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2018-04-22T05:03:39.667Z
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Marriott recently announced a lot of big changes for the future of their combined loyalty programs. Starwood Preferred Guest, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton will merge into one program in August 2018.

Marriott bought SPG many months ago, creating not only the largest hotel portfolio in the world but also the fastest growing. August 1 of this year marks the day the loyalty programs become one (i.e. using one point currency, award chart, elite qualifying system, etc). They will keep their separate names, however, until 2019 when the loyalty program will be given just one (yet to be announced) name.

In brief, this is what’s happening in August
  • All SPG points will be automatically converted into Marriott Rewards at a rate of 3:1, which is the current transfer rate. Marriott points will turn into the sole currency for the whole program.
  • Elite status between programs will be transitioned to a singular benefits/qualification system with five tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Premier, and Platinum Premier with Ambassador service.
  • Earning Points: 
    • The rate of points earning from stays at hotels will increase at an average of 20%.
    • The rate at which you earn points from credit card spend will decrease significantly for SPG members, and increase for Marriott members.
  • Redeeming Points: 
    • As for redemptions at all SPG, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton family hotels, there will be one singular award chart, eventually with eight categories and three tiers within each category (standard, off-peak, and peak). Prices are going up for Marriott members and generally down for SPG members.
    • As for redemptions as airline miles...

Update 4/17/18: It’s been a year since I originally published this Transfer Bonus series, so I’m in the process of updating all three posts with transfer bonuses over the last 12 months. Today… Membership Rewards.

American Express Membership Rewards, SPG Points, and Citi ThankYou Points, three of the four major transferrable point currencies, will periodically run transfer bonuses to loyalty program partners.

For example, if you had transferred Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios last October you’d have gotten a 50% bonus of Avios.

This post is part one in a series where I will be sharing the histories of transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards, SPG Points, and ThankYou Points. I have never seen a transfer bonus offered between Ultimate Rewards and any Ultimate Reward transfer partner. If I left a transfer bonus out, please let me know in the comments and I will update the post.

When Was the Last Transfer Bonus? Series Index

Why Should You Care?

To put it simply, strategy and planning. Want to redeem less points? Have the flexibility to wait to book your award? If you have an idea of when the next transfer bonus is, you could wait until then.

Transfer bonus histories are especially useful if you want to transfer points to a partner that doesn’t normally have a favorable transfer rate, and a bonus...

For the moment at least, payments made via online payment processor Plastiq with Chase Ink Business Preferred Cards are coding under the 3x category bonus.

The 3x category bonus on the Ink Business Preferred is supposed to be for travel and shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. Yet all bills paid through Plastiq on the Chase Ink Business Preferred cards are currently earning 3 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent.

Is it Worth It?

Yes.

Myself and many others value Ultimate Rewards around 2 cents each (when transferred to airline and hotel programs). A 6% return (3 x .02) far exceeds Plastiq’s 2.5% processing fee, so paying anything you can on Plastiq with your Ink Business Preferred is definitely worth it. Even if you redeemed your Ink Business Preferred Ultimate Rewards through the Chase portal for 1.25 cents each (on cash flights), the 3.75% return is higher than the 2.5% fee (3 x .0125).

Typically I only recommend using Plastiq to pay bills in circumstances where you can’t meet minimum spending requirements for a bonus or manufacture spend for a lower cost otherwise, but the ability to earn at least a 3.75% return (more like 6%, and potentially even higher for super high value awards) makes paying a 2.5% fee absolutely worth it.

I would just keep an eye on your accounts to make sure payment is received for your bills, but from what I can tell (including my own experiences), Plastiq is...

I recently spent two weeks in Buzios, Brazil. Only a 3ish hour drive from Rio de Janeiro, Buzios is an easy and enjoyable side trip if you’re planning a trip to Rio.

Buzios is a resort town nestled into a hilly peninsula with over 20 beaches. The water is a beautiful shade of dark turquoise and green, and the beaches are sandy and often lined with jungle covered hills. It’s a popular spot for Brazilian and Argentine tourists, so if you don’t want to share the beaches with lots of people, avoid the end of December through February. The flip side to popularity is that the area has plenty of good accommodation, restaurant, and nightlife options (year round).

Beaches

The snorkeling in Buzios is excellent! A couple of the bigger, open ocean facing beaches are known for water sports as well, like surfing and windsurfing (Praia de Geriba and Praia da Ferradura). Most of the beaches have at least a few people selling food and drinks and offering umbrellas and chairs to sit in for free, with the expectation that you’ll buy something to eat or drink.

