Family Vacation to Hawaii Part 2 – Our Stay at the Andaz Maui at Wailea

Family Vacation to Hawaii 2017

Part 1 – Airfare

Part 2 – Our stay at the Andaz Maui at Wailea

Part 3 – Good eats and family friendly places around Wailea

Part 4 – Our stay at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki

Part 5 – Good eats and family friendly places on Oahu

Infinity Pools at the Andaz Maui

First let me explain how we booked this hotel using points.  As I had mentioned before in previous posts, I am a Globalist member for World of Hyatt.  That’s the main reason why we stay mostly at Hyatt properties.  I want to maximize what I can get from being a Globalist. Some of the perks include free breakfast, suite upgrade upon check-in if available, late 4 pm check out, four guaranteed suite upgrades a year sometimes even to their Ambassador or Presidential suites.  The breakfast alone saves me at least a thousand dollars a year.  The breakdown goes like this–most hotel breakfasts cost anywhere from $30 to $50 per person so with a family of 4 thats $120 to $200 per day.

We booked the hotel on points alone.  It was 25,000 points per night and with the suite upgrade we would have paid $1100/night including taxes and fees.  That’s a saving of $4400 for 4 nights.  I transferred some Chase Ultimate Reward (UR) points into our Hyatt account to get the 100,000 points total that we needed to redeem our stay.  Hyatt points are valued at 1.9 cents per point but I was able to get more than 5 cents per point out of it ($4400 + $600 for breakfast and free parking).  I say in this instance it was better to redeem using all points rather than pay cash or even cash/points to get the night stay credit.  You just have to do the math to see what is the best value you can get from your UR and Hyatt points.

For Hyatt when you book with all points, all fees and parking fees are waived.  This is one of the new perks to the World of Hyatt program.

Hotel Review

Entrance to the Hotel

Andaz Maui is a 15-acre beachfront property offering a setting directly on Wailea’s shores.  It has 300 spacious guest rooms and suites with ten luxury villas.  It has four cascading infinity pools with a poolside cocktail lounge at each pool.  It has beach activities, spa and recreation including Kayak tours, pilates and yoga classes.  It has five delicious dining options onsite boasting the region’s freshest ingredients.  It’s a beautiful property overall!

When we first pulled up to the hotel, we were greeted with all smiles.  The valet addressed me by my name which was quite impressive because I can see that going very wrong.  We were given leis and were directed to proceed to the hotel lobby.  My oldest was impressed with the water fountains flanking the entrance way.

Hotel Lobby

The hotel lobby was grand and open.  We were immediately greeted by a check-in personnel who asked if we wanted lavender lemonade or iced water.  The lemonade was pretty good.  The check-in process was seamless.  She had informed me that she had upgraded us to a family suite but the room wasn’t quite ready yet.  She asked us to have a seat in the lounge area and just relax.

My girls playing in the sand box adjacent to the check-in counter

My girls quickly found their favorite place as we waited.  They had tons of fun playing in the sand.   The sand was super fine and very clean.  I normally hate sand and don’t like the girls to play in it but this however was a rare exception.

Complimentary necklaces for the girls

While we waited one of the employees came back to check on us to see if we needed more lemonade or water.  Next she came back with a tray of necklaces for the girls to choose from.  My oldest loved it!  My second didn’t care so much for it, she rather play in the sand!

Living room with sofa, dining table and wet bar

When our room was finally ready, we were again escorted by someone to our room.  The room was a pretty good size, about 1000 sq ft. When you first walk in, there’s a living room with a dining table and a wet bar.  They had already set up the rollaway for my daughter.

King bed with a crib

The bedroom had a king bed and they also had set up the crib for us.  There was also a chase in the bedroom for lounging. There were flat screen TVs in both the bedroom and the living room.

What impressed me the most was their customer service and attention to my family.  They obviously noticed that I had kids so milk and cookies and reading material were brought up for the girls on our second night.  The crib was all set up upon arrival with all the children amenities.  The attention to detail was quite remarkable.   It was a pleasant surprise and the girls definitely enjoyed these!

The bathroom had a double sink with a separate toilet room and shower/bath area.  This made using the bathroom a bit more convenient when the toilet is separated from the shower area.

