On My Way to 105,000 More Miles

Collecting points and miles is a fun hobby.  Spending them is a lifestyle.  Lately my lifestyles has been stagnant, but the hobby has kept me busy.  Like a busy little bee I’ve been working on accruing more miles as long as this hobby exists.  Just yesterday I took a step to get on my way to  105,000 more miles.

It’s been a while since my wife has applied for any credit cards.  Somehow a year has passed and she’s been flying under the radar.  Most of the cards I’ve picked up lately have been in my own name.

I chose two cards and applied and was accepted for both of them yesterday.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase SapphireLink: Chase Sapphire Preferred

This is one of the most versatile cards that you can get out there.  These points can be used to book travel directly from most airlines, but my favorite way to use the Ultimate Rewards is to transfer them to one of the many partners.  It’s great because these points transfer 1:1 to most programs without any fees.  Currently they partner with:

  • United MileagePlus
  • SouthWest RapidRewards
  • Marriott Rewards
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • IHG Hotels
  • Amtrak
  • Korean Airlines

I recently had to cancel an Ink Bold business card and transferred my points to United, Southwest, Marriott, and British Airways.  Most frequent flyer rewards programs require you to have activity on the account to keep your rewards from expiring.  Transferring as little as 1000 miles to each program helps keep those miles alive for another 12, 18, or 24 months depending on the program.

Other Posts on Ultimate Rewards:

Terms of the Sapphire Preferred

I just barely missed scoring this card with a lower spending requirement.  Dang.  They just moved it up to $4000 within the first 3 months of card membership.  I’m still going to meet the spending requirement, but the increased amount makes my planning a little bit more strategic.  One day they’ll crank up these spending requirements to something astronomical and they’ll take away the benefits, so now is the time to jump on board.

After meeting the spending requirement I’ll get 40,000 bonus miles, which is worth over $500 in travel.  Plus, by adding myself as an authorized user I’ll pick up another 5,000 miles.  This is an easy way to get an additional 5,000 miles.  At the end of the spending requirement I’ll almost at 50,000 Ultimate Rewards to my Award Wallet.  Great Success!

Hilton HHonors American Express

American Express Hilton HhonorsThis card popped up with a 60,000 point bonus, which is above standard for a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee.  This offer expires 12/31/2014.

Link: Hilton HHonors American Express

It is always nice to have a “staple” card with all of the issuers.  My wife has had two American Express cards, and she has had to cancel both of them because their annual fees became benefit prohibitive.  Getting this card will allow her to establish a long term relationship with American Express without paying for that relationship.

Plus each year with an American Express card you get the chance to participate in the Small Business Saturday.  I hope this card arrives before Saturday so I can register the card and pick up an additional $30 by spending at least $10 at three merchants or in three transactions from the same merchant on the upcoming Small Business Saturday.

The 60,000 points won’t last forever, but it should be enough to get me two free nights out of the card somewhere fun.  Here is their award chart:

Hhonors award chart

Hilton’s Award Tiers

It appears as though I could get lots of nights at the tier 1, but they only have a handful of hotels in that category.  Even in category 2 they only have about 115 hotels or so, which isn’t very many.  More than likely I’ll have to use them on category 3 or 4.  They have 335 hotels in the USA that fit in their category 3.  If I could get three free nights from the card it would be awesome.

The spending requirement for the card is only $1000 within 3 months, which is easy.

Slowly Building my AwardWallet

I’m really starting to rack up points and miles these days.  These two cards will help me put up another 105,000 miles for my upcoming travels.  It makes trip planning easy when I can use my miles at Hilton, Marriott, Starwood, and Club Carlson hotels all on the same trip.  None of this happened overnight, but with some diligence and work ethic it can happen to you too.

The thing is that you’ve got to start today.  Don’t wait for the opportunity to take a trip to come up before you start racking up points.  You’ll need the points ready to roll.  Choose cards that don’t charge annual fees, or those that waive them for the first year.  Doing so will keep your costs down and your amount of travel up, which is right where it should be.

