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A few weeks ago, I noticed that AwardWallet started to roll out some new and interesting features. This includes AwardWallet’s new Credit Card Optimization Tools and Balance Watch feature. These are enhancements to the service that address several issues often experienced by the points and miles community. In this post and video, I’ll review how to use Balance Watch and the Credit Card Optimization tools. These tools can help you to save time, earn more points, and ultimately improve your travel experience.
Credit Card Optimization Tools
If you log into your AwardWallet account, you’ll notice that there are some new features on the upper left-hand side of the dashboard. The three new tools listed are under a section called Credit Card Optimization Tools. This includes a:
- Credit Card Spend Analysis
- Merchant Lookup Tool
- Reverse Merchant Lookup Tool
These tools rely on crowdsourced data from AwardWallet to provide additional insight into both your spending and earning rates.
Credit Card Spend Analysis
The Credit Card Spend Analysis Tool allows you to see where the bulk of your spending occurs and whether you’re maximizing your point earnings. AwardWallet shows you a breakdown of where you are spending money and what you’ve earned in terms of points. The tool also recommends other cards that might help you to earn at a higher rate.
Understanding AwardWallet’s point valuation
When researching this topic, I reached out to the AwardWallet team and learned that they assign values for each of the major points currencies. For example, they value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2.65 cents and American Express Membership Rewards points at 2.5 cents. Since point values are subjective and vary by travel style, AwardWallet is planning to evolve their system in the future allowing users to designate their own value for each currency.
Customizing your recommendations
If you only want AwardWallet to give you recommendations based on the cards that you already have, then you can simply click on the Cards Used to Make Recommendations section. You can uncheck any cards that you don’t have or are not interested in pursuing. For example, suppose you’re trying to build Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but you notice that the tool recommends higher bonus categories using American Express and Citi cards. You might consider unchecking those cards from the list if you don’t have any interest in building those points programs.
Keep in mind that you need to have your credit card accounts added to AwardWallet to see this analysis. This tool will be valuable over time to help us determine where we are spending money so we can make informed decisions when applying for new credit cards. In fact, whenever I do a credit card consultation, one of the most important questions that I ask is “what are your highest categories of spend?” This helps me to develop a card strategy since we can match up cards or programs that maximize bonuses in these categories of spend.
The second Credit Card Optimization Tool is the Merchant Lookup Tool. I absolutely love this tool! It allows you to search for merchants and see how they are coded when using a credit card. Since AwardWallet is crowdsourcing this data from their users, you’re accessing a large, diverse, and updated data source.
The Merchant Lookup Tool allows you to see how a merchant is coded when using your credit cards. This is useful to know for those that pursue credit card bonus categories. I know that I’ve often wondered how a smaller and independent store in my area codes if I were to use my credit card.
Example: Dana Drug Store
For example, there is a smaller drug and gift store called The Dana Drug Store in my town. You would assume that it’s a pharmacy, but it’s more a gift store that
Example: Porto’s Bakery and Cafe
This can also be an issue with stores or delis that not only serve food, but have groceries or a bakery. For example, there’s a popular bakery in the Los Angeles area called Porto’s. It’s a Cuban bakery and is always crowded, no matter the time of day. They have all sorts of incredible pastries. There’s also a cafe inside where you can order sandwiches, lunch plates, pastries, and coffee.
Since you’re able to order food and eat at Porto’s, you’d assume that it codes as a restaurant or cafe. Though if you search for Porto’s using the Merchant Lookup Tool, you’d see that the merchant codes as a grocery store.
I wish I knew this information earlier since I didn’t get points on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card last year when I dined there and purchased a cake. I suspected that this was the case since the receipt didn’t have a section for gratuity. However, had I known it coded as a grocery store, I would have used my American Express Gold Card when I went there last month since it earns four points per dollar on groceries.
Reverse Merchant Lookup
The last Credit Card Optimization Tool is the Reverse Merchant Lookup. This tool searches for merchants that qualify for a bonus category based on a specific card. The tool is still in beta, but it’s another way to review common merchants that can earn you a bonus with these cards.
There is one more feature that AwardWallet has released called Balance Watch. This is a very useful tool inspired by requests from AwardWallet users. The tool alerts you as soon as a balance is updated on a specific account from a points transfer or point purchase. Oftentimes when trying to make an award booking, you’ll need to transfer points to a specific airline or hotel from another points program, like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Rewards. Since there can be a delay in the transfer, it can prevent you from completing the booking. This can be both frustrating and scary, especially if there’s limited availability for your flight or hotel booking.
What makes Balance Watch different than AwardWallet’s standard tracking method?
AwardWallet already tracks point balances, but enabling a Balance Watch on a specific account makes it track your account every hour. It also sends you a notification via desktop, mobile, and email when the balance is updated.
AwardWallet lists out the transfers that typically do NOT occur instantaneously, which is extremely useful to know. Technical issues can also delay point transfers that are usually instantaneous. Also, if you recently created a new loyalty account, it can cause a delay when transferring points.
Requirements for Balance Watch
In order to use this feature, you need to be an AwardWallet Plus subscriber. You get one free Balance Watch credit through your subscription. Every time you renew AwardWallet Plus, you’ll receive one additional credit.
You can purchase additional Balance Watch credits if needed. The cost is $5 or less, depending on how many credits you purchase. Since it’s taxing on AwardWallet’s system to constantly monitor an account, they want to discourage misuse of the feature. If you anticipate using this feature a lot, then consider buying several credits in order to get the discounted rate.
Things to do before activating Balance Watch
To activate it, you’ll want to first verify that the tracked account is already added to your AwardWallet account (and working without issues). You’ll also want to ensure that your AwardWallet notifications are set to your preferred methods. I recommend installing the app on your smartphone so you can receive mobile notifications.
How to activate Balance Watch
Click on the edit button next to the account that you want to be monitored. Keep in mind that you want to click on the account that is receiving the points and not the one that is losing the points. For example, if I’m transferring points from American Express to ANA, I want to make sure that I’m clicking on the edit button on my ANA account.
You’ll then enable Balance Watch by clicking on the checkbox, then adding details about the transfer. You’ll need to specify where the points or miles are coming from and the expected amount. The tool will also ask when you requested the transfer. This helps AwardWallet track and create metrics to help other users who might be doing the same in the future.
You’ll then need to acknowledge the terms and conditions and click the Update Account button. The account will display a message on the main screen that it’s being tracked. A notification will be sent when the points transfer over, allowing you to complete your booking as soon as possible.
Additional considerations when using Balance Watch
There are a few things that you need to be aware of when using Balance Watch. AwardWallet says that this shouldn’t be used to track when a welcome offer posts to your credit card account. It can often take a few weeks or a full statement cycle for a welcome offer to show up in your account. You’ll want to rely on the standard monitoring tools on AwardWallet to track this scenario. The Balance Watch tool is intended for transfers that are scheduled to occur within a few days.
Even though this feature costs extra, it can definitely be worth the cost. If you think about the time and effort to constantly check your account in order to make a booking with points, this could simplify the process. Oftentimes, you have to log out and back in to see updates to your points on your loyalty accounts (i.e., refreshing the screen usually doesn’t work). If you were to successfully book a flight with miles or points and save money, then the extra $5 or less is probably worth the cost and convenience.
I love that AwardWallet is constantly working to improve its service to provide additional value. It’s smart that they are leveraging their crowdsourced data to help travelers, especially points and miles enthusiasts, with getting the most value from their points. I’m excited to see what other new features are released in the future by the company.
What are your thoughts on these tools? Have you tried any of these new features? If so, let us know how it’s working for you.
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