Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and productive Black Friday.
First, a quick reminder that today is Small Business Saturday. Don’t forget to participate and get $30 in free money for every American Express card you have! Details in this post.
Discounted eBay gift cards
Currently there is an offer for 10% off eBay gift cards. They are sold in $50 denominations and you can buy up to 3 per account.
This is a good deal not only for the 10% off (if you regularly shop on eBay anyway, it’s a no-brainer), but also for the double-dip potential because you can use the gift cards to buy other gift cards afterwards.
For example, GiftCardMall, the large gift card seller whose racks you’ve probably seen in retail stores, has a storefront on eBay. Occasionally they offer discounts through that channel, such as this (now expired) offer of 15% off Toys R Us gift cards.
Update: Appears to still work as of early Wednesday morning. FlyerTalk has reports of availability for the following:
Origin: Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Madrid, Malta, Istanbul
Via: Singapore, Beijing
Destination: Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Newark, New York (JFK), and San Juan (SJU)
Flights from certain cities in Europe to Singapore, and from Singapore to the US, are pricing out around €300.
Here are a couple of examples I found.
Rome to Singapore to Los Angeles for €289:
Milan to Singapore to New York for €349:
I don’t have time to search extensively at the moment, but in my quick pass it worked on dates ranging from December through April. Appears to be on SkyTeam Alliance carriers, so I would search those hubs.
To search I suggest using ITA Matrix (use the “multi-city” tab and select “plus/minus 2 days” for best results).
You cannot book on ITA, but with your findings can book through Priceline or Orbitz.
I do not have time to check cancellation policies at the moment, but from my prior experience Priceline allows a full refund up to 11:30 pm ET the day after booking. Your experience may vary, or the policy may have changed, so please do your own due diligence.
This is likely a mistake fare that could die any minute and may or may not be honored, so proceed with that in mind.
As with all potential mistake fares:
DO NOT CALL the airlines or booking sites while the deal is still live as that will kill it prematurely.
Do not book other non-refundable arrangements (hotels, positioning flights, etc.) until it is confirmed the fare will be honored.
If the fare isn’t honored don’t get upset; just move on to the next deal. 🙂
This is a one-way fare so you’ll of course have to arrange a positioning flight as well. From the US, the cheapest way I know of is to use 20,000 American AAdvantage miles for a one-way flight to Europe during off-peak dates. From the US East Coast another option is to use British Airways miles where award flights to Europe start at 20,000 miles year round.
Skype is a great tool that makes international phone calls economical – whether you’re at home calling abroad or vice versa.
Though there are other services for the same purpose, Skype is my personal favorite for ease of use and call quality/reliability.
You can do a lot for free on Skype, but many features – including international calling features – are not free. I’ve never paid full price for them though; I find ways to buy Skype credit at a discount.
Currently Newegg is offering 50% off Skype prepaid credit – the highest discount I’ve seen from any credible retailer.
Every few months, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) releases a new PointBreaks list. I consider PointBreaks one of the best deals in hotel loyalty programs, with award nights offered at the deeply discounted rate of 5,000 points per night.
IHG brands consist of the following:
A new set of PointBreaks properties was released for booking today. The list can be found here, and I have also pasted it below for convenience.
I value an IHG point at $0.007 (seven tenths of one cent), so being able to book a room for 5,000 points is like spending $35.
$35 a night is a good deal for just about any decent hotel property anywhere.
But among the 100+ properties on each PointBreaks list, there is usually a handful of extraordinary deals – InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, and Hotel Indigo properties that normally require up to 50,000 points for an award night (or several hundred dollars for a paid night).
If you’re short on points, I previously wrote about how to earn IHG Rewards points. Among the methods described, there is a way to indirectly buy points for $0.007 each.
List of participating properties
Below is the full list as of this writing. The offer is valid through February 28, 2015, but award nights are capacity controlled and desirable properties go quickly so if interested I would book as soon as possible.
Once a property sells out of PointBreaks nights it drops off the PointBreaks page and the 5,000-point rate no longer displays for booking.
Each member may make up to two PointBreaks reservations per property. A reservation can be of any duration (availability permitting).
Greetings from Buenos Aires again. It rained here today but I can hardly complain considering the weather some are experiencing back home in the US. I hope everyone is keeping warm.
Thought I’d share a few random deals today. They are small deals, but they’re also quick and easy so the return on your (time) investment is not bad.
10% off Target gift cards on Black Friday
This one’s pretty simple: get 10% off Target gift cards on Black Friday. A no-brainer if you normally shop at Target anyway.
The nice thing about this deal is it’s available both in store (from 6 AM to noon local time) and online (from 6 AM to noon Central Time). I’m not one to brave Black Friday crowds but I will happily shop online that day.
Note that cards purchased during this promotion cannot be redeemed until the next day, so no double dipping with the Black Friday merchandise deals.
There is a limit of $300 in gift cards per household.
$30 in American Express statement credits on Small Business Saturday
The Saturday after Thanksgiving is the Amex-created “holiday” Small Business Saturday. The objective is to encourage more customers to shop at small businesses, and this year Amex is offering $30 in statement credits to customers who do.
Things to keep in mind:
When you spend $10 or more in a single transaction at a participating business you get a $10 statement credit. Maximum of three statements credits per card.
Find participating small business in your area here.
