Steals & Deals for Nov. 10 to 24, 2016
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OXFORD: So You Never Got to Be a Rhodes Scholar ...
So you never got to be a Rhodes Scholar? Fear not because there is always The Oxford Experience, the summer session at Oxford University that offers dozens of week-long courses to travelers of all ages, social classes, intelligence levels and interests. One-week packages include the tuition and lectures for your course; lodging in Christ Church College dorms; and three meals daily. There are several dozen courses from which to choose, including studies in archeology, history, literature, politics, art and music. Courses are held in the morning, which leaves afternoons free for touring and optional excursions and evening for everything from whisky tasting to lessons in Morris dancing. At the end of the week, you even get a farewell dinner and something like a diploma. It's then up to you whether you want to run for the House of Commons or buy yourself a seat in the House of Lords. (Okay, I made that last part up, except, you know, the buying your way into the House of Lords.) Prices start at 1,310 pounds per person and upgrades to private accommodations with private baths are 180 pounds more. The weekly sessions take place from July 2 to August 12. My choice for favorite courses in the 2017 offerings? There's a deep dive into the cracking of the Nazi Enigma signals at Bletchley Park; a week of history on the English Civil War (that's the one with the Roundheads and Oliver Cromwell); a survey of how the Europeans blundered to the South Pacific and brought "disease, death and disaster;" and the story of the first performance of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in pre-war Paris. Online registration continues until May 1, but many courses sell out quickly. Information: The OXFORD EXPERIENCE page.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
DELTA AIR LINES: Cheap(er) Domestic Upgrades for 45 Days
Business travel slows dramatically between mid-November and the end of the year, so Delta is trying to lure you up from coach with cheap first-class upgrades. Of course, that might not be good news if you're hoping for an elite-status upgrade. But that is what it is and it shouldn't surprise you that Delta is trying to sell stuff to others that it may have promised to you free. Upgrade prices start at $39 one-way and scale up to $149. They are valid between November 19 and January 2 when you buy a roundtrip ticket by November 22. There are, of course, notable restrictions: Upgrades won't be for sale on Delta's transcontinental nonstops between New York and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. And you can't upgrade off coach tickets purchased in the lowest-priced (E, V or W) buckets or in straight Y, which has its own upgrade regimen. Information: the FIRST CLASS SAVINGS page.
FAIRMONT HOTELS: The 'Moments' Discount Offers Take More Than a Moment to Decipher
The Fairmont group of upscale hotels, a mash-up of former CP Hotels, Princess Hotels and several more small chains, always promotes the Moments discount in the fall. But the promotion is complicated so it takes several moments to get through. The chain will cut as much as 30 percent off stays based on the number of days you book. You must reserve by December 5 for stays through April 30. There'll also be a one-night non-refundable room deposit. Samples: 10 percent off a one-night stay at the Savoy in London and 15 percent off a two-night stay; 15 percent off a one- or two-night stay at the Fairmont Vancouver or 25 percent off stays of three or more nights; and 15 percent (up to two nights) to 30 percent (five nights or more) off at the Fairmont Dallas. Information: the STAY LONGER. STAY MORE. page.
HILTON HHONORS: 5,000 Bonus Points If You Do a Bunch of Stuff
Hilton HHonors points are viciously devalued, so 5,000 of them aren't worth much. Still, Hilton will give you 5,000 if you register, book using the Hilton HHonors app and use a Visa to pay for a stay before January 31. Got that? Register, book by app, pay with Visa and stay in the next few months. Ironically, the information is on Hilton HHonors' MAKE TRAVEL EASIER page.
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNTS FOR MEMBERS
ECBC LUGGAGE AND BACKPACKS
Business travelers obsess over luggage and a bag that works best for one flyer won't work at all for another. But if you are what I call a systems packer--someone who wants a compartment and a dedicated space for everything--you'll find your bliss at EC-BC. Their backpacks, wheeled luggage and messenger bags are exquisitely made with high-quality Ballistic Nylon and YKK self-repairing zippers. They strike a great balance between strength, weight, capacity and durability. They are fashionable and priced right, too.
The EC-BC Offer: 35 percent off for as many as five items on one order. Discount valid until December 31, 2016.
