My Week in Points: Binter and a Churn

Iberia defeated me. Last week I was game to attempt to redeem Iberia Avios for a flight on Binter Canarias.

Binter is one of the many non-OneWorld partners of the greater Avios family of BA, Iberia and Avios.com. Some of these partners reportedly can only be booked by calling that airline instead of Iberia. Well, a bunch of calls to Iberia and even to Binter produced nothing in the way of a ticket. The best I could piece together is that, despite no mention on the redemption guidelines, it may only be possible to redeem for Binter flights that codeshare with Iberia. My Las Palmas, Gran Canaria – Praia, Cape Verde, which is operated by Air Nostrum, yet the Air Nostrum website does not even list the destination, is not a codeshare. Best Iberia could do is a recommend a 24 hour+ double connection via Madrid and Casablanca. I had an inkling going in that I should have bought a revenue ticket at the outset. Even that was not easy. Binter tacks on a $15 fee and most other sites do not list Binter flight. Priceline does, and I booked it, the next morning having a stack of voicemails from the Philippines that the ticket could not be issued and Pricline recommended I book another airline. Yep, same double connection via Madrid and Casablanca. I sucked it up and bought direct from Binter.

Next up is a few car rentals with after-hours pick-up or drop-off times where I expect to get dinged by more Euro-style fees as I rattle through the Canaries, Cape Verde, and Madeira.

Back state-side, the tally is not yet fully in from my credit card apps. 10 apps, no instant approvals.

  1. Barclaycard US Airways, #3 (pending, assume will be denied)
  2. Barclaycard Arrival+ (pending, assume will be denied)
  3. BofA Alaska (approved)
  4. BofA Virgin (approved)
  5. FIA Fidelity (approved)
  6. US Bank FlexPerks Travel Amex (pending), then I lifted freeze on Experian
  7. Chase Ink Plus (denied, so far only one call)
  8. Chase Fairmont (approved, 2nd time held this card)
  9. Chase Marriott Premier (approved, 2nd time held this card)
  10. Citi AA Platinum MasterCard (approved, 18 months since prior AA Platinum Visa approval)
  11. (upgrade) Amex Hilton to Amex Hilton Surpass (I hear this loop is running out so assume this to be my last for a while). Note: for new applicants there is an 80k Hilton Surpass offer (The Military Frequent Flyer).

Nothing from Amex interested me and I didn’t go for any obscure cards. Almost did a Virgin America to have a portrait orientation card instead of landscape. Not a big MS-er so don’t chase limited-time category bonus cards.

Speaking of MS, the noose is closing store-by-store at Target (Out and Out). Nervous what my local store will be like when I get back to the US mid-March. The moment REDbird came out I started counting down the days it would ruin a pretty good thing for the more hassle AFT cards.

I like checking things off the tracking list, so it was nice to see some bonuses come in:

  • Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Business 2015 10k bonus for $25k spend (I rushed it through before annual fee hits in March and as possible trade for Ink Plus. As hard as it is for me to get Chase business approvals, I may end up keeping this and canceling my personal Explorer instead.
  • US Club Carlson personal + business annual 40k
  • US Bank FlexPerks personal + business Nov-Dec 2014 2500 points for $2k spend
  • Hertz President’s Circle status via my Delta elite status. Others are having issues (DeltaPoints).

Airlines:

  • Delta will no longer mail cards or bag tags for Silver Medallions (Delta Points). You can print at home. I remember a MSP gate agent who once deflated a young woman who had just become silver and was enquiring of the benefits, “It’s more of a teaser.” For snobs, the tags always looked too close to the Diamond tags/ The serious point is that physical cards are still useful overseas. Just last month in Cairo checking in for Alitalia there was a bit of a debate because the system did not list Diamond Medallion status. Hadn’t had that problem for a while. Since Delta makes the SkyTeam ElitePlus logo incredibly small on the card, it took some convincing that this status existed.
  • Can You Ask For Extra Amenity Kits In Business Class? (One Mile at a Time). Ok, I confess, on Korean Air I have sweeped up the mega-expensive Davi cosmetics my wife loves. If you do fly Korean and are not a Korean woman, be pushy to try to get the Jeju Water spray. Nice token gift to any woman who doesn’t know your travel habit get suspicious of small gifts. Not all flights are stocked.

Hotels:

  • Marriott has fairly reasonable offers to buy back elite status (Magic of Miles). I have Gold again from the Ritz-Carlton card. I got a letter from Marriott saying I didn’t quite make it to Gold though they were granting me status anyway. Yes, because it is a benefit of the card. Maybe I was also targeted to retain status, though I only had a handful of 2014 stays.
  • Hilton offered 1,000 points to get rid of PINs on accounts, then put it on hold to sort out the IT (Loyalty Lobby).

Rental Cars:

Credit Cards:

Manufactured Spend:

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  • guera

    Starting to look forward to your weekly roundups. Thanks!

  • Regarding the Fairmont card:

    How long since you canceled the first one?
    Can you confirm you got the two free nights again?

    Personal Observation: Love these more when you don’t link to blogs in one of my lists 🙂

  • John

    What do you mean “so far only one call” with respect to the Ink Plus? Are you saying that you can call back if they deny you a first time?

