Let’s wrap up 2019 the right way, with my top 10 images from a wonderful year. Click through because you had a wonderful year.
Source: Andys travel blog
When it comes to dispensing travel rewards, competing banks make strange bedfellows. Credit card issuers will always prefer to have an exclusive arrangement with an airline or hotel chain. Sometimes, though, circumstances force two different banks to issue cards for the same reward program—and when that happens, the situation can be a boon for consumers.
Prior to the merger of Marriott and Starwood into Marriott Bonvoy, American Express issued Starwood cards while Chase handled the Marriott side. After prolonged negotiation, Marriott ended up signing an agreement with both banks: Chase would issue the mass market and premium consumer cards, while Amex would get the super-premium and small business segment of the market.
For the points and miles collector, there are pluses and minuses to this arrangement. On the positive side, it’s possible to hold cards from both banks and some attractive card benefits (such as the free anniversary nights) can be stacked. Among the negatives are the fact that the signup bonuses offered by both banks will tend to mirror each other, and there are complicated restrictions involved with getting the bonuses.
Before we look at the benefits of each card, let’s examine those restrictions. Amex has a once-in-a-lifetime policy on collecting bonuses for specific cards; although these are technically “new” cards, Amex regards them as rebranded and subject to their policy. All cards with Chase are subject to the 5/24 rule, which means anyone who has opened five or more bank cards in the past two years (from anyone, not just Chase) is ineligible to apply.
Chase is also denying bonuses to consumers under the following circumstances: if you’re a current cardmember of the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express (or have been within the past 30 days); if you’ve applied and been approved for either the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express or the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card within the past 90 days; if you’ve had any of the Amex cards in the past 24 months and received either a new member or upgrade bonus.
All these cards come with 15 nights of elite credit, enough to earn you Silver Status in the Marriott Bonvoy program. Here’s a quick guide to the new lineup:
Marriott Bonvoy Bold from Chase: This is a completely new card product with no annual fee. The current signup bonus is 30,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months. The card earns three points per dollar on Marriott stays, two points for all other travel purchases and one point for everything else.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless from Chase (formerly the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus): The annual fee is $95, and the current bonus is 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. You get six points per dollar on Marriott stays and two points for all other purchases. Cardholders receive a free anniversary night at hotels up to Category 5 (35,000 points or less). There are no foreign transaction fees, and the card comes with other travel benefits such as baggage delay insurance and trip delay and lost luggage reimbursement.
The Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Visa from Chase (formerly the Premier Plus Business Visa) is closed to new applicants.
Marriott Bonvoy Card from American Express (formerly the Starwood Preferred Guest Card) is also closed to new applicants.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card from American Express (formerly the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card): The annual fee is $450. You earn six points per dollar on Marriott stays, three points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and two points on everything else; the anniversary free night is good at hotels charging 50,000 points or less. The current bonus is 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card comes with Marriott Gold status, as well as some hefty statement credits: $300 each year at Marriott hotels, and an additional $100 when you book a minimum two-night stay at a Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis. The card also comes with a credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
If you’re a Marriott enthusiast, these can be valuable cards to have—particularly the Amex Brilliant, where $300 of the $450 annual fee would be quickly offset by hotel stays. As previously mentioned, features such as the free anniversary nights are stackable if you hold cards from both banks (but not the 15-night elite credit, which is important to remember).
For the average points and miles enthusiast, however, the real value of these cards goes beyond their benefits at Marriott hotels. Marriott points transfer to an unprecedented 44 airline partners, more than twice as many as American Express and four times as many as Chase.
The further good news is that Marriott Bonvoy kept the transfer ratios previously used by the Starwood program. Almost all of the 44 carriers transfer at a 3:1 ratio; for every 60,000 points you transfer, you also get a bonus of 15,000 points or 5,000 miles. Thus, the formula is: 60,000 Marriott points equals 20,000 airline miles plus 5,000 bonus miles.
One of the important things to remember in this hobby is that transferable points tend to be the most valuable of all. If you want the ability to rack up miles in a variety of airline programs and take advantage of special award opportunities, consider earning the bonus on one of these cards and using it for selected everyday spending.
Source: frugal travel guy
It’s time to finally conclude the Iceland trip report. Click through because you love concluding things.
The post Return to Iceland, Finale: Amazing Waterfalls NEXT to the Popular Ones appeared first on Andy's Travel Blog.
