Today’s news items dropped into a nice list neatly, a little too neatly for comfort frankly:

  1. Southwest has an award and paid flight sale with promo code SPLASH through tomorrow night for travel from March 19 to May 22. There are a few blackout dates, but my existing bookings had a roughly 50% rate of being included in the fare sale.

    What everyone seems to forget to mention when these fare sales drop is that you’re still flying Southwest and the discount better be big as a result. This is extra acute to me with six flights in the last 30 days on Southwest.
  2. Hyatt has announced its annual award chart recategorization.

    You have through March 26 to book at the old rates. If you book a property that goes down in price after March 26, your points will probably be automatically refunded.
  3. American Express Membership Rewards has a targeted15% transfer bonus to Avianca Lifemiles through March 15. Sweet spots:

    – Star Alliance business or first class from the US to Europe and Africa
    – Short haul domestic first class
    – Flights to and from the Caribbean in cattle class Southwest class economy

    This transfer bonus is mid at best unless you were going to book something anyway.
  4. American Express offers has two new sort-of gamable offers:

    – $200 statement credit on $1,000+ at about three dozen properties through May 15
    – $100 back on $500+ in Alaska flights booked through AmexTravel.com through May 26

    Gaming on the first one is typical, on the second probably is only really doable by refunding the right type of your fare to an Alaska wallet.
  5. The Motley Fool has an increased AA eShopping portal sign-up bonus of 6,700 miles for a $99 subscription, bigger than what it was on January 17 too. An American Express Offers $50 off of $99 is still around through May 15 too.

    Combined, the two promotions mean you’re buying 6,700 AA miles at for a net cost of $49, or 0.73 cents per mile. It’s untested as far as I know, but you probably can’t do this again on the same AA eShopping account as the one used in January. (Special thanks to David)

The laundry equivalent of today’s news items coming neatly packaged out of the box.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The feedback I’ve gotten for guest post Saturday has been resoundingly positive. I’ve got a few posts left to publish, but I’m running low. If you’re interested in a guest post, please reach out!

It’s a good news and bad news situation today. Ordered in terms of goodness:

  1. American Express has a great new referral offer for +10x at restaurants on many charge and credit cards for up to $25,000 spend in restaurants for three months for the referrer. The referral must be sent by May 22.

    Pro tip: Referrals usually stick around for 30 days, so squirrel one away on May 22 and you can double dip this one.
  2. Staples has fee-free $200 Mastercard gift cards starting Sunday and running through the following Saturday. There’s a stated limit of eight, which generally isn’t actually enforced in many locations.

    These are Pathward gift cards, so have a liquidation plan in place.
  3. Hyatt Destination residences have moved from the regular World of Hyatt program to the Homes and Hideaways platform, which really means that these properties now have a low 1.2 cents per point fixed redemption value.

    It already happened, and there’s no way to lock in old rates. Hyatt went #bonvoy in rare form.

Have a nice weekend!

Data deep dive: Visualizing today’s post, and look for the hidden infinitely good news item zero while you’re at it.

EDITORS NOTE: In 2024, I’m going to try and have a guest post on Saturdays. Today’s guest post is from the first manufactured spender I ever met up with in person and an original manufactured spend whale, Dean. Yes, Dean was really in Lubbock.

I recently had the opportunity to fly to Austin Texas and drive back to my home in Utah. When I reviewed the driving route, it passed directly through Lubbock, TX. MEAB is always talking about how Lubbock is his favorite destination so I thought this would be a great opportunity to see why he loves it so much.

I found the simplest points option for the flight to be Chase Ultimate Rewards to pay for the Delta direct from SLC to AUS through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Since it was a direct, morning flight I figured it would work for my tight schedule to pick-up the car before the shop closed and be on my way toward home in the afternoon.