Below is a little info on my favorite beaches. I tend to like the beaches further from the main boardwalk strip (Rua das Pedras) as they aren’t as crowded/touristy. Praia in Portuguese = beach.

Praia da Tartaruga

Tartaruga is a very long beach framed by hills. It gets its name from all the turtles that swim in the area, although I saw just as many turtles at other...

Until May 17, 2018, using your Membership Reward earning Amex card to pay for specific online purchases through Amex Express Checkout will you earn 2 bonus Membership Rewards per dollar spent (on top of whatever category bonus your card may also earn for the card, or on top of the at least one point you’d earn for non-bonused spend). The cap on bonus points for this promotion is 5,000 Membership Rewards.

Here are the merchants you will earn 2 extra Membership Reward points with per dollar spent through Amex Express Checkout:

If you shop at any of these retailers already and also have a Membership Rewards earning card, this promo is a no brainer.

How to Earn the Extra 2x

Just look for the Amex Checkout Logo in your Shopping Cart…

…and login to your Amex account, which will trigger an autofill of your payment details on the retailer’s site. Then you complete the order as you normally would.

Read all the details and conditions of this promotion here.

Chase has come out with new sign up bonus eligibility rules that make it significantly more complicated to earn a Southwest Companion Pass.

As of April 5, if you already have a personal Southwest credit card open (the Personal Plus or the Premier Plus), you are no longer eligible for the other personal Southwest credit card. You are also ineligible for the bonus on a Southwest personal card if you have earned a bonus on the other one in the last 24 months.

Many people’s strategy to earn the 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards required to qualify for a Companion Pass is via the bonuses on each personal card. That strategy has been rendered unviable by these new eligibility rules. Thankfully the scope of these new rules does not effect eligibility for the Southwest business card, so earning the bonus on one personal card and the business card is still a viable means of earning the Companion Pass.

What’s a Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion pass allows you to designate companions who fly for just the taxes on every Southwest flight you fly. That’s $5.60 each way within the United States and a bit more on Southwest’s international routes.

The Cards

There are three Southwest credit cards: Premier Personal, Premier Business, Plus Personal.

  • Personal Plus: 40,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in three months, $69 annual fee NOT waived for the first year, 3,000 bonus points each year you renew
  • Premier Plus: 40,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in three months, $99 annual fee NOT waived for the first...

In an interesting departure from Delta SkyMiles’ typical behavior, the price of Delta awards flying partner airlines between the United States and North Asia has dropped.

It used to cost…

  • 40,000 miles one way in economy
  • 95,000 miles one way in Business

Now it costs…

  • 35,000 miles one way in economy
  • 85,000 miles one way in Business
Debrief on SkyMiles

I said “used to cost” above, but that info is not based off of a Delta published award chart.

In the beginning of 2015, Delta got rid of their online award charts. The price of a Delta award became whatever Delta’s computers said it was. Travel is Free has an aggregation of standard Delta award prices, but at the end of the day those prices don’t matter if they don’t match your search results. No rep will help you there–what the computer says is law when there’s no published award charts nor a direct correlation to revenue prices. Hence the name SkyPesos.

The 40k economy and 95k Business prices were the latest prices seen over the last year, until just recently when U.S. Credit Card Guide reported that they had dropped to 35k and 85k respectively. View from the Wing contacted Delta, who confirmed that those were not pricing glitches but indeed the current going rate. For now at least.

Considering SkyTeam’s coverage of Asia is comprehensive–meaning there’s lots of SkyTeam award space to the region–this is great news for those of you...

Update: Chase is now responding to people complaining on Twitter that IHG credit card accounts opened from January 1, 2018 through April 5, 2018 (that’s tomorrow) will be able to use their Free Night Certificate once with the old terms (meaning at ANY IHG property, not capped at a 40k point property). Apply now if you want that Free Night Certificate! Hat tip to Mommy Points.

One of the most valuable perks of the IHG Rewards Club Select Card that made the card worth keeping year after year is the annual Free Night certificate (based on cardmember year) that was redeemable at ANY IHG property. Getting outsized value from this certificate made it more than worth it to pay the $49 annual fee.

IHG has not only changed how the Free Night certificate can be redeemed for new card applicants, but also–much to their chagrin, especially those who applied just before the change expecting to get grandfathered in to the old terms–for existing cardholders.

As of May 1, 2018, any Annual Free Night certificate issued will only be redeemable at properties that cost 40,000 points or less per night. You can see the list of excluded properties here, which oddly includes various 40,000 point/night or less properties.

If you are an existing cardholder, hopefully your Free Night Certificate was already issued this year or will be issued before May 1, 2018. Then you can at least, once more, use it any IHG property....

