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MasterCard: World Vs World Elite Benefits

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When I received my Barclaycard Arrival approval email today, something in the wording caught my attention. I’d been approved for a “World” MasterCard.

What's

What’s “World”?

Then I flashed back to when I received my new Ink Plus card in the mail. I remembered flipping that beautiful baby over and seeing this:

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What’s “World Elite”?

Google searches didn’t really yield anything concrete. I did, however, end up on the MasterCard page and they lay out the benefits really nicely. Here’s what I’ve surmised:

World benefits are pretty limited. It’s like they’re competing with Visa Signature. I’m literally going to copy & paste:

CONCIERGE SERVICES

  • Enjoy exclusive, personal assistance with dinner reservations, event tickets, 
locating hard-to-find items, buying and delivering gifts, and coordinating business related arrangements. Knowledgeable experts can assist with whatever you need, whenever you need it – 24 x 7 x 365. This takes “Concierge Service” to the next level with robust, personalized features that will save you time and simplify your day.

PRICE PROTECTION

  • Should you find a lower price for a new item using your eligible MasterCard card, you may be reimbursed for the price difference.
For more information about the coverage you may be eligible to receive, 
call 1-800-MC-ASSIST (800-622-7747). To file a claim on-line, go to www.mycardbenefits.com.

MASTERCARD GLOBAL SERVICE

  • Get emergency assistance virtually anytime, anywhere and in any language. MasterCard Global Service helps you with reporting a Lost or Stolen Card, obtaining an Emergency Card Replacement or Cash Advance, finding an ATM location, and answering questions on your account.

MASTERCARD AIRPORT CONCIERGE™

  • Arrange for a personal, dedicated Meet and Greet agent to escort you through the airport on departure, arrival or any connecting flights, 24/7/365 at over 450 destinations worldwide.

WORLD HOTELS & RESORTS PROGRAM

  • Make your next travel experience truly priceless. Access our portfolio of some of the finest hotels and resorts the world has to offer – all presenting you with an exceptional lodging experience. Enjoy complimentary room upgrades, early check-in and late check-out privileges, exclusive World MasterCard amenities, and more.

For comparison, here are the Visa Signature benefits:

  • Cardholder Inquiry Service
  • Emergency Card Replacement and Emergency Cash Disbursement
  • Lost/Stolen Card Reporting
  • No Pre-Set Spending Limit
  • Purchase Security
  • Warranty Manager Service
  • Year-End Summary Statements
  • Zero Liability
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
  • Lost Luggage Reimbursement
  • Roadside Dispatch
  • Travel Accident Insurance
  • Travel and Emergency Assistance Services

Now on to the good stuff. I was sort of shocked (in a good way) when I saw the full list of World Elite benefits. They blow both World and Visa Signature out da water!

It includes all the benefits listed for “World” above + a TON more and is obviously the winner.

The basics

The basics

The one that immediately caught my attention was Priceless New York.

It grants access to lots of cool things going on in town like concert VIP packages, culinary experiences, shopping deals, and discounts on services.

I signed up for the email list and will be sure to report if I ever end up using it. Cool idea! I’d love to use it, being based in NYC and all.

But then, I started digging a little deeper and found a lot of other info. What caught my attention the most was the “Air” section of the Travel Benefits page, particularly the offerings on a diverse range of carriers like Swiss, Austrian, Etihad, Lufthansa, LAN, and Virgin Atlantic.

Interesting...

Interesting…

Some of the “upgrades” specifically say you need to’ve purchased a full-fare ticket, which can oftentimes be as much, or more than, business class to begin with. But LAN’s, for example, just says you can upgrade “from an eligible coach ticket.” What’s an eligible coach ticket, LAN? I’m assuming they mean a full-fare ticket, but I would definitely be interested in learning more.

Aer Lingus is very clear about their policy

Aer Lingus is very clear about their policy

LAN is super wishy-washy

LAN is super wishy-washy

Other benefits from a World Elite card include:

  • $1000 off a first class ticket on Etihad
  • 50% off a biz class companion ticket on Etihad
  • 20%-30% off biz class tickets on LAN
  • “Special savings” on Virgin Atlantic
  • Upgrades on these carriers: Aer Lingus, Austrian, Etihad, LAN, Lufhansa, SAS, and Swiss

Pretty awesome!

