In 2015, the Huffington Post reported that Amazon Prime members spend about $1,500 a year in purchases on Amazon – the giant online everything store. For some, that sounds about right – for other’s, it’s under the mark.
Wouldn’t it be nice to earn some extra points for your Amazon purchases?
Portal payouts for Amazon are usually a paltry 1%. Aside from the Amazon credit card from Chase, the Chase Freedom and Discover IT cards offer 5% cash back/points during some quarters of the year, capped at $1,500 in spend over the three month period.
Occasionally, AMEX offers give 2 or 3 points per dollar at Amazon.
You can still earn these. And more.
Enter JetBlue’s newest promotion and enhanced partnership with Amazon, giving customers an unprecedented 3 points/dollar spent at Amazon.com.
You need to use a link via your JetBlue’s TrueBlue page.
Sign into your TrueBlue account (or create one for free) and navigate to the TrueBlue section of JetBlue’s webpage.
From there click ‘Our Partners’
You’ll notice the first featured option is with Amazon – click through that and you’ll be brought to the landing page for the partnership and promotion.
Be sure to click ‘Shop and Earn’ – this is your unique link which will track your purchases and ultimately reward you the points.
You can read the entire FAQ on the landing page, but here are some of the takeaways.
Points should post within 60 days of product purchased – All promotions list a timetable, but TrueBlue points have been known to post faster from promotions.
One item not listed is Prime Now purchases. My guess, however, is that they’re excluded. Though you can access the TrueBlue link from an online webpage and then shop via Chrome/Safari on your phone, Prime Now is an app – not a site. For now, anyways.
Is this stackable?
I don’t see why not! If you have a credit card which earns bonus points on Amazon, you’d still earn that bonus AND the TrueBlue point bonus by using your unique link.
While the unique link adds a step, at 3 points per dollar it can be very lucrative. Even $1,500 a year in shopping equals 4,500 TrueBlue points – with JetBlue’s frequent sales, that can be enough for a one-way flight – and all you’ve had to do was use a link.
With the end of the year coming up, now is the perfect time to ‘double-tip’ on credit card travel credits. If you already have one of these cards, make sure to go ahead and check if you’ve fully used the credit. Your credits will be good to use for the remainder of this year and next year.
All credit cards aren’t created equal – and all credit card travel credits aren’t created equal, either.
Below are the cards which offer airline travel credits and my ranking of them from most lucrative and easiest to use, to least lucrative and most restrictive.
Chase’s newest and most popular credit card, the Sapphire Reserve has the best travel credit policy of all the cards. Not only is it the most amount per calendar year ($300!), it is the least restrictive
Though the terms & conditions do not say what is included, anecdotal evidence points that the credits work on many (if not all) travel purchases including airline tickets, award taxes and fees, lounge access, tolls, taxis/ubers, commuter trains and buses and even hotels.
Travel statement credits post automatically.
2. Citi Thankyou Prestige – $250
The Prestige’s airline travel credits were a game changer before the Reserve hit the market. Unlike AMEX, which makes you designate one domestic airline to receive the credits, the Prestige airline travel credit worked on any airline purchase – even a ticket. It also works on award taxes and foreign airlines.
Travel statement credits post automatically, typically after your statement closes.
3. American express personal rewards gold card – $100
When you take a glance at the matrix above, you’ll notice that the AMEX Personal Rewards Gold card is ranked higher than the Platinum products which offer $100 more in travel credits. Why? Because the Gold card’s annual fee is completely waived the first year.
So if you were to apply today (or soon), you’d get $100 in travel credits in 2016 and then again in 2017! That’s $200 in travel credits and you haven’t paid an annual fee. (The annual fee of $195 is charged after the first year).
In order to receive the credits, you must log in and select your airline of choice. You can access the selection page by going to your card’s ‘benefits’ section.
For each AMEX card you have that offers this benefit, you must do this once a year. These airline choices only include domestic U.S. airlines and officially apply towards the following purchases:
Award taxes & fees
Miscellaneous airline imposed fees
After selecting your airline, you’ll be reimbursed automatically by AMEX.
4, 5, 6. AMEX Platinum Personal, Business and Mercedes Benz Platinum
I rank these cards lower because their annual fees are higher.
