Hyatt Offers New Promo, How Does It Compare?

Hyatt is offering its first promo since the fall of 2016 and allowing World of Hyatt members to double their points with certain eligible stays. Here are the terms of the new bonus offer:

  • Double the base points after your first eligible stay on all stays from April 1, 2017 through June 30, 2017
  • You must register here (before June 30, 2017)
  • You must provide your World of Hyatt membership number at the time of check-in and choose points for each stay.

How much can you earn back with the Hyatt promotion?

I’m going to run numbers to see what the return rate would be for a one night stay for $200.  

Member (0% bonus)

  • 200 x 5 = 1,000
  • 1,000 bonus base points
  • =  2,000 points at 1.5 cents per point = 15% back.

Discoverist (10% bonus)

  • 200 x 5 = 1,000
  • 1,000 bonus base points
  • 100 elite bonus points
  • =  2,100 points at 1.5 cents per point = 15.75% back.

Explorist (20% bonus)

  • 200 x 5 = 1,000
  • 1,000 bonus base points
  • 200 elite bonus points
  • =  2,200 points at 1.5 cents per point = 16.5% back.

Globalist (30% bonus)

  • 200 x 5 = 1,000
  • 1,000 bonus base points
  • 300 elite bonus points
  • =  2,300 points at 1.5 cents per point = 17.25% back.

So with this Hyatt promotion, you’ll likely earn somewhere around 15% to 17% depending on your level of elite status.

Those rates are respectable but how do they compare to other promotions going on with some of the other major programs? I’ll compare these returns to currently running promotions with Hilton and Marriott and keep my analysis to top-tier elite status comparison.

Hilton Honors 

Hilton is currently offering a 2K every day promotion where you can 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. Also, right now you can book with the Hilton Honors app and get 500 more points for each completed stay through December 31, 2017. There are a couple of other targeted promos, but I’ll just work focus on these two for the comparison.

So for a $200 stay for one night.

  • 200 x 10 = 2,000
  • 200 x 5 = 1,000 (points + points)
  • 1,000 (50% Diamond elite bonus points)
  • 2,000 points 2K every day promotion
  • 500 book through mobile promotion
  • = 6,500 points at .4 cents per point = 13% back

The Hilton promotions all stacked together would net you a 13% return for a one night $200 stay at .4 cents per point and 16.25% back at a value of .5 cents per point.


Marriott is currently offering the doubling of base points for your first three stays until April 15, 2017. Let’s see how this would work out with Platinum status at a value of .83 cents per point for each Marriott Rewards point.

  • 200 x 10 = 2,000
  • 2,000 (double the base points)
  • 1,000 (50% Platinum elite bonus points)
  • = 5,000 points at .83 cents per point = 20.75% back.

The findings 

As I find often to be the case with value % returned,  Marriott comes out in the lead offering a 20% return, although it should be noted that this promo is only good for three stays. For a Hyatt Globalist, you’re looking at around a 17% return which is still decent and it’s nice that this rate will run all they way through June 30th, so it’s offering you much more long-term potential than the Marriott promotion. Finally, with different promotions stacked, the Hilton promo comes out to 13% to 16% back.

Overall, I think this is a pretty decent promotion by Hyatt if you’ve already got a number of stays lined up. But for the traveler who may only have a couple of stays coming up before June 30, 2017, it’s somewhat of a modest offer since you won’t get the 2X base points on your first stay. I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to take advantage of this promo but it’s a nice way to supplement points in your Hyatt account.

25% Off Iberia Awards, Roundtrip Business Class Tickets to Europe for 33k SPG Points!

I’ve put out a few articles related to Iberia in the past couple of weeks, including one showing how Iberia is the best use of Avios for getting to Europe in business class. Well, the deals keep rolling in and now there’s an even sweeter way to make it to Europe.

The new promo

Iberia recently released a 25% Avios discount on award tickets but you’ve got to act fast to take advantage of the offer! Here’s the offer (taken from their official website):

Fly with a 25% discount in Avios at Valentine’s day. Surprise your loved one. Enjoy flying with Iberia with a 25% Avios discount when you book your flights between February 8th and 14th [and fly] between February 8th and 14th June 2017, except Abril.

The promo is good for several routes but the following US destinations are relevant:

  • Miami
  • New York
  • Boston
  • Chicago

New York, Boston, and Chicago are bolded because they fall in one of the best sweet spots available for getting to Europe in business class, which is the award chart band 5. Note: Chicago is actually over 4,000 miles roundtrip but for some reason it still codes in band 5 for right now, so it’s an even sweeter deal. 

