American Express

SPG Amex Vs. Hilton Amex — Which Limited Time Sign-Up Bonus Is Better?

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American Express’ co-branded hotel credit cards are on fire at the moment. We’re seeing huge increased sign-up bonuses on both the Hilton and Starwood co-brand cards.

The details of the increased Starwood Amex bonuses (which expire on April 5, 2017) are as follows:

— The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is offering 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $2,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
— The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express is offering 25,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $3,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

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Weekly Review: March 25, 2017

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Last weekend I returned to the US after a two week trip to Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Kuwait, so have been spending the past week on the ground catching up on sleep, given that I typically don’t get all that much rest when traveling to Asia. I also plan on publishing the trip report from this trip very shortly. Fortunately I’m now all caught up on sleep, and am plotting my next adventure.

On the travel front, the biggest story of the week has been about the electronics ban, which will potentially have a huge impact on many peoples’ travel. Other than that we’ve seen increased sign-up bonuses introduced on the Amex Hilton, some great business class fares to Paris, and more.

With that out of the way, here’s a recap of this week on the blog:

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Should You Get The Amex Hilton Surpass Or Citi Hilton Reserve?

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Earlier I wrote a post comparing the increased sign-up bonuses on the no annual fee Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express and the $75 annual fee Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express. The cards are offering increased sign-up bonuses of 80,000 Honors points and 100,000 Honors points, respectively.

However, one unique aspect of the Surpass Card is that it’s also offering a free weekend night certificate valid at just about any Hilton hotel on your card account’s first anniversary. This is a benefit I don’t ever recall seeing on one of the Amex Hilton co-brand cards before, but rather this is a benefit that might sound familiar with the Citi® Hilton Honors Reserve Card.

So in this post I wanted to address the differences between the two premium Hilton co-brand cards — the Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express and the Hilton HHonorsTM Surpass® Card from American Express.

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How Amex’s Plan To Reduce Lounge Crowding May Actually Make It Worse

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Earlier this month, American Express announced that the guest policy for their network of Centurion Lounges would be changing as of March 30th. Whereas Platinum members could previously bring in two guests or their immediate family, they’ll now only be allowed two guests, period. This is presumably being done to alleviate crowding, which can certainly be a problem at times.

Yet it’s hard for me to believe that restricting families is really going to fix the issue. And in fact, I’m going to argue this silly policy is actually going to make things worse.

I’ve had The Platinum Card® from American Express for a while now in part because my family gets pretty good value out of the lounges.

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Less Than 2 Weeks Left To Earn 70K+ Starpoints

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For a bit over a month now, we’ve seen great increased sign-up bonuses on Starwood’s co-branded American Express cards. Both the personal and business versions of the card are offering sign-up bonuses of up to 35,000 Starpoints upon completing minimum spend, as follows:

— For the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $2,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
— For the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $3,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

While 35,000 points might not sound like a lot, keep in mind that Starpoints are among the most valuable points currency out there, so 35,000 Starpoints are worth more than that many points in just about any other points currency.

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Limited Time: Biggest Ever Sign-Up Bonuses On Hilton Amex Cards!

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At the moment Hilton’s co-branded American Express cards have the biggest sign-up bonuses I’ve ever seen, valid for applications through May 31, 2017. Specifically:

— The no annual fee Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express is offering 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $2,000 in purchases within the first three months
— The $75 annual fee Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express is offering 100,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months; you also get a free weekend night valid at any Hilton Honors hotel on your first cardmember anniversary

Both of these cards have the best ever offers we’ve seen, so let’s look at them a bit more closely:

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The Expanded Amex Centurion Lounge Seattle Is Now Open

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Over the past several years we’ve seen American Express open several of their own lounges, available to those with The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

In terms of U.S. locations, American Express has lounges in Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Up until now their smallest lounge has been in Seattle, which opened in mid-2015. The lounge has been roughly 3,100 square feet in size, and didn’t have all the same services as the other lounge — there was no hot food or full bar, but rather only cold snacks, along with wine and beer. As a result, they’ve referred to it as a Centurion Studio rather than a Centurion Lounge.

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How Long Do Amex Membership Rewards Points Transfers Take?

