And while I can’t totally abandon Ultimate Rewards (for access to United Airlines, British Airways, and Hyatt), I’ve been thinking of award flights where collecting Citi ThankYou points instead of Ultimate Rewards might actually make more sense.
Tag Archives for membership rewards.
- Dear Amex: DIAF!
- American Express Vs. Chase: Why Chase Is Winning
- Booking Barcelona: $747 Round-trip in AA Business Class
- Citi Offers to Compete With AMEX Offers “Soon”
And, bye EveryDay Preferred, hello ThankYou Premier?
Recently, I’ve seriously been pondering why it is I hang on to my AMEX cards.
I’ve had at least 2 since 2012, and haven’t accumulated enough points to actually do much.
Membership Rewards… meh.
- Booking Dublin: Hotels
- Just booked: IAD-ATL-DUB-ATL-IAD in May for $223 R/T A/I!
- What is Club Carlson Visa’s annual 40K Gold Points bonus worth?
Major change of plans is more like it.
Thanks to The Points Guy, I caught wind that an award I’d long had my eye on, BOS-DUB in business class on Aer Lingus, was widely available for booking with Avios points.
The good news: it still is.
I immediately transferred over some Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards (I love combining them when I can and British Airways is perfect for that – so is Singpore) to my British Airways account, and called in to book my dates.
Throughout April and May, and possibly into the summer months, award availability is peppered here and there.
That screen shot was taken just now. There are still some flights out there.
The best way to book this is by checking availability on the United website, then by calling British Airways to book over the phone.
I called them post Avios-hack (to change a different set of flights), and my hold time was less than 5 minutes. In fact, I was all booked and set up with flights in under 15 minutes (pre-Avios hack).
If you’re interested in booking, you have either one month or when availability runs out, beginning today. The Avios program is changing on April 28th, and this particular award will go from 50K round-trip in business to 75K, which is a pretty staggering change.
I’ve been interested in experiencing Aer Lingus business class, and visiting Ireland, for a very long time, so it’s all very serendipitous.
But what about the Delta flights?
Of course I had a pretty severe schedule change with Delta.
I was willing to get down to DC to take advantage of an awesome fare that Delta had earlier this year. I was even thinking I could spend a day or two in DC, maybe catch the tail-end of the cherry blossoms. But when the Aer Lingus award availability came around, I was then willing to get myself to Boston, and am now thinking of spending a day there instead.
I called Delta and explained that I had a schedule change of over 4 hours, and that those times no longer work for me – could I please cancel and get a refund? They immediately canceled the ticket and said to expect a refund in 5-7 business days. Awesome. So those are done.
It was a great deal, but then again, so is the Avios redemption on Aer Lingus, and even more so now that it’s time-sensitive.
The 2 round-trip flights would’ve been over $10,000 had I paid for them. Instead, I got nearly 11 cents per point of value by booking with Avios. An incredible deal – get on it if you can!
Getting to Boston
- Amex Premier Rewards Gold Vs. EveryDay Preferred
- American Express Refer a Friend is back / Call for referrals
This was my first Amex experience where I was NOT instantly approved. In fact, I was straight up DENIED for the Amex EveryDay Preferred card.
I didn’t take a screen shot of the “denied” decision page because I was kind of shocked and didn’t think to do it. But yes, it said I would receive a letter in the mail… and all that yada yada.
This was to be my sixth Amex card, and the fourth issued directly from Amex (I have the Platinum Card, the Premier Rewards Gold, and Delta Platinum SkyMiles cards). Recently, I’ve been thinking of closing the PRG and/or Delta card because I really don’t use them all that much. I’d need to spend at least $30K on the PRG to make it worthwhile, and you all know how I feel about Delta by now.
Yes, another one (following the recent Kohl’s card).
The Amex EveryDay cards weren’t supposed to be live until April 2nd, but for whatever reason, they went ahead and released them early. I’ve been considering dumping one (or two) of my Amex cards after getting screwed out of Membership Rewards bonuses multiple times which caused me to wish Amex to DIAF.
