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Thread: The Art of Travel- A Spankytoes Manifesto

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    The Art of Travel- A Spankytoes Manifesto

    I get PMed a lot by people asking about travel plans. It’s been a few years since I’ve actually put a pen to paper, so here goes…

    Travel is cheap. Most Americans have no clue how the credit system in this country works and are predisposed to believe myths perpetrated by their parents and the media. It is true, there is a significant portion of our country that cannot handle high credit limits and the consequences if they do not pay off their balances monthly. But, for those of us that are financially responsible, there are many benefits to having good credit. Personally, I open 6-8 credit cards per year to reap the bonus benefits that each institution throws out there. As of today, my credit score is 803. In a way, it’s getting enough free samples from the grocery store and finding a way to make it into a meal. That’s really all the game is: One giant puzzle.

    The most significant player in the credit card game is Chase. They hold the key to most of the airline and hotel programs out there. Much further down the list is Citibank. (Mostly for AA and Hilton) Then it’s AMEX and finally an assortment of smaller banks funding throwaway airlines. Where you should start depends solely on where you want to go. If you want to visit grandma in California, there is going to be a different strategy than wanting to take a train trip through Italy. My favorite airlines to use are British Airways, AA, United and Southwest. These programs have the best value out there and are the most exploitable. On the bottom of the list is Delta because their award chart is so far off calibration that it’s climbing a mountain with a spoon.

    So let’s say that you want to take the wife and 2 kids to Destin, FL for Spring Break from DFW. AA would be your best bet as they fly into Pensacola. However, using AA miles is NOT the way that you want to accomplish this. You actually want to earn BA miles since they are a Oneworld Alliance partner. Even though you are redeeming BA miles, you are still flying on an AA flight. BA has a distance based award chart. DFW-PNS would be 9,000 miles roundtrip in coach. If you redeemed miles on AA for the same flight, it would cost you 25,000 miles to accomplish the same thing. So obtaining a British Airways card with a 50,000 bonus will cover your trip while getting an AA card with a 50,000 bonus will not. The price per ticket to redeem miles will be $5.60 roundtrip. So your total airfare cost for 4 tickets is $22.40. BA waives their annual fee for the first year that you have the card. So you can simple cancel the card before the year is up. For those married folks, you and your partner can both get an individual card and double the amount of points received. BA allows for family accounts, so you can throw them all into one pot. The downside of this benefit is that flights can only be redeemed by those listed in the family account. So it eliminates the ability to redeem miles for friends and family, should the need arise.

    Let’s say that you want to go to Europe. After searching, you want to go to London, Rome and Amsterdam. In this case, your best routes are with AA and United. Some may argue with me on that point but the flexibility to book one-way award travel is very valuable. London and Rome are both hubs for AA. However, Amsterdam is not. But United does have transatlantic flights there. (Switching in EWR or IAH for you DFW folks) BA would be a terrible choice for the transatlantic flight because they charge a fuel surcharge of a few hundred dollars. Basically, you can fly DFW-LHR for $5.00 on AA or $200.00 on BA. You’ll find this pretty much the standard on your outbound regardless of the airline. On the outbound, it will be more expensive. Any of the UK airports will be the most expensive to fly out of because of the taxes levied and the exchange rate of the Pound Sterling vs. the Dollar. So always keep that in mind when planning your travel. In this instance, you would want London to be your first or second city, not the last. If you flew into London, and out of Rome, you could use AA miles for the entire trip. If you wanted to come back from Amsterdam, you could book AA on the way out and use UA on the way back. If you have BA miles, you could actually use those for inter-Europe travel the same way that you do domestically. However, you have to go in knowing that London Heathrow and Gatwick are hubs for BA and any flight using BA metal would most likely stop there. So I would book DFW-FCO on AA, FCO-LHR on BA, LHR-AMS on BA and finally AMS-EWR-DFW on UA. Knowing that I am going to need to stop in London to redeem my miles, I am moving London to the 2nd leg of my itinerary so that I don’t have to double-back trying to get to Amsterdam. Believe it or not, Wikipedia is one of my more valuable tools for planning travel. I can punch in any airport for any city worldwide and see what airlines fly there, from what city and to what terminal. If I have a place that I really want to go, it gives me the option of seeing what my mileage options are or if I need to book a cheap flight the traditional way.

    Southwest is often overlooked because of their boarding policies. But they are actually pretty great for Texas based travelers. A companion pass, which is what you get when you earn 110,000 miles in a calendar year, let’s you designate anyone to fly for you for the cost of taxes for the entire year that you earn the pass + the following year. So if you earn it in January of 2017, you won’t be paying for a companion ticket until January 2019. Taxes for a roundtrip ticket are generally $11.60 domestically. However, if the Caribbean or Mexico is more your style, Southwest flies there too. Again, your companion flies free with you regardless if you buy a ticket or redeem your points for it. As many of you know, I moved to NYC back in 2013. With SWA’s free bag policy, my wife and I were able to move a lot of $#@! up beforehand in addition to flying home to see our kids while we were in transition for less than 2 tickets to the movies.

    Hotels are a bit of a mixed bag. I admit, I have an advantage over the lay person because of the amount of business travel I do…or book for my employees that could not care less about hotel points or have the ability to open up a credit card. If you are a busy traveler, Hilton and Starwood are the best programs. Hilton has a ton of promos to boost your account and Starwood has very nice hotels and the option to transfer points to miles if you need it. If you are a casual travel and don’t need all the frills, IHG has a pretty decent setup. You’re looking at mostly Holiday Inns and Candlewood Suites but the Intercontinental and Indigo brands aren’t bad. There is excellent value for the casual traveler that needs to cram 2 adults and 3 kids into a room. If upscale is your thing, Hyatt and Fairmount may be the way to look. The disadvantage is that these two chains have limited properties. You won’t have a problem with either in London but there is nothing in Rome or Amsterdam for you. Both the Hyatt and Fairmount card offer 2 free nights after hitting the spending threshold of $1,000 in 3 months. So if you get the cards, and your wife gets the cards, you could theoretically have 4 nights at the Hyatt Paris Vendome ($1000/nt) and 4 nights at the Savoy Hotel in London ($800/nt). You would book 2 nights and she would book the next two. I’ve never had a hotel make me switch rooms on a split award. Plus, the cards give you Platinum level status which gets you free internet. Neither card has an annual fee, so you can cancel before your year is up and have $7,200 worth of free $#@!. Also, a lot of hotels allow you to status match. Let’s say that you get the Hilton Reserve Card, which gives you 2 free nights at any Hilton on the weekend + Gold status. You can send a screenshot of your status to a bevy of chains and they will automatically match it to their comparable level. In some hotels, this means upgrades, free breakfast and free internet. (All of which you get with that card too) Most hotel cards have an anniversary bonus of a free night to entice you to keep the card. If you want a free night in London, paying the $95.00 annual fee for the card is cheaper than paying $500 for a night at the Hilton Park Lane. Citi is pretty good at waiving your annual fee or throwing in further incentives. (Ex. If you spent $500 in the next 2 months, we’ll give you 10,000 AA miles) I just kept my AA card with them because they are waiving the fee if I can spend $100 in the next month on my card. Since I cannot apply for the card for another year, it’s worth it for me to make that deal. I will simply cancel the card before the annual fee is due next year, wait a few months, and then come back as a “new customer”. And of course, if you want to skip this whole thing and concentrate on flying there, there’s always AirBNB. But, for argument’s sake, don’t discount Accor hotels. You may recognize them as the proprietors of Motel 6 in the States but they have decent budget properties abroad. Novotel and Mercure also also decent budget options. Also to be considered is price matching hotels. Most chains have a variation of this. For example, if you can find a price better than what Radisson has on their website, they will match the price and give you 25% off the rate. Kayak becomes a good tool for this sort of thing because their matrix shows a wide range of sites where you can book the hotel. Radisson has it for $120, Hotels.com has it for $100, you are paying $75 after your claim is approved. (Usually need to claim within 24 hours of booking) 2 things with this: 1. Hotel has to be the same. You can’t price match a King Room and a Queen room. In most instances, the terms need to be the same, most notably cancellation. 2. Never, under any circumstances, book a non-refundable rate if your goal is to price match. If you are denied, you are stuck. There are a few chains that are notorious for this kind of thing. IHG, for example, will give you a free night if they can beat their rate. But their lowest rate is almost always a non-refundable pay now affair. They are very stringent with their terms and will deny your claim if the lampshade is a different color. I scored huge with a Penthouse Suite in Rome a few years back, so I was part of the problem.