Source: Andys travel blog
More people have been asking about it than the credit card offer on an American Airlines flight. Well, it’s finally here, my aviation photography year in review. Click through because you love aviation photography years in review.
The post My 2019 Aviation Photography Year in Review (80+ images!) appeared first on Andy's Travel Blog.
Source: Andys travel blog
If you operate any sort of business, whether large or small, it’s essential to have a dedicated credit card. The primary reason is the simplest and most obvious: your card allows you to separate personal and business expenses. Mingling the two together is something the IRS really doesn’t like, and it’s one of the easiest ways to get audited.
The other reasons are just as practical. As your endeavor grows, you will find yourself needing more capital. Small businesses without a financial track record usually find it hard to receive bank loans, and a business credit card can help you buy the equipment you need to expand. A small business card is ideal for the entrepreneur who doesn’t yet qualify for a corporate card.
To apply for one, you don’t need to be Warren Buffet. For many issuers, it’s enough if you’re operating some sort of legitimate business activity, even if that business is a side gig or still in the startup mode. If you detail cars, run a babysitting service in your spare time or buy and sell merchandise on the internet, you’ll probably qualify. If you don’t yet file a Schedule C or have a company tax I.D., your Social Security number will suffice. Remember, though, that you’re personally liable for debts incurred on the card.
In many cases, accumulating points and miles isn’t your primary consideration when choosing a small business card: financial flexibility, cashback and low APR may be more important. If your business has reached the point where it requires you to fly or stay in hotels on a regular basis, there are cards that will maximize the benefits of that travel. First, though, let’s look at the best all-around cards and the reasons that make them desirable:
Chase Ink Business Preferred has a great deal going for it:
Also, consider the Chase Ink Business Unlimited and the Chase Ink Business Cash. Both are no annual fee cards, and both offer a $500 bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The Business Unlimited offers free employee cards and gives 1.5% cashback across the board; Business Cash gives 5% back on communications and office supplies, 2% at restaurants and gas stations.
Capital One Spark Cash for Business gives you unlimited 2% cashback, a $500 cash bonus after spending $5,000 in your first three months (and an additional $1,500 bonus when you spend $50,000 in the first six months) and free employee cards. The annual fee is $95, waived the first year.
Capital One Spark Miles for Business has a bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months (and an additional 150,000 bonus miles after spending $50,000 in the first six months); miles transfer to 15 airline partners. You receive two miles per dollar on every purchase, and five miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. The annual fee is $95, waived the first year.
American Express Business Gold Card offers the ability to choose your reward categories. You earn four Membership Rewards points per dollar on the first $150,000 in annual purchases in the two categories where you spend the most (restaurants, gas stations, shipping, advertising, technology or airfare). You earn a bonus of 35,000 points when you spend $5,000 in your first three months; the annual fee is $295.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN: The annual fee is sizable ($595), but so are the perks: Gold status with Hilton and Marriott; car rental status with Hertz, Avis and National; comprehensive lounge access (including the proprietary Centurion lounges), and a slew of travel benefits and protections. The signup bonus has ranged as high as 100,000 points. If you travel frequently for business, this could be the card for you.
If these two cards seem beyond your reach, consider alternatives such as the American Express Blue Business Cash or the Blue Business Plus. Both cards offer two points per dollar on annual spending up to $50,000. There’s no welcome offer, but there’s no annual fee either.
Bank of America Platinum Plus Mastercard: This no annual fee card gives you a $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. There’s no APR for the first seven billing cycles, which allows you to painlessly finance major purchases.
Two other offerings from Bank of America are worth considering: Business Travel Rewards World Mastercard and Business Rewards Cash Advantage Mastercard. Neither card has an annual fee. The former gives three points per dollar on travel, plus a bonus of 25,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 60 days; the latter comes with a $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 in 90 days and gives up to 3% cashback on selected purchases.
Specific Miles and Points Cards: Depending on your travel and spending patterns, one of these may be part of your business plan if you’re loyal to a specific airline or hotel program:
Finally, if your business is well-capitalized (to the tune of a $100,000 bank balance), you may want to consider the Brex Startup Card, a corporate card that doesn’t require a personal guarantee. Brex offers three different versions, and partners with Dun & Bradstreet to allow your company to build a business credit file.
