Steals &Deals for Early September, 2017
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'REVENGE' FARES: Cheap Business Class on Europe Routes U.S. Airlines Avoid
U.S. airlines have the peculiar idea that if they don't fly a route, no one should be allowed to do it. Which explains their vicious and mostly untrue campaign against the big Gulf Carriers. But U.S. airlines can't explain why they don't fly nonstop to places like Athens or Budapest--or why travelers should help them restrict the carriers that do. Emirates, for example, offers the only nonstop year-round service to Athens and business class seats from Newark are as little as $2,999 roundtrip. Travel at those fares is available from mid-September to early December. And now LOT Polish is adding the first nonstops to Budapest from the United States in more than five years. The service launches next year, but business class roundtrips from Chicago are currently priced as low as $3,215. Flights from New York/Kennedy are now pegged at $3,250 roundtrip. LOT Polish also offers a premium economy class on its Boeing 787 Dreamliners and roundtrips are $1,595 from Chicago and $1,660 from JFK.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE DISCOUNTS
AMERICAN/BARCLAYCARD: A 60,000-Mile Acquisition Bonus for Only $95
This one is a no-brainer, folks. Since Citibank and Barclay are both contractually allowed to issue American Airlines AAdvantage cards, the competition is rather fierce. As the smaller rival--at least in the United States--Barclay is also the most aggressive. Hence a new 60,000-mile acquisition bonus to take its awkwardly named Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. Even better, there is no minimum spend. Once you pay the $95 annual fee and make a purchase, you get the 60,000 miles. Sweet, even for the devalued American AAdvantage card. Among the card's benefits: free first checked bag on American flights, double points on American purchases, preferred boarding position and no foreign transaction fees. (Side note: I've noticed that Alibaba will accept Barclay-issued cards for purchases while rejecting American Express and Chase cards.) Information: the AADVANTAGE AVIATOR page.
AIR NEW ZEALAND: Premium Economy Fares to New Zealand Next Year Cheaper Than Last Year
Air New Zealand operates a top-notch premium economy cabin to its home country with excellent seat room, upgraded meals and plenty of other good perks. Now there are good prices--notably cheaper than last year--to go with the service. From Los Angeles, for example, it's $1,836 roundtrip to Auckland. From San Francisco, it's $2,056 roundtrip. From ANZ's newish Houston/Intercontinental gateway, it's $2,381 roundtrip. There are similarly good deals to six other New Zealand cities. Flights are available from February 1 to June 21 if you purchase tickets by September 12. There's a 10-day minimum stay, but up to five stopovers are permitted. Cheapest fares are available Monday-Thursday for the transpacific section. Information: the PREMIUM ECONOMY SPECIAL page.
AVIS/BUDGET/AMERICAN AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn 2,500 or 5,000 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/Budget will give you as many as 5,000 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. Cars earn 2,500 points and specialty vehicles earn 5,000 miles. The deal is valid for rentals that begin by October 15. Information: the CAR PROMOTIONAL OFFERS page.
SOUTHWEST/CHASE: 60,000-Point Acquisition Bonuses That Count Toward the Companion Pass
If you're looking at your Southwest Airlines flying this year and coming up short on the 110,000 points you need for a Companion Pass, here's a fast boost: a 60,000-point acquisition bonus if you take one of Chase's Southwest Airlines credit cards. (Yes, credit card acquisition bonuses are one of the few non-flying, non-spending activities that count toward the Companion Pass.) Chase's $99-a-year Premier Card has no foreign transactions fees, awards an annual 6,000-point bonus and you earn 1,500 Tier points for every $10,000 spent. The $69-a-year Plus Card has a 3,000-point annual bonus, but no tier points and it does not waive foreign transaction fees. Warning: You can't get the acquisition bonus if you've had the card in the previous two years and Chase will deny your application if you've opened more than five credit cards from any bank in the last 24 months.
YOUR EXCLUSIVE MEMBERS-ONLY DISCOUNTS
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.
The Cook Travel Offer: 10% off 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 joesentme2017 in the coupon code box.
HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
OMNI HOTELS: Stay Longer This Summer, Save More Dollars
Omni Hotels only has several dozen U.S. and Canadian properties so it doesn't get the publicity of the bigger chains. But its hotels tend to be lavish country properties or top-notch urban facilities. And they do creative promotions. This summer, there's a stair-step promo: You'll get 10 percent off one-night stays; 15 percent off two-night stays; 20 percent off three-night stays and 25 percent off four-night stays. There are blackout dates and capacity controls, but the sale rates are valid until September 10. Information: the SAVE THIS SUMMER! page.
