Unpublished/Secret Benefit of the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card?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 Is this an unpublished/secret benefit of having the PRG card?

Hotel Review: Holiday Inn @ SCL

Approaching the hotel

Outside the hotel

After flying LGA-ORD on American and MEX-LIM-EZE-SCL on LAN, I pretty much felt like a pile of garbage. I had a day-long layover to look forward to at SCL and booked a room at the Holiday Inn by redeeming a free night from hotels.com, who has a buy 10, get one free program – effectively 10% off all bookings made through the website. Anyway, I cleared immigration, already had my Chilean reciprocity from another trip earlier in the year (which is now a moot point since it is now free to visit Chile!) and made it through customs in about thirty minutes. I was so exhausted, my eyes were just about crossing trying to read the signs.

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New to Points and Miles? Read My Getting Started Guide!

A year or so ago, I made an e-book about how to get started with points and miles. I listed it on Amazon – a slim volume full of info. My friends kept asking me about it, and I kept emailing them copies. I’ve gotten some good response from it, so I decided to add it as a brand new section to Out and Out. I made a new tab called “NEW?” which contains the exact same information as the e-book, updated even, to reflect the current state of US Airways.

Please click here to start exploring the sections of the guide, or simply hover over the tab at the top of the website to access a drop-down menu. Feel free to pass the link along to anyone who might be interested in collecting points and miles. I tried to make it as simple and as thorough as possible. Please leave comments or email me if anything is unclear!

Hope this helps others get into the points and miles game. There are still plenty of strategies out there for free (or really cheap) travel.

Of course, if you’d rather have a nice volume for an e-reader or Kindle, you can still buy the e-book from Amazon (and I appreciate your support!).


 

One Year(ish) Later: The Barclaycard Arrival. Keep or toss?

So I’m going through it with my credit cards right now. I think I have about 14, which seems like a big number. I’m comfortable having that many (which took a long time – the comfort factor, I mean) but now I find there are one or two that I got for the signup bonus and never used again. Case in point: the American Express Premier Rewards Gold. It’s not worth having unless you can put $30,000 in spend on it within a year. If you don’t, the annual fee is too high to make it a firm keeper. The one year mark for that one rolls around next month, and I’m hoping I can downgrade it to one of the new Amex EverDay cards that are coming out soon. If I can’t do that, I will simply cancel.

What about the Arrivalcard? I’ve had this card for about a year, too, and have had some time to let my thoughts come together.

You're a keeper!

You’re a keeper!

I’m totally willing to pay the $89 annual fee in a month or so. Why?

  • I actually used TripIt Pro. A LOT
  • I redeemed my miles and earned a ton more both by making purchases and
  • THE AWESOME REWARDS PORTAL
  • I can get my FICO credit score on demand (which I like)
  • No forex fees
  • It’s a MasterCard (for places Visa or Amex aren’t accepted globally)
  • The rewards roll in fast, and redemption offers immediate gratification
  • The card actually offers around 2.27% travel cash back – one of the highest cash back cards in the industry
  • I’m just plain curious to see what else Barclays is gonna do with this card

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Evolution of the Out and Out Logo

I thought it was high time to get a proper logo for Out and Out. Who else but to enlist but my partner who’s a talented illustrator?

I found the evolution of the logo fascinating, and wanted to share.

The original direction for the logo was no direction at all. I think I said something like, “go crazy.”

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Hotel Review: Grand Hyatt Santiago

Atrium at Grant Hyatt Santiago
Atrium at Grant Hyatt Santiago

Holy *bleep*. And you guys know I don’t use profanity lightly (not).

This was a gorgeous property, and is only categorized as a Category 2.

Upon walking in, I immediately thought this property should be in a much higher category than it is. But after further reflection, it’s the location that brings it down so much.

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Confession: I Got a Kohl’s Card

kohls-card

Late one cold, hoary evening, I did the unthinkable: started dabbling with some store credit cards.

The psychology of it goes back a couple of weeks when I signed up for a LivingSocial coupon to get a Costco membership for really cheap. When I went in to activate the membership, they successfully upsold me to an Executive membership with the best sales pitch of all time, dang it. They also offered me a Costco card, which offers 3% Costco cash back on gas, 2% back on Costco and restaurants (?!) and 1% on everything else. However, the benefits were duplicates of categories I already enjoy with other Amex cards, and I couldn’t justify getting my credit pulled for it. With the Fidelity American Express, I get 2% cash back at Costco, at restaurants, and on every other purchase, period, with no limits. Also no annual fee. So, no, I couldn’t do it.

Anyway, after that, I started poking around online to compare Costco prices to other department and grocery stores. I wanted to make sure I’d REALLY be saving, especially as shopping at Costco.com means giving up portal bonuses. Somehow, I ended up on Gap.com. Now, I’ve had a Gapcard since 2005, no annual fee, not hurting anything by having it and might as well keep it to help age my credit by this point. I noticed an offer to upgrade to a Gap Visa and get an increase on the limit from $1,000 to $2,500. No hard pull (called to confirm) since I was pre-approved and $50 in cash to spend at the Gap. Might as well help my credit and get some new jeans. Accepted the offer.

