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March 2018

Blog, Success Stories

Reader Success Story: A $20,466 Trip To Australia For Just $343.80

Guest Post By: Matt Brown

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

We just got back from an insane almost 3 week trip to Australia to celebrate my wife and my 5th Anniversary along with my father in law’s 65th birthday. We flew business class and stayed in some insane hotels that we never would have had experienced without miles and points!

My wife and I first started collecting miles and points in early 2016. In just over the 2 years, we’ve been able to collect over 2 million points to put toward a variety of travels. Thanks to award travel, we haven’t paid directly out of pocket for flights and most hotels in almost 2 years, and we don’t plan on changing that anytime soon!

One trip I’d always wanted to do was an extended trip to Australia. So, in March 2018, my wife and I—as well as her parents—headed Down Under for a few weeks of fun!

The most famous landmark in Sydney from the Park Hyatt Sydney.

(Note: These all only cover my wife and my travel logistics/costs/etc)

Our Australia Adventure: An Overview

·      Greensboro to New York City (positioning flight)

·      JW Marriott Essex House (1 night) – New York City

·      New York City to Seoul, South Korea to Sydney Australia

·      Park Hyatt (2 nights) – Sydney

·      Sheraton on the Park (2 nights) – Sydney

·      Sydney to Cairns

·      AirBNB (3 nights) – Port Douglas

·      Cairns to Brisbane

·      Brisbane Marriott (2 nights)

·      Brisbane to Melbourne

·      Park Hyatt (3 nights) – Melbourne

·      Melbourne to Sydney

·      Marriott Circular Quay (1 night) – Sydney

·      Sydney to Seoul to Chicago

·      Marriott Suites O’Hare (1 night) – Chicago

·      Chicago to Greensboro

I had a few goals in mind for the Australia trip. I wanted to fly on an Airbus A380 (still haven’t as of yet!) in business or first class and I wanted to stay in some of the nicest hotels possible on points—most notably the Park Hyatt in both Sydney and Melbourne. Fortunately, we were able to do just that.

How We Earned The Points For A Luxury Trip To Australia

To save up for this trip (and other trips), we use a strategic credit card plan that involved opening the following cards to help build up our balances of mostly SPG and Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The number following the card will indicate if one or both of us opened it.

Editor’s note: Some of these bonuses have changed or are no longer available

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (2) – 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2) – 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Chase Ink Business Preferred (1) –  80,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Chase Ink Business Plus (1) – 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points (no longer available)
  • Chase Ink Business Cash (1) – 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (2) – 35,000 SPG Starpoints
  • Starwood Preferred Business Guest Credit Card from American Express (2) – 35,000 SPG Starpoints
  • Chase Hyatt Credit Card (1) – 2 free nights

Total Points:

  •  550,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • 140,000 SPG Starpoints
  • 2 Free Nights at any Hyatt property worldwide

Along with the above cards, we eventually product-changed duplicate cards to the Chase Freedom to take advantage the 5x quarterly bonus categories when applicable. Further, once you start taking super nice trips, your friends start asking questions and want to get in on the secrets of free travel, and this opens up lots of referral opportunities that we’ve been able to use very well and earn points from!

On top of sign-up bonuses, we organized our everyday spending to maximize bonus categories. Since we eat out and travel a lot, we get great returns on the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card thanks to the travel and dining bonus categories which earn 3X points.

We also charge almost everything on our various credit cards (mortgage, utilities, etc.) to maximize points earnings. However, it’s worth noting that we never carry a balance as the interest costs easily far outweigh the value of the points earned.

Where we were able to make the most ground up however is the fact that we’re both self-employed with online businesses (I do web development and my wife runs an Etsy store), and a number of the online services that we use allow us to earn 3X with our Chase Ink Business Preferred cards.

When you combine bonus category spending, our businesses’ spending and other personal spending, we were really able to build up large points balances very quickly.

Here We Go!

With our points in hand, we set out to put together an itinerary that would allow us to have a trip throughout eastern Australia. We wanted to be sure we were able to cover a lot of ground and see all of the various sites we wanted to see at a relaxing pace.

We knew that we couldn’t see all of Australia in one trip, so we’ve left plenty to come back for on future trips. We also wanted to take advantage of some super nice accommodations on this trip.

Highlights Of Our Australia Adventure

We live in North Carolina, which isn’t great for accessing long-haul international flights to anywhere but Europe. Because of this, and by taking advantage of British Airways’ distance based award chart, we used a quick 15,000 British Airways Avios transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards to position ourselves in New York City.

We mainly chose to position in New York City because we were flying on a separate ticket the day before we left for Sydney. If for whatever reason this flight was cancelled, delayed, moved, etc, it’s only about an 8 hour drive. If we were hit with a big storm, we would still be able to make our flight by driving to New York. We also chose New York (JFK) because it has flights to almost anywhere in the world on every carrier you can imagine.

Saver award space to Australia is notoriously difficult to find, very expensive or requires routing through Asia. Because of this, we took Asiana Airlines from JFK to Seoul (ICN) then ICN to Sydney (SYD) for a total travel time of just under 27 hours. This seems like a major detour, but it was only about 2 hours longer than my in-laws route of Charlotte (CLT)-Los Angeles (LAX)-SYD which took about 24 hours. In lie-flat beds in business class, we hardly even noticed the difference in time!

Once in Australia, British Airways Avios really shine thanks to their distance-based award chart. We were able to make use of some super cheap redemptions on Qantas at 4,500 Avios per person in economy class from Melbourne (MEL) to SYD and 10,000 Avios per person from SYD up to Cairns (CNS).

By being able to book far in advance, we were able to snag some cheap flights on Virgin Australia through the Chase travel portal using Ultimate Rewards at a rate of 1.5 cents per point. We flew from CNS to Brisbane (BNE) for 8,520 Ultimate Rewards points (~$127) each and then BNE to MEL for 6,200 Ultimate Rewards points (~$93) each.

Business Class Flights To Australia

Long-haul international flights are much more tolerable in business class in lay-flat beds and eating delicious food!

The famed Bibimbap meal in business class on Asiana Airlines. It was delicious!

  • Greensboro (GSO) to New York (LGA) on American Airlines (positioning flight) – 15,000 British Airways Avios transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $11.20 instead of ~$410.
  • JFK to ICN to SYD on Asiana and SYD to ICN to Chicago (ORD) on United  – 320,000 United MileagePlus miles transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $251.32 instead of ~$12,870
    • We ended up rebooking our return flight while on our trip when Saver space opened up to SYD-SFO-ORD, but for the same mileage cost
  • SYD to CNS on Qantas – 20,000 Avios transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $42.32 instead of ~$300
  • CNS to BNE on Virgin Australia – 17,040 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (via Chase travel ortal) instead of ~$255
  • BNE to MEL on Virgin – 12,506 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (via Chase travel portal) instead of ~$185
  • MEL to SYD on Qantas – 9,000 BA Avios transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $27.76 instead of ~$220
  • ORD to GSO on United – 20,000 miles transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $11.20 instead of ~$465

Flight Totals

  • 44,000 British Airways Avios
  • 340,000 United MileagePlus miles
  • 29,546 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (portal)

·      Total – 413,546 points + $343.80 (taxes/fees) instead of $14,712.28

Roundtrip Business Class flights for 2 for 320,000 United Miles + $251.32 in taxes/fees.

If we were going to pay cash, this is what the same flights for the 2 of us would’ve cost.

25,763 miles is a lot of flying for just $343.80 out of pocket!

Luxury Hotels Across Australia

The location and views from the Park Hyatt Sydney are hard to beat!

Our upgraded room at the Park Hyatt Melbourne. Rooms are always better with an office and sitting area. Not pictured – the huge walk-in closet and enormous bathroom.

