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.

 

7K RBC Rewards Points For Booking with your RBC card

RBC has a promotion now ’til Feb 29, 2016.  Book a stay with AirB&B (a website dedicated to staying in people’s residences around the world instead of a hotel) and if it’s your first time booking, you’ll receive an additional 7K RBC Rewards points besides the double points you’ll receive before March 1st for your booking (2 points per dollar spent).  If you have an Avion card, and transfer your points to Avios, that will mean a 50% bonus, giving you 10K Avios points when switching (though you need to have 10K RBC points (minimum) to switch to Avios so you’ll have to combine it with points you already have.  The 50% bonus upon conversion doesn’t seem to be available yet, but I’d be surprised if it did not become available my mid-November.  According to the terms and conditions, you may have to wait as long as 90 days to receive the 7K point bonus though (GRRR) though with other credit card companies, they just give timelines like that to cover their butts–it may show up very soon after the booking or after the stay is completed.  Still, that’s a free round trip to NYC from Toronto in economy (’til the Avios rates for short haul flights in N. America jumps from 9K to 15K on February 1)!

Here’s the link to make a booking with AirB&B.

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.

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)

THE PLATINUM CARD®

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!

“I Don’t Have A Business” How Can I Justify A Business Credit Card (and Get the Welcome Bonus points)?

One does not need to have a registered business with Revenue Canada to have a business–if you’re making ANY money on the side from anything you’re doing, even if you’re making next to nothing from it, perhaps it’s a hobby that occasionally makes you some money, you’re what is categorized as a “self proprietor.”  Of course, you still report your income to Revenue Canada, but you’re not incorporated, as a Revenue Canada agent stated it, “that’s opening a big can of worms.”

On the credit application, you would not place a business number on the application and you’d pick self-proprietor on the dropdown menu.  Your salary from it includes your salary from all of your jobs.  Your losses, well, if you don’t have any losses from it, then that would be zero.  Number of employees? One.  Excluding yourself: Zero.

AMEX IS still offering a signup bonus for business cards to business that is not new–in other words, if you are deciding to get an AMEX card but already had one in the past, you ARE still eligible for the welcome bonus, which  is 40K AMEX points, which can be converted to Avios at a 25% bonus over 1:1 or to Aeroplan at 1:1 or as cash towards travel purchases, after spending the minimum $5K in 3 months with the first year $250 annual fee waived, and then after that, you’ll be charged if you keep it but it may be tax deductable.

That link is here to get the 40K.  CIBC’s Aeroplan Business card is offering their $180 annual fee card with the fee also waived for the first year, but only ’til August 31.  The 20K Aeroplan points that come with it, as mentioned in recent posts, is Distinction status eligible.  They DO, on the CIBC application, expect that you’ve been in business for a year or more to apply online.  If it’s close to a year, think about when you started your first steps into your self-employed business on the side–that may have been already more than a year ago.

Three Steps to Aeroplan Black Distinction Status–And Only Spend $5K+ In One Year

This post is a summary of recently posted material regarding how to get up to 50K Aeroplan points that will count as Distinction points with Aeroplan.  There’s the 3 levels of Distinction with Aeroplan–Silver, Black, and Diamond.  Diamond, if you’re an Aeroplan maniac, spending over $7K/mth on the card or a combo of spending on an Aeroplan credit card plus travel on Air Canada flights could get you 100K Aeroplan points that are Distinction qualifying. That will get you a 35% discount on Market Fare tickets (discussed below) AND priority when calling Aeroplan’s booking line (though I’d only use it to book a flight that can’t be booked online or just to get info that they can access to avoid Fuel Surcharges for overseas flights with Star Alliance affiliates).

Basically, anytime you spend money on your AMEX Aeroplan, CIBC, or TD Aeroplan Visa, you’ll get Distinction qualifying points.  25K Distinction points will get you Silver status, which gives you 20% off Market Fare rates.  Black you get at 50K and Diamond at 100K.  On your Aeroplan account when you click, “Your Aeroplan,” and then, on the dropdown menu “Transactions,” you’ll see on the right column the amount of points you received, and beside it, a lower case fancy “d”.  The only time you don’t get a “d” is if it’s not earned through travel or purchases on a credit card.

