Optimizing UA MPEx and perhaps Marriott Rewards

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by disambiguous1, Feb 14, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. disambiguous1

    disambiguous1 Silver Member

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    Just before the devaluation, I decided to jump into the points game with UA. I had a bunch of points from an earlier European trip that were about to expire, and UA and their SA partners went a lot of places I wanted to go, so made the choice and got separate Mileage Plus Explorer cards for both myself and my wife, with our kids as additional card holders. That brought us 30,000 points each. My main goal was to save up points for my wife and youngest daughter to tour Ireland in summer of 2015. I made this choice because the members here advised that for international travel an airline rewards card was usually better than a general rewards card. Not sure if that's still the case after the devaluation.

    I don't have as much time & energy to expend on all the mileage maximization strategies as a lot of the people here (and I envy them greatly, even if just for the ability to keep it all straight), so my approach will be pretty straightforward. My wife files a bit for work, but because her company pays for the air travel and she does not book her ticket, she cannot get rewards points for that (usually DA and AA anyway).

    However, she does stay at a Marriott location every week for a long-term project she is working on, and the Marriott is the only option. Currently I have her using the UAMPEx card to book that. The project will last for several more months at least.

    She gets a lot of offers from Marriott to join their credit card rewards program. I'm not sure what kind of footprint Marriott has in Ireland or anywhere else in Europe, so I'm not sure if it would be best to get the Marriott card and have her build up some points on that for hotel stays there, or just keep using the UAMPE card for those expenses. She does have a Marriott points account, just no credit card.

    We try to put as much as possible on the UAMPE cards, at least $4000/month combined. I'm working on a way to put the mortgage on it, if I can. It all gets paid in full every month.

    I'm located in the DC area. I'd like to fly down to visit my brother a couple of times a year in Florida, but I don't want to eat into too many of the miles saved for the Ireland trip. In my ideal life I'd fly off to Italy every spring for three weeks to wander through the museums and archaeological ruins, but this thing called "reality" keeps interfering.

    Any suggestions for how I can get in a few flights from DC to Sarasota and maybe a European trip without cutting into the planned Ireland excursion? Should my wife get the Marriott Rewards credit card to build up extra points with that? Are there any pitfalls I might not know about? Is it possible that I am actually further ahead on this than I think? Many thanks for all suggestions. -DA1
     
  2. Ed Chandler
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    Ed Chandler Silver Member

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    Unless her company policy prohibits it, your wife should still get the airline miles for the actual flying ... just not for the money spent buying the ticket. (i.e. She gets the "butt-in-seat" miles.)

    You say you spend $4000 "combined" on your MP Explorer cards. Remember that you earn a bonus 10k UA miles on those cards when you spend $25k/yr, which works out to about $2100/mo. So if you ramp up your spending just a smidge, and be sure to split it across both cards, you'll end up with an extra 20k UA out of it.

    Oddly enough, I'd recommend that you look into British Airways Avios. The Boston-Dublin is a great value redemption on their chart, and getting to Boston for you should be a snap. And while you can't redeem your Avios on US Air *yet*, you will be able to do so soon ... and they have two routes that would get you to Tampa (DCA-TPA or DCA-CLT-TPA) and both of those are short enough that they'd only cost you 7500 Avios each way.
     
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  3. disambiguous1

    disambiguous1 Silver Member

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    Ed-- Many thanks for the info. I wasn't aware of the additional 20k miles for the $25k/yr spending. As I mentioned, the $4000/month was a minimum, so making that $25k is very feasible. I will certainly try to make sure that the expenses are balanced.

    I'm wondering how my wife might get credit for the butt-in-seat miles when she flies for work. How would one go about setting that up? That would be great, if it's possible.

    I've looked into the Boston/BA strategy, but the extra bother wouldn't be worth it to me. I'll gladly spend a couple hundred extra to avoid a stopover, especially one where two different carriers are responsible for two different legs via two different bookings. The possibility of missing a connection is something I find very nerve-wracking, and I'd rather book all the way through to have one airline responsible for the trip.

