Thursday, February 23, 2012

Virgin America: 20% off Flights Through Feb 19 or April 15 - June 15 with Visa Card

Virgin America is offering 20% off Your Next Flight with your Visa Card when you follow the instructions below. Thanks lucyl
Note: Travel must occur between now and Feb 29 or April 15 - June 15. Blackout dates are Feb 17, Feb 20, May 25, and May 28. Please refer to Terms & Conditions for more information
  1. Click here
  2. Fill in the form and click on "Get Your Code"
  3. You will receive your 20% off code in email
  4. Click here and enter the details of your trip.
  5. Apply your promo code above, click the "Search" button, and use any Visa card for payment.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

When Airlines screw up & how to benefit from it!

Everyone traveling by airplane has experienced at least 1 screw-up by an airline at some point. Whether it be the lost, delayed or damaged luggage, non-working seat/audio/video or simply landing in a completely different destination than planned. Sure it's frustrating and traveling would be a much smoother cruise without these occasional turbulences.

Nevertheless, these unfortunate events can end up paying for your next trip or at least for a new wardrobe. :)
I won't go into too much detail concerning lost/delayed or damaged luggage since most travelers are aware of the particular rules in place. Obviously, when the luggage is damaged,delayed or lost, travelers will head to the baggage claim office of the offending airline - there you will be informed of your options:


If your suitcase arrives smashed or torn, the airline will usually pay for repairs. In recent years, damage has gotten a new meaning at many airlines - ripped off wheels or zippers are usual wear & tear and may not actually be fixed by the airline. Puncture holes and large rips (away from the seams!!!) are normally handled right away and you walk out of the baggage office with a new luggage. If it can't be fixed, they will negotiate a settlement to pay you its depreciated value and don't expect a major payoff for this. The same holds true for belongings packed inside. Obviously it is extremely unwise to travel with fine crystal or other delicate objects, however you still need to complain and negotiate. If you don't ask, you won't get anything. Remember that flying with Airline partners means that you need to complain in their offices at the baggage claim (e.g. flight booked on but flying Austrian Airlines to Vienna - claim any damage at the Austrian Airlines counter at the Vienna Airport). We have found that international partner carriers are much more helpful and even exchange your bag for high-quality brands (Samsonite, Delsey) compared to US carriers (cheap Made in China bags which are likely to be damaged again sooner rather than later). So, be aware of your choice of claim location!

If your bags don't come off the conveyor belt, report this to the airline before you leave the airport. Insist that they fill out a form and give you a copy, even if they say the bag will be in on the next flight. If the form doesn't contain the name of the person who filled it out, ask for it. Get an appropriate phone number for following up (not the Reservations number). Don't assume that the airline will deliver the bag without charge when it is found; ask them about this. Most carriers set guidelines for their airport employees that allow them to disburse some money at the airport for emergency purchases. The amount depends on whether or not you're away from home and how long it takes to track down your bags and return them to you. If the airline does not provide you a cash advance, it may still reimburse you later for the purchase of necessities. Of course one man's necessities are another man's luxury items so you better ask what purchases will be most likely to be reimbursed, plus KEEP THE RECEIPTS! At a minimum you will score some brand new underwear. You could claim that you need a suit since you have a business meeting that evening - go shop, at a minimum they will need to reimburse you for part of the value.

If you can't resolve the claim with the airline's airport staff, keep a record of the names of the employees with whom you dealt, and hold on to all travel documents (always a good idea!) and receipts for any money you spent in connection with the mishandling. (It's okay to surrender your baggage claim tags to the airline when you fill out a form at the airport, as long as you get a copy of the form and it notes that you gave up the tags.) Call or write the airline's consumer office when you get home. It might take some time to resolve something like this but it's well worth the effort in the end, especially since you might end up with a nice, free addition to your wardrobe.


Once your bag is declared officially lost, you will have to submit a claim. This usually means you have to fill out a second, more detailed form. Check on this; failure to complete the second form when required could delay your claim. Missing the deadline for filing it could invalidate your claim altogether. The airline will usually refer your claim form to a central office, and the negotiations between you and the airline will begin. If your flight was a connection involving two carriers, the final carrier is normally the one responsible for processing your claim even if it appears that the first airline lost the bag. Airlines don't automatically pay the full amount of every claim they receive. First, they will use the information on your form to estimate the value of your lost belongings. Like insurance companies, airlines consider the depreciated value of your possessions, not their original price or the replacement costs. Don't go claiming Versace or Gucci items excessively because Airlines will smell that kind of fraud from miles away.
They often ask for sales receipts and other documentation to back up claims, especially if a large amount of money is involved. If you don't keep extensive records, you can expect to dicker with the airline over the value of your goods. Generally, it takes an airline anywhere from six weeks to three months to pay you for your lost luggage. When they tender a settlement, they may offer you the option of free tickets on future flights in a higher amount than the cash payment. Ask about all restrictions on these tickets, such as "blackout" periods and how far before departure you are permitted to make a reservation.

This leads us to the much more lucrative area of Airline screw-up benefits:

Courtesy/Appreciation Rewards/eCertificates = FREE MONEY

On our recent outing to Buenos Aires - we landed in Rio due to a "volcanic ash cloud" in Argentinean air space. This detour cost us 1 1/2 days in B.A. but on the upside we got free lodging and a free ride through the Brazilian countryside and into the mountains east of Rio. Obviously we would have preferred to stay in downtown Rio but oh well, it was better than sleeping in the lounge, which most other passengers had to do since they didn't have a Brazilian Visa or foreign passports like us.

