What It’s REALLY Like Being Married to Travel Hacker

What It's REALLY Like Being Married to Travel Hacker (1)

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Hi! My name is Malini, and I’m married to a travel hacker. But guess what? It’s not how you think it is. I have friends that are constantly teasing me. “Girl, I wish we could all be so lucky. You just need to smile at your husband and he books you a first-class ticket to Italy.” Uh, not quite.

So in an effort to keep it real, let me tell you what it’s REALLY like being married to a travel hacker.

  1. Expect your spouse to turn into a “computer screen zombie.” A travel hacker is constantly on the hunt to earn more points. Most people think, “Hey, I just signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, check out my awesome travel hacking skills.” I hate to break it to you, but one (albeit incredibly sexy) credit card does not a travel hacker make. It’s a good start, but a seasoned travel hacker will tell you that you to get the best hacks, you’ll have to do your research and think differently. A huge part of that is talking with other people who do their research and think differently. And it’s often time-sensitive so you really don’t want to miss a great hack. So, more often than not my husband has turned into a “computer screen zombie.” Easily recognized as hunched over his laptop, eyes rapidly moving back and forth soaking in all the “good stuff”.
  2. You get a ton of mail. As in, a ton of new credit cards in your name, shipped to your house. Constantly. If you’re married to a travel hacker, he’ll have all your personal details committed to his memory so he can easily sign you up for great credit cards. Your spouse will stop asking permission and just assume that he knows best. (And you’ll accept that he’s right.)
  3. You also get random presents. At first this might sound awesome, but in reality, it’s usually something like a gift card to a store where you don’t shop (because the portal bonus was SO DAMN GOOD). “Thanks, honey for this awesome Staples gift card…..”
  4. You’ll take romantic walks…to the grocery store. “Let me just stop in real quick, honey, I just need to grab some gift cards and it’s 5x bonus in grocery stores through tonight!”
  5. You’ll have detailed, confusing weekly conversations that go like this. “Babe, if you go to the grocery store, use the Chase Freedom card because the quarterly bonus is 5x per dollar. If you pick up a prescription, use your Amex Platinum and if they don’t take it, as a second option, use the Chase Sapphire Reserve. When you’re getting gas, use your Discover It card, or as a second option your Freedom card, but just through the end of the week – after that you should use your Barclays card. If you go out to lunch with friends, make sure you’re using the Citi Prestige. And if you are buying something online, PLEASE only buy through the Southwest portal with the Southwest card. Oh and you should be getting the new Amex gold card in the mail any day, so when that comes in just put everything else on it so we hit the minimum spend ASAP.  Thanks!”
  6. Your spouse will challenge everything and never accept face value. “What do you mean I’m not approved for this credit card?” He’ll keeping calling back customer service until he gets a better answer. “What do you mean I can’t do a round-the-world flight for 45k points?” He’ll consult travel forums, text fellow travel hacking friends, read blog posts and then call customer service armed with this new knowledge. He almost always gets what he wants.
  7. You don’t get to pick where you want to go. A travel hacker spouse cares more about the hack than the location. So even if he says “Hey, I know you want to go to Switzerland, I’ll see what I can find” what he means is “We can go to Switzerland if the moon and the sun and the stars and the points and the partner airlines align but it’s just as likely that we will go to Japan or Hong Kong or Greece. Cool?”
  8. You can’t have a normal social life. You’ll have a never-ending invitations to “go grab coffee.” This is code for “teach me all you know about travel hacking.” And he probably knows a lot, so this will eat up your entire social calendar.

Well, I hope this peek into my marriage has given you some insider insight. It’s not at all like how it appears from the outside, but I’m certainly not complaining. I hope my husband never stops using his geek skills to book me and my four year old on business class flights all around the world.

