Steals & Deals for Sept. 15-29, 2016
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AER LINGUS: Business Class to Eight European Capitals for Just $1,999 Roundtrip
Aer Lingus really wants JoeSentMe members to sample its fabulous new business class and use Dublin as a hub for travel to Europe. Its inducement? A flat rate of $1,999 roundtrip to Dublin or seven other European capitals from five U.S. gateways. You can depart from Boston, Newark, New York/JFK, Hartford or Washington/Dulles, fly in business class to Dublin and then connect for the quick coach flight to London, Paris, Rome, Edinburgh, Brussels, Madrid or Amsterdam. You can even stop in Dublin free of charge if you wish to explore Ireland along the way. Travel is permitted from November 1 to March 15. Restrictions? Only one: You must book 30 days in advance. Tickets must be purchased by October 30. And, oh yes, this deal is only available to JoeSentMe members and a companion traveling on the same itinerary. For complete details and booking instructions, surf here.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
VISA/HILTON: Free Nights and Lots of Useful Perks at Swanky Hotels Around the World
Most joint hotel and credit card promotions tend to be small beer, but the latest offer from Visa and Hilton is startling stuff. When you book select Waldorf Astoria, Conrad or Curio hotels via Visa and pay with a Visa Signature or Visa Infinite card, you'll receive a free night on stays of two or more nights. You'll also receive perks such as space-available upgrades, free WiFi, continental breakfast, a $25 food and beverage credit and late check-out privileges. And there's even more: If you book by November 30, you'll receive a $75 Visa gift card. For a deal that rich, you'd expect some strings and there is a gigantic one: A spot-check of the nightly rates that Visa was quoting seem about 20 percent above the lowest-available Hilton.com rate. On balance, however, a 20 percent premium seems like a good trade-off for all of the perks. Stays are permitted until March 31 if you book by December 31. But, remember, the gift-card component requires booking by November 30. A September 16 update: Visa now says the 2-1 deal is sold out. However, the $75 gift card promotion is still valid, but you must now book by October 31.
UNITED AIRLINES Coast-to-Coast in First Below $1,000 Roundtrip. Kinda. Sorta.
United Airlines is mounting a "sale" on first class routes, the better to increase revenue and deny MileagePlus elites upgrades they have been promised. I put the term "sale" in quotes because there seem to be no rules or restrictions. In fact, United has just thrown a bunch of prices into a bucket--buy 21 days in advance of your departure--and leaves it to you to figure out the asterisks on each fare. Still, there are bargains, including sub-$1,000 fares on coast-to-coast journeys. Samples: Charlotte-San Francisco for $902 roundtrip; Fort Lauderdale-Los Angeles for $908; Sacramento-New York for $992; and Palm Springs-Washington for $888. Shorter-haul journeys of note: Houston-Boston for $764; Newark-New Orleans for $612; and San Antonio-Portland (Oregon) for $800. Good hunting--and expect plane changes at United hubs on the longer-haul runs. Information: the FLY UNITED FIRST page.
HYATT: 500 Gold Passport Points for Booking Via the Mobile App
Hyatt Hotels has upgraded its mobile app and, as it did the last time it reworked its technology, it is offering a tangible inducement to focus your attention. Until November 30, any reservation you book with the app will earn you an additional 500 Gold Passport points. Unfortunately, reservations previously booked with the app do not qualify for the bonus. INFORMATION: THE HYATT APP page.
AMTRAK: Double Points on Train Travel Before Thanksgiving
Okay, let's be realistic. This offer will appeal almost exclusively to business travelers in the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington. But all Amtrak riders can score double Guest Rewards points for rides from September 19 until November 19. All you need to do is register in advance. The one caveat: You can only earn double points for four one-way trips per day. And, yes, Amtrak does do a double-points promotion every fall before Thanksgiving. They even call it Double Days virtually every year, too. Information: the DOUBLE DAYS page.
