1. I’m seeing a 30% transfer bonus for both Marriott and Hilton on my American Express Membership Rewards travel partner page. There’s a report on reddit of a 20% transfer bonus for Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles too, though I don’t have that one. It’s likely worth taking a look at your own profile’s page to see what might be there for you.

2. It’s still raining gift cards, this time from Simon. Use promo code OCT21SAVE45 for 45% off of fees on bulk Visa gift card purchases. You can buy $1,000 Visa gift cards at Simon with low fees, and it’s a decent way to get some spend on Citi cards. As always, remember that American Express doesn’t give you points for spend at Simon.

These continue to work at mid-tier grocery stores and at several online processors. If you don’t have a way to liquidate, keep looking — they do exist.

3. Multiple independent sources are confirming that Hyatt’s peak/off-peak pricing will be implemented on October 26. That gives you six days to book award stays for March 2022 and later at the current prices. Don’t slack too long!

The new redemption chart is here, and unlike most loyalty award changes this one has some good with the bad — if you’re staying in Lubbock Texas on a Wednesday night in July (also known as “as off-peak as it possibly gets”), you might be able to get a night at the Hyatt Place for 3,500 points instead of 5,000 points.

Pictured: Your window view during your off-peak award stay in Lubbock, TX.

I have several friends traveling on Southwest over the next week and a half. Two things: 1) they’re going to miss their first class upgrades, and 2), there’s a decent shot that their flight will be cancelled last minute.

If I had Southwest tickets booked over the next week or so, I’d seriously consider finding another way to travel because Southwest’s current operational meltdown could easily derail your trip and leave you stuck for days without an alternate Southwest flight, and Southwest won’t rebook you on another airline so don’t consider that to be your backup plan.

There are ways to find inexpensive award tickets on the major US carriers for very close travel as a backup or replacement (you can get most bank points into one or more of these currencies with a 1:1 transfer ratio):

In almost all cases, using one of the above currencies will be cheaper for travel starting in the next couple of weeks than using the airline’s mileage program directly, but definitely check and choose the cheapest option. They’re all likely to be better than playing Russian-roulette with your Southwest flight though.

Remember, if you get stuck and you paid for your airfare with a premium card (Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve, American Express Platinum, Citi Prestige), you’ll likely be covered for hotel and meal expenses while you wait to get home. None of these cards will cover alternate airfare though, so don’t fall into that common trap and expect to be reimbursed for booking a new ticket home.

It’s going to be a cluster-hug over the next week or two out there, good luck!

Lizzy Air Lines currently has a better completion ratio on flights than Southwest. Unfortunately, no major bank rewards program partners with Lizzy’s Juice Box Miles™ program.

Do this now: Book any speculative AA and Hyatt awards today for any potential travel in the next year.

Why? Both Hyatt and AA are expected to make major award price changes over the next few days.

1. Hyatt is going to introduce peak and off-peak pricing for hotel award bookings sometime in mid-October for stays in March 2022 and beyond, and last I checked October 14 probably counts as sometime in mid-October. The new chart can be found here. I’d book absolutely every hotel stay with Hyatt that you may possibly take next year, assuming your point balances allow it. If the price goes up you’ll be locked in at the old rate, and if it goes down you can get the lower price and the difference in points back, so the downsides are minimal.

2. AA is going to devalue AAdvantage mileage awards really soon, according to twitter personality JonNYC who has inside sources and is almost always correct. As a result, I’d book any business/first class international awards that you may possibly take in the next 330 days right now. If the trip or timing doesn’t work, you can always cancel the trip and redeposit the miles with no fee under current AA policies, but if you end up taking the trip you’ll be locked in at the current prices.

Remember when Citi added AA as a temporary transfer partner for ThankYou Points in July? It brings me absolutely no pleasure to report this, but the prediction that AA would devalue soon as a result of this partnership seems to be correct. I’d say that the US dollar would be good hedge against AA devaluation, but that seems to be undergoing a major devaluation of its own. I guess it’s time to hedge with pumpkin futures, just remember to sell them before Halloween.

A shriveled-up, moldy, carved pumpkin
AA miles are currently on-track to mimic pumpkins in mid-November.

