Showing posts from 2018

Don't pay in US Dollars

As part of our spring trip to Warsaw, we're heading to Israel. Yes, Israel. It's a 3.5 hour flight and several carriers offer direct service. Given Warsaw's history and dynamic economy, their airports offer a really unique list of destinations with direct service. (The list gets even more interesting if you add in Ryanair's terminal at Modlin, 35km outside the city.)

After looking over the prices, schedules, and amenities of the options, we decided to fly Polish low cost carrier Wizzair. During the final checkout page I noticed that there were two buttons: one to pay in Złoty, the other to pay in US Dollars. A quick check on Google revealed that I'd be paying nearly $30 extra if I did the latter. (I've since checked my credit card online to verify the savings).

I paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve because it has no foreign transaction fees (FTFs), earns 3x points for travel, and has excellent travel insurance. If I'd used a credit card with FTFs, the ≈3% c…

Amazon is ending their TrueBlue partnership

JetBlue has a great 3x shopping portal bonus with Amazon. None of the other airline shopping portals partners with Amazon, so this is a unique partnership that I use whenever I shop on Amazon.

Unfortunately, I got an email today saying that the only Amazon purchases that will qualify are those made in the air while connected to JetBlue's FlyFi in flight Wi-Fi. So for nearly all intents and purposes, this program is over.

American Express is ending their OPEN program

Doctor of Credit just reported that American Express is ending their OPEN business savings program effective June 1st 2018. This is a big one for me because I use the OPEN program to earn heaps bonus points and cashback for my company's FedEx shipments. I currently have a Business Rewards Gold card and without the bonus points, the card no longer justifies its annual fee. There's some vague wording about future Amex offers, but the only ones I've ever seen are for in-store purchases, not for actual shipping costs.

Not quite sure what I should do instead. I looked at both Visa and Mastercard's business rewards programs and only DHL participates (no FedEx or UPS). If anyone knows of a good card with a shipping category bonus, give me a shout!

Don't be a travel douche

You don't have to fly much to witness people behaving badly in airports, airplanes, or on social media. Based on some of the crap I've seen, here's a few tips to help you avoid being a travel douche. (Please feel free to send me any additions you might have!)

If you're sitting in the front of the plane and you refer to people in coach as "plebs" or "the unwashed masses" or something similar, just stop here and go throw yourself down a flight of stairs. Repeat if necessary.

Don't ever say "Do you know who I am?" to airline staff. Since you're at JFK and not at Teterboro getting on your personal Gulf Stream jet, maybe take it down a notch or else I'll throw you down a flight of stairs myself.

Do you really need to check-in on social media at the airport,
then again in the First Class lounge at the airport,
and then again on the actual flight,
then again at your destination?
Girl, ONCE. At most.

I once saw a passenger in the First Cl…

Did ANA raise their award co-pays?

UPDATE March 2018: I have my answer. ANA's fuel surcharge is tied to the Singapore Kerosene (i.e., jet fuel) price index and that's been quite high lately.

I've been doing a bunch of test bookings for a friend and it seems like ANA has recently raised the price of the co-pays on their award tickets. Low and Regular season Economy tickets now have co-pays around the US$250 mark. When I search for itineraries similar to those in receipts I have from previous bookings, the prices are $100 higher than a year+ ago. 
Low vs. Regular season are both now $250Partner redemptions (e.g., United) are also in the $250 range, and also show a $100 increaseJFK to Haneda and Narita are both $250Booking onward to another city (e.g., booking JFK to Okayama via Tokyo) is $250 In other words, there's no trick I can find to get around these new fees. I've been scouring the various forms and haven't found any information or announcements about the increase. This significantly devalue…

First sighting of this year's Business Class fare deals to Europe

As I've written about before, many airlines offer Business Class fare deals between the US and Europe during the summer when business-related travel is low and vacation travel is at its peak.

We really want to attend a college friend's 50th Birthday party this summer in Poland, so I've had SkyScanner and Google Flights tracking fares and emailing me with any deals that show up. Based on previous years, I was expecting to actually purchase the flight sometime in April, but I got an alert last night (mid February!) that Singapore Airlines has a great deal on their direct service from New York to Frankfurt – many dates around or below the $2000 mark! Keep in mind that an Economy ticket on the same flight is currently $1578 (and competing airlines' flights are all north of $1400).

I bought our tickets with my Chase Sapphire Reserve, and as with my SAS flight last summer, I'll earn $300-ish worth of Chase and United points for this flight, bringing the effective price…

Testing out modern merino wool: can it lighten your load?

