It’s a process that I go through every year for each of my credit cards – the annual retention call. I throw on my most innocent sounding voice, and call the number on the back of the card. “Hello, I just noticed that the annual fee was billed and I’d like to cancel my credit card.” That sentence usually triggers a “WAIT STOP!” type of response from the customer service representative, and a couple minutes later I’m walking away with some free points or a statement credit.
Last week, there were some great Business Class deals floating around for travel to Europe later this year and even into next year. It seems like the East Coast gets the majority of the European deals, but this wave included departures from the West Coast (SFO and LAX) on either American Airlines or British Airways as low as $2,100. While I’m never keen to transfer via London’s Heathrow airport, I was able to knock an additional $400 off the price by booking with British Airways and utilizing the AARP discount, so it was a no-brainer to choose BA over AA.
I’ve started to develop a really bad habit when it comes to booking airline tickets. Most of the tickets I book are via Alaska Airlines, and my MVP Gold elite status allows me to change or cancel bookings with no fees. That policy not only applies to award tickets, but all revenue tickets as well, even when traveling on American Airlines or Delta. So while it seems completely obvious to double-check that you’re actually booking a flight on the correct date, I haven’t had to pay much attention due to the ease of re-booking with Alaska Airlines. Well, that bad habit came back to bite me in the ass yesterday. I’ve been in the process of planning a trip to Japan that involves stops in several cities, and it’s been an iterative process to say the least with an itinerary that is probably on version 12.0 at this point. Last night, with one eye on my computer and the other on Better Call Saul, I fired up the ANA website and hastily booked my domestic flights around Japan. I was feeling great about checking this item off my to-do list, and pulled up my hotel bookings to enter my arrival information. Oh, crap. In my head I thought that I had all of the dates straight, but I’d forgotten that I had made some final tweaks to the schedule. The end result was 2 sets of tickets that were off by 1 day each. Since I had booked the special… read more
Having spent my entire career in the employer-sponsored health care consulting space, I’ve put in countless hours designing health plans for my client’s employees. But until today, I hadn’t realized that my work world and the points world were actually intersecting. Here are a couple tricks that I use to maximize my points-earning related to health care expenditures (medical, prescription drug, dental, vision, etc.) that may also be of use to you.
A couple months ago I successfully booked the Singapore Suites double-bed from Los Angeles to Tokyo, and quickly shifted my attention to the next order of business – figuring out where to stay during our week-long trip to Japan. Without any allegiance to a particular hotel chain, I’m usually more than willing to stay at boutique properties, but based on my research it appeared that many of the best hotels in Japan just happened to be chain-affiliated. However, I quickly realized that Japan is a freaking expensive hotel market, especially in the luxury arena, with rooms at the Conrad Tokyo and Park Hyatt Toyko for example going for over $400/night. And even beyond Tokyo in Kyoto, rooms at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto were going for $250/night to as high as $750/night at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto. The Hotel Strategy Since most of my attention is focused on accumulating airline miles, I needed to put in some serious work to achieve my hotel goals. More specifically, I wanted to book 2 nights at the Conrad Tokyo (190,000 total Hilton points) and 2 nights at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto (120,000 total Marriott points). Even though you can’t get better than “free”, I reserved 2 nights during our trip to try a Japanese Ryokan, or traditional guest house, even though I’d have to pay for it. It’s so much easier to create a gameplan when you have tangible goals. My plan of attack? Rather than earning Hilton points, I’d apply for the Citi Hilton Reserve… read more
The beauty of points and miles is that each person uses them in a way that’s best for them. For some that’s free domestic flights, for others it’s international Economy flights, and for some it may even be gift cards. My preferred method for cashing in points and miles? I reserve them for aspirational vacations that give me access to First Class flights and amazing hotel rooms that I wouldn’t normally pay for. If you took a poll of like-minded people who redeem points and miles for aspirational trips, I’d imagine that of all the destinations in the world, in some order the Maldives, Seychelles, and Bora Bora would be among the top 3. While I’ve yet to visit Bora Bora, I’ve been fortunate to visit the Maldives twice as well as the Seychelles. That by no means makes me an expert, but it does give me enough background to make a head-to-head comparison of the two. Keep in mind that I’ll be primarily looking at these destinations through the lens of points and miles – in other words, how easy is it to use those hard-earned points and miles to vacation like royalty, and most importantly, for pennies on the dollar. However, I will also touch on transportation and food costs, since those can add up very quickly in these expensive destinations. For each category I’ll be giving a score out of 5, with 5 being the highest. Let’s see how they stack up: Redeeming Miles For Flights Maldives… read more