There are probably going to be A LOT of people that hate this article. My goal is to get people thinking of the new possibilities Bluebird creates, and I personally believe that showing some extreme examples is the best way. Everyone should read Frequent Miler’s, Million Mile Secret’s, and Scottrick’s (my absolute favorite of the three) articles imploring moderation so you don’t screw yourself or everyone else over unintentionally.
I don’t want Bluebird to get shut down any more than the next guy (especially since I just paid my property tax using it), but this new card presents quite a bit of opportunity for many people. Certain things that weren’t possible before might seem within reach now, and hopefully a few examples can show you how it’s possible, though not necessarily practical, to leverage the new card.
ATTAIN SPG PLATINUM STATUS FOR JUST $395 (plus effort)
One of the cool benefits of the SPG program is that all reward nights count towards your elite status qualification. There is no rule that says any part of your 25 stays/50 nights have to be paid, so you can theoretically use your SPG Amex card to earn Platinum status for minimal spend, but lots of effort.
To stay at a Category 1 property, it takes a minimum of 2,000 points. If you have an SPG Amex you’d need to buy 4 Vanilla reload cards at $500 each to get 2,000 SPG points. At $3.95 per reload card, that’s $15.80 for a night at a Category 1 hotel. Now, do that 25 times and you have SPG Platinum status!
That means $395 ($15.80 x 25 nights) gets you SPG Platinum status, assuming you’re able to spend or cash out the money you put on it. Keep in mind this means buying $50,000 worth of Vanilla Reload cards, or 100 of them, so not everyone can or would do this.
Is it even worth it? Only you can decide that. Maybe you’d rather use those 50K SPG points for several nights at a Category 4 (or lower) property. Maybe you’d rather use it for a couple of nights at a top end Category 6 or 7. Either way, you’re almost certain to get more than $395 worth of value out of it!
ATTAIN HILTON DIAMOND STATUS FOR JUST $316 (plus effort)
While Hilton also counts award stays toward elite status, there is a much easier way to get top tier status with them. Spending $40,000 on either the Amex Hilton Surpass card or the Citi Hilton Reserve card will get you Diamond status.
To put $40,000 on a card, you’d need to buy 80 Vanilla Reload packs at $500 each (80 x $500 = $40,000). At $3.95 per Vanilla Reload, that’s just $316 in fees ($3.95 x 80 = $316) in order to attain Hilton Honors Diamond status. You also get 120,000 HHonors points, good for several nights depending on how you use them.
Is it worth it? Well, the difference between Hilton Gold and Diamond status is marginal. I’m Hilton Gold status this year despite staying with them only once, thanks to a rare opportunity to get Gold status for free. But $316 is also pretty cheap, even with all the time and effort involved. Again…you decide if it’s worth it for you.
HYATT AND PRIORITY CLUB
Unfortunately there is currently no way to earn Hyatt elite status via spending to my knowledge, and they don’t allow award nights to count toward stays either. Boo to them.
Priority Club’s program makes it relatively easy to attain top tier status as it is, so I wont bother doing a write-up for it.
ATTAINING AIRLINE ELITE STATUS
Delta is the only program through which you can actually spend your way to airline elite status via credit card spending. Select other programs offer a certain amount of Preferred/Elite Qualifying miles for hitting a certain spending threshold, as long as you have the co-branded credit card.
- Spending $25,000 on the Barclays US Airways card or Barclays Virgin America card will get you 10,000 points/miles in each respective program. It costs $197.50 to get these elite miles via Vanilla Reloads (50 Vanilla Reloads x $3.95 = $197.50).
- Spending $40,000 on the Citi American Airlines Executive card will also get you 10,000 elite AAdvantage miles. It costs $316 to get these elite miles via Vanilla Reloads (80 Vanilla Reloads x $3.95 = $316).
- Spending $10,000 on the Chase Southwest cards gets you an extra 1,500 bonus points. That means that if you spend $100,000 you’ll earn enough points for the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. But that’s a lot of spending. It costs $790 to get these elite miles via Vanilla Reloads (200 Vanilla Reloads x $3.95 = $790).
For a much more efficient breakdown of how “big spenders” can earn these bonuses and much more (and we’re all suddenly big spenders with Bluebird), I highly recommend Million Mile Secrets’ Big Spenders Series. He also wrote this article on how to earn lots of points (not necessarily elite points) via spending.
It’s easy to calculate how many points you need when you’re trying to reach a particular spending goal for whatever purpose (as you saw above). The basic formula is:
Spend Target/$500 x $3.95 = Total Cost. So if you need to hit $25,000 as I noted above: $25,000/$500 x $3.95 = $197.50. If you’re bad at math, don’t worry…order of operations doesn’t apply so multiply and divide however you want!
You’re “only” allowed to load $5,000 per month on your Bluebird card, so $60,000 a year might not cut it for your spending needs. If, however, you were to start today, you could theoretically load/spend $75,000 by the end of 2013. Three calendar months left this year is $15,000, plus all 12 next year is another $60,000 for a total of $75,000.
Oh and don’t forget the good old Amex Prepaid card! You can order 3 of them for yourself and each can hold up to $2,500, reloaded with Vanilla Reloads. It can be cashed out at ATM machines, but there are some fees. It does not have check writing capabilities.
Also, as I’ve tried to note several times above, it’s damn hard to spend or get back all that money efficiently or quickly. It will take time, patience, and in many cases you have to have the ability to “float” several thousand dollars at a time. Again, not everyone can or would want to do this.
Quite frankly, if you went all out like I noted above then Chase or Amex might take a look at your accounts and/or shut you down. Don’t let that happen.
With that being said, I’d like to direct you to an article from the Wall Street Journal that notes how lucrative opportunities like this could be if you go all out and can find a way to avoid having your accounts closed.
If you’re wondering, I’m not going to attempt most of the above options. The one I might consider is the US Airways EQMs. I also might use the SPG card for a few nights here or there.
Just remember, don’t go overboard. Be responsible. Only you can prevent forest fires.