The restriction about choosing one airline per year is the same as the Gold card. This restriction is frustrating, but AMEX was the first bank to offer these types of credits. Everyone else – Chase and Citi – have copied AMEX and improved.
I’d love to see AMEX up their game and ease some of the restrictions on the travel credit. (As an aside, I typically don’t activate my credits until I know I’m going to use them).
These cards offer $200 – instead of $100 – in travel credits.
7. Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Card – $300
Though this card offers more in travel credits than the Platinums/Benz, I’ve ranked it lower because it is the least restrictive is not applied automatically.
You must either: 1) Call Chase or 2) send a Secure Message to have the charge reimbursed. The call center is quick and painless, but it’s a process nonetheless.
Officially, the following incidentals can earn the travel credits (for all airlines – foreign or domestic)
Things like the actual tickets, cancellation fees and award taxes probably won’t work.
After you call it usually takes a few days and then you’ll be reimbursed.
Travel Credits Are Not Free Money
Travel credits are not free money.
With the exception of the AMEX Personal Rewards Gold card, you need to pay a hefty ($450 – $475) annual fee in order to have the card and ultimately, utilize the credits.
So what’s the point of this post?
If you have one of the premium card products and open it now before 2017 and take advantage, or ‘double-dip’ the travel credits in 2016 and 2017, your return will be a bit better. But again, you’re still spending $450 in order to get $400 back in travel credits. Again, you’ve still spend money.
However, cards like the Reserve and Prestige which are the least restrictive, you’ll gain something because their travel credits in two calendar years ($600 and $500, respectively) are greater than the annual fee.
So for the Reserve, you should look at it like $150 back in travel reimbursements – not $600.
The original purchase counts towards minimum spend requirements, even if it you get reimbursed
You will earn points on the original purchase
If you do not see the statement credit come in from the bank, be sure to call the number of the back of the card. Even if the T&Cs exclude it, it may be possible to get them to budge – sometimes it’s an error or oversight.
If you’re on the fence about one of these cards because the annual fee, now may be the time for you to grab one up. This analysis does not take into account sign-up bonuses or other perks and benefits of the cards which you may find useful.
Part of our motivation to head to Barcelona from London was two fold:
I booked this return trip pretty last minute and due to the Thanksgiving holiday, there were limited return options; the flights from Barcelona to NYC were direct and had availability that was business class (though I’d have flown back economy, too).
Barcelona is located near the Mediterranean making it one of the warmer destinations in Europe at this time of year.
What I Liked About Barcelona
The Art and Architecture
So much about Barcelona is centered around it’s history with art and architecture – think Picasso and Cubism. Of course there are other things to do there, but it seems that a lot of the tourist industry is built around some of the more weird and interesting architectural designs you’ll come across.
In fact, most of the souvenirs had similar mosaic motifs that mimic the architectural design around the city.
Here’s my recommended order for seeing the architectural masterpieces of Gaudi:
Parc Guell – Though we saw this on our second day, there is a guided tour (about 10 – 15 people) that is relatively short at one hour and very much worth it. Usually I avoid this tours, but we found it to be informative not just about the location but about Barcelona’s premier architect, Gaudi. Because the city features so many of his works, this tour will lay the groundwork for understanding the other sites. I’d defiitely do this first!
Casa Mila/La Pedrera – Though overpriced, admission includes a tour and access to the roof which provides spectacular views of the city and some truly mind bending architecture by Gaudi.
Casa Batllo – We didn’t pay to go up, but the beauty is really the outside of the building.
La Sagrada Familia – An extremely massive church, also designed by Gaudi, but never finished due to his death before completion. It’s currently slated to be finished, based on Gaudi’s detailed notes in 2026.
Other cool sites include the Gothic Quarter and the Picasso Museum. (The Picasso Museum is free on Sunday’s from 3:00 PM – 8:00 PM. Definitely worth the wait in line!)
Unlike London, I found the city to be fairly inexpensive. Rides to/from the airport cost about $35 – compared to a cab from London-Heathrow to the city which can be more than double. The attractions, food and the metro were also pretty cheap.
