A Look Back at my 2016 Predictions (Airlines, Hotels, Credit Cards & MS)

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Good afternoon everyone, greetings from New York City.  I am writing to you from Times Square my friend’s apartment in the Upper East Side.  I wanted to be the first to wish you all a very happy, safe, and travel-filled New Years and all the best in 2017.  By popular demand (thank you Robert), I am going to recap my 2016 predictions (Part 1 and Part 2).  Long story short, this is a very long post and almost all of my predictions were wrong, but if you want a good laugh, read through the post to see how wrong my 2016 predictions were.  Enjoy!

Key: Miss = red; Score = green; and Miss / Score = black.

Airlines

Southwest – Southwest points used to be worth 1.67 CPP, then they were worth 1.43 CPP, now with route variability, I have no idea how much Southwest points are worth.  I wish Southwest points would be worth a fixed amount, maybe 1.5 CPP for all flights.  I hope Southwest continues to announce new routes, especially a few routes from the West Coast to Hawaii.  Lastly, for the last several year, credit card sign up bonus points have counted toward the Southwest Companion Pass.  I think this might change in 2016.

Miss! Southwest points still do not have a fixed value due to route variability, but Southwest did add a few new routes (just not to Hawaii… yet).  Southwest points earned from the credit card sign up bonus still count toward the 110,000 Southwest points needed for the Southwest Companion Pass.


American – after the devaluation goes into effect, I hope award space improves considerably (it can’t get much worse).  I hope American gets rid of the close-in booking fee for booking award flights within 3 weeks of travel.  I also hope that Citi adds the ability to transfer Citi Thank You Points into American Airlines miles.  I hope Citi Prestige Credit Card holders retain the ability to book American and AA codeshare flights for 1.6 CPP.

Miss! Award space has not improved at all on American Airlines (but I was able to find award space on SFO-DFW-BOG in economy and EZE-MIA-ORD-SFO in business/first for my trip in 2 weeks).  Close-in booking fees still exist.  Citi Thank You Points cannot be transferred to American Airlines.  Even though the change does not go into effect for another few months, the 1.6 CPP redemption of Citi Thank You Points to American Airlines is a big hit to the Citi Prestige Credit Card.

Delta – not even I can make an educated guess about what Delta will do next year.  My best guess is that all the decent redemption options will get worse and “Miles for Magazines” or “Pay with Points” will look like great deals.

Miss! Delta award space has improved over the last year, so I am happy to be proved wrong.

United – if Delta makes a change, I am sure United will not be too far behind.  I’m curious about the future of MileagePlusX (the online shopping portal app that earns United miles).  Will there be any big developments with that app in 2016?  Will it even survive to make it to 2017?  Lastly, as I like to say, “The only good think about flying United out of SFO is that I don’t have to walk very far from the Centurion Lounge.” #burn

Miss!  The United MileagePlusX app is still around and people continue to use it daily.

Alaska – I status matched from the Southwest Companion Pass early in 2015 to Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K, but I never flew Alaska Airlines in 2015.  I had a few first class upgrade codes that I used to surprise my friends who purchased Alaska Airlines flights.  I have over 150,000 Alaska Airlines miles from various credit card sign up bonuses, but I can’t remember the last time I redeemed any miles.  My goal for 2016 is to redeem at least half of my Alaska Airlines miles.  There hasn’t been any bad news from Alaska Airlines in a long time, so I think a devaluation is overdue.

Partial Miss / Score.  I did redeem 80,000 Alaska Airlines miles in 2016 (I am proud of myself).  Alaska did make an unannounced devaluation to Emirates awards, but they also purchased Virgin America so I am excited to see what positive changes come out of the merger.

