Fifteen Broadway Musical Theme Songs: Free on iTunes

Broadway.org App, Free on iTunes

Broadway.org App, Free on iTunes

My amazing Uncle Bernie is turning 95 years old, and to celebrate, he wanted a night on the town.

I am headed up to New York for the celebratory dinner and show.

To prepare for the trip, I loaded up my iPhone with various New York City apps — transit maps, museum info, discount theatre tickets, and the like.

Broadway.org App Offers 15 Free Broadway Hit Songs

One app I found is the Broadway.org app; it’s available for free on iTunes.

Broadway.org

Broadway.org

Broadway.org is The Broadway League’s official source for information on Broadway shows in New York City, as well as for shows on tour across the country.

The app provides up-to-date show and theatre information, including information on last-minute lotteries for greatly discounted tickets to Broadway musicals.

To get you in the mood, the app

Download These 15 Songs for Free

Download These 15 Songs for Free

provides a code that you can redeem for 15 free Broadway tunes in the iTunes store.

The code is good through November 30, 2014.  

The free songs are the signature songs from 15 top Broadway hit shows.

This is the perfect entertainment for the train ride up to New York!

 

 

 

Rocking This Month’s Safeway Gift Card Promo

Safeway Gift Card Promo 9/2014

Safeway Gift Card Promo 9/2014

Most every month, Safeway has been running some sort of gift card promotion.  This month’s promo looks to be a pretty good deal.

If you purchase two Visa or MasterCard variable load gift cards, you get a coupon for $15 off your next purchase at Safeway.  (There is a minimum purchase requirement of  $25 on your next purchase.)

My usual routine is to purchase the gift cards first, and then do my grocery shopping, so I don’t have to worry about the coupon expiring or losing track of it.

I purchased two Visa gift cards and loaded them with $500 apiece.  There is a purchase fee of $5.95 each.  The net value of the rebate is just $3.10 ($15.00 – 11.90), but I was able to earn points on my Amex Starwood card for the purchase.

The offer runs from September 10, 2014 through October 7, 2014.

Dulles Flyer: Tampa Roundtrip for $88…Leaves Tomorrow

Flying Tonight App

Flight Tonight! app, free from iTunes

I’m a sucker for retro graphics so of course I had to download the new Flight Tonight! app available for free from the iTunes store.

This app is for spontaneous travelers who are trawling for cheap flights from their home airport.

It arrays flight information in a new way — by displaying the cheapest available roundtrip flights leaving from your location tonight and tomorrow morning.

Flight Tonight!:  Where Can You Fly This Weekend?

I checked out a number of departure cities to see if there were any deals.

Flight Tonight App

Where can you fly this weekend?

Nothing interesting popped up.

But when I tried my home region (WAS) (for Washington, DC area airports) there was a real bargain:  $88 roundtrip, nonstop to Tampa, Florida!

The app indicated that the fare was available for a number of itineraries — a 2-day, 4-day, 6-day, 7-day,  or 9-day trip.

The flight was on Frontier Airlines, which commenced flying from Dulles International Airport in August 2014.

Thank goodness we finally have a low cost carrier flying out of Dulles.  Maybe we will start to see some real competition for a change.

Flight Tonight Departures from IAD

Flight Tonight Departures to Tampa from IAD

All prices shown are round-trip, and taxes and fees are supposed to be included (but may not be, so double check.)

The Flight Tonight! app displays both domestic and international destinations.

This app isn’t for everyone.  But if you are flexible, and looking for a cheap getaway, this Flight Tonight! arrays possible destinations in a convenient manner.

Who would have thought you could pick up last minute tickets to Tampa this cheap?

Get in Free to Richmond’s Historic Home Museums

Richmond Virginia Time Travelers Passport

Free Admission to 10 Historic House Museums in Richmond, VA September 13-14, 2014

Residents of Washington, DC are spoiled by easy access to free museums.

Here’s a reason to expand your horizons and travel to Richmond, Virginia.

On September 13th and 14th, 2014, ten historic home museums in Richmond are putting out the welcome mat and offering free admission.

Free Admission to Richmond’s Historic Home Museums — No Strings Attached

Ten of Richmond’s historic homes and museums will offer visitors a passport to time-travel during a special admission-free weekend on Saturday and Sunday, September 13 and 14, 2014.

Ten participating sites will offer complimentary admission to visitors who show a Time Travelers Passport available for free online. 

The ten museums are:   

If you manage to max out this offer, it equates to savings of more than $55 per person.  Here’s the link for more information.  

Some of the highlights include:

 Agecroft Hall was first built in England in the 1500s, then transported across the ocean and rebuilt in Richmond in the 1920s. The Tudor mansion is furnished with art and artifacts from 17th century England and there are manicured gardens overlooking the James River.

The John Marshall House, built in 1790 in the fashionable Court End neighborhood of Richmond, was the home of the Chief Justice for forty-five years. Listed on the National and Virginia historic registers, the John Marshall House has undergone remarkably few changes in the last 200 years.

The Poe Museum holds the world’s largest collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s manuscripts, letters,  memorabilia and personal belongings.  The Poe Museum provides a peek into early nineteenth century Richmond where the author of  The Raven lived and worked.  One of the structures in the museum’s four-building complex is the 1754 Old Stone House, the oldest residential structure within city limits.

Maymont, a 100-acre estate, was the home of businessman James Dooley and his wife Sallie from 1893 through the 1920s.  The Maymont Mansion with 21 restored rooms offers a complete depiction of upstairs-downstairs life in the Gilded Age.  The upstairs interiors are adorned with Tiffany stained glass, and frescoed ceilings and filled with original furnishings and artwork.  Downstairs service rooms tell the story of household tasks and technology and the challenges of working in domestic service during the Jim Crow era.  The surrounding landscape features Italian and Japanese gardens, and a carriage display as well a children’s farm and nature center.

Wilton House Museum overlooks a placid stretch of the James River.  It was constructed in the 1750s as the centerpiece of a tobacco plantation by the prominent Randolph Family.  An impressive example of 18th-century Georgian Style architecture, Wilton House boasts its original detailed paneling and a collection of fine and decorative arts from the Colonial and early Federal eras.

That Time My Husband Forgot to Pay the Credit Card Bill

What to do if you forget to pay the credit card billI’ll cut to the chase.  If you ever miss a credit card payment and are socked with big fees and interest charges,  you can call the bank and ask them to waive the fees and charges.

Don’t make a habit of this.  But if it is a rare occurrence, and a genuine mistake, the bank may forgive your lapse.

