Also see: 

The time draws near.

RIP

RIP

I managed to burn most of my Club Carlson points during my trip to Ireland earlier this month (reviews of Radisson Blu Royal in Dublin and Radisson Blu in Galway are up so far). But I also had a paid stay at the Radisson Blu St Helens and ended up earning ~44,000 Club Carlson Gold Points between that and the room charges in Dublin.

Nearly enough for 2 nights at a Category 5 property... if booked before next week

Nearly enough for 2 nights at a Category 5 property… if booked before next week

Book now, change later?

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com

Also see: 

After getting the rental car out of the tiny garage at the Radisson Blu Royal in Dublin, I used Google maps to guide me out of the city and onto the highway that would take us the short drive into Galway (a little over 2 hours).

A pretty straightforward drive across Ireland's midsection

A pretty straightforward drive across Ireland’s midsection

We’d heard really mixed reviews about Galway, and were excited to explore the town for ourselves.

All was going smoothly until the home stretch into the city of Galway.

Arrival and check-in

The city is changing the entire flow of traffic, and the directions I’d pulled up were no longer accurate. One-ways were rerouted, or closed, and the road that the Radisson Blu is on (Lough Atalia) had horrible traffic. I had to figure out the reroute while driving on the left side, in a city I’d never been to… and I had to pee so bad OMG.

The roundabouts are the worst.

We finally got parked at the Radisson Blu after a few false turns. As soon as I got in, I found the bathroom, then went to check in.

There was some sort of convention there I guess, as there were all these teenagers draped and strewn about all over the lobby. But we checked in relatively quickly and the desk agent was beyond nice.

Again, we were upgraded to a “Business Class” room which included free breakfast.

Hallways of the Radisson Blu Galway

Hallways of the Radisson Blu Galway

The hotel is about a 10-minute walk from the pedestrian area of town where most of the shops and restaurants are concentrated. From there, it’s another 10-minute walk to the other side of the River Corrib where the “real” Galway is located – lots of authentic pubs and shops over there.

The room

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com

There are a few cities that have multiple airports, so this tip could work for:

  • New York (JFK, LGA, EWR) – NYC
  • Washington, DC (IAD, DCA, BWI) – WAS
  • Chicago (ORD, MDW) – CHI
  • London (LHR, LGW, LCY) – LON
  • Paris (ORY, CDG) – PAR
  • Tokyo (NRT, HND) – TYO

I encountered this when searching BA.com for space to get to Boston from New York.

When I search for award space, I usually just type in “NYC” – because I’m open to JFK or LGA. So I rarely specify an airport.

But BA.com will not give you the complete picture of award space if you don’t specify an airport. 

Make sure you search city code and airport code

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com

Also see:

Happy to continue my Ireland series after the good news that the country is moving to legalize gay marriage. I saw the signs up everywhere when I was there to “Vote Yes” or “Vote No” and it seems that they’ve collectively decided to lead the 21st Century. Congratulations to Ireland!

If you’re interested in the new Aer Lingus business class product, you’ll want to also read my review of the BOS-DUB flight.

The key difference is that BOS-DUB is a red-eye whereas DUB-BOS is a daytime/lunch flight.

After an amazing flight over, I was excited to see how the finer points of service would differ during the day flight.

Flight details:

  • Aer Lingus Flight 137
  • May 5th, 2015
  • Depart: 11:50am
  • Arrive: 1:45pm
  • Duration: Duration: 6H, 46M
  • Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
  • Distance: 2,983 mi

First impressions

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com

The times, they are a-changin’ (aren’t they always?).

Ah, the open road...

Ah, the open road…

Thank YOU!

I’m having a great time keeping up with the points and miles community here, and hopefully adding helpful information where I can. So I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to everyone reading.

thank-youI’m continually blown away by the kindness of my readers and how many awesome people there are who are as into points and miles and credit cards as I am.

My links

Also wanted to say thanks for hitting up my referral links lately. They’ve been there for a sec, kinda hanging out in the sidebar. I was accepted into the CreditCards.com referral program – which is awesome because I don’t have to swear allegiance to any card(s) in particular. Most of the good ones are there, though. So thanks for clicking when you’re considering opening a new card. It’s a nice bonus for sure, and I appreciate the support!

Oh, and I have a page of Services I Like, too. I do posts from time to time about a cool service (like Paribus or Evernote), then I’ll post the referral link. I only add services I really love, so thanks for using those links, too!

