Monday, March 31, 2014

15100 pts for a 2 night stay using Hilton AMEX

I recently stayed a weekend in Amherst, NY and wanted to stay close to the University at Buffalo campus.  The Doubletree is a newer hotel on the strip so I gave it a shot.  I have the Citi and AMEX no fee Hilton cards and needed to decide which was the better card to use.  The Citi gives 6 pts per $ but the AMEX gives 7 pts per $.  No brainer-- I book with the AMEX.  I looked at my statement today and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I received an additional 500 bonus pts for booking with the AMEX.  Score!

I had also forgotten that I signed up for the Hilton Weekend Promo!  Which gives a bonus 1000 pts per night and 5000 pts per weekend stay of 2 nights or more.  7000 pts total!

I'm Hilton Gold, so I opted for the 1000 miles vs breakfast (Buffalo Wings for breakfast!), and also double dipping with points on points (as opposed to airline miles).  Here's how my 2 night stay broke down.

2 night stay cost $270.30
Hilton AMEX 7x= 1892 pts (not posted yet)
Doubletree Gold member benefit= 1000 pts (not posted yet)
Hilton Base Pts= 2703 pts
50% bonus pts= 1351 pts
Gold VIP 25% bonus pts= 675 pts
AMEX Co Brand Online Booking Bonus= 500 pts
Weekend Promo= 7000 pts

Total= 15,121 HHonors pts!  Not too shabby since most free rooms cost about 30-35k pts-- I value 15,000 pts to roughly $80 in value.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Barclays Arrival Card- My New Addiction

It has been almost 6 months since my last round of applications and I've been itching to get a new card in the door.  I took a look at what was out there and settled with the Barclays Arrival Mastercard-- jusssst days before they raised the minimum spending from $1000 to $3000 to get the bonus.

There are some nifty features of this card

-Spend $3000 in 3 months and get 40,000 miles (equivalent to $400 in travel or $200 cash back)
-2x "miles" on all purchases
-10% miles rebates on all travel redemptions
-Free FICO scores monitoring
-Tripit Pro membership
-Barclays Travel Community
-$89 annual fee, waived first year
-No foreign transaction fee

The card itself is lukewarm at best without any transfer partners.  The value of your miles is topped out at 2.2 cents per $ when used for travel.  I thought the FICO score monitoring was interesting and 2 miles on all purchases was useful for non-bonus category spend on other cards.  The feature that really got my attention was the Barclays Travel Community.

As a member of the Barclays Travel Community (free), you can link your Barclays card (also free) and earn participation miles for posting travel stories.  The points you earn on the Travel Community transfer to your Barclays Arrival account at a 1:1 ratio.  SWEET!

-500 miles for completing a profile
-200 miles for each unique travel story with a photo (50 words min)
-10 miles when you receive a kudos for your story (similar to a Facebook like)

50 words is not a lot, and there are no real guidelines about what you can write about--- so this is very very easy to do!  In the three days that I've been a member, I've managed to rack up more than 3300 miles.  That's the equivalent of $1600 of spend!  I can easily see myself topping 100k miles this year (500 stories or 1.4 stories a day), if not more-- making this a top candidate for top rewarding cards of the decade!  Definitely jump on this feature while it's still around!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Annual Fee is Due!

My wife is always curious why I'm always on the phone with credit card companies.  No, it's not because the collection agency is after me... it's because the annual fees are due!  

It's tough to manage all these card signups and card closures but I do keep a spreadsheet handy and have calendar reminders so I don't let these important dates pass me by.  Closing a card can be just as lucrative as opening a card as long as you are courteous on the phone and have a proven track record with the company.  

A calendar reminder popped up today-- "CANCEL US Airways MC/Citi AAdvantage cards"".   I kinda patted myself on the back because I haven't used those cards since I finished the spend requirements 11 months ago and I would've certainly let the annual fees hit if not for the reminder.  I did a little research on Flyertalk before I made the calls to each card company.  Barclays is notorious for being stingy with points and retaining customers so I wasn't expecting anything for cancelling the US Airways card.  However, there was a lot of chatter of different offers available for the Citi AAdvantage card so I was optimistic with this call!  

