Jun 07

Marriott Releases “Hidden” Promotion

Every quarter,* the major hotel companies launch major promotions (which are more comprehensive than the minor ones interspersed throughout the period). Marriott has launched theirs. Sort of.

Marriott MegaBonus

megabonus

Your definition of “infinite” may be different from theirs

Marriott’s second quarter promotion was actually released over a month ago but, due to a technical error, many people didn’t get it. You had to know to email the company and asked to be enrolled. Fortunately, they’ve now released the promo into the wild.

The bad news is that this MegaBonus is not so mega. Starting May 27 (I know.) and lasting through September 4, you’ll get 2,000 points for every stay, beginning with your second stay. That description contains two big negatives: First, you’ll get the points per stay, rather than per night. A stay is one check-in and one check-out, no matter how many nights you stayed. Most offers will base your bonus points on the actual number of nights that you stayed. Furthermore, you don’t even get the bonus on your first stay. You actually have to wait until the second. This promotion won’t be getting too many customers to switch.

The “hook” is not much of one. You’ll earn an additional 2,000 points for each brand (Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard, etc.) you stay with, as well. That bonus, of course, also starts with the second brand.

Marriott, maybe you should have just kept this one hidden. You’re just embarrassing yourselves.

 

 


*Beginner’s Hint: Some of them have moved to every four months, but you’re still getting the same amount of promotion time, regardless of what else you might read. Instead of getting four 3-month promos, you’re now getting three 4-month promos.

 

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Jun 05

A Couple Of Goodies From JetBlue

I’ve always had a soft spot for JetBlue. Decent service, in-flight entertainment and cheap prices. But the best thing about the airline is that it has frequent promotions. Here are a couple.

Up to 6,000 Bonus Miles from Boston Or New York

trueblue

The 6,000 TrueBlue points promos are among the most common for JetBlue. For this one, you need to fly from Boston to earn bonus points. In particular:

trueblue

Fly to Boston to see the 2017 World Champion Boston Red Sox

Of particular interest is the option to earn the bonus by flying one-ways instead of round-trips. There’s nothing to stop you from booking your two legs independently, which would get you the extra segments. It shouldn’t make a difference in terms of price. That way, you can get the full bonus with the equivalent of two round-trips instead of three.

So what about New York? Turns out that you can just change the letters “BOS” in the above URL to “NYC” and it will bring up the same promotion for New York members. No word on whether you can double-dip by flying back and forth between Boston and New York.

Up to 20,500 TrueBlue Points from WeWork

trueblue

My hint: Try to drink the equivalent of your membership fee in free coffee

This one isn’t going to be for everbody but, if it suits you, you can make some decent returns.

Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know what WeWork was (nor, for that matter, how difficult it is to say “what WeWork was” five times, fast).* Turns out that the company is one of the largest providers of on-demand work space. Think of it as the Uber of office space. You can rent an office long-term, get pop-ins when you need them, and everything in between. Prices look reasonable and the colleague who told me about it had nice things to say. And no, I’m not being sponsored by WeWork to say that.

The cheapest plan is the “Hot Desk,” which gets you a space to work 24/7. They’ll give you 500 points just to take a tour but, if you sign up for a 3-month “Hot Desk” subscription, they’ll give you 20,000 TrueBlue points.* I value those points at about $300, which could cover the first month of your plan.

 


*Admit it, you tried it. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it between us.

*Beginner’s Hint: JetBlue has the best proprietary credit card in the industry, hands down. One of the benefits of the JetBlue Plus Card is that they will redeem 10% of your points on every redemption. For example, if you redeem for a flight that costs you 25,000 points, they’ll gift you back 2,500. Thus, credit card holders can add another 10% to the value of any rebate.

 

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Jun 02

Travel Card Mania

Last night, I was reading a piece that talked about incrementality and tolerance levels. In particular, it discussed the fact that, as a person becomes more exposed to stimuli, they need increasing amounts of it to generate the same “high,” whether it’s gambling, alcohol or iPads.

