Introduction

This weekend’s thunderstorms in Maryland and DC wreaked havoc on travelers all over the US, primarily because canceled flights led to lack of crew and aircraft downstream. With US carriers seeing load factors above 90%, recovery times are long and last-minute fares are sky-high to boot. When events like this happen though, it’s an opportunity for travel hackers to get (relatively) inexpensive last-minute fares provided that the weather can somehow work its way into your travel plans.

Booking Into a Waiver

Let’s say on Saturday I decided that I wanted to fly from BOS to MCO on Sunday or Monday because reasons. Unfortunately, last-minute airfares were north of $500 one-way for a desirable, direct flight, and because mileage rates are often directly tied to fares in the US market, mileage redemption values were terrible too.

But, there’s a way out. It starts with checking for travel waivers with the major airlines, and then trying to shoehorn a bad, cheap itinerary into what you actually want. To pull the stunt off:

  • Check airline travel waiver pages (AA, Alaska, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United)
  • Find airports that have waivers
  • Book the cheapest, worst flight possible that passes through a waiver airport (see forced routings for how to find these airfares)
  • Change your flight under the travel waiver to the flight you actually want without paying any difference in fare

Circling back to our BOS to MCO flight, a 5:15 AM BOS to BWI flight on Southwest with a 6 hour layover connecting to another flight to MCO was a tad over $200, and BWI was one of the airports covered by Southwest’s travel waiver. So, one could book the cheap cruddy BWI connecting flight after the waiver is issued, then immediately switch to the direct flight that leaves hours later for no extra fee.

For what it’s worth, United and AA are probably the best airlines for this hack because they offer punitive red-eye connecting to another red-eye with a 20 hour layover saver awards pretty much year round, but go with whatever fits your travel needs.

Gotchas

Airlines are typically very permissive with waiver related changes, but sometimes waivers have specific exclusions like requiring that you booked the ticket directly with the airline and not through a travel agent, so double check the fine print.

Good luck out there!

The bad news is that this might be the only seat left on that BOS-MCO flight with boarding position C-60.

Today we’ve got a few new options to save on airfare:

  1. Southwest has a 30% off fare sale to and from Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America with promo code GOTROPICAL and bookings made by tomorrow evening for travel between September 6 and November 4. Schedule changes haven’t happened for those dates yet by the way, why would you ask?
  2. Create a new frequent flyer account with Alaska Airlines for $25 off of airfare in most states, or $50 off of airfare if your fake new account lives in California or Hawaii. You’ll receive the code via email within three days.

    Of course booking a one way for you and a one way for your twin will yield twice the discount on a round trip, but unfortunately your twin doesn’t have six months to cash in the deal like your 99 American Express twins do, rather the code expires 28 days after the account is opened. (Thanks to FM)

Mango Punch Tampico and Citrus Punch Tampico each have an Alaska Airlines frequent flyer account. That doesn’t make them not gross.

There are a few things to keep an eye on today:

  1. The introductory World of Hyatt Business card 75,000 point sign-up bonus ends today, and it’s widely expected to fall to the 50,000 – 60,000 point range starting tomorrow. The card is a good one to hold for two cases: First, for the sign up bonus; second if you manufacture Globalist status through spend ($50,000+) and redeem many Hyatt points (10% points redemption rebate after $50,000 in spend). Otherwise it’s probably not worth your time.
  2. Southwest rolled out schedule changes through July 4th over the weekend, and it’s expected that the rest of July’s changes will come in the next week. If you want to book into one of these, I’d do it today. (Thanks to Brian M via slack)
  3. Check your Southwest profile for targeted promotions for 50,000 points, 60,000 points, or a companion pass for booking either one or two round-trips before July 31. This is a good enough deal that I’d mileage run a few flights just to earn it, but’s purely hypothetical because I wasn’t targeted. (First reported by mickey972)
  4. A link to upgrade an AmEx personal Gold card to a Platinum card that was active last year has risen from the dead and has a new offer: Upgrade for 25,000 Membership Rewards after spending $2,000 in six months, and earn 5x at grocery, gas stations, and restaurants up to $15,000 in spend. If you get a blank screen after logging in, that means that you’re not targeted. Based on my limited sample size though, this one seems to be widely targeted.

    Last year the 5x was 10x so the offer degraded a bit while it was in the dirt. That said, it’s the best Gold upgrade offer I know of right now.

Happy Monday!

All words were invented at some point, right? Enter zombified.