Result:  US Airways, phone call lasted 4 mins and 10 seconds.  Thanks for being a customer, we'll close your account as requested.  Good bye.

Result: Citi AAdvantage, phone call lasted 9 mins and 56 seconds.  Don't cancel!  We'll give you a $95 statement credit and in addition, we'll give you 1000 bonus pts when you spent $1000 EACH billing cycle for the next 16 billing cycles.  Just say yes when you hear the following disclosures and you're all set.  

BOOM!  I update my spreadsheet and calendar reminders-- no need to worry about the annual fee for another year but more interestingly I'm now going to shift all of my non bonus category expenses (up to $1000 each month) from my AMEX SPG card to the Citi AAdvantage card.  There really is no easier way to earn AA miles outside of flying and shopping on their portal (2miles/$1).  This offer is worth a total of 16,000 bonus miles.  Not too shabby for 10 mins of my time.

2013 Past Results:
Chase Freedom- 10,000 UR pts
Chase Ink Bold- $100 + 10,000 UR Pts
Chase Ink Plus- 7,500 UR Pts
Chase Sapphire Preferred- 10,000 UR Pts
British Airways- 10,000 BA Miles
United MileagePlus Club- CLOSED
SPG Personal- CLOSED

Monday, February 3, 2014

SPG Take a Spin Sweepstakes

Online instant win games are always fun.  It gives me the same pleasure of a scratch off lottery ticket but it comes with no risk.  SPG teamed with Caesars to promote their new partnership with their daily Take a Spin sweepstakes.  Just visit, enter your SPG membership number and spin away.  Yay!  You can spin daily until 2/7/14 for a chance to win a few daily prizes or a free trip to Vegas!  I took a whirl this morning and won 2500 SPG pts (worth $62)!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Booking a Rental Car @ MCO

The last post was to introduce you to a few ways on how to search for cheap airfare.  This post tackles the annoying question on how to get a cheap car rental!  The process isn't very fun and most of the time I just give up and pay for the cheapest thing I can find within a 15 min window.  Here's my thought process when I travel domestically.

1) Can I take public transportation from the airport and within the city?  If yes, then I'll do a short cost benefit analysis and determine if it's worth renting a car.  For cities like Las Vegas (surprise!), Chicago and San Francisco-- I skip the car rental process.  Orlando is a little sprawled out so car rental is a must.
2) Is there a Zipcar/car share program by the hotel and are taxi's common?  If yes, then I'll plan out my itinerary before I decide if its worth it to rent a car.  For a city like New Orleans, you don't need a car at all-- just cab it to the French Quarter and everything is within walking distance.  For a city like Portland, Zipcars are all over the place.  I only needed a car get out to the Mt Hood region so a one day Zipcar rental was much cheaper than getting a week long rental.
3) If I absolutely need to rent a car-- is it cheaper to pay or use points?  Here's where I'll spend most of the time on this post.

Paying for the car rental

The rule of thumb is that you can usually find a 20% off coupon or a free upgrade. A quick search on or does the trick but you can sometimes find even better coupons if you are part of WorkingAdvantage or other shopping portal.  I usually search the following sites:

-Travelzoo (Aggregate search for Travelocity, Hotwire, Priceline, etc)

In a city like Orlando, there are a lot of independent car rental companies which are sometimes 50% cheaper than the big rental companies.  I've had bad car rental experiences so I try to err on the safe side.

In this case, a standard sized sedan ranges from $260-$482 for the week at Expedia.

from $271-$462 for the week at Hotwire.

from $395-$462 for the week at Priceline.

Even Costco was $400 for the standard at Alamo. which I was surprised because I had saved more than $200 on a 15 passenger van rental in a previous trip.  

Redeeming points for the car rental

So-- I didn't like my $$ options for the car rental.  Even with a 20% off coupon, I'm looking at $320 for the week.  So I work my way through the Chase UR website and see how much it would cost to book travel through them.  To my surprise, not only was the rental CHEAPER if I booked with cash but with the Sapphire Preferred card, it came out to more than half off if I booked with points!

