The Points Guy Mon, 01 Sep 2014 17:54:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Roundup of Credit Card Bonuses and Promotions Ending Soon Mon, 01 Sep 2014 17:50:09 +0000

With summer coming to an end, I wanted to give a quick round up of credit card offers and promotions that will be ending soon.

Expiring Credit Card Offers

United 50,000

United Explorer: Ending September 2, 2014
• Earn 50,000 miles after $2,000 spent on purchases in the first 3 months.
• Earn an additional 5,000 miles when you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months.
• Check your first bag for free – save up to $100 per roundtrip.
• Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club with two one-time-use passes every year.
• No foreign transaction fees.
• Earn double miles on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.
• Your miles don’t expire as long as you’re a cardmember, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn.
• $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
*Note that there’s a better offer of 50,000 miles plus a $50 statement credit for existing United members.

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Delta Gold SkyMiles (Personal and Business): Ending September 8, 2014
• Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months.
• Earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first 3 months.
• 2X miles on Delta purchases and 1X miles for all other eligible dollars spent.
• First checked bag free for you and up to 8 people on your reservation.
• Priority Boarding.
• $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

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Platinum Delta SkyMiles: Ending September 8, 2014
• Earn 15,000 MQMs and 50,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months.
• Earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first 3 months.
• 2X miles on Delta purchases and 1X miles for all other eligible dollars spent.
• First checked bag free for you and up to 8 people on your reservation.
• Priority Boarding.

Expiring Promotions

Amex Membership Rewards 25% JetBlue Transfer Bonus: Ending September 15, 2014
• The usual transfer ratio is 5 Membership Rewards points to 4 TrueBlue Points, but with the 25% transfer bonus, the ratio is 1:1.
• JetBlue’s new Mint business class, which is currently offered on service between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles, and between New York and San Francisco starting in October, can be booked for 69,800 TrueBlue Points roundtrip, or 34,900 one way.

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Hyatt Gold Passport 30% Bonus on Purchased Points: Ending September 15, 2014
• Earn up to a 30% bonus when you buy Hyatt Gold Passport points.
• Purchase between 5,000-19,000 points and you’ll earn a 10% bonus; purchase 20,000 to 39,000 and your bonus will be 20%; and purchase 40,000 to 55,000 points for a 30% bonus.
• This is a hard-coded bonus through, so there’s no need to register for the offer. Per my August Monthly Valuations, I value Hyatt Gold Passport points at 1.8 cents apiece.

Shop via the Elevate Fly shopping portal and get 500 bonus points

Shop via the Elevate Fly shopping portal and get 500 bonus points.

Virgin America Launches Elevate Fly Store With Bonus For First Purchase: Ending September 30, 2014
• Shop at the new Virgin America Elevate Fly online shopping portal and get 500 bonus points for your first purchase.
• The bonus is a one time only offer, and there is no minimum spend to earn the bonus–you just have to buy something.
• The site has over 100 retailers, like Nordstrom, Apple Store, Target, Staples and more.

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Earn Up to 3x Hilton HHonors Points: Ending October 31, 2014
• Earn bonus points for stays at participating properties: triple HHonors points on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights; and double HHonors points on Monday through Thursday nights.

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Last Minute Travel: Finding Award Availability & More Mon, 01 Sep 2014 12:08:37 +0000

Today TPG Contributor Jason Steele offers insights into booking last minute flights, including tips for finding late award availability and minimizing costs when cash tickets are your only option.

Travelers who book their flights far in advance generally enjoy the least expensive airline tickets and the most award availability. Nevertheless, there are many reasons why people may want or need to travel at the last minute, ranging from an emergency to a desire to be more spontaneous.

Airlines largely view last minute reservations as business travel, and act as if this inventory is very price-inelastic, meaning they can charge pretty much whatever they want and people will still pay it. For example, a previous employer of mine once spent $1,600 for a same day ticket from Denver to Atlanta, when a flight to Australia would have been less expensive.

If there’s some silver lining to this price gouging, it’s that award travel enthusiasts will find their points and miles to be the most valuable when it comes to last minute travel, even though award availability may be scarce.

For the purpose of this discussion, I define last minute travel as a departure within two weeks, which is less time than you need to qualify for advance fares on most carriers.

Last minute travel is always a challenge. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Last minute travel is often a challenge. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Here are the factors to consider when you want to travel at the “last minute.”

