Travel Bargains to Consider
January 16 - January 30, 2020


Air New Zealand: $400 (Coach), $1,195 (Premium) From LAX to London
Air New Zealand is dropping its "secret" LAX-London/Heathrow nonstop in October when it launches its ultra-long-haul New York-Auckland route. In the meantime, it's promoting deeply discounted sales to fill up seats. This week it's the carrier's quite delightful premium economy cabin and coach. Until January 21, the premium-class price is as low as $1,195 roundtrip for a variety of dates through the end of the route's life. And if you can bear coach--or want to purchase extra seats to create a poor man's premium cabin--fares are as low as $395 roundtrip. Those fares are mostly available for midweek flights. Oh, I'm not ignoring business class. The price is good--$3,295 roundtrip--but not give-it-away spectacular. Information: the Air New Zealand NEW YEAR SALE page.


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 Colorado 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 page.

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 page.


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 page.

Hyatt: 3,000 Points Per Stays at Small Luxury Hotels
Hyatt has been slowly integrating the Small Luxury Hotels group into the World of Hyatt program. It is now offering about 60 percent of the SLH properties around the world after a new tranche of hotels joined the ranks. Buying SLH room nights for dollars via is tricky--you'll rarely find the lowest price--but if you do find an amenable rate, there's a new bonus: 3,000 points per stay. If you register by January 31, paid stays at SLH booked via Hyatt will receive the 3,000-point bonus until March 2. Free nights claimed with Hyatt points don't qualify for the bonus, of course.

Best Western: Three Stays in Three Months Yield $60 for Future Stays
Best Western Rewards is not a particularly rich frequency program and a recent, no-notice devaluation hasn't helped much. But the chain regularly does room discounts in the form of gift "cards" based on stays. The new winter offer, Rewards Rush, is actually the richest BW promotion in years. One stay between December 2 and February 2 yields a $10 gift card. A second stay in the promo period generates another $20 card. The third stay yields a $30 card. That maxes you out at $60 for the promotional period. The gift cards are delivered via E-mail and can be used against stays for 120 days. Advance registration and Best Western Rewards membership are required.

Red Roof: Two Stays Earn a Free Night Until March
If your lodging budget--or personal taste--runs to the lower end of the hotel scale, you'll surely like this one: Stay twice at Red Roof hotels by February 29 and you'll earn 7,000 points in the RediRewards plan. That's enough to earn a free night at virtually all of the chain's locations. You must be a RediRewards member and enroll to play the game. Information: the STAY 2 page.

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.
      Visa Signature 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.

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--about 5 or 10 percent--but Omni is now breaking 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 page.


Air France: Low Rates, Low Season, High-Quality Premium Economy
Air France's premium economy cabin is generally well-regarded, primarily because its shell seat offers a little more privacy and more personal space than traditional reclining chairs. The airline also has been fairly consistent in offering excellent pricing, especially in the slow winter months. New York/JFK to Paris is $1,369 roundtrip. Even Atlanta-Paris, which is essentially a SkyTeam monopoly, is pricing at a reasonable $1,591. Miami-Paris is $1,420. From the West Coast, it's $1,445 from Los Angeles and $1,462 from San Francisco, great bargains given the extra flight distance. That said, there are some clunkers, most notably Washington/Dulles-Paris, inexplicably pitched at $1,808 roundtrip. Restrictions are about what you'd expect: 28-day advance purchase for midweek travel. You'll pay more for weekend travel and on some blacked-out dates around higher periods of winter demand. But the fares only require a 5-day minimum stay rather than the traditional seven. One warning: Do not book flights operated on a Delta Air Lines code-share. Delta's premium economy (or worse, Comfort+), is no match for Air France's cabin. Information: Air France PREMIUM ECONOMY CLASS page.

Finnair: Hot Business Class Deals to Europe's Colder Climes
Finnair is a niche player with a nifty and compact hub. But that's never enough in these days of mega-carriers and splashy coast-to-coast North American gateways. Finnair's solution? A terrific business class fare sale, mostly to destinations on the Northern Rim of Europe. Roundtrip prices start as low as $1,976 nonstop to its Helsinki hub. Onward fares are equally notable: below $2,000 roundtrip to Warsaw and the Baltic capitals of Tallinn and Vilnius; around $2,000 to Copenhagen and Oslo; and about $2,100 to far-north Finnish destinations such as Oulu and Rovaniemi. If you need to get to Russia, remember that Finnair and Helsinki are the traditional ways to go. Business class prices are as low as $2,286 roundtrip to Moscow and $2,290 to St. Petersburg. The fly in the ointment? The best fares are in the cold, dark winter months. Information: the Finnair FEEL THE NORDIC MAGIC page.

Hainan Airlines: Coach Fare So Cheap You Can Buy Extras for Comfort
Chinese flag carriers lost a collective US$3 billion last year--and that is if you believe the relatively rosy figures from mainland regulators. Many of the losses come on transpacific routes that the heavily subsidized carriers launch to make sure they dominate when the supposedly profitable times arrive. (Some call this capacity dumping, but your mileage may vary.) Which leads us to putatively private Hainan Airlines, a division of the troubled HNA conglomerate. It has launched some of the riskiest U.S.-China routes and, as a result, has some of the most insanely low prices. At the moment, the great business class fares of the last few years have disappeared, but insane coach prices continue. Examples: Seattle to Beijing or Shanghai for $494 roundtrip; Chicago to Chengdu or Beijing for $513; Los Angeles to Xi'an or Changsha for $523; and Boston to Shanghai or Beijing for $625. These are all long hauls, so consider an extra seat on the Boeing 787 Dreamliners (configured 3x3x3) to make a poor man's business class for two people traveling together. Sale prices are valid on select flights until June 30 when you book by March 31. Information: the Hainan SPECIAL OFFERS page.

