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Friday, September 13, 2013

Chase Freedom Refer A Friend - Get Up to 50,000 Ultimate Reward Points


This Post was modified on 9/13/13.  There is a new Chase Refer a Friend program where you get 5,000 Ultimate Reward points for each referral up to ten people for a total of 50,000 Ultimate Reward points. 
 
Click here to be taken to the Chase website where you can refer up to ten people for any of the Chase Ink, Sapphire or Freedom cards. Your friends receive up to 40,000 Ultimate reward points and you receive 5,000 points when they are approved for the cards.  If you don't currently have one of these cards, I would love to refer you.  You can email me at Bruce@thePointsDoctor.com. I will send you the link for the above offer. 
 
Below is the original post from 12/18/12.  That deal is now dead. 
 
Refer up to 10 friends for the Chase Freedom card and receive up to $500 in statement credits. You must already have a Chase Freedom Card to receive this offer. Your friend will receive $100 cash back after spending $500.  


If you are looking to apply for this card, I would love to refer you.  Send me a private message and I will send you the link.  The Chase Freedom card has no annual fee and has quarterly bonus of 5% in certain categories.  The 1st Quarter bonus categories for 2013 are Drug Stores, Pharmacies and Starbucks.  The Freedom card works best when you link together your Chase Sapphire or Chase Ink Bold/Plus cards. Then you can exchange your 5% for very valuable Ultimate Reward points that can be used for travel.

If you already have a Chase Freedom card and have not activated your 3rd quarter bonus, click here to activate it.

See this post for the Best Current Credit Card Deals. 

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

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hyatt is My Favorite Hotel Part 3- Hyatt Diamond Is Really is Worth It



I wrote a few months ago about why Hyatt was my favorite hotel because of how they treat their elites, how easy it is to obtain status,  and how reasonable their award chart to redeem points for free stays  Here is Part One and Part Two. of that series.  I continue today with Part Three .

I returned home two weeks ago from a family baseball trip to Spring Training in Tampa, Florida.  My family and I  stayed at the Hyatt Grand Tampa Bay.  I wrote a satirical post about how Hyatt Diamond status isn't worth it as more and more people are obtaining Hyatt Gold Passport status because of the Chase Hyatt credit card.  It's relatively easy to obtain mid tier Platinum status just by signing up for Milepoint's premium membership and then applying for the Hyatt card.  As a signup bonus, you will get two free Hyatt nights at ANY Hyatt worldwide  Those two nights could be used to stay at places like the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris, or Park Hyatt Sydney both of which are widely considered to be among the best hotels in the world!  If you sign up as a Platinum, you also get two confirmed suite upgrade certificates good for up to 4 nights on paid stays.  Diamond status is also fairly easy to obtain, but difficult to maintain as it requires 25 stays or 50 nights per year.  I recently began a Diamond status trial with Hyatt.  By simply showing them I had top tier status with another hotel program, (in my case Hilton) Hyatt gave me a 60 day trial to see what their Diamond program was about.  In order to maintain your Diamond status past the 60 days,  you need to complete 12 paid nights within the 60 days.  That will allow you keep your Diamond status through February of the following year. In my case I will have Diamond status until Feb, 2014. As a bonus, Diamonds will also receive 4 confirmed suite upgrade certificates to be used on paid stays.  The paid stays need to be on eligible paid rates.  That would include AAA or AARP discounts, but not stays booked by a third party like Priceline.

So what is so great about Hyatt Diamond status?  I will use my recent Tampa stay as an example. We stayed at the Hyatt for 4 nights in March. I had booked one room for my adult children and one for my wife and me. I used a confirmed suite upgrade certificate for the two of us.  We were given a beautiful corner suite on the 11th floor looking West over Tampa Bay. 

As I began the Diamond challenge the day before our arrival, I was given immediate Diamond status.  That meant free internet in both rooms ($9.95/day normally).  We also had access to the Regency club on Thursday and Friday for breakfast and evening snacks. On Saturday and Sunday while the Regency Club is closed, we were entitled to a free breakfast at the hotel restaurant for up to 4 people.  That was approximately $200-250 savings in free breakfast and snacks for 4 people over 4 days. 

Total Savings: $300+.

I was able to book my rooms with an AARP rate of 10% off the Hyatt daily rate.  I also used my Starwood Preferred Guest business card to pay for all the hotel charges.  The Starwood card comes with OPEN savings of a 5% statement credit plus you earn the Starpoints. To me 5% cash back plus Starpoints is worth more than the 3 Hyatt points per dollar I would get by placing the hotel charges on my Hyatt card.

Total Savings: 15% plus the Starpoints earned.