  • JW Marriott Essex House New York – 1 Night for 45,000 Marriott Rewards points (transferred 15,000 SPG Starpoints) instead of $429.23
  • Park Hyatt Sydney – 2 Nights for 2 free night certificates instead of $1,845.83/room
  • Sheraton on the Park – 2 Nights for 27,000 SPG Points instead of $1,061.19/room
  • AirBNB Port Douglas – 3 Nights for ~$475 = ~47,500 Capital One Venture Rewards miles
  • Brisbane Marriott – 2 Nights for 25,060 Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of $356.25
  • Park Hyatt Melbourne – 3 Nights for 65,996 Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of $989.94
  • Marriott Circular Quay Sydney – 1 Night – 27,798 Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of $416.97
  • Marriott Chicago Suites O’Hare – 1 Night – 11,962 Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of $179.44

Hotel Totals

  • 42,000 SPG Starpoints
  • 129,506 Ultimate Rewards points
  • 47,500 Venture Rewards miles

Total – 219,006 points instead of $5,753.85

How Many Points We Used

All said and done, we pulled together a trip that would have cost $20,466.13 for 632,552 points and miles + $343.80.

With all of the money we saved on hotels, we could easily splurge on this awesome, but very reasonably priced, AirBNB for our 3 nights in Port Douglas.

Hotel And Airport Lounge Experiences (Plus Priority Pass Select)

Not only did we save thousands of dollars on our flights and hotels, but we saved additional money on food and drink in a country where food and drink is generally more expensive than our hometown.

Thanks to my Gold status with Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott, we had access to the lounge at each Marriott. We also had Club Level access thanks to concierge upgrades at the Park Hyatts.

These lounges provided delicious breakfast buffets, access to food and drinks throughout the day, and heavy hor d’oeuvres and cocktails each evening. So each day, we had at least one meal (breakfast) as well as snacks and drinks covered also literally for free. Additionally, our bookings at both Park Hyatt properties included a $100 food and beverage voucher each, so we enjoyed two delicious meals at the hotel along with club food.

When not eating in the lounges we got to enjoy delicious food such as KANGAROO STEAKS!

We certainly didn’t sit around and eat hotel food all day everyday, but having some of the more basic meals covered  allowed us to be more adventurous for lunches and dinners, especially in Melbourne and Sydney. When not eating in the lounges, we got to enjoy delicious food like Kangaroo Filet Steaks.

We also spent a lot of time in airports transiting from city to city. Thankfully, our Priority Pass Select membership through the Chase Sapphire Reserve provided access to many airport restaurants. Each time we went to the airport with a participating restaurant, we each had $36AUD to spend on food.

This breakfast was not only delicious, but all $127.90AUD (food, coffees, pastries and bottled water) of it was covered by the Priority Pass thanks to our $144AUD allowance each time.

We ate 3 meals totaling over $100AUD each at airports when traveling. They were all 100% FREE thanks to the Priority Pass that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.


This breakfast was not only delicious, but all $127.90AUD (food, coffees, pastries and bottled water) of it was covered by the Priority Pass thanks to our $144AUD allowance each time.

Reaching Out To Hotels For Special Occasions

If you’re a member of the 10xTravel Facebook Group, you know that contacting the hotel concierge or guest relations manager when celebrating a special occasion can do wonders.

Well, I contacted 6 of the 7 hotels for our trip and each hotel went out of their way to acknowledge our 5th anniversary, usually with a bottle of champagne and some dessert pastries. They also recognized my father-in-law’s birthday with the same treatment.

Welcome Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and flowers at the Park Hyatt Sydney.

We even scored some sweet room upgrades thanks to my email to the hotel concierge which took things to another level.

We got upgraded to this sick Terrace Suite at the JW Marriott Essex House. It included not only a 1200sq ft room but also a 300sq ft terrace.

Activities In Australia

Snorkeled with Sea Turtles on the Great Barrier Reef!

Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef

Hung out with Tigers at the Australia Zoo…

…and koalas too!


Swimming on the famed Bondi Beach.

Driving 100+ miles along the beautiful and scenic Great Ocean Road outside Melbourne.

The famed 12 Apostles rock formation along the Great Ocean Road

Feeding Kangaroos

Final Thoughts

Without points and miles, this once-in-a-lifetime luxury adventure wouldn’t have been possible. As you can see, our flights and hotels could have cost over $20,000. I don’t know about you, but at 29 years-old, I’m in no shape to be dropping $20,000 on a vacation.

By taking care of our travel costs with points, we were able to enjoy some great meals and activities without worrying about the cost We even paid a little extra to rent Mercedes and BMW SUVs instead of the cheapest option because we could!

The beauty of all this is that points and miles allowed us to take a trip that we could only imagine for a fraction of the cash cost.

Now, we just need to figure out our next adventure. I’m ready for more champagne!

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Blog

How to Check Your Chase 5/24 Status

By: Bryce Conway – Founding Editor of 10xTravel.com

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

Hi Travel Junkies,

Since first being introduced in late 2016, no rule or policy has had as great an impact on the points/miles community as the dreaded Chase 5/24 rule.

To quickly recap, the Chase 5/24 rule effectively creates a scenario in which you cannot be approved for a Chase credit card if you have opened 5 or more credit cards (with any issuer) in the last 24 months.

Again, that counts cards opened with any issuer, not just Chase. If you open 3 American Express cards and 2 Citi cards in a 2 year period you will be at 5/24 without having opened a single Chase credit card.

There are a few Chase cards that do not abide by this rule, but by and large the highest value Chase cards do enforce it with no exceptions. You can read about the cards that do not enforce 5/24 here.

So naturally we get the question a lot: How do I check my Chase 5/24 status?

Let’s take a moment to answer that question (and save myself and the 10xT staff from having to answer it on a daily basis).

How to check your Chase 5/24 Status

The best way to check your Chase 5/24 status is to use CreditKarma.com.

For anyone not familiar with them, Credit Karma is a free website that allows you to view your credit score and credit report. Unlike many other “free” credit score websites, Credit Karma does not require a credit card number to sign up and will not charge you monthly for their services.

Though be warned, the “credit score” that Credit Karma provides not your real FICO credit score. It’s simply an approximation calculated by Credit Karma and can be incredibly inaccurate. Particularly for anyone who has a lot of moving parts to their credit (high number of inquiries, variable utilization, etc.)

I get at least a half dozen emails a week that say “help my credit score tanked for no reason!” that all can be traced back to the fact that Credit Karma’s scoring model is incredibly flawed.

So always be sure to check out your real FICO credit score (for free) to see what is really going on.

Despite being unreliable for checking your credit score, Credit Karma is very useful for checking your 5/24 status. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Go to CreditKarma.com and log in (or create an account if needed)

image6 5

Step 2: Click on “Accounts” at the top of the page to be redirected to a list of every account on your credit report.

image7 4

Side note: Notice that Credit Karma says that my score jumped 36 points last month despite the fact there were absolutely no material changes to my credit report. I did not apply for any credit, close any cards, miss any payments, and my utilization remained the exact same. This is laughably inaccurate.

My actual FICO score in February (also from TransUnion) was a 773. A full 48 points higher than what Credit Karma was showing.

image1 6

Anyway, enough bagging on Credit Karma. Back to checking your 5/24 status.

Step 3: Scroll through your open credit accounts and tally any account that is less than 2 years old.

The first thing you will see in the accounts tab is a list of all of your open credit accounts. Click on the “+” next to each one to show more information.

image5 5

Each account will expand to show more information such as utilization, payment history, and account age. Take a look at the “Opened” date and make a note of any cards that are less than 2 years old.

image3 4

This card is 2 years, 4 months old. Meaning it does not add to my 5/24 count.

Step 4: Repeat step 3 with your closed accounts

If you scroll down a little farther on the “Accounts” page you will see an option to show closed accounts. Click on it to open up a list of closed accounts on your credit report.

image2 2

Then simply repeat step 3, clicking on the “+” next to each account and making a tally for any that were opened less than 2 years ago.

image4 3

Don’t forget to factor your closed credit cards in to your 5/24 count.

Step 5: Add up your total number of open and closed accounts that were opened less than 2 years ago

Pretty simple, add up the total number of accounts that you tallied from Step 3 and Step 4 to determine your 5/24 status.

Remember that you are only counting accounts that were opened less than 24 months ago. The date in which the account was closed does not matter.

That’s it!

And now that you know where you stand on 5/24, take a look at our ranking of the top credit card offers for March. Which we conveniently divide in to categories for those of you above and below 5/24.

