My Q1 Wrap Up: Airlines, Hotels and Credit Cards

by on April 4, 2012 · 32 comments

in American, American Express, Chase, Delta, Elite Status, Hyatt, Intercontinental/ Ambassador, Starwood

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I can’t believe it’s April already. 2012 has been going by in a blur, so I thought I’d do a little wrap-up on all my travel for the first quarter of 2012 and discuss my personal strategy for the rest of 2012.

Mileage: 75,034 actual miles flown. Destinations visited: Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, San Francisco, London, Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles, Kauai, Dublin, Singapore, Bangkok, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Hong Kong.

Airlines Elite Status
American: Executive Platinum due to a status challenge and currently sitting at 94,000 miles (15 segments) towards 2013 requalification, thanks mostly to the double EQM promotion in January.
Delta: Platinum. Currently at 43,000 MQMs (6 segments) towards 2013 qualification, mostly due to rollover from 2012 (34,000 MQMs).

My Strategy: My main concerns are AA’s bankruptcy, though I think in a worst case scenario they will merge with another airline like US Airways. I’m not too worried and I’m enjoying Executive Platinum, though I really do miss the near 100% in-flight WiFi access that I had on Delta and I don’t really like their international angled lie-flat business class product. Delta’s lie flats are miles ahead and I even find their 757 and 767 recliner style seats to be more comfortable than being curled up in an angled shell (with 3 seats across in the middle section so no seat is safe from people walking over you). #Businessclassproblems indeed, I know.

As for Delta, I dropped from Diamond to Platinum this year and rolled over a nice chunk of miles. I’m flying the airline between New York and Miami because they have the cheapest fares usually and I always have WiFi and upgrades (it’s harder on AA flying into Miami). I will definitely go back to Platinum and possibly even Diamond, though I’m nervous because if Delta devalues their program to a fixed-value program, I’ll most likely jump ship completely. Honestly, accruing and redeeming American miles has been so much better than Delta – I can actually use them for international first class on amazing carriers like Cathay Pacific (Delta blocks all first class international redemptions) and award availability for domestic tickets is good (barely existent at the low level with Delta). I need some more time to evaluate the direction Delta is headed before really making a sprint toward Platinum and Diamond.

Hotel Elite Status
Starwood: Platinum with 48 nights and 20 stays towards 2013 requalification. I’ve fallen in love with SPG again ever since they started counting award stays (including my favorite cash & point redemptions) toward elite status. Their new Platinum enhancements that kicked in on March 1, and the solid Q1 double/triple points promo solidified it even more and I’m steaming forward towards hitting 75 nights so I can get suite upgrades, 4 Starpoints base per dollar and Your 24 ability to check in 24 hours a day.

Hyatt: Diamond with 6 nights/ 3 stays towards Diamond requalification. Unfortunately they don’t count award stays toward elite status and they don’t have coverage in many of the places I’ve been. I like Diamond status, but think Hyatt needs to introduce cash & points and start counting award stays towards elite status before I really commit. I did just get the Hyatt Visa (which gives me two free nights in a suite since I was a Diamond when applying) so I look forward to using them and potentially transferring Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt for future award nights. A rockstar promo could get me paying for stays again, but it’s wait and see at this point.

Intercontinental: Platinum/ Royal Ambassador. 2 stays and 3 nights. It’s a fun program with the free minibar and nice suite upgrades, but since Royal Ambassador requalification requirements are secret, I don’t even bother. My biggest gripe is that Intercontinental makes you feel like a criminal when redeeming points and doesn’t offer the same Royal Ambassador benefits as if you paid, unlike Hyatt and Starwood.

Credit Cards
-Hyatt Visa: 2 free nights in a suite.
-Amex Business Gold: 75,000 pointsUpdate: 50,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months of Card membership.

-Chase New Ink Bold: 60,000 points.(*just applied)
-Chase Freedom: 20,000 points and lots of bonus spend categories. (*just applied)
-Starwood Amex: If/when the 30,000 point or better offer comes back.
-Citi ThankYou Premier: If they bring back the 50,000-point sign-up bonus, and add transfer partners.

Current: I am working towards hitting the $30,000 spend to get my British Airways Visa companion ticket. All travel and dining on my Sapphire Preferred for the 2x points category bonus.

Has your loyalty shifted at all this year? I’m curious to hear how happy/unhappy United/Continental flyers are with the merger and if any other Delta flyers are concerned with potential changes to the program.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Nick E

    I am TERRIBLY concerned about the rumored changes to SkyMiles. As a second-year Diamond, I have really enjoyed flying with them. I would actually understand them moving towards a model that rewards true HVC’s (I only spent about $15k with them last year, mostly discount economy fares). My biggest concern involves whether or not old miles can be redeemed for old awards after the new system is rolled out.

    If not, that’ll be the nail in the coffin for me. As far as I’m concerned, that would be no different than a banker telling a potential customer, “Hey, if you finance your house through us, you’ll get a free trip to Hawaii!” only to turn around after the fact and say, “Sorry, even though I promised you this and influenced your decision, we’re now only going to allow you to go to Kansas City.” It’s at best unethical and at worst illegal. I understand that the T&C of SkyMiles say that they can be changed at any time, but applying rules retroactively to miles accrued under the old system would be terrible.

