In my last post I shared that I was looking at miles/points from a different lens.  Now I’d like to expand that conversation with Virgin America Airlines.  Like Southwest, their award tickets are based on revenue.  That is, not based on a standard chart of distance like most airlines but rather how much the ticket cost.  Here’s what’s interesting: You can fly from Denver to San Francisco, direct flight in economy for as low as 2,512 points in April.  OMGS!  Two thousand, five hundred and twelve points.

Here are the points needed for other airlines:

United:          12,500 points (nonstop)

American:     12,500 points (1-stop, no direct flights)

Southwest:     3,574 points (non-stop, late night flights)

Ummmm, DUH! Who you gonna call, and it ain’t Ghost Busters!

Want to know something also cool?  Right now you can sign up for Virgin America Elevate frequent flyer program and get 500-1,000 points free.  Then, ask others to sign up for a 2,500 maximum.  Wow,  you just practically got a fee ticket to SFO from DEN!

In summary, I would encourage folks to look at Southwest and Virgin American closer for miles and points in domestic air travel.   However, if you’re really curious, you can get a nice award with Virgin Atlantic from the east coast to London for 17,350 points.  You’ll have to pay extra in taxes and fees, however the amount is still a good value when considering the same flight with United will cost you 30,000 miles and with American 20,000 miles during off season and 30,000 miles during peak season (if you can find space).

Lots to think about !!

 

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the miles and points game.  In this hobby one begins to accumulate miles and points for the purpose of travel and specifically travel on legacy airlines. However, I’ve been processing on the value of the mile/point and it’s intended use.  Let’s start with a perspective in legacy airlines.

I have been 1K, Platinum, Gold, Silver, Executive Platinum, Platinum, and Chairman with a couple of legacy airlines.  In sum, I get upgraded about 50% of the time regardless if I was at the highest elite status or the mid-level (United: Gold as an example).  I’ve traveled 1st class, business, economy and economy plus to Australia, Hawaii, Continental USA, Europe and returns as well.  Overall I have to say the biggest value in flying 1st class and business is room. But thats just me. Overall, I am left more unimpressed by the “special” treatment or service in legacy airlines while traveling in non-economy class.  The bottom line: I would never pay for 1st class service as I would be very disappointed.  So, in the past year I’ve been mostly using miles and points for economy and have to say, while the business and 1st class provided me with more room, there just isn’t a value in spending double to triple the miles/points for that extra room for a few hours.

So using my points in economy has been overall a good strategy and I am saving a boatload of points by working the economy accommodations.  And yet, I’m starting to discover some new strategies in ways I had not thought of before … introducing new perspectives with Southwest Airlines and Virgin America.

Southwest Airlines

While planning my trip back from Bucharest to Denver on American Airlines, I just could not get my flight to work for a same day SaverAward unless I spent 8 hours in Chicago. I mean nothing would work and the availability seems so bad unless you wanna go through LHR and pay over $300 in taxes.  I finally decided to simply use American miles to Chicago and then find a cheap way to Denver.  Thats when I noticed something pretty amazing.  From Chicago to Denver I could spend 12,500 miles on United, spend 20,000 miles for American (and not wait 8 hours), spend 7,500 British Airways Avios (wait 8 hours) – OR – spend 2,923 Southwest miles and arrive before dinner.  Wait!  What?  2,923 Southwest miles?  YUP … and its a direct flight after a transfer from ORD!

So logic asks: wanna spend 2,923 or 12,500 or 20,000 to get to the same place.  Ummm Southwest wins and thank you.   So of course I booked it.  Now my wheels are turning.

I started re-thinking the value of miles but not in terms of the dollars they equate to.  What if I had a finite pool of miles and had used this pool to access flights to destinations.  As an example, lets say I have a budget of 25,000 miles and needed to use these miles for a few trips.  Here are the assumptions:

  1. The distance and non-stop flight time with any carrier from point a to b are the same.
  2. The level of service (economy) with any carrier from point a to b are the same.
  3. The use of TSA, boarding, and luggage allowance with any carrier from point a to b are the same.
  4. The value of miles as a currency with any carrier from point a to be are the same.

Using my 25,000 budget from Chicago to Denver (as above) I would have 12,500 miles left with United; enough for another 1-way somewhere.  I would have 5,000 miles left with American, not enough to go anywhere.  I would have 17,500 miles left from British Airways, enough for another 1-way and maybe a couple of short hauls. And, with Southwest I would have 22,077 miles left for several domestic trips OR an off season, SaverAward back to Europe!

