Monthly Archives: February 2012

Amex Business Gold – 75,000 point sign-up bonus – TODAY only

I was on Yahoo today and saw an ad for an American Express Business Gold card with a 75,000 point sign-up bonus.  You have to spend $10,000 on the card in the first 4 months to get the sign-up bonus.  The annual fee of $175 is waived for the first year.  This deal is valid for today only.  Here’s the link if you’re interested.

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Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa

This is the first post in the trip report of our trip to Maui.  I will have posts about: the Hyatt Regency Maui in general, Hyatt Regency Maui activities (including the Drums of the Pacific Luau, Camp Hyatt and Japengo), Ka’anapali Beach, Haleakala, the Road to Hana, the Pacific Whale Foundation, and the Northwest region and Iao.

We were so fortunate to stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa.  Last year, I applied for the Hyatt Visa which came with 2 free nights at any Hyatt property.  I also got the 100,000 point bonus Capital One card.  I redeemed the points for $1,800 worth of Hyatt gift checks.  We stayed at the property for 6 nights, our kids went to Camp Hyatt for 2 hours one of the nights, my husband got mai tais at the grotto bar and we went out for a fancy dinner at Japengo.  Our out of pocket expense at check out was….about $60.

The Hyatt Visa gave me platinum status with Hyatt until February 2013 (so about 2 years).  One of the benefits of platinum status is you get “a preferred room including rooms on higher floors or larger rooms, based on availability upon arrival”.  We booked a standard double room and we were given a partial ocean view room!

Our room:

The grounds:

Our kids loved the pools.  They mainly stayed in the kiddie pool area.  The area in the pictures below show this.  There is one area where the water is only about 1 – 2 feet deep (where you see all the floating animals).  This area also has a small slide for the little kids.  The area right behind that area (beyond the nets) is around 5 feet deep.  There is a much larger slide that empties into that area.  Kids must be at least 48″ tall to go on that slide.  The slide empties into water that is about 9 feet deep.  My older son, husband and I loved the slide.  My younger son wasn’t tall enough to go on it but he loved the smaller slide.  The larger slide take 5 – 7 seconds to slide down.

There is a larger pool area that we didn’t spend any time at.  The water is deeper – 4 feet and up.  Between the kiddie pool and the larger pool is a cave area that has waterfalls at both entrances.  The grotto bar is located in the cave.

About the only “complaint” that I have is that I wish there was a pool area where the depth was around 3 – 3 1/2 feet deep.  There were some areas, right where you get in that were around that depth but they quickly got deeper to around 5 feet deep.  The kiddie pool was quite shallow and 5 feet deep is too deep for most kids.

I had read some reviews on TripAdvisor that weren’t so favorable.  Many people talked about some construction that they were doing to update the hotel.  I’m happy to say that that seemed to be over when we were there.  We saw no signs of construction.  And as you can tell from our room pictures, the hotel is very up to date.  There were also some comments on TripAdvisor complaining about parking.  We had absolutely no issues with parking even when the luau was happening.  There are 4 parking lots that you can use.  Two are fairly small in the front of the hotel (to the right as you’re entering the resort).  There’s also a rather large parking lot in the back of the resort (the entry is to the left right before the circle for valet parking).  We never had a time when we couldn’t find parking in one of those 3 lots.  However, if those are ever full, you can also park in the self-parking lot near the golf course.

We loved our stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui.  We found everyone we encountered to be very friendly.  The grounds were absolutely beautiful and the kids loved the pools.  There was so much to do at the resort and it’s located at Ka’anapali Beach.  I would definitely recommend this resort to friends.

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Back from Hawaii and Thinking About Disney

You may have noticed a lack of posts for the last week or so.  The reason I wasn’t posting is we were in Hawaii!  Yes, the long awaited trip was fantastic.  I’ll post a trip report over several days in the coming week(s).  I’m finally getting back on East Coast time so I’ll be awake enough to put one together. 

And after taking such a lovely vacation, I want more.  I’ve turned my attention to our trip to Disney that we have planned for this April.  Originally, I was planning on using Starwood Hotel points to book a room at the Disney Swan resort.  However, I have reconsidered that.  Disney is running a promotion (that ends today) where you can book some of their hotels for 30% off. 

