The sky is falling! Or, is it?

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…

Airlines

 

Delta Confirms Revenue Requirements for Elite Status Next Year

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.

Hotels

 

Bad Changes to Starwood’s Cash & Points Redemption

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.

Priority Club realigns awards to 9 categories

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.

The Epic Meltdown of Some Wyndham Rewards Redemptions

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.

Credit Cards

 

Hilton Amex to drop drug stores & telecom bonus categories

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+.

Cash+ comes down to earth

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. 

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. It’s a cycle. A genius marketing executive launches a generous marketing promotion to win business, and then it’s exploited, so another genius marketing executive tightens things up, and people lose interest and/or go to a competitor, so another genius marketing executive launches a generous marketing promotion to win more business…

    So if that’s true, we just need to sit back and wait 6-12 months for some sweet promotions from Delta, Starwood, Hilton, Wyndham, Priority Club, and whichever card company is desperate enough to mess with the 5% barrier.

  2. For the last sentence under Hilton AMEX, I think you meant 5x ThankYou points from the Citi Forward card instead of Freedom.

  3. Benji, FM’s post is at the forefront of my mind. Every morning I wake up to some devaluation in hotel points or credit card points. I like reading his summary of recent moves.

  4. Steve f – I thought that my local ODs were going to stop the $500 gift cards as well as they were runing emty fore a few days but when i stopped on Sat their racked were fully stocked with the regular ones…must be just supply issue….I hope!

  5. Data point: I was at Walgreens this weekend and there is a large laminated sign at the gift card rack that says, “ALL gift cards require cash or debit for purchase.” This was in front of the restaurant, retail cards, etc… not in front of the Visa or Vanilla cards.

    • I have multiple Walgreens in my town, but only two that I frequent. One has the sign that Susan mentioned above. It’s a yellow laminated sign. The other Walgreens willingly accepts credit cards for payment of gift cards.

  6. Remember, with Hilton Dining you get an additional 5 points per dollar and after 12 dines you get 8 points per dollar that post almost instantly. So with the addition of restaurants to the Hilton card, as long as you go out to Hilton Dining restaurants, you’ll be earning between 12 and 15 points per dollar. Still not 6x at Drugstores good, but valuable none-the-less

  7. I feel like nearly all of these changes were expected. The best deals usually get killed. If you’re relying on something too good to be true, it’s always best to have a backup plan.

  8. Well, none of the office places near me (officemax, officedepot, staples) have carried $500 gift cards for as long as I’ve been looking. Max $200.

    The two Walgreens where I was buying Vanilla reloads stopped accepting credit cards in the last couple of weeks. One manager even tried to pretend to me that they had never accepted credit cards.

    It’s all a process… some of these deals didn’t exist a year ago, and don’t exist now. New deals will pop up.

  9. CVS stores in Miami (some of them anyway) are still selling the VR cards with credit. In fact, at one of their stores you can actually pay for them at their automatic cashiers in the front (the attendant still needs to go and swipe their card to approve).

  10. Today the Walgreens (where I have used credit cards for the last few months) would not accept credit cards for VR. The screen on the register has a BIG message about this and no override. Mgr said they just updated the computer.

    Anyone find 7-11s that will accept credit cards for VR? Walmarts?

  11. I went to Walgreens over the weekend and bought a $200 Amazon card. The employee rang up the gift card and said, “Cash only.” I quickly slid my credit card and of course, the sale went through. I told her the merchant gift cards you can purchase with a credit card. I don’t like what I’m seeing at Walgreens. I hope it was a fluke and not a new policy.

  12. gottoloveInk – ODs now have an extra level of security that require manager’s override to complete the transaction. Some managers are saying they’re going to stop carrying VISA/MC/AMEX GCs.

    I’ve not gotten one of those managers yet, but I have experienced the extra step of needing the managers override this week that I didn’t previously need.

  13. In DFW, ODs have had this policy for last 2 months. Nothing new. An OD manager refused to sell me one time though, because she said I need to be a US citizen to buy GCs (to help prevent fraud). Funny thing is she had a European accent. Must have been recently naturalized.

  14. All good deals always come to an end. So enjoy it while it still lasts and do some moderation so all of us can take part on it.

  15. DFW, how can the manager check if you are citizen or not? is he/she looking at you (if you are not Caucasian), he/she assumed you are not US citizen?
    It sounds like racist to me…

  16. Was denied, for the first time ever, purchasing VR for $1k @CVS in ATL. Cash/ debit only now.

    Of course, only 1/5 CVS currently carries VR in my neighborhood. Will try again, different shift/ manager.

  17. Also said if I had any problems to call corporate LOL

    Part of me wanted to do just that. But making a big deal out of it will kill the deal faster, so I just walked away. First rule is do not call and they know it.

  18. Walgreens that I’ve bought 6-8 VR cards from in last 2 months now have the same computer note others have mentioned. I tried to swipe anyways, and it would allow me to pay the fee with my credit card, but not the $500.

    I will try the two CVSes nearby that I’ve bought from recently and see if they’ve updated.

  19. Very uneven. A few local Walgreens including a brand new one with shiny new registers allow purchases but other in a nicer area of town are a no go. Whos buying GC w cash and whats the difference in buying a Shell GC or a VR ? Why is one cash only? I am confused by the rules sometimes.

  20. @CHRIS: Assuming racism is rather harsh, xenophobic would be much more apropos.

    A business has the right to deny anyone service. However, Manager shouldn’t have mentioned anything related to a protected class and just denied service without explanation.

    Kudos to DFW for not calling, respect the rule(s)!

  21. @DutchBag

    Sure, no big deal. I think you are very correct about denying service without explanation but it often leads to more questions in mind of people.

    And she definitely wasn’t Xenophobic, being from a foreign country originally herself. Has a Scandinivian accent. OD on US75 and Plano Pkwy.

    909 N CENTRAL EXPRESSWAY #100
    PLANO PKWY & N CENTRAL EXPWY
    Store # 138
    PLANO, TX 75075

    Problem with folks from other countries who are in a position like this is, they are too scared and always have something to prove. So they are constantly trying to impress their peers, colleagues, friends and management at work or otherwise. They will sometimes go to unnecessary lengths to prove assimilation.

    The only big deal about this store is, it is the closest to home. No worries though, I just drove another 5 miles and collected a few gifts from the next OD in the lineup. 😀

  22. South Florida was a gold mine when I was there two weeks ago. I was 5/6 at CVS’s. Baton Rouge was the same. Killed off $3k with the same cashier. I really wish Seattle had a CVS. Going to try Milwaukee and Boston this week.

  23. Wyoming Walgreens NO go on cc anymore on purchases of vrl cards. Bummer. On the screen it only gave me the option of CASH for the $500.

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