The Points Guy http://thepointsguy.com Wed, 01 Apr 2015 05:48:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Under-The-Radar African Safari: Zambia http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/under-the-radar-african-safari-zambia/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/under-the-radar-african-safari-zambia/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:59:44 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=116801 First-time visitors to Africa tend to gravitate toward well-known destinations like South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, but in this new travel series, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen sheds light on five of southern Africa’s other great safari destinations, starting with Zambia.

Uniquely patterned Thornicroft giraffes in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.
Uniquely patterned Thornicroft giraffes in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.

When it comes to an African safari, the destination options are practically endless. Despite that, most visitors, and especially first-time travelers to Africa, usually hit the same old spots in South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. With good reason—those countries offer fantastic tourism and hospitality infrastructures, some amazing wildlife-viewing opportunities, and are among the easiest places to get to in sub-Saharan Africa whether you are paying for your ticket or using miles.

However, for travelers looking to get off the beaten path and explore some of the continent’s lesser-known regions, the countries of Zambia, Rwanda, Namibia, Malawi and Botswana offer myriad safari options from jungly mountain gorilla habitats to primordial deserts to lakes teeming with fish and wildlife. The only difficult part is deciding which to visit first.

For the first post in this African safari series, we’ll take a look at Zambia, and the diversity of safari experiences it has to offer.

Most folks come to Zambia to visit Victoria Falls. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.
Most folks come to Zambia to visit Victoria Falls. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.

ZAMBIA

Roughly the same size as France but with a population of just around 14.5 million, Zambia is probably southern Africa’s best-kept secret. Its two major airports—in the capital of Lusaka (LUN) and in Livingstone (LVI) near Victoria Falls—are each about a two-hour flight from Johannesburg (JNB), with fairly frequent connections on South African Airways and Comair-operated British Airways’ subsidiary Kulula.

The first stop nearly every visitor to Zambia makes is Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. Its local name is Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “the smoke that thunders,” and it doesn’t take long to see why; when you walk along the paths facing the precipice, the torrent of the Zambezi River’s cascade creates a fine mist, resulting in myriad rainbows rising from the depths of the chasm.

Aerial shot of Victoria Falls. Photo courtesy of Zambia Tourism, photo credit: Marek Patzer.
Aerial shot of Victoria Falls. Photo courtesy of Zambia Tourism, photo credit: Marek Patzer.

Rainforests near the river spread out to grassy plains, and there’s plenty of game to see on drives in other parts of the national park. Thrill-seekers can make the swim-hike from Livingstone Island to the Devil’s Pool at the edge of the falls, bungee jump over the river valley, or go whitewater rafting, while those looking for a more sedate adventure can get up close to hippos and crocodiles in a canoe, or take a leisurely sunset cruise along the river, spotting game on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides.

A hippo claiming his territory in the river near Tongabezi. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.
A hippo claiming his territory in the river near Tongabezi. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.

Some folks opt to stay right near the falls at the Zambezi Sun or the faux-classic (and corporate-feeling) Royal Livingstone hotels, but about 12 miles upriver are two sister luxury lodges. Tongabezi lies right on the banks of the Zambezi and is currently renovating its riverfront cottages with huge private decks and updated amenities, while its sister property, Sindabezi, is on its own private island.

One of Tongabezi's newly renovated River Cottages. Photo credit: Tongabezi.
One of Tongabezi’s newly renovated River Cottages. Photo credit: Tongabezi.

Farther east along the Zambezi, and just a quick 25-minute flight from Lusaka (you have to take a small chartered plane to one of the small airstrips here) lies one of Zambia’s most beautiful landscapes, Lower Zambezi National Park.

Cruising along the river in the Lower Zambezi. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.
Cruising along the river in the Lower Zambezi. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.

Here, the river is over a mile wide with plenty of oxbow lakes and tributary streams on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides. The landscape is truly dramatic, with the Zambezi Escarpment forming a rugged border to the rift valley in which the river lies.

A canoe safari along the Lower Zambezi. Photo credit: Sausage Tree Camp.
A canoe safari along the Lower Zambezi. Photo credit: Sausage Tree Camp.

In rainy season, the landscape is unbelievably lush (and mostly impassible from late December through early March, when the camps are closed), while in the dry season, the plains spreading out from the riverbed become golden and sere. Thanks to the river and expansive plains, guests can go on water, vehicle and walking safaris here, a truly special combination. On the river, you can spot hippos and crocodiles aplenty, not to mention tons of birdlife, while on the plains, lions, leopards, hyenas, antelope and elephants abound.

Sunset at Potato Bush Camp in the Lower Zambezi. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.
Sunset at Potato Bush Camp in the Lower Zambezi. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.

The nice thing here is that the safari camps are few and far between, so you won’t see too many other tourists while you’re out on activities. Among the best options are the side-by-side sister properties, Sausage Tree and Potato Bush Camps, which offer deluxe tent-like accommodations with amenities like private plunge pools and hammocks, open-air (but with a roof!) showers, and gourmet meals, as well as personalized itineraries. Other well-known camps here include Old Mondoro and Chiawa.

One of the luxury tents at Sausage Tree Camp in the Lower Zambezi. Photo credit: Sausage Tree Camp.
One of the luxury tents at Sausage Tree Camp in the Lower Zambezi. Photo credit: Sausage Tree Camp.

South Luangwa National Park and its sister park, North Luangwa, are also well worth a visit. To get here, you need to take one or two flights totaling about 90 minutes from Lusaka ( to Mfuwe and then drive for about an hour (your safari camp should organize an airport pickup). Norman Carr Safaris, the pioneers of the walking safari, offer the best accommodations in South Luangwa, including the luxurious riverfront Chinzombo. Lying on the site of one of Norman Carr’s original camps, the enormous tents here are kitted out with nice touches like explorer-style wood-and-leather desks, huge decks with private plunge pools and lounging areas, and enormous freestanding bathtubs, not to mention plush, mosquito-netted beds.

One of the luxurious safari tents at Chinzombo in South Luangwa. Photo credit: Norman Carr Safaris.
One of the luxurious safari tents at Chinzombo in South Luangwa. Photo credit: Norman Carr Safaris.

The park also offers some of the best game viewing in Africa with riverine fauna like crocs and hippos, but also huge herds of elephants, prides of lions, a good number of leopards, zebra, giraffe (including the beautifully patterned Thornicroft species), all kinds of antelope and wildebeest, baboons, hyena and wild dog, mongoose, and numerous birds including magnificent yellow-billed storks. Even better, you are almost guaranteed a walking safari to track game and learn about the local plant-life.

Spotting a leopard in South Luangwa. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.
Spotting a leopard in South Luangwa. Photo credit: Eric Rosen.

