The Points Guy http://thepointsguy.com Fri, 24 Oct 2014 19:49:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Is Pizza Fair Compensation for Flight Delays? http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/is-pizza-fair-compensation-for-flight-delays/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/is-pizza-fair-compensation-for-flight-delays/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 19:19:04 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96292

Flight delays are an inevitable part of air travel. Sometimes airlines are at fault and sometimes they aren’t; either way, how an airline responds is what matters most to those on board. Today, TPG Contributor Robbie Harrell explains why some Delta passengers were recently given pizza for an unexpected delay, and questions whether a free meal is adequate compensation.

While automobile accidents can have catastrophic consequences, the majority of collisions don’t involve personal injury, and are no more than an inconvenience for drivers. In contrast, just about any type of plane accident sounds exceedingly grim, but with roughly 87,000 daily flights in the US alone, accidents are bound to happen, including those that equate to little more than a fender bender. This week we saw such an accident that’s all too common on the roads, but made national headlines because aircraft were involved.

A Delta 757 clipped the wing of a Compass Airlines plane at Minneapolis

A Delta Boeing  757 clipped the wing of a Compass Airlines plane at Minneapolis-St.Paul this week.

On Wednesday, Delta flight 2321 from Minneapolis to Los Angeles was making a routine movement out of its gate when it clipped the left wing of Delta Connection flight 5796 operated by Compass Airlines. While it’s rare that we see two planes collide while taxiing, the National Transportation Safety Board says (according to a Newsday article from 2012) that they have investigated 12 different incidents of planes clippings wings or other objects while taxiing since 1993.

Passengers shared what Delta was doing via Twitter.

Delta ordered pizza for delayed passengers, who took to Twitter to voice their appreciation.

As compensation for the delay, Delta threw a pizza party for passengers. While they may have won passengers over with food, in my opinion Delta dropped probably should have offered these passengers vouchers as well. For comparison, a voluntarily bumped passenger on Delta will receive $400 dollars in vouchers, sometimes with food and lodging, and that’s just for an oversold flight. In this case two aircraft actually collided, and while the delay may have been equivalent to getting bumped, I would expect Delta to give this incident equal or greater consideration.

Do you think serving pizza to passengers was an appropriate form of compensation from Delta?

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/is-pizza-fair-compensation-for-flight-delays/feed/ 28
Contest Roundup: Amex Getaway, Ireland, Italy, Skiing in Chile & Vail http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/contest-roundup-amex-getaway-ireland-italy-skiing-in-chile-vail/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/contest-roundup-amex-getaway-ireland-italy-skiing-in-chile-vail/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 18:29:47 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95643

Check out the week in travel contests and sweepstakes for your chance to win an American Express getaway, ski trips to Chile and Vail, a seven night cruise, and trips to Rome and Ireland.

Win A Getaway for Two From American Express Travel

Win a getaway for two from Amex Travel

Win a getaway for two from Amex Travel

Take a travel quiz and win a trip to your choice of the following destinations: Scottsdale, AZ; Paris, France; Sydney, Australia; Mexico City, Mexico; or Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo. The winning trip package includes:

  • A three-night stay at a hotel determined by Sponsor (one standard room, double occupancy) in the selected city
  • A $2,500 American Express Gift Card that winner may use for airfare and all other costs and expenses related to the trip

Winner will be required to designate city and preferred travel dates on the Affidavit/Release. Winner must use the hotel stay between January 5, 2015-June 30, 2015 or the prize will be forfeited.

The contest is open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are at least 18 years old at the time of entry. Enter by 11:59 p.m. ET on November 15, 2014.

Win a Trip to Rome for Two from Fontana Candida Wine

Win a trip to Rome. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Win a trip to Rome. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

“Like” Fontana Candida on Facebook and fill out your information in order to win a three night trip to Rome for two including:

  • Roundtrip economy class airfare for two to Rome from a major airport nearest winner’s residence
  • Three nights hotel accommodations (one room, double occupancy)
  • One $250 gift card for spending money
  • A tour of the Fontana Candida winery in the suburbs of Rome

The Grand Prize winner may opt to have a cash payout of $5,000 in lieu of trip to Rome. 12 Second Prize winners will each receive a $100 gift card.

The contest is open only to legal residents of the United States and the District of Columbia (except the states of Illinois and Utah) who are 21 years of age or older at the time of entry. Enter by 11:59 p.m. ET December 31, 2014.

Win a Trip to “Haunted” Ireland from The Travel Channel

Win a trip to Ireland

Win a trip to Ireland

Fill out your information to win a trip to Dublin, Ireland, including:

  • Round trip coach class airfare for winner and one guest to Dublin, Ireland from major U.S. airport nearest winner’s residence within the 48 contiguous United States
  • Seven days/six nights hotel accommodations
  • A visit to the Powerscourt House and Gardens including transfers to and from Powerscourt House
  • One dinner at Coppinger Row
  • A visit to the Science Gallery Exhibition at Trinity College Dublin A visit to the Guinness Storehouse
  • $1,000 spending money

The contest is open only to legal residents of the 48 contiguous United States and the District of Columbia who are at least 21 years old at the time of entry. Enter by 11:59 p.m. ET on October 31, 2014.

Win Ski Trips to Chile and Vail, Plus Ski Gear from LAN Airlines

Win two ski trips and ski gear for two people

Win two ski trips and ski gear for two people

Enter to win a massive grand prize of TWO skiing trips and ski gear. The prize includes:

  • A six night, seven day ski trip at Vail Resorts (Colorado) during Winter 2014 for two
  • A six night, seven day trip at Ski Portillo Resort (Chile) in Summer 2015 for two
  • Airfare from anywhere in the U.S. to Vail and to Chile
  • Meal Vouchers
  • Airport transport
  • Lift tickets
  • Two sets of Wagner Custom skis
  • Helly Hansenski and travel gear for two

The contest is open only to legal residents of the 48 contiguous United Sates and the District of Columbia who are 18 years of age and older as of date of entry. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on October 31, 2014.