Then, navigated my way to Kohl’s. Now, both Frequent Miler and Frugal Travel Guy (whom I stole borrowed this post title from) have both sung the praises of Kohl’s and its card for a while by now. After all, it offers:

  • Frequent 30% off discounts for having the card
  • $10 back in Kohl’s Cash when spending $50 at certain times
  • The 30% off and the Kohl’s Cash promotions often overlap
  • Chase has been offering 10 points a dollar through its portals for a loooong time ($100 spent gets you $20 back in Kohl’s Cash PLUS 1,000 Ultimate Reward points, which I value at ANOTHER $20 back, in a much more versatile currency)
  • Free shipping over $75
  • LOTS of discounts on home items, small appliances, clothes, other department store-type stuff that I might not want to buy at Costco (since Costco is what opened this whole Pandora’s box of store cards anyway)

I poked around through the website and saw lots of things I could pick up for home: an area rug, a new dog bed for Fenwick, some new towels, maybe some new socks and thermal undies (why won’t this winter END?). Getting cash back, Ultimate Rewards points, and 30% off sure sounded nice. And the main selling point was that you only get the discount if you have the card. That, and if you spend over $600 a year, you get even more coupons and VIP status with Kohl’s. I’ve never had VIP status with a department store before.

The other thing, as with any decision to get a new card, was personal. I do think I’d like to spend some time to spruce up my apartment, and thought that having this card would help me both save and earn some money at the same time. Plus, it’s no annual fee. It’ll help to age my credit and improve my available-to-used credit ratio. Why the heck not. I filled out the little form, and 60 seconds later had a new Kohl’s card.

I get my first chance to use the 30% off + Kohl’s cash + UR points combo starting on March 7th. They have a discount code for 30% off and free shipping on any order. Here’s the scoop:

30% off promo code is MARCH30

Free shipping promo code is MAR4USHIP

Both codes are valid from March 7 – March 16, 2014.

Everyone earns Kohl’s cash for every $50 spent March 7 to March 16

Redeem dates to be added. Happy shopping!

Anyway, will post updates when I make my first purchase. Can’t wait to get a new dog bed for Fenwick. They have literally hundreds to choose from. I spent over an hour selecting the perfect one after reading lots and lots of reviews for each dog bed. Like I said, it was late on a cold, hoary evening. 🙂

Review: Etihad Pearl Class MEL-AUH

I was beyond excited to get on this flight, for a number of reasons. It was the capstone to an amazing trip, afforded us a day in Abu Dhabi, and I had two Lufthansa flights (my first!) to look forward to after the day passed.

I hoped that somehow, some way, mayyybeeee, we’d get upgraded to Diamond Class. I knew the cabin was full when I booked, but stuff happens, and I had hope. I asked at checkin at AUH (which was smooth as silk and the agent was textbook perfect) about the upgrade, but there weren’t any. But I didn’t care. We were invited into the (name of lounge) and waited there until the flight left off at THREE A.M. This was the earliest/latest flight I’ve ever taken so I was curious about how they’d worked out the timing of the meals and what amenities would be offered. The lounge was fantastic, but by the time 2am rolled around, I was veritably nodding off.

First impressions

We boarded the flight and quickly found our seats. Walking through the Diamond Class cabin was rough, though. Those suites are gorgeous, opulent, spacious… everything that everyone says about them. The colors used on the plane are wonderful neutrals with black and white splashes here and there (i.e. the famous black and white striped pillows). As soon as I saw those pillows in the seat, I could already feel the comfort setting in. And it felt NICE.

Seat in Etihad Pearl Business Class

Seat 7F in Etihad Pearl Business Class

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Trip Report: LAN Premium Business Class MEX-LIM-EZE-SCL

After spending way too much for a mimosa at the underwhelming Amex Centurion Lounge, I made my way to the gate, amped to be back on LAN again for another big trip (the first was MIA-SCL-IPC-SCL-MIA in May).

I really like this airline and am glad they’re a part of Oneworld. After switching terminals at MEX, I was ready to set my bags down and relax. Boarding at MEX is always kind of a bleepshow, so I was really glad to be in business and sidestep most of that. Then finally, I was on the plane.

Before takeoff

Settling into the seat felt familiar, and the flight attendants were immediately welcoming and gracious. There was nothing at my seat, but I knew from flying them before that pillows and duvets were in the overhead compartment and that magazines and amenity kits were distributed after boarding. There was a menu in the seat back pocket, so I took a look at the options. Then the FAs came around to offer beverages and ahem, warm nuts, so I got a red wine, a water, and yes, the nuts. 🙂

Seat 4A

Seat 4A

Wine, water, and nuts

Wine, water, and nuts (and seat controls)

Ample leg room

Ample leg room

Shoes in the cubby

Shoes in the cubby 

Dinner options

Dinner menu cover

Dinner menu cover

Entrees and desserts

Entrees and desserts

Bebidas

Bebidas

After takeoff

Shortly after takeoff, the FAs came around with the amenity kits: brown or dark grey for men and cream/off-white for women.