Life stuff

Sunset in ABQ

Sunset in ABQ

So this kinda goes hand-in-hand with the call-out of the referral links. I’m slowly but surely doing these things with my life:

  • Building up this blog
  • Doing more freelance writing
  • Slowly making an NYC exit plan
  • Paying down my debt and saving up for a house simultaneously

These past 6 months, I’ve had to get a lot of different projects off the ground by leveraging my own money (See Smart Debt: Is carrying a balance ever a good idea?). I’m happy to report that these projects are going well. There have been some hiccups and unforeseen stuff, like there’s supposed to be with new ventures, and I plopped down my credit cards to keep the momentum going.

Sure, I earned some points in the process. But it was mainly a gamble. And I straddled the fine line between Smart Debt and plain ol’ Dumb Debt. So I’d like to ameliorate that.

Then, I’d like to save up a nice down payment for a house somewhere that’s… Not New York. I was thinking a cabin in the woods in Vermont, or a little house in northern New Mexico, or… I’ve been tossing around a few places.

Mountains and lake in Vermont

Mountains and lake in Vermont

I’d like access to American Airlines at the nearest airport, an easy mortgage, and enough services that I can still do my art projects on the side. So that could be a lot of places. Definitely a small to mid-sized city. That’ll be a huge and welcome change.

Future travels

Getting back to travel, I’d like to focus domestically this summer. Yeah!

I was thinking of visiting Chicago, and/or flying into Vancouver, and making my way down to NorCal with stops in Seattle and Portland. It’s been far too long since I’ve visited Chicago, and I’ve never been to Oregon…

And this winter, I was thinking of an extended visit to Central America, a region I’ve never explored.

In general, I’m assessing my priorities and figuring out what I can do with this writing and blogging stuff. I’m working to fit everything in and to grow everything together.

Bottom line

So that’s it. Just wanted to say thanks for using my links – it’s been a real boost and a great support for me these past couple of months, especially as I figure out what’s next and how to grow from here.

Thank you – one of the most powerful phrases there is!

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com

Also see: 

Woof
verb: to declare something bad, ugly, terrible, or nasty.
interjection: use as an expletive to express disgust or surprise.
Can be a replacement for damn that sucks!

Upon landing at DUB, I knew the next step was to go pick up the rental car.

So here’s how I did it (made the booking not picked up the car).

The booking

I ran a quick search on the Chase Ultimate Rewards website – they generally have fantastic rates on rental cars. That’s how I got such a good deal in Hawaii. Keep in mind that they ONLY service airport locations and you MUST pick up and return to the same location.

They quoted me at ~$325 for a 6-day rental. Not bad.

But when I hopped on kayak.com to compare and they had rentals pricing out at 9 Euros per day. And 85 Euros for the 6-day rental (~$97). Now that was a screaming deal. I booked a car at Dollar via priceline.com.

My Kayak to Priceline to Dollar car rental booking

My Kayak to Priceline to Dollar car rental booking – 85 Euros

My only criteria were:

  • 4-door (for ease of getting luggage in and out)
  • Automatic transmission
  • Unlimited kilometers (I wanted to drive a lot)

So, I did it. I thought I’d gotten a better deal than what the Chase Ultimate Rewards site was displaying.

Now that I’m back safe and sound, I’m not so sure any more.

Pickup

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com
<3

<3

Sorry for the hyperbole slash clickbait-y title. I thought I was being on trend.

But seriously, I love this card. I’m close to being obsessed with it:

We all love our points and miles. But I’ve been reading about straight cashback cards for a sec now, and the poor Fidelity Amex always gets swept under the rug.

Well no longer. This card is a gem. It has so much going for it. And it might just be the ace in the back pocket of cashback cards, which by default makes it the best cashback card in the universe.

Let me extoll the ways

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com

I was trolling around on the Citi website today and decided to look through my Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Amex benefits. Lots of good things in there. I like this card because it’s an American Express card not issued by Amex and is no longer open for enrollment. I can use it for Amex Sync offers, Small Business Saturday, and possibly to load up my Serve account (haven’t gotten that far yet).

As I got to the “Shopping benefits” section, I noticed there was one for which I had to manually enroll in on the website.

The 60-Day Return Guarantee program

There it was, hanging out there in the corner like a creep.

asdasd

Citi 60-Day Return Guarantee program

Screenshot 2015-05-15 11.30.58-1

Enrollment screen – good for a year

I clicked on it, and there was a little button that said “Enroll.” If I enrolled, it would be good for a year. 

So I did it. Why not. Then I was told about the benefits:

Citi 60-Day Return Guarantee

How to use the Citi 60-Day Return Guarantee

The benefit is good for $250 per claim and up to $1,000 annually. Things returned must be new and unopened. Fair enough. Really not so shabby at all. But then I thought…

WHERE DO I SEND THE STUFF? 

Apparently to their office in Ohio lol. But whatever. Then I was like… uhhhh… do I pay for the shipping (I think so)?

