Last Minute: Match Hyatt Platinum Status to MLife to Get Explorist with World of Hyatt

It's been widely publicized at several blogs (VFTW & MommyPoints were my sources) that those with Hyatt Platinum Status should match to MLife Gold ASAP to allow for a future match back to Hyatt's new Explorist Status when the World of Hyatt program begins on March 1st. Of course, I spent the better part of two weeks finding other things to do with my time, and now I've called in a couple days before the changeover and ran into a problem, but luckily, I also found a solution!

The Problem: Batching Status Matches 

According to the representative with whom I spoke, MLife sends status matches over in batches to Hyatt on a "bi-weekly" basis, meaning there was a high likelihood of my status-match not arriving before March 1st. A late arrival would mean I'd get matched to MLife "Pearl" status instead of "Gold," since my World of Hyatt status will be the lowly "Discoverist." Here's is the current matching chart and the new World of Hyatt chart to make the explanation easier:

The Solution: Be Nice or Be Sneaky

There are two solutions to this problem that I've been able to work out, so if you waited until the last minute too, fear not! 

I chose the "Be Nice" option, explaining my dilemma and asking the MLife representative if he would expedite the match. After reading through an email directive he had received on the general subject, the agent agreed to update my MLife account to show Gold status immediately. He did caution that there was no guarantee the Gold status would stick, since Hyatt might come back and match me to a lower tier later. I'm not convinced this will happen, since I am already showing as MLife Gold in my account, assuming Hyatt doesn't specifically tell MLife to downgrade my status.

The second way to accomplish this status match in a hurry would be to say you're planning to visit Vegas (MLife property-land!) in the next couple days. The MLife representative immediately asked me when I was planning to visit Las Vegas when I asked for a status match, so it's likely your agent will bring the topic up. I said sometime in the spring, which is when the agent volunteered the "batch-match" information to me. Instead of answering like me, you could say "I'm thinking about coming out tomorrow!" That should get the status-match wheels turning.

What I Recommend: Hurry Up and Be Nice!

I got a very helpful MLife agent, and there's no reason to think you won't, too. It's always better to be honest and since this status match is totally above-board, if you get a good agent he/she should be willing to help you; it's just good customer relations. Use the "Be Sneaky" option only if this fails, since Hyatt terms do entitle you to this status match, whether they feel like giving it out or not. Whatever you do, don't wait another minute because this window to potentially get Hyatt Explorist status is closing fast.

P.S. Curious what the difference between Explorist and Discoverist status is? Here's your reference. The short: 4 stays with access to club lounges (free breakfast and hors d'oeuvres), upgrades to non-suite rooms.

Reacting to the Latest SW Companion Pass News

I've written about Southwest's Companion Pass on several occasions in the past, since I think it's one of the best travel deals out there. Recently, Southwest had announced that hotel point transfers will no longer count towards qualification for the Companion Pass, a few days later, they made a partial backtrack, giving us until the end of the first quarter of 2017 to make the transfers. Here, I'll discuss what I decided to do with this information, with regards to the points I had stockpiled for a Marriott Hotel + Air Package.

The backstory

Even before Southwest put the dagger into the hearts of many miles/points churners on January 1st, I had been considering using my points transfer to receive Alaska or United miles as part of a Marriott Hotel + Air Package.

I was leaning heavily towards getting the Hotel + Air Package that included 120,000 Southwest miles on January 1st, since that would immediately qualify me for the SW Companion Pass for all of 2017 and 2018, but Southwest understood my plan (and presumably that of many others) to maximize the pass benefit for a full two years. They waited until the very day that would make the most sense to redeem for this package, leaving many scrambling for backup options.

Luckily, I had already written my previous post, where I identified what I feel to be the 2 best alternatives to the Southwest Companion Pass play. As I was forced to consider those alternatives further, I realized that they really weren't that bad. In fact, if you have no into of flying to any of the tropical destinations serviced by Southwest, or you're hoping to fly premium class products, there's really not much reason to have miles and the companion pass with Southwest.

What I'm doing

Despite the fact that I am looking to move into more business-class travel, there's no getting around the value-proposition of essentially doubling the travel-potential of miles with a companion pass. What's more, Southwest flights can be cancelled at any time leading up to the flight, allowing for speculative booking, last-minute adjustments, and general de-stressing of the award-booking process. Finally, I have found that Southwest often has the best redemption values for many routes across the US and the tropics (I just researched a spring break trip to Costa Rica for 2 people for 19k miles, round-trip!). It's an unbeatable combination of perks for me, so I just went all-in!

