Reflecting on the bird kill last week, shrinking deals and changes to “the game” in 2016.

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sad for the dead bluebird mass kill off last week

Gosh the mass emails last Friday were hard to take. My wife got hers first and I thought I was going to be ok. Yeah, well, an hour later I got the nasty-gram as well. I will not lie to you, it hurt. It stung. This was such a simple way to dump VDGCs without any fear or any issues. The bird had been alive for so long it was hard to think of it as the one above – ever. Clearly BB immortality was not in the DNA.

But when you think about it, this was not the first of the super simple ways to make frequent flyer points that has gone away. There have been other methods that were either nearly as simple or even better than BB. Like what? Let’s take a look.

Years ago you could buy travelers checks with a credit card. Talk about one stop shopping and simplicity. I missed this one and it still bothers me to this day.

Then we had the amazing mint dollar coins. Oh I had fun with this. At one point you could order $29,990 at a time – AND I DID. You want to talk about simple, think about finishing your Delta Reserve card MQM bonus spend in just one order and click on the web. I get giddy even thinking about it. Gosh that was awesome. I miss it so.

Don’t forget about the Suntrust deal where you got 25,000 SkyMiles for opening a new checking account and parking some funds in the account for a few months. I opened a BUNCH and wish I had done many more. It was so great. Oh then there was the Suntrust SkyMiles debit card where you could basically make free points each month. I miss those days.

In addition to the Suntrust account Chase had a similar deal with Continental points that became United points. We did a BUNCH of those as well. I then used those points to book Lufthansa 1st class. Oh my do I miss that.

One of my favorites of the past was the SkyMall deals with Delta. They ran no less than 3 of the promotions where you spend $500 and you got 25,000 SkyMiles. Oh that was back in the day when SkyMiles were valuable and could be used with stopovers and open jaws and there was space at LEVEL 1 (low level back then). Then, for those who were savvy, SkyMall offered 5x SkyMiles when you shopped at their portal AND they would price match all major outlets. It was so sweet and yet now just a memory.

Oh then we had the mother of all the MS ways that have, I think, ever existed on the planet (cue singing from above) that is Vanilla reload cards. Have you ever dreamed you could buy a bunch of basically cash with a points card and then with a code at your computer load them to a card and then in a few seconds cash them out? It was ridiculously simple and I miss it so. I am sure you do too.

Even though not a HUGE amount of points, WAY up there on the super simple scale was Amazon Payments. We had a buddy in our little circle. I sent them money, they sent my wife money, and my wife sent me money. We all got points the first week of every month. Sigh, that was fun.

Lest we forget in the not so distant past we could order HUGE AMEX gift cards and get not just points but even large amounts of CASH BACK for doing so. There were many ways to cash these out and I have to say I ran stunning amounts of these puppies on a number of cards. This was a gift that kept on giving. Loved it so much!

AMEX for a while was offering 10k bonus Membership Rewards points for adding authorized users to your account and you could add up to 5. Yeah, I pushed this one too far and it cost me. This was one of those times going ALL-IN hurt. But I know many who did this reasonably and really enjoyed the points it gave them.

7%. Remember that one? Your Chase Sapphire card would give you a 7% bonus on spend in UR points in Q1 each year from the year before. Plus, on top of that, there was the 10% bonus for Chase Freedom spend when you had a checking account with them. That was also a nice bonus now dead and buried.

This next one is not really an earning opportunity lost but a transfer one. Back “in the day” both AMEX and Chase had a bunch more partners you could send points to. There are still many good choices with real value but I miss some of the ones from years gone by.

After that we have one more that may or may not have hit you as hard as it hit me. I had two OfficeMax stores very near me. It was so perfect when they ran the VDGCs with $20 off per $300 spend. I could buy $600 in the AM (and Lisa as well), then drive over to the other one and do the same. Go have lunch and wait for shift change and do it again on the way home. Day after day during the often week long promotion. My INK card was all but on FIRE! Now they are both closed and all I have is a dirty old Office Depot near-ish to me. Sigh.

Since blog readers are mostly Delta folk, let’s look at some of those deals that are also now just gone, dead and over.

