AwardGuru Unlock and opti-maxi-mize the value of your miles and points…

10Dec/110

*Exclusive* Earn up to 50,000 ThankYou Points with a new Citibank checking account

You can now get up to 50,000 ThankYou points worth $500 in gift cards (or possibly up to $666.67 in airfare) with a new Citibank checking account. This is one the best bonus offer of the year for a new checking account. When you open a new regular checking account in the Citigold® Account Package, you can get 50,000 ThankYou Points. Or, if you open a new regular checking account in The Citibank® Account Package, you can receive 25,000 ThankYou® Points.

You can use your ThankYou Points for your favorite restaurants, top retailers, electronics and much more. However, the best value of ThankYou points is for airfare if you have a Citi ThankYou Premier or Prestige card linked to that ThankYou account. You can even transfer these points for free to another ThankYou account that is eligible for 1.33 cents per point in airfare redemption value. Citi ThankYou Preferred card is not eligible for this higher redemption value. I have talked about Citi's ThankYou Rewards program in this post.

The Citibank checking account benefits include:

  • Convenient linking between your checking account and credit card
  • Award-winning 24-hour online banking
  • Fee-free access to over 30,000 ATMs nationwide
  • Citi Mobile Apps for iPhone®, iPod touch® and Android™ devices3
  • No monthly fee for debit card usage - no matter how you swipe it

Here's all you need to do:

  1.   Open a new Citibank checking account in The Citigold Account or Citibank Account Package by 12/31/2011.
  2.   Enroll the new checking account in Citi ThankYou Rewards.
  3.   Within 45 days of account opening, initiate one direct deposit AND complete one electronic bill payment for two consecutive months.

Please note that the points earned through Citibank's banking activity like checking and savings accounts are taxable and you will receive form 1099-INT for it. However, for most people, the bonus may be too big and attractive to worry about a small percentage in taxes.

This is a limited-time offer, so open a new checking account and start getting rewarded.

 

12Nov/110

Get 30,000 Ultimate Reward points or $300 cashback when you apply for Chase Freedom credit card (no annual fee)

Apply for Chase Freedom credit card and get 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $500 on the card. You can redeem these 30,000 Chase UR points for worth $300 cash or gift cards. There is no annual fee for this card.

Note that the UR points earned from this card cannot be transferred to one of the Airline or Hotel partners within Ultimate Rewards program as this card is ineligible for transfer. However, if you have another Chase card that earns Chase UR points like Chase INK BOLD (that also earns 50,000 Chase UR points, with first year annual fee waived), the points earned from this Chase Freedom card get consolidated to the same Chase UR account and are now eligible for the transfer. These transfer partners include UA, CO, BA, KE, Hyatt or Marriott, and you convert your points at 1:1 ratio for no charge.

This is a good card option for those who are strictly not interested in getting cards with annual fee. Otherwise, there are plenty of good options, some of which I have already discussed and many more that I will be talking about in future.

11Nov/110

Companion Certificate program for Citi ThankYou Premier card results in savings of $229

My experience trying to use Citi ThankYou Premier card's companion certificate program was a pleasant one resulting in savings of $229 as compared to buying two tickets out of pocket at the market rate.

If I had bought the two tickets directly from the Airline, these would have cost me $637 total. I got the exact same flights for $408 through Citi Companion Certificate program by calling them at 888-428-4078. This comes to a net savings of $229, well over the annual fee for the card.

I simply love this card. A detailed analysis of this card can be found in this post. Best of all, you will earn miles on both the tickets!

Some points to be noted:

  1. Cardholder has to be one of the two travelers.
  2. Tickets have to be booked at least 4 days in advance.
  3. You may not have a choice of flights covered by the program.
  4. It is not a real companion certificate that gives you the second ticket for free. But in a few other test cases I tried, the savings ranged between 50-70% of the total cost of two tickets. That is fantastic in my opinion.
  5. You have to use Citi ThankYou card to pay for the tickets.
10Nov/110

2x American Express Membership Rewards for Chicago

I just found an offer sitting in my emails that I had not looked at since it was originally sent to me. Chicago residents can earn 2x American Express Membership Rewards points until November 15, 2011 at the participating merchants simply by enrolling their AMEX card and using it to pay the merchant. This offer originally was from October 1, 2011 to November 15, 2011.

Although, it says that the offer is for first 1,000 card members who successfully I was able to enroll two hours ago. This means that the enrollment is still open and readers can still take advantage of this offer.

