The Points Guy http://thepointsguy.com Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:15:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Get a 20% Bonus When You Transfer SPG Points to American AAdvantage http://thepointsguy.com/2015/07/spg-transfer-bonus-aadvantage/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/07/spg-transfer-bonus-aadvantage/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:00:43 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=136584 Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points are considered by TPG to be the most valuable loyalty rewards currency, but there are occasions when it might make sense to move your points to a different program. In addition to the great redemption rates at hotel properties and the SPG Moments program, you can transfer to a whopping 32 airline partners, further enhancing the value of an SPG point.

Generally, SPG points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to most programs, and if you transfer 20,000 in one go, you get 25,000 airline miles. Now, American Airlines is offering an additional 20% bonus that stacks on top of the extra 5,000 mile bonus you get for transferring 20,000 points. With the new bonus, 20,000 SPG points become 30,000 AAdvantage miles, effectively a fantastic 1:1.5 transfer ratio.

You can top off your SPG account with the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card.

TPG currently values SPG points at 2.4 cents and AAdvantage miles at 1.7 cents — so by transferring 20,000 points, you get 2.55 cents of value out of each SPG point. You do lose flexibility though, as transfers are not reversible, so be sure to consider your future redemption plans before speculatively transferring points.

SPG is currently the only major transferrable rewards program that offers the ability to transfer to AAdvantage. If you need to top off your SPG account, you can get the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card with a bonus of 25,000 points after spending $3,000 within three months of account opening.

The bonus promotional period runs from July 1 through August 7, 2015, and there’s no limit to the number of times you can transfer points.

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US Plans to Reopen Embassy in Cuba http://thepointsguy.com/2015/07/cuba-embassy/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/07/cuba-embassy/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 14:35:43 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=136563 For the first time since 1961, Washington, D.C. and Havana are on speaking terms again. ¡Viva diplomacia!

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

This historic step comes on the heels of President Obama having met Raul Castro in April, and then announcing in May that Cuba was to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. And now we’re going to have embassies in each other’s countries! That’ll mean US citizen support, passport (and possibly visa) services and overall a major step forward in the effort to rebuild relations.

Now, we’re sure that you’ve been hearing it all over the news, so let’s get down to what we all really want to know: How soon can we go to Cuba, and how is that going to work now that the ice of the Cold War is officially a puddle on the floor?

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

As The Points Guy previously reported, the Obama administration has been easing travel restrictions to Cuba for a while, but they hadn’t yet figured out how they were going to handle the new reduced travel restrictions. But when Havana finally gets regularly scheduled commercial service from the US, it’ll make for a perfect 4,500 Avios one-way destination on American Airlines. Meanwhile, Cancun and Grand Cayman make easy connecting ports.

And if you want to take it slow, there are also ferry services that will be ramping up their schedules in anticipation of the flood of tourists sure to come.

For more information on Cuba, check out these posts:

Is it Safe to Visit Cuba?
My Amazing Experience Exploring Trinidad, Cuba
Casa Particulares: One Incredible Weekend with Three Cuban Families
5 Reasons to Use a Travel Agent for Visiting Cuba
10 Types of People Who Need To Visit Cuba Now

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10 Photos: Mega-Malls, Panoramic Views and More in Dubai http://thepointsguy.com/2015/07/10-photos-dubai/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/07/10-photos-dubai/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:42:29 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=134496 This is the first travel photo essay from new TPG Contributor (and professional photographer) Patrick T. Fallon, who in future posts hopes to provide useful guides to destinations that include tips on exploring, redeeming miles, gaining status and improving your own photography while traveling. Between TPG posts, follow his work and travels on Instagram. (All photos by the author.)

People look through the glass at the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo inside of the Mall of the Emirates on Monday, January 20, 2014 in , United Arab Emirates. © 2014 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
Through the looking glass at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo inside of the Mall of the Emirates.

My first visit to the United Arab Emirates hotspot of Dubai was the result of a (successful) attempt at my first status challenge, in which I managed to attain American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum status with a single flight — LAX-LHR-DXB in British Airways’ version of premium economy, World Traveller Plus. Upon arriving, jet lag hit hard and I wasn’t up for much, but I needed to get a SIM card for my iPhone and I’d heard that shopping malls in Dubai are tourist attractions unto themselves.

My first stop was The Dubai Mall, home to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. When’s the last time you went to an aquarium and/or a zoo … in a shopping mall?

People at Ski Dubai inside of the Mall of the Emirates on Monday, January 20, 2014 in , United Arab Emirates. © 2014 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
Ski Dubai — inside of the Mall of the Emirates — was something I wanted to at least peek at so I could cross it off my list of Dubai extravagances.

Or for that matter, a ski resort? I had to see the Ski Dubai attraction inside Mall of the Emirates for myself.

The shadow of the Burj Khalifa is cast over the city of Dubai, as seen from the "At The Top" experience of the Burj Khalifa on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. If you want to save money, buy tour tickets a few days in advance, otherwise you'll have to pay a premium for a same day ticket. © 2014 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
The shadow of the Burj Khalifa is cast over the city of Dubai, as seen from the “At The Top” experience on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

For my first real day of sightseeing, I headed straight to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world.

If you want to save money, buy tour tickets a few days in advance online, otherwise you’ll have to pay a premium for a same-day “fast track” ticket. While I had looked online beforehand to buy a ticket, the time and day I wanted was already sold out when I searched.

Tourists admire the view and as others pray during the "At The Top" experience on the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. A pretty cool elevator ride builds anticipation as you feel your ears pressurize. © 2014 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
Tourists admire the view and as others pray during the “At The Top” experience on the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The elevator ride builds anticipation as you feel your ears pressurize on your way up.

Luckily I was able to use my American Express Platinum card with zero foreign transaction fees to pay for the 300 AED (about $82) ticket to the 124th floor. This is fairly expensive, but at least I didn’t have to wait in line and was able to get up and down and utilize more of my limited time in the city that day to explore rather than standing in a queue. There is now an even more premium option to the “At The Top: SKY” experience that will take you to the 148th floor.