    Thanks again, -DA1
     
  4. disambiguous1

    disambiguous1 Silver Member

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    OK, now she tells me that there's a Hyatt that she can use instead of the Marriott. I'm not sure, but I think Hyatt has a broader international reach. The use will be several days a week for the next six months to a year. For international travel, any advice as to which is better, Hyatt versus Marriott? -DA1
     
  5. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    To earn miles for the actual flying simply put the FF# in the reservation when booking. If she is flying Delta or American then she won't collect United points.

    Hyatt has a much smaller total footprint than Marriott. "Better" can mean a lot of things so I won't begin to try to answer that.

    Generally speaking - especially for long-term stay patterns - earning the hotel points rather than the airline points is the better play. I'd continue to earn the UA points via CC and get the hotel points for that part. There is a Marriott Renaissance in Dublin which can help for your trip, assuming you have the hotel points available to redeem there.
     
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  6. Counsellor
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    Counsellor Gold Member

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    If your wife pays for the hotel she stays at on business (rather than having it billed directly to her company) and can use her personal credit card (rather than having to use a company credit card), you should look into getting the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier VISA card and using that to pay for the hotel stays instead of the Chase UA card. Here's why:

    Marriott has something called "Travel Packages" where you can redeem Marriott Rewards free hotel rooms AND air miles as a package. Using those, you can essentially turn one Marriott Rewards point into one airline mile (after earning enough for the free hotel nights), and since if you play it right, you can earn up to 20 Marriott Reward points per dollar spent at most Marriotts, that means 20 airline miles per dollar spent (or currently 22 miles per dollar if you choose United Mileage Plus miles). This is a much, much better rate than earning miles for hotel stays, or than what you'd get converting hotel points into miles directly. To read more about the "Travel Packages" you can click here.

    The reason I suggest getting the Chase Marriott Rewards black VISA card is three-fold:

    First, I don't know what they've been offering your wife to sign up for the VISA card, but there's currently an offer out there for a bonus of 70,000 Marriott Rewards points if you get the card and spend $1000 on it within the first three months. Click here for the link. (I don't think there's a referral code on that link, so I shouldn't get any bonus for that.) That is a good leg up on the points you'd need for a Travel Package. Further, the annual fee is waived the first year, so the first year doesn't cost you any annual fee.

    Second, if she charges the Marriott hotel bill to that card, she gets an extra 5 points per dollar charged, essentially giving 15 points per the dollar when added to the 10 points per dollar she'll get for the stay (see more explanation below at asterisk).

    Third, the Premier VISA card also gives a a bonus credit of 15 nights toward elite status every year. That gives you automatic Silver (requires 10 nights per year) with a leg up toward Gold (50 nights) or Platinum (75 nights). Once you get the elite status, your bonus points for stays at the Marriott begin increasing, with a 20% bonus on the base points after your wife reaches Silver, 25% after she reaches Gold (which also gives free access to the Executive Lounge), and a 50% bonus on the base points when she reaches Platinum! (Plus, there's a Platinum arrival gift of even more points for each stay.)

    * Putting it all together: You earn 10 base points per dollar spent at most Marriott properties (however, some only give 5 per dollar, and some limit the points to the room rate, not including incidental purchases like meals, drinks, garage, etc.). If you're an elite you earn a bonus depending on which level elite you are; Platinums earn 50% bonus, or 5 additional points per dollar. Then, if you charge the bill to the Marriott Rewards Premier VISA card, you get yet an additional 5 points per dollar charged on Marriott purchases. That totals 20 points per dollar.

    Much better payoff in my opinion than charging to the United card, even if you're looking for United miles.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2014
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  7. bigx0

    bigx0 Gold Member

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    Plus Marriott and UA have a partnership. If you are Marriott platinum you get UA silver. And if you are UA Gold or above you get Marriott gold status.
     
