It’s follow-up time:

1. Pavel wrote to let me know that if you’ve gotten attached to one of your burner phone numbers and want to keep it for a while, there’s a great deal at eBay for RedTalk mobile. You’ll be able to port in your number and have service for a year for a total of $30. Porting to Google Voice would cost less, but for most cell phone burner purposes Google Voice is a non-starter because they detect and prevent direct VOIP phone number use.

2. BlueCat previously let us know about the Chase Private Client Arts and Culture Program as a strong benefit that comes with Chase Private Client, but it sounds like that program is ending. That means the principle value of Private Client is once again a debit card that says “Private Client”.

3. Delta extended flexible travel bookings through April 30, so yesterday’s Housekeeping item about locking in bookings while the flexible window is open is still an option on Delta. You’ve got time to plan — things that you may want to book while you’ve got flexible cancellation: Summer vacation, Fall Break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas travel.

4. AmEx sent another round of Membership Rewards for adding authorized users to your card. Look for an email with the subject “NAME, you’re about to miss out on 20,000 Membership Rewards® points. Add Card Members now.” Mine came on a Personal Platinum card and requires $2,000 spend within six months for the bonus. You can try this link, it doesn’t seem to be specific to me.

Remember how “and burn” is part of this blog’s title? Let’s talk about burning at least once today:

  • Southwest is offering 20% off of Rapid Rewards mileage redemption for flights booked by Mar 25 with promo code SAVENOW. You must travel by April 30.
  • If you want to travel in May or June instead (or, in April if the fares are still too high), hurry and book the cheapest fare between roughly May 10 and May 31, then move it ± 30 days while the current free change window is open, just keep the city pairs the same. When this window is open all changes can be made online, no need to call. It will probably be gone tomorrow.

It is of course a shame that the dates for the above two offers don’t overlap.

An image of a dark haired teenage girl in a black Nirvana cap and a red shirt with mascara lines from recent crying running down her cheeks.
How the lack of overlap in the above two date windows makes me feel.

Via Reddit, there’s currently a 40% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy points. My initial reaction was basically “Bonvoy’s gonna #Bonvoy, this stinks”, but Robert at Milenomics pointed out a hidden point of value in Marriott program: 2,400 Bonvoy points converts to 1,000 JAL Mileage Bank points. Why is this interesting?

  • JAL Business Class awards from North America to Japan are 50,000 miles each way on non-peak days
  • You can book seats further out with JAL Mileage Bank then you can with partners
  • JAL often gives better award availability to its own mileage program than it gives to partners
  • The JAL #Bonvoy backdoor costs approximately 85,000 Membership Rewards and has very low surcharges and increased availability
  • The most inexpensive way to get to JAL award tickets are with AA and Alaska, neither of which are AmEx transfer partners; BA is an option but will usually end up costing more in terms of miles and surcharges. Cathay’s Asia Miles are decent for AmEx partners too, but availability is less and booking windows are shorter

But the best reason to do this? You’ll actually extract value out of the Marriott program. Remember, it’s probably not the best choice for your loyalty.

Side note: It’s really silly and hard to type “Bonvoy points”, so, can we just collectively agree to rename them to Bonvoints?

A Google search bar with the word 'bonvoyed' entered, and suggestions for:

bonvoyed meaning
bonvoyed twitter
marriott bonvoy
getting bonvoyed
It genuinely makes me happy that bonvoyed is becoming a term with interesting search predictions, and the actual program phrase is fourth on the list.

I’ve had quite a few conversations about Cell Phone Burners and Travel Hacking, and I wanted to share a few points and some feedback:

  • Reader BlueCat ran into an error while registering Ting SIM cards with a strange error message about service availability in his area. If you hit this, try using an address in NYC, LA, or somewhere else. You’re not actually planning on using the service, right? So who cares where you register it.
  • BlueCat also notes that rather than an address issue, perhaps strange error messages about compatibility means “try a different burner cell phone”.
  • Another reader, Yun, has 10 separate Visible Mastercards maturing. Don’t be afraid to scale up this deal.
  • Ting SIM card packs come with a bundle of two SIM cards, one for GSM and one for CDMA networks. I bought a scratch & dent Google Pixel 3 that works on every US network, and that works with both SIM cards in the pack too. You can double your throughput with the right phone.
  • Worth mentioning again, because it’s silly and obscure. Reader Katie discovered that without a password set, you won’t get Port Out info on the Ting website.