Men's amenity kit

Men’s amenity kit

This kit contained socks, ear plugs, a pen, lip balm, lotion, and a disposable garment bag.

Amenity kit contents

Amenity kit contents

Right after I explored the contents of the kit, the purser came over to take dinner orders. I selected the grilled steak, curious to see if it would be any good. For dessert, I chose the caramel blancmange, which had the consistency of flan.

Grilled steak entree

Grilled steak entree

2013-11-23 17.01.14

And of course a Bailey’s :p

The steak was actually quite good. Not as tender as I would’ve liked, but still very flavorful. The sides were well-portioned, and I ended up eating everything on my tray, salad and dessert included. I also ordered another glass of wine, after which I was about ready to pass out as this was an overnight flight.

 

Right after the dinner service, the cabin was dimmed. I fell asleep and woke up when we were descending into LIM. After that, a short layover, then a short flight to EZE. I slept the ENTIRE TIME. Like, from the moment I entered the plane until it touched down. Didn’t order anything, just put the seat into the lie-flat position and slept for the 3.5 hour flight. It felt so nice.

The layover at EZE was only one hour. We kept the same plane, but I had to switch gates, which was “e-eze” enough. Then one more short flight into SCL.Again with seat 4A.

Cabin interior

Cabin interior

Shortly after a simple breakfast service, we descended over the Andes in SCL right after sunrise, which was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had on a plane. The business class cabin was mostly empty, and I was able to geek out while taking several pictures of the snow-capped mountains and high-altitude lakes.

Before landing

Above the Andes

Above the Andes

Beautiful high-altitude lake

Beautiful high-altitude lake

Right before, I realized I was dead tired. After all, I’d just had FIVE flights in a row (LGA-ORD, ORD-MEX, MEX-LIM, LIM-EZE, EZE-SCL). I had a day-long layover at SCL to look forward to and was praying that the Holiday Inn at the airport would let me check in early, as I’d be getting there around 10am after getting through customs.

How I felt:

Attractive

Attractive…

I was ready to shower and sleep. I am glad the last three segments were on LAN, though. They took good care of me.

Bottom line

If you ever get the opportunity to fly LAN’s Premium Business product, it’s well worth it. They are a wonderful airline to have in Oneworld, and certainly make it easy to get to Central or South America. Their product is top-notch. Not opulent like others, but just the right amount of everything. I jump every time I get the chance to fly on LAN.

Thoughts on LAN Premium Business Class MEX-LIM-EZE-SCL-IPC-SCL-MEX

It was crazier than it looks
It was crazier than it looks

Did you read that crazy-ass routing up there? Yeah, I flew that. It’s not the craziest route anyone’s ever done, but I can tell ya this: I WAS TIRED. The flight times were pretty brutal, and the connections were hella tight. The SCL-MEX segment, por empleje, left at midnight and arrived at 6am. I don’t remember LIM-EZE at all. Why? Zzzzz.

However, I can say with confidence that I am familiar with the two iterations of LAN’s Premium Business class product. There’s an old one and a new one, and I’ve flown them both several times by now, esp after my trip to Easter Island in May on LAN. When I saw a cheap fare to Santiago that connected in Easter Island, all in biz, and under $1000, I had to jump. This trip easily net me 50,000 miles, which I value at around $1000 anyway, put the over the Platinum threshold for the year, and gave me a nice amount of upgrade “stickers” on AA. Worth it? Hell yes. AND I got to experience the beautiful city of Santiago. Much Espanol was heard, but very little was spoken.

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Trip Report: American Airlines Main Cabin Extra / Business Class LGA-ORD / ORD-MEX

Blue Jasmine
No
Now You See Me
Rear Window
(^^^ List of movies I watched on LAN) 
My trip reports lately have been less about tech specs and specific details and more about overall brand and culture, which is what I have been interested in lately. Especially with American, and especially with this merger a definite go.
I had a Saturday morning flight that took off at 6am. Whoops – I am so not a morning person.
I went out to an early dinner, had a pear-tini, and forced myself to pass out around 10pm (after slap dashing the packing). I woke up at 3:30am, fresh as a daisy, completely out of it. I was so tired I forgot to pack my hotel information. At another point, I wondered if I remembered to pack my toiletries in a little baggie (I did). There was no way I was going to brave the lovely bowels of the MTA to LGA at 4am, so I paid $50 for a car. It stung, but whatever.
The Pre-Check line at LGA was closed. “It doesn’t open until 5am,” the security guy told me. Which meant I was at LGA before 5am. I was just amazed I got it together enough to even anywhere before 5am.
The Admirals Club in Terminal D opened after I cleared security, and I downed a cup of coffee and a super sugary strudel. A few minutes later, it was boarding time. Read More