A week before heading out, I reserved an Uber to pick me up at AUS to take me 1 hour and 15 mins away to Temple where the car was located. The flight was to arrive at 2:05PM, and an Uber ride of 1 hour and 15 mins would put me at the shop just in time for my 3:30PM appointment. It was a tight schedule but I figured the worst that could happen is that we would spend a night in Temple, TX and pick-up the car the next day with a couple more Uber rides.

Departing on this long drive at 4PM meant we would need a place to stay about 6 hours away so I wasn’t driving home drowsy. Low and behold, guess what was 6 hours away? Lubbock, TX. It was meant to be! Since Hyatt is still my favorite Hotel Points program, I was very pleased that I could stay at the Hyatt Place, Lubbock that MEAB so fondly refers to.

The Hyatt Place was about $98 per night plus taxes and fees. And this location is so fancy, they add a $7 a night parking fee. I outsmarted them with a Hyatt points reservation for 6,500 points and it apparently included the parking fee. They never charged me anyway.

Travel day came and all was well until, we sat on the runway for over 45 mins waiting for de-icing in SLC. That put us 30 mins late into AUS. I chose AUS hoping that the small size of the airport would make for a quick getaway and it worked quite well to move quickly through the terminal and into the parking garages. The signage for Uber was pretty easy to follow and they have a very organized waiting area in one of the parking garages for Ride Share.

Once off the plane, I checked my Uber app to verify that my ride was ready, they had my flight info so a late arrival shouldn’t be a problem right? Well, all I saw was that I had nothing scheduled in the app (even though the day before, I got a confirmation email from Uber) I dug through the app and didn’t see anything except under “Activity” I saw my destination address and amount paid as “$0 Failed”. I have over $200 in Uber credits in there from the good-old days of buying gift cards at Whole Foods, that somehow generated Uber credits too, so payment shouldn’t have been an issue.

How does Uber send me a confirmation yesterday stating that I’m all set and then today with no notice just leave me hanging? Ugh, don’t trust Uber’s reservation system apparently. I went to the Uber waiting area as I requested another ride. My new ride was there as I walked up to the spot and it cost $20 less than the reservation so that worked nicely. Now to get to Temple as fast as we can and hope they let me pick up the car late.

Driving from AUS to Temple, TX was just one strip mall after another of Applebee’s and Chili’s restaurants separated by rolling hills. Our Uber driver was great. She said that the Ride Share market is very saturated there so she doesn’t get a lot of rides.

My wife thought it would be fun to see the Magnolia “Silos” in downtown Waco that was nearby. We headed up there to see what the hype is about. This place was a little interesting. I think people go there as a tourist destination. We got there 30 mins before closing and there were a lot of workers and very few shoppers. We got a S’more’s cupcake from their bakery that tasted pretty good and walked the shops that had over priced Hobby Lobby items for home decorating. We probably should have gone to the DR Pepper Museum instead.

We hadn’t eaten all day so we stopped into a Torchy’s Tacos to try them since they were highly recommended by our friends who lived in Texas. The $5-6 tacos were pretty good. Two filled me up but I could have easily eaten another, I just didn’t want to wait for another and was eager to get to Lubbock, TX.

The highway went directly NW all the way to Lubbock. It was mostly just two lanes but the speed limit was 75. It was dark so I think it was just more rolling hills with small towns spread far apart the whole way. As we approached Lubbock, it was just like driving into Las Vegas. We could see the glow of lights in the dark sky indicating a city was near. That’s where the similarities ended.

Maps took us through a small town on fancy brick-paver roads that eventually lead to Hyatt Place! Lubbock was a pretty tired town but the Hyatt place and surrounding buildings were modern and clean. I was pleased as I entered the lobby to see that it was a very new and clean facility. The lobby was identical to my all-time favorite Hyatt Place, Moab. It was built in the same 2018 style and had the same Hyatt Place fresh-clean scent.

