Goodbye 2014!

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2014 was full of big surprises.  And I’m sure 2015 will be too!  But Million Mile Secrets readers are always prepared for new ways to get Big Travel with Small Money!

Here are the biggest, most unexpected, and unlikely twists we all experienced in 2014.  Maybe there’s something you missed that will help you in 2015! 

Emily and I would like to wish all our readers (even the angry one who called me a murderer!) a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year in 2015!  May it be full of travel and adventure for you and your loved ones!

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Let’s Take a Look Back at All the Miles We Traveled & the Points We Scored!

And we’d like to thank you for a wonderful 2014.  We wouldn’t be here without your support, comments, and enthusiasm for miles and points

A safe, happy, and prosperous New Year to all in 2015!  May it be full of travel and adventure for you and your loved ones!

2014 – A Year to Remember

There were many changes in the world of miles and points in 2014.  From great credit card offers (100,000 American Airlines miles anyone?), to not-so-awesome changes in our hobby (thanks, Cary Chaney at CVS!), to traveling and meeting up with like-minded folks, 1 thing is clear.  2014 was a very interesting year!

January 2014

Link:   Best of Million Mile Secrets January 2014

Did you get in on the Citi Executive AAdvantage deal?  After spending a (whopping!) $10,000 in 3 months, you’d get a 100,000 American Airlines mile sign-up bonus.  Plus another 10,000 miles from meeting minimum spending requirements.

This meant that from 1 credit card, you’d have enough American Airlines miles for 4 domestic round-trip coach class tickets.  Or a round-trip, Business Class ticket to Europe!

Some folks were able to get this card 2 or 3+ times!   Were you 1 of the folks that did?

Later in January, Southwest revealed that they’d start flying internationally beginning July 2014.  They started with 3 destinations:  Aruba, the Bahamas, and Jamaica.

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Aruba…Jamaica…Wait, Isn’t That a Song? :)

Since then, Southwest has grown its international network even further, with flights to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica (starting March 2015), and Belize (starting October 2015)!

And folks who have the Southwest Companion Pass can now get even more 2-for-1 travel with these new destinations!

Did you travel to the tropics on Southwest this year?

February 2014

Link:   Best of Million Mile Secrets February 2014

Thanks to the US Winter Olympic Team, which won 28 medals at the games in Sochi, Russia, folks were able to get ~$600 in free flights when they signed-up for the US Bank Flexperks card!

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

US Bank FlexPerks Ran a Winter Olympics Promotion for New Cardholders

I didn’t get in on this deal, because I was too busy signing-up for 3 credit cards that got me 100,000 miles and ~$890 in statement credits.  🙂

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Happy Dance! 3 Cards Got Folks a TON of Big Travel With Small Money!

I got the 100,000 mile Citi AAdvantage Executive (now 50,000 miles), the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, and the American Express SimplyCash cards.

Note:   The American Express SimplyCash increased sign-up bonus is active again!  You’ll get a $250 statement credit after you spend $5,000 in 6 months, as long as you apply by February 24, 2015September 21, 2015.

March 2014

Link:   Best of Million Mile Secrets March 2014

Many folks were unhappy in March when the news came out that American Express would start restricting sign-up bonuses on their personal cards starting in May 2014.

This meant that after that date, you could only get the sign-up bonus ONCE per person, per lifetime on any of their personal cards.  🙁

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Folks (Including This Guy Who Appears to Be a Young AC Slater) Were Sad in March When AMEX Stomped on Their Dreams of Getting Sign-Up Bonuses Over & Over

The good news is, you can still get the bonus more than once on American Express business cards as long as it’s been more than 12 months since you’ve had the card.  Let’s hope it stays that way!

Also this month, the (relatively) new website TravelPony came on strong with big discounts on hotels and promotions.  At the time, their deals were almost always better than other websites!

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Yee Haw! We Like Cheap Hotels, TravelPony!

But as I predicted, TravelPony couldn’t keep up with the deep discounts.  While they still run the occasional promotion, their prices are now generally similar to other online travel agencies.

There will likely be new hotel discounters with funny names who will try to gain market share at 1st by giving us some great deals in 2015!  I’ll keep you updated

April 2014

Link:   Best of Million Mile Secrets April 2014

There were more changes to our hobby in April.  Much to everyone’s chagrin, CVS stopped allowing Vanilla Reload purchases with a credit card.  This was a method many folks used to load their Bluebird accounts and pay bills that couldn’t otherwise be paid with a credit card.

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Cash Only for Vanilla Reloads and Other Prepaid Cards at CVS From April 4, 2014

But I’ve always said because our hobby is constantly changing, we have to adapt.

So I told you about new way to earn miles and points from paying bills that couldn’t normally be paid with a credit card.  Evolve Money let folks pay bills like utilities, student loans, and mortgages using gift cards bought with miles-and-points earning credit card.

