Southwest Now Extending Deadline for Hotel Transfers to Earn Companion Pass

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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. 

Southwest Nukes Hotel Transfers for Companion Pass

Southwest ushered in the new year by nuking the ability to transfer hotel points to Southwest Rapid Rewards in order to earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. According to The Points Guy, effective January 1, 2017, hotel point transfers/conversions will no longer count for the Southwest Companion Pass. This is a pretty big blow and while not completely unexpected, the lack of notice definitely has burned quite a few Companion Pass hopefuls. 

What is the Companion Pass? 

The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most valuable airline perks available.

It allows you and one companion (that you can change a handful of times) to fly anywhere Southwest flies, on any date with availability, for the price of one ticket for up to two years. Whether you pay for your ticket with cash or with Rapid Rewards, your companion gets to fly for free (and only has to cover the fees for a flight). 

To earn the Companion Pass, you need to earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards in one calendar year. Once you earn those 110,000 Rapid Rewards, your Companion Pass is good for the remainder of that year and the entire following calendar year. So it can be an extremely valuable thing to have and can essentially double the value of your Rapid Rewards to over 3 cents per point in many cases. I’ve used my Southwest Companion Pass heavily over the past year and have easily saved a couple of thousand bucks flying around the U.S. and the Caribbean with Brad. 

How to get the Companion Pass? 

Ultimate Rewards transferred directly from Chase to Southwest do not count towards points for the Companion Pass. So instead, a lot of people rely on earning the sign-up bonuses from two of the three Chase Southwest co-branded credit cards to earn the Companion Pass, since they often come with 50,000 point sign-up bonuses. By getting two of them and meeting the minimum spend, you usually only need around 6,000 Rapid Rewards to complete your earnings for the Companion Pass and that’s not too difficult to obtain. 

The problem with going the credit card route is that due to 5/24 many people cannot get approved for those Southwest cards. So the work-a-round was to utilize hotel points and transfer those to Southwest to earn the 110,000 Rapid Rewards needed for the Companion Pass. 

So what exactly happened? 

As stated, Southwest has always allowed points transferred or converted from hotel loyalty programs to count toward the Companion Pass. So for example, you could transfer 50,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points  30,000 Rapid Rewards Points. It was great because it allowed you to top off points to earn the Companion Pass or come up with Rapid Rewards when you couldn’t get another Chase Southwest card. 

For a long time, a lot of people were unaware of this way to earn the Companion Pass. However, that lack of awareness changed when the Marriott/SPG merger went through and a lot of people were introduced to the idea of converting 90,000 SPG points into 270,000 Marriott points and then converting those 270,000 points into a Hotel and Airline Marriott package where they’d receive 7 free nights at a Marriott hotel and 120,000 Rapid Rewards. 

That redemption gave you a week’s stay at Marriott and earned you the Southwest Companion Pass. Since it was such a great deal, tons of people jumped on the deal. My guess is that the huge influx of people taking advantage of this deal was probably the primary reason why Southwest decided to nuke it.

A “loophole” gone?

Southwest made an official reply to The Points Guy and stated the following: 

We’re working to protect the integrity and value of Southwest’s industry-unique Rapid Rewards® Companion Pass by closing a loophole that previously allowed Members to transfer mileage and points from other partner loyalty programs toward qualification for a Companion Pass. As we closed this loophole, we also updated our terms and conditions which now clarifies that points converted 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 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.

(Emphasis added). 

I love Southwest but this is a very poor move by them in my opinion. They completely overhauled a popular redemption overnight with no notice. But not only that, they did it on the most advantageous day to redeem hotel points on the Companion Pass. This caught many people off guard and many had already transferred tons of SPG/Ultimate Rewards to Marriott with hopes of redeeming these packages. While they can still redeem for packages on other airlines, their hopes of cashing in on the Companion Pass are gone. 

But it’s okay for them to do this without notice since it’s a “loophole,” right?