Tourists ride the Abra water taxis, quite possibly the least expensive attraction in all of Dubai, at sunset at the Old Souk on Dubai Creek on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. © 2014 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
Tourists ride the Abra water taxis, quite possibly the least expensive attraction in all of Dubai, at sunset at the Old Souk on Dubai Creek.

After the Burj Khalifa I wanted to explore more around the city, using the modern Dubai Metro rail system to visit Dubai Creek and the Old Souk. With a few coins in hand, I hopped on an Abra water taxi; a stark difference to the expensive Burj elevator, the Abra cost just 1 AED (about 27 cents).

A man feeds birds near the Abra water taxis at sunset by the Old Souk on Dubai Creek on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. © 2014 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
A man feeds birds near the Abra water taxis by the Old Souk on Dubai Creek.

The souks are great if you’re looking to buy some gifts for friends back home. Remember that cash is still king for many things, including taxis and souks.

Workers load washing machines on their backs onto boats at Dubai Creek near the Old Souk TKTKTKTKTKTK on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in , United Arab Emirates. © 2014 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
Workers load washing machines with their backs onto Dhow cargo boats at Dubai Creek near the Old Souk.

It’s easier to negotiate if you have a good assortment of Dirhams (AEDs) and US dollars in hand. For ATM withdrawals when I travel, I use the Capital One 360 debit card, which also waives foreign transaction fees.

People walk on the beach at the Atlantis, The Palm resort during brunch on Saturday, January 25, 2014 in , United Arab Emirates. © 2014 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
People walk on the beach at the Atlantis, The Palm resort Saturday in Dubai.

During my trip to Dubai I stayed with local friends, so I didn’t have to bother with finding lodging. We only briefly left Dubai for two of the six other United Arab Emirates — Abu Dhabi and Fujairah; the latter has a Gulf of Oman coastline popular for scuba diving, which is what lured us there.

We we returned, we hit up the Barasti Beach Bar on a Friday night, then enjoyed a relaxing Saturday on the beach with food, hookah, and drinks at Marriott’s Atlantis, The Palm Dubai [room rates starting at 1,475 AED (about $402) per night].

Sun sets on the Atlantis, The Palm resort during brunch on Saturday, January 25, 2014 in , United Arab Emirates. © 2014 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
Sun sets on the Atlantis, The Palm resort. Leave time to have a look around the hotel and see some the beautiful aquariums inside.

As an aside, if you hope to visit Jumeirah’s over-the-top Burj Al Arab Hotel and aren’t a hotel guest [room rates start at a whopping 3,630 AED (about $988], you’ll need to have confirmed reservations for one of their restaurants. The hotel offers a lavish afternoon tea service in their Skyview Bar, as well as a few more options that are more economical but don’t have the Skyview’s amazing, well, sky views.

The Burj Khalifa is seen in the very early morning as I head back to the DXB airport to catch my British Airways flight to London on Saturday, January 25, 2014 in , United Arab Emirates. © 2014 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
The Burj Khalifa is seen late Saturday night as I head back to the DXB airport to catch my early Sunday morning British Airways flight to London.

Once my whirlwind trip was over and I arrived at Dubai Airport (DXB) for my departure, I was able to use the business-class check-in and the British Airways Galleries lounge, a nice perk of my then-new AAdvantage Platinum status. Not too shabby.

For more on where to go, eat and stay in Dubai, be sure to see Nicholas du Pont’s Mistake-Fare Guide to Dubai. On my next trip to Dubai I plan to venture beyond the main attractions, and simply wander the souks and streets to experience a local’s version of Dubai — what cool, off-the-beaten-path places have you found inside and outside the city?

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Guide to Maximizing Bonus Categories – Office Supplies http://thepointsguy.com/2015/07/maximizing-office-supplies/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/07/maximizing-office-supplies/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 12:08:31 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=135265 Every purchase is an opportunity to earn travel rewards, and in order to boost your loyalty account balances, it’s important to maximize your return on each dollar. Today, TPG Contributor Richard Kerr explains how you can rack up points and miles on office expenses with credit card bonuses and more.

Whether you run your own small business, work at a Fortune 500 company or manage your household, office supplies are a part of everyday life. Toner, paper, pens, batteries, electronics, software — we use these items everyday. Office supplies aren’t cheap, which is all the more reason to have a good points and miles earning strategy in place.

In this post, I’ll carry on from recent guides to maximizing grocery store purchases and maximizing gas purchases and look at the different tools and strategies available to ensure you maximize every dollar you spend on office supplies.

General Tips

The strategies for maximizing office supply purchases are similar to the tactics you use for other categories of spending:

1. Know the limits of your particular rewards, both in terms of earning and redeeming. For example, some credit card bonuses are capped, like the $1,500 quarterly limit for 5% bonus categories on the Chase Freedom card. Being aware of these limits will help you decide which rewards are most useful to you.

2. The merchant category code determines whether a particular purchase will earn you bonus points. If you’re uncertain how a given merchant is coded, I recommend testing it with a small purchase. You can then examine your card statement to see whether the merchant in question codes properly.

3. Don’t override common sense and the bottom line of your office supplies bill. If the money you save from buying toner through a cheap online site outweighs the rewards you earn from buying your toner at an office supply store, skip the extra rewards. Do the math and make sure that you’re not paying more than you should to earn points.

The Chase Ink cards offer 5 points per dollar at office supply stores.

Credit Card Strategies

Ink Plus Business Card
The obvious front-runner for earning rewards when buying office supplies, Ink Plus earns 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services. You also earn 2 points per dollar spent on gas and hotels (again on up to $50,000 annually), which makes this card a bit more versatile. Given that TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2.1 cents apiece, and that this card comes with a solid sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months, it’s an all-around excellent option for an annual fee of $95.

Ink Cash Business Card
This card is similar to the Ink Plus, as it offers the same 5x and 2x bonuses, but only on the first $25,000 spent annually. The rewards you earn with Ink Cash are essentially like cash back unless you also have a premium Ultimate Rewards card like the Ink Plus or Chase Sapphire Preferred. Ink Cash comes with a more modest sign-up bonus of $200 cash back after you spend $3,000 in the first three months, but unlike the Ink Plus, it has no annual fee.