As always, feel free to email me with questions.

Happy Travels,

Bryce

Blog

How To Pay Your Taxes And Earn Points [2018]

By: Spencer Howard, Editor in Chief

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support

Let’s be honest, no one enjoys tax season. You put in so much effort just to make sure everything is exactly right and you get very little gratification from doing them. Now, I’m not here to give you tax advice so I’ll leave that to a professional.

However, we are going to talk about how you can use credit cards to earn some miles and points on your tax payments. Before you know it, you’ll be using the miles and points you earn to book your next vacation.

Let’s dive in!

How To Pay Taxes With A Credit Card

Previously, we’ve talked about using Plastiq to pay any bills you have that don’t accept credit cards. You could use Plastiq to pay your taxes with its 2.5% processing fee, but there are three payment processors offered on the IRS website with fees between 1.87% and 1.99%.

Payment Processor Options

Each payment processor has its own fee structure for both debit card and credit card payments. Additionally, each accepts a number of digital wallet payments.

ProcessorDebit Card FeeCredit Card FeeDigital Wallets Accepted
Pay1040.com (Link2GovCorporation)$2.59 flat fee1.87% fee; minimum $2.59Visa Checkout, MasterPass, Amex Express Checkout
PayUSAtax.com      (WorldPay US, Inc.)$2.58 flat fee1.97% fee; minimum $2.69Visa Checkout incl. Android Pay and Samsung Pay, MasterPass, Amex Express Checkout, PayPal
OfficialPayments.com/fed (Official Payments)$2.00 flat fee1.99% fee; minimum $2.50Visa Checkout, Amex Express Checkout

Clearly, using Pay1040 is the best option if you are paying with a credit card as it has the lowest processing fee at 1.87%. This will be the easiest fee to offset when using a credit card.

For those paying quarterly estimated taxes, you can make 2 payments per quarter as well as 2 payments for your annual payment. While not officially stated, this 2 payment limit seems to be per processor. While this might not be necessary for most, it might be useful to a few of you who submit multiple payments.

None of these options will hit you with a cash advance so you can rest assured that you will earn points.

Why Should You Pay Taxes With A Credit Card?

I don’t know about you but, if I’m going to make any kind of large payment, I’m going to try to earn some miles or points from it and taxes are no different. With fees between 1.87% and 1.99%, we have an opportunity to offset the fee with the rewards we can earn. If you can make the numbers work for you, why let this opportunity pass you by?

Here are some of the best reasons for paying taxes with a credit card.

Knock Out A Minimum Spend Requirement To Earn A Bonus

Without a doubt, earning a sign-up or welcome bonus when paying taxes with a credit card is going to get you the best return. This can be especially useful when working on a higher minimum spend requirement for cards such as the Business Platinum Card from American Express.

Check out our list of top card offers for March for some ideas on the best signup bonuses available right now.

Earn Valuable Miles And Points

If you’re not working toward a minimum spend, one card stands out as the best option for paying taxes: the Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express. Every year, you will earn 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar up to $50,000 in spend per calendar year.

You also have a few options for earning 1.5X points per dollar. With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you can earn valuable Ultimate Rewards points which can be transferred to airline and hotel partners if you also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred.

If you don’t have the Blue Business Plus Credit Card, you can potentially earn 1.5X Membership Rewards points with the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card or The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN.

To earn 1.5X with the Amex EveryDay Preferred, you must use the card 30 (or more) times during the statement period to get the 50% bonus which brings you to 1.5X. With The Business Platinum Card, you only earn 1.5X if your payment is at least $5,000.

You can read more about these cards and others by visiting our credit cards page.

 

Progress Toward Big Spend Bonuses

In some very specific circumstances, it might be worth paying taxes with a credit card that will help you earn a big spend bonus. Several cards provide bonuses once you earn a certain number of points or reach a spend threshold.

Southwest Companion Pass

One of the most popular perks among 10xTravel readers is the Southwest Companion Pass which allows you to book 2-for-1 tickets whether you’re paying with cash or booking an award flight. To earn the Companion Pass, you need to earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points within a calendar year.

Many people apply for two of the co-branded Southwest cards—Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Card—provided by Chase at the beginning of the year.

Earning the Southwest Companion Pass at the beginning of the year will provide you with the pass for the remainder of the year plus the following year. Sometimes, the sign-up bonuses on two of the cards are high enough to get you the Companion Pass outright but, if not, paying taxes can help you hit the necessary 110,000 Rapid Rewards points.

 Elite Status Qualifying Dollar Waiver

This one is for those who travel for work. If work is paying for your travel, it sometimes makes sense to pick an airline and earn elite status. However, most airlines in the states have added spend requirements so even if you’ve reached the qualifying flight miles requirement, you might not earn elite status.

For Delta flyers, you have six credit card options that can provide a waiver of the spend requirement:

  1. Delta Gold SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
  2. Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
  3. Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
  4. Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express
  5. Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express
  6. Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card from American Express

If you spend $25,000 in a calendar year on any of these cards, you will receive a waiver for Delta’s Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) requirement for Silver, Gold or Platinum status. A waiver for Diamond stats requires you to spend a massive $250,000.

United Airlines has a similar set-up with its co-branded cards from Chase. If you spend $25,000, you’ll get a waiver for United’s Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs) requirement for Premier Silver, Premier Gold or Premier Platinum status. There isn’t a spend waiver for Premier 1K elite status.

To be clear, these are not going to apply the most travelers. Rarely is chasing status worth it for people in the U.S. unless you have regular work travel.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are several ways that you can make the most of paying taxes. Using your tax payments to hit a minimum spend requirement is definitely the top choice but, if that’s not an option right now, you might be able to get some big value by using a credit card that earns 2X or 1.5X points per dollar.

While you probably aren’t excited these payments, at least you’ll know that they are helping you earn your next award flight or hotel stay—perhaps a relaxing vacation in Hawaii where you can forget all about taxes for awhile.

See You In the Sky,

Spencer

Blog

5 Tricks To Get The Most Out Of Airbnb

By: Travis Cormier

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support

Hey Travel Junkies,

You can book some amazing hotels with points but sometimes your hotel options just don’t cut it. Belize is well known for its lack of chain hotels which rules out award stays and, personally, I can’t imagine staying in the Great Smoky Mountains anywhere but a cabin.

This is where Airbnb come into the picture. At some destinations, your best option is often a home-sharing service such as Airbnb. At this point, Airbnb does not have a loyalty program so you won’t be able to redeem points for stays the way you would with Hyatt or Marriott.

Despite this, you’re not out of luck. There are lots of ways to help save money or earn points for your Airbnb stays. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to maximize your Airbnb bookings.

1. Book With The Barclaycard Arrival Plus or Capital One Venture Card

By far, the easiest way to save on your next Airbnb stay is using points that can erase travel charges such as those earned from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus or the Capital One Venture Card.

Barclaycard Arrival miles and Capital One Venture Rewards miles are each worth one cent each. This means if you have 50,000 miles, you have $500 that can be used for travel.

To use these points, all you have to do is use the credit card to pay for the Airbnb stay. Once the purchase has posted, you can apply your points to the booking and erase the purchase with the points.

The sign-up bonuses for these cards vary but are often around 50,000 miles once you meet the minimum spend requirements. The bonus alone can easily cover the cost for a few nights at an Airbnb.

If you’re applying for one of these cards, keep in mind that Capital One pulls your credit report from all three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Make sure you know your real FICO credit score before applying for your next credit card.

2. Use Airbnb Gift Cards

A great way to help offset the cost is through buying gift cards for Airbnb. Although you will still be paying cash, you can save money or earn a few extra points for your booking.

If you would like to save some cash, buying discounted gift cards is a great way to go. You can find discounted gift cards on a variety of sites such as Raise and eBay—Paypal Digital Gifts often runs sales on new Airbnb gift cards.

Through these sites, you can often find gift cards for a few percent off face value. PayPal Digital Gifts often provides a 10% discount. Not a bad way to save a few bucks on your Airbnb stays!

If you buy the gift cards the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card, you can get a discount and earn 1.5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. Even better, you can use the Blue Business Plus Card from American Express to earn 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar.

