Steals & Deals for January 4-18, 2018
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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 3 and August 30. 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 1-2-3-FREE page.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE DISCOUNTS
EMIRATES: Deeply Discounted Business Class to India -- and Elsewhere
The Gulf Carriers are facing a rather unpleasant reality: Their massive expansion in the United States has left them with a surplus of seats. That oversupply was once limited to coach, but now seems to be popping up in business class, too. At least that's the conclusion you have to reach after considering the latest Emirates sale. The Dubai-based carrier is offering deep discounts on business class flights to India and several other destinations, too. Samples: From New York, it's $3,799 roundtrip to Mumbai or $3,699 to Hyderabad. From Dallas/Fort Worth, it's $3,399 roundtrip to Kochi or Mumbai and just $3,999 to Bangkok. From Los Angeles, it's $3,499 roundtrip to Ahmedabad and $3,799 to Mumbai, Delhi, Kochi or Hyderabad. From Chicago/O'Hare, Emirates is asking $4,199 roundtrip to Bangkok or Johannesburg. There are similar discounts from Emirates' other U.S. gateways to Africa, the Indian Subcontinent and select cities in the Middle East. If you are interested in coach, prices start as low as $699 roundtrip (New York to Dubai). Tickets must be purchased by January 11, but travel is permitted until November 20 for most destinations. A 7-day minimum stay and 10-day advance purchase are required. Information: the Emirates FEATURED FARES page.

AFFINIA HOTELS: Winter Rooms in New York for As Little As $119 a Night
Even in the winter, hotel rooms in New York are pricey. But Affinia, a trio of mostly all-suites properties in Manhattan, is offering a dead-of-winter sale on its accommodations. Prices start at $119 a night (the Shelburne), hit the sweet spot at $129 a night (at Fifty NYC) and top out at $179 a night at the Gardens on the residential Upper East Side. Prices are valid in January and February when you use promo code PERFECT and book by January 31. Information: the PERFECT RATE SALE


YOUR EXCLUSIVE MEMBERS-ONLY DISCOUNTS
aerlingus      The Aer Lingus offer: Name your own price on any route and any class of service. Aer Lingus will either accept your offer or respond with a guaranteed discount off its published fares.
     How to claim the offer: Surf here for complete details.

circaterra      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      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.

ecbc      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.

groundlink      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.

sheffield      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 joesentme2018 in the coupon code box.


HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
HOTELS: Flabby, Dull, Unconvincing First-Quarter Points Promotions
If you suspect hotel frequent stay programs are going the way of frequent flyer programs, well, consider the dull and underwhelming first-quarter deals being flogged by Hilton and the two-headed Marriott/Starwood combine. Hilton, for example, is offering a bonus of just 2,000 points per stay, a fraction of what it offered last year. The promotion runs from January 1 to April 30 if you register in advance. Meanwhile, Starwood Preferred Guest offers only double points per stay--and only starting with the second stay. There's an additional small bonus of 500 points if a weekend night is involved. The January 16 to April 15 offer requires advance registration. Not all Starwood properties participate. Marriott also makes you wait for the second stay during the January 16 to April 15 promotional period. Its offer is 2,000 points per stay with an extra 1,000 points for weekend periods. And, yes, you must register in advance.

HOTELS: Small Chains With Big Bargains for the Slower Season
As the big get bigger in lodging, the smaller chains need to fight for attention to stay relevant during the slower winter months. The tool of choice? Price cuts, of course.
      Fairmont offers 10 to 30 percent off all properties. President's Club members also receive an additional 10 percent off. Jump on this before Fairmont is fully co-opted by Accor, its newish parent company. Use discount code PRLL. Book by April 6 for travel through April 30. Information: the STAY LONGER. STAY MORE. page.
      Hyatt has revived the Places You Can Explore promotion. That'll knock around 25 percent off room rates at 180 hotels between December 15 and February 28. You must use promo code EXPL17 by January 15.
      Radisson hotels in six destinations in the Americas are offering upgraded rooms and lounge access for prices as low as $139 a night. The Dream Sweeter promotion is valid through February 28 when you use the promo code BLUDEAL.
      Sonesta offers as much as 30 percent off at Sonesta hotels and Sonesta ES extended-stay properties. Travel must be booked by February 8 for travel by March 31. Use code 2018WS. Information: WINTER SALE page.

BEST WESTERN: $10 Back on Every Stay in December and January
Best Western has a weak loyalty program, so its primary method of goosing up traffic in the slow months is cash--or cash equivalents. This cycle's promotion: a $10 electronic gift card for every stay until January 31. You have to register for the promotion, of course, and be a member of Best Western Reward, that weak frequency plan. Information: GO. GET. REWARDED. page.