This offer is especially worthwhile because it coincides with a hotel transfer bonus to British Airways. Right now, you can transfer hotel points to British Airways and receive a 35% bonus. I recently wrote an article on how you could use that bonus to get to Europe in business class roundtrip with Iberia Avios for roughly 40,000 points.

Now you can get an even more phenomenal deal by taking advantage of these routes!

Churros in Madrid, Spain.

For example, the 68,000 roundtrip from any of the above bolded cities would cost 51,000 Avios with this promotion. That alone is a pretty phenomenal deal for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe. But if you had a huge stash of SPG points in the bank, you could transfer in the following ways to create one of the most worthwhile redemptions ever available.

Let’s say you have 33,000 SPG points sitting around.

You transfer those 33,000 to British Airways and you automatically receive the standard 25% bonus increase for every 20,000 SPG points transferred. So your 33,000 SPG points becomes 38,000. Then because that standard bonus stacks with the 35% British Airways promotional bonus, those 38,000 Avios actually come out to 51,300 Avios.

If you were able to make a business class booking before the end of Valentine’s Day you could take advantage of this 25% off booking prices and you could score a roundtrip business class ticket to Madrid from Chicago, New York, or Boston.

That means 33,000 points could get you a roundtrip ticket in business class to Europe.

That business class ticket out of pocket would cost $7,111. If you subtract the $220 in fees, that’s $6,891 in value for 33,000 points, which comes out to a redemption worth 21 cents per point. That is absolutely insane. 

Toledo, SpainToledo, Spain is a great day trip from Madrid.

I know it can be somewhat tricky finding award availability in business class on the Iberia flights, especially now with these promos getting more publicity. And unfortunately, the Iberia website is glitching pretty bad right now so I can’t check all of the dates for availability. However, if there’s an open flight and you’ve got the Avios to spare, I’d definitely consider this monster redemption, since you’re hardly ever going to find something that beats it. Just remember there are strict policies for transferring Avios from BA to Iberia and you can find more about that here (toward the bottom of the article).

H/T: Head for Points.

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.

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.

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. 

Southwest Now Extending Deadline for Hotel Transfers to Earn Companion Pass

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

I wrote earlier about Southwest nuking the ability to transfer hotel points to Southwest Rapid Rewards and have those points count towards the Southwest Companion Pass. This was a very expected change but I was adamantly opposed to the way Southwest went about it.

First, they (and many others) have dubbed this a “loophole.” Since language regarding the ability to make such hotel transfers and have them count towards the Companion Pass was reportedly present and allowed in the previous terms and conditions, I still don’t see how this could be classified as a “loophole” (more on that in the article above). 

But that aside, the main issue was that Southwest provided no notice before they removed this option for earning the Companion Pass and proceeded to remove it on January 1, 2017, the date on which many consumers were set up to redeem their Companion Passes with points transferred from hotel programs. AND, many purchased SPG points during the 50% off (targeted) promotion, which was the biggest discount for purchasing points ever offered by SPG in an effort to redeem those points through a Marriott Flight and Hotel package in order to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. 

So you had a long line of consumers eager to take advantage of a deal (explicitly allowed in the T&C) and then they had the rug pulled from under them to usher in the new year! 

For a program that prides itself on transparency, or “transfarency,” this was a joke in my opinion. Also, it represented yet another airline making a significant change to a program with zero notice that undoubtedly screwed many people who otherwise would have taken different actions with even a little bit of notice. 

But, Southwest heard our shouts (prayers?) and they’ve reversed their decision… temporarily, at least. 

They released an official statement

As we began the New Year on January 1, we took the opportunity to close a loophole in our Rapid Rewards Companion Pass terms and conditions related to transferred points from our Partners. This was an effort intended to clarify qualification requirements for Companion Pass, one of the best benefits in travel, as well as to protect the integrity and value of the Rapid Rewards program. 

In doing so, we updated our terms and conditions which now clearly state that points transferred from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club will no longer count toward qualification for a Companion Pass.  Members will continue to earn toward Companion Pass benefits through paid flights flown on Southwest, Points earned through spend with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit cards, and base points earned through transactions with Rapid Rewards partners.

Many of you have reached out to us since then, and we greatly appreciate your honest and candid feedback. Because we are a Company that values our Customers and believes in doing the right thing, we are offering a limited window for Customers to earn toward Companion Pass by transferring their loyalty points from these Partners.

