Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Oct 21

IHG/Kimpton: When Bad Things Happen To Good Programs

The single best hotel program that you’ve never heard of may have been Kimpton Karma Rewards, the loyalty program for Kimpton Hotels. Kimpton was a network of boutique hotels known for their funky properties and dedication to customer service. If you’ve ever heard one of those stories about a hotel fulfilling outrageous requests (Read this thread to see what happened when one customer requested a Jack Russell Terrier.), there’s a good chance that it was a Kimpton property.

Karma Rewards offered easy elite status (Only 14 stays per year got you Inner Circle, the top tier.) that came with some great benefits. Everybody could get the basic benefits, which included a $10 credit for the bar and the minibar, while those who hit Inner Circle got unique offers like free nights at new properties and direct access to the CEO. I don’t see Hilton doing that.

Naturally, it couldn’t last and Intercontinental, which bought Kimpton a few years ago, has finally folded in the Karma Rewards program to its own IHG Rewards.

Program “Enhancements”

kimpton

Cool lobby stays. Cool program goes?

Look, it’s not all bad. Kimpton fans will have that many more options to choose from and, well, that’s about the only good thing.

There’s a big downside at the top of the elite benefits. Starting in the 2018 calendar year (for 2019 and beyond), the Inner Circle status that you had previously gotten with 14 stays or 40 nights becomes much more difficult, requiring  not only Intercontinental Spire status (75,000 points or 75 nights at Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, etc. properties) but also an actual invitation to Inner Circle. And what do you need to do to get that invitation? Hmm, don’t call them, they’ll call you if you qualify.

I’m really hoping that Kimpton can find a way to maintain its unique culture but, as the parent company plays an increasing role in operations, I am nervous about the future.

 

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Oct 19

United Airlines: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

United Airlines’ Operational “Improvements”

This one is going to be quick, because it’s more a matter of something that tickled my funny bone than anything else.

united

Frontier’s $25 fare sale from Denver won’t help United improve revenue.

United Airlines has its quarterly analyst conference call this morning and, of course, it started off with some unintentional humor. Management started off by bragging about its employees’ “new spirit and culture” at the airline. I get it, you’re speaking to your employees as much as your investors, but let’s not kid ourselves that flying has all of a sudden become a “friendly” experience.

“We’re better, really!”

One of the biggest concerns that passengers have, after price, is getting to their destination on-time. So when United started to brag about their operations, I assumed that it was related to better completion percentage (no cancellations) or getting to the destination when they say they will. What I did not expect was boasting about their Involuntary Denied Boardings being down 92% and having 28 days during the quarter when there were none at all.*

Hang on, let me understand this: You’re excited about the fact that you kicked ticketed passengers off flights (or prevented them from boarding) on 70% of the days during the quarter? Wow, we’re really looking for silver linings here. They’re certainly no Delta, who led the industry in almost every major operational category in 2016.

On the plus side, Not a single passenger was “re-accommodated (their words, not mine)” by being beaten and dragged off a United flight in the quarter, and every single giant rabbit that flew on the airline survived (to the best of my knowledge).

At Least They Boarded Quickly

But United’s operations were good as well, right (assuming that you weren’t involuntarily denied boarding)? Management told us that they had their best ever D0 (airline short-hand for a flight that left on time) in the second calendar quarter and second-best in the third quarter (which does deserve credit because United has a hub in Houston). But look at it this way: Do you care about whether you depart on time or whether you arrive on time? That’s what I thought. On-time departures don’t necessarily lead to on-time arrivals, and an airline only brags about its departure rate when the arrival rate isn’t so hot.

As of 11:17 am this morning, the stock is down 5.5%, wiping out about $1 billion of value. PR Spin: So easy, a caveman could do it. But not an airline.


*Beginner’s Hint: Airlines overbook flights in the hope that somebody won’t show up and the airline can keep their money. When the airlines guess wrong, you have the opportunity to pick up some serious cash for taking a later flight.

