If you’re not familiar with Ebates it is one of the many cash back portals you can use to save money on your online purchases.  Normally, you earn a percentage of what you spend in cash rewards.  But now Ebates has added the option of converting your cash rewards into AMEX Membership Rewards points.  The conversation ratio is 1 cent to 1 AMEX point, so $1 is worth 100 points.

Right now the feature is only available to new members who sign-up through a special link.  But they are offering a 1,500 AMEX point bonus to new members and it would only make sense for them to roll this feature out to existing user soon.

To be notified when that happens, sign-up for our newsletter and we’ll let you know.

AMEX
Ebates is allowing new members to convert their cash back rewards into AMEX Membership Rewards points

New Way to Earn AMEX Membership Rewards Points

Right now the ability to link your AMEX Membership Rewards points account and your Ebates account is limited to new members who sign-up through this link.

Once you create an account through that link, then you’ll need to make $25 in purchases within the first 90 days to earn the 1,500 AMEX Membership Rewards points bonus.

Being able to convert cash rewards to AMEX points at a rate of 1 cent per point is a good deal.  It’s not hard to get much more value than that by transferring points to AMEX’s travel partners.

If you want to learn more about AMEX Membership Rewards points check out these helpful guides:

You can earn more AMEX Membership Rewards points with cards like these:

 

If you want to stay on top of other miles & points deals, then subscribe to our newsletter:

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Hat tip:   Miles to Memories

ebates Interjections OK
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Valuable Post

During high season, some 500 travelers head out on the Everest Base Camp trek every day. But has the famously stunning trek become a victim of its own popularity? Sarah Reid finds out.

Wiping the stream of snot off my face with my ski glove, I
take another labored breath, and will my legs forward.

At 5,000 meters (16,404 feet), where each breath takes in
50 per cent less oxygen than at sea level, every step feels like five. But I still
have a few hundred meters to go before reaching the summit of Kalar Patthar, a steep,
rocky ridge near Everest Base Camp that offers the best view of the world’s
highest peak you could hope to glimpse without climbing it. And I’m not going to
miss it for the world.  

After getting a taste for hiking in the Himalayas during
a volunteer abroad program in Nepal in my high school days, I’d often thought
about returning to tackle Everest Base Camp (EBC). But in recent years, I started
to wonder if I’d left it too late.

The post Has tourism ruined the Everest Base Camp hike? appeared first on Adventure.com.

4 Nights on RCCL to Cuba

One of the hardest lessons to learn in travel hacking is knowing when to let go of a trip, particularly when it is ‘free’.

Recently, we took another gamble on Vegas.  For new readers (or those who didn’t keep up with this) when we ‘Vegas’ we don’t gamble in the same way that others do.  To the casual observer, gambling means taking some money, putting it in a slot machine or table game, and hoping for the best (regardless of card counting ability).

We approach the gamble very differently.  My upside is not connected to winning or losing money, but whether the event of gambling triggers enough Comp to come out ahead of either financial result.  If I lose $5000 but ‘win’ $50K in comp, I’ll take it.   For those who MS, compare this to the guarantee of paying ~$7 to buy and liquidate a gift card that earns you $25 vs paying ~$0 to Kiva but knowing that there will be an element of randomness to the fee you pay.

Our latest gamble didn’t pay off.  We were offered a free cruise on RCCL, but could get no further details.  It could be a 7 night on the biggest, sparkliest ship in a suite (spoiler alert, it wasn’t), or 2 nights cruise to nowhere on their oldest tug boat. We wouldn’t know until we went to the booth to pick up the certificate.  We rolled the dice.

Controlling the narrative

We stacked the odds in our favor by controlling the narrative of the trip. Rather than it being about going to Vegas to pick up the Certificate, it was about a nice vacation that incidentally involved us walking past this booth, and maybe hitting the Jackpot.  We used points for flights (outbound in First Class because we wanted to control the flow of the vacation) the room was comped, and we had several hundred in free money from MGM and Caesars to spend on food.

In the end, because we focused on spending the free money wisely, and willingly spent real money outside of those chains to experience things that mattered, the trip turned out really well. This offset the loss on the certificate.