Zambia’s largest (it is about the size of Massachusetts), most isolated, and hence untouched, park is Kafue, right in the center of the country. The park is surrounded by game management areas that mean the wildlife here has generally good protection from outside influences and poaching. The park covers a variety of landscapes including the lush Busanga Plains, a flood area of the Lufapa River, where many of the park’s large game come to graze and hunt. However, animals tend to roam far and wide, so you need to cover a lot of ground to spot everything. If you do, though, you are likely to see lion, leopard, spotted hyena, a few cheetah, and wild dog. This is also a great destination for bird watching thanks to the enormous wetlands.

Accommodation options here are more limited, but include the Busanga Bush Camp and Shumba Camp at the luxury end of the spectrum.

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/under-the-radar-african-safari-zambia/feed/ 0
Deal Alert: Cheap Flights from West Coast to Asia from ~$600 http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/deal-alert-cheap-flights-from-west-coast-to-asia-from-600s/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/deal-alert-cheap-flights-from-west-coast-to-asia-from-600s/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 19:21:08 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=117009 Our friends at Stealth Trips tipped us off to this great deal for those looking to head to Asia later this year: there appear to be tons of different flight options on sale starting at just over $600 round-trip from the U.S.

Sale destinations include Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong and Jakarta, departing from US gateway cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose, California.

Here are some sample deals we found:

Los Angeles- Bangkok (BKK) for $699.47
Los Angeles- Bangkok (BKK) for $699.47

Los Angeles- Bangkok (BKK) for $699.47
Airline: Air China
Dates: Aug 21—Sept 23; Oct 4—December 8, 2015
How To Book: Orbitz

Los Angeles to
Los Angeles to Ho Chi Minh for $679.46

Los Angeles – H0 Chi Minh (SGN) $679.46
Airline: Air China
Book Through: Air China
Dates: Aug 23—December, 2o15

Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpar for $697
Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur for $697

Los Angeles – Kuala Lumpur (KUL) $697.10
Airline: United /ANA
Book Through: ANA (United Operates many of the flights on many of the dates)
Dates: Select dates September—November, 2015

Los Angeles to Hong Kong on Air China.
Los Angeles to Hong Kong on Air China for $611.43

Los Angeles to Hong Kong (HKG) $611.43
Airline: Air China
Book Through: Air China
Dates: All dates from August 21—Dec 8, 2015

LAX-CGK – 675.50
Los Angeles to Jakarta (CGK) through United for $675.50.

Los Angeles to Jakarta (CGK) $675.50
Airline: United/ANA
Book Through: United (Earns 18,140 PQM)
Dates: Select dates Aug 24—Dec 10, 2015

Jakarta (CGK)
San Jose, CA to Jakarta (CGK) $675.50

San Jose, CA to Jakarta (CGK) $675.50
Book Through: United  (Earns 17,520 PQM)
Dates: Select dates Oct 1 – Dec 3, 2o15

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 3.13.45 PM
San Francisco to Jakarta (CGK) for $679.00
San Francisco to Jakarta (CGK) $679.00
Book Through: United (Earns 17,486 PQM)
Dates: Select date Sept 1—Dec 17, 2015
InterContinental Hong Kong
Consider staying at the InterContinental Hong Kong.

Reminder: You can bank extra credit card points by using a card that maximizes airfare purchases, like 3x on airfare with the American Express Premier Rewards Gold or 2x on the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Check out this post for more on maximizing airfare purchases.

In addition to booking through the airline’s site directly, you should be able to book most of these through Orbitz, as well.

For Destination Guides check out these posts:
Destination of the Week: Bangkok
Destination of the Week: Ho Chi Minh City
Destination of the Week: Hong Kong

Please report back if you’re able to score any of these deals!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/deal-alert-cheap-flights-from-west-coast-to-asia-from-600s/feed/ 0
Giving Tuesday: Washington to Washington http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/giving-tuesday-washington-to-washington/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/giving-tuesday-washington-to-washington/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:09:26 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=116569 My new monthly series, Giving Tuesday, highlights travel-focused charities around the world. This month’s installment is from Davy Rothbart—writer of My Heart is an Idiot and brother of TPG Points & Miles Editor Peter Rothbart—who’s created a remarkable organization called Washington to Washington, which helps inner-city kids take trips to America’s Great Outdoors.

washington-to-washington54161927452_625848498817415211_n
During a Washington to Washington trip, a group of New Orleans kids enjoyed setting up camp in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest.

 

For the past five years, Washington To Washington has brought an ever-expanding group of inner-city kids from D.C., Detroit, and New Orleans into the wilderness for an outdoors adventure—camping, hiking, canoeing, swimming, and more. We’ve visited Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, and Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains. Each trip culminates in a mountain hike, with magnificent views of the summit.

The organization brings joy to many—but was inspired by a tragedy.

In 1999, while living in a rough part of Washington, D.C., I’d become a “Big Brother” to a 9-year-old boy in my neighborhood named Emmanuel Durant, Jr. Along with his brother, Smurf, and his sister, Denice, we’d play basketball, go to museums, and explore the city. Though I moved out of D.C. a few months later, in the years that followed I remained close with Emmanuel and his family, and watched with pride as he became the first person in his family to graduate high school, then get engaged to his high-school girlfriend and begin training to become a firefighter.

On New Year’s Eve 2009, as Emmanuel defended Smurf, Denice and their young children during a robbery, he was shot and killed.

Shaken to the core, I traveled to D.C. the next day and helped his family prepare for his funeral. Emmanuel was buried on what would’ve been his 20th birthday.

w2w14 twin islands overlook group shot
One of our Washington to Washington trips was to Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park (that’s me in the center, in the cap)

Late that night, I talked with Smurf, Denice, and their mother Cheryl about ways we might honor Emmanuel’s memory. I’ve always loved hiking, camping, and exploring the Great Outdoors, and Denice made a great suggestion:

“What if we gathered a bunch of kids from the neighborhood for an annual hiking trip?”

It sounded perfect, since I knew just how few kids from inner-city D.C. ever had the chance to leave their own neighborhoods, much less experience the wonders of nature.

w2w14 lake moomaw swimming nola boyz
Some of our lucky hikers and campers enjoying a swim in upstate New York

The next summer, Denice, Smurf, and I organized a trip with 20 kids from their block in D.C. Over the course of a week, we brought the kids swimming in upstate New York, visited a farm in Vermont, and hiked to the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. The joy and wonder on the kids’ faces was a sight to behold, and by the end of the trip, we couldn’t wait to begin planning the next one.

