Apr 24, 2014

2 Tell-A-Friend Emails

American Express is offering a generous 5,000 points for telling your friends about their Starwood card - Personal and/or Business. At least that's what they offered me. I'm not sure if these links will work for everyone. If you already have a Starwood card, check your email and spam folder for the offer.

As usual, Delta comes in behind the pack. Their small business program, SkyBonus, also sent me an email. It offered 5,000 points to anyone I refer who enrolls and flies by the end of June. Of course, since it's Delta, they limited it to 5 people (and their SkyBonus points aren't worth much).

Apr 23, 2014

Amex Repeat Card Bonuses

It's simple math...there are only so many credit cards. Naturally, by doing a new round of applications every 91 days, you eventually run out of choices. Of course, this is where churning comes in. At a certain point, we need to re-apply for cards and get repeat bonuses. A couple years ago, I gave a general idea of how long to safely wait. Of course, those dates can vary, but it was a pretty good basic guideline at the time. Well, apparently the times they are a-changin'. American Express seems to be "fixing" their rules on applications starting May 1st. Going forward, it looks like you'll only be able to get the bonus on a specific Amex card once. I just did my latest round of applications, and tried to plan around this strategy. We'll see how things actually play out, but if there's an Amex card you want to churn, it's probably a good time to get on it.

Apr 22, 2014

2 Hotel Freebies

The early bird gets the worm (again). Take advantage of free Platinum status from Hyatt here. It's working for everyone at the moment, but this supposed-to-be-targeted deal will soon be a thing of the past. Hyatt's Platinum benefits are listed here. Nice deal!

If you have the InterContinental credit card, look carefully at the letter arriving in the mail this week. Who cares that it was just switched from a Visa to a MasterCard, right? Again, read the letter. Even though this card is probably going straight into a drawer, they're trying to give you 1,000 points. All you have to do is use the new version once. For me, it was at a parking meter. I picked up my easy points...and then moved it into a drawer...

Apr 21, 2014

Starwood Status

There's a really good post about Starwood's Plus status here. I got late checkout and was upgraded to club level with "Plus" just last week. Actually, I planned to write about it today, but the link above says it all. So, yeah, Plus status is worth having if you have nothing better. It definitely isn't the most spectacular thing in the world. As always, top-level status is amazing with Starwood (Platinum) and Hyatt (Diamond). Believe me, I understand that top-level is tough to get. Plus is a decent (and easy) consolation prize. Shockingly, Hilton Gold continues to be my favorite less-than-top-level hotel status.

Apr 18, 2014

The Top 25 Credit Cards

Time for the monthly edition of my Top 25 Credit Cards. Again, if you're a newbie, make sure you read The Newbie Guide. Many of your questions will be answered there. Basic things like not applying for 3 Chase cards at the same time should be known before you continue. For people running out of cards, remember there's often a Business card option. I listed a few here but not many, so it might be worth exploring more Business cards. Also, "churning" might be an option. The dates here are a guideline but things always tend to vary individually.

Miles and points aren't an equal currency. 50,000 Delta Skymiles are worth less to me than 50,000 miles from pretty much any other airline. 25,000 Hyatt points are worth a ton more than 25,000 Hilton points. And so on. These links work right now (April 18th at midnight). If you read this later, many of the offers will have changed. Things move fast in this game so read the offer details before applying. Here we go! My Top 25 current credit cards in order are...