What card(s) will you be getting next?

 

Posted in American Express, Chase, Chase Ultimate Reward Points, Hilton, Hotels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Spending $1000/month Will Get You to Hawaii – Plus 2 Resort Nights!

Here’s the executive summary:

  • Sign yourself up for the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard
    • Spend $1000 in everyday expenses the first month on this card, pay it off immediately
    • Pay an $89 annual fee the first year
    • Collect 36,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles
  • Sign your spouse up for the Hawaaian Airlines World Elite Mastercard
    • Spend $1000 in everyday expenses the second month on this card, pay it off immediately
    • Pay an $89 annual fee the first year
    • Collect 36,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles
  • Book 2 free flights for 35k miles each (pay only taxes and fees ~$70) from the US to one of the Hawaiian Islands
  • Sign yourself up for the Chase Hyatt Credit Card
    • Spend $1000 in everyday expenses the third month on this card, pay it off immediately
    • Pay no annual fee the first year
    • Collect 2 free nights in any Hyatt hotel
  • Book the two nights and start daydreaming!

Now, before you get too crazy excited, please realize that this post is mainly targeted to people who live in or near Hawaiian Airlines hubs like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas and New York.  If none of those are close to you, you may also want to read our post about getting to Hawaii on American Airlines. Or check out How the AA/US Airways merger could get you 2 tickets to any of 64 countries.

Now for the more exciting version.  This is something we’ve been doing for four years, telling the stories right here on this blog in over 600 posts on opportunities just like this one.  It just so happens that I returned from a trip exactly like this just a week ago… and I can tell you it was amazing.

We visited Maui and Kauai and blended adventure with relaxation and some delicious food. We paid something like $60 per flight and stayed 2 free nights in the Hyatt Resort Kauai… which is really not a bad place to spend two nights…

We splurged on a $165 meal for two at Mama’s Fish House and didn’t feel the slightest bit of guilt (ok, maybe just a little bit).

We scuba-dived at night, watching an octopus crawl across the reef, changing colors and textures, and seeing an eel stalk a fish and then swallow it whole.

We rode bikes down the Haleakala volcano. We hiked through bamboo forests and bathed in 400 foot waterfalls. On the Road to Hana, a gecko hitchhiked on our windshield. We laid on the beach.  We relaxed by the pool.

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It was everything a vacation should be, and just as we always do, Nicole and I were left wondering how other couples manage to get the time together that we are only ever able to get by traveling.

But this wasn’t something we achieved by scrimping and saving, it’s something we did by prudently using our everyday spending to meet credit card minimum spending requirements to obtain frequent flyer miles and travel for free.  It’s the same recipe that’s taken our entire family of six to five different countries, and opened the door to the world of almost free travel… and it something you can do, too.

Almost-free flights

Right now there’s an offer on the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard that will earn you 35k points after spending $1000 within the first three months. Applying for this card will affect your credit score slightly, as any credit inquiry does, but not to a degree that offsets the amazing benefit you get. As I mentioned in the summary, the card does charge an $89 annual fee – but when you’re comparing it to a $1000 flight price, it seems pretty minor.

supersaver hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines SuperSaver

Because your spouse has separate credit, they can also apply independently and reap the same reward.

If you’re like us, spending $1000/month comes pretty easily and between fuel, groceries, utilities and some entertainment, you can just replace spending that you usually put on a debit card or pay with cash.

After two months you’ll have met the requirements and the points will be on their way.  Once they arrive, you log on to www.HawaiianAirlines.com and find availability at the SuperSaver level for dates that will work for you.  Because you’re a cardmember, you’ll have a 5k point discount on RT travel, so knock 5k off the 40k and you’ll have enough. You may need to be somewhat flexible to make it work, and maybe it will even mean going to a different island, but I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing disappointing about any of them.