 

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Oct 18

JetBlue Moves Into Minneapolis As The Industry Further Segments Itself

When Southwest Airlines started, it represented a new type of airline. As a Texas-only carrier, it was not subject to the same regulations that many of its competitors were.* Thus, as a more nimble company, it could operate more efficiently and charge less, making it the first “low cost carrier (LCC).” Over time, that model evolved further, with the creation of ultra-low cost carriers (ULCC), such as Spirit or Frontier. Unlike Southwest, which had few fees associated with its model, the ULCC made much of its money primarily from fees, selling you a cheap seat, but nothing else. Thus, we are left with three main categories of airlines: The network (legacy) carriers, LCCs and ULCCs.

Positioning for Success

Several weeks ago, I wrote about Sun Country changing from a LCC model to a ULCC model, which is sad, but may be better than its current, unsustainable model, which is to fly passengers into and out of Minneapolis. MSP simply isn’t a big enough geography to support as many full-service, or even LCC airlines, as it does.

But that left the opportunity open for competitors, and JetBlue decided to take advantage of the opening, announcing service from Minneapolis to Boston, which I assume will eventually be followed up by service to other cities. Sun Country wasn’t big enough to take on Delta’s monopoly at the airport, but JetBlue might be.

The bottom line is that the industry is becoming increasingly segmented. The network carriers have tried to be everything to all people by introducing products such as basic economy, but the ultimate outcome may simply be different airlines for different folks, and the only question is whether those folks are willing to pay a price difference. Otherwise, the trend is down, both in terms of costs and amenities.

 


*Beginner’s Hint: Prior to deregulation in 1978, interstate airlines were governed by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), which regulated business decisions such as where an airline could fly new routes and how much it could charge for flights. Deregulation has led to significantly lower overall ticket prices.

 

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Oct 17

Around The Industry: Tuesday Tidbits

JetBlue Is Enhancing Boarding

Waiting in line to board?

Finding the fastest way to board an aircraft has proven to be the Gordian Knot of the airline industry. Just about every method has been tried, with every attempt generating roughly the same level of success (or failure, as the case may be). The airlines could take a big step toward solving the problem by eliminating pre-boarding, but that would not go over well with its premium passengers.

Earlier this year, JetBlue took a shot at improving boarding by setting up a special queue for Mosaic and Mint passengers. They now appear to be looking into a process that I’ve long advocated: Instead of boarding passengers by “descriptive” groups (e.g., all Mosaic passengers, rows 15-20, exit rows, people with blue eyes, etc.), they are just going to establish boarding groups, which I will assume are based on the number system that most airlines use. I’ve always been amazed at how the guy who didn’t realize that row 16 does not fall between rows 20 and 30 is able to figure out the process when there is a big number on his boarding pass telling him what his group number is (Yes, it’s always men who commit this particular sin.). According to the press release:

Designed to reduce congestion on the jet bridge and in the aisles—and get you on your way faster than ever—our new group boarding process uses a method based on the entire length of the aircraft and seat assignments. This is more efficient than the back-to-front boarding model we’ve been using, and is just one of the steps we’re taking to make the JetBlue Experience better for everyone.

Since the traditional back-to-front model is what the airline has been using, I’m curious to see what they have up their sleeves. JetBlue is, by far, the most creative airline so if anyone can fix the problem, they can.

Just One More Problem for United

As if United doesn’t have enough going on with its perennial turnaround plans, its credit card relationships may also be hampering its financials. Per Flyertalk (via Skift), the airline is increasingly concerned that they need their credit card partner Chase more than the bank needs them, which is an unusual situation in these days of credit card wars.*

Chase is simply killing it with its Sapphire brand credit cards, among others. Sapphire offers proprietary Chase points, which can be converted to miles at any number of airlines, as well as cash. As consumers use their credit card points for non-mileage redemptions, United will sell fewer miles to Chase. Ruh roh. American and Delta renegotiated their contracts with the banks early. I’m not sure that United will get the same privilege.

