I’ve written before about Travelpony, which is kind of a social media hotel discount website. I’ve used it twice, once at JFK and once in Hong Kong, getting deep discounts through a combination of an already discounted price and promotional credits.

They’re now offering a $35 credit to new users through the end of the year, if you use my referral link. That’s better than the $25 it had been! I don’t use this site when staying at a major chain hotel, as you won’t accrue loyalty points when it’s booked through Travelpony. When it’s a smaller chain or non-chain hotel, however, this can bring huge savings. Check it out!

Posted by glenn | One Comment

Alright guys, I’ve gotten a couple emails asking for referrals for free stuff (I know you love your free stuff!), and there are a couple of these promos ending soon, so I figured I’d put them out there. Full disclosure, I get referral bonuses for many of these, so if you don’t want to use my links, feel free not to, but if you do use mine, I highly appreciate it! Once you sign up, make sure to give them to family and friends.

 

-First off, the $30 signup bonus for first time Uber users ends in a week, on the 23rd. If you haven’t signed up for Uber yet, use my link to get a free ride up to $30.

 

-Silvercar is a really cool rental car concept that I used once in Dallas and it went swimmingly. They only rent out silver Audi A4s, and only in the following cities thus far; Austin, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, and San Francisco. If you’re interested and want a free $25 off your first rental, sign up using this link. \

 

-If you like the app Hoteltonight, but would like to use it in Asia, I suggest trying the very similar app Hotelquickly. It’s the same concept – highly discounted hotel rooms when booking for that same day. I used it to book a room in the Best Western Harbour View in Hong Kong for $70, and with the $15 credit I had from using a referral, it was only $55. If you download the app, use my referral code ASHEE1 for a $15 credit.

 

-I use cashbackmonitor to decide which shopping portal to use whenever I shop online – it takes barely any time and adds valuable points or cash back on the majority of my online purchases. I usually use portals for airline miles, but oftentimes I get a better rate on cashback, and it’s usually through Topcashback. If you are new and sign up through this link, you get a free $10. I’ve gotten $196.62 back so far this year, and never had a problem with redemptions.

 

-No purchase fees for American Express gift cards. If you purchase Amex GCs for manufactured spending (this is not something I do with any frequency, but I know a lot of our readers do), use the code OCT14FC to get 100% off purchase fees, good until 2/28/2015.

 

Free credit scores

There are many ways to check your credit scores for free. I use Creditsesame most often, or maybe Creditkarma. There are also free scores by using credit cards, such as your Transunion score when using Barclaycard cards, or your Experian score when using US Bank cards. Doctor of Credit is a great blog to add to your RSS feeds, and in addition to everything else, he gives several ways to get your credit scores for free, but here is an interesting one – getting it through Lendingclub. If you’re a lendingclub user, you’re golden. If you wanted to join, and want $25 credit, email me and I’ll send you a referral link. Also, if you’ve used a credit card at Home Depot in the past year, you are entitled to a free year of credit monitoring – check it out on this page.

Posted by glenn | 4 Comments

I sometimes think to myself that I have too many credit cards. I have over 20, in addition to other various cards like Amex Serve, Chime card, etc. Just out of curiosity, I wanted to know who had the most. I’d heard rumors of guys having over 30 on Flyertalk, but I wanted the real answer.

 

To my utter shock, the Guiness World Record for most credit cards goes to Walter Cavanaugh, of CA, who in 2005 had 1,497 credit cards, dating back to the 60s. That adds up to a total credit line of $1.7 million dollars! Can you imagine his credit report?!? He says he’s only been denied for a card once! I usually get denied several times per year, for too many credit inquiries.

 

He has a wallet that holds 800 of them and weighs 38lbs! He also says he has perfect credit and only uses 1-2 cards on a daily basis.

 

Here is a video the news made about him.

 

My questions to him are:

-How do you not get dinged for too many credit inquiries? Do you engage in serious bumpage?

-Do you have a master spreadsheet to keep everything organized? My spreadsheet is already complex; I can only imagine his.

