Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cuba? Why Not!

I confess to not knowing very much about Cuba, but it is a place I'd very much like to visit.  I've heard that going to Cuba is like going back in time 50 years, and that there are not really any other places in the world where you can experience this.

In the past couple months, the government has opened up the rules on flights and U.S. airlines now are flying routes in an out of Cuba.

Although you can book a flight to Cuba easily, you still need to have a valid reason for traveling there.  Please read this notice from the U.S. Embassy to learn more.

Currently, Delta is offering fares to Havana as low as $257 round trip from several U.S. cities, with Chicago starting from $287.  This is in response to similar fares recently from United.

Available dates Dec 2016 - April 2017.

Generally speaking, flights to Cuba have been fairly widely available, at least from the East Coast, for $300 or less round trip, since service from U.S. to Cuba began several weeks ago.

Award flights (using miles instead of $$ to book a flight) to Cuba are also available from the major U.S. carriers.

For the $257 pricing currently search on www.delta.com.  For some reason, Google Flights will not run searches involving Havana.  There seems to be plenty of dates available for $287 round trip.

Personally, I hope to visit Cuba sooner rather than later, before the country becomes more commercialized and modernized.

Is anybody else interested in visiting Cuba?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why You Should Sign up for a Travel Rewards Credit Card with a $450 Annual Fee

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card was launched in Aug 2016.  This card is a new product and is probably the #1 most anticipated, most sought after, best-overall-value credit card of all time...even though the card has a $450 annual fee.  How is this possible?  Because you can easily get $2,000+ worth of travel (flights, hotels, cruises, etc) from the sign-up bonus alone, plus tons of other perks and benefits.

Read on...

  • The sign-up bonus is 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after $4,000 minimum spend in the first 3 months
  • The card includes $300 per calendar year in automatic statement credit for travel purchases made with the card
  • Points can be used for booking travel (flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, etc) thru the Chase travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point
  • Points can be transferred to various airline and hotel programs such as United and Hyatt, to book free flights and/or hotel nights
  • Earn 3 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases
  • Primary car rental collision damage waiver
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check application fee reimbursement
  • Airport lounge access for lounges in the Priority Pass lounge network (much more useful internationally than domestically)

Why Such a Good Deal?
  • 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points is a lot of points.  Most folks peg Chase UR point value around 1.5 to 1.8 cents per point, so the sign-up bonus points are worth $1,500 - $1,800.
  • Transferring these points to airline miles or hotel points could get you four domestic round trip award flights, or nearly two round trip flights to Europe, or 5-10 nights at $200-300 a night Hyatt hotels, for example.
  • Using the points to book paid travel thru the Chase travel portal means $1,500 toward whatever travel you want to buy.  Plus you still earn miles for flights booked this way, because you are buying a paid ticket, not using miles for a free award ticket.
  • The $300 travel credit means you get $300 back as long as you spend $300 or more on travel-related expenses.  If you are signing up for a card like this, you most likely will be using the card for travel-related expenses, so this effectively reduces your annual fee from $450 to $150.
  • The $300 travel credit can be earned once per calendar year, so you can get TWO $300 credits in the first 12 months you own the card.  In other words, you can get $600 in travel reimbursed from a single $450 annual fee cycle

More Background Information

Do NOT sign up for this card until you understand a few things, including:
  • Is my credit score good enough to get approved for this card?  If your score is above 750, you are likely safe.  This article (Doctor of Credit) has good information
  • Will I be denied for this card because I've gotten too many credit cards in the past 24 months?  Read about and understand Chase's 5/24 rule before applying for this or any other credit card.  Chase 5/24 Rule Explained in Detail - What you Need to Know (Doctor of Credit)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Up to 20 Delta SkyMiles per dollar for United Way donation

Up to 20 Delta SkyMiles per dollar when you donate online to United Way

Do something good for folks in need and earn some airline miles for your efforts.
Sweet spots in this promotion are when donating exactly $50 or $125:
  • Donate $50, Earn 1,000 miles (20 miles per dollar)
  • Donate $125, Earn 2,500 miles (20 miles per dollar)

To Earn the Miles
  1. Go to https://volunteer.truist.com/cwma/donate
  2. Enter your SkyMiles number on the donation form
  3. Donate at least $50 between Sept 15th and Oct 20th, 2016

Terms and Conditions
  • Donate between Sept 15th and Oct 20th, 2016.
  • 1,000 SkyMiles for $50-$124 donation
  • 2,500 SkyMiles for $125-$299 donation
  • 5,000 miles for $300+ donation
  • Visa, Amex, MasterCard, or Discover
  • Maximum 5,000 SkyMiles may be earned 
  • Members must enter their SkyMiles number on the donation form to qualify.
  • Bonus miles will post to the SkyMiles account 4-6 weeks after the END of the promotion, i.e. approximately Nov 17 - Dec 1.