I’ve decided to give them another chance due to this long overdue and solid entry into the premium card market, which pits them directly against my beloved Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which I just decided to keep for another year.
About the Amex EveryDay Preferred card
This card is truly set up to be an “everyday” card for daily spend. Their marketing people are geniuses. The card earns full Membership Rewards point which are fully transferable to 17 air and hotel partners. The signup bonus is a modest 15,000 Amex Membership points at the time of writing, which, who knows, maybe I’ll actually get this time.
I’m not using the Premier Rewards Gold card as much as I thought I would. Yes, it earns 3 points/dollar for airfare, but the other categories really aren’t much to write home about. The card is truly only worth keeping if you spend $30K in a year, which earns you a bonus 15,000 points.
So I’m glad they’ve put out a new card with a new new points earning structure:
- 3x at grocery stores
- 2x at gas stations
- 1x everywhere else
That’s all fine and good. The kicker is that you get 50% more points if you use the card 30 times or more in a month. And you can track your progress on the mobile app and website. This forces you to constantly interact with the product to make sure you get the bonus each month. How smart is that?! I know I will be checking to make sure I get that bonus. It brings the spend categories to:
- 4.5x at grocery stores
- 3x at gas stations
- 1.5 everywhere else
That is a wonderful earning structure.
By following our axiom of getting 2 cents of value out of every point or mile, we will effectively get this rate of return:
- 9% back at grocery stores
- 6% back at gas stations
- 3% back everywhere else
That gives this card the best rate of return for travel in the industry. And yet, I don’t see it, personally, as a competitor to the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The CSP’s big categories are 2x points (4% cash back) at restaurants and on travel purchases, which makes these two cards unlikely complements of each other. Between the new Amex EveryDay Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, I’ve got a solid earning strategy for daily spend. But, the Barclay Arrival card is STILL valid thanks to its ease of earning, great shopping portal, free TripIt Pro, and really cool online community.
Overall, this is a very, very good thing and a welcome addition to the credit card market. The more, the merrier in this case.
I will be sure to post more thoughts as I begin to use and interact with the card and the app. But for now, very glad I got this one. It holds a lot of potential.
Words cannot explain the hateration I feel for this company right now.
I often reference how I’ve been jipped out of numerous signup bonuses. Now a card I never applied for (the Platinum Card) is due for renewal with its hefty $450 a year. I DO use the benefits. All the time. I love being SPG gold, visit the airport lounges often, got free Global Entry, and have booked hotels through Fine Hotels & Resorts. I love flashing that little Platinum Card or Priority Pass Select Card and getting into the lounges, and very much look forward the new Centurion Lounge on an upcoming flight to DFW. In short, I get more than $450 of value out of this card each year.
So I was curious when they sent me an email to call a “special number” to call. In short, in said:
Please call us at 1-800-452-3944 from 8am to 11pm ET Monday–Sunday to discuss how you can get more value from American Express. This special phone number is available exclusively for select Platinum Card® members like you.
I called them and told them how bitter I was for always getting screwed out of signup bonuses. I explained to the agent that I’d missed out on 150,000 Membership Rewards points (100,000 for Platinum and 50,000 for PRG). She checked and said she could offer me 6,000 points as consolation. 6,000? I asked her. 6,000, she confirmed. Which is basically nothing. That’s IT?! I asked her. “I’m very sorry. That’s all I’m authorized to offer you at this time.”
So I basically told her to fuck off (I didn’t cuss at her FYI – just said that was a terrible offer and hung up).
Flash forward to today. I was researching how to book ANA partner flights for a post about using Membership Rewards points, but couldn’t get the option to “activate” on the ANA site because I had a zero balance. I’ll transfer over some MR points, I thought. But I only have about 8,000 of them. The minimum transfer is 1,000 points, so I would’ve lost 1/8 of them just to access ANA bookings. Then I thought, maybe they’ll still give me those 6,000 points.
