Our Dream Vacation Canceled …. (For Now)

As I was on hold with Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Center, to the tune of U2’s It’s a Beautiful Day, I just can’t help to think it was not a beautiful day, at all. Last Friday, we were forced to cancel our family trip to the Seychelles.  A dream trip I have planned for the past year.   My daughter woke up a day before our scheduled departure on American Airlines, with a fever, and of course alarm bells went off.  My wife was concerned, as we were transiting through Abu Dhabi, and if the body thermal scanners caught this, we would surely be pulled aside and given a free two week un-wanted lodging stay.  Either way, a serious trip interruption, that outweighed any benefits at the moment.

I didn’t purchase trip insurance for this trip, so I was banking on cancellations with full refunds.  The sucky part about this whole ordeal, like any award reservation trip, is it’s a puzzle made of different pieces. I had to work on each puzzle one by one…but, not impossible.

In my case, I had air, and hotels, but they were all from different programs.  Here’s the end results of my extensive long refund phone calls.

American Airlines AAdvantage:

We had booked 4 tickets using American Airlines AAdvantage miles to the tune of 75,000 miles per passenger in business class from Portland (PDX) to Mahe, Seychelles with a layover in Abu Dhabi (AUH).  Our routing was PDX-PHX-ORD-AUH-SEZ, and the return was a layover in Doha on Qatar Airways. That routing was SEZ-DOH-DFW-PDX, where we were destined to enjoy one of the best business class cabins out there right now – Q- Suites.  I guess that’s not going to happen.  We got lucky as the agent waived all the fees, and redeposited the miles back onto the account, without penalty.  That’s a savings of $150 per passenger for the redeposit fees. Total hold time for this call, 2.5 hrs.

Chase Ultimate Rewards:

For our long layover in Abu Dhabi, I had opted for a night stay at the Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Airport Hotel.  I used Ultimate Rewards to stay here, and after calling the Travel Center help desk, and being on hold for roughly 1 hour while they conversed back and forth with the hotel in Abu Dhabi, only to tell me they put in a ticket for a refund.  Not sure what that means, but I am assuming I will have to call back just to follow-up.  Total phone time spent on this one : 55 min.

 

Hilton Honors:

We booked a 7 night stay using our Diamond benefits at the Hilton LaBriz Seychelles Resort and Spa.  Our cut-off date to refund/cancel was past, so I had to contact the hotel directly and talk to their manager.  Having done so, the only option given to me was to reschedule at a later date without penalty, but I am unable to do that right now.  I figured why not call them in early in the morning on my way to work. I decided to call the Diamond desk line, which showed up on my Hilton app, and the nice lady there was able to assist me in forcefully canceling the reservation and giving me back my points, with one caveat ; I may be charged for one nights stay.  She did however contest that. and wrote a ticket to their reservations team, to see if they can waive that.  She said the process can take up to 72 hrs for a response.  Total phone time spent 45 min.

UPDATE: did NOT get charged for the one nights stay.

Expedia.com:

I used a ton of points acquired from my Barclays Arrrivals+ World MasterCards, to offset a travel expense for Expedia, in which I used to book The CoCo de Mer Hotel and Suites on Praslin Island, Seychelles.  This was to be my second hop on Seychelles, and we were going to rent a car and visit the various beaches such as Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette.  Initially I was offered only 50% of my total expense for the reservation, and that was A LOT still.  My wife contacted Expedia directly, and they worked it out with the hotel and refunded ALL my money back to my Arrivals+ card.  Whew! This one was a big one, and I’m glad it was resolved.  Would’ve been a huge Debbie Downer, if I didn’t get all my money back from this.  Total time on the phone ..3.5 hrs.

US Bank Flexperks:

We used about 45,000 Flexperks to book 4 intra-island flights from Mahe, to Praslin in the Seychelles on Air Seychelles.   I booked it through their travel center, and these guys so far have been the hardest to get refunded, as they keep giving me the run around.  These flights aren’t until the 20th, so I will wait a few more days to attempt calling them.  We were on hold with them for over 4 hours, to talk to someone, only for them to tell us to call or contact Air Seychelles.  I emailed Air Seychelles under their guidance, and they replied back with instructing me to ‘contact the travel agent who did the booking’, as they couldn’t refund it. I will of course follow up with this one, as soon as the stampedes are over in the coming days.

At The End of the Day….

It’s been a mess all around for everyone and I’m glad we didn’t end up going because, honestly it would’ve been a headache worrying about everything that’s going on.  Half the fun of traveling on points is enjoying the journey to the destination, and that pretty much has fizzled out with this virus fiasco.  Im just very happy the programs all were flexible with refunds and coming through for their customers. I will wait until the smoke clears and reschedule our family trip for a later date. I’ve done all the research for the destination, so that will make things even easier when I do schedule it again.  Heck, my buddy Ivan Acosta, even hooked me up with some Seychellian Rupees to help me out upon arrival there. For now, the bag stays put, the passports back in the drawer, and the camera turns off….. Did any of you cancel your plans? What are your future travel plans now?

 

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60,000 American Airlines Offer Expiring Soon – ACT FAST!

One of the best American Airlines offer is soon to expire. The offer has been around for some time, but is due to expire on Halloween. This offer below however waives the annual fee the first year. It’s not the standard offer, they usually offer. I know, a scary notion no doubt.  However, if you are on the fence about getting this American Airlines 60,000 miles offer, I would jump off the fence and get it before its gone.  No telling when it will return.  The Barclays Aviator AAdvantage MasterCard is offering a whopping 60,000 miles after your 1st purchase. There is NO minimum spend requirement AND the annual fee is waived for the first year. That’s enough miles for a couple round trip coast to coast flights, or premium cabin redemptions, for domestic travel. I personally save these miles for premium cabin international travel, which can used on their partners, such as Qatar or  Etihad, or any OneWorld partners.