They also have quite an extensive list of tours, cruises, rental cars, private offers from companies like NorthShore Advisory (consultants), and hotels. I arbitrarily picked New Orleans from the hotel list and turned up a few good options:

Screen shot 2013-05-12 at 10.20.23 PM

World Elite benefits in NOLA

All the options include upgrade, late check-out, and daily breakfast for two. Also, a “guaranteed best rate”. Maybe I’ll test their pricing for an upcoming trip…

All-in-all, I was pretty blown away to find out my new Ink Plus gave me all these benefits. I’ve never read about these totally legit, published benefits on any other blog before – sorry if this is old news!

I probably won’t be booking a private jet or chauffeured car any time soon, but for rental cars, air tickets, and hotels, this could turn out to be a real hidden gem.

AAdvantage Miles and Thoughts on American

So I am love love loving the AAdvantage program the more I get into it. I recently discovered that American has what’s called an “Explorer Award” – an award that permits one to make 16 stops in a RTW ticket for 150,000 AAdvantage miles.

That would be a great reason to take a few months off of work to just travel. It’s pie in the sky  for me at this point, but considering my balance is about half of what’s needed, I still have some time to think about it. I do, however, think it’s a tremendous value, and a way to see many cities for dirt cheap and save a lot of miles doing it.

aadvantage-balance

 

So far, I have about 77,000 AAdvantage miles. So I’d need 73,000 more. That sounds like a lot, but it’s totally do-able. The motivation is definitely there.

Orrr, I could make an award booking, like a weekend in Vancouver on Cathay Pacific, or maybe pop over to Europe for a long weekend this summer. But nothing beats the intoxicating thought of traveling all the way around the world.

I’d wanna hit Prague, Vienna, Tokyo, Sydney, Auckland, Cape Town, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and some great Canadian city before slithering back to New York. My heart explodes just thinking about it.

 

The other thing is that this, along with my upcoming trips to Easter Island and Alaska on American, have got me really considering switching my loyalty over. I just dread what the US Airways merger is going to bring. But in another way altogether, I’m genuinely curious, too. American also just released some awesome elite rewards, so more than ever, I’m considering challenging for Platinum status.

Delta continues to spiral down while American seems interested in being a better airline. Sure, they both have their pitfalls. American can be stingy with upgrades for lower elites, but on Delta they’re pretty much impossible. There’s the issue of American’s tiny regional jets out of NYC. But their miles are a hell of lot easier to redeem. Harder to earn, true, but the fact that Delta partners with Amex really bugs me because Amex is a stingy, bitchy little company (more on that later).

Anyway, thinking of all these wonderful options, including an award redemption Delta could never touch, makes me think about what I want for myself in the future. I did slash do like Delta, but I can feel myself starting to sing a new tune. After my upcoming trips, there will be a few really fierce trip reports… then more comparisons. The only wild card here in US freaking Airways. I said it one and I’ll say it again: I Hope US Airways Doesn’t Ruin American’s Culture.

Where My Peeps At?

I just checked the Google Analytics on this lil’ site and my head just about fell off:

Out-and-Out-traffic

This is awesome

 

That’s the US traffic for Out and Out! ZOMG!

It’s so weird/cool to see this site, which I’ve been sorely neglecting get a good amount of traffic from all over the country. I guess I just want to say thanks for reading… and I’d love to get to know more of you! Besos!

Mo’ Avios, Mo’ Problemz

Since meeting the first spending requirement on my new British Airways Visa Signature, I have become Avios-rich to the point where I don’t know what to do with them all. It’s introducing all sorts of new issues, including problems I love to have (see: Dilemma of the Day: Which Caribbean Island?).

Almost 64,000 Avios!

Almost 64,000 Avios!

What could I do with 64,000 Avios?