Virgin America – I flew Virgin America for the first time in 2015.  I like the airline, but I am not in love with the airline like some of my friends are.  I hope Virgin America adds new routes in 2016.  If they do, the prices will probably be very cheap, so snag them early.  I wish there was an easier way to book Virgin America flights with Virgin Atlantic miles or even to convert Virgin Atlantic miles to Virgin America miles. #onecandream

Partial Miss / Score.  I status matched from Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K to Virgin America Gold and opened a Comenity Virgin America Credit Card this year.  Virgin America did add a new route from SFO to DEN and prices were very cheap, but with the Alaska Airlines merger, not many routes were added this year.  I did book a few Virgin America award flights using Virgin Atlantic miles, but that method is now dead.

British Airways – 4,500 Avios awards are slowly dying and I think we will see 7,500 Avios awards slowly disappear too.  I love Cash and Points availability and I hope British Airways can add more functionality to their site and add a few more booking partners online (like Alaska Airlines and Aer Lingus).

Partial Miss / Score.  7,500 BA Avios routes are still available and cash and points award availability seems better than before.  Did British Airways add more online booking partners this year?

Singapore Airlines – Singapore has a great frequent flyer program and you can get Singapore miles from Chase, Citi, AMEX, and SPG.  I wish the transfers were instant, rather than the current ~24 hour wait time.  I also wish it were possible to book non-Singapore award tickets online.  I hope both wishes come true in 2016.

Miss!  Transfers to Singapore Airlines are still not instant and you cannot book non-Singapore Airlines award tickets online.

Hawaiian Airlines – there hasn’t been any news from Hawaiian Airlines in a long time.  I think they might be working on a promotion to get people to fly them more often.  Maybe they will offer half price awards to Hawaii?  Yes, please!

Miss!  Nothing new from Hawaiian Airlines in terms of award redemptions.

JetBlue – I haven’t flown them in years, but I wish they expanded their route network along the West Coast.  Pretty please?

Miss!  I did partake in the JetBlue / Virgin America points match and have started flying JetBlue more often.  I also opened a Barclays JetBlue Plus Credit Card.  Unfortunately, JetBlue still has a limited West Coast route network.

Spirit, Allegiant, Frontier & Sun Country – I have never flown any of these airlines and will probably not start in 2016.  But I do have around 25,000 Spirit Airlines miles from the Bank of America Spirit Airlines Credit Card. Hmm… Lastly, I am sure these airlines will figure out new ways to nickel and dime passengers and that passengers that do fly these airlines will continue to complain. #easiestpredictionever

Score!  I haven’t flown any of those airlines, but I have a small stash of 20,000 Spirit Airlines miles that I am eagerly trying to keep from expiring.  How many more magazine subscriptions do I need?

Hotels

Hilton – everyone and their mother is probably Hilton HHonors Diamond at this point.  Will Hilton make any major changes to their Diamond elite benefits in 2016?  Hopefully not before my stays at the Hilton Munich City and Hilton Molino Stucky Venice in mid-January.  Will there be another major devaluation in 2016?  I hope not.

Miss!  Hilton has not changed Hilton Diamond elite benefits and there was only a small devaluation affecting only a few hotels this year.

Hyatt – like Hilton, I am sure everyone and their mother has been status matched to Hyatt Diamond by now (side note, I am still waiting for my approval email).  Will there be a major change to Diamond elite benefits?  I would love to be able to easily search for award nights and cash and points nights (ala SPG’s calendar).  If we could then book Cash and Points online, rather than calling, that would be great too.

Partial Miss / Score.  No changes to Hyatt Diamond elite benefits, but you can now book cash and points awards online.

Marriott & SPG – the big question is what will happen when Marriott completes their acquisition of SPG.  What will hotel points be worth?  What will airline transfers and elite benefits by like in 2016?  There are so many unanswered questions.  I say prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  At the moment, I have around 30,000 Marriott points and around 60,000 SPG points.  As long as they do not make any major changes to the cost of category 1-3 hotels, I will be happy.  There is very little upside for the merger, but lots of room for negative changes. #waitinggame

Miss!  I really failed on this section since I did not make any real predictions.  The transfer rate is 3 Marriott points = 1 SPG point (and vice versa).