My general advice for promotions is register for them when you see them even if you think you’re not going to take advantage of the offer, and yes I registered for #2 even though I actually had to lookup which hotels were part of Choice (answer: seems like none I want to stay at, but I digress).

1. Register here for another Radisson bonus offer, which should stack with the other recent Raddison promotion. I’ll be staying at a Radisson in the next couple of weeks to take advantage of these offers, and it’ll be the first time I’ve stayed at a Radisson in years. This one is 3,000 bonus points for your first stay and 12,000 bonus points on your second stay between now and December 31.

2. Register here for a Choice hotels bonus of 2,000 points on two night stays and 5,000 points on longer stays between now and October 31. I won’t be staying at a Choice hotel for this promotion on purpose, but I’m still going to register in case I end up at one because someone hates me.

3. Register here for 500 miles from Delta. In theory you have to fly through LAX and scan a QR code to earn the miles, but in practice that may not be true. Bonus hint for making this even more likely to post: Have you noticed that cancelled reservations still show up in your Skymiles activity on the original day of departure?

4. Register here for 3,000 bonus points on your next stay at Wyndham properties. This program is a sleeper for most people but trust me, it can be very worth your time and it is something you can game.

Happy Thursday!

A sample Choice Hotel. Why wouldn’t you want to be here?

1. American Express has a transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to all of its airline partners, something unheard of until this point. You’ve probably heard this reported elsewhere already, so let’s add to the conversation with a few particular sweet spots:

  • 40% bonus to Avios with Aer Lingus, British Airways, or Iberia
    • Use Iberia for great award space from the US to Europe and avoid fuel surcharges with BA with the same flight access. Look for Madrid trips for extra value.
  • 30% bonus to Virgin Atlantic, Hilton, Marriott
    • Use Virgin Atlantic for really low redemption round-trip tickets in Business or First to Japan and Eastern Asia
  • 25% bonus to AirFrance/KLM FlyingBlue, Aeromexico, Hawaiian
  • 20% bonus to Air Canada’s Aeroplan or Qantas
    • Use Aeroplan for short haul economy flights in the US
    • Use Aeroplan for business or first class flights from the Central or Eastern US to Europe
  • 15% bonus to LifeMiles
    • Use LifeMiles for loose definitions of what a region is
    • Use LifeMiles for economy bookings from the Central or Eastern US to Europe

2. United has a 30% bonus when transferring from hotel points to United MileagePlus miles. You have to register here first though.

  • Transfer Marriott Bonvoy points. With the transfer bonus, you’re looking at approximately 1.85 Bonvoy points to 1 MileagePlus mile. I’d say that’s about the best general use case of Bonvoy points I’ve seen in a long time. (This is a terrible idea with most other programs, especially Hyatt.)

Happy Thursday!

Bonus: Neptune’s sweet spot

Well friends, the day is unfortunately here: As of tonight at 11:59PM Eastern (or perhaps even earlier), you can no longer cash-out American Express Membership Rewards at 1.25 cents each with the Schwab Platinum card. That makes it a great time to remind you about the often forgotten no-annual fee Morgan Stanley Card from American Express which I first learned about from the mostly defunct Windbag Miles, and then forgot about completely until the Schwab cash-out changes were confirmed. As of today now, it’s officially a member of the Miles Earn and Burn Unsung Heroes club.

Let’s talk about this card:

  • It earns Membership Rewards
  • It bonuses at 2x on department stores, restaurants, car rentals, and airfare
  • It has no annual fee
  • You can transfer to airline partners
  • You can cash out Membership Rewards to your Morgan Stanley account at one cent per point

The last bullet is the kicker, though the others are noteworthy too. This card may now be the best option for converting Membership Rewards to cash in an above-the-board sort of way. Yes, the Schwab Platinum gives you an extra 10% uplift on cash-out, but you also have to have a Schwab Platinum card and pay its $695 annual fee, which I guess you can offset slightly with Clear and a stupid gym membership.

Running the numbers quickly by moving the decimal, you’d have to cash-out more than 695,000 points with the Schwab Platinum at 1.1 cents per point to offset the annual fee of the Platinum card versus just cashing out at 1.0 cents per per point with the no fee Morgan Stanley Card; if you’re cashing out any number less than that over the period of a year, you should really be using the Morgan Stanley card and not the Schwab Platinum. As a really, really small incentive for getting the card, you’ll get 10,000 Membership Rewards as a sign up bonus after spending $1,000 within three months, and I’m guessing you’ve never gotten that signup bonus before. Right? It’s not exactly been high on my list.