And then I started to think if I’d ever wanted to return something after a merchant’s return period had run out. Or what if I bought something while traveling and can’t get it back to the shop? Or what if the store doesn’t allow returns?

It hasn’t happened a lot, but here and there… yeah, definitely. Maybe once or twice a year. As long as I put the entire amount of the purchase on this card, I could return it and get the money back. Nice.

This is old news

So I thought I’d stumbled upon something new and exciting but nope. This thing’s been around since 2012. Practically Stone Age for the points and miles crowd.

I wanted to mention it here because I’d never heard of it in all my excavations about terms and conditions. Maybe it’s been around so long that it’s not mentioned any more? In any regard, it lives!

Discover, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Chase Freedom all have similar programs. And the one for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, anyway, is up to $500 per item and you have 90 days to return it. A month more and double the protection that Citi offers.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred return protection

However, I couldn’t find much online on the Chase website, so kudos to Citi for making it so easy to find and understand.

Also, apparently, you have to enroll manually for this benefit with Citi – it is not an automatic feature of Citi credit cards. So I wanted to toss it out there in case it might help someone and they’d like to enroll.

Bottom line

Citi has a program that I didn’t know about before today called the 60-Day Return Guarantee.

They’ve kinda hidden under the “Card Benefits” section of the their website, near the bottom. You have to find it and manually enroll to receive the benefit for 1 year for free.

Has anyone else, um, heard of this? Has anyone ever actually used this perk – or something similar offered by another credit card? How was your experience? 

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com

I forget where I saw the link. I think I clicked through something from Twitter and fell into the rabbit hole of the internet. But it ended up being a good thing, because I found this new service called Paribus.

What it is and how it works

How Paribus works

How Paribus works

Paribus is a service that monitors price changes for you at 18 (so far) popular merchants. If there’s a price drop, Paribus submits a price adjustment claim on your behalf. And the merchants included are some good ones:

  • Amazon.com
  • Athleta
  • Banana Republic
  • Best Buy
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Bonobos
  • Gap
  • J.Crew
  • Macy’s
  • Newegg.com
  • Nordstrom
  • Old Navy
  • Piperlime
  • Sephora
  • Staples
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Zappos.com
All the Paribus merchants

All the Paribus merchants

To get started, you can sign up for free. You connect the email account where you get your receipts, and link your Amazon account. It scours your inbox for receipts and keeps a log of your purchases.

All my Amazon purchases

All my Amazon purchases

If there’s a price change on anything you bought, they automatically ask for an adjustment for you. If they’re successful, they keep 25% of the cash, and send the rest back to you. You link a credit or debit card to your account and they’ll issue the refund in the form of a statement credit (they use Stripe as a payment processor).

Even though they charge you a quarter of the loot, the fact that it happens automagically means easy – and maybe unexpected – money coming your way.

The fact that it’s free to sign up makes it a no-brainer. And I must say I’m impressed with the merchants they are starting with. Obviously, Amazon.com is a huge one. But I do shop at a couple others on the list from time to time.

I could see this being super useful around the holidays when so many prices are being slashed left and right for Black Friday shoppers.

Keep in mind that Paribus still has to follow the price adjustment rules of each individual merchant.

The CamelCamelCamel angle

CamelCamelCamel is a website that tracks items for sale on Amazon.com. They keep records of historically low prices for everything. So you plug in the item you have your eye on and it tells whether or not the price might drop based on previous trends.

If you buy your things from Amazon while they’re at their lowest, you won’t have to even utilize Paribus. You’d simply save the money upfront, which is always good too. But even if the price of something you bought drops even more, Paribus would be there to get a price adjustment for you.

I can see these 2 services being super useful for savvy web online shoppers when used in conjunction with one another.

Bottom line

Thought I’d share what I learned about Paribus. It’s free and easy to sign up, so you really have nothing to lose.

Does anyone else already use Paribus or CamelCamelCamel to track prices and shop? Would love to hear thoughts about either service as I am still new to both.  And of course any others that are super handy slash in the same vein as these. Let me know in the comments below!

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com

Also see: 

My partner Jay wrote an article about our hotel stays at the Radissons of Ireland. I’m still working on full reviews of all the properties – they’ll be posted soon.

I thought it might be nice to read a different viewpoint and hear a new voice. Jay recently opened the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card (pre-devaluation) and is still getting the hang of this points and miles business. So our trip to Ireland trip really was a last hurrah with Club Carlson – for both of us.

Ireland is Club Carlson HEAVEN, by the way. They have hotels in every major Irish city (see map below). It’s really too bad that not only are BOGO award nights going away, but categories are going up, AND the free night certificate they give after $10,000 in spend is only good in the United States.

