Thursday, August 18, 2011

Current Mileage/Point Status

It's always nice to have a general accounting of mileage/point balances. I used for all my miles/points tracking and highly recommend it!


American - 87K
British Airways - 120K
Continental - 48K
Delta - 17K
Hawaiian - 122K
LAN - 27K

United - 121K
US Airways - 35K
Virgin America - 6K

Hilton - 40K
Starwood - 41K
Holiday Inn - 60K
Radisson - 53K

Obviously I will need to boost both my Delta and Virgina America accounts in the next few months. I am comfortable with both the AA and United situation and especially happy about my Hawaiian account balance - all courtesy of repeated sign-up bonus gravy from BofA and Bank of Hawaii Visa cards.
Hotel points could be better but 41K Starwood points will pay for a lot of cash+point hotels in the future.
Radisson 53K was all the points we earned during our stay in the Bahamas. We will probably use it in Europe since the awards in the US are heavily overvalued.


American - 6K
British Airways - 109K
Continental - 24K
Delta - 51K
Hawaiian - 47K
United - 36K

Virgin America - 2K

Hilton - 61K
Starwood - 2K
Holiday Inn - 21K

It is obvious that Nadia is not as active as me in the mileage/point collecting through credit card sign up bonuses. However, she has a healthy account balance in both Delta and Hilton accounts and decent balances in the major airlines. We just signed her up for two personal Citi AA cards which should give her a total of 150K miles after minimum spend requirements are fulfilled.

All in all, not bad and we are still young so the collecting will continue unabated. Once I have established a continuous level of 100K+ in most of the current airline accounts we will start adding more airlines to the mix.

Starwood Preferred Guest - Cash and Points - A Guide

From FrugalTravelguy - Rookie Shannon
This is the best write-up about the excellent Starwood Cash&Points program I have seen and we have been a continuous user of this, especially in Europe, where top-notch hotels can be reserved for as little as $60/night and a few thousand SPG points. It's a very nice deal. 

Shannon (
A great way to maximize SPG points and save big on hotel rooms is to utilize SPG's cash-and-points offer. They allow you to redeem hotel nights using a combination of Starpoints and cash, which in many cases, turns out to be a pretty good value.

Cash and Points Guide: This is just a "guide" they provide and it is not all-inclusive. You must search for your destination and dates individually to confirm availability and to see if the deals really work out for you. Blackout dates do apply to some cash and points redemptions. The hotel list offers only a few examples since there are many, many more hotels in each category. I just wanted to give you a general idea of the hotels that fall under each category.

Note to all: "Guest will not receive Starpoints or airline miles for their reservations; therefore, a Cash and Points stay does not qualify as an eligible stay toward earning elite level or toward any promotions requiring nights or stays." (Taken directly from

Category 1 Hotels (offer valid for Asia Pacific, U.S., and Canadian hotels only) -- 1200 Starpoints + $25 per night

Hotel Examples:

 Four Points by Sheraton: Lexington KY , Detroit Metro MI, Charlotte NC, Pittsburgh Airport PA, Manasses Battlefield VA

Category 2 Hotels (offer valid for Asia pacific,U.S. and Canadian hotels only) -- 1600 Starpoints + $30 per night. 

Hotel Examples:

Four Points by Sheraton -  Sacramento Int. Airport CA, Ventura Harbor Resort CA, Cocoa Beach FLA, Orlando Studio City FLA, Boston Logan Airport MASS, Niagara Falls NY, Portland East OR, Houston Airport.

Aloft: Phoenix Airport, Ontario-Rancho Cucamonga CA, Baltimore-Washington Intl Airport, Chapel Hill NC, Chesapeake VA, Green Bay WI

Westin: Dallas Fort-Worth Airport TX, Atlanta Airport GA

Category 3 Hotels -- 2800 Starpoints + $45

Hotel Examples:

Sheraton: Brussels Belgium, Zagreb Croatia, Frankfurt and Munich Germany, Athlone Ireland, Bari, Florence, Catania, Malpensa, Padova and Rome Italy, Warsaw Poland, Canary Islands Spain.

Westin: Zagreb Croatia.

Le Meridien: St Julians Hotel and Spa Malta (great for me to find out as my grandparents are from Malta and I still have a ton of family there!), Dresden Germany.

Value of Points Example: Rome Italy, Category 3, Check in 10/17/2011. Check Out 10/21/2011. Cash-and-Points was available for the Sheraton Roma Hotel and Conference Center at 2800 Starpoints + $45 U.S. Dollars. The standard rate was 252 EUROS per night, At our current exchange rate of 1.44 EUR to the US dollar, that's $362 per night! I think 2800 Starpoints and $45 US dollars is a much better deal. When you subtract the $45 per night from the $362 per night fee, it leaves you with $317. Divide that by the total number of Starpoints required per night -- in this case 2800 -- and each Starpoint is worth approx 11 cents. That is great when the purchasing value from SPG is around 2 cents per point. 