If you prefer to earn the most points possible, you can utilize bonus categories to buy gift cards. Staples and Office Depot frequently carry Airbnb gift cards which means you can purchase gift cards with your Chase Ink Business Cash Card to earn 5X points per dollar.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Chase Ink Business Cash Card don’t have an annual fees but cannot transfer Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners. To transfer points, you will also need one of the following cards that also earns Ultimate Rewards points:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
  • Ink Business Preferred Card

Knowing where to buy gift cards can help you save a little bit off the cash price or help you earn the most points possible for your Airbnb stay.

3. Use Your Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Travel Credit

The travel credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is my favorite travel credit. While many travel credits actually provide “airline fee” credits, the travel credit from the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card automatically applies to the first $300 in purchases each cardmember year that code as travel—this includes Airbnb.

In fact, this is the only travel credit available that can be used for Airbnb bookings. Keep in mind, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card does fall under the Chase 5/24 rule so it should be a top priority if you want the card and are under 5/24.

The travel credit resets every cardmember year, so you can easily get $300 towards an Airbnb stay every year you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

4. Combine With Airline Partnerships

In addition to the points you can receive from your credit card, you can stack with additional Airbnb partners for even more points.

By signing up on with Delta you can earn Delta SkyMiles for your Airbnb stays. Typically, you will earn 1X SkyMile per dollar sent on your Airbnb bookings but the occasional special will let you earn up to 5X SkyMiles per dollar.

You don’t even have to make your booking with one of the American Express co-branded Delta card. You can use whatever credit card you want to earn points or even use Airbnb gift cards to book.

This means you can stack multiple points on every booking you make. If you purchase Airbnb gift cards at Staples with the Chase Ink Business Cash Card, you will earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points and 1X SkyMile per every dollar on your bookings.

Stacking promotions is a great way to help maximize the value you receive from an Airbnb booking.

5. Extend Your Stay

Did you know that many Airbnb hosts offer a discount for weekly or monthly bookings? By extending your stay an extra day or two, you can sometimes unlock a bit of a discount.

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Staying one Extra Night Can Unlock Weekly Discounts

Unlocking this discount can let you extend your vacation an extra day for a few more dollars. For those once in a lifetime vacations, a few extra dollars for an extra day may very well be worth it.

Do NOT Exchange Transferable Points For A Gift Card

It might seem like exchanging transferable points—Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points—for Airbnb gift cards would be a good way to use points to stay at an Airbnb property. However, this option should be avoided if at all possible as the value you would receive is nowhere near the value of these points.

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Avoid Redeeming Highly Valuable Ultimate Rewards for Gift Cards

If you exchanged 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points for a $100 Airbnb gift card, you would only get a value of 1 cent per point. 10,000 Ultimate Rewards are worth $150 through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal when you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card or $125 when you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Ink Business Preferred Card.

If you transfer them to partners, you could get even more value out of your points. Think about it. You could book a one-way flight from the west coast to Hawaii for 12,500 British Airways Avios which is a transfer partner of both Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards—you can also transfer SPG Starpoints to British Airways. That’s only 2,500 more points and you’d get a flight that is almost always $250-350 one-way.

Final Thoughts

When staying in a hotel isn’t the best option at your vacation destination, Airbnb can help fill in the gaps. Airbnb doesn’t have its own reward program, but that doesn’t mean you can can’t maximize credit card points and save money.

Thanks to the travel credit from cards the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and miles from the Capital One Venture Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, you can easily stay at Airbnb properties for little to no out of pocket cost.

If you are paying cash, consider taking advantage of credit card bonus categories to buy Airbnb gift cards so you can earn maximum points. If you saving money is the number one priority, make sure you look for discounted Airbnb gift cards.

Next time you book, take advantage of these tricks to make the most of your next Airbnb stay.

Travel In Style,

Travis

Blog

Flying Blue Awards To Book Before the June 1 Changes

By: Caroline Lupini

Flying Blue is the loyalty program of Air France-KLM, their subsidiaries, and a few other partners including Kenya Airways, Tarom, and Aircalin. It’s one of Europe’s major frequent flyer programs, along with the British Airways Executive Club and Miles & More (Lufthansa group).

This year marks a major change in the Flying Blue program, which will become fully revenue-based as of April 1, 2018 for earning purposes. To make matters worse, the award chart will disappear on June 1, 2018, with a pricing based on the origin, the destination and the date, in a similar way to what Delta has done with Skymiles.

Considering these changes, there’s truly a lot we don’t know. What we do know, however, is that some awards are definitely going to cost more miles while some are staying the same or even going down. Due to this, there are some awards that you should book before June 1, 2018 to get the best deal and some others that you might be better off booking after the change.

Air France-KLM Flying Blue Awards To Book Before June 1

1. Longer Flights Within the Continental US

Domestic redemptions are changing and, while not all of the city pairs are loaded into the system, it appears that short-haul redemptions are going down slightly—Boston (BOS) to New York (JFK) decreases from 12,500 to 11,500 Flying Blue miles in economy class and from 31,250 to 28,000 miles in first class).

Transcontinental flights will go up with JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) increasing from 31,250 to 34,000 miles in first class and economy class increasing from 12,500 to 14,000 miles. Awards to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean will be priced similarly.

2. Flights to Hawaii

Award flights to Hawaii are getting hit with a sharp devaluation. LAX or Atlanta (ATL) to Honolulu (HNL) will start at 43,000 miles for first class, up from 30,000 miles. The mileage cost from the cities on the east coast are not yet available.

3. Flights Within Asia

Intra-Asia redemptions also take a hit. While they were a sweet spot at 10,000 miles one-way in economy class and 25,000 in business class as long as you stayed in the same region, those awards will now require 20,000 miles—a 100% increase—and 45,000 miles, respectively.

4. West Coast USA to Europe

Most destinations from the west coast to Paris (CDG) or Amsterdam (AMS) will also see a substantial increase of 8,500 to 9,500 miles for business class awards which means awards that were previously 62,500 miles will be 71,000 or 72,000 miles. With business class awards from LAX, San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA) and Salt Lake City (SLC) surpassing 70,000 miles one-way with the change, you’ll definitely want to book those now.

Note that Vancouver (YVR) will be much more reasonable after the change with a saver level award rate of 59,500 miles one-way with the launch of the new award chart.

Since Flying Blue charges only 45 euros to change or cancel an award, it might be worth securing one of these awards at the current price, even if your plans aren’t set in stone, as you could potentially save thousands of miles.

Air France-KLM Flying Blue Awards To Book After June 1

One word of caution before we look at redemptions that could become a better deal under the new program. The new award calculator clearly states that the mileage required is the minimum number of miles required between two airports. This means that not all flights available for redemption will be available at this saver level. If this seems familiar, you can look at how Delta prices awards.

It does’t even guarantee that low-level awards (those that are available to other SkyTeam partners as well) will always be priced at that level, since the mileage cost of a ticket might also vary depending on the season. The new Flying Blue website states (bolding mine):

We’ll calculate the number of Miles needed to book your ticket based on the origin, destination and date of your flight.

 

As a comparison, British Airways and Iberia awards vary between peak and off-peak days, but a calendar of peak dates is published way ahead of time. At this points, Air France-KLM Flying Blue haven’t indicated that they will do so.

On the more positive side, if you need to get on a particular flight, it will now always be possible (but we don’t know at what cost). From June 2018, they will offer a new Miles & Cash option. Instead of using just Miles, you can pay for up to 25% of your ticket with cash. This way, you won’t have to wait to book your favorite seat, even if you are a few miles short.

With these changes in mind, here are some award tickets you might want to book after June 1. Keep in mind that just because the saver-level award rate will be reduced, there is no guarantee that awards will be available at that rate.

1. Flights From Some East Coast Cities to Europe

Some direct flights from the East Coast will require fewer miles such as JFK or Miami (MIA) to CDG will decrease from 25,000 to 22,000 one-way in economy class and from 62,500 to 57,500 in business class.

Unfortunately, BOS to CDG goes up from 62,500 to 63,500 in business class. It gets better when Paris or Amsterdam aren’t your final destination, though. For example, Boston to Brussels (BRU) drops from 62,500 to 53,000 miles one-way in business class.