Introduction

Let’s get something out of the way before we discuss: Return fraud is real, and I’m not suggesting that you do anything like it. That said, there are a number of reasons that you may want to make correlation between a charge and a refund difficult, for example when you’re working with bank sign-up bonuses at a bank that rhymes with “mace”. Here’s an annoying and real issue with this bank. Let’s suppose that you:

  • Apply for a credit card with a sign-up bonus after spending $4,000
  • Spend $3,992 on random things
  • Spend $10 on three bottles of kombucha, which triggers your sign-up bonus posting and makes this transaction special
  • Notice mold in the kombucha, and return it, which gets your $10 back and leads to a clawback of your bonus (again, that transaction was special)
  • Buy something else to push you back over $4,000, but the bonus doesn’t post
  • Open a case with the bank and wait 6-8 weeks for it to resolve

We could fix this in a few ways, for example by returning two bottles in one transaction and a third bottle in another transaction, or by buying a stick of gum in the same transaction as returning three bottles so that the refund amount doesn’t match the original purchase amount. Either way, we’re preventing the bank’s algorithms from matching the original purchase with refund.

Airfare Specific Tricks

Thinking about how to break automatic correlation is a fun mental exercise, can save your sign-up bonus, and is potentially interesting for other reasons too. Now, let’s discuss getting the same effect with airfares. Some angles work in general while others are airline specific. To set you on the right path, consider the following:

  • Buy a refundable airfare, switch it to another slightly more expensive flight, pay the difference
  • Look for an upcharge that refunds automatically with airfare, like:
    • Pet charges
    • Seat selection fees
    • Cabin upgrades
  • Buy a refundable airfare, and call the airline to book into a higher fare bucket
  • Change a refundable ticket to a cheaper flight to get an immediate partial refund

See, mental exercises are fun too!

Only at MEAB can we correlate moldy tea with bank sign-up bonuses. You’re welcome I guess?

It was a busy weekend in the travel hacking space:

  1. We saw transfer bonuses all over the place:

    Membership Rewards 40% transfer bonus to AerLingus Avios
    Membership Rewards 40% transfer bonus to British Airways Avios
    Membership Rewards 25% transfer bonus to Marriott Bonvoy (don’t do it)
    Ultimate Rewards 25% transfer bonus to AirFrance/KLM FlyingBlue
    LifeMiles 25% transfer bonus from Citi ThankYou Points

    Remember that Avios can be transferred between different partners, including the newly added Qatar Airways which has sweet spots for premium cabin travel to the middle east and south pacific.
  2. There’s an American Express offer for $100 back on $300 (or $350) of spend at Delta Airlines. Don’t forget that you can turn this into a travel credit by booking a non-basic economy fare, waiting until after midnight the day after booking, and then canceling.
  3. The Target RedCard debit and credit card offer for $40 off of $40 online and another $40 off of $40 in store is back through April 16. These are churnable as long as you wait at least a week between closing an old account and opening a new one. Even though a $80 sign-up bonus for a credit card is relatively small, there’s a lot of value to be had with that card.
  4. Costco is selling $500 Alaska Airlines gift cards for $400 in store. With the partnership with AA, you can book certain American Airlines flights marketed by Alaska with this gift card too.
  5. Multiple reports of being approved for a sixth credit card with American Express have been trickling in since Christmas, and as recently as Friday public data-points have surfaced too. It seems that the old five credit card limit is being phased out, or at least the number of people stuck at five is shrinking.

    My own data-point: I opened a sixth credit card in December, then closed a different credit card a couple of weeks ago. Two days later, I applied for a new sixth credit card and was approved (Thanks to C F Frost for giving me guidance on timing with those card changes).

Happy Monday!

With a 25% transfer bonus, you too can cash-out your Membership Rewards at 0.45 cents per point for a hotel room and free breakfast (Platinum elites and higher only) at the Marriott Courtyard in Lubbock, TX. Yum?

  1. Check your Chase credit cards at chase.com/mybonus/ for targeted spend offers for Q2. Offers have been reported on both business and personal cards for:

    – 5x for up to $1,500 in spend at grocery and gas stations
    – 5x for up to $1,500 in spend at grocery, gas stations
    – 5% back for up to $200 in spend at gas stations

    If the website gives a strange error, try incognito mode. (Thanks to this thread at reddit)
  2. Check your Point.app debit card for a targeted offer for $10 back on $10+ in spend by this evening. The email subject to look for is “Get $10 in points on your next purchase“.

    There are still increased $150 “golden ticket” referral opportunities floating around for new referrals, and those expire today. Unfortunately most referrers have a limit of one to three golden ticket referrals so they can be hard to chase down but they do still exist.
  3. You can get one year of Alaska and American Airlines lounge access (even when flying those airlines domestically) for 49 euros through Royal Air Maroc’s new status match promotion, and the matched oneworld status lasts through the end of March 2023.

