Category Archives: Miles and Points News

Points and Miles News for this Week

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you all had a fabulous weekend! There is a lot going on in the points and miles world this week with some giveaways, devaluations, and special sign-up bonuses.

SPG-get-in-the-game

Starwood Preferred Guest Get in the Game Promotion: This giveaway goes through March 18, 2016, and you can enter once per day. Prizes include Starpoints, Amazon gift cards, and MLB tickets. I won 1,000 Starpoints on my first entry but then nothing since. Click here to enter and sign up for a free SPG account if you’re not already a member.

american-express-spg-referral

American Express is offering an increased sign-up bonus for their co-branded Starwood Preferred Guest card. The normal bonus is 25,000 points so this is an awesome opportunity but it expires on March 30th. Kevin and I both applied for this card back in December and used our bonus rewards to get 5 nights free at the Le Meridian in Nice, France. SPG offers the 5th night free when you use points for 4 nights at the same property. I’m estimating the value of the stay at $1,250.

If you decide to apply for this card, comment below or email me at bookedonabudget (at) gmail.com for a referral link. This isn’t required to apply but I’d be grateful since a referral gives me 5,000 points. Tip: If you and your spouse are going to apply, submit one application first. You’ll be able to set up your online account immediately after approval. Then you can send a referral to your spouse and get the 5,000 referral bonus as well.

Marriott-rewards-news

Marriott Rewards is giving away a 5 night stay and/or a Marriott bed. You can enter without being a rewards member but if you’re the lucky winner and a rewards member, you’ll get both prizes. Click Here to enter.

American Airlines devaluation

American Airlines has a devaluation coming up on March 22nd. If you have a trip on the horizon for anytime between now and March 21, 2017, it might be wise to go ahead and book with miles now. Click here for an article from The Points Guy on a breakdown of all the changes. For me personally, I think the biggest change that will affect me is the MilesSaver award dates. One of the easiest ways to save on trips is to book in the low season when reduced mileage awards are available. The new schedule reduces the dates that qualify for these reduced rewards.

As always, if you have questions about points and miles, just leave a comment below and don’t forget to request your referral link for the American Express SPG. Have a great week everybody!

The craziest thing I’ve ever done to earn hotel points…..so far.

Points and Miles enthusiasts will do some bizarre things to earn bonus points like buy things and resell them to manufacture spending for credit card points. Last week, I saw a post about someone purchasing 10 copies of Mcafee virus protection then filing for the rebate which made it practically free just to earn about 2000 points. Frankly, I don’t have that kind of time.

So when reports started surfacing that IHG’s Priceless Surprises had a loophole that would allow you to earn 47,000 points for almost nothing, I was skeptical.

IHG Rewards

I went ahead and registered for the promotion as I recommend you do with all promotions, whether you think you’ll be taking advantage of the bonus or not. I began to see more and more reports of the “loophole” working.

So what is the loophole? At first glance, it appears you have to actually stay at an IHG hotel to qualify for the promotion. But wait, there’s more… In the Official Rules, there is an alternate method of entry that allows you to mail in an entry and each entry is supposedly worth a minimum of 500 points. Each rewards member is eligible to send in 94 entries.

IHG Priceless surprises

I decided to give it a trial run. I mailed 4 entries according to the instructions above. (Don’t worry if you can’t read that text; just click here and scroll to page 2.) The rules state you’ll receive an email within 5 days of receipt, but it’s more like 3 weeks. I’m guessing they weren’t expecting all the crazies like me to actually send in 94 entries. I sent my trial entries in on January 5th and started receiving emails this past weekend. I clicked on the link in the email and sure enough, I won 500 miles for each entry. Not bad for a few minutes of my time.

IHG Priceless Surprises

This week I’ve been busy finishing my other 90 entries. I did 20 while eating my lunch at my desk and 50 while watching Fixer Upper. I had enough random office supplies around my house that I didn’t need to buy anything but stamps. This is a great opportunity to use up all those Christmas return address labels your insurance agent sends you every year!

