Legally covering our hindside: We aren't going to BS you, TDWise provides these most excellent travel tips in hopes that you return the favor and use our referral links. We will get a kickback from the banks if you do so. We promise not to let this influence our advice in any way. See our Terms of Service for more legal ranting.

Amex Card Upgrades and Refreshes

Card Maintenance With Amex

We had a few exciting (if you’re a card geek) cards arrive this week that I’ve been waiting for since last year. They all come with much-improved benefits and changes to the overall travel strategy.

Bonvoy Upgrade

A year ago we got P2 (player two, non-military spouse) the AMEX SPG card right before it discontinued and closed out applications. This was then converted automatically into a plain old Bonvoy artsy card during the great Bonvoy rebranding and super hotel conglomerate release. We did not get a signup bonus or any great annual perks to write about. It was just a slow play dormant account, sitting there until the 1 year account anniversary.

Well, that anniversary hit and finally we were able to product change it to its big brother; the ultra-luxury Bonvoy Brilliant card. This change closes out our perpetual Amex credit card holdings (until they release a new must-have card) and grants us another free annual Bonvoy night (capped at 50k Bonvoy points) and another $300 annual Bonvoy statement credit. This brings the Bonvoy total to $1200/yr and 7 free nights/yr (four $300 credits and four nights from 4 Bonvoy Brilliant cards and three nights from 3 Ritz cards); a solid vacation option for any military family.

Delta Refresh

I like this new card design exponentially better. Numbers on the back, best hand feel of the big 3 airlines, a real class act.

Delta also made a much-needed card overhaul to its lineup. The most important change, of course, is the switch to a metal card with numbers on the back. Welcome to the party, Delta. Obviously, we immediately requested replacement metal forms of our existing Delta Reserve cards.

Also of note is the ability (with the Delta Reserve) to request cabin upgrades. Now, on every Delta flight, we have the option to select upgrade requests to first-class, business class, and Delta Comfort+. Granted, without medallion status these requests are in the back of the upgrade line compared to Delta frequent flyers, but the chance now exists. They also threw in 2 Delta lounge passes for friends and family per year and some new, but still difficult, ways to earn medallion status.

The best change of all, however, is the new feature on all Delta cards that allows you to pay with miles. Starting at 5k miles for $50, you can select, in 5k increments, miles to hack off portions of your ticket cost. This actually isn’t a great redemption value at 1 cent per mile, but it opens up a new loophole that has made Delta my now exclusively flown airline.

Delta Loophole

I’m having an internal struggle with writing about this. The info is publically available if you know where to look, but I don’t want to contribute to its public proliferation. That’s how loopholes get shut down faster. So as a compromise to keep it more in-house I will post the info in our closed Facebook group. Please, if you could, let me know with a comment on the Facebook thread if you found this info useful. I would like to gauge if it’s worth the effort. Thanks for reading!

Judgement Day

Military Churning is Taking a Hit

Whew, lad, it has been a hot minute since our last TDWise update and boy do we have a lot to discuss. The posts initially stopped due to my hectic PCS schedule back in September and then things in the churning world took some progressively terrible turns. Following my PCS I decided to go dark on TDWise for a while and wait for the collective dust to settle. The air is still black, but I managed to complete a trip that was in jeopardy so I have less to lose in the unlikely event my blog brings some unwanted attention to my accounts.

AMEX Total Shutdowns

This mess all started back in July when Amex cracked the whip on self-referrals. Turns out they weren’t done with abusers after the point claw-backs and went ahead in November to shut down self-referral abusers’ entire card portfolios. The community has it all sorted out now through data point mining and aggregation, but when the shutdowns started taking place it was a trying time. Not knowing what the shutdown criteria were, we all had some speculative panic and that lead to gambling your MR points on surviving shutdown or cashing out via Schwab. Ultimately, no one wanted to put an undue target on their back so this blogger went dark and halted any Amex account activity.