Our goal is simply to introduce kids to the wonders of the natural world and broaden their perspectives. One of my favorite things to see is the thrill these city kids take in the natural world, and the small, unplanned moments of discovery and wonder—inspecting a cicada in the grass, watching minnows in the shallow water or a mountain hawk circle high above.

w2w14 paris with cicada
Especially if you’ve never seen one, a cicada is a wondrous thing

Over the past 5 years, we’ve brought over 100 kids into nature for the first time, providing memories of a lifetime (for them as well as us). You can get a taste for what our trips are like from this wonderful video, which was shot during our trip to Mt. Washington:

This August, on our 6th Annual Trip, we’ll bring 35 kids from America’s roughest city streets to beautiful West Michigan, where we’ll climb sand dunes, canoe on pristine rivers, and swim in the Great Lakes.

Each year, our trips are funded entirely through individual donations from people like you. We’re a 100%-volunteer organization, so every dollar that’s donated goes directly toward covering the hard costs of our trip—food, supplies, camping gear, and travel costs for the kids.

Our goal for this summer’s trip is to raise $15,000, and if you’d like to help, your fully tax-deductible contributions can be made through the websites for Washington To Washington and our partner organization, Big Car

Washington to Washington canoeing
Part of this year’s trip to West Michigan will include river canoeing—as well as peace and quiet

Not only have our past trips been incredibly meaningful experiences for the kids, but the fact that someone they don’t know personally would care about their well-being and contribute so generously to make a trip possible is something they find deeply affecting.

The Points Guy community is full of wonderfully curious world explorers, and we can’t thank you enough for whatever support you can give to help us make this year’s trip a reality and give these special and deserving kids a chance to explore the world themselves!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/giving-tuesday-washington-to-washington/feed/ 0
New Wyndham Rewards Program is a Rare “Revaluation” http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/new-wyndham-rewards-program-is-a-rare-revaluation/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/new-wyndham-rewards-program-is-a-rare-revaluation/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:00:01 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=116402 Amidst an onslaught of recent program devaluations, there’s at long last some good news on the loyalty landscape horizon. On May 11, 2015, Wyndham Rewards will launch what I’d describe as a “revaluation,” a newly revised loyalty program that offers—among other new benefits—a flat redemption rate of 15,000 points per night at all of Wyndham’s 7,500+ hotels worldwide.

WR_RGB

According to Josh Lesnick, Wyndham’s CMO, who I spoke with just last week, Wyndham’s new loyalty program “has been designed with the intention of making it easier for members to earn, understand, and redeem Wyndham Rewards points.”

Named “You’ve Earned This,” the new program offers three main changes:

Go Free awards. A free night at any Wyndham property will now require 15,000 points with no blackout dates. This is the biggest change to the program, as it creates one flat redemption rate for all 9 tiers of Wyndham’s properties.

Go Fast awards. If you want to redeem your points sooner or stay longer for less, you can book available nights for 3,000 points plus cash.

More points for faster rewards. The program’s core earning ratio won’t change—it will still be 10 points for every dollar spent at Wyndham properties—but you’ll now have the potential to earn a minimum of 1,000 points per stay if that amount is more.

Wyndham Hotel Group includes a full range of properties, from budget to high-end.
Wyndham Hotel Group includes a full range of properties, from budget to high-end.

The enormous Wyndham Hotel Group has more than 7,500 hotels in 70 countries worldwide. While many of these firmly qualify as budget properties—such as Days Inn, Super 8 and Travelodge hotels/motels—there are also plenty which skew towards the luxury end of the spectrum. These include:

Just last night, I had dinner at the splashy Morimoto at the Shelborne Wyndham Grand Miami Beach—and I'm a fan

 

Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach. Set in the heart of Miami’s South Beach on Collins Avenue, this fully renovated Art Deco hotel is a short stroll from the sand and features a Morimoto sushi restaurant—where I snapped the above photo just last night, at dinner—and an elegant pool rimmed by cabanas, an outdoor bar and fire-pits. Under the old program, peak-period rates at this Wyndham Tier 9 property start at $475.50 or 50,000 points per night—but under the new program, it’ll require only 15,000 points per night, a a value of 3.2 cents per point!

le-moulin-1_1282x501

Dolce’s Le Moulin de Vernègues. In February 2015, Wyndham acquired Dolce, a brand of high-end global properties that are generally set on the outskirts of large metropolitan areas/destinations. For example, the romantic, elegant 100-room Le Moulin de Vernègues is set a half-hour from Aix-en-Provence in southern France; originally a 13th-century country house, the property now features an on-site L’Occitane spa and an adjacent golf course. Under the old program, peak-period rates at this Tier 9 property start at €445/$480 or 50,000 points per night—but once again, this will soon drop to a 15,000-point redemption rate, for a healthy 3.2 cents per point.

tryp-bogota-usaquen-tryp-usaquen-gastro2
TRYP by Wyndham Bogotá Usaquén. TRYP is a global brand of lifestyle-, tech- and millennial-focused hotels (on par with SPG’s Aloft and Marriott’s impending Moxy), and this particular TRYP property is set in Bogota, Colombia, one of the TPG must-visit destinations for 2015. This hip, 80-room hotel is right off Bogota’s fashionable Seventh Avenue, offering an on-site gastropub that features Colombian cuisine and cool views of the city’s rolling hills. Under the old program, nightly rates at this Tier 8 property start at $115 or 30,000 points per night—but now it’ll require a redemption of only half that, for a value of .76 cents per point.

Under the old Wyndham Rewards program, upper-tier properties like these three required redemption rates of between 30,000-50,000 points per night, making it pretty difficult to redeem for Wyndham’s most desirable properties. The upshot of Wyndham’s new program is that you can now concentrate your points-earning strategy on Wyndham’s budget hotels and motels, but redeem each 15,000 points you bank for a free night at one of its higher-end properties. (Note that the lower-tier properties’ redemption rates will also be going up from the old lower levels, but it was rarely worthwhile to redeem points for $50/night hotels, anyway.)

To get an idea of how this flat-rate redemption of 15,000 points per night compares to other loyalty programs’ starting top-tier redemptions, consider that Hyatt Gold Passport and Starwood Preferred Guest require at least 30,000 points; Marriott Rewards requires 45,000 and IHG needs 50,000; and both Club Carlson and Hilton HHonors ask for at least 70,000.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 11.29.49 PM
The old Wyndham Rewards redemption chart requires 30,000-50,000 points for a free night at its top-tier properties

Lesnick describes Wyndham’s program switch as “bringing aspiration to the masses,” but I’d just describe it as a positive step forward in making loyalty more, well, loyal. Too often we’ve seen hotels and airlines massively devalue their once valuable programs; in the case of Wyndham, it’s exciting to see a brand actually return value to its customer base.