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Evolve Money Was a New Way to Earn Miles and Points From Paying Bills

As the year went on, Evolve Money…well, evolved (again, and again, and again).  You can still use it to pay bills, but they’ve added some restrictions.  And you can now use your Discover IT card directly to pay certain bills.

I wonder what 2015 will bring for Evolve Money?  Hopefully direct payments with Visa and MasterCards!

May 2014

Link:   Best of Million Mile Secrets May 2014

If our hobby were around in biblical times, I’m sure 1 of the 10 Commandments would say, “Thou Shalt NOT Covet thy Neighbor’s Southwest Companion Pass.”

That’s because the Southwest Companion Pass causes envy and jealousy when folks see that your companion can travel with you for nearly free anywhere in the Promised Land*.

*Note:  Southwest promises to land in every state they operate plus Mexico, and New Jersey.

The increased 50,000 point sign-up bonus on the Chase Southwest credit cards came back for a limited time.  And many folks used the opportunity to get closer to earning their Companion Pass.

Did you take part in the Hyatt Diamond Challenge?  No, that’s not when you propose to your fiancée in the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome.  Although that would be romantic!

It’s not available anymore, but for many, it was an easy way to get suite upgrades, free breakfast & internet, and a fast track to Diamond elite status.

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

The Hyatt Diamond Challenge Was a Fast-Track to Diamond Elite Status – and Free Breakfast Didn’t Hurt Either!

That said, you can still get free status and perks from certain credit cards, like the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve or Chase Hyatt cards.

June 2014

Link:   Best of Million Mile Secrets June 2014

One of the workarounds folks used after CVS stopped selling Vanilla Reloads with a credit card was loading Bluebird with Vanilla Visas at Walmart.

But that method ended in June, when Walmart stopped accepting Vanilla Visas to load Bluebird.  Other cards, like Metabank, still work.

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Denied, Again! Walmart Stopped Accepting Vanilla Visas to Load Bluebird

I’m always looking for new methods to share with you!

For example, in June we learned that some banks allow you to fund a new account with a credit card!  But don’t use Citi cards, because they code as a cash advance.

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Some Folks Were Able to Fund a New Bank Account With a Credit Card

July 2014

Link:   Best of Million Mile Secrets July 2014

There were some big changes to 1 of my favorite credit cards in July.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred added primary car rental insurance as a benefit, and doubled its trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Became a Go-To Card for Car Rentals When They Added Primary Insurance

But it wasn’t all good news.  Chase also discontinued the Sapphire Preferred’s annual 7% points dividend.  I know lots of folks will miss this perk (including me!).

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

So Long, Chase Sapphire Preferred Annual 7% Points Dividend

But there was great news for Citi ThankYou Premier, Citi Prestige, and Citi Chairman cardholders.  Citi introduced ThankYou points transfers to airlines, including Singapore Airlines and Etihad.

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

You Can Now Transfer Citi ThankYou Points to Certain Airlines, Including Singapore Airlines

This gave folks another kind of flexible points (which can be transferred to many different airline and hotel partner) to use for Big Travel (along with American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards points).

There was more good news in July.  Even though you couldn’t load Bluebird with Vanilla Visas at Walmart anymore, it turns out you could still use them to load Serve at Family Dollar!  And that turned my disappointed “Phooey!” into a relieved “Phew!”

August 2014

Link:   Best of Million Mile Secrets August 2014

There were some great increased credit card sign-up bonuses in the month of August, including Marriott, Delta, and United Airlines cards!

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Did You Get In on August’s Increased Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus Extravaganza?

And 1 of the best deals was the Chase Ritz-Carlton 140,000 point sign-up bonus.  The offer didn’t stick around for long, but there’s good news – it’s now back again (I’m not sure for how long!).

That’s enough for 2 nights in a top-tier Ritz-Carlton hotel, like the Ritz-Carlton New York Central Park.  Or 3 nights at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi (with points left over!).

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

You Could Stay 3 Nights at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi With the Chase Ritz-Carlton Sign-Up Bonus

Remember, if you’d rather wear your jeans than your fancy-pants, you can use Ritz-Carlton points at Marriott hotels, too!

September 2014

Link:   Best of Million Mile Secrets September 2014

More big credit card sign-up bonuses popped up in September.  The 70,000 point Chase Ink Plus was a big hit, because you could get at least ~$875 in travel (and usually much more) from ONE credit card bonus!

For example, some folks transferred the 70,000 point sign-up bonus to United Airlines and used them for round-trip tickets to Hawaii or Europe!

Note:   The current offer for the Chase Ink Plus is 50,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the 1st 3 months.  But the annual fee is waived for the 1st year (unlike the 70,000 point offer).

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

How Much Big Travel Did You Get From the Chase Ink Plus Increased Bonus? And More Importantly, Did It Bring You Closer as a Family? So Much so That You Wore Matching Outfits and Used Your Magical Powers to Float Above the Ocean Together?

There was some sad news, too.  Amazon sent out emails announcing the end of Amazon Payments, which was a favorite (fee-free!) way to earn miles and points with a credit card.