In its previous terms and conditions for the Companion Pass, Southwest included language explicitly stating that points from hotel partners would count toward earning the Companion Pass. How can they now say that this was a “loophole?” While it may “sound of” a loophole, I don’t think you can call something a loophole that is explicitly allowed by your company in your own terms and conditions. Loopholes are all about taking advantage of what’s there by implication or non-obvious or technical inference — not by complying with the explicit language present in the terms and conditions.

I already had the Companion Pass so this didn’t affect me personally, but it’s a shame to see airlines implement changes that affect consumers so drastically with zero notice and try to couch their changes in ways that make them appear less blameworthy. 

But anyway…. 

Lesson learned 

This is another reason why it’s so important to act expediently when dealing with anything related to transferable points and when pursuing extremely lucrative deals. The fact that this deal got axed came as no surprise to many, but you still can’t blame those who got burned by it since you would’ve expected some kind of notice from Southwest. It’s too bad that 2017 started off on such a sour note with Southwest, but at least the possibility to earn the Companion Pass via Southwest credit cards is still possible. 

Cover photo by Pieter van Marion via Flickr

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. 



Singapore Airlines to fly A350 from Houston to Manchester

I was pretty excited to hear about the new Singapore Airlines route from Houston to Manchester when it was announced some months ago. But now I’m really excited to hear about the route being serviced by a brand new A350-900XWB! Per Routes Online, this new service is replacing the 777-300ER and its inaugural flight is set to take off January 17th, 2016.

The route

Like the SIN-FRA-JFK route with the A380, the total flight path is also three segments total: Singapore – Manchester – Houston. The flights have the following flight numbers:

  • SQ52  SIN to MAN
  • SQ52  MAN to IAH
  • SQ51 IAH to MAN
  • SQ51 MAN to SIN
Manchester, UK. Photo by Zuzanna Neziri.

Business class on the A350

I’m excited about this because I recently flew business class (which is the highest class on this aircraft) on a brand new Singapore A350 from SIN to JNB, and I absolutely loved it. It’s one of the top business class cabins and arguably on par with several of the first class products on some airlines. So now Houstonians and others have an additional solid product for getting to Europe, and it’s on one of the best airlines on the planet. 

Singapore Business Class
Singapore Business Class on the A350.

What I really loved about the A350 was the freshly designed business class seats and even preferred those over the business class seats on the A380. To me, the business class on the A380 appear much more dated and definitely not at stylish as the newer business class.

Singapore Business Class A380
Singapore Business Class A380

Although I found the business class seats on the A350 to be much more sleek, I believe they may be just a tad bit more narrow. But if you know how oversized these seats are to begin with, the difference is negligible. Also, I recommend sitting in one of the bulkhead rows for maximum leg room.

Singapore Business Class

Definitely my favorite business class experience thus far. 

Singapore Business Class

While the hard product is a little different on these aircrafts, I found the soft product (dining, drinks, bedding, etc.) to be superb all around. If it’s your first time on Singapore Airlines, don’t forget to try out the Singapore Slinger! 

Singapore Business Class A380
Business class lunch on Singapore Airlines.

You can take a virtual tour of the aircraft here.

Redemption rates

When you book online, you’re offered a 15% discount on Singapore Airlines flights. This makes the miles required for this amazing product a true bargain. Below are the mileage requirements for round trips from Houston to Manchester with the discounts factored in:

  • Economy: 34,000
  • Business Class: 97,750

When you consider that Singapore Airlines Krisflyer is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase, American Express, Citi, and SPG, you see how easy it is to accumulate enough points to take advantage of these flights. With just one card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’d have enough miles to take a round trip to Europe in Singapore business class. 

Booking with partners?

Singapore Airlines is one of those oddball airlines that limits partner booking abilities. Not only will you struggle to find their seats on many other websites, but Singapore Airlines limits premium seats to partners when it comes to certain aircrafts. While a route serviced by an A350 should be an aircraft where premium award seats can be made available, it’s likely that availability for business class seats will be scarce so I wouldn’t rely on booking these seats with partners like United.