Wyndham plans to add new travel partners in the future, but for the moment, its partners will remain the same. Present airline/rail partners include Alaska, American, Aeroplan and Hawaiian, and Amtrak Rewards, all of which allow you to earn 2 miles/points per $1 spent on Wyndham rooms, and a few car rental partners (Alamo, Avis and Budget) that allow you to earn a starting rate of 50 Wyndham Rewards points per rental day.

In case you don’t want to rely on hotel stays or car rentals for points accrual, know that you can buy Wyndham Rewards points for 1.1 cent per point, in blocks of 1,000, up to 5,000. A maximum of 5,000 Wyndham Rewards points can be purchased and received in a single calendar year.

Shortly after the May 11, 2015 launch of “You’ve Earned This,” Wyndham will release a new updated mobile app for the program. In the summer, they’ll roll out a 3,000-point bonus offer, and new elite membership tiers are expected to roll-out later this fall. They also plan to feature seasonal points promotions throughout the year.

With the new Wyndham program changes, we may see changes to the Wyndham Visa card bonuses, as well.
With the new Wyndham program changes, we may see changes to the Wyndham Visa card bonuses, as well.

This summer, Wyndham will launch the richest bonus offer in its history on its Wyndham Rewards Visa card—though no firm amount or date has yet been specified. Presently, the $69 annual fee version of the card offers a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points with first purchase, and earns you 5x per $1 on hotel stays and 2x per $1 on everything else, and offers a cardmember anniversary bonus of 5,500 points, the old program’s redemption rate for one night at a Wyndham Tier 1 hotel. The no annual fee version offers a sign-up bonus of 12,000 bonus points with first purchase, and earns 3x per $1 on hotel stays and 2x per $1 on everything else.

With any program changes there will be winners and losers, but for those who like to maximize the value of their points, I see these changes as a net positive— and for the first time, I’m paying attention to the Wyndham Rewards program in a real way. I’ll be sure to bring you program news as it develops.

What are your thoughts on this new program?

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/new-wyndham-rewards-program-is-a-rare-revaluation/feed/ 0
IHG Rewards Card 70,000 Points Offer Extended http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/ihg-rewards-card-70000-points-offer-extended/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/ihg-rewards-card-70000-points-offer-extended/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:02:23 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=116925 Chase has been offering a sign-up bonus of 70,000 points for the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. While there have been targeted offers for 80,000 points from time to time, 70,000 points is the best one currently available; however, this offer was set to expire yesterday, and has since been extended, so if you’re interested in signing-up for this card, there is still time!

Aside from the points, this card comes with an annual free night certificate that you can use at any IHG property worldwide, including The Palazzo and Venetian in Las Vegas. You also get IHG Platinum Elite status, which doesn’t compare to elite status with other brands, but gets you a 50% bonus on base points earning and the potential for upgrades. The $49 annual fee is waived for the first year, but even beyond that the card is well worth keeping for the annual free night.

IHG award nights start at 10,000 points for Category 1 properties, and go up to 50,000 points for top-tier Category 9 properties, with plenty of options in between. 70,000 points could get you two nights at Category 6 properties like the Intercontinental Budapest or the Holiday Inn Beachcomber Resort in Waikiki. 70,000 points would also go a long way with IHG PointBreaks, which allow you to book select properties worldwide for just 5,000 points per night.

fdsfs
70,000 points can get you two nights at the Intercontinental Budapest.

These are the published benefits on the IHG Rewards Card:

Sign-up bonus

  • Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. This bonus offer is available to you as long as you have not received a new cardmember bonus for this product in the past 24 months.

Rewards

  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent when you stay at our hotels.
  • Earn 2 points per $1 on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores & restaurants.
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

Benefits

  • Annual free night
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you’re a Select cardmember.
  • Automatic 10% points rebate.
  • No foreign transaction fees when you use your card for purchases abroad.
  • $0 Introductory annual fee for the first year, then $49.

As you can see, the benefits on this card aren’t as impressive as some other co-branded hotel cards (like the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card, for example). Still, the annual free night alone makes this card worth having, and the low spending requirement makes the sign-up bonus pretty easy to get. For more analysis, check out Jason Steele’s recent review of the card, and for some ideas about how to use the sign-up bonus, check out these posts on 7 Great IHG hotels in the US and Incredible IHG Hotels for International Gateways.

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/ihg-rewards-card-70000-points-offer-extended/feed/ 0
Travel Rewards Credit Card Combinations to Explore Europe http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/travel-rewards-credit-card-combinations-to-explore-europe/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/travel-rewards-credit-card-combinations-to-explore-europe/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:59:58 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=116727 When talking about award travel, it’s easy to focus on earning points and miles, and lose sight of the actual traveling. Today, however, TPG Contributor Richard Kerr offers a detailed analysis of how you can use your travel rewards to explore Europe.

Over the last few months, TPG Senior Points & Miles contributor Jason Steele and I have presented travel rewards credit card options that allow you to plan a vacation to specific destinations based on the rewards earned through sign-up bonuses. I recently covered card combinations for exploring East Asia, while Jason has previously covered combos for travel to Hawaii, Puerto RicoCosta Rica, and Paris. Today, I’ll offer options enticing enough to make anyone want to hop on the next transatlantic flight and enjoy some of Europe’s top spots.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to visit Europe, that time has arrived. Over the past year, the Euro has gone from just shy of $1.40 to a closing rate today of $1.08. You’re essentially looking at a 25% discount on everything from last summer’s prices. Many destinations in Europe live up to their pricey reputations, so it’s important to use every tool you have to keep your total trip costs down.

In this post, the card combinations will not only cover flying to Europe from the USA, but also hotel and flight strategies within the continent. The first step in preparing for a trip of this magnitude and acquiring new credit cards is to get organized. Make sure you have a good credit card application strategy, and don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Like other posts, I’ll present three different combinations, each of which will give you a different vacation in Europe. Each combination is made up of 4 credit cards, which 2 people could easily acquire.

Combination 1: Stopover and Open Jaw through a Romantic Europe

Mastering the art of the stopover and open-jaw can lead to incredible possibilities. With this card combination, you can fly round-trip from the USA to Istanbul, Paris, and Copenhagen for 60,000 United miles, and add a European low-cost carrier ticket for around $70. That’s right: three destinations for the price of one!

It will cost only 60,000 United miles and $105 to visit Istanbul, Paris, and Copenhagen from Chicago.
It will cost only 60,000 United miles and $105 to visit Istanbul, Paris, and Copenhagen from Chicago.

In the above itinerary, your destination is Istanbul. You then create an open jaw by getting to Paris via a low-cost European carrier, like the non-stop service on Transavia France or Pegasus Airlines. From Paris, you’ll stopover in Copenhagen on your way home to Chicago. Voila; three romantic European cities on one ticket for a very reasonable number of miles.