If You Miss a Payment, Call the Bank

This month, my husband was set to pay his Chase United Mileage Plus card via an electronic payment.  He had scheduled the payment, but failed to “verify the details.”

As a result, he missed the payment deadline, and was socked with a $25 late payment fee and over $32 in interest charges.

The statement warned that if he was late on another payment, they could charge him a $35 late fee and an interest rate of 29.99 percent.  What’s more, a lapse like this could adversely impact his credit score.

In this case, he called the bank and offered to pay the bill in full immediately,  The customer service rep said they would remove all the fees and interest charges, and that they would not report anything to the credit bureaus.  Phew!

If you are prone to this kind of error, the points and miles game is not for you.  You will end up paying more in fees than you earn in rewards.

To be frank, I have also made this mistake.  Last summer, when we were traveling, a bill came due and I missed the payment deadline.  Since it was a one-time mistake, the bank graciously waived my excess fees.

Just remember, most everything in life is negotiable, especially when dealing with banks.

Have you made a similar mistake?  What was your outcome?

So Easy: Free Breakfast at the Radisson Martinique in NYC

Facebook Friend Discount at Radisson Martinique

Facebook Friend Discount at Radisson Martinique

A lot of miles and points travelers gravitate to the Radisson Martinique in New York City because you can stay two nights free for 50,000 Club Carlson points, if you have the Club Carlson credit card.

Well the nights are not exactly free, because you do have to pay the annual fee on the credit card.  That fee is $60 per year for the business card, or $75 for the personal card.

I have a two night stay booked at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway for a weekend in September.

The best thing about nights booked on points is that you don’t have to pay the NYC hotel taxes that add 20 percent or more onto your tab.

A big limitation of award stays is that you cannot reserve a room with two beds.  I am traveling with my sister so I reserved a king sized bed and will hope for the best!

How to Get A Free Buffet Breakfast at the Radisson Martinique

Free Breakfast at the Radisson Martinique

Free Breakfast at the Radisson Martinique

If you download the Radisson Martinique app on iTunes, you can get a mobile coupon for one free buffet breakfast!

This is a full American breakfast featuring eggs, bacon, potatoes, pancakes, fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal and bakery items.

Social Media Promo Codes to Discount Your Stay at the Radisson Martinique

The travel industry is big into social media these days, and the Radisson Martinique is no exception.

If you “like” the Martinique on Facebook, you will gain access to a promo code worth up to 20 percent off the lowest available rate.  Here’s the link to their Facebook page.  The Facebook friends’ promo code is FBOOK.  This discount is available for select dates only.

For the dates I checked, this discount was greater than the AAA discount (promo code AAA), but be sure to check both!

Similarly, if you follow the Martinique on Twitter, you can access a promo code for up to a 20 percent discount.  That promo code is TWT.  The availability calendar shows that this code is applicable beginning in January 2015.

Per Diem Discount

The best deal of all is the military per diem discount, otherwise known as the government rate.  This rate includes one complementary full breakfast per room per night.  Eligible parties include:

  • U.S. military personnel, U.S Federal civilian employees and U.S state employees
  • Active and retired travelers
  • Business or leisure travel
  • ID or military orders required
  • Tax exemption varies by state

The Historic Roots of the Martinque

Radisson Martinque on Broadway

Radisson Martinque on Broadway

The Radisson Martinique on Broadway is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Hotels of America.

The building has landmark status from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

In 1923, Harry F Young, aka “The Human Fly,” was hired to climb the Hotel Martinique to promote the silent movie Safety Last.  Tragically, he lost his grip on the ascent, and fell nine stories to his death.

Continue reading

Which No Annual Fee Credit Card Pays 3% Cash Back on All Travel?

Sam's Club 5:3:1 Cash Back MasterCard

Equipped with chip and PIN technology

There is a rewards credit card flying under the radar that pays 5% cash back on gas3% cash back on all travel, and dining out, and 1% cash back on everything else.

Can you guess which card this is?

Here’s a hint:

  • it is a no annual fee card;
  • it requires you to be a member;
  • membership is open to everyone but costs $45.

This Card Pays Higher Cash Back on Travel Than Better Known Rewards Credit Cards

No, it is not the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card.  The PenFed card earns 5x points on airline tickets, and 1x point on other purchases.  It offers a signup bonus of $200 after spending $2500 in the first three months and has no annual fee.

No, it is not the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® which pays 2x points on restaurant meals and all travel expenses, and redeposits 10 percent of redeemed miles back into your account.  The Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® card offers 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days and has no annual fee.

No, it is not the Chase Sapphire card which pays 2x points on dining, 1x points on other penes, and an extra point on hotels and air fares booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards.  The Sapphire card offers 10,000 points after spending $500 in the first 3 months and has no annual fee.

Meet the Sam’s Club 5:3:1 Cash Back MasterCard

Sam's Club 5:3:1 Cash Back MasterCard

Sam’s Club 5:3:1 Cash Back MasterCard

The Sam’s Club 5:3:1 MasterCard pays 5x points on gas purchases, 3x points on all travel, 3x points on restaurants, and 1x points on other purchases.  

I don’t know of no other no annual fee rewards credit card that pays 3 percent cash back on restaurants, hotels, rental cars, airline tickets, train tickets, buses, cruises, tours, and timeshares!  (If you have any contenders, please share in the comments.)

Some cards pay bonus points on car rental and hotels, others on restaurants or air tickets.  But the general travel rewards credit cards like the Chase Sapphire or the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® pay 2 or 2.2 percent respectively on travel and dining.

The Sam’s Club credit card comes with the latest chip technology for added security.  The card will be PIN enabled, meaning it can be used in situations such as overseas train stations where a PIN is required.

If you apply by August 31, 2014, and you will earn a $20 statement credit after spending $50.

There is no annual fee for the card, but membership in Sam’s Club is required, and membership costs $45.  

There is a maximum of $5,000 in cash back rewards during any “reward period” which is a calendar year.  You’d have to be a real big spender to exceed that cap!

Sam's Club 5:3:1 Cash Back MasterCard

Sam’s Club 5:3:1 Cash Back MasterCard

Here are some specifics:

  • 5 percent cash back on fuel at gas stations (for the first $6,000 spent on fuel each calendar year). That’s good at all gas stations in the U.S. (except gas stations run by other warehouse clubs and super centers.) After the first $6,000 in fuel spending each year, you earn 1 percent back.
  • 3 percent cash back on restaurants worldwide (including fast food, bars, and catering, but excluding purchases at other warehouse clubs).
  • 3 percent cash back on all travel. Travel includes: rental cars; airlines; hotels; passenger rail; bus lines; cruise lines; time shares; travel agencies (although not those offered by other warehouse clubs); travel sites; and tour operators.
  • 1 percent back on all other eligible purchases.

