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Middle Age Miles

While We Were Away … News from United, American, JetBlue and Marriott – Plus Great Info on Cashback Apps!

United dynamic award pricing devaluation
The biggest news while Middle Age Miles was traveling to Italy was United’s announcement that it will be eliminating award charts and moving to dynamic award pricing
[featured image courtesy United]

Middle Age Miles spend the better part of the last week and a half traveling to Italy, so one of the first things we wanted to do upon our return was summarize some of the most important credit card, travel and points-and-miles developments while we were away. We’ll add a few of our thoughts on these developments and articles too, to help get you caught up.

1. United Removes Award Charts, Moves to Dynamic Award Pricing

No sooner had we left on our holiday trip than a huge piece of news dropped from United – it’s eliminating award charts and moving to dynamic award pricing. Some of the changes are already in effect; others take place on November 15.

In summary:

  • Award charts are already gone from United’s website
    • Although, United says that its award prices will not increase until November 15, 2019
  • Award pricing will become dynamic
    • Some award prices will be lower, and this is already in effect
    • Other award prices will be higher, effective immediately for travel November 15 and after
  • Starting November 15, United is removing close-in booking fees (currently up to $75 for travel within 21 days of booking)
  • The partner award chart will remain in effect for travel through November 14; however, for travel on or after November 15, some flights may require a higher number of miles than indicated on the award chart (this impacts using United miles for award flights on other partner airlines; not the other way around)

Relevant links:

Quick thoughts from Middle Age Miles:

  • This seems like a bad devaluation to us
  • All transparency is gone in terms of award redemptions
    • You’ll never know how many miles you’re going to need for an award flight
  • There’s never any cap on award prices
  • Even though award pricing is dynamic, there’s no fixed value to miles, or even a range of values
  • United has not promised to increase award availability, so we still won’t know whether flights will be available (that is, it’s still not like the Southwest model where all seats are available on miles)
  • Close-in booking fees are dropped, but there’s nothing stopping United from simply raising all award pricing in miles for close-in bookings to compensate
  • Using United miles for partners will also be worse, which really hurts because United miles are often a good option as United doesn’t impose surcharges
  • At least there’s one piece of possibly not-bad news – United will continue to designate some awards as Saver awards such that they can be booked with partner miles such as Aeroplan and LifeMiles, and those charts/award rates are not changing (at least not at this time)

2. American Will Also Change to Dynamic Award Pricing

See above. Ugh. (Hat Tip to JonNYC (Twitter: @xJonNYC))

3. JetBlue to Start Flights to London in 2021

JetBlue announced that it will begin service from Boston and New York, using a long-range version of the Airbus A321. Service will include JetBlue’s popular Mint business class product.

We love this news. More transatlantic competition means lower fares to Europe, which we’ll take any day. And it’s nice that it’s coming from an established carrier that’s likely to devote substantial resources to the routes, which increases the chances that they will have staying power.

Relevant link, courtesy of CNBC: JetBlue plans to start flights to London in 2021, taking on entrenched rivals

4. New Marriott Bonvoy “Surprise and Delight” Promotion for New Members

Hat Tip to Frequent Miler for this one.

According to Frequent Miler, the Marriott Bonvoy program recently sent memos to its hotels with the outline of two initiatives to show appreciation to certain elite members. The initiatives are:

  • Part 1: Targeted Ambassador Elite members on award redemption stays, from April 22 to July 31
    • Personalized letter form David Flueck, Senior VP of Global Loyalty, and the member’s personal Ambassador
    • Credit the points for one night of their award stay back to the member
    • Hotel is “encouraged” to deliver a “local elevated amenity” (e.g., a food or beverage specialty from your region or another local token) to the member
    • Not all Ambassador Elite members will receive this “surprise” benefit, and there is no indication of what number or percentage of members will receive the “surprise” or how they are chosen
  • Part 2: Targeted Elite members, beginning May 1 (no end date listed)
    • Targeted members will receive a gift of “an electronic Marriott gift card, good to redeem for a future on-property experience”
    • These eGCs will be delivered via email
    • It is not clear whether the gift card will simply be for a dollar amount (or for how much), or whether it will be for a specific product or service (probably the former?)
    • As with Part 1, there is no indication of what number or percentage of elite members will receive this gift or how they will be chosen

From the memo, it’s clear that Marriott Bonvoy is providing funding for this program. In addition, Marriott is encouraging hotels to deliver additional benefits at their own expense.

Quick thoughts from Middle Age Miles:

  • Any gift is better than no gift, so that part’s good
  • That said, we’d sure rather see Marriott spend its money actually fixing its significant IT issues and properly staffing and training its customer service agents to deliver quality service consistently
  • And, this program has serious potential to backfire – elite members who don’t get the benefit may be more upset, more than those who receive it are made happy
    • This is especially true now that details of the program have been leaked so that members will actually know when they haven’t been chosen; this can easily make elite members feel even less valued

5. The 12 Best Card-Linked and Cashback Apps

I think my favorite blog article from while we were away was from Harlan of Out and Out: The 12 Best Card-Linked and Cashback Apps (10 Get You Completely Free Rewards). There’s nothing like getting extra cash back for little or no effort, and Harlan is a wizard with this stuff.

We’re well-versed in Ebates and MileagePlus X, which Harlan mentions, and we also use a couple of the other tools he mentions, Dosh and Drop. But there’s a lot to take in with this article, and we expect to follow some of Harlan’s other recommendations ourselves. Give it a read and see if you can make yourself some money!

In addition, right after Harlan published his article, Doctor of Credit posted an interesting article on yet another new app called Fluz. Doc says that Fluz includes cash back at Office Depot (3.5% at the time of Doc’s article), which would be very helpful to us. So that’s one more app to check out.

And finally, Harlan’s article didn’t mention Yelp Cashback. But just yesterday (4/14/19), Doctor of Credit noted that Yelp Cashback was offering a juicy 7% cash back at Office Depot (including stacking with this week’s Office Depot deal on Visa GCs, $15 back when you purchase $300+). This puts us up to a total of 14 apps that we should check out to see if they can save/make us some money!


Well, now we feel like we’re mostly caught up on big developments while we were away. We’ll keep the ball rolling with more new Middle Age Miles content tomorrow.

Did we miss any big travel, credit card or points-and-miles developments from the last week-and-a-half? Please let us know in the Comments!


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