Use This British Airways Promotion to Get to Europe in Business Class for 40,000 Points!

Until March 8, 2017 you can receive a 35% bonus when transferring hotel points from seven select loyalty programs to British Airways. The participating hotel programs include:

  • Club Carlson
  • Hilton
  • Hyatt
  • IHG
  • Marriott
  • Shangri-La
  • SPG

Million Mile Secrets broke down the different hotel transfer rates in an article but the one transfer rate that (always) sticks out to me is the transfer ratio from SPG.

  • Starwood – minimum 2,500 points = 2,500 British Airways Avios points (3,375 points after 35% bonus)

Although most of the transfer ratios from hotels to British Airways are pretty poor, the 1:1 ratio is not bad, especially with the 5,000 point bonus that SPG grants every time you transfer points in increments of 20,000. What’s even better is that this 35% promotional bonus stacks on top of the standard SPG 5,000 point bonus.

So for example, let’s say you transfer 20,000 SPG points to British Airways. That’s automatically increased to 25,000 points because of the standard 25% SPG bonus. Then the 35% British Airways bonus kicks in, which ups the 25,000 SPG points to 33,750 Avios.

If you transfer 40,000 SPG points you’ll get 67,500 Avios!

Transfer minimum 

There is a minimum for transferring points from SPG that is determined by your level of status with SPG.

For Starwood Preferred Guest members (SPG), for each StarPoint exchanged you will receive 1 Avios. There is a minimum points transfer of:

  • 2,500 minimum points transfer for SPG Preferred members
  • 1,500 minimum points transfer for SPG Gold members
  • No minimum points transfer for SPG Platinum members

Get to Europe with this promotion

I recently wrote about the best ways to use Avios to get to Europe in business class. In that article, I discussed how you can utilize better sweet spots in business class to Europe by using Iberia Avios. Iberia is a British Airways partner and you can actually transfer Avios from British Airways to Iberia (subject to restrictions found in the article that you must read before doing this). By transferring Avios to Iberia you can get to Europe by flying from the following destinations for only 68,000 Iberia Avios roundtrip:

  • Boston to Madrid 
  • Chicago to Madrid
  • New York to Madrid 

That means roughly 40,000 points get you round-trip to Europe in business class. That’s pretty incredible. Plus, fees are manageable (for Europe) at about $220 round trip.

Roundtrip from Chicago to Madrid.

If you’re interested in flying economy, you can take advantage of sweet spots on Aer Lingus that will only run you 26,000 Avios round trip in economy!

Using credit cards for this offer 

The issue with getting new credit cards to take advantage of this bonus is that there’s only one month from today (February 8, 2017) to jump on it. By the time you receive your card and meet your minimum spend, it’s possible that the offer might already be expired. However, some report that their SPG sign-up bonuses posted the same day they met their minimum spend, so getting an SPG card could be an option.

In the past, American Express has allowed customers with an established history to receive their bonus almost instantly (at least for Membership Rewards earning cards), so if you’re a newcomer to them, this might be a gamble. Also, there’s a possibility (probably unlikely given the Marriott/SPG merger) that the current 25,000 SPG sign-up bonus might go up to 30,000 or even it’s all-time high of 35,000. Since Amex limits you to one bonus per life-time you may not want to hastily jump on a 25,000 offer.

So while it might be possible for some to receive am SPG sign-up bonus within one month, I wouldn’t recommend this to the general public and would only entertain this offer if I already had SPG points or knew for certain that I’d receive a sign-up bonus within the next couple of weeks.

Is Southwest EarlyBird Check-in Worth it?

Southwest’s EarlyBird check-in is a tempting add-on for many people when flying with them. Some swear by it and others swear it’s a sham designed to incentivize you to spend more than what’s necessary. It’s supposed to help your boarding process and seat selection be a lot smoother and convenient, but is it worth the extra cost?

Here’s my take on whether or not Southwest EarlyBird check-in is worth it.

For more tips on flying Southwest Airlines, click here.

Southwest’s boarding policy

Southwest Airlines embraces an “open seating” policy that most people either love or hate. This means that you can’t reserve your exact seats before your flight. Instead, you are lumped into different boarding groups, such as Group A, Group B, or Group C.

You’ll be given a position within each group ranging from 1 to 60 and then you will board the aircraft according to that that order. It’s a surprisingly efficient process when it comes to lining up for boarding but it comes with the stress of not knowing exactly where you’ll be sitting on the plane.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

How are you given your boarding position?

Typically, you are assigned your boarding group and position when you check in, which begins 24 hours before your flight, although international flights sometimes are a bit different. 

What is EarlyBird?

Early bird costs $15 each way (increased from $12.50 in March 2016) and presumably helps to make sure that you receive a better boarding position and therefore seat.

Specifically, EarlyBird provides you with an automatic check in within 36 hours before your flight. This means that you don’t have to worry about going online and checking in right at 24 hours before your departure.

Does EarlyBird guarantee you’ll be in Group A?

Early bird check in does not guarantee that you will receive boarding in Group A.

Instead, you’ll likely receive boarding in Group A or low to mid Group B, depending on several factors. As a point of reference, anything lower than mid Group B, is typically good enough for a window or aisle seat and should provide you with room for your overhead, although YMMV.