    Sometimes buying hotel points is a good thing. For example, my son and I are going to Pamplona next summer for the Running of the Bulls. I can pay $400 for a Holiday Inn during a time when they jack up their rates or buy 5,000 points for $62 + $40 on a cash and points rate. Starwood is another example. You can pay $400 for a Four Points hotel in Munich for Oktoberfest or purchase 12,000 points for a fraction of that cost. Always check what the points redemption value would be before making a final decision. Sometimes it’s better to go with points, sometimes it’s better to save them and simply purchase the room. If a hotel wants 50,000 Hhonors points, or $95.00, you’re better off paying for the room and saving the points.

    So, back to credit cards. Chase will not let you get the same card bonus unless it has been at least 24 months between the time that you first applied. That means that you can get the Hyatt card every 2 years as a “new” customer. Citi has virtually the same policy but with an added kicker that you can’t obtain any 2 Citi cards within a 60-day period. So if you wanted to get 2 AA cards, you need to space this out a bit. Which card is best for you really depends on what you are trying to accomplish and the availability to use your gains towards that. As mentioned before, you DO NOT want to piss off Chase. So stagger your applications accordingly. If you open up too many cards in a short amount of time, you will be blacklisted for a few years and unable to open up anything else until a few of them have dropped off. Sadly, I am in this boat currently. AMEX will only let you get a bonus one time per card in your lifetime…so choose wisely. This is mostly for AA, Starwood and Hilton.

    One thing that most people don’t know if that you are a business owner. Have you ever sold something on Craigslist, eBay or at a garage sale? Technically, that’s a business transaction. So you can reap the benefits of getting a business credit card in addition to getting a personal card. Your EIN is your Social Security number. Make up a name…any name. Spankytoes Enterprises, for example. Put whatever you want for your revenue. They won’t check, it’s simply a way for them to set your credit line. ($100,000 is my go-to) I’ve never been turned down before. The best part? Business credit lines are separate from your personal. So if you are falling a little behind in your life, you can pay off your personal credit card while letting your business card build up a bit. The net result is that your credit score rises because your credit card utilization has gone down. So you can get that 50,000 bonus Southwest Personal Card and that 50,000 bonus Southwest Business Card and be pretty close to the 110,000 point threshold you need for the Companion Pass. Or, you can get 200,000 $#@!ulative BA or AA miles with your partner for a Business Class trip to Ireland.

    If you get the dreaded “We need more info to process this application” message after applying, don’t panic. Google “(Insert bank) reconsideration line” to find out where you need to call. Be nice to the agent on the phone and assuming that you have good credit, you will most likely be approved. Usually they want to talk to you about something from 1998 or something of that ilk.

    Most people will have no problem hitting the spending threshold to earn their opening bonus. $1,000 in 3 months with a family? Easy. Charge all your groceries, gas, cell phone, entertainment, cable, etc. to the card and pay it off just like you did when you did an autopay from your checking account. Some bonuses, however, are a bit tougher. I don’t have a problem hitting a $4000 in 3 months’ requirement in NY, but $10,000 in 3 months is a bit steep. (This is usually for business cards) This is where the little known art of Manufactured Spending comes into play. Sadly, there isn’t a good plan that I can put into play because loopholes show up and then are stopped without any warning. Back in the day, it was a matter of creating as loop. I used to go to CVS to buy pre-paid cards called Vanilla Reloads for $5,000 on my card. I’d take them home, scratch off the number and load them into an online checking account that I had with AMEX and Walmart called Bluebird. Over 5 days, I’d unload all the cards since I was capped at $1,000 per day. From that account, I’d pay off my original $5,000 purchase. My only cost was time, gas to the store and a $2.95 activation fee for each card. So for the bargain price of $59.00, I could spend $10,000 on my card over a 2-month period and earn the really high bonus rewards. But, alas, AMEX caught on and shut down thousands of accounts, including mine. CVS stopped allowing people to buy Vanilla Reloads with credit cards as well. There are 2 popular methods that seem to be going strong. One, is PayPal Payments. You can send someone $500.00 through PayPal a month and not have to pay a fee. If that someone was your wife, she could deposit the money into your joint checking account and pay the credit card bill for a net cost of $0. Another popular method is Simon Mall Visa cards. They are in the same vein as Vanilla Reloads above. You could buy 2 cards at $500 a pop + a $2.95 activation fee. Federal law now requires gift cards to have a PIN. So you could setup the PIN, go to Walmart, buy a $500 money order and deposit it into your bank. Walmart machines are coded to accept debit cards, so a gift card with a PIN would go through just the same. The danger with this particular method is that you don’t want to deposit too many large money orders to your bank in a short period of time. That may raise some flags for embezzlement or laundering. Lastly, you can simply unload the cards the traditional way by using them as a debit. This is only realistic if you can afford to take the hit in your bank account during the time it takes you to unload the cards. The advantage being that you are hitting the spending threshold in the time you need it instead of hustling with your credit card.

    There are 2 keys to mileage/points cards: 1. If you do not have a credit score over 750, you have a slim chance of being approved for the card 2. Don’t rack up charges that you can’t pay off as reward cards typically have a high APR. That 2nd rule is vital. If you are paying a 19.87% APR on $8,000 worth of debt, it would have been cheaper for you to simply buy the $200 hotel room instead of racking up interest. Also, open and close smartly. There are some cards, such as the Chase Ink, that I am willing to pay an annual fee on. I can transfer my chase points to a bevy or airlines or hotels vs. being strapped to only 1 program with a traditional card. Your credit score is heavily determined by how much credit you have available to you vs. how much you actually use. A person with $1,000 in debt and a credit line of $10,000 will have a worse score than someone with a credit line of $100,000. Every time you close a card, you are losing some of that credit line. If you are debt free, it doesn’t matter as 0% of $40,000 is the same as $90,000. There are some cards, particularly AMEX no-fee cards, that are worth putting in a drawer when you no longer need them. Another heavy component of credit is the length of time you have had it. I’ll never forget the Dillard’s card that I opened up in 1997 when I turned 18 and wanted to look cool that I closed in 2008 because I hadn’t used it in years, much less even knew where it was. I thought by closing it, my credit score would go up because it would show that I wasn’t reliant on a credit line. Exact opposite. My score plunged 25 points because I had just eliminated my oldest card and the average credit line dropped from 8.5 years to 2.5 years. Banks are much less willing to “lend” to you if you do not have a history. So if you aren’t paying a fee on the card, stick it in a drawer and bring it out every few years to make a purchase and keep it active so that the bank doesn’t close it. There is no downside to holding on to it.

