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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Last Minute Tax Planning For Miles and Points

Rather than write a summary of someone else's post and site them for credit for their research, I thought I would just provide the link to her blog instead. 

Mommy Points has an excellent post on some last minute donations to different charities while earning miles and points in the process.

Here is a parital list of the charities. For more details click here.

National Foundation for Cancer Research
Komen Foundation
USO
American Red Cross
Feeding America
America Cares
There are also several charities to help with Hurricane Sandy relief and Haiti hurricane relief.

Here are the Airlines and Hotels who are participating.

American
United
Delta
Hilton

Thanks to Mommy Points for her research. 

If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.

About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net





Saturday, December 22, 2012

How to Improve Your Credit Score



Today's post title is a bit tongue in cheek.

I wanted to prove a point about how credit card churning has little to no effect on your credit score and can actually improve your score if properly executed.

I recently did my final App-o-Rama of 2012.  I applied and was approved for three cards; The Chase Ink Plus, the Citibank AA Business card, and the Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines card. 

It's this last card I would like to expand upon a little bit more.  The Bank of Hawaii card came with 35,000 Hawaiian Airline miles as a sign up bonus for a minimum spend of only $1000.  I received this card two days ago.  One simple trip on my way home yesterday to CVS to buy two $500 Vanilla Reload cards, and I met the minimum spending requirement.  For $7.90 (the cost of two reload cards) I got 35,000 miles.  Those could be used for a Super Saver fare to Hawaii.  They can also be transferred to Virgin Atlantic and then converted to 70,000 Hilton points.  (probably not the best use of them).  You can also fly on Virgin to Europe with Hawaiian Airlines miles with no fuel surcharges. 

Now to today's point.  With my Hawaiian Airlines credit card came a credit score from one of the credit bureaus.  My score has actually gone up to 803 with this latest round of card applications.  I have been approved for around a dozen cards this year.  Let me repeat that.  My score has actually gone up after applying for 12 credit cards in one year!  This isn't because I did anything special.  I just pay my bills on time every month.  You can do it too if you just follow my prescription.

If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.

About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net

35% Transfer Bonus From AMEX to Virgin Atlantic and Hilton



From now until December 29, 2012 you can receive a 35% transfer bonus when transferring AMEX Membership Reward (MR) points to Virgin Atlantic.  This is a great way to build up your Hilton account since Virgin Atlantic points transfer 1:2 with Hilton.  This effectively gives you a 1:2.7 tranfer rate.  In other words, 10,000 MR points = 27,000 Hilton points. 

Here are the program details:

1) You must have a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account. It's very easy to join.

2) You must transfer a minimum of 10,000 points from MR to Virgin Atlantic, then in increments of 5000 MR points. (15,000, 20,000, 25,000, etc). If you are transferring them to Hilton, you need to take and extra step to convert the Vigin Atlantic miles to Hilton points.

3) It says that transfers can take up to 30 days to occur, so it's no good if you need to book NOW!

4) Offer ends 12/29/12.

I recently applied and was approved for the AMEX Business Gold credit card that came with a  2-day only 75,000 MR points sign up bonus.  The current offer is only 25,000 points.  I probably won't take advantage of the offer right now as I currently have over 500,000 Hilton points. It's almost always best to keep flexible points (like MR, UR or Starpoints) in the account until you actually need them.  I never build points in an account without a purpose in mind for them.  I find it best to "Earn 'em and Burn 'em as these programs are constantly being devalued. 

If you've got the need for Virgin Atlantic miles or Hilton points, this might be a good opportunity to take advantage of a very nice transfer bonus on Membership Reward Points. 

If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.

About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net


Friday, December 21, 2012

Bluebird Update- 6X Hilton Points Posted to My Account

 

Last month I wrote about Bluebird, "The New Killer App" and " Is Bluebird Worth it Now?"

To summarize those articles, Bluebird is a new product by American Express that acts as both a debit card and a checking account.   The idea behind earning miles and points is to purchase Vanilla Reload cards with a points earning credit card at Office Supply stores and Drug stores where you earn up to 5X bonus points per dollar spent.  You can then pay bills like mortgage and car payments, utility bills, etc. from your Bluebird account. You are then essentially earning points on bills that you can't typically pay with a credit card.

There have been stories circulating the Internet of difficulty setting up Bluebird, trouble with the Vanilla Reloads posting to your account and worries that bonus points for the purchase of Vanilla Reload cards would not post to your account.

I am pleased to announce that after more than a month of use of my Bluebird account and purchasing Vanilla Reload cards, I have had none of these issues.  My Hilton credit card statement arrived last week and 6X Hilton points per dollar spent on Vanilla cards were posted.  The bill pay feature of Bluebird is VERY easy to setup and use.  This comes from someone who up until now has never paid bills online.

Rest assured the Bluebird strategy for earning miles and points on bill paying is still alive and well for now. 

If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.

About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Today I Reached Hilton Diamond Status


Today I completed the $40,000 spending requirement on my Citi Hilton Reserve card to reach Diamond Status with Hilton Hotels.  This is one of the few cards that allows you to reach top tier status with a hotel chain strictly by meeting a spending requirement.  My family and I have an upcoming stay in NYC at the Waldorf Astoria next month.  I will let you know if we get upgraded to a suite or club room due to my newly attained status.  We will be using the two FREE weekend nights that came as the sign up bonus with the Citi Hilton Reserve card.  I will post a full review of the hotel with pictures after the trip.

The Citi Hilton Reserve card is one of the Visa signature cards.  We will be using that card on our upcoming trip to Napa California in the Spring.  We will be visiting several wineries that participate with Visa Signature.  The $10/pp tastings at those wineries will be FREE solely because of having that credit card.  Nice perk! We have planned private tours for two days while we are there.  We will be staying at the Hyatt Andaz in Napa for three nights.  Two of those nights will be FREE due to the sign up bonus for the Chase Hyatt Visa Card.

