Archive | January 2015

With CDN $ falling hotel credit cards are becoming more valuable.

I was looking at a couple great sites for booking hotels that give you alot of solid information on what hotels are in what city and how much they would cost you using cash or points.

Award Mapper is one – check it out.

Hotel Hustle is better – check that one out!

That one is from The Wandering Aramean website -Seth Miller – the guy is a genius, I’ll leave it at that.

The point I am trying to make is using hotel points can save you money, and more so now as our dollar continues to fall against the US dollar.

As a write this it is 1.28 CDN to buy a US 1.00.

It has been going lower for awhile now and using “points” for flights and hotels are saving you money rather than paying for the flight/room with cash.

Quick example for you.

1 night at a Detroit hotel near the airport – flying out early Sunday morning March 8.

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That Four Points by Sheraton (1st one listed) room is $120 US or $153 Cdn if I booked it right now.

If I booked it a few months ago it probably would have been about $140 Cdn.

Either way, you see it is costing more with the falling dollar.

If you have Hotel “points” in this case Starwood Preferred Guest you don’t have to pay for the room at all – just use 3000 points. AT 4 CPP (cents per point) that is GREAT value for you points. But it is 5 CPP for Canadians!

The easiest way to get started on hotel points is to get one of their credit cards.

If you are spending on that card you are getting a 5% return on your spending at these hotels!

It makes sense – with the Starwood Amex you get 21,000 points after spending $1000 on it.

Doing some simple math, that is 7 nights at that example hotel worth $153 CDN times 7 = $1071 in hotel stays – for an annual fee of $120.

Now, many people don’t like annual fee credit cards, which really makes no sense to me when you see the value you receive.

There are other hotel credit cards like the Marriott Visa, IHG Mastercard and so on – we have written about these a few times – check out the posts and decide for yourself if a hotel branded credit card is for you.

See our Amex page for more on that card!

Go away on an All-Inclusive…now!

As usual Karen has great deals on all-inclusives today.

From around $700 total you can get away to Cuba for a week, including airfare/food/drinks/etc.

She can even get you at a 5 star in Bahamas for under $1000 total!

Such good deals. Book something! Check her page for more.

She is in the Kenwick Building in Sarnia or 519-542-1009 or karen@traveldiscounters.ca.

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Transat Tuesday – Disney in March!!!

Karen has a Disney deal for March. Check out the deal – love it when kids fly and stay free!

So, doing some quick math for a family of 4 to fly and stay a week at Disney you are looking at $2400 including taxes.

$600 a person to fly and stay a week at a Disney resort – pretty nice.

Check out her page for more – or just email her at karen@traveldiscounters.ca or 519-542-1009.

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Great sign-up bonus. Great card.

Amex just upped the sign-up bonus for the Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Card to 20,000 Starpoints after spending $500 on it.

We haven’t written too much lately on cards but this bonus is worth getting.

This may not seem like much to most people as many of you might not know what Starpoints are or how much they are worth, but this sign-up bonus in our opinion is THE BEST SIGN UP BONUS OUT THERE.

I have been following this for about 4 years and writing about it over a year now and am confident when I say, “This card is awesome.”

There is a $120 annual fee which they don’t waive, but TOTALLY WORTH IT.

I have written much about SPG points over the past year.

Amex Page.

Good Credit Card to spend on.

It goes on.

So rather than me repeating all I have said, let me just give you 2 scenarios.

First one – you get the card yourself.

You spend $1000 on it – you have 21,000 Starpoints.

What can you do with those points?

1. 7 nights in Starwood Hotels for free in many of their Four Points and Sheratons (Cat. 2 awards are 3000 points on weekends.)

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2. 2-3 nights in Starwood Hotels that are nicer and higher categories. (Cat 3 – 7000, Cat. 4 – 10,000)

These hotels generally go for $175-$350 a night.

The “value” is in booking the Cat. 2 hotels as you are getting about 7 nights for free in hotels worth anywhere from $100 – $150 a night or more!

3. Transfer points to an airline Partner  – you will get a 25% bonus on airline partners like Avios and Aeroplan so you end up with about 26,000 airline points.

That is enough for one person to go anywhere in Continental US or Canada (25,000 Aeroplan)

That is enough for 3 people to go on a short haul flight on American Airlines or US Air (through BA using Avios – need 27,000 points so spend a bit more)

That’s all fine and dandy, but it gets better in Scenario 2 – you get the card yourself and refer your partner.