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
COOK TRAVEL: Deep (and Private) Discounts on Turkish and American Airlines
Cook Travel, the top-flight travel agency that offers special discounts to JoeSentMe members, has two new short-term private offers for us. How to claim these deals? Call Cook Travel at 800-435-8776 and identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.
      10 percent off published Turkish Airlines business class. Turkish Airlines already routinely undersells the U.S. carriers and major European airlines, so an additional 10 percent means real savings on flights around the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, Israel, India and East Africa. Besides, business class on Turkish Airlines is superb and the lounge at its Istanbul hub is regarded as one of the best in the world.
      10-20 percent off published American Airlines business class to selected destinations in Europe and the Far East. The best discounts, about 20 percent, are to Japan, but there are other gems if you can book by January 24 and travel by March 31.

LUFTHANSA: Premium Economy Now As Low As $1,300 Roundtrip to Europe This Winter
Coach airfares to Europe this winter are at historic lows. So where does that leave premium economy? At levels around where coach fares once sold. Lufthansa, for example, is now around $1,300 roundtrip for its premium economy, which offers 38 inches of legroom, footrests, upgraded meals and other perks. The $1,299 roundtrip price is only on one route--New York/Kennedy to Lufthansa's Frankfurt hub--but other runs are being offered at equally eye-popping rates: Washington-Naples for $1,629; LAX-Nice for $1,709; and Denver-Milan or San Francisco-Venice for $1,769. You must hurry: Tickets must be purchased by January 16 for departures between January 16 and March 22. The cheapest prices are for midweek travel, of course, and weekend surcharges are about $100 each way. A Saturday stay and 7-day advance purchase are required. Information: the EXPERIENCE PREMIUM ECONOMY page.

SINGAPORE AIRLINES: Notable Business Class Savings on a Grab Bag of U.S. Routes
No international airline serving the United States has a more interesting--okay, totally bizarre--route network than Singapore Airlines. With its Singapore hub too distant to reach nonstop with most aircraft, Singapore Air has settled for so-called "fifth freedom" nonstops to other cities. The result: Singapore has to discount to keep those so-called "secret flights" filled. Which explains why you can fly its superlative business class nonstop from New York/Kennedy to Frankfurt for as little as $2,505 roundtrip. Its nonstops from Los Angeles to Tokyo/Narita and Seoul are selling for as low as $3,530 and $3,428 roundtrip respectively. Restrictions are minimal and fares are valid for departures until March 31. One other note: Singapore Air now flies nonstop to Changi from San Francisco (16.5 hours in the air) with new Airbus A350 aircraft. The carrier is also discounting that route with a $4,198 roundtrip business class fare. It's available until March 31, but a 21-day advance purchase applies. Information: the BUSINESS CLASS FARE DEALS page.

KLM: Sure, Africa Is a Long Haul in Coach, But These Prices Are Insanely Low
Deals to Africa are hard to come by. But along comes KLM with simply insane pricing albeit in coach. How about Atlanta to Marrakech for as little as $839 roundtrip? Or New York to Algiers for $668 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $660 roundtrip? Or even Washington to Algiers for as little as $513 roundtrip. The prices aren't come-ons, either. KLM has a handy-dandy bar graph showing you when the fares are available and there seems to be substantial availability. Almost all itineraries include a stop in Amsterdam, but that shouldn't surprise you. Restrictions are minimal, too, requiring only a 7-day and Sunday-night stay. Information: the EXPLORE AFRICA TODAY page.

FINNAIR: Russia Cheap in Business Class
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 summer if you can hit the admittedly stiff (60-day) advance-purchase restriction. Sample fares: Yekaterinburg for $2,275 roundtrip; Moscow for $2,290; and St. Petersburg for $2,295. Oddly, if you're actually headed to Helsinki, the nonstop roundtrip price is $2,685. Information: the Finnair FLIGHT 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, 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: PORTUGAL STOPOVER page.

GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
UNITED/HERTZ: Really Awful Suppliers, 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 one-day rentals. Until March 31, 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. 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 almost two years. By the way, check your MileagePlus account. You may qualify for a promotion that offers up to 5,500 miles per Hertz rental. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES page.

AVIS/BUDGET/AMERICAN AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn 1,000 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 1,000 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. The deal is valid for rentals that begin by December 31. Information: the CAR PROMOTIONAL OFFERS page.

ENTERPRISE: The Return of the $10-a-Day Weekend Rental
Even as it has rocketed to the top of the car-rental heap, Enterprise continues to do things differently. For starters, all of its locations are 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 promotion that offers cars as low as $9.99 a weekend day, so long as you return the car on Monday. The $9.99 rate covers economy or compact cars. Larger cars are $14.99-$19.99 a day. The rates include 100 miles per day and are valid for rentals that start on Fridays. Best of all, the prices are valid at participating local stations until May 29. You will find some holiday blackouts, but, otherwise, it's open season for cheap cars. Information: the Enterprise $9.99 WEEKEND SPECIAL page.

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.

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 BONUS OPPORTUNITIES
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.

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 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2018 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.