The view from our two balconies. My youngest enjoying the sunset

The suite had 2 balconies.  We were located on the left side of the property on the 5th floor.  It had a full ocean view but unlike the right side of the property where the views were better, our side had a more quieter and serene feel.  I didn’t mind it since I felt like we had our own little corner.   The only draw back is that we also overlooked the villa’s roof tops.

Large main pool located at the bottom of the three infinity pools

The main pool was the 4th pool on the property.  The property has 3 other infinity pools where most of the couples and adults hung out.  The main pool is more known as the family pool.  It’s surrounded by Morimoto restaurant, the beach and a cocktail bar.

Girls playing in the water

The hotel had water toys and floaties for you to borrow but we brought our own floaties.  The girls had a blast in the pool every day!  The temperature was perfect.  It’s not a heated pool but the sun generated enough warmth to keep the water in the 70s.

Daily complimentary fitness classes

The hotel charges a daily resort fee of $35 which includes unlimited access to their fitness classes and use of their equipment.  You can go paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, etc.  We had the kids so didn’t get a chance to take advantage any of that.  But if you have a chance to enjoy these activities, I highly recommend it!

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The breakfast buffet at Ka’ana Kitchen was probably one of the best buffet breakfast I’ve had at a hotel.  Breakfast is served from 6:30 am to 12 noon. It’s normally $47 for adults and $28 for children from 6-12.  Children under 5 eat free.  There is so much variety that you don’t really get bored.  As a globalist the breakfast is included for up to 4 people. We saved $120 a day (with gratuity) and we stayed 5 days so that’s a $600 in savings.

24 hour market place for snacks, coffee and souvenirs

And if you’re hungry at random times they have a 24 hour market place where you guy buy snacks, gelato, sandwiches.  They also have souvenirs.

Conclusion

Overall our stay was amazing and very relaxing.  The hotel is very family friendly.  I didn’t feel as if they treated families any differently than honeymooners or other couples.  It’s definitely a high end hotel but yet it still has that relaxed vibe to it.  The food options are delicious.  The service was top notch and very attentive.  The room was clean and room service was speedy and reliable.  I think Wailea is definitely more relaxing than Kaanapali.  I would definitely stay in this part of Maui, especially the Andaz again!

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not endorsed by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.  Reader acknowledges that the author gets referral point bonuses for readers using the referral links above.  

 

Family Vacation to Hawaii Part 1 – Airfare

Hawaii is one of our favorite spots to visit since its fairly close and has something for everyone. This time around we only had about one week so we opted not to go anywhere international as it would be too rushed.  Our oldest only has a week off from her preschool so Hawaii was perfect.

View from Hawaiian Airlines window seat

This would be our second trip to Hawaii with both of the girls but our 7th overall trip as a couple.  Our last trip wasn’t so fun as everyone except me got sick and our youngest was only 3 months.  We wanted a redo since last trip was so miserable.

Family Vacation to Hawaii 2017

Part 1 – Airfare

Part 2 – Our stay at the Andaz Maui at Wailea

Part 3 – Good eats and family friendly places around Wailea

Part 4 – Our stay at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki

Part 5 – Good eats and family friendly places on Oahu

In the past we have flown Hawaiian Airlines because they are comfortable and have Extra Comfort seats that allow more leg room especially for a 5 and half hour flight. This time we decided to use some of our Citi Thank You points. Via the Citi Thank You portal, we booked round trip flights from SFO to Maui with an extended layover to Honolulu. The return flight was just from Honolulu back to SFO.

The extended layover in Maui was cheaper than buying a one way from SFO to Maui and then another ticket from Maui to Honolulu. The ticket would have cost about $850/person but we were able to book via Citi Thank You points for 48,000 points each which equates to about 1.78 cents per point.  This is pretty decent considering Citi Thank you points are worth about 1.5 to 1.6 cents per TPG.  You can refer to the Citi Prestige or Premier cards for sign up bonuses.

However, the best way to make use of your Thank You points is to transfer them to one of its partners for redemption. listed below. Sometimes you can get up to $0.10 per point, such as booking Singapore Suites.

