Friday, December 28, 2012

2013 Points Resolution: Earn 600k+ M&P

I've put together a spreadsheet of what points and miles I can possibly earn for 2013 without flying. I want to earn at least 600k which may be pocket change to some but I don't have a business to rack up miles through spending. So here it is:

So it looks like I'll be earning lots of Delta and HHonors points with other programs sprinkled in. Why these may you ask? Well these programs I haven't yet taken advantage of and these credit cards I have not yet applied for. I would be applying for 8 cards (in green) which would cost me about 1k in annual fees and 13k in minimum spends but I would be getting greater than 600k points and miles in total. And of course I would be making lots of trips to Walmart. I didn't include paypal because I'll probably be using these to meet minimum spends.

This is assuming of course that I get approved for all these but I don't see why not since I have pretty good credit. Here is to 2013! Happy New Years and Happy Travels!

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

US City in Review: Key West, FL

If you follow me on twitter you know I was in Key West, FL this past week and it was so much fun!
Where do I start....

There is not a lack of things to do here. I went jet skiing which I've never done before and it was lots of fun. I went with Barefoot Billy's and it was a 2 hr tour around the island and we got some time to take the jet ski at max speed and play around.

Another highly recommended activity is a sunset cruise. There are several to choose from. I did the Party Cat cruise and the food was delicious and the sunset was even better!

If you want to see the sunset without the cruise, then Mallory Square is where you want to go. There is a nightly celebration where many gather to watch street performers, eat popcorn, and watch the sunset.

Duval Street is another popular place. Here is where you will find all the souvenir shops, places to eat and mini parades in the evenings. Key West is one of the few places where you can get drinks to go :)

There is not much beach in Key West but there are some places to go. There is Smathers Beach which most tourists go to and I think is still nice to lay out on.

Get the pamphlets that you see in the hotels and airport. Many restaurants have buy one get one free drinks which really comes in handy!

Don't rent a car. The hotels will have shuttles to downtown and you walk around everywhere. You can rent a bike if you want to tour the island since it is not very big. 

If you want to see the sunset, make sure you get there in advance since it gets crowded. Check out this site to see when the sun sets throughout the year.

I think the holidays is a great time to go since there are lights everywhere and it is 70+ degrees in December.

Where to Stay at with Points & Certificates 
to name a few

Marriott Beach Side Hotel - Even though its on the north east side of the island (which is not that far), it has its own private sand area where you can relax on beach chairs and watch the boats/jet skiers.
Redeem 35k/night or 140k for 5 nights.
Courtyard Waterfront -  On the north side of the island near the water and a shopping center, can be redeemed for 30k/night or 120k for 5 nights

Sheraton Suites -Bright colored hotel across the street from Smathers Beach and you can redeem from 12k-16k per night

Hyatt Beach House -  On the north east side of the island and you can redeem your Hyatt Certificates.
Hyatt Sunset Harbor - A short walk to Mallory Square and you can redeem your Hyatt Certificates.
Hyatt Resort and Spa - A short walk to Mallory Square and you can redeem your Hyatt Certificates.

Casa Marina A Waldorf Astoria Resort -A beachfront property listed in the National Register for Historic Places is on the South West side of the island and one night can be redeemed for 60k HHonors points or 6+ nights for 45k/night. There is a $25/night resort charge.
The Reach A Waldorf Astoria Resort - Boasts as having the only natural beach on the island and next door to the Casa Marina. I could not find very good point redemption rates but you can use your Hilton Hotel Certificates for a weekend stay. There is a $25/night resort charge.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ways to Take Money out of PayPal after Reload

I got the PayPal Business debit card which lets you use your funds in your paypal like you had a bank account with them. This has no monthly or annual fees but does have a $1 atm withdrawal fee.  I had posted how you can add funds using a PayPal Reload Card here but I was trying to find ways to get my money back out.

1) Get a Money Order at Walmart. I tried this with the debit card and it worked and the transaction shows as a purchase from here.
2) Load your Bluebird card with the debit card. Vanilla reloads would be better but if you can't find any, this is an option.
3) Pay your airline tickets. Many airlines accept PayPal as a form of payment so if you don't have the airline card or a credit card that earns good rewards on airlines then this is an option.
4) Use it for every day purchases. Yes this sounds like a no brainer but I already earned points/miles from the reload plus I can get 1% cash back for purchases that you sign for and online purchases. I don't think there is a limit and cash back bonus is deposited at the beginning of each month. Requires registration for the PayPal Preferred Rewards Program and must have a premier or business account. Double dip opportunity or triple dip if you go through an online portal!

