Three Fun Things I Really Miss in the Travel and Points World (What Do You Miss Most?)

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I was reading some older blog posts the other day and it reminded me of three travel and points benefits I really miss.

I consulted one of Rene’s posts while researching seats for an upcoming trip. One post lead to another. And then another. And then to a few more.

Several hours later 🙂 , I found myself nostalgic and a little bit bummed. I was reminded of some especially great opportunities and benefits we travelers and/or points junkies enjoyed not so long ago.

United Airlines and over-zealous security officers, perk devaluations, and corporate buyouts are just a few of the reasons we can’t have these nice things.

(Delta SkyMiles has long been broken, so it’s a given that most of us miss its heyday. We write about it all the time on this blog, so it’s not worth rehashing here. It’ll only make us sadder.)

Here’s what I miss most:

Bumps and #Bumpertunties

My wife and I benefited from so many #Bumpertunities. We racked up $5100 in Delta travel vouchers, Amazon gift cards, and American Express gift cards in 2016 alone.

But many VDB (“Voluntarily Denied Boarding”) opportunities disappeared after April 2017. Why?

That’s when United Airlines-summoned Chicago Department of Aviation Security forcibly removed Dr. David Dao from an oversold flight. United botched its initial response, further inciting the population at large. Airlines and oversold flights received more scrutiny than ever. Several government officials got involved and wanted to pass bills prohibiting airlines to oversell flights.

Since then, the words “oversold flight” practically trigger an image of a bloodied Dr. Dao, causing airlines and passengers to panic. Airlines are bumping fewer passengers from flights — which is disappointing for those us who love to help out.

Delta announced it would offer up to nearly $10,000 to entice passengers to take a later flight. I don’t know any instances of Delta offering that much compensation. But René and Lisa scored $3000 each on #bumpertunity during a trip to Sweden.

René and Lisa’s $6000 haul!

Yes, the money can sometimes be better than it was before — but the opportunities are fewer and farther between. I found once-reliably oversold routes like JFK-LAX, MSP-LAX, and ATL-LAX to not need any volunteers.

Since April 2017, I’ve received one bump. I scored $600 in Austin (when I reviewed the AUS SkyClub) to reroute from AUS-SLC-LAX to AUS-MSP-LAX and arrive four hours later.

I know this sounds sinister — but Delta, please start over-overselling your flights again!

Starwood / SPG

Oh, Starwood. How I miss you and your SPG loyalty program.

A guest bedroom at The Westin Tokyo, then a Starwood / SPG hotel. © Chris Carley / PointsLounge

Bedroom at The Westin Tokyo.

I’m a hotel “free agent”— meaning I’m not strongly preferential or exclusive to one brand. But I loved Starwood and frequented their properties. (My wife and I were married at the Sheraton Universal!)

I personally found Starwood points redemptions reasonable in most situations, especially in Japan and Europe. Plus, they offered great points partnerships with Delta and Uber.

A fountain in of the Westin Kyoto's many gardens.

A fountain in one of the Westin Kyoto’s many gardens.

SPG offered some pretty cool non-hotel points redemptions, such as their PGA Moments (which René enjoyed a few times).

Then along came Marriott and “Bonvoy.” (Such a silly name that even Hyatt must laugh.) The brand’s inexplicable ineptitude has been alarming, at best. For gosh sakes, Rene’s welcome gift in Grand Cayman was a threat to call the police!

Bonvoy points redemptions are ludicrously high at a number of properties when you can find availability.

 

I’m burning through my Bonvoy points ASAP; after that, I won’t deal with Marriott until they get their act together.

I sincerely hope they do.

Unique (in a Good Way) Hotel-Branded Credit Card Benefits

For a long time, Chase’s now-discontinued IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card was the best travel card in terms of reward value. Its $49 annual fee (expired for new customers; existing cardholders were grandfathered in) entitled cardholders automatic IHG Platinum status and to a complimentary Anniversary Night anywhere IHG had an available room.

