Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Beginners guide to cheap travel

Beginners guide to cheap travel

The information on this post is for Beginners. If you are new to Miles and Points or Cash Back the information on this post should be able to help you to get started.  If you ever wanted to:

·         Travel to different cities or countries, but you could not because of affordability

·         Stay for free at Luxury hotels

·         Fly first Class on International flights 

·         Take the family for vacation every year

·         Travel to a place on a travel magazine

·         Fly Home for Holidays

·         Fly a friend  

All of these and more are possible with Miles and Points. I started collecting miles and point on 2nd half of 2012 and didn’t start burning them till 2013, since then I have earned over 3 million miles and points and burned over a Million.

Colleting Miles and Points requires a bit of planning and you really need to be organized, most of it is done by Credit Card Sign up Bonus.  You will need to keep track of all your stuff, and if you’re into couponing then it’s very easy.  So before you begin it is advisable not collect miles and point via Credit Card Signup Bonus if you have a big loan planned for next 24 months i.e loan like Mortgage, Car loan, Student Loan, Business Loan etc.

1.   PLAN and Decide your Trips

Planning is very important part of your process. You need to plan your trip at least 6 month ahead. What this means is you decide exactly what places you want to visit, which hotels on those place you want to stay (preferably chain hotels like Marriott, SPG hotels) and how may airlines Miles and Hotel Points you will need to make it happen. Consider your Miles & Points like money,  so before you buy anything in the store, you either consider if you have enough money to buy the item or how much you will need to buy the item so you can save the cash.

2.   Sign up for the Programs

Signing up for Airline loyalty program and Hotel royalty program does not cost any money, you can go and sign up for all if you want, but I signed up for the program as I needed them.  Keep an excel sheet with all the info on it like, the royalty no, username and password in case you forget them. Keep track of all your loyalty programs, I use Awardwallet.com

3.   Know different  ways to achieve airline Miles and Hotel Points

a.    There is 1 way that I know off where you can fly to any destination for a faction of a cost that is by using airline miles, and 5 ways that I know off that you can earn/accumulate/generate airline miles.

                                         i.    Credit Card Signup Bonus

                                        ii.    Airline Mileage Run

                                       iii.    Online airline shopping portal payout as miles

                                      iv.    Buy or Gift Airline miles, when the airline runs special promotion to buy or gift miles for cheap.

                                        v.    Any other pop up promotion that you might encounter while traveling  in magazine, airline lounge or targeted offer

b.    Stays on hotels with points are normally free. Unlike airline you don’t have to pay taxes, there are some exceptions in some cities where the tax need to be paid. Ways to earn Hotel Points

                                         i.    Credit Card Signup Bonus

                                        ii.    Hotels may run special promotion, targeted or non-targeted where you can get hotel points.

4.   Credit Score

Find out what your credit Score is, either by a paid service you can get the free Credit Score from www.creditseasme.com which shows your Experian report or www.creditkarma.com which shows your Transunion report.  In my experience a credit Score of 700+ and debt to credit ratio of 30% or less is desirable to the banks to approve credit card.

5.   Credit Card Sign Up Bonus

The easiest and fastest way to earn Miles and Points is by signing up Credit Card that offers Large Bonus at least 40,000-50,000 miles or point per sign up Bonus or something free hotel nights at any property.  The reason I said earlier not to collect miles and point via Credit Card Signup I because in case you are trying to get a Mortgage or Loan, the Bank issuing the loan might have issued with various Credit Inquiry and open Credit Account, which may result for your loan to be denied.  Your Credit score does decrease for each credits inquire, usually small less than 4 point for each inquiry. So if do decide to do this, make sure you pay off your balance each month, because paying interest does not serve its purpose.

6.   Selecting The Card

Most of the Reward Credit Cards comes with Annual Fee, and for the most part the first Year is free (no Annual Fee). Although there are few cards that do charge you fee for the first year.  So you have to decide which of the Reward Credit Card you will need that will serve your purpose of travel.

