Thursday, February 28, 2013

Giveaway Winners Announced!

Thank you to all who entered our giveaway to celebrate our six month blogversary! I used to pick three winners from the 21 who entered and the prizes are awarded in the order which the number was picked and the order they were listed online.

I should note that the first winner was originally an entry from "Cash Back Boy" who is actually JD's roommate and one my best friends. We call him "Cash Back Boy" because he doesn't like to travel (I know...) and he loves his cash back from Discover. Look for a few guest posts from him in the coming months about the value that he finds from his cash back cards as opposed to a points earning card. But since he's close to the blog and we like to tease him about his cash back problems he isn't eligible to win the prize.

The actual winners and their comments are below:

Two United Club Passes 

United Global First Amenity Kit: 

American Airlines First Class Amenity Kit

 If you are a winner, please e-mail me at and we will get your prize in the mail! Thank you all for entering, hope we can do another one of these soon.

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Want Premier Access On United? Just Chip In $9

In my usual Google Reader skim this morning I saw this post from Angelina at Just Another Points Traveler who linked to an NBC News article which states that United will start to offer access to Premier Access lines at security, Premier check-in and Priority baggage (though who knows how often that actually works) to non-elite fliers for $9 per segment.

United says they will limit the number of people on each flight that they offer this buy up to to keep Priority lines down, but as more and more airlines start to offer these packages you have to think that the ability to use the Priority line will no longer be worth it when every other passenger has Priority on their boarding pass.

What do you think? Would you pay the $9? Does it change the value of elite status?

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Look Back: Your and Our Favorite Posts

When we first started blogging back in August, we made a goal to make one post per day, for at least the first month. Now six months and 210 posts later, we are proud to say that in our blogs short life, 6 days went by without posts.

Today, we wanted to share your and our favorite past posts.

The top five posts by page views:

   1) Young People and the Chains of Credit Card Debt

   2) Great Article on Twitter in Posts/Miles

   3) Share a Journey: Win 1,000,000 miles

   4) Exit Hilton, Enter Club Carlson?

   5) Why I (Respectfully) Disagree That A AA/US Merger is All Bad For Frequent Flyers

Now our personal favorite past posts:

JD's two favorite posts:

      1)  How I Became Addicted to the points game.

      2)  Will Travel for College Football - Penn State. Be prepared for more football posts in 2013.

Chris's three favorite post:

      1) It's JD Fault (Someone keeps finding our blog with our search term and I love it)

      1) London Day Two

      2) Perfect Day in Seattle

As a reminder, don't forget to enter our contest (here) that ends tonight at 6pm.

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Have a question for us? E-mail us at or

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Giveaway Time!!!

It's our six month anniversary  so we thought it was the perfect time to have a giveaway!

Rules: Leave a comment (limit one per person) on this post with your favorite hotel anywhere in the world with your first name and initial. That's it, that's all you have to do.  We will accept entries until 6:00 pm Eastern Time tomorrow February 27, 2012. If you enter more than once will take you out of the running so only one comment per person. To determine the three winners we will use

Not a Rule But We Would Appreciate It: If you would consider following us on Twitter or Facebook and signing up for e-mail updages. No extra entries, but we would love to have you as a friend.

The Prizes: 

Prize 1: Two United Club Passes

Relax and unwind before your next flight with a drink and some snacks in the United Club. Kick on the laptop to get some work done with the free wi-fi and ample power outlets.

Prize 2: United First Class Amenity Kit

JD had a left over unopened amenity kit from his trip to Tokyo over the holidays. The kit has the usual toiletry items as well as skin products by philosophy. 

Prize Three: American Airlines First Class Amenity Kit

I absolutely love this amenity kit because it has uses outside of a flight and travel. This case was specifically designed and sized to fit a tablet and I use mine to carry my iPad around. JD had an extra one of these as well that has been unopened. So...if you are interested in the products or the case its self this prize is for you!

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Six Months and Counting

On our Memorial Day weekend trip last year, an idea was tossed around to start a points’ blog. It was the type of idea friends throw out over beers: let’s start a band, let’s open a bar, let’s start a blog. Normally, those ideas don’t go anywhere.

