Surpass to Ascend to Aspire: 300,000 total HHonors Points!

I read a pretty interesting article here about why in reality we may get the bonus for Ascend even if we had the Surpass in the past. This goes against my experience outlined here.  Despite what customer service says, there is no written rule regarding Surpass counting as Ascend. Basically there is no language in any of the application documentation specifying Surpass ownership, rather they say if you had this specific product, then no bonus.

I had the Surpass for many years and when I called in to close it before 18 January 2018, they offered me 5,000 points to keep it open, and convinced me that I could never get the Ascend bonus because I had the Surpass in the past. They also said that I would not have the physical cards until this card expired, but I would have the card benefits of the new Ascend card (no foreign transaction fees).

I also called in on 18 January 2018 and tried to get a bonus to upgrade my Surpass (now an Ascend) to an Aspire, but there was no upgrade offer given. I was then told the 5 card limit no longer existed and I was encouraged to apply for the Aspire. I took her advice, but of course the rep was wrong and I went into pending as the 5 card limit is still true.

Today i got a call from 1(801)945-5000 (Midvale, UT) asking me to call AmEx back at 1(800)266-1260 about my application. The rep on the phone apologized for the wrong information regarding the 5 card rule. She reiterated that you can only have 5 cards and unlimited charge cards. In order to get the Aspire, I had to close one of the cards and there was no need for 2 Hilton Cards. I said “Close my Ascend!” and she was confused, and asked “I see you only have the Surpass, do you want me to close the Surpass!?”.

So there is no record of me ever having the Ascend in the AmEx credit department, only Surpass! I am thinking of getting that Ascend for yet another 100k HHonors points for only $3k spend. Since I got 100k for Surpass in the past, and then 200k for a total haul of 300K HHonors! Use the link below to apply for your own Ascend, Aspire link coming soon:

Hope this is true!


How To Survive The Ultra Basic Bitch Fare at ORD

There is an amazing loophole where you can skip the $19.98 “Passenger Usage Charge” that Spirit Airlines charges for booking online or over the phone by booking in person at the airport. Here is an example flight from ORD to DFW booked on the Spirit website:

Note that the $19.98 fee counts for 30% of the ticket price (and more than the $16.74 fare). Even the people at One Mile At a Time were skeptical, but it totally works. If you would go in to ORD and book the flight in person you would only pay $46.60 for the same round trip ticket. This way we can beat the airlines at their own tax evasion game. Fares are taxed at 7.5%, but fees (which there must be a way to get out of) are not taxed at all. Notice how any options like carry on luggage, baggage, seat picking, and priority boarding are “fees”. This is the bulk of their revenue. This is much like a movie theater making most of their revenue on concessions rather than the movie ticket. We are also in a unique position because our Active Duty Military status gets our luggage fee waived on Sprit Airlines. From their own site:

Free Bags For Active Duty U.S. Military

For active duty military traveling on Spirit, we will provide two free checked bags and a free carry-on, in addition to the already free personal item.  The U.S. military member should arrive early enough to have their bags checked at the counter, and present their U.S. military ID. As much as we would like to extend this policy to your family and loved ones, it only applies to the active military member. Active duty U.S. Military can now save time at the airport by validating their active duty affiliation online during their booking using ID.ME, a third party verification service. Simply click on the “verify” button at checkout via to validate your active duty status and claim your free checked and carry-on bags.

Note that your child or spouse would not get this benefit! However I have reports that they will seat you with your party when you check you bags in for no additional charge, even if you were placed on separated seats on check in. Now the question is, how do you survive a  super basic bitch ticket?

Pre Flight Drinks

I am based in Chicago, and all Spirit flights depart from ORD Terminal #3 with the American Airline Flights. I sent my most senior correspondent on a trip from ORD to LAS for the weekend. She is an AU on my Citi American Airlines Executive Card which I get the $450 waived per the MLA. Just being an AU and not active duty, she got access to the Admirals Lounge in terminal 3 just down the way from the Spirit gates. I also have a SCRA waived United Club card which would get me into the United Club without flying United. The Delta club will not let you in for free since your not flying delta, but the USO in terminal 2 outside of security or the one in the rotunda will let you in if you show your CAC.

In Flight Drinks

Next is in flight amenities. If you notice, Spirit is one of the airline choices for your annual AmEx $200 reimbursement. If the Gift Card loophole gets shut down we might just have to drink away our credit this way. Other cards like the Chase Ritz card have a $300 credit that would count for “In flight Meals”. I made the mistake of asking the CSR in a Secure Message at Chase to reimburse a “Beverage” which was declined. I then re-asked as a “in flight meal” reimbursement and they gave me my $25

What $25 will buy you in flight

Arrival Lounges

Be careful about terminal access and Spirit. For example when my senior writer arrived in LAS she could not easily get to the Centurion Lounge as it was all the way over in terminal 3. Plus the flight got in at 11 pm meaning it would of been closed. Her return flight was luckily on United so she had access to the centurion lounge on the way back. Coming soon will be a break down of lounge access per destination Spirit goes to and what lounges are accessible. In the mean time here are the locations that they fly to from ORD:

I then mapped the for all the Florida locations:

At $20 a segment to 5 destinations in Florida, this sure beats the MAC flights! More to come with a lounge access chart!