Malini has always been obsessed with travel. She and her husband, along with their 4 year old, LOVE to travel the world courtesy of points and miles. If you’d like follow along on her crazy adventures, or you’re just looking for a bit of travel inspiration, be sure to check out her blog Lakes and Lattes. Her absolute favorite credit card is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

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Categories: free travel, Gift Cards, Miscellaneous, portals | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

How I Maximize Credit Card Rewards as a Small Business Owner

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Are you maximizing the rewards your business earns from credit cards?  Business cards can be very lucrative and an important part of any award travel strategies.  Here are five tips to help you get the most from your business rewards.

You may have a business and you don’t already know it.

Even if you don’t have a traditional business, you may still be eligible for small business cards.  Do you sell a few items on eBay or Amazon?  Do you receive 1099 income?  Do you do any freelance work?  These are all considered businesses.  You do not need an EIN to apply for a business credit card, you can use your social security number instead.

Have a goal in mind for using the points

A good strategy is to have a goal in mind before signing up for any credit cards.  Do you prefer cash back or travel?  If travel, are there any specific locations you are trying to visit?  Once you know what you would like to do with the rewards, you can choose cards that fit those needs.

Ireland photo

On our recent trip to Ireland, all airfare, hotels and car rentals were booked 100% with points from my small business.

You can double up on sign-up bonuses

Many of the major credit card issuers offer the same or similar cards in both personal and business versions.  This allows you to apply and hold two different versions of the same card.  In addition, business cards usually offer more lucrative sign-up bonuses and benefits.

Most issuers do not report business cards to credit reports, so they will little to no impact on your credit score.  (Capital One and Discover are the exceptions to this).  Therefore, if you are concerned about any negative impacts from new lines of credit, you needn’t worry with business cards.

Strategically choose credit cards that match your spending habits

Many credit cards offer bonuses for expenditures in various categories.  Depending on which categories your business spends in the most, there are different cards that are best for each category.  For example, the Chase Ink Preferred card offered bonus points for travel and digital advertising, among other categories.  The Chase Ink Cash card offers bonus points for purchases at office supply stores.

A great strategy is to combine cards that offer category bonuses with a card that offers increased points on general purchases.  The Amex Blue Business Plus Credit Card offers double the points on the first $50,000 each calendar year.

Stick to bank cards over airline or hotel cards

I would recommend sticking with cards that offer bank reward points over specific airline cards.  These cards offer the most flexibility and don’t lock you into a specific travel program.  The one exception to this would be the Amex SPG Rewards card.  This card allows transfers to numerous airlines, which makes it more versatile than a regular hotel card.  SPG points earn a 5000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred over.

The best three programs are Chase, Amex and Citi.  Cards from these banks allow you to earn points with their respective rewards programs, which can be transferred to many different airline and hotels.

What cards would you recommend?

Among the many business cards you’d find in my wallet are the Chase Ink Preferred and Amex SPG Rewards card.  The Chase Ink Preferred offers access to arguably the most lucrative of all reward programs, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

 


 

There are many benefits to using reward cards with your small business, more numerous than I touched on here.  If you have a plan for your spending and choose your cards with intention, you can turn your typical business spending into cash or travel rewards for you and your family.

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Categories: American Express, Business Cards, Chase, Ultimate Rewards Points | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

How I successfully won an IP claim on Amazon within 24 hours

I have been selling on Amazon part time for well over a year now. It started off as a hobby initially to  rack up miles and points as I was buying inventory using credit cards and obviously paying them off in full each month to avoid interest charges. Definitely learned a lot of lessons over the past year on what works and what does not. I easily accumulated over 2 million miles/points (used them to fly some fancy airplane cabins and destinations for almost free) in the past year by both signing up for new credit cards as well as selling on Amazon utilizing credit card strategies some of which I discuss on my Facebook page Credit Card 101.

