Steals & Deals for June 14-28, 2018
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CREDIT CARDS: Larger-Than-Usual Acquisition Bonuses for United and American
If you're still hell-bent on accumulating miles, the fastest way to do it is by grabbing an affinity credit card. That's especially true as airlines have squeezed extra dollars from the credit card issuers just as travelers have cooled on cards and frequent flyer programs. Beset on both sides, the card issuers have responded with larger-than-average acquisition bonuses. At Chase, for example, a refreshed United Explorer Visa Signature Card (it now offers double MileagePlus miles on United flights and at hotels and restaurants) is promoting a 40,000-mile bonus when you spend $2,000 in the first three months. You'll also receive a $100 statement credit after your first purchase. The promotion is valid until July 16. At Citi, the Citibusiness Platinum Select World Mastercard offers a bonus of 70,000 AAdvantage miles if you spend $4,000 during the first four months. Both cards offer free first checked bag, no fees on foreign transactions and the $95 annual fees are waived in the first year.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER BIG DEALS
AIR CANADA: Appealing Summer Fares for International Premium Economy Flights
Genuine sales on Air Canada have been harder to find in recent years, but it has launched an appealing sale on global premium economy runs for summer travel. Sample roundtrip prices (in Canadian dollars) from Toronto: $1,844 to Algiers; $1,876 to Casablanca; $1,884 to Taipei; $1,988 to Bucharest; and $2,015 to Shanghai. Some sample roundtrip prices from Montreal: $1,841 to Dublin; $1,850 to Algiers; and $1,932 to Lisbon. Sample roundtrips from Calgary: $1,603 to Taipei; $1,786 to Shanghai; and $1,977 to Hong Kong. Sample roundtrip fares from Vancouver: $1,776 to Beijing and $2,136 to Seoul. Similar fares are available for connecting flights from smaller Canadian cities. Tickets must be purchased by June 19 for midweek travel. Information: the PREMIUM ECONOMY CLASS page.
AIR NEW ZEALAND: Cheap Seats in All Three Cabins to the South Pacific?
Sometimes it's just flat-out fun to follow these extraordinary deals as airlines test and figure out how to fill an aircraft. As you surely know by now, Air New Zealand has regularly promoted exceptionally cheap business class fares to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands using its nonstop flight from Los Angeles. The eye-opening initial price was just $1,998 roundtrip. The deal has been regularly revived at prices fluctuating between $1,800 and $2,200. Now it's back at a higher price--$2,599 roundtrip--if you travel on select dates from July through the end of the year. The higher price is justified by the fact that Air New Zealand is now operating the route with its latest lie-flat business class beds. But if the price bump puts business class out of your wheelhouse, Air New Zealand has a fantastic alternative: $1,399 in its well-liked premium economy. And if you're looking for deep discounts, it's $799 roundtrip in coach. But there's still only one flight a week in each direction, departing late Saturday nights from LAX and late Friday nights from Rarotonga. Still, for a South Pacific trip at such a low price, those aren't tough conditions. Tickets must be purchased by June 30. You even earn frequent flyer miles. Information: the Air New Zealand FLIGHTS TO COOK ISLAND page.
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 will give you 500 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. Its sister firm, Budget, will do better: 1,000 miles for a three-day rental. This is 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 August 14. Information: the CAR PROMOTIONAL OFFERS 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 joesentme2018 in the coupon code box.
HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
BEST WESTERN: Let's Make This Simple. Stay Once, Get $20 Back.
Like all the big chains, Best Western runs seasonal promotions and the goal is usually to convince you to stay more frequently. But this spring and summer, Best Western has trimmed its promotion down to the elemental level. The offer? Stay once before September 3 and get a $20 gift card valid at any of its hotels. Pretty easy, eh? You can only earn one card during the promotional period, however. Information: the REWARDS RUSH page.
RADISSON: Up to 30 Percent Off Worldwide and a 5,000-Point Bonus Per Stay
Radisson is trying to remake itself again. The frequency program has been renamed Radisson Rewards and the flagship brand is being reorganized into "red" and "blue" hotels. (Don't ask, I don't know what it means, either.) The rebranding and repositioning has also led the chain to make its promotions a bit sweeter. The result? Room discounts up to 30 percent per night--and a bonus of 5,000 additional Radisson Rewards points for each stay. The major restriction on the so-called Dream Deals: Reservations must be paid at the time of booking, which means no changes or refunds. The deal is valid for stays in June in the United States and through most of the summer in the rest of the world when reservations are made by July 1. Information: the DREAM DEALS page.