Some things to know about EarlyBird check in

  • EarlyBird check in Customers will receive boarding positions after Business Select and A-List Customers.
  • Customers who have purchased Anytime Fares will receive priority over Customer’s who purchase Early Bird with other fare types. So for example, if you purchase a “Wanna Get Away” fare you’ll automatically be put after someone who purchased a more expensive “Anytime” fare.
  • Boarding positions are assigned based on the time stamp of the EarlyBird check in purchase relative to passengers within the same fare class. So if you purchased your Wanna Get Away fare before 10 other people purchased their Wanna Get Away fare, you should be positioned before them.
  • There’s no limit on the number of passengers that can purchase EarlyBird check in.
  • You can add EarlyBird check in to an existing itinerary, so long as you do so 36 hours before your departure time. This is often recommended if you’re using an airline credit to make the purchase. Just keep in mind that if you have multiple passengers on your itinerary, everyone must purchase EarlyBird check in.
  • There are no refunds for EarlyBird if you cancel your flight, but if your flight is canceled by Southwest they will refund the fee.
  • You cannot use gift cards for EarlyBird check in.

So with all of those factors in mind, you might be wondering is EarlyBird check in worth it?

Is EarlyBird check in worth it?

I think that for most passengers, EarlyBird check in is not necessary and thus often not worth it, except for certain circumstances.

Let me first explain why it would not be worth it for certain passengers.

Business Select or A-List

I’m not even sure if Southwest allows Business Select passengers to purchase EarlyBird check in (hopefully they don’t or they flag your transaction or something). However, since you’re automatically given priority boarding there’s no need for EarlyBird check in. The same reasoning goes for A-List members.

  • To find out more about Business Select, click here

Solo travlers

If you’re traveling solo you will almost always still be able to access an aisle or window seat by checking in 24 hours before your flight. Thus, in most cases, if you just want to get an aisle or window seat, I don’t think that you would need EarlyBird check in.


I think the same reasoning often applies to couples. In the majority of cases you will not need early bird to ensure that you get aisle or window seats and since one of you will likely be sitting in the middle, you should be fine. 

Large families with kids 6 or under

I don’t think large families need EarlyBird in many cases. For example, if you are traveling with a kid 6 or under, you should be able to board in between Group A and Group B so you should have plenty of options for picking your seats.

For other families with kids over 6 or large groups not using EarlyBird check in, the situation can vary depending on factors listed below.

Inside a Southwest Airplane
Inside a Southwest plane. Photo by Michael Gray.

When it’s worth it to get EarlyBird check in

I think there are four reasons it might be worth it to get Early Bird check-in.  

You’re flying a known busy route or connecting flight

If you have a lot of connecting passengers on your flight, it’s possible that they will be boarding before you since they were able to check-in before you.

If that flight also has quite a few A-List, Business Select, family boarding groups, and EarlyBird check ins, it’s possible that checking in without EarlyBird could land you pretty far down the line even if you attempt to check in right when the 24 hours window pops up. In that case, you might just feel better about your flight if your purchase EarlyBird check in.

You stress over where you’ll sit and store luggage 

Let’s face it, many people get very stressed out about getting a decent seat and having space to store their carry-on. If you’re one of “those people,” then EarlyBird check in is basically designed (whether rightly or wrongly) for you.

If your preference is to avoid the middle seat at all costs and you know you will be worrying about this until you’re finally sitting comfortably in your seat with your carry on stored above you, then it might be worth it to go with EarlyBird check in for the peace of mind. 

You won’t be available to check in

This is the most legitimate reason for getting EarlyBird check in — when you know you’re not going to be available to check in on line. 

For example, I’ve taken trips down to the Caribbean on Southwest where I’ve been in the ocean scuba diving when my check in window opens up. Obviously, that’s a case where EarlyBird check in comes in handy because if you wait for hours after your window opens, you’ll probably get stuck with Group C and getting window or aisle seats becomes much more difficult.

Other times you might be in a meeting, some place without service, or you might just be super forgetful and don’t want to worry about checking in. In those cases, I think it’s worth it to shell out $15 for EarlyBird check in.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

You’re a dag-blasted seat saver

If you’re a seat saver, you can get away without purchasing Early Bird Check in for everyone and just have one person save a few seats. Personally, I don’t mind if people save seats within reason, especially because sometimes Southwest has spit out vastly different boarding positions to people on my same itinerary. However, many people really hate when you save seats and think it’s poor etiquette.

Tip: To minimize confrontations, I recommend you stick to saving seats near the rear of the plane, where people are a little more laid back about seats. 

Why I almost never pay for EarlyBird check in

Brad and I fly everywhere together and he is built like a collegiate nose tackle. Also, I’m not exactly “petite.” Therefore, we really enjoy flying with no other passengers in our section of our row and always go for the exit row. To ensure that we get that exit row, we simply upgrade our tickets to Business Select for $30 or $40, depending on this distance of the flight.

This is well worth it to us, and I often see people do the same thing to get the exit row seats with extra leg room. On very short flights, this isn’t a big deal to use since we can manage without it, but on flights of 3 or 4 hours, we like to do it. This might not be practical on routes with heavy business travelers but because we’re often flying to places like Mexico or elsewhere in the Caribbean on Southwest, we’re usually A1 and A2 or very close to it.