With the current Hyatt promotions, 5 Hyatt points per dollar spent at the hotel,  the 30% bonus points you earn as a Diamond, the Diamond welcome amenity (500 points), and the points earned for the Regency club being closed on the weekend, I walked away with more than 25,000 Hyatt points from that 4 night stay.  To put that in perspective, I paid for 8 nights of hotel rooms, but got back the equivalent of two free nights back in points.  (In essence a 25% discount)

If you total up all the savings, I received a total of a 40% discount!  That's before I count the free breakfasts, free internet and the suite upgrade!

I love how Hyatt treats their elites!  We have at least 8 more paid Hyatt nights over the next 6 weeks so that I can keep the Diamond status until next February.  At that time I will probably get my wife  Diamond status for our stay at the Hyatt Vendome in Paris next Spring.  I'm sure we will be using our Free nights in a suite for that stay! Read here to see the Importance of Planning Your Credit Card Churn to find our how to do that too!

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, April 6, 2013

The Importance of Planning a Credit Card Churn - Part 2


This is the second in a series about the importance of planning your credit card applications to maximize the benefits that come with a specific card. 

One of the basic premises of earning millions of points and miles is to do so in a manner that benefits the type of travel that you are looking to do. Without a plan for how to use your points and miles, you can waste money fulfilling minimum spending requirements on credit cards that serve no purpose to your specific travel goals. 

The first thing that you need to do is to figure out where you want to go.  I like to use real world examples to demonstrate my point, so today I will talk about how I plan for my wife and I to go to Paris and Italy in the Spring of 2014.

The first thing I wanted to arrange for our trip was the 1st Class airfare to Europe in lay-flat seats.  There are many airlines that have this product, but in 2012 I signed my wife up for the 100,000 mile Chase British Airways offer.  British Air has what's called a travel together ticket.  It's their version of a companion ticket.  The great thing about the BA companion ticket is that the companion flies free whether you "pay" for the card member's ticket with cash or points.  That essentially means that your points are spread twice as far.  In order to obtain a travel together ticket you need to spend $30,000 on the BA card in a Calendar year.  The reason I emphasized calendar year is that I made the mistake of assuming it was the first year of card membership.  In order to have received the full 100,000 miles that came with the Chase BA card, you need to spend $20,000 in your first year of card membership.  As the Travel Together certificate is good for two years, I was trying to time the last $10,000 in spending on the card so that my certificate would be good through the Spring of 2015.  Even though we planned our trip for 2014, you never know what might happen that far in the future.  I wanted the security of knowing it would be good for one more Spring trip, "just in case". Anyway, I had put $20,000 on the card in late 2012 and was planning on putting the rest of the $30,000 spend in early 2013 in order to receive the travel together certificate in the Spring of 2013. When I called Chase to find out the details, I was told that while the $20,000 in spending to receive the full signup bonus was during your first year of membership, the $30,000 to receive the companion ticket was based on the Calendar year.  Now I had to start the spending all over! Lesson learned.  Make sure to read the Terms and Conditions in the agreement. 

The big negative of booking with points on BA are the hefty fuel surcharges.  The "free" tickets will probably cost about $1000 each.  While that may seem crazy to some people to pay $1000 for a free ticket, most people who do so consider it as paying for the coach ticket and getting a confirmed 3 class upgrade.  My understanding is that BA provides an excellent 1st class product.  To me, it will be worth paying the fuel surcharges to get a good night's sleep on the flight over "The Pond". The retail price on those same tickets would likely be more than $10,000 each.

Next I will need to obtain a Hyatt Diamond trial for my wife prior to arriving in Paris for our stay at the Park Hyatt Venedome.  We will want to use our two free nights in a suite that come from signing up for the Chase Hyatt card when you sign up as a Diamond. Depending on how many nights we plan to stay at the Hyatt Venedome, we may also use one of the 4 confirmed suite upgrade certificates that come with Diamond status.

In order to obtain a Hyatt Diamond trial, you will need to have top tier status with another chain.  For us the easiest path to top tier status is through credit card spending on the one of the Hilton branded cards.  My wife has the both the Citi Hilton and the Amex Hilton cards.  I suspect one of those cards will be terminated prior to the time when its annual fee is due.  As the Hilton Amex comes with the ability to book AXON awards, I think this is the card we will concentrate her spending on.  In order to earn Hilton Diamond status through spending alone, you need to place $40,000 on the card during a calendar year.  Once Hilton Diamond status is obtained later this year, it will be good for 2014.  We will need to time the Diamond trial with Hyatt to coincide with our trip, then immediately apply for the Chase Hyatt card having Diamond Status.  We will then be awarded two free nights in a suite along with 4 confirmed suite upgrades to be used on paid nights.  If we choose to have her try to keep the Diamond status we will simply need to spend 12 nights in 60 days once the Diamond trial begins.  Her status would then be good through February 2015. 

