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A Step Beyond Foreign Transaction Fees: Bank Exchange Rates Affect How Much You Pay Abroad

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The other day, when I wrote about my experience booking a hotel room in Martinique, I pulled up the Mercez app to see what exchange rate I’d get on $1,118 Euros with the Citi Prestige card.

Lots of cards advertise “no foreign transaction fees” which means they don’t add extra fees to the amount they convert.

Mercez tells you the real rate for each of your cards

Mercez tells you the real rate for each of your cards

But what’s interesting is not all banks convert cash at the same rate.

The amounts can add up, especially if you spend a lot (or live) abroad.

Rates according to Mercez

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5 Hyatt Category 4 Hotels Where the Hyatt Card Annual Free Night Rocks

 

I’ve had some pretty good experiences with Hyatt points, even though the way they handled their recent Hyatt Diamond promo was a disaster. #jaded

Anyway, one can have a finite number of Chase cards, but I choose to renew the Chase Hyatt card year after year.

That’s because you get a free night certificate when you renew the card each year, and it’s good at Category 1 through 4 hotels. So obviously, I try to use them at Category 4 properties to get outsized value.

Last year, I gave my free night away to Jay’s grandparents for a night at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch (which is a Category 2), because the certificate was about to expire and it was their anniversary. Jay and I both have the Chase Hyatt card, so we gave them 2 nights at the hotel. They loved it!

hyatt category 4 hotels

New year, new options!

I just renewed the card again and paid the $75 annual fee, so I thought I’d take a spin through the Category 4 hotel list to see where I might use the annual free night in 2016.

I found at least 6 hotels where you’ll recoup the annual fee 4x over… or more. It got me thinking.

Never change

Never change

Oh, and because these are all Category 4 hotels, you can also redeem 15,000 Hyatt points for a free night. In many cases, you’ll get over 4 cents per point in value!

5 Hyatt hotels worth 4x or more than the annual fee on the Chase Hyatt card

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Easily Save Money With Paribus and Giving Assistant

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I’ve been shopping at Amazon.com a lot recently (for things like rose petal water), and have gotten a few bucks back here and there.

I liken it to seeing a buck on the ground. It’s not a lot, but you’re definitely gonna pick it up, right?

It’s kinda like that.

Were going into Q4 on Thursday, October 1st, which is a big day for Amazon shoppers and means:

  • 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on the Chase Freedom + 5% cash back 
  • 15% cash back possible with Discover It

There are 2 services that’ll boost your Amazon shopping experience and maybe give you a few bucks back.

Paribus

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Chase Ink Plus Vs. Ink Cash: What Are the Differences?

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I haven’t written about the Chase Ink cards very much, but I’ve been thinking about picking up a Chase Ink Cash lately. I already have a Chase Ink Plus. It’s possible to get both because they’re technically different card products.

They have a lot in common. But there are a few differences that make or break the value you’ll get from them.

Biggest similarities

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Chase Is Crackin’ Down on Churners

While reviewing the new T&Cs of the:

  • Chase Ink Cash
  • Chase Ink Plus
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred

…I noticed some new language I hadn’t seen before:

Chase cardmembers who currently have or have had a Chase credit card in any Rewards Program associated with this offer, may not be eligible for a second Chase credit card in the same Rewards Program. Chase cardmembers currently receiving promotional pricing, or Chase cardmembers with a history of only using their current or prior Chase card for promotional pricing offers, are not eligible for a second Chase credit card with promotional pricing.

Here’s a screenshot:

asdad

It’s under “Replying to this offer”

Why this is interesting

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Discover it® Cashback Match™ Is an Amazing Cashback Card (For the 1st Year at Least)!

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My new Discover It card came in the mail this week, in very nice packaging.

I activated it online and got about to exploring Discover Deals now that I have full access.

And I might have to change my tune now.

I’ve long heralded the Fidelity AMEX as the best cashback card.

