Archive | June 2014

Summer Notes

Well, as a teacher I get to experience about 2 months off starting right about now. As I do many of my posts after school, the posts will become less frequent for a couple of months.

I wanted to leave a couple of notes for summer travel that may benefit you.

1. When booking hotels/cars/flights, etc if you haven’t already – get Aeroplan points when you do. We did a post on this a couple of months ago and it can get you enough points for a FREE FLIGHT! No kidding.

There is an example there where if you book a car with Hertz and stay at a Best Western for a couple of days you earn enough Aeroplan points for a free flight – pretty cool.

2. When you get a second, read some of our pages or older posts. Carolyn has Expedia cruises year-round at very good prices and Big Rick finds all-inclusives for travel in the fall/winter. We did a whole series on summer flights out of Detroit for great prices – Vegas, Myrtle Beach, Atlantic City to name a few.

3. Sign up for Points programs like Aeroplan and BA Avios – it’s free and we have a page devoted to each of them.

4. Many of my co-workers have grabbed an Amex card the last few months and we thank you for supporting us. A few are still asking, “What’s that one card that just gives you $250 in travel for free”

Well, we outline a strategy on our Worst Case Scenario page that shows you exactly how to do that. Really, $250 in travel for one person, $600 in travel for a couple. No fee.

Have a great summer!

Jay, Big Rick and Carolyn.

Detroit Summer Series – Washington, DC

To continue our series on summer flights out of Detroit, today we picked Washington, DC.

It seems like a cool place to visit, and from what I’m told there is plenty to do there for families as well as the obvious monuments to check out.

I’m learning a few things from researching these flights – one thing is flying near the end of August is very cheap and another is that it is pretty inexpensive to fly to the East Coast from Detroit – Spirit has a number of flights under $200 to Atlantic City, Myrtle Beach, etc.

So, as usual prices near the end of August are pretty fair. $207 for late August seems pretty reasonable ON DELTA – Mid July you can get some for around $250 if you would rather travel then.

 

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Check out around Sept 10 or so – $84 round trip!!! CrAzY! FRONTIER!

But you should always check out other options, so after checking Expedia and the rest, then Southwest, I couldn’t find anything better this time.

That $84 flight in early September is very tempting.

For any of our Canadian readers living in the Detroit area – as a couple you could pick up one new Amex Gold each (one refer the other) that would give you $350 + $250 in free travel = $600.

You could…fly there ($200) and have $400 left for hotels, car rental, etc. Basically, a free weekend in Washington DC!

Check out those late August/early September flights – some amazing deals out there!

 

International Get-Aways!

I checked out a website the other day, http://www.economicalexcursionists.com/travelTools/ that shows you all the different award bookings you can choose from when you pick your cities.

It is really something. Quite simply after you input the 2 cities, it lists 1. Airline 2. Award chart 3. Cost (award points) 4. Class 5. Service and special notes on the flight.

Now, it’s not perfect, but it is really cool to use.

I thought, since you can pretty much pick up 55,000 Avios for free getting 2 Amex cards (Gold – 25,000, Aeroplan Plus Gold – 30,000) – convert Aeroplan to Avios through a previous post, we can look at where 55,000 Avios will take one person.

Again, if you can refer a partner, you pick up 10,000 more Aeroplan and MR points which gives you as a couple 25,000 + 10,000 + 25,000 MR points  = 60,000. Then it gives you 30,000 + 10,000 + 30,000 = 70,000 Aeroplan. That’s a total of 130,000 points converted to Avios. I can get about 2 cents per point on Avios bookings, so….about $2600.00 in flights…for free.Yaaa.

Ya, I know it’s a lot of numbers to many of you…but c’mon it’s $2600 or so in free flights.

So, back to the point of this – International Destinations.

I am keeping this to Avios as it was usually one of the best redemption options and that is what we primarily talk about here.

Now, the site lists the most efficient ways to get to the destination using the least amount of points – I will list what came up when trying to book these flights through BA.com

Remember, as a single person there are 55,000 Avios up for grabs for free if you get 2 credit cards in the next little while.

