The Points Guy http://thepointsguy.com Mon, 20 Oct 2014 21:45:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Hotel Review: Radisson Martinique, New York – Club Level http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/hotel-review-radisson-martinique-new-york-club-level/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/hotel-review-radisson-martinique-new-york-club-level/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:59:35 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=94841

For our recent strategy meeting in New York, the TPG team checked into a variety of hotels around the city. Lifestyle Editor Shayne Benowitz stayed at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway. Here’s her review. Stay tuned for more New York City hotel reviews.

My cab turned onto the bustling, slightly chaotic corner of Broadway and 32nd St., just west of Macy’s Herald Square and smack dab in the heart of Koreatown. A bellman promptly opened the door, welcomed me to the Radisson Martinique on Broadway and fetched my bags. This greeting was much appreciated as my cabby was trying to hustle me for an exorbitant tip after deftly averting rush hour traffic from LaGuardia by taking the local route through Queens.

The Radisson Martinique on Broadway's facade, covered in scaffolding at the moment

The Radisson Martinique on Broadway’s facade, covered in scaffolding at the moment

The bellman escorted me through the spacious lobby to the front desk. With elaborate tile floors and wood-paneled walls, it exudes old world charm. Built at the turn of the century, it’s registered as a Historic Hotel of America, and the PGA (Professional Golfers Association of America) actually signed its founding charter there in 1916.

Check-in & Hospitality

The hotel's spacious lobby with ornate tile details

The hotel’s spacious lobby with ornate tile details

Check-in went quickly and smoothly, and I learned that I’d been upgraded from my Classic Guestroom with two double beds to a Martinique Club Level Room with two queen beds on the 17th floor penthouse as a Club Carlson perk. Why my reservation was made for two beds even though I was traveling alone, I don’t recall—perhaps that’s what was available. When I asked at check-in if there were any king rooms, I was told no, but was reassured that I’d like the upgraded room and that I’d have not one, but two nice beds. Of course, I’d prefer a king, but this was no big deal.

Club Carlson members are entitled to free high-speed WiFi (normally this costs $12.95 per 24-hours, per device and a free lower speed option is available to all guests). I didn’t use the WiFi much during my stay. However, the time that I tried to login, even the upgraded WiFi was working rather slowly.

Complimentary buffet breakfast vouchers at Martinique Café were also included in the price of my room. And I was sent upstairs with a welcome gift of a small box of chocolates.

The Room

My Club Level room with not one, but two beds

My Club Level room with not one, but two beds

My room, located just off the penthouse’s Club Level lounge, was perfectly serviceable for a business traveler’s needs. There was nothing particularly luxurious or stylish about it, but it was plenty comfortable as a place to rest your head after a busy day in Manhattan.

A small desk separates the two queen-sized beds, serving also as nightstand. There’s a telephone, a lamp and an iHome dock compatible with the iPhone 4. (I think it’s funny that the iPhone 4 iHome dock still comes standard at even the nicest hotels, even though this technology has long since been rendered useless as most people have upgraded to the iPhone 5 or 6 by now.)

Does anyone you know still have an iPhone 4?

Does anyone you know still have an iPhone 4?

Set off to the corner is a Keurig coffee machine and a small seating area with two red upholstered chairs. The room is decorated with black and white photography of New York City landmarks, like Washington Square Park and the Flatiron Building, perhaps compensating for the fact that the room has absolutely no view. A lone window looks out to an interior courtyard of grey walls, and if you look up, you’ll get a small glimpse of blue sky.

I was happy to brew myself a cup of coffee every morning from the Keurig

I was happy to brew myself a cup of coffee every morning from the Keurig

A room without a view

A room without a view

But if you look up you can see the sky

But if you look up you can see the sky

There’s no minibar, although free water bottles were replenished daily atop the safe in the closet, a nice amenity that I definitely took advantage of.

While there was no robe or slippers to speak of (my absolute favorite hotel room feature), the closet had plenty of space and enough hangers for my needs, as well as an iron and ironing board. A flat screen TV sat atop a tall chest of drawers in front of one of the beds.

The bathroom had plenty of counter space and, although the marble-tiled shower was yellowing in some places, it served its purpose perfectly fine with Radisson-branded bath products that were nicer than expected.

The bathroom was spacious

The bathroom had ample counter space

Notice the yellowing tile around the base of the shower

Notice the yellowing tile around the base of the shower

As it turns out, though, the two queen beds were a little hard and not the most comfortable.

Even though each bed had four pillows of varying firmness, the beds still weren't very comfortable

Even though each bed had four pillows of varying firmness, the beds still weren’t very comfortable

Amenities & Dining

The Club lounge offers a quiet seating area with bowls of apples, peppermints and a push-button coffee machine to whip up anything from drip coffee to a cappuccino. This served as my morning breakfast on my way out the door to meetings.

The 17th floor penthouse Club lounge

The 17th floor penthouse Club lounge

I’m not one for a hotel breakfast buffet, but the spread at Café Martinique looked nice. While I never actually dined there or at Petit Poulet, both their lunch and dinner menus looked tasty for travelers who are too beat to venture outside of the hotel for a meal.

The hotel has a small gym in the basement with three treadmills, an ab machine and a few free weights.