Here’s the math of how all this works out: 94 entries @ 500 points each = 47,000 points. There’s always the possibility that you’ll win one of the larger prizes. Statistically, I think out of 94 entries, there’s a good chance you’ll get at least one at a higher point level.

You’ll spend about $50 in postage to earn the points, but that’s enough points to redeem for a higher category Intercontinental or Crown Plaza property that could be valued at $400 or more per night. You could also use them to book almost 10 nights at a PointBreaks hotel. (PointBreaks hotels are a select group of hotels featured for 5,000 points per night redemptions. Different hotels are featured every 3 months.)

A few other tips:

  • Printed address labels are fine but the index cards have to be handwritten.
  • If you and your spouse each have your own account, you can both send in 94 entries for a total of 94,000 points–possibly enough for a week of free hotel nights!
  • Don’t be nervous about writing the first 6 digits of your MasterCard. These numbers indicate the issuing bank, not your actual account number and are the same or very similar on most cards.
  • Make sure the entries are postmarked by February 15th.

I’m anxious to hear if any of you are going to try this out so leave a comment below. I’ll follow up after the rest of mine and my husband’s entries are processed and let you know how we did.

Happy Friday!

 

 

Travel Planning 101: Getting Started with Points and Miles

So how much do you think it costs to go to Europe for 10 days? Most would guess $7000 – $10,000. What if I told you it was possible with less than $2,000?

Learning how to utilize points and miles has opened up a world that I never thought possible and allowed us to take trips I would never have dreamed would become reality.

europe budget travel

The trip I’m currently planning is for 3 nights in London and 5 in the French Riviera. I haven’t finalized the trip cost yet but I’m estimating it will be around $1500 for everything. Miles have already paid for 2 round trip American Airlines tickets, valued at $2600. And I’ll be booking our hotels by mid February with points, valued at $2500.

I know this “game” can seem overwhelming, and yes, you will have to make an investment of time. But if spending a little time can help me go on a trip I couldn’t otherwise afford, then I’m all for it! The most important thing I will tell you is not to just collect points and miles aimlessly. Have an end goal and have a plan to get there. If you’re starting from ground zero in this process, I recommend planning at least 9 months in advance.

Here’s a few more tips to help you get started:

  1. Know your credit score. Why is this important? Read Here.
  1. Decide where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Do you want to relax on Paris, Eiffel Towerthe beach or see the Eiffel Tower at night? (Name that country song!) Which airline flies from your home city to your destination? Look at the award chart to determine how many miles you need to get there. Pay attention to dates as the miles required varies depending on high or low season. (p.s. There’s a major change coming to American’s award chart on March 22, 2016. If you’re thinking of using AAdvantage miles for a trip, book before then.)
  1. Next, apply for a credit card that offers a sign up bonus to your preferred airline. The person traveling with you (even if it’s your spouse) can also apply for the same cards and you can each earn your own bonus. Don’t forget to earn miles through the ways we talked about here.
  1. You can also go ahead and apply for your hotel points bonus cards at the same time, but as always, only take on minimum spend requirements that are part of your normal monthly budget.

6. Get organized! You’ll need a system to keep track of accounts, passwords, spend requirements, bonus earning period. There are some apps available: award wallet (not a fan) or the TPG (The Points Guy) app is fairly good. I’ve found neither one always update accurately. Downloading an app for each reward program and credit card account seems to work best for me. Since the apps save the passwords, I don’t constantly have to re-log in to all of my accounts and these apps will give you the most accurate and up to date information.

7. Meet your minimum spend requirements for each bonus offer. My apologies to my Dave Ramsey following-friends, but never pay cash for anything! That’s like throwing away reward points. You can set up auto pay with a credit card for the majority of your bills—car insurance, cell phone, cable, and internet. Car payments and mortgages can only be paid by card through a payment service like Chargesmart, which charges a fee, usually about 2%. I only recommend using this service if you’re meeting a minimum spend requirement, not on an ongoing basis. Then just pay your monthly bills like you normally would according to your budget, but the payments go to your credit card.