The card has some nice perks, which include priority boarding on American Airlines flights (not code-share partners). First bag free, for up to 4 people, and some new perks such as a $25 credit on inflight WiFi purchases, and an anniversary companion certificate for 1 guest at $99 + taxes. Its also a MasterCard, which gives you $10 monthy credit to use at Lyft.

Application Link Annual fee Waived First Year

Application Link – Standard Offer with $99 annual fee

I had this card last year, so I wont be reapplying for it this time around.  I will however, get this for my wife, who has not had this card. As a family of 4, we need 2-player mode to accrue lots of miles for premium cabins.  Are you going to get this card? If so, what are your travel goals for the miles?  Happy Travels!

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Earn More Miles for Holiday Shopping and Beyond

This last holiday shopping season was one of the best on record, if not the best one.  Retailers reported record earnings and the shopping craze is looking to last well past the holiday season online. For me personally, it was an awesome season, as I racked up over 40,000 miles on United and Alaska Airlines taking advantage of holiday shopping bonus offers.  If you aren’t using the portals from the mileage shopping programs, then you aren’t doing it right.  Its an incredible opportunity to rack up huge sums of miles and points, to get you closer to that award ticket of your choice.  Use a strategy like using a credit card that offers 2x on shopping online, or airlines.  Luckily, I have an American Express card, which earns me 3X on airline purchases.  I simply tack it onto the Mileage X app, and buy gift cards for stores like Best Buy, Mayc’s, or whatever, which counts as an ‘airline’ purchase earning 3X points, and United Airlines miles on top. Double dipping my way to that next trip.  If you haven’t been doing that, its never too late to start.  When shopping online, use one of the portals to go through and collect your miles.  Even Chase and other banks have portals, that you can earn points on if you arent into airline miles.  You are going to shop online anyways.

Happy Travels!

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How To Find AMEX Upgrade Offers Available

I logged into my American Express account to view the offers available to me, and I noticed a banner in the middle enticing me to ‘upgrade’ to the Hilton Honors Ascend card, and get 7,500 bonus points after spending $2,000 in 3 months.  The thing that intrigued me was I just product changed (downgraded) my old Hilton Surpass card to the no-fee card, since the annual fee was up, and they sent me the new no -fee card just like two weeks ago.  They even issued the replacement card with the same number, which was cool.

I actually wanted to see if this would work, so I went ahead and accepted the offer. It prompted me for the 4 digit security number, and that was it! No need to fill out an application.  I combed through the terms and conditions and I did not see anything about not getting the bonus if I had the card before, or any other lifetime language associated with Amex cards usually.  Of course, this is just an upgrade, supposedly.

Some people are reporting they are not seeing the offer anymore in their account when they log in. However, there is a nice link that will show you all the offers available to you, and I got it from a rep using secure chat.  Just log into your account from one browser window, then open another window, and copy and paste this link below into the address bar. It will then show you all the off.  Once you click on Request an Upgrade, it will then just ask you again, and that’s it.

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/view-all-personal-cards/?eep=25330&linknav=US-Acq-CCSG-Cardmember-CardsLanding-AllCards-GlobalNav

You can also view other offers that you qualify for.  I was also targeted for a 50,000 bonus point Premier Rewards Gold card, which I would love to get, but probably wont right now. I’m at 6/24 so I’l wait that one out for a bit, as the offer comes and goes.

Are you seeing the offer when you click on the link? Let me know.

 

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How To Score a Samsonite Luggage Set for Cheap!

If you are in the market for a new luggage set as I am, you will find this latest Google and American Express offer enticing! Currently, there is an offer available to American Express card holders for $20 off $50+ at Google Express. Google Express is a convenient online shopping experience, in which all the stores are available in one place. You order everything you want from one site, and they ship it to you. No need to login different store sites, remember passwords etc etc. Pretty handy shopping site, especially with the holidays closing in.

If you haven’t used Google Express, you are in more luck, because on top of that offer, there is an additional 20% off promo code available to new users!  So currently, there is a nice Samsonite Ziplite 3.0 Hardside Spinner Luggage set for $129.99 there from Kohls. Add this to your cart and click on the up arrow for promo code FIRSTORDER20 (should do it automatically) and click APPLY. I would also uncheck any marketing and promotions selections, unless you like junk mail. Also, you might notice at the top right, there is an estimated tax charge. Ignore that if you are in a state that doesn’t have sales tax (like myself in Oregon). So the breakdown should be
$129.99 Total
– $26.00 (20% promo code discount)
– $20.00 (American Express Offer $20 off $50)
Total should be $83.99 for a nice set of quality Samsonite suitcases with a 10 year warranty.

Now you aren’t obligated to use this offer and promo code for a nice set of luggage. You can get whatever your choosing on Google Express. Just do the math on whatever you buy and make sure it works out for you, as some merchants have shipping charges and minimum purchases for free shipping.

Also make sure you load the offer to your American Express card FIRST before you click the Place Order button, otherwise you won’t see the statement credit. To do that, login to your American Express account online, and scroll to the bottom for Amex Offers.

Let me know what you all plan to get if you’re going to use the offer. I’m interested to learn what other great deals on there.  I have the offer available on 3 of my American Express card accounts!

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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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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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