Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fly to Europe In The Summer For $399!

Update: The $399 fare is disappearing very quickly. Will not last much longer.

Iceland Express is running a promotion for Round-trip flights from NY to many places in Europe, including London, starting at $399 after all taxes and fees. Valid for flights June through September. With ticket prices in the summer costing over $900, this fare is truly amazing!

The catch:

- Iceland Express is a no frills airline - They even charge to choose a seat!
- 20kg luggage per person (as opposed to the normal 23)
- A stopover in Iceland...
- I don't think you get any miles for the flight.

If their fares were only $100 cheaper than others, I'm not sure I would recommend it, but this price is just too good to pass up.

You can sign up to get such deal alerts from Travelzoo.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

500 Free American Airline Miles - Download eShopping Toolbar

Download the AAdvantage eShopping toolbar, and use it once before June 30th to get 500 free miles.

In addition, you can earn 1 mile for every three searches, up to 100 miles a month. Great to keep your miles from expiring, as earning even just one mile will extend the life of all your AA miles. Also good for when you need to top up your account.

The toolbar is an easy way to see at which shopping sites you can earn miles. If you don't like the toolbar, simply uninstall it.

If you didn't sign up yet with AAdvantage eShopping, sign up before May 31st for an additional 500 miles. If you're new to the American Airline mileage program, enroll using promotion code HIS10 to maybe get 1,000 miles.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Why The Obsession With Miles?

This blog is devoted to creative ways to save and earn money. Why do I focus on earning miles, which seems to be something for hobbyists or collectors? Isn't mileage collecting only for people that constantly fly and like flying first class, and not for most people?

Well, in short, the answer is that miles are valuable for (almost) everyone, even for regular people. The exact value of miles really depends on who is collecting the miles, and which airline they are collecting with. The bottom line is that miles are extremely valuable, even if you don't consider yourself a traveler or don't care for flying first class.

I know when something sounds too good to be true, our gut reaction might be to think that it probably isn't for real. But that's not the case here. I have collected way over a million miles over the past three years. Many people have collected way more than me.

The easiest way to collect lots of miles is through credit card signup bonuses. True, you earn miles every time you fly, and when you use some credit cards, but it doesn't even come close to the miles you can earn from opening credit cards.

One of the reasons people are skeptical of earning mileage is that it takes so much travel just to earn one free flight. But you can earn a free flight just from one credit card signup!

For example, 25,000 miles gets you a free flight anywhere in the US. This is worth anywhere from $200 for someone on a tight budget to $1000 for someone who pays for first class tickets. You can earn 25,000 miles easily, just by opening a credit card! In fact, there are often promotions which let you earn two, or even four free domestic tickets, just for opening up a credit card! Recently, we've applied for the 50,000 United miles and the 100,000 British Airways miles signup bonuses.

The miles are generally free to collect. The amazing thing about miles is that companies give them out far faster than they give out free cash. Even if you don't have any travel plans, it's a good idea to save up for when you might fly, even in a year or two.

Let's take a current offer out there as an example: 35,000 miles for a Citi credit card. (You can get three different types of cards, totaling 105,000 miles, or 4 domestic tickets.)

The amount of time it takes to get a credit card, including spending the money, paying the bill (and canceling the card, if you choose to do so), shouldn't take longer than 3 hours. If you are applying for more than one card, the amount of time per card goes down. It probably takes me about 1.5 hours per card total.

Now, let's see what those miles are worth. It really depends on your travel style. To me miles are worth just over a penny a mile, making 35,000 miles worth $350. In many situations, miles can be worth way, way more than that. This doesn't mean that you should be pay $350 for 35,000 miles, as you might have to hold on to the miles for a long time before actually using them, but it does give you an idea as to their value. Here's an article that discusses the value of miles as well.

Even if you consider 35,000 miles to be worth just $200, remember that this currency is not taxed! So it's better than getting $200 in cash which you would have to pay taxes on.

Here's how I would generalize the different categories of people using miles. The value per mile is just an estimate. It can be worth less, say if you use the miles for a cheap / short distance flight. And it can be much, much more valuable for you. Take for example a flight within the US which cost $500 - $600. In such a scenario, the same 35,000 miles would obviously be worth much more.
  • Never Travel: 0.5c/mile
    If you absolutely never fly at all, and never plan to fly in your life, then you can use the miles to either get gift cards, magazine subscriptions etc. or trade your miles with someone, for something they might have that you want.

  • Travel Every Few Years: 0.7c/mile
    If you are like most people, and travel at least every once in a while, even it's only once every couple of years, then you can benefit from using the miles for flights. You need to keep on top of your miles (use AwardWallet) to make sure they aren't expiring. For such a person I would value miles at least .7 cents a mile.