Your bonus rewards will typically be credited to your account when the billing cycle closes IMG_1227after you have met the minimum spend requirements. And it’s a glorious feeling to see all those points or miles in your account! Now you can make reservations and start counting down the days till your dream trip!

*Always remember that if you accumulate debt in this process, the rewards are no longer free which defeats the purpose. You might as well just pay for that trip and save yourself the trouble.

 

 

How to Earn Frequent Flier Miles from your Couch

My sweet husband racks up his frequent flier miles the old fashioned way…with his back side in an airplane seat. In October, he spent 4 – 24 hour days on planes, not counting layovers traveling to Cambodia and India. No thank you.

Most people think you have to spend money on travel to get free travel. Not true. I’ve been to Europe 5 times, the 6th trip is already booked, and I’ve never paid for my ticket (other than taxes and fees). How is this possible?

How do us average joes who have full-time jobs which require our physical attendance in an office earn frequent flier miles? I routinely earn enough miles for at least one round trip international ticket every year.

Here are a few simple steps to get you started:

  1. Focus all of your mile earnings with one airline. For me, this is American. They have the most flights out of my area airport and are the easiest for me to redeem my miles. For you, it might be Delta or United. Do your homework on who flies to your desired destination from your local airport. Join their rewards program and start earning!
  1. Look for credit card offers linked to your desired rewards program. Citi Aadvantage is my card of choice for miles. The sign up bonus when I got the card 3 years ago was 50,000 miles and this offer is still widely available. That was enough to get me to Italy and back, for FREE.

Rome Coloseum

  1. Now that you have a rewards account and a credit card linked to that rewards program, sign up for emails so that you don’t miss any earnings bonus opportunities. Recently, Citi offered 3 miles per dollar spent on dining which coincided with a family trip to Florida. All of our meal purchases went on this card and I earned over 3,500 miles in one week. I also sent flowers to someone last week and earned 1,750 miles with the promotion of 25 miles per dollar spent on FTD.
  1. Shop Online. Most rewards programs have an online shopping portal. (See links below.) Every time I’m going to make a purchase, I go to the home page of the AAdvantage shopping portal, enter the item I’m looking for or the store I want and link through the portal. There is no difference from going directly to the desired site other than I earn miles for my purchases.

AAdvantage shopping portal, frequent flier miles

 

I often shop at Nordstrom since they offer free shipping and free returns. AAdvantage recently offered 10x the miles for purchases at Nordstrom so I earned 1000 miles for purchasing $100 of clothing. (A word of caution: don’t let the pursuit of miles tempt you to make purchases you wouldn’t normally make. This totally wipes out any savings you accomplish by accumulating the miles.)

You can also double-dip. You’ll earn miles from the shopping portal no matter what payment method you choose. But, pay with your cobranded credit card and you’ll earn another set of miles for the dollar amount purchased with the card.

  1. Eat out. Aadvantage also has a dining rewards program. Spend $30 or more at one of the participating restaurants and you’ll earn 1000 miles within the first 30 days of signing up; leave a review on the website and you earn another 1000. In my area, I’m a little limited on the restaurants linked to this service but if you’re in a larger city, you can really rack up the miles by doing something you’re going to do anyway: eat!
  1. American has several partnerships with financial institutions where you can earn miles for banking accounts, mortgages, or retirement accounts.
  1. Check your rewards site often for special promotions, as it seems they are always changing. Be mindful of program dates and the fine print so you don’t miss out on miles.

By using these strategies, I easily earn enough miles for an international ticket (40,000 miles for round trip to Europe in non-peak season) each year. And my husband earns enough with his travel so we get to enjoy an amazing trip together for little money!

Know of other interesting ways to earn miles without leaving home? Leave a comment and share the wealth.

Disclaimer: Reward programs change often so be sure to rely on the information on the program site for current rules and offers.

Shopping Portal Links:

American Airlines AAdvantage  

Delta Airlines SkyMiles

Southwest Rapid Rewards

United Airlines MileagePlus

*This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the main US airlines that most of you would use.