I will post a review of that trip as well when we return.

I like having top tier status with hotel chains through credit card spending much better than the traditional "Head in the Bed" method.

If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.

About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net


Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Best Credit Cards to Own For Big Spenders



Today I want to discuss is The Best Cards to Own for Big Spenders.

Not everyone has the ability to spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars per year on their credit cards.  Small business owners like Physicians, Dentists, Podiatrists, Chiropractors are in the unique position to be able to take advantage of some really nice perks from the hotels and the airlines by proper use of spending on credit cards.

As I have said numerous times on this blog, you have to determine your travel needs and your travel goals prior to embarking on credit card sign ups.  What do you value most? Is it Luxury hotels and First Class airfare? Is it lots of long weekend trips to see this great country? Do you want to travel to Europe, Asia or Africa?  How important is airline and hotel status to you? All these different goals require a different miles and points strategy.  The only thing you can do wrong when trying to accumulate miles and points is to not have a plan for what to do with them.

Big spenders who want to travel in First class cabins internationally would be much better served using a credit card like the Starwood Business card for purchases in non-bonus earning categories.  For example, if you spend $1M a year on a cash back card, you would earn $20,000 in cash back.  That might cover the cost of one first class ticket to Europe.  On the other hand, placing just $100K on the Starwood card, would earn you 125K airline miles which would probably be enough to purchase an award ticket with the same itinerary.

If sitting up in the front of the aircraft isn't important to you, or you prefer travel within the US, the Starwood card would be of little value to you for air travel.  In this situation, you might be better off with the Southwest Airline personal and business cards or the airline card of your preferred carrier.  With your approval of both Southwest cards, you would receive a 50,000 point sign up bonus for each card.  That's almost enough to earn the Southwest Companion pass.  You would only need to spend another $10,000 on those cards to earn the pass.  The Southwest companion pass is good for up to two years.  It is reusable unlike most airline companion passes.   It is good for travel on the same itinerary as the purchased ticket whether it was a paid fare or booked with miles! For domestic coach travel, you also might be better off with just a straight  2% cash back card for all other airlines besides Southwest.

For Hotel stays, there are two Hotel branded credit cards that provide mid or top tier status just for spending on their cards.    The Citibank Hilton Reserve Visa earns you Top tier Diamond status for $40,000 in annual spending.  For generic spending, it earns 3 Hilton points per dollar spent.  At drug stores and supermarkets it earns 6 Hilton points per dollar.  At an average of 4.5 points per dollar spent, $40,000 would yield 180,000 Hilton points. That's enough for a 6 night stay at a category 6 Hilton. Using a valuation of $250/ night plus tax on that hotel room, that would yield approximately 4% on your spending.  Having Hilton Diamond status would give you the best chance for being upgraded to a preferred room or suite.

The American Express Starwood cards provide you with Gold status for $30,000 in annual spending.  The business and personal cards currently have a 25,000 point sign up bonus.  With the points earned from two sign up bonuses and the points obtained from $30,000 in spending, you would have 80,000 Starpoints..  That is enough for a 5 night stay at a Category 6 Starwood property like the St. Regis in Punta Mita, Mexico.  My wife and I will be visiting there in January for 6 nights.  With my status, I expect to be upgraded to a suite. By checking Trip Advisor reviews, I was able to identify the name and contact information for the hotel manager.  I have already spoken with him and he indicated it would be no problem with the upgrade.

The American Express Delta Reserve Personal and Business cards can earn you top tier Diamond elite status just for spending. (albeit $280,000 in spending- less the first year due to sign up bonus)  I will have an upcoming separate post on "How to Earn Elite Status on Delta From the Comfort of Home".  The big advantage with Delta Elite status is that you can rebook with no fees.  When an award ticket becomes available, you can reserve it without concern for whether you can actually make that trip.  With no re-booking fees, you can book seats without penalty while you figure out how you will arrange for the rest of the trip.  I can't emphasize enough how important that is to be able to grab award seats when they become available.

The Chase United Mileage Plus Club card offers 1.5 United miles per dollar spent with no annual cap on mileage.  It comes with a $395 annual fee that includes free lounge access, waive late ticketing fees, 2 free checked bags, priority check-in and boarding.  You also get a $95 statement credit with your 1st purchase.  The 50% miles bonus on all purchases makes its miles earning rate exceed the Starwood cards.  If United is your primary airline, then this would be your best option for earning miles on United.

The Chase British Airways Visa card can earn you a free companion ticket with a $30,000 annual spend on the card.  At present, there is a 100,000 miles signup bonus (after $20,000 in spending), enough for two first class airfares to Europe.  The big downside are the hefty fuel surcharges that BA puts on its award tickets.  Those two "free" tickets could cost you $1000 each.  Some people consider the use of the companion ticket as paying for two coach fares and getting a 3 class upgrade on their tickets. 

Big spenders can reap the benefits of their spending by selecting the cards that match their spending patterns and travel goals.

I have no affiliation with any of the above banks.

If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.
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About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net

Friday, December 14, 2012

Final App-O-Rama 2012 = 170,000 miles and points


Last night was my final mini app-o-rama of 2012, wrapping up a very successful year of accumulating just north of 2 Million miles and points.

The cards for which I applied and were approved for were the Chase Ink Plus (50,000 Ultimate Rewards point bonus after a $5000 spend in the first 3 months), the Citibank American Airlines Business Visa (40,000 AA miles after the first $3000 in spending and another 10,000 bonus miles after the first $10,000 in spending and lastly the Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines Visa. (35,000 Hawaiian Airline miles which I could convert to 70,000 Hilton points).