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If you’re collecting miles & points through credit card spend, I always recommend doing what you can to accrue transferrable points currencies. That’s because these points are much more flexible than when you’re earning an individual airline or hotel points currency. You have the flexibility to transfer these points to all kinds of travel partners, and you’re safeguarded from a devaluation in a specific points currency.

With that in mind, I figured I’d write a series of posts about the three major transferrable points currencies — Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou — talking about how long it takes to transfer points, along with the other basic details you need to know about transferring points.

How many airline and hotel partners does Amex Membership Rewards have?

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How To Track If You’re Maxing Out Amex EveryDay Bonus Categories

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Two of Amex’s best credit cards for maximizing everyday spend are The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express and The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express. These cards are both extremely rewarding, both for non-bonused spend, and also for specific category bonuses.

For those of you not familiar with these cards, the Amex EveryDay Card:

— Offers 2x points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 of spend per calendar year
— Offers a 20% points bonus when you make at least 20 transactions per billing cycle
— Has a $0 annual fee

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What’s The Best Credit Card For Buying JetBlue Tickets?

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Reader Paul messaged me to ask whether he’s better off using JetBlue Plus Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express for buying a JetBlue ticket.

In general the Amex Platinum Card is the all around best card for airfare purchases — the card offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines, which is a huge return. I value Membership Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each, so that’s the equivalent of an ~8.5% return. However, you can potentially get a lot more value out of Amex points that that.

Meanwhile JetBlue Plus Card offers 6x points on JetBlue airfare purchases, which is the most points offered by any airline credit card for airfare purchases.

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You Can Potentially Get ~2.17 Cents Of Value Per Amex Point!!!

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Here’s a very cool development, as outlined by Frequent Miler, and also as discussed in this thread on Reddit.

Last year we saw Amex make some major changes to both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN. Specifically:

— The Amex Platinum Personal Card offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines or through Amex Travel.
— The Amex Business Platinum Card offers a 50% refund on Pay with Points redemptions, when redeeming on your designated airline in economy, or on any airline in first or business class. Pay with Points ordinarily gets you one cent of value per point, meaning that you’re getting two cents of value after the refund. In the past my preferred use of Membership Rewards points was converting them into partner airline miles, but if I can get two cents of value per point for cash bookings, that’s tough to beat.

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Amex Will Begin Limiting Centurion Lounge Access For Families

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One of the best perks of the American Express Platinum Card is access to Centurion Lounges. These lounges are for the most part significantly better than what’s offered by U.S. airlines, as the lounges have complimentary cocktails, hot food, and a couple of them even have spas.

However, there’s no denying that these lounges are often overcrowded, to the point that they’re almost unpleasant to be in. As much as I love Centurion Lounges, I’ve sometimes found myself walking in, realizing there weren’t any empty seats, and then just going to a nearby emptier contract lounge, because at least they’re a quiet place from which to work. To me the most basic lounge amenity is a quiet place with wifi and an outlet, and everything else is a frill.

As far as U.S. locations go, there are Centurion Lounges in Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, and one should be opening this summer in Philadelphia.

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Should You Pay Your Taxes By Credit Card?

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Tax season is in full swing in the U.S., with federal income taxes due in a bit over a month. Of course people have different ways they pay taxes, so not everyone still has taxes to pay next month. If that’s the case, maybe you can apply this strategy towards a future tax payment.

While a vast majority of people pay their federal income taxes in cash, does it make sense to pay your taxes by credit card instead? I pay all my taxes by credit card, and think it makes sense for a lot of people to do so. In this post I wanted to outline how that works in general?

There are several third party websites that will allow you to make tax payments by credit card. Right now the best option for paying taxes by credit card is Pay1040.com, which charges a 1.87% convenience fee for using a credit card. They let you pay by American Express, MasterCard, Visa, etc.

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How I’m Maximizing The 5x Transportation Bonus This Quarter

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I’ve had the Chase Freedom® Card for several years, since before I even started reading One Mile at a Time. It’s one of the two no-annual-fee cards I actually use (the other is The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express).

The 5% cash back the Freedom Card offers on rotating quarterly categories (up to $1,500 a quarter) is actually 5x Ultimate Rewards points for those of us who pair it with a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

This quarter (January through March), the bonus categories are gas stations and local commuter transportation. Gas stations often sell gift cards for future fuel purchases or other things, and many people meet the bonus that way.

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