Eventually, the community figured that the shutdowns were coming from the self-referral abuse but outlier data points kept us all on edge for a bit. This was, after all, the first time the military churning community suffered casualties. Then, just about when I decided to get back into blogging, we all took a surprise left hook out of nowhere.

GrAAvy Train Derails

For the past 2 years or so there was a very lucrative loophole through the Citi American Airlines card acquisition system that bypassed the terms and conditions language limiting card family sign up bonuses to one every 24 months. It was discovered that AA would quite regularly send out Citi card invites (ads) via mail (and eventually via email) to their frequent flyer accounts that did not have an AA credit card attached. These invites included an application code that would bypass the signup bonus limit, and since Citi cards are pretty easy to get approved, you could rake in AA miles as long as you were approved for new AA Plat cards and had an invite code. This came to be known as the GrAAvy Train.

The invite codes eventually got so frequently sent out that online markets opened up and people sold them to those that couldn’t organically generate their own. Then, the buyers eventually discovered that you could open up fake AA frequent flyer accounts and AA would start generating codes for your dog or non-existant estranged live-in brother. It was all very shady and really skirted the terms and conditions limits, but Citi kept approving cards and the AA miles kept flowing.

Then in Dec, out of nowhere, in an unprecedented move, AA had a conniption and shadow-banned frequent flyer accounts in droves. Usually, it’s banks that get all bent out of shape when loopholes are exploited, not travel partners. It started with AA locking frequent flyer accounts, seemingly without logic or discernable criteria. AA won’t tell you if you’re locked and you only find out if you call AA and they tell you that corporate security would like to have a word, or you just can’t book award tickets anymore. So far, no one has been unlocked and reports of 3-5 account shutdowns per day are coming in from the locked pool. This means you lose any balance of AA miles and any booked award tickets. Still not a peep from Citi.

The best we can figure right now is that if you had 2 or 3 or more AA or Barclay or both sign up bonuses in the last 12 or 24 or 36 months, you got locked. I was sitting at 1 or 3 and the wife was sitting at 2 or 3. Fears that any positive action with AA would escalate your account for review and thus get shutdown emerged and I decided to just not do anything to poke the bear. I had AA award tickets booked to Hawaii last week that I really did not want to be canceled last minute or, worse, mid-trip, so again the blog went dark until I completed that lovely vacation. I still do not know if either of our accounts are locked, and likely won’t until I book another award ticket or get shut down out of the blue.

AMEX Drops Automatic SCRA Protections

As of last week, data points are coming in that Amex is no longer blanket applying SCRA protections to accounts opened after one enters active duty. Previously, Amex went above and beyond the law and gave SCRA benefits to all active-duty members, regardless of account open timeline. The SCRA only requires this for debts (accounts) opened prior to entering AD. Amex has ceased it’s above and beyondness and now falls in line with all the other banks’ SCRA policies.

The current speculation is that Amex is now going to waive annual fees under MLA protections instead of SCRA. A few data points have emerged that back this up but a few others may be caught in a limbo between SCRA and MLA Amex policy migration. I personally think MLA will prevail and Amex just has to get its customer service reps on the same page, but it might take some time and it would be best to avoid getting new Amex cards for the time being if you don’t want to float an annual fee payment.

Rumors For Days with Amex and Capital One

Current Rumors in the Credit Card Game

This seems to be the season of rumors right now and since I haven’t done much to report on aside from a failed gift card liquidation at Hilton’s Buffalo Thunder Resort, I figured we can all hope and dream for a week.

Amex Green Card Refresh

Numbers on the back would be the best of all the upgrades

There’s solid evidence over here at Doc of Credit that the bland and boring Amex Green Card, a card that you pay for the privilege of earning Amex Membership Rewards (MR) points, is undergoing a more attractive card refresh.

The main added benefits being 4x points on gas and 3x points on streaming. I would LOVE to see such benefits as I always use gas and we cut cable in favor of streaming. That would firmly place the Green Card as my go-to for gas and streaming since MR points are liquidatable at 1.25 cents per point with the Schwab Platinum card. Yes, cashback is a bad redemption rate, but I have more points than I can spend with the leave I have available and 1.25 is above industry standard for cashback.

