Three Ways to Save Money on Airbnb

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I’ve booked myself several stays on airbnb, a website that lets you rent rooms, apartment, and houses from locals around the world. And using the three tips in this post, I’ve saved over $3,000 on airbnb.

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I prefer airbnb to hotels because it is almost always cheaper, you have more options for neighborhood on airbnb, and apartments have more space and amenities than hotels (like kitchens.)

My brother and I loved our airbnb apartments in Hong Kong and Seoul last month. We averaged about $100 per night to stay in two of the most happening neighborhoods, far away from the sterile locations of the business hotels. Plus we had our own bedrooms, and the use of kitchens.

For people into the miles game, you can redeem Barclaycard Arrival miles for free airbnb stays. My brother knocked $500 off the price of our airbnb stay with his Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®.

  • What three tips have saved me over $3,000 on airbnb?

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My Schedule for the Chicago Seminars

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The Chicago Seminars start today, just outside O’Hare. I got in yesterday morning, and I’ve been putting the final touches on my two presentations.

If you’re around, please say hello!

As a quick PSA: first timers sometimes think these events are a bit clique-y. Those “cliques” you think you see, though, are mainly made up of people who met at this very event or at a previous one, and they are very welcoming. Just say hello. This goes doubly for all the speakers and bloggers, who are uniformly very approachable.

Here’s my schedule for the weekend:

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7,500 Free American Airlines Miles for 10 Min Cadillac Test Drive

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You can get 7,500 American Airlines miles for test driving any new Cadillac, and you might not even have to do the 10 minute test drive.

From the promo page:

Right now, AAdvantage® members can earn 7,500 AAdvantage miles when you test drive any Cadillac* vehicle, including the striking 2015 CTS sedan with available adaptive cruise control and available OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi®**. The available Wi-Fi® hotspot works inside your CTS and up to 50 feet away as long as your vehicle is on, while the 4G LTE allows you to use your laptop or tablet as a mobile office with a reliable connection.

Contact a Cadillac Concierge today at 844-469-2234 to schedule an appointment and participate in this exclusive limited time offer. Please allow 4-6 weeks to receive your AAdvantage miles.

*At participating dealers only.  Must have an AAdvantage account and be 21 years or older with a valid U.S. driver’s license.  Employees of General Motors are not eligible. Retail value: $221.00. Test drive lasts approximately 10 minutes.  Offer valid while supplies last.  Limit one test drive per person.  Allow 4-6 weeks for miles to be awarded after confirmation that test drive has been completed.  Offer is nontransferable, nonnegotiable and not redeemable for cash.

I value 7,500 American Airlines miles at about $133. If the test drive takes “10 minutes” and registering and driving to/from the dealer adds up to an hour total, that’s quite a return on my time.

  • How can you avoid the test drive and high pressured sales pitch and still get the miles?
  • What is this “Retail value: $221″ nonsense? Are you going to get taxes on the miles?
  • Why should you NOT call to sign up for this promotion right now?

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Amazing Off Peak Awards to the Caribbean with AA/US Miles

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You can get from anywhere in the United States to tons of destinations in the Caribbean for 20,000 US Airways miles roundtrip or 25,000 American Airlines miles.

The Caribbean from Google Maps

The Caribbean from Google Maps

Both deals rely on the airlines’ off peak award charts. US Airways’ off peak dates are September 1 – 30. American Airlines’ off peak dates are September 7 – November 14.

Both airlines, as well as Delta and United, normally charge 35,000 miles roundtrip in economy to the Caribbean. During off peak dates, both US Airways and American Airlines charge 25,000 miles. In addition, US Airways offers folks who have a US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® a 5,000 mile discount on all US Airways awards flown exclusively on US Airways planes. US Airways off peak awards have the same requirement, so cardholders get a 5,000 mile discount on all US Airways off peak awards, bringing the all in price to 20,000 miles roundtrip to the Carribean.

We know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time in early 2015. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. That’s enough miles for two roundtrips to the Caribbean during September. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

  • What is an even better deal than off peak awards if you live in Charlotte, Philadelphia, Miami, New York, or Dallas?
  • How do American Airlines and US Airways off peak awards work?

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Virgin Atlantic 35% Transfer Bonus from American Express

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American Express Membership Rewards transfers to Virgin Atlantic miles will come with an automatic 35% transfer bonus from now through November 30, 2014. We last saw a 30% bonus in May 2014.

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This transfer bonus allows you to fly:

  • One way from the US to London for only 13k Membership Rewards and $131.
  • One way from the US to London in Premium Economy for 21k Membership Rewards + $231.
  • Roundtrip from the US to Buenos Aires (or anywhere else in South America) for 34k Membership Rewards and $77.
  • Tons of other great routes for low mileage, taxes, and fees.