As a couple, there are 130,000 Avios up for grabs.

All destinations are out of Detroit.

Honolulu (I know it’s U.S.) – 45,000 Avios – hard to find availability

Paris, France – 49,000 Avios + $734 in taxes

Madrid, Spain – 49,000 – 60,000 Avios + $671 taxes

London, England – 58,000 – 60,000 Avios + $539

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 64,500 Avios + $103 taxes

Hong Kong – 105,000 – 115,000 Avios + $84 in taxes – that’s it!

Buenos Aires, Argentina – 80,000 Avios – hard to find

Dubai, UAE – 80,000 Avios – hard to find.

 

That’s just a few places with the taxes, if you know of any other deals out there or some good redemption options, please feel free to post them.

As you can see though, you can save considerable amounts of money collecting points like Avios, Aeroplan, etc.

One example would be pooling your Avios and using them for a flight to Hong Kong which would only end of costing you $84 for 1 ticket!

 

Detroit summer Series – New Orleans on Southwest!

Many of my friends have been to New Orleans, but I have not. It seems like a very cool destination so let’s see flight prices there this summer out of Detroit.

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As per usual in researching these flights, July is generally more expensive than August and flying near the end of August always seems to get you a good deal.

Most 3 night stays will run you around $350-$400 in July. If you don’t mind going mid-late August you can get a flight for around $275!

Here is what Google flights says.

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As always, you should check every option. Southwest has better prices in this case.

It has departures as low as $133 in July and $119 in later August.

It has returns as low as $133 in July and $119 in later August.

So for about $250ish you can find a flight on Southwest this summer from Detroit to New Orleans – bags fly free on Southwest as well.

 

What’s a good credit card to spend on?

I was asked this twice in the last couple of days, and of course you just can’t answer this without knowing some additional information.

I think one of the most important question to ask is:

(Besides can you afford to do this?)

1. What kinds of rewards are you looking for?

Many people out there are very happy with the free groceries they are getting from PC Mastercard or free stuff from Canadian Tire Mastercard. These credit cards do not pay you a good return, but people “know” these credit cards and are happy with the free stuff now and then.

Other people have put a little more thought into this and collect various “points” from CIBC, RBC, TD etc. You can use these points for travel and generally offer some sort of sign-up bonus to get their cards.

In a great scenario you are getting a 2% return on some of these cards and there are ways to get this on certain cash-back cards here in Canada. Rather than give you links to different articles on this, if you just google “Canadian credit card returns” or something similar you will find enough information.

There are many, many other factors involved here  – different returns for grocery shopping, drugstore, travel, etc – but we will assume normal spending – some gas, some restaurant, some paying bills, some shopping, etc.

It is fairly safe to say that a 2% return  – either cash-back or in travel is very good and if you are currently getting that you are doing OK.

2. What are you using your card to purchase?

Like I just mentioned, there are cards that offer higher returns for things like purchasing travel, gas, groceries, dining out, drugstores, etc. So if you are using the card often at one of these places you should get a credit card that offers higher bonuses at these places.

As an example, the Amex Gold Rewards Card offers double points on travel – so if you spend $500 on a flight, you get 1000 MR points, which can be valued as high as 2 cents each, or $20.00 in travel. That’s a 4% return.

Generally though, most people tell me their spending is on everything and there is no real focus on any particular expense.

That is why I came up with this article – what card do you use for normal, everyday spending?

Well…is there a card that can get you BETTER THAN 2% RETURN? – or 2 cents per point?

Without a doubt there is -and since this is a travel site I am going to recommend a card that is travel related – the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card.

Yes, we get a referral bonus if you get this card, but you can go straight to their site if you want.

Basically, for every dollar you spend on the card, you get one Starpoint.

I have been researching this information for over 2 years myself, but the pro on this – Rewards Canada – has this card rated as the #1 Hotel Credit Card in Canada.