Posted by glenn | 8 Comments

Currently United has a promotion where they will give a 20% mileage bonus on any hotel points that you want to convert to UA miles.  Sounds OK until you realize the conversion rate is not in your favor.  I dug into this and comprised the following chart for converting hotel points into miles for the various hotel chains and the three major U.S. airline programs.  Multiple lines are listed for some exchange rates per the hotel program.

Hotel Chain AA UA DL
Best Western 5k=1k NA NA
Carlson 2k=200 2k=200 10k=1k
50k=5k 50k=5k
100k=10k 100k=10k
Choice 5k=1k 5k=1k NA
Hilton 10k=1.5k 10k=1k 10k=1k
Hyatt 5k=2k 5k=2k* 5k=2k
InterCon 10k=2k 10k=2k 10k=2k
Marriott** 10k=2k 8k=2k 10k=2k
20k=5k 16k=5k 20k=5k
30k=10k 24k=10k 30k=10k
70k=25k 56k=25k 70k=25k
140k=50k 112k=50k 140k=50k
Starwood*** 2.5k=2.5k 2k=1k 2.5k=2.5k
Wyndham 6k=1200 6k=1200 NA
16k=3200 16k=3200 NA
30k=6000 30k=6000 NA
Accor NA NA 4k=2k
*= Bonus 5k miles if redeeming 50k points
 **= Can convert 1UA mile to 1MR Point
 ***=Earn 1 SPG Point for every $ of DL airfare

 

So this chart only tells you that you are going to get less miles for the number of points with SPG being a notable exception for AA and DL.  But still how do you compare the value of a hotel point against a mile?  Fortunately, I already did a detailed analysis of the value of a hotel point here.  For brevity, the values were: Marriott = $0.0056/pt., Starwood $0.0124/pt., Hyatt $0.0091/ pt., and Hilton $0.0039/pt. based upon Average Daily Rate and the number of points for an average room.

How about the value of an airline mile?  Well, the old wisdom used to be $0.02/ mile, but the reality is that the average is more like $0.015/ mile these days.  Use whichever one you think is more accurate based upon your experience.

Now let’s compare  70,000 Marriott points = $392 or you convert those to 25,000 AA miles = $375.  So let’s call that even and you could use the points for a hotel stay or an airline flight depending on what you need more.  Let’s keep exploring.  UA and Marriott have made a tie-up and part of the reward is that they give a 20% better exchange rate.  So 56,000 Marriott pts. = $313 or 25,000 UA miles = $375.  Ok, now that is a good deal.  If you take advantage of the current UA deal, you would get an extra 20% on top of that so 56,000 Marriott pts. = 30,000 UA miles = $450.

Compare your hotel points to miles and see what you come up with.  Remember, you can convert hotel points to miles, but not vice-versa with one key exception.  United allows conversation of 1 UA mile to 1 MR point.  Where you can multiple this return is that Marriott (and Hilton/ Starwood) gives you a fifth free night for redeeming four in a row.  Thus, you can get an extra 25%.  So let’s say you redeem 100,000 UA miles ($1500) for 100,000 MR points ($560) and get another $140 for free.  Not the greatest deal, but if you have accumulated a boatload of UA miles from CCs or a lot of flying, it may still be worth it to you to save the cash.

 

Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

Everyone should know by now that IHG ( the Holiday Inn chain) are managing many of the Army temporary quarters facilities (Army vernacular for a hotel).  We wrote about it a couple of years ago and the number of these hotels of posts has slowly, but steadily, grown to 39.

IHG Army Hotels

IHG is a great hotel chain with properties about everywhere you would think of going.  You can earn 3 points for every dollar you spend there, so you can work up a free stay pretty fast when you must go on TDY.

IHG Hotels

 

Now they are upping their game by building new Candlewood Suites at certain posts.  I discovered this by driving on Ft. Meade and doing a double take at the sign on the construction fence.  These should be much better accommodations to stay at than the traditional Army temporary quarters that they took over.

Ft. Meade 002

Several have already opened in Ft. Hood, JB San Antonio, and Ft. Huachuca which just opened last month.  I am not sure when the one at Ft. Meade will be ready, but my engineering expertise tells me that it will be late Spring.  Must be others in the works that they have not revealed yet.  If you spot one going up on your post, please let everyone know.

