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Unpublished/Secret Benefit of the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card?

You got a hidden benny, buddy?

You got a hidden benny, buddy?

I’ve consistently noticed, month after month, that I receive 3x Membership Rewards from online purchases when I pay with my American Express Premier Rewards Gold card. 

NOWHERE is this written out, but in practice, it has worked for me for nearly a year. The most obvious example is when, one month, I sent $1000 via Amazon Payments and got 3,000 MR points put my account. There have been other, smaller purchases that have triggered this, too. $50 from fab.com. An order at shoes.com. A few other things from drugstore.com and Kohls.com. The thing they all have in common is that they are purchases made online.

I’ve tried this with the Platinum Card – nothing. This little trick seems to be isolated to the PRG card. If so, it might be worth using this for online purchases in conjunction with clicking through portal links.

Has anyone else noticed this? Is this an unpublished/secret benefit of having the PRG card?

Dear Amex: DIAF!

DIAF!

Words cannot explain the hateration I feel for this company right now.

I often reference how I’ve been jipped out of numerous signup bonuses. Now a card I never applied for (the Platinum Card) is due for renewal with its hefty $450 a year. I DO use the benefits. All the time. I love being SPG gold, visit the airport lounges often, got free Global Entry, and have booked hotels through Fine Hotels & Resorts. I love flashing that little Platinum Card or Priority Pass Select Card and getting into the lounges, and very much look forward the new Centurion Lounge on an upcoming flight to DFW. In short, I get more than $450 of value out of this card each year.

So I was curious when they sent me an email to call a “special number” to call. In short, in said:

Please call us at 1-800-452-3944 from 8am to 11pm ET Monday–Sunday to discuss how you can get more value from American Express.  This special phone number is available exclusively for select Platinum Card® members like you.

I called them and told them how bitter I was for always getting screwed out of signup bonuses. I explained to the agent that I’d missed out on 150,000 Membership Rewards points (100,000 for Platinum and 50,000 for PRG). She checked and said she could offer me 6,000 points as consolation. 6,000? I asked her. 6,000, she confirmed. Which is basically nothing. That’s IT?! I asked her. “I’m very sorry. That’s all I’m authorized to offer you at this time.”

So I basically told her to fuck off (I didn’t cuss at her FYI – just said that was a terrible offer and hung up).

Flash forward to today. I was researching how to book ANA partner flights for a post about using Membership Rewards points, but couldn’t get the option to “activate” on the ANA site because I had a zero balance. I’ll transfer over some MR points, I thought. But I only have about 8,000 of them. The minimum transfer is 1,000 points, so I would’ve lost 1/8 of them just to access ANA bookings. Then I thought, maybe they’ll still give me those 6,000 points.

I called them again, explained it all again. The agent said there’s no record of any of that in my account, but that she’d “make a note.” So there’s nothing you can do?, I asked. Nothing, she replied. I sighed. And thought how much I fucking hate Amex. And how many “notes” there must be on my account because they are somehow NEVER able to help me or provide good customer service. Then I hung up on her.

I know people LOVE Amex and the Membership Rewards program. I do love my accidental Platinum Card, although I feel like it’s a stepchild I never wanted that is actually pretty awesome. And the MR program has its sweets spots, to be sure. But I’d much rather deal with, talk to, redeem, earn, use Ultimate Rewards points – any day. Amex, from my POV, is a seriously lagging and regressive organization that is resting on their laurels is a huge way. Their cards are expensive, their points are “meh” (to me), the customer service is beyond lousy (I love that word), and they got rid of their shopping portal, making it that much harder to earn MR points. Compare that to Chase: reasonable annual fees, valuable points currency, AMAZING customer service, great shopping portal…

OK, ending rant now. Hope this was useful or constructive in some way… to someone… Continuing to think Amex should DIAF… *sighz*

Managing Credit Cards: Cost-Benefit Analysis

With the addition of two new cards earlier this month, I started to realize I was getting a little in over my head in my quest to play the “points game.” I now have ten credit cards, which seems a little overwhelming to me. A few of them are in “the drawer,” and I rotate them in and out of my wallet depending on spend requirements and bonus categories. If I’m traveling, I’ll only take cards that feature no foreign transaction fees.

