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Our Buenos Aires Staycations (AKA Mattress Runs)

When my wife told her friends that we were spending last Saturday night at the Puerto Madero Holiday Inn Express, they were a bit confused. Why would we be going 15 minutes away and staying at a hotel in our own city?

Welcome to the world of a points junkie.

Due to a combination of promotions and offers from IHG, our stay at the Holiday Inn Express last Saturday night and our stay at the Intercontinental Buenos Aires this coming Saturday will net us enough points for up to 12 nights at an IHG property, all for a cost of less than U$S 240. This is what’s known as “mattress running” – staying at a hotel for the sole purpose of earning points or status due to reduced rates or promotional offers.

Dinner at Bice, Puerto Madero

Romantic Dinner at Bice, Puerto Madero

For the first night of our mattress run at the Holiday Inn Express Buenos Aires , we ended up with 35,792 points. These points, conservatively, have a value of U$S 250.54, and with the IHG Points Break promotion can be good for up to 7  nights at an IHG hotel. Our cost? About ARS $1000, which at the blue rate is U$S 104. Not a bad deal for a one night stay. Plus, we got a night out away from home, free breakfast and lots of air conditioning! We also spent some time in Puerto Madero – an area we do not frequently make it to.

With the IHG Big Win promotion, our stay at the Intercontinental this coming weekend will get us at least another 25,000 points (it’s hard to know exactly how many points it will be with all the overlapping promotions), and yet another chance to get out of the house for something different. We’ll get to enjoy the pool, gym, spa, highly-rated restaurant and, since it’s supposed to be over 100 degrees on Saturday, lots of air conditioning too.

See, staycations can be both fun and profitable! (UPDATE: Our two nights got us a total of 65,576 points. This can very conservatively be valued at U$S 459.)

If you’re looking for a hotel deal yourself, check out two Marriott promotions that can be combined to give you 2 free nights plus bonus points after two stays (or 3 free nights after four stays):

While this one is probably not worthy of a mattress run, if you have any planned trips, it may be worth changing hotels and staying at a Marriott brand to take advantage of this. (Please note that a stay is defined as consecutive nights at the same hotel regardless of check in/check out activity.)



Milepoint Premier Membership Available – Great Deal for Infrequent Travelers

Milepoint Premium Membership OfferI’ve written numerous times on this blog about miles and points. I’m a bit obsessed with them, but for good reason – a family of four who wants to travel internationally from Argentina can expect to pay a LOT of money. That is where miles and points come in. They give our family the opportunity to travel without spending thousands of dollars each time we do it.

This latest offer from Milepoint, one of the premier frequent flyer forums on the web, is one that I just took advantage of and I think many of you may find useful. For $49.95, you’ll get their premium membership which includes a lot of frequent traveler goodies, including:

  • Hilton Gold Status: this is the best mid-tier hotel status you can get and gives you free breakfast, internet and occasional upgrades
  • 1,000 United miles: at least $20 in value
  • National Car Rental Executive Status: better car rentals and free upgrade
  • Pointshound Level 2 Membership: earn bonus miles from hotel stays
  • Hyatt gift card discount: 10% off Hyatt gift cards (up to $5000) which can be used for stays, incidentals and spas.
  • Many other discounts on gear, frequent flyer programs, etc. like AwardWallet Plus, InsideFlyer.com, and UsingMiles

The full list of partners and discounts is on their site, but if you’re traveling at all it’s pretty easy to see how easy it will be to get your money back.

We have a February trip to The Conrad Punta del Este (on points), and with Hilton Gold status that means we’ll be getting free breakfast for two, free Internet ($20/day), possible lounge access and potential room upgrade. I’d estimate this at over $300 in value for this trip alone! We’re also looking at some Hyatt stays next year (on points), and 10% off gift cards will be good for incidentals charges.


Hurry up and get your membership now though. Last year when they ran this promotion it sold out within 3 days.

