Author Archives: 2btravel

About 2btravel

I love traveling and go where I can when I can. I prefer to use points & miles as payment! This site will concentrate on trip reports and how I used points to accomplish it. Happy to help others 2B Traveling with points too!

Activate 4th Quarter Bonus Categories

It’s the 15th of the last month of the quarter which means it’s time to activate bonus categories for card that have quarterly bonuses for next quarter.  All of these cards offer bonus points or cash back on up to $2000 in purchases during the quarter.

US Bank Cash+

Even though TV, Internet & Streaming Services are shown as new below, though it’s been available for at least a couple of quarters now.  If you’re not already getting 5x Ultimate Rewards points by using a Chase Ink card (and even if you are!) you may want to switch the card you’re using for payment.  You must register your card before September 25th to get the bonus cash-back in the categories you select.  As a reminder, you choose two 5% categories and one 2% category.  To register, click on the link in the email you received from US Bank or visit this link.

Discover Card

Discover gave us the full year’s calendar late last year:

The fourth quarter was originally announced as Amazon but now they’ve added Target (in-store) and Walmart.com.  None of these is particularly great for me.  To register, sign in to your Discover account and click on the Activate button.

 

Chase Freedom

Chase’s fourth quarter categories may help those who need to shop for the holidays.  You can earn 5x Ultimate Reward points for shopping at department stores, having your card tied to PayPal and with Chase Pay.  You can redeem the URs for a penny apiece on your credit card statement or, if you have one of the UR-earning cards that comes with an annual fee you can transfer these points to airline frequent flyer programs or hotel loyalty programs.  Alternately you can shop through the UR portal and use the points like cash.

To register you can go to this link to look at the calendar, then click on the Activate Now button as seen above.

 

Categories: Cash Plus, Chase, Credit Cards, Discover, Freedom, US Bank | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Review: LOT Polish Airlines Chicago to Vienna and Back

I recently had a business trip to Vienna, Austria. I’d originally made it easy on myself by booking a one-stop flight: Memphis to Chicago on United and Chicago to Vienna on Austrian Airlines. About ten days before departure Corporate Travel called to say that my company and Austrian were having a bit of a tiff and I’d have to re-book on a different airline. Well.

The obvious choice would have been to go on Lufthansa but apparently we don’t get good discounts with them and it would have cost several thousands of dollars more. At one point I spoke to a grumpy agent in our travel department who told me there was no way I could get to Vienna on Star Alliance flights and I should just consider flying somewhere like Munich and taking the train. Munich is 4.5 hours away by train so no, I wasn’t going to accept that. I thanked him and went off to do more research on my own.

It would have been nice to take United as far as Brussels and then Brussels Air from there but I would have arrived in BRU too late to take the morning flight and it would have been about a 4-5 hour layover for the afternoon flight.

I ended up booking LOT Polish via Warsaw. I’d never flown LOT, been through the Warsaw Airport or laid eyes on Poland so it seemed like a good fit. As a bonus, our corporate rate was very cheap compared to the Austrian ticket.

My flight from Memphis to Chicago was uneventful. The downside of flying this route on Saturdays is that United only offers 1-cabin service.

Air France/KLM Lounge – Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5

I arrived in Chicago’s Terminal 2 and the LOT flight left out of Terminal 5, which I thought was the international terminal even though I know United does have some of their overseas flights depart from T2. I recalled from a previous visit that the lounges in T5 weren’t great so I went ahead and had lunch at the Cubs Bar & Grill in T3. (As a St. Louis Cardinals fan it’s tough to deal with all the Cubs memorabilia but I managed.) Afterwards I wandered down the G concourse to the end then took the stairs to the lower level. There I found Gate G17 for British Airways and that’s also the place to catch the transfer bus. The nice thing about catching the bus at this location is that it’s the last stop before T5 so after my boarding pass was checked and the bus arrived the 5 or so of us were able to hop right on and go straight to T5.

When we arrived we had to get to the second level via a series of ramps, some of which were a little steep. If mobility is an issue you may want to call the airport and discuss transfers ahead of time. It might be easier to exit security, take the transfer bus to T5 (the train is currently down) and re-clear security there. I was surprised to see gates for Frontier Airlines flights. I hadn’t realized they were located in this terminal.