Virgin Atlantic is a London-based longhaul carrier best known for its Upper Class cabins and Clubhouse lounges. (Do not confuse it with Virgin America or Virgin Australia, which are all independent airlines.) It is not part of any alliance, so its dozen airline partners span the globe and all the alliances.

  • Should you transfer Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic?
  • What are the key features of Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club?
  • How can you get to Europe for 13k Membership Rewards and to South America roundtrip for 34k Membership Rewards?
  • How can you get Membership Rewards?

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Australia over Christmas and New Years on Miles

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I get a ton of requests at my Award Booking Service for people who want to fly from the United States to Australia or New Zealand over Christmas and New Year’s with their frequent flyer miles. Usually the request is to fly in Business or First Class.

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I want to dissuade you from this goal because it is one of the toughest awards to book.

Last month I wrote “The Easiest Places to Get with Miles.” Miles are awesome and can get you almost anywhere in the world cheaper and more luxuriously than most people realize. But some awards are easier to book than others. Focusing on easier awards, especially at first, can get you some award-ticket “wins” that will hook you and lead to more successful bookings in the future.

Trying to book two people from the United States to Australia in Business Class from December 21 to January 3 is very hard to turn into one of those wins. It will mainly lead to frustration.

  • What is the award space picture to Australia this holiday season with American, US Airways, United, and Delta miles?
  • What is the most likely strategy to find award space?
  • What other times of year does Australia have better award space?

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Top Ten Credit Cards for Travel, October 2014

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There are a lot of reasons to collect miles and points.

  • For free luxury hotel stays and first class flights
  • To travel to more countries than you could otherwise afford
  • To take your family on vacation
  • To visit home for the holidays
  • To earn big rewards for everyday spending

Whatever your reason for being here, there is a rewards card or cards that suit your needs.

Want Bed Head at 35k Feet? There's a Card for That

Want Bed Head at 35k Feet? There’s a Card for That

Since the start of last year, I’ve been to 30 countries, travel that would have been completely impossible without miles and points earned from credit cards. This has been my life thanks to miles:

  • Hiking the Great Wall of China with my brother
  • Straddling the line between North and South Korea
  • Watching dragons dance at the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong
  • Eating more steak than anyone should in Brazil and Argentina
  • Cliff jumping in Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Leading an “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” cheer in Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia
  • Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Eating Thai-hot Thai curry in Thailand at Thai prices
  • Biking in the Lake District of Patagonia in Bariloche, Argentina
  • Spending three days at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
  • Seeing Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Getting some home cooking from my mom who lives 5,000 miles away
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2013 Flights

If you don’t have the money to take your dream trips, the good news is that you don’t need much money. By maximizing the sign up bonuses on rewards cards, anyone with good credit can take a dream trip anywhere in the world.

  • How can you earn rewards for the trips of your dreams?
  • What are the best credit card offers for September 2014?
  • Which of the cards on the list expire in the next few days?

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Alaska Airlines Mile Sale 40% Bonus

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Today (10/14/14) is the last day you can buy up to 56,000 Alaska Airlines miles for as little as 2.11 cents each.

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The sale is structured as a bonus on the normal number of miles you’d receive. The bonus is tiered, so the biggest 40% bonus comes from purchasing 35,000 to 40,000 miles at the normal price of about 2.96 cents each after tax.

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To buy 49,000 miles (35,000 + 14,000 bonus) during this sale costs $1,034.69, which is 2.11 cents per mile.

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I don’t think Alaska miles are worth 2.11 cents each, but they are worth close to that, and if you have a specific redemption in mind, it isn’t hard to get more than 2.11 cents of value per mile.

  • What are the best redemptions for Alaska miles?
  • Does this miles purchase count as airfare or travel spending for category bonuses?

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How to Exploit the Southwest-Airtran Merger

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Deal originally posted April 22, 2012. Deal ends November 1, 2014. Post updated 10/13/14:

Southwest Airlines and Airtran Airways’ three-year merger is almost complete. For over two years, transfers have been allowed between Southwest’s Rapid Rewards loyalty program and Airtran’s A+ loyalty program.

These transfers present an arbitrage opportunity that caps roundtrip award flights at 19,200 Southwest points (the normal cost of a $274 award.)

This is a cool trick that can save you major Rapid Rewards. You can use this trick in conjunction with your Southwest Companion Pass (the best deal in travel).

  • How does this 19,200-cap trick work for the next few weeks?
  • How far in advance can you book Southwest flights?

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Southwest 50k Offers Are Back, Leverage Them for $3,142 in Free Flights

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I’m giving a talk at the Chicago Seminars next weekend about getting the Southwest Companion Pass. Perfect timing because the deal just resurfaced to potentially get the Companion Pass for all of 2015 and 2016.