You both spend $1000 on it. You end up with 31,000 points and your partner has 21,000 points.

So…52,000 Starpoints between you.

1. 17 nights in Cat. 2 hotels. 17!!!

2. 5-7 nights in Cat. 3-4 hotels. This part gets better because after you stay 4 consecutive nights in a Cat. 3 hotel or higher you get a free night added on!

You could actually do a 5 night vacation on the beach in Florida, spend 28,000 points and have 24,000 points left. You are close to doing that 5 nights on the beach twice, FOR $240 total!

Again, that is 2 five day vacations in Beach Front hotels for $240.

3. Transfer points to an airline partner. – you would get more than 60,000 airline miles.

That is 2 flights anywhere in Con. US and Canada with Aeroplan (50,000 miles)

That is 3 medium haul flights using Avios. ie. Detroit/Toronto – Miami, Tampa etc.(54 – 60,000 miles)

That is 6 short haul flights using Avios ie. Detroit/Toronto – NYC, Philadelphia, Washington DC (54,000 miles)

Go back and look at what you get for $120. That is simply buying your hotel nights or flights in advance for a small fraction of what they actually cost. You may or may not like Amex, but that is a great bonus.

After thinking about this for awhile I realized I could put a picture up of how good a deal this really is.

If you and your partner both got the card you could pool your Starpoints in a “Family Account” and have the 52,000 points.

I picked 1 hotel in Ft. Lauderdale on the beach to show how good this is. There are many other examples you could find.

This deal is for 6 nights in The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort

1. Use your 50,000 points. Cost  – $120 + $120 = $240 total

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2. Pay Cash – total cost – $2324 US or about $2500+ CDN

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I am not kidding – you just saved over $2000 in hotel stays getting that card.

Hence the title of this post – “Great sign up bonus. Great card”

Consider flying out of Cleveland.

For many of our readers that live in the Sarnia, Ont. area I am proposing another way to save on your flights.

I myself like to use Avios and Aeroplan points to fly free (see those pages) but when there is no availability you need to look elsewhere.

Most people in our area fly out of Detroit(1.5 hrs) or Toronto (2.5 hrs).

Many people say to fly out of Flint (1 hr) which is a small airport and you can find deals.

We flew out of Cleveland last March break and saved on “points used for flights” it was 60,000 Avios.

That same flight out of Detroit is 72,000 – 80,000 Avios depending on where you fly to.

If you don’t use airline points I have found Cleveland to have very attractive flight prices.

Just looking for our March break (we have a page for that too) I found it is very hard to get a round trip flight to Florida for under $300 right now.

Frontier Airlines flies out of Cleveland and offers some very good prices.

As an example if you leave the Sunday of March break (15th) you can get round trip flights to Florida for as low as $175.

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It comes down to a money and convenience thing in the end, but if you are booking 4+ flights and saving $125 a flight that is about $500 saved.

That could easily pay for your rental car for a week, hotel for a few nights, or Disney passes!

Cleveland Hopkins Airport is smaller than Detroit Metro and about 2.5 hours farther drive – but it is an option.

Takeoff Tuesday to a 5 STAR!!!

Great price for a 5 star All-Inclusive!

Toronto departures in February and March.

Check it out and check Karen’s page for more!

She still has a bunch of deals for January.

karen@traveldiscounters.ca or 519-542-1009

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Why use Debit when you don’t have to?

A couple of experiences lately made me wonder why people use Debit when making large purchases.

I understand some people can’t get credit and this is their only option, but this wasn’t the case in either example. I also understand you can get “PC points” and other Debit “points” when doing this, but it still doesn’t get you much of a “spending reward”

Case 1. Auto Dealership. Person already had the money in their bank account to make a down payment of $11,000 on a car. Used debit. Done. No worries. I actually heard part of the conversation. “How would you like to pay?” “Umm..I guess I’ll use my Visa…no wait…money is in the bank already…I’ll just debit it”

Now, I don’t know what Visa or if she got some “Debit points” from this transaction, but she probably gave up at least a 1% return on whatever credit card she could have used. $110.00 in some credit card reward.

Go home and pay that bill off right away – done.

Again, I understand why people use debit, but this seemed like a case of a missed credit card bonus – whatever it might have been.

Case 2. Dentist. Almost the exact same situation. Person must have had an expensive procedure because the bill was $4400. I don’t know if this was covered by insurance or whatever, but again the person had to pay up front anyway. “I guess I’ll use my Mastercard…no I won’t remember to pay this…better to just debit this today, I’ll get reimbursed by next week”

Again, at least a 1% return for a $44 reward on a credit card.

