Steals & Deals for Jan. 24-Feb. 7, 2019
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AIRLINES: Premium Economy Is the New Discount Sweet Spot
An international premium economy seat isn't a patch on a business class suite, but it has become the sweet spot for airline discounts. As carriers pull back the business class deals because travelers are paying to fill those seats, they are promoting their premium economy chairs, which are still struggling to find their base of flyers. Here are some of the deals I've found this week:
AIR FRANCE is selling premium economy between Los Angeles and its Paris hub for as little as $1,595 roundtrip. Also notable: LAX-Rome for $2,087 roundtrip. There's a five-day minimum stay. A 28-day advance purchase is required.
AIR NEW ZEALAND is selling premium economy flights between LAX and Rarotonga for $1,395 roundtrip. The flights operate only weekly, however. The price is available on select dates between June and September. Tickets must be purchased by January 28.
CATHAY PACIFIC AIRWAYS is selling premium economy flights to Bangkok from New York/JFK or Boston for as little as $1,895 roundtrip. Flights are via Cathay's Hong Kong hub. Tickets must be purchased by January 31 for travel until May 23.
EVA AIR is selling premium economy seats from Chicago/O'Hare to its Taipei hub for as little as $1,308 roundtrip. The fare is available for outbound travel on select dates in February and March if you book by January 31.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
AMTRAK: Three Winter Trips in the East Mean a Summer Freebie
Government-owned and bureaucratically marketed Amtrak isn't at the pinnacle of promotional activity. Still, its annual version of BOGO (okay, buy three, get one) isn't too bad. If you take six Acela one-way trips (or three roundtrips) by February 28, Amtrak will buy you back a roundtrip (or two one-ways) between July 2 and August 29. It is offering the same buy three (or six), get one (or two) promotion for trips on the slower Northeast Regional runs. You must register for both offers, of course. There are some modest blackout dates on the freebies and minimum-spend rules for the winter purchases. Information: the Amtrak 1-2-3-FREE page.
UNITED AIRLINES: Get 1,000 Miles If You Tie Its App, Credit Card and Reward Plan Together
Look, 1,000 "free" United MileagePlus miles is 1,000 miles. But, jeez, United couldn't concoct a more convoluted promotion if it tried. (Obviously, it tried.) The gist is this: Download the United MileagePlus X app. Then enroll in Chase Visa Rewards using the app and tying it all to your Chase United Visa card. It's all so complicated I don't even know what United and Chase are promoting. Just do what it says, get the 1,000 miles and forget the rest. You must accomplish all this by March 31. Information: the UNITED MILEAGEPLUS X page.
YOUR EXCLUSIVE MEMBERS-ONLY DISCOUNTS
HAWAII'S LOCAL BUZZ: 20 Percent Off Great Hawaiian Coffee and Delectable Sweets
If you've ever been to Hawaii--or even if you haven't--you know that the Islands are now home to great coffee; insanely good macadamia nuts and products made with them; and terrific local honey. The best of the coffee and the finest nuts and sweets come from small farms such as the Big Island's Paradise Meadows. Its Hawaii's Local Buzz brand turns out an impressive array of coffee, candies, cookies and honey. How good? I have to hide the shortbread to avoid gorging on it. And the mac nut-studded chocolates often disappear in an eating frenzy. To introduce you to the farm's fabulous line of local products, Hawaii's Local Buzz is offering JoeSentMe members a 20 percent discount on its entire online shop. Enter the promotional code joesentme at checkout when you order at the Hawaii's Local Buzz site.
THAILAND: Ted Carter's Special Villa With a Special Perk for JoeSentMe Members
Ted Carter is best-known in the travel world for a series of fabulous travelogues for British Airways and for The Point, the five-star resort he crafted in the Adirondack Mountains. Ted lives in Thailand now and he's behind the White Elephant House, a glorious private villa in Kantharalak. He's accepting guests and offering a bundle of accommodations, three meals a day and all the Ted trimmings. You can book a stay via White Elephant House's Airbnb listing, but Ted is offering a special perk for JoeSentMe members: roundtrip taxi service from Ubon Ratchathani, the nearest airport. That's a US$64 value. To claim the perk, book via Airbnb and then contact Ted directly and identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.
The CircaTerra offer: Receive 15% off the price of all travel products and luggage, including sale prices.
How to claim the offer: Enter promo code JoeSentMe in the Gift Certificate or Coupon Code box on the order confirmation page when you shop at CircaTerra Travel.