Be sure to read the Terms and Conditions for all the details.

The Sam’s Club 5:3:1 Cash Back Credit Card Has Some Quirks

There are a few weird things about the Sam’s Club 5:3:1 card.

  • First, cash back rewards are issued just once a year in February.
  • Second, the rewards are in the form of a check made payable to Sam’s Club.
  • Third, the checks can only be cashed at a Sam’s Club.

These features are a big turn-off for me!

How to Get Sam’s Club Membership for “Free”

The usual cost of membership in Sam’s Club is $45 per year.

Several times a year you can find special offers for Sam’s Club membership via Groupon. Continue reading

Fishing for Compliments on TripAdvisor

Baiting the Hook on Trip Advisor

Baiting the Hook on TripAdvisor

I’m sure the Sheration Park South in Richmond, Virginia isn’t the only hotel to do this, but it put me off.

When I was checking out earlier this week, the front desk clerk asked me if I enjoyed my stay.

The conversation went something like this:

Clerk: Did you enjoy your stay?

Me:  Yes

Clerk:  Was everything OK?

Me:  Everything was fine.

Clerk:  Did you get room service?

Me:  No, we ate in the restaurant.

Clerk:  How was the food?

Me:  It was fine.

Clerk:  Was your room clean?

Me:  Yes it was very nice.

Clerk:  We are undergoing renovations.  I hope you weren’t disturbed by the noise.

Me:  No, not at all.

I guess I made it through the gauntlet, because the clerk then handed me business card and suggested I write a review on TripAdvisor.

There was really nothing of note about this particular Sheraton.  It was just like many others I have stayed in, no more, no less.

I wouldn’t bother to write a review on TripAdvisor unless there was something terrible or something outstanding about my experience.  I did not appreciate being screened in this manner.

Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite

Of course, I check TripAdvisor when I travel.  The big thing I noticed about hotels in Richmond and Petersburg were the reports of bedbugs.  Not just reports, but pictures!  These pictures gave me the creeps!

It doesn’t seem to matter if it is a 4 star hotel or a 1 star hotel — bedbugs are a big problem in Richmond.  In fact, I read an online review of this very hotel that reported a recent occurrence of bedbugs.

Was that why the hotel was prompting guests to write favorable reviews on TripAdvisor?

Do you check the Bedbug Registry before you travel?

FWIW, I found this informative resource on 15 Tips for Avoiding Hotel Bedbugs on Health.com.

Which Five Star Hotel is on HotelCoupons.com?

HotelCoupons.com

HotelCoupons.com is my “secret” weapon

I have a guest blog post today on Air, Land and Sea.  It’s about my last ditch option for finding cheap hotel rooms.

If I’m on a road trip, and I bomb out on Priceline, I give HotelCoupons.com a shot.

Head on over the Air, Land and Sea to check out My Secret Weapon for Cheap Hotel Rooms.

This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks if your choose to use them!

Save on End of Summer Getaways

Summer Getaways

Get Last Minute Deals on Summer Getaways

I am taking stock of the last weeks of summer and am planning a getaway around DMVthe District, Maryland, and Virginia, that is.

For starters, my daughter and I are heading down to Petersburg, Virginia for a college visit.  I’ve been hoping to snag a room on Priceline.

I’ve updated my Promos page with some opportunities to save on end of summer travel.

If you find the summer has been slipping away without plans for a vacation, check out these deals from some of my favorite discount travel sites:

Groupon

  • 15% off Flash Deals on Getaways with promo code GETAWAY15.  Good 8/15/14 – 8/16/14.  

Priceline

  • Get an extra 5% off Express Deals with code METRO6 when you book in Las Vegas, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Toronto. 2 star hotels and above, min 2 night stay. Travel anytime. Book by Aug 25, 2014.

Living Social

Hotels.com

This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks if you choose to use them!

Fast Track to SPG Gold Status: Deal or No Deal?

Earn SPG Gold Status with 2 Stays

Earn SPG Gold Status with 2 Stays

When I logged into my Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) account today I noticed a special offer:

upgrade to Gold Preferred Guest® status after two eligible stays at SPG hotels by October 15, 2014.

The promotion is offered to “select” Starwood Preferred Guest members who register by August 31, 2014.

The Gold Preferred Guest status will be good through February 2016.

Certain exclusions apply:  bookings made through third parties such as online travel agencies do not count, nor do award night booked with Starwood points or Cash & Points.

Normally, ten separate stays or 25 nights in a year are required to earn Gold status, so this is indeed a fast track.

Is SPG Gold Status Worth It?

Here are the benefits of Gold Status:

  • Three Starpoints for every dollar spent – a 50% bonus over basic membership.
  • 4 p.m. late checkout.
  • An “enhanced” room at check-in, when available.
  • Your choice of a welcome gift:  bonus Starpoints, complimentary in-room Internet access, or a free drink.

So far as I am able to gather, the “enhanced” room may be a room on a higher floor, but is not a suite.

The welcome gift is a choice of:

  • 250 Starwood points (125 points at Aloft, Four Points and Element);
  • high speed internet access for the entire stay; or
  • a complimentary beverage at the restaurant/bar, maximum value of $15.

No Status, No Problem

I have a couple of hotel stays coming up but I am not going to go out of my way to stay at a Starwood hotel just to earn gold status.  I can almost always get a cheaper rate going through Priceline or Hotwire, and I am unlikely to have enough paid stays at Starwood hotels in the next 18 months to make this deal worthwhile for me.

What about you?  Is this a deal, or no deal?

 This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks if you choose to use them!

Secret Europe by Lonely Planet: Free for Kindle

Secret Europe by Lonely Planet

Free from Amazon.com

Travel guides are some of my favorite leisure reading.  Lonely Planet publishes free e-books that are basically teasers for their full length travel guides.

Their most recent offering, available for free in the Amazon Kindle store, is Secret Europe:  50 Truly Unforgettable Experiences to Inspire your Next Trip.

This 41-page mini-guide, published in June 2014, highlights clandestine nightclubs, secret hotels, killer views, off-the-radar villages, lesser-known cultural capitals, and more.

If your are looking for inspiration to start planning your your next travel adventure, and you like to explore hidden gems and unique activities, you might want to download this book.