The more rumored but much more beneficial add on is an Amazon Prime membership. Since we pay $119 for that membership annually as it is, an annual fee waived Green Card that gave it to us for free would be instant $119/year savings. Fingers crossed people.

The rumored release date was early 2019, then July, now Sep. That’s the problem with rumors I guess.

Amex Airport Restaurant Program

Another fantastic but more unfounded rumor on the Amex front is the future roll-out of an Amex restaurant program to replace the revocation of the restaurant credit on their Priority Pass memberships. DoC makes a lot of assumptions on his page for this but it would make sense for Amex to ditch the PP memberships and focus on their own lounge program. As it is, they best the other banks with their own line of Centurion lounges and Escape Lounge access in addition to their PP memberships. Perhaps an Amex specific lounge program would be a good way to wrap everything together.

Amex Airline Credit Changes

But of course, the most rumored of all the rumors is the one I want the most. I previously touched on this rumor of Amex changing their airline incidental credit to a blanket travel credit with less complicated steps and more ways to redeem in a past weekly update. I will keep repeating it so that more people repeat it and we gain a massive grassroots following to put the pressure on and get it done. Turns out I’m not the only one.

Over here at Little Miss Traveler’s (LMT) competing blog is a much more thought out article about why Amex is in a position to make this change happen. It stems from the recent change to airline gift card reimbursements, a sort of devaluation of benefits (more on this below), and how every other bank has blanket travel reimbursements. The argument is if Amex wants to stay relevant they need to match the value and effortlessness of the travel credits with their competitors. I, of course, agree and would love to see such a change. LMT also suggests that Amex is loosing out on transaction fees if the credit is redeemed all at once, but at the under $5 transaction fees they charge in conjunction with percentage fees I can’t see it making more than a $10 difference per card per year. Drop in the bucket.

Amex Gift Card Debacle

I want to take this moment to explain the whole Amex airline gift card debacle. Everyone seems to be confused about it, even LMT puts the blame on Amex, and this really isn’t the case. Here’s the deal: Amex NEVER said they would reimburse gift cards, in fact, they explicitly stated in T&Cs that they WOULD NOT reimburse gift cards. The airlines just happened to code their gift card purchases the same way as their incidentals that Amex did reimburse, so the automated system didn’t catch them and reimbursements went through. One day, the AIRLINES changed the way they coded their gift card purchases and the automated system Amex has now sees those purchases as gift cards. We enjoyed a loophole for a while, it closed, now we just need to wait for another. Now, if you want to speculate that Amex put pressure on the airline to recode their gift card purchases, that’s getting super deep into rumor territory and I haven’t seen anything to suggest it aside from the timing that all the airlines recoded.

Capital One Premium Card

Finally, Capital One seems to be planning to get in on the premium card market and is set to launch its own high annual fee card with the only attractive feature being a $300 annual travel credit. If all the details are correct then it will be a flop when put up against the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Amex Plat, and Citi Prestige. If Capital One waives annual fees for the military crowd, it’s an excellent additional $300/per in our pockets. Fingers, once again crossed.

All The, Free Things, Cards Care, Cards Bring

Travel Hacking Folly Beach, SC

On the personal military churning front, this has been a productive few weeks. I will low key brag about these wins under the guise of educational examples and bask in the trivial page views (notice we don’t run ads) like those Instagram hearts that get monetized somehow.

I heard this was a mandatory beach shot.

