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Ed Pizza: This week's episode of the Miles to Go Podcast is brought to you by the new Wyndham Rewards Earner credit cards, designed with road trippers and road warriors in mind. Apply today, and you could earn up to 45,000 bonus points, enough for up to six free nights at thousands of hotels by Wyndham around the world. Plus with up to eight points per dollar on eligible hotel stays and gas purchases, up to four points per dollar on dining and groceries. Your next getaway is closer than you think. Earn like you mean it every day and get the free nights faster with the Wyndham Rewards Earner cards. Terms and conditions apply. Learn more at Wyndhamrewardscreditcard.com.

Speaker 2: You're listening to the Miles to Go Podcast, the go-to source for travel tips, news, and reviews you can't afford to miss. Now, here's your host, travel expert, Ed Pizza.

Ed Pizza: Hey, guys. Welcome back to another episode of the Miles to Go Podcast. We've got a busy week in travel news, and we'll also be talking about some ways that you can be earning the most miles while most of us are still at home. Bonus categories on credit cards aren't the only way, and we'll get into that in just a bit. Hey, but before we get started, I'm going to ask you guys for a quick favor. If you're enjoying the show on a weekly basis, please leave us a five star rating and a review where ever you're listening to this podcast. There's a link in the show notes that will help you do that in less than a minute, and it helps us out a ton. Let's dig into travel news, and we've got some great stuff. My guest this week is Jon Nickel-D'Andrea from the BoardingArea blog, No Mas Coach, a frequent guest of the show. Jon, you've been traveling recently. Before we dig into news, tell our listeners a little bit about what your recent trip was like.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Well, before we get into that, Ed, it only took six shows for you to get my name right. Congratulations.

Ed Pizza: Come on.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: That's fantastic.

Ed Pizza: Come on. That's just wrong.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Nicely done. Nice you had all this quarantine to practice.

Ed Pizza: I have.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: I am proud of you. Congratulations.

Ed Pizza: People everywhere are proud of me.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Yeah. Where have we been? We just got back from seven days in Hawaii. We took a little trip to ... four days on Maui and then three days on Oahu.

Ed Pizza: What was it like? So you flew from Seattle?

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Yeah, we went from Seattle. We started our trip in Maui.

Ed Pizza: What was it like as far as wearing a mask for that long on the plane and with mask compliance good?

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Yeah. Alaska has really got their mass game on point, right? They hand out these yellow cards if you don't wear a mask. Of course, if you get one of those yellow cards, then you are banned from Alaska flight. They take it pretty seriously, and the flight attendants aren't playing around in Alaska, which is good. What I've found is, for me, if I wear my mask for more than three hours, I start to get that pain behind my ears, just that nagging rubbing feeling. So I bought one of those neck extensors, those plastic bars that-

Ed Pizza: Yeah, yeah, I've seen those, yeah.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: ... you put. Yeah. They're gotten from, I think, Staples for two bucks, and it was great. It just looped right around the back of my neck and it was perfect. I didn't have any issues wearing the mask the whole time. Just mask off to take a bite to eat or to take a sip of water or wine, and then you put it right back on it. It's no big deal. I think in the beginning, maybe a few months back, none of us were accustomed to wearing masks for very long. But even in September, when we went overseas, we had to wear the mask for a 10-hour flight, and that was fine. Just again with the neck extender to help the pain from behind the ears. That was easy.

Ed Pizza: What was it like in Hawaii as far as restaurants being open and closed and mask wearing down there?

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Yeah. We wrote about this on the website too, on our blog why I think right now is the best time to go. I guess I should put the caveat, of course, you need to gauge your own risk and decide if you want to go or not. But remembering being on the West Coast, we've been to Hawaii a handful of times, seven, eight, nine times perhaps, and the beaches are always full, the stores are full, the restaurants are full, there's just crowds of people on the street, and walking around was great. You had the beaches to yourself, the rental car prices were next to nothing, hotels were half empty so you could get really good rates. You weren't overrun by people trying to sell you things on the street and getting in your face. It was what I imagine Hawaii used to be 30, 40, 50 years ago before it became a super mega tourist destination with tons of flights going there all the time. I would not hesitate to go back there tomorrow in a heartbeat, 100%.

