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A couple of weeks ago, I came across a post on a Facebook group dedicated to travel. A young woman explained that she was recently laid off from her job and was considering canceling a trip she had booked well in advance. She didn’t have trip insurance, so she would forego the $500 she’d spent on airfare. She also explained that she had gone on another trip post-layoff and did not enjoy it precisely because of her financial situation. This got me thinking, is it a good idea to travel while broke, like some bloggers encourage, or is it financially irresponsible?

The pros of traveling while broke

I got into points and miles in order to cover travel expenses while broke and fresh out of college. Even though I worked full time, I still only ended up with $200 at the end of every month. Most of that went towards student loans, so as you can imagine, I had very little disposable income. So how did it feel to travel with very little in my pocket? It actually wasn’t so bad. On a month-long trip, I took $200 along. I didn’t waste money on things I didn’t need, pointless tchotchkes that were tossed away, and focused on spending my budget on experiences that provided the most value (monetary and sentimentally).

Was traveling while broke ultimately good for me? Absolutely. Every time I left on a trip, I came back refreshed. It took me out of my otherwise miserable, depressed mindset. I felt much more at ease and like all of my hard, unappreciated, underpaid work wasn’t a complete waste. And because most of my travel and even dining expenses were covered with points and miles, I ended up actually saving money that would have gone towards gas, groceries’ and dining if I had stayed home. Traveling during this time really helped me feel less restricted and ultimately gave me the inspiration that led me to launch my blog, start a lucrative side hustle as a travel writer, and become happier and more financially stable.

The cons of traveling while broke

Of course, if you’re completely unemployed, you probably don’t have the advantage of a paycheck or the tools to help save money by traveling. Taking odd jobs abroad (i.e. house sitting, working on a farm, etc.) to afford travel isn’t for everyone. If you’re a highly educated person who’s made significant advancements in your career, it might feel like a step down and a less-than-ideal compromise to be able to travel the world.

In these situations, it’s probably best to focus on long-term solutions rather than acquire debt or make an unpleasant situation worse. In the case of the woman who shared her story with that Facebook group, she was looking at losing $500 she had spent on airfare but didn’t want to incur additional travel expenses she couldn’t afford. The value of traveling wasn’t greater than the money she’d save by staying home.

I’ve traveled while broke and I’ve done it post-student loan debt. What I discovered was that when things were bad, travel had a healing effect on me. But now that things are great, I’m so content in my daily life that I don’t need to travel as much anymore. I’m perfectly happy spending a week off just lounging around at home (like I recently did). The important thing is to make responsible decisions that improve your situation, both mentally and financially.

What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s smart to travel while broke or do you find it financially irresponsible?

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For the last four years, I’ve spent at least 4-6 weeks in Europe with my family. We usually go for two weeks over spring break or fall break and we almost always take a three-week European vacation with our kids during summer. Sometimes my husband and I even spend another week in Europe on our own, like last year when we spent a week in Croatia.

This summer we have two European trips lined up — a two-week trip to Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, and a two-week trip to England and Scotland. I love all the history and the culture in various European countries — plus the fact different worlds are huddled to close together. Southern Italy is totally different than Switzerland, after all, yet they’re only a few short hours away.

The thing is, I never fly into and out of the same city when we visit. I probably never will, either. For many reasons, I prefer to book an open jaw flight for our trips — which means we fly into one airport and home from another.

Here’s why:

We don’t have to backtrack.

For our April trip to Italy, we’re doing the basic tour of the country with my best friend and her husband for my BFF’s 40th birthday. This means we’re flying into Rome for three days, spending a day on the Amalfi Coast, spending time in Florence, visiting Tuscany, then flying home from Venice.

I like open jaw flights because we don’t have to backtrack back to our original destination to fly home. Instead, we can move across the country as we go and utilize all our travel time to the fullest.

I can use two different frequent flyer programs.

While this isn’t always the case, I usually use two different frequent flyer programs to book open jaw flights to Europe. This is sometimes because I have my miles across several different programs. Other times, I find better award availability on different legs of our trips with different airlines.

For our flights to Italy, I cashed in 57,500 American AAdvantage miles each to fly Business class into Rome then 25,000 Air France/Flying Blue miles to fly economy home to Indianapolis from Venice.

More flexibility.

When you book an open jaw, you have a lot more flexibility and more ways to save. For example, I rarely care where we fly into or out of for our trips to Europe provided it’s close to where we want to be. It’s easy to hop a quick train to your destination in most countries we travel to frequently, so it’s no big deal to fly into Milan instead of Venice or Frankfurt instead of Dusseldorf.

