As we were coming up quick on the Japan trip and my stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, I decided to go for the Hyatt Diamond Challenge (see here for information on how to apply for the Diamond Challenge). The Hyatt Diamond Challenge is a one time chance to match an existing status (such as my Hilton Gold status from my Citibank Hilton Reserve) to Hyatt Diamond status. You are granted Hyatt Diamond and have to complete 12 stays in 60 days in order to keep it.
I debated for a long time whether or not I should do the Diamond challenge now, and whether I should actually try to complete it. I wanted to do it in order to experience the in room breakfast and the cocktail hour at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The cocktails are served in the New York Bar which normally has a 2,200 Japanese Yen cover charge – think Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. My original plan was to do the Diamond Challenge and then apply for the Hyatt credit card. Previously if you were a Diamond member when applying you received two free nights in a suite instead of just two free nights. That offer has gone away. Therefore I can now apply for the card at any point to get Platinum status and two free nights, but they won’t be in a suite. This isn’t a huge loss as I was planning on redeeming those nights next year at the Park Hyatt Sydney – which doesn’t allow the suite awards anyways.
I decided ultimately that the benefits at Park Hyatt Tokyo were worth it. With all the recent devaluations, it seems like there is no reason to postpone at this point and the opportunity could be gone if I tried later. I applied for the Diamond Challenge in the same way my friend had a few months ago. I included a screenshot of my Hilton status and current number of stays, and quickly received a response. The response stated the terms and asked me to reply to accept the challenge. I did, and am now a Hyatt Diamond member. Since I applied mid-October, I will actually get to keep the Diamond status until the end of December.
I debated about mattress running (finding cheap hotels to get stay credits) to maintain the Diamond status. Diamond status will get you upgrades, breakfast, wifi, etc. The numbers didn’t work out based on my planned Hyatt stays. It makes more sense for me to pay for breakfast and apply for the Hyatt card to get Platinum status (and therefore free wifi).
But I decided while I was in Atlanta to tryout my new Diamond status with a one night stay at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. There was a “spooky special” running, and I got a room for $79 including two free cocktails upon arrival and half off valet parking. When you apply for the Diamond Challenge, you are given four suite upgrade certificates that are valid on paid stays. I decided to use one and upgrade us to a suite.
I saw reports last week of several people (like The Points Guy here) mentioning they were able to get a new version of their Chase Sapphire Preferred card sent out with a smart chip. Chip and pin cards are frequently used internationally, and having a chip and signature card (smart chip but no pin) definitely helps while traveling through Europe. I used my Citibank Hilton Reserve with a chip in Europe earlier this year. I was very excited to hear chips are now available for the Chase Sapphire Preferred as it has no foreign transaction fees and therefore is already a great card to use abroad. A smart chip means the card will be more widely accepted as the typical US cards are sometimes not accepted by certain card readers.
I called the number on the back of my card last week to request one. The first representative I spoke with said they weren’t available. I figured since it was a new feature I’d call back to make sure. The second representative I spoke with said they were! They sent me a new card which arrived in a day or two. I excitedly opened the package and found an exact replica of my current card (no chip!). I called back AGAIN and the third rep said she was sorry, and that she would send another. Fast forward two days and I open ANOTHER replica of my current card – again no chip. I called again today and was told the chip version is currently only available for the Visa version, not the MasterCard! It turns out the first representative was right. I now have three copies of my Chase Sapphire Preferred and am anxiously waiting for whenever the MasterCard versions become chip enabled.
I mentioned attending Frequent Traveler University (FTU) last month, and our brief stay at the Best Western. Around the middle of September I received a targeted email from Starwood for a “buy one, get one free” type promotion. I decided to take advantage of this promotion and stay at the Westin Tampa Bay even though the FTU event was held at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay (which is also great).
Slight delay in posts, but I’m back! A couple weeks ago I was able to attend the Frequent Traveler University event in Tampa, Florida. It was a weekend full of sessions about points and miles with great bloggers speaking and sharing their knowledge. I talked to several new people and learned a lot. This was my first event in this community, and I have to say it was amazing to go somewhere and have everyone want to meet new people (and learn from them)! Everyone was very welcoming and there were many people just walking up to tables and sitting down with strangers. I highly recommend it if you have any interest in this stuff (which hopefully you do if you’re reading this blog).
The event was held at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, but as we had already stayed there this year and I was targeted for an SPG promotion I went ahead and booked nearby at the Westin Tampa Bay for the Saturday night. We didn’t book Friday night as we weren’t sure when we would be getting into town or if we would stay with friends/family.
The week of the event I saw a post by U Can Fly Free 2 about a Rocketmiles.com promotion for new customers. Rocketmiles is a service where if you book through their site you can get airline miles – but usually not hotel points. I had looked into the site a couple times on past trips, but always found the prices to be high and therefore decided to book directly through hotels instead. This time, however, I saw the Best Western Bay Harbor Hotel was within $10 or so of what I had seen it priced at (and what I was planning to pay at the Sheraton Tampa East instead). Since there was a special promotion and I need miles for my upcoming Australia/New Zealand trip booking I went for it.
I booked a room at the Best Western through rocketmiles.com and figured for one night with 5,000 bonus airline miles we’d give it a shot. It had 3.5 stars on tripadvisor.
Let me preface this: I don’t consider myself overly stuck up about hotels. I haven’t been doing this long and haven’t stayed at many super fancy establishments. This is meant more as humor, as I pretty much got what I paid for in this situation.