    I have a love/hate relationship with bloggers. They are great for the masses and sometimes I get a good fare deal or bonus promo that I wasn’t aware of. But they are also the #1 reason that things like Manufactured Spending get shut down. They spoon feed the information to the casual gamer trying to get a free hotel in Vegas while exposing the serious collector working on the Presidential Suite in Dubai. If I had to choose my blogs, I’d stick with Million Mile Secrets and The Points Guy. I think that both of them are complete douches, but they do parse a lot of information and give you a how-to on why certain cards are good deals. Flyertalk is the Bible of travel but it’s more for the advanced user. If you don’t know what DFW-LAX-SYD in J with an open jaw from SIN in F to earn EQMs means…stick with the blogs. When you have amassed enough posts at FT, you can gain access to more information on boards. Personally, I am an AA guy. I can tell you any routing to anyplace in the world on AA because I know their hubs. Choose your favorite airline and learn about it. It is vital in the mileage world because it really helps you map out the perfect vacation. I’ve used US Airways, United, BA and AA for European trips depending on my goal. Last year, I used Air Berlin (BA partner) from Munich to Moscow and flat out purchased my Moscow to New York leg because it was on sale for $225.00. The flight with miles would have been 30,000 in Coach + $189 in taxes because I would have had to fly to London on BA and then to JFK on AA. It was certainly worth the extra $36.00 to keep 30,000 miles for my next excursion.

    Hopefully, this gives you a basic lesson on the seedy underbelly of playing the travel game. Understand, this only scratches the surface on what you can do when you really apply yourself towards your goal. I’m sure that there are others that do it better than I do that can chime in on how to play. But, know that it certainly can be accomplished with a little trial and error. I’m happy to answer questions when I have time.
    Last edited by spankytoes; 09-12-2016 at 08:18 PM.

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    Pretty sure British airways changed their US domestic flights to more closely match the point system of AA
    Last edited by bluto; 09-12-2016 at 08:22 PM.

  • #3
    Great post ST...

    How do Alaskan Airlines points/miles translate to IcelandicAir for an Iceland-Paris trip...

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    Jesus H Christ. I think I'll just stay home.

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    history will look back at shaggy on 9/12/2016 as the date and place that the cult of spanky was born.



  • #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluto View Post
    Pretty sure British airways changed their US domestic flights to more closely match the point system of AA
    Not exactly. They did raise their rates a bit and I forgot about it. DFW-MIA is 15,000 BA or 25,000 AA. The lower rates are for intercontinental European travel. (I.E. LHR-CDG; DUS-TXL)

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    Quote Originally Posted by FCHorn View Post
    Great post ST...

    How do Alaskan Airlines points/miles translate to IcelandicAir for an Iceland-Paris trip...
    Iceland is a fickle beast. I don't think there is a path using OW miles unless it's a door I haven't found. I was considering a trip there but being an East Coaster, it's easy enough to book something with WOW or Iceland Air cheaply to save the points.

    I know that Alaska and Hawaiian have value. I just don't have an interest in the places they could take me.

  • #8
    Quote Originally Posted by bluto View Post
    Pretty sure British airways changed their US domestic flights to more closely match the point system of AA
    Just the short haul flights. BA eliminated the 4500 Avios flights <650 miles in North America. Still available for 7500 within NA or 4500 outside NA.

    Still much better than AA.

  • #9
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    I think I may be the only one left that books travel based on itinerary. Sitting in an airport for 6 hours or spending an extra night in Wichita to save a few bucks isn't my cup of tea. Sure, I don't have any impressive status on any one given airline or hotel (despite 100,000 miles/year and several dozen nights in myriad hotels), but I also don't have to spend any extra time away from my family to earn a few extra points on a $#@!ty credit card scam.

  • #10
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    I know that Alaska and Hawaiian have value. I just don't have an interest in the places they could take me.
    Don't be so sure about Alaska now that they fly into DFW, IAH, DEN and ORD on a daily basis. I used to use them exclusively when I lived in Fairbanks and Seattle. Built up a really nice war chest of miles that I just recently exhausted.

  • #11
    asshat tokamak has a gigantic e-peen. tokamak has a gigantic e-peen. tokamak has a gigantic e-peen. tokamak has a gigantic e-peen. tokamak has a gigantic e-peen. tokamak has a gigantic e-peen. tokamak has a gigantic e-peen. tokamak has a gigantic e-peen. tokamak has a gigantic e-peen. tokamak has a gigantic e-peen. tokamak has a gigantic e-peen. tokamak's Avatar
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    That's a helluva post. Lots to digest there. My first question is how do you keep track of everything? Opening/closing cards, spending requirements, bonuses, promos, etc etc etc. Do you just have the mother of all Google calendars going or what?

    The idea of free or very cheap travel makes my e-peen all tingly, but honestly the way you describe it, it sounds like something that you need to be thinking about/working on every single day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCruiser View Post
    I think I may be the only one left that books travel based on itinerary. Sitting in an airport for 6 hours or spending an extra night in Wichita to save a few bucks isn't my cup of tea. Sure, I don't have any impressive status on any one given airline or hotel (despite 100,000 miles/year and several dozen nights in myriad hotels), but I also don't have to spend any extra time away from my family to earn a few extra points on a $#@!ty credit card scam.
    I'm with you. I only fly direct, so I end up flying different airlines and have zero interest in layovers or other issues. I do try and stay at primarily Hilton hotels rather than spreading my hotel stays everywhere.

  • #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macanudo View Post
    Don't be so sure about Alaska now that they fly into DFW, IAH, DEN and ORD on a daily basis. I used to use them exclusively when I lived in Fairbanks and Seattle. Built up a really nice war chest of miles that I just recently exhausted.
    As an East Coaster, that just doesn't do it for me. Don't forsee going further west than Dallas for a while. I know there's value for some, but I'd rather take a 6 hour flight to London than LA.

  • #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by tokamak View Post
    That's a helluva post. Lots to digest there. My first question is how do you keep track of everything? Opening/closing cards, spending requirements, bonuses, promos, etc etc etc. Do you just have the mother of all Google calendars going or what?