To that end, points converted from the above mentioned programs will count towards a Companion Pass until March 31, 2017. This is a hard deadline and we will not be able to make any exceptions beyond March 31. If you have points with these Partners that you wanted to transfer, please do not wait. Make the transfer before the deadline.  

We appreciate all of our Customers and look forward to seeing you onboard very soon!

Once again, I’m not a fan a fan of the loophole language since I don’t think that really applies, but I’m a huge fan of them extending the deadline to make transfers until March 31, 2017. That’s a big move as it will give consumers plenty of time to get their points already earned (or nearly earned) transferred to Southwest with enough time to get their Companion Pass. 

In my opinion, Southwest avoids a black eye by offering this extension, since it was the lack of notice that was the big issue and not the change itself. 

I personally don’t have a problem with them killing the ability to transfer hotel points to earn the Companion Pass. For one, once that option became more publicized most of us knew it would be happen at some point and second, it’s their right to make their own business decisions to maximize earnings. And as long as they provide reasonable notice for such changes, I can’t take any issue with them for doing what’s good for business. 

So let this be a lesson learned that voicing your concern and frustration with changes from these programs can result in changes and isn’t a waste of time. Hopefully other airlines and loyalty programs will be more like Southwest and listen to their customer base in order to make compromises that serve the interests of both parties. As I said before, I love Southwest, and with this latest decision to modify their policy, I think I love them a bit more. 

New Changes to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska’s new changes to its frequent flier program are truly a breath of fresh air. Typically when you find out an airline is “revamping” its frequent flyer program, this news comes with a host of devaluations, more restrictions on routing, and maybe a redemption or two that gets a little bit better. In short, the news is generally bad. However, on the heels of announcing its merger with Virgin America, Alaska has rolled out a number of very positive changes to its program.

Why is Alaska Airlines a big deal? 

A lot of people are fans of Alaska Airlines because it’s historically been easy to accumulate tons of miles with them through both the personal and business Bank of America credit cards (usually offering 25,000 to 30,000 miles). In addition, Alaska Airlines offers some superb redemptions for partners like American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, JAL, and others. The ability to accumulate tons of Alaska miles and use them efficiently on partners is one reason why Alaska Airlines is extremely popular. 

But now there’s another reason why Alaska is going to be popular since it’s now offering some cheap ways to get around the US on short-haul flights and new ways to accumulate miles with Virgin America. 

Alaska Airlines routes

Alaska Airlines operates with a hub in Seattle (Sea-Tac) and secondary hubs in Los Angeles, Portland, and Anchorage. It operates flights all over the US, and some destinations in Canada, Mexico, and Central America. With its hubs concentrated in the west, it’s a great choice for getting around and to and from the western United States. 

Alaska Airlines destinations from SEA-TAC.

Cheaper redemptions

The most welcomed change in this program is the new distance-based redemption rates that greatly reduced the mileage requirements for some routes, especially those for certain short-haul flights. Below is a list of some of the changes that were made (using the same terminology that Alaska is using).

These rates below are for non-refundable one-way flights and there are a few things to keep in mind. One, you may not always be able to find the lowest routes (although I had no issues finding these redemption rates about 2 to 3 months out). Also, while these redemption rates are low, many of these routes can be purchased for cheap already on airlines like Southwest, Virgin America, and Alaska so you always want to consider if using cash is a better option. Finally, stopovers are still allowed on one-way awards, so you can further maximize your value on these routes.  

“Hop”: trips less than 700 miles

  • Main Cabin: 5,000 to 20,000
  • First Class: 25,000

This route was previously 12,5000 miles, so that’s a fantastic reduction. You can now get between destinations like SFO-SEA for only 5,000 Alaskan miles! This makes up for the recent devaluation that hit British Airways’ short-haul flights in North America that many people used to rely on.

“Skip”: trips between 701 and 1,400 miles

  • Main Cabin: 7,500 to 20,000
  • First Class: 25,000

This route was also previously 12,500 miles.

“Jump”: trips between 1,401 and 2,100 miles

  • Main Cabin: 10,000 to 20,000
  • First Class: 25,000

This route was also previously 12,5000 miles.

“Leap”: trips longer than 2,101

  • Main Cabin: 12,500 to 20,000
  • First Class: 25,000

This essentially preserves the previous standard redemption route for getting around North America with Alaska miles.

