Earn Travel Points for Your Holiday Shopping

It’s the holiday season, and with that comes a lot of gift shopping.  Rather than making your purchases at the store, I suggest seeing if your retailers of choice are partnered with an airline, hotel, or bank program’s shopping portal.  These portals allow you to earn miles or points in addition to what you’d normally earn from your credit card.  This is a very easy, quick way to rack up a bunch of travel points to get you on your next trip sooner.

The way they work is very simple:  Just click on the link, log into your account (or create one if you haven’t already), shop your favorite retailers as you normally would, and receive points / miles into your account after purchasing within a few weeks.

Here is a list of shopping portals to look through:

Air Canada: Aeroplan EStore

American: AAdvantageEshopping.com

British Airways: BA Miles Estore

Chase: Ultimate Rewards Shopping

Choice Rewards: Choice Privileges Mall

Delta: Skymilesshopping.com

Discover: ShopDiscover

Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines eMarket

Hilton Honors: Hilton HHonors Shop to Earn Mall

Marriott Rewards: Shop My Way

Southwest: Rapid Rewards Shopping

United:  MileagePlus Shopping

Wells Fargo:  Earn More Mall

And of course, these shopping portals exist year round, so you can use them at any time you like!  Happy shopping (and earning)! 👍

The #1 Secret to Earning Air Miles & Hotel Points

Need more air miles for an upcoming flight?  Perhaps some hotel points to redeem for a few free nights?

Then DO NOT put your everyday spend on an airline or hotel credit card (at least not in most cases).

The reason is that those cards often don’t provide a very good return on the purchases you put on them.  Moreover, you’re stuck earning one kind of currency.

Yes, you can usually use air miles to pay for a hotel stay or rental car with that airline’s partners, but the the redemption rate is quite bad (i.e. you’ll need more air miles to cover a $300 car rental than you would for a $300 flight).

Plus, what if you had been working toward saving 50,000 United Airlines miles for a trip from A to B, but then later realize Southwest Airlines flies the same route for only 40,000 Rapid Rewards points?  Since both United and Southwest credit cards earn 1 mile per dollar for the majority of purchases, that’s an extra $10,000 you’d have to spend on the United card that you wouldn’t have to on the Southwest card).

Even worse, a lot of those airline cards offer 2X miles per dollar only when you purchase an air ticket with them, then 1X miles per dollar on everything else (compare that to 2X points on ALL TRAVEL like flights from any airline, hotels, rental cars, cruises, parking, tolls, etc. AND 2X on restaurants & bars with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Citi ThankYou Premier cards…way better!).

That’s why I generally recommend using credit cards that earn transferrable points.  That is…

  1. Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards (UR) points (only Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, and Ink Preferred cards provide access to transfer partners.  The no-fee cards do not, but the points from those cards can be combined with these 3 cards.)
  2. Citi cards that earn ThankYou (TY) points (only the ThankYou Premier and ThankYou Prestige cards provide access to the full range of Citi’s transfer partners.  The ThankYou Preferred and AT&T Access cards only provide transfers to JetBlue and Sears.)
  3. Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards (MR) points (all Amex cards earning MR points have full access to transfer partners)

 

Transferrable points means you can convert them into the miles / points of any of the partner programs that are associated with that bank’s program (e.g. Convert 30,000 Chase UR points directly into 30,000 Hyatt hotel points or 30,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points).

 

All the transfer partners (as of Nov. 12, 2017) are listed below for each program.  You can often transfer at a 1:1 ratio, but certain programs have different conversion rates that can be seen when you log into your account.

 

So THAT is the big secret —> Get a card that gives you a generous return on your everyday spend and make sure it has access to transfer partners that you personally value and can use.

 

It’s a great thing to have access to a 10+ programs with one card and one point system; it’s a diverse point portfolio without any extra work.

 

That way you can transfer your points to whichever program works best for your upcoming trip.  And yes, on top of all that, those points are also flexible; you can redeem for cash back, gift cards, and more (though you’ll usually get more value per point if you redeem for travel).

CLOSING NOTE:  The airline and hotel cards are good for their signup bonuses and for ongoing perks like free checked bags, preferred boarding, achieving hotel elite status to get room upgrades and more points per stay, etc.  Get them for that big bonus, and keep them if you value the added benefits, but in most circumstances they’re not ideal to use for your day-to-day purchases.

Earn fast and travel more! ✈️👍

Airline Elite Status: Is the First Tier Worth It?

You wait in line for 30+ minutes to check your bag in.

Then wait another 30+ minutes to get through security.

Only to hear the gate agent call for a million boarding groups before it’s your turn to get on the plane.

So this elite status thing…what does it actually do?

To start, it can save you some money, a bunch of time, and a whole lot of stress!  😃

But is it worth it?

For some…yes.  For others…no.

I’ll give you a brief inside scoop into one of my recent experiences…

I was a Gold Elite (i.e. most basic level) on American Airlines for the past year; still have a couple months left before it ends on Jan. 31, 2018).  Here are some of the perks it gives me:

  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades on flights 500 miles or less —> not great; upgrades don’t happen often at the Gold level
  • 24-hour upgrade window —> not great; upgrades don’t happen often at the Gold level
  • 40% elite mileage bonus —> decent way to earn award miles faster to save up for another free flight
  • 50% off Main Cabin Extra Seats (complimentary at check-in) —> a nice money saver
  • Complimentary Preferred Seats —> another nice money saver
  • 1 free checked bag —> very good money saver if you check bags in several times a year
  • Priority check-in —> awesome time saver
  • Priority boarding —> awesome convenience factor (i.e. settle into seat faster and guarantee access to overhead bins)
  • Priority security —> nice time saver on occasion (I combine it with TSA Precheck at select airports when the TSA Pre line is long)

Overall a pretty darn good list.  Now let me give you an example of how it saves money.  Take a look at these 2 images below.