    The idea of free or very cheap travel makes my e-peen all tingly, but honestly the way you describe it, it sounds like something that you need to be thinking about/working on every single day.
    I use Excel religiously. It helps me keep track of my approval/closing dates. It also lets me know how many more miles I need to accomplish my goals. For example, I have 3 nights in Dallas at the end of the month. I need Club Carlson points. They are running a promo where you get 3X points for a Friday check-in and 2X for M-T. I arrive on Thurs. so it's better for me to stay 1 night at the HI for other points I need on a promo and stay the other 2 at the Radisson. Plus, there is a mega points promo where I get 10,000 bonus points per night that I stay at a particular location. I don't mind checking into a different hotel. I'm leaving at 7:30 AM to work anyway and won't get back until 6. It's nothing for me to throw a carry-on into my rental car trunk. (Earning CC points on that too)

    For my trip next summer, I'm using Hilton, IHG and Club Carlson for city stays. So I plan my travel around these 3 chains based on my current needs and promos going on. If I'm going to a city where nothing is viable, I use Rocketmiles.com to boost my airline mileage account. Hilton only allows credit for 2 rooms so I book the 3rd independently with RM so I don't throw an earning opportunity away. I update my Excel spreadsheet weekly.

  • #15
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    You should've named this thread the Tao of Spankytoes.

    spanky's advice about using points cards for routine $#@! is the easiest, most basic thing you can do to earn a free trip. We used to buy our groceries, gas and other constants on our check card. Got a AA card and we've already earned enough points thanks to their intro promo to pay for the flight we're planning to take to NYC next March for her birthday. Now I may add a hotel card to build up enough points for the hotel we need to book. All just by simply buying stuff on these cards. I'm kicking myself for wasting all these years on cards that gave no benefit back to us.
    Last edited by mdmost; 09-12-2016 at 09:47 PM.

  • #16
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    Spanky, you ever attend a MegaDO?

  • #17
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    Spanky,

    You are the master of this. But the one thing you do that I just can't do (and I am a AA plat/40ish night hotel guy year over year kind of traveler) I just can't do the Hotel jumping you do. I know it's not hard. But there are few things I like less than packing and unpacking

    Great F'ing post man. Grande E-peen



  • #18
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    The Art of Travel- A Spankytoes Manifesto

    Never heard of rocketmiles.com. Didn't know I can earn 40k United miles for a simple hotel stay. Will do that for my next biz trip.

    And here I was using hotels.com for their free night every 10 stays. Shiiiiiiiit

    (Already have 500k IHG points which I use for intercontinental stays abroad).

    I and Spire Elite (highest level) on IHG. Hilton did stays match so now I'm highest level there too, but have no miles with them.
    Last edited by LongIslandIceSIP; 09-12-2016 at 10:52 PM.

  • #19
    Freida's Boss DCA_HORN might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? DCA_HORN might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? DCA_HORN might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? DCA_HORN might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? DCA_HORN might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? DCA_HORN might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? DCA_HORN might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? DCA_HORN might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? DCA_HORN might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? DCA_HORN might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? DCA_HORN might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? DCA_HORN's Avatar
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    I'm sure the answer is no, but is there anytime where purchasing extra miles from an airline makes sense?

  • #20
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    Maybe only time is SWA companion pass if you need a few k to reach it

  • #21
    chase 5/24 is a bitch

  • #22
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    Need to sit down and give this a good read, but any thoughts to the new Chase Sapphire Reserve card? Hearing really good things...

  • #23
    asshat Ignatius might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? Ignatius might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? Ignatius might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? Ignatius might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? Ignatius might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? Ignatius might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? Ignatius might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? Ignatius might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? Ignatius might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? Ignatius might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? Ignatius might be a clever chap. or know the right people. know what i mean, nudge nudge? Ignatius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spankytoes View Post
    There are some cards, particularly AMEX no-fee cards, that are worth putting in a drawer when you no longer need them. Another heavy component of credit is the length of time you have had it. I’ll never forget the Dillard’s card that I opened up in 1997 when I turned 18 and wanted to look cool that I closed in 2008 because I hadn’t used it in years, much less even knew where it was. I thought by closing it, my credit score would go up because it would show that I wasn’t reliant on a credit line. Exact opposite. My score plunged 25 points because I had just eliminated my oldest card and the average credit line dropped from 8.5 years to 2.5 years.
    Along these lines, most non-business Amex cards will default to your oldest card with them regardless of when you get it; the SPG rewards card I got last year has a 'member since' date of 2001, the year I got my first Amex ever. If you've got a relatively old Amex and need to beef up your time on books metric, getting a couple of no-fee Amex cards is a good way to do that...

  • #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCA_HORN View Post
    I'm sure the answer is no, but is there anytime where purchasing extra miles from an airline makes sense?
    during promos (e.g. 50% off), when you need to top off for redemption.

    also, if you plan to purchase premium fares, and the redemption rates and availability lines up, it might be cheaper to spend 2000$ cash to buy miles redeemable for a business class ticket, than paying 2500$ for the same seat outright.
    etc

  • #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by LongIslandIceSIP View Post
    Never heard of rocketmiles.com. Didn't know I can earn 40k United miles for a simple hotel stay. Will do that for my next biz trip.

    And here I was using hotels.com for their free night every 10 stays. Shiiiiiiiit

    (Already have 500k IHG points which I use for intercontinental stays abroad).

    I and Spire Elite (highest level) on IHG. Hilton did stays match so now I'm highest level there too, but have no miles with them.
    Rocketmiles is great if you have firm plans. Their rates are non-refundable. However, they are also on par with what the hotel website offers. It's a great alternative. Sometimes I have to book specific hotels in my line of work for projects. Some are chains, some are boutiques. I could not care less about Wyndham points so Rocketmiles is my go-to. Miles usually post within the week.

  • #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5280 View Post
    during promos (e.g. 50% off), when you need to top off for redemption.

    also, if you plan to purchase premium fares, and the redemption rates and availability lines up, it might be cheaper to spend 2000$ cash to buy miles redeemable for a business class ticket, than paying 2500$ for the same seat outright.
    etc
    100% correct. Only if you need to top off a premium cabin award. I'd spend $200 on miles to fly in Business over Coach any day of the week. Other than that, no airline is worth buying miles for. The fares themselves are usually cheaper.

  • #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Party_Taco View Post
    Need to sit down and give this a good read, but any thoughts to the new Chase Sapphire Reserve card? Hearing really good things...
    It's great. There's a thread in CYHMWT about it

  • #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCruiser View Post
    I think I may be the only one left that books travel based on itinerary. Sitting in an airport for 6 hours or spending an extra night in Wichita to save a few bucks isn't my cup of tea.
    If you ever do need to spend the night in Wichita, my friend Gus owns the Braidwood Inn and I'm sure I could get you a deal. Dooby can get you a lift there, or my buddy's kid Owen. Just PM me for details.

  • #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by lonestarguido View Post
    Spanky,

    You are the master of this. But the one thing you do that I just can't do (and I am a AA plat/40ish night hotel guy year over year kind of traveler) I just can't do the Hotel jumping you do. I know it's not hard. But there are few things I like less than packing and unpacking

    Great F'ing post man. Grande E-peen


    It's certainly not for everybody. But, the benefits are great. If you are trying to get status with a chain, you will only get 1 stay credit with two nights at the same hotel. You will get 2 for switching to another hotel in the brand. This is made even better with promos where you maximize your output.

    If I find myself with stray points, I work around it. 1 night at Hilton, Radisson and IHG is a great opportunity for a Pacific Coast Highway trip where I'm switching hotels anyway. I'm not going to stay at 3 different hotels in Madrid.

  • #30
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    More of a basic question, but when you are trying to spend $xxx in the first 3 months to get the 50,000 or whatever miles, are there any "purchases" that don't count? I'm assuming I can't throw my mortgage on there and be done with it right?