We use travel credits like those on the Ritz-Carlton card to cover the cost of the upgrades, too.

Final word

Overall, I don’t think EarlyBird check in is necessary for most people.

Unless you’re the type of person who just needs peace of mind about your seating position and/or know it will be impossible or inconvenient for you to check in manually, you probably don’t need it. However, for people with specific preferences for their seating, the $15 is well worth it.  

Cover photo by BriYYZ via Flickr

Can I Apply for Two Citi Credit Cards at One Time?

A lot of people like to apply for multiple credit cards at one time in order to have their hard inquiries combined. As you may know, this helps to mitigate the damage done to your credit report since only one inquiry will be reported. But not every bank allows you to capitalize on this oppurtunity and for Citi, it’s a little bit complicated on whether or not they allow you to apply for two Citi credit cards. 

Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!

Citi application rule

Citi has some very specific application rules. The most notorious of these is the 8/65 rule which states that you cannot get approved for more than one Citi credit card in 8 days and not more than two credit cards in 65 days. The former portion of this rule is what kills the ability to be combine inquiries and be approved for two cards at the same time, since only one approval is allowed in a week’s time.

Thus, because of that rule you cannot get two Citi personal credit cards at once.

Business card exception 

However, according to The Frequent Miler, you can apply and get approved for a Citi personal and a Citi business credit card at the same time. However, as noted by the Doctor of Credit, the hard inquiries will likely not be combined since they result from different departments within Citi. This is quite common, as it’s usually hit or miss when trying to get inquiries combined from applications for both personal and business credit cards. Read here for more on applying for small business credit cards and learning how they can help preserve your credit score.

So you can get two Citi credit cards at once, it’s just you are limited to one personal and one business credit card at the same time. 

The Citi 6/6 rule 

Something else to consider is what some dub the “Citi 6/6 rule” which states that you might be denied if you’ve had 6 or more hard pull inquiries in the last 6 months. This does not appear to be a hard and fast rule like the 8/65 rule, as you can find data points where people have still been approved for Citi credit cards despite having way over 6 inquiries in the previous 6 months. Still, if you can, I’d still try to heed this advice since many applications have been denied on this basis.

If you’re on the cusp of violating that rule or already over it, be sure to check out which credit bureau Citi pulls from in your region. Some banks like Barclaycard often pull from the same bureau like TransUnion, but for other banks, it can vary based on where you’re located in the country. It might be the case that you have fewer than 6 hard pulls on the credit bureau that Citi will likely pull for you. You can use this tool to research data points on credit bureaus pulled in your area. 

In the end, if you do come across a denial based on too many recent inquiries, try your luck with reconsideration and if you have good reasons for the inquiries or new accounts like I did, you might get your denial overturned. 

Get A Free Night with Wyndham’s New Promotion

Wyndham Rewards is currently offering a new hotel promotion where you can easily earn a free night by simply completing two qualifying stays. This is a chance to find two cheap Wyndham stays and then come out with a free stay at a much more expensive property.

The offer

Here are the key terms:

  • Two qualified (separate) stays anywhere gets Wyndham Rewards members an additional 15,000 points, enough for up to one free night.
  • Register and book by June 30, 2018 (must book directly with Wyndham Rewards online, by phone, etc.)
  • Complete your stays by July 1, 2018
  • Click here to register. 


Wyndham rewards

Back in the spring of 2015, Wyndham completely overhauled their reward program to make it more simple. The most significant change was that they did away with standard redemption tiers/categories that most other hotel programs use (category 3, 4, 5, etc.) and they put in a new redemption scheme where all properties (even all-inclusive properties) can be redeemed for 15,000 points per night. 

You might be a little surprised to find out that Wyndham has a surprisingly vast network. You’ll find them in pretty much every major city in the US and in many smaller cities as well. And they have a large presence overseas, too. Now, it is true that many of the Wyndham properties are hotels/motels you might not be dying to stay at like the Days Inn, Super 8, Knights Inn, etc. However, Wyndham does have some solid properties located around the globe.

In a major city like Houston, it’s not hard to find Wyndham properties listed under $50 per night. So for this promotion, it might be worth doing a “mattress run” where you book two very cheap hotel stays just to receive the 15,000 points which can be used on properties that cost $280 or more! Just remember that with mattress runs, you still need to physically check-in to the property for them to count. 

A New York property going for $279/night.

Wyndham points are not very easy to accumulate since they are not a transfer partner to a major rewards program. There is a co-branded Wyndham credit card issued by Barclaycard but it does not currently offer its 45,000 points bonus and I’d suggest holding off until that bonus returns.

Final word

This can be a pretty great promotion to jump on. If you already had two stays upcoming for something, you might consider staying at Wyndham properties in order to earn the free night.

Why I’m Paying the Annual Fee for a Card I Don’t Use

I’ve decided that I’m going to go ahead and shell out the $95 this year to pay for the annual fee for my Citi Premier credit card. It’s a bit of an odd decision considering that I never use that card for anything, but after taking a look at the big picture, you’ll see why it makes sense for me to pay for an annual fee for a card that I don’t use. 

First, a quick refresher on some of the perks of the Citi Premier. 

Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!

Citi Premier.