2 free nights in a Hyatt Resort property

One of the most awesome deals out there in the world of travel-reward credit card usage is the offer on the Chase Hyatt Credit Card.  It’s as simple as signing up for the card and spending $1000 within the first 3 months.  Then you get a certificate to book 2 nights at any available Hyatt Property.

It works out nicely that there are 5 Hyatt resorts across 3 different islands, so you have a lot of options.

As I mentioned, we stayed at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and I have to say that the place is absolutely incredible.  The grounds are unlike anything you could imagine – with a lazy river flowing through an abundance of flowers, a meandering saltwater lagoon, and, an abundance of gorgeous beach.

Hawaii Hyatt

No, this is not a Hyatt advertisement, but it should be. This is Nicole on the balcony.

Almost no matter how you go about it, the benefit on this card is going to be in the $800 range because these hotels are not cheap.  Consider this your splurge and find a quaint B&B to spend the rest of your time in.

FAQ

When do the points expire? Your Hyatt certificates must be used within 12 months, and the Hawaiian Airlines points require activity every 18 months in order to keep them.

What if you don’t keep the cards? From Hyatt’s terms: “If your account is not open for at least 3 months, Hyatt and Chase reserve the right to deduct the Free Night Awards from your Hyatt Gold Passport account.” On the Hawaiian points, even if you don’t keep the card, you can keep the points, but it’s probably best to book while you have the card or you don’t get the 5k point discount.

Aren’t rental cars in Hawaii expensive? Not a chance.  We booked a full-size car for $200 for 5 days.  Be smart about it.  Use www.CarRentalSavers.com.

Doesn’t it hurt my credit to apply for credit cards? Probably not as much as you might think.  We have a whole post about this.

More questions?  Ask them with a comment, below.

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Thanks for wanderlusting with us.

Posted in Cheap Honeymoons, Hyatt, Island Vacations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Kind of Travel Excites You?

I was complaining to my wife the other day that we simply haven’t gone “anywhere” lately. She promptly reminded me that this year we’ve been to Florida, North Carolina, and San Diego.  Somehow it felt like those trips didn’t count.  It has caused me to ponder the question, “What kind of travel excites you?”

Angkor Wat

Sunrise over Angkor Wat…..Yes Please

It had never occurred to me that some trips simply wouldn’t be exciting enough to count as an exciting trip.  Don’t get me wrong here, I love traveling and going to those locations was a blast, however none of them seemed to “count” as a valid vacation.  It further confirmed that I am a Travel Snob.

Reflecting on my snobbery has caused me to think about the requirements for me to be excited about a trip.  Check them out and let me know what you think.  Am I crazy?

Blood Pressure Must Rise

For most people trying something new causes them to be nervous when they do something for the first time.  Booking a trip to Asia with my wife in tow less than a year after we had been married definitely fit the bill here.  Some of my in-laws were demanding that we cancel the trip and that they might even cover the sunk cost of our flights.  After I booked the flight at midnight I went to bed but didn’t fall asleep forever.  My heart was racing and my mind was wandering about putting it all together.

You Gotta Leave the USA

playing dominos

When else do you get a chance to compete with local Haitians playing dominoes?

I love America.  This place is amazing.  You get free refills on your Mountain Dew, paper towels abound in our bathrooms, and you can almost always drink the water.  Traveling within the USA is easy because you know that you English will get you anywhere.  The menus will be easy to read, and you’re never far from a million chain restaurants.  These are huge benefits to most people, and sometimes I feel that way, but for the most part a trip outside the USA gets me more excited!

Leaving America puts all of those feelings behind you.  Of course it provides more challenges when ordering from a menu that you don’t understand.  Just look around the restaurant and order what someone else has on their plate.  Visiting locations like this will provide experiences that you’ll never get anywhere else.  These feelings of vulnerability make you think harder, and appreciate more of what you have.

Another Pin On the Map

It’s no mystery that I’m counting the number of countries, states, continents, and basically anything else that you can count.  Sure it is a competition.  Life is a competition, and everyone wants to win.  Seeing others who go to new places causes me to want to expand my horizons and put a new pin on the map.  Visiting the same old places doesn’t get me excited.  It doesn’t mean I won’t return to the same places, but I simply won’t be as excited the second time.

Stamps in the Passport

This isn’t too different from the “Pin on the Map” idea listed above, but flipping though an empty passport is boring.  Seeing a single stamp on 25 pages is embarrassing. Flipping though an old passport brings back memories of border crossings and things that happened as I embarked upon new territories.

New Foods

I still dream about eating another Nutella crepe on a park bench while pondering the beauty of the Eiffel Tower.  What about eating a delicious pizza on the Grand Canal in Venice?  Been there and done that.  Those memories make my vacations memorable when you can associate your taste buds with travel.

Architecture

architecture

Tyler and I in Tikal (circa 2007)

This is a bit of a broad category, but traveling to places with interesting architecture can make my trips much more fun.  I want to visit buildings, castles, temples, and more every time I take a vacation.  I often find myself exploring post offices, courthouses, and other municipal buildings because of their beauty.

One day in Moscow I spent the day exploring all of their remarkable subway stops, and you should too.  Each stop isn’t the scariest place on Earth like the ones in NYC.  They’re adorned with statues, fountains, paintings, murals, mosaics, and arches.

Wonders of the World-(Natural and Man-Made)

Heading down to Peru sounds exciting, yet hiking to the top of Machu Picchu so I can watch the sunrise from one of the most picturesque spots in South America is over the top. Somehow adding a visit to a huge wonder of the world can really get me excited.  Visiting Egypt would be incredible to visit, but wouldn’t be the same if I missed the Great Pyramids.

Factories

The idea behind the “How Stuff is Made” show is awesome.  The problem is that I have a hard time getting excited about it sitting in my living room.  That’s because they can’t bring all of the five senses to you.  Walking through a chocolate factory when you can smell melting chocolate and even give it a taste at the end holds my attention much longer than the tube.  I love visiting factories and learning how things are made.

History

Walking through Gettysburg could give me chills.  I love visiting war sites and museums that are dedicated to historical events.  I’m always down to visit these locations.

What Kind of Travel Excites You?

Everyone is different.  Some people are excited about trips to WalMart, and I guess that’s cool.  They know what they like, and it works for them.  I want to know what makes a trip exciting for you!

 

 

 

Posted in About us, How to Wanderlust, Travel Tips, Travel Tricks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How the AA/US Airways merger could get you 2 tickets to any of 64 countries

Where 40k AAdvantage miles could take you

Where 40k AAdvantage miles could take you

This is a rough map of the destinations American Airlines serves which can be reached with 40k miles or fewer. By my count, there are 36 countries in the Americas and 28 in Europe. This means that if you can get your grubbies on 80k AAdvantage miles, you can start planning a trip to any of some 64 countries.

American Award Chart

AAdvantage Award Chart

If you didn’t have friends like us, this idea of getting your hands on 80k AAdvantage miles would sound impossible, but this is something we do all the time, and something we’re not shy about sharing.  In the past 4 years, I’ve accumulated more than 550k AAdvantage miles, and honestly I love the thought of you getting your share.

Before we get into that, I do want to say that there are some stipulations – you won’t be able to go to all of these countries at any time, because the redemption availability for the MileSAAver Level 1 (off-peak) awards do vary by date.  Here’s the basic rundown on when these flights may be available:

  • Hawaii: January 12 – March 13, August 22 – December 15
  • The Caribbean and Mexico: September 7 – November 14
  • Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela: January 16 – June 14, September 7 – November 14
  • Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay: March 1 – May 31, August 16 – November 30
  • Europe: October 15 – May 15; Japan and South Korea: October 1 – April 30

I can tell you from experience that none of these are bad times to visit these countries.  As a matter of fact, the crowds will be smaller and the prices will be cheaper.

Now, you were wondering about how you might be able to get 80k AAdvantage miles.  Well, we’ll do you one better, let us show you how to get 90k.

How to get 90k AAdvantage miles

Here it is in its simplest form:

Mini FAQ (a longer FAQ post here)

  • Doesn’t it hurt my credit? We have an entire post dedicated to this subject, but the short answer is: not much.  As long as you make your payments on time and in full, the impact to your credit score will be minimal.
  • If I decide I don’t want to keep the card, can I still keep the points? Yes, the AAdvantage mileage program just requires “activity” every 18 months to retain your points.
  • Is it impossible to find dates to use the points?  American is actually pretty good about this – far better than Delta. The more flexibility you have, the better off you’ll be. Finding the MileSAAver level awards is certainly possible, though.  Sometimes I use different airports and the nice thing about AA is that you can also fly into one airport and out of another one.
  • Can I only fly on AA? No, AA is merging with US Airways and many of the flights available are still theirs.  I’m flying to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines with AA miles.  You can also find routings on Air Berlin, Iberia Airlines, and British Airways – though I don’t recommend flying BA in Europe because of their massive fuel surcharges.
  • Is booking it complicated? No, AA.com is simple and intuitive. You won’t have any trouble using their online system – plus they allow you to hold an itinerary for 24 hours which allows you to pin something down and then think about it.
  • Could I use all the points for a single Business Class ticket? Yes, as you can see in the award chart, the requirements for Business Class tickets are roughly double.  If you’re in need of greater comfort, it’s certainly an option.
  • Are there hotel cards that could get me free hotel stays, too? But of course. Click the category dropdown in the right sidebar and see all our posts on various hotel programs.
  • Could my spouse apply for these cards, too? Yes, now you’re catching the vision, you greedy wanderluster.
  • How long will this last? Well, the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is most certainly on its way out.  With the programs finalizing the merger next year, it won’t be around for long.  The Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard® offer has been around for a while, but who knows when and how they may change it.

Are there other questions you have?  Comment below.  Where will these miles take you?  Let us know what you’re planning.

Posted in American Airlines, Barclays, Caribbean, Central America, Europe | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Dominican TreeHouse Village 3-night Package Special

One of our most popular posts with you who thirst for worldwide adventure was our outline of a unique experience that few have had the opportunity to enjoy – a week in the Dominican Tree House Village - a jungle wonderland where you can have the thrill of being deep in the rainforest without sacrificing cleanliness, comfort, or good food.

Now we’re excited to bring to you an offer that will get you prioritizing your vacation planning process and locking down some flights to the Dominican Republic as soon as possible.  Here it is, plain and simple: 3 nights for two in a private tree house cabana with breakfast and dinner included along with non-alcoholic drinks.  Also included is your choice of one of the standard tour activities for the two of you and a 40-minute couples massage. The standard price on this package is $800, but in this WorldWanderlusting exclusive we can offer it for only $600 (including all taxes and fees) when you put down your $100 deposit before November 15th. (This offer is subject to availability and dates will fill up fast). The remaining $500 will be paid on site.

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I just have to reiterate that the experience you’ll have here is really one of a kind.  The property itself is awe-inspiring and the setting is really unmatched.  The staff treats its guests with such class and courteousness, you’ll find yourself wondering if you’re at the Ritz Carlton.

How do we book it?

The good news is that you don’t have to have your dates selected right away – you can figure that out over the next couple of months – but you do need to put your $100 deposit down before November 15th. If you decide it’s not going to work for you, this deposit is refundable less the 4% PayPal fee, so you’re only putting $4 at risk by locking down this offer right now.

The only way to get this offer is to book it via WorldWanderlusting.  Please email worldwanderlusting@gmail.com for us to send you this exclusive offer.

DOMINICAN TREEHOUSE VILLAGE                                                                                            3-NIGHT, 2-PERSON PACKAGE FOR $600                                                                             $100 DEPOSIT, PAY $500 ON SITE

What else can we do while we’re there?

As I mentioned, your package includes one of these standard tour activities, and you’ll probably want to take in at least one other while you’re there.

Samana Zipline – Walk the plank from the shipwreck atop the hill to begin this awesome 14-platform zipline tour that takes you down the gorge above the village at speeds of up to 40 mph. Normally $75/pp

Dune Buggy Excursion – Climb onboard a dune buggy to see Samana in a most-adventuresome way. This tour will last 4 hours and take you to some of the area’s highlights. Normally $75/pp

Whale Watching/Sail Bay Snorkel Trip – Hopefully you’re here while the Humpback whales are and we can take you to get up close and personal with them. Afterward you’ll enjoy snorkeling the reef of Sail Bay. Normally $75/ppDR 6

Horseback Ride to El Limon Waterfall – One look at El Limon and you’ll be enthralled. This may be the waterfall highlight of the island if not the Caribbean and we’ll take you right to it. Normally $75/pp

Beyond these activities, there are so many things to do, much of which is free or very inexpensive.  El Valle beach is just a few minutes away and it’s the kind of gorgeous lonely beach you could spend an entire day on.

DR 5The village has an enormous eco-lodge, a yoga studio, social swings, and hanging beds for movies in the jungle. You could spend hours just touring the grounds themselves where there are an abundance of flowers, fruits, and so much plant and animal life.  In the heat of the afternoon, you can take a dip in the nearby waterfall, and swing on the rope swing if you’re feeling adventurous.

And it may not hurt to just spend some time reading in a hammock and enjoying the setting… the bottom line is you will not hurt for things to do.

What else should we see in the Dominican Republic?

Would you believe that we’ve posted about this before? Check out this post on what else to see in the DR.

Can you show us how to get our flights almost-free?

We were wondering when you’d ask.  We wouldn’t be WorldWanderlusting if we didn’t do that. You may remember that we’ve often promoted the The US Airways Premier World MasterCard® .  We’re being a little more aggressive in pushing this offer because there’s a sense that it won’t be around for long as US Airways is in the process of merging with American Airlines.

We love it because it’s not one of these offers that require you to spend a whole bunch of money on the card.  You actually qualify for your bonus miles after making the very first purchase… and they’re not shy with the bonus miles, either… they give you 40k of them!

As you can see from the US Airways mileage redemption chart, 40k should be able to get you to the Caribbean – especially considering that having the card gets you a 5k point discount on redemptions, so if both you and your spouse or your travel partner apply, you’ll be ready to go.  Now, here’s the catch… you do have to pay the $89 fee and for the taxes on your flight… so you may be into your flights about $150… now that’s not bad considering that they’d normally cost at least $600, but I just want you to be aware.

Apply for the The US Airways Premier World MasterCard® and start planning your trip right away.

DR 3

Posted in Barclays, Caribbean, Cheap Honeymoons, Island Vacations, US Airways | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You catch a lot more flies with honey than you do with vinegar

In life it seems like it is so easy to grab someone by the throat and yell at them when they don’t tell you what you’d like to hear.  Frankly this is the best option in rare scenarios, but sometimes it takes a soft approach to get what you’d like.  Think about it, when your kids throw a fit are you more likely to help them, or do you want to leave them in Wal-Mart with the people of Wal-Mart to care for them?  I’ve been tempted to leave my son behind a few times….

Tonight I was faced with a peculiar circumstance.  A close friend called me up and explained that they weren’t going to be able to take an upcoming flight due to a medical circumstance.  The knee-jerk reaction was to call customer service, right? Wrong.  The scripted CSR replied that a change in itinerary would result in a $200 change fee.  OUCH!

How do they dare charge you $200 because you just got diagnosed with cancer?  I took it upon myself to contact the real Customer Service team (@deltaassist) on Twitter.  We’ve talked about this before and explained that the best Customer Service is found on Twitter.

What was the title of this post?

Sorry if you’re confused about the title of this post.  It just basically means that you’ll get much farther with being nice, sweet, and loving to the customer service reps than you will being a grump.  Just like your child from the beginning, remember?

My tweet mentioned that this person had been recently diagnosed with cancer and she was hoping to move the flight to another time later when she wasn’t in the middle of her treatments.

Her name is XXXXXX and the confirmation number is *********.  She recently had her thyroid removed & now is prepping for radiation treatment.  Can you please waive the change fees?

Boom.  It was done before I knew it.  She had dropped the ticket, and given a voucher that could be used for up to 8 months from today without even flinching.  A simple please and a soft approach did much more than a fist to the jugular.

That Was Easy

Already we were worlds ahead of the initial phone call to customer service that took 4 times as long.  Victory was ours and we had saved $200.

The idea behind a change fee does make sense.  It is tough to think that you’ve got a full flight when people are changing their flights at the last minute.  However, our circumstances were different.  An unforeseen medical condition had made travel extremely difficult.  Fortunately the CSR understood and was able to make a special adjustment for us.

Wait….There is More….

Somehow Delta scores extra points late in the game with their response to our next request.  We had this great idea that we could send her son on this vacation instead of putting the entire trip off to a later date.  We knew we were biting off more than we could chew.

Sheepishly I fired up my twitter account again to visit with the CSR about ANOTHER potential change.  I made sure to start off with something really appreciative showing that they had already made our day with their current decision.  It went something like this…

Thank you for all of your help tonight.  You’ve been most helpful.  Sally hasn’t been feeling well, and we appreciate you making the change.  This does present a different complication in that my wife was supposed to travel with Sally, who was going to help her with our two children.  They are ages 3 and 1.  Having someone go would be so helpful, is there any way that Sally’s son could take her place?

The response came back quickly and cold.

Unfortunately tickets can’t be changed to other people’s names.  I’m sorry.

I was stunned, but not knocked out.  I came back with a simple response:

Dang.  Is that some kind of law or a company policy?

Silence filled the airways for about 10 minutes.  I was about to waive the white flag of surrender when the response came back.

I’ll make an exception & change the ticket name, what is his name and date of birth?

This was a big victory for us.  My wife was going to have a helper on her trip, no change fees would be paid, and Delta filled the seat that they had already sold to Sally.  It seems like everyone was a winner at the end of the day.  Fortunately my patience and understanding paid off.

What did you learn today?

Basically we’ve covered the fact that being SUPER nice to the CSR’s on Twitter is definitely the way to handle a special circumstance like this.  Tell them that you appreciate them and how great they are.  When all was said and done I sent out a shout-out tweet to them like this:

@deltaassist is the bomb.  These guys really go above and beyond.  Thank you @delta!

It is the small things that can really happen if you’re nice to these people who have the power to help you.  Remember that you’ll catch a lot more flies with honey than you will with vinegar!

Posted in Delta, How to Wanderlust, Travel Tips, Travel Tricks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to get business travel for free (and still write it off)

First, I need to establish that I’m giving travel advice in this article, not tax advice.  I’m not qualified or licensed to give tax advice, and I’m treading a thin line in this article.  Even so, I want to share with you an idea that I think you’ll be pretty excited about because it takes an incredible travel reward bonus opportunity and makes it even better.

Many people I know tend to mix business and pleasure travel. It’s a beautiful thing – something I, too, indulge in.  In fact, this same time last week I was on the beach in St. Petersburg, paddleboarding in the swales of the Gulf Coast outside the beautiful Don Cesar Hotel. It was a business trip – an opportunity to hone my investment management skills – but I brought Nicole along, so we took advantage of some of the off time to enjoy the setting.