But now I’ll refer to it as the best ongoing cashback card. Because, the 1st year at least, the Discover It has it beat by a mile.

I’ll still get great use out of the Discover It card the 2nd year, albeit much reduced.

The 1st year, this card is good for an easy $600, at least. And I’m even thinking this no annual fee card has the potential for over $1,000 back.

Getting the Discover It card

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No Annual Fee Cards + Personal Finance: Why You Need (At Least) One

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Like it or not, in this country you need good credit. It’s as avoidable as death or taxes. As in, not at all.

Starting out with credit cards, you’ll encounter a catch-22: you need good credit to get a credit card, but you need a credit card to build good credit.

No annual fee cards are NOT boring. In fact, they have some innovative rewards!

No annual fee cards are NOT boring. In fact, they have some innovative rewards!

A good place to start is no annual fee cards.

For beginners

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Chase IHG MasterCard Sign-Up Bonus Counts Toward Spire Elite Status!

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Update 7/13/15: Some peeps are reporting their sign-up bonus is NOT counting toward Spire elite status. I got my Chase IHG MasterCard in February of 2015. If you got the card this year, it’s worth checking to see if the sign-up bonus counts toward Spire status. Also, for some at least, ALL of the spend on the Chase IHG MasterCard counts toward Spire status!

I was all hot-n-heavy for IHG for a second there. I was targeted to receive 80,000 IHG points on the Chase IHG MasterCard and I thought you know what, OK. So I got it, met the minimum spend and then… never used it again.

I logged in today to see how many IHG points I had, and noticed I’d been upgraded? To Spire?

I mean, yeah, that's cool

I mean, yeah, that’s cool, but… how?

Then I dug a little and realized…

The sign-up bonus counts toward Spire

I haven’t stayed at an IHG hotel since the fantastic InterContinental in Sydney.

All I did was get the Chase IHG MasterCard, register for the “Set Your Sights” promo, and meet the minimum spend.

But apparently the 80,000 points I earned from the Chase IHG Visa overqualified me toward Spire, which requires 75 nights at IHG hotels or 75,000 elite qualifying points.

All points earned from the Chase IHG Visa, including the sign-up bonus, counts toward Spire status

All points earned from the Chase IHG Visa, including the sign-up bonus, counts toward Spire status

Here’s literally all of the activity in my IHG this year:

All

All the Chase IHG MasterCard Activity adds up to all the IHG EQPs I’ve earned this year

And as you can see, after upgrading to Spire, I was given the choice to add 25,000 IHG points to my account -or- gift IHG Platinum status to a friend.

I took the 25,000 IHG points and ran! 

Yay-isss!

Yay-isss!

So when you think about it, I actually got over 100,000 IHG points for opening the Chase IHG MasterCard. Because the bonus alone was enough to earn Spire, and then IHG gave me 25,000 more points.

And, I’ll have the status until the end of 2016. IHG says:

Once you have earned the newest membership status in any calendar year, you will maintain such status until the end of the following calendar year.

So that’s kinda… awesome!

Bottom line

The upgrade to Spire makes me want to plan more IHG stays so I can earn 100% bonus points… and see how good the upgrade situation really is and assess elite treatment.

I might go out of my way to stay at more IHG properties this year, if only for the sake of using IHG points. To be continued…

Was anyone else auto-upgraded to Spire? 

Thank you for using my links to get a travel rewards card! Right now, the bonus on the IHG card is 60,000 IHG points after meeting the minimum spending requirement of spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Get an Easy $600 with the Discover it® Cashback Match™ Card

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Sorry if that headline sounds clickbait-y but I’m seriously considering getting the Discover It card.

Update: I got “it!”

I’m not crazy about the name of the card. It’s hard to refer to “It.”

discover it cash back

I might discover… It

– Where’s my “It”?

– Your what?

– My “It!” Discover “It!”

– You’ve lost your damn mind.

But no for reals when I looked at the categories and did the math, I thought how lucrative this no annual fee card could be.