At this point, I'm pretty exhausted from doing my price comparison.  It didn't really matter if I book with points or book with cash but it does go to show that it PAYS to shop around before committing to any travel bookings.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New York to Orlando flight booking

I'm going on my family trip in August and want to book on the same flight as the rest of the family.  I have loads of points in AMEX MR, AA, BA, UA, US, Chase UR, SPG, etc--- but due to scheduling I'm only limited to the following UA flight (AA was the cheaper flight but I needed to fly together with my family).

Here's what I have in the bank. 2x $200 UA gift cards from my AMEX Platinum signup and more than a million UA points when you consider my UA mileageplus and Chase UR accts.

Option 1:  Pay $302 and use the $200 GC.  Result $102 plus 1876 miles.  Net outlay is about $83.  You can argue that I paid for the GC via my AMEX annual fee, if so the Net Outlay is $283.24
Option 2:  Book award travel through UA for 37,500 miles and $5.  No miles earned.  Net outlay is about $380
Option 3:  Book award travel through Chase UR.  Since I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, I get 20% off award bookings through their portal while also accruing miles.  This would cost 24,160 pts but I would also earn 1876 miles.  Net outlay is $222.84.

I will most likely go with Option 1 but if I had to book multiple tickets, then I would choose Option 3 when I run out of GC's.  I suppose you get 20% award bookings with a few other credit card programs (Citi, AMEX) but they are not UA transfer partners.  Sometimes I forget about this neat benefit with the Sapphire Preferred card so I thought you might find this useful!  

Free Miles on an Award Booking

Lucky miles post!

I recently booked a 7 flight roundtrip SE Asia trip in business class with my United miles.  I flew from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai with a short layover in Bangkok, then Chiang Mai to Bali with a 24 hour stopover in Singapore, then Bali back to Hong Kong with a short layover in Singapore.  It only cost me 35k miles and $50-- the paid fare would've cost over $6000.  =)

I was really happy with the booking since I was able to experience the different business class products, and check out all lounges, most notably the Krisflyer Gold Lounge in Changi.  It was only a couple extra hours in total flying time but totally worth it!  

I checked my United account today and found an extra 3000 miles that I wasn't expecting.  Turns out that they awarded me miles for the SQ award flights which shouldn't have happened.  Score!  I wonder how often this happens.  


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day dreaming w/ United's error fare

I'm not going to lie--- I felt like I won the jackpot yesterday.   If you haven't heard about it already-- see this blog post about yesterday's United error fare (AGAIN).   I managed to put in SEVEN reservations for next year.  Shoot, why wouldn't I?  United honored their mistakes last month, and the award change policies are pretty laxed if you have FF status (which I do).  The worst thing that could happen to me is that they cancel the fares, they wouldn't dare punish me.  Maybe they'll even grant me 1000 miles just to keep my mouth shut.  I don't know-- seemed like a no risk proposition for me.   So I booked them all for next September in hopes that I can make changes later and push them through to 2015.  

I couldn't stop day dreaming about these impromptu bookings.  As of this morning, United's stance on twitter is that they will NOT honor these fares.  Bummer.  There's still a part of me that's clinging on to the hope that these bookings might come through--I'll check my united account every now and then just to see if the reservations are still there (and they are).  I'm not going to whine if these reservations fall through, which they'll probably will be cancelled, but just imagine if ONE reservation falls through the cracks and I get to fly to Paris/Maui/Taipei/Seoul/St Thomas in 1A and 1B? Wow! What a dream come true!  I'll probably never fly another airline again!  The chances of this happening are slim to none,  a 1 in a billion chance--but that's not to say that it CAN'T happen.  One can dream no?  and THAT I'll continue to do...  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Moving on the CHEAP

Long time no see!