  8. Ed Chandler
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    Ed Chandler Silver Member

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    Of, if her situation is like mine and someone in her corporate travel department does the booking, just do it at check in.
    "Hi, I think I forgot to put my FF# on my ticket when I booked it, can you do that for me?" Easy.
     
  9. Ed Chandler
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    Ed Chandler Silver Member

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    Sorry, that was stupid of me. I had a geographic brain fart when I suggested that, thinking DC was much closer to Boston than it really is.
     
  10. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Got to get the Chase Marriott Rewards visa card for all the excellent reasons given by Counselor, to which I will add another: You will also get a free night at a category 1-4 hotel as a sign up bonus.
     
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  11. Ed Chandler
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    Ed Chandler Silver Member

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    Depends on the offer. Usually the sign up offer is for points and the free night certs only come on the anniversary dates (i.e. not the first year).
     
  12. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    Hyatt v. Marriott: as Seth says, "better" can mean different things to different folks. Marriott has the bigger footprint in general, but neither will help much for Ireland: I think Marriott has two hotels there; Hyatt has none. Besides, if you're looking to "tour" Ireland, as you said, you'll likely be staying in little non-chain places. Instead, you might consider which program's elite status (and hotels) would bring the most joy and comfort to your wife now. I like Hyatt's Diamond status, and she can likely qualify for a "diamond challenge".

    As Seth said, I would collect hotel points rather than airline miles, in general, for the hotel stays. It's certainly worth considering the hotel-specific award cards for that spend (3x on the Hyatt card, 5x on the Marriott, noting that the point scales are not the same, so this arguably represents similar value). For Hyatt spend, you might also consider a small business Amex, saving 5% cash off the top. The Starwood small business amex would also give a Starpoint. And, yes, collect the points even though they don't help for Ireland.

    Is it really worthwhile having so many Explorer accounts? Now that you've collected the sign up bonuses, why not close all but one, saving the annual fees?

    And, lastly, airline miles: you've stated a pretty strong preference for non-stops -- that's going to limit you to either flying UA or the specific carrier that serves the destination of the moment (e.g. Aer Lingus). You might want to go read View From the Wing's post today about the things his award booking service has failed at. In other words, you might be limiting yourself too much here, especially if you're trying to chase value, too. But, given that limitation, I think I'd assume that you're flying UA and plan to set aside the required UA miles for your holiday trips, even though that may not be the most efficient way to collect and use miles, in general. You'll likely end up using paid tickets for FL.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2014
  13. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    :confused: I have not seen a single offer for this card (the "black card") that did not offer the introductory free night, which is unique in that it is awarded upon approval and not after one meets the minimum spend requirement; this is also true for the anniversary free night, which is also independent of a minimum spend. Here's a random search that took me to an offer for 50K points rather than 70K points:
    1FN@MAR.png
    With such offers around, why would anyone go for one that does not offer the free night, if it even exists?
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2014
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  14. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    My view of a "diamond Challenge" is that go for it if the prospect for requalifying and maintaining that status in the new loyalty program is good. With this scenario:
    ...the OP's wife can easily make top Marriott Rewards elite but it would almost certainly be a struggle to maintain Hyatt GP diamond after meeting the challenge. Marriott Rewards and the associated Chase CC seem to me like the way to go under the circumstances.
     
  15. Counsellor
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    Counsellor Gold Member

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    The 70K points offer also includes the free night at a category 1-4 property on approval, see:

    https://creditcards.chase.com/a1/marriottpremier/70p1ksh/
     
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  16. disambiguous1

    disambiguous1 Silver Member

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    Wow, this is such a great forum. I have to say that the things I have learned here will no doubt save me a lot of money and improve my travel experience greatly. Many, many thanks to all who responded for being such a wonderful help. We'll sign her up for the Marriott card, and whatever we can use for Ireland we will. They'll be traveling to other parts of Europe as well, so no doubt the Marriott points will be of help there. Best regards to all. -DA1
     
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  17. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    There have been some targeted emails recently for 80K points.
     

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