Showing posts with label Priority Club. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Priority Club. Show all posts

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ultimate Rewards' Exceptional Hotel Points Transfer Values

Chase's Ultimate Rewards program is their in house rewards program that lets you redeem points for gift cards, merchandise, travel, cash back, and transfer into Chase partner points programs.  Point transfers are 1:1 to most programs.  Since points can also be cash back at 1 to $0.01, points transfers are like buying points at a penny each.  This is cheaper than airlines sell them and a great value when needing to top off an account for an award, except for Priority Club.  On the flip side of that coin, Hyatt is an outstanding value.
Unrelated United Airlines Picture
Exceptionally Good Value:  Hyatt
Top level hotels, like the Park Hyatt Tokyo, are only 22,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points.  That's $220 of Ultimate Rewards points (tax is included in points reservations) for rooms that are normally over $600.  This is one of the best deals available today.
Unrelated Blue1 717
Exceptionally Bad Value:  Priority Club
A mid-range Holiday Inn is 25,000 priority club points. That's $250 of Ultimate Rewards points for a room that is less than $200.  
Better Off Just Spending Cash

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Burned Up My Priority Club Points Rather Quickly

I started this year with 166,000 Priority Club points.  I haven't earned points from a stay in about two years (just a few thousand here and there for opting into emails), but was feeling comfortable with my balance   The last time I used Priority Club points was for my trip to Santiago, Chile and a stay at the pathetic Intercontinental Santiago.  I booked it with a Points Break award, so it only cost 5,000 points a night.  I was planning on using my balance on Points Break hotels or cheap roadside Holiday Inn Expresses.  The math in my head worked out that my balance would buy 33 Points Break nights or 15 or so HIE nights.  Two to four weeks of hotel stays is a comfortable balance.  
SWISS Avro RJ100
It turns out my balance only buys five nights.  I'm taking a trip to Geneva next month for the EBACE aviation trade show and need five nights in the area (the trade show is three days, but a short notice miles booking required a slightly longer stay).  Three nights at the Intercontinental Geneva, one at the airport Holiday Inn, and one at a TBD hotel (all IHG hotels are booked on one night, so I'm waiting for a late cancellation).  After those reservations, I have only 11,000 points left.
Waiting For The Next Adventure
I'm fine with a small balance.  Priority Club points exist for when you travel somewhere without a Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Fairmont, or Startwood hotel.  Priority Club also does not require hotels to recognize elite benefits on award stays (contact the hotel in advance to see if they will honor your benefits, the Crowne Plaza Helsinki did), so points stays can make for a disappointing vacation.  I see it as a last resort currency only preferential to spending money and went two years without needing any points. You can also buy points from them at a rate of $60 per 10,000. It might be a while before I need to acquire more points.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

La Quinta Returns Elite Card

The La Quinta Returns Elite card must be a constant reminder that life isn't going as well as planned.  The same can be said of Priority Club Gold bag tags.
La Quinta Returns Elite Card

Thursday, October 25, 2012

IDine & Other Miles for Dining Programs

Miles for nothing, that's the goal, right?  Well that doesn't exist, but there are many ways to earn miles for no marginal cost.  Mileage dinning programs are ones way to pick up miles without spending more.  Just sign up for the program(s) of your choice (see links below), register your credit cards and you are set.  When dinning at a participating restaurant, you earn about 3 miles for every dollar spent.  The miles post a few weeks after your visit; no work required on your end after signing up. I use programs for airlines I don't earn miles in frequently to have another way to reset the miles' expiry date.  You might be able to grab 1,000 bonus miles for joining too.

