After the recent devaluation of United Award chart, the awards in premium cabin on partner airlines has gone quite expensive. But the new award chart has a sweet spot created for visiting "Down Under" from quite a few Asian countries that too in premium cabin on partner airlines. To begin with look at the United award chart below:
As you can see from the highlighted section above, visiting "Down Under" from South Asia is just 30k miles one way in business or 40k miles in First. You could even do a return trip with a stop-over or 2 open-jaws and still pay 60k/80k in business/first. That is an incredible deal knowing how large is South Asia. Just to get an idea look below on countries classified under "South Asia" by United.
The gist is you can get to fly incredible Singapore Airlines, or Thai Airways to visit "Down Under" and go as far as Bangladesh (Dhaka) which is essentially very close to India/Pakistan. Below is the map of what you can do for 80k miles in first class for which US Airways would charge you 120k miles.
As you can see from the map you could potentially get a stop-over in either of DAC/BKK/SIN or for that matter any of the United classified "South Asian" country and get to travel "down under" for 80k United miles in First!! Hope this helps folks planning their trip from South Asian countries.
Well this post is not related to miles but more on how to make some profit by spending few minutes of your time. Although I am late to the party you could still got on this deal as it is valid till 02/28/2014 with limit of 1 per person. (They use your driving license to determine if you have already done this before or not). Currently Radio Shack is having a promotion where you can trade in electronic items (mostly portable electronics) for $5 in Radio Shack gift card value for each item with a maximum of $25 in Radio Shack gift card in lieu of 5 items. Do note that all of the trade in items should be in working condition. Below is the list of eligible trade in items:
So, now to the interesting part on how you can get $25 gift card for $5. If you do not have any of the above items to trade or you value them much higher than $5 a piece, there is more better or effective way to maximize on this. Here we go:
(HT - mrcouponer)
Wishing all the folks around the world a Happy New Year. May you travel more and enjoy best things in life. As a quick update there are lot of AMEX offers which are ending tonight on Dec 31st 2013 or Early January 2014. So kindly check back your Amex Sync offers remaining and take advantage of them before they are gone. If you not interested in really buying any stuff, you can make miles and money by buying Visa/MasterCard or buying and later selling merchant gift cards. Below is the list of interesting offers which you could do online before the year turns to 2014.
Also one of special interest to me is "Neiman Marcus" which expires on Jan 6th 2014. The offer is to spend $200+ online at Neiman Marcus and get $50 as statement credit. You could buy Neiman Marcus virtual e-gift card online and earn miles from various shopping portals for this purchase. This e-gift card resells for 83% of face value as of this writing so you could end up making ~$16 on this.
Enjoy and have fresh start to 2014!!
There are two promotions going on currently which can help you earn United Miles at ~1.8 cpm (cent per mile). Although this might not be a cool way to earn united miles, but if you are short of miles for you next award and want to get there quickly this could be for you rather than buying it directly from united at a cost of ~3.5 cpm.
There are currently two promotions going on which both co-incidentally run till November 30th, 2013.
Wyndham points can be purchase in the blocks of 1000 points with each 1000 points costing $11. So let's say you purchased 20,000 Wyndham points you would essentially pay $220 for 24,000 points (20,000 + 4000 [bonus]). Wyndham points convert at ratio of 2.5:1 to United Miles. Thus you would trade 24,000 Wyndham points to 9600 United Miles. Since United will give you 25% bonus on received miles which is 2400 additional miles (9600 x 25%). Thus you get 12,000 miles (9600 + 2400) for a payment of $220 which is ~1.833 cent/mile.
There is one more way of earning United Miles for same price as above if you do not mind renting a car at Alamo if it is available for cheap (This is YMMV and thus proceed with caution). For details of this promo offer which earns 1000 miles for 1 day rentals check here.
As you keep collecting hotel program points for reward stays it's worth understanding the value you are getting out of your investment. Everyone has a different value on points they hold and in which program the points are available. But knowing what value you can get of those points is of importance. The intend of this post is to highlight different program "sweet spots" so you know your choices and where to look before deciding to use your points for hotel award night stay. The loyalty programs we will be looking at are listed below:
This article will focus on Hyatt Gold Passport and Hilton Honors. For IHG (Priority Club) refer to my post on IHG Big Win. The value proposition for IHG (Priority Club) comes from Point Savers Award. For details on Marriott, Club Carlson and SPG do check my next article in this series.
