2012 Grand Slam Preparations: Part 1 (Hotel Points and Partners)

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Over the course of the year, one of the most consistent things I am asked is “What is the Grand Slam?”.  A follow-up question is usually “What do I need to do to get ready for it?”.  Both are great questions, and I think now is a good time to do a quick US Airways Grand Slam refresher for those who are new to miles and points, or for those who have previously ignored the Grand Slam.  For those who think they want to play this year, it is time to start working on off-season preparations for the 2012 Grand Slam.  Before I go any further though, I want to be very clear that there is no guarantee that a Grand Slam will happen this year.  It has for the past several years, but that doesn’t guarantee it will happen this year.  So, this preparation could all be in vain, but I would personally rather be ready than not – just consider this your fair warning that I have no top-secret-super-special-secret decoder-inside info that it will for sure happen this year.

What is the Grand Slam?

The Grand Slam is a promotion put on by US Airways that awards US Airways Dividend Miles based on the number of “hits” you get during the promo period.  A hit is obtained by having a qualified transaction with an eligible US Airways partner.  Examples of partners are: Starwood Hotels, Hertz, Biscoff (yum), Dividend Miles Shopping, Super Shuttle, US Airways credit cards, Skymall, Sharebuilder, etc.  There are lots of partners (airline partners don’t count) to choose from.  Every 4th hit/transaction gets you to the next bonus threshold, with the bonuses becoming more and more lucrative the further up you go (kind of like the current Hyatt promo).  For example, last year four hits resulted in 3,000 bonus miles, eight hits resulted in a total of 10,000 bonus miles, and so on.  I played up to the 36 hits level that awarded 100,000 bonus miles.  I also earned over 20,000 miles from the hits themselves, so I earned over 120,000 miles in total from this one promotion……and that isn’t counting my husband or daughter’s accounts.

Of course, many of the hits aren’t free, so there is some financial investment if you want to go for a large sum of miles.  Some people choose to just do the free or almost free hits to get to the 4 or 8 hit level, and that is awesome, too.  Last year I played for my husband just to the 16 hit level for 25,000 miles and it cost around $80 to do so.  That is a free domestic roundtrip ticket for $80!  I actually redeemed those miles for a ticket that cost about $400, so it was well worth my time and money even just to get to that level.  110,000 of the miles I earned last year are taking my husband and I to Europe next year in Envoy Suites – something we would never be able to afford otherwise, so I am going all-in on the Grand Slam this year.  We have our eye on three business class seats to Australia, so we need to earn lots of miles to get us there.

The Grand Slam is typically in the fall, and last year ran Sept – Nov.  There are inevitably some hits that are problematic and don’t post correctly at first (Office Max last year), some that require lots of time (e-Rewards), and some that just make you feel kind of silly (multiple car rentals for 2 minutes).  However, in addition to being very lucrative, it is also pretty fun for many of us.  There is a Grand Slam community that develops and we all help each other out.  Huge threads on Milepoint and Flyertalk are devoted to the Grand Slam and they are very active that time of year.  Since I plan to go all-in on three accounts this year, you can bet I will be knee-deep in posting about the Grand Slam again this year.  I also have tons of posts about the 2011 Grand Slam on my site, so feel free to search and get a feel for what last year was like.

How to start getting ready for 2012:

It’s hard to say how to best get ready since we don’t know the rules, and we don’t even know if it will happen for sure, but based on last year there are some things that can be done in advance to be ready.  I did a “lesson’s learned” sort of post with some general tips for getting ready here, but I am happy to go a bit more in depth now that we are getting a little closer to the Grand Slam time of year.  For this post, I want to concentrate on hotel partners.  In the Grand Slam you can typically earn hits by staying at partner hotels and by transferring points in from partner hotel programs.  Last year the minimum transfer amount was 850 miles to count for a hit.  The number of points it takes from a hotel rewards program to hit 850 Dividend Miles varies from program to program, and often you will find the minimum you can transfer is more than that anyway due to regular transfer rates and rules.  See below for more info.  Sadly, we lost Hyatt as a partner since last year, but the others that remain are:

Best Western: 5,000 points to 1,000 miles

Choice Hotels: 5,000 Choice points to 1,000 dividend miles

Club Carlson: 8,000 points to 1,000 miles

Hilton: 10,000 points to 850 miles

La Quinta: 6,000 points to 1,000 miles

Marriott: 10,000 points to 2,000 miles

Priority Club: 10,000 points to 2,000 miles

SPG: Minimum transfer amount for regular members is 2,500 points; minimum for Golds is 1,500 points; and Platinums can transfer 850 points.

Wyndham: 8,000 points to 3,200 miles

I didn’t do that many hotel transfers for hits last year because they just require so many points, however some of them aren’t too bad depending on how easily you obtained the points.  For example, both Wyndham and Hilton points are for sale via the Daily Getaways website next week and Choice Privileges points are for sale the week after that.  Not all of those packages make sense if you are buying solely for the Grand Slam, but do keep the Grand Slam in mind if you plan to make a purchase anyway.  I do remember there was at least one issue with transferring Choice points to another person’s Dividend Miles account, but Wyndham worked well to other accounts and I think Hilton did as well.  That can be helpful if you are playing for multiple accounts in your family.