The cashback of the Discover It

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Use Avios for Connecting Flights to Save Money

I’ve been thinking about taking a trip down to New Mexico recently and it got me thinking about fare constructions and how to get to regional airports as cheaply as possible.

There's still lots of value to be had from Avios

There’s still lots of value to be had from Avios

The idea here is to fly on Oneworld into a hub city or cheap destination, and then use Avios for the (usually) more expensive, shorter leg of the itinerary.

LGA-DFW-ABQ

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My experience renting a car in Ireland (Woof!)

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Thinking about renting a car in Ireland?

Woof:
verb: to declare something bad, ugly, terrible, or nasty.
interjection: use as an expletive to express disgust or surprise.
Can be a replacement for damn that sucks!

Upon landing at DUB, I knew the next step was to go pick up the rental car.

So here’s how I did it (made the booking not picked up the car).

The booking

I ran a quick search on the Chase Ultimate Rewards website – they generally have fantastic rates on rental cars. That’s how I got such a good deal in Hawaii. Keep in mind that they ONLY service airport locations and you MUST pick up and return to the same location.

They quoted me at ~$325 for a 6-day rental. Not bad.

But when I hopped on kayak.com to compare and they had rentals pricing out at 9 Euros per day. And 85 Euros for the 6-day rental (~$97). Now that was a screaming deal. I booked a car at Dollar via priceline.com.

renting a car in ireland

My Kayak to Priceline to Dollar car rental booking – 85 Euros

My only criteria were:

  • 4-door (for ease of getting luggage in and out)
  • Automatic transmission
  • Unlimited kilometers (I wanted to drive a lot)

So, I did it. I thought I’d gotten a better deal than what the Chase Ultimate Rewards site was displaying.

Now that I’m back safe and sound, I’m not so sure any more.

Pickup

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Boston

Hyatt Regency Boston reviews

Since the BOS-DUB flight on Aer Lingus tonight flies out of, um, Boston, I decided to build in a day to explore this culturally rich city. As a base, I decided on the Hyatt Regency Boston.

It’s a Hyatt Category 3 hotel, meaning it’s 15,000 Gold Passport points per night, and also eligible for use with the annual free night certificate given as a perk to cardholders of the Chase Hyatt Visa.

Since I’d already redeemed my annual free night certificate earlier this year at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, I redeemed 15,000 Gold Passport points.

Daily rate was $313/night

Daily rate was $313/night

This saved me $313 for a one-night stay, which means I got a value of 2.1 cents per point – and meets my 2 cents per point minimum. However, since I’m a Chase Hyatt Visa cardholder, I’ll get 20% of those points back due to a promo they have going on right now until July 31st (but you had to register by March 31st). That gives me even more value out of the points redeemed – closer to 3 cents per point. Considering how easy it is to earn Ultimate Rewards points, I consider Hyatt stays one of the best uses of Ultimate Rewards – especially with this 20% discount going on.

Getting there and check in

After getting off the Amtrak train at Boston’s South station, it was a short 10-minute walk to the Hyatt Regency. The streets in Boston drive me absolutely batty. I’m a lover of the grid. Well-planned cities like Chicago and Phoenix appeal to my sense of order greatly. I can deal with New York’s mish-mash of a kinda-sorta grid. But Boston is something else altogether.

Once I found the Hyatt Regency, I entered through the sliding glass doors. You have to take an elevator up to the lobby on the 3rd floor, and from there, you have to take another elevator up to your room. So to enter and/or exit, you always have to take two elevators. This design feature/flaw was not my favorite thing in the entire world, and I can see how it could be confusing to some.

Ground floor entrance of the Hyatt Regency Boston

Ground floor entrance of the Hyatt Regency Boston

Check-in area on the 3rd floor

Check-in area on the 3rd floor

The desk agent was very, very welcoming and acknowledged that I was Platinum with Hyatt. After just a couple of minutes, we headed up to our room.

The room

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