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Travel Rewards via Credit Cards


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#1 SSF556

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 01:41 PM

Hello everyone...not sure where to post this but there is a great opportunity if used responsibility to gain a lot of perks from using travel credit cards.   I posted this in another post, but feel that maybe folks can provide each other thoughts and experiences.  My philosophy is that any amount saved in regards to the actual non safari travel allows me to put more of my money towards the actual safari trip.   

 

I play the credit card game on a small scale and it does benefit us.   More than likely the initial offer is a once use features of the credit card, but more than likely the credit card will continue to provide travel opportunities...ie....free night, elite status, no foreign transaction fees, reward rebates, and points vs money spent rewards.   Just curious if others have input.   There are some great travel forums on the internet that can help as well.

 

Here is a current example for Americans.   I am not up on offers for Canadians, Europeans, etc.

 

Chase has a great deal on an IHG (InterContinental) Mastercard that gives you 60,000 IHG points after you spend $1000 in the first 3 months.   There is a $49 yearly fee that is waived the first year     If you have plans to spend $1000 already than you are only in for the $49 yearly fee.  To me though IHG Platinum Elite Status is worth $49.

 

60,000 points will give you 2 free nights at the InterContinental JNB Airport.....a nice King Deluxe room is 30,000 points a night or you could pay around $350 a night.   

 

So for $49 you get $700 plus in rooms, Platinum Elite Status at all IHG hotels,  1 annual free night as long as the card is active, no foreign transaction fees, also there is a 10% rebate on reward points (so in the case above IHG will give you back 6000 points if you cash in all 60,000 points at the InterContinental JNB.   

 

 

 

I am in no way affiliated with IHG or Chase....just love getting stuff at a significantly reduced rate or price.   And Credit Cards if not used responsibility can become dangerous.


Edited by scootr29, 16 June 2014 - 02:02 PM.

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#2 Sangeeta

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 10:48 PM

What a great topic, scootr29! I am going to check this out asap :) thanks for the heads up.

Zindagi na milegi dobara... Chalo Africa
You only live once...Go To Africa

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#3 SSF556

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 01:02 AM

Perfect....but just use caution as it can get addicting.   The key is to maintain no monthly balance or pay the card off each month.  You can't afford to pay the interest rates on any credit card.    We are all adults here so there is some personal responsibility.    I also do not condone anything illegal.   Also please make sure you are willing to pay the annual fee....a couple of cards are in the $400+ range, but they come with airline club benefits.   Airline clubs are not worth it for some....but after being in the bush all day and then getting ready for 16 hour flight home....that shower in the airline club may be worth it.

 

All that being said there are great deals to be had...also I know it is old school to wire money, but it todays modern era I personally would not pay for a safari without using a credit card...let the credit card company take the risk...not you and your bank.   And for the love of all mankind never ever ever ever pay foreign transaction fees.   There have been a plethora of cards to hit the market in the last 6 months that wave all foreign transaction fees.....there is NO reason to pay them.   No foreign transaction fees is another reason to pay for your safari with a credit card.   

 

Several reasons why:

 

1) Travel Protection...even minimal may help, especially on rental cars.   Always read the fine print.

 

2) Travel points....when you spend $10,000 on a credit card that could be 30,000 points if the card offers 3x the dollar amount for travel.   Other credit cards will give you 2% cash back....cash has it advantages as well.

 

3) Meet the minimum spend to get the extra points....most credit cards offers will give you points if you meet a minimum spend over a certain time frame.  For example to get 50,000 points you must spend $3000 dollars in 3 months.   If you have a big expense or a big trip on the horizon make set yourself with a card that will meet those minimum requirements.  

 

These are just a few examples....I will not provide links because I am not making a living off this, just passing along friendly info

 

1) Chase British Airways.....spend $30,000 in a year and get a Travel Together Pass that can be used with money or Avios miles....annual fee yes.  Beware of taxes flying through the UK....may be cheaper to fly through Paris or Amsterdam..so this card may not be worth it.   My goal is get my wife and I into business class back to JNB.   Taxes will be over a thousand dollars, but compare that to 2 business class tickets to JNB from the states and that could be over $14,000.

