News alert for the weekend: Visa and Mastercard aren’t the same thing.
Ok, yes, this is obvious, but please keep it in mind while you’re out in the trenches: Just because a technique fails with a Visa doesn’t automatically mean it’ll fail with a Mastercard. Seriously, many fall into the trap of never trying a Mastercard after a Visa doesn’t work. The difference in behavior is true of payment processors, merchant coding, cash advances, and debit card processors to name a few. It’s also true when dealing with both prepaid cards and with credit cards.
Another hint: Mastercard debit cards open more doors than Visa debit cards unless you’re at Walmart money centers.
There’s a fair amount of airline related news that’s happened in the last 24 hours:
1. United is offering 25% off of Economy Plus upgrade fees with the code LEGROOM25 for travel through April 11. You must book by March 7. If you asked me (which I know you didn’t), it’s not worth paying for the upgrade unless it’s less than $10 or your flight is longer than 4 hours.
2. Southwest has a decent fare sale that ends today. Fares start at $29. If you book for late April through early June, you’ll probably be able to change it in a week when the Southwest “switch to any other flight between the same two cities” trick comes back. Update: The trick is back again, at least for portions of April. You may be able to use the fare sale to book the cheapest fare and switch to Memorial Day Weekend.
3. Delta Air Lines is now showing certificate upgrade availability on its booking pages when you’re logged in and if you have a certificate in your account. They’ve also changed their T&Cs so that you can use upgrade certificates on award travel. That potentially makes Global Upgrade Certificates (GUCs) ridiculously valuable for Diamond members and their close friends.
They’re also extending GUCs and RUCs (Regional Upgrade Certificates) that have recently expired or will expire soon through December 31, 2021. I may actually be able to use those GUCs I selected for 2020 that expired earlier this year. Huzzah!
2. Delta sent me an offer for 2,500 Skymiles for changing an already booked flight via the website or mobile app. Thanks Delta, I’d love to do that, but literally every single itinerary I’ve booked says I need to contact Reservations to make the change. Thanks.
Hopefully, you’ll have more luck than I do. The T&C language says that you have to be targeted to get the bonus, but there are reports that it will work for anyone as long as your ticket was booked prior to March 2, 2021.
Starting tomorrow, a bunch of Marriott hotels are going up in point cost because reasons. Speculatively book any potential upcoming hotel stays today to avoid further Marriott suckitude.
While we’re chatting about Marriott, let me just add that if you’re big in the Bonvoy program, maybe take stock and see if another less punitive hotel loyalty program would work for you. The program is awful, but I do get why some stick with it: Inertia is hard to overcome, Marriott has a (usually low end) property everywhere, and you like what you know, but trust me — the Lubbock, TX Courtyard is not the peak of travel. And it certainly shouldn’t be in the same league as a 5,000 point Hyatt Place.
You can do better, and you can change your loyalty right now. No snark, just an honest plea to make sure you’re where you want to be and that you’re sure that what you’re doing makes sense for you.
1.The SoFi matched round-ups deal is back in March. A quick recap: You turn on round-ups in the mobile app, create a “vault”, then when you spend with the SoFi debit card the charge is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is placed in your vault. SoFi will match those round-ups up to a total of $25 matched. Can you guess what I’m going to say next? Set up debbit to make 28 payments to XFinity of $0.10 in March. Of course, you can make payments with debbit to other stores and providers too if you don’t have XFinity.
Side note: It took me longer to type the above paragraph than to update my debbit config for $25. I wish I could always make $25 for 30 seconds of work; that’d be $3,000 per hour.
2. Reader Katie discovered that when you’re activating Ting burner SIMs, you won’t see port-out information on the account unless you set a password. Ting’s IT must be based on Citi’s IT; fortunately for them they probably don’t have $500 million to lose accidentally like Citi.
3. Another round of Amazon discounts is available for targeted Ultimate Rewards cards. Check for the offer here after ensuring that your Amazon account has at least one Ultimate Rewards earning credit card saved in your profile. As per usual, buy a non-Amazon gift card for resale and use a single point.
4. The promo code FLASH2020 is still going strong for buying fee free Vanilla Visa Gift Cards. These gift cards aren’t as widely discussed online as BlackHawk, MetaBank, or US Bank gift cards, so don’t treat them as behaving the same. Try some things with those Vanillas even if they don’t work with other gift cards!
Make sure you’ve spent any $10 American Express Personal Gold dining credits. The easiest way IMO is to buy something for pickup for $10ish at a local coffee shop on GrubHub.
If you have an American Express co-branded personal card (Marriott, Delta, Hilton), make sure you’ve attached the dining offer to your card and spend it. The easiest way to do this from home seems to be to buy an exact value DoorDash or Uber Eats gift card on Fluz, which will code correctly as a restaurant on the co-brands. Find a Fluz referral from a friend to make their day if you don’t have an account already.
Spend any American Express co-branded business card wireless credits. I prepay my cell phone bill with this one, and after last year’s Master Value Injection I’ve racked up a big credit. Just make sure you’ve added the offer to your American Express card first.
Check for any credit cards that have had annual fees post in February and call them for a retention offer. I suggest saying something like: “I’m thinking of closing this card because of its high annual fee and I’m not using the benefits right now, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” I don’t think it works with other banks, but with AmEx you can do this over chat rather than the phone.
Note: Don’t skip this one! Stu emailed me earlier this week to say that he got a total of $1,250 in retention offers after making just a few calls. Be cool, be like Stu!
Cancel any cell phone burner accounts that you’re done with (and that you didn’t use a virtual account number that expires on).
1. Do this now: Register for Hyatt Bonus Journeys Q2, 2021. There’s lots of meaningless fluff content out there about this one, but just register for it and be done. Don’t let it sway your hotel stay patterns because it’s not that valuable, but it runs through June 15th so you’ve got time to hit it if you were already staying in Hyatts:
2,000 points per two nights, or 2,500 for World of Hyatt card holders
Category 1-4 certificate after staying ten nights
2. Southwest’s book the cheapest fare and change to any other flights at no charge between the same city-pairs is back for, let’s say “smarch” through “Mapril”. The exact dates aren’t known, but it looks like the current iteration doesn’t have the usual ±30 day restrictions. So a cheap flight booked in late Smarch can be switched to an early fall flight this time around. For a bit more on the procedure, see Spring Break, Southwest Style. April 21 is a known working date, by the way.
3.Watch for fee-free Staples Visa gift cards Sunday February 28 – Saturday March 6. Use an ink for 5x, and have a backup liquidation other than Walmart in store money orders. Hint: There are still a few ways to liquidate these with Walmart.
1.Check your AmEx offers for $100 off of $500 at Dell. You can earn spend, portal cash back, Dell rewards, and a few percent profit by buying XBox Gift Cards for resale and selling them on a reputable exchange. With XBox, the lower denominations sell more quickly.