Though the metro there is perfectly fine, downtown Barcelona is pretty condense (I guess this doesn’t make it practical to have a lot of metro stations?). The city – and the most popular sites – are located within 20-30 minutes of each other. Sure, the metro works, too, but the weather was really pleasant for walking around. It’s also a great way to get a feel for a city.
What I Didn’t Like
Like many cities in Europe, Barcelona is probably a bit more fun in the warmer seasons. There’s a beach that gets pretty crowded in the summer months, but it being November and all…
It truly is a an art lovers paradise, but you can hit most of the popular places in 2 – 3 days.
Bottom Line – Is it worth a visit?
I love experiencing new cities and cultures, so yes, I would say it is definitely worth the visit. However, unless you’re taking day trips to the surrounding cities, you don’t need much more than 2 – 3 days to see the best of the city.
Though comprehensive trip reports can be interesting, I find them to be too much and too long to read, and often times, boring. So that’s why I’ll provide some highs and lows.
That being said, I’m more than happy to chat about specific aspects of the trip and location.
A Brief Intro
After numerous cancellations of various destinations, we finally settled on Europe for Thanksgiving. Europe, being so massive, we had plenty of places to choose from. We ultimately decided on London for three nights and Barcelona for two.
What I Loved About London
Though three nights is not nearly enough time to cover an entire size such as London, but I think we managed to scratch the surface.
There’s so much I loved about the Underground. I know this seems trivial, but I live in New York City and the subways here are a mess. In London, however, they were clean and efficient. Best of all is the Oyster card which are their version of subway cards. No swiping or inserting. Just tap and go!
There’s an unreal about of history in the city of London and we were able to catch a glimpse of some of it at sites such as the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London (which features the Crown Jewels).
In particular, our tour at the Tower of London was lead by a wonderful guide (known as a ‘Beefeater’) who really made the story of King Henry VIII come alive.
Our hotel was located right off of Oxford Street near the Oxford Street Circus Tube station. Oxford Street is located in the West End of London and is extremely popular for shopping. So on Saturdays it was packed. And I mean 5th Avenue times two! Though there was pushing and shoving to get to where we needed to go, I still found the people to be more proper and less rude.
What I Didn’t Love
Yesterday I wrote about how travel is not 100% free. There are costs. Like attractions. The nice thing about London is that many of the museums are free – like the National Gallery and the history museums. However, a lot of the cooler attractions (like the ones above) cost. And they’re not cheap. It’s typically about $28 per person. That’s pricey.
The London Eye
The London Eye is a giant ferris wheel with extra large pods that lasts about 25 minutes. It takes the spectator up and around and gives impressive views of London… and that’s it. Sure, views of any city are great but the Eye is overly priced at about $35 per person.
The Eye is better from the outside – skip the expense!
Bottom Line – Would I go back?
I’m disappointed that we didn’t have the opportunity to see some museums and go to the Harry Potter studios. The distance between New York and London is about the same as the distance between New York and Los Angeles. I definitely can’t wait to go back.
Contrary to what people may tell you, traveling on points and miles isn’t free. Forget about award taxes (even if you minimize them), simple things like taking public transportation from the airport costs something. But…
Traveling on points gives you opportunities you may otherwise not have.
This is why I use points and miles to travel. It allows me to see the world at a fraction (not free) of the cost it would otherwise.
It’s not about the journey, it’s about the destination.
Sure, business and first class are really unique and experiences. Everytime I fly in a premium cabin (for miles and taxes) I feel really lucky. But if I didn’t have enough points or nothing was available, I’d still travel. I’ve flown economy and I’d sure as heck do it again.
We don’t control award space.
Sometimes the biggest challenge in booking an award ticket is securing open award space for your itinerary. The one thing I’ve learned after a few years and helping numerous clients is that we have no control over award space. Part of the learning curve here is learning the different trends but also realizing that we’re at the mercy of the airlines.
On Credit Cards
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is not the best credit card.
The travel rewards/credit card space is really crowded. (Thanks for reading!) If you keep up with other blogs, the Chase Sapphire Preferred – and now Reserve – products get pushed a lot. They’re both excellent products. But it has to make sense for YOU. Not for me or for anyone else. For YOU.
I’ve opened up a lot of cards in my lifetime, but I’ve always kept my credit score and report in check and in mind of my accounts. Your score and your credit health matter. Remember that credit utilization – the total amount of credit you’re using at any time across all your credit lines – and payment history, are the most important.
