Feb 19

Marriott Redemptions: Hotel Nights And Miles

Note: I’m going to be out of town for the next two weeks. Posts will be fewer and further between.

 

A few weeks ago, I discussed the Hilton Honors program, which allows you to earn both hotel points and miles when you stay at a Hilton property. But it works in reverse, as well: You can also redeem for hotel nights and miles, but this time, at Marriott.

Marriott Hotel And Air Packages

marriott flights and hotels

Yup, here too.

When it comes to redeeming hotel points, most people think of using them for nights, straight up. But if you are trying to pay for an entire vacation, Marriott can help you out. Here’s how it works:

The points and nights award chart

If you only need to redeem for nights, Marriott will charge you 6,000-45,000 points per room night, depending on when and where you go*. But if you want miles, you can get them for a few more points. By combining your redemption, you can get a better value. For example, if you wanted seven nights at a category six hotel, it would normally cost you 175,000-200,000 Marriott Rewards points. But if you want to earn some miles, as well, you can redeem for them at a rate of about one Marriott Rewards point equalling one mile. That’s an excellent redemption rate, since Marriott points usually translate to miles at a rate of about four or five to one**.

The Bottom Line: Make sure to examine all of your options before choosing one. You may get a little bonus.


*Beginner’s Hint: Companies divide their hotels into various categories. Generally, the higher the category number, the more points a room will cost. Corporate will generally reimburse a hotel for redeemed points based on the category of that hotel, among other factors.

**You will always get better value when you redeem for a company’s own awards. For instance, if you spend Marriott points, you will get better value if you redeem them for a room at a Marriott hotel than if you redeem them for airline miles.

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Feb 17

More Bizarre “Stuff” in The World Of Travel

One of the things that I love most about writing this blog is seeing all the bizarre things that are happening in the travel world. Here are a few:

The White House Is Back

It was good while it lasted

Given the state of the White House, I’m sure that worrying about tours was not high on the list of priorities, but it proved to be an embarrassment. Most presidents have gotten tours up and running for the public immediately after inauguration, but the folks who are in charge now (and that may change between the time that I write this and the time that you read it) have had trouble getting the tourist favorite back on line.

Good news, though: They’re back! You can once again contact your local Congresscritter for tours, which will restart on March 7. You’ll have the opportunity to see the 12-foot picture of POTUS in the lobby, right next to the one of dogs playing poker. Best of all, the first 1,000 constituents in each district to request a tour will get a coupon for 10% off on their next order of Trump Steaks.

The Pilot’s Rant

I get a bit agitated when the discussion of airline “safety” comes up, since many of the things that people are worried about (e.g., terrorism) are not nearly as likely to occur as those we don’t even think about (e.g., the guy who crashes into you on the highway because he’s going 80 while talking on his cell phone). Still, this pilot who went off on a rant might make me think twice about flying with her. She hit on politics and her divorce, missing out only on a diatribe on religion to tick off absolutely everybody.

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Feb 15

Hilton And American Airlines Stay Bonus

One of the unique features of the Hilton Honors plan is the ability to “double dip.”* You can earn extra points, or points and miles on your favorite airline. Hilton is upping the ante a bit to allow you to earn extra American Airlines miles.

Earn Miles In Your Sleep

Hilton Honors

For those who earn Points & Miles, Hilton is offering you the opportunity earn 500 American Airlines miles per night at most brands. You do need to register and stay before March 27, and a few brands, notably the luxury brands, are excluded. You can earn up to 10,000 miles through the promotion.

Would that bonus be enough to make me switch earnings styles? 500 bonus miles is only worth about $10 to me, not enough to make me give up the Hilton Honors points. But if you are looking for a way to generate a few AA miles or keep your account going, this promotion is a good one.

 


*Beginner’s Hint: If you don’t know what your current earnings style is, sign into your Hilton Honors account and click on My Account across the top and go to your account page. On the left-hand column, click on My Profile and then Preferences. If it seems unnecessarily complicated, that’s because it is.

