Monthly Archives: July 2014

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Continuing on with the credit card theme from yesterday, we are moving on to my Number One favorite credit card – the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.  Every time I use this card I get lots of compliments because it is a heavy card with metal between the plastic front and back.  This is the card that both Blogger Hubby and I each applied for two years ago to get enough points to fly to Australia in business class with the lie flat seats.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred

With the Sapphire Preferred card, you get 2 times points on all travel and dining charges and on the first Friday of the month you will get 3 times points on dining.  Another perk is an additional 1 times points (for a total of 3 times points) on travel when you book your travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.  One benefit that I think is important to any traveler is no foreign transaction fees.  That alone can save you lots of money.

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Now you ask, what are Ultimate Rewards.  This is the part that I REALLY like.  When you use a Delta credit card, you receive Delta miles; when you use an American Airlines card you receive American Airlines points.  When you use Chase Sapphire Preferred card and a few other cards from Chase, you receive Ultimate Reward points.

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Ultimate Reward points are flexible points.  Chase gives you options of where you can transfer your Ultimate Reward points to and I like options.  I can transfer these points to United Airlines and consequently to all of the Star Alliance; to Southwest Airlines which we have used twice in the past year and had never used before; British Airways which gets you into the OneWorld Alliance; Korean Airlines which gets you into the SkyTeam Alliance; Virgin Atlantic and just added (and one of my favorite airlines that is also in the Star Alliance – Singapore Airlines.  For those who take the train you can transfer you points to AMTRAK.  There are also hotels that you can transfer your points to though in my opinion you get more bang for your point by transferring them to an airline.  However if you need hotel points, you can transfer them to Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton and IHG which is Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza and more.

Currently if you are approved for this card you need to spend $3000 in the first 3 months to earn 40,000 miles.  If you are interested in this card, leave a note in the comment section and I’ll forward to you my referral code where I would receive 5,000 points for the referral or if you would rather not, you can go directly to the Chase website and fill out an application there.  Either way, this card is definitely in my wallet and is my favorite.

Chase Ink Business Credit Card

I’ve been accused of not spending enough time writing about credit cards so to the readers that have written me about it, this post is for you.

I absolutely love the Chase Ink Business card.  Although I do have a business (I rent a condo) when I applied for some reason I didn’t even consider my rental as a business.  Instead I said that I sold homemade items at craft shows and did some lunch catering for the elderly.  I answered the questions truthfully, called myself a sole proprietor and submitted by application.  I was approved.  I’m sure that many of you have a business without even thinking about it?  Do you babysit, tutor, do side jobs, write a blog, etc  There are so many circumstances that would qualify for a “business”.

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What I really like about the Chase Ink credit card is that it gives me 5 times points when I pay my landline, wireless bills as well as my internet bill and (drum roll please) office supply stores.

Yes, my greatest points come from office supply stores.  You may wonder how I do that.  It’s easy — I shop the gift card section of office supply stores for upcoming shopping or dining that I will be doing.

My Office Max is located next door to one of my favorite stores – TJ MAXX.  I go into T J MAXX and put what I am going to purchase in a cart then head next door to buy my TJ MAXX git card.  Yes, it is an additional step but I will earn 5 times points at Office Max toward my purchase at TJ  MAXX.  I will also pick up restaurant gift cards as well as gas station gift cards.  One of my favorites is Amazon gift cards or those that are Amazon Kindle gift cards (those can be used on Amazon and not just on their Kindle product).  I’m finding that I am spending more and more time shopping on Amazon particularly for new reads for my Kindle so why not get the most points that I can?

The Chase Ink Business card is just that – a charge card which means that you need to pay your balance in full each month.  For those of us in the points hobby, we know how important it is for your credit score to pay your charge or credit cards in full each month.

Currently the Ink Business card is offering 50,000 Ultimate Reward points when you spend $5000 within three months.  Now wait a minute, before you say that you can’t spend $5000 in three months, remember some of the ways that we “manufactured spending”.  I have purchased variable VISA debit cards at stores (many office supply stores do not sell these cards but many grocery stores do) where you can load anywhere between $20 to $500 on these cards.  I then call a number on the back of the card to set a PIN.  What I do next is go to my local grocery store and purchase a money order using the debit card to fund the money order.  Later I’ll deposit the money order in my bank account so I can pay the Ink Business card charge that I made for the debit card.  To break it down further:  I used my credit card (and got points for this) to buy a VISA/MasterCard debit card and I would put $500 on it.  I would then take that VISA card with $500 on it and purchase a money order.  I would then later take the money order and deposit it to my bank account so I could pay the credit card bill.  Personally I wouldn’t do more than $1500 to $2000 on money orders per month.  Now you have met your $5000 spend to earn your 50,000 points in opening up your Ink credit card.