  • #31
    You can't pay debt with debt so mortgage and car loans usually won't accept cc payments. Also some cards have cracked down on buying Amex or visa gift cards.

  • #32
    asshat dfwtexex is probably pretty witty. or good at photoshop. or porn. dfwtexex is probably pretty witty. or good at photoshop. or porn. dfwtexex is probably pretty witty. or good at photoshop. or porn. dfwtexex is probably pretty witty. or good at photoshop. or porn. dfwtexex is probably pretty witty. or good at photoshop. or porn. dfwtexex is probably pretty witty. or good at photoshop. or porn. dfwtexex is probably pretty witty. or good at photoshop. or porn. dfwtexex is probably pretty witty. or good at photoshop. or porn. dfwtexex is probably pretty witty. or good at photoshop. or porn. dfwtexex is probably pretty witty. or good at photoshop. or porn. dfwtexex is probably pretty witty. or good at photoshop. or porn. dfwtexex's Avatar
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    Spanky, can you explain the trick on using the multiple Chase cards to maximize points? I have a Sapphire and have heard that pairing it with Ink is the way to go, but I haven't quite figured it out.

  • #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Biff Tannen View Post
    More of a basic question, but when you are trying to spend $xxx in the first 3 months to get the 50,000 or whatever miles, are there any "purchases" that don't count? I'm assuming I can't throw my mortgage on there and be done with it right?
    There has never been a good way to pay your debt using credit card strategies. A few years back, it was possible. You simply loaded your Bluebird card, transferred the funds to a pay service and they would write your landlord/mortgage company a check. However, there was a 2.5% fee involved. So it would cost $25.00 for every $1,000.00. Some people were more than willing to pay $250.00 to get a $10,000 spend if the benefits were good enough.

    As stated in the OP, most personal credit bonuses are set at $1,000.00 within the 1st 3 months of reception. The thresholds higher than that are typically reserved for higher value bonuses, whether more points or more valuable brand points/miles, or business cards. Thankfully, I don't have to do much Manufactured Spending anymore because NYC is expensive and my employer is loose with the terms of having to use my Corporate Card if I am willing to take on the liability of payment/interest. If you do need to figure out ways to generate a lot of spending, Flyertalk's board is typically the best: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/manuf...-spending-719/

    This will give you the skinny on what's still viable and what has come to a crashing halt. The problem that novices may have is that some of the juicier ways to accomplish MS are spoken in code. (Ex. Vanilla Reloads were known as "Ice Cream" or "Beans") This is to cut down on the search options for those looking to shut down exploits. So some of the threads may be hard to follow. There are even codes for Target, Walmart and CVS. If you spend enough time there, you'll catch on pretty quick.

    All purchases count towards meeting your spend threshold, provided that you don't return an item. Some cards have categories where you earn more. With the Chase Ink, you will earn more points paying your cell phone or shopping at an office supply store than you will buying a Happy Meal. This is very card dependent. Most airline cards will give you 2X for purchases on their airline and 1 point for everything else. Hotels have the same methodology, albeit, at a higher rate. (I.E. 10 points per $1 spent at Hilton Hotels with the Hilton Reserve card)

  • #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by dfwtexex View Post
    Spanky, can you explain the trick on using the multiple Chase cards to maximize points? I have a Sapphire and have heard that pairing it with Ink is the way to go, but I haven't quite figured it out.
    There's really not a trick, per se. The Sapphire and the Ink have the same rewards program so getting both will simply increase your points pool. What nice about that program is that you can opt to get a flight using your points or transfer to a number of partners. (Southwest, UA, BA, Hilton, Marriott, etc.) It makes it palatable to cancel your BA or SWA card after you've got the bonus. I can get 1:1 with my Sapphire card, so why would I keep a Southwest card where I also can get 1:1? I can simply transfer my Membership Rewards points through my account. Plus, the Sapphire card has categories where I can get 3X as many points for my purchase, which translates into 3X the amount of SWA points I can receive over their branded card.

  • #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wacoan View Post
    Spanky, you ever attend a MegaDO?
    I had to Google what that was. Nah, I go independent. I'm sure that there's good info out there but I do fine for my needs. When the kids are off at college in a few years, I'll really start hitting it harder since I'll be in my 40's and able to take more couples trips.

  • #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCruiser View Post
    I think I may be the only one left that books travel based on itinerary. Sitting in an airport for 6 hours or spending an extra night in Wichita to save a few bucks isn't my cup of tea. Sure, I don't have any impressive status on any one given airline or hotel (despite 100,000 miles/year and several dozen nights in myriad hotels), but I also don't have to spend any extra time away from my family to earn a few extra points on a $#@!ty credit card scam.
    To be honest, I've been a bit spoiled. I've lived in 2 places that are major hubs for international travel so finding direct flights has never been an issue. As DFW and JFK are both AA hubs, I naturally trended to them. If you are in Houston, Continental/United is probably your airline of choice. But, on the flip side, sometimes it's not so cut and dry. Yes, I could fly directly to Munich from EWR. But it would take me 2 hours to get to EWR from my house using the LIRR and changing at Penn to the NJ Transit + hauling my luggage. I'd much rather fly JFK-DUS on Air Berlin and have an hour layover for my connecting flight to MUC, where I will collect my luggage on the other side. Unless I have major savings flying direct, I'm just not going to do it. The other way to get around this is to mask things a bit. I could fly JFK-TXL, spend a few days in Berlin to get over my jetlag and chill out as I've covered it extensively, and grab another flight to Munich on Lufthansa.

    With regards to rewards flights, the majority of the country isn't as lucky. AA is pretty stingy with their award flights these days. If you can find them, you're probably stopping in an old US Airways hub like CLT or PHL. In that regard, United beats them hands down. It's rare that I haven't gotten exactly what I wanted for a United award travel flight when I book far enough in advance.

  • #37
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    Total newbie here. So what's the appeal of the airport lounges? Is it that much better during a layover than hanging at the nearest airport bar? Or is it more of a status symbol thing? Free BJ's?

  • #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Biff Tannen View Post
    Total newbie here. So what's the appeal of the airport lounges? Is it that much better during a layover than hanging at the nearest airport bar? Or is it more of a status symbol thing? Free BJ's?
    more privacy, less noise - the frenetic environment of the airport is one of the most mentally taxing

    security - as in you can leave your phone plugged in the wall and walk to the bathroom with less fear of it getting ganked

    free wifi

    free booze is also nice

    and its mostly a convenience thing. imagine youre traveling internationally when you dont want to roam on the phone, dont have cash for quick bite, connecting between short flights where food isnt served, or you worked all day at the clients until 6pm, head straight to the airport, got a flight 8-11pm putting you home at midnight........ you dont want to fight for a space in a restaurant, hide your luggage between your feet, wait for service, etc............. being at the lounge is almost like being at home

    but mostly for me its #1 and #2. and showers are also nice

  • #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5280 View Post
    more privacy, less noise - the frenetic environment of the airport is one of the most mentally taxing

    security - as in you can leave your phone plugged in the wall and walk to the bathroom with less fear of it getting ganked

    free wifi

    free booze is also nice

    and its mostly a convenience thing. imagine youre traveling internationally when you dont want to roam on the phone, dont have cash for quick bite, connecting between short flights where food isnt served, or you worked all day at the clients until 6pm, head straight to the airport, got a flight 8-11pm putting you home at midnight........ you dont want to fight for a space in a restaurant, hide your luggage between your feet, wait for service, etc............. being at the lounge is almost like being at home

    but mostly for me its #1 and #2. and showers are also nice
    Sweet. Free booze was all you had to say.

