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Old Oct 8th 2012, 5:11 pm   #91
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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Quick question..... I would like to build up some Amtrak points , what would be the best way to do this and how many do you need to go across the country ?

Thanks
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I was looking at the roomette , I didn't realize the 35,000 pts would work for 2 people though ! That's a great deal
Beware that some recommend that the roomette on Superliner trains (pretty much all long distance trains west of the Mississippi plus the Capitol Limited and Auto Train) is not suitable for two. Yes, it's small, and the top bunk can be a little claustrophobic but it is doable. That room price also includes all meals in the diner and usually soft drinks and coffee in the sleeper car.

Join Amtrak's Guest Rewards to get a 500 point kick start - just an online form though you might have to take a trip to get the initial bonus. They've also got a double points promotion at the moment. You could get their credit card too, supposedly 12,000 points off the bat.
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Old Oct 8th 2012, 5:30 pm   #92
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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Beware that some recommend that the roomette on Superliner trains (pretty much all long distance trains west of the Mississippi plus the Capitol Limited and Auto Train) is not suitable for two. Yes, it's small, and the top bunk can be a little claustrophobic but it is doable. That room price also includes all meals in the diner and usually soft drinks and coffee in the sleeper car.

Join Amtrak's Guest Rewards to get a 500 point kick start - just an online form though you might have to take a trip to get the initial bonus. They've also got a double points promotion at the moment. You could get their credit card too, supposedly 12,000 points off the bat.
Thanks GeoffM, I guess the missus is on top again I noticed they also have a bedroom option , but thats around 60,000 points. I did enroll with Amtrak rewards, and your right they do have a 500 pt start up bonus but you have to take a paid trip within 3 months. Their Estore is pretty good though , 3 pts for Home Depot looks good, ( I'm building a small cabin so that will come in handy ).

Cheers

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Old Oct 8th 2012, 6:05 pm   #93
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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I did enroll with Amtrak rewards, and your right they do have a 500 pt start up bonus but you have to take a paid trip within 3 months.
Ah, I took a trip anyway - all of $30 from Waterloo, IN to Chicago, IL - and that got me 100 points too (plus 30 Delta Skymiles on AMEX).
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Old Oct 8th 2012, 6:29 pm   #94
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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Ah, I took a trip anyway - all of $30 from Waterloo, IN to Chicago, IL - and that got me 100 points too (plus 30 Delta Skymiles on AMEX).
Unfortunately I live about 70 miles or so from the nearest city, maybe a 100 miles to an Amtrak station.

I am taking a trip to Kauai in November, I had already booked a car through Avis, but Hertz ( through Amtrak store )had a good deal, ( 25% off plus quadruple miles ) so I may change my booking to Hertz.
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Old Oct 8th 2012, 6:58 pm   #95
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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Thanks GeoffM, I guess the missus is on top again I noticed they also have a bedroom option , but thats around 60,000 points. I did enroll with Amtrak rewards, and your right they do have a 500 pt start up bonus but you have to take a paid trip within 3 months. Their Estore is pretty good though , 3 pts for Home Depot looks good, ( I'm building a small cabin so that will come in handy ).

Cheers

Mick
Check out this site which consolidates earnings via the UR portal for each of the different cards. Looks like Home Depot nets 3x which I'd grab instead of Amtrak points if I were you. Also note that UR multipliers change on the first of each month, and that Home Depot is regularly up to 10x.

When shopping at Home Depot make sure that you grab a free movers pack from USPS, as it contains a 10% off Lowes coupon, which Home Depot will honour.

You can also buy Home Depot Gift Cards at a discount, currently at around 7% off - check out Gift Card Granny. I've done this a lot for Home Depot and other merchants.

All of this combined means that you should in theory be looking at a minimum 20% off all your purchases at Home Depot, but there are ways to double that in some instances if you get Googling...
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Old Oct 8th 2012, 7:04 pm   #96
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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You could get their credit card too, supposedly 12,000 points off the bat.
Per my earlier post - 12,000 points for the Chase Amtrak card is a very poor deal. You should be looking at a minimum of 30,000 for this, or get 40,000 or 50,000 by going for an Ultimate Reward earning card and then converting the points to Amtrak.
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Old Oct 9th 2012, 1:59 am   #97
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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Check out this site which consolidates earnings via the UR portal for each of the different cards. Looks like Home Depot nets 3x which I'd grab instead of Amtrak points if I were you. Also note that UR multipliers change on the first of each month, and that Home Depot is regularly up to 10x.

When shopping at Home Depot make sure that you grab a free movers pack from USPS, as it contains a 10% off Lowes coupon, which Home Depot will honour.

You can also buy Home Depot Gift Cards at a discount, currently at around 7% off - check out Gift Card Granny. I've done this a lot for Home Depot and other merchants.

All of this combined means that you should in theory be looking at a minimum 20% off all your purchases at Home Depot, but there are ways to double that in some instances if you get Googling...
I'm assuming if I bought the gift cards I would miss out on the 3X pts ?

I rarely get to go into Home Depot physically, due to the distance, so most of my shopping is online, can I get the free movers pack online ?

