App-O-Rama: 4 New Cards and ~200,000 Points

Still the best high I've found

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Oh man, looking back on my first AOR 3 years ago is such a stroll down memory lane.

Still the best high I've found

Still the best high I’ve found

I was still newish to points and miles, new to blogging, still finding my voice and figuring out my travel goals.

I mentioned them at the time:

My travel goals for this round of apps are Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Dublin, Seattle, Alaska, and eventually, Australia. I’d also LOVE to fit in Vienna/Prague sometime this summer.

I made it to all of those places with the exception of Prague (which I mentioned recently as a possibility with Hilton points, so it’s still on my radar):

It goes to show the power of setting a goal.

But I should take a little wisdom “Three Years Ago Harlan” because my recent round of applications were rather scattershot. After I get settled in Dallas, I’m gonna need to plan a lot of trips with all the points and miles I’ll earn from this newest AOR.

4 new cards!

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Earn Points for Rent and Mortgage Payments With Plastiq (2% Fee With MasterCards)

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I’ve long enjoyed using RadPad despite its 2% fee because I’ve been earning 3X Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent on rent with my Citi AT&T Access More card, which far outweighs it, especially when paired with Citi Prestige.

But on June 1st, 2016, RadPad is increasing its rent bill payment fee to 3.49%, which makes the service much less appealing.

Byeee

Byeee

But, Plastiq easily takes its place – and charges a 2% fee on MasterCard payments. Even better, you can earn 3X Citi ThankYou points with the Citi AT&T Access More card. And, it works on mortgage payments, too.

Plastiq is the new sheriff in town

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Targeted Citi Hilton Visa Promo for 7,500 Points (Stack It to ~44 Hilton Points per Dollar)

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I noticed an offer in my Citi account – it can totally be a good one if you were targeted, and have paid Hilton stays coming up.

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Earn 10X Hilton points on up to $750 – total of 7,500 Hilton points

When you enroll and spend $750 at Hilton hotels through July 31st, 2016, you’ll get 7,500 bonus Hilton points AKA 10 extra points per dollar.

That’s a good deal if you A) have this card and B) have paid Hilton stays coming up.

You can also stack the heck out of this!

Combine promos to get a boatload of Hilton points

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Get FoundersCard for $295 Through May 13th, 2016

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Update: This offer has been extended through May 24th, 2016. My feeling is that it will keep getting extended. You can always contact me and I’ll check for you – I’ll also try to keep this page up-to-date.

Thought I’d post this promo and how to get it as a few readers have contacted me about the specifics.

Through May 13th, 2016, you can get FoundersCard for $295 a year – for life. The rate will never go up, so you can lock it in for $100 less than the usual $395 a year.

It sounds steep, but my FoundersCard has already paid for itself this year – and I just renewed (at the higher rate) in March 2016.

There are a ton of benefits that come with the card (including Total Rewards Diamond status).

I’ll show you how to get the lower rate because it’s not as straightforward as it should be.

How to get the $295 deal

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Review: American Airlines First Class 777-200 Dallas to Tokyo-NRT

Our bird from Dallas to Tokyo - the old livery

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Back in January, American released a whole bunch of First and Business Class award seats on routes to Asia. It was pre-devaluation, and I was starting to think of ways to burn some AA miles before the late March deadline. Awards to Asia in particular went up quite a bit.

It reminded me a lot of when I booked Lufthansa First Class to Frankfurt for Oktoberfest before the United devaluation – similar timing and concept.

Our bird from Dallas to Tokyo - the old livery

Our bird from Dallas to Tokyo

I saw routes were open from Dallas (where my new condo is) to Tokyo – a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Dates were open in early April – prime cherry blossom time! 

Even more serendipitously, I had to be in Texas around that time anyway for a week-long work meeting.

Of course, booking flights to catch the cherry blossoms is always a bit of a crapshoot. But, I’m happy to report, we arrived just in time to see the beautiful blooms.

This flight was an excellent pre-cursor to a lovely stay at the the Hilton Tokyo in Shinjuku.

I’ve been meaning to post about it for a while, so let’s hop to it.

Grabbing the space

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Osaka: Bullet Train, Food, Nightlife, Aquarium, & Wanderings

Osaka nights

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After exploring Tokyo, it was time to head to Osaka, the Japan’s second-largest city.

Bullet train

We left Tokyo via bullet train (Shinkansen) for the journey of about 500 kilometers. It took a little over 3 hours, not including getting to and from the train stations on either side. One-way tickets were ~$145 for the fare and seat reservation.

Because we departed from the Shinjuku station near where we stayed at the Hilton Tokyo, travel time was minimal (~20 minutes, if that).

We had reserved seats, though the midday train was only at about half capacity. An attendant came through every so often to offer snacks and coffee, but I noticed savvier riders unwrapping their pre-packaged meals on board.

The train was clean, the seats were comfy, and the overall experience was positive. Watching the scenery flying by was hypnotic.

On this day, the clouds gathered low to the ground. For that reason, we only got the faintest glimpse of Mount Fuji in the distance. But I bet on a clear day, the views would be incredible!

From Tokyo to Osaka, you’ll see Mount Fuji from the right side of the train. It’s huge. You literally can’t miss it.

The bullet train was awesome! Calming, actually. No squealing metal and sparks of fire shooting out from the wheels *cough* New York City MTA *cough*

Eating Osaka

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Hotel Review: Hilton Tokyo Shinjuku

View from the 2nd floor lounge

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To start, I wanna say, I loved this hotel! The location, ambiance, and staff were all wonderful. Getting out at the Shinjuku station and walking to the Hilton Tokyo with the lit-up neon lights is an experience I’ll never forget.

