Travel and credit card promos for 2021

We’re starting to see information dribbling out about new promotions from the credit card issuers for COVID-19 part 2.

Updated 2021-01-04 1:30pm – BizPlat bonus Membership Rewards points, incoming Uber benefit for Gold

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As you may recall, several premium cards made adjustments to their bonus and promotional offers in 2020 since travel rewards were harder to earn and redeem. American Express offered $20 each toward streaming services and mobile phone services per month on their personal Platinum card, and $20 each toward shipping and mobile phone services on the business Platinum card, from May through December. They also added bonus travel and Dell credits. Chase expanded their points earning and travel credit redemption categories on the Chase Sapphire Reserve among other cards. And some cards offered a partial credit toward the $400+ annual fees.

We’ll track the new (or renewed) offerings here, for those of you who can’t travel yet, and for those who can. Where possible, we’ll share primary sources as well, so you can review the full details. And we’ll also include quarterly bonus cash back categories as we see them.

American Express

American Express is offering a $30/month Paypal rebate on the personal Platinum charge card for the first six months of the year. This looks to be useful for any online retailers accepting Paypal, as well as eBay purchases paying with Paypal.

It looks like the Business Platinum charge card. has 4 bonus Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar spent on each of several categories, up to 80,000 bonus MR points each. Your bonus categories include:

  • Shipping services (i.e. Fedex, USPS, UPS)
  • Gas
  • Advertising
  • Wireless services
  • Office supplies

Check your Amex Offers section to add these to your card if you’re eligible. Not everyone will be able to max these categories (at $20,000 spend per category), but every little bit helps.

Not pandemic-related, but the Saks Fifth Avenue $50 credit resets for January-June 2021 on personal Platinum cards, and the Dell $100 credit for the same period on business Platinum cards also resets. Check for Amex Offers with either brand to get even more out of these purchases, and make sure you’re signed up for Dell Rewards to get a few extra bucks on top of it all.

There may be other benefits that pop up in the Amex Offers section of their website and mobile app. Be sure to check these from time to time, as they may come and go, and vary from card to card and member to member.

Juicy Amex Offers seen on January 4 include $50 back on $50 or more spent at Home Depot, Best Buy, and Home Chef meal service, the former two being available for two uses each. There is also a $50 back on $250 for Instacart, again usable twice–and it can be multiple transactions, so you don’t need to buy a new fridge to qualify, although Home Depot and Best Buy could help you with that expense too. These were on our personal Platinum, but your mileage may vary of course.

Chase

Chase Freedom has 5% cash back on wholesale clubs, internet/cable/phone, and streaming services, up to $1500 in spend for January-March (up to $75 in cash back for these categories). This is the traditional cash back offer, not a pandemic special offer.

Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve continue to offer pandemic bonus points on grocery store purchases through April 30, 2021 (2x for CSP, 3x for CSR). There are other benefits for Doordash, Peloton, and Lyft, as well as expanded “Pay Yourself Back” options to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points. See this link for the current offerings and terms.

The Chase promotion on Lyft can be particularly profitable. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you get 10 points per dollar spent, as well as the Lyft Pink benefits including 15% off, and rebates from the $300 annual travel credit while it lasts. Spending $100 in Lyft rides would come to $85 charged to your card, 850 points (which are worth $12.75 or more), and the $85 can be rebated if you have remaining travel credit. So you get paid over $12 for those rides.

Discover

Discover has 5% cash back on grocery stores, Walgreens, and CVS, up to $1500 in spend for January -March(up to $75 in cash back for these categories). This is the traditional cash back offer, not a pandemic special offer.

If you redeem for gift cards, be sure to check the bonus cash on those. You get at least 5% “bonus cash” for any gift card from the Discover cashback redemption program, but some cards offer 20-30% extra.

That’s all for now

Found anything we missed? Need a referral for any of the cards mentioned? Contact us through the form below or put a comment at the bottom and we’ll see what we can do.

Last updated January 2, 2021

FUD-busting in Las Vegas this week

There are a couple of news items that have come out of Las Vegas in the last week (and one that’s floating around from a couple of weeks ago) that have inspired a lot of misinformation on travel forums. Since we’re here to provide valid information and guidance, we figured we’d give you a quick rundown on four such sources of dismay.