 

2) Chase Sapphire Preferred...one of the best cards on the market..great earning potential plus you can share point 1:1 with IHG, United, Southwest, British Airways to name a few....annual fee yes

 

3) Chase IHG Card....see my post above

 

4) Citi American Airlines Executive....huge current offer of 100,000 miles if you spend $10,000 in 3 months.   Also big annual fee, but you do get a $200 statement credit plus you get access to all the America Airlines Lounges plus USAirways lounges.   USAirways will soon be American.  This card would be great if you are finalizing a safari and need to pay the final deposit.   But again beware of the annual fee.

 

5) Barclay's USAir way card....all you have to do on this card is spend any amount $1 or $10 and pay the $89 annual fee and USAir gives you 40,000 miles.   Remember USAir miles will be rolled in American Airline miles before this time next year....get USAir miles while you can.   

 

6) Chase Southwest Airlines has a great offer going on as well.

 

8) American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card...this is a great card and both Susan and I will be getting this card before the deadline of June 30th 2014....there re some spend requirements that need to be met....but the great thing about SPG points is that they can be transferred 1:1 to almost all airlines in the world.   I can transfer 30,000 SPG points directly to Delta with no fee.   It is a great card and I am excited about getting it.

 

7) Various hotel cards that give you an lots of points or free nights.   Some hotel cards will automatically elevate your elite status or will pay for your wireless internet connection.   Again pick the hotel that you like and get the card associated with that hotel.

 

Another interesting tidbit is that most miles will expire unless you add miles to the account.   Most airlines allow miles accrued with their credit card to count....so for instance if you have USAir miles that are getting ready to expire use your USAir MasterCard to purchase a magazine subscription and that will dump a minimal amount of points back into your account...satisfying the account so the points do not expire.

 

Lastly as I am passionate about this topic.....miles across the board have been devalued.  Which means points at Delta can't get you as far as 3 years ago...and it is only going to get worse.   I do not hang on to or accumulate miles anymore...once I get them I use them.  

 

But that has not shut us out yet and as long as there are points to be had with minimal cash out of my pocket I am game.    So in the end you have to decide if juggling credit cards is worth it....Today Susan was backing out of the garage to go shopping and I caught her and gave her a new credit card to use....she is used to my habit and she loves the benefits, but she just rolled her eyes and laughed.   

 

Scott


Edited by scootr29, 17 June 2014 - 01:09 AM.

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#4 graceland

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 11:55 AM

@scootr29

 

You have shared some great deals on CC and miles, points etc. I am wondering though if you book a high end safari in Africa with a company that charges 5% fee using a cc, vs. the wire....it can really add quite an amount. How do you get around that? Esp. with the smaller operators.

 

Small operators in Africa (and I always use locals, not US based TA's) CANNOT  afford to absorb the cost, therefore wiring works for everyone - and after getting to know those I use with many communications, I trust them and to this day have never had a problem. They usually have reliable known banks on their end.

 

I'd like to use CC of course, but within Africa it can be impossible. How do you work this?  My lodging in Harare only takes cash, no cc. i've experienced this in every country I've been to in Africa and a few in South America. My guide could never take a credit card and pay 5%....it would have an impact on his staff, equipment etc - maybe safety. And I'd not expect him to.

 

For instance, my safari in Sept. at 5% would add over a thousand dollars in fees. I would not pay that and neither would he.

 

I also don't charge $10,000 (Citi AmericanAirlines Exclusive) in 3 months of normal living. Maybe it's age; but I don't need that much these days!

 

Well i guess I could purchase one Louis Vuitton bag to make it work ( :rolleyes: )

No,  I'm sure that'd never happen...LOL

 

 

Just curious as I know people do this but I can't figure out how they charge so much in 3 months to make it work. Help me here. I am not arguing this arrangement; just trying to understand the logistics. Of course not having a math brain, I may never!

