Great deal back (might be even better): $200 in GCs for $400 travel booking

Last week, we wrote about a terrific promotion from Upside for new travelers (See: Great deal: Flight + $250 in GCs + Uber credit for about $400 (depending on your itinerary). The gist of the promo was this: You had to sign up using someone’s referral code and then spend $400 on a travel booking and you would get $250 back in gift cards at a variety of useful merchants. The deal is back. It looks like it provides slightly less return than before — but whereas the old terms required a package booking, the new terms do not have this requirement, which might actually sweeten the pot if your preferred itinerary is right on the mark with the purchase requirement. if you missed it the first time, new travelers can now get $200 back in gift cards on a $400 booking. If you have paid travel to book, that remains a great deal. Update: Note that it seems hotels can’t be booked alone, only flights can be booked on their own.

These are the merchants from which you can choose your gift cards (in the denominations of your choice)

The Deal

  • Get $200 back in gift cards on a booking of $400 or more
  • See the refer-a-friend chain in our Frequent Miler Insiders Facebook use and post referrals (if you’re a new member requesting to join, don’t forget to answer the question prompted, this helps us keep spammers out) or feel free to use my referral link with my thanks.

Key Terms

  • Valid for new travelers only for bookings through 8/31/17
  • One promo code per transaction
  • Gift card can’t exceed the cost of your trip
  • See full Upside terms here

Quick Thoughts

For those unfamiliar, Upside is a company focused on helping business travelers get rewarded for choosing certain combinations of flights and hotels. They bill the service as a chance to get $100, $200, or even $300 in gift cards when you book travel with them — of course that normally depends on the flights and hotels you choose. As I understand it, they try to incentivize business travelers to choose a hotel where Upside presumably earns a better commission in exchange for gift cards in the traveler’s pocket.

This promo takes out all of the guesswork in hunting for the right deal: all you need to do is be a new traveler and make a booking of $400 or more through Upside and you will get $200 in gift cards of your choice.

You can view hotels and flights without even creating an account to do some price comparison. In my experience, flights were exactly the same prices that I saw on Google Flights. Hotels varied somewhat, though the value of the gift card may make up for the difference. When you go to Upside, you choose which items to bundle. In my booking last week, I bundled a flight + Uber credit. However, any booking of $400 or more for a new traveler should qualify.

You can easily search by entering airports or a city. I found the same flight itineraries and prices on Upside that I found on Google flights for my selected trip to Chicago. Note that not all international destinations are available, and airlines like Southwest and other low-cost carriers may not be available either. You must book online to use the promotion, so if you don’t see your chosen airline or hotel, you are out of luck. That said, most major providers are there. I then picked my flights:

And next bundled my flights with Uber credit. However, when you do that, you may lose some value: you can only buy Uber credit in the following increments: $50, $100, $200, and $300. And that’s even a bit misleading: the Uber credit comes in the form of codes for “up to $25” for each ride. Really, it’s more useful to think of it as “$50 for 2 Uber rides worth up to $25 each”, “$100 for 4 Uber rides worth up to $25 each”, etc. If you use your two rides on trips that are only worth $6 each, you don’t get any change or additional credit. That could be useful for folks who are an Uber-trip away from the airport. However, you may not find this worthwhile at all depending on your situation.

The sweet spot

The sweet spot for this promo is finding a flight that costs $400. You’ll spend $400 now and get your flight and$200 in gift cards later – that’s a sweet savings. See the image at the top of this post for your gift card options. Your gift card credit will load to your account “within 72 hours after your trip”. You can then divide it up and buy separate gift cards if you want more than one.

Hotels may also provide a good value if you find the right deal, though this is more challenging as prices vary a bit more and it seems that you must book Uber credit with your hotel. Last time, at least one reader commented on having booked a 5-star hotel in Banff for a 3-star price thanks to the gift card. Today, I did some searches to compare and I found the prices at upside to be slightly inflated for my dates / cities / preferred hotels. However, I imagine this will vary wildly, so it might still be worth checking for your destination and doing some comparison shopping.

Using a referral link

Rather than posting referrals in the comments here (our spam filter will block them from posting), head over to our Frequent Miler Insiders group to find and share referral links. When you click a referral link, the password field should automatically populate. For example, if you click my referral link, this is what you should see:

As you can see, in order to earn $200 in gift cards, you must make a purchase of $400 or more and you will receive your gift cards after travel is completed. If you happen to see a pop-up that does not have the code pre-filled, you can enter the code from the end of the link manually:

In my case, the link looks like this:  (the part after the = sign is the promo code)

So if you click a link and it does not automatically fill, you should be able to manually enter the code.

Do you have to purchase a bundle?

While the previous promotion stated that you had to make a booking for a “package of $400 or more”, the new promotion terms do not require a package. I confirmed this with Upside. You certainly can bundle a package — this might be especially useful if your preferred flight or hotel comes to $300 or $350 and you want to bundle some Uber credit to get over the $400 mark.

Bottom line

This is still a great deal if you did not get in on the last promotion and you have upcoming paid travel to book. I think the strongest value is when booking a flight. There is very little variance in flight prices form one site to another these days, meaning that you are at least very likely to find the same price with Upside that you would find elsewhere. There may also be good deals with hotel bookings, but you’ll have to do some further price comparison to make sure you are getting the deal you expect. Either way, if you missed the last one, this is definitely worth a look.

H/T: Frequent Miler Insiders


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.

More articles by Nick Reyes »



    • No – I believe you can only do a single-traveler booking. The website is geared towards business travelers, so it’s not set up to do multi-person bookings as far as I know.