  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Asia Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air
  • Air France and KLM Flying Blue
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Jet Airways JetPrivilege
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hilton Honors

They transfer at a 1:1 ratio.  I checked on some of these and it was easier for me to just book the flights straight from Citi.

Enough room to for my youngest to sleep

We were able to get Hawaiian Airline’s Extra Comfort seats which were pretty nice.  They came with 6 more inches of leg room, personal electrical outlet, priority boarding and priority security line and a personal entertainment.   I would highly recommend flying either Hawaiian Airlines or Alaska Airlines which now includes the Virgin America fleet.

Stay tuned for Part 2 for my review of the Andaz at Wailea.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not endorsed by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.  Reader acknowledges that the author gets referral point bonuses for readers using the referral links above.  

Maximizing Your Chase Freedom Card

Image courtesy of Chase

It’s been a while since I last posted.  It’s been a really busy two months with my new job and other things going on in my life. I am thankful every day though for having such a supportive network of friends and family! Especially my wife who has been so supportive of everything I do.   

I haven’t had a chance to finish our Hawaii vacation posts yet but I promise it is coming. We had a wonderful dinner in Napa this past weekend with some good friends visiting from Los Angeles.  During dinner my blog became the topic of conversation and the Chase Freedom Credit Card came up. I thought it would make a good post.

I think a lot of people overlook this card and I bet most of us already have this card.  Some of us may not even use it much like my wife unless I tell her when to use it.

Here are the benefits to the Chase Freedom card: 

EARN 5% CASH BACK on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.  Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. See the 2017 calendar of bonus categories.

EARN 1% CASH BACK on all other purchases.

CASH BACK REWARDS DO NOT EXPIRE as long as your account is open. And there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.

EARN A $150 BONUS after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

EARN A $25 BONUS after you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase within this same 3-month period.

NO ANNUAL FEE!!

CASH BACK CAN BE CONVERTED TO CHASE ULTIMATE REWARD POINTS!!!

I’ve been talking about various credit cards in my last few posts that have steeper annual fees but with amazing perks.  This card will however costs you nothing!

Imagine if you maxed out each quarters bonus category which will put you at $4500 per year on category spending. This will give you 30,000 Ultimate Reward (UR) points by year’s end and that’s not including the 1% on other spends.  If you add a authorized user, you can earn twice as fast.  And if your partner gets his own card then you can come up with 60,00 UR points at year end.

I think that’s pretty awesome for spending what you normally spend on and not have to pay an annual fee.

Now there is a slight catch.  You have to have either the Chase Reserve credit card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card in order to convert your cash back to UR points.

Transferring Ultimate Reward points is easy!

If you log onto your account you’ll see that it’s very easy to move points from one account to the next.  You can even transfer them to your partner if you share the same address and add him as an authorized user.

The key to getting the most out of your quarterly bonus categories is to ensure you activate your bonus on time and to use your card accordingly.  The current quarterly bonus is Restaurants and Movie Theaters and must be activated by September 14, 2017.

If you use the Chase Freedom along with the Chase Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred or one of the Chase Ink cards (email me for referral) you’re going to end up with a lot of points by the end of the year.  The key is maximize your spending and try to get more than 1 point per dollar spent!  Then you can transfer those points to any of Chase’s reward partners (courtesy of TPG.com) to maximize your point redemption!

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not endorsed by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.  Reader acknowledges that the author gets referral point bonuses for readers using the referral links above.  

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry for FREE with These Premium Credit Cards

Lines at SFO Terminal. TSA PreCheck please!!

Most people I know do not like to wait in lines.  But do you know what’s worse than waiting in a long line? Waiting in line with your kids!!!!  My girls can’t sit still so I always get the “But I’ve been waiting for so so so long!” or “Are we there yet?” comments or my little one simply cries due to frustration.  Fun times!  I’m sure you have you own stories of waiting in long lines at the airport.  However, there is a solution!  TSA PreCheck and/or Global Entry!

Yes these services cost money but it’s worth it!  Even if you don’t use any credit card sign-ups to get these services for free, it’s still worth the money. But I want to help you save some extra cash and not pay for these two services and get them for free when you sign-up for one of the following premium credit cards.  I’m only going to focus on 4 top cards.