Citi Thankyou transfer partners 

The Citi Premier earns Citi Thankyou Points that can transfer for the following transfer partners: 


  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
  • EVA Air
  • Eithad Guest
  • Flying Blue (Air France, KLM)
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin America Elevate (Get 500 Elevate points for 1,000 pts)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club


    • Hilton HHonors (Get 1,500 HHonors Bonus Points for 1,000 pts)

Bonus earning potential 

  • 3X on travel including gas
  • 2X on dining and entertainment 

The Citi Premier offers some of the best bonus earning potential with 3X on a broad travel category that also includes gas (unlike other cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve). With the additional 2X on dining and entertainment, I think the Citi Premier ranks among some of the top earning rewards credit cards.

Why I don’t need the Citi Premier 

I put the majority of my expenses on Chase cards like the Freedom Unlimited, Freedom Classic, Ink, and Sapphire Reserve (the “Chase Quadfecta”). Those four cards earn me a tremendous amount of Ultimate Rewards. And when I’m not putting expenses on those cards, I’m putting them on my Premier Rewards Gold Card, Platinum Card, or Amex EveryDay, which allow me maximize my earnings for groceries and airlines. 

With my spending divided between Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, I simply don’t have enough spend left over to put on the Citi Premier. If I were planning a redemption on a partner like Singapore or Flying Blue (which are also partners of Chase and Amex), then I’d put things like gas and entertainment on the Premier but that’s not the case. So rather than leave a few thousands points stranded in my Citi Thankyou account, I’d rather have points I can actually use in Chase or Amex (even if that means only earning 1.5X on entertainment). 

So since I have no need for this card, why am I still paying the annual fee? 

The reason is the Citi application rule which states that you can’t receive a sign-up bonus if you’ve had another Thankyou card opened or closed within the past 24 months. This means that if I cancel or even downgrade or product change my Citi Premier to avoid the annual fee, I’ll reset the clock and have to wait two years before I can receive another sign-up bonus from a Thankyou Point earning card like the Citi Prestige. This is a bummer because Citi allows you to product change cards very easily, allowing you plenty of options to avoid the annual fee. 

Citi Prestige

So in light of that, I’ve decided to pay the $95 annual fee so that I can pick up a sign-up bonus from the Citi Prestige in 12 months. The sign-up bonus for the Prestige has fluctuated but I feel pretty good about my chances of getting the 50,000 bonus, or I might even get lucky and that bonus will jump up even higher in another year. The Prestige also has decent bonus earning potential with 3X on hotels and airfare and 2X on dining and entertainment and a number of benefits that can make it a worthwhile card, in my opinion

Some of these benefits include: 

  • $250 airline credit (essentially reducing the annual fee to $200)
  • Priority Pass Select airport lounge access for you and up to two guests for free
  • Complimentary night at any hotel of your choice after a minimum 4-consecutive-night booking 
  • $100 Global Entry credit
  • 3 free rounds of golf (set to expire July 23, 2017)
  • Rental car benefits with National Car Rental, Avis, Budget, and Sixt.
  • Add authorized users for $50 each.
  • Concierge service
  • Mastercard luxury hotel and resorts

When I get the Prestige, I’ll have to pay the $450 annual fee but I’ll be able to take advantage of two $250 airline credits before my 2nd annual fee hits, so in effect, I’ll be paying $50 + the $95 annual fee of the Premier in order to earn 50,000 Citi Thankyou Points. People estimate the value of Thankyou points differently, but to me, I consider 50,000 points to be worth at least $625 of travel. And since I’ll probably put them to use for business class or first class seats, I’ll receive something much higher in value. 

Getting the Prestige is also especially worth it to me because I think I’ll be able to take advantage of the 4th night free benefit at least once and maybe even 2 or 3 times in 2018. That perk alone could save me a couple of hundred dollars and outweigh the cost of the annual fees I’m paying. Thus, when I factor in this perk, it really makes me want to jump on the Prestige. 

So eventually, I’ll likely have the Reserve, Platinum Card, and Prestige all at once which based on my spending and lounge usage, will make economic sense

Final word

I try to avoid annual fees whenever possible and generally I am able to avoid paying most annual fees. The exception is when I’m netting a sufficient return in my “investment” of paying the annual fee. In this case, I’ll be able to come out well on top it’s just going to take a little bit of patience. And who knows, I might get lucky and catch an even better sign-up bonus 12 months from now. 

How I Flew Business Class to See the Northern Lights in Norway for $12

Catching the northern lights had been a dream for me since I was little and remember seeing photos of these crazy green streaks painting the night sky. So naturally, using miles and points to catch the northern lights quickly became one of my travel priorities. I researched a lot of different places to view the northern lights and after researching the best ways to use miles and points to get to Scandinavia, I decided to head to Tromsø, Norway, to try my luck at catching the northern lights. And I did so while flying business class for only $12! Here’s how I did it.

Membership Rewards

I had earned a lot of American Express Membership Rewards over the past year by taking advantage of huge sign-up bonuses like those from the American Express Platinum Cards and supplementing those earnings with spend and even bonuses from other Amex cards like the Premier Rewards Gold Card. So I knew I had plenty of points to get us to Norway and I decided to use Aeroplan miles since they have one of the better redemption rates to Europe and allow you to avoid surcharges by booking with the right partner.