How would PayPal be lucrative?

I know that my CVS lets me buy these with a credit card, so if you use the right credit card and want to build up these points listed below then this would work for you!

Credit Cards to use to purchase PayPal Reload Card
1) Chase Freedom cc has 5% cash back up to 1,500 in purchases ($75 cash back) at drugstores from Jan-March 2013. Must enroll to activate category bonus.
2) HHonors Amex cc gives you 6 points per dollar for select major drugstores (which includes CVS)
3) Club Carlson US Bank cc give you 5 points per dollar anywhere
4) US Bank Cash+ cc gives you 2% back at drugstores if you pick this category (no limit)
5) Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa cc has 5% cash back at drugstores from Jan-March 2013. Maxed at $300 in cash back/yr. Must enroll to activate category bonus

Let me know of any other credit cards to use!

Just a reminder the max you can load to paypal using the reloads is $500 per day or $4,000 per month

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cancun and Munich it is! (Flight bookings)

For 2013 I decided I wanted to go to Cancun for the beach and relaxation and Munich for the much talked about crazy Oktoberfest. I wanted to take advantage of some awesome tips I learned such as free one ways and I wanted to pay as little as possible out of pocket.  This took a lot of searching and researching and my bookings seem crazy but it worked for me and I did it for a good reason.

Initial Leg
IAH-CUN 17.5 AA miles + $20

My Almost Free One Way
Using the technique I learned from MileValue, I was able to book CUN-MIA and MIA-MUC for only 20k miles + $60. If this would have been booked separately, it would have costed 17.5k+30k= 47.5k AA miles. The only thing is I live in Houston. The reason I did it out of MIA was because flying through IAH, it forced me to take an award flight with British Airways which has fuel charges. I would have had to pay 300+ out of pocket. So instead I booked this and added MIA-IAH and IAH-MIA for15k Avios. I think burning Avios miles was worth what I would have spent.

Getting back from Munich
So I needed to get back from Germany. Since I didn't have enough AA miles, I looked to book through British Airways. I did it in 2 pieces, MUC-MIA & MIA-IAH because there was no award availability for MUC-IAH (funny huh). The initial leg costed 29.5k Avios + $122 and the second leg costed 7.5k Avios + $3

In Total
37,000 AA miles
52,000 BA miles
Given that I have a full time job, that I live in Houston, and that I wanted to go to Cancun in April and Munich for the first weekend of Oktoberfest...I was happy with this booking :)

Actual price today
I looked up the actual cheapest prices for Cancun and Munich on the dates I wanted to go from Houston:
IAH-CUN round trip cost $483 on United
IAH-MUC round trip cost $1,225 on Airberlin
Total out of pocket savings of $1,490

Now to figure out the hotel bookings with my hodgepodge of hotel points and certificates from various programs #frequenttravelerproblems 

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Monday, December 10, 2012

I Heart Chase United Promos!

In early Oct I read about a Chase United Promo from MommyPoints where if you registered and spent 1,000 by Oct 31, you could get 5,000 United miles. It was then said that this was targeted to certain areas but I registered because you never know. Well yesterday I saw that 5k was deposited into my account...Chase came through after all :)

I also got a Chase United mailer that stated that I was automatically enrolled to received 2x United Miles on non-United purchases when I spend $2k each month in Dec 2012 and Jan 2013. The max bonus you can receive is 50k miles. Sooo, if I buy some Vanilla to feed my Birdie with the max of 5k upload/mo, I can get a total amount of 20k miles for this promo!

Also don't forget the Chase United Lounge in 3 city malls where you can get free 2 United Lounge passes with a Toy donation on Tues which I had posted earlier about :)

Can't wait for more promos!

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Social Media Check-ins for Points & Miles

There are several social media check-in applications that you can use to earn points or miles or save you money.
 Foursquare – an app downloadable on your iphone or android where you can “check-in” to places such as restaurants, hotels, airports, stores, bars etc. To check-in you must be in the proximity and sometimes places will have specials that you can “unlock” for checking in. For example some stores will give you a % discount, some restaurants will give you a free appetizer, and this past weekend (thanks to PointstopointB for sharing the tip) I was able to receive 1,000 Club Carlson points for checking in to the Radisson LAX, leaving a tip or photo, and showing the front desk. I like free points :)

 Top Guest – After you register for this program online, it can be synced to your Facebook and Foursquare accounts. For certain check-ins, you are able to earn hotel points or airline miles. The participating programs are Priority Club, Hilton, Virgin America, etc You must give them your account #s in these programs in order for you to get points credited.  Many people have had their TopGuest account closed due to abuse of over checking in to places so I’ve generally have stuck to only places I’ve actually been and have had no issues. 