In This Post

  1. American Express Platinum Card ($550 annual)
  2. American Express Business Platinum Card ($450 annual)
  3. Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450 annual)
  4. Citi Prestige ($450 or $350 annual)
$200 annual Uber Credit

American Express Platinum Card

The personal American Express Platinum Card does come with a hefty $550 annual fee but it has a lot of pros that offset the cost.  First off it comes with a $200 Uber credit divided into $15 monthly credits plus a $20 bonus in December.  You must link your American Express Platinum card to your Uber account for this to work. You also get a $200 airline fee credit towards incidentals (flight changes, upgrades, baggage fees, wifi, food, etc) after you have selected the airline of your choice.  Note you can only change your airline of choice once a year so choose wisely. Next you get $100 credit towards Global Entry or $85 credit towards TSA PreCheck, but remember Global Entry comes with free TSA PreCheck so you might as well just get Global Entry.

In the first year alone you are already getting $500 in perks that you normally would have to pay for.  Aside from these credits you also get 5X membership rewards on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel, Priority Pass Lounge Pass (valued at $100-$200); Free Boingo wifi access; Centurion Lounge access (one of my favorites); Platinum concierge to book hard to get restaurants such as French Laundry and access to pre sale tickets to well known Broadway musicals such as Hamilton; Starwood Preferred Gold Status and much more. For complete details of all the perks please see here.

If you do decide to apply for this card please use my referral link.   It  comes with a 60,000 sign up bonus after meeting $5,000 in spending within the first 3 months.

Centurion Lounge Access for you and 2 guests

American Express Business Platinum Card

The American Express Business Platinum card offers almost identical benefits as the regular Platinum card with a few exceptions.  First of all the annual fee is $100 less at $450.  Some other exceptions include 5X points when booking flights or hotels through American Express Travel, 10 free passes for Gogo inflight Wifi, 1.5X points for each dollar spent over $5,000, 35% airline bonus when you use all or some points to book a first or business class seat on American Express Travel, you get 35% of those points back.  All other perks listed above remain the same.  For greater details see here.

If you do decide to apply for this card please use my referral link.  It comes with a 50,000 points sign up bonus after meeting $10,000 spending and an additional 25,000 points after another additional $10,000 spending within the first 3 months of opening the account.

I’ve also learned that if you apply for either or both of these cards towards the end of the year you get to use two airline credits since the airline credits are reset each calendar year in January.  You just have to make sure you meet the minimum spends.  So within the first year of opening you can get $400 in airline fee credits.

$300 Annual Travel Credit

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

If you haven’t applied for this card then you’ve missed out on the 100,000 point sign up bonus last year.  But don’t worry the current bonus is still a great deal!  Click on my referral link for this card to get a 50,000 Ultimate Chase Reward point sign up bonus after meeting minimum spend.  We love this card as much as our American Express Platinum cards.  This card comes with a $450 annual fee.  It, however comes with a $300 travel credit that can be used for anything travel related such as airline tickets, car rental fees, etc.  Skies the limit!  Note the difference between this travel credit versus American Express Platinum card’s travel fee credit.  You also get 3X the points when used to book travel and dining.  You also get 50% more travel redemption when booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal which means each point is worth at least 1.5 cents.  This card also comes with the $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck credit. The Chase Reserve card also includes Priority Pass Select which allows you and your guests to access thousands of lounges around the world.

You earn 50,000 Ultimate Reward points upon spending $4,000 within the first 3 months.  For more details please click here.  In the end if you do apply for this card, your first year’s annual fee really comes down to $50 with the travel and Global Entry credit factored in.

Complimentary 4th Night Free on ANY Hotel

Citi Prestige Credit Card

Currently Citi just boosted their sign up bonus to 75,000 Thank You points compared to the past 50,000.  I applaud Citi for trying to keep up in the race of the premium credit cards.  Some of the perks to the Citi Prestige card include 3X points when you book travel through airlines, hotels and travel agencies, 2X points for dining and entertainment, $250 travel credit (similar to the Chase Reserve), and complimentary 4th night for any hotel worldwide when you book four continuous nights by calling Citi Concierge or booking through the Citi Thank You Portal.  Personally I think the latter is the best perk for this card.  We have saved thousands of dollars by booking some of our hotels through Citi Concierge.  Their rates are the same as the rates you see on the actual hotel website.  Citi will honor any published rate that they can search on a hotel’s website.

