Travel Bargains to Consider
March 5 to March 19, 2020
THIS WEEK'S BIGGEST BARGAIN
Finnair: Is This Putin's Favorite Airline Deal?
Finnair is a niche player with a charming and compact hub. But that is never enough in these days of mega-carriers and coast-to-coast North American gateways. Finnair has been trying to promote Helsinki as a great place to change planes on flights to Asia. But with that idea now scuppered by the Coronavirus, Finnair is back to promoting itself as a great carrier to Eastern Europe, especially Russia and the Baltic States. This week's eye-opener: business class to Moscow for as little as $1,685 roundtrip. Two Baltic capitals--Tallinn and Vilnius--as well as Warsaw come in below $2,100 roundtrip. Flights on the nonstop to Helsinki start at $2,077 roundtrip in business class. The Moscow price is only valid on tickets purchased by March 15 for travel between March 15 and October 31. The others are open-ended offers with a variety of advance-purchase rules. Information: the Finnair FLY COMFORTABLY AND FAST
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE DEALS
Alaska Airlines: $20 Local Fares, $99 Hawaii, Coast-to-Coast Tickets
Alaska Airlines already planned to launch one of its flash sales, building a promotion around this weekend's switch to Daylight Saving Time. But the impact of the Coronavirus on traffic is certainly reflected in the prices being offered. How about $20 one-way between LAX and Las Vegas? As low as $99 between San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale? Ditto between Seattle-Tacoma and Kona, Hawaii. Similar prices? Newark-San Francisco at $99, Portland-Seattle at $20 and $99 for Portland-Maui. Most of those fares are for basic economy, but standard economy tickets aren't much more. Tickets must be purchased by Saturday, March 7, for travel March 19-May 20. Information: the Alaska Air MARCH-FORWARD SALE
Marriott Bonvoy: Bonuses in the Time of Coronavirus
Let's just say Marriott isn't exactly bending over backward to get your business now that the Coronavirus has begun to exact a toll on hotel occupancy rates worldwide. Its new spring promotion offers just 2,000 bonus points per stay and only starting with the second stay. Your call. You must register by May 31 to take advantage of the promotion from March 17 to June 14. Information: the Marriott ELEVATED EARNINGS
NH Hotels: Be Brave. Book Now for 30 Percent Discounts.
Are you ready to book hotels right now? NH Hotels, a fast-growing chain that started in Spain, certainly hopes so. NH is knocking as much as 30 percent off room rates if you book before March 9. Travel is permitted at the chain's properties in Europe and South America until August 31. A two-night stay and membership in the (free, but limited) NH loyalty program is required for the largest discounts. Information: the NH Hotels PLAN AND SAVE
EXCLUSIVE MEMBERS-ONLY DEAL
Aer Lingus: Name Your Own Price to Europe for Three Months
I love it when I can pull off a great discount and this is the best one I've ever negotiated. Aer Lingus is once again allowing JoeSentMe members to name their own prices for travel to Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe. As with the previous offers, you can choose your route from any Aer Lingus gateway in North America to anyplace it flies in Ireland, Britain or Continental Europe. You pick the class--Aer Lingus has a fabulous transatlantic business class across the Pond--and the dates between March 1 and May 31. You submit a bid and Aer Lingus responds within two business days. It'll either accept your offer or counter-offer with a price guaranteed to be lower than the published price. Full details and rules are here
. I don't have any inside information about what is the best way to bid or what Aer Lingus will accept, but I can say JoeSentMe members have scored many fabulous deals when the airline offered this opportunity in the past.
HOTEL POINTS & PRICE PROMOTIONS
Omni Hotels: 20-25 Percent Discounts for AAA Members
Like many chains, Omni Hotels offers a discount for AAA members. The saving is usually modest--usually 5 percent, sometimes 10 percent--but Omni has broken from the pack. Use the chain's prepaid AAA rates and the saving is 20 percent at hotels in San Diego, San Francisco and Atlanta. It's even more--25 percent--in Washington, Chicago, Boston, New York, Dallas, Providence, Montreal and Toronto. INFORMATION: the Omni AAA SPECIAL PROMOTION
Hotels: Points, Freebies and Winter Discounts
Winter and early spring are generally the slowest period of the year for travel. That's especially true from mid-February through March, which explains why hotels try to goose their traffic with all manner of promotions. Here are this week's finds:
has revived its Rewards Rush promotion: Stay two times between February 18 and April 20 and receive an electronic voucher for a future free night's stay. The promotion applies to Best Western properties in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. Registration
is required, of course. The free night must be claimed within 70 days after you receive it. Only one free night can be earned.
