Monthly Archives: December 2014

Activate Chase Freedom Q1 Bonus Categories

2014-12-31 Freedom Q1 ActivationHere’s a reminder to activate your Chase Freedom card so that you can get 5x points (or 5% cash back) on select categories for the first quarter (January – March) of 2015. Q1 categories are: grocery stores, movie theaters and Starbucks. Note that Wal-Mart, Target and warehouse clubs such as Costco and Sam’s do NOT qualify for the bonus.  You can get the 5x/5% bonus on up to $1500 in purchases.

The Freedom card is a favorite of mine because it has no annual fee and it earns Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. If you only have the Freedom card you can use URs like cash to buy airline tickets, hotel rooms and even merchandise (but please, don’t buy merchandise) at the rate of 1 UR = 1 cent. Or, if you have a premium Ultimate Rewards card like the Sapphire Preferred or one of the Ink cards, you can transfer URs to one of the associate frequent flyer or hotel programs get more than 1 cent per point in value.

Here are the current transfer partners:

Ultimate Rewards Transfer PartnersKorean Air is not currently on the list but is rumored to be returning as a partner in the new year. When they do, that means the three major airline alliances will each have a representative airline. And Virgin Atlantic miles can be used on Virgin America and Virgin Australia too!

So be sure to activate your Freedom Q1 bonuses by March 14, 2015 to ensure you’re maxing out all the points you can.

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Categories: Chase, Credit Card Promos, Freedom | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

After being picked up by the free airport shuttle, we were on our way to the hotel. It’s only about a 15-20 minute drive though since we’d been traveling for roughly 24 hours, it seemed further away. Our first realization we weren’t in Kansas anymore was that as the hotel-owned van pulled up to the entrance, we noticed it was a secured entrance. The guard came out with a long mirror on a stick and proceeded to check for explosives on the underside of our van. That was a bit of a wake-up call!

We were let out right in front of the lobby. There were a couple of others checking in at the time so we had about a five minute wait until those guests were helped. Check-in was pretty quick and efficient and all the front desk staff spoke English very well.

Since we were only there one night and we knew we’d be exhausted we’d only ordered a regular room with a roll-away. I did ask about it at the front desk and even though our room was ready for us, the roll-away was not in place. But I will give the staff credit for how quickly they got it to our room and set up. Yes, it was quite crowded with three people, three large suitcases and three beds but at that point we really didn’t care.

I did not take photos as it was so late at night when we arrived and we were so tired. The room was a bit smaller than a standard US hotel room, but that was to be expected. The bathroom was a nice size and had the standard amenities including shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hair dryer and soap.

We all crashed soon after arriving. My friends seemed to sleep well though, as usual, I got hot during the night. We had tried to adjust the thermostat before we went to bed but either we didn’t do something right or it reset itself but I did wake up several times due to the temperature.

We’d booked a fairly cheap rate but it did not include breakfast. I really need a good breakfast each day so I went ahead and paid for the full buffet. Not sure I got all my money’s worth but I didn’t want to do anything to make us miss the shuttle back to the airport. One friend decided it was not worth the price at all and another bought a package that allowed for cereal and juice only.

When checking in we’d made sure to verify which shuttle we’d need to catch back to the airport. We arrived a bit early to find quite a few others there and several had large pieces of sporting equipment. We were a bit concerned we wouldn’t all be able to fit in the van but we got packed in like sardines and were all able to fit.

The driver first went to the international terminal where everyone else got out of the van. Then he took my friends and me to the domestic terminal.

Next up: the domestic terminals in Istanbul and Izmir and our flights on Pegasus Airlines

Categories: Hotel, Lodging Review, Marriott, Turkey | Tags: | Leave a comment

Free Virgin America Elevate Points

2014-12-24 Virgin PresentYesterday I got an unexpected bonus – 500 Virgin America Elevate points. I nearly overlooked the email and had actually deleted it. Only after reading about others getting this email did I double-check. It was very simple to receive my points – I only had to click through a couple of links.

