Middle Age Miles

Middle Age Miles News & Notes 3/3/20 – last day for Marriott reservations at old award rates; airline fee waivers; Amex Offers & transfer bonus for Hilton; Payce

middle age miles news notes 3/3/20 marriott bonvoy category changes award points reservations airline fee waivers coronavirus Alaska American AA British Airways BA Delta JetBlue Amex Offers Hilton Curio Canopy Hampton Garden Inn Amex Membership Rewards transfer bonus Hilton Honors Payce

On this Super Tuesday election day here in Texas and in other states, let’s take a much-needed break from AA shutdowns and cover several other topics of interest in the travel, credit card and points-and-miles world:

1 – Last Day to Make Marriott Bonvoy Award Reservations Before Category Changes Take Effect

As we covered in detail last week, Marriott is making wholesale – and almost uniformly negative – changes to its award category classifications for more than 2,000 hotels across the world. The changes go into effect tomorrow (March 4); thus, today (March 3) is the last day to book award reservations at current rates, for the 1,686 properties that are going up by a category (21.8% of all Marriott Bonvoy properties worldwide).

Here’s our full article covering the changes and strategies to implement:

Remember that these changes impact reservations made using Marriott free night certificates as well as those using points for award bookings.

We’ve done our best to review plans for the rest of 2020 in advance of the changes. We’ve booked a week in Maui for this fall, using 2 free night certificates and 5 nights’ worth of points (to get the 5th night free), so we’ll be looking forward to that trip!

[Remember that Marriott hotels in Hawaii are especially hard-hit by this week’s changes, with several hotels in Maui going up by a category, including the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, the Wailea Beach Resort Marriott, and the Westin and Sheraton hotels in Ka’anapali. Book them today if you can!]

2 – Airline Waiver Policies Implemented Because of Coronavirus

Over the past few days, we’ve seen several airlines implement new waiver policies for change fees on flights. Many are destination-specific, based on specific hotspots of the Coronavirus outbreak. For these specific waivers, you’ll want to see your airline’s designated web page.

Other waivers, though, are general waiver policies that are effective regardless of your flight destination, and those are the ones that we want to cover here:

  • Alaska
    • For nonrefundable First Class or Main fares:
      • Waiver of cancellation fees and change fees for flights that are:
        • Booked from February 27 through March 12
        • For travel through June 1
      • You may make a one-time change, or cancel your ticket and deposit the funds into your Alaska “My Account” wallet
      • If you change flights, a fare difference may apply to your new itinerary
      • If you change flights, your new itinerary must be completed by December 31
    • For Saver fares
      • If you purchased the ticket from February 27 through March 12, for travel through June 1
      • You may cancel your trip and deposit the funds into your Alaska “My Account” wallet
    • Relevant link: Alaska “Travel advisories” page
  • American
    • If you purchase a ticket on AA:
      • From 3/1/2020 at 4:30 pm Central time and 3/16/2020 at 11:59 pm Central time
      • For travel between March 1, 2020, through January 26, 2021
    • You may change your flight once without paying a change fee
    • The change must be made at least 14 days in advance of your outbound travel date.
    • New itinerary must be completed within 1 year of the original ticket date
    • Any difference in fare will apply
    • Relevant link: American “Change fee waiver” page
  • British Airways
    • If you purchase a ticket on BA from March 3 through March 16
    • You may change your flight without paying a change fee
      • We’re not sure whether there is a one-time limitation on this benefit, but probably so
    • The change may be made right up until the time of departure
    • Any fare difference due to a date change will apply
    • Relevant link: British Airways press release on “Book With Confidence” customer policy
  • Delta
    • If you purchase a ticket on Delta:
      • From 3/1/2020 through 3/31/2020
      • For travel from March 1, 2020, through February 25, 2021
      • To any international destination, Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands
    • You may change your flight one time without paying a change fee
      • New ticket must be issued on or before 2/28/2021
      • Rebooked travel must begin no later than 2/28/2021
      • A difference in fare may apply
    • Or, you may cancel your trip
      • You will get Delta credit for the value of your ticket, and you can apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original issue date
      • Any fare difference will apply for new travel dates, and applicable change fees will apply to the newly-issued ticket if it is changed
    • Relevant link: Delta “Coronavirus Situation” page
  • JetBlue
    • Waiver of cancellation fees and change fees for flights that are:
      • Booked from February 27 through March 11
      • For travel on or before June 1
    • You may change your ticket or cancel your ticket and receive a JetBlue Travel Bank Credit
      • Rebookings are permitted through June 1
      • After June 1, only the first rebooking will be eligible for the waiver
    • Fare differences may apply
    • JetBlue Travel Bank Credit funds are valid for 1 year from the date of issuance and may be used toward future JetBlue travel only
    • Relevant link: JetBlue “Travel Alerts” page

