May 23 2015

1,500 Free Spirit Miles, New PointBreaks Round About to Open, and More Deals

Happy Memorial Day weekend – the unofficial start of summer!

I hope everyone is having a great weekend whether traveling or relaxing at home, but please don’t forget the significance of the holiday and take a moment to remember those who served.

 

Random deals

For fun, here are a few random deals:

  • Free smoothie at White Castle tomorrow.
  • Get a coupon code for $10 off an in-store purchase of $10 or more at JCPenney by texting “FB” to 527365. That signs you up for JCP text alerts, so if you don’t want the ongoing spam then text “STOP” after you’ve used the coupon.
  • Get a $20 rebate when you buy $300+ of Visa Gift Cards at Staples May 24-30. The gift cards have a purchase fee ($6.95 per $200 card) so the deal only nets $6.10 in profit (when buying two $200 cards). However, I pay with a Chase Ink card that earns 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar, netting 2,069 points. I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so the points are worth $35.

Staples VGC

 

1,500 Free Spirit miles

For loyalists of Spirit Airlines, here’s an easy way to earn up to 1,500 Free Spirit miles by taking three quizzes for 500 miles each.

Answers are very intuitive – just remember Spirit is a discount airline – but you do have to get them correct to earn the points. You can always re-take the quiz if necessary 🙂

(If you are not a Spirit loyalist, I wouldn’t bother since Spirit miles expire after three months of inactivity.)

 

New set of PointBreaks hotels bookable on Monday

Just a heads-up, booking for the next round of IHG PointBreaks hotels will go live on Tuesday, May 26 for stays through July 31, 2015.

I consider PointBreaks one of the best deals in hotel loyalty programs, with hotel rooms available at the deeply discounted rate of 5,000 points per night.

I value an IHG point at 0.7 cents, so it’s like paying $35 a night. If you’re unfamiliar, I’ve described the program at length in prior posts (such as this one).

IC Nha Trang
The InterContinental Nha Trang – on the new PointBreaks list – is a steal at 5,000 points per night

Every time a new round is released, the desirable properties go quickly – in a matter of hours, if not sooner.

The discounted rate usually loads sometime between 8 to 10 AM Eastern on the day booking opens. However, the official PointBreaks page usually doesn’t display the new properties until the afternoon – by which time many desirable properties are gone. (If you go to that page before the new round is loaded, you’ll just see properties from the prior round still there.)

So here’s my strategy in advance of each new round:

  • Check out the preview list now and identify properties I’m interested in.
  • On the Eastern Time morning of the day booking opens (Tuesday, May 26 for this round), go to the webpage of each desired property (accessible from the preview list) and navigate to the booking page.
  • Find the 5,000-points-per-night-rate and book it! Again, the exact time the PointBreaks rate loads is unknown, but it’s usually between 8-10 AM EST. I just periodically refresh the page until it appears (I don’t sit there and stare at the page the whole time; I work on other things in another window).

Happy hunting!

 

May 3 2015

Kroger Promotion on Gift Cards – Up to 30% Off

With Mother’s Day approaching, many retailers are offering nice promotions on gift cards.

For example, the Kroger grocery chain – which includes Ralphs, Fred Meyer, and Harris Teeter, among others – currently offers the following through May 10th:

  • $10 off two GAP, GAP Options, Banana Republic and/or Old Navy Gift Cards
  • $20 Dominos gift card for $16
  • $5 off two $25 or more Bath & Body Works gift cards ($50 for $45)
  • $5 off two $25 or more Applebee’s gift cards ($50 for $45)
  • $15 off two $25 or more Groupon gift cards ($50 for $35)
  • $5 off two $25 or more Michael’s gift cards ($50 for $45)
  • $5 off Yankee Candle gift cards
  • $5 off one $25 or more Fandango gift card
  • $10 off two $25 or more Payless gift cards ($50 for $40)
  • $5 off two Aeropostale gift cards
  • $10 off two Carnival gift cards
  • $10 off two $25 or more Spafinder gift cards ($50 for $40)
  • $5 off one $25 or more Skype gift card ($25 for $20)
  • $10 off two Jiffy Lube gift cards totaling $50 or more ($100 for $90)

Aside from the Gap/Banana Republic offer (which can be combined with store promotions like Gap’s current 35% off + free shipping), the 30% discount on Groupon is particularly appealing.

