Citi Credit Cards

Get 5 Hotel Nights + 50,000 Miles from Two Credit Cards

There is less than one week left for the temporarily increased 30,000 point sign-up bonuses for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card Amex and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Amex, and so to encourage those on the edge or planning a vacation I wanted to share what I think is potentially the very best use of those points in case it may help get your wheels turning on what you could do for your family.  Since we are firmly back in the “little kid” stage for many years to come, we are now focused on  easily attainable family-friendly options.

If you are in a similar position, or even in a totally different phase of life, the Starwood Nights and Flights program is something that might be the perfect way to cover a big chunk of hotel and airfare costs for your next vacation.

nights-and-flights

SPG Award Nights and Airline Miles via Nights and Flights:

I think that SPG “Nights and Flights” is the most under-discussed gem of all SPG point redemption options.  Nights and Flights allow you to redeem SPG points for a combination of frequent flyer miles and hotel nights.  It’s kind of like a vacation package of sorts using points.  With Nights and Flights, you can redeem 60,000 SPG points for 50,000 airline miles plus five award nights at a Category 3 hotel or resort.  With Nights and Flights II, you can redeem 70,000 SPG points for 50,000 airline miles and five free nights at a Category 4 hotel or resort.  There are Category 4 hotels located in lots of great cities like: Scottsdale, Avon/Vail Valley, San Diego, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Asheville, Vancouver, Los Cabos, Kailua-Kona, Orlando (on Disney property), Sydney, and Hong Kong.

Let me put this deal another way…you can use the 70,000 points to not only get five free nights at a Category 4 hotel or resort (normally 10,000 points per night), but you also get 50,000 airline miles.  If the hotel you want is in the contiguous US or Canada, that means that you and your partner can use the 50,000 miles to each fly for free on saver award tickets on an airline like American Airlines, and then have five free hotel nights at your destination.  That is incredibly valuable from roughly just two credit card sign-ups!  I think this truly is the “hidden gem” of all SPG redemption options.

Get Over $2,200 in Hotels and Flights From Two Credit Cards:

As an example, if you have been looking to take your family to Disney World you can use SPG points to stay at the Walt Disney Swan or Walt Disney Dolphin Resorts that are located on Disney property and within walking or boat distance of both Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios.

dolphin-swan-hotels

Walt Disney Swan Dolphin

Via Nights and Flights you can stay at either of those resorts for five nights and then have 50,000 airline miles deposited into your airline account of choice with a program such as Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta, British Airways, and more.  You can use the 50,000 airline miles for the same trip as your hotel redemption, or save them for whatever you want to use them on in the future.

I priced out a five night stay in a standard room at the Walt Disney World Swan (a Westin) from May 9 – May 14 2016, and the lowest price on the SPG website was a non-refundable stay that rang in at $1,740.  If you wanted a refundable reservation that would cost you $1,795.  Those are huge numbers!

Screenshot 2015-09-11 at 11.58.08 PM

Airfare for those same dates on American Airlines from Houston to Orlando currently starts at $275 round trip each, so $550 for two people.  However, there is saver award availability for 25,000 miles each on American Airlines flights.

In this very random example, using 70,000 SPG points via Nights and Flights would save you over $2,100 in hotel and airfare costs for a Disney vacation!

How to Quickly Get 66,000 SPG Points:

To get these SPG points quickly, if you and your partner both get the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card Amex while the sign-up bonus is at 30,000 points (through 9/14/15), you would each have at least 33,000 SPG points after meeting the minimum spending requirement.  Since SPG allows you to combine points for free with anyone who shares your household address, you and your partner could easily have at least 66,000 SPG points just from each getting one credit card.  Earn just 4,000 more points between the two of you and you would have enough for five nights of hotel and 50,000 airline miles as described above thanks to Nights and Flights!

Note that Nights and Flights are only available for Category 3 and 4 hotels, they must be requested at least 14-30 days in advance (depending on the airline of choice), and the selected airline must have a 1:1 points transfer option from SPG.