I called them again, explained it all again. The agent said there’s no record of any of that in my account, but that she’d “make a note.” So there’s nothing you can do?, I asked. Nothing, she replied. I sighed. And thought how much I fucking hate Amex. And how many “notes” there must be on my account because they are somehow NEVER able to help me or provide good customer service. Then I hung up on her.
I know people LOVE Amex and the Membership Rewards program. I do love my accidental Platinum Card, although I feel like it’s a stepchild I never wanted that is actually pretty awesome. And the MR program has its sweets spots, to be sure. But I’d much rather deal with, talk to, redeem, earn, use Ultimate Rewards points – any day. Amex, from my POV, is a seriously lagging and regressive organization that is resting on their laurels is a huge way. Their cards are expensive, their points are “meh” (to me), the customer service is beyond lousy (I love that word), and they got rid of their shopping portal, making it that much harder to earn MR points. Compare that to Chase: reasonable annual fees, valuable points currency, AMAZING customer service, great shopping portal…
OK, ending rant now. Hope this was useful or constructive in some way… to someone… Continuing to think Amex should DIAF… *sighz*
[This post is meant as an broad overview, not an in-depth look into each individual program.]
When it comes to traveling to Europe, which points program has better offerings: Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards?
Let’s compare redemptions popular European destinations to see which one comes out on top.
Before we begin though, let’s assume we want the best value for our money overall (points or miles + surcharges) and we want to fly in economy. Here are each program’s airline transfer partners that fly to Europe.
British Airways and United are the front runners here.
Now to the good stuff!
I picked Paris because it’s a pretty common European destination. What’s availability like with Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards partners?
With Ultimate Rewards:
Go ahead and throw out Virgin Atlantic since they don’t fly to Paris (they’d be great if we wanted to go to London). Throw out British Airways unless you want to pay the fuel surcharges they impose. The best option in this program for this redemption is United, by far.
I like how United always shows how much an itinerary would have cost if purchased. I like to always make sure I’m getting at least 2 cents of value out of each points. This redemption meets that criteria at 2.5 cents/point. Not much over, but if I really wanted to take this trip, I’d feel good about redeeming at the given rate.
With Membership Rewards:
So many choices: Delta, Aeroplan, ANA, Iberia… this could go a number of different ways.
We can go ahead and throw out Delta. Their new award chart recently devalued and would now costs 60,000 miles. Not bad, same as United, but we can do better.
Aeroplan offers flights in economy for 60,000 miles round-trip, too, but their fuel surcharges can be prohibitive. Throw them out, too.
That leaves ANA and Flying Blue, the program of… Air France. Logic would lead you to believe that Air France would be the best way to get to Paris, right? Let’s narrow this down a bit more.
Sounds pretty reasonable!
Alright, 50,000 miles + $257 isn’t terrible. At this point, it’s between Air France and United, with its price of 60,000 miles + $166. Is it worth it to pay $91 to keep 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points? Since 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth .02 each, or $200, the answer is YES. Air France (Membership Rewards) is winning!
Can ANA have a come-from-behind victory? Even if not, Membership Rewards is the way to go here.
ANA has a distance-based reward award. JFK-CDG is 3,635 miles.
We can see JFK-CDG would be just 22,000 miles each way, or 44,000 round-trip, already saving 6,000 Membership Rewards points over Air France’s 50,000 miles. ANA does NOT charge fuel surcharges on US Airways flights, so for 44,000 miles and a small copay, you could be on your way to Paris!
WINNER: Membership Rewards
With Ultimate Rewards, the best award redemption we could find was on United for 60,000 UR points. With Membership Rewards, the best award we could find was on ANA for 44,000 MR points. By flying on Star Alliance partners through ANA, we save ourselves 16,000 points, which is pretty nice!