Similar to the other cards you get a complimentary Priority Pass card which allows you to bring 2 guests with you for free.  This is a World Elite Mastercard so you will receive complimentary premium memberships to major car rental companies such as Avis, National, Hertz and Sixt among other benefits.  You get up to $100 credit for Global Entry.  This card, however will not reimburse you for your TSA Pre application.  The trip delay insurance is best among all the other cards.  The card will reimburse you for expenses you incur if you flight is delayed by 3 hours! Other cards typically kick in after 12 hours.   Apply here, I do not get a referral bonus for this card.   If you are a Citigold member your annual fee is $350 but if you’re not the annual fee is $450.

Other Ways to Get FREE Global Entry/TSA PreCheck

Now if you don’t think any of the above credit cards are right for you because of their high annual fees then there are other ways.  The following list contain other credit cards and possibilities to get FREE Global Entry and TSA PreCheck:

  1.  First National Bank TravElite American Express® Card (Global Entry only – No annual fee card)
  2. Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard (Global Entry only)
  3. Citi /AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
  4. Centurion Card from American Express
  5. American Express Corporate Gold Card
  6. American Express Corporate Platinum Card
  7. U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Gold American Express® Card
  8. U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card (exclusive to U.S. Bank customers)
  9. UBS Visa Infinite (Global Entry only)
  10. Expedia+ Voyager Card from Citi
  11. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card (Global Entry only; must call to request the statement credit)
  12. Delta Airlines Platinum and Diamond Medallion members can choose to receive free Global Entry vouchers as one of their gifts under Choice Benefits
  13. Orbitz Rewards Platinum members receive free TSA PreCheck (but not free Global Entry)

Conclusion

We as a family all have Global Entry and it makes traveling such a breeze. We never have to take off our shoes or other belongings and the lines are always short.  Rarely have to wait more than 5 to 10 minutes to get through security. If you have kids, I really recommend you consider getting Global Entry or TSA PreCheck via one of the ways listed above. Remember Global Entry comes with TSA PreCheck and lasts for 5 years.  TSA PreCheck is free for children under 12 as long as they are traveling with an adult that has TSA PreCheck or Global Entry and it also lasts for 5 years.   If you have any questions regarding the cards listed above, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me. Good luck and see you at the airport!

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not endorsed by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.  Reader acknowledges that the author gets referral point bonuses for readers using the referral links above.  

Get Hotel Status and Free Night Stays With These Credit Cards

Over water bungalow at Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa. Image courtesy of Hyatt

Having elite status with a hotel chain can make your stay a little more comfortable when you’re away from home, especially if you’re traveling with kids. And you don’t have to be on the road 24/7 to earn stays to get these perks. There are various hotel credit cards and general credit cards that will make your travels more pleasant and comfortable.

The major hotel chains have partnered with various banks to provide numerous options for us consumers to obtain elite status without even having to stay a single night at their properties. I say why not take advantage of these options. There are many options so I will try to break it down for you here and you can choose what best fits your family’s needs.  I will only be focusing on the four major hotel brands in this post.

In this post:

  • New World of Hyatt and Chase Credit Cards
  • The Marriott/Starwood/Ritz Carlton Partnership
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card
  • IHG Chase Credit Card

New World of Hyatt and Chase Credit Cards

A Park Suite at the Park Hyatt New York.

I am a big fan to the Hyatt program hence I put it at the top of my list.  On March 1st, 2017, the old Hyatt Gold Passport program rolled over to the new World of Hyatt program.  Some say its for the better and but from what I’ve been reading, most think its for the worse.  You can be the judge.

Before with the Hyatt Gold Passport program, all you needed was 25 stays or 50 nights to obtain Diamond status, their highest status.  With the new World of Hyatt elite program, Globalist require 60 nights for the first year and then 55 nights for subsequent years to maintain Hyatt’s highest status.  The pros to the new Globalist status include suite upgrades upon availability at check-in.  I say we’ve been upgraded 90% of the time we’ve checked in this year which means bigger rooms and suites that leads to more comfort for the family.  The best part of being a Globalist is the free breakfast.  I don’t need to worry about what to feed the kids and we’ve saved lots of money by taking advantage of this benefit.