  1. Just a heads up: I tried booking a hotel that is $125/night pretty much everywhere. It gave me a price of $195/night for the same hotel/dates and didn’t even allow me to choose room types (of which several are available) — it just chose one for me. Total cost far exceeded any gift cards that I might earn.

    • Yeah, I agree that flights are probably the way to go. The hotels I looked at were more expensive, too (though I only looked at 3 or 4 hotels in just 2 cities, so I don’t know the story everywhere).

  2. Do you get a $200 Gift Cards referral link only after making a booking? I signed up for the first time a few minutes ago, and still checking into what travel plans I may have, but wanted to post the link on the FB group and mine is only for $125 in Gift Cards. Doh…. Curious if this would my referral link would increase to $200 after I make a booking? TIA.

    • They emailed this out today. I imagine they emailed it to people who made a booking last week (last week only some previous users had that link to share as well). When I inquired last time, they said to like them on Facebook and watch out for any email campaigns they might send out for referrals. Today, this offer popped into my email inbox (and several other readers who commented in the Facebook group).

      So, the short answer to your question is that after you make a booking, your referral offer probably won’t change, but I imagine you are more likely to be included in future offers like this one.

    • You should earn something, it’s just a matter of what (you don’t need to book direct to get airline miles). I believe, based on the receipt for my booking, that the fares are bulk fares. If I’m correct, that would mean you would likely earn miles based on distance flown rather than earning per dollar spent. That may work out better or worse depending on your itinerary.

  3. Yeah they emailed out to me too. I got a flight to PDX + 4 Uber codes for $413 last week. Trans con flight for final cost of <$100? You bet!

    Bear in mind the Uber codes are only valid for your dates of travel. Uber probably offers them to upside at below cost because of the large amount of breakage expected. I wonder if the Uber codes can be used for Uber eats – certainly a much better value proposition that way as everyone's gotta eat even if they don't need an Uber ride per se.

  4. Going to give this a go once I get approved for the FB group. I live things that give me Amazon gift cards, because I can use em to byy GC’s for or airbnb.

    • I’m not sure – I didn’t even think of making an account without making a booking since you can search without it. Did you enter your address and everything? I’m not sure whether or not you would count as a new traveler.

  5. Does your flight have to be done by the end of August when the code expires? I would think not, but would like to confirm before taking any action.

  6. Driving all over town to use a $5 GC here and a $10 CG there, or spending some additional amount to get free shipping will bite into your savings.

  7. Used the code for the 250$ offer. Booked only hotel and it worked fine. The price shown was higher than the hotel website for a basic room but figured cheaper with GC. After confirmation saw that they had booked business class room and that amount charged was correct. Next day got Email from Upside that they upgraded that to suite. Great experience so far.

  8. man, somehow I missed this article last week.
    Luckily I saw it today before booking my ticket.
    Waiting to get a good referral before sharing it on FB.

    thanks, Nick.

  9. Hi Nick, after clicking on your referral link, I don’t see the option to book hotel only. The page tells me to select 2 of flight/hotel/uber. Can you please advise how you were able to select hotel only? Thank you!

  10. Would it be possible to book with Alaska Airlines for a 400$ ticket, receive the 200$ gift card, and then cancel the ticket directly with Alaska in order to receive a 400$ credit for future flights?

    • I doubt it. Upside takes a pretty personal approach – an agent emailed me the day after I booked my flight to confirm that she double-checked my seat assignments and frequent flyer number on the reservation. I had added that information on after making the booking, so that tells me that someone actually took a look at my booking through the carrier website. You don’t get the gift cards until after travel is completed, and I think it’s at least likely they’ll notice that you didn’t complete the travel. There was some discussion about this last week when I posted this deal as well. I read some comments on other sites about people that did not automatically receive their gift cards when they didn’t complete all of the travel. Whether or not you may be able to call someone and get it resolved, I don’t know. However, if you willfully cancel your flight, I doubt you’ll have much of a claim. But I could be wrong, YMMV.

  11. These don’t book into Basic Economy for AA do they? Flights for Xmas are about $410 RT for each of us so it would be great to get half that back in GCs that we’d use anyways.

    • I was able to go to and select a seat, so I’d say no. I added my Alaska MVP Gold number and picked Main Cabin Extra. I think they *may* classify as bulk fares (which would mean that they would earn miles base don distance flown rather than dollars paid — which may work out better or worse depending on your itinerary. I could be wrong about the bulk fares. But I don’t think it’s basic economy, at least not on AA. Another reader commented that Upside paid to give him a free upgrade to Main Cabin Extra on a return flight where only middle seats were available for free — again, an indication that his fare wasn’t basic economy either (otherwise I don’t believe you can even pay to pick seats).

      • Ok, thanks. Also I compared the basic Y prices on and Upside definitely only shows main cabin Y so that’s good to know. Though with an AA credit card you get earlier boarding which qualifies you for a carry-on anyways, so you just don’t get to pick your seat. We don’t have any airline status anyways so it’s not so bad getting a middle seat for less than a 3 hour flight if we ever had to do basic. Looks like I’d pay an extra $60 for a $200 GC. Not bad.

  12. I called Upside today.
    To beat deadline 8/31, if I have no plan, I can book a flight now for more than $400 to get $200 GC. I can change the date later on and pay change fee thru Upside and still receive $200 GC. The Reps. said that Upside helps to change but it will not mark up the fee.

  13. I just used this to book a RT United flight and the price Upside gave me was $23 better than the actual cost on the Unitedair website. Additionally, i will get $200 in gift cards. I would definitely use this for flights only. their website is limited on what airlines and airline combinations you can use. So its best for a very simple RT flight.

    • Awesome! Thanks for the tip.

      Car rental also recently became available (only as a package with hotel or flight). It came online just a couple of days after I needed a last-minute flight and rental car. Good to see continued developments.

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