October 25, 2014

How to Train Your Wife

Before we took our first long haul trip (December 2012) together, I couldn't get Emily to do any of her online shopping through miles earning shopping portals.  It just "took too much time" and "wasn't worth it" she told me.

Chase Freedom 5x Quarterly Bonus Categories

This morning she was looking for some shoes at Bloomingdale's and not only was she using her Chase Freedom card to earn 5x points (quarterly bonus) but she was double dipping going through the Ultimate Rewards Mall earning another 5x.  Ultimate Rewards points are worth about $.02 to me so that's 20% off (10 x $.02) the purchase for maybe an extra two minutes of work.

Not sure how she changed her behavior but I have a feeling this is what happened..

British Airways First Class Booked

Earlier in the week, I wrote about British Airways up-gauging the current 777 Denver service to a 747 with a first class cabin.  As it turns out, award availability in first was/is fantastic and I booked two tickets for a trip to Europe next May.  I have yet to read (beyond local press in Denver) much about the change in equipment and because of that, there is tons of first class availability.  For comparison sake, I have looked periodically at the DEN - LHR flight in business class and very rarely seen availability so this is a welcome change that probably won't last once more people figure it out.

Anyway...our original plan was to start in Vienna flying Austrian Airlines business class from New York...but this is way better - less flying time and a better product.

BA First Class

BA's award chart is distance based so the further you go, the more expensive (miles wise) the ticket gets.  We are starting the week in Amsterdam so flying DEN - LHR with a layover and then a quick hop over to AMS came out to 84,000 Avios and $495 in taxes.  I didn't have quite enough Avios to book both tickets so I booked the other on American for 62,500 American miles and $495 in taxes as well.

October 22, 2014

British Airways 747 Coming to Denver!

British Airways announced yesterday that they will be up-gauging the current daily 777 Denver - London (LHR) service to a 747 in March of 2015!  This is awesome for several reasons:

1)  Denver International Airport will see additional 747 service - the only current 747 at DIA is Lufthansa's Denver - Frankfurt flight and equipment varies by day
2)  This represents an increase in capacity of 23% - more award seats anyone?
3)  I've been working on earning the BA "Travel Together Ticket" and I would love nothing more than to redeem it for this flight

British Airways 747 Seat Map Key

But the biggest news is that the 747 will add first class service to the Denver market.  The current 777 service provides three classes (business, premium economy, economy) but doesn't have first class.  Very exciting!

Courtesy of seatguru.com - BA first on the 747

I am kind of surprised to see BA adding capacity on the route but it must be doing well and there must be demand for first class for them to make the swap.  I'll keep you posted as award availability becomes available.

October 21, 2014

How to Manage Vacation Photos

One of the most challenging aspects of coming home from a trip is figuring out what to do with all those photos.  It doesn't matter if it was a family reunion, wedding weekend, couples getaway, or a RTW trip in international first class...we all take a million photos.

They're on multiple devices...sometimes the same picture on my phone, Emily's phone, and our point and shoot camera.  I want to remember the trips we've taken and share with others (beyond this blog) and I don't want to resort to sorting through thousands of pictures on dropbox.

Our favorite photo book (and picture) from our trip to Bali

Our solution is twofold.  First, we pick the best pictures from each of our trips and we print and frame them.  We have a nice collection of photos in our dining room from Hong Kong, Istanbul, Dubai, Thailand, and Singapore.  That part is relatively easy.

Second, we (well actually I) make photo books.  I've used a bunch of different platforms over the years from Photozini (now out of business) to Blurb.com.  But the best platform I've used to date is Artifact Uprising.

A few of our vacation photo books

They are actually a local Denver company and the quality of both the software for creating the books and the actual book itself is very high.  I've used them to purchase some prints as well from Bali that our hanging in our bedroom.  Brad Feld wrote a great piece a few months ago on a similar topic - wroth the read.

I love looking back at the books and sharing them with friends and family.  It's a great way to relive the trip and well worth the time it takes to sort and edit pictures.

October 18, 2014

Curb to Train in 4 Minutes

I'm flying today and set a new personal record.  I made it from the curb at DIA to the train (that provides transportation to the gates) in four minutes.  There was a pretty big general security line (probably 10-15 minutes waiting time) but no pre-check line.