A big challenge with selling on Amazon for 3rd party sellers (3P) like myself is suspension and Amazon may suspend you from selling on their platform  for several reasons. One of the primary reasons a seller could be suspended is if a company files an Intellectual property (IP) Infringement claim which Amazon takes very very seriously. If suspended you cannot sell on Amazon and they may hold back  payments making the situation even worst. I received my first IP claim couple weeks back from a company called Channel BPO who claim they represent Dockers. Below is the transcript of the email I received from Amazon after this company filed IP claim against my business for a brand I sell.  I  almost had a mild-heart attack reading this email knowing what possible consequences could be.

Channel BPO 1

The company claimed I was selling “counterfeit items” which is absolutely false without any substantial evidence . I bought this brand of shoes “on” Amazon  “from” Amazon as the seller (Amazon to Amazon flip) and the chances of these being counterfeit are next to none as I am fairly confident Amazon  does a decent job of vetting vendors they purchase goods from.

A rule-of thumb is to respond to these inquiries within twenty four hours with a plan of action to Amazon and also contact the company as to why the complain was filed . I was agitated as they falsely claimed my products being “counterfeit” . I sent a friendly email to Channel BPO to first get more information and as to why they think my product is “counterfeit” along with purchase receipts  explaining them that these items were sourced from Amazon. The response was not too friendly and they even threatened a legal action against me if I did take my listings down. Definitely rubbed me the wrong way! I decided to call a lawyer “friend” of mine, explained him the situation and we drafted a plan of action to deal with this company with a stronger response as I chose not to be bullied (picture below).

Channel BPO 3

In my email (cc’ed to my lawyer) I asked them to  provide a proof that their company is actually hired by Dockers and OTBT to file  IP claims against e-commerce sellers. Second, on what basis did they claim to Amazon in the IP complaint that my products are counterfeit . I even brought up a fact in my email that  some companies that wrongfully file  IP claims are other 3P seller on Amazon who want to promote their own products and claim monopoly by having other sellers suspended. My email also asked them to retrieve the IP compliant from Amazon if they are unable to prove their claim that  products I sell are inauthentic. Now obviously if this email were directly from Dockers or OTBT I would have gladly taken down my listings and apologize but with a lack of proof  combined with a semi genuine website made me think if this company is even real. Within  hours of sending this email I received an email (picture below) from Amazon that the  ASIN had been reinstated and I am once again allowed to sell this brand on Amazon.

Channel BPO 4

It was 24 hours of whirl-winding experience and the thought of getting suspended had me extremely nervous but in end it ended well.

Couple quick thoughts – If you ever get an IP claim try to resolve it within the first 24 hours. You should send an email to Amazon Seller Evaluation team asap acknowledging the fact that you take this complain seriously and are addressing this matter in a timely fashion before Amazon thrown the suspension bomb on you. Next get in touch with the company who filed this complaint. Check them out – website, phone number, Better Business Bureau etc etc. do they look authentic? Are their any BBB complaints filed against them and ratings? If the company fails to respond to your emails send those copies over to Amazon stating lack of response. There is a good chance the ASIN may be reinstated if the company fails to respond within a certain time-frame.

I haven’t blogged in a while but have plans to do it more often in the future. I will be launching a whole new website in the next few weeks with lot of exciting stuff credit cards and rewards related. Also, if you are looking to learn trick and tips to maximize credit card benefits do check out my Facebook page Credit Card 101

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Easy 1500 United Miles when you join MyPoints

Mypoints.com will let you earn a maximum of 1500 United miles. You can earn a easy 500 United Miles for simply enrolling in the MyPoints program. You will need a United MileagePlus account so if you do not have one go to United.com and register to get a frequent flyer number. Also earn additional 1000 United Miles by shopping with any Mypoints partners such as Ebay, Groupon, Walmart and many more. According to the terms and conditions –

Earn an additional 1,000 MileagePlus bonus award miles when you make one or more qualifying purchase(s) totaling $25 in your first 30 days of membership”

Mypoints promo

MyPoints.com promotion

I registered yesterday and my 500 miles posted this morning surprisingly in less than 24 hours. 1500 miles may not sound that of a big deal but it may help cap off a future award ticket (Domestic starts at 12,500 miles one-way) or  help you keep your United Mileage account active as  miles  expire if there has been no activity in the past 18 months.

