Tuesday, February 15, 2011

American Express Membership Rewards

This rewards program offer many unique transfer opportunities for mileage collectors, occasional large sign up bonuses, online shopping and pay with points travel options.

American Express offers a variety of cards which participate in the membership rewards program. The Green, Blue, Gold and Platinum cards are offered. These are charge cards that require you to pay off the balance each month. Amex has tied together their color cards, travel agent services, auto protection, merchant discount through the Open program, along with the Membership Rewards program.

Points are earned at the rate of one point per dollar you spend. There is no limit on the number of points you can earn. Points do not expire as long as you maintain the card. Great rewards start at just 1,000 points. Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for airline tickets, hotel rooms, travel packages, golf trips, golf gift cards, even golf clubs.

If you travel extensively, the Business Platinum Card offers some of the best travel benefits I have ever experienced. The $400 annual fee includes concierge service, access to many airline lounges, the Fine Hotels Program, and excellent customer service. If you do not travel regularly, the annual fee is a bit steep.

The program is not for everyone, but it is another great option to consider and evaluate whether or not it will benefit you on your Frugal Golf Travel adventures.

Friday, February 11, 2011

TripAdvisor - Reviews of Hotels, Flights and Vacation Rentals

Planning your next golf adventure trip? Be sure to check out TripAdvisor.com. I always check out TripAdvisor any time I am planning a trip. The site's primary function is hotel reviews posted by travelers just like you and me. I have posted my share of reviews on the site as well. I try to read all the recent posts related to the hotels in the area of my upcoming trip.

While planning a trip to Puerto Rico, we reviewed all the hotel comments, which were very helpful in pointing out things to be aware of during  registration and to make sure we reviewed our portfolio the day before checkout to clear up any unauthorized charges. We also found reviews for some great local off-site restaurants, which were authentic local food and much cheaper than food at the resort. There were great tips about purchasing snorkeling gear at the local Walmart vs. renting at the resort. The cost at Walmart was less than one day's rental and we had use of it for the entire stay, not to mention it had not been used by previous guests.

You have to wade through both good and bad reviews about properties and make a judgement call based on what you read. Some reviewers truly had a bad experience and some travelers can just never be satisfied and expect a Ritz Carlton exeperience at a Motel 6 rate.

The greatest benefit we received was a recommentation regarding the nighttime kayak tour of the Bioluminescent Bay in Fajardo. The TripAdvisor comments recommended booking the tour directly with a tour company and not through the Resort Excursion Desk. The reviews gave instructions on who to call and a review of several local outfitters. Following this guidance saved us around $100.

Check out TripAdvisor.com before your next trip and you may discover a few tips and tricks to make you trip a bit more enjoyable. To make the site more valuable, be sure to add you own trip reports whenever you travel to assist those who may follow after you. Also, please post the good comments and not just the unpleasant experiences.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Getting Started With Credit Cards

If you are just starting out in the Credit Card game, there are a few things you need to consider. Check your credit score and make sure your FICO score is over 700 or your VantageScore is over 800. If your credit card scores are below the thresholds, you are not ready to play the credit card for miles and points game. Your credit score is one of your greatest assets and should be treated accordingly. If you are currently carrying a balance on your credit cards, you need to be looking for a way to reduce your interest rates and get out of debt. There are many good sites to help you get out of debt and change your financial future. I recommend Get Rich Slowly, The Simple Dollar, and Man vs. Debt.

If you have a good handle on your personal finances and can control your use of a credit card, there are some unbeleivable opportunities to obtain airline frequent flyer miles and hotel reward points to help cover the cost of your next golf adventure. Without much effort, the following miles and points were obtained as sign up bonuses for members of my family from July through December of 2010:
  • Priority Club                         60,000 points
  • Hilton Honors                       70,000 points
  • Amex Membership Rewards     50,000 points
  • Delta Skymiles                     15,000 miles
  • American AAdvantage            75,000 miles
Pending rewards based on meeting credit card minimum spend requirements are as follows:
  • American AAdvantage            75,000 miles
  • Amex Membership Rewards     50,000 points
These were all obtained as bonuses from acquiring new credit cards. The above amounts do not include the points and miles received based on the spending on the credit cards.