Club Carlson – After all the Last Night Free stays have been used, I think Club Carlson will have some pretty great promotions, similar to what they did in the past.  Maybe they will start offering free night certificates for each paid stay.  As far as the free night certificate for spending $10,000 on the card, if it remains valid only for US hotels, I am not interested.  If they change the terms and allow it to be used internationally, then it would get my attention.  It would also be great to get breakfast included for Club Carlson credit card holders, is that too much to ask?

Partial Miss / Score.  Club Carlson hasn’t had any amazing promos like they did in the past and the free night certificates can only be redeemed in the US.

IHG – last but not least, we have IHG.  I think the best deal in hotel credit cards goes to the Chase IHG Credit Card.  Last year, I used my free night certificate to book an upcoming stay at the Hotel Indigo in Paris.  When my anniversary rolled around again in November, I used that free night certificate to book the second night at the Hotel Indigo in Paris.  I love the fact that there is some overlap between free night certificates.  I am sure IHG will have more promotions in 2016 and those promotions will not go smoothly, resulting in many unhappy customers and manual overrides by customer service.  Due to IHG’s IT systems, there are interesting ways to take advantage of the free night certificates.

Success!  IHG has their usual promos where you need to complete a few tasks in order to get a big points bonus.  Their IT is still terrible when it comes to automatically posting bonus points.

Credit Cards

Chase – with the loss of Amtrak and the addition of Singapore Airlines in 2015, I think we will see some more changes to Chase’s transfer partners in 2016.  I think we will see some more international airlines added (like the Citi Thank You Points program).  A few guesses?  Air Canada, Qantas, Air China, and Lufthansa (insert your favorite international airline).  Chase Ultimate Rewards will continue to transfer 1:1 to all programs and there will be no transfer bonuses.  I think there will be a newsworthy announcement for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, maybe adding free Gogo WiFi like the US Bank FlexPerks Credit Card or perhaps a new 3x category to compete with Citi Premier/Prestige Credit Cards.  What about our beloved Chase Ink Bold/Plus Business Cards?  I am worries that the 5x category might change to something less lucrative or the yearly cap might be lowered.  I also predict Chase will launch a completely new travel rewards credit card in 2016.  Maybe the Airbnb/Uber Credit Card?  Lastly, I hope Chase loosens up on the 5/24 rule or completely eliminates the rule altogether.  

Success!  Even though Chase did not add any new transfer partners to their Ultimate Rewards Program, the transfer rate continues to be 1:1 with no transfer bonuses.  Chase introduced the Chase Sapphire Reserve to complete with the Citi Prestige credit card.  The Chase Ink Preferred only has 3x bonus categories, but a higher spending cap.

Citi – this is my current favorite bank.  I use my Citi Forward Credit Card for restaurants on a daily basis, the Citi Premier Credit Card for Uber/Lyft/Bart and all airline purchases, and the Citi Double Cash Credit Card for bank account bonuses and modest MS.  I hope the Thank You Points program continues to get better with the addition of new airline partners and maybe even another hotel partner.  I’d love to see American Airlines added as a transfer partner.  I’m sure there will be more transfer bonuses in 2016.  I’m worried about the benefits of the Citi Prestige Credit Card though.  Will we still be able to book American Airlines and AA codeshare flights at 1.6 CPP?  Will Citi make all airlines eligible for the 1.6 CPP redemption?  What about 4th Night Free?  Maybe they can introduce “2nd Night Half Off,” that would definitely be a welcome change.  Free rounds of golf?  Make that free rounds of miniature golf and I might actually use them.  I love the $250 airline reimbursement.  I hope that stays at $250 and doesn’t drop down to $200.  The Citi Dividend Credit Card might be officially discontinued/retired like the Citi Forward Credit Card.  And what about the Citi AT&T Credit Card?  It seems too generous right now, I think the benefit might be cut down a few notches.

