Small Business Week with The Points Guy

A few weeks ago I received notice that Brian Kelly – also known as The Points Guy (or TPG for short) – was hosting a small gathering at the WeWork facility in the Financial District in order to share points and miles tips and answer questions by local business people. Since I have recently started consulting with friends/acquaintances on how to maximize their use of points (or gather some on their own) I signed up to attend. Boy, was it fun!

When I entered I was greeted by a sign informing me of consent to be filmed and photographed as well as by some small appetizers to satiate me for a small while. The WeWork common space was fairly large and their kitchen had lots of snacks for sale (and beer on tap!).

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TPG got started with a 20-minute presentation covering topics I pretty much already knew – how to maximize credit card bonuses; which cards to hold onto and which to get rid of; what options there are for earning miles outside of flying or simple swiping of the card; etc. The new piece of information I learned was EVRewards, a website devoted to sharing with you how to maximize your points-earning based on what store you are buying from. It’s a cool site that I will add to the list I go through before making a purchase.

After that he started taking numerous questions. He probably did this for about 45 minutes. I was lucky enough to be called on and made a quip about being a math teacher so I appreciated when he said “do the math” as he often does for his monthly valuations of points. I became known as “the teacher” and even had a brief conversation with his Chief Operations Officer. There may be some relationship brewing there that becomes fruitful and interesting in the future.

Finally, before I left I got a chance to get a photo with someone I’ve been trying to meet for almost a year now. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and can’t wait to get more involved!

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Oh, and we got an awesome swag bag, too!

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Review: Singapore Airlines A380 Suites

Our way back from Frankfurt was probably the highest-quality flight that we took: the legendary Singapore Airlines A380 Suites. Essentially your own comfy cubicle room with a door (and window shades!), the service is amazing, the food is fantastic, and the in-flight entertainment is hard to beat.

We took a cab to Frankfurt International Airport and quickly found our check-in counters. On the way we were impressed to see a sign for a Jewish Prayer Room. We didn’t get a chance to check it out but were glad it was there. We also saw the massive board with all the flights listed: it was quite extensive and impressive to look at.

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Once checked in and through security we went to check out the two lounges we had access to: the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge and the Lufthansa Senator Lounge. Interestingly, the Senator Lounge is actually for its Business class passengers; the First class passengers have their own terminal in Frankfurt airport. We did not have access to it.

Both lounges were quite spacious and had wonderful amenities. We could sit back and eat breakfast at either (we chose the Maple Leaf Lounge as I had done some research and read the food was better; it seemed similar enough to us that it didn’t matter). The chairs were comfortable and there was plenty of space. There were separate sleeping areas in each lounge, presumably for those in transit; they were not whole rooms but separated areas with beds or lean-back chairs. They looked comfortable enough.

 

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We then took some time to look at the Lufthansa Senator Lounge. It was much larger than the Air Canada lounge but had similar food and drink options. The chairs were quite comfy and there were plenty of power options. Probably the biggest difference is that Lufthansa offered actual beds to sleep on while you waited between flights. They were not as private as in the Air Canada lounge, but looked much more comfortable. Additionally, there was a spa you could use for various fees.

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Then we boarded the plane. On our passes it said boarding was going to start at 8am but when we arrived at that time we were almost the last ones on! We found our Suites and enjoyed how luxurious they seemed. Wow – so comfortable and all the amenities right at your fingertips. The chair was leather and high-backed to support your head. There were storage areas everywhere: by your hips, on the desk area, under your footrest, etc. The TV was an amazing 23in big! There would be no way not to enjoy this flight.

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We were given a luxurious three course meal once the plane was in the air. We used Singapore Airlines signature Book the Cook service from which we chose a few specific options ahead of time. I had some lamb rangoon which was quite tasty. My wife had ordered fish but for some reason they didn’t have it recorded so she had an omelette instead. She was still quite impressed. We watched a movie while eating and chatted a bit before putting on our pajamas and getting ready for a quick nap.

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While we were in the bathroom changing the flight attendants brought the beds down. Singapore Airlines uses a chair whose seat back folds all the way down to provide the most comfortable style of bedding. We each had our own place to sleep but the beds were right next to each other. Still, it is not the same as a true double bed because there is a wooden divider in the middle and you are supposed to keep your seatbelt fastened while in flight. We slept for a good portion of the trip (although I woke up earlier than my wife and watched some TV due to stomach pain).

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Upon arrival into JFK our passing through security was easy and uneventful. Because we have Global Entry we had an easier time getting through customs and immigration as well. That being said, I imagine it would be quick for many First Class passengers in general due to disembarking from the plane before the other passengers.

I don’t know when the next first class experience like this will be but my wife and I have already started to accrue more points. Check out this blog for more info on travel hacking as well as the next post which will compare exactly how much we should have spent on these flights/hotels and how much we actually spent!

What it takes to make a business

I am finding it difficult to make time for blog posting due to a lot of important events in my life but I am going to try to get back into it now. It can be a catharsis to spend time on something you find enjoyable even in the saddest of times so I am making time for this.

Over the past several weeks I have been hatching a plan to make GateB3 into a small consulting business for friends, family, and maybe others if and when it grows. I am taking a lead from moguls like Gary Leff of the View From the Wing blog who also runs a service called Book Your Award – in it, he and his colleagues work to maximize whatever award you can get for a fee of $150, usually for premium services like business- or first-class tickets. I’m not trying to be as big as him (yet…) but I want to start somewhere.

To that end, I have begun consulting with friends in one-on-one and small group settings to see what people want. I spent some time with a friend looking at her summer travels and showed her that she could book her six flights for less than 35,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and around $250 of actual dollars spent. She was flexible and mostly she booked flights like these:

BA Avios on American Airlines

A flight from Cleveland to New York using British Airways Avios while flying Oneworld partner American Airlines. Total cost: 4,500 Avios + $5.60.

 

Southwest Airlines

A flight from New York to Chicago on Southwest airlines. Total cost is point values below + $5.60.

 

A flight on United Airlines  from Los Angeles to Cleveland for 12,500 miles + $5.60

A flight on United Airlines from Los Angeles to Cleveland for 12,500 miles + $5.60

I also sat down with a couple who is interested in travel in general and wanted to know more about their credit card maximization options. We discussed such deals as the Chase Sapphire Preferred (of which I’ve written before here) as a card to start with and later on building to more lucrative deals. Right now, in fact, there is an incredible deal for the Citi AA Executive Card with 75,000 bonus miles (the usual is 50,000). The Points Guy answered the question: should I get the card?

Right now I am in the market to experiment. If you are willing to be a testimonial on my future consulting website, then I’ll offer you a free hour consult to see what flights you want to book or what credit cards you want to sign up for. Additionally, I will likely be hosting a small group study session soon where I offer a class on the basics of credit card sign-ups and how to keep your credit score high.