will give you a $50 hotel voucher if you rent a full-size car for at least three days. Use code PC#204525
to get the voucher, which can be used at a special Hertz-fronted booking site
. Only one gift voucher per customer.
has revived last year's winter/early spring promo with a credit card twist. You'll receive double World of Hyatt points for each stay between February 15 and May 15. This year's twist? Hyatt credit cardholders will also receive 1,500 miles for stays that include a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night. Both offers begin with the second stay during the promotion period. You must register
in advance by March 31.
has a new stair-step promotion that awards 1,000 IHG Rewards Club points for the first stay between February 15 and May 15. Second to fifth nights receive double (2,000) points; sixth through 14th nights get triple (3,000) points; and the 15th night and beyond earn four times (4,000) the points. You can earn as many as 100,000 points if you register
in advance by April 15.
Hyatt: $25 Hotel Credit at Dozens of Texas, Colorado and Atlanta Hotels
Hyatt continues to search for traction with its tiny footprint and the massive devaluation rolled into World of Hyatt when it replaced Gold Passport. The latest gimmick: a $25 credit against dining, parking and other incidental charges. The deal isn't available everywhere, however. It's only good at Hyatt hotels in Texas
and in Atlanta
. You must book a two-night stay by April 12 to get the $25 credit.
Radisson Rewards: As Many as 150,000 Bonus Points Until Spring
The less interesting the hotel chain and the less consistent the hotels, the higher the frequent stay bonus. Which pretty much explains the new promotion from Radisson Rewards, the frequency program of Radisson, Park and Country Inn hotels. If you stay enough before March 31--and register in advance, of course--you can earn upwards of 150,000 bonus Radisson Rewards points in a stair-step scheme. You'll earn 5,000 extra points after two stays; 10,000 more points after the third stay; 15,000 more points after the fifth stay; 45,000 additional points if you complete ten stays; and 75,000 more bonus points if you complete 15 stays. Information: the Radisson LET YOUR TRAVEL TAKE YOU FARTHER
Hilton: Points Aren't Worth Much, But Promotion Is Endless
Hilton Honors points are notoriously low in redemption value, so the Hilton promotions are literally endless. There never seems to be a period when Hilton isn't offering something more to keep the program relevant. This winter it's a 2,000/10,000-point offer. Until May 3, you will earn 2,000 bonus points on each stay and 10,000 additional points for every 10 nights you stay. Advance registration is required, of course, but there seem to be no other restrictions. Information: the HILTON 2K + 10K
Hotels: Maybe You'll Find Rate Savings With a Credit Card
Airline fares have been relatively flat in recent months, but hotel and resort rates continue to rise, precipitously in some destinations. Possible solution: hotel discounts offered by your credit card. Of course, all the specials below come with some caveats. Most hotels in the programs are in the luxury category. You must book directly at the card's special Web site. And you should always check that the rate you're paying is competitive with other offers.
American Express Platinum Cards
feature a Fine Hotels & Resort collection that covers more than 1,000 properties around the world. Bundled with the FHR rates are space-available room upgrades; check-in as early as noon based on availability and guaranteed
4 p.m. checkout; breakfast for two; free WiFi; and property-specific food and beverage credit or other amenity.
Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
from Chase says it offers daily breakfast for two, free WiFi, as-available upgrades and check-in/check-out privileges. The program covers about 900 lodgings worldwide and guests receive a unique additional amenity--free meals, golf or spa treatments, airport transfers--from each property.
