Is the Rakuten Visa dead to us? Will Alaska be next year?


Is the Rakuten Visa dead to us? While I argue that it shouldn’t be buried just yet, there is no doubt that many have begun humming its funeral march this week. With this week’s surprise Alaska announcement, some were tuning up their pipe organs to say their final goodbyes to one of the sweetest award charts around even though Alaska doesn’t (yet) have a foot in the ground. On this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air, we discuss both of those topics and more. Watch, listen, or read for this week in review at Frequent Miler.

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In loyalty news:

Wow! Alaska joins Oneworld in mid-2021, expands partnership with AA

Alaska Airlines Companion Fare

From somewhere deep in left field came Alaska with the news that they are expanding their partnership with American Airlines and joining oneworld in mid-2021. There will be some benefits, but we are unlikely to see current award chart sweet spots get better (and in fact they will likely devalue), so you’ll want to book any of those that interest you sometime this year. One point I missed in our FM on the Air chat when I talked about why I think the time is now to focus on earning Alaska Airlines elite status: the lack of a revenue requirement is a huge advantage over American. If you intend to fly enough that you can earn Alaska MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K, you should think about crediting to Alaska when you can.

Book Air France & KLM with Virgin Atlantic Miles

In another surprise announcement this week, Virgin Atlantic and Air France / KLM launched a partnership. Members of both programs can already use miles to book flights with the other. Greg covers the sweet spots — and while business class isn’t bad in some situations, the true gem is premium economy. If you’ve been looking to fly the whole family more comfortably without breaking the budget, premium economy with Air France via Virgin Atlantic could be the ticket.

A limited time opportunity to buy Delta Platinum elite status

Inspired by our discussion on last week’s podcast, Greg lays out how you could spend your way to Delta Platinum status without spending a minute in an airplane. This week’s reader question was about whether this strategy could make sense with only one credit card instead of two. Our answer: Maybe. If you’re flying enough to get a benefit from the status, you’re likely earning some miles the old-fashioned way and it might make even more sense to do this with 1 card than 2. It’s very situational, but it’s worth considering for those who can leverage the status.

In credit cards and MS:

No more 3X for gift cards: Rakuten (formerly Ebates) Visa with Membership Rewards. Everything you need to know.

Stick a fork in it: the Rakuten Visa is done when it comes to easy pajama MS. This lasted much longer than I thought it would and some no doubt hit it hard. As referenced in the introduction and discussed in Frequent Miler on the Air, I don’t think this card is totally dead yet, but there’s no doubt that this is a huge hit.

Who should get the Chase Freedom Unlimited? Who should carry it?

On last week’s podcast, we addressed why Greg and I haven’t been carrying the Freedom Unlimited. This week, I explored who should carry the card. Readers chimed in with their own opinions as well. The truth is that I did product change to a CFU to build my balance up in the short-term, though I think I likely won’t continue to use it once I have my UR balance where I want it.

Pay taxes via credit card 2020 edition

pay federal taxes with a credit card

Not the favorite part of the year for most folks, tax season can be a boon for rewards card enthusiasts. Why? It can be easy spend. Those who pay too much in taxes will get a refund. Some folks will use their refund to pay for vacation or to buy a motorcycle. Mine will get put toward the bills this year. What about yours?

In award tips:

Marriott Travel Packages expiring again? Here’s what to do

We’d previously reported that if you have a Marriott travel package set to expire and it was an old travel package (i.e. bought before August 2018), you could get some points back for it (don’t get excited, just the same amount you used to get). However, better yet, Greg found that these certificates can be extended a second time after all. It might take a couple calls to get it done, but a positive data point here means it’s not impossible.

Have a Hyatt Cat 1-4 free night certificate? These are your coming and departing opportunities.

The Park Hyatt Melbourne will soon be a Category 4, which could make for a nice opportunity to use free night certificates.

Compared to the Marriott category changes, Hyatt has a very small number of hotels changing category this time around. That said, there are a number of properties moving up out of the range of a free night certificate. In this post, I list your opportunities now & later with some thoughts on properties to consider. The good news is that the debut of peak and off-peak pricing won’t affect your free night certificate — it’ll still be valid at hotels up to Category 4, even during peak dates. See the post for which property is moving up to Category 5 before it even opens.

That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Check back soon for our week in review around the web and this week’s last chance deals.

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I have a bunch of citi TY and Amex MR and flying blue sounds interesting but Flyertalk has a bunch of stories on how they freeze accounts for ‘fraud’ if you transfer miles in just to book a rewards ticket even if the miles are legitimate. Has anyone had experience with this?