Category 4 -- 4000 Starpoints + $60.

Hotel Examples:

Westin: The Westin Grand, Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt Germany; Dublin Ireland; Dragonara Resort St. Julians Malta; Valencia Spain

Le Meridien:Vienna Austria, Brussels Belgium, Lav Split Croatia, Park Hotel Frankfurt Germany, Le Royal Hamburg Germany, Rimini Italy, Warsaw Poland, Penina Golf and Resort Portimao Portugal, Istambul Etiler Turkey (starting Nov. 14, 2011).

Sheraton: Four Points Milan Italy, Rhodes Greece, Lisboa Hotel and Spa Portugal, La Caleta Resort and Spa Costa Adeje Tenerife Canary Islands Spain, Stockholm Hotel Sweden.

Value of Points Example, Europe: I searched for a room in Brussels, Belgium, checking in on 5/16/2012 and checking out on 5/19/2012. Cash-and-Points was available for a Category 3 and Category 4 hotel. The Category 4 Sheraton Brussels Hotel deal was 4000 Starpoints and $60 dollars per night; 10,000 Starpoints or 199 Euros per night ($285.5 US). The exchange is as follows: Using 10000 Starpoints per night, each point would be valued at 0.028 of a dollar or about 3 cents. Using cash-and-points, subtracting the $60 US and dividing the remainder by the 4000 points used leaves each Starpoint at a value of 0.056 of a dollar or about 6 cents. The Category 3 available was the Four Points By Sheraton at 2800 Starpoints and $45 US per night; 7000 Starpoints or 135 Euros( $194.4 US) per night. Starpoints alone: The value would be 0.027 of a dollar or about 3 cents per point. Using cash-and-points as indicated above: The value of each Starpoint was 5 cents.

Category 5 -- 4800 Starpoints + $90

Hotel Examples:
Westin: Resort and Spa Whistler, British Columbia, Sydney Australia, Shanghai China, Sendai Japan, Costa Navarino Greece, Grand Cayman, Princeville Kauai, Kaanapali Maui, Times Square NYC.
Le Meridien: Le Parker Meridien Palm Springs CA, Tahiti French Polynesia, Limassol Cyprus, Nice and Paris France, Barcelona Spain.

Sheraton: Waikiki Honolulu Hawaii, Maui Resort and Spa, Koloa Kauai, Tribeca NYC, Queensland Australia, Hong Kong China, Grand Tokyo Bay Hotel Japan, Rio De Janiero Brazil, Milan Italy, Amsterdam Airport Netherlands.

Value of Points Example,  The Element New York Times Square West: Checking in on 3/6/12 and checking out on3/9/12, the standard room rate is $390 US dollars per night. Using 100% points, it was 12,000 points per night, each point valued at 3 cents. Using the cash-and-points option of 4800 Starpoints and $90 US, each Starpoint was valued at 0.62 of a dollar or 6 cents.

Category 6 -- 8000 Starpoints + $150 US per night.

Hotel Examples: 
Prince de Galles Paris France, Vedema Resort Santorini Greece, Hotel Danieli Venice Italy, Le Meridien Beach Plaza Monte Carlo Monoco, Le Meridien Picadilly London England.

Value of Points Example, The Hotel Grand in Bretagne Athens, Greece: Checking in on 2/1/2012 and checking out on 2/7/2012, the standard room rate was 245 Euros or $352.8 US per night. Using points alone, the redemption rate is 20,000 Starpoints per night valuing your points at 0.017 of a dollar or just under 2 cents each. Cash-and-points was 8000 Starpoints and $150 US per night, valuing your points at 0.025 of a dollar or 2.5 cents each.

As you can see, Cash and Points can be a great way to maximize the value of your Starpoints redemption. Category 3 and 4 hotels in Europe seem to offer the greatest value. Have fun planning your next vacation using Cash and Points!

Get in on the action by applying for a Starwood American Express Card
For a limited time you can get 30000 points (10K at first use, 20K after spending $4500 in 3 months)

Application Link HERE

500 Free Points for Accepting Text Messages From Priority Club

Via Points Addict, if you’re willing to accept Priority Club marketing messages via text there’s 500 free points for doing so. It’s a Visa promotion, you have to register a Visa card with your signup.

You Should Go to Grand Bahama if…..

We spent a wonderful week in Grand Bahama, at the Raddison Our Lucaya resort in the late spring. While we had a nice relaxing time, something that two itinerary wielding individuals usually don’t do, there are things that we would like to warn other travelers about. 

