Travel Bargains to Consider
June 27 to July 11, 2019


Air Italy: Two-for One Business Class Expands to U.S. Markets
When Qatar Airways purchased a 49 percent interest in Meridiana, a second-tier Italian carrier, it must have seemed a savvy buy. Alitalia was--and still is--bankrupt again and had long ignored Milan, Italy's prosperous financial and fashion capital. So Qatar Air reimagined the carrier as Air Italy, outfitted it with a fleet of former Airbus A330s, created a hub at Milan/Malpensa and unleashed a raft of routes to Canada and the United States. The results have been, um, mixed. For weeks, Air Italy has flogged a 2-for-1 business class deal between Toronto/Pearson and Milan. Now the offer has been expanded to the U.S. gateways of New York/Kennedy, Miami and San Francisco. The deals have some differences. The Toronto offer extends through the summer schedule, which, in typical airline weirdness, lasts through October. The U.S. offer, however, only allows you a 2-for-1 until August 31. What else do you need to know? A 7-day advance purchase applies on both sales. Both sales also offer 2-for-1 on the lowest available business fare, which is nice. However, the second ticket isn't exactly free since you will pay taxes, fees and a creatively named "navigation surcharge." (I guess the theory is that if you don't pay it, you might end up in Bratislava or Warsaw instead of Milan...) The biggest catch? Tickets must be purchased by July 2.


Air Canada: Double and Triple Miles on Summer Flights
Haven't seen this one before. Air Canada is promoting double or triple Aeroplan miles all summer on a fairly hefty collection of intra-Canada and transborder routes. The offer is double miles on coach fares and triple miles on premium fares on both Air Canada mainline and Air Canada Rouge flights. The applicable routes? Fly from any Canadian city to/from eight Canadian and 16 U.S. destinations, including New York, Vancouver, Chicago, Boston, Calgary and Maui. The requirements? Register and book by July 12 for flights until September 30. A roundtrip or two one-way flights also is required. Information: the Air Canada TAKE SUMMER FLIGHTS page.

Marriott/Hertz: 2,000 Bonvoy Points for Multi-Day Rentals
With car rentals sagging in the face of widespread adoption of ride-sharing services, rental firms have been partnering up with airlines and hotels for big bonus offers. That's especially true of Hertz, which these days has a mediocre reputation thanks to repeated service glitches. If you can handle Hertz, it has teamed up with Marriott for a bushel of Bonvoy bonus points. On two-day rentals, you can earn 2,000 points. The deal is valid through the end of the year on rentals in North America, Puerto Rico, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Use discount codes CDP#154080 and PC#204918. The offer is valid through December 31.

Hainan Airlines: You're Not Going to China at These Insane Fares?
There are precious few bargains to Europe this summer, but if you're looking for someplace, how about China? Hainan Airlines is basically giving away seats to fill planes on its fast-expanding network. Best of all, Hainan Air doesn't just fly to Beijing and Shanghai, but also operates nonstop to places such as Xi'an, Chengdu, Changsha and Chongqing. Coach fares start as low as--wait for it--$376 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Shanghai. Business class seats start at just $2,319 roundtrip from Los Angeles, $2,710 from Chicago, $2,818 from Boston and $2,855 from New York/Kennedy. Seats at those prices are limited, of course, but they're available in decent numbers. Travel is valid through September 30. Information: the Hainan Airlines OFFERS page.


Marriott Bonvoy: One Promotion That Won't Rule Them All
Marriott Bonvoy seems to have worked out most of the kinks in the merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. It's also adverting the program aggressively. One thing it's not doing: inventive, noteworthy promotions. The newest is extremely weak: a 1,500-point bonus on stays of two nights or more. That sure doesn't sound like Endless Earnings, the moniker Marriott has adopted for the summer promotion. You can earn on stays between July 2 and September 16 if you register in advance by September 2. Needless to say, this won't change your lodging choices, but it's better than a proverbial stick in the eye. Information: the ENDLESS EARNINGS page.

Best Western: The Annual $20 Kickback Summer Promotion
Best Western has once again rolled out its Rewards Rush promotion for summer stays. It's simple, modest, but, you know, better than a stick in the eye. When you stay at a Best Western before September 2, you will get a $20 Best Western gift card valid for stays within 120 days after issuance. You can only receive one $20 kickback during the promotional period. Advance Registration is required. INFORMATION: the LIMITED TIME OFFER page.