In addition to the Daily Getaway deals, keep on the lookout for promos that award points for things such as: liking these hotels on Facebook, checking in on Foursquare, renting cars, etc.  Every little bit helps when it comes to the Grand Slam!  While we are on the topic of hotels, if you have the chance to plan some stays for trips you are going to make anyway in the mid-September to mid-November time frame, I would give preference to these hotel chains, if possible.  Last year there was a max of six hits from individual hotel stays (can all be at the same chain or different chains), and there was a max of 9 hits for hotel points transfers (one transfer per hotel chain).

Grand Slam veterans, please feel free to weigh-in about Grand Slam preparations, especially as they relate to hotel points, in the comments section.  I will do subsequent posts on other preparation issues in the coming weeks.  This can sounds a little overwhelming at first, but once you get into it, it really isn’t too bad.  Last year was my first year and I still did just fine.  I’d love to have you play along with me this year!

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  1. If you get an e-rewards invitation, join now, since surveys can take a while to accrue enough points to transfer to US Air. I’ve been doing surveys since last fall now, and I have enough not only for the us air transfer, but to also get enough hotel points to then transfer to miles for another hit.

  2. I hope that this AA /US merger does not stop the fun. I had a blast last year, that was so much fun to play. Specially the car rentals and Supershuttles.

  3. Good advice @G David. I personally avoid e-rewards because it seems like such a small reward for the amount of time involved, but if you need to get a certain number of points in order to get a free hit, then it seems worthwhile.

  4. Enjoyed doing the game last year. Got us introduced to Biscoffs-delicious. For the upcoming Grand Slam we are holding off applying for US Air credit card in the hopes to use it as a hit.

  5. US Airways credit cards: Get them now. Spending $1 on the card gets you the hit.

    I would say that purchasing points from Daily Getaways can be very lucrative for Gran Slam if you are playing for multiple people. For instance, you can buy “1 Night at a Super 8® for Only $55”, i.e., 16k Wyndham points for $55. That is two transfer hits. Hotel transfers for $25 a hit is cheap.

  6. My e-rewards account will transfer to US Airways, but the only hotel program I can transfer to is Hilton. Since it takes me 6-9 months to save up the $100 e-rewards to transfer 7,000 Hilton Points, and it takes 10,000 Hilton points to equal a Grand Slam hit, it doesn’t seem worth it! I will happily save 500 miles to transfer to US Airways during the Grand Slam, but I don’t see any other way to practically leverage them for the Grand Slam.

    I think your transfer partners depend on which program you received an invitation through, and I signed up for e-rewards through Hilton about 10 years ago.

  7. Thanks for the reminder about emiles and erewards. I forgot it takes a while to plow through those questions. Starting now, so I don’t have to do it later 🙂

  8. As many others have said…I have been working on the e-rewards and e-miles surveys since I got the hit in the grand slam last year. OH…I can wait…I hope its a good year. My wife will just roll her eyes again. 🙂

  9. Use awardwallet to keep track of all your hotel and other points. It will make it easier not to miss out on the low level points and miles that may be sitting there waiting to be leveraged for bigger and better things.

  10. How do you get an e-rewards invite through a hotel program? I keep looking but no love 🙁

    Great summary of # of miles need for a hit last year. Can you also comment on the ease of transferring points to (1) family / household member, and (2) non-household member? I know there was some horse trading going on different places 😀

  11. First, briefly tell me how to find relevant info on FT & Milepoint. Click on forum then hotel points or cc??I just want to read current issues not six months old or longer. Secondly, how do you mean from points to miles for hotel programs for the Grand Slam. Lastly, how do you sign up for your minor daugher’s account? We plan to take a trip to SA in October and you suggest that we should try hotel partner to accummulate points? How do I access your info for the 2011 Grand Slam for preparation. Thanks

  12. Thanks to those sharing info! I will do a separate post soon on e-Rewards and e-Miles, but it is never too early to get started on those. Here are a few quick responses to some of the questions:
    -I linked to the FT and MP threads, but they are mostly old as there is no current Grand Slam.
    -You can sign-up for a frequent flyer account for minors with US Airways.
    -Building points in partner hotel programs isn’t a bad idea.
    -Some of the hotel chains are more “lenient” than others with transfers to other people’s accounts. From memory, I think Priority Club was not lenient and Wyndham was very lenient. I would look in the Flyertalk threads for more info as I don’t remember all of them off-hand.
    -You can get the credit cards now so you will have them for hits in the Grand Slam. I plan to likely pick up a business US Airways card before the GS to have that as an easy hit in addition to my personal US Airways card and US Airways debit card (assuming that counts this year as it is going away). To get a hit with those you just have to use them during the GS, it is good to already have them ready to go before then.
    -You do not have to sign-up for Daily Getaways. I post about each deal every day or you can just go to their website.

  13. Just a question, is it possible to earn points for club carlson big night promo, share it (I believe it´s for free) with someone else, and then both make a transfer to each Us Air account? to make one hit for each, which just one stay at a hotel?

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