Our idea to start this blog was headed in the same direction until a dinner in July. JD brought up the idea of starting a blog again. We agreed that the blog would be about best practices of earning and spending points, but also a place to document our travels and exploits. We would write about the trips we take, but more importantly how we earned the miles to pay for the trip.

Now 6 months into this experiment, looking back we have had some success, some failures, but through it all fun has been had. Writing Do It For The Points has been one of the best experience. Not only have we been able to contribute to the community that has given us so much, but it has made us even closer friends.

When we started our little blog we wanted it to be a place that we could talk about our travels, pass along some tips and tricks and throw out crazy ideas we have. We've done most of that so far and we can't wait to do more of it in the future. 

At first we figured that just our moms and a few of our friends would read us, but we have been overwhelmed with all of the support and new readers. You guys and gals are the best and you make this little project so much more fun. We would like to thank our readers for your support.

In the meantime....if you are on Twitter and you don't follow us...come on over, we want to chat with you! We are also launching our new Facebook page today, so if you aren't on Twitter but still want to keep up with us and chat, give us a "like." We also have new e-mail addresses, so if you have any questions, want to meet up in DC or just want to say hi give us a shout! ( and Thank you again and we look for to more friends, more posts and more travel.

PS - Stay tuned for a big 6 month giveaway later this morning!

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E-mail us at or

Monday, February 25, 2013

Earning Hyatt Points While Not Staying at Hyatt

EDIT: Thanks to @Jamucsb for remembering that it was Gary from View From the Wing with the original post!

I love the blog community. Everyday, I seem to learn a new trick, a new policy or get inspired by a new destination. What I love even more is when a learned trick or policy turns into points in the bank?

Case in point: A while back some blogger (I don't remember who, so I apologize for not hat tip)  explained that one could earn Hyatt points for eating at one of their restaurants or getting spa treatments, even if you were not staying at the hotel.

On V-Day, my boss and I held a luncheon for a few of our real estate agents at the Blue Duck Tavern located at the Park Hyatt in Washington, DC. I had booked the event in early January and kind of forgot about it until I read this blogger's post about earning points at restaurants at Hyatts.

I immediately sent an email to my contact at the restaurant inquiring about earning points for the event. Her quick response was "of course you can, just send over your Hyatt Gold Passport number." The result was about 5,000 more points in the bank!

Hyatt FAQ page has a whole tab devoted to Earning and Redemption in Restaurants and Spas. The important ones are:


  How can I earn points for F&B and Spa when not staying at the hotel?

If member is a Hyatt Gold Passport (HGP) member and visit participating restaurants or spas, member will provide HGP account number to the Hyatt Associate at the outlet at time of payment to process the earned points (5 HGP points per $1USD) on eligible charges.


What is eligible for earning at restaurants and spas?

Eligible changes vary on a hotel-by-hotel basis, but generally include spa and salon services, spa and salon retail items, and food and beverage expenditures (except at outlets not operated by the hotel). Points will not be awarded on tips, service charges, taxes, gratuities and alcoholic beverage purchases in certain jurisdictions. (Alcohol excluded where prohibited by law). Other exclusions may apply.

Not all charges are eligible to receive points. On our bill, we did not receive points for alcoholic beverages, which were flowing, the tip, DC's outrageous 10% food tax or the parking for our guests and us.

To see which Hyatt hotel's restaurants and spas participate, go to this website.

The luncheon was a major success and the food made love in. It was AMAZING. Here is a peak at our menu, personally customized for the event:

If you have never been to the Blue Duck Tavern, you must go. The service is amazing, the kitchen is open and the food screams in your mouth. The Gold Passport Points are only the cherry on top of the homemade ice cream!

Thank you to whomever wrote about earning points at Hyatt Restaurants!!!!

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Got a Hotel Stay Coming Up? Double Check Your Rate!

Over the next two weekends I'm headed to Portland, OR twice, once for a guys weekend with JD and our friend Joe and the next weekend with Kelsey and my parents who will be driving down from Seattle. I'm really excited for both weekend trip and excited to explore Portland (read: eat doughnuts, drink beer and eat lots of food truck food).