As you can see, it is very important to have a strategy for using your miles and points to get the most out of them and to travel in the manner in which you want to travel.


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, March 31, 2013

AMEX Bluebird Update - Is Bluebird DEAD?


This is the third in the series about Bluebird cards from American Express.  I first wrote about Bluebird in November, calling it the new Killer App.  Several weeks later, I wrote an update about Bluebird entitled "Is Bluebird Worth It Now? To summarize those two articles for those of you not familiar with Bluebird, it is both a debit card and a checking account.  The initial miles and points strategy used with Bluebird was to fund your Bluebird account by purchasing prepaid Vanilla Reload cards from Office Depot and CVS with a miles or points earning credit card . 

Within the first few weeks of issuance of Bluebird, Office Depot discontinued selling vanilla Reload Cards and Walgreens stopped taking credit cards for the purchase of them. That still left CVS in the game and as long as you had a credit card that earned bonus points or miles for pharmacy purchases, you could still rack up tens of thousands of points simply by funding your Bluebird account.  With the money in the bluebird account, you could then pay bills with money that had earned miles or points.  This was a great thing.  I was now paying things like car payments, mortgages, utility bills, etc with money that earned Hilton points. I was buying Vanilla cards at CVS with a Hilton AMEX.  Each dollar spent at CVS was earning 6 Hilton points.  In 6 months time my wife and I had racked up over 300,000 Hilton points from a combination of strategies.  Some involved sign up bonuses, while others involved transfers from other programs like Hawaiian Airlines.

I recently booked a trip for 8 nights in French Polynesia for the Fall of 2014.  We will be spending 4 nights in Moorea and 4 nights in Bora Bora.  All thanks to Bluebird.

Unfortunately, there are several things coming together in the perfect storm that may ultimately kill the Killer App.  First of all, as of your first billing cycle in May the Hilton AMEX will no longer be paying out 6 points/$ at pharmacies.  Secondly, as of March 28 Hilton massively devalued their points currency.  Thirdly, Vanilla Reloads are getting very difficult to find in some areas of the country. 

So where does that leave us now with Bluebird?  The reload cards used to fund the account are hard to find, the primary points earning card will no longer be paying a bonus on pharmacy purchases and now Hilton has devalued their currency.  Is Bluebird Dead?

I think there is value in Bluebird for some people.  If you have a Starwood AMEX card or If you are someone who likes to apply for multiple credit cards per year and have difficulty manufacturing spending to meet minimum spending requirements, then Bluebird is still a great option.  You can apply for many cards at once and have no fear that you cannot meet the spending requirements as long as you have cash to pay the credit card bills at the end of the month.  Remember the value of miles and points is quickly negated if you are paying interest on your credit cards at the end of the month. As Starpoints are considered worth 2.5 cents each by many bloggers, paying $3.95 for the 500 Starpoints still seems worth it to me.

So to sum it up, yes there is still some value in Bluebird, but it is on life support for earning miles and points.  The only thing that would put a stake in its heart would be if CVS stops taking credit cards for the payment of Vanilla Reloads.

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, March 21, 2013

Hyatt Diamond Status is Not Worth It. (Satire)

Disclaimer: No animals were harmed and no trees were destroyed in the making of this blog post. Any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental. Your mileage may vary. YMMV.

As a new Hyatt Diamond Member, I was anxious to see how my new elite status would get me the upgrade I am rightly entitled to. After all, not everyone is elite like me, or so I thought.

We arrived yesterday at the Hyatt Grand Tampa Bay around 9:30 AM after our early morning flight from Philadelphia. I was tired from having to wake at the ungodly hour of 3 AM. I figured I would use my new status to get in our room early as I had faxed several requests to hotel management in the weeks prior to our stay announcing my arrival. I asked for an early check-in, a late check out and to have our breakfast sent up to the room when we arrived. After all, I figured these were all reasonable requests commensurate with my newly attained status.

