Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Marriott Rewards Hotel Category Changes Eff. Mar 15

On February 27th Marriott released a full list of hotel category changes for reward night stays. According to Loyalty Traveler, 100 hotels are decreasing by one category (roughly 3% of the brand) while 526 hotels are increasing by one category (15% of the brand). Upon reading many of the comments from the various frequent flyer blogs a lot the hotels that are increasing by one category were in the Category 4 bracket meaning they will now become category 5 hotels and thus be exempt from the typical free night award that comes from the Marriott MegaBonus promotions. For example I used a free night earned from a MegaBonus promotion at the Residence Inn Toronto Downtown Entertainment District and would definitely again but that hotel is moving to Category 5. Perhaps we will see a change of promotion terms when the next version of MegaBonus is released to include a wider spectrum of hotel categories.

This change will also affect people who apply for the Canadian (and U.S., for those Americans reading this blog) Marriott Rewards Visa from Chase as the free night(s) that comes with the card is only for Category 1-4 hotels.

What do you think of the latest round of hotel category shifts from Marriott? Will these changes make you reconsider which frequent guest program you use?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

RBC/British Airways to introduce new Visa card with up to 50,000 bonus Avios

According to a tweet from British Airways today, they will be launching a new RBC British Airways Executive Club Visa on March 1st with the ability to earn up to 50,000 Bonus Avios. That is all the details they have released at this point. The current version of the RBC BA Executive Club Platinum Visa carries a 15,000 Avios sign up bonus. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Aeroplan lauches Digital Media Store

The first of its kind in Canada, Aeroplan has launched a Digital Media Store where members can use their Aeroplan Miles to download eBooks, Music, apps, games and more.

Members simply redeem their miles on the Aeroplan rewards site at,
then with the PIN code received in their confirmation email, go to to
register their new account, add credits to their account, and start downloading and enjoying content in

Currently, Aeroplan Media Store rewards are offered in bundles of 25, 50, or 100 credits,
and provide access to the following:
· eBooks – A catalogue of over 150,000 eBook titles that will be compatible with most eBook
readers, tablets and smart phones.
· Music – More than 3 million MP3s to choose from.
· Mobile Games / Apps Members can select from thousands of today’s most popular gaming
titles and apps as well as ring tones, wallpapers and more.
· Facebook Credits – Media Store credits can be converted directly in Facebook Credits loaded
directly into members’ Facebook accounts in real time.

Once again Aeroplan is expanding their catalog and this new feature should be a good addition especially for the younger crowd who may joining Aeroplan, not as a frequent flyer program but as a frequent shopper programs. I see this being popular with the University and High School crowds but by having things like eBooks and Music Aeroplan has not forgotten about their primary market of people between 25-60. This new media store is a good option on both ends of the redemption spectrum, in that it will appeal to those who don't have or may never have enough miles to redeem for a flight while it will also see usage from those members who have more miles than they know what to do with them.

This media store is similar to one run by The First Club which provides digital media stores for some non-Canadian based loyalty programs like Voila Hotel Rewards.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Possible 40,000 Point Sign Up Bonus for the TD First Class Infinite Visa

 I have been made aware of a physical mail out that has been sent to some households in Canada offering up to a 40,000 TD Rewards Point sign up bonus for the TD First Class Infinite Card. This is double the normal offering of 20,000 (which is equivalent to a $100 travel credit). The offer states that you must respond by February 29th so if you are considering this card I would not apply for it online but call in or visit your local TD Canada Trust branch and mention that you know of the offer and would like to take advantage of it, you can always walk out or hang up if they don't want to give you the offer but I am pretty sure TD wants all the business it can get so chances are you'll get it.

Thanks to Randy for the details!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Club Carslon Status Match

Although it is unadvertised, Carlson Hotel's Club Carlson program will match your elite status from Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club and Starwood (not sure about Best Western or Accor, if someone is willing to try one of these two please let me know).