Credit Card Bonuses

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

While my discussion last night was actually in regard to media consumption, it occurred to me that I saw a lot of these same patterns with credit card offers. Ten years ago, 25,000 miles was considered a great sign-up bonus. Now, many people wouldn’t even consider that level. The better bonuses usually start at 50,000, with frequent promotions that drive the numbers higher. Customers have simply become more demanding, and the banks have responded. A high-spending customer, particularly one that carries a monthly balance, is extremely profitable, and the issuers are willing to bear the upfront cost of acquiring the customer.*

What’s interesting is that the promotions are becoming more frequent. Right now, Southwest is running an all-time high 60,000 point sign-up bonus (worth about $850 in travel), American is at 60,000, Delta is at 60,000 and Virgin Atlantic is at 90,000 (although those 90,000 points are worth less than other promos offering fewer points, particularly considering the requirements to earn the entire bonus). And those are just the ones that I can think of off the top of my head.

Of all of them, Southwest is the most interesting, for a couple of reasons.

  • Southwest makes any seat available for points, and the cost of the seat in points is based on the underlying cost of the ticket, with each point worth about 1.4 cents. For example, a ticket that costs $350 would be available for 25,000 points ($350/.014). Since every ticket is for sale for cash, every ticket is also available for points.
  • Those 60,000 points count toward Southwest’s Companion Pass. You’ll pick up the CP if you earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a year, meaning you’ll only need to pick up the remaining 50,000 another way (flying, using a partner, or something else). The Pass is exactly what it sounds like: For at least a year (the year in which you earn it, plus the entirety of the following year), you’ll get to fly a companion for free (minus a few dollars for taxes) when you fly, and the companion is confirmable at the time of booking.

The banks have given in there are some true premium offers available in the market. Might as well take advantage of it.

You can visit the Credit Cards for Charity page to access a list of available cards through the banner at the bottom. Remember, all proceeds go to charity.

 


*Beginner’s Hint: Credit card companies can’t force you to spend any more than you need to get the bonus on the card, but they can make it difficult to get the bonus in the first place. Application rules vary among companies. Citibank says that it won’t give you a sign-up bonus if you’ve cancelled the same card in the past 24 months. American Express says that sign-up bonuses are once in a lifetime. Etc. I have found, however, that those rules are occasionally overlooked.

And remember: If you are carrying a balance, you should not have a rewards card. The interest rates will more than offset any rewards you get.

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May 31

Laptop Ban Threat Over. I Think. Probably.

According to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson, the laptop ban on incoming flights from Europe is dead, for now (Yup, I did see the headline on the article.). This decision followed a meeting that Secretary John Kelly had with European officials on Tuesday.

Of Course It’s Not Over

laptop ban

“I’ll take that shampoo now.” Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Nevertheless, DHS never rules out anything, which would eliminate an opportunity to siphon off even more dollars from the federal budget  steal your toiletries  make your trip as miserable as possible  protect you from really dumb terrorists. According to Kelly, the laptop ban is still on the table and could be implemented any time he needs to show that his department is doing something  he feels that it is necessary.

Let’s not kid ourselves that the original ban had anything to do with safety; Otherwise, laptops wouldn’t be allowed on airplanes at all, since the risks posed by all of those batteries in the cargo hold likely far exceed those from the in-cabin laptops.

Hopefully, if we all remain really quiet, Daddy won’t notice that we are reading with a flashlight under the sheets  we’ll never hear of this ban again.

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May 30

The Upscale Way To Beat The Airport Crowds

I’m just returning from a trip, so it’ll take me a few days to get back into the swing of things. In the meantime…

Beating The Crowds at The Airport (The Fun Way)

the private suite

All yours, for only $7,500. And then some.                               Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Sure, you can fly on a private jet, but what happens when you are in the airport and the Paparazzi just won’t leave you alone? LAX has a lounge for that.*

Called “The Private Suite,” LAX’s hideaway opened on May 15 and, as you can probably imagine, serves mainly the 1% of the 1%.

So what do you get? Sure, you’ll get the usual private check-in and drinks. But it goes march further than that, as you would expect for the price. You’ll get exclusivity from the minute you land at the airport, starting with private parking. You’ll have your own suite in the lounge (Yes, there is one with a kid’s area.) as well as high-end meals. They can also take care of individual requests. Got a pet? No problem. Need a spa service? Of course.

They trip to the airplane itself is just as easy. Not only will you get your own TSA line but they’ll actually drive you to the plane. Not sure if they’ll carry you up the stairs, though.

