Tag Archives | Travel

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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American Airlines Restricts Ticket Sales in Argentina

I haven’t even been back in Argentina a full day and the dollar blue hits a record high of $15! That’s immediately followed by American Airlines announcing that they are restricting ticket sales in Argentina. Ahh, financial uncertainty how I’ve missed you.

We used to be so happy together.

We used to be so happy together.

American Airlines will no longer sell tickets to or from Argentina for purchase in pesos for more than 90 days out. Want to fly from Buenos Aires to New York after December 18? Sorry, you’ll have to choose a different airline (while you can).

American is implementing this measure because of the widening gap between the official exchange rate ($8.43) and the blue rate ($15.00). Without knowing where this will end up, they do not want to get stuck holding pesos that become more and more worthless everyday.

So, here’s why American Airlines is not happy (and how you can benefit)…

Assume I want to go from Buenos Aires (EZE) to Miami (MIA) for a week in October. If I”m on the American Airlines website in the United States, the fare comes out to U$S 1213. Switching my country to Argentina, I find the same flight for U$S 1688 (higher due to the 35% Argentine tax on travel). Which one do I book?

Well, paying for that U$S 1688 flight on my Argentine credit card, I’d get billed at the official exchange rate, and end up with a charge of ARS $14,230. Now, if I convert my dollars at the blue rate to pay off the credit card, I’d only owe U$S 949. That’s a savings of almost 25% off the flight for me!

The 35% travel tax implemented by the government last December was designed to make this practice less attractive, but since the gap between the official rate and blue rate keeps widening, this is once again an attractive option for booking tickets.

Only time will tell what happens next…

UPDATE: Here’s American Airlines policy that was sent to ticket agents:

Argentina Point of Sale Restrictions
September 26, 2014
American Airlines has implemented sales restrictions for Argentina point-of-sale on our flights to/from Buenos Aires (EZE), Argentina.  These sales restrictions do not apply to point-of-sale outside of Argentina.

Reservations can still be made or ticketed for travel on American and American codeshare (AA*/OA) flights for departures prior to:

·       84 days for flights departing EZE
·       90 days for flights arriving into EZE

Reservations cannot be made or ticketed for travel on American or American codeshare flights (AA*/OA) for departures more than:
·       84 days for flights departing EZE
·       90 days for flights arriving into EZE
American will not accept bookings on other airlines with Argentina point-of-sale.

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Summer Travel Hacking: How We Travel Cheaply Using Points and Miles

Our family is very lucky in that we get to split our time between Buenos Aires and the United States. This summer, due to work and personal commitments, we’ll be back in the States for almost 3 months, which means skipping most of the gray Buenos Aires winter.

While these trips are great, traveling with a family of four can be quite expensive. This is why I’ve become quite adept at playing the miles and points game as well as doing what I can to manufacture spend and earn as many points as possible. (If you’re not familiar with this, check out some of my other posts.)

This month, we’ll fly from Buenos Aires to Boston and then borrow a car from a friend. Over the rest of the summer, we’ve got road trips planned to Burlington, Montreal, Boston (twice), Lake George, the Berkshires and Mohegan Sun. We return in September from Boston to Buenos Aires.

Here’s the quick summary of how we’ve used miles and points to accomplish this without spending very much money:

Flight

We’re flying American Airlines from Buenos Aires to New York where we’ll spend three nights before flying to Boston. On the way back, we’re flying Boston to New York where we’ll spend one night before flying to Buenos Aires. (Unfortunately AA has since eliminated stopovers, so this routing will not work anymore.)

American Express Centurion Lounge

American Express Centurion Lounge

We’ll also get to relax in the American Express Centurion Lounge at Ezeiza before our flight by having the American Express Platinum Card. They offer free food, drinks and even Freddo ice cream!

For our family of three plus an infant, this would have cost over U$S4300 if we had to pay for it. Instead, we’re using 50,000 miles per person plus $360 in taxes and fees. We obtained these AA miles from credit card signup bonuses as well as having a Bank Direct AA checking account that earns miles. (If you want me to refer you, let me know and we’ll both get 1,000 bonus miles.)

