Monthly Archives: October 2014

How I scored 5 x Points for Paying my Lawn Care Man and City Water Bill

Disclosure:  I do not receive any compensation of any kind by expressing my own personal opinions about credit cards that I have.

Last week one of the big office supply stores had a sale on SEARS gift cards.  If you bought a $100 gift card, they would take 20% off and only charge you $80.  I had my Chase Ink Business card with me that would get me 5 x points on any purchase that I made at an office supply store so I proceeded to purchase two SEARS gift cards.

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I’m not a big SEARS though I do like their Lands End line and many of their appliances (as long as Consumer Reports rates them high).  But what was I going to do with two gift cards?

I drove myself over to our closest SEARS store and looked around the store.  I found their gift card rack, and many times there are more than one of them, and found VISA debit cards in a $200 denomination.  My SEARS gift cards were worth $200.  I purchased the VISA gift card and walked out of the store ahead by $40 less $5.95 for the VISA gift card.  SCORE….but the story goes not end there.

Today I went to my local grocery store that sells money orders.  I ordered one money order to pay my city water bill and then another to pay my lawn care man.  These are both bills that I would have paid by check and received no points.  Each money order cost me .76.   Total net gain was $32.53 and 800 points.

Yes, for some that is not worth it but got me thinking.  I could purchase VISA gift card at an office supply store or another type of store where you would get 5 x points on your credit card (even without the deal on SEARS cards), go to my local grocery store and purchase a money order and pay my dentist, doctor, even my church pledge – it is still valid, legal tender and one that gets me 5 x points.   Obviously this instance was worth more because I received money for this venture because of the sale on SEARS gift cards.

When you are shopping or reading store flyers, look for items like this – items that are “like” money that you could purchase, make a little money and receive points for your future travel.

What are your stories about gift cards?

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Travel Clinics and My Experience

When we recently traveled to South Africa, it was suggested to us, a few couple weeks before our departure, that we might want to consider getting some anti-malaria pills.  The only location where we would have had a remote chance of getting malaria would have be in Kruger National Park.  Additionally, since it was winter in the Kruger, the chances were extremely low.  Nevertheless, since I do have an auto-immune disease I thought it was prudent to get anti-malaria medication.

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We immediately called the local travel clinic to see about scheduling an appointment.  When the clinic called back they basically said that they could not help us as they would need to see us two weeks prior to our trip to begin the shots and medication regimen and they didn’t have any available appointments.  I questioned them about shots since I “knew” that all I needed was anti-malaria medication but they wouldn’t budge.  I would get no appointment and no medication from them.  Now what!

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I then went to the CDC website to see what they story was.  I was able to look up country specific information again confirming that the risk was low and it would be only for Kruger.  The CDC website listed different malaria medications, the reasons why we would consider the specific ones and the reasons that we might want to avoid using some of the drugs.  Some of the medications only required us to begin taking the pills 1-2 days before we enter the area where malaria transmission could occur.  Additionally, some pills we only had to take for 7 days after leaving the area instead of 4 weeks as some meds required.

I made an appointment with my family doctor, brought the print-out from the CDC website.  She was very happy that I did bring the print-out as she didn’t have to leave the examining room to go to the website and print it out.  We went over all the medications available, the pros and cons including costs.  I walked out with my prescription.

I was very happy that I pursued this even after the travel clinic did not give me reason to pursue it.  If I had listened to them, I would have gone to South Africa without any medication since I was “late” in contacting them.  No shots were needed for this trip – only pills.

What I am trying to say is to do your homework.  You need to be responsible for your well being.  If you find that you are late like I was, go to the CDC website.  Print off their recommendations and bring it to your local doctor or clinic that you go to for medical care.  Your doctors will appreciate your bringing the information to them.

Chicago Seminar – American Airline miles and Cadillac

WOW — what a weekend I had.  I learned so much from the speakers and I was able to fine tuned other ideas that I never implemented because I wasn’t sure what was being taught to me.  Most importantly, I was really able to connect with others attending the conference and share ideas on travel, manufactured spend and booking travel.

I won’t go into everything at this time, you’ll find bits and pieces of what I learned coming out this next month but I will tell you a real deal that is going on now.