LVAir to Launch The Next Bankrupt Airline

bellagio

The Bellagio hotel

Again, per Flyertalk, LVAir is attempting to launch a luxury charter service to Las Vegas and you’ll get to watch the entire failure live, as a web series will follow the entire event. The airline will have to pull off the impossible tasks of raising money from investors, getting regulatory approval, hiring a staff and figuring out how to make money by flying to a leisure destination, all within about twelve months.

Needless to say, of course I’ll be watching.

Delta Bans The National Anthem?

According to a Georgia passenger, a Delta employee stopped her from singing the national anthem while aboard a Delta flight. The airline asked passengers to wait quietly in their seats while an honor guard escorted the casket of a special forces soldier who had been killed in Niger. The policy is respectful and common in the industry.

The “problem” began when the passenger began to sing the national anthem and, apparently, asked others to join her. A flight attendant came over and first told her to stop because she might make passengers from other countries uncomfortable, and that singing the national anthem was “against company policy.” **

Someday, somebody is going to have to show me the big book where airlines keep their company policies, given that it has become a catch-all excuse for airline employees whenever they have a situation that they don’t like. I can’t think of any other industry where front-line workers make up rules as often as they do in the airline business (with the possible exception of the TSA). Whether the FA’s intentions were good is irrelevant; it’s hard to find anything disrespectful about singing the anthem while an honor guard carries the body of a fallen soldier.

Having said that, the passenger seems to be enjoying her unwanted fame a little too much, stating, “‘I’m not real thrilled with the attention to myself.'” It’s generally best not to post videos or speak to the media if you really don’t want the attention.


*Beginner’s Hint: Airlines make a big chunk of change by selling miles to credit card companies. The card companies then uses those miles to pay you when you earn rewards. The industry is mum on just how much the credit card companies pay per mile, but I’ve long believed it to be about 0.7 cents per mile.

**There is, of course, no such policy.

 

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Oct 15

Aria Sky Suites: Luxury At The Right Price

Vegas week on the blog is coming to an end, but I wanted to write a review of the hotel we stayed at, because it’s worth the price if you stay in Sin City. It’ll be a bit longer than my usual post, but I think it’s a fun read.

Aria Sky Suites

aria

Aria at night                                                                                                   Photo Credit: Aria

 Once each year, we give up the trappings of points-earning hotels and stay someplace a little more upscale for vacation. This year, it was the Aria Sky Suites in Las Vegas located right around the mid-point of the main part of the Strip. For those who like luxury, it’s the perfect place, since the casino subsidizes the costs of the room with winnings from the casino (Stay tuned for some ways to save even more.). Since we don’t gamble, we benefit by default, and 75-degrees without humidity makes for great pool-lounging weather.

The Trip Begins at The Airport

 Luxury starts from the minute you land. A taxi line? That’s for everyone else. Instead, the hotel sends an embarrassingly large limo to pick you up. The rock star experience continues at the hotel, where a gaggle of employees is waiting for you*. Check-in is taken care of in a private lounge. Hungry? There is complimentary food available throughout the day, ranging from continental breakfast in the morning to wine and cheese at night. Non-alcoholic drinks are also available. Now, it’s off to the private elevator.

The Suite

sky suite

The bedroom in a one-bedroom Sky Suite

 There’s no such thing as a “room” here. Everything is a suite, the smallest of which is just over 1,000 square feet. You’ll walk into the living area which has a small fridge and table set-up. If breakfast comes with your room, I highly recommend the outstanding room service.