I’m going to see my mother in Indy in about a month and have been reviewing award miles.  American even with their reduced mileage award (as I have a Barclays Red Aviator card) would come in at 17,500 round trip with a stop in PHX or ORD (no non-stops) and it would be nearly an entire day of travel (barf).  United Airlines would come in at 25,000 award miles nonstop.  Avios, don’t bother.  However, Southwest Airlines will cost me about 15,352 miles round trip, oh and it’s non-stop.  Really!

So going back to my original budget of 25,000 less 2,923 Chicago to Denver, less 15,352 round trip Denver to Indy, remains  6,725 miles.  Hmmmm, planning at trip to San Francisco soon and guess what, there’s enough miles in my bank to fly via Virgin America.  I’ll post on that next.

 

 

usbanklogo

I think it’s important to know that I have purchased  A TON of Visa and MasterCard gift cards in the past but this posting is totally about a WARNING on US BANK issued gift cards.  It is unfortunate that Staples actually does business with US BANK or whomever the “program manager” of the MasterCard Gift Cards are.

usbank MSGC

 Here is my abbreviated story:

 I purchased two MasterCard Gift Cards (MGC) from Staples during their recent $15  rebate promotion.  Both were on the same transaction for the purposes of the rebate.   Now to my surprise, the receipt indicates the cards would active within 24-hours.  I  have not seen this before as typically the cards are activated immediately. 

 Nonetheless, I called the 800 number on the cards and sure enough had to wait for  24-hours.  Alright, I can adapt, new procedure, no problem.

 

The next day and 24-hours later, I found that one card was activated yet, the other had  not (I purchased two $200 MGC).  I called the 800 number and this is when the an incredible experience happened.  I was informed that I would need to FAX in the following:

First and Last name

phone number

email address

best time to call

and ensure the FAX indicated “ATTENTION GIFT CARD ACTIVATION”

… oh and it would take 7-10 business days for activation … “you will know because we call you”

I asked the representative (who was totally nice BTW) if she could help me understand how one card was activated and the other was not as they are both on the same transaction, AND why I am unable to just activate on-line as I have the physical card in my hand.  She TOTALLY understood and apologized and she agreed with me.  “It is ridiculous, unfortunately I am unable to change our process”.  I explained I was not upset with her, this is not her fault obviously, and that I would like my call escalated.  

Escalation Specialist (ES) shared with me the reason for this was because Staples had not activated it correctly.  Really?  Try another tactic Ms. ES.  Of course I don’t believe you because both cards were processed the same way by the cashier on the same transaction as evidenced by my receipt.  

The ES indicated the cashier didn’t scan the card correctly.  WHAT!

Are you kidding me?  I thought I was in the twilight zone.  There is only one way to scan a card.  If the cashier scans the Universal Product Code it comes up as error.  REALLY, THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO SCAN A CARD AND US BANK SHOULD NOT SUGGEST THE CASHIER AT STAPLES IS INCOMPETENT.  I cannot make this $hit up!

I asked the ES if FAXing this information really was necessary. I mean seriously, when was the last time you FAXed?  I think I did back when I purchased my home, but I could be mistaken.  How secure is this?  Anyone could capture a FAX with the data and then proceed forward with the above and activate the card.  I was informed the reason that I had to do this was to ensure I was really ME and for “my protection” I would have to send in this information via FAX as “… we don’t do any business via secured e-mail”. 

Wait …what? You don’t do any business via secured email?!

Ummmm, I shared with Ms. ES that I could make up a name, a fake phone number with a google number and a fake email address,  send this to US BANK and it would be activated … the  ES said, and I quote, “YES, SIR THAT’S CORRECT”.  (How many blogs say “don’t buy the US BANK VISA/MASTERCARD gift cards … UGH!) Further, lets’s just go to the stores (thinking Kroger at the moment who sells US BANK VISA/MASTERCARD) slip a few cards under my coat and simply FAX in this data … goodie, I get some free money.  OMGS!

I asked if this makes any sense and her reply was that this is the standard operating procedure and “Sir …this happens hundreds of times a day” (reflecting on Grant’s post on US BANK I wished I would have not even done this entire transaction)!  I have so many issues with this I can’t even begin to share.

