Priority Pass eliminating non-lounge experiences for AmEx cardholders

Effective August 1, 2019, American Express cardholders who have Priority Pass memberships through their credit cards will no longer have access to non-lounge experiences, including discounts on dining at select airport restaurants.

This is a bit of a bummer, as I have Priority Pass memberships through both my AmEx Hilton Ascend and Hilton business cards. But good news if you have Priority Pass through your Chase Reserve — currently, there are no plans to cut back on non-lounge experiences for those members.

Have you used Priority Pass for a non-lounge experience? Let me know in the comments!

Should you travel to new places or go back to old favorites?

I often say that the problems I have now are the best problems I’ve ever had.

One of these “problems” is deciding between traveling to new, exciting locales or going back to locations that I already know that I love. Even as a remote-working digital nomad, my travel time is limited and precious to me.

My dream, and one of the reasons I travel so much, is to see as much of the world as I can. Travel has given me a great amount of perspective and really shaped my worldview, and I think I will also want to visit new places.

But that said, having been to 49 countries and most states already, there are so many places that I’ve loved and want to revisit (in fact, as I write this, I am on a flight to Maui, having just stayed there – at the same exact hotel – 4 months ago).

As a remote worker, it’s almost always easier to go to a location that I’ve been before, especially if I stay at the same hotel/Airbnb – I already know that there’s reliable WiFi, where to go nearby for quick meals, and will sometimes already have friends in those locations. This is one reason that I keep going back to Medellín and Puerto Vallarta, where I already have work routines in place.

Also, when my friends ask me to travel, just given all the places that I’ve been, it’s often to locations that are old hat to me. When that happens, I’ll usually look past the fact that I’ve been somewhere because the experience of going places with friends is usually worth the repeat in travel.

And just because I’ve been somewhere doesn’t mean that I’ve experienced it all. The third time I was in Medellín, for example, I took a tour that took me to some stunning places 2-3 hours outside of the city. Sure, I didn’t get to mark off a new country, but that trip was unforgettable.

So, for me, it’s a delicate balance and I usually try to split my travel 50/50 between places I’ve been and places that I want to go. Of course, when I was newer to travel, I was purely focused on new places, which I think makes a lot of sense if you’re just getting started – it’s very hard to tell what you’d like and what you wouldn’t if you only have a small sample size.

Do you prefer going to places you’ve been or to new destinations? 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.

SFO moving all Uber, Lyft pickups to central parking lot for domestic flights

If you’ve been to SFO recently, you may have experienced chaos while waiting for your ride-share vehicle to pick you up. In recent months, SFO has taken some steps to ease this problem, having moved UberPools and Lyft Line pickups to a central parking lot, which has helped a bit.

But today, SFO announced that beginning June 3, 2019, it will relocate all domestic terminal pickups for Uber, Lyft, and other ride-share companies to the top level of the domestic hourly parking garage.

This will make taking a ride-share more difficult for travelers flying domestically, though the good new is that international travelers will still be able to have Uber or Lyft pick them up curbside.

My strategy for maximizing Hilton Honors points and free award nights

If you read my blog often enough, you’ll know that I’m a recent convert to the Hilton-portfolio brand of hotels. After signing up for a Hilton American Express business credit card which gave me complimentary gold status, and after a few bed Airbnb experiences, I decided to give Hilton a try.

As a remote worker, I was generally opposed to hotels. My main concern was lack of a kitchen — when I’m traveling, I like to cook my own breakfast because it can often take an hour or two to find a place and get served in a new city (plus, I’m pretty cheap when it comes to food, as I would rather spend that money on travel). However, Hilton since gold status comes with free breakfast, this made me less anxious about switching over.

By staying at Hilton properties more and also with credit card bonuses, I’ve managed to rack up a lot of points and a free weekend night (about to hit my second one!).

While there is some controversy around their actual value, Hilton points are valued at ~0.6 cents per point. That said, with my strategy below, I’ve been able to redeem them for as much as 2 cents per point using some of the strategies below.

For the free weekend night, it’s given as a yearly bonus to certain credit card holders (with the Aspire card), and for those with the business card, you can get this after spending $15,000 in a calendar year (if you spend $40,000, you get 2). This can be used on a standard room and can net you a value of over $750, if used correctly.

How to maximize the value of your Hilton points

1) Get a credit card with complimentary Hilton status

If possible, you should sign up for a Hilton credit card that comes with complimentary status — this includes the Hilton American Express business card or the Hilton Aspire card. The main reason for doing this is that elite members receive their 5th award night free (meaning you’ll only need to pay 4 award nights for a 5 night stay).

Which leads me to my second strategy…

2) Wait until you have enough points to book 4 nights (so you can get your 5th night free)

Rather than redeeming points for a night or two at a hotel, if you do obtain Hilton status, you’re better off waiting until you have enough points (and time) to book 4 nights somewhere so that you can get the 5th one for free. The great thing about Hilton Honors is that it’s very easy to earn a lot of points very quickly, and the credit card bonus sign-ups are very nice right now (some are in the 125,000-150,000). A night at a top property is 95,000 miles (more on that below).

Hilton also regularly has sales on points where they give you a 100% point bonus on anything purchased, which can help you get your balance to where it needs to be. This trick can save you as much as 120,000 points for a standard room.