 

Posted by glenn | 4 Comments

Via Pearls of Travel Wisdom, eligible veterans can receive up to 100,000 HHonors points per year for stays while job-searching, for training, or for relocation. Here in PA, eligibility opened up on November 3rd (article here). This unfortunately is not offered in all states, but it would be worthwhile to check and see if your state is eligible.

 

Hilton made headlines last year when they announced they’d be hiring 10,000 veterans over the next 5 years. Hilton already has great benefits for Active Duty and Veterans. Kudos to them for this additional benefit! You often see Hyatt or SPG get all the ink in the blogosphere, but I’m hard-pressed to find another hotel chain (or any travel-related chain for that matter) who goes to bat for servicemembers like Hilton does.

 

Unfortunately it’s not very easy to find. If you live in PA, go to this website, type in Hilton in the search bar, and the downloadable forms will pop up. As of this time, participating states are Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa, Texas and Arizona, but I anticipate more will be opting in soon. If you’re a veteran in one of those states, google it to find the applicable forms.

 

Posted by glenn | No Comments

I guess with a name like American Airlines, you should be the airline that supports our veterans more than most.  American Airlines always shows their patriotism this time of year.  They have several very cool veterans events and offer you the opportunity to get some extra RDM through donations to the USO.  American is the official airline of the USO and from 1-15 Nov. will give you 15 miles for each dollar you donate (minimum $25).  This is a great way to add those extra AA miles you need to reach that next award level.  Just to be clear, these are RDM and not EQM.

All of their events and details of how to donate can be found on this page.

AA Veterans Day

Another way to support the USO (and the troops) is to buy AA Gift Cards.  10% of the value you purchase will be donated to the USO.  If you plan to buy some tickets on AA, why not take this extra step and see that some of the money goes to a good great cause!  Details on purchasing these special gift cards is found here.

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Something that has become a tradition in the three years we have written this blog is to advertise the Veterans’ Day deals that you can get every year.  Here is this year’s list.  Some discounts or freebies are only on Veterans’ Day and some are for the whole weekend.  Hope you have a chance to use these for you and your family.

Applebees – Free meal for Active Duty and veterans.  Note that I would consider active Reserve Component in their definition of active.  Veterans need some proof of service.  Many states are now issuing veterans IDs!

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse – Lunch up to $9.95 in value on 11 Nov.

Bob Evans – All you can eat hotcakes on Veterans” Day.

California Pizza Kitchen – free pizza, salad, or pasta on Veterans’ Day

Carraba’s – Free appetizer 8-11 Nov

Cheeseburger-in-Paradise – Free All-American Burger on 11 Nov.

Chili’s – Free meal on 11 Nov.

Chuck E. Cheese – 20 free tokens from 9-12 Nov.

Denny’s – Build your own Grand Slam from 0500-1200 on 11 Nov.

Friendly’s – Free meal on 11 Nov.

Golden Corral – Ok, this one is a little weird.  Free meal from 1700-2100 on 17 Nov.  Yes, 17 Nov., don’t ask me why.

Hooters – Like you needed an excuse to go to Hooters.  Free meal up to $10.99 on 11 Nov.  For the record, my wife loves to go to Hooters for the hot dogs.  No jokes!

Hurricane Grill & Wings – Free meal on 11 Nov.

Krispy Kreme – Free donut and small coffee, no ID required!

Longhorn Steakhouse – Free appetizer on 11 Nov.

McCormick & Schmicks – Free meal on 9 Nov.

Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt – Free six oz. yogurt.

Olive Garden – Free meal from a “Special menu” on Veterans’ Day.

Outback Steakhouse – On Veterans’ Day, get a free Bloomin’ Onion and beverage.  From 12 Nov. – 31 Dec. all military get 15% off.

Red Lobster – Free appetizer 10-13 Nov. for a special menu.

Shoney’s – Free burger on 11 Nov.

Spaghetti Warehouse – Buy one entrée, get one free starting 4 Nov.

Tim Horton’s – Free doughnut on Veterans’ Day.

Uno’s Pizza – Free individual pizza on 11 Nov.

Village Inn – Free breakfast plus a 20% off coupon on your next visit.

