Redeeming 90,000 SPG Starpoints for a Companion Pass, 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points, and a 7-Night Stay in a Marriott Hotel (Categories 1-5)

marriott-spg

I’ve been on vacation for the past few weeks, so this post is a little late; however, the optimal time to do all of this will be in early 2017, so no harm done.

A few weeks back, Marriott and Starwood began allowing rewards members to link their accounts together and to transfer points between the two programs at a ratio of 3 Marriott Rewards points per 1 SPG Starpoint. This opened up the opportunity to purchase a Marriott Hotel + Air Package 3 (Category 1-5) with 90,000 SPG Starpoints instead of the normal cost of 270,000 Marriott Rewards points.

The Hotel + Air packages, in exchange for 270,000 Marriott Rewards points, provide you with a 7-night stay at any Category 1-5 Marriott hotel and 120,000 airline miles of your choice. Package 3 specifically designates the selection of 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. While you could choose another of Marriott’s partner airlines, the main point of this post is to highlight that transfers from Marriott do count toward the 110,000 miles you need to earn to be awarded a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, so simply purchasing this package is enough. Do keep in mind that because the companion pass is valid through December 31st of the year after you earn it, the ideal time for this redemption is on or after January 1, 2017, which gives you an expiration date of December 31, 2018.

In any case, I merely wanted to point out that this option exists and is worth considering for folks who travel a lot domestically. If you’d like to book a Marriott Hotel + Air package, the number to call is (800) 321-7396.

United MileagePlus Changing Stopovers and Fees on October 6, 2016

united mileageplus program updates

Direct Link

Quick Summary

  • Current stopover policy is being removed and replaced with the “Excursionist Perk”
  • Change/Cancellation fee structure is changing, mostly for the worse
  • Round the World awards are being discontinued

My Take

Here are the official rules for applying the Excursionist Perk:

  • The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates.
  • Travel must end in the same MileagePlus defined region where travel originates.
  • The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk is within a single MileagePlus defined region.
  • The cabin of service and award type of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.
  • If two or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit, only the first occurrence will be free.

Essentially, this means that your stopover/open-jaw must occur entirely in the same region as your destination. This removes a couple popular methods of leveraging the current stopover and open-jaw rules:

  1. Stopovers/open-jaws in a separate region on your way to/from your destination. Many awards will route you through a different region on your way to or from your destination. A couple years ago, for example, I routed through Bangkok on my way home from Auckland and had a stopover in Bangkok. Under these new rules, this will not be allowed because Bangkok and Auckland are in separate regions.
  2. “Free one-way” awards. Imagine a straightforward routing where I just want to fly from San Francisco to London and back. I could potentially add a stopover/open-jaw by tacking on another flight at the end from San Francisco to Honolulu sometime in the future. This is my “free one-way” award. Because of the first rule, these awards will no longer be bookable.

For changes and cancellations, some fees are going up, and others are going down, so it’s easier to just look at the new chart:

united mileageplus program updates fees

Other key takeaways are that the penalty ($50) for close-in changes/cancellations will now kick in within 60 days of departure, as opposed to within 20 days, which is the current policy. Also, you cannot makes changes fewer than 24 hours before departure for flights on partner airlines. Overall, the new rules make award travel more restrictive and penalize the customer more if plans have to change for any reason.

Lastly, nobody really cares about Round the World awards, so no big loss here. Overall, these are a ton of negative changes though, and we should all be fairly disappointed.

United Economy Awards to Europe for 45,000 Miles Roundtrip (25% Discount)

united europe

For a limited time, enjoy a discount of 15,000 miles on roundtrip MileagePlus Saver Awards in United Economy when you travel from the U.S. (excluding Hawaii) or Canada to Europe.

Link to Terms & Conditions

Quick Summary

Book: June 20 – 28, 2016
Travel: August 23, 2016 – March 31, 2017

Blackout dates: Offer is not valid for any travel occurring during the period beginning on December 15, 2016 and ending on January 8, 2017.

Stopovers & Open-Jaws: Open-jaw itineraries within the same region do qualify for the discount. Stopovers do not qualify for this offer.

[Miles Briefs] Multiple Gift Card Redemptions 25% Off w/ Amex MR Points (Home Depot & Others)

home depot

Follow this link to see all eGiftcards (make sure you log in) and look for the banner that says eDELIVERYSALE.

At 25% off, the redemption value is about 1.333 cents per point, and this deal is good through 06/27/2016.

I don’t think everyone sees the same offers, so some of these are possibly targeted. In my account, I have:

  • Banana Republic
  • Bath & Body Works
  • Chili’s
  • Crate & Barrel
  • Gap
  • Legal Sea Foods
  • Nike
  • Old Navy
  • Pottery Barn
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • The Cheesecake Factory
  • The Home Depot
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • West Elm
  • Williams-Sonoma

Which Credit Card to Get & Saving Miles with Geography

If you’ve been poking around this website, you’ve probably already seen the page Which Credit Card Should I Get?, but it’s been a work-in-progress, and I’ve finally finished it. Go ahead and take a look if you haven’t already.

For those of you who aren’t new to this game, I’ve also included a reference toward the bottom called Which Miles Should I Use? to show you the best miles to use for different regions of the world in economy, business, and first class.

canary islands

And, lastly, a new page I’ve added today is called How To Save Miles By Knowing Your Geography. Many mileage programs just don’t agree what part of the world certain countries are in. American places the Canary Islands in their Europe region, even though they’re off the coast of Africa, where United considers them to be. This makes awards there considerably cheaper with American than with United. On that page, I list the discrepancies I’ve found so far, and I’ll continue to update it as I add more mileage programs to this website.