  • Take 7 trips to Montreal, Toronto, Boston, DC, Charlotte, or any other number of cool cities
  • Take 3 trips to islands in the Caribbean
  • Visit Vancouver for a long weekend
  • Go back to Hawaii

After I meet the next set of spending requirements, I’ll have well over 100,000 Avios and can do even more. I’ve also just discovered the BA eStore, which includes a few merchants I shop regularly at great payouts. I’m really getting into Avios for their practical purpose of short-haul flights (and for getting to Ireland on the cheaps!).

Now the only problem is finding the time to use them all…

I Got a Job

Yup. A full-time, big boy job at a PR firm in Manhattan. The hours? Monday to Friday, nine-to-five. Basic. I started the new position on April 1st. It’s all button-ups and staff meetings, conference calls, and a whole lot of Outlook calendaring.

Nine to Five 1

While I’m grateful to have it, it IS going to cut into my travel plans, big time. I sorta wondered about the direction this blog would take now that my travel is going to decrease. But you know what? I’m still earning miles and points, still researching trips, and still deeply curious about the world and about travel. So the conclusion I’ve come to is that nothing really has to change. And if anything, it’ll give me a chance to talk about life, art, and New York a bit more. But the focus will remain squarely on travel.

I also realized I have a ton of trips coming up. I’m headed to Easter Island May 18-24, Anchorage August 22-27, and I’m sure I’ll squeeze in a quick trip to Toronto or Montreal using all my new Avios points. 🙂

While I’d love to be getting out more, it’ll be good for me to save up some cash, pay down my student loans, and carefully plan the next phase of my life. So if anyone’s wondered why I’ve been quiet lately, that’s why. But I’m back and feeling more focused than ever.

 

Other new developments:

YOGA

  • I’ve been doing a ton of yoga. Slowly getting more flexible, and already feeling so many positive health benefits.

BREAKFAST

  • I never really could eat breakfast. I got a blender, specifically a Magic Bullet (from drugstore.com after clicking thru the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal for 5x points/dollar), and have started having protein-rich smoothies to get my metabolism going at 7:30AM. I’ve also been slowly weening myself off coffee, which has been so hard and so full of headaches. It’s ultimately for the best, but it’s another step toward health.

BOOK/ART

  • I’ve been editing a new book of essays and want to get that out ASAP. So that’s been taking up the bulk of my writing time. And after that, I want to start painting again. A LOT. Maybe grad school is in the cards?

 

So life is changing for the better. It’s slow and steady, and chugging right along. And I can’t freaking WAIT to go to Easter Island in two weeks (!). C’est la vie.

 

Can't wait to see them heads!

Can’t wait to see them heads!

Got the Staples Rebate Checks, But Not the AAdvantage Miles… Yet.

See original posts here and here.

So I did get those darn Staples checks after all. Yup, two checks for $250 each. Buying that software helped me to meet the minimum spend on my Citi AAdvantage Amex, and I’ve received my 50,000 bonus miles + $150 statement credit for my upcoming trip to Alaska. All good things. But, I clicked through the AAdvantage shopping portal before buying the software, and to date, have not received the additional 1,000 miles. Grrr.

I wrote to them a week ago, and immediately received an auto-reply that said to give it an additional 4-8 weeks for research and processing. So, I’m still holding out hope that I make good on my original post and get 1,500 free AAdvantage miles.

Now that my balance is reaching 70,000 miles, I’m torn between an awesome redemption or saving up for an around-the-world Explorer Award. TO BE CONTINUED.

 

Birchbox Is Rocking My Face (and Hair)

I just got my first Birchbox in the mail this week. The March box included a great styling paste for hair, shaving cream, a beer koozie, awesome bottle opener, and set of two leather coasters.

First BirchBox

First BirchBox

 

The idea behind Birchbox is that they send you deluxe samples of nice grooming products once a month for $20. What’s in the box is worth more than $20, but then if you like a particular product, you can buy a full size of it at a discounted rate. Great idea, and awesomely progressive way of marketing. The boxes are packaged really well, and they give you the chance to tell them what you like so you’ll get targeted items in your box.

