Showing posts from April, 2019

What I learned helping a friend get to Japan (pt 1)

I started this blog because I wanted to help people travel. It's turned out to be a great crutch against my senility, too, but first and foremost I like helping people check things off their bucket lists. A good friend of mine – let's call him Jim – returned from his first visit to Japan in 2016 eager to return "in a couple of years". He asked me for help, and I feel like there were some great lessons for everyone that we learned along the way.
Background Like many millennials, he's got crushing student loan debt and is early in his career so he's not too flush with cash (nor does he have a trust fund or wealthy parents). He does, however, have great credit (above 750), a stable job, and a good credit history with a Chase Freedom card.
Getting to Japan One of the very sweetest spots in the world of airline points is the All Nippon Airways (ANA) reward chart – in low season you can fly round-trip in Economy from the US to Japan for 40,000 miles – nearly half…

Chase FINALLY has a transfer bonus!

Great news today! Chase announced a 30% bonus when you transfer Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways Avios points.Historically, Amex has these kinds of bonuses a few times a year, and they can dramatically increase the value of your Membership Rewards points.

Since we know that Avios points are near-useless for flights to the UK, due to their criminally-high surcharges, what ARE they good for?

Last-minute/direct domestic flights in all classes This bonus would have saved me a bundle when I booked a last minute flight from NYC to Louisville, Kentucky on their partner, American Airlines. The cheapest direct flight I could find was $735, and all I'd have needed for a points reward was 11,000 Amex points – bringing the value of my Amex points to well over 6¢ each. Furthermore, doing a partner reward on American Airlines via British Airways lets you avoid American's annoying $75 "close-in" fee when you book a flight that's fewer than 21 days away. I've p…

Noo! Capers Market PDX is leaving Priority Pass

Priority Pass (PP) is a membership club that grants you access to a worldwide network of airport lounges. Several of the most popular credit cards (Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve) include Priority Pass memberships as part of their annual fee. This caused many lounges to become overcrowded, so PP added a new option – dining credits at select airport restaurants.

I've written about my own experience using these credits at Portland International Airport's (PDX) Capers Market. It's a great perk, and I take advantage of it every time I'm back at PDX visiting friends and family.

Honestly, though, I’d been wondering about the economics of it all after my last visit. I saw a couple with a basket full of stuff at the check out, and they each had two PP cards that they proceeded to max out. They were joking with each other that if they had more room in their carry on bags they would have used the guest benefit on each of them and gotten double their alrea…

Sweet! one of our Amex cards got targeted for the ApplePay offer

Apple and Amex currently have a targeted promo where you can earn up to 1000 bonus points just by using ApplePay. I figured that we wouldn't be targeted since we're avid users of it already, but I logged in to our Amex accounts did a quick scan of the Amex Offers section and one of our cards actually had it. We added the offer the card and this well end up being an easy 1000 points given how often we use ApplePay.

I periodically check my Amex Offers list because it's a great way to rack up some big bonus points – in 2018 I made 42,000 points from them, and 39,000 in 2017.

JetBlue's big European announcement!

UPDATE: they've officially announced the A321-LR with London as the destination starting in 2021!

As I expected, details are scant. Seth Miller has a live Twitter feed with lots of good images and quotes.
All the travel blogosphere has been waiting for JetBlue's "big announcement" today. While there was no official word from JetBlue about the topic of the announcement, they cheekily included a London Underground seat fabric pattern in the background to drive heaps of speculation that it's about new transatlantic service. They've been teasing this for years, and this really does seem like the "put up or shut up" moment for it. While the announcement won't happen for a few more hours, their cakemaker's Instagram post seems to indicate London and Paris are the first destinations.

While a lot of folks have dreamed of having a new and exciting (and hopefully more valuable) way to redeem their fixed-value TrueBlue points, JetBlue silently devalu…

Warning: Do not refill your Uber Cash balance abroad

During our month in Mexico City, I refilled my Uber Cash balance several times. Now that I'm back in the states, my Uber Cash balance has two entries: one for US Dollars, and one for Mexican Pesos. For the life of me I cannot seem to make Uber spend any of those Pesos for trips here in NYC.

I just finished speaking with Uber customer service and they confirmed for me that this is, in fact, the expected behavior – the virtual purse of Pesos is accessible only when I'm in Mexico. Given the way that Uber Cash works, it's nearly impossible to ever empty the balance down to zero. So if you travel abroad and use Uber Cash, I guess you'll just eventually accumulate a bunch of virtual foreign currency that Uber will hold on to indefinitely. If you'd like to avoid that situation, select a payment method other than Uber Cash when you pay for trips in other countries.