Obviously having this type of flexibility with an open jaw makes it easier to find award availability on the dates you want. If you don’t find what you want with one destination or one frequent flyer program, just keep looking until you find a combination of flights and award availability that works.

The bottom line: Be as flexible as you can with your flights and where you travel, and your miles will go a lot further over time.

Do you ever book open jaw itineraries? Why or why not?

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Rental cars are usually not a huge travel expense. They’re certainly not on par with airfare and hotels, but they can definitely put a dent in your travel budget. Especially if you book last minute or on a weekend. I try to keep most of my travel expenses low and over the years, I’ve especially been able to cut way back on what I spent on rental cars. Here are five ways to save on your next rental car booking:

For those wondering, I’m not affiliated with any company listed here. No one is paying me and I’m not using affiliate links, so my opinion is 100% unbiased and based solely on experience.

Check Hotwire

For years, Hotwire has been my go-to rental car booking site. I’ve booked rental cars all over the U.S. (for others, because I hate driving and prefer Uber and Lyft). Hotwire has consistently offered the lowest rates – way below any other OTA or even CostoTravel. For example, I looked for a rental car on 5/6 – 5/9 out of San Francisco International Airport. The lowest rate I found on Kayak, which checks virtually every rental car agency website, was $132 total for all 3 days. Costco Travel offered me the same type of car for $154. Then I checked Hotwire, expecting only a slight discount. The total for the entire booking period $47.26. There’s no zero missing. So if you’re looking for an amazing deal on your rental car, make sure you check out Hotwire for deals like this.

Use Points (or Airline Miles!)

The whole point (no lame pun intended) of collection points and miles is to save money. You can save substantially by using points and miles to cover rental car bookings. I constantly find really great deals on the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel site. Not just cheaper cash rates, but really amazing deals on points. But it’s not just bank-affiliated rewards programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards that offer deals. A few years ago I was traveling to Maui and rental car rates were $1200 per week. On a whim, I checked the AAdvantage rental car tool and was able to book the same car for just 12,000 AAdvantage miles. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten more value out of my AA miles than this particular instance.

Use a Credit Card (That Offers Rental Insurance)

I used to dread that moment during the rental process when the salesperson tried to sell me rental insurance. These guys do NOT take no (or any kind of reasoning) for an answer and their go-to strategy would be to try to mansplain to me why I’m an idiot for not paying for supplemental insurance. Needless to say, that sh– doesn’t fly with me. But nowadays, the drama is cut short on sight because all I have to say is, “No thanks. I get that same exact coverage from my credit card.” Boom. Done. No more need to get into a verbal war with the obnoxious sales guy. Lots of credit cards offer rental insurance and it’s definitely worth looking into while deciding on a payment method for your rental car.

Use Autoslash

Autoslash has long been used by savvy travelers because the site does something unique. If your rental car price drops after booking, Autoslash will notify you so you can save some extra cash. Brilliant. And it actually works. Of course, you’ll want to research the best rates out there. If Autoslash doesn’t offer the best deal, you can book elsewhere and still user Autoslash’s tracking tool to monitor price drops.

Don’t Pay More Than You Should on Tolls

If you expect to be crossing bridges or toll roads, you’ll want to look into whether it makes sense to pay them in cash or use the rental car company’s toll pass. Why? Because unlike the car you borrowed from your friend, rentals might incur additional charges. Companies like Hertz, Avis, Budget Alamo, and Enterprise (sounds like all of them, doesn’t it?) charge daily fees on top of the tolls when you utilize their toll passes. These can range from $3 – $12 per day, though a lot of these agencies do have maximums per rental period. Why pay more for using a toll pass than you have to? With most people using toll passes now anyway, the cash lines are getting shorter. Pay the toll in cash and save on your rental expenses for doing so.

Those are my top five tips for saving on rental cars. As someone who doesn’t personally rent cars, I do see the value in utilizing every tool available to save some cash when I book for others. After all, travel expenses on any trip can add up beyond what you’ve anticipated. Try to at least save in areas you have plenty of control over.
What are some of your tips for saving on rental car bookings?

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A few days ago, my husband and I got home from our first cruise ever on the newer MSC Seaside. We also took my parents, and it was their first cruise ever! We usually go to Jamaica with them for spring break, but we opted to do a cruise this year since we got a good deal on balcony cabins with a free drinks package.

While I have always believed all-inclusive is the way to go with multiple generations on a single trip, this first cruise with my parents has me thinking maybe cruising is even better when you’re with a group. We loved our trip on the MSC Seaside regardless, but here’s why I think cruising may be ideal for families with 2, 3, or even 4 generations of family members in tow:

  • There are so many diverse activities to enjoy. While my husband and kids mostly just swim and sit around when we’re on the ship, my parents took advantage of a bunch of activities I didn’t know existed. My mom participated in a “cooking class” of sorts in the theater one day, and my parents even went to a crafting event. They also loved the live music, and of course, we all spent a little time in the onboard casino. With so many things to do on a cruise, nobody ends up bored.
  • You can do nothing at all. When you’re traveling with a group of people with varying energy levels, it’s also nice to be on a vacation that doesn’t require you to do anything. My husband and I love watching our kids play in the pool for hours on end, and I know my parents enjoyed watching the ocean go by on their balcony cabin. It’s nice to sit back, relax, and watch the world go by for a few hours without any pressure to do anything.
  • Endless food options almost 24/7. I have rented numerous rental condos and Airbnbs with my parents and other family members, but I very much prefer not having to cook. I love all-inclusive resorts and cruising for this reason. Our cruise on the MSC Seaside had food available 20 hours a day, so we could all eat whenever we wanted. My ideal vacation involves no cooking, do dishes, and no cleanup!
  • Everyone has their own space. Another benefit of cruising over renting a condo somewhere is the fact that you can book everyone their own separate cabin. This gives everyone their own space for sleeping and having some quiet time. A week can be a long time when you’re living close to almost anyone, including family.
The Bottom Line

If you’re trying to come up with a fun vacation idea several generations will enjoy, why not give cruising a try? It’s fun to be out on the open water for days at a time, and cruises tend to offer a wide range of activities for every age group.

Also, remember that many rewards cards make booking a cruise with points a breeze. My favorite card for cruises is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. This card offers 2x points for every dollar you spend and a 70,000-point bonus when you use your card for $5,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. You can redeem your points for any travel purchase, including cruises, at a rate of one cent per point.

Have you ever been on a cruise with extended family? How did it go?

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that Southwest Airlines now offers flights to Hawaii. This move has been anticipated by industry insiders for years, and it’s nice to finally see Southwest hauling people to paradise over the Pacific.

New routes have already been announced and will eventually depart from San Diego, Los Angeles, Ontario, Long Beach, Orange Beach, Oakland, Burbank, and San Jose. However, only a handful of the itineraries are running so far, with the rest launching in late April and early May. Of course, there are also interisland flights being offered, which will make getting from one spot to another easy and cheap if you have miles with Southwest.

The thing is, I will never fly Southwest Airlines to Hawaii. Okay, never say never…but it’s extremely unlikely. I love Hawaii, and especially Maui and Kaui, but I think I’ll skip over this option unless it becomes dirt cheap. Here’s why:

1. I have grown to hate the Southwest boarding process.

Recently, I flew Southwest Airlines out of the hell that is the Orlando Airport on a trip home after our spring break cruise. Even though we checked in for our flights exactly 24 hours ahead of time, we were still in the middle of the B boarding group. Worse, about half of the plane was made up of family boarding with a gaggle of screaming kids. We barely got seats together at the back of the plane.

I don’t want to imagine the mayhem that will unfold when C group passengers find out they’re stuck in a dreaded middle for a 5+ hour flight. I would have to pay for Early Bird boarding if I flew Southwest to Hawaii, but I’m guessing a lot of other people will, too.

2. I despise the 3-3 layout on Southwest planes.

There are four people in my family, so the 3-3 layout on Southwest planes is really annoying. I usually sit with the kids and put my husband on the aisle across from us, but that would be pretty crappy on a 5+ hour flight.

3. Southwest isn’t offering meals, even for flights that last up to six hours!

As of right now, Southwest isn’t offering any meals on their flights to Hawaii. Instead, they’re planning to offer an upgraded selection of snacks.

That’s not a huge deal to me since I can always eat before I board the plane, but I can just picture a ton of people bringing fast food from the airport into the cabin. One time I sat next to a lady who scarfed down three chicken fingers, a bag of pork rinds, and a club sandwich during a flight to Aruba on Southwest and that was enough to make me cringe. I don’t want to fly 5+ hours with 49 different food smells in the cabin!

4. I’ve flown the real thing.

Finally, I’ve flown on Hawaiian Airline’s First-Class product on the A330 three different times now. If I go to Hawaii again, I would be inclined to book it again. Their premium cabin has gourmet meals, unlimited drinks, giant movie screens, and lie-flat seats.