I was instantly approved for the Citibank and Bank of Hawaii cards.  I received an "under review" message for the Chase card.  I immediately called the Chase reconsideration line (1-800-453-9719) and in approx 10 minutes got approval for that one as well.  Most times when you don't get instant approval, it is because they just want more information.  They asked me to verify a couple of income questions and asked me how much I would be spending on the card each month.  One minute later I was approved.

By matching up my travel needs with the proper use of spending to maximize bonus points, in 2012  I accumulated over 2 Million miles and points. This was from a combination of sign up bonuses, generic credit card spending, and bonus points received from credit cards like Chase Ink Bold and Sapphire as well as the various Hilton cards I have.

Tomorrow we will discuss "The Best Cards For Big Spenders".

What cards will you apply for in 2013?

If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.

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About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net


Thursday, December 13, 2012

5% Cash Back - Register Your Freedom Card


Don't forget to register your Chase Freedom card starting on December 15th for the 1st quarter 2013 bonus categories.  5% Cash back at Gas stations, Drug stores and Starbucks.  If you have a Chase Ink or Sapphire card already, you can transfer that 5% into valuable Ultimate Reward (UR) points.  UR points are great to redeem for United Airlines or Hyatt stays.




If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.
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About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Best Credit Cards to Use For Each Spending Category



Yesterday we looked at the Best Credit cards with a  sign up bonus that have no minimum spending requirement.  Today we will examine cards that maximize each of the different spending categories. 

And the nominee for best credit card for Airline tickets is: American Express Premier Rewards Gold.  This card gives  you 3X Membership rewards points per Dollar spent on Airline tickets.  It comes with a $175 annual fee that is waived for the first year. 

Best Card for All Other Travel is the Chase Sapphire PreferredThis card give 2X Ultimate Reward points per Dollar spent on all kinds of travel.  That includes but is not limited to taxis, limos, trains, hotels, etc.  Ultimate Reward points are considered by many to be the most valuable points currency as their points are flexible.  They can be transferred to a number of partners and are easy to earn in large quantities by maximizing certain spending categories.  You can also earn bonus points by shopping through the Ultimate Rewards Mall. The annual fee is $95 and is waived the first year.

Best card for Gasoline is the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa. This card receives a 5% cash back on Gas purchases paid at the pump.  It has no annual fee.

Best Card for Restaurant spending is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  Once again you receive 2X Ultimate Reward points on restaurant spending that can be transferred to other programs like hotels and airlines.  IMHO, the best use of UR points is for Hyatt hotel stays.  Hyatt has a very generous award structure that you can get as much as 7 cents per point.  I wrote a post here about that.  The annual fee is $95 and is waived for the first year.

Best Card for Business Services is the Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus. These cards are virtually identical.  The Ink Bold is a charge card and the Ink Plus is a credit card.  A charge card MUST be paid in full each month. With the Ink Plus credit card, you can make monthly payments, however anyone using this strategy for miles and points knows that interest and fees far outweigh the benefits of points.  You can apply for both cards on the premise that there might be times when you want to be able to finance your purchases. (NOT!)  Both cards provide 5X UR points on office supplies, wireless access, telephone and cable bills.   I like to purchase gift cards every time I walk into an office supply store.  There you will earn 5X UR points on gift card purchases.  The annual fee for both these cards is $95 which is waived for the first year.  I would sign up for both cards to get the 50,000 point bonus, then cancel one of them before the annual fee becomes due. 

Best Card for Advertising is the American Express Premier Rewards Gold.  You earn 2X Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar spent on Internet, TV and radio advertising. 

Best Card for Shipping is again the American Express Premier Rewards Gold.  You receive 2X MR points for shipping services purchased in the U.S. for courier, postal, and freight.

I have no affiliation with any of the above banks

Tomorrow's Topic: The Best Credit Cards For Big Spenders.

If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.
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About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Best Credit Cards to Own by Category - Part One



Today we are going to start a short series on the best credit cards by category. 

The first category is the best sign up bonuses on a card with no minimum spending requirements.  In today's environment, there really is no reason to worry about meeting minimum spending requirements with a new credit card.  There are so many creative ways to meet them, that even someone who doesn't typically spend thousands of dollars every month can easily meet the minimum requirement necessary to obtain a sign up bonus.  However, I realize that some people don't want to manufacture spending.

Here are my favorite Airline cards that happen to have a great sign up bonus and no minimum spending.

1) US Airlines Premier World MasterCard provides up to 40,000 bonus miles, 10,000 miles toward status, 1 free club pass, and two certificates every year for a $99 companion ticket.  Having the card also gets you 1st class check-in and priority boarding.  These days with everyone trying to avoid baggage fees, the competition for overhead space is getting fierce.  Having priority boarding assures that you will have premium space in the overhead compartments.  All this for an annual fee of $89.  Well worth it.  This card falls into the category of one that you get for the perks.  I don't recommend putting everyday spending on this card.  Issued by Barclays Bank so it doesn't tie up an application to one of the major card issuing banks like Chase, AMEX, or Citibank. 

2) Alaska Air Visa Signature Card provides 25,000 bonus miles on approval.  Some people report if you call 1-800-654-2584, you might get 40,000 miles.  (As always, your mileage may vary.)  This card also comes with a $99 companion pass. (plus $11 in fees).  It's part of the OneWorld Alliance so booking partner awards is very easy.  This Card is issued by FIA card services, so it also doesn't tie up application with the major card issuing banks. I do not personally own this card.

3)  Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines Visa card and the Bank of America Visa card both provide 20,000 miles with your first purchase.  After $1000 of spending in the first 4 months, you will receive another 15,000 mile bonus as well as 2,000 miles on your anniversary.  The annual fee of $79 is not waived the first year.  These cards are both issued by FIA card services.  Hawaiian Airline miles can be converted to Hilton points at 1:2 yielding up to 144,000 Hilton points.

