Expedia Axes Its Price-Matching Guarantee in a Sharp Break From the Past

Expedia Axes Its Price-Matching Guarantee in a Sharp Break From the Past

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Corp Amman Hotel

The Corp Amman Jordan hotel is available for booking on Expedia’s website but forget about any price- matching guarantee from Expedia. Corp Amman Hotel

Skift Take: Expedia’s move seems odd, as hotel chains ramp up their direct-booking campaigns that include best-price guarantees. Our guess is that the company tested and found that most consumers are no longer swayed by price-matching offers. Or perhaps there was pressure from ongoing probes in Europe.

— Sean O’Neill

For years, Expedia.com, the flagship brand of online booking conglomerate Expedia Inc., joined the industrywide practice of claiming that consumers would always get the best prices for travel on its websites and apps. But on October 18, Expedia-branded websites worldwide dropped that long-standing offer, Skift has learned.

Until then in the U.S., Expedia had offered to match the price and provide a $50 travel coupon for bookers who found a cheaper flight, vacation package, rental car, cruise, or activity on other publicly available sites within 24 hours of the reservation. Similar offers were made in other countries worldwide.

Asked to comment about the move, Expedia Inc. spokeswoman Sarah Gavin told Skift:  “Our marketplace, as well as the broader landscape, has evolved so much that there are so many easier ways to save than there were when this was invented. Our customers now have their hands on the savings steering wheel themselves. They don’t need the old booster seat anymore.”

The company did not explain the business rationale behind the decision. Had the guarantee lost effectiveness over time? Were the types of consumers who went to the trouble to submit complaints cheapskates the company no longer wanted to spend money supporting?

Or did the company fear that regulators in other markets, such as Europe, might find the notion of a price-matching guarantee a distortion of market pricing — perhaps putting independent hotel owners at a disadvantage because they didn’t have a comparable prowess at digital marketing? French watchdogs currently are pursuing Expedia and other companies about their contract terms, though not the price-matching guarantees.

One possible explanation is that Expedia wanted to enhance the perk for its loyalty program members, who are its most-frequent bookers.

Another Expedia spokesperson, Nisreene Atassi,said that + silver members of the company’s Expedia + loyalty program (meaning people who have booked at least 7 nights of travel or spend $5,000 within the past year) will still enjoy the price-guarantee policy as a perk for hotels specifically, but the best-price guarantee for other travel purchases is no longer active even for them.

Atassi did not say that the loyalty program was the reason for the move. “In terms of the thinking behind the decision, we are confident in the strength of our marketplace and the wide array of options we offer travelers from over a million flights, hotels, packages,” the Expedia spokesperson said. “This allows our travelers to continue to find great deals to help them see the world and get to where they need to be.”

There are some suggestions the move came suddenly. Expedia’s Japanese website still hadn’t taken down its homepage promotion logo for the offer, though the page that had details on how to claim the guarantee has been taken down. Under that generous version of the offer, consumers who booked on Expedia Japan and found a publicly available lower rate on another Japan-based website within a day of their booking with Expedia could have received a refund of twice the difference, up to 20,000 Japanese yen, or about $175.

End of an Era?

The price-matching trend started with U.S. hotel chains. After the U.S. economy tanked in 2001, hoteliers saw a surge in bookings via new-on-the-scene online travel agencies like Expedia. The sudden uptick in commissions alarmed them. So Starwood debuted best-rate guarantees that promised the cheapest rates for their guest rooms would be on their own branded websites.

The marketing device was successful. By 2004, InterContinental, Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott copied it because the promise instilled confidence in comparison-shopping consumers — and only a sliver of them attempted to make claims.

The marketing device was so successful, in fact, that online travel agencies — starting with Orbitz — soon introduced their own version of it: a promise to match rates found elsewhere. In 2012, Orbitz juiced up the offer to include a $50 voucher for future hotel bookings, and Travelocity matched it. Each added similar offers for package vacations. Soon after, Expedia copied the move for all travel products.

Terms varied. But in general, consumers had a limited time, such as 24 hours, to comparison shop. The rate found elsewhere had to be for the identical product (both nonsmoking king beds with ocean views) for the identical travel dates. The guarantees excluded many things, such as discounts for particular membership clubs like AAA, travel sold via wholesalers and private sale websites, and the like.

