On the road again? Back to Vegas with rsts11travel

We’ve been pretty quiet on rsts11travel this year, as we haven’t gotten very far outside our own area code since mid-March. But with some things getting better and others not getting as much worse as they could, we’ll likely have some new posts coming including our first travel in 9 months.

As we start queueing up some new posts, here are a couple of things to think about as you reach the end of the year and maybe ponder some travel on your own.

Check your points and status expiration

With the pandemic, lockdowns, and decreased travel, many if not most travel networks are extending status, points expiration, and even status earning conditions into the next year.

Some examples (check the links or the provider’s website; we don’t guarantee that this list will be updated after publication):

MGM Resorts MLife:

  • Current earned status extended through 2021
  • Reduced tier credit requirements for upgraded levels (Pearl at 20k, Gold at 60k, Platinum at 160k) through December 31, 2020
  • Tier credits still expire December 31 (the tier year is now calendar year, rather than October-September)

Caesars Rewards:

  • Current earned status extended through January 31, 2022
  • Reduced tier credit requirements (Platinum at 4k, Diamond at 12k, Diamond Plus at 20k, Diamond Elite at 60k)
  • Reward credit expiration extended to September 30 (6 month expiration if no activity)

American:

  • Miles will not expire through June 30, 2021; current miles will expire in July 2021 if you don’t have activity before then
  • Elite status due to expire 1/31/2021 is good through 1/31/2022, with lower qualifying metric requirements
  • Award travel fees are gone effective November 11, 2020
  • Some elite benefits apply to Basic Economy

United:

  • Premier status extended through January 2022
  • Adjusted qualifying metric requirements to earn Premier status
  • (Miles already didn’t expire)

Southwest:

  • Bonus metrics “boost” (no cow require
  • d) for A-List and Companion Pass status if you were a Rapid Rewards member by April 1, 2020 (already applied and visible in your account).
  • Existing Companion Passes extended through June 30, 2021
  • A-List and A-List Preferred status extended through December 31, 2021
  • You can convert travel funds to Rapid Rewards points (which don’t expire)

Marriott:

  • Points expiration delayed until August 1, 2021.
  • Free nights from credit cards or other programs, with an expiration date between 1/1/2020 and 7/31/2021, are extended through August 1, 2021 (look for updated dates on December 11).
  • Earned 2019 status will be extended through 2/1/2022

Hilton:

  • Points expiration deferred until December 31, 2021
  • Status extended through March 31, 2022 if you had status in 2020 (even if you didn’t maintain)
  • All 2020 nights roll over to 2021 qualification, with half the qualifying metric requirement in 2021

Check your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry status for upcoming renewals

TSA PreCheck:

No special concessions. Expect modified hours and some closures, but delays should be minimal for the most part.

Global Entry:

In person interviews are available again as of September 8, 2020.

From the CBP FAQ: “You become eligible to renew your membership one year prior to program expiration. If you submit a renewal application before your membership expires, you will be able to continue to use benefits up to 6 months after your membership expiration date, if your renewal does not get processed in time.”

Remember that several premium credit and charge cards (including American Express Platinum and Citi AAdvantage Executive Mastercard) offer a credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry every 4-5 years. If you’re up for renewal, or need to sign up, check any card with a higher annual fee to see if you can use this benefit.

Check your premium credit and charge cards for special benefits

Several cards with heavy travel benefits added non-travel benefits this year to make up for not being able to use the regular travel offerings.

Some examples include American Express Platinum:

  • $100 Dell credit through 1/31/2021
  • $20 monthly streaming service credit through 12/31/2020
  • $20 monthly wireless phone service credit through 12/31/2020
  • Travel bonus: $100 additional travel credit (which is reported to not be instantly applied, unlike the regular airline fee credits, Dell credits, and so forth).

American Express Business Platinum:

  • Additional $100 Dell credit (you already got $100 for each half-calendar year, so this could add up to $400 this year)
  • $20 monthly wireless phone service credit through 12/31/2020
  • $20 monthly shipping service credit through 12/31/2020 (includes shipping supplies bought at UPS and Fedex stores, in our experience, as well as traditional shipping services)
  • Some members get a $200 statement credit after renewal, to offset reduced value of the annual fee

Marriott branded credit cards from American Express and Chase have expanded point earning in gas station and restaurant purchases, as well as Marriott purchases. And certain Chase and Amex cards have newish offers for dining delivery services and car services, which could be worth $120 a year.