Three beeps later, I was speeding through the metal detector to grab my bags and head for the train.  I can't say enough good things about the TSA's pre-check program.  Getting through an airport would really suck without it!

October 13, 2014

Singapore Suites on ABC

Last week, ABC did a story on Singapore Suites.  One of their reporters had the really challenging job of flying Singapore Suites from JFK to Frankfurt on a ticket provided by the airline.  I wonder how he returned to New York?

The video provides some additional perspective on the size of the seat, bed, food quality, etc...

Singapore A380 Suite

October 12, 2014

Earning 5x Ultimate Rewards Points from Chase Ink Cards

It must be the morning of 5x.  The Chase Ink Business Cards (Bold and Plus) provide an excellent opportunity to earn a ton of valuable Ultimate Rewards points.  I've had an Ink Bold card for a couple of years now and while I don't keep the card in my wallet, I will grab it out of my CC stack for a couple of key use cases:

1)  I leverage my Ink card for all of our cable, internet, and cell phone monthly bills.  That amounts to roughly $350/month and is all recurring billing so I don't even have to remember to use the card.  That earns an easy 1,750 Ultimate Rewards points.

2)  If I'm going to an office supply store (i.e. Staples or Office Depot) I will bring my Ink Card.  If I'm buying something online from these stores, I will use my Ink Card through a shopping portal.  I spend around $200/month on gift cards to maximize my earning on everyday spend.  That is another 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points each month.

Leveraging these techniques, I'm earning over 33,000 Ultimate Rewards points per year.  I value those points at around $660 so more than paying for the $95 annual fee.  This is a card that I will keep (vs. get rid of)  year after year.

Earn an Additional 5x United Miles for Shopping Online

United has another shopping bonus this week offering 1,000 miles after spending $200.  That's 5x miles in addition to what you would earn from the portal and your credit card.  Not bad if you were going to make a $200 purchase (by 10/18) anyway.  I value United miles at $.02 so by spending $200, you're getting an "extra" 10% rebate on your purchase.

This isn't the best bonus of the year but it's still pretty good.  I would expect some serious increases as we get closer to the holidays in both the bonuses and standard payouts.  So if you are thinking about getting an early start on holiday shopping, you might want to wait a few weeks.

October 11, 2014

What's in My Wallet - October 2014 Edition

This is the next post in my periodic series outlining the cards in my wallet and my rationale for spending on each.  I try to be as purposeful (and organized) as possible about the cards in my wallet and when each one comes out.  The best analogy is really a swiss army knife.  You want to have a handful of tools for different jobs and understand which tool to use for a specific job (purchase).  This will help you maximize your earning on spend.

Here are the four cards (in addition to my debit card) in my wallet this month:

1)  Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

I put half of my non-bonuses everyday spending on this card and the other half on my Chase BA card.  Starwood points are among the most difficult to earn yet the most valuable.  Putting non-bonuses spend (i.e. non dining and entertainment which go on the Sapphire card) is a great way to earn incremental Starwood points.

2)  Citi Executive AAdvantage World MasterCard 

I've already earned the bonus on my first of these cards.  I'm working on the second at the moment and should be complete in October.  After I complete the minimum spend on this card, we'll have earned 327,500 American Airlines miles from these cards this year.  We'll be using the miles to help us get home from Hong Kong later in the year.

3)  Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa Card 

No minimum spend needed on this card.  Just my workhorse everyday card earning 2x (actually 2.14X when you include the annual 7% dividend) on travel and dining. This card is also linked to my United dining program account.

4)  Chase British Airways Visa Signature Card 

I've already met the minimum spend on this card as well as the incremental bonuses (25,000 points after spending $10,000 and another 25,000 points after spending $20,000 in the first year of card membership).  I am now working on reaching $30,000 of spend this year in order to earn the British Airways Travel Together Ticket which is basically a 2 for 1 certificate.

The End of Amazon Payments

Amazon Payments is officially dead for my household.  I processed the final $2,000 roundtrip this morning.

For those of you that haven't done so, you still have 2 more days to manufacture $1,000 per person this month.

Amazon Payments is/was one of the easiest wasps to manufacture spend.  Over the last couple of years, we've generated over 50,000 points and miles while on our way to many more as this technique helped both of us achieve minimum spend requirements for our favorite credit cards.

Certainly an end of an era.