Coverage includes:

  • Spain: Cabo de Gata, Parque Natural Sierras Subbeticas, Gibraltar
  • Czech Republic: Olomouc, Prague
  • Poland: Krakow
  • Turkey: Bozcaada
  • Ireland: Cromane, Dublin
  • Macedonia: Dihovo
  • Italy: Lazio, Nocelle, Sibillini Mountains, Ostuni, Venice
  • Croatia: Losinj, Zagreb
  • Germany:Mechernich, Beuron, Berlin
  • Netherlands: Haarlem, Amsterdam
  • England: Battle, South Cotswolds, London
  • Luxembourg: Luxembourg City
  • Norway: Kjerringoy, Bergen
  • Russia: Kaliningrad
  • France: Amiens, Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, Paris
  • Serbia: Belgrade
  • Iceland: Reykjavik, Nordurfjordur
  • Estonia: Tartu
  • Montenegro: Morinj
  • Belarus: Pripyatsky National Park
  • Switzerland: Lavaux
  • Albania: Shkodra
  • Greece: Ithaca
  • Georgia: Kakheti
  • Portugal: Vila do Bispo
  • Wales: Conwy
  • Latvia: Sigulda
  • Scotland: Claunie
  • Finland: The Lakeland
  • Crete: Milia

I am definitely going to add a number of these destinations to my wish list!

 

 

How I Earned 2500 SPG Points on a Cash & Points Stay

Sheraton Ann Arbor Shuttle

Door to door service to the Ann Arbor Do

Last month, I spent four nights at the Sheraton Ann Arbor while attending the Ann Arbor Art Festival Do.  

It was a perfectly nice hotel — exactly what you’d expect from a Sheraton.  It offered nothing particularly noteworthy, except for the complimentary shuttle service which was outstanding.

I booked a “Cash & Points” stay.  As a Category 3 Starwood hotel, the fixed Cash & Points rate is 3,500 points per night plus $55 (plus tax).

This four night holiday put a big dent in my SPG points balance.

Cash & Points stays do not earn Starwood (SPG) points.  To replenish my account, I took advantage of a couple of  promotions to earn a total of 2,500 points:

  1. Make a Green Choice — 1,500 points
  2. Local restaurant promo — 500 points
  3. 2x points using Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card to pay the cash portion of the bill — 500 points

Make a Green Choice

SPG Make a Green Choice

Get 500 SPG points per night

SPG’s environmental initiative — “Make a Green Choice” — aims to conserve water and energy.  The Ann Arbor Sheraton offers guests the option to decline daily housekeeping service in exchange for 500 Starpoints per night (except day of departure).  Since I was not sharing the room, I opted for the Starpoints.

Welcome SPG Members!

The hotel website indicated another welcome offer was in effect.  You could earn 500 Starpoints by showing your SPG card and spending $25 in food and drink in the hotel restaurant.

* * *

Starpoints are the most difficult currency to accumulate.  There are no bonus points categories, save for 2x points at Starwood hotels.  Unlike most other points programs, there is not a shopping portal to earn extra points for shopping online.

I was pleased to get 2,500 points back for this stay — to go toward my next trip!

As Kermit once said, it’s not easy being green.

Do you participate in hotels’ environmental programs?  Should hotels incentivize these programs by offering points in their loyalty programs?  

15 is My Limit on Schnitzengruben, ahem, Rewards Credit Cards

Fifteen is my Limit

Fifteen is my limit . . .

I love to read those silly What’s in My Wallet blog posts.  I guess it’s because before I got into points and miles, I would not have believed that you could open an insane number of rewards credit cards without ruining your credit.

It does raise some questions, though:

  • How could the banks keep extending you credit?
  • How many times can you earn big bonuses?
  • How do you remember which card to use for which purchases?
  • How could you possibly keep track of all those credit cards without missing a payment?

15 is My Limit on Schnitzengruben, I mean Credit Cards

I recently counted 14 credit cards in my wallet from five different banks.  That is crazy!  I don’t recommend that for anyone.

Miss a single payment and you will be socked with a $35 fee and a major ding to your credit score.

With fourteen active credit card accounts, it is taking too much of my time to track expenses and pay the bills.  Let’s face it; my office is cluttered and my wallet barely closes.

I am looking to thin out my collection.

Rewards Credit Cards Aren’t for Everyone

Travel rewards credit cards aren’t for everybody.

First off, you need to have a stellar credit score to be eligible for the best offers.

Most people prefer to carry only one or two cards, to simplify things and minimize the hassle.  There is merit to this approach, particularly if you are disorganized and don’t keep current with paying your bills.

A perfectly reasonable strategy is to earn free travel is to focus on one airline or one type of flexible rewards such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points or cash back travel cards like the Capitol One Venture Card, or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.

But if you have a credit score in the excellent range, and you pay your bills on time and in full every month, rewards credit cards can be incredibly lucrative.

Once you have experienced the large bonus offers for opening a new credit card, which can be worth $500 or more, it is easy to get sucked into to opening more and more accounts to earn free travel.

Know Your Credit Score

FICO credit score

Barclay’s Offers Free Access to Your Transunion Credit Score

From personal experience, I have watched my credit score progressively improve the further along I got in this game.  Barclay’s bank offers its credit card customers free access to their official FICO credit score once every three months.

My most recent FICO score is 837, with 14 open accounts, and five additional credit card accounts that I have closed in the past year or so.

That is because my credit line has increased dramatically with all these cards, and my monthly spending is just a small fraction of the available credit.

The banks appear willing to extend me credit well beyond my annual income.  Be careful.  Like with the mortgage crisis, a lot of people get in debt over their heads from credit cards and can’t make the payments, or end up paying exorbitant amounts of interest, at rate as high as 28 percent annually.

This much is clear:  the banks are making plenty of money, but probably not from people like me.

Starting Out with Rewards Credit Cards:  The Chase Freedom Card

When I started my environmental consulting business 15 years ago, I opened the Chase Freedom credit card in order to keep my business expenses separate from my personal expenses.  Chase Freedom is a personal, not a business credit card but I was using it for business purposes.  It carries no annual fee, and earns 5x rewards on select categories of spending.  This is a card that I would highly recommend for someone just starting out.  The points can be taken as cash back on your next statement, or used as Ultimate Rewards Points.  Ultimate Rewards Points are quite flexible and can be transferred to many airline and hotel loyalty programs but you need to have one of the premium credit cards from Chase to enable transfers.

If you are just starting out with travel hacking, the Chase Freedom card is a great place to begin because you can earn cash back or travel rewards, depending on your needs.  Because the card has no annual fee, you can keep it forever, thus increasing the length of your credit history over time.   This card earns 1x points on all purchases, and 5x points on select categories, that vary each quarter on up to $1500 of purchases per quarter.  Generally, the 5x points is good for gas purchases for six months of the year.  This spring, the card offered 5x points on restaurants, and sometimes you can get 5x points on Amazon.com, Lowes, or Kohls.