Going another step further, I don’t think it’s feasible for me to keep 10 cards active all the time. Once annual fee time comes around, I might have to cancel one or two of these babies (at least). With that thought, I cataloged all of my current cards with a cost-benefit analysis. Here are the results:

Credit Card Info - Sheet1

 

A few observations:

  • This chart assumes I get at least .02 cents of value from each point
  • Amex cards are less than 1/3 of my total cards, but make up over 2/3 of the annual fee costs. I do think the Platinum Card is worth it. The others… not as sure.
  • Of the 325,000 points I’ve earned from these 10 cards, Amex cards only make up 35,000 of those (!!!). Amex LOVES to screw me out of signup bonuses. I’m sensing a trend here…
  • I was able to find obvious ongoing benefits in keeping ALL of my Chase cards. The only one I’m sure about keeping with Amex is the Platinum Card. The Citi AAdvantage card is in “the drawer” now that I’ve received the signup bonus in full. However, the 10% rebate on redeemed miles is more than enough incentive to keep the card in perpetuity. It also gives me a relationship with Citi just in case I ever want another.
  • The biggest wild card right now is Barclays. I am impressed with the direction they’re going in. I do think I will continue to keep the Arrivalcard, especially if it keeps giving TripIt Pro as a subscriber benefit. I really like the fare tracker feature. And hey, if it ever saves me money, it’s a no-brainer to keep the Arrivalcard.
  • I’ve had the Chase Freedom (in several other incarnations) since 2002. That’s a nice boost to the length of my credit history.
  • I’d like to keep one Visa Signature on hand and the one World Elite for now. You never know…
  • I haven’t assessed other perks like car rental coverage, trip cancellation, lost baggage, etc. I’d only ever rent a car with the Sapphire Preferred or Platinum Card anyway.

I do consider this analysis as a document that is very open to change. Airlines and credit cards slash and introduce benefits all the time. (So do hotels but I don’t have any co-branded hotel cards.) If I had to pick one or two to place on the chopping block, it would definitely be the Delta Amex and potentially the Premier Rewards Gold. Delta and Amex haven’t impressed me very much lately, especially with the customer un-friendly moves they’ve both been making. And American has been very generous, though I haven’t flown with them at all this year. Too bad Citibank doesn’t have better transferable points cards. If only United were better, I’d have the perfect bank-airline relationship (because god I love Chase!). More thoughts after the upcoming Chile/Easter Island trip. We’ll see how American & Co. fare with operations. This Saturday! Two days!

Triple Membership Rewards on Amazon.com and Other Online Purchases?

So today I worked up enough energy to call Amex about the odd number of Membership Rewards on my first Premier Rewards Gold statement.

To recap, I spent $1,083 – enough to hopefully trigger the signup bonus for getting the card, even though I technically didn’t qualify for it, per the T&C.

I was expecting to get 1,083 Membership Rewards points this month. But then I noticed I had 2,221 pending points and called an agent for an exact points breakdown. Here’s where it got interesting.

I had only five charges on my first statement:

All the spend for this statement cycle

All the spend for this statement cycle

 

But apparently, I earned triple points for the online purchases, including for Amazon Payments.

Line by line:

  • BirchBox: $20 – 60 MR (3/dollar)
  • EZ Laundry $10.49 – 10 MR (1/dollar)
  • Amazon Payments $500 – 1500 MR (3/dollar)
  • CVS (Vanilla Reload card) – $503.95 – 504 MR (1/dollar)
  • Fab.com $49 – 147 MR (3/dollar)

Totals: $1083.44 – 2,221 MR points

 

WTF?

WTF?

 

Bizarre, right? I asked if that was some sort of special spend category, as none of it was airfare, gas, or groceries – and should have only generated 1 point per dollar spent.

The agent told me that because I had a Platinum Card, the Premier Rewards Gold card was generating three points per dollar with all of my online shopping – including for Amazon Payments.

I asked for more details about this. Was it all online shopping? Was it a new category? A special promotion? The agent had no answers other than all of my Membership Rewards points were now included in the Membership Rewards First program because of having the Platinum Card.