4) Virgin Atlantic American Express card is also issued by the Bank of America.  With the current offer you receive 20,000 miles with 5,000 miles added for an additional card holder and 15,000 miles on you anniversary.  I would hold out on this one for now.  There have been offers in the past up to 65,000 miles.  As Virgin Atlantic also converts to Hilton 1:2, those can be turned into 130,000 Hilton points.  Annual fee is $90.

I like all of these cards since they don't tie up applications with Chase or Citibank.  That means that you can apply for those cards on the same day as those above.  Chances of approval of all applications is much better when you spread your applications across different banks.

I have no affiliation with any of the above banks. 

Tomorrow, we will list the best cards to use for different spending categories. 

If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.
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About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net




Thursday, December 6, 2012

When to Use Hilton AXON and VIP/GLON Awards





It's widely accepted that Hilton points are worth less than other hotel points on a point for point basis.  That is because the Hilton award charts requires you to use a much greater number of points than other hotel chains like Hyatt or Starwood Hotels.  For instance, Hyatt's award chart starts at 5000 Hyatt Gold Passport points.  Hyatt's award for a top category 6 hotel is only 22,000 points.  Hilton's top category 7 hotels start at 50,000 Hilton points.  As I discussed in a previous post however, Hilton points are VERY easy to accumulate in large numbers.  It is very easy to rack up hundreds of thousands of Hilton points in a single credit card app-O-rama.  You can also earn 6X Hilton points at supermarkets and drug stores.  See this post on how to accumulate even more Hilton points.  While Hilton is not my favorite Hotel chain, Hilton's are available in many cities at different price points. They have some beautiful aspirational properties in exotic locations as well.

Hilton has very generous award discount ratesavailable for their elites.  Anyone with Hilton status (Silver, Gold or Diamond) is eligible for VIP/GLON awards.  Hilton status is also very easy to obtain.  Several of their credit cards provide status.  In fact, Hilton may be the only chain you can reach top status through spending alone.  With $40,000 placed on a Hilton Citi Reserve card, you will receive Diamond status.  Anyone with a Hilton AMEX card is eligible for an AXON award. (American EXpress ONly). With these discount award charts, you can really stretch your Hilton points a lot farther. VIP/GLON awards are avaiable to book online if you are logged into your Hilton account.  AXON awards are not available online. They must be booked by calling Hilton.

Here is a comparison of the different Hilton Cards Available.



Here is a list comparing AXON vs GLON awards of different category Hilton's based on the length of stay.



Let's look at this another way.

Here is a flow chart to assist your decision making about when to use AXON or GLON awards.

(Chart courtesy of The Points Guy)

With Hilton's ease of points earning, ease of obtaining status, and their discount award charts, you can have many great free Hilton stays! 

If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.
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About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

British Air Avios - How to Book AA Flights Using Fewer Miles



Did you know that you can book short to medium distance non-stop flights like NYC to Miami for as little as 15,000 miles round trip?  Or how about NYC to some of the islands in the Caribbean for 20,000 miles round trip? What about LAX to Honolulu for 25,000 miles?  You can if you know how to use British Airways Avios to book flights on American Airlines.

Here are a couple more example on how to use Avios to book travel on AA

DFW (Dallas)– MCO (Orlando) 15000 points RT for a Disney World vacation.
DFW – DEN/EGE (Denver, Vail) 9000 points RT for a ski vacation.

Both British Air and American Airlines (AA) are part of the One World Alliance.  British Airways flies from a multitude of US cities to destinations in Europe, The Middle East, and Africa through London (LHR),  however British Airways is not permitted to fly within the United States.  You can however book travel within the US using your British Airways miles (Avios) while flying on partner American Airlines.  Because British Airways uses a distanced based chart to determine how many miles are necessary to book award travel, you can find award flights to nearby destinations for as little as 9000 Avios RT.  Considering that American Airlines award chart starts at 25,000 miles, that's a really good deal! 

Here is British Airways One Way distance Based Chart:


Business class tickets are twice as many miles as Coach tickets and First class tickets are 3X coach awards.  In some markets, there is no true first class and you may be charged 3X miles for a business class seat.  It can still be a great deal. 


Here is the step by step directions for booking AA flights with Avios.

First you have to be logged into your British Air Account.  Once there, click on "Spending Avios"


Next Click on "Book Flights with Avios" .  Fill in your departure city and destination city and dates of travel.



You will get a message that British Air doesn't fly those routes.  Select "Include Partners"


Select your flights.


Voila! You can now book a flight for 15,000 Avios instead of 25,000 AA miles. You just saved 10,000 miles.




If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.
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About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net













Tuesday, December 4, 2012

British Airways 100,000 Mile Sign up Offer is Back



About six months ago, both my wife and I applied for and received the Chase British Airways credit card.  The offer came with a 50,000 mile sign up offer with your first $1000 purchase.  With the first $10,000 in spending you were given 25,000 bonus miles and for $20,000 in spending you were given another 25,000 bonus miles totaling 100,000 miles.  As you earn 1.25 Avios/$ spent, after $20,000 spent, you have accumulated 125,000 Avios.  With $30,000 spent, you are given a "Travel Together" ticket that is good for up to 2 years. In about 6 months time, we have accumulated almost 275,000 Avios.  This offer is now back. 

The Travel Together ticket is good whether you book your ticket with either cash or miles.  This can be a great savings.  Two people can fly from the US to London in first class for a total of 100,000 miles RT.  The BIG downside of British Airways are their horrendous fuel surcharges.  The "free" tickets could end up costing $1000 each.  That's still a tremendous value for a 1st class ticket to London. One 1st class ticket on that itinerary could cost $5000 or more each way!   From what I hear, British Air has a terrific 1st class product too.  My wife and I plan on using our miles and Travel Together ticket in the Spring of 2013.  Most people who use this option, consider it the same as buying a Coach ticket and getting a confirmed 3 class upgrade.  There is another option below that we could use as well.