St Pete beach paddleboard

Nicole paddleboarding at the Don Cesar on St Pete beach

Before I go too much further, I need to say that you must stay at the Don Cesar Hotel in St. Petersburg at some point in your lifetime. If it were just a historic hotel it would be great.  If it were just a beautiful beachside resort, it would be great.  If it were just a Loews property with excellent staff and the plushest of beds, it would be great. But it really is all three of these things and more.  Coming from a guy who never spends money on hotels, I’d tell you that this is a hotel that it’s worth it to spend money on – particularly when it’s reimbursed and deductible. :)

Anyways, on this trip I also brought along my Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® – what’s become my absolute favorite “bank points” card – a card that gives me cash reimbursement for travel expenses, and also one that accumulates at a rate of 2:1 and includes a 10% point kick-back when points are redeemed.  The net effect is 2.22% cash back for travel – hands down the best benefit out there when it comes to points that have maximum flexibility. There’s no complicated grid of hotel categories or airline ticket point scales, just easy points for cash redemption.

I brought it because I knew I’d be staying at the Don Cesar, a Loews Resort Hotel, and despite having an Awardwallet that’s brimming with points, I don’t have any free stays with the YouFirst program. Now, that actually works out for me, though, because where this is a work expense, I’d like to be able to write it off… and if I had hotel points that made it free, I wouldn’t have any record of having paid for it.

The way it worked out, though, is that my card was billed $400.  When I first got the card, the 40k bonus points I recieved for spending $3k in the first 3 months would have been enough to pay for all of our stay, but I had blown those long ago.  Even so, I’ve been able to spend a fair amount on the card over the last few months and accumulated about 20k points that allowed me to reimburse $200 of the $400 charge on my card.

As it stands, I still have a tax-deductible expense, and my savvy use of credit card travel rewards allows me to write it off and get it reimbursed.

Now on to the reason we even have this blog in the first place… you can do this, too! Particularly if you have a significant amount in monthly spending to put on this card, this is a way you can really maximize your free travel.

 Better than American Express Membership Rewards

Far too many business owners rack up tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of points in the American Express Membership Rewards program.  As a general rule, that program runs at a rate of 1 point per dollar spent… so right off the bat the Barclaycard Arrival takes the lead in offering 2 points per dollar, plus the 10%.

To look at an example, consider that if you spent $5k/month on an American Express which earns membership rewards, you’d rack up 60k/year.

If you spent the same amount on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, you’d earn 120k/year and upon redeeming them, earn 12k more.  That’s a total of $1,320 in free travel.  If you use it on business travel but still reimburse yourself, consider that your expenses will also still be tax deductible. It’s a win/win/win.

Can I put business expenses on my personal card?

I do want to urge a little caution here because it is possible to get a little out of hand with this.  There are many reasons to keep business expenses on business cards and personal expenses on personal cards – for one, it makes accounting much much simpler.  Even so, you’re responsible for your accounting and so long as you have records of what you spent and why, that’s what is important.

The other factor is that any debt you accumulate on a personal card stays with you if the business defaults.  This shouldn’t be an issue for worldwanderlusters, though, because none of us are actually accumulating ongoing debt.  We use credit cards only as purchasing instruments, not as credit.

That said, again, what’s important is that you keep good records of all of your purchases and appropriately categorize them.

What’s the best way to keep track of my expenses?

One more time we’ll plug Mint.com.  I really could not do what I do with travel credit card rewards if it weren’t for Mint.com.  I have the app on my phone and login on my desktop at least once a week.  I can categorize every dollar of spending and gauge my budget in ways that was never before possible.  This is a tool that I think everyone should use… and they don’t pay me to say that… though I wish they did.  I’d love to get paid for what I want to say anyway.

What’s the catch?

As I tell people every day.  I’ve been doing this for 4 years and I and my family have traveled all over the world and stayed in dozens of hotels, and done much of it for free.  I guess if there is a catch with this card is that while the first year’s annual fee is waived, it is not waived in the later years, so unless you cancel the card you will have to pay the $89 annual fee, though in speaking with a customer service rep, you may be able to change over to a non-annual fee account that only accumulates points at a rate of 1:1.  But aside from that, I couldn’t really tell you.

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