 Win a Cruise for Two from Cruises Inc.

Win a seven night cruise

Win a seven night cruise

Enter your information to win a cruise around the Caribbean and Mexico, including one double occupancy stateroom onboard the Norwegian Breakaway or Getaway  based on availability. Each cruise is seven nights long and is valid for two people.

The contest is open to residents of the United States only that are of valid age. and void in any jurisdiction(s) in the United States where participation is prohibited. Enter by 11:59 p.m. ET November 2, 2014.

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/contest-roundup-amex-getaway-ireland-italy-skiing-in-chile-vail/feed/ 0
Delta Testing Early Valet Baggage Service http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/delta-testing-early-valet-baggage-service/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/delta-testing-early-valet-baggage-service/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 16:05:52 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96347

Over the past year, Delta has made a number of negative changes including Mileage Accrual Based on SpendingAdditional Revenue Requirements for Medallion StatusReduced SkyClub Guests and Increased FeesA Tighter Same Day Confirm PolicyBlocked Access to ExpertFlyer, and Limited Partner Transfers to SkyMiles. However Delta’s latest update seems to be one that customers might actually benefit from.

Per this Flyertalk thread, Delta is currently testing out a new service called Early Valet at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in an effort to speed up the boarding process and enhance the overall boarding experience for passengers.

Delta is testing out a new service called Early Valet.

Delta is testing out a new service called Early Valet.

Here’s how Early Valet work works:

  • Gate agents working a specific flight will look around the gate area for passengers with carry-on bags.
  • Agents will take bags from interested customers and place them on the plane above their seats prior to boarding.
  • Once boarding begins, those who participated will be able to board at their leisure knowing that their carry-on bags are already on the plane.

Early Valet is only being offered on select Delta flights departing from the T Concourse in Atlanta. We reached out to Delta who confirmed that they are testing this service out, but haven’t decided on the next steps, such as whether it will be rolled out at more airports.

My Thoughts

As this is still in the testing phase, I think there are still a few kinks that need to be worked out, like deciding whether Early Valet should be offered to all passengers or just those in certain fare classes. Also, there needs to be a way for passengers to ensure that their bags actually end up above their seats. What happens if the gate agent takes a passenger’s bag and the passenger is then upgraded at the gate to First Class? Would the bag still be placed in coach?

Overall though, I really like this idea and think that if it’s implemented properly it could be a win for both passengers and Delta. It will save time for passengers trying to stow their overhead luggage, and will speed up the boarding process, which in turn should mean less flight delays. Delta used to try to gate-check many bags, but most flyers are reluctant to give up carry-on’s to be picked up at baggage claim. Early Valet could lessen resistance from passengers, since they’d be assured of having their bags on the plane.

How likely would you be to take advantage of Early Valet if it were offered on your next flight?

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/delta-testing-early-valet-baggage-service/feed/ 8
Apple Pay Overview: How to Set Up and Shop http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/apple-pay-overview-how-to-set-up-and-shop/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/apple-pay-overview-how-to-set-up-and-shop/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:59:07 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96117

When Apple launched the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Watch and latest iPad back in September, the company also announced that it would launch a mobile payment system called Apple Pay in October. Well, it’s October, and Apple Pay has launched, so I asked TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen to look into the benefits and drawbacks of this new payment option, and help readers learn how to use it.

Apple Pay is here!

Apple Pay is here!

An easy-to-use digital wallet is a dream come true for points collectors. Imagine being able to carry all your credit cards with you in one device that lets you choose which card to use for each specific transaction. Bringing that dream a little closer to reality is the recent launch of Apple Pay, a mobile payment system that has just become available to iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users with the iOS 8.1 release.

Google Wallet has been available for a few years with many of the same capabilities. The main difference seems to be which merchants accept each form of payment (there seems to be a lot of overlap), and that Android phones must be unlocked (i.e., out of secure mode) in order to process a transaction.

Here are the devices Apple Pay works with.

Apple Pay works with these devices.

Which Devices Can You Use It On?
So far, Apple Pay is available on:

  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad mini 3

But early in 2015, it will be available on the Apple Watch, as well as on the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s. If you have one of the 5′s, you will have to pair it with the Apple Watch in order to use Apple Pay on it.

Setup
This is actually pretty easy. There’s no specific Apple Pay app for the iPhone that comes with the iOS 8.1 update. It’s already integrated into Passbook, the same system iPhone carriers can use for Starbucks and certain movie transactions. To initialize your account, launch Passbook and you’ll be presented with the option to add a debit or credit card to your account. Apple makes things easier (and slightly creepier) by automatically including the credit card to which your iTunes account is linked.

There are two ways to enter your card information: either enter the number, expiration date and security code manually, or simply take a picture of your credit card and Passbook should automatically fill in the fields (depending on where this information is on your credit card, you might still have to manually enter one or more of the numbers).

The fields you must enter include the name on the card, card number, expiration date and security code.

Setup is as simple as taking a picture of your card.

Setup is as simple as taking a picture of your card.

If you enter a debit card, you might be prompted for more information, including special authorization steps involving PINs and even app installations.

In your Settings, the “Use Touch ID for” option should automatically have iPhone Unlock, Apple Pay, and iTunes & App Store set to “on.”

Once you have successfully added a card, it should list your most recent transactions, which is also quite useful for keeping track of your spending and potentially noting any fraudulent charges. Also interesting is that Apple Pay won’t require any authorization or approval from your card issuer, so once you enter the info, you’re good to go.

Which Cards Can You Use?