Close-in booking fees for award travel

One trick airlines use to monetize the need to travel at the last minute is to impose close-in award booking fees. However, not all airlines do this, so if you’re transferring flexible points to airline miles, consider a program that won’t charge you extra. For example, awards purchased with British Airways Avios will not have the $75 close-in award booking fee charged by American Airlines or US Airways to non-elites. Likewise, ANA and Singapore have no close-in award booking fee, while fellow Star Alliance carrier United does.

Here are the fees from some of the major airlines:

  • Air Canada: $0 (Transfer partner of Amex, SPG)
  • Alaska: $0 (Transfer partner of SPG)
  • American:$75 for tickets booked within 21 days of departure: waived for all AA elites (Transfer partner of SPG)
  • ANA:$0 (Transfer partner of Amex and SPG)
  • British Airways:$0, BA is partners with American, so it may make sense to use Avios for last minute AAdvantage awards- especially for short and mid-haul flights, which may require fewer miles (Transfer partner of Amex, Chase, and SPG)
  • Delta:$0 (Transfer partner of Amex and SPG)
  • Hawaiian Airlines:$0 (Transfer partner of Amex and SPG)
  • JetBlue: $0 (Transfer partner of Amex)
  • Singapore Airlines:$0 (Transfer partner of Amex, Chase, SPG, and Citi)
  • Southwest: $0 (Transfer partner of Chase)
  • United: $75 for non-elites booking within 21 days, $50 for Silver, $25 for Gold, $0 for 1k, Global Services, Platinum (Transfer partner of Chase at 1:1 and SPG at 2:1)
  • US Airways: $75, waived for Gold, Platinum and Chairman’s Preferred members (Transfer partner of SPG)
  • Virgin America:$0 (Transfer partner of Amex, Chase, and SPG)

Point transfer times and award hold policies

When your last minute award travel strategy involves transferring points from flexible reward times, you can’t risk losing your award seats while waiting for your points to show up. With Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, the transfers are generally instantaneous (transfers to Singapore Airlines sometimes take a day or two.

With the Starwood Preferred Guest program, transfers always take at least a day, but usually less than five. In fact, most American Airlines transfers from SPG are taking less than two days now. However, both American and US Airways offer five day holds on award tickets, allowing you to reserve your flights with confidence that the transfer will take place in time to finalize your ticket. Unfortunately, American only offers a one day hold within 14 days of departure, and US Airways goes to 24 hours within four days of departure.

Citi’s ThankYou Rewards transfer program is so new that there are few reports on transfer times. What evidence there is indicates that transfers to Singapore (perhaps their most valuable partner) are taking one to two days.

Other airlines that allow award holds on award tickets include:

  • Alitalia – 14 days, but only for flights operated by Alitalia.
  • Korean - Five days for partner flights, and up to two days before departure for Korean operated flights.
  • Lufthansa Miles & More - Five day award holds for flights on Asiana, Austrian Croatia, Ethiopian, Jet Airways, Lufthansa, and Swiss.

Booking imperfect flights and awards

When you book last minute flights and awards, you often get some pretty poor choices including red-eyes, multiple connections, out of the way flights, and long layovers. While your choices may be limited when you book your flight, there are opportunities on the day of departure to take alternate flights.

Last minute travelers can take advantage of delays and cancellations and be re-accommodated on better flights. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Last minute travelers can take advantage of delays and cancellations, and be re-accommodated on flights with better schedules. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

For example, there are several ways to stand-by for an alternate flight, including oversell situations, agent discretion (asking nicely), and irregular operations due to weather, air traffic control, or mechanical problems. In addition, many carriers offer some form of paid standby or same-day confirmed travel, such as the latest version of Delta’s policy. In fact, I found that you can even standby for international flights.

Finally, there are some airlines that will open up last minute award space. Lufthansa is well known to only open up award space (to award travelers in other frequent flier programs) in their first class cabin within 14 days of departure.

Thankfully, both American and Alaska allow free changes to award reservations, so long as the origin and destination remain the same. Lately, I have even found that US Airways is releasing more international award space within a few days (or even hours) of departure. Just note that American is unable to ticket a partner award flight within two hours of departure, even on US Airways.