As promised, the Morgan Stanley Card is no where to be found on my top credit cards list, but it will be in my wallet soon anyway.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now but just in case you haven’t, here’s the background for today’s post: Citi Thank You Points can be transferred to AA between now and November 23rd. (Why this date? No idea.) People are celebrating this and frankly with good cause. Until now, Citi Thank You Points have been my least favorite bank currency amongst the major players — so much so that I’d choose 1.0 Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards over 1.2 Citi Thank You Points. In general I think of Thank You Points as worth exactly a penny and move on to bigger and better things (say, 15x “shop small” with an American Express Platinum from Resy as a great example).

I hear your rebuttal, and yes, the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles program has some sweet-spots and Citi Thank You Points are uniquely positioned to take advantage of that; but booking Turkish awards can be a long and frustrating process involving multiple unanswered calls and weird email bookings, and the rest of the Citi Thank You Points transfer partners range somewhere between “Chase and American Express can also do that”, and “I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a fork because if I’m going to be in that much pain, I’ll do it to myself.”

But now with Thank You Points transferring 1:1 to American Airlines’ AAdvantage program, there’s some real value to be had. I’m excited, but I’m also very cautious and won’t be transferring all of my Thank You Points to AA miles for one reason: AA Miles are ready to devalue, and for better or worse, that’s coming sooner rather than later. Consider:

  • Delta has a dynamic mileage redemption scheme (Asia will cost you 210,000 SkyMiles round trip in business class, if you’re lucky)
  • United has a dynamic mileage redemption scheme (Asia will cost you 160,000 MilagePlus miles round trip in crappy business class, if you’re lucky)
  • Southwest has a fixed value redemption (Southwest doesn’t fly to Asia. Can you imagine traveling to Asia on a Southwest 737?)
  • American Airlines’ fixed award chart is much cheaper than major competitors (Asia will cost you 120,000 AAdvantage miles, with great availability)

For the most part this is illustrative of awards to just about any international destination, we’re stuck in a situation where AAdvantage offers much, much better value than its major competition and on top of that they’ve said they’re moving to a variable redemption scheme. This means that they’re almost certainly going to devalue, and it’s almost certainly going to happen very soon, just as predicted by reversion to the mean. In fact, I’d call this event the catalyst for devaluation and cynically declare it’s a last ditch money grab by AA before the chart gets materially worse (and variable).

My advice to you: Yes, Thank You Points conversion to AAdvantage miles is an exciting development, but don’t go too far with this, transfer the number of points to AA that you need for the next six months or so and plan on an AA devaluation. Don’t be surprised when the rug gets pulled out from you at the end of the year. At that point, I fear we’ll all be thinking of Thank You Points as being worth a cent again.

My Citi Thank You Points award redemption eye fork.

Today’s triple is ordered by increasing difficulty — you know, for fun:

  • Link your Marriott account to your Emirates Skywards account to earn 1,500 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points. In case you don’t have an Emirates Skywards account like me, you can easily create one here.
  • Check CashApp for a 5% back on online orders at Sam’s Club boost, usable once per day for up to $400 in spend each day through Thursday. I’d buy a couple of Visa or Mastercard gift cards each time, and don’t forget to go through a shopping portal, which often tracks gift card purchases at Sam’s Club (though not always). If you don’t have CashApp, find a friend for an invite and you’ll earn $15 after sending another CashApp user five bucks.
  • Ting SIM cards with $30 credit are now $0.99 at BestBuy and $1.00 at Target. The Visible $100 Mastercard deal is still running strong, and reader Yun let me know that TopCashBack is currently at $40 for new bring your own phone plans with a port-in of an existing phone number, in addition to the $100 Mastercard that you’ll get from Visible after two months. Additional background is available here and here.

Those last two bullets will pair well together. If you don’t have CashApp, I guarantee someone out there that you know has it. Reach out, say hi, and get a referral. I reluctantly put a referral for Point in a post last week because it was the only way to get a good sign-up bonus, but I can’t bring myself to do it again this week, that’s not why I’m in this; so find a friend!

Shout out for another triple in the house.