I’ve never flown Virgin America. I’ve picked up some stray points here and there through various promos like this. Virgina America is a transfer partner with Amex Membership Rewards, but at a terrible rate of 1 MR to 0.5 VA Elevate points so I don’t see myself accumulating points this way. And Virgin America does not fly to my city so I don’t see myself accumulating points very often – though I’ve heard good things about their flights. Ideally I’d like to use them for a flight on Virgin Australia someday. But at the rate I’m going, it’s going to take a very long time.

So if you have a Virgin America Elevate account, check your email for your holiday present!

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Free Wi-Fi at Hyatt!

2014-12-22 Hyatt Free WiFiToday Hyatt announced that starting in February 2015 wi-fi will be free to everyone staying in their hotels, no matter how you made your reservation, no matter how many people in your room, no matter how many devices. And Platinum and Diamond members will receive a free upgrade to premium service, where available.

This is great news! Wi-fi has become such a necessity these days that it’s terrific to see hotels starting to include it with the price of the room, whether the room was paid for with cash, points or a combination of the two.

I also like the statement “Wi-Fi in guest rooms and social spaces will be free on as many devices as you’d like”. On my recent trip to Turkey we ran across an issue where we were limited to a certain number of devices connected per 24 hours. And even if we disconnected one device it didn’t matter, we couldn’t re-connect with a different device.

So kudos to Hyatt – I look forward to trying this out next year!

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US Airways MasterCard Sign-up Bonus Now 50,000 miles

2014-12-21 US Airways MC ReferralThe US Airways MasterCard is running a special offer now through January 18, 2015. If you sign up and are approved, you’ll get 50,000 bonus miles and if you’ll allow me to refer you, I’ll also get bonus miles.

You’ll receive the miles after you make your first purchase and pay the $89 annual fee.

What can you do with 50,000 US Airways Dividend Miles? Quite a lot! For 50,000 miles you can:
– get two low-level round-trip tickets within the continental US, Alaska, Canada and the Caribbean on US Airways
– get one first-class round-trip ticket within the continental US, Alaska, Canada and the Caribbean on US Airways

OR

If you hold on to those miles until after the first quarter of 2015, they’ll become American AAdvantage miles (when the two programs combine) and then all kinds of possibilities open up. In addition to the two choices above you can:
– get FOUR off-peak economy one-way awards (or two economy off-peak round-trips) between
– the US 48/Alaska/Canada/The Caribbean and Mexico
– the US 48/Alaska/Canada and the Caribbean
– get THREE off-peak economy one-way awards between North America and either Central America or Colombia/Ecuador/Peru/Venezuela
– get TWO off-peak economy one-way awards between North America and Europe, Argentina/Bolivia/Brazil/Chile/Paraguay/Uruguay or Japan/Korea
– get one-way awards to
– China or Hong Kong in economy
– Japan, Korea, Europe, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay or Uruguay in Business/First
– Central America, The Caribbean, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela in First Class

And there are even more combinations to list!

In addition, your first checked bag will be free, priority boarding and you’ll get a one-time companion certificate.

If you would like to apply for this card, please send me an email at 2btraveling@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to refer you!

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Free Hilton Weekend Stay with New DirecTV Subscription

If you’ve been thinking about changing to satellite TV and looking for an incentive, perhaps this is the offer you’ve been waiting on. If you switch to DirecTV between now and January 5, 2015 you can get two free weekend nights at one of many Hilton properties.2014-12-19 Hilton DirecTV Promo

There’s no equipment to buy and no installation costs for up to four receivers though there is a monthly fee for the receivers. Packages start at just $29.99 per month though a 24-month agreement is required. Click HERE to go to the web page. Be sure to find out about all the fees involved before agreeing to anything.

Not all Hilton properties are included but I was surprised at how short the list really is. The list includes many All-Inclusive properties and many Distictive properties but, for example, while the Conrad Koh Samui Residences in Thailand is on the list, the Conrad Koh Samui hotel is not. Rooms there can go for over $630 USD per night! So while it’s not worth changing your TV provider just for the rooms, if you were already considering this here’s the nudge you’ve been waiting for.