I haven't had much time to post anything ever since I got engaged-- planning is very time consuming! Through all the juggling of a thousand vendors, bills, personalities, coupons, etc--- I think I have quite some material to share with you all.  In the couple months, I've managed to throw a wedding with 300+ guests, plan for a honeymoon, renovate + move into a new apartment, and throw a bachelor party for my best friend.  All of that wasn't cheap, but I managed to get a good deal on almost everything-- not to mention accumulate thousands of points.  Mmmmm-- we can't wait to spend THOSE points. =)

One of the discounts I got most excited about was my moving van rental.  I was on a deadline 2 weeks before my wedding so there wasn't much time to shop around.  Movers were in the $300-500 range, Hertz Rentals were about $50 + Gas and Mileage-- I had a wedding to pay for so I went deal hunting.  

I remembered that I had a Zipcar membership through my former employer so I logged in to check prices-- and voila! BUSINESS DISCOUNT.  Apparently Zipcar now has time shared vans for rental.  The rates are the exactly the same as regular Zipcars.  Daytime weekday rates are $79 for 7am-7pm.  Night-time weeknight rates are $39 for 7pm-830am.  The kicker?  The rental rate includes GAS AND MILEAGE.  180 miles to be exact.  Gas is a big deal since these vans are gas guzzlers.  At 106 miles averaging 10 mpg and $4/gallon for gas--- that's already $42 saved from gas OR paying only $4 for the van rental.  BOOYAH.  Granted moving at night is not fun-- but imagine how much TIME I saved by not being stuck in traffic?  106 miles back and forth between Brooklyn and Queens is not fun on a Saturday afternoon with the stop and go traffic-- but much more bearable on an free flowing weeknight.  

I was really happy with the decision to use Zipcar-- I was practically patting my own back the whole night and the entire week after.  So next time you plan a move.  Consider Zipvan!

Moving on the cheap!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Jetblue Points Don't Expire!

I admit that all these credit cards and loyalty programs can get a bit challenging at times. Juggling expiration dates, annual fees, bonus categories and elite status isn't always fun--- especially when you're planning a wedding. I've gone a step further to create a spreadsheet to calculate my points and miles "net worth" and keep my organized! I update the spreadsheet on a monthly basis and it includes points balances, any upcoming bonuses, elite status expiration and points expiration/last activity.

I'm pretty good with generating activity with most programs but Jetblue is always a bit tougher.  Points have expired on me several times over the years-- UGH.  Before today, the only way to generate activity was through flying with them or spending on their branded credit cards-- two things I don't really want to do if I don't have to.  Not anymore!  I received a welcome letter in my inbox today stating that points will not expire.  No asterisks.  No fine print.  That's welcome news for a point junkie like myself!

Below is a screenshot of the letter.


Friday, November 9, 2012

"Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding" Finale!

Happy Last Day of Voting!

Thanks to everyone who has supported "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding" campaign! First place or not, this has been an amazing journey. Mickey and I are happy that we were able to share our special moments with you! 
This video encapsulates all of our daily reminders either on Facebook, Email, Kinolist, Twitter, Blogger, etc. Some really great moments that I'm sure we're all going to look back on and laugh about. (Someone said I sound like Ernie?? lol)


P.S. don't forget to vote today!!==>

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!    

Our Traveling Gnomes were feeling festive and decided to setup the tree a little earlier this year!  (or maybe it never came down from last year...=X...)

These two little guys aren't asking for much.. all they ask is that you vote for "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding" today and tomorrow.. and to share it with your friends!  

Maybe Christmas comes early for us?  


There's only two days left in the contest!  


-t&m <3

click here to vote daily! -->

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Did this get your attention?  

This may be the first of many news articles...

The winner of the contest will also be part of Travelocity's 2013 marketing campaign!

There's only 3 days left to vote!



-t&m <3

click here to vote daily! -->

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Four days of voting left!

How many more days?  

Four days left to vote.

Our Traveling Gnome has searched high and low to find friends that will support our campaign.

He just found these four gnomes... how many will you find?



