2018 New Year roundup

Well, we made it. It's 2018, so here's a roundup of thoughts, ideas, and observations that I haven't got around to posting yet.

US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards changes are in effect

Flexpoints are now worth 1.5 cents each when used to book travel through the US Bank Flexperks travel portal. The search engine defaults to basic economy fares when they're available, so if you want to book main cabin or regular economy fares, you'll have to call. Be sure they don't charge you a booking fee if your fare isn't bookable online.

I assume it will be possible soon to transfer Flexpoints both directions between Flexperks Travel Rewards and Altitude Reserve accounts, if it isn't already (transfers to Reserve accounts were already allowed).

Register for hotel promotions

I've updated my Hotel Promotions page with all the global hotel promotions I'm aware of. Be sure to let me know if I've missed any.

Note that I was able to register for all 4 of the current Club Carlson promotions, although since I don't have any Club Carlson stays planned I'm not sure if a single stay would really trigger a 15,000-point bonus, Silver elite status, and a 50% off e-certificate (and count towards the multiple-night promotion).

RIP my SkyBonus account

For the last few years I've kept my Delta SkyBonus account alive by scrounging Delta ticket numbers from friends, acquaintances, and out of the trash cans at baggage claim. In 2017 I definitively fell short of the $5,000 in Delta revenue needed to keep my account alive, so I assume they'll be closing it one of these days. I redeemed my points for a final domestic economy ticket and 30(!) drink tickets, which I'll give out to blog subscribers whenever they arrive (the drink tickets, that is).

Follow-up to MERRILL+ guest post

A number of people pointed out in the comments and on Twitter that the executive Delta Sky Club membership provided by the MERRILL+ credit card after spending $50,000 during the calendar year will not provide lounge access starting in 2019 when you are not flying on Delta.

How much that affects you depends on when you decide to trigger your membership year. Obviously if you trigger your membership in January, 2018, you'll only be affected by the changes for a single month of 2019. If you trigger your membership in December, 2018, you'll be affected by the changes for the entirety of your membership year.


So, like I said, we made it. Congratulations are obviously due all around.

What kind of content are folks interested in seeing more of in 2018?

What do you do with SkyBonus points?

As readers of my eBook (The Free-quent Flyer's Manifesto) know, in addition to individual frequent flyer accounts, airlines also offer "small business" rewards programs, which allow companies that are too small to qualify for corporate accounts to receive rewards for directing their travel towards one airline. Eligibility, earning rates, and rewards vary depending on the airline.

The program I have the most experience with is Delta's SkyBonus program. You can view the program's earning and redemption rates here. SkyBonus is easy to join, gives 3 SkyBonus points per dollar spent on economy tickets to and from Delta hubs (including ATL, CVG, DTW, MEM, MSP, and SLC, but excluding JFK), and 6 SkyBonus points per dollar spent on all other economy flights.

Business class tickets earn 10 and 30 points per dollar to/from hubs and non-hubs, respectively.

Tickets must be issued on Delta, KLM, Air France, or Alitalia ticket stock to earn Skybonus points, and you won't earn SkyBonus points on any taxes or government surcharges. You can easily tell if your ticket qualifies by the first 3 digits of your paid ticket number. If the number begins with 006, 057, 074, or 055, you should be able to earn SkyBonus points.

Now, the first thing you need to know about SkyBonus is that the points are not very valuable. For example, you can redeem 10,000 SkyBonus points for 10 on-board service coupons, good for a premium beverage or headset, or 30,000 points for 4 one-day Sky Club passes (not single-entry passes, like the Scrooges over at United). If you carry a Delta American Express co-branded credit card, then an onboard beverage costs up to $5.25 and Sky Club entry costs $25, putting the value of a SkyBonus point between 0.53 and 0.33 cents each. Still, since you earn 3-6 SkyBonus points per dollar spend on economy tickets, that works out to a 1-3% rebate on the cost of your paid tickets, and travel hacking is all about finding that edge (obviously the rebate value on Business class tickets is even higher). That's how I redeemed my first 40,000 or 50,000 SkyBonus points.

Then I noticed I was accumulating more and more points, and looked at some of the more expensive awards. A round-trip domestic flight in Coach class, in very restricted fare classes, costs 85,000 SkyBonus points. Using the values we calculated previously, that would be more valuable than the beverage coupons if the flight cost more than $450 and more valuable than the Sky Club passes if the flight cost more than $283. Of course, periodically domestic flights do cost that much or more, so this could be a great way to save some money. The trouble is the restricted fare classes SkyBonus tickets are eligible for: in order to be worth saving up your points for an 85,000 point award, you'd need to find an expensive flight – in a cheap fare class! Of course it happens, but you'll need to remember every time you book a ticket to check whether there are eligible fares available.

Managing my SkyBonus account has become a first-world problem for me, since I generally live by the rule that the least valuable point is the one you don't redeem, but I'm drawn to the potentially big payday of a valuable SkyBonus flight redemption. I think for my own points management strategy, I'll probably keep 85,000 SkyBonus points in reserve, in case I need to buy a ticket for someone else (SkyBonus tickets don't earn redeemable or Medallion Qualification Miles) . Then I'll aggressively redeem my miles in excess of that amount for beverage coupons and Sky Club passes.

If you participate in SkyBonus, what's your strategy for points redemption?