  • #40
    Quote Originally Posted by dfwtexex View Post
    Spanky, can you explain the trick on using the multiple Chase cards to maximize points? I have a Sapphire and have heard that pairing it with Ink is the way to go, but I haven't quite figured it out.
    The "trick" is that different Chase cards earn bonus points on different categories. If you want to get serious you could get the Sapphire Reserve card that earns 3X on travel and dining. You could get the Ink Plus or Ink Cash that earns 5X on office supplies, phone, internet and TV. Then get a Freedom that earns 5X on rotating categories like gas, grocery stores, restaurants, discount stores and Amazon. Then they have the new Freedom Unlimited card that is 1.5X on all purchases. You pick the card that has the best ratio for each purchase and then you can combine all of your Ultimate Rewards points into the Sapphire Reserve card so they can be transferred out to the partners or spent for 1.5X on travel.

    It seems complicated but you will be surprised how fast the points add up if you put all of your normal spending on the cards. As Spanky said there is no reason to use the Hyatt or Marriott or Southwest cards since you can earn the greater multiples on the other cards and transfer points to these programs. Also, you can use the Ink Plus to buy Southwest gift cards at Staples and earn 5X points.

  • #41
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    spanky, you mentioned a couple times that it's important to have a goal in mind. I'm trying to get a handle on what a realistic goal is, and what isn't. Say, for example, that I wanted to earn the following:

    2x international business class tickets and
    2x domestic coach tickets

    Every other year. Probably Star Alliance or Southwest as we're in Houston. Don't care about hotels much. Wife and I have good credit, annual credit card spend in the neighborhood of $50-60k.

    Realistic?

  • #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by spankytoes View Post
    I had to Google what that was. Nah, I go independent. I'm sure that there's good info out there but I do fine for my needs. When the kids are off at college in a few years, I'll really start hitting it harder since I'll be in my 40's and able to take more couples trips.
    From your travels and postings I just thought maybe you had done before and we'd have met along the way!

  • #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by 84Horn View Post

    It seems complicated but you will be surprised how fast the points add up if you put all of your normal spending on the cards. As Spanky said there is no reason to use the Hyatt or Marriott or Southwest cards since you can earn the greater multiples on the other cards and transfer points to these programs. Also, you can use the Ink Plus to buy Southwest gift cards at Staples and earn 5X points.
    I'm still confused on this part because it seems like the CSR card wants you to book all flights/hotels/whatever through Chase Ultimate Rewards instead of transferring to a partner (most likely Southwest in my case). It's 1:1 though right? So what's the difference?

  • #44
    Quote Originally Posted by Biff Tannen View Post
    I'm still confused on this part because it seems like the CSR card wants you to book all flights/hotels/whatever through Chase Ultimate Rewards instead of transferring to a partner (most likely Southwest in my case). It's 1:1 though right? So what's the difference?
    essentially, with the southwest credit card, you earn (outside of the initial bonus) 2points per dollar on southwest tickets or on select travel partners and 1 point per dollar on anything else.

    so, instead of keeping that card and accruing miles/points on that, you can just use the CSR card, where you'll earn 3pts/$1 on all travel and dining (including southwest tickets and any travel partners that southwest also has) and 1pt/$1 on all other expenses. additionally, the travel/dining category for CSR includes a lot more vendors than the travel partners through southwest where you earn 2miles/$1.

    so essentially, you are earning far more points through the same spending in CSR when compared to southwest. so, once you've accrued 50k points in CSR you can transfer them 1:1 to southwest for 50k miles. however, because of the bonus categories (amplified if you use the chase freedom/ink cards) with using the CSR, you spent less money to earn those 50k points/miles.

  • #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Biff Tannen View Post
    I'm still confused on this part because it seems like the CSR card wants you to book all flights/hotels/whatever through Chase Ultimate Rewards instead of transferring to a partner (most likely Southwest in my case). It's 1:1 though right? So what's the difference?
    chase award redemption scheme has a certain dollar-to-points ratio. trips are shown with their list/market values, and the ratio determines how many chase points are drawn out.

    now, there's all sorts of behind the scene industry purchase/agreements amongst the credit companies, hotelliers, carriers, etc.

    for example, 1 flight that can be redeemed through chase's redemption portal, could also be redeemed through air canada's program, or united's program, or etc. united or air canada might decide to charge different quantities of miles for that flight, due to promotions, or their own back channel dealing, or what have you.

    point being you need to assess each redemption individually.




    although one thing to note, is that redeeming a flight through chase counts as a commercial purchase, meaning that flight itself could earn miles. and the availability is better. whereas carrier "awards" are more restrictive

  • #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by tokamak View Post
    spanky, you mentioned a couple times that it's important to have a goal in mind. I'm trying to get a handle on what a realistic goal is, and what isn't. Say, for example, that I wanted to earn the following:

    2x international business class tickets and
    2x domestic coach tickets

    Every other year. Probably Star Alliance or Southwest as we're in Houston. Don't care about hotels much. Wife and I have good credit, annual credit card spend in the neighborhood of $50-60k.

    Realistic?
    Definitely realistic. Especially domestically. To give you an example, it typically costs me 12,000 SWA points for a round trip flight between LGA-DAL. If you went the Companion Pass route, you're looking at at least 9 RT + your spouse would travel for free. (So, 18 effectively) The beautiful thing with SWA is that their point redemption rates are tied to the cost of the ticket. So when they have their numerous sales, the redemptions will go down. However, the lower redemption rates are typically for direct flights. I think that Hobby goes to EWR on SWA. SWA doesn't have premium cabins, so you wouldn't get that.

    Business class tickets internationally is completely doable. Your route and level of difficulty depends solely on where you want to go and if you need to do it all through spending on cards or if you can supplement with normal air travel. Your route will preordain what airline you need to exploit. For Europe, AA and UA would be better. For the Caribbean, BA may be the better way to go. For South America, AA or BA may work better. Premium cabins are a little more tricky. UA is the best airline for Houston folks for obvious reasons. For those wanting to go to Europe, they are outstanding because of their presence and generous award availability. But, their point redemption totals are more than AA. I could get an AA personal and business card and have enough for a Business Class ticket to Europe. I would not have enough with 2 UA cards. Because they both have one-way awards, you can always mix and match. Fly UA on the outbound and AA on the inbound. That will reduce the amount of work that you have to put into your goal. It also frees up some cap space for Chase as AA cards are issued by Citi.

