Buy United Miles, Get A Bonus!

United Airlines is currently running a promotion on buying their miles and getting an extra bonus on top.  From now until September 29th, you can get up to 75% bonus on purchased miles.  Buy 5000 – 19,000 miles, you get a 25% bonus.  Buy 20,000 – 29,000 and get a 50% bonus.  Buy 30,000 – 85,000 and get a whopping 75% bonus.  Granted, its going to be expensive to buy these miles, but if you need to top off for an award ticket or two, I would go for it, as seats fill up fast for even next summer and beyond.  I have a friend who currently is looking to spend Spring Break in Amsterdam, and would like to experience the Keukenhof season, which begins on March 22nd, 2018.  Looking at availability on their website, there are flights available under the saver award levels, but they are going fast.  You can get 40,000 miles for applying for the Chase United Explorer card, and buy up the remaining miles, to get 60,000 miles, which is enough for a round trip ticket to Europe. You can also see if you are targeted for the 60,000 miles + $100 statement credit offer United is giving some of its Mileage Plus customers.  Log into your United account and see if the promotional 60K offer pops up for you.  However, if you need two tickets, then you will have to buy more miles, so price it out and make sure you aren’t paying more than what it would normally cost you to buy the ticket flat out.  It doesn’t always make sense to use miles in some cases.

Click HERE to view all the details and to purchase miles with the bonus.  Remember, you have until September 29th, 2017 to take advantage of the offer.

Award Ticket vs. Paid Ticket

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How to Use Hilton Points at Amazon.com

It looks like Hilton Honors is now letting giving its members the ability to pay for purchases at Amazon.com with points.  Check your emails, on instructions on how to link the two programs together, so you can start using points to pay for purchases at Amazon.  This adds to the long line of rewards programs from various cards, such as Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, Discover, and now Hilton Honors.  Having the flexibility to pay for purchases at Amazon with points from other programs is good, but you have to weigh in the advantages and disadvantages.  I personally, value Chase Ultimate Rewards, for redeeming for travel purchases, so I would never use them at Amazon.com for making purchases.  I would however, use my Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for making the actual purchases. This opportunity is nice if you are sitting on some Hilton points, and have no idea what to do with them, and would rather spend them on everyday purchases, that you would normally make at Amazon.

Now with that being said, Hilton Honors aren’t the greatest points to keep or hoard, as they have been devalued tremendously in the last couple years.  You need A LOT to stay in some of the nicest properties, such as The Conrad Rangali Maldives, or The Grand Wailea in Maui.  These require usually 75,000 to 95,000 PER NIGHT! …..ouch!  However, they do have some sweet spots, and if you are like me, sitting on a few tankers full of points, then I do NOT recommend blowing them on toilet paper, or selfie sticks at Amazon.  Redeem them for those magnificent properties that are category 8 or higher.

 

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Need a Passport Photo? Make Your Own!

Well its that time again when I need to renew my passport, and get passports for my girls. Of course, I could always head down to Costco to get them taken, but I have found its cheaper and easier actually to do it myself.  My kids just cant stand still, and they think they getting a shot at the doctors office for reason when I take them to Costco, or Walgreen’s.  A few years ago, the apps available were kinda testy, buggy, and not so friendly to use, but I found one in the Play Market that is pretty easy to use, and best of all, it was FREE.  I just snapped a photo in my upstairs room that has plenty of afternoon sunglight glaring in, against an off white wall, which made things easier.

Use this website idphoto4you.com  to make the final touches, and get them ready to be printed on 4 x 6 size.

Send them over to your favorite print center ( I chose Walgreen’s) and then cut the desired picture and attach it to the application.

Send your application via FedEX, UPS, or USPS Priority Mail, but with tracking. Make sure you dont send it without some form of tracking in case it gets lost in the mail.  After checking to see if your check got cashed, with your bank, check the status of your application at the State Dept website. In most cases, you should have it in 2 weeks, as I did.

Save yourself some money and try doing this yourself. Especially if you are doing multiple passports.  Every dime counts when you are trying to save up for a family holiday. You also have the option of doing it all yourself, with applications like Photoshop, like my friend Jon Khoo of Wanderlusty did.  Have you tried taking your passport all by yourself? Happy Travels.