Citi Prestige 4th Night Free

To start, I visited the family a few weeks ago on a starting-to-be-annual trip to Folly Beach, SC. It was lovely and you should go. We stayed at the Regatta Inn as our go-to bed and breakfast (and happy hour, probably the selling point), which had been previously booked and a deposit paid months in advance by my parents. The parents, having been repeat guests, received a decent 10% discount on room rates and decided to bump us up to the top floor suites for some balcony ocean view experiences. This ran a 4 night, 2 room total to $2891.04, minus the 10% on rooms, giving a total room expense of $2637.44. Well, about a week prior to leaving I remembered that the Citi Prestige card (article pending) has a 4th-night free benefit that is, unfortunately, changing a bit in Sep, but still a pretty substantial value if used properly. The Regatta Inn is not listed under the Citi travel portal so I needed to call into the Concierge to see if the 4th night free would apply. They did some research, gave me a preliminary “no” and opened a case file on it. Not having any time to wait for that, I decided to just try and rebook the rooms on check-in. After a fun game of phone tag between myself, the Citi Concierge, and the Regatta Inn’s front desk, I was able to cancel my parents’ room reservations, refund their deposit, and rebook the room via Citi’s Concierge while standing in the lobby. This step, unfortunately, lost my parents’ 10% off since I was now the booking individual but gained the 4th night free, a $317 win. Since you can only use the benefit for 1 room per card, the wife repeated the same process with her card for the second room and voila, $634 win, giving a new room total of $2257.04 and an overall delta of $380.40 from the original bill. Not bad for 2 phone calls.

Beach life is the life for me.

Of course, those charges code as travel and earn 3x points on the Prestige, so the 6,771 points converted to cash ($67.71) wiped out our beach umbrella and chair rentals for the stay.

Free Uber Eats

Then, one evening we decided to order in dinner after an exhaustive day in the sun and discovered Uber Eats delivered to our cozy little B&B and with the free $75/month I get from my 5 Platinum cards we were able to get $73.89 worth of Zaxby’s delivered courtesy of Amex.

All in all, the power of the churn saved pops an appreciable $519.69 once all was said and done.

Amex Plat Escape Lounge Access

But the fun doesn’t stop there. On my way home I discovered a little known perk of the Amex Platinum card, the card that keeps on giving, I have never really paid attention to the Escape Lounge access the card provides because I had never come across an Escape Lounge. Turns out, the Greenville airport remodel added such a lounge and when I arrived bright and early at 0530 it was the perfect escape to free and no wait coffee. It was a pretty nice lounge too; not too big but well stocked with snacks and breakfast delights. The bar, although not open at 0530, also looks well stocked but I wasn’t sure if it was complimentary.

I Broke the Timberline Lodge in Denver

Then, I had a 6 hour layover in Denver. Normally, I’d relish this time in a Centurion lounge but Denver is still lacking such accommodations. This time I was planning on a little Priority Pass experiment. A lovely Priority Pass perk is the ability to get a $28 bill credit at participating PP restaurants and Denver has the Timberline Lodge, a well-traveled PP spot. Normally, you can only get 1 PP credit per visit per 24 hours (Timberline’s rules, PP actually resets every 2 hours). But, I came with 4 restaurant credit eligible PP memberships (Amex recently took the restaurant feature away from its PP memberships) from my Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ritz Carlton Card, Citi Prestige, and US Bank Altitude Reserve. So, in theory, I wouldn’t even have to wait for the 2 hour PP restriction and the Timberline would see each membership as a separate guest account. Well, with the first bill approaching the $28 max I cashed out and asked if I could swipe my PP again, to which the bartender said no and quoted the above rule, to which I asked about a separate PP membership account. The request was elevated to a supervisor and given the nod of approval and $28 credit the second was applied and I enjoyed a lovely few after breakfast cocktails. Then, somewhere in-between them allowing the second PP card and me finishing my cocktails, another manager had caught wind of this treacherous scandal and halted any further PP cards from my black book of cards citing that it was one $28 credit per person per 24 hour period. Lame. Of note, they have a bartender there with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things alcohol and he was an absolute delight to listen to. I will eagerly await purchase of his upcoming book: The Articulate Bartender Presents: The Complete Bartender.

Cap 1 Data Leak and Equifax’s Solution

Capital One Leaked Your Data and Equifax Has a Fix

Gosh, I slacked off on July posts. Fear not, the credit world provided nothing short of excitement since the last update and the sarcasm will flow free.

