How we booked a Winter Break excursion for less than $500

My wife and I want to get some sun this Winter Break and since my parents recently bought a condo in Florida, we thought it would be a good idea to spend some time down there. Obviously, saving on housing is a big plus, but even without that expense, plane tickets for the December 23-31 timespan were ranging from $400 each for the least desirable times (departing a 5:45am? no thanks) to $850 each for the best times. Instead, we opted to use our miles and get as cheap deals as possible for whatever else we could.

For the flight down, we opted for using our United Mileage Plus account to the tune of 25,000 miles each for the one-way trip. The only time we could leave on December 23 was after 6:30pm because I teach until 3:05pm, which would have cost us $397 each:

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Since we used 25K miles + $5.60 each for the September 11th fee, the price per mile is calculated the following way:

$397 – $5.60 = $391.40
$391.40/25,000 = 0.0156 (or 1.56 cents per mile)
The Points Guy values United miles at 1.5 cents each so we were just above that value.

Total dollar cost for these flights was $11.20 for our tickets.

For our rental car we found a deal with Budget for only $470 for the week. The method to keep this cost down while maintaining coverage is twofold:

1) Knowing that if you use your Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, you get primary auto insurance. Therefore, you can decline their Liability Damage Waiver that can get excessively expensive.

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2) Knowing that according to Budget’s terms of service, spouses and domestic partners can be added as additional drivers for no extra fee. You do need to show up and display a driver’s license but you would not have to pay the $14/day extra.Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 10.22.29 AM

Total dollar cost for rental car was $470.

Finally, since we are visiting Providence, RI for the day following this trip, I knew we would need to find a connecting flight from Fort Lauderdale up north. I turned to Southwest Airlines, as they are a transfer partner of Chase. I found a flight that would cost $217 each on their “Wanna Get Away” fair that comes with free checked bags.

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Since I was trying to minimize cost, however, I opted for the points amount of 13,381 miles + $5.60 fee. Price per mile calculation:

$217 – $5.60 = $211.40
$211.40/13,381 = 0.0157 (or 1.57 cents per mile)
The Points Guy values Southwest airlines miles at 1.3 cents per mile, so we had ourselves a pretty good deal.

Total cost for return flights: $11.20

Final total cost for entire trip: $492.40.

(Amount saved: $397 @ 2 = $794; $217 * 2 = $434; $28 * 7 days = $196; Total saved: $1,424).

We look forward to our time on the beach!

It’s been a while; trying to post more often

I know it has been a while but when you get bogged down with other work it takes some time to get back in the habit of blogging. So, here it goes again.

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Here are some important news items that have taken place recently:

  1. Many bloggers are pointing out that Chase has a special 50,000 point bonus promotion right now. Since the norm is 40,000 that is a 25% increase! With an extra 10,000 points you could get a hotel stay at a lower-tier hotel in Hyatt or IHG; or you could transfer those points to Southwest for a free one-way ticket on one of their cheaper routes. It’s incredible what you can do with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. If you would like to be referred for one of these cards, let me know!
  2. I received an email today from the Starwood Preferred Guest program announcing that Marriott is to acquire Starwood hotels, so the programs will be merging in the future. Some speculate this could be horrible since SPG points are worth more than Marriott, but others say it could remain a separate entity. Only time will tell the outcome for frequent travelers.
  3. A little bit older is news that Hyatt is finally allowing award redemptions for Points + Cash, allowing you to spread your points a bit farther. Oftentimes these redemptions are cheaper per point even with the cash purchase. So, if you can spend some cash on a hotel to extend your points, go for it!

That’s all I’ve got for now.

 

Starwood card sign-up bonuses and adding a new transfer partner

One thought that is always considered in the miles+points game is to diversify your portfolio. Arguments can be made to focus on one or another airline to get elite status but for the average user this is probably not going to happen quickly. So, having cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred that have myriad of transfer partners is a very good idea.

Every August, one of these cards, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card increase their Starpoints bonuses, which have numerous transfer partners to choose from. In fact, they recently added Korean Air to the list.

Each card is available for a $95 annual fee (waived in the first year) with bonuses of 30,000 points for each card after reaching the purchase threshold. You can also get referral credit of up to 55,000 points if someone you refer gets the card also.