Here’s how to maximize it on travel…

Buy Groupon gift cards at 30% off

This offer is only available in-store, and you must first load the digital coupon to your store loyalty account.

But none of that is out of my way as I need groceries anyway and it only takes a few seconds to load the coupon to my account (I do so through the Ralphs app).

Ralphs Groupon

The result is $50 worth of gift cards for $35.

Plus, Kroger is currently offering double fuel points on purchases made on weekends. (You earn 10 cents off per gallon of fuel for every $50 spent on gift cards.)

Your fuel savings depends on how much gas you buy, but for simplicity let’s value the fuel points at $1.

Use the gift cards to buy Groupon products

Groupon has thousands of items, from merchandise to spa treatments to restaurants to travel.

I’ve scored some great deals over the years (but it does take some “vetting” as not all offers are great).

Let’s analyze a hotel offer.

Since the Kroger offer is limited to $50 in gift cards (per loyalty account), buying a product right at the $50 price point maximizes our savings (percentage-wise).

Take this Hampton Inn & Suites in Center, Texas – it has standard king rooms from $50/night (click on the image to enlarge):

Groupon Hampton Inn
Click to enlarge

The price includes breakfast and a $5 Starbucks gift card. For simplicity let’s value the Starbucks card at par.

Groupon itself already sells discounted products, so we are just layering on more savings with the Kroger promo.

Ultimately, our net cost is $29/night ($35 gift card cost minus $1 fuel savings minus $5 Starbucks perk).

Not bad for a stay at a reputable hotel (Hampton Inn is part of the Hilton chain). Check out Groupon’s travel offerings and see if you fancy anything.

Caveats:

  • Most Groupon travel offers are non-refundable, so be sure of your plans before buying. Many (but not all) merchandise deals have free returns, however.
  • If you don’t need anything from Groupon immediately, just buy the gift cards now to lock in those savings. To spend them, wait until Groupon offers a percent-off discount. (They recently offered 20% off all beauty and spa deals, for example.)

Finally, if you don’t already have a Groupon account, do a friend a favor and sign up through his or her referral link. Unfortunately you don’t get anything for it, but the friend gets $10 if you make a purchase. Feel free to use mine. 🙂

Wishing you, as always, safe travels.

(Source: this Slickdeals thread.)

May 2 2015

1,000 Free Aadvantage Miles, Half Off Starbucks, Complimentary Wine Tasting, Free Museum Entrance, and JetBlue Signup Bonus

Happy weekend!

I’ve been cooped up all month thanks to work deadlines so I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend. Here are a few good travel (and non-travel) deals to consider…

 

1,000 free American Airlines Aadvantage miles

This one’s really easy:

  • Go here and type in your “dream destination”
  • Watch all six videos and answer a question after each video (you don’t have to get the correct answer)
  • Enter your account information at the end

I value AA miles at 1.6 cents each, so I view this as $16 for about two minutes of my time. (I didn’t count the time it takes to actually watch the videos since I just let them run in another window while doing other things, only coming back to answer the question after each video.)

Promotion ends June 12, 2015.

 

7,000-point JetBlue signup bonus

If you’re not already a member of JetBlue’s loyalty program, TrueBlue, the airline is offering a new-member promotion.

JetBlue signup bonus

To earn 7,000 bonus TrueBlue points, join and register here then book a trip and fly by June 18, 2015. (The flight can be one way or round trip.)

I value a TrueBlue point at 1.4 cents, so this equates to a $98 bonus. That’s a great deal, especially considering JetBlue flights start at $49. Playing your cards well, you can essentially extract 3 flights for the price of 1 with this promotion.

 

50% off Starbucks

Now through May 10, Starbucks is offering 50% off Frappuccino beverages from 3-5pm. (Members of the My Starbucks Rewards program get an extra hour – until 6pm.)

Sbux happy hour

To me 50% off starts to make Starbucks prices seem reasonable, but you can do even better by paying with a Starbucks gift card acquired at a discount. (There are currently no deals on that, to my knowledge, but past examples would be this and this.)