Life happens. Part of life happening for some people is debt – credit card, or otherwise If you’re spending more than you have to earn a sign up bonus or earn extra points, then stop earning points. Right away. Switch to a debit card or cash until you’re in a better situation. Paying late fees and interest on credit card bills detracts from your rewards gained and makes your travel even less frugal.
This post isn’t meant to dissuade you from credit cards, miles and points. It’s meant to give you a different perspective on points, miles and credit cards. These are not absolute truths – these are my truths.
A bit of a PSA, below is a recent scenario I encountered and how I made the best decision.
Cash Vs. Points
I recently booked a trip from London to Barcelona. And as I start any search for any trip, I hop onto Google.com/flights to see what the options are.
As we can see, there are three low cost carriers (LCCs) listed in this shot: Norwegian, Ryanair, and Vueling. There are also British Airways flights.
If I was to use miles, the cheapest would be to use British Airways Avios – as Avios is a distance based program.
Here’s what it would cost me in Avios:
But also notice the taxes: $27.50.
While that’s a tad cheaper then paying the cost of the LLC, you’re also using miles. Hypothetically, let’s assume you value you points are 1 cent each – you’ve now spent $27.50 + $65, for a total of $92.50 for one passenger, as opposed to $66 (on Ryanair) for two passengers.
When Using Points & Paying Taxes Makes Sense
The one thing to keep in mind is that LCCs charge for every add-on. So if you’re checking a lot of luggage, will have oversized bags or want to select your seat, you may be better of using Avios and paying the taxes.
If you find yourself in a similar situation and/or dilemma, hopefully my thought process can helpful. Of course, even if the cash outlay is cheaper than points – on say, a mistake fare or regular cheap ticket – it may not make sense for you if you’re miles rich-cash poor.
$200 travel credit that can be used towards airline incidentals
Or Complimentary Delta Sky Club lounge membership
What are the points worth?
This is where it gets interesting.
For gift cards, points are worth 1 cent
Cash back or statement credit, points are worth 1 cent
Flight bookings of $500 (exactly) are equal to 2 cents per point on British Airways, American Airlines, United, and Delta
All other flights with other airlines are 1.67 cents to the dollar for $500 flights (30,000 points required)
Minimum redemption is 25,000 points
If you purchase a ticket for $500, on one of the above airlines, you’ll be required to spend 25,000 points. This essentially gives you $1,000 in value when using on flights.
My Experience Getting Approved
Bank of America (and Merill Lynch) merge credit pulls. My wife recently applied for this new Merill Lynch card and a Bank of America Alaska Airlines credit card and she only had one pull.
Proof is in the pudding.
Just note that if you apply for the Merill Lynch card and the Bank of America Alaska Business product (or any Bank of America Business product), it will most likely be a second pull with Experian or an alternative bureau.
These Merill Lynch points are potentially very lucrative and seem to be easy to earn. Sometimes award space isn’t always available (particularly during peak travel times) and you don’t want to pay cash. Finally, these redemptions will earn elite qualifying miles and points.
I typically don’t write about these types of deals, but the offer is too good not to share.
AMEX and Uber have had a relationship for a few years now, allowing members to pay for rides using Membership Rewards and/or earn 2X Membership Rewards per dollar when paying with AMEX card which earns those types of points.
There have also been sporadic AMEX Offers for $10/$20 off of an Uber ride.
While these are all solid options, today AMEX and Uber announced their best promo yet.
Today AMEX and Uber announced that they’re offering all AMEX cardholders a total of $130 off in increments of $65 (once per ride) on rides from select U.S. Airports.
The promo code for this offer is AMEXAIRPORT
The Fine Print
This is only valid on rides FROM the airport.
The following airports are part of this promotion:
Chicago (ORD and MDW)
New York City (JFK, LGA, EWR)
Washington D.C. (IAD and DCA)
Las Vegas (LAS)
This promotion ends December 31, 2016.
Your payment method must be an AMEX card
Though this does not include every major airport, there are a bunch of popular ones, particularly around the holiday times.