Cook Travel Offer: 10% off most published base fares on SkyTeam international business tickets. 5% off on Star Alliance international business or first class tickets. Upgrades on most airlines when available to business from full-fare international coach.
How to claim offer: Call 800-435-8776. Identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.
The ECBC Offer: 30 percent off all ECBC luggage purchases and free shipping except for clearance items.
How to claim the offer: Enter the code JOESENTME in the promo code box on the checkout page when you shop at http://www.ec-bc.com.
The Groundlink Offer: Receive 20 percent off rides when you book them using the GroundLink app.
How to claim the offer: Download the GroundLink app from the Apple or Android stores or GroundLink.com. Enter JOESENTME in the promo code box that will appear on the screen before you confirm your ride.
The Sheffield Spice & Tea Offer: Receive 15% off all purchases of spices, teas, rubs and accessories.
How to claim the offer: Surf to http://www.sheffieldspices.com and, when you reach the shopping cart page, enter joesentme2019 in the coupon code box.
HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
RADISSON REWARDS: 120,000 Points for 20 Nights This Winter
There are slim pickings for decent Radisson-related properties in the United States, but there are some excellent hotels overseas. Which does make this promotion very interesting. Radisson Rewards is offering 120,000 bonus points this winter in a stair-step campaign. One night earns 1,000 bonus points. Two nights earns 3,000 points, or a 1,500-point-per-night bonus. Stay five nights and earn 10,000 points. Stay 10 nights and earn 50,000 points, which is a 5,000-point-per-night bonus. If you reach 20 nights by March 31, you'll score the 120,000 points, which is the equivalent of 6,000 bonus points per night. Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the Radisson Rewards TAKE YOU FARTHER page.
MARRIOTT REWARDS: 2,000 Bonus Points Per Stay at Select Courtyard Hotels
I asked on Twitter recently how to tell the difference between the various Marriott-branded select-service brands when they all use similar bathroom amenities, soft goods and other material. Apparently Marriott Rewards also gets that it doesn't offer much differentiation these days. Its "solution?" A 2,000-point-per-stay bonus when you book select Courtyard by Marriott properties. Use code 53M to grab the extra points. No, that won't change your world, but never walk away from extra points. Information: the COURTYARD 2K EVERYDAY page.
HOTELS: Maybe You Can Find a Room-Rate Savings With Your Credit Card
Airline fares have been relatively flat in recent months, but hotel and resort rates continue to rise, precipitously in some destinations. Possible solution: hotel discounts offered by your credit card. American Express Platinum Cards, for example, feature a Fine Hotels & Resort collection that covers more than 1,000 properties around the world. Bundled with the FHR rates are space-available room upgrades; check-in as early as noon based on availability and guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout; breakfast for two; free WiFi; and property-specific food and beverage credit or other amenity. Meanwhile, Visa Signature cards claim to offer special rates at 900 properties. Perks include space-available upgrade; free WiFi; free breakfast for two; a $25 food and beverage credit; and late checkout. Of course, all of these specials come with some caveats. Most hotels in the programs are in the luxury category. You must book directly at the card's special Web site. And you should always check that the rate you're paying is competitive with other offers.
WALDORF/CONRAD HOTELS: $50 a Day in Statement Credits at Hilton's Luxury Digs
When you affect luxury--as Hilton's Waldorf and Hilton brands do--rate cutting is frowned upon. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, of course, but it is frowned upon nevertheless. The preferred method of lowering the price is by gimmicks. The current gimmick? A $50 statement credit for each night you spend in participating Waldorf and Conrad hotels. Three-day advance reservations are required and there are blackout dates. And as I always say with deals like this, always check to see whether a cheaper rate is available than the promoted gimmick. A two-night minimum stay is required. All Waldorf properties honor the promotion and 27 Conrad properties are participating. Waldorf is calling its $50-a-day BEST OF WALDORF. The Conrad promotion is called COMPLIMENTS OF CONRAD.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
BRITISH AIRWAYS: The AARP Deal, Reduced Again, But Extended Through 2020
British Airways isn't only hacking away at the quality of its in-flight product and its reputation as a premium carrier. It's also reducing the classic deals you can use to get discounts. Take its long-standing AARP deal. BA once offered as much as $400 off roundtrip. Now first and premium economy class discounts have been axed and we're left with $200 roundtrip off BA's outdated business class and $65 off its newly "densified" coach class. Also gone: the opportunity to twin the AARP discount with other BA promotions. Still, $65 or $200 off is better than a stick upside your head. And the current deal is now valid for travel until the end of 2020 if you book by January 31, 2020. The cost of entry: the $12 fee required to join AARP. And you must enter through the AARP portal to score the discounts. Information: the EXCLUSIVE AARP MEMBERS page.