 

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Spanish Low Cost Carrier Vueling to use Avios

It looks like another airline will be using Avios soon as its frequent flier program. Spanish carrier Vueling, which is based out of Barcelona will replace its current loyalty program, Punto, with Avios. This is turn will let Vueling Club members to receive bonus Avios points for flying on basic fares, or less restricted fare classes.  Furthermore, members will be eventually be able to use Avios points to redeem for the entire cost of a flight, as long as they have enough points to do so. This will include everything, including taxes. They now join British Airways, AerLingus, and Iberia, that use the currency.    I’m glad to see this, as this opens another avenue to take a low cost carrier in Europe and be able to use points that are available to members in the United States, such as myself.  Avios are pretty easy to get these days, considering there are credit card bonuses out there.  Having this flexibility is great, as it gives you more options to use when flying around Europe.  I am not familiar with Vueling, but with this news, it may be a good to know what to expect, and any other pertinent information, should I need to book an Avios ticket in Europe. Looks for these changes to occur in the next month or so.  Happy Travels.

 

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Delta Offering New Amenity Kits

Looks like after September 1st, Delta passengers flying in premium cabins will be offered the hard and soft cased TUMI kits. The kits will be available on all Delta One flights, including coast-to-coast flights between JFK and LAX/SFO, BOS-SFO and DCA-LAX, and will feature the hard- and soft-cased TUMI kits. The cool part is you can have them custom monogrammed for free at retail TUMI locations. Included inside will be a patch that will be required upon request to have them monogrammed. The new TUMI kits will include hand cleanser, mouthwash stick, TUMI eye shades, and updated striped socks, along with travel necessities such as lip balm by Kiehl’s, a dental kit with Crest toothpaste, tissues, and ear plugs. You can read more about it on Delta.com.

Customers flying in the Delta Premium Select cabin, will be gifted with the soft TUMI blue pouch, which includes Malin+Goetz lotion, a dental kit, eye mask, socks, and ear plugs.

You can read more about the TUMI kits and the refreshed changes at Delta.com. TUMI is undoubtedly awesome at making amenity kits, and I hope to book myself on one of these flights just to score one.  Let me now if you get one and what you think of it. Also let me now which amenity kit you like the best. Happy Travels.

 

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Use United Miles to get TSA Pre for 5 Years

United Airlines has come up with an offer for acquiring TSA Pre clearance for 10,000 United miles.  The deal is pretty simple, and includes pre-clearance at most airports, which could be useful during busy travel times.  The terms state the offer is available only to Mileage Plus members, with an account address in the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, or Guam.  You will be given a payment code which will cover the application fee.  Remember, if you have Global Entry, TSA Pre Check is included, so you don’t need to apply. If you are a Mileage Plus member, and interested in using 10,000 miles to get this, check out the link below.

LINK TO OFFER.

Honestly, I think to blow 10,000 miles on this offer is a waste, as I find better uses for those miles. I was lucky enough to be a card holder for the TraveElite card, which gives me FREE Global Entry.  I’m not going to put a price on the miles as they are as valuable as YOU see them. Some people find United miles worthless, as they are expensive to redeem on partner airlines, and some people find them as valuable as gold, as they may be used for a sweet spot redemption, such as Swiss, or Lufthansa, if the availability is there. Let me know if you think this is a good value.  Happy Travels.

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Singapore Airlines Failure at Special Meals

One of best experiences about flying on a world class carrier is the fact they offer meals that are notches above the standard airline meals, that are usually served all the time.  Singapore Airlines is no exception. We flew Singapore a few times to Malaysia and the executive class meals were pretty good, offering an array of seafood options that met our dietary restrictions.  However, to play it safe, some folks will order the special meal, just to make sure they are covered in terms of a meal offering. After all, it is 17 hrs across the Pacific Ocean, and a Snickers bar just wont cut it.  On a recent flight though, I was really surprised the offering Singapore laid out on a plate for my friend, who was flying in business class from Singapore to San Francisco.  It appeared to be some sort of mystery meat, with no flavor whatsoever.  Dried noodles accompanied it, and the presentation was more acceptable for a  call center cafeteria, than a $5000+ business class ticket cabin.  Seeing this was very disappointing, as Singapore Airlines is known for stellar service, great seats, and an overall excellent in-cabin experience.

Halal Mystery Chicken?

Back in 2014, I recall Chloe Pantazi putting out a list of the 10 most regrettable airline meals ever, and it was pretty interesting to see the offerings, but most of these were economy class meals, which is expected, and some of them were not special meals. Being how bad these meals were, I would hate to order special meals.