For both weekend I have booked rooms at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower. My hope is that with Hilton HHonors Gold status we will get upgraded to their Executive Tower so we can have access to the Executive Lounge as well as breakfast for all of us over the two weekends.

When I first booked the rooms they were running at over $150 per night, which isn't horrible, but I'm always up for a deal. So over the past few weekends I have been checking back to see if rates had moved and was lucky enough last weekend to see that the rate had gone down for both weekends! For this upcoming weekend it went from around $150 to $113 per night (score!) and for the next weekend it went down to $130 (still not bad).

I know it's a simple bit of advice, but checking back to see if rates have changed is something that I often forget to do and one of the main reasons that I book a refundable rate. In the end if the rate goes down you have a cheaper hotel stay, if it doesn't you still have a room booked and won't face last minute rates. So...have any upcoming stays you need to go check now?

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Earn Points at the Airport

I love earning points, when I have to do little to nothing to get them. Swipe my credit cards (earn points!), dine out at certain restaurants (earn additional points!!), grab a bottle of water, magazine and snack at the airport (earn bonus points!!!).

How many of you know that you can earn points at major airports by registering your card?

Up until last year’s Grandslam, I didn’t.

There is a program called “Thanks Again,” that allows you to earn points by shopping at vendors located in major airports. Thanks You is very similar to Dining Rewards: one has to sign-up (free) with a points earning program and register your credit cards with that program. Unlike, dining rewards, you don’t have to complete surveys about your experience.

Thanks You currently has programs with US Airways, United, American Airlines, Delta. Again, you can only earn miles with the program that you are registered with. Most vendors at the airports earn you 1 mile for $1 spent. However, every once and a while a vendor might offer 2 miles per $1 spent.

According to their website, Thanks Again has afflictions with over 150 airports. However, their "affiliation" is sometimes only a car service and/or an entertainment store as in the case of LAX, MCO, SAN. You can use this search engine to see what merchants participate at particular airports:

How can you tell if a merchant is participating? My experience, at Dulles (IAD), was that merchants had signs up indicating they were a member. The type of vendors participating was numerous: from sit-down restaurants to kiosks selling jewelry. According to their website, Dulles has only 3 vendors: CNBC, Brooks Brothers and DC Express. However, my points earning statement says I have earned points (in the past month) from Gordon Biersch and Subway, so the search engaging might not be updated.

In addition to earning points at airports, Thanks Again allows you to earn points at local (non-airport) vendors. Most of the local vendors ares restaurants and require you to buy gift certificates, earning you 3 points per $1 spent on the certificate. This is not a great rate, as the United Airlines shopping portal earns you 10 miles per $1 spent. Other local merchants include spas, storage units, and golf courses.  As I have previously mentioned, my former dry cleaners was apart of Thanks Again earning me 1 points per $1 spent.

Thanks Again has bonuses based upon the amount of money who spend in 90 consecutive days:

  • Earn 500 bonus miles/points when you spend $250 or more (2 miles/points per dollar spent)
  • Earn 1,500 bonus miles/points when you spend $500 or more (3 miles/points per dollar spent)
  • Earn 4,000 bonus miles/points when you spend $1,000 or more (4 miles/points per dollar spent)
  • Earn 25,000 bonus miles/points when you spend $5,000 or more (5 miles/points per dollar spent)

  • All it takes to earn points from Thanks Again is signing up and registering your credit cards.

    Will you earn a ton of points by joining "Thanks Again," probably not!

    Can you earn points for simplying registering your credit cards and using it at airports? Yes!

    Will you? I think it would be unwise not to!!!!


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    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Are You Ready For 90 - Minute Delays At the Airport?

    Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took to the White House briefing room today to urge Congress to reach a deal on the so called "sequester" (mandatory spending cuts that will go into effect on March 1st) and warned of its consequences.

    One of the biggest ones is the $600 million that will have to be trimmed from the budget and means less air traffic controllers and less TSA at the security check points. Over 100 air traffic control towers will be closed and 60 towers will lose their overnight shift. There will also be a one day per two week furlough for ALL FAA employees until September.

