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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

Read More

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. 🙂