Weekend roundup from around the web

I like to periodically clear out my RSS reader and pass along stories that might be of interest to my readers. Here are today's stories:

A joyous and meaningful Memorial Day to all my readers.

Do this now: IHG 3rd third promotion

[updated 7:57 pm: thanks to commenter Adrian for pointing out that Mommy Points is not earning IHG Rewards points, but airline miles. Her haul is still somewhat lower than the other bloggers (e.g. 4,000 airline miles versus 25,000 IHG Rewards points for "Win big"), but not by nearly as much as this post suggested]

Some hotel loyalty programs run seasonal promotions, some run quarterly promotions, but this year IHG Rewards (the Club formerly known as Priority) is running a thirdly promotion: you can earn bonus points for reaching certain milestones between September 1 and December 31, 2013.

You need to register for the promotion here  to find out which milestones you've been targeted for. A number of bloggers have posted their targeted milestones, including: One Mile at a Time, the Points Guy, Mommy Points, View From the Wing.

Here's a quick chart I threw together to compare the various reports (including my own), so you can see how your targeted promotion compares:

As you can see, Mommy Points needs to work harder to get on IHG's good side, while View from the Wing is the "big winner" here. [see correction above]

To the best of my knowledge, I've never stayed at an IHG/Priority Club property, but I have been a member forever. It's hard to imagine what else I have in common with the Points Guy!

Register now, before you forget


The best hacks I've missed out on

By now, a lot of people have heard about classic hacks of days gone by, like ordering presidential dollar coins from the US Mint with a rewards-earning credit card, depositing the coins unopened into a bank account, and then paying off the credit card balance. What's often forgotten is the incredible amount of work that went into carrying out this hack: lots of trips to the post office or Mail Boxes Etc.; negotiating with bank managers to accept your coins for deposit; and of course hauling a bunch of heavy coins around town. All to manufacture non-bonused credit card spend! It might have been good work, but it was still work, and it wasn't free.

On the other hand, other hacks really are too good to be true, and these are the ones I really regret not taking advantage of.

Priority Club to Amtrak Transfers

The day before Christmas last year, I woke up to a series of confusing messages about Priority Club and Amtrak. Since Priority Club isn't a program I focus on, I put it on the back burner. Later that afternoon, after lots of trips to the airport picking up family members, I went back and discovered I'd missed out on an incredible deal: the ability to transfer 5,000 Priority Club points into 6,666 Amtrak Guest Rewards points.

Since you can purchase Priority Club points at a cost of 0.7 cents each, this was a chance to buy Amtrak Guest Rewards points at just over half a cent each. Since I value Amtrak Guest Rewards points at between 4 and 6 cents each for Acela First Class tickets and long-haul sleeper accomodations, this was a chance to buy those tickets for pennies on the dollar. Needless to say, I wasn't as merry as I could have been that Chirstmas!

Home Improvement Gift Cards

Last week Frequent Miler gave a great rundown of this short-lived opportunity. Basically, if you were in the right place at the right time, you could purchase – in-person – vast quantities of "Home Improvement Gift Cards," which had begun to be treated as true PIN-based debit cards at merchants like Walmart. The window of opportunity quickly slammed shut, but there was a day or two where points could be purchased for free (if you had load room on your Bluebird or Gobank cards) or for the price of a Walmart money order (around 0.14 cents per dollar of manufactured spend).

Unfortunately, I wasn't in the right place at the right time – they don't sell Home Improvement Gift Cards in Europe! 

Chase Gift Cards

For months now, Chase has been selling gift cards online with no purchase or shipping fees. Best of all, these cards can be configured with PIN codes, which allow them to be used to load Bluebird or Gobank at Walmart, or purchase money orders in many stores that accepts PIN-based debit cards (though USPS code their money orders differently and do not consistently work with all kinds of gift cards).

There are a few limitations on the purchase of these cards: 

  1. they can only be purchased using credit cards issued by Chase;
  2. each Chase credit card can be used to purchase up to $2,600 per rolling 30-day period;

If this deal's still going on, why have I missed out on it so far? Well, there is a third restriction listed on Chase's gift card website: 

This website does not support online sales of Chase Gift Cards to residents of the following states: AR, CT, HI, ME, NH, NJ, RI, VT. We apologize for any inconvenience.

I presume this is because of the abandonment laws in these days, which require merchants to turn unused gift card balances over to the state. Abandoned gift card balances are a big source of profit for banks and gift card companies, and they might not think it's worth offering the cards if they can't keep abandoned balances.

Now, this isn't an insurmountable problem: I could change my billing address to a state where shipments are allowed, then have the cards mailed back to me in New England. But at that point, there are more moving parts than I'm comfortable with, especially since it's not clear how much longer this opportunity will be available.

Do this now: Priority Club summer promotion

It's hard to stay up-to-date on all the promotions run by Priority Club (the massive loyalty program behind omnipresent chains like Holiday Inn). The single best way is to follow Priority Club Insider, who does the Lord's work maintaining the ever-changing list of Priority Club promotions. Before you stay at any Priority Club property, you owe it to yourself to check out Priority Club Insider and make sure you're registered for all the relevant promotions.

That's where I learned about Priority Club's summer promotion, which allows you to earn double points or double miles starting with your second stay between June 1 and July 31, 2013 (starting with your first stay at Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites properties). 

Register for the promotion now, before you forget. 

Do this now: Marriott summer promotion

Throughout the year, Marriott Rewards runs promotions whereby you can earn free night certificates after completing a specified number of paid stays. Marriott's previous Megabonus promotion ends today, which means it's time to register for the summer free night promotion.  

This summer you can earn up to 2 free night certificates, good for any Category 1-5 Marriott property.  You'll earn one free night certificate after 2 paid stays between May 15 and September 2, then another free night certificate after another 2 paid stays in the same period.

Sign into your Marriott Rewards account, then click here to register for the promotion.

Meanwhile, make sure you're registered for these other hotel promotions: