Guides Basics

17 Best & Worst Ways to Use Your Amex Points in 2022

American Express Membership Rewards points are some of the best rewards you can earn because they're flexible - you can use them for travel, gift cards, or statement credits, among other things.

Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards include:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
  • The American Express® Gold Card
  • American Express® Business Gold Card
  • American Express® Green Card 
  •  Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
  • The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

Each card offers a unique set of bonuses and benefits depending on how you spend and travel.

While Amex's rewards program has a lot of flexibility, that doesn't mean all redemption options get the same cents per point value.

This post will cover some of the best and worst ways to use your Amex points. The data points here are calculated from the American Express Rewards calculator: http://global.americanexpress.com/rewards/calculator 

The Worst Ways to Redeem Your Amex Membership Rewards

Let's start with the worst ways to use your Amex points.

1. Shop With Points

Amex has a shopping portal with many products you can buy with Membership Rewards points. While this is a versatile way to use your points, it doesn't have a high redemption value.

For 10,000 points, you'll only get a value of 0.5 CPP— which is not the best value for Amex points.

If you're set on using points for merchandise, you might be better off buying a gift card or going through a shopping partner like Amazon.

2. Transferring Points to Partners

Amex has a ton of airline transfer partners that you can transfer your points straight to. 

Most partners offer a 1-to-1 transfer rate, so if you transfer 1,000 points to them, they will give you 1,000 points back. Sometimes, American Express runs promotions for transfer partners where you can get a better rate.

One thing to keep in mind here is the Excise Tax Offset Fee.

In most cases, American Express charges an excise fee of 0.06 cents per point (capped at $99 for any single transfer) when you transfer points to U.S. airlines with a card such as The Platinum Card®. 

American Express's U.S. airline partners that charge an excise fee include:

  • Delta
  • JetBlue
  • Hawaiian

On a 100,000-point transfer, that fee equates to $60. In addition to these charges, the airline may also charge taxes and fees.

However, not all partners charge this fee. Some of the airline programs where you can transfer Membership Rewards points without paying any fees include:

  • Are Lingus Aeroclub
  • Aeromexico Club Premier
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France / KLM Flying Blue
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest Miles
  • Iberia Plus Miles
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Singapore KrisFlyer Miles
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Since these are points from airlines outside the United States, American Express won't charge you the Excise Tax Offset fee to transfer points into these programs, although you need to evaluate their value (Note: some of them are hard to redeem points from). Transferring points to their hotel partners will also be free of charge.

Unfortunately, the only way to transfer points to your Delta SkyMiles account is through AMEX, so be prepared to pay the fee to utilize them.

To get the best redemption rates, you need to do a lot of research before you transfer your points.

3. Redeeming for Statement Credit

If you don't want to pay your card bill, you can redeem your points for statement credits, effectively wiping out any purchases you made with the card. While this option is handy, it also isn't recommended.

However, if you're in a pinch, this can help.

It's best used as a last resort if you need some last-minute funds to cover your balance. But each point will only be worth 0.6 CPP. So the low value makes it not a great option.

We'll talk about other setups later in this post if you're after cash.

4. Donate Your Points to Charity

With JustGiving, you can donate your points to over 1.5 million charities. Unless you can redeem your points for travel, you'll likely get no more than 0.7 cents per point from this redemption option.

The points aren't the greatest value for your money, but if you don't need your points, this is a decent option.

Beware of the value change, though. Depending on the organization, the value of your points may vary, so pay attention.

Doing the math can help you make a bigger impact.

5. Booking Travel via AmexTravel.com

With American Express Travel, you can book all kinds of travel, including hotels, vacation packages, and cruises.

If you book travel through the American Express Travel portal (excluding airfare), you will only earn 0.7 CPP. In addition, considering other companies will give you 1 CPP, booking your travel using the Amex Travel portal may not be the best way to spend your Amex points.

Keep in mind that using the Amex Travel Portal is NOT the same as using a transfer partner.

6. Merchandise

Similar to option 1, you can use your points to spend with certain merchants.

The cents per point come out to 0.7 mostly, except for NYC Taxis and Ticketmaster.com. Those have different point-to-cent ratios, so check the redemption rate before redeeming, as redemption rates may vary from retailer to retailer.

You also need to be careful because some platforms like Amazon can automatically fill in that you're using M.R. points when you check out.

If you want to use your points for shopping, there are probably better options in this list.

7. Redeem for Business Checking

This option is new for 2022.

If you have a business checking account with Amex, you can redeem your points for cash. You'll get 0.8 CPP, so 10,000 points would come out to $800. These points are considered rebates instead of income, so you're not taxed on them. 

So if you have a lot of points, cashing out your business checking account through your Business Platinum might be a better option. (More about this below)

8. Gift Cards

Gift cards come in different types, and your redemption value varies. Then again, there are many 1 CPP options with less variance, which is not too bad.

It may not be the best redemption method for your Amex points because it has additional hoops to jump through.