Last Call For Hilton Surpass

It is too late for me get the AmEx Hilton Ascend Bonus offers coming out in two days (18 January 2017). When I log into the Hilton Website they already have my current Surpass earnings coded as Ascend.

AmEx has given me the bad news that my current Surpass card will be counted as an existing Ascend in the future, meaning I will never ever get the bonus (“lifetime” product year limit). No one really knows what the Bonus Ascend will be, but there was mention that it would be one free weekend night which kind of sucks since you have to pay for one night to get another free (possibly). I think the better bet is to get the 85k points now and hope for an upgrade to Aspire bonus in the future. If you look at the Value Penguin site, there is a nice chart of what 85k can get you. More datapoints of not being able to double dip surpass and ascend are here.

So go ahead and use my links if you want to capture the 85k points today instead of waiting for what is to come with a direct Ascend application.


Proof: MLA Waiver for Citibank’s $450 Cards

When I applied for the AAdvantage Executive Card from Citi, I got a call from 1-423-467-6460 which is the Citi Fraud Department asking me to call 1-800-825-0393 just to verify that I was applying for this card. I never called back, and my card came in via FexEx anyways. Activation took a little longer because they had to clear up the hold on the application for the new account. Reader Dan in a previous Citi MLA post writes:

I followed up that message with a phone call to the citi military response unit directly at 877-804-1082, where I reached a very helpful lady who was able to look me up and see my requests in the system already for both me and my wife. She verified my information and asked me to email, fax, or mail a current LES to substantiate my service. She said turn around time should be within 30-60 days. I will let you know what happens

Fax 18665330503

military response unit
po box 790398
st louis, mo 63179

I followed up Dan’s advice and applied for MLA benefits by faxing in my LES to 1-866-533-0503. I didn’t hear back, but then some one at 1-904-954-1207 (Citi Fraud Department #2) called yet again to verify that I had applied for the card. They then asked me to fax another LES to 1-866-532-5470. I finally got a letter from Citi, but it said my Citibank Costco card did not qualify for the SCRA! I never did get a letter stating that MLA was applied to my AAdvantage Executive card. I however got my normal statement the next day, and it said this:


and below had this:

and the back had this:

There you go! No official letter saying that the MLA will cover annual fees, but defacto waiver of annual fees! This is the least they can do for making us get that crappy Citi Travel card that charges Uncle Sam foreign transaction fees as well as an annual fee.


Awesome Pay Changes For 2018!

Wish I was an Admiral in SF

I was blown away by two things today when my paycheck posted for the first time in 2018. First off there has been a 12% increase in the BAH of the Great Lakes Military housing area (NAVTRACEN, IL (IL092)) as well as a overall base pay increase of 2.4%. You can find the new 2018 Pay Table Here. This should get you thinking of how you want to contribute to your TSP to get the BRS match. If you want to maximize your match you will need to enter new values to make sure you don’t top out too early for the year. Keep in mind the new maximum is $18,500 for the 2018 year. Here is how I calculate my contributions for the year:

Step 1: Make a Spreadsheet of your pay and years in according to the new chart

Make sure you adjust for any pay bump that puts you in a new catagory:

 O-4 Base Pay Years In
Jan $5,900.70 5
Feb $5,900.70 5
Mar $5,900.70 5
Apr $5,900.70 5
May $5,900.70 5
Jun $6,238.50 6
Jul $6,238.50 6
Aug $6,238.50 6
Sep $6,238.50 6
Oct $6,238.50 6
Nov $6,238.50 6
Dec $6,238.50 6

Step 2: Divide out $18,500 for 12 months, you should get $1,541.67 then divide per month base pay

Base Pay TSP Deposit  % Contribution
Jan $5,900.70 $1,541.67 26.1%
Feb $5,900.70 $1,541.67 26.1%
Mar $5,900.70 $1,541.67 26.1%
Apr $5,900.70 $1,541.67 26.1%
May $5,900.70 $1,541.67 26.1%
Jun $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Jul $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Aug $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Sep $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Oct $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Nov $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Dec $6,238.50 $1,541.67 24.7%
Total $18,500.04

For the year I should put 25-26% of base into my TSP a month to hit the $18,500 max for the year by December. If we look at the matching 5% funds and compare them as a function of “Return on Investment” we get this chart:

Gov’t 5% Base Match My Deposit % “return”
Jan $295.04 $1,541.67 19.14%
Feb $295.04 $1,541.67 19.14%
Mar $295.04 $1,541.67 19.14%
Apr $295.04 $1,541.67 19.14%
May $295.04 $1,541.67 19.14%
Jun $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Jul $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Aug $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Sep $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Oct $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Nov $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Dec $311.93 $1,541.67 20.23%
Total $3,658.65 $18,500.04 19.78%

Now if you only put in 5% of base pay you are getting 100% ROI! The only catch is you got to wait till 59.5 to get this money. If you don’t contribute anything to TSP consider the tax loss of putting the same amount into a bank account or investment and paying capital gains taxes on top of paying income taxes on the money. I would take 20% ROI any day and keep it safe in G fund till I hit 59.5 years old.