Now, quite unexpected at our arrival in Buenos Aires - Nadia and I were each handed an eCertificate worth $400 for future travel with United Airlines. We thought that was more than great since the delay did not mess up our itineary too much and $400 could come in quite handy down the road.
Of course, one has to read the fine print VERY carefully. The eCertificate is only valid for travel in the continental US (plus Puerto Rico/US Virgin Islands) & Canada and only on United/Continental flights. Now, coming from a major United hub (San Francisco) we knew we would be able to easily use these certificates. Others may have a bit more trouble of course. In addition, the eCertificate was valid for 1 year since issue so from Nov 2011 to Nov 2012. That kinda forced our hands to plan quickly.

Now, do you only get these eCertificates if you end up in the wrong South American city? The answer is NO! You can get these for a whole host of issues with your flight. The most frequent perhaps may be the non-working audio in your seat, or your personal video screen being broken.  A LOT of people do not complain about this to the flight attendants, especially on short flights, thus, the damage goes unnoticed by the airline for quite some time. If you complain about the video/audio and they are unable to fix it (sometimes rebooting the whole plane, just so you can watch an old TV rerun) they SHOULD give you a eCertificate for the missing entertainment value. You paid good money for your seat and flight, which includes the entertainment as well. The eCertificate or little appreciation card you get varies widely in value. Maybe it's $50, perhaps $200 on long-haul flights. Either way, COMPLAIN to the flight attendant, if she brushes you off, ask for her supervisor (Chief Purser, Inflight Service Manager, Cabin Service Manager, etc...) and take it up with him/her. They should give you something for your troubles. I would suggest having this conversation in the galley instead of in your seat - makes for a better, even negotiation environment.

I have been guilty myself of not complaining about video/audio problems on short flights but that was because I was ignorant about these eCertificates & appreciation $s. With airlines charging fees for practically everything right now, it's time for consumers to expect a perfect product & service starting with getting your undamaged luggage at the end of a flight, arriving at the correct destination and being able to enjoy the audio/video entertainment.

So on your next flight remember to keep all this in mind. You will benefit from the knowledge that you are entitled to compensation for a multitude of possible airline screw-ups. ASK of it and you MAY receive. Nothing is for sure but the pay-offs can be quite nice & rewarding.


Quebec City
As for us - we used our $400 certificates to purchase 2 tickets to Burlington, VT, normally $477 each, for a total of $154 ($77 each). Not bad at all. It was between that trip or Alaska but we decided we need a lot more time for Alaska to take in the many sites and natural wonders up there.
We will rent a car and head straight for Montreal and then Quebec City. Bonjour Quebec! With plenty of hotel points in our accounts from recent lucrative sign-up bonuses (Marriott 70000pts after first use for example) we will be staying for free in downtown Montreal & Quebec City as well. Thus, thanks to United's decision to chicken out and land in Rio instead (we are being fair, other airlines like Lufthansa, Air France, American Airlines, etc...landed AFTER our estimated arrival time in Buenos Aires) we are able to experience French Canada in the height of summer for practically free! Merci United!!

Airline eCertificates are a steal !!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

From the Pointsguy: Do you have to have a business to get a business credit card??

This is a great write-up about the one thing everyone always asks us about - how come we got so many miles from business credit card sign-up bonuses when we don't have any business. Our "Consulting" services have been in "business" for a long time now and we thought the write-up below (Pointsguy) is a great way to explain this phenomenon! Enjoy!
“Do you have to have a ‘business’ to qualify for a business credit card?”
Technically, yes. However, each credit card company has a different threshold for what information they require for someone to get a business card. Most are very flexible, but Citi is generally the hardest – when I got the American Airlines Business card, I had to provide proof of my business, including government EIN and business checking account information (which I luckily had as a small business owner).
Many small businesses start out as simple DBAs (Doing Business As) which simply denotes a business name used by a person or entity that is different from the person’s or entity’s true name. So if you start a small Ebay business and want to keep those finances separate from your personal expenses, it would be conceivable that you’d want a business credit card. In this case, you can just provide your social security number when asked for EIN and usually that suffices.
You should understand that you will get a hard inquiry on your personal credit score when you get a business card because most business credit lines are personally guaranteed. However, once approved they will sit on your business credit report, which is separate from your personal, so utilization and other factors shouldn’t affect your personal credit score. Business credit cards are also different from personal in that the purchase protection and insurance is generally less generous than with personal cards.

There are many lucrative business credit card offers and you can usually get one personal and one business card per credit card company. For example, several TPG readers have gotten approved for both the 50,000 point Sapphire Preferred and 50,000 point Ink Bold cards on the same day. 100,000 Ultimate rewards points, if transferred smartly, can get you a roundtrip business class trip from US to Europe on United, $1,666 in Southwest flights or even up to 22 one-way short-haul American Airlines flights with British Airways Avios points. When applying for both a personal and business card on the same day, make sure you can meet the spend requirements of both cards, which in the case of the Sapphire Preferred/Ink Bold combo, you’d be looking at $8,000 within 3 months. Both annual fees are waived for the first year.

Some of the top business card deals:
50,000 points for the Chase Ink Bold after $5,000 in spend within the first 3 months. $95 annual fee, waived for the first year.
50,000 points for the Chase Southwest Business card after first use. $99 annual fee.
50,000 miles for the Citi AAdvantage Business card after first use. $75 annual fee, waived for the first year.
30,000 miles for the American Express Delta Business Gold card after first use.
25,000 points for the American Express Business Platinum after $5,000 in spend within first 3 months. $450 annual fee.
25,000 points for the American Express Starwood business card after $5,000 in spend within 6 months. $65 annual fee, waived for the first year.
25,000 points for the Chase Ink Cash after $5,000 in spend within 3 months. No annual fee. They can’t be transferred to Ultimate Rewards airline/hotel partners, but can be used on any airfare
25,000 miles for the Barclay’s US Airways business card after first use. Plus up to 10,000 additional miles for balance transfers. $75 annual fee.