It took just three minutes by phone to convert my 270,000 Marriott points into a Hotel + Air Package that includes 7 nights at any Marriott Cat 1-5 hotel and 120,000 Southwest miles. The post I referenced earlier looks at the best Cat 5 and 6 redemptions, which is useful because you can always add an extra 30,000 Marriott points later to bump up to a higher award category.

The Bottom Line

If you have a stash of Marriott Hotel points, it's time to cash out for a Marriott travel package. My redemption netted me a SW Companion Pass for all of 2017 and 2018 + 120,000 Southwest miles. Combining the two benefits of this redemption generates $3,200 in free flights. Oh, and lets not forget the 7-night stay in a Marriott, from which I expect to extract about $1,000 of value. The total value of the package works out to about 1.5 cents-per-point, whereas typical Marriott redemptions are worth more like 0.5-0.7cpp!

How to Earn Major Free Travel Money with Barclay Travel Community

Recently, I was perusing my favorite travel hacker websites and came across a Milevalue post about the Barclay Travel Community. When you post short travel stories to the community board, you earn points redeemable for Amazon e-certs, but if you also have the Arrival+ credit card, you benefits can really start to add up. In this post, I'll go deeper to explain the potential of combining Barclay Travel Community stories with the Barclay Arrival+ card to earn serious travel play money!

The Travel Community Point-Earning Basics

  • Write a 100+ word story (+1 photo) and you receive 150 points
  • Add up to 25 "details" to that story for 10 points each
  • Every "kudos" you get from member is an additional 10 points
  • You can write up to 100 stories per month, but only 5 per city/state/country ever

The way it's typically been described by most bloggers who have written on the topic, you should write a story, add 3 details, and hope you get some kudos every once in a while. That's going to earn you about 180-200 points per story. Let's say you wrote 10 stories like that per month, you would earn approximately 2000 points, which equates to $20 in Barclay Arrival+ points, redeemable for travel charges to the card. Walking this equation out to 1 year, you would earn about $240 worth of free travel for an hour per month of reminiscing about your travels. Sounds pretty good, right?

Barclaycard Travel Community on Expert Mode

If you do as much travel as me, there is much more potential to this program than just a couple hundred dollars per year in travel credits. While other bloggers have written a bit about the program, I'm going to dig deeper and give you a specific outline for serious earning. Here's the system I plan to employ, step-by-step:

  1. Sign up for the Barclay Arrival+ if you don't already have it - This travel hack really only works well if you stack the participation points earned in the travel community with the credit card. In addition, the card has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus right now, so that's an extra $500 in travel money!
  2. Write 100 stories each month - Pick 20 cities you know best and start there. Write 5 stories per city, focusing on a specific topic so that as the months go on you will still have things to write about. The city/state/country limit makes this tough, but in practice I have been able to select counties and districts within the same area as the city I am talking about, so that's your workaround. If you complete just this step, you will earn 15,000 points or $150 in travel money per month for about 8 hours of work.
  3. Add value with details - After you have completed your stories, go back and add as many details as time allows. Since the stories take time, don't bother with the details unless you have more than 8 or 9 hours per month to spend (more on why later). I was able to bang out 2 details per minute and feel I could probably write about 6 details per story without working too hard. A good method for this would be to make a list of easy details to add to any story (every story could include info about which metro is nearby, where you ate and stayed, etc.). Adding six details per story equals 600 details per month for an additional 6,000 points.
  4. Build a kudos machine - Perhaps the most interesting possibility for adding value where other bloggers have not written is in the extra 10 points per kudos. You don't have to be an Arrival+ cardholder to have a Barclay Travel Community account, so there's no reason you couldn't enlist some friends, find other enthusiastic community members, (or let your multiple personalities chime in). If you got 10 kudos per story, that would add an additional 10,000 points per month, worth $100 in travel. How long would it take for ten accounts to sign in and essentially push the like button over and over? Not long at all.