LATAM: A Crazy-Quilt South America Business-Class Sale Is Better Than Nothing
With premium class flight deals to South America so rare, we should continue to be thankful for the bargains from LATAM, the pan-Latin powerhouse that includes LAN of Chile and TAM of Brazil. Yes, the deals are scattershot, with varying restrictions, several infuriating regulations and odd travel windows. But you'll find some fabulous bargains. Best current roundtrip fares of note from New York: $1,109 roundtrip from Kennedy to Guayaquil or $2,593 to Santiago, Chile, a city that's rarely on sale. From Miami, it's $891 roundtrip to Bogota. From Los Angeles, it's $2,627 to Buenos Aires. And from Washington/Dulles, it's $1,399 to Lima. By the way, LATAM is a Oneworld Alliance member. Information: the PREMIUM BUSINESS 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 before November 11, you'll receive enough points to claim a free night at about 1,500 of Choice's properties. There are lots of gimmicky rules and restrictions (not to mention advance registration), so make sure you read carefully before you commit. Information: the TWO TIMES page.
LAST CALL FOR THESE BARGAINS
ITALY: Last-Minute Discount on Luxury Escorted Tours Next Month
Elifant Tours, the personalized, small-group Italy visits that focus on food and architecture, have two itineraries scheduled for next month. A Taste of Ancient Rome runs October 17-24 and covers the development of the Eternal City by visiting historic sites such as Portus and Ostia. There'll also be fabulous meals at some of Rome's best restaurants and accommodations at top-flight hotels near the Pantheon. (I mention that because I never visit Rome without wandering around the glory that is the Pantheon). The second itinerary, Southern Etruria, runs from October 24-30 and covers the vibrant, but often overlooked, area between Rome and the Umbrian border. As a special offer for JoeSentMe members, Elifant Tours principals Maureen Fant and Elizabeth Bartman will knock 15 percent off the price of either tour. That brings the Ancient Rome visit, originally priced at $6,500 a person (double), down to just $5,525. The 15 percent discount reduces the Etruria tour, originally priced at $6,350 a person (double), down to only $5,398. But you must hurry because there are only a few places left on the small-group journeys. For more information, contact Maureen and Elizabeth at email@example.com or call 347-868-6345.
VIRGIN AMERICA: 999 Elevate Points to Celebrate a 9th--and Probably Last--Anniversary
Virgin America's Elevate program isn't long for this world--Alaska Airlines has agreed to buy the airline, after all--but Virgin is trying to fend off poachers (that would be JetBlue) while it still exists. The latest inducement: a bonus of 999 points when you book and fly by September 30. Why 999 points? Virgin America celebrates its ninth anniversary in August. Advance registration is required.
DELTA SKYMILES: Award 'Sale' Prices Even Though There Are No 'Regular' Prices
Delta's ultimate diss of business travelers is the airline's supposed dissolution of award charts. We know that isn't true, of course. The airline simply hid them from view so it could play bait and switch with award prices. So what to make of Delta's claim that awards for 13,000 routes are "on sale"? How can you have a sale, after all, if there are no set prices as Delta claims? If you can get past that emotional and intellectual disrespect, some of the awards on offer include New York/Kennedy-Savannah for 7,500 miles one-way in coach and 11,500 miles in Comfort+ class; San Francisco, Oakland or Long Beach to Salt Lake City for 5,500/9,500 miles; and Atlanta to Chicago/Midway for 5,000/9,000 miles. Taxes and fees are extra, of course. Awards must be claimed by September 30 for travel between August 23 and February 10. A 21-day advance booking is required and there are plenty of blackout dates. Information: the AWARD TRAVEL DEALS page.
ALASKA AIRLINES: Double Miles For Flying BA Between Seattle and London
One of the strengths of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, besides its decision to stick with miles-based earnings, is its spread of international partners. The latest promotion: double miles for flying British Airways between Alaska Air's Seattle-Tacoma hub and London. The miles bonanza is available until September 30 when you register in advance. Information: the EARN DOUBLE MILES page.
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNTS FOR MEMBERS
As the ground-transportation landscape has changed, we have a wide range of new global choices to get us to, from and around airports and cities. I favor Groundlink because it blends the traditional comfort, reliability and professionalism of black-car service with the price benefits and convenience of app-based ride-hail operations.