I have a friend from childhood who works as a flight attendant for a major legacy carrier based in the United States. We have recently exchanged emails catching up a bit and I took the opportunity to ask some questions about her career. As frequent flyers, I’m sure you guys will find her answers interesting!

Emma Dare has been working as a flight attendant since 2014. All the photos in this post are from her travels.


Sarah Page: Hey Emma Dare! Thank you for taking some time to answer my questions. Tell me, how does a day in the life of a flight attendant begin?

Emma Dare: My pleasure! I live in Wilmington, NC so before I start my work trips I have to fly from Wilmington to my base, which is New York. Our base in New York includes LGA, JFK, and EWR (ew) so we have to cover all three. Usually I fly out of JFK (which I prefer- better routes and nicer airport), but on months when I am on reserve (on call) they can assign us to any airport and we have three hours to get there. But I’ll have the chance soon to switch my base to Charlotte, which would be a much easier commute. 

Sarah Page: Ouch. Fingers crossed Charlotte works out for you soon! What’s your favorite domestic route to fly? 

 

Emma Dare: My favorite domestic route is probably LGA-ORD, because the people who travel on the flight are usually seasoned travelers and/or businesspeople. This means...

Below are three different transfer bonus opportunities, two of which expire at the end of the day Saturday, and another that lasts through mid May. As is always the case with transfer bonuses, only transfer your points if you have an immediate high value use for British Airways Avios, Etihad Guest Miles, or JetBlue TrueBlue points.

  • 35% Transfer Bonus: Hotel Points to British Airways Avios
  • 20% Transfer Bonus: Hotel Points to Etihad Guest
  • 30% Transfer Bonus: Citi ThankYou Points to JetBlue TrueBlue
35% Bonus When Transferring Hotel Points to British Airways Avios

Lasts through: March 31, 2018

Until the end of the day this Saturday, you can transfer the following hotel points to British Airways Avios and receive a 35% bonus.

Most of the transfer rates are so bad that you shouldn’t even consider it, with the exception of Marriott Hotel + Air Packages. You will earn 35% bonus miles if you purchase Marriott + Hotel Air Package #1 and choose Avios as your reward currency.

The best deal on all Marriott Hotel + Air Packages tends to be 7 Nights in a Category 1-5 Marriott + miles, the top right option in each chart, and that...

Chase is out with a new, record high bonus offer for the Ink Business Cash credit card. If you haven’t reached your Chase 5/24 limit and are eligible to apply for business credit cards, do not miss out on this offer. For spending $3,000 within three months of opening the Ink Business Cash card, you’ll earn either $500 in cash back or 50,000 Ultimate Rewards transferrable to airline and hotel partners for outsized value. I’ve never seen the bonus on this card so high.

The Ink Business Cash card is marketed as a cash back card. But what you actually earn as a sign up bonus is 50,000 Ultimate Reward points, worth 1 cent each if the Ink Business Cash is the only Chase card you have, but worth a lot more if you also hold an Ink Business Preferred, Sapphire Preferred, or Sapphire Reserve card. That’s because those cards earn the kind of Ultimate Rewards that I value at 2 cents each– because they transfer to nine airline and four hotel loyalty programs–and you can transfer Ultimate Rewards between your Ink Business Cash account and your Ink Business Preferred, Sapphire Preferred, and Sapphire Reserve account. Transferring the points turns them into the more valuable kind of Ultimate Reward.

Quick Facts
  • Sign Up Bonus: $500 Cash back OR 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after $3,000 in spending in the first three months
  • Value of Ultimate Rewards: Worth 1 cent each cash back OR can be transferred to seven airlines and four hotels for higher value if...

At the end of February I traveled to Rio de Janeiro and Buzios, Brazil. I’m a huge fan of Brazil and have traveled it more than any other country. The image above is from Buzios.

Using a sweetspot on the Etihad award chart, I flew roundtrip between Buenos Aires and Rio on Brazilian airline GOL for 18,000 Membership Rewards + taxes. Cash tickets are notoriously expensive between the two cities, so the value per point I got was over three cents. And 18,000 Membership rewards is a lot less than what I would have paid transferring to Delta and booking the same award space (25,000 Membership Rewards + taxes). Etihad is not in the SkyTeam Alliance like GOL and Delta are, but Etihad is a non-allied partner of GOL.

Read more about sweetspots on Etihad’s distance-based award chart flying GOL in South America if you travel down here (I’m based in Buenos Aires) in South America often.

As we were planning on traveling together, I took a look at my boyfriend’s balances of miles and points to plan his best move for getting on the same GOL flights with me. He had enough Membership Rewards to book one-way on GOL with Etihad miles, but not enough for both directions. He had enough ThankYou Points–also transferrable to Etihad–to book both directions.