So how much does this little perk cost? It’s a mere $7,500 per year. And did I mention that there’s also a charge of up to $3,000 each time you actually use the lounge? Hmm, on second thought, maybe the seating at the food court is looking a little better…

 


*Beginner’s Hint: I’ve written about airport lounges before and will likely do so again soon, but they are among the most misunderstood of airport amenities. They’re not only for the super wealthy and can be a life saver when you have flight issues.

 

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May 27

American Airlines Upgrading Lounges, Flagship Dining

Airlines are finally catching on to something that the rest of the world figured out years ago: If you are going to charge customers a huge multiple for a premium product versus the standard product, you’d better make it worth its while. American Airlines in particular has trailed its competitors in rolling out new products, but it’s starting with the high-end international flights.

Flagship Lounges

flagship lounge

If you pay the big bucks, you should get the good stuff.

American Airlines’ lounges simply look old. They’ve added more food selections, but the product itself is just worn down.

American is using its “Flagship” label for these upgrades and is starting with the lounges. JFK will be first, followed by six other cities in 2017 and 2018. The picture above gives you a sample of the modernization. Passengers flying international business or first will have access to the lounges, as well as passengers at the front of the plane on certain domestic routes. Elite members with Platinum or higher will also have access on international flights.

Flagship Dining

For those people actually sitting in Flagship First on the plane, you will also have access to Flagship First dining on the ground. A step up from the current buffets in the international lounges, the dining will be sit-down, with service. Only the JFK location is open now, but others will be following in 2017 and 2018.

The Bottom Line: It’s a step in the right direction, even if most customers will never even know that these products exist. But airlines are definitely sending us a signal about what they are willing to do for their most profitable customers. Sounds like a good use of miles to me!

 

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May 24

Airport Security Is About To Get Suckier

And it doesn’t even involve a laptop ban.

In its infinite wisdom, the TSA is testing even more measures to make your travel experience miserable. Here are the details:

Get Ready to Unpack…Everything

 

Because separating your liquids, gels, electronics, etc. just isn’t enough. The Wall Street Journal today that the TSA has been testing other time wasters security measures and may roll them out after the summer rush (The article is behind a paywall, but the video above, from the article, tells you everything you need to know.). Soon, you’ll be taking pretty much everything out of your bag, ranging from books to food. According to the TSA, this process will make screening more efficient by separating items and making them easier to identify. Sadly, you don’t have to be a genius to know that “efficiency” and “TSA” are rarely used in the same sentence and, if the policy is enforced, lines will get longer than ever. Good luck getting passengers to understand what does and what doesn’t need to come out of bags, primarily because no two airports enforce the policies the same way.* Can’t wait until they have to go through my kids’ snack bag.

The TSA claims that the unpacking will be optional but, if you don’t respect their authority, they’ll reserve the right to search your bag and make you miserable. Don’t worry, that won’t be an issue for long. Soon, they’ll revoke the “it’s an option” policy and simply force everyone to pack their belongings into 19 separate bins.

Also being considered: machines that will read your ID, taking the human out of the process and avoiding the need for a TSO to write a short novel on your boarding pass. One of these days, somebody will have to explain to me how checking everyone’s ID makes us safer. If the TSA has done its job preventing weapons, explosives and shampoo from getting onboard, it shouldn’t matter if Carlos The Jackal is sitting next to me.

The lone bit of good news: Those who paid the $85 extortion fee to get precheck, or get it free from their credit card, will avoid the new inconveniences.

 


*Beginner’s Hint: The TSA will tell you that the inconsistencies among airports is intentional, keeping terrorists on their toes so that they don’t know what to expect from airport to airport. The inconsistency is actually there because TSOs generally don’t know their own rules, so claiming that a particular rule is a local twist is their way of not having to acknowledge that they messed up.

 

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May 23

Are People On Planes Behaving Badly (Or Is It More Fake Media)?

Not a day goes by that we don’t read about an passenger, airline employee or airport cop behaving badly. So here’s the question: Are things really that bad?