7.   Applying for multiple Cards

Technically you can apply for as many as you want, who cares right? I hope things are that simple. If you are new to this I would take it slow, because when I started I got excited and applied for 4 card on the same day and  I panicked when I had to meet 8000K minimum requirement in 3 month.  So there is procedure that needs to be followed.  You can apply for as many cards you want but most likely you will not get approved.  So this is what you need to know.

a.    Multiple application to one bank shows up as one Credit inquiry

                                         i.    If applying more than one card from a bank choose a personal version  and a Business version

b.    Credit Bureau does not update until the following day of application

                                         i.    Use Credit Pull Database to find out which bank uses which bureau from your state, when applying for multiple cards you need to spread out the credit pull among the bureau so it won’t look like you have a zillion inquire each time your applying for a credit

So you select cards, preferably from different Banks, like a Card from Amex, Citi, Chase, BOA, Barclay, US Bank etc.  So for example you decide to get these cards

·         Chase Sapphire Preferred ( Personal)           40,000 Points

·         Chase Ink Plus (Business Card)                   60,000 Points

·         Citi AA Platinum Select ( Personal)      30,000 Points

·         Citi AA Business (Business)                50,000 Points

·         Amex SPG card (Personal)                  25,000 Points

·         Amex SPG Business (Business)          25,000 Points

These cards are just for example, you don’t have to apply for these, select your cards that cater to your need. So the above 6 card will only do 3 credit inquires on your credit report. One inquiry per bank and you earned 230,000 points. So when your Miles and Points are credited you can start booking your travel.








Friday, February 28, 2014

Valentine’s day Getaway --- Hotel Review

This Valentine’s day  we did a quick one day Getaway. We drove to San Antonio, TX. It was rather relaxing we went on saturday morning and came back sunday night. First day we San Antonio Childrens Museum, then we stayed and relaxed in the hotel, it was at Eilan Resort & Spa. I want to make this post more of Hotel Review. Elian Resort & Spa is an Autograph Collection Hotel. Its one of  Autograph Collection where you can use Marriott Points or Certificate. According to Marriott its a Marriott Category 5. Personally I think it needs to be higher then that I have stayed at Marriott Category 5 in Miami, Madrid, San Juan PR, and Plano TX, non were like Elian Resort & Spa. The one in Madrid was Autograph Collection and San Juan PR was a Courtyard and those were more like Category 3. I used my Free 1 Night Certificate which I received from my Marriott Credit Card on its 1st year renewal. Elian Resort & Spa is set in San Antonio Hill Country next to Six Flag over texas. The view from the hotel is amazing so are its sourrounding you can see the pictures below. It has Junior Olympic size indoor swimming pool (didnt take pics there were ppl in the pool). The fitness center was big (also didnt take pics thre were people in the gym). Being a Elite Gold member I received a coupon for free breakfast.  

Front of the Elevator

View from Patio


View of the Hotel from Patio

View of the street



View of Lobby level 2 from level 1

Lobby Level 2

Lobby L2, toward the business center


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Spirit Airline Can Be Very Good Option, for people on budget

Spirit Airline,  many of us turn our head way or make faces when we hear the name of these budget airline, and say things like I will ‘I will never fly’ and many other, but if you go to the Spirit airline boarding area the scene is completely different.  Since many of us are not use to paying fees on other airline we complain about Spirit charging fees. Like all other airline Spirit is in the business of making money, and the extra fee is where that gives them the profit margin. There are other budget airline in Europe and Asia that uses the same method of making money by charging fees.  I recently booked 3 one way tickets which included baggage fee from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi for only $148.00 on Air Asia. I was stunned.  So when flying on budget airline you have to understand and accept the fact that you’re paying for a Bus in the Air. Once you accept that the service or the fees will be more acceptable.  Please see the Example blow. I looked up a flight from DFW to TPA (Dallas TX to Tampa FL) it cost $ 58.99 for a non-stop flight. Now if you were to go on Greyhound bus it will cost you $89.00 for advance purchase and $204 for refundable fare, which will take 1day 7 hour to get to Tampa with 2 transfer. 
Greyhound price

Spirit Airline rate

Now which one would you take?

Which Hotel to Stay in Maldives

Yesterday I was talking to my friend in Atlanta, I called him up checking up on how he was dealing with the Crazy Cold weather in Hotlanta. During the conversation he asked me how he can get/earn spg points because he wanted to stay at the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa for 3 nights. Places like Maldives, Bora Bora etc. are very expensive and the hotel stays are very expensive too. When I looked up on spg website there were two spg properties W Retreat Maldives and the Sheraton Maldives. The W Retreat is on a private island which is amazing but its crazy expensive, room rates in December are over $1000/night and it looks like W Retreat participation in starwood perferred guest program is limited. 
Limited Participation in spg
The Sheraton Maldives does have a lower rate but it's also of a lower category and requries 25000 spg points per night, so for a 3 night stay he is looking at 75,000 spg points. And in order to obtain that he will have to apply for Amex Spg Card, both Personal and Business version, which will give him 50,000 spg points after spending $10,000 in 5 month. So with min spending met he will only have 60,000 spg points still short of 15,000 points. 