Hat Tip:  The Gate

Cheap Flights to Europe? Toronto is a Great Option

Many folks are not aware that Toronto's Pearson International Airport (YYZ) offers lots of cheap flights to Europe.  Folks in the Midwest may consider Toronto a viable option to Chicago or Detroit.  Combine a day in Toronto before or after your flight to get some extra vacation out of your vacation.  Plus, Toronto is several hundred miles east of ORD and DTW, which means shorter flight across the pond - Toronto to Reykjavik is less than 6 hours, Dublin is 6.5 hours, London is < 7 hours.

Numerous airlines, including:
  • British Airways, Air Canada, Air France, KLM, Westjet, Aer Lingus, Air Transat, LOT, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, WOW Air, and Icelandair
fly nonstop from Toronto to several European cities including:
  • Dublin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Geneva, London, Munich, Paris, Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Vienna, Brussels, Warsaw, Istanbul, and Reykjavik.
  • LINK (Wikipedia) - nonstop flights from Toronto to Europe, listed by airline and city

Here are some sample roundtrip airfares from Toronto for various dates; prices as low as the following:

  • Weds Nov 23 - Sun Nov 27 - long weekend over Thanksgiving.  Reykjavik $388, London $420, Paris $438, Copenhagen $441.  LINK
  • Sun Nov 27 - Mon Dec 5 - 8 day trip.  Reykjavik $320, Amsterdam $355, Paris $381, Dublin $419, Copenhagen $419, Oslo $426, Bordeaux $435, Rome $446.  LINK
  • Thur Feb 23 - Sun Mar 5 - 10-day midwinter break trip.  Reykjavik $267!, London $342, Amsterdam $398, Copenhagen $407, Helsinki $413, Paris $414, Rome $433.  LINK
  • Weds Mar 23 - Sun Apr 2 - 10-day Spring break trip.  Reykjavik $282!, Paris $375, Stockholm $381, Amsterdam $419, Madrid $427, Rome $440.  LINK
  • Mon May 1 - Sun May 14 - 14-day late spring trip.  Reykjavik $381, Paris $375, Marseille $447, Rome $453, Barcelona $452.  LINK

Approximate Drive Time to YYZ:
  • Rochester NY 2:30
  • Detroit 3:30
  • Syracuse NY 3:45
  • Cleveland 4:30
  • Grand Rapids 5:30

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

[DEAL GONE] Roundtrip Airfare to Dublin $330 and up Fall 2016 thru Summer 2017

*This deal expired as of 9/7 5pm ET.*

This is an unbelievable deal for summer travel from USA to Europe, which is usually twice as expensive as wintertime travel.
  • Includes travel during spring break late March - early April and June/July 2017!
  • Dublin (DUB) and Shannon (SNN) Ireland from Philadelphia as low as $330.  Chicago as low as $386.  Amsterdam from Chicago still has wide availability as low as $439.  Depart by 3/31/2017 and return as late as summer.
  • Tons of availability on Delta and other SkyTeam alliance partners (Air France and KLM) from $387 round trip
  • Search on www.google.com/flights
  • Chicago departures available from O'Hare or Midway.  Many folks aren't aware that Delta flies out of Midway; MDW isn't a Southwest Airlines-only airport.  Midway is smaller and easier to navigate.
  • Many days are available for $387 - $425 round trip per person
  • These are primarily 1-stop flights, although some of the ORD>AMS and ORD>CDG routings are nonstop.  Some routings have stop in USA (JFK, Atlanta, etc) while some have a stop in Europe (Amsterdam, Paris, etc)
  • It may be possible to build a routing with a long enough layover to make a quick visit to the layover city.  Many cities have companies that provide pickup at the airport, take people downtown for tours and other activities, and return people to the airport in time to catch their next flight
  • More details at The Flight Deal (LINK) and Loyalty Traveler (LINK)
  • Sample airfare - $1,548 for 4 people ($387 each) ORD>JFK>DUB (Google Flights Link).  8-hour layover at JFK is enough time to make a comfortable trip into the city and get back in time for flight to Dublin
  • Possible to get a 12-20 hour layover in Amsterdam for $20-40 more per person roundtrip.  Search http://matrix.itasoftware.com and enter advanced routing code ams / minconnect 720 in the proper field