One great feature of the Avios program is that you can create a Family account and pool miles together.  My Mom has a BA card, but she doesn't travel any more.  We have pooled her miles with ours so that we can use them.  If you want to get really creative, you can get your entire family a card for the 50,000 mile sign up bonus to pool even more miles.  I believe you can have up to 7 people on one family account. 

Award travel to South America is another great use of Avios.  There are no fuel surcharges to South America when using Avios to book travel on One World Alliance partner American Airlines.   For example, there are ways to book travel to Brazil for only 25,000 Avios and $23.70 in fees from New York, Dallas, or Miami to Rio de Janerio on American Airlines. 

As British Air award charts are distance based,  One "Secret" use of Avios is to book a trip from Boston to Ireland on Partner Aer Lingus.  Without going into detail, it's possible to book this flight for as little as 25,000 Avios plus some minor fees.  Now you still have to get yourself to Boston, but from the East coast, that is very easy.  There are other slightly more costly ways to do the same thing from Chicago, New York and Orlando.

Later this week, I will write about another great use of Avios;  The ability to book short to medium distanced flights with your Avios on AA using very few miles.  Click Here. Except for the Travel Together ticket this is probably the best way to use Avios.

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About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chase Freedom Announces New Quarterly Bonus Categories



Chase just announced the Chase Freedom card's new quarterly bonus promotions.  You earn 5% cash back for the following categories of spending:



If you own a Chase Ink Bold or Ink Plus, or a Chase Sapphire card, you can transfer those dollars over to your Ultimate Rewards account and make them even more valuable. Ultimate Reward points are among the most valuable of all the miles and points currency due to their flexibility.  You can book travel through the UR website.  You get a 25% bonus when you use your points.  In other words, 30,000 UR points are worth $375 in travel.  When you pay for travel this way, you earn miles and hotel points from the airlines and hotels as if you had paid cash.  You can also transfer those points directly to some of UR's travel partners.  When transferring miles to Southwest or United, you will also receive a 25% transfer bonus.  20,000 UR points gives 25,000 miles.  That's good enough to book a low level dometic award ticket. 

The quarterly promtions are capped at $1500 of spending in the bonus categories, so you max out at 30,000 UR points for the year on these promotions.  It's still a great deal. 

I plan on taking full advantage of the $1500 in the Drug Store spending to max out on the 7500 UR points with the purchase of Vanilla Reload cards!

How will you use your bonus points?

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About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net




Sunday, December 2, 2012

Is Bluebird Worth it Now?



We were sitting at dinner last night with some friends and the conversation turned to miles and points.  I was trying to explain the value of Bluebird.  It got me thinking that I needed to quantify its value and that I needed to take a closer look at my own plan.

Like all great points and miles strategies, you need to evaluate whether or not the plan is practical and worth the effort in real life.  I am all about ROI (return on investment).  What EXACTLY am I getting for the time and money I am about to spend?

When The Bluebird card was first announced in October, there was tremendous excitement in the points and miles community about the potential to rack up an extra 100K or more miles and points every year.  The idea behind this strategy was to purchase Vanilla Reload cards at Office Depot with your Chase Ink bold card. The Chase Ink card earns 5X points at office supply stores.  You would then load your Bluebird account with the funds from the 5X purchase.  This was a great idea.  You would be able to effectively earn almost 5X points on bills that you could not otherwise earn points. 

Back in October, Office Depot was still selling Vanilla Reload cards.  Vanilla cards at Office Depot are pretty much gone forever.  Next there was the ability to purchase the Vanilla Reload cards at Pharmacies.  The AMEX Hilton card offers 6X Hilton points at all Drug stores and Supermarkets.  OK, it wasn't 5X UR points any more, but 6X Hilton points are better than no points.  CVS and Walgreens are both selling Vanilla Reload cards. Unfortunately, Walgreens has now adopted a policy that those cards have to be purchased with cash.  That leaves CVS as the only way to purchase Vanilla Reload cards and earn bonus points with your purchase.  As long as you have the Hilton AMEX card it can still be worth it to use the Bluebird strategy to pay bills. 

I decided I had about $4000 in office bills and $4000 in personal bills that I would be paying each month through my two Bluebird accounts.  That means I need to load $8000/ month on Vanilla reload cards and transfer that money into the bluebird accounts.  It's probably not a good idea to use one credit card like the Hilton AMEX to purchase $8000/ month in Vanilla reload cards.  After all how can you justify to the credit card company almost $100,000/year in Pharmacy bills?  If they suspect you are abusing the points system, they WILL shut you down.

I decided the best strategy to not draw attention to credit card activity was for both my wife and I to use 3 different credit cards each month for the purchase of those reload cards. We would buy $2000 each on our AMEX Hilton card, and $1000 each on both our Starwood Preferred and Chase Sapphire cards.  This would at least spread the charges across different banks and different cards.  Right now we both probably stop twice a month at the pharmacy for some purchase  NOW, we will each have to make two extra trips each month to stock up on cards.  Each Vanilla reload card costs $3.95 cents, making our monthly expense to purchase 16 of them around $63. Annually, we will be spending around $750 just to purchase cards!

The question now becomes, Is it Worth it?  What EXACTLY will I be getting for my $750 and two extra trips to CVS each month.  Let's look and the math to help us make that decision. 

Purchasing $4000/ month on a Hilton AMEX will result in 24,000 Hilton points each month.  (Pharmacy spending earns 6X Hilton points).  That comes to over 290,000 Hilton points/year.   Purchasing $2000/month on both the Chase Sapphire and Starwood cards would result in nearly 25,000 Starpoints and more than 25,000 Ultimate Reward points.  (Don't forget you earn points on the $3.95 fee and UR give you a 7% yearly bonus on points earned)  Let's look at how those points can be used to see if it is worth the effort.