And once your hunger is satisfied:

Busch Gardens – 50% admission on Veterans’ Day

Colonial Williamsburg – Free Admission on Veterans’ Day  includes dependents!

Knott’s Berry Farm – Free admission for SM plus one from 2 Nov. – 4 Jan.

Mount Vernon – Free admission on Veterans’ Day

Sea World – 50% off on Veterans’ Day

Home Depot – Yes, they offer 10% off to all active duty, including Reservists, but on 11 Nov. the discount includes veterans.

Lowes – Ditto

Sports Clip – Free haircuts on 11 Nov.

There are also a bunch of car washed offering free washes on Veterans’ Day so check your local one.

If you know of other Veterans’ Day deals, please post them here for everyone to take advantage of.

Get out there and thank everyone who thanks you for being a veteran!

EDIT:  My HHC Commander listed these in his latest FRG Newsletter:

BED BATH & BEYOND November 9, 10 & 11th, 20% off your entire purchase. In-store only. US Military ID required at time of purchase.

Big Lots 10% off your entire purchase. Offer available to active duty, Guard/Reserve, veterans, retirees and their immediate family members, with valid ID. Call ahead to verify.

buybuyBaby November 9, 10 & 11th, 20% off your entire purchase. In-store only. US Military ID required at time of purchase.

Christmas Tree Shops November 9, 10 & 11th, 20% off your entire purchase. In-store only. US Military ID required at time of purchase.

Dollar General. 10% discount on entire purchase on Veterans Day. Offer good for all active-duty military, retirees, veterans, Guard/Reserve, & immediate family members. The coupon can be found in the store circular, or by asking an employee. Also good online, use Coupon Code VETERANS DAY. More info.

Face Values Discount Health & Beauty November 9, 10 & 11th, 20% off your entire purchase. In-store only. US Military ID required at time of purchase.

Free Car wash. Thousands of car washes around the country are offering vets a free car wash on Veterans Day,. Find a list at Grace for Veterans, which helped veterans receive 101,537 FREE Washes.

Great Clips: On Monday, Nov. 11, customers who come in for a service can get a free haircut card to give to their favorite veteran. Veterans can also receive a free haircut or get the free haircut card. Haircuts are redeemable until Dec. 31.

Home Depot/Lowe’s Military Discount: They are offering all active duty personnel, reservists, retired military, veterans and their families a 10% discount off their purchases in honor of Veteran’s Day.

JC Penny: Veterans, active duty and family members receive an extra 20% off in stores Nov. 6-11 with coupon.

Jos. A. Bank Specials: Veterans Day Sale- 1 Day Only! JoS. A. Bank Veterans Day Sale Orders.

Sports Authority 15% off all purchases. All Veterans and Military personnel please stop by your local Sports Authority store to receive 15% OFF YOUR ENTIRE PURCHASE!

 

 

 

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

For the international leg of the first part of our trip from JFK – SFO – HKG, I used US Airways miles to book business class (known as BusinessFirst) on United 747 flight # 869, which leaves at 1:25pm and arrives in HKG at 6:40pm, a 12 hour flight. There was a tight connection, even with our first flight arriving on time – good thing we weren’t late (or didn’t check bags!). We probably could’ve stopped in the lounge for pictures, but what would be the point of a lounge review if we didn’t actually “lounge” there?

united6

We took our time through the terminal, and when we got through the passport control at the gate, they’d already started boarding, but fortunately there was no line for business class boarding, so we whisked down the gangway. I had picked our seats on the second deck; this flight has 52 business class seats, divided into 32 on the first deck and 20 on the upper deck. I’ve never before been on a double decker plane, so this was pretty cool.

united1

The upper deck had a 2-2 configuration, which I’m not a huge fan of; if you’ve got a window seat and need to get up, you need to pounce over your seatmate. On the seatmap, some of the seats are facing each other, but you actually cannot see over the divider in the middle (unless you’re like 7 feet tall!).

united seatmap

 

The seats were completely lie-flat in sleeping position, and 20 inches wide. There were large monitors, and a separate area between the window seat and the window for storage, such as laptops or headphones. The seat controls were easy and intuitive, and the movie selection was quite good, although I spent most of my media time listening to music and reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which I can’t recommend enough – I could not put it down!

