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.
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.
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
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?