Travel Tuesday Top 10: Ways to Maximize Points for Valentine's Day
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At The Points Guy, we're all for grand romantic gestures, especially on Valentine's Day, but that doesn't mean you should miss out on these top 10 opportunities to maximize the miles and points you earn as you romance your sweetheart. After all, what's sexier than being smart about your points?
1.Put a Ring on It: Planning to ask your special someone to be your Valentine… for life? While there aren't any "diamond" category bonuses that I'm aware of, make sure to use a card with purchase protection like American Express, and if it's going to be a big expenditure (don't skimp on this one!), then consider using a card that awards you with a spending threshold bonus such as the Premier Rewards Gold gives a 15,000-point bonus for spending $30,000, the British Airways Visa, which earns a Companion Ticket when you spend $30,000, or the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card which gets you a free weekend night at $10,000 in spend and Diamond status when you make $40,000 or more in eligible purchases each calendar year.
2. Send Flowers: Now is a great time for a dozen of something red and long-stemmed, especially if that bouquet of her favorite flowers comes with benefits like multiple points per dollar. Keep in mind these are all limited-time offers. Buy a bouquet through the American AAdvantage mall from Florists' Transworld Delivery (FTD), and you will earn 30 American Airlines AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on red roses, mixed bouquets, chocolates, jewelry and more. Citi AAdvantage cardmembers earn an additional 200 bonus miles. The same 30 miles per dollar is also available through Delta when you buy from 1800Flowers.com or call 1-800-FLOWERS (1-800-356-9377) and mention code 28DE, and 2,000 miles per purchase on Valentine’s Day flowers and gifts at FTD. US Airways Dividends miles members earn 15 miles for every $1 spent with Teleflora and Florist.com (For Florist.com, use promo code 11660) and 25 miles for every $1 spent at FTD and 1800Flowers.com (mention promo code U3 and your Dividend Miles number). United MileagePlus members earn 30 award miles per dollar spent when you buy flowers and gifts at FTD. With rewards like these, you might want to send a bouquet to your mom and mom-in-law too!
3. Give Gift Cards: Although not the most romantic gift, but probably the most practical, are prepaid cards from stores like Lowe’s or Office Depot where you can earn multiple points per dollar by using a card like the Ink Bold (at office supply stores). If your sweetheart has their eye on the Season 3 Downton Abbey box set, a Best Buy or Amazon gift card takes on a whole new meaning. A card from Barnes and Noble makes a great gift for readers, Fandango for cinephiles, iTunes for music buffs, Banana Republic for cashmere season and so on. Use them online through portals for a double dip!
4. Slip Into Something More Comfortable: Surprise your sweetheart with the gift of lingerie from Victoria's Secret. She’ll feel like Gisele, and you’ll rack up some rewards: American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines offer 2 miles per dollar spent through their shopping portals, Marriott Rewards offers 3 points per dollar, and Delta SkyMiles, Frontier, US Airways and United offer 1 mile per dollar, and Priority Club and Southwest offer 1 point per mile. But seriously, even if you don't shop at Victoria's Secret, make sure whatever merchandise you purchase is through a shopping portal- many are offering free shipping and discounts.
5. You Can't Put A Price Tag On Experience: Although I normally don't suggest redeeming points and miles for experiences due to low redemption values, if you have a bunch of extra points lying around, this could be a good way to put them to use this year. For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards is offering experiences like sushi-making class where you can larn to create sushi together with a private chef in the comfort of your own home in LA by redeeming 38,900 Ultimate Rewards Points, a chocolate tour for two in Chicago for 10,900 points where you can take a 2.5-hour guided tour of Chicago featuring artisan chocolatiers, chocolate shops, bakeries, chocolate stores and some of the city's secret chocolate treasures and cafes, samples of course, included; or a New York Knicks Experience for Two: This isn’t your average Knicks game. This Ultimate Rewards experience costs 50,000 points and includes two tickets, a pre-game meal and a meet-and-greet session with a former team player.
Moments by Starwood Preferred Guest offers some pretty unique experiences too, made even more apropos with the coming holiday. Like Dralion by Cirque du Soleil in Dubai: The current bid for 2 gold tickets to Dralion by Cirque du Soleil in Dubai, UAE, on February 16, 2013, is 5,000 points. The experience includes pre-show cocktails at the Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates and a meet and greet with the performers. Or Annie on Broadway: Bid on an exclusive, behind-the-scenes New York Broadway performance of Annie. Current high bid: 25,500 points. The Exclusive Annie package includes early access to the theater, a backstage tour, a meet-and-greet with the actors, and a mix-and-mingle with the cast post-show, among other highlights.