I loved my first one, and will definitely keep it for a few months to see the progression of the products through a couple of seasons. Sign up using this link and I’ll get a small referral credit, which is much appreciated. They have a version for both ladies and gentlemen. A cool little box of treats loaded with samples every month? Yes, plz. Gotta rep the NYC love too, cuz they’re based here. 🙂

I put the subscription charge onto my British Airways Visa to help meet the ginormous minimum spend requirement to unlock the full bonus and to pick up a few more Avios every month. It all adds up!

The Feeling of Travel

It occurred to me today as I stepped on Delta metal after being on United and Aeromexico flights the past day or so. It felt right.

There are so many options when it comes to carriers. I think people who travel often should sample a wide variety of them before committing. I’m sort semi-dating American right now though I do like Delta a lot. The feelings I like when I’m on Delta are of being assured, feeling safe, and stepping into an old habit or groove. I feel like I can relax as the MQMs are flowing in. I understand the (arguably shitty) SkyMiles program, and know what I want to use it for (hint: trip to Australia later this year). I know the hubs, the routes, how to wring blood out of a stone AKA book an award flight with them. I dunno, it just felt natural somehow.

That’s the feeling I seek when I travel. That sense of rightness, and of exploration, and of comfort. I know my upgrade chances are always slim with Delta, and I wish that would improve, but I always look forward to the SkyClubs. Delta giveth and Delta taketh away.

On the contrary, being on United metal felt kinda icky to me. It’s a shame because I love Chase Bank so much. Their credit card signup bonuses are the best in the industry. If Chase partnered with Delta, that would be the best-case scenario. But they don’t. They have United. Bleh. I avoid giving them revenue whenever possible. I would really only use them if I were flying free or booking an award on another, better airline. Why don’t I like United?

Just in that same way that Delta jives with me, United just doesn’t. I find the FAs and CSRs to be almost kind of spiteful and vindictive. It’s like there’s this mean streak running through the core of the company and I can’t quite place, but that shows up from time to time. And each time, like yesterday, I’m reminded why I avoid United. Some people love United, and that’s great. Maybe they live in Houston or Chicago, or just really like the service or clubs or destinations.

There are many reasons why people like the things that like. But some of them just can’t be placed.

Am I off here? I love being up in the air. Love it. But more and more lately, I’m becoming very aware of the company I’m sharing the experience with.

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

MTA Fare Hikes Are Killing NYC

 

 

Argh, the lovely and esteemed MTA has once again raised fares on the subways of NYC. I usually by a weekly because I don’t get enough value out of a monthly. When I went to refill my weekly card before hopping on the F Train today, I noticed a whole slew of new info screens at the machines. My $29 MetroCard was now $30. Overnight. Thank god I get 2 points/dollar with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

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New fares! Don’t like ’em? Go kill yourself.

It’s also an extra $1 if you want a brand new card (or you can swap in an old one for free). I sometimes get a new card because the magnetism on the card wears off after a while, meaning you have to go talk to one of the agents in the little booth. This is always a debilitating experience, because they:

1. Glare at you like you’re the most annoying person in the world

2. Move as slow as possible, even, and especially if, a train is pulling into the station

3. Hate to be useful, preferring to look bored and annoyed

4. Berate you if you make any indication that you are in a hurry (which everyone always is)

 

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Poor tourists

 

 

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I can’t say I’m surprised by the newest round of hikes, but the MTA is killing NYC. It’s little things like this that are slowly chipping away at my willingness to continue living in this corrupt, overcrowded, but insanely fun and cultural city. My love/hate relationship with New York is already pretty extreme. This just exacerbates it way more.

The newest round of hikes is especially rough for Long Islanders, and for any of the B&T (Bridge & Tunnel) commuters because LIRR and bridge tolls are more expensive, too. So in the future, when you want to visit New York, it’s going to cost you more to get around. After a while, they’re going to price all the tourists, and eventually the residents, out – one little annoying overpriced fee at a time. The “green” fee – $1 for a new card – is, for me, the worst. What a crock of shit.

Happy travels? Yeah, right. Have you been on a piss-smelling, packed-like-sardines, frequently rerouted MTA train lately? Wait till 2015! More hikes on the way. I hope to be long gone by then. Thanks, MTA, for slowly killing NYC.