Rocks in the Rockies!! Maligne Lake 2015. Flights on Aeroplan, upgraded suites at Fairmont Jasper thanks to Amex Plat5 offer
Level 1: Starting low and slow
If you like packaged vacations, cruises, all-inclusive and don’t like a lot of hassle in planning then the best type of credit cards for you are ones where you can redeem points for dollar equivalents and use the dollar amounts towards purchasing a package. If you do this, then you want to look for cards that maximize points earning and have a good points to dollar redemption ration e.g.:
Higher end credit cards can be intimidating. I know. I've been there. And there might never be the time or space in your life where paying a higher credit fee on an annual basis appeals to you.
But before you toss the idea out completely, there are a few cards that are worth considering if you add up (use) the benefits they confer. One that stands out for me is the Amex Platinum card. Their benefits really add up, and if you get familiar with them and how to leverage them, it will help you get over the sticker shock.
$699 per year!!
There we got over the worst by pulling off the band-aid. Let's apply the anasthetic. For that price you get:
1. $200/yr calendar credit that can be applied against travel (hotel, flight etc). If you play your card right during the first year, you can do this twice in the annual year of the card e.g. if you get the card in October 2018 and use the calendar year credit by 31 Dec 2018, you can get the $200 credit again in 2019 (as long as it's before Oct 2019) before you need to renew the card.
To recap: in regular years the $200 credit effectively takes the price down to $499; for the first year, the cost can be reduced to $299.
2. Hilton Gold Status. Since Hilton is one of the largest hotel chains around, this benefit is quite valuable. It gives you access to breakfast for 2 per night per stay, and often room upgrades, plus optional late check-out, bonus collection points and generally being treated nicer at your stays.
3. Marriott/SPG (now that they got married) Gold Status. While Hilton gold is better than Marriott gold, since the former includes food (close to my heart - I get hangry in mornings without breakfast), gold at Marriott/SPG is still pretty sweet. It won't get you a suite, but will get you nicer rooms, early check-in or late check-out when available, and bonus points.
- Points are good. Eventually you can trade them in for free or low cost night. Collect as many as you can, as often as you can, for as little as you can!!!
4. Shangri La Hotels Jade Status: I'm still working through exactly how best to benefit from this. But in case you or your company is springing for a room in one of these high-end hotels, elite status is always nice. The big win in this space, is that Jade Status translates to silver status in Kris Flyer (Singapore Airlines rewards program). Three flight legs (this includes one flight, with 3 legs) using Sngapore Airlines or their partner Silk Airlines, will net you KrisFLyer gold status. Singapore Airlines is a member of Star Alliance airline carriers, and gold Kris Flyer gives you gold on partner airlines, like AIR CANADA!! So for three legs of a flight, you too can be one of the snobby's that get moved to the front of the line for priority boarding, more likely to get upgraded to business class (no guarantees) and generally get treated a little less like cattle and more like a gilded cow.
5. Car Rental Benefits and discounts with Hertz and other car rental partners.
6. One off bonuses: Amex just sent a special for spend $100+ at Birks, get $100 credit back. Granted the number of items at Birks that are in the low price range to not be too much out of pocket is limited, but there is a pair of pearl earrings for kids that are $135 before the $100 credit, that just might make its way to my daughter's stocking this Christmas
7. I saved the best for last: the HUGE sign-up bonus. If you use the referral link below, to apply for this Amex card, if approved and you can spend $3000 in the first three months (buy gift cards if you must), then you get 60,000 Amex Membership Rewards (MR). As Amex membership rewards are some of the most valuable points around due to their flexibility to redeem for mechandise, cash, other airlines, gift cards, hotels, trains, travel in general, and this is the highest points bonus available in the personal Amex card space, you don't want to miss out on the opportunity. Note: I will get a 15,000 referral bonus if you use my link. If you do not use the link, and apply for the Amex card online, you will still get 40,000 points. While this is not as good as 60K it is still pretty good. The redemption rate for points to cash is 100 points =$1 though you can get much higher value from airline and hotel transfers.
So....from what you can see above..if you can good at maths, or even so-so at it..what might seem like a ludicrously high price...still remains a high price. But just might be worth the cost. You get what you pay for.
Air Miles have a bad rep in the points blogging sphere. I maintain that's because people don't know how to leverage the hell out of them - from both a collection and redemption point of view.
One of the super amazing opportunities in this space is the BMO World Elite Master Card. It normally retails for $120 per year, but right now BMO will waive the fees. A 3k minimum spend will net you 3K airmiles. Plus when you redeem, having the card confers a 15% discount on redemptions.
Wondering what you can do with 3K miles and a 15% discount?
1. Get a return flight to disney world, and pay for a car rental (1680 miles one way, 2300 miles return)
2. Almost (and with the 3K spend, that will give you a guaranteed minimum of 150 more miles, so you will have enough) for 2 return tickets to New York (980 miles one way)
3. Pay for a nice getaway weekend in downtown toronto (hotel mileage varies widely).
I had a great experience this week, attending my first ever PointsU conference, here in Toronto. Apparently there is really a conference for everything!! Including points and miles nerds like myself, that have little or no business travel, but want to fly in as much comfort as ordinary folks can.
One of the best nuggets out of the conference I learnt, was about the amazing Atlantis, Bahamas, free/severely discounted package opportunity, offered through Ceasar's entertainment Total Rewards Package.
If you are a total Rewards member, with Platinum or Diamond status, until Jan 31 2019, you can get a free 4 night stay at Atlantis. You have to get there on your own. But with our tips on miles and points on flying, you can construct a cheapie way to fly, resulting in a great value vacation. Link to Total Reward here.
Of course you are probably thinking, I don't gamble, don't stay at Caesar's. How could this possibly help me!!
Even if you don't intend to gamble or visit Caesars (why wouldn't you want to visit Chez Celine?), it is worth registering for the TR program as your default level will be gold. While this does not allow you to claim the free Atlantis package, it does allow you to purchase a package from TR customer service for Atlantis for 3 nights for $99 each (US).
There are other programs and TR partners that can help you reach platinum or diamond faster. If you are interested in learning more or would like me to do the work in getting your accounts etc. set up, please send me an email at email@example.com
Pic taken at the WestJet Hangar in yyz: sitting in the Engine of a parked 767
Sarah hates flying, but she likes going places. To psychologically foster this lifestyle, she likes to make travel as comfortable as possible, for the least cost as possible