If you are ready to get started, below are a few links to some of the current bonus programs being offered by various credit cards.

American Airlines Citi Visa or American Express

Starwood American Express

Priority Club Select Visa

Hilton HHonors Visa

Start today so you can begin planning that Frugal Golf getaway.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Using Credit Cards for Miles and Points

If you are currently using a credit card that does not offer a cash rebate or other form of incentive for you or your business, you need a new credit card. The easiest way to accumulate airline miles and hotel points is through the use of affinity credit cards.

Every major airline and hotel chain partners with a major bank and offers miles or points for your everyday purchases. Each card or program will typically offer minimal miles or points for everyday purchases; a few bonus miles for specific purchases such as gas stations and grocery stores; extra bonus miles for using the card at the airline or hotel which has issued the card. If you are not using these cards you are missing out on free or almost free travel opportunities.

The big bonus usually comes at the time the credit card is issued. Initial bonus points or miles for credit cards we received during 2010 ranged from 25,000 to 75,000. All of these cards also had the initial annual fee waived so there was no cost to obtain the credit card.

My most recent card selections were an American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Visa and an American Airlines CitiBusiness Visa. The offer for the Platinum Visa was for 75,000 bonus miles after you make $1,500 in purchases within six months of becoming a card member. There is a $85 annual fee that is waived for the first 12 months. The offer for the CitiBusiness Visa was for 75,000 bonus miles after you make $4,000 in purchases within six months of becoming a card member. There is a $75 annual fee that is waived for the first 12 months.

You can go just about anywhere in the world with 150,000 AAdvantage Miles or you and a golf buddy can take a Frugal Golf Trip anywhere in the continental United States, with miles to spare, if you plan properly.

Stay with Frugal Golf Travel for more information on the use of credit cards and using them to maximize your accumulation or airline miles and hotel points.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Continental Airlines Mileathon 2011

Continental Airlines runs a recurring promotion, Milethon, where you are able to earn bonus miles based on various activities you complete. The earnings period starts February 1 and runs through April 30, 2011. If you will be doing any traveling during this period, you may have a chance to pick up a few additional Continental OnePass Miles. Each qualifying activity earns a specified number of credits. the more credits earned, the more bonus miles received.

Milestones/Rewards:5 500 bonus miles
10 1,000 bonus miles
20 2,500 bonus miles
30 5,000 bonus miles
45 10,000 bonus miles
65 15,000 bonus miles
85 25,000 bonus miles
105 35,000 bonus miles
125 50,000 bonus miles

The following activities should be easy for most of you to gain a few extra OnePass miles:

Enroll in the OnePass frequent flyer program. Only first-time enrollments are eligible for credit. See Mileathon terms and conditions for complete details.
2 Credits

Sign up for Continental e-mail subscriptionsIncludes OnePass Statement e-mail, News & Offers and continental.com Specials at continental.com. Credits will be awarded per e-mail subscription; for first-time subscribers only. See terms and conditions for complete details.
3 Credits

Book a Best Rate Guaranteed hotel reservation at continental.com. Activity may be repeated.
4 Credits

Book a car rental at continental.com. Credits awarded on car rentals booked at continental.com. Activity may be repeated. Credits awarded upon travel completion. See terms and conditions for complete details.
3 Credits

Acquire a Continental Airlines OnePass Plus Card20 Credits
Card must be acquired between Feb. 1 and March 31, 2011. First purchase must be made by March 31, 2011, to earn Mileathon credit.
This card currently offers 50,000 bonus miles after your first purchase

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Frequent Flyer Master

Chris Guillebeau is an extremely talented writer and all around "World Dominator." I have been following Chris on his site, The Art of Non-Conformity (AONC), for the last two years and have also read his book by the same name multiple times. This is exerpt from his site:

"The Art of Non-Conformity (AONC) project chronicles my writing on how to change the world by achieving significant, personal goals while helping others at the same time. In the battle against conventional beliefs, we focus on three areas: Life, Work, and Travel."