    Were you aiming for a #3 Barclays US card at the same time?

    Also, for the Amex Hilton Surpass, can you “upgrade” to that card more than once in a lifetime? I had it and downgraded it a few years back…am tempted to get it again even though HHonors points are worth less (as opposed to worthless)

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @guera – thanks.

    @TravelBloggerBuzz – we can’t all reach the summit of what you achieve. I scan the blogs widely and link where I first see something I find of merit. I can have dreams of aspirational blogging to reach ascend TBB heights.

    Fairmont wife and I both had for a year and canceled in August 2014. I have heard reports of people getting it again 90 days or so from closing, don’t know if people have timed it closer. Both were not auto-approved and phones agents did not mention prior accounts. We just got the cards so don’t have the certs yet, however I do not expect an issue (unlike what I hear about Hyatt). Long-term we may just keep the cards rather than relying on a churn, $12k spent for a spectacular night is about the only hotel MS that I would do.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @John – Andy at Lazy Traveler’s Handbook chided me for not trying again and again, his most recent took 4 calls.

    I have two Barclays US and was hoping for a 3rd. Did not cancel most recent one when fee hit because that and it seems maybe all account on renewal since around July 2014 get targeted for 15k bonus miles for $500 spend in each of 3 months following renewal.

    Amex Hilton Surpass you used to be able to upgrade/downgrade about as fast as you wanted. Reports I have heard from the past year is that if you haven’t done it in a while, it may work to get the bonus once more, but not repeatedly. I sometimes find Hilton cash and points rates to be attractive except surprising don’t earn points on the cash component or even spend at the hotels.

  • PedroNY

    Nice Churn!

    Some observations. From my experience Barclays only allows one card at a time (or every 30 days?). To be certain, I don’t churn them again until my application record goes away from their IT system. Simplest way is to check your application status via barclays website, if it still shows any previous application (90-180 days since you last applied), then I do not apply. However, if my record is completely clear, I take it as a “green light” and 99% get auto approve. Try it next time.

    Also, there are many reports that Chase only allows 2 applications approvals at a time. I haven’t tried more than 2 in a while, but that may be the case for your denial. Also, Chase business credit cards have a limit of 3 per person, at least that’s my experience. I am not sure how many you have, but if you have 3 business versions, well you may want to close one. Moving credit limits around appears not to work once you get 3. Personal cards, I had as high as 5 and got approved for #6. So my internal limit is 3 biz, 6 personal. YMMV. Of course, if you have 9 of Chase cards, you are due to close a few!

    Bank of America, I saw that you applied for 3 different ones, you may as well apply for 5. You can double down on Alaska personal card, it appears that applying for 2 at a time is working, FT has a thread on it. Also Alaska Business card should not be forgotten! Just a reminder Experian pulls all BofA pulls into one, so difference between 3 and 5, well there is none. Of course, Spanish speaking CSR reconsideration line is still the best way to go to get approved. 🙂 And there is a separate BofA biz CSR reconsideration you can call for approval, if necessary.

    Amex Hilton upgrade strategy (used it every year since 2009! Got a lot of heat for posting about it on FT) came to an end for me last year, they some how flagged my account. Also, it may have been post April 2014, and that once a lifetime bonus IT quirk may have kicked in. Tell me if you do get it, I would love to know, if that is the case, a downgrade will be in order for me. 🙂

    I just did a churn on Friday, so all of this is still fresh in my mind. My strategy is always “churn ‘n burn” 🙂

    Cheers,

    PedroNY

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @PedroNY – thanks for all your great input. I need to get better at your advice to not get attached to cards and drop ’em fast.

  • Art

    What’s the reference to Hyatt/repeated card you reference?

    I have generally heard (and in my limited experience) Chase will often let you have the bonus for a card you’ve had before, if you wait 2 years between canceling the old and reapplying. I was thinking of doing this for the Hyatt card (just need to time it right, picking the right 2 year period).

    Do you have reason to believe this won’t work for the Hyatt card?

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Art – all reports of Hyatt attempts I have heard, and one second-hand report from someone who claimed to hear it from Hyatt Gold Passport management is that they will give you the card again but not the two free night certificates and are actively watching for that. If it works, it would be great to know, however I plan to keep mine for the annual lower category cert until I hear otherwise.

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  • dave

    Rapid TC – about how often do you do these mega card churns? Do you bump off your inquiries?

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @dave – my issue is I am in an Experian-heavy state and numbing doesn’t work for Experian. I freeze my Experian to push as many as I can to Equifax and TransUnion. If the situation were reversed I might bump.

  • dave

    @RapidTC – got it thanks. One more thing – I know inquiries drop off completely after 2 years – but in the 3 to 6 month time frame which seem to be the most relevant for new card apps ~how many inquiries would make you start to slow down on applying? I’ve seen mention a few times of people with 20+ inquiries accumulated on one bureau in a year not getting denials.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @dave – for every seeming rule there are always reported exceptions as there are so many factors, for instance are you starting out or mid-age with a mortagage or two under your belt? Generally it seems going over roughly a dozen inquiries on one report attracts attention from some of the issuers. I try each 90-day churn to not have more than 3 per bureau.