Earn 5,000 Hilton Honors points (valued at $30) for a 5-15 minute call

Hilton is one of my favorite programs because they make it so easy to earn Hilton Honors points (which are valued at roughly $0.006 per point).

In the latest promotion, Hilton is offering 5,000 Hilton Honors points if you call and listed to a quick timeshare information session over the phone, which can be done at your leisure. You already need a Hilton Honors account to receive the points and just need to call 1-800-984-4482 and mention the 5,000 promotion (here’s a link to it).

I just called and it took exactly 8 minutes from beginning to end. I’ve been told it will take 6-8 weeks to get the points, though I’m hoping they post sooner.

Be sure to take advantage of this promotion if you have some free time!

As low as $2,003 round-trip for business class between San Francisco and Europe on American/British Airways

There are some great business class deals to Europe right now from San Francisco! I recently booked one-way from Paris, France to San Francisco (via Lisbon) on TAP Portgual’s new A330neo for $1,160, which I considered to be a pretty good deal.

But if you’re looking for round-trip travel, you’re in even more luck. Using Google Flights, I was able to find the following deals:

  • San Francisco to Barcelona for $2,003 (April 6-14, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Lisbon for $2,034 (April 7-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Budapest for $2,040 (January 1-9, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Brussels for $2,040 (April 7-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Milan for $2,063 (January 2-9, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Paris for $2,082 (April 7-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Berlin for $2,084 (April 8-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Mallorca, Spain for $2,129 (April 7-16, 2020)

These are just samples, and although the lowest prices are largely for the middle of April, you can find other fares for only a few hundred more within a few months of those dates.

This would also make for a great status trip run — the San Francisco to Paris deal above would net you 23,996 elite qualifying miles (EQMs) and 9,510 award miles on American Airlines.

American Airlines bonus points snafu

If you read my blog every now and again, you’ll know that I’m a sucker for a great credit card sign-up bonus. Less than a year ago, I signed up for the American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Business card, which came with a 75,000 AAdvantage mile bonus (worth approximately $1,050 according to The Points Guy, although I redeemed 70,000 of these miles for a Qatar QSuite from Chicago to the Madlvies, so I received a value of about $5,680).

In April, I was pretty excited when I received the following e-mail from Aviator Mastercard:

American Airlines promo 1

As an attorney, I knew to check beyond this and look at the actual terms of this offer, which read:

American Airlines promo 2.jpg

The promotion seemed easy enough – spend $2,000 on my card in May, June, and July and received a total of 5,000 bonus AAdvantage miles. Game on.

In May, I spent $2,121.36 on the card and received the following e-mail from Aviator Mastercard:

American Airlines promo 3.jpg

I decided to keep going with my spending so that I could receive the full promotion –  in June, I spent $2,061.68 on the card and in July, I spent $2,177.82.

The terms said that it takes 6-8 weeks after the promotion ends to receive the miles, and I decided to call on September 13th (6 weeks after the program ended) just to check up the status, since I haven’t received any of the miles yet.

I thought it was going to be a quick call, but was shocked when the representative on the phone told me that I actually didn’t qualify for the full bonus because I didn’t meet the May requirement. She told me that the promotion wasn’t actually based on spending $2,000 in May, rather it was spending $2,000 on the May statement (mine ended May 20th, and some of my purchases came in after that).

I asked her where in the terms it said that, telling her I had them in front of me. She said she couldn’t point me to it, but that it’s something I should have already known. I asked her about the e-mail I received saying that I made the bonus in May, and she couldn’t answer why that came through, so I asked to speak with her manager.

After about a half-hour on the phone, the manager (who was in a real rush to get me off the phone), said that the person I spoke with the first time was correct – that the bonus was based on the May statement, rather than me spending $2,000 to May. Again, she had no answer why I received an e-mail saying I met the May spending requirement, and said that she would escalate it.

I asked her for an e-mail address or contact where I could forward the e-mail saying I met the May bonus, but she said it doesn’t exist. She said I would be called back within 24 hours, although it’s now 2 days out and that hasn’t happened yet

I’m pretty upset over this and am considering cancelling my American card altogether (the only reason I still have it is priority boarding). Things like this never happen with my American Express, which is quickly becoming my card-of-choice.

I let American Airlines know that I’ll be filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (pro-tip: this is a great way to get companies to respond when you’ve been “wronged”), and hope I’m able to get these points soon.

How I scored an $18,425 Emirates First Class Suite for 85,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Well, this will probably go down in history as my best travel deal ever.

Earlier this week, after finding out that Emirates was added as a Chase transfer partner, I was able to score a First Class Suite (actually, two – more about that in a minute) on Emirates for an insane rewards redemption of 85,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points (and $192.60 in fees).