The new Chase Hyatt Credit Card offers a 40,000 sign-up bonus  after you spend $2,000 within the first three months of account opening.  If you add an authorized user and they make a purchase within the first 3 months, you will receive another 5,000 points. The annual fee is $75.  You get one free night each year at a category 1-4 hotel or resort, no foreign transaction fees, automatic Discoverist status, free internet, 2 pm late check when available, and other perks.  The old version of the card was a little better in terms of the sign-up bonus, 2 free nights at any category hotel. However, the free nights had to be used up within the year.  Now the 40,000 to 45,000 points stay in your account forever and there is no rush to use them as long as your account remains active.

This is a good starter card for those that travel more within the US since there aren’t that many Hyatt’s footprint worldwide isn’t as big as some of the other hotel chains. Personally I am very fond of the Park Hyatt (category 6-7).  I also like Hyatt because you can book a room for as cheap as 5,000 points.  Of course it won’t be a category 6 or 7 hotel but it’s a free room. Their half points and half cash deals aren’t bad either.  And most Park Hyatt you can book anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 points per night.  This is relatively “cheap” compared to Marriott or Hilton that requires anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 points per night.

Now the question becomes how do you get more Hyatt points?  You open up Chase Credit Cards and earn Chase Ultimate Reward points. More specifically you open up either the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card ($95 annual fee with first year waived) and/or the Chase Reserve card ($450 annual fee, not waived the first year).  Both cards have its advantages.  Both cards offer 50,000 sign-up bonus after meeting $4,000 minimum spending within the first 90 days of account opening.

I will break down the higher annual fee credit cards in another post so for now refer to the link to learn more about the perks.  But as for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, it offers 2x points for travel and restaurants purchases which help you earn Chase Ultimate Reward points faster.

Let’s say you choose to sign up for the Hyatt Credit card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card, you will end up with 47,000 Hyatt points and 54,000 Chase points (including the minimum spends).  You can then transfer the 54,000 Chase points to Hyatt which is an instant transfer to net a total of 101,000 Hyatt points.  You can stay 3 to 4 nights at a Park Hyatt (25,000-30,000 points/night) or stay a Hyatt Regency for 5 nights (20,000 points/night) or 8 nights at a Hyatt House that comes with free breakfast regardless of status.

If your significant other signs up for another Sapphire Preferred Credit Card, you’ll get another 50,000 points.  After doing the math, you would only have spent $75 (Hyatt Credit card annual fee) to net the 155,000 points from two Sapphire Preferred Credit Cards and the Hyatt card.  I say that’s a pretty good deal! If this doesn’t make sense please leave a comment below and I can explain further.

If you are interested in applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, please use my referral link.

If you are interested in the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, please use this referral link.

The Marriott/Starwood/Ritz-Carlton Partnership

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Oahu, a SPG Category 6 hotel. Image courtesy of Starwood.

Marriott’s recent merger with Starwood and its ownership of the Ritz-Carlton brand allows us to obtain elite status with multiple credit cards. It is important to note that you can status match at Marriott to Ritz-Carlton to Starwood and vice versa. Having status at one of these chains allows you to have status across all three, which is pretty amazing.

The first option is the Marriott Reward Premier Credit Card or the business version which gives you a 80,000 sign-up bonus after meeting $3,000 minimum spend within the first 3 months.  This qualifies you automatically for Marriott Silver Status. Get an additional 7,500 points by adding an authorized user and making a purchase within the first 3 months of activation. You also get one free stay on your anniversary sign-up date.

You get 15 credits towards your next Elite membership level and for every $3,000 spend you get another 1 credit. There’s no limit to the number of elite night credits you can obtain through this option so you can make it all the way to either Gold (50 elite nights) or Platinum (75 elite nights) all through credit card spend.  However you have to see if this option makes sense for you. Putting all your spend on one credit card may not be the best idea here.

