Free $10,000 Trip: Sydney and Great Barrier Reef With My Mom

After months of applying for credit cards and making plans, I finally booked a nearly-all-free itinerary for my mother and I to travel to Australia to see my (other) cousin get married and to check out the Great Barrier Reef.

When we first decided to make this trip, just the two of us, I immediately set the goal of traveling in a premium class, which seemed doable since we only needed to get two tickets. What I didn’t know is that first and business class seats between the United States and Australia are really hard to get. We focused on accumulating American Airlines miles, since American and its partner Qantas both fly the route. I figured we would take Hawaiian Air one way, since I had a bunch of Hawaiian miles and was able to help my mom get a bunch of those too, then return via American or Qantas.

However, too late, I realized that we were never going to be able to book a first or business class seat from Sydney to DFW or SFO on American or Qantas. I needed a plan B. Continue reading

Two Free Global Entries Coming Right Up – My Benefits from AmEx Plat Top $1,000

One of the best perks that comes with the American Express Platinum card (I have the business version)* is that they will reimburse you the $100 fee for getting Global Entry, the program that allows you easier returns to the United States from abroad, and includes free TSA Precheck. When I got my card, I set up an “employee” card for my husband, since he is my company’s IT person and photographer, and because the staff at the AmEx call center said that I _might_ get reimbursed for a second Global Entry fee if it were purchased on this card. Continue reading

Get Up to 20,000 Hilton Points for Adding Authorized Users

I got this email from American Express last night regarding my Hilton Honors Surpass*card and I am psyched about it. If you add a family member (or even a friend) to your account, and then they put $250 on that card, you get 5,000 bonus points. You can get the bonus up to four times for four different authorized users.

I immediately went online and added my husband and daughter as authorized users. The site says an authorized user must be 13 or older, so my daughter qualifies. I also noticed that they don’t require you to say the date of birth or social security number of the authorized user you’re adding.

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Eclipsetrip Day 6 Part II: Deschutes River

After our caving adventure, our host had to bounce, so he sent us off with directions to a beautiful waterfall we could hike to. We drove back through Bend, admiring the waterfront parks, onto the road we were supposed to use to get to the waterfall, but the road was closed. We tried to go around, but quickly found ourselves going in circles, and gave up the quest, because we’d been distracted by the sight of that beautiful waterfront park, with a playground. We drove back to that.

As soon as we parked and started walking through the park, we noticed something even more appealing: People floating down the river in tubes and on stand-up paddle boards. We decided this was what we really wanted to spend the rest of our day doing, so we Googled a rental company, then drove back to our friend’s house to get bathing suits and towels. We wanted to strike quickly while the afternoon was still warm. Continue reading

EclipseTrip Day 6: Bend

We started our day by sharing some sugar monstrosities with our host, Brian: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cupcakes, which I’d purchased at the grocery store in Crescent the night before, after being warned that we’d better stock up on supplies because eclipse crowds might leave shelves bare in Bend.

Our host is quite the outdoorsman; he likes caving, dirt biking on national forest land and snowshoeing, for example. He had a few suggestions for us, and after flipping through a guidebook he had, we settled on exploring a lava tube called Boyd Cave. We’d wanted to check out a lava tube at Lassen but we hadn’t been in the right part of the park, so we wanted to make up for that now. Continue reading

Airport Security Is About to Get Worse: Get Precheck Now

After procrastinating for months, I finally applied for Global Entry, at a cost of $100, which my Executive Platinum American Express Business * card will reimburse me for. Why?

Because a good friend was flying yesterday and she told me that security had been a nightmare. They had to remove all food and electronics and even books from their carry-ons and place them each in a separate bin. I guess I missed this, but back in July the Department of Homeland Security announced it would be piloting these stricter security measures, and now they must be beginning the nationwide roll-out. Continue reading

Attempting to Earn 20,000 AAdvantage Miles by Switching to Sprint

I will need more AAdvantage miles for the trip to Hawaii and Australia that I’m planning, and there isn’t another AAdvantage card that I want to get right now. So I was happy when I learned that Sprint will give you 20,000 AAdvantage miles for signing up for a cell phone plan with them. I had been thinking of switching from Spring sister company Ting anyway.

Unfortunately, Sprint’s horrible customer service seems to be preventing me from getting this deal. Continue reading

Ways to Build Up Points Besides Traveling


When I tell friends about collecting miles, they often tell me that they don’t travel much, so they can’t get many miles.

That may have been true 20 years ago, but it’s not true now. Thanks to credit card offers, shopping portals, and more, you can accrue tons of miles without ever leaving your couch. Here are some ideas:

  1. Credit card bonus offers
    If you’ve ever read my blog before, this one is obvious, but let’s not ignore the obvious. You can get tons of miles, fast, by taking out new accounts with credit cards offering sign-up bonuses.
    If you don’t already have one and you haven’t taken out a lot of new credit cards recently, the best way to start at this game is by getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. Then you’ll have 50,000 Chase points, worth about $625 in travel.
  2. Dining programs
    Most airlines having a program that rewards you for eating at certain restaurants. Make sure you register every credit card you might possibly use to eat out with a dining program. You can’t register the same card for more than one dining program — they’re all administered by the same company, so if you register a card for a new one, they’ll boot that card off the old one.
  3. Shopping portals
    This is an area I neglected in the past, and now that I’m remembering to shop through the AAdvantage portal, I’m excited to see miles racking up. This works basically like any kind of affiliate program — click through the AAdvantage eShopping portal to a store, and the store will give AAdvantage a kickback, which they’ll share with you in the form of miles.
    The neat thing about this is that sometimes stores run promotions where you can earn more than one mile per dollar for shopping there. Sometimes they’ll even give you a discount. For example, New Balance right now is offering 5 miles per dollar if you click through American Airlines’ AAdvantage, plus they give you a coupon code for 10% off.
  4. Car rentals
    You can give your frequent flyer number when you rent a car or register it in your online profile with the rental car company, but you can sometimes get more miles or points by clicking through your frequent flyer program portal to rent.
    For instance, this summer we rented a car from Budget and we clicked through the AAdvantage portal. We received 500 bonus miles, plus 500 miles for the rental, totaling in 1,000 miles for the 14-day rental.
  5. Hotel stays
    Just like with the car rental, give your frequent flyer number at check in or online when making the reservation to rack up miles. You might even be able to earn miles in addition to the hotel’s own reward points.
  6. Special promotions
    A few months ago AAdvantage offered a promotion promising up to 20,000 bonus miles if you did transactions with specific retail partners and ate at an AAdvantage Dining restaurant. I tried to qualify for the whole 20,000 for both my husband and myself, but I fell short. Still, my husband ended up getting 5,000 bonus miles out of the deal, in addition to the miles he got for each individual shopping and dining transaction.
  7. Other special offers
    You can sometimes get miles for signing up for a new bank account, a new cell phone plan, or practically anything other service that your rewards program decides to partner with.
    I’m currently considering switching my cell phone to Sprint in order to earn 25,000 AAdvantage miles.
    What did I miss? Are there non-travel methods you have used to earn big miles that I should start using too?

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