2. East Coast To India

If you want from JFK to Delhi (DEL), the mileage cost drops significantly from an overpriced 100,000 miles to 85,000 miles one-way in business class. This brings it more in line with the competition—United MileagePlus requires 75,000 miles on its own flights and 85,000 miles for partner flights.

3. West Coast US to French Polynesia

Finally, LAX to Tahiti (PPT) on Air France’s fifth-freedom route could become an interesting redemption as it drops from 75,000 to 64,000 miles in business class and from 30,000 miles to 25,500 in economy class.

4. Business Class flights to North Africa and Israel

Air France-KLM Flying Blue continues to consider North Africa and Israel as part of the European region and that’s good news for us. Business class awards from the US are actually getting even better. For example, JFK to Tel Aviv (TLV) will be 53,000 miles one-way in business class which is down from 62,500 miles one-way.

Air France-KLM Flying Blue Redemptions That Remain The Same

While we’re seeing some positive and some negative changes to the Flying Blue award chart, there are some awards that will remain the same.

1. First Class Awards

To be honest, this is unlikely to affect the vast majority of travelers in the states. First class awards on Air France can only be booked by those who have earned elite status in the Flying Blue program.

If you happen to have to elite status with Flying Blue, the new mileage rates aren’t going to help you book first class awards on Air France. First class awards between JFK and CDG will continue to be a staggering 200,000 miles. That’s just for a one-way ticket!

2. Economy Class Flights to North Africa and Israel

Economy class flights from the U.S. to North Africa and Israel remain untouched and we consider that a good thing. You can continue to book these award flights for 25,000 miles one-way after the changes are made on June 1.

Promo Awards Become Promo Reward Tickets

At this time, it does not appear that the mileage cost to fly partner airlines will be different—unlike the Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus programs. Of course, not all redemption prices seem to be set, so we shouldn’t feel entirely safe from a bad surprise.

The monthly Flying Blue Promo Awards, one of the major sweet spots of the Flying Blue program, seem to be unaffected at this point with only their name changing to Promo Reward. These discounted awards can reduce the mileage requirement by either 25% or 50%. The discounted award rates are only eligible for flights operated by Air France or KLM. If you find a Promo Reward ticket from the U.S., expect a 25% discount.

So, even though you might want to book some awards before June, always watch out for these promotions as it can be worth paying the 45 euro change fee to get up to 50% of your miles back if your destination goes on sale.

Bottom Line

It’s almost never a good thing when an airline makes changes to their award program. While we know about some of the changes coming to Flying Blue, we don’t have all the details yet. We might learn more Before June 1st, but we may have to wait until then to see exactly how things will play out.

If you have Flying Blue miles and are thinking about booking an award, make sure you look up the post-June 1 award rate with their mileage calculator and compare it to the current award rate.

We’ll keep an eye out for more important changes to the Air France-KLM Flying Blue program.

Blog

Tipping Around The World: Part 2

By: John Tunningley

In the second half of our tipping around the world series, we will cover some of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and the Middle East. All currencies are provided in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted. Keep in mind, Euros are primarily used throughout much of Europe.

Make sure you check out Part 1 to learn about tipping culture in The Americas, Asia and Africa.

EUROPE

Much like Asia, the tipping customs in Europe vary widely from Iceland—all gratuities are included—to many countries in which 10-15% is expected at restaurants. Though Eastern European countries didn’t have the same tipping culture, historically, the American tipping culture has started to spread through these countries as global tourism has increased. Throughout Europe, it’s best to tip in the local currency and, when dining, it’s best to leave tips in cash otherwise the waiter may not get the tip.

Croatia

While dining out in Croatia, the tip you leave depends on where you’re eating. You can round up the bill when having a coffee or a drink but you’ll want to leave leave a 3-5% tip at a tavern. If you dine at a nicer restaurant, you’ll want to leave a 10-15% tip.

At hotels, feel free to tip around $10 to the concierge. Tip a little more if it’s a nicer hotel and you are making multiple requests of the concierge team. Cleaning staff should be left $1-2 per day in an envelope at the end of your stay while porters should get the typical $1 per bag.

Guides and drivers should be tipped 10-20% per day, while you can let taxi drivers keep the change. Also, if you happen to be taking a chartered sailing excursion, leave $50-60 per person at the end of the trip. If it’s a larger boat/yacht, leave 10-20% of the overall cost.

Czech Republic

When dining in the Czech Republic, a service charge is typically included, but for great service feel free to tip an additional amount to make the total tip, including the service charge, up to 15% of the bill.

For hotels, tip the concierge about $20 if you will be using them, tip bellhops $1-2 per bag, and cleaning staff about $4 a day. You can round up the the fare on taxis rides but for guides and drivers tip $5-10 and $10-15, respectively.

Estonia

At restaurants, rounding up the bill at most places is acceptable, while at a nice restaurant tipping 5-8% in cash is appreciated. At hotels, give porters one Euro per bag and the concierge five Euros if you will be utilizing them.

When getting around, give guides 30-35 Euros per day while drivers should get about 20 Euros per day.

France

Don’t expect to tip at a bar, but you can leave up to 10% on a dinner bill. At hotels, two Euros should be given to the porter per bag and the housekeeper per day. Tipping 10-15 Euros to the concierge for making reservations is also acceptable.

Certified guides should be given up to 50 Euros per day, while drivers should get about 10-15 Euros per day. 10-20 Euros for airport transfers and 10-15% tip should be added to taxi rides.

Germany

At restaurants, 5-10% should be added to bills. While staying at a hotel, about 2 Euros per bag for the porter is acceptable. Housekeeper should be left about 5 Euros per night. Also, feel free to tip the concierge about 20 Euros if you are using them.

Greece

While staying in Greece, porters should be given roughly 1 Euro per bag and housekeepers should receive the same. While dining, many people leave 5-10% with the higher percentages for more inexpensive bills.

For local transportation, plan to tip about 20 Euros per day or a little more for private drivers and 4-6 Euros per person for guides on group tours. 40-60 Euros is normal for a full-day private tour. For boat charters, tip the captain 5-15% to be distributed among the crew.

Hungary

For great service at restaurants leave about 10% of the total bill in cash. You can simply round up the bill for standard service. At hotels, tip the concierge about $20 if you utilize them while porters should be given around $2 and housekeepers around $3.

Tip guides $10-20 per person per day. You should tip drivers $5-10 but simply round up the fare for taxi rides. If you take the train, expect to run into porters who should also be tipped about $1-2 per bag.

At spas, you can tip up to 10% extra on top of the included service charge

Iceland

Throughout Iceland tips are either included or not necessary. That said, for exceptional service, you can tip up to an additional 10% at restaurants. Tipping fantastic guides or drivers $10 and $20 a day is acceptable.

Italy

Dining in Italy is truly an experience. When dining out, a 10% tip is appreciated.. At hotels, porters are tipped up to 5 Euros, while housekeepers should be left about 2 Euros per night.

In Italy, sometimes it’s necessary to insist they accept the tip if they refuse at first. Contrary to what some may believe, tipping gondoliers in Venice isn’t necessary.

Netherlands

Restaurants typically include a service charge in the price of the meal and it’s actually required by law in the city of Amsterdam. You can leave an additional 5-10% at a restaurant but, if just getting a drink or two, leaving the change is acceptable.

At hotels, 1-2 Euros should be given to the porters and housekeepers should be given about 2 Euros per night. For taxis, simply rounding up the fare is acceptable, as a tip is typically included in the rate.

Portugal

About 5% should be left if you’re getting a drink or coffee, while 10% should be left at restaurants. Hotel cleaning staff should be left about 3-4 Euros a day and porters about 1 Euro per bag.

For drivers, tip about 15 Euros per day and double that for guides. For taxi drivers, no tip is needed but you can always round up the fare.

Russia

In Russia, tips should always be given directly to the individual who helps you. At restaurants, plan on tipping the waiter 10% in rubles.

At hotels, porters should be left $3-5 per trip, while housekeepers should be left $2-3 per night, and the concierge can be given $10-20 if they go out of their way for you.