  1. Eldorado Resorts hasn’t bought Caesars Entertainment yet; that transaction won’t close until next year.
  2. The Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino has been sold through a lease-back deal, and nothing will change for patrons for at least two years as a result of this transaction. 
  3. The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas is still open and operating; the closure to convert to a Virgin Hotels venue won’t be until early 2020
  4. The Hooters Hotel and Casino has already cut over to its new branding under the India-based On Your Own (OYO) brand. 

Now for some details.

Eldorado Resorts Acquiring Caesars Entertainment

Eldorado Resorts has announced that they plan to acquire Caesars Entertainment for over $17 billion, with the deal closing in early 2020 (closer to January 1 than June 30 according to Eldorado’s CEO in the August earnings call).

What this means is that, for now, Caesars remains Caesars. Anything you like or don’t like about the property, the casinos, the brand, the Caesars Rewards loyalty program, or anything of the sort has absolutely nothing to do with this future transaction.

It’s expected that the combined company will operate under the Caesars name next year after the transaction closes. This means we expect Caesars Rewards to continue, most of the Strip hotels currently operated by Caesars to continue to do so, but other changes are likely to happen.

There are a lot of rumors about Caesars selling off properties on the Strip or elsewhere. Aside from the next story, which is almost under that category, there’s nothing firm and lots of speculation.

Rio Sale to Imperial Companies with Leaseback Deal

Caesars Entertainment is selling the Rio All Suites Hotel to Imperial Companies for $516 million. They will rent the property back and continue to operate it for two years, with the developers having an option to extend the agreement for a year beyond that.

Based on this and related news (like the World Series Of Poker returning to Rio in 2020), we don’t expect it to be torn down or turned into a sports stadium, as had been rumored. It also means that your Caesars Rewards program will still apply there for at least another two years.

Hopefully the cash infusion from Imperial will give Caesars some money to refresh the Rio, but for now you should be able to expect at least what you’ve experienced there. That means 2-3 more years of the Penn & Teller Theatre (and “Fool Us”) as well as other regular attractions including comedy, World Series of Poker, and more.

Hard Rock Hotel Converting To Virgin

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels brand has purchased the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. Renovation and rebranding will begin in February 2020, with the hotel closing for about 8 months to complete the changes.

Until February, though, the Hard Rock Hotel remains open as it has been for years. A new exhibition of memorabilia is opening tomorrow (September 27) even, so they’re not fading away, and you still have four months or so to make a final visit before the metamorphosis.

And the Hard Rock Cafe and Hard Rock Live on the Strip should be unaffected by this transition, other than fewer tourists showing up at the restaurant hoping to get a room.

Hooters Hotel Converted To OYO

India’s On Your Own hotel company recently acquired the Las Vegas Hooters Hotel and Casino, as predicted by Vital Vegas a couple of months ago.

They showed the signage changes on September 16th on Twitter, and word is that Hooters Restaurant will move to the Strip, probably with a branded section of an existing casino.

Wrapping it up

Remember that, as Abraham Lincoln said, you can’t believe everything you see on the Internet. Before taking anyone’s word on changes in Vegas (including ours), put 30 seconds into Google and make sure what you’re hearing is correct.

Quick take: Priority Pass changes and confusion cleared up for you

Welcome to rsts11travel. Today we’re looking briefly at an underrated benefit on several premium charge and credit cards, and a recent change that has been causing confusion and misplaced expertise on travel forums this week.

tl;dr: American Express announced in May that they would no longer offer the restaurant benefit on Priority Pass memberships through their cards. Priority Pass reminded customers of this earlier this week. US Bank, Citi, and Chase benefits are unchanged. 

We’ve also looked at Priority Pass in the following posts:

Priority Pass is a company that provides a subscription service of sorts for airport lounges around the world. They began offering this “club” program in 1992.

You can subscribe through their website for an annual plan that gives you access to over 1000 lounges and airport facilities around the world; depending on your needs, you can choose to pay as little as $99 up front for a year’s membership (with a $32 per person visit fee) or select their Prestige membership at $429/year which provides you unlimited free visits and a $32/person guest visit fee. 

Most people using their service, however, do not pay them directly. Several premium credit and charge cards from American Express, US Bank, Chase, and Citi offer a version of Priority Pass (usually Priority Pass Select) which gives you either an “unlimited” number of visits with a specified number of guests included, or a fixed number of visits included.