 

Complimentary wine tasting at Andaz West Hollywood

On May 13, Andaz West Hollywood is hosting a complimentary wine tasting from 6-8pm.

While not something I’d personally go out of my way for, I might stop by if it were right on my way.

 

Free museum admission this weekend

Finally, just a quick reminder that this weekend Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders are offered free admission to 150+ museums.

Enjoy the weekend!

 

April 4 2015

$100 ExxonMobil Gift Card for $90

Happy Easter weekend!

Gas card deals seem popular around here so I thought I’d mention this offer that just popped up on my email.

eBay has $100 ExxonMobil gift cards on offer for $90. This is from a reputable seller (not a random person selling on eBay) and probably will sell out quickly so grab it soon if interested. Shipping is free.

Exxon Ebay

Enjoy the weekend.

March 13 2015

1,000 Free Hilton HHonors Points & Complimentary Uber Ride in a Rolls-Royce

Happy Pi Day! (I know it’s actually tomorrow.) I hope everyone’s weekend is off to a great start.

Here are some deals for your weekend fix. 🙂

 

Easy 1,000 Hilton HHonors points

Free points don’t get much easier than this.

Hilton will eventually require members of its loyalty program to change from using a 4-digit PIN to a password.

They’re offering 1,000 points to members who make the change before March 25.

HHonors Banner Detail
Click to enlarge

Reset or create a password by:

  • Visiting www.HHonors.com/Login with your current username or HHonors number and existing password/PIN.
  • On the left-hand side, under the My Profile section, click “Personal Information.”
  • If you have a password, select “Change Password;” if you do not have a password, select “create username and password.”

I’m not much of a Hilton person these days but I still have a moderate amount of points in my account, so I take advantage of random opportunities like this to generate activity that resets the expiration clock on my points.

 

Free Uber ride in a Rolls-Royce

This weekend Uber is offering free rides in a Rolls-Royce in Los Angeles and New York City.

Uber RollsRoyce

The deal is pretty simple (instructions are found in the links above) but the catch is that there is limited availability and the coverage area is quite narrow.

In NYC rides are only available in Manhattan below 59th Street, and in LA the coverage map is as follows:

Uber RollsRoyce LA

I happen to be in one of the coverage areas tonight and fired up my Uber app to take advantage of this offer. But, alas, no Rolls-Royces were available nearby. So they’re not kidding about the limited availability. Better luck to others!

If you’re not already on Uber feel free to use my referral link, which currently gives $20 off your first ride.

 

March 1 2015

Get 20% and $25 off at Virgin America, Earn Miles via United Shopping App

Good evening – I hope everyone had a nice weekend!

A few quick notes for you…

 

Earn miles shopping through United’s MileagePlus X app

United’s newly-launched MileagePlus X app provides a way to earn miles for in-store shopping.

UA MileagePlus X app

The video is pretty clear, but to summarize:

  • Download the app.
  • Log in to your MileagePlus account. The app will sync your account with the payment cards stored in your united.com profile.
  • Search for participating stores (they should load automatically based on your location).
  • At the register, enter the total purchase price into the app to buy an electronic gift card for that amount, then show the app to the cashier to complete the purchase.

The process is a little more convoluted than I prefer since I like things as automated (i.e. brainless for me) as possible, but I shouldn’t complain about getting miles for buying stuff I’d have bought anyway.

One important consideration is you’re paying with a gift card (purchased on the spot through the app) – which is not the same thing as paying directly with a credit card.

Credit cards often provide warranties and other consumer protections not provided by gift cards. And if you return the merchandise you’ll likely be refunded in the form of a store credit.

 

Virgin America 10% or 20% off

If you’re still looking for spring break travel discounts, Virgin America is offering up to 20% off through today (March 1st).

VA 20 pref

Be sure to use promo code ESCAPE20 and note the 20% is valid for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday travel between March 6 and April 9, 2015.

Monday, Thursday, and Friday travel receive 10% off.

 

Virgin America $25 off $50+

Also from Virgin America, purchase a flight using Visa Checkout and earn $25 off a future flight.

VA Visa Checkout

Any credit card can be used with Visa Checkout, and if you don’t already have an account you can create one in the process.