I think it had been about eight years since I’d been to T5 and it looked like it had been refreshed since my last visit or perhaps I just walked past more gates and restaurants than I did on my prior visit. I arrived at the Air France/KLM lounge which displayed a banner stating they were the lounge for the following airlines in addition to AF/KL: Air India, Alitalia, Royal Jordanian, Etihad Airways, VIP Access Lounge, LOT Polish Airlines. Technically this is also a Priority Pass lounge but it was so busy during my visit that Priority Pass customers were not being admitted.

I checked in and then had to hunt a little for a place to sit. I eventually sat at a hightop bar with charging ports. The room was brightly lit with views on to the tarmac but it was not too hot on this summer afternoon. There was food in the other room but I did not even look at it, having just had lunch. It was far too crowded to take photos though there were certainly lulls between the time one group would leave and the next would arrive. It was a nice place to charge my electronics and use the free wi-fi but I was glad when the time came to head for my gate.

I arrived a little early and was called to counter so they could verify my passport, even though this had been done by UA staff in Memphis. I assumed this was because the LOT flights were on a separate ticket from the United flights.

We began boarding right on time at 16:40 through door 2L.

LOT 2 – Chicago to Warsaw – Saturday, August 24

LO 2 ORD-WAW
Boeing 787-8
Departs: 17:25 (scheduled) 17:10 (actual) 17:30 (takeoff)
Arrives: 09:30 (scheduled) 09:03 (landed) 09:11 (at gate)
Duration: 8h 31m (actual)
Seat: 3C Business Class

LOT flies a 787-8 between Warsaw and Chicago on Saturdays. It has 18 business class seats in a 2-2-2 layout. All six seats on row two were taken as were the two right seats on row three. Row one had one window seat and one of the center seats taken. When I booked I didn’t know if anyone might get upgraded so I selected one of the two center seats on row three so at least I would have aisle access. It turned out no one else was in the cabin so I had the two center seats to myself. I used the other one for storing the pillows and blanket and had my phone charging from the port on the other seat. That meant I didn’t have to worry about the cord getting stuck as I adjusted the seat.

LOT 787 Business Class Cabin

LOT 787-8 Business Class Cabin

The seat itself reminded me of the one on the Turkish Airlines A330 I flew from Istanbul to Houston. There’s not a lot of privacy but you don’t feel squeezed into the seat in front of you when change to lie-flat mode.

LOT 787 Business Class Seat

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Categories: LOT Polish, Star Alliance | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Impressions of Copenhagen

We arrived on a beautifully sunny day and took a free walking tour. The one we chose met at the dragon fountain in front of City Hall. Copenhagen is a lovely city, very clean and safe. Taxes are quite high, making it an expensive place to live, but those funds go toward helping keep people from being homeless. We did see a few beggars, but not nearly as many as you might see in another world capital. Here are a few of the places we saw during our brief stay.

Copenhagen City Hall

Dragon Fountain

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Categories: Denmark, Europe | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Review: AC Bella Sky Marriott, Copenhagen, Denmark

I stayed here for a week while on a business trip. Our office was near the airport and this hotel was just a short cab ride away.

When approaching the hotel, the first thing you notice is the unusual design of the exterior. While there’s a lot of unusual modern-design buildings in Copenhagen not everyone likes them. One night when we were returning from the city center and told our cabby the name of the hotel, he paused and said “Oh, the ugly one”! Whether you like it or not, it is certainly distinctive.

AC Bella Sky Marriott

Airport Shuttle

This hotel shares an airport shuttle with the Intercontinental, which is just on the other side of the highway. It costs 15 DKK (about 2 EUR) and the charge is billed to your room. The shuttle stop is on the first traffic island outside Terminal 2. As my flight landed in T3 I was easily able to follow the Hotel Shuttle signs to T2 but once I reached T2, the signs disappeared. Having arrived on an early morning flight I was fortunate that there was not a lot of traffic and once the shuttle arrived it was easy to spot. As a side note, when reviewing your room charges, be sure you’ve been charged for the *airport* shuttle and not the *cruise* shuttle as there is a significant price difference. Continue reading

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

SAS Business Class Review: EWR-CPH-EWR

On a recent business trip to Copenhagen I had the opportunity to fly SAS (aka Scandinavian) Airlines between Newark and Copenhagen. I would have preferred to have flow from Chicago but apparently the EWR-MEM legs are codeshares while the ORD-MEM legs (both on United) are not and thus the price would have been much higher. I’ve actively avoided Newark in the past but my other choices were two-stop flights on Delta/KLM or American and BA/FinnAir. Since I have Silver (low-level) status with United I wanted to help get that re-established for next year.