Right now, Chase is offering a $100 bonus for new applications, but I have seen this bonus go as high as $200 after spending $500 on initial purchases within three months.  From time to time there is an extra $25 incentive for adding an authorized user to your account.  There are cards with bigger bonuses but they usually entail annual fees and larger initial spending requirements.

Pick a Card, Any Card!

Whenever I show anyone what credit cards are in my real wallet, they look at me like I am crazy.  I often get looks as I fumble through my wallet looking for the card that earns bonus points at this store or that.

Because I run a small business, I am eligible to apply for business credit cards.  This allow me to “double dip” on account bonuses.  I travel for both business and personal reasons and must keep my expenses separate for tax purposes.  I caution you that business cards can only be used for genuine business expenses and they lack some of the consumer protections of personal credit cards.

What’s in My Wallet?

Here’s a quick rundown of what is in my wallet and why, and which cards are candidates for culling.

Chase Rewards Credit Cards

Quicken Rewards, personal  (authorized user):  The credit card I’ve had the longest is the Quicken Card issued by Chase Bank.  We opened this card over 15 years ago because at the time, it was the one of the few cards that allowed you to download your statements into the Quicken personal accounting software.  The Quicken Rewards card pays cash back rewards and carries no annual fee.  This cash back card pays 2x drugstores, restaurants, and office supply stores, and 1x points on other purchases.  Redemptions for airline tickets can be worth up to 1.25 cents per point, but only if you redeem at the top of a price bracket, e.g. a $500 ticket for 40,000 points.  This is a keeper.

Freedom, personal:  I love the Chase Freedom card because I can earn 5x points on practical things like gas and restaurants and there is no annual fee.  It is a keeper because it pads my Ultimate Rewards point balance, and contributes to the length of my credit history, which is a factor that improves my credit score.

Ink Plus, business:  The Chase Ink Plus is my primary business credit card.  When I opened the card, I earned 50K Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in 3 months.  This card pays 5x points at office supply stores and on telecommunications and 2 points on gas stations and hotels.  The points easily transfer to Amtrak, Southwest Airlines, and United — three of my preferred carriers.  Chase offered me a fabulous retention offer which I declined, but I plan to keep the card open.

Ink Bold, business:  This is a charge card, not a credit card.  The differences is that balances must be paid off every month.  I opened this card for my blog business in June 2014 when there was a special bonus offer of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in three months.  This card has a $95 annual fee which is waived the first year.  This card has the same bonus categories as the Ink Plus.  The usual bonus is 50K points.

Southwest Rapid Rewards, business:  I opened the Southwest Rapid Rewards card for the 50,000 mile bonus.  That is an offer that rolls around every couple of months. Southwest claims that you can get two roundtrip flights for 50K miles, and that has been my experience.  The Southwest Rapid Rewards card has a $69 annual fee that is not waived the first year.  You get 3,000 bonus miles every subsequent year.  Last year, I was offered an additional 3,000 points as a retention bonus, and this year I received this offer again!  I highly recommend the Southwest Rapid Rewards card for budget domestic travelers because of the excellent availability of award tickets on Southwest Airlines.

United Mileage Plus Explorer, personal (authorized user):  This is my husband’s card.  He opened it because there was a targeted offer for 50,000 miles.  The card carries an annual fee of $95 which is waived the first year.  When the fee came due, he was offered a retention bonus of 15,000 miles which offset the annual fee, and then some.

Barclays Reward Credit Cards

Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®, personal:  I have the no annual fee version of the Barclaycard Arrival.  I opened it because of a targeted offer for 40,000 bonus miles and the ongoing benefits including 2x points on restaurant and travel spending.  You get a ten percent rebate on your travel redemptions, so this card effectively pays 2.2 percent cash back.  I love the access to my free credit score and the free TripIt Pro subscription.  The card now pays a bonus of 20,000 miles for new applicants.  This is another keeper.

The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®, personal:  I opened this card because it offered me 35,000 miles after making a single purchase.  There is an $89 annual fee which is waived the first year.  My version of the card awarded 10,000 bonus miles on your anniversary.  It has a number of additional benefits such as one free checked bag for up to four family members, a free lounge pass, and 5,000 fewer miles needed for reward tickets.  With this card, you can get 2 companion passes for $99 each, but there are  lots of strings attached.  I just received the 10,000 mile annual bonus.  I called to cancel the card because I did not want to pay the annual fee.  This card currently pays a 40,000 mile bonus after the first purchase, but does not offer the annual 10,000 bonus points.  It has an $89 annual fee which is waived the first year.

US Airways Dividend Miles, business:  I opened this card by “accident.”  I had applied for a different version of the US Airways card, but was informed that that it was not possible to have two different personal cards.  I was able to switch my application to this business card, and earn 25,000 Dividend Miles upon the first purchase.  The annual fee of $89 is waived the first year. Continue reading

Save 30% on Amtrak Companion Tickets to Baltimore and BWI

30% Off Amtrak Companion Fares

30% Off Amtrak Companion Fares

Amtrak offers lots of regional and seasonal discounts as well as regular savings for students, seniors, military, and AAA members.

But here’s a special deal you won’t find on Amtrak’s deals page!

Through a partnership with the Maryland Office of Tourism, you can get 30 percent off on companion fares on Amtrak to Baltimore, MD or Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI).

This offer is especially attractive to people who may be travelling via BWI, thanks to lower airfares on some routes.

30% Off Amtrak Companion Fares to Baltimore and BWI with Maryland Welcome! Passport

The Maryland Welcome! Passport features online coupons for attractions, accommodations, and transportation which you can access at www.marylandwelcomepassport.com.  

The offer that caught my eye is for 30% off the best available rail fare for one companion in coach, when a second adult fare ticket is purchased at regular price.

To access the offer for the Baltimore area, go to Amtrak.com/VisitBaltimore

To access the offer for BWI area, go to: Amtrak.com/VisitAnnapolis

The offer is only redeemable online; reservations must be made three days in advance and tickets cannot be purchased in person.

The offer is valid for travel within the Northeast Corridor on the Northeast Regional service to Baltimore, MD or Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and return only.

The last date to travel is December 19, 2014.

Some popular travel dates are excluded.  Upcoming blackout dates are:

  • August 29, 2014
  • September 1, 2014
  • October 10, 2014
  • November 25 – 26, 2014 November 29 – 30, 2014
  • December 1, 2014

With the purchase of two tickets, each person can save 15 percent off the regular fare.