Categories: American Express, Citi Credit Cards, SPG | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Stay 25 Free nights at Hotels worldwide using sign-up bonus from two cards!!

Introduction

By utilizing a couple of awesome limited time increased sign-up bonus offers from Citi and Chase you can score almost 25 FREE nights at Hilton and Marriott hotels worldwide. I will show you exactly how it can be done.

The Free Night Scoop

  • Chase Marriott Premier Rewards Card – Chase has increased the sign-up bonus on the Marriott Rewards card  to 80,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months. This is the highest point offer I’ve ever seen on the Marriott Rewards Premier card. This card does charge you annual fees of $85 and is not waived for the first year.

Here is the fine print of the offer –

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card Application
  • Limited Time! Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Enjoy 1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-5 location every year after your account anniversary date!
  • For every $1 spent, earn 5 points at 3,800 Marriott locations, 2 points on airline ticket purchases directly with airlines, at car rental agencies & restaurants and 1 point everywhere else
  • The fastest way to earn Marriott Rewards points towards free nights
  • No limit to how many points you can earn
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees and enjoy wider acceptance when you travel with your embedded chip card and you make purchases at chip-enabled card readers
  • All for an $85 Annual Fee
Marriott category

Marriott Category and 5th night Free

You can book Marriott Category 1 hotel for 7,500 reward points or 6,000 PointSavers rewards.  The 75,000 points you earn from sign-up bonus can be used for staying 10 nights at a category 1 Marriott Hotel worldwide and if you are able to books rooms using the 6,000 PointSavers rewards that will be even more nights. But remember, Marriott has this awesome offer – when you redeem 4 award nights , your fifth night is free!!! To top it there are no blackout dates. With the 5th night free promotion you can maximize the redemption value and get most from this card. You can find all the category 1 Hotels that Marriott offers here – Link

There are more than 200 category 1 Marriott Hotels worldwide including several in Mexico, Caribbean and Europe

fairfield los cabos

Fairfield Inn, Los Cabos, Mexico is a Category 1 Hotel and looks very good!!

You could visit Los Cabos, Mexico and stay at the Fairfield Inn that has excellent reviews on TripAdvisor

Courtyard Marriott Banglore

Courtyard Marriott Bengaluru (Banagalore, India)

You could also visit India and stay at The Fairfield by Marriott in the vibrant city of Bengaluru (Bangalore). The list of category  hotel is quite extensive and I feel the increased sign-up bonus from the Chase Marriott Premier card can really help you save big money!!!

The card also offers  1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-5 location every year after your account anniversary date that very well justifies the annual fees of $85. You could stay at the beautiful Marriott in Costa Rica, San Jose using your card anniversary free night certificate!!

costa rica marriott

Costa Rica Marriott, San Jose a great way to redeem your free Anniversary night

  • Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature card – Citi has also increased the sign-up bonus on the HHonors Visa Signature card to 75,000 Hilton points. The typical offer on this card is 40,000 points and Citi did roll out another offer for 65,000 points few months ago which is when I signed up for the card so definitely this is one of the best offer on this card with NO ANNUAL FEES. 

Citi®+Hilton+HHonors™+Visa+Signature®+Card

Here is a summary of the card benefits –

  • Limited Time: Earn 75,000 Hilton HHonors™ Bonus Points after making $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 6 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent at any participating hotel within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on purchases at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations.
  • Earn 2 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Enjoy the benefits of HHonors Silver status as long as you are a cardmember
  • No annual fee.

You may notice this no-annual fee card will automatically give you silver status (better chance for upgrade, some freebies and extra HHonors points). Also, no annual fees card are great as you don’t have to worry about cancelling the card when the annual fees is due that can help you establish long term relationship with the bank which is a key in this game!!!

fifth night promo hilton

Hilton 5th night promotion for Silver, Gold and Diamond members

Hilton offers free 5th night for Silver, Gold and Diamond member and by holding this card you automatically qualify for this promotion as you earn silver status. You can read more about the free night promo here – Link

Hilton-HHonors-Award-Chart

Hilton award chart

You can book category 1 Hilton Hotels for just 5,000 HHonors points. The  75,000 bonus points  equates to 15 nights at Category 1 Hilton Hotel worldwide. Here is a link to all the hotels in this category – LINKThere are almost 50 hotels to choose from. You should try to use the 5th night free promotion to gain most from this deal.

