Steals & Deals for Feb. 21-March 7, 2019
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SWISS: Holy Moley! It's a First Class Sale--With Lots of Holes, Of Course
There aren't many first class cabins to Europe left, so finding a first class sale is just this side of a miracle. But maybe we should discuss the holes in the sale first: It's on Swiss, which has a limited route network. It's on Swiss, which means you're connecting via Zurich. It's on Swiss, which has a good, but not stupendous, first class product. And flights are only available for travel at the sale price starting in late July. Still, it you can thread the needle, you can find some excellent bargains. Samples from New York/JFK: Rome for $6,052 roundtrip, Naples for $6,090 and Barcelona for $6,621. From Boston, it's $5,812 roundtrip to Copenhagen. From Miami, you'll find a $6,083 roundtrip to Barcelona. And one bonus: $8,587 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. Information: the SWISS Web site.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
AMERICAN EXPRESS/MARRIOTT: 100,000 Um, Bonvoy Points With a No-Fee Card
Now that Marriott has merged all its programs into the absurdly named Bonvoy, American Express is trying to maximize its part of the credit card portfolio that Marriott split between its incumbent issuer (Chase) and Amex, which once issued the Starwood cards. Deal of the moment: a 100,000-point acquisition bonus for the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express card. Required spend is $5,000 in the first 90 days if you apply before April 24. Even better, you'll pay no annual fee in the first year if you apply by March 28. (It's $95 after that.) The card is a so-so earner: six points per dollar on Marriott spend, four points on restaurant, gas station and wireless phone charges and two points on all other items. It only confers Marriott Silver Elite status. But, still, free for a year. And to tempt you to pay $95 fee next year, Amex will include a free night at properties that cost 35,000 points or less. Information: the BONVOY BUSINESS page.
DELTA AIR LINES: Premium Economy to Asia on Sale, Selectively
Delta doesn't give anything away. Even when it says it is. So take this sale on its newish international premium economy cabin with appropriate grains of salt. If you purchase by February 25, fares include $1,556 roundtrip between Cleveland and Tokyo/Narita and $1,874 between Boston and Seoul. Star of the sale: $1,161 roundtrip between Los Angeles and Tokyo/Haneda. There are also sale--or sale-like--prices from Nashville, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Seattle, New York and many other cities. There are Delta's standard array of restrictions, of course, so check the fine print carefully. Information: the Delta PREMIUM SELECT page.
WORLD OF HYATT: Hyatt Rouses From Its Slumber With a Points Promotion
Hyatt has never recovered from the retirement of its much-admired Gold Passport program and the introduction of much-derided World of Hyatt plan. It hasn't helped World of Hyatt that Hyatt no longer seems to open many hotels with clubs or suites--the major reasons to shoot-for-the-moon and reach the 60-night Globalist level with the flyspeck chain--or even do any points promotions. At least the latter has changed, however. Hyatt is currently offering 1,000 bonus points per night at all participating properties and 500 additional bonus points for stays at Hyatt Place or Hyatt House. You can earn up to 50,000 bonus points and as many as 25,000 more points for the Hyatt Place/Hyatt House stays. The promotional period runs until May 15. Remember: Hyatt points are generally considered the most valuable in lodging. And now that Hyatt has added about 100 Small Luxury Hotels, there are some desirable new upscale, full-service properties where you can burn those points. Advance registration by March 31 is required. And a caveat: Nightly bonus earnings don't begin until the second stay, so make your first Hyatt stay during the promotion period a one-nighter. Information: the Hyatt EARN POINTS FASTER page.
