Your old friend: the dummy booking

9

With the dawn of the new year, I have spent a good chunk of time checking offers on our Best Offers page to make sure offer information and links were up to date. That process reminded me of the importance of reminding readers of the value an unheralded hero of credit card bonus hunting: the dummy booking. Don’t be a dummy, start a dummy booking to check for a better offer.

Increased Offers

This process actually began in motion on New Year’s Day when I was booking a Hyatt hotel. During the process, I saw an offer for the World of Hyatt credit card that looked pretty interesting. I wrote about that offer here: Debating the Hyatt dummy booking offer.

In that case, the rest of the Frequent Miler team convinced me that the normal offer was ever-so-slightly better for most people, but in that post I explained why the dummy offer could be better depending on your situation.

In other words, in the case of the Hyatt dummy booking offer. In many cases, a dummy booking produces an objectively better offer. Whenever it is possible to link directly to the dummy booking offer, we do that on our Best Offers page — though in some cases, you’ll just have to go through the steps of booking to get an offer to pop up for yourself.

Here are some of the increased offers I’ve found since the new year began.

Air France / KLM

A dummy booking on the AirFrance.us website produced the following offer for the Air France KLM Credit Card, which was $100 better than the best offer we previously had listed.

That $100 statement credit certainly helps to offset the annual fee and then some. The key advantage of the Air France KLM card is that it keeps your miles from expiring. If you’ve never credited a flight to Flying Blue, you might not need to worry about that.

One thing that could make this card kind of appealing at the moment is the (ironic) chance to use toward the end goal of earning American Airlines elite status through SimplyMiles card-linked offers — though I’d only do that while spending toward the initial bonus.

Wyndham Rewards Earner

Stephen came across this offer for the Wyndham Rewards Earner Card while making a booking the other day:

The bump here is the $50 statement credit. We wrote a quick post about this offer here.

If you actually want to earn more Wyndham points, the business card probably makes more sense, but if you mostly value the 10% discount on awards this is a way to get it without an annual fee.

Celebrity Cruises Visa Signature Card

I found a very similar dummy booking offer to this one for both the Celebrity Cruise Lines card and the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines card and updated both on our best offers page:

While I think that a cruise line credit card doesn’t make much sense compared to the many other more valuable rewards card offers on the market, the offer here makes for a decent cash back bonus at a $200 statement credit with $1K in purchases. Again, that’s not the best cash back bonus on the market, but it’s a reasonable deal for low spend for someone who cares more about cash back than other travel rewards.

Delta Gold SkyMiles card

While pricing out a business class flight to London, I found a surprisingly good Delta Gold SkyMiles card offer:

The statement credit for this targeted dummy booking offer requires a Delta purchase within the first 3 months. If approved, you could use your instant card number to book the flight you’re pricing out and get that $200 statement credit or you could make another Delta purchase within the first few months.

Even if you only value Delta miles at 1c each, this is a fantastic return on just $2K spend.

Note that there isn’t a way to directly link to this offer as you need to go through a dummy booking and check the box to apply — then the application box pops up over the Delta site in your browser on the payment page before entering payment info.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

This example is probably debatable. During the booking process, I saw the following offer. Note that the layout is really poor in my opinion — it almost makes ie look like the card has no annual fee, but the left side bar is actually tabs for different cards.

That offer rewards 5,000 fewer points after $2K spend than the offer found on our Best Offers page, but that is more than offset by the statement credit. In fact, with Hilton’s current sale on points, the statement credit here could effectively buy 20,000 Hilton points (though you’d have to spend a minimum of $150 to get that 0.5c rate on points).

On the other hand, the offer on our Best Offers page adds a second tier of 50K points after $10K total spend in the first 6 months. Since this card has a couple of useful category bonuses and a free night certificate with $15K annual spend, I find the chance to earn more points more appealing. However, anyone who doesn’t want to spend toward the free night certificate may find the incremental return on spend less appealing and prefer the dummy booking offer.

Stephen also reminded me recently that there are a few different offers you may see while connected to Hilton Wi-Fi.

I’m not a big fan of the offer for statement credits on the Surpass, especially since it is only valid for statement credits at Hilton properties.

I’d rather have the points from the other offers above.

However, he also found an offer for 2 free weekend nights after $3K spend.

That offer could be better than the others if you knew you could maximize the value of the free night certificates. Booking a top-tier Hilton property that would otherwise cost 95K points per night (or the Waldorf-Astoria Maldives which ordinarily costs north of 100K points per night) could yield a ton of value on such little spend. On the other hand, keep in mind that Hilton free night certificates expire in a year. I wouldn’t want to lock myself in to the free night certificate offer right now with the travel situation still unpredictable, but in a normal world I would probably be pretty excited about this deal if I were planning to go somewhere like the Maldives or Bora Bora or even just an expensive hotel market city like New York or San Francisco. I have added a direct link to this 2 free night offer to the alternative offer section on our Surpass card page.

United MileagePlus Explorer

This is a good example of a dummy booking offer that is pretty clearly worse than the public offer in my opinion. During the booking process on United.com, I came across this offer for the United Mileage Plus Explorer card:

Unless you value United miles at less than one cent each, you’d be better off with the public 60K offer on that card.

American Airlines

It’s the same story with American Airlines: if you value miles at less than one cent each, the dummy booking offer (which is the same for either the American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select card or the Citibusiness AAdvantage card) could be better than the public offers on those cards, but in most cases I wouldn’t consider the dummy offer.

Bottom line

Keep in mind that whatever offer you see during the checkout process may not always be better than other publicly-available offers found on our Best Offers page and sometimes the relative value is debatable depending on your situation. However, if you’re thinking about a co-branded credit card, it can be worth at least going through the motions of a booking to see if you get an elevated credit card offer during the checkout process. We keep links to those offers on our Best Offers page when they are the best offer and it is possible to do so, but there’s no harm in double checking for a smarter dummy offer.

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Pat

I think dummy booking United offer not so bad under certain circumstances. If one has a decent stock of United miles and is less interested in increasing that stock but primarily looking to get access to lower mileage awards as a credit card holder, this offer has some appeal. And for that same person, after the first year when the fee waiver expires, one could just downgrade to a free card.

Slaven

Do these offers only appear after completing a dummy booking?

Beth

no, just when you act like you are going to make a reservation, prior to entering payment information

Sean

I saw one other difference with the dummy booking offer for the United Explorer card, at least when I checked a few weeks ago. The dummy booking offer had a $2k minimum spend requirement instead of the $3k for the public offer.

EMILY

Nick, both you and Stephen Pepper do excellent work! Is it true Greg is getting waxed at Miravel

Jeremy

Something to consider, for the amex cards, you loose the ability to get referral bonuses between partners if using dummy bookings.

Could also get the business delta gold via dummy booking if your profile is set as a business.

Beth

Alaska Airlines dummy booking offer is for 60k miles plus $100 statement credit your best offer listing is 60k miles plus a $99 companion fare
cash is arguably better unless you have specific use in mind for the companion fare and are sure you will be making the trip..

Last edited 13 days ago by Beth
MalMel

Thanks, Nick! A friend just told me 2 days ago he was going to lose his AF award points at some point, a result of a canceled award flight. Will those be protected by getting the card?

Miles

I imagine that you need to turn off popup blockers for some of these offers to appear.