You should be shooting for better than 1% reward on your card, but at least that is something.

So to add up both cases – $15,400 spent, about $160 in credit card rewards.

That’s nice but you CAN do way better. We did a write up on a great credit card reward a few months ago and it still stands true.

That is getting a 5% return. 5%!!! and it’s easy to do.

So, if those purchases would have used the Starwood Amex, they would have 15,400 Starpoints.

That is 5 free nights in their class 2 hotels! (Sheratons/ 4 Points) Not fancy hotels by any means, but they would go for $100-$150/night.  Good for travel sports/ just spending the night after driving all day/ just a getaway with a pool, etc.

These choices do make a difference.

1. Use debit for no reward

2. Use a grocery/department store credit card for $160 in rewards (or so)

3. Do some research and get a 5% return and cash in on 5 free hotel nights.

A little bit of reading can save you serious travel dollars.

As a side note, I also use the RBC Rewards Visa which offers 50% bonus points to Avios twice a year.

That would be 15,400 RBC points converted to 23,100 Avios.

That is more than enough for 2 flights to New York City from here or 1 flight to Florida. (see our Avios page)

$600 ALL-IN CUBA. Incredible.

I have no idea how prices that include a 3+ resort for a week, flight to Cuba and all the good stuff of all-inclusives can get down to $600 total. I really don’t.

Check out these prices and “Share” on FB if you can or Retweet us!

Karen is in Sarnia in the Kenwick building and has been doing this for about 30 years – she knows what she is doing.   Call her at 519-542-1009 or emaIl karen@traveldiscounters.ca

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More great deals from Karen!

Depending on if you have a budget or if you want to spend some money on a really nice all-inclusive, Karen has you covered!

This first one is a great deal. Any time you can get away for a week to an all inclusive for under $700 total that is a great deal. It’s a 3.5 star in Santa Lucia or Varadero.

Karen is in the Kenwick building in Sarnia an can be reached at 519-542-1009 or email her at karen@traveldiscounters.ca.

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Now her Transat Tuesday sale is for 2 days only and is below.

A 4 star in Montego Bay? Yes please.

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Give her a call while these deals are available!

Question – from here to Rome

My co-workers are always asking about how to get here and there for free and since I really just fly US and Canada for free I enjoy looking up the options available.

I did a post this time last year on going to Europe and the taxes involved so I first checked that post.

That question was on flying to France from here and the answer ended up being using BA Avios out of Toronto which used 49,000 Avios and $405 in taxes.

That option was significantly better than the other 3 options (see post)

Now we are talking Rome, Italy – in the SUMMER

I have found a site I go to that can instantly tell me points needed for the airlines, so I check that first.

American comes up first as being the cheapest but upon further research it is not in the summer when she wants to go.

Since I deal with Avios and Aeroplan the most and those are high on the list I go to their sites to check prices.

BA Avios

Detroit – Rome – found 1 combo for 70,000 Avios  + $433 but very hard to find (flying American and US Air) It should be about 60,000 Avios but good luck finding!

Toronto – Rome – 55,000 + $590 (on British Airways)

Aeroplan

Detroit – Rome  – 60,000 Aeroplan + $480 – $550 depending on Airline you pick

Toronto – Rome – 60,000 Aeroplan + $400 – $900 depending on Airline again.

It is very interesting looking this information up as you see the differences in taxes flying with different airlines.

So then I am thinking about American Air again and I try some summer dates.

Turns out AA is

Detroit – Rome – 60,000 + $491

Toronto – Rome – 60,000 + $389

But…if you don’t go in summer or mid May – mid Oct – it is 40,000 points + $595 from Toronto or more in taxes from Detroit ($843).

Like this picture says below, you can get the flights for 20,000 each way from Oct 15 – May 15 and if you can avoid the BA fuel surcharges it would save you money as well.

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Her points are Amex MR points – she can transfer to Avios and Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio.

She can’t transfer to AA at a 1:1 ratio (it’s worse) and you have to go through SPG points which I won’t get into.

So…conclusion? I’d probably say Toronto – Rome using 60,000 Aeroplan at a cost of about $400 minimum.

Second choice would be Toronto – Rome using Avios at a cost of 55,000 Avios and $590.

Again, these taxes will vary so look closely and be patient.

Here is the Amex that gets you 25,000 points rights away and no fee first year!

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