I posted about a week ago that a new United 60,000 mile credit card offer was going to be coming out at the beginning of October. According to threads I’ve been reading, it looks like this is going to be pushed back to November. I’ll keep you posted.
There is a new offer for the Chase Marriott Visa. I’ve never had this card so I can’t speak to how good the offer is. The way I decide if I want to apply for an offer is: 1) Is this an incredible offer (like the British Airways 100,000 mile offer that we saw earlier this year) 2) Is it a decent offer that I could use soon. With all the great offers coming out, I’ve being very selective with which ones I apply for. I’ve found that I’ve accumulated so many miles, that I don’t need any for travel for the next 2 - 4 years. This Marriott offer seems pretty decent, but I don’t think I’ll be applying for it soon. I’ve applied for too many Chase cards lately and I want to make sure if another incredible Chase offer comes out, I’ll be able to get it. Here are the details of the Marriott offer:
- 50,000 miles after first use (I love when there is no spending requirement)
- 1 Free Night at a category 1 – 4 hotel upon approval
- No foreign transaction fees (nice if you’re doing a lot of overseas travel)
- No annual fee the first year ($85/year after the first year)
- 1 Free Night at a category 1 – 5 hotel on each anniversary (i.e. you get this after you’ve had the card for 1 year and every other anniversary of having of the card – this could make up for having to pay the annual fee each year)
- There are other benefits which you can read about on the offer page; these are the big benefits.
And on a side note, I got my Chase Sapphire card and used it for the first time this week. I’ve read about how some other bloggers really like this card because it makes you seem like a high roller. The card looks and feels different than any other card that I have. The credit card number is on the back of the card, keeping the front clean looking. And it’s heavier than other cards. I’m not sure what it’s made out of but you can tell the difference. I told my husband about how other bloggers liked this card for those reasons and we both thought no one would tell the difference with the card. But I kid you not, the first time I used the card, the waitress at the restaurant said to me, “I’ve never seen a card as heavy as this one.” Very bizarre. Obviously, that’s not a reason to keep a card, but it was funny. Personally, I will probably keep the card because you can transfer points from Chase Freedom to Chase Sapphire and then on to airlines. We’ll see how I feel when it’s time to pay an annual fee.
News on the travel hacking frontier has been slow lately. As a result, I’m not posting every day. I don’t want to post something just to say that I posted every day. But during this lull, I got thinking about travel basics that I may not have covered. And I was surprised to see that I never talked about ITA Matrix.
ITA Matrix is a way to search for non-award flights. This tool is free and it has great functionality. What I like best about ITA Matrix is the flexible date search. You can say that you want to travel, let’s say, sometime during the month of February 2012 for 5-7 days between 2 cities. ITA Matrix can do that search! If you want to connect through a certain city, you can also force your search to only look for flights with connections through a certain city. There are so many features of this tool. Here’s a link to their help page so you can see all of the different ways you can search.
This is the tool that many mileage runners use to find cheap flights. (For those who are not familiar with the term mileage runner – it is someone who searches for flights that have a low cost per mile. Taking those flights allows them to build their EQM – butt in seat miles – and helps them gain status on an airline.)
ITA Matrix is a search only tool; you cannot purchase the tickets from this site. When you find the flights you want to purchase, you have to go to the airline or travel site (like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, etc) to purchase the flights.
Some of you may have heard of geocaching. For those who haven’t, here’s an overview. Geocaching is an outdoor activity where people use GPS devices to try to find hidden containers. These containers are hidden all over the world. People put little trinkets in the containers. If you find a container (called a cache), you can trade trinkets with the trinkets in the cache. To play this game, you go to Geocaching.com to find coordinates to caches near your location. The cache pages have a map to the general location, an indication of how big the cache box is, how difficult the terrain is, and how hard it is to find the cache. It also usually includes information about where to park, a description of the area and a hint to help you find it (the hint is encrypted so it doesn’t show unless you want the hint).
Now you may be asking, why are you telling me about geocaching on a travel site? There are a few reasons. It’s a fun activity to do to break up long car rides. It allows the kids to get up and run around in nature while searching “for treasure”. It’s also great to do when you’re on vacation. You’ll find that a lot of caches are hidden at parks or other natural areas. People typically hid caches in their favorite locations around their town, so it’s a good way to find the best locations around a town.
My parents have been doing geocaching for years. They especially like to take the grandkids out on “a treasure hunt”. We did 2 caches this weekend with them this weekend and the kids were begging to do more.
It doesn’t take much equipment to do geocaching. You need a handheld GPS or the equivalent. Most smart phones have GPS built into them and you can get GPS apps from the app stores. I have an Android phone and use c:geo. It’s a free app and it makes geocaching so easy. It allows us to do geocaching without any preparation because there’s an option to find caches nearby. After you decide on a cache you want to find, you can tell it to give you turn by turn directions to the cache (that gets you to where you need to park). When you get to the parking area, you change it from turn by turn directions to navigate using a compass. The iPhone has similar applications. Here’s a list of some of them.
I added a new page to my web site called The Basics. This page gives the basic information you need when thinking about travel hacking as well as other tips that I have. It links out to the posts that I think are the most relevant for learning how to play the game. Let me know what you think about this page. I imagine it will change over time or I might change the format. I’d love to see what you think about it.
For those of you who got the 50,000 point sign-up bonus Amex Gold card this past May, you may want to check your Membership Rewards balance. Some people (including me – yea!) just had an extra 40,000 points deposited into their accounts. If you recall, the original offer was 10,000 points after first purchase and another 40,000 points after $500 spend. However, it turned out the offer was targeted (which most people didn’t realize when they applied). Before I called to activate the card, I checked with a customer representative to make sure the offer was still the same as what I applied for. They said they couldn’t offer it to me because it was targeted, but they did say they’d give me 40,000 points as good customer service.
At this same time, many other people got American Express to bump the signing bonus to 100,000 points based on a different offer code that was floating around at the time. From what I’m reading on the different blog sites, people who didn’t bump their offer to the 100,000 point offer are seeing an extra 40,000 points in their account this week. Now there is no guarantee that they won’t pull these 40,000 points back, but hey, it will be awfully nice if they don’t. Do not call American Express about this. If it is a mistake, you’d be alerting them to it and I guarantee they will pull the points back.
And another thing you might want to consider this week is transferring your Membership Rewards to Continental Airlines. Amex’s relationship with Continental is ending on September 30. And those Continental miles will then transfer into United when the United/Continental merger is complete.