    Register for a Royal Air Maroc Safar Flyer account (no, that spelling is not a typo)
    – Apply for a status match at safarflyerstatusmatch.com (also not a typo)

    What’s the catch? There’s always a catch, right? Well, unfortunately yes. The Safar Flyer website is buggy and often doesn’t work when registering a new account. The annoying workaround is to call them at (800) 344-6726, select option 3 at the main menu, and then hope you win agent roulette and find one that’s willing to create an account over the phone. As a bonus, you’ll get to hear repeatedly about their Magic Universe (not a typo) program for children while on hold. (Thanks to manageroftheyear)
  4. Check your Citi Merchant Offers for:

    – $10 back on Uber, valid for up to four uses through the end of April
    – $10 back on Uber Eats, valid for up to four uses through the end of April

    (Thanks to Raymond via the MEAB Slack)
Royal Air Maroc’s Magic Universe. You know, for kids.

Let’s start with a quick reminder: You have only today and tomorrow to knock out any Q1 5x bonus spend and any end-of-month credits, especially omnipresent with American Express “premium” cards (you know, the premium cards that offer Walmart+ credits).

With that housekeeping out of the way, we’ve got an airline centric-ish day:

  1. Use promo code SAVE20NOW at Southwest.com through tomorrow evening for 20% off of point redemptions for award travel through May 25. Unfortunately you won’t be able to take advantage of this discount with the Southwest changes trick because mass schedule changes have already happened through June.
  2. Alaska has partnered with Air Tahiti Nui. The major change for travel hackers is the ability to redeem the good Air Tahiti Nui availability on the fifth freedom LAX to Paris route, and Alaska mileage earning on Air Tahiti Nui paid flights.

    I guess this makes it easier to French Polynesia with Alaska miles too.
  3. American Airlines will start expiring miles on Friday. It’s a good time to check your AAdvantage accounts to make sure you’re not going to let Toby win lose miles in your account.

    Note that although I’m sure AA didn’t really intend for this trick to work, you can currently book an award ticket and then cancel it the next day with AA’s free award cancel policy to extend your miles. There are other tricks for extending your miles in this Flyertalk thread too.
  4. There’s a new bonus iteration on the American Express Personal Platinum “add an authorized user, spend $2,000 in six months, earn 20,000 Membership Rewards” bonus offer. Because the offer code is different than past variants, it will almost certainly post even if you’ve done (many) of these in the past. (Thanks to SideShowBob233)

Happy Wednesday!

Exclusive: Screenshots extracted from the AA Head of Loyalty’s phone may explain AA’s punitive mileage expiration policy.

Let’s wander through a few loyalty programs today:

  1. ITA Airways has a status match promotion running through April 15. The status is good through mid-April 2023 and recognized by the SkyTeam alliance. The major benefits of SkyTeam Elite status are free checked bags and preferred seating access on SkyTeam carriers like Delta, and SkyTeam Elite Plus members also get lounge access (including a guest) when flying internationally too.
  2. IHG is running an award sale for 20% off of stays through May 25, provided you book by April 5.

    Conventional wisdom says that buying points rarely makes sense (and I have plenty of thoughts on that for another day) — but IHG is often an exception to that rule. You’ll often find that buying points using the cash+points trick if needed and redeeming them will save you 25-50% off of cash rates at nicer properties; just don’t expect a huge discount at the Holiday Inn Express in Lubbock, Texas.
  3. Qatar Airways joined the Avios program, and to celebrate they’re currently offering 2,000 2,500 (thanks to just meer for the correction) Avios for signing up for Privilege Club with code FLYQR3. You can transfer these to British Airways Avios (or Iberia Avios) where there’s a nice economy award chart for short-haul flights (redemptions start at 4,500 miles outside of the US and 7,500 miles inside the US on AA or Alaska.) That means this bonus is:

    – 55.5% of an economy short haul ticket redemption outside the US
    – 33.3% of an economy short haul ticket redemption inside the US

    Not bad. (Thanks to crowd79)
  4. Point.app has a new streak for a 1,000 bonus points after making a purchase five days in a row before March 31, provided the sum of the purchases is at least $50. Debbit is a good way to knock these out with automation, and combine this with other Point store boosts when possible.

    If you don’t have the Point debit card yet and want to get one, ask around for someone that can refer you for a sign-up bonus of $150 after spending $200. The public sign-up bonus is either $10 or non-existent depending on how their IT is behaving, so do seek a referral.

    MEAB Note: Normally 1,000 points (worth $10) would be below the threshold for showing up on the site, but in this instance the referral bump to $150 pushed it above the line. Was that the right call? Ehh, I’m not so sure but here we are. At least it’s at the bottom.
I can say with certainty that taking a picture of a shark without protective gear in open waters isn’t the right call.