Even still, this could be really beneficial, as I shop online a lot. BirchBox and Fab.com are “deal” sites, and Amazon Payments I use for paying back friends or generating spend on new cards. I wonder if this will continue, and for how long. I’ll keep an eye on it, as this is a totally new spend category I didn’t know about until I called today.

The agent also said the category was added as part of the promo I got when I applied through creditcards.com. He also said – knock on wood – that I’d be getting the signup bonus next month of 50,000 Membership Rewards points!

He also specifically said I would get triple points on all shopping through Amazon.com.

I don’t know why or how, but I’m surprised at this newest development with the MR program.

Anyone else noticed this? Surely I’m not the only one.

 

American Express Vs. Chase: Why Chase Is Winning

Quite simply: signup bonuses with no BS.

I’ve been hating on Amex a lot lately, and with good reason. I now have four Amex cards, three with Amex as the actual issuing bank, and with two of those three, I’ve had to make numerous phone calls, write emails, and send tweets to their support team about not getting a signup bonus. After a lot of back and forth, they usually award me a fraction of what I missed out on as “good will”, but it always leaves a bad taste behind and is like pulling freaking teeth with them.

In my opinion, if an Amex cardmember holds the Platinum Card, their most premium card offering with a hefty $450 annual fee, any other cards should automatically come with an enhanced signup bonus. Something extra. Instead, we see this sentiment in a lot of the T&C:

Eff u 2!

Eff u 2!

What?! Why? That’s so stupid to punish people for wanting to open more cards. This is where Chase excels.

They have a few cards that feed into their Ultimate Rewards program the same way Amex has multiple cards that can be linked to Membership Rewards. But Chase doesn’t impose rules on signup bonuses with multiple cards. You can get a Freedom, a Sapphire, an Ink, and whatever else you want to get and get the FULL bonus on all of them. If anything ever goes awry, just give them a call and it’s taken care of almost instantly.

Not with Amex. They’re notorious for their Financial Reviews and for not awarding bonuses… at all. They’re also really slow and claim to have to “research” your claim. Not only that, but their Membership Rewards program has lost a few key transfer partners in the past couple of years, along with a few other consumer unfriendly changes while Ultimate Rewards continues to improve.

There are a few sweet spots with Membership Rewards. For me, it’s the British Airways Avios. They’re a transfer partner for both Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, which is pretty fantastic. Membership Rewards also transfer instantly to Delta, which would help me out a LOT with my dream trip to Australia if Amex would ever give me the points I deserve as a customer and card holder.

It goes beyond this, though. It’s about how the customer starts to view the company after a while. I’ve been screwed over by them a few times by now to the point where I’m thinking of switching all my spend over to Chase and giving Amex the finger. I wish it weren’t like this, though. Delta is pretty much forcing their customers to have a co-branded Amex to avoid the upcoming dreaded MQD component of the SkyMiles program, and I love having lounge access with the Platinum Card. But Chase always treats me so right while Amex continues to kick me to the proverbial curb.

So to Chase, I’d say keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working, and it’s so great. I have such a positive association with the company at this point. And Amex. Oh, Amex. Step up your game, because you’re getting your butt beat. I look forward to the day where I’m down to just the Platinum Card. In fact, Delta’s bid for more revenue is kinda sorta slowly driving me over toward American. But that’s a post for another day, and that post will be highly speculative.

When I think of Chase: I trust them, like them, want more of them.

When I think of Amex: Starting to shudder, need energy to deal with them, apprehensive about continuing to use their products. TOO. BAD.

Winner = Chase, hands down. Thoughts, anyone?

Dammit, Amex! No Signup Bonus, and an Odd Amount of Membership Rewards

So my newest batch of pathetic Membership Rewards points have posted following the acquisition of the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card during my recent app-o-rama. Even though the T&C clearly stated I wouldn’t get the bonus because I already have the Platinum Card, I, like a fool, didn’t read it and got the card anyway. To be clear, it was completely my fault for not being more thorough. But, I thought there might be a glimmer of a chance that the signup bonus would post somehow, so I went ahead and met the $1,000 minimum spend on the card.