Omni Hotels: 20-25 Percent Discounts for AAA Members
Like many chains, Omni Hotels offers a discount for AAA members. The saving is usually modest--about 5 or 10 percent--but Omni is now breaking from the pack. Use the chain's prepaid AAA rates and the saving is 20 percent at hotels in San Diego, San Francisco and Atlanta. It's even more--25 percent--in Washington, Chicago, Boston, New York, Dallas, Providence, Montreal and Toronto. INFORMATION: the Omni AAA SPECIAL PROMOTION page.

Hyatt: A Free Extra Night at Park Hyatts--If We Feel Like It
When a fairly simple offer--get a free night's stay if you purchase a multi-night stay--has more than 500 words of terms and conditions, be wary. So it is with Hyatt's newest promotion for its top-tier Park Hyatt properties. The offer seems simple enough: Book two or more nights at participating properties and you'll receive an additional night at no extra charge. That works out to a 33 percent discount at the Park Hyatt hotels requiring a two-night minimum; a 25 percent discount at properties offering a free fourth night; and a 20 percent discount at the hotels offering a free fifth night. Then it gets complicated. The lengthy T&Cs don't even tell you when you can claim the free night, when there are blackouts or virtually anything else. You'll have to go hotel-by-hotel to figure it all out. Complicating matters more, you'll only get the free night if your stay is prepaid. Still, Park Hyatts are fine hotels and you may score a nifty discount on a multi-day stay if you plan carefully and hack your way through the restrictions. Information: the NIGHT ON PARK HYATT page.

Choice Hotels: $50 Gift Cards After Two Stays
Choice Hotels has a dreary loyalty plan--and some really dreary properties--but here's an enticing opportunity: Earn a $50 gift card after two stays at Choice by August 9. The cards are valid for purchases at Amazon, Apple, Applebee's, Best Buy, Chili's, Kohl's and Lowe's. (Cards for Canadian travelers are also offered for Hudson's Bay, Starbucks and Esso/Mobil.) To claim the deal, you must be a member of the Choice Privileges frequency plan, register in advance and book stays via Choice channels. You'll receive enough Choice Privileges points (8,000) to claim the cards by September 30. You can earn an unlimited number of $50 cards during the promo. Information: the SPEND IT YOUR WAY page.

World of Hyatt: Bonus Points for MGM Stays in Las Vegas
Hyatt is so small compared to truly global chains like Marriott, Hilton, InterContinental and Accor that it needs to find partners everywhere. In Las Vegas, for example, it joins with MGM Resorts and it is promoting those properties with bonus points offers. At nine MGM resorts, you'll earn double World of Hyatt points (that's 10 per $1 spent). At three others, you'll get a 20 percent bump or 6 points per dollar spent. The promotion runs until July 31, but advance registration is required for each offer. Information: the WIN BIG WITH MGM RESORTS page.

Hilton Honors: Stay a Lot, Get a Lot of Low-Value Points
With the possible exception of Delta SkyMiles, no major frequency currency is worth less than Hilton Honors points. Which explains why Hilton basically offers double-point promotions on a year-round basis. The latest iteration offers double points starting with the second stay between May 6 and September 8. Then there's the added fillip: a stair-step accelerator offering 10,000 points on the 10th stay, 15,000 points on the 15th stay and 20,000 points on the 20th. What's it all mean? A lot of low-value points for a lot of Hilton stays in four months. Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the GO MORE, GET MORE POINTS page.

Marriott Rewards: 2,000 Bonus Points a Stay at Select Courtyards
I asked on Twitter recently how to tell the difference between the various Marriott-branded select-service brands when they all use similar bathroom amenities, soft goods and other material. Apparently Marriott Rewards also gets that it doesn't offer much differentiation these days. Its "solution?" A 2,000-point-per-stay bonus when you book select Courtyard by Marriott properties. Use code 53M to grab the extra points. No, that won't change your world, but never walk away from extra points. Information: the COURTYARD 2K EVERYDAY page.

Hotels: Maybe You'll Find a Rate Savings With a Credit Card
Airline fares have been relatively flat in recent months, but hotel and resort rates continue to rise, precipitously in some destinations. Possible solution: hotel discounts offered by your credit card. American Express Platinum Cards, for example, feature a Fine Hotels & Resort collection that covers more than 1,000 properties around the world. Bundled with the FHR rates are space-available room upgrades; check-in as early as noon based on availability and guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout; breakfast for two; free WiFi; and property-specific food and beverage credit or other amenity. Meanwhile, Visa Signature cards claim to offer special rates at 900 properties. Perks include space-available upgrade; free WiFi; free breakfast for two; a $25 food and beverage credit; and late checkout. Of course, all of these specials come with some caveats. Most hotels in the programs are in the luxury category. You must book directly at the card's special Web site. And you should always check that the rate you're paying is competitive with other offers.