Terms and Conditions for the offer as copied and pasted from the offer webpage:

The following Offer Terms are specific to the Offer above:

To be eligible for this offer, you must register a Membership Rewards program-enrolled American Express Card at americanexpress.com/getrewardedchicago between September 15, 2011 and November 15, 2011. You may only register one Card for this offer. Using the same registered Card for each transaction, you must make at least one purchase at participating merchants between October 1, 2011 and November 15, 2011. Registration is limited to the first 5000 registrants. You may earn a maximum of 1,000 bonus points during this promotion. Prepaid and corporate cards, and ExpressPay transactions are not eligible. If your Card is replaced during the promotional period, please call the customer service number on the back of your Card for assistance. Bonus points will be credited to your Program account within 10-12 weeks after charges appear on your billing statement. Some American Express Cards are not eligible for enrollment in the Program. Program terms and conditions apply; see membershiprewards.com/terms or call 1-800-AXP-EARN (287-3276). Participating partners and available rewards are subject to change at any time. Bonus ID 6966. Additional terms apply. See Registration Terms & Conditions for details.

Enroll in this 2x AMEX MR points for Chicago offer

List of participating merchants

 

23Oct/110

A review of Amtrak’s Loyalty program – Amtrak Guest Rewards

Last week, I took a last-minute weekend getaway with my family that incorporated a trip on Amtrak back to Chicago on Amtrak's California Zephyr route aboard Amtrak's Superliner Sleeper Bedroom Cabin. I wanted to write a full-fledged trip report of my experience from booking that award using Amtrak points to the actual trip and travel on Amtrak (was my first long distance train journey in the US). But that trip report is taking its own sweet time to come together. I thought in the meanwhile, I will write a brief summary that is more related to award booking and opti-maxi-mizing the value.

For those who are not aware (I bet that would be most of the readers from outside of the Northeast Corridor), Amtrak has a frequent rider (flyer) program by the name Amtrak Guest Rewards. The program has rather some exceptional awards in its award charts. Amtrak Guest Rewards (AGR) has tiered awards in terms on zones and has a neat (though a little inaccurate) zone map on its website that comes in handy when planning an award redemption. Our Amtrak ride was from Colorado Grand Junction to Chicago Union Station. Although, the zone map shows our starting point in western region of the zone map, however, the phone agent booked us the trip using 1-zone award for 20,000 AGR points.

I have to admit that we had been contemplating taking an overnight trip on Amtrak (of course in a Sleeper Bedroom) using AGR points for the last 4 years. Finally got a chance, though on a short notice and we decided to go for it. I had already transferred/converted 30,000 Continental OnePass miles to 30,000 AGR points knowing that a much desired trip may happen soon. This transfer feature is one of the relatively unknown to most. CO program lets you convert CO miles to AGR point at 1:1 ratio in blocks of 5,000 miles at no charge.

AGR has some exceptional redemptions which can be highlighted from our award redemption. It cost us 20,000 AMEX MR points (transferred to CO before it ended) to book 3 of us in the bedroom. Paid reservation in this cabin would have cost us $1,275+ (not that I would have paid that). Thus, we got 6 cents per AMEX point worth of value and most of those AMEX points were earned at ~ 2.5 points per $ on average. Thus, I can boast that I got 15+ cents per dollar that I spent on my AMEX PRG card.

Back to AGR award table, their special routes are listed for 1,000 points in coach or 1,500 points in business, which to me is a steal, if you can make use of. Other exceptional value are the roomettes and bedroom awards in all category of awards alike, 1-zone, 2-zone or 3-zone as these will easily get you 5+ cents per point in redemption value. And of course, another excellent value is award in the northeast corridor, especially last-minute travel which can also fetch you 5+ cents per point in value.

One would ask, what about availability. Unlike awards on Airlines, Amtrak awards do not have limited availability but are rather bookable up to the last seat/cabin. Thus, as long as there is a seat/cabin to be sold for real $$$, they will book it for you using points. And unlike Airline awards, there are no taxes or booking fees. The best part is, you can cancel the awards for a full refund as long as you have not picked up your printed tickets from the station. Also note that all dining car meals and non-alcoholic drinks are included in your roommette or bedroom ticket.

AGR points can also be used for a bunch of other redemptions like gift cards, certificates, cruises at close to 1 cent per point. But really, the best value is in booking for Amtrak travel. And to all those who have not had a chance to ride Amtrak long distance in a bedroom, it was a memorable experience that we plan to do repeat, may be on another route. It was so much fun, comfortable, stress-free.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

20Oct/110

My recent award booking using Delta Miles – 120,000 miles award in business class to India over Christmas-New Year

So, I recently used 120,000 Delta miles for my cousin's trip to India. This is a business class booking all the way! Astonishingly, the award is for departure in the week before Christmas and return the week after New Years.