Greg The Frequent Miler

Air France is the only carrier that I can remember reading stories like that about. The solution with them is to create your Air France account well in advance. I think that when someone creates a new account and transfers in miles and immediately books a flight it looks like someone bought miles from a broker.


Listening to your podcast – I had a question on getting certificates extended. Any helpful tips for IHG?

Phil States

Thanks guys, this discussion led me to a light bulb moment with a nice profit…while discussing the value of Membership Rewards, Nick mentioned their baseline value should be 1.25 cents each with the Schwab AmEx Platinum. For my story, I just took my wife to Nemacolin for a weekend, a bougie Western PA spa/resort and ran up the tab on an AmEx card, figuring I would use some excess points I have…but not realizing the “pay with points” exchange is so low (roughly 0.6 cents per point). Our tab would cost us 266,000 MR points that way. However, after listening to your podcast, I now have the Schwab AmEx Platinum, and compared to my prior intended use, I will now come out with a much better value, either by pushing those 266k points to cash and paying the tab and the annual fee, or by pushing just enough points over for the costs.
See? Your one hour podcast made me either $800 or saved me 100k AmEx points

Greg The Frequent Miler



Love how both screens say Nick Reyes


Yes the Rakuten visa is dead, unless you’re a reseller or some other rare high volume type. Better off getting a BBP or a DC and using those instead. Most of us shouldn’t be getting a credit card to only use on one and only ONE! shopping portal.


Nick, can you PLEASEEE add your podcast to SPOTIFY?

Greg The Frequent Miler

Regarding Ebates and 3x points on gift cards and MS in general:

Most people who engage in MS get away with a lot of it without repercussions. I’ll play the parent here and tell you that even if you maintain a high rate of actual spend to MS , it won’t matter when whoever is in charge of looking at these things is apprised of what you’re doing. This is true even when it acts to the detriment of the bank.

I’ve never figured out why Chase’s first step was to send me a letter advising me to close my checking account , an account that contained $60,000 @ 0% for more than a year…an account that had been open for 25 years.

At that time the advice given in the blogs was the credit cards would be closed next, and I did get all my points transferred before the cc closures (Chase closed one and then I closed the rest because I wanted “ACC” in my credit file if they still reported the account was closed by the consumer) . 2.5 years later I was able to open the hotel cards I wanted and the CSR (on the 3rd try), but I still –seven years later–sometimes receive a message “declined due to previous unsatisfactory business relationship.” Why it comes up sometimes and not others I have no clue.

That’s my ” rant ” about manufactured spending. Only Chase. AMEX, for a time ENCOURAGED you to purchase $3,000 amex cards and sold them at a 3% discount through TCB . They gave you miles on the purchase and I was able to cash the cards out at a profit. I regret not doing millions instead of tens of thousands.
God bless you if you can get millions of miles on the cheap, or free and learn how to use them efficiently. I respect both.

My “warning” about ms comes from a highly experienced federal criminal defense attorney who thinks a zealous assistant US attorney could make a case you’re violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act with some of the Terms and Conditions in the card agreements. If you’re an attorney laughing at this , you’re likely not a federal criminal defense attorney with 100+ trials under your belt. I asked a federal judge who is a friend and of course the judge wouldn’t give me an answer other than “I can’t practice law.”
This warning –mine–is coming from a guy who used to broker miles for a living until 1998, so “animus” isn’t in my vocabulary on the issue.

Good luck to you if you do MS . Just be aware what can happen with your accounts since AMEX and even AA are on the warpath.
(In the old days, I would sell someone a premium class mileage ticket and advise them of the frequent flyer’s name and home city, because when AA security pulls you aside at the gate and asks who gave you the tickets, it’s never good to say, “I don’t know” and even worse “I bought them from a broker.”)
I have a number of mileage broker was stories but if you want the worst mileage story, google “Rae Jean Bonham.”
Hint: If you’re going to run a ponzi scheme, try to avoid taking investments from your state’s attorney general and the mayor of one of it’s largest cities.

I’ve digressed too much for a Sunday.


Don’t want your MS spot to dry up I take it.


Especially since it’s Saturday and I just noticed?


Figured you were out there doing MS runs jk.

But being serious I would think if the US government wanted to pursue something against MS they would have done it during the USPS days.


If a big bank takes something to the US ATTY you never know what will happen. Unlikely ? Prolly.