HILTON HONORS: Double Points for Spring and Summer. Of Course, They're Not Worth Much
Marriott's revised program, which is hiding its upcoming devaluation by withholding the new award chart, has nothing on Hilton Honors. Hilton has been devaluing constantly for nearly a decade. So when it offers double points between May 1 and August 31, it's hardly meaningful. The points aren't worth much especially now that the chain has moved to revenue-based redemptions. Still, getting twice as many is better than not, so make sure to register here. And a notable exception: Hampton properties in China are not participating.
MARRIOTT/STARWOOD: Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss.
Marriott may be slow-walking the full-on merger of the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest plans, but you couldn't tell it by the quarterly promotions. They're moving in lockstep already. On the Marriott side, you will earn 750 bonus miles per night between April 18 and July 20 starting with your third night. On the Starwood side, it's 250 points per night during the same period. (Although the earnings are numerically different, Starwood points are worth three times more than Marriott points when you transfer between accounts.) You must register for each program separately by June 30. You can earn a maximum of 12,000 SPG points and 36,000 Marriott Rewards points. And take note: ExecuStay, Marriott Executive Apartments and Marriott Vacation Club are not participating and there is a list of SPG properties that award the bonus points.
WYNDHAM: Stay Twice, Get Enough Points for a Free Night Anywhere
Wyndham, a sprawling and mostly mediocre group of hotel chains, has a unique frequency program. Wyndham Rewards prices all free nights at 15,000 points. That means the good (Wyndham, Dolce, Tryp) and the garbage (Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada, Travelodge) cost the same per night regardless of quality. To goose new travelers to join Wyndham Rewards, the group is offering 15,000 bonus points after two stays at any Wyndham property. There are a few caveats, of course: You have to be a member of the program, must register in advance and complete your qualifying stays by July 1. Information: the YOUR KEY TO A FREE NIGHT 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
SINGAPORE AIRLINES: The World's Longest Flights for Fractions of a Penny a Mile
Singapore Airlines will take another crack at making the world's longest nonstop flight--Newark to Singapore/Changi--work. The service, which ended in 2013, resumes in October with a new aircraft, the Airbus A350-900 specifically designed for ultra-long-range service. While introductory business class fares are good (around $5,100 roundtrip), the eye-popping bargain is in premium economy class. You'll pay as little as $1,299 roundtrip for the 19,000-mile roundtrip flights. That works out to a price of less than seven-tenths of a penny a mile. That's rather startling for the extremely comfortable version of premium economy that Singapore Air operates. (Here's my report on SIA's earlier premium economy on the run.) The $1,299 roundtrip fare is valid for travel only on the nonstops (SQ Flight 21/22) between October 11 and March 31. There are blackout dates around the end-of-the-year holidays, but there's plenty of inventory available midweek during the promotional period. Tickets must be purchased by June 18.
EUROPE: A Few Summer Business Class Sales Suddenly Appear
In what has been a dreary season for summer business class bargains, a few good deals have suddenly popped up. They're not a patch on the old super-cheap days up front, but at least it's better than the situation we faced just a few weeks ago. Here's what has appeared in recent days:
ALITALIA has cut the price of its Chicago/O'Hare-Rome route to as low as $3,056 roundtrip each when two people fly together. Tickets must be purchased by June 19 and include a 7-day minimum stay and a 28-day advance purchase. Travel must be complete by October 7. Information: the ALL OFFERS page.
KLM is offering flaccid prices on a variety of routes, but it has real bargains on fares from the West Coast to Athens, one of the hardest gets on the continent. It's $3,251 roundtrip from Los Angeles and $3,267 from San Francisco. Flights are via Amsterdam, of course. Travel is permitted midweek with a seven-day minimum stay. Information: the FLY TO EUROPE page.
LUFTHANSA has a laundry list of "sale" prices, but few notable ones even in this era of reduced expectations. Worthy exception: $2,499 roundtrip between New York and Frankfurt or Detroit and Munich. Also worth considering: $2,899 roundtrip between Seattle and Stockholm, with a plane change in Germany. Tickets must be purchased by June 21, but the travel window is extraordinarily narrow: August 28 to September 11. Information: the BOOK OUR OFFERS page.