Double price awards

No one wants to feel like they’re wasting miles on a double price or mid-tier award, but these can still offer value when compared to the exorbitant prices of last minute cash tickets. For example, a round-trip flight from Atlanta to Maui on American Airlines in first class prices out at $3,550, and is often 135,000 miles at their AAnytime rate. Considering that the total flight distance is similar to flying from Atlanta to Europe, and the Dallas to Maui leg features an internationally configured business class, 135,000 miles is not that unreasonable. And of course, when you pay for double mileage awards, you end up with a lot more flexibility to book multiple awards to your destination on the most convenient flights.

This $3,500 flight in business class could be booked for 135,000 miles, twice the rate of a saver award.

This $3,500 flight in business class could be booked for 135,000 miles, twice the rate of a saver award.

Ultra discount carriers

As a last resort, travelers who must fly at the last minute and can’t find an available award seat may need to consider an ultra-discount carrier. These are the carriers that market rock-bottom airfares, yet pile on fees for everything imaginable. This business model is becoming increasingly popular all over the world, especially in Europe (on airlines like Ryan Air). In America, Spirit is pioneering this strategy, and Frontier has been rapidly working to emulate it, even before being purchased by the same parent company as Spirit.  To some extent, Allegiant may also be considered an ultra-discount carrier.

Ultra discount carriers like Spirit might be your best bet if there are no awards available (Image courtesy of Shutterstock).

Ultra-discount carriers like Spirit might be your best bet if there’s no award availablity elsewhere (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

It’s with last minute travel that the ultra-low cost strategy can offer travelers the biggest savings compared to other carriers, even when fees are considered.  For example, at the time of writing I found round-trip flights from Denver to Ft. Lauderdale over Labor Day weekend to be over $1,000 on Delta, United, and even Southwest, yet Spirit was $374 and Frontier was $786. So even if you were to budget another $100 for baggage, seat fees, and a soda, you’d still come out far ahead of most other options. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with the carry-on and checked baggage policies of these carriers to minimize fees.

What are your strategies for last minute travel? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

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Should I Get Amex Gold Premier or Southwest Rapid Rewards? Sun, 31 Aug 2014 13:59:13 +0000

TPG reader Noah tweeted me to ask:

 @thepointsguy “Which card should I get? The American Express Gold Premier Rewards credit card with the 50k bonus or Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier credit card with the 50k bonus?”

I generally don’t answer questions like “Which credit card is better?” because there are so many factors to take into consideration. A given credit card may be very lucrative for some people and not for others. For example, I know many readers swear by the Southwest cards, but I don’t fly Southwest very often since their routing isn’t ideal for me, and I usually use my miles for international travel to Europe; therefore this card wouldn’t be a great option for me. That being said, for people who fly Southwest often and want that flexibility, it’s an excellent option.

As I previously stated, I don’t normally answer these types of questions, but today I couldn’t help myself. TPG reader Noah wants to know which card is the better option: the Amex Gold Premier Rewards card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card (they both have a 50,000 point bonus).

If you want to fly internationally and have several different airline options, go with the Amex Premier card. This way you can leverage your points on many unique Membership Rewards transfer partners, like Aeroplan, Delta, Air France, ANA, British Airways and more. If you spend a lot of money on gas, airfare and groceries, this card will give you a much better earning ratio than the Southwest card.

If you often fly Southwest, the Rapid Rewards Premier card makes sense

If you fly Southwest often, the Rapid Rewards Premier card makes sense. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

On the other hand, if you fly Southwest frequently, get the Southwest card, especially if you think you can get the companion pass. The 50,000 point bonus you earn from the Southwest card will count towards the 110,000 point qualification requirement, so just one card will get you almost halfway there! Two cards will put you in sight of the finish line.

Of course, another option is to get both! One is Amex and one is Chase, and the annual fee is waived for the first year on the Amex Premier Rewards Gold. If you think you can meet the spending requirements for both cards, you may as well go for it.

So in conclusion, Noah, you tell us! Which one makes the most sense for you? For other readers, how do you decide between cards when you’re getting ready to apply? Please share your selection process and other suggestions in the comments below.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at

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Will I Earn a Bonus for Upgrading to Citi Executive Card? Sun, 31 Aug 2014 13:29:45 +0000

TPG reader Marty tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy “Does American Airlines ever give mile bonuses to upgrade your existing credit card from Platinum Select AAdvantage to Citi Executive AAdvantage?”

The Citi Executive AAdvantage credit card is one of the most lucrative deals out there. This year alone, I’ve gotten two different Citi AAdvantage cards; both are still open, and I’ve gotten 100,000 miles in bonuses on each. Sadly, those 100,000 mile offers are no longer available, having first gone down to 75,000 miles and now down to 60,000 miles. Sometimes on or the Citi website they’ll offer only 30,000 miles for this card, or even zero. The bottom line is that these offers come and go, and you have to snap them up quickly in order to get the best deals.

