Ha: Breathe of Life Show Review

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O’ahu 2016: Introduction
Hyatt Place El Segundo
Four Seasons O’ahu at Ko Olina
Pearl Harbor Memorial
Makapuu Point Lighthouse
Polynesian Cultural Center’s- Ha: Breath of Life Show
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Polynesian Cultural Center’s- Ha: Breath of Life Show

My wife and I wanted to book tickets for a Luau while on O’ahu.  We asked our the concierge at our hotel what they recommend.  They gave a few options and we selected the luau at the Polynesian Cultural center.  We did get a call from another concierge at our hotel to tell us about the best ones on the island but those were over $150 per person for “VIP tickets” with ocean views in the background.  Our tickets costed about $80 per person.

We had a decent ride back up towards the North Shore side of the island.  We finally arrived after about an hour.  The parking lot was fairly full but we were lucky enough to find a spot up front. The Polynesian Cultural Center is a place where you could spend a few hours learning about the Polynesian Islands prior to the luau but we were tired and procrastinated and left just enough time to eat and see the show.

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Polynesian Cultural Center entrance
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Polynesian Cultural Center

After getting our tickets through the Continue reading

Denied for a credit card!?! WTH!

 

I recently applied for a few credit cards, four to be exact.  The last card I applied for was the Citi ATT access more card. I figured it would be a shoe-in since I have never been denied for a Citi card in four years of collecting points and miles (and such).  The offer was tempting to me because I would’ve received a $650 statement credit from Citi after buying a qualifying AT&T smartphone and spending $2000 within the first 3 months of card ownership.

I submitted my application and it went to a “processing” status for a few seconds and then came back with a BIG, FAT, DENIAL!!!  I wasn’t prepared for that!  The only other time I have been denied for a credit card was about two years ago for a Barclays card.  Why did I get declined?  Too many recent inquiries!!! Funny thing is I hadn’t applied for a card in the prior 90-100 days and even then I only applied for three cards back in June.  I did apply for a car loan in July but I think that was a TransUnion credit pull which hardly is pulled by other companies for me personally.

So I guess I will be keeping my perfectly good iPhone 6 for another year until my contract runs out.  I was hoping to buy a 64GB iPhone 6s for $750 and get $650 credited back to me and then sell my unlocked iPhone 6 for around $400-$500.  In the end I would have had the newest iPhone and netted $300-$400 in cash from the sale of my old iPhone 6.  Alas it is not to be!!!! I could call the Citibank reconsideration line and try to plead my case or compose a letter to the Citibank Office of the President to do the same but I doubt I will fight for this one and just let it be.

This just goes to show not everything works out perfect all the time in this game we play!

-pointspinnacle


 

Baby has arrived and First Trip is Booked!!!

 

First of all let me apologize for my long absence on the blog.  It has been over a month since my last blog post BUT for good reason!  My wife and I had a wonderful baby boy recently so as you can imagine the pointspinnacle household has been busy!

I have still been keeping up to date in the miles and points world and accumulating miles along the way but the baby has us busy.  I have been wondering what might be a good time to take baby’s first trip.  I initially thought we would stop all travel through 2015 to let the baby get bigger and stronger.  Our last trip was back in April when we went to Japan! Its been 4 months now since our last vacation and while I recently took some time off to spend with baby we were indeed homebound for that time off.

Turns out my wife has a business trip in October and she can bring me along as a guest.  She is not ready to take the trip without bringing baby so it looks like all of us are going with her on her business trip in October.  This will be a good “practice run” for traveling with baby PointsP as its a domestic trip, direct flight and only a 2 hour flight.  We will need to rent a car and bring our car seat for baby and of course pack a bag for baby but this is only a 4 night trip so it shouldn’t get too long for us or baby.  The trip/conference is at a luxury hotel in the “South” so maybe we will have some time to get pampered.  I will of course put up a trip report when the trip is completed.

I can’t wait to see how it all turns out and I am starting to get antsy to take another trip and explore.  I hope our baby has the “travel spirit” like his mom and I.  I have tentatively booked some rooms for 2016 but no flights booked yet, in my mind I am dreaming of London and Maldives!  We will need to have some baby sitters lined up if we make it to the Maldives as I would like at least 7 days there! We shall see how things shake out and if any of our travel budget gets swallowed up by pricey daycare options!!!

 

-pointspinncle


 

Our Favorite Paid Hotel Stays

 

I recently covered our favorite past hotel stays on points.  Now I want to cover our favorite paid hotel stays were we ponied up cold, hard cash instead of points.   Sometimes there is a property we really want to stay at and we either don’t have enough points or the hotel itself doesn’t participate in a loyalty points program. These are those memorable properties that we had an amazing time at and have very fond feelings about.