The Man in The Red Hat

So this is what I don’t understand: Every news report I’ve seen has spent as much time talking about the passenger’s “Make America Great Again” hat as they do actually talking about the incident. I’m not sure what his political leanings have to do with the incident, although I did get a laugh out of the passengers’ chanting “Lock him up.”. Apparently, our friend decided that he was entitled to an upgrade and, when one wasn’t granted, he attempted to take an entire row to himself. Interesting theory, poor execution. The gentlemen was escorted from the plane in San Francisco.

My Two Dads (Can’t Board)

southwest

Photo Source: Creative Commons

This one isn’t as clear-cut, but a family is claiming discrimination after not being allowed to board a Southwest flight in the family zone. The dads believe that the airline wouldn’t allow them to board with their kids because they were a same-sex couple, while Southwest insists that it was happy to allow the dads and the kids to board, but grandma would have to wait. To me, it sounds more like miscommunication than anything else and I have a feeling that this is the last we’ll hear of this case. And there must be a mother-in-law joke in here somewhere.

So Are People Really Behaving Worse

We’re getting one of these types of stories almost every day, which would lead one to question just how bad things are in the air. Truthfully, though, they’re no better or worse than usual. The airlines haven’t helped themselves but, after the United Airlines incident that ended with a bloodied doctor being dragged off a plane, the stories have simply become excellent clickbait.

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May 22

Earn Delta Miles With Lyft

There will come a time when ride-sharing services are offering so many partner points that it becomes profitable to take one. Heck, they have the money to throw around. Uber lost almost $3 billion last year (but made it all up on volume).

Delta Miles for Lyft

lyft

Your ride awaits – the Fiat 500L                                                   Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Uber has traditionally had more partnerships that Lyft*, but the latter is getting into the game now. Sign up through the Delta and Lyft link and they’ll give you a $20 credit if you are a new rider. Already have a Lyft account? That’s okay, if you link your Delta SkyMiles account, you’ll get one mile for every dollar that you spend. Through August 31, you’ll get three miles per dollar spent on rides to or from the airport. That is, of course, in addition to any rewards you earn from your credit card. So if you get 2% back from your credit card and another one or three miles per dollar spent, your total reward value is somewhere in the range of 3–6%. Not a bad return for a Lyft to the airport.

 


*Beginner’s Hint: Lyft is a ride-sharing service, similar to Uber. The prices tend to be about the same. Lyft’s app isn’t quite as user-friendly as Uber’s, but they place more emphasis on the customer ride experience than other ride-sharing services do.

 

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May 19

Just For Fun: Here Is The Worst Idea That I’ve Ever Seen…

(Source: Flyertalk)

Plane passengers should pay each other for the right to recline their seat, a study has found.

A series of experiments from two top law professors in America found that plane passengers would demand on average $18 (£14) to stop the person in front reclining their seat.

They said the bargaining idea would ensure “no one gets punched in the face”.

People would also demand $41 (£31) from their fellow passengers not to decline their seat, according to the study.

I’m assuming that this concept is a joke, although that is discouraged on airlines these days. According to The Evening Standard, a couple of New York professors decided that the best way to that passengers have the recline preferences that they desire* is to have them pay each other for them.

Are there a lot of passengers punching each other in the face now (Insert United Airlines joke here.)? Because this policy would certainly lead to passenger-on-passenger violence.

I see no scenario under which the free market works at 30,000 feet, although it would result in a lot of amusing YouTube videos. Can you imagine two middle-seat passengers bargaining over whether the guy in front can recline? And if the “default option” is that he is not allowed to recline, won’t the person in back of him demand an exorbitant amount for the right to do so? What about if the person in the middle seat has to go to the lav? Are they allowed to ask the person in front of them to pull their seat up, even if they sold the right? How about if the person in the window seat has to get up, but the person in the middle sold the right to recline? Would there be any relationship between the two? Would an entire row need to bargain with the entire row in front (or in back) of them? The list goes on and on.

On the plus side, airlines would save a fortune on in-flight entertainment. The passengers could just watch each other.

 


*Beginner’s Hint: As far as I know, every airline gives the space behind your seat to the recliner (although there are airlines whose seats don’t recline at all). In other words, if I am sitting in front of you and feel like reclining, it is my right to do so. To the best of my knowledge, there is no official FAA seatback rule imposed by government fiat. Yet.

 

 

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