American Express (Earn Amex Gift Cards) Dinning Program

United Airlines Dinning Program

US Airways Dinning Program

American Airlines Dinning Program

Delta Dinning Program

Alaska Airlines Dinning Program

Priority Club Dinning Program
American and United Jets at DEN

Friday, October 12, 2012

Three Perfect Days in Helsinki Finland + Crowne Plaza Helsinki Review

United Airlines' Hemispheres magazine (best in-flight magazine I've read) has a feature called Three Perfect Days that gives travel advice for three days in a given city.  It provides valuable insights and is a fun read, but they haven't covered Helsinki, so allow me to fill the void.  
Hakasalmenpuisto Park, Helsinki
I don't know anyone in Finland and did very limited research, but was still able to have a great time and see everything I wanted to see.  My first stop in Helsinki was the tourist desk at the airport (ground level, terminal 2) to buy a Helsinki Card.  This card is a tourist's dream, it provides free public transit, maps, sightseeing ideas, and discounted or free admission to every museum in town (I've had great experiences with this idea in Lisbon, Vienna, Budapest, and Copenhagen too).  It also helps me see more when I travel, if the museum is free, why not drop in, even if only for a few minutes.  The lowered inhibitions might be the best value; the excellent map is a close second.
Cool Designs in Helsinki
From the airport, I took the Finnair City Bus to my hotel, the Crowne Plaza Helsinki.  I used points to pay for the room and confirmed with the hotel that my Platinum status would be honored when paying with points (not a guarantee with Priority Club).  I was upgraded to a club floor and got free internet for my stay.  The club floor room was a decent size and I was able to spread out and relax; good bathroom too (never a sure thing in older EU hotels).  The club lounge had cold cuts for breakfast (it's a Scandinavian thing) and light snacks in the evening.  The fridge was stocked with water, Coke, and a few beers, available any time.  All around it's a nice lounge (and not spending on breakfast really stretches a travel budget).  I was the only tourist in the lounge and stood out a lot, but I had a vacation mindset and didn't care.
Crowne Plaza Hotel Helsinki Executive King Room
Crowne Plaza Helsinki Hotel
Helsinki is the World Design Capital for 2012.  This is a rotating title to promote local outstanding design; there were various displays around town and at the airport promoting Finnish design.  The award may be temporary, but design is a strong part of the culture.  There are many stunning buildings and art pieces around town and two museums dedicated to design.  It's something best experienced.
Cool Helsinki Building #1
Helsinki Is Very Relaxing
Cool Helsinki Building #2 of Many
Helsinki is a small and walkable city, but they have a terrific tram system, so you don't have to walk very far. Most sights and museums are close to a tram stop.  The Culture Tram is a sight on its own.  Each week, a different cultural display or activity is featured.  There have been opera singers, sting quartets, and a boring thing about media coverage of the poor in Africa (what I saw).
Helsinki Culture Tram - Different Theme Each Week
Helsinki City Streets
After waking up early on my first morning in Helsinki (remember to close the curtains), I headed over to the Suomenlinna sea fortress.  A ferry goes from the top of the harbor to the fortress two or three times an hour and it is covered under public transit, so no need for an extra ticket.  Suomenlinna was built as a harbor defense for Helsinki and was the primary military base in the area.  It did not do well in the Crimean War, but is wonderful to visit now.  There are many museums, tours, and things to see and climb on (all free with the Helsinki Card).  I spent over five hours exploring the islands.  By far my favorite stop on my vacation.
Suomenlinna From The Sea
Suomenlinna Fortifications
Suomenlinna Earth Works
Russia Guns from the 1880's at Suomenlinna
Suomenlinna Gunner's View of Sea Lanes
Finland's Partner in the Continuation War
Suomenlinna Military Museum
WWII Finnish Submarine
Finnish Naval Building on Suomenlinna
It was raining on my second day, so I took a free bus tour (thank you Helsinki Card). It did a decent job of showing the city, explaining the history, and finding some sights that are difficult to locate on the tram system.  It ended by the central square in town and I hit the pavement to see a few more museums. The Bank of Finland museum was fun, in a nerdy finance way.  The Military Museum of Finland was an interesting continuation of what I learned about on Suomenlinna too.  The modern art museum has a great building and a full size police car that an artist knitted together, but the rest was a little too out there for my tastes.
Main Church in Town, Boring on the Inside
Knitted Police Car at Helsinki Modern Art Museum
Helsinki Train Station, Cool Outside, Drab Inside
Cool Bench Celebrating Helsinki's 200th Birthday
Statue to a Composer
Bank of Finland, Damage From WWII Soviet Bombing
I spent my third day relaxing before my flight. I woke up early (not intentionally) and took the ferry out to Suomenlinna and back just to enjoy the water.  I headed back to the hotel, but took a detour and wandered around the lake and park next to the hotel, very tranquil.  I arrived at the Helsinki Airport early so I could discuss customer experience management with their CEM manager.  Then I hit the lounge, did some duty free shopping, and hopped a flight to Munich.  I wouldn't say I had three perfect days in Helsinki, but it was close.