 

Thanks Scott - 



#5 SSF556

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 12:56 PM

@graceland.....

 

As you know we all make unique decisions when traveling or hold to personal values....you prefer local TAs and may travel to locations that do not accept credit cards.   

 

A couple of points...

 

- You can always ask the TA to waive the credit card processing fees.   Never hurts to ask.   If they refuse it will be up to you to pursue.   I always ask upfront when I am getting quotes if they accept credit cards and if the apply any credit card usage fees.   Is the TA willing to lose your business over 5%?   

 

- There are TAs based in Southern Africa who take credit cards, have very modern online bill pay with reminders, and who do no charge a 5% credit card fee.   Not sure if they are wrapping that fee into the price of the safari, but I got 5 quotes from various TAs for our trip to Botswana back in Feb and the company I used provided all the features I mention above.   

 

- There are going to be locations in Africa that are no equipped for credit cards or do not want to do the leg work.   I stayed at a hotel in Maun this year and when I checked out the gentleman said cash only....so very nicely I said I prefer to pay with a credit card.   He thought for a moment and then pulled out the manual credit card machine....he swiped my card and provided me a receipt.    All was good....

 

- The Citi American Airline Executive card is one of the most aggressive deals that I have ever seen.....$10,000 in 3 months is not for the faint of heart.   Unless you have big cash purchase on the horizon...vacation, college, summer camps, renovations...etc.   This card is not for most people.    There are people though because of their business or what they do for a living that will spend $10,000 a month on a credit card.    This card will meet their needs.   

 

The whole idea is to find the card that meets your needs and make it work for you.    


Edited by scootr29, 18 June 2014 - 01:00 PM.


#6 graceland

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 01:41 PM

@scootr29

 

You really did put thoughts into my head as I was out with my lab on our morning walk!  I forgot how much I spend in Vet bills yearly..if only I had thought to put them on a mile/point based cc; I would have paid for the majority of my safaris.....a 12 yr old lab has many visits from age 6wks up!

 

I am afraid I am late to this dance. Maybe this old dog can learn new cc tricks!

 

I do remember our first safari to South Africa was paid via cards..years ago..Yes, they are up to speed but unfortunately off the beaten path locales are not.

If I want a particular guide and locale I will go whether he takes a cc or not. It won't change my mind if I have to wire money.

 

Which is fine with just us two, but I can see how it really can help to have miles/points  with AIRFARE - which is the bane of my safari existence. If I did not have to pay so much, I'd go much more often. Fortunate we do have an AMX card to help with upgrades but it still is a  thorn in my side how expensive it has become.

 

Thanks for the response! I'll see if I can use my AMX to pay our movers! That ought to be a few thousand miles!

 

(We need an East Coast GTG - I see many more joining ST)

 

G.


Edited by graceland, 18 June 2014 - 01:42 PM.


#7 marg

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 07:11 PM

I do think that most of use credit cards to build up miles/benefits of one sort or another.  It is probably better to use fewer plans/cards to accumulate more miles and than to have dribbles on many cards.  We save our frequent flyer miles only for travel to Africa.  When we fly elsewhere we always use a partner airline.  We use AmEx for foreign charges and sometimes for purchasing airline tickets.  We are now charging our property taxes on our airline card.  The fee is $50 less than purchasing the equivalent number of miles.



#8 SafariChick

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 04:45 AM

@marg which airline do you typically use to fly to Africa? Since you are from California too, I'm always interested in how fellow Californians get to Africa.  I have so far flown on Emirates once which we paid for and I think the second time I used United miles. Next time I'm hoping to go on Delta with the miles I'm accruing on my AmEx card.  I have a feeling you might also be using Delta since you say you use AmEx. Never thought of using it for property taxes - our property taxes are insane so that would certainly rack up miles. I just looked it pu and In our county, the fee to use a credit card to pay property taxes is 2.38% so for instance, if you pay $10,000 in property taxes you'd have a fee of $238 (and get 10,000 miles  I guess).  To purchase 10,000 miles would cost us $350 so I see how it is kind of a good deal. Thanks for the tip!



#9 marg

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 08:15 PM

@SafariChick...we have Alaska Airline credit cards and this is where we accrue most of our miles.   And, we always fly with Alaska partners, anywhere.  We have flown British Air the last three trips to Africa, but for our trip next year we are looking to fly Emirates as they fly into Lusaka.  We use the AMEx points for hotels...the Intercontinental at the Joburg airport.  I know...charging the property taxes  is nearly a no-brainer.


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#10 kittykat23uk

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 08:48 PM

I have an MBNA dual card system (you get an AMEX card and a visa for when Amex is not accepted) for AVIOS miles, it was initially a BMI and partners in Diamond club, which was very good, but then they got swallowed up into the BA AVIOS scheme and now its not great at all. Usually there is an incentive for getting the cards to begin with, so that way it didn't take too long to build up enough points and I got a free upgrade to first class one way and business class another way to Harare with Ethiopian airways in 2012 (for our Mana Pools trip). Didn't stop my bag being rifled on the way back and camera stolen but at least I have a promise of another free upgrade next time I fly Ethiopian (for when I finally make it out to see those wolves!).

 

I think since then I probably now have enough points to get me to Oslo or similar with Avios which will come in handy when I decide to book the snorkelling with orcas trip that I've been eyeing up.

 

These days I try and fly from Norwich via schipol when I can so there are no flights with Avios for that route. If I want to use my points I think the closest will be Heathrow.

 

For spending overseas I have a different card that doesn't charge on foreign transactions. Useful where ccs are widely accepted like South Africa, Borneo etc, not so useful when you have to pay everything up front for the safari, because as with @graceland I find a lot of places don't accept CC or will charge for the privilege, negating any gains from using a points card or unloaded card. 

 

Paying for vet care is a good way to build up points, especially with an ongoing condition that's also covered by the insurance as with one of our bunnies. The cost of her drugs are over £50 a time and last only around 8 weeks at a time. It's also worth double-checking if you have multiple reward cards which reward will be best value, e.g. if you have points or cashback cards then the rates can vary depending on where you shop. For example, the Santander 123 card gives you different tiers of cashback depending on what you buy, fuel gives the best return at 3%. Some also have time-limited introductory rates, e.g. the capital one card gave me something like 5% back for the first few months, then dropped to just 1% so at that point it can be worth switching to a different card. plus if you are booking air tickets by card using e.g. expedia or similar be careful which card you use as there will be different fees charged depending on which card you use. Usually there is one option that is fee free, but paying fees might still be worth it if you are building up points or getting cashback and/or want the added cover that paying with a credit card offers over debit card or bank transfer.

 

For those in the UK Moneysavingexpert.com is always a good resource for those looking to make these kinds of savings.


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#11 SafariChick

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 09:28 PM

@SafariChick...we have Alaska Airline credit cards and this is where we accrue most of our miles.   And, we always fly with Alaska partners, anywhere.  We have flown British Air the last three trips to Africa, but for our trip next year we are looking to fly Emirates as they fly into Lusaka.  We use the AMEx points for hotels...the Intercontinental at the Joburg airport.  I know...charging the property taxes  is nearly a no-brainer.

 @marg thanks for the info. Well I am planning on going to Zambia next year too - I can apparently use Delta miles to fly there via KLM but maybe I should look at Alaska too - the Delta rep told me because the flight from Amsterdam to Lusaka is on KLM not Delta, they don't give Delta customers very many of the seats at the lowest mileage so I will want to jump on it as soon as they open them up 11 months in advance if possible. The best possible round trip would be 80,000 miles.  That's right, I forgot but Emirates is a partner with Alaska Air, isn't it? Do you have the long layover in Dubai? It's not so bad though because if it's 8 hours or more layover they give you a hotel room to rest in, shower etc. How many Alaska Airlines miles does it take on Emirates to go from CA to Lusaka?