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

NOOOO! Please Don’t Go, Amazon Payments! “Sorry Kid, but I’ve Got to Sell More Amazon Prime Memberships! Oh, I See You Purchased a Teddy Bear. Did You Know That Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought a Bicycle?”

Will there be an equally good replacement method for generating miles and points?  Time will tell… But some folks have already moved to loading AMEX Serve with a credit card.

October 2014

Link:   Best of Million Mile Secrets October 2014

We might have had a lot of posts about the Chase Ink Plus 70,000 point bonus in October, because the offer was extended by several weeks.  🙂

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Some Folks Used Their Chase Ink Plus Sign-Up Bonus for Big Travel at Hyatt Hotels

And we got more details on the American Airlines – US Airways merger.

Most folks were relieved that there would be no major changes to the American Airlines frequent flyer program, and that their US Airways miles would be converted to American Airlines miles at a 1:1 ratio.

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

What Did You Think of the American Airlines – US Airways Merger News?

November 2014

Link:   Best of Million Mile Secrets November 2014

In November, the increased 50,000 point sign-up bonus on all 4 Chase Southwest cards came back for a limited time.  And that meant great timing for folks who wanted to earn the Southwest Companion Pass!

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

The Increased Sign-Up Bonuses on the Chase Southwest Cards Came Back in November

And a better 30,000 point bonus came around for the Citi ThankYou Preferred card.

You can’t transfer points directly from the Citi ThankYou Preferred to airline and hotel partners, but you CAN if you also have the Citi ThankYou Premier, Citi Prestige, or Citi Chairman (no longer available) cards.

Did you get an (almost) free hotel night with the $100 off Orbitz promotion on Cyber Monday?  I did!  🙂

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Where Did You Get an Orbitz Cyber Monday Deal?

December 2014

December brought changes to the Hyatt award program, which take effect early in the New Year.  Some hotels will cost more points per night, but there are quite a few that will cost less.

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Did the Grand Hyatt Washington Move Up or Down a Category?

Lots of folks applied for the better, 50,000 point offer on the Barclays US Airways card.  This is probably the last increased bonus on the card we’ll see, because it’s being discontinued in 2015.

Folks who already have the card can refer friends and family and earn bonus points!

Many of us woke up on December 25th to an amazing holiday gift!  An Etihad mistake fare had folks buying round-trip tickets for as low as $187 from New York to Abu Dhabi, ~$300 to India and Southeast Asia, and ~$400 to Johannesburg!

Best Of Million Mile Secrets A Year In Review

Santa Parked His Sleigh on Christmas Eve and Instead Flew by Way of Etihad! ;)

Note:   Other times of the year Santa uses his AARP discount to fly on British Airways.

The great news is, Etihad will honor these fares!  I got in on the deal – did you?

If you’re new to this hobby, you might want to check out the brand new Beginner’s Guide to Miles and Points we completed in 2014.  Emily and I wanted to create something helpful for folks who are learning about Big Travel with Small Money!

Bottom Line

In 2014 we were reminded to expect the unexpected.

Sometimes it was to our benefit (mistake fares that let us fly for 75% off and huge credit card sign-up bonuses that helped us fly First Class or more often).  And sometimes it was the end of 1 way of doing things and time to start another!

I’m sure 2015 will be the same, but different.  And that’s 1 thing I’ve learned while traveling the world thanks to this amazing hobby.

The sameness gives me a sense of comfort.  The differences excite me because there’s something new to learn, to see, to taste, to listen to.

This year I hope you gained a sense of comfort by getting closer to your loved ones.  And I hope you discovered new places, new people, and new customs that changed your perspective.

Emily and I are so grateful to have you here to share our joy of Big Travel with Small Money.  And on a personal note, travel has helped Emily and me grow as a couple.

With each place we travel, I see her excited smile and we’re the same…I’m as enchanted by her as the day we met.  But we’re forever different and changed by the memories we’ve made all over the world.

We wish you a Happy New Year full of Big Travel.

What were your favorite moments of 2014?

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6 responses to “Goodbye 2014!

  1. Wishing you and Emily a blessed Healthy and prosperous New Year!!
    Thank you for sharing your expertise!
    I enjoyed reading them daily.

  2. Your blog is one of my favorites. My husband and I have traveled to places we only dreamed of. Our modest retirement income gets us to some of the most beautiful destinations in the world and you and Emily have given us the tools to do it. Much gratitude and Happy New Year to both of you!

  3. Great post! One big item in 2014 I think you left out was the change in the churning policy at Chase that now allows card holders to receive the sign-up multiple times (after 24 months of first approval of course)!

  4. I check in occasionally and am grateful for this blog. Thank you and Happy New Year!

  5. Great blog. Think I pulled in around 800,000 points and miles, plus the $200 fare to Abu dhabi!

  6. Happy New Years to both you and Emily.

    Thanks for all the good you do- and here’s to many, many, many more vacations to come! 🙂