For hotels, Club Carlson has a large presence in all three cities, and one of my favorite perks of the Club Carlson program is the free bonus night on award reservations as a Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature cardholder. It’s easy to score a lot of free award nights if both you and your companion have the card. You start in Istanbul by each making a 2 night reservation on consecutive dates. Each of you will be charged for just one night, and you’ll end up staying 4 nights for the price of 2.

Istanbul would technically allow you to visit Europe and Asia on this combination. Photo courtesy of shutterstock.
Istanbul would technically allow you to visit Europe and Asia on this combination. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Copenhagen is one of my most favorite cities in Europe, and is a worthy destination by itself. Adding it to an itinerary that also includes Istanbul and Paris is a home run. Here’s one possible itinerary, along with the number of points and miles needed.

Hotels

  • Istanbul— 4 nights (made with 2 separate reservations for 2 nights each) at the Radisson Blu Istanbul Sisil for 88,000 Club Carlson Gold Points
  • Paris — 2 nights at the Radisson Blu Paris-Boulogne for 50,000 Club Carlson Gold Points
  • Copenhagen — 2 nights at Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Copenhagen for 50,000 Club Carlson Gold Points
    Points Needed: 188,000 Club Carlson Gold Points

Flights

  • USA-Istanbul, Paris-Copenhagen, Copenhagen-USA — 120,000 United miles (60,000 per person)
  • Istanbul-Paris — $70 on low-cost carrier
    Points Needed: 120,000 United MileagePlus miles (or 120,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points)

Cards and Sign-up Bonuses

  • Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card (x2): Earn 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, and 35,000 more points after you spend $2,500 in your first 90 days of card membership. This card is also great for everyday spending, since you earn at least 5 Gold Points for every dollar you spend. $75 annual fee.
  • Chase Ink Plus Business Card (x2): 50,000 points after spending $5,000 in 3 months. Earn 5 points per dollar at office supply stores, and on cell phone, land line, internet, and cable TV services (on up to $50,000 in spending annually), and 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations and on hotel accommodations (again, on up to $50,000 in spending annually). No foreign transaction fees. Ability to transfer points to 11 travel transfer partners, including United. $95 annual fee (waived the first year).

By meeting the minimum spending requirements, you’ll have earned at least 195,000 Club Carlson Gold Points and 110,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after spending $15,000.

This leaves you 10,000 United miles short if you transfer your 110,000 Chase points to United. However, if you and your partner both complete $1,000 of the minimum spend at an office supply store (gift cards, cleaning supplies, household goods, etc.), then the 5x bonus category will earn you each an extra 5,000 points, and get you to the required 120,000 points.

The Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Copenhagen is on my list for the next trip to Denmark.
The Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Copenhagen is on my list for the next trip to Denmark.

Combination 2: Use Low-Cost Carriers and Trains to Get Around Europe

The one example above of using a low-cost carrier to get from Istanbul to Paris illustrates the value these airlines offer in Europe. Yesterday I showed how it’s tough to get good value out of using British Airways Avios for short flights within Europe, because all the low-cost carriers make it so affordable to hop around on paid flights.

This itinerary starts with the cheapest transatlantic award out there: using Avios to fly Aer Lingus from Boston to Dublin. Your round-trip cost is a microscopic 25,000 miles per person, and Aer Lingus is light on fuel surcharges. Once in Dublin, you’re set up in Ryanair’s home base, the Mecca of low-cost carriers.

Credit Cards and Sign-up Bonuses:

  • British Airways Visa Signature Card: Currently offers 50,000 Avios after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months. Today is the last day you can get the $95 annual fee waived for the first year.
  • Citi ThankYou Preferred Card: Currently there is an increased sign-up bonus of 30,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first 4 months of card membership. You can redeem these points at a rate of 1 cent apiece through the Citi ThankYou travel center. There are two added perks: if you’re short miles, you can pay the remainder with cash; and after redeeming points for a flight, you still earn loyalty miles as if it were a paid ticket. If you have the Citi ThankYou Premier Card or Citi Prestige Card, then you get a better redemption rate (1.25 cents per point with Premier, 1.33 cents per point with Prestige, and 1.6 cents per point with Prestige on American Airlines flights). You can also transfer points to airline partners like AirFrance/KLM to find some attractive award flights around Europe.
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard (x2): This card offers 40,000 miles after you make $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. You also receive 10% of miles back when redeeming for travel statement credits, so miles are effectively worth just over 1.1 cents apiece, which makes the sign-up bonus worth about $440 toward qualifying expenses.

By meeting the spending requirements, you’ll have earned at least 50,000 Avios, 32,000 ThankYou Points ($320 or more) and 86,000 Arrival miles ($880) after completing $10,000 in spending.

After burning your Avios to reach Dublin, the route maps of European low-cost carriers like Ryanair, Easyjet, Vueling, Germanwings, and Wizz Air make Europe your canvas. You can redeem ThankYou Points and Arrival miles to cover as many cheap flights as possible, constrained only by your points balance and allotted time on the continent.

If you’re a train enthusiast, Arrival miles can also be redeemed to cover those tickets. Select your routes carefully, and decide based on how much of a time crunch you’re in when it makes sense to fly or ride a train.

For free accommodations on your journey, look to redeem your Arrival miles for rooms via Airbnb.com. Hostels are a dime a dozen throughout Europe — the goal of this itinerary is to maximize the number of destinations, not luxury. How much travel could $1,200 get two people using low-cost carriers? Quite a bit.

Using Ryan, I can fly a circle around Europe for $381- including a 30 lb. checked bag.
Using Ryanair, I can fly a circle around Europe for $381 – including a 30 lb. checked bag.

Consider these costs on Ryanair for two passengers:

  • Dublin – London Stanstead: $34.28
  • London Stanstead – Edinburg: $31.66
  • Edinburg – Oslo Rygge: $31.66
  • Oslo Rygge – Riga: $22:76
  • Riga-Milan Bergamo: $58.16
  • Milan Bergamo – Palma: $33.66
  • Palma-Dublin: $64.64

That’s 7 destinations round-trip from Dublin for for two people for $276.82. The key to saving here is avoiding Ryanair’s fees, packing light, and knowing the rules. A 15 kg checked bag will add $15 per flight in the low season, or $105 total for the above itinerary. I would still call $381 for two people to fly that 7 destination itinerary incredible. This leaves you over $800 left to pay for Airbnb.com rooms, hotels through the Citi ThankYou travel center,  or hostels. You can see the whole continent and still have a return ticket from Dublin to Boston waiting on you with these four cards!