In short, consumers often griped that the price-matching offers had too many restrictions and claims were too frequently rejected, as consumer watchdog Christopher Elliott has often reported.

When it came to hotels, Expedia had one of the most generous price-matching guarantees. It promised to refund the difference and give a consumer a $50 travel coupon for future travel if they found a cheaper rate on their hotel reservation up to two days before their check-in.

It is unclear whether Expedia sister brands will drop the guarantees, too.

As of today, Expedia Inc.-owned Travelocity, Orbitz, and Hotels.com all still had price-matching offers — though the offers are not prominent. It took some sleuthing, for instance, to find Hotels.com’s once well-advertised price guarantee.

Orbitz and Travelocity only have two words on their home pages mentioning their price guarantees, while Hotels.com states that “we provide incomparable choice with a Price Guarantee” but then offers no link to it from its homepage.

Meanwhile, arch-rival Booking.com still offers a price-matching guarantee on its hotel listings. Priceline.com also continued to prominently tout its best rate offer. No doubt the company and its Priceline Group sister brands will be watching Expedia’s move with interest.

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October 24, 2017 at 04:04PM

Who Can I Share Ultimate Rewards Points With?

Who Can I Share Ultimate Rewards Points With?

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Chase Ultimate Rewards points are the most valuable rewards currency out there. They’re flexible, offer valuable transfer partners, and are easy to redeem. But between the 5/24 rule and concerns over shut downs, earning them has become more difficult. Luckily, Chase does allow points to be shared between accounts. This makes it much easier to accrue these points.

The question I always get asked is “Who can I share Ultimate Rewards points with?” The rules have changed over the years, but overall it’s gotten less restrictive. Or at least the pool of people you can transfer them to has expanded. Here is an overview of Ultimate Rewards transfer policies for personal vs. business cards:

 

Chase Ink Plus, Ink Business Preferred

If you have an Ink Plus or Ink Business Preferred card, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to an account belonging to you, someone in your household, or a business co-owner. The business co-owner must be an authorized user to qualify for a transfer. Want to transfer points directly to someone else’s airline or hotel account? This is only possible if the other person is an authorized user and either a member of your household or a company owner. That’s not a big deal since Chase doesn’t charge a fee for adding authorized users to these accounts.

Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Preserve

Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited cardholders can move their rewards to another account as long as that person is a household member. Why would you transfer “cash back” to Ultimate Rewards? Because there is more flexibility in Ultimate Rewards points than cash back. More importantly, the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve both offer bonuses when you redeem your points through Ultimate Rewards Travel.

 

When it comes to transferring points from a personal account to an airline or hotel partner, pretty much the same rules apply as for the personal cards. You can transfer Ultimate Rewards to a airline or hotel rewards account belonging to a member of your household who is an authorized user on your account. Very reasonable rules, considering most people won’t want to transfer points to anyone outside of their household anyway. Sure, it sucks that they can’t be shared with friends, but overall these are very sensible transfer rules.

Ultimate Rewards transfers used to be restricted to spouses/partners only. The new rules were implemented about two years ago. A lot of people were upset, but I see this as a positive change. The pool of qualified transfer recipients has expanded, making it possible to share points with more people. Overall, this was a positive change that I think many people appreciate today – especially in light of the 5/24 rule implementation. Points aren’t as easily acquired anymore and being able to pool them together is a huge plus.

I want to hear from you: Who do you transfer Ultimate Rewards points to and how often? Did the 2015 transfer rules work out in your favor?

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October 24, 2017 at 04:03PM

New Skift Research: U.S. Experiential Traveler Trends 2018

New Skift Research: U.S. Experiential Traveler Trends 2018

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Skift Take: The data collected from our second annual Experiential Traveler Survey presents a deep dive into the mindset of the modern traveler. We dig into their values, attitudes, travel behavior, and more.

— meghan

Today we are publishing the full results of our second annual U.S. Experiential Traveler Survey. In our report entitled, U.S. Experiential Traveler Trends 2018: Skift Research’s Annual Survey & Data Analysis on Traveler Behavior, Motivations & Preferences. we take a statistical look into the following attributes of the avid U.S. traveler:

  • Domestic and international trip incidence
  • Travel motivations and trip planning
  • Top motivators for leisure travel
  • Personal values about wellness and well-being
  • Incidence on rental accommodations across brands
  • Preference rates for hotel vs. rental accommodations
  • Satisfaction rates on Airbnb rentals
  • Preferences for on-property hotel amenities
  • Hotel spending habits and booking channels
  • Accommodation and airline brand preferences
  • Attitudes toward leisure trip planning
  • Attitudes toward sources of user-generated reviews
  • Incidence based on destination type
  • In-destination traveler behavior
  • And more

We fielded our 55-question survey with a trusted panel provider to collect responses from over 2,300 U.S. residents. In the data, we discovered a lot about U.S. travelers.