Apple Pay compatible cards

Here are the cards that are currently compatible with Apple Pay.

Apple said that it would accept American Express, MasterCard and Visa cards to begin with, so it covers a broad spectrum of the credit cards out there. But before you go whipping out all your cards, keep in mind that only the following issuers are currently supported:

  • American Express (not corporate cards)
  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • Chase (Visa only and not small business cards)
  • Citibank
  • Merrill Lynch (credit only)
  • US Trust
  • Wells Fargo

Visa has also said that its cards from the following issuers will be compatible in the near future: Barclaycard, First National Bank of Omaha, M&T Bank, PNC, Navy Federal Credit Union, Regions Bank, USAA and US Bank.

MasterCard will add cards from the following issuers in the coming months: Barclaycard, USAA, PNC, Navy Federal Credit Union, US Bank, Fifth Third, First Hawaiian, First National Bank of Omaha, First Niagara, Key Bank, Silicon Valley Bank, SSFCU, SunTrust and Synchrony Financial. MasterCard has also developed the MasterCard Nearby App to let customers know about nearby merchants where they can use Apple Pay.

You can find the full list of supported credit card products here, along with further details on which types of cards from which issuers are compatible.

Gift cards from specific merchants and other non-network gift cards are not supported. However, general purpose reloadable cards from Chase and Wells Fargo that use the Visa, MasterCard, and Amex payment networks should be compatible.

Where You Can Use It
Apple has touted the fact that you can use the new payment method at 220,000 locations within the US, with the hopes of expanding that number both here and abroad. The Apple Pay website provides a general list of compatible retailers, including Bloomingdale’s, Chevron, Duane Reade, Foot Locker, Nike, Macy’s, Office Depot, Subway, Walgreens and Whole Foods.

Here are some of the stores that currently offer Apple Pay.

Here are some of the stores that currently accept Apple Pay.

While many large retailers like McDonald’s already support it, others – most notably Starbucks and Walmart – have not yet invested in the near field technology necessary to operate it, so expect more changes ahead.

Some apps and websites are also supported. There’s a handy list compiled by the iDownloadBlog that includes big names like Open Table, Hotel Tonight, Indiegogo, Lyft, Staples, Target, and Uber, as well as (unexpectedly) the Starbuck’s app.

How You Pay
When you’re rung up at a participating merchant, you tap your device on the payment terminal (though this should also function if you simply wave your device close enough to it). If you haven’t already activated your Touch ID for the transaction by placing your fingerprint on the ID button, you’ll be prompted to do so. You might also be prompted to enter the last several digits of your account number, but this refers to your Apple Pay device account number (a security feature) and not your specific credit card number.

The phone should indicate that the transaction has been processed successfully, and your receipt should print out at the register as normal. As soon as the transaction goes through, you should get a Push Notification that displays the amount and location of your charge.

Overall Positives

Ease of use: No need to carry several credit cards with you or hand over your card for swiping, You simply tap your phone and voila, the transaction is done, with no signature required.

Pick your card: If you’re a serious points collector, chances are you’re carrying multiple cards at any given time in order to maximize category spending bonuses and calendar year spending benefits. Now you don’t have to take all your cards with you at all times. Instead, you can just select the card you want through Apple Pay depending on the transaction.

Apple Pay should be more secure than using a credit card.

Apple Pay should be more secure than using a credit card.

Security: Since you don’t have to hand over a physical card, there’s no chance of someone copying your credit card information while it’s in their hands. Furthermore, your actual credit card number isn’t even used. The transaction is processed with a virtual card number that doesn’t give the vendor direct access to your credit card or bank account. And unlike a stolen credit card that pretty much anyone could take into a store and swipe or use online, these transactions require your PIN or fingerprint to go through.

This BusinessWire post explains it well:

“When paying with Visa through Apple Pay, the account holder’s personal account information, including the 16-digit credit or debit card number, is never stored on the phone or by the merchant. Instead, Visa’s new technology generates a unique digital account number that is a proxy for the primary card number, and is used to facilitate the payment. Digital account numbers are device-specific, meaning they are designed to only be used to make purchases with a specific mobile device or phone. In the event that the device is lost or stolen, the digital account number can be disabled without the need to reissue the primary payment card. Thanks to the use of digital account numbers, payments with Apple Pay are private. Only the consumer’s bank has access to the transaction details for billing, risk analysis and rewards management purposes.”

If you have Find My iPhone, you should be able to disable Apple Pay on a lost or stolen device as well.

Notifications: Whether you use Apple Pay or just your regular credit card, if it’s in your Passbook, you’ll be notified of any transactions that go through, adding another layer of security and accountability.

Overall Negatives

Security: On the flip side of this issue, if you lose your phone, all your information is on it. Granted, you have to access it with your fingerprint, but enterprising thieves will probably find a way around that (or have already). Still, at least you’ll probably notice faster if your phone is missing than if a credit card is gone from your wallet.

Limited availability: Though several large retailers are accepting Apple Pay payments, there’s still a long way to go, with just 220,000 locations nationwide offering it and none abroad. Bottom line, it’s not replacing your credit cards anytime soon.

Limited issuers: Yes, Apple Pay launched with many of the major credit cards issuers already supported, including Amex, Capital One, Chase and Citi, but it’s still missing quite a few, including Barclaycard and US Bank. Hopefully the remaining issuers will be online soon. Apple Pay’s usefulness is also limited by the exclusion of corporate cards and small business cards (from Amex and Chase, respectively).

Limited devices: Apple Pay is only available on the company’s latest products for the moment, so if you don’t have one, you’re out of luck. However, once this expands to the iPhone 5, a lot more users will have access to the service – though it is too bad you have to shell out for the Apple Watch in order to do so.

