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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR EARLY SEPTEMBER, 2014
EVA Air: Transpacific Premium-Economy Deals From JFK or LAX
Taiwan-based EVA Airways has heavily promoted its premium-economy class fares from North America this year and that's good news. The bad news: Prices are confusing and restrictions are tricky. And the fares only include premium-economy transport on the transpacific flights, not connections from Taipei to other Asian destinations. From New York/JFK, sample prices start at $1,798 roundtrip to Taipei and $1,903 to Macau. From Los Angeles, sample prices start at $1,610 roundtrip to Taipei and $1,700 to Manila. Fares are available through December 11, but tickets must be purchased at the EVA Web site by September 30.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAIN
Avis: As Many as 5,000 AAdvantage Miles for Rentals in September
In a world turned upside down--in other words, when the fools at American Airlines decide to charge a bag fee to full-fare flyers and give a free bag to buyers of cheaper fares--I'm no longer surprised that rental cars are again a potent force for racking up frequent flyer miles. Which explains why Avis is offering as many as 5,000 AAdvantage miles until September 30. One- or two-day rentals generate 1,500 miles. You'll get 3,000 miles for three- or four-day rentals. Rentals of five or more days get the 5,000 miles. Use promotional code MUAA004. Information: the MAKE A STATEMENT page.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
Airlines: ICYMI, the End-of-Year Business Class Sales to Europe
The Star Alliance and SkyTeam carriers have posted their Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year business-class sales to Europe. There are complete details, prices and analysis here.
LAN: The Crazy-Quilt South America Business-Class Sale Is Back Again
With premium-class flight deals to South America so rare, we should continue to be thankful for the bargains from LAN, the pan-Latin powerhouse. Yes, the deals are scattershot, with varying restrictions, several infuriating regulations and odd travel windows. But you'll find some fabulous bargains (although not from Los Angeles, where prices seem insane). Best current fares of note from New York: $999 roundtrip from Kennedy to Guayaquil or Quito, Ecuador. (Quito, by the way, is the gateway to the Galapagos Islands.) From Miami, it's $699 roundtrip to Bogota and $1,199 to Lima. By the way, LAN is a Oneworld Alliance member. Information: the PREMIUM BUSINESS page.
Emirates: India's Stagnant Economy Means Business-Class Bargains
Years of economic malaise haven't just meant that India's Congress Party got an unprecedented shellacking in recent elections, it also means that airlines, who've frantically expanded on the subcontinent, are promoting heavily. Emirates, for example, is promising as much as 50 percent off business-class fares through the end of the year so long as you book 14 days in advance and lock in tickets before November 30. Fares start as low as $4,580 roundtrip from Dallas/Fort Worth and include $4,701 from Boston and $5,081 from Los Angeles or San Francisco. The deals are for all Emirates gateways in the United States to all of its destinations in India, including Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi. Hyderabad and Chennai. There are no blackout dates, but the lowest fares require a seven-day minimum stay. Information: the UNMISSABLE BUSINESS CLASS page.
Virgin America: Please Join Our Frequent Flyer Program
When there was real competition in the airline industry, there was real competition in frequent flyer plans, too. There used to be bonuses for things like joining and bonus credit for taking your first flight. Those have long passed from the scene, but Virgin America is reviving them in hopes of getting attention from flyers "trapped in a dysfunctional relationship" with another carrier. If you join Virgin's Elevate plan, you'll get a 500-point bonus for signing up and 2,500 to 7,500 points (depending on class) after your first flight. The promotion lasts until December 31. Information: the LOYALTY MADE ME DO IT page.
American Airlines: Asia Bonuses Just Like Our Europe Bonuses
American Airlines' small (and newish) slate of flights to Asia--Chicago to Shanghai and Dallas/Fort Worth to Hong Kong and Shanghai--aren't profitable. So American has adopted the formula it uses in Europe (see below): Ply you with miles in hopes of getting you to fly. The structure is the same, too. Fly in discounted coach and earn a bonus of 5,000 AAdvantage miles for a roundtrip. Fly higher-priced coach and get a 10,000-mile roundtrip bonus. Fly first or business class and earn 25,000 miles roundtrip. The promotion is available through December 6 and requires advance registration. You can earn as many as 100,000 points during the promotional period. Information: the EARN UP TO 100,000 BONUS MILES page.