In addition to over a thousand lounges in the program, Priority Pass also offers access to Minute Suites relaxation bays at certain airports, as well as a generous restaurant credit at about 30 airport restaurants in the US. These options have different values than a regular lounge access benefit, but many travelers (your hosts included) have found them to be good options when available.

So what’s changed?

In late May, American Express announced that they would discontinue the restaurant benefit on Priority Pass memberships granted through an American Express charge or credit card. This caused some ire, but very few cardmembers chose the premium cards from Amex because of the $28 restaurant credit.

Earlier this week, Priority Pass themselves sent out a notice (right), co-branded with the American Express Global Lounge Collection, specifying that the membership noted in the email would no longer offer the “non-lounge airport experiences” and offering a link to the frequently asked questions (FAQ) for this change.

Both the email and the FAQ state that this change only applies to the membership account specified in the email. And as confirmed by numerous travel bloggers, there has been no announcement by Chase, Citi, or US Bank that they are changing this benefit (in fact, at least The Points Guy has actively confirmed with each that they are not changing at this time).

But still, the link to the FAQ spread like wildfire, without the “qualification” of the email source, and mild panic ensued.

Should I panic and spread rumors on the Internet?

In a word, no.

The change to Amex benefits has been known for a while, and the email sent this week clearly applies to the American Express provided Priority Pass membership whose number is in your email.

No changes have been announced or even credibly intimated regarding changes to the other cards offering Priority Pass. All three banks issuing the cards have publicly confirmed that they are not changing the non-lounge benefit.

Does this mean they will never change anything until the inevitable heat death of the universe? Of course not. But it’s obvious to recognize that the Priority Pass benefit from Citi, Chase, and US Bank premium cards is still valid and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

What should I do?

If you don’t use Priority Pass at all, or if you only use it for airport lounges, nothing changes for you.

If you have your Priority Pass through a card not issued by American Express, nothing changes for you.

If you have your Priority Pass through a card that is issued by American Express and you want to use the restaurant benefits after July 31, 2019, you will want to check to see if any of your non-Amex cards offer the benefit.

The US Bank Altitude Reserve and Chase Sapphire Reserve (not Preferred) are popular choices still available for application. If you have the Citi Prestige card (no longer offered to new cardmembers), your benefit remains available and unchanged as well.

You can usually activate your Priority Pass benefit through your card issuer’s website/account portal, or by calling their customer service phone number. When we activated the Chase Sapphire Reserve Priority Pass, it took about two weeks to get the card and member number, but others have reported getting it sooner.

Once you get your card, activate your online account at the Priority Pass website or in their mobile app. Most participating locations will accept the “digital card” in the app, so you don’t need to carry the plastic version, but if you have room in your wallet or purse, you may want to do so anyway.

Wrapping it up

We hope the details in this post will help you quash any confusion about the changes and notifications around Priority Pass benefits for American Express and other cards.

The Priority Pass app, available for IOS and Android, is going to be useful going forward if you do have an Amex-offered Priority Pass benefit. It was already good for tracking down details of available lounges, as well as offering the digital membership card, but as of August 1, 2019, it will also help you avoid Priority Pass properties that are not included in your benefit.

We also expect that the “Find an Airport Lounge” feature of the Amex mobile app will be updated as well; it’s a good resource for finding eligible lounges across several networks offered by Amex (including Centurion Lounge, Delta SkyClub, and others).

We recommend checking the respective apps or websites before traveling, so that you are not disappointed upon arrival to find certain properties have left the program (as we saw with Campanile at LAX last fall). Also check participating lounge hours and availability to Priority Pass members, and remember that they are subject to capacity limits even during available hours (laws of physics and all).

Quick take: Las Vegas Benefits for Military/Veterans? Yes!

A question came up last week on a travel forum we participate in–it started out as a general status question, but the poster dropped mention of being a military person. In digging for answers, we remembered seeing the Caesars Rewards “Salute” card offer, so we’re sharing a couple of options here.

Some of these offers may apply outside Las Vegas, and there may be others we don’t know about. You will likely need military or veteran ID or a DD214 as proof of military/veteran status, and as with the non-military programs, you will need to sign up in person at a loyalty desk at one of the properties in the program you are interested in.