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:
      PHILADELPHIA-LONDON is $2,238 roundtrip for Easter, $2,388 in summer.
      BOSTON-PARIS is $2,092 for Easter, $2,254 in summer.
      WASHINGTON/DULLES-MUNICH is $2,289 roundtrip for Easter, $2,409 in summer.
      CHARLOTTE-MADRID is $2,266 for Easter, $2,270 in summer.
      ATLANTA-LONDON is $2,240 roundtrip for Easter, $2,249 in summer.
      NEWARK-DUBLIN is $1,989 for Easter, $2,147 in summer.
      NEW YORK/KENNEDY-BRUSSELS is $1,999 for Easter, $2,074 in summer.
      HOUSTON/IAH-FRANKFURT is $2,398 roundtrip for Easter, and $2,588 in summer.
      LOS ANGELES-AMSTERDAM is $2,288 for Easter, $2,340 in summer.
      SAN FRANCISCO-VIENNA is $2,261 roundtrip for Easter, $2,422 in summer.

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 page.

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 page.

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 page.

British Airways: AARP Deal, Reduced Again, Extended Through 2020
British Airways isn't only hacking away at the quality of its in-flight product and its reputation as a premium carrier. It's also reducing the classic deals you can use to get discounts. Take its 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 newly "densified" coach class. Also 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 January 31, 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 page.


Amtrak: Three Winter Trips in the East Mean a Summer Freebie
Government-owned and bureaucratically marketed Amtrak isn't at the pinnacle of promotional activity. Still, its annual version of a BOGO isn't too bad. If you take six Acela one-way trips (or three roundtrips) by February 29, Amtrak will buy you back a roundtrip (or two one-ways) between July 1 and August 31. It is offering the same buy three (or six), get one (or two) promotion for trips on the slower Northeast Regional runs. You must register for both offers, of course. There are some modest blackout dates on the freebies and minimum-spend rules for the winter purchases. A maximum of four awards can be earned. Information: the Amtrak 1-2-3-FREE page.

American/Avis/Budget: 500 Advantage Miles for Three-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 into piker territory. Until January 31, Avis and Budget will award you 500 AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. Use code AWD #K817165 on Avis rentals and BCD #U072411 for Budget rentals. This is essentially the same offer the firms have offered during this time period in the last three or four years. Information: the American 500 BONUS MILES page.

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 page.

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 page.

National/Southwest: Quadruple Rapid Rewards for Weekly Rentals
Southwest Airlines and National Car Rental have teamed up to offer a bigger payoff for rentals if you need a vehicle. Instead of the standard 600 Rapid Rewards points, a two- or three-day National rental will earn 1,200 points. Rentals of 4-6 days will earn 1,800 points. Weekly or longer rentals will score 2,400 points. To score the points, use Contract ID code 5030510. Bonus points are valid on rentals until January 31, 2020, with one-day advance reservation. By the way, if this sounds familiar, it is exactly the same deal that ran all of last year. Information: the RAPID REWARDS PROMOTIONS page.


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 page.

2020 Tours: Hang With The Travel Advisor in France and Scotland
I have just one regret about Travel Insider David Rowell's customized, handmade tours: I haven't had the time to do more of them. David is a gracious host who enjoys being the host and sharing his favorite places with guests. He's also the kind of host frequent travelers love: You make your own flight arrangements so you can use miles to book transportation; the touring is intelligent and relaxed; and he even rents oversized buses so everyone is extra-comfortable. There are pre- and post-tour options if you want to extend your stay and mix-and-match experiences. Best of all, I've never heard from a Joe Sent Me member who has been unhappy traveling with David. Here's what he has on tap for the first half of 2020.
      Bordeaux and Beyond: Enjoy a week in France's Bordeaux wine region. You'll stay in Bordeaux itself and tour beautiful towns, villages and wineries. The pre-tour option is on the Riviera and the post-tour opportunity is a visit to chateaux in the Loire Valley. The trip is in May. Full details and prices are here.
      Four Corners of Scotland: This tour takes you places that most Scots haven't even visited. You experience the four geographic extremes of mainland Scotland and get some islands and mid-country Scotland, too. The optional pre-tour around Glasgow includes a castle stay. The post-tour option around Edinburgh includes mysterious Rosslyn Chapel, featured in The Da Vinci Code. This trip is in June--for the best weather before the summer crowds. Full details and prices are here.


Chase/Southwest: The Bonus Gets You Half Way to a Companion Pass
The most prized "win" in the current frequent travel landscape is a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. It's not an easy win because only flying miles and credit card spend count toward the required 125,000 Rapids Rewards points. Which is why Chase's new offer is such an extraordinary get. The acquisition bonus of 75,000 points on any of the three Southwest personal cards counts toward the pass. To score the bonus, you'll need to spend just $5,000 in the first six months you have the card. (The breakdown is $1,000 in the first 90 days and $4,000 more by the end of the six months.) That's not a big hurdle, of course, but this might be: You don't qualify for a card if you have had five other credit cards in the last 24 months. It's Chase's dreaded 5/24 rule. Annual fees range from $69-$149 depending on perks and other wrinkles in the three cards. Information: the Chase EARN UP TO 75,000 POINTS page.

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 page.

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 page.

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 page.

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 page.

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 page.