BOS to FCO for Two in 2015... Treading Water in my Search

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by Solarius99, Feb 9, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. Solarius99

    Solarius99 Member

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    I used to travel a lot when I was younger and have always wanted to travel to different parts of the world. Kids and work kind of put a kibosh on that for awhile (that and the wife hates flying), but now, my daughter is old enough that taking her to places for the life experience of it won't be lost on her and I'll be able to enjoy myself as well.

    So my wanderlust hatches this fantastic plan to go to Italy and bring my daughter with me for a 10 day trip. Planning it for April/May of 2015 (so she doesn't miss so many days of school and avoid the busiest of the tourist season and the heat of the summer). All well and fine if I wanted to pay for it all out of pocket. Holy moly does everything add up. Then... then I ran across a blog about how this guy did some travel hacking to essentially fly around the world for very little money. That got me to researching, that researching led to me losing some of my marbles, those lost marbles eventually led here.

    Now that I've told you of my plight... now comes where I need help.

    I want Italy to be an experience for myself and my daughter. Would love to fly business class and stay in some nice hotels. I'm not expecting I can do it for free by earning miles/points... but if I can put a dent in out of pocket costs that would be great. And I'm not looking for high end luxury hotels either as we planning on spending a lot of time out and about eating and seeing the sights.

    I currently have a Citi Thank You Card (no points left), Chase Amazon Card (love love love Amazon, big time Prime shipping lover, and roughly 30,000 points), and a Citi Dividend Card. I average $5,000/month spending on CC (currently all pretty much on the Amazon Card), not including things like Mortgage, Insurance, Car Payments.

    I've read about the Ink Bold Business card (50k points, 5k spending in 3 months), Starwood Group card, etc. But there are so many options and so many things to consider I'm getting lost on where to start. Once I get started I think I can figure it out... but starting in the right place is where I run into doubts.

    If it helps to pick the right airline awards program, I'll be taking a trip to Las Vegas and St Louis this summer and occasionally to Philly (though that is through work and typically booked on US Airways).

    If anyone can give me a leg up on where to start, I would be very grateful.

    Thank you!
    Shane
     
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  2. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    You're on target that you need to pick a program and concentrate on that program.

    In your case, I think the program you should pick is probably Chase Ultimate rewards:
    • It has many transfer partners, airlines and hotels, so there's flexibility there in terms of how you wind up booking your tickets.
    • There are at least three different credit cards that your and your wife can apply for, assuming that you are willing & able to apply for business credit cards that all earn points in the same program.
    • You are allowed to combine points from your wife's account and yours into one account. It's not clear whether your wife is planning to come with you on the trip or not, but she can certainly help earn the points!
    • If you get the Ink Bold card you have access to 5x points earning on your Amazon purchases (you use the Ink Bold card to purchase Amazon gift cards at Staples, then use the gift cards for your on-line purchases). Note that, by doing this, you will not get any additional warranty provided when you directly purchase items using a credit card.
    • You can use the same purchase gift card strategy to get 5x points on a lot of other purchases as well -- especially if you eat at a lot of chain restaurants.
    • The other cards in the Ultimate Rewards family (Sapphire Preferred and Freedom) give plenty of 2-5x earning opportunities.
    So, with a few bonuses and some careful planning on your spend, it ought to be possible to collect a couple of hundred thousand points in about 6 months. If you're aggressive, more.

    As a secondary program, if you're planning to stay in chain hotels, I'd consider a hotel card. I don't know what cities you're thinking of visiting but I'd look at the Club Carlson card to see if they have hotels where you want to go. Again, they have two cards that each you and you can apply for and a great "last night free on award bookings" benefit that can help you stretch your points. If they don't have hotels that work for you, I would have to defer to someone with a better knowledge of the chains.

    Is that helpful?
     
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  3. ariosto

    ariosto Silver Member

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    Another Tip: if you have time to read on Bluebird card and vanilla reloads on the BLOG which Essentially Allow Payments VIA Credit Cards For things like Mortgage, Insurance, Car Payments which will accelerate your points earning. :cool:
     
  4. Solarius99

    Solarius99 Member

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    Awesome, thank you Larry and Ariosto...

    So the Ink Bold and some of the other Chase cards are pretty much the way to go. As far as the wife goes however, she doesn't work (stay at home mom). Does that preclude her from getting a card and getting the points (like if she were to get her own Ink Bold account)? Also, because of the Ink Bold and the 5x office supply store points, I checked out my local staples. They don't have any of the Vanilla Reload cards (though they have other ones but they have fees that are 3-6% of the value of the card (highest card was $200). I'll definately check more on the Bluebird and Vanilla cards... I may have missed something on that.
     