In fact, I spent $1,083 on the card during the first month.

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 10.26.37 PM

 

OK. So the spend was not on ANY reward categories. I sent $500 thru Amazon Payments and got a $500 Vanilla Reload card at CVS. The other stuff was online subscriptions. No airfare, gas, or groceries. So I should’ve gotten 1,083 Membership Rewards points, right?

Here’s where it gets weird.

WTF?

WTF?

I have no idea how I’m getting 2,221 Membership Rewards points. Unless CVS counts as a grocery store somehow? I’ll definitely call Amex when I have more energy, but I want a breakdown of how that worked out. I was, admittedly, a little disappointed it wasn’t 52,221 points. I will try to request the bonus anyway, even though I know Amex are stingy little bitches with retroactive signup bonuses. They should give MORE of a signup bonus for opening another card as a Platinum Cardmember, not less (or none!). Grrr.

Looks like I will never accrue a decent amount of Membership Rewards points. Not this year, anyway. I should probably go ahead and cancel this stupid card. I definitely will after I get that free $25 credit for Small Business Sunday in November. After that, I’ll chuck it. I plan on putting the bulk of my spend this year on the British Airways Visa. I want those Avios. And by the time I meet that spend, I know Amex will slam that $175 annual fee right down. So I basically got 2,000 points for getting this card.

I much prefer Chase as a credit card company at this point. They have so many amazing cards, and are so good about giving out their signup bonuses. In fact, Amex has really been letting their credit cards go downhill a lot lately. At any rate, it makes one wonder… *le sigh*

Why I Don’t Care About SPG Starpoints

Don't give a!

Don’t give a!

I fully admit I’m a rookie at best with miles and points collecting, but I’ve never understood the allure of Starpoints.

In theory, they are like a rare, valuable currency that can get one access to a variety of different airlines and hotel locations. But in practice, are they worth it?

Starcrap

The best signup bonus I’ve ever seen for the SPG Card is 30,000 Starpoints, which translates to 35,000 miles of a whole lot of different airlines. The signup bonus is great, and so is the flexibility. But there are a couple of things about the card that have also irked me. Read More

Woo hoo! Just got 1,500 free AAdvantage Miles!

Thanks to the Frequent Miler for posting this opportunity today.

Nice lil' haul

Nice lil’ haul

 

I’ve done this FAR (Free-After-Rebate) thing once before, and it worked like a charm. The Staples people say you’ll get the check within 4-6 weeks, but for me it was more like 8. I also had to do the live chat help thingy a couple of times to coddle them into moving the process along. That last check was for $60. This time I upped the stakes and spent $500 (not the full $800 as suggested in the post linked above.)

 

It actually was pretty easy. Thanks, Staples.

It actually was pretty easy. Thanks, Staples.

 

This accomplishes many things. It will help me meet the minimum spend on my brand new Citi Amex card, which is $3,000 within four months.

I’ll get 500 AAdvantage miles for putting this on the Citi Amex. I clicked through the AAdvantage Shopping Portal to get an additional 2 miles/dollar. Total haul of 1,500 FREE AAdvantage miles. The redemption value for me is .02 cents per mile, so I value this at $30. But more importantly, it brings me closer to getting 50,000 more miles when I reach the $3,000 mark with the new card.

The software is for Windows computers, and I have a Mac, so it’s pretty much useless to me. I’m thinking I could sell it online or perhaps donate it to a local non-profit and write it off on my taxes next year, either of which would help me to turn a further profit on clicking a few links and floating $500 for a month or two. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The only thing that bugs me is that status that says “Researching.” Researching what? Hmmmz.

Trip Report: Hawaii 2013

Also see:

When Jay and I were in Iceland late June/early July of 2012, I discovered I’d finally accumulated enough miles via my Chase Sapphire Preferred card to book our dream trip to Hawaii. We were effectively on one vacation and planning another.

Our excitement was through the roof. I booked us from JFK-SFO-OGG on January 10 and HNL-LAX-JFK on January 20th.

Ten days in Hawaii. Total out-of-pocket cost: $15. To book the award ticket was just $7.50 a person.