Paying cash

  • Economy: $630 (Economy super saver)
  • Business Class: $3,842
    • One-way from IAH:$2,390
    • One-way from MAN: $3,040


The major problem with Singapore Airlines is that sometimes you have to deal with hefty fees and this is one route where the fees can really cut into your savings. 

Here are the total fees for economy:

Those fees are almost half the entire fees for the ticket! Factoring in the fees, this redemption of 34,000 miles comes out to just under 1 cent per point (.95 cent). Thus, I probably would just save my points rather than using them for an economy ticket for this route.  

Here are the total fees for business class:

This redemption is much more valuable as your value comes out to about 3.4 cents per point. It’s worth noting that the total fees are higher for the return flight from the UK. If you’re just booking a one way to get to Europe from Houston, then fees aren’t very bad at all (only $128 as seen below). And that redemption is even more valuable coming out at 4.6 cents per point. 

Again, considering the product level with Singapore Airlines business class, the fees aren’t horrible but they are still high enough that you’d want to consider your other options for getting across the pond. 

The alternatives

If you don’t care too much about the airline you’re flying on and just want to get to Europe and want to avoid fees, you should definitely consider other options for a cheaper solution. For example, while Aeroplan requires more miles for a roundtrip business class fare at 110,000 miles you can use Aeroplan miles to book a round trip with a partner airline like SAS or United and avoid high fees. If you can snag an all United itinerary with ANA miles, business class will only run you 88,000 miles total and fees should be more than reasonable. For more alternatives, check out my article on getting to Paris with miles and points

Aside from the fees, the other issue is that Singapore Airlines will require you to book an additional partner booking if you wanted to connect from Manchester to another city in Europe like Paris or wherever. Roundtrip award flights within Europe start as 50,000 Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles, so that’s a lot of additional mileage required. And while budget flights from various cities in Europe are easy to come by, it does add some extra cost and hassle to your travels to jump on them. For this reason, the excitement for this route is curtailed just a bit. 

Final word

It’s great to see such a superb product now available for getting to Europe from Houston. I think what while the economy award redemptions aren’t the most valuable, the business class awards still offer great value despite the fees on a round trip award. If you really just want to experience Singapore’s great business class product, I think this is a great opportunity to do so, especially if you were just looking for a one way award to Europe or were already planning a trip to the UK. 

New Changes to the 5/24 Rule (Both Good and Bad)

The Chase 5/24 rule states that you cannot be approved for certain Chase cards if you have opened up 5 or more credit cards within the past 24 months, subject to certain exceptions. But like just about any other rule, there are expecting for getting around this rule. This article will look at two exceptions to this rule: one that appears to be expanding and another that appears to be going away.

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

The pre-approval exception   

The main exception that people rely on to bypass this rule is getting an in-branch pre-approval. This requires you to go into a Chase branch and inquire with a banker if you are pre-approved for any cards. If the answer is yes, then typically you will be able to bypass the 5/24 rule and usually will be approved for a credit card.

Now, there’s another emerging exception that seems to stem from this. It appears that if you have a pre-approval offer show up on your personal Chase account when you log-in online, you can get around 5/24 when you apply for that credit card. Keep in mind that it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be approved so a rejection is still a possibility. 

There appear to be two ways to see these offers. Check out this article by the Doctor of Credit and this one by Miles to Memories to see exactly where these pre-approvals might show up on your interface. 

If you have your business credit cards linked to your personal accounts then you will need to contact Chase and ask them to set you up a separate personal account. It’s possible to have a log-in that just shows personal accounts or business accounts and then also have a log-in that shows personal accounts and business accounts. In order to see if you qualify for any of these pre-approvals, you will need a log-in that only pulls up your personal accounts, as far as I know.

So that’s the good news. 

Another change 

The bad news is that there’s a rumor reported by the Doctor of Credit that another change is coming into effect for the 5/24 rule. This new change will do away with the exception that allowed Chase/JP Morgan Private Client (CPC) members to bypass the 5/24 rule. CPC members are those who have moved a high amount of assets into Chase.