3 – New Amex Offers for Hilton-family hotels

We’ve seen 2 nice new Amex Offers for Hilton-family hotels this week:

  • Spend at least $300 at Hilton Hotels (the specific brand), Curio Collection, or Canopy, and get either $50 or 5,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points back
    • Offer expires 6/30/2020
  • Spend at least $200 at Hampton by Hilton or Hilton Garden Inn, and get $30 back
    • Offer expires 6/30/2020
    • We haven’t seen a MR-earning version of this Offer

Both of these Offers are good only in the United States or US Territories. As usual, these Amex Offers require enrollment prior to use. Both Offers are solid, with the statement credit versions giving you up to 15-16% back. On the Hilton/Curio/Canopy Offer, we prefer the MR-earning version, as we give MR points a baseline value of 1.5 cents each and are routinely able to use MR points for a value significantly in excess of 1 cent per point.

Note that we did not have either of these offers on our Amex Hilton co-branded cards, unfortunately. In addition, we were unable to load them onto an Amex Hilton co-branded card by going through the “Amex Connect” page, which has sometimes worked in the past.

Hilton has been great about partnering with Amex to bring us good Amex Offers for Hilton-family hotels. In addition to these two new Offers, we have the following Offers on our Amex cards at the moment:

  • Waldorf Astoria or Conrad: $60 back when spending $350+ (expires 5/31/2020)
  • DoubleTree or Tapestry: $40 back (or 4,000 MR points) when spending $250+ (expires 6/30/2020)
  • Tru by Hilton: $30 back (or 3,000 MR points) when spending $150+ (expires 3/31/2020)
  • Hilton-family hotels in Mexico: $75 back when you spend $500+ (expires 3/31/2020)
  • Hilton-family hotels in Puerto Rico: $60 back (or 6,000 MR points) when you spend $350+ (expires 3/31/2020)
  • Hilton-family hotels in Hawaii: $200 back when you spend $1,000+ (expires 6/30/2020)

Note that the Hawaii and Puerto Rico Offers may stack with the new Hilton/Curio/Canopy and Hampton/Garden Inn Offers, if you (a) book one of those brands of hotels in one of those locations; and (b) enroll the same Amex card in both Offers.

4 – Amex MR Transfer Bonus to Hilton Honors

Also on the Amex-Hilton front, this week Amex Membership Rewards launched a bonus offer for transfers from MR to Hilton Honors (HH) points.

The regular MR-HH transfer rate is 1 MR point to 2 HH points, but with the bonus, the transfer rate becomes 1 MR point to 3 HH points. This offer is available from now through 4/14/2020.

In general, we wouldn’t recommend transferring MR points to HH, even at the 1:3 bonus rate. One, we think 1 MR point (baseline value 1.5 cents per point) is more valuable than 3 HH points (baseline value 0.45 cents per point, so 3 HH points would be worth about 1.35 cents). And two, MR points are far more flexible and capable of being redeemed for outsized value.

However, this is a very decent transfer rate with the bonus. If you have a specific redemption in mind where you can get a sufficient value for your HH points after the transfer, this may well make sense. Likewise, if you need a few HH points to “top off” your account for a redemption, this transfer bonus would work well.

5 – Reminder to Activate Payce In-Store Offers for March

Last month, we wrote a full article about in-store cash-back offers through Payce (www.paycepays.com):

Payce in-store offers must be activated at the beginning of each month, so today’s note is a reminder to everyone to re-enroll in the Payce in-store offers for March now if you haven’t already done so.

See our earlier article for more information, but remember that Payce has some potentially valuable in-store cash-back offer partners (5% unless otherwise noted, usually with a cap of $5 per day), including:

  • CVS
  • Starbucks (10%)
  • Home Depot
  • Kohl’s
  • Office Depot/Office Max
  • AMC theaters
  • Gap and related companies such as Athleta, Banana Republic & Old Navy
  • American Eagle Outfitters
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Panda Express
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Jiffy Lube
  • PF Chang’s
  • Panera Bread
  • Papa John’s
  • Pei Wei
  • Sears
  • Staples
  • True Value

With that, we’ll close out today’s News & Notes so you can hustle to make your Marriott award reservations before the wicked category changes take effect!

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