CLUB CARLSON: Earn Free Fridays or 10,000 Bonus Points This Summer
If you're a player in Club Carlson, the frequency program of Radisson and several other smaller chains, your summer promotion is unique--and possibly quite rich. For each two stays you complete between July 1 and September 30, you'll receive 10,000 bonus points--or a certificate for a free Friday-night stay. There are some restrictions, of course. Besides advance registration, you'll need to choose either the bonus points or the free Friday, which can be used between October 6 and January 26. You can earn the bonus as many as three three times during promotion. Information: the FREE FRIDAY page.
VISA: Third Night Free This Summer at Three Hilton Chains
If your weekends away can stretch to three nights this summer, you have a friend at Visa. Specifically, Visa Signature cards. If you're interested in staying at one of three Hilton brands--Waldorf Astoria, Conrad or Curio, Visa will float you the third night free if you arrive on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday and book via a Visa Web site or its concierge service. (You must pay with a Visa Signature card, too, of course.) You'll also be guaranteed a room upgrade, free WiFi, free continental breakfast, a $25 food and beverage credit and 3 p.m. checkout. The offer is available for three-night stays before September 30. (You must also check out by October 31, which is a weird restriction when you think about it.) The offer is good at properties in the United States, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and the Asia/Pacific region. Information: ONE FREE NIGHT page.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
ASIA: Startlingly Low Coach Fares Around the Continent
Given Americans' affinity for Europe and the raft of start-up airlines plying the Atlantic at low prices, travel to Asia has gotten comparatively short shrift. But coach fares to Asia are plummeting, too. Here is just some of what I've found this week:
CATHAY PACIFIC is offering nonstops to Hong Kong from Chicago, New York/Kennedy and San Francisco for as little as $579 roundtrip. Flights from Los Angeles are as low as $665 roundtrip. There's no minimum stay and travel is valid until December 9 if you book by August 31.
DELTA AIR LINES is selling flights from its Seattle/Tacoma hub to Shanghai for $507 roundtrip and $701 to Hong Kong. Flights between LAX and Shanghai are going for as little as $749. Restrictions vary by route, but tickets must be booked by August 30.
EVA AIRLINES is promoting flights over its Taipei hub to destinations in Southeast Asia. From Houston, it's $766 roundtrip to Hong Kong, $904 to Manila and $922 to Ho Chi Minh City. Tickets must be purchased by August 31 for travel Monday to Thursday between September 16 and November 30.
HAINAN AIRLINES is offering nonstop fares between $518 and $698 roundtrip to several Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing and Changsha. Although restrictions vary by route, tickets generally must be purchased by September for travel until the end of the year.
UNITED AIRLINES is selling seats on its Asia network for as little as $493 roundtrip (Boston-Beijing), $567 (Los Angeles-Shanghai), $569 (Chicago-Hong Kong) and $580 (San Francisco-Xian, China). Restrictions and travel dates vary by route.
AIR FRANCE: A First Class Sale From An Airline That Still Dotes On First Class
Except for a few selected routes, international first class is dying a slow death. And not all carriers offering a first class cabin (looking at you, British Airways) are going all out to substantially differentiate it. Air France, however, has revitalized its first by slashing capacity and upgrading seating and perks. First class flyers on Air France also get on-the-ground benefits such as free gifts and inside access to some of Paris' top chefs. Best of all, Air France is actively discounting at the pointy end, too. The most notable fare: $7,150 roundtrip to Paris/CDG from San Francisco, the same fare as from New York/JFK. Also a bargain: $6,158 roundtrip from Washington/Dulles. Restrictions aren't simple--an eight-day minimum stay and a 50-day advance purchase--but, still, these prices are actually cheaper than walk-up business class fares. Information: the EXCLUSIVE OFFERS page.
TAP AIR PORTUGAL: The Free Portugal Stopover Can Now Be Five Days Long
In the early days of transatlantic jet travel, free "stopovers" in the country of arrival were a standard perk. Now the practice has virtually disappeared and airlines will charge you separately if you don't make your onward connection within hours of your transatlantic arrival. But TAP Air Portugal, now revitalized under the leadership of a consortium fronted by JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman, has brought the perk back. Last year it revived a free, three-day stopover in Portugal as part of roundtrip, transatlantic nonstops to Lisbon and Porto. Beginning with travel in September, however, stopover privileges will be extended to five days. There are also other perks attached to the stopover, including hotel discounts, free museum and attraction admissions and free wine with meals. TAP and its partners have even created a "stopover app" to help guide you around the country via smartphone. Information: The PORTUGAL STOPOVER page.