 

Did you know that:

  • 50 percent of travelers would rather not feel like tourists while traveling.
  • 70 percent of travelers feel like they have a strong emotional connection to the places that they visit.
  • 3 out of 10 travelers would rather not share their travel photos on social media.
  • Less than 20 percent of travelers post travel photos on Instagram.

Our consumer survey results are full of insightful data points that you can use in your presentations and strategic planning efforts.

Preview and Subscribe

Did you know that 10 percent of U.S. residents have never heard of Airbnb?

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A majority of avid travelers report having a preferred airline, with Southwest coming out as the most preferred over other full-service carriers.

Survey results indicate that avid travelers are motivated to travel by a variety of factors. When forced to make an “either-or” selection, however, experiencing new things is prioritized over relaxation.

Subscribe to Skift Research Reports

This is the latest in a series of monthly reports, data sheets, and analyst calls aimed at analyzing the fault lines of disruption in travel. These reports are intended for the busy travel industry decision-maker. Tap into the opinions and insights of our seasoned network of staffers and contributors. Over 200 hours of desk research, data collection, and/or analysis goes into each report.

After you subscribe, you will gain access to our entire vault of reports conducted on topics ranging from technology to marketing strategy to deep dives on key travel brands. Reports are available online in a responsive design format, or you can also buy each report a la carte at a higher price.

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October 24, 2017 at 03:35PM

Delta Is Hiring More Than 1,000 Flight Attendants in 2018

Delta Is Hiring More Than 1,000 Flight Attendants in 2018

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Delta Air Lines is hiring more than 1,000 flight attendants. But, before you prep your résumé and send out your application, there are a couple caveats. First, it’s incredibly selective — last year, fewer than 1% of applicants were chosen — and second, the pay is pretty abysmal, starting around $25,000 per year.

For 2017’s round of hiring, the company received 150,000 applications for around 1,200 positions. Of the 150,000 applicants, 35,000 were chosen to complete video interviews, and from there only 6,000 people got in-person interviews. In all, fewer than 1% of all applicants were chosen to become flight attendants.

Given how selective Delta’s hiring process is for those who want to become ambassadors for the airline, you would think new hirees would be offered competitive pay, right? Delta apparently thinks otherwise. According to CNN Money, average entry-level flight attendants earn around $25,000 per year, which can vary depending on a flight attendant’s work schedule. Other benefits include 401(k) with a company match and profit-sharing program, plus travel benefits for themselves and family members.

If the less-than-ideal pay and daunting task of applying haven’t turned you away yet, here’s what you’ll need to know about what exactly Delta is looking for. You must have a high school degree or GED, the ability to work in the US, speak fluent English and be at least 21 years old by January 1, 2018. You must also have a flexible schedule. According to Delta, the best résumés will include:

  • More than one year of work experience in a personalized customer service, patient care or similar role
  • Experience in a role ensuring the safety and/or care of others (teacher, military, EMT, firefighter, coach, law enforcement, lifeguard, nurse, etc.)
  • Education beyond high school
  • Fluency in a language other than English: These applicants are considered for “Language of Destination” flight attendant roles, which offer additional pay as well as special responsibilities.

If you are one of the more than 1,000 chosen to become a Delta flight attendant in 2018, the training process will be grueling. The top priority for Delta flight attendants is to ensure the safety and comfort of all passengers, so you’ll learn how to put out fires, perform CPR and more in order to keep the flight safe. Plus, there’s the fun stuff, like learning how to properly present a Delta One meal.

Flight attendants have many responsibilities — and sometimes have to deal with rude passengers. So, in that sense, it’s a shame that Delta doesn’t pay its flight attendants a competitive salary. On the other hand, however, if you have a flexible schedule and a history in the service industry, this could be a job that will allow you to see the world.

Featured image by Delta.