It will take “7-10 days” to get this stupid card activated.  Uh Huh, I sooo don’t believe it!  Thinking Chase and I will be best friends soon to dispute a certain charge. 

staples logo  STAPLES this message is for you: the 1980’s called, they want their business agreements and transactions via FAX with pro-fraud opportunities returned.  Please, open your eyes and change vendors … something is seriously wrong here!

PEOPLE this message is for you: NEVER PURCHASE US BANK GIFT CARDS.  In fact, stop doing business with them … they don’t/won’t protect YOU!

Just a few more pictures from this trip.  It ended up being a fantastic trip and I would highly recommend taking the time and seeing the sites next year.  I was completely amazed at how many people were there and the fact that hotels overall were sold out, so definitely plan ahead and utilize your points.  Here are a few more pics to make you want to go …

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I’ve always wanted to see the Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C. This week, I’m staying at the Hyatt Place Washington D.C. in the NoMa neighborhood for a few days. Transferring from the metro was fast and easy!  Arriving from DCA I went to the metro platform and about 40 minutes later was checking in at the hotel.  Easy commute for $5.00 and a lot cheaper than a taxi.  However, the NoMa area is scarce in terms of restaurants, bars, and things to do.

From the metro you can see the hotel clearly a few blocks away.  Upon arrival there was a small party happening and the live music was so loud the staff were yelling to communicate with me.  I was fortunate to be on the 10th floor and overall pretty impressed with my room. 

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The rooms came with a small refrigerator and I was able to get some items from the nearby Harris Teeter. The Hyatt Place provides a free breakfast.  The breakfast is pretty decent and includes a variety of egg sandwiches, french toast, fresh fruit, yogurt, cereals, breads, juices, coffee, and oatmeal.  It’s a nice spread to select from and really helps you get going for the day.

In the evening, the bar is open and usually staffed with only one person.  This is the downfall of my experience as folks wait a long time to place an order for food/drinks.  However, I did find the staff to be accommodating once engaged.  It’s not a fancy hotel by any means but definitely a great option for those on a budget and/or attending a conference.  Access to the metro is quick and easy.

Today, the weather was a bit gloomy, but I was happy to see the Cherry Blossoms through out the city.2015-04-09 15.24.272015-04-09 11.46.55

 More to come …

Here I am in San Diego escaping the cold and snow of Denver AND how fitting to talk about the NTI conference.  This year, the National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition will be in San Diego May 17th – 21st.  I have heard a lot of good feedback from my colleagues about NTI and thought I would work on a travel hack to get there.

The month of May can be an awesome time for San Diego weather and you definitely will appreciate the view from the convention center area!  There are a ton of hotel options for the downtown area.  For those who don’t know the area very well, the convention center is directly across from the Gaslamp Quarter.  One gets a feeling of New Orleans when in this part of town.  Tons of restaurants, bars, party party party! It’s very lively on the weekends and evenings.  So lets talk more about where to stay.

Points for collecting

Now, the NTI website has a nice breakdown on the hotels in the area and their costs.  As I read the webpage you can book with NTI to receive the discounted price.  Here are my thoughts overall.  You want to capitalize on any hotel points and book sooner rather than later.  I would likely stay at the Hilton Bayfront because NTI has arranged for a nice discount for the rooms and the hotel is in a great location.  I would pay with my Citicorp Reserve for Hilton Visa because I need to hit $10,000 annual spend for my free night.  This card is really great.  After you make your initial minimum spend you will receive two weekend nights at a Hilton free.  Then every year you will receive another free night when you spend $10,000.  So, that first year you can actually get three free nights.  Not bad for an annual fee of $95 in my opinion.

So lets do some calculations on the hotel points.  I would arrive on May 16th because I would want to attend the pre-conference on May 17th.  I would stay 6 nights at $259 per night = $1,554 (wow!).  I would use my Citicorp Reserve card because this spend would go directly towards the $10,000 I need for another free night.  Because I have Gold Elite status, (compliments of the Citicorp Reserve card) I will receive an additional 25% bonus in points.  And I might score a free breakfast and/or drinks at the hotel as a Gold Member.