Do note:

  • Offer is valid until March 15, 2015 or while supplies last.
  • The $25 discount (which should come by email in 1-2 weeks) must be redeemed by July 31, 2015 for travel flown by January 4, 2016.

Enjoy the remaining weekend!

 

February 16 2015

Helicopter to the Airport for $99 & Many Other Deals

Happy Presidents Day!

The last few weeks were super busy (not in a bad way), resulting in abandoning the second half of my Birmingham trip to get home early. But with that behind us I’m paying attention to travel deals again.

One of the most interesting (to me) is the launch of Gotham Air.

Gotham Air

In partnership with a helicopter flight operator, Gotham Air provides helicopter rides from New York City to JFK and Newark Liberty airports. The ride is said to take six minutes.

Regular pricing is $199 to $219 depending on departure time, but currently promo code LAUNCH discounts the fare to $99.

That’s a great deal considering a taxi between the city and JFK can cost upwards of $50 and a decent car service can exceed $99.

And that doesn’t consider the time savings. A 6-minute helicopter ride vs. hour(s) in city traffic – not a tough choice. Heck, even full price doesn’t seem unreasonable given the time savings.

Gotham Air pricing

However, as with all newly-launched services there is the potential for “bugs” in the system. A few concerns came to mind based on either my own (limited) helicopter-riding experience or Gotham Air’s FAQs:

  • A flight is not guaranteed to depart unless four or more seats have been paid in full. So if using this service I’d suggest having a back-up plan.
  • Luggage is limited to one carry-on of up to 25 pounds. That’s a pretty onerous restriction even if you travel light. (The company says if you have more luggage they can “probably make special arrangements,” but does not say what cost/hassle such arrangements might incur.)
  • Unlike taking a taxi or car service, you need to get to the heliport to begin the journey. They currently operate from just one heliport – at Pier 6 – although two more will be added “soon.”
  • Helicopter rides are loud, cramped, and not always smooth (I personally get very motion-sick in them). Of course a 6-minute ride isn’t long, so I’m not saying this would be a horrible experience. Just suggesting it be viewed as a practical means of getting to the airport rather than an indulgent experience.

In any case, I would definitely consider this next time I’m in NYC. If you beat me to it, let me know how it goes!

 

Other deals

Travel

  • Hilton HHonors Dining: A signup bonus of up to 2,000 points. If you are unfamiliar with travel-provider-affiliated dining programs, see this post for tips. (Join by Mar. 31, 2015.)
  • La Quinta Inns & Suites: 300 points for watching a video. Don’t forget to click the “Get Your Points” button at the end to input your membership information for the points. [Thanks to InACents.]

Not travel-specific

  • Wilsons Leather: $10 off a purchase of $10+ with promo code 7785. I needed a new phone case and picked one up for a net cost of 49 cents. Although the code already gives free shipping, I used ShopRunner for free expedited shipping and free returns (though obviously I wouldn’t bother returning a 49-cent item). I did not see an expiration date to the promo code but since it is a Presidents Day offer I wouldn’t expect it to last beyond today.
  • Neiman Marcus: $50 off a purchase of $100+ when paying with Visa Checkout. Any credit card can be used with Visa Checkout. (Expires Feb. 17, 2015.)
  • Chick-fil-A: Free coffee (hot or iced) throughout February.
  • Free pedometer (for AAA members). Or just download a pedometer app for your phone. 🙂 (Valid until Mar. 31, 2015 or while supplies last.)

Enjoy the remaining weekend.

January 26 2015

Roundtrip Flights to Panama City from Many US Cities for ~$350, and Other Deals

The Panama Canal has been on my (long) to-see list for a while but every time a good fare comes up the timing never seems to work for me.

Currently there is a nice fare with fairly wide availability – and it works for many US cities! I did not search Canada but there are reports of similar prices from Canadian cities as well.

Here are a few examples. While these are all March examples, I saw availability through as late as November.

Roundtrip from Los Angeles for $366:

LAX-PTY

Roundtrip from New York for $366:

NYC-PTY

Roundtrip from Dallas for $340:

DFW-PTY

To search I suggest using ITA Matrix. For dates, select “see calendar of lowest fares” for best results.

