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New 2010 Promotions Look a Lot Like Last Year’s

What’s best about this year’s new crop of frequent traveler promotions is what was best about some of last year’s promotions. Because they’re the same promotions.

Deja vu all over again!

Hotels Press Promotions Into New Year

For the past two years, the hotel industry has been on a promotional tear, deploying bonus after bonus in the longest sustained marketing push ever. The good news for travel consumers is that the bonus offers have carried over into 2010, at least for the first quarter of the year. Among the promotions for winter travel:

Through February 18, members of the Choice Privileges program can earn triple airline miles or hotel points for the second and subsequent stays at Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites, Ascend, MainStay Suites, Suburban, EconoLodge, and Rodeway Inn hotels.

Hilton is offering members of its HHonors program a free night after completing four stays or 10 nights through March 31 at Hilton, Doubletree, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, Conrad, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, Hilton Grand Vacations, or Waldorf Astoria Collection hotels. A maximum of three free nights may be earned after 12 stays or 30 nights.

Marriott, meanwhile, has resurrected its venerable MegaBonus promotion for stays between February 1 and April 30: 2,500 bonus points for the second and subsequent stays, up to a maximum of 25,000 bonus points.

Members of the Priority Club Rewards program are being offered 1,000 bonus points or 200 airline miles for every qualifying night at InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, or Candlewood Suites hotels between February 1 and April 30.

And finally, between January 5 and April 15, Starwood Preferred Guest members can earn up to quadruple points for multiple stays, as follows: double points for stays of one or two nights; triple points for three-night stays; and quadruple points for stays of four or more nights. The bonuses are for consecutive nights spent at the same hotel. Starwood brands include Le Meridien, Four Points by Sheraton, Westin, The Luxury Collection, aloft, Sheraton, Element, St. Regis, and W.

If you’re an agnostic brand-wise, a starting point in assessing the above offers is comparing their entry hurdles. The Hilton promotion doesn’t take effect until a member of the chain’s program has completed four stays or 10 nights. That’s more hotel time than the average traveler is likely to log. The Choice and Marriott offers also require more than a single night. The Priority Club and Starwood offers, on the other hand, reward you for as little as a single stay.

Reintroducing the World’s Greatest Credit Card Bonus

When British Airways offered new customers for its Signature Visa card 50,000 miles after the first purchase charged to the card, plus a second 50,000 miles after charging $2,000 during the first three months, it was widely applauded as the most generous credit card bonus ever.

If the bonus miles weren’t incentive enough, the card also entitles users to a $50 discount on British Airways tickets charged to the card, and a free companion award ticket for cardholders who charge $30,000 or more in a year.

But British Airways and Chase, the card issuer, terminated the offer in December 2009, after just a one-month run.

For 2010—or some yet-to-be-determined portion thereof—the offer was on again. Or at least it was on January 7. But on January 12, the promotion was terminated again, replaced by a much less generous offer.

So, how much can you expect to earn if you apply for a British Airways Visa card today? Given the offer’s on-again-off-again history, I will simply refer you to the card’s landing page. And wish you good luck, mate.

The Online Booking Bonus Bounces Back

US Airways has begun the new year with a decidedly retro promotion: 1,500 bonus miles for flights purchased at by March 31 and flown by July 31.

An online booking bonus? That’s so last decade, when airlines routinely used such bonuses to train consumers to buy their tickets online instead of dialing in to the carriers’ heavily staffed (and expensive to operate) call centers.

Does US Airways’ move presage a comeback for online booking bonuses industry-wide? Almost certainly not. There just isn’t any need to use incentives to encourage online booking. For now, though, getting rewarded for what amounts to normal behavior surely beats the alternative.

A blast from the past is still a blast.

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