I’ve wanted to visit Norway and downtown Oslo for quite a while. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Combination 3: The Oneworld and Starwood Italy/Spain Hopper

No look at award travel to Europe would be complete without some discussion of American Airlines off-peak pricing. From October 15th to May 15th, you can fly round-trip from the US to Europe in economy for a mere 40,000 miles. On top of that, intra-Europe flights on Oneworld partner airlines in economy cost 10,000 miles. For 50,000 AAdvantage miles during off-peak dates, you can fly to Europe, fly to another European destination, and then fly home.

Starwood Preferred Guest properties in Europe are some of the best. It’s difficult to pick out cities to visit and properties to book with so many options. For this itinerary, let’s go with the St. Regis Rome and then head to the Westin Palace Madrid courtesy of Oneworld partner Iberia. I’d like to spend 3 nights at each hotel, and will utilize SPG’s cash + points award redemption in order to spread my points and save a lot of cash at the same time.

Anyone for the St. Regis Rome? Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock.
Anyone for the St. Regis Rome? Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock.

Hotels

  • Rome — 3 nights at the St. Regis Rome for 30,000 Starpoints and $540.
    Madrid — 3 nights at the Westin Palace Madrid for 18,000 Starpoints and $330.
    Points needed: 48,000 Starpoints

Flights

  • USA-Rome on American Airlines — 40,000 miles (20,000 per passenger)
    Rome-Madrid on Iberia — 20,000 miles (10,000 per passenger)
    Madrid-USA on American Airlines — 40,000 miles (20,000 per passenger)
    Miles needed: 100,000 AAdvantage miles

Cards and Sign-up Bonuses

  • Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express: Currently offers 10,000 Starpoints upon your first use of the card, and 15,000 more Starpoints after you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months of card membership.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express: Offers the same sign-up bonus as the personal card.
  • Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard (x2): This card currently offers 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. You also earn 10% of your redeemed miles back each year, up to 10,000 miles, which makes your Europe itinerary even cheaper.

By meeting the spending requirements, you’ll have earned at least 100,000 AAdvantage miles and 60,000 Starpoints after spending $16,000.

Which is Best?

These are all good options. Whether you use a stopover and open jaw to see three cities for only 60,000 United miles, get a ton of free low-cost carrier flights with Arrival miles, or take advantage of off-peak AAdvantage awards to Europe, you will have done very well and will have the trip of a lifetime.

I’m partial to the first combination, and I’d like to explore the other itineraries I could craft out of stopovers, open jaws, Club Carlson points, and United miles. The great thing about these combinations is that they’re very flexible, and even if you’re not set on the itineraries I laid out, you could apply the principles behind each option to chart your own course around Europe. There are so many possibilities; with the availability of low-cost carriers and the sheer number of worthy destinations on the continent, everyone reading TPG today could come up with an itinerary and no two would be the same.

What travel rewards cards would you get for a trip to Europe?

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/travel-rewards-credit-card-combinations-to-explore-europe/feed/ 0
Travel Rewards March Madness Final Four: Cast Your Votes http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/travel-rewards-march-madness-final-four-cast-your-votes/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/travel-rewards-march-madness-final-four-cast-your-votes/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 12:08:08 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=116222 Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen indulges our love for crowning a champion, as he continues with the semifinals of the TPG Travel Rewards 2015 Tournament.

Earlier in the month, we announced the TPG Travel Rewards 2015 tournament, and last week, I profiled the quarterfinal match-ups. The readers have once again spoken, and it’s time to reveal which benefits have earned a spot in the final four. Today, I’ll profile each of these semifinal matchups and (again) give you the chance to decide the winners. Later this week we’ll see who wins, and move on to the finals.

Here’s what the updated bracket looks like:

Since TPG readers clearly value all of these rewards, this post will not only profile each of the semifinal match-ups; I will also give you some concrete strategies for earning and/or utilizing each one. Even though only one will remain standing by the end of the tournament, all of these rewards can be valuable, and we want you to be able to take advantage of each one.

Let’s dive into the Final Four!

American Airlines plane 2
American’s off-peak awards are valuable, but can they stop the Southwest Companion Pass from earning a spot in the finals?

Southwest Companion Pass vs. American Off-Peak Awards

Our first semifinal pairs two contenders that took down their respective opponents (both hotel rewards, incidentally) with relative ease in the second round. Flight costs can make up a large portion of any trip’s budget, so it’s not surprising that these two have earned spots in the Final Four. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Southwest Companion Pass

As discussed earlier, the Southwest Companion Pass is earned by accruing 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points in a calendar year, and is valid for the remainder of the year in which you earn it plus the entire following year. It allows you to bring a designated companion along with you on any Southwest flight, whether you book with cash or points.

110,000 points sounds like a lot, but there are several steps you can take to earn them:

  1. Open one (or more) Southwest credit cards. Chase currently offers two different Southwest co-branded personal credit cards: the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card (which also has a business version), and the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card. Sign-up bonuses on these cards have often hit 50,000 points (after spending $2,000 in the first three months), most recently in early 2014. These sign-up bonuses along with all points earned on the card count toward Companion Pass qualification.
  2. Fly with Southwest. This is the most obvious way to earn qualifying points, but is still important to mention. Southwest awards points according to the type of fare you purchase. Wanna Get Away? fares earn 6 points per dollar, Anytime fares earn 10 points per dollar, and Business Select fares earn 12 points per dollar. You could earn a Companion Pass by spending just under $9,200 on Business Select fares, though you’d need double that amount of spending on Wanna Get Away? fares.
  3. Make purchases with partners. The Rapid Rewards programs has numerous partners, so you can earn points through various hotels, rental car companies, and retailers, among others. In addition, transfers from certain hotel chains count toward Companion Pass qualification. However, transfers from Ultimate Rewards do not count.
  4. Look at Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages. Southwest partners with Marriott Rewards, and one of the redemption options for your Marriott points is a hotel stay plus a pot of Rapid Rewards points through the program’s Hotel + Air packages. You’ll receive a seven-night award stay plus anywhere from 50,000 – 120,000 Rapid Rewards points, which count toward Companion Pass qualification. TPG used this benefit last year for a stay in Cannes, and earned a companion pass for his parents in the process.

For more details (and suggestions), check out TPG’s post on topping up your Southwest account to earn the Companion Pass.

American Off-Peak Awards

Now that American and US Airways have officially combined loyalty programs, this benefit only applies to the AAdvantage program (since Dividend Miles no longer exists). As discussed last week, this benefit allows you to redeem fewer miles to visit certain destinations during certain times of the year:

Destination

Dates Mileage Savings (one-way)
Hawaii January 12 – March 13, August 22 – December 15

5,000

Caribbean and Mexico

September 7 – November 14 5,000
Central America, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela January 16 – June 14, September 7 – November 14

2,500

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay

March 1 – May 31, August 16 – November 30 10,000
Europe October 15 – May 15

10,000

Japan and Korea

October 1 – April 30

7,500

These discounted awards show up automatically when you search for award space on AA.com:

AA off-peak
This search for awards between New York and London shows off-peak availability until May 16th.