Adding It All Up to Rake in the Arrival+ Points

Here's my math for the system I just suggested:

15,000 + 6,000 + 10,000 = 31,000 Arrival+ points per month

8 hours + 5 hours + 1 hour = 14 hours of work per month

31,000/14 = 2,214 points per hour or $22.14 per hour

And here's why I did the steps in that specific order:

15,000 points/8 hours = 1,875 points per hour

6,000 points/5 hours = 1,200 points per hour

10,000 points/1 hour = 10,000 points per hour

The least efficient point-earning opportunity here is adding details and the most profitable is getting kudos. Therefore, getting stories up quickly so you can maximize the kudos opportunity is the first priority and details are really just a lower-value add-on. However, if you are 100% sure you're going to hit 100 stories per month, it might make sense to add a few details while writing stories, just so you don't have to click back and re-acquaint yourself with the story later.

The Bottom Line 

While I think it would be difficult to keep this earning strategy up year after year, by combining the Arrival+ signup bonus of 50,000 points with the 31,000 points per month from the travel community, you could earn 422,000 Arrival+ points in the first year, netting you $4,220 in free travel credits, which could be used for flights, hotels, Airbnb, Uber, and on and on!


Quick Deal: Free Hertz Top-Tier Status in 2 Minutes

While I think it's fair to say that most people dislike the average car rental experience, the fact remains that sometimes it must be done! Take advantage of this simple loophole to make renting a car a more rewarding experience with Hertz President's Circle Status.

How to Get Hertz President's Circle Status Right Away!

Within the miles and points community, there are some secrets that tend to stay hidden. For example, on reddit/churning, sometimes people downvote good opportunities just to make sure they reach fewer readers. One such example is this post, which details how to get President's Status by filling out one simple form.

It seems Choice Hotels' Nordic division is offering a status match to the Hertz top-tier rewards benefit, but you don't have to have status with Choice for the form to work in your favor. Simply click the link, fill out the form, and within a day or two an email will show up to confirm your status upgrade. Just click through the reddit link above and you'll have Hertz status in no time at all.

Why do I want to be part of Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President's Circle

That status title is a mouthful, but there are some useful benefits that come with it. On top of all the benefits imparted to Gold Plus Rewards members, you'll earn a 25% points bonus on all rentals and get a confirmed vehicle upgrade. For more details about all the rewards program benefits, you can visit this Summary of Gold Rewards Benefits.

I'm already a Hertz Gold Plus Rewards member, since I find their points to be quite useful and I am always assured the best discounts on my Hertz car rentals. I even wrote a post on Hacking Hertz Points for Exponential Value. One of my favorite uses of Hertz points is to offset the cost of expensive one-way rentals. I also appreciate that many locations offer self-service Gold Rewards stalls; you just walk up to the rental board, find the stall number next to your name, and your car is there waiting!

The Bottom Line

Is Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President's Circle Status life-changing? No, not really. However, it's always better to have status if you want to be treated well and get the best deal, so this two-minute loophole to top-tier status is a no-brainer. Get it while you can!



Use My Alaska Airlines Companion Pass!

Hello friends! I am using an Alaska Airlines Companion Pass to help a pair of travelers get to their destination a lot cheaper. In the last year, I’ve used my companion passes three times and saved the recipients over $2,000 on flights.

The Alaska Air Companion Pass allows for the purchase of a second ticket for approximately $120, regardless of how much the first ticket cost. For example, a flight from NYC to Hawaii on Alaska Air often costs north of $1,000 round-trip, but with this pass, instead of $2,000 for two people, it will be closer to $1,120, or a savings of about $880. Here's the list of travel destinations served by Alaska Airlines, including two cities in Costa Rica and nine in Mexico!

I have really enjoyed helping make some travel dreams come true with these passes, but in the past, my method for distributing the passes left some equally-worthy recipients at a disadvantage. This time around, everyone who completes the three tasks below will have an equal chance at the companion pass (I'll even be helping you book your flights).  In one week, I will use a random number generator to pick the lucky winner!

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Comment on this post about Marriott hotels, sharing which one looks like the best use of the travel package and why

  2. Share a link on facebook to my post with helpful strategies for using Airbnb

  3. Go to the Thorpe Travel facebook page and describe the trip you’d like to take on the Alaska Companion Pass Giveaway post (don't forget to like the page!)

Best of luck!

*A few things to keep in mind: the pass can only be used on Alaska Air flights and I will only redeem if savings from the flights total at least $200 for the recipient. The best uses of this pass are for flights to Hawaii, one of Alaska's international destinations, trans-continental flights, or for flights that are expensive because of busy travel dates. Alaska Air terms state I cannot give this pass away, since the owner must be flying or paying for the flight, so I will be booking your flights and you will reimburse me.