    Secretary LaHood said, "As a consequence of employee furloughs and prolonged equipment outages from lower parts inventories and fewer parts technicians, travelers should expect delays. Flight to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we will have fewer controllers on staff.

    We are aware that these service reductions will adversely affect commercial, corporate and general aviation operations. We also expect that as airlines estimate the potential impacts of these furloughs, they will change their schedule and cancel flights."

    The delays could start as early as April 1st and will continue until September. 

    The full letter from Secretary LaHood and FAA Commissioner  Michael Huerta to the airline industry is here

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    Some People Have Hobbies They Spend Money On...Mine Is Travel

    I've been thinking about money quite a bit over the past few weeks. As I mentioned previously, my travel budget has become my friend, my enemy and my escape all at once now that I have a nice monthly student loan bill due from college. I often have friends come up to me asking how I afford to travel so much and how we take all of our great trips and I explain the general idea behind miles and points. For some the light bulb kind of flicks on and for others they just brush it off.

    But what these conversations made me realize is that travel is my "hobby." It's my round of golf every weekend (though I still need to do that more often). It's my weekend out at the bar with friends. It's my stamp collection (do people still have stamp collections?). My point is...I realized that my priorities of where my money go and where my budget is directed is all about travel. What's fun for me is to take a weekend and spend it on a plane with an exciting destination at the other end. The journey can be taxing and long...but when I'm on that plane and I hear the engines roar up, I know that every penny I spent was worth it. Just like other that get a high when they hit the slopes for the first run of the day on new powder...that's me when I'm traveling.

    Everyone has their interests and the things that they like to do and you always hear people talking about how they would love to travel more but there are all of these obstacles in the way. I don't doubt that everyone has things that hold them back from traveling as much as they would really like to...but you can do it. I always look back at myself...I'm a 24 year old with a full time job in a field that I love. I have that 9-5, but I can still travel on the weekends. I stick to a $200 a month travel budget and chase a great fare to places that I want to go instead of locking in where I want to go and paying top dollar. I save up my miles and points by using strategic and smart spending on credit cards that get me to my travel goal, and I don't pay more than I would be with my debit card directly out of my bank account. In the year and a half that I've been playing the travel game my credit score is as high as it ever has been and I don't have credit card debt (unlike when I was in college). In that same time I've flown over 150,000 miles (tame for you junkies I know) with some of it in Business and First class...something I never would have expected. If you love travel and want to see the world don't put it off...take what you want, make a goal and figure out how to do it. Now to go spend the rest of the day dreaming of the next adventure, Happy Friday!

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    Thursday, February 21, 2013

    Why I am Sticking With Hilton

    As many of you have heard, Hilton made some major changes in their award redemption's structure. In essence, they create additional categories for their top level properties. If you have been under a rock, you can read Loyalty Lobby take here, Gary's (View from the Wing) here or The Points Guy's here.

    The typical reaction occurred: the community is up in arms. Those making the most noise are those who have been stashing away points for an aspiration trip. We are talking people with hundreds of thousands of Hilton Honor points.

    Would I be upset if I had those balances? Probably. Do I feel bad for those people? Not at all. Devaluation happens every year. At least one brand changes their point redemption chart and the community gets upset. That’s why I don’t stockpile points. I am sitting on about 100,000 US Airways miles and that is making me nervous, because they are the next travel company to make a change (That is not a prediction, but a promise).

    Many in the community have indicated that this change was the final straw. They are making their displeasure heard by talking with their money: spending it at other hotels. Chris mentioned yesterday that he is thinking of giving Club Carlson. I might be in the minority, but I am sticking with Hilton.