 

Also, where are you going next year in Zambia and when? (This may be in the trip planning thread but I also may have forgotten!)


Edited by SafariChick, 20 June 2014 - 09:30 PM.


#12 marg

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 11:05 PM

@SafariChick...okay, are you sitting down?!  Business class is 320,000 and First class 400,000 miles for round trip on Emirates.  It is too early to book, so i do not yet know what we will be able to get.  It is my understanding that after the first flight to Dubai there is a ten hour layover.  I am not sure if they give you a room when flying with miles but find out later.  We are leaving the third week in August going first to  Chendini, Kuyenda and Tena Tena before going on to Zimbabwe.



#13 SafariChick

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Posted 21 June 2014 - 02:21 AM

@marg wow! I wonder what about economy class, how many miles that would be? I would think they should give you a hotel room just like they would a paying customer but who knows. Would probably be worth getting one if they don't. The one they gave us was nothing great but it was nearby and also included a meal from the restaurant at the hotel. We only had time to eat, nap a few hours, shower and head back to the airport. The bus they put us on to get there was a bit crazy as I recall, it was crammed full and there were some little seats that had been folded down that they unfolded to fit us all in.  The Dubai airport itself is really something, fun to see.  

 

http://www.nytimes.c...be.html?hp&_r=1

 

Your trip plan sounds fabulous!


Edited by SafariChick, 21 June 2014 - 02:22 AM.


#14 marg

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Posted 21 June 2014 - 02:40 AM

@SafariChick...the miles that I am giving you are for two people.  Economy would be 190,000 for two.  There is an interesting article in the July Vanity Fair about the middle-east airlines and the Dubai airport.  Every trip to Africa is fabulous!


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#15 SafariChick

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Posted 21 June 2014 - 02:44 AM

@marg oh well if that's for two people it sounds a lot more reasonable!  My husband just reminded me he got our Alaska Airlines card so he could use the miles to go to Mexico not so I could go to Africa ha ha.  (He surfs there). I agree, every trip to Africa is fabulous. 



#16 panamaleo

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 04:55 PM

This may not apply to many ST's, but since I live in Panama, I used Copa Airlines last year to fly from Panama City to Sao Paulo, Brazil (6 hours; terrific airline). Used my accumulated miles to fly that leg free round trip. After an overnight at a hotel near the airport, I flew South African Airways direct, non-stop from Sao Paulo to Joburg in just 8 hours! What a relief from those incredibly long hauls from the US when I lived there. My days of flying Business Class are over, so those relatively short hops are tolerable in Economy.

I use one credit card only, a Capital One Venture Visa card. I think there's an upgrade for this Venture card, but mine has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees (important since I live outside the US); not particularly generous with points per $ spent (1.25), but no black-out dates, no expiration of miles earned, and can use on any airline.

I am using the card to book a 2016 safari, with an upcharge of 2.5%, but that expense will earn me enough miles to again make that c. $700 RT from Panama to Brazil next year.

#17 SSF556

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Posted 24 February 2015 - 07:31 PM

This may not apply to many ST's, but since I live in Panama, I used Copa Airlines last year to fly from Panama City to Sao Paulo, Brazil (6 hours; terrific airline). Used my accumulated miles to fly that leg free round trip. After an overnight at a hotel near the airport, I flew South African Airways direct, non-stop from Sao Paulo to Joburg in just 8 hours! What a relief from those incredibly long hauls from the US when I lived there. My days of flying Business Class are over, so those relatively short hops are tolerable in Economy.

I use one credit card only, a Capital One Venture Visa card. I think there's an upgrade for this Venture card, but mine has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees (important since I live outside the US); not particularly generous with points per $ spent (1.25), but no black-out dates, no expiration of miles earned, and can use on any airline.

