Archive | July 2013

Home Improvement Gift Card Now Allows You To Set A Pin (Free 5X Points!) [Expired]

Update 2: Lots of reports of this no longer working.

Update: Seeing some mixed reports. Some confirmation but didn’t work for others. I suggest small amounts to test!

We’ve recently been renovating our home office, and had been doing so using several Amazon.com gift cards and Home Improvement Gift Cards from office supply stores in order to maximize the 5X Chase Ink spending bonus. The Home Improvement Gift Card is a fee free gift card which you can normally load $20-$500 on that is valid at several of the big name home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowes, as well as Sears and several others. It’s a very useful gift card in itself, and is a Discover card. Frequent Miler wrote about it previously here, but at that time it did not have the new feature I’m about to reveal.
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Changing Southwest Rapid Rewards Award Flights

In my previous post on domestic flight options using Ultimate Rewards I covered booking domestic flights on Southwest. A little while ago I had noticed that a flight I wanted for a friend’s wedding later this year was on sale. I went ahead and booked an award by transferring Ultimate Reward points to Southwest. At the same time, I saw that the return flight I wanted for that weekend had gone up in price! Since Southwest award flights are price-based as far as the number of points required for an award, I decided to book a Saturday flight for 2,000 less points (4,000 over two tickets) and change it when I saw the Sunday flight on sale. Well it happened to go on sale this week.

I’ve only booked one Southwest award flight so far, and hadn’t needed to change it. However, I thought I had read that it was possible and free to do so. Turns out it is very easy! I logged in to my account on Southwest, went to My Account -> My Travel and was able to see my reservations. On each reservation there is a “Change Reservation” or “Cancel Reservation” link. The alternative is to go to the blue Air tab at the top of the screen and click Change Reservation or Cancel Reservation there.

Southwest Change Reservation Option

Southwest Change Reservation Option

 

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Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel Review

I recently stayed at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel through Priceline. I was looking for a room near the beach area for July 3rd. Prices were a little more than I was looking to spend, and I have too many points allocated for other stays. Since the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay Priceline stay went so well I decided to try again! This time, I was able to get a room for $91 through bidding for a mystery hotel. I was happy with the result as I had been looking specifically at that hotel since they have an infinity pool on the ocean. The cheapest price I had found was around $110.

Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort Infinity Pool

Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel Infinity Pool

Using Priceline saved me roughly $20-30, and was worth it since I am not going for status at a particular chain. Points would be nice, but I can typically generate the points based on spend, so I’m not concerned with one or two nights right now. I may care more about points/status stays as I get further into this hobby, but right now I would rather have $20 in my pocket!

When we arrived I requested an ocean view. The front desk agent was very friendly and gave us a room in the Beach Towers, right by the infinity pool. The hotel is slightly dated, but was nice.

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Rookie Misplay #5 – Always Call Back If The Agent Is Not Helpful

There comes a point in this hobby where instant credit card approvals stop happening. I’ve discussed my experiences calling the reconsideration lines in previous posts. Sometimes all they want to know is how much credit you want on a line. But in other instances, or even when booking awards through an agent I think the lesson I learned earlier this week definitely applies!

I’ve read many blog posts that mention the benefits of calling back if you get a unresponsive agent who isn’t willing to help. Earlier this week I saw that in action.

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Domestic Flight Options Using Ultimate Rewards

I hope everyone here in the U.S. had a great 4th of July! I used some of my points towards cheap domestic flights for the holiday. This information will not be new for any frequent points travelers, but for those new to the game hopefully it will help. I had read quite a few blog posts on how to book cheap point-based domestic flights, but this was my first attempt.

The standard awards on United, Delta, US or American Airlines tend to be above 20,000 miles roundtrip (with some variation) for domestic flights. That’s a significant amount of miles that could be put towards a future business or first class flight to somewhere far away! So I looked into some cheaper options. I had heard of using Avios to fly on British Airways, but had never tried. British Airways award flights can be booked as distance-based awards. The shortest British Airways distance-based award cost is 4,500 Avios – or 4,500 Chase Ultimate Reward points since they transfer directly. Luckily the flight I was interested in fit within this range. To see how many Avios your flight would require, you can use the calculator on the British Airways site here. You can use Avios to book flights on British Airways partner airlines, and in this case I booked a flight on American Airlines. In order to book the flight, I transferred 5,000 (increments of 1,000) Ultimate Reward points into my British Airways Executive Club account to convert them to Avios. The transfer was almost instantaneous. I then went to the British Airways website and was quickly able to book the flight I wanted – and even booked it for someone else flying as the passenger and had no problems whatsoever. All I had to do was use my account and put the passenger’s details in for the flight. The only downside was that we were unable to choose a seat until check-in. In the end, the flight down cost 4,500 Avios and $2.66.

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Hilton Saint Petersburg Carillon Park

The weekend trip to Tampa all started with the idea of a one night getaway. I had 40,000 Hilton HHonors points and no plans to use them after the Hilton devaluation, so I was okay with burning them for the sake of a nice weekend. Before we decided we wanted a two night getaway and used Priceline for an awesome stay at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, I went ahead and booked one night at the Hilton Saint Petersburg Carillon Park.

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Hilton Saint Petersburg Carillon Park

The Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park is a Category 5 Hilton HHonors hotel, which was going for 40,000 points per night. It was rated 4.5 stars on tripadvisor, so I figured it would be a decent one night getaway. When I went to book our room I noticed I could get a King Bed Mini Suite room on the executive floor for only 1,759 points more so I went for it. Honestly, after our Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay stay – we were disappointed.

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