Booking BAP: A $5,000 Trip to Europe for $238 & Points!

My free digs in Amsterdam

Also see:

In a few weeks, I’ll be in Brussels, Amsterdam, and Prague for the first time. I am calling this trip “BAP” (after the 3 cities).

This is the trip I booked waaay back in August 2016 for biz class seats with Etihad miles. At the time, I paid ~37,000 miles for round-trip seats from New York to Brussels on Brussels Airlines. Etihad has since raised the price to 88,000 miles – which can still be a good deal to Europe in Business.

That was about 9 months ago – the furthest out I’ve ever planned a trip. At the time, I figured I’d fill it in when the time came. Which is now.

brussels amsterdam prague

I’m coming for ya, Brussy

Here’s how I put together a $5,00+ week-long trip to Europe for $238 out of pocket.

Booking BAP (Brussels, Amsterdam, Prague)

1. To New York and back

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[False Alarm] Citi Card Apps No Longer Have 24 Month Language?

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Update: Not sure what’s going on but I see the 24-month language on some application pages. I’m wrong and nothing has changed. I got excited and jumped. Going to close this for now. Sorry for the false alarm! 

Just a quick post.

Citi has been limiting card sign-up bonuses per family of “brands” to every 24 months – with a clock that resets if you open OR close an account within that family. The 3 brands are:

  • American Airlines
  • Hilton
  • ThankYou points

So for example, if you opened or closed the Citi Hilton Reserve within the previous 24 months, you could NOT get the sign-up offer on the Citi Hilton no annual fee card. Period.

But it looks like that restriction has shifted:

citi 24 months

“New accounts only”

Now it says, “This offer valid for new accounts only.”

What does that mean?

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Cool! Some Plastiq Payments Coding as 3X for Travel With Chase Sapphire Reserve

Are you the premium Chase card of my dreamz?

It looks like some payments with Plastiq are triggering 3X points per $1 with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Apparently, rent or mortgage payments are coding as “lodging/travel” and appear as “travel” – which is a 3X category.

I made a $30 payment toward one of my Airbnbs and didn’t change the category in Plastiq – I left it marked as a rent payment.

chase sapphire reserve plastiq 3X

I sent the payment as “rent, mortgage, and real estate”

And when I checked today, it had cleared and earned 90 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (3X).

SWEET

SWEET – 3X

If you have rent or mortgage payments, it would be worth it to use your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, even considering Plastiq’s 2.5% fee.

By the numbers

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2017: The Year of Solo Travel (Ch-ch-changes)

What if I'm not sure just yet?

I occasionally post personal updates here. Because I expect they’ll influence the way I travel and how I plan trips.

I wrote about getting a job at a PR firm in Manhattan, paying off my credit cards and starting FIRE, and leaving New York for Dallas: all personal things that influenced the scope of my thinking, and subtleties about how I travel.

So here’s another update: I’m newly single. The past couple of months have been pretty rough. Although I still managed to visit New York and Chicago to see Hamilton.

solo travel

“Sho,” by Jaume Plensa, at SMU in Dallas

Now it’s table for one, breakfast for one.

And with my trip to Brussels coming up in a few weeks, I realized I’ll be traveling alone for the foreseeable future. I started researching a RTW trip with stops in Hong Kong and South Africa (my first time in both places!) on brand new (to me) airlines.

I was also thinking of visiting Vermont in the fall to see the changing colors. And it hit me so hard that I’ll be doing all of this alone. So I’ve been gathering my personal power. It’s been good getting to know me more.

I’ve also never felt so alive. And I’ve never felt so alone. Solo travel.

Seven years

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Easy Win: Do the Dollar Shave Club Amex Offer and Get Some Free Stuff

From the Out and Out bathroom, thank you DSC!

So there’s a semi-complicated new Dollar Shave Club Amex Offer that you can approach in a couple of different ways.

Whichever way you wanna slice it, it’s extremely worthwhile because you end up with free stuff. If you have this Amex Offer in your account, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t get in on this.

Dollar Shave Club Amex Offer

Shave wit me

I’ll break it down and help you decide which route you should go, should you be a human who removes hair with a razor or bathes, and have this Amex Offer. Even if you don’t, read on.

Dollar Shave Club Amex Offer

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Get $25 With New Accounts at Giving Assistant, Ebates, and BeFrugal Shopping Portals

BeFrugal is a new one for me

When you shop online, always always click through a shopping portal to earn extra points, miles, or cashback.

I personally use Cashback Monitor to find the best payouts before I shop anywhere.

shopping portal bonus

Da best

I usually like to earn Alaska miles or Chase Ultimate Rewards points for online shopping. But occasionally, cashback offers are simply too good to pass up.

And competition is fierce. So much that they’ll sometimes give you free money to sign up and use their portals.

BeFrugal is a new one for me

BeFrugal is a new one for me

I thought I’d round up 3 cashback portals where the initial bonus might be worthwhile for a little shopping. And tell you what’s required to get the bonus AKA the cash in your hot little hand.

Note: I get cashback when you sign up for these portals, too. Thank you for using my links!

Get a shopping portal bonus

These bonuses are for NEW sign ups. If you’re an old-timer to points and miles, you likely already have accounts with all of these portals. In that case, check out my backlog of Every Single Out and Out post! 😉

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I’m Over Cashback Cards and Into Starwood Points

I like you now and I'll be sad when you leave

Also see: 

There, I said it.