 

Notice that the price jumps from 20,000 to 30,000 miles one-way from May 15th to May 16th, since that’s when peak pricing kicks in (or what American calls “Level 2 SAAver Award” pricing).

Earning enough miles to take advantage of these awards is very easy:

  1. Open one (or more) American credit card. Right now, both the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard and the CitiBusiness Platinum Select World MasterCard offer 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. In addition, just holding one of those cards gives you 10% of your redeemed miles back each year (up to 10,000 miles per year). That brings your effective cost for a round-trip, off-peak flight to Europe down to just 36,000 miles.
  2. Fly with American, US Airways, or any Oneworld partner airline. Any revenue flights on American, US Airways, or their Oneworld partners can be credited to your AAdvantage account, and remember that you can earn a ton of bonus miles in 2015 by purchasing premium fares.
  3. Make purchases with partners. Like Southwest, American has a plethora of partners, including hotels, rental cars, retailers, and more. Many offer limited-time bonuses, so be sure to check out the program’s full list of partners.
Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Staples gives you 5x Ultimate Rewards points on the Chase Ink Plus, but do you value stopovers & open jaws more?
Staples gives you 5x Ultimate Rewards points on the Chase Ink Plus, but do you value stopovers & open jaws more? Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Chase Ink Plus 5x Bonus vs. Stopovers and Open Jaws

Our second semifinal pits two rewards that had very different Elite Eight experiences. The Chase Ink Plus Business Card and its 5x bonus category breezed through its matchup with IHG PointBreaks, but the ability to book stopovers and open jaws on award tickets barely squeezed past the distance-based awards offered by British Airways. Let’s take a closer look at this Final Four battle.

Chase Ink Plus 5x Bonus

As a reminder, the Chase Ink Plus card gives you 5x Ultimate Rewards points for yearly combined purchases of up to $50,000 at office supply stores and on cellular, landline, internet, and cable TV services. Even though it’s technically marketed as a credit card for small businesses, you can definitely apply as a sole proprietor. Both my wife and I have Ink Plus cards for our part-time (self-employed) jobs.

Here are the best ways to utilize this reward:

  1. Open a Chase Ink Plus account. The first (and most obvious) thing to do is open an Ink Plus account, if you haven’t already. Currently, the card gives you 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, that bonus alone is worth $1,050.
  2. Set-up your telecommunications bills to auto-pay on the card. I get my home internet, phone, and cable services through AT&T, while our personal cell phones are through Verizon. Both of those bills automatically pay each month on one of our Ink Plus cards, giving us an easy influx of Ultimate Rewards points throughout the year.
  3. Make purchases from office supply stores. Ideally, you can use the Chase Ink Plus to purchase office supplies for your small or medium-sized business and rack up the points even faster than I can as a sole proprietor. However, all purchases at these stores earn you 5x points, including ink & toner, technology, shipping, and furniture. Then, there’s my favorite type of transaction…
  4. Purchase gift cards from office supply stores. Both Staples and Office Depot typically carry gift cards for a variety of retailers, and this is an easy way to earn 5 points per dollar on purchases that usually only earn 1 point per dollar at retailers like Target, Petco, Home Depot, and Nordstrom. An even better strategy is to purchase electronic gift cards at Staples that are e-mailed to you (typically within 24 hours). This allows you to go through an online shopping portal like Ebates to increase your return even more.

Stopovers and Open Jaws

The final contender is yet another airline-related award: the ability to build stopovers and open jaws into award tickets. Unfortunately, this benefit has lost a bit of steam in the last several months, first with Delta removing both options (though it did add one-way awards) and then with US Airways Dividend Miles fading into oblivion. However, there are still some ways you can make use of these awards:

  1. Book awards with Alaska Airlines. Though the competition with Delta for Seattle dominance is fierce, Alaska’s loyalty program (Mileage Plan) is leaps and bounds ahead of SkyMiles, allowing stopovers on international tickets (1 for one-way, 2 for round-trip) and one open jaw. With many partners, including Cathay Pacific and Emirates, this can be an incredibly valuable benefit.
  2. Book awards with United. Though United has devalued its program a lot over the last couple of years, it still allows you to include a stopover and two open jaws on round-trip award tickets.
  3. Book one-way awards. Alaska, American, Delta, and United all allow you to book one-way awards, so you can effectively create an open jaw (or two) by booking two awards (for example, JFK-LHR and CDG-MIA).
  4. Look for overnight stopovers of just under 24 hours. Even those airlines that don’t allow stopovers will allow you to include an overnight connection on an international award ticket of just under 24 hours. I’ve used this trick in Hong Kong and Vancouver on an American award ticket, Oslo and Prague on a US Airways award ticket, and Paris on a Delta award ticket. It’s just a quick stop, but a great way to see another city!
Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

Be sure to cast your votes, and stay tuned for the final vote later this week to help decide which contender takes home the trophy!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/travel-rewards-march-madness-final-four-cast-your-votes/feed/ 0
Emirates Adds New U.S. Flights Amid Subsidy Concerns http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/emirates-adds-new-u-s-flights-amid-subsidy-concerns/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/emirates-adds-new-u-s-flights-amid-subsidy-concerns/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 20:57:18 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=116597 Earlier this week Emirates announced that it will be adding a second daily flight to Seattle, while also adding Orlando as its tenth American destination. The rapidly expanding Middle Eastern carrier has recently been scrutinized by American carriers Delta and American, both of which allege that Emirates has received unfair subsidies from the UAE government, causing American carriers to become uncompetitive in certain parts of the world.

At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s annual aviation summit earlier this month, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker noted that the unfair competition posed by Gulf carriers like Emirates is a threat to American jobs and the U.S. economy. United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek reaffirmed Parker’s concerns, telling reporters at the conference, “We’re not competing against airlines. We’re competing against the treasuries of Gulf nations, and that’s an impossible task.”

Because Persian Gulf carriers can continue to flood international routes to the United States without having to “worry about a bottom line,” he said, U.S. carriers would be forced to drop routes and cancel plans for expansion, resulting in lost jobs and revenue. Emirates CEO Tim Clark has refuted such statements, and plans to issue a “line-by-line” response (with no timeline given).

Regardless of what side you’re on in this battle, U.S. passengers are undeniably reaping the benefits. International fares have plummeted on certain routes, while other U.S. cities now have new one-stop options to exotic destinations. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the benefits of the new U.S. service on Emirates.