Chris' stated goal is to visit every country in the world by the age of thirty. He has already knocked 140 countries off the list.

In 2009, I purchased a copy of Chris' e-book Frequent Flyer Master. I am a big fan of travel, specifically, cheap travel, and I wanted to hear what this guy had to say. Anyone who has traveled to 140 countries should know much more than me about travel. I have managed to travel to exactly seven countries and that includes the one where I live.

After reading the forty page e-book, I was very impressed with the "travel hacks" he has been able to find as well as his overall approach to travel. Airlines and hotels change promotions and offers regularly, but if you have a solid approach, you can adapt to an ever changing environment. The first half of the e-book discusses overall the "strategies" Chris uses, while the second half discusses tactics for earning miles and points and then redeeming miles for award travel.

Chris is a huge fan of goal-setting, and as you begin to supersize your travel life, it is helpful to set goals related to the miles you will earn and what you will ultimately use them for. If you are following this site, your travel goal is likely related to golf travel. your goal does not have to be as ambitious as visiting every country or even playing a round of golf in every state, but is has to be something worth working towards. A less ambitious goal could be to get one free flight a year to a new golf venue and a free weekend hotel stay. Having a specific goal is crucial because it puts the tactics within context. Miles and points have value since you are working toward an adventure you can put a price on, rather than just collecting miles and points.

If you are a regular traveler, many of the ideas in this book will not be new information, especially if you have done a lot of travel analysis yourself. However, if you are a travel rookie or wondering if there are tricks you are not aware of, you should give the book a try. The e-book is $49 and comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. "Using the information in the guide, you'll earn at least 25,000 Frequent Flyer Miles, enough for one free plane ticket ($300+), within 90 days. If not, I am obligated to give you your money back - even if you love the guides."

Using this guide, I have been able to accumulate over 150,000 airline miles and over 150,000 hotel points in the last six months. Not a bad return on my investment of $49. What are you waiting for? Give Frequent Flyer Master a try today!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The FGT Staff’s Favorite Hotel Rewards Program

Intercontinental Continental Hotel Group’s Priority Club Rewards program is currently the preferred hotel rewards program of the FGT Staff. There are many excellent hotel rewards programs available to choose from, so the best program for us may fit with your travel needs. Over the last few years, Priority Club has sponsored numerous games, sweepstakes, and non-hotel stay opportunities to earn many points.
Standard reward nights start at 10,000 points. One member of the FGT Staff is also a football season ticket holder at the SEC University where his son attends. During the 2010 season, he was able to use Priority Club Rewards to cover five stays at the local Holiday Inn Express at a rate of 15,000 points per night. When the football weekend rate is usually $250 per night, with a two night minimum, Priority Club Rewards are an excellent way to save money.
If you are looking to play golf in a new location but not overly concerned with where that location may be, Priority Club offers a Points Break Program each quarter. Instead of shelling out 15,000 to 40,000 points to book a reward room you can book rooms for just 5,000 points – this is pretty darn good as you can often get good properties on this deal. The 4th quarter Points break list included properties in California, Florida and Texas.
We also actively participate in the programs offered by Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, Wyndham, Choice and Hyatt. Take the time to review each program and decide which one will best align with your current travel patterns.
Most of the major hotel programs have resort locations with golf courses on site or within close proximity. When considering future golf travel plans, always evaluate which hotel program will be most beneficial.  
Our golf travels have allowed us to play at several resort locations with the cost at least partially offset utilizing hotel rewards. Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA has a Hilton Hotel on site. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama has several Marriott properties on location and many Intercontinental Hotel Group (Priority Club) properties nearby. The Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, the La Quinta Resort & Club in California and the El Conquistador Resort in Puerto Rico are all part of Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria Collection.
We suggest you join all of the major hotel reward programs so that you can take advantage of the abundance of opportunities available to earn points, even when you are not regularly travelling.