Fortunately, a round-trip Saver Award in First will only set you back 80,000 miles.

Would I trade that for 5+ hours on a long-haul Southwest flight? I think not.

Are you planning to fly Southwest Airlines to Hawaii? Why or why not?

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Are you one of those people who has a credit card with Priority Pass access and wondering what you’re missing out on? After all, based on all the hype out there about the Centurion Lounges, is anything in the Priority Pass portfolio worth checking out? The answer is a resounding “yes!” Priority Pass just announced the winners of their annual Global Airport Lounge of the Year Awards. Yes, it’s a ranking of Priority Pass lounges created by Priority Pass. As good an authority as any other, considering their primary objective is to convey the value of Priority Pass membership. Here are their rankings of the best Priority Pass lounges you have to visit if you’re a member:

Lounge of the Year: Sala VIP Internacional at Quito Airport

The Sala VIP Internacional lounge at Quito Airport wins the prize for the overall best lounge. That’s pretty impressive, considering it beat lounges in the Middle East – which are known for their extravagance. So what does the Sala VIP Internacional lounge offer that puts it above the rest?

The recently remodeled lounge offers a relaxing atmosphere with a new nature-inspired decor featuring locally-sourced furniture (though most of it looks identical to items from West Elm). Guests can enjoy the extensive menu designed by chef Andrés Miño and wine from the private cellar at the lauded outdoor terrace with views of Quito. Indoors, there is access to a massage room, showers, sleeping areas, and private working spaces for the workaholics. The Sala VIP Internacional lounge gets high marks for both service and ambiance.

Asia Pacific: Miracle First Class Lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport

The top vote for Priority Pass airport lounge in Asia Pacific goes to Miracle First Class Lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The lounge gets high marks for its open kitchen, where guests can watch the chef prepare their food with exceptional showmanship. The lounge also features private showers with luxury bath amenities.

Europe: Primeclass Riga Business Lounge at Riga International Airport

The Primeclass Riga Business Lounge at Riga International Airport wins the Europe category. While it leaves something to be desired aesthetically, the Primeclass Riga Business Lounge will win over guests with a great place for plane-spotting, a conference room and showers. Personally, I think there might be better options in Europe but Priority Pass gave the honor to Primeclass Riga Business Lounge. So it’s worth checking out if you’re traveling through Riga International Airport.

North America: Lounge 19 at Benito Juarez International Airport

Lounge 19 at Benito Juarez International Airport takes the top spot in North America. What makes Lounge 19 so unique isn’t its minimalistic, yet warm design and world-class chef. It’s the in-house sommelier and extensive wine list, which is quite unique for an airport lounge. Art aficionados will also appreciate the in-house art gallery featuring the work of Karla de Lara.

Middle East: Ahlan Lounge at Dubai International Airport

The Middle East is home to some swanky lounges and the Ahlan Lounge at Dubai International Airport wins the top honor from Priority Pass. With cozy seating areas, open ceiling, world-class food and massage chairs, the Ahlan Lounge is the perfect place to hang out at Dubai International Airport. The Marhaba Lounge gets an honorable mention and take it from me, it’s pretty incredible and has an insane food spread.

These are some great Priority Pass lounges worth visiting on your next trip to one of these great cities. Hopefully, this annual award will motivate other Priority Lounges to step up their game and improve on their offerings. I also want to hear from you all.

Have you tried any of these Priority Pass Lounges? What are your picks for the top 5?

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A few years ago, I managed to earn American AAdvantage Gold status — a feat I never thought possible. Due to a series of strange events, most of my travel was concentrated on American Airlines that year. I earned this status through flying with the airline, which is pretty crazy considering I usually pay for flights with airline miles instead of cash.

For the year and a half I had status, I was pretty stoked. I did get a handful of automatic upgrades on flights under 500 miles, and I scored a few upgrades on domestic First class I didn’t even earn. I also cashed in my 500-mile upgrade certificates strategically, ensuring that my husband and I had cozy seats for one of our many flights to the Caribbean.

I Don’t Care About Status

But when American Airlines emailed earlier this year to see if I wanted to renew my status for 2019, I almost laughed. I mean, they wanted me to pay $699!

No way were the benefits of Gold status worth anything close to that. I probably wouldn’t have paid $100 to extend my status, let alone $700.