In 2013, I famously said (typed), “I don’t care about Starpoints.” At the time, my grievances were:

  • 1 point per $1 spent was too low of an earn rate
  • You have to spend so much to earn a meaningful reward
  • The earn rate with other hotel programs is better, so why bother with Starwood?
Starwood Points vs cashback

I like you now and I’ll be sad when you leave

But a lot has changed since then. The merger with Marriott opened a few cool new opportunities, like:

Nothing's fine I'm torn

Nothing’s fine I’m torn

And, I’ve been putting a non-bonused spend on my Amex Starwood card, to the chagrin of my previously beloved Fidelity Visa. (Although I still use the mess out of my Discover it card cuz I want that sweet Dublin!)

In fact, I think I’m…. over cashback cards. For now, at least.

Drinking the Starpoints Kool-Aid

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Hotel Review: The Drake (Hilton), Chicago

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This past week, I ventured up to Chicago to see Hamilton and hang out with some old college buddies.

I booked 5 nights at The Drake hotel Chicago, located on the Magnificent Mile/Michigan Avenue, with Hilton points. The 5th night was free on this award booking, so I paid 200,000 Hilton points (50,000 X 4) for the entire stay.

the drake hotel chicago

My eventual room would’ve cost $1,400+ out of pocket

Because I’m Diamond with Hilton, I got an upgrade to a King Bed on the Executive Floor. Similar room rates to when I stayed say this would’ve been ~$1,404 in cash. But I didn’t have to pay taxes on the award booking, which are over 17% per night (!!!).

That means my Hilton points were worth .07 cents each – and more when you count the free breakfast and free food in the evenings. That’s a good rate for Hilton points!

I took a Lyft from Midway after flying on Southwest from Dallas-Love Field. Traffic was backed up, but I made it to The Drake in about 30 minutes.

Arrival and check-in

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It’s Back: 35,000 Points With Both Amex Starwood Cards

It's back, like a heart attack

Also see:

Well would ya lookit that. I wasn’t expecting to *ever* see a limited-time offer on the Amex Starwood cards again. But now, you can earn 35,000 Starwood points on the personal and small business cards after meeting tiered minimum spending requirements through April 5th, 2017.

spg amex 35000

It’s back, like a heart attack

Marriott has agreed to leave SPG alone until 2018, but then get ready for a butchering. Realistically, Marriott has no incentive to keep the program as it currently is. But, I’m pleased Amex is giving peeps one more stab at this terrific offer.

I broke the seal with the business version of the card last time this offer came ’round in March 2016. Before it ended, I had both versions.

Little did I know I’d hoard the points like a squirrel or ferret until such a time as I’d use them for a Southwest Companion Pass. The hammer drops on that method on March 31st, 2017. But if you applied like *now* and met the minimum spending in short order before the statement closes, you could probably squeak by.

The huge caveat is the bonus on both cards is once per person, per lifetime (AKA 7 years). But if you’ve never had it… I highly doubt this offer will ever come back.

The short

Highest-ever offer returns. If you’ve never had the card, this is probably your last chance to get it.

The long

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This Card Got Me a $500+ Hotel Stay for $49

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So, I’m shutting down my last New York Airbnb at the end of this month. This will effectively cut my final tie to that city – finally. I wanted to go for a night or two to turn in the cable box, return the keys, and officially wrap it up.

Of course, I thought about using hotel points because I really didn’t want to pay for it (although I could theoretically write off the expense). Then it occurred to me I had a free night from my Chase IHG card set to expire. Even better, I just earned another one for paying the second year’s $49 annual fee.

chase ihg card

Right where I need to be in town and 100% free

I used them for a ~$539 two-night stay at the Hotel Indigo Lower East Side New York for $0. Because the annual fee is waived the first year, I basically paid $49 – and got back a stay worth over $500.

Here’s why you might consider picking up the Chase IHG card. Even if you already have lots of other cards.

The Chase IHG card gives easy value year after year

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Join Me at FinCon 2017 in Dallas with Limited-Time $249 Passes

Get your finance fix, Texas-style

I read a lot of personal finance blogs. Increasingly, they mention “travel hacking” AKA what we do on the daily as a way to travel cheap.

And it’s true – I see the parallels between the 2 niches. Especially if you’re using the money you save on traveling and put it in a retirement account. WHICH YOU ALREADY DO, RIGHT? 😉

So when I learned FinCon will be in Dallas this year, I couldn’t think of a single reason not to attend – expect for maybe the cost of the pass.

When I looked, I saw the basic passes were only $249 until February 14th, 2017. Then they’d go up to $469.

Be a Super Early Bird and Come to FinCon for $249

Be a Super Early Bird and Come to FinCon for $249

I whipped out my card faster than you can say “points and miles” and bought a pass without a second thought. And you should come, too!

Why attend FinCon?

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Bahama Breeze: Part 3 – Wanderings in Nassau

The cute promenade at the Fish Fry

During my time in Nassau, I managed to make it into town twice. The first time was in the middle of the day on a Saturday. And the second was a Monday night, which we quickly found out was not the best time to visit.

If you stay in Nassau (maybe because of the 4 free nights at the Atlantis from FoundersCard/Total Rewards Diamond status), you will probably end up on Bay Street at some point. Wait, I made a little map:

nassau

Lay of the Nassau land (click to enlarge)

So that’s kinda what to expect.

And here’s what I did during my explorations beyond the Atlantis!

Bahama Breeze Index

Beach bummin’ in Nassau

1. Downtown/Bay Street

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