Waldorf/Conrad: $50 Daily Statement Credits at Hilton Luxury Digs
When you affect luxury--as Hilton's Waldorf and Hilton brands do--rate cutting is frowned upon. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, of course, but it is frowned upon nevertheless. The preferred method of lowering the price is by gimmicks. The current gimmick? A $50 statement credit for each night you spend in participating Waldorf and Conrad hotels. Three-day advance reservations are required and there are blackout dates. And as I always say with deals like this, always check to see whether a cheaper rate is available than the promoted gimmick. A two-night minimum stay is required. All Waldorf properties honor the promotion and 27 Conrad properties are participating. Waldorf is calling its $50-a-day BEST OF WALDORF. The Conrad promotion is called COMPLIMENTS OF CONRAD.


EVA Air: Terrific Business Class, Great Fares From Sea-Tac
So many carriers have launched so many flights to Asia from Seattle-Tacoma that prices have plunged in recent months. Perfect example: EVA Air, the quiet Taiwanese carrier that is a member of the Star Alliance. Its top-notch business class doesn't get enough publicity, but travelers admire the hard product (great seats) and the soft product (consistently attractive and useful amenity kits). And, yes, a Hello Kitty plane or two if that's your jam. In any event, EVA's prices from Seattle are extraordinary. Assuming you're willing to change planes in Taipei, it's $4,099 roundtrip to Hong Kong. It's even cheaper to Seoul ($3,600 roundtrip) and Tokyo ($3,610). You could perhaps pass on those since there are nonstops in the market, but fares to destinations that require a connection anyway are an even better deal. To Manila, for instance, it's $3,587 roundtrip and just a few dollars more to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It's $3,702 to Bangkok and even less ($3,694) to Kuala Lumpur. Tickets must be purchased by July 15, but midweek travel is valid until November 30. Information: the SEATTLE TO ASIA page.

Swiss: Holy Moley! It's a First Class Sale--With Lots of Holes, Of Course
There aren't many first class cabins to Europe left, so finding a first class sale is just this side of a miracle. But maybe we should discuss the holes first: It's on Swiss, which has a limited route network. It's on Swiss, which means you're connecting via Zurich. It's on Swiss, which has a good, but not stupendous, first class product. And flights are only available for travel at the sale price starting in late July. Still, if you can thread the needle, you can find some excellent bargains. Samples from New York/JFK: Rome for $5,962 roundtrip and Naples for $6,001. From Boston, it's $5,721 roundtrip to Copenhagen. From Miami, you'll find a $5,994 roundtrip to Barcelona. And one bonus: $8,592 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. Information: the SWISS Web site.

La Compagnie: Rewriting the Rules--and the Prices--of Paris Travel
La Compagnie seems to have beaten the all-business-class airline curse and is nearing its fifth year of flying between Newark and France. Now owned by larger French carrier (XL Airways), it has even taken delivery of its first new aircraft, the Airbus A321neo. Unlike the older Boeing 757s in its fleet, the neo aircraft has lie-flat beds and the most modern bells and whistles, even free WiFi. The aircraft is flying one of LaCompanie's two daily flights between Newark and Paris/Orly. Although La Compagnie is not bargaining on neo flights, fares are astoundingly low on its seasonal B757 Newark-Nice run and its one daily B757 Newark-Orly service. You'll find rates as low as $1,300 roundtrip to Nice and, on select days, as low as $1,000 roundtrip on Newark-Orly. You'll have to poke around to find those fares, but they're available in decent numbers. Even if you can't find that $1,000 roundtrip to Paris, normal promotional rates start at $1,300. Information: the La Compagnie SPECIAL DEALS page.

Cathay Pacific: Business Class Bargains From the West Coast
Cathay Pacific has weathered the worst moments of its financial and existential crisis--and that means bargains are getting harder to find. But they are out there from its West Coast gateways. From the newest, Seattle/Tacoma, nonstop business class roundtrips to Hong Kong start as low as $3,317. From San Francisco, the price is $3,555 roundtrip. From LAX, it is $3,426 roundtrip. Onward connections to other Asia destinations are available at similar bargains. The sale prices are available until June 30 for travel until August 14. Expect the lowest prices midweek with at least a seven-day advance purchase.