Here’s why I just don’t think it’s worth it anymore:

  • I book the cheapest flights…period. Over the next 12 months, I’m flying a ton of different airlines — Icelandair to Norway, British Airways to England (booked through Finnair), American AAdvantage to Italy, Delta to Turks and Caicos, and the list goes on. Some of these flights were paid in cash and the rest in miles. Either way, I always want to go with the best or cheapest option in rewards or money — regardless of status.
  • I don’t care about domestic upgrades anyway. Low-level status with airlines may help you score a few domestic upgrades per year, but you can’t expect to score upgrades on long haul flights with lie-flat seats. I do like domestic First, but not enough to chase status for it or to fork over more of my own miles for a slightly larger seat.
  • I prefer to earn miles without flying anyway. One of the biggest benefits of most elite status with airlines is the fact you can earn more miles for each dollar you spend the higher you climb. With the American AAdvantage program, for example, you a tiered “elite mileage bonus” for each level you climb ranging from 40% more miles to 120% more. The thing is, I prefer earning my points and miles with airline and rewards credit card spending versus flying. And I strive to pay with miles when I can, which means I don’t earn a lot of miles via flying anyway.
The Bottom Line

Elite status is nice if you can earn it without any hassle or stress, but I cringe every time I hear about someone doing a crazy mileage run to earn low level Gold status. Unless you’re trying to score an airline’s top tier status and you fly that airline all the time, it’s crazy to put too much effort into it unless you have special circumstances.

Personally, I couldn’t care less about elite status. I just want free and cheap travel, and any airline will do just fine.

Do you care about elite status? Why or why not?

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There are a ton of travel and rewards credit cards available today, most of which offer big signup bonuses to entice you to sign up. However, I haven’t signed up for a new credit card for at least six months — and I think I only signed up for two or three new cards over the last 18 months. Since I would like to keep my options open to get under 5/24 or be able to qualify for better and newer offers as they come out, I’m currently pausing new applications and focusing on the cards I have.

Which cards do I use the most? Here are the four rewards credit cards you’ll find in my wallet.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with a generous welcome bonus, a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership, and other perks, I mostly utilize it for travel and dining spending. That’s because this card offers 3x points in those categories, which adds up quickly since we travel a lot. I use this card for almost all of our regular purchases, but especially when I pay for airfare, hotels, or dining out.

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

My husband and I use our Ink Business Preferred card from Chase for all our business purchases, mostly because some of the 3x categories this card offers align with our business spending. With this card, we earn 3x points on up to $150,000 spent each year in categories like social media advertising, shipping, and internet, cable, and phone purchases. We also use this card for all our business purchases that are set up on autopay.

Hilton Aspire Credit Card

I have been building up a huge stash of Hilton Honors points for a while now, and I just redeemed 800,000 of them for my 40th birthday trip to the Hilton Aruba. But I’ve grown to love the Hilton Honors program and this card, really. Not only does the Hilton Aspire give you 14x points on Hilton purchases, but you get 7x points on flights booked with airlines or AmexTravel.com, select car rentals, and restaurants and 3x points on all other purchases. You also get a free weekend night every year, a $250 resort credit, a $250 airline credit, and other perks.

Gold Delta SkyMiles from American Express

I signed up for the Amex Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card last year, and I’ve been using it ever since. The initial offer I got was a targeted one good for 75,000 miles and a $200 statement credit, so I was enticed to use the card right away. I’ve gotten a lot of value out of Delta SkyMiles lately despite the fact they don’t have an award chart. This card only doles out 2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on everything else, but I still use it occasionally when I make a small purchase.

The Bottom Line

These are the cards I’m using the most right now, but it wasn’t always this way — and I’m sure things will change soon. I go through periods where I value one currency more than the other, or where I’m trying to earn a specific type of rewards for a specific trip.

The key to earning more rewards over time is always using a card that earns points and miles for purchases when you can use a credit card. The card you use is ultimately up to you.

What rewards cards are you using right now? Why?

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There are so many rewards credit cards out there nowadays that offer annual travel credits to help customers justify higher annual fees. Most of these travel credits are added as benefits on credit cards with high annual fees. So it’s really important to make sure you put them to use in order to help offset these fees. Whether you have one of these cards or you’re in the market for a new one, here are some credit card annual travel credits you should know about:

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card offers the highest annual travel credit out there. Every year, cardholders receive a $325 credit to be applied towards travel purchases. Of course, the card also has a $400 annual fee, which lowers your out-of-pocket cost to $75.

Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige does travel credits right. Every year, cardholders who pony up the $550 annual fee get a $250 travel credit. It can be applied towards anything that Citi codes as “travel,” including airfare, hotel bookings, cruises, OTA bookings and even some tour packages and public transportation.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 annual travel credit, which can be redeemed towards any purchases coded as travel by Chase. The credit is automatically applied, though you should always double check and report any discrepancies.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

There is a lot Marriott can do to get back into our good graces, but I gotta give credit where it’s due. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card’s $300 annual Marriott property credit is pretty generous. That’s assuming Marriott doesn’t cancel your reservation after redeeming it…

Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card

The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card only has a $95, which makes the $100 annual airline incidental credit quite generous. The $100 statement credit is applied towards airline checked bag fees, seat upgrades, change fees, lounge access, or in-flight purchases. Overall, a terrific benefit for a credit card with a $95 annual fee. Factor in the $100 Global Entry fee credit issued every 4 years and this card is definitely worth a second look.

American Express Hilton Honors Aspire

I love Hilton Honors. Aside from the fact that I’ve had some incredible stays at Hilton properties (not to mention room upgrades to boot), the program is one of the best when it comes to earning free nights. Hilton is very generous to its members and the American Express Hilton Honors Aspire card is no exception. It boasts not one but three annual travel statement credits:

  • $250 annual airline incidental credit
  • $250 annual Hilton statement credit
  • $100 statement credit on qualifying stays of two nights or more at Conrad and Waldorf Astoria properties

That’s beyond generous, considering the annual fee is *just* $450 and cardholders also receive free Diamond elite status. Needless to say, this card is staying in my wallet for good.

American Express Platinum (Business and Personal)

Both the American Express Platinum and Business Platinum cards offer annual $200 airline fee credits that can be applied towards fees. Of course, lots of people use the credit for airline gift card fee purchases, which is a great way to roll the credit over. Additionally, the Amex Business Platinum card has a $200 Uber credit that is paid out in monthly installments. That’s great for those of you who have trouble remembering to redeem these credits (guilty).

American Express Gold Card

The American Express Gold Card offers two annual travel-centric credit statements. The first is a $100 airline fee credit that can be applied towards incidental charges (i.e. bags, change fees, in-flight purchases, etc.). The second is a $120 annual dining credit that can be applied towards food delivery apps like GrubHub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and participating Shake Shack locations. The credit is issued in $10 monthly installments, kind of like the Uber credit from the Amex Platinum Card. Overall, these are solid benefits considering the American Express Gold Card has a $250 annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

What’s better than getting the Southwest Companion Pass after picking up two co-branded credit cards? A $75 annual travel credit to offset the annual fee. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card carries a $149 annual fee, but $75 of which is recouped every year thanks to the travel credit.

Which of these annual travel credits are you looking forward to redeeming this year?

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A few weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine informed me that she finally built up a travel fund of $5,000. She was planning a multi-week trip to Spain, France, and Portugal, and needed cash to cover hotels, food, and excursions. She has plans to book her flights with Air France/Flying Blue miles, but she hasn’t earned any rewards to cover accommodations or spending while she is there.

Saving up to that amount is great, I told her. It’s probably also more than she needs as well if she plans to stay in affordable condos or bed and breakfasts and travel like a normal person.

Since her trip isn’t until next summer, she asked me about where she should keep her savings. I told her that I keep my travel fund (as well as my personal savings) in a CIT Bank Savings Builder Account. No, they don’t pay me to say that. I use a CIT Savings Builder account because it gives you 2.45% APY with no fees. All you are required to do is a) maintain a balance of at least $25,000 in your account, or b) deposit at least $100 in your account. And you only need $100 to get your account started.

My friend said she was shocked to find out she could be earning 2.45% on her money without a huge balance. Her current savings are with Chase, and she is only earning .01%!

Fortunately, there really are a ton of online bank accounts that come with higher than average interest and zero to low fees. Some of the best options available today include:

I use CIT Bank because they offer slightly more than everyone else, but also because you only need to deposit at least $100 in your account each month to score their highest rate. I also like the fact their savings accounts don’t have hidden fees.

The Bottom Line

If you’re saving up for a big trip and have enough money in your account, it makes sense to open a targeted savings account that earns more interest than average. The difference in the amount of money you can earn can be a lot more than you think.

Let’s use my friend’s $5,000 travel nest egg as an example. She is currently earning .01% APY on her savings, which would yield exactly $5 if she saved that money for ten years. If she earned 2.45% APY, on the other hand, she would $1,369.27 over the same timeline.

That’s free money, so why not take advantage?

Where do you keep your travel fund? Why?

[Image Source: Shutterstock]

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