The Best Amex Membership Rewards Redemption Methods

9. Upgrade Your Seat

With Upgrade with Points, you can bid on seat upgrades at over 20 participating airlines using your Membership Rewards points. This is a convenient option if you are worried about cramped seats on long flights. 

It might make more sense to upgrade your seat with the actual card and earn more points because there are higher-value options to redeem your points. However, membership rewards here are worth at least 1 CPP depending on how you use them.

If you value your seat on the plane, you might like this option.

10. Book Flights Via Amex Portal and Hotels Via Amex FHR

This is a great option for the avid traveler.

Compared to other companies, you can get a decent rate on your points. You can expect to redeem 1 CPP with flights and hotels if you book it through the Amex Portal.

But if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you could get 1.5 CPP when you book through their own portal.

With this option, you can get an elevated value for your points, whether it is flights, and pay yourself back.

11. Business Checking Account with Business Platinum

This is a better option than the 7th option mentioned above. 

Instead of $800 per 100,000 points, you can get a better rate of 1 CPP. That comes out to $1,000 per 100,000 points. You must have the Amex Business Platinum card, though.

If you run a large business, that might be enough to offset the annual fee, but you still need to do the math.

12. Morgan Stanley Cash Out

If you own a Morgan Stanley brokerage account, this might be useful.

It's similar to a business checking account using your business platinum but on a more personal card side.

If you own the Platinum Card from American Express Morgan Stanley edition, you can cash out your points to your brokerage account at 1 CPP.

The points can be cashed out anywhere once they reach your brokerage account. 

Though, you might want to consider these things first before you use this option:

  1. To get the Morgan Stanley Platinum Card, you need to be approved.
  2. You must have a Morgan Stanley brokerage account to apply for this card. Among the easiest ones to go for is Morgan Stanley Access Investing, which only requires $5,000 to open and charges 0.35% per year on investments.
  3. The Morgan Stanley Platinum Card has an annual fee of $695.

I made a blog post about this before and how to waive the annual fee. You can learn more about it here: https://www.asksebby.com/guides/waive-amex-platinum-annual-fee 

13. Charles Schwab Cash Out

You can transfer M.R. points at 1.1 CPP to your brokerage account with the Platinum Card from American Express Charles Schwab. So if you're looking to redeem for cash, this might be the best option. 

However, as with any other Amex Platinum cards, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • Again, you need to be approved to qualify for the Schwab Platinum Card.
  • A Schwab brokerage account (either your own or a trust you oversee) or an IRA at Schwab (not managed by an independent investment advisor) is required to apply for the card. The eligibility rules can change at any time.
  • Amex reserves the right to cancel your American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab if you do not maintain a Schwab account.
  • Currently, the Schwab Platinum Card annual fee is $695.

14. Using Amex Business Gold Card's Rebate Feature

If you have a Business Gold, you can get a 25% rebate when you book an eligible flight.

So, if you use 100,000 points to cover a $1,000 flight, you'll get 25,000 points back. That means you used only 75,000 points for a $1,000 purchase, which works out to a rate of 1.33 CPP.

The maximum rebate is 250,000 points, so you wouldn't want to redeem more than 1 million.

15. Using Amex Business Platinum Card's Rebate Feature

Platinum Business cardholders can redeem M.R. points for travel and get a 35% rebate when they use their card for either first class or business class travel or flights with the airline of their choice (via the travel incidental credit).

That means if you spend 100,000 points for a $1,000 flight, you'll get 35,000 points back. Considering the 35% points rebate, the effective value is 1.54 CPP.

This is your best bet if you're looking for a simple travel redemption. The maximum rebate here is 1 million points per year, so you wouldn't want to redeem more than 2.85 million.

16. Using Amex Business Centurion Card's Rebate Feature

This is the same for the two previous options, but even better!

You can redeem your points with Business Centurion for a 50% rebate. As you know, spending 100,000 points for a $1,000 flight would get you 50,000 points back. 

With the rebate, you can effectively get 2 CPP, the highest rate we've discussed.

On top of that, there is no maximum rebate. However, the personal Centurion card does not offer flight rebates.

17. Transferring Points to Amex's Airline or Hotel Partners

Finally, you can transfer your points to American Express airline and hotel partners.

The rate here can be up to 10 CPP, but it can generally fluctuate or come out to about 2 or 3 CPP when you get through all the transferring. There are a lot of nuances to this one. 

But for avid travelers, this might be a decent option for you.

Overall Thoughts

American Express points can be redeemed in many ways, so it's important to know which one gives you the most value.

While you can use them for merchandise or shopping with Amazon, they don't provide good value.

Most people will get the best value from their points by transferring them to airline or hotel partners or using your Amex business card.

Ultimately, it all depends on what kind of travel you're looking for and how much work you're willing to put in. Spend some time comparing the cash cost via Amex Travel to the points cost if you transfer to a partner to see which one will save you the most money.

YouTube Video

Watch this video to find out how to get the most out of your Amex points:


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How to Use Chase Pay Yourself Back Feature: Step-by-Step Guide

Starting May 31, 2020, Chase added a new temporary benefit for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card  and Chase Sapphire Reserve® members to “Pay Yourself Back.”

Note: The “Pay Yourself Back” feature is not available to the no annual fee Chase Sapphire card.

How Pay Yourself Back Works

The Pay Yourself Back Program lets Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cardholders redeem Ultimate Rewards to offset select category purchases at a favorable rate.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: 1.25 cents per point
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 1.50 cents per point

Pay Yourself Back Categories:

  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores (including take out and eligible delivery services)
  • Home improvement stores
  • Select charitable organizations
  • The following charitable organizations are currently eligible for Pay Yourself Back: American Red Cross, Equal Justice Initiative, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, International Medical Corporation, Leadership Conference Education Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Urban League, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, United  Negro College Fund, United Way, and World Central Kitchen.

The current promotion is valid through September 30, 2020, but it’s possible that it may be extended due to uncertain times.

[ March 30 Update ] Pay Yourself Back is extended until Sept 30, 2021.

How to Use Pay Yourself Back: Step-by-Step Guide

1. Log in to your online Chase account

Sign into your online Chase account and navigate to the Ultimate Rewards tab located on the bottom of the left column.

2. Select your Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve card

Select the card you’d like to access. If you have multiple Ultimate Reward earning cards, you can choose to pool points to the Sapphire card to redeem.

In our example, we choose the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

3. Select the “Pay Yourself Back” menu option located in the left menu column

Navigate to the left hand column and select the “Pay Yourself Back” menu item. Clicking the main promotional banner also works, as seen in the screenshot below.

4. Pay Yourself Back

The current categories for pay yourself back are: restaurant and grocery stores (including take out and eligible delivery services), home improvement stores, and select charitable organizations.

5. Choose the purchases to Pay Yourself Back

After each purChase posts, you have 90 days to pay yourself back. Check the respective box to select the purChase.

6. Set your amount

Enter the dollar amount you’d like to receive as a statement credit by using some or all of your available Ultimate Rewards points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred redemption rate is 1.25 cents per point, and the Sapphire Reserve is 1.50 cents per point.

After setting the cash value, click “Confirm & Submit” to redeem!

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Best Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

One of the main benefits of Chase Ultimate Rewards points is that you can transfer them out to partners if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Chase Ink Preferred.

You can view credit card offers by going to the "Credit Card Offers" tab. Find offers for the respective cards in "Travel Rewards Credit Cards" and "Business Credit Cards." You don't have to use our links, but we're grateful when you do. Thank you for supporting AskSebby!

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer at a rate of 1:1. On average, you can get up to two cents per point when you use transfer partners.

If you're looking for the most value possible, then airline partners are the way to go for first class redemption. This also works well for last minute flights.

VIA CHASE ULTIMATE REWARDS PORTAL

The way I redeem points for "best value" is hotels because everyone in your travel group can benefit.

For example, if I transfer my Ultimate Rewards points to United:

  • United Polaris (US to Asia) is 70k one-way, per person
  • 70k Chase points => 70k United points

On the other hand, if I transferred my Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt:

  • Hyatt Category 7 (top tier) is 30k, per night.
  • 30k Chase points => 30k Hyatt points.

For the cost of a round trip United Polaris flight to Asia, I can get four nights at a top tier Hyatt property.

Examples:

  • Park Hyatt: NYC, Paris-Vendome, Tokyo, Sydney
  • Hyatt Residence: Maui, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, Aspen

IHG is not an ideal transfer partner because of the cost of the points, and you typically need more points for a redemption.

In my experience, Hyatt has the best redemption value for transfer partners. The Category 1 Hyatt properties start at 5,000 Hyatt points.

Category 1 = 5,000 Hyatt points / 5,000 Chase UR points

  • $100 a night / 5k points = 2 cents per point
  • $200 a night / 5k points = 4 CPP

Check out the video below for more redemption ideas.

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Featured Articles

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7 Things to Do in Las Vegas
Travel

We recently hopped on a private jet to make the most of our JetSmarter membership and ended up in Vegas. Here's our list of what to do in 48 hours in Las Vegas.

1. Lotus of Siam

Lotus of Siam was crowned the "Best Thai Food in America." Order the crispy duck, soft shell crab over drunken noodles, and garlic prawns.

crispy duck in curry
CRISPY DUCK IN CURRY
crispy duck and soft shell crab over drunken noodles
CRISPY DUCK AND SOFT SHELL CRAB OVER DRUNKEN NOODLES
soft shell crab over drunken noodles
SOFT SHELL CRAB OVER DRUNKEN NOODLES
garlic prawns
GARLIC PRAWNS

Be sure to make a reservation at least two weeks in advance. Since this was a last minute trip, we called the Amex Platinum concierge and they were able to secure a reservation with a few days notice.

2. Downtown Las Vegas Container Park

Visit the Downtown Las Vegas Container Park, which is filled with local boutique shops, a playground, restaurants, and a giant fire breathing pray mantis.

fire pray mantis
FIRE PRAY MANTIS
seb and mantis
shops at container park
SHOPS AT CONTAINER PARK

3. Fremont Street

Take a stroll in the old Vegas by walking down Fremont Street. There's a light show, zipline, and tons of restaurants and casinos to see.

entrance to fremont street
ENTRANCE TO FREMONT STREET

4. Seven Magic Mountains

Seven Magic Mountains is a temporary public art installation consisting of seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders standing more than 25 feet high. The exhibit will be available until May 2018. You'll need to rent a car to drive there; it's located 20 minutes outside The Strip.

seven magic mountains
SEVEN MAGIC MOUNTAINS

5. Eat at a Buffet

To me, Vegas is synonymous to buffets. I can't leave Vegas without eating at a buffet at least once. My favorite is the Wicked Spoon located inside the Cosmopolitan hotel.

The buffet consists of tapas style plates with offerings like bone marrow, crab, fresh oysters, oxtail pho, and prime rib.

oysters
OYSTERS
oxtail pho
OXTAIL PHO
bone marrow
BONE MARROW
desserts
DESSERTS

Pro-tip: go 10 minutes before dinner starts to lock-in the brunch/lunch pricing and enjoy the best of both worlds.

6. The Fountains of Bellagio

The Bellagio's fountains run every 30 minutes from 3pm to 8pm and every 15 minutes from 8pm to 12am Monday through Friday.

On Saturday, Sundays, and holidays, the fountains run every 30 minutes from 12pm-8pm and every 15 minutes 8pm-12am.

fountains of bellagio
FOUNTAINS OF BELLAGIO

7. The LINQ Promenade

The LINQ Promenade is filled with novelty shops including Sprinkles Cupcakes, In-N-Out Burger, and Gordan Ramsay Fish n' Chips. The Promenade also leads to the High Roller (Ferris Wheel).

the linq promenade
THE LINQ PROMENADE

YouTube Video

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7 Things to Do in Calgary, Alberta
Travel

On our recent trip to see the Canadian Rockies, we flew into Calgary International Airport (YYC) and rented a car to drive to Banff. We spent 24 hours in Calgary and stayed at the Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel (watch the video at the end of the post for hotel details).  

7 Things to Do in Calgary

1. Calgary Tower

Calgary Tower is located in the heart of downtown. The tower has a 360° panoramic view of the city, and there's also a revolving restaurant. If you dine at the restaurant, you can gain complimentary access to the observation deck.

Calgary Tower
101 9 Ave SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P 1J9
Canada

calgary tower: daytime
CALGARY TOWER: DAYTIME
calgary tower: night 
CALGARY TOWER: NIGHT

2. Stephen Avenue Walk

Stephen Avenue Walk is a historic pedestrian mall located steps away from Calgary Tower.

Stephen Avenue Walk
8 Ave SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P 1B3
Canada

stephen avenue walk
STEPHEN AVENUE WALK
more shops at stephen avenue walk
MORE SHOPS AT STEPHEN AVENUE WALK

The Galleria Trees sculptures are an iconic part of Stephens Avenue and located between 2nd and 3rd Street SW. There are ten metal trees designed to reduce the wind gusts on the block. The Galleria Trees are also equipped with an audio system and LED lights.

galleria trees

3. Devonian Gardens

The Devonian Gardens is a large indoor park and botanical garden located in the CORE Shopping Centre (entrance is where the Galleria Trees are on Stephen Ave). Take the escalators up to the 4th floor to explore the gardens.

Devonian Gardens
317 7 Ave SW | CORE Shopping Centre
Calgary, Alberta T6G 2E1
Canada

The Gardens were closed for renovations when we visited, so hopefully, they'll re-open soon!

devonian gardens
DEVONIAN GARDENS
devonian gardens
DEVONIAN GARDENS

4. Eat at Charcut Roast House

Alberta is famous for their steak. Charcut Roast House is the brainchild of Chefs John Jackson and Connie Desousa (a Top Chef Canada finalist). The restaurant has a rustic-chic vibe and a farm-to-table ethos.

Charcut Roast House
101-899 Centre Street S
Calgary, AB T2G 1B8
Canada

charcut roasthouse
charcut menu

We ordered one too many items, but it was all delicious. Get the duck fat fried poutine, prime rib of Alberta beef, and the CHARCUT sausage share burger. All the items are farm-to-table and the servers are incredibly knowledgable about the farms each ingredient was sourced from.

steak board with poutine: before
STEAK BOARD WITH POUTINE: BEFORE

Somehow we managed to clear the whole board. It was THAT good.

steak board with poutine: after
STEAK BOARD WITH POUTINE: AFTER

5. Prince's Island Park

Prince's Island Park is an urban park near downtown Calgary. There are plenty of picnic areas, hiking trails, and flower gardens.

Prince's Island Park
200 Barclay Parade SW, Calgary, AB T2P 4R5
Canada

prince island park
PRINCE ISLAND PARK

The Peace Bridge is a pedestrian and bike bridge designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. It's located on the far west side of Price's Island Park.

peace bridge
peace bridge
PEACE BRIDGE

6. Eat at River Cafe

River Cafe is one of the most popular restaurants in Calgary. It's located in the heart of Prince's Island Park and has a great view of the Bow River. Be sure to make a reservation in advance.

River Cafe
25 Prince's Island Park
Calgary, AB T2P 0R1
Canada

river cafe
RIVER CAFE

7. Visit Chinatown

Take a stroll in Calgary's Chinatown and grab a bite to eat. Chinatown is located along Centre Street in the northeast area of downtown.

calgary chinese cultural center
CALGARY CHINESE CULTURAL CENTER

If you're craving Hong Kong style food, stop by Calgary Court Restaurant. I recommend the lunch specials or a classic bowl of wonton noodles.

calgary court
CALGARY COURT

The lunch special that day was Portuguese baked chicken and pork with spaghetti, milk tea, mushroom soup, and garlic toast, all for CAD $10!

lunch special

YouTube Video

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7 Things to Do in Banff Springs
Travel

1. Bow Falls

Bow Falls is located in the backyard of the Fairmont Banff Springs. If you're in Downtown Banff and want to go for a light hike, Bow Falls is just a short 5-minute walk away.

Bow Falls
Banff National Park
Alberta, Canada

bow falls
BOW FALLS

2. Downtown Banff

Downtown Banff is lined with tons of restaurants, bars, and shops. Take a stroll and enjoy some Canadian cuisine.

2017-09-25 16.41.08.jpg
2017-09-25 16.43.49.jpg

3. Park Distillery

Park Distillery is a distillery, restaurant, and bar located in Banff National Park. They offer a free distillery tour daily at 3:30 pm.

Park is also great lunch spot; try the rotisserie chicken.

Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar
219 Banff Ave
Banff, AB T1L 1A7, Canada

parkdistillery
2017-09-25 15.08.18.jpg

4. Vermilion Lakes

The Vermilion Lakes are a series of lakes located a short 5-minute drive from Downtown Banff. Vermilion Lakes consists of three lakes formed in the Bow River valley.

vermilion lakes

5. BeaverTails

BeaverTails is a chain store, but it's a novelty. Think Nutella covered pastry topped with fruit or candy. Stop by for a quick snack or dessert.

BeaverTails
120 Banff Ave
Banff, AB T1L 1E7, Canada

2017-09-25 16.40.49.jpg
2017-09-25 16.32.32.jpg

6. Banff Upper Hot Springs

After a long day of hiking, take a soak in Banff Upper Hot Springs. The water flow consists of 100% natural mineral water. Banff Upper Hot Springs is commercialized, but it's the closest one in vicinity to Downtown Banff.

Feeling adventurous? You can rent a historic swim suit for $1.90.

Soak Fees:

  • Adult (18-64): $7.30 CAD
  • Youth (3-17): $6.30 CAD
  • Child (Under 3): Free
  • Senior (65+): $6.30 CAD
  • Swimsuit: $1.90 CAD
  • Towel: $1.90 CAD
  • Locker: $1.00 CAD

Banff Upper Hot Springs
1 Mountain Ave
Banff, AB T1L 1K2, Canada

soak fees
SOAK FEES
historic swim suit
HISTORIC SWIM SUIT
banff upper hot springs
BANFF UPPER HOT SPRINGS

7. Cave and Basin National Historic Site

Cave and Basin National Historic site is the birthplace of Canada's national parks. Start your visit with a Discovery Tour, and then explore the historic architecture, bubbling mineral waters, and underground cave.

Cave and Basin National Historic Site
311 Cave Ave
Banff, AB T0L 0C0, Canada

cave
CAVE
cave and basin national historic site
CAVE AND BASIN NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

YouTube Video

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3 Tips for Visiting Lake Louise
Travel

Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Canada. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your trip.

1. Visit Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is less than a 10-minute drive from Lake Louise and well worth the detour. Be sure to visit before 9 am to get a parking spot. Once the small parking lot is full, you'll have to park in overflow and hop on a shuttle to see the lake.

Canoes are available for rent; $95/hour.  

moraine lake
seb moraine lake
moraine lake lodge
MORAINE LAKE LODGE

2. Don't pay for parking at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

There is a free government parking lot located at Lake Louise. When you see the Fairmont Hotel, take a left and there will be a free parking lot with plenty of space. Lake Louise is a short 5-10 minute walk away.

Parking at the Fairmont is $33.

2017-09-26 11.19.59.jpg

3. Eat at the Lakeview Lounge, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Enjoy lunch or a drink and take in the views of the stunning Lake Louise. We had the prime rib sandwich with a side of French onion soup.

lakeview lounge
LAKEVIEW LOUNGE
prime rib sandwich
PRIME RIB SANDWICH
coffee with a view
COFFEE WITH A VIEW

YouTube Video

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How to Find Award Availability for InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa and Le Moana Bora Bora
Travel

Note: Some of the offers/products mentioned below are no longer available.

For our Bora Bora trip in July 2018, half of our stay was at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa. We reserved all of our nights using points and free night certificates. Here's how to book a trip to Bora Bora with the new Chase IHG Products.

[ Oct 2020 Update ] The Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card currently has an increased offer of 140,000 points and the $89 annual fee is waived the first year.

The benefit of booking with points is that you'll avoid paying for taxes and additional charges out of pocket.

Retail price via ihg.com
RETAIL PRICE VIA IHG.COM

Points + Cash

The optimal strategy for booking nights in Bora Bora is to use points + cash if you only have at least 100,000 points from the Chase IHG Premier bonus so you can reserve two nights. Choose the 50,000 points + 125 USD rate.

Ideally, you're in Player 2 mode so you can book a total of four nights if you both have the IHG card.

image via https://www.ihg.com/hotels/us/en/find-hotels/hotel/list?qDest=Bora%20Bora,%20French%20Polynesia&qCiMy=72018&qCiD=19&qCoMy=72018&qCoD=20&qAdlt=1&qChld=0&qRms=1&qRtP=6CBARC.IVANI&qAkamaiCC=US&qSrt=sDD&…
IMAGE VIA HTTPS://WWW.IHG.COM/HOTELS/US/EN/FIND-HOTELS/HOTEL/LIST?QDEST=BORA%20BORA,%20FRENCH%20POLYNESIA&QCIMY=72018&QCID=19&QCOMY=72018&QCOD=20&QADLT=1&QCHLD=0&QRMS=1&QRTP=6CBARC.IVANI&QAKAMAICC=US&QSRT=SDD&QBRS=IC.KI.UL.IN.CP.VN.HI.EX.CV.RS.VA.CW.SB.MA&QAAR=6CBARC.IVANI&SRB_U=1&QRAD=30

Spending:
= 2 x Points + Cash
= 100k IHG + $250

Getting:
= 2 nights x rack rate ($959.97)
= ~$1,920 in value

CPP:
= ($1,920 value - $250 cash) / 100k IHG
= $1,670 / 100k = 1.67 CPP

By booking the IHG Bora Bora properties, you're getting at least 1.67 CPP  in value.

How to Book IHG Bora Bora Properties

The most frequently asked question we receive is.."theory is nice Seb, but how do we actually book the nights?" Finding availability for reward nights or points to use in Bora Bora is the biggest hurdle.

The first step to booking the IHG properties is to bookmark the landing page for the reward nights: https://www.ihg.com/hotels/us/en/find-hotels/hotel/list?qDest=Bora%20Bora,%20French%20Polynesia&qCiMy=72018&qCiD=19&qCoMy=72018&qCoD=20&qAdlt=1&qChld=0&qRms=1&qRtP=6CBARC.IVANI&qAkamaiCC=US&qSrt=sDD&qBrs=ic.ki.ul.in.cp.vn.hi.ex.cv.rs.va.cw.sb.ma&qAAR=6CBARC.IVANI&srb_u=1&qRad=30

  • Change the search dates to your desired ones and bookmark the page accordingly
  • If you want to stay at Le Moana, there's often plenty of availability
  • If you want to stay at Thalasso, you'll need to check back often (multiple times a day) for availability

For me, I checked my desired dates multiple times a day for a whole month to find reward availability.

Dates are usually released 4 months in advance. Don't be afraid to split your time between Le Moana and Thalasso.

If I had to do my trip again, I would spend half my nights in Le Moana and the other half in Thalasso. The benefit of Le Moana is that it's on the main island and you have access to more reasonably priced restaurants and food. The only con is that you are not guaranteed an overwater villa.

For Thalasso, you'll pay a premium for food, but you're guaranteed an overwater villa. If you need to take the IHG shuttle boat to Le Moana after 2:15 PM, you'll have to pay a 2770 XPF (as of July 2018) fee per person, per one-way ticket.

YouTube Video

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How to Book Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa
Travel

Al Maha is one of the best Marriott Bonvoy redemptions if you plan to visit Dubai. The all-inclusive resort is located one hour away from Dubai, and it’s an amazing escape from the city.

The resort is also a conservation reserve where they have on-site field guides and wildlife.

How to Book Al Maha

Al Maha is a Category 8 hotel, and the price ranges from 63,000-100,000 points depending on the season.

  • Peak season = Winter months
  • Off-peak = Summer months

Search for availability on Marriott’s site: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dxbam-al-maha-a-luxury-collection-desert-resort-and-spa-dubai/

Be sure to check the box that says “Use Points/Certificates.”

Booking 1.JPG

Example of peak season pricing:

Booking 4a.JPG

Off-peak season pricing:

Booking 4c.JPG
Booking 4e.JPG

What’s Included in the Price?