Excluded Properties (click for a larger version)

Excluded Properties
(click for a larger version)

Categories: Hilton, Hotel Promos | Tags: | Leave a comment

IHG Set Your Sights Promo

2014-12-16 IHG Set Your Sights Promo

The Intercontinental Hotel Group has a new promo where you can earn up to 50,500 points. That’s enough for 10 hotel nights if you choose to use your points with the IHG Rewards Club PointsBreaks hotels. Each quarter a number of hotels around the world are on the PointsBreak list and you can get one night’s lodging for only 5000 points. Naturally these aren’t aspirational properties but there are loads of Holiday Inns, Holidan Inn Expresses and Candlewood Suites here in the US and even a few Crowne Plazas abroad!

Sadly, you can’t book more than two PointsBreaks Reward Nights per hotel during the special offer period (current period ends 28 Feb 2015) but it’s great for a weekend getaway!

To get your offers you must first register for the promotion. Here are the bonus categories I got:

2014-12-16 IHG Set Your Sights Details

Downloading the app is an easy 500 points and I will definitely do that. If I had any upcoming travel plans I would defintely book directly with IHG. I won’t get the 25,000 bonus points for completing all the activities as I simply have my upcoming travel all set and don’t really have an opportunity to add more, which is a shame.

Categories: Hotel Promos, IHG | Tags: | Leave a comment

Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

 

As I alluded to in a brief post previously, I’d heard horror stories about Heathrow but didn’t fully understand them. But then, my one experience with the airport was when London was my destination. Transiting was a whole ‘nother animal.

After leaving the aircraft, then returning to pick up my jacket, I once again set off through the maze of hallways. They were SO empty I couldn’t figure out why so many bloggers detested this airport. That is, until all of a sudden we came to a screetching halt. THEN I saw the lines. Wow, I couldn’t believe the backup! Fortunately I soon saw the Fast Track signs and wandered down that way. At one point I got a little confused and showed my boarding pass to an airport representative who indicated I should get in one of the very long lines. That just didn’t seem right to me and shortly afterwards I showed it to a different rep who escorted me and a couple of other folks to the express line. Even then there were probably a 10-20 people in front of me but we had a dedicated agent helping us and it was a far faster process than waiting behind hundreds of people.

After getting cleared by Passport Control I took the escalator up and found myself in yet another line, this one the security clearance. I hadn’t realized I’d have to clear security again and thus had to leave my water bottle behind. Not a big deal in the scheme of things but had I known in time I’d have dumped it out and kept the empty bottle for a refill.

Finally I was through security and now it was time to find my friends. Ha! My friend from Los Angeles had already landed while my friend from Chicago would be landing about 30 minutes after me. I wandered the concourse trying to find my LA friend, to no avail. I was having issues connecting to the wi-fi and was missing her texts. We’d said we’d meet up at the Galleries lounge, one of the two business class lounges, so I camped myself outside the Galleries North lounge and hoped I’d see them sooner or later.

Finally, finally I saw my two friends headed into the lounge and I caught up with them at the front desk. My Chicago friend had a business class ticket which entitled her to entry and my first class ticket allowed me to bring a guest so we were glad to get inside and collapse.

I’m sorry to says I did not take any photos of the lounge. I hadn’t seen my friends since March so we had a good bit of catching up to do. But we did enjoy having food and drink at our disposal, even if it wasn’t amazing. I took the opportunity to have a shower and that really helped. It was nice to be able to sit and relax and enjoy the free wi-fi vs. the limited 30 minutes we were given on the main concourse. About 45 minutes before our flight we decided to head toward our gate – which, naturally, was at the complete opposite end of the concourse.

Our flight to Istanbul was on a tired A320. The business class seats were the standard intra-Europe variety: meaning they were coach seats with the middle seat blocked off. Through some miracle my friend from Chicago and I managed to get assigned seats on the same row. We were served dinner which was not memorable but was edible so that must mean it was OK.

We landed a little bit early but it was still after 11:30 pm and we were dead tired at this point. After exiting the plane we headed toward Passport Control, desperately seeking a restroom. We did not see a single one until we reached Passport Control when we saw it on the other side of the hallway, where passengers coming from the other end of the concourse were coming our way. Thus refreshed we made our way through Passport Control with relatively little waiting and down to baggage claim.

