Howdy folks, looking forward to meeting up with all you dental churners out at AGD 2019 at the Mohegan Sun Casino! I have been told that I am very bad with my trip reports. My backlogs of reports from my past trips of Germany, Mount Rushmore, NYC will never be filed on time or even at all. I think this is pretty shitty of me because that was the whole point of this blog was to show traveling with points. My message is: don’t just earn points, but use them! This needs to be better exemplified in future articles.
I will give Little Miss Traveler credit on being super diligent on reporting how to live out our points based travel lifestyle. She just posted on her most recent trip, and suggested that I write as I travel. I am going to write and update this trip in real time!
Flights: ORD to BDL RT: 34,000 Avios + $40.40 from Chase Iberia
Check in was chaos, lots of sad faces from all of the delays. There is one Kiosk in the back for military. You must use this terminal to check in, check luggage for free, and pick free Main Cabin extra seats. It has a screen that welcomes military members:
When you check in it will call an attendant to verify your status.
Since my wife and I both have gotten the Biz Plat in the last 7 years (defacto life time), we are inelegibel for the 100k bonus. I have decided to have my mother get the AmEx Biz Plat for her real estate business. I would add myself as an AU and try for the MLA waiver, but I doubt that it would be honored. However with the current offer I could justify the $595 annual fee and here is why:
$200 in Dell credit
$200 in inflight reimbursements (going to try the cancel ticket method for statement credits)
WeWork membership for a year
100,000 MR is worth $1,500 in flights alone
We have several large spends coming up related to the family business that would easily trigger the 1.5 MR for purchases above $5,000. If I stick to large purchases we are looking at 37,500 on spend alone on top of the 100k. Even if I were to book a flight to Hong Kong on American Airlines via Cathay Pacific metal for $1,375, it would cost me exactly 135,000 points, but I would get 35% of these points back (47,250) in a month. The flight would be only 87,750 MR. This would be lucutive enough to justify the nearly $600 annual fee!
The 100k offer is acessibkly only by referral, please use my links below (just click one at random please):
If you earned points by using your own referrals, then AmEx just clawed back all of your ill gotten points! According to reddit r/churning people have been seeing thousands of points being removed from their MR accounts!
If you engaged in the heinous act of self referral (the act of using your own referral for another card for yourself), then you have this message to look forward to:
We are writing to let you know that, after careful review of your Membership Rewards® account activity, we have removed points in your Membership Rewards® program account. Please ensure that any Additional Card Members who are authorized to redeem points from your account are notified of this change in your Membership Rewards balance.
Why we are removing these points We recently noticed point accrual or redemption activity on your Membership Rewards program account that indicates an effort to obtain or use points in a manner that is not appropriate. It’s important for you to know that the Membership Rewards program terms and conditions state that “If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse or gaming in connection with earning or using points or that you may attempt to do so, we may:
Take away any points in your program account, Temporarily suspend your ability to redeem points, Temporarily suspend your ability to earn points, Cancel your program account, or Cancel any of your American Express Cards”
This is not the first time the RAT (Rewards Abuse Team) has struck! BE WARNED amex is cleaning house, best not fuck with them right now. On the flip side their MR site has been updated to not look like an AOL website anymore:
Everybody DO NOT PANIC! We are not in the hook for a $550 annual fee ($595 for biz) on these cards, therefore we don’t have the stress to “recoup our losses”. My LT MBA DDS friend predicts that AmEx will transition the $200 fee to cover all travel to be in line with Citi Prestige, Chase Sapphire Reserve, City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite, and U.S. Bank Altitude card. I hope he is right!
In the meantime consider the $200 ($100 for gold) to be the icing on the cake! I almost am thinking about multiple Gold Personal Cards just to get $120 in the form of a $10 Cheesecake Factory of the month club!
Let’s first look at the legitimate things the fee covers:
Incidental fees, such as checked bags and in-flight refreshments.