And for those of us in Argentina, check out the 20% off Scottevest. These look like the perfect clothing for iPhone and iPad smuggling. :)


Fly To Buenos Aires for Only $706 – US Airways Share Miles Promotion

I’ve written a few times about US Airways’ “buy miles” promotions which are offered several times a year and are a fairly decent way to get cheap business class fares to Buenos Aires. Through those offers you can buy 100,000 US Airways miles for U$S 1881, or about 1.9 cents each. Now that’s a pretty good deal, but this new promotion is even better…

US Airways Share Miles PromotionUS Airways is offering a 100% bonus on “shared miles until October 15, 2013. That means that when you transfer miles to someone else’s account, they’ll end up with double the amount that you transferred. Send 10,000, get 20,000. Send 20,000, get 40,000. And so on.

The maximum amount of miles you can send is 50,000. This would cost you $567.50 and give the person you sent miles to 100,000 in their account. This works out to buying 50,000 miles at 1.13 cents each. That’s an incredible deal!

60,000 miles is  enough to get you a round trip coach airfare from Buenos Aires to the States (or vice-versa).As US Airways does not fly to Argentina, you’ll have to use those miles on a Star Alliance partner like United or Copa. Since you have to pay the phone booking fee of $50 for this award, your total cost would work out to $706.00. That’s a pretty substantial savings from normal coach fares which are $1200+. If you transfer the 50,000 miles from one account to the other and then back again, you’ve just got an extra 100,000 miles – enough for a business class ticket to Buenos Aires for only $1185 ($567.50 1st transfer + $567.50 2nd transfer + $50 phone booking fee). Now, that’s an awesome price for a business class ticket!

To take part in this promotion you’ll need to have an account that been open at least 12 days and you’ll also need the initial US Airways miles in your account (or a friend’s or family member’s) to share. If you do not have US Airways miles, you can transfer 40,000 Starwood points to the US Airways program and get a total of 50,000 US Airways miles.

I have already done this three ways: from me to my wife, from my wife to my daughter, and then from my daughter back to me. That means that as a family we’re now up 150,000 miles for only $1702.50. The points posted instantly.

I’m also hopeful that the US Airways and American Airlines merger goes through. If that happens, it would mean that these miles will convert to American Airlines miles down the road. I find American Airlines miles to be much more valuable and their off-season pricing to South America starts at only 20,000 miles one way!



My Most Recent Credit Card App-O-Rama

Flying from Buenos Aires to the US is expensive. Coach airfare routinely costs $1200 and up. With a family of three and a new one on the way, that means we’re looking at $3600+ for a simple trip ($4800+ when our son hits 2 years old) – and that’s just airfare! Add in a hotel, car rental, dining, etc. and costs skyrocket.

Conrad Punta del Este

A $4000 hotel stay for free with points.

When I realized what these costs looked like, I started to really get focused on how to get big travel for less money. The most immediate solution? Frequent flyer miles and hotel points. The problem was that I was not flying frequently enough or staying in hotels enough to rack up points, so I needed another way. The most obvious choice I found was through credit card signup bonuses and following the points and miles blogs to learn about tips, promotions and other tricks of the trade.

I’m happy to report that by following these tips and tricks I was able to rack up over two million points in the last two years alone. This has involved signing up for credit card bonuses, buying miles when there were big discounts, earning miles from a mileage checking account, and even a couple of hotel stays at cheap rates to earn huge promotional bonuses.

Hilton Whistler

7 nights at the Hilton Whistler for free with points

Already these points have meant that I have had two international business class flights for less than the cost of coach, flown my mother and mother-in-law in business class between the US and Argentina, and even flew my family of three from EZE to JFK where we stayed at the Conrad New York for free. Our future travel plans include an 8-night trip booked at the Conrad Punta del Este Resort and Casino in the peak summer season. If we paid for that it would have cost over U$S 4000! With my Hilton Gold status (thanks to my Citi Hilton credit card) we’ll also get free breakfast and Internet for the entire stay, saving even more. We’re also going on an 11-day ski trip to Whistler, Canada next year at no cost for airfare and lodging.