Thanks for the links, do they have a chart for the BA Chase card or Amex ?

OH ! And thanks for helping out....
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Old Oct 9th 2012, 2:09 am   #98
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Do you think Chase BA will retain their 10% off flights in 2013, or was that just a one off ?

Cheers
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Old Oct 9th 2012, 5:53 pm   #99
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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... so most of my shopping is online, can I get the free movers pack online ?
From the post office, yes, but it's a $1....you can pick them up from the post office for free though, but some places have them behind the counter and only give you the packs if you fill in the moving address form, others just hand them out, or have them on the shelf with the other forms.

See them on Freecycle often enough around here too, so perhaps try that?
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Old Oct 10th 2012, 2:33 pm   #100
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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I'm assuming if I bought the gift cards I would miss out on the 3X pts ?

I rarely get to go into Home Depot physically, due to the distance, so most of my shopping is online, can I get the free movers pack online ?

Thanks for the links, do they have a chart for the BA Chase card or Amex ?

OH ! And thanks for helping out....
Portals run by non card-issuers tend to pay out regardless of payment method. Chase as a card issuer would want you to pay with a Chase card when using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. That's how the terms and conditions go, however, but experience shows that as long as you pay a portion with the Chase card (even a couple of dollars) then you still get the points.

The blogger Frequent Miler is the king in this area so maybe do a search in there for he specifics of your situation, including the online shopping bit of your Home Depot question. My best guess is that this will not work, and even if you can get your movers pack without physically going to a post office (as in Bob's suggestion) then you won't be able to get Home Depot to accept the Lowe's coupon online.
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Old Oct 15th 2012, 1:13 pm   #101
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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Do you think Chase BA will retain their 10% off flights in 2013, or was that just a one off ?

Cheers
I have no idea. When the card first came out the offer was $50 off a BA flight by using a special URL to access the site. It didn't seem to be a blanket $50 off though as I couldn't get it to discount the taxes and fees on an award booking. Looks like Chase tweaks the benefits from time to time, as they do with their other cards.

TopCashBack offers 2% on BA flights, which might be worth something at least. Awardwallet, the service that helps you to track all your miles and pojnts accounts has started a feature where they will automatically log you in to your airline an hotel accounts via the cashback portal of your choice, which is nice.
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Old Oct 15th 2012, 1:50 pm   #102
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Default Back home from California!

This is the second part of my earlier post about how the tonrob family flew first class to California, rented a car and spent two weeks in very nice suite accommodations for around $1,000 out-of-pocket.

Hotel #2

Next we stayed 5 nights at Marriott's Desert Villas in Palm Desert, another Marriott Vacation Club property where again we had a large,fully-fitted two-bedroom villa. In our last villa at Newport Beach we'd paid with Marriott points. While we could have stayed at this property with points too, I chose not to because this one had villas available at the Marriott Friends & Family rate of $149 per night - around one-third of the normal price and a rate at which it wasn't worth sacrificing points to avoid. Mrs tonrob has a few Marriott employee friends, dating back from the days where she was an employee of the company herself, and they are happy to extend this benefit to us when needed. I can't help you find your own Marriott friends, but it is worth noting that there are other chains that aren't as strict as Marriott in who they let use this type of rate. (PM me if you want more details of those).

This desert property was large (just like Newport) with multiple pools and other amenities, and was perfect for our stay in the 100F desert heat!

Note that these Vacation Clubs are timeshare properties where they sell a portion of the rooms just like hotel rooms. You are therefore offered the chance to take part in a 90-minute presentation on the programme in return for either cash or points. We were offered a $100 AMEX gift card or 15,000 Marriott points this time - not a patch on the $400 credit to our bill we'd been given for the same presentation at a Vacation Club in Hilton Head in April. We politely declined, but it's worth knowing whenever you stay somewhere like this that they make very different offers to different people (we could hear people accepting much lower offers in Hilton Head) - so don't be afraid to haggle in these situations. Over the years I've done quite nicely out of these presentations, be they on-property or via web link from home afterwards.

Hotel #3

Our last 4 nights were spent at the Homewood Suites, Carlsbad, using Hilton points I'd mainly picked up with the Citi and AMEX Hilton cards (as opposed to actually making stays at the chain's hotels, unlike how I earned most of my Mariott points). The standard room type is a one-bedroom suite, but as I have Gold status with Hilton (due to having the AMEX card) I enquired about the possibility of upgrading to a 2-bedroom suite, to which they were happy to agree (with no charge). As we were Gold, we also enjoyed a lower points-per-night requirement (around 15% off).

This property was a big step down from the huge Marriott villas, but there were no real alternatives available to us using points on this southern stretch of the coast. We had a fantastic stay nonetheless, and enjoyed the final few days exploring the beaches between Oceanside and Del Mar.