My wife’s Hyatt credit card gives her status enough that we got 2 free bottles of water! We headed up to the room and found it to be in great shape and very clean too. Everything was standard Hyatt Place quality and comfort. No wonder MEAB likes this place so much! Other amenities include a swimming pool, fitness room, and spacious lobby with computers and work stations.

The location must be near a Police station. We were greeted by sirens when we got out of the car and heard them periodically through the night. Far more sirens than I expected in a small town like that.

The free breakfast was standard for a, post-Covid, Hyatt Place. The shower supplies were the same smell and quality but in bulk large containers on the wall vs. individual containers that we have been used to in other Hyatt Places. The staff was friendly and we really enjoyed our stay overall.

We headed out for the rest of our adventure back to Utah well rested and fed. If I ever find myself near Lubbock, TX again, I would definitely stay at the Hyatt Place, Lubbock again. And so should you.

– Dean

The view from the Hyatt Place Lubbock’s window. Just kidding, the rooms’ windows only have a view of the dumpster.

  1. Today is the last day that the American Express Business Gold card has a $295 annual fee. If you’ve been slacking on a product change or a new application and that slacking extends past tonight, it’ll cost you an extra $80. A few notes:

    – If you’re going to apply head on, don’t forget that you can probably get a much better offer by trying several browsers and connecting to a Dallas VPN
    – If you can’t find a better offer through a VPN, at least use a referral link
    – If you triple dipped Business Platinum cards in December 2022, a downgrade might be a better option than closing the card given the current lack of no-lifetime language (NLL) links
    – American Express’s calendar day ends before midnight Eastern, but after midnight UTC, because reasons

    The Business Gold card also has an unadvertised spending bonus (of sort) via phone in employee offers or via online employee offers, and now has $240 in annual office supply credits.
  2. Southwest has 50% off of flights to and from Denver or Colorado Springs booked by tomorrow night with promo code SAVENOW for travel between February 20 and May 22.

    As is typical with targeted promo codes and Southwest, there are a bunch of excluded days and routes, most of which correspond to the days that normies working with school schedules want to travel.
  3. Do this now: Register for Best Western’s Q1 promo for 5,000 bonus points per stay for up to 10 stays through May 5.

    Look, I’m not planning on staying in a Best Western either, but sometimes it’s the best option and in case that happens the promo will already be attached to your account.

Have a nice Wednesday!

You shouldn’t could combine the second and third items at the Best Western Movie Manor (pictured).

NOTE: I’ll be going on a blogging vacation between December 18 and 31, during which there may or may not be any posts. But, we’ll ring in the new year on January 1, 2024 with the 2023 version of Travel Hacking as Told by GIFs though, so no need to be up in arms. What’s this “may”, you ask? I’m soliciting for guest posts and I’ll use those during the regularly scheduled newsletter. They should be non-sponsored, non-promotional, non-political, and at least travel hacking or churning adjacent. Please reach out to me if you’re interested, it’ll be the third easiest gig you’ve ever gotten!

  1. The American Express Delta co-branded cards have increased sign-up bonus via referral or at deltaamexcard.com:

    – Personal Gold: 70,000 miles after $2,000 spend in six months, annual fee waived the first year
    – Personal Platinum: 80,000 miles after $3,000 spend in six months
    – Personal Reserve: 90,000 miles after $5,000 spend in six months

    There are a couple of ways to play this: (1) Just think of a SkyMile as worth 1.0 cents toward Delta airfare and churn the card, (2) get the Platinum and/or Reserve card and hit big spend in the next couple of weeks to earn elite status before the program changes in 2024, noting that MQMs will post in the year you hit spend and not in the year that the statement closes, and that you can get business cards too. (Thanks to TheSultan1)
  2. Safeway / Albertsons stores have a digital coupon for 5x rewards points on third party gift cards running through December 19, but only for J4U chains that run weekly promotions starting on a Wednesday, not for those starting on a Friday. No, I’m not making this up.

