Monthly Archives: October 2013 - Page 2

Columbus Day Deals and Coupons Presented by Classbuxx

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve recently launched a new site called Classbuxx.com that’s like eBates, only the cash back that you earn is given to your child’s school (tell your friends with kids!).

Today I thought I’d share some of the better offers available through the site for this holiday weekend (at least it’s a holiday weekend for my office)…

— Living Social is offering 15% off all their deals (plus earn 1.6% cash back).

— Macy’s has 20% off sitewide plus free shipping over $99 (plus 2.5% Cash Back). Offer ends tonight.

— Kohl’s offers 20% off everything sitewide (plus 3.25% cash back). Expires tonight.

— Take an extra 30% off sale styles at PUMA (plus 5% cash back).

— Justice and Brothers are both offering 40% off sitewide PLUS an additional 20% off sitewide through tonight (plus 3.5% cash back).

— The Children’s Place offers 25% off your $50 order (plus 4% cash back). Offer expires tonight.

— Toms Shoes is offering $10 off $40 with free shipping sitewide (plus 6% cash back). Offer expires tonight.

— Levi’s has 30% off sitewide PLUS free shipping (and 6.5% cash back). Offer expires tonight.

— Lands’ End has 35% off regular priced outerwear (plus 3% cash back). Offer expires tonight.

Happy shopping!

Are We at the Beginning of the End of the Frequent Flyer Game?

I’ve flown Continental (now United) for my entire life, and I think I’ve been lucky to be associated with a frequent flyer program where, for the most part, availability has not been an issue. I wasn’t a United guy, so I didn’t deal with Starnet blocking. Back when Northwest and Continental were tied up there was decent availability for redemptions on Northwest. As I said, I’ve been lucky.

Delta’s lack of availability (at reasonable redemption rates) has been well-documented, and I won’t beat a dead horse here.

Then I’ve seen posts this week about AA having virtually no premium cabin availability to Europe or South America, and Cathay drastically reducing their availability.

Then I started wondering: have we all been fighting the wrong war? Forever we’ve been warning and/or complaining about chart devaluation, and to an extent that has been an issue (though I think it’s been mostly balanced out by the widespread availability of generating miles through credit cards – while the Hilton devaluation is annoying, what’s really annoying is that you can’t buy 70,000 miles for $79 through the Hawaiian Airlines card anymore).

But have I (we?) missed the biggest issue of all: massive reductions in (especially premium class) international award availability – especially for awards without surcharges. Given what’s going on today, I can’t imagine any reason to accrue miles to Delta or American. With US Airways disappearing, that option is gone (people complain about it, but at least there were generous routing rules, 90k business class Asia award, and Star Alliance availability). I’d argue United is the only program left worth anything if you want to redeem for international premium award travel.

How long will that last? If United started Starnet blocking (or whatever equivalent) or decided to go to a 3-tier Delta-like system with virtually no low-level availability, does this whole game collapse? Are we 1 decision away from all of the miles I have built up now being something approaching worthless? Am I overreacting?

(Whew, I’m starting to sweat).

Earning Between 4.4% and 5.28% Cash Back Every Time You Book a Flight

I’ve helped a couple of friends book flights recently and they had zero idea that you can earn between 4.4% and 5.14% cash back every time they book a flight. Perhaps you didn’t know that either….here’s how: (with screenshots!)

For Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders, the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall offers 2X points when you book your travel through Travelocity. Doing the math: you earn 2X points when you use the Sapphire Preferred for booking travel. You earn 2X points by booking on Travelocity through the Mall. When you redeem Ultimate Rewards points for travel booked through their travel portal you get an extra 25% bonus, so 40,000 points can be used to pay for $500 worth of travel. Plus you get 7% back for the points you spend each year. Whew. That works out to 5.28% cash back (good for travel) when you book your flights through Travelocity this way.

Now I know others consider using your points to buy travel to be a poor use of points. Sometimes that’s true, but sometimes it’s not. It may make sense for car rentals. It can make sense for hotels without points programs. It can make sense for coach airfare if the fare requires fewer points to outright purchase with UR points than to redeem a standard award (in other words: if a ticket to Europe is $625, it would require 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points to purchase; or 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you transferred them to United). It can make sense for inter-island trips in Hawaii. It makes no sense for business class.