  • Fly Often - Tight Budget: 1c/mile
    If you are a frugal traveler on a tight budget, then you can use your miles instead of spending a few hundred dollars on airfare. For such a person I would value miles at about a penny a mile. So 30,000 miles is worth $300. As mentioned above it can be worth less, if you use it on a cheaper flight, though if you fly often, then you can save the miles for the more expensive flights. If you use your miles for a last minute booking or an expensive route, then the miles can be saving you double that or more.

  • Enjoys Flying First Class 2c/mile
    If you fly coach when you pay for tickets with cash, but would be willing to pay a few hundred dollars more in order to fly business or first, then I would value miles between 1.5 and 2 cents a mile. See this post from ViewFromTheWing for some amazing First class mileage redemption options. Some of them seem to be pretty close in cost to a economy flight redemption.

  • Only Business or First Class: 3c/mile
    If you are the type of person who enjoys flying business and first class, and are willing to pay for it, the miles are much more valuable. For such a person, miles can be worth three cents a mile or more, making 35,000 miles worth over $1,000!

  • Trading Your Miles
    If you have a friend that needs a flight, you can use your points to get them a ticket. One day down the line, that friend might get something back for you.

    Some people go as far as outright purchasing miles from people. This is not allowed by the airlines. So, if you go down that path, be aware that the airline can take away all your miles. The point is that you are allowed to buy someone a ticket using your miles but you are not allowed to get paid for it.
To summarize, when you apply for a card for the miles, you are earning $300 - $1000 for three hours of work. Impressive? Come on board and start reaping the awards!


There are a few basic downsides to mileage collecting:

1) Miles Expire
The downside of points and miles, is that it can take a while until you actually use the miles, and especially if your family collect miles or points with a few different programs, it can be a headache to track all the points and make sure they aren't expiring. It can also be tough to even remember all those mileage accounts, and how many miles you have in each account.

To solve this, use AwardWallet. See my review here. Also, every once in a while there are offers for free miles from different airlines. Every time you have some activity in a mileage account, it extends the life of all the miles in that airline.

2) Keeping track of all your credit cards
If you sign up for lots of credit card for the signup bonuses, it can be a headache trying to remember which cards you have, and which you need to cancel.

To solve this, use an excel spreadsheet to easily keep track of it all, and you can set a reminder in your calendar for when to cancel the card. Send me an email, and I'll send you what I have.

3) Don't like opening and closing cards
If opening and closing cards isn't for you for whatever reason, either because you find it too time consuming, or because you don't feel comfortable with the idea of opening a card just to get the signup bonus then closing the card after that, you can still get one great signup bonus card from each company, then just downgrade it to a free version once the first year is over.

Note:
If you are new to the credit card scene, read up the Credit Education Series, and check your credit report before you go out and apply for a bunch of cards. Make sure your credit is good before you start.

Recommended Sites:
Here are some sites you may want to check out if you start collecting miles. Each one is unique, check them all and see which ones you like: Flyertalk, FrugalTravelGuy, ViewFromTheWing, OneMileAtaTime, FrequentFlyerMiles and DansDeals.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

35,000 Miles For Citi American Airlines Credit Cards

Citi is now offering 35,000 miles as a signup bonus (after spending $750). First year is free.

This is the best offer I've seen from Citi. If you haven't gotten all three of these cards in the past, now is the time.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

100 Free Membership Rewards Points

Earn 100 Membership Rewards points for enrolling in the Dunkin’ Donuts Perks Program.
Link

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Get $30 for Paying Three Bill With Chase Debit Card

Here's how to get an easy $30 from Chase.
  1. Log in to your Chase account.
  2. Click here to enroll your Chase or WaMu Debit Card in the promotion.
  3. Pay 3 or more phone, cable/satellite TV, insurance and/or utility bills using your enrolled Chase or WaMu Debit Card by August 1, 2010. Each bill needs to be at least $25. You can pay the bills by using your debit card as you would a credit card, when paying your bills at the website of the company who's bill you are paying.
  4. The $30 should be deposited to your Chase account after September 1st.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Amazing Deal! All Jetblue Flights $10 - May 11th & 12th

Link
Will sell out very quickly!

Some cities are excluded, see link.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Three Steps in Handling Disputes With Companies

It happens. You order something that doesn't arrive; you buy a ticket and the flight is delayed/canceled; you get overcharged; you're disappointed with the level of service you receive. What do you do? And how do you get your money back?

Here are the three steps to try. Start at the first step and stop when you succeed. I've had success at step one, sometimes at step two, and there were a few times where I only succeeded at step three. Decide how much your time is worth and stop when it's not worth pursuing any further.