-t&m <3

Monday, November 5, 2012


I've been through so much the last couple weeks-- traveling to Hong Kong to gain my fiance's grandmothers approval for her hand in marriage-- flying back to NYC the same day that Hurricane Sandy hit-- dealing with no electricity/water/communications during the blackout-- and plenty more which I'll spare you the details!  

It's really a blessing to know that my friends and family are all safe and sound.. and to know that we'll all get through this.  To be honest, the contest had almost slipped my mind until a friend asked if I had won.  I realized that a countless number of friends and family have big campaigning for us while we were away.  I thank each and every one of you who have been so very supportive during these times.  and you know what...


It's finally dawned on me that there's a real possibility for us to win this contest!  So please please please-- lend us your hand once more and help campaign for "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding"!

The next five days will be crucial!  We'll need every vote that we can get.. every man woman and child (at least 14 yrs old =D).. your neighbor.. your postman.. the coffee stand guy.. you get the point!  Thank you all so much!  Our fingers are crossed!  VOTE GNOME WEDDING!  


-t&m <3

Monday, October 29, 2012

Thanks for supporting “Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding” Campaign!

Big thanks go out to everyone for have been so supportive with "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding" campaign!  We couldn't have gotten this far without you… from your daily voting, to your words of encouragement and even your own personal campaigns to get your friends to vote.  This has been such an amazing journey.  Mickey and I are so grateful to have such wonderful and caring people in our lives.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

So you may be thinking…now what? did they win?    

On November 5th, Travelocity will announce the Top Ten Finalists in the contest followed by a final voting period between November 5th and November 9th.  The contestant with the most votes during this final voting period will win the Grand Prize!

In the event that we are selected as a Top Ten Finalist, we will need to once again ask for your help.  This time will be different!  This time the world will be watching!  This time will be for all the cheese danishes!  Please ask your friends, ask your family, ask your neighbors, and if it’s possible, ask the mailman to vote.  We’ll need every vote possible for a chance at this once in a lifetime opportunity.  It's hard to stay grounded during these exciting times so forgive me for rambling.  Our fingers are crossed!  Good luck to us!


-t+m <3

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Day 25 of “Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding” Campaign! (LAST DAY)

This is it!
The final day of voting!
The polls close at midnight tonight!

What a contest it has been, we've clawed our way into the Top 7...
...and have competed with some really great videos!

Thank you everyone who has embarked on this amazing journey with us...
...stay tuned for results!

Please continue to support and vote daily for "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding"!  
Last day to vote!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 24 of “Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding” Campaign!

Our Traveling Gnome is in London in front of Big Ben...
...reminding you that there's still time to vote!

Please continue to support and vote daily for "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding"!  
1 day of voting to go!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Day 23 of “Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding” Campaign!

Time is running out!
Our Traveling Gnome is at the Astronomical Clock in Prague...

Please continue to support and vote daily for "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding"!  
2 days of voting to go!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day 22 of “Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding” Campaign!

That's how many more days we can vote!

Buddha's got the count wrong.

Please continue to support and vote daily for "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding"!  

3 days of voting to go!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 21 of “Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding” Campaign!

Do you remember reading about a vandal who defaced a £50 million Rothko painting?  
Our Traveling Gnome is wondering why the painting wasn't protected... 
...Imagine if something like that happened to the Mona Lisa?

Here's a picture of our Traveling Gnome making sure she's ok!

Please continue to support and vote daily for "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding"!  
4 days of voting to go!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 20 of “Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding” Campaign!

Did you know that the Grand Prize includes a voluntourism segment?  
Read more about Travelocity's Travel for Good program!

Here's a shot of Mickey with our Traveling Gnome on a voluntourism trip in Ghana!  

Please continue to support and vote daily for "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding"!  
5 days of voting to go!


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 19 of “Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding” Campaign!

Dear Friends and Family,
We have 6 days of voting to go.
Together we can do this!


Please continue to support and vote daily for "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding"!  


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 17 of “Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding” Campaign!

Happy Friday from St. Martins!

Please continue to support and vote daily for "Our Big Fat Gnome Wedding"!  

8 days of voting to go!