25% Off Advance Purchase Amtrak Tickets in the Northeast Corridor

If you are the kind of traveller that plans ahead, you may find better savings on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service with Amtrak’s advance purchase fare.

You can save 25 percent off the lowest available fares when you book 14 days in advance. Continue reading

Anime and Claymation Camps at Smithsonian

Anime Young Artists Residency Program

Anime Young Artists Residency Program

If your kids have too much time on their hands this summer, maybe you can interest them in these bargain-priced summer workshops at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

There are two programs to choose from:  the Anime Young Artists Residency, and the Claymation Young Artists Residency.  Both are part of the Imaginasia series of family programs the Sackler and Freer galleries.

Anime: Young Artists Residency:  Monday, July 28 through Friday, August 1, 2014

ImaginAsia’s five-day workshop is for eight to sixteen-year-old art students interested in anime drawing.

Trace the origins of manga drawing and anime films through the Freer and Sackler collections of Asian art.

This five-day program  runs from 10 am to 3:00 pm each day. Bring notebooks of your drawings to the workshop and your own brown bag lunch. Art supplies provided.

The cost is $100.  Application available online.

Act quickly because today, July 15, 2014, is the application deadline for this program.

Claymation: Young Artists Residency: Monday, August 4 through Friday, August 8, 2014

Claymation Young Artists Residency Program

Claymation Young Artists Residency Program

Learn storyboarding, scene design, and claymation techniques from Erik Swanson, an instructor at the Corcoran School of Art + Design.  Students create their own claymation videos featuring a heroic figure they discover in the galleries.

Participants receive a DVD featuring all of the videos made in the class.  iPads will be used to create the claymations.  For ages 9–18.

This five-day program runs from 10 am – 3:30 pm each day.  The registration fee is $100.

The application deadline is July 20, 2014.  Apply online.

Fishing4Deals Giveaway: Two United Club Lounge Passes

United Club Lounge Pass Giveaway

United Club Lounge Pass Giveaway

Schools finally out!  Summer is in full swing, and that means vacation time!

I’m celebrating by giving away a pair of United Club lounge passes!

United Airlines sells these passes for $50 apiece.  They also offer them as a benefit of the United Mileage Plus credit card, which is how I got them.

The lounges offer a variety of amenities:   
  • free bev­er­ages and light snacks
  • com­pli­men­tary bar service
  • agent assis­tance with reser­va­tions
  • high-speed wire­less Inter­net access
  • charging stations for your cell phone and laptop
  • con­fer­ence rooms (at select locations)
  • com­pli­men­tary use of pho­to­copy and fax machines
  • cur­rent magazines and newspapers

Here’s the link to all the United Club locations with their hours and amenities.

These two passes expire on November 31, 2014.   

There are three easy ways to enter this giveaway

  1. Sign up for updates from Fishing4Deals by subscribing on the sidebar to the right.
  2. Leave a comment on this post answering this question:  Where are you going on your summer vacation?
  3. Follow @Fishing4Deals on Twitter and tweet this message:  @Fishing4Deals is giving away a pair of United Club lounge passes.  RT for a chance to win!

This contest closes Monday, July 14, 2014 at 12 noon, Eastern time.  The winner will be chosen at random.

If you don’t win, you may be able to pick up some lounge passes for cheap on Ebay.

Good luck, and happy summer!

Dulles Flyer: On-Site Parking Specials at IAD

Discounted Parking Options at Dulles International Airport

Discounted Parking Options at Dulles International Airport

One of the costs of travel that is hard to offset with credit card points or miles is airport parking.  Even my Barclaycard Arrival credit card, which allows redemptions for most categories of travel expenses, does not routinely cover airport parking.

At Dulles International Airport (IAD) near my home, daily parking fees range from $10 a day in the remote economy lots to $25 – $35 per day for valet parking right in front of the terminal.  The intermediate option in terms of price and convenience is garage parking at $17 per day.

Park Four Days, Get One Day Free

The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) at IAD is running a summer special through July 13, 2014 for the garage parking:  park for four consecutive days, get one day free.  You must apply for a special coupon code online, and present your coupon and parking ticket to the cashier upon exiting,  Even with the special, you’ll make out better with economy parking; but if you’re pressed for time or facing afternoon thundershowers, it may be worth considering.

There are over 8,000 garage parking spaces, and more than 12,000 spots in the economy lots at IAD.  I always opt for the economy parking, and usually wait less than five minutes for a shuttle bus.

Dulles FlexPark:  Monthly Parking for Frequent Flyers

Another special offer from MWAA is for unlimited parking for one monthly payment.

Dulles FlexPark offers several options, ranging from reserved parking in a premium spot to general garage parking.

The cheapest option — at $275 per month — is for unlimited parking in any unreserved space in the garage.

Frequent travelers, or those working at the airport, may save as much as 47 percent off the posted rates (depending on level of program and number of days parked).

See the complete program description and access the online application here.

Express Bus Service from Metro Silver Line Starts July 26

The Metro Silver Line is opening July 26, 2014, and you can bet I’ll be there for the ribbon cutting!

When the Silver Line opens, the Wiehle Avenue station in Reston will be the closest Metro station to IAD.

Silver Line Express buses will carry travelers to Dulles airport for a fare of $5.00 each way.  Express buses will run every 15 minutes during weekday peak hours, and every 2o minutes at other times.  The new buses will be specially configured with spacious luggage racks.

This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks if you choose to use them.  

Download Free Magazines in Airports

Read Archie comics for free with Inflight App

Read Archie comics for free with Inflight App

If you long for the days when flight attendants handed out magazines on long flights, you may be interested in a new app available for free on iTunes.

Inflightavailable in the iTunes store, allows you to download free magazines to read on your iPad or iPhone while in the airport or in flight.

Inflight is not the greatest thing since sliced bread because the magazine selection is quite limited.

But if you are a sportsman who is keen on Field & Stream, a photographer who reads Popular Photography, a tinkerer who loves Popular Science, or a liberal who enjoys The Nation, read on!

Download Magazines for Free with the Inflight App

Here is how it works:

  1. download the magazines at home
  2. when you get to the airport, open the Inflight reader app to start a 24-hour reader session
  3. read the magazines on the airplane — you don’t need an internet connection

    Field & Stream

    Field & Stream: free with Inflight reader

The app works at 600 U.S. airports and 30 international airports.

About two dozen magazines are currently offered.

The Inflight reader app is a way for magazine publishers to market their content to a captive audience; they make their magazines available for free for 24-hours.

Did I mention Archie and Betty & Veronica?