We arrived at 11:00pm, and from the exterior we were actually impressed. I was thinking I had the wrong impression of Best Westerns. We checked in, and I asked if there were any king beds available as I had booked two doubles. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask since it was so late. The front desk attendant said yes, but they’d have to charge $10. I’m sure this is just standard hotel policy, but he didn’t quite present it that way. We decided to keep our original double beds instead. We walked up to the room and on first glance it wasn’t bad.
However, shortly after entering the room we noticed water dripping from the ceiling in the room at the edge of the foyer. Looking more closely, there was also water dripping down the walls!
We decided to go back to the front desk and ask if another room was available. This was the point where the difference between some other hotel brands we’ve recently stayed at and Best Western seemed to be apparent. We’re not rude complainers, I understand stuff like this happens. My boyfriend simply asked if there was another comparable room available, since ours had water dripping down the wall.
If you haven’t been following, I’ve been using all these points to plan a nice trip to Tokyo later this year. You can read more about it here. We booked our return flight from Japan on American Airlines in business class using AAdvantage miles. I received an email about a schedule change on our flight from Narita to Chicago. It turned out that flight had been canceled and we had been rebooked. The only catch was we were rebooked with a misconnect. Our new flight from Japan arrived in Los Angeles after our next flight had already taken off! Thanks American Airlines, that’s useful. I called and learned about a few options. There weren’t any ideal flights for us that day. There was another flight out of Haneda (closer to Tokyo than Narita) but it left at 6am instead of 6pm. I really didn’t want to lose an entire afternoon in Tokyo.
My first instinct was to ask if it was possible to switch to a Japan Airlines flight (what I should have booked originally – but I didn’t really know at the time). There were no seats available and I was told it wasn’t possible. Oh well. So I looked on the website and found availability for our original flight but on the following day. We had booked “Business/First MileSAAver” tickets for 50,000 AAdvantage miles each (one way). But there was only “Business/First AAnytime” availability for 100,000 miles one way on the day after we had planned to return. I called back and asked if it was possible to be booked on that flight instead and we were rebooked for one day later for the same cost!
I think having to spend an extra night in Tokyo is a “first world problem” if there ever was one. Especially since based on Mommy Points and Travel Summary’s recent reviews of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, I gave in to peer pressure and booked a room there for 22,000 Ultimate Rewards (transferred to Hyatt Gold Passport Points). It was definitely not a bad problem to have, and I’m glad American Airlines was willing to rebook us on the higher mileage award flight!
I wrote about how I got started in this hobby in one of my early posts here. Turns out my first mini “app-o-rama” was almost one year ago! I had read of people calling to cancel cards and being offered a retention bonus instead. Sometimes that bonus includes a credit for the annual fee, sometimes it includes an additional offer similar to the minimum spend for the first bonus (X miles after $X) and sometimes both! Since the offer could just be a spending bonus, I wanted the option to later cancel the card if I chose to; so I decided to call a couple months early.
I was a little nervous calling, as I haven’t cancelled many credit cards. The goal in calling is to keep the line of credit open – ideally at no cost. Keeping the card open helps your average age of account, as well as lowers your utilization (more credit available = less used even if using the same amount). Sometimes even if there’s no retention bonus offer it is possible to downgrade the card to a fee-free version. The benefits will likely not be as great, but it’s good to keep it open for free.
I researched ahead of time on Flyertalk and found a forum discussing Citibank cards here. I first called about my Citibank AAdvantage Platinum American Express (an Amex issued by Citibank), and when the representative asked what he could help me with I just said I thought my annual fee was coming up soon and potentially wanted to cancel the card – but first wanted to know when the fee was. I didn’t want to flat out say I want to cancel, as I’m paranoid and with my luck I’d get the rep that just cancels it! After telling me when the fee was going to post, the rep asked what my concerns were.
I recently completed my first ever Club Carlson stay using Gold Points. We stayed at a Country Inn & Suites in Buckhead near Atlanta, Georgia. Our goal was a cheap award stay close enough to take public transportation (MARTA) to avoid parking fees downtown. I had never stayed at a Country Inn & Suites and wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
With the Club Carlson Visa card it was a great deal though. The card gives you a free last night of a two night or longer award stay. So instead of two nights costing 56,000 points, it was only 28,000 Gold Points.
Upon entering the hotel, there was a nice open lobby, front desk and breakfast area. The front desk had cookies (we’re off to a good start) and offered us a drink and snack. The Visa also gave me Gold status, but that didn’t do much at a sold out hotel.
The hotel had decent amenities: an outdoor pool, a gym on the second floor overlooking the lobby, a shuttle to the nearby MARTA station and hot breakfast in the morning. We found it fairly convenient for getting downtown. We had the choice of the hotel shuttle (during certain hours), a MARTA bus to the station, or a short walk of a few blocks.
The room itself was nice.
There was a king sized bed, a mini-fridge, safe, and tv.
The bathroom was small but also nice. The shower, however, felt somewhat like a capsule and was not quite made for people taller than 6 feet. There was a little ducking going on.
Having never stayed in a Country Inn & Suites, I was pleasantly surprised. Breakfast was very good, with a nice selection of eggs, sausage, waffles, oatmeal and cereal. And the cookies at the front desk were great!
We had a nice weekend in Atlanta, and even made it to the Georgia Aquarium!
I highly recommend the Georgia Aquarium if you’re in Atlanta. Some of the exhibits are amazing. I’ve been three times and am not an aquarium fanatic or anything – the displays are just incredible.
After the aquarium, we walked to the new SkyView Atlanta. It’s a 200 foot Ferris wheel that opened this year. I’m not disappointed we did it, but the views are better from some of the nearby hotels – and this view was even obstructed by them. I wouldn’t really recommend it. But I do recommend Country Inn & Suites if you need an inexpensive option for a quick getaway.