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Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Old Apr 21st 2016, 11:26 pm
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Originally Posted by Matt Sabre View Post
Does anybody know of a way of using 200,000 AMEX points at any Belize hotels, ideally on Ambergris Key?
What would be the total all-in cash price for your stay on the dates you're looking to go?
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Old Apr 22nd 2016, 1:12 pm
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Originally Posted by tonrob View Post
What would be the total all-in cash price for your stay on the dates you're looking to go?
Well that's hard to say because I haven't exactly decided on where to stay. I was hoping I could find something that I could spend my points on and tailor my trip around that...be it Air BnB, an all-inclusive resort, a dive resort or a standard hotel.

My flights will be taken care of with my Southwest points so I'm looking to get some use with my AMEX points now.
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Old Apr 22nd 2016, 1:41 pm
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Originally Posted by manekeniko View Post
I have a system of maximizing my spending using a system I call cycling my money. Recently, a major new cycle made it possible for me to hoard many more points than previously. I trade my points for gift cards, cash and airline tickets.

I use a good all-around rewards credit card, the Fidelity Investments-branded Amex, for purchases. It pays 2 Worldpoints per $1 spent.

I use Swagbucks, which pays for activities such as searches, and have installed their toolbar. Recently, they added a gift card purchase site which pays Swagbucks for every purchase. It's called My Gift Card Plus. This site frequently pays 100 point bonuses for making purchases.

Buying a gift card using a points cc is two cycles.

Next, I take a gift code and use it at the AAdvantage website for airline miles, or sometimes the Swagbucks toolbar has a better points offer.

That's 3 cycles.

Some sites have a rewards program, such as eBay. The site is giving rewards for purchases now.

That's 4 cycles.

I'm on my way to receiving my latest Swagbucks reward, a $25 Home Depot gift card. They've paid me hundreds' worth of gift cards over the years. I will spend it at a site that pays me more points or miles.

That's 5 cycles.

Around and around we go. That's cycling, full max for the money.

What do you think of this system, and can it be improved? Maybe our points-hoarding oracle, Tonrob, can chime in. I think some of this may work only in the US and Canada. You'd have to check it.
I like it for its ease of use (1 credit card and 1 "middle man" = Swagbucks).

To improve returns I'd pick a small portfolio of credit cards that offer category bonuses in key areas that are higher than the blanket 2% cashback on your Fidelity card (which, incidentally, I hold too and use where no other card would give me a higher bonus).

For example, I use a Wells Fargo rewards card that offers 5% at supermarkets and pharmacies for the first 6 months. I use Chase Ink at office supply stores where it gives 5x Ultimate Rewards points. Those 3 channels sell a lot of gift cards. My Citi Prestige card gives me 3x Thank You points on hotels, airfare and petrol (in addition to some other killer benefits that make the $450 annual fee a no-brainer for me. My Chase Freedom and Discover IT cards offer rotating quarterly categories. This quarter Discover is offering 5% at restaurants, and because of a double cashback in the first year offer I'm getting 10%. Discover cashback can also be used to redeem for gift cards at below face value, e.g. Sears at 10% off (which can then be used to buy Amazon GCs if your local store cooperates). Also AMEX-issued cards have many offers that you can apply to your cards (e.g. Spend $100 at Staples, get $25 back - which I'll use on several of my AMEX cards to buy store gift cards at staples.com).

Using Swagbucks as a portal through which to shop seems a good idea, but have you tried using different portal finders to see which other portals might give a higher return? Take care though as toolbars (like Swagbucks) can "hijack" the tracking that makes these portals work, so you may want to install/use a separate browser for these transactions.

Just a few thoughts, although ones that add complexity. I could add further complexity to my own activities in order to increase earnings further, but I discovered a long time ago that we all have our bandwidth we can devote to this kind of stuff and I simply can't juggle any more than I do right now due to home and work life.

All good fun!

Last edited by tonrob; Apr 22nd 2016 at 3:06 pm.
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Old Apr 22nd 2016, 1:48 pm
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Originally Posted by Matt Sabre View Post
Well that's hard to say because I haven't exactly decided on where to stay. I was hoping I could find something that I could spend my points on and tailor my trip around that...be it Air BnB, an all-inclusive resort, a dive resort or a standard hotel.

My flights will be taken care of with my Southwest points so I'm looking to get some use with my AMEX points now.
Does simply using MR to book hotels directly yield good value? (Often doesn't, but I always have a look just in case). Are there any hotel chains at your chosen destination that you'd consider? Are any of those AMEX transfer partners (at a reasonable rate)?