HOTEL BARGAINS WORTH NOTING
Marriott Rewards: The MegaBonus Was Never Mega, Now It's a MiniBonus
The endlessly repeated Megabonus from Marriott Rewards was never particularly "mega"--not to mention that Marriott chipped away at its value in recent years. But the latest iteration is downright mini. Instead of a free night after two stays at a lower-priced hotel (once Category 1-5, lately Category 1-4), the bonus structure this time has been vastly devalued. The published offer this time is double points per stay and only beginning on the second stay during the September 15 to January 15 promotional period. The amount of bonus points is capped at 25,000 and advance registration is required by November 15. As usual with MegaBonus, you may be offered an unpublished deal. (Check your promo page.) We know that some members have been offered as many as 55,000 points. Information: the MEGABONUS page.
Marriott/United: 1,000 Miles Per Stay at Mostly Hub Hotels
Dozens of Marriott Family hotels, most of them in United Airlines hub cities, are offering a big bonus: 1,000 United MileagePlus miles for each stay until October 31. If you really want to bulk up on United miles, you can choose them for your base stay earnings during the promotion, too. You naturally must be a member of both MileagePlus and Marriott Rewards and advance registration is required. Do that here. And you can examine the complete list of participating hotels here. Rooms must be booked by September 5.
Hyatt: Introductory Rate in Jamaica--and Don't Call Us Ritzy
Hyatt Hotels is carving up the former Ritz-Carlton Rose Hill in Montego Bay and turning the Jamaican resort into two all-inclusive properties: the family-friendly Ziva and the couples-only Zilara. Both are due to open on November 1. To goose occupancy at the Ziva property, Hyatt is offering 50 percent off the normal rate for the first year if you book quickly. The promotion is valid from November 1, 2014, until December 1, 2015 when you book by October 31, 2014. There are blackout dates and a three-day minimum stay during the upcoming Christmas holiday. Information: the OFFERS page.
Hilton HHonors: A One-in-Three Chance You Can't Have This Promotion
Hilton HHonors has been so devalued that even its promotions aren't reliable and a slew of the chain's own franchises don't want to play. The new points deal offers double points on weekdays and triple points on weekends between August 1 and October 31. But more than 1,300 Hilton Family properties, the vast majority of them in the United States, won't even honor the promotion. You can see the astonishing list of opt-outs here. If you want to play in the hobbled promotion, you must register in advance here.
Marriott: A $50-a-Night Weekend Credit at Three Downtown Chicago Hotels
Three Marriott properties in downtown Chicago are offering a $50-a-night credit for weekend stays through September 7. The credit can be used for in-hotel dining, spa services, parking and other services. The participating hotels are the JW Marriott, the Marriott Magnificent Mile and the Renaissance Downtown. For this promotion, weekend stays extend from Thursday through Sunday so long as a Friday or Saturday night is included. The promo code is P91. As always with these value-added promotions, check the lowest rates available to make sure you are booking the best deal on your stay. Information: the HOTEL DEALS page.
GROUND TRANSPORTATION DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
National Car Rental: The Best Car-Rental Bonus Ever Is Back Again
Sometimes the old classics are the best and that's certainly true for National's OneTwoFREE promotion. Two rentals of a midsize car by January 31 earn a free rental night that you can use by June 15. As usual, National has thrown in a few wrinkles to pique your continued interest. You'll get credit for any size rental in Mexico, referring a friend who rents and some credit for downloading the National app and other social-media kinds of things. You can earn as many as 50 free rental days during the promotion. Advance registration and membership in the National Emerald Aisle program is required. Information: the ONETWOFREE page.
American Airlines/National Car: 200 Miles a Day for Rentals
Let's be honest: 200 miles won't change your life. But given how few miles car rentals generate and how frequently we rent, it's probably not wise to sneeze at the new promotion from American Airlines and National Car Rental. You'll earn 200 miles a day when renting from any participating National location in the United States until December 31. You must rent a compact through full-size vehicle. Information: the EARN 200 MILES page.
Enterprise: Triple Amtrak Guest Reward Points for Car Rentals
Enterprise Rent-A-Car's free-pickup service is one of the few ways to bridge the annoying gap between an Amtrak train station and a car-rental lot. Now Enterprise and Amtrak are teaming up for a triple-point promotion, too. When you use booking code AMGRTRP and book through Enterprise, you'll earn triple Amtrak Guest Rewards points. That means 150 points per day. Information: the Earn Triple Amtrak page.