They don’t make it wildly obvious to get to their shopping portal. Log in at ultimaterewards.com, then choose “Earn Faster” and click Earn Points at the Bonus Mall. On that page, click on the Travelocity logo (screenshots will help):

otr1

Another option is the The Barclays Arrival Card, which offers 2% cash back (when you redeem their points for a travel purchase) and a 10% points bonus when you redeem the points. So you effectively earn 2.2% cash back with each purchase. You may not have noticed that Barclays also has a mall and also offers 2X points when you buy airfare through Travelocity. Booking your airfare this way earns 4.4% cash back. Here’s how you do it: Log in to your Barclays account and make sure you click on the Arrival card in your account. Then click on “Rewards Boost” and search for Travelocity on that page.

otr2

It may not make sense to book your travel this way if you have no status on the airline you’re traveling and you need to check bags. If you have no status but you have the credit card for the airline you’re traveling (I have this situation coming up with a trip on Delta), you’re best off just using the airline’s card to save yourself the baggage fees.

And remember: you do NOT need to use a Chase card to earn the bonus points when you purchase through their mall (that is true with Barclays as well). You will earn the points regardless of which card you use.

Tuesday Route News: American, United, Cathay and More…

A few new route developments to mention:

– Cathay Pacific is adding a 4th daily frequency from LA to Hong Kong beginning June 2014, as well as adding 3 more weekly flights from Chicago (making a total of 10 per week). Sad that apparently there’s no inventory available up front for award tickets.

– United is adding San Francisco to Atlanta and LA to Minneapolis beginning April 2014. That would be a big FU to Delta (or to Sun Country…)

– American Airlines is dropping its daily JFK-Barbados service beginning January 15th, leaving 2 daily flights from Miami. JetBlue also flies 5x/weekly from JFK.

– JetBlue will launch Boston – Savannah nonstop service beginning in February, continuing their Boston expansion.

– You may remember this little story I wrote a bit ago about a US trade association trying to block 2 airlines from flying from JFK to Guyana. Caribbean Airlines and Fly Jamaica wanted the right to operate nonstop service from JFK directly to Georgetown, Guyana, since Delta has abandoned that route. If you thought it would make sense to let someone else have a go at it, turns out you would be wrong. The Department of Transportation said that those airlines’ 1-stop service would suffice and they won’t grant the approval. The DoT said the airlines “had not provided compelling evidence” that the flights would be in the public interest. Seems like nonstop service would always be in the public interest, but what do I know.

Best Western Rewards Mastercard (Barclays) – Offers 15,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points after $1,000 Spend

I hadn’t thought much about the Best Western Rewards Mastercard from Barclays, but I saw this offer on Flyertalk and it’s actually interesting:

– You’ll get 16,000 points after your first purchase.
– You’ll get 48,000 additional points after $1,000 spend in 3 months.
– No annual fee.

So after that $1,000 spend you’ll have 65,000 points – that’s meaningless to me because I’m likely not going to use that for the 4 free Best Western nights it offers.

But Best Western lets you transfer points to a number of airline partners — most offer 1,000 miles for 5,000 points (so 13,000 miles for this bonus).

But Southwest Airlines offers 1200 Rapid Rewards points for a 5,000 transfer, meaning you’ll get 15,600 Rapid Rewards points for this card. Given their new 70-points-per-dollar redemption rate on cheap fares, you’ll be getting about $222 worth of points – in many cases, that’s a round trip on Southwest (though not in as many cases as it used to be).

Having and holding no annual fee cards is a good move for your credit, and getting $200+ worth of Southwest travel for your trouble isn’t too bad either.

$660 Toward Airfare with Navy Federal Credit Union Credit Card — Only for Military (But It’s a Great Offer)

The Navy Federal Credit Union offers a Visa Flagship Rewards Card that offers a bonus of $600 toward airfare when you spend $3,000 in your first 90 days (you’re given 60,000 points, which are equal to 1 cent worth of airfare). The $49 annual fee is waived in the first year.

You also earn 2 points toward airfare with all of your spend – so it’s basically a 2% cash back card where the cash back is applied to any airfare that you purchase (you don’t need to buy through them – you can buy your own airfare and send them an email to be reimbursed). So that initial $600 becomes $660 because of the points you earn on the $3,000 minimum spend.

Now here’s the catch: you basically need to be an active or retired member of the military (or a family member of one) to be eligible to join the Navy Federal Credit Union (they have full information on eligibility on this page).

So not everyone will qualify — but if you DO qualify, that’s a pretty good deal for a card you’ve never heard of and the flexibility to spend the cash on any airline you like (yes yes, I know – if you are looking for a free business class ticket to Europe, this card is not for you. But this can be great for trips like the one I just did to Hawaii where this would’ve bought me 4 roundtrip tickets within the islands).