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October 24, 2017 at 03:15PM

Key West Florida Gets Its Iconic Symbol Back After Hurricane Irma Damage

Key West Florida Gets Its Iconic Symbol Back After Hurricane Irma Damage

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Rob O'Neal  / Florida Keys News Bureau via Associated Press

In this photo, artist Danny Acosta completes lettering the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A. marker October 23, 2017, in Key West, Florida. One of the most-photographed tourism icons in the Florida Keys was pummeled by Hurricane Irma on Sept. 10, stripping most of the paint and a large chunk of stucco. Rob O’Neal / Florida Keys News Bureau via Associated Press

Skift Take: Sometimes storm recovery involves more than just repairing roofs and power lines. Restoring a place’s sense of identity must be part of the healing process, as well.

— Dennis Schaal

Artists have restored one of the most photographed tourism icons in the Florida Keys after it was damaged by Hurricane Irma.

The last brush strokes were placed on the “Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A.” marker Monday.

The red, yellow, black and white marker, a massive 4-ton cement monument that resembles a giant marine navigational buoy, is located beside the Atlantic Ocean. It proclaims that Key West is 90 miles from Havana.

Irma pummeled the marker Sept. 10, knocking out a large piece of stucco and stripping much of its paint.

Despite damage to the marker, Key West was not seriously impacted by Hurricane Irma’s passage through the Keys. The region reopened to visitors Oct. 1, although some harder-hit areas of the 125-mile island chain continue to recover.

Copyright (2017) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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October 24, 2017 at 03:07PM

Why being passive can be unhealthy for revenue management

Why being passive can be unhealthy for revenue management

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‘Passive’ revenue management (PRM) takes human intervention out of the equation. It means complete reliance on the sophisticated analytical model for setting fares – letting the sophisticated forecast and optimisation model allocate inventory across fare levels, and price dynamically based on a vast database of historic performance. 

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October 24, 2017 at 02:51PM

When British Authors Write American Dialogue, or Try To

When British Authors Write American Dialogue, or Try To

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P. D. Viner is a British crime writer who has published two novels and
two long novellas. Recently, he completed a manuscript titled “The
Funeral Director,” which is set in western New York. Viner was born and
raised in South London; his prose, naturally, tends to have a British
accent. “I feel like I’ve got a very good handle of American idioms,” he
told me. Still, he wanted this book, and particularly its American
characters, to sound as American as possible. He felt that he couldn’t
be too careful.

He asked an American reader to vet his manuscript, hoping to eliminate
any slip-ups—the British “windscreen” for the American “windshield,”
that sort of thing. Ultimately, he decided that asking just one reader
was insufficient. He ended up relying on a dozen Americans, including
eight who read the entire book. One was a ghostwriter in Virginia; two
were high-school teachers; some were people he met through Facebook.
Each found at least one Britishism in the text that had not been
identified by someone else. Viner had written “hired car” instead of
“rental car,” “ring off” instead of “hang up.” (He didn’t pay his
vetters, but he plans to acknowledge them in the finished book, he
said.)

Viner’s precaution is extreme but understandable: it’s fairly common for
British writers to create ostensibly American characters who give
themselves away in dialogue. The writer need not even be British,
necessarily: Lionel Shriver is an American writer who has lived in the
U.K. for many years. Her most recent novel, “The Mandibles: A Family,
2029-2047
,” imagines a financial apocalypse set entirely in the United States, albeit in the future. All of the
major characters are American. And yet a father assures his son that a
set of silverware “could come in useful.” A woman signs off a telephone
conversation with her sister by deploying a British term of endearment:
“Bye, puppet.” A woman tells a child, “You’re a bit young to
send into the fields. I could be done for violating child labor laws.”
(The lingering Britishisms are especially curious because other aspects
of the text and dialogue are Americanized—even the novel’s British
edition uses “z” rather than “s” in words like “apologize” and
“publicized.”)

“My publishers think I have become some kind of linguistic moron,”
Shriver told me. “In truth, I am one of the better sources for what is
and is not British or American usage. However, I do sometimes become
uncertain.” Such uncertainty may be on the rise. “It’s becoming more
complicated,” the British author Nick Hornby told me in an e-mail, “what
with all the borrowing and the lending of phrases. ‘Do we say that here
now?’ Quite often, the answer is yes.”

