An Easy Way Earn a Free Trip Just by Shopping for Groceries

Staples Now Sells Safeway Gift Cards
Staples Now Sells Safeway Gift Cards

According to the USDA, an average family of four spends upwards of $1000 per month on groceries.

What if you could save five percent of that cost?

Better yet, what if you could earn 60,000 frequent flyer miles each year just from your grocery spending?

Since I’ve never seen this mentioned elsewhere, I wanted point out that Staples.com is now selling Safeway gift cards.

If you purchase Safeway gift cards with an small business credit card that pays five times points on office supply store purchases, such as a Chase Ink card, you can accumulate five percent cash back or five times points for travel.

Staples.com sells two types of Safeway gift cards in several denominations up to $200 — emailed cards, and actual plastic gift cards.  There is a mailing fee of $2.00 per card for the plastic version.

I have been buying these cards for sometime, and have only encountered two Safeway cashiers that know how to use the emailed version of the gift cards.  So if you opt for the paper gift cards, be prepared to endure the wrath of shoppers standing in line behind you!

Did you know about this deal before reading this post?

Free Access to Consumer Reports Car Buying Guide

2000 AA miles for $14.95
2000 AA miles for $14.95

You’ve heard of magazines for miles?

How about miles for magazines?

The AAdvantage frequent flyer program of American Airlines has a new promo offer to earn 2,000 miles.

The offer involves signing up for a free 30-day trial of the Next Issue digital magazine service.  After your free trial, you can earn 2,000 AAdvantage miles if you subscribe to the service.

This is Not an Offer for 2,000 Free AAdvantage Miles!

I misread the offer and thought I could get 2,000 easy miles for signing up for Next Issue, after which I would cancel my subscription.  That is not the case.  You only earn the miles if you subscribe to the premium service for $14.95 a month, after your free trial ends.

Download the Next Issue app on iTunes
Download the Next Issue app on iTunes

I registered for the service, downloaded the Next Issue app, and took at look at the magazine offerings.

First up was the complete Consumer Reports 2016 Auto Guide.  I could access vehicle specs, crash test results, reliability data, ratings, and the results of the Consumer Reports road tests.  This is tremendously useful information for me as I am in the process of researching new cars.

Remember to cancel your registration before the 30-day trial ends or you will be charged $14.95.

If you want to spend $14.95 on a one month subscription, however, you can earn 2,000 AAdvanatage frequent flyer miles.  You can cancel your subscription at any time.

I’m Not Going to Subscribe to Next Issue

Next Issue allows you to read 100 popular magazines online or offline.

Current titles include People, US Weekly, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Time, GQ, Consumer Reports, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Parents, Dwell and dozens of others.  

Enjoy unlimited access to all the magazines you love — all in one app, for one low price — with Next Issue. Plus, earn 2,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® miles when you become a subscriber before October 1, 2015.

A subscription gives you access to past as well as current issue.

The service works on iPhones and iPads, Android phones and tablets, and Windows tablets and PCs.  I found it difficult to read magazine articles on my iPhone 5s — it’s just too small.  I don’t have a tablet, and the service won’t work on my Macbook, so I won’t be subscribing.

You can access the offer here.

Airfare Deals: Jumping But Not Biting

The School Calendar Rules Travel Time
We are no longer tied to the school calendar.

My daughter graduated from high school this June (hooray!), so we are entering a new phase of life.

For the first time in 13 years, our travel plans will not be dictated by the public school calendar.

As parents well know, travel during school breaks and over the summer is considered high season in terms of airfare and hotel rates.

Flights and hotel rooms are expensive and award availability is limited.  Parents with kids in school simply don’t have the same flexibility as free agents.

We are not quite empty nesters because my daughter is living at home while attending community college.   My husband is looking forward to retirement soon.   That will expand our opportunities for leisure travel.

There are lots of places we want to go, with Japan at the top of the list.

Bargain Flights are Back!

Have you noticed that the airwaves these days are filled with airfare deals?

My inbox and twitter feed are chock full of amazing airfare bargains.

Getting in on these deals requires you to act fast and to have schedule flexibility.

But the deals are fantastic!

  • $99 to Europe.
  • $500 roundtrip to Asia.
  • $19 for domestic flights.

Check out these recent offerings posted by The Flight Deal:

The Flight Deal is One Source for Bargain Fares
The Flight Deal is One Source for Bargain Fares

In terms of frequent flyer miles, I have a stash of American Airlines and United miles, as well as some British Airways and Southwest miles.

My strategy going forward is to spend down my miles balances and to focus on cash back opportunities.

Growing Your Travel Savings Account

Earlier this year, I opened Capital One’s Venture Card.  This card earns 2 times points on all purchases.  Rewards points can be redeemed for travel expenses.