The formal requirement has always been $250,000 of assets but a fact that more people were recently made aware of was that you could get CPC by depositing far less (in some cases even a good-faith commitment could get you in). I’m wondering if more people learned about how easy it could be to get CPC and started joining CPC simply to get around 5/24. If so, Chase might have caught on to that and decided to put an end to it just by putting an end to the 5/24 exception. That’s just conjecture on my part, though. 

It’s hard to read into these changes by Chase since they send conflicting messages. Chase is making it easier for some to obtain cards that would otherwise not be obtainable due to the 5/24 rule but at the same time making it more difficult/impossible to get approved for cards for mostly nigh net worth individuals (truly valued customers). It would seem that “churners” would fall disproportionally into the former category than the latter, so I’m not sure what Chase’s goal is with these moves. Could there really have been that many CPC members bypassing 5/24 that it became a bigger problem than people bypassing 5/24 with pre-approvals?

HT: The Travel Sisters; Miles to Memories; Doctor of Credit. 

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. 


Take-A-Way Tuesday

The past week has been a pretty good week. There are some great new credit card offers out and some other bonuses happening this summer that you may want to jump on. Check them out:

Chase Ink Offers

  • There are in-branch offers for the Chase Ink for 70,000 Ultimate Rewards and for the Chase Ink Cash, $300 (or 30,000 Ultimate Rewards). These are the best offers available for these cards but they are going to end quickly on May 15, 2016, so you need to act quickly. If you don’t apply in-branch, you can probably get Chase to match the offer by sending a secure message, as Chase is pretty good about matching offers like these, although some people have run into some issues and have been denied the match.

Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz

  • There’s the 75,000 Membership Rewards offer for spending $3,000 with the Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz. See my article on whether or not it’s worth it to apply for it.

2X on Hilton stays this summer

Membership Rewards transfer bonuses

  • There are two bonus transfer bonuses for American Express Membership Rewards happening right now.
  • The offer that has been out for a little while is the 25% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic.  The new promo is the 30% transfer bonus to Etihad. The Etihad promo is great because Etihad allows you to book American Airlines based on its old chart before the devaluation!

70K United MileagePlus Explorer Card?

  • There are rumors circulating about a 70K offer for the MileagePlus Explorer Card. This looks like it could definitely be a “thing,” but likely won’t come into effect until June 1, 2016 (assuming it does come into effect). I’ll follow it closely and update accordingly.

Flying Blue promo deal: business class to Europe

  • Flying Blue published its new promo deals and it has an offer for 25% savings from Boston to Europe in business class (which comes out to 93,750 miles — not a bad deal (although surcharges could be an issue). Read more about the offer here.

The Citigold Promotion For 50K AA/40K Thankyou Points: Dealing With Customer Service

[Offers contained within this article are no longer be available]

The Citigold account offer to earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles and 40,000 Thankyou points is one of the best bank bonuses that repeatedly rolls around in some form. It’s a great bonus not only because you cashout with 50K/40K miles/points but it offers you great opportunities to easily meet your minimum spend through funding checking and savings accounts and allows you to rack up miles or points with those credit cards. Finally, the requirements for obtaining the bonuses are pretty easy to meet: a couple of bill payments and debits totaling $1,000.

You can find some great step-by-step information on opening up these accounts here, but what I wanted to talk about is dealing with the Citi customer service when trying to get a bonus. While I love Citi, some of the representatives can be, to put it lightly, quite misinformed so here are some tips for dealing with them based largely on my own experience.


Screenshot everything

From the beginning screen shot everything. After you open up your account verify via chat and/or secure message that you are enrolled for your specific bonus. Then, after you meet the requirements, message and/or chat with them once again to verify that you have met the requirements for your specific bonus. Capturing these communications helped me through the process of getting my Citigold bonus, as representatives seemed to take me a bit more seriously when I referenced my screen shots.