New transfer ratio with Virgin America

Starting January 9, 2017, you will be able to transfer Virgin America points to Alaska Airlines. The ratio of this transfer is 1 Virgin America mile to 1.3 Alaska Airlines miles. This is not quite as good as some were hoping for since Virgin America’s revenue-based miles are worth more (usually 2 cents per point) and come with better flexibility, but it’s still better than a 1:1 ratio, so I’ll take it. 

The big play on this is that Virgin America is a transfer partner of SPG (and so is Alaska). So instead of transferring SPG points directly to Alaska at a 1:1 ratio, it now makes more sense to transfer those SPG points to Virgin America and then to Alaska to maximize your points. For example, if you were to transfer 30,000 SPG points to Virgin America and then to Alaska, you’d end up with 45,500 miles with the 20% SPG bonus factored in versus just 35,000 Alaska miles if you had transferred SPG points straight to Alaska.

Virgin America is also currently a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points, so there’s also the possibility of transferring from those programs but there are a couple of problems with that. First, Citi is dropping Virgin America in January of 2017 and also the ratio from both of those programs will cut your points by 50% (2:1 ratio) so it’s a no-go for many. However, if you just need to top-off points for a redemption, this may be a solid choice.

And don’t forget that Comenity Bank offers two Virgin America credit cards. The sign-up bonuses are on the lower end at 10,000 and 15,000 but with the 1:1.3 transfer ratio, you could convert 15,000 miles into nearly 20,000 Alaska miles. Also, sometimes targeted offers roll around for these cards with offers up to 30,000 miles. If you were planning on using Alaska miles for a partner redemption, it might not be a bad idea to consider a Comenity Bank Virgin America card to supplement your Alaska miles. 

Increased mileage accruals with partners

Another change in effect it that you’ll be able to earn more miles when flying with partners. In some cases, you might be able to earn up to 80% more miles when flying first class or business on different partners, such as British Airways or Cathay Pacific.  

Bye, bye to Delta

Alaska announced that they are dropping Delta as a partner starting May 1, 2017. This means that you will no longer be able to earn Alaska miles with Delta and also not be able to book Delta flights with Alaska miles. For folks like myself who never fly Delta, this isn’t a problem but it really was a blow for many who earned Alaskan miles with Delta.  

Final word 

It’s great to see positive changes happening for a frequent flier program. There’s now additional options for getting around the country with miles for cheaper and more ways to rack up Alaska miles so that you can take advantage of their great partner redemptions. The loss of Delta as a partner hurts some pretty bad, but overall, I think these changes are more on the positive side. 



British Airways Avios Waves Goodbye to Aer Lingus Sweet Spot?

It looks like one of the top sweet spots for getting to Europe has apparently undergone some “re-distancing” for lack of a better word. Aer Lingus just launched its new Aer Lingus AerClub program which is partnered with Avios, but with this addition to the Avios family, came the “re-distancing” of the Boston to Dublin route. I’ll take a look at what this means for Aer Lingus awards to Europe with British Airways Avios but first, a refresher on Avios. 

Avios refresher 

Avios is a rewards program that partners with different airlines and transportation companies. For example, there are programs to use Avios on British Airways, Iberia Plus, Eurostar, etc. The programs for the airlines are separate but related, meaning that they have their own routing rules, award charts, and calendars but also allow you to transfer points between them. I recently heard news/rumors that different Avios programs (British Airways Avios, Iberia Plus Avios) would be consolidated into one program but I’m not sure about when and if that might happen. 

For purposes of AerLingus, you can use to search for award availability. The preferred method for many has been to use United’s website to find AerLingus flights and then call in to book but now you can also search for availability and book on and it’s reported that you can see even more availability online than when you call in (but beware of higher fees)

As an aside, right now there’s a promotion that should allow you to receive 250 complimentary Avios if you create an AerClub account before January 7th. In order to do that, I suggest you first create an account and then link it to your AerClub account. To create an Avios account you’ll need some form of UK address (some just use a UK hotel) and you need to sign up at their UK website. So just keep that in mind. 

But back to British Airways…. 

British Airways Partner Awards 

Just like other airlines, you can book partner airlines with British Airways. If you didn’t know, when you use British Airways to book partner awards, you’re forced to use the “peak” redemption rates, which are of course higher than the “off-peak” awards. However, now that Aer Lingus is a part of the Avios family it’s treated like Iberia, and you can utilize off-peak award redemption rates.

Here is the British Airways awards chart (which is the much the same as the new Aer Lingus chart). 