I also opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card early this year.  This card earns 2 times Ultimate Rewards Points on restaurants and travel.  These points can be transferred to the several airline partners or cashed out for statement credits.

Cash Back is King

I plan to concentrate my spending on the Venture card, with the exception of most travel purchases that will go on the Sapphire card.  Cash back is still king, but Ultimate Rewards points can be used as miles or cash.

Both the Venture card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card carry annual fees, which are waived the first year.  I have heard it is easy to get the fee waived on the Venture card.  That is not the case for the Sapphire Preferred, so I will probably will probably cancel that card when the fee comes due.

In the meantime, I will be accumulating points in my “travel savings accounts.”  These points are a lot more liquid than miles, it part because they are good for any bargain tickets you may grab, and also because partial redemptions are possible.

Has your points collection strategy changed, in light of the raft of cheap flights?

 

 

Keep Your Frequent Flyer Miles Active with Thanks Again

Thanks Again Loyalty Program QR CodeThanks Again is a loyalty program that awards airline frequent flyer miles for parking and other purchases at 170 airports throughout the U.S.

If you sign up via BWI’s link, you can earn 100 airline miles or 200 hotel points for enrolling!  This enrollment bonus is valid through December 31, 2015.

Thanks Again allows you to automatically earn frequent flyer miles or hotel points when you park, shop and dine at BWI or any of the other participating airports, such as RDU, DCA, BOS, PIT, FWA, AUS, and dozens of others.

This is a great way to extend the expiration date on an inactive frequent flyer account, or to maintain steady activity on the account.

Thanks Again Bonus Rewards

Simply register one or more American Express, Visa, or MasterCard credit card and pair it with the rewards program of your choice.  You will automatically earn one  extra mile, or two extra hotel points, when you shop at any of 24,000 participating locations.  This is on top of any other points you are earning with the card.

Real big spenders earn 5x miles or 10x points if they spend $1,000 in a calendar quarter.  

 Thanks Again Participating Loyalty Programs

 Airlines
  • AeroMexico Club Premier
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
  • American AAdvantage
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Frontier EarlyReturns
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • US Airways Dividend Miles

 Hotel Programs

  • Hilton HHonors
  • VOILÀ Hotel Rewards
  • Wyndham Rewards

Have you tried Thanks Again?

When It’s Cheaper to Fly Than to Take the Train

Empire State Building on a Clear Night
Empire State Building on a Clear Night
Joel Shprentz Photo

Last year, our family took the train up to New York for Thanksgiving.

This year, it was cheaper to fly.

That’s because we were finally able to use the two companion passes that came with my US Airways credit card.

The companion passes can be a pain the the neck because of all the limitations, but this holiday season the stars were aligned in our favor.

US Airways Credit Card Benefits Saved the Day

I purchased a ticket on the US Airways shuttle for myself, and secured companion pass tickets for my husband and daughter.  The tickets cost $99 each, plus tax of about $20.  This was about $4oo in savings, compared to the cost of two full price tickets.

We each checked a bag, which normally costs $25 per flight.  We know we’d need extra suitcase space for all the sales we hoped to hit on Black Friday.  The checked bags flew free because of the credit card.  This equalled another $150 in savings.

Black Friday Sales Did Not Disappoint
Black Friday Sales Did Not Disappoint
Joel Shprentz Photo

The US Airways credit card carries an annual fee of $89, but it came with 40,000 frequent flyer miles. I am saving those miles for another trip.

The current offer for the US Airways credit card is even better:  50,000 Dividend Miles after the first purchase and payment of an $89 fee.  Plus, you get the two companion passes and free checked bags.

If you are following along, that is a terrific deal!

You have to be a bit crazy to fly the day before Thanksgiving.  I am happy to report that despite a two hour weather-related delay, everything went smoothly.

Click here to compare current credit card offers.

What are Your Frequent Flyer Pet Peeves?

Frequent Flyer Pet Peeves Survey
What’s the worst thing about frequent flyer programs?

Frequent Business Traveler and FlyerTalk are running a survey on the most annoying aspects of frequent flyer programs.

With input from frequent flyers, the survey sponsors have complied a list of pet peeves with the award redemption process.  

They ask you to rank order your most annoying award redemption problems.

This survey caught my attention because one of my biggest pet peeves is that many mainstream miles and points bloggers do not tell the full story about frequent flyer programs.

I started Fishing4Deals to provide objective information about the pros and cons of various programs.

My number one concern with the award redemption process is that low-level award tickets are often unavailable when I want to fly.

As Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagen said:

I always thought that the way these agreements worked were that if I flew a certain number of miles on your plan, I was going to get a free ticket.  If I knew that it was really up to you to give me the free ticket . . . I don’t think that I’d be spending all this time in the air on your planes. You know, I’d find another company that actually gave me the free ticket.

To rank your top pet peeves, head over to the survey site by November 30, 2014.