The bedroom and bathroom, though, are the real stars of the show. The bed is one of the most comfortable that I’ve slept in, and you may never have to get up, since everything is controlled by the tablet next to it. When you do stumble out of bed and into the bathroom, you’ll notice the large soaking tub and a shower the size of a New York City apartment. They also stock both bathrooms with soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and anything else you can think of. Everything is travel-sized and the amenities are replaced twice daily.**

The Pool

aria

Aria pool

 While there are a number of amenities on the property (including, of course, the casino), the one that stands out is the pool The Sky Suites has a private pool and it never runs out of lounge chairs (We never saw it more than about half-full.). There were too many attendants to count, and they’ll happily do anything from set up an umbrella to bring you treats throughout the day. You can order poolside meals there throughout the day, although the menu is somewhat limited. The water is warm and swimming is comfortable. One downside was that there are no designated non-smoking areas (Remember, Las Vegas is a smoker-friendly city.).***

The Service

Overall, virtually flawless. We’re talking Disney-level good. Employees couldn’t do enough to make us happy and they were well-trained in the art of body language. They seemed to know exactly when we needed help, versus those times that we wanted to be on our own. I couldn’t say enough good things about the spectacular staff. Heck even the wireless network was good.

The Casino

Jennifer Connelly once got lost in the casino after David Bowie kidnapped her brother. True story. Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Naturally, it is almost impossible to totally avoid the casino. Like every gaming floor, the layout is a labyrinth and, of course, there are no signs for the exit. If you get lost in there, it may be days before you get out. Still, you can find everything from penny slots to five-figure blackjack tables so, if either of those is your thing, go nuts.

The Value

 For what you get, this property is a ridiculously good value. Remember, your 1,000+ square foot suite is being subsidized by the gamblers, so the casino will give you a great rate just to get you in the door (As the saying goes, “ghosts don’t gamble.”). I’ve found midweek prices as low as $320 per night, and the standard rate seems to be in the $400-500 range. That’s what you would pay for a traditional Marriott or Hilton in many cities. Here are a couple of ways to make the deal even sweeter:

  • Book through a travel agent. Agents who are part of luxury networks such as Virtuoso can get you added benefits, such as complimentary breakfast or a spa credit (or both). The price should be the same, but I have seen instances where the Virtuoso rate was higher, so be sure to compare.
  • Use the Citibank Prestige card. The annual fee is a whopper and the benefits aren’t quite as good as they once were, but the card gives you a “Buy three nights, get one free” deal that you can use at almost any hotel and as many times as you like each year. If you use it even once during the year, you could end up making a profit, since the card also comes with a $250 annual travel credit.

And I wasn’t totally honest when I said that we wouldn’t earn points. MGM, Aria’s owner, has a partnership with Hyatt that gives you five points Hyatt for every dollar that you spend. You can also double-dip with MGM’s own program. It’s not great, but dollars spent at the hotel count toward your tier status.

The End

 Sadly, all good things have to come to an end, so we made our way back to the airport (The limo takes you back, as well.). Nothing like going from the Sky Suites to being herded onto a plane with 150 of my new closest friends, but I like to look on the bright side: I’ll be earning miles.

 


*Helpful hint: Even when we splurge, we like to be frugal. If your flight gets in late at night and you are going right to sleep anyway, you might as well stay at an inexpensive hotel by the airport and get your pick-up there. It can work on the other end of the trip, as well. If you have an early-morning flight and won’t get to take advantage of the hotel, have their car take you to a hotel by the airport instead of the airport itself.

**Take the amenities, even if you don’t plan on using them. There’s probably a shelter in your area that would appreciate them.

 

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Oct 12

Marriott And The Cosmpolitan: An Unusual Las Vegas Winner

I feel like it’s Las Vegas week on Wheel of Fortune, but the mileage version. But it’s my last day here in the sun, so the very cool tie-up between Marriott and The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas (CLV, for space purposes) makes the papers today.

As loyalty programs have expanded, they have started to encourage cross-industry sharing. In this case, lodging companies, who don’t want to pay for real estate on the Las Vegas Strip or deal with the volatility of gambling, have partnered with casinos. MGM and Hyatt have strong ties. Hilton and Starwood also have partnerships with local properties, although those seem to be more fluid. But it’s the link between Marriott and CLV that may offer you the best opportunity.

Transferrable Points Are An Opportunity

cosmopolitan las vegas

The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas                                                          Photo Credit: Creative Comments

In most partnerships, while you can use points from one program to purchase a reward at another (e.g., You can use Hyatt points to redeem for nights at an MGM property.), you cannot actually transfer points between the programs.

The Cosmopolitan and MGM actually allow you to do so. Of course, they have an advantage over their competitors: The Cosmopolitan is actually a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, which is a group of independent hotels with access to the Marriott reservations and rewards program.

Cashing Out

cosmopolitan las vegas, identity, marriott rewards

Converting from Marriott to Cosmopolitan’s Identity program.

The ability to convert points directly between Marriott and CLV’s Identity rewards program is a valuable one. It gives you a method to cash out in from program to another, giving you another option if you are looking to redeem but don’t have a large balance. It also gives you a place to go if your points are going to expire.

The only downside is that the exchange rate is not favorable: A Marriott Rewards point translates at 0.4 cents per point, lower than the value that you would get if you used it at a hotel*. Likewise, 500 Identity Points (worth $5 in comps) only converts to 400 Marriott points, which means you are paying 1.25 cents per Marriott point, a rate higher than fair value. Thus, I would only convert in the case of necessity. Converting points is not the best use, although it is an option.

The Identity Program Is A Good One

Because The Cosmopolitan only has a single location, it has to make its loyalty program good. And it did. You earn one point per $2.50 wagered on traditional slots, or one per $6 on video poker. 100 points gives you $1 in play or comps. They also give you five points per dollar spent elsewhere at the hotel, or the equivalent of a 5% rebate. Even better is that you get a 2X or 3X multiplier in slots (not video poker) as you earn “tier points (the equivalent of elite status at hotels and airlines.). The first bump up is at 4,000 points, so $800 in hotel spend will double your slot return.

The Bottom Line

Not everyone will be able to take advantage of the Marriott-Cosmopolitan relationship but, for those who can, it could be valuable.

 


*Best as I can tell, points from non-gaming sources, including Marriott, can only be used for hotel comps, not to play in the casino.

 

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Oct 10

Bits And Pieces…

I’m out of the office and on the west coast, so I have no idea what time it is, which is kind of a nice feeling. Here are a few bits and pieces from the last few days…

Las Vegas Is Back (Hint: It Never Left)

We arrived in Las Vegas Sunday night and life seems to have normalized. As a Bostonian, I remember the way that my home city came together after the Marathon bombing and it is the same in Las Vegas. Everyone I’ve spoken with has talked about the impact that the shooting had and how people have rallied behind each other. #lasvegasstrong is everywhere.

Airlines Rally

Never ones to be left too far behind, the airline stocks have reaccelerated after a bit of time in the summer doldrums. Close-in bookings have improved somewhat and pricing is getting firmer. Many airlines have started raising expectations for the rest of this quarter and the fourth.

Subtotal Referrals

Subtotal, the restaurant app that I mentioned a few days ago, has just launched a referral program. Refer a friend and you’ll earn a dollar for each one that joins and uses it. You won’t get rich, but a dollar’s a dollar.

One nice feature at certain chain restaurants: The “Ziosk” tabletop bill payment machines (the ones that look like an iPad and try to get you to fork over $1.99 to play video games) will accept Subtotal barcodes. You don’t have to interact with the server if you have grown used to paying that way.

 

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And finally, you can apply for credit cards through the Credit Cards for Charity link above. All card proceeds are donated to charity, so please do well by doing good!

Oct 10

United MileagePlus X

This is part 2 of the instant rebate apps post.

United MileagePlus X

This one has been around a while, but I spend less time on United than I do most of the other airlines so, well, my bad.

United offers the MileagePlus X app, which gives you United miles for making purchases. You don’t get as big a refund as you do with Subtotal, but it can be used at retail stores, not just restaurants. It works the same way: Let the cashier ring up your purchase and input the dollar amount into the app. It will generate a bar code for you that the cashier can scan and you’re on your way. You’ll earn miles for the purchases based on the app’s payout rate. It’s a great way to earn some extra United miles.