Do any of you collect American Airlines points?  If so, I have an amazing deal for you and it takes almost no time at all.  If you test drive a Cadillac, you’ll receive 7,500 points.  If you and your spouse both test drive, you’ll receive 15,000 as a couple.  This is an amazing offer.  You can either make an appointment to test drive the car at 844-469-2234 where you will speak to a concierge who will set up your appointment.  Be prepared for about a 30 minute wait time.  You might be able to set up the appointment with your local Cadillac dealer.  This is no end to this deal but it does say quantities limited.  Make sure you have an AAdvantage Loyalty number and to be safe, bring that number with you.  Some have reported telling the dealer when they arrive for the test drive that they are there for only the points and some dealers will give them the certificate and not make them do the test drive. For all the details about the offer, please click this link.   If do you this, pleases report back to me and I’ll list everyone’s experience.

 

The Chicago Seminar

Chicago Chicago the toddlin’ town.  That’s right…I’m here in Chicago to attend the Chicago Seminar put on by Howie from The Frugal Traveler and supported by many of the big time bloggers whose blogs many of you read.  This is my third time attending this conference.

It’s true, generally they have the same speakers who go over some of the same topics and yet I always come away with a few morsels of knowledge that I didn’t know before.  Whether it is that something finally “clicked” or it indeed is new it doesn’t matter.

The “classes” begin on Friday night.  We go to more classes on Saturday with a cocktail reception in the evening and then again continue on Sunday till about 4 PM.  There are two education rooms side by side so you do have a choice of which topics you want to attend and this is done at registration time earlier in the year.

What I also like about these conferences is the interaction with other participants who love to share and help in between sessions, over a meal or drink.

It is always held at the Holiday Inn at Elk Grove Village, close to O’Hare Airport.  We get a great group rate which includes two breakfast for those staying at the hotel, and two lunch at the hotel for all conference attendees.  We also get our points which if why I always do the IHG promotion in the fall knowing that I’ll have a few nights at this Holiday Inn.  I believe the conference was about $100 for the entire weekend.  The hotel price was probably very similar in price.

To cut down on the expense of flying into Chicago, this year I tried something different.  I flew Southwest into Midway since they had a great sale fare of $99 however, the conference is near O”Hare.  I was able to take the train (did a transfer at Clark/Lake) at a cost of three dollars.  It was very easy as the train stop was at Midway.  However, it took about 90 minutes to get to O’Hare.  Unfortunately I am flying out of Midway on Monday morning so I’ll have to do this in reverse including getting a shuttle from the hotel to O’Hare.  I’ll probably leave very early from the hotel as my flight is about 10:30 AM. When I arrived at Midway I noticed that the TSA and security line was extremely long.  I did not see any TSA pre-check but that is not saying it wasn’t there – I just didn’t see it.  Will I do it again – perhaps in flying to Chicago and to the conference since I have extra time in the beginning (I got here a day early because of the sale) but I will not do it flying home.

Look forward to some great reports from the conference in the next week or so.

IHG and Club Carlson promotions + Ebates

As you know, I like to save money – who doesn’t.  I know that in my last post I spoke about the hotel promotions for IHG (Holiday Inn, etc) as well as for Club Carlson’s Radisson Hotels.

In addition to those promotions, you can also get some money back if you first go to Ebates.com.  By going to their site, you will get a cash back check from them when you book through their portal.  Once you sign on and are directed away from Ebates site, you will be taken directly to the hotels’ site.  They do not know that you went to Ebates first.

Instead of typing in IHG, you need to list it as Holiday Inn.  The cash back for this month is:

  • Holiday Inn Coupons & Cash Back 4.5%
  • Holiday Inn Club Vacations Coupons & Cash Back 4.5%
  • Holiday Inn Express Coupons & Cash Back 4.5%

Also, you can get cash back for the stays you might be booking with Club Carlson for your Radisson stay (remember the 7500 American Airlines points).  They have all different types of discounts from government rates to seniors and so much more.  In the search box type in “Radisson Hotel”.  I found that the cash back was about 2.5%

I have used Ebates.com for nine years and I love receiving my checks every three months.  If you haven’t signed up for Ebates, please consider using my link   I’ll earn $20 for the referral.  If you choose not to use my referral, that is fine.  I wanted to be upfront and honest with you.

