Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Sep 27

New Hotels For Millennials: “Hostels On Steroids”

Part of the joy of dealing with corporate America is watching managers twist themselves into pretzels trying to justify decisions by claiming “our customers wanted the product.” No, they don’t want the product, they want the price.

Because Who Wants A Suite, Anyway?


You, too, can build your own hotel.                                     Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Having realized that Airbnb probably isn’t going away isn’t going away anytime soon, the lodging companies have taken the attitude of, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, but do it kind of worse.” At the Skift Global Conference yesterday, Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta announced that, because the rooms at their brand Tru by Hilton were just too darned big for Millennials at 250 square feet, they were going to outdo themselves and try go even smaller, with a yet-to-be named brand that would cut the space in half (although I do like his description of them as “hostels on steroids”). According to Fortune, Mr. Nassetta is “hoping to make the rooms similar to connectable building blocks.” Kind of a really big Lego’s set, with the added benefit that you wouldn’t have to worry about injuring yourself by stepping on the hotel in the middle of the night.

It’s All about Authenticity

“Little boxes on a hillside, Little boxes made of ticky tacky”
-Malvina Reynolds

Having discovered that you do not, in fact, need to stay in a $400 per room hotel night to be comfortable, more and more travelers are turning to sources like Airbnb to provide a place for them to sleep. True, they don’t usually provide bathroom amenities in cute little bottles, but soap just isn’t that expensive. I’ve heard more than one hotel company state that millennials were doing Airbnb in search of “authenticity (because what says ‘authenticity’ like hotel rooms on rollers),” instead of just admitting the truth: Nobody wants to pay more than they have to and, for a generation that has grown up comfortable with the internet and a pliable sense of personal space, disintermediating the lodging industry seems like a nifty idea (For further reading, see Industry, Taxi.).

I get it. These are companies that have to make money. They price the product to make a profit and that’s the way it should be. The best explanation would have been, “There’s a certain segment of the traveling public that only needs a place to rest their heads and we want to appeal to them, also.” Heck, even the airlines figured that one out and created ultra-low cost carriers like Spirit.d

But at least be honest about it because, every time Marriott tells us that they remove desks because business travelers don’t want them, or that hotels now have bars downstairs because business travelers want to socialize (and not to sell them drinks) or that they were going to try out Embassy Suites hotels with only one room because travelers didn’t like all that space (Yeah, I’ve heard that one, too.), customers just point and laugh. People don’t really stay at Airbnb because they want to use somebody else’s bathroom.



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Sep 26

It’s Time To Consider A Cruise…

Most of my writing is about points and miles, but that doesn’t mean that airplanes and hotels are the only way to take a vacation.

Consider A Cruise

If you’ve never taken a cruise, now is the time. You’ve heard it all before. You’ve seen those Lust for Life” Royal Caribbean commercials. You even watched “The Love Boat” as a kid and know which cast member went on to become a Congressman (It was Fred Grandy, who played Gopher.). But you may never have actually gone on one yourself. If you haven’t (or even if you have), here are a few things to think about.

Cruising Is Easy And Convenient


Over two dozen US departure ports listed, and that map doesn’t include Puerto Rico.

Forget everything you know about a cruise. Flying to Miami? Wearing a tux every night to dinner and hanging out on the smoking deck? Sure, you can do all of those. And you can also find a cruise where you can show up to dinner in shorts. You can find one that originates in one of 24 cities (and that’s in the US alone). And you can certainly find one where the smoking deck is the only outdoor place you can smoke. And you can get everything in-between.

By the way, while you can book a cruise on your own, I would recommend against it. Not because it’s a difficult thing to do; it isn’t.* Instead, use a travel agent. They can help you decide what is the best cruise line if you have kids (or don’t want to see any), choose a cabin on the ship or help you hire a private tour guide instead of paying the ship’s prices on shore excursions. They may also have access to special rates, discounts and shipboard credits that you wouldn’t find on your own. Most importantly, they’ll take care of dealing directly with the cruise line on your behalf if you have any issues.

