March 29, 2015

Long Weekend in Vancouver: Planning & Booking

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class New York (JFK) to Vancouver
Fairmont Pacific Rim
Shangri-La Vancouver

We're just a couple of weeks away from our long weekend in Vancouver.  This was a really easy trip to book (most weekend trips are) as there was plenty of availability for both the flights and hotels we wanted.

Cathay Pacific 777-300ER

First, I booked our flight from JFK to Vancouver in Cathay Pacific First Class.  I was able to book the flight online using 65,000 British Airways Avios for both of us.  There were also taxes of $44 USD.  The flight is a quasi redeye leaving New York at 10PM and landing in Vancouver at 1AM PDT.  Luckily, we'll have great pajamas and a bed to get some rest on the way there.

As a reminder, British Airways Avios is a transfer partner of both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards...so it is really easy to accumulate a ton of BA points.  Not a bad redemption for a flight which would have cost a few thousands dollars.

I am headed to a conference before our trip so I'll be making a stop for a couple of nights in Chicago prior to heading to meeting Emily in New York.

My routing courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper

I paid cash for our United tickets home from Vancouver at a cost of around $400 for both of us.  Yes this is a roundabout way of getting to Vancouver.  But it will be a fun weekend adventure flying one of our favorite first class products.

In terms of hotels, I used the free nights from my Chase Fairmont card for the first couple of nights  at the Fairmont Pacific Rim.  I was able to upgrade us to a suite and we'll have $100 to spend on breakfast and $50 to spend on dinner.  Not bad.

For the third night, I booked a paid rate ($220 USD) at the Shangri-La Vancouver through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts.  The rate includes wi-fi, breakfast, and a $100 on-property credit which we'll put to good use at the bar.

All in, we booked a long weekend in Vancouver for under $700.  That includes 3 nights in luxury hotels, free breakfast, $150 in dining credits, and 6 hours in Cathay Pacific First Class.  Follow the blog and Instagram for updates on the journey!

USAirways Miles Successfully Transferred to AA

As you all know, American Airlines is in the process of integrating USAirways after their merger last year.  There have been many milestones in combing the two companies and loyalty programs.



This weekend marks a pretty important milestone as USAirways Dividend Miles are being merged into American AAdvantage accounts.  I logged into my AAdvantage account this morning and my USAirways Dividend Miles have been successful transferred!  Same goes for Emily's account.


I am still primarily a Star Alliance flyer given that I live in Denver and beyond United, my options are somewhat limited.  But I've had great success earning and burning AAdvantage miles over the past year - especially to Asia.  It's great to see that the migration went so smoothly and that all of my miles are now combined in one account.  Congrats to the new American on what is obviously a huge milestone!

March 22, 2015

Barclays USAirways 50% Spend Bonus

A couple of days ago, I mentioned that I picked up the Barclays USAirways Dividend Miles MasterCard for the 50,000 USAirways miles that will soon become AA miles.  All for only $89.

When activating my card, I noticed this awesome promotion.  I don't believe it's targeted (or else it's very widely targeted) as many others have received) it's possible that you might not receive the bonus on your account.

Barclays USAirways 50% spend bonus

You must agree to the terms to get the bonus and have until 6/30/15 to max out on the spend.  This offer is essentially providing 1.5x AA miles on up to $20,000 spend over a 4 month period.  Pretty good for a non bonus category promotion.

If you sign-up for the card today (remember it's going away in April) and spend $20,000 between now and 6/30/15, you'd earn a total of 80,000 AA miles for just $89 in fees.

Paying Federal Taxes With a Credit Card

Earlier in the year, I posted about paying local property taxes (here in Denver) with a credit card.  But what about federal taxes where most of us owe the bulk of our tax bill?  While most people likely shy away from paying their taxes with a credit  card, it can make sense in a bunch of situations.  I've been paying my estimated taxes with a credit card for the past few years and after doing the math, I feel like I've come out ahead each year.

There are several options to pay your taxes (personal or business, estimated, etc...) with a credit card.  The cheapest "convenience fee" you'll find on any of the federal tax sites is 1.87% at payUSAtax.  There are really three situations where paying this fee makes sense.  Keep in mind in both situations that having the cash to pay off the credit card bill is paramount - if you're paying interest and fees on top of the 1.87%, you are not going to come out ahead.

