Archive | Travel

Argentina Ends US Reciprocity Fee Payment

Argentina Ends US Reciprocity FeeWow! Obama and Macri must have really gotten along when they met today as news just came out that Argentina will no longer require US passport holders to pay the USD $160 reciprocity fee to visit Argentina.

That’s right – as of March 24, 2016, US visitors to Argentina no longer have to pay the reciprocity fee. No word yet on whether or not those who paid it for future travel will get it refunded (don’t hold your breath).

Argentina is hoping for the US to grant their citizens unrestricted travel without the need for a visa too, but that is a little ways off. At the moment, the US has agreed to waive the interview requirement for those Argentines under 16 or over 65. Not much, but it’s a start!

Canadians and Australians still must pay their respective reciprocity fees. Maybe it’s time for Justin Trudeau to visit Argentina too!

Here’s the text from the embassy’s website:

In order to strengthen the relationship between Argentina and the United States of America, the Argentine Government has resolved to suspend the collection of the reciprocity fee from US passport holders who visit our country for less than 90 days, for tourist or business purposes.

Buenos Aires, March 24 2016

UPDATE: The US and Argentina are also working on removing the tourist visa requirement for Argentine passport holders in a “reasonable amount of time.”

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Negative Miles and Points Changes for Argentina

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m a big miles and points junkie. I regularly use miles and points to reduce the cost of traveling internationally with a family of four. Of course, good things don’t last and there are two major negative changes coming to redeeming miles on American Airlines and Delta for travel to Argentina.

For bookings made as of March 22, 2016, American Airlines is making three negative changes to their award charts for southern South America.

First, American is eliminating MileSAAver Off Peak Awards. These were 20,000 one-way coach awards for travel to and from Argentina during non-peak times. My family used these many times – booking roundtrip flights for 4 people for only 160,000 miles! It was an incredible deal, and apparently too generous for American to continue. They will now only offer MileSAAver awards at 30,000 miles one-way. That means for our family of four, flights will now cost 240,000 miles roundtrip.

Not content with that, American is also increasing the cost of one-way business class saver awards from 50,000 miles to 57,500 miles. They are also drastically increasing one-way first class saver awards from 62,500 miles to 85,000 miles! That’s a 36% increase.

Not to be outdone, Delta also decided to increase the number of miles needed to travel from the US to Argentina. One-way business class fares will go from 62,500 miles one-way to 75,000 miles. This applies to all travel from October 1, 2016 on and also applies to their partners Aeromexico and Aerolineas Argentinas. Luckily, economy fares stay the same at 30,000 miles one-way.

So, any good news here?

Amazing Business Class Award Space

Tons of business class award space!

The only potential positive is that you have until March 22 to book travel on American Airlines at the old prices. You can also make free date changes to those award tickets and keep the old pricing. So, if you have any potential travel plans, I’d recommend booking now.

The other positive is that American Airlines has opened up an incredible amount of business class and first class award saver space (see chart). While they were usually quite stingy with award space, their award calendar now shows a ton of space with many seats available.

We decided to take advantage of this and just changed our flight back to the US from coach to business for 50,000 points each. What’s the point of earning miles and points if you can’t spend them, right? And with these devaluations, there’s no point in hoarding them as they just decrease in value over time.

Where to sit with kids?

Where to sit with kids?

It will be interesting having a 2-year old and a 5-year old in business class, but they’re seasoned travelers at this point. The toughest decision was figuring out how to pick our seats since American has a 1-2-1 herringbone seat configuration on their 777-200. While we originally had the middle seats, the partition between the two means it would be difficult to reach across to the other side to help. I decided to change the seats to one middle and one window, so we’re just across the aisle from each other. I’ll let you know how that goes!

– You can get more info on the rest of American Airlines award changes at the View from the Wing blog.

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How Much Money Can You Bring to Argentina?

Legally Bringing Money To ArgentinaNow that most tourists and expats know about the dollar blue, the question that often arises is “How much money can I bring into Argentina legally?