Upon arrival I was disappointed to see there was no fanfare, no big fuss, nothing!  Didn't they know who I was?  I went up to the diamond check-in area and approached the gentleman at the desk. In a pleasant voice he said "how may I help you sir?"   I told him I was checking in and could someone please take our bags to our room as I would really like to lay down now. He had a slightly puzzled look on his face when he said that it was only 9:30 and our room was still occupied by another guest. He promised to call me on my cell phone the minute our room was ready. I returned that same puzzled look, when I said to him, "don't you know who I am?"  Once again in a very courteous voice he replied, "of course Dr. Wilderman, you are The Points Doctor". At this point I was starting to get a little frustrated.  "But I have Diamond status, doesn't that mean something"?  I sent 4 faxes to you in the last week with all my requests just like I learned from reading Milepoint everyday. He then proceeded to tell me the bad news. There was another Diamond member in MY suite.  He had the nerve to ask for a 4pm check out this morning! In fact the entire hotel was filled with Platinum and Diamond members thanks to the new Chase Hyatt Visa card they were advertising all over the lobby. Surely my Diamond status trumps the lowly Platinum status that comes with a credit card.  Couldn't they remove someone out of a room to make room for us?  He then proceeded to tell me that ever since it was announced that the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay would be hosting the Fall FTU (Frequent Traveler University for those non Milepoint readers) the hotel was booking up all the suites before the room block was closed out. I am so glad I jumped on our tickets to the event and reserved my suite for that September weekend!

Very disappointed we went outside to sit around the pool until our suite was ready. About 5 minutes later, that nice young man from the Diamond desk showed up to tell me that they have solved the problem. Our room still wouldn't be ready until near noon, but they had upgraded us to a large corner suite. SCORE!

I guess making a pest of yourself pays after all! Maybe next time I will try to get the property manager's home phone number to avoid these problems in the future.

In all seriousness, the staff here at the Grand Hyatt has been wonderful. We do have a beautiful corner suite on the 11th floor  overlooking the water. (what? they could give me the club floor?) We had a wonderful dinner at Oystercatchers last night. Great seafood. The Calamari fries were awesome and the fish was very fresh. I can see why it was rated in the top ten out of 800+ restaurants on Trip Advisor in Tampa.  We look forward to our return for FTU in September.


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, March 20, 2013

Miles and Points - A One Year Perspective


I started collecting miles and points in the mid to late 1990's with an American Airlines AAdvantage credit card.  Over the years I earned enough miles for American to give me lifetime Gold status.  My wife is just a few miles short of earning that same lifetime status.  We also belonged to a couple of hotel programs like Marriott and Starwood, but neither of us had any status as our stays were infrequent at best.  While we traveled somewhat frequently, we had no loyalty to any Loyalty program.

One year ago, I started getting serious about maximizing our miles and points. A year ago we started with a combined total of around 300,000 AA miles and a few hotel points along with my status with AA.  One year later, we have over 1.5 million miles and points in our combined accounts!  The most amazing thing is the amount of travel we have already done, and the amount of travel that we currently have booked.

Here are the totals for the past 12 months:

The number of hotel points and airline miles redeemed - approximately 1,000,000.
The number of RT flights booked - 19.  (4 Int'l 1st Class and a mix of 1st and Coach Dometic)
The number of FREE hotel nights booked using Free night certificates - 8 nights
The number of FREE hotel nights booked using points - 18 nights
The number of paid nights that were upgraded to suites - 12 nights
The number of non-paid nights upgraded to suites - 8 nights (so far!)

I have to say when I added it all up the 19 RT flights kind of blew me away.

One or both of us also now have the following status.

AA - Lifetime Gold status
Star Alliance Silver courtesy of Aegean Airlines
KLM/Air France Flying Blue Gold status

Hyatt Diamond
Hilton Diamond
Starwood Gold
Accor Platinum
Club Carlson Gold
Emerald Club Executive

It's been a pretty amazing year.  I want to thank the following bloggers for their teachings.  Gary Leff, Lucky, Mommy Points, Frequent Miler and the entire Milepoint community. I could not have done this without them.  I am still somewhat of a novice in this endeavor.  We are looking forward to the Frequent Traveler University in Tampa in September.  Maybe we will see some of you there!

Happy Anniversary to us!


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, March 19, 2013

The True Value of Miles and Points Part Two



I wrote in the past about the value of points and why I thought the “experts” were wrong.  My position on the subject had to do with how each of us makes an unconscious decision when purchasing an item with cash based on what we intuitively know is the value of a dollar.  Each of us has our own perspective on what that is based on our past experiences.  The value of a point or mile is not so clearly understood by most of us.  Some of the “experts” have tried to put a value of a particular program's point or mile based on the average of the many types of possible redemptions.  The problem with this approach is that there is so much variation in redemption methods, so many ways to acquire points, and different subjective values that each of us place on different types of travel, so as to render their valuations almost worthless for an individual.

I propose a different way to look at this situation.  I am a Cosmetic Dentist and have no formal business training, but I do run a small business.  All businesses have a cost to acquire goods, and a price at which they sell their product.  The difference is our profit. 

