Thursday, August 1, 2019

Reminder to check if your hotel free nights from credit cards actually post!

My wife and I just had a baby so our travel plans will be reduced, as such I've been reviewing my credit cards to see which to cancel and I noticed that the 25,000 point free night from the Chase Marriott $85 annual fee card (which I plan to cancel as soon as possible) never posted to my Marriott account.

I called Chase and they confirmed they never sent the night to Marriott and promised to have someone from marketing contact me within 7-10 days to start the process.  Initially she tried to have me contact Marriott but after she put me on hold the 2nd time, she was able to see the night was never sent from Chase. So don't let them pass you off to the hotel chain, since the hotel chain will have no idea except that you don't have the free night.

So check to make sure those free nights actually post!

Friday, March 22, 2019

1800flowers.com robbing me of my United miles

TL;DR (do people still do TL;DRs?) : Take screenshots of everything when buying from 1800flowers.com including screens that show the number of miles you should get per $ as well as you putting the right promo code in the promo code box during checkout.  1800flowers.com scammed me out of my miles and United/Mileage Plus is of zero help.

I bought flowers on 1800flowers.com during the Valentine season when they had a promo for earning 30 United miles per $ spent.  I usually put a calendar reminder to check if my miles/points post correctly since in my experience, a pretty high % of such referral earnings fail to post correctly.

I unfortunately didn't take screenshots of the 30 miles promo as I never thought United would give me a hard time about it but below are a couple of blogs that mention the 30 mile promo around the February 2019 timeframe.

https://www.doctorofcredit.com/ebates-offering-32-back-at-1800flowers-stack-with-amex-dosh-for-up-to-77-discount/

https://thepointsguy.com/guide/earn-miles-valentines-day-purchases/

So it turns out I only got 15 miles per dollar, I first contacted MileagePlus.  They told me to contact 1800flowers.com, so I did, and they said you should get 15 miles per $.  I told them, no I did a 30 mile promo and sent them the blog posts as "proof" but they kept saying I did a 15 mile promo.  Eventually I gave up and contacted MileagePlus again and they said and I quote:

"I'm sorry, but since 1-800-FLOWERS has advised that the orders aren't eligible for the bonus miles no additional miles can be awarded.  They are the only ones who can verify the order eligibility and award any additional miles."

So United Mileage Plus has no record of the transactions and is completely at the whims of the retailer for a program they run?  I am not buying it but what can I do.  Actually I could try doing a chargeback on my credit card.  And I'm also writing a blog post about it to warn people.

The morale is take screenshots of everything when 1800flowers.com and United are involved.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Hotel savings from Google One

TL;DR: Google One offers a meaningful hotel discount (21% from my 1 example) but is very limited in the number of hotels offering the discount, not a reason to get Google One but a nice to have.

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Google One is a paid service from Google that gets you more storage for your Google life (Gmail, Google Photos, Google Drive etc.) plus "other benefits."

https://one.google.com/

The benefits are:
  • You can talk to or chat with someone from support.
  • You can share the storage with 5 people
  • "Up to 40% off select hotels"
So I tested out the last benefit, the way you do it is after you sign up for Google One, you start at Google search (I tried it in my laptop browser) and search for "hotels in xxx" and while you scroll through the results, you'll see special savings for Google One members.

However, as you might expect, the list of hotels offering these discounts seem very limited.

I was able to find a hotel near JFK that does offer this discount, it looks like this:


You see the Radisson Hotel JFK Airport for $150 on Nov 10 - Nov 11, 2018.  As a comparison, I found a rate of $191 for the same night on Kayak.



I believe these are pre-tax/fees, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a meaningful discount (21%) with Google One.  Now I think the issue is finding hotels that actually have this discount.  I'm sure Google will try to add more hotels but for now, I don't think the hotel discount should be counted on as a reason to sign up for Google One.  It's definitely a nice to have but then you have to remember to compare prices vs Google when you look for hotels.

Friday, September 28, 2018

More datapoints on point transfer to Singapore Airlines over the weekend

I have an expensive booking on Singapore for 2 people, so I'm cleaning out my points from my Citi and Amex accounts and topping off with my Chase points.  Will be good to see how long it takes for the 3 major points programs to transfer to Singapore.  Will be updated as we go along...

From Citi: request submitted 9/28/18 Fri 10AM, points in Singapore on 9/28/18 overnight.  It's dated 9/28 but I last checked around 10PM on 9/28/18 Pacific Time and it's there as of Saturday 9/29/18 afternoon. (I didn't check on 9/29/18 until now)
From Amex: submitted 9/28/18 Fri 2PM, points in Singapore on 9/30 Sun 7:50PM
From Chase: submitted 9/28/19 Fri 10:19AM, points in Singapore on 10/3 Wed 7:45PM (5 days 9 hours, including the weekend, 3 days 9 hours excluding weekend)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Warning about Uber. Drivers who ask you to cancel.

Cliff Notes Summary: Don't cancel if the Uber driver asks you to cancel, you'll get hit with a fee.  Also, don't tell them where you're going if they call and ask.

I was in Panama for an overnight mileage/status run a few years ago and was staying at a hotel by the airport.  I was up at some ridiculous hour like 4AM or 430AM and since the hotel shuttle didn't run that early, I fired up Uber and requested a ride.  The driver was a few minutes away.

A few minutes later, his car hadn't moved an inch.

I figure, OK, maybe he accepted the ride first and he's waking up and getting ready to drive.  Then another few minutes pass with no movement.  I sent him text messages since T-mobile gives free international texts with no response.  I even busted out my high school Espanol for the text message.  (I suppose it's possible he had no idea what I said and thus no response?)

After 10 minutes, I start to fear missing my flight and cancel the ride and request another ride, which shows up quickly and I make my flight.

However, when I cancel a ride after a few minutes, Uber charges me.  I was like what kind of Panamanian bullcrap is this and got the fee waived after complaining. (In English)

Then one day, at SFO after a long flight, my then-fiancee or girlfriend called an Uber on her phone.  The driver again, didn't move for about 5 minutes, then he calls and asks where we are going, we tell him where and he says I don't want to go that direction, I'm trying to get home, can you cancel the ride?

What he was doing was waiting until the grace period passes where I can cancel for free, then he asks me to cancel so he can get the cancellation fee for not doing anything.  This is apparently a thing from when I searched online.  And some desperate, lazy people make money this way while sitting on their butts.

She passes the phone to me and I'm shouting at the guy:

"I'm not cancelling, I know how Uber works, why don't you cancel?"

That's when he starts to get sassy with me and says: "I can wait here all day, if you need to go home, you'll need to cancel"

Clearly, not the brightest tool in the shed, even on her phone, she could have easily fired up Lyft and gotten home but Lyft was a bit pricier so we used my phone to Uber home.  We kept checking on the ride and after about 30 minutes he eventually cancelled. And got penalized, I hope.

Uber's old toilet seat logo

I hear if the driver cancels too often, they get booted from Uber.  I thought of reporting him to Uber but my now-wife told me to not spend my precious time chasing that.  Wow, she's so wise! It may come across as sarcastic but I'm not, honestly.  (Hi wifey!)

So if an Uber driver asks you to cancel don't do it.  If you need to cancel, make sure you report it to Uber and try to get the fee waived.

P.S. Writing about Uber reminded of the time in Taiwan when the driver parked someplace about 2 blocks away from where we were (and yes, my location market in the Uber app was correct absolutely) across pretty much a highway like road where I cannot just cross and keeps calling me asking where I am.  At first I reject the calls, since international calls still cost money on T-mobile and I don't want to pay for an incompetent driver's retardedness.  But finally I pick up and my wife talks to him in Chinese and he wants us to get to where his car is now or he will cancel.  He did end up cancelling as it was going to take about 10 minutes to walk to where he was waiting.  I hope he got booted from Uber.

Change in how I travel

I used to travel quite a bit and loved it.

I loved being asked for directions from people speaking the native language.  (A Greek-speaking lady asking me in Greek where so and so is and me responding in English that I don't know where that is.  I find it refreshing that a Greek or someone who speaks Greek would ask an Asian looking person where something is in Greek.)
I loved the kindness of an UberX driver in Thailand who bought a snack from vendors walking in between cars stuck in traffic to give to me and a lady in Meteora, Greece who gave me her piece of cake for me to eat as I was walking by just because.
In retrospect, I even think it was fun when I was trying to figure out how to return a rental car when the rental car store is taking a 2.5 hour lunch break and I was counting on them to take me to the train station and there is no Uber in the small French city and no taxis in sight on the streets (quite unbelievably), I was so desperate I was about to start just flagging down random cars and offering them money to take me to the train station.
Or the time I chartered the entire boat for myself to make it to 1 of the Koh Yao islands in Thailand because the last public boat had already left for the day and I had a nonrefundable hotel reservation.

