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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Two Credit Card Offers You Shouldn’t Ignore + Giveaway!

Last year was an amazing year for credit cards and so far, 2017 is starting out with a punch. Currently, there are two offers I would not ignore if you are looking to pick up a new credit card – or two.  The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card is currently offering 50,000 miles, and is available to everyone.  After meeting the $3,000 spend, you get 50,000 miles which is enough for 2 round trip coach saver award tickets in the U.S. or Canada.  They can be redeemed for first class travel in the U.S. or Canada.  United has a handy chart here, to see what’s possible with your miles. Check it out.

The second card I wouldn’t ignore is the Citibank AAdvantage Mastercard, which also nets you 50,000 miles, to use on American Airlines, or its partners. Although American Airlines recently devalued its miles, I still think you can get some pretty good deals to Europe and even South America, on partners such as Air Berlin, and LAN.  They are also great to use with British Airways on short haul flights, or intra-Europe.  With stellar service on both carriers, you will have no problem traveling smoothly.  The other aspect of this offer, is Citibank cards are relatively easy to get, and you can receive the bonus more than once, so racking up tons of AAdvantage miles will be no problem.

Both cards come with a ton of perks, such as free baggage allowance, anniversary miles, priority boarding, and no annual fee the first year. Both offers wont last, and I suspect will go away soon, so I would get them now.  Of course, keep in mind with Chase, the infamous 5/24 rule applies, which means if you have applied for more than 5 credit cards, from any bank, within the past 24 months, the likelihood of approval is zero. If you haven’t, then you’ll be lucky enough to score this card. Just make sure you have a travel goal in mind, so you can use these miles, or you can just bank them for future travels on United and its partners.

I actually applied for both of these cards last year, and was approved. The Chase United MileagePlus card came with two United Club passes, which I won’t be using this year, so I’d like to give you a chance to take ’em off my hands! Please comment on how best you would use these miles, and I’ll pick someone randomly. I’ll announce a winner at the end of the week. The Hogan A319 model is not included, in case you were wondering. Happy Travels!

 

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Cathay Pacific Teams up with Mandarin Oriental for InFlight Dining

Cathay Pacific has teamed up with the Mandarin Oriental group, to offer fine dining choices, for first class passengers en route between Hong Kong and London. This is a limited time offering between September through December of 2014. Two Michelin starred chefs will offer their preparations, and passengers can experience exquisite dishes, such as a terrine of foie gras with winter truffle, and organic beef, braised in red wine sauce. Desserts will include a tart raspberry tart, and a chocolate dome with a coffee center. A complete listing of the dishes is available on their website, and my mouth is watering just reading it. Looking forward to hopefully experience this fine dining in an already awesome executive class of service, which Cathay Pacific is famous for.

 

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I attended First2Board’s Seattle Sessions

Last weekend was awesome. I attended First2Board’s Seattle Sessions, an intimate gathering of the finest travel and points bloggers, the world wide web has to offer.  I saw some old friends, whom I had met before at other seminars, and made a A LOT of new friends, who showed me creative ways to travel for free, without much effort.  We stayed at the Bellevue Sheraton, and got a chance to have an awesome dinner at the Boeing plant, overlooking the Dreamlifter hangars, while feasting on Northwest grilled salmon.

I got to meet some of my favorite bloggers, like John Carter, from Top Travel Tips.  He was chosen by American Airlines to fly to Asia and experience first hand, the latest in First Class service.  It was awesome hearing his details of the trip and the upcoming news regarding American Airlines’ new executive class products on various routes.

We got to experience some fine dining in the Seattle area.  Justin from JustinDoesBlog took us to a favorite eating spot of his on Alki Beach Rd, called Spud Fish and Chips, where we dined on some great tasting fresh cod, and chowder, and talked more about flying the world in first class for free.  Jamison, of Points Summary , Angelina Aucello, from Just Another Points Traveler, and of course, our favorite happy Princess, Elena, from Giddy for Points, joined us, as we scarfed down our delicious dinner, and watched a beautiful sunset on the sound!

I got to sit down and have a nice chat about hotel loyalty programs during dinner,  and the best ways to maximize hotel reward points.  Bonnie from The Frugal Travel Lawyer, showed me the possibilities of scoring nice suites at a fraction of the price!  She explained how easy it is to get free nights using Club Carlson’s loyalty program, and Hyatt’s Free nights using their credit cards.  Thank you Bonny!! You are awesome!!

I had a great time at the Seattle Sessions, and hope to return to the next one in Phoenix in 2015.  I urge anyone to attend one of these, as you will learn from the best of the best how to travel for free and score hotel points like crazy.  You will make a lot of great friends, and have an amazing time, as you chat about ways to maximize travel. The best part is listening to the countless stories of travel adventures from ordinary folks, with just extraordinary adventures!  Hope to see you soon in Phoenix in July 2015!

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Chase 50,000 United Miles Offer is Back!! ACT QUICK!

Looks like Chase has made public the link for getting 50,000 Mileage PLUS miles after meeting a minimum spend. The usual offer is usually 30,000 miles, but with this offer, it is increased to 50,000. Furthermore, the annual fee is waived for one year, and you get the usual benefits with the card. I recommend you get this because it wont last long. If you had this card before, you could probably get the miles again, if it has been some time since you last applied. I have received the bonus miles twice already, but the last time I applied was over 2 years ago for the Chase United Mileage PLUS card.