If we look at miles and points in the same way, it gives a much more accurate “value” to each mile or point.  In my opinion, Starwood points are valuable points when you go to redeem them, but they have a high acquisition cost.  The ONLY ways other than a sign up bonus to earn Starpoints is 1:1 spending on a credit card or by staying at a Starwood property.  On the other hand, Ultimate reward points and Hilton points are very EASY to earn in large quantities due to the multipliers for certain spending categories.  The cost of acquiring those points is relatively low.  I can go into an office supply store and “buy” 10,000 UR points for around $20 by purchasing $2000 in gift cards to be redeemed at a later date. Now that’s not the only cost of those points, but surely the “cost” to buy 10,000 Starpoints is several orders of magnitude higher. 

Depending on how we PERSONALLY redeem our miles and points, will determine how much “profit” we have. This is the unconscious decision making process we use to determine, should I pay with points and miles, or should I put it on my credit card?  If we have a large “profit” from the redemption of points, we use points.  If not, it may make sense for us to charge it.  Each person redeems their points and miles differently.  If someone ONLY redeems their points and miles for aspirational first class travel, they are going to have a much higher profit margin on their redemptions than someone who uses their points and miles for budget domestic travel.  How does an individual determine the value of staying in a suite or flying first class?  I’ve heard some well respected bloggers say “even though this hotel room costs $500/night, I value this hotel redemption at $300/night because I would never pay more than that for a room so I wouldn't stay here if it weren't for the points.  How subjective is that? I've heard one young blogger say he doesn't like to redeem his Starpoints, because they are so valuable.  What he is saying is that they are really hard to earn back once they are gone, so he spends them very carefully. The real test of value is which points do you redeem most often?  For me, It’s UR points.  They are so easy to earn, that I don’t mind spending them. I know I just need a trip to the office supply store to earn them back!

The bottom line is that each of us has different preferences in our travel, and differences in the way we earn and redeem points.  If we look at the situation from the perspective of how much did it cost to acquire the points and how much perceived value we are getting from the redemption, then this seems to be a more accurate way to place true value. 


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, March 17, 2013

Why You Should Spend your Hilton Points NOW

 
Earlier this month Hilton did a major devaluation of its points currency effective March 28, 2013.  That got me thinking about what I wanted to do with our Hilton points.  We have a combined 350,000 Hilton points and two free weekend nights left over from the Citi Hilton credit card sign up bonus.  Of course the value of the weekend night certificates won't become devalued, we just have to use them before they expire later this year.  I see another weekend in NYC in our future!

See this post to maximize the value of Hilton points using VIP and AXON awards.  If you find yourself running out of time before the March 28th deadline and are in need of points, a transfer from Hawaiian Air Miles is a great way to accumulate Hilton points. Hawaiian Air Miles transfer 1:2 to Hilton points.  In other words, 10,000 Hawaiian miles transfer to 20,000 Hilton points.  Please understand that it could take two weeks or more for them to post into your Hilton account.  No one ever accused Hawaiian Air of being efficient! The transfer process is not a seamless one to say the least.

The above idea was the strategy used to book our 8 nights in French Polynesia in the Fall of 2014.  We will be staying at the Hilton Moorea for 4 nights and the Hilton Bora Bora for 4 nights.  We used one AXON7 award that requires 145,000 points (my wife has the Hilton Amex Surpass) and one VIP award  (Courtesy of my Diamond status) which requires 170,000 points.  You don't need Diamond status to book a VIP award though.  You only need some kind of status with Hilton.  Status can be easily attained by one of their hotel branded credit cards

So how was I able to book 8 nights at the Hilton in French Polynesia when the Hilton website typically only allows booking one year in advance? Read this post from Lucky.  He details how to book Hilton awards into 2015. 

There you have it!  Book your Hilton award stays now before your points become massively devalued on March 28th, 2013.
 
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

2013 Chase Freedom 5% Cash Back 2nd Q Bonus



Registration for your Chase Freedom card 2nd quarter (April-June) bonus of 5% cash back began on March 16th, 2013.  Bonus categories for the 2nd quarter are restaurants and movies theaters. If you haven't maxxed out your first quarter bonus for Gas stations, drug stores and Starbucks, get to the stores before the end of the month and buy some gift cards.  Maximum bonus is 7500 UR points or a $1500 spend. 

If you have a Chase Ink or Sapphire card already, you can transfer that 5% cash back into valuable Ultimate Reward (UR) points. UR points are best to redeem for United Airlines or Hyatt stays, but they have many other transfer partners as well.

Click here to activate your bonus.




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, February 20, 2013

The Importance of Planning a Credit Card Churn -Part One



Today the Internet is filled with outrage over Hilton's tremendous devaluation of their Hilton HHonors program.  Hilton points were already widely considered by many to be among the least valuable of all the hotel points.  I have always taken the stance that on a point per point basis they were worth less, but it has been so easy to earn Hilton points that it was still a valuable program. 

