January 21, 2013
Last week was an incredible one considering how much bad news points & miles enthusiasts had to bear. Here is a sampling of what happened and my take on each…
It’s going to be harder for traditional mileage runners to keep elite status with Delta due to new spend requirements. Fortunately, for those of us who prefer to do their mileage running, from home, things don’t change much (spend $25K on a Delta credit card and you’re exempt from the changes). Read more here.
Starwood’s Cash & Points program has long been a favorite because, when available, it often meant that you could get incredible value from your SPG points. Usually you would get 4 cents or more value from each point. With the new changes, the value you get from Cash & Points redemptions decreases substantially. There is a chance, though, that these changes will increase the availability of Cash & Points. This would be a good thing for people who otherwise don’t have enough points for a points-only redemption.
Book your stays before March 5 to get in on the old rates.
The changes took place on Jan 18th and most are bad. In many cases the cost to book a Priority Club night on points has gone up. LoyaltyLobby provides a nearly complete list of new rates here.
Wyndham hotels quietly increased many point redemption rates, and some of the increases were huge. I’ve been sitting on Wyndham points for a while now with the thought that I would probably find a good use for them at a hotel. Now, however, I’m thinking of transferring points to airline miles instead.
Gary has the full scoop here: “There Are Changes Coming to the Hilton American Express Cards — But They Aren’t What We Thought.” The biggest change is that Amex is replacing the Drug Store & Telecom bonus categories with a new Restaurants bonus category. They are also dropping the bonus points on the no annual fee card from 6X to 5X while increasing points earned at Hilton properties from 6X to 7X. As before, both the no fee card and the Surpass card earn 3 points per dollar for all non bonus category spend.
For people that like Hilton properties and like to carry only one credit card, I can see how these changes might be a good thing, especially if you eat out a lot. For those of us, though, who carry multiple cards it is a shame to lose the Drug Store category since very few other cards offer drug store bonuses. Further, at restaurants, instead of 5X or 6X Hilton points, I’d rather earn 5X ThankYou points with my Freedom card, or 2.14X Ultimate Rewards points with my Sapphire Preferred card, or 5% cash back with Cash+.
Some of the absurdly good cash back earning opportunities from US Bank’s Cash+ card will be going away. Starting this summer we will lose the ability to get an extra $25 back for every $100 award redemption. Also, 5% cash back rewards will be capped to $2K per quarter. It’s still a very good cash back card, but no longer out of this world good.
Gift Cards & Reload Cards
There was no specific news to report here, but there have been troubling rumblings. For example, a number of people have reported that their local Walgreens and CVS stores that used to allow Vanilla Reload cards to be bought with credit cards no longer allow it. Similarly, some people have reported that while they used to be able to reload their Target Amex card with Visa gift cards, their recent attempts were unsuccessful. At this point, I have no reason to think that these reported changes are or will be nation-wide, but that’s always a possibility.
The Game Goes On
All of the above changes are disappointing, but the game will go on. Every day, new deals come and go. Some fear that all of the best opportunities are behind us, but I don’t think that’s true. For example, Club Carlson keeps making things better both for earning points and redeeming them (see “Club Carlson rocks our world… Again“). And, there are constantly new opportunities with prepaid cards and debit cards. I have no doubt that we will keep finding and innovating fantastic new ways to earn & spend points and miles.
As Mommy Points recently stated, “In the Miles and Points Game, You Gotta Keep Moving.” I can’t agree more.