Finally, when you make application online, you may not get an immediate response. That is not unusual.  I simply call their reconsideration line.  They may need more information and by speaking with them, you can give them all the information they need or perhaps explain.  Do not wait longer than a week.  I’ll go as far as saying that I call the same day that you applied.  Secondly, make sure that you have a good reason to apply for the card.  Do not say that you like the bonuses that they are offering.  You might say that you are planning on some foreign travel and the no foreign transaction fee is important to you.   You could also say that a friend of yours has the card and highly recommends it.  If you do not have enough credit available, offer to reduce your credit line on another card with the same bank – in this case Chase.  The telephone number that you want to call is 800-453-9719.

If you are interested in applying, here is a link  I do not receive any compensation from Chase or any other company.  These comments are purely my own.

 

 

Traveling Internationally with Medicines – What’s the Scoop?

As Blogger Hubby and I are of … shall we say, a certain age where we take daily medicines, we try to find out what are the rules are for flying with liquid medicines as well as bringing prescriptive medicines into the countries we are visiting.

The TSA has stated that you can bring more than 3.4 oz of medically necessary liquids and gel and they do not have to be in ziplock bags BUT you must tell the TSA screening officer that you have them.  There rules state:

Travelers who bring medically necessary liquids in excess of 3.4 ounces or medical accessories such as freezer packs, IV bags, pumps and syringes to the checkpoint must inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process. TSA suggests, but does not require, medication be clearly labeled to facilitate the screening process. If a traveler does not want a medically necessary liquid to be X-rayed or opened for additional screening, the traveler must inform the officer before screening begins.

 

We assume that if it is prescriptive, we can bring it into another country without any problem, but not so fast.  There are rules about how much you can bring in, what type and whether you need a physician’s note

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We are traveling to South Africa next month and to find out what their rules are I went to the a South African government site – A Travelers Guide:  Custom Requirements when Entering and Leaving South Africa.  Reading through this online handbook I learned what I can bring in and whether I need a doctors note for medicines that will be for more than a 30 day supply.

To begin my quest to find out what the rules are I go to where most people go to for information – Google.  There you will find lots of information but I am not always sure if it is accurate information.  I look for the “hits” that are from a government source – those I’ll rely on.

Do you travel with medicine?  Do you check to see that you will not have any problems when entering a country with your medicines.  I know that many will think this is an unnecessary step but I always feel better knowing that the rules are.

 

Best Bakeries in the World

I enjoying eating and many times when we reminisce about trips, we remember what special dishes we ate and where.  Does anyone else do that?

Anyway, Blogger Daughter sent me a list of the top bakeries in the world.  I think she sent it because many times Blogger Hubby and I will seek out bakeries to buy things for our breakfasts or lunches as we travel.  In fact, we found a great one close to where we were staying in Sydney called “Bread Works” that had the most sumptuous bread ever – delectable breakfast buns, meat, veggie and cheese filled rolls for lunch. Bread so soft it could float off my tongue.  I can still taste it.

This list comes from Buzz Feed.  How many have you been to and will you try to go to some of these on your next trip.  I know that when we are in Copenhagen in September, we will be looking for #5 –  Conditori La Glace.  I didn’t know about this bakery before and now it is on my list of things to do, see and taste.

Anyway, here is their rankings:

1. Dominique Ansel Bakery, New York City.   The Cronut, need I say more?

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2. Tatte in Boston.

3. Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki in Tokyo and Paris

4. Demel, Vienna  Blogger Daughter was there a few years ago and she had a difficult time deciding what to try.  We’ll be there next spring and I’m anxious to try it as well.

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5. Conditori La Glace in Copenhagen  I’ll report back in the Fall about this bakery shop.

