Posted on May 1, 2013 in Hotels, Hyatt
On Saturday, April 20, 2013, I took the Megabus from Maryland to Manhattan to enjoy one free night at Andaz 5th Avenue, which overlooks the New York Public Library on said street. The last time I was in Manhattan last October, I had benefited from my friend giving me his hotel reservation that he was not going to use. This time, I redeemed for a free night using my Hyatt Visa Card.
This card grants the user two free nights that can be used at any Hyatt property worldwide. My eyes opened at the possibility of redeeming this gift for unaffordable aspirational hotels, specifically the Park Hyatt Paris – Vendome Hotel, where the cheapest room rates are often more than $1,000! Alas, I used my first of two free nights on this New York property, which on this particular night, was priced at $434. I selected this property because I wanted to choose the best and presumably the most expensive hotel, given that the free nights were blank checks. This hotel is rated Four Diamonds by AAA and is currently listed as #22 of 434 (top 5 percentile) hotels in New York City on tripadvisor.
Me in the bathroom.
Andaz 5th Avenue is located on a corner of Fifth Avenue, its territory marked by a man-less, discreet door. Its actual door entrance is on 41st Street, which bothered me slightly. There was no doorman, so it felt peculiar to walk into a fancy business hotel, having touched the doorknob myself. Upon entrance, I was confounded by the lack of a traditional registration desk. I walked around a couple of corners, searching for one to no avail. Finally, I stood idly by the elevators until an Amanda processed my check-in.
Part of the check-in protocol is to offer the guest a drink. I spied cases of cheap wine in the storage area near the in-hotel library area, and there were plenty of people partaking in this feature.
Amanda escorted me to the room, giving a fairly in-depth review of the room in the way a real estate agent would. My room was classified as an “Andaz Loft,” covering 366 square feet with 12-foot ceilings. The literature took great pains to state that the hotel and rooms were designed by Tony Chi. I have no idea who he is, but he does not even have a Wikipedia page yet.
I did not take enough pictures of the bathroom, but it was definitely the most impressive room, especially the shower. In terms of cubic feet, it was easily the largest shower I had seen in a hotel. The liquid from the waterfall showerhead dropped so far that it was at risk of getting cold and atomizing into mist by the time it hit human skin. I may be exaggerating slightly, but the shower was really tall.
Curiously, this hotel was the second consecutive one I had encountered in NYC that did not have a full closing shower door. Clearly, these hotel rooms were designed for people to share only if they knew each other intimately. I trust that the obvious lack of a shower door was an intentional design element, although it might have saved the developer money too. My main issue with door-less showers is the wet floor that rapidly results.
Aside from sky-high showerheads and door-less entrances, the other notable feature of the hotel room was the mini-bar area. It was well designed, but the best part was that the non-alcoholic goods were complimentary! I estimated that there was $15 worth (estimated usurious hotel minibar prices) of goods, including chocolate, gourmet chips, sparkling water, and a Martinelli’s apple juice.
Posted on April 17, 2013 in Chase, Fairmont
Last year, I wrote about the Fairmont Visa Signature Card shortly after I acquired it. The only reason I acquired the card was for its introductory bonuses, namely, the two nights that can be used at any Fairmont property in the world. Furthermore, there are $150 worth of breakfast and dining certificates deposited into my account. Fairmont properties include The Plaza in New York City and The Savoy in London, which many people do not know. While the free night certificates can be redeemed at these iconic destinations, they cannot be used for the Heritage Place Residences.
My excitement to use the certificates was quickly dulled by my experience in trying to make reservations. For instance, The Savoy only has a little availability in December, the entirety of its award allotment for this year! The situation is even worse for The Plaza, having already “sold out” of its allotment of complimentary nights. The Fairmont has not made fully clear the details of its loyalty program, but it will have to loosen its quota of free rooms, if the benefits are to be apparent. Eventually, I booked a night at The Fairmont Washington D.C. in Georgetown, but this use feels like quite the value letdown since it is substantially less expensive than the other properties. The most expensive property is the Fairmont Royal Pavilion in Barbados, where rates can top $1,000.
Posted on April 5, 2013 in Credit cards
In the first part of this article, I outlined the oldest seven credit card accounts–out of thirteen–that I carry. Here are the remaining six credit cards that I have.
8. Us Airways Premier World MasterCard
I have written about this card previously. I received 25,000 miles and a $50 statement credit as my introductory bonus, with the annual fee waived for the first year.
9. Discover Card
10. Citi ThankYou Premier Card
11. Fairmont Visa Signature Card
I have written about this card previously. I would acquire this card only for the introductory bonus of two free nights at any Fairmont property.
12. Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card
13. JetBlue Card from American Express
I have written about this card previously.
