Earlier this week I encouraged you to put all your spending on credit cards that earn you airline miles or hotel points if you’re interested in accumulating award flights or free hotel nights. Here are the credit cards you should consider right now.
The card that represents the greatest return, according to the website NerdWallet, is the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express.
First, you’ll get 25,000 Starwood bonus points for signing up with the card. And NerdWallet estimates if you spend $1,800 a month on the card, you’ll earn $752 a year in free hotel nights. Now, that’s the web site’s estimate—the hotel company doesn’t guarantee that.
And there’s no annual fee the first year, $65 each year after that.
Second choice is the Barclaycard Arrival Mastercard that comes with an $89 annual fee, though the first year’s fee is waived. You’ll receive 40,000 Barclaycard points and could save nearly $590 a year if you charge $1800 a month to the card.
The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card is a Visa card, and it gets you certificates for two, free weekend night stays immediately if you get the card. There’s a $95 annual fee.
You can convert those points into airline miles if you don’t need the free hotel nights—it’s your choice. Check out NerdWallet for more options.
Stuff counts. Your electrical bill, your cell phone bill, your kids’ tuition bills, your rent, and your jones for a daily Starbucks coffee. All those items add up, and if you’re not putting them on your credit card, you’re passing up an opportunity.
I easily pay out $4,000 a month for some of the above plus airline flights and routine expenditures such as clothing and dining. In a year, that comes to $48,000. That could be 48,000 miles on an airline affiliated with my credit card, and that’s enough for a round trip ticket from the US to Thailand.
Or if you never travel, redeem 45,000 miles for a $300 gift card at Bloomingdale’s. But I’d would like to say that, generally, using miles for products brings you less value than exchanging them for flights. Compare $300 worth of goods at Bloomingdales with a flight from the US to Southeast Asia that costs at least four times that.
The point is, link as much of your spending to a credit card that gives you airline miles or hotel points. But choose your card to deliver the kind of rewards you want.
Check out a website called AwardMapper to learn the number of point you’ll need to redeem to secure free room nights.
The site covers hotels worldwide that are part of these chains: The aforementioned Hilton and Marriott as well as Club Carlson, Hyatt, Intercontinental, and Starwood. Remember, within those brands are dozens of other brands. Intercontinental, for example, has nine brands, including Holiday Inn and its four brands, Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo, among others.
You can search by a destination, but AwardMapper also allows you to enter the number of points you want to spend, and it’ll show you the hotels in a destination that have rooms at that level of spending.
And if you have too many hotel points, consider turning them into airline points or miles. You can often trade one hotel point for one airline mile or more if you shop around. The transfer value varies from company to company and from time to time.
I don’t think a week goes by that someone doesn’t ask me what website offers the lowest airline fares. The short answer is, there is no one website that fits that description, but there are websites that are different than others, and you should know those differences.
To begin with, there’s an airline’s web site, which is always helpful but, of course, doesn’t show the routes or fares of other airlines.
Then there are the third-party websites. The best known are Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity. They’re just fine, but keep in mind they work with or are partly owned by the airlines, and they don’t display as many ticket combinations as a couple of other websites.
But—and this is a big “but”—many sites don’t show you flights on budget carriers that want you to book directly with them so they can avoid paying a booking fee to other sites. Principal among those discount carriers is Southwest, which is now America’s largest airlines depending on how you keep score. You must go to Southwest’s own site to find their fares.
It may take a bit of shopping around, but always check more than one site for both routings and fares.
London recently said hello to two, all-American burger joints. A Five Guys a well as a Shake Shack opened in Covent Garden. Five Guys, started by five guys in Washington, DC, in 1986, and famous for offering 15 free toppings, is America’s fastest growing restaurant chain, according to Forbes.
And Shake Shack is the upscale burger and shake chain that was started as a hot dog cart by Manhattan restaurateur Danny Meyer, better known for his very upscale restaurants such as Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern.
Item #2: How many times have you been watching an in-flight movie when, 15 minutes from the ending, the airline switches off the in-flight entertainment system because the aircraft is beginning its descent to land?
Air France joined British Airways this week in announcing that passengers can now enjoy in-flight entertainment from the moment they settle into their seats before takeoff to the moment they exit the plane.
And Item #3: The Space Shuttle Atlantis is now on public view at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Florida’s Space Coast, about an hour’s drive east of Orlando. Details here.