Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Priceless Surprises - Glitchy, but looking good.

There's been some concern over whether the Priceless Surprises sweepstakes that IHG is sponsoring was not, in fact, a guaranteed winner as some speculated:
More than 40,000 IHG points for more than $46 and a cramped hand

Originally, it appeared that every play would result in at least 500 IHG points, but in the past day, plays have been resulting in "you haven't won a prize" messages as reported on Flyertalk.  Well, it seems that was a glitch:
Whew.  I sent out a number of handwritten entries, so I'm glad to see this was just a glitch.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Amex is on a Bluebird Hunt - Massive Wave of Bluebird Shutdowns

Amex's Bluebird card has been a useful instrument for manufactured spending for a few years.  It allowed fee-free loading of up to $5,000 per month and could be loaded via various pre-paid debit cards.  The money could then be easily withdrawn to your checking account.  Personally, I mainly used it to generate Delta Miles via Suntrust.  It appears that it's usefulness is at an end.  This morning, Amex sent out a wave of Bluebird shut-down notices like this one:

The shutdown wave is being discussed over at Flyertalk, and seems to be pretty thorough.  Both Mrs. Pointsninja and I were shut down.  This will no-doubt come as a blow to many folks who had been using the card to do a limited amount of low-cost MSing, but it's not surprising.  Using the Bluebird as nothing more than a means of shifting money around was a money-loser for Amex, and if something can't go on forever... it won't.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"Grooming" Award Bookings

This is a reminder that the fun of travel planning doesn't end when you've made all your award bookings.  You still need to check up on them from time to time, and sometimes it can pay off.  For an upcoming trip, I booked a single night at the Hilton Paddington in London.  A single nights stay there runs 70,000 Hilton Honors points.  But, I wanted to try out the Tower Rooms, which are in a relatively new wing of that hotel and feature access to their own lounge. So I booked a Hilton "Premium Room Reward" at a higher rate:

On a cash basis, Tower rooms run around £75 more per night than the base level (Double Hilton Guest Room, bookable for 70,000 points), so for an extra 37,000 points I was getting approx. $112 in value.  That's a .3CPP, or pretty much exactly what I think Hilton points are worth.  So, not a bad deal, but not a great one.  Today I was checking up on my reservations and comparing them to the rates currently available.  For the same night, I saw this:

Same room, same night, 34,000 points less!  You can be sure I made a new booking and cancelled my old one.  Now, for a 3,441 point premium, I'm getting the same £75 of value.  That means I'm now getting a fantastic 3.25 CPP return on those additional points!

FWIW, the Paddington seems to be having a bit of a sale on some premium rooms.  The Double Executive Room (two categories up from the base room) currently costs fewer points than a base level room:
And that's for a room that also includes lounge access.  Not a bad deal at all!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Delta Currently has Great Availability to Europe

Thanks to Gary @ View From the Wing for noting that Delta has some really good business class award availability for TATL travel next summer.  If Mrs. Points Ninja and I weren't already booked to go to London, I'd be jumping on this!


This is the kind of availability I like to see!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Suntrust Delta Debit Card is Back - Signup Bonus of 5,000 Skymiles

I've had the Suntrust Delta Debit Card for some years now.  It used to be a fantastically lucrative card: for an annual fee of $75 you could earn a practically unlimited number of Skymiles for making PIN-based purchases.  I earned a LOT of miles this way.  The card really was much too good of a deal, and it hasn't been available to new applicants for quite a while.

Suntrust recently hobbled the card, which was a real heartbreak for those of us who'd gotten one when it was still available.  But, interestingly, Suntrust has now revived the card for new applicants and is even offering a sign-up bonus (a modest 5,000 Skymiles).

 The value proposition is much lower with the new restrictions, but it could be interesting to some folks.

It appears that for new accounts, the card is available only to Signature Advantage  or Premier Banking accounts:

In addition to the $75 annual fee for the card, Signature Advantage accounts carry a $25 monthly maintenance fee.  That fee is waived if you maintain a minimum deposit balance of $25,000 including IRAs, and investment accounts:

Under the new terms, a Delta Debit Card attached to a Signature Advantage checking account earns 1 Skymile per dollar spent, including PIN-based transactions.  However, you are limited to earning 4,000 Skymiles per month.

Just as a mental exercise, let's suppose you had an IRA or investment account that you could transfer to Suntrust to avoid the monthly maintenance fees.  This scenario assumes no opportunity cost for moving that money to Suntrust, i.e. that you'd get the same rate of return with them.  If you maxed this deal out, your return would look like this:

  1. Cost: Annual fee of $75 + cost of MSing $48,000 in PIN-based transactions (approx. $35-50) = $110-$125
  2. Return: 53,000 Skymiles (Signup bonus + 1MPD)
  3. Cost per Skymile: $0.002 or .2CPM
That's not too bad, since  I generally value Skymiles a a little over 1CPM.  Given the hard upper limit on earning, I probably wouldn't jump at this deal myself.  Still, it's worth considering, particularly if you live in Suntrust's service area.  Of course, it you happen to already have $25,000 on deposit with Suntrust, I'd say jumping on this card would be a no-brainer.

UPDATE:  Some folks on the Flyertalk thread dedicated to this card have speculated as to whether one can have more than one Skymiles Debit Card per account.  The answer is yes:

BUT, there doesn't appear to be any reason to do so, as the Ts&Cs state that: "Enrollment and all bonus miles are only applicable once perclient/checking account and SkyMiles number."  The terms also indicate (but don't unequivocally state) that the monthly earn limits are per account, not per card.

UPDATE to the UPDATE:  Oooh.  This just got more interesting.  Via chat, a Suntrust agent confirms that the limits are "per card" limits, NOT "per account" limits.  That means a single joint checking account could carry up to three cards (which must be linked to three separate Skymiles accounts) and earn 4,000 miles per month PER CARD.  I'll be interested to see if this pans out.  If it does, joint account holders could each earn 48,000 miles per year on without each having to deposit $25,000.  The agent also confirmed that that secondary Skymiles Debit Cards would not incur an additional annual fee (but would not be eligible for an additional cap) if both cards were linked to the same Skymiles account.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

100 Free Marriott Points

For the most part survey's for points aren't a particularly lucrative, and this one's no different.  It's a very quick survey I discovered via Lucky (via PM&M) that offers 100 Marriott points for about 30 seconds work.  That's way less than a buck's worth of points, but if you don't have a lot of activity with Marriott, it coudl be useful for extending the life of your Marriott balance.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Things to Remember - Credit Card Referrals

If you're a points and miles enthusiast, chances are you've had a friend ask about "the best credit card" to get.  My answer is always, "that depends."  I try to determine what their goals are, then recommend a card that I think would work best for them.

Of course, I don't allow myself to be influenced by whether I can benefit from the recommendation.  BUT, when I end up recommending a card I carry, I usually check to make sure that I can't refer them to the card.  Often times "refer-a-friend" offers are worse than the best currently available public offer.  But sometimes they're equal to, or better than, the public offer.  For instance, Starwood is currently promoting a "refer-a-friend" offer in which the cardholder gets 5,000 points while the referee gets a 30,000 point offer:

This is equal to the current best available offer, plus you get points for referring your friend/spouse/colleague, etc.  In such cases you're leaving points on the table if you don't remember to make a referral.