As regular readers of Middle Age Miles know, we’re working toward achieving Globalist elite status with the World of Hyatt program during 2019. (For more details on the benefits of Globalist status as well as our thought process and strategy, see our article, Going for Globalist in 2019? (February 26, 2019))
Globalist status requires 60 Hyatt elite night credits within a calendar year. We recently reviewed where we stood on getting to Globalist, along with our expected stays for the rest of 2019. Depending on how a couple of things shake out, it looked like our organic stays would leave us roughly 2-4 nights short of the 60 we’ll need this year.
This led us to thinking about strategies on how to make up that gap. Fortunately, we’d written an article on exactly this subject earlier this year – How to Manufacture Elite Nights with Hyatt – Options and Costs (February 27, 2019). There, we evaluated 3 options to manufacture elite nights with Hyatt:
- Spend on the Chase World of Hyatt card – earn 2 elite nights with each $5,000 in spend
- Stay (mattress run) at cheap Hyatt properties on the lowest paid rate you can find.
- Stay (mattress run) at Category 1 Hyatt properties for 5,000 points per night.
We considered the mattress-run strategies, but the cash and/or points out of pocket were higher than we would have liked (even considering current Hyatt promotions like the ones we reviewed in our recent article, Catching Up on 6 Current Hyatt Promotions (August 14, 2019)). Between that, and the new information we’ve learned while experimenting for our Manufactured Spend Data Points (MS DP) series, we decided to explore in-depth how we might MS $5,000 on the Chase World of Hyatt card to earn 2 elite nights and what the costs might be, particularly with online liquidation options so that our expenditure of time and effort would be kept to a minimum.
We moved forward with this strategy – manufacturing 2 Hyatt elite night credits using MS strategies – and we did it without leaving our couch!
* Technically, we did have to leave our couch once, to go to the mailbox to pick up gift cards that had been sent to us in the mail.
Tools that You’ll Need for This Strategy
To implement the strategy we outline in this article, you’ll need to have a few tools available to you:
(1) The Chase World of Hyatt card – As we mentioned, you earn 2 Hyatt elite night credits for each $5,000 that you spend on the card. Buying gift cards counts toward this spend requirement.
- If you don’t have the Chase World of Hyatt card, you can apply using our referral link here: Apply for the Chase World of Hyatt Card
- The current sign-up bonus is 50,000 Hyatt points – 25,000 after you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening, and an additional 25,000 points after you spend a total of $6,000 within the first 6 months of account opening
(2) An Ebates/Rakuten account that earns Amex Membership Rewards (MR) points – This will allow you to go through the Ebates/Rakuten shopping portal to earn 1 MR point per dollar of spend at GiftCards.com (as of today, 8/28/19).
- If you don’t have a MR-earning Ebates/Rakuten account, follow these steps to get one:
- Click this link: Open a New Ebates/Rakuten Account
- Note that this is our referral link – you’ll earn a new customer bonus of 1,500 MR points if you make purchases totaling $25 or more within 90 days (assuming that you set up an MR-earning account) and you’ll be helping us continue to provide you great content as well
- The link will take you to rakuten.com
- In that same window, type the URL rakuten.com/american-express directly into the address bar and hit enter
- From there, just set up your Rakuten account and link an Amex MR-earning card to the account
- Click this link: Open a New Ebates/Rakuten Account
(3) The Bravo “Tip or Pay” app – The Bravo app should allow you to liquidate all Visa Gift Cards (VGCs) or Mastercard Gift Cards (MCGCs) that you purchase online from GiftCards.com, for a 2% fee, just by using the app on your phone.
- Note that the initial set-up for Bravo usually requires you to enter a credit card and validate your identity.
- It may also be necessary for your Bravo account to be “seasoned” with a few credit card transactions and/or aged a bit before they allow you to change payment cards.
- With our Bravo account, we are able to change payment cards with no problem, including with VGCs and MCGCs
- We’ve been able to change payment cards as many as 3 times in a single day
- Note that Bravo has volume limitations – If your payment is $500 or more, it incurs a higher fee (3.5%+ instead of 2%).
- And we’re not sure whether that payment limit is per person, per day, or something less restrictive. We haven’t pushed the limits on this, as Bravo is far too useful to us to risk being banned.