Posted on March 17, 2013 in Air, Southwest
Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward frequent flyer program has tiers called A-List and A-List Preferred that award priority boarding and points earning bonuses. Since Southwest does not have traditional seating class arrangements, it cannot offer traditional seating upgrades. If you fly 100 one-way qualifying flights or accumulate 110,000 points within a calendar year, then you earn a Companion Pass, which allows you to designate a companion traveler on any Southwest flight you book, paid or free. The Companion Pass is valid for the year in which it was earned and the entire following year.
Recently, there has been much buzz in the frequent flyer community that Southwest and Chase have upgraded the standard offer on their Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card, which is usually 25,000 points. Occasionally, such as now, this offer has been doubled to 50,000 points. Conveniently, there exist both Personal and Business versions of this product, so one could instantly accumulate more than 100,000 points, which puts one within striking distance of the 110,000 points needed for the Companion Pass.
Now even if one were fortunate enough to acquire a Southwest Companion Pass, how much is this perquisite actually worth? Even if you fly domestic Southwest flights constantly, you still need a companion to derive any value from it. Another way to phrase this question is, if Southwest were to sell Companion Passes, how much would you pay for it?
If I were ever to gain a Companion Pass, I would tabulate how much value I accrued from this benefit. I would be interested in finding out the median value accrued by the average holder of a Southwest Companion Pass.
Posted on March 15, 2013 in Uncategorized
I read this Wall Street Journal (WSJ) story, “When Flying, Are Cellos People Too?” and was disappointed at the draconian punishment meted out by Delta Air Lines. The customer victim in the story is a Grammy Award-winning cellist Lynn Harrell. Because his work instrument is valued at $5 million and is quite bulky, Harrell buys an adjacent seat for his cello instead of subjecting it to the physical abuse that checked luggage suffers. Apparently, there is even a federal law that dictates that seated cellos require window seats! So far, so good. Where Harrell has apparently taken a misstep is attempting to defray his considerable expenses by setting up and accruing frequent flyer accounts for his inanimate travel partner.
While it can be debated whether Harrell should effectively receive mileage proportional to his spending, the latest punishment levied by his airline of choice is beyond reasonable. Not only did Delta close the account of Harrell’s cello, but it confiscated all the mileage he had accrued on his own personal account as well, forever banning him from the program! The miles he lost amounted to 500,000, worth $5,000, or more. Harrell posts about his experience on his blog.
Delta could have closed the cello account without punishing the cellist. After all, those miles were earned completely within the airline’s rules. A company spokesperson stated, “An object doesn’t have a loyalty experience.” Neither will Mr. Harrell, in the future. Frankly, loyalty is an overused concept in the travel industry that goes only so far as value. How do WSJ readers feel about this public relations snafu?
Posted on March 12, 2013 in American Express, Credit cards
In late January, I applied for the JetBlue Card by American Express. One of the pages during the online application process informed that I would receive an instant temporary account number for my use until I received my credit card in the plastic. However, the process timed out due to a website error, and I received another page apologizing for the mishap and confirming that I would receive my credit card in the mail.
The provision of a temporary card number is of little additional value to me. However, I could not let any unfulfilled promise go unpunished. I logged into my American Express account and clicked the envelope icon to access the Secure Message Center.
From there, I simply selected the “Ask a Question” option and wrote the following message:
I applied for my JetBlue Credit Card, and I was informed that I would receive an instant account number. However, when I waited for the account number to appear for immediate use, the website showed an apology page, after a lengthy wait, stating that an error had occurred and a number could not be provided immediately.
In addition, I only know was able to activate my credit card, more than a month after my official account opening date, due to some lengthy regular mail delay that may not have been the responsibility of American Express.
Anyway, I was wondering if any compensation could be dispensed for the inconvenience with the account number.
The response came within hours:
It seems that due to a technical issue, the instant account number was not generated and I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.
For you, I have issued a goodwill credit of $50.00 on your account. The credit will be updated within next 24-48 hours.
I hope that I have addressed your concern to your satisfaction. Your membership since 2006 is truly valued and we look forward to serving you.
Email Servicing Team
Well done American Express!
Posted on March 4, 2013 in Uncategorized
I was checking my American Airlines AAdvantage account when I noticed this:
Notice the 1,500 Citi 10% Award Redemption Bonus, a rebate on my earlier 15,000-mile AAdvantage redemption that resulted in a valuation of 1.11 cents per mile. However, I should revise that valuation to 1.24 cents per mile, as any cardholder of this account or the similar Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® Visa Signature® Card will receive an effective 11% improvement on their AAdvantage redemptions. If one redeems 100,000+ AAdvantage miles in a year, this 10% mileage rebate is worth more than $100.
I had written about acquiring the Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard® because of the 30,000 bonus miles and $100 statement credit. In addition, I have benefited from Priority Boarding privileges and the double miles accrued on American Airlines purchases. I had forgotten about this benefit of earning 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back, up to 10,000 each calendar year.