Hilton Pyramid Gold Resort

Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort, Cairo, Egypt

Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort in Egypt looks like a great property that you can redeem for only 5000 points. You may also consider visiting Turkey and stay at the Hiltom Garden Inn, Trabzon, Turkey for only 5,000 points

Hilton Garden Inn Turkey

Hilton Garden Inn Trabzon, Turkey

Conclusion

By combining the sign up bonuses from the Chase Marriott Premier rewards card (80,000 points) and the Citi Hilton Hhonors Visa Signature card (75,000 points) you can score more than 25 nights at Category 1 Marriott and Hilton hotels (combine). Also, both the hotel chains offer 5th night free promotion that can help you travel around the world paying pennies!!!!! With most hotels costing an average of $100 I value combined sign-up bonuses from the two cards worth at least $2500 and this is a fantastic deal. The Marriott card has an annual fees of $85 which is not waived and the Citi Hilton card has no annual fees. The Marriott card also offer free stay at any Category 1-5 hotel as an anniversary bonus which may justify paying the annual fees.

Want to learn more tricks and keep earning treats to travel around the world for pennies. Shoot me an email to join my Travel coaching program which for a limited time is totally free!!! I can make your travel dream turn into reality.

i want to travel the world

Categories: Chase, Citi Credit Cards, free travel, Hilton, Marriott | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friends return from an Amazing Family trip to Italy

The most satisfying part of writing a travel blog and the hobby of earning Travel Rewards is  helping friends and family travel the world creating memories without breaking pocket. One of our best friends Steve and Joi along with their two boys (Bradley < 2 yrs and Lucas < 1 yrs) returned after spending two weeks in Italy. They visited Rome and Sorrento (Amalfi coast). Steve and Joi are well traveled around the world but recently got on board with the travel rewards program earning miles and points utilizing  credit card sign-up bonuses and implementing other strategies that I now offer via my Travel Coaching program.

Rome Coliseum

Outside the Coliseum in Rome

Introduction

Steve is my office mate and also partner in crime (taking trips to Simon mall for manufactured spending). If you want to learn on ways to stay organized in this hobby Steve is your go to man !! We’ve also taken few family trips together including a recent road trip  to Washington DC where we actually got paid to stay at the Hilton right next to the White house. Steve and Joi signed up for the following cards for their vacation to Italy

Credit Card, Account  Miles or Points Type Benefits
Chase British Airways Avios

100,000

 Avios Companion ticket after spending 30K in calendar year
Barclay Arrival World Mastercard

x 2

40,000 X 2

Travel Miles 2X points on all spending and easy travel redemption, $800 + in Travel credits from two cards one each for Steve and Joi
Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Card

2 Free Nights

Free Nights 2 Free Nights at Hilton Hotels Worldwide
Chase INK Business Card

50,000

UR Points Points can be transferred to several airline and hotel partners or redeemed for travel discount via UR portal
Bradley Business Class

Bradley had his own seat in the Business Class of British Airways. Getting pampered at a young age

They flew Business Class on British Airways from Washington DC to Rome. Steve used 100,000 Avios and the Free companion ticket he earned by signing up for the Chase British Airways Avios Card to book these seats. British airways does charge almost $1000 fuel surcharge on award tickets which is a potential drawback.

Waldorf Astoria Rome

Bradley treated like Royalty at Waldorf Astoria in Rome

imperialClub

The executive lounge at Waldorf Astoria – Complimentary Breakfast, Booze and hors d’oeuvres is what they enjoyed every day!!

