For those of us who are traveling, we may be a bit oblivious that the pandemic is still keeping business travel stalled in such a way that both airlines and hotels are trying to motivate customers to keep moving. Reduced status requirements, extra bonus offers, and other incentives have been the norm since Covid assailed us. The wee hours of this morning, however, brought me my best incentive yet–though some debate this one
My business travel is sponsored by—me. I am not bankrolled by a company, and most of this is on my own freelance budget, so there is no Concierge Key in my future, no matter how loyal I am to American Airlines. AA is my airline of choice, though I have a ridiculous number of United miles, as well. After my most recent trip to Cairo, I landed in the United States with enough EQMs for Platinum Pro, but short of EQDs (I had not spent enough money, for those unfamiliar with airline talk),of course. I fly out for a trip to my fiftieth state in a couple weeks, and my only hope of an upgrade there was to buy one (not happening since I am currently looking for a home).
Enter American Airlines, who quietly placed offers for its members and status holders in their accounts today. I logged on, just to look at my account, and that little red notification, which is usually indicative of a useless offer (sorry, AA, but I don’t want to convert my miles or buy hundred dollar wine) told me I could have a load of EQDs, which is like handing someone free money in airline-status-land. No strings attached. What? I clicked it all so fast, I actually wondered if I read it correctly, but within five minutes I had become Platinum Pro (a pretty big deal to this budget traveler from flyover country) and my Alaska trip had a complimentary upgrade automatically requested. Then I got the magic email asking me to select my free gift— did I want 25,000 miles (that’s a round trip ticket in the US, or more on a web special with short distances) or six Admirals Club day passes, or maybe a systemwide upgrade… oh man! I kind of felt like the big kids.
While I was too excited for the promotions to take screenshots of them all, this is the one still remaining in my account. This one does require spend, but in the most unusual of moves, AA is also allowing you to earn EQDs if you buy these miles (you normally do not earn EQDs for buying miles; as a matter of fact, it’s almost impossible to buy EQDs, which is why people are always rushing off on December 28 from LAX to SEA, via five airports in between–returning the next day, for a quick mileage and dollars run all at once.
I don’t anticipate needing anymore EQMs this year. Actually, my upcoming trip should put me close to, if not over, the threshold for Executive Platinum, though I doubt I would reach the EQDs unless one of my consulting jobs needed to fly me somewhere or my medical spend did it (but I sure do hope that happens because this is the closest I have ever been to top-tier EP; you can’t earn Concierge Key since that is by invite only, and way out of my league).
Gary Leff, who blogs most accurately (in my biased opinion) over at View from the Wing, about American Airlines, listed the entirety of the offers from AA:For the mileage purchases:
- Current Executive Platinum and Concierge Key members: 10,000 qualifying miles
- Platinum Pro members: 7500 qualifying miles
- Platinum: 5000 qualifying miles
- Gold: 2500 qualifying miles
For the deposits of EQDs:
- Current Executive Platinum and Concierge Key members: $3000 qualifying dollars
- Platinum Pro members: $1500 qualifying dollars
- Platinum: $1000 qualifying dollars
- Gold: $500 qualifying dollars
And the third offer, for which I also registered, which is to earn bonus miles on qualifying segments (each flight, not just each trip, so two transfers are good things, suddenly), by August 31. This one is a promo good for everyone—so log on, already!
- Current Executive Platinum and Concierge Key members: 1000 bonus qualifying miles per segment
- Platinum Pro members: 750 bonus qualifying miles per segment
- Platinum: 500 bonus qualifying miles per segment
- Gold and no status: 250 bonus qualifying miles per segment
The moral of this story is that you actually have to check your apps, your accounts, to find these things. While this offer had no strings attached to having it applied, I had to click the button that said “Register.” Had I not, it would not have applied to my account. Of course, I sit around reading all the travel blogs I can for fun. But most people I know don’t; most people I know are casual travelers. They don’t know that there are several nights worth of bonus points available to them for simply getting a new credit card at the right time and meeting a certain level of spend (sometimes that spend is next to nothing, but even when it’s a couple thousand dollars, it’s easy to do by moving money around—pay a bill with the credit card, then move money from a bank account to pay the bill—and bam, those points get moved into your account and you are staying several nights in a giant suite in Cairo for free (ask me how I know).
But that’s not all…
Look! Take time and read and look. It’s worth cash to you. Travel is back and the airlines and hotels want you. Take advantage of their good graces.
While I’m here, I’ll share that my current two favorite credit cards for hotel points:
The World of Hyatt Visa: Use my link and we both get extra points. Really decent rooms start at 5,000 points a night, so that’s 12 nights you can get with the WOH bonus. Or you can do what the link shows you and blow it all on Maui—which may be worth it because it gets you out of ridiculous parking and resort fees if you book stays all with points. Also, Hyatt is known for its expensive free breakfasts.
And the American Express Hilton is my other longstanding favorite. This one gets me points the fastest and easiest, and it comes with instant Hilton Gold status (the second to the highest level, which is not actually a lot different than the highest-level Diamond in daily life. I find myself upgraded often. It also comes with Priority Pass lounge access at airports, and a host of other benefits.
Some of my friends prefer the IHG Premier MasterCard, simply because you get more bang for your buck. IHG, which includes Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge, and the like, are not as upscale, but you can get these rooms for fewer points sometimes, and the sign up bonuses are pretty high. Take a look. With the annual fee, you get one free night a year, which is standard for most of these hotel cards. As you can easily see, selected well, you can easily save a lot of money.
These Hilton and IHG hotel cards come with another perk. If you book a certain number of nights on points, you get an extra night free. With Hilton, you get the fifth night free, and with IHG it’s the fourth. Let me put this in really practical terms with a word problem:
- A year ago Dr. Suz paid an $89 annual fee.
- In a couple weeks Dr. Suz is taking a trip to an incredibly expensive city where the hotel rooms are running about $300 a night total with taxes.
- Dr. Suz booked her entire hotel stay of five nights on IHG points. She booked four nights on points, first of all, which earned the pay for three/earn four benefit. Then she cashed in her Chase free credit card night for the fifth night.
- Five nights, $300 a night.
- $89 = $1500.
I may be an English professor, but that’s math even I can do!