AFRICA: Sure, It's a Long Haul in Coach, But These Prices Are Insanely Low
Deals to Africa are hard to come by. But KLM and Qatar Airways have some eye-poppingly low prices--albeit in coach. From KLM, how about Atlanta to Marrakech for as little as $851 roundtrip? Or New York to Algiers for $694 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $764 roundtrip? Or even Washington to Johannesburg for as little as $921 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. Meanwhile, Qatar Airways has posted fares like $902 roundtrip from New York to Addis Ababa; $978 from Chicago to Nairobi; $893 from Miami to Khartoum; and $1,060 from Houston to Lagos. Qatar's restrictions are a 14-day advance purchase with a 7-day minimum stay. All travel is via Doha, of course.
HAINAN AIRLINES: It's Come to This: China Roundtrip Below $500
We are now used to seeing $200 roundtrip transcontinental coach fares and airfares below $400 to Europe. But sub-$500 roundtrip fares to China? That's, well, insane. Yet here they are. 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 $443 roundtrip between Seattle and Shanghai? Or $490 roundtrip between San Jose and Beijing. It's $598 roundtrip from New York to Beijing. To Chengdu, Chongqing and Changsha, the key cities in Hunan and Sichuan provinces, coach roundtrips are in the $700-$800 roundtrip range. Prices are valid until the end of the year when you purchase by the end of June. Information: The Hainan Airlines OFFERS page.
FINNAIR: Cheap Business Class This Summer? 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 $2,276 roundtrip; Moscow for $2,286; and St. Petersburg for $2,296. Oddly, if you're actually headed to Helsinki, the nonstop roundtrip price is $2,583. Elsewhere in Finland, it's $2,696 to Oulu and $2,743 to Rovaniemi, capital of Lapland. That last one is if you're interested in hanging with Santa in summer, I guess. Information: the Finnair FLIGHT OFFERS page.
SINGAPORE AIRLINES: Yeah, About Those Weird Nonstops We Fly From The United States
Singapore Airlines has announced it is going to give nonstops from Los Angeles and New York another try after a five-year gap. Meanwhile, no international airline serving the United States has a more interesting--okay, just bizarre--route network as it settled for so-called fifth freedom nonstops to other cities. The result: Singapore has to discount to keep those "secret flights" filled. Which explains why you can fly its excellent business class nonstop from New York/Kennedy to Frankfurt for as little as $2,369 roundtrip. Nonstops from Los Angeles to Tokyo and Seoul sell for as low as $3,530 and $3,430 roundtrip respectively. Restrictions are minimal and fares are valid for travel until December 31. Information: the BUSINESS CLASS FARE DEALS page.
BRITISH AIRWAYS: The AARP Deal, Reduced Again, But Extended Another Year
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 class discounts have been jettisoned 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 2019 when you book by January 31, 2019. 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.
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
HERTZ: Rent Three Days, Earn 1,000 Starpoints
Just before the Starwood Preferred Guest plan is subsumed into the Marriott To-Be-Named-Later Program, Hertz has a valuable promotion: Rent at least three days and earn 1,000 Starpoints. You can pick up your car until July 31 at participating locations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Advance reservations are required and a CDP number (154080), PC number (204373) and your SPG number must be included in the reservation. Shorter rentals will earn the standard 200 SPG points. Information: the START YOUR ENGINE 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. The bonus points are valid on rentals until January 31, 2019, with a 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.
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.
CREDIT CARD BONUS OPPORTUNITIES
CHASE: 100,000 Points for the New Marriott Credit Card
It has a stiff spending threshold--$5,000 in the first three months after opening your account--but Chase's new Marriott card has a fabulous acquisition bonus: 100,000 points. The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Visa is also fairly strong for general spend: six points per dollar spent at Marriott and Starwood properties and 2 points on everything else. You'll also receive a free-night award (up to 35,000 points) each year you hold the card. The annual fee: a modest $95. Information: the Chase INTRODUCING page.
CHASE: 80,000 IHG Points for the New Credit Card
Chase controls the Marriott and Hyatt cards and they are generally considered the gems of the hotel portfolio. But Chase also has the rights to InterContinental's IHG Rewards cards and the bank is clearly trying to up the heat. The newest offering--the clumsily named IHG Rewards Club Premier Card--is promoting 80,000 points with $2,000 spend in the first three months; 10 points per dollar charged on IHG hotels; 2 points per dollar spent at grocery stores; restaurants and gas stations; and Platinum Elite Status. You also receive a free night at some hotels each year you hold the card and a fourth night free at some hotels when you redeem a three-night award. The MasterCard has an $89 annual fee, which is not waived in the first year. Information: the EARN 80,000 BONUS POINTS 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.