Etihad: Two-Day Free Stay in Abu Dhabi Through the End of the Year
Etihad Airways doesn't seem to have much of a future. It is dwarfed by its Dubai-based neighbor Emirates, its strategy of buying into weakened European airlines collapsed and the royal family that owns the carrier is losing patience with endless losses. Which is a long-winded way of explaining why Etihad is desperate to figure out an angle to get Americans to fly over Abu Dhabi. The current angle: free two-night stopover in Abu Dhabi, including lodging at several of the city's excellent hotels. The stayover needs to be booked by December 1 for travel until December 31. That offer is for coach flyers, by the way. Business and first class travelers and customers in Etihad's The Residence, the over-the-top private double cabin, have their own offer. Information: the Etihad STOPOVER IN 2019 page.

KLM: Under-the-Radar Business Class Sale Rates Worldwide
Even though KLM kicks in about 80 percent of the profit of the combined KLM/Air France, the Dutch part of the partnership remains distinctly under the radar when it comes to publicity. In other words, prepare to fly over its Amsterdam/Schiphol hub if you're looking for business class bargains. From New York, sample prices include $2,020 roundtrip to Madrid, $3,148 to Accra, Ghana, and $2,714 to Delhi. From Miami, it's $2,446 to Athens roundtrip and $3,574 to Mumbai. From San Francisco, it's $2,548 roundtrip to London, $2,917 to Chennai and $3,842 to Cape Town. There are also similar sale prices from all 12 of KLM's U.S. gateways. The KLM site offers a handy month-by-month bar chart of the fares and then a day-by-day breakdown of availability. It's a slick way to find the lowest fares. Information: the KLM'S BEST OFFERS page.

Qatar Airways: Price-Fixed Business Class 'Sale' Apparently Permanent
Several times this year Qatar Airways has offered up putatively price-fixed business class sales to destinations around the world. Either it worked or Qatar Air's marketing team is out of ideas because the promotion has apparently become a comparatively permanent part of the carrier's fare structure. In case you've forgotten, Qatar claims that is has set a fixed-price business class fare structure: $2,450, $2,950, $3,450, $3,950 or $4,450 roundtrip. But, of course, there's much less there than meets the eye. Qatar falls back on "starting at" verbiage that means every ticket is, um, "market price." Still, there is a smattering of seats at each price point. Sample fares: $2,450 roundtrip on Atlanta or Miami to Delhi; $2,450 from New York/JFK to Tbilisi, Georgia; $2,950 on Los Angeles-Da Nang, Vietnam, or Chicago-Manila; $3,450 on DFW or Atlanta to Johannesburg or Miami-Hong Kong; and $3,950 between Philadelphia and Kathmandu. The best prices are available for midweek travel between July 29 and January 1. A seven-day minimum stay is required and there's a still, 90-day advance purchase requirement. And a reminder: All trips operate via Doha, Qatar Air's hub. Information: the Qatar Air BUCKET LIST EXPERIENCE page.

Alaska Airlines: Double Miles on Coast-to-Coast Flights Through 2019
Alaska Airlines continues to try to forge a new identity on the coast-to-coast flights it assumed in the Virgin America buy. Shorn of their white seats with 55-inch pitch and mood lighting, Alaska's flights are relying on a more-than-generous 41-inch pitch and lots of upgrades. Now another tactic: double miles on transcontinental flights until the end of the year. The only restriction: advance registration before your first transcon run. The double-miles offer is valid between Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose and East Coast airports from Boston to Fort Lauderdale. That includes New York (Kennedy and Newark) and Washington (BWI, Dulles and National) airports. The deal is also offered on routes where Alaska Air had flights before it purchased Virgin America. Information: the DOUBLE MILES COAST2COAST page.

Finnair: Cheap Business Class This Year? How About Russia?
Finland remains what it has always been: a middle ground between Europe and Russia. And Vantaa Airport in Helsinki remains what it always has been: a fabulous place to change planes en route to Russia. See where I'm going with this? Finnair is offering great deals in business class over its Helsinki hub to Russia. Prices are valid for travel until well into next spring if you can hit the admittedly stiff (up to 60 days) advance-purchase restriction. Sample fares: Yekaterinburg for $2,295 roundtrip; Moscow for $2,294; and St. Petersburg for $2,299. Oddly, if you're headed to Helsinki, the nonstop roundtrip price is $3,481. Ticket are nonrefundable and no stopovers are permitted. Information: the Finnair FLIGHT OFFERS page.