Mypoints United

Easy 500 miles just for signing up.

You can sign up for MyPoints.com and earn 1500 miles by following this link – MyPoints.comDo not forget to shop for $25 from qualified stores via MyPoints.com to get the bonus 1000 miles.

Categories: Free Miles, Promotions, Uncategorized, United | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

$250 or $150 Checking Bonuses for opening new Suntrust Bank Account

Opening up bank accounts and fulfilling a few requirement is one of the quickest way to earn bonus cash. The cash earned from these bonuses is considered interest and you will receive 1099_INT form to be filled with your taxes. With that said I’ve opened several bank accounts in the past and made some quick bucks. We actually made $1300 on on our our trips last year while vacationing 

Suntrust bank has a new offer to earn $250 and $150 bonus  Full details here – LINK.

Offer available only to U.S. Residents with a U.S. address in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Reward is limited to one per household. Offer ends June 17 2016.

Here is a quick rundown of the $250 offer – 

  • To Earn $200: Open a new Select Checking account online, deposit at least $100 into the new account within 14 days of opening, and make $2,000 or more in qualifying direct deposits within 60 days of account opening
  • earn $50 when you also open a new Select Savings account and deposit at least $5,000 in new balances within 14 days of account opening. You must maintain a balance of $5,000 for 60 days after checking account opening.
  • Avoid the $15 Monthly Maintenance Fee with AT LEASTone qualifier below:
    • Make $2000 or more in total qualifying monthly Direct Deposits OR
    • Maintain a $2000 minimum daily Select Checking balance OR
    • Hold $10,000 total combined relationship balances linked across deposits, investments, mortgages, and loans OR
    • Linked Small Business Checking account

I think the first option to earn $200.00 should be easy for most folks. There are several options to do direct deposit into a bank account other than your paycheck and Doctor of Credit has a good summary of what counts as direct deposit in his post here : LINK

Here is a quick rundown of the $150 offer –

  • To Earn $100: Open a new Essential Checking account online, deposit at least $100 into the new account within 14 days of opening, and make $500 or more in qualifying direct deposits within 60 days of account opening
  • Plus, earn $50 when you also open a new Essential Savings account and deposit at least $5,000 in new balances within 14 days of account opening. You must maintain a balance of $5,000 for 60 days after checking account opening.
  • Avoid the $7 Monthly Maintenance Fee with AT LEAST one qualifier below:
    • Minimum of 10 banking transactions per statement cycle OR
    • $500 or more in total qualifying monthly Direct Deposits per statement cycle OR
    • $500 minimum daily balance OR
    • Open as a student and receive a 5-year Student waiver
Categories: bank bonus, Sun Trust | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Planning Vacation for Busy Professionals using miles and points

I have several folks who have subscribed to my Travel Coaching Service  and a lot of them are busy professionals such as Software Engineers, Scientists, Business Owners and more. Lets get it straight you could be a professional make a  good income but don’t you feel strapped with both budget and time  when it comes to taking vacation? I tell people for a quality vacation lets fix the money part first and time surprisingly always shows up. And weekend getaway does not have to be  a budget motel and eating food at a buffet restaurant.

JAL Check in

We are able to fly business class for almost pennies. This is before our JAL flight from Dallas-Tokyo for which I paid $100 per ticket and 55000 AA miles.

What Credits cards should busy professional sign-up for?