cards claim to offer special rates at more than 900 properties. Perks include space-available upgrade; free WiFi; free breakfast for two; a $25 food and beverage credit; and late checkout.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
British Airways: AARP Deal, Reduced, But Extended Through 2021
British Airways isn't only hacking away at the quality of its in-flight product and its reputation as a premium carrier. It has also reduced the classic deals you can use to get discounts. Consider the long-standing AARP deal. BA once offered as much as $400 off roundtrip. Now first and premium economy class discounts have been axed and we're left with $200 roundtrip off BA's outdated business class and $65 off its "densified" coach class. Also long gone: the opportunity to twin the AARP discount with other BA promotions. Still, $65 or $200 off is better than a stick upside your head. And the current deal is now valid for travel until the end of 2020 if you book by April 30, 2020. The cost of entry: the $12 fee required to join AARP
. And you must enter through the AARP portal to score the discounts. Information: the EXCLUSIVE AARP MEMBERS
Airlines: 2020 Business Class Deals Are Decent But Scattershot
The days of eye-popping, deeply discounted Easter/Passover and summer business class sales to Europe are long gone. In their place: less impressive, scattershot and confusing bargains that take some work and some luck. Which is the long-winded way of saying that all the major U.S. carriers and their international partners have dropped their spring holiday and summer pricing and you'll have to dig around to find what you need--and be prepared to walk away if the fares don't hit your personal sweet spot. For Easter/Passover 2020, prices are valid for departures on April 6-8 and April 11-16 and returns between April 11 and April 18. For the summer, departures are permitted from July 22 to August 19 with returns August 9 to September 6. There's a 7-day minimum stay and 60-day advance purchase. Travel is mostly restricted to midweek flights for the cheapest fare. Here are some prices I've found on select routes:
is $2,238 roundtrip for Easter, $2,388 in summer.
is $2,092 for Easter, $2,254 in summer.
is $2,289 roundtrip for Easter, $2,409 in summer.
is $2,266 for Easter, $2,270 in summer.
is $2,240 roundtrip for Easter, $2,249 in summer.
is $1,989 for Easter, $2,147 in summer.
is $1,999 for Easter, $2,074 in summer.
is $2,398 roundtrip for Easter, and $2,588 in summer.
is $2,288 for Easter, $2,340 in summer.
is $2,261 roundtrip for Easter, $2,422 in summer.
AIRLINE STOPOVERS & STAY-ON-THE-WAY OFFERS
TAP Air Portugal: The Free Portugal Stopover Is Five Days Long
In the early days of transatlantic travel, a free "stopover" in the country of arrival was a standard perk. Then the practice virtually disappeared and airlines usually charge you separately if you don't make an onward connection within hours of your transatlantic arrival. But TAP Air Portugal, revitalized under the leadership of a consortium fronted by JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman, has a new twist on the perk. In 2016, it revived a free, three-day stopover in Portugal as part of roundtrip, transatlantic nonstops to Lisbon and Porto. Stopover privileges have now been extended to five days. There are other perks attached to the stopover, including hotel discounts, free museum and attraction admissions and free wine with meals. TAP and its partners have even created a "stopover app" to guide you around the country via smartphone. Information: The HOW DO I BOOK A STOPOVER
Qatar Airways: Stay Along the Way in Doha For As Little as $23 a Night
Stopovers and stay-along-the-way programs are all the rage again and naturally Qatar Airways wants in. Since virtually all its traffic from North America connects at its Doha hub for onward destinations and Qatar is battling a crippling boycott by its nearby Arab and Gulf neighbors, a stopover program makes eminent economic sense. The offer: hotel stays at four- or five-star properties for as little as $23 a night. The offer seems unnecessarily complicated, so read the Qatar T&Cs carefully. And don't forget you'll need a transit visa to stay in Doha, but Qatar Airways will help you secure that document. That said, Doha hotels are new and swanky and Qatar Airways will allow you to stay either on your outbound leg or return journey. Information: the Qatar Airways EXPERIENCE QATAR
Etihad: Two Nights Free in Abu Dhabi or a Free Night for Longer Stays
Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi doesn't seem to have a great future. It is dwarfed by its Dubai-based neighbor Emirates, its strategy of buying into weakened European airlines collapsed and the royal family that owns the carrier is losing patience with endless losses. Which is a long-winded way of explaining why Etihad is desperate to figure out an angle to get Americans to fly over Abu Dhabi instead of Dubai or anywhere else. The current angle: free stopover in Abu Dhabi, including lodging at several of the city's excellent hotels. If you choose one of the select 3- or 4-star hotels, Etihad will cover two nights for free. Want to stay longer? Etihad will cover a night's accommodations at one of a select number of 4- or 5-star Abu Dhabi hotels and arrange for a discount on the other nights. Stayover offers are valid for coach, business or first class flyers. Information: the Etihad STOP BY ABU DHABI
Brussels Airlines: How About a Free Five-Day Belgian Stopover?