British Airways: AARP Deal, Reduced Again, Extended Through 2020
British Airways isn't only hacking away at the quality of its in-flight product and its reputation as a premium carrier. It's also reducing the classic deals you can use to get discounts. Take its long-standing AARP deal. BA once offered as much as $400 off roundtrip. Now first and premium economy class discounts have been axed and we're left with $200 roundtrip off BA's outdated business class and $65 off its newly "densified" coach class. Also gone: the opportunity to twin the AARP discount with other BA promotions. Still, $65 or $200 off is better than a stick upside your head. And the current deal is now valid for travel until the end of 2020 if you book by January 31, 2020. The cost of entry: the $12 fee required to join AARP. And you must enter through the AARP portal to score the discounts. Information: the EXCLUSIVE AARP MEMBERS page.


United/Hertz: Worst-in-Class Providers Offer Really Big Bonuses
What do Hertz and United Airlines have in common? Lessee, both operations run poorly. A former top United exec was ousted as Hertz chief executive for doing a lousy job. And United once actually owned Hertz. Other than that? Both are desperate for new customers. The solution: gigantic bonuses for even two-day rentals. Until October 31, book a mid-size or larger Hertz car at for at least two days and you'll receive a 1,500-mile bonus atop the 500-1,250 miles you'd normally earn as a member of MileagePlus. That means as many as 2,750 miles for rentals as short as two days. Sound familiar? It should. It's a re-introduction, extension and slight rejiggering of a promotion that the two companies have continually offered for about four years. Information: the BOOK YOUR CAR THROUGH UNITED.COM page.

National/Southwest: Quadruple Rapid Rewards for Weekly Rentals
Southwest Airlines and National Car Rental have teamed up to offer a bigger payoff for rentals if you need a vehicle. Instead of the standard 600 Rapid Rewards points, a two- or three-day National rental will earn 1,200 points. Rentals of 4-6 days will earn 1,800 points. Weekly or longer rentals will score 2,400 points. To score the points, use Contract ID code 5030510. Bonus points are valid on rentals until January 31, 2020, with one-day advance reservation. By the way, if this sounds familiar, it is exactly the same deal that ran all of last year. Information: the RAPID REWARDS PROMOTIONS page.


Chase/Southwest: The Bonus Alone Gets You Close to a Companion Pass
The most prized frequency "win" in the current frequency landscape is a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. But it's not an easy win because only flying miles and credit card spend count toward the required 110,000 Rapids Rewards points. Which is why the Southwest Performance Business Credit Card, introduced this week by Chase Bank, is such an extraordinary "get." The acquisition bonus of 80,000 points counts toward the pass. To score the bonus, you'll need to spend $5,000 in the first 90 days you have the card. That's not a big hurdle, of course, but this might be: You don't qualify for the card if you have Chase's other Southwest business card or have received a bonus for that card in the last 24 months. The annual fee is $199, for which you'll also receive 9,000 points each additional year you have the card, triple points for Southwest spend and double points for charges on various social media and communications services. You'll also earn some WiFi and boarding privileges. Information: the Chase EARN 80,000 POINTS page.

Credit Cards: The Big Acquisition Bonuses Keep on Coming
As we've discussed frequently in recent months, the smash-and-grab strategy may be the only way to "win" the increasingly rigged frequency game. As you know, that entails taking a credit card for the big acquisition bonus, charging just enough to earn it, then moving on to another card. If you've been "playing," here are three more high earners with modest requirements:
      Bank of America/Sonesta Hotels: The under-the-radar Sonesta chain is out with its first card and the offer from Bank of America is rich: 60,000 points for spending just $1,000 in the first 90 days. You can also earn 5,000 more points for adding an authorized user in the first 90 days and a 30,000-point bonus if you spend $7,500 over the course of the first year. The $75 annual fee is waived in the first year. What do Sonesta points buy? Some of its limited-service extended-stay hotels are available for as little as 15,000 points. It has excellent resorts in sun zones (Arizona, the Caribbean, Texas, Hilton Head, Latin America) and prices are mostly in the 25,000-50,000 points nightly range. (It also has hotels in Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco and Philadelphia.) Information: the Bank of America SONESTA WORLD MASTERCARD page.
      Chase/Marriott: Marriott has both American Express and Chase pumping out cards under the Bonvoy brand. The latest is from Chase and is called the Marriott Bonvoy Bold. This one has no annual fee and you'll earn 50,000 points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months. Fly in the ointment: Chase and Amex collaborate and you may not get the card if you have one of several existing Bonvoy cards. If you care about ongoing earnings, the card offers three points per dollar on Marriott charges, two points for other travel charges and one point for everything else. Information: the 50,000 BONUS POINTS card.
      Citibank: Citi ThankYou points are flexible, transferring to a wide variety of airline programs including JetBlue, Singapore, Air France/KLM and others. Citi's basic card in the category, Citi Premier, is now offering 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. The card, with a $95 annual fee, offers three points per dollar on travel and gasoline charges, two points for restaurant and entertainment spend and one point on everything else. Information: the CITI PREMIER CARD page.