This is only ONE example of potentially hundreds. It all depends on availability, surcharges, and your own personal preferences. This example goes to show that it’s good to have a few different points currencies for all the various award tickets that are out there. As always, do what makes me most sense for you and be sure to really dig into the details of your preferred program as there are always little tricks and tips that can get you even MORE value out of them, and, to quote Million Miles Secrets (one of my favorite blogs)- travel BIG with SMALL money! 🙂
So today I worked up enough energy to call Amex about the odd number of Membership Rewards on my first Premier Rewards Gold statement.
To recap, I spent $1,083 – enough to hopefully trigger the signup bonus for getting the card, even though I technically didn’t qualify for it, per the T&C.
I was expecting to get 1,083 Membership Rewards points this month. But then I noticed I had 2,221 pending points and called an agent for an exact points breakdown. Here’s where it got interesting.
I had only five charges on my first statement:
But apparently, I earned triple points for the online purchases, including for Amazon Payments.
Line by line:
- BirchBox: $20 – 60 MR (3/dollar)
- EZ Laundry $10.49 – 10 MR (1/dollar)
- Amazon Payments $500 – 1500 MR (3/dollar)
- CVS (Vanilla Reload card) – $503.95 – 504 MR (1/dollar)
- Fab.com $49 – 147 MR (3/dollar)
Totals: $1083.44 – 2,221 MR points
Bizarre, right? I asked if that was some sort of special spend category, as none of it was airfare, gas, or groceries – and should have only generated 1 point per dollar spent.
The agent told me that because I had a Platinum Card, the Premier Rewards Gold card was generating three points per dollar with all of my online shopping – including for Amazon Payments.
I asked for more details about this. Was it all online shopping? Was it a new category? A special promotion? The agent had no answers other than all of my Membership Rewards points were now included in the Membership Rewards First program because of having the Platinum Card.
Even still, this could be really beneficial, as I shop online a lot. BirchBox and Fab.com are “deal” sites, and Amazon Payments I use for paying back friends or generating spend on new cards. I wonder if this will continue, and for how long. I’ll keep an eye on it, as this is a totally new spend category I didn’t know about until I called today.
The agent also said the category was added as part of the promo I got when I applied through creditcards.com. He also said – knock on wood – that I’d be getting the signup bonus next month of 50,000 Membership Rewards points!
He also specifically said I would get triple points on all shopping through Amazon.com.
I don’t know why or how, but I’m surprised at this newest development with the MR program.
Anyone else noticed this? Surely I’m not the only one.
Quite simply: signup bonuses with no BS.
I’ve been hating on Amex a lot lately, and with good reason. I now have four Amex cards, three with Amex as the actual issuing bank, and with two of those three, I’ve had to make numerous phone calls, write emails, and send tweets to their support team about not getting a signup bonus. After a lot of back and forth, they usually award me a fraction of what I missed out on as “good will”, but it always leaves a bad taste behind and is like pulling freaking teeth with them.
In my opinion, if an Amex cardmember holds the Platinum Card, their most premium card offering with a hefty $450 annual fee, any other cards should automatically come with an enhanced signup bonus. Something extra. Instead, we see this sentiment in a lot of the T&C:
What?! Why? That’s so stupid to punish people for wanting to open more cards. This is where Chase excels.
They have a few cards that feed into their Ultimate Rewards program the same way Amex has multiple cards that can be linked to Membership Rewards. But Chase doesn’t impose rules on signup bonuses with multiple cards. You can get a Freedom, a Sapphire, an Ink, and whatever else you want to get and get the FULL bonus on all of them. If anything ever goes awry, just give them a call and it’s taken care of almost instantly.
Not with Amex. They’re notorious for their Financial Reviews and for not awarding bonuses… at all. They’re also really slow and claim to have to “research” your claim. Not only that, but their Membership Rewards program has lost a few key transfer partners in the past couple of years, along with a few other consumer unfriendly changes while Ultimate Rewards continues to improve.
There are a few sweet spots with Membership Rewards. For me, it’s the British Airways Avios. They’re a transfer partner for both Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, which is pretty fantastic. Membership Rewards also transfer instantly to Delta, which would help me out a LOT with my dream trip to Australia if Amex would ever give me the points I deserve as a customer and card holder.