(4) Two Bravo accounts – One that you’ll use to send payments, and a second that you’ll use to receive the payments that will be directly deposited into a “friendly” bank account
- It will probably work best to have 2 separate people have these 2 Bravo accounts
- That said, it may be possible for a single person to have 2 Bravo accounts, particularly if you have 2 different phones and phone numbers you can use
Implementing the Strategy
To implement this strategy, basically you’ll need to go through your Ebates/Rakuten MR-earning account to GiftCards.com, place an order for VGCs or MCGCs through GiftCards.com totaling about $2,500, and liquidate the GCs using Bravo. Then, repeat this process for another $2,500 and you’ll have $5,000 in charges which will earn you 2 Hyatt elite night credits.
We’ll walk through each of the steps, with some notes about the details and costs:
(1) Log in to your Ebates/Rakuten MR-earning account
(2) Go through the Ebates/Rakuten portal to GiftCards.com (GC.com)
(3) Place an order for VGCs or MCGCs as follows:
- 4 GCs with $500 each
- 1 GC with $465
The reason for this breakdown is that the maximum order on GC.com is $2,500. This cap includes card purchase/issuance fees (but not shipping fees). Each of these cards will incur a purchase/issuance fee of $6.95. That will bring your total to $2,499.75. You’ll want to choose US Trackable mail for shipping, which will add $7.96, for a grand total charge of $2,507.71.
(4) Pay for the order with your Chase World of Hyatt credit card. Note – On our first order, we received a fraud alert from Chase. We quickly cleared the alert and re-submitted our order. It went through with no problems the second time. Also, the purchase still posted correctly to our Ebates/Rakuten account despite this hiccup in the purchasing process.
(5) When the GCs arrive at your house (about a week later), register each card with GC.com. Pro Tip – We find that it’s best to change the address on each card slightly. On each card, we (a) enter the state (Texas in our case); and (b) delete the “plus-4” part of the zip code.
(6) Liquidate each GC through Bravo, one GC per day, sending from your Bravo “payment” account to your Bravo “receipt” account. Note – Bravo allows only one payment card on your account at a time. You can change your payment card by going to Settings, selecting your current payment card under “Cards & Bank Account,” and then using the “Edit card” function.
For each card, you’ll incur a 2% fee. Thus, for the $500 GCs, the payment will be for $490.19 and the fee will be $9.81; for the $465 GC, the payment will be for $455.88 and the fee will be $9.12.
The funds should show up in your linked bank account within 2-3 business days.
And, voila! You’ve charged a little over $5,000 to your World of Hyatt card ($5,015.42, to be exact), and you’ve successfully acquired and liquidated all the GCs – all without leaving your couch (except to go to the mailbox)! Your 2 Hyatt elite night credits should post to your World of Hyatt account when your next credit card statement closes.
Accounting for These Transactions – How Much Does It Cost, and What Do You Earn?
Let’s review the finances of these transactions so we can understand how much this strategy costs us and how much we’ll earn.
First, for the fees –
- Acquisition costs:
- Purchase/issuance fees = 10 * $6.95 = $69.50
- Shipping fees = 2 * $7.96 = $15.92
- Total Acquisition Costs = $85.42
- Liquidation costs:
- 8 $500 GCs = 8 * $9.81 = $78.48
- 2 $465 GCs = 2 * $9.12 = $18.24
- Total Liquidation Costs = $96.72
- Total costs = $182.14
Next, let’s look at our earnings –
- Earn MR points through Ebates/Rakuten:
- Each order earns 2,500 MR points, for a total of 5,000 MR points
- At our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point, these points are worth about $75.00
- Earn Hyatt points through spend on the World of Hyatt card:
- This is unbonused spend, which earns 1x Hyatt point for each dollar, resulting in a total of 5,015 Hyatt points
- At our baseline value of 1.5 cents per Hyatt point, these points are worth about $75.22
- Total value of points earned = $150.22
If you accept our baseline values of MR and Hyatt points, your net total cost of earning the 2 Hyatt elite nights is $31.92.
That’s less than $16 per elite night. It’s not bad at all, and no doubt substantially less money than you’d spend to mattress run for elite nights, not to mention the time and effort you’d have to spend to check into a hotel one or more times to earn those nights.
Looking at it another way, you will have earned a total of 10,015 MR and Hyatt points at a cost of $182.14. Your acquisition cost for these points is 1.82 cents per point. If you’re transferring MR points to Amex’s airline partners for high-value redemptions and using your Hyatt points reasonably, it’s not terribly hard to get at least 1.82 cents per point of value out of MR and Hyatt points. Under these circumstances, you might feel like this strategy isn’t really costing you anything at all.
What Is a Hyatt Elite Night Worth to Someone Who Needs It to Qualify for Globalist?
