December 4, 2016

How to Get Started

I'm often asked how to get started with this hobby.  Many people are intimidated by the vast amounts of knowledge (often times conflicting) and advice on the internet.  While I don't have any earth shattering advice, I do think the most important step in starting in this hobby (or any other hobby for that matter) is just to start.

Start learning, start reading, start asking questions, start experimenting.  The same advice could be said about a new workout, a new sport, a new skill, a new job, etc...

If you are interested in reading about how I got started, you can check out part one and part two or click on the "About Me" tab on any page of the blog.

Beyond just starting to read/learn/question, this is a hobby in which having a goal is very important.  It's key to understand how you want to travel, when, with how many people, your dream destinations, etc...

Once you have a handle on the answers to these questions, you can start to craft a strategy before you begin accumulating points.

One challenge in this hobby is the accumulation of points in disparate accounts without a goal.  This can lead to hundreds of thousands of "orphaned points" in which you have a lot of points but not enough to redeem any of them for anything cool.  Thus the need to have a goal and a strategy before you start applying for credit cards, maximizing spend bonus categories, dining out, or shopping online.

I don't believe this is a "10,000 hours" type hobby.  After a year of effort, I knew a lot,  After two years even more.  After four years of concerted effort, I'm pretty much an expert in a lot of the basic strategies so maybe more like a 1,000 hour hobby.  I've earned and burned more than 5,000,000 miles and points for my own travel and helped others earn and burn millions more to help them make their travel dreams come true.

So get started today by reading more on this blog (and others) and drop me a line if you have any specific questions.

Churning the Barclaycard Arrival Plus MasterCard

Barclaycard offers the Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard in the US with a 50,000 point signup bonus.  This card is a great "cash replacement" for travel expenses as you'll get 2x miles on all purchases which can then be redeemed against travel purchases.  You also get 5% of the miles back in the form of a rebate on all redemptions.  The minimum redemption is a $100 purchase (used to be $25 and the rebate used to be 10%).

Effectively, this is a 2.10% cash back card on travel purchases with a $525 signup bonus.  The $89 annual fee is also waived for the first year.  Like the Alaska credit cards issued by Bank of America, Barclays will generally provide the signup bonus more than once.  Here's my experience:

  • January 2014 approved and received 40,000 mile bonus (cancelled prior to 12 months)
  • March 2015 approved and received 40,000 mile bonus (canceled prior to 12 months)
I haven't tried the 50,000 mile bonus so am going to give that a shot.  Will report back to let you know if I receive the (bigger) bonus again.  While I wouldn't keep the Arrival Plus, the card is definitely a good addition to any card portfolio for the first year.  And being able to receive the bonus more than once is another huge positive.

Chase Ritz Carlton Card Review

Chase has had a Ritz Carlton credit card product for years.  This year, they changed up the signup bonus from two free nights (and sometimes targeted 140,000 points) to there free nights after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.

The card comes with a $450 annual fee and a $300 calendar year airline incidental credit.  So now is a great time to get the card since you can effectively get the rebate twice (in 2016 and 2017).  This will essentially offset the annual fee plus some.

Save Big with Verizon and Amex Offers

If you've been reading ATRP, you know that I'm a huge fan of American Express Amex Offers.  Over the last few years, I've saved over $2,500 by leveraging Amex Offers to obtain statement credits on stuff I was going to buy anyway.

Nearly $1K in savings on one card
The concept is simple - login to your American Express account online, scroll down to the bottom and you'll see the available offers. Scroll through the offers that make sense for you, and click "Add to Card."  Meet the spend requirements at that merchant and you'll receive the statement credit a few days later.

Amex is out with two targeted offers for big savings with Verizon.  First, 10% off a cell phone bill (could be any wireless carrier) up to $30 off ($300 in spend).

But the good news is that you can double dip this Amex Offer with one of two targeted offers that I received.  The first is $25 off $100 in spend with Verizon up to two times.  The second, is 2,500 American Express Membership Rewards points on $100 in spend with Verizon.  I value MR points around 2 cents each so this is like getting $50 back in addition to the 10% off.

Both of the Verizon specific offers are good through 2/21/2017.  Verizon will let you pre-pay up to $500 and I did just that to trigger several of these bonuses.  I'll make another round of pre-payments in February to finish them off.  In total, I will be putting $600 in Verizon spend on various Amex cards and receive 5,000 bonus MR points receive a $160 rebate on the payments.  That's 40% off my cell phone bill!

Incredible Etihad A380 Flyover at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

We returned from Dubai last weekend after an awesome week at Al Maha, the Park Hyatt Dubai, and a night in Abu Dhabi.  We were fortunate enough (thanks to an ATRP reader) to attend the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday for qualifying.

F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Yes Marina Circuit 
Race time
Before the race, Al Fursan (UAE Blue Angels equivalent) put on a spectacular performance.

UAE Al Fursan putting on a show
Before the actual race on Sunday, they stepped it up even further performing with an Etihad A380.  Check out the video.  Unreal.  Love the soundtrack as well.

Stay tuned for our flight last week on Etihad from Abu Dhabi to LAX.  We had a near perfect flight despite the length (5th longest in the world).