UPDATE: I’m hearing from multiple sources that this interview was presented by Cookie Monster. I apologize for the confusion and for any pain and suffering caused by this mistake.

The internet is full of old and stale information, so let’s take a slight diversion (in the sense that an Air France flight from Paris landing in Windsor Locks, Connecticut is a slight diversion) from our normal weekday chat and talk about Priority Pass with a hypothetical interview between Oscar the Grouch and MEAB to try and put some of that stale info to bed, travel hacker style:

Q: Can you tell me if those fancy Capital One cards don’t let you eat at the airport restaurants with Priority Pass anymore? Me heard they don’t!
A: It’s true for personal cards, but it’s not true on business cards; those still have restaurant access. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet Oscar, unless it’s here. In which case, I guess don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Q: Hey, what happens if me lost my stinkin’ Priority Pass card?
A: You can call the card issuer and most will give you the number and expiration over the phone. You can use that and the cruddy Priority Pass mobile app for a digital QR code to use instead of the card.

Q: Those lounges tell you there’s a limit to how many times you can use the card at the same place, but me think they’re lying. What do you think?
A: Many locations will tell you there’s a limit, but in practice if you can get them to scan your card multiple times, it’s going to go through multiple times.

Q: Me heard those snobby authorized users on Capital One’s fancy cards get their own free Priority Pass membership. That true?
A: Err, yep.

Q: Hey, can me bring someone who’s “in the bathroom” with me to a Priority Pass restaurant?
A: Err, also yep.

Q: The digital membership number on me account is different from the one on me lousy plastic card. Can me use them both or what?
A: Err, let’s roll with the theme of the other questions and I’ll let you decide Oscar.

Q: Me got a bunch of those Priority Pass cards. Can me use one per guest and get them all in?
A: It’ll work, just be confident when you enter the lounge, but also remember that some cards have guest access built in.

Thanks to Oscar for taking the time, and be sure to watch for a future celebrity interview at MEAB.

Have a nice weekend!

Pictured: Either Oscar or MEAB during the interview. You choose which.

The Big Stuff

As I’m sure you’ve seen, last week Delta began offering 15% off of award ticket redemption prices for American Express Delta Gold, Platinum, and Reserve card holders. I’ve been probing the discount to figure out its quirks, and indeed there are a few interesting tidbits. Before the less important stuff though, let’s talk about the one major takeaway:

When a Delta award is booked with or without a 15% off discount, it maintains that state through all changes no matter what.

-MEAB, prolly

That is, if you booked an award flight before the discount was in effect, or if you booked an award flight without a linked Delta credit card, no amount of finagling will make 15% off appear on that reservation. Phone agents, the mobile app, chat representatives, and the desktop website will never allow a change to the reservation that reflects a 15% discount if it wasn’t there already. The converse is also true which leaves some play space for gamers.

That means when you’re repricing award tickets booked prior to last week, you should reprice with a new booking rather than trying to change the existing reservation.

The Details

Alright, now on to some of the finer points I’ve stumbled upon:

  • You don’t need to book with a Delta American Express card for a discount despite the T&C saying otherwise; in fact you don’t even need to use an American Express at all
  • If you cancel the ticket for some of the members in a reservation, the remaining members keep the lower price through changes even if the primary card-holder is no longer on the reservation
  • If a cardholder books a ticket for a non-cardholder, the discount still applies
  • Adding a single partner segment removes the discount completely
  • During initial booking, you’ll know if the 15% discount is showing because on both the mobile app and the website you’ll see “15% Card Member Discount Applied
  • If you forget to login until checkout, you’ll still get the discount
  • On already booked ticket changes, the desktop will still show “15% Card Member Discount Applied“, but the mobile app won’t — it still prices correctly for both though

My Rebookings

Last week I mentioned that only about 30% of my bookings had reduced award costs after the 15% off change went into effect. My number was actually much better though because I was using the app and desktop to change existing reservations, not starting a new booking. After I found my mistake, all flights more than three weeks out priced at a lower rate, and I was able to lock them in by canceling the old booking and making a new booking.

Good luck, and happy Monday!

Delta’s new car-service awards aren’t pricing at 15% off, but that’s probably because 15% * $0.00 = $0.00 or something.