Not much to write home about re the gym

Not much to write home about re the gym

Overall Impression

As far as comfortable, centrally located business hotels go, Radisson Martinique fits the bill just fine. While there are no real bells and whistles to the hotel, there were also no real disasters. Owing to its historic pedigree, there are a few interesting decorative features (the aforementioned tile floors, gilt banisters, brocade wallpaper) and a breathtaking spiral marble staircase for vertiginous vantages. Overall, though, the design motif felt more stale and crusty than an interesting historic gem.

That's 17 floors of marble spiral stairs

That’s 17 floors of marble spiral stairs

The central location with a 34th St. Herald Sq. subway station mere steps from the front door was convenient for getting around the city and I enjoyed getting a taste of Koreatown, which I never would have discovered otherwise. For shoppers, the proximity to Macy’s is another bonus of the location. However, this particular corner of the city is a mad house, perpetually swamped with passersby.

Booking & Pricing

My average nightly room rate for late September was $378 and paying with your Club Carlson Premier Visa will maximize your points earnings. While the perks of the loyalty program are nice, for that price (or just a little more) I’d prefer to find a more stylish hotel in a sexier part of town. But that’s just me.

Related Posts

10 New Things To See in New York This Fall

Hotel Review: W New York Times Square

Hotel Review: Andaz Wall Street, New York – Andaz Suite

Hotel Review: Sheraton Tribeca New York – King Guest Room

Where do you prefer to stay in New York City? Have you been to this Radisson?

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My Chicago Seminars Presentation: Maximizing Credit Cards http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/my-chicago-seminars-presentation-maximizing-credit-cards/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/my-chicago-seminars-presentation-maximizing-credit-cards/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:57:17 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95683

This weekend, I had a great time speaking at the Chicago Seminars in Elk Grove, Illinois (about 20 minutes from O’Hare), meeting and greeting tons of other highly engaged (and slightly obsessed) frequent flyer and points hounds including The Frugal Travel Guy, Rick Ingersoll, and about 500 frequent flyer enthusiasts in attendance and several informative sessions for everyone from beginner to advanced mileage junkies.

My presentation was on Maximizing Credit Cards, and in it I covered:

  • What Makes Up Your Fico Score
  • The Three Types of Points: Transferable, Co-Branded, Fixed-Value
  • Credit Card Perks: Elite Perks, Spend Bonuses, Category Spending,  Lounge Access
  • Spending Your Way To Elite Status
  • Best Cards for Category Spending Categories
  • Preview of the New TPG App

I’m going to include a flash version of my presentation here so you can flip through it at your leisure and pick up the key points I discussed, if you weren’t able to write everything down during the presentation.

Were you able to attend the Chicago Seminars this year? What did you learn from them this weekend?

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How To Still Get The Chase Ink Plus 70,000 Sign-Up Bonus http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/how-to-still-get-the-chase-ink-plus-70000-sign-up-bonus/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/how-to-still-get-the-chase-ink-plus-70000-sign-up-bonus/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:28:31 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95662

Update: The 70,000 point Ink Plus offer is no longer available online but may still be available in a Chase branch. View the current online offer here

Chase re-launched a limited-time sign-up offer for the Ink Plus card a few weeks ago, where you’ll earn 70,000 points when you spend $5,000 in 3 months. That’s 40% higher than the normal sign-up bonus of 50,000 points.

Previously this offer was only available in Chase branches, and while my links ended yesterday on Sunday, October 19th, it appears that you can still apply online via the public offer links or in a branch, though it’s possible that these could be pulled soon as well. However, I did see a commercial during the Notre Dame football game this weekend advertising the 70,000 bonus so perhaps it will stay around for a while.

Another option is to head to your local Chase branch and ask to apply directly in-person as they should still have applications and they don’t currently have an end date in place for the in-person offer, so if you were hoping to get in on this lucrative and haven’t applied yet, you may still have a bit more time.

Chase Ink Plus

  • Limited Time Bonus Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $875 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Named “Best for Travel Rewards for Small Business” MONEY® Magazine, October 2013
  • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs with no transfer fees.
  • $95 Annual Fee
You can transfer your 70,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to redeem at the Hyatt Escala Lodge in Park City, Utah.

You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to redeem at the Hyatt Escala Lodge in Park City, Utah.

value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2.1 cents each because of the strong transfer partners (United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, IHG/Priority Club and Amtrak), so the 70,000 point bonus is worth at least $1,470 to me. For example, I used 60,000 Chase points transferred to United to book a one-way business class award to the Maldives in 2013.

Another option is to transfer your points to 70,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards.

Southwest Rapid Rewards is a great transfer option if you have the Southwest Companion Pass.

Even if you don’t know how to maximize the transfer partners, at a minimum you can redeem points through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Center at 1.25 cents each, so you’re getting at least $780 in value with the sign-up bonus alone ($875 minus the $95 annual fee).

I consistently rank the Ink cards among the top travel cards for the benefits they give cardholders. The Ink Plus card earns 5 points per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services, and 2 points per dollar at gas stations and on hotel accommodations (when booked directly through the hotel). Ink Plus also offers primary insurance for auto rentals (when you’re renting primarily for business purposes, or secondary insurance otherwise), similar to the recently added benefit on the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

As a reminder, you can have more than one Ink Bold or Ink Plus card. I already had an Ink Bold and an Ink Plus when the recent 60,000 point offers came around, but I applied and was approved for a second Ink Plus for another small business I’ve started. If you’re interested in doing the same, check out this post.