TPG reader Marty tweeted me to ask if American or Citi gives bonuses to upgrade an existing AA card (such as the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card) to the Citi Executive AAdvantage card. I’ve actually never tried to upgrade from a lower level existing AAdvantage card, but my guess is that the bonus you might get for upgrading wouldn’t be as high as what you’d get as a new applicant. A lot of those offers for 60,000 miles and up were targeted to people in lounges (like Amex Platinum cardholders who were going to be losing access) as a lucrative incentive to new customers.

Usually upgrade bonuses are not nearly as lucrative as new applicant bonuses. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Usually upgrade bonuses are not nearly as lucrative as new applicant bonuses. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

So for existing cardholders, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for them to throw a substantial bonus at you, because frankly, they’ve already got you as a customer. They also know that once people have credit cards, they don’t really want to cancel and re-open a new one.

So, you can always call and find out, but I’d bet what you might get for upgrading won’t compare to a new applicant bonus. I would love to hear what experiences other people have had getting upgrade offers, so please share in the comments section below, and Marty, let us know how your attempt to upgrade pans out.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at

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How Can I Keep Delta Medallion Status If I’m Short MQDs? Sun, 31 Aug 2014 12:59:31 +0000

TPG reader Julie tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy “Any ideas for someone who has enough Delta MQMs but is about $1500 short on MQDs? I want to maintain Silver Medallion Elite status and I have an Amex Platinum Delta card.”

For United and Delta flyers, the elite status game got a little bit harder in 2014. Starting this year, it’s not just about accruing a certain number of elite qualifying miles or segments, it’s also about how much you spend. Both airlines now require certain spend amounts on ticketed flights in order to get or maintain elite status, which is just one more hoop to jump through. Additionally, not all expenses on tickets count towards elite status spend.

TPG reader Julie tweeted me asking for ideas on how to get more MQD’s, as she is $1500 short  for maintaining her Silver Medallion status. She also has the Amex Platinum Delta credit card.

No one wants to lose their elite status benefits, like lounge access or upgrades. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

No one wants to lose their elite status benefits, like lounge access or upgrades. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

The easiest way to not worry about these spend requirements would be to spend $25,000 on your Delta co-branded card. If you do so, Delta will waive that revenue requirement for all four levels of elite status.

That being said, the Delta cards aren’t that great for everyday earning compared to other cards. For example, on gas you’ll earn one Delta mile per $1 spent versus plenty of other cards like the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card, which will give you 2 points per $1 spent and let you then transfer those points to Delta or a number of other partners. In spending $25,000 on the Delta Amex card, you could lose a lot of value by not putting that spend on other cards.

Another possibility, though rather unethical, would be to change your address to one outside of the United States. These revenue requirements are only for US residents. So, if for some reason you were to “move abroad” by entering a non-US address into your frequent flyer account, Delta will exempt you from the MQD requirement (you’ll have to upload some kind of documentation as proof). However, keep in mind that doing this is a violation of the rules and there could be consequences if you’re caught.

Also note that United does offer an exemption for their spend requirement to everyone but 1K flyers. So for 1K flyers who live in the US, you’ll need to have at least $10,000 of eligible spend in order to obtain Elite status.

Thanks to these new spend requirements, I think 2015 will see a drop off of Elite status flyers, especially at that United 1K level.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at

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Will Delta Reserve MQMs Qualify for Platinum Challenge? Sun, 31 Aug 2014 12:29:14 +0000

TPG reader Matt tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy “I’m on a Delta Platinum Challenge, can I sign up for the Delta Reserve American Express credit card and have those MQM’s qualify for the challenge requirement?”

Airline Elite status matches and challenges are a great way to leverage your current status and quickly earn similar status on another airline without having to start from the bottom of the ladder.

TPG reader Matt is on a Delta Platinum Challenge and wants to know if the MQMs earned from the Delta Reserve American Express card will count for the challenge requirements. Unfortunately, the answer is no. You’ll have to fly. Airlines in general aren’t going to let you use credit card spending to meet challenge requirements.