The flights were bookedusing Delta Skymiles on SkyTeam partner Air France from Toronto (YYZ) to Bombay (BOM) via Paris (CDG). The lowest economy ticket was pricing on any Airline was a little over $2,000 at that time and the lowest economy ticket on the same Air France flights, same route, same date was $3,200+. And whats more, we transferred her father, i.e., my Uncle's Membership Rewards points to his account during the 50% transfer bonus which means, the tickets cost them 80,000 Membership Rewards points plus ~$200 in taxes in fees.

My uncle and cousin were totally unfamiliar that this could be done and were pleasantly surprised when I pulled it off. He would have normally converted his points to cash at 1 cent per point or less. Thus, this ticket effectively cost them $1,000. Whats more, my cousin is flying Business Class all the way. Plus I also got her an additional one-way from Toronto (YYZ) to Los Angeles (LAX) via Atlanta (ATL) next summer to visit a relative, again in Business/First class on Delta. This ticket alone would have cost them $1,000+ in First Class or $350+ in coach.

Isn't this an awesome way to maximize the value of their points?

I have many such success stories of maximizing the value of airline miles, hotel points and proprietary rewards points that I am going to share. I recommend everyone to learn to earn cheaply and then use those earned rewards effectively while opti-maxi-mizing their value...

19Oct/112

Excellent Deal – Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points with new Chase Ink Bold Business Card

For a limited time, you can earn 50,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards Points when you apply for a new Chase Ink Bold Business Card and spend $5,000 within the first 3 months. The annual fee for the first year is waived after which you will be charged $95 every year at account anniversary.  It is not necessary for applicants to be a registered business owner. Any consumer can apply for this card under “sole proprietorship” and use their own name as business name and put in the SSN for Tax ID.

Some of the key highlights of this card include:

  • Earn 50,000 Bonus UR Points when you spend $5,000 in 3 months.
  • Points can be used to purchase airfare at 1.25 cents per point. That's $625 towards airfare when you redeem online through Ultimate Rewards website.
  • Transfer your points to UA, CO, BA and Hyatt at 1:1 ratio, making it an excellent option to earn UA and CO miles (which are no longer easy to accumulate as AMEX points can no longer be transferred to CO as of October 1). I recommend converting the points to Hyatt points which are generally a better value than other Airline miles. An unadvertised benefit is that the points can be transferred to anybody else's account and names don't have to match making it easy to top-off the accounts for that elusive award.
  • Enjoy a one-year complimentary Priority Pass™ membership which gives access to over 600 Airline lounges across Airports in over 100 countries. Your first 2 visits are free every year after which your card will automatically be charged $27 per visit, per person.
  • Earn an additional cumulative bonus of 45,000 UR points when you spend $100,000 in the same calendar year, under the following structure. | Earn 7,500 bonus points when you spend $25,000 on your card in one year. | Earn 15,000 more bonus points when you spend another $25,000 on your card in the same year. | Earn 25,000 more points when you spend another $50,000 on your card in the same year.
  • There is no limit on the number of reward points you can earn. These points will never expire as long as your account is open and in good standing.
  • FREE employee cards or add-on cards
  • This is a Visa card and thus comes with the benefit of wider worldwide acceptance, wherever Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted.
  • First year annual fee WAIVED, $95 thereafter at each account anniversary.

Once again, please note that Chase INK BOLD is a charge card and not a credit card, so you pay in full each month in order to accrue no monthly interest charges.

Please note that this is a business charge card meaning that you will have to pay in full every month. Further, note that Business Cards do not fall under the new Card ACT and thus will not offer the same protection under ACT that personal cards do. It is because of this reason that we will see more banks offering Business cards with hefty sign-up bonuses in the coming months and will not be enforcing strict application reviews at the same time. They have to make money some way after all! As long as you are aware of this and understand the implications and are going to be paying off the balance in full every month, you may want to consider this offer. For most savvy people who like to milk the sign-up bonuses, and who use cards as a mode of payment and not a mode of credit, this offer is golden.