One other thing: In terms of value, cruising is the best vacation option in the world, bar none. And it’s not necessarily the $99/night specials that you see all over the internet (Your travel agent can get you almost any deal you can find on the internet.). Shipboard credits, prepaid gratuities or other goodies will significantly reduce the total cost and then you’re done. Cruises are (almost) all-inclusive and, while there certainly are extras to buy on-board, there is no need to do so to have a complete trip.**

You Can Go Anywhere

Cruising is about more than the trip to the Caribbean or Alaska. You can go to any one of the seven continents on a cruise. You can see multiple cities without exhausting flights in-between. Want to hit every country in Scandinavia, as well as Russia and Estonia in under two weeks? Go for it. Scenic cruise of Greece, Italy and Turkey? There’s a cruise for that. While you’re sleeping, the ship is doing its thing.

Once you’re at your destination, what you do is up to you. Essentially, you are combining the best options of a land-based vacation with the convenience of having somebody to take you from city to city without squeezing yourself into an airline seat.

And when you’re on the ship, you definitely won’t be bored. Activities like those listed here are available on ships to keep you entertained.

The Islands Need You

As you know, the Caribbean has been devastated by several hurricanes. Many of these are destinations that rely almost exclusively on tourism, meaning that not only has their current economy been destroyed but also their future growth, as well. To their credit, the cruise lines have stepped in to help, offering supplies, ships and whatever the islands need. But without the tourists, the islands will continue to suffer long after the physical destruction has been cleaned up.

If you don’t have a vacation planned, please consider a visit to one of the islands. At this point, a cruise may be the easiest way to do it, but any way that you can spend your dollars, pounds, euros or any other currency, will help.


*Beginner’s Hint: A good travel agent can make a huge difference. Our travel agent just returned from a one-year sabbatical and we’re thrilled to have her back, since she has always looked out for us. On our first cruise that we booked with her, she called us the day before we paid to point out that there was a lower rate available. She took a lower commission because of it, but won all of our future business.

**One tip: For shareholders of at least 100 shares of stock, the three major cruise companies (Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian) will give you an on-board ship credit ranging from $50 to $250, depending on the length of the cruise, if you sail on one of their ships (or a ship owned by the parent, such as Princess, which is owned by Carnival). This is not, under any circumstances, a recommendation to trade any stock.


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Sep 24

Bonus Miles For Conversions From SPG To AA

One way to get miles quickly is to convert them from hotel points. You don’t get the best value for your points, but it’s an easy way to pick up some miles if you need them quickly for a reward.

Converting from Starwood

Starwood points are particularly useful for converting to all airlines except United (Marriott has a partnership with United that makes them a better value.)*. While they do convert 1 for 1 (One SPG point gets you one mile), you get a bonus if you convert 20,000 or more SPG points. For every 20,000 Starwood points you convert, you get 25,000 miles, giving you an effective rate of 1.25 miles per point.**

A Bonus on American Airlines

And from now until October 15, the deal is just a bit better when you convert from SPG to American airlines. If you convert enough points to get 100,000 miles (80,000 or more SPG points), they’ll give you an additional 10,000 miles. That pushes your conversion percentage up just a bit, from 1.25 miles per SPG point to 1.38 miles per SPG point. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but 10,000 American miles could be enough to push you over the top for your next reward. I don’t advocate converting points to miles unless you have an award in mind, but if you do, this may be the time to do so.


*If you do want to transfer Starwood points into United miles, there’s an easy way to do it. First, convert your SPG points into Marriott Reward points at a ratio of 1:3 (which you can do at Starwood’s website) and then convert at the better rate from Marriott Rewards to United.

**Beginner’s Hint: If you have an airline credit card that gives you miles and all you are interested in are the miles themselves, you are better off with the Starwood American Express card than the airline card. First, one Starwood point is worth more than one airline mile but, more importantly, is that spend bonus. Spend $20,000 on an airline card and you will get 20,000 airline miles. Spend that same amount on the Starwood American Express card and your 20,000 SPG points convert to 25,000 airline miles. 

In other words, if you have an airline credit card and don’t care about the other perks that come with it, get rid of it now and get the SPG American Express card.


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Sep 22

Is Next Year The Big One For Mileage Devaluation?