Hornby and Shriver have both spent a good deal of time on both sides of
the Atlantic; other writers and editors who go back and forth between
the U.K. and the U.S. told me that increased cross-pollination creates
confusion. Several were quick to point out that the lines between
British and American English are hardly fixed. In Hornby’s novel
A Long Way Down,” from 2005, three Britons and an American encounter each other, on
New Year’s Eve, on the rooftop of a London tower, each having arrived
with suicidal intentions. The American character, JJ, initially reveals
his nationality by referring to a “cell phone” instead of a “mobile.” But
the use of “mobile” seems to have grown in the U.S. in the years since.
(And, of course, these days, many people are likely to call such devices
“phones.”)

The inverse situation—American-created British characters with
off-sounding diction—appears to be less prevalent, everyone agreed,
perhaps because many American writers are too unfamiliar with, or
intimidated by, British usage and slang to even try. (They may also have
less occasion to do so.) Shriver, in any case, has been criticized from
this direction as well: some British reviewers of her novel “The
Post-Birthday World
,” from 2007, attacked the Cockney slang of one of its
characters—a charge Shriver labels “ludicrous.”

Instances of American characters speaking British English may, on
occasion, be at least partly intentional. While an author may wish to
make an American character sound American, doing so can confuse or at
least distract British readers. (This is especially true for children’s
books, one author pointed out—what kind of ear for American idiom is the
average British seven-year-old likely to have?) Shriver’s books, for
instance, are published in the U.K. first, and generally sell better
there than in the U.S. It would be reasonable to think that her primary
audience is British.

And there are economic incentives for keeping British idioms in a book.
When an American publisher buys the rights to publish a British novel,
the cheapest and easiest tactic is to buy the book’s “films”: a digital
version of the printed page and its layout. The next level of expense
would be to commission a copy editor to “Americanize” a
manuscript—taking out the “u” in “colour,” switching some “s”s to “z”s.
But if an editor begins to change substantial portions of the book to
correct for diction, then the publisher may need to get the author’s
approval, and the book may need to be copy-edited again, and possibly
even laid out anew. This can quickly become both an expense and a chore.

Viner happens to be married to an American professor of linguistics,
Lynne Murphy, who teaches at the University of Sussex and writes a blog
called Separated by a Common Language. Next year, she will publish a
book, “The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American
and British English
.” Novelists, Murphy told me, tend to put their
energy into crafting things that a character would say—it’s a less
intuitive exercise to try and weed out what a character wouldn’t say.
“It’s like trying to prove a negative,” she said.

What’s more, making an extra effort to perfect American dialogue may
have risks, Hornby suggested. “Paying American characters special
attention can backfire—you spend too much time shoehorning words like
‘sidewalk’ and ‘diaper’ into places where they don’t properly belong,
just to show you’re thinking about it,” he explained. “In my opinion,
less is more, just as it is when you’re writing, period. Readers don’t
want to be distracted, either by egregious errors or impeccable
research.”

Even so, Hornby says he wouldn’t dream of letting an American character
go unvetted. “I have American friends, and I have an American editor,”
he told me. Hornby is also a screenwriter. “American actors wouldn’t let
me get away with anything that didn’t sound right to them. I think I
have a lot of safety nets.”

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October 24, 2017 at 02:01PM

Airbnb Head of China Operations Departs as Co-Founder Settles Into New Role

Airbnb Head of China Operations Departs as Co-Founder Settles Into New Role

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Waldo Swiegers  / Bloomberg

The next domino just fell in China as the head of Airbnb’s China operation departed after a few months on the Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg

Skift Take: Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk’s recent ascension to the post of chairman of Airbnb China and now Hong Ge’s departure as head of its China operation are all part of the housecleaning the company feels it needs in the strategic market. Despite all the swagger about Airbnb’s growth, it’s obvious from the latest changes that the trajectory of the company’s China position wasn’t going according to plan.

— Dennis Schaal

In a blow to Airbnb Inc., the head of the company’s China business has left four months after taking the top job there.

Hong Ge, a former software engineer at Facebook and Google, told colleagues he was leaving the company for another opportunity. His departure reflects the struggle Airbnb faces in China, where protectionist laws and fierce competitors have long humbled tech giants such as Uber Technologies Inc.. Just this month, its government forced Airbnb and other home-sharing companies to cancel bookings in Beijing’s city center in the lead up to the Communist Party Congress.