Hyatt Gold Passport
Most hotels in Hyatt brand represent high tier and luxury class hotels. Hyatt award night starts from mere 5k points for category 1 hotels and the highest category 6 hotels cost 22k points for standard room. The reward chart representing the hotels in different categories can be found here. The category 6 hotels include Park Hyatt Tokyo, Park Hyatt Maldives and Park Hyatt Sydney that retails upwards of $900+. Thus redeeming 22k points for standard room at this hotels is extremely awesome value proposition if you are looking for Style and grand experience. On the lower end of it you could redeem 5k points for hotels such as Bali Hyatt which goes for ~$120+. So if you are looking to stay at decent to good brand hotel, I would suggest looking at Category 1 & 2 hotels to see if any hotels exits for the destination you are planning to visit which provides great redemption value for award nights rather than paying cash.
Although Hilton has massively devalued their program in recent time by increasing award night redemption cost's almost 2x and introducing variable points reward rate based on seasonality; there are still quite a few value hotels for budget conscious travelers who want to experience Hilton brand. You should use this useful tool here to determine how many points are required for standard room stay at the location you plan to visit. Once you know the points, you can visit the brand hotel website and scroll all the way to the bottom to see the award night rate for your stay. Look at the example below for Double Tree Hilton Goa. The Hotel's average night cost is INR 11,000 which would roughly equate to ~$180 but the points cost is only 5k points. That's awesome value proposition for Hilton Honors points.
As you can see from above it is still a good value proposition redeeming Hilton Honor points for lower category hotels and thus maximizing value of your points for free award night stays.
So in short if you are looking for value from above programs look for lower or mid category hotels in Hyatt and lower category hotels in Hilton Honors program
In a previous article on "Raising miles at Walmart" I had shown how you could you potentially reduce the fee portion of Visa/MasterCard to even less than "zero". In that article the focus was on "Raise" as that was one of the gift card site where you could easily find the Walmart gift card at 2 to 2.5 % discount. Since then I have seen similar discounts offered by Cardpool as well as Ebay although I prefer Cardpool because of ease of use. The important thing to note is if the "gift card resale" site you are about to use provides any cash-back rebates through any rebates portal. Cardpool is also one of the Gift Card Resale site which provides cash-back through bunch of portals, one of which is TopCashBack. You could also check out other rebate portals and a good place to start your search for best rebate portal would be to search for the merchant at "Cashbackholic". Make sure you read through the terms of the cash-back portal as each one of them operate differently and have some limits of minimum amount of rebate you need to accrue before it becomes payable.
Walmart gift card at Cardpool:
Cardpool consistently provides the Walmart gift card at 2.5% discount in addition to 2% cash-back rebate going through TopCashBack ( Note: The rebate is only available until you reach $1k in purchases so make sure you read the terms through). You can combine upto 4 walmart gift card to make a purchase of Visa/MasterCard. A purchase of $200 in Walmart gift card would cost $195 and provide a rebate of $3.9 (2% of $195). Thus you get a $200 Walmart gift card at a cost $191.1 out of pocket cost thus having a discount of $8.9. Considering that a $200 Visa/MasterCard gift card costs $6.88 in fees you would still be ahead by $2.02 on this one. So by going through this route you would have purchased 195 points/miles and made a small profit of $2.02 as well on your credit card spend.
Walmart gift card at Ebay:
Another approach is to purchase the Walmart gift card from Ebay. Generally you would be able to find "Buy it now" deals for 2.5% discount and on top of it you would get 2% back from Ebay bucks. As you can see that you would save almost similar amount of money as you do from Cardpool but there are few problems you should be award of as mentioned below:
So, go ahead and accumulate those miles without any fees and enjoy your award travel.
(Note: If you open your TopCashBack account using above mentioned links, I would get a small referral bonus. I do appreciate your support. Thanks.)