Today that changed .  No longer is the Hilton HHonors program going to be anything worthwhile to me.  As a Hilton Diamond, that is a sad thing to say. They have changed the number of hotel categories from 7 to 10 and they have increased the redemption at the highest category hotels from 50,000 points to as many as 95,000 points.  This essentially cuts in half the value of your points.

There is a grace period until this takes effect at the end of March.  You can still book stays under the old guidelines past that date, but they need to be booked before the deadline.  If you have a stash of Hilton points like I do, I would suggest booking something now.  I was planning on using my points for either the Hilton Bora Bora with its over the water bungalows or Thailand's Koh Samui Resort.  As I have vacations planned for every month this year except August and September, it might be difficult for me to take another 10 days off from patient care.  Those aren't the type of trips I like to do in a long weekend or even a week!

This is the reason it is so important to plan your credit card churns with a destination in mind when you sign up.  I talked about this very topic in one of my first blog posts back in November.  I may get burned on this as my stash of 500,000 Hilton points is going to be worth a lot less if I can't book something prior to the end of March.

Click here to read part two of the series.

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, February 10, 2013

St. Regis Punta Mita Review - Part Two




We've been home less than a week from our vacation in paradise at the St. Regis Punta Mita and I am already planning the return visit for next year.  I guess that tells you everything you need to know about our stay.  Nonetheless, I will tell you why it was the best couples vacation EVER! That's a pretty significant thing for me to say as my wife and I have been to dozens of luxury resorts throughout Mexico and the Caribbean over the years. There have only been a couple of resorts that we have even discussed a return trip.

We arrived at the St. Regis around 3 pm.  We were greeted by a very friendly staff.  Of course they took our bags, handed us a cool cloth and offered us a cold drink.  We were then escorted to the private reception room/bar where we met 1 on 1 with our personal guide who updated us on the details of our stay.   We were offered complimentary Margaritas as we chatted.  (I had a second one).  We were introduced to our personal St. Regis butler, Luis.  He was very knowledgeable about not only the resort, but things to do in the area.  Luis gave us a few suggestions of restaurants to eat in town.  Your butler is there to handle any requests that you have during your stay.  It could be simple requests like bringing morning coffee and making restaurant reservations or more complicated ones like arranging for tours.

Luis then escorted us to our private villa.  While you are at the St. Regis, there is always a personal butler on staff for you.  They are merely a push of a button away.  They also now have an e-butler service where you can email your request.  As the Wi-Fi signal was pretty good in most areas of the resort, this was very nice.  I could sit on the beach in front of our villa with my iPad and request drinks without ever having to get my lazy butt off the chair!

If you read part one of my review, you know about the upgrade I received as a Starwood Gold member.  I received Starwood Gold status strictly through credit card spending on my Starwood Preferred Guest card or Starwood Business card.  While it is a $30,000 spend requirement to reach Gold Status, our villa would have been almost $25,000 for the six nights we stayed there. I call that an upgrade!








Our Villa patio and private plunge pool and hot tub.  Views of the Sunset we enjoyed every night.








I have to admit we were very lazy on this trip.  We were just so relaxed we didn't want to go anywhere or do anything.  The resort has a beautiful spa and fitness center, a golf course next door and amazing infinity edge pools.



Our days mainly consisted of have coffee and breakfast on the patio, followed by beach and pool time during the afternoons.



In the evenings we watched the sunset from our patio while having drinks.  All but one night we ate dinner at the hotel where there are three great restaurants. There really is no need to go off the resort as the food at the St. Regis is quite good.  All the fish was extremely fresh and well prepared. Si Senor was the only restaurant outside the resort that we visited. We had wonderful dinners of Blue Shrimp and Fresh Red Snapper. I would highly recommend this place.  Casa Teresa is closed on Mondays which was our last night in Punta Mita.  It was highly recommended by everyone as well.

The St. Regis Punta Mita has several traditions they perform each week.  On Friday mornings there is the fish ritual, where the local fisherman bring their catch to the beach in front of the resort.  The Hotel chef talks about the different fish.  You can select which fish you would like for dinner that night.



We chose to have Red Snapper Cerviche and fish tacos.  We had a private candlelit dinner on the beach in front of our villa with our own private waiter while watching the sunset.


Friday evenings they have the Champagne Ritual.  My understanding is that this is a St. Regis tradition.  One of the staff takes a large sword and literally cuts the top of the bottle with it.  They then serve the champagne to the guests along with some light appetizers.




We only left the comfort of our villa one day.  We took a trip to the nearby hippie/surfer town of Salyulita.  We had breakfast at a cute little hotel.  We walked around for about three hours and bought a few souvenirs for our trip. Note all the surfers in the water.