In the past, I wrote about the sweet spots to Europe which included using British Airways Avios to book the following roundtrip economy routes on Aer Lingus:

  • 25,000 Avios – Boston to Dublin
  • 40,000 Avios – NYC/Chicago/Toronto to Dublin
  • 50,000 Avios – LA/San Francisco to Dublin

The route from Boston to Dublin is approximately 2,987 miles, which put it just under the 3,000 mile range of the next bracket for British Airways and allowed for that awesome sweet spot redemption of 25,000 round trip.

So now, with the new off-peak awards available, you’d think there’s an even sweeter spot with the Boston to Dublin route because it should be priced at 20,000.

But nope! 

The new redemption rates 

Now, Aer Lingus and British Airways have bumped the zone that the route from BOS to DUB formerly was in to zone 5.

The award chart on Aer Lingus specifically states:

(Please note the exceptions of Shannon/Dublin to Boston which are based on Zone 5)

So with that new zone in mind, the redemptions from Boston to Dublin now look like this:

  • Economy
    • Off-peak: 26,000 Avios
    • Peak: 40,000 Avios
  • Business:
    • Off-peak: 100,000 Avios
    • Peak: 120,000 Avios

So you can still get the redemption at only 1,000 more total Avios (26,000 round trip), but you’ll just have to book on the off-peak dates. The following months are considered peak dates: 

  • Jan 1-4
  • Apr 7-23
  • Jun 17-Sep 10
  • Dec 16-31

That still leaves you a good portion of January, and all of February, March, May, October, and November to book so it’s not completely bleak by any means. One bummer is that the fees are apparently higher, although not that high (especially compared to what you would pay if you booked through London to get to Europe with British Airways). 

Keep in mind that Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Iberia all have different calendars for their off-peak days. You can search those calendars (by year) hereThe calendar of the airline you are flying on will determine the rate. For example, when I use British Airways Avios to book Iberia, the redemption rate is determined by Iberia’s calendar. 

So this re-distancing thing isn’t too terrible but what about the other routes to Dublin? Do they benefit? Absolutely!

New sweet spots 

With the new off-peak awards in place, there are a few new sweet spots to get to Europe. 

1) NYC/Chicago/Hartford/DC/Toronto to Dublin

Old rates: 

  • Economy: 40,000 
  • Business: 120,000

New rates: 

  • Economy
    • Off-peak : 26,000 
    • Peak: 40,000 
  • Business:
    • Off-peak: 100,000 
    • Peak: 120,000 
26,000 Avios round trip to Europe!

With the new rates you don’t have to position yourself in Boston to take advantage of the lower rate at 26,000 Avios from New York or places like Toronto and even Chicago. And that 100,000 award in business class is also one of the best redemption rates to get to Europe in business class — it beats out all of the rates from major US airlines and competes with some of the best available redemptions (fees may be around $250). 

I called in with British Airways to inquire about using British Airways Avios for the flight above and was told that the fees would come out to $169 total, which is cheaper than the $237 USD that showed. So fees are still a little bit of an issue but not nearly as bad as they would be if you routed through London with British Airways. In the latter case, you’d be paying about $650! (Fees appear to be cheaper going out to Dublin than coming back.)

Also worth noting, on the phone they offered me the pay with cash plus Avios option which would have been a super sweet deal. I could have reduced my redemption requirement by 5,200 Avios by paying $15 ($184 total). Yes, $15! That’s like paying .28 cents per point. I’m not sure how long that promo was going on for but the representative confirmed again and again that it wasn’t a mistake. 

2) West Coast (and Orlando) to Dublin

For folks trying to get from SFO, LA, or Orlando to Dublin, things get sweeter with the with off-peak awards, too. 

Old rates: 

  • Economy: 50,000 
  • Business: 150,000

New rates: 

  • Economy
    • Off-peak : 32,500 Avios
    • Peak: 50,000 Avios
  • Business:
    • Off-peak: 125,000 Avios 
    • Peak: 150,000 Avios

The 32,500 rate in economy to get all the way to Europe from the West Coast roundtrip is a great redemption and 125,000 in business class is respectable. Fees from the SFO were a little higher. Unfortunately, again I wasn’t able to price out the fees for business class so I’m not sure how high those fees might get. 