There is also an offer at Chase branches currently for the Chase INK Plus card, which gets you 70,000 Ultimate Reward points, which can be transferred into United. Couple that with this current offer, and you can bring in a whopping 120,000 miles!! That’s enough for more than 4 Round trip domestic coach tickets at the Saver Level. For details, and to apply, click on the link below:

https://www.theexplorercard.com/50kAFWLTO?cell=KWM

Award Availability

 

 

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FREE Guided Walking Tours: YES, FREE!!

With summer in full swing, I wanted to share with you some of the free tour guide offerings around the world, that are available for you to book. These are great, because you get to meet locals, who share their hometowns with you , and give a local perspective on the area. You can learn so much more, than just what a guidebook will spoon feed you. We personally used one of these when we visited Tokyo awhile back, and it was totally free and totally worth it. As I have stated in my Tokyo trip report, one of the guides took us to her tea ceremony and let us be a part of it. It was a lot of fun, and we learned a lot more than a boring 300 page guidebook.

free_walking_tours

Sandeman’s New Europe Guided Tours: This company offers free walking tours of various cities across Europe, and Israel. They have stellar reviews, and come highly recommended amongst travelers.

Buenos Aires FREE Tour (Argentina) : Another great service to use for getting a start when in Buenos Aires. These folks have been doing this for a while, and you just show up at the meeting place and look for the guides in the green shirts. Tours last anywhere from half and hour to two hours, and cover the history and culture of Argentina! They also have stellar reviews.

Tokyo Free Guides : This is by far one of the best free guide services I have tried. The guides are super friendly, and they will have a solid record of providing free , enthusiastic guides, to show you around Tokyo. If you don’t speak a word of Japanese, these guides are VERY helpful in getting you into the local non-touristy districts, and restaurants. You just have to pay for their train fare, and a lunch, which I think is more than fair.

Singapore Footprints:  The “walkaholics” will hit up the bustling places of Singapore; show you the famous street food stalls, the fast paced business district, and the ethnics sections of town. Tours are every Saturday and Sunday at 4:15PM, and take about 2 ½ hours, so bring a good pair of walking shoes!

Free guided tours, and walking tours are a great way to save money when you go somewhere new. They also help you find the best deals around town, hit up the local eatery joints, and know shortcuts, cuz they know where everything is. Be sure to tip your guides, as ALL of these folks are doing this as a voluntarily. Happy Travels!

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Trip Report: Air France Flight 83: SFO-CDG Business Class

A friend of mine recently pinged me on helping her get to Venice and Croatia, but also to experience Air France’s A380 Business Class, using Alaska  miles, and of course, I couldn’t resist.  It was kinda tough to put this itinerary together and it involved checking Alaska’s website almost numerous times a day to find availability.  However, at the end, we managed to find her something suitable, that was doable and she loved the experience.  Her routing was as follows: SLC-SFO-CDG on Air France, flying in an A380.  Total redeemed miles were 125,000 , and $120 in taxes.  Not a bad way to get to Venice via Paris, and comfortably.  She accumulated the miles from spending on her Alaska Airlines Signature Visa card, which is one of my favorite cards. Enjoy these snapshots of her first time on the A380!!

Dubble Decker Delight

Amenity Kits

 

What’s for dinner?

Portobello mushroom with vegetables & polenta for starters

 

Classic Appetizer Selection

Chicken with sherry vinegar sauce, with semolina and oven dried tomatoes

 

dessert trio of fine sorbets, opera cake, finishes off the meal.

Snack assortment of fruit, cookies, and drink throughout the flight.

 

 

 

 

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The Lufthansa 50,000 Miles&More offer is back!! (Expired)

Some time ago, Barclaycards released the Lufthansa Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard®. Well, great news! It’s back for another session. You can now get up to 50,000 miles 35,000 miles for spending a mere $5,000 within the first 3 months. This card has a lot of value in my opinion, because you can redeem them for TWO Round Trip tickets on United Airlines domestically.  However, you can also use the miles to fly to Europe on Lufthansa, or any Star Alliance carriers for a mere 50,000 miles ROUND-TRIP! Just look at the map below and you can get an idea of how much it costs to go where with these miles. If you do not have a Miles&More account, open one up for FREE .

  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer
  • Earn an additional 30,000 award miles when you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Cardholders receive a companion ticket after first use of the account and annually after each account anniversary
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Redeem miles for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance member airlines and other partners
  • $79 Annual Fee.

There’s some hidden beauty in this deal because I get a lot of questions from friends on how to get free airfare to Hawaii. Well, this could very well give you airfare to Hawaii for $79 (annual fee charge). I think that’s pretty darn good.

Secondly, Miles&More members get better availability for award seats on Lufthansa, than it’s partners like United. You can easily redeem your miles for an award ticket to Europe without the headaches of trying to redeem United miles to fly Lufthansa or Austrian Airlines to Europe.

Sometimes, they offer Mileage Bargain redemptions, which reduces the cost of award travel to 30,000 miles for coach travel to Europe and 55,000 miles in business class, round-trip to Europe. I think that’s another great feature of having the card.

Summary

The Lufthansa Miles&More Mastercard is great travel rewards card to get, if you want two free domestic tickets.  The value in redeeming 50,000 miles covers the cost of the annual-fee no problem.  There are great reward options to be had, such as round trip to Europe for 50,000 miles. The miles can be easily redeemed for flights on Lufthansa and other Star Alliance carriers.

 

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