6. Du Pain et des Idees in Paris.  According to the article, this bakery has the best croissant in Paris

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7. Czech Stop in West, Texas  Well known for its kolaches

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8. Pasticceria Marchesi in Milan

9.  Bakerbots in Toronto  Their specialty is their handcrafted ice cream sandwiches in many unique flavors

10.  e5 Bakehouse in London

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11. Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney

12.  Gagou de Paris in Jerusalem

13. Tai Cheong Bakery in Hong Kong

14.  Conditorei Schober in Zurich

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15.  Pastéis de Belém in Belém, Portugal

16.  Tartine in San Francisco

17. Konditorei und Cafe Buchwald in Berlin

18.  Hafiz Mustafa 1864 in Istanbul.  I’ve had the best baklava in my life in Istanbul mainly because they use pistachios instead of walnuts.

baklava

19.  Boulangerie Guerin in Rio de Janeiro

20.  Macrina Bakery in Seattle

Have you been to any of these bakeries?

Check Your Flight Itinerary

As you might remember, Blogger Hubby and I have a BIG trip coming up next month.  Today in the midst of planning, we took the opportunity to review our itinerary on the airline’s website.  I noticed that on our way home, there were some time changes to our flights and one of them could seriously impact us.

Originally we had about three hours in Toronto after our flight from Copenhagen.  Now, we were down to 90 minutes.  90 minutes – YIKES!  I wasn’t sure if that would be sufficient time to deplane, go through Canada Border Services Agency an  U.S. Customs and Border Protection and then get to our gate.

Thankfully there was another flight 45 minutes after our scheduled one that United was able to put us on.  That meant we would have a little less time in Chicago where we would connect to our last flight to Detroit.

Lesson learned, always check to see if there have been any changes to your itinerary.  Since the airlines have made the initial change, they do not charge you when you need to make a change like we did.

 

Florence, Italy and the Hotel Alessandra – a true gem

I admit it.  I’m still a newbie when it comes to international traveling.  I know that there are certain cities that I want to see because generally within the capital cities are sights that I want to visit.  Other than the main cities, I don’t know much about the other large cities – but I am learning.

Blogger Hubby and I visited Florence, Italy after visiting Rome.  Rome, I knew about.  I mean, they have the Coloseum, The Forum, Trevi Fountain (I saw 3 Coins in a Fountain too many times when I was a kid), the Borghese, the Vatican, the Appian Way and so much more.  All I knew of Florence is that it had the Duomo and the David.  I was truly ignorant but eager to learn.

Blogger Hubby booked us a room at the Hotel Alessandra.  This was before I got into the points hobby so we were trying to do things on a budget but still have a nice time.  Trip Advisor contributors had given this hotel great reviews so we were willing to give it a try.

We took the Trenitalia train from Termini in Rome to  Firenze (Florence) Santa Maria Novella and then a taxi to the hotel.  We could have walked but were advised to take a cab our first time going to the hotel.  We arrived at the address and saw a small sign outside indicating that the hotel was here.  We walked inside and up one flight of stairs where we found the smallest elevator.  It would take the two of us and no luggage or one of us and luggage.  We went up one    flight of stairs to the hotel.  We were warmly greeted and then shown to our room.  The hotel is somewhat dated as fas as the furnishings go but it is clean, warm and welcoming.  They also have a/c in your room but you do need to go  to the desk and ask them to turn it on for you.  We even had a television in our large room – a first on our trip.  There was a large family room where you find books to borrow, a computer to use and meet and talk with other travelers.

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Did I tell you about one of the best things about this hotel?  Their breakfast buffet.  Amazing, huge and delicious.  And it was so elegantly displayed.  The next best thing about this hotel was its location – just off the main street that leads to the Ponte Vecchio which was only a few blocks away.  There was vibrancy in this area yet the block where the hotel was located was somewhat quiet and noise was not a problem at all.  Getting to where I wanted to go from the hotel was very easy.

 

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Ponte Vecchio at night - all that glitters is gold
Ponte Vecchio at night – all that glitters is gold

The staff at the hotel made sure that any need or desire of ours was met.  They arranged cooking lessons for us, a walking tour of Florence, tickets to Uffizi and The Accademia.  The staff really sets this hotel apart from all others that I have been to – they are that great!  Here is a picture of Blogger Hubby making gnocchio.

cooking lesson

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Now back to Florence.  Once we checked into our hotel, we walked.  We walked to Pitti Palace and then a L O N G walk to Piazzale Michangelo where all of Florence was laid out in front of us like a beautiful mosaic.  The colors, the architecture and the history – it was just amazing.  Our kids couldn’t believe that we walked – they took the bus so I had bragging rights for once.

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Walking throughout Florence we visited the Duomo and the nearby Baptistery with the famous bronze doors with its Gates of Paradise.  I learned about the Medici family particularly while on at Walking Tour Around Florence.  I saw the original David at the Accademia.  I was overwhelmed at seeing these works of art that were created centuries before; works that I had seen only in photographs in books.  History was coming alive before my very eyes.