Now I hate it.

Well, hate is a strong word but after my trip to Italy over the Christmas holidays in 2017, I thought if I never travel again I'd be perfectly happy.  Perhaps I can talk about why the Italy trip soured me on traveling so much later.

But the point is my outlook on traveling has changed drastically.

Also, I used to value going to new countries as a way to add another tickmark to my tally of how many countries I had been to.  Not only that, but for the newness factor of a new place. But now as I wonder where to go at Christmas this year, I find myself wishing I was in Japan now, even though I've been to Japan several times and frankly the last time I was in Tokyo, I was getting bored.  Outside Tokyo I still found it interesting, even cities I had been to before like Kyoto, Miyajima were still interesting but Tokyo I found so dull.

Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, near Hiroshima

Sorry, I digress, I now find myself drawn to places I've been to where I feel comfortable and at home.  To me, those places include: Japan, France, Norway, Taiwan.

Places where I'd be happy to never return to: Germany, Ireland, Greece.  I supposed Italy should be on there as well.

Sorry, I digressed again, the point is I no longer value going to new places that much anymore.  I think that is part of growing older.

My wife is not happy now that I suddenly despise traveling because while we were dating, she saw how much I traveled and she was hoping to do that together.  To be fair, we have been on overseas trips (from the US) at least 5 times in the 2 years or so we've been together so she has seen more than her share so far.

And despite declaring to my wife that I hope to never travel again after the Italy trip, we went to Paris only 4 months later, mostly for her, not for me.  But still we went on another trip only 4 months later.

However it's been 5 months since the aforementioned Paris trip, and now I think I'm getting itchy to travel again.  I tell people it's been so long since my last trip and when they found it's been 5 months they make fun of me. 😏

This time I actually get to choose where we go and my thought is Japan and Korea and she wants to add on Hong Kong, so I think that'll be our trip, but I think putting 3 countries in 2 weeks means I will not be relaxed and might turn out like the Italy trip again and sour me on travel again.  For another 4 months probably...

A $250 lesson in Paris subway usage...


Cliff Notes Summary: You cannot exit the subway and reuse the same ticket in Paris, no matter how little time has passed, even if the turnstile lets you in, you may get fined heavily if you run into a ticket checking station.

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My wife and I were in Paris back in April.  I've been to Paris my fair share of times and had used the metro for most of my getting around.

Rather than buy day tickets we bought a pack of 10 single use tickets.

I always thought you had 90 minutes from the first time you use the ticket to transfer between the subway and the bus. But it turns out you do have 90 minutes from when you first use the ticket for the subway to transfer onto a bus but you can't exit the subway then enter the subway with the same ticket no matter how soon.

So we went to the Arc de Triomph via the subway/Metro.


Then since we were only there for maybe 45 minutes or so, we entered the subway again and tried using the same ticket.  The thing is those plastic shields opened for us.



Another thing is we saw at least 3 younger folks force their way through the plastic shields with brute force and we were shaking our heads at them but it would turn out that we were being just as guilty of breaking the law as they were.

Once we got off the subway, there were uniformed workers checking people's tickets, I didn't give it a second thought and handed our tickets over, then the lady worker said in English, "Oh no, we have a problem here."

We would find out you cannot exit and reenter the subway on the same ticket, however at the time this was happening, without this knowledge I thought they were scamming us and argued why would the turnstile/gate open for us when the ticket is not valid?  They honestly didn't care and said we'd have to pay the fine.  And since there were 2 of us, the fine ended up being around US$250.  Since we had a restaurant reservation at a fancy place I had been looking forward to as the highlight of the whole trip, I figured, just pay it then dispute it with Chase later.  Then later I saw that they were not scamming us.  I still thought about disputing it but I could not in good conscience do so knowing I broke the rules.

That ended up being 1 expensive subway ride!

About the restaurant we were headed to, it was Pavillon Ledoyen; http://www.yannick-alleno.com/en/ so I can probably figure out which subway station we were fined at, it was possibly this station: https://goo.gl/maps/4PummxWswps

Champs-Élysées - Clemenceau station

Now that I think about it, it doesn't really make sense to have that kind of a checkpoint in a "nice" part of town.  Yes, the people who go there might be more able to pay.  Maybe it's a French way of taxing the rich.  Not that we're rich obviously.

The restaurant was a slight disappointment, the food was good but not very memorable or remarkable and certainly not worth a special trip just to try it.  That was the restaurant that put me off going to Michelin restaurants for good.