I am using the card to book a 2016 safari, with an upcharge of 2.5%, but that expense will earn me enough miles to again make that c. $700 RT from Panama to Brazil next year.

Good option for you...plus you do not have to go through AMS, LHR or CDG.  

 

I would try to do everything I could to get miles via a credit card for Star Alliance....Copa and SAA are members of Star Alliance so you should be able to share miles..United Airlines and Lufthansa both have credit cards with reasonable offers...If you were to get the United card and use it to book your safari...not only do you get a safari you also get 30,000 miles.   If I am going to book a safari with a credit card I always have a new card that has a promotional offer.....Also take a look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred card....no foreign transaction fees plus they offer 45,000 points...once you can get those points you can transfer them to United Airlines and then book an award flight on Copa....45,000 should get you a round trip flight from Panama City to Sao Paolo...it is a game and you should only play the game if you are responsible with your money and pay your credit card off each month.   If you pay interest rates the game is no longer beneficial.   

 

If you want to take it another step also pick up a credit card that has a 0% interest on balance transfers....pay for the safari on the promotional card and get your points...and then transfer the balance to a 0% credit card for up to 18 months....that allows you to pay off the safari balance over the 15 months.   Be sure to pay off the balance before the end date or the interest rate is retroactive.   This way lets you keep cash in your pocket while you pay the 0% minimum payment over the 15 months...for example the Chase Slate card has a 0% and $0 transfer balance fee for 15 months.

 

Also I am no way affiliated with Chase or any other credit card companies....I do however take advantage of as many offerings as I can.


Edited by SSF556, 24 February 2015 - 07:34 PM.


#18 SSF556

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Posted 24 February 2015 - 07:39 PM

Also another topic but I predict there will be credit card offerings available in the next year or so for the bigger middle east airline companies...they are posed to make a big impact on international travel in the USA.   For instance there is a rumor that one of the big middle eastern airlines is trying to get into Atlanta to compete with Delta.   


Edited by SSF556, 24 February 2015 - 07:39 PM.

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#19 graceland

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Posted 24 February 2015 - 08:27 PM

I just flew for the first time, Emirates from Washington DC through Dubai and onto Nairobi. Compared to South African Air, it was stellar. I don't buy much, so I paid for business, but it was 3K less than our SAA trip last September to Zimbabwe.!!   Worth  it to me to arrive with no back issues and no jet lag! 

 

The layover in Dubai was 2 hours on inbound and a little over 3 on outbound. Not bad at all. All went smoothly....well almost but that will be in the TR we are trying to get working on!

 

I will use them again; maybe finding some points here and there along the way.



#20 SSF556

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Posted 24 February 2015 - 09:43 PM

I just flew for the first time, Emirates from Washington DC through Dubai and onto Nairobi. Compared to South African Air, it was stellar. I don't buy much, so I paid for business, but it was 3K less than our SAA trip last September to Zimbabwe.!!   Worth  it to me to arrive with no back issues and no jet lag! 

 

The layover in Dubai was 2 hours on inbound and a little over 3 on outbound. Not bad at all. All went smoothly....well almost but that will be in the TR we are trying to get working on!

 

I will use them again; maybe finding some points here and there along the way.

@graceland....heard good things about them

 

Here is their codeshare partners....Looks like JetBlue is the only player in America...JetBlue does have an AMEX card that has a 20,000 points offer...but not sure if 20,000 points is even worth the card....but beware AMEX and Jet Blue will end their partnership Dec 31st 2015....

 

Air Malta 

Air Mauritius 
Japan Airlines 
Jet Airways 
Jetblue Airways 
Jetstar Airways 
Jetstar Asia 
Korean Air 
Oman Air 
Philippine Airlines 
Qantas 
South African Airways 
TAP Portugal 
Thai Airways International 
Valuair

 

Here is an article on their partnership...

 

https://trueblue.jetblue.com/web/trueblue/emirates


Edited by SSF556, 24 February 2015 - 09:50 PM.

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