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 the GroundLink.com Web site. Enter JOESENTME in the promo code box that will appear on the screen before you confirm your ride. The 20 percent discount will be applied to your ride price.
Owned by a journalist and operating for nearly 40 years, Cook Travel specializes in discount international business and first class fares and supplies premium seats at a substantial savings. Cook Travel also offers upgrades from full-fare coach on many international airlines. It also has net fares for substantial savings on last-minute travel.
The Cook Travel Offer: Receive 10% off published fares on SkyTeam international business and first class tickets. Receive 5% off published fares on Star Alliance international business and first class tickets. Complimentary upgrades on most airlines when available to business class from full-fare international economy. Booking fees for international tickets waived.
How to claim the offer: Call 800-435-8776 and identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.
SHEFFIELD SPICE & TEA COMPANY
Sheffield has a shop in Las Vegas, where it has won raves for its unique products, offerings, recipes and service. But it has also launched a gorgeous Web site and has been winning customers from around the world. There are literally hundreds of products on offer: a dazzling range of carefully chosen teas, familiar and exotic spices, custom blends and rubs, chilis, oils and vinegars, sugars and accessories. In other words, everything a business traveler with taste needs to eat and drink better.
The Sheffield Spice & Tea Offer: Receive 15% off all purchases.
How to claim the offer: Surf to SheffieldSpices.com and when you reach the shopping cart page, enter this code in the coupon code box: joesentme2016
HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
RITZ-CARLTON: Starry Nights and Manhattans in the Arizona Desert
When American Airlines announced a nonstop flight between New York and Tucson, the nearest airport to the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain Resort, the property promptly created a so-called City Lights to Starry Nights package. For prices starting at $409 a night, the bundle includes: deluxe accommodations; buffet breakfast for two; $50 resort credit; and a pair of "make your own Manhattan" drink amenities. The package is valid from October 7, the day the American flights begin, through December 22. Information: the OFFERS page.
HOTELS: Frequency Bonuses Large and Small, With New Names and Old
As we head into the autumn business travel season, the major hotel chains have refreshed their frequent-stay bonuses. Some have changed names, but remain essentially the same. Others have familiar names, but are substantively changed. Here is what already has come down the chute--and, remember, advance registration is required.
HILTON HHONORS once again offers a simple double points promo through the end of the year. The current deal is called Double Up and is valid every day at all properties. It also means that Hilton has offered, under one promotion or another, double points on every hotel stay this year.
HYATT GOLD PASSPORT has changed the name of its new promotion, but the substance is the same--and especially good for travelers with a passel of upcoming stays. Now called More Points. More Play., the stair-step offer rewards 5,000 points after five nights. You'll receive another 10,000 points after ten nights. You'll receive 15,000 points more after 15 nights, 20,000 points after 20 nights and 25,000 points after 25 nights. That's a total of 75,000 points after 25 nights. The validity period for the promotion is September 1 to November 30.
MARRIOTT REWARDS is recycling the MegaBonus name for the umpteenth time, but the substance is radically different this time. Now you can choose one of two offers: 5,000 points after two stays or 10,000 points after every 10 nights. If you choose the latter, you may earn as many as 50,000 points. The validity period is September 15 through January 15 although you must register by December 15.
STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST unleashes a More for You promotion on September 12. As with previous deals, you'll earn double Starpoints for two-night stays and triple Starpoints for weekend visits. Stays between September 12 and December 18 will count and can be booked in advance. But don't forget to register.
CLUB CARLSON: Double or Triple Points--and an App Bonus, Too
If you're a Club Carlson player--it's the frequent guest program for Radisson, Country Inn and Park hotels--time to cash in on the chain's late summer and early fall promotion. Until October 31, you'll receive double points for stays when you check in on Sunday through Thursday and triple points for Friday or Saturday check-ins. Book your stays on the Carlson app and receive another 1,000 points. Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the WORK HARD PLAY HARD page.
STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST: Double Points If You Can Find a Tribute Hotel
There are fewer than a dozen Tribute Portfolio hotels around the world, so Starwood's Preferred Guest program is looking to goose traffic to those happy few. The offer: double SPG points when you stay at a Tribute hotel through October 31. That means four points per dollar spent. Advance registration is required. Information: the DOUBLE YOUR REWARDS page.