Credit card MQM's won't count for the Delta Platinum challenge, you have to fly. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Credit card MQM’s won’t count for the Delta Platinum challenge, you have to fly. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Even once you hit a status challenge level, you don’t automatically get that many elite qualifying miles at that level. Your elite qualifying level points, miles or segments remain where they are; the status challenge just elevates you to a certain level, and you have to earn that status if you want to keep it.

Often the airline credit card elite qualifying miles won’t help you in the first year; it’s only when you want to re-qualify for the next year that they come into play.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at

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Cultured: Museum Hopping Through the Masters in Nice Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:30:06 +0000

The French Riviera has attracted and inspired everyone from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche to celebrated writers and painters like Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nice-based contributor Lane Nieset takes us museum hopping through places where these artistic greats lived and worked.

If you visit the French Riviera, you’ll undoubtedly find a cultural reference to a literary or artistic figure—usually one of the masters. The area has been a source of refuge and inspiration thanks to its varied landscape of mountains, rolling hills and seaside cliffs plunging into the Mediterranean.

Simply by taking a stroll through these towns, you’ll come across 90 lecterns with replicas of landscape paintings, all placed in the exact spot where the artist had painted on their own easel, so you can see how a place inspired Claude Monet or Jean Cocteau.

The region also features over 100 museums, 12 of which honor a sole artist, including two popular spots in Nice: Musée Matisse and Musée Chagall.

Discovering Matisse

In the hillside neighborhood of Cimiez lies the Henri Matisse Museum (free to the public), housed in a 17th century villa located next to the Franciscan monastery, Gallo-Roman ruins, and Italianate rose gardens.

Musée Matisse in Cimiez

Musée Matisse in Cimiez (Photo courtesy of the Nice Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Matisse discovered Nice when he was 48 years old, falling in love with the light and sea, and stayed in the area for 27 years, living in various parts of town, including the hotel Régina, located just across from the museum and Park of Cimiez. Matisse’s tomb can even be found at the cemetery in Cimiez outside of the Franciscan monastery.

If you stand in the Cours Saleya, where the flower and food markets are held, you will see a faded yellow building at the end of the square below Castle Hill at Place Charles-Félix. Matisse once lived and worked on the first, third and, finally, fourth floor of this apartment—with his last apartment looking over the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels).

Cours Saleya

Place Charles-Félix at the end of the Cours Saleya market (Image courtesy of Nice Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Touring the Matisse Museum, you’ll see the influence the region had on the artist, starting in 1890 with his early Impressionist and Fauvist paintings, moving through the different stages of his work to his later gouaches cut-outs like Icare (1942) and La Vague (1952).

From now through Sept. 29, the museum is hosting an exhibit focusing on Matisse’s “Nice period,” titled “Nice, the Dream & the Odalisque,” which started during the artist’s time living at Place Charles Félix.

Musée Matisse

Musée Matisse (Image courtesy of Succession Henri Matisse-Riviera CRT Côte d’Azur; Photo by Anaïs BROCHIERO)

Tips for visiting Musée Matisse. The museum is one of the major attractions in Nice, so weekends can be particularly busy at the museum and park. It’s open all week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except for Tuesdays and can be reached on the number 15, 17, 20, 22 or 25 bus (1.50 Euro or $2 for a one-way ticket) getting off at the Les Arènes/musée Matisse stop.

Discovering Chagall

Near the Matisse Museum, you can also find Musée Chagall, home to the largest public collection of Chagall’s work. From 1966 to 1985, Chagall lived in the medieval hilltop village of Saint-Paul de Vence, about an hour bus ride (bus number 400) from Nice. Walking through this town, you’ll find the landscape that inspired the artist’s paintings and mosaics.

Saint-Paul de Vence

Saint-Paul de Vence (Image courtesy of CRT Côte d’Azur)

Venture up to Saint-Paul de Vence and stroll through the cobblestone streets lined with galleries, stopping by places the artist frequented during his time there, like La Colombe d’Or, where he would be seen with other artists like Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

The museum Fondation Maeght also features the artist’s work—as well as pieces by Léger, Calder and others—and is celebrating its 50th anniversary with an exhibit running through November 11 with 100 masterpieces, including those by Braque, César, Miró and, of course, Chagall.

Chagall in Saint-Paul de Vence

Chagall’s view of Saint-Paul de Vence with a replica painting featured on one of the lecterns (Image courtesy of the Office de Tourisme de Saint Paul de Vence/Eric Zaragoza)

Back in Nice, walk through the artist’s work at the museum named for him with 17 pieces from sculptures to stained-glass windows all focusing on the theme of the Bible. The museum is currently showcasing Chagall’s panorama painting La Vie (1964), on loan from the Fondation Maeght, and other pieces and work relating to La Vie from now through October 6.