First of all, let's look at what $750 buys in travel.  For $750. you can probably buy two RT domestic coach airline tickets.  You might have money left over, or you may need to spend more than that.  Let's assume that a Hilton night at a top hotel costs between $250-$350 per night plus taxes.  That will buy you more than two nights, but less than 3 nights.  What do our points buy?

Using your 290,000 points, you could purchase two 4-night AXON7 awards.  An AXON7 award means that you can stay at ANY top category 7 Hilton with few exceptions.  Now that you don't care what the room night costs, you would probably try to get the most bang for your buck and stay at a property that costs $350/night.  Those 8 nights could be worth almost $4000 when you add in taxes and fees. 

Using 20,000 of your Starpoints you could book a domestic Coach ticket on any one of the 31 airlines that Starwood partners with.  Transferring 20,000 Starpoints gets you 25,000 Airline miles.  Using 25,000 UR points you could purchase over $300 worth of airfare or transfer those to Southwest or United for 25,000 miles. 

$750 buys EITHER two airline tickets OR 2-3 hotel nights.  Your points on the other hand buy two airline tickets AND 8 nights at the top category Hilton hotels. 

Only you can decide if that is worth the effort.  To me, getting an 8-day vacation for two people for $750 and some extra stops at CVS is worth it. 

What do you think?

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About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why Hyatt is My Favorite Hotel - Part 2



Yesterday I spoke about the ease with which you could book a Hyatt award stay by transferring Ultimate Reward points into your Hyatt Gold Passport account.  Today. I want to discuss the benefits of the Hyatt Gold Passport program. 

First of all, it is very easy to obtain entry level status in the Gold Passport program.  The only thing you need is a Chase Hyatt Visa card.  The annual fee for this card is $75/year.  The card comes with a sign up bonus of two free nights at ANY Hyatt worldwide.  That is a great deal!  If you already have Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum status when you sign up, in addition to your two free nights, you get two confirmed suite upgrade certificates.  The suite upgrade certificates are good for paid stays up to 7 nights. All you have to do is book the least expensive eligible room, then call the Gold Passport line and they will confirm your upgrade. Pretty Suite! Eligible room rates can usually be discounted rates like AARP or AAA discount, but rooms booked through a third party like Travelocity may not be eligible.  If you already have Gold Passport Diamond status when you sign up, your two free nights are in a suite.

I got my Platinum status by signing up for a Milepoint Premium membership for $59.  One of the sign up perks of membership was instant Hyatt Platinum status for a year.  Once the Platinum status posted to my account, I applied for the Hyatt card and received the two free nights and suite upgrade certificates.

For your $75 annual renewal fee you will receive one free night in a category 1-4 Hyatt property.  That by itself is a great value. 

IMHO, Hyatt treats their elites better than any other major Hotel chain.

After 5 qualifying stays or 15 eligible nights in a calendar year, you will enjoy automatic upgrades to Platinum membership that lets you experience a premium level of benefits and rewards.
  • Achieve rewards faster with a 15% point bonus when choosing points
  • Enjoy a preferred room including rooms on higher floors or larger rooms, based on availability upon arrival
  • Receive the confirmed bed type at check-in
  • Stay connected with complimentary in-room Internet access
  • Expedite check-in at a dedicated area for elite members
  • Ensure a room is always available with our 72-hour guarantee
  • Extend your stay until 2:00 p.m. with a late check out request
  • Book reservations through an exclusive Platinum line

After 25 eligible stays or 50 eligible nights in a calendar year, you will experience the Diamond level of membership and have access to their most elite benefits and awards.
  • Achieve rewards even faster with a 30% point bonus when choosing points
  • Enjoy the best room available upon arrival, excluding suites (some properties may offer you one)
  • Receive exclusive access to the Regency Club or Grand Club lounge featuring complimentary continental breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres.
  • Enjoy daily complimentary full breakfast in hotels without a club lounge
  • Treat yourself to a suite upgrade at the time of reservation four times annually on paid room nights
  • Receive a special welcome point bonus or food and beverage amenity during each stay
  • Receive a nightly room refresh
  • Receive the confirmed bed type at check-in
  • Stay connected with complimentary in-room Internet access
  • Expedite check-in at a dedicated area for elite members
  • Ensure a room is always available with our 48-hour guarantee
  • Extend your stay until 4:00 p.m. with a late check out request
  • Book reservations through an exclusive Diamond line
  •  
Hyatt upgrades are usually easier if you email or fax a request ahead of time.  One trick I have found is to visit a site like Trip Advisor.  Usually there is someone on Trip Advisor complaining about their stay.  Someone, (usually the hotel manager) will respond concerning the guests problem.  You then have the name and usually some contact information on the hotel manager.  I will then use that information to make my requests.

Hyatt also has something called a Diamond Challenge.  If you know that you are going to have some paid stays coming up, you can call and request a Diamond Challenge. You must have equivalent status with another hotel chain. The easiest one to get is Hilton by virtue of spending $40,000 on your Citibank Hilton card.

  • The challenge is for a 60 day Trial Diamond offer (you receive temporary Diamond Status)
  • You must complete 12 qualifying nights to maintain your Diamond Tier status through the following year.
  • Eligible nights must be completed at any Hyatt Hotel & Resort worldwide, Hyatt Place or Hyatt Summerfield Suites within 60 days of enrollment
  • The challenge 60 day period will start on the date of your enrollment and only qualifying nights that are completed after your enrollment will be included
  • Usually it takes 24 hours for your temporary Diamond Tier level to appear on your Gold Passport account
  • You will also receive 1,000 bonus points on the first six (6) eligible nights within 60 days. Maximum 6,000 bonus points may be earned. Maximum one trial tier per member
  • Diamond 30% point bonus will be awarded for all stays during 60-day trial membership period when you chose points for your stay
  • After you complete 12 eligible nights during our promotion period, Diamond 30% point bonus will be awarded for all eligible stays when you have chosen points for your stay.