The Capital One Leak Details

Another week, another data leak. Capital One was the lucky winner this time to have its woefully inadequate data security breached by a hacker. But wait, TDWise, you are a military travel hacking blog, not a cyber security blog, how do you know that Cap 1’s data security was woefully inadequate? Oh, I’m glad you asked, reader. I say Cap 1 had woefully inadequate data security because the hacker, in a world of being able to cover your online footprints with ease, decided to deposit his newly acquired hoard of Cap 1 data for 100 Million Americans onto his public GitHub; a move that would subsequently lead to his arrest by the FBI. If that guy, a guy who couldn’t foresee his own arrest for cyber crimes after handing the FBI all the evidence (or, perhaps, neglected to check if he was logged into the public or private GitHub before his 100 Million American strong Cap 1 financial data dump) was able to penetrate Cap 1’s data security measures, then those measures were woefully inadequate.

So what data of yours did you give to Cap 1 that Cap 1 gave to a hacker that said hacker gave to the publicly accessible internet? Nothing of real consequence. If you had a business account with Cap 1 and used your social as your tax ID, that’s probably out there. All that data of yours that’s already on the internet for anyone willing to pay those annoying background check sites also went out (name, address, phone, email, DOB, and whatever stated income you lied to Cap 1 about getting), and some credit report info. So now what?

Should You Care?

Luckily, Equifax already lost your data and is still offering free credit monitoring for half of America, so there’s that (more on this below). But really, there’s nothing much to do. Enter: the TDWise opinion on data leaks. See, personal info leaks ALL THE TIME. It leaks in various batch sizes with 6-9 digits of affected people. It leaks from the government to China (thanks Office of Personnel Management) with far more thorough personal information, it leaks from credit reporting agencies, it leaks from banks a plenty, and it will continue to leak until companies you trust with personal information take their data security more seriously than a guy who practically asked the FBI for a felony conviction. So basically, all of our sensitive details are already in a dark web database somewhere waiting for the highest bidder in a game where everyone is the highest bidder. What we can take solace in is the sheer volume of data our data lives among. It takes some serious time to compile the needed details and use them in an identity stealing fashion. This inherent time stall then puts lottery winning odds to YOUR data being used in such a fashion. Will it happen eventually? Sure. Will that data be valid by the time it happens? Odds are slim.

There are really only two things that I do in preparation for the inevitable day one of our 48 and growing credit cards gets used by a Nigerian prince for mail-order Wal-Mart essentials. The first is using credit cards exclusively. All of them have zero fraud liability. Unauthorized charge pop up? Call it in and that charge goes away. Try that with debit or cash, Dave Ramsey. The other is having some sort of identity theft monitoring and since every data leak usually comes with complimentary monitoring, I now have about 5-6 emails pop in every time I change something on my credit report. It’s a fun race to see who is the fastest responder.

The Nicely Timed Equifax Solution

Speaking of complementary data monitoring, your Equifax financial data may not be worth $125 after all. The FTC has been forthcoming on the cash management of the settlement. Apparently, the money pot earmarked for the $125 payout is only $31 Million and the $125 thing was based on a mere 248,000 people requesting the cash. How anyone thought only 248,000 fine Americans would take the money and run in lieu of the 7th email to tell me my credit report has changed just goes to show how incredibly detached lawyers are from the internet. That said, I would be surprised if we all saw a cool $3 for our released data. It might be worth it to snag their monitoring offer as it comes with $1 Million of identity theft insurance that works for this Capital One leak too. Fear not, at least one of us is getting $20 Million for their duress during this endeavor. Some may get all hung up on the details of it being the Equifax CEO before being let go of his CEO-ness for losing all your data, but I’m sure he lost $20 Million in sleep over it.

Amex Crackdown, Capital One Crackdown, First Class Upgrades

Amex and Capital One Brought Down the Hammer

Sorry for the lack of post last week, I was away in a pretty intense class for work and didn’t have enough time or energy to put forth a proper post effort.