Anyway, I’m also working a few new articles for the What to Do series. I’d definitely welcome other guest writers that would like to share their viewpoints about the best places to stay, where to eat, and how to get to your neck of the woods. Feel free to email if you’re interested – I’d love to learn about new places!

Without further ado, take it away, Jay!


We stayed at almost 50% of the Radissons in Ireland (4 out of 9)!

Our Radisson/Club Carlson Circuit

In order, we stayed at:

  1. Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Dublin
  2. Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Galway
  3. Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Limerick
  4. Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel Dublin

That’s a lot of Radisson!

Blu Royal, Dublin

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com

Also see:

Getting there and checking in

After flying into DUB and picking up the rental car at the airport, we drove down into the City Centre of Dublin (you can take the N1 the entire way there).

With a little huge amount of help from Google Maps, I navigated my way toward the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Dublin. There is a small parking facility attached to the hotel with a discounted rate of 10 Euros per night – which is a steal to park for 24 hours – so I parked there and went to check in.

The check-in could not have been any better. Francois, the desk agent, was so kind, welcoming, knowledgable, and professional (he’s the French one – his words!). He recommended a few good places in the area and we chatted a bit about Dublin. After a few minutes, we were all set with an upgraded Business Class room that included free breakfast. Sweet!

Check-in area at the Radisson Royal Blu Dublin

Check-in area at the Radisson Royal Blu Dublin

Restaurant on the ground floor

Restaurant on the ground floor

Lobby seating

Lobby seating

The hotel bar where they serve O'Haras stout beer - yum!

The hotel bar where they serve O’Haras stout beer – yum! (Sorry about the blur!)

The property is beautiful. It’s clean, bright, and airy inside with lots of really nice touches. Definitely one of the nicer Radisson hotels I’ve stayed in.

The room

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com
Another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust

Forgive the histrionic title.

I tried hard to be a Club Carlson fanboy for a long while. I Club Carlson-ed my way through Europe last year, stayed at their resort in Fiji, and just came off a trip to Ireland where I stayed in four Club Carlson properties (Ireland is Club Carlson heaven).

I’ve always considered Club Carlson to be my auxiliary program, after Hyatt, but their prices and properties have been so aligned with my travels recently that you’d think they were primary.

They were the little hotel loyalty program that could. But now it seems, and in the words of my Mom, that they’ve gotten too big for their britches.

After the recent round of devaluations, it’s kinda like… um, you have some nice properties but you’re not all that great. Now their award chart is Hiltonesque, and so is the sudden about-face from generous to… what’s the word I want to use here? Brash?

I’ve already shoved my Club Carlson Visa Signature card in a drawer. The plan is to get the 40K anniversary bonus and then cancel it. Within a week, I went from being one of Club Carlson’s biggest cheerleaders to where I am now – a hater! I won’t mess with their program any more. It falls into the realm of “not worth it.”

The future

My hotel strategy moving forward will be Hyatt as a primary program and IHG as a backup for when Hyatt isn’t available. I never got into Starwood and honestly don’t see why others trip over themselves to earn that 1 Starpoint per dollar with the SPG Amex.

The reason Club Carlson got themselves into a huge devaluation is because they printed Gold Points left and right. Even still, 70,000 points for one night in a European Radisson? No way. And with $10,000 of spend on the co-branded credit card, I get 1 free night – but it has to be in one of their sub-par US properties? I’d rather run that money through a 2% cashback card and get $200 back – which is about how much a night in a US property would cost.

Speaking of companies printing too much of their points currency… American’s AAdvantage program is gearing up to devalue in 2016 it seems like. They are giving out wayyyy too many miles this year. #predictions #Nostradamus

Bottom line

There’s been so much spilled ink typed words about Club Carlson’s devaluation recently that I thought I’d throw my hat in as well.

While in Ireland this past week, I absolutely loved the Radisson Blu Royal in downtown Dublin. It was bittersweet, though, because I felt like I was having a last hurrah with Club Carlson.

Easy come, easy go. The free award night from having their credit card, and the reasonable redemption rates, were what put Club Carlson on my radar. Before that, I’d never even stayed at a Radisson. And from here on out, I don’t foresee myself messing with Club Carlson’s now-stingy and untrustworthy program too much more. Maybe just to burn the points that are left in there.

Is anyone else moving on from Club Carlson right about now? Are their recent devaluations – arguably overdue – a deal breaker for the entire program?

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! Thank you for using my link when considering a new credit card on creditcards.com

Enter your Email:

Support Out and Out

Twits

Insty

    Random Travel Quotes

    The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. - Saint Augustine