Close, but no cigar

Our offer
Our offer from MGM for RCCL

We came close to picking a 4 or 5 night cruise that visited Cuba, as we haven’t been before. I even took the step of seeing if we could work around RCCL’s Partial Cruise rules that specifically cite Nassau as a hotspot port for cabotage:

If a passenger (as listed on a vessel passenger manifest) embarks in a U.S. port and the vessel calls in a nearby foreign port (such as Ensenada, Grand Cayman and Nassau) and then returns to the U.S., the person must disembark in the same U.S. port. A passenger who embarks and disembarks in two different U.S. ports (such as Los Angeles and San Diego) would result in the carrier (not the violator) being fined. The vessel must call in a distant foreign port before the U.S. embarkation and disembarkation ports can differ. The nearest distant foreign ports are in or off the coast of South America. If either the passenger’s embarkation port or disembarkation port is in a foreign country, then the provisions of this cabotage law do not apply. Nor do they apply in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The plan for this was to find an itinerary that touched base in Cuba first, to clear Cabotage, then disembark in Nassau to stay at Atlantis (also for free) before flying NAS>JFK non stop. It would be a good example of how we splice together travel these days:

  • JFK>FLL on ‘whoever is the cheapest in pts’
  • Feb 16th: Would need 1 night hotel pre cruise (to keep stress low)
  • Feb 17th embark 4 Night cruise, but exit in Nassau
  • Several nights at Atlantis, and home to JFK 

(the cabotage issue would be that ‘short hops’ outside of the US require you to re-enter the US at the same point you departed, so a nonstop to JFK from NAS might be an issue.. Cuba might address that, but Cuba also isn’t the best Country to be leaning on to help clear up US immigration concerns… oh, and incidentally I’m currently exploring Naturalization, so that would be a factor).

Letting go of free

It was almost a great trip. The cruise fare for two would be taxes and fees only, so around $230, but once you add in the 3rd guest, and the onboard gratuities, we would be around $800-900.  Also, the ship wasn’t that sparkly.  I might pay $800-900 to experience the Oasis Class, but for the older ships, I didn’t think it great value.  

I understand that to someone else, it would be great value, but the final piece for us was that we really want to see Cuba, so the alternative option of flying nonstop JFK>HAV and spending a few nights in Cuba seemed a lot more immersive. There was a lot of fluff and waste with the cruise, so despite it being a deal compared to paying full rate, it wasn’t a deal to us.

The decision increasingly includes the following:

If we’re going to a destination to see it, does the ‘free’ trip cover the bases, or is it only somewhat OK? Traveling even to somewhere close like Havana takes a fair amount of time (driving to/from airports+flights+whatnot) so it is important to us to visually walk through how the vacation would feel. Perhaps it would feel fine on a cruise in some cases, but in others, and when the price is already perhaps more than immersion, the ‘free’ option doesn’t fit.

Factors on why our thinking may differ from yours:

Demand/Load – we have other options.  The cruise gig is now totally out of hand where we could book at least 8 cruises in the next 6 months to basically anywhere in the world.  While it is hard to do, especially with a new line like RCCL, something has to give else we will just be on vacation permanently.  If we had no other cruise options, I think we’d likely go for this one, but at some point, we had to say no.

So.. we didn’t hit the jackpot in Vegas this time around, but we learned to say no to free. When doing so, we also agreed that we could risk losing Atlantis too, as it wasn’t a good time to travel right now.  The next challenge for us is whether we can say no to the gamble. IE, if we are offered a similarly obscure ‘free cruise’ if we go to Vegas, will we decline unless they give us the details, or will we roll the dice again?  

Here’s some posts on what I’ve been doing on the gambling stuff, so you don’t have to search for it.  For those following, our offers are now down to 3 nights in a room vs suite, and $50 in F&B, and I am now getting marketing from Circus Circus vs Aria Skysuites.  Our trip to Vegas to pick up this Voucher is written up here: Storytelling through food. We spend $0 ‘gambling’ because actual casino gambling, no matter how savvy you think you are, is throwing away money. 

mLife Gold Complimentary Cruises

mLife Math & the bet, the ROI, and the next step

Introduction to Manufactured Spend: at Sea Edition

Aria Sky Suites, a Bromance made in heaven

The post Learning when to let go of free appeared first on Saverocity Travel.