I have my HHonors profile set up to receive more hotel points vs. airline miles, so my base points will be 15 per dollar instead of 10 points per dollar, then add my 25% for being a Gold Elite.  1,554*15=23,310 + 25% on base =3,885 for a total of 27,195 points.  Because I would use my Citicorp Reserve card, I’ll get an additional 10 points per dollar spent = 15,540 for a grand total of 42,735 points.  Thats enough for a free night at some Hilton properties.  Not too shabby if your employer is reimbursing you for your travel expenses.  However, what if your employer can’t do this?  Can you negotiate?  Showing the cost of this and then demonstrating a $100 savings per night at the Hampton Inn Downtown is another option.  Same calculations for points would apply except the base would be $954 vs. $1,554 (about 40% difference).

Budget conscious

I am currently staying at a hostel next to the Gaslamp Quarter in an area called East Village (easy walk to the convention center).  I am pretty impressed with this funky hostel: LuckyD’s.  It’s an older building, kinda dark, but overall pretty clean and functional.  I am staying in a dorm style room with four beds (two bunk beds).  There are lockers and plenty of room to spread out.  Even in February, my roommates and I are keeping the window open for a nice breeze.  Come May this place has no A/C but hoping it will not be too hot.  It can be a little loud in the early hours of the morning, but as a nurse, we are generally use to waking up early.  Overall here are some highlights:

  • 10 minute walk to convention center
  • free basic breakfast every morning, and free dinner three evenings a week
  • pub crawls almost every night
  • access to rent bicycles, zoo tickets and informative folks to help
  • LARGE kitchen area for you to cook, community rooms, and quiet reading areas
  • Free wifi

I have seen all ages at this hostel and a lot from other countries. Bring your own towel and pad lock for this location! At $25 per night, it’s definitely a good option if you cannot get your employer to pay for the travel expense.  You can also reserve a private room for over double the dorm price.

I realize hostels aren’t for everyone, but lets look at from this perspective:  If NTI is like other nurse conferences I’ve attended, frankly you are only in your hotel room late at night to sleep and next morning to shower.  Hardly do I even spend time in the hotel room!  What about a nap?  I get exhausted sometimes and must take a quick nap before going to other sessions.  My experience in hostels suggest (including LucyD’s) folks are gone during the day and it’s extremely quiet. Naping is not a difficult issue at all and if your roommate arrives, they generally are respectful and try to stay quiet.  I will use ear plugs and an eye mask when staying in hostels, after all, its a dorm style accommodation.  Finally, you may want to breakdown your sterotype guest at a hostel.  I’ve seen business folks, clergy, university students, retirees, Veterans … pretty much everyone.  Don’t be afraid. Remember you can always request to look at the room before agreeing to stay!!

Airfare

This is an interesting destination.  I cannot tell you the best bet to fly since folks at NTI come from all over the country.  Spirit for example flys in from Vegas, and it can be a very cheap fair (follow all the rules).  Southwest may have a great deal as well.  Here are some quick thoughts:

Using miles?  Try to get a supersaver award for 50% off the regular award.  Consider the time you are spending vs. miles burned.  Is it worth saving 12,500 United miles for that connecting flight going in one direction?  Can you tag on another trip with this conference (say Hawaii?).  If you are in a city nearby, say PHX, and have a British Airways Executive Club account, consider using your avios.  It would only be 4,500 avios each way (9,000 round trip … a great deal)!  I love avios BTW!

Ground Transportation

I am a proponent for public transportation and Uber.  Public transportation in San Diego is easily accessible in the convention center area.  You can take a bus to the funky area of Hillcrest (my fav) or the tram to Old Town.  Uber is a great option getting out of the airport and I have never had a bad experience.  If you are new to Uber sign up with my code and we both get credit in our accounts $20 currently.  Download the app and enter xh1db for the promotion code … thank you!

So I hope I got your brain thinking on how to get to NTI … are you going now?

Today is the first Friday of the month, and you know what that means. It’s time to get that Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa out and hit your favorite places to eat or drink!  Today when you use your Sapphire Preferred Card, you will earn 3x the Ultimate Reward points.

Several bloggers suggest using this day to purchase gift cards for your favorite restaurants and then use them through out the month.  Makes sense, especially if you are eating at places that do not have a gift card available at Staples. If you can purchase a gift card with a Chase business ink card at Staples, you would receive 5x the Ultimate Rewards points.

One thing to think about that may be forgotten is Starbucks.  You can reload your card at Starbucks with your Sapphire and get 3x the points, and that reload is a purchase, and for those who have Starbucks Gold you just received a star!  So in many ways, its 4x the points today!