Chase is also offering some current Chase Ink cardholders a targeted referral bonus of 10,000 Ultimate Rewards for this offer, so be sure to check your email to see if you’re eligible.

For more information on getting the most out of Chase business credit cards and Ultimate Rewards points, see these posts:

10 Ways To Maximize 70,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Chase Ink Plus 70,000 Point Sign-up Bonus – Amazing Deal Alert
Top 10 Benefits of the Ink Bold and Ink Plus Cards
Maximizing Ultimate Rewards With the Chase Ink Cards Chase Ink: Which Card Is Best For You
Can You Get Both The Ink Bold and Ink Plus?
Ranking the Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Top 10 Ways To Maximize Each Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner

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Domestic Routes with International Business and First Class http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/domestic-routes-with-international-business-and-first-class/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/domestic-routes-with-international-business-and-first-class/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:59:49 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95391

You might not be thrilled about flying domestic business or first class, but some airlines operate aircraft with their international premium cabins on domestic routes, and those seats are up for grabs. I asked TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen to take a look at some routes where flyers can take advantage of these opportunities.

Apart from the transcontinental routes on which American, Delta, United and even JetBlue have updated their business class cabins with the latest lie-flats, domestic first class cabins tend to be pretty lackluster.

You will no longer be able to SDC from a non-stop to a connecting flight.

You don’t have to fly international to experience international first or business class.

However, several airlines operate internationally configured planes on domestic routes. That happens when an airline either needs to position a plane domestically before its international route (as a continuing tag flight from its international gateway in the US or Canada to its final destination), or when a newly reconfigured plane is used on a short-haul route.

Unfortunately, some flights are out of contention, like Qantas’s 747 route from Sydney to New York JFK via LAX, since you have to already be aboard in order to take the transcontinental portion. However, many others are available to flyers just hoping to hop on a domestic short-haul (or even longer flights like Los Angeles to Miami). What’s more, your chances of upgrades might be even better because of the increased cabin capacity!

Here’s a list of routes (by airline) where you can get the international treatment at the domestic price.

american-airlines-logo

American offers international business and first on several domestic routes.

AMERICAN AIRLINES

American doesn’t operate many of these flights. If we’re speaking strictly of widebody planes, American does fly its aging 767s on several domestic routes, but the business class on those planes is older than the average college student.

What you want to look for are domestic routes where American operates a 777-200 (it does not fly its flagship 777-300ER planes domestically at this time) and a handful of 757s that have been reconfigured with international business class.

The 777-200 doesn’t have the best business and first class cabins (those are aboard the 777-300), but first class is fully lie-flat in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration, and business class is 2 x 3 x 2 with angled lie-flat seats.

FlyerTalk has a handy thread where you can find updates on the routes served by the airline’s widebodies, but it doesn’t seem completely up to date, so you might have to do some sleuthing on your own. However, there are a few choice flights to look out for.

To access those premium cabins, the following routes are good uses of your miles, since you’re getting one of the airline’s best seats for the price of a domestic award (for about 6 hours in the case of the LA-Miami flight). You can also try your luck with an AAdvantage upgrade or by using 500-mile certificates. The increased capacity on the 777-200 in particular might give you a better shot, though the flight is between two of the airline’s hubs.

777-200: Miami to Los Angeles

This is probably the best-known route (and pretty much the only one at this point) where AA operates its 777-200 within the US. The 777-200 is used on flight 295 from Miami to Los Angeles, and flight 28 on the return. When you search AA.com, just look for the one daily non-stop flight in each direction that actually offers a business class ticket, since that will be the 3-class 777-200.

American's international business class isn't much, but it's better than domestic first class!

American’s international business class isn’t much, but it’s better than domestic first class!

While business class tickets on this route are often more expensive than first class tickets, consider just buying an economy ticket and taking your chances on an upgrade, since there are 37 business class seats aboard compared to just 22 on domestic 757s and a paltry 16 first class seats aboard a 738.

This route used to have two daily flights in each direction serviced by a 777-200, but it appears one has been temporarily replaced with a smaller aircraft while the 777 is being refurbished. It should return to service with the airline’s new business class aboard.

757-200 international: Miami-JFK

American has just 18 internationally configured 757s with the same angled lie-flat business seats you’ll find aboard non-refurbished 777-200s. While most of these operate on transatlantic flights from New York to Europe, the airline does sometimes throw one into service on the MIA-JFK route.

You can tell if your flight uses one of these aircraft by looking at the business class cabin seat map. The internationally configured 757s will have just four rows in business class, while non-international 757s have 5-6.

This 757 from JFK-MIA will have American's international business class on board.

This 757 from JFK-MIA has American Airlines’ international business class on board.

The current flight number on this route with the 757 is 2262 from Miami to New York departing at 6:40 pm. The flight in the opposite direction is 2351 departing JFK at 5:00 pm.

You can also catch the A321T running between Los Angeles and Las Vegas on occasion.