SimplyCash Business Card from American Express
This card offers 5% cash back on purchases made at US office supply stores and on wireless telephone services that you purchase directly from US service providers. You also get 3% cash back on your choice of several other categories, including airfare, hotels or car rentals. These 5% and 3% categories are capped at $25,000 spent per year on purchases. Like the Ink Cash card, SimplyCash has no annual fee. However, this card earns pure cash back with no opportunity to convert points into more valuable rewards.

SimplyCash currently offers a $250 statement credit after you spend $5,000 in the first six months of card membership.

Aside from 5% cash back at office supply stores, Amex SimplyCash offers 3% cash back on your choice of other categories, including hotels.

The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
This card offers a complete package for those who spend a large amount on office supplies. You can earn 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on your choice from among 5 different categories, one of which is US computer hardware, software and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. The other options include shipping and advertising, so there’s a good opportunity to save on office-related expenses even if your business doesn’t involve much computing. You also earn 2 points per dollar on the remaining 4 categories, so the choice isn’t all or nothing.

In addition to bonus points, you get access to Amex Open Savings, which offers 5% savings on shipments through FedEx and purchases with FedEx Office, as well as other discounts. Also, Amex Sync offers target office supply stores from time to time, providing additional savings to most Amex cardholders.

United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card
Earn an uncapped 2 miles per dollar at office supply stores, restaurants and gas stations. You also receive 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 in a year. This card doesn’t offer as impressive of a return as the cards discussed above, but it does offer some useful perks like no foreign transaction fees, and flight benefits like the first checked bag fees waived for you and a traveling companion.

Even with United’s devaluation (which was particularly bad for premium-cabin awards on Star Alliance partners), I’m still a big fan of United miles. The MileagePlus program allows 2 open jaws and a stopover on round-trip awards, which allows you to fit a whole lot of sightseeing in on one award ticket. The ability to transfer Ultimate Rewards to United makes it easy to boost your frequent flyer account, too.

U.S. Bank FlexPerks Business Edge Travel Rewards Card
This card earns 2 FlexPoints per dollar in the category you spend the most on (gas, office supplies or airline) and most cell phone expenses during each billing cycle. FlexPoints are redeemable for airline tickets at a maximum rate of 2 cents per point. One attractive feature of the FlexPerks program is that awards count as revenue tickets, so you earn frequent flyer miles when you redeem your FlexPoints, and that boosts the overall value slightly.

Buying third party gift cards strategically can save you money and earn you bonus rewards.

Gift Cards

Buying third-party gift cards with your rewards credit card should be a part of your strategy. You can buy office supplies from Target, Amazon and many other retailers, so if the office supply store doesn’t have the lowest price, check the gift card rack for other options. That way you can pay less and earn a category bonus for your spending. Similarly, if you have a credit card that earns a bonus at grocery stores, look for Staples, OfficeMax or other office supply store gift cards at your local supermarket.

Office Supply Store Loyalty Programs

These programs offer you savings in addition to the rewards you earn:

Staples Rewards — Members receive between 2-5% off all purchases in store and online (excluding postage, gift cards and savings passes). How much you save depends on how much spend with Staples in a 12-month period. In addition to savings, members get exclusive coupons online, $2 back for recycling toner cartridges (limited to 10 or 20 a month, depending on your annual Staples spend) and free shipping (excluding oversize and add-on items). Teachers receive an additional 5% back on teaching and art supplies.

OfficeMax/Office Depot rewards+ — Members receive 10% back on toner, ink, paper, shipping, copy and print purchases. You can become a Choice member by spending $200 on a product or service purchase made in store, online, by phone or fax (with some exclusions). Once you’re a Choice member, you can select five categories in which you’ll earn a 5% discount. Choice membership is only valid for one quarter, after which you must spend another $200 to re-qualify.

 

I may have earned a free ticket off of buying toner alone through shopping portals for friends and family. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
I may have earned a free plane ticket just from buying toner through shopping portals. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Shopping Portals

I believe shopping portals are the most underutilized tool available for earning points and miles. If you’re unfamiliar with the process or think it’s a hassle, know that when it comes to a few particular office supplies, your extra points will be worth the effort. Here are some of my favorite tips to earn more points on office supplies through shopping portals:

  • Chase tends to offer 2 additional Ultimate Rewards points per dollar when shopping at Staples or OfficeMax/Office Depot online through the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal. This means paying with your Chase Ink Plus Business card will earn you 7 points per dollar.
  • Online toner shops frequently offer some of the highest shopping portal bonuses. Stores such as 123refills.com and 123inkjets.com earn between 7-23 points or miles per dollar. United MileagePlus Shopping is currently offering 11 miles per dollar, while the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall is offering 15 points per dollar. AAdvantage eShopping is offering 15 AAdvantage miles per dollar at 1ink.com.

Here are a few important shopping portal reminders from TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen:

  1. You must click through the link on the portal’s site and then make a purchase from the page that pops up. DO NOT navigate away and come back later; you may miss out on the bonus points/miles.
  2. You must make sure that you have cookies enabled in your browser for the retailer’s site. This is what allows the portal to “track” your purchases and award bonus points/miles accordingly.
  3. Only use promotions or promo codes found on the portal; if you use others, the purchase may become ineligible for bonus points/miles.
  4. Be sure to read the restrictions for each merchant. Many won’t count gift cards as eligible purchases for earning bonus points/miles, and others will exclude certain products.
  5. Consider using gift cards. While you generally can’t purchase gift cards through these portals, you can still use gift cards to pay for the purchase. This is really valuable for Chase Ink Plus cardholders at merchants like Target and Home Depot. You can buy gift cards from office supply stores (to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points), and then use those cards to pay for purchases through an airline shopping portal, earning even more bonus points/miles in the process.

Cultivate Your Strategy

Using a shopping portal, the Staples Rewards program and paying with a rewards credit card is a great example of how you can earn points in multiple ways to maximize your earnings and savings on office supplies. Don’t forget that many office supply stores sell household items such as cleaners, paper goods, snacks and luggage, so you can earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on paper towels and peanut butter pretzels just as easily as you can on printer paper and notepads.

Whichever strategy you use, remember it should be centered around helping you achieve your next travel goal. Points and miles are a terrible long-term investment, so have a plan in mind.