    Hilton has been very good to me. Ever since I obtained Gold Status with them, staying with them has been great. Hilton Gold Status is one of the best low level hotel status out there. With Hilton Gold, I get: 
    • Quick reservations and check-ins based on your preference
    • Late check-out (when available)
    • Express check-out
    • Spouse stays free
    • Complimentary access to fitness centers and health clubs (when they charge)
    • Two complimentary bottles of water per stay
    • eCheck-In: Select your room and check in online up to 24 hours in advance at participating properties
    • Complimentary In-Room, High-Speed Internet Access during stays
    • Complementary Breakfast
    • 25% bonus on points
    The free Internet and breakfast can save you tons of money. My most recent stay in Stamford, breakfast was the buffet in the restaurant. If I didn’t have status, I would have paid $19.99. I took two of buddies for breakfast, so I saved close to $60.00. Paying for Internet at hotels can be costly, upwards of $15 a day. Just with breakfast and Internet, my Gold status saves me money.

    On the other hand, Gold, low level status at Starwood, gets you
    • Three Starpoints for every eligible U.S. dollar spent
    • 4 p.m. late checkout (when available)
    • An enhanced room at check-in (when available)
    • Special elite customer service telephone line (available in most countries).
    • Your choice of a welcome gift with each stay. Choose from bonus Starpoints, complimentary in-room Internet access and a complimentary beverage.

     Platinum level, Hyatt’s low level status is:
    •  Preferred room including rooms on higher floors or larger rooms, (when available)
    •  Complimentary in-room Internet access
    •  Dedicated check-in area
    •  Extend your stay until 2:00 p.m.(when available)
    •  15% point bonus when choosing points
    To get Starwood Gold, one needs ten (10) stays or 25 nights. On the other hand, Platinum at Hyatt requires five (5) stays, 15 nights or getting the Chase Hyatt Card. Similar to Platinum at Hyatt, Gold at Hilton can be achieved with 30 stays, 60 nights, 120,000 base points of the Citi Hilton card.

    Platinum at Hyatt and Gold at Hilton can both be received by obtaining a credit card, but Gold at Hilton provides breakfast and possible access to executive floor lounges (ie upgrades). In Tokyo, the lounge provided me breakfast, afternoon tea and evening appetizers. Why was this important? In a foreign country, the ability to have a guaranteed place to eat was comforting.

    The guarantee with Hilton is quality. Hilton in the United States is the same as Hilton, all over the world. According to Hilton's website, the Hilton brand has over 3,900 hotels in 90 countries and 650,000 rooms, the most of any hotel chain. Compare that to Starwood being in 93 countries with only 1,000 hotels or Hyatt being found 46 countries with about 500 proprieties. As you can see, Hilton is in over half of the recognized countries of the world. You have a great chance that Hilton will have a hotel where you want to vacation. Other hotel brands can't say that.

    The reason why I am sticking with Hilton is their Gold status. I get so much for giving so little. I have Gold status through the end of the year. At that point, I will get the Citi Hilton card, which hopefully still offers me Gold Status. Guranteed breakfast and internet are great preks, savings my travel budget upwards of $30 a day.

    Yes, it will now cost more points to stay at certain hotels. It just means that we have to work harder in the "game." But the sweatness of those award rooms will be only better.

    If Hilton reduces the benfits to Gold status then I am ending our relationship. Until that time, I am sticking with Hilton.


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    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    March 1st Could Bring Travel Delays With Less Air Traffic Controlers and TSA Agents

    In what has become regular order here in Washington, D.C. a storm is brewing over a set of mandatory spending cuts (the "sequester" as it's called) will go into law on March 1st unless Congress is able to come to a deal to avert or fix the problem. The sequester mandates a cut in spending across all government agencies and among those is the Department of Transportation who supervises air traffic controllers and the Department of Homeland Security who employs TSA workers.

    A Huffington Post article out today indicates that if the cuts become law it could mean furloughs for air traffic controllers at least day every two weeks and cutbacks in airport security which could cause delays for travelers and airlines.
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    Exit Hilton and Enter Club Carlson?

    The news was all over the blogosphere last night (Travel Summary has a great...well...summary of the changes and others that have written about it)  that Hilton is changing their redemptions levels to ridiculously high amounts for their top hotels and overall represents a huge devaluation to a program that has been my absolute favorite in the past few months. I love Hilton Hotels and I have to say that their properties are generally very nice no matter where you go. That combined with my granted Gold Status in HHonors by having the Citi Hilton Reserve Card has saved me tons of money on wi-fi fees and a free breakfast every morning of my stay. But, I don't know if it will be worth it now because I won't be gaining points of much value in return from Hilton stays.

