AGD 2019: ORD to BDL

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!

Cost Summary

  • Flights: ORD to BDL RT: 34,000 Avios + $40.40 from Chase Iberia
  • Hotel (Expense to U.S. Bank Altitude $325 travel credit):
    • $147.95 military rate BDL Airport Sheraton
    • $175 Reciprocal Member @ Q Club via Marine Memorial
  • Car rental: $154.47 for two days on CSR ($300 Credit)
  • Lounges: AA Admirals club ORD, Escape Lounge BDL
    • American Airlines Executive Card
    • American Express Personal Platinum

Departure

Typical for ORD, there were plenty of delays throughout the day due to thunderstorms. The morning of every flight, I always check out the misery map on flight-aware. This gives me an idea on how miserable my trip will be. I also use Trip It Pro via my membership with Founders Card.

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:

Look for this special kiosk

When you check in it will call an attendant to verify your status.

More to come, eating lobster rolls now…

AmEx Biz Plat: 100,000 MR for $25,000 Spend

Almost worth doing even without the MLA waiver

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):

Any data points out there for MLA/SCRA waivers for being an AD AU on a non-mil primary account?

-Derp

AmEx Cleans Up (By Cracking Down on Self Referrals)

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!

Self Referral Is Now Verboten!

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:

Despite all of the bad noise, I think it’s showing that AmEx is keeping up with Chase. Hopefully the next step is $200 airline incidental credit becomes a generalized travel credit like Chase, U.S. Bank, and Citi’s respective top cards!

Let me know if you got the clawback! I have never practiced self referral, but rather spouse referrals where I would use my wife’s links and vice versa. This practice has not been shut down, yet.

-Derp

Rakuten (Ebates) 10%, Top Cashback 12% Cashback On Dell, Combine with Amex 2x MR on Dell, and $100 Credit For Free Xbox Gift Cards

I just got paid to buy stuff form dell.com! Right now Rakuten is offering 10% and TopCashBack is offering 12% on Dell.com. Here is what I did:

  1. Sign up for Rakuten here for 10%
  2. Sign up for TopCashBack here for 12%
  3. Log into www.americanexpress.com
  4. Add the Dell 2x MR offer (targeted) as well as the $100 credit to your AmEx Biz Plat
  5. Log in to Rakuten or TopCashBack and search for dell.com, use that link
  6. Buy the $100 xbox live gift card
  7. Use your AmEx Biz platinum at checkout
  8. Wait 12 hours and your code will appear in the Dell Digital Locker
  9. Go to microsoft.com to redeem the gift card as a credit to your Microsoft store.
  10. Buy a drone or monitor or whatever you fancy from Microsoft
  11. Check out and apply the gift card balance

Here are the steps in photos:

Make sure you add this offer first
Add this offer if you have it, if not then just pass on it
This is the card to buy as it appears on the mobile phone
How this looks on check out
The key is in the Dell digital locker at the bottom after 12 hours
Get $12 for a $100 xBox gift card on TopCashback!
Adding the code will give you tis screen
How the credit will appear once added to Microsoft.com
One of the many toys you can get with multiple Biz Plat Cards
Take advantage of their military deals on Surface Pro

Have fun!

-Derp

What To Do With The AmEx $200 Travel Fee: The In-Flight Commissary & Package Store

Looks like AmEx will not reimburse for any gift card for any airline now.

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:

Bring a mooching sack and get ready to raid that service cart. I would go as far as to walk to the galley and buy the remaining snack boxes at the end of service. You will feel like this guy buying the whole lot while you travel in style!

-Derp

Derp Report Goes Coal Powered

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.

Right now I am looking to take advantage of the massive arbitrage that is going on in the state of Illinois which decided to implement a 38 cents a gallon tax on gasoline. Worst hit are Diesel trucks and cars as Illinois’ state gas tax moved up 21.5 cent-per-gallon to 44.5 cents per gallon of Diesel. This however does not affect electric cars, which share the same roads as these tax paying suckers.