What is your strategy for maximizing office supply purchases?

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6 Premium Travel Cards that Are Worth the High Annual Fee http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/premium-travel-rewards-cards/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/premium-travel-rewards-cards/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 22:00:49 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=134436 Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele looks at the perks offered by a variety of premium travel credit cards, and explains why they’re worth the cost of admission.

Premium credit cards may scare many people away with their $400-plus annual fees, but travel rewards enthusiasts know that despite the high price tag, these cards can offer exceptional value. In this post I want to examine which premium travel rewards cards are currently available, whether the perks they offer are worth paying for and more.

Premium travel rewards cards allow you to access airport lounges, such as the Virgin America Loft lounge at LAX.

What These Premium Cards Have in Common

All of these cards feature some sort of airport lounge access, which by itself tends to cost as much or more than the respective annual fees. In addition, all of these cards offer numerous travel insurance and purchase protection policies, as well as some sort of concierge service that offers personalized assistance for booking travel, making dining reservations, buying gifts or completing virtually any other task you could ask someone to do over the phone. Finally, I would expect premium service with regard to your account and no foreign transaction fees.

What to Look for in a Premium Credit Card 

Since all of these credit cards offer lounge access, you need to investigate which lounges are in each network to find the ones that suit your travel needs. These might include the primarily domestic lounge networks of American, Delta and United, the mostly international lounges of Priority Pass, or both.

You’ll also want to see whether the card has a competitive rewards program. Ironically, some of these cards offer fewer bonus point categories than other, less expensive cards offered by the same issuer. The main reason to get a premium card is for the perks and not the points, but you should still aim to collect points that are valuable to you, even if you won’t be earning at a high rate.

Speaking of perks, you should closely examine all of the benefits offered by each card, and evaluate how useful they may be to you. For example, the golf benefit on the Citi Prestige card is only valuable if you play golf, while the upgrade priority on the Delta Reserve card is only useful if you actually hold Delta Medallion status. Finally, many of these cards come with credits toward airline fees and/or the $100 application fee for the Global Entry program, so be sure to consider those savings when evaluating whether paying the annual fee is justified.

I’ve listed what I think are the top 6 premium cards on the market right now. Here’s the short list, but below you’ll find more details about each.

1. Citi Prestige Card
2. Platinum Card from American Express
3. Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
4. United MileagePlus Club Card
5. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
6. Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

THE DETAILS

Here’s a detailed look at each of the cards listed above, including their benefits, sign-up bonuses and other factors to consider.

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Citi Prestige offers a great assortment of benefits that can easily offset the annual fee, and then some.

1. Citi Prestige Card

Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 ThankYou points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Benefits: Receive a $250 air travel credit each year for airfare, baggage fees, lounge access and some in-flight purchases. You also get Admirals Club access and Priority Pass Select lounge membership, the latter of which is good for both you and a guest. Get your fourth night free at hotels with no black-out dates when you book four consecutive nights at any hotel via a personal travel adviser designated by MasterCard. $100 Global Entry application fee credit. No foreign transaction fees.

Earn 3 ThankYou points per dollar spent on air travel and hotel purchases, 2 points per dollar on dining and entertainment and 1 point per dollar elsewhere. Redeem your points for air travel at a rate of 1.33 cents apiece, or 1.6 cents apiece on American Airlines and US Airways. Citi ThankYou Rewards also now has 12 transfer partners, including Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Virgin Atlantic and Hilton HHonors.

Annual Fee: $450

Is it worth getting? As the ThankYou Rewards program becomes increasingly valuable by adding more transfer partners, this card has become a great way to earn points, especially when you can take advantage of bonus spending categories. Prestige is one of the few cards that offers both direct airline lounge access and a Priority Pass membership. Other perks such as the golf benefit and the fourth night free hotel benefit really stand out as well. For someone who wants extensive lounge access and isn’t married to a single frequent flyer program, this card offers exceptional value.

Amex Platinum Featured
The Amex Platinum card offers access to Delta SkyClub and Priority Pass lounges, as well as the Amex Centurion Lounges.

2. Platinum Card from American Express

Current Bonus: Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months (although you might receive a targeted offer with a larger bonus).

Benefits: $200 annual air travel credit. $100 Global Entry application fee credit. Access to Delta SkyClub, Priority Pass and Amex Centurion lounges. This card only earns 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent, but those points transfer to 16 different airlines and 4 hotel partners. (Note that the transfer ratios to British Airways and Iberia will decrease starting October 1.)

Annual Fee: $450

Is it worth getting? Longtime cardholders swear by this card, which was one of the first premium cards offered. Like the Citi Prestige, this card offers multiple lounge network options, including the small but growing list of Amex Centurion Lounges. One of the best benefits of this card is that you can add up to three authorized users for $175 total, and each of those authorized users gets most of the same benefits as the primary cardholder.

When it comes to earning bonus points, this card comes up short, as it still offers just 1 point per dollar on all purchases, trailing even the Amex EveryDay Card, which has no annual fee. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of value in this card’s long list of benefits to justify its $450 annual fee, even if you end up using other cards for most of your spending.

The Citi AAdvantage Executive card offers EQMs to help you boost your American Airlines elite status.

3. Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 in the first three months, although you might receive a targeted offer for more.

Benefits: Full Admirals Club membership, which allows you (and immediate family or up to two guests) to access lounges even when you’re not flying on American Airlines. $100 Global Entry application fee credit. Priority check-in, security and boarding on American Airlines and US Airways. One free checked bag for you and up to eight companions. 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases.

Earn 2 points per dollar on American Airlines and US Airways purchases, and one point per dollar elsewhere. Also, earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles when you spend $40,000 in a year.

Annual Fee: $450

Is it worth getting? Pound for pound I don’t think this card offers the same value as the two cards listed above, but it’s a good option for those who fly American Airlines regularly. It offers one of the few ways to earn additional EQMs without flying, and it’s an easy way for occasional AAdvantage flyers to enjoy nearly all of the perks of elite status from day one.

Enjoy two passes for the United Club each year.
The United Club card offers lounge access, but doesn’t come with much of a sign-up bonus.