Top-line travel cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex have added categories to qualify for the $300 statement credit benefit. Check your card issuer site or portal to see if this applies to you.

Aside from these benefits, be sure to check your Amex Offers and Benefits on their website or mobile app to see if there are travel or other benefits that might add value (or at least reduce the annual fee pain). Since we’re very Vegas oriented, it’s worth noting that several Amex cards have current offers for MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and possibly even Wynn and Venetian resorts. Check the terms carefully, as the MGM offers are distinct but look similar (the lower value one is for the lower value resorts).

Have you found an interesting pandemic-era loyalty or card promotion you think our other readers would appreciate? Share it in the comments, or join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

How much do I have to spend to make a premium card break even?

A few months ago, we looked at up-front justification (or at least softening the blow) of the annual fees on some premium credit and charge cards. This was mainly intended to show that most of these cards have up-front benefits that compensate for the $450+ annual fees.

Several conversations on online travel and rewards forums have shown that the distinction between the annual fee and the potential value of the card are not as clear as they could be. And some people are looking solely at the sign-up bonus vs the annual fee.

So today we’ll take a deeper look at how to determine if one or more of these cards is for you.

Spoiler: If you don’t travel in a way that you can use your own cards, odds are none of these cards will be of much use to you beyond the first year, if that. 

Recap

We reviewed the American Express Platinum charge cards (both personal and business), the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, and the Citi AAdvantage Executive credit card.

Continue reading “How much do I have to spend to make a premium card break even?”

Newsflash: American Airlines status buy-up for 2018

Welcome back to rsts11travel. We’re here today to let you know that if you’re running short on qualification for next year’s AAdvantage status, you may be able to buy up to retain status.

We did a status challenge last year at this time (through FoundersCard) to get Platinum status through January 2018. Alas, travel slowed down at work and in our personal lives this year, and we’re way short of the qualification to keep status through January 2019. And American has a policy of only allowing “quick qualification” once every five years, so while FoundersCard had another status challenge offer recently, we’re not eligible.

This morning, the buy-up offer came into our email. The price to upgrade will vary based on how close you are to qualifying; your travel plans for 2018 will definitely tie into whether it’s worth spending cash to regain status.

For us, it’s probably not going to be worth paying to upgrade. Since our American mileage and spend was lower this year than the previous year, we’re looking at about $750 for Gold and $1500 for Platinum. If we win the lottery, then we’ll probably re-up (or just fly for a week and enjoy organic status). Otherwise, we’ll probably slip down for a year and consider status challenges or matches elsewhere.

There are two possible side benefits (beyond the status) of buying-up to a status level.

The first side benefit is that if you use a travel card (especially American Airlines cards, but possibly other travel rewards cards), this spend should qualify for the bonus points and other benefits. For example, the AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard from Citibank has two benefits for spend:

So that $1500 for Platinum would give us 3000 miles and almost 4% of the spend to get 10k EQMs (although doing it now wouldn’t help much, as it’s per-calendar-year).

You might be able to use travel-eraser cards to credit back the cost of your upgrade, or use travel credits from a premium card like Chase Sapphire Reserve or certain American Express cards, depending on your card and how the charge is classified/posted.

The second side benefit is noted in the buy-up offer:

Plus, your purchase price will count toward your Rolling Elite Qualifying Dollars, helping improve your upgrade priority.

So that Platinum buy-up would give 1500 EQDs toward the next year’s status, and help with ranking for upgrades.

Have you considered buying your status upgrade for 2018? Have you found any other ways to take advantage of travel card benefits with this upgrade? Share in the comments!

Cattle class coming to American Air – how do you make it better?

American Airlines sent notifications this morning that they’re introducing their Basic Economy fares in late February, 2017.

Joining United and Delta in this bottom-tier offering, American says you’ll soon be able to save some money by forgoing overhead bins, seat assignments prior to check-in, flight changes, or boarding before the last group. As an extra “bonus,” American will give you half an Elite Qualifying Mile (EQM) for each mile flown in Basic Economy. That’s half the EQMs you’d get in regular economy.

Two other enhancements are that you can pay a fee to select a seat 24 hours before your flight, and gate-checking a bag for Basic Economy will carry a bag fee and a $25 gate service fee. Continue reading “Cattle class coming to American Air – how do you make it better?”