SPG 20K Welcome Bonus is BACK!

Right now, AMEX is offering the personal SPG card with a 20K Welcome Bonus.  It’s usually 15K.  Click here for more info on the versatility of this amazing hotel/airline hybrid card!  Yes, there is a Marriott merger coming that will likely effect the program, and possibly not for the good–so lock in now with your points and use them before the word comes down that the program will be merged with Marriott–I’ll give you updates if you sign up for instant notifications or for the daily digest emails!  If you’ve already had this card before, you are NOT eligible for the bonus as AMEX changed its rules several months back (without giving ANY notice to Canadians) that customers may only obtain one welcome bonus for each AMEX personal (not business) product.

 

Get Free Miles With United Mileage!

United Mileage Plus, an excellent airline for points due to their not charging of fuel surcharges, including on flights that are exclusively Air Canada, are giving United Mileage Plus users 300 points to sign up and take their first survey, and then more points for every survey they take!

If you haven’t signed up yet to United Mileage Plus, you can do so by clicking the bottom of this link (same link as those who have a United Mileage number).  You can naturally earn miles with United when paying for flights with United or any of the Star Alliance partners, including Air Canada, as well as with car rental agencies, including bonus miles when booking your rentals through United’s website and using their discounts.  It may not be the cheapest car rentals though so you may want to look around before booking.  Also, booking hotels, cruises, and vacation packages through their website will earn you United miles.

An example, a flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv with Air Canada will put you back around 80K Aeroplan miles and about $775CDN due to fuel surcharges.  If you use your United miles to fly on the very same flight, your cost will be 85K United miles and less than $200 (quite honestly, I couldn’t find a direct flight at the lowest economy point level right now using United Miles, but AC connecting with Lufthansa for example (another fuel surcharge charger) only came to around $240USD, less if you fly Turkish or Ethiopian (just like with Aeroplan though), so flying with United Miles on Air Canada on a round trip ticket such as this one, would save you around $475 per ticket!  The point is you’d have a LOT more option since flying with so many of Air Canada’s partners will result in big fuel surcharges when using Aeroplan, your options on which carriers to use will expand to all of them with United!

To sign up for the “Opinion Miles Club” and start earning free miles, click here!

Multi-City Options with Aeroplan

Aeroplan has an option that many other airline point systems don’t offer.  Interested in flying somewhere like, for example, Israel?  That would cost you 80K points for a return trip–but why only go there?  For only 20K more points, you can fly anywhere with Aeroplan–so perhaps visiting South Africa is something you’ve always wanted to do?  Try this, assuming you’re starting from Toronto:

Toronto-New York (EWR) on Air Canada

New York-Tel Aviv on United or JFK to Joburg (start by going to South Africa first) on South African Airlines

Tel Aviv to Joburg  to Capetown (stay on board while they make a quick stop) via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines

Capetown to Addis Ababa back to Toronto on Ethiopian Airlines (though their planes on older–sort of like flying AA)

Why not take Air Canada more, for example, directly to Tel Aviv?  Fuel Surcharges are approximately $775 if it were a round trip ticket.

How to get extra Aeroplan points?  You get them from welcome bonuses with AMEX (one per consumer card per lifetime, unlimited welcome bonuses on business cards) through the links on this post, this post, or this post.

By avoiding Lufthansa, Austrian Air, and Air Canada on the Star Alliance, you’ll avoid the fuel surcharges that make the trip too expensive.  Of course, direct flights are the best, but if you book your flight waaay in advance, the more stopovers the better!  The chances that the flight times won’t change if booked, say 10 months in advance, are minimal, and if flight times change significantly, a flight is cancelled or even if the first leg is moved an hour or two earlier, making it inconvenient, you will hopefully get an Aeroplan agent who will be willing to change your flight entirely, including cutting back on the number of stopovers significantly, with additional charges tagged on to your ticket.  Flying Turkish Airlines is an excellent (and necessary) option if flying between Tel Aviv and Capetown.

For example, let’s say they decide they’ll fly you through London or Frankfurt for a more direct connection, both of which scream “FUEL SURCHARGES!!,” they won’t charge you any extra so you win!  You also won’t pay any charges for changes since they’re making the changes because of the “inconvenience” of flight changes.

I made this trip a couple of years back.  Coming back, originally, I was supposed to fly Capetown, Joburg, London (yes, I had to suck it up because of limited availability for my family of 4 + lap child at the time), Washington, Cleveland, Toronto.  Insane!  FOUR stopovers, which after two schedule changes, turned into Capetown, Joburg (I wanted to stop there anyways), London, Toronto!  No US stopovers!

I’ve been trying this morning, and hit lots of difficulties though.  The multi-city trip has an important rule–you CANNOT pass through the same city twice.  So for example, going Point A to B to C, you have a stopover between A & B, let’s call it A1.  You cannot pass through A1 at another point in the multi-city trip or it’s considered an invalid multi-city.

This is where calling Aeroplan just after 12pm weekdays (when Vancouver’s offices open and Montreal’s is open too (and perhaps Halifax?)) to get through quickest makes sense–they can check dates of availability for multi-city trips much faster than you can online.  Have your computer up and running, and try to book it the multi-city while talking to them to avoid the over the phone booking fees per ticket.  If not possible, tell them that–they may have the option of waiving the fee and if not, take it to a supervisor respectfully (can’t hurt to try).

 

 

AMEX’s Competitive Moves–Have yours yet?

As I wrote on a previous post, AMEX is planning on making a MUCH bigger footprint on the Canadian market–more merchants will be accepting AMEX, offering them lower merchant fees (apparently around the same as M/C & Visa), making the AMEX card MUCH more lucrative to have in one’s portfolio, including the SPG card, the best hybrid card for switching points to different airlines that is offered in Canada, along with the AMEX Gold & Platinum.