They utilized combination of the two nights earned from the Citi Hilton cards along with cash and points to stay 4 nights at this magnificent Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri (probably one of the best hotel in Rome) costing less them  $300 out-of-pocket  for the entire stay including access to the spa and executive lounge serving awesome gelato, wine and snacks round-the-clock. A one-night stay at this hotel can easily cost  $500 a night with all the upgrades they had so its a saving of more than $1700 for a four night stay!!! And guess who was sharing the pool with them at the Hotel – Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. Steve was able to keep the cost of their  stay at Waldorf Astoria this low by using combination of sign-up bonus from the two Barclay Arrival cards, two nights free from the Citi Hilton Reserve card and few trips to Simon Mall for manufacture spending Barclay Arrival miles.

Lunch Italy

Enjoying a relaxing lunch in Amalfi, Italy

BA Business Class

How do they look so fresh and happy after a long International flight? Oh let me guess – they traveled Business class on British Airways

They used Ultimate Rewards (UR) points for the Hop-on Hop-off tour in Rome. You can use UR points to book airline, hotels, car rental and trust me even Hot air balloon ride!!! You earn UR points by signing up for Chase INK business card, Sapphire Preferred and Freedom card. I love UR points as they can be transferred to several airline and hotel partners and if you have the Chase INK card you can ramp up your UR account balance very quickly as the card offers 5X points at office stores and also telecommunication bills (phone, internet, cable etc) and 2X on gas.  I love my Chase INK card and I have paid the annual fees of $95 on this card for the last two years (of-course after earning a retention bonus of 10,000 UR points when annual fees is due).

P1010786

Pompeii, Italy

They stayed at the Hotel Capodimonte in Sorrento. This hotel is not part of any major hotel chains such as Hyatt, Hilton etc so they charged entire stay on to the Barclay Arrival Card. Steve has up to 120 days to redeem this charge (~$2000) and he has been able to secure red card/serve from family members that will help him to  rack up serious manufactured spending and after redeeming the miles this stay will cost him only $800!!!

P1010802

Beautiful Amalfi Coast

Positano

Day Trip to Positano

P1010790

PS – Lucas is holding a lemon and not a Watermelon!!

They were not ready to come back after spending quality time in Italy. The above picture of Bradley and Lucas sums up the whole trip.

Bottomline

Steve and his family had an amazing vacation in Italy. This vacation could have easily costed $20,000 ++ (including business class in BA, Waldorf Astoria Hotel stays, car rental, etc etc) but by smartly using bonuses from credit card sign-ups and maximizing mileage redemption this vacation will roughly cost them $3000 (or less). As part of my Travel Rewards service I can help you and your family to get to you next dream destination for pennies. Send me a note to get started with the Travel Rewards program where we will communicate over phone/skype for a few minutes to better understand your needs and then customize a game plan. Let’s make your dreams come true!!!

Categories: Barclaycard, Chase Ink, Citi Credit Cards, Friends Travel, Italy, Travel coaching | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Credit Card hacked – Someone booked a $2800 stay using my card

Last Friday afternoon I received a security notification from Barclay Fraud department (which btw has a top notch security alert system). They wanted to clarify a few recent charges on my Barclay Arrival World Elite Mastercard. I ignored the voicemail for a few hours as I had  purchased gift cards from Simon mall worth $7500 to manufacture spend some valuable Barclay miles and I assumed this purchase triggered the security alert. Barclay wanted me to call in and clear recent transactions before I wa able to use my card again. I wanted to sort out the situation asap so called the fraud department and they had  question on a $2800 ish charge on my card for Hotel Perla (which after googling I found out is in Prague another place on our bucket list). They went through all my recent transactions and confirmed if it were me or one of the authorized users who charged the card.

Hotel Perla

Someone enjoyed a $2800 stay using information from my credit card

I did not panic because all major credit cards come with Fraud protection and you are never responsible for any unauthorized charges on your card. I know some folks avoid applying for credit cards for the very reason of dealing with fraud but knowing credit card companies always back you up for  fraudulent transactions keeps me alive in this game.

Long story short, Barclay cancelled existing cards (including authorized users) on my Arrival card and have expedited new sets of card that should arrive here shortly. I did not have to pay anything for the unauthorized stay of $2800 at Hotel Perla which was charged on my credit card.