In no particular order here are our 5 favorite paid hotel stays:

Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay

In June 2014 we stayed four nights at the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay in Bali and booked through a Virtuoso travel advisor.  We took advantage of a “stay longer” promo where if we stayed 4 nights we got the 4th night free. Loved the property one of our favorites of all time.

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Four Seasons Sayan

We stayed three nights at Four Seasons Sayan in Bali in June 2013. We used the same Virtuoso travel advisor and took advantage of the “stay longer’ promo whereas the 3rd night was free.  Really enjoyed our private villa here and just an overall great property.

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Four Seasons Chiang Mai

We stayed three nights at Four Seasons Chiang Mai in Sept 2014.  We booked through Continue reading

Our favorite past hotel point redemptions.


We have been lucky enough to stay in some wonderful hotels and resorts over the past several years! Many of those properties were paid for using our hotel points earned with our credit card sign up bonuses.  I wanted to share what we think to be our favorite hotel point redemptions. This will be a combination of best value on points and our general overall favorite properties!

So in no particular order our top five look like this:

St. Regis Punta Mita

We stayed here five nights in January 2014 and loved it!!  We spent only 60,000 SPG points for our week long stay!  Amazing points redemption and a super luxurious property on the west coast of Mexico.

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St. Regis Princeville

Our first big hotel points redemption was at the St. Regis Princeville in Kauai!  We stayed here in September of 2012 and it began our love for the St. Regis brand. We had a great stay and this property has the best views of any hotel! We used 80,000 SPG points for our one week stay.

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Conrad Koh Samui

We had a week at this amazing Conrad property and used a combination of free weekend night certificates and Hilton points.  We stayed at the Conrad Koh Samui August 2014.

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Waldorf Astoria Chicago

Our favorite city hotel is the Waldorf Astoria Chicago. We have stayed here twice and most recently was February 2015 were we stayed one night on a free weekend night certificate. Really luxurious and always upgraded to a suite on both of our stays!

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Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome

We had a lovely 3-night stay at the Park Hyatt Paris when we visited Paris during the French Open May of 2014.  We used 44,000 Hyatt points and a free night certificate via the Chase Hyatt card.

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Summary

These are some great real world examples of the type of super luxe properties available using credit card points.  Can’t wait until our next amazing luxury hotel property in some amazing new destination on the planet!  Let me know if any questions! What was your favorite hotel points redemption????
-pointspinnacle


 

Trip Report: Australia (part 13) Around Melbourne

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Introduction
British Airways First Class Lounge O’Hare
Cathay Pacific First Class ORD-HKG
Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Tsim Sha Tsui
Cathay Pacific’s The Wing First Class Lounge HKG
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class HKG-KUL
Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur
Around Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class KUL-MEL
Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens Melbourne
Australia Open Day One (2nd round of tourney)
Around Melbourne
Great Ocean Road Excursion
Australian Open Day Two (4th round of tourney)
Park Hyatt Sydney
Sydney Opera House Tour
Bondi Beach
Qantas Domestic Business Lounge SYD
Qantas Domestic Business Class SYD-BNE
Qantas Business Class BNE-LAX
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Around Melbourne

There were two primary ways that we got around Melbourne:

Flagstaff Gardens

Across the street from our hotel was the Flagstaff Gardens which is a nice green space in the middle of Melbourne.  The park has a lawn bowling field, netball and tennis courts as well as a playground for the kiddo’s.  We went for a stroll through the park one morning after breakfast.  This is a great spot for a picnic or to go for a jog.  The park is 18 acres large and in fact is the oldest park in Melbourne established in 1862!

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Continue reading

2014 Year End Review and 2015 Plans!

 

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a great holiday season and I want to wish you all a Happy New Year for 2015!

2014  Travel Recap

Well 2014 was another busy travel year for us! But we traveled less than in 2013. I am going to recap our travels for the past year.

  • Puerto Vallarta
  • Orlando/The Villages in February
  • Paris in May/June
  • Toronto in August
  • Thailand in August/September
  • Atlanta in December

We decided to skip our Puerto Rico trip we had planned for October because it was only 3 weeks after we got back from Thailand and it was just too much travel in such a short time considering we went to Toronto only 3 weeks before our Thailand trip.   We will save Puerto Rico for another year!

We did not pay normal airfare for any of these flights! All were paid using miles and points and only a few had some minor taxes or fuel surcharges.