If you don’t know about the Emirates First Class Suite, it’s supposed to best product out there. In addition to having a door that closes with a “Do Not Disturb” sign, you have access to 2 bars on the plane, free caviar and Dom Pérignon (and other fancy alcohol and food) during the flight, and you even have access to a shower with spa products that you can reserve for 30-minutes at a time.

Emirates has a number of “fifth freedom” flights (routes that do not connect in the airlines hub) around the world that have the world-renowned Emirates First Class Suite. Two of these flights are based in the U.S. — a direct flight from JFK to Milan and a direct flight from Newark to Athens.

Emirates Suite
Soon to be me (credit: Emirates)

Emirates usually charges 120,000 Skywards miles (when you find availability) for direct First Class service between JFK and Dubai.  For the U.S.-based fifth freedom flights, Emirates charges 85,000 Skywards miles.

Emirates Flight 1

The flight from JFK to Milan is 7 hours and 55 minutes and, even though the First Class Suite looks amazing, I wasn’t really interested in this deal since it’s a red-eye flight and I wouldn’t have really had a chance to enjoy the amenities (aside from the amazing seat).

But while reading my favorite travel blog, BoardingArea (and sorry, I don’t remember the exact blog post I was reading!), I was able to find that for some select dates you could book JFK to Dubai to Milan for the same 85,000 Skywards miles rate.

I found availability on April 2, 2020 for 2 tickets and immediately created an Emirates Skywards account. I decided to sleep on it, though, because it involved a lot of travel — flying from SFO to JFK, then 12.5 hours to Dubai, approximately 8 hours to spend exploring the city and the lounge, and then a 6.5 hour flight from Dubai to Milan.

Emirates Flight
Confirmed flights for a First Flex Plus ticket
Emirates Receipt
Screenshot showing the cost of the First Class Suite between JFK and Dubai on April 2, 2020. Note that my ticket is Flex Plus, including free cancellation and changes, so I used that price for this blog post.

The next morning, after talking with friends, I realized I would be super upset if the ticket was taken, so I decided to book. I added my Emirates Skywards to my Chase Ultimate Rewards account and the points were transferred immediately.

Now, here’s when things got a little scary. After my points were in my account, I went on the Emirates.com website and was told that I had “Insufficient Miles” to book the flight (despite clearly having 85,000 miles show up in my account). My heart dropped and I called an agent, who let me know that the flight on April 2nd was no longer available.

When I kept insisting it was on my end, I pulled the “can I speak to your manager?” card, hoping that I didn’t just throw 85,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points down the drain. The manager was incredibly helpful, and while she said she couldn’t find the flight on her end she asked me to take a screenshot of the flights that I was seeing on my end and gave me her direct work e-mail address (I have *never* had an American-based airline give me a direct e-mail address to contact them at).

It turns out the confusion was that I wanted a transfer in Dubai and the agents were only looking at direct flights. The agent kept clarifying that I was fine with the very long flight times and layover, considering they did have a direct option, and I kept assuring her that I was — that was the point of this trip, after all.

During the hold times, I downloaded the Emirates app and found out the flight was bookable through it. If you are going to book an Emirates reward, I recommend using the app, and not the website. Nevertheless, the Emirates agent had put my reservation on hold, so I decided to work with her to finalize the booking.

The fee of $192 is a deal as well — Emirates actually is known for charging high fees for business class (around $500-600/ticket), but for some reason, the First Class Suite has the same fee as an economy ticket.

After booking the ticket and receiving confirmation, I messaged a friend of mine who I knew would have enough Chase or AMEX points to book the flight as well, and she booked it with me (and because there was only suite left, she booked her husband in business class using 65,000 Skywards points + $500-$600).

Although early April is a gamble with weather in Europe, I am so excited for this trip! I’ll be trying out the Qatar QSuite in November (which I got from Chicago to the Maldives for 70,0000 miles through American Airlines), so I will get to compare the two — something I never thought I’d have the chance to do.

I’m beyond excited for this flight and still can’t believe I was able to land such a good deal!

United gave me a $2,000 travel voucher to take a later flight

Well, I feel like hit the lottery with United recently.

In the wake of the 2017 “incident” on a United flight when a passenger was left bloody and bruised for failing to give up his seat, United introduced a new policy where they would compensate passengers with up to $10,000 in travel vouchers to take later flights. Their logic is that with offers that high, they’ll never need to forcibly remove a passenger again (and they also changed their policy for allowing that to happen in the first place).

I’m happy to say that a few weeks ago, I was the beneficiary of this policy and was given a $2,000 travel voucher to take a later flight.