Airbnb has long regarded building a brand in China as vital, as affluent millennials travel more than ever before. It spent years raising money and preparing the groundwork to tackle local rivals Xiaozhu and Tujia, which just raised $300 million. While the company has offered properties there since 2013, this year Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky renamed the service “Aibiying” and pledged to double investment in China. It now complies with controversial laws that give local authorities access to users’ information.

In an email sent to colleagues, Ge didn’t elaborate on his reasons for leaving but reflected extensively on Airbnb’s breakneck pace of expansion in past months. Its offices have grown from 30 people to more than 120 in Parkview Green in Beijing, while total listings had doubled to 140,000 from 70,000 a year ago. Airbnb’s on track to double room-nights of Chinese origin to 8 million in 2017, and Ge also pointed out his team reduced instances of fraud from over 8 percent of gross bookings to less than 2 percent.

“It’s a very tough decision for me to leave behind all of what we have built together. But hey, it’s a small world. I will still be in the Internet industry,” he wrote. “I’m sure our paths will cross again in the future.” Ge didn’t respond to messages sent to his WeChat social media account.

Airbnb had searched unsuccessfully since 2015 to recruit a business chief for China, before finally promoting Ge from within. On June 1, Chesky told employees Ge would report directly to him. “This marks the end of what began as an external search for a China President,” he wrote. “As we met with candidates, it became clear that the best person to lead China was already inside our building.”

Ge was well-regarded by other executives in China’s shared housing space, including at rivals, who saw him as a potent mix of local know-how and Western expertise. On Oct. 21, Chesky sent another email: “Hong Ge, our VP of China, is stepping down to pursue opportunities outside of Airbnb.”

Cheksy told employees that Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk would be spending half his time on the China business and making monthly trips there. That management change was unexpected, two people familiar with the matter say. A team of senior executives, including Vice President of Employee Experience Beth Axelrod, descended on Airbnb’s Beijing office at the time of the announcement, they said, asking not to be identified discussing internal matters.

An Airbnb representative declined to comment.

Kum Hong Siew, who runs Airbnb’s business in the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, will now play an even more prominent role, though his portfolio is becoming unwieldy. He’s the deputy general counsel for the Asia-Pacific, the head of business for the region, and now the steward of the company’s operation in China. Siew has worked at Airbnb since 2012, when he joined after a nearly four-year stint as Yahoo’s general counsel for Southeast Asia.

–With assistance from David Ramli

 

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Olivia Zaleski and Eric Newcomer from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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October 24, 2017 at 01:35PM

Mastercard Will No Longer Require Customer Signatures on In-Person Purchases

Mastercard Will No Longer Require Customer Signatures on In-Person Purchases

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“Sign on the dotted line, please.” It’s a phrase likely every credit card holder in the US has heard at some point after making a purchase. But it won’t be around for much longer if you use a Mastercard-branded card for your purchase. As of April 2018, Mastercard will no longer require signatures from debit or credit card holders on in-person purchases in the US and Canada.

“Eliminating the need for signature is another step in the digital evolution of payments and payment security,” Mastercard said. “Our consumer research found that a majority of people believe it would be easier to pay and that checkout lines would move faster if they didn’t need to sign when making a purchase.”

While this may seem like a huge step to take for a major company, it’s not that far off. Currently, more than 80% of Mastercard store transactions in North America don’t require a cardholder signature at checkout. The small change could drastically improve the cardholder experience for in-person purchases.

Mastercard is assuring cardholders that its levels of security will not be compromised with the switch to a signature-free transaction. The company said that its secure systems, along with digital payment methods such as card chips, tokenization, biometrics and digital platforms help to provide new and more secure methods to prove a person’s identity.

Overall, this is a positive move from Mastercard, hoping to speed up the process for cardholders at checkout. This isn’t the first step Mastercard has taken to update its products. In April, the company announced that it could add fingerprint readers to credit cards in order to prove someone’s identity.

Featured image by ShotShare / Getty Images.

H/T: View From the Wing

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October 24, 2017 at 01:21PM

Credit Card Review: Ink Business Preferred Card

Credit Card Review: Ink Business Preferred Card

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Chase upped the ante in the high-stakes travel rewards credit card game in 2016 with the introduction of new cards to appeal to all kinds of travelers. First came the Chase Freedom Unlimited in March followed by the furor of the Chase Sapphire Reserve in August. Another card with a solid value proposition from Chase launched in October: the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

While there are many small business credit cards out there, this one has a unique set of perks that may make it a great option for business owners looking to maximize their earning potential and unlock valuable rewards through the Ultimate Rewards program.

Who Is This Card For?

This card is clearly geared specifically toward those with small businesses and the varied expenses that typically come along with operating said businesses. While it’s possible to apply (and get approved) for a card like the Ink Business Preferred without a formal business, the earning rates and added perks I’ll cover below are most appealing to those with an actual company.

In addition, because this card is subject to Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule, it’s also a great option for those business owners who are just getting started in the hobby. Anyone who has opened 5 or more credit cards over the last two years will almost certainly be denied. As a result, this card (or another Chase product) should be among the first ones for which you apply.

Finally, this card is a great option for those who regularly run into problems with breaking or losing cell phones, as the Ink Business Preferred is one of the few cards out there with cell phone protection.

Sign-Up Bonus

img_andaz-maui-four-pools
The sign-up bonus alone could get you three free nights at Category 6 Hyatt properties like the Andaz Maui.

If you’re approved for the card, you’re eligible to earn a sign-up bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. This haul is worth a whopping $1,760 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, mainly due to the fact that the points can be transferred to an array of travel partners like Hyatt and United.

Unfortunately, the spending threshold required to earn the sign-up bonus ($5,000) is a bit higher than most other cards with a low ($95) annual fee, as you’ll need to spend over $1,600 per month in the first three months to ensure you get the points. Then again, many businesses could spend that in a few days, so your individual situations may make this a non-issue.

Earning

When it comes to earning points, the Ink Business Preferred offers bonus categories that can be quite lucrative to small business owners. You’ll earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in the following categories:

  • Travel, including airfare, hotels, rental cards, train tickets and taxis
  • Shipping purchases
  • Internet, cable and phone services
  • Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines

This $150,000 threshold is based on your account anniversary year, so it’ll reset each year when you renew your card. If you max out these categories by spending the full $150,000, you’ll take home a total of 450,000 Ultimate Rewards points at a value of $9,900, a fantastic return of 6.6%.

Once you’ve surpassed that mark, the purchases you make in the aforementioned categories will drop down to match the earning rate of all other purchases: 1 point per dollar spent. Though not too exciting, you’re still looking at a 2.2% return, which isn’t bad for a card with a $95 annual fee.

Redeeming

A United 747-400 lands while a Singapore Airlines A350 taxies to takeoff.
Both United and Singapore are transfer partners with Ultimate Rewards, giving you valuable flexibility with your points.

Earning a big haul of points is one thing; redeeming them for maximum value is an entirely different story. Fortunately, the Ultimate Rewards program is filled with valuable options thanks to its 11 transfer partners. This includes seven airline programs:

And four hotel programs:

In addition, most of these transfers post instantaneously, ensuring that you aren’t stuck waiting for the points or miles to arrive and wind up missing out on the redemption you wanted.

I’m particularly partial to a few of the programs. World of Hyatt is one of my favorites, as I’ve transferred Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and then redeemed at fantastic hotels like the Park Hyatt Zurich and Park Hyatt Mallorca. I’m also a big fan of the British Airways Executive Club thanks to the program’s distance-based award chart. I’ve redeemed Avios on short-haul American Airlines flights and (in some cases) received 5+ cents per point of value.

Regardless of which partner you choose, the power of the Ultimate Rewards program (and really any transferable point currency) is the flexibility it allows. You aren’t locked into a single airline or hotel, and you can wait until you’re ready to book to commit to one. In some cases, you can even pit programs against one another. Why transfer 45,000 Ultimate Rewards points to United for a round-trip flight from the US to Hawaii when the same flight would be just 35,000 miles booked through Singapore?

Of course, you also have the option of redeeming these points at a fixed rate of 1.25 cents apiece for travel purchases like flights, hotels and rental cars. Even though this is almost a full cent below TPG’s valuation of Ultimate Rewards points, it’s also very simple and doesn’t require much effort to utilize. Remember too that when you redeem Ultimate Rewards points directly for airfare, you should earn full miles, just as you would on a regular paid ticket.

Perks

Female traveler using her mobile phone in the airport.
You and your employees are covered for cell phone theft or damage when you pay your bill with the Ink Business Preferred. Image by kieferpix via Getty Images.