Until that day comes, AMEX Canada is trying other strategies to make its cards indispensable.  AMEX has been offering its customers Front Of The Line (which are usually expensive tickets to events that are prime seats before tickets go on sale to the putlic) as well as advanced screenings to movies with reasonably priced movie packages ($35 for 2 tickets, 2 popcorns, and 2 drinks + tax). Sorry I didn’t write about this one earlier for example–The Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part II previews with AMEX two days before it opens to the general public.  Only packages left are to the Cineplex Cinemas Scarborough at this point. Sign up to receive AMEX offers or like their Facebook page to find out about these types of offers.

AMEX is also offering Platinum personal and business card holders FREE Uber service from Laguardia Airport (NYC)!  They give you a promo code when you’re in the lap of luxury in their Centurion lounge there, that allows you 2 free rides from LaGuardia to anywhere in the 5 boroughs–you get credited on your statement for the ride!  It’s only ’til December 31, 2015 but that’s a great value!  Honestly, I doubt that the Canadian AMEX will give you this deal (which is why Canadians that have a US address that they can send a card to) should apply for a US AMEX card at the right time (when the welcome bonus is highest) and then transfer the points to their Canadian Membership Rewards points total at a conversion rate of around 25% (assuming the dollar is around 75 cents).  There is nothing in the terms and conditions that exclude CDN AMEX Platinum cards, but my experience is that it’s a given that CDN cards don’t count for such offers.  The offers that come with AMEX cards in the US are SOOOOO valuable that they easily offset the annual fee.  I expect that AMEX will publicly offer 100K US Membership Rewards points for a few days in early January as they’ve done previously.  I’ll post it on SD if I find out!

Remember, you can get the AMEX welcome bonus in Canada and the US more than once for BUSINESS cards, but not for personal ones anymore.

The Party Is Over

In the words of a friend who emailed me the bad news, British Airways is making a “minor” change to its reward flight pricing in North America–only one but a vital one for many–for years, BA Avios has only charged 4500 Avios points for a short haul flight within North America on AA, US Airways, TAM, and Alaskan Airlines.  Now that’s being upped to what Aeroplan charges for an economy flight–7500 points for a one-way flight.  The taxes are still lower than Aeroplan when starting out of Toronto for example, but it’s still a hit on those who’ve been collecting on converting AMEX points to Avios, considering Avios just made changes a few months back to MANY flight rewards but left this one untouched, this comes as a bit of a shock.

For more details, click here.  It only kick in on February 2, 2016, so book your flights before that date (IF you can find availability.

RBC British Airways Visa–up to 69K Avios Points for “Free”

RBC British Airways Visa Infinite

Click on the pic above to be sent to the website for more info.

RBC is currently offering the CDN British Airways Avios Visa card for their regular $165/year fee and $75 for a supplementary card. You get 15K Avios points upon approval.  Dont’ run away yet!!

If you apply before November 15th, and spend $9K in 3 months (that is a big matzo ball for many),  you’ll get an additional 35K Avios points, making 50K.  If you apply, be sure to NOT get the supplementary card (SC).  Wait ’til you receive an offer in the mail for an additional 10K Avios points if you sign up for an SC.  It will cost you $75 more for it, unless…

If you have or sign up for a VIP RBC account, which USED to be free if you had 3 products with RBC (e.g., a mortgage, RRSP, and chequing account), which is now $30/month, you’ll get a premium card for FREE (including the BA Avios Visa) and one SC!  So, you can try out a VIP account, and see if your local branch would be willing to consider waiving the charges for the first 3 months, allowing you to get this deal for FREE!!

There are many benefits to this card, including  “a complimentary Companion Award Ticket when you spend $30,000 or more on your card in any calendar year“–only problem with this is you MUST leave from a CDN port (YYZ for e.g.) must travel on British Airways, and I believe, must pay the tax–and we know that British Airways’ flights ALWAYS go through London and BA always charges high fuel surcharge fees, making this companion award ticket NOT a good deal.

Click the link above for more info and to apply!

 

The Power of SPG–Why It’s The Best Hotel Points System Around

 

I’ve written before about the power of SPG points–how you can transfer the points to over 30 airlines, and do so at a premium ratio (for most airlines) when you transfer 20K SPG points (for 25K airline points).

Now how will you get the points?  If you click my link above, you’ll only have to spend $500 in 3 months to get 20K SPG points.Get your significant other to apply, and you can either use it to transfer to an airline point system that will take you to Seattle/L.A.  Cheapest way is with Aeroplan as the conversion is 1:1 + 5K bonus Aeroplan points when converting 20K SPG points or to United points,–while they have a LOT of availability for Air Canada flights without the high taxes–unfortunately, with SPG, they only transfer at a 50% conversion (1:2).  It’s unfortunately the only way I know of in Canada to earn United miles (other than RocketMiles, a website that gives you points for booking hotel stays that you can transfer to United, many other airlines, and even Amazon for gift cards.

United miles are amazing in some cases.  For example, YYZ-LAX for next to nothing in taxes with lots of availability.  YYZ-TLV on Air Canada, for NO fuel surcharges!  If you have a Social Security Number, you’d definitely want to get the Chase United Mileage Visa, that offers terrific features, along with a 50K welcome bonus (at certain times or if you already have a chunk of miles in your account–how many, I’m not sure about).  If you sign up for a United Mileage card and then attempt to book a flight, you’ll see the offer going from a 30K welcome bonus to a 30K + $50 statement credit +5K more for a secondary cardholder.  Ahhh, America–you gotta love their credit card offers!