Best Bets

Best Bets

1. What’s next, Hyatt? Gold Passport members will receive a free night after every two stays when paying with a MasterCard. That’s right, a MasterCard. As far as we know, this is that credit giant’s first foray into the world of points and miles. The rules are basically the same — there is no limit to the number of nights that can be earned. Qualifying stays must be completed by Feb. 28, 2003, and free nights must be redeemed from Nov. 1 to April 30, 2003. Current members must register. To do so, go to www.goldpassport.com or call (800) 51 HYATT. This hotel program is certainly hot right now, with wonderful promotions one right after the other.

2. Through Dec. 31, America West FlightFund members can add 3,000 bonus miles to their account every time they book a roundtrip ticket online. Members will be able to clinch the domestic award for 20,000 miles pretty quickly. This is a category leader because it earns the bonus every time — not just the first time. OK, we cheated. We always thought it was a good bonus but a recent meeting with their marketing executives who pointed out that with as few as three flights on their route system and probably not more than five flights (LA to Phoenix sound familiar?), members will have earned enough bonus miles for a free ticket, since they still have a 20,000-mile award available. Again, it was always good, only better once explained to us. Now we know why their major competitor Southwest keeps extending their booking bonus.

3. Marriott Rewards kicks off the fall with a free weekend offer (two free nights) after just three separate stays before Jan. 31, 2003. In addition, members who qualify also earn Silver elite status with Marriott Rewards good through 2003, which means more bonus points since members at that level are eligible for a 20-percent bonus. Free weekend nights may be redeemed separately or consecutively any Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday through June 30, 2003. Registration is necessary and can be done at http://www.marriottrewards.com or by calling (888) 627-7468.

4. Seeing double. OK, we think these two programs are both grand. Marriott and Hilton both have their award extender promotions lasting through the end of December which allows members to save 33-40 percent off normal award redemption. If you really must know, Marriott’s PointSavers are 33 percent off while Hilton Point Stretchers are 40 percent off. These aren’t hotels in out of the way places either. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see great destinations and point savings all in one place, Hilton or Marriott. We highly recommend them if you have some holiday plans yet to be booked.

5. Has to the the phone home bonus. With every major frequent flyer program announcing new residentail long distance partners (either AT&T or Sprint), it’s now time to flip the switch on MCI and head for the new bonuses. While many of you will want to wait to see if there will be any larger signup bonuses, we suggest that with less competition in the game what you see is what you got. If you wait you’ll forget, so make this an early resolution … move your long distance and start the year with a nice unexpected mileage bonus. Why? A recent poll indicates that 19.2% of you forget to switch and end up not earning bonus miles for your long distance.

6. Northwest Airlines has teamed up with renowned ski resorts in North America to offer you great deals this ski season. Through Northwest, you can redeem WorldPerks miles to get low coach-class airfares to select ski destinations. With just 10,000 miles, you can purchase a roundtrip coach ticket from the lower 48 to select ski destinations for just $128; or pay $178 and 5,000 miles. Offer is valid between select origins in the 48 contiguous United States and Albuquerque, Anchorage, Aspen, Billings, Boise, Bozeman, Burlington, Calgary, Colorado Springs, Denver, Edmonton, Jackson Hole, Kalispell, Missoula, Reno, Salt Lake City, Steamboat Springs, Vail or Vancouver. Travel must be completed between Dec. 3 and April 4.

7. Fifteen thousand miles is the bounty for those who successfully apply for the United Mileage Plus Signature Visa Card. This is by far the largest sign-up bonus that the Mileage Plus program has ever offered (we should know, our same card only earned a 5,000-mile bonus). From then on, new cardholders will earn one mile for every dollar charged. A free first-class upgrade and a $25 discount certificate are also included in the deal. The card is offered by First USA Bank. You can apply from the homepage of the United Web site at http://www.ual.com. The card costs $60 annually. While sign-up bonuses don’t get much better, this is real cool: over-the-credit-limit fee: none. Only one little catch — the maximum number of miles you can earn with the United Mileage Plus Visa card is 10,000 miles in any single billing period, with a maximum of 60,000 miles per year unless you are a Premier member — then the sky is the limit. We asked them again about an ending date and they would simply smile and say, it is a promotion. We think that means that it could end at any time but then again, it could keep going and going and going!

8. You can still earn double credit when you book your flight at http://www.southwest.com and fly by Apr. 4, 2003. With double credit you can earn a free flight in as few as four roundtrips. This one is headed to the frequent flyer marketing Hall of Fame. What is amazing is how long they have extended this bonus. Keep clicking and keep flying.

9. Small business owners can now take advantage of a new card presented by Amex’s Small Business Network and Delta SkyMiles. In addition to the benefits of the OPEN Small Business network, including negotiated savings from select vendors on computers, shipping and car rentals, new cardmembers will receive 10,000 bonus miles and 5,000 bonus base miles that apply toward elite status. This is currently the only credit card that allows qualifying elite miles from purchases. Each year upon renewal, the cardmember will receive one free companion domestic coach-class, roundtrip ticket certificate, good for one year on any published route in the contiguous 48 states. Ten thousand additional miles will be awarded if annual spending reaches $25,000 or more. The card carries an annual fee of $135. Cardmembers who already have a charge card from OPEN pay only $80. Interest on purchases is prime plus 9.99%, currently 14.74%. The price is steep but the benefits are deep. To apply, call (800) NOW-OPEN.

10. We love the Marriott Rewards program and have always appreciated their Platinum Arrival Gift at Marriot and Renaissance Hotels. Sometimes that gift was dinner and sometimes it was a meal on board yet another flight. But members are often forced to leave the gift behind for lack of room in their luggage. Marriott’s new option to allow members to receive 500 bonus points in lieu of the gift is a great idea and we strongly suggest members go for the points (yet another reason to collect points rather than miles). This is truly a member best bet.

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