Miscellaneous

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

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.

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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.
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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.

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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

Five Minute Phone call saved me $89 in Annual Fees + Earned AA Bonus Miles

Introduction

Signing up for credit cards to earn huge miles and points is exciting as you earn lot of Free Travel but one big drawback with  is that they come with an annual fees. Most credit cards do not have annual fees the first year just like honeymoon where everything is rosey and fine!! It’s the second year you have to pull up your socks and call the bank to either cancel the card or negotiate the annual fees. You should not cancel too many credit cards after earning the bonus in the first year because bank does not consider you a lucrative customer and it may reduce your chances of getting approved for credit cards later, consider converting it to a no annual fee card. This may help you keep a healthy credit score by not lowering your average age of credit. If you have to absolutely cancel the card then make sure you transfer the credit card limit to another card from the same bank. This will help you keep a healthy credit.

cc fees

Carefully evaluate the benefits associated with the card and then make the decision. But hey the second year may not be necessarily that bad if you follow a few tips I’m about to share to negotiate credit card annual fees. Here is a transcript from my phone call this morning to Barclays to waive annual fees of the recently converted US Airways credit card to the AA Red Aviator Mastercard

My Call :

She – Hello, I am XYZ How can I help you?

Me – I just saw that my credit card was charged for the $89 annual fees. I am not too certain if I should keep the credit card and was hoping you could assist me in keeping this card by adjusting the annual fees.

She – Certainly, let me see what I can do. Can you please hold?

Me – Sure

After a minute silence

She – Sir, I will transfer you to a relationship manager who will assist you further

Me – OK, Thanks

Manager – Good Afternoon, Mr Desai How can I help you?

Me – The lady I was speaking with transferred me to you and she said you could help me waive off the annual fees on my credit card

Read carefully – I am putting words in his mouth. I pretended as if the lady who was helping me first had already agreed to waive off the annual fees and now the manager thinks I am speaking with him to seal the deal.

Manager – Sure Sir, I can waive off the annual fees for you. You should see  the refund on your annual fees in next 3-5 business days. Is there anything else I can assist you with?

Me – Great, Thanks (with a BIG HAPPY GRIN). Could you check if there are any bonus spending offer on my credit cards?

Manager – Let me check.

After a brief pause

Manager – Sir, I can offer you 15000 Bonus miles if you spend $500 each month for the next three months. Will you like to accept this offer

Me – With a much bigger smile – absolutely. Are there any other offers?

Manager- Yes, there is an additional offer where you can earn 2X miles up-to 1000 miles each month for the next three months when you shop for groceries, gas and utilities using your Aviator card. Will you like to accept this offer as well?

Me – The smile is getting even bigger – ABSOLUTELY.

Manager – Read some T&C

Me – Thanks appreciate your help and I hung up

Just after a 5 minute phone call not only I was able to keep the credit card open but have my annual fees of $89 waived and earned 15000 bonus AA miles after completing a simple spending offer.

no-fee-zone

Bottomline :

By simply calling the bank I was able to get the $89 annual fees waived on the Barclay Aviator Red Mastercard and was offered additional offers to earn 15,000 AA miles. My Indian genes probably played a big role in helping me waive off the annual fees. This may not work all the time but you should always call and check what banks can offer. Remember, it costs banks a lot more money to find new customers so you definitely have an upper-hand especially if you spent quite a bit on the credit card. But remember you need to call either before your annual fees is charged or the within a few days, dont procrastinate.

Here’s the rundown on the time banks will let you waive off the annual fees:

  • American Express – Can be waived for up to 1 billing period after the fee is assessed, and prorated on an 11 month basis after.
  • Bank of America – No set policy, though generally if you pay your balance off and close an account a fee waiver could be considered
  • Barclaycard – 60 days after the fee hits.
  • Chase – Many cards give you 60 days after the annual fee hits your account, which is often on the 1st of the month. There are some exceptions. United co-branded cards for example have a generous 180 days during which you can get the fee waived if you change products or cancel.
  • Citibank – 30 days after the statement with the fee is generated. After that it can be prorated based on what month you make your decision.
  • US Bank – 30 days after the charge is assessed.

Still confused? Have a question?