For this trip, we needed 110,000 Aeroplan miles to fly business class for two people to Norway. Membership Rewards transfer to Aeroplan instantly so as soon as we decided to make this booking we initiated the transfer and within a couple of minutes, we had our tickets booked!

The total fees for this trip came out to $24, so only $12 per person! To put that into perspective, according to Google flights, that would have been a $15,210 flight for two people. So we got 14 cents per point in value! That’s a superb redemption!

The route to Tromsø

Our entire route looked like this:

IAH -> EWR -> OSL -> TOS

We started our trip at IAH and spent close to two hours relaxing in Houston’s new Centurion Lounge. Of course, the Platinum Card that gave us our awesome sign-up bonuses always provides us with free access to the Centurion Lounge, which is definitely one of the better lounges in the US and my favorite at IAH. 

IAH Centurion Lounge.

When people say the Centurion Lounge at IAH is hidden they certainly aren’t joking as it’s just one step down from being considered a speak-easy lounge in my opinion. You’ll have to snoop around the duty free shop in Terminal D, near gate D6, but you should be able to find the elevators to the lounge eventually. 

I do love the lounge, though, and always have to go for my favorite cocktail offered there: The Chinese New Year.

IAH Centurion Lounge bar.


From IAH to EWR we flew on United’s business class on the 767-400. This aircraft came equipped with fully lie-flat seats, which surprised me since it’s only about a 3.5 hour flight to New York. They also issued new blankets from United’s Polaris product but everything else (menus, food, etc.) appeared to be standard. Surprisingly, they served up an enchilada dish that was actually extremely tasty, too! 

United Business Class


Once we arrived at EWR it was time kill around 2.5 hours on a layover. There’s an SAS lounge at EWR right next to the gates but this lounge was packed and I’m not even sure how we were allowed in. The body heat radiating from everyone inside the lounge made it even worse. So we literally spent about 5 seconds in the lounge and then just went out to the gates.

We got a little lucky with our booking because we really wanted to fly in SAS’s newly refurbished business class on the A330. This route had somewhat limited availability for our desired aircraft and we were booking over the Christmas holidays which made it even tougher to find open seats. But luckily the dates worked out for us and the booking was successful.

SAS business class.

The hard product business class on the A330 was pretty impressive. The seats are super sleek in appearance and I love premium seating with a lot of counter space, so these seats were perfect for that.

SAS business class middle seats.

When the seats are fully reclined, it can be a bit claustrophobic and the blankets and pillows aren’t very thick at all, so I didn’t find the 7.5 hour ride to be quite as comfortable as other business class experiences.

SAS business class lie-flat seat.

Still, the food, drinks, and service were pretty solid, so overall I definitely had a positive experience on SAS and would fly business with them again.


Coming in for landing at OSL.



The flight on a 737-800 from Oslo to Tromsø was around a 1.5 hours and we also had “business class seats” also known as “SAS Plus.” From what I could tell, this was essentially the same as Southwest’s Business Select, the only difference is that you have the first few rows reserved for SAS Plus with pre-selected seats. However, everything else from the leg room to the service appeared to be the same, at least on this flight.

The northern lights

We were pretty lucky to catch a solar storm on a clear night (on Christmas) while in Norway so we had an unforgettable experience with the northern lights!

Northern lights over north Norway.

I’m still working on my article on our experience but you can see the review of our northern lights tour and if you’re interested in catching the northern lights, too, I recommend you check out my article on tips for viewing the northern lights. Plenty of photos in those articles to inspire you to get out and chase the lights! 

Heading back in British Airways First Class

On our way back we decided to try out the first class product on a British Airways 747. Overall, I really enjoyed the first class experience and while it’s not quite Etihad or Singapore, it’s still nothing to scoff at. You can read about our experience on the first class flight here.

Brad on British Airways first class.

We booked each ticket with 85,000 American Airlines miles. Most of the time it’s recommended to stay away from British Airways to avoid the nasty fuel surcharges which easily come out to over $1,000 for a roundtrip ticket. However, we were able to mitigate the damage done here by booking a one way from OSL to IAH that routed through LHR.

It’s a pretty big difference from just flying straight from LHR to IAH, too. For example, the fees to fly directly from London to Houston were $483

However, when I routed the flight from Oslo to Houston with a stopover in London, those fees dropped to $260, which is much more reasonable. This worked out conveniently for us since we were already in Oslo for a few days, but it’s also a strategy you can often use to minimize surcharges. 

So for two oneway tickets in British Airways first class we paid about $520 in total fees. That’s more than I like to pay but we wanted to experience BA’s first class product and since fees were only around $12 to get to Europe this was a small(ish) price to pay. Also, that’s a $13,824 flight ($22,000 flight directly from London!). So our redemption was about 8 cents per point — not a bad redemption, either.

Final word 

Catching the northern lights in Norway has probably been my #1 travel experience of all time. And being able to get there and back flying business class and first class for a total of about $550 was a steal. In total we got about $30,000 in value for only $550 but the savings and value gained were only the cherry on top for this trip.

Hilton News and Offers Round-up

There’s been a lot of news and a number of deals related to Hilton in the past week, so here’s a rundown of some of the offers and news. 