MARRIOTT REWARDS: A Huge Acquisition Bonus and Elite Status for $85
Silver Elite status in the Marriott Rewards program isn't fabulous and usually requires 10 nights of stays a year. But the Marriott Rewards credit card from Chase will comp it for you in exchange for its $85 annual fee. There is also a free night in Category 1-5 hotels each year you maintain the card. But now there's another interesting fillip: an 80,000-point bonus if you charge $3,000 in the first three months. The big bonus is good for two free restricted nights at Marriott's best hotels (Category 9) or four restricted free nights in the chain's mid-range (Category 5) properties. Information: the Marriott Rewards EARN 80,000 POINTS page.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
LA COMPAGNIE: Autumn in Paris in Business Class for Just $1,400 Roundtrip
As I explained in Seat 2B, business has plunged to/from and in Paris. That has forced La Compagnie, the all-business-class carrier that flies from Newark to Paris, to discount even more dramatically. The price for select flights in October and November is now just $1,400 roundtrip. La Compagnie is also wisely wrapping the discount around widespread disgust with the U.S. elections. And it's hard to argue that autumn in Paris doesn't sound better than the final days of this seemingly endless presidential cycle. Information: the ELECTION ESCAPE page.
BRITISH AIRWAYS: Let's Do That AARP $400 Discount Deal for Another Year
The still-inexplicable British Airways sale late in October was sweetened by the fact that you could stack the AARP discounts atop the already ridiculously low fares. The AARP deal was slated to end on October 31, but much to the surprise of some observers, it's been extended for another year. That means you can score $400 off a first or business class fare, $130 off a premium economy price and $65 off in coach. Those discounts are for roundtrip prices, of course. No one-ways or open jaws need apply. But the discounts also apply to BA's code-shares with American, Iberia, OpenSkies and Finnair. Naturally, you must be an AARP member (go ahead, spring for the minimal annual fee) and you do have to book through the approved AARP portal. As we learned during the October bonanza, however, all of BA's fares are there. This year's deal is scheduled to expire on October 21. Information: the TRIP OF A LIFETIME 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 $713 roundtrip? Or New York to Casablanca for $673 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $865 roundtrip? Or even Washington to Johannesburg for as little as $745 roundtrip. The prices aren't come-ons, either. KLM has a handy-dandy bar graph showing you when the fares are available between August and February 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. More interesting? This is a repeat of a fare sale run earlier this year and most prices are lower than they were several months ago. Information: the EXPLORE AFRICA TODAY page.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
UNITED/HERTZ: Really Awful Suppliers, Really Big Bonuses
I can't think of two suppliers doing poorer jobs right now than United Airlines and Hertz. But they are marketing partners these days--in fact, a failed former United C-suite executive runs Hertz--and they seem desperate for your custom. The solution: gigantic bonuses for even one-day rentals. Until December 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. 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 since last year. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES 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 22. Information: the Enterprise 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 January 31 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. Downloading and using National's app gets you 75 bonus points per rental up to a maximum of 300 points. There are also bonuses for weekend and weekday rentals of specified durations--and renting from local Enterprise locations. Advance registration and membership in the National Emerald Aisle program is required. Information: the ONETWOFREE page.
AVIS/BUDGET/AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn Up to 5,000 Miles
Mileage earnings 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 rentals were earnings deserts. Lately, however, airlines and rental firms have been working out relatively exclusive deals. Latest example? Avis/Budget will give you as many as 5,000 American AAdvantage miles for just a three-day rental. You'll earn 2,500 miles for most car categories and 5,000 miles for luxury vehicles such as convertibles and SUVs. The deal is valid until October 15. Information: the EARN MORE. SAVE MORE. page.