There was only a little drama. I ended up redepositing the miles and outright buying a flight from SFO-LAX-HNL on Delta because it was so cheap that I was no longer getting my .02 per mile – pretty much the only policy I hold when it comes to redemption values. But we kept the JFK-SFO leg on United.

The big day finally rolled around. It was balmy in New York, but certainly not beach weather. We woke up early to take the A train to Howard Beach, then the AirTrain to the terminal at JFK. It was one of those moments where the plane was boarding, the door would soon be closed, and we were still in the security line. It was the first time I ran through the airport in my socks. We found our seats on the plane, which was surprisingly empty. Economy seats we had. There were plenty of business and first seats available, but we had to suck it up and sit in the back of the plane. But we didn’t care. We were embarking on the first leg of our trip to Hawaii.

Flying over Colorado

Flying over Colorado? Wyoming?

When we got to SFO, we had to change terminals, which was actually pretty easy. The only thing that sucked was having to grab our bags and recheck them. There was no SkyClub in SFO (!) but we only had time to grab a quick sandwich and then it was time to board our Delta flight to LAX.

Thanks, Deltoid

Thanks, Deltoid

Once at LAX, we had a few hours to kill, so we hung out in the SkyClub, where I concocted a brilliant new drink: ginger ale and rum with a splash of grenadine. I had two. NOM!

Impromptu mixology

Impromptu mixology

I worked on my laptop and watched the sunset over the ocean from inside the terminal.

Sunset at LAX

Sunset at LAX

LAX-OGG was our third flight that day. The two before were nothing special. Economy, standard service, no food, alright seats. Small regional jet from SFO-LAX. The plane to OGG was huge though, and completely full. It always breaks my heart to watch the boarding process of a large aircraft. Oh my fuck, people are so stupid.

I chose Delta as my airline of choice for my $200 airline credit benefit with my American Express Platinum card, so treated myself and Jay to some drinks and food for purchase. We were obviously on a flight that held many attendants of a destination wedding. People were getting plastered and were so loud. Since it was a late flight, people finally konked out after about 90 minutes.

I managed to get a wink or two, and when I woke up, we were a little over an hour from OGG. I was beyond thrilled. When I saw the first flickers of lights on the ground, I knew we were close. Flying over the ocean at night is terribly boring. But the long day of flights was finally over. We were in Maui. The flight attendants made an announcement wishing everyone a pleasant wedding. We did not get lei’d.

MAUI

It was 11pm when we landed. We dashed off the plane, stretched our legs, and went to grab our bags. I was immediately struck that the airport was all open-air (they all are in Hawaii, I found out). The light jacket I was wearing was too much. It was WARM. YES.

Love that shirt!

Love that shirt!

We went out to find a taxi and were immediately scolded for jaywalking. Um, this definitely wasn’t New York. It was actually really hard to find someone who would accept a credit card as payment. Again, very NOT New York. Also, there were a lot of women taxi drivers. We finally found a lady who would accept cards. I want my Ultimate Rewards points! By this time, we were halfway delirious and wanted to be in our room ASAP.

She drove us the twenty minutes to our hotel, the Aston Maui Li in Kihei, HI that I booked using ~47,000 United miles. We got our bags, and wanted to leave tip on the credit card. She demanded the tip in cash. Jay gave her all he had, which was about $6 (still a good tip for a $20 cab ride). She glared at us as we wheeled our bags away. It was so weird. But whatever.

We went to the checkin desk where the front desk employee was EXTREMELY thorough about the property. We were both so tired that we nodded off a bit during his spiel. I perked up when he said he’d upgraded us to an Ocean View room for free. The words “free upgrade” could pull me out of a deep REM cycle, I swear.

The room was basic, but we could indeed see the ocean. It was night, we were exhausted, and we looked forward to seeing Hawaii in the morning sunshine.

The next day we got the full effect. The property, the palm trees and beaches, the ocean… it was all perfect. We spent four days lying on the beaches to recover and reenergize. Maui was amazing. The beaches were wonderful, and we got quite a nice base tan.