Hilton Tokyo review

Entrance of the Hilton Tokyo

But first things first.

Landing at NRT

I’ll do a review of the flight over soon.

I was nervous about flying into NRT because it’s a solid 90 minutes from Tokyo no matter which method you choose to get to the city: train, bus, or taxi.

We landed around 5pm, so I figured the train was best to avoid rush hour traffic. The airport is incredibly well-signed. But once you get to the trains, you’re bombarded with a zillion options and routes. I looked at the JR lines, the Tokyo metro, and rapid transit to another station.

To sort through it all, we entered the options into the individual machines until we found the best routing and price. All told, it took 15 minutes to price out 3 or 4 train tickets. We paid a little more to get there a little faster. From NRT, the faster you go, the more it’ll cost. But even the most expensive ticket was only ~$40.

Arrival and check-in

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Just Booked: 2 Nights at Hyatt at The Bellevue for $150 (Worth Over $900!)

Hyatt at the Bellevue

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I’ve written about the incredible value you can get with the annual free night from the Chase Hyatt card at Hyatt Category 4 hotels.

A hotel I listed as an “honorable mention” is the Hyatt at The Bellevue in Philadelphia.

For my last weekend as a New Yorker, I’ll actually be in Philly, at this Hyatt. Jay and I both recently got our free night certs and I’ve been itching to burn them.

We got a super deal on a weekend getaway.

Hyatt at the Bellevue

Hyatt at the Bellevue

This is an awesome example of how easy it is to get value from the Chase Hyatt card. The annual free night makes it well worth keeping!

By the numbers

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My FoundersCard Membership Just Paid for Itself This Year

As long as it stays good, I'm on board

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Update: You can lock in a FoundersCard membership for $295 a year through May 13th, 2016 when you sign-up with my link. This is $100 less than the usual rate!

Peeps are curious about FoundersCard. The many posts I’ve written are amongst my most-Googled. And a good 1/3 of reader emails ask about a specific benefit.

So I thought I’d post an update, as I still have and use mine regularly.

In fact, I just used it to join the Equinox in Dallas – and got $29 knocked off my monthly rate thanks to FoundersCard.

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Just saved a bundle to get back into shape

Now I’m not saying “join Equinox!” Instead, I’d say FoundersCard is worth it if you have a particular benefit in mind, like:

As long as it stays good, I'm on board

As long as it stays this good, I’m on board

Any one of these benefits can make up FoundersCard’s $395 annual fee if you really maximize it. And more if you can make use of 2 or 3 (or more) of them.

For example, I save about $20 a month off my AT&T bill.

And the TripIt Pro membership I got from my Barclaycard Arrival Plus is about to expire.

Free TripIt Pro saves $49

Free TripIt Pro saves $49

I’ve grown to love the service and use the app constantly for my travel plans. Would I pay for it? Maybe. But I won’t have to think about it for another year, because the next one is free thanks to FoundersCard.

How I use FoundersCard to save

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7 Hilton Hotels Where 120,000 Hilton Points Are Worth $700+

View from the 2nd floor lounge

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You know, I think I’ll come right out and say it: I’m turning into a Hilton fanboy.

Words I thought I’d never utter (or type) have come true, almost by default.

The other major chains, Marriott and IHG, aren’t palatable for me. Some peeps love Marriott, and I can kinda see why through my Hilton-colored glasses: free breakfast, they’re everywhere, and their points are easy to redeem (once you have enough of them, same as Hilton).

All I really want

All I really want – is that so much?

Embedded in there is my raison d’etre: FREE BREAKFAST. That’s the reason why IHG can never win my heart through my stomach.

The smaller chains, Hyatt and Starwood, are great. But when Hyatt snubbed me Diamond status, Hilton gave it to me. Looking back, it was an incredibly smart marketing trick. Because look at me now, a fanboy.

As for Starwood, there’s no use gunning for status with them at this point. Unless you like Marriott. I picked up both SPG cards recently, and I might give them a few paid stays, but the SPG program will be torn end to end starting next year.

Which leaves Hilton by default. The first to devalue, Hilton became the pariah of hotel points.

But I’ve been finding them useful anyway: they’re incredibly easy to earn. I get suite upgrades with some frequency. And I love their Executive Lounges and free breakfast.

Yeah, yeah… the point is?

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Goodbye to All That: In a Month, Dallas Here I Come!

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It begins: my last month as an official New York City resident.

Movers are booked.

The date is set to wake up and start driving away, all my things loaded in my new Subaru Forester – including the pup!

Resting after a run upstate

This little guy has spent his whole life in Brooklyn!

My dog will be 6 this year, and he’s never known much outside of New York. He’s gonna shed SO MUCH in Texas.

My house is sitting there, waiting to be lived in. I even went ahead and joined a gym in Dallas (and got a sweet discount thanks to FoundersCard).

The house

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MileagePlus X App: Earn Bonus United Miles at Amazon, eBay, & More

Some of the "in-store" merchants

So I just got the Mileage Plus X app and am kicking myself, because it’s been available for points-earning potential since 2014.

But better late than never. And I’m discovering all these cool uses for it.

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Mileage Plus X – oldie but goodie

If you have the Citi AT&T Access More card, you can use it as a payment method on the app to earn a total of 5X miles on Amazon and eBay.

And, a step beyond, you can use it as a defacto shopping portal to get a better payout either in-person OR online.

I got some ‘splainin’ to do!

What’s MileagePlus X?

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