Avis/Carlson: 9,000 Club Carlson Points for Three-Day Rentals
Car rentals are suddenly a valuable source of points and miles again thanks to the proprietary bonus deals that the rental chains are cutting with airlines and hotel chains. Avis, for example, has once again teamed with Club Carlson, the loyalty program of Radisson and Country Inns. The offer: three-day rentals from most airport locations earn 9,000 bonus points. Use code MUHA021. The promotion is available until December 31. Information: the ALWAYS ROOM FOR MORE page.
Thrifty: Three-Day Midsize Rentals Earn 1,000 MileagePlus Miles
After more than a decade of sitting out the frequent flyer game, the car-rental firms seem to be returning to the mileage fray. The latest deal: 1,000 United MileagePlus miles from Thrifty Car Rental if you rent a midsize or larger vehicle for three days or longer. The deal is available until December 31 when you use promo code UA31. Information: the PARTNER DEALS page.
NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
Marriott Rewards: 70,000-Point Acquisition Bonus, Low Spend Requirement
Got a thousand dollars in credit-card spend available? Then grab a Marriott Rewards Premier card from Chase. Taking the card will earn you a 70,000-point acquisition bonus when you spend $1,000 in the first three months. The card has no annual fee in the first year and is bundled with a free night in a Category 1-4 Marriott property and enough elite credit for Silver status in Marriott Rewards. Information: the EARN 70,000 BONUS POINTS page.
American Express: 50,000 Points for Business Gold Card
There have been bigger "acquisition" bonuses to take various iterations of American Express cards, but the 50,000-point offer for the Business Gold Amex has, until now, been a targeted, by-mail-only solicitation. Now Amex has gone public with the promotion: You'll get 50,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $5,000 on the card in the first three months. Amex will also waive the $175 annual fee in the first year. The card is particularly rich for travelers since it awards triple points for purchases from airlines and double points for business purchases such as gasoline, shipping and computers. Information: the AMEX CARDS page.
Hilton HHonors: The Price of Its 'Best' Elite Level Is Now -$5 (Sorta)
Hilton has brutally devalued the Hilton HHonors program and its most-elite level, Diamond, is hardly better than HHonors Gold, which normally requires 20 stays or 40 nights a year. Gold Elite offers free Internet, room upgrades and continental breakfast. It's arguably Hilton's best elite level. And guess what: You don't even have to stay at Hilton even once to achieve its HHonors Gold. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa card includes Gold Level HHonors status and the annual fee is just $95 a year. Citi has also upgraded the card to include a $100 statement credit if you complete a Hilton stay within three months of opening the account. So here's the best lodging strategy ever: Take the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa, pay the $95 annual fee, get Gold Level--and then stay at Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, Carlson or other hotels so you can earn elite status there. Book a Hilton Family property only when there are no other options. You'll still get Gold Level treatment and all of your other paid stays will be earning elite status elsewhere. And if you want to maximize your value, complete that one Hilton stay and you'll essentially be getting HHonors Gold status for -$5. Even in its devalued state, HHonors Gold status is worth -$5. Information: the ENJOY TWO page.
Chase: How to Get the $395-a-Year United Club Card for Free for a Year
The Chase United Club Card does well both as a must-carry credit card for perks (it includes a membership in the United Club) and one that earns lots of frequent travel points (1.5 miles per dollar spent). If the card has a drawback--besides being shackled to United Airlines, of course--it's the $395-a-year annual fee. But there is a way get the fee waived in the first year. It's pretty simple: Go into a Chase bank branch and apply for the card there. Branch bankers are empowered to waive the fee when you apply for the card in person.
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THE FINE PRINT Nobody pays their way onto this page. I post the deals solely for the benefit of members based on my perception of what is a great price or a terrific value. The prices do not include applicable taxes unless specifically stated. Assume there are weird restrictions and caveats I never thought to ask about. Unless otherwise stated, you should be able to book these deals at any travel agency or directly from the listed travel supplier. Never assume that these prices (or any price listed publicly) are the lowest that are available. You should always ask if thereís a cheaper price or better deal. Virtually everything is capacity controlled or subject to blackout days, based on availability and subject to abrupt change whenever they think they can squeeze us for a few extra bucks. Please do not suspend your inbred skepticism. Donít blame me if these deals are sold out when you try to book at these prices, but do let me know if you think that we're being scammed. It's important to expose the fakers and phonies. -- Joe Brancatelli
This column is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.