I had no plans this year to obtain any level of loyalty status with any airline or hotel chain.  I realized early on I cannot devote all my hotel stays to one chain just to achieve a “status” with that brand.  There are too many lovely hotels and resorts that are part of various programs or simply don’t participate in loyalty programs or points earning programs.  I have yet to pay for a flight since 2005 so I will not be earning any loyalty status or points that way!!

2014 Credit Card points earning recap- SIGNUP BONUSES ONLY

  • 450,000 American miles via (4)Citi Executive card and (1)Citi AA Business card (me)
  • 150,000 American miles via (1)Citi Executive card and (1)Citi AA Business card (wife)
  • 75,000 Hilton Honors points via Amex Hilton Honors Surplus card (me)
  • 2 Free weekend nights-any Hilton property worldwide via Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card (redeemed at Conrad Koh Samui for a total of 190,000 points for 2 nights) (wife)
  • 40,000 US Airways miles via Barclays US Airways MasterCard (me)
  • 50,000 US Airways miles via Barclays US Airways MasterCard (wife)
  • 70,000 Ritz Carlton points + $600 travel credits via JP Morgan Ritz Carlton Reward Visa card (me)
  • 50,000 Alaska mileage plan miles via  (2)Bank of America Alaska card  (me)
  • 25,000 Alaska mileage plan miles via Bank of America Alaska card (wife)
  • 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points via Chase Freedom Visa card (wife)
  • 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles via Bank of America Virgin Atlantic card (transferred to 75,000 Hilton points instead) (wife)
  • 50,000 Miles & More miles via Barclays Lufthansa Miles & More MasterCard (wife)
  • 2 Free nights-any Hyatt property worldwide via Chase Hyatt visa card (should be redeemed for 60,000 Hyatt points total) (wife)

So over one million miles and points earned between us for 2014 which frankly is easy to obtain and we are not super aggressive on the signup’s!!! There are others with 20+ hard pulls to their credit files which is amazing!  We usually sign up for 3-5 cards every 4 months or so nowadays.  So 9 cards per year on the low end and 15 cards per year on the high end, per person.   we both have great credit scores over 750 and even refinanced our home mortgage in 2014. The credit inquiries WERE NO PROBLEM FYI!  If you are a responsible, organized consumer and can easily manage your finances signing up for some credit cards for the rewards/benefits is smart for US!

Also bear in mind we have earned numerous other miles just from various normal spending from groceries to gas and Christmas shopping and more.

2015 Plans

So far in 2015 we don’t have much planned for various reasons! Only two trips in the works thus far. So here are the plans for our destinations for 2015:

  • Australia
  • Japan

For the first time since 2011 neither one of us hold the Southwest Companion pass at this time. We do have a decent amount of Southwest points and a $100 voucher that my wife has for a delayed flight so that will come in handy for any domestic flights or maybe one of their new international destinations!!  We may take this year off of obtaining it and go for it next year.  If we can squeeze anything else in there for 2015 we will try! I now have 30 days paid time off for 2014 so thats a good amount and I am thankful my employer is generous in that regard.

Once again I hope you all have a great 2015 and I hope you have safe and prosperous travels as well! Please remember to be thankful for every breathe and go out and see the world and appreciate the beauty of the Earth!

What are your 2015 travel plans?!

-pointspinnacle


 

Target Prepaid REDcard Arrives and Impresses!!!


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UPDATE: As of May 6, 2015 credit card loads are no longer allowed for loading the REDcard

The Target REDcard

About a week or two ago I heard about a new prepaid product from American Express distributed by Target.  I was alerted to this new product by this Flyertalk thread.  Of course blogger Greg aka the FrequentMiler got a hold of this puppy ASAP and reported results last weekend and the results were GOOD!!! The card is named the Target “Prepaid Redcard”!!!

Before heading out to Target and trying to pick one of these great cards up I needed to call (877-486-5990) and cancel my AMEX BlueBird card which I had been using for over the past year. You can only have one account between Bluebird, Serve or REDcard since they all run on the same platform. These are the rules set forth by AMEX.   The call went smooth and took less than 3 or 4 minutes.

I went to my local Target and found the REDcard right away at the first register.  I looked it over and walked to the customer service desk.  I told the lady behind the desk I would like to load this new REDcard.  She scanned it and asked for my drivers license.  I would then be prompted to enter various personal information such as my SSN and other very basic info.