We’ll attempt a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the value of an elite night. This will necessarily involve some somewhat-arbitrary-but-hopefully-reasonable assumptions as well as some simplification. But it’ll at least give us a ballpark idea.
First, let’s identify the key Globalist benefits and how much a person who’s just getting to 60 nights will use them, plus assign a value to each use:
- Free breakfast/lounge access:
- Let’s say that, during our Globalist year, we spend 30 nights in a Hyatt hotel where breakfast isn’t already included.
- To use an assumption that we think is reasonable and also helps with the math, let’s say this benefit is worth $33.33 per night.
- 30 * $33.33 = $1,000 value
- Suite & room upgrades – including confirmed suite upgrades using certificates (4 certificates, each good for up to 7 consecutive nights) as well as availability-based upgrades:
- Let’s assume 20 nights of suite upgrades that mean something to us during our Globalist year
- And let’s assume that each of these nights is worth $50 to us
- 20 * $50 = $1,000 value
- 1 Category 1-7 Free Night Certificate (awarded at 60 nights; we’ll ignore the Category 1-4 Free Night Certificate awarded at 30 nights for simplicity):
- This can be quite valuable, as it’s good at any Hyatt hotel in the world (and any of the SLH hotels that participate in World of Hyatt other than the handful assigned to Category 8)
- There’s a wide variance in potential value here, but we’ll use one that’s fairly conservative: $355 value
- Incremental points bonus from Globalist rather than Explorist:
- Globalists receive a 30% points bonus on stays, whereas Explorists receive a 20% bonus
- The difference (10%) amounts to 0.5 Hyatt points per dollar of paid stays
- Again, this could vary quite widely, but let’s assume total room rate spend of $6,000 (perhaps 30 paid nights at $200/night?)
- 0.5 * $6,000 * 1.5 cents per Hyatt point = $45 value
Add up the values of these benefits of being Globalist, and you get a total of $2,400. You need 60 Hyatt elite nights to reach Globalist. Dividing $2,400 by the 60 elite nights gives us this result – each elite night we earn in order to achieve Globalist is worth about $40.
And, using this number, the value of the 2 elite nights we received from our MS strategy would be $80.
We believe that the assumptions we’ve made in order to compute this number are quite conservative. For example, if your vacation plans include a week-long suite upgrade at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme or Grand Hyatt Kauai, complete with breakfast, that may be worth $2,400 in and of itself!
A Few Closing Thoughts and Alternative Approaches
We’re in the midst of completing this strategy ourselves. We have a few more GCs to liquidate, and we’re waiting for our 2 elite night credits to post, but otherwise we’re finished with it.
One question would be whether you should choose VGCs or MCGCs when you order from GC.com. Both can be liquidated through Bravo, so there are no differences on that front. An advantage of VGCs would be if you have avenues for lower-cost in-person liquidation; our understanding is that VGCs are easier to use for reloads and money order purchases. On the other hand, an advantage of MCGCs is that they’re easier to liquidate via Plastiq. The MCGCs from GC.com are not eligible for Plastiq’s 1% processing fee for debit cards, but they can be used for almost any type of payment on Plastiq (including paying credit card bills) and they are eligible for Plastiq promotions such as the 1% and 1.5% fee promos we’ve seen recently.
Obviously, liquidation costs can be lower if you have avenues to do this and the time to do it. This article, like our recent MS DP series, focuses on easy online liquidation.
An alternative to the strategy we outlined would be to use an Ebates/Rakuten cash back account (or Top Cashback, which also pays 1% for GC.com) instead of a MR-earning account. In our experiment, you’d earn $50 in cash rather than 5,000 MR points (which we valued at $75). Compared to our valuation with MR points, the cashback approach would be “more expensive” by $25. But, that would still result in earning 2 elite nights with a net cost of “only” $56.92. That’s still pretty good, if you prefer the cash over the MR points.
Another alternative may be to purchase GCs online through GiftCardMall.com (GCM.com) rather than GC.com. We don’t have direct experience with GCM.com like we do with GC.com, but our best guess is that the finances, strategy and overall experience would be very similar to what we’ve outlined here.
And finally, at the margin where you’re either reaching 60 nights for Globalist or you’re not, the value you assign to the last 2 nights that cause you to reach Globalist may be quite high indeed – way more than the $40/night estimate we reached in our quantification analysis.
We hope you’ve found this helpful, and we hope this article helps some Middle Age Miles readers reach Globalist this year!
What do you think of the strategy we’ve outlined? Any other ideas? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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