The British are coming (for your favorite award sweet spots), maximizing Platinum, dumping Gold, and more [Week in Review]


It is probably a coincidence that both major British airlines destroyed sweet spots long enjoyed by North American members during the week in which we celebrate the anniversary of our independence. However, you didn’t need to depend on those programs to get great value, so this week we cover how you can break free from those now-dead sweet spots, how you can maximize the value you get from your Platinum card, why you shouldn’t take a siesta on Sonesta, and a lot more.

This week on the Frequent Miler blog…

How to maximize value with your Amex Platinum Card

Amex Platinum cards

The various versions of the Amex Platinum card have some with some incredible welcome offers over the past couple of years. However, each flavor of the Platinum card also carries a very high annual fee. The good news is that there are ways to get a ton of value out of the card perks, so you’ll want to be sure that you’re doing just that. This post gives you a checklist of the many things you can do to try to eke as much value as possible out of your Platinum card.

How to get great value from your Platinum card | Frequent Miler on the Air Ep262 | 7-5-24

If you’d rather listen than read, then consider this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air. In addition to discussing many of the ways to maximize value with the Amex Platinum card in our main event, we also discussed what I called the sleeper credit card of 2024, who might want to consider mattress running in Florida, how to get a faster refund of your miles upon award cancellation, and a lot more.

Something to Savor: A reason to dump the Gold?

a hand holding a wallet with credit cards inside

I finally got the product change option I’d been waiting to see for years: I was able to “upgrade” one of my existing cards to a Capital One SavorOne Rewards card. Now that I have the capacity for unlimited 3x on grocery purchases with no annual fee (and the no-annual-fee Capital One wallet combo of the SavorOne and VentureOne that makes it possible to earn “cash back” and convert it to miles with no annual fee), should I dump the Amex Gold card? I was surprised at what the math tells me about that.

Virgin Atlantic devalues Delta, destroying deal

Virgin Atlantic Delta devaluation money down drain

I’ve long warned against speculative point transfers to Virgin Atlantic for two reasons: First, the points have limited sweet spot uses as compared to airlines that have wider partnerships. Second, they have developed a pattern of no-notice no-notification devaluations. Unfortunately, we saw such a devaluation this week and it destroyed one of the long-held sweet spots of the Virgin Atlantic program: awards on Delta to Europe, which cost 50,000 points and $5.60 just a week ago, now cost more miles (as many as 77,500) and upwards of $1,000 in fees. That kills this sweet spot in most situations and once again demonstrates that you can’t count on getting value out of Virgin points in the future, so only transfer if you have an immediate use lined up.

Best uses for Virgin Points (Sweet Spot Spotlight)

If you’re sitting on a large balance of Virgin Atlantic points, you might wonder what you can do with them now that Delta One redemptions to/from Europe no longer present a compelling value. This post outlines the best remaining options for using your Delta points.

My frustrating, awesome experience with Greg’s trick to book Air France with Virgin points

The high price above is for 8 passengers on a single itinerary, but it sounds like this isn’t bookable right now.

One of those remaining sweet spots through Virgin Atlantic is the ability to book Air France / KLM business class flights at very reasonable rates (albeit with about $300 in taxes and fees in each direction). However, it isn’t easy — and since I published this post, it appears to have gotten more difficult yet. I wrote this post both to note that booking via chat works well and to warn readers of some potential problems booking via chat and how to solve them. However, a day or two after I published the post, it seems that chat bookings stopped working temporarily, so we’re left to wonder whether Virgin is going to soon restore the ability to book or demolish its award chart for travel on Air France and KLM by jacking up the surcharges to match Delta. Let’s hope it’s not the latter.

British Airways kills redemptions on AA and Alaska (again for the very first time)

Not to be outdone by their countrymen at Virgin Atlantic, British Airways also ended the appeal of using their award currency to fly on a North American airline. I’m including this quick bit of news because I know that many readers have probably become accustomed to the long-held wisdom that British Airways is the best option for nonstop domestic awards on American or Alaska Airlines (especially at shorter distances). However, as Tim points out in the post, Qatar and Finnair already had roughly matching or significantly better pricing (depending on the airport combination) and now that is even truer than it was. This change does effectively end the usefulness of British Airways for North American redemptions, but the sky will not have fallen unless and until Qatar and Finnair follow suit.

Taking Spirit for a spin to test the value of the Savers Club and Free Spirit points

Not much ink gets spilled about Spirit Airlines in the blogosphere, but I had occasion to fly Spirit and so I got to take a slightly closer look at things like whether the Savers Club is worth it as compared to buying tickets at the airport to save on Spirit’s online “passenger usage fee”. When I went to use some of the Free Spirit points I’d accumulated, I was shocked to find that they would have not just poor value but literal negative value for the situation where I wanted to use them. Still, I think Spirit isn’t all that bad — I like the in-flight experience just fine and now that I know a bit more about their fares & fees and the best way to use points, I’ll be better prepared for the next time I want to fly on Spirit.

Complete Guide to Sonesta Travel Pass

Sonesta Travel Pass Pros and Cons

Sonesta is a hotel program that I knew existed but I had otherwise all but forgotten about because of its once tiny footprint. However, the chain has grown considerably and it was high time we dug into it a bit more. Tim first did the work to determine a new Reasonable Redemption Value for Sonesta points, which put them among the most valuable hotel points in the US, and then dove into the Sonesta Travel Pass program to bring us this post that outlines everything you need to know about the program. While Sonesta isn’t big enough to be a “primary” hotel program for most folks, this could be an interesting compliment for many — and the new card offer could add up to a few nights at a nice Sonesta property.

Podcast: Don’t take a siesta on Sonesta | Coffee Break Ep17 | 7-2-24

Coffee Break Episode 17

On this week’s Coffee Break, Greg and I discussed Tim’s complete guide to Sonesta, the Sonesta Mastercard, and why you might want to stop ignoring this program and at least take a look. I’m far from convinced that Sonesta is a best secondary hotel program, but I think it makes more sense to take a look than turn a blind eye given some of the better features of the program (and that juicy current welcome bonus).

That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Keep an eye on this week’s last chance deals to be sure that you catch them before they’re gone.

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Mike W

I think the Air France – Virgin bookings in J might be dead already?? I did get a booking for myself next year in May but I have tried to make another booking for a friend yesterday and I could book nothing??? I tried a multitude of days and in May and June and nothing would go through with chat or phone??