MLA Datapoint for US Bank

Good news is US Bank acknowledges the MLA exists, but the bad news is it only applies to accounts opened in the past 2 months!

Such bullshit! Any takers for the tasker of applying for the Altitude card and then requesting MLA protections within 60 days? Might be worth a try to get the $400 annual fee waived for the $325 travel credit that resets at each renewal month (12 months from when you got the card). You also get the Andrew Harper Magazine, GoGo inflight WiFi, 3x on Electronic Wallet transactions.

Despite the MLA denial, and paying the $400 annual fee I am still way ahead because of the 50k free points and the $325 credit. I am going to keep this one open for the 3x Apple Pay worth 4.5% cashback.


HHonors Surpass Will Count As Ascend

Good news out there is HHonors is going to have some changes for 2018! Mainly we all get free breakfast at the Waldorf-Astoria with our free HHonoros Gold via AmEx Platinum. Bad news is I called AmEx to clarify if I would be eligible for the new signing bonus for the Ascend. My plan was to cancel my Hilton Surpass before the 18 Jan 2018 product change, and reapply for Ascend to get the new bonus. Unfortunately they said that the Surpass would count as the Ascend in the future so I WOULD NOT be eligible for any future Ascend bonus. This revelation kind of goes against Greg’s advice to downgrade the Surpass card to the fee free one, just to get the bonus in the future. It sounds like the Ascend bonus is not advalible to theose who geo the surpass bonus in the past. However, they gave me 5k HHonors points just to keep it open for at least 6-8 weeks. They informed me that the Surpass card would become the Ascend in use, but the physical plastic would be replaced only on card renewal.

Hope that clears things up!


Ritz Carlton Backdoor Rollover To Marriott Card

I am way past 5/24 and would have to wait till Sept 2019 in order to be free and clear to get the 5/24 restricted Chase products. I would be practicing this churning celibacy just for the Marriott, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Freedom, United products, and SouthWest Airlines cards. However with Premium AmEx Product coming for both HHonors and Marriott SPG I don’t think I can go without a fix for 24 months! The FOMO would be too great! Instead I am going to open all new accounts under me, give my card to my wife to use, and keep her account perfect so she can get her own MLA waived CSR and United Club cards. Maybe throw some under the 5/24 radar, AmEx Biz cards in there.

Getting The Chase Marriott Despite 5/24

Turns out you can downgrade the Ritz Carton Card to the $95 Personal Marriott Card to get a free annual night. Thanks to Frequent Miler for pointing out the Travel With Grant article! Since the Ritz Card is 5/24 exempt, you are free to apply for it for the first time and get the 2 free night bonus. After getting the bonus and spending all three annual Club Level Upgrades you can then downgrade the card into a Marriott Card, and have the card despite being over 5/24. Where this is genius is your downgraded card will only cost $95 a year instead of $450 and you would get a free Category 1-5 night every year which is more than reasonable to justify the $85 annual fee.

Who knows what this card will become after the points system merger, some sort of Marriott Preferred Guest or Starriott-Carlton Preferred Guest Rewards system? After 24 months from the initial Ritz Card application, just reapply for the Ritz Card (hopefully MLA waived this time) and rack up another free night. Do this Marriott Conversion 365 times to live at a category 1-5 Marriott for free the entire year (not recommended or supported by any datapoint).

The Ritz MLA Switch-a-roo

In my situation I could never get the Marriott Card so getting the bonus is out of the real of possibility, however the language is this:

This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

Technically I could still get the bonus if I canceled this card in the future and reapplied since the product change didn’t get me the bonus. Since I am perpetually beyond 5/24 this lack of 85k bonus is a non-issue. The real magic comes in the fact I took my Ritz Card that I do not have SCRA waivers for since I got it after I joined, but I also don’t get MLA coverage since I got it before 20 Sept 2017. I can downgrade this card to Marriott and reap the free night, while applying for a new Ritz card that will now be MLA waived.

Not many datapoints out there for this one, I will report back on what I find out!


AA Gift Cards Still Work on AmEx Plat

Happy new year! Just FYI, I bought a $100 AA gift card for $100 on my AmEx MB Platinum on New Years Day 2018 and got the $100 back automatically. You better do it quick before the loophole closes, like it possibly did for Delta. Make sure you choose the airline first on the AMEx site listed under “Benefits”! Then make sure you charge only $100 at a time.

We are still waiting on United, as we still get this message when we try to add to the registry:

Note the line “We expect the page to be up and running in early 2018”, I am not sure what that means. Does January to March count as early? I will keep one Business and one Platinum card on United so that I can get inflight boozes as well as the 50% grandfathered points back. The other 12 cards I am planning to use for American Airlines! If you have not done so already please use the links to apply for a Platinum Card of your own. Remember the $550 fee is waived for military! AmEx is paying you $400 a year just to have their card in your wallet!

Multiple Reader Links: Link 1Link 2Link 3

Multiple Reader Links: Link 1Link2Link 3Link 4