Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Next trip to Japan on ANA with Virgin Atlantic miles?

We love Japan and have been wanting to go back, but it's tough with American employer standards for annual vacation days 😜. At this point we're hoping for a couple of weeks in Autumn and I suuuure wouldn't mind repeating our ANA First Class flight! We're both fresh out of United miles, though, so that means we'd need to either:
  • transfer Chase points to United and do a partner redemption, or
  • transfer Amex points to ANA and redeem with them or
  • something a bit more obscure...
Well, looking through one of Reddit's travel forums today I was reminded of an option I'd completely forgotten about: Virgin Atlantic. Not only are their partner redemptions for ANA very reasonably-priced, Virgin can accept incoming transfers from both American Express AND Chase Sapphire. According to this link and this link, the transfers are instantaneous.

Apparently people are using to check individual dates for ANA availability and then calling Virgin to book (they don't have online partner reward booking yet on Virgin's site). Again, I've never done this myself (this person has), but it sounds like a great option despite their recent devaluation and new peak dates policy.

So I created a new Flying Club account, searched United for Saver First Class Availability and called their main US number. I had a live person on the phone with about a 5 minute wait and he was able to confirm the availability and price: 120,000 miles + US$85 for a round-trip flight in First! (United charges 220,000 points + $11 for that same flight!). The agent offered to put the flight on hold for 72 hours until my points could be transferred in.

Sadly, though, a family emergency arose and the dates I'd chosen didn't work any longer, but I wanted to mention it since it's such a great deal compared to booking that very same flight with United.

Once I get new dates for the trip I'll definitely keep this option in mind!

jetBlue Plus MasterCard 10% point rebate is for primary cardholders only

One of the perks of the JetBlue Plus MasterCard is a 10% rebate any time you redeem JetBlue points for travel. My husband and I are in a family pool, and I'm a cardholder on his MasterCard account. I was looking at his points activity, and yep, his 1100 point Even More Space upgrade had a rebate a few weeks later called "B6 CoBrand Card Redemption Bonus".

A few months ago, I had redeemed 42,000 points for a trip but saw no such rebate. After a call to both JetBlue and Barclays I can confirm that only the primary cardholder gets the 10% rebate. ☹️

As I've mentioned before, we set up the family pooling with me as Head of Household, and that was a mistake. The customer service folks at JetBlue were very kind about helping me finally fix that mistake today, but they made sure to point out that doing all of this point moving and changing the Head of Household was something they only did for people with Mosaic status. Non-Mosaic members can only change their family pool once a year, so they'd have to just close the family pool altogether and open a new one under the new Head of Household member's account.

Mosaic has a few unwritten perks...

Which JetBlue card should you get?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

BEWARE: Deceptive advertising on American Express Travel's website

I have an American Express Premier Rewards Gold card which I often use for airfare because it has a 3x category bonus for airfare. Amex offers an additional point if you book your flight through their travel portal, giving you a total of 4 points per dollar spent on airfare. When I was booking our Hawaii trip, I noticed that one of the itineraries has this "Featured" box around it, indicating that I'd get 2x points (versus the normal 1x point, I thought). Imagine my surprise when the trip only earned the normal amount of miles...

Well, after a long and drawn out conversation with the staff at American Express, it's their position that the wording in this box does NOT mean 3x points + 2x points for 5x points. They stand firmly by the fact that I was only entitled to 4x points on this trip – the exact same amount I would have earned for a non-"featured itinerary". I was logged in as myself when I booked, so there's no excuse for singling out certain flights as earning more when they don't.

As far as I see it, Amex tricked me out of 3424 points (I bought two tickets at $1712 each). The searches I screen-capped here are from today, so they're still doing this.

Itinerary listing – some are highlighted as earning more

When you click the question mark in the listing, this is the explanation

UPDATE: And their explanation from their Twitter account after seeing this post:
So I get 4x no matter what, and the "Featured" means nothing...

Friday, March 3, 2017

I'd forgotten all about those Plenti points!