STAR ALLIANCE: Free Heathrow Express Upgrades for Gold Members
The Star Alliance isn't exceptionally strong in London, the hub for Oneworld Alliance partner British Airways. Which may be why it is offering upgrades to London-bound Star Alliance Gold members. But curb your enthusiasm. The upgrade isn't for London flights, but for trips on the Heathrow Express train that connects the airport with London Paddington station. To score the upgrade, present your full-fare coach Heathrow Express ticket and Star Alliance Gold credentials as you board the train. The promotion starts February 15. A reminder: You're Star Alliance Gold if you hold United MileagePlus Gold or higher status or Air Canada Altitude 50K status or higher. Information: the STAR ALLIANCE OFFERS page.
NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
CHASE: 100,000 Ultimate Rewards Points and 'Infinite' Travel Perks
Chase is slowly rolling out various flavors of the Visa Infinite card, a charge vehicle virtually unknown in the United States. After dropping the Ritz-Carlton version of the card several weeks ago (see below), it is now offering the so-called Chase Sapphire Reserve. It carries the same hefty annual fee ($450), but includes a $300 annual travel credit. In other words, the effective cost is just $150 a year. What does that get you? Three Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining; a rebate of your PreCheck or Global Entry fee; a Priority Pass card valid for entry at 700 airport clubs; and car-rental perks from National, Avis and Silvercar. Oh, there is the inducement from Chase to take the card: 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you spend $4,000 during the first 90 days you have the card. Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1 to United or Southwest Airlines or Marriott, Hyatt or InterContinental hotels. Information: the SAPPHIRE RESERVE card.
CHASE/RITZ-CARLTON: One Ring--Err, Hotel Credit Card--to Rule Them All
It's been rumored for months: Chase would soon issue a Visa Infinite, the perks-packed instrument that is Visa's most prestigious global card. And it turns out to be true. Chase is now only the second U.S. bank to offer a Visa Infinite. But it didn't stop there. It made the Visa Infinite the new Ritz-Carlton card and it is laden with useful benefits that far outweigh the hefty $450 annual fee. Spend $5,000 during the first three months and you'll earn three free nights at Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carltons. Cardholders also receive a $300 annual travel credit; $100 off whenever you purchase two or more domestic coach tickets, and a Priority Pass membership, valid for entry to about 700 airport clubs worldwide. The card also comes bundled with Gold status in Ritz-Carlton Rewards, five points per dollar spent at Ritz-Carlton and many full-service Marriott-branded properties and two points per dollar spent on restaurants and travel. All in all, a heavyweight card even if you're not a frequent Ritz-Carlton or Marriott customer. Information: the FIND YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE page.
CHASE: 60,000 Points for Ink, a Great Companion to Sapphire Preferred
If you're collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards Points--and you should since they are so flexible--the Sapphire Preferred Card is the one to have for travel and dining charges. (See below.) But you should also have an Ink Plus Card, too. It'll give you five points per dollar spent on office supplies, mobile phone charges, Internet and cable fees. It'll also get you double points at gasoline stations. And now you'll score an acquisition bonus of 60,000 points when you charge $5,000 in the first 90 days. Information: the INK FROM CHASE page.
CHASE: 50,000-Point Bonus to Take a Card You Must Have in Your Wallet
Let's make this simple: Why the hell don't you already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card? It offers two points per dollar spent on dining and all travel, including esoteric stuff like parking and commuter-train tickets. You get a 5,000-point bonus for adding an authorized user. There are no foreign-exchange charges and the $95 annual fee is waived in the first year. Plus the card is the gateway to Chase Ultimate Rewards, a program whose points transfer effortlessly on a 1:1 basis to the United, Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt and InterContinental frequency plans. If you don't have the card, now's the time because you'll also get a 50,000-point bonus when you charge $4,000 in the first three months. Information: the NEW CUSTOMERS page.
BARCLAYCARD: The New Premium JetBlue Card Has the Best Bonus and Package
JetBlue Airways has dumped American Express as its credit card partner and moved to Barclaycard. The best of the new cards is the Barclay JetBlue Plus. It has a modest ($99) annual fee and a good acquisition bonus: 30,000 TrueBlue points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. Ongoing card benefits include six points per dollar spent with JetBlue and two points per dollar spent at restaurants and grocery stores. You'll also get your first checked bag free and a 5,000-point bonus each year you hold the card. Information: the FLY FASTER page.
This column is Copyright © 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2016 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.