The bonuses will stop soon so if you do not have either of these cards, now is the time.

Credit cards with big bonuses right now

There are a few credit cards that have big bonuses that can be transferred to a variety of airlines and hotels at the moment. Some are higher than usual; others are the normal bonus but allow for lots of flexibility.

AScreen Shot 2015-08-03 at 3.33.07 PMs usual, the Chase Sapphire Preferred tops the list as one of the most valuable credit cards to have. After spending $4,000 in 3 months, you earn 40,000 bonus points. And if you add an authorized user (i.e. someone else you trust to use the card) you get an extra 5,000 bonus points. So, with an authorized user and the minimum spend, that’s 49,000 points to spend on travel. Just ask me for a referral and I’ll be happy to oblige. I’ve written much before about this card.

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 3.36.31 PMThe Citi ThankYou Premier card is currently offered a bonus of 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of use. These points can be transferred to a variety of partner airlines and hotels much like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. A bonus over the other cards is its 3x bonus on travel (including gas stations).

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 3.37.05 PMThe British Airways Visa card is offering 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $2,000 in the first three months. You may be thinking, “why should I get a British Airways card if I don’t live in England?” Well, with a great distance-based award travel chart, you could fly from PHL/NYC/BOS to Toronto for 4,500 Avis one-way + tax. Or you could go from NYC/PHL/BOS->Florida for 7,500 Avious one-way + tax. Amazing deals for flights that normally cost 12,500 miles from airlines like United or American.

I wrote about other big bonuses recently as well.

Get money back on broken purchases with certain credit cards

My mom sent me a link from Gary Leff in May discussing how Luxury Link, a website that helps people get deals on luxurious properties worldwide, has closed for business. Gary quotes an email from a reader that states:

Dear Consumer:

Effective immediately, Luxury Link LLC aka Luxury Link Travel Group has ceased all operations and entered into a General Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors (ABC), following which all of its assets will be sold. As a result, Luxury Link will not be able to honor the travel you have booked through it. We suggest you contact your credit card issuer for your options regarding any charges to your credit card. You may also want to contact the destination property directly to see what arrangement you can make with it. As Luxury Link is no longer operating, it will be unable to assist you in rearranging your travel plans or obtain a refund.

You will be receiving further news regarding the ABC in the next few weeks. Until then, no further information will be available.

Luxury Link Management

Despite this, the website is still running and you can make new bookings that will not be honored in the future.

This is a good lesson on how you can use your credit cards to get money back in situations like these. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a provision in its membership benefits guide that states:

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In this case with Luxury Link, it was the last reason, “Financial Insolvency” that caused the services not to be rendered so you could make a pretty good argument with Chase to get reimbursed, provided the purchase was posted no more than 60 days before. That is usually the kicker, since you might buy these things months in advance. If you do, you will not be able to get purchase protection.

Many credit cards have benefits like these so it’s definitely worthwhile to know them when you sign up.

Avis Preferred works! And the Coastside Inn in Half Moon Bay

While my experience in Costa Rica was not the best when it came to using a rental car from Avis, everything was just fine and dandy when I arrived in San Francisco!

I had organized the rental car ahead of time (as usual) and used my status as a teacher in the NYC Department of Education through RentalCarPerks.com to get a discount on the vehicle. For 48 hours use it only cost $75. Additionally, because I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card I declined to get the insurance policy since it provides me with primary collision coverage. It was wonderful to arrive at the airport and see my name on a list with my car waiting for us in parking space B16.

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I had booked our hotel through HotWire.com, something I don’t normally do because I like to know where I am going to be staying in advance. But, since there are not that many hotels in Half Moon Bay, CA it did not seem to matter. We got a great discount (about $30 cheaper) for each night and it came with free breakfast. Granted, it was not that good and we were going to get brunch from the wedding one of the days, but it was still a nice place.

The bed was comfortable enough and there was a full-size bathtub (something my fiancée appreciated immensely). There was Wi-Fi in the lobby area and ostensibly across the hotel, although we had no luck connecting to it. There happened to be both a microwave and a refrigerator in the room – something I do not see frequently at 2.5 star establishments.

Overall it was a nice stay and I would use that hotel again if need be.

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