You cannot book on ITA, but with your findings can book on Priceline or Orbitz.

[Thanks to Secret Flying.]

 

A few other randoms…

Don’t forget about the Chipotle free burrito offer today.

Through the Dunkin Donuts mobile app, get a $5 gift card and a free medium beverage when you purchase a $2 gift card. Details here.

Finally, if you need to restock on travel-size toiletries, snag some free toothpaste. 🙂

January 19 2015

NYC to Milan for $400/Person Round Trip, Up to 50% off Las Vegas Hotels, and More

Fly round trip New York to Milan for $400/person

Emirates is offering round-trip tickets from New York to Milan for about $400 per person. You must book for two passengers to get this rate.

Emirates Milan banner

These fares can be booked on Priceline. Here’s a sample itinerary for a Valentine’s Day getaway:

Emirates Itin

Purchase by January 22, 2015 for travel to be completed by May 31, 2015.

 

Up to 50% off at Las Vegas hotels

Vegas.com has a bunch of hotel offers for up to 50% off. Some even include a food & beverage credit, like this one:

Circus Circus

I’m not actually suggesting staying at Circus Circus; just pointing out that there are some potential deals here. $2/night (after the f&b credit but before the resort fee) is not bad!

But I would like to stay at the new, upscale SLS Hotel. (I previously wrote about how one could have stayed there for negative $14/night, exclusive of resort fees.)

Some good rates for that property can be found with this offer, such as this $55 rate:

SLS $50

Do note a few “quirks” of traveling to Las Vegas:

  • Vegas is very much a weekend destination, so hotel prices skyrocket on weekends and holidays. The lowest rates are usually for midweek stays.
  • Almost all hotels assess a “resort fee” that is payable at the property (not at the time of your online booking) and therefore not included in the quoted rate (although clearly disclosed, ideally). These fees are pesky but unfortunately common to the Las Vegas hotel market.

 

Free drink on Alaska Airlines today

Finally, for my Trojan friends…

Congratulations to Pete Carroll’s USC-hawks.

If you are flying Alaska Airlines out of Seattle today, enjoy a complimentary cocktail for the occasion.

Alaska free drinkCheers!

January 18 2015

US Airways 2,000-Mile Dining Bonus, Expedia $25 off $100, and More

Good evening! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend.

Don’t forget tomorrow, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, the National Park Service is offering free entrance to all US national parks.

For your travel-deal fix, here are a bunch of other offers.

 

2,000 US Airways miles for dining

You can earn 2,000 US Airways miles as a signup bonus with the US Airways dining program.

US Air dining signup bonus

To earn the bonus:

  • Join by February 1, 2015,
  • Spend $30 or more at a participating restaurant within 30 days of joining, and
  • Write a review (which is quick and painless to do).

The $30 must be spent in one transaction, but if you wouldn’t normally spend that much at one meal then just buy a gift card to use over time.

If you’re unfamiliar with travel-provider-affiliated dining programs, I explain here.

Even if you do not collect US Airways miles, this promotion is still valuable if you collect American Airlines miles.

As you may know, the two airlines merged in 2013. At this time their respective frequent flyer programs still operate separately. However, when they merge later this year, mileage balances will be combined.

So this promotion is also an indirect way to earn 2,000 American miles.

 

$25 off $100+ at Expedia

Expedia is offering coupons for $25 off a hotel booking of $100 or more made through the mobile app.

To obtain a coupon, enter your mobile number here. They will text you back a unique discount code.

The nice thing about this deal is that you can request up to three coupons per account (but must wait 24 hours between requests).

Coupons must be redeemed by March 31, 2015 for travel through the same date.

 

Travelocity savings

Travelocity also has a couple of mobile offers, but note they expire at 11:59 PM tonight (January 18):

Travelocity app coupons

For $30 off $100+ use code MOBILE30JAN. For $40 off $150+ use code MOBILE40JAN.

The terms limit these to one’s first hotel booking via app, so if you’ve previously used another Travelocity app coupon on the same account this one may not “take.”

Many national brands are excluded, but these are still nice discounts if you find a boutique hotel that works with your travel plans.

 

Other deals

Finally, a few random non-travel deals while I’m at it:

Enjoy the remaining weekend.