The second option is my favorite through the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card (referral link) or the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express.   Both cards come with a 25,000 sign-up bonus and 5 nights and 2 stays each year towards elite status.  However, if you apply for both cards the credits do stack giving you a total of 10 nights and 4 stays. That puts you so much closer to Gold status (10 stays or 25 nights) and on your way to Platinum status (25 stays or 50 nights).  It’s important to also note that if you spend $30,000 in a calendar year on either Starwood cards, you are automatically awarded Gold status without any stays or nights.

The reason why I really like the Starwood credit cards is because of their many airline transfer partners.  Most of the airlines are 1:1 point transfer partners, and for every 20,000 points transferred, Starwood will give you an extra 5,000 points for free!  That’s a 25% bonus!  No other card on the market does this!

The third option is through either the Platinum Card from American Express ($550 annual fee with a $200 annual travel credit and $200 Uber credit) or the Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN ($450 annual fee with a $200 annual travel credit), which automatically give you free Starwood Preferred Gold status.  This is the easiest way to get Gold status but each card comes with high annual fees.  I will talk about and justify these fees in another post about premium credit cards.

The fourth and final option is the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, which comes with automatic Gold status and renewed yearly with $10,000 in spend. The card, however comes with a hefty $450 annual fee but does include a $300 travel credit.  If you spend $75,000 yearly you will be awarded Ritz-Carlton Platinum status which can be matched across to Marriott and Starwood.

Hilton Status with American Express

Waldorf Astoria Chicago. Image courtesy of Hilton.

I am a current Hilton Diamond member due to a status match back in 2016 that allows me to keep my status until 2019. I didn’t have to spend a penny to get this status. Luckily I was able to get into this status match last year. Hotels will have status matches from time to time so pay attention to those. I will try to post them here if I hear of any new ones.

Hilton has 14 brands with 4,600 hotels in 104 countries.  That’s a pretty decent footprint in the hotel world.

Citi used to offer two co-branded credit cards with Hilton but that partnership has ended. American Express offers the Hilton Honors Surpass Card, which offers complimentary Gold status (normally takes 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 Hilton Honors Based Points) and the ability to earn Diamond with $40,000 in one calendar-year spending. The card has a $75 annual fee with the following benefits:

25% ELITE STATUS BONUS: With Gold elite status, you automatically receive a 25% bonus on all the Hilton Honors Base Points you earn.

5TH NIGHT FREE: Silver, Gold and Diamond members will get every 5th night free4 when booking a reward stay of five nights or more using all Points.

IHG Chase Credit Card

Intercontinental Hong Kong. Image courtesy of IHG

Similar to Hyatt, there is only one credit card sponsored by the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) chain of hotels, and that’s the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card.  The card comes with a 80,000 point sign-up bonus and complimentary IHG Platinum status. IHG Platinum isn’t quite impressive as the other hotel chains’ comparable status levels but it does come with a free anniversary night each year.  The free night can be used at any of the 5,000 IHG properties world wide.  This card isn’t the best but it’s not a bad deal for $49 annual fee, which is waived the first year.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not endorsed by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.  Reader acknowledges that the author gets referral point bonuses for readers using the referral links above.  

Maximizing points and credit card sign ups for a trip to Hawaii

I recently received a great question from a friend. She wanted to take her family to Hawaii next year and wanted to know a good game plan. I think Hawaii is an awesome place for vacation, regardless if you have kids or not. There is so much good food and the beaches are amazing. Island life has a very chill atmosphere plus the weather is fantastic! The 5.5 hour flight is manageable if you’re traveling with little ones.

My eldest sipping POG juice while enjoying the view from our balcony when we stayed at the Hyatt Residence Maui in Spring of 2016.

Hawaii has always been one of our favorite destinations. We try to go once a year if we can since its a no fuss kind of place. I’m going to break this post down into two parts: airfare  and hotels but focusing more on airfare.