It’s pretty simple actually:

  • For those age 16 and older, you can legally enter the country with up to $10,000 United States dollars
  • For those under 16, you can legally enter the country with up to $5,000 United States dollars

For amounts from $10,000 and up, you need to declare the money upon entry to the county, though I’ve never once heard of anyone doing that. You can read the rules and regulations on the AFIP website.

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Summer Travel and Another App-O-Rama

As we plan our escape from the upcoming Buenos Aires winter, miles and points once again come to the rescue of our family!

Now that my son is 18 months old, it’s time for him to have his own seat on the plane. (Yes, he can fly as a lap child until 2 years old, but there is no way you want an 18 month old on your lap for an 11 hour flight!) That means we would need 4 coach seats from Argentina to the United States, and a quick check shows that would cost a crazy $5254! And yes, that’s dollars not pesos.

Luckily, we have more than enough miles from credit card signups and other bonuses to get all this travel for free! Here’s what we did…

I first booked flights for my wife, daughter and son at only 40,000 miles each (the reduced rate for the South American off-season). Since I have the Citibank AA Amex card, I get 10% in miles returned to me (up to 10,000 miles per year) immediately after booking. That means that their three tickets only cost 110,000 miles for an amazing value of $.036 per mile.

Hyatt Regency Boston on PointsNext, I booked my ticket on the same flights using 4,400 AA Business Extra miles. I got these points for free in what I consider to be the best offer of 2014. By simply referring people to join the Business Extra program, I received 1,000 points per referral. I referred my wife and four friends and pocketed the maximum 5,000 points. That means this $1400 ticket cost me about 15 minutes of my time! Plus, I still have 600 points left over that I can use for two sets of free AA lounge passes.

With flights handled, I next booked the Hyatt Regency Boston for three nights when we arrive. Since Hyatt has a promotion that gives 20% back in points on all award redemptions, these nights only cost me 36,000 points rather than the normal 45,000 points. The out-of-pocket cost for these nights would have been $1130, so we’re getting a nice $.031 per point there.

Palazzo Vegas on PointsWhile we’re still firming up the rest of our summer travel plans, I couldn’t pass up last week’s IHG 50% off award promotion for their Las Vegas hotels. I quickly snagged five nights at The Palazzo for the 4th of July weekend at 25,000 points per night rather than the normal 50,000 points per night. As there is a 50/50 chance as to whether we actually go or not, I booked each night individually rather than booking it as an entire 5 night stay. That way if we need to adjust the dates, we can cancel the nights we don’t want without cancelling the whole trip and losing out on the promotional rate. The normal rate for this stay would have been $1147, so getting $.009 per IHG point is a great deal.

We still have a trip to NYC to plan, where we’ll either stay at the Intercontinental Times Square or the Hyatt. Having miles and points gives us a lot of options:

  • Two free nights at the Hyatt through their credit card signup offer
  • One free night at the Intercontinental for paying the $95 renewal on the IHG MasterCard
  • Two free nights at the Intercontinental through the IHG Free Nights promotion where I earned 2 free nights and 28,000 miles by staying two nights at a cheaper Holiday Inn for $332. (Not a bad price to pay to convert to the Intercontinental NYC where nightly rates are over $400 per night!)

All this cheap travel is made possible through credit card bonuses, taking advantage of promotional offers, using online shopping portals and some limited manufactured spending. I’ve written about app-o-ramas before, and my last one was this past November where I applied for the following cards on the same day:

  • American Express Gold – limited time 75,000 bonus point offer
  • Chase Hyatt – 2 free nights at any Hyatt
  • Barclay US Airways MasterCard – 50,000 US Airways miles offer (soon to convert to American Airlines miles)
  • Discover Card – $150 back after spending $750 in three months and to take advantage of 5% spending bonuses

I even managed to get my Argentine wife into the credit card game after working to establish credit for her. Now she can take part in future app-o-ramas as well and we can earn even more points together.

It takes some planning, but with a little bit of time and taking advantage of promotions, you can easily get big travel for little money. For our family, this makes all the difference in the world.

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