Ed Pizza: Awesome. All right, let's dig into news. There's a bunch of stuff and it's all over the board this week. But I think let's start with ... I won't say it's the biggest news, but I would say it's a big move, especially for folks who have trips planned. The CDC released new guidelines which also dovetailed into some new regulations in the US where essentially pretty much everyone entering the US as an airline passenger now needs a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel. This is due to be in place very quickly, and I think it's bound to cause some turmoil over at least the next few weeks as people figure out how to make this happen. If they already had a trip booked, they probably weren't looking for how do I get COVID tested in a foreign country?

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: I think not only that, but how do foreigners who wanted to come to the States get tested too? I mean, just think that here in Seattle we have fantastic testing. You can walk up to any one of a dozen free testing locations, they do the nasal swab, the deep nasal swab, the scratch your brain nasal swab, and you can get your results back within 24 hours. Now, I know that that's not the case in every place in the US, but we've got things under control here in Seattle. That's fantastic. But what if you want to go to Bosnia? What if you want to go to Johannesburg? What if you want to go to Mumbai? I don't know. Is it easy to get a test in those places? Do you have to go on a list? Do you have to pay a bunch of money? That's hard, right?

Ed Pizza: Yeah.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Even places, think of a London or a Paris or a Rome or a Vienna, how do you get ... I wouldn't even know where to go. Do you just call your hotel and say, "Hey, look, I need to go home, please give me a test?" Then imagine that you're stuck in Zurich and the Swiss Air won't let you board your flight back home to the country of which you are a citizen because you can't get a test. So what? You're just stuck in Zurich for months, weeks at a time?

Ed Pizza: Well, not just that. I mean, we've also got the added layer here of what happens if you test positive. I mean, before when there was no testing requirement, they're obviously people that are walking around who are asymptomatic and there were probably people walking around who are semi symptomatic, and they're not thinking that they might have COVID. Once you get all those people tested, I mean obviously, some of those people are going to test positive.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Of course. I'm also thinking that's incredibly short-sighted and we can get into a massive debate on another one, but the people at my local grocery store aren't tested to go inside yet. In order for us to come back home to the country where we live, we have to find a test on the other side of the world. I think that there's ... While it's great that you can grab these tests, I think that it's also short-sighted to not allow citizens of your own country to come home unless you can find a test wherever you are on the planet. I think that's going to cause ... It's probably going to cause lawsuits going, it's going to cause issues, it's going to cause all these things.
Trust me, I would much rather someone who lives in another country who is COVID positive not come here when they're positive. But I'm thinking if I were stuck in a country and I was positive and I just wanted to get home, how the hell would I do it? That's freaky. I feel like it almost just puts the final nail in the coffin for international travel. If you can't figure out where to get tested, stay in the US.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. No, I have a friend who's stuck overseas who tested positive just recently. It's living through that. It'll be interesting-

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Man!

Ed Pizza: ... to see how this all develops. It's going to be complicated.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: What happens if you overstay your visa? What happens with your accommodation?

Ed Pizza: Yeah, crosstalk

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: What happens ... I mean, these are all questions that, of course, it's a what if, what if, what if, but these are real concerns. Not that I expect you to spend 90 days waiting to recover from COVID, but there are people who take a long time to recover from COVID as well.

Ed Pizza: For sure. I mean, folks who listen frequently will know that I'm a small business owner and we've had folks working for our restaurants who test positive even after a 14 day quarantine. In some cases, test positive 20 and 30 days later.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Wow.

Ed Pizza: There's going to be some interesting bits and pieces to see, and I think that probably the only saving grace is that we're ... I won't say last to this, but as a country, we're one of the last to institute these kinds of requirements. Lots of other countries have had time to ramp up the infrastructure for folks traveling to and fro. I think it'd be interesting to see what the first folks coming back to the US find two or three weeks from now as we start to get feedback, and definitely think we'll be thinking about a show of trying to gather up that feedback and help our listeners make that evaluation for themselves about whether it's right or not to be traveling right now.
Next up, we're going to talk about changes to Marriott qualifications. A lot of the airlines and hotels put out their plan for 2021, I won't say early per se, but months ago. So we've had time to digest them. Marriott just did this just about a week ago, and so we're into '21, obviously already, but not a lot of travel happening yet. Though some folks probably are making decisions. At a high level, Marriott is depositing 50% of the elite night credits for each status level into existing members accounts. For example, a platinum member would get 25 nights deposited into their account, elite nights. They've also now announced that they're reducing the spending threshold to earn their top tier ambassador status from $20,000 for the year to $14,000.
Then lastly, Marriott also announced a pretty lucrative promotion with a few caveats that runs through April where members can earn double points and double elite nights. Unfortunately, it's only for stays of two nights or more, and it doesn't count awards days. But still, I mean, some good stuff here for folks who are Marriott loyalists. What do you think, Jon?