    Enter Club Carlson....

    Club Carlson is quickly becoming on of my favorite hotel chains around the country and I think that this Hilton devaluation is where they can start to compte with the big boys and move up to take some business from frequent travelers.

    The first reason Club Carlson is so great is their constant promotions. Last summer the "Big Nigh Out" promotion that earned 50,000 points for a one night stay at a Radisson and 40,000 for a stay at a Country Inn earned Kelsey and I enough points to stay for free two nights each at the 50,000 points a night Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street in London and the Radisson Blu Amsterdam.

    Their stay one night, get one night promotion also earned each of us a free night at any Club Carlson property in the United States, one of which we used at the Radisson Martinique in New York City which often goes for over $300 a night!

    Now look, I've had some great stays at Club Carlson and some just so-so stays, but with the exception of one hotel on Christmas Eve where they were sold out, the staff has been absolutely amazing! They go above and beyond to try and make you feel welcome and they are often willing to bend over backwards to help you out. Their elite program is also very generous. I status matched over from Hyatt Platinum to Club Carlson Silver and was ALWAYS upgraded to a "Business Class" room or a suite, even while staying on an award night.

    The best thing is you can earn Club Carlson points on the cheap. Just by being a Club Carlson member you earn 20 points per dollar spent on hotel nights and an additional 1,000 points by booking on Club Carlson's website! If you are a Silver or Gold member you earn 2,000 points by booking online and 3,000 points if you are the top tier Concierge status level. That's great when free nights start at 9,000 points per night!

    Or you can also book at a standard cash and points option as well. 

    These great redemption rates and cheap promotions that can earn you tons of points makes Club Carlson look like a great option for the traveler who is looking to take their loyalty to someone else if they are fed up with Hilton. Don't forget that Club Carlson has their new visa card which offers up to 80,000 Gold points after a spend (50,000 after first purchase and 30,000 after $2,500 in the first 90 days). But know that US Bank who issues the card is notorious for their denials because of too many recent inquiries so apply at your own risk. As always, make sure you can afford to apply for this and any card you decide to apply for. Your credit is one of the most precious things you have, don't let the allure of one night in a nice hotel ruin it!

    So...does Hilton have you thinking of switching? Where are you headed?

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    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    Churning After Midnight

    I learned a lesson two nights ago. Churning after midnight is not a good idea.

    Let me take you back a second, for the past few days, I have been facilitating at a conference in Stamford, Connecticut. The days/nights were very long and the 7 hour drive Sunday took it out of me. I went down for a nap at 5 pm Sunday and woke up 5 hours later. Made a quick dinner, checked email, and started reviewing the posts on my blog roll. Then I had one of those great ideas: time to apply for credit cards.

    My last churn was back in late July, which resulted in an increase in my credit score. According to Credit Karma, my credit score is 775. With that knowledge, it was time to apply for credit cards.

    What credit cards was easy:

    1) US Bank's Club Carlson Premier Card

    2) Chase Southwest Business Card

    3) Chase Southwest Personal Card

    Picking which credit cards I thought was the hardest part of churning. I was wrong. The problems started immediately with applying for the Club Carlson card. I kept on typing my student ID number, instead, of my social security number. An error kept appearing on my screen stating that I need more digits in my social security number section. I applied two more times with my student ID number until I figured out what my mistake was.

    I was eventually approved for the Premier Card with a very large credit line.

    Next, I went to apply for the Southwest Personal Card. Chase has a nice feature, where you can sign into your account, on the application to pre-fill your application. This is a great feature, if you can remember your password. That night, the password escaped my brain. After four failed attempts of failed passwords, I gave up or in reality, the system told me it to fill out the application manually.

    This time I filled out my social security number correct, but the application system kept on coming up with an error: "Zipcode does not match state." I kept on looking at the Zipcode (22201) and the state (DC) without seeing where the error was. Five minutes later, I realized I live in Virginia, not Washington, DC. At the conference  I kept on telling people I live in Washington, DC area. My brain must have been tricked itself into thinking I still lived in Washington, DC; instead, of where I actually live in Virginia.