They are available for free on the app, too.

Six Terrible Reasons Why My Husband Opened the Wrong Credit Card

Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200I’ve been married almost 20 years but my husband never fails to surprise me.

Today we were coming home from the 4th of July picnic at my Mom’s nursing home when he mentioned something about a Kohl’s charge card.

You have got to be kidding!   Store-branded credit cards are almost always a bad idea:

  • the rewards are limited to the store at hand
  • the opening bonus is insubstantial
  • you are taking a hit on your credit score for a very limited benefit

If you have a good to excellent credit score, and you pay your bills on time and in full every month, there are far better offers out there.

This is the same guy that has been refusing for months to consider applying for a travel rewards credit card — one that would provide a sign-up bonus worth hundreds of dollars and put us not the path to our next vacation.

 Travel Rewards Credit Cards and the Noncompliant Spouse

Kohl's Credit Card

Honey, you shrunk the credit card bonus.

Okay, so this is my hobby, not my his.  After 20 years, I’ve learned to live and let live.

But lordy, lordy, a Kohl’s charge card?

There are a million and one better options that provide flexible rewards that can be redeemed for travel.

My husband is an independent thinker who has his own opinions about things.  He has told me he didn’t want to keep track of another credit card and that is that.

The Six Worst Reasons, Ever, to Open a Kohl’s Charge Card

Here are the reasons my husband offered for opening the Kohl’s Charge Card.

  1. the 20 percent discount on that day’s purchase
  2. a 15 percent discount for a future purchase
  3. cardholders get special coupons
  4. he shops at Kohl’s four or five times a year
  5. the card is a nice color
  6. the checkout girl was cute

Do the Math, Folks

We probably spend $500 to $600 per year at Kohl’s, if that.  Generously assuming a 20 percent discount on all purchases, we would be saving $120 per year at most.

Contrast that with the $400 bonus and cash back savings on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.  This card pays 2x points on all purchases!  

Plus you get 10 percent of your redemptions credited back to your account.

Say we charge $10,000 of purchases in a year.  That would be $200 cash back when redeemed for travel expenses.

So, in the first year, when the annual fee is waived, we’re looking at $400 plus $200, plus $60 for a total $660 in rewards toward travel expenses.  You can read my full review of the pros and cons of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® here. 

There are numerous other bonus offers that may be even more lucrative, and other credit cards like the Amex Blue Cash Preferred that offer 3x bonus points on all department store purchases, including Kohl’s. Continue reading

Foreign Visitors Can Fly Anywhere in Japan for $100

Experience Japan Fare

Experience Japan Fare: Fly Anywhere for $106

Japan is a nation of islands with great geographic diversity — from the snow capped peaks of Hokkaido to the tropical beaches of Okinawa.

While much of the country is connected via high speed rail, if you are short on time or want to visit more far-flung regions, you may be interested in one of the many discount airfares available to foreign visitors.

Increased competition by discount airlines in Japan have led to an array of discount offers on domestic routes:

  1. Experience Japan Fare
  2. One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare
  3. Japan Airlines Welcome to Japan Fare
  4. Star Alliance Japan Airpass
  5. ANA Visit Japan Fare

The most flexible of these is the Experience Japan Fare.  You can purchase tickets while in Japan allowing for more spontaneity, and there are no blackout dates.

The major downsides of the Experience Japan Fare are that tickets must be purchased 3 days in advance and are non-changeable and nonrefundable.

The Experience Japan Fare:  Up to 75% off Domestic Airfares

All Nippon Airlines (ANA) offers the Experience Japan Fare to international visitors to Japan.  You can fly anywhere in Japan for 10,800 Japanese Yen, including taxes and fees.  At today’s exchange rate (June 24, 2014) that’s $106 US dollars.

This is a gigantic bargain!  For instance, the regular one-way fare between Tokyo and Okinawa is 46,000 Yen.  The Experience Japan Fare at 10,800 Yen is more than 75 percent off!

Eligibility for the Experience Japan Fare

Experience Japan Fare

Experience Japan Fare

The Experience Japan Fare   is meant for visitors to the country.  There are  three conditions to be eligible for the fare:  You must:

  • reside outside of Japan;
  • hold a passport issued by a country other than Japan; and
  • have an international ticket from any airline to and from Japan.

How to Fly Anywhere Within Japan for $100

The Experience Japan Fare of 10,800 JPY per flight (this includes the 800 JPY tax) is good for tickets issued from April 1, 2014 until October 25, 2014.

There are some rules to keep in mind:

  • Reservations must be made at least 3 days prior to the departure date.
  • Tickets can be purchased up to 14 days before departure.
  • There is no limit on the number of segments you may fly.
  • Seats are limited and may not be available on all days or on all flights.
  • You will accrual frequent flyer miles.
  • One checked bag is included in the fare.
  • No changes and no refunds allowed.

Please note this important caution:  There may be instances where it may cost less to include all Japan domestic flights within your international flight discount fare if you are connecting to/from an ANA international flight.

Further information on fare conditions is available online.

Other Airlines Offer Special Fares for Foreign Visitors to Japan

There are several other discount fares with comparable prices.

One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare

To be eligible for the One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare, travel to Japan must be a carrier in the One World Alliance and tickets must be purchased before arrival in Japan.

oneworld Yokoso/Visit Japan Fare.

One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare

One World includes JAL, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Qantas and several other airlines.

Tickets cost 10,800 Yen and are valid for two months.

Blackout periods apply: Continue reading

Attention Foodies: Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival
July 20, 2014

Tickets are going fast for the sixth annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival set for Sunday July 20, 2014 in Shelburne, Vermont.

Vermont is the premier artisanal cheese state, with 44 cow, goat, and sheep cheese makers throughout the state.

The 2014 Cheesmakers Festival will offer cooking demonstrations, cheese-making demonstrations, and tasting seminars.

2014 Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

The Cheesemakers Festival takes place at the historic Shelburne Farms, a scenic 1,400-acre agricultural estate with a working farm and inn, on the shores of Lake Champlain.

The event features:

  • over 40 award-winning cheese makers
  • over 200 products to sample and purchase
  • local wineries, breweries and distilleries & artisan food producers

Festival runs from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM.

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Tickets are available online here, but act quickly because they are already 75 percent sold out.  Tickets cost $50 plus a $3.25 box office surcharge.

Seminars include “Sweet & Stinky,” “Beyond the Curd,” and “A Vertical Tasting.”

The Vermont Cheese Trail

If you can’t make the event, there is a do it yourself tour of the Vermont Cheese Trail, with 12 cheesemakers open to the public.