9Oct/114

A good combination of credit cards to hold for frequent flyers

One of best combination of credit cards that I always carry in my wallet is Citi's Thank You Premier Card (or Citi's Thank You Prestige Card - gets you into a lot, if not all the Airline Lounges but comes with a hefty annual fee) and American Express Premier Rewards Gold card. TY Premier card carries an annual fee of $125 while AMEX PRG card has an annual fee of $175. I my honest opinion, one should always carry a combination of an American Express branded card and a MasterCard/VISA card as a lot of merchants do not necessarily accept one of the two (example: Costco that accepts only AMEX. A lot of mom and pop stores and restaurants do not accept AMEX). Most places will accept a MasterCard also if they are accepting a VISA card and vice versa. The only place that I know of that accepts only a VISA but not MasterCard is a neighborhood Dollar store where I end up using my VISA debit card.

A word of caution, Citi's TY Premier card has one of the most confusing and complex reward structure that I know of. However hard I try, I can almost guarantee that I will not be able to be explain it to you all clearly. Even the experts at Citi are not able to! Hats off to those who designed the program. However, I will try my best to explain the program in this post.

Basically, you can potentially earn 2 points per $ on any spend. And to maximise value of these earned earns, if you redeem for airline tickets (which may also earn you miles, both RDMs and EQMs), each point counts for 1.333 cents. Thus, you can potentially get upto 2.66 cents worth of value from every dollar that you spend, not bad in my opinion. You can also earn a 0.2 points bonus on select everyday spend category like Gas, Drugstore and Grocery stores which bumps up the potential kickback up to 2.75 cents.

The way to earn 2 points per $ is based on one interesting feature of this card. If you charge your (or anybody's for that matter) airline ticket including award tickets with a minimum of $50 charge on the card, your base points already earned will be matched to an equivalent number of bonus points up to the number of miles that your flights fly. I will try to explain this by citing an example. Lets say in January spend $2000 to this card and for simplicity, lets leave out the everyday spend purchases from this. You purchased a round-trip ticket from New York JFK to Las Vegas for a friend of you or somebody else. And this ticket's first flight date falls within the same billing cycle, i.e., in January. When the statement closes, you will have earned 2000 base points. Plus if you had purchased a ticket, say a one-way ticket from New York JFK airport to Las Vegas International Airport, Thank You card will automatically award you bonus points up to the flight distance between JFK-LAS which is 2248 miles. These many points will be added to your bonus points up to the number of cumulative unmatched base points that you already have. and now you will have a total of 4000 Thank You points available for redemption. Your additional earned 248 points from flights will held for future when you will earned an equivalent number of base points. In addition, you also earn 20% for everyday spend categories. And when you redeem these points for Airline tickets, your points are valued at 1.33 cents per point. Thus your $2000 in spend gets you $53.33 worth of airfare or 2.66% in value without considering any everyday spend bonus or any other bonus.

This card right now comes with 50,000 sign-up bonus points and first year annual fee waived. If you are currently using no annual fee credit card that earns you 1 point (or 1 cent equivalent or 1%) per $ you spend, then this may be a good choice as it provides you 1.66% more value. This is assuming that you are spending at the minimum, $7500 in the year to compensate for the annual fee.

Additional benefits of Citi TY Premier credit card includes a decent companion pass program and a 15% travel discount program handled by Spirit Incentives.

Citi TY Premier's companion pass is rather a discounted companion pass and not a real companion pass unlike Alaska Airlines Visa $99 companion pass. However, it does provide a reasonable benefit, in that your total price for two tickets is still lower than the total for two tickets from other non-discounted sources. I have found that you would get approximately 50% off the base fare of the second ticket. You will not get your choice of itinerary and airline and will be offered the lowest priced flights for your travel dates and city pairs.

I especially like the 15% benefits and find it to be reasonably useful by being a little creative with my travel itineraries. Just like companion pass, note that you do not have a choice in the flights or airlines when you call and they invariably will offer you 15% discount off the lowest fare for your city pairs on your desired dates. And 15% discount applies to international destinations too, as long as your travel originates in the lower 48 US states.

Talking about AMEX PRG, you can get 15,000 bonus points presently (or may be up to 75,000 bonus points) with first year fee waived. And after you get your new card, try call American Express at 1-800-297-3276 and ask them to apply one of the following offer codes to your application:

  • 5894: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $500 in first three months
  • 5985: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $1000 in first three months
  • 6661: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $2000 in first three months
  • 5970: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $500 in first three months

I use AMEX card exclusively for all my Airline purchases after I have accumulated enough points from flights via my Thank You card that can be readily matched from future purchases. For most other purchases, I stick with my Citi Thank You Premier card.

These two cards form a great combination in general for most people who fly frequently or once in a while.