Travel Hacking

Points & Miles Checklist: March Massacre Edition

March has got to be the worst month in travel hacking history. It seems like every other day this month, I’ve come across a devaluation that will take place in March. Whether it’s a credit card company revoking a benefit or airline and hotel devaluations, March is not looking good. Luckily, you do have a few days to something about it. Here are five changes to be aware of this month:

Book top-tier Marriott hotels before March 5

Remember the initial stage of the Marriott-Starwood merger, when we were getting spoiled with amazing award redemptions and favorable point transfer ratios? That’s long over. On March 5, Marriott will introduce new Category 8 pricing. This increases the price for a top-tier award night from 60,000 to 85,000 points per night. So if you’ve had your eye on a top-tier award redemption, definitely book it before March 5 to avoid a 40% markup. 

Discover doing away with wifi credit

After earning $3,000 cash back with the Discover It Miles Card thanks to its first-year double cash promotion, I decided to hang on to the card. Partly because Discover gave me a significant credit limit increase and because of the annual $30 in-flight wifi credit. It was a nice perk that I always maxed out. Unfortunately, Discover is doing away with the in-flight wifi credit on March 31. This isn’t going to be a huge factor for most of you deciding whether to keep or cancel the card, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Manufactured spending changes

There’s good news and bad news on the manufactured spending front. Earlier this month, Simon Mall increased purchase limits on Visa gift cards from $10,000 to $25,000 per day. That’s great for those of you who don’t want to take a risk on a Simon Mall Corporate account. More importantly, it’s going to be very lucrative during Simon Mall’s $0 fee promotion. Or even the $1 off promo, which has become more common these days.

If the idea of an increased gift card purchasing ability has you thrilled, I’m about to rain on your parade: Walmart recently decreased money order purchase limits to $8,000 per day. So that $25,000 gift card order will take you three visits to liquidate. 

Ready for more negative news? Yazing is going to impose a 10% fee on portal cash back, starting in march. This is disappointing since Yazing has been my go-to portal for online gift card orders due to their fast payouts. I’ll continue using Yazing when it makes sense, though at the moment TopCashBack and BeFrugal are better options. They offer the same cash back rates on giftcards.com orders, minus the fees. Which reminds me, I never shared this before but after 5+ years of getting my GCM orders canceled, I finally got one through! The glass is half full after all…

Marriott Bonvoy bonus iffer for existing cardholders

If you had the Starwood American Express card (which recently converted to Marriott Bonvoy), you’re in for a treat. Through December 31, American Express is offering an extra point per $1 spent through December 31, 2019. Up to 100,000 bonus points can be earned during this promotion. Be sure to register by April 7, 2019. It’s not a massive win, but if you have some upcoming Marriott stays and tons of gift card churning bandwidth, 3x points per $1 spent on the Bonvoy card is not a bad deal.

Etihad joining Star Alliance

Etihad is joining the Star Alliance at the end of March, which means one less way to put your AAdvantage miles to good use on premium travel. American Airlines’ other (non-awful) partners have been pretty stingy when it comes to award space. I’ve had the worst time finding Cathay Pacific business class seats to Hong Kong. Barring an IT glitch, Qantas isn’t any better either. Etihad business class award space has been somewhat reliable, though that’s clearly going away. If you’ve got United miles to burn, this could be good news. Now you can use them for Etihad Apartments. 

I’m pretty fed up with American Airlines lately. I recently showed up to at the airport, only to discover they had canceled part of my itinerary to New York. Not the flight – just my itinerary. This is now the second time this has happened. I’m over it but I definitely want to avoid flying them for a while.

Now that Etihad is joining the Star Alliance, I need to find an alternative way to put those AAdvantage miles to good use. Or maybe it’s time for a quick trip to Abu Dhabi. I need to set aside some time to study for an important test and what better place than the middle of the desert? I’m still mulling it over. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

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12 Comments

  1. how do u get 8,000 on mo at Walmart. They either allowed 2000 with 4 swipes or 4 swipes per mo?..

  2. Hi Lin,

    It’s a 2 swipe max per MO.

  3. Can someone please slowly explain these $0 fee Simon GC?

    I’m sure, it’s probably self explanatory; however, I’ve never seen any of the Simon Malls in my neck of the woods ever offer a $0 fee GC.

    Additionally, which CC would you use to MS over at Simon?

    Lastly, my wife was on the phone with Marriot Bonvoy and due to the public outcry of the new tier, they stated that they have pushed back the 40% increase on the new category 99 properties =)

    Please keep in mind that this is what some customer service rep stated; and we have yet to verify this information. However, I’m sure that our Ariana can help verify this information.

    Thanks!

    Tariq

    • The Simon Mall $0 fee promotion usually happens around October – December every year. Last year they just had $1 off, so it’s not a given. I haven’t kept up with Marriott Bonboy so unfortunately I can’t confirm anything either way.

  4. @ Ariana,

    So which CC would you reach for first if you Simon had a $0 fee GC? I think that’s my million dollar question.

    • Good question! I would max out my Freedom Unlimited and put some spend on my Skypass card (for cheap J award seats). Then I’d probably focus on cash back cards as well as meeting the annual bonus spend on my Hilton Honors Ascend.

  5. I’m keeping it simple and low key because I can’t stress over this. If I do $3k in MOs a month that’s good for me! I do envy those who can rip out those big GC orders and not feel any anxiety over it.

  6. I’ve noticed some of these crazy changes as well. I’m nervous because people who got the Ritz card right before it got DC’d are getting downgraded from Plat to Gold even though they said we’d keep the status until Feb 2020. I’m still good for now but hoping it doesn’t happen to me.

    Great post though!

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