4. United MileagePlus Club Card

Current Bonus: This card doesn’t come with miles, but it does include a $100 statement credit after your first purchase. There are also some targeted offers that waive the annual fee for the first year.

Benefits: Full United Club membership. First and second bag fee waivers for you and one companion. Premier Access travel services including priority check-in, boarding, security and baggage handling. No fee on close-in award booking and expanded access to saver award seats. Earn 2 points per dollar on United purchases and 1.5 points per dollar on all other purchases.

Annual Fee: $450

Is it worth getting? Like the AAdvantage Executive card, this card makes sense for frequent United travelers and those who want elite status perks before attaining elite status. United Club access isn’t offered by any other credit card, so if you would consider getting a membership anyway, this card is a good option. Finally, this is one of the few premium credit cards that truly offers more rewards from spending than similar, less expensive cards.

OZONE, on the 118th floor, is just one reason to redeem your points at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong.
The Ritz-Carlton card offers upgrades to Club Level, which you can use at properties like the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong.

5. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

Current Bonus: Earn 2 complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton Hotel after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Benefits: Earn 5 points per dollar at Ritz-Carlton and Marriott properties; 2 points per dollar on airline, car rental and restaurant purchases; and 1 point per dollar elsewhere. Earn a 10% annual premium on points earned throughout the year. Get three annual upgrades to club level on stays of up to 7 nights. Receive a $300 annual travel credit, plus a $100 hotel credit on paid stays of two nights or more. Automatic Gold Elite status for your first year (valid at Marriott properties as well, and you can extend your status by spending $10,000 each account year). Lounge Club membership.

Annual Fee: $395

Is it worth getting? When you factor in the $300 annual air travel credit, you’re essentially left with a $95 card that offers some pretty lucrative benefits. It really takes just a single paid stay with Ritz-Carlton to make this card easily worthwhile, especially with the Club Level upgrades. If you stay at Ritz-Carlton properties regularly, it’s a no-brainer.

The Delta Reserve card offers a companion certificate that you can redeem for great value, plus up to 30,000 elite miles from spending each year.

6. Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Current Bonus: 10,000 SkyMiles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after your first purchase.

Benefits: Delta SkyClub lounge access for the cardholder only. Flight benefits like one free checked bag, priority security and boarding, upgrade priority over those in the same elite status level, and discounts on in-flight purchases. Get an annual companion certificate in economy or first class on domestic flights. Earn 15,000 MQMs when you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, plus another 15,000 MQMs when you spend $60,000.

Annual Fee: $450

Is it worth getting? For Delta flyers, this card is well worth getting for the companion pass alone. It’s disappointing that the card only offers SkyClub access to the cardholder, but it’s also the most generous of these premium cards when it comes to handing out elite qualifying miles. If you don’t fly Delta regularly, though, there’s little reason to consider this card.

Bottom Line

As you can see, a card’s annual fee doesn’t always correspond to its value. While the cards above all come at roughly the same price point, some are clearly only a fit for select travelers. If you’re looking for a card that offers a diverse array of useful perks, Citi Prestige and the Amex Platinum Card are probably your best bets, though the airline and hotel cards on this list can be a good fit if you’re loyal to those brands.

Which benefits do you value most in a premium travel rewards card?

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Delta Low-Level Award Inventory Now on ExpertFlyer http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/delta-award-inventory-on-expertflyer/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/delta-award-inventory-on-expertflyer/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 21:47:59 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=136378 A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how ExpertFlyer can help you find award availability through its alert capabilities. In it, I lamented the fact that Delta forced the site to remove all data last fall. However, I am excited to share that some Delta functionality has been restored: as of today, you can now see low-level award inventory for Delta-operated flights.

afas
Level 1 awards on Delta-operated flights are now available on ExpertFlyer!

To access this new feature, simply log-in to your ExpertFlyer account and then access the Awards & Upgrades link at the right. You’ll see that Delta is now listed in the drop-down menu (under DAL – DL), and you can choose one or more of the following fare classes:

  • Low Level First Class Awards: R (used for domestic flights)
  • Low Level Business Class Awards: O (used for international flights and domestic flights that share an international flight number)
  • Low Level Economy Class Awards: N (used for all flights)

The search results page will display any and all Delta-operated flights with availability in the class(es) that you’ve selected:

EF Delta

You’ll notice that it won’t actually tell you the total number of seats available in each award class. Instead, it will tell you whether or not the exact number you specified is available. In the above screen shot, I was looking for a single seat. If I click on Refine Search and change my criteria to 7 seats (the highest number allowed for these searches), notice what changes:

EF Delta

Two of the flights have one seat but not seven, and the results will indicate that.

The top of the page of these searches indicates that the functionality is still in Beta, and if you do encounter any discrepancies in the data, you should contact ExpertFlyer support to let them know. However, I found that the information matched Delta.com in all of the test cases I ran. Here’s the same Orlando to New York search I used above for one passenger:

Delta

And here’s the search for 7 passengers:

Delta

Notice that in each case, the results were identical to the inventory displayed on Expert Flyer, as the 8:00am and 10:30am departures were not available for seven passengers in first class at Level 1 (R).

It’s important to note that only flights with availability will appear on the results page. If they have availability in one class but not your desired class, you can go through the usual process of setting alerts. Simply click on the exclamation point icon and put in the requested information.

However, if your flight doesn’t appear, you can still set an alert to let you know when (or if) inventory appears. You’ll just need to know the exact date and flight number. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Click on Create New Flight Alert at the left-hand side of the site.
  2. Enter the requested information, including the airline (DAL – DL), the flight number and the class code (R, O or N).
  3. Click Verify and Create.

One other thing to note is that the site will only display flights if the departure or arrival airport is in North America. If you are looking for a flight that just connects in North America, you must search those as separate segments. This will probably only apply to a handful of searches, so I wouldn’t say it’s a significant drawback.

ExpertFlyer can be your best friend when looking for award seats on many airlines.
This is a welcome addition to an already useful website.

Chris Lopinto, President and Co-Founder of ExpertFlyer, sent us some FAQs that provide some additional information about this added functionality:

Q: Are all DL award tiers being shown?
A: No, just the lowest level award classes R (First), O (Business), N (Economy).