HAINAN AIRLINES: Once Again, China Roundtrip Below $500 in Coach and $2,200 in Business Class
We're used to seeing $250 roundtrip transcontinental coach fares and airfares below $400 to Europe. But sub-$500 roundtrip fares to China? Sub-$2,200 roundtrip in business? That's, well, insane. Yet here we are--again. Hainan Airlines, which serves Beijing and Shanghai and also "secondary" cities in China's interior empire, has plenty of seats to sell. And its preferred method: Eye-catching fares on select days. And by eye-catching, we mean crazy cheap. How about $414 roundtrip in coach from Los Angeles to Shanghai? Or $460 roundtrip between LAX and Xi'an, Chengdu or Changsha. It's as low as $466 from New York/JFK to Beijing. Chicago-Beijing is just $496 roundtrip. Fares are even more shocking in business class: $2,150 roundtrip nonstop from LAX to Xi'an. It's $2,497 roundtrip from Chicago to Beijing in business class. Fares are generally available until June 30 when you book before the end of March. Restrictions vary and, obviously, seats at these knockdown prices are limited. Information: The Hainan Airlines OFFERS page.
FINNAIR: Cheap Business Class This Winter? How About Russia and Finland?
Finland remains what it has always been: a middle ground between Europe and Russia. And Vantaa Airport in Helsinki remains what it always has been: a fabulous place to change planes en route to Russia. See where I'm going with this? Finnair is offering great deals in business class over its Helsinki hub to Russia. Prices are valid for travel until well into next spring if you can hit the admittedly stiff (60-day) advance-purchase restriction. Sample fares: Yekaterinburg for $2,277 roundtrip; Moscow for $2,294; and St. Petersburg for $2,299. Oddly, if you're actually headed to Helsinki, the nonstop roundtrip price is $3,133. Elsewhere in Finland, it's $3,242 to Oulu and $3,286 to Rovaniemi, capital of Lapland. Information: the Finnair FLIGHT OFFERS page.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
AVIS/BUDGET/AMERICAN AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn 500 Bonus Miles
Mileage earning from car rentals has had a strange history. In the early days of the frequency programs, they were gushers of cheap miles. Then the car rental firms realized they were paying plenty to the airlines for miles without moving the market since all the companies were doing the same thing. So for decades car rentals were earnings deserts. Lately, however, the airlines and rental firms have been working out relatively exclusive deals. The latest example? Avis and Budget, which are sister firms, will give you 500 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. This is a revamp of a deal that Avis and Budget have been offering on and off for the last few years. This deal is valid for rentals that begin by February 28. Information: the CAR PROMOTIONAL OFFERS page.
ENTERPRISE: The Return of the $10-a-Day Weekend Rental, Now $3 More
Even as it rocketed to the top of the car-rental heap, Enterprise continues to do things differently. For starters, locations are all company owned, astonishing in this era of franchised everything. It has expanded rapidly at airports, but its roots remain in the we'll-pick-you-up local station. And many of those local stations close on Sunday with short hours on Saturday. The result: a ridiculously wonderful weekend promotion. For years, the buy-in price was $9.99 a day. This year, however, the lowest rate is $12.99 so long as you return the car on Monday. The $12.99 rate covers economy or compact cars. Larger cars are $14.99 (for intermediates) to $19.99 a day (full-size). Those prices are unchanged from last year. All rates include 100 miles per day and are valid for rentals that start on Fridays. Best of all, prices are valid at participating local stations until May 21. You'll find some holiday blackouts, but, otherwise, it's open season for cheap cars for a weekend jaunt. Information: the Enterprise GREAT WEEKEND CAR RENTAL RATES page.
UNITED/HERTZ: Worst-in-Class Providers Offer Really Big Bonuses
What do Hertz and United Airlines have in common? Lessee, both operations run poorly. A former top United exec was ousted as Hertz chief executive for doing a lousy job. And United once actually owned Hertz. Other than that? Both are desperate for new customers. The solution: gigantic bonuses for even two-day rentals. Until March 31, book a mid-size or larger Hertz car at United.com for at least two days and you'll receive a 1,500-mile bonus atop the 500-1,250 miles you'd normally earn as a member of MileagePlus. That means as many as 2,750 miles for rentals as short as two days. Sound familiar? It should. It's a re-introduction, extension and slight rejiggering of a promotion that the two companies have continually offered for about three years. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES page.