Grand Bahama is a sole destination for a small percentage of travelers, almost everyone else visits the island on a cruise. The combination of this along with the recent economic downturn means that Grand Bahama lacks some of the luxuries typically associated with a tropical hot spot. The small number of restaurants outside of the Lucaya Marketplace was further diminished by global economic woes in recent years. In addition, entertainment options are also scant. Unless you plan to visit some shops during very specific opening times in Freeport, the city itself has nothing to offer. We lucked out by visiting when the annual Junkanoo celebration (which historically took place only around Christmas time) was taking place  and this parade was in Freeport. Keep in mind that the International Market that many un-updated guidebooks write extensively about is nothing spectacular, and today largely features dodgy restaurants and a few shops.

With that in mind you may be asking yourself why go at all? The answer is that crowd-free, deserted beaches and poolsides are something extraordinary. Additionally, the value of relaxing in a place that isn’t crawling with screaming tourists and forceful souvenir peddling shopkeepers is simply unmatched. And while those who are foodies will find the options somewhat lacking, there is still plenty to eat without worrying about getting ill like in numerous other tropical destinations. So if you want to be wowed by white, powder sand, deserted beaches and simply hunger for simple relaxation with a book and drink then Grand Bahama is a brilliant choice. For Southerners and East Coast dwellers it is basically the same distance as Florida (Grand Bahama is the closest island to the Sunshine State). We returned from our 7 day vacation rested, refreshed and content. 

While there do checkout the dolphin experience, rent a car to explore beaches off the beaten path => drive east on the Great Bahama Highway, turn right on some of the small, little dirt roads leading to either "For Sale" abandoned beach front properties or direct beach access that only locals know about. We discovered multiple nice beaches that way, had them completely to ourselves and found a treasure trove of sea shells, which are now gracing our dining table. Also, take advantage of various boat excursions (including snorkeling, deserted island exploration etc).

Bahamas Trip Report - brought to you by Nadia

Raddisson our Lucaya Resort & Spa - Grand Bahama
A few weeks ago we returned from a very relaxing trip to Grand Bahama (stayed at Raddison our Lucaya). We had a great time, enjoyed fantastic weather and loved the soft, white sand beaches. Unfortunately, the Bahamas, and especially Grand Bahama, is undergoing a major economic downturn which takes a toll on what is offered to vacationers. The economic situation is a result of less tourists coming to the island and so unemployment is high. A large number of restaurants, stores and even hotels are closed. While the island is not in its prime, so to speak, I would still recommend going if you are looking for a truly relaxing time. The fact that there are so few people works out well for those who hate crowds or shiver at the thought of having to wake up early to get a place to sit by the pool. We greatly enjoyed the quiet atmosphere and overall beauty offered by the Caribbean. The situation in general left us less annoyed at the small number of places to eat or closed hotel facilities for example, and more feeling sorry for the people who live there and have to deal with the unpleasant circumstances. As a bottom line, if your expectations are not too high and you can get used to the laid back, island attitude about it all, Grand Bahama is still a great destination.

The hotel:

Raddison Our Lucaya was not all that we had hoped it would be. The service and attitude of hotel employees varied, from the unorganized at the front desk to more personal and sweet at restaurants, bars, towel shack and so on. Only one pool is open (and it is not the one with the Sugar Mill and cascading water), and most restaurants are closed, leaving the open ones to rotate opening days/times among. We stayed for 7 days and during that time only the weekends felt somewhat fuller, while during the week perhaps 5% of the rooms were filled. The food at the hotel (and at restaurants outside the Raddison) is also nothing to get too excited about. It is ok but certainly not a paradise for foodies. Diners with moderate expectations will also find that the food is unimaginative and simply blah, with a gem once in a while (try the Key Lime pie at Led Med). The hotel could also use a facelift as the rooms are clean but somewhat outdated. The grounds are nice but suffer from the lack of desperately needed money, cash that would allow for some extra sprucing up. The Lucaya Marketplace area where the Raddison sits is actually one of the best places to be. In the eastern part of the island you will find tiny vacation rentals that are truly secluded (as we found the one day we rented a car to explore). While the beaches there are nicer than the one outside the Radisson, there is nothing in terms of entertainment, decent dining options etc. If you really want something exceptionally low key, it would probably be a good place to check out for a few days. If you want some entertainment though and less seclusion, check into the Raddison.

Excursions/Things to do:

We really had a great time on the UNEXSO dolphin experience and on Pat and Diane’s Desert Island/Snorkeling Adventure (both highly recommended). Also if you can rent a car definitely go to the eastern part of the island. The deserted, calm-water beaches are stunning. Freeport, a short cab ride away from Lucaya Beach, also does not offer much. We went to the International Bazaar only to be really disappointed by the emptiness and mostly closed shops. On a different night we had the opportunity to take in Freeport again though when the 1st Annual Rush for Peace junkanoo parade took place. Junkanoo is a parade with costumes and music that takes places in the Bahamas (and a few other Caribbean islands) around Christmas time. Recently though Grand Bahama has started hosting one in June and since we were there we decided to take it in. It was fun to watch although took a LONG time to get started and was a bit unorganized.