The room-rate includes:

  • 3 meals each day: breakfast, lunch, dinner (does not include alcohol)
  • 2 Selected Desert Activities tickets

Desert Activities to choose from:

  • Camel trekkiing
  • Desert safari
  • Falconry
  • Archery
  • Nature walk
  • Dune drive (supplement charge)
  • Horse riding (supplement charge)

YouTube Video Review

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How to Book Etihad’s First Class Apartment
Travel

Etihad first class is one of the best flight experiences in the sky. The retail price starts at $6,000 and goes up depending on the route.

If you don’t want to shell out cash, the best way to book Etihad first class is with points. Booking Etihad first class isn’t for everyone, and some of the sweet spot routes are niche. We took a flight from Abu Dhabi to London using American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

1. American Airlines AAdvantage Miles

Etihad Apartments are only available on flights to/from Abu Dhabi (AUH). The points price ranges 50,000 - 115,000 AAdvantage miles. You can book the award flight through AA.com.

The biggest hurdle is finding availability since you’ll need to check the site often.

For AA, these are the prices:

  • Seoul (ICN) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) - 50,000 AAdvantage miles
  • London Heathrow (LHR) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) – 62,500 AAdvantage miles
  • Paris (CDG) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) – 62,500 AAdvantage miles
  • Melbourne (MEL) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) – 100,00 AAdvantage miles
  • Sydney (SYD) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) – 100,000 AAdvantage miles
  • New York City (JFK) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) – 115,000 AAdvantage miles

2. Air Canada Aeroplan

Aeroplan is currently an American Express airline transfer partner. In late 2021, Aeroplan will become one of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards airline transfer partners.

Etihad Airways is an Aeroplan partner airline, so the partner airline rates apply in the redemption chart below.

How to Use Aeroplan Reward Charts

  1. Check the partner airline site (Etihad) to see if the product you want to fly is available for your itinerary. Determine which travel zone you’ll be flying.
  2. Find the distance between destinations.
  3. Pick the fare class you want to fly.
  4. Based on the points, choose the most points efficient booking option — either flights operated by Air Canada OR Partner airlines.

View the Aeroplan flight reward charts here: https://www.aircanada.com/content/dam/aircanada/loyalty-content/documents/flight-rewards-chart-en.pdf

travel zones.png

A few booking examples:

US to Abu Dhabi (AUH)

JFK to AUH is 6,850 miles. Per the redemption chart below, the route falls under 6,001 to 8,000 miles category, and you’ll need to redeem 120,000 miles to book first class with a partner airline (Etihad).

IAH to AUH is 8,177 miles. You’ll need to redeem 130,000 points to book first class with a partner airline.

  • 8,001+ miles is 130,000 points on a partner airline for First.
aeroplan chart 1.png

Europe to AUH

  • AUH to CDG is 3,281 miles
  • AUH to LHR is 3,428 miles
  • 2,001 to 4,000 miles is 65,000 points for First.
Flight Reward Chart atlantic
  • AUH to ICN 4,256 miles
  • 0 to 5,000 miles is 80,000 points for First.
atlantic and pacific.png

YouTube Video

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American Express Product Change and Downgrade Options
American Express

American Express has a wide variety of credit cards, co-branded credit cards, and charge cards.

One rule to be aware of is that American Express has a once in a lifetime rule, so if you receive a welcome offer for a card, you will not be eligible for another welcome offer for the same card again.

Regarding upgrade and product change options, I don’t recommend taking an upgrade offer unless you have previously received a welcome offer for the same card. Taking an upgrade offer first would disqualify you from receiving the welcome offer for the same product.

For example, if you currently have the Amex Gold card and you receive an upgrade offer to the Amex Platinum card (and you accept it), you will not be eligible for the Amex Platinum welcome offer. However, if you receive a welcome offer for the Amex Platinum first, you will also be eligible for the upgrade offer.

When to Downgrade an American Express Card

Some people might product change a card if they’re not getting positive expected value from an annual fee.

Downgrading a card is ideal to keep your credit history alive since you’re not canceling the card. I usually recommend doing this after having the card for 12 months if you’re not getting positive expected value in the second year to keep a good relationship with American Express.

If you cancel or product change a card before the first year, Amex has the right to claw back the welcome offer for “abusing the system.”

American Express Product Change Options

  • Rule #1: You can NOT product change a business credit card to a personal credit card, vice versa.
  • Rule #2: You can NOT product change in/out of co-branded groups
  • For example (NOT allowed):
  • Hilton card -> Delta card (different group)
  • Delta -> Amex Platinum (different group)
  • Rule #3: You can NOT product change between charge cards and credit cards

Watch the video below for an overview of product change options:

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Bank of America Adds 24-Month Rule to Some Credit Cards
Bank of America

Bank of America is tightening the rules on their credit cards. In addition to the 2/3/4 rule, two new ones regarding signup bonuses were recently introduced.