For taxis, negotiate the fare before getting in the car and plan on tipping about 10% while giving drivers about $30 per day and private guides about $50 per day.

Also, in Russia, feel free to accompany any tips with a thank you note.

Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway and Sweden)

Tipping in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden is usually included in the bill or isn’t expected, however, bills can be a little higher in Scandinavia. As in many countries where the service charge is included, bills can be rounded up and for excellent service a small 5-10% tip can be left. The smaller 5-10% tip is appreciated at restaurants and for taxi drivers, especially in the more touristy areas like Copenhagen or Stockholm.

Slovakia

In Slovakia, travelers should expect to tip about 10% at restaurants. For hotels, tip the concierge around $15-20 if you will be using them, tip bellhops $1-2 per bag, and cleaning staff about $4 a day.

For taxis, you can round up the fare while guides and drivers should receive $5-10 and $10-15, respectively.

Spain

While dining in Spain, you can tip up to 13% in cash but it isn’t necessary especially if the service isn’t great. At hotels, the concierge can be tipped 5-10 Euros if you’re using them, while cleaning staff should be left about 5 Euros per day, and porters about 1 Euro per bag.

For drivers, tip about 15 Euros per day and guides roughly double that. For taxi drivers, round up the fare.

Switzerland

In Switzerland, it’s important to only tip in Swiss francs but most tips are included. At restaurants you can tip between 5-10% although it’s not expected, and while at hotels tips are only necessary if someone goes out of their way for you.

Great guides should be left about $40 per person, while drivers should get about half that. For taxis, simply round up the fare.

Turkey

In Turkey, leave a 10% tip at restaurants but have cash ready as tips typically can’t be put on your credit card. There’s typically a service charge included in hotel bills which will cover almost everything except the concierge who should be tipped $15-25.

When getting around, taxi fares can be rounded up, while private drivers should be given about $35-50 per day. Private tour guides should be given about $75 and other tour guides should be given about $10-$15 per day.

Also, masseuses should get $20-25 and boat charters should be tipped about 5% of the price. If you rent a boat cabin, $15 per person per day is acceptable, but all tips in Turkey are discretionary and should only be given for good service.

United Kingdom

When dining in the U.K., a service charge is often included but, if not, tip 10-15%. However, if just going out for drinks, tipping isn’t necessary. Porters should be given 1-2 pounds per bag and housekeepers should be given the same per night.

Simply round up the fare for a taxi driver. Guides and drivers should be tipped about 20 pounds or 10 pounds, respectively. It’s important to always check bills because many tips are included in the bills throughout the U.K..

THE MIDDLE EAST

The Middle East is often a very hospitable region with many people in the service industry going above and beyond to make sure you have the best service possible. With this level of service, you will find that tipping is expected. With the additional service touches, it is perfectly fine to tip more often but in smaller amounts.

Egypt

In Egypt, tipping is encouraged but you can tip in your native currency as well as the local currency. At restaurants, a 5-10% additional tip should be added to the bill even if it says the tip is already included (it often is).

Similar to many locations around the world, a good tip to the hotel concierge—$10-20—will go a long way. In addition, the porter should be tipped about $1 per bag and the housekeeper will definitely appreciate $1-2 per day which will also help keep your room in tip top shape especially for an extended stay.

Taxi drivers should be tipped 10-15%, while guides can be tipped around $20 per person per day. While this may seem like a lot, guides will also help to you avoid some of the tourist trap schemes and ultimately save you money.

Iran

While Europeans can travel independently in Iran, Americans must be with a government approved tour where tipping is encouraged. Unlike the United States, sometimes a small gift from the United States is appreciated at hotels.

When tipping guides, leave a tip for each person in a separate envelope with a short note of appreciation. U.S. dollars are accepted for tips.

Israel

As in Europe, the tip is included in restaurant bills but adding a shekel per customer will be appreciated. At hotels, 2-3 shekels for the concierge will be sufficient while six shekels per bag for porters and six shekels per day for housekeepers is sufficient.

Like many other places, taxi drivers should be tipped 10-15% and tour guides should be tipped 90-120 shekels (walking) and 120-150 shekels (driver). While this may seem like a lot, it’s important to remember each shekel is only worth about a quarter. Tips should be given in the local shekels.

Jordan

Similar to Egypt, there will often be a tip included in restaurant bills, but adding an additional 5-10% for the waiter is a wise decision. At hotels, one dinar per bag for the porter is acceptable as is 1-2 dinar per night for the housekeeper. If you plan on utilizing the concierge to get tickets to an exclusive event, tipping in advance is a good idea.

For cabs, a 10-15% tip is sufficient like in many other countries, while tour guides should be tipped $30 per person per day and private drivers should be tipped about $30 per day.

Dollars and Euros are acceptable for tips. If you are visiting the ancient city of Petra, it is okay to decline tipping the native Nabateans especially after you’ve already paid even if they are asking for additional tips. Also, if on a guided tour double check to see if the tip has been prepaid. If so, it’s perfectly fine to refuse to tip any additional amount.

Oman

No tipping is necessary in Oman as it is considered culturally offensive.

Qatar and U.A.E.

Most tipping in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates mirrors tipping in the US. At restaurants, a 15-20% tip is standard and $2-5 for hotel a doorman (when calling a taxi for you), porters and housekeepers.

Where these countries differ is for guides and drivers. In Qatar, guides and drivers should be tipped $10 per person per day and $5 per person per day is sufficient for guides. In U.A.E., guides should be tipped $10-20 per person per day and drivers should be tipped $5 per person per day. US dollars are accepted for tipping.

Dubai

Dubai is a little different than the rest of the U.A.E. In Dubai, a 10% service charge is added to all bills at any bar, restaurant or hotel. While this covers the traditional tip, you can always round up most tips to the next 5 Dirham note and at restaurants add a small tip to bring the total tip to 15%.

While taxi drivers fall into the same “round up to the nearest 5 Dirham note” rule, valets and porters do not receive the 10% service charge so tipping around 10 dirhams is customary.

Saudi Arabia

At restaurants, tip 10-15% of the bill and don’t expect to take home leftovers as anything left by customers is given to the homeless or taken home by staff. At hotels, $20-25 can go a long way with the concierge while porters should be given $1-2 per bag and housekeepers should be given $2 per day.

Give guides $7-10 per person per day and drivers about $5 per person per day. If a driver has an assistant keeping the car clean and providing water, it is acceptable to give them $2 per person per day.

Tipping here should be done discreetly, putting tips in envelopes or palming them off in a handshake are perfectly acceptable ways to tip and U.S. dollars can be used. If visiting a mosque, leaving $1 for the person providing robes for women and the person minding your shoes is customary.

Yemen

No tipping is necessary in Yemen as it is considered culturally offensive.

Final Thoughts

With that, we have come to end of our guide to tipping around the world. This (almost) comprehensive list of countries and regions should make your next adventure just a bit easier and less stressful.

Keep Traveling,

John

Blog

How I Did It: A Quick Trip to Argentina for Next to Nothing

By: Bryce Conway, Founding Editor of 10xTravel

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support

Hi Travel Junkies,

I just got back from a trip to Buenos Aires with a couple of friends that featured copious amounts of sun, malbec, and Argentinian beef.

This was my first trip to South America and it helped me learn a few things about myself.

First, that I am able to completely sustain myself on a diet of beef and red wine. Which I suppose is close to being Paleo, right?

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My view for ~50% of this trip

Second that sunshine is a top 3 factor in my overall happiness. Trading 35 degrees and rain for 84 and sunny was better for my mental health than any pharmaceutical drug or therapy method ever created.

Finally, I learned that the hedonic treadmill is a very real thing. I flew business class to Argentina and economy for the red-eye flight home. It’s been a while since I have flown on an international flight in economy and it was an adjustment to say the least.

And yes, I realize how pretentious that sounds. But I promised to always be honest with you and that is a real problem for anyone who has been fortunate enough (with points or otherwise) to get accustomed to premium class flights.

More on that in a future article perhaps. For now, back to the trip.