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: I think that if you think back a year ago to March when these companies were putting out these inaudible give us 30 days, we'll look at it then, give us 30 days we'll look at it. Everything was just in these small 30-day chunks. I think eventually somebody realized come late April early May that they should probably just extend everything to the end of the year. Right? I think that this promotion is ... The promotion itself I think is short-sighted only going through April, right? If you want people to come to your chain, make your promotion exciting to come to the chain. At the same token, it's great that Marriott's doing this, but they're obviously doing it because people aren't sleeping in hotels. Right?

Ed Pizza: Right.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: I'm an ambassador. I'm ambassador status and I have to say that I knew that there was no way last year I was going to hit 20,000. There's certainly no way this year I'm going to hit 14,000. I'm not terribly sad about losing the ambassador status. I don't think has really provided any value for me over the past few years. Unlike Hyatt E-Concierge, which I think has done a hell of a lot better. But It'll be easy for people to earn status if they foresee themselves traveling again, And maybe that's what Marriott is trying to do. Right? Maybe they're trying to weed out the people who were casual stares of their chain. Right? But I think if you're a business travel and you're traveling, this won't change your travel habits, I don't think, any more than it would have before. It doesn't seem like this is doing anything to catch leisure travelers. I don't know. Maybe you have a different opinion.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. I don't know. I mean, I think the promotion might catch some leisure travelers. I think it's probably folks who are existing Marriott members who are looking to bump up a tier. If you've got a Marriott credit card or two and you get the bonus nights posted at the beginning of the year here, and maybe all of a sudden if you're a platinum member and you're like, "Hey, I might be able to stretch to titanium," I could definitely see some folks being impacted by that. That being said, I understand why they lowered the cash requirement for ambassador from 20,000 to 14,000. I mean, certainly it's going to be very hard to be out there staying 100 nights in general anyway. But I still think that the reduction from 20,000 to 14,000 is pretty useless. I mean-

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: It seems arbitrary too. Why 14? Did they have some focus group, and they said, "Well, if we get 50% is too much, and 20, it's not enough, so let's sit in 30?" It doesn't really seem right.

Ed Pizza: No. inaudible I mean, if you think about it, hotel rates are cheaper right now because they're not full, and so we're obviously going to have a harder time spending a lot of money. Even if you needed ... If you had 50 paid nights, because you had 50 in the bag from previous status and credit cards and stuff like that, I mean, on the other 50 nights you paid-

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: It's $280 a night.

Ed Pizza: Right, 300 bucks a night ADR. I would struggle to have a $300 ADR this year for many things because that implies that I'm staying at $500 a night properties sometimes because I'm certainly going to be staying at $100 a night properties sometimes.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: For the uninitiated, that's average daily rate, correct?

Ed Pizza: Oh, yeah. Sorry.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: ADR?

Ed Pizza: Yes. Thank you, Jon.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: You're welcome.

Ed Pizza: Thank you for decoding.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: You're welcome. ADR, average daily rate.

Ed Pizza: Yeah, sorry.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Before taxes and fees, by the way.

Ed Pizza: We won't get into RevPAR. We'll do that later.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Right.

