (hopefully a month in advance).

    • Thanks Kendra! I try – it’s tough to see the positive with so many devaluations, but it’s important that we do.

  1. One small benefit of the merger between AA and US Airways will be short-distance Avios redemptions from the Bay Area to Phoenix. That would be a nice addition to other good Avios redemptions from the Bay Area to Portland, Oregon; Seattle; Cabo; and Hawaii.

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