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duomo

In other cities that we had visited, we rode on public transportation and had purchased transit cards.  Here there was no need.  We walked to the market area where we tasted and purchased aged balsamic vinegar; shawls for our daughter and daughters-in-law, leather gloves where I was fitted for the pair I chose and feel like butter; and a leather purse.  We would stroll finding the gelato stores, the English bookstore and sample the homemade crepes with nutella sold on the streets.

Florence will always hold a special place for me and when I return, and I will, I’m be sure to stay again at the Hotel Alessandra.  I hope when you travel to Florence, you’ll consider staying there as well – it is worth it.

The Result of our Home Away Weekend Rental

As you might remember from this post, Blogger Hubby and I decided to rent a seven bedroom home on Lake Anna in Virginia for a long weekend to celebrate his BIG birthdays as well as Mothers Day.

The landlord and I had several emails in the months leading up to our rental – did I need to bring linens?  what about paper goods?  did they have kayaks for our use?  what was I expected to do before we left?  and many more questions.  I felt confident leading up to our weekend.  It was in a great location for those who were flying in since they flew into Richmond and it was only 75 minutes from the airport.  We had our children take care of lunches and dinners and Blogger Hubby and I took care of breakfast.  What was also great about this rental is that there was no check-in or check-out time.  We could have 4 full days there.

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We arrived first and from the street it looks like a small two story home with a three car garage.  From the back it was an impressive three story home.  We excitedly begin exploring. The first plan had the open floor plan that encompassed a large and well stocked for crowds kitchen,  six stools around the kitchen bar, the living area had a two story stone fireplace, a large kitchen table, a screened balcony with table and six chairs and another open aired balcony.  There was also a dining room that we never used.  The master bedroom was on the first floor as well and what a bathroom it had with six shower jets.  We too had our own balcony that overlooked the Lake.  In what should have been the office, held two twin beds with a bathroom in the hallway.  Upstairs there were three huge bedrooms with one of them another master suite with en suite bathroom.  The other two bedrooms shared a large bathroom.   In the basement were two more bedrooms with one having a queen bed, a double bed and two twin beds.  The other bedroom had a queen bed. The huge game room was well equipped with a ping pong table, Wii, a poker table and chairs for 6 people and many more games and activities.  This was a very family friendly home and we appreciated the high chairs, trucks, legos, etc that was available for our use.  We also utilized the sliding door to walk to the dock.  As we walked out there was a huge gas grill (with a spare tank in the garage) for our use.

The land did slope down to toward the Lake but there was a flat enough space for a game of Spite Ball and for our Family Photo Op.

family pic

The dock was huge – the owners told us it was the largest on the Lake.  The children were able to fish off the dock or walk down the few steps to get into the water.  There were so many fish that one of the grandkids actually caught over 100 fish – mainly sunfish and catfish though he did catch a large carp that “got away”.

Our children took turns cooking dinners.  One night it was a hamburger bar with all the fixings, another night it was barbecued pork butt that we turned into pulled pork sandwiches.  Our daughter and her husband did tacos with all the great toppings.  Lunch and breakfasts were casual with an assortment of cereals, fruits, yogurts, lunch meats and leftovers.  We didn’t want anyone stressing over meals and Blogger Hubby and I thought we would “take a break” from meal duty.  We were happy to pass the torch to our very capable children.

All and all it was a great family filled time and I would highly recommend that you stay a vacation close to home with activities and rooms for everyone.  This home and vacation fit our family like a glove.

How to Get Cruise Discounts

I was born a bargainista and nothing excites me more than getting a bargain – even if it is a little bit off full price.  In my mind, a little bit off is better than nothing.  Sometimes it is enough to pay the taxes on my purchase.

save money

Combine my passion for bargain with my passion for travel and you’ll always find me looking for a way to save a buck.  As you all might have realized by now, I really enjoy cruising.  If you are flexible, you can just about always find great rates if you book a last minute cruise.  Blogger Daughter and I once booked a 5 night cruise on Celebrity a week before the sailing and although we did not have a balcony we did score an impressive fare of $250 each.  We were looking for someplace to go and $250 probably wouldn’t have covered our food for 5 days let alone our accommodations and entertainment.  We were also fortunate to find last minute flights for $200 round trip; otherwise, depending on the airfare, we could have driven to Miami.