Ed Pizza: Yeah, I don't see that being realistic for most folks, ambassador status. That being said, I mean the last I heard, they had laid off most of the ambassadors or furloughed them.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: I have a female ambassador and the voicemail is a man's voice that says you've reached the phone number of so-and-so. I'm thinking, well, that's definitely not correct. Then when I do email my individual ambassador, an email kicked back and said, "We're no longer monitoring this account. Please email ambassadors," something, something at Marriott. For all intents and purposes, I now have a call center as an ambassador, and nothing makes me feel appreciated or receive that loyalty high than a freaking call center where I have to explain myself to someone every single time who doesn't know who I am or my situation. No, it's not good.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. All right. Next up is your article about the new Alaska Airlines status level. We don't certainly have all the details yet, but I will say at least from my standpoint of not being a close follower of the Alaska Airlines world, I was a little surprised to hear them announcing another status level. This is really not just in your wheelhouse because of your backyard, but you're also an Alaska Airlines guy. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: I'm thinking of what it took ... Going back in my past few years, I guess as a primer, Alaska currently has three levels, MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75. As with most, it's 25,000 for Gold, 50,000 for ... Excuse me, 25,000 for MVP, 50,000 for Gold, and then 75,000 for MVP Gold 75. Now they have this new 100,000 level coming out saying, "Hey, if you fly 100,000 with us, we'll give you mysterious extra bonus perks, but we're not telling you what they are." I'm trying to think of what would be exciting. If you really took a second to think, okay, what possibly could come of this, MVP Gold 75s, we'll just call them 75Ks, already are in 125% bonus miles when you fly.
Maybe this next tier is 150. Top upgrade priority is what they say. Well, of course you're going to get top upgrade priority, right? You always. Everyone in a higher tier of course gets upgraded before people in a lower tier. But what does that mean? Does it mean you upgraded a week out, five days out, same day only, but you get perked over someone else? I mean, it's very nebulous. Then the other one says it's lounge benefits. Here's the interesting part about lounge benefits, right? As a Gold 75, we get four lounge passes a year. You can just roll up into the lounge and say, "I'm a 75K, I want in," and you get in, four times a year.
Now is that eight times a year? That isn't really sexy enough for me to want to go the extra mile. It's not like you're earning a lower oneworld tier when they become a part of oneworld. It's not like you're taking anything away by being a 75K. I don't see the perk yet, unless they come up with something super exciting. I will say Alaska, as far as the lounge benefit, if you're on a paid first class ticket on Alaska, you get into the lounges.

Ed Pizza: Sure.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: That's not the case with Delta or United or American. Alaska, many people who are in that 100K category get free lounge access anyway by the virtue of them flying in a paid first class ticket. I can't find that extra excitement factor, unless for some reason maybe they were going to say we'll give you upgrades on oneworld airlines.

Ed Pizza: Yeah, that could certainly be a possibility. I also think the other thing that they could include here, which again might not be huge, but they could mimic Aeroplan under the new Air Canada program where maybe the 100K level gets a lounge membership, and so they can come in anytime they want. It's not eight versus four, it's just you have lounge access, and what does that mean for reciprocal benefits when you talk about all the partners that Alaska has. I mean, certainly that would be the key to that being a valuable benefit for those members.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Sure. I was thinking maybe also a nice benefit would be family pooling. Hey, if you hit-

Ed Pizza: Sure.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: ... the 100K level, we'll let you pull together your benefits or your miles. I think Turkish Airlines does this as well also where you could gift top tier status or you could buy top tier status for someone else using your miles. That would be interesting to do, like, "Hey, you hit 100K. Hey, for 50,000 miles, we'll let you gift Gold status or 75K status to anyone you want." That might be of benefit because you earn so many miles. Every year that you qualify for 75K, you're earning at a minimum almost 300,000 miles in your Alaska account. That's a lot of miles. Something would ... For them to be able to say, "Hey, use your miles for this," a reduction on redemptions, or something that would get me to use miles. But as exciting as it sounds, there's no other ancillary benefits on other partner airlines. It would only be in Alaska, and I can't find any extra perk that they could offer. It's not like Alaska is going to start flying to London, right?

Ed Pizza: No.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: For me to use upgrade. I don't know.

Ed Pizza: Well, we can always use more miles. Our last story-

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Agreed.

Ed Pizza: ... today involves new perks on American Express cards. The personal version of the platinum card carries a $550 annual fee. There's a new $30 monthly credit that card members can use on PayPal, which will help burn down some of that annual fee, a new temporary credit. There's some really attractive Amex offers like 50 bucks back at Best Buy and Home Depot. In other words, not just travel benefits. Things that you're probably more likely to use if you're still at home. The business version of the card sports a $595 annual fee, and it actually hangs out in my wallet currently. For the first six months of '21, I'll be able to earn an additional four points per dollar on cell phone bills, advertising, shipping, gas and office supplies, which essentially makes the Amex biz black card like a CHASE Ink card in my wallet that just inaudible membership rewards points. I guess as we get into the second calendar year of the pandemic, where do you think these fall in terms of what's out there in terms of rewarding customers for holding onto these high annual fee cards?