After picking up our luggage the next challenge was to find where to pick up our hotel shuttle. Finally we did locate the spot, only to note that we’d just missed the midnight pickup and had to wait for the 00:30 van. Fortunately the driver was right on time, even a little early and we were soon on our way to the Marriott Courtyard Istanbul.

Categories: British Airways | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

2014-12-13 SPG Referral

What’s better for airline points than the credit card tied to a particular airline? The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. While it doesn’t have bonus categories for everyday purchases (though you do get 2x points at SPG hotels) the great thing about SPG points are their versatility.

For some airlines you can transfer SPG points to the airline at a 1:1 ratio. BUT, if you transfer 20,000 points they’ll give you a 5,000 point bonus and you’ll end up with 25,000 airline points! There’s a huge list of airlines including: AeroMexico, Aeroplan (Air Canada), Air Berlin, Air China, Air France/KLM, Alaska, Alitalia, All Nippon Airways (ANA), American, Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific), Asiana, British Airways, China Eastern, China Southern, Delta, Emirates, Etihad, Gol, Hainan, Hawaiian, Japan (JAL), Miles & More (Lufthansa/SWISS), Qatar, Saudi Arabia Airlines, Singapore, Thai Airways, US Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

They also transfer to LAN Airlines at a rate of 1:1.5. Do not transfer to United (2:1) or Air New Zealand (65:1) as they have bad (UA) or horrible (NZ) transfer rates.

Of course since Starpoints are the currnecy of SPG hotels, they can also be used for free or discounted rooms. Category 1 hotels are just 3,000 points per night, meaning this card could get you a free room for 8 nights just with the signup bonus! SPG properties include: St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Le Meridien, Westin, Sheraton, aloft, element and Four Points. Don’t have enough points to cover your stay? No problem with the cash + points option where you can use points to discount the cost of the room. You can also use points to upgrade to larger rooms or suites, or even for nights at Caesars Entertainment hotels like Caesar’s Palace, Harrah’s, Bally’s, Flamingo, Harvey’s, Nobu Hotel, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood, The Quad and Rio hotels.

If you’ll allow me to refer you for this credit card you’ll get 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase and 15,000 Starpoints when you spend $5000 in the first 6 months of owning the card. (As always, if you do not pay off your credit card bills each month, DO NOT apply for a new card!) In addition, I will receive a bonus of 5,000 Starpoints.

To do the referral I’ll need your first and last names and your email address. You can email them to me at 2btraveling@gmail.com. I appreciate your support!

Categories: Credit Cards, SPG Amex, Starwood | Tags: , | Leave a comment

100% Bonus on IHG Points Through December 23

2014-12-13 IHG Points Sale

Now through December 23 you can get a 100% bonus on purchased IHG points. These points are good at all brands of the Intercontinental Hotel Group which includes: Intercontinental Hotels, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hualuxe, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites, Even Hotels and Candlewood Suites.

The pricing structure is staggered so that the more points you buy, the cheaper they are per point:
1,000 – 10,000 points for $13.50 per 1,000 base points (.675 cents per point)
11,000 – 25,000 points for $12.50 per 1,000 base points (.625 cents per point)
26,000 – 60,000 points for $11.50 per 1,000 base points (.575 cents per point)

Note that the 1000 points above are the base points. So for $13.50 you’d actually get 2000 points when the bonus is included.

You may purchase a max of 120,000 points per year and receive a max of 120,000 points per year. So this can be half of your annual total.

But is it a good deal? As always, let’s check The Points Guy and One Mile At A Time for their current valuations. Brian (TPG) values them at 0.7 cents apiece while Ben (OMAAT) values them at 0.5 cents apiece. Here we see the points fall right in the middle of this range, so it’s not a bad deal, especially if you need to top off your account for you next award.

Note that these purchases are processed by points.com so that if you were to use your IHG credit card for the purchase, it would not count as hotel spend.

Categories: Hotel, IHG | Tags: | Leave a comment

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