Conclusion
The launch of Apple Pay represents the next great evolution in payment methods. Though the launch was fairly limited due to the number of supported merchants and apps, it’s actually pretty well rounded for a new product with many of the major credit card issuers and card products supported.

The new security features also sound impressive, with several layers that include the separation of card numbers from accounts, and the biometric fingerprint requirement. These features should all make Apple Pay transactions safer.

Hopefully the network will expand quickly to include more devices, issuers and merchants (including those in other countries) so that consumers can better take advantage of this technology.

While I won’t be leaving my credit cards home anytime soon, you can bet that I’ll be uploading my credit cards to Apple Pay as soon as I get my hands on the new iPhone 6, so that I can leave at least some of them home.

Last week, we announced that we would be launching the TPG To Go app this month. It is going to include a ton of features that will allow you to maximize all your purchases, track minimum spending requirements and anniversary bonuses, and more. While Apple Pay is not yet supported on the app, we hope to include this functionality eventually, so stay tuned!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/apple-pay-overview-how-to-set-up-and-shop/feed/ 18
5 Sunny Award Travel Destinations for the Holiday Season http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/5-family-destinations-for-a-sunny-christmas/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/5-family-destinations-for-a-sunny-christmas/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:08:11 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95493

I’m a sucker for warm climates pretty much any time of year, but I especially relish a nice beach getaway in the middle of winter. Today TPG Contributor Jason Steele points out some hot award travel vacation ideas that you can still book for this coming holiday season.

After last year’s Polar Vortex, many Americans would prefer a sunny Christmas over a white one. For award travel enthusiasts, many of the best seats for holiday travel disappeared earlier this year, but there are still some options left. Here are a few balmy destinations with award availability for the holiday season.

When was the last time you heard someone complain about a beach vacation for the holidays?

When was the last time you heard someone complain about a beach vacation for the holidays?

Cancun, Mexico

This destination has several advantages for award travelers. First, you can still book as many award tickets as you need with several discount carriers, and from several different cities. For example, Southwest now flies to Cancun non-stop from Austin, Atlanta, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Denver. Spirit also offers service from Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, and Fort Lauderdale. Frontier, a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Diners Club Rewards, offers service this winter from Denver, Washington-Dulles, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Salt Lake City.

Here is an example of award space to Cancun in Southwest's Wanna Get Away Far Class

Here’s an example of award space to Cancun in Southwest’s Wanna Get Away fare class.

In addition, Virgin America offers service to Cancun from Los Angeles and San Francisco, while JetBlue serves Cancun from Boston, Fort Lauderdale, New York-JFK, and Orlando. Lodging will be a little harder to secure at this point, but check out some options on our Destination of the Week post about Cancun & The Riviera Maya.

Puerto Rico

San Juan boasts an average high temperature of 84 degrees in December, and an average low of only 73. Since it’s a United States territory, American travelers only need to provide proof of citizenship or residency upon return such as a birth certificate or a drivers licence, not necessarily a passport. This can save families significant time and expenses if they haven’t yet purchased passports for their children. In addition, vacationers only need to pay the same TSA fees that apply when visiting other US destinations, not the large taxes and fees imposed on travel to other Caribbean destinations.

Like Mexico, Puerto Rico is served by Southwest and JetBlue, which are both discount carriers with revenue-based award programs. Southwest offers service from Atlanta (ends March 7, 2015), Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, and seasonal service from Houston-Hobby. JetBlue serves San Juan from Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, New York-JFK, Newark, Orlando, Punta Cana, Tampa, Washington-National, and seasonally from Jacksonville. Spirit also offers service from Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

Puerto Rico is home to many resorts that are part of popular loyalty programs. Starwood alone has five different properties in Puerto Rico, four of which appear to be available with points over Christmas.

Four of the five Starwood properties in Puerto Rico are still available December 22-27 of this year!

Four of the five Starwood properties in Puerto Rico are still available December 22-27 of this year!

For more information, see our Destination of the Week guide for San Juan.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Just west of Puerto Rico is the Dominican Republic, with the resort city of Punta Cana near its easternmost point. In addition to its many beaches, activities include deep sea fishing and aquatic tours featuring whales and dolphins.

Punta Cana also happens to be home to one of the busiest airports in the Caribbean. Southwest offers service from Atlanta, Baltimore, and Chicago-Midway. JetBlue has service from Boston, Fort Lauderdale, New York-JFK, and San Juan, and even Frontier offers service from Denver and Spirit from Fr. Lauderdale.

There are fewer hotels available with points over the holiday season, but there are still some options, such as the Four Points by Sheraton Puntacana Village, which is a steal starting at just 2,000 points. The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club is more upscale, but still a good deal at 16,000 Starpoints for a room that goes for $669/night over the holidays.

Key West

This has to be the warmest and most attractive winter destination in the continental United States, and also the southernmost point. In fact, Key West is closer to Havana than it is to Miami!

Expect weather during the holidays to be warm, but not hot, with an average high temperature of 76 degrees in December. While Key West does have its own airport, it is now only served by American, Delta, US, and Silver Airways (a United Express carrier) from a handful of destinations. But don’t worry, you can take in a scenic drive (largely over the ocean) from Miami or Fort Lauderdale and get there in under four hours. This convenience makes it a great destination for travel with seniors, especially if (like me), you have a grandparent who already lives in South Florida.

Key West also has plenty of points hotels. Hyatt alone has four properties in Key West, each of them costing 25,000 points a night, and one at Marathon Key that costs only 12,000 points per night, all of which are showing availability for Christmas week.

All of these Hyatt properties in the Florida Keys can still be booked with points during Christmas week.

All of these Hyatt properties in the Florida Keys can still be booked with points during Christmas week.

