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.

Earn double miles on cross-country Alaska Airlines flights through the end of 2019

Alaska Airlines has a new promotion where, if you register, you can earn double miles on all Alaska Airlines transcontinental flights for the remainder of 2019. You can register here for the promotion.

The promotion is eligible on West Coast departures between:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) and Baltimore (BWI), Boston (BOS), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), Philadelphia (PHL), Washington-Dulles (IAD), or Washington-Reagan (DCA)
  • San Diego (SAN) and Baltimore (BWI), Boston (BOS), Newark (EWR), or Orlando (MCO)
  • San Francisco (SFO) and Baltimore (BWI), Boston (BOS), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), Orlando (MCO), Philadelphia (PHL), Raleigh (RDU), Washington-Dulles (IAD), or Washington-Reagan (DCA)
  • San Jose (SJC) and New York (JFK) or Newark (EWR)

Eligible on East Coast departures between:

  • New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), or San Jose (SJC)
    Newark (EWR) and Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), or San Jose (SJC)
  • Baltimore (BWI) and Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Boston (BOS) and Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Orlando (MCO) and San Diego (SAN) or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Philadelphia (PHL) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Raleigh (RDU) and San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington-Dulles (IAD) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington-Reagan (DCA) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO)

This is a great deal. The Points Guy currently values Alaska Airlines miles at 1.8 cents per mile and since Alaska awards miles for distance flown, for a round-trip flight from SFO to JFK, you would typically earn 5,160 Mileage Plan miles. However, with this promotion, you would earn 10,320 Mileage Plan miles, valued at $185.76.

An easy way to make $20 and earn 3.5-12+% cashback for travel and other purchases

TopCashBack has become my new favorite website, and has already saved me over $163.19 in the last day alone.

Basically, the site has affiliate partnerships with hundreds of businesses (including Hotels.com, Hilton, Marriott, Amazon, and eBay) and gives the money they make from affiliate sales to you (TopCashBack instead makes money through advertisements).

Though the actual cashback amounts will change based on affiliate deals, this is what the website current looks like (featuring only a few of the many deals):

TopCashBack

I was able to get 12% cashback on a laptop purchased and 8% cashback for a hotel stay booked through Hotels.com (using the link provided by TopCashBack). All purchases posted to my account within a few hours (although payment takes 5-14 weeks, at least with the purchases I’ve made).

TopCashBack1.jpg

This is worth signing up for on its own. But to sweeten the deal, TopCashBack is offering new users $20 for signing up for an account before 2am on March 17, 2019 (which is paid after you earns $10 in cashback). This is an incredible promotion, even for people who don’t travel much, since you can earn cashback from places like Amazon, Banana Republic, eBay, and more.

To get this promotion, you need the referral link of a current user (note that I’ll be compensated $10 for each signup). You can signup using this link:

 SIGN UP FOR TOPCASHBACK

How I scored 4 nights in an overwater bungalow at a 5-star resort in Tahiti for $319.87 total (including airfare)

It’s not enough that I travel to cool places — I need to get a great deal going there.

Growing up, I was obsessed with finding travel deals. As a kid, I would hang out at the local travel agency and read up on foreign destinations. I would also study the Sunday travel section and insist to my parents that we needed to go places when the airfare was obviously on sale (spoiler alert: they never gave in).

To quench my thirst for travel, for my 10th birthday, my parents got me a subscription to Condé Nast Traveler. While it took almost 15 years from that point for me to get a passport, reading the magazine gave me a ton of travel goals — and staying an overwater bungalow was always near the top.

Finally, after capitalizing on some amazing deals, in a few weeks I’ll be able to make that dream come true in Moorea, French Polynesia. While you can sometimes spend over $10,000 for a trip like this (including air and hotel), using a number of travel hacks, I was able to score the room and plane ticket for $319.87.

Airfare

Thanks to discount-carrier French Bee offering cheap, direct service between SFO and Tahiti (airport code: PPT), United has joined suit in offering the same direct flight at competitive prices.

The round-trip airfare for the flight was $618.57, but I used 49,665 Chase points which were obtained through a credit card sign-up to book it. This resulted in a total cost of $0 for the flights.

Total price paid so far: $0.

Hotel

After discovering a way to book Hilton hotels at 25% off, I decided to look into the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa, a beautiful property located a short boat ride away from the main airline in Tahiti. Using the tricks in the previous link, I was able to find a cheaper fare than what was listed on the Hilton.com website, which qualified me for the 25% discount. While the room would normally go for ~$600/night before taxes, I was able to score a room for $359/night before taxes. With taxes, this came out to a total of $1,454.29 for 4 nights, which is already a steal for this type of room.

But I wasn’t done yet — I’m far too cheap to spend that on a vacation myself (and, plus, what’s the fun in going to Tahiti alone?). So, I messaged a friend who previously joined me on another killer deal I got (that time, to the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne) to see if he’d be interested. Luckily, he was.

This cut my total price paid to $727.14. But it gets better.

Because of my Hilton business credit card, I have Gold status which means that for each dollar that I spent at a Hilton property, I get 18 points for every dollar that I spent at a Hilton property. Additionally, if I make the purchase on my Hilton business card, I receive an additional 12 points for every dollar spent at Hilton property. Because of this, I’ll receive 43,628 points for my stay (at a valuation of $0.006 per point, this comes out to $261.77 worth of points). Since Hilton points are pretty much redeemable at face-value (meaning that your redemption will almost always be at the $0.006/point rate, similar to Delta with their points being pegged at $0.01/point), this brought my total down to $465.37.

But it gets even better.

Hilton recently ran a promotion where for bookings between January 4, 2019 and May 5, 2019, you’ll receive an extra 2,000 points for each stay, which is a $12 value. Additionally, Hilton will be doing repairs on the pool during my stay and will be $66.75 property credit each day during that time, which comes out to $267 (but, for purposes of my calculations, I’m cutting that in half to $133.50, since I’ll be splitting the credit with my friend). I was aware of the pool closure when I booked and didn’t really care, since I plan on swimming in the ocean anyway.

Deducting the bonus points and resort credit, my total for the stay, including air and hotel, came out to a whopping $319.87.

Conclusion

This may be the best travel deal that I’ve ever snagged. While Moorea certainly won’t be cheap, as a Hilton Gold member I’ll get free breakfast (it’s actually served directly to my bungalow by a staff member in a boat!) and can use the resort credit towards a meal. So, I’m taking this concept of balling on a budget to a new level and can’t wait.

New York Trip Deal (Business Class): $1,400 direct, round-trip from New York to Paris, France on La Compagnie

La Compagnie is a French, all-business class airline that offers direct flights between Newark Liberty (EWR) and Paris (ORY). The airline flights a  Boeing 757 aircraft that are equipped with with 74 business class seats that convert to angled flat beds.

La Compagnie is offering an amazing deal — $1,400 round-trip between EWR to Paris with open availability between January and April.

Sample travel dates include:

  • January 14-23
  • February 12-22
  • March 21-30
  • April 4-12
  • And many more

To support Josh Trips, search for travel on Google Flights and book using this link:

BOOK THIS FLIGHT