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 ground-transport landscape has changed and we have new global choices to get us to, from and around airports and cities. Groundlink blends the 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
CLUB CARLSON: Double Points or Double Elite-Qualifying Nights
Club Carlson, the frequency program for Radisson, Country Inn and other hotel chains, is first out with a late-fall promotion. The offer: double points on stays--or double elite-qualifying nights. If you're building points for free nights, go with the double points, of course. Choose the double elite-qualifying nights if you want Club Carlson's elite status, which isn't particularly strong. The promotion period lasts until December 31. Information: the DECISIONS, DECISIONS page.
HYATT: A 20 Percent Gold Passport Points Bonus in Vegas for the Holidays
Hyatt only has one hotel in Las Vegas--a Hyatt Place well off the strip--but it has a Gold Passport deal with MGM properties. That includes places like Bellagio, the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay. Now you can earn a 20 percent bonus on your Gold Passport points at any of the 13 Vegas properties when you stay between October 19 and December 29. Advance registration is required and you can do that here.
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.
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.
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
BRITISH AIRWAYS: Let's Do That AARP $400 Discount Deal for Another Few Months
The still-inexplicable British Airways sale last year was sweetened by the fact that you could stack the AARP discounts atop the already ridiculously low fares. This year's AARP deal was slated to end on October 21, but was extended until December 31. Now it's been extended to January 31. That's either good news or bad. Short-term extensions are always good, but, in previous years, BA extended the deal for an entire year. Either way, though, it means you can still 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 last year's bonanza, however, all of BA's fares are there. 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 Nairobi for as little as $753 roundtrip? Or New York to Algiers for $905 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $848 roundtrip? Or even Washington to Johannesburg for as little as $913 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.
AMERICAN AIRLINES/QANTAS: Big Bonuses on Australia/New Zealand Flights
As U.S. and Anzac carriers have added flights in recent years, they need to fill a surplus of seats to Australia and New Zealand. The inducement from Oneworld Alliance partners American Airlines and Qantas? AAdvantage bonuses for premium fares and multiple trips. You can earn as much as 50,000 miles for three first class flights (10,000 for the first one-way, 15,000 for the second and 25,000 for the third). Business class will net as much as 25,000 miles (5,000/7,500/12,500) and higher-priced coach seats will earn 9,000 miles (1,500/2,500/5,000). You must register and book by December 31 and fly between February 1 and May 31. Only certain fare buckets in each class of service qualify, so check the promotional terms and conditions carefully. Information: the BONUS MILES page.
AIR CANADA: A Free Stopover in Toronto When You Book to Europe or Asia
Air Canada is looking to bulk up its international traffic from U.S. customers. Its lure: a free stopover in Toronto for as long as seven days. So if you've yearned for a week in Canada's financial and cultural hub and are flying to Europe or Asia before the end of the year, this is the deal for you. The free stop is available on higher-priced coach fares as well as premium economy and business class prices. Information: the TORONTO STOPOVER page.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
AVIS/BUDGET/AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn Up to 500 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 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 500 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. The deal is valid until April 30, after being scheduled to end on October 15. Information: the EARN MORE. SAVE MORE. page.
HERTZ/AIR CANADA: Up to 4,000 Aeroplan Miles for Surprisingly Short Rentals
Hertz is teaming up with Air Canada to offer a rich basket of Aeroplan miles. You will receive 1,000 miles for rentals of one or two days and 4,000 miles for longer rentals. That bounty may even be enough to offset Hertz's increasingly mediocre service. The bonus applies to rentals until December 31 in Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico. You must use code PC# 111075. Information: the Hertz SPECIAL OFFERS page.
CAR RENTAL: 'Drive-In' Deals Around the Country Start at $9.95 a Day
Car rentals firms are known for offering super-low one-way rates when you help them move vehicles to seasonal high-demand markets. In spring, it's taking cars from sun destinations to the Northeast and Midwest. In the fall, however, it's the other way around. You'll get great deals if you rent one-way and drop your car off in select sun spots that will need cars for the winter snowbird season. Here is some of what's on offer now:
BUDGET wants you to get cars to Arizona. You can pick up a vehicle in California, Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City or Las Vegas before November 30. One-way rates are $9.95 a day for economy or compact vehicles and up to $16.95 for cars up to full size. There are knock-down prices for SUVs, luxury cars and convertibles, too. Information: the GO ONE WAY page.
HERTZ is hoping you'll pick up a car from Maine to West Virginia and drop it in Atlanta or at select locations in Florida. You've got until December 10 and can rent for as long as 14 days. Prices start at $9.95 a day. Information: the ONE-WAY DEALS 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.
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.
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.