Details and application here.

Virgin Atlantic Credit Card “65,000 Mile” Deal Is Back (Really 50,000 Miles)

The Virgin Atlantic American Express Mastercard is once again offering an improvement over their normal bonus miles offer:

– 20,000 miles after first purchase
– 25,000 miles after $2,500 spend in 90 days
– 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user
– 15,000 miles on your anniversary

There’s a $90 annual fee that’s not waived.

I’d get this card because miles transfer 1:2 to Hilton not because they’re of much use on Virgin Atlantic (they charge ridiculous fuel surcharges for international travel).

APPLY HERE

2 Questions I’m Often Asked About Flights

Question 1:
I’m flying coach. Should I take the aisle seat, or take a middle seat in a bulkhead/premium economy?

I can be convinced either way on this one, but historically I have chosen to take the middle seat with additional legroom. It’s a tough call…I actually think width of seat (or not having someone next to you) makes as much (if not more) difference than legroom. So perhaps my more nuanced answer is this: if there is nobody next to you, I’d recommend the aisle seat. If there IS going to be someone in that middle seat, then go for the middle seat with the extra legroom. How do you handle this conundrum?

Question 2:
There are all sorts of ways to save money with hotels by waiting til the last minute (Priceline, Hotel Tonight, etc), so where should I look for great deals on last minute airfares?

It is true that you can often save money by booking hotels at the last minute – hotels (especially independent hotels) have decided that they are willing to use certain distribution partners (Hotel Tonight, for example) to offer lower priced rooms at the last minute. But that’s not how airlines work. In most cities there are lots of options for hotel rooms at the last minute (assuming there isn’t something nutty going on in that city). One hotel doesn’t have the pricing power to charge $1500 for a regular room at the last minute. Airlines, though, do have that power – whether it’s because a given flight is the only way to get home this evening, or because of loyalty to a certain carrier, airlines (generally) have the pricing power to charge $1500 for that last minute seat.

All of that is to say that there is no secret place to go for cheap last minute tickets. Fares, especially domestic fares, are basically the same across all booking channels (because airlines have agreements to make the lowest available fare available with each online travel agency). You can argue about whether that makes sense, but the end result is that airlines are not secretly making last minute inventory available someplace (well, not exactly — you can still find some deals on Priceline, though you don’t know times or the airlines you’re flying).

Introducing Classbuxx.com – Earn Cash Back for Your Children’s School

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been working on a cash back site, and we’re now launched:

Classbuxx.com is a cash back shopping site where the cash back that you earn goes to the school of your choosing. We’ve got more than 500 retailers and travel companies live on the site now, with lots more to come. I think you’ll find that for most retailers the cash back we’re offering is much better than other cash-back-for-your-school sites (or at least what our major competitor offers).

If you’ve never used a cash back site before, you just pick the online store you want to go to from the list on the site, click on the link, and you’ll earn cash back that goes to the school you choose. It’s really easy.

I’d love any feedback you have – there are still some design tweaks we’re making along the way, but if you find anything that isn’t working correctly please shoot me an email either at my OTR email address or at support (at) classbuxx.com.

I know our kids’ school is ALWAYS looking to raise funds, and this is a great way to help your child’s school raise money without having to sell chocolate or magazines :)

Tell your friends and I look forward to everyone’s feedback.

cb

A Bunch of Things I’ve Been Meaning to Write Blurbs About (Damn You, Dangling Preposition!)

– JetBlue launches Mint, its schmancy new first class on JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO routes, beginning next June. Fares start at $599 each way, which is a pretty good deal. They’re offering $499 each way for travel June 15-18. I wish Virgin America the best of luck now that they have to bring their fares down to match.

– Delta will be implementing Windows Surface 2 tablets in their cockpits, much to the chagrin of their pilots who are a bunch of Apple fanboys (and girls).

– Half of British Airways pilots say they’ve fallen asleep in the cockpit.

– As you’ve no doubt read elsewhere, US Airways has brought back their deal where if you share 50,000 miles, they’ll thrown in another 50,000 miles. This ends up working out to about 1.1 cents per mile, which is great if you have somewhere specific you’d like to go where that’s a good price (ie, you’re basically buying a business class ticket to Asia for $1,000). I generally don’t suggest just buying the miles without a specific trip in mind (who knows if they’ll change their award chart, etc…)