DELTA

Delta enthusiasts on FlyerTalk have put together this comprehensive thread on the airline’s domestic widebody operations. However, due to aircraft scheduling shifts, much of this information changes frequently, so you should check twice before booking your flights. Sometimes Delta adds widebody flights on specific routes for just a single day (like two upcoming 747 flights between MSP-ATL on November 30). This often has to do with increased capacity around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but more routes and information should be available as the holidays come and go.

Round-the-World Award Tickets will not be issued on or after January 1, 2015

You could fly this Delta 747 from MSP-ATL on November 30.

As you’ll see on the list, there are tons of options, including on 747s, 777s, A330s and 767s. Delta does have a domestic version of its 767-300, which could get confusing for some folks. However, there are a few ways to separate these from the pack. First, the cabin layout on domestic aircraft will have recliners in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration rather than the 1 x 2 x 1 configuration in the current BusinessElite cabin. Second, Delta has a handy icon system to explain flight amenities, so look for the bed under “flight details”, which will let you know your plane has lie-flat seating.

The other thing to note is that Delta recently ended complimentary Medallion upgrades on its basic E economy fares, so be sure to buy your economy ticket in an upgradable fare class if you want a shot at the premium cabin.

747-400: Minneapolis to Atlanta

How much fun would it be to fly a 747 domestically? Apparently you can end your Thanksgiving weekend doing just that if you need to get from Atlanta to Minneapolis, or vice versa. That day, the airline will operate two flights in each direction aboard one of its jumbo jets.

Here is flight #1 from MSP-ATL:

Delta 747

And here is the return from ATL-MSP:

Delta 747 2

You’ll notice the tickets aren’t cheap, but you might luck out with award availability or a Medallion upgrade, or you could use a regional upgrade if you want to confirm your seat.

If you plan on flying this route around the winter holidays, the airline plans to operate a 777-200LR from December 20-23 and 26- 30, of this year and January 2-4, 2015.

767-300ER: Multiple Routes

Beyond date-restricted flights, your other best bet is to snag a BusinessElite seat on the airline’s 767-300ERs, since some routes operate with those planes for months at a time. The Seattle-Atlanta route is using a few of these planes (up to 3x daily), as is the Portland-Atlanta route.

Delta's 767 BusinessElite seats.

It’s easier than you think to fly Delta’s BusinessElite domestically.

You’ll also find the 767-300 on the Atlanta-LAX flight scheme through the end of the current schedule. As I noted earlier, this is a busy route and Delta operates a number of aircraft on it, including other 767-300’s, so make sure that yours has the BusinessElite cabin by looking for the lie-flat icon. The LAX-ATL flight is #1354 and is a red-eye, while the return is #1655.

UNITED

United is a mishmash of old and new planes, domestic and international business and first class products, and an ongoing refurbishment schedule that can make it tough to figure out whether your routes are likely to be serviced by aircraft with the latest premium cabins.

United-BusinessFirst3

If you have the chance, fly United’s BusinessFirst instead of regular old domestic first class.

However, there are a few good bets. First, United has an extensive roster of hubs that includes Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Denver, Chicago, Newark and Boston, so if you’re flying between hubs, there’s a good chance that your route will have at least one aircraft per day with the latest BusinessFirst cabin on it.

Case in point: this flight (below) from Houston to Chicago in November is aboard a 767-300 with lie-flat BusinessFirst seats in a 2 x 1 x 2 configuration. Almost every other flight that day is on a 737 or A319/320, so this one is easy to find.

United IAH ORD

This FlyerTalk thread devoted to finding domestic BusinessFirst space is a bit sparse, but it does offer some other likely city pairings, including Newark to Orlando aboard a refurbished 757-200 with lie-flat BusinessFirst seats.

LAX-ORD also usually flies at least one 757-200 per day with the new BusinessFirst seats. Beware though, since there’s more than one flight on a 757-200 each day.

There are some LAX-ORD flights with BusinessFirst - just beware which 757-200 you book.

There are some LAX-ORD flights with BusinessFirst – just make sure you book the right 757-200.

That means you need to double check the seat map to make sure the seats are BusinessFirst; if so, they’ll look like the diagram below.

This is what a plane seat map with BusinessFirst seats will look like.

Here’s a plane seat map with BusinessFirst available.

Some other non-transcontinental routes where you’re likely to find BusinessFirst seats include:

  • EWR-DEN aboard a 757-200
  • EWR-ORD aboard a 757-200
  • IAH-DEN aboard a 757-200 and a 787-8 Dreamliner
  • IAH-LAX aboard a 757-200
  • IAH-SFO aboard a 787-8 Dreamliner and a 767-300
  • LAX-ORD aboard a 757-200
  • ORD-IAD aboard a 757-200

US AIRWAYS

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 12.17.03 PM

Catch the A330 Phoenix-Philadelphia on US Airways around Christmas.

US Airways operates its flagship Envoy international business class aboard its A330 aircraft, but apart from randomly scheduled airline maintenance flights between Charlotte and Philadelphia, it seems that the airline doesn’t typically operate these aircraft domestically. It looks like over Christmas this year, US Airways will have a few A330′s running between Phoenix and Philadelphia. 

INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES

It’s not just US airlines that you might be able to fly within North America aboard internationally configured planes. Two other great examples come to mind.

