How To Avoid Extra Credit Card Fees During International Travel

Going on an international trip is very exciting but it can also be very expensive. Using a credit card to pay for purchases when traveling internationally is often the best way to get a good exchange rate and the rate your bank gets will be better than the one you’ll get on your own if you exchange cash. Using a card also means that you don’t have to carry around a bunch of cash with you. However, many cards will add on a “foreign transaction fee” to any transactions made with anything except your home currency. Here’s an easy way to keep from paying that extra 2-3 percent on all of your purchases while away.

Continue reading “How To Avoid Extra Credit Card Fees During International Travel”

Advertisements

We are flying to Charlotte for $25!!!!

Forgive the clickbait headline. But truth be told, we really are flying for an out-of-pocket expense of less than $25. How? Thanks for asking!

big-gay-al-howd-i-fly-to-charlotte-for-25-thanks-for-asking

Not all trips on points and miles are glamourous. Some are rather plain, yet important. Like when you and your wife want to fly to Charlotte for a friend’s wedding in little over than a month from now.

When I first started looking at flights, I was like “That’s like less than 500 miles. It can’t be that expensive of a flight.” Continue reading “We are flying to Charlotte for $25!!!!”

How I earned more Delta miles for dinner and hotel than I did for my flights

One of the important things to know about collecting miles and points is that, unless you are a frequent business traveler, you are not going to earn enough miles for that bucket list trip just by flying. By being prepared, we earned a nice stash of miles from this short trip that had nothing to do with being on a plane.

 

299078_2247035588558_2515668_n

It’s counterintuitive to think that anything except flying would earn you frequent flyer miles. I mean, you would figure if you want to earn enough miles for your dream trip, you stay loyal to one airline and get all your miles from flying with them, right? Not too long ago you actually could earn a decent amount of miles for just taking regular flights, even as an occasional traveler. However within the last 2 years, the major airlines have changed to a system that rewards you by not how far your trip is but by how much you paid for that ticket.

I’ll use our recent trip to New York on Delta and therefore the formula Delta Skymiles uses to figure out mileage earning for flights on their planes.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-2-53-18-pm
Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

A flight from Orlando to LaGuardia airport measures 950 miles, or 1900 miles round trip. The logical way to think about miles would be that for flying 1900 miles flight you would earn 1900 miles. No longer. Delta’s new math works like this. Since I am only a “General Member,” I earn 5 miles per dollar spent on my ticket. If you fly more you can earn a better multiplier, maxing out at 11 miles per dollar for the highest level of Diamond Medallion members. But if you are like me, you are usually going to be looking for the cheapest ticket available. Since I found a great fare for this trip, I only paid a fare of $129. Oh, I paid more for that but all of the extra fees, surcharges and taxes do not count for mileage accrual. That means I earned a whole 645 miles. That is not getting me very far at all.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-3-03-55-pm

Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to earn airline, and in this case Delta, miles. For this stay I found an amazing offer for a room at the Waldorf=Astoria. The Waldorf=Astoria hotels are one of the 14 different brands belonging to the Hilton company. Since I am a Hilton HHonors member (and really, why they use the double H is beyond me – it’s like American AAdvantage. Why bother with the extra letter???), Hilton HHonors offers Points and Miles where you can earn airline miles for your stay on top of Hilton points. As per the Hilton Website, for Delta Skymiles you can “Earn 1 Delta mile per eligible US dollar spent at hotels and resorts within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio of brands (Up to 100 miles per stay at Home2 Suites).”

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-3-19-16-pm

Just a reminder than in order to earn any of these airline or hotel miles, you need to be enrolled in the programs. This takes only a few minutes to do before your trip. If you aren’t signed up, you are not getting the points you deserve.

The next way I earned miles was a pleasant surprise. You see, I’m signed up for the Skymiles Dining program. You provide your Delta Skymiles number and credit card number when you enroll and then when you dine at a restaurant on the program and pay with that card, you earn miles. Here is the earning structure:

  • Members earn 1 mile per $2 spent if you elect to not receive email communication from SkyMiles Dining.
  • Online Members earn 3 mile per $1 spent if you elect to receive email communication from SkyMiles Dining.
  • VIP Members earn 5 mile per $1 spent if you elect to receive email communication from SkyMiles Dining AND have 12 or more qualified dining transactions in a calendar year.