Get your progress notated in your file

Try to convince a representative to make notation on your file when you meet the requirements for the bonus (and when you’re enrolled, too). I found this made things much easier for me to navigate through Citi’s customer service. I spoke to a supervisor and requested him to notate on my file that I have met X and Y requirements and that I should receive the bonus by a certain date. Later on, these notes allowed me to get Citi representatives on board for my cause much quicker.


HUCA (Hang up Call Again)

Some people go through this process smoothly and others have to find their way through an obstacle course to get to the end. I don’t know why, but it’s very common to receive completely contradicting responses from Citi reps for this bonus. If you don’t hear what you think you should be hearing then hang up and call again and speak to a different representative.

I’ll give you an example of how this worked for me.

Last year, I initially enrolled in my promotion before I even had the AAdvantage Platinum card. At the time, I didn’t realize this was a targeted offer only available to Platinum Select cardholders. In fact, I didn’t even realize that until I called to check on the status of my bonus.

When I called up Citi one time I actually got chewed out by a really rude representative who was going off on how I would never get the bonus because I wasn’t targeted. (She was by far the worst employee I’ve ever encountered on the phone and just miserable to talk to.) So I replied and told her that I understood that was her position but if I was going to be rejected for this promotion I wanted it to come from someone who “acted professionally” on the job.

She then gave me a snarky “Okay, but they’re just going to tell you the same thing I’m telling you” and then supposedly attempted to transfer me out to a supervisor but the  call actually just ended. I was pretty annoyed but I decided to give it another shot. So I called back.

I got a hold of a much nicer rep who was a supervisor and then I explained the situation. I told her that I had messed up and didn’t realize this was a targeted promotion but that I had screenshots of chats and messages with reps who had verified me that I would be receiving the bonus. I’d thus invested time into meeting the minimum debit requirements and bill pays. The supervisor was great and understanding. She stated that she would notate on my account that I was due for the bonus and apologized for the confusion.

So within an hour Citi did a complete reversal (in both service and results) and it seemed to be largely because of my screen shots. Now, to be honest I thought the first rep I spoke to was correct and that I would be denied the bonus. It’s completely understandable that they wouldn’t honor a non-targeted offer. However, because I called back and spoke with someone else, I was able to finally sort it all out. It was a great gesture by Citi to honor the bonus and one reason that I think it’s worth it to just stick it out when dealing with customer service.

Getting the bonus points and miles put into your account

Now, remember that the bonus does not come into effect until 90 days after the closing date of the month in which you met the requirements. So if you did your second-month bill pay and minimum debit purchases on March 15 and your statement closed at the end of the month, then you wouldn’t be eligible to get it until July 1. Some reps told me the wrong info on this so make sure that whoever you are speaking with really knows what they are talking about.

After that 90 day period you then need to call into Citi. I don’t know of any people who actually had the promo just appear in their AA account without contacting Citi.

When I called Citi I had to kind of go through the entire purchase over again.

First, the rep told me I hadn’t met the minimum debit purchase required. I knew I had so I asked to be sent to a supervisor. Then, to my surprise, the supervisor told me the same thing! That’s when I had to take the reigns and refer the supervisor to the transaction and then to the notes in my file. It took a long time of “please hold while I check on something” but then finally she got on the line and said yes I’d get the points in my account. I said great and then hung up.

But that didn’t actually work and the miles never showed up. That was because the rep never initiated a proper transfer for the miles….

Be sure you’re getting your miles

For you to be sure that you will receive your miles, what needs to happen is this: the rep should tell you that they have initiated the transfer of miles and then the rep should give you a password that you will use to open up a document in a message from Citi that tells you that you have been approved for the miles. Then they will show up in your account very soon (took a day or two for me). If you’re waiting for your miles to show up and have not been given a password then call and inquire about it!

This whole process took about 5 months to earn and receive my miles. In some instances it was an absolute headache dealing with Citi to get things done but in the end, these are free (or nearly free) miles that can you earn with this promotion and it is really worth it to jump on these promotions.




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