Air Canada Vancouver to Toronto

Although this is a standard domestic route for Air Canada, on which it operates several aircraft types (including an A320 and A321), Vancouver is also the international gateway to many of the airline’s transpacific flights. As such, you can find a few of its 777-300ER widebodies operating on this route as certain flights continue from Australia and Asia on to Toronto.

These aircraft are outfitted with international lie-flat business class in either a herringbone layout or staggered “Studio Pods” like Swiss Airlines’ business configuration.

Try out Air Canada's "Studio Pods" on a 777-300ER from Toronto to Vancouver.

Try out Air Canada’s “Studio Pods” on a 777-300ER from Toronto to Vancouver.

United will charge you 25,000 miles each way for these flights (like flying its own domestic business class), as will Aeroplan.

Cathay Pacific Vancouver to New York JFK

One of the world’s best tag flights has to be this transcontinental courtesy of Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific. Cathay offers a flight from HKG-YVR that then continues on to JFK, so even if you’re not crossing the Pacific, if you need to get between the East Coast and Vancouver, this could be a great option to try out one of the world’s premier carriers.

Cathay operates a YVR-JFK tag that you can fly by itself without having to continue on to Hong Kong.

Cathay operates a YVR-JFK tag that you can fly by itself without having to continue on to Hong Kong.

The airline uses a 777-300ER on this flight, and the business class cabin is in a 1 x 2 x 1 reverse herringbone configuration with spacious lie-flat seats. The first class cabin has just 6 enormous, double-wide, open suite-style seats that are among the most comfortable in the sky.

Cathay Pacific first class seats are a better redemption than ever with a new award fare policy from US Airways

This is a great chance to try out Cathay’s stellar First Class.

Cathay is a Oneworld airline, so you can use your American, US Airways or British Airways miles to book it. American and US Airways will charge you 25,000 or 32,500 miles each way in business/first respectively. British Airways will charge you 25,000/37,500.

Do you have any other good examples of international business/first service that you can fly domestically? Please share them in the comments below!

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Why Gas Credit Cards Can’t Compare to Travel Rewards http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/why-gas-credit-cards-cant-compare-to-travel-rewards/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/why-gas-credit-cards-cant-compare-to-travel-rewards/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:08:38 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=94981

Most airlines and hotels have co-branded credit cards that offer a good (or sometimes great) return on spending within the brand. Many gas brands have similar card offerings, but today TPG Contributor Jason Steele explains why the value of these cards just doesn’t measure up.

Gas isn’t cheap, and it’s a product that most Americans need regularly, so gas stations would seem like a great fit for co-branded credit cards that offer bonus rewards on fuel purchases. But a closer look reveals that co-branded gas credit cards aren’t really that compelling, especially compared to the savings offered by travel rewards cards.

In this post I’ll discuss the value offered by gas cards, and show you why in almost all cases they’re not your best option.

Gas station credit card

If you spend a lot on gas, you should earn a lot of points, but a co-branded gas credit card isn’t the best way to do it. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

How much can you save with a gasoline credit card?

The amount you can save with a co-branded gasoline card depends on how much you drive, so I’ll look at the following three scenarios, assuming a price per gallon of $3.50 (which is the approximate national average over the last three years):

  1. Low consumption, 286 gallons per year: Driving a compact car that gets 35 miles to the gallon, driving 10,000 miles a year, spending $1,000 on gas annually.
  2. Medium consumption, 480 gallons per year: Driving a mid-size car that gets 25 miles per gallon, 12,000 miles a year, spending $1,680 on gas.
  3. High consumption, 833 gallons a year: Driving a sports car, pickup truck, or SUV that gets 18 miles to the gallon, 15,000 miles a year, spending $2,915 on gas.

Naturally, the numbers will vary if you drive much more or much less than these amounts, or if you live in an area with much higher or much lower prices, Regardless, I think the end result remains the same, as the rest of this analysis will demonstrate.

Many gas credit cards have low caps on rewards. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

There are several different gas branded credit cards available. Here’s a sampling of the rewards they offer you:

BP Visa with Pump Rewards from Chase
This card offers a rebate of 15 cents per gallon for every $100 in purchases made at BP.  The rebate is good for a single fill-up of up to 20 gallons. So if you can add 15 gallons, you’re looking at a rebate of $2.25, or 2.25% of your spending at BP.

In the scenarios above, cardholders can save as much as $87.47 (for a high consumption driver with a vehicle that holds 20 gallons) or as little as $15.02 (for a low consumption driver who can only add 10 gallons per fill up).

True Earnings card from Costco and American Express
This card offers 3% cash back at US gas stations on up to $4,000 in eligible purchases each year. This equals an annual savings of $30 for low consumers, just over $50 for medium consumers, and about $87 for high consumers. To max out the savings on this card at $120, you’d have to use about 1,143 gallons annually at $3.50 per gallon.

True Earnings Business card from Costco and American Express
The business version of this card offer 4% cash back at US gas stations on up to $7,000 in eligible purchases each year. This means an annual savings of $40 for low consumers, just over $60 for medium consumers, and about $117 for high consumers. To max out the savings on this card at $280, you’d need to buy 2,000 gallons annually at $3.50 per gallon.