They have thought about hitting these Illinois tax evaders with a $1,000 a year registration fee! Fortunately, I will be able to get out of this state before that passes in a few years. Right now many bases (including Great Lakes) have level 2 charging for free! Unfortunately the only power generation in Waukegan comes from dirty smelly, radioactive coal. If you ignore this fact, and hope that those around you don’t look into it, then you could be full of smug, and feel you are saving the earth somehow. I’m just trying to save money here! At less than $1 a charge at home, and free charging at work, I can make my commuting costs less than $5 a week or $20 a month. Yearly cost should be $300 for the power consumption.

I am thinking of buying a 2012 Nissan Leaf at a modest price of $6,000. I also looked into Marriott hotels in the city that offer free charging of EV vehicles. In Illinois we have a few:

I called some of these places, and you will have to pay for the parking fee of course. Other hotels can be found here.

Have any of you readers gone the route of evading avoiding gasoline taxes, yet use the roads that these taxes pay for? I just want to know how other bases are equipped for EV charging.

-Derp

Ritz Carlton Card Still Alive (But It’s a Plastic Sandwich)

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:

Check out her unboxing photos and article here. Her website is: littlemisstraveler.com . It’s nice they still have the card, but it’s no longer a solid slab of metal weighing an full ounce! Plastic is what they make toilet seats out of, ewwwww:

Card is now plastic with aluminum center like CSR and Marriott

Use my link or hers on her site to get your Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.

-Derp

GAME OVER: No More Airline Gift Card Reimbursements From AmEx On Any Airline

Today flyertalk posted about $50 and $100 Delta Gift Cards are posting as passenger tickets. Yesterday we noted that Southwest was dead as well. On top of all that they killed American Airlines again. Well we done did it for sure, looks like we are all going to have a minibar that looks like this next year:


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!


-Derp

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:

Chase

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)

Product NameDispositionReturnLink:
Chase Sapphire ReserveAll Travel$300Public
Chase FreedomChange to CSR$300Referral
Chase Freedom UnlimitedChange to CSR$300Referral
Chase United Club Card*A Lounge Access$550Public
Chase Bonvoy BoundlessChange to Ritz$3001 NightReferral
Chase Ink Biz PreferredClose after 80k3x PhoneReferral

U.S. Bank

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!

Product NameDispositionReturnReferral
AltitudeAll Digital Wallet$325, In Flight WiFiNo
Skypass PremierKorean Airlines$200, KA Lounge PassesNo

American Express Credit Cards

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!

Product NameDispositionReturnReferral
Hilton Honors AspireAll Hilton$500, 1 nightYes
Hilton Honors AscendUpgrade to Aspire$500, 1 nightYes
Hilton HonorsUpgrade to Aspire$500, 1 nightYes
Marriott Bonvoy BrilliantAll Marriott$300, 1 nightYes
Marriott Bonvoy BusinessReplace W Brilliant35k NightYes
Delta ReserveAll DeltaComp PassYes

American Express Charge Cards

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!

Product NameDispositionReturnReferral
Platinum ChargeDirect Airline Booking$500Yes
Gold ChargeGroceries, Upgrade to Pt$500Yes
Green ChargeUpgrade to Pt$500Yes
MS Platinum ChargeDirect Airline Booking$500No
CS Platinum ChargeDirect Airline Booking$500No
AP Platinum ChargeDirect Airline Booking$500No
Business Platinum$5,000+ Buys, 35% Refund$400Yes
Business Gold$5,000+ Buys, 35% Refund$400Yes
Business Green$5,000+ Buys, 35% Refund$400Yes

Citibank

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.

Product NameDispositionReturnReferral
Citi PrestigeAll Dining$250, 2x 4th night FreeNo
Citi PremierPC to Prestige$250, 2x 4th night FreeNo
AA ExecutiveOW Lounges$650No
AA PlatinumPC to Prestige$250, 2x 4th night FreeNo

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.

-Derp

$200/$250 Southwest Gift Card Shutdown?

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?

-Derp

Why We Are Hitting United Club Card Before CSR

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:

Cadillac Escalade Upgrade from Hertz Presidential Circle via United Club Card

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!

-Derp