Airfare

I found airfare to range from $400 to $700 throughout the year. Sometimes airlines will have sales and you can score flights for $300 per person. There are so many options for you to score free or almost free tickets for Hawaii. If you have Chase points then you can transfer Chase Ultimate Reward points to their various airline partners listed below:

Chase Ultimate Reward Airline Transfer Partners

Transfer PartnersTransfer TimePoint Transfer Ratio
British AirwaysInstantaneous1:1
Fly Blue (Air France/KLM)Instantaneous1:1
Korean AirInstantaneous1:1
Singapore AirlinesSame Day1:1
SouthwestInstantaneous1:1
UnitedInstantaneous1:1
Virgin AtlanticInstantaneous1:1

The only issue with doing this is that some of these transfer partners require a lot of points to redeem a free flight. United, for example requires 45,000 points for basic economy. Chase points is valued at 2.2 cents per point by The Points Guy. So if you transfer 45,000 points to United, you’re only getting 1.1 cents per point ($509 roundtrip ticket/45,000 points). That’s not a good deal. I would save those Chase points for something else such as transferring to their hotel partners, Hyatt and Marriott.

A second option would be to book directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal and get about 1.5 cents per point. This however is better than the previous option but still not that great. This may be a great idea if you’re booking a last minute flight and don’t want to pay top dollar.

The options that I would suggest include:

Southwest Airlines

The Southwest Companion Pass is a great option if you fly a lot of Southwest. You need to earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Reward points in order to get your Companion Pass.

The pass is valid for the rest of the year in which you earn it plus the entire following year. That means that you could get nearly two years of use out of it by meeting the requirements in early 2017. That’s a two year value where someone in your family can fly for free with a purchase of another ticket every time!

Here’s how Southwest defines which points will count towards this minimum:

“Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from your revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, your points earned by making purchases with a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card, and your base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners.”

There are currently two different Southwest cards out there with varying sign-up bonuses that can help you achieve the 110,000 points you need for the Companion Pass:

With both credit card sign up bonuses, you will accumulate 100,000 and plus the $5000 minimum spend, you will net you a total of 106,000 points, which leaves you 4,000 points shy. You would have to spend another $4000 to get to the 110,000. Do keep in mind that both cards come with a $99 annual fee.   These two cards option only make sense if you are able to meet the spend limit.  Don’t get the cards if you can’t meet the spend or have to spend beyond your means to get it.  That just wouldn’t make sense.  I always advise people to be financially responsible.

Alaska Airlines

Signing up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card and/or the Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card. Both cards come with a reasonable $75 annual fee. I chose this over Southwest mainly because I’ve had such bad experiences due to delays and cancellations with Southwest that I haven’t flown them for almost 4 years. This option is a little easier to obtain but not as lucrative as the Southwest Companion Pass.   Here are the perks for both of these cards:

  1. Alaska’s famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22) every year on your account anniversary for Alaska and Virgin America flights booking on alaskaair.com with no blackout dates.
  2. Free checked bag on Alaska and Virgin America flights for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation.
  3. Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly with Alaska Airlines and Virgin America purchases.
  4. Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  5. No foreign transaction fees, plus chip enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
  6. No mileage cap.
  7. Miles won’t expire on your active account.
  8. 30,000 sign up bonus after meeting minimum $1,000 spend within the first 3 months
  9. Low Annual fee of $75

The key benefit to note here is the $121 companion pass. Southwest does have a more attractive deal of free companion pass each time you fly but this only pans out if you fly Southwest and like flying Southwest. Alaska airlines offers the once a year $121 companion pass. I also like Alaska because it partners with Virgin America, one of my favorite domestic airlines. The $121 companion pass is pretty lucrative if you use it towards a long distance trip such as SFO-JFK or SFO-HNL. Aside from Virgin American being its travel partner, Alaska Airline points are quite valuable. You can use them across multiple carriers such as Emirates, Cathay, JAL, American Airlines and many more.  If you do decide to get these cards, please contact me for the referral email.  

And if you do sign up for both cards, you will get TWO companion passes to use each year.

Hotels

After you’ve decided on how to get your family to Hawaii then you’ll need a place to stay. There are a lot of options available depending on which island you are going to. On Maui, we have stayed at the Hyatt Residence and come August we’ll be staying at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort.  I’ll post a hotel review once we check it out.   On Oahu, we’ve stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki and The Royal Hawaiian.  Both of these hotels are on located right on Waikiki beach and is central to shopping and food and activities in Honolulu.  I can talk more about these hotels in another post if anyone is interested, otherwise I won’t go into details in this post.

 

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not endorsed by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.