Happy burning!

An aeroflot plane engulfed in flames.
No, no, no! I meant happy cell phone burning, don’t burn your aircraft.

There’s a fair amount of airline related news that’s happened in the last 24 hours:

1. United is offering 25% off of Economy Plus upgrade fees with the code LEGROOM25 for travel through April 11. You must book by March 7. If you asked me (which I know you didn’t), it’s not worth paying for the upgrade unless it’s less than $10 or your flight is longer than 4 hours.

2. Southwest has a decent fare sale that ends today. Fares start at $29. If you book for late April through early June, you’ll probably be able to change it in a week when the Southwest “switch to any other flight between the same two cities” trick comes back. Update: The trick is back again, at least for portions of April. You may be able to use the fare sale to book the cheapest fare and switch to Memorial Day Weekend.

3. Delta Air Lines is now showing certificate upgrade availability on its booking pages when you’re logged in and if you have a certificate in your account. They’ve also changed their T&Cs so that you can use upgrade certificates on award travel. That potentially makes Global Upgrade Certificates (GUCs) ridiculously valuable for Diamond members and their close friends.

They’re also extending GUCs and RUCs (Regional Upgrade Certificates) that have recently expired or will expire soon through December 31, 2021. I may actually be able to use those GUCs I selected for 2020 that expired earlier this year. Huzzah!

Pictured: Airplane news.

Starting tomorrow, a bunch of Marriott hotels are going up in point cost because reasons. Speculatively book any potential upcoming hotel stays today to avoid further Marriott suckitude.

While we’re chatting about Marriott, let me just add that if you’re big in the Bonvoy program, maybe take stock and see if another less punitive hotel loyalty program would work for you. The program is awful, but I do get why some stick with it: Inertia is hard to overcome, Marriott has a (usually low end) property everywhere, and you like what you know, but trust me — the Lubbock, TX Courtyard is not the peak of travel. And it certainly shouldn’t be in the same league as a 5,000 point Hyatt Place.

You can do better, and you can change your loyalty right now. No snark, just an honest plea to make sure you’re where you want to be and that you’re sure that what you’re doing makes sense for you.

Actual happy Marriott elite on Trip Advisor.

1. Do this now: Register for Hyatt Bonus Journeys Q2, 2021. There’s lots of meaningless fluff content out there about this one, but just register for it and be done. Don’t let it sway your hotel stay patterns because it’s not that valuable, but it runs through June 15th so you’ve got time to hit it if you were already staying in Hyatts:

  • 2,000 points per two nights, or 2,500 for World of Hyatt card holders
  • Category 1-4 certificate after staying ten nights

2. Southwest’s book the cheapest fare and change to any other flights at no charge between the same city-pairs is back for, let’s say “smarch” through “Mapril”. The exact dates aren’t known, but it looks like the current iteration doesn’t have the usual ±30 day restrictions. So a cheap flight booked in late Smarch can be switched to an early fall flight this time around. For a bit more on the procedure, see Spring Break, Southwest Style. April 21 is a known working date, by the way.

3.Watch for fee-free Staples Visa gift cards Sunday February 28 – Saturday March 6. Use an ink for 5x, and have a backup liquidation other than Walmart in store money orders. Hint: There are still a few ways to liquidate these with Walmart.

An image of the continental US with a temperature gradient ranging in temperatures from -10 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Also, it sucks to spell fahrenheit.
Lousy Smarch weather.

This isn’t exactly a secret, but it’s not well socialized either. Thanks initially to the 737-MAX grounding and now due to COVID waivers, periodically Southwest Airlines lets you change to any flight ± 30 days when you book within certain windows. (I’m not sure they want to do this, but they run an archaic computer system and it’s what they can do without breaking it.)

The play is to find the cheapest award or cash booking on a ticket you want to fly, book it, then change to the actual itinerary you want within 30 days for no additional points or cash. (Book SLC-SAN at 4:30 AM on a Saturday for 4,008 points, then change it to Monday at 5:00 PM.) You can do this online, no need to talk to an agent.

Currently, the booking window for free ± 30 days changes is February 11 through March 5, 2021, so you can fly cheap between January 11 and April 7. Yes, Southwest flies to Florida too, sorry.

Vintage NEC computer from the 1960s with relays, knobs, a printer, and tape spools.
Southwest Airlines’ Amadeus Computer Reservation System (circa 2020).