Hawaiian Airlines: 60,000- to 70,000-Mile Bonuses
Big credit card acquisition bonuses aren't just for the big airlines and the big banks. Hawaiian Airlines partners with Bank of Hawaii to promote the Hawaiian credit cards and the numbers are huge. You'll earn 60,000 miles for taking a personal card and spending $2,000 in the first 90 days. The business card offers 60,000 miles if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. You'll earn another 10,000 miles if you also acquire an employee card and make a purchase on it. The $99 annual fee is waived for the first year if you choose the personal card. The fee does apply on the business card, however.

American Express: Another Benefits Bump for the Gold Card
We've noted the decline in value of the American Express Platinum Card, but Amex also is adding value to its Amex Gold product. After an upgrade and overhaul last year, Amex unveiled a new wrinkle this week: quadruple American Express Rewards points for spending in international restaurants. Until this week, the benefit was limited to U.S. dining venues. Another nice new perk: a 50,000-point acquisition bonus to take the card. To recap, the card (annual fee of $250) offers: 4 points per dollar in restaurants worldwide; 4 points per dollar on the first $25,000 of U.S. supermarket spend; 3 points per dollar spent on fares charged with an airline or AmexTravel; a $10 monthly statement credit for select restaurant and food-delivery services; a $100 airline-fee credit for a carrier you pre-select; and a $100 credit at properties booked via Amex's proprietary hotel collection.

Chase: Honest, Sapphire Preferred Is Better Than Capital One Venture
The decision of Capital One to get into the points-to-airline transfer game has rattled Chase Bank, whose Ultimate Rewards points are the gold standard of bank currency. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has suddenly upped its acquisition bonus to 60,000 points and it is clear that Chase wants to make sure you don't defect to the Capital One Venture card. How do we know? The promotion page for the acquisition bonus is literally a comparison chart between Chase and Capital One. You should have a Sapphire Preferred card, so grab one now if you don't have one. Sixty thousand points is too good to pass up. The annual fee is $95, which Chase's chart admits isn't as good as Capital One's first-year fee waiver. Information: the EARN 60,000 BONUS POINTS page.

American Express: Lots of Points to Take a Hilton Card. But, Um...
American Express really, really wants you to take one of its four Hilton cards. And the lure, as always, is a bigger acquisition bonus: from 75,000 to 150,000 Hilton Honors points. The problem? Hilton Honors points have little value, even in the ridiculously devalued travel world. Getting a half-cent return is often a victory in Honors, which is now completely revenue-based and ludicrously overpriced for everything but a standard room. (And sometimes not even then...) But if you find value in Hilton, at least one of these four cards will be useful and perhaps two should be on your radar. The no-fee Hilton Honors Amex will give you 75,000 points for $1,000 of spend in the first three months. The sweet spot is 125,000 points, available for Amex's two Hilton cards with a $95 annual fee. Information: the Amex UPGRADE YOUR STAY page.

Chase: 80,000-Point Bonus to Take an Ink Business Card
As the airline frequent flyer programs get less generous, smart travelers are banking their miles with banks. Chase Ultimate Rewards points, for example, offer a 1:1 transfer to United, Southwest, several international airlines and some hotel chains, too. There seems to be less risk by banking points with Chase and moving them to your programs as the good deals--or award availability--warrant. One of the current stars in the wide Chase portfolio? The Ink Business Preferred Card. For the $95 annual fee, you'll receive an acquisition bonus of 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 during the first three months. You'll also earn three points per dollar spent on travel expenditures; shipping charges; payments for Internet, cable and phone services; and certain advertising purchases. Information: the 80,000 BONUS POINTS page.