Last week’s Winning tip:
“One tip I have learned through many Priceline bids is to be patient. It is better to wait until the next day than to rebid more than you want to spend. Hotel availability works like this: Hotels know where they want to be in terms of how many rooms they have sold depending on how close it is to the date. Like the airlines these days, hotels chains use yield management. The ideal situation for them is to be almost sold out a few days before. Then they can sell the remaining rooms at a hefty premium. On the other hand, if a day or three passes and they don’t sell many rooms, it’s not great for them. This is when they release rooms to Priceline. So by holding your bid steady day after day, you will find the point at which they release rooms to Priceline. Once you get proficient at re-bidding it only takes five or 10 minutes a day to do the re-bid process. There are some good examples on betterbidding.com where people get the best deals and they report what they bid every day for a week or more.
If it is getting close to the date of your stay, what I do is protect myself with cancellable cash or points booking. Most likely it will not be needed, but if it is a particularly busy time of the year it reduces the stress level of not having a room. One other tip for using Priceline, which is fairly obvious, is to use one of the cash back sites or mypoints.com, which is what I do.”
We’ve talked a lot about credit and the ideal credit cards for those just starting to establish some credit. I found a great card to serve the novice — a card that would have been ideal for me two years ago when I went through the fiasco of trying to get my first credit card. (Read my February 11th post for details.)
Here is the run down:
- There is no co-signer required on this card.
- No Annual Fee.
- 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 12 months and 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 7 months.
- You reduce your purchase APR by .25% (up to a max of 2% while your account is open) if you:
- make a purchase, stay under your credit limit, and pay at least your minimum payment on time for three billing cycles in a row (a great way to reward responsible use of credit).
- Identity Theft Protection with $0 liability on fraudulent charges.
- A cell phone protection plan.
- Automatic travel accident insurance: Charge plane, train, or bus tickets to your Citi® card and you, your spouse, and eligible dependent children are automatically covered for Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance at no additional cost.
- Auto Rental Insurance: coverage when you reserve and rent an eligible vehicle with your Citi® card and decline the car rental company’s collision loss/damage waiver insurance.
And finally, qualifying for this credit card entitles you to join the Citi Thank You Rewards Program. Go to http://www.thankyou.com/ to view the Thank You Rewards Program Site.
In this program the Forward Card offers you:
- 2,500 bonus Thank You Points for new customers approved through this offer if you sign up for paperless statements within 3 months.
- 6,000 bonus Thank You Points for new customers approved through this offer when you make $250 in purchases within 3 months of your account opening.
- Five Thank You Points for every dollar you spend on purchases at book stores, record stores, restaurants, including fast food restaurants, motion picture theaters, and video entertainment rental stores.
- One Thank You Point for every dollar you spend on all other purchases.
- 100 bonus Thank You Points at the end of every billing cycle that you make your minimum payment on time and are not over your credit limit. (That’s a potential of 1200 bonus points per calendar year!)
The Thank You Points program also rewards points if you have a Citibank checking account (for those of you who bank with them). They also reward extra points for shopping with specific retailers associated with their program. And they have over 600 participating retailers includin; Target, Best Buy, Restaurant.com, and Carnival Cruise Lines. Some of the retailers were offering as much as 25 points per dollar spent.
You may also purchase points at $25 per 1000 points. No extra fees.
What we are really concerned with are the travel based rewards through this points program.
Through the travel center, they offer rewards points redemption towards airline tickets, hotel stays, rental cars, cruises, and vacation packages.
The airline ticket redemption has a search feature very much like that of the airline websites. You log in and search by destination, then the site gives your results in points-per-ticket separated by airline. I have a bunch of family members about an hour outside of Chicago that I want to visit this fall, so I went looking for that ticket to get an idea of how many points I would need for round-trip fare. I rarely fly out of my home base airport, Columbia, SC (CAE), because the tickets are usually very expensive, so I searched out of Charlotte, NC (CLT). A Friday October 7th through Monday October 10th flight cost 30,800 points nonstop on U.S. Airways. I checked the value of this flight with U.S. Airways and they were charging $308, taxes and fees included, which makes each point worth exactly one cent.
Under hotel rewards I searched Charleston, SC, as I know the city area and I go down there a few times a year for a quick weekend getaway. September is a great month for me to go to Charleston because the weather is beautiful, tourist season is over, and all the kids have gone back to school. The beaches and markets are peaceful and hotel rates are much lower. The search for a Friday night stay September 9th turned out some 2* Quality Inn, Comfort Inn, Baymont Inn’s at 7300-8500 points per night. The 3*’s included one downtown Comfort Inn for 11,600 points, a bunch of great historic district hotels in the low 20,000 point range, and one very decent Holiday Inn for 18,900 points. I checked the price on the Holiday Inn I liked and, from their website, the cost was $180 pre tax, again about one cent per point.
A rental car in my home town, pick up 7 a.m. on a Friday and drop off at 5 p.m. the next day was from 10,000 to 17,000 points, depending on the rental company and size of the car.
Gift cards for several hotel chains are available including Marriott and Hyatt. The best redemption is at the 10,000 point level for $100 gift certificates.
Restaurant gift cards are also offered, including: Dean and Deluca, Hard Rock Cafe, Legal Seafood, Olive Garden, Long Horn, Panera Bread, Restaurant.com, and many more. For example, Chili’s (and the majority of the others) gift cards are redeemed at a rate of $25 for 3500 points, $50 for 6000 points, or $100 for 10,000 points. Restaurant.com redeems points at $25 for 1000 points and $50 for 2000 points. I remember last year when Restaurant.com had a huge sale and we spent $35 to get $25-off coupons for $4 each. Having a few of these cards around for a sale like that would be great.
The Thank You Rewards Program is offered on an array of Citi Bank cards, not solely the Citi Forward Card for College Students. The Citi Forward card for College Students is designed for those just starting to establish credit. It rewards responsible credit management — a great starter card! See the card details below for a full list of terms and conditions. And don’t forget to always print out the deal so you have it in hand in the future should you run into problems collecting your bonuses.
Please post any tips you have on using these types of rewards bonus points towards travel under the comments section for a change to win a $100 travel gift card next Friday.
– Shannon, The Rookie.
American Express Charge Card Extended Payment Option Link
Several of you have asked for this link to try to qualify for the 5000 Membership Rewards points for signing up for the extended payment option. Here it is. Thanks, Dave. Katy scored 5K!