And don’t forget to double dip with your airline dining program.  Link your Sapphire with an airline dining program and if you eat at a participating restaurant, you will also receive bonus airline miles.

How are you going to use your Sapphire today?

 

Today’s post comes out of my new experience in sitting next to someone who doesn’t understand the concepts of respect and courtesy. So in my mental model I thought I would translate my experience through a theme of battle.

He came in from the north while I was sitting alone in my homeland. I was peaceful and quiet reviewing my schedule and finishing a few texts. His approach was well noticed with an aurora of pissyness as if to suggest don’t tread on me!

I heeded his warning and kept to myself.  While he was attempting to shove his property in the overhead bin he had little self awareness in that his jacket was hitting my face. Despite this, being a peaceful soul in my land of hope, I remained guarded yet quiet hoping his savageness would quickly come to and end.  Little would I know the land he claimed wouldn’t be enough to satisfy his greed for power and territory.

As he sat next to me he moaned about his equipment and resources not cooperating with him. He exhibited turmoil in his land until he made great strides in fastening the seat belt. Then he looked around and sat back. For three minutes I lived next to him in peace.  Although we didn’t speak with one another during that era, the peace sustained.

As he repositioned himself I felt his body slightly against mine. A common occurrence in economy and thankfully I was in an aisle seat. He decided to take over the unclaimed land of the armrest and I yielded to his position.  Now that a boundary was established and an armistice upheld, I could continue my own way of life in my homeland. Again, peace lasted for almost three minutes. Then suddenly the attack began!

The subtle weight of his force began to penetrate my eastern border.  His weight, like an army moving forward through my land became apparent. I noticed now he was forcing more room by pushing his upper body and arm against mine with such force that it dawned on me that he was in a battle with me. What did I do to this man? For several minutes we were at peace and I tolerated his agendas.  I’ve been quietly neutral and now he has placed me in a very difficult position, do I engage in battle with this seat hog or yield to his greedy ways?


I gathered my strength, created a plan and defended my territory.  My resistance was met with greater force, to the point where if a neighboring row looked, they would see the struggle.  I kept my ground and refused to allow any further progression.

However, his force was growing in strength.  The large body mass coupled with his ability to push harder became too much and I thought how could I win this battle?  And then, it occurred to me.  His strength is his body, his weakness is his head.  I immediately changed tactics!

I removed my arm and he almost fell on me.  I then took my arm and reached behind me, grabbing my head rest.  I had created an artificial boundary between our heads with my arm!  He couldn’t see my face, and I couldn’t see his.  He backed off, his force retreated, surrendered,  and I reclaimed my territory.

Since winning the battle he has respected our boundaries.  Even once when crossing the imaginary line, he apologized!  I am unsure what happened in that moment but it created a new era of peace between our lands.  He now sleeps holding his body with his arms folded, and I have quietly expanded my territory and claimed the arm rest.

How do you contend with seat hogs?

 

In my last post, I shared some of the tools I would use for an easy hack to attend the annual AAHPM & HPNA conference in Philadelphia at a reduced cost. Today, while on a mileage run between Las Vegas and Philadelphia I will recap those tools one by one with some further explanation.

Air Fare

Most folks have heard of the term frequent flyer. Unfortunately,  we call patients who are admitted and discharged from our care on an ongoing never ending basis “frequent flyers”.  Yet, this is not what I’m referring too today. In this case, a frequent flyer is one who flies in the sky on a specific airline. The airline rewards the frequent flyer by awarding them elite qualifying miles (EQMs). The greater the accumulated EQMs, the higher the ranking with elite status. Each airline is different with elite status.

Commonly there are several levels. As an example, United Airlines provides frequent flyers who earn 25,000 miles elite silver status, 50,000 gold, 75,000 platinum, and 100,000 “1K”. Each level of status earns benefits which range anywhere from seat upgrades, fee free checked bags, bonus mileage, and more. The higher the status, the better the benefits. Elite qualifying miles typically come only through “butt in seat” flying; thus one of the reasons I am doing an old fashion mileage run today.