Final word 

After recent devaluations to the British Airways program, I assumed this was yet another knee to the stomach when I first heard about it. However, while the changes do make it tougher to claim some awards, they open up some fantastic sweet spot redemptions from the West Coast and other places around the country if you catch them at the right time. I’m not sure what will inevitably become of the Avios program when and if everything merges but right now I’m not totally against these changes in the award chart. 

HT: Rapid Travel Chai; original HT: Head for Points

Cover photo by Pieter van Marion via Flickr. 

How I (Might Have) Got Amex to Unfreeze My Membership Rewards

Offers contained within this article maybe expired.

Right now many Amex customers still have their Membership Rewards frozen after taking advantage of the recent 100K Platinum Card offer that leaked last May. Since that time, Amex reps have told customers a plethora of conflicting reports about what will ultimately happen to their points. I just had my points unfrozen and thought that I would share my experience with how I think I got them to undo the freeze. 

Conflicting info from Amex reps 

Like many others, Amex reps gave me tons of conflicting information. 

I was told all of the following: 

  • My points would be available 92 days (yes, “92”) after I opened the card
  • My points would be available 6 to 8 weeks after I hit the minimum spend on my card
  • My points would be available 6 to 8 weeks after the closing date of the statement in which I hit the minimum spend on my card
  • My points would be available 6 to 8 weeks after I made the final payment on my minimum spend

And those are just the explanations I can remember. All of these alleged deadlines came out to different dates and it was incredibly frustrating to hear something new and conflicting each time I called. I was hoping to book a trip to Norway via Aeroplan for Christmas so each week that went by with my points in limbo made me believe that trip was becoming less and less of a reality. 

What I did 

After hearing so many conflicting accounts, I decided to file a dispute with the Membership Rewards team.

As an attorney, I thought about sending in a demand letter, but I really preferred to resolve this without getting “legal” with Amex since I do value my relationship with them very much.

The dispute I had filed was on the basis that I had been told that the issue would be resolved 6 to 8 weeks after I hit the minimum spend and that it had now been 9 weeks without a resolution. It took a couple of calls to get this dispute initiated, as the first rep I spoke with insisted that there was nothing she could do except wait for the investigation on my points to be concluded. 

Finally, a rep told me that he agreed the issue should have been resolved by the 8 week period and that he would be opening up a dispute. He specifically stated that he was referring the case to their “partner/liaison.” I’m still not exactly sure who these people are (what department they are in) but he told me that I would be hearing back within 2 to 3 business days. 

After 3 days, I got a call from Amex regarding the dispute. To my surprise, they informed me that the proper deadline would be 6 to 8 weeks from the time that I paid off the statement that I hit the minimum spend in. That meant that I had at least another month to wait before I could expect to be able to transfer my points…. 

This made me highly upset and so I decided to vent a little. I respectfully and civilly expressed to the agent that I understood that it was probably not her call to unfreeze my points but that I was highly dissatisfied with the customer service on this issue and that it really had me considering walking away from Amex after everything gets resolved. I expressed that this was a big trip that I was looking forward to and that it was inexcusable that I never received any kind of notice or communication regarding the freeze over the past couple of months.

She heard me out and apologized for everything but after a few minutes our conversation ended with nothing else being said or done. 

The freeze is over

After that conversation, I prepared myself to give up on the Christmas booking. With such limited availability already for my desired routes, I figured that another month’s time of waiting would make the booking pretty much impossible. 

A couple of hours after my phone call with Amex, I got a little bit curious and decided to just try the transfer one last time. The rep had told me that attempting the transfers would slow down the process each time I tried but I really didn’t believe that (and didn’t really care at this point, either).

So I logged in and input a request to transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards to Aeroplan and to my amazement, it went through! I couldn’t believe it! Within 15 minutes, I had all the points needed transferred to Aeroplan and officially had my Christmas trip booked for 2016!

What all does it mean?

I think it’s really hard to draw conclusions from my experience because there have been so many different accounts from other people. It could just be a mere coincidence that a couple of hours after my phone call about my dispute, my points were free. But they also could’ve unfroze my points as a direct result of my dispute. It’s hard to tell but with some recent data points popping up with other getting unfroze, maybe it was just a coincidence? 

So if your points are still froze, my advice to you is to try to get the issue referred to the “partner/liaison.” It should be easy to do if you already have a sound basis for the dispute (e.g., they told you 6 to 8 weeks and it’s been 9 weeks). There may be other ways to get a dispute filed with them with some creative thinking. If you can’t do that, I still feel like the majority of people will have their points unfrozen soon based on the recent data points, so you may only have to wait a bit longer. 


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