Gulf Platinum MasterCard from Barclaysbank
Like the consumer version of the Costco True Earnings card, the Gulf card offers 3% cash back at US gas stations. This means an annual savings of $30 for low consumers, just over $50 for medium consumers, and about $87 for high consumers. However, unlike the Costco True Earnings card, this card has no cap on rewards.

PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa Card
This card is probably the best gas card offered, and features a savings of up to 5% on gas purchases. To get the full 5%, cardholders must also have another account with PenFed credit union, such as a an active checking account with direct deposit, a mortgage, or a money market savings account (otherwise you save 3%). With the full 5%, cardholders could earn $50 cash back for low consumers, $84 for medium consumers, and nearly $146 for high consumers.

Penfed Platinum Cash Rewards Credit Card banner

The Penfed Platinum Cash Rewards card is the best of this bunch, but has no sign-up bonus and requires another Penfed account to get the full rewards.

5 reasons that gas cards are inferior to travel cards

1. Little or no sign-up bonuses. The maximum savings offered by the best gas cards are still just a fraction of the value of a decent sign-up bonus, even in the high consumption scenario. For example, the 4% offered by the True Earnings Business card from Costco and American Express might be worth around $117 annually for the least frugal consumers of gasoline, or even $234 if two members of a household are both heavy drivers of inefficient cars. A more typical two car family is likely to see savings of less than $100 a year. That’s real money, but it isn’t much in the context of current travel credit card sign-up bonuses.

In contrast, the current offer for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is for 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $3,000 within three months. These 40,000 points are worth $500 toward travel reservations booked through Chase, or potentially much more when transferred to hotels, airlines, or Amtrak Guest Rewards. According to TPG’s latest monthly valuations, Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2.1 cents each, meaning those 40,000 points are worth $840.

2. Scant rewards for spending. The best case return for cardholders is 5% for the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards card. Don’t get me wrong, 5% is a great rate of return, but drivers won’t save much more than they would with a great travel rewards card. For instance, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus has an effective return of 2.22%. A medium consumer would lose out on about $50 annually by using the Arrival Plus instead of the PenFed Platinum. However, the Arrival Plus currently offers a 40,000 mile sign-up bonus worth $444 in statement credits, so you’d need to wait several years before you’d come out ahead with the PenFed Platinum.

3. Every credit card application counts. One could argue in favor of getting both a gas card and a travel rewards card. Certainly this is possible, but credit card users must realize that their potential applications are finite- you can’t apply for every card offered. The rational course of action is to only apply for cards that feature the most valuable rewards. Once you accept this premise, you must conclude that gas credit cards are so far from being the most valuable, that they’re hardly worth considering by those who can use travel rewards.

4. Gas credit cards are the least effective way to save money on gas. If you drive 15,000 miles in a year getting 18 miles per gallon, you’re looking at spending about $3,000 per year in gas purchases. Saving $150 a year by using a gasoline credit card is nice, but you’re looking in the wrong direction if you’re trying to be frugal. If you switched to a vehicle that got 25 miles per gallon instead of 18, you’d save $815 each year over the same 15,000 miles. Considering a hybrid or an electric car could boost the annual savings into the thousands of dollars.

Chase Ink Bold 50,000

Travel rewards cards like the Chase Ink Bold also offer bonuses for gas purchases.

5. Travel rewards cards can offer strong rewards for gasoline purchases. Y0u don’t need a gas card to earn bonuses on gasoline. For instance, the Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards offer double points at gas stations, so if each point is worth 2.1 cents, cardholders are only missing out on 0.8 cents per dollar from the PenFed card that offers 5% cash back. That’s a difference of about $13 each year for medium consumption drivers. Considering the potential to realize much more than 2.1 cents in value per point when redeeming Ultimate Rewards, I have to stick with the Ink cards.

Other great travel reward cards for gas purchases include the Mercedes-Benz Platinum card from American Express, which offers triple Membership Rewards points for gas purchases. The new Amex Everyday Preferred offers double points on gas (at US standalone stations), but that becomes three points per dollar when cardholders make 30 transactions or more during their statement period in order to receive the 50% bonus on points earned. For further details, see the gas section of Eric Rosen’s post from last week on maximizing category spending bonuses, as well as this post I put together last year on maximizing miles and points in gas purchases.

Do you have a co-branded gas card? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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How Should I Use Chase Ultimate Rewards for Hotel Stays? http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/how-should-i-use-chase-ultimate-rewards-for-hotel-stays/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/how-should-i-use-chase-ultimate-rewards-for-hotel-stays/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 13:59:25 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95451

TPG reader Ali tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy–”I am looking to book a trip to the Caribbean in January and sitting on a lot of Chase points. Any recommendations on hotels?”

Winter is coming, at least for those of us who live in colder climates like the Northeast. A nice getaway to the Caribbean may be the perfect way to escape a cold winter.

When considering using Chase points for hotels, you have two main options:

  • You can transfer to hotel partners like Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, and IHG.
  • You can use your points at 1.25 cents apiece to book through Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel. Sometimes you can even earn points for your hotel stays when you book through Chase this way, but generally you won’t earn elite status.
When planning a Caribbean vacation, you have some options for using your Chase Reward points

Chase Ultimate Rewards points give you several good hotel options when planning a Caribbean vacation. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

You should first decide whether it makes sense to transfer points (if there’s award availability) or if you should simply book your stay through Chase travel. Often at lower-end properties (like the Holiday Inn Aruba, for example) you can get a room for $179 a night, but it will cost you 25,000 IHG Reward Points, so you’re getting way less than one cent per point in redemption value. In those cases, you should use points to book through Chase Travel directly.