So flying to the AAHPM & HPNA annual conference on US Airways would cost me $279 round trip. Because I will be a Chairman’s Preferred elite on US Airways, I will gain 3,100 EQMs (actual air miles flown) plus a 100% mileage bonus. Although the bonus miles do not count towards elite status, they will count toward awards. So collectively, I will earn 6,200 miles towards free travel. How many miles are needed for a free ticket? This can be a complicated answer because it would depend on the type of ticket (coach, business, first class), the origin and destination (domestic, long haul, short haul, international, over seas etc.) and season. Other factors will tie into this equation, but for a simple explanation, a common free domestic coach round ticket will cost in the neighborhood of 25,000 miles. Essentially you cash in your miles for the free ticket.

Do you have to be an elite to receive a free ticket? Nope. Many credit cards, provide a sign up bonus of say 50,000 miles if you make a minimal spend within the first 90 days. Although you may not have status with the airline, the branded credit card will provide you a nice bonus of miles after you complete the minimum spend and that can be used for free or reduced cost air fare!

In the AAHPM & HPNA example of flying from Denver to Philadelphia I indicated that I would use my barclaycard arrival+  MasterCard.

This card is unique because it’s not branded to a specific airline. It is essentially a “cash back” card that uses miles instead of cash for redemption. The arrival plus card provides me 2 miles per dollar I spend on the card. Here is how it works, I purchase my airline ticket (note: there are no black out dates because I am paying for the ticket out right) and when the credit card statement hits, I redeem my arrival+ miles for the cost of my ticket to Philadelphia. What’s better, Barclay will give back 10% of those miles I just used for reimbursement. So, if the ticket cost me $279 and I used 27,900 arrival plus miles for reimbursement, Barclay will give back 2,790 miles to me. This card can be used for hotel and other travel as well.

Right now, the arrival+ MasterCard is offering a 40,000 mile bonus when approved and you make a minimal spend of $3,000 within the first 90 days. That’s equivalent to about $440 in free travel money, not to mention the 6,000 miles you received from the $3,000 minimal spend.

So let’s recap this air fare hack:

  • Paid $229 for US Airways round trip ticket.
  • Awarded 6,200 miles of which 3,100 will go towards elite status in 2016.
  • Because I used my Barclaycard arrival+ MasterCard, I also received 2x the miles for a total of 558 arrival+ miles.
  •  I then redeemed 27,900 arrival plus miles to pay for the ticket and received a 10% rebate of 279 miles.
  • Thus, for this free airline ticket, I have essentially earned 6,200 + 558 + 279 = 7,037 miles. Not bad for a 10 minute online transaction.  Next stop is the hotel hack.

Hotel

Last year I applied for the US Bank Club Carlson Premiere Visa and absolutely love using it for my Club Carlson stays.

I had never heard of Club Carlson until I started this hobby/trade of travel hacking! Club Carlson has many hotels in it’s portfolio including Quorvus, Raddison, Raddison BLU, Park Plaza, park inn, and country inns & suites.  Here is what’s great about having the Club Carlson Visa: when redeeming points for free stays, your last night is free. For example, I just stayed at the Raddison Blu Warwick in Philadelphia for two nights. Each night would have cost me 50,000 points for a total of 100,000. However, because I carry the Club Carlson Premier Visa (this sounds like a commercial, doesn’t it?) I only had to redeem 50,000 points; it’s kind of like BOGO for award redemptions!

The card also provides me with Gold elite status meaning I earn more bonus points when I stay at a Club Carlson hotel, and I get a few perks such as early check in and late check out. In Philadelphia, I was able to have access to their executive lounge for free breakfast and drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the evening.

Club Carlson is better known for it’s Raddison Blu hotels in Europe. I utilized my Club Carlson benefit while traveling in Berlin and Brussels last year and took full advantage of the BOGO option. I explained some of the benefits of staying at Club Carlson in my previous post so will ask readers to take a peak at it again to refresh their memory.

To recap the hotel hack:

  •  Paid $492 for hotel stay at the Raddison Blu Warwick.
  •  Awarded 48,204 points for the stay.
  •  Use those points towards free nights in Europe. Next stop: Uber

Ground Transportation
A lot of folks I talk with don’t know about Uber. Essentially it’s a shared economy ground transportation service that utilizes an app.