IHG and Club Carlson Hotel Promotions – are you in?

As I have mentioned before, we tend to stay at more moderately priced hotels and it doesn’t bother us.  Most times we are out enjoying the area we are visiting in.  Sometimes these more moderately priced hotels have fantastic hotels in great locations.

Since this is the way that we travel (for the most part) I have enrolled in two hotel promotions for the Fall.  The first is the IHG “Into the Night” promotion.  IHG is the parent company of many well known hotels – Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn and Suites, Crown Plaza, Intercontinental and many more.  Like their promotion last year, the bonus will vary by individual.  You need to log into your account, register for the promotion and find out what your bonus is.  Last year I completed the entire promotion and received about 70,000 points.

holiday inn

The other fall hotel promotion that I am working on for Club Carlson members.  It is the  Take Off with More Miles offer.  Once you register by October 15th  and complete two Eligible Stays at participating Radisson® hotels by December 15, 2014, will earn 7,500 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles in addition to your Club Carlson miles and the night/stay toward elite status.  If you are interested in this promotion, you can register here.  This must be competed by December 15th.

club carlson

Are you working on any promotions?

Club Carlson’s Park Inn Hotel, Cape Town Foreshores, South Africa

After our safari in Kruger we flew from Nelspruit to Cape Town.  Nothing special about the flight.  We landed, collected our luggage, picked up our rental car and was off to find the Park Inn,  Cape Town Foreshores where we booked two rooms with our points.  Blogger Hubby booked one room and I booked the other – a suite which I paid $30 USD for the upgrade.  This was perfect since we had a baby who slept in the living room portion of the suite.  We did ask for a crib for the baby and we received a really nice Pack ‘n Play with a crib size down comforter in a duvet for the baby to sleep on and a baby size pillow.

park inn entrance

The hotel as in a great location close to Long Street known for its shopping.  We were close to all the highways that we needed so it never took us far to get anywhere.  The hotel had a very modern feel to it with an inside atrium on all the floors.  The rooms were very nicely appointed.  Since we were gold elite with Club Carlson by virtue of us having the Club Carlson credit card, each room received a bottle of South African wine and a plate of dried apricots, nuts and jelly beans.  Our room, the non-suite, even had a balcony with chairs so we could sit outside, drinking our wine and watch the clouds over Table Mountain. Did you know that when the clouds descend and settle on he top of Table Mountain it is called a “tablecloth”?  Needless to say,  we were really happy in our room.

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The hotel does urge you not to go out at night and walk around.  There is a hotel shuttle that will take you and pick you up though we found that it took a while and we ended up paying $3 for a cab to bring us back from dinner.

A recurrent theme that we were finding is that hotels do not seem to offer you drawers to put your clothes in.  We each had one smallish drawer.  You can see it sticking out from behind Blogger Hubby in the last picture.  It is floating against the wall.  Next to him in the floor cabinet is the refrigerator which holds the bottles of water that the hotel gives everyone gratis every day – much appreciated.

The hotel had a really interesting Rooftop Terrace bar with the swimming pool up there and at times at DJ.  Not sure I would want to go swimming with all the drinkers around but it sure was pretty with all the colorful lights and again the view of Table Mountain.

park-inn-foreshore-views

They offer a wonderful breakfast though double check to see if it is included with your room.  I did ask at check-in time and they told us it was but after the first morning we found out that only one room (the Business Class room on points) had the free breakfast and not the suite that we paid points and cash for.  Nevertheless we ate there every morning.  Since I had questioned it and they couldn’t tell me why one room had it and the other, they took the charge off the bill.   Parking is available at $5 USD per day but it is not for the faint of heart.  You enter from a small parking area and go straight up quickly.  The you turn oh so carefully and go up again.  Your space has your name on it so no one else can park there which is nice and you don’t have to go looking for a space.

The best part about having a Club Carlson credit card (and I am not paid in anyway to say this, just my honest opinion) is that when you use points to book a room, your last night is free.  You do have to spend two nights in order to get this benefit.  We saved over $200 USD, received wine and goodies in each room and have free internet.  We were delighted with our accommodations and would recommend it to anyone.