Airlines move in packs and, in this case, that's good news. The latest carrier to add a free-stopover package to tickets: Brussels Airlines, the often-overlooked runt of the Lufthansa Group. Although it only has four North American gateways--New York/JFK, Washington/Dulles, Toronto and Montreal--the airline has a good network throughout Europe and some prime routes to Africa. The latter is especially useful since U.S. and Canadian carriers serve so few African destinations. If you're headed to Africa, might as well take a nice five-day break in Belgium before you go. The stayover deal also includes up to 50 freebies around Belgium. You know, chocolate, tours, museum visits, that kind of stuff. Information: the Brussels Airlines BELGIUM STAYOVER
Air Canada: Free Stopovers in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver
Air Canada tested free stopovers in Toronto several years ago and now it seems to have institutionalized the concept at three of its international hubs. If you're spending at least six hours in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver en route to Europe or Asia, Air Canada will give you a free or discounted hotel night. This should especially appeal to U.S. travelers using Air Canada's excellent business class on transatlantic or transpacific flights. Prices are as low as $49 a night for discounted coach travelers and free for business class flyers. Information: the AIR CANADA STOPOVER
Finnair: A Free, Five-Day Stayover in Helsinki
As nice as Helsinki's airport in Vantaa is, Finnair can't rely solely on O&D traffic to the Finnish capital. It needs to operate Vantaa as an international hub and thus it offers extensive connections from the United States to Russia, Europe and even the Far East. And to bump up the airport's appeal as a connecting facility, Finnair has revamped and reintroduced its stay-along-the-way promotion. The new offer allows up to five days stayover in Finland. The airline has also collected a series of optional Finland travel experiences to help you fill your layover time. They include urban getaways, tours and trips in Finland's three largest cities (Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa) as well as Lapland-related options. Prices for the add-ons start at 12 euros. One caveat: You can only claim a stayover in one direction of a roundtrip, so plan carefully. Information: the STOP & BREATHE
GROUND TRANSPORT BARGAINS
Amtrak: New York to Montreal for $90 Roundtrip on Weekends
Amtrak is only useful in the Northeast. And occasionally into Canada. Now we have one of those moments. For the rest of the winter and into early spring, Amtrak is selling weekend roundtrips between New York City and Montreal for as low as $90. The fare is available for maximum five-day stays when using Train 69, The Adirondack, which requires about 11 hours to make the run between New York's Penn Station and Gare Centrale in Montreal. You can travel Thursday through Monday until April 30 if you book by April 27. Information: Amtrak ADIRONDACK WEEKEND GETAWAY
Southwest Airlines: Big Rapid Rewards Bonuses for Car Rentals
Southwest Airlines and National Car Rental teamed up for years to offer bonus points on rentals. But now National is out and Avis/Budget and Hertz are in. Although the details vary a bit by rental firm, essentially you'll earn from 600 to 2,400 Rapid Rewards per rental depending on the number of days you use the car. To score the 2,400 points, you'll need a at least a weekly rental. Rentals must be completed by January 31, 2021. Information: the Southwest RAPID REWARDS PROMOTIONS
American/Avis/Budget: 1,000 Advantage Miles for Four-Day Rentals
Depending on the season, American Airlines and Avis/Budget are awarding either a piker's purse of bonus miles (500 per rental) or treasure trove of as many as 5,000 miles. We've just veered back toward piker territory. Until May 31, Avis and Budget will award you 1,000 AAdvantage miles for a four-day rental. Use code AWD #K817165 on Avis rentals and BCD #U072411 for Budget rentals. This is essentially the same promotion the firms have offered during this time period in the last three or four years. Information: the American 1,000 BONUS MILES
Enterprise: The Return of the $10-a-Day Weekend Rental, Now $3 More
Even thought it sits atop of the car-rental heap, Enterprise continues to do things differently. For starters, all locations are company owned, astonishing in this era of franchised everything. It has expanded rapidly at airports, but its roots remain in the we'll-pick-you-up local station. And many of those local stations close on Sunday with short hours on Saturday. The result: a ridiculously wonderful weekend promotion. For years, the buy-in price was $9.99 a day. This year, however, the lowest rate is $12.99 so long as you return the car on Monday. The $12.99 rate covers economy or compact cars. Larger cars are $14.99 (for intermediates) to $19.99 a day (full-size). Those prices are unchanged from previous years. All rates include 100 miles per day and are valid for rentals that start on Fridays. Best of all, prices are valid at participating local stations until May 20. You'll find some holiday blackouts, but, otherwise, it's open season for cheap cars for a weekend jaunt. The promo code is WEEKEND SPECIAL X. Information: the Enterprise GREAT WEEKEND CAR RENTAL RATES