  1. Hilton has targeted status extensions for current elite members, most requiring a single night stay in the next two months for status extension through March of 2024. You can check to see if you’re eligible at one of the following links:


    Thanks to AirDreamer2 who initially posted the UK variant of this promotion.
  2. DoC notes that there’s now a public landing page for the targeted $200 sign-up bonus after $1,000 in spend for the Synchrony Venmo credit card.

    Normally I wouldn’t care about a $200 sign-up bonus from a second tier bank, but Synchrony is special because reasons which makes this card interesting, even more so with any sign-up bonus.
  3. United has a promotion running through tomorrow for $75 off of round-trip flights to Europe, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Dubai, or Amman in Economy or $250 off of round-trip flights in Business Class. When booking using promo code VACAYABROAD for the discount, which sounds to me like something Rory Culkin would say. The code covers travel between February 1 and May 17.
  4. MEAB Public Service Announcement: I’ve gotten a continuous stream of reports about 99 employee card offers on various American Express business cards since mid-last year; the party’s still on friends.

Happy Wednesday!

A passenger models the complimentary international economy United Amenity kit.


In what has become an annual MEAB tradition for three years in a row (and trust me, if I do something three years in a row it’s a Ron Burgundy style “kind of a big deal”), it’s time for another installment of Travel Hacking as Told by GIFs, but without Ron Burgundy.

Previous versions:

As a certain prolific human wrecking ball and worlds fastest beta tester likes to tell me, LFG!

The GIFs

Getting ready for the MEAB 2022 Travel Hacking as told by GIFs post.

We started the year with most American Express business cards offering bonuses of up to $200 per card or 20,000 Membership Rewards per card, up to 99 times. Yes, it was a huge bonus, but we had to prepare for a bunch of small talk and impatiently waiting while a phone rep adds 99 variations of your name to your account.

Pictured: 99 AU cards with your name on them (go ahead and count, I’ll wait).

Mastercardgiftcard.com turned out to be a great way to hit minimum spend American Express cards for a chunk of the year, at least until they started charging cash advances, illustrated here.

The silent response when MEAB geeked out with the Monty Hall problem applied to flights.

Chase drops the bonus for pay yourself back categories from 50% to 25% on the Chase Sapphire Reserve (probably) due to massive abuse and gaming.

After Southwest’s epic meltdown, we get to see their operations staff working on their computer crew optimizer in real time.

Plastiq announces that they’re going public via the Colonnade SPAC, and then produces a commercial outlining their 2023 business plans.

When a manufactured spender successfully executes an AmEx triple dip.

American Express tries to convince us that this year’s Q4 referral bonus with +4x on travel and transit spend isn’t lame. We still remember the better 2021 4-for-us and best 2020 3-for-all variants of the offer.

Delta and Starbucks partner up, and mainstream bloggers see yet another 10 page puff piece in their future.

Capital One sees American Express with all the giant 250,000 point sign-up bonuses and decides it’s time to play ball. Then, American Express responds.

Nearside’s 2.2% cashback everywhere debit card announces by email that it’s shutting down.

A few hours later, Nearside emails everyone and says “J/K, J/K, we’re fine”

Kroger’s inner crazy-monologue sends itself a message about wiping out fuel points accounts, and then does it.

We watch as the Unsung Hero Synchrony Rakuten card slowly dies.

Brex decides that it’s going to focus on only large businesses and leaves everyone else high and dry.

Marriotts in Japan welcome their most loyal guests when tourism reopened in October.

Delta announces that they’re getting rid of the CRJ-200s from their fleet, and provides video of the final torture-tube flight.

Travel hackers look for Lubbock on the world map for some reason.

Kroger starts replacing US Bank gift cards with Metabank gift cards.

Southwest’s reservation system stops taking calls due to random equipment failures.

Trying to place orders at Dell looks great, until your order is cancelled after it’s confirmed.

We react to PayPal key going away.

J and F flyers realize what’s going to happen to award space now that Emirates awards can be booked with Air Canada Aeroplan miles.

MEAB prepares for the 2022 Travel Hacking as told by GIFs early in the year to make it easy later, and then face-plants via procrastination as the year moves on.

Thanks for reading friends! Just like Tanya in the White Lotus Season 2, I’m sure only good things are to come at MEAB!

MEAB is here with the real questions for you this year, like: “What if Manufactured Spend, Loyalty, and Travel hacking companies were Vice Presidents?” Hard hitting stuff I know! Also, it’s slow during the last week of the year so I guess let’s go:

Happy Thursday!