EARLIER THIS MONTH, a decommissioned Boeing 747 airliner was towed down a Dutch motorway to its final destination as a novelty hotel complex. Its owners reckon they can turn the jumbo-jet into a tourist attraction. They are not wrong.

Bloomberg

Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered a review of fuel prices following complaints about high air fares blamed on soaring fuel costs. Bloomberg

Skift Take: Indonesia President Joko Widodo threatened the state energy company that he would let private companies enter the market if it didn't lower fuel prices to an acceptable level. That threat seemed to have helped.

— Dennis Schaal

Read the Complete Story On Skift

On February 13, Marriott rebranded its Marriott Rewards program to Marriott Bonvoy — but the program has seen more than just a name change in the past year. After announcing a merger with Starwood Preferred Guest in 2016, Marriott officially integrated the two programs in August 2018, changing the award chart, travel packages and many other things (including some that SPG loyalists weren’t thrilled).

In spite of the issues that appear to remain since the integration, Marriott Bonvoy points are still very valuable, but how do you actually put them to use? In this article, we’ll dive deep and show you all the different ways you can redeem your Marriott points. We’ll start by walking you through hotel redemptions and then move into airline transfers and other interesting redemptions.

Using Marriott Bonvoy Points for Hotel Stays

As you’d expect, you can use your Marriott Bonvoy points to book a room at any one of Marriott’s worldwide properties. Marriott prices its awards by category, meaning that upscale hotels in more desirable locations are generally assigned higher categories (and naturally cost more points). The easiest way to find how many points you need per night is by searching for your hotel of choice on Marriott’s website or sifting through this list of hotels and their respective categories.

Here’s how many points you’ll need for a free night at each one of Marriott’s categories (note that Category 8 pricing won’t take effect until Mar. 5; you can book these 60+ luxury resorts for just 60,000 points per night until then):

Marriott Bonvoy Award Chart

You’ll also note from the chart that Marriott hasn’t yet rolled out off-peak and peak award pricing, but it’s coming soon. While we don’t have a solid date for this pricing yet, we expect off-peak pricing to be assigned to low demand times and peak times to be applied to higher demand seasons. This means that you’ll save points during low season and have to spend more when hotel rooms are in more demand.

Additionally, Marriott has two other types of hotel redemptions: PointSavers and Cash + Points. PointsSaver awards offer a discount on standard redemption rates at selected hotels. On the other hand, Cash + Points redemptions let you combine cash and points for discounted hotel stays starting at just $55 and 3,500 points per night. You can also use Cash + Points to customize a stay, redeeming points for one night and paying cash for the next. This is a great option when the paid rates vary significantly during your stay and is a key reason why TPG Editor Nick Ewen is sticking with Marriott in 2019.

All Award Stays Get a Fifth Night Free

One great perk of the Marriott Bonvoy program is that all award stays of four nights or more get a fifth night free no matter if you’re booking at standard or PointSavers rates. This free night will automatically be reflected when you book online and applies to stays across all 29 of Marriott’s participating brands. However, this gets a bit tricky if you start using the Cash + Points option to redeem points for some nights and pay cash for others. You must have a total of five or more award nights in order to get the fifth night free. If you book a seven-nights stay and pay cash for three of them, you’ll need to redeem points for all four of the other nights.

Book ahead with Points Advance

One final aspect of the Marriott Bonvoy program that can help with your hotel stays is the Points Advance feature. This allows you to book an award stay without having enough points in your account. You then have until 14 days before arrival to do so. This is a terrific strategy to snag a room at a high-demand property like the St. Regis Maldives, especially if you’re afraid that there will be no rooms left when you finally do have enough points. It also allows you to lock-in current award rates for properties that are increasing in price (like the Mar. 5 category changes this year).