You would have seen the mention of "IHG BIG WIN PROMO" all around the web. IHG Club is basically re-branding of Priority Club which includes brands such Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites etc ( the full list of brands under IHG can be found here). The promo is open to all the members and is tailored to each individual member having a slightly different version of the promo. But if you are NOT a member of IHG club you can create a new account and then register for this promo you would see a standard 50k points offer as shown below.
As you can see "Only 4 separate stays or nights" could earn you potential 50k points assuming 2 out of those 4 stays are on Saturdays and 3 of them are at different IHG brand hotels.
Back to the question.. Is it Worth?
Well, the answer depends on how are you going to use the points. You can convert IHG points to the partner airlines at the ratio of "10k points = 2k miles" and the various airline partner list can be found here. Thus converting 50k points would give you 10k miles which depending on my valuation could be worth $100 to $150. If I had to spend an average of $60/night on each of the stay that would mean spend of $240 in total and assuming I am just staying for the sake of getting the points I personally would not do it. You could also buy 10k points for $70. The way this works is as long as you have 5k points in your account you could book any hotel that requires 15k points by using so called "points+cash" option which is essentially "5k points + $70 for remaining 10k points". Once you make the booking and later cancel it you do not get the "cash" portion refunded rather will have 10k points deposited to your account in lieu for it. So if you are doing it for the sake of points (also known as mattress run) do it only if your total cost would be less than $350 ($70x 5 for 50k points).
On the other hand you could redeem the points for the "PointBreaks" which has changing list of hotels each quarter that can be booked for only 5k points/night. This option would mean I could potentially get to stay for 10 nights and assuming the average cost of $60/night could be an awesome value proposition. The other option would be to redeem the points for high value properties such as Holiday Inn Maldives for 35k points/night which otherwise goes for ~$250 in peak season.
As you can see from above the only good reason to go for this promotion would be to use the points to make actual stays at Holiday Inn rather than converting to "miles". Hope this helps you to make the decision to go for this promotion or no.
Who does not like to vacation or travel? I believe very few if not none. But once you decide you want to vacation or travel, the primary questions is What's the cost involved and where to go? If your primary goal is to travel on cheap and you are flexible on dates and destination then read on..
As the world of internet as evolved there are great deals for travel available online all the time. Knowing where to look will help you getting started on that exciting journey. This post is primarily to list all the resources available for searching those cheap flights. If your goal is flexibility of dates but not on the destination then you might want to check my post on "How to find best flight deals", otherwise read on.
Flyertalk Mileage Run Forum - Although primarily used by folks who are chasing the Elite status, this is a great forum as the primary intent is to "travel anywhere" for cheap or at minimum cost as possible. Primarily targeted for US based flyers you will find great deal of information for "cheap tickets" to sort of places around the world. All you need to do is browse through it and see what works for you and you are on your way to your destination.
TheFlightDeal - This is a gem of a site which routinely publishes good deals for travel to various destinations around the world. Again it is targeted primarily with deals from the U.S. but for within the U.S. as well as around the world. Most of the fare published are 6.0 cents/mile or lower and a great deal if you are looking for a quick getaway.
AirFareWatchDog - This is a site where you can enter just the "Departure City" and it will do a search for all sort of destination where you could travel (with no particular priority or mention of how good the deal is). The best part is you can create alerts for the city pair you want to travel and it will alert you as per your selected criteria.
HolidayPirates - This is another website which regularly publishes good fares starting from Europe. Look often enough and you might end up on one of the error fares that happens once in a while.
Exbir - This is one of the other European websites which routinely publishes good deals to be had from Europe. Hop on to it and you will end up with great fare to your beloved destination from Europe and around.
Take help from above sites and visit that exciting destination you never knew about. Keep travelling. Enjoy!
ITA MATRIX is one of the best "free" tool available to search for the flights with variety of options. This is really useful if you are looking to fly a specific airline carrier, or you want to know which near-by airport has the cheapest available fare to your destination, or you are looking for the specific fare class which would still earn full 100% miles. Below is a sample list of things you could do using ITA MATRIX but by no means is exhaustive:
Although you can search different combination's as mentioned above the "ITA MATRIX" does not allow you to make a final purchase nor directs you to one. But most of the time knowing the fare exists would enable you to book your ticket either through OTA (Online Travel Agent) website such Expedia, Priceline or Orbitz or book through other meta search engine sites such as Skyscanner or Hipmunk. You can also book the tickets through various airlines own websites as well if you so desire. Also note that the search does not include any OTA or airline specific coupons or discounts which you could use if available.