To get your status matched you need to email Club Carlson at and include a screen shot of your elite status, your Club Carlson membership number and make sure you state that you are requesting a status match. I sent over my Hyatt Platinum status screen shot and 2 or 3 days later I received an email from Club Carlson stating they had given me Club Carlson Gold status. Accodring to the Points Guy almost no one gets matched up to their Concierge level.

Club Carlson Gold Elite Status provides the following benefits:
  • Complimentary room upgrades as available
  • 50% point bonus on every eligible stay
  • 2,000 point online booking bonus at or any Carlson Hotels website
  • Early check-ins and late checkouts as available upon request
  • Roll Over Nights (unused elite-qualifying nights count again next year toward elite status)
  • 72-hour room availability guarantee at participating hotels
  • Elite Customer Service Line

Club Carlson Silver Elite Status provides the following benefits:
    • Complimentary room upgrades as available
    • 25% point bonus on every eligible stay
    • 2,000 point online booking bonus at or any Carlson Hotels website
    • Early check-ins and late checkouts as available upon request
    • Roll Over Nights (unused elite-qualifying nights count again next year toward elite status)
    • Elite Customer Service Line
    Hat tip to The Points Guy

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    Starwood enhances the Elite Levels of its Preferred Guest program

    Last week Starwood announced some major enhancements to their award winning loyalty program: Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG). The changes which take effect on March 1, 2012 are all aimed at the elite level members of the program and are designed to benefit frequent guests with added perks over and above the existing elite level benefits.

    Per the press release from SPG the new enhancements are as follows:

    Good-Bye 3 p.m. Check-in – Hello Your24
    Turning an ancient hotel convention on its head, Starwood is for the first time ever abolishing the industry’s long-standing 3:00 p.m. check-in time and giving its most frequent travelers control of their own arrival and departure time. Your24 lets Members choose their own 24 hour check-in and checkout time. For example, a guest who checks in at 10 p.m. won’t have to check-out until 10 p.m. on their day of departure. The Your24 program is offered to SPG Members who spend 75+ nights at Starwood hotels annually.

    Ultimate in Personal Service for Most Prolific Travelers
    Building upon its successful pilot program, Starwood is expanding its innovative one-to-one service which matches its best travelers with personal ambassadors. Now, all Members who stay 100 nights annually are invited to participate in this unique service designed to provide the ultimate in tailored experiences across all 1100+ Starwood hotels. What separates this from a traditional travel concierge program is the unique personal relationship between Member and ambassador. Starwood’s ambassadors work one-on-one with guests to understand their preferences and what matters to them on each trip to deliver a customized experience on property. Ambassadors also provide services beyond the hotel and are even empowered to assist guests when they’re not traveling.

    Starwood to Reward Loyalty with Lifetime Status
    To show its appreciation for its most loyal and enduring travelers, Starwood Preferred Guest is introducing SPG LifetimeTM status. Now Members who have stayed 250 nights total and maintained elite status for at least five years (consecutive or not) are awarded SPG Lifetime Gold status. Members with 500 total nights and 10 years of Platinum SPG status (consecutive or not) will enjoy their top tier status for life.

    Other enhancements:

    o SPG 100 Nights Benefit: After crossing the 100-night threshold, SPG Members are paired with their personal ambassador.

    o SPG 75 Nights Benefit: After spending 75 nights with Starwood, Members earn four Starpoints for every eligible U.S. dollar spent. Members also get access to Your24 to control their check-in and checkout time.

    o SPG 50 Nights Benefit: At 50 nights, Members will receive 10 Suite Night Awards ™ to use for room upgrades. Suite Night Awards are confirmable five days prior to arrival.

    o Platinum Members (25 Stays or 50 Nights Annually): now have the option of complimentary breakfast as part of their welcome gift at check-in. Platinum Members can also choose from bonus Starpoints or a local gift.

    o Gold Members (10 Stays or 25 Nights Annually): now receive a welcome gift at check-in and can choose from bonus Starpoints, complimentary in-room Internet access or a complimentary beverage.

    Per Loyalty Traveler, Gold Elite awarded from an SPG American Express Card (U.S., Canada or U.K.) count towards the SPG Gold lifetime status. So for those of us here in Canada, it makes the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express even more attractive as long as you meet the minimum spend of $30,000 per year to get the Gold Status.

