Watch for a barrage of promotions over the holiday weekend, especially for the gift card resale markets. In the mean time, there are a few interesting promotions to kick off the weekend:

  1. Starting today and running through July 15, the OnJuno debit card has 10% cash back on spend of up to $1,000 provided that’ve set your spending source to USDC. Effectively any manufactured spend should work to meet this promotion.
  2. Many Hilton free night certificates are expiring today thanks to past COVID extension policies. Some customer service representatives will extend these for you, and I have multiple reports of successful reinstatement and extension of the certificates if you call the day of expiration and ask to use them.

    You may have to try a couple of different times to get a representative who knows how to extend though, and you shouldn’t sleep on this if you’re affected because it’s not likely to work after today.
  3. Yun was the first to let me know that the Upgrade rewards debit card has a new referral bonus program of $100 for the referrer and referred after three debit card transactions within 60 days. Upgrade’s debit card pays:

    – 2% at drug stores, gas, subscriptions, restaurants, and utilities
    – 1% everywhere else (including PIN transactions)

    Nearside’s 2.2% cash back debit card is currently more interesting, but at the end of 2022 their rewards rate will also be 1% so it may be worth grabbing a $100 sign-up bonus from Upgrade in anticipation of that if you’re in the rewards debit game.
  4. The Citi Shop Your Way Rewards Mastercard, a MEAB Unsung Hero, has a new targeted offer for 15% back in statement credits on gas, grocery, and restaurant spend up to $90 for each month between July and September. (I got and maximized the same offer for April through June too.)

    Check your inbox for email with the subject: “[NAME], activate your limited-time statement credits offer now”

Finally, I’m going to be like a normal blogger for a second and vent about something that none of you care about and isn’t related to the site’s mission — sorry in advance: The Crown City Classic is a 7.4 mile race for July 4 (7/4), and it’s something that P2 and I have participated in for years. This year though, they moved it to July 2 because reasons, and we didn’t figure that out until a week ago after our travel was already booked. Why do I bring it up? Always double check dates for events that you’re traveling to. I wish I had.

Have a nice holiday weekend!

The Crown City Classic race organizers trying to figure out exactly when 7/4 is.

Today we’re going off the beaten path:

  1. I haven’t written about the Albert debit card prior to today because I genuinely didn’t think that it was going to work out for anyone involved, but it turns out that my spidey-sense was wrong on this one. There are now multiple reports of $500 referral bonuses being paid to both the referrer and referred, and Miles notes via MEAB slack that Albert has CashApp-like boosts for 10-20% back at major retailers that are paying out too.

    The sign-up bonus is only available by referrals — so if you know someone with a $500 referral than it’s probably worth your time to go for it. The terms for the $500 bonus are three consecutive months with $200 in direct deposits (I scheduled these) and three months of $100 in spend on the debit card too (I scheduled these too with a bill pay service). The best public bonus I know of is currently $150.
  2. Virgin Atlantic has announced that Gold Elite members can book any flight for double the saver level at least 60 days in advance, up to eight segments per year. There’s a very specific traveler that this will work well for: If you’ve got a fixed vacation schedule, for example because you’re a teacher or have kids in school, you can still book relatively low cost awards even during peak travel times when normal award space might be non-existent.

    Fortunately Virgin Atlantic status is easy to get (eventually) with the Bank of America Virgin Atlantic credit card because spending $5,000 per month for 12 months on the card will earn you enough tier points for Gold Elite status. But, spending more than $5,000 per month on a single card doesn’t get you tier points any faster so you’re looking at a year to turn this into reality without flying. If you apply for this card I’d suggest getting a few Alaska Airlines cards and some Business Cash Rewards cards at the same time.

    Bank of America IT is rooted in the 1970s, so my hunch is that if you hold multiple Virgin Atlantic cards you’d be able to get the monthly tier point spend limit on each card, but I have no data points to support or reject that hypothesis. UPDATE: Reader Miles has experience with multiple Virgin Atlantic cards and confirms that two cards will allow earning tier points at twice the rate, and you can stack the companion and upgrade certificate from each card too.

Our journey to find today’s obscure news.

  1. American Express has targeted even more people for 20,000 Membership Rewards for turning on Pay Over Time, and thus round included me. They’ve made a couple of other significant updates to these bonuses:

    – You’re now eligible for a new bonus every 120 days, just make sure you turn it back off to be targeted again in the future
    – You no longer need to switch the default card when searching for bonuses, just picking a new card is now enough to see if there’s a bonus available

    Check to see if you’re targeted at the Pay Over Time landing page.
  2. The Citi Shop Your Way Mastercard (the classic MEAB Unsung Hero) has another round of targeted spend bonuses through July 14. Offers have been reported for:

    – 150,000 points after $2,000 in spend
    – 12,500 ThankYou points for $2,000 in spend (Thanks to BB_Pcola)
    – $50 after $1,000 in spend (Thanks to birt)

    The subject for my offer was “Name, open now to unlock your special, limited-time offer! 🌟”.
  3. IHG is reportedly sending out targeted offers for 12,000 points for two stays within 60 days of registration, and the registration deadline is November 30.

