Yesterday, Greg published a post highlighting the top 10 posts of 2018 at Frequent Miler. Today, I wanted to do a more subjective highlight: the top deals of 2018. This list is totally subjective of course — I’m not basing this on page views, but rather on the deals that seemed hottest to me in 2018. What’s the value in looking back at deals that (in most cases) are no longer alive? It gives us something of a litmus test against which to compare the deals to come and some expectation about the deals to look out for in the coming year. In some cases, you have to be quick — and knowing what worked out well in the past can sometimes help us be at the ready to recognize and take advantage of the best deals in the future. Here are my top picks for 2018.
Iberia ran a promotion that sounded too good to be true: buy a flight, even a cheap (less-than-$20) flight, and get 9,000 Avios. You could repeat it 10 times and buy enough Avios to fly round trip in business class from New York, Boston, or Chicago to Madrid — and still have enough left over for a domestic round trip of some sort. Of course, Iberia’s IT is far from great, so this didn’t work flawlessly for everyone. However, those who got in at the beginning got the best deal, and if they leveraged it properly, this was easily a thousand dollar win (or likely more).
In almost any year in which that Iberia promo didn’t happen, this would have been an easy winner for deal of the year. For the better part of a day, Google offered the chance to get your choice of travel gift cards (from brands including Delta, Southwest, AirBnB, and more) matching the purchase price of a phone when you either ported over your number or added a line to your service. This meant you could buy a $999 Google Pixel 3 XL and get $999 in gift cards. Whether you sell one, the other, or both, or keep it all, this was a really terrific deal that I’m surprised lasted as long as it did.
Remember Prime Day? It coincided with an offer from Amex to get 20% off when using at least 1 Membership Rewards point. And it just so happened that the Amazon system was running some funny math that day whereby you could purchase a $221 Amazon gift card and a set of Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones for a total of $247.99. For those who shop at Amazon often enough to consider an Amazon gift card almost the same as cash, this was a phenomenal deal. I didn’t buy this one, but kinda wish I did.
Talk about a hot deal: for a brief window, it was possible to get a new welcome offer of 3x everywhere for a year on the Freedom Unlimited. It didn’t last long, and I was actually too quick on the trigger this time (on the heels of a product change away from the Freedom Unlimited). But for those who got in, it was an amazing offer: 3x Ultimate Rewards points everywhere for a year is an amazing value. We can only dream of ever seeing this again.
Back in April, the morning after Marriott’s announcement regarding the future of the combined Marriott program, we reported on the fact that we’d been told that the top tier properties in the combined Marriott-SPG-Ritz program would cost just 60K per night (or 48K after 5th night free) through the end of 2018 (as we now know, that will last until March 2019). Many were skeptical. Some called us dreamers. I understand why: we were saying that some properties that had previously charged as much as the equivalent of 270K Marriott points per night would be massively slashed in price. We were just the messenger here, but it turns out we got the message correct. Being able to book top-tier Marriott properties for the equivalent of 16K “old” Starpoints per night has easily been one of the top deals of 2018 (though finding availability for some of the most popular hotels has been tough).
Expedia ran this deal over Black Friday / Cyber Monday and it had sold out quickly, so I couldn’t believe it when this second time around the deal lasted for hours and hours. On the hotel side, it mostly applied just to non-chain hotels….but at 90% off, you could get some amazing deals (especially on suites / specialty rooms). If they ever run this again, I won’t ignore it.
The one that got away….this is the deal of 2018 that I really regret missing. LifeMiles was offering some huge returns on hotel bookings. At the time, I was tasked with making a couple of bookings for family members, so I had a need to book paid nights. I was just too slow; I hesitated over which properties to book and at what price and this one eventually died before I jumped. I’ll have my eye peeled for this one to come back again in 2019 and hope that I have a similar need for paid bookings if it does roll around again.
The ability to transfer Capital One “Rewards miles” to actual airline miles is easily one of the best deals of 2018. That’s not to say that these cards are compelling for everyone, but the value of a Capital One “Rewards mile” increased substantially thanks to the ability to transfer. You can suddenly get a business class flight for a number of points that may have previously only bought you economy class — and that’s a big win for Capital One customers.
Hyatt ran a sneaky play in offering to extend status for a few months for some Explorists who had not re-qualified — the catch being that they would not get club upgrades. But it turned out that there was a hack to get on the status matching merry-go-round and both extend the life of your status and renew your club upgrades. This is a good reminder that it’s always wise to keep an eye out for status matching opportunities.
Thanks to Greg in the comments for reminding me of this one, which I wouldn’t necessarily place at #10 if I were writing the list anew. Plastiq eventually adjusted this promotion down to payments of $250 or less, but it was repeatable again and again. That made for an awesome deal if you could pay any bills in $250 (or smaller) increments since it was basically free rewards on those bills.
What did I miss? What was your top deal of 2018?