    For more details on these enhancements please visit

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Redemption Stories: Diners Club Club Rewards & Amex Gold Rewards Card

    As many of you know, a couple of my favourite credit cards are the Diners Club Club Rewards MasterCard and the American Express Gold Rewards Card. Both cards are Hybird credit cards with very flexible "travel anywhere" options which I utilized for my family's recent trip to Maui.

    Flights - Diners Club Club Rewards MasterCard
    I booked 4 tickets for flights on Air Canada's direct service to Kahului from Calgary via the website making sure I used a promo code I had for 15% of Tango Plus flights. I paid for the flights with my Diners Club card at the time of booking. The total price for each ticket including taxes was $601.00. Once those amounts appeared on my online statement I called up Diners Club to redeem most of the points I had against some of the charges. I ended up redeeming 70,704 points to cover the exact cost of two of the tickets which would result in a credit of $1202.00 issued on my account. This left me with 4,000 or so points and since Diners Club requires a minimum of 10,000 points to be redeemed per charge there were not enough points to redeem an amount against another ticket (had all 4 tickets been lump summed on the account I could have as that would have only been one charge). The good thing is that points I have collected since the redemption can still be used to redeem against any one or both of the tickets.

    Considering their is still major transition process going on at Diners Club since BMO's acquisition of the brand in North America, my redemption experience was absolutely painless and took very little time. The credit to my account for the points redemption appeared within a week. Overall the process was easy and a nice way to save just over $1,200 on our Maui Trip.

    Hotel - American Express Gold Rewards Card
    My redemption with the American Express Gold Rewards Card was simply done to save a little more money on the trip and to experience the redemption process once again. For the fourth consecutive year my family and I decided to stay at the Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas on the Northwest part of Maui (a more detailed review of the stay will follow in a separate post) When I book the hotel I don't actually book it via Starwood Hotels or The reason why is that four years ago I came across Maui Hawaii Vacations who are a third party booking service that offer exceptional rates for stays at this Westin. The rates they offer do not award Starpoints however with savings of 30-50% over the cheapest pricing I could find via Starwood (including free night offers etc) I am more than willing to forego the Starpoints. Once at the resort however, incidental costs charged to the room do earn Starpoints. I booked our 9 nights for US$265 per night for a 1 bedroom suite and although Maui Hawaii Vacations takes care of the booking the charge actually comes from the Westin Ocean Resort Villas. Once I saw the charge from the Westin on my online Amex account I called up Membership Rewards and redeemed 30,000 points for a $300 credit against the charge. The whole process was painless once again (read about my first redemption experience) and a few days later I had the $300 credit on my account.

    Overall both redemption processes were very easy to do and we saved $1,500 on our vacation which works out well for our family of 4 as it would have been more difficult to achieve this using a Frequent Flyer or Guest program. This is the beauty of these two cards as they offer a high level of flexibility since you don't need the full amount of points to redeem against a travel charge and I was able to do all the travel bookings on my own plus we earned status qualifying Aeroplan Miles and segments on the flights.

    With the Diners Club Club Rewards MasterCard I achieved a 1.7% return on my purchases that gave me the points for this redemption (all tailored travel redemptions are at this rate) On the American Express Gold Rewards Card the rate of return would be just shy of 2% as I would estimate that 98% of the purchases were made at Gas, Grocery, Drug and Travel merchants which earn 2 points per dollar spent.

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    Rewards Canada is back in full force this week!

    You may have noticed there hasn't been much action on Reward Canada for the past 2-1/2 weeks as I had a family emergency followed by a much needed vacation where I tried to minimize the amount of work I did.
    Starting today, I am back at it full force and you will see many new updates as I play catch up on literally hundreds on new bonus offers, news and changes to several loyalty programs.

    One change on my end that I had been testing and will become permanent is that The FFB Round Up newsletter will now be sent every Sunday and the Rewards Canada News newsletter every Monday.

    I look forward to getting back to providing Canadians with the most up to date travel reward program information.