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

National Car Rental - free rental day after two 2-day rentals

National Car Rental's One Two Free promotion is a promotion offered regularly by National.

  • Free rental day for every two paid rentals of two days or more.
  • Promotion valid for rentals rentals between August 25, 2016, and January 31, 2017
  • Registration required - LINK HERE
  • The promotion is points-based:  Each two-day rental earns 300 points.  Free rental day is earned for every 600 points earned.
  • Points can be earned in several other ways, including:
    • Add Sirius XM to rental - 300 points
    • Refer a friend - 300 points
    • Latin America or Caribbean rental - 300 points
    • Europe rental - 300 points
    • Mobile app rental - 75 points
    • Survey completion - 50 points
    • Mobile app download - 25 points
    • Emerald Reserve Service - 25 points
About National Emerald Club
    • Most National airport locations offer Emerald Aisle, whereby you can pick any car in the Emerald Aisle as long as you've booked a Midsize or higher vehicle class
    • Speed up the rental process by bypassing the counter and choosing your own car - go directly to the vehicle you want and drive it to the exit.  No standing in line at the rental counter.  This can be a huge time-saver!
    • Speed up returns with e-receipt - receive an immediate emailed receipt within a couple minutes of leaving your vehicle in the drop-off lane
    • Emerald Executive has a separate Executive Aisle with higher-end vehicles.
    • Emerald Executive status can be earned via various methods, including:
      • Rental frequency
      • Status match from other car rental programs (LINK)
      • Registration for people who hold certain credit cards such as American Express Platinum (Info Link) or MasterCard World Elite cards including Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard, Citi Prestige Card, and Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard
    Bottom Line
    • This is a great way to accumulate several free rental days.
    • These free rental days can be extremely valuable, as they can be used for one-way rentals which are typically quite expensive.
    • Book cheap rentals and save the free rental days for use on expensive rentals
    • Coupons may still be applied and members will still receive credit toward free rental days
    Hat Tip:  One Mile At a Time

    Saturday, September 3, 2016

    Hilton - Double Points on All Stays Sept 1 - Dec 31

    Hilton HHonors extended their DoubleUp promotion whereby HHonors members can earn double base points on stays at ALL hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio from Sept 1 thru Dec 31, 2016.

    This includes Hilton, DoubleTree, Hilton Garden Inn, Embassy Suites, Hamption Inn & Suites, and all other brands in the Hilton portfolio.

    Triple points, rather than double, for stays after October 1 that are booked using the Hilton mobile app.

    How to Get This Deal
    To get double base points on all paid stays at all properties within the Hilton portfolio from Sept 1 - Dec 31, you must register for the promotion as follows:
    • Click the link to the promotion.  https://www.hiltonhhonors.com/9213_08302016
    • Enter your Hilton Honors username and password 
    • Wait for the 'I am not a robot' box to display fully, then click the box
    • The page will update and tell you 'thanks for registering' so you will know it's all set

    Fine Print
    • Includes all properties in Hilton portfolio EXCEPT properties in mainland China, Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan which are excluded
    • Sign up for the promotion only once and you will earn double points for all stays from sign-up date thru Dec 31
    • Must register for the promotion BEFORE the conclusion of a stay.  For example, your next stay is Sept 8-12 and you have several other stays in October.  If you register for the promotion on Sept 15, you will NOT earn double points on the Sept 8-12 stay but you WILL earn points on all other stays thru Dec 31, 2016
    • Bonus points earned do NOT count toward elite status qualification (i.e. Diamond, Gold, or Silver status)
    Bottom Line
    • Registering for this promotion is a no-brainer.  It takes less than a minute to sign up and will help you earn thousands of additional HHonors points for each stay.