US Airways and American Airlines have merged since the publication of this post, so it is no longer valid. Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.
US Airways Double Miles Promotion
According to this milepoint thread and this FlyerTalk thread, there is a recent offer to get double miles on any US Airways or US Airways Express flight purchased with a MasterCard or US Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard. To exploit this offer, you must book by October 31.
You must register for the promotion in advance through this link. Be sure to take a screen shot, as there are some reports of the signup not working. Then, book your flight by October 31, 2012 and fly before December 31, 2012. It is essential that you book your flight through the US Airways website, otherwise it may not qualify.
Either way, booking with any old MasterCard nets double redeemable miles, while the US Airways MasterCard gets double Preferred-qualifying miles and double redeemable miles.
Also, though your status miles might not post until 6-8 weeks after your travel, they will post retroactively for your travel date. That means if you are looking to obtain a certain status with US Airways, then–once the mileage posts–it will count towards your 2012 Preferred Qualifying miles instead of your 2013 miles.
Finally, some people have brought up the idea of combining this promotion with purchasing trial status from US Airways. US Airways sells trials of its tiers of status:
- $215 for Silver status
- $430 for Gold status
- $645 for Platinum Status
Purchased status lasts 90 days. To keep the status through February 2014, you have to fly:
- 7,500 miles or 10 segments for Silver
- 15,000 miles or 20 segments for Gold
- 22,500 miles or 30 segments for Platinum
If you combine this promotion with trial preferred status, you would get the 2x promotional bonus, plus your normal status bonus. For example, if you purchased Platinum status, you would earn 2x status miles and 2.75x redeemable miles because of Platinum’s 75% bonus redeemable miles.
Is it worth it to buy status to get more out of this promo? No. Let’s use purchasing Platinum as an example. Your $645 have to earn you an extra 33,076 redeemable miles to be worth the price, since I value US miles at 1.95 cents each.
That means you’d have to fly 44,101 actual miles to earn an extra 33,076 miles from your 75% status bonus. If you’re actually going to fly that many miles in three months, you probably already have top tier status somewhere.
TopGuest Fights Back
According to this FlyerTalk thread and this milepoint thread, the TopGuest program has been doing an account purge. People who have “suspicious account activity” have been getting notices in their email from one Celeste Williams. But, first off, what is TopGuest, and why is this important to people that collect miles?
What is TopGuest?
TopGuest is a social system for accruing miles and points. It piggybacks off of the program foursquare, as a means of sharing over your favorite social network the hotels you are staying at.
Basically, you would sign up for a number of hotel point programs or the United or Virgin America frequent flyer miles programs, download an app for your smartphone or laptop, and share your location whenever you went to a participating hotel chain or airport.
The most used and useful programs affiliated with TopGuest were the United program and the Hilton HHonors program because you could get several hundred miles and points a day for doing almost nothing.
How was it exploitable previously?
TopGuest had one of the same exploits that foursquare had. People that were very savvy at writing code figured out a way to circumvent your phone or computer’s GPS information and ‘spoof’ its location in your browser, effectively allowing you to check in at an airport or hotel from the comfort of your computer room.
You could check-in several times a day without any problems, but there was a hard limit as to the number of times you could check in per email address.
In order to circumvent this, clever people would use the gmail exploit. Gmail doesn’t recognize periods in email addresses. An email sent to any of the following would go to the same account:
People would register a number of different email addresses for TopGuest accounts, and using periods, associate all the accounts with one gmail account. And they would use the same frequent flyer number, often accruing upwards of 500 miles per day–180k miles per year.
In June of 2012, United withdrew its affiliation with the TopGuest program, making TopGuest useless for United miles seekers. None of the hotel chains have withdrawn their affiliations yet, so hotels are good to go still.
(Hat tip to Paddy in the Big Apple, where I first saw the TopGuest and gmail hacks mentioned.)
What can I do to prevent a closure from happening?
Best practice right now? If you receive a notice of inappropriate account activity from TopGuest’s digital security officer Celeste Williams, do not respond in protest. If you completely stop checking in for a few days, TopGuest may drop the matter. If you attempt to appeal their decision by contacting them through email, they will ban you from the program.
US Airways is holding a double-miles promotion between now and the end of the year. Register, purchase your tickets with a MasterCard, preferably the US Airways card, before October 31, and fly before December 31. Status miles accrued through this promotion count toward your 2012 status instead of your 2013 status.
TopGuest is cracking down on excessive check-ins. Naturally, this regulation is going to affect a great number of folks that have been exploiting their system of accruing miles and hotel points, but if you ignore their email and stop your check ins, you may be all right.