Typically I find that Hyatt is the most valuable Chase hotel transfer partner. I’ve heard many good things about the Hyatt Regency Aruba, where rooms can be had for just 25,000 Hyatt points per night. If the cash rate is above $350 per night (which it is in this case, since rooms there routinely go for over $500/night), then transferring points is the better option. Just make sure there’s availability before you transfer points, because you can’t transfer them back.

If you’re going to use points for hotels (especially Ultimate Rewards), always do the math first and see which option gives you the most bang for your points.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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Which Delta Choice Benefit has the Most Value? http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/which-delta-choice-benefit-has-the-most-value/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/which-delta-choice-benefit-has-the-most-value/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 13:29:18 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95465

TPG reader Ryan sent me a message on Facebook to ask:

“I will achieve Platinum status on Delta this year. Which is the best option of the choice benefits?”

We’re more than halfway through October at this point, which means there’s not much time left before the end of the year. If you’re going for elite status, you’ve got until December 31, 2014 (in most programs) to lock it in.

You've made it to Platinum: now which Choice Benefit should you choose? Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

You’ve made it to Platinum; now which Choice Benefit should you choose? Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

If you’ve managed to reach, or will soon reach Delta Platinum status, you can choose between six different Choice benefits listed below. Keep in mind the benefits are different for Diamond status.

  1. Four Regional Upgrade Certificates: Regional Upgrades are available on the same routes as Medallion Complimentary Upgrades, but have a higher priority. Both can be used on all paid published Economy Class fares except for E fares on Delta-operated flights.
  2. One ($100) Global Entry Application Voucher: Global Entry will help you save time re-entering the U.S. after being abroad or going through security. This credit covers the cost of your application.
  3. Four Delta Sky Club One-Day Passes: With these, you can access nearly 50 Sky Clubs worldwide. The passes are valid for up to one year from the date of issuance.
  4. 20,000 Bonus SkyMiles: You can add these miles to your account or donate them to a SkyWish charity of your choice.
  5. One Travel/Retail Gift Card: You can choose either a $200 Delta Travel Voucher valid for 12 months from the date of issuance, or a $200 Tiffany & Co. Gift Card.
  6. Give Silver Medallion Status: You can give Silver Medallion status to one person of your choosing, including unlimited complimentary upgrades, priority check-in, priority boarding and more.

My pick would be to go with the 20,000 miles. I know Delta isn’t at to the top of the chart in my monthly valuations, but I would value 20,000 miles at about $300. So, I’d rather have that than the $200 travel voucher or gift card, which would be my second choice. You can also give Silver Medallion to one person, but Silver status has really been watered down, especially since Delta announced that the lowest fare class is no longer eligible for Medallion upgrades. If your friend is traveling with you, your Platinum benefits would cover most of what Silver status would offer them anyway.

You might want to consider the upgrades if you want to secure an upgrade in advance for a domestic route, like going to Hawaii from Los Angeles (LAX) on an older plane. In the end, though, I would take the miles with the gift certificate or voucher as a close second.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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How Can I Use Amex Membership Rewards at Ritz Carlton? http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/how-can-i-use-amex-membership-rewards-at-ritz-carlton/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/how-can-i-use-amex-membership-rewards-at-ritz-carlton/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 12:59:25 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95443

TPG reader Scotty tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy–”What’s the best way to use rewards points earned from my American Express Platinum card toward staying at The Ritz-Carlton?”

I love Amex points, but I almost never use them for hotel stays. Generally, the transfer partners aren’t that lucrative, and you get less than one cent per point when you redeem them for gift cards.

I much prefer to use my Amex Membership Rewards points for airlines, especially when transfer bonuses are being offered. So if you have the Amex Platinum card and you’ve built up a bulk of points, is it worth using them for hotel stays? In Scotty’s case, there are two options for Ritz-Carlton redemptions, and they’re both pretty awful.

Your Two (Awful) Options

  1. The first is to redeem Amex Membership Rewards for a Ritz-Carlton gift card. You can get a $1,000 gift card for 120,000 points, meaning you’re getting 0.8 cents per point in value. The upside of this is that you will earn Ritz-Carlton points if you book through Ritz-Carlton.com and pay with your gift card.
  2. Your other option is to book the hotel through Amex Travel. Unfortunately, these redemption rates are even worse. I priced out the Ritz-Carlton in Central Park, New York, which returned a value of about 0.7 cents per point–not so great!
You won't get good value using your Amex points to stay at the Ritz-Carlton.

You won’t get good value using your Amex points to stay at the Ritz-Carlton.

My Recommendation

If you’re hoping to use points for Ritz-Carlton stays, I recommend getting the Chase Ritz-Carlton card, which gives five points per dollar spent at Ritz-Carlton, and two points per dollar spent on certain categories like airfare and dining. Although there is a hefty $395 annual fee, you get different airline and hotel credits, as well as elite status, all of which help offset the up front expense. Check out Nick Ewen’s recent review of this card for more details. Another option for Ritz-Carlton stays is to use Chase Ultimate Rewards earned from your Chase Sapphire Preferred card. My Chase Ultimate Reward points can get me that same room at the Ritz-Carlton Central Park at a much better ratio of well over one cent per point.