National: Best Car Rent Bonus Ever Returns With New Twists
Sometimes the classics are the best and that's certainly true for National's iconic ONE TWO FREE promotion. Even though car rentals aren't the force they once were and even though National has added complicating bells and whistles over the years, the core of the promotion remains the same: Two rentals of a midsize car (this year by February 29) earn a free rental day that you can use by June 15. The points-based system offers 300 points per qualifying rental. It takes 600 points for a freebie. This year's wrinkles: You'll receive 25 points for downloading the app and 75 more points when you book using the app. Renting in Europe or Latin America will each garner a one-time 300-point bonus. There's a 300-point bonus if you rent in three countries during this year's promo period. You'll even get a one-time bonus of 300 points for adding SiriusXM to your rental. There are plenty of other points-adding touchstones this year, too. A perk missing this year: Rentals from Enterprise, National's parent company, do not earn points. Advance registration is required. Information: the EARN TO THE MAX
TOURS AND PACKAGES
Elifant Tours: Members-Only 15 Percent Discount to Eastern Sicily
Elifant Archaeo-Culinary Tours are a unique mix of two disciplines in a location (Italy) that is literally perfect for both archeological and culinary travel. Eastern Sicily is the latest offer from this luxury, small-group specialist run by two dedicated women. The seven-night itinerary (March 30-April 6) begins in Siracusa, ends in Catania and includes lodging, ground accommodations, touring and two daily meals. JoeSentMe members receive an exclusive 15 percent discount and pay only $5,335 a person when two travel together. (There's a $450 supplement for solo travelers.) Download
a brochure and/or examine
the Web site. Then drop a line
to Elifant, request your discount and arrange payment.
Oxford: Many 2020 Summer 'Scholar' Programs Are Still Open
Never got to be a Rhodes Scholar? Do not fear. There is always The Oxford Experience, the popular summer sessions at the famed British institution. They offer dozens of week-long courses to travelers of all ages, social classes, intelligence levels and interests. One-week packages include tuition and lectures; lodging in Christ Church College dorms; and three meals daily. Courses are held in the morning, which leaves afternoons free for touring and optional excursions and evenings for additional learning--or just goofing off like a college kid again. All-inclusive prices this year start at about US$1,900 a person, cheaper than last year thanks to the Brexit-addled British pound. The six weekly sessions in 2020 take place from July 5 to August 15. After an almost immediate sellout in 2019, there remain courses available for booking during all six sessions in the summer of 2020. Information: The OXFORD EXPERIENCE
CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
United/Chase: 100,000 Miles for New United Business Card
United Airlines executives have publicly and privately griped that they aren't generating enough revenue from Chase's credit cards. No matter that the airline still blows and that Chase basically saved United in its worst moments and nearly endless bankruptcy after 9/11. Airlines and credit cards are a right now business--so right now Chase is responding with a 100,000-mile bonus for new card acquisitions. The $99 a year United Business card, for example, will award you 100,000 miles after spending $10,000 in the first three months. That's a fairly hefty purchase requirement, but United points have outsized value when applied to international business class partner awards. On an ongoing basis, the card offers two miles per dollar on United spending, ground transportation, gas stations and restaurants. Information: the UNITED BUSINESS CARD
Hotels: We'll Make It Rain With Low-Value Credit Card Points
When it comes to value, few programs offer less than IHG Rewards Club, the umbrella program from InterContinental, Holiday Inn Express, Kimpton and a basket of lodging chains. And while Best Western Rewards has some niche applications--its European hotels are often surprisingly good, for example--the value of its points is fairly low, too. Keep those facts in mind as you consider these extraordinary (if re-introduced) credit card offers. Chase has revived its 140,000-point acquisition bonus for taking the IHG World Elite Mastercard
. You'll earn the big bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months you have the card. The annual fee is $89 and comes with a free night worth 40,000 points each year you hold the card. Meanwhile, First Bank is back with a 70,000-point offer for the $59-a-year Best Western Rewards Premium Mastercard
. You'll receive 50,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months and 20,000 more points when you spend $5,000 over the first year. You will also receive a 20,000-point bonus each subsequent year you spend $5,000 on the card. Both cards come with mid-level elite status, but the benefits are minimal.