We did have a very early morning flight and consequently arrived in Miami way to early to go to the cruise terminal.  We sat at the airport near the ground transportation door.  As we were sitting there, I saw a family of three also sitting there.  Hmm, I wondered if they were also going to the Port of Miami as well.  Turned out they were but on a different cruise line.  I asked if they wanted to share a cab to the Port.  Cab fares were $25 per cab.  They indicated they would and when it was time to go, the attendant outside called for a minivan to take us.  Instead of paying $25, we paid $10.  Savings:  $15.  I will go on a limb and suggest that you never purchase transfers from the cruise lines.  You sit in a big bus and wait for it to fill up before you can leave.  The cab was less money and we could go when we wanted to.

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Another way to save money while cruising is to purchase 100 shares of stock for the cruise line you are interested in.  I have 100 shares of Royal Caribbean – RCCL(which also includes Celebrity Cruise Line and others) as well 100 share of Carnival Cruise Line – CCL (which also included Holland America and others).  Every quarter I receive a $25 dividend and then an OBC (on board credit) for merely having the stock.

This is the chart from RCCL that shows how much of a credit you’ll receive:

$250           Onboard Credit per Stateroom on Sailings of 14 or more nights.

$200           Onboard Credit per Stateroom on Sailings of 10 to 13 nights.

$100           Onboard Credit per Stateroom on Sailings of 6 to 9 nights.

$ 50            Onboard Credit per Stateroom on Sailings of 5 nights or less.

Some have said that it is not a great stock to have in your portfolio but I disagree.  In the last four years that I have owned RCCL, it has grown by over 130%.  Not too shabby.

alaska cruise

If you are on a cruise and know that you would like to take another cruise in the future, head down to the Future Cruise Office where you can put down a deposit for a future cruise.  By basically pre-paying a portion of your deposit you’ll receive several perks among them, another On Board Credit with your cruise line and a lower deposit when you do decide which cruise to sail next.  RCCL does not let you combine a future cruise credit with a stock purchase credit but can combine them all the lines owned with Carnaval Cruise Line.

One of the best ways to save money is to sail on a repositioning cruise.  At the end of the summer/middle of fall or spring, cruise lines need to reposition their fleet from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean or from the Caribbean to Alaska and other areas around the globe.  Many times you’ll stop in ports that are not traditional port of call for the cruise lines.  I have not done a transAtlantic on a repositioning but I have heard wonderful reviews for the time you are crossing the Atlantic and you think boredom might set in – the crew goes all out to make sure you are still having fun.

Lastly, I suggest going through their Group Sales Department if you have at least a few friends who will cruise with you.  This will get you a certain percentage off your fare (5%).  They want to have at least 8 staterooms with double occupancy for the full discount but if you fall short, you and your group will still get the discount percentage that they offered.

What are your suggestions for saving money while sailing on the high seas?

 

Museum Day Live! – September 27th, 2014

Last year while Hubby Blogger and I were in Hawaii we were able to take advantage of entry to two museums thanks to the Museum Day Live! Promotion and  we didn’t pay anything.  We did need to sign up the month prior to our museum visit, and to request the tickets via the internet.  We were able to download the tickets and take them with us to the museums.  If we had not applied for these tickets  I know that we would not have visited museums while we were in Honolulu but as a frugal traveler, I couldn’t let a good deal pass us by.  Going to the museums really enhanced our trip to Hawaii and we were able to learn about the history of Hawaii and the royal family as well.

Museum Day Live! will be happening again in 2014.  This event, sponsored by The Smithsonian, is an annual event where many museums across the country will give you free admission provide you present a Museum Day Live ticket (downloaded from the internet).

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Follow this link to see what museums are participating in your area or where you might be on September 27th.  I guarantee that you’ll be happy you did.

Chase Freedom 3rd Quarter

I am such a fan of the Chase Freedom credit card; particularly since I have both the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card as well as the Chase Ink business card.  I say particularly so because rather than getting cash back from the Freedom card I get the points and to me, points are extremely valuable.

Freedom

What I like love, about the Chase Freedom card are the different bonus categories that they have each quarter that will give you 5 x points.  This quarter is a repeat of first quarter’s gas points as well as Kohls.

Before this quarter ends. I’ll be sure to purchase some gas gift cards at the gas stations that I go to.  This way I’ll continue to get 5 X points since the gift cards were purchased during the 3rd quarter bonus period.

Don’t forget to activate your Chase Freedom card.  Just follow this link and it will take you to the activation page.