Southwest is currently offering 50k bonus point sign ups on its personal and business credit cards after spending $2,000 in three months. You can leverage the offers for $3,142 in free flights.

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You can get both the personal and business cards at once, and after meeting their minimum spending requirements, you will have 104,000 Rapid Rewards post to your account.

Southwest has a fixed-value program in which you can get any Wanna Get Away? fare for 70 points for every dollar of the base fare. That means 104,000 points are worth $1,485 in free flights.

Earn another 6,000 Rapid Rewards with the cards or a few other ways–getting to 110k points total–and you will earn the best deal in all of travel hacking: a Southwest Companion Pass.

If you have the Southwest Companion pass, you can designate a companion who flies for $5.60 per direction on every Southwest flight you fly. That’s every Southwest flight–including paid tickets, regular awards, and special loophole awards–for all of 2015 and 2016 if you play this correctly.

The free travel from the 110k Rapid Rewards and Companion Pass are worth at least $3,142 even after Southwest’s recent devaluation.

  • What is a Southwest Companion Pass?
  • How can you get one from two credit cards?
  • How can you time this to make your companion pass last over 23 months?

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Where is the Space? American Airlines New Flat Bed Business Class

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For a long time, a major weakness of American Airlines miles has been that American Airlines Business Class featured exclusively angled lie flat seats. That is changing rapidly.

  • American’s newest plane, the 777-300ER, arrived with fully flat beds in Business Class. The plane serves some flights to Sao Paulo, London, and Hong Kong.
  • American Airlines’ 767 is being retrofitted with fully flat beds in Business Class. The retrofitted plane already flies several routes to Europe, and more retrofitted planes will serve more of Europe in the coming months.
  • American Airlines’ 777-200 is being retrofitted with fully flat beds in Business Class and will arrive “later this year” to serve undisclosed routes.

All three of these Business Class products look nice. The question is: what is the award space picture on these flat beds?

  • Where is the award space on AA’s new flat beds?
  • How can you book AA flat beds?
  • What is the best flat bed space with AA miles on non-AA planes?

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100 Free Award Wallet Upgrade Codes

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New Codes at 7:13 PM ET

Happy Aloha Friday. Enjoy one of these 100 free upgrade codes for six months of Award Wallet Plus. Award Wallet is the free way I track my 35 miles and points balances and store my login information for those programs.

Read more about Award Wallet.

Sign up for Award Wallet.

Click “Continue Reading” to see the codes. You may need to try a few before you find one that is unused.

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Up to 90,000 Bonus Miles on the Virgin Atlantic MasterCard

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The Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard® is offering up to 90,000 bonus miles until October 15, but there are quite a few strings attached.

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The bottom line is that you earn 127,500 Virgin Atlantic miles after spending $25,000 in the first year on the card. The offer breaks down like this:

25,000 Immediate Miles after First Purchase & Annual Fee

  • 20,000 Flying Club bonus miles after your first retail purchase
  • Earn 2,500 Flying Club miles for each authorized user you add to the card up to 5,000 Flying Club bonus miles
  • The card has a $90 annual fee that is NOT waived the first year.

This is 25,000 total miles just for opening the card, adding two authorized users, making one purchase, and paying the $90 annual fee.

  • How can you earn the last 65,000 bonus miles?
  • What are the best uses of Virgin Atlantic miles?
  • Should you open this card?

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4 Business Class Award Seats Every Day Between USA and Asia

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There are four Business Class award seats available every day in June 2015 on Japan Airlines’ flight from Los Angeles to Osaka, Japan. Hat tip to reader Oren for passing along the tip.

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The award space is bookable with American Airlines and US Airways miles much for as low as 50,000 miles each way. There are excellent connection options to and from Los Angeles and Osaka, so this space effectively connects all of the United States with all of Asia.

Unfortunately the seat servicing the route is angled lie flat. I’d wryly note that there’s a reason it won a 2009 design award and not a 2014 award.

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  • How can you search for the award space?
  • How can you book the award space?
  • How good is the seat?
  • What are your connection options in Los Angeles and Osaka?

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20 Percent Bonus on Marriott to American Airlines Transfers

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Reader Steve passes along a great deal for people with lots of Marriott points.

Until October 31, 2014, you can get a 20% bonus when you transfer Marriott points to American Airlines miles.

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This includes Marriott-points-to-miles transfers and transfers of Marriott points to hotel and air packages.

  • What are hotel and air packages?
  • Why are hotel and air packages often a better deal than just transferring to miles?
  • What airline transfer partner of Marriott points is always 10-20% better than other options?

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