First, I’d like to wish a happy new year to everyone who is celebrating it. And if you aren’t celebrating a new year, let me assure you that apples and honey makes an excellent combination.

Could Redemptions Go Dollar-Based?


Photo Credit: Creative Commons

I got to thinking a lot about what to expect over the next year and, as always, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to miles. For years, the legacy carriers have been devaluing miles, whether it’s charging more miles for a particular flight, instituting “high-season” premiums or eliminating award charts. It’s that last one that makes me the most nervous.

Traditionally, carriers have charged a fixed amount of miles to fly to different geographic zones. For instance, it had always cost 25,000 miles to fly from New York to San Francisco and 35,000 miles to fly from New York to Hawaii, even if the dollar cost of the flight to San Francisco was higher than the fare to Hawaii. As revenue management tools became more sophisticated, airlines were better able to segment redemptions. But still, the dollar price of the ticket and the number of miles it cost were only tangentially linked.

Then, the low-cost carriers arrived. JetBlue and Southwest (2.0) established programs that based the cost in miles on the cost in dollars. In other words, a flight that costs $75 in cash will cost 50% more miles than a flight that costs $50. Each mile is worth a certain number of cents and the cost in miles is directly proportional to what you would pay in cash. Now, customers could use points for any flight. If the flight was a particularly valuable one, the cost in miles would reflect that.

Could Delta, United Or American Do That, Too?

You betcha. In fact, they are already talking about it internally. The issue is not “if,” but “when.” Delta already moved that direction by eliminating its award charts. Now, it has the flexibility to price an award ticket at any level it wants. The question is, how much will each mile be worth? Regardless, those luxurious long-haul, first class tickets are going to go up in cost, and they’re going to go up a lot. For example, if you use your miles to upgrade or make purchases through Delta, they are worth a penny each. If Delta used that ratio, a first-class ticket to Asia wouldn’t cost the 200,000 – 300,000 miles that it currently costs. Instead, that figure would be more like 700,000 miles, based on a $7,000 ticket price if you were going to pay cash. True, you would benefit on the really inexpensive tickets, but you’d probably pay cash for those, anyway.

Why Now?

So why now? Why not last year, or two years from now? There are a few reasons.

First, there has been an accounting change regarding how airlines have to accrue for miles on their balance sheets. The details are complicated, but suffice it to say that the pools of miles now reflect bigger liabilities for the companies than they once did.

Second, they actually began this process two years ago. Remember the good old days, when you got miles based on how far you flew, rather than how many dollars you spent? The conversion to dollar-based earning was simply the first half of the equation. Dollar-based redemptions are on the other side.

Finally, the business models for low-cost carriers and legacy carriers have been converging for years. Dollar-based redemptions would simply continue the pattern.

Canaries in The Coal Mine?

Delta has been leading the industry for years in innovations, both good ones and bad. They also have a meeting for Wall Street analysts coming up in a couple of months. I would not be surprised if we got some kind of announcement there.

The Bottom Line

Everything above is, of course, speculation, and the airlines’ biggest purchasers of miles, the credit card companies, would go bonkers, since their rewards would instantly be devalued. But a dollar-based redemption program will happen eventually, whether consumers like it or not. It just makes too much sense for the airlines’ bottom lines, and that’s really what the business is all about.


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Sep 20

Earning Elite Status With No Stays Or Flights?

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about elite status, which gives you extra perks and points at hotels and airlines, based on your past business.* Certain benefits, such as extra points, are generally valuable, while others, like a special check-in desk (which is never manned at hotels) or free local phone calls, have almost no value. In fact, some companies as Spirit Airlines, offer an elite program that has virtually no benefits whatsoever, other than a name.

Elite Status with No Loyalty

Naturally, earning elite status can be as much about playing game as much as it is generating the perks. Because really, what fun is spending money. So here are a few ways that you can earn the precious status without ever staying at a hotel or flying on an airline. Note that there is spending involved: Many of these suggestions use a credit card to get you your status. But that spending is at your discretion. And I’m going to leave aside the obvious question, which is why anyone would want status with a company that they never use. This one is just for fun.