Russian Orthodox Churches Are Interesting
Fun Tapas Bar

Monday, July 30, 2012

Status Qualification Strategy Time

If you haven’t thought about it already, you should start planning out your status qualification strategy.  With five months left in the year, you are quickly running out of time if you are trending below your goals.  Also, with this much of a heads up, you may be able to grab a good deal on some flights or hotels stays to top off your numbers (use ITA Matrix and try to force extra connections).
United Express ERJ-145 at MLI
I’m doing fine for United 1K status this year.  Flown and booked trips total about 96,000 EQM (elite qualifying miles), so I just need one or two work trips to close the gap and I am set.  I did my United mileage math in June and booked two mileage run trips to SJU to make sure I get to where work travel can close the gap. 
W South Beach Miami Room Upgrade
Hotels are not looking so good though.  I have given up on Priority Club status all together because of their recent award chart devaluation and my lack of hotel activity (7/60th of the way to Platinum and 7/20th to Gold both on points earned, it’s not happening).  I am safe at Hilton Silver because I have their Amex, but Gold is too far out of reach to bother.  Starwood Preferred Guest is my favorite program and I will pull out all the stops to keep Platinum.  Right now I have 19 of my 25 needed stays booked or completed.  This leaves me with 6 stays in 5 months, not unreasonable, but it will be a stretch.  I have been bouncing hotels all year to increase my stay count without needing more nights.  I may be able to grab another three stays from work travel, but the last three may come out of my pocket.  Not insurmountable, but the $40 / night Four Points by me closed, so it may get expensive to make Platinum.  It’s still better than finishing the year at a pathetic 23 nights.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Priority Club Visa, No Thanks

Priority Club mailed me (I do enjoy direct mail) an offer for 80,000 bonus points for signing up for their Chase issued Visa.  Three years ago I would have jumped on the offer (, but not today.  Priority Club recently devalued their award chart by letting Intercontinental hotels go for up to 50,000 points, up from a cap of 40,000.  Crowne Plazas are more expensive now too (my ‘if all else fails’ chain of choice, not bad really and nicely scatted around Europe).  IHG hotels were my backup chain up until awards went up in price (Hilton is now #2).  I also had some poor experiences at some of their flagship properties.  A new Holiday Inn Express will still be a good stay, but I can't get excited over earning points with them now.  I still have 150,000 to burn, so I’ll have 3-30 nights (award nights range from 5k to 50k) before I’m broke and thinking about their credit card.
The Craptastic Intercontinental Santiago Chile

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chase Sapphire Credit Card Review

I use a collection of credit cards to maximize rewards from everyday spending.  I have a Citi Forward card because it earns 5% back (in gift card form) on restaurant spending.  I have a gold American Express that earns 3 times points on airfare and the SPG Business Amex that gives me 2 times points on Starwood hotels and Open Savings.  Then I need a card that rewards me for all my other spending.

My standby card is the Fidelity Amex that earns 2% on all purchases and has no annual fee.  My JPMorgan Palladium card earns 2 times points on travel spend, but that is limited to non-SPG hotels since all my other travel spend is taken by other cards.  I decided to try out the Chase Sapphire card with a 50,000 point sign up bonus (now only 40,000).  It earns 2 times points on travel spend and is otherwise uninteresting.  The card is not made out of plastic, but it is not gold so I’m not too impressed.  It’s a decent earner and with a much lower annual fee than the Gold Amex or Palladium Visa; it might be my go to card for airfare spending when my free year with the gold Amex is up.

Ultimate Rewards is Chase’s answer to Membership Rewards.  It has poor redemption value merchandise and 1:1 miles transfers to Chase affiliated airlines and hotels (United, Southwest, BA, Marriott, Priority Club, etc.).  You can also cash out points at $0.01 each.  It is a decent program and occasionally puts all their merchandise on sale to give you better than $0.01 a point in value. Point transfers or cash (if you are unimaginative or cash is king) are the best options.