Colombia

While these first four destinations have been fairly popular tourists spots for some time, consider Colombia as an emerging destination this Christmas. I wanted to include it for several reasons. First, it’s near the Equator, so it’s warm year round and winter is the dry season. Second, US dollars go very far in Latin America, and Colombia is no exception. Third, Colombia appears to be a growing market for American discount carriers that are trying to reach across the Caribbean to find new destinations. For example, JetBlue offers service to Cartagena from New York and Ft. Lauderdale, to Bogota from Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando, and to Medellin from Ft. Lauderdale. Spirit also offers service from Ft. Lauderdale to Bogota, Cartagena, and Medellin.

Bogota is Colombia’s capital city and features several points hotels such as the Park Inn by Radisson, which is part of the Club Carlson group. Although Medellin has a bad reputation due to its association with drug cartels in the 80s and 90s, it’s now a safe, modern, well developed city. It boasts beautiful weather year round, and has a system called MetroCable that extends the public transit to the surrounding mountains using cable cars similar to ski gondolas. Finally, Cartagena is known for its beautiful beaches as well as the architecture in its old city.

The US State Department does still list a Colombia Travel Warning, but every source I read indicates that violence has been down dramatically for many years now, and that tourism is booming in its wake. Finally, I spoke to Shawn Coomer (who writes the blog Miles to Memories), who just visited Colombia this summer with his wife and teenage son. “We never felt unsafe at any time,” he explained, while noting the great food and abundance of family friendly activities there, such as beaches, amusement parks, museums and hiking trails.

What’s your favorite sun-soaked holiday destination? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/5-family-destinations-for-a-sunny-christmas/feed/ 10
US Airways Barclaycard Updates and Targeted Offer http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/us-airways-barclaycard-updates-and-targeted-offer/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/us-airways-barclaycard-updates-and-targeted-offer/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:29:19 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96068

The US Airways World Premier MasterCard has had a number of different sign-up bonuses within the last year- usually in the range of 30,000 to 40,000 miles, but US Airways is currently sending out targeted offers for 50,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days. While there’s no public link for this offer, be sure to check your mail to see if you were targeted. If not, you can still apply for the public offer of 40,000 bonus miles after the first purchase

US Airways currently has a targeted 50,000 sign-up bonus offer.

US Airways currently has a targeted 50,000 mile sign-up bonus offer.

US Airways also sent an email today to confirm that current cardholders will continue to receive the annual 10,000 Dividend Miles anniversary bonus in the form of 10,000 AAdvantage miles.

US Airways cardholders will still receive the 10,000 anniversary bonus.

US Airways cardholders will continue to receive the 10,000 anniversary bonus.

Cardholders of the US Airways MasterCard will also enjoy the following:

  • Now receive a 25% in-flight savings on food, beverage, and headset purchases on US Airways and American Airlines flights. This savings will appear as a credit on your statement.
  • In addition to earning 2X miles for every dollar you spend on US Airways purchases, you’ll also earn 2X miles on American Airlines purchases.

US Airways MasterCard
Their current public offer is for 40,000 miles after the first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee. The miles are usually awarded in the billing cycle when you make the purchase, so they should post pretty quickly if you ask for the card to be rushed. US Airways miles are valuable, though you can often purchase them directly from US Airways at ~1.9 cents a piece (or even as low as 1.1 cents via their occasional 100% Share Miles promotions). At my current valuation of 1.9 cents a piece, 40,000 miles is worth $760. Subtract the annual fee and you’re still looking at $671 in value without taking into consideration any of the other benefits, including:

  • Free checked bag for you and up to 4 companions on US Airways operated domestic flights.
  • Yearly companion ticket for up to two guests to fly for $99 each (plus taxes and fees) on US Airways operated flights between the US and Canada.
  • 5,000 mile discount on US Airways awards.
  • 10,000 Preferred-qualifying miles every calendar year in which you spend $25,000 or more on purchases.
  • Waived Award Processing Fees after $25,000 spent within a year. (These fees are currently $25 per domestic ticket, $35 per Mexico or Caribbean ticket, and $50 per Hawaii or international ticket.)
  • Priority Zone 2 boarding.
  • Preferred/First Class Check-in.
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on US Airways purchases.
  • A US Airways Club Day Pass that includes up to two guests.

Some of these benefits will be changing in 2015, notably the companion ticket and 5,000 mile discount on awards, but there’s still time to get value out of them this year before they expire.

The main differences between this offer and the targeted one for 50,000 miles is that you must spend $1,000 within the first 90 days vs. earning the miles after the first purchase. This card will remain after the US Airways merger with American Airlines is complete, and will transition to an American Airlines co-branded card, so I recommend signing up now while you can take advantage of the different product.

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/us-airways-barclaycard-updates-and-targeted-offer/feed/ 24
Free Flu Shots via UberHealth Today Only http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/free-flu-shots-via-uber-health-today-only/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/free-flu-shots-via-uber-health-today-only/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 17:07:13 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96170

As a frequent traveler, I’m careful to get a flu shot every year, and today in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C., my favorite car service, Uber, is making getting a flu shot both easy and free. Today only, Thursday, October 23, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET, Uber is partnering with national website Vaccine Finder, New York-based health-provider-search app Pager and Passport Health to provide free, on-demand flu shots and flu prevention kits to Uber users in these three cities who click the pop-up “UberHEALTH” screen on their Uber apps.

Today only, Thursday, October 23, in NYC, Boston and D.C., an UberHEALTH screen on the Uber app allows you access to free flu prevention.

Today only, Thurs., October 23, in NYC, Boston and Washington, D.C., the UberHEALTH option on the Uber app provides free, on-demand access to flu prevention.

Alternatively, you can use Vaccine Finder to search for a vaccination provider in New York City, Boston or D.C., then click on the Uber link under the location you would like to go to and have Uber take you there.

Today, each Vaccine Finder listing in these three cities will feature an Uber logo to easily enable a ride to that vaccine provider.