Musée Marc Chagall

Musée Marc Chagall (Image courtes of Riviera CRT Côte d’Azur/Georges VERAN)

Tips for visiting Musée Chagall. To reach the museum, take bus number 22 or 15 to the Musée Chagall stop. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except for Tuesdays and costs 8 Euro ($11). Unlike most museums in Nice, the national museums charge an entrance fee, except on the first Sunday of the month.

Have you experienced these museums or villages in the French Riviera? What are some of your other favorite spots for art and culture in the region?

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Hyatt 50% Off in China, Bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards & More Sat, 30 Aug 2014 12:29:49 +0000

Here’s a round-up of the week’s points, miles and travel industry news you may have missed:

Get a $50 Visa gift card for 3 night or more Holiday Inn stays

Get a $50 Visa gift card for stays of 3 nights or more at Holiday Inn.

Get a $50 Visa Gift Card For Holiday Inn Stays: If you stay three nights or more at a Holiday Inn Resort, you can get a $50 Visa Gift card via the Hold On To Summer promotion from IHG. You must first register for the promotion online and then book a stay of three nights or more at any participating Holiday Inn Resort. You have to register and stay by October 31, 2014. A digital $50 Visa gift card will be issued 2-4 weeks after your stay, (or a physical gift card will be issued after 4-6 weeks for IHG members who do not have a valid email address on file). A list of participating Holiday Inn properties is below:

  • Holiday Inn Resort Bar Harbor – Acadia Natl Park
  • Holiday Inn Resort Daytona Beach Oceanfront
  • Holiday Inn Resort Deadwood Mountain Grand
  • Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista
  • Holiday Inn Resort Fort Walton Beach
  • Holiday Inn Resort Galveston-On The Beach
  • Holiday Inn Resort Beach House
  • Holiday Inn Resort Waikiki Beachcomber
  • Holiday Inn Resort Lake George-Turf
  • Holiday Inn Resort The Lodge at Running Y Ranch
  • Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach
  • Holiday Inn Resort Pensacola Beach Gulf Front
  • Holiday Inn Resort The Lodge at Eagle Crest
  • Holiday Inn Resort West Bay Beach
Get an extra 600 bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards points for Choice Hotel stays

Get an extra 600 bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards points for Choice Hotel stays

1,200 Southwest Rewards Points For Choice Hotel Stays: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards members can earn 1,200 points for stays at participating Choice Hotel properties. The bonus is technically 600 points + the base earnings of 600 points for a total of 1,200. You can earn these points for stays at participating Choice Hotel properties in U.S., Canada, Europe (excluding  Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Sweden), the Middle East, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Papua New Guinea and Fiji. The promotion is valid through November 15, 2014. 

Get up to a 40% bonus on purchasing Alaska Air miles

Get up to a 40% bonus on purchasing Alaska Air miles.

Reminder: Alaska Air 40% Buy Miles Bonus: Alaska Airlines is running a Buy Miles promotion through October 14, 2014, where you can buy miles with up to a 40% bonusIt’s a tiered bonus, and the amounts are as follows:

  • Buy 5,000 – 19,000 miles, get a 20% Bonus
  • Buy 20,000 – 34,000 miles, get a 30% Bonus
  • Buy 35,000 – 40,000 miles, get a 40% Bonus

You’d need to purchase between 35,000 to 40,000 miles in order to obtain the full 40% bonus. Each set of 1,000 miles costs $27.50 plus a 7.5% Federal Tax, so buying the full amount would total $1,182.50 for 56,000 miles (40,000 miles plus the 16,000 mile bonus), coming out to 2.1 cents per mile.

Shop via the Elevate Fly shopping portal and get 500 bonus points

Shop via the Elevate Fly shopping portal and get 500 bonus points.

Virgin America Launches Elevate Fly Store With Bonus For First Purchase: Shop at the new Virgin America Elevate Fly online shopping portal before September 30, 2014 and get 500 bonus points for your first purchase. The bonus is a one time only offer, and there is no minimum spend to earn the bonus–you just have to buy something. The site has over 100 retailers, like Nordstrom, Apple Store, Target, Staples and more.