I’ll be in Ann Arbor that weekend, but this looks like a fun event to keep in mind for the future.

Four Ways to Win a Family Trip to Universal’s Harry Potter World

Win a Trip to Harry Potter World

Win a Trip to Harry Potter World

There are at least four active contests to win a free trip for a family of four to Universal Studios in Florida to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including the brand new Diagon Alley.

Some of these contests end tomorrow, so enter now for a chance to win!

I’ve been fascinated by all the press accounts this week about the new Hogwarts Express ride and Diagon Alley and I’m dying to go!  The park will officially open to the public July 8, 2014.

Here are four ways to win a free to trip to Universal Studio’s Harry Potter World

Fandango Harry Potter World Sweepstakes

One lucky family will enjoy the action and fun of Universal Orlando® Resort, including early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™.  The grand prize includes:

  • Roundtrip airfare to Orlando, Florida for a family of four
  • Hotel accommodations on-site at the new Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
  • Ground transportation between airport and hotel in Orlando
  • Admission to both Universal Studios Florida® and Universal’s Islands of Adventure® theme parks, including Early Park Admission* to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ one hour before the parks open
  • Tickets to Blue Man Group
  • Admission to Wet ‘n Wild® Orlando waterpark

Enter here by 9 pm PT on June 30, 2014.

Southwest Vacations Universal Orlando Sweepstakes

Enter here for a chance to win a Southwest family vacation package  to Universal Studios Florida® and Universal’s Islands of Adventure® theme parks.  The family vacation package includes:

  • Roundtrip air fare for up to four via Southwest Airlines® to Orlando, Florida
  • Three-night stay at one of four on-site hotels at Universal Orlando® Resort
  • 3-Day/2-Park Tickets for up to four people to Universal Studios Florida® and Universal’s Islands of Adventure® theme parks
  • Four-day rental car from Alamo
  • Two (2) wands from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™
  • Four (4) tickets to Blue Man Group show at Universal CityWalk®

Enter by June 30, 2014.  See the official entry form for details.

Orlando Visitors Bureau Sweepstakes

The Orlando Visitors Bureau is sponsoring a sweepstakes for an Orlando Family Vacation for up to four people to travel to Orlando, Florida.  You have your choice of visiting Universal Orlando, Disney World, or SeaWorld.

Enter here for your chance to win:

  • Round trip airline tickets to Orlando
  • Four-night accommodations at the Hyatt Regency Orlando including a half-day cabana rental and a $100.00 food and beverage credit.
  • Two-day tickets to your choice of Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando or SeaWorld Orlando
  • Round trip ground transportation from Orlando International Airport to the hotel

Entries must be received by 11:59 pm ET on June 30, 2014.

Continue reading

IHG Froze My Rewards Club Account

IGH Rewards Club Account Frozen

IGH Rewards Club Account Frozen

Have you seen the movie Frozen?  Well, that’s exactly what happened to my IHG Rewards Club account.

A couple of weeks ago, I was researching hotels for an upcoming  summer trip.

I noticed that I could not pull up the IHG web page on my computer.  A notice popped up that the site was down.  When this continued for more than a week, I finally realized that something was wrong.

IHG Froze My Rewards Club Account

I called IHG and was told that the website was not down.

However, my access to the website had been terminated for — dare I say — fraudulent activity.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read on the Internet, Duh

IHG Rewards Club (formerly known as Priority Club) allows you to stack more than one promo code on to a reservation.

These promo codes allow you to earn extra points for your stay, sometimes a lot of extra points!

I had found a list of IHG promo codes on a blog somewhere and had attempted to enter as many as possible on to my account.  About half the codes I tried were accepted.

Don’t Enroll in Random IHG Promos

The customer service rep told me that my IHG Rewards Club account had been frozen because I had applied promo codes to my account that I found on the internet.

She warned me to use only promo codes that had been emailed specifically to me.

Using random promo codes would result in IHG confiscating all my points and permanently terminating my account.

Some of the travel hacks you read about on the internet can backfire.  This hack had apparently been working for quite some time.  About the time I discovered it, in June 2014, IHG had pulled the plug.  Consider yourself warned.

Have any travel hacks backfired on you?  Please share in the comments.

Eight Percent Cash Back on Holiday Inns is Back!

1960's Era Holiday Inn

1960’s era Holiday Inn

Did you know the name Holiday Inn given to the original hotel was a joke?  

The name was a reference to the 1942 Christmas-themed film Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.

Well the name stuck!

I long for the 1960’s when Holiday Inn’s beckoned road-weary family travelers with amenities such as outdoor swimming pools, bonded babysitters, room service, and free dog kennels.

Yup, free dog kennels.  A summer road trip was easier to organize in those days, if you set your sights on lodging at a Holiday Inn every night.

Eight Percent Cash Back at Holiday Inns and other IHG Hotels

1960's Holiday Inn Soap

1960’s Holiday Inn soap, found on EBay. Who buys this stuff?

Ebates is a cash back shopping portal that offers rebates on online purchases including hotel bookings with IHG Hotels.  The regular payout rate is 4 percent cash back, but currently, Ebates is offering 8 percent cash back on hotel reservations with IHG.

You can go through the Ebates portal, and you will still earn points for your hotel reservation with IHG.

IHG includes:

  • Holiday Inns
  • Holiday Inn Express
  • Crowne Plaza
  • Hotel Indigo
  • InterContinental 
  • Staybridge Suites
  • Candlewood Suites 
Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Orem, Utah

We chose the same upholstery pattern in blue

Of these brands, Holiday Inn Express is my current favorite.

We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Orem, Utah in 2011.  The modern decor at this hotel was inspiring.  I loved the tiled lobby and hand blown glass decorations.  But what really won me over was the upholstery pattern in the rooms — the same fabric we had chosen for our dining room chairs.

We booked a standard room via Priceline, and got a very competitive rate of $49!

The fine print from Ebates states that cash back is only available for commissionable IHG rates.  Specially negotiated rates such as IHG Friends & Family are not eligible for cash back.  Further, it may take up to 40 days after travel is completed for cash back to show up  in your Ebates account.  

I’m not sure how long the 8 percent cash back will be in effect at Ebates.

Eight Percent Cash Back from IHG Hotels at FatWallet

FatWallet is a similar online shopping portal that I have had great success with.

FatWallet is currently offering a payout rate of 8 percent at Holiday Inn Hotels only.  The other IHG brand hotels are offered at a payout rate of 5.5 percent.

If you use the links in this post to make a purchase with Ebates or FatWallet, I may receive a referral commission.  You can earn commissions as well by referring your friends!