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: I mean, at the end of the day, I think that any benefit that they're going to bring upon is good, right? Anything that's going to help offset the cost of the fee, and guess what? It may just be enough for people who are considering canceling to stick around. I didn't see much value in the business platinum card considering I'm not booking flights, I'm not really using anything. I've got my personal cards, which are membership rewards, but the business platinum card for me was going to be a cancel this year when the annual fee came inaudible Being able to earn up to 320,000 extra points this year, more than offsets the annual fee associated with the card.
But there really truly was no reason for me to hold on to that business platinum card, especially considering the things that we were not doing in travel, that we were not doing. I don't care about the luxury hotel collection. I'm not going anywhere. I didn't really care about the Dell benefit for business because what was I buying for my business? I'm working on in my basement. Right? There was no extra benefits. I think it's smart for American Express to offer these carrots fully well knowing that many people are going to forget about them and not use them.

Ed Pizza: Yeah, and I'll definitely use them for the biz black card. I think what it does do, at least for me, is it does probably kick the can down the road a little bit further on whether or not I'll cancel the card. Because like you, I was staring at this one when I was looking at reorganizing my wallet and saying, "I don't really think I'm going to continue to get $600 in value out of this going forward." This is still on my radar to cancel. But like you, I mean, those categories are definitely beneficial. I mean, that being said, I do earn because I have one of the original Chase Ink 5X cards still in my wallet-

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: As do I.

Ed Pizza: ... I do earn five points per dollar on my cell phone bills, and I do earn five points per dollar on office supplies.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: But then I would say that, if I'm not mistaken, aren't the platinum benefits only go through April?

Ed Pizza: I think it's June.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Really? Maybe I got crosstalk man. I don't know.

Ed Pizza: Yeah, yeah. I think it's ... Yeah, you probably did. But I think the 5X is for the first six months of the year. I think it's the end of June.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Okay, use the platinum until June and then convert your spend over to the Chase card. Right? inaudible

Ed Pizza: It could be, although quite honestly, I mean, I like my ultimate rewards points better than my membership rewards points. But that's just my own bias. I mean, crosstalk

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Well, timeout. Timeout. No, I'm going to stop you. If I remember correctly, way back in the day, we had to get Tiffany to convince you to even look at membership rewards. So somebody tells you you should probably-

Ed Pizza: If you remember correctly, of course.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: ... beef your membership rewards balance, a little diversity, then you crosstalk

Ed Pizza: There's plenty of beef there. Trust me. There's plenty of beef because I'm not spending any right now. So I've got a ton.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Oh, it's true. Yeah, good point.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. All right. Well, Jon, thanks for joining us this week. Lots of great stuff in travel news this week. Tell folks where they can find you when you're not talking travel with me.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: Yeah. Nomascoachcoach.com. On Twitter, Instagram, and all the social channels, @NoMasCoach. Of course, if you ever find yourself in Seattle, you want yourself a quick free vaccine, or not a vaccine, a testing shot, let me know. We'll go have a socially distance coffee somewhere close by.

Ed Pizza: All right, Jon. Thanks so much.

Jon Nickel-D'Andrea: My pleasure.

Ed Pizza: Folks, if you do have questions for us, there are a bunch of ways to reach out. You can email me at ed@pizzainmotion.com, and you can find me on all that social media stuff, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, all @pizzainmotion. You can also leave us a voicemail right on our website. Milestogo.boardingarea.com, and hear your question on a future episode. Next up, we're touching on some ways to earn miles while you're trapped on your couch. We'll be right back with that after the break. As you guys heard at the top of the show, the folks behind the new Wyndham Rewards Earner credit cards are sponsoring the show with this week. I have my eye on the Wyndham Rewards Earner business card. As a small business owner, I can earn five miles per dollar on all of my utility bills, which is a pretty unique category for credit cards, along with other expenses like marketing. That card also comes with top tier diamond status in the Wyndham Rewards program. Look for more details in the show notes, including an opportunity to win Wyndham Rewards diamond status, and 15,000 Wyndham Reward points. Now, back to the show.
Back on the Miles to Go Podcast. It's great to see some of you folks out there traveling, absolutely living vicariously through your stories and pictures. I'm just not there yet myself, but I hope to be there soon. Many of us haven't gotten off the proverbial couch to get back out there. While we're dreaming of travel, we're also spending time earning miles to pay for those dream trips in the future. Our next guest has been on the show multiple times before, and he reminded me that it's pretty easy to combine mileage earning with just staying home and being safe in general by shopping online. It took his cute dog to remind me of that. Mike LaRoza is the founder of Coworkaholic and a fellow Disney nerd. More on that in a future episode. Welcome back, Mike.