Can you avoid Credit Card skimming?

PC magazine did an article on how you can “possibly” avoid scammers steal your credit card information. A lot of credit card companies are switching to “chip-based” technology which is supposedly “safer” but that did not help in my case as Barclay does have the chip technology but somehow someone was able to retrieve information from my credit card and not sure if they booked an advance stay or used the card after the stay was completed and got a freebie. So bottomline is you probably cannot avoid skimming of your card but the best you can do is to stay alert.credit card smikker

A good habit is to check you account every couple of days and look for any charge that looks suspicious and contacting the bank right away. Make sure you email address and telephone numbers with the banks are updated so in a situation like this they know how to contact you and you are not left stranded without a credit card especially when traveling.

Have you ever had someone skim steal your credit card information?

Categories: Barclaycard, Citi Credit Cards, Miscellaneous | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

HOT!!! – 2.5% Cashback on American Express Gift Cards, Citi Prestige and Citi Premier Increased sign up bonus with perks

1. American Express gift cards – Just today Topcashback is offering 2.25% cash back on Amex Business Gift cards. Its great way to make some quick bucks and also earn extra miles and points. I personally used the Chase INK Card to purchase $5000 in gift cards in denomination of $1000 (x5) as Chase offered me  a retention bonus of 10,000 UR points after spending $5000 in three months to offset my $95 annual fees. But you can maximize your earning by using the Barclays Arrival World Elite MasterCard.

Do not use any denominations over $2000 and any promo code as this will not earn any cash back and also avoid using Citi Cards as it could get processed as cash advance. These gift cards can be reloaded onto the Target Prepaidredcard at any Target stores and then you can turn around and payback your credit card or pay other bills.

Amex cash back

The Math on purchasing $5000 in gift cards – 

Gift Cards Value – $5000

Purchase fees – $3.95 x 5 = $19.75

Shipping Fees – $8.95

Total Out of Pocket – $5028.7

You will earn 2.25% cashback on $5000 = 112.50

Your net Profit – Cashback – Purchase Fees – Shipping Fees = $83.8

Not bad for 5-10 minutes of my time!!! We are not done yet –

Now if you use the Barclays Arrival World Elite MasterCard you’d earn 2 Arrival miles on a dollar spent so $5000 on gift cards will help you earn 10,000 Arrival miles which equates to $100 in Travel Credit. So now your net earning will be $83.8 + $100 = $183.8. You’re welcome!!

If you don’t have a Topcashback account you can use my referral link to sign-up we both get $10 back after you spend $20 or more.

2. Citi Increased sign up bonus on Prestige and Premier Card can earn you several thousands in Travel Rewards

In the last two weeks, the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier have each increased their sign up bonuses to 50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. One person can apply for both cards and get 100,000 total Thank You points which is to book up to $1350 worth of airfare through the Citi Travel Center.as long as you apply for the two cards at least eight days apart

Questions this article will answer:

  • What are the differences between the Prestige and Premier?
  • Why would you want both?
  • How can you get both?

What are the differences between the Prestige and Premier?

The Prestige is a premium credit card that competes with cards like the American Express Platinum. The Premier is more of a standard rewards card that competes with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Sign Up Bonus

Both currently offer 50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Annual Fee

There’s a huge difference here. The Prestige has a $450 annual fee that is not waived. The Premier has no annual fee the first 12 months, then $95 a year.

Category Bonuses

The Prestige offers 3x on airlines and hotels and 2x on dining and entertainment. The Premier‘s category bonuses are slightly better. It offers 3x on travel and gas. That includes airlines and hotels, but also a lot more. It also offers 2x on dining and entertainment.

Ease of Travel

Both cards have chip technology for global acceptance and no foreign transaction fees.

Value of ThankYou Points

Both cards offer the ability to transfer ThankYou Points to 12 airline and hotel programs. This is the highest value redemption method.

Both also offer the chance to redeem points like cash toward any flight with no blackouts, but the Prestige offers higher value when points are used this way. The Premier‘s points are worth 1.25 cents each toward all flights. The Prestige‘s are worth 1.6 cents toward American Airlines or US Airways flights and 1.33 cents toward all other flights.

