Middle Age Miles

Middle Age Miles News & Notes 11/5/19 – Staples VGC deal; new AA & UA club access restrictions; Timberline Grill out of PP; new Citi Double Cash terms; Payce

middle age miles news notes 11/5/19 staples visa gift card vgc deal american airlines aa admirals club restriction united airlines ua club lounge restriction timberline grill denver den airport priority pass citi double cash payce

It’s time for a new Middle Age Miles News & Notes column, catching up on a few things after a weekend of travel and wondering what criteria Amex is using for its new round of shutdowns so we and all of our readers can stay on the safe side.

1. Visa Gift Card deal underway at Staples

From now through November 16, purchase a $200 Visa gift card (VGC) in-store from Staples, with no purchase/activation fee. There is a limit of 1 per customer. Our local Staples in the North Dallas area enforces this limit on a per-day basis (or at least a per-visit basis). YMMV.

We’ve written a fair bit recently about VGC deals at Staples in our Manufactured Spend Data Points (MS DP) series. For Staples deals, you can find the most up-to-date information in this article:

Best-in-class earnings at Staples for this deal would be with a Chase Ink Cash business card for 5x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points per dollar.

2. New Club Lounge access restrictions for American and United went into effect Nov 1

Beginning November 1, new club lounge access restrictions at American and United require a same-day boarding pass from the airline or a partner:

  • AA Admirals Club – requires a same-day boarding pass from American, another OneWorld airline, or Alaska
  • United Club – requires a same-day boarding pass from United, another Star Alliance airline, or a contracted partner airline

On a personal level, this new restriction is tough on the Middle Age Miles kids in Denver and in the Houston area. They have Admirals Club access by virtue of being authorized users on Philly’s Citi AA Executive card. DEN and IAH have Admirals Clubs, but AA is often not the best choice for flyers from those airports to get where they need to go. This especially leaves the MAM kids in Denver out of luck with you combine it with this next item.

3. Timberline Grill at DEN no longer accepts Priority Pass as of Oct 15

The Timberline Grill at DEN has been the most blogged-about restaurant in the entire Priority Pass network, I’d venture to guess. It was one of the first restaurant options added to Priority Pass, and it seemed to be very popular for those flying from Denver to locations far and wide.

We’ve seen a number of reports about Timberline Grill within the past few weeks, but they have been inconsistent – some stating that Timberline was leaving Priority Pass, some indicating that it was closing entirely, some saying that things seemed to be business-as-usual. We now have a direct, definitive report, so we wanted to share it with Middle Age Miles readers to make sure we have no confusion.

Middle Age Miles daughter KB visited Timberline Grill within the past few days. She learned that Timberline Grill no longer accepts Priority Pass at all. Timberline Grill stopped accepting Priority Pass as a form of payment on October 15, 2019.

To take the clarification one step further – This was not just a case of a Priority Pass related to an Amex card no longer working at a restaurant. KB’s Priority Pass comes from our Chase Ritz Carlton Visa card, which still has full restaurant privileges with Priority Pass.

4. Citi Double Cash restrictions relating to gift cards took effect Nov 1

Citi Double Cash card

There’s been a lot of excitement about the Citi Double Cash card recently, as Citi introduced the ability to convert cash rewards into ThankYou Points (TYPs) at a 1 cent-to-1 point ratio several weeks ago. This change placed the Double Cash card squarely into the conversation as the best card to use as a daily driver for unbonused spend for miles-and-points enthusiasts as well as those who prefer cash back.

This note is a reminder of new terms and conditions for the Double Cash card that went into effect on November 1. The new terms exclude gift card loads from earning rewards, as well as person-to-person payments and some other “cash equivalent”-type transactions (“The following transactions are not purchases and will not earn cash rewards: … loads or reloads of balances on gift cards or prepaid cards or cash equivalents, person-to-person payments …”). Doctor of Credit has more information here.

It’s unclear whether Citi will apply these new terms to exclude all gift card purchases from earning rewards. We haven’t seen any data points yet, and it would probably take at least a few weeks for those to show up even if they were being stringently enforced. Proceed with caution.

Our best guess, we don’t think these new terms will impact modest-volume gift card purchases. But there’s definitely a warning sign out there, so be aware.

5. Payce users – reminder to re-enroll in all bonus-earning offers for November

We enrolled in the Payce program a couple of months ago (www.paycepays.com), and we’re in the midst of experimenting with it.

The Payce program includes in-store bonus offers, generally 5%, at a number of merchants (roughly 30 each month in our accounts). You have to re-enroll in the offers at the beginning of each month, so this is a reminder to everyone to re-enroll today for November if you haven’t already done so.

Sampling of Payce in-store bonus offers for November 2019

The express terms of the Payce program exclude gift card purchases from earning cash back through the in-store offers. We’re not sure yet how this works in practice. One thing we’ve learned so far is that Payce takes a very, very long time for cash back to actually post – we have charges that are now more than 2 months old that are still in “Pending” status, and we haven’t had a single charge actually move from “Pending” to “Posted” since we enrolled in Payce, regardless of whether the purchase involved a gift card or not.

That’s all for “News & Notes” for today – we hope you’ve enjoyed this article and learned something that will help you!

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4 thoughts on “Middle Age Miles News & Notes 11/5/19 – Staples VGC deal; new AA & UA club access restrictions; Timberline Grill out of PP; new Citi Double Cash terms; Payce

  1. Bee

    Hi Craig, I really like your website and enjoy your writing very much! Thank you for writing such in depth articles. I´m sorry to write this here, but couldn’t find a better spot. I was wondering if you could give me a bit of advice re the following. I have a large auto insurance bill due, approx. $1,000. Unfortunately they do not accept credit cards – only ATM or checks. I´ve read your articles on gift cards ect. and that is not really something I am experienced with or really try to do. However, I was wondering if you might have some. advice on what I could do to buy a card with my credit card that would pass off as an ATM card to pay my bill. Thank you.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Bee – Thanks for the comment, the great compliment, and your good question. It’s very hard to tell what might qualify as a “debit” card for various vendors. I’d hate to take a guess and then have it not work correctly when you go to pay. There’s a decent chance that there aren’t any GCs at all that would run as “debit” with your insurance company.

      One alternative would be to use Plastiq and have them send a check. You would fund with your credit card. Plastiq charges you a 2.5% fee and mails a check to your insurance company, which they would receive in about 8-10 days. If you want to use Plastiq, you can sign up with our referral code, which is 487070. After you make your first payment, you would get 500 “Fee-Free Dollars” which would allow you to make another $500 in payments later on Plastiq with no fee. You’d have to weigh for yourself whether it’s worth it to you to pay the fee in order to get the points from credit card spend. If you’re spending toward a minimum spend requirement on a new card, it could very well be worth it, especially with the FFDs you could earn as a new user.

      Good luck and feel free to reach back out if you have additional questions. And thanks for reading Middle Age Miles! ~Craig

  2. Bee

    Thank you Craig. It sounds like an interesting idea. I haven’t signed up for Plastiq yet, so if I decide to go forward with your idea, I will use your referral code. Thanks from a fellow attorney – looking to retire :).

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Bee – Always great to chat with a fellow attorney. I hope you can retire (or semi-retire) soon and travel more! 🙂 Thank you for using our referral if you sign up for Plastiq – much appreciated. I look forward to hearing more about your travels in the future! ~Craig

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