I was on the last flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco, having just attended my 10 year (!) law school reunion. I was, as usual, first in line for the Zone 1 boarding group, when I heard a United announcement that they were taking volunteers for a later flight. I asked the person behind me to watch my bags, went up, and found out they were offering $500 plus hotel for the night, but it would require flying out at 7pm the next night. I was also told that my ability to get the voucher wasn’t guaranteed, as I would need to wait for everyone to board to see if they really needed my seat.

I hate checking luggage and knew that if I boarded last, there would be no place for my overhead luggage. Also, flying out at 7pm wasn’t appealing, especially because I had to work (remotely) on Monday and they wouldn’t guarantee a late check-out at the hotel. So, I told the gate agent that I didn’t think I was interested and he offered me $600. I told him I’d think about it.

About 5 minutes later, the offer went up to $1,000 and I decided that was good enough for me, so I grab my bags and ran over. But, to my delight, on my way to the desk, the gate agent announced that it had gone up to $2,000 and I let him know right away that I would take it.

The $2,000 was on the same conditions as before – I had to wait for the plane to board and there were about 6 other people who volunteered. After the plane boarded, the gate agent started calling the 6 of us waiting by our names. First, there was a couple and the gate agent let them know that their seats were needed (they were thrilled). Then they called a single traveler who was told they would not need his seat and that he should board. I was beyond nervous. About a minute later, my name was called and I was told that they needed my seat – I’m pretty sure I let out a gay gasp of excitement.

Although there was a ~6am PHL to SFO flight, I was told it was full and that I would need to be on the 7pm flight (and that the only seat available was middle and in the back). So, throughout the night, I kept checking Google Flights and at around 11pm, I saw there was an opening in Economy Plus (although a middle seat) on the 6am flight. I called United right away, they booked me on it, and instead of landing in SF at 11pm on Sunday night, I got in around 8am on Monday morning.

I was trying to decide how to use my travel voucher – mostly deciding between using it to pay for my flights throughout the next year or to use it on something more extravagant. Ultimately, I decided to treat myself after finding a ~$2,500 business class fare sale between San Francisco and Europe and book a trip to Mallorca via Frankfurt in United’s Polaris business class.

There’s only one other time that I’ve made out better with airline compensation – when Delta paid me $2,400 in cash and three nights hotel to delay my flight to Mexico.

Something to keep in mind with the United vouchers is that you can’t use them for non-United flights, even if you can book them through the United platform. So for my flight to Mallorca, I book the business class flights to and from Frankfurt using the voucher and then booked my flight to Mallorca on Lufthansa separately. But it was a small price to pay for an almost complimentary business class ticket.

What’s the most amount of compensation that you’ve received from an airline? Let me know in the comments!

Why Hotels.com and TopCashBack.com are the perfect combination

I’ve been loyal to Hotels.com for a while. The main reasons are the hotel selections, that their prices are normally as low as you’ll find on any other site, and, perhaps most importantly, their reward program where you get one free stay for every 10 nights that you stay at a hotel booked through their website.

The free night program basically gives you 10% back off all hotels booked (for instance, if you stayed 10 nights at hotels that cost exactly $200/night, each night that you stayed, you would get $20 and when you completed 10 stays, you’ll have a $200 voucher to use).

Recently, I discovered a website called TopCashBack.com and I use it for almost all my online shopping, including travel, now. The website basically runs an affiliate site, but instead of TopCashBack keeping the affiliate sales (i.e., how much they make for you clicking a link on their website and purchasing a product), they give 100% of the affiliate fee to you and instead make money off running their own ads.

This sounded too good to be true, but after trying it, I’ve already received 3 payments for purchases I was going to make anyway, including between 2-8% back on hotels booked on Hotels.com and 12% back on a laptop purchased through Lenovo.

The exact amount of cashback that you’ll get from Hotels.com will depend on when you book, but generally ranges from 2-8% on TopCashBack. This means when coupled with the 10% you’ll get automatically from the Hotels.com reward program, you are looking at 12-18% savings on all hotels booked. This doesn’t even include credit card rewards that you may get – for instance, one Capital One credit card currently gives you a whopping 10% back on Hotels.com purchases, which means you could find yourself nabbing savings of as much as 28% on your Hotels.com bookings.

Just keep in mind that you won’t be paid out from TopCashBack until your stay is complete and the payments can take up to 5 weeks to hit your PayPal or bank account.

Hilton offering double points for stays this summer

If you’re planning some summer travel, be sure to sign up for a new promotion Hilton Honors is offering where you will receive double points (starting with your 2nd stay) between May 6-September 8, 2019.

Hilton Double Point Promotion.png

For you business travelers, with the promotion you’ll also get a 10,000 bonus points (valued at roughly $60) on your 10th stay, 15,000 bonus points (valued at roughly $90) on your 15th stay, and 20,000 bonus points (valued at roughly $120) on your 20th stay.

To sign up for the promotion, use this link.