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Update: Chase Offers Me (sort of a) Compensation

A couple of weeks ago, I received a letter from Chase informing me of an annual fee increase on my Chase Sapphire Preferred. This is one of my favorite credit cards, and its ability to transfer points into numerous airline and hotel programs, makes it one of the heavy contenders out there. Ultimate Rewards points are one of the best points currencies out there, and I would hate to lose them. Furthermore, I have plans for future travels to Asia, and Europe using these points. They basically told me if I did NOT agree to the increase, then I would have to close out my card. I wouldn’t forfeit the points because I also have the Chase Freedom card, which is also an Ultimate Rewards account, but there is no ability to transfer into airlines. Its mainly cash back.
I decided to write them a snail mail letter asking them for compensation, and they have replied.

I was hoping for something a little more than $60, which is really 6000 points, but I guess at this point, its better than nothing, and will offset the cost for the next 6 years, if you think about it. I was paying $85 rather than $95. This also is a lesson in that if you are not happy with the service, say something. Otherwise, you have no reason to complain.

Happy 4th Everyone.

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Skip That North Korean Trip

The death of Otto Warmbier should be a reminder for us all that traveling to places like North Korea isn’t a great idea.  Honestly, I don’t think we will really know the facts why he was detained, and any statement regarding his detainment from his captors, shouldn’t be taken seriously. This article in The Independent UK highlights some of those points, and is written by a former North Korean, who luckily escaped to South Korea. Check it out as it is very interesting.  I have seen documentaries of people who have sneaked out footage of stores, hotels, and restaurants, and put them on YouTube for everyone to watch, and I cant help wonder what a big risk they took to do that.  They very well could’ve ended up like Otto Warmbier, seriously.  I personally have no ambitions to visit North Korea, or to fly their state carrier Air Koryo, in light of Otto’s death, because they could just apprehend you for no reason, and you really don’t have any rights.  There won’t be a phone call to mom and dad, and you’ll end up in a kangaroo court, and get served the most idiotic definition of justice there probably exists in this world.

Brave Tourists Looking for Instagram Fame

There are several tour companies that arrange North Korean tours. Though I don’t recommend them, you can check out their offerings and get an idea of costs.

The Young Pioneer Tours – this is the company that handled Otto’s trip to North Korea. They have probably the most experience in handling a trip there, but also have come under fire now with the recent event. Therefore, they are no longer offering tours for Americans to North Korea, but still open to other passport holders.

Uri Tours – This is another company that boasts travels to the DPRK. They also take Americans, and also offer packages that include skiing, snowboarding, and even a marathon.  Run for your life!..you may need to.

Koryo Tours – this Beijing based company, founded by two British guys, hosts tours as well. They are a bit smaller, but account for 50% of travels by Westerners to North Korea.

I would take my chances on a trip to Iran before North Korea. If anything, if I do get detained, I know at least the food will be better….or at least I hope.

Happy (and safe) Travels.

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A (not so good) Surprise from Chase

I love surPRIZES of all kinds…especially ones that come in the mail.  You never know what you are going to get (insert Tom Hanks image here in your head) and hope that it’s something really cool.  However, yesterday I got a surprise from Chase which I didn’t really like.  It was a notice of an annual fee increase on one of my favorite cards – the Chase Sapphire Preferred VISA card.  I have had this card for sometime, and enjoy the many benefits, which include 2x on dining purchases, 2x on travel purchases, which include rental cars, hotels, and airfare.  Just with the dining perks alone, I rack up tons of points because those morning lattes & raspberry scones can add up.

Currently, I am paying $85 annually to keep this card, which I think is fair, but starting late summer, the fee will be $95.  Like any other institution, Chase has to make a profit…okay, I get that.  However, its the terms of the increase that I am not happy about.  The letter states:

Rejecting this change: you the right to reject the change in the Revised Terms table. You want to reject it, you must contact us by 08/20/17. If you reject this change, we will close your account and you will not be able to use it for new transactions.

For this loyalty, I am not compensated for the upcoming increase.  They are not offering any other alternatives, other than to close the account, if I am not in agreement with the new fee.  This in my opinion is just bad customer service, from a customers point of view.  If you get a bad meal at a restaurant, rest assured your bill will decrease, or that chocolate molten lava cake will be given to you at the end, for compensation.  Chase isn’t doing anything, according to this letter, for those who signed up early for this card.  An additional $10 is not going to bring the house down, but money is money.  It’s also fair to note I actually had decided to cancel this card after two years, but the Chase rep on the phone raved about how I was special and only paying $85 rather than $95, which made my mind to keep the card ever since.

In all fairness, they should compensate folks who are on the old annual feel structure with additional Ultimate Reward points for the increase.  I have not reached out to them, yet, but will do so in the coming days and see what they propose to do on compensation, if any.  I will update this post with my results.  Anyone else get this letter, or similar? I’d love to hear what strategy you took on it.

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