Lately my social media feed has been full of ads for high-tech Merino wool clothes. I'd honestly just ignored them until our last trip to Japan. The biking leg of that trip meant that there was very little room for clothing beyond our cycling gear. So when one of these wool ads promised shirts, socks, and underwear that only need to be washed every couple of weeks, I was intrigued, skeptical, and a bit grossed out all at once. The lure of all that extra space in my bags was too much to ignore so I decided to buy several different pieces and test them out at home and on our recent trip to Mexico.
👕 Shirts  Short answer: enthusiastic YES

While I do love a suitcase full of cute shirts, I feel like some combination of Steve Jobs' fashion, millennial "normcore", and the recent minimalism fad have made it absolutely fine to wear the same look every day, provided it's clean and not stinky. Since shirts comprise a fairly large percentage of my suitcase when I travel, …

10 signs you fly too much

AKA, you might be a jaded old queen if:

You're in First Class, you're neither sick nor hungover, and you decide not to drink even though it's free because, y'know, you're not in the mood for a drink. And because a couple of free $3 bottles of Tanqueray shouldn't make you as excited as August Gloop on the chocolate factory tour.
You don't bother opening the onboard amenity kit because you have half a dozen of them sitting in a box at home, you've got all your preferred products in your carry-on already, and under most circumstances no one really appreciates a gift of "Here's the travel kit from a trip you didn't go on, in a class of service you'll probably never get to fly… Enjoy!"You're in First and you skip a free onboard meal because you're not hungry (or you're trying to manage your jetlag). Because nearly all airplane food – even in First – is basically just hospital food on better plates. (OK, ANA First is probably t…

What do do with your amenity kits

Long haul First and Business Class flights usually come with an amenity kit – a cute case with toiletries and things you might need while on-board. The first time I ever flew First was back around 2000 when a points broker friend got us onto the old legendary Lufthansa First (the one with the fresh-cut rose in your seat's integrated bud vase!). I saved the amenity kit from that flight for years!

When I finally took my second trip in the front of the plane nearly a decade later, I saved that kit too because it was cool and shiny and reminded me of my trip! Well, if you get good at the points game and don't control your hoarding instincts you can end up with a ton of these things. (Yes, I realize this is quite possibly the most first world problem on earth).

Here are some things you can do with them:
0. Leave them on the plane, preferably unopened If they're still sealed, the airline can just reuse them. You've probably already got your own preferred brand of all of tho…

Yelp cashback

I pretty much despise Yelp. They have a shady history of shaking down businesses to force them to purchase ads in exchange for removing bad reviews and un-hiding good ones. I also dislike the whiny, entitled princess culture it's evoked from much of the dining public. So I can't believe I'm sitting here about to shill something they're doing but here goes... Yelp cashback has finally given me something I've been unsuccessfully trying to get for years: a way to get a bonus on discount liquor purchases.

Yes, I realize that in other parts of the country there are good options for scoring points and cashback on liquor. Yes, there are lots of ways to get points/cashback for high-markup liquor purchases (Drizzly liquor delivery, for example). But I'm not going schlep halfway across town or pay 25+% more money for a bottle of liquor just so I can get 3x points.

No, what I was hoping for was a card with a category bonus so I could make 2 or 3x points at the discount l…

2017 Points Roundup

Looking back on 2017, the travels we got to take were truly the bright spots in a pretty depressing year. It also makes me grateful for the health and prosperity that allows us to travel. I started this blog in 2013 largely because I wanted to share the knowledge I'd gained about traveling for less (well, and also as a hedge against my own senility – I seriously forget the details of how we did some of these trips and this gives me a place to look that up!)
The most common question I get from people is "yes yes, but how are you making all of those miles?" Here's a breakdown of where my points came from this year: Total: ≈ 408,000 pointsGiven that I was above 5/24 for most of the year, I only got one credit card signup bonus, 40,000 for an SPG Amex (including my referral bonuses)Spending on my Chase Sapphire was 87,000 (90% of my spending was in their bonus categories of Dining and Travel) Work and personal Amex Spending was 182,000 (39,000 of which was Amex Of…

Tattoos in Japanese Baths

"Is it true that I can't go to the hot springs with a tattoo?"

I hear this question quite a bit from friends making their first visit to Japan. The short answer: yes, it's official policy many places to bar tattooed people from entering public bathing facilities. But there are lots of ways around this. (Baths are called "onsen" or "sento" in Japanese).
Background The official reason given for the ban is that Japanese mafia (Yakuza) have tattoos and bath owners don't want that crowd scaring off their normal clientele. I'm sure that is/was true some places, but more often than not it's a convenient cover story for xenophobia. Many baths have signage that's only in Japanese, yet oddly the "No Tattoos" sign is always in English, y'know, because so many Yakuza can't speak Japanese 🤔. I've even had an attendant try to kick me out because "no tattoo! no tattoo!" so I dropped my towel, did a little pirouet…