Today, each Vaccine Finder listing in these three cities will feature a hyperlinked Uber logo so that you can easily schedule a ride to that vaccine provider and access free flu prevention.

This one-day pilot program will provide a maximum of 10 flu shots or one flu prevention kit to each Uber user who makes an UberHealth request, based on availability. And in a move that further pays forward your decision to keep yourself and others healthy, for each UberHEALTH request, Uber will donate $5 to the Red Cross to support vaccination efforts for children nationwide. Here’s hoping we’ll all stay flu-free this season!

As a reminder, Uber is now offering a free ride (up to $30) for new users (sign-up link). Note: I get a free ride if you sign-up with my link, so thanks in advance if you use my link!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/free-flu-shots-via-uber-health-today-only/feed/ 1
Thursday Giveaway: $500 Visa Gift Card http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/thursday-giveaway-500-visa-gift-card/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/thursday-giveaway-500-visa-gift-card/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 15:30:25 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=96026

This year is simply flying by, I can’t believe it’s nearly November already! It seems like just yesterday that I was lounging at the Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica and celebrating New Years with friends. Soon enough, the holiday’s will be rolling around, which means massive sales to take advantage of! With that in mind, I would like to give one lucky reader a jumpstart on their shopping with a $500 Visa Gift Card!

This could be yours, enter to win today!

This could be yours, enter to win today!

To enter to win, visit our Facebook Page, Remember, when you share it on your wall, tweet it out or send an invite, every time one of your friends enters, you get an extra entry

Last Week’s Winner:

On Thursday of last week, we gave away a $500 American Express Gift Card to one lucky reader. We were simply blown away at the interest we got! We received over 23,000 entries, our largest ever! Congrats to TPG winner Chris D. on winning, we hope you enjoy the jumpstart to your shopping season too!

Congrats to TPG Reader Chris D. on winning the $500 AMEX gift card!

Congrats to our winner, and stay tuned for more great giveaways here on the blog and on TPG TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Safe travels!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/thursday-giveaway-500-visa-gift-card/feed/ 5
Should the JetBlue Amex Card Earn a Spot in Your Wallet? http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/should-the-jetblue-amex-card-earn-a-spot-in-your-wallet/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/should-the-jetblue-amex-card-earn-a-spot-in-your-wallet/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:10:29 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95654

I’ve made no secret of my disappointment over recent devaluations by legacy carriers. As I’ve considered which airline deserves the bulk of my business, I’ve been happy to try out new service, like my upcoming flight on JetBlue’s new Mint Business Class to Los Angeles. Along with the actual flying, I’ve been contemplating which co-branded airline cards I plan to carry moving forward. Today, TPG Contributor Nick Ewen discusses one of the candidates.

In the world of airlines, there are legacies and upstarts. It’s American/Delta/United vs. Southwest/Virgin America/JetBlue, and while it’s difficult (or impossible) to redeem points and miles from the latter category for expensive international first or business class tickets, they do offer a variety of features that appeal to the casual flyer. As a result, the co-branded credit cards from these airlines should factor into your award travel strategy, and today I’ll look at the JetBlue American Express Card to see if it’s worth adding to your wallet.

JetBlue Plane

Photo courtesy of JetBlue Captain Ian Duncan

TrueBlue Program
Let’s begin with a quick review of JetBlue’s TrueBlue loyalty program. Just like those offered by Southwest and Virgin America, the TrueBlue program is revenue-based for both earning and redeeming points. You earn 3 points per dollar spent on all flights, but you can double that earning rate to 6 points per dollar when you book flights on JetBlue.com. You can earn an additional 200 points for purchasing an Even More Space seat, and another 300 points for traveling with your pet through the JetPaws program. You can also earn points with a variety of partners, and the program is a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards (250 MR points = 200 TrueBlue points).

JetBlue allows you to pool your points as a family, just like my wife and I have done!

JetBlue allows you to pool your points as a family, as my wife and I have done!

One thing I love about the TrueBlue program is the ability to pool your miles as a family. Each family account has a designated “Head of Household” who manages all points in the family account. He/she can then invite another adult and up to five children to join. When each family member accepts the invitation, they can contribute some (or all) of their current points to the family account, and then select a contribution percentage for all future earning. This percentage can be changed once per calendar year. My wife and I recently flew to San Juan, and her 683 points were automatically added to the family account. Even though TrueBlue points do not expire, this is a nice way to combine your accounts and earn free flights faster.

Redemption on JetBlue is also revenue based, though the number of points required depends on the specific date and flight you want to take. The search engine on JetBlue.com makes it easy to switch back and forth between the number of dollars or points required. For example, here are search results for a one-way flight from Washington-National to Boston on Monday November 10, 2014:

JetBlue fare results

Here are the same flights when you select the points option:

JetBlue point redemption

You can see that the flights have slightly different redemption values; the 6:20 am flight gives you a value of 1.51 cents/point, while the 7:20 am flight is a bit lower at 1.49 cents/point. I’ve seen values as high as 1.7 cents for redemptions on JetBlue’s new Mint business class, but I’ve also seen values slightly below 1 cent/point.

As a general rule of thumb, you get less value for more expensive flights. Here are some sample one-way fares on that same DCA-BOS flight for November 7-10, 2014 (all redemptions incur $5.60 in taxes & fees, which are factored into the value):

Fare

Redemption

Value

$75

4,600 points

1.51 cents/point

$86

5,400 points

1.49 cents/point

$116

7,600 points

1.45 cents/point

$181

12,400 points

1.41 cents/point

$211

15,800 points

1.3 cents/point

$251

20,600 points

1.19 cents/point

$291

26,400 points

1.08 cents/point

This decreasing value trend makes sense, since the more expensive flights are likely in high demand (or close to full), so it costs you more to book them with points. This rule isn’t set in stone, but understanding how flights tend to be priced can be helpful when trying to get the best bang for your buck.