Sometimes it's the little touches like fresh fruit on your table, fresh towels by the pool every day,  or chocolates in the evening that makes a place unique.  The Resort property manager, Mr. Emberson has made this a truly special place.




I have said for many years, I would like to find a place in paradise where I can sit on the beach while watching the ocean and trade stocks on my iPad during the week.  I think I found my paradise at the St. Regis Punta Mita. 

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, February 4, 2013

St. Regis Punta Mita Review - Part One



There is nothing like a warm sunny destination in the middle of winter to take away the winter blahs.  I thought that I would begin writing my review before we headed home to the cold of Philadelphia.  I hear it has been snowy and 20 degrees there during the past week.  Too bad. Lol.

Meanwhile, my wife and I have been enjoying the warm tropical breezes and sunshine from the patio and the beach in front of our little casita at the St. Regis Punta Mita. (The ocean is no more than 15-20 yards from our patio). For those of you not familiar with the St. Regis brand, it is the Luxury brand of the Starwood hotel group that also includes, Sheraton, W Hotels, Westin and at least 4-5 others.  I am writing this from our patio while looking at, and listening to the ocean.  It's whale watching season here. Yesterday about this same time, two whales jumped out of the water right in front of us!  Priceless. 

Speaking of priceless, the best part of all is that our time here has been FREE!   Here is how: 

1) I used 60,000 AA miles to book my first class ticket from Philadelphia to Puerta Vallarta, and 30,000 AA miles to upgrade my wife's coach ticket that was purchased through the Capital One travel portal.  I received 50,000 Aadvantage miles each as a sign up bonus for the AA Citibank Amex  and AA Citibank Visa personal cards.  At the time of issue, I think both had a $2500 minimum spending requirement to be met within 3 months.  The 100,000 Capital One points were for a $1000 minimum spend.  All I had to do was show Capital One proof of spending $50,000 or more on another card the previous year.  I have not seen this offer since early 2012. 

2) I used 100,000 Starpoints to book 6 nights at the St. Regis Punta Mita.  The St. Regis is a category 6 starwood property that requires 20,000 points per night, but Starwood has a 5th night free option that required me to "pay" for 5 nights with my points. The Starpoints were earned through sign up bonuses of 25,000 and 30,000 for a Starwood business and Starwood personal card.  When you spend $30,000 on the Starwood card, you receive Gold status with Starwood.  I used my status to get an upgraded room.  The room I booked was a garden view room that costs $600+/night with taxes and fees.  Not bad for my points! The room that I actually got was a $4000/night villa on the beach with a private plunge pool and private hot tub.  There is only one better Villa at the resort.  It is called the Presidential Suite and it was occupied by umm....well...El Presidente de Mexico and his family.  They are vacationing here as well.  (no joke)

Let's look at the trip by the numbers.

8. The number a FREE segments of First Class flights we took from Philadelphia to PV and back.
7. The number of times I probably said, "It just doesn't get any better than this."
6. The number of FREE  nights spent in a beachfront villa.
5. The number of amazingly attentive staff who personally took care of us during our stay.
4. The number of showers in our 1 bdrm villa. (seriously!) Three indoor and one outdoor.
3. The number of  fabulous restaurants at the St. Regis Punta Mita. (Also the number of plasma TV's)
2. The number of people who had a truly remarkable and memorable vacation.
1. The number of times the whales put on a show for us.
0. The number of times my wife and I are likely to top this vacation in our lifetime!

Details of the Resort will follow once we arrive home and I have a chance to download and edit the pictures. 

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, January 30, 2013

2 BR Marriott Aruba Timeshare For Rent-50% OFF

This is a revised ad for our Aruba Timeshare.

We have our Aruba Timeshare at the Aruba Marriott Surf club for rent.  Our Unit is in the Oceanside building (the one closest to the beach with the best views of the Ocean).  It is available for rent from mid-May to Mid-December 2013.  It is 2 BDRM Villa with an attached lockoff.  In other words it's a 1 BDRM suite with a full LR, DR, KIT attached to a regular hotel room (via connecting door) with King bed, a balcony, a small sitting area, small fridge, microwave, and sink.  There are plates, cups, utensils, etc.  It's great for two couples to share as they can be two separate rooms adjacent to each other,  or one big unit for a family of six to share. 

Below is the description of the smaller lock off unit.



We enjoy drinks on the beach along with the beautiful sunsets every night.

View from the beach at the Marriott on our most recent trip.