Hotels

50,000 points per night

50,000 points per night

We’re spending three nights at the Intercontinental Times Square in NYC which would cost us U$S 1548.66 and be completely out of our budget. Instead, we’re spending $140 in cash and 80,000 IHG points which we earned most of from our mattress run in Buenos Aires. We also used a free night certificate that we get simply for having the IHG Reward Club credit card and paying the $49 annual fee. A pretty great deal!

On our first trip to Boston, we’re staying at the Best Western for $167.78 in cash – but, of course there’s a deal there too… We booked the hotel on Rocketmiles, which awards airline points for hotel bookings. We got in on a promotion they ran which will give us 6,000 AA miles for this stay. As I value AA miles at about $.02 each, this means a $120 rebate. Not bad. (If you use my link to signup for Rocketmiles, we’ll both get a 1,000 point bonus with your first stay.)

12,000 SPG Points per Night

12,000 SPG Points per Night

For our second trip to Boston, we’re staying at The Liberty Hotel. This would have cost us $913.31, but we’re using 24,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points instead. We earned these by spending on the SPG Amex card. These are some of the most valuable points around as they not only work for SPG hotels but also transfer to many airline programs. (They currently have a promotion for 30,000 bonus points if you sign up for the SPG card with my link. You have to spend $5,000 in 6 months, but that is easily done for free just by using Amazon payments.)

For our Montreal road trip and our Berkshire stop, we took advantage of the IHG Priority Club Points Break. This quarterly offer from IHG is one of the best deals in the travel world. They offer discounted 5,000 point per night rates at a select number of hotels. Since you can “buy” IHG points for $.007 each, this works out to only $35/night! The deals sell out fast, but we managed to snag two nights at the Holiday Inn Express Montreal ($373.09) and one night at the Holiday Inn Berkshires ($167.54). So, for 15,000 points ($105) we managed to get $540.63 in travel.

Great deal at the Park Hyatt nearby.

Great deal at the Park Hyatt nearby.

Next on the road trip list is a surprise concert for my wife at Mohegan Sun (she never reads the blog, so no worries about her finding out). We needed two rooms for the night so that her mother can watch the kids, and unfortunately the Mohegan Sun Hotel is independent and ridiculously pricey at $599/night! Luckily, there is a Hyatt Place nearby with a free shuttle to Mohegan Sun and a more affordable price of $488.40 for both rooms. Of course, what makes this even better is that it’s only 8,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points! That’s $.03 per point which is a great redemption value! We simply transferred the points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt and booked the rooms.

A weekend trip to Lake George means two rooms at Country Inn and Suites. This would have cost $1,061.16 during the peak summer season, but I had won two free night certificates from a travel blog and used that for one room. For the other room, I used 38,000 Club Carlson points for one night and got one night free as a beneift for having the Club Carlson branded credit card.

50,000 Points per Night

50,000 Points per Night

And finally on our way home, we decided to spend one night at The Conrad New York. The cost of this night would have been $486.30, but instead we used 70,000 Hilton HHonors points that we earned through a credit card signup bonus. We’ll also get free Internet and free breakfast as well as late check out for having Hilton Gold status (from our credit card).

For a couple of other trips, we needed more space than a hotel would provide and booked some great accommodations on AirBNB for less than the cost of the local hotels.

Whew! It took a bit of effort, but when you look at what we get:

  • $4300 airfare for $360 and 150,000 AA miles ($.026 per mile)
  • $1548.66 Intercontinental New York stay for $140 and 80,000 IHG points ($.017 per point)
  • $167.78 Boston Best Western stay to earn 6,000 AA points ($.028 paid per point)
  • $913.31 The Liberty Boston stay for $0 and 24,000 SPG points ($.038 per point)
  • $373.09 Holiday Inn Montreal stay for 10,000 IHG points ($.037 per point)
  • $167.54 Holiday Inn Berkshires stay for 5,000 IHG points ($.034 per point)
  • $488.40 Park Hyatt Mohegan Sun stay for 16,000 Hyatt points ($.030 per point)
  • $530.58 Country Inn and Suites Lake George stay for 38,000 Club Carlson points ($.014 per point)
  • $486.30 Conrad New York stay for 70,000 Hilton HHonors points ($.007 per point)

Adding it all up, that’s almost $9,000 in travel for only $547.78 plus points and miles. Not too bad IMHO… And this is why it kills me when I hear from friends who redeem their credit card points for gift cards at $.01 each. There is so much more value in those points!

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