Emirates Seattle
Emirates will operate two daily flights from Seattle.

 

Emirates Adds New Daily Flight to/from Seattle

The addition of a second daily flight to/from Seattle looks to be a shrewd move on Emirates’ part. Not only is Delta the largest international carrier in Seattle, but also Boeing is headquartered right down the road. With the inclusion of the new morning flight, Seattleites will be able to connect to Emirates’ afternoon flight bank in Dubai which offers connections to destinations in India, the Middle East, and Africa, all while cutting down on travel time.

Seattle’s largest carrier Alaska Airlines has also partnered with Emirates to provide seamless connections and mileage earning opportunities. Take a look a the Alaska—Emirates agreement to learn more about earning Mileage Plan miles while flying Emirates. Business class award opportunities are also abundant on the SEA-DXB route. If you haven’t already, read about how to save upwards of $8,500 on round-trip Emirates business class fares by buying Alaska Airlines miles, but note that this promo ends on April 3rd.

Emirates flights can be booked using Alaska miles
Emirates flights can be booked using Alaska miles.

Emirates Adds New Daily Flight to Orlando

For the first time in over a decade, Orlando will once again have non-stop scheduled air service to the Middle East. Thanks to Emirates, Floridians will now have access to the airline’s vast global network and more one-stop connections to exotic destinations. This flight also marks the tenth U.S. destination for Emirates, and will bring the total weekly U.S. flight count for the airline up to 98. Additionally, if you’re interested in gaining Emirates elite status, but have yet to give the airline a try, you may be able to request a status match if you hold status on another airline.

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/emirates-adds-new-u-s-flights-amid-subsidy-concerns/feed/ 0
Delta and Virgin Atlantic Announce New Summer Schedule http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/delta-and-virgin-atlantic-announce-new-summer-schedule/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/delta-and-virgin-atlantic-announce-new-summer-schedule/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 20:31:31 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=116836 Delta and Virgin Atlantic announced their new summer flying schedule, which calls for up to 39 daily transatlantic flights between the United Stated and the United Kingdom between the two carriers. A few years ago, the two airlines launched a partnership which includes frequent flier benefits, including the ability to redeem SkyMiles for Virgin Atlantic flights, and they’ve continued to built upon that partnership ever since.

Delta and Virgin Atlantic are offering nearly 40 daily flights between the US and the UK this summer.
Delta and Virgin Atlantic are offering nearly 40 daily flights between the US and the UK this summer.

Per the announcement, Delta and Virgin Atlantic will launch new service this summer which includes:

  • A new daily Delta service between Philadelphia and London Heathrow starting April 26
  • A new daily Delta service between New York-JFK and Manchester starting May 21
  • A new daily Virgin Atlantic service between London Heathrow and Detroit starting June 1
  • Virgin Atlantic is also offering  a series of special seasonal services this year from Orlando to Belfast, Northern Ireland  (June and July), and Las Vegas to Glasgow, Scotland (September and October).

With the partnership, one of the useful benefits is the ability to redeem Delta SkyMiles for Virgin Atlantic flights. Below is a sampling of some Virgin Atlantic flights I was able to find for using SkyMiles for this summer.

New York- London (LHR) one-way in coach: 30,000 SkyMiles

You could redeem 30,000 SkyMiles for a one-way flight from New York to London on Virgin Atlantic.
You could redeem 30,000 SkyMiles for a one-way flight from New York to London on Virgin Atlantic.

New York- London (LHR) round-trip in Upper Class: 125,000 SkyMiles plus $298

You could redeem 125,000 SkyMiles for a round-trip flight from New York to London on Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class.
You could redeem 125,000 SkyMiles for a round-trip flight from New York to London on Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class.

Las Vegas- Glasgow (GLA) one-way in coach: 30,000 SkyMiles

You could redeem 30,000 SkyMiles for a one-way flight from Las Vegas to Glasgow on Virgin Atlantic.
You could redeem 30,000 SkyMiles for a one-way flight from Las Vegas to Glasgow on Virgin Atlantic.

My Thoughts: 

Even though Delta is constantly devaluing their SkyMiles program, redeeming your SkyMiles for Virgin Atlantic flights is an option if you’re wanting to go to the United Kingdom this summer, especially with all the new flying across the pond.

Do you plan on using your SkyMiles for travel to the United Kingdom this summer? Feel free to share your travel plans below!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/delta-and-virgin-atlantic-announce-new-summer-schedule/feed/ 0
Earn 5,000 Bonus Club Carlson Points with App Booking http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/earn-5000-bonus-club-carlson-points-with-app-booking/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/earn-5000-bonus-club-carlson-points-with-app-booking/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:59:07 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=116823 Club Carlson just sent out an email to elite members with the opportunity to earn 5,000 bonus points after making one booking using either their iPhone App or Android App by April 5, 2015, for a stay completed by the end of April.

Club Carlson just emailed elite members with an offer to earn 5,000 bonus points with an app booking.
Club Carlson just emailed elite members with an offer to earn 5,000 bonus points with an app booking.

I’m currently a Club Carlson Gold Elite member thanks to the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Card, which provides complimentary Gold Elite status annually. I value Club Carlson points at .6 cents per point, meaning that 5,000 Club Carlson points is worth about $30 to me, meaning this is a no-brainer if you have an upcoming Club Carlson booking and were targeted for this offer.

Terms and Conditions:

You must be an existing Club CarlsonSM Elite member to participate in the 5K Bonus Mobile App Promotion (“Promotion”). Promotion is available exclusively for the Club Carlson member number associated with the email address to which the Promotion invitation email was sent, is non–transferable and may not be resold, auctioned or bartered. To be eligible to earn 5,000 bonus Gold Points® (“Bonus Points”) you must make a reservation using the Club Carlson mobile application between March 30, 2015 and April 5, 2015 (“Promotional Period”) and pay in full, in advance for a Gold Points–eligible stay at Quorvus Collection, Radisson Blu®, Radisson®, Park Plaza®, Park Inn® by Radisson and Country Inns & Suites By CarlsonSM hotels worldwide beginning on or after March 30, 2015 and completed by April 30, 2015 (“Eligible Stays”). Members can earn only one bonus during the Promotional Period. Stays paid for using Points + Cash are not eligible for this Promotion.

My Thoughts

If you’re looking for a way to maximize your Club Carlson points earning, you can earn 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days with the Club Carlson Premier Visa card.

Were you targeted for this offer? If so, share your travel plans below if you plan to make a hotel booking through their app this month. 

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2015/03/earn-5000-bonus-club-carlson-points-with-app-booking/feed/ 0