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!

How To Achieve Aeroplan Diamond Distinction Status

If you’ve read my previous posts on SD, you’ll see how you can spend around $5K to get up to Black Distinction status.  How?

***NOTE*** To do this method, you need to report a total household income of $200,000+.  Well, count me out!  For those making $60K+ or $100K+ total household income, you can still get Distinction Black without having to do a lot of travel on Air Canada, nor without having to spend $50K in a year with Aeroplan.  That’s what these posts are all about!

  • CIBC is STILL offering the Business Gold Aeroplan with the $180 annual fee waived with 20K Welcome Bonus points after spending $1+.
  • Another 15K with the personal CIBC Aeroplan Infinite=35K in total, plus 10K Aeroplan after spending $1K from the TD Aeroplan Infinite that qualifies for Distinction miles (not the first 15K with them). Red Flag Deals is offering $70 cashback right now and TD is making you pay 1/2 the fee ($60) but with that, you’re up to 45K…
  • Buy something on Shop.ca, using “TD” as your promo code, get 3K Aeroplan miles (and $50 in free spending, no minimum)–now you’re at 48K Distinction miles– but…
  • Get the TD Aeroplan Privilege ($400 annual fee), you’ll get 50K Aeroplan miles, including 25K after spending $1K in the first 3 months that ARE Distinction eligible.  Considering a second one of those by applying for 2 on the same day (1 for business and 1 for personal would be a possible justification)–that’s one credit hit BTW if it’s on the same day, you’ll have Diamond Distinction status!! That’s $400×2 in annual fees–true, but they have a policy of prorating you a refund in case you want to cancel the card–they may even give you more points if you downgrade to the regular TD Aeroplan Infinite card but I don’t know if that would work. Even if they don’t, that’s 98K Aeroplan miles in one year.  Now, if you can’t spend a few bucks at that point to put you over the 100K mark, shame on you!

With Diamond Distinction, you get priority call in to the Aeroplan centre, you get UP to a 35% discount on Market Fare tickets, which could mean you pay less points than you would with a Fixed Mileage rewards ticket.  As mentioned in a previous post, for example, you can get tickets from Toronto-Tel Aviv for way under 50K Aeroplan miles if you have Diamond Distinction Status for dates starting in October (last I checked) and going into June (but as you approach June, the number of points increases–remember it’s UP to 35% off).  Fixed Mileage would put you back 80K Aeroplan miles–even the taxes are lower, but personally, even at 40K for a return ticket to Israel, having to pay $600 in fuel surcharges+ isn’t worth it.  I’d rather get a CRAZY accidental deal like this week’s deal ($163USD from Boston to Tel-Aviv via Toronto on Air Canada which AC DID honour that glitch BTW) or a flight out of JFK with another airline, or on a non-AC flight using Aeroplan points to avoid the hefty charges.


Good Changes Are Coming To AMEX

Read the story below the pics that have the links embedded to apply.

American Express® Gold Rewards Card

25,000 Membership Rewards with the link above after hitting the spending threshold (only $500 in 3 months)


60,000 Membership Rewards with the link above after hitting the spending threshold (ONLY $1K in 3 months)


American Express® Business Gold Rewards Card 

40,000 not 30,000 Membership Rewards with the link above after spending $5K in 3 months.

The Business Platinum CardTM from American Express®

50,000, not 40,000 Membership Rewards with the link above after spending $5K in 3 months.

During a conversation with an AMEX rep, I learned some interesting inside information about changes coming to AMEX Canada.  Anyone who travels in the US or online to US websites can see that AMEX is accepted pretty much everywhere in the States, but everyone here in Canada knows it’s a washout.  After losing 8% of their profits when Costco divorced AMEX when Capital One offered them a better deal, not charging a per transaction fee, only the regular 2% (or so)  Mastercard charges.

Well, in the States, Costco will now be accepted at Sam’s Club Warehouses–not exclusively like they had with Costco, but nonetheless, it will help them stay competitive, but what about here in Canada?

Over the next few months, AMEX will be changing how it offers the card to its merchants.  Somehow, they will offer merchants something that amounts to a lower percentage so that small businesses can afford to offer the AMEX card at about the same levels of charges as Mastercard and Visa, without compromising on its profit like it.  As it was explained to me, it will allow merchants to be non-official merchants, so that they can offer AMEX without the higher fees that AMEX normally charges merchants.  It’s confusing and unclear but these changes are coming over the next few months.