It goes beyond this, though. It’s about how the customer starts to view the company after a while. I’ve been screwed over by them a few times by now to the point where I’m thinking of switching all my spend over to Chase and giving Amex the finger. I wish it weren’t like this, though. Delta is pretty much forcing their customers to have a co-branded Amex to avoid the upcoming dreaded MQD component of the SkyMiles program, and I love having lounge access with the Platinum Card. But Chase always treats me so right while Amex continues to kick me to the proverbial curb.
So to Chase, I’d say keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working, and it’s so great. I have such a positive association with the company at this point. And Amex. Oh, Amex. Step up your game, because you’re getting your butt beat. I look forward to the day where I’m down to just the Platinum Card. In fact, Delta’s bid for more revenue is kinda sorta slowly driving me over toward American. But that’s a post for another day, and that post will be highly speculative.
When I think of Chase: I trust them, like them, want more of them.
When I think of Amex: Starting to shudder, need energy to deal with them, apprehensive about continuing to use their products. TOO. BAD.
Winner = Chase, hands down. Thoughts, anyone?
So my newest batch of pathetic Membership Rewards points have posted following the acquisition of the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card during my recent app-o-rama. Even though the T&C clearly stated I wouldn’t get the bonus because I already have the Platinum Card, I, like a fool, didn’t read it and got the card anyway. To be clear, it was completely my fault for not being more thorough. But, I thought there might be a glimmer of a chance that the signup bonus would post somehow, so I went ahead and met the $1,000 minimum spend on the card.
In fact, I spent $1,083 on the card during the first month.
OK. So the spend was not on ANY reward categories. I sent $500 thru Amazon Payments and got a $500 Vanilla Reload card at CVS. The other stuff was online subscriptions. No airfare, gas, or groceries. So I should’ve gotten 1,083 Membership Rewards points, right?
Here’s where it gets weird.
I have no idea how I’m getting 2,221 Membership Rewards points. Unless CVS counts as a grocery store somehow? I’ll definitely call Amex when I have more energy, but I want a breakdown of how that worked out. I was, admittedly, a little disappointed it wasn’t 52,221 points. I will try to request the bonus anyway, even though I know Amex are stingy little bitches with retroactive signup bonuses. They should give MORE of a signup bonus for opening another card as a Platinum Cardmember, not less (or none!). Grrr.
Looks like I will never accrue a decent amount of Membership Rewards points. Not this year, anyway. I should probably go ahead and cancel this stupid card. I definitely will after I get that free $25 credit for Small Business Sunday in November. After that, I’ll chuck it. I plan on putting the bulk of my spend this year on the British Airways Visa. I want those Avios. And by the time I meet that spend, I know Amex will slam that $175 annual fee right down. So I basically got 2,000 points for getting this card.
I much prefer Chase as a credit card company at this point. They have so many amazing cards, and are so good about giving out their signup bonuses. In fact, Amex has really been letting their credit cards go downhill a lot lately. At any rate, it makes one wonder… *le sigh*
Ugh, American Express just looooves to screw me out of bonuses. I recently got the Premier Rewards Gold card which comes now with a nice bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards points after only $1,000 of spend in the first three months. BUT! It’s not available if you already have a Green, Gold, or Platinum card. And I have the Platinum Card. It was right there in the terms and conditions the entire time. I guess that’s what I get for doing an app-o-rama while half drunk – OK, really drunk – on tequila. This isn’t the first time I’ve been screwed out of a bonus. Here’s why: I never actually applied for the Platinum Card. That’s right. I called to upgrade my Gold Delta card to a Platinum Delta card. Guess what came in the mail? Yep. And there was no signup bonus attached to it.