  5. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    I too am a huge Amazon shopper. We took both our kids to Italy last summer and had a magical time, which is what inspired me to find this hobby in the first place.

    The other posters are correct the 5X on all Amazon is a great thing. After many calculations I decided we were OK paying the fees for the gift cards, and I found ways to help reduce them. Frequent Miler has a lot of good information on this.

    Re: your wife. My husband has his own business, and when I applied for the Ink Bold I told him I am basically his COO/procurement manager and as such needed my own card to help him. It has the benefit of being true, and they seemed to accept that. I also work outside the home for a company, FWIW.

    Our flights for four in business class to Italy and France are now booked for this summer, and since then I've expanded my repertoire to include free hotel for skiing and a few domestic trips, and hopefully reduced fare to Hawaii (where I am from). Its a great hobby. Have fun!
     
  6. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    I believe that Federal regulations require lenders to accept household income on credit card applications. Plenty of families where only one adult works outside the home apply for credit cards for each adult (that is, each adult applies separately rather than (or in addition to) being an authorized user on the other person's card). If you apply for any of the Ink cards, however, you should be prepared to justify your need / eligibility for a business card during a phone conversation with the bank.

    Office supply stores no longer sell prepaid cards, at least using a credit card to purchase them. Some people have reported occasional success buying prepaid cards at gas stations and convenience stores listed as gas stations with the CC processor but I haven't been able to find any such places. That leaves some pharmacy / drug store chains and even there you sometimes need to search for one that will sell you the cards using a credit card for payment.

    Note that buying Vanilla Reload cards and using them to charge up your Bluebird is not free miles -- the $4 fee per $500 purchased means you're paying about .8 cents per mile.
     
  7. gconnery

    gconnery Silver Member

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    As others have said, you've got a relatively short time horizon, so you want to focus. Pick say ONE airline and ONE hotel chain, at least for now, and see how many points/miles you can wrack up in the time you've got available until you have to book your flights. Lots of award bookings become available a year out, so there might be a seat or two available in a couple of months. They might also hold some seats or rooms back and release them later, but you want to be looking starting about a year out. So... what airline do you pick? Well, you want to look for somebody with flights with good availability for the class you want, and you want to either pick them or one of their partners to accumulate miles on. So United is part of the Star Alliance and you could fly on United metal or Lufthansa say. You might look at something like Wandering Aramean's tools at http://wandr.me/Award-Search/ to look at Award availability, perhaps just looking for now at the availability a year or so out since you can see that.

    Say you decide on United. Then you can go for the Chase United Explorer card (Personal AND Business), The Chase Sapphire Preferred, The Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus, and say the American Express SPG cards (personal and business). Not sure you can cycle through all of these in the time you've got but that's an idea of the cards available. I'd hit the Sapphire and Amex SPG first. Wait a while then get some more. If your real interest is Lufthansa then there's a Miles & More card as well I don't know much about.

    The United Explorer card directly earns you United Miles. The Chase cards earn you Ultimate Reward points, but you can transfer them to United 1:1. The SPG points give you a 5,000 mile bonus on a 20,000 mile block transfer, so you'll want to do multiples of that if you can. Your wife can also apply for the SPG cards and you can transfer her SPG points to your account to help you out here.

    Anyway, apply for some cards and collect the points. Rinse and repeat. See how many you can get in the time available. Use them for what you can.

    You may want to look at hotels as well, starting with the hotel or hotels you'd like to stay in. Look for cards that offer your points or status in that hotel chain. Make a plan.
     
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  8. Solarius99

    Solarius99 Member

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    All excellent info from everyone thank you. Delta was my original plan, but reading about the 50k points with the Ink Bold card and the 1:1 transfer to United made me look there. I still have to settle on a hotel chain as well... though that needs a little more research to see what is best in Italy. Originally I was thinking of going with Marriot since I already have 16,000 points (used to be 150,000 from having wedding reception at a Marriott and tons of work travel but thats been whittled down over the last few years with one nighter stays visiting friends and family. My goal is to have it all nailed down this weekend and get some of those CCs applied for... though I still need to go and hit my local CVSs to see if they have VR cards and are purchasable with CC. My mortgage and rental property mortgage payments alone will cover several minimum spends in the first 3 months.

    Right now with the 5% cash back category on drugstores for CVS, I'm hoping to leverage some of that into VR cards until I get the cards with bonus points.

    Thank you everyone... I think I'm on the right path now, though I'm always open for more insight.
     

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