  • American Airlines Executive (Citibank)
    • Spend $10,000 in 3 months. Get 100,000 miles.
    • Lounge access plus $200 statement credit.
    • Big $450 fee is worth it for this amount of miles.
  • Ink Bold and/or Ink Plus (Chase)
    • Spend $5,000 in 3 months. Get 50,000 points.
    • The points transfer to United, Southwest, British, Hyatt, etc.
    • 5 times the points on purchases at office stores.
  • Sapphire (Chase)
    • Spend $3,000 in 3 months. Get 40,000 points.
    • Still very valuable points. See Ink cards above.
    • My personal favorite card to use when I don't have any spends to meet.
    • American Airlines cards (Citibank)
      • Spend $3,000 in 3 months. Get 50,000 miles.
      • Read the Flyertalk wiki post for the most current links.
    • US Airways (Barclays)
      • Spend $1. Get 40,000 miles. 
      • It's a good time to grab your American and US Airways miles.
    • LifeMiles (US Bank)
      • Spend $3,000 in 4 months. Get 40,000 miles.
      • Great miles to have. Newly doubled offer.
    • Southwest (Chase)
      • Spend $2,000 in 3 months. Get 50,000 points.
      • All other 50,000-point links are dead (for now).
      • You don't want to wait much longer to start the Companion Pass process.
    • Mercedes Benz Platinum (American Express)
      • Spend $3,000 in 3 months. Get 50,000 Amex Membership Rewards points.
      • Giant $475 fee but benefits like global entry credit and $200 airline fee credit.
      • A no-fee Platinum card without the big bonus is here.
    • Platinum (American Express)
      • Spend $3,000 in 3 months. Get 40,000 points.
      • Temporary increase from the usual 25,000 points.
      • Incredible benefits, but $450 annual fee. $200 in credits does help.
    • Starwood Preferred Guest aka SPG (American Express)
      • Spend $5,000 in 6 months. Get 25,000 points.
      • Incredible card. I always hold either the Personal or Business version.
      • I really, really love cash + points for hotel stays. 
      • Marriott (Chase)
        • Spend $1,000 in 3 months. Get 70,000 points and a free night.
        • These point are a little underrated. Some strong Marriott options out there.
              • Hilton Honors Reserve (Citibank)
                • Spend $2,500 in 4 months. Get 2 weekend nights. Best Hilton card.
                • Gold status as long as you have the card. Upgrades, breakfast, internet, etc.
                • They just added a $100 statement credit to this offer.
                  • British Airways (Chase)
                    • Spend $2,000 in 3 months. Get 50,000 points. 
                    • 100,000-point offer recently ended (for now).
                  • Club Carlson Premier (US Bank)
                    • Spend $2,500 in 90 days. Get 85,000 points.
                    • Great hotel card and not from the usual issuers.
                  • InterContinental Hotel aka IHG aka Priority Club (Chase)
                    • Spend $1,000. Get 80,000 points. 
                    • One of the most underrated hotel cards out there.
                    • This is now a MasterCard. Watch the 90 second video using code MIAMBXWF09.
                  • Hyatt (Chase)
                    • Spend $1,000 in 3 months. Get 2 nights at any Hyatt.
                    • Even more valuable after the point devaluation.
                  • Fairmont Hotel (Chase)
                    • Spend $1,000 in 3 months. Get 2 nights and breakfast at any Fairmont.
                    • Again, many of these hotels are very expensive.
                  • Barclay Arrival (Barclays)
                    • Spend $1,000 in 3 months. Get 40,000 miles.
                    • One of the best cards for actual spending, as discussed here.
                  • United Airlines (Chase) 
                    • Log in and see if you are targeted for the 50,000-mile offer.
                    • Business version is here.
                    • Alaska Airlines (Bank of America)
                      • Spend $1. Get 25,000 miles. 
                      • Possible 30,000-mile offer here. 40,000 for elites. Business card here.
                      • Bank of America cards can be MUCH more "churnable" than most.
                    • Virgin Atlantic (Bank of America)
                      • 50,000 miles for spending $1 and adding users.
                      • Again, Bank of America is more churnable than most.
                      • Just added a Global Entry credit. 
                      • SimplyCash Business (Amex)
                        • A very strong cashback card option.
                        • Get 3% on chosen category (including gas stations) and huge 5% at office stores.
                      • Premier Gold (Amex)
                        • Possible 50,000 points, rather than the usual 25,000.
                        • A bit of a pain, but you can see if you're targeted.
                      • Hawaiian Airlines (Barclays)
                        • Spend $1,000 in 3 months. Get 35,000 miles.
                        • Business version is here.
                      • FlexPerks (US Bank)
                        • Spend $3,500. Get 20,000 FlexPoints.
                        • Thanks to Christopher F. for getting me to add this card to the list.
                        • Better offer currently for Olympics about to end here.
                        • Frontier Airlines (Barclays)
                          • Spend $500 in 3 months. Get 40,000 miles.
                          • Frontier miles aren't for everyone.
                        • Thank You (Citibank)
                          • Weird offer. 20,000 points for spending $2,000 in 3 months. Then 30,000 more points for spending $3,000 in first 3 months of 2nd year.
                          • Bonuses on this card go up/down often.
                          • Ritz Carlton (Chase)
                            • Spend $2,000 in 3 months. Get a free night. 
                            • Huge $395 annual fee, but nice benefits including $200 airline credit.
                            • 2 MUCH better possible offers here. One with no fee and the other for 140,000 points.
                          • Delta (American Express)
                            • See if you're targeted for a 50,000 mile offer.
                            • Delta Skymiles are...well...not good.
                                • Hilton Honors (American Express)
                                  • Spend $750 in 3 months. Get 40,000 points.
                                  • Hilton points are definitely not what they used to be.
                                • Hilton Honors Surpass (American Express)
                                  • Spend $3,000 in 3 months. Get 50,000 points.
                                  • Get the previous card, and you'll get tons of offers to upgrade to this one.
                                • Hilton Honors (Citibank)
                                  • Spend $1,000 in 4 months. Get 40,000 points.
                                  • Between the 4 cards, you have LOTS of Hilton options.
                                  • They just added a $50 credit for this one.
                                • Prestige (Citibank)
                                  • Spend $2,000 in 3 months. Get 30,000 points.
                                  • Nice benefits including $200 credit, but huge $450 annual fee.
                                  • Virgin America (Comenity)
                                    • 2 different card offers I discussed here.
                                    • Issued by Comenity Bank, which is the best thing about these cards.
                                  • LAN (US Bank)
                                    • 20,000 miles for opening. 3 upgrade coupons each year.
                                    • Down from a 40,000 mile offer.
                                  • Freedom (Chase)
                                    • Worth having in your collection for the 5% quarterly bonuses.
                                    • No decent sign-up bonus right now, so no good spot on the list.
                                  • Choice Hotel (Barclays)
                                    • You're truly running out of cards if you're still reading this far.
                                    • I leave this as the last card mostly out of tradition.