 

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Feb 13

Canada Becoming Cheaper

The Canadian Dollar may be picking up strength against its US counterpart, but flights to, from and within Canada are about to get cheaper, as WestJet expands its operations in eastern Canada.

A Little Respect

westjet

Coming soon, to an airport near you.

Who?

Yup. Unless you’re Canadian, an airplane nerd or spend a lot of time in Terminal A at Boston’s Logan Airport, you might not actually know who WestJet is. Too bad. You’re missing out.

Founded over 20 years ago, WestJet is the low-fare Canadian airline. It’s known for superior service, which isn’t a surprise because the vast majority of WestJetters (the employees) own stock in the company. The employee stock purchase plan allows WJers to buy stock, which the company then matches. It recently launched flights to Europe and has had flights to the US for well over a decade. The airline had traditionally focused on western Canada, but has begun to move east as opportunities have presented themselves. And yes, they do have a frequent flyer program. It’s actually a pretty good one.

Where?

Today, WestJet announced new (and expanded) routes, with the major focus on Quebec and Montreal. The big Kahuna of the announcement is the first flights between the two, with four dailies coming on June 15. It will also launch double dailies between Halifax and Montreal in March and, just in time for leaf-peeping, will offer double dailies between Montreal and Boston.

WestJet will also expand current non-stops. Montreal will offer additional non-stops to Vancouver and Calgary, while Quebec will throw in one more daily flight to Toronto.

Naturally, there are low introductory fares for your flying pleasure.

The Bottom Line

There are some pretty good airlines out there that you may not have heard of, and WestJet is one of them. Enjoy your trip to, from and within Canada.


Full disclosure: I own a few hundred shares of WestJet stock. This post is not a recommendation to buy, sell or, in any other way, make investments. Investing in airline stocks could be hazardous to your wealth.

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Feb 10

Two (Smaller) Hotel Cards That Pay for Themselves

I spend a lot of time talking about Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and Hyatt because of the breadth of their programs but, the truth is, if you want the best rewards programs, you often have to look elsewhere. The same may hold true for credit cards.

Two Cards That Pay for Themselves

I view credit cards as the single best way to accumulate points fast, but many of them come with pesky annual fees. Fortunately, those cards often pay for themselves with the benefits that they offer. Here are two from smaller programs that not only cover their costs but also require absolutely no action on your behalf to get the renewal benefits.

Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card

club carlson

Park Plaza Orchid Tel Aviv

In general, the longer the official name of the card, the better the benefits are. It doesn’t always hold true, but it’s a good indicator. And this card has some good benefits.

Club Carlson is the Avis of the industry. It’s in the second tier, so it has to try harder. There are seven redemption categories and points are worth anywhere from 0.4-0.5 cents each. You earn 20 points per dollar spent at a hotel (before elite benefits) and can redeem for hotel rooms or gift cards (at about 1/3 the value of the room redemption). Club Carlson brands include Quorvus, Radisson and Park Plaza, among others.

The “No Action Freebie”

club carlson

The redemption chart

Here’s where the freebie comes in. Forget the 85,000 points you get for signing up for the Premier Rewards Visa and spending $2,500 in the first three months, the Gold Elite status or free night you get at any hotel when you spend $10,000 in a year.

The big No-Action Freebie is the 40,000 points that you get each year when you renew. Pay your $75 and you’ll get 40,000 points added to your account. If we value the 40,000 points at the 0.4c valuation, you receive $160 value in hotel stays. You’re up $85 for doing nothing except owning the card. Worst case scenario: You never need to stay in a hotel. You can still redeem the points for about $60 worth of gift card value.

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card

IHG Rewards

The Intercontinental London Park Lane. You could be here for $49.

IHG is the owner of, among other brands, Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn. Forget the 60,000 point sign-up bonus, 10% rebate on all redemptions and first-year waiver of the $49 annual fee.