That’s a broad question and a lot depends on your personal travel goals. I’ve helped  doctors via my travel coaching program plan some fabulous getaways and listening to them made me realize they  work long-hours and  get time off typically when everything is expensive around Christmas, Spring breaks and summer vacations. I make them aware of different credit cards and how the bonuses work as most card require you to complete certain amount in minimum spend to attain the sign-up bonus.  Keep an eye for  limited time higher sign-up bonuses on credit cards and this is when you should jump on the offer as with several banks  especially American Express you can now earn the sign-up bonus once in lifetime.  However, other banks such as Citi and Chase allow you to earn sign-up bonuses on the same product more than once. Personally I signed up for the Chase British Airways Avios card in 2013 ago when they were offering a bonus offer of 100,000 British Airways Avios. I cancelled my British Airways card after 12 months and reapplied for it this year in January when similar offer of 100,000 (still active) popped up. Remember, I had to wait 18 months from the time of receiving bonus (and not cancellation) to qualify for  the bonus second time.

Its OK to have enough miles banked and use them at your disposal but remember award tickets are not always available at a short notice so best is to start early.

DSC_0049

We stayed five nights at an all-inclusive hotel In Jamaica and total cost out of pocket was under $300.

Here is a rundown of some of my favorite credit cards for this month and the bonuses and benefits attached to them.

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred – 50,000 Bonus points after spending $4000 in three months. If you redeem these points via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal they are valued at $625 but I see best value in transferring them to United and fly one way Business Class to Europe. You now increased the value of the same 50,000 points to almost $2000. This card has no annual fees first year and the second year is $95. The UR points can be transferred to several airlines such as United, Southwest, British Airways so you will always find some availability to your choice of destination. Th e points can also be transferred to hotel programs such as Hyatt and IHG.
DSC_0200

I transferred my UR points to fly Business Class from Phi-Madrid

2. American Express SPG personal and Business Card – Both these card have an increases sign-up bonus of 35,000 points for a limited time and its the perfect time to get it as the bonus is at the highest its ever been. SPG points are really cool because you can use them to either stay at some fancy properties in Europe as what we did b staying at the Le Meridien Barcelona right in the heart of Las Ramblas. For a three night stay my out of  pocket expense was just a $100 which otherwise would have easily costed me $1000.

 

SPG points can also be transferred to other airlines and for every 20,000 SPG points you transfer you will earn 25,000 airline miles which is an amazing value.

3. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard – This is a very unique card. You will earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3000 in three months. Now the 40,000 miles are neither airlines miles or hotel points but they are what I call “flexible currency” or simply cash that can be redeemed for any sort of travel expense such as hotels, airline fees, baggage charges and many more. This is really awesome because even when you use miles and points to purchase airline tickets you still have to pay taxes but if the taxes are charged to this card you can redeem it as a travel expense. Also this card is great especially for last minute travel when you are unable to find miles and points redemption available. This card earn you 2X on all purchases everywhere plus you get 120 days to redeem a travel charge which is a a nice feature.

Capital one has the Venture Rewards card very similar to Barclay Arrival World Elite Mastercard so if a couple applies for both  the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard and the Capital one Venture card they will earn almost $2000 in anyways travel money which is huge. Neither cards charge an annual fees the first year. I highly recommend this card for spontaneous vacation or to negate taxes and fees.

IMG_1475

At Ferrari World Abu Dabhi

Next Steps?

Well if you are busy then you should definitely consider enrolling in my Travel Coaching program for a small fees to learn insights of the reward programs. We will discuss a game-plan to get you to your next destination for almost pennies. This way you would not have to spend countless hours figuring out everything yourself and remember things change so fast in the world of miles and points and getting the right information is the key to save thousands of dollars.

Categories: Credit cards, Miscellaneous, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Wyndham 1 million points promotion

Wyndham launched a promotion where you can participate and earn up-to 1 million Wyndham reward points.  Here is the direct link to the promotion – LINK

The competition is about answering multiple choice questions about each “Have points Will Travel Episode“. I think it is a fun competition to participate in if you have few minutes to spare. Here are the full terms and conditions –