 TripAnomaly – A more recent program that is currently only partnered with Delta. After registering for this program online, you can earn points by checking in to a Delta location (ticketing counter, hub, lounge, gate, etc) on Facebook. Then you go to the Tripanomoly website, login with your facebook and verify your check-in to receive 80 Delta points. I’ve tried to do 2 check-ins in one day but the website said that I needed more time between check-ins to receive points. (I’m guessing this means only one check-in a day?!)

Bckstgr – a beta program that is partnered with United. To register, you login to your United account through the bckstgr website. You then connect your foursquare, twitter, and or facebook account with bckstgr. You then perform certain steps depending on the place ei, check-in and snap photo, tweet something, FB checkin (currently only Chicago & NY places) to earn miles. These miles will be deposited into your United Mileage Plus account within 24-48 hour (mine posted quicker than that). These miles can also be used to bid on experiences. Hopefully they will be adding more places to "check-in" to make this more lucrative.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Twittered Travel Blogger Musings

Here are some tweets that I thought were clever or made me laugh...old and new :)

Too bad he was addressing Mr. MileWise!

 Back Story and my response

I couldn't stop laughing!

Oh the shenanigans at #FTU

 Bluebird Bluebird!

It's trying to tell you something :p

PointsEnvy Identity still unknown! haha

PayPal Money Load Card

The Frequent Miler did a presentation this past FTU regarding reload cards and I found the PayPal "reload" card to be of interest. For some reason I had not caught this one previously but I thought it would be a great alternative to meet minimum spends or earn lots of points.

I went to my local CVS and found that they had some so I bought one using my Hilton Amex card. This card gives you 6 points per dollar at grocery stores and CVS would be considered a grocery for Amex. FYI reload and gift cards to not count towards cash back on your Extra Care Card.

I purchased the card for $3.95 and loaded the max of $500 on it. I went home and loaded the amount to my paypal account using this site. The max you can load is $500 per day or $4,000 per month. You can then use your cash in paypal to make purchases, transfer to others, or transfer to your bank. Be careful not to look suspicious and add funds and immediately withdraw to your bank as you may get shut down. So word of caution...USE AT OWN RISK. Applying for a PayPal Debit Card may be an option which can then be loaded to bluebird but don't know if this will work. Experiment in the works.

Update: A reader informed me that he did not have success purchasing a paypal card with credit card as they only accepted cash. So your experience may very by store.

I was thinking of other cards I could use to earn points or miles lucratively and the new Club Carlson Premier Visa came to mind because it earns 5 points per dollar anywhere. So hypothetically if I were to max out on paypal load cards at $4,000/mo, I could earn 240,000 for about $380 for the year. I think this is a great deal considering a hotel can go for 250+ per night say at NY or London but can be redeemed for 50,000 points. Plus with the credit card you can get a free night after redeeming points for 2+ nights. Off to CVS I go (hope I can stay under the radar on this one)

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

1st FTU Experience

 My weekend at the Frequent Traveler University in Los Angeles (#FTULAX) was a great experience! I got to meet many other miles and points and travel bloggers and other avid travel nuts. Some highlights include:

  •  Got upgraded to a junior suite at the Radisson after they gave me a room with someone already in it. This stay also got me a free night with the Club Carlson BOGO promotion.
  • Sessions with View from the Wing, One Mile at a Time, Million Mile Secrets, Frequent Miler & MileValue to learn more about mileage runs, earning miles & points from reload cards/bluebird, adding free one way tickets on award flights, and other helpful and secret travel tips.
  • Randy Petersen “sold himself” twice to travelers for charity.
  • The Sheraton where the event was held had a water pipe break so no water or facilities during the day, however, guests were compensated with points.
  •  Many people went to In-and-Out Burger #animalstyle where we were able to view planes flying right above us…way cool!
  • The Mr. Pickles met PointsEnvy but paparazzi unable to capture the moment.

It’s settled, I’m going to the FTU in VA/DC because I know it will be memorable and I will get to meet others that were not able to attend this one. See y’all there!

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