Monday, January 23, 2017

AT&T's new International Day Pass

AT&T announced a new international roaming option today called International Day Pass. Long story short: it's probably not worth it. I was really hoping that they'd overhaul their plans to include free 2G data like T-mobile, and then have something like this day pass to get 24 hours of high-speed internet. Or perhaps keep their existing passport plans and simply say "your speed drops to 2G once you've used up all your plan megabytes.

  • You pay $10 per day, per device to access the data pool in your US plan, so you're still chewing through your megabytes back home while you roam
  • At that pricing, a two-week vacation for two people is a $280 supplement on top of your bill
  • As friends pointed out me, though, this might be a great plan if you're traveling alone on a short trip, and you're a heavy user on an unlimited plan back in the US
  • Renting a Mi-Fi in most countries is $5 a day and you can share that data with your travel companions
  • There are further terms and conditions which limit your total international data per month and may require you to view down-sampled video 
  • Recently more and more smartphones are being sold without carrier locks, so it's much easier to rent a local SIM card for mobile data while traveling.
  • T-Mobile's plans allow for free 2G roaming, which is usually good enough to look something up when you're away from Wi-Fi. I've used it in England, Scotland, Taiwan, Korea, and the Philippines and have only really had trouble on Boracay, but that appeared to be primarily because of poor cellular coverage in general. 


My tips for cellular roaming abroad


Thursday, January 12, 2017

JetBlue makes streaming Wi-Fi free for everyone

JetBlue was a little late to the in-flight Wi-Fi game – early on they said that they were waiting for the much faster second-generation options to become available. I also think they expected their DirecTV to tide people over while they waited.

I've used their "Fly-Fi" internet on many of their flights and it's fast and free – like 10x faster than the GoGo option that most other carriers have but it still didn't allow you to stream video. For that they offered an un-throttled paid Wi-Fi option that was fast enough to stream Netflix, Hulu, and the like.

Well, JetBlue put out a big press release yesterday that seems very oddly-worded, so allow me to rephrase it: JetBlue now offers streaming-speed Wi-Fi for free on all of their flights. The pay option is gone. This might completely change what I watch on board...

They also made a point to mention that it works even when the plane is on the ground, which is nice considering how crummy my reception often is on many airport tarmacs. But due to this bug, I'd avoid using this new feature for now. 

JetBlue now has DirecTV at every seat AND free streaming-speed Wi-Fi

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Finally found a way to earn bonus points at Amazon.com

I'm not a huge Amazon customer mostly because I try to buy as much as I can from the amazing Essex Market near my house. It's a slice of old school New York that's still hanging on and I want it to be around forever. But there are lots of times when I need something they don't carry, and since I have zero loyalty to the dozen local Walgreens I could walk to, I'll buy online.

One of the nice parts of buying online is that you can use shopping portals to get airline points from your purchases on top of whatever points your credit card gives you for the purchase. The EV Reward website lets you comparison shop which portal is offering the highest bonus for a given merchant. It may seem small, but it adds up – last year I earned 50,000+ points with shopping portal bonuses.
EV Reward results for Macy's (click to enlarge) 

Unfortunately Amazon.com basically never partners with any of these portals (I'm guessing they want you to use their own Amazon credit card if you want rewards). But there are those times when Amazon's price and availability means that zero bonus is still the best option.

Recently, though, JetBlue announced that they're offering 3x points per dollar when you shop on Amazon via their affiliate link. To get your JetBlue bonus points:

  • Log in to your TrueBlue account, 
  • go to the TrueBlue home screen if you're not already there,
  • click Our Partners, 
  • then Amazon, 
  • then Click Shop and Earn

This passes a unique token to Amazon so you get your JetBlue bonus for your purchase. The token expires after 24 hours and you'll have to repeat the process if you want to buy more. It doesn't work for their mobile app.






Monday, January 9, 2017

I just converted my Virgin points to Alaska points...

Alaska's buyout of Virgin became official last year. The two airlines slowly merging operations and we've reached the point where you can transfer your Virgin points to Alaska points. Each Virgin point will get you 1.3 Alaska points. Make sure you have your logins for both programs and then head here.

Once I clicked Confirm, it took about 10 minutes for the transfer to complete. There's also some talk over at The Points Guy that some people are getting 10,000 point bonuses as part of the points plan merger (that's not happened for me yet, though).

They're also reporting that you can now redeem Alaska miles for Virgin America flights...

UPDATE: and there's now a page (log in to your Alaska account before you click) where you can link your Alaska account to your Virgin one so if you have Elite status on one, you'll have status on the other.



AARP

I'm in my mid-40s and that's about the time junk mail starts showing up encouraging you to join the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

EEEK! 😜
My first reaction was always to scream and rip the letter up and throw it into the trash. Well, it seems that in recent years they've drifted away from identifying as an association for old people and are much more like a buyers' club – like the AAA (American Automobile Association). I have to admit, I actually joined largely because they have a standing offer of $400 off British Airways Business and First Class flights. Yes, I'll happily slay my silly youthful pride for $800 off a trip for two of to England.


As I've been planning our trip to Hawaii, I've found that having an AARP card also managed to knock $40 a night off of the hotel we wanted to stay at in Honolulu, and around $40 off the cost of our car rental in Kona. Considering a one-year membership costs $16, it's more than paid for itself just on the Hawaii trip. There doesn't appear to be any age limit for joining, so take a look at the vast list of discounts they offer and see if you think it's worth it.

One hotel stay paid for our membership several times over!