  • Having status with multiple hotel chains increases your chances of being able to book award stays and receive complimentary upgrades.  It can be very easy to obtain status for big spenders as both Starwood and Hilton provide mid tier status just for credit card spending.  Once you have status with one, it becomes easier to obtain it with another.

    If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.
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    About The Points Doctor

    The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    Why Hyatt Hotels Are My Favorite and Why They Could be Yours Too




    I wrote previously about "Why I Believe the Experts Are Wrong About the True Value of Points". The basic premise of that article was that we make decisions about purchasing things based on how easy or difficult it is to replace the currency that we are about to spend.  In other words, "the value of a dollar".  Intuitively we know how easy or difficult it is for each of us to replace the money in our bank account. The decision about how easy or hard it is to replace miles or points in our account is not so clear.  We don't understand the "value of a point" as intuitively.

    Today I want to use a specific example demonstrating my point.  To me, flexible points like Starpoints or Ultimate Rewards points are a very valuable currency.  Starwood points are probably the best way to accumulate airline miles because of the 25% bonus you receive when transferring into any one of their 31 airline partners.  You are earning the same 1:1 ratio of dollars spent to miles earned as you do on your branded airline card, but the 25% transfer bonus means that you are really earning at a ratio of 1.25:1. 

    Ultimate Reward points are earned through spending on your Chase Sapphire and Chase Ink cards.  Ultimate reward points are much easier to earn than Starpoints, but they have fewer transfer partners.  Airline transfer partners include; British Air, Korean Air, Southwest and United.  Hotel transfer partners are Hyatt, Priority Club, Marriott and Ritz Carlton.  The Chase Sapphire card has a 2X bonus category for Restaurants and Travel.  Travel is not just limited to airline tickets either.  Pretty much any travel related expenses like trains, cabs, shuttles, limousine service, etc are included. 
    The Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards from Chase earn 2X points on gas purchases and 5X points on office supplies, telecommunications, cable and satellite TV and Internet.  At 5X spending,  points rack up quickly.  Every time I am in an office supply store, I will buy two $500 Visa or MasterCard gift cards.  They cost  $5.95 each. For my $1011.90, I will earn over 5000 Ultimate Reward points.  That brings me to today's point about Hyatt hotels.

    Hyatt's award chart looks like this.



    I can instantly (as soon as they post to my UR account) transfer 5000 Ultimate Reward points to my Hyatt account in a matter of minutes.  I can then use those 5000 Hyatt Gold Passport points to book a category one Hyatt property like the Hyatt Place in Pittsburgh.  This hotel is very centrally located to the downtown and is walking distance to the ballpark.  That room for the night of April 6th (a date I just picked at random) is selling for $349 for the night.  I can book that same room with 5000 Hyatt Gold Passport points!  For my $11.90 I get a $349 room for the night.  That's before room taxes too.  That's all I really "spent" as I still have two $500 gift cards left. I don't need to do the math to know how great a deal I just got.  By virtue of having a Chase Hyatt card, I also have Hyatt Gold Passport Status.  That might entitle me to a room upgrade!

    Let's look for a Marriott in Pittsburgh for the same night of April 6th.  The least expensive Marriott I could find was the Courtyard at the airport.  It sells for $119/night plus taxes.  You can book that same room with 15,000 Marriott Reward points.  If I have the Chase Marriott Rewards card, I can earn the same 2X points on restaurants and travel as the Sapphire card, but there are no 5X categories other than Marriott spending.  While Marriott is also a transfer partner with Ultimate Rewards, I will have to work much harder to earn enough points to book a room that sells for 1/3 as much as the Hyatt room.

    Which room would you book and how would you pay for it?  I think the decision is a relatively wasy one to make.

    While most of us understand the "value of a dollar", very few of us understand the value of a point.  I hope this begins to shed some light on the subject.

    If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.
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    About The Points Doctor

    The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net






    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Trip Review- Aruba. One Happy Island.



    Today's post is a departure from previous articles.  Today I am going to review our recent trip to Aruba.

    My wife and I just returned from a two week trip to our favorite Island-Aruba.  We own a timeshare at the Marriott in Palm Beach there.  For those of you who aren't familiar with timeshare jargon, we have a 2 BR lock-off unit.  That means it's a 2 BR unit that can be "split" into a one BDRM suite (full kitchen, LR, DR) and a second efficiency unit (more like a regular hotel room with a connecting door).  If you want, you can use the whole 2 BR suite for one week, or you can"lock off" each of the two units separately for one week each.  We chose the latter option this year so we we could stay in Aruba for two weeks consecutively. We have been going to Aruba at least once a year for several years now.  I understand why they call it "One Happy Island". If anyone is interested, we do rent out the unit periodically.  PM me and I can give you details.

    Before anyone jumps on me about is a timeshare worth it, that really depends on how you use it.  We bought ours on the resale market for 1/3 cost of what Marriott sells them for.  We have an annual fee that is very reasonable.  As long as we pay the annual fee, we have the unit's guaranteed use during the year.  Marriott recently switched over to a point system.  You "buy" X number of points to be used at anytime at any Marriott.  Great if you need flexibility.  You can book as many days as you like.  I am locked into one week intervals and check in from Th-M.  That's OK for us since we take multiple vacations each year.  We know one of them is Aruba.  If we want to trade our unit for a different destination, we can still do that.  The points option doesn't seem like a good value to me. 

    If you are interested in seeing what the resale market on timeshares looks like, visit this site.  It is a place to find timeshare rentals as well.  I have no affiliation with them.  I also know a broker who deals in resales.  He helped us with negotiating for our unit. PM me if you are interested and I can get you in tough with Sammy.

