Showing posts from March, 2017

Beware hotel resort fees

During our recent trip to Hawaii, we found ourselves suddenly in need of a hotel in Kona. I fired up Kayak and Hotel Tonight and Hilton Waikoloa Village was the cheapest option. But once we arrived it became clear that quoted price of $256 was just the beginning.

The hotel has a mandatory $30 a day "Resort Fee" per room. For that $30 you get:

On top of the resort fee, you have to pay $30 a day for parking. Since it's on a private road there's literally no option to park in a public space and then walk to the hotel. The only parking lot is a full 20 minute walk from our room, so it's clear that you're supposed to spring for the valet option which costs even more. (And if you're not a complete cheapskate, you can also add in a tip for the valet each time s/he fetches the car for you as you come and go).

Now, given how far away your car is, you're also somewhat captive there, and they completely take advantage of this fact: a single, Don Julio silver m…

Trip Report: New York to Honolulu on Delta 495 JFK-HNL First Class

PROS Wi-Fi (with some freebies for T-mobile customers)Very competitive fare in First Lie-flat seatGreat serviceSurprisingly good food and bevPersonal air ventsConvenient time – leave JFK at 9am, land HNL at 3pm. Direct 10 hour flight
CONS Lots of vacationers = Noisy flightSeasonal, so both United and Hawaiian's prices jump up when service ends in mid-March
(NOTE: the return flight was nearly identical – crew, plane, and even a bunch of the passengers, so no need for a separate review. It's a redeye leaving HNL at 5pm and landing JFK at 9am. Menu from that flight is in the food section)
How I did it$1712 per-person round-trip. Details here, but the short story is that there's basically zero premium cabin award seats on this route, and none at the Saver level. I'll earn a total of ≈ 8,000 Delta miles and 7,000 American Express points for this flight (i.e., around $225 worth of points).
Boarding The gate agent was fantastic at managing the chaotic gaggle of gate lice in…

Next trip to Japan on ANA with Virgin Atlantic miles?

We love Japan and have been wanting to go back, but it's tough with American employer standards for annual vacation days 😜. At this point we're hoping for a couple of weeks in Autumn and I suuuure wouldn't mind repeating our ANA First Class flight! We're both fresh out of United miles, though, so that means we'd need to either:
transfer Chase points to United and do a partner redemption, ortransfer Amex points to ANA and redeem with them orsomething a bit more obscure... Well, looking through one of Reddit's travel forums today I was reminded of an option I'd completely forgotten about: Virgin Atlantic. Not only are their partner redemptions for ANA very reasonably-priced, Virgin can accept incoming transfers from both American Express AND Chase Sapphire. According to this link and this link, the transfers are instantaneous. Sadly, one-way rewards aren't permitted.

Apparently people are using to check individual dates for ANA availability …

jetBlue Plus MasterCard 10% point rebate is for primary cardholders only

One of the perks of the JetBlue Plus MasterCard is a 10% rebate any time you redeem JetBlue points for travel. My husband and I are in a family pool, and I'm a cardholder on his MasterCard account. I was looking at his points activity, and yep, his 1100 point Even More Space upgrade had a rebate a few weeks later called "B6 CoBrand Card Redemption Bonus".

A few months ago, I had redeemed 42,000 points for a trip but saw no such rebate. After a call to both JetBlue and Barclays I can confirm that only the primary cardholder gets the 10% rebate.☹️

UPDATE (Sept 2018): The primary cardholder also gets the 10% points rebate when they redeem for other people in their household account. The rebate doesn't happen until the flight is completed.

As I've mentioned before, we set up the family pooling with me as Head of Household, and that was a mistake. The customer service folks at JetBlue were very kind about helping me finally fix that mistake today, but they made sure to …

BEWARE: Deceptive advertising on American Express Travel's website

I have an American Express Premier Rewards Gold card which I often use for airfare because it has a 3x category bonus for airfare. Amex offers an additional point if you book your flight through their travel portal, giving you a total of 4 points per dollar spent on airfare. When I was booking our Hawaii trip, I noticed that one of the itineraries has this "Featured" box around it, indicating that I'd get 2x points (versus the normal 1x point, I thought). Imagine my surprise when the trip only earned the normal amount of miles...
Well, after a long and drawn out conversation with the staff at American Express, it's their position that the wording in this box does NOT mean 3x points + 2x points for 5x points. They stand firmly by the fact that I was only entitled to 4x points on this trip – the exact same amount I would have earned for a non-"featured itinerary". I was logged in as myself when I booked, so there's no excuse for singling out certain flig…

I'd forgotten all about those Plenti points!

With "gamification" being a huge buzzword across so many industries these past few years, it seems like nearly every business now offers some kind of rewards program. There's always a "time/effort versus payback" calculation with things so when I looked at American Express' Plenti program a couple of years ago, it definitely fell into the "not worth effort" column.

We do spend an ungodly amount of money on our AT&T cell phone bill, so I thought, "well, I'll sign up for Plenti and link the AT&T account and maybe 3 years from now I'll have enough points for a latte"… Fast forward to yesterday. I'm by a Rite Aid and think, "we're almost out of Tide" so I pop in there and the guy says, "would you like to pay with your Plenti points?" and, well:

My Tide and my Cascade were free! and I still have $30 left in my account. (Do note that you have to go to and sign up for their Wellness+ accou…

Signup for JetBlue double-base points

JetBlue announced a promo where you get double base points (base points also count toward Mosaic status). Register and book by March 23rd, fly by April 30th. Registration is required. If you're not already a member, they're currently running a 5000 point signup bonus. They also routinely have great fare sales like this one.

Amex polishes up their platinum card to compete with Chase Sapphire

Ever since the Chase Sapphire Reserve came out, people have been waiting for Amex to respond. A few months back they bumped up the airfare bonus on their Platinum card to 5 points per dollar, but we've all been expecting a bigger announcement to generate some actual word-of-mouth buzz among the travel nerd community.

Well, last night they announced their new Platinum card and the general response this morning has been, "Wait, really? Oh. Um... No."

The fee goes up $100 a year, but you get $200 a year in Uber driving credits now. As I've said many times, one of the things I love about the Chase Reserve card is how easy they make it to spend your annual travel credit and how refreshing it is compared to Amex's hokey requirements that seem designed to bamboozle you out of using them. The bamboozling continues with this new card:
Uber credits are only good in the USAYou get a $15 credit each month that expires at the end of that monthThe credit is aimed at attracting M…

Fantastic point transfer chart

Somehow I missed this amazing chart that's been floating around for a couple of years now!
It's a visualization of all of the airlines (grouped around the edges by alliance) and the transferable points programs in the middle. Lines connect the various programs so you can quickly see which points can go where. 
Somehow this manages to both make my head hurt AND clarify a complex tree all at once.
Here's the master post (scroll down after the click to view) Very cool!