No purchase or payment necessary. Sweepstakes begins 12:00:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 and ends at 11:59:59 p.m. ET on Thursday March 31, 2016. Open to legal residents of the United States, including the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding the Province of Quebec) who are at least 18 years old at the time of entry. One (1) randomly selected winner will be awarded 1,000,000 Wyndham Rewards points, Approximate Retail Value (ARV): $10,000 (USD). Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Winner must be or become a Wyndham Rewards member in order to receive prize

Categories: Uncategorized, Wyndham | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Fly to South Africa then to Europe for $385

Via Secretflying.com you can fly off from several cities in the USA such as Dallas, NYC, Philadelphia and more to Johannesburg, South Africa and later over to Warsaw, Poland for a super cheap fare. Th example here from Google Flightsshows flight out of Dallas to be around $385. Other cities such as NYC and Philadelphia are pricing out ~$550 but play around with the dates and you may be able to get lower fares.

Qatar SA Europe

DATES:
Availability from November 2016 to January 2017

Categories: cheap travel, Mistake fare, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Over 500 Marriott Hotels changing categories

Marriott just announced that over 500 properties are now moving to a different category (some higher and other lower).

Here is a link to the announcement from Marriott

http://www.marriott.com/marriott-rewards/member-benefits/2016-category-update.mi

Points Reward for 1 Night Stay

Marriott has 9 tier award and the tier 1 hotels can be redeemed for 7,500 points and saver awards for 6000 per night. The top tier category is tier 9 and a one night stay at these hotels cost a whopping 45,000 point and 40,000 point using saver awards. Also remember if you Redeem 4 Nights. Get the 5th Night FREE!

1 7,500 6,000
2 10,000 7,500
3 15,000 10,000
4 20,000 15,000
5 25,000 20,000
6 30,000 25,000
7 35,000 30,000
8 40,000 35,000
9 45,000 40,000
Harbor_East_0014_Marriott_evening

Baltimore Marriott Waterfront will now cost lesser points as it drops from Category 8 to 7

 

 

Right now is a good time to apply for the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit card as it will earn you 80,000 bonus points after you spend $3000 in the first three months from account opening. Also,  earn additional 7,500 bonus points when you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening. That is almost 90,000 points which can be used for FREE 12 nights or more at Tier 1 Hotels worldwide. The card does have an annual fees of $85 that is not waived.  Another HUGE benefit from the card is that you Enjoy 1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-5 location every year after your account anniversary date which very well justifies the $85 annual fees.

 

 

Categories: Chase, Marriott | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Secret way to earn Fast track to Hilton Gold status

Hilton has a four tier Loyalty program where members start from a blue (basic) followed by silver, Gold and the top most level is Diamond where each level is earned with more stays and nights in a calendar year. Blue and Silver are very basic and hardly get you any good benefits. Gold and Diamond benefits get you Early Check-in, late checkout, Free Breakfast (savings can be huge here) additional bonus Hilton points for each stay (25% Bonus for Gold and 50% for Diamond) and access to executive floor lounge in Hilton properties when available which gets you free drinks, snacks and meals throughout the day.

To achieve or retain HHonors Gold status, you need to earn either:
(1) 20 stays in a calendar year, or
(2) 40 nights in a calendar year, or
(3) 75,000 HHonors Base Points in a calendar year

Another way to earn Hilton status is by applying for the Citi Hilton Reserve card which comes with two free nights at any Hilton Worldwide plus gold status as long as you have the card. The annual fees on this card is $95 (not waived)

You can learn about all the benefits of various levels here 

Well I guess unless you travel a lot on work attaining these many stays and nights could be challenging. I will share with you a secret way to earn Hilton Gold status with just four stays

Secret Hilton

Make sure you are already registered with Hilton and have an HHonors number. Next go to this website –  HHonors.com/amexta

Enter you Hilton HHonors number and password and click on Enroll now. That’s it make sure you complete 4 stays at any Hilton properties in the next 90 days to quickly earn the gold status and enjoy some amazing benefits.

The website says this offer is only for American Express business travelers but looks like anyone can register and participate in the promo.

 

 

Categories: Hilton, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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