Partial Miss / Score.  I continue to use my Citi Premier and Citi Double Cash often, but not my Citi Forward since they changed the 5x reward categories to 2x.  You can still book American Airlines flights with Citi Thank You Points at 1.6 CPP until summer 2017.  There hasn’t been any improvements to the Citi Prestige.  I am glad I got the Citi AT&T Access More before the sign up window closed.

American Express – with the recent loss of Costco and the upcoming loss of SPG (most likely), I’m sure we will see some great promotions and AMEX Offers in 2016.  To encourage people to have multiple AMEX credit cards, I think we might see additional bonuses when using AMEX Offers (like get a $10 bonus for each additional credit card you redeem the offer on).  I’m sure there will be more negative changes to Membership Reward transfer partners and bigger transfer bonuses to the remaining partners.  Maybe even a 50-100% transfer bonus to British Airways or Singapore Airlines.  Like other bloggers have already mentioned, I think AMEX will loosen the rules of 1 credit card per lifetime.  Maybe change it to once every 2 years.

Miss!  AMEX Offers have been mostly terrible this year, 2015 had way better AMEX Offers.  There haven’t been any improvements to the Membership Rewards Program and a few small transfer bonuses.

Bank of America – other than Alaska Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, they do not have any other decent travel credit cards.  Maybe the BankAmeriCard Travel Rewards Credit Card will be revamped to compete with Citi Premier.  I’m not expecting any major headlines from BofA in 2016.  Will it still be almost impossible to convert to a BofA Better Balance Rewards Credit Card?

Partial Miss / Score.  No noteworthy new credit cards from Bank of America and it is still almost impossible to convert cards to the Better Balance Rewards card.

US Bank – with the loss of the Last Night Free benefit for the US Bank Club Carlson Credit Cards, the only decent cards left are the US Bank FlexPerks AMEX Credit Card (great for online Serve reloads) and the US Bank Cash+ Credit Card.  I hope US Bank improves the Cash+ offering to maybe 5% on all categories with a quarterly or annual cash back limit.  Will there be any major changes to the FlexPerks program in 2016?  I’d love to see 10,000 FlexPoints be redeemed for travel up to $200 or maybe a system whereby all FlexPoints are worth 1.6-1.8 CPP toward paid travel.  That would be a huge improvement to the program.

Miss!  No major changes to the FlexPerks program, but US Bank did add Gogo Wifi passes and had decent Olympics promos again.

Discover – I have a love-hate relationship with Discover.  I want to love them, but sometimes I just hate them.  I’m expecting a few more hiccups along the way toward the Double Cash Back promotion after the first year.  I would be really surprised to see the cash back post on-time, in full, without any more drama.  I think Discover might increase their rotating cash back categories to 6% or increase the quarterly cap to $2000.  That would be a welcome change to the program.  For some reason, I am picturing a “Discover Travel” credit card or redemption option to come around in 2016.

Partial Miss / Score.  The Discover It Double Cash Back promo actually worked well.  The cash back posted earlier than I thought and I got more cash back than I think I deserved.  Discover didn’t increase their bonus categories to 6% cash back or increase the quarterly limit to $2,000.  Did the Discover It Miles credit card come out in 2016?

Barclays – I predict I will finally get approved for a Barclays credit card.  I am 0 for 5 , I believe.  By the time I get approved, there will be no more good Barclays credit cards to get (I missed out on US Airways, Lufthansa, and the good days of Barclays Arrival+).  Wish me luck :)

Score!  I was approved for a Barclays Lufthansa card in the summer and recently approved for a Barclays JetBlue in November.  Yay, my scoreless streak has come to an end with Barclays!