    Occasionally when there’s a coupon like this, 5x actually means 6x, but that’s not the case this time based on my testing.
  3. Southwest is opening up its schedule through October 2, 2024 this morning. This extension includes Labor Day and end-of-summer travel. (Thanks to the unstoppable Brian M)
  4. Do this now (if you hold a Hyatt credit card): Register for 5,000 bonus points per stay of three nights or longer at Inclusive Collection hotels between January 8 and March 3, 2024, limit 10,000 bonus points.
  5. The Alaska Business card has a heightened bonus of 75,000 bonus miles after $4,000 spend in three months. This link is from an in-flight promotion, and you can use a referral code of 000000. UPDATE: This link is now dead.

    If you’re going to go for one Alaska Business card, why not a few? Also, don’t forget that the personal card still has a 70,000 bonus mile offer if you VPN to Southern California. (Thanks to DDG)
  6. Alaska’s elite program is changing for 2024. The major points:

    – Status is earned only via elite qualifying miles, or EQMs
    – Credit cards earn 4,000 EQMs per $10,000 spend, up to five times
    – Top tier members will have excess EQMs rolled over from year to year

    Unfortunately credit card spend alone will only earn you MVP status, which practically speaking means a few free checked bags on Alaska and other oneworld airlines but not a lot else.

Happy Thursday!

The tenth easiest gig you’ve ever gotten.

NOTE: I’ll be going on a blogging vacation between December 18 and 31, during which there may or may not be any posts. But, we’ll ring in the new year on January 1, 2024 with the 2023 version of Travel Hacking as Told by GIFs though, so no need to be up in arms. What’s this “may”, you ask? I’m soliciting for guest posts and I’ll use those during the regularly scheduled newsletter. They should be non-sponsored, non-promotional, non-political, and at least travel hacking or churning adjacent. Please reach out to me if you’re interested, it’ll be the third easiest gig you’ve ever gotten!

  1. Do this now: Register for Hilton’s Q1 promotion for 2,000 bonus points per stay, or 2,500 points if you request a digital key on the stay. Valid for stays between January 1, 2024 and May 1, 2024.
  2. Do this now (if you hold an American Express Bonvoy Brilliant card): Register for a targeted 85,000 point free night certificate after $4,000 in spend by March 15, 2024. (Thanks to The_Sultan1)
  3. Staples in-store has fee free Visa $200 gift cards starting Sunday and running through the following Saturday, limit five per transaction according to the current ad.

    These are Pathward gift cards. Yes, there are still working in-person liquidation methods and there are still pajama liquidation methods too, but on average fees are going up, either directly or because the opportunity cost of locking up funds for a few months is increasing with interest rates.
  4. American Express offers has $150 back on $1,000 or more in Air Canada airfare through. (Thanks to Parts_Unknown-)
  5. Holding the Chase Aeroplan card gives you a 10% transfer bonus when converting Ultimate Rewards to Aeroplan miles. That bonus was supposed to be temporary for this year’s launch of the card, but FM reports that it’s now apparently permanent. This bonus stacks with occasional temporary transfer bonuses too.

    The permanent transfer bonus combined with Aeroplan’s partner availability and the ability to earn 3x at grocery stores makes me ready to kick a 5/24 slot in the teeth to get this card.
  6. The Chase Marriott Boundless card has a new link with a heightened sign-up bonus for five 50,000 point free night certificates after $5,000 spend in three months. The $95 annual fee is not waived for the first year.

    It’s no secret that I’m a Bonvoy hater, but this offer is almost good enough for me to care — but not quite enough because it would also kick a 5/24 slot in the teeth, and the Aeroplan card holds more long term value for my use case so that’s a tooth two far. (Thanks to DDG)

The sixth easiest gig you’ve ever gotten.

NOTE: I’ll be going on a blogging vacation at the end of the year and there won’t be any daily posts between December 18 and December 31. After that, we’ll ring in the new year on January 1, 2024 with the 2023 version of Travel Hacking as Told by GIFs though, so no need to be up in arms.