3) Use points at luxury properties

The best way to maximize your points (aside from staying for 5 nights), is to use them for standard rooms at usually pricey properties. This includes the following hotels:

  • Conrad Maldives
  • The Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort
  • Conrad Tokyo
  • Waldorf Astoria Maldives
  • Conrad Koh Samui
  • Conrad Bora Bora

A standard room at most of these hotels will be 95,000 points, which means you’ll need 360,000 points to get the best redemption.

How to maximize the value of your Hilton free weekend night

If you have the Hilton Aspire card, or if you have the Hilton Business or another card that entitles you to a free weekend night after a certain spend threshold, you should strategy 3 above to maximize your points (i.e., trying to stay at luxury properties).

Keep in mind that the free weekend night only applies to standard rooms, and some hotels don’t have any so-called “standard” rooms (here’s a list of excluded properties– but, luckily, all of the above are not excluded).

So far, my redemptions have been for the Grand Wailea and the Conrad Maldives. I wrote about the Grand Wailea here and am definitely excited to check out the Conrad Maldives later this year!

What’s your favorite way to use Hilton points and free award nights? Let me know in the comments.

Is it worth upgrading to business class on United’s direct flight between San Francisco and Tahiti?


As a member, you now get better savings when you book direct.

United recently started direct service between San Francisco, California and Tahiti, French Polynesia (airport code: PPT).

Earlier this month, I took advantage of the flight, and was able to snag an incredible deal for both flight and 4 nights in an over-water bungalow.

I was able to fly economy over and business back, so wanted to share my experiences in case you’re considering taking the same flight, and don’t know whether the upgrade to business class is worth it. (Unfortunately, I lost some of the pictures I took, so you’ll have to rely on my account below!).

The verdict: It depends.

As a lawyer, “it depends” or “maybe” is perhaps my favorite response to any question. But it’s especially true here.

Economy service, particularly is you are in Economy Plus, is decent. The flight is roughly 8 hours each way, which can be difficult for a business class flight — practically speaking, it meant that after dinner service, there was about 3.5 hours to sleep before breakfast service started. While United offers you the opportunity to skip breakfast (you can tell them before you fall asleep), I’ve found that even with an eye mask and ear plus, I can’t sleep through the smell of cooked food.

On the flight over, you’ll leave SFO in the early afternoon and arrive in PPT at around 8pm, which means that you’ll be sleeping soon after you land, anyway. I did this leg in economy, and am glad I did.

On the way back, you’ll leave at night and land in SFO early in the morning, which means you may benefit more from a bed (particularly if you want to go into work the next morning).

I was a little nervous about the 2-2-2 business setup on the business flight, but the new Polaris seats were really comfortable, and I love the Saks Fifth Avenue products. While I haven’t confirmed this, I think the new SFO to PPT route is pretty coveted and that the flight attendants working it were assigned to the routes based on seniority, so you can expect some pretty great service on the flight.

If your only (reasonable) option for flying to Tahiti is on economy, don’t let that deter you. But if you have the means or found a great deal in business, it’s definitely a nice way to treat yo’ self.

How to save 25% on almost every Hilton booking

If you’re paying full price for a room in the Hilton portfolio (which includes Waldorf Astoria and Conrad), you’re likely paying too much.

That’s because Hilton has a Price Match Guarantee: if you can find the same room for a lower price than what is listed on Hilton.com, Hilton will not only match the lower price, but will beat it by 25%.

The way it used to work was that you’d first need to book the hotel, and then you’d need to send Hilton proof of the lower-price offering. From there, Hilton would review the proof you submitted and then send you its determination as to whether you qualified for the discounted rate. Because you’d often need to book a non-refundable hotel room first, this system wasn’t ideal.

But earlier this year, Hilton began allowing customers to call in advance and get approval on the spot before booking the hotel room. Since discovering this, I’ve booked a number of Hilton stays (and have looked into dozens more) and have almost always found a room that’s cheaper than Hilton.com.

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to get a your hotel room for 25% off:

Step 1: Go to TripAdvisor.com and look up the Hilton property you’d like to stay at

Most people know that TripAdvisor is a great site for looking up hotel reviews, but it now also wants to be the website you use to book your stay. When looking up hotels on TripAdvisor, you’ll see a list of almost a dozen websites (sometimes all at different prices), and the list almost always will include the price you’d pay at Hilton.com.

Step 2: Find a room that has a lower price than what’s listed for Hilton.com

Remember: all it takes is one website where the price is lower than what’s listed on Hilton.com.

Usually, you’ll find that almost every price will match what’s on Hilton.com, but in my experience the last few months, there’s usually one or two random sites listed through TripAdvisor that have a lower price.

Note that the room you book needs to be the exact same as the room you’d be booking through Hilton.com (as an example, if the lower price you find is for a room with a king bed and the only price listed on Hilton.com is for a twin bed, you wouldn’t be able to qualify for this promotion).

Step 3: Call Hilton and ask for the price match + 25% discount

This step is the hardest — you’ll need to call Hilton at 1-800-445-8667, tell them that you’d like to book a room, and that you’ve found a lower price listed on another site.

My impression is that Hilton doesn’t like giving this discount out, so they take around 30-45 minutes to check the website, get internal approval, and offer you a lower rate, which you need to book right then, on the call.

Also, I’ve had a Hilton representative deny my lower fare + 25% off claim, only to call back and have it approved, so be ready to put in some leg work here.

Step 4: Book and get ready for you trip!

Have you used the Hilton Price Match Guarantee? Let me know in the comments.