    When WN adopted their new revenue-based program, all old credits and awards remained intact with the exact same expiration rules. I highly doubt Delta’s IT department could make something like that happen…

  • PJ

    are you going for NEW INK BOLD AND FREEDOM at the same time ? mkae sure you update your application status

  • PJ

    nothing from United Explorer for the 50K + 10 K signon bonus after 1st purchase :) ? I thought that one would draw in point hunters like a magnet

  • AC

    I am trying to status match with United right now, as Delta flights last year didn’t qualify for my preferred status (min Gold). I’ve been wanting to build up better status with other airlines, even though I’ve been a multi-year DL guy…the change scares me. It’s a bait and switch that got tons to join after their merger to absorb costs and raise profile, but now, they are trying to consolidate in the wrong fashion. Why United? They give me faster ability to match and enjoy status then AA. Eventually, as DL covers most of my Southern town’s in/outbound flights, I may try again for elite…but not now.

  • James

    I don’t travel enough to diversify if I want anything in the way of elite benefits, so I’ve been extremely loyal to Delta for the last 2-3 years. All I need is the current program to last until September so I can redeem 120k miles for my dream trip (my wife calls it “mmmParis”: Montreal/Paris/Monaco/Mauritius) and then switch to United or US Airways if need be. To that end, I’ve made the Chase Sapphire, rather than the Skymiles Amex, my number one in case change is indeed in the air. It will be a lot easier to switch to Star if I already have 53,350+ UR points which can be shifted to UA

  • Tom125

    How do you plan on spending your companion pass once you earn it? I HATE the british airways taxes and fees. They really destroy the value of that companion pass. I don’t fly business class unless my company it’s paying, so is there value for aeronomy class traveler that I don’t see?

  • David – Travel and Credit

    The 50,000 Citi ThankYou Points Premier card is still alive and well. I have the link on the Top Deals page on my site.
    I applied through it a few weeks ago, was approved and confirmed the bonus. Landing page and all. Take screenshots if you doubt.

  • Simek

    Many here say they will jump ship from Delta if they adopt a fixed-value program…
    …But what if the other carriers follow in Delta’s footsteps?

  • thepointsguy

    If Delta’s changes end up causing them huge loss in business (especially on the credit card front), I’m not sure sure the others will be quick to follow- especially if they are gaining tons of new customers.

  • thepointsguy

    Yep I have it on my Top Deals too.. im just waiting for my next round of apps and for me to finish some spend on current ones (Like Amex Business Gold and Ink Bold)

  • thepointsguy

    I value business and first class awards, so for example getting two business class roundtrips from JFK to London for 80,000 miles and $1,800 total is still a great deal to me. Though I’ll probably use it for something like South Africa with a stop in London to really maximize it

  • thepointsguy

    That sounds like a great trip indeed! Hopefully if Delta does make changes there will be a grace period

  • thepointsguy

    possibly..just too many 0ther Chase cards in the meantime!

  • thepointsguy

    I did both this AM. Will keep you updated

  • Arielstock

    So, I haven’t noticed anyone talk about the Premier Rewards AMEX for travel purchases (3x points), most people preferring sapphire preferred cards… Is that just because UR are worth more than amex points?

  • AceTracer

    I applied today for the Chase Freedom 35,000 point offer.

  • Cindy

    Thanks for your nice update. It could be a guidance to my strategy as well.
    Would you mind share how much does it cost you to get these? like fly 75Kmiles…

  • Izena

    Is this a Visa or MC?

  • Raj B

    The PRG only gives 3x for airfare. I use it for airfare, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred for all other travel.

    I don’t discriminate between these 2 programs — I just want to accumulate as many points in each one.

  • David – Travel and Credit

    Oh right on. In your post you said you would apply for it if they bring back the 50,000 point bonus again… I thought you meant that they didn’t have it available right now so you weren’t applying for it.

  • DealsSeeker

    My husband is Silver United and when he recently flew internationally, they only allowed him 1 Free checked bag, down from 2! He had to pay$70 for the 2nd bag.

  • PJ

    why does it matter ? JUST DO IT :)

  • PJ

    WOW this is the BEST EVER
    My daughter jsut applied ( SO did Brian) I think Chase would match it up :)

  • Julie

    I make sure to earn a BA companion voucher every year.
    I just used one to book a trip in First from San Francisco to Edinburgh and Glasgow with a stop in London.
    It’s costing just under $2500 total in taxes and charges, but that’s still incredible to me since economy tickets to the UK can easily run to $1250 per person at various times of year.

  • Julie

    Applied! Too good to miss.

  • PJ

    3MR = 2 UR to me anyway

    Do I want the PRG to get 3 % on Airtravel AND pay $175 ? absolutely NO
    DO I want the PRG to get 3% on Airtravel and 75K MR? and even with paying for the second year memebership . . OK
    DO I pay $95 and convert 20K+ URs into UA miles YES
    DO i need to keep 2 Sapphire cards if NOT for the signup bonus ? hmmm a NO one is certainly enough

  • PJ

    I am keeping an eye on Citi thank you card too ; my 120K Invitation never came in not even the 80K either.
    anybody can share their point redemption expeirence? i have been thinking Sunoco gas card is a rare one to get good use of thanks points

  • Precision123

    my family meeting went for too long: GONE the 35000 URs NO LONGER AVAILABLE

  • KSS Steven

    I noticed you mentioned that you were working on your spend for the British Air card. Can you give me some insight on which destination you are planning to use the companion. I have been researching and it appears most flights are pretty crazy with the Taxes.

  • Traveler MJ

    With the Chase Ink Bold- can you transfer points to airlines/hotels like you can with the Sapphire?

  • thepointsguy

    Yep- same partners (just make sure you have the Ink bold with ultimate rewards)

  • thepointsguy

    Crazy taxes indeed, but for example NYC to london in business is 80,000 miles and $800. So two tickets with the 241 would be $1600 and 80,000 miles each. Thats pretty great for two business class tickets.

    Theres no way to get around the fees, but it can still be a great deal if you value premium awards

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