With "gamification" being a huge buzzword across so many industries these past few years, it seems like nearly every business now offers some kind of rewards program. There's always a "time/effort versus payback" calculation with things so when I looked at American Express' Plenti program a couple of years ago, it definitely fell into the "not worth effort" column.

We do spend an ungodly amount of money on our AT&T cell phone bill, so I thought, "well, I'll sign up for Plenti and link the AT&T account and maybe 3 years from now I'll have enough points for a latte"… Fast forward to yesterday. I'm by a Rite Aid and think, "we're almost out of Tide" so I pop in there and the guy says, "would you like to pay with your Plenti points?" and, well:

My Tide and my Cascade were free! and I still have $30 left in my account. (Do note that you have to go to and sign up for their Wellness+ account and then link it to your Plenti account to redeem).

Signup for JetBlue double-base points

JetBlue announced a promo where you get double base points (base points also count toward Mosaic status). Register and book by March 23rd, fly by April 30th. Registration is required. If you're not already a member, they're currently running a 5000 point signup bonus. They also routinely have great fare sales like this one.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Amex polishes up their platinum card to compete with Chase Sapphire

Ever since the Chase Sapphire Reserve came out, people have been waiting for Amex to respond. A few months back they bumped up the airfare bonus on their Platinum card to 5 points per dollar, but we've all been expecting a bigger announcement to generate some actual word-of-mouth buzz among the travel nerd community.

Well, last night they announced their new Platinum card and the general response this morning has been, "Wait, really? Oh. Um... No."

The fee goes up $100 a year, but you get $200 a year in Uber driving credits now. As I've said many times, one of the things I love about the Chase Reserve card is how easy they make it to spend your annual travel credit and how refreshing it is compared to Amex's hokey requirements that seem designed to bamboozle you out of using them. The bamboozling continues with this new card:
  • Uber credits are only good in the USA
  • You get a $15 credit each month that expires at the end of that month
  • The credit is aimed at attracting Millennials but didn't anyone notice the big Delete Uber movement last month? 

The card is made of metal now. Lots of cards are made of metal now so I don't think the Vegas VIP lounge waitress is going to swoon for your faux Centurion card, sorry. Sidenote: I forgot my card at a restaurant while traveling. I'd already canceled and replaced the card but when the manager offered to just "cut the card up and toss it" he kinda couldn't do that. Yes, the card comes with a return mailer, but that wouldn't have helped here.

5x on Hotel spending. The problem here is that you have to book through Amex's travel portal, which means you won't earn any points with the hotel's own loyalty program. Further, one of the biggest perks of getting a platinum card is for Amex's Fine Hotels and Resorts program but guess what? No 5x on those!

New Centurion lounges. Philly and Hong Kong are getting American Express lounges. While they've generally gotten good reviews from frequent fliers, they're also prone to overcrowding. Furthermore, at a big airport most people don't want to go to a pre-security lounge that's likely in a different terminal than the one they're departing from.

What they don't grasp is that when the Chase Reserve came out it was such an absolute no-brainer. If you'd like a no-brainer Amex Platinum:
  1. Make it easier to spend those annual credits
  2. 100,000 signup bonus
  3. Minimum 3x category bonuses for all travel and dining
  4. One "hot" category – like their 5x on airfare.
  5. Centurion and Priority Pass access
  6. Something innovative in their point redemption process: for example, I'd love a super-quick portal where I could compare and book airline reward tickets (not those 1-point-per-dollar ticket purchases, I mean actual award tickets) that let me completely skip all of the cumbersome searching and point transferring.
For now, I'm keeping my Premier Rewards Business Gold card, largely because my company does a lot of shipping and it has a bonus on FedEx spending.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fantastic point transfer chart

Somehow I missed this amazing chart that's been floating around for a couple of years now!

It's a visualization of all of the airlines (grouped around the edges by alliance) and the transferable points programs in the middle. Lines connect the various programs so you can quickly see which points can go where. 

Somehow this manages to both make my head hurt AND clarify a complex tree all at once.

Here's the master post (scroll down after the click to view)
Very cool!

Click thumbnail to visit the original post and view full-size...