While the earning rates and redemption options alone make this an intriguing card, you’ll also be able to utilize a number of added perks that make it even more valuable for cardholders. Here’s a quick rundown:

Cell phone protection: As mentioned above, if you’re prone to dropping your cell phone or accidentally leaving it behind somewhere, the Ink Business Preferred could be a great option. When you charge your monthly cell phone bill to the card, you and eligible employees on the plan receive up to $600 per claim for damage or theft of cell phones. This isn’t carte blanche to go scuba diving with your phone; you’re limited to three claims in a 12-month period and must pay a $100 deductible per claim. Nevertheless, this is a terrific benefit that is rare among credit cards.

Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance: If you must cancel or cut a trip short due to a covered issue (like illness or severe weather), you’re eligible for up to $5,000 of coverage for pre-paid, nonrefundable travel expenses, offering great peace of mind when unexpected problems arise.

Primary car rental coverage: Renting a car can be a risky (and expensive) proposition, but if you use the Ink Business Preferred card and are traveling for business purposes, you’re covered for theft and damage in the US and in most countries around the world. This means you won’t need to submit a claim to your own insurance company, preventing your rates from jumping. Bear in mind that this doesn’t offer any liability coverage, but you are covered up to the actual cash value of the vehicle you’re renting.

Purchase protection: In addition to the cell phone protection, you’re also covered for other purchases. If an eligible item is damaged or stolen within the first 120 days after purchase, you’re covered up to $10,000 per claim ($50,000 per account). While I’ve fortunately never had to use this type of perk, it can be a lifesaver when something goes wrong with that brand-new purchase.

Which Cards Compete With Ink Business Preferred?

When it comes to competition, this particular segment of the travel rewards credit card market is a bit narrow. When you consider the overall value proposition of the Ink Business Preferred, there’s really only one true competitor: the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN. Here’s an overview of how the two compare:

Card Feature Ink Business Preferred Credit Card Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
Annual Fee $95 $175 (waived for the first year)
Sign-Up Bonus 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $1,760) 50,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $950)
Spending Requirement $5,000 $5,000
Earning Rates 3x points on up to $150,000 in combined travel, shipping, telecom and advertising purchases; 1x point everywhere else 3x points on first $100,000 spent on airfare, advertising, gas, shipping or computing purchases; 2x points on remaining 4 categories; 1x point everywhere else
Additional Perks Cell phone protection; primary car rental coverage Roadside assistance (four free calls per year); access to Amex OPEN Savings

As you can see, there’s some definite overlap between the two. While the annual fee on the Ink Business Preferred is lower, it isn’t waived for the first year, as it is on the Business Gold Rewards card. You’ll get a significantly higher sign-up bonus on the Ink, but Amex has slightly better earning rates, offering bonuses on up to $500,000 of spending (compared to $150,000 on the Ink). The two cards provide a number of overlapping coverages and protections, though the ones called out above in the “Additional Perks” row are unique to each.

Finally, keep in mind that the two cards earn different types of transferable points. As noted above, you’ll earn Ultimate Rewards points on the Ink Business Preferred, and those can then be transferred to the 11 aforementioned travel partners or redeemed directly for travel at 1.25 cents apiece. On the other hand, you’ll take home Membership Rewards points on the Business Gold Rewards card. This program has 20 travel transfer partners, including unique options like Air Canada’s Aeroplan and Delta SkyMiles. Be sure to consider which program works best for you when choosing between the two cards.

Bottom Line

IMG-trifecta_chase.cards
The Ink Business Preferred is one part of TPG’s Chase trifecta.

The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card made a big splash when it launched last fall, and for good reason. The sign-up bonus is among the highest we’ve seen from Chase, and if you have significant spending across the four bonus categories (travel, shipping, advertising and telecommunication providers), you’ll take home a bunch of extra Ultimate Rewards points. Finally, you and your employees will enjoy protection on cell phone theft or damage and will also have primary coverage when renting a car for business purposes.

That being said, the card’s main competitor (the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN) has some solid benefits as well, so be sure to keep that in mind if you’re a small business owner comparing the two. In addition, the Ink Business Preferred is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, so if you’ve applied for several cards over the last two years, your application may be automatically rejected. However, if you’re just getting started, I’d highly recommend starting with this card, especially if you can pair it with other cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Freedom Unlimited to complete TPG’s powerful Chase trifecta.

What are your thoughts on the Ink Business Preferred?

Travel

via The Points Guy http://ift.tt/26yIAN2

October 24, 2017 at 01:15PM