Rebranding to Hilton Honors

Hilton decided to rebrand its loyalty program formerly known as Hilton HHonors, and now just Hilton Honors. This rebranding came with significant changes to the program including eliminating an award chart, points pooling, a new points slider, and a few other key features. Some of the changes are positive while others have the potential to be quite negative depending on how things play out. Read more about the changes here

Status Match 

Hilton is offering status matches again! We utilized this last year to match Brad’s IHG platinum status and earn Hilton Diamond status. It only took us applying for one card and staying one night to do so, too! 

If you already have been matched you can extend your status the following ways: 

You’ll also have the opportunity to extend your status match through March 31, 2019,
when you stay with us over the next 90 days. If you’re matched to Gold status,
you’ll just need to complete 4 stays. If you’re matched to Diamond, you’ll need 8 stays

So we’d just need 8 stays (not nights) to get Brad to retain his Diamond status. However, we’re probably going to wait until next year to act on this since we have Diamond status until March of 2018. While Diamond status doesn’t offer you overwhelmingly valuable benefits, there are some nice perks which you can read more about here

2K everyday

Hilton is offering the following promotion: 

Earn 2,000 Points every day at over 4,800 hotels when you sign up and complete a stay from February 1 through April 30, 2017.

So with each stay you can net an extra 2,000 Honors points. Not bad and it’s super easy to sign-up.

Amex Offer: earn Membership Rewards 

Right now, you can earn 3,500 Membership Rewards when you spend $250 or more at Hilton Hotels and Resorts and Curio collections. The offer expires April 15, 2017. Unfortunately, this is a targeted offer

There’s also another offer for Hilton gift cards that might be targeted where you can get a one-time $5 statement credit by spending a minimum of $75+ in one or more transactions online at The offer expires April 30, 2017.

Final word 

Although Hilton points are one of the weakest reward currencies, I find them extremely easy to accumulate with the generous bonus earning rates from stays and from credit cards like the Citi Reserve and Amex Surpass. For example, as Diamond members, we earn the following rates for every dollar spent on Hilton properties:

  • 10 base points
  • 5 points for opting for “points and points”
  • 5 points for being a Diamond member

And since we cover our stays with the Amex Honors Surpass, we earn 12 more points per dollar spent! So that’s a total of 32 Hilton Honors points we earn every time we stay at a Hilton. At an estimated value of .4 cents per point, that’s like getting 13% back for every dollar spent at Hilton properties. Moreover, it seems like there are always Hilton Honors promotions going on that allow you to earn a ton of additional Honors points if your timing is right.  

United MileagePlus Explorer Card Offers for 50K and 70K!

There are two great offers out (one public and one targeted) for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card. These offers can be accessed by using the link below or by going through a “dummy booking.” A dummy booking is when you go through all the different steps online to make a booking except for the final step which would be actually buying the ticket. It’s often the case that credit card offers will appear when you get close to checking out and this is one of those times. In fact, if you go the dummy booking route or use a link below, you might be able to get one of these offers and an additional $50 credit on top off that! 

Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!

50K offer 

There’s a public offer out for the United Explorer Card for 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 (some also recently received the offer for only $2,000 in spend and I’ve seen this offer for as low as $1,000 in spend). You also earn an additional 5,000 miles when you add authorized user and make a purchase for a total of 55,000 miles

New Public offer.

The standard public offer is 30,000 miles with a lower spend of $1,000 or $2,000 but with the waived annual fee. This offer does not come with annual fee waived but if you’re willing to apply for the small business card version, you can get the annual fee waived! 

I think the 50,000 mile offer is a decent deal worth considering, but the annual fee kills a bit of my excitement for the offer since there have been offers with annual fees waived in the past. Even just recently, there were 50,000 mile offers for $2,000 spend an no annual fee. Because of that, I’d look into the no annual fee business version or try my luck with the 70K offer below that might make paying the annual fee more worth it. 

A previous no annual fee offer.

Remember this card is subject to 5/24. If you are over 5/24, then consider going in-branch and seeing if you have a pre-approval for this card. If you do, you might be able to get around 5/24 and get approved for this card.

70K Offer

There are also targeted offers going out for 70,000 miles after spending $3,000! 

With this offer, you also get the additional 5,000 miles after you add an authorized user and make a purchase. To see if you’re targeted log in using this link and see what appears. You may also try to go through the process of a “dummy booking” to see if an ad for the offer shows up or try this link here to see if you can access the offer with a $50 statement credit. 

I actually received this 70K targeted offer as pictured below but since I am well above 5/24 I will not be applying. Otherwise, I’d definitely consider applying for it since it is one of the best offers for this card ever available. 

Targeted offer.

Targeted offer with $50 statement credit.

Although the annual fee is not waived for this offer either, it might be worth it for many since that’s a lot of miles. For example, if you were to combine this offer with a 50K offer for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’d have more than enough United miles to get you roundtrip in business class to Europe! For just two cards and only one $95 annual fee (with a possibility of a $50 statement credit), that’s a steal! 

Getting the 70K offer with no annual fee 

You might be able to get around the $95 annual fee if you applied for a lower offer already without an annual fee. You can do this by sending a secured message or by calling Chase to try to get matched to the 70,000 mile offer. People have had mixed with success with this, so YMMV

The perks

If you’re not familiar with the perks of the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, it offers a host of solid benefits for a co-branded airline card that only has an annual fee of $95. Here’s a rundown of some of the major benefits: 

Annual Spend Bonus

  • The Explorer card allows you to earn an additional 10,000 miles so long as you spend $25,000 in a calendar year

Bonus categories

  • Earn two miles for each $1 spent on tickets purchased from United and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases. Your miles don’t expire as long as your credit card account is open, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn.