No More Amex Self-Referrals

In big news, Amex has cracked down on self-referral bonuses. See, about 6 months ago or so Amex revamped their referral system to first allow you to refer any card in the card family of your particular Amex card and then a short time later just allowed any Amex card to be referred from any Amex card. For example: Say you had a Hilton Aspire card and your friend wanted a Hilton Ascend card. You could access your Aspire referral link, scroll down to view other cards in the Hilton Family, select the Ascend, and copy and paste the link in your browser to refer them to the Ascend. Your Aspire would then snag a signup bonus as if you referred them to the Aspire. Then it became available to view any Amex card, not just card family, and you could snag any card’s referral bonus for referring any other Amex card. Well, the community discovered a loophole with this system where you could just use your own referral links to sign up for your next Amex card. It was a risky move as Amex is known for clawing back points that they deemed inappropriately earned but the community threw caution to the wind and rolled with it. Bad move.

This blog never suggested this loophole as we tend to err on the conservative side of the game. Turns out, that was a good move as Amex decided last week to clawback any points earned through the self-referral loophole. Since referrals are now being taxed at 1 cent per point via 1099 at years end, I’m curious to see if the 1099s will reflect the clawed back points or if the bold and daring will now have to pay taxes on the clawed back points. The bottom line, of course, is don’t be shady with Amex and use TDWise referral links for all your Amex card needs.

No More Old Capital One Accounts

Another pretty rough crackdown this week came from Capital One. Apparently, without warning, Cap1 officials decided to close any Cap1 credit card that had no account activity in the last three years. Letters were sent out saying you had about 3 months to liquidate your rewards while your account was restricted and then the account would close. No way to reinstate, lift the restriction, or otherwise reverse this decision. Normally, I wouldn’t care too much about a Cap1 card as they have little to offer in the premium card space, but my wife’s oldest account was a Cap1 card and now that’s going to hit her average age of accounts pretty hard. We tried to make a purchase and called customer service, both to no avail. Remember to show a little love to the sock drawer cards now and again. I’m going to now identify each card I don’t put natural spend on and buy some Amazon gift cards the first of every year. Live and learn I suppose.

Free First Class Via Ritz Carlton

Finally, some good news, today we were able to find some sweet Delta first-class upgrades for our upcoming Disney trip on a Newark to Orlando leg for $306 total. Seeing as we have Ritz card flight incidental cash to burn before the new year, those upgrades will now only cost us $6 out of pocket once Chase reimburses $300 of that charge. In even more first-class news, we found a 25k AA mile award flight for the wife to take our cat back east in preparation for our upcoming PCS to Virginia. The cat ticket will be another $125, but since we also have a bunch of Amex airline incidental cash to burn before the new year and gift cards are no longer an option, her Schwab Platinum card will cover that expense too. Travel is so free with appropriately applied credit cards.

New Citi Card and Amex Pay Over Time

My Wife Got Her Free AAdvantage Executive Card

I’m a huge fan of this card design and hand feel.

It’s been an exciting week of credit card optimization. To start, the wife signed up for and received her Citi AA Executive card, which begins the long road of meeting its $5k min spend. Of course, the main point of getting this card isn’t the spend but the Admirals Club membership. The 50k AA miles is just icing on the cake that will likely assist us in moving back to Virginia later this year. I’ll have to get on making a card page for this. These sweet free travel perks almost make the cross country moves every 1-2 years worth it.

She Also Got Her Free 10,000 Amex Membership Rewards Points

Another win came via snail mail with an AMEX Pay-Over-Time offer of 10k membership rewards points for signing up. The beauty of these offers is that signing up for Pay-Over-Time doesn’t actually do anything to your account. It makes you eligible to use your AMEX charge cards as credit cards for charges over $100, but since we pay off our cards in full every month (right?), it doesn’t actually do anything other than give you a free 10k points. Those points are easily liquidated to cash (although not the most beneficial use, but I like hard and understandable numbers) via the Schwab Platinum card to gain $125. That’s why it pays to check your junk mail, readers. I get excited for each and every piece from a bank. Also good to point out, when you get Plat cards never opt into the Pay-Over-Time feature, wait for Amex to bribe you with 10k points.