There are two levels to the rule:

24 MONTH RULE: LEVEL 1

“This [card] will not be available to you if you currently have [card] UNLESS you have had that [card] for at least 24 months.”

TLDR: You can’t get the same card if you have had the product for less than 24 months. It seems to imply that you can have multiple of the same card, but you just have to wait 24 months before adding another one.

24 MONTH RULE: LEVEL 2

“This [card] will not be available to you if you currently have or have had a [card] in the preceding 24 month period.”

TLDR: You can’t get the same card if currently have or had it for less than 24 months.

Bank of America 24-Month Rule

Here is a chart that outlines the Bank of America products and which level of the 24-month rule applies to it: https://bit.ly/3JyD1Wx

Cards with “N/A” next it means that the 24-month rule was not found in the terms and conditions of the card.

It seems like business cards are not currently affected by the 24-month rule, along with some co-branded cards.

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A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Book a Trip to Banff Using Credit Card Rewards
Travel

We recently took a trip to the Canadian Rockies in September. People often ask me how I plan my trips, so this is a step-by-step guide on how we planned our trip to Banff.

One of the main reasons why we wanted to take this trip is because Parks Canada is offering free admission to their national parks for their 150th anniversary.

VIA HTTPS://WWW.PC.GC.CA/EN/VOYAGE-TRAVEL/ADMISSION

Banff Trip Checklist

1. Hotels

  • 4 nights
  • Intent = 2 in Calgary + 2 in Banff
  • Ideal = 2 in Lake Louise

2. Flights from SFO to Calgary
3. Car rental

Hotels

I signed up for the  Chase Fairmont card earlier this year for the two free night certificates. The card was discontinued in August.

SUMMERFAIRMONT BANFF SPRING RATES

Peak season rates for the Fairmont Lake Louise is usually $1099 CAD/night.

To book reservations using the Fairmont certificates, we had to call the reservation line on the back of the card. They don't have an online system, so the representative has to manually look through different dates.

On our first attempt, there were no consecutive dates available for Lake Louise. After doing some more research, we realized it was better to stay in Banff Springs because there are more attractions near the hotel.

We called a few weeks later and were able to secure two consecutive nights in September for Banff Springs. Another benefit was that we could use the suite upgrade certificate with the booking.

Bottomline, try calling the reservation line several times over the span of a few weeks to check for availability.

For the remaining hotel nights outside of the Fairmont certificates, I booked using Hotels.com. My goal was to spend less than $100 for hotels in Calgary. I booked the Marriott in downtown Calgary two weeks before the trip and found a deal for $97/night.

Pro-tip: Hotels.com has a 10% discount if you book using a mobile phone.

On the last night, we were supposed to drive back to Calgary, but we wanted to spend more time in Banff, so we canceled the hotel reservation. I booked a last minute hotel reservation at the Juniper Hotel in Banff and used my Hotels.com free night since I accumulated 10 stays.

JUNIPER HOTEL

The free night is equivalent to 10% of all your hotel.com stays, so my free night certificate was worth $119.77. I still had out of pocket costs to pay, which came out to be $68.65.

Flights

To book flights, I set up a Google Flights notification for deal alerts. I routinely check for flights on Tuesdays because that tends to be the cheapest day to book a flight.

Pro-tip: if you're planning multiple trips at the same time, set up a folder in your bookmarks bar to stay organized.

MY BOOKMARKS BAR

Flights to Calgary from SFO usually range from $350-$550, but we wanted to wait for a deal. We kept an eye out on Scott's Cheap Flights for a price drop. Luckily, a few weeks later, there was a deal alert.

VIA SCOTT'S CHEAP FLIGHTS

The great thing about booking through the  Chase Travel Portal is that discounted fares are also reflected. I used the  Chase Sapphire Reserve and spent 15,872 UR points on a roundtrip ticket.

Car Rental

We booked a rental car using the Costco Travel Portal. From my experience, they usually have the cheapest rates and offer free upgrades or additional discounts at select locations.

I usually don't check anywhere else for rental cars unless the Costco rates are absurd. Since reservations are free to cancel, I typically make one at least a month in advance and then check what the prices are closer to the travel date.

Pro-tip: If you have to wait more than 20 minutes for a car, that usually means the rental agency ran out of cars, or they're slowly cleaning returns. Ask the agent nicely if they can do anything for you for the inconvenience, i.e., discount or free upgrades.

We waited an hour for the rental car, and the agent took off a day of rental and gave us a free tank of gas.

Conclusion

Here's the breakdown of the cards we used to book the trip:

  • Hotels =  Chase Fairmont signup bonus (certificate nights + upgrades)
  • Flights =  Chase Sapphire Reserve ( via Ultimate Reward points)
  • Car rental =  Chase Sapphire Reserve (for primary CDW)
  • Airport Lounges = Amex Platinum + Priority Pass
  • Everything else = New cards to hit minimum spend with no foreign transaction fees
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