For complete details on this option, check out Ethan Steinberg’s guide to Points Advance.

Transferring Marriott Points to Airline Partners

(Image via Airbus)
American is just one of over 40 airline transfer partners. (Image via Airbus)

One of members’ favorite features of the Starwood Preferred Guest program was its airline partner program. In short, this program let SPG members transfer their hotel points to a huge list of airline partners at a favorable rate. Thankfully, Marriott has preserved many aspects of this program and now allows Marriott Bonvoy members to transfer their points to over 40 different airline programs — many of which do not partner with other loyalty programs.

You can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to most airline partners at a rate of 3:1, meaning that 3 Marriott Bonvoy points yields 1 airline mile. There are a few exceptions to this rule though:

  • AeroMexico ClubPremier 3:1.6
  • Air New Zealand Airpoints™ 200:1
  • JetBlue TrueBlue™ 6:1
  • United MileagePlus® 3:1.1

One of the best parts about transferring your Marriott Bonvoy points to airline partners is that you get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer. As an example, if you were to move 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to American Airlines AAdvantage, you’d receive 25,000 AAdvantage miles. This gives you an effective transfer ratio of 2.4:1.

While airline transfers may not give you as good of a deal as hotel stays, they can come in handy if you need to top-up your points balance or leverage a more obscure mileage program that may be hard to earn. Just note that you can only transfer 240,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to airlines per day, and the minimum transfer is 3,000 points.

Using Marriott Bonvoy Points for Hotel + Air Packages

Can’t decide between a hotel stay or transferring points to your favorite airline? Marriott’s famous Hotel + Air packages may be just what you need. These packages let you redeem your points for a seven-night hotel stay plus a large number of airline miles. Pricing varies based on the number of miles you want and the category of your hotel stay—here’s a look at pricing:

Marriott Hotel + Air Packages

Nearly all of Marriott’s airline partners are eligible for a Hotel + Air package, and you can even get a 10% bonus when you choose to transfer your miles from a Hotel + Air package to United MileagePlus thanks to the RewardsPlus partnership.

That being said, this reward option was decimated under the combined program, so be sure to very carefully crunch the numbers and make sure that the redemption makes sense before you pull the trigger.

Use Points for Marriott Bonvoy Moments

With the official launch of Bonvoy, the program now has a new experience platform called Marriott Bonvoy Moments. This offers destination-specific activities — think bus tours, sporting events, and culinary experiences — in many of the cities where Marriott has a hotel presence. You can book these experiences using your Marriott Bonvoy points, giving you a free way to experience new cities. In many cases, these aren’t awards you could purchase using cash, so it can provide some unique activities on your next trip.

To see what’s currently available, head to the Marriott Bonvoy Moments site and click on the category you’d like to explore at the top. Just note that certain experiences are bookable for a flat number of Marriott points, while others are an auction against other bidders, so be sure to read the terms and conditions of a moment before you commit to purchasing one, as most are nonrefundable.

Buy Merchandise With Marriott Shopping

@alesha_macarosha via Twenty20
Skip mall and redeem your points for merchandise. Just be prepared for a pretty poor value. Photo by @alesha_macarosha via Twenty20

Finally, you can use your Marriott Bonvoy points for merchandise and gift cards. Marriott offers a wide range of products on its web store, from Uber gift cards to Bose headphones and Bluetooth speakers. However, these redemptions are not usually the best use of your miles. For example, we found that a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II Wireless Headphones costs 97,500 Marriott Bonvoy points. Best Buy sells the same pair for $349, so you’ll get a redemption value of just 0.36 cents per point with this purchase.

Bottom Line

February 13, 2019 marked the end of an era, as Marriott officially retired its legacy programs (Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guests and Ritz-Carlton Rewards). Even though the integration has caused some headaches and made many question their loyalty to the combined program, there are still a ton of ways for you to get excellent value out of your Marriott Bonvoy points. To do so, we generally recommend sticking with hotel stays or transferring to air partners — these give you the best bang for your hard-earned points and let you see the world on the cheap.

What are your favorite ways to redeem Marriott Bonvoy points? Let us know in the comments.

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