I was purchasing a flight and choosing seats.

The 1st image was what I saw without logging in to my account, and therefore elite status was not recognized.

The 2nd image was with logging in to my account.

See all those blue seats with stars?  Those are standard seats that are reserved for elites.  So right from the start, I have access to more options than a person without status.

The orange seats are Main Cabin Extra (MCE) with greater legroom.  Note how the cost is 50% less when logged in and Gold status is recognized.  And those seats would actually be completely free during the 24-hour check-in window (but there’s always the risk of them no longer being available at that time).

So if you’re someone who typically pays extra for better seats, then this is a nice perk.

Other perks like a free checked bag ($25 each way) and access to potential upgrades add additional value and savings (the upgrades don’t happen at the Gold Elite level, though).

Now for the time savings…

This is the most valuable part for me.  The ability to use the Priority lanes for check-in, security, and boarding makes a big difference in the way I travel.  Time spent waiting in lines, especially loooonnggg lines, is just a waste.  I’d rather be eating a delicious meal, catching up on work, or simply enjoying some stress-free “me time” in a lounge.

Those priority perks are something I don’t like to do without, so I always make sure I have them.

However, qualifying for AA Gold (the lowest tier) still requires spending $3,000 and either accruing 25,000 Elite Qualifying Miles or 30 Elite Qualifying Segments.

Sometimes I don’t fly that much on AA alone, or I have a year of less travel altogether.

But when I do fly AA, I still appreciate those 3 priority perks + the free checked bag.

Which is why I have the Citi/AAdvantage Executive credit card.

It’s a phenomenal card that provides the priority perks just for being a cardholder…plus a free checked bag…plus 25% off in-flight purchases…plus an Admirals Club membership (amazing benefit to discuss in another post)…and a handful of other cool features.

Best of all, the annual fee is $450, which is way better than having to spend $3,000 and meet the mileage requirements with AA to qualify for status.  (By the way, that Admirals Club membership is about $500 if you were to purchase it on its own, and it doesn’t come with any other benefits if you buy it that way.)

I’ve already determined that my spend and fly time will not allow me to requalify for status in 2018, which is why I’m glad that the Citi/AAdvantage Executive card is a strong option to maintain the perks that save me hours of time each year (as well as a little money).

Both United and Delta have premium credit cards that offer similar benefits, and their entry-level elite status also resembles American’s in many ways.

So I’ll summarize with this:  are the majority of the elite perks worth it in my opinion?

If you travel with a particular airline at least several times a year, YES, the elite perks are worth it, but you don’t have to achieve status to obtain the majority of them.

If “several” trips are short domestic trips that don’t bring you close to qualifying for status, you can still check out the mid-level airline credit cards (annual fees around $95) and the premium airline credit cards (annual fees of $450) to see which card offers the benefits that matter most to you at a price you’re comfortable paying.

Final note: airline credit cards are generally not good for everyday spending (the percent return is too low).  But they ARE GREAT for access to time and money-saving benefits that you can use simply by keeping the card open and in good standing.

Video and image credit: SkyTeam

No More Signing After Credit Card Transactions

Great news!  Starting in April 2018, Mastercard will be eliminating the requirement to sign your name after swiping one of their credit or debit cards at checkout.  This will occur in both the U.S. and Canada.

Many times at checkout I’ve noticed that for the majority of my small transactions, signing is not required anyway.  But on occasion (it seems to be around a total of $50+) the machine still asks me to do so.  It’s not a huge inconvenience, but it definitely adds a few seconds to the checkout process.

That said, have you also noticed that you can basically sign (or “draw”) whatever you want on the line and the transaction still goes through?

Yep…those signatures do very little to help prevent fraud or increase security in any way.  That’s probably why “more than 80 percent of Mastercard in store transactions in North America today do not require a cardholder signature at checkout.”

Click here to read the full article by Lind Kirkpatrick, EVP of U.S. Market Development at Mastercard.

Cover image credit to iDB.

Capital One Launches New Savor Card

Capital One launched the new Savor credit card, targeting people who spend a good deal of their money on food.  The card will give you cash back in 3 tiers:  3% on dining, 2% on groceries, and 1% on everything else.  Upon sign up, you’ll have the chance to earn a $150 cash bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months.  And since it comes as a World Elite MasterCard, you’ll receive a lot of additional perks and insurance coverage.

Verdict:  If you spend a lot on dining, want a card with no annual fee, and prefer cash back over points, then this is a great new option for you.  That said, if your goal is to travel more while paying less, points-based cards that have transfer partners will still give you better options.

Marriott 1,000 Point Giveaway!

Your next opportunity to get 1,000 free Marriott Rewards points has arrived!  Simply reply to their question on Twitter, “Where is the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Answer with #RewardsPoints before 8pm EDT on 10/15 and score 1,000 points if you get it right.”  HINT: the answer is Canton, OH. 🏈

In addition to this opportunity, there are a variety of other ways to earn points throughout the year.  If you participate in all of them, you will have amassed 45,000 points, which can be worth 1 free night at a top-of-the-line property or several free nights at mid to lower category properties.

Start here by linking your social media accounts if you haven’t already (this only has to be done once and is rewardable with points, too).  Then be sure to participate in the campaigns in the upcoming months to earn free points!

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