Pay federal taxes at payUSAtax for 1.87%

March 20, 2015

What's in My Wallet - March 2015 Edition

It's been awhile since I've posted about what's in my wallet.  I'm going to try and keep this up quarterly.  You can check out other posts here:

What's in My Wallet?  October 2014

What's in My Wallet?  April 2014

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.

1)  Amex Simply Cash Business Credit Card

I usually prefer to earn points and miles vs. cash back, but this offer is pretty hard to pass up given the strong bonus ($250 on $5,000 in spend so 5x cash back all with no annual fee) and bonus categories (5x on office supplies and cell/cable bills, 3x on a category of your choice - in my case restaurants).  This card is a keeper given the lack of an annual fee although I probably won't put a ton of spend on the card once receiving the signup bonus.

2)  Barclays US Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard

Given the merger with American and the fact that this card is going away (likely in April) as the merger progresses, I figured I'd pick up this card again (I've had it before a couple years back).  The sign-up bonus is really strong - 50,000 USAir miles after first purchase for an $89 annual fee.  These miles will become AA miles in April so you should definitely get this card before it goes away.  The card is still in my wallet due to a promotion Barclays is running offering 1.5x miles for the next few months.  After that, I'll stick it in a drawer.

3)  Chase Sapphire Preferred

All of my travel spend goes on the CSP.  Once I've hit the sign-up bonus on my Simply Cash Business card, I'll move back to the CSP for restaurant spend.

4)  Amex Starwood Preferred Guest

This card is perpetually in my wallet.  In fact, I just paid my taxes with the card.  Even though there is a ~2% fee to pay taxes with a credit card, it's a no brainer for me.  I would buy Starwood points all day long at 2%.  I am staying at The Phoenician Resort in May for 12,000 points a night.  The cash rate is >$500 per night.  If I was to "buy points" at $.02 that would be $240 per night...a huge discount versus the $500 cash rate.

Long Weekend in Vancouver: Introduction

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class New York (JFK) to Vancouver
Fairmont Pacific Rim
Shangri-La Vancouver

I'll admit I've been slacking on the blog.  I hope to pick it up over the next couple of weeks as I have a bit more free time and our travel is picking up big time...so lots of trip reports to write.

It's been 8 years since we were in Vancouver.  It was an awesome trip and we are both pumped to be going back to celebrate my birthday.  This time, we're going in style.

Cathay Pacific flies a pretty awesome fifth freedom route from New York (JFK) to Vancouver.  The aircraft then continues on to Hong Kong.  The flight is a reverse redeye leaving New York at 10PM and getting to Vancouver around 1AM (4AM NYC time).  There is typically pretty good first and business class availability on this flight.  I was able to snag a couple of first class seats using British Airways Avios several months in advance.  I actually have to be at a conference in Chicago the week of our trip so will meet Emily at JFK before we board the 6 hour flight to Vancouver.  Yes...we are flying to Vancouver via New York.  Don't judge me.

In Vancouver, we're staying at two hotels I've been eyeing for a long time.  For the first two nights, we'll be at the Fairmont Pacific Rim in a suite with comped breakfast thanks to the Chase Fairmont Visa card.  W'e're staying the third night at the Shangri-La Vancouver (their only North American property) which I have heard great things about.  We are paying cash on an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts rate.  We'll get free breakfast, $100 on-property credit, early check-in, late check-out, free wifi, etc...

We leave in early April so follow the blog for more updates around Planning & Booking and the actual trip report segments.  This should be a great weekend!

March 10, 2015

IHG Vegas Flash Sale Live Early

The IHG Las Vegas flash sale I posted about last week seems to be live early.  Originally, the sale was slated to begin at 10AM MDT today.


I was able to make two weekend bookings at the Venetian for October for 25,000 points per night.  Rates were going for $300+ AI so 25,000 points is an absolute steal.  You can access the flash sale here.

Keep in mind these rates are cancel-able so if you think you might "need" a Vegas trip in 2015 and you have the IHG points, you might as well book a weekend.  We are were sitting on 170,000 IHG points so it made sense to lock in a couple of options during football season.