10% off Amazon & Lowes, how to get Citi Forward, more…


A number of interesting tidbits have been piling up lately, so rather than covering a single topic I’m simply going to give a rundown today of things on my mind…

Amex Financial Review

Gary, at View from the Wing, wrote up a terrific piece about Amex financial reviews (see “Preparing for the Dreaded American Express Financial Review“).  He argues that its something to get through rather than to fear.  This is a must read for anyone who manufactures spend.

10% off Amazon gift cards

This week OfficeMax is offering $5 off the purchase of two $25 Amazon gift cards.  Limit 1, but if you have a nice cashier they might let you split a purchase into multiple transactions.  Make sure to buy two $25 cards with each transaction.  Ideally, pay with a card that earns 5X at office supply stores (e.g. Ink Bold, Ink Plus, etc.).  Travel Summary has the scoop here.  I’ll run over to OfficeMax soon to see if I can buy these with OfficeMax gift cards.

10% off Lowes or $10 off $50 purchase

A number of coupons were posted to this SlickDeals thread.  Please go to that thread for details and questions.  Remember that you can also get a Movers coupon for 10% off by filling out an online form, and you can double or triple dip at Lowes for extra points.  Details here: Million Mile Madness: Banking on Lowe’s; and here: Maximizing Home Improvement Spend.

How to get the Citi Forward card

Last week I said that the Citi Forward card is great, but that you can’t get it unless you’re a college student (see “5X everywhere without gift cards, part 2: ThankYou Points“).  A number of people told me about a great workaround: Call Citi and ask to change your existing Citi card to a Forward card.  I can’t promise this will always work, but some people have reported success in blog comments and in this FlyerTalk thread.  5X restaurants, movie theaters, book stores (Amazon!), and more!

Hilton HHonors program only mostly dead

Indulge the Wanderlust reports that there are still deals to be had with the Hilton HHonors program despite recent huge devaluations.  I agree.  Details here.

Club Carlson whips the competition

LoyaltyLobby ran a series of posts analyzing the “earn and burn” rates of a number of hotel chains.  On the “earn” side, he estimated the number of points that would be earned at various properties with and without elite status and with and without a branded credit card.  He then looked at how many points were needed for free nights at various hotels (this is the “burn” side).  He then wrapped up the series by showing the amount of spend required within each chain to earn a free night.  Club Carlson beat the competition by a long shot.  Here’s an example graph showing the spend required for a free night based on someone with mid tier status:


It’s interesting that Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott all came out about the same.  Club Carlson required less than half the spend of its competitors.  SPG required much, much more. 

Please see LoyaltyLobby’s series for details (or to complain about those details)

Best rate guarantee success

Angelina, author of Just Another Points Traveler, reports on her success in getting much cheaper hotel nights through the use of Best Rate Guarantees.  I need to try this trick out more often (I’ve only done a Best Rate Guarantee once).  Details here.

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Lisa: Citi started limiting the Forward card to students fairly recently (late last year, I think)


I must have missed the terms that state the Forward requires you to be a student. I’m pretty sure anyone can get it. I signed up for it a few years ago, and I am long past college age or attendance. I was not asked for my college affiliation or anything.


Frank: Yes, as far as I know.
Corridor! Great!


Not sure how, but I already received my Forward card in the mail. I was told it would take 30 days for the conversion to happen. I also confirmed that it get’s 5X at restaurants, bookstores, etc.

Thanks again for the reminder!


Does the double, triple dips for HI through UR portal still work?


Loyalty Lobby finally highlighted how lousy SPG really is. For years we’ve heard from so-called “experts” how good the SPG card is, and if they only had one card, it would be the SPG. But any more than superficial look at SPG’s award program showed how poorly it fared against the competition, and it amazed me so many accepted such incompetent analysis for so long.

Reality is SPG is one of the worst cards to carry. Carlson is best for mid/low tier rooms since Hilton devalued (Carlson don’t have legitimate top tier hotels). Hyatt is King of top tier thanks to 5x xfer from Chase Ink (and Marriott also looks attractive for same reason for mid tier).

RJ Brown

The next time we have trouble with that Vanilla reload we might find the reason behind it in this story……….



Antonio: Thanks for the advice. I tried today to buy 6 cards at once. All of the cards rang up (with the discount) as expected, but then the cashier decided to check the ad to see if there was a per-customer limit. He voided the whole thing and only sold me two. At least I was able to pay with an OfficeMax gift card so that was good!


You don’t need to split into separate purchases at OfficeMax. My local clerk was nice and let me get as many Amazon cards as I wanted. I bought $200 in cards for $180, all in one transaction. As far as the check-out computer was concerned, this was legal.

Food Eater

iahphx: i agree. i realize that it feels like a real coup to book a 5-star hotel or a super fancy first class airline seat with points, but there is definitely a disproportionate amount of blog real estate devoted to such endeavors. personally, i’d rather be as frugal as possible in order to maximize the number of days i can spend traveling.


Last year, I tried to convert my Citi AA Amex to the Forward and they couldn’t get it to convert. I was told that if I converted to a Thank You card that I could convert to the Forward after that conversion was complete. So I went ahead and converted last October. Today I called Citi to finally convert to the Forward. The first rep said there was nothing they could do. I asked to speak to a supervisor and she was able to convert the card to the Forward. She did have to put me on hold and get the system to allow it. My Forward card should be mailed out 30 days from today.

Thanks for the reminder.


kathy K: I don’t know which cards will work and which won’t. I’d be very interested to hear the outcome if you call and ask if either of your existing cards can be converted to a Forward.

my question concerns the TY forward card. you mention that it might be available by asking Citi to convert your existing Citi card to a Forward card. What do you mean by an existing Citi Card? I don’t have any TY cards, but I do have the bronze Aadvantage card that I never use. I also have a Citi mastercard debit card.


What is the best use of spg points if you want to get the most flights and/or hotel nights out of them? I’ve read cash and points, and I’ve read transferring to airlines. Which is it? I don’t care about high range hotels or first/business class I just want to stretch the points out to maximize usefulness (most nights most flights). The post linked to seems to imply spg points are horrible for hotel redemptions.


Jonathan: There is no single right answer. You can get great value from cash & points or from airlines. I’d say its certainly possible to get much more value by transferring to certain airlines for first class international travel, but will you actually use the points that way? Do you highly value such flights? I’d say that when you see a high value redemption that you’ll use, go for it regardless of whether it is a transfer to airline miles, points & cash, free night awards, etc.


Hilton program might still be good for low tier stays or airport stays. Definitely not for aspirational properties. I stay at low tier hotels all the time. I just need a place to stay most of the time. I just used Barclay points for some low tier hotels.