My suggestion to him was to stay at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island which is also in an island separate from the main island and is Hilton Category 10 also cost over $1000 a night. I asked him to apply for the Citi Hilton Reserve Card for himself and his wife, which will give him 2 weekend night free, and his wife 2 free weekend nights at any Hilton property. So with 4 free weekend night on his pocket he can book the say for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Also having Citi Hilton Reserve card will give Hilton Gold status, which is very useful as the benefit provides free internet and free breakfast. When you are stuck on an island you have very few option when it comes to food as you might end up spending lots of money eating in the hotel becayse sometime that is the only option.   

It is expensive, even if you book with points
So readers.. let me know what you think. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Southwest 1,700 Rapid Reward points for Valentine's Day Special

Southwest Airline is offering 1,700 Rapid Reward points for Valentine’s day flowers, for purchases over $29.99 or more from 1-800-flowers.com . Each order over $29.99 will earn RR points. You have to go through the Southwest Airlines Shopping portal in order to earn these points. Also any point earned through the shopping portal is eligible towards Southwest companion pass. Make sure you use the code RR46 and also provide your Rapid Rewards account number. I love southwest airline because of its companion pass. My wife has the southwest companion pass and ever since she got it last year have I have traveled free with her to Miami, Puerto Rico, Orlando and Boston in 2013. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Citi Executive AAdvantage World Master Card.. Impressive Packing

I recently posted about Citi offering CitiAAdvantage World Master Card for 100,000 bonus AA miles. The Deal is still live, so you can still take advantage of this. But for those of you who have applied and may have not got the card on mail yet. First Citi will UPS you the cards agreements, Terms & Conditions  and other details, then couple of days later the card come via UPS too. I got my card yesterday and it comes in an impressive box. You open the flat and then slid out the box to get your card and a catalog of Cardmember Benefits. Please see below
The Card comes in this Box

Open the flap and slide it out

Card and Catalog

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Stuff to do with Kids in Austin

We had 3 of our travel Plan canceled between December 2013 and  Jan 2014 they were

1.   San Francisco 3 days due to bad weather in Dallas

2.   Abu Dhabi and Bangladesh Christmas break canceled due to bad political situation in Bangladesh

3.   Los Cabos, Mexico:  canceled and it was my fault, didn’t check with wife if she could get off during the MLK,  and she didn’t, I was very excited about because I booked stay at the brand new All Inclusive Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos

So we decided to go to Austin, Texas. We stayed at Hilton Austin Hotel, I had two weekend night certificate I received after I signed up for Citi Hilton Reserve Card, which was about to expire in a month.  We have been to Capital building before, so we decided not to visit it this time.

Day 1

Hill country Austin is an amazing place; there are lots of activities available for all ages. Most of our activities were around our two year old E. Like most kids E loves museum, train and playground. So we decided to go to Thinkery . This place is amazing if you have very young kids. The whole time E was constantly occupied. There are so many different types of activities available. Make sure to pack food, there is no cafeteria, only vending machine. But outside the Thinkery is a park and next to the park on the weekend you will see what looks like a small farmers market. You can buy organic produce; they sell Mexican, French and Indian food. The food is pricy but I like to support small individual business, and that is where we had lunch. That evening we walked in downtown checking out different kind of store and had dinner. We made sure we were back to the hotel before the 6th street party people came out.

Day 2

After breakfast we checkout of the hotel and headed toward the Zilker Metropolitan Park. This park is big, how big 350 acres big. Our plan was to do the train ride. Most of the vendors including the train ride accept only Cash. They do have an ATM machine which charges fee; luckily I had my Charles Swab Checking  account with Free ATM worldwide. The train runs for approximately 30 min all and the kids love it. Also the train runs on schedule, so if you see a line at the ticket counter its most likely not for the one immediately about to depart, but the one next. E was tried by now, so we headed to South Congress Ave where all the Austin famous food trucks are. We had some Jamaican Food at Gemma Love food trailer. I had OX Tail and wife had Jerk Chicken, both were amazing but the OX was spicy too. Then we headed back home to Dallas. There are small European ethnic communities by I-35, and there is a Czech community, so we stopped at the famous Czech Shop  to buy some sweets and Jalapeno Beer bread.

Hotel Review

Hilton Austin Hotel is centrally located in downtown Austin. Most of the stuff was within walking distance. The lobby is huge, they have Macs for the hotel guest in the lobby, and rooms were nothing special. You can see the pictures below