Generally, Amex Membership Rewards aren’t great for hotels, especially not the Ritz. In this case, I suggest diversifying your cards so you can get better value when staying there.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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What Are The Best Sites To Purchase Airline Tickets? http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/should-i-buy-airfare-from-the-airline-or-an-online-agency/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/should-i-buy-airfare-from-the-airline-or-an-online-agency/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 12:29:20 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95459

TPG reader Victoria tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy–”Are there pros/cons to purchasing tickets directly from an airline versus an online travel agency like Expedia or Travelocity?”

I spend a lot of money on airfare, whether it’s for me or for my employees, so it’s extremely important that I maximize every dollar.

Booking through an online travel agency can often be a better decision than booking through an airline website. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Booking through an online travel agency can often earn you more points than booking through an airline website. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

When deciding where to book your ticket, in most cases it’s better to book through an online travel agency for a couple different reasons:

  • You get more points! For example, the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal will give you extra points for booking through websites like Hotwire. You can go to EV Reward and type in your preferred travel agency to see which sites offer the most cash back or extra points. Generally, you won’t earn any cash back or extra miles when you book through an airline website.
  • Online travel agencies generally have more flexible cancellation policies than the airline website do. Most airlines have to give you a refund within 24 hours of purchase, but if the flight is within seven days of departure, some airlines (like American) won’t refund you, whereas many online travel agencies will.
  • If the airline were to go out of business, or something similarly unexpected were to happen, an online travel agency would give you an extra layer of protection (in addition to your credit card company) to recoup losses or damages.
  • You’ll often see more options or fare combinations through online travel agencies than on the airline’s website.
  • You can double or triple dip on points, as many online travel agencies have their own loyalty programs.

In general, I don’t see much of a point in booking directly with the airline. The exception is Southwest, which only allows you to book their fares on their own website.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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Last Chance for Chase Ink Plus 70,000 Point Sign-Up Bonus http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/last-chance-for-chase-ink-plus-70000-point-sign-up-bonus/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/last-chance-for-chase-ink-plus-70000-point-sign-up-bonus/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 16:29:26 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95439

Update: The 70,000 point Ink Plus offer is no longer available online but may still be available in a Chase branch. View the current online offer here

As a reminder, Chase re-launched a limited-time sign-up offer for the Ink Plus card a couple weeks ago, where you’ll earn 70,000 points when you spend $5,000 in 3 months. That’s 40% higher than the normal sign-up bonus of 50,000 points. Previously this offer was only available in Chase branches, but was suppose to end last week. However, this offer is officially ending on Sunday, October 19, so if you’ve been waiting to get in on this lucrative sign-up bonus, you should do so now.

Chase Ink Plus

  • Limited Time Bonus Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $875 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Named “Best for Travel Rewards for Small Business” MONEY® Magazine, October 2013
  • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs with no transfer fees.
  • $95 Annual Fee
You can transfer your 70,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to redeem at the Hyatt Escala Lodge in Park City, Utah.

You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to redeem at the Hyatt Escala Lodge in Park City, Utah.

value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2.1 cents each because of the strong transfer partners (United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, IHG/Priority Club and Amtrak), so the 70,000 point bonus is worth at least $1,470 to me. For example, I used 60,000 Chase points transferred to United to book a one-way business class award to the Maldives in 2013.

Another option is to transfer your points to 70,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards.

Southwest Rapid Rewards is a great transfer option if you have the Southwest Companion Pass.

Even if you don’t know how to maximize the transfer partners, at a minimum you can redeem points through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Center at 1.25 cents each, so you’re getting at least $780 in value with the sign-up bonus alone ($875 minus the $95 annual fee).

I consistently rank the Ink cards among the top travel cards for the benefits they give cardholders. The Ink Plus card earns 5 points per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services, and 2 points per dollar at gas stations and on hotel accommodations (when booked directly through the hotel). Ink Plus also offers primary insurance for auto rentals (when you’re renting primarily for business purposes, or secondary insurance otherwise), similar to the recently added benefit on the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

As a reminder, you can have more than one Ink Bold or Ink Plus card. I already had an Ink Bold and an Ink Plus when the recent 60,000 point offers came around, but I applied and was approved for a second Ink Plus for another small business I’ve started. If you’re interested in doing the same, check out this post.

Chase is also offering some current Chase Ink cardholders a targeted referral bonus of 10,000 Ultimate Rewards for this offer, so be sure to check your email to see if you’re eligible.

For more information on getting the most out of Chase business credit cards and Ultimate Rewards points, see these posts:

10 Ways To Maximize 70,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Chase Ink Plus 70,000 Point Sign-up Bonus – Amazing Deal Alert
Top 10 Benefits of the Ink Bold and Ink Plus Cards
Maximizing Ultimate Rewards With the Chase Ink Cards Chase Ink: Which Card Is Best For You
Can You Get Both The Ink Bold and Ink Plus?
Ranking the Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Top 10 Ways To Maximize Each Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner

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