First we had NWA cash & points. This was so much better than the current Delta one. With that program you truly paid half of the RT price for one way and then could use points the other way. The best part was you could pay for coach out and then get biz tickets on points back. This was a shockingly amazing value and I so enjoyed it.

Lastly we have more I miss like the SAAB turbo & the 747 about to disappear as a Delta choice. Why do I miss the SAAB? It constantly had weight and balance issue that resulted in many a bumpertunity. I often times bumped off that flight and moved to the CRJ200 an hour later and ended up landing in SBN at almost the same time with a voucher in pocket. Glorious. Then the 747, well, I will just miss that beauty. I am sure you will too!

Now please don’t be so depressed over all this that you want to go jump in a lake for missing out. That is NOT the point of today’s post. The point is that deals come and go. Sure some of them were super simple but every time another deal came around. I don’t think this trend will ever stop.

Sure I think, no, I know, they will not always be as simple as the ones that are over and gone, but then again some of them may be almost as good. I can promise you whatever the next piece in the game we play comes along – I will embrace it and max it out one way or the other. Will you be crying over what is lost or doing as me? – René

 

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8 comments

  1. Rene,
    Good summary on what has “been”. I was personally stunned to get the email from BB earlier this week, but felt a huge relief when I found out that hundreds or thousands of fellow BBers also got the same email. A different kind of relief mind you because I was not happy that they relieved me of my MS ploy.

    The Vanilla card was truly a godsend. I loved those so much. So easy, simple and quick. Seems to me that when done “properly” everyone was a winner, so no harm no foul.

    Now I have to contemplate whether my need to MS outweighs my desire to go through the “money order”ing process. I am using Plastiq right now for some spend, actually a lot of spend, but that is at 2.5%. Not ideal, but the cost does justify the means for my purposes until such time….

    I too look forward to the “next” MS vehicle. Let it be soon, easy and live a long life. Keep up the great work Rene.

  2. No crying over any of it. We earned most all our points. I do miss Eastern Airlines and their Super 7 Vacation packages. We got round trip tickets to Acapulco and our hotel (at the Princes) that included a meal package for 2 people for about $800 for a week.
    I also miss their bonus offers…flew my sister’s kids to Hawaii over Christmas to see their friends who had moved their. We didn’t pay a dime for that…it was a threshold bonus. I miss all tbeir first class bumps too.
    I also miss when Delta had a points offer that you could fly 2 people to Hawaii in 1st class for 75,000 miles! Got the good out of that several times.
    We are retired now and I do try to get sign up bonuses, but just don’t believe in all that churning. I still travel and mostly on points. Times change and I have no regrets. Those were great times, but I still manage to get around in style.

  3. No crying over any of it. We earned most all our points. I do miss Eastern Airlines and their Super 7 Vacation packages. We got round trip tickets to Acapulco and our hotel (at the Princes) that included a meal package for 2 people for about $800 for a week.
    I also miss their bonus offers…flew my sister’s kids to Hawaii over Christmas to see their friends who had moved their. We didn’t pay a dime for that…it was a threshold bonus. I miss all their first class bumps too.
    I also miss when Delta had a points offer that you could fly 2 people to Hawaii in 1st class for 75,000 miles! Got the good out of that several times.
    We are retired now and I do try to get sign up bonuses, but just don’t believe in all that churning. I still travel and mostly on points. Times change and I have no regrets. Those were great times, but I still manage to get around in style.

  4. Not surprised — these are the games that killed the golden goose. As you say, there are too many ways to manufacture SkyPe$os so what happens when there are too many SkyPe$os outstanding? They devalue and then Delta plays games like hide the award chart. Or better yet, Comfort Plus becomes the new elite upgrade — May 2016. I told you over a year ago it was obvious this was going to happen.

  5. Hi Rene,

    I am new to the MS game and seem to have got involved at a fun time, as I also just lost my BB account. You mentioned we can still use money orders to accomplish our MS goals. You also called out to be careful and do it over a few months. Can you give insight into how much is too much when going from VDGCs to money orders and anything else we need to be careful of?

    Thanks,
    Michael

  6. Rene, what do you mean when you say the 10k Membership Rewards point bonus for AUs cost you? Can you add a little color here?

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