That pretty straightforward! Two goddamn things: food in flight and bags. Ya’ll know we never pay for bags anyways by showing our CAC at check in. Now the funny part is what is not covered:
Incidental air travel fees must be separate charges from airline ticket charges. Fees not charged by the Card Member’s airline of choice (e.g. wireless internet and fees incurred with airline alliance partners) do not qualify for statement credits. Incidental air travel fees charged prior to selection of a qualifying airline are not eligible for statement credits. Airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees. The airline must submit the charge under the appropriate merchant code, industry code, or required service or product identifier for the charge to be recognized as an incidental air travel fee.
I hazard to guess that all of these items are being shut down as you read this. So we are now left with eating and drinking on these airlines:
Flyertalk has a whole discussion thread on each airline if you want to continue to take on the challenge of testing what can slip by the churn police, then here are all of your data points:
I have given up completely in this data point game, so many upsets. I have decided for 2020 that I will treat every flight as an In-Flight Commissary & Package Store. (Class VI for you Air Force & Army folk). Going to buy at least two drinks and 4 snack boxes to take off the plane. Some inflight menus can be found here:
So I say let’s make this fun! What is the largest haul you have made on a single flight? They gave me two half bottles of wine and 4 snack boxes on a 2 hour flight from ORD to RAP on United. I once bought an entire row of friends double vodka tonics from ORD to BUF also on United:
The $200 can be easily spent on a single flight. On our most recent Glamping adventure, we had enough snack boxes for the kids to last the entire weekend:
Happy 4th of July everyone! It’s been awhile since I have posted, so I decided to go way off subject here.
I decided to donate my Diesel Mercedes to my friend to be used on his hippie vegan commune in New Orleans. He will convert it to run on straight waste vegetable oil (WVO). More on that road trip to get the car down there in October in a future post.
Over at Little Miss Traveler’s place and drinking with her husband. She waited one year with her MLA waived Marriott Premier Plus (Now Bonvoy Boundless) and upgraded over the phone with Chase to a Ritz-Carlton Card. It arrived today (after three days) in a medium box:
The game has changed, and I was thinking how the shine is gone on the AmEx Platinum as well as the Hilton Honors Aspire. Not to fret, there are plenty of other banks and cards out there! We gotta move on from AmEx Platinum, it is old and busted. Ironically it has become the most basic bitch card of our entire collection. Let those fake churners flash that thing around! Here was my comment on the whole AmEx Plat situation if you missed it:
I would say more than half of the AD that flash around their annual fee waived platinum that I encounter don’t care to use their Saks Fifth, Uber, or even their gift card for airlines. They do however mindlessly show off the card like it’s the best thing ever, and put every possible charge on it despite it only earning 5x for direct booked airline flights.
Just to have the card is the greatest benefit to many of AmEx Platinum Users. I am sure many of you readers knows a friend that just got it because of the fee waiver, but had no idea they could MAKE $500 a year off the thing!
Hell, I have encountered may FULL $550 annual fee PAYING civilians that don’t use any of these benefits!
This my friend is why AmEx wins even for the handful of super duper churners here. They got pretty much a base of people that have the card for the sake of having the card!
The AmEx platinum is your typical veblen good! The higher the annual fee, the higher the demand, but no one knows why! I just hope I can explain to our AD brethren that it’s just more than a status symbol, but by all means it’s not the only card that I suggest on this site!
TLDR: AmEx Plat, just one of Many, Many Cards you should have!
How should we address our new super chuning wallet? I am planning on finishing up MLA travel club this weekend so I will put it all out there. Here is the current plan:
I am planning on hitting all 5 chase cards first and slip in a double application one day for the Chase Ink while under 5/24 (thanks strugglebus for the suggestion)
I would suggest hitting U.S. Bank right after Chase since they are so strict. I would go ahead and spend the $350 and the $200 on a plane ticket and have it reimbursed. You could load all $550 on to Uber to have free uber and Uber eats for the year!