    After fixing that error, I was approved for the Personal Card.

    Two card down, one left to apply.

    Now its 1:00 am, the last card is the Southwest Business card. My experience with the personal card, I skipped the prefill option and manually filled out the application. My exhaustion was full blown and filling out a business application, as a sole-proprietorship is difficult even with a clear mind. I thought that application was asked about "annual revenue" vs "annual sales." In the mortgage world, those two can be very difficult.

    Then, I made the error everyone makes: I forgot to click the agree to the terms button. After all the other mistakes, I had a small breakdown: some silent swears, a hand gesture or two and some stumping on the ground. I clicked the accept button and hit submit, which I hoped was my last time.

    The result was "you will hear from us in 10 days." The answer isn't surprising since I applied for both the Personal and Business card at the same time. However, I wasn't not going to to wait 10 days for an answer, so I called the reconsideration line. Any smart person would guess, they aren't open 1:30 am. But I called anyway and was upset to hear they have regular business hours.

    Not willing to go to bed without an answer, I called the application line and talked to a very nice lady. I explained my situation and she put my on hold. A few minutes later, she apologized profusely and said I would need to speak with a business analyst, but they work normal business hours. I would have to call back tomorrow, but she would send an email to the business department now for me.

    One of the things, I have learned reading blogs, if you don't get an answer you like on the phone, hang-up and call back. I did just this. If I was of clear mind, I would have listened to the first person I spoke with and went to bed. She did not provide me back news, she told me the truth, they were closed. The next call went much quicker. It went something like this:

    Chase: I looked up your profile. I see that you just called

    Me: Yes, I did.

    Chase: Did you have another question?

    Me: No, I just was hoping you could help me.

    Chase: I wish I could help, but as the colleague said, the business department is closed at the moment. You
               will need to call back tomorrow.

    With two approvals and one pending application, I went to bed.

    The next morning, a three minute call to Chase resulted in an approved Southwest Business card.

    Looking back, I will never apply for credit cards in the middle of the night. At that time of night, no one should be applying for credit cards. I was lucky that I did not make a major mistake on the application. How many time do people transpose a digit in their social security number? A mistake like that will result in a suspended application, a call to the credit card company and most likely you sending in your social security card to the credit card company. Way to much work.

    For this reason, no more Churning After Midnight!

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    Monday, February 18, 2013

    UPDATE: WSJ: OfficeMax, Office Depot in Talks to Merge

    UPDATE: CNBC says the deal is basically done!

    On the face of things a rumor from The Wall Street Journal that OfficeMax and Office Depot might be merging would have nothing to do with the miles and points game. But with the recent rise of the prepaid gift card market and their use to make credit card spends it's something that the community is going to need to watch and keep an eye on.

    I'll have more as it develops!

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    Your Travel Budget Is Your Friend

    As a recent graduate from a master's program these past two months have been especially painful on my wallet as both my graduate and undergraduate student loans have come due after their six month grace period. Most would think that this has nothing to do with travel, mile and points, but for me it has EVERYTHING to do with it.

    The combination of student loans and living in a high rent city means that I had had to develop a strict budget that I have to stick to, and that includes a travel budget. Formulating that budget for the first time was very painful for me. Before the start of the year I was all over the place on travel and miles. I had this aspiration in my mind that I had to be the highest status level in every hotel, airline and car program. But I quickly realized that as someone who doesn't really travel for work that often, reserves my vacation for long stretches of vacation so I can maximize my time off and doesn't have the ability to spend more than $200-300 per month on travel that I would need to reevaluate and change my points earning strategy.

    As I entered the new year I realized it would need to be a new start for me. I developed my travel budget and promised myself that I would do the best to stick to my $200-300 per month budget while trying to obtain my goal of requalifying for United Silver status. This means not jumping on absolutely every flight deal that comes out and picking my battles to really get the most value out of my travels as possible.

    So far I have done a decent job of sticking to my budget, going over a little, but not too bad. It's a challenge to not jump on everything as people build the buzz. But here in a few weeks I will have about 19,000 PQMs on United under my belt with an average cost per mile of around .3 per mile.