This trip was a surprise birthday present organized by my friend’s wife. When she asked if I wanted to join them on a trip to Argentina I said “yes” faster than a hungry dude at Fazoli’s could answer the server responsible for distributing the endless breadsticks.

My points/miles options were somewhat limited due to the fact that I was not the one planning the trip dates or itinerary. But I was able to make it work.

Here’s how I did it.

Columbus to Buenos Aires – Business Class for 110,000 American Airlines Miles and $5.60.

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Be warned, this trip featured two award flights that were not saver level redemptions. The first being this Business Class redemption on American Airlines from Columbus to Buenos Aires for 110,000 miles and $5.60.

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Yes, that is a lot of miles to pay for a one-way flight. Almost double what I paid to fly first class on AA to Europe a couple years ago.

Oh, and the Columbus > Miami leg was even in economy!

Most points/miles experts will roll their eyes at this redemption but I couldn’t care less. Here was my thinking:

  1. I have a ton of American Airlines miles at the moment thanks to recent bonuses from the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, Barclays AAdvantage Aviator, and the business version of each of these cards.
  2. My tolerance for international overnight flights in economy is rapidly diminishing as I get deeper and deeper in to the world of points/miles. Particularly when I have the miles to book premium class tickets.
  3. This route has just one stop (somewhat rare when you live in Columbus) and is on the newer 777-300ER product from Miami to Buenos Aires.
  4. I got 10% of my miles back (10,000) for being a Barclays AAdvantage Aviator cardholder.

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American Airlines Flagship Business Class – Image Courtesy of AA.com

So I ponied up and paid for an anytime award.

The silver lining is that AA only charged $5.60 in taxes and fees for the redemption, which I put on my Chase Sapphire Reserve for the complimentary trip delay insurance.

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CasaSur Bellini Hotel – $155 per night

Choosing the hotel was not up to me so I booked through Hotels.com and paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve for the 3x points on travel.

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CasaSur Bellini Hotel – Image Courtesy of CasaSurHotel.com

Note that this was booked before the recent announcement that Capital One Venture will earn 10x points on hotels.com bookings (which is effectively 20% off). I had also prepaid to get a lower rate + free breakfast so I didn’t have the option to cancel and rebook anyway.

The rate was only $155 a night anyway. Not bad, particularly for having a pool and being in the trendy Palermo neighborhood.

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CasaSur Bellini Hotel – Standard Room

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Speaking of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, my card number was compromised the day before I was set to fly to Argentina. So naturally Chase sent me a replacement card. Overnight. To my hotel in Argentina.

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Chase sent a replacement card to me in Argentina overnight

I’m sure that shipping charge wasn’t cheap.

Buenos Aires to Columbus – Economy Class for 55,000 Delta Miles and $91.06

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Business class availability for the flight home was pretty much non-existent so I had to put thoughts of lie flat seats and champagne aside and book an economy ticket home on Delta for 55,000 Delta Miles and $91.06 in taxes and fees. Thankfully it had just one stop in Atlanta en route to Columbus.

I can justify one standard business class award ticket on a trip but definitely not two. At least that’s what I told myself when I was booking the trip. After flying this route I am strongly considering a change to that policy.

Economy award space was also very limited so my choice was basically 55,000 Delta miles or pay cash, which was about $1,500 per ticket on the date of booking.

Once again, I charged the taxes and fees to my Chase Sapphire Reserve for the complimentary trip delay insurance and 3x points on travel.

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Delta economy seat Buenos Aires > Columbus

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The flight wasn’t exactly enjoyable but it went as scheduled and got me home. Perhaps some of my disdain was due to the fact that I was not excited to fly back to winter weather in Ohio.

I’ll leave it at that.

Overall I have to say Argentina was an absolute blast. The weather was perfect, Buenos Aires was incredibly modern and clean, and the food was like nothing I have ever had before.

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And as an added bonus Buenos Aires is only 2 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, making the jet lag much more bearable. Why this isn’t more widely discussed in the US travel community is beyond me.

So add Buenos Aires to the top of your list of places to go, ideally somewhere near the top. I promise you won’t regret it.

Happy Travels,

Bryce

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Why You Should Get the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card

By: Julie Szpira

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

At 10xTravel, our goal is to set people on the right path to earn as many points and miles as possible, then use those points and miles to maximize their travel.

Getting started can be overwhelming, so our first advice is always to earn the highest bonuses on the best cards available.

After starting with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, two Chase Southwest credit cards—for those who want the Southwest Companion Pass – and the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer, we often have readers ask, “What card next?”

When the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card is suggested, many readers will explain that they only stay at AirBnB’s, so they don’t see any value in getting the card.

After I recover from my tiny panic attack, I calmly explain all the reasons for getting the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier credit card. Here’s what I tell people who don’t initially see the value in this card…

Chase Marriott Rewards Premier is a Chase 5/24 Restricted Card

Due to the Chase 5/24 rule, the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier credit card cannot be opened if you have opened more than 5 credit cards, from any bank, within the last 24 months—business cards from banks other than Capital One and Discover are an exception.
When starting out in this hobby, it is recommended to maximize your Chase 5/24 slots by only opening Chase cards, until you have opened 5 cards. Once you’ve done that, you can move onto other cards.

For many readers, they just don’t see how they can get value out of Marriott Rewards points, so they get to 3/24 or 4/24 and just start opening cards from other banks, leaving them unable to get the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card if they change their minds.

While you may not see how you can find value in Marriott Rewards points right now, you want to maximize the cards you are able to open and the bonuses you can earn, and that means opening the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Card before you get to 5/24.

The points can be used in variety of ways, and you’ll be glad to have them down the line.

Marriott Rewards Points Can Become SPG Starpoints

In September 2016, Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide completed a merger that combined the hotel brands and linked their loyalty programs—this last bit is key.

If you are at all familiar with the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, you know that SPG Starpoints are generally considered to be the most valuable rewards currency on a point by point basis due to reasonable hotel redemption rates and the ability to transfer SPG Starpoints to more than 30 airline programs.

Since the merger, members have been allowed to move points between Marriott Rewards and SPG at a ratio of 3 Marriott Rewards points to 1 SPG Starpoint.

If you are someone that never stays in hotels, you can earn the sign-up bonus from the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier credit card, transfer those points to SPG, and then transfer the SPG points to your airline of choice.

With the conversion between Marriott Rewards and SPG being 3:1, 60,000 Marriott Rewards points would be needed to transfer to SPG for 20,000 points.

SPG points can then be transferred to more than 30 airline partners at a 1:1 ratio. There are a few airline programs such as Air New Zealand Airpoints, Gol Smiles and United MileagePlus that do not offer a favorable 1:1 transfer ratio, and should be avoided.

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SPG Starpoints Airline Transfer Partners

When transferring SPG points in increments of 20,000 points, you are rewarded with a bonus of 5,000 points for each multiple of 20,000 points transferred. For example, transferring 20,000 SPG points to American Airlines would result in 25,000 American AAdvantage miles deposited in your account!

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The Transfer Calculation of SPG points to American AAdvantage miles

You can transfer a maximum of 79,999 Starpoints to an airline within a 24-hour timeframe. To maximize the transfer bonus, you should stick to transferring no more than 60,000 Starpoints in this timeframe if at all possible.

Marriott Rewards Points Transfer Direct to United

One notable exception to the SPG airline transfer program is United, as SPG points transfer to United at a 2:1 ratio. That is a horrible use of SPG points, so it is recommended to avoid that transfer at all costs.

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The Transfer Calculation of SPG points to United MileagePlus miles

However, if you are someone that is looking to fly on United, and you want to convert your Marriott points to United MileagePlus miles, you can transfer your Marriott Rewards points directly to United at a more favorable rate.

Using the Marriott Airline and Travel Rewards program, you can transfer 56,000 Marriott Rewards points to United to gain 25,000 MileagePlus Miles. This transfer ratio is almost similar to that of the SPG transfers for 1:1 airlines.

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The Marriott Airline and Travel Rewards program is only valuable for United MileagePlus transfers. If you are planning to transfer your hotel points to other airlines, it is better to first transfer your Marriott Rewards points to SPG points.