    Check your inbox for the subject “Welcome back! Celebrate with 12,000 points”.
  4. Southwest is expected to release its next schedule extension today for travel between November 11 and January 4, so it covers all major winter holidays.

    Experts should look for inexpensive flights that are likely to be changed within two weeks of their actual desired travel too. (Thanks to Brian M via MEAB slack)

On second thought maybe everything should come in a grab bag, hmm.

Remember to take time to reexamine your assumptions from time-to-time; when you’ve got a different toolkit and different experiences, the same deal can go from looking like a boat anchor to looking like a treasure chest. And with that:

  1. I haven’t written about the Axos Bank sign-up bonus for a new brokerage account before because it the grand scheme of bank and brokerage bonuses there are bigger fish to fry. But, yesterday they increased the sign-up bonus from $100 to $150, and that made me revisit their terms and conditions with fresh eyes. This one is interesting because:

    – It requires only $1,000 to trigger the bonus
    – The bonus timeframe is short at 90 days
    You can churn the sign-up bonus, you just have to have closed your account 91+ days ago to be eligible for another one
    – The bonus appears regularly, so the likelihood of being able to churn this again is high

    The effective APR on this bonus is annualized to 60%, but that’s only for up $1,000 in cash. #slay I guess. (Thanks to DoC for noting the increased bonus)
  2. OnJuno, a favorite cash-back debit card for some of you, has a free $10 for buying $50 or more in crypto today. Valid only for OnJuno users without a current OnJuno crypto wallet. The bonus will arrive by June 7.

    I bought $50.00 USDC and then sold $50.00 USDC a couple of minutes later; there were no transaction fees.
  3. The last day for a 2:1 transfer of Marriott Bonvoy points to Air Canada Aeroplan miles is today (to get exactly 2:1, you’ll need to transfer in 60,000 point increments). If you need Star Alliance award flights, this is probably a higher value redemption of Bonvoy points than you’ll find at any almost any Marriott property. For once, we’re not #bonvoyed by Bonvoy, but only if we act today. Yes, I do see you looking at me with crazy eyes.

    As always, remember that an unredeemed mile is worth exactly nothing until it’s used.
Fresh eyes and crazy eyes don’t have to be different.

The $189 Clear credit has rapidly diminishing returns for those of us with more than a handful of Platinum cards, especially after P1, P2, and Pn have memberships. So, what are we to do after everyone already has it?

There’s a good option, and even without Platinum cards it could be interesting if you’ve got the current American Express offer for a statement credit of 50% for up to $189 at Clear on another card:

So, we can effectively trade a $189 Clear credit for 10,000-15,000 United MileagePlus miles, which is probably worth at least $400 according to out of touch some loonies on the interwebs (but in all seriousness, miles are worth zero until you spend them, and you’re not going to get more than 1.6 cents per MileagePlus mile worth of value as a loose rule when you do spend them.)

How do we scale? Just sign-up multiple times, but based on experience from past deals:

  • You are limited to one promotion per MileagePlus account, but surely you control more than one of those, right?
  • You don’t have to sign up with real info other than a valid MileagePlus number and matching name
  • You don’t have to go to the airport to finish registration despite the terms and conditions stating otherwise

What about that AmEx offer? In that case, you’re trading $94.50 for 10,000-15,000 MileagePlus miles (and an extra $94.50 worth of rewards from AmEx spend). That’s probably still a decent deal.

Good luck!

Travel blogger valuation of a cup of lemonade.

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.

In addition to the Citi ThankYou Point 25% transfer bonus for AirFrance/KLM FlyingBlue running through May 20, there are a couple of new bonuses that popped up on the radar over the weekend. Let’s go over them with a few sweet-spot hints (Editors note: I literally wrote suite-spot on the first draft. I wish I was intentionally that witty, but I’m not so I fixed the wording):

  1. American Express Membership Rewards has a 15% transfer bonus to Avianca LifeMiles (note that you have to login to see the offer). Hacks and sweet-spots:

    – Award chart anomalies, like JFK-Lisbon in business class for 35,000 miles or JFK-Zurich in coach for 16,500 miles (you can find these in other major North American cities too)
    – Flying to or from Europe in business class and taking a coach leg onto the end to lower the price
    – Economy flights to or from the Caribbean for 12,500 miles each way
    – Short haul domestic US economy for 7,500 miles each way
  2. Chase Ultimate Rewards has a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Hacks and sweet-spots:

    – ANA First Class to or from Japan for 55,000 to 60,000 miles each way
    – ANA Business Class to or from Japan for 45,000 to 47,500 miles each way
    – Delta One (Business Class) to or from Europe for 47,500 – 50,000 miles each way

Before transferring preemptively you should probably make sure that the awards you’re after have availability; getting award space is tough right now unless you’re willing to book in September or beyond, or if you’re willing to make Lubbock, TX your final destination.

The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club transfer bonus appears on radar.

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.