It also works at online merchants (including Amazon), which may allow you to double-dip if you go through a cashback shopping site first. If you are operating entirely on a mobile phone, you can process the whole transaction there, as well. If you want to use a laptop or desktop to make your purchase, you can still use the MileagePlus X app to generate a code and then type that code in on your laptop (also allowing you to go through a cashback shopping site; success rate at double-dipping may vary).

The technology tends to be a bit more frustrating than Subtotal and outages do occur.

But there is one nice bonus, and that comes if you are a Chase United MileagePlus credit card holder. If you have the card listed on your MileagePlus X account, you will get a 25% bonus, even if you are not using that card to make the purchase. For example, if you use the App to make a purchase at Staples, you’d normally get three miles per dollar spent. But if you have the United credit card listed on the app, you’ll get 3.75 miles per dollar, regardless of which credit card you actually use to make the purchase (The app will let you select which card to charge for each purchase.). It’s a good way to pick up some extra United miles, particularly since a reader informed me that e-rewards has cut off United miles as a redemption option.

 

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And finally, you can apply for credit cards through the Credit Cards for Charity link above. All card proceeds are donated to charity, so please do well by doing good!

Oct 07

Subtotal: Instant Payments Add Another “Stack” To Rewards

Save Money Or Get Miles Instantly

Occasionally, I’ll run across a tip (well-known or not; this one is) that I want to post but can’t think of a way to do it without making a simple concept seem complicated (For further reference, see: Rebates, Shopping & Travel.). So bear with me, because it’s actually pretty easy, and it offers you an opportunity to double-dip your rewards.

As loyalty programs have developed, merchants are finding themselves dealing with an increasing number of intermediaries. You used to buy something directly from Macy’s (or whatever store you want to insert there). Then, Macy’s began offering commissions to others to sell their products, so now you can go to Mr. Rebates (referral link) to be directed to Macy’s and earn a 4% rebate, because Mr. Rebates gives you a portion of the commission that Macy’s gives them.

Now, we’ve moved on to “Stage 3,” so to speak. You can buy an instant gift card to pay at a merchant or restaurant and double-dip your rewards. Unlike online shopping malls, these bonuses work at actual brick and mortar stores, and you’ll get an instant gift card for the exact amount of your purchase. Over the next two posts, I’m only going to talk about two sites, Subtotal and United’s MileagePlus X. Today is Subtotal.

Subtotal

subtotal

Just a few of the many restaurants available

Subtotal is, by far, the better of the two apps that I am going to discuss. It’s clean, it’s easy and the rebates are better than any of its competitors offer. It specializes in restaurants. I have heard no complaints about its technology, which is not only impressive but ridiculously easy to navigate (which means that I can do it). Click on the link to get the app.

The current payment process at restaurants is easy. Your server brings you a bill, they scan your credit card and then you sign the bill. Simple.

Using Subtotal for a rebate is just as easy. Subtotal has partnerships with the restaurants and when you use the app, the restaurant gives them something, which they share with you. Simply open the app, select the restaurant and create a gift card for the exact amount that you choose, so there is nothing left over, unlike a traditional gift card. That amount can include the tip.

 

subtotal

The system will verify the total and confirm how much you will get back. Then just hit continue to generate the bar code. The server scans the bar code and you’re done. You’ll get a rebate in one to two weeks. Don’t want to give the server your phone? That’s fine. You can just read them the number off the gift card it generates.

Unlike many rebate apps, Subtotal sticks almost entirely to national chains, and it offers rebates ranging from fast food (Burger King) to casual dining (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Chili’s, Applebee’s) to high-end (Smith and Wollensky, The Capital Grille). And after you’re done with dinner, you can stop at Krispy Kreme and get over 8% back on doughnuts.

Bottom Line: Receive bill at end of meal. Open app. Input cost and hit enter. Show server bar code that it generates to pay bill. Get refund to your credit card within two weeks.

 

There Must Be A Downside. What Is It?

