Marriott’s “Minor” Changes Impact me in a BIG way


I guess all good things must come to an end.

This morning, I was checking the points & miles blogs like I always do. Then, out of nowhere, comes the headline “Minor Changes Coming to Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest in 2018” from The Points Guy.

As a Marriott Platinum (since 2014) I clicked on it, and saw some of what I’d expect. Starpoints will never expire, there’s a new partnership with Hertz, but then, in big bold letters, came the crushing blow.

  • Marriott Rewards status buy back will be discontinued in 2018.

NooOOO! I cried. But first, here’s some backstory.

I signed up for a Platinum Challenge from a competing program back in 2014, with a February 2016 expiry. I had to stay at nine properties in three months (not too bad) and I’d instantly get Platinum status.

I succeed in the challenge, and have been a Marriott Platinum, (and reciprocally and perhaps more importantly a United Silver) ever since.

I fly around 40,000 to 50,000 miles on United per year, so dis-regarding the spending requirement, and you’d be looking at a mid-tier United member. Unfortunately, since I’m only 18 and don’t have a co-branded credit card, I’m limited to about 2,000-2,500 Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQD’s), so I’m really in trouble here.

I fully understand that this is my fault. I should never have had all of my eggs in one basket, and Rewards members were never entitled to a Buy Back, it was just part of my game plan, one that I’m going to have to reinvent.



Why I’m Cancelling my EasyPay Xpress MetroCard

Less than two months ago, I signed up for a Pay-Per-Ride Easy Pay Xpress Metro Card.

It was nearly impossible to sign-up for it (the website is not supported with Safari, and you can’t get it through a Station Agent or any MetroCard Vending Machines).

After answering tons of security questions and entering two credit cards, my application for the passport EasyPay card was in! Two weeks later, it came in the mail, nice and shiny in a Gold scheme.

Overall, the look of the card is extremely sleek, and looks good in a wallet. However, I immediately had issues with the card.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 12.58.11 PM

At various turnstiles, the card would refuse to work, something that I’ve had happen on cards before, however simply going to the station agent and reporting the problem is not a possibility here. With the EasyPay Xpress, you can only get a new card in the mail, which takes 3 to 4 weeks.

Additionally, while I’m not a huge fan of going to a Station Agent to re-fill my MetroCard, I do lose that tangible aspect of seeing my card or cash get taken away, and I really don’t feel like I’ve given the MTA any of my money, which is a feeling I don’t like.

The feeling of an in-person transaction is important to me, and it helps me manage my money considerably better.

So, while I don’t hate the EasyPay MetroCard, I certainly don’t think it’s for me. I’m going to go back to the old fashioned MetroCard for now, and will bid adieu to my EasyPay card. While EasyPay might be the Easy Way, with money, sometimes I don’t want things to be so Easy.

Should I switch from United to American this Winter?


Before the launch of Niko’s Travel Blog, I wanted to share some teaser articles to get things going. The first is my on-going thought…….

For the last three years, I’ve been a United Airlines Premier Silver member, and, frankly, I’ve had a good experience.

I have a 100% success rate with Economy Plus upgrades, and this year, I’m 3/7 in terms of Complementary Premier Upgrades to the United First cabin, which I think is pretty good.

I also primarily fly United because of their route network, and because they are in the Star Alliance. My mother’s side family is from Canada, so I fly to YFC multiple times per year (pretty much exclusively Air Canada) and SKG to see my father’s side family (Aegean). So, the Star Alliance is my natural fit.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately) Newark was never the most convenient airport to commute to, like, extremely far away. And, if all things go to plan, I will be moving to Long Island City this fall, which will distance me further from Newark, two bridges through Manhattan, and 5 minutes from LaGuardia, and another 25 from JFK. So, it’s no secret I’m debating about switching to American Airlines in 2018.

So, I composed this list of pro’s and con’s:

Why I should stick it out with United:

  1. Star Alliance – It’s no secret that the Star Alliance is a miracle worker for me. Virtually all of my flights in recent memory, United, Air Canada, SAS, Aegean, Swiss, Lufthansa, Turkish etc. have been on Star Alliance carriers, and, with a route network so strong internationally, it’s important to have a domestic counterpart.
  2. My plethora of Miles (with Chase) – All of my credit cards are Chase Visa’s, including the MileagePlus Explorer. I’d guess I have around 500,000 Ultimate Rewards Points and MileagePlus miles combined, and I have zero AAdvantage/Citi miles. While I could jump in with American, I’d like to use those United miles with status, so I get Economy Plus/CPU.
  3. Familiarity – I’m not lazy, but I really don’t want to learn the ins and outs of a new program. I know United’s secrets, downsides, and benefits as good as anyone, and that alone is a reason why I like United.
  4. Good Service & Product – I like United’s Economy Plus seat, and I think the drink selection and buy-on-board is superior to American. The First Class catering has taken a nose dive, though.

Why I should switch to American:

  1. LaGuardia is 5 minutes away – And Newark Airport is 50 minutes away. While this isn’t a problem on international trips, it’s not really worthwhile to go all the way to Newark on short domestic hops.
  2. IFE – American’s entertainment options are superior to United’s in most ways.
  3. Better Premium Cabin – United’s First cabin is not cutting edge, and while American’s isn’t industry leading either, I like the offerings and touches of their cabin more.

So what would you do if you were me? Stick it out with United or jump ship to American? Let me know below or on Twitter @NikoMetsPlus.

Welcome to Niko’s Travel Blog

Today is the first day of August, in 2017.

And today, as previously mentioned on my main blog, MetsPlus, I’ve had this ambition for a long time.

I know that print journalism is diminishing, but I enjoy writing about things that I’m ambitious about, so I’m going to write this blog as regularly as I can to share my experiences with traveling around the country.

The official launch date for this blog is during the offseason of the MLB Season, so sometime in October-November. And while this blog is called “Niko’s Travel Blog”, I want this to be a blog about anything that comes up in my life that has to do with travel.

So yes, this is just a boring introiuctinary post with no content, but it’s a start.

My goal is that the blog will look completely different come the offseason, but until then, one can look forward to some re-posts of travel related articles on MetsPlus, and some interesting features.