Q: What flights will be shown for the DL award search?
A: DL operated flights only.

Q: Can we set Flight Alerts and be alerted for inventory for those classes?
A: Yes!  Flight Alerts can be set either from the Award & Upgrade results for shown DL flights, or via the Create New Flight Alert page.

Q: Does this mean that upgrade availability is being shown again?
A: No, the R and O classes being shown represent awards, not upgrades. Upgrade inventory was only available via the reservation systems (GDS) which Delta is preventing us from using for accessing their data.

Q: Does this mean that the other non-award DL data (fare classes, seat maps, etc) will be returning to ExpertFlyer?
A: No, Delta still is preventing us from accessing any reservation system (GDS) data.

Delta One on a transcontinental 757.
Finding award inventory in Delta One just got a bit easier.

Bottom line

This is a welcome enhancement to ExpertFlyer, and I applaud the site for adding this functionality. If you don’t currently subscribe to the site and are a regular Delta flyer, I think this is a no-brainer now, especially for Platinum and Diamond Medallion members. Those two tiers get free changes and cancellations on award tickets, so if you lock in a Level 2 or 3 redemption at a higher mileage amount, setting an alert for R, O or N will allow you to get miles back for free if Level 1 inventory is released.

What do you think about this new functionality?

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United Will Begin Operating Biofuel Flights Later This Summer http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/united-flying-with-biofuel/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/united-flying-with-biofuel/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 19:59:54 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=136275 Fuel is expensive — it’s generally the largest operating expense of major carriers — so it’s no surprise that airlines are investing in alternatives with the hopes of potentially decreasing the cost of flying in the future. The New York Times reports that later this summer, United will operate flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco using biofuel, as part of its eco-skies program.

Furthermore, today, United Airlines announced a $30 million investment in an alternative fuel manufacturer, Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc. Fulcrum is working to convert municipal solid waste into sustainable aviation biofuel. Together, Fulcrum and United are in talks to develop five projects near United hubs that they believe will have the potential to produce up to 180 million gallons of fuel per year.

Almost a year ago, Cathay Pacific announced its own equity stake in Fulcrum BioEnergy. The Hong Kong-based airline hopes to become carbon-neutral by 2020, and at the time, suggested that this was an important step in achieving that goal.

United's investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy represents a potential 180 million gallons in biofuel.
United’s investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy represents a potential 180 million gallons in biofuel.

It’s no secret that aviation fuel is an airline’s single largest expense, and airlines are always looking for ways to bring that cost down, or pass the cost along to consumers in the form of fuel surcharges or increased fares. Last year, United spent [PDF] $11.6 billion on 3.9 billion gallons of fuel, representing 32 percent of the airline’s total operating expenses. This is not United’s first foray into alternative fuels — in 2013, it agreed to purchase 15 gallons of alternative jet fuel from AltAir. United claims a 50-percent reduction in carbon emissions from using AltAir biofuel, while Fulcrum claims a 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to traditional jet fuel from using its biofuel.

United hopes to begin flying this summer on the first 5 million gallons of AltAir fuel on four or five flights a day from Los Angeles to San Francisco. United says that the fuel will be a 30/70 blend of biofuel to traditional jet fuel. The New York Times reports that Fulcrum can produce its fuel at a cost significantly below $1 per gallon. Last year, United spent, on average, $2.99 per gallon on fuel, so Fulcrum’s fuel can remain competitive with traditional jet fuel.

This aims to be a positive for the aviation industry — though perhaps not for the oil giants as airlines progressively move toward more sustainable fuels and cut down on their largest expense.

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Uber Executives Arrested in Paris Following Protests http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/uber-executives-arrested/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/uber-executives-arrested/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 19:25:01 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=136051 Uber’s controversy in France continues this week after two of its top executives were taken into custody by French police for “illicit activities,” according to the Associated Press.

These events follow last week’s anti-Uber protests in Paris (and other parts of France), which shut down the city. The demonstrations headed by Parisian taxi drivers halted travel on major roads and blocked access to key transportation points, like airports and train stations.

Paris protests über

As a result of the protests, many travelers found themselves walking to Parisian airports in order to make their flights on time. Delta and Air France issued travel waivers for flights leaving Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris, as well as a number of other French airports due to the travel problems over the weekend.

Many of France’s Uber problems specifically revolve around UberPop, a branch of Uber’s main service, which is able to offer cheaper rides, mainly because its drivers don’t possess official taxi licenses. The arrests appear to be a result of the unclear legitimacy and contested status of UberPop in the country. While Uber’s practices have been deemed illegal by French officials, Uber has continued to operate. The executives will go before a correctional court on September 30, and could face huge fines and even prison time under French law, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Deal Alert: West Coast to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji from $771 http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/deal-alert-australia-new-zealand-and-fiji/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/deal-alert-australia-new-zealand-and-fiji/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 18:39:03 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=136273 Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend that you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency such as Orbitz, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Orbitz’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to travel.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some great fares on long-haul flights to Asia and Europe, but fares to Australia and the South Pacific have been as high as ever. Today, travelers from the West Coast and Hawaii can get great deals to a bunch of exciting destinations in the Pacific, including Australia, New Zealand and Fiji on Fiji Airways.

Some of the best deals we found are from Los Angeles (LAX) to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) for $771; Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney, Australia (SYD) for $789; and Los Angeles (LAX) to Nadi, Fiji (NAN) for $790.

Sydney

You can fly to several different cities throughout Australia and New Zealand, and deals are available in September and October. There are also some deals on flights departing from Honolulu (HNL) and Vancouver (YVR) to these locations.

Here are a few of the deals we found:

Los Angeles (LAX) – Auckland (AKL) on Fiji Airways for $771:

Los Angeles (LAX) – Auckland (AKL) on Fiji Airways for $771.

Los Angeles (LAX) – Sydney (SYD) on Fiji Airways for $789:

Los Angeles (LAX) – Sydney (SYD) on Fiji Airways for $789.

Los Angeles (LAX) – Nadi, Fiji (NAN) on Fiji Airways for $790:

Los Angeles (LAX) – Nadi, Fiji (NAN) on Fiji Airways for $790.