Right outside our room

Right outside our room

Aston Maui Lu

Our beach on Maui

Hang loose

Hang loose

There were lots of handgliders during the day on the beach. In the mornings, we had breakfast at a cafe down the street, and in the evenings we explored a few different restaurants including the most amazing taco place I’ve ever been to in my life. The fish tacos were so flavorful and fresh. YUM.

We heard of a couple of gay places on Maui. First, the Sunseeker Resort is a gay owned and operated facility, and is apparently clothing optional. We walked by on the way to a sushi place, but didn’t see any nudity. :p

Then, there is a gay nude beach called Little Beach. It is only accessible by car. Since we didn’t rent one for this leg of the trip, we missed out on the chance to get some sun on our blindingly white backsides.

Let's face it, I went to Hawaii for the Mai Tais

Let’s face it, I went to Hawaii for the Mai Tais

What I wore to the luau

What I wore to the luau

Sunset over Maui

Sunset over Maui

Then, on January 14th, we flew to Hilo. We took a different car service to the Maui airport.

HAWAII (THE BIG ISLAND)

The big island was all Airbnb and Pointshound finds. We got some great deals, averaging about $60/night. We picked up a rental car from National, booked through Ultimate Rewards for only $167 for three days, and drove to our first Airbnb in Pahoa, HI.

Black sand beach on Hawaii

Black sand beach on Hawaii

Waves crashing over black lava beaches

Waves crashing over black lava beaches

I was immediately struck by vast change in geology. The black sand beaches were rugged, and breathtaking.

Our Airbnb host was charming and kind, but we only stayed in each place for one evening. The next day, we drove north on the Hawaii Belt Road, all the way to Kona. The plan was to completely circumnavigate the island. Along the way, we saw Akaka Falls, more stunning beaches, and so much lush vegetation. We also grabbed a delicious lunch at a bakery/cafe and stopped to stretch our legs, and visit a few scenic points.

Hawaii

Hawaii

Very rugged

Very rugged. Uh oh!

Northern tip of the Big Island

Northern tip of the Big Island – it looks like Wisconsin

The change is geography was dramatic. In the higher altitudes, it was extremely foggy, and sometimes rainy. By the time we made it to Kona, it was sunny and gorgeous again. The western side of the island is very rocky and rugged, with lots of lava fields. We did make it to one coffee plantation near Kona, though.

Coffee plantation in Kona, Hawaii

Coffee plantation in Kona, Hawaii

That night, we tried to sample Kona’s gay scene, but me and Jay ended up at a bar with one other guy and a very eager bartender. Not so great. Maybe we didn’t hit up the right place(s). We were exhausted anyway, and went to sleep in our gorgeous Airbnb rental with a view of the ocean beyond the city of Kona.

The next day, we drove to Volcano to see some of the hot magma and even more lava. What we saw, I will never forget for the rest of my life. Pictures don’t do it justice. It was a complete sensory experience. I could not only see it, but hear the crackle and force, smell the sulphur, and feel the vibration of the earth. Completely stunning.

I highly recommend a visit to Volcano if you are at all interested in geography/geology, or just want to experience the power of the earth.

Pele was raging

Pele was raging

Mist and fog filled the air all around the volcano

Mist and fog filled the air all around the volcano

We stayed that night at a creepy BnB we found on Pointshound. The woman was very religious, and the decorations were horrible. It was called End of Road Bed and Breakfast. Yeah, um… if you’re a fellow gay traveler, AVOID. We did have a fantastic dinner with lovely cocktails at the main lodge in Volcano. We wished we’d opted to stay there instead. Live and learn!

The next day, we returned the car and flew to Oahu.

OAHU

We were supposed to stay with one of my college friends on Oahu, but she screwed us over so we had to make last-minute Airbnb accomodations. Luckily, they were fine. We booked another car rental for pickup at HNL, this time with Budget. It was only $125 for three days.

We were most looking forward to our stay at the Hilton Waikiki Village. In the meantime, we partied with the gays in Honolulu, stayed out till four in the morning, and got drunk for $15 at a great little bar called Bacchus. Honolulu was very gay-friendly.

Dramz in Honolulu

Dramz in Honolulu

The next day, we explored Honoruru.