As someone who lives in Manhattan, rides that originate at JFK and terminate in Manhattan are $55 flat rate. After tolls, taxes and tip, the Uber/Taxi comes out to around $70. This promo is a no-brainer!
As someone who holds a lot of credit cards, I rarely am lucky enough to receive mail (otherwise known as “mailers” or “targeted mailers”) offers to sign-up for a new card.
Typically, the banks and loyalty partners target those who don’t carry a lot of cards, or someone who hasn’t opened up a few recently.
Now, there are a lot of theories as to why and how people receive targeted mailers – and while this is all conjectural data, in my experience, I believe that I rarely receive offers because I have a few.
Occasionally I’ll receive offers from Bank of America for Alaska Airlines cards (not any personal, just business). More often than not, though, it’s just offers from Discover.
Typically, I open up the mailer just to peak, but end up tearing up the offer and throwing it away.
Discover doesn’t offer many credit cards and the ones they do focus on cash back. The Discover It card is actually a pretty good offer – they’ll match your spending at the end of the year at 1X to the dollar, unlimited. If you do a lot of unbonused spending, this offering can be pretty lucrative. The Discover It card also has rotating cash back categories like the favorite Chase Freedom – except that there’s no option to transfer your Cash Back to a higher level card (like the Sapphire Reserve) and then transfer to airline partners.
Most of my spending revolves around acquiring the sign-up bonuses or boosting points balance – so I usually don’t dedicate time to earning much cash back.
This weekend I received another mailer and I actually took the time to read the letter.
Here’s what it said:
You’ve probably used to a lot of attention from my industry. And depending on how many credit cards you already have (and how often you use them), you’re probably used to ignoring us. And I can understand why.
… This mailer pretty much hit the nail on the head with my credit card situation.
Kudos to Discover for targeting churners.
Did I sign up for the Discover It card? No.
But this mailer really made me think about Discover products, this specific product, and fun and creative ways to stand out in marketing and a see of products that can be very similar.
And sometimes, it pays off to open the mail – even if you think it will be junk!
While it’s been rumored for a while now (amongst several of Asia’s prominent carriers), yesterday Cathay Pacific (CX) announced that they’d begin flying four times a week from their Hong Kong (HKG) hub to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv (TLV).
They will be flying their brand new A350’s which feature economy, premium economy and business class.
Flights will commence on March 26, 2017 and will be scheduled as follows:
These flights are on sale, but not available for award bookings just yet. When they do become available – any day now – Cathay Pacific tends to release a good amount of award space in all classes of service.
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles – Hong Kong, or ‘Asia 2’, to the Middle-East using AA will cost you 25,000 in economy and 40,000 in business each direction of travel.
If you’d like to fly from the U.S. to Hong Kong and onto Tel Aviv using AA miles, AA will charge you two separate awards, as you cannot transit Asia to get to the Middle-East with their award chart.
The great thing about AA miles is that you can fly from somewhere else within the Asia 2 region, connect in Hong Kong and continue onto Tel Aviv. In order to do this, you’ll need to call and book the award over the phone with an agent.
Here’s how AA defines the Asia Region 2
And if you were to start at a different Asia Region 2 city, connect in Hong Kong and continue onto Tel Aviv, you could do something like…
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles – Using Alaska Airlines miles will actually get you a lot farther than using AA miles. With Alaska miles, you are allowed a stopover – as long as you don’t mix partners. So you could fly Cathay from any of their North American gateways, use Hong Kong as your stop (for the same mileage price) and continue onto Tel Aviv as your destination.
This will cost you 25,000 in coach, 62,500 in business and 70,000 in first class – for one way of travel. Generously, Alaska allows you to route via Asia to continue onto the Middle-East.
Using North American gateways, here’s what this could look like:
Award space on Cathay Pacific is pretty generous if you are able to book far in advance, or within 1 – 2 weeks of departure.
Though there is no first class on the HKG – TLV route, it would be worth the extra miles (for some) if you could snag it on your 16 hour flight if you’re coming form the East Coast.
Route news like this is always exciting. El Al already operates a flight between Tel Aviv and Hong Kong, but more competition, especially in the premium cabin space for business travelers is always good for the consumer. These flights will also be fuel surcharge free when using miles! Add to that some truly sweet redemption options and I’d call this a winner.