Maximize Your Purchase

Don’t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as the American Express Premier Rewards Gold or Citi Prestige (3x on airfare) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on all travel purchases). Check out this post for more on maximizing airfare purchases.

For more on Australia and the South Pacific:

Destination of the Week: Fiji
Destination of the Week: Melbourne
My Sydney Restaurant Recommendations – China Doll, Longrain, Lotus Dumpling Bar and More

If you’re able to score one of these tickets, please share the good news in the comments below!

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The Most Pet-Friendly Points Hotels in America http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/pet-friendly-hotels-in-america/ http://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/pet-friendly-hotels-in-america/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 18:10:30 +0000 http://thepointsguy.com/?p=134163 Stumped about the best spots for summer stays with your pets in tow? TPG Contributor Lane Nieset has done the research to highlight eight hotel brands — and individual properties within them — that welcome you, your loyalty points and your furry friends.

Kimpton's Surfcomber South Beach offers an awesome pool for cows — as well as the brand's signature pet amenities, all free of charge. Photo courtesy of the hotel.
Kimpton’s Surfcomber South Beach welcomes all sorts of animals —and offers the brand’s signature pet amenities free of charge. Photo courtesy of the hotel.

Kimpton Hotels
Surfcomber South Beach — Miami, Florida

At Kimpton‘s 60-plus hotels throughout the US, pets are welcomed free of charge, no matter what size, shape or breed. The lobby of each Kimpton features water bowls and treats, and stays come with complimentary in-room loaner items such as mats, food and water bowls, as well as courtesy bags for picking up after your dog and an invitation for him or her to join the complimentary nightly wine hour.

One of the most ideal Kimpton properties for a trip with Fido is Surfcomber South Beach, a 186-room hotel nestled on Collins Avenue with oceanfront access and Art Deco-style rooms. The hotel is also near dog-friendly restaurants on South Beach, including the Florida Cookery at The Royal Palm, a locally focused spot featuring Florida-inspired specialties like homemade conch fritters. Rates at the Surfcomber start at $161 per night in summer. At the moment, the Karma Rewards program is running separately from IHG Rewards Club, so you won’t be able to earn IHG points yet on your Kimpton stays, but you can rack up Karma Rewards and score free stays at Kimpton properties.

At the Towers, dogs can order from a gourmet canine room service menu. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria New York.
At the Towers, you can order your dog something from the gourmet canine room service menu. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria New York.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts
Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York — New York, New York 

At pet-friendly Hilton Hotels & Resorts properties, you may bring along a maximum of two pets (either dogs or cats) that clock in at a combined weight of up to 75 pounds, and non-refundable clean-up fees at various properties range from $50-125. One Hilton property with especially purr-fect amenities for pets is the Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York, a hotel-within-a-hotel that spans the top 15 floors of the flagship Waldorf Astoria’s Midtown Manhattan building. Since 1893, the hotel has hosted everyone from John W. “Bet-A-Million” Gates to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, as well as their prestigious pets (and even an elephant or two).

The Towers’ luxurious Fido Friendly program — only offered at this particular Waldorf Astoria — is slightly more strict than Kimpton, requiring a $50 non-refundable deposit and only allowing pets up to 25 pounds, but your pet will be treated like royalty by the Towers Personal Concierge, who can help with grooming, shopping and spa appointments. The program also features amenities like pet beds and bowls, one complimentary walk during the stay, and a Canine Culinary room service menu of doggie delicacies like German Shepherd’s Pie (get it?). Rates start at $669 per night for a suite. While you can’t redeem your HHonors Reward points for free nights here, you can still receive member rewards and earn points toward stays at other Hilton properties.

At The Westin La Paloma in Tucson, your pet gets its own Westin Heavenly Dog Bed. Photo courtesy of Westin.
At all Westin properties — including The Westin La Paloma in Tucson — your pet gets its own Westin Heavenly Dog Bed. Photo courtesy of Westin.

Westin Hotels & Resorts
The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa — Tucson, Arizona

Most Westin Hotels & Resorts are dog-friendly, offering pet beds, floor mats, food bowls, ID tags and a welcome kit at check-in with info on doggy hotspots in the area. The weight limit is usually 40 pounds (but management may make an exception if you clear it in advance) and some properties may ask for a deposit or pet fee.

At The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, tucked under the foothills of Tucson, Arizona‘s Santa Catalina Mountains, your furry companion will receive a VIP greeting on arrival and have its very own Westin Heavenly Dog Bed, a pet-sized version of the brand’s signature sleeper. Pets stay free and receive amenities like treats, water bowls, toys and a refillable bone-shaped waste bag, but you’ll need approval if you’re bringing a dog over 40 pounds (or want to bring another type of pet). While Fido is getting star treatment, you can pamper yourself a bit, too, taking a dip in the five-pool oasis or playing a round at the 27-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course. Rates for the SPG Category 4 property start at $129 per night or 10,000 Starpoints for a free night. While staying at the hotel, your furry friend unfortunately won’t be allowed at the pool, restaurants or Elizabeth Arden Red Door spa. 

W Hotels
W’s P.A.W. program comes with everything your dog needs for a chic stay. Photo courtesy of W Hotels.

W Hotels
W Los Angeles-West Beverly Hills — Los Angeles, California

The W brand’s P.A.W. (Pets Are Welcome) program allows you to bring one pet per room, said pet must weigh 40 pounds or less, and you’ll be charged a $25 pet fee and $100 non-refundable cleaning fee. For these fees, your suite will be complete with a pet toy and treat, W Hotels pet tag, W pet bed, food and water bowls, and a pet-in-room sign to hang on your door. Pet-friendly guestrooms even include a pet turndown gift. Any property’s concierge can help you find grooming, dog-walking and -sitting services, as well as offer advice on nearby dog park and runs, and the front desk will have on-hand leashes, toys, treats, wee pads and litter boxes.