BRITISH AIRWAYS: Half a Loaf (Well, a Discount Loaf) Is Better Than Nothing
The long-standing discount deal between British Airways and the AARP is finally dead. Too bad, too, since it gave a $400 discount on business or first class seats atop any other fare or price promotion you could find. Still, all is not loss. BA's new deal for AARP members, while half a loaf, is still worth having. When you enter via the AARP portal, you'll receive $65 off coach, $130 off premium economy and $200 off business or first class seats. It requires a roundtrip purchase, of course. Discounts are available for travel through March 31, 2018, when you book by December 31. Information: the EXCLUSIVE AARP MEMBERS page.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
NATIONAL CAR RENTAL: The Best Car-Rental Bonus Ever Is Back Again
Sometimes the classics are the best and that's certainly true for National's One Two Free promotion. Two rentals of a midsize car by February 28 earn a free rental day that you can use by June 15. As has been the case in recent years, the points-based system offers 300 points per qualifying rental. It takes 600 points for a freebie. And as usual, National has thrown in a few wrinkles to pique your continued interest. You'll get a one-time bonus of 300 points for any size rental in Latin America, the Caribbean or Europe. You'll also receive 300 bonus points for every renter you refer to the Emerald Club. Using National's app for reservations gets you 75 bonus points per rental. This year's most interesting perk: extra points for the third rental. Also notable: If you participated in last year's 12Free promo, any unclaimed points roll over to this year's program. Advance registration and Emerald Club membership are required, of course. Information: the ONETWOFREE page.
UNITED/HERTZ: Really Awful Suppliers, Really Big Bonuses
What do Hertz and United Airlines have in common? Lessee, both operations run poorly. A former United exec was recently ousted as Hertz chief executive. And United once actually owned Hertz. Other than that? Both are desperate for customers. The solution: gigantic bonuses for even one-day rentals. Until November 30, book a mid-size or larger Hertz car at United.com and you'll receive a 1,500-mile bonus atop the 500-1,250 miles you'd normally earn as a member of MileagePlus. So that means 2,000 to 2,750 miles for rentals as short as a single day. Does this sound familiar? It should. It's a re-introduction and extension of a promotion that the two companies have continually offered for more than a year. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES page.
NATIONAL/SOUTHWEST: Quadruple Rapid Rewards Points for Weekly Rentals
Southwest Airlines and National Car Rental have teamed up to offer an intriguing payoff for rentals if you need a car. 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. The bonus points are valid on rentals until January 31, 2018, with a one-day advance reservation. Information: the RAPID REWARDS PROMOTIONS page.
CREDIT CARD OPPORTUNITIES
CATHAY PACIFIC: 50,000-Mile Acquisition Bonus for a Visa Card
Cathay Pacific has just rung up its worst first-half financial performance in about 20 years. The problem? High costs and not enough travelers interested in paying high fares for its high-quality product. How Cathay will solve its problem long term is anyone's guess--Cathay itself might not know--but, in the interim, there's this: a 50,000-mile bonus if you take the Cathay Pacific Visa Signature card. The miles are Asia Miles, which has some good values, especially since you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points or Citi ThankYou points on a 1:1 basis. The card itself has some decent earnings accelerators: two miles per dollar on Cathay spend, 1.5 miles on dining and 1.5 miles on spending outside the United States. You'll also receive entry level elite status in Cathay's Marco Polo Club. The acquisition bonus requires $2,500 of spend on the card in the first 90 days. The annual fee is $95. The bonus is available until October 31. Information: the CATHAY PACIFIC VISA SIGNATURE page.
CITIBANK: 50,000 ThankYou Points for a Card With No First-Year Fee
Citibank, the financial institution that can't shoot straight, has done a typically terrible job promoting ThankYou points, its in-house loyalty plan. ThankYou offers terrific 1:1 points-transfer opportunities to Flying Blue (Air France/KLM), Eva Air, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific's Asia Miles. So when Citi offers a big acquisition bonus--50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in three months--attention should be paid. That's especially true when the bonus applies to the Citi ThankYou Premier, a card whose $95 annual fee is waived in the first year. The card also earns triple points for travel expenditures and gasoline and double points on dining, concerts, sporting events and movies. Information: the PREMIER CARD 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 © 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2017 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.