  • #47
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  • #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by elfenix View Post
    chase 5/24 is a bitch
    I'll take "Things that piss me off every day" for $1,000 Alex

    Quote Originally Posted by dfwtexex View Post
    Spanky, can you explain the trick on using the multiple Chase cards to maximize points? I have a Sapphire and have heard that pairing it with Ink is the way to go, but I haven't quite figured it out.
    Quote Originally Posted by spankytoes View Post
    There's really not a trick, per se. The Sapphire and the Ink have the same rewards program so getting both will simply increase your points pool. What nice about that program is that you can opt to get a flight using your points or transfer to a number of partners. (Southwest, UA, BA, Hilton, Marriott, etc.) It makes it palatable to cancel your BA or SWA card after you've got the bonus. I can get 1:1 with my Sapphire card, so why would I keep a Southwest card where I also can get 1:1? I can simply transfer my Membership Rewards points through my account. Plus, the Sapphire card has categories where I can get 3X as many points for my purchase, which translates into 3X the amount of SWA points I can receive over their branded card.
    Not so fast my friend

    Quote Originally Posted by 84Horn View Post
    The "trick" is that different Chase cards earn bonus points on different categories. If you want to get serious you could get the Sapphire Reserve card that earns 3X on travel and dining. You could get the Ink Plus or Ink Cash that earns 5X on office supplies, phone, internet and TV. Then get a Freedom that earns 5X on rotating categories like gas, grocery stores, restaurants, discount stores and Amazon. Then they have the new Freedom Unlimited card that is 1.5X on all purchases. You pick the card that has the best ratio for each purchase and then you can combine all of your Ultimate Rewards points into the Sapphire Reserve card so they can be transferred out to the partners or spent for 1.5X on travel.

    It seems complicated but you will be surprised how fast the points add up if you put all of your normal spending on the cards. As Spanky said there is no reason to use the Hyatt or Marriott or Southwest cards since you can earn the greater multiples on the other cards and transfer points to these programs. Also, you can use the Ink Plus to buy Southwest gift cards at Staples and earn 5X points.
    This man has it, almost.

    Freedom, rotating 5x categories that are useful, can transfer to your Ink or Sapphire
    Sapphire, 2x on travel/hotels (or 3x for the Reserve, unless your $#@!ed like me on the 5/24 rule, goddamnit)

    NOW PAY ATTENTION HERE:
    Ink card, for business owners, such as myself - 5x for office supplies

    you say who cares about office supplies?

    well I own a business so I do, and I shop thru the Chase portal and get 7x

    also we use a lot of stamps.....buy them at the post office? hell no, we buy them at Office Depot and get 5x!

    not so fast.......

    you ever buy gasoline?
    perhaps shop on Amazon?
    do you buy $#@! at Lowe's? or Home Depot? (or does your wife?)
    fly Southwest?
    eat at restaurants?
    wife just gotta have Starbucks???
    kids $#@!ing love iTunes?

    buy gift cards for Shell, Exxon, Amazon, Lowe's, SWA, restaurants, iTunes, etc all at 5x via Ink card

    thanks to spanky's original thread years ago, I'm spending this week in OAK/Napa/Sonoma and next in New Orleans, all air, hotel, car is free.

    Companion Pass, holla!!!

    thanks again spanky!!!
    Last edited by 4th and 5; 09-14-2016 at 10:13 AM.

  • #49
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    This trip is not complete yet, but I want to walk you through the anatomy of how to plan.

    My son is graduating high school next June. He really wants to see as much as Europe as possible. I let him choose the destinations for us with a little guidance. So, against my better judgment, I booked us on a trip that will take us to Munich, Salzburg, London, Rome, Pamplona and Madrid in a 2 week period. As he is a teenager, and I abhor going to most museums, it’s not as bad as it seems.

    So my first task is mapping everything out. I know that UA flies to Munich direct from EWR but also has a direct flight from JFK, which is more convenient for me. I also know that I will get July 4 off and at least a half day on either July 3 or 5th next year. As July 4 is on a Tuesday in 2017, I wanted to target July 1 as our departure date so that I can maximize our time and minimize my time out of the office. So my first point of order was getting the UA card for the 50,000 point bonus. I had 3,000 or so miles already from previous flight that I had taken. So I had to transfer some points from my Chase Ink to UA and up my spending a bit to get the 60,000 points needed to book 2 tickets in Coach. It cost me $11.20 total for 2 tickets.

    Munich is a fine city, but I just haven’t found a ton that I could do with a teenager that may only drink a beer or two with his dad. So I only planned 2 nights in Munich. I have the Hilton Reserve card, which gives me 10X points for every $1.00 I spend at their properties. On top of this, they are running a double points promo and I book their 2X points rate for business travel. So it is very easy for me to accumulate Hilton points rapidly. I used 100,000 to book 2 rooms in Munich. Even better, the S7 train from the airport goes directly to the metro station that is directly under our hotel. So I don’t have a need to book an airport transport. I am Diamond with Hilton, so we will get upgraded to an Executive room with access to the Lounge for free breakfast and drinks. (Internet too) Skipping ahead a bit, I also used 160,000 points to book 2 nights at the Waldorf in Rome. One of the benefits of the Hilton Reserve is that I get a weekend certificate good for a night at their non-All-inclusive properties or resorts. I should have that deposited into my account in the next month. I will use that certificate for another night at the Waldorf in Rome. This is something that I had to keep in mind with my planning. In order to use my certificate at a high value property, on this trip that would be London or Rome, I had to ensure that I was there on a weekend. I could have also used the Certificate for the Hilton in Munich but I wouldn’t get nearly the value on the redemption as it costs 30,000 more points for a night in Rome.

    Back to the itinerary, we are going to get a Bayern Pass to travel to Salzburg. Because we are traveling together, the cost is cheaper. I do not have a play with Hilton in Salzburg as they do not have any properties. Further, I won’t have a play with Hilton in Pamplona either. I know that Pamplona is going to be more critical destination as I will be going during a peak time where hotels jack up their rates. So I searched on Kayak to see what US based properties were in the area. I found that the Holiday Inn Express has a hotel in Pamplona. Even better, it would cost be 10,000 points for a room instead of spending $400.00. I already knew that Salzburg had a Crowne Plaza, which is in the same program as the Holiday Inn, having visited Salzburg before and eaten at their restaurant. So I took advantage of the IHG credit card from Chase, which gives me 60,000 points after meeting my spending threshold of $1000. As of now, I have only received the points associated with my normal spending, which was enough to grab a night in Pamplona. In the next few weeks, my bonus will post allowing me to book another night in Pamplona (10,000 points) as well as a night at the Crowne Plaza in Salzburg. (30,000 points)

    We are only spending 1 night in Salzburg because you can see everything in a day. Now, my routing skills came into play. I had accumulated some BA miles over the last few years and wanted to use them for my trip. I know that from either Munich or Salzburg, I would need to route through London if I wanted to get to my next destination. So, this was the perfect spot for me to put London in my itinerary. By chance, there was 1 flight from Salzburg to London on the day I needed it. Otherwise, I would have simply booked a 3rd night in Munich. For $55.00, and 9,000 BA Avios, I booked 2 tickets from Salzburg to London Gatwick.