Fresh off a $25 million renovation, the 258-room W Los Angeles-West Beverly Hills recently underwent a locally controversial rebranding; this swanky property (with a sprawling backyard pool area, hopping bar and full spa) is actually set in the leafy, residential neighborhood of Westwood, about a half-mile from the western border of Beverly Hills. Regardless of this name shift, the hotel is definitely set near UCLA’s lawns and gardens — the perfect place for dog-walking — and just a 15-minute drive from Santa Monica, where the walking paths and pier are pet-friendly, but the sand and surf are not. Rates for the SPG Category 6 hotel start at $329 or 20,000 Starpoints. 

Most of Hyatt's properties are dog-friendly, including the Park Hyatt Washington in DC. Photo courtesy of Hyatt.
Most of Hyatt’s properties are dog-friendly, including the Park Hyatt Washington in DC. Photo courtesy of Hyatt.

Hyatt Hotels
Park Hyatt Washington — Washington, DC

Featured across all Hyatt brands (e.g., Park Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Regency, HYATT, Grand Hyatt, etc.), Hyatt’s pet program offers designated dog-walking areas with well-stocked clean-up stations; special ID tags; dogs beds and bowls; and a welcome card and in-room amenity. Note that most Hyatts charge a non-refundable cleaning fee (which varies by hotel); weight restrictions dictate that dogs must be under 50 pounds, and if bringing two dogs, they must total 75 pounds or less; and if you’re staying at HYATT house hotels, your cats can come, too.

At the Park Hyatt Washington (where TPG stayed in 2011), dogs have access to most of the hotel’s public areas (except for the Guest House, lounge and Blue Duck Tavern). The property’s $150 pet fee ensures that your pooch will have everything he or she needs for a comfortable stay in Washington, DC; the concierge will even provide a list of recommended vets, doggie day care, and groomers in the area. Rates start at $269 or 20,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points.

The Sheraton New Orleans near the French Quarter offers free stays for dogs under 40 pounds — and some swanky couches, too. Photo courtesy of Sheraton.
The Sheraton New Orleans offers free stays for dogs under 40 pounds — and some swanky public areas, too. Photo courtesy of Sheraton.

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts
Sheraton New Orleans Hotel — New Orleans, Louisiana

Similar to Westin’s pet policy, most Sheraton Hotels & Resorts are dog-friendly and offer the same amenities — welcome kit, pet beds, food bowls — but what’s even better about stays at some of these properties is that in general, the weight limit is one of the highest we’ve seen: 80 pounds. Cleaning fees and deposits vary from Sheraton to Sheraton, and while some may nix fees all together, the weight limit may be slightly lower.

If you’re braving the heat and humidity to visit the Big Easy this summer, bring along your pet along for a stay at the 1,110-room Sheraton New Orleans Hotel on Canal Street near the French Quarter. The hotel offers free stays for dogs under 40 pounds, which includes an in-suite Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Dog Bed and Pet Welcome Pack at check-in with guides to nearby parks and groomers. You can take your dog (on a leash) throughout all of the public areas, and there’s even a Doggie Relief Area right next to the motor court. Rates at this SPG Category 4 hotel start at $159 or 10,000 Starpoints. 

Dogs stay free at all Hotel Indigo properties — including Atlanta Midtown. Photo courtesy of Hotel Indigo.
Dogs stay free at all Hotel Indigo properties — including Atlanta Midtown. Photo courtesy of Hotel Indigo.

InterContinental Hotels Group
Hotel Indigo Atlanta Midtown — Atlanta, Georgia

All of the hotels that are part of IHG’s budget-friendly Hotel Indigo brand are dog-friendly, offering amenities like water bowls and treats, with pet fees and weight restrictions varying by hotel (typically between $25-75). Hotel Indigo is such a fan of pups that some of its properties have adopted an on-site dog mascot that lives with a hotel’s manager, as in the case of Atlanta Midtown’s Jack Russell terrier, Indie.

The 140-room Hotel Indigo Atlanta Midtown in Georgia, located across from the historic Fox Theatre, was the first of the brand to open in 2004. The hotel charges a $25 nonrefundable deposit, but pets of any size and weight are welcome to spend the night.

The hotel’s neighborhood is prime for dog-walking along Peachtree Street or playing at the Piedmont Dog Park’s 1.5 leash-free acres. Travelers can also book the Ruff Life package (starting at $199 and including the $25 pet fee), which comes with a dog bed, bowl of treats and copy of Fido Friendly Magazine, as well as discounts on nearby doggie daycare and grooming. And for an extra dash of Southern hospitality, the hotel also hosts canine cocktail hours throughout the year at its on-site restaurant, 683 Midtown Bar & Bistro, which donates proceeds to the Atlanta Humane SocietyRates start at $171 or 30,000 IHG Rewards Club points.

Dogs live the suite life at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. Photo courtesy The Ritz-Carlton.
Dogs live the suite life at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. Photo courtesy The Ritz-Carlton.

The Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco — San Francisco, California 

Not all Ritz-Carlton hotels cater to pets, but the ones that do really know how to go all-out, offering everything from 22-karat plated ID tags to in-room Burberry pet-size raincoats. Ritz-Carlton charges cleaning fees that range between $125-250, as well as a boarding fee at select properties. The hotels typically offer amenities like treats, toys, canine room service and spa treatments for dogs up to 30 pounds.

At five-star The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, travelers can book the Suite Pampered Pooch package (rates from $775 per night, including pet cleaning fee) that starts with a VIP (Very Important Pooch) greeting at the door and includes personalized service, since the staff keeps guest recognition records for your pup knowing its name, breed, weight and preferences. Once at the hotel, dogs under 30 pounds receive an in-room dining menu, pet toy, framed bed, bowl, pet tag, and Pooch Pack with ideas for activities, walks and pet-friendly parks and beaches in the area. Although pets are welcome to walk through the lobby, elevators and rooms, only owners are allowed in the Club Lounge and restaurant Parallel 37. Outside of the package, owners pay a $125 cleaning fee. Rates at the Tier 4 hotel start at $449 or 60,000 Ritz-Carlton Rewards points. 

For more tips on traveling with pets both on and off the ground, see:

Airline and Hotel Pet Policy Roundup
Truly Pet-Friendly Hotels: The Weekly Wish
Delta Now Offering pet Tracking With Wireless GPS
Maximizing Miles and Points with Pet Food and Supplies

What are some of your favorite pet-friendly hotels in the US?

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