While not as rewarding as most legacy airlines' frequent flyer programs, it can still give you some decent perks.

While TrueBlue Mosaic isn’t as rewarding as the frequent flyer programs of most legacy airlines, it still offers some decent perks.

The final aspect of TrueBlue is their elite status program, Mosaic. This is a relatively new program, but sadly, the benefits don’t compare to any level of elite status with the legacy airlines. You get two free checked bags (instead of one), priority check-in/security/boarding, bonus points, and no change or cancellation fees. However, there are no free upgrades to Even More Space seats, even at the airport. JetBlue was offering status matches and challenges in the spring (which I took advantage of), but I was unimpressed with the benefits on my recent trip to San Juan.

The JetBlue American Express Card
The JetBlue Amex currently offers a sign-up bonus of 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of cardmembership. Based on TPG’s October valuations of 1 – 1.7 cents/point, the sign-up bonus is worth anywhere from $200 to $340, depending on your dates and flights. Here are the other key benefits of the card:

  • Earn 2 points per dollar spent on JetBlue purchases
  • Earn 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere
  • $50 statement credit each calendar year for JetBlue Getaway purchases
  • 50% off select in-flight purchases, including food, drinks, & movies
  • Various purchase and travel coverages, including car rental loss/damage insurance and purchase protection
  • $40 annual fee (waived for the first year)

For a regular JetBlue flyer, even those traveling just a handful of times each year, this card should be a no-brainer. The sign-up bonus is a nice boost to your TrueBlue account, and if you typically book your flights on JetBlue.com (as opposed to a third-party or corporate booking site), the bonus points add up quickly. You’ll earn 8 points for every dollar you spend with this card on flights from JetBlue.com, so at the top end of the value spectrum, you’re getting 13.6 cents back per dollar, which is a very nice rate of return!

With the JetBlue American Express, you will receive a 50% discount (in the form of a statement credit) for most in-flight purchases. That makes these Eat Up boxes just $3!

With the JetBlue American Express, you’ll receive a 50% discount (in the form of a statement credit) for most in-flight purchases. That makes these Eat Up boxes just $3!

The other great benefit is the 50% discount on in-flight purchases, which range anywhere from $4-12. A complete list of food and drink offerings is available here, and more information on movies for purchase is available here. If you purchase an Eat Up box ($6), movie ($5), and alcoholic beverage ($6-9) on a flight, you would save up to $10. Four such flights each year would cover your annual fee. Factor in the annual statement credit for JetBlue Getaway purchases and you more than make up for the annual fee.

These benefits look solid compared to a card like the Delta Gold American Express (with Delta implementing a revenue-based earning scheme in 2015, I think this comparison is valid starting in January). If you don’t have Medallion status, starting in 2015 you’ll earn 7 points for every dollar spent on Delta flights purchased with the Gold Amex (5 for the flight + 2 for using the card). TPG values SkyMiles at 1.2 cents apiece, so the Delta card offers only 8.4% back compared to 13.6% on the JetBlue Amex. Even at the low end of the TrueBlue value spectrum, you’re still getting 8% back.

Now compare the other benefits:

  • JetBlue Amex has a $40 annual fee (waived for the first year); the Delta Gold Amex has a $95 annual fee (also waived for the first year).
  • JetBlue Amex gives a 50% in-flight discount; the Delta Gold Amex only gives 20%.
  • The sign-up bonus on the JetBlue Amex is 20,000 points; on the Delta Gold Amex, it’s 30,000 SkyMiles (and sometimes more). The Delta card wins this round.
  • The JetBlue Amex gives you $50 off vacation packages; the Delta Gold Amex discontinued its companion ticket benefit last year.
  • The Delta Amex provides a free checked bag, but JetBlue already offers a free checked bag for all passengers, so adding that benefit to the JetBlue card would be redundant.
  • The Delta Amex has no foreign transaction fees. while the JetBlue Amex charges 2.7%.

The Delta card has the advantage in a few categories, but in terms of pure return on spending, the JetBlue Amex is superior. This doesn’t account for one important difference, which is that Delta SkyMiles can be redeemed on many more flights to many more destinations. If you’re looking for a card to get you off the continent, clearly the Delta Amex is a better fit. Still, the benefits on the JetBlue Amex are quite compelling for a somewhat regular JetBlue flyer.

JetBlue Mint Premium Experience

JetBlue’s new Mint Business Class starts at 35,000 points one way.

Conclusions

As I said before, if you fly JetBlue regularly, the JetBlue Amex is easy money. Even if you just live in a JetBlue hub and some of the non-stop routes are convenient for you, I think you’ll get good value out of it. However, JetBlue’s network just isn’t extensive enough to be very useful to most people outside of the East Coast, except those who travel frequently to (or near) one of the hubs. I think those flyers would get more value from one of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card, which currently offers a sign-up bonus of 25,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, but often comes with a higher bonus of 50,000 points (usually with a spending requirement of $3,000 in the first 3 months).

Do you carry the JetBlue Amex? Please share your evaluations and recommendations in the comments section below!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/should-the-jetblue-amex-card-earn-a-spot-in-your-wallet/feed/ 12
Late Checkout for Hilton HHonors Diamond: the Weekly Wish http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/late-checkout-for-hilton-hhonors-diamond-the-weekly-wish/ http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/late-checkout-for-hilton-hhonors-diamond-the-weekly-wish/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:08:49 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=95766

Today TPG Contributor Nick Ewen continues his series The Weekly Wish, looking at flaws, shortcomings, and room for improvement in the world of travel and loyalty programs. Today’s wish: guaranteed late checkout for Hilton HHonors Diamond elites.