Feel free to share in the comments if you know of any other veteran or military options in Vegas, and we’ll update the post. And of course, thank you for your service to the United States of America. Continue reading “Quick take: Las Vegas Benefits for Military/Veterans? Yes!”

Newsflash: Caesars Rewards adds extra tier credit benefit for direct bookings

Caesars Entertainment rebranded Total Rewards as Caesars Rewards as of February 1, 2019. They added free nights at their Dubai location and a free night in Las Vegas or Atlantic City for every 5000 tier credits (TC) earned.

Now, as of March 1, 2019, they’ve enhanced the program a little bit more. With any paid stay booked directly with Caesars (online at their website, through the app, or through their call center), visitors will earn 5 tier credits per dollar spent on room rate and resort fees. (Facebook, Twitter)

Based on the email they sent to members on February 27, this applies to any direct-booked stay with a check-out date of March 1, 2019, or later. This shouldn’t require rebooking, if you have an existing reservation booked directly with Caesars.

This is a good enhancement for Caesars Rewards members who pay for their rooms, and will help people attain higher status levels without (as much, if any) gambling spend. Specifically, you can now earn Platinum status with $1,000 in room rate and resort fees, or Diamond status with $3,000 in room rate and resort fees, in a given calendar year, not including any other spend that earns tier credits.

The emperor confirms, no rebooking needed.

You still earn 1 TC per dollar on eligible room charges as before (including dining and entertainment), and you still earn 1 reward credit (RC) per dollar on all of that spend.

And if you have the Caesars Rewards VISA credit card, you will still be earning a total of 5 RC per dollar on your charges at Caesars properties.

Obviously, if you get comps, you won’t really earn 5x TC on the $0 you spend on those, and if your resort fees are waived due to existing Caesars Rewards status, you won’t earn 5x TC on those. But you weren’t earning 1x TC on those $0 amounts before, so it’s not a loss. (Not that keeps people from whining on social media that they’re not getting bonuses on top of free rooms, of course.)

What do you think of this change to Caesars Rewards? Will it make you more likely to stay at Caesars Resorts?

Newsflash: Updates to Caesars Rewards (formerly known as Total Rewards) effective TODAY

Welcome back to rsts11travel. Today we’re going to look at changes in the Caesars Entertainment rewards program, which many of you traveling to Las Vegas take advantage of.

The program, known for years as Total Rewards, is officially rebranded as Caesars Rewards as of today, February 1, 2019. No re-registration or member interaction is required for the change, and your number and point balances will remain intact. You can pick up a rebranded card at any Caesars Rewards desk in a Caesars property though. Mobile app, Comenity’s Total Rewards VISA, and other collateral will be updated in the coming months.

If you’re not a member of Total Rewards/Caesars Rewards yet, join through this link for 500 bonus Tier Credits to get you started (we also get 500 bonus TCs). You don’t get a card in the mail, but you can pick them up at any Caesars Rewards desk on property when you visit next.

Changes to Tier Benefits for 2019

What does this mean for you as a Caesars customer, other than one fewer word to name the program? Let’s take a quick look.

Continue reading “Newsflash: Updates to Caesars Rewards (formerly known as Total Rewards) effective TODAY”

Newsflash: Amex Business Platinum adds new features, $145 annual fee hike

The American Express Business Platinum Card, formerly a $450 annual fee offering with a 35% points back benefit on pay-with-points travel bookings, announced a few changes coming between now and February 2019.

Read about the personal Platinum increase here: Changes in Amex Platinum – and 3 reasons to keep the card (March 2017)

See our guide to Justifying a premium credit or charge card for your traveling pleasure here (September 2018)

Dell benefit description updated February 1, 2019. You can register for this benefit now.

During 2018, the main noticeable change was that they started issuing cards in metal rather than plastic, matching the personal card option. In return for the satisfying clink or clunk on a table, you give up the ability to have your card run on one of the old kerchunk machines (we’re sure there’s an official name for the impression-based devices, but we don’t know it offhand).

But 2019 brings a few new benefits, at a cost. As with the personal card, if you can use the new benefits, you’ll end up better off than before, even with the annual fee hike.