I bitched and bitched, called and emailed, and bitched some more to the point where I’m sure I’m on some sort of blacklist with Amex. I kept the card in the end because I had a big trip coming up with two friends and thought the free lounge access would be nice. Plus I wanted the airline credits and Global Entry… eventually. Basically, I wanted the card, but didn’t want it then. But I kept it as I’d already taken the ding on my credit report. I also still have the Gold Delta card. Go figure. You’d think that they’d offer MORE of a bonus for getting another card when you already have the Platinum Card, not less (or nothing!). I’m sorta hoping they give me the bonus for the Premier Rewards Gold card anyway. What’s the likelihood of that happening? Yes, I should’ve read the T&C more closely before I got all trigger-happy. But this is the second Amex bonus I’ve lost. It especially burns knowing that the Platinum Card recently had a 100,000 MR bonus. I’m sorta thinking of just canceling both cards for a year and starting all over from scratch. I don’t want a business version of either card, nor do I want to pay those hefty annual fees with no bonus to offset it. And of course Amex won’t match a public offer or award some goodwill points.
Good thing I’ve had MUCH better luck with Chase. Totally open to thoughts/opinions on this. Just burns me so bad to lose out on 150,000 MR points between these two cards. That’s R/T biz class to Australia! I’ll end this one the way it began: UGH.
On the evening of February 22, 2013, I had a little too much tequila and decided to do an app-o-rama. Not the best idea ever, as I caused myself to miss out on yet ANOTHER Amex bonus by not paying close enough attention to the T&C. I think I was little nervous about applying for three cards in one night.
I would’ve applied for four, but I’m sorta between jobs/projects right now and didn’t want to push it with the minimum spend requirements. Here’s what I ended up getting:
- 50,000 Avios after spending $1,000 within three months
- 25,000 more Avios after spending $10,000 in the first year
- 25,000 MORE Avios after spending $20,000 in the first year
Why I got it:
- No foreign transaction fees
- Smart Chip Technology
- Great earning structure: 2.5 Avios/dollar on BA and 1.25 on everything else. Pretty fantastic.
- Avios are GREAT for short-haul trips under 650 miles – only 4,500 Avios each way in economy. But for short flights of ~2 hours, I couldn’t care less about class of service. This is great for visiting Montreal, Toronto, Boston, and other cities in the near-Northeast region. And it’s only 7,5000 Avios to Chicago (I love Chicago). They’re also great for repositioning for mileage runs (I haven’t done one… yet.) This post from Extra Pack of Peanuts has a lot of great info about the Avios program.
- 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within four months
- 2 Admirals Club lounge passes
- $150 Statement Credit on American Airlines
Why I got it:
- To build up my AAdvantage balance
- I am thinking of switching the bulk of my flying from Delta to American
- 1 free checked bag, priority boarding, and get 10% of miles redeemed back (up to 10,000 miles per year)
- $85 annual fee is waived for the first year (so why not)
And the sore spot. The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card
got in didn’t get in on this offer:
50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 within three months
Why I wanted it:
To build up my Membership Rewards balance
It has the best earning structure of all the MR cards (three points/dollar on airfare (four if booked thru Amex Travel), two at gas stations (moot point for NYC) and grocery stores (which could encourage me to not spend so much eating out!), and one point everywhere else.
I went ahead and put $1,000 of spend on it the first day JUST TO SEE if it would trigger the bonus or not. I’m not eligible for it because I already have the Platinum Card, but whatever. Anyone know how good Amex is about blocking bonuses for this reason? It’s entirely my fault – I should’ve read the T&C more closely. I blame first app-o-rama jitters and too much tequila.
I also really wanted to pick up the Ink Plus card from Chase while I was at it, but alas. The $5,000 spend within three months was a little bit much. Plus, I’ve got a lot of spending to put on the new British Airways card to unlock the full 100,000 Avios.
So that’s it. My first app-o-rama. I was instantly approved online for all three with nice credit lines on each, which made me feel really confident about my credit health. My travel goals for this round of apps are Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Dublin, Seattle, Alaska, and eventually, Australia. I’d also LOVE to fit in Vienna/Prague sometime this summer. 🙂