I don’t mind getting spammy type emails so I get the newsletter sent to my email and sort it to my “scan through occasionally” folder. This earns me 3 miles per dollar spent as I’ve never hit the 12 qualified transaction threshold in a year to become a VIP (only certain restaurants count – they’re all different price points, but we still don’t go to those specific restaurants often enough).

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-3-35-48-pmAnyway, I was pleasantly surprised to get an email shortly after arriving home. It turned out that the sushi restaurant near our hotel that I found on Yelp! was part of the SkyMiles dining program. Besides having a totally awesome dinner there, I earned an additional 408 Delta Skymiles ($136 dinner x 3 points per dollar). I was even happier when the next email arrived. It turned our that our favorite place to go after a show, Lillie’s, was also on the program! Woo hoo – more unexpected frequent flyer miles!

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-3-41-13-pm
Now don’t go and try and figure out what our bar tab was, OK?

So I earned another 564 miles for dining without even trying, because these were places we were going to anyway; the miles were just a bonus. So I earned a total of 2,069 Delta Skymiles this trip, of which only 645 were from the actual flight. Still a long way from that fancy seat, but you have to take what you can get.

I’d also like to mention that besides these bonuses, the credit card I used earned me 2 miles per dollar for travel and dining expenses. I also earned 5% back on all of our taxi and Uber rides by using my Discover card because transport is one of the bonus categories this quarter. I’ll get more into that side of earning in a later post.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment here or ask on Facebook or Twitter.

How will we get to New York? Oh, hello companion ticket!

Sharon and I just finished a very quick trip to NYC. We left on a Friday morning and returned late Sunday night. We don’t usually take such short trips but we had snagged impossible-to-get ticket for the Broadway show Hamilton. I’ll break the trip up into segments because I think each one is interesting on its own merits. The one in boldface is the one I’m focusing on today.

Now that we had tickets to see Hamilton, it was time for me to book our plane tickets to New York. I have a great deal of freedom in making airline choices to New York, as at least 6 different airlines fly there from Orlando. I also do not have any status with any airline so I don’t have to worry about upgrades, segments or mileage earning. Our only real requirement is that we will not fly an ULCC (Ultra Low Cost Carrier) such as Spirit or Allegiant (I’ll discuss that in another post sometime in the future).

I usually start searching using Google Flights, as this gives me a really quick look at what prices are available. Just be aware that Southwest Airlines does not list their prices anywhere but on Southwest.com.

Quick Tip: you can type in airport code NYC and Google Flights will search all 3 major airports. (LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark). If you aren’t renting a car (which is not necessary and very expensive if you are only going to stay in and around Manhattan), then you can even fly into one airport on one airline and home from a different airport/airline, depending on price. Unfortunately, the days of cheaper pricing for round trip tickets are long gone.

It is usually at this time when I’ll also do a quick search to see if there are there are any award tickets available to book with frequent flyer miles. Hint: It is possible to book a one way ticket from Orlando to New York for only 7,500 miles. I’ll cover this in a later post. 

Well, there was no award space available and tickets were more than I wanted to pay. In cases like this when I’m not in a rush to book tickets, I’ll just wait. Airfares go up and down all the time. Patience is a virtue. You can even use websites like Yapta or Hipmunk to track specific flights and notify you when the price drops.

Since I knew the most likely flights I’d book, I did a quick look every day or so. Then it happened – a flight to LaGuardia Airport on Delta showed up for $166 round trip. BINGO! That’s well under my acceptable price. IMPORTANT REMINDER: If you know you are taking a trip and see an airfare which is great for you, BOOK IT NOW! Prices can change in an instant. Feeling unsure? In most cases airlines will let you cancel within 24 hours with no penalty. Taking my own advice, I stopped what I was doing and booked the ticket.

Getting to the payment page, I saw there was a prompt for me to click on for coupons/vouchers. I didn’t remember having any but I clicked on it anyway. Delta then reminded me that I had a voucher for a free companion ticket from having the Platinum Delta SkyMiles American Express card. While this card does have a hefty $195 annual fee, I picked it up when I got a special offer for 75,000 Delta miles in the mail. I didn’t plan on keeping the card for much longer but why not use the Companion Ticket I had earned. Sharon’s ticket was suddenly free (I just had to pay the taxes which came to $28). The total we had to pay for both our plane tickets to New York was $194.

Step one of planning our trip was complete: we knew when and how we were going to get to New York City. Now for the next step: where were we going to stay?