Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hotel Points, Marriott, Starwood, United Airlines

Starwood/Marriott Merger; What I’m Booking Now

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First off, the Starwood and Marriott merger seems to be BACK ON.  I am thinking this eventuality is a negative for any Starwood loyalists and a gain for Marriott fans. We’ll see.

In other Marriott news, you can now use their new Cash and Points feature for rewards. Nothing the other hotel loyalty programs haven’t had for a while.  Why would you use this?  You can conserve precious points for better value. You are usually getting a penny a point or less compared to using all points. If you have a boatload of points, using all points is a better deal. If you are running low, use C&P.  The cash part is basically the equivalent of buying points at just over a penny per dollar in most cases.

Example: I just booked a room at a Hyatt Place for 4,000 points and $55 in cash on a room that retails for $169. It would be 8,000 points otherwise, or just over 2c / point in value. By doing C&P I am essentially buying 4,000 points for $55. It’s a toss up but I decided since I can usually get 2c/ point in value, it’s worth holding onto the other 4,000 points.  As an aside, I transferred those point in from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account.  Love how flexible those points are.

I was bummed as could be about the American Airlines award devaluation that hit this past week, though I was able to book 3 transcon flights in 1st along with one from Europe at the old level. I kind of wish I’d booked one placeholder for North America to Asia in F (140,000 miles vs now 220,000) or to Australia/New Zealand – but Lucky from OMAAT made a great point this week that you can still book for 140,000 in F to Asia using Alaska Airlines miles (update: this deal was killed the following week) which you can both buy from Alaska (right now for 40% off) or via transfer from your SPG account. Another reason to get that 35,000 Starpoint bonus on the Amex before it expires March 30.  BTW – check your LinkedIn account inbox… word is that Amex is now doling out targeted signup offers via LinkedIn messaging.

From the Frontlines: What I’m Booking Now
(aka Earning and Burning those miles)

I am wondering how interesting it will be to my readers to hear some of the things I book and how I earned the miles or points for it. I just shared my unimportant Hyatt Place booking above, but what about real stuff?

Like, I recently booked a Business class flight to Dusseldorf, Germany, on LOT Airlines, with a full day to explore Warsaw, Poland on the way.

I spent 70,000 United miles, which I earned via my relationship with Fidelity Investments (did you know you can get miles for moving investments over to them from another brokerage? I paid a whopping $29 in fees for this flight and I’ll be flying in a lie flat seat on a new 787 from JFK-Warsaw.  The leg to Dusseldorf the next day will be up front as well, though on the lackluster intra-European J class they have.

I hope that giving my stories of earning and burning will inspire some of you to find better ways to redeem your miles and be more creative about how you get them.  Next time, I’ll explain how I’m getting home from Dusseldorf (of course, also for free up front and also not on miles earned from either a credit card or from flying.)