Glad you asked. With these instant rebate apps, you are purchasing an electronic gift card for the exact value of the purchase. But if your credit card offers a category bonus for the merchant, you may not get it. For example, if you use your JetBlue card for Subtotal at Krispy Kreme, you would normally get two points per dollar spent because it’s a restaurant (double points at restaurants). Instead, the card thinks that you are buying at a generic merchant and will only give you one point per dollar spent. Of course, by using Subtotal, you’ll get back an extra 8%, which more than offsets an extra TrueBlue point.

On the other hand, certain banks do recognize the merchant and give you the category bonus as well as the bonus from the app. Chase is thought to be one.

My advice is to download Subtotal and, if it seems confusing, try them out with a small purchase at home (Amazon is always a good start.) to make sure it works smoothly for you. Enjoy your extra miles or cash!

 

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And finally, you can apply for credit cards through the Credit Cards for Charity link above. All card proceeds are donated to charity, so please do well by doing good!

Oct 05

For Beginners Only: Are Miles Cheap, Quick And Good?

Last night, some friends invited us over for dinner (good) and one of them asked me about the best way to earn miles (bad for those who like stimulating conversation).  We discussed credit cards and online shopping to the point where their heads were spinning, but afterward, I realized that I had forgotten to mention the most important fact for any mileage layperson: This hobby isn’t easy.*

Cheap, Good And Quick

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

When I first joined the working world, somebody told me that there were three ways to do things: cheaply, well or quickly. You can pick any two of the above (e.g., a project can be done well and inexpensively, but it will take a long time to do so), but never all three. What I’ve discovered is that many companies (and airlines can be included) generally choose to do something that things cheaply and quickly, meaning that quality usually suffers.

Beginners in the world of miles need to understand the same. Personally, I love it every time a company makes its problem more complicated, since it means that I will have fewer competitors that are willing to invest the time and effort to generate points and rewards. But it frustrates me to see clickbait advertisements that proclaim how easy it is to earn luxury vacations. Meanwhile, loyalty programs are, on the whole, getting less, not more, generous.

There are, of course, many ways to play the game, and credit cards certainly serve a purpose. But you always have to do them well. There are no shortcuts on keeping track of how much spend you’ve accumulated toward the bonus or tracking the myriad bonuses that the bank will offer you. It’s also quick, but only because of the amount of miles that you will earn in the few months after you open the card. Cheap is rare. It’s going to cost you something to hit the minimum spend requirements to earn the card’s initial bonus (Spending $3,000-$5,000 in your first three months is typical.). And there’s certainly a cost to your time.

I tend to do a lot of online surveys, as well. It costs nothing to sign up for the various survey programs and will, in fact, usually earn you a small sign-up bonus. There’s also very little to mess up along the way, so you’ll typically complete the process well. In the past two years, I’ve earned 22,000 JetBlue points through e-rewards, which is worth about $330 in travel. The problem is, the process isn’t quick. Granted, I haven’t always been diligent about filling out every survey that they send me, but it’s still going to take you a while to earn whatever reward you’re after. My hint? Sign up for the various programs in the link above and do the surveys while you’re watching TV.

One other earning method worth mentioning: Shopping and Travel Rebates. You should never, ever buy anything online without checking whether you can get something back through an online rebate site. The bonus will generally hit quickly and the process isn’t terribly hard (It usually only involves one extra click.). But it does involve spending money, so it doesn’t quite qualify as cheap. The upshot is that you are not buying anything that you wouldn’t have bought, anyway. If you don’t already get a rebate for everything that you buy online, please take a read through the Shopping and Travel Rebates page. It certainly qualifies as easy.

Blogging Isn’t Cheap, Good And Quick, Either

And finally, thank you to those of you who check in every day and read what I have to say. In blogging, I can only pick two of the above, even if I aspire to three. There are professional bloggers who do this for a living and are far more comprehensive than I could ever hope to be, so I appreciate the few minutes per day that we have together. I hope that you learn something but, if not, I’ll take “entertained.”

 


*Note: I’m in stream-of-consciousness mode and have no idea where this is going.

 

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And finally, you can apply for credit cards through the Credit Cards for Charity link above. All card proceeds are donated to charity, so please do well by doing good!