Must register your Amex card(s) in advance. The easiest way to register is to log into your Amex account, click the “Offers for You” tab (pictured below), find the Small Business Saturday offer, and click “Save Offer.”
Registration is limited so I would register now in case it fills up later.
There are plenty of participating businesses (at least in my area), many of them good local restaurants. But I don’t usually want to eat there on the exact Saturday of this offer, so I purchase gift cards for future use.
If you have multiple Amex cards, register them all. $30 per card adds up to a decent sum of free money if you have multiple cards.
If you buy something costing over $20, do a split payment (pay half on one Amex card, half on another) to get two statement credits instead of one. I am not sure if split payments using the same exact credit card will work, but if you try it I would suggest varying the amounts so it’s not perceived as a duplicate transaction. (E.g. for a $25 purchase, do $12 on one swipe and $13 on the other instead of $12.50 on both.)
$10 prepaid reward Visa card for enrolling in Visa Checkout
Visa Checkout is the online payment system introduced by Visa last year to allow users to make online purchases without sharing credit card information with retailers.
Bank of America is currently offering a $10 prepaid Visa card for enrolling in Visa Checkout (enroll here).
The offer expires on December 4, 2014 and requires that you enroll with a Bank of America Visa credit or debit card.
The discount is 30% for non-members and 40% for Le Club Accorhotels members. (Hint: membership is free.) You can join through the page linked above.
There are participating hotels around the world, with the bulk in Europe as you would expect of a European hotel chain.
I checked a few cities and rates looked quite good, but as always it makes sense to comparison shop just in case.
Here’s a quick example for Barcelona – $73/night for the 4-star Novotel in the city center, with breakfast included:
If you’re willing to stay in the suburbs, there are properties with rates under $30/night such as this:
The sale ends November 28 and the stay must occur between December 15, 2014 and February 8, 2015. (However, in some markets the stay period is extended to as late as April 13; see the T&Cs for details.)
I’ll be first to admit that when it comes to cleanliness and hygiene my standards are excessive. I’m a mysophobe, probably to a pathological degree. (It’s part of my charm.)
I also stay in hotels a lot. And unfortunately I think hotels are gross.
You’re sleeping on pillows that hundreds, possibly thousands, of strangers have put their sweaty, greasy head on night after night. (I’m not saying my head is any less sweaty or greasy; I’m just saying I don’t like sleeping on other people’s sweat and grease.)
If it’s a hotel room with those big heavy comforters, I am certain those things aren’t washed regularly. And don’t get me started about the shower. I have heard (even civilized) people admit to peeing in the shower; it’s one of those things I just have to not think about.
One of my habits when staying in a hotel is to put away all my personal things before leaving the room for the day.
Electronics and other sensitive or valuable items go in the safe – that’s a given. But I don’t even leave my toothbrush out as it would disgust me if housekeeping dropped it in the sink (which thousands of strangers have spat into) and put it back as if nothing happened (so I wouldn’t know to replace it).
When it comes to how hotel housekeeping works, I know I’m better off not knowing.
Unfortunately, I often get to see housekeeping in action.
I’m almost always working when I travel, even when not on a business trip per se. And I often work from the hotel room during the day, so I’m there when housekeeping comes.
Some very common procedures I’ve witnessed:
The housekeeper will go straight from cleaning the toilet to making the bed – without washing her hands or changing gloves. (I assume she doesn’t change gloves from one guest room to the next, either.)
Pillows are placed on the floor while the bed is made, then picked up and put right back on the bed without a change of pillowcase.
The same rag used to clean the bathroom is used to wipe down the desk and nightstand.
And these are just the things they do while I’m there. I try not to imagine how they “clean” the room when it’s vacant.
Well, as it turns out…no imagination is necessary!
A video taken by another traveler, which has gone viral, depicts not just bad hygiene practices, but actual snooping by a housekeeper.
She rummages through the guest’s luggage.
She picks up and tries to use the guest’s tablet.
She also attempts to access the guest’s laptop several times. (How much sensitive personal information resides on laptops and tablets?)
All this while wearing the gloves she cleaned the bathroom with.
Enjoy the video, and remember to lock up your valuables!
In case I don’t have opportunity to post on Veterans Day itself, allow me a moment to express my appreciation to our service members.
I will never know first-hand what it is like to be a service member, but as the daughter of a vet (and friend and colleague of several other vets) I do have a glimpse into the sacrifice that service entails.
So to all who have served our country, please accept my gratitude.
WOW air commences service to North America
I have wanted to visit Iceland for a while, but for various reasons have not been proactive about making it happen. However, this might nudge it off the back burner…
WOW air, a self-described “cheeky Icelandic low-cost airline,” recently started flying to North America.
Currently the lowest-priced ticket I can find for that route is $146 one way. That’s still a deal as it normally runs about $600 round trip on other carriers, but I’ll for sure be keeping an eye out for the next $99 sale.
Of course, when you fly a low-cost airline you can expect an “un-bundled” experience, meaning just about everything but the seat costs extra. Indeed, the fee for a carry-on bag on WOW air is upwards of $29.
But remember: when other airlines say you get free bags, they’re not really free. They’re just included in the price of the ticket.
Starbucks Veterans Day promotion
To circle back to Veterans Day, I just wanted to let everyone know about Starbucks’ offer to service members and their spouses: