FTUs, fare sales, and farewell to Gold Passport: February 2017 in Review

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We started and finished this month with FTU on our minds: First, we announced the June FTU Advanced Minneapolis and then we closed out the month with a great weekend at FTU Advanced Seattle — thanks to those who were there!

February has seen some exciting signup bonuses come and go, but one thing has remained the same: airfares, especially to Europe, have been very competitive. A few examples can be found herehere, and here.  And it’s not just economy class!  Great business class sales are happening as well.  While several of these sales may be over, it’s great to see a steady supply of lower prices. It gives us opportunities to visit Europe cheaply and/or to position for award chart sweet spots.

Speaking of sweet spots, this month we brought you a couple of sweet spot redemptions on the Marriott Rewards chart in South African wine country and at the gate to Kruger National Park.

On the earning side, we continue to find ways to extreme stack promotions and benefits to earn a pile of miles, whether by buying flowers or paying your bills, there are always ways to earn large numbers of miles without flying.

Loyalty Program News

 

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Today marks the end of a Hyatt Gold Passport program that has been well-loved for many years. While there are things to love about the new World of Hyatt program and certainly some things to hate, I think we can all take a moment to appreciate a program that offered a ton of value and some great benefits for a long time. Starting tomorrow, many top-tier Hyatt members will never again enjoy the opportunity for this moment:

“But I’m a Globalist member” just doesn’t have quite the same ring.

In the new Hyatt program, highlights include a free night certificate for any Hyatt in the world that is scheduled to be issued to Globalist members tomorrow and suite upgrades on both paid and award stays.  Mid-tier Explorist members will get 4 club upgrades per year, one of the key benefits of Diamond membership in the old Gold Passport program.  Unfortunately, the new qualification requirement for top-tier Globalist status will be 60 nights per year, up from a minimum requirement of 25 stays last year.  Additionally, there will be no more welcome amenity for top-tier members.

Not to be outdone, this month Hilton joined the party and announced changes to the Hilton HHonors program. This month marks the end of the Hilton category chart and the migration towards a completely revenue-based point structure, including the ability to pay with cash + points in any ratio. Hilton claims that the high season price for hotels will not increase from the maximum prices we see today, but the price may drop in low season.  If you believe that, I have a piece of oceanfront property to sell you in Bolivia.  Going forward, I think the only chance for extracting outsized value at Hilton properties will be booking during special events periods (before Hilton gets around to adjusting rates up).  Think events like New Year’s Eve, festivals, spring break periods, and sporting events.  While I generally prefer redeeming points in these types of situations (when I would otherwise be unwilling to pay the cash price), it’s unfortunate that opportunities to redeem for good value are decreasing.

But it’s not all bad news in loyalty today: Delta Diamond Choice benefits have some actual enhancements, and Greg tells you what to choose and when to choose them.

Credit Card News

The big new signup bonuses to come out this month were the 35K point offers on both Amex SPG cards.  Surprisingly, neither card made our top 10 offers for February 2017. However, the bonuses are compelling considering flexibility of Starpoints. These points can be transferred to most airlines 1:1 with a 5,000 point bonus when transferring 20,000 points. They can now also be transferred to Marriott at a very favorable rate: 3 Marriott Rewards points for 1 Starpoint, making the 35,000 point signup bonus worth 105,000 Marriott Rewards points.  What’s more, the future of these cards is uncertain.  With the Marriott-Starwood merger completed and loyalty programs set to combine sometime in 2018, this may be the last chance to get an increased offer on the SPG cards.

New this month, Cathay Pacific has introduced a credit card with a 25K mile signup bonus.  Greg helps you see if you should be inspired to get it, but I think this one mainly appeals to a small subset.

Best of Frequent Miler

Don’t miss these Frequent Miler posts from February 2017!

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About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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