Get 50% Off second night stays at Hyatt properties in mainland China

Get 50% off second night stays at Hyatt properties in mainland China

Second Night 50% Off at Hyatt China Properties: Hyatt is offering 50% off second night stays for all mainland China Hyatt properties. The promotion is valid for reservations made by October 31, 2014 for stays between September 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014. A discount of up to 50% off the Hyatt Daily Rate applies to every second night of bookings of two consecutive nights, so if your total booking is six nights, you will receive 50% off the rate on the 2nd, 4th and 6th nights. To make a reservation, make sure to use the promo code CHN50A. The participating hotels are listed below:

  • Grand Hyatt Dalian
  • Hyatt Regency Suzhou
  • Grand Hyatt Shanghai
  • Hyatt on the Bund, Shanghai
  • Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai
  • Park Hyatt Shanghai
  • Grand Hyatt Beijing
  • Park Hyatt Beijing
  • Park Hyatt Ningbo Resort & Spa
  • Hyatt Regency Chongming
  • Hyatt Regency Tianjin East
  • Park Hyatt Changbaishan
  • Hyatt Regency Changbaishan
  • Grand Hyatt Shenyang
  • Hyatt Regency Chongqing
  • Hyatt Regency Qingdao
  • Hyatt Regency Jinan
  • Hyatt Regency Guiyang
  • Grand Hyatt Shenzhen
  • Hyatt Regency Jing Jin City
  • Hyatt Regency Hangzhou
  • Hyatt Regency Dongguan
  • Grand Hyatt Guangzhou
  • Hyatt Place Shenzhen, Dongmen
If you want to fly on AA, you won't be able to book on Orbiz. Image courtesy of Chris Parypa Photography/Shutterstock.

If you want to fly on AA, you won’t be able to book on Orbiz. Image courtesy of Chris Parypa Photography/Shutterstock.

American Airlines Fares No Longer Available On Orbitz: As of August 26, 2014, American Airlines fares have been withdrawn from Orbitz, and US Airways fares will be withdrawn starting September 1, 2014. All tickets previously purchased on these airlines via Orbitz remain valid, and availability on other online travel agencies will not be affected. Of course, you can purchase tickets on these airlines respective websites. *Update American and Orbitz have reached an agreement and you can now book on Orbitz again.*

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Citi Double Cash: a New Cashback Credit Card Option Fri, 29 Aug 2014 20:32:01 +0000

Citi just announced the launch of a new cash back credit card with a unique twist on earning. Unlike most cards, which offer rewards based solely on spending, the Citi Double Cash Card awards 1% cash back per dollar spent, and then offers another 1% cash back as you pay down your balance. The earning structure is set up to reward people for paying off their balances; at the end of the day, Double Cash is a no-annual-fee card with an overall return that’s pretty competitive for those who wish to bank money instead of points and miles.

Citi Double Cash image 2

Card Features

  • Earn 1% cash back on purchases, with no limit on earnings.
  • Earn another 1% cash back on payments you make toward charges that appear on your current monthly statement, so long as you pay at least the minimum amount due.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (after that, 12.99-22.99% based on your credit worthiness).
  • Get a pass on your first late fee.
  • Other standard Citi benefits like Price Rewind.
  • No annual fee

The cash back rate is consistent; there are no category bonuses.  That can be a positive or a negative depending on how you manage your spending. If you’re diligent about maximizing bonuses, then Double Cash can’t compete with cards like Chase Freedom and Discover It, which offer 5% back in rotating quarterly categories. However, if you prefer to just have one cash back card that you can use anywhere without having to enroll in new category bonuses every few months, then Double Cash could work for you.

Cash back is earned in the form of “cash rewards,” which can be redeemed at 1 cent apiece for statement credits, gift cards, or a check, with a minimum redemption of $25 (2,500 points). It’s not clear what gift card inventory is offered, but the point is moot since there’s little incentive to redeem for gift cards when cash back redemptions are offered at the same rate.

Doublecash Citi image 3 banner


Notably, Double Cash has no signup bonus. That makes it less attractive off the bat than cards like the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards, which offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases, also has no annual fee, and comes with a $100 bonus when you spend $500 in the first 3 months.

However, a card like Double Cash with a higher cash back return is one you get for the long haul, not for the signup bonus.  If you regularly spend a lot in categories that don’t offer bonuses on other cards, Double Cash can eventually come out ahead.