1. Try dealing direct with the company.

Depending on the company, this ranges from extremely easy to a nightmare. Some companies are generous, while others make you fight for your money. In any case, the right thing is to try to sort it out with the company first.


Contact the company's customer service department by phone, and ask to speak to a supervisor if the representative can't help you. If that doesn't work, send an email.
If that doesn't work, try an Executive Email Carpet Bomb. An Email Bomb is simultaneously emailing many people from the company, including those at the executive level, such as the president and vice president. This Consumerist article has directions on preparing a Email Bomb and tips on writing an effective letter of complaint.

At all levels, make your complaint clear and specify how you would like to be compensated.

If that doesn't work, then:


2. Dispute the charge with your credit card.

If you made the charge on a credit card, you can usually dispute the charge with the credit card company. All it takes is a quick phone call to your credit card company. If you used an Amex, you can even easily do the dispute online.

The credit card company will temporarily remove the charge until they finish their investigation. You will usually see results within a month. Sometimes the company doesn't respond to to the credit card company. If that happens, you usually get a refund. If they do respond, then the credit card company decides who is right.

In my experience, Amex has consistently been the best with handling disputes. (See my story at the end of this post.).

As a side note, I have found that any dispute under $10, it seems that Amex just refunds to you without even contacting the company in dispute.

If that doesn't work, then:


3. Take them to small claims court.

This information is for New York City, check your local court for details in your city.

I know, it sounds like a big deal. Court cases sound big and scary. Small Claims Court really isn't. It's a fairly simple process and you don't need a lawyer.

The court fee is $15. If you want to file it online, rather than going to the court, it costs another $15, totaling $30. Small Claims Court is for claims up to $5,000. You will get a court date, and the company will receive a summons as well.

Last I checked, the court has a system for assigning court dates: All cases that are opened today will be given a certain day as the court date. If you are worried that the court date will be inconvenient, you can call the court and find out when your court case would be if you file today, and if it's not good for you, call the next day. The site I have used to file claims online, is Ncourt.com.

If you are taking a big company to court, chances are pretty good that they will want to settle out of court. (When I took Virgin Atlantic to court, that's what happened as well.) You can negotiate with them. Even if you go to court, you don't need a lawyer, and it's pretty straightforward. A judge will hear both sides of the story and decide.

Here's the link to New York Small Claims Court for more information.

You can only take someone to small claims court in NYC if they do business or have a mailing address in NYC. Search the New York Department of State to see if the company has an address in NYC.

Good luck!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Amex Return Protection and Amex Online Claims

A way to live better while spending less, is to take advantage of situations that present themselves. Be it a 30,000 mile signup bonus that can save you a few hundred dollars next time you travel, setting up a free worldwide phone service or making sure to use a credit card that rewards you and protects you from all different issues that can come up with purchases.

Keeping on top of things like that can make a difference of thousands of dollars a year! Just because something sounds too good to be true, doesn't mean it is. That's not to say that you should take advantage of every single offer, signup bonus and benefit out there. Read the details of different offers and benefits, and decide for yourself which ones you want to take advantage of.


Some things take time till they reward you, while with other things you see it right away. Don't not take advantage of something just because the reward will be months or years in the future.
The point is to invest in the future, think ahead and think outside the box.

Here's an example. When shopping with an American Express credit card (and lots of other cards for that matter, I just like Amex the best) you are automatically protected from many different issues that can come up with a purchase. Anywhere from disputing the charge, to the item breaking a year and a half after purchasing, to wanting to return the item simply because you don't like it. So when you shop, think twice about which credit card you use.

I recently took advantage of the one major Amex benefit that I haven't utilized yet, Amex Return Protection.

If you buy an item and the store doesn't want to take it back, and it's still within the first 90 days after purchases, Amex will take it back and credit you the full amount, up to $300 per item, and $1,000 per year. If the store will take it back, but will charge you a restocking fee, Amex will cover the restocking fee, up to $300!

Click here to file a claim online, or call them at 1-800-297-8019. Click here for more information on this benefit.

If Amex wants you to send them the item, which in my experience, they always did, you will need to pay to ship the item to them.

This benefit comes with most Amex cards free of charge. Cards from other banks that have the Amex branding (like the Citi AA Amex) do not have the same benefits, although they might have their own.

My experience
I purchased something from BestBuy. Two months later I filed a online claim with Amex, (BestBuy only has a 30 day return policy). I was then instructed to email Amex a copy of the receipt, which I did. Two weeks later I got an email telling me to ship the item to Amex at my expense. Once they received it, they credited the full purchase amount to my credit card. All I lost in the process was $2 for shipping the item to Amex (First Class Mail).

Filing claims online:
To read more about all the benefits of Amex cards see this post:
Review: American Express Credit Cards Benefits