Last night, I took my last flight of the year, and boy was it a doozy. Now with the year in the past, it's time to reflect on milestones I hit in 2011, and what I'm hoping for in 2012.
It was a good year for me on United. I started the year off as a 1K, and I wasn't sure if I would be able to requalify again. My business travel can be sporadic, and I actually changed jobs TWICE this year, often leaving my travel in flux. In any case, thanks to an amazing trip to China and a couple trips to Europe, I requalified for 1K without any problems, ending the year with 131,380 EQMs and 94 EQS. Perhaps more interestingly, I'm now almost 60% of the way to Million Miler status. I have 584,767 lifetime miles, but United is going to make a one-time adjustment to everyone's lifetime mileage balance in order to align it with Continental's program. I'm curious how much of a bump that adjustment is going to give me. I do a few trips in US AIrways every year, and I flew to China on Air Canada this year, so I'm thinking that my bump is going to be somewhere between 60,00 and 100,000 miles. I'm REALLY looking forward to Million Miler status.
While some of my co-bloggers aren't the biggest fans of Marriott Rewards, I continue to use Marriott as a staple of my business travel. There are so many properties out there, and I find Platinum Status, with the assistance of the Marriott Rewards Chase Signature Premier card, extremely easy to obtain. I ended 2010 with 101 total "nights" for the year, and I did even better this year with 103. Marriott Rewards has rollover nights so there's a major incentive to get more nights, even after the qualification threshold has been reached. As Marriott Rewards takes 75 "nights" to qualify, I'll roll over 28 "nights" into 2012. I keep using parentheses for "nights" because Marriott has a couple credit card bonuses that let you accrew nights even faster: you get 15 "nights" on the anniversary of your card and an additional "night" after every $3,000 you spend on the card, with no limit to the maximum you can earn. Rolling over 28 nights and getting 15 bonus nights from the card, that will put me at 43 nights without ever doing a thing. I expect Platinum requalification with Marriott in 2012 to be relatively trivial. And just like I'm going after lifetime status on United, I'm going after lifetime status with Marriott. Once I hit 1,000 nights, I'll be a Lifetime Platinum with Marriott, and I'm quite excited about that!
Starwood Preferred Guest
As a result of $30K credit card spend on the SPG Amex in 2010, I came into 2011 as a Starwood Gold Member. I had resolved to make 2011 the year I nailed SPG Platinum, and SPG properties were always my first choice when traveling for business. Additionally, I did a lot of hotel hopping in order to hit the 25 stays threshold sooner, and I ended up qualifying for Platinum around the middle of the year. Once I hit Platinum, I went back to my Marriott ways, trying to build up a large pool of rollover nights. I feel pretty confident that I'll make Platinum with Starwood again in 2012, and I just wish they had a Lifetime Program to reward continued loyalty over the years.
I didn't hit any status levels with Alaska Airlines this year, but I still find Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan to be one of the more intriguing programs out there (a longer post about this a bit later). Because Alaska has codeshare agreements with both Delta and American, I use Alaska's Mileage Plan as somewhat of a "dumping ground" for miscellaneous flights I take throughout the year. I primarily fly United and Star Alliance carriers, but when I need to get some place on a certain route that I can't to with Star Alliance, there's usually a good Delta or American option. Since I don't fly either of those carriers enough to make having a bucket of miles worth it, I just credit all the flights to Alaska Airlines. My balance is slowly increasing, and I'll eventually redeem for either a trip to Hawaii or maybe a trip on Cathay Pacific.
Expedia Rewards / BigCrumbs
The addition of Expedia Rewards and BigCrumbs was new for me in 2011. Actually, Expedia Rewards was brand new for everyone in 2011 as Expedia just recently unveiled the program. You get a half of a point for every dollar you spend on airline flights with Expedia, and once you eventually hit 50,000 points, you can redeem for a $1,000 hotel voucher. Will it take a long time to hit 50,000 points? You betcha. Is there a better option for booking flights? Not that I'm aware of. Keep in mind that you'll still earn all of the miles and points you would normally with whatever carrier you typically use, but now you get Expedia Rewards points as well. If the goal of the program was to bring more customers, it definitely worked for me. I never booked with Expedia before this year, and now I book all of my flights through them. The Expedia option becomes slightly MORE intriguing with the addition of BigCrumbs. BigCrumbs is a service that uses referral fees and lets YOU take the money, rather than a referring site. While they have partnerships with a bunch of online retailers, the Expedia partnership is pretty lucrative. For every flight you book via the BigCrumbs referral link, you get $3.20 cash back via Paypal. Take my Delta OAK-LAX flight yesterday, for example... It was a $60 flight. I got 500 miles for flying on Alaska, I got $60 worth of credit card points, I got 30 Expedia Rewards points, and I got $3.20 cashback via BigCrumbs. If you're interested in BigCrumbs and want to hook me up with a referral, here's the link.
I must confess. I'm addicted to Yelp. I love posting pictures of food at restaurants, I love checking in, and I love reviewing the best and worst of where I dine. Yelp has an invite-only program called "Yelp Elite," reserved for those members who post a lot of reviews. I finally got the invite in late 2011! There are only two perks to this status: you get an "Elite" badge next to your name and you get invited to private Yelp elite parties. I have not yet participated in any parties yet, but I'm hoping that I can try out a couple in 2012!
And that's a wrap for 2011! It was a great year for travel, and I can only hope that 2012 brings even more! Happy Travels and Happy New Year!
UPDATE: Thanks to Lurker in the comments below for correcting me on the amount of elite bonus nights the Marriott signature card gives. I had originally written 25, but it's actually only 15... I just had a brain fart as I've previous correctly blogged about the Marriott Rewards Card and Platinum Status after 19 nights.
UPDATE 2: Once again, interesting comment by Lurker. He mentions that Marriott nights that I had previously rolled over would not count for rollover this year. While that makes sense, I had never heard that before... My balance still shows last year's elite mileage balance. Once it updates, I'll re-update the post with veriifed info.