There are multiple levels of service for Uber and I always use uberX services.  I don’t need a fancy black vehicle to get from A to B; just a safe quick and economical ride please. Right now Uber is offering a $30 credit just for trying it out. Better, if you utilize someone’s Uber referrral code, they too will receive a $30 credit (email me and I’ll share you my code, then we both get a $30 credit each).  I’ve utilized Uber primarily in San Diego and have always had positive experiences. Nearly every person who drove me is an entrepreneur and they Uber on a “PRN” basis. I recall one gentleman driving us back to our hotel and he owned his own company making flip flops. He had just came back from a family dinner and decided to Uber for a few hours. It was great! No cash exchange as it’s all done through the app and you know approximately how much it will cost before you ride. You see a pic of your driver before they contact you as well.  Each time I’ve used Uber, the driver has called or texted me, usually call, and introduce themselves by name and vehicle they are driving. It’s an awesome service and a great alternative to standard taxi services. Many cities are in huge debate with the service but I always received excellent value for the price!

This travel hack for Philadelphia is pretty straight forward and hope it was easy to understand. When I share with folks about the credit card piece for the hacks, I often receive hesitation and feedback around the fear of having too many credit cards, fear of hurting FICO (credit) scores, too much to manage etc. The simple responses are: if you do it correctly, your credit score will improve, if you keep it simple and organized it’s not too much to manage. For folks who say they don’t have a need to spend $3,000 in 90 days, there is a hack for that too and it’s called manufactured spending. I’m working on a project for that last piece to help folks understand it better.

Are you planning to attend a conference in the near future?

Following my last post and staying in Philadelphia for one more day, why not use this as my very first real life example on how to get to the AAHPM/HPNA annual conference in Philadelphia. Likely it may be too late for many to do this hack, but it’s a beginning for me to get into the swing of blogging for this specific purpose.

Conference: AAHPM & HPNA Annual Assembly
Location: Pennsylvania Convention Center
Specialty: Hospice and Palliative Care
Dates: February 25 – 28 Philadelphia, PA
CEUs: Upto 18.5 CEUs

Conference Cost: Varies based on membership type $550 – $785

Lodging: Philadelphia Marriott Downtown $229 per night
This means you will likely need 4 nights for the entire session or $916 (not including taxes and fees).

Airfare: This will completely vary based on your location but if I were flying from Denver the current most economical non-stop round trip ticket would be $279 on US Airways. This is about 3,100 miles and a cost of .09 per mile (pretty steep).

So we are looking at $1,195 just for air and hotel (not including taxes). If the hotel is sold out (at time of writing it is), you’ll have to stay at a different location and use public transportation, a cab, or Uber to get to and from the conference. At this point, the cost per CEU is hoovering about $99; holy cow!

Given the date let’s see how I can hack this trip and get to the conference cheaper!

EASY HACK
Because I am late at registering, I will pay $650 for the assembly. I’ll pay for the airfare with my Barclaycard arrival+ MasterCard. Since I have enough miles on this card, I can redeem the cost of my airline ticket at 100%, thus my cost for airfare now dropped to zero. Bonus: since this is a fully paid airfare, I am receiving 3,100 qualifying miles toward elite status for 2016 plus 3,100 bonus miles as a Chairman’s Preferred flyer. Now I am gaining 6,200 miles towards a free ticket in the future!

I’ll stay at the Radisson Blu and use my Club Carlson Premier Visa for payment of $492. In return, I will capitalize on points bringing in 4,920 points from my credit card, a bonus with their extend your stay promotion of 30,000 points, and a base plus gold member bonus of 13,284 points. So, in total, I will receive about 48,204 points just for the stay. That’s equivalent to two free nights for my next Europe trip! Also, because I am a gold member, I have access to the executive lounge which includes free breakfast and evening drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
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For transit between the conference and hotel, I will utilize Uber because I have a nice balance including an upcoming $30 credit for folks using my referral code.

Now I’ve dropped travel cost from $1,195 to $492 and I will get two free nights at a Club Carlson hotel down the road; so actual travel cost is about $246 bringing cost per CEU to $48 … that’s almost in half. With this hack, I am front loading some of the cost for an anticipated reward later.

Now, I consider this an easy hack because I am not putting a lot of thought for this trip. I’m using tools I already have and maximizing the value to the best. There are different ways to do this even cheaper such as paying for hotel and airfare with miles and points, then I would only pay for the assembly, ground transportation, and food. None the less, this posting is just to get some juices flowing for creative hacks. Don’t even get me going on the food hacks or how I paid for the assembly fee! In my next post I’ll talk about the tools above and how to get them.

As an aside, this is one of the best conferences I routinely attend and highly recommend it. Would you now consider going to this conference if you had some of the tools outlined above? Share your thoughts.