Leave a comment below — I’ll reply shortly — no need to use your real name. Or, use the email form at the top of the page for private advice

Categories: Credit cards, Miscellaneous | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Blog Giveaway – Five Free Dominos Pizza Coupon codes, The list of Most unusual requests and ridiculous Hotel Complaints

  1. Blog Giveaway – Five Free Pizza

Another giveaway for my awesome blog readers. Sorry I am not trying to make anyone fat here but I thought the weekend is coming up and it should be nice to just relax with a warm pizza and cold beer. This time I am giving away Five Free Pizza coupon codes each valid for a “Free Medium Two Toppings Handmade Pan Pizza”. 

Try Domino's New Handmade Pan Pizza Made From Fresh, Never-Frozen Dough! (PRNewsFoto/Domino's Pizza)

Try Domino’s New Handmade Pan Pizza Made From Fresh, Never-Frozen Dough!

Fine print – I will accept entries until August 14th,  Friday 9:00 pm EST. WInners will be announced on August 15th and yu will each receive an e-code via email. The code for Free Pizza expires  Monday August 17th. The codes are  good for in-store pick only at Domino’s store (no delivery) and cannot be combined with other offers. Please enter code while ordering online at Domino’s.

How to Enter – 

  1. Like my Facebook Page – MilesManiac

2. Leave a comment either at the bottom of this blog article or at my facebook page about a place/restaurant along with the city that serves the best pizza in your opinion. I hope to try my favorite food “Pizza” next time I’m in visiting that city.

Very Easy!! Right? I’d look forward to your comments.

  1. The Award for Most Unusual requests and Ridiculous complaints

In these days of movie megastars and overly precious pop stars, we have all heard stories of celebrity guests who make outrageous demands of the hotels they frequent.

But it seems that many members of the general public can be just as diva-like – and delusional – when it comes to what they expect of the places in which they stay.

crazy request

Outrageous orders and crazy complaints regularly stretch the patience of even the best-trained staff, according to a research conducted by flight comparison website Skyscanner.

The survey – which questioned 400 hotel staff in 49 countries – reveals a world of grasping guests and cantankerous customers for whom no tantrum is too ridiculous.

The latter line-up includes far-from-happy customers appalled that their room did not come with a sea view, even though they were staying miles from the coast, a light sleeper angry that they had been kept awake by their own girlfriend’s snoring – and a peeved diner unamused to find that a vegetarian menu in a hotel restaurant did not include steak.

nic cage pic

The most unusual requests to hotel staff…

1. One glass of water on the hour every hour, through the night
2. 15 cucumbers a day
3. Toilet to be filled with mineral water
4. Bath filled with honey
5. Sound of goat bells to aid sleep
6. Only the right legs of a chicken to be served
7. A dead mouse
8. Bath full of chocolate milk
9. 16 pillows (for a single guest)
10. Crocodile soup

… and the ten most ridiculous complaints

1. The sheets are too white
2. The sea is too blue
3. Ice cream is too cold
4. Bath is too big
5. Girlfriend’s snoring has kept guest awake
6. Guest’s dog did not enjoy its stay
7. Hotel has no ocean view (in London)
8. There is no steak on the vegetarian menu
9. Waiter is too handsome
10. Mother of groom has not been given the honeymoon suite

The list of unlikely requests features a range of demands that would surely make the most riotous rock star or highly-strung actress blush.

One guest wanted a glass of water to be delivered to their room – on the hour, every hour, throughout the night. Another insisted that they could not drop off into the land of nod without the sounds of the mountains – and could a range of goat bells be provided?

What has been the most weird hotel request you’ve ever heard?

Source – Dailymail

Categories: Blog Giveaway, Miscellaneous, Pizza | 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

TSA screening a major failure – Are you concerned?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a report that  airport screeners failed to detect explosives and weapons in nearly every test that an undercover team conducted at dozens of airports.

Editorial-Cartoons--TSA-Pat-Down-Privacy

 

According to a report based on an internal investigation, “red teams” with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General were able to get banned items through the screening process in 67 out of 70 tests it conducted across the nation that’s a failure rate greater than 95%. The DHS has spent almost $8 bn last year and the failure rate leaves a lot more questions than answers. DHS also reported that the acting administrator for the Transportation Security Administration would be reassigned. You can read more on this topic here from ABC news

What are your thoughts?

Categories: Miscellaneous | Tags: | Leave a comment

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