Hawaiian Airlines: 60,000- to 70,000-Mile Bonuses Are Back
Big credit card acquisition bonuses aren't just for the big airlines and the big banks. Hawaiian Airlines partners with Bank of Hawaii to promote the Hawaiian credit cards and the numbers are huge. You will earn 60,000 miles for taking a personal card
and spending $2,000 in the first 90 days. The business card
offers 60,000 miles if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. You'll earn another 10,000 miles if you also acquire an employee card and make a purchase on it. The annual fee for each card is $99. The offers sound familiar? No surprise. These 60,000-point solicitations disappeared right after Labor Day but now have been revived--although the earlier deal did offer a fee-waived first year on the personal card.
Marriott Bonvoy: So Many Cards, So Many Acquisition Points
Marriott Bonvoy now has so many credit cards spread out between Chase and American Express that even I've lost track of which one is which. (It certainly doesn't help that all the card names seem to start with the letter "B" because, I guess, someone at Marriott is into alliteration.) But if you don't have this one--the Boundless Visa issued by Chase--now's the time to grab it. Why? The acquisition bonus has been bumped to 100,000 points if you spend $5,000 in the first three months. The annual fee is reasonable ($95) and, if you hold on to it, you receive an annual free night certificate valid at any hotel up to the 35,000-point level. Information: the Chase BONVOY BOUNDLESS
Chase/British Airways: 100,000 Points and a Break on Reward Fees
I've never found Avios points--the currency for British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus--to be a particularly good value. But some do. If you're one of those flyers, pay heed to the revised Chase British Airways Visa Signature charge. It now will kick back up to $600 a year against BA's insanely high reward fees that top the $1,000 mark on transatlantic premium class awards. You'll receive a $100 statement credit for a coach or premium economy award and $200 for a business or first class award. You can earn the statement credit three times in a year. The card's other benefits haven't changed: a 10 percent discount when you book BA paid tickets through a Chase portal and the huge 100,000-point acquisition bonus. The bonus is 50,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months and 50,000 additional points when you spend a total of $20,000 in the first 12 months. The annual fee is $95 and you receive three points for spend on BA, Iberia or Aer Lingus, two points on hotel spending and one point on all other purchases. Information: the WORLD IS YOURS
Chase: Honest, Sapphire Preferred Is Better Than Capital One Venture
The decision of Capital One to get into the points-to-airline transfer game has rattled Chase Bank, whose Ultimate Rewards points are the gold standard of bank currency. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has suddenly upped its acquisition bonus to 60,000 points and it is clear that Chase wants to make sure you don't defect to the Capital One Venture card. How do we know? The promotion page for the acquisition bonus is literally a comparison chart between Chase and Capital One. You should
have a Sapphire Preferred card, so grab one now if you don't have one. Sixty thousand points is too good to pass up. The annual fee is $95, which Chase's chart admits isn't as good as Capital One's first-year fee waiver. Information: the EARN 60,000 BONUS POINTS
Sonesta Hotels: 60,000 Points Via Bank of America Acquisition Bonus
The under-the-radar Sonesta chain is out with its first card and the offer from Bank of America is rich: 60,000 points for spending just $1,000 in the first 90 days. You can also earn 5,000 more points for adding an authorized user in the first 90 days and a 30,000-point bonus if you spend $7,500 over the course of the first year. The $75 annual fee is waived in the first year. What do Sonesta points buy? Some of its limited-service extended-stay hotels are available for as little as 15,000 points. It has excellent resorts in sun zones (Arizona, the Caribbean, Texas, Hilton Head, Latin America) and prices are mostly in the 25,000-to-50,000 points nightly range. (Sonesta also has hotels in Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco and Philadelphia.) Information: the Bank of America SONESTA WORLD MASTERCARD
Chase: 80,000-Point Bonus to Take an Ink Business Card
As airline frequent flyer programs get less generous, smart travelers are banking miles with banks. Chase Ultimate Rewards points, for example, offer a 1:1 transfer to United, Southwest, several international airlines and some hotel chains, too. There seems to be less risk by banking points with Chase and moving them to your programs as the good deals--or award availability--warrant. One of the current stars in the wide Chase portfolio? The Ink Business Preferred Card. For the $95 annual fee, you'll receive an acquisition bonus of 80,000 points if you spend $5,000 during the first three months. You'll also earn three points per dollar spent on travel expenditures; shipping charges; payments for cable, Internet and phone services; and some advertising purchases. Information: the 80,000 BONUS POINTS