Some Speculation

On the more speculative front, I’ve been hearing two pretty exciting rumors, the first is the more likely of the two and that is a mid-tier ($250 annual fee) United card entering into the Chase lineup. This is likely to compete with the Delta Plat, which would be almost hard to do since the Delta Plat is kind of a fantastic card for the fee if you fly Delta a bunch. I’m very curious to see what it offers but that’s about it. Likely, it will fall under the 5/24 rule and I’ll never be able to get an application through. The other is far less likely but such a dream of mine I’ll put it out there. Amex might be sort of considering the possibility of changing the Platinum $200 airline credit to a blanket travel credit, akin to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Boy, would that be epic. Amex Plats would be the ultimate in travel rewards and luxury cards again. I’ll gladly go through this dry spell of no gift card reimbursements if it’s gearing up for a blanket travel credit. If you head over to the End Results page you’ll see that change would net the wife and I $2800 in travel a year in addition to the $2350 we already have. That’s a whopping $5150 in travel. Disney cruises till we die. So please, Amex, if you’re reading this, make the best move you can make with Plat upgrades and give the people a travel credit!

Also, a friendly reminder that the Amex Plat mid-year credits have renewed. That means your personal Plats are charged with another $50 of Saks 5th Ave credit goodness and your Biz Plats have another $100 to use at Dell.

Airline Gift Cards and Citi Troubles

No More Gift Cards from Amex Platinum

It is, unfortunately, a week for the worse in the credit card game. I am very displeased to announce that there are no longer any airline gift certificates that work to trigger the AMEX airline incidental reimbursement. Delta and Southwest went the way of American Airlines, and United Airlines still has no gift certificate option. Perhaps a new loophole will open before the year is out — but unless you want to take a major gamble, I’d start buying out in-flight liquor offerings as airline reimbursement on anything else is going to be difficult. 

This change is a pretty severe hit for the Amex credit card portfolio, and might even alter some of my card recommendations in the very near future. The Amex Platinum credit cards still hold significant value with Uber, Saks, and the various other perks offered on that card — but because of removing the airline reimbursement benefit, the Hilton Aspire cards no longer have the edge over the Bonvoy Brilliant cards. It MIGHT be a better plan of action to try and hold three Brilliant cards, one Aspire, and one Delta credit card — but you need to assess your travel plans and see what will work best for you. I still like the 2+2+1 balance.

Citi Cuts Almost All Card Insurance

In even more unfortunate news, Citi has just up and canceled the vast majority of their secondary card perks — on basically all of their credit cards. Starting September 22, 2019, Citi credit card churners will be losing out on the following benefits:

  • Worldwide Car Rental Insurance 
  • Trip Cancellation & Interruption Protection 
  • Worldwide Travel Accident Insurance 
  • Trip Delay Protection 
  • Baggage Delay Protection 
  • Lost Baggage Protection 
  • Medical Evacuation 
  • Citi® Price Rewind 
  • 90 Day Return Protection 
  • Missed Event Ticket Protection

The main perks for acquiring the cards in the military churner’s wallet still remain — lounge access on the American Airlines Executive Card, $250 travel credit on the Prestige Card, as well as 4th night free booking on the Prestige card — but you may want to focus on Chase for your travel and insurance and such. Fortunately the extended Warranty and Purchase Protections remain for Citi credit cards, and the newly rolled out cell phone insurance on the Prestige card is sticking around for the time-being as well.