united2

 

united3

united4

Immediately after we sat, the flight attendant offered us a libation; I went with champagne (not sure what kind – unfortunately I’m not very sophisticated). We received a cheapish-looking amenities kit, along with socks – not the cheap-o emergency-room-booty kind fortunately.

united5

The amenity kit had the usual stuff – eyemask, toothbrush, earplugs, comb, lotion, handwipes, etc. Not quite as nice as the EVA amenity kit…(later).

united6

Meal service came fairly promptly after reaching cruising altitude, and it was actually quite good! Starters were a good salad, hot bread w/ butter, and a fruit plate. For the main entree, I opted for beef, which was decent, and my wife got shrimp, which was also very good. Over the course of our 12 hour flight, the food was actually quite good, contrary to what I’ve read before. We only had two meals because of some (more) melatonin to get into Hong Kong timezone. I have to say – the combination of flying West and taking melatonin got me into that timezone right away, and my wife only had a day of jet lag.

united8

united7

During the middle of the flight, a call went out overhead asking for a doctor – so of course I had to respond! With all the flying I’ve done, this is actually the first time I’ve heard a call for a doctor. I went back to the rather large flight attendant area to speak to the patient. I won’t say what was wrong with him, but he was better after about 20 minutes, and the crew was incredibly grateful. In fact, as I was exiting the plane, the lead flight attendant gave us 3 bottles of wine to take with us! Perfect, as we were meeting with friends that night at a BYOB! Overall, I’d say the flight was an A-. It wasn’t up to par with the top tier of Asian or Middle Eastern carriers, but it was a very lovely experience, and one I would definitely do again!

 

Posted by glenn | 6 Comments

Mileage Runs have defined true frequent flyers for over 20 years.  If you have never heard the term, it involves taking a flight or series of flights for the sole purpose of gaining miles in order to get either increased status or a high number of redeemable miles due to some promotion.  I still remember the first time I heard about this when I was stationed at Ft. Ord.  United offered triple RDM for the whole year if you took three flights during the slow first quarter of the year.  United actually had a flight that took off from SFO and landed in OAK (Oakland) to pick up more passengers before then taking off internationally.  Savvy frequent flyers (not a lot back then) took the flight only from SFO to OAK in order for it to count towards the promotion and then enjoyed triple miles for the whole year.

My wife and I are among many FF that find it worth spending the money to “fly nowhere” although we often turn it into a weekend vacation.  Two of the major airlines are actually taking steps to end this practice. Delta started a requirement for this year to also require a minimal spending amount just as they had also required a minimal EQM amount for each status level.  United followed and they both started that practice this year.  They did leave a major out from the spending requirement.  Spending $25,000 on Delta’s CC negated the spending requirement for any level.  United almost did the same, except the did not exempt their highest level, 1K.  I was frankly OK with this requirement as business flights often were above the minimum spend so the cheaper Mileage Run tickets kind of balanced that out.  Making it harder was the fact that they only counted the actual fare dollars and not the taxes or fees.  I did a pretty through analysis of how this affected flyers who used GSA fares here.

Well, maybe they realized that this requirement was not enough, so they came up with a new (and worse) one that really takes away from mileage running.  Both of the airlines will now base the number of miles you earn on a multiple of the dollars spent on the ticket.  The multiple for both airlines is exactly the same, anywhere from 5x to 11x the dollars spent.  See the previous analysis I did of those changes in earnings in my previous post.  To summarize that analysis, the short haul travelers will get many more miles than previously, but the long haul would earn much, much less.  Those used to be the flights that you could really score on, sometimes enough miles for a free domestic flight.  When my wife and I took our mileage run to SIN (Singapore), I alone earned over 40,000 RDM!