CHOICE HOTELS: The Heavily Restricted Two-for-One Deal Is Back Again
Choice's lightly regarded Choice Privileges program is once again rolling out the heavily restricted two-earns-one promotion. For two separate stays between February 26 and April 26, you'll receive enough points to claim a free night at about 1,000 of Choice's properties. There are lots of gimmicky rules and restrictions (and advance registration), so make sure you read carefully before you commit. Information: the Choice FREE NIGHT 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
BEST WESTERN: Two Hotel Stays Earn a Free Night
The dear, departed "faster free night" promotion at dear, departed Hyatt Gold Passport has occasionally popped up elsewhere. Not nearly often enough, of course, but occasionally. Latest occurrence: Two stays before April 14 earn a free night at Best Western properties worldwide. There are some quirks. You can only earn one free night during the promo period. Best Western says it'll take as much as three weeks to E-mail your award voucher. Then you'll only have 60 days to cash in on the free night. Still, two stays for a freebie seems like a no-brainer. Advance registration required, of course. Information: the Best Western GET A FREE NIGHT page.
MARRIOTT: 30 Percent Off Winter Weekend Rates in Europe
I am always skeptical of sales that promise discounts "up to" a certain percentage. But Marriott's sale on winter weekend rates at its Europe properties seems legit enough although genuine 30 percent discounts are hard to find. Expect savings in the 15-20 percent range. The sale is good for travel until April 28 if you use promo code ADP for standard rates and M96 for members of the Marriott Rewards program. The sale covers a dozen countries. Information: the EUROPE IS ON SALE page.
OMNI HOTELS: Double the Discount (and More) for AAA Members
Like many chains, Omni offers a discount for AAA members. The price saving is usually modest--about 10 percent--but Omni is doubling up. If you use the chain's prepaid AAA rates the saving is 20 percent at hotels in San Diego, San Francisco and Atlanta. It's 25 percent in Washington, Chicago, Boston, New York, Providence, Dallas, Montreal and Toronto. Information: the Omni SPECIAL RATES page.
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
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 San Francisco to Casablanca for as little as $702 roundtrip? Or New York to Johannesburg for $698 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Lagos for $763 roundtrip? The prices aren't come-ons, either. KLM has a handy 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 KLM EXPLORE AFRICA TODAY page.
MILAN: Alitalia and Air Italy Launch Asymmetrical Fare Wars
Air Italy, 49 percent owned by Qatar Airways and 100 percent annoying to U.S. carriers, has launched a mostly coach fare war to its hub at Milan/Malpensa. It launches nonstops to Los Angeles and San Francisco in April and has some intriguing fares: as low as $600 roundtrip in coach and $3,000 in business class. Also notable: Roundtrip coach fares of about $400 roundtrip from Miami. Fares are available sporadically through 2019 at those prices, but mostly in the fall. Alitalia has responded with a highly restrictive fare promotion from New York: as little as $461 roundtrip in coach and $1,212 in premium economy, which Air Italy doesn't offer. Air Italy has slapped back with a $443 roundtrip coach fare from New York, however. By the way, coach fares listed here are of the Basic Economy variety, so expect to pay for a decent seat and to check bags.
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.
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
AMTRAK: The Big Apple to the City of Saints for $90 Roundtrip on Weekends
Amtrak is only useful in the Northeast. And occasionally into Canada. Now we have one of those moments. For the rest of the winter and into early spring, Amtrak is selling weekend roundtrips between New York City and Montreal for as low as $90. The fare is available for maximum five-day stays when using Train 69, The Adirondack, which requires about 11 hours to make the run between New York's Penn Station and Gare Centrale in Montreal. You can travel Thursday through Monday until April 29 if you book by April 26. (A total of four dates in February and April are blacked out.) Information: the ADIRONDACK WEEKEND GETAWAY 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
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES/BARCLAY: 60,000-Mile Acquisition Bonus for $2,000 in Spending
Airlines, hotels and credit card banks can't stop rolling out the big bonuses if they want to keep their new-card acquisitions up. Hence the seemingly endless offers for new cards. Now it's Hawaiian Airlines and Barclaycard. They're offering 60,000 bonus miles if you take the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard. Required spend is modest: $2,000 in the first 90 days. The card's annual fee is $99. The card itself offers decent ongoing earnings: three miles for Hawaiian Airlines purchases and two miles on gasoline, dining and grocery store purchases. Information: the Hawaiian Airlines LIMITED-TIME OFFER page.
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.