SAS Lounge Newark

I don’t have any photos because it was already fairly busy when I arrived. I had a feeling I’d enjoy the decor in most places on this trip as I love Danish Modern design and that was definitely the theme for this lounge. It was light and airy with big windows looking onto the tarmac though you really couldn’t see much outside as there was a walkway from a gate out to the jet bridge in between.

I arrived around 3 PM for my 5:40 PM flight and the only food in evidence at that time was the salad bar. The soft drink fountain was not working but there was a cooler with lots of cans, a full self-serve bar as well as still and sparkling water on tap. Around 3:30 PM lasagna with meat sauce found its way to the food service area. I got just a little snack since I had skipped lunch. It was nothing special but it did take the edge off until dinner.

The lounge could use a kids area as I didn’t see anywhere for them to play and not all of the children were using their inside voices.

As the afternoon progressed the lounge filled up even more. There are three SAS flights each day and the lounge is used by Emirates as well, so I was glad to move on. Continue reading

Categories: Airline Clubs, SAS, Star Alliance | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

New Hilton Promo – Earn Up To 7500 Bonus Points in Two Stays

Hilton has a new promotion that will give you 7500 points after two stays. While Hilton points are usually valued somewhere in the .4 cents range, every little bit certainly counts. And don’t forget that you can pool Hilton points with up to ten friends and family members which help them stretch even farther.

The Scoop

After you register, earn 2500 bonus points after your first stay. After your second stay you’ll earn 5000 bonus points.

Your stays must be completed between the time you register and January 31, 2020. Note that this excludes stays that are otherwise ineligible to accrue Hilton points. That includes some third-party bookings, like many online travel agencies including Priceline, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc. Corporate travel agency bookings are allowed.

Since these are bonus points they won’t count toward your qualification for elite status. But with Hilton, the best way to achieve status is by owning their credit card. Hilton offers three card through American Express and right now all three have great signup offers.

Hilton Honors American Express Card

This no-fee card currently has a signup bonus of 90,000 Hilton points once you spend $2000 on the card within the first three months after approval. This signup bonus ends August 28, 2019. You’ll earn 7x points at hotels in the Hilton portfolio, 5x points at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations and 3x points everywhere else. This card is one of the few no-fee cards that does not have foreign transaction fees. You’ll get Silver status just for holding the card and you’ll be upgraded to Gold status each year you spend $20,000 on the card.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

With a $95 annual fee, this is one of the best deals in travel. Not only does this card have a great signup bonus of 130,000 points after spending $4000 within the first four months after approval, you automatically earn Gold status just for owning the card. Gold status is enough to get you free breakfast and premium internet and is generally considered to be the best mid-level hotel status out there. Last year I scored an upgrade to a 2-room suite in Germany because the hotel was at capacity and having Gold status earned me the bump up. Spend $40,000 on the card and get upgraded to Diamond status through the end of the following calendar year. The signup bonus ends August 28, 2019. With the Surpass card you’ll earn 12x points at Hilton properties, 6x points at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations and 3x points everywhere else.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

This is a premium card with a $450 annual fee and a signup bonus of 150,000 points after spending $4000 in the first three months after approval. It also gives the cardholder Diamond status, Hilton’s top level. Enjoy one weekend night reward each year after renewal and an additional night for each $60,000 in spend. You also get a $250 statement credit each year of card membership good for eligible purchases at participating Hilton Resorts. With the Aspire card you’ll earn 14x points at Hilton properties, 7x points on purchases made directly with airlines or hotels and US restaurants and 3x points everywhere else.

If one of these cards looks right for you I’ll be happy to refer you. Just drop me a line at 2BTraveling@gmail.com.

Categories: American Express, Credit Card Promos, Credit Cards, Hilton Amex, Hilton Aspire, Hilton Surpass | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Activate 3nd Quarter Bonus Categories

As we approach the end of the second quarter of 2019, it’s time to activate bonus categories for card that have quarterly bonuses.  All of these cards offer bonus points or cash back on up to $2000 in purchases during the quarter.