6. Enhance Your Stay with a Suite Upgrade: “Standard room” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “suite” and in this case, your status does matter. Here are some ways you can upgrade your romance this holiday. Starwood Preferred Guest Platinums are entitled to an upgrade to the best available room at check-in, including Standard Suites, so be sure to ask, though you can also use your Suite Night Awards once you've passed 50 nights. Even if you're not a Hyatt Diamond, you can still stay in a Club Room or a suite, if you have enough points. A Regency or Grand Club Room Award is 27,000 Hyatt points, and a Suite Award is 33,000 Hyatt points. Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts is a program exclusively for American Express Platinum Card cardholders, who are eligible for extra benefits such as room upgrades, free continental breakfast, early check-in and late check-out, dining and spa credits and more. Just be sure to call ahead and ask. Another option is a paid upgrade, which is a salient opportunity to use a credit card like Chase Sapphire Preferred, which awards 2x points for travel.
7. Book a Last-Minute Trip: According to TripAdvisor’s 2012 Travel Trends Survey, cultural trips are also on the rise. Why not book an experiential trip like a jaunt to Paris, New York City or our recent Destination of the Week, Vienna? It’s much more memorable than dinner, and you can redeem or earn hotel points too. I just did a quick search and right now, the Ritz-Carlton in Vienna and Trianon Palace Versailles, a Waldorf-Astoria hotel outside Paris have rooms available for last minute trips, February 14-18. Book now and bookmark our Valentine’s Day post from last year for ideas on what to do in the City of Lights. You can plan the perfect trip on the plane. The Chatwal in New York, a Starwood Hotel, has rooms too, and dinner at the on-site Lamb’s Club, cheffed by recent Iron Chef winner Geoffrey Zakarian, is a romantic option. And speaking of dinner, when you make reservations don’t forget, whenever possible, to book through OpenTable for maximum point accrual.
8. Give the Gift of Miles: Love is all about going the distance, and the gift of miles is kind of like a Valentine’s Day stocking stuffer.
Here is a quick look at some of the mileage bonuses available right now:
American Airlines 50% Bonus on Purchased Miles: Now, through February 28, 2013, you can earn up to 30,000 bonus miles when you buy AAdvantage miles. You can purchase between 5,000-60,000 miles and you’ll earn a bonus of 1,500-30,000 AAdvantage miles. So, you can get a 50% bonus on purchases of 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 and 60,000 miles, but your bonus goes down in the intervals between tens of thousands of miles since it rises incrementally with the number of miles you purchase.
Up to a 30% Points Bonus when Purchasing Hyatt Points: Now through February 6, 2013, Hyatt Gold Passport members can receive up to a 30% bonus when purchasing Hyatt Points. Here’s how the bonus structure works. Purchase 1,000 to 9,000 points and get a 10% bonus; purchase 10,000 to 29,000 points and get a 20% bonus; or purchase 30,000 to 40,000 points and get a 30% bonus.
9. Leverage The Creativity and Experience of a Concierge: Get great reservations and unique experiences with a simple phone call. Visa Signature credit cardholders - those who carry cards like the Sapphire Preferred, British Airways Visa, Hyatt card, the Marriott Rewards Premier and Marriott Rewards cards, the Southwest Plus and more have 24-hour access to the complimentary Visa Signature Concierge, who are happy to provide restaurant recommendations, reservations, or even vacation-planning assistance. Or, if you’re an American Express Platinum cardmember, their complimentary Platinum Concierge (1-800-345-AMEX) is at your service, ready to deliver champagne or flowers to your room before you get there or make that special restaurant reservation for you.
10. Make Them An Additional Cardholder: Getting her her own toothbrush for your house, setting aside a drawer or two, giving her a key... all milestones that build up trust and commitment. A similar gesture is adding your partner to your credit card. It will help them build up credit history as well as offer them perks. For example, additional cardholders of Amex Platinum get lounge access at Delta, American, US Airways clubs as well as Priority Pass Select membership along with a rebate on Global Entry and a bunch of other benefits (minus the $200 airline rebate) - all for a $175 annual fee instead of $450. Plus, being an additional cardholder will not disqualify them from getting a sign-up bonus for that same card if they decide to open a new account in their name. Lounge access, global entry and the potential for a sign-up bonus? That says, "I love you."
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