    The Aruba Marriott property where we own is the second most requested timeshare of all the properties in the Marriott lineup.  We have been returning to Aruba for several years now.  In fact, this was our second trip there this year.

    The very first time we went to Aruba, we stayed with friends in their 2 BR unit. One day I was floating down the lazy river in my Phillies hat with my friend Mark  (Mark talks to everyone).  He started up a conversation with a gentleman from Pa who happened to also be a Phillies fan.  This man was there with about 20 members of his family.  He told me he and his family had been coming to Aruba for 20 years.  He then proceeded to give us his list of the top ten reasons he returns to Aruba every year.  What I have found over the past few years, is that there are a lot of people just like him.  They return to Aruba year after year.  This trip, I met a man in the elevator who had been coming to Aruba for 39 of the last 49 years! My wife and I have also fallen in love with this tiny Island off the coast of Venezuela.

    There are so many great places to eat in Aruba.  I like to say that you could visit for a month and not run out of great meals.  Our Favorite place in Aruba is Carte Blanche.  It's a unique restuarnt.  It only seats 14-15 people.  You are seated in a semicircle around the kitchen.  You have your choice of a 4 or 5 course meal, with or without the wine pairing.  I chose the 4 course with the wine pair.  My wife also had the 4-course meal, but without the wine pairing.  She ordered two glasses of wine separately.  Carte Blanche is as much entertainment as it is great food.  It's owned by two guys, Dennis and Glen.  Dennis is the chef and Glen is the Sommelier.  Glen's job is to pair the wine with Dennis's food. Dennis's signature appetizer is cerviche.  Glen's wine pairing with this dish was outstanding.  You get choices of the main course, but thre is no menu.  You pick from meat, fish or vegetarian entree.  If you have special dietary requests, let them be known at the time of reservation.  You probably need a reservation 6 months in advance.  Currently they are located in front of the giant windmill.  They are moving into a new location on the beach after the start of the new year.  If you visit Aruba, make sure to visit these guys.  You wont regret it.  Price: Expensive.  Two 4-course dinners, one with the wine pair and the other with two glasses of wine was $250+.

    My favorite day trip was the visit to the Arikok National Park and the trip to the Batholithic Rock formations.  If you've been to Virgin Gorda to see "The Baths"  it is the same type of rock formations, just not nearly as breathtaking.  There is a great view from the top though.  Another great thing to do is to visit the lighthouse at the northern tip of the island.  Great views and a spectacular (and yes they are real) place to get a coconut smoothie with or without rum.  We usually rent a car in Aruba, but it is not necessary.  Driving around the island is VERY easy.  There is one main road that takes you most of the way around the island.  There are a few traffic lights and circles.  It's hard to get lost unless you wander off the main roads too far and get stuck in a neighborhood at night where it is very dark.  Diving or snorkeling Aruba's wrecks is another popular thing to do.  My favorite spot to snorkel is a little cove on the way to the Lighthouse.  That is where one of the dive wrecks are located.  My adult kids and their friends did the "Pirate" snorkel adventure.  There was all day drinking and snorkeling.  There's also have a rope swing that everyone enjoyed.  We have never been to the Natural Pool on the eastern side of the island.  It is not accessible by car. There are Jeep tours, but if you have neck and back problems, it may not be for you.  VERY bumpy.  You can rent quads, but there have been reports of people being killed on the way there riding on them.  Lastly, there is Baby Beach.  It's probably worth the hour drive to visit once.  The water and beach are beautiful.  Great place to snorkel.  There are no chairs to sit, and not a lot of shade. The food and bathroom options aren't great either.  People have drown there getting caught in the rip currents, so be careful not to wander into open ocean.
     

    Aruba is one of the A,B,C islands.  The others being Bonaire and Curacao.  There is great windsurfing in Bonaire if you are looking for a day trip.  The synagogue in Curacao is the first in the Western Hemisphere, complete with a sand floor. 

    There you have it? Did you find this helpful?

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    About The Points Doctor

    The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net









    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Easy Star Alliance Status - No Bag Fees!



    What if I told you that you could have almost instant Silver Status and easy Gold Status on all Star Alliance partners and be able to maintain that status for up to three years?  Star Alliance carriers in the US are United and US Air, but there are 25 more partners around the World.


    Star Alliance Silver Status would entitle you to your first checked bag free (that saves $50 pp/RT) and gets you priority check in and boarding on both US Air and United.  In the days where everyone is bringing massive amounts of carry on luggage to avoid bag charges, having priority boarding ensures that you will get overhead luggage space on full flights.  Gold Status would also give you lounge access as well, but unfortunately may not help with upgrades.   These are great benefits for the occasional flyer.

    All that's necessary is for you sign up for a little known, but highly praised Aegean Airline's Miles and Bonus Program. Both my wife and I recently signed up for their program.  When I signed up, I was given 2000 bonus miles.  It only takes 2000 more miles to become a silver member.  You're now saying to yourself, "but I'm not going to fly 2000 miles on Aegean airlines".  That's OK, you don't have to.  All you have to do is fly on a Star Alliance partner like US Air or United.  On your next flight, credit your miles to your Aegean Airlines account.  My recent trip from Philadelphia to Aruba credited 3922 miles to my Miles and Bonus account.  When I checked into my account last week it showed 5922 miles and Blue status.  Blue status is the equivalent of Star Alliance silver.  Next time I go to Aruba, I won't pay bag fees!

    I now need just over 10,000 miles to have Star Alliance Gold status.  I have two years to fulfill that requirement.  The best news is I was told that my status could last up to three years! I guess that means I have to go back four more times to Aruba in the next two years.  The things we have to do... ugh!

    If you like what you've read, please click the +1, then join others and follow me by adding your name to our subscription list at the top of this page.
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    About The Points Doctor

    The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net