The “No Action Freebie”

This deal is about as good as it gets. Each year that you renew (The fee is waived for the first year.), you get a free night anywhere in the Intercontinental Hotels system. See that room above in London? You can be there. Or Paris. Or any place with an Intercontinental property. It makes a great date-night room or stay for any other occasion. If there’s a room available in the inventory bucket, it’s yours. In 6-7 years of having this card, I’ve only not gotten my first choice once. It’s a great card to have.

The Bottom Line

Sometimes, you can get something for nothing. Or at least really close to nothing.

 

 

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Feb 08

Credit Card Christmas in February

It’s credit card Christmas, as a remarkable three airline cards are offering 50,000 mile sign-up bonuses. We’ll occasionally get one or two at the same time, but we rarely have three simultaneously.

Credit Card Bonanza

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

You’ve got several choices if you want an enhanced bonus, so I’d take advantage of it now. Among your choices:

  • Southwest Airlines. The Rapid Rewards card will not only give you 50,000 sign-up points, worth about $75,000 in Southwest travel, but also get you halfway to the Southwest Companion Pass, which will let a companion travel with you for free for an entire year.
  • American Airlines: The Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select will earn you 50,000 miles for the sign-up bonus. It also has a bunch of other goodies and refunds 10% of your redeemed miles each year, up to 10,000.
  • United Airlines just upped the bonus for the Explorer card to 50,000 miles. It offers most of the same perks as the others but also gets you two one-time passes to the United Club each year on your anniversary.

But The Best Card Of Them All Hasn’t Changed

In a world where you are airline-agnostic, the best airline credit card is the JetBlue Plus Card. The sign-up bonus is 30,000 points and each point is worth about 1.5 cents. You can use TrueBlue points on any flight with an open seat and the card gives amazing rewards:

  • 6 points per $ on JetBlue purchases (2 at restaurants and grocery stores, 1 at all others)
  • You receive up to 9 points per dollar spent on JetBlue flights (at least 3 base points, 3 for booking online, 3 if you have Mosaic status).
  • JetBlue refunds 10% of your spent points each year.

In other words, purchase a ticket on JetBlue and you’ll receive up to 15 points per dollar spent on the cheapest fares. at 1.5c each, that’s a 22.5% rebate. Throw in the 10% refund of points each year and your rebate on JetBlue purchases can be as high as 25%.

 

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Feb 07

Delta Improves Its AirBNB Partnership

Delta has upped its partnership rate with Airbnb, allowing you to earn bonus miles on all stays through April 30, 2018.

Delta And Airbnb

airbnb

Hoping that this is the first of many partnerships

Airbnb, which allows individuals to rent out their homes in much the same way that Uber provides ride service, has been picking up partners and has now joined with Delta to offer you bonus miles. When you open an account and book your first room, you’ll get a $25 credit, 2,000 bonus miles for a stay of at least $150 and three miles per dollar spent. You do have to book by April 30, 2017, for stays through April 30, 2018, and you’ll want to use the link above to get the bonus. But that’s it.

Hoping for More

Uber discovered that the best way to reach more people was to offer more partnerships, allowing you to earn points at Starwood, American Express and more for people using its service. There’s no reason that Airbnb couldn’t do the same thing.

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Feb 06

JetBlue Extends Schedule Through October 28

One of the differences between the “legacy” carriers (American, United, Delta) and the newer breed of low cost carriers is how they release schedules. The former generally release tickets as far as 330 days out, while the latter usually releases tickets for a 6-9 month period, which gives them more flexibility.

JetBlue Updates Schedule

jetblue schedule

JetBlue just announced that it is extending its schedule to October 28, which means that you can now book flights for almost nine months in advance.

One nice thing about JetBlue: If you have their elite Mosaic status, you can make ticket changes for free. No fees, no charges (other than any price change in the ticket). Status maximizes your flexibility, since you can book the ticket and then get a credit for the difference if the price drops.