If you have both the Premier and Prestige, you can combine the points into one account, which allows for redemptions at the better Prestige rates.

You can earn serious travel rewards using benefits from the two cards

And the travel category now includes a wider range of purchases such as:

  • Airfare
  • Cruises
  • Car Rental Agencies
  • Gas Stations
  • Hotels
  • Parking Garages
  • Public Transportation
  • Taxis
  • Tolls

Other Benefits

This is where the Prestige kills the Premier, and why the Prestige‘s $450 annual fee is more than justified in my opinion. The Prestige offers:

  • $250 per CALENDAR YEAR (so $500 before your second annual fee is due) in airfare or airline fee statement credits. Tickets, award taxes, upgrades, and bag fees all qualify. This more than offsets the first annual fee.
  • $100 statement credit for signing up for Global Entry, which also gives access to TSA Precheck.
  • Lounge access to all Admirals Clubs when flying American Airlines or US Airways. Lounge access to all Priority Pass Select lounges always. For either type of lounge, you can bring in all your under-18 children plus spouse or any two guests.
  • Fourth night free on all hotel reservations booked through Prestige’s travel agency.
  • Three free rounds of golf per year at participating courses.

Why Would You Want Both?

Each has strengths beyond its giant 50,000 point sign up bonus.

The Premier has better category bonuses because all the following are included at 3x: airlines, hotels, gas, car rentals, travel agencies, buses, trains, parking, tolls, bridges, and time shares. The Prestige only offers 3x on airlines and hotels. The Premier also has a lower annual fee, and one that is waived for the first year.

The Prestige has far better benefits like the statement credits, airport lounge access, and higher value of points when redeemed like cash for flights. Plus getting the Prestige can retroactively lift the value of ThankYou Points earned on other cards because those points can now be put into your Prestige account, which has higher value redemption options.

If you have one, you might want the other for its strengths. If you have neither, you might want both to maximize the strengths of both.

You can transfer Thank You Points to partner Airlines and easily get to Europe.

How Can You Get Both?

According to the combined experience of FlyerTalkers, you can be approved for no more than one Citi credit card application in 8 days and no more than two applications in 65 days.

So if you got one of the cards months ago and want the other now, apply.

If you have neither, apply for one now and one in 8+ days. (Unless you recently got a different Citi card like the Citi Hilton card with 60,000 HHonors points. In that case, make sure that at least 65 days have elapsed from your previous application to your second application.)

To avoid all confusion:

OK

Got Prestige 8+ days ago, have no other Citi cards, get Premier today

Have neither card or any other Citi card, get Prestige today and Premier in 8+ days

Got Citi Hilton card 14 days ago. Get Prestige today and Premier in 51+ days. (65 day rule noted above)

Not OK

Get Premier and Prestige on same day

Got Citi Hilton card 14 days ago. Get Prestige today and Premier in 8 days

You may not be instantly approved on your applications. When that happens, your screen should have a number to call Citi for an instant decision. I always call in to speed things up. I doubt you’ll be asked why you want both the Prestige and Premier, but if you are, mention the strengths of the one you don’t have yet.

Make sure you apply for the two cards at least eight days apart

Bottom Line

You can get both the Prestige and Premier and long as you apply at least at least 8 days apart, and potentially further apart if you have another recent Citi application. Getting both cards and meeting their minimum spending requirements would earn at least 106,000 ThankYou Points, and probably more if you maximize the category bonuses. If you redeem  through the Citi Travel Center $1350 worth of airfare. You can apply for both these cards at creditcards.com under Travel and Rewards. This is my affiliate link for creditcards.com and I am  thankful if you ever plan to use it.

My son Zane having a blast on streets of Dubai.

We enjoyed Aquarium in Dubai early this month.

Categories: American Express Gift cards, cheap travel, Citi Credit Cards, Citi Premier, Citi Prestige, Gift Cards, Thank You Points, Top Cashback | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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