Safeway gift card hacking, unwritten policy for Marriott elites, and is hotel loyalty illogical?

This week around the web, we’ve got a warning for Safeway gift card shoppers, the case against chasing hotel status, United’s empty threat to dump Expedia, and more. Read on for the weekly FM week in review around the web.

Even variable Visa gift cards at Safeway are now being tampered with

Safeway Albertsons Visa Gift Cards

Gift card fraud should be a real concern if you’re MSing. Vinh at Miles Per Day highlights an issue being seen at Safeway and associated brands, but it’s always worth reading about what criminals are up to so you can be conscious of the signs to watch out for if and when this spreads to a store near you. This is also why you should focus on liquidating as soon as possible after purchasing — nobody wants to be stuck with the headache of a fraudulently drained card.


You’re Doing It Wrong: Hotel Loyalty… At All!

St. Pancras Renaissance Chambers Club tea service

I actually don’t agree with Drew on this one. Sure, blind loyalty is a bad idea and on that much I can totally agree. But I think Drew’s analysis of the cost of chasing status and valuation of the benefits is inflated. Again, if you’re blindly paying overblown rates to keep your “free breakfast” status, I agree with him that you’re doing it wrong. But I think that straight cash rate comparisons isn’t the right way to analyze the cost involved. If you’re 10 nights short of status with Hyatt, your two cheapest options are to book 10 Category 1 nights at 5K points per night (50K UR total cost) or to spend $25K on the World of Hyatt credit card. The MS cost in either situation is pretty low (especially when you consider that the MS cost on the World of Hyatt card is mitigated by 25K Hyatt points plus 1 free Cat 1-4 night earned and/or the ability to MS 50K UR points via office supply stores with just $10K in spend). I further think his valuation of breakfast is too low (again, I’m rarely ever paying cash rates at Hyatt, so the 3K UR comparison point for a club lounge upgrade, which I believe applies to a specific (not necessarily the best) paid rate, isn’t accurate for me. Further, based on my anecdotal experience, I’d say that breakfast for 2 costs more than $30 at most Hyatt properties that charge for breakfast). You could surely get breakfast somewhere else for less, but as someone who travels with a baby, I highly prefer eating breakfast in the hotel over getting everything ready to go out only to have a moment in the first 5 minutes of breakfast that leaves me changing a diaper on the bathroom floor at Waffle House. Valuing suites at $60 per night makes sense if you don’t value a suite very highly, but if you’re traveling with a baby (obviously a topic close to home at the moment), the value of an extra separate room for the crib when you’re staying in a major city where rooms are typically closet-sized is probably greater than $60 (though perhaps you could MS enough points to get the suite for less than $60 additional?). That said, I think you should read this post from Travel Is Free and make up your own mind: is hotel loyalty nonsensical?


Marriott Titanium Members Get Leeway on Cancellation Deadlines (and maybe Platinums too)

I found this post from Middle Age Miles very interesting — not just because of the author’s single anecdotal experience, but because of the info he includes about the phone call and the follow-up research. In short, it seems that Marriott may have an unpublished but actual policy about allowing elite members to cancel beyond the standard 48-hour cancellation deadline at many hotels. On the one hand, I wouldn’t be surprised about an elite member being able to cancel beyond the deadline with no fee given the right agent and extenuating circumstances (Hilton has allowed me to cancel beyond the deadline many times before, even once for a NYE reservation). On the other hand, it’s good news if there is a written policy in place on this — nice to see something customer-friendlyish from Marriott these days. Of course, I would never expect this to be honored at places like the Maldives, Bora Bora, etc. Think Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, maybe a Marriott or JW in a mid-sized city. Still pretty cool.


T-Mobile Money Review – Earn 4% APY On Balances Up To $3,000

While this is far from game-changing money given the relatively low cap, it sure as heck beats what you’re getting elsewhere on $3K. This post was originally published by Doctor of Credit last year and was just updated this week, but it’s a good reminder to look for opportunities like this to make money with low effort as a supplement to your miles-and-points strategy. It seems like anyone with a T-Mobile account ought to be doing this (yours truly included) as it’s just an easy hundred and twenty plus bucks a year.


United Airlines Threatens To Stop Selling Flights Through Expedia

One Mile at a Time reports that United is considering an end to selling its flights through Expedia. My reaction: “That’s rich”. I just don’t see this happening. United is obviously bargaining for a better deal with Expedia, and the growing influence of Google Flights probably gives them the “beer muscles” to think they can back up this threat without losing much. Still, this is Exhibit #1,784 why I’m not thrilled that Chase changed to Expedia managing the back end of the Ultimate Rewards portal. It would stink to lose the ability to book United flights with Chase points. Again, I find this highly unlikely overall.


That’s it for this week around the web. Check back soon for this week’s last chance deals.

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 »

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Craig at Middle Age Miles
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Craig at Middle Age Miles

Hi Nick – Many thanks for the link and kind words. I hope the info is helpful to FM readers. Can’t wait to read more about your Japan trip. Sounds like it was a good one. Have a great rest of the weekend! ~Craig

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Debit

In think MS is just a pain in the butt now. Not worth doing anymore.

Derek
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Derek

Another nail in the eventual coffin for Walmart end of all GC for MO. I still think it’s going to be the big kill of 2019.