Source: frugal travel guy
Did you know that Pattaya is more popular than Amsterdam? Or that Antalya gets twice as many visitors as Cancun? There are some interesting findings when you step away from the “hot list” travel media and look at where people are traveling around the world for real. What are the most popular destination cities in […]
Source: Cheapest Destinations
The fantasy of spending a night away from home while traveling typically includes things like plush bedding, spa access, a balcony overlooking a sandy beach and room service. However, it doesn’t always look like that. We sometimes get stuck in airports overnight. Factors like inclement weather, natural disasters and mechanical issues can quickly turn an airport terminal into a makeshift hotel room. Of course, some people actually plan to spend the night in an airport ahead of time when booking a layover. Your first instinct might be to become grumpy if you find yourself stuck in an airport for the night. However, there are certain tips and tricks that can actually make your overnight airport experience more tolerable. Check out some things to keep in mind if you’re considering the idea of living like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal” during your next trip.
You may not have to spend a night slumped over in a chair inside an airport terminal. Most travelers are unaware of the fact that many airports actually provide cots to travelers. The only catch is that you typically have to ask for them. The airport you’re visiting may also be able to provide you with things like pillows, blankets and coupons for restaurants within the airport. You may have a hard time getting these perks if you’ve intentionally booked a layover. However, airport representatives are typically pretty generous with extras when travelers are stuck due to weather or mechanical issues.
There is the potential to see a city after dark if you’re going to be stuck somewhere overnight. This can be a good idea if you’ll have a long flight the next morning that will provide plenty of time to catch up on sleep. In fact, you’re practically throwing away an opportunity to have the adventure of a lifetime if you’ll be stuck through the night in an airport in a spot like Paris, Las Vegas, Munich, Vancouver or Seoul. The big thing to remember is that you’ll need to make sure you’ll have plenty of time to catch up on sleep during the next leg of your journey if you do decide to stay up all night.
The right gear and accessories can really help to make your overnight airport experience a little more palatable. In fact, you sort of need to pack and plan for your long layover the same way you would pack and plan for an actual flight. Here’s a quick checklist of must-have essentials if you’ll be roughing it in an airport overnight:
Eyeshades or sunglasses.
Bottled water or refillable water bottle.
Laptop or tablet.
Chargers for all of your devices.
Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
Floss, toothpaste and a toothbrush.
You should also choose your airport outfit carefully. The temperature inside an airport can change depending on things like crowds and each terminal’s heating and cooling systems. Layering is wise. You should also consider wearing a hat, scarf and gloves inside to keep warm when your body temperature drops in your sleep.
You should never put yourself in a vulnerable position when you spend the night in an airport. In fact, you might want to consider finding a spot located within view of a security camera if you’re planning to fall asleep. You may feel tempted to find a quiet corner to stay in if you’re looking for some peace and quiet. However, you’re really going to want to go against your instinct to seek solitude in favor of staying near the crowds. It is simply safer to be around people if you’ll be falling asleep.
Sometimes you have to know your own limits. Sleeping in an airport terminal isn’t going to work for everyone. In fact, you may find that the lack of sleep and soreness from trying to rest in an uncomfortable position are simply too problematic. The good news is that most airports have hotels that are either connected or close by. Your airline may be willing to reimburse you for hotel costs if your flight was delayed or canceled due to mechanical issues. However, you may need to simply do some last-minute hunting for cheap rooms or see what your rewards points can do for you when it’s time to book a room at an airport hotel.
The truth is that this is a hard one to pull off. Most airport lounges close for the night. However, it is definitely worth checking out the list of lounges in whatever airport you’ll be staying at for the night to see if anything is open around the clock. Paying a one-time fee for lounge access will be a lot cheaper than booking a hotel room. This option would have been impossible just a few years ago unless you had some type of elite-level membership in a loyalty program. The good news is that many lounges now offer the option to simply pay for one-time access.
You should be prepared to prove that you have a flight booked if you’ll be getting cozy in an airport overnight. There’s a chance that security officers may ask for proof that you’re at the airport for a legitimate reason. Most airports don’t have an issue with overnight sleepers if they will be boarding flights in the morning. However, you must accept the fact that you could be asked to leave for security reasons at any point.
The big takeaway is that you’ll need to take steps to be comfortable, safe and respectful during an overnight stay in an airport. Never put yourself in a dangerous position or ignore the rules of an airport when staying through the night. In addition, you’ll need to be comfortable with the idea that your plans may need to change in an instant if you’re asked to leave a specific area or get out of the airport. Of course, there’s a good chance that you’ll leave with a crick in your neck and a great story to tell the grandchildren someday if you do spend the night in an airport!