    When we land in London, we’ll take the Gatwick Express to Victoria. Our hotel will be a few more stops on the Piccadilly Line. (Green Park) Originally, I was going to use my Hilton points to stay at the Park Lane or Paddington and use Club Carlson points for Rome since their property is ideally located within a stone’s throw of Termini, where we can catch the subway. But, I have stayed at the Radisson Blu in Rome for a night a few years back on another trip. The area itself feels seedy and their showers are literally in the middle of the room in an attempt to be some quirky and modern place. With my wife, not a big deal for a night before catching a flight home. With my son, that’s not going to happen. So I had to caliber my plans a bit. Unfortunately, I now found myself needing more Club Carlson points as Rome redemptions are 50,000 per night and London redemptions are 70,000. I didn’t want to get another credit card, especially not with US Bank which is the financial institution that is the proprietor of their branded card. (Very difficult card to get for true churners even though it’s hardly worth it as of last January) I have accumulated Club Carlson points here and there for a few years because they seem to give them out like samples of Tide detergent. One of Club Carlson’s promos is called Megapoints. For every night that you spend at these specialized properties, you will get 10,000 bonus points per night, per room. There happens to be a property in Addison, TX that has a good proximity to my Dallas office. I also did a status match with them which upped my elite tier to Gold. That gives me 27 points per $1 spent. I also get 1,000 points for booking my reservation through their app. Currently, I have 116,000+ points. As London has many options, I have 9.5 months to get to the balance. I have a few trips to Dallas booked where I am staying there for multiple nights. 2 of those trips are before October 31, which means that I will earn 3X or 2X my normal points on another promo depending on the day of the week that I check in. (See what I mean about “Tide”?) I should have this shored up by the end of the year. I will use these points to book the Mayfair Hotel in the Mayfair area of London. Rather than take the Heathrow Express on the way back, we have enough time to take the Piccadilly Line all the way to Heathrow to catch our flight to Rome. The flight was $55.00 + 9,000 BA Avios for 2 tickets.

    When we land in Rome, I’m going to pre-book car service. (I’ve found that CabForce is a good international choice for this if you don’t want to deal with Uber or Taxi pitfalls abroad) I could book the Leonardo Express to Termini, or the Terravision bus for even cheaper, but I want to go straight to the hotel after a day of travel. As mentioned above, we have 3 nights at the Waldorf. The Waldorf is on the outskirts of Rome so we’re pretty much bound by taxis or the free shuttle that they offer. This was a compromise for getting a better hotel that was obtainable. But, Rome is such a walkable city, and the metro is across from where the shuttle drops off and picks you up, that it seems pretty inconsequential. I’ve been to Rome enough times to know that I need to book my Vatican tickets in advance and the tricks of the trade for the Colosseum. On the way to the airport, we’ll do the shuttle, get to Termini and take the Terravision bus to the airport to catch our flight at 3:20 PM.

    From there, it’s on to Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls. I know that Iberia is my carrier if I want to use AA or BA points because they are an alliance partner. But, I also know that I am going to have to change planes in Madrid, which will attribute to 2 award redemptions. After searching a bit, I found out that it would cost me $128.00 + 18,000 BA points to book this leg. I didn’t have enough BA Avios to do that. It would be 25,000 AA miles for the same trip. That is a little steep. So I did a search on Kayak and found that I could book 2 tickets for a total of $287.28. To me, that was a much better value. So, I booked the traditional way and set BA as my earnings partner as I have no use for Iberia Avios. I will actually earn something tangible for this trip.

    The Holiday Inn that we are staying at in Pamplona has an airport shuttle. They also have a shuttle to downtown that they run constantly during the Festival de San Fermin. So we’re covered for getting to and from the bull run. As our next leg is to go to Madrid, I am debating the best way to tackle it. I would really prefer to take the train since we are so flight heavy on this trip. However, in order to catch the train, we would need to bring our luggage with us on the shuttle to see the bull run on our final morning. Otherwise, we would need to double back to the hotel to grab our stuff and then go back downtown to get to the train station. We could simply take the shuttle, do the run, take the shuttle back to the hotel, grab our stuff and take the shuttle to the airport. That seems like a much simpler solution. But, I’m heavily leaning towards the train, which has its own issues as I’m sure that it will be full and it doesn’t run frequently enough. So I am going to wait and see what are options are when the dates open up, which should be 3 months prior to the trip. As a failsafe, I will probably book flights on BA just to grab the seats and cancel if it looks good. It will cost me 9,000 BA Avios + $10.00 for 2 tickets. (I’d lose the $10.00 but get my Avios back if I cancel) As mentioned before, I have one night in Pamplona booked and I will book the 2nd night once my bonus points post.

    In Madrid, I am debating between the Hotel Indigo (35,000 points per night), which is a decent hotel in a good location, or the Intercontinental (40,000 points per night), which is a luxury hotel that isn’t as convenient. I have several stays at IHG properties using my card coming up as well as a few promos that I’m taking advantage of to get the points that I will be short on. So I probably won’t have this shored up until early next year unless I have some unexpected business travel pop up. (Which always seems to happen) After my 60,000 bonus, I will have a 20,000 point boost after booking the extra night in Pamplona and the night in Salzburg.

    Lastly, we need to get home. All the AA flight had a change and I know that Iberia flies MAD-JFK direct. Unfortunately, AA will allow you to use your miles to book on Iberia but doesn’t show their flights. So you have to search on another partner’s award engine such as BA or Qantas. I found that there were 2 seats from MAD-JFK in Coach and plenty of Business Class available. (They don’t have 1st Class) So I went ahead and grabbed the seats for 60,000 AA miles. 50,000 of these were from the Citi AA card. I had another 30,000+ laying around from Rocketmiles.com bookings and a previous canceled trip. (Had to cancel Istanbul and Athens from London as they got bomb and coup happy during my scheduled time) By the end of October, I will have enough miles to upgrade both tickets to Business class. (An additional 40,000 miles needed on top of the 60,000 I’ve already spent) So we’re stuck in Coach on the outbound but will at least get to relax a bit coming back provided that the flights are still available. Not as ideal, but whatever. I can suck it up for a few hours.

    So that is the anatomy of how to book a trip. In order to do it, I had to obtain the UA, IHG and AA personal cards. I already had the Citi Hilton Reserve but it contributed heavily as well. I booked well in advance because we had a specific timeframe to take this trip that we had to hit for a myriad of reasons. (Mainly, my work schedule, his school schedule and getting him ready to go to college) By booking early, I was able to get the most efficient flights for our trip. The only part that I’m sweating a bit is that extra night in Pamplona as IHG can pull the plug at any time and realize that they could ask 5X the amount that they are for a points redemption and people would still do it. But, I monitor things bi-weekly and it doesn’t seem to be an issue for us. If anything, we’d add another night in Madrid and I would caliber my strategy there. (Most likely, 2 nights at the Indigo/IC and 1 night at the airport Hilton to catch our flight the next day).

    I’ve done a run-down of cost, including all transportation/transfers/trains/planes/automobiles. The whole thing will run me $1,328.14 when it’s all said and done + food, which is a controllable cost. This includes 6 flights, 2 trains, a Porsche rental in Munich to drive the Autobahn to Castle Neuschwanstein, all airport transfers, metro cards/inner-city train tickets, site entrance fares and 13 nights at some pretty nice hotels. (Well, at least 11 as the Holiday Inn won’t exactly have bottle service) That’s not too bad for a 2 week European excursion.

  • #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4th and 5 View Post
    Not so fast my friend
    Ah, the student has become the master.

    I don't have that luxury so I don't mess around with the rotating categories sans using certain cards to pay for gas, cell, cable, etc. to get the juice. Plus, I have 4 more months before I can get another Chase card beyond the Ink.

    Very well done my man!

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