I’m sure many of you have been in a position where your travel plans don’t mesh well with an 11 am or noon checkout. Maybe your flight is delayed and you’d rather relax by the hotel pool than hang out at your gate, or maybe you got in late and just need a bit more sleep. Whatever the reason, a late checkout cures many ills.

While anyone can request a few extra hours in the room, most hotel loyalty programs offer some sort of late checkout policy for guests with top tier elite status. There’s a notable exception, however, that brings us to this week’s wish: for Hilton HHonors to implement a guaranteed late checkout policy for Diamond elites.

A recent negative experience at the Caribe Hilton inspired this post.

The late checkout policy at the Caribe Hilton wasn’t quite as friendly as the surroundings.

Today’s Weekly Wish was inspired by my visit a few weeks ago to the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. On the whole, it was a very underwhelming (and overpriced) resort. However, what really left a bad taste in my mouth was the hotel’s inflexibility with checking out. I was in town for work, and my wife came along for a quick getaway. Since our flight wasn’t until 5 pm, I was hoping she could stay in the room (as opposed to the open air lobby). The posted checkout time was noon, and the morning of our departure, I called to request a late checkout. I was told that they could do 1 pm. When I politely inquired about extending the checkout for a Diamond member, they did so…to 1:30 pm.

I completely understand when a hotel is sold out or busy with a conference and can’t offer late checkout, but out of curiosity, I searched for rooms available on the night of our departure and found that the hotel was nowhere near full. Every category of room (including ours) had at least 4 rooms bookable online.

With at least 9 rooms available in both "standard" bed categories, I would certainly think a late checkout tonight wouldn't be a problem!

With at least 9 rooms open in both “standard” bed categories, I’d expect a late checkout to be no problem!

This has also happened to me in the past at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Gainesville, FL. My wife and I stayed on a Saturday night and again requested a late checkout. In that case it was extended only one hour, again with numerous rooms open for booking that evening. I emailed Hilton HHonors expressing my frustration over that stay, and received a response from the GM admitting that Sunday night typically had the lowest occupancy rates, and that the front desk should have been more flexible with the checkout time.

Before you flame me for acting entitled, let me say up front that I know late checkout isn’t a published benefit, and that in both cases my wife and I received other benefits as a result of my Diamond status. I also won’t pretend to understand hotel occupancy rates and room allocation. However, if I can book at least four rooms in the exact same category (and bed type) for that same evening, I interpret that to mean the property isn’t nearly sold out, and accommodating a reasonable late checkout request (especially for a top-tier elite member) shouldn’t be a problem.

Moreover, other chains already include late checkout for their top-tier elites, while some include it for ALL elite members! Here’s a quick rundown:

Hyatt Gold Passport
Platinum: “Extend your stay until 2 pm with a late checkout request.”
Diamond: “Extend your stay until 4 pm with a late checkout request.”
Analysis: Though the fine print indicates that late checkout is subject to availability at Hyatt resorts and casinos, I’ve never been turned down as a Diamond member. In fact, I almost always get asked at check-in whether I need a 4 pm checkout. Talk about being proactive!

Marriott Rewards
Silver, Gold, and Platinum: “Priority late checkout”
Analysis: While the checkout time isn’t specified, it’s great that Marriott gives all elite members late checkout privileges. This benefit is based on availability, and is unavailable at Marriott Vacation Club properties, but I appreciate that it’s a published benefit. As a Silver member with Marriott Rewards, I have only requested late checkout a few times, and my request has always been granted without hesitation.

SPG gives a 4pm checkout to all elite members.

SPG gives a 4 pm checkout to all elite members.

Starwood Preferred Guest
Gold and Platinum: “4 pm late checkout”
75-night Platinum: “Your24 – have the flexibility of choosing your check-in. For example, check in at 9 pm and checkout at 9 pm on the day of departure.” 
Analysis: This policy may be the most generous, offering all elite members a guaranteed 4 pm checkout (again subject to availability at resort and conference center hotels). It’s even better for the 75-night Platinum elites, as they could extend their stay even longer! Just like Hyatt, I’m almost always asked at check-in whether I plan on utilizing this benefit.

FHR

You’ll get a guaranteed 4 pm checkout when booking through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts.

Others
While not exactly a chain, travelers with the American Express Platinum card can book hotels through the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program and receive a guaranteed 4 pm checkout as an added benefit. The Visa Signature Hotels program also provides late checkout, though it’s only until 3 pm and isn’t guaranteed.

Several competing brands offer late checkout, so why doesn’t Hilton HHonors? One source of the problem may be the published benefits of the program, which lists late checkout as a benefit for all members of the program regardless of status. Hilton then adds the usual disclaimer: “Late check-out must be requested and is subject to availability.” How does the saying go? When everyone is elite, no one is elite.

Hilton could take a cue from Hyatt and Starwood and empower employees to be flexible with late checkouts.

Hilton could take a cue from Hyatt and Starwood and empower employees to be flexible with late checkouts. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

From my experience, it seems like individual hotel managers can significantly impact the availability of late checkout at their properties. While Hyatt and Starwood front desk agents are empowered to proactively offer extended checkout when a guest checks in, Hilton tends to be reactive and initially tell a guest no (even when there’s availability). There are surely hotels in the Hilton portfolio willing to provide late checkout, but without having it guaranteed as a published benefit for Diamond members, there’s no incentive for them to offer it.

Ultimately I know Hilton can’t actually guarantee late checkout (and I know that even Hyatt and Starwood can’t guarantee it every day at every property). However, after numerous poor experiences with Hilton, I think they could learn a lot from the competition.

What do you think late checkout policies should be for elite members? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

]]>
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/late-checkout-for-hilton-hhonors-diamond-the-weekly-wish/feed/ 11