US Bank Cash+

Even though TV, Internet & Streaming Services are shown as new below, that was a new category last quarter.  If you’re not already getting 5x Ultimate Rewards points by using a Chase Ink card (and even if you are!) you may want to switch the card you’re using for payment.  You must register your card before mid-June to get the bonus cash-back in the categories you select.  As a reminder, you choose two 5% categories and one 2% category.  To register, click on the link in the email you received from US Bank.

Discover Card

Discover gave us the full year’s calendar late last year:

This quarter’s category is Restaurants and they’ve added PayPal.  Restaurants is a good category for me.  I usually use my Amex Gold Card to earn 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar but I’ll switch to Discover for 5% cash back.  As a reminder the Discover card does not have foreign transaction fees but may not be as accepted worldwide as Visa, MasterCard and even American Express.  To register, sign in to your Discover account and click on the Activate button.

 

Chase Freedom

Chase is once again offering 5x Ultimate Rewards points at gas stations, this time with the added category of Streaming Services.  I find it frustrating that they’re recycling categories, especially one where I can’t max it out!  I don’t use streaming services so that doesn’t help me.  You can redeem the URs for a penny apiece on your credit card statement or, if you have one of the UR-earning cards that comes with an annual fee you can transfer these points to airline frequent flyer programs or hotel loyalty programs.  Alternately you can shop through the UR portal and use the points like cash.

To register you can go to this link to look at the calendar, then click on the Activate Now button as seen above.

 

Categories: Cash Plus, Chase, Credit Cards, Discover, Freedom, US Bank | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Amex Gold Card Changes Earning Rate When Dining Outside the US

In my last post I detailed which cards I used for each bonus category. I stated that I used the Amex Gold card for the dining category because it earns 4x Membership Rewards points. But Amex only offers the 4x points for US restaurants. When abroad I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve for its 3x Ultimate Rewards points.

Effective June 6th (Thursday), Amex will offer the 4x Membership Rewards points for non-US restaurants as well. Since there are no foreign transaction fees on the Amex Gold card, that’s a great deal!

But I will continue to use my Sapphire Reserve outside the US. Visa has a far greater acceptance rate worldwide than Amex. And the Sapphire Reserve also earns 3x points on other travel categories whereas the Amex Gold only offers bonus points on travel purchases made through the Amex portal. When I’m traveling I prefer to have one card for most of my purchases (hotel-specific cards notwithstanding) so I’ll continue to boost my UR balance with my Sapphire Reserve and will leave my Amex Gold at home.

How will the Amex 4x points on dining worldwide affect your credit card strategy when traveling?

Categories: American Express, Chase, Credit Cards, Premier Rewards Gold Card, Sapphire Reserve | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Cards I Use for Bonus Spending

Yesterday Ben at One Mile At A Time wrote a post about which cards he uses for different bonus categories.  I thought I’d do the same with the cards in my wallet.

Airfare Purchases

I’ll typically use my airline-specific card if I’m flying one of the three US legacy airlines. For flights on other airlines I’ll use my Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) for 3x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points even though I could earn 5x Membership Rewards (MR) points with my Amex Gold card. That’s because I already earn lots of Membership Rewards points on dining and I’m hardly ever using my CSR card these days.

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Hyatt and American Airlines Join Forces

Hyatt and American Airlines have teamed up to offer some reciprocal benefits. If you have status in either program you should have received an email stating what your benefit is. I’m a low-level elite with Hyatt, called a Discoverist, thanks to my Hyatt credit card. Here’s the email I received:

It’s hard to read but the only benefit I get is that in addition to earning Hyatt points I can also earn American frequent flyer miles. All I need to do is to click on the box and log into my account. That takes me to this page:

Where I can link my accounts. I haven’t done this yet as there’s a note indicating the names on the two accounts must match exactly and mine don’t. My Hyatt account has my “called by” first name (like the vast majority of my credit cards) whereas my American account has my legal first name to match my photo ID. So I’m checking with Hyatt to see if this will be an issue or not.

But it’s very easy and those with higher status either with Hyatt or American should enjoy even greater benefits. What kind of offer did you receive?

Categories: American Airlines, Hotel, Hyatt, OneWorld | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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