Honoruru

Honoruru

We went to check into the Hilton, which I booked through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts. It offered me a whole slew of upgrades, including early checkin, late checkout, room upgrade, free breakfast, and a $100 food and beverage credit to use in the resort.

When we finally found the checkin desk which took forever as the place is very poorly signed, I heard those magical words again. “Free upgrade.” But this time, we snagged ourselves an Ocean View Suite. It had a separate sitting area, a huge king sized bed, and a large bathroom filled with sweet-smelling coconut- and pineapple-based products. We were shown to our room by the Concierge, who made us feel very welcomed. He brought along a kit detailing all of our amenities.

Our suite

Our suite

View from the balcony

View of the Pacific from the balcony

Thanks, Hilton and Amex!

We definitely used our food and beverage credit!

We definitely used our food and beverage credit!

Kissing penguins at the Hilton

Kissing penguins at the Hilton

The next day, we laid on next to the beach until about 3pm and sipped Mai Tais. Then, we came in, showered, and packed up our things. The Hilton was wonderful! Five out of five stars.

Then, for our last day/evening in Hawaii, we had lunch at a little cafe downtown and dinner at an Italian restaurant further east, and drove around Oahu. We went down to Diamondhead and hiked down to the beach. There was supposed to be a gay beach down there, but all we could see was families with small children. We gave up and laid out to get a few last rays of sun.

Last day on Oahu

Last day on Oahu

All-in-all, a wonderful trip. A few observations:

  • Hawaii was way more religious than I expected. There were churches EVERYWHERE
  • The weather was perfect (that might warrant a DUH)
  • I felt very comfortable the entire time. Everyone was kind
  • Hawaiians LOVE Spam
  • It was no more expensive than anything in NYC
  • I would totally go back again. I think Maui was my fave! (Then the Big Island, then Oahu.)
They love it

They love it!

Bottom line

Couldn’t have asked for a better trip. Read this post to find out how I made this dream a reality. We only paid $100 per day between the two of us for hotels, car rentals, food, gas, souvenirs, AND R/T flights from New York.

This trip was my first points redemption. Safe to say I’m completely hooked!

Doesn't have to be!

Doesn’t have to be!

Hot dogs at HNL - back to NYC

Hot dogs at HNL – back to NYC

The flights back to New York were standard. We hung out in the nice SkyClub at HNL and had a couple of beers. When we got to LAX, we saw all members of the Boy Band 98 Degrees at the SkyClub. They were in business, of course. Jay and I were upgraded to Economy Comfort, which was a nice gesture. I sat right next to the door, and was the first person off the plane.

Fenwick was VERY happy to see us when we got back home to Brooklyn. I slept for a solid 12 hours to recoup from a long day of travel. A few days later, it snowed and was blisteringly cold, but I still had Hawaii on my mind as I geared up for my next trip to Madrid.

Hawaii: 10 Days and 3 Islands for $100 a Day

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card was my first premium credit card.

Before that, my credit history was full of collections, defaults, and charge-offs. My credit score was in the low 500s.

In early 2012, I resolved to finally get my credit under control. I used my tax return (in conjunction with my full-time job at the time) to pay down my credit cards to $0. I started making big payments at the end of January.

By late February, my credit score shot up to 702! Pretty amazing – but was I ready to apply for a premium card?

My relationship helped

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Another Lost Amex Bonus

Giiiive me the pointssss

Giiiive me the pointssss

Ugh, American Express just looooves to screw me out of bonuses. I recently got the Premier Rewards Gold card which comes now with a nice bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards points after only $1,000 of spend in the first three months. BUT! It’s not available if you already have a Green, Gold, or Platinum card. And I have the Platinum Card. It was right there in the terms and conditions the entire time. I guess that’s what I get for doing an app-o-rama while half drunk – OK, really drunk – on tequila. This isn’t the first time I’ve been screwed out of a bonus. Here’s why: I never actually applied for the Platinum Card. That’s right. I called to upgrade my Gold Delta card to a Platinum Delta card. Guess what came in the mail? Yep. And there was no signup bonus attached to it.