Q: How to do a basic search with price per mile enabled?
A: To do the search with price per mile enabled you need to add "?showPricePerMile=true" at the end of webpage link of ITA MATRIX or use this link. Let's do a search for a 2 to 3 day roundtrip from SFO to MIA on any day in the month of September 2013 for Economy Cabin Class.
The result of the above search can be seen below in Fig 2. As you can see the rates are different for different dates as well as it shows if it is for 2 or 3 days turn as well. You can modify the highlighted box in "red" for search for different month or days of trip.
As you can see from Fig. 3, selecting the cheapest trip shown in Fig. 2 loads up variety of flights at different times as well as showing "price per mile" for those trips.
As mentioned this was a simple search with single source and destination. If you want to depart from either of SJC or SFO and your destination could be either of FLL or MIA, you could put that in the search box as shown in Fig. 4
For searching flights operated by only "American Airlines", you can enable "advance routing codes" field and add "AA+" or change the "Departing from" field to look like "SFO, SJC::AA+"
As you can see there are "tons" of possibility of advance code combinations you can use to make your search more specific, but remember if you put "too many generic" options the ITA MATRIX tool will simply time-out or exit with only "partial" results. So, it is prudent to make your search as specific as possible as well as having broad characteristics of details important to you. Below are some examples of advance routing codes which would be useful. We have assumed the "Departing from" to be SFO, but you have any other airport code for your search. The "two letter" code of each airline can be found here.
There are many more such codes which are useful to trim down to the flights you are looking for. more information about these can be found on the flyerguide post here. Hope this would be useful for planning your next trip with cash and knowing what were your options before making the purchase.
Most of you holding BlueBird Debit Card would be familiar with Walmart for loading it up. Since there is a cost associated with the purchase of Visa / MasterCard, which could range from ~$4 to $6 per card the ideal strategy is to purchase the gift cards with credit cards that earn 2x or more miles/points per $ spent. But assuming you want to accumulate miles/points on the card which only earns 1x miles/points spending $5 for a purchase of $500 gift card would entail the cost of buying miles at 1 cent/mile or point. If you are on a lookout on how to minimize this cost then there are quite a few strategies available. The most common with least hassle are using Chase Gift Cards or using Plink but they have their own limitation's. In this post I am describing yet another strategy on bringing down the cost to zero without too much of work involved.
Bring on Raise!
Raise is a website for gift card buy and sale. This site is interesting because they regularly have Walmart e-gift card for sale at 2% to 3% discount. On top of it they do provide $5 off first purchase of $125 for new customer as well as do have promotion's now and then for $5 off discounts on $75 or more. The best part is you could make a purchase through cash back site such as Topcashback which regularly offers 2% to 3% of the card value as cash back.
Let's assume the hypothetical purchase scenario where you make a purchase of $200 Walmart gift card without considering any special promotion or $5 discount. Assuming you are making a purchase at 2% discount and Topcashback provides another 2%, thus your out of pocket expense to purchase $200 Walmart gift card would be "$200 - $4 (2%) - $3.92 (2% of $196) = $192.08. Saving of $7.92.. That's not much of a saving unless you read next..
Bring on Walmart!
Walmart sells visa gift cards of $200 for $206.88 ($6.88 is the fee for $200 visa gift card). The important thing to note is currently you can use Walmart e-gift card to make the purchase of these visa gift cards. You can combine 4 such e-gift cards for single purchase. There is no shipping fee for this and the transaction would go through without any issues as you are using Walmart's currency.
Combine the above two..
So, now if you combine Raise and Walmart together you will notice that your out of pocket fee is (-$1.04) for generating 200 points/miles using a credit card which gives only 1x. You can then use your favorite BlueBird Debit card to unload the $200 Visa gift card using your favorite Walmart again and thus generate free miles/points easily.
Note: If you use the Raise or TopCashBack link above I would get a small commission which I greatly appreciate. Thanks for reading!