 

End of June, Southwest GCs, and Aviator Red

Use Your Mid-Year Bennies

Saks insists on the gift box like I’m giving this as a gift or something silly

The end of June is approaching, which means it’s time to use your $50 Saks credit on the Amex Platinum and $100 Dell credit on the Amex Business Platinum. The Dell credit is easy to snag online. If you don’t have anything you’re jonesing for on Dell’s website there is the ability to purchase x-box live gift cards, which then can liquidate into your Microsoft account to be used later. The Saks credit is a little trickier, since nothing but MAC makeup costs $50 or less at Saks, making it a lot better to purchase Saks gift cards IN-STORE, NOT AT OFF 5TH. Then you can save for those red-soled shoes girls like and surprise your lady friend with an $800 pair. Pro Tip: nicely ask a knowledgeable employee to split your gift card purchase over multiple cards so that you can walk away with 1 $300 gift card instead of 6 $50 gift cards. I’ve done it twice at two different locations.

(Update: Gift card reimbursements are now dead, do not buy ANY gift cards expecting a reimbursement) Odd data points are coming in that you need to limit your Southwest gift card buys to $100 and under, maybe, to get the Amex Plat airline credit to trigger. This liquidation method is slowly closing in as the only ones left now are Delta (at $50 cards from a desktop computer) and Southwest *maybe* at $100 or less. Fingers should remain crossed for American Airlines to actually go back to Misc Fee coding on their gift certificates.

And finally, I dropped a new card article on the Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Red card. Check it out and get super cheap AA flights if you’re looking for the next card!

New Bonvoy Card and AA Gift Cards

We Now Have a No Annual Fee Downgrade Option Bonvoy Card

I can’t think of anything bold about it, but that alliteration is holding strong

These are the weeks we hope for. To start, Chase launched a new Bonvoy Bold card that is not worth using a 5/24 slot for since it’s nowhere near the benefits of the Bonvoy Boundless/Ritz Carlton duo. It’s important for the military churner, however, because its a no annual fee Bonvoy card. One of the eventualities of military card churning is deciding what to do with cards once you hang up the uniform and return to civilian life. Your waived annual fee cards will slowly start to introduce the fees again about a year after your active duty departure, depending on when the banks re-check your SCRA/MLA status. I, personally, do not want to be on the hook for $14,784 in annual fees every year. At that point you have three choices: downgrade the card to a no annual fee version to maintain account longevity (no change to credit report), cancel the card if a no annual fee version doesn’t exist (loss of account on credit report but not on the hook for $450-ish), or simply decide the card is worth the fee and keep it going (thinking Amex Plat would be a keeper for me). Well, Chase just gave you the downgrade option for your Ritz and Bonvoy Boundless needs. One less card to cancel.

American Airlines Gift Cards Now Working for Amex Platinum Again?

(UPDATE: As of 16 June 19 this seems to be dead and reverted to gift card coding.) Even better news is the return of American Airlines gift cards coding as Misc Fees when charged to a credit card. This is important because of the Amex airline incidental fee credit that comes with the Platinum, Gold, and Hilton Aspire cards. Now, per the card terms and conditions, gift cards are not eligible for reimbursement with the incidental credit. However, some gift cards trigger the reimbursement anyways, and it has to do with how they are coded when the purchase is made. At the beginning of 2019, three airlines had gift cards coding in such a way as to trigger the automatic incidental reimbursement: American, Southwest, and Delta (United has yet to get their head out of their 4th point of contact and offer some sort of gift card option at all). For American and Southwest, you could purchase any gift card at any amount, and it would reimburse up to the incidental limit ($250 for Aspire, $200 for Platinum, $100 for Gold). Delta was and is tricky in that you are limited to $50 gift card denominations and only then from a desktop computer (no mobile purchasing). Well, mid-Feb AA started coding their gift cards as gift cards instead of Misc Fees and that killed the automatic reimbursement. Having not quite liquidated my incidental credits yet (still sitting on a cool $1650) I was disappointed in having to decide on Southwest (gross, I’ll choose my seat thankyouverymuch) and painfully buying 33 $50 Delta cards, which can only be redeemed 3 at a time. Thankfully, AA decided to revert to the old gift card coding method of Misc Fees, and all is right with the world again. I made a test purchase at $50 yesterday; fingers are crossed it triggers reimbursement.

And finally, I redesigned the card referral link page to make it less confusing. Let me know what you think!