Happy holidays!  In today’s post, each of the writers on this blog (me, Nick, and Stephen) picked our favorite and least favorite happenings in the points & miles world in 2019 to compile this Naughty & Nice list.

Greg’s Naughty & Nice List

Naughty: Citi drops travel & purchase protections

Citi used to have some of the best automatic protections available.  Like Chase, Citi offered travel protections even if you paid only partially with the card.  They also arguably offered the best extended warranty coverage and probably the easiest to use price protection.  All of that is gone!  They’ve dropped these features from almost all of their cards.  It’s hard now to recommend Citi’s rewards cards even though they offer excellent earning potential.

Naughty runner-ups

  • Dynamic award pricing: Following Delta’s lead, United dropped their award charts so that they can price awards however they want.  Now, with AA Web Specials, it feels like AA is doing the same.  In both cases, you may find better award prices than before, but you’ll also find awards that are much more expensive.  The worst part, to me, is the fact that you never know what you’re going to get.  How do you know if it’s worth bothering to search for awards?  You don’t.

Nice: Citi Double Cash rewards are now convertable to ThankYou Rewards

If you can get over the lack of travel & purchase protections, this is a big deal.  Citi Double Cash was already a decent fee-free 2% cash back card, but now it’s so much more.  Use it as a cash back card if you like, but if you want more valuable rewards, you now have more options.  For example, you can pair it with the Citi Premier card in order to purchase travel through the ThankYou Rewards portal to get 1.25 cents per point value.  Or, better yet, pair it with either the Premier or Prestige card in order to make points transferable to airline programs.  See: Citi Double Cash Complete Guide.

Nice runner-ups:

  • Rakuten Portal offers Membership Rewards option.  Now, instead of earning cash back from the Rakuten (formerly Ebates) portal, you can choose to collect rewards as Membership Rewards points!  This is especially huge for those with the Rakuten Visa card which earns 3X rewards for any purchases that earn rewards through the Rakuten portal.
  • Simon Mall MS Friendly.  While most businesses try to discourage manufacturing spend (MS), Simon Mall has embraced it.  They welcome MS-ers to buy Visa gift cards in large amounts (up to $25,000 per day!).  Plus, they’ve been offering Visa gift cards loadable up to $1,000 (vs. the usual $500 max).  This greatly reduces the amount of work involved and the fee as a percentage of total.  Let’s hope that they continue offering these in 2020!

Nick’s Naughty & Nice List

Naughty: Marriott Bonvoyed

Marriott has had a naughty year, but I put them on this list mostly because of the inconsistency of the program: from some properties explicitly saying that they won’t upgrade any elite members on the website to the monthly changing of peak and off-peak pricing to the continuing need to consult a chart before booking a simple hotel night to know which elite benefits apply, the inconsistency is what is most disappointing — it makes loyalty less fun and more taxing.

Nice: Turkish Airlines 7.5K one-way domestic flights

Turkish Airlines offering UA domestic flights for 7.5K one-way in economy class and 12.5K in business class without needing physically go to a ticket office to book. This has been an absolute game-changer for me in terms of the way I look at domestic travel, especially as someone based in a small market. My mind is still blown that I flew to Hawaii for 7,500 miles and $5.60 from the east coast. While phone bookings no longer work smoothly, email and online bookings are easy enough that Turkish went from completely off my radar to my hands-down favorite airline program.

Nice runner-ups:

  • Simon Mall: In any year in which the Turkish sweet spot wasn’t found, the fact that an outlet selling Visa Gift Cards approached us to welcome manufactured spending or the ability to generate up to $25,000 in spend in one stop for less than a hundred bucks or the ability to buy a $1K Visa Gift Card with a load fee of only $3.95 would be a big story. All of those things in one package is huge; it’s still not enough to supplant Turkish for the nicest thing this year, but it’s a strong runner up that I hope continues on in the new year.
  • SoFi: This one isn’t directly points and miles related, but it was such an easy deal that could have led to cheap purchased points or funds to cover award taxes, food, and other ancillary travel expenses. A couple playing in two-player mode could have easily pocketed a few hundred bucks very quickly and potentially quite a bit more by sharing the opportunity to do the same with friends and family with almost no hoops for anyone to jump through a good long-term debit account for those without a Schwab account.
  • Hyatt / SLH partnership: I…

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