And, on A Totally Different Note…

Roger Goodell, this is for you:

 

 

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Feb 03

Valentine’s Day Is Coming: Get Miles

I got the first of my Valentine’s Day reminders today, so I’ll pass it along to you.

Get Miles Or Cash for Flowers

cash back shopping

No, you won’t get enough miles to go to Paris

I’ve discussed cash back shopping several times and have an entire page dedicated to it, but inevitably, some people do something on the internet that does not get them money or miles. Shame on you.

Now, American’s offer is a cheap one: only up to 1,000 bonus miles, and that’s for spending $250, but that’s beside the point. Remember, these are free miles. If you are going to buy anything online, see if there’s a way to get miles or money for it.

Note: For every person who subscribes to the blog today, I’ll donate a dollar to the victims of the Bowling Green Massacre. Thank you for subscribing.

 

 

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Feb 01

Hilton “Enhances” Redemptions; Be Prepared for A Devaluation

Hotel loyalty programs are good at many things, but the one thing that they are best at is disguising stealth devaluations as a benefit, which they will usually call “an enhancement.” The last thing that you want is for your program to get enhanced.

Prepare for The Hilton Honors Devaluation

hilton honors

Who, exactly, did they listen to?

Hilton recently issued a press release and announced changes to the Hilton Honors (Yes, they dropped the second “h” in Hhonors.) . A look at the cover page above shows an immediate problem: It starts off with “We listened to you…” Anytime a loyalty program starts off with “We listened to you…,” it means one of two things:

  1. They’re adding a benefit that their competitors have offered for so long that you forgot that your program doesn’t have it, or
  2. They’re about to stick it to you by offering a new benefit but implementing it in such a way that it’s going to cost you.*

Hilton just did the second. They added a couple of lukewarm benefits, such as the ability to pool points and use your points at Amazon (for what I assume will be a low rate). They also offer benefits to certain Diamond members who lose their status for a year.

The Slider

hilton honors

No, mine doesn’t slide. That would cost extra.

The biggie: Hilton announced that it would offer a “flexible points” program. You can use points to pay for a stay. You can use cash to pay for a stay. And now, you can use any combination of the two, not just their fixed “points and cash” rate. Your points will likely be worth 0.4-0.5 cents, based on speculation that I have seen at other blogs, most notably, One Mile at A Time. And Hilton has promised that the price of a night in points will not go up when they transition to the new system (late February) and may, in fact, go down. Sounds great, right?

Not so much, because they also announced that they are getting rid of categories and the award chart. No longer will you know that Hotel X is Category Y and will costs you Z points. In other words, there will be no transparency into pricing.

They promised that they won’t raise the price of an award at the time of transition, but how long will they guarantee that? How do I know that a property that would be 10,000 points this year won’t get a stealth devaluation and cost 15,000 next year? There won’t be anything to compare it to. Likewise, what happens to the point value during periods of high demand? Will they lower the value of points to be worth, say, 0.3-0.4 cents each, instead of 0.4-0.5 cents?

I don’t begrudge a company a profit. Hilton is, after all, owned by shareholders. But I do find it insulting that they think the world will fall for such a ruse.

On A Happier Note…

Flyertalk pointed me to a petition to change the name of the Pittsburgh International Airport to Fred Rogers International Airport. I barely remember Mr. Rogers, King Friday and all their buddies, but if you don’t know about the off-camera life of this amazing man, it is worth a read. Pittsburgh would be proud to have his airport as their neighbor.


*I have long worried that airlines will eventually move to the system that JetBlue uses for redemptions: The cost of the redemption is not based on the distance you travel, but rather, the cost of the ticket if you had paid cash for it (i.e., a $5,000 airline ticket will cost 20X what a $250 ticket would). I guarantee you this: when the first airline, likely Delta, implements such a program, the first line in your notification will read something along the lines of, “We listened to you!” Guarantee it. Don’t believe me? Bookmark this page for when it happens.

 

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