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Good selection of Target REDcard at my local Target

The customer service rep then asked how much I wanted loaded on the card and I replied $500 which is the maximum allowed. I used my Citi AAdvantage business card that I was finishing up my minimum spend on.  I signed the signature pad and the receipt popped out showing $500 loaded!!!  Wow that was easy!!

I then needed to go home and follow the instructions on the package to register my card.  It is very easy!!! I got an email confirmation that I was registered and my permanent REDcard would arrive in 7-10 business days. The card ended up arriving the following Saturday so 5 business days would be my experience.  I logged back onto the REDbird website to activate my new card!!!  That again, was very easy!

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There is a $5 purchase fee for the initial load only!

With an activated permanent REDbird card I went to Target right away to load my card.  I used my Alaska Airlines card first because I receive a $100 statement credit when I spend $1000 on my card.  I gave the customer service rep my REDcard and asked her to load it. She swiped on the register and asked how much. I said “$1000 please”!  I was then prompted to swipe my card on the swiper machine.  Bingo! Out came a receipt showing $1000 loaded! I then did the same exact thing with my Citi Hilton Honors card to try and meet my $10,000 hurdle to obtain a free weekend night at any Hilton in the world plus pick up 3,000 Hilton points per $1000 loaded.  Again the results were perfect! I did one last $500 load on the same Hilton card because the most a person can load in one day is $2500.  After that I went back to my car grinning ear to ear looking at the receipts!! NO FEES!!!  Just pure miles!

I then went home and logged into my REDcard account online and went to bill pay section of my account and added payees.  I added the three different credit cards I loaded my REDbird with and the proceeded to paid them all off.

I can load up to $5000 per month per REDcard account. This is the easiest and cheapest way to earn miles and points since I have started collecting miles and points!!! No more $3.95-$6.95 fees per gift card or vanilla reload card!!! I will be wearing a path to my local Target for as long as this lasts!

Let me know if you have any questions!

-pointspinnacle


 

 

 

 

Making my minimum spends.

 

The miles and points world is ever evolving.  It used to be very easy hitting my new credit card spending hurdles. For example, I received my 4th Citi AA Executive card recently and thus wanted to meet the $10,000 spending requirement very quickly (by the first statement).  I had about 15 days from the time I was approved till my first statement closing date.  In this new day and age of “manufacturing spend” some of the easiest go to methods are no longer available.   No more vanilla reloads, no more Vanilla Visa gift cards loading at Walmart. Thus I have been forced to adapt.

Method 1: Visa Metabank giftcard  

I was fortunate that week I received my new card, Office Max was having a Continue reading

New PointsAway Travel Guide Book just Released

I was recently made aware of a great new book (released this week) written by Casey over at PointsAway!  He was nice enough to offer me a copy to decide if it was worth sharing with my readers (you).  Right now the book is available to download on iBooks, so if you have an iPad or a Mac you can hop on and download it here.

I read over quite a bit of the book over the last 24-36 hours and I could tell there was a lot of time and effort put forth to produce the book!  There are 337 pages spread over 26 chapters and it really is thorough!  Casey initially talks about his discovery moment (which all of us miles and points junkies have and remember) and what motivated him to travel on the cheap and collect miles and points.  From there he really covers it all from Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards and all the other points currencies to the many nuances of the major airline alliances!  Not only does the book cover the basics but also some of the sweet spots in the airline award charts and even helps people understand the basics of manufactured spend.

What I like about the book is similar to why I blog  which is helping people travel inexpensively and see the world.  The book tells you how to get your points and apply them so that you can enjoy the end results (fabulous vacations) similar to how I detail how I paid for my vacations in my trip reports.

If you are a miles and points expert and have been in this “game” for several years and are constantly monitoring the points landscape then some of the information in the book maybe second nature to you by now however I found content that I had either forgot about or flat-out didn’t know so it will be nice to keep as a reference. However if you are just getting started in the miles and points world or your curious and want to get your feet wet I would most definitely say the book is worth it!!!

Giveaway Time!!!

Casey was nice enough to provide me with two free copies of the book to two lucky people!!  I love giving free travel stuff away to my readers!

To win a copy you must simply:

Thats it!  I will pick two lucky winners at random.  The giveaway will be good through tomorrow (Thursday May 1st at 10pm central time).  Please remember at this time the book is available on iBooks so make sure you have access to that. I will provide the winners with a code which they can download a copy for themselves.

Congrats on the book Casey and best of luck in the future! Safe Travels!

-Pointspinnacle

(note: I was given a free copy of the book to review.  I was not paid or compensated in any other way to write this review.  I felt the content was good and want my readers to know the book is solid. As usual all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and not that of anyone else.)