What that means for us is a more competitive card!  Whether it’s the AMEX Gold or Platinum Rewards Personal or Business card, they will be accepted at a LOT more places–and with AMEX Membership Rewards points, you’re much better off at switching the points to Aeroplan (instantly) or to Avios (within about 2 days).  That way, you can decide, based on availability and where the routing will cost you the least in fuel surcharges, which point system you wish to switch your points into.  Currently, AMEX is offering a 25% bonus when switching your points to British Airways Avios, part of the One World Alliance, which includes many different airlines around the world, with lower taxes on tickets (if not actually flying on British Airways but on an Alliance member flight such as US Airways), cancellation fees that are more flexible than Aeroplan (24 hours notice as opposed to 33 days).

Now just might be the time to get an AMEX card!  If you have a business card with AMEX, you can put pressure on AMEX to truly bring these changes to fruition.  By cancelling your AMEX Business Gold and telling them why (not accepted at Costco and too many other merchants), they may offer you 7K Membership Rewards (MR) points to stay and pay the annual fee when it comes up, but you’d be better off cancelling the card, and if the changes go through, reapplying using the link above, and getting the welcome bonus of 40K Membership Rewards points after spending $5K in 3 months.  That can be transferred into 40K Aeroplan points or Avios points–and if you have MR points, you have ’til the end of September 2015 to take advantage of the 25% bonus!

They’ll also waive the annual fee the first year.  A little known fact is that the welcome bonus is STILL available but only for the AMEX Business cards.  Remember, you can apply for the card if you have ANY business–self-proprietors without a tax number are accepted, even if you have a business that is on the side–you include ALL your income when answering the question about your business.

Go over the  benefits carefully.  Remember, the Platinum Business has a $399 annual fee while the personal version has a $699 fee, but the benefits, especially for the personal card, are what you’re paying for, especially if you travel a lot.  For example, access to lounges including free lounge access to the AMEX Centurion lounges, including the one at Pearson.

For more info, search through the search box on my website for more info on the different cards!

Aeroplan Market Fare Sale For Flights To Israel

Normally, an economy flight with “Fixed Mileage” availability would be 80K Aeroplan points +  around $780 in taxes.  Market Fare tickets would usually be a bit more to a LOT more, depending on availability, plus the break you get if you have Market Fare Silver (20% less), Black (25% less) or Diamond (35% less) Distinction status.  Well, right now, if you’re looking for tickets to Tel Aviv from Toronto direct, you’ll find seats at Market Fare levels WAY below Fixed Mileage rates + the taxes will be “only” $699 ($891.66 if you begin your journey in Tel Aviv instead of Toronto).  The taxes ARE high, and you may be better off flying with Turkish, United, Ethiopian, or Brussels Air (or Egypt Air if you feel safe landing in Cairo) to avoid fuel surcharges (or high ones at least–$103.86 with Turkish for example) and pay the regular amount of points (80K), but if you want to fly direct and use points, you’ll either need to fork out the $700 per seat in taxes or in lieu of $700, use 70K Membership Rewards points from AMEX (not necessarily the best use of points).   Really, if you could use Avios points or even pay for a ticket to JFK, you could make your way out to Tel Aviv with a stopover, dependent on the airline, for as little as $500USD, no points used (through the Ukraine or with Delta).  There’s deals like those out now.  See Dansdeals.com for more info on that if you wish to fly out of the States–that’s HIS department on deals!

Market Fare tickets with NO Distinction status are only 50200 for Toronto-Tel Aviv non stop return.  With Diamond Distinction Status, seats start at only 44K Aeroplan miles!  That’s almost 50% cheaper in points than normal (80K)!  For a big family, that will make the flight affordable in points, if not in fuel surcharges.  The flights are available for dates start in October (if the first leg was in September but the return was in October, the return trip was 66,750, but if both legs are in October, it drops to 44K with Diamond Distinction.  Dates go up to March at that sale rate, and then get more and more expensive in points for dates going from month to month, all the way into late June, where with Diamond (35% discount), they’re 74750 Aeroplan points for the return trip.