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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!
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!
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!
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.
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?
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. 🙂
I got the 100,000 mile Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® (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, 2015. September 21, 2015.
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. 🙁
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
But there was great news for Citi ThankYou Premier Card, Citi Prestige Card, and Citi Chairman cardholders. Citi introduced ThankYou points transfers to airlines, including Singapore Airlines and Etihad.
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!”
There were some great increased credit card sign-up bonuses in the month of August, including Marriott, Delta, and United Airlines cards!
Remember, if you’d rather wear your jeans than your fancy-pants, you can use Ritz-Carlton points at Marriott hotels, too!
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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! 🙂
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.
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!
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!
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?