MEAB’s official 2022 tee-shirt.


One key skill for travel-hacking, churning, and manufactured spend is to understand the nuance of terms and conditions to find an opening that you can plow right through. For airline travel hacking in particular, when you’re maximizing things like: mileage earning, elite qualification, same day changes, checked bags, upgrade certificates, and fuel dumps, you need to understand the three types of carrier associated with your ticket because they all play into the maximization game in a different way.

Carrier Types

The three types:

  • Marketing carrier: The airline marketed as flying the route (the carrier named on your boarding pass)
  • Operating carrier: The airline actually flying the route (the name of the carrier on the airframe registration and safety cards)
  • Ticketing carrier: The airline issuing a ticket (the carrier that issued the ticket, determined by the first three numbers of your ticket)


It’s possible to have a ticket where all three of these are the same, and it’s possible to have a ticket where all three are different. A few examples:

Making it Real

A few hints about how this can be useful:

  • Travel banks might only work on one or two carriers, but flight credits work on others
  • You may earn many more miles or status dollars by booking the a flight with a different marketing or ticketing carrier than operating carrier
  • Lounge access can be tied to ticketing carrier or marketing carrier
  • Airfare surcharge rules can be tied to the country in which a ticketing carrier or operating carrier is based

Happy hacking!

Pictured: The three types of taco in a proper hard-shell taco meal.

  1. Somehow I missed posting the giant Public brokerage sign-up bonus that works even for existing account holders and runs through December 31. You have to transfer non-retirement account equities, and a cash deposit won’t work. The bonus tiers:

    – $150 bonus for $5,000 transferred
    – $500 bonus for $25,000 transferred
    – $2,000 bonus for $100,000 transferred
    – $5,000 bonus for $500,000 transferred
    – $10,000 bonus for $1,000,000 transferred

    You have to keep the equities or the proceeds from their sale at Public for six months or you risk a bonus clawback. I’m conflicted about what to do with this one because public doesn’t support options, margins, forex, mutual funds, or bonds. (Thanks to Mark S for noting the lack of a post)
  2. Redditor professor_doom shares a great tip for making the airbnb booking process sane: Do all of your searches from airbnb.com.au to see a total booking price including cleaning fees, service fees, and resort fees from the main page.
  3. There’s a Chase Offers and BankAmeriDeals offer for 10% back up to $47.50, or 15% back up to $67.50 back with Alaska Airlines. You can game these without even playing the break the correlation to game or being a Jedi. (Thanks to DoC)
  4. A few updates on the yesterday’s Chase Sapphire Reserve 80,000 Ultimate Rewards vs Ink Preferred 100,000 Ultimate Rewards hot-take based on your feedback:

    – If you have access to a targeted 80,000 Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus and are below 5/24, the heightened Reserve bonus is probably above the line for a Modified Double Dip

    – If you’re 3/24 or below and haven’t had a Sapphire bonus in the last 48 months, yes, it could make sense to get both this card and an Ink Preferred. Follow-up question though: Are you missing out on other bonuses by being that low, could you be doing more?

    – The Reserve has a $4,000 spend requirement, while the Ink Preferred has a $15,000 spend requirement. If you don’t have easy access to $15,000 in spend, the Reserve is an easier win. Follow-up question: Can you get access to more spend?

Forget “Three For Thursday”, bring on “Quadsday”. Actually never mind, I didn’t think that one through.

The Hyatt late checkout benefit is a favorite, but often problematic benefit for exactly one reason: According to my, erm, “completely scientific” measurements, housekeeping will knock on the door and sometimes even enter your room way before your late-checkout time 147.1% of the time. The Flyertalk threads about late checkout confirm this measurement, making it even more, erm, “completely scientific”.

Recently I found a nice solution to knock that percentage way down, possibly to zero:

Put a sticky note over the keycard reader that says “4:00 PM Checkout” (“16.00 Checkout” if you’re outside the US and therefore don’t operate on freedom time).

I’ve never been to a hotel front desk that didn’t have a stack of sticky notes at every station at the front desk, so you probably don’t even need to pack your own set.

Happy Tuesday!

Now you can make sure the housekeeping staff has had plenty of time to caffeinate before they discover this nonsense.