What are your biggest frustrations?  Is this survey on target?

Click here to compare current rewards credit card offers.

Can I Interest You in a Free Glass of Sparkling Wine, or Perhaps Free Dessert?

MasterCard Concierge App
MasterCard Concierge App, Free on iTunes

If you have a World or World Elite U.S. Mastercard, you may be interested in the new MasterCard Concierge app available for free on iTunes.

The App is your key to finding special offers and discounts at restaurants at select locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Most of the restaurants included to date are fancy steak houses or expensive French bistros, but there are also Japanese, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern offerings.

MasterCard Concierge App
MasterCard Concierge App

The typical offer is for a free glass of sparkling wine or a free dessert to accompany your meal.

You’re not going to get rich off these offers.

But the Concierge app may come in handy some day if you find yourself headed to a participating restaurant in a big city like Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Montreal, or Las Vegas.

You must call or email the MasterCard Concierge to access the offers.

Credit Cards Eligible for the MasterCard Concierge Program

Examples of cards that may be eligible include the Barclaycard Arrival and Arrival Plus, as well as the The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® and the The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard®.   

The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is currently offering  40,000 bonus miles after your first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee.

This is a pretty good deal for accruing U.S. Airways Dividend Miles, because there is no minimum spend requirement to worry about.  40,000 Dividend Miles could come in handy with the American/USAir merger underway, and the upcoming merger of their frequent flyer programs.  I got this card for that very reason.

The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® offers 35,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

 

 

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.

 

Welcoming Air China to Washington, DC in Style

Welcoming Air China!
Welcoming Air China!

I was on hand yesterday for the arrival of Air China’s inaugural flight from Beijing into Dulles International Airport (IAD).

The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) invited some local people to participate in the gala welcoming ceremony as part of their “Discover Dulles” program.

The airport authority sure knows how to throw a party.

The 25 Discover Dulles participants, along with about 50 journalists, were transported to the airfield via IAD’s infamous mobile lounges for a close up view of landing.

It was an exciting moment when the plane touched down.

We were rushed back onto the mobile lounge and whisked closer to the terminal so we could view the aircraft run the gauntlet through the ceremonial water arch.

Air China Lands at IAD
Air China Lands at IAD

Two fire trucks were dispatched to pump a stream of water over the airplane to celebrate the arrival of the inaugural flight.  This is aviation’s equivalent of christening a new ship.

After the plane landed, the Ambassador of China and Virginia Governor McAuliffe were feted by Chinese lion dancers.

Several traditional Chinese musicians played at the reception.

Water Cannon Salute
Water Cannon Salute

 

The speeches heralded the 7,000 mile avionic bridge that had been established between Washington and Beijing, and the cultural, diplomatic, and economic exchanges that would ensue.

Oh, and the swag!  Each participant received a goodie bag with a propellor paperweight, a model of the airplane, and other “stuff.”

Traditional Chinese Musicians
Traditional Chinese Musicians

This was a fun event:   I got to meet some Chinese journalists, airport personnel, and aviation geeks.

Keep  your eyes peeled for other opportunities like this on the Discover Dulles webpage.

Earn More, Burn Less  

In honor of the new service, Air China’s frequent flyer program, Phoenix Miles, is running a promotion on travel between Beijing and Washington, DC.  

You can earn fifty percent more than the regular miles on flights, and award travel will be discounted.  

Continue reading —>

Family Travel for Real Life: The Do

Family Travel for Real Life
August 23, 2014 in Sterling, Virginia

Is it a seminar or is it a movement?  The Deal Mommy is organizing a “do” for deal mongers with a passion for family travel.

Family Travel for Real Life will be held August 23, 2014 at the Hyatt House Dulles Airport in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Sterling, Virginia, right near IAD.

This hotel has reasonable weekend prices, so why not plan to stay the weekend and take in the sites.  If you’d rather not go downtown, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center is just down the street.

Family Travel for Real Life Will Cover These Topics

  • Scheduling around a school calendar
  • Saving money without relying only on credit card bonuses
  • Condo rentals and hotel rooms for families traveling overseas
  • Booking award tickets when you need more than two
  • Destination planning for families
  • Camp Mom:  traveling with your kids for less than the cost of camp
  • How to save on theme park vacations

Several top notch speakers are already lined up, with more to be added:

  • Carolina Travel Girl:  Where to stay when a hotel room won’t cut it
  • Jason Steele:  Booking award travel for families
  • Shawn of Miles to Memories:  Booking loo00ong summer vacations

Follow this hashtag on Twitter to stay in the loop:  #FT4RL

Registration will begin at 9 a.m. and sessions will run from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (possibly 5:00).  Lunch and an afternoon snack break are included in admission.

Sign up early because the first 25 registrants can get tickets for $49.  After that, tickets are going for $59.  Here’s the link to register!