Michael LaRosa: Hey, long time no talk. How's it going, Ed?

Ed Pizza: It's going. It's going, and who knows, maybe we'll get a guest appearance from Nova in the background barking for the podcast.

Michael LaRosa: It's like she has a sixth sense. Even if I'm not talking, just as soon as those headphones on, she thinks I'm on another Zoom. She's got her bone, and then I put her in the room, inaudible we're going to hear that in the background. She's another room now.

Ed Pizza: I have faith that Nova will come to the table. Anyway, you wrote recently about this, and it's one of those things that we talked a little bit on Clubhouse, a platform that I am quickly trying to learn. It's one of those things where I had lost sight of some of the things that I used to do to earn miles. You outlined that when you adopted Nova, how you unwrapped the world of earning points and miles for pet supplies.

Michael LaRosa: Yes. I always knew that there was going to be a financial cost associated with getting a dog. I'd never had a dog of my own in my life. A lot of dogs inaudible love them. But very quickly day one, I went to the Petco that was immediately located across the street from the shelter, and I saw the total and I was like, "Oh, well, how am I earning? This is going to be a thing." That's what led me down a little rabbit hole of just remembering that you can stack a couple of different earning, not platforms, but the shopping portals, as well as additional gift cards. You can really stack a lot of miles on pet supplies.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. I think when we were talking about doing this as a topic, like I said a lot of things came rushing back to me as far as what you could do. I'll say that, as one of the long in the tooth guys who's been earning points and miles for decades, you definitely have the good fortune and I've put the pieces together on a path I never had with United MileagePlus X. This is one of those things where I actually do buy most of our pet supplies locally now because I had trouble getting the stuff I needed online, timely fashion, priced inaudible But you've keyed in on the way that I could be doing it, or that I'm just missing out on with the MileagePlus X program. Let's talk a little bit about how folks can use that to turbocharge their earning like you are.

Michael LaRosa: Yep. I think a lot of folks are familiar with the portal, right? That's when you're doing an online transaction through the browser, you have the little Chrome extension, yada, yada, yada. MileagePlus X, it's an app, and you're buying virtual gift cards just through it. They've got a massive directory. You can search for the businesses and the brands that are closest by you, and I know that you give me a lot of heat as a fellow Italian for buying Domino's Pizza.

Ed Pizza: Yes.

Michael LaRosa: crosstalk but when we were running co-working spaces, when people would actually go places to work and they weren't stuck in their home office or bedroom or couch, we bought a lot of pizza for members. Right? We would have a lot of pizza events. Domino's was five miles per dollar, and I was like, "Oh, well, okay." Well, taking a look at your spend, being careful putting what you can on credit cards to earn wisely, but also knowing that you have to pay it off as the business, you can't carry it. That's how I fell into that. I earned one mile per dollar on Starbucks. They've got a whole slew of different national brands, and Disney's one of them as well, three miles per dollar. But the Petco is really where the great earning is because it's five miles per dollar.
Then if you do purchase those gift cards with a United branded credit card, you get an extra mile on top of that. Then what you do is you stack it. I buy the gift cards through MileagePlus X, I now have these virtual e-gift cards, I go to petco.com. Everyone has curbside pickup now, even with the pandemic. I get, typically standard is, one additional mile per dollar by shopping through that portal, using that Chrome extension. Sometimes there's an offer where they'll double it. So you can get up to eight miles per dollar if you stacked it properly.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. You bring up a good point about if you're going to go the MileagePlus X app that there are extra points to be earned for using a United credit card. I just had an episode on this recently about how I think most elite members may not be getting the value that they need out of airlines owned credit card. But this is certainly one of those examples of how to get that extra value, and even if the merchant that you're looking for isn't a part of MileagePlus X ... Because I've had some issues finding things on X that worked for me. Certainly, there's stuff on there, but not everything that I need. There's still tons of pet brands on the various shopping portals.