Choosing Between Points

My general advice and thought process is when you have various point...

Happy Friday MileValue readers! Longtime and ever generous reader CaveDweller is once again offering one lucky reader a $51 Southwest gift card. Southwest gift cards are fully transferable and don’t expire. There are two ways to enter:

    1. Comment on this post
    2. Follow us on Facebook.
    3. Retweet this tweet.

Each person can enter all three ways to triple their chances of winning (just make sure I can tell through each social media platform who it is).

I’ll choose one winner from the entries and notify the winner next Friday, March 23, so enter by Thursday, March 22.

Read more about Southwest and how to maximize the Rapid Rewards program in Southwest Companion Pass Masterthread. The offers for the Chase issued Southwest cards have changed since the last time that post was updated–they are not all still 60k each, but 50k for both personal cards (the Plus and Premier) and 60k for the business Premier. The bonus points from one personal card + one business card = 110,000 Rapid Rewards, which is how many you need to earn one of the best deals (if not the best deal) in domestic travel.

Thanks again, CaveDweller, for helping end MileValue readers’ week on a high note.

Applying for business credit and charge cards is a great way to earn more miles and points than you already do, but many people don’t apply for business cards because they incorrectly believe they don’t qualify.

You don’t need to have employees, nor does your business need to be profitable. You can use your social security number instead of an EIN on the application. Your business doesn’t even need to have it’s own name or separate address from your personal one!

Sell things on Etsy? Ebay? Bake sales? Yard sales? Those are legitimate businesses to open a business credit card for.

Learn more in How to Get Approved for Business Credit Cards.

Apply for business cards if you’re trying to get back under 5/24

Another interesting prospect of business credit cards is that they don’t count towards your Chase 5/24 limit. The Chase 5/24 rule means that if you have opened five credit cards from any issuing bank in the last 24 months, Chase...

This is miles information, not tax advice. Consult a tax professional before paying your taxes with a credit card.

We’re right around the corner from April, which means Uncle Sam is going to come knocking soon enough. Paying taxes is a significant expense, so you should consider your payment options before mindlessly writing a check. Get something back for carrying out your civic duties.

The following payment processing companies are officially recognized by the IRS:

The above table is from irs.gov, follow the link for more complete details. Looks like Pay1040.com comes in as the winner with the lowest transaction fee of 1.87% for credit cards.

Transactions processed by these companies are classified as purchases, not cash advances. Each of the companies’ websites state it clearly in their FAQ:

Is It a Good Deal to Pay 1.87%?

On the right cards, yes. For instance, the Arrival Plus earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, which are worth 1 cent each toward travel. Because of the other intricacies of the card, you get at least 2.1% back on purchases toward travel, meaning you’d turn a small profit on paying taxes with your credit card.

And, you can do much...

I tweeted this deal first from @MileValueAlerts. Follow @MileValueAlerts on Twitter and follow these directions to get a text message every time I tweet from that account. I tweet from @MileValueAlerts rarely because it is designed to be used only for the best and most limited-time deals–like mistake fares–so that you aren’t bombarded by text messages.

Alaska Airline is offering a dirt cheap roundtrip economy fare to Hawaii, starting at $363 from Newark to Maui, Kona, Honolulu, and Lihue. Available travel dates span all the way from April 2018 through February of 2019. Flights have one stop on the west coast. This is a fantastic deal that won’t last, so act fast.

If you read my series on award space to Hawaii, you know that it’s often very difficult to find any First Class saver level award space to the islands. Flights from the west coast aren’t super long anyways, so buy a cheap economy cash ticket and save your rewards for when you can redeem them for a higher value.

Contents
  1. What city pairs are available?
  2. When are the cheap fares?
  3. Mileage Earning
  4. Baggage Allowance
  5. Best Credit Card to Buy the Ticket
Available City Pairs

You’ll find the cheap fares ($305+ roundtrip) between Newark and…

  • Honolulu (HNL)
  • Maui (OGG)
  • Kona (KOA)
  • Lihue (LIH)
When are the cheap fares?

The easiest way to see the cheap fares is on Google Flights. Available dates for the low price start in April and span through February of next year. The specific travel windows with the cheap fares are:

  • Outbound to Hawaii:
    • April 13 – June 7
    • August 12 – November 15
    • November 24...