TD and AMEX welcome bonus points on a new card do NOT qualify, BUT…

  • The 10K you get with the TD Aeroplan after spending $1K in 3 months DOES.
  • The CIBC Aeroplan, both the business welcome bonus of 20K (annual fee waived now ’til August 31) DOES and…
  • The personal welcome bonus of 15K (annual fee waived when applying in a CIBC branch–some say you have to get a chequing account and agree to some credit insurance in case you lose your job but other sources say you do NOT need any of this) DOES

So you spend $1K on your TD Aeroplan Infinite, at least a few dollars on the CIBC business and personal has just earned you 45K Distinction qualifying points.  You’ve now spent $1K and change to get the 45K Aeroplan points +1K (or more if you spent them in certain qualifying categories such as gas or groceries on the TD or CIBC personal cards)–now you need only spend another $4K on all 3 cards and you’ll have Black status.  With that, you’ll get a 25% discount on Aeroplan Market Fare flights.  You also KEEP your status through next year.  If you’re a churner, you may be able to pull off things such as:

Applying for 2 TD Aeroplan cards on the same day (not at the same time–may register as a duplicate application) (that’s only ONE credit hit BTW if it’s on the same day).

Cancelling and reapplying for the CIBC cards after a few months…you get the idea.

I.E.  You may be able to pull off Diamond Status this way–it’s not my way, but it’s an option that while it may be frowned upon by the banks, is not illegal from anything I’ve read.

Market Fare is an excellent way to fly IF you’re desperate to get an AC flight that has no classic fare availability for that day or for a specific flight time, but be prepared to get ripped off by Aeroplan for the number of points they want from you for the flights.  They can truly be astronomical!  Like over 100K points for a one-way to New York from Toronto.  IF you book the flight right in the beginning of the opening of AC flights with Aeroplan, 356 days in advance, you could get tickets for the same or LESS than a classic fare flight if you book while there’s plenty of availability–and the taxes are lower.  For a one-way flight to NY, tickets are about $50 cheaper with Market Fare flights.

With some flights, it’s practically impossible to book the flights to get classic rewards.  I’ve tried to fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico with Aeroplan points, on the direct flight during peak season.  No success, but with Market Fare, if I’m fast enough, I may have success–and so might you!

Get A Free 15K Aeroplan Points with the Annual Fee Waived!

So after an annoying experience whereby I took advantage of the CIBC Aeroplan Business 20K Aeroplan point bonus deal with the annual fee waived the first year (see previous post) by being forced to walk into the branch to pick up the card (I’m not a client so they make you), showing 2 pieces of ID, only to find out that they put the supplementary card in a separate envelope, forcing my wife to make a trip into CIBC as well (they require a signature) , I am happy to pass on this piece of info to you:

Until August 24–walk into your local CIBC branch and apply for a CIBC Aeroplan Infinite Visa and they will WAIVE the annual fee for the first year.  This is NOT a new deal-sorry, it’s been available since April 15th, but it IS unadvertised. The welcome bonus of 15K Aeroplan points apparently count towards Aeroplan Distinction Status.

This means if you apply for both the personal and business cards, you’ll automatically earn Silver status for Distinction (25K Aeroplan points eraned in one year), which most importantly will give you a 20% discount on Market Fare flights.  Those are the flights that are specifically AC flights, whereby every seat on the plane is available to Aeroplan customers–except you’ll pay a premium in the number of points for your flight.  For example, a classic fare one-way flight to New York from Toronto is 7500 Aeroplan points.  With Market Fare, that flight could be 10K points if there’s lots of availablility on the flight, but it could also be around 100K points for the same flight–that’s ECONOMY seats  But at least they offer the seats, right?  I would never pay that in points, but if I was desperate, and all other options were not available, too expensive in cash, or too inconvenient (a flight from Buffalo at some unG-dly hour), I may take a market fare flight.

Also, market fare flights, for whatever reason, are cheaper in cash that you pay on top of the points than a classic fare flight.  For that YYZ-NYC one-way flight, you’re only paying $86.86CDN instead of about $50 more with a classic fare flight, IF there even IS any availability at Classic Fare.

Of course, the United flight using Aeroplan points out of Buffalo will cost you only $10CDN (and change) plus 12.5K Aeroplan points, and the flight times, in the case I was looking into on Monday, were reasonable times–9:36 or 10:36am.

Remember, the deal at your local CIBC branch ends August 24th!