Michael LaRosa: Yep. No, for sure. I mean, there's most definitely partnerships to be had. Whether you get your pet stuff on Amazon, whether you get it from Chewy, I believe sometimes a few other types of these natural pet food, if you scan or subscribe to those portal newsletters, oftentimes they'll run different promotions. It's a matter of just understanding what your spend looks like whenever a major change happens, right? I got Nova right before lockdown happened. I figured I was going to ... I remember you and I were joking. I was going to take two months off the road, right? Working on a project, and two months turned into the rest of the entire year. Anyway, my spending changed, and I figured, okay, let's just make sure I'm doing this smart. Different strokes for different folks. I love doing it at the Petco wakes. Then I also get Petco Pals Rewards, and you can use that to cover mostly grooming or you get issued in $5 ... not limits, but $5 increments. It's whatever works best for you.

Ed Pizza: Yeah, I agree. I think Petco definitely has a wide variety of stuff for folks. While you were talking, I just did a quick search because I haven't done this in a while on United's shopping portal, the MileagePlus shopping portal. Just scrolling down, I've got 1-800-PetMeds is on here. BarkBox, two companies that I've never used before but certainly I've heard of. Chewy is on here at two miles per dollar. BarkBox is 450 miles I'm guessing for an intro offer. Something called whose ... That's not pet. That's a different category. But there's a bunch of them on here that you could find to plug the pieces together. I think one of the things that you brought up in your article, which we will absolutely link to in the show notes, is you've got the ...
Airline shopping portals have promotions that they run throughout the year where they'll offer bonus miles for certain levels of purchases, and I think some of them are pretty straightforward. When it comes around to holiday shopping, I mean, we're all buying lots of stuff online, so that's a fairly easy one to hit. Essentially, these promotions are things like, hey, spend 500 bucks on the United shopping portal and earn an extra 1,000 miles, or spend 1,000 on the United portal. You can earn extra miles on top of whatever you're earning for purchasing these items. But there are certain times a year and I think this is one of them. I just saw a promotion literally yesterday on the AAdvantage shopping portal.
Now I was lucky enough that I had a computer that I needed to buy for work so I could max out that 1,000 miles because I needed to spend 500 bucks. But being able to purchase things like your pet supplies, food stuff like that, and use those as, hey, maybe you're going to bulk up a little bit on dog food this month and buy an extra bag of dog food from say meal Petco or something else through the portals to hit that bonus and get yourself an extra 1,000 miles for something you were already going to buy.

Michael LaRosa: I'm glad you brought that up because the technology that runs the United portal, same as the American, oftentimes they will have unique deals with inaudible but sometimes they have some overlapping deals or partnerships. Sometimes you can pick between both. I earned the majority of the miles through United, but what's really funny is that the reason why I hit the limit for that promotion on AAdvantage was because I did exactly what you just described. There was a big promotion at Petco and it was if you buy X amount, we're going to give you five times in Pals Rewards, and so I literally did exactly what you described and I hit that bonus with AAdvantage without even knowing I had registered for it. That's how I got those extra miles.

Ed Pizza: That's an awesome bonus. Yeah. I mean, these are the small things that add up to bigger trips down the road. I always say maximizing the miles that you're going to earn on something. I think just as a normal everyday tip, I always tell folks that when you're thinking about buying something online, you should obviously shop around and make sure you're earning either the most cashback or the highest amount of miles or points per dollar. For me, the best tool that I use is a free tool called Cashbackmonitor.com. You can set alerts for specific merchants. Apple's a good one where three or four times a year, instead of offering one mile per dollar for an Apple purchase, they might offer six or seven miles per dollar.
I have alerts set up in Cashback Monitor and they help me know when they're offering a bonus for one of the merchants that I shop for, and that might be a time that I buy something, bulk up on something like a dog food, or if I need cables or whatever. Just easy ways while we're stuck at home to be able to do this stuff. When you and I did our first Clubhouse chat not too long ago, one of the other things that we talked about that you've been while you're at home is earning miles for surveys.