                                        Recently Dropped:
                                        • AirTran (Chase) - 32 credit offer has ended for now.
                                        • Venture (Capital One) - 50,000-mile offer ended.
                                        • Lufthansa - 50,000-mile offer ended.
                                        • Wyndham - Because, who really cares?
                                        • Business Gold Rewards (American Express) - No good bonus. You'll see one soon.
                                        • Best Western (Barclays) - Again, who really cares?
                                        • Delta Business - The 55,000-mile offer ended.

                                          Apr 17, 2014

                                          3 Bonus Opinions

                                          • How good is a 30% discount on United miles? Average.
                                          • What about a 25% discount buying Starwood points? Debatable. A pass for most.
                                          • And a 30% bonus transferring AmEx Membership Rewards points to Virgin America? Actually, it's pretty solid. Definitely worth considering for some. On the other hand, there was a 40% bonus months ago, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to wait. But it's the best of the 3.

                                          Apr 16, 2014

                                          What Is Starwood?

                                          Today, a good friend and reader of the blog asked me that question. Sigh. Yes, it's very clear now...I suck. I truly couldn't believe my ears. How could this happen? Where did I go wrong? I probably need to make the following post for my own sanity. In short, what is Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and why do I like their points so much?

                                          • First of all, as miles get devalued all over the place, you REALLY need to be clear about SPG points. You should understand why these (and Chase's Ultimate Rewards points) are so valuable. Ok, let's take it back...
                                          • SPG hotels include: Starwood, Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis, Aloft, Four Points, W Hotels, and more.
                                          • These points are amazing. It's important to redeem them the right way. Usually, for me, that means 1 of 3 options. In my experience...
                                            • "Cash + Points" options are often the best choice. I've found a ton of success with this. Sometimes it's worth a few bucks to save thousands of points. Do the math, see what the room would cost (in dollars vs. points) and see what the best choice is for you.
                                            • Their lower category hotels can be incredible point values. A recent example was a Sheraton in New Orleans. It would have cost me $140/night, but I got it for 4,000 points. The Aloft in Phoenix was a similar 4,000 points instead of $130.
                                            • Transferring points to miles. Remember, when you transfer SPG points (to American, US Air, British, and many more) there is a bonus opportunity to be had. When you transfer a block of 20,000 SPG points, you'll get a bonus of 5,000 miles. So, your 40,000 SPG points would get you 50,000 American miles.

                                          Sorry I failed you, David...hopefully this post helped!

                                          (Also, Frontier Airlines has 15% off through Thursday. Use code REFUND and travel by June 12).