You can often book hotels using airline miles/points, and these aren't usually good value (compared to flight redemptions). However I have done this where there have been promotions (e.g. BA had previously offered 50% Avios discounts when booking at certain destinations) and/or there are AMEX > airline transfer bonuses.

Moving onto a somewhat greyer area, there is always the option of selling your MR points...

Ultimately I have always had by far the best value transferring MR to airlines and redeeming for flights. There are so many transfer partners that this gives a lot of flexibility, do if it were me I'd simply hold into the MR points and find other ways to maximize hotel discounts.
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Old Apr 22nd 2016, 1:53 pm
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

OK, sounds like good advice.

Thank you.
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Old Apr 24th 2016, 4:51 pm
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Default Virgin Atlantic award sale (economy)

30% off mile prices in economy - book by 11th May. Stupid cash surcharges still apply.

Could be a good-enough deal for those looking to burn miles.

Award Sale, Europe for Just 12,250 Miles Each Way - View from the Wing
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Old May 8th 2016, 10:25 am
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Default Latest AMEX MR transfer bonuses (and musings on targeted offers)

AMEX Membership Rewards currently has 2x 30% transfer bonuses running, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (until 31st May) and Etihad Guest (until 15th June).

Given that Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is relatively straightforward, I was quite amused/interested/shocked to see this (slightly tongue-in-cheek-yet-informative) guide to redeeming Etihad Guest miles on partner airlines.

On a separate note, until recently I had never been targeted by AMEX for exclusive points offers for new cards, however I read that simply by logging into to my AMEX online account and updating my personal details (incl. salary) then this was thought to be key to get things moving. So I went ahead and did just that at the beginning of this year.

Lo-and-behold in February I received a paper mailing inviting me to apply for a Premier Rewards Gold card, earning 50,000 MR points after spending $1K in the first 3 months. I ignored this, and received the exact same offer 6 weeks later which I then went on to apply for (as I had a bunch of other cards I wanted to go for and I could do so all on the same day to disguise a few credit inquiries). Just 4 weeks after that I received and e-mail offer inviting me to apply for the Platinum card, including 50,000 points if I spend $5K in 3 months. I'm waiting to decide what to do.

The very interesting thing here is that I have held both PRG and Platinum cards many times before over the years, applying for them to receive large sign-up bonuses and then canceling later. AMEX introduced new terms many months ago that prohibit one from earning a bonus for a card if they have previously held that type of card. These targeted offers do not include those new terms, leaving me free to get the bonuses again.

Note also that others around the webs are getting much better bonus offers than me. In the last few weeks I have come across stories of 75K, 100K and one purportedly-verified instance of a previously-unheard of 250K(!!!!!). I consider myself happy with my lowly 50K offers, knowing that I've had bonuses many times before and that presumably AMEX knows who I am and what I've done.
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Old May 8th 2016, 10:18 pm
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Originally Posted by tonrob View Post
Using Swagbucks as a portal through which to shop seems a good idea, but have you tried using different portal finders to see which other portals might give a higher return? Take care though as toolbars (like Swagbucks) can "hijack" the tracking that makes these portals work, so you may want to install/use a separate browser for these transactions.
I completely agree, re: higher returns at other shopping portals. Lately I am particularly pleased with SB thanks to their gift card site that pays me points (and frequently bonuses). It adds another layer of points I can collect, and in a short time I compiled 3 $25 gift certificates ( and on my way to my fourth) thanks to the gift card site.

Yep, I know about the tracking cookies on the toolbar and use two separate browsers. I generally switch between eBates, SB, AAdvantage and the Barclay card shopping portal. I've got a few more hundred more points to compile before Barclay gives me a $400 travel credit.

Thanks to house renovations, I've got limited funds to toss around on credit cards with yearly fees that you mentioned. I also need to hold the line on spending and can't do the $3K in 90 days to get those bonuses right now. Once I have more money to spend I'll look into a few new offers.

My observation in life: people with money to spend get the best deals and the most freebies. Poor suckas pay through the nose.

Last edited by manekeniko; May 8th 2016 at 10:26 pm.
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Old May 30th 2016, 2:19 pm
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Default AA business award space to Europe wide open

Multiple seats per flight (so great for families), multiple origins and destinations and great range of dates. This never lasts long, so get stuck in.

HURRY: American Airlines Europe Business Class Awards and Upgrades Wide Open - View from the Wing
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Old Jun 1st 2016, 2:58 pm
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Thumbs down Re: AA business award space to Europe wide open

Originally Posted by tonrob View Post
Multiple seats per flight (so great for families), multiple origins and destinations and great range of dates. This never lasts long, so get stuck in.