Here’s why I reconsidered my hotel strategy.  When redeeming points, I want to get at least a 2 cent return for each point redeemed.  We are planning on staying in Disney for 5 nights.  The only option to redeem points at the Disney Swan was the free night option (cash and points was not available).  Since we were staying for 5 nights, I could do the redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free option.  Each free night would cost me 10,000 points.  So I would have to spend a total of 40,000 points for the stay.  Now you could say that that means I’d have to get at least $800 worth of value out of the stay.  But you can redeem 40,000 Starwood Hotel points for 50,000 airline points (Starwood gives you a bonus 5,000 points for every 20,000 points you transfer to an airline).  So I want to get at least $1,000 worth of value out of the stay.  Plus I’d really like to do better than $1,000 in value because I value Starwood points more than other points.

Technically, I would have done better that that with booking at the Swan.  A night at the Disney Swan resort was running about $240 (not including taxes/fees).  Since we were staying 5 nights, that would be nearly $1,250 in value.  But I needed to look at the alternatives.  With Disney’s promotion, I could book a night at one of the moderate hotels for about $140-$150/night.  And since it was a hotel run by Disney (unlike the Swan, which is on Disney property but run by Westin), I could also take the Disney Express to the hotel from the airport (so I won’t have to pay for transportation from the airport to/from the hotel).  Plus I still had a credit with Hotels.com from this promotion last year where you got a free night if you booked one night through them.  With all that taken into consideration, the hotel stay would only cost us $660 in total.  We’ll be staying at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort, which both a friend and Mousesavers.com recommended.

Every time I plan a trip, I look at the alternatives.  That’s why it’s not possible to give people a one size fits all strategy for booking a trip.  In general, I try to minimize out of pocket expenses.  However, in this case, it made more sense to pay money for the hotel stay than to use points.

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United Explorer Bonus Miles Posted!

I try not to count my chickens before they hatch.  So I was pretty cautious with the new United Explorer card.  I already had the previous United card and the Continental card.  I canceled both of the cards in 2011.  I wrote about the 50,000 miles sign-up bonus for the United Explorer card in a previous post

There was wording in the terms and conditions that concerned me: “This one-time bonus offer is only valid for first-time United MileagePlus Explorer cardmembers with new accounts. Previous and existing United Airlines cardmembers/accounts are not eligible for this bonus offer. United MileagePlus Explorer cardmembers will only receive one 50,000 bonus miles award if they apply for both the United Explorer Card and the Continental OnePass Plus Card after 7/19/2011.”  The part that concerned me was “Previous and existing United Airlines cardmembers/accounts are not eligible for this bonus offer” since it didn’t specify United Explorer cardmember – it was more generic.

But I am happy to say that I was approved for the card and I received the sign-up bonus miles!  Although I didn’t get instant approval, I also didn’t have to fight for approval.  I was approved without having to make any calls to the customer service line.

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PBS Special – Overdraft

I have a strong suspicion that many people who read this blog are interested in a wide range of financial topics.  I work for a large financial services company and our CEO regularly discusses financial topics during our all-employee meetings.  One topic that he talked about at length was the growing US Debt Crisis.  He talked about it at the time when Congress was in a heated battle of it.  And what I found most interesting/frightening was some charts that he put together to show that even with the budget cuts they were talking about, we were still in serious trouble.

There is an upcoming special on PBS called Overdraft which is scheduled to air in the spring of 2012.  Click here to see the trailer.  Based on the people in the documentary, it seems like it will be very interesting.  The list of people featured in the documentary are:

  • Corey Booker, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey 
  • President Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States 
  • Kent Conrad, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana 
  • Jay Fishman, Chairman & CEO, The Travelers Companies, Inc.
  • Judd Gregg, former Senator from New Hampshire Joel Klein, Columnist, Time Magazine 
  • Peter Orszag, Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget 
  • Raghuram Rajan, Economist, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago 
  • Andrew Romano, Senior Writer, Newsweek Magazine 
  • Alice Rivlin, Founding Director of the Congressional Budget Office and Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget  
  • Kevin Roberts, CEO, Saatchi and Saatchi  
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