But that is other people from around the world – I want to know how to value it for hotels my family and I might stay at.

So I picked destinations that are likely for me to be needing a hotel room now and then – Toronto, Detroit and Florida.

If you are OK staying at a Cat 2 Starwood property (Sheratons/Four Points) then you are going to get great value out of Starpoints – you need 3000 points for a night stay.

Here is a rundown of what I found. Prices are after taxes for a regular room with 2 Queen beds. US rates are multiplied by 1.1.

4 Points Toronto Airport – $110 = 3.7 cents per point

4 Points Mississauga – $150 = 5.0 cents pp

4 Points Niagara Falls, NY – $233 US = 8.5 cents pp!!!

Sheraton Detroit Airport – $120 US = 4.4 cents pp

4 Points Detroit Airport – $140 US = 5.1 cents pp

Aloft Jacksonville Airport $91 US – but 2000 points = 5 cents pp

Jacksonville Sheraton  – $123 US = 4.5 cents pp

Orlando Sheraton – $100 US = 3.7 cents pp

Orlando 4 Points – $125 US = 4.6 cents pp

Sheraton Lake Bueno Vista – $150 US 5.5 cents pp

Tampa Airport Sheraton – $133 US = 4.9 cents pp

Ft. Lauderdale Sheraton – $111 US = 4 cents pp

So…the average for these numbers is 4.9 cents per point!!! Call it a nickel!

Now, this is for nice, but not spectacular hotels – but still – a 5% return on a credit card to stay in certain hotels is incredible.

That is at least twice as good as these other credit cards and hotel credit cards returns.

Yes, it is for specific examples – but anyone can take advantage of these deals!

Again, I am not the first person to figure this out, but sometimes it needs to be repeated.

You can get 10,000 Starpoints when you spend $500 on the card in the first 3 months. That alone could be worth anywhere from $300+ in hotel stays. It’s worth $850 at the 4 Points, Niagara Falls, NY!

There is a $120 annual fee on that, but in this case, if you do the math it is totally worth it.

 

Extra info.

1. You can refer someone to this card after you have it (in Canada) and pick up an extra 5000 Starpoints – total between you is 10,500 + 5000 + 10500 = 26,000 – over a week in these Cat 2 Hotels

2. There is an option “Cash and Points” that sometimes offers better value for your Starpoints – you need to enroll in Starwood Preferred Guest to see the rates.

ie 3000 points for night or 2000 plus $35

3. There are some nice Cat 3 hotels on beaches in Florida for 7000 points per night.

4. On Cat 3 hotels and higher there is an option to get the fifth night free on the same booking of 4 nights in a row at same location.

ie. 4 nights for 28,000 points – fifth night is free!

5. There is a Business card as well – same bonus points, but $150 per year.

6. Interest rate on this one is 19.99% per year – is lower than other Amex cards

7. Millionmilesecrets.com has a great article on how to use Starwood points – here is the link

Detroit Summer flight Series – MIAMI/Fort Lauderdale – $228!

What? Miami? Ya, why not. I saw Miami in March and it was beautiful – it may be a little hotter in the summer, but still beautiful.

Good ‘ol Google Flight found me Miami flights from $296 as you can see here.

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I couldn’t find much better than that – however if you fly to Fort Lauderdale you can save over $50 a flight as seen here.

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But, I’m never quite convinced so I went to the airline sites and Expedia and found you can actually get a lower price to Fort Lauderdale on Southwest for $114 each way on certain combos.

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As usual, late August gets you the best price at $228 round trip Detroit – Fort Lauderdale.

My favourite Amex card gives you $250 in travel just to sign up – I know you know – but it’s still a great deal!

 

 

 

DISNEY Advice

Well, I’m stealing another article from a website  (The Traveling Dan) but I feel this is important knowledge to pass on.

I have a couple articles ready to go for the weekend, but many people have asked us about Disney and this short article does give some good advice.

Basically, your best bet to save money is still the Value Resort way, but he details a way that can get you in a higher end resort for a moderate price.