Priority boarding privileges

  • Primary cardmembers and their companions traveling on the same reservation can board United-operated flights prior to general boarding. To receive priority boarding, just add your MileagePlus number to your reservation.


  • The primary cardholder who is also a Mileage Plus Premier member traveling on an award ticket will be eligible for Complimentary Premier Upgrades on eligible United and Copa operated flights. (You have to be a Premier member for this benefit, but it’s something to be aware of.)

Lounge Passes

  • Two lounge passes every anniversary year that are good for at least one year (mine were good for 1.5 year from my application date). This is a $100 value as a one-time pass for one person will cost you $50. Expect to wait about 3-6 weeks for your lounge passes to arrive. 


Free Checked Bag

  • The primary cardmember and one companion traveling on the same reservation will each receive their first standard checked bag free — calculated as a $25 value for the first checked bag, each way, per person — on United-operated flights when purchasing tickets with their United MileagePlus Explorer card.
  • This is great because unlike some other airlines this benefit works for both domestic and international flights. Also, even if you are booking an award flight you can still get this benefit so long as you use your Explorer card to pay for the fees and taxes associated with your purchase.

Use miles for any seat, any time, on any United flight

  • Primary cardmembers can use their miles to book any available seat, any time on any United-operated flight when they redeem miles at the MileagePlus Standard Award level. No limitations, no restrictions and no blackout dates on available seats if you provide your MileagePlus number before starting the award booking process. This obviously means spending more miles for your trips but the increased availability is definitely something that can come in handy at times.
  • Having this card also often provides you with additional award space so you might be able to find more open award seats on United than someone who doesn’t have this card. This is one of the biggest benefits (and not publicly stated) to this card to people who frequently use awards on United. 

No Foreign Transaction Fees

Travel Protection

  • Baggage delay insurance – reimbursement for up to essentials for up to $100 a day for 3 days
  • Lost Luggage Reimbursement – up to $3,000 per passenger for lost or damages bags.
  • Trip delay reimbursement – up to $500 per ticket for delays more than 12 hours
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance – up to $10,000 for pre-paid, non-refundable purchases
  • Travel accident insurance – up to $500,000
  • PRIMARY rental car insurance

Purchase Protection

  • Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
  • If a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.
  • You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $500 per item, $1,000 per year.

Final word 

For the person under 5/24 these are two great offers that are worth jumping on. Hopefully, you can get targeted for the 70K offer but even if you can’t, a 50K offer with no annual the first year is definitely still a great deal to take advantage of. 

H/T to Reddit Churning. 

Aviator Red Sign-up Bonus Drops to 50K

As expected, Barclaycard just brought down the sign-up bonus of the AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard® from 60,000 to 50,000. This is still one of the best sign-up bonuses available due to how easy it is to obtain because all you have to do is make a single purchase on your credit card. But if you don’t have a need to jump on the card right now it’s probably best to hold off until the higher offer returns. 

AAdvantage Aviator offer

  • Earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles after your first purchase.
  • First checked bag free for the primary cardmember and up to 4 companions on eligible bags when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines
  • Preferred boarding for the primary cardmember and up to 4 companions on their reservation
  • Earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $25,000 on purchases each calendar year
  • 25% inflight savings on food, beverages, and headsets on American Airlines-operated flights
  • 10% of your redeemed miles back on redemptions (up to 10,000 miles per calendar year)
  • $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $30,000 or more in Purchases on your Account during your card membership year
  • Reduced Mileage Awards — Fly to great destinations on American Airlines operated flights for up to 7,500 fewer AAdvantage® miles for flights in the US and to/from Canada
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Chip and Pin technology (great for Europe)
  • Annual fee $95 (not waived)

Sign-up bonus

Not many cards offer a sign-up bonus for simply making a purchase and for those that do, it’s rarer to find such a lucrative sign-up bonus at 50,000 miles. 

The Etihad First Class Apartment.

Annual fee

  • $95

This annual fee is not waived unlike the Citi Platinum Select which waives its $95 annual fee the first year. So you’re essentially paying $95 for 50,000 AAdvantage miles, which is a deal that I would take any day. 

Hard pull

  • Barclaycard sometimes only pulls from Transunion (although not always) so this is a great way to give your Experian and/or Equifax credit report (just remember YMMV). 

Barclaycard can combine inquiries but your second application may go to pending and you will probably have to recon on that app, so if you don’t want to deal with a reconsideration call then maybe consider waiting a few days to a week to apply for a second card and missing out on the combined hard pull. Otherwise, give it a shot. 

Final word

This is still a solid credit card offer for the Aviator Red. I would personally wait until I’m above 5/24 to apply since this offer will be around for a while and even if you miss it, it will likely be back. 

Major Changes to Hilton’s Loyalty Program Announced

Hilton just announced a flurry of both big and small changes to its loyalty program, known (or formerly known) as “Hilton HHonors.” While some of these changes are clearly positive and should be welcomed there’s one big alteration that comes with a lot of unknown and perhaps a lot of negative potential. Here’s a look at the changes and my personal take on them.  