One major irritant during the first part of our stay was that the hotel's keycard machine was not working, so they could not issue room keys to new arrivals - and it was about 30 hours after we checked in before we got ours. This meant that you had to tell reception what room number you wanted to access and then stand in the corridor outside your room and wait for them to come an open up (sometimes taking up tot 10 minutes - a long time if you have an irritated, sleepy 20-month old in your arms). The security aspect of all of this was also very dubious. I complained to the manager (some things can not be helped, but the way in which they handled all of this was nothing short of shambolic) and after apologizing she offered me 10,000 Hilton points back (about a third of a night's stay) by way of saying sorry.

After we finished our stay here, we drove back to LAX, dropped the car, then enjoyed the new exclusive AA flagship first class entrance to the terminal and the atmosphere and food in their lounge before flying back to JFK in another tired, old 767. It's worth noting that however nice AA's first class lounge was at LAX (or JFK) they still weren't as good as BA's business class lounge at Heathrow.


Total out of pocket cost for the holiday:


Residence Inn New Rochelle (1-bedroom suite, 1 night) = Free
Air Park parking facility at JFK (14 days) = $201
AA Flagship First Class round trip JFK-LAX (3 seats) = $15
Midway Car Rental (Full Size - Toyota Camry - 14 days) = $348
AMEX Premium Car Rental Insurance = $25
Marriott Newport Coastal Villas (2-bedroom villa, 5 nights) = Free
Marriott Desert Villas (2-bedroom villa, 5 nights) = $745
Hilton Homewood Suites (2-bedroom suite, 4 nights) = Free


Total (excl. meals, petrol and tolls) = $1,334 for 3 people


A bit more than I'd originally estimated, but we did opt along the way to extend our stay in the desert by one night at the expense of Carlsbad, which did make the total hotel bill increase by $149, and we could have substantially reduced our cost at Hotel #2 by using points but chose to save them for later use instead due to the availability of a Friends and Family rate.
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Old Oct 16th 2012, 4:32 pm   #103
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Great trip ! Well done.

We ( 2 people ) are leaving in 3 weeks for a week in Kauai, we are staying at the Marriott at coconut Beach for 4 days, ( $100 a night ), for the next 3 nights I have no Idea where we are staying. I'm not well up on hotel redemptions, I/we will have about 60,000 Amex points and around 60,000 Ultimate rewards to use any Ideas ?

We will have a car for a week so mobility is not a problem.

I don't mind paying for the hotel and holding onto the points though, hotel redemptions never seemed like such a good deal to me compared to airline redemptions, but like I said, i am still learning.

Also how do you link to say the chase bold to Home Depot or office max through Awardwallet ? I looked around the site but couldn't figure it out.

Thanks.
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Old Oct 17th 2012, 12:24 am   #104
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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Great trip ! Well done.

We ( 2 people ) are leaving in 3 weeks for a week in Kauai, we are staying at the Marriott at coconut Beach for 4 days, ( $100 a night ), for the next 3 nights I have no Idea where we are staying. I'm not well up on hotel redemptions, I/we will have about 60,000 Amex points and around 60,000 Ultimate rewards to use any Ideas ?

We will have a car for a week so mobility is not a problem.

I don't mind paying for the hotel and holding onto the points though, hotel redemptions never seemed like such a good deal to me compared to airline redemptions, but like I said, i am still learning.
Hotel redemptions can be excellent value using hotel points. If you want to convert other points to hotel points however then your "rate of exchange" is often not so good - so choose carefully.

Couple of options for you:

Ultimate Rewards transfers to Hyatt at 1:1. This can be excellent value, as top end Hyatt hotels can go for 15,000 a night (vs. $400+ cash for example), and you can also use Hyatt points to get guaranteed suites - something most other programmes don't allow. These transfers happen instantly - so if you find a hotel that you like that's available for points (check with Hyatt) then transfer with confidence.

The other thing which I now realize you haven't got time for (takes a few weeks or so) is that you can convert Membership Rewards points to Hilton points at 1:2 by first converting to Virgin Atlantic (1:1) and then from there to Hilton (1:2). AMEX sometimes runs bonus deals to Virgin (e.g. 40% recently) so if you time it right you can get more. Beware that you do need a lot more Hilton points to get a good hotel (e.g. 40,000 or 50,000 a night) but you can get access to discounted rates by being a Hilton Gold member (as I did) - which there are a couple of ways of doing that don't involve actually staying with them.

I think - from memory - that all the other hotel transfer options from these two programmes are shit.

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Also how do you link to say the chase bold to Home Depot or office max through Awardwallet ? I looked around the site but couldn't figure it out.
I'm not 100% sure of what you're trying to do here - can you rephrase?
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Old Oct 17th 2012, 12:55 am   #105
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

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I'm not 100% sure of what you're trying to do here - can you rephrase?
Sorry I wasn't clear, I was responding to this....

Quote:
Awardwallet, the service that helps you to track all your miles and pojnts accounts has started a feature where they will automatically log you in to your airline an hotel accounts via the cashback portal of your choice, which is nice.
It would be nice to go directly to say , Home Depot without going through the Chase log in process.....if this is what you mean.

I will set up a Hyatt account and see what's available, I noticed the Hilton rewards via Virgin on the UR earning chart you mentioned earlier.

Thanks.
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