    The reason I wrote this piece was a little bit of a pat on my back for sticking to my budget and not going out on flights of whimsy (haha unintentional travel pun for the win), but as a way to show that travel on a budget IS possible for anyone. It may not be the highest level of travel and you may not qualify for the top levels of status like others. But if you don't have the time to be searching all day for mileage run possibilities or if you don't have the time for mileage runs ever other weekend you can still make it happen if you pick your battles and have a goal in mind. If I would have had a goal in mind last year and stuck to a budget I would have had a much more strategized approach that would have saved me money. Instead I spent extra money on flights that got me no closer to status and just put a dent in my budget. But everyone can do this if they put their mind to it. Don't view the budget as something that is keeping you down, instead it's something that is keeping you in line so you can be smart about your travels and reach your travel goals!

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    Sunday, February 17, 2013

    Hotel Review: Dulles Aloft

    My final stay for Starwood's 4,000 point bonus led me to the Dulles Aloft. I decided to make my final mattress run at the Dulles Aloft due to price $75 and my desire to try the Aloft brand.

    The hotel is located in Ashburn and is about 5 miles or 10 minutes away from the airport. Be warned, there is nothing but a gas station near this hotel. To get from the airport, you will want to take the Courtyard Marriott shuttle, which is next door to the Aloft hotel. They share airport transportation.

    The check-in desk is right in front of the front door:

    Check-in took less than 3 minutes. I was thanked for being a Starwood member and given a certificate for a free soda, water or Poweraid. It was a nice touch and I see Starwood doing this more and more.

    I was given a room on the fifth floor. The entire hotel has an upbeat energy to it. It can be seen in the hallways with the colors:

    The hotel is in an L Shape. I was given a room on the small end.

    The room was tiny. If I was staying here for a long time, it would be way to small for me. When you first enter the room, you are in the bathroom/closet area:

    The back of the closet is actually the massive head board of the bed and separates the bedroom from the bathroom:

    The room is made for a young person. Ipod dock, next to the bed:

    Retro alarm clock for quirkiness:

    And on a desk, a box to connect your laptop to stream things on the TV. A card on the box indicated the front desk had all the cables needed to make it work.

    The bench was nice in the morning to get ready in the morning. The bathroom had modern fixtures:

    The toilet and shower were separated by a mirrored sliding door:


    The hotel advertises oversize showers and it keeps its promise:

    Shampoo and shower gel are available in push bottles in the shower:

    The hotel has a gym with a few treadmills, elliptical and a bikes:

    Free weights (they were missing the 15 pounders), balance balls and a weigh resistance machine, that needed repair.

     Across from the gym was the pool, which was small, but sufficient.

    Plenty of places to sit including an interesting canopy:

    The rules were very interesting as well:

    Outside of the pool was a very nice outdoor lounge area. No one was outside because it was very windy, but they had heat lamps. I could only imagine a 40 degree night, the place would be packed:

     The highlight of any Aloft hotel is the lounge/bar area:

    Grab a drink and sit by the fire:

    Meet your new friends by the pool table:

     When I arrived, the downstairs was full of energy with a DJ. People were relaxing by the bar, playing pool and surfing the internet (free for everyone).

    Sorry for the bad picture
    Next to the check-in area is a self-serve food area. It had candy, sandwiches various drinks and breakfast food. Pick what you want and pay the front desk. Prices were the same as gas station:

    The Aloft website describes their brand as, "Aloft Hotels is a modern, fresh and fun destinations. Aloft is a hotel that celebrates the individual and gives you freedom to control and customize your travel adventures to fit your personal style. It is a place where walls have been knocked down to create a space that is open in design and open to possibilities. A place where energy flows, personalities mingle and opportunities abound."

    I would describe the hotel has an upscale European hostel. Its great for young business travelers. You can come back from work to the hotel and hang by the bar and meet people your age. You can have your alone time, but have a social life. 

    I would defiantly stay at Aloft again. It was fun, clean and upbeat. There was this positive energy screaming from the hotel. From the lights outside of the hotel to the music inside, you walk around with a bounce in your step.

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