For example, consider a cardholder who spends $20,000 annually in non-bonus categories. The chart below breaks down the returns over 5 years offered by Citi Double Cash, Quicksilver, and Chase Freedom (which also currently offers a signup bonus of $100 after spending $500 in the first three months). I assumed that spending on Chase Freedom would be one fifth in 5% categories and the rest in regular 1% categories. Also, I left out the 2% cash back Fidelity Amex since it requires you to have a Fidelity account; its earnings would be equal to those of Double Cash.

Double Cash Quicksilver Freedom
Bonus $0 $100 $100
Annual Fee $0 $0 $0
Year 1 $400 $400 $460
Year 2 (net) $400 ($800) $300 ($700) $360 ($820)
Year 3 (net) $400 ($1,200) $300 ($1,000) $360 ($1,180)
Year 4 (net) $400 ($1,600) $300 ($1,300) $360 ($1,540)
Year 5 (net) $400 ($2,000) $300 ($1,600) $360 ($1,900)

Double Cash easily outpaces Quicksilver at this level of spend despite the initial $100 bonus. For higher spending, the difference is more dramatic; for lower spending, Double Cash still wins out in the end, but not as quickly.

The competition with Freedom is closer, but Double Cash does eventually win out in the third year. That’s a somewhat long horizon for maximizing credit card rewards, but the overall effect of the higher base cash back rate is apparent. However, that result depends on how much you can use category bonuses. If you instead put one quarter of your spending into a 5% category on Chase Freedom, then you’ll break even with Double Cash. If any more than one quarter of your spending earns 5%, then Chase Freedom wins, even without the signup bonus.

Chase freedom banner


The percentage return of Citi Double Cash is strong, If Citi were to throw a signup bonus on top, then Double Cash would be a clear winner over other no-fee, cash back cards. As is, Double Cash still seems like a good bet for those who want to keep their finances simple. If you can maximize bonus categories, Chase Freedom or Discover It will likely get you a better return.  That said, a good strategy for those interested in cash back would be to have both: a 5% back card to use for spending in bonus categories, and Citi Double Cash for other spending.

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SPG Free Nights, Starpoints & More with Tap Into Luxury Game Fri, 29 Aug 2014 16:41:53 +0000

SPG has created a new online game called Tap Into Luxury, where SPG members can play to win prizes like free night stays, Starpoints, iTunes gift cards and Ticketmaster cash codes. One grand prize winner will get 250,000 Starpoints to take a dream vacation at any of 1,100 Starwood hotels and resorts across nine brands worldwide, including St. Regis, W, Westin and Sheraton.

Play to win a variety of great prizes

Play to win a variety of great prizes.

In order to play, head to the SPG Tap Into Luxury website and be prepared to enter your email and your SPG member number, and confirm that you’re 18  years of age or older. If you aren’t a member, you can sign up to be one so you can play.

Pick your favorite vacation style

Pick your favorite vacation style.

Once you sign in, you’ll be asked what style of vacation you’re interested in, such as Resort Escapes, Golf Getaway, City Excursion or Family Fun. I selected Resort Escapes and watched as the SPG globe began to spin.

My first spin landed on an SPG Luxury Collection Resort in Wakiki, but I didn't win!

My first spin landed on an SPG Luxury Collection Resort in Wakiki, but I didn’t win!

I landed on the Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Resort in Wakiki (fitting, since I love Hawaii). Once you “land” on a property, you then have to click through to see if you’ve won.

No instant win for me, at least on this try!

No instant win for me, at least not on this try!

I clicked through, but alas–no winnings on my first spin. However, now that I’ve played once, I’m entered to win the grand prize of 250,000 Starpoints. I’ll be back to try again, as you can play twice daily until the end of the promotion at 11:59 pm EDT on September 30, 2014. 

As per the Terms and Conditions, the game is open to legal residents of the United States (including the District of Columbia), Canada (excluding Quebec), Australia, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom who are at least 18 years of age or older. The prizes are as follows:

Free Night Award: 195 awards available for any SPG-participating Category 5 hotel or resort.
Starpoints®Award: 390 awards available in denominations of 500 Starpoints, 1,000 Starpoints, 5,000 Starpoints.
iTunes $50.00 Gift Card: 156 awards available. Gift Card will be fulfilled by mail within four weeks from Game Period end date. Prize only available to U.S. residents with a mailing address in the U.S.
$50.00 Ticketmaster Cash Code: 975 awards available. Cash Code will be fulfilled via immediate confirmation email upon winning. Prize only available to U.S. residents.

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