Manufactured Spending

Serve Cards – after the demise of Redbird, I closed all 4 of my Redbird cards (me, mom, dad, and brother) and quickly opened 4 new Serve cards (me, mom, dad, and brother).  I then ordered 3 authorized user cards (mom, dad, and brother) linked to my US Bank FlexPerks AMEX Credit Card.  I currently have a US Bank FlexPerks AMEX Credit Card linked to all 4 Serve cards and have scheduled loads for all my accounts.  Me (load $200/day for first 5 days), then mom (load $200/day for next 5 days) and so on for my dad and brother’s Serve cards.  Around the 20th of each month, I consolidate the funds from those 4 accounts and pay a few credit card bills.  I don’t do any in-store reloads for any Serve cards since San Francisco is not MS-friendly.  I am happy with my $4,000/month of FlexPerks charges, which earns 4,000 FlexPoints, which is worth up to $80 in travel (unless my predictions above come true).  Serve reloads can go a few different ways.  AMEX can stop accepting AMEX credit cards for online reloads or start allowing Visa and MasterCard credit cards for online reloads.  In-store reloads might increase the monthly limit to $6,000/month and add a few more retailers for in-store reloads.

Miss!  My 4 Serve Cards got shutdown in early 2016 :(

Nationwide Buxx Cards – I currently have 4 Nationwide Buxx cards (me, me, me, and me).  I can load up to $1,000 per card per month with a Visa or MasterCard credit card.  Right now, I am working toward the Bank of America business checking account $1,000 bonus (more bank account bonus predictions below) and charge $2,500 to my Bank of America Business Travel Rewards Credit Card each month to waive the monthly fee on the business checking account until the $1,000 bonus posts.  I also use my Citi Double Cash Credit Card to fund the remaining $1,500 of transactions.  Realistically, if Nationwide made absolutely no changes to the program in 2016, I would be very happy.  If they want to make me even happier, they could increase the monthly load limit to $1,500 per card and remove the other limits.

Score!  I still reload my 4 Nationwide Visa Buxx Cards on a monthly basis.  Easy MS :)

AMEX Offers – I am looking forward to a new batch of AMEX Offers in 2016.  I hope we will see some great offers like the Sam’s Club AMEX Offer and Smart & Final AMEX Offer from earlier this year.  I would love to see more grocery store offers and popular online merchants included in the AMEX Offers.  I do not use any IFTTT or robots to tweet AMEX Offers.  I do it all by hand.  I wonder if AMEX will change the way people can enroll in the Twitter offers.  I love stacking AMEX Offers with various shopping portals and different deals.  I also expect BankAmeriDeals, Citi Offers, and Plenti to step up their game to compete with AMEX Offers.  If they do, we should clean up pretty good in 2016.

Miss!  AMEX Offers have been terrible in 2016 and competing programs like BankAmeriDeals, Citi Offers, and Plenti are still not competitive or newsworthy.

Bank Account Bonuses – I finally listened to my good friend Will @ Doctor of Credit and got into the bank account bonus game.  Not only is it (usually) an easy way to make a few hundred dollars per bank account sign up bonus, but you can also pay with credit cards and earn miles/points/cash back funding the new bank accounts.  Plus, most bank accounts are only a soft pull on your credit report, but they will send you a tax form at the end of the year.  Most of these offers are nationwide, so anyone can participate in these offers (even if there is no bank branch in your state).  In 2016, I predict more bank account bonuses requiring *real* direct deposits to trigger the bonus, along with higher credit card funding limits.  My strategy for 2016 is to juggle no more 3 bank account bonuses at the same time (my ADP payroll can only split my paycheck into 3 accounts) and only go for accounts that have a $200 bonus or more.

Score!  I am still a big fan of checking account bonuses and made a few thousand dollars over the year.

Gift Card Reselling – I am a small time gift card reseller and prefer using Raise for all my egift card sales.  I think we will see some consolidation in the gift card reselling industry, there are just too many gift card resellers out there.  My favorites are Raise, Gift Card Zen, and CardPool.  I wouldn’t be surprised if eBay/PayPal Digital Gift gets into the gift card reselling space.

Partial Miss / Score.  Gift Card Zen was purchased by Retail Me Not and some gift card sellers have gone bankrupt.  A new entrance (The Plastic Merchant) is not the top dog in gift card reselling.

Retail Reselling and Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) – I have never used FBA but apparently everyone loves it.  I hope FBA stays about the same or gets a little better, by lowering their fees or by protecting sellers from crazy buyers and their crazy returns.