Found yourself in Bora Bora and needing a room at the $1000+/night Thalasso? No problem! The anniversary night perk saved you about $950.

My wife and I twice redeemed ours at the InterContinental ANA The Strings Tokyo.

Atrium and lobby restaurant at InterContinental ANA The Strings Tokyo.

Atrium and lobby restaurant at InterContinental ANA The Strings Tokyo.

But last year, Chase limited the anniversary night to properties that cost 40,000 points and lower. (They later backpedaled, grandfathering existing cardholders into one more Anniversary Night anywhere.) Bye bye, Bora Bora.

Then they discontinued the card altogether, instead offering the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card — which costs $89/year. It comes with the same Platinum status and limited Anniversary Night perk. Oh, cardholders get one Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee waived every four years.

Meh.

I do hold both the defunct card and the new IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. Two hotel nights at $138 total is still a decent deal — though not nearly what we once enjoyed.

Not to be outdone, Marriott torpedoed the Amex cardholders they inherited. They majorly devalued the now-defunct SPG Business American Express, Bonvoying it in more ways than one.

The SPG Business American Express card carried a $95 annual fee. The feature I loved was its Sheraton Club Lounge access.

Entrance to the Sheraton Club Lounge at Sheraton Paris Airport Hotel & Conference Centre at CDG.

Entrance to the Sheraton Club Lounge at Sheraton Paris Airport Hotel & Conference Centre at CDG.

Most US domestic Sheraton Club Lounges aren’t like Centurion Lounges or even nicer Delta SkyClubs. You won’t enjoy full-on meals; expect to pay for cocktails. But the complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages are nice.

Evening snacks at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel in New York City. My SPG Business Amex (RIP :-( ) got me in here.

Evening snacks at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel in New York City. My SPG Business Amex (RIP 🙁 ) got me in here.

Personally, I found the lounges to be good places to work when I wanted to get out of my room but stay within the hotel.

I loved the lounge at CDG’s Sheraton Paris Airport Hotel & Conference Centre. A server poured a great red Bordeaux while I plane spotted one night!

A break between Bordeauxs, snacks, and planespotting at the Sheraton Club Lounge at Sheraton Paris Airport Hotel & Conference Centre at CDG.

A break between Bordeauxs, snacks, and planespotting at the Sheraton Club Lounge at Sheraton Paris Airport Hotel & Conference Centre at CDG.

But SPG Amexes automatically became Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express® cards (learn more). The annual fee increased to $125 — and lounge benefit was cut. The card comes with complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver status — but many of us have Bonvoy gold, thanks to our American Express Platinum cards (learn more).

The card does include a free night at any Marriott whose price is 35,000 points or under — but some of these hotels run as low as $156 a night. So the $125 fee isn’t a huge savings and made it easy for me to bid au revoir to the Bonvoy American Express.

What Do You Miss?

Misery loves company. So tell us this weekend: what perks, features, benefits, and amenities do you miss? Let’s all commiserate in the Comment section below. – Chris

 

5 comments

  1. My wife and I also were married at the Sheraton Universal… in 198.

    What I miss most is being able to earn lifetime AAdvantage status exclusively through credit card bonuses.

  2. My wife and I also were married at the Sheraton Universal… in 1981.

    What I miss most is being able to earn lifetime AAdvantage status exclusively through credit card bonuses.

  3. Please don’t take this as preachy, but I like to focus on the positives. We’re empty nesters now, and I just booked a trip on a whim to join some friends in Italy in September … got round trip first class for reasonable delta miles. We take a free week at some Hyatt all inclusive every winter and have been upgraded on award nights at Hyatt’s all over the world. The perks are pretty good.

  4. I like @KC’s comment. Also I looked at the police incident and really I can see their point of view. They should have been asked before starting to take the video, just out of common courtesy. I was going to kvetch about SPG taking away the unpublished status I had but now I see @KC’s comment I think I will refrain!

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