Continue reading “Newsflash: Amex Business Platinum adds new features, $145 annual fee hike”

Newsflash: American Express relaunches Premier Rewards Gold as the Gold Card

Last week at rsts11travel, we looked at some of the premier credit and charge cards and how to make them worth the high annual fees. You may have noticed we hinted at the Premier Rewards Gold card, a mid-range benefit-bearing charge card in the personal lineup. Eagle-eyed consumers also may have noticed that the American Express Gold Card disappeared from the Amex website earlier this year (leaving a gap between the classic green charge card and the Platinum card). 

Well, there were rumors and screenshots suggesting that the Premier Rewards Gold card would be changing, and last Thursday they became more than rumor. 

Promotional image from American Express customer email

Before October 4th, 2018, the Premier Rewards Gold card offered 3x Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines, 2x on gas stations and supermarkets, and 1x on all other purchases. It also provided a $100 airline fee rebate for a selected airline each year. It was a pretty good card for the $195 annual fee, if you could take advantage of the bonus categories. 

With the updates, the Premier Rewards Card is now the American Express Gold Card. The bonus on gas stations is gone, the flight bonus remains, but restaurants and supermarkets are now earning 4x Membership Rewards points (with a cap of $25,000 in supermarket purchases per year, after which the rate returns to 1x). 

The airline fee rebate is joined with an opt-in offer of up to $10/mo in statement credits on select dining partners. Those partners are Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth’s Chris Steak House. If you choose to use this benefit, log into your Amex account and activate the benefit on the “benefits” tab of the site. 

Alas, as we saw with the American Express Platinum card last year, the annual fee is expanding along with the benefits, to a new rate of $250 effective your next renewal date on or after April 1, 2019. You’ll have anywhere from 6 to 18 months to decide if the new annual fee is worth the benefits. 

In the rewards blogosphere, a lot of people are seeing this as a viable competitor to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and depending on your travel and dining preferences, as well as your redemption options, it could supplement or replace the CSR in your wallet in 2019. 

One other benefit that may seal the deal for some cardmembers is the metal card offering, including a limited edition rose gold metal card only available for three months. While you can order the new yellow gold metal card through the Amex website, you’ll have to either call the number on the back of your card or use Amex website chat to request the Rose Gold card. 

It sounds like the new card request is effectively a product change, although the benefits have already changed so it’s not a big difference. 

How do you feel about the new American Express Gold Card? Will it change what you carry and use? What will take its place as a gas rewards card? Let us know in the comments below. 

Newsflash: National Car Rental promo with American Express

Most of you who have American Express Platinum cards know that you can get Executive Aisle status as a benefit of those cards. This means you get a wider selection of vehicles when renting, and earn free rentals faster (a free day every 6 rentals, rather than 7 with basic Emerald Aisle membership). 

A National Car Rental car selection at Orlando International Airport. Orlando International Airport – Photo: Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos via Flickr, used under Creative Commons License (By 2.0)
Photo: Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos via Flickr, used under Creative Commons License (By 2.0)

Well, apparently National really wants American Express cardmembers to rent with them. There’s a new promo today that gets you Executive Elite status just by having an American Express card. Executive Elite sets the free rental day bar at 5 rentals, and has guaranteed availability if you reserve 24 hours in advance. 

Follow this link, log in if you have a current account with National, and you should be upgraded. It took about 30 seconds for us, and an email confirmation of the profile change was in our inbox within a minute or two. 

If you rent after accepting the offer, and pay with an American Express card by the end of January 2019, you are eligible for a free rental day in addition to whatever your rental credits earn you. 

Not a National fan? With this status you may be able to match to Avis and Hertz higher tiers… your mileage may vary, so to speak. 

Newsflash: Caesars Total Rewards Diamond changes and devaluations for 2018

Update 2018-02-01: The FoundersCard/Total Rewards partnership has been renewed. See below for details.

It looks like the news has been filtering out for two months, but somehow we just learned of this today. Caesars Entertainment has made some notable adjustments to the Total Rewards tier benefits for 2018.

For many Diamond members, and most Seven Stars members, this won’t be a severe downgrade. If you stay at Caesars properties regularly and leave a lot of money in the casino, you’ll probably be okay. But for people barely squeaking in to Diamond (or getting in through tier matching or FoundersCard), you’re going to notice some differences.

Links: Current (2017) benefits, New (2018) benefits

See also: Happy holidays from rsts11travel, and a quick offer from FoundersCard

What’s changing?

Continue reading “Newsflash: Caesars Total Rewards Diamond changes and devaluations for 2018”