HURRY: American Airlines Europe Business Class Awards and Upgrades Wide Open - View from the Wing
Even with the devaluation AA J is not bad for 57.5K.
I usually fly in F, but not any more.
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Old Jun 1st 2016, 3:57 pm
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Default Re: AA business award space to Europe wide open

Originally Posted by g1ant View Post
Even with the devaluation AA J is not bad for 57.5K.
I usually fly in F, but not any more.
My 'last hurrah' wholesale 10-sector F blowout is imminent, then it's back to J mostly for me I think.
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Old Jun 2nd 2016, 5:29 am
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Default Re: AA business award space to Europe wide open

Originally Posted by tonrob View Post
My 'last hurrah' wholesale 10-sector F blowout is imminent, then it's back to J mostly for me I think.
I have a RTW trip to Oktoberfest booked for late September.
AUS-DFW AA F
DFW-FRA AA F (7 day layover in Germany)
MUC-ZRH - LH Y (how will I survive 50 minutes in coach?)
ZRH-HGK - CX F (5 nights in Hong Kong)
HKG-LAX - CX F
LAX-PHX - AA F
PHX-AUS - AA F

All booked with AA miles before devaluation.
5 nights in the Le Meridian Munich using 4 for 5 SPG points

All that's missing is finding 5 nights in Hong Kong for a decent price. Hotels there seems to be horrendously expensive. I'm leaning towards using Hyatt point (although as of now I don't have any).

This is defiantly my final hurrah before skulking off to business class.

a.
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Old Jun 16th 2016, 7:34 pm
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Having stacked up more Southwest Rapid Rewards points than I can ever use via the Chase ultimate rewards program (have a chase freedom and chase sapphire card and have been turning those points into Southwest rewards), I'd like to try and accumulate some hotel points too. Any recommendations for which hotel rewards program I should throw my chase points into? I could apply for a hotel affiliated card too if there are any good deals out there (but probably not a Chase one as I already have 6 of their cards and I hear they're cracking down on people holding multiple cards).
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Old Jun 17th 2016, 1:06 pm
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Originally Posted by NatashaB View Post
Having stacked up more Southwest Rapid Rewards points than I can ever use via the Chase ultimate rewards program (have a chase freedom and chase sapphire card and have been turning those points into Southwest rewards), I'd like to try and accumulate some hotel points too. Any recommendations for which hotel rewards program I should throw my chase points into? I could apply for a hotel affiliated card too if there are any good deals out there (but probably not a Chase one as I already have 6 of their cards and I hear they're cracking down on people holding multiple cards).
It's always best to keep your points as Ultimate Rewards and only transfer them as and when you need to make a booking (most transfers are instantaneous). Most hotel partners represent very poor value when transferring from flexible currency like UR, AMEX Membership Rewards or City Thank You points. One notable exception is Hyatt, which has some great properties but overall a much smaller footprint than other chains.

When it comes top booking other chains it's better to either pay directly with points or else cash them in and use the cash to book directly. However I usually end up just paying cash for the hotel in that instance and save my points for flights.

There are however some good hotel points branded cards out there (and I hold/have held most of them). Be sure to Google to see whether the current offer you are considering is considered to be good (or ask here!)
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Old Jun 17th 2016, 1:09 pm
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Default Re: Traveling cheaply and well using miles and points

Originally Posted by tonrob View Post
It's always best to keep your points as Ultimate Rewards and only transfer them as and when you need to make a booking (most transfers are instantaneous). Most hotel partners represent very poor value when transferring from flexible currency like UR, AMEX Membership Rewards or City Thank You points. One notable exception is Hyatt, which has some great properties but overall a much smaller footprint than other chains.

When it comes top booking other chains it's better to either pay directly with points or else cash them in and use the cash to book directly. However I usually end up just paying cash for the hotel in that instance and save my points for flights.

There are however some good hotel points branded cards out there (and I hold/have held most of them). Be sure to Google to see whether the current offer you are considering is considered to be good (or ask here!)

Thanks. I moved the points out because for some reason, they've been giving me 3x ultimate rewards points on grocery transactions since the beginning of the year. I didn't want them to realize their mistake (I assume it's a mistake) and take the points back Sounds like another credit card is the way forward then rather than bothering to use points for hotels.

Last edited by NatashaB; Jun 17th 2016 at 1:13 pm.
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