Avianca has a co-branded credit card issued by Banco Popular called the Avianca Vuela Visa and it comes with 40,000 Avianca LifeMiles after your first purchase on the card and a $149 annual fee. You can easily boost that bonus to 60,000 LifeMiles after first purchase by using the following promotion code when applying:

LM17WB

There’s also a lower annual fee Avianca card called the Avianca Vida Visa with a 20,000 LifeMiles bonus after your first purchase and payment of the $59 annual fee. The same code boosts the Vida Visa bonus from 20,000 to 40,000 LifeMiles.

That code was taken from an email, but Banco Popular periodically sends out these promo codes for their Avianca cards and they generally work for everyone. These elevated bonuses are valid through May 31, 2018. I’m going to go over the Aviana Vuela Visa below as I think that is the better deal between the two cards.

Quick Facts
  • Sign Up Bonus: 40,000 bonus LifeMiles after using your card once (60,000 bonus LifeMiles if you input promotion code LM17WB during the application process)
  • Category Bonuses:
    • 3 LifeMiles for every dollar spent on Avianca purchases
    • 2 LifeMiles for every dollar spent at gas stations and grocery stores
  • 15% discount when purchasing miles via Multiply Your Miles
  • Two 50% discounts on award tickets redeemed after meeting further spending thresholds
    • one applicable for travel to Central America or Colombia from the United States after spending $12,000 on the card in a year
    • another also applicable for travel Central America or Colombia from the United States after...

Through Thursday (March 22, 2018), you can buy 5,000+ IHG Rewards Club points with a 100% bonus. That brings the per-point price down to 0.575 cents*, which means you can book certain hotels for as low as $29.

IHG is the loyalty program of these brands, including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn.

The 100% bonus kicks in at 5,000+ points purchased.

*If you buy 58,000 IHG points by March 22 you’ll actually receive 116,000 points for $580, or 0.5 cents each, as View from the Wing pointed out. Who knows why–looks like an error to me.

The maximum number of points you can purchase is 60,000 plus bonus points, meaning 120,000 total points.

IHG range from 10,000 to 70,000 points per night. There was a devaluation many were unhappy with that hit this past January. There are some OK deals on this chart–not nearly as many as before January–but the best use of IHG Rewards points is always to book PointBreaks hotels for 5,000 points per night.

Buying points for 0.575 (or .5) cents each and redeeming free nights at the 5,000 point PointBreaks price means hotels cost $28.75 per night (or $25 if...

The standard bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is 55,000 Ultimate Rewards for spending $4,000 on the card within three months of account opening (+adding an authorized user). With that offer, the $95 annual fee is waive for the first year of cardmembership

There is a new offer out for Sapphire Preferred: 65,000 Ultimate Rewards for spending the same $4,000 within three months of account opening (+adding an authorized user). But this offer does not waive the $95 annual fee.

We do get commissions when you sign up for some card offers, but not this 60k offer for the Sapphire Preferred. We just want you to be aware of the best deals. 

This offer is not available just anywhere. Personally I can’t find it by typing in “Chase Sapphire Preferred Card” into Google, nor if I Google search in an incognito window, nor after clearing my browser’s cache. Perhaps Chase is A/B testing the 50k/no annual fee and 60k/with annual fee to see which brings in more customers.

The rest of the new offer is the same as always…
  • Category Bonuses: 2x on travel and restaurants
  • Value of Ultimate Rewards: Worth 1.25 cents toward the purchase of any cash ticket OR can be transferred to various airlines and hotels for higher value redemptions
  • Global Acceptance: Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first 12 months, $95 per year afterwards
Which deal is better?

Depending on how averse you are annual fees, the 60k offer without the waived annual fee is the...

Until April 11, 2018, the Gold Delta Card is offering 50,000 bonus Delta miles after you spend $2,000 in your first three months, plus an additional 10,000 bonus miles for spending another $1,000 in within the first six months. The card also comes with a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within three months of opening it. The Gold Delta Business Card comes with the exact same offer.

Also until April 11, 2018, the Platinum Delta Card is offering 70,000 bonus miles, 10,000 status miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in your first three months. The Platinum Delta Business Card has all the same benefits, the only difference is the sign up bonus is 70,000 SkyMiles + 10,000 MQMs for spending $4,000 in three months.

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Credit Cards.

These are the same record high bonuses we saw offered back in September of last year.

Quick Facts
  • Sign Up Bonus: Platinum: 70k miles, 10k MQMs, and $100 statement credit after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Gold: 60k miles and $50 statement credit after spending $2,000 in the first three months and an additional $1,000 within the first six months
  • Category Bonuses: 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases
  • Value of Delta Miles: Worth 1.3 cents each to me
  • Free Checked Bag for you plus up to three others on same Delta reservation
  • Priority Boarding
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee
  • Annual Fee:
    Platinum: $195, not waived...