Michael LaRosa: Yes. It's like the ultimate brain dead activity when you're rewatching the same show you've watched a couple of times on Netflix. It's called Miles for Opinions. There's a few of them out there. There was one that you mentioned that I learned of on that chat I hadn't heard of before. But there's a variety of ways that you can sign up or some of them you have to be invited to. But I'll earn 50 miles here, 150 miles there, occasionally you get a big survey that might take as much as maybe 15 minutes to take, maybe 20 at the most, and you can get up to 500 miles. Considering that the airlines all changed to the dynamic pricing model, a lot of these award flights are really cheap. I mean, I know that obviously there's cash tickets where sometimes you can't inaudible a $15 or $20 cash ticket. But for the international trips, I think there's a lot of inaudible inventory out there. Every little bit helps and gets you the next award flight.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. Where these portals used to really help me out, and it's a little bit less relevant now, but I still think it's relevant because even though some programs have paused expiration of miles during the COVID-19 pandemic, others have not. Where the surveys can be really helpful is taking a small amount of miles and depositing them into your account, that counts as earning activity which generally resets your expiration date. Whether it's a 12 month or an 18 month or two years or whatever, it's a great way to reset the clock, even if it's only a small amount of miles. To your point about the opinion surveys, the other one that I used to use a bunch back in the day that still does exist is e-Rewards.
You have to get an invitation from your sponsor program, probably isn't the right way to say it. But you get an invitation from say United Airlines or Marriott or whoever, to earn at e-Rewards. I still think that program is something to consider for folks if they're just bored and want to fill out some surveys and earn some miles for that dream trip someday in the future. But I also think don't discount the value of being able to extend an expiration date, especially when, I mean, very few of us are using points in miles right now.

Michael LaRosa: Exactly. I love that. That's one of your top tips, Pizza.

Ed Pizza: All right. Well, we made it through the whole thing without Nova barking. I got to say I'm a little disappointed in that, but we'll save that for a future episode. For now, tell folks where they can track you down.

Michael LaRosa: Yeah. We shoot for blogging daily, but not always. But you can find us at coworkaholic.com. That's where we cover news about remote work, digital nomads and award travel. But a lot more work travel, inaudible is not that much traveling.

Ed Pizza: That's true. But soon, soon enough. I won't say it's right around the corner, but I feel like we're going to be doing it by the time it gets warm again up here in the Mid-Atlantic.

Michael LaRosa: inaudible

Ed Pizza: All right. Stay safe, Mike. We'll talk soon.

Michael LaRosa: Bye.

Ed Pizza: We'll be right back to wrap up the show with this week's final two pennies. Back to wrap up this week show with the final two pennies. We covered a lot in today's show. But starting right at the top, I think it's important for anyone who has international travel scheduled to figure out not only how they're getting a COVID test before they return to the US, but also what their backup plan is. I recently had a friend test positive overseas, and he was given virtually no information about the positive test. When they finally released him to travel home to a country other than the US, he also had to quarantine again upon returning home. He ended up not having a ton of issues in terms of finding a hotel to stay at for that extra time, but it did cost him a pretty penny.
The rules on these sorts of things are constantly changing, and just claiming you don't know won't be enough to escape testing, quarantine, and potentially fines or unexpected expenses like extended last minute hotel stays if you're not prepared. Side note, this can be a great use of hotel points, though. I hope nobody gets trapped overseas with a positive COVID test right now. I'm not one to be telling people whether you should or you should not be traveling right now. I think those are personal choices. If you are going to travel, I think it's absolutely critical you have a solid plan and a solid backup plan. It's also a great time to remind you that there are so many fully refundable airline tickets and hotel rates out there right now.
Given how quickly regulations are changing, I'd strongly caution anyone on buying non-refundable travel right now. We'll be through this soon enough. That's a full wrap on this week's show. A big thanks to Jon and Mike for their knowledge on today's episode. As a reminder, you only have about two weeks left to enter our Wyndham Rewards giveaway. 10 lucky listeners will win Wyndham Rewards diamond status for a year and 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points. All the details to enter are in the show notes. One final reminder to leave us a review and a rating. Those help us out a bunch. Next week, Summer Hull is back on the show with me to talk about what she's seeing out there in the world travel, and dropping some tips that may save you from some of the problems that she's run into. Until then, we've got miles to go.

Links

The CDC will require negative COVID-19 tests for all arriving passengers.

Marriott makes it easier to earn elite status in 2021.

Alaska Airlines is rolling out a new 100,000 mile elite tier.

New bonus categories for American Express cardmembers to help offset those hefty annual fees.

Earning the most miles on things you were already planning to buy.

Don’t forget to enter our awesome giveaway! You can enter here.

If you enjoy the podcast, I hope you’ll take a moment to leave us a rating. That helps us grow our audience!

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