Signing up for credit cards with bonuses is undoubtedly the best way to earn these miles and points. One of the best strategies to do this is what is known as the “credit card app-o-rama.” This is when you apply for a number of credit cards from different banks on the same day (often using different browsers and submitting them one after the other). There are several benefits to the app-o-rama approach:

  1. The banks cannot tell that you have applied for multiple credit cards on the same day, thus giving you a better credit score.
  2. Applications for credit cards generate a “hard inquiry” on your credit report. This will drop your credit score by a few points for 3-6 months. By grouping them all together, you can take the hit all at once and have the drop off at the same time.

If you’re truly dedicated to earning miles and points, you can do a credit card app-o-rama about every 90 days as these hard inquiries drop off your credit report. I’m currently on about a 6 month cycle as I just do not have the time to manage this every three months. My most recent app-o-rama was spurred on by an enhanced bonus on the Chase Ink Bold card which went from 50,000 points to 60,000 points for this week only. That was enough to get me to apply for all the cards I wanted, which included:

  • Chase Ink Bold: 60,000 Ultimate Reward Points before 6/22/13 after $5000 spend in 3 months
  • Chase Ink Plus: 60,000 Ultimate Reward Points before 6/22/13 after $5000 spend in 3 months
  • Barclay World Arrival Card: $444 statement credit on travel purchases after $1000 spend in 3 months
  • Club Carlson Rewards Business Visa: 50,000 points after first purchase, 35,000 points more after $2500 spend in 90 days, plus Gold benefits (see below)
  • Kohls: I just got this one as they often offer amazing deals for charge card holders only and with kids they have great deals on clothes.

I was immediately approved for all the cards except for the Chase Ink ones. Those are pending and probably backed up due to the increased demand for them this week. These cards made my list because of their great signup bonuses and special offers. The Barclay World Arrival card is great because you get $444 back after only spending $1000! That’s pretty significant. The Club Carlson rewards card is awesome for a number of reasons including the fact that for every reward stay over two nights, you’ll get one night of points back. This is going to work out very well for us as we have a layover in Dallas on our Whistler trip. We get into Dallas at 6am and leave the next day at 10am. Rather than just booking one night and hoping we get in early to the room, we’ll now book two reward nights for the same cost as one night and be guaranteed a room.

There’s a lot of things to consider when applying for credit cards and it’s a lot to cover in just one blog post. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to try and help. Here’s some of the most important concepts:

  • You’ll need a good credit score and financial history if you plan to apply for credit cards.
  • You’ll need to figure out what cards and bonuses make the most sense for you. A number of the blogs listed at the bottom of this post have great summaries on the various bonuses and offers.
  • You should not apply for credit cards if you’re doing any major financial transactions – mortgage, refinancing, etc. – as your credit score will take a temporary hit.
  • You need to meet the minimum spend requirements. It helps if you have expenses for yourself or family members that you can charge. There are ways to “manufacture” spending, which basically means charging things at no cost and getting that money back through other ways. See some of the other blogs for more info on this as well.
  • You’ll need to track your credit cards and make sure that those with an annual fee are cancelled if they no longer make sense for you.

This whole process is also a bit trickier to do when you’re not in the United States, but not impossible. Here’s the steps that work for me from Argentina:

  • Use a VPN service when applying for credit cards. This will make it look like your computer is in the US and not cause any flags to be raised on your application.
  • You need to use a US address for your application (no PO boxes). Use a mail forwarding service or family member’s address for this. It helps to have address history, so if you can, change your existing credit cards to use this address too.
  • You may not have physical access to the credit card. I just have my mother send me the info, activate the cards and use them online until I have a chance to physically get the card.

This turned into a lengthy post on the topic, but hopefully it’s a good overview. There are a lot of other ways to earn miles and points, but hopefully this was a quick overview of credit card signup bonuses. I’ll be writing some other posts down the road, but feel free to ask me any questions you may have. In the meantime, here are some great miles and points blogs that you can follow:

Good luck!


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