The accidental Platinum Card

The accidental Platinum Card

I bitched and bitched, called and emailed, and bitched some more to the point where I’m sure I’m on some sort of blacklist with Amex. I kept the card in the end because I had a big trip coming up with two friends and thought the free lounge access would be nice. Plus I wanted the airline credits and Global Entry… eventually. Basically, I wanted the card, but didn’t want it then. But I kept it as I’d already taken the ding on my credit report. I also still have the Gold Delta card. Go figure. You’d think that they’d offer MORE of a bonus for getting another card when you already have the Platinum Card, not less (or nothing!). I’m sorta hoping they give me the bonus for the Premier Rewards Gold card anyway. What’s the likelihood of that happening? Yes, I should’ve read the T&C more closely before I got all trigger-happy. But this is the second Amex bonus I’ve lost. It especially burns knowing that the Platinum Card recently had a 100,000 MR bonus. I’m sorta thinking of just canceling both cards for a year and starting all over from scratch. I don’t want a business version of either card, nor do I want to pay those hefty annual fees with no bonus to offset it. And of course Amex won’t match a public offer or award some goodwill points.

Fuck-Amex

Good thing I’ve had MUCH better luck with Chase. Totally open to thoughts/opinions on this. Just burns me so bad to lose out on 150,000 MR points between these two cards. That’s R/T biz class to Australia! I’ll end this one the way it began: UGH.

My First App-O-Rama 2.22.13

On the evening of February 22, 2013, I had a little too much tequila and decided to do an app-o-rama. Not the best idea ever, as I caused myself to miss out on yet ANOTHER Amex bonus by not paying close enough attention to the T&C. I think I was little nervous about applying for three cards in one night.

I would’ve applied for four, but I’m sorta between jobs/projects right now and didn’t want to push it with the minimum spend requirements. Here’s what I ended up getting:

british-airways-visa

Chase British Airways Visa Signature® Card

  • 50,000 Avios after spending $1,000 within three months
  • 25,000 more Avios after spending $10,000 in the first year
  • 25,000 MORE Avios after spending $20,000 in the first year

Why I got it:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Smart Chip Technology
  • Great earning structure: 2.5 Avios/dollar on BA and 1.25 on everything else. Pretty fantastic.
  • Avios are GREAT for short-haul trips under 650 miles – only 4,500 Avios each way in economy. But for short flights of ~2 hours, I couldn’t care less about class of service. This is great for visiting Montreal, Toronto, Boston, and other cities in the near-Northeast region. And it’s only 7,5000 Avios to Chicago (I love Chicago).  They’re also great for repositioning for mileage runs (I haven’t done one… yet.) This post from Extra Pack of Peanuts has a lot of great info about the Avios program.

AAdvantage Citi card

Citi Select® / AAdvantage® American Express® card

  • 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within four months
  • 2 Admirals Club lounge passes
  • $150 Statement Credit on American Airlines

Why I got it: 

  • To build up my AAdvantage balance
  • I am thinking of switching the bulk of my flying from Delta to American
  • 1 free checked bag, priority boarding, and get 10% of miles redeemed back (up to 10,000 miles per year)
  • $85 annual fee is waived for the first year (so why not)

premier-rewards-gold amex

And the sore spot. The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

I got in didn’t get in on this offer:

50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 within three months

Why I wanted it:

To build up my Membership Rewards balance

It has the best earning structure of all the MR cards (three points/dollar on airfare (four if booked thru Amex Travel), two at gas stations (moot point for NYC) and grocery stores (which could encourage me to not spend so much eating out!), and one point everywhere else.

I went ahead and put $1,000 of spend on it the first day JUST TO SEE if it would trigger the bonus or not. I’m not eligible for it because I already have the Platinum Card, but whatever. Anyone know how good Amex is about blocking bonuses for this reason? It’s entirely my fault – I should’ve read the T&C more closely. I blame first app-o-rama jitters and too much tequila.

I also really wanted to pick up the Ink Plus card from Chase while I was at it, but alas. The $5,000 spend within three months was a little bit much. Plus, I’ve got a lot of spending to put on the new British Airways card to unlock the full 100,000 Avios.

So that’s it. My first app-o-rama. I was instantly approved online for all three with nice credit lines on each, which made me feel really confident about my credit health. 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. 🙂