Source: frugal travel guy
In recent years, airline elite status has become both less rewarding and harder to obtain. Along with minimum amounts of either miles or segments flown, American, Delta and United have all imposed spending requirements. For frequent flyers, the most frustrating thing about the loyalty programs is that upgrades have largely dried up: airlines with First Class cabins are doing everything possible to monetize those seats, including offering attractive buy ups at check-in.
American and Delta now have virtually identical elite tiers (United recently revised theirs, keeping the four levels but raising spending levels):
If you’re an occasional (or even monthly) business or leisure traveler, you have little chance of meeting those requirements. For the upper tiers, the spending thresholds make it almost impossible unless you fly in premium cabins. It’s becoming rare to see a top-tier elite who isn’t a CEO or major corporate executive.
Apart from upgrades, what are the current benefits of elite status? Basically, priority boarding and free checked bags. All three programs offer enhanced mileage earning, depending on the status level. Example: United gives mileage multipliers of 7, 8, 9 and 11 miles per dollar spent, compared to 5 for non-elites. The legacy carriers offer some cushy benefits at the top level, such as lounge membership or systemwide upgrades, but not much more in between.
With every major airline (and some others), there are credit cards that give you priority boarding and free checked bags—which is probably all you’re going to get anyway. Some cards even offer mileage incentives and lounge access. Here’s a rundown of the options by carrier:
American Express is the sole issuer of Delta cards. If you’re an occasional flyer, your best bet is the Gold Delta SkyMiles card, which has a low annual fee of $95 (waived the first year). You get your first checked bag free, along with double miles on Delta tickets and a 20% discount on inflight purchases; the bonus is 30,000 moles after spending $1,000 in the first three months, plus a $50 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase. Those who travel more often might want to splurge for the Platinum SkyMiles card ($195 annual fee), which also gives you Main Cabin Priority 1 boarding, an annual companion certificate, a 35,000 miles bonus after spending $1,000 in the first three months and a $100 statement credit after a Delta purchase. The signup bonus includes 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles, and you can earn an additional 10,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs for every $25,000 spent each year—but then you’re chasing elite status, and you already have the core benefits you’re likely to use.
The United cards are issued by Chase. For casual travelers, the MileagePlus Explorer card makes the most sense. The annual fee of $95 is waived the first year. You receive the 40,000-mile signup bonus after spending $2,000 in the first three months. The additional perks include priority boarding, one free checked bag for yourself and a companion (provided you purchase your ticket from United, using the Explorer card), two United Club passes each year, two miles per dollar on a restaurant, hotel and United purchases, and a 25% discount inflight.
As a result of the merger between US Airways and American, both Barclays and Citibank issue AAdvantage cards. For the average flyer, the clear winner is Barclays’ AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, which has an annual fee of $99. There’s a bonus of 60,000 miles with no minimum spending requirement—simply pay the annual fee and make your first purchase within 90 days. The card comes with preferred boarding, one free checked bag for yourself and up to four companions, double miles on American purchases, a 25% inflight discount and a suite of travel insurance protections.
Since the carrier doesn’t charge for checked bags and also has a unique, first-come-first-served boarding system, credit card priorities are different. If you don’t fly often, the Rapid Rewards Plus card from Chase is a good deal: You earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in your first three months, and an extra 20,000 points after an additional $12,000 within the first year. There’s a 3,000-point bonus on your cardmember anniversary and two points per dollar on Southwest purchases.
None of the three cards (issued by Barclays) offer priority boarding, but the Plus card gives you a free checked bag for yourself and up to three companions. There’s a bonus of 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days; the earning rates are strong (six points per dollar on JetBlue purchases, two points at restaurants and grocery stores), and you receive 10% of your points back on redemptions. The annual fee is $99.
If your goal is to replicate the benefits of elite status, you’re confined to a co-branded airline card. If lounge access is important to you, though, don’t overlook The Platinum Card from American Express and the Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN. The annual fees are steep ($550 and $595 respectively), but you receive access to the proprietary collection of Centurion Lounges as well as Priority Pass, Lufthansa and Delta lounges (when flying Delta the same day), Airspace, Escape and Plaza Premium lounges—a total of more than 1200 VIP sanctuaries around the world.
Source: frugal travel guy
Every year I publish a report on the cheapest places to live in the world, with a wrap-up on where you can find the lowest living expenses for expats. I am the author of A Better Life for Half the Price, an expat who has lived abroad for years, and a guy who profiles the […]
Source: Cheapest Destinations