“HHonors” will now be “Honors” 

I have to admit, I’m just not a fan of all the cutesy lingo and spelling that reward programs love to incorporate.  All the cheesy spellings like “HHonors” and “AAdvantage,” kind of drives me crazy and it doesn’t help that it’s often redundant. And then there’s the unpractical and even more annoying terminology, like Hyatt’s “Explorist, Discoverist” that makes understanding programs even more unclear, and I just don’t get it. So I’m always happy to see stuff like this go.  

Thankfully, Hilton is moving toward simplicity with its rebranding efforts. And let’s face it, when it comes to branding, simplicity is winning out, as there’s been a huge shift to simpler slogans, logos, etc. over the past few years.

First, Hilton is changing its group name from “Hilton Worldwide” to just “Hilton.” Second, Hilton is also dropping the double H used in HHonors so that it’s new loyalty program will be known simply as “Hilton Honors.” Obviously, these are a purely superficial changes, but I look forward to the day where I get to ditch the silly spellings for good. 

Now for the substantive changes. 

Free points pooling 

In what I view as a significant upgrade, you will soon be able to pool points for free with up to 10 people. One Mile at a Time writes that “[e]ach member can share up to 500,000 points per year, and have up to two million points shared with them.”

Keep in mind that before you had to pay just to share points with a spouse. While you could get around that by just booking a room in your partner’s name, it still will make things much easier when you need to put points together to meet a redemption. It also puts Hilton Honors on par and possibly even above other programs that already allowed transferring of points to others with restrictions.  

Points plus cash slider 

You’ll soon be able to book rooms using a combination of points plus cash by utilizing a slider function. Hilton already allowed you to use points plus cash for some (limited) bookings, but it looks like this function will be more universally available (available at more than 4,900 hotels with no black out dates) and might allow you to tweak exactly how many points you want to use versus using pre-determined increments (since they state you can choose “nearly any combination”).

Points plus cash is always a nice option to have for two reasons. One, it can expand your booking options by allowing you to use reward points when you don’t have quite enough points to book a stay. Second, it’s often the case that you can get better value for your points when you use them to redeem with points plus cash. However, it looks like the slider value will be tied directly to the point award value, meaning that you might be losing the ability to cash in on extra value.

So Hilton might be offering more flexibility but with reduced potential for maximizing the value of Honors points.

Hilton Honors points with Amazon

Hilton will be partnering with Amazon and you’ll be able to use Hilton points to make Amazon purchase. Personally, I can’t imagine this type of redemption being worthwhile, as I think the cents per point value will likely be very low. Also, there are already so many different ways to use points to make purchases on Amazon (although Hilton is the first hotel loyalty program to allow this). Still, maybe the redemption rate won’t be so bad and if you have little to no use for Hilton Honors points or really love shopping on Amazon, this might be a worthwhile redemption in any event. 

Diamond Member Pause 

This is definitely new and different. Gary at View from the Wing, writes that “Diamonds who have held the status at least 3 years and accumulated 250 nights or more or 500,000 base points can request a one-time status extension when not re-qualifying.” So this will essentially will allow you one extension on your Diamond status. While this is nice, those prerequisites are not so easy to meet so this is probably only a perk for true elite members, and not those who obtained Diamond status through more “creative” means, such as status matched. 

So those are all pretty positive changes but there’s one more big change happening to the program. 

No more award categories

This really shocked me. Hilton is doing away with award categories! What does this change mean for redemption rates? One Mile at a Time states that “Hilton won’t charge more than the current maximum being charged for a given category. In other words, the top hotels will continue to cost no more than 95,000 points per night.” So that’s somewhat comforting, but still enough to make me a bit nervous about the new program for a couple of reasons. 

First, having access to award categories and award charts makes planning tremendously more effecient, so I’m not sure how that’s going to play out with the new changes. I’m wondering how will one go about searching for hotels within their points budget and then how will they know how much to save for those hotels? How stable will the prices be or will they fluctuate wildly?  

If you’ve ever booked a Hilton award you’ll know that the award charts provides ranges for each category, which can have a wide range. For example, a category 7 redemption can be between 30,000 and 60,000 points while a category 8 hotel can be between 40,000 and 70,000 points. So dramatic fluctuations in award nights for certain hotels are nothing new but will this new policy open up a whole new level of it? Is Hilton on its way to a true revenue-based award system? 

Secondly, as Miles to Memories writes, “[w]ithout award categories there is no transparency as to what they will charge” and “[t]his just paves the way for huge price increases down the line.” I think it’s a valid concern to think of this as sort of a slippery slope. I tend to to agree that with the decrease in transparency comes an increase in less consumer friendly changes and in this case, redemption prices might be that change. 

Final Word 

I love that they are ditching the cutesy language, and I think the points pooling is a significant upgrade to the program while my feeling are mixed regarding the points plus cash feature. The Diamond pause is a great addition for true elites, and I couldn’t really care less for the Amazon redemption option but that could potentially be useful for some. The final change that removes award categories is concerning for the long-term but at least for now we have reassurance that prices won’t exceed their current caps. 

1 235 236 237 238 239 259