The Sapphire is an ok card that, thanks to the sign up bonus, is going to be a good earner for me this year.  I’m not sure if I will keep it once the annual fee kicks in.  The Fidelity card is almost too good a value for everyday purchases.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

South American Adventure - Santiago

  1. Booking
  3. Miami
  4. MIA-SCL
  5. SCL-IPC
  6. Easter Island
  7. IPC-SCL
  8. Santiago
  9. SCL-MVD
  10. Montevideo
What would you expect for $30 a night?  What do you expect from the Intercontinental hotel chain?  While these are two very different questions, they were both on my mind as the TransVIP van dropped me off at the Intercontinental Santiago.  In the weeks leading up to my trip, I booked the hotel with a point special so it cost me 5,000 points instead of the regular 30,000.  You can buy points at a rate of $30 per 5,000 (see this post for details), so that is why I was seeing my rate as $30 a night instead of $250 and had mixed expectations.
Intercontinental Hotel Santiago Chile Room
Intercontinental Hotel Santiago Chile
Upon arrival, I noticed that the lobby looked top notch. My excitement was building.  The front desk agent found my reservation and thanked me for being a Platinum Priority Club member.  I asked what benefits I would get, and he said none because “Priority Club only paid for the room.”  No lounge access, no wifi, no upgrade, no welcome gift, nothing. My excitement plateaued. It is incredibly frustrating that IHG doesn’t recognize status when you aren’t paying with cash; it kills the relationship with the brand.  Disappointed, I grabbed my keys and went to my room.
Intercontinental Santiago Room
Intercontinental Santiago Room
Intercontinental Santiago Room
Intercontinental Santiago Room
Intercontinental Hotel Santiago Room
Intercontinental Santiago Room
When I entered the room, I noticed a strange moldy smell.  This was an instant deal breaker.  I immediately called the front desk, explained the problem, then (I couldn’t believe this step was needed) explained why I wanted to switch rooms.  They sent up a bell hop a few minutes later with my new keys.
Intercontinental Hotel Santiago Chile Room
Intercontinental Santiago Room
The new room was on the top floor next to the Presidential Suite - a good sign. I opened the door and it looked as though the room hadn’t seen a decorator since Pan Am stopped flying there.  The problems didn’t stop with the wallpaper color (carpet stains, runny toilet, shower door didn’t close properly), but by this point it was too late for me to care.  I unpacked, plugged in, and fell asleep on a lumpy bed.
Santiago, Chile
Intercontinental Hotels has a web series showing tours of the local area given by the hotel concierge.  This is a great selling point and I have had great experiences in the past with their advice (Budapest was the best).  In the morning, I went to the concierge desk and he brushed me off to a bell hop instead of answering my questions.  He was too busy taping a package to help me explore Santiago (it looked like the same guy from the video). The bell hop was able to hand me a map and practice his broken English, but not help me at all. I was looking for the concierge to enhance my stay, like the video series suggests, but not at the Intercontinental Santiago (luckily I ran across the W hotel and their staff was amazingly helpful).

Santiago is a gritty city. I toured it on foot and saw a few sights and had some odd food (they put green beans on sandwiches).  It’s not the most tourist friendly place to visit though. I enjoyed finding the Christmas by Coca-Cola experience and the huge old cathedral.  There aren’t many actual tourist sites in town.  I did stumble upon a large loacalmarket (selling everything from ceviche to underwear to soap), Chilean art museum, and a pleasant park that runs along the river and is popular with locals.

Back at the hotel, one of the elevators was broken, so it took forever to go anywhere.  I felt like unwinding with a swim and went to the top floor pool.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the pool was deserted.  The views were great, but there were no towels.  I called to have some brought up and was told to go down a floor to the (closed) gym and grab some there.  Not even a roadside Hampton Inn would do that.

I stopped by the concierge desk in the evening to get some post card stamps.  About four staff members were behind the desk watching soccer (there is a mirror behind the desk so I could see the computer screen, earlier they were watching porn).   I knew the stamp price and objected when they quoted me a 20% premium.  They didn’t budge, so I had to give in.  Over a month later, none of these post cards have arrived; I have the sinking feeling they may have just pocketed my cash.  I then went to the front desk to arrange for TransVIP to pick me up in the morning (it was $12 and 90 minutes to the airport).  I was happy to leave.

Travel Tip - Priority Club Points

Never pay more than $30 for 5,000 Priority Club points or more than $150 (cost of 25,000 points) for a Holiday Inn.  Priority club lets you buy 10,000 points for $60 when using their cash and points option.  If you cancel the reservation, the points stay in your account and can be used on any other stay.  Simple as that, I've been told.  I've never done this myself, but read successful accounts of this process online.  I have enough points now that I don't need to buy them, but it is great to have a simple cost equation available on when to spend money or points.
Cash & Points Option