As per usual, this way takes some time and research, but if you are serious about saving money in this game this is the way to go.

Here is a link to his Disney article.

A MUST READ for those new to this!!! Spend 2 minutes and read it.

As I was reading blogs and Twitter feeds yesterday to keep us current, I came across a great little article at Frugal Travel Guy that explains why getting these credit cards for travel is a very wise decision for those that like to travel.

The link is here, but I’ll go over the points quickly. (It’s also on the side of our page with the Twitter feed)

The article is American but the points hold up – I wish the people I know would give it 2 minutes – it really opens your eyes on how to travel for free.

1. Unethical – That one made me laugh – the companies want our business!

2. It will ruin your credit – wrong – just use common sense.

3. Keeping a certain high credit score means something. Seriously, if you aren’t taking these freebies to keep your credit score perfect, you should start taking the free money.

4. The Rewards aren’t worth it. I am a math person. Sooooooo worth it.

5. It’s too complicated. This is the one I hear the most, and is partially true. She says start a spreadsheet, which I have done. But another way to look at it is this: If, between you and your partner or just yourself you have a couple of thousand dollars worth of travel dollars for just signing up for 1-2 credit cards WITH NO FEE – Why wouldn’t you spend a couple of hours learning this hobby?

You could always just email us if you have all those free points – we can try to help you out as well. Email is on main page.

Her article is great and you should spend the time and give it a read. She also writes for Club Thrifty.

READ THE COMMENTS TOO!

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Remember to get the FREE POINTS when booking your summer!

We did a post a couple of months ago on cashing in on Aeroplan when booking your hotels, car rentals, flight, etc for this coming summer.

As it is getting to be that time, give the post a read – if you are booking a hotel stay and a car rental you may just get enough points for a free round trip flight! No kidding, just give the post a read.

As Aeroplan can be converted to Avios (fly AA or US Air) there are many ways to collect those points through simple things like answering consumer questionnaires, getting gas, shopping, test driving a car and many other ways.

The points add up fast!

The Amex Aeroplan Plus Goldcard has no fee and you get 30,000 Aeroplan when referred!

 

 

Cash or Points?

Well, I actually found a reason to pay cash for a flight – because it was incredibly cheap. Part of our summer series on Detroit flights included Atlantic City.

Myself, Big Rick and The Grey Ghost have traveled before but we haven’t been to AC together before. I like to get out with the boys for a trip now and then and this is a good “guys” trip place.

We have all been to Vegas together and we have all been to AC in the last 2 years, but not together.

So, for a trip like this I could easily go for free with my different points. SEE AMEX PAGE ON HOW TO GO PLACES FREE. LOL! But seriously you can travel free.

But the flight was $110. Round trip. To Atlantic City from Detroit. Seriously. It’s still there – check Spirit Air.

Now, I could use my Aeroplan and fly to Philadelphia, use my MR points to rent a car for the hour drive, and use my Starwood points to stay in any of the Caesar’s properties.

What would that cost me in points?

Avios – 9000 points

MR points – about $150-200 to rent a car for 4 days or say 20,000 MR points.

Starwood points – about 30,000 points to stay in the least expensive property for 3 nights.

That is many points to “burn” for this trip. Now, the experts in this “field” say earn and burn – I am not an expert by the way – I do know enough about this though. Those points to me can be worth anywhere from 1.5 cents each to over 4 cents each. I am going to use a flat 2 cents per point to show you how many points, in dollars I would use up for this trip.

Avios – $180 + MR points $200 + Starwood $600 = $980

Now, some of those costs could be split if we split the costs for the car and I split a room with someone, but it’s still using up the points.

In this case, because of my good eye looking for flight deals and my friends good “reputation” in the Casino ie. comps, the trip will cost all of us the same. $110 for the flight – rooms comped – no rental car needed.

Now, yes I have to split a room, but in this case I’ll save the points for a family trip.

Anyone have any tips on Atlantic City?