I am almost biased to having 4 Marriott Bonvoy cards and a single Hilton Aspire since the $250 airline credit is no longer usable. The 50k anytime night is better than a weekend night, and the $300 credit can be used for Marriott gift cards online (Thanks Dan for the datapoint). Delta reserve sucks since domestic first sucks. However if you live in Hawaii then the Delta Reserve is a no brainer!
The only advantage now to multiple Platinums (and subordinate products) is just to get multiple 60k offers for $5k spend. The annual benefit is limited now to $200 on Uber per card as well as $100 on Saks Fifth.
For the business cards the benefit of $200 a year on Dell is useful if you have any dell or microsoft.com things to buy. I would not suggest getting multiple AmEx Platinum cards without bonuses just to multiply this. THere is so much to earn elsewhere!
I believe this is where it’s at! Planning on hitting every on of their products now. Consistent data points on MLA waivers for AD and spouses. All cards can be upgraded to Multiple Prestige cards that all offer $250 a year for any travel reimbursement! I am not sure the policies on using multiple cards to pay a ticket. We do need data points on gift cards on Prestige getting reimbursed.
We all knew this day would come since the United Gift registry was shut down years ago. Let’s get over it and gather up some data points regarding gift cards on U.S. Bank Altitude, Skypass Premier, and Citi Prestige.
Getting some reports out there that $200 Southwest gift cards are coding as flight tickets on Southwest.com. Which means no reimbursements on the annual $200 flight incidental fee when using the AmEx Platinum.
Now what is interesting is $100 gift cards are still coding as “freight” which is being reimbursed. Check out flyer talk for the latest information. Any experience from those readers out there?
The time has come to bring player two on the scene. My wife will be under 5/24 in the first time in two years! She has been hitting only AmEx Business cards, and has flown under the radar of Chase’s draconian churn police! This has all paid off because now we had 24 months to devise a perfect churning plan. Right now her credit karma score looks like this:
Even better is hitting 24 months on her 5th card on 01 July 2019:
Now only one slot will be opened, and you would think that she should jump right on CSR! However the current offer for CSR is 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Where as the United Club card is 50K United MP for only $3k spend! We are planning another European trip and want to supplement her current 140k miles with either UR transfers or with more United Miles.
The United Club Card does come with Star Alliance Lounge access, as well as access to all domestic United Clubs while flying on any airlines. However this is just the smallest perk. What makes this card useful is this trifecta:
I was lucky to have the United Explorer card before I joined. This card was covered under the SCRA, so I product changed it to an United CLub Card, and had it ever since.
I finally got a chance to book our first summer trip. List price for 2 adults and three kids to fly ORD to RAP (Rapid City, SD) would have been an astronomical $2,583 just for the flights alone! I was able to book using my United Club Card (5/24 restricted) right now you can get 50K Bonus Miles using the link: clubcardinvite.com. Keep in mind they will waive the $450 annual fee, but you have to not had more than 5 cards in the last 24 months AT ANY BANK. The United Club card also gave me the ability to find lower fares when paying with points. When I searched for these segments on united.com they had them listed for 12.5K Mileage Plus for each one way segment:
The other hidden benefit from the United Club Card is Hertz Presidential Circle membership which has given me an upgrade to an Cadillac Escalade in the past when we traveled to Hawaii. This status sometimes gives you a lower rate. I ended up booking a Standard SUV via delta.com for sky miles for this trip at an amazing $49 a day with taxes for a Standard SUV.
I used my now defunct United Gift Registry funded by $200 AmEx Platinum reimbursements to fly the entire family to Hawaii. I booked a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport or similar (5 Passenger Standard SUV Group L SFAR (L) ) and ended up with this:
I booked my whole family to fly to Mount Rushmore for 12,500 United Miles a segment (using some topped off UR points):
This flight would have been $479 a person! You can get about 3.8 cents per UR point this way. The best part is I got upgraded to first class since the flight is so stupid expensive and empty:
The takeaway lesson is this, it might be time to try to get under 5/24. You just got to stick to AmEx Biz cards for 24 months. It is hard, but in the long run well worth it to not try to get that 5th AmEx personal platinum just because you can!