Note that nothing in this new plan changes how you earn EQM.  So then why wouldn’t you still Mileage Run to get better status.  The answer is that you should, but you are going to end up with less benefit.  Let’s take a real example.  Last year, I was about 20,000 miles short of renewing my 1K status on United.  I had plotted out my trips for the whole year and realized I would fall short by about August.  I pondered whether it was worth spending the money and time, especially the time, to reach this goal.  Making 1K would give me 4 domestic upgrades (RPU) and 6 international upgrades (GPU) in additional to a much greater chance of a free upgrade domestically and ten free drink coupons.  Staying at Platinum would only get me two RPUs.  Sounds like it would be worth something, right?  So I found a good fare from IAD to SIN for just over $1,000 RT.  Read about it on this post from last year.  I earned the required 20,000 EQM, but also earned 40,000 RDM.  40,000 RDM, if you value miles at $0.02/mile, is equal to $800.  So my real cost for this mileage run was only $200.  Pretty smart and got a good vacation out of it too.  If I did the same run under the new rules, I would have only netted $1,000 x 11 = 11,000 RDM or $220 equivalent.

Here is another illustration of the point.  TheFlightDeal.com is an awesome subscription service if you are looking for mileage runs (or cheap vacations) and they are illustrating the difference of mileage earning now vice later under this new scheme.

Difference 1

Difference 2

So am I saying that you should never do a mileage run?  No, of course not.  I will be about 4,000 EQM short of making Alaska MVP Gold this year.  It makes a lot of sense for me to make a mileage run for that amount of miles in order to keep the awesome benefits of the Mileage Plan program especially having every fare fully refundable.  But now the payback is not going to be nearly as great on DL or UA.  DL starts their new plan on 1 Jan. so you’re pretty much out of luck there, but UA does not start their plan until 1 Mar. meaning there are two months where you can score that last great deal.  The first quarter is typically the time for lucrative runs anyway, so take a look at some of our past posts on finding a mileage run.  If you are a Delta die-hard, they are one of the few airlines that will give you high status simply through CC spend.  My friend Greg from The Frequent Miler talks about doing that in a recent post.  Not too many airlines allow this, so don’t look for a similar plan from other airlines.

And if you are an American or Alaskan fan, you are good to go…for now.  I remember what happened with cutting meals on planes and baggage fees.  What starts on one airline eventually spreads.

Posted by glenn | No Comments

First of all, credit for this post goes to Ben from One Mile at a Time (post here) for alerting me and others to Alaska Airlines new promotion to match another airline’s status to Alaska’s even up to their highest level – MVP Gold75K.  Despite the clunky title, this status is very worthwhile as it almost guarantees you an upgrade on one of the best airlines out there.  And if you have to sit in coach?  Then you get a free drink and a Digiplayer entertainment device.

I will be about 4,000 short of getting MVP Gold this year and my wife has just made her last mileage run to ensure that she gets 75k for the first time (for either of us).  I kind of had my doubts that they would give me 75K since I have been MVP Gold for so long and I figured this was really a gambit to attract high level flyers from other airlines.  But why not?  If they said no it would just be the waste of a few electrons.  So I inquired and told them that I was a United 1K and interested in the MVP Gold 75K status.  They wrote back and said to include my drivers license and United statement.  I still had my doubts, but do have an impressive United statement that shows I am 1K and a million miler with almost a million miles in my RDM account.

Well, just a few days later, I received this email:

MVPGold75k

So there you go!  You never know unless you try (a good philosophy in life) and I encourage you to try as well.  Others have been required to fly one or more round trips, but they simply gave it to me.  Maybe that million miles on United impressed them or that I have over 400,000 on Alaska convinced them that I am already a good customer.  Who knows?

Be warned that they say this is a once in a lifetime thing.  So don’t do it unless you think you will actually fly at least a few flights on Alaska.  Alaska is a great airline with the best service and people in the business.  Sure they don’t fly international (that’s why I am also a UA 1K), but they have great domestic service based in Seattle, not Alaska, and can’t be beat for redeeming miles to Hawaii.  If you are a Delta or American flyer, both of those airline’s miles will credit to Alaska as EQM!  Their program has the widest variety of international and domestic partners including British Airways, KLM, Cathay Pacific, Air France, Korean, and the only airline where you can redeem for an Emirates flight (or get EQM for a paid flight).  Check out Alaska’s program here.

The wife is going to be mad that I beat her to 75K….

 

Posted by glenn | No Comments

« previous home top