  1. I did my best not to even mention the Hyatt 2024 changes because literally every other travel blog out there has a long form boring essay on the updates (and also probably because for some reason I suck at conformity), but here’s a quick review of the changes with an eye toward gaming:

    – Guest of Honor stays work for paid and award stays and will be earned. When you gift a stay, you also earn an elite qualifying night which sounds splendid in two player mode
    – There are more awards tiers with more options in each tier, some of which are quite valuable
    – There’s at Category 1-8 certificate available if you earn 150 qualifying nights
    – Suite upgrades will soon be bookable online, and Guest of Honor stays will be even sooner

    tl;dr: If you’ve got excess manufactured spend capacity, 2024’s 10 night tier awards could make spend on Hyatt cards, especially the business version, worthwhile.
  2. We’ve had American Express offers for adding up to five employee cards online since July, and a new round of offers for adding up to 99 employee offers by phone since October. Unfortunately the online version of the July offers died, but a new, different set of offers for adding employee cards with a new POID has surfaced:

    – Business Platinum: Spend $4,000 get 15,000 Membership Rewards, limit five
    – Business Gold: Spend $4,000 get 15,000 Membership Rewards, limit five
    – Blue Business Plus: Spend $4,000 get 15,000 Membership Rewards, limit five

    Remember the AmEx offer mantra: New POIDs = new bonuses.
  3. The Gift Card Shop has 50% off of purchase fees on orders over $150 using promo code 2023HOLIDAY through December 8. This is an exact repeat of their Halloween promotion, even down to the same promotional code. Note that InComm spend doesn’t currently award points on American Express cards.

    I’d recommend squirreling this promo code away and trying it again in the future, and also watching for glitches on the sister gift card retailer sites also run by InComm.

Have a nice weekend!

MEAB trying to conform.

  1. The Citi Shop Your Way Rewards Mastercard has new targeted offers for utility spend, once per month for November, December, and January, delivered by both USPS mail and email. We’ve seen:

    – 10% back for $600 or more in spend, up to $700 in spend
    – 10% back for $450 or more in spend, up to $500 in spend
    – 5% back for $500 or more in spend, up to $1,200 in spend

    (Thanks to birt and Dave)
  2. Plastiq is once again accepting American Express cards for payments in certain categories. Fees are currently 2.9% + $0.99-$1.49 which makes it more expensive than average for credit card bill payment services, though not without utility.

    Is Plastiq trustworthy? Well, they’ve effectively exiting bankruptcy and have a person best described by “a kid’s cartoon cowboy transforms into a real person, puts on a suit, and for some reason is always a little sweaty” as a CEO. So, uh, yeah. At least you have chargebacks as a backstop.
  3. Giftcards.com has 5% off of $100 Visa gift cards with promo code SPOOKY5 or SCARY5 through November 6, maximum $15 back per order.

    Normally these range somewhere between a good deal and a great deal when stacked with portal bonuses, however apparently they sent an email to affiliates saying that there’s no payout on orders places utilizing these codes. There’s a small chance that the email is wrong, so if you’ve got a gambling mindset today then you’ve found your mark. (Thanks to GCG)
  4. Do this now: Register for Wyndham’s Q4 promotion for double points on stays of two nights or longer through January 12, 2024. (Thanks to FM)
  5. The Chase Marriott Boundless card has a targeted sign-up bonus for 75,000 Bonvoy points and a $300 Marriott e-gift card after $3,000 spend in three months via the Chase app. The card has a $95 annual fee, and my unpopular opinion is that this is the best version of this card’s sign-up bonus because the $300 card pays for resort-fees and parking on those “free” points or certificate stays.

    My more popular opinion is that you’ll still be Bonvoyed somehow while you’re at a Marriott property.

Happy Wednesday!

Plastiq’s CEO shows up at MEAB’s doorstep later today.