The Marriott sits on Palm Beach in the high rise section of Aruba about 15 minutes from the airport.  The Hotel is known for its lazy river.  There are multiple pools, spas, tennis courts, and anything else you would want to do.  Here is my review of the Island of Aruba.  It's very easy to get to from the East Coast.  If you have never been to Aruba, you will quickly find out why it is the most frequently re-visited Island of the Caribbean.



One week in our 2 BR unit is available for $2100 with a 50% deposit due upon reservation.  The balance is due 60 days prior to your week.  There is a $10/day fee that the resort will charge in addition to that.



Marriott sells the exact same Oceanside unit for $560+ taxes/day



If you are interested, please contact me at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net.

Bon Bini


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, January 16, 2013

Review of The Waldorf Astoria NYC

 
Earlier this month, I decided to use my Two FREE weekend nights that came with my Citibank Hilton card.  The two free nights are valid for almost any Hilton Hotel worldwide. They can be used for consecutive nights or they can be used individually.  As a newly appointed Hilton HHonors Diamond, I was curious to see what kind of room we would be assigned.  I earned my Diamond status strictly through credit card spending.  Hilton is the ONLY hotel chain to assign TOP tier status strictly for meeting a spending requirement.

I chose to use my two free nights for a family weekend in NYC in celebration of my oldest child’s  25th birthday.  We treated the “kids” to a Broadway show as well as some great family meals.  As the children get older, it becomes more difficult to spend quality family time. (Unless of course I’m paying for it!)  That’s one of the great things about the miles and points game.  It makes it so easy to bring others along with you in your travels. 

We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue in the heart of the shopping district.  The Waldorf Astoria is like an older woman.  I might even go so far as to say that she is the MILF of the NYC hotels.  While she might not be as sexy as some of the younger boutique hotels, there’s just something about the grace and charm of an older woman.  Yes, maybe her cushions are a little worn, maybe they aren’t as firm as they once were, and she may be showing a few creases around the eyes when she smiles at you, but there is just something about her that makes you want to keep coming back for more of her classic beauty.

I reserved two rooms for a Saturday night in January.  The ride up to NYC from Philadelphia was an easy one.  There was no traffic.  I had a Groupon for $19 overnight parking in NYC.  We arrived at the hotel around 11 AM and headed straight for the Diamond check-in desk.  It was a private room off the main lobby where we were immediately taken care of. I had written an email in advance of our stay to the PR manager of the property.  I told Meg that I was a new  Hilton HHonors Diamond member and was hoping to get an upgrade to a suite or at least a room on a club floor.  To my surprise, we were assigned a 2 BDRM corner suite on the 24th floor facing Park Avenue.  Now that’s what I call sweet!  To top it off, the room was ready at 11:00AM when we got there.  Our Diamond host also gave us eight drink coupons for the four of us to celebrate my daughter’s birthday dinner that night. Drinks at the hotel were on the pricey side, but again this is NYC.  

The living room area was quite spacious, especially by NY standards.  There were two large couches, a large flat screen TV, a writing desk and what used to be a fireplace.  (Too bad it wasn’t a working one). 



I walked into the BDRM and was slightly disappointed that it was a Queen bed and not a King.  It was a very comfortable bed however.  



 The bath was again on the smaller side, but again this is NYC where space is at a premium.  Overall, the room was wonderful.



We dropped our bags and headed out to have lunch before the afternoon show.  We saw a show called “Old Jews Telling Jokes.”  The show originally started out as a website, that gained in popularity enough to make an off Broadway show out of it.  It was very funny and all of us had some great laughs. 

When we arrived back at the Waldorf after the show, to my surprise was a bottle of the Waldorf brand sparkling wine compliments of Meg.  Wow, what a nice surprise!



We decided that we were going to have dinner in the Hotel that evening at the highly rated Bull and Bear restaurant.  The kids were in heaven as soon as they brought out the fresh baked biscuits.  My son and I both ordered steaks and my wife and daughter both had seafood.  The steaks were done perfectly.  My daughter who is not a meat eater asked to try both our steaks!  She said it was so good, she was open to the possibility of eating steak again. 

We each had a couple of drinks with dinner courtesy of the eight drink coupons which we received at check-in.  I like free.  Dinner was around $350 for the four of us including taxes and tip.  Not bad considering it is a top rated steakhouse in NYC.  We didn’t stay for brunch the next morning at the hotel, but as they were setting it up, it looked fabulous.  


Overall, it was a wonderful time at the grand hotel.  My total cost for the overnight was solely related to our dinner.  The two BDRM suite, the 8 drink coupons, and the bottle of sparkling wine, all free.  We still have two free weekend nights from my wife’s sign up bonus on her Citibank Hilton card.  We may have to spend two more nights at the Waldorf in the Spring.  Next time it will be without kids and for two nights!