While this is an option, we strongly recommend considering other options for earning United MileagePlus miles such as transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Earning 25,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles through the Marriott Airline and Travel Rewards program would require 70,000 Marriott Rewards, rather than the 60,000 that would be required by first transfering through SPG.

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Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Card Free Night Certificate

The Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card offers one free night stay at a Category 1-5 hotel every cardmember anniversary. The credit card annual fee is $85 per year, so you are essentially getting a fixed rate night at a Category 1-5 hotel.

The free night can come in handy when you need a hotel for just one night due to a positioning flight, or you are planning a hotel stay during a high demand event (college football games, holiday travel, festivals), and you can almost always get far more than $85 in value for the night.

For example, a great college football rivalry occurs at the end of November when Michigan plays Ohio State. For a big rivalry game, you can expect that many people will travel to the city of Columbus, Ohio, and accommodations will be scare or very expensive.

Using the free night certificate at the Category 5 Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel will save you the $247 nightly rate. You can then extend your stay for just 25,000 Marriott Rewards points per night.

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Using a Category 1-5 Anniversary Free Night Certificate can save you a ton of cash!

Marriott Hotel + Air Packages

Marriott Hotel + Air packages are a great way to redeem Marriott Rewards points for a week’s hotel stay and airline miles.

At the most basic level, you trade in 200,000-270,000 Marriott Rewards points, and in return, you get a 7-night stay at a Category 1-5 hotel, plus 50,000-132,000 airline points or miles, depending on the airline miles you would like to earn..

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Marriott Rewards points redemption for Hotel+Air Packages

In most cases, the best use of Marriott Rewards points is to exchange for the most amount miles for each package. Using Hotel+Air Package 1 as an example, the 7 nights + 50,000 miles package costs 200,000 Marriott Rewards points. However, the 7 nights + 120,000 miles package costs just 270,000 Marriott Rewards points. So, for an extra 70,000 Marriott Rewards points, you get an extra 70,000 airline miles. That’s an excellent exchange for Marriott Rewards points.

If you recall in the example above, 60,000 Marriott Rewards points is worth 25,000 airline miles using the SPG transfer program. Being able to get extra airline miles at a 1:1 ratio for Marriott Rewards points is a great use of Marriott Rewards points.

American Airlines is one of the Hotel+Air Package 1 airlines. For 270,000 Marriott Rewards points, you would earn a Category 1-5 certificate, which is good for a 7-night stay, as well as 120,000 American AAdvantage miles.

If you were just going to use the SPG transfer program, you would transfer 270,000 Marriott Rewards points to SPG, which would give you 90,000 SPG Starpoints.  SPG only allows you to transfer 79,999 points to an airline per day, so you would have to transfer 60,000 SPG points in one transfer, and the remaining 30,000 SPG points on the next day.

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The Transfer Calculation of 90,000 SPG points to American AAdvantage miles

Transfering 60,000 SPG points to American Airlines would give you 75,000 AAdvantage miles and transferring 30,000 SPG points would give you 35,000 miles, for a total of 110,000 AAdvantage miles.

Your best bet to earn the most miles on American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Alaska, Air Canada, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic is to transfer all your SPG points to Marriott and book through the Hotel+Air package so you can get tons of miles plus a 7-night hotel stay.

Final Thoughts

For those of you who think “I don’t even stay at hotels, so the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier credit card isn’t valuable to me,” I hope the above examples have made you reconsider.

The Marriott Rewards points earned from the sign-up bonus can help you achieve your flight goals through transferring points, and the anniversary free night certificate can be utilized to reduce the cost of accommodations during peak travel season.

Pick up the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card before you hit 5/24. I’m sure you will find a use for the Marriott Rewards points you earn!

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Best Credit Card Offers – March 2018

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

By: Bryce Conway – Founding Editor of 10xTravel.com

Every month I share a post with what I believe are the top credit card offers on the market according to the 10xT staff. Today, we are going to take a look at the best offers for March 2018.

I rank these offers by looking at their sign-up bonus, cardholder perks, ongoing value and any fees they may charge. While the best offer for you will vary depending on a number of factors, I am going to rank the top offers based on the order in which I think they should be chosen by the average person.

This month features a ton of changes as there are a number of cards offering their peak bonuses at the moment. To be honest, it was hard to rank some of them because I had to weigh “this is the best offer we have seen on this card in a while” against “which has the higher overall value”. So, there will be some variability based on your individual circumstances.

If you’ve ever watched the NFL Draft before, consider this list my version of “Todd’s Big Board”. It’s simply the best overall cards available without regard to a specific points/miles need.

I also divide these top credit offers in to two lists, one for those of you who are over 5/24 and one for those of you who are under.

(If you don’t know what the Chase 5/24 rule is you’re going to want to give this a read)

As always, feel free to email me with questions about your own situation and I would be happy to help you select the best card for you.

Here we go!

If you are under 5/24, here are the best cards available right now:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Current Offer:

  • 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 5,000 bonus points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months
  • 2 points per $1 spent on dining and travel, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • Trip delay and primary rental car insurance
  • $95 annual fee, waived the first year 

Commentary:

Once again, the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes in at #1 overall because of its incredible signup bonus, reasonable annual fee (that is also waived for the first year), and the amazing value of the points it earns.

This card was available with a 60,000 point bonus for a hot second last week but that appears to be gone.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are widely considered to be among the best points in the industry thanks to their ability to be transferred to multiple airline and hotel partners. This gives you a ton of options for redeeming your points no matter where you want to travel.

You can also redeem Ultimate Rewards to book travel via the Chase travel portal at a value of 1.25 cents per point, meaning the 50,000 bonus points offered by this card are worth a minimum of $625 when redeemed to book travel.

Transferring them to Chase’s many transfer partners can provide the highest redemption values if you know where to look.

One of the best examples of this is round trip to Hawaii for just 25,000 Korean SKYPASS miles. Meaning that the 50,000 point signup bonus from this card could score you two round-trip flights to Hawaii.

Check out our recent article on why this should be the first card you start with for more information.

Note that Chase has imposed new restrictions on the Chase Sapphire cards that limit your ability to get multiple versions of them. [More details on that here].

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Tipping Around The World: Part 1

By: John Tunningley

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

While most of our posts focus on trips around the world and the best credit card deals currently available to you, it’s also important to be cognizant of the cultural differences that exist while traveling.

When traveling, we are all ambassadors and it’s important to make sure that we create positive impressions so that those who come after us can have great experiences too.

With this in mind, we thought it was important to discuss how to tip around the world. In this post, we’ll look at the Americas, Asia, and Africa. We’ll discuss Europe and the Middle East in part 2 next week.

We will break down region and, in most cases, country. Also, most of the tips are in US dollars unless the local currency is specifically stated. I’ll also try to point out where dollars are preferred or a better method for tipping.

THE AMERICAS

Across many countries in Latin America meals can be tipped 8-12% rather than the 15-20% expected in the US and Canada. Tips in Latin America can often be included in the bill for restaurants and while tips are not necessarily expected they are always appreciated.

Argentina

At restaurants, a 10% tip will suffice and 10% is also acceptable for remisses or even a full day driver. While at hotels, 25-40 Pesos for a porter is considered appropriate. For cab drivers, your fare can simply be rounded up and for a full day guide, 150-300 Pesos is standard. If someone goes out of their way to help you, any of these tips can be increased a bit. It’s also important to bring change as some places will refuse to break bills for you.

Brazil

At restaurants, a tip is usually included so no tip is required. For cab drivers, you can round up while giving private drivers and tour guides $20-$50 a day. At hotels, $1-$2 per bag for the porter and $2 per day for the housekeeper are suitable. However, the concierge does not need to be tipped. US dollars are accepted for tipping due to the strong exchange rate with the Brazilian Real and tips should be given discreetly.

Canada

Tips in Canada should mirror the US with waiters being tipped between 15-20% and many other people in the service industry being left tips as well. When at hotels, bellboys should be left $1-$2, cleaning staff should be left a few dollars per day, and the concierge should be given at least $20 if they go out of their way to get you reservations or tickets. For taxis, leave 10-15% and the same should be left for drivers or guides.

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