Score!  I have never done FBA, so I don’t know if the program has gotten better or worse.  I figure the program has stayed relatively the same, so that is good news.

PayPal My Cash Cards – you probably wouldn’t believe this, but my post on loading PayPal My Cash Cards to your PayPal account continues to be one of the most read post on a daily basis.  I wrote the post back in February 2014 and I still continue to get many views every single day.  I have long since had my PayPal account frozen due to “suspicious” PayPal My Cash Card (PPMCC), PayPal Extras MasterCard (PPEMC), and PayPal Business Debit Card (PPBDC) activity.  I expect PayPal to continue to shut down accounts with little to no notice and holding onto the funds for 6 months.  I am eagerly waiting a huge class action lawsuit against PayPal, who’s with me?

Score!  People still read my post, How to load PayPal MyCash Cards, everyday.  I believe there is a class action lawsuit with PayPal but I will need to wait a long time to see any money.

There you have it.  Did I miss anything?  Should I make predictions for 2017?  Please let me know in the comments section.  Have a great 2017 everyone!

11 thoughts on “A Look Back at my 2016 Predictions (Airlines, Hotels, Credit Cards & MS)

  1. Robert

    Thanks Grant! You’re spot on about AMEX Offers, they have been really disappointing this year. Also disappointing was their “enhancements” to the Platinum card following the release of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If the SPG card goes away (likely) and they don’t find a way to retain those customers, 2017 could be another bad year for AMEX.

    I of course think you should make 2017 predictions if you have the time and interest. Many of your 2013 predictions have since come true (even if they didn’t happen in 2014). Happy New Year!

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Haha, my 2013 predictions eventually came true. That sounds like my stock picking skills. Buy in 2013, sell in 2014, all time high now. Just my luck. I’ll try to make my 2017 predictions a little shorter too. Happy New Year!

      Reply
  2. Tonei Glavinic

    I’d say the forthcoming World of Hyatt program counts as a change to Hyatt Diamond benefits!

    Also from my friends who do FBA I think things have gotten harder, Amazon restricted a lot of brands and instituted massive fees and hurdles to be able to sell certain products, and that’s expected to continue as Amazon wages war against counterfeiters, with resellers as collateral damage.

    Reply
  3. Raul

    Change to southwest companion pass, just read that points earned via marriott travel package schedule will no longer be eligible for companion pass. Any idea on what’s the best option for picking what airline points to get with marriot pravel packagees now that the the companion pass isn’t a factor.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Are you more concerned about the SWA Companion Pass or getting the best bang for your Marriottpoints? I think United Airlines has a better transfer rate than other airlines in regards to Marriott travel packages.

      Reply
  4. Raul

    Well the original idea was to get SW Companion Pass but. Now that this no longer an option I was looking to get best points for my travel. Mainly do two trips a year, maui and mexico/south America but have been thinking of a trip to Europe. Paris is my first thought. What are your thoughts on what points to get. I’m in Central California. Mainly fly out of LAX

    Reply
    1. Tonei Glavinic

      From LAX pretty much any mileage program (well except Southwest and JetBlue) will give you good options for Europe. You can probably also keep an eye out for cheap paid tickets, which you can book with cash or credit card points (TYP/UR/MR) if you have them.

      For Maui, BA Avios are probably your best bet (booking on Alaska or AA). Central and South America you also have lots of options, it really depends on what you have access to or can get. AA or Alaska miles should be solid if you can find availability on AA or LAN. Aeroméxico might also be an option, bookable with delta or another Skyteam program.

      With the favorable transfer ratio from Marriott to United, it may be worth looking at that as your first choice for all of these if you’re looking to book these trips with your Marriott points.

      Reply
      1. Grant Post author

        Yes, I would go with United Airlines for travel from LAX to Europe. Lots of Star Alliance routes and availability. Tonei has great advice for LAX to Hawaii.

        Reply
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