NATIONAL CAR RENTAL: Best Car-Rental Bonus Ever Is Back--With Two Cool Twists
Sometimes the classics are the best and that's certainly true for National's iconic 12Free promotion. Two rentals of a midsize car by February 28 earn a free rental day that you can use by June 13. As has been the case in many recent years, the points-based system offers 300 points per qualifying rental. It takes 600 points for a free rental night. And as usual, National has thrown in a few wrinkles to pique your continued interest. This year, National really wants you to book on your phone. You'll receive 25 points for downloading the app, 75 points when you book using the app and 50 points when you complete a transaction on the app. Another big twist this year: Enterprise, National's parent company. You'll receive 200 points each time you rent from a local (i.e., non-airport) Enterprise location. You can claim that one up to three times. You'll also receive 300 points if you use Enterprise in Europe. Advance booking and EmeraldClub membership are required. Bottom line: The additions and attendant restrictions make the 12FREE promotion a little more complex than in years past. But you'd be crazy not to put National at the top of your rental mix during the fall and winter. The payback is too good to ignore. Information: the EARN TO THE MAX page.
NATIONAL/SOUTHWEST: Quadruple Rapid Rewards Points for Weekly Rentals. Again.
Southwest Airlines and National Car Rental have teamed up to offer a bigger payoff for rentals if you need a vehicle. Instead of the standard 600 Rapid Rewards points, a two- or three-day National rental will earn 1,200 points. Rentals of 4-6 days will earn 1,800 points. Weekly or longer rentals will score 2,400 points. To score the points, use Contract ID code 5030510. Bonus points are valid on rentals until January 31, 2020, with one-day advance reservation. By the way, if this sounds familiar, it is exactly the same deal that ran all of last year. Information: the RAPID REWARDS PROMOTIONS page.
CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
CHASE/UNITED: 75,000-Mile Bonus for the United Business Credit Card
United boss Scott Kirby doesn't care that his airline is awful--he believes he'll get his "natural share" so long as he runs flights--but he does care when travelers aren't carrying his credit card. So he's pressured his card issuer, Chase, to goose the membership rolls. The result? An increasing number of attractive acquisition bonuses. The most notable is 75,000 miles to take a United Explorer Business Card. You must spend $5,000 in the first three months to snare the bonus, but there's no annual fee in the first year ($95 annually for subsequent years) and you'll also receive a pair of United Club passes. A side benefit: Having a United card means your MileagePlus miles don't expire and you will receive marginally better award availability, too. Everyday spend on the card recently has been improved, too. You'll earn two miles for per dollar spent at restaurants, gasoline stations, office supply stores and on United Airlines purchases. Information: the United Airlines GET 75,000 BONUS MILES page.
AMERICAN EXPRESS: Lots and Lots of Points to Take a Hilton Card. But, Um...
American Express really, really wants you to take one of its four Hilton cards. And the lure, as always, is a bigger acquisition bonus: from 75,000 to 150,000 Hilton Honors points. The problem? Hilton Honors points have very little value, even in the ridiculously devalued travel world. Getting a half-cent return is often a victory in Honors, which is now completely revenue-based and ludicrously overpriced for everything but a standard room. (And sometimes not even then...) But if you find value in Hilton, at least one of these four cards will be useful and perhaps two should be on your radar. The no-fee Hilton Honors Amex will give you 75,000 points for $1,000 of spend in the first three months. The sweet spot is 125,000 points, available for Amex's two Hilton cards with a $95 annual fee. Information: the Amex UPGRADE YOUR STAY page.
CHASE: 80,000-Point Bonus to Take an Ink Business Card
As the airline frequent flyer programs get less generous, smart travelers are banking their miles with banks. Chase Ultimate Rewards points, for example, offer a 1:1 transfer to United, Southwest, several international airlines and some hotel chains, too. There seems to be less risk by banking points with Chase and moving them to your programs as the good deals--or award availability--warrant. One of the current stars in the wide Chase portfolio? The Ink Business Preferred Card. For the $95 annual fee, you'll receive an acquisition bonus of 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 during the first three months. You'll also earn three points per dollar spent on travel expenditures; shipping charges; payments for Internet, cable and phone services; and certain advertising purchases. Information: the 80,000 BONUS POINTS page.
This column is Copyright © 2019 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2019 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.