Marriott Rewards

marriott rewards

Fortunately, nights aren’t hard to find.

Marriott wins the award for “most possible ways to pull off elite status, even if the top two tiers require a lot of nights spent at the hotel. Platinum status would require spending 20% of the year (including weekends) on the road. If you’re going to spend that much money with a hotel, they’d better give you some sort of benefit. Fortunately, there’s an easier way to do it.

Book A Meeting

Got a meeting to plan? Thinking about planning a meeting? Need some elite nights? Perfect, here’s your shot.

Rewarding Events” gives you points and nights for booking a meeting. You”ll get three points per dollar spent, up to 50,000 points, as well as ten nights credited toward your elite status. In other words, booking even a single meeting will get you Silver Status.

But booking a meeting doesn’t have to be expensive. For the purposes of accumulating the elite nights credit, any meeting will count, whether it’s 1,000 people in a ballroom or two people in a conference room for an hour. The last time I booked a meeting, I was interviewing a candidate in Albuquerque. The room was particularly inexpensive because I booked it on a Saturday morning at 8 am. Sadly, the interviewee cancelled at the last minute, so my $75 was for naught, but the ten elite nights I picked up pushed me into the next tier of status (Silver to Gold), which meant that breakfast during Marriott stays was covered for the next year (a perk of Gold status).

Booking a meeting can be a hassle, and that’s enough to turn many people off to doing so, but it may be worth your while.

Get A Credit Card

Marriott has two cards that give you nights credits toward elite status, the personal Premier Credit Card and the Business version of the card. For the purposes of this exercise, each of those cards has a few features:

  • In addition to the points that you get just for signing up for the card (currently 80,000 for the personal one), you also get 15 nights credits toward your total on your anniversary date. The annual fee is $95. Yes, you can have both.
  • For every $3,000 that you spend, you’ll receive one night credit. To earn Platinum status, you’d have to spend $180,000 annually ($3,000 per credit, plus the 15 elite nights that you get just for having the card), so you may also want to mix in nights from another source, since the points that you earn from the card aren’t worth much. The cards also come with a free night annually.
  • And, for what it’s worth, there’s a Chase Ritz Carlton Platinum card that gives you Gold Status, or Platinum if you spend $75,000 in a year. That card is a measly $450 annually.

Bottom Line: A pair of $95 credit cards and five meetings gets you Platinum Status. Assuming that you book each of those five meetings for $75, you don’t have to spend a penny on your credit card and your $565 will net you top tier status and a couple of free nights each year at a Marriott property.

Hilton Honors

hilton honors

A bit of this and a bit of that at Hilton

It’s all about the credit cards, and it’s pretty straightforward.

Hilton Honors Surpass Card

The Hilton Surpass card comes with a $75 annual fee and automatic Gold Status. That may be enough for you. Gold gets you almost all of the benefits of Platinum, with one key exception: To get the free breakfast, you usually need to be on the Executive Level itself. That differs from Marriott, where all Gold members get breakfast, regardless of where they are in the hotel.

But if you spend $40,000 in a year on the card, Hilton will kick up you to Platinum status. That spending threshold is easier than the one at Marriott, but it’s all or nothing. In other words, Marriott gives you credit toward elite status for every $3,000 that you spend. Hilton gives no partial credit to combine with actual stayed nights.

Still, the card comes with 100,000 points to sign up and spend $3,000 in the first three months, which is at least good enough to get it. The $75 Gold Status is simply a bonus.

Hilton Honors Card

The basic card is even easier. There’s no way to earn Diamond status, but $20,000 in spend will get you bumped up to Gold and the sign-up bonus is either 50,000 or 75,000 points, depending on your spending level.

You’re gifted Silver status, which has little, if any, value, and can earn Gold through spending on the card. Now, here’s something to think about: If you want Gold status with Hilton, how much is it worth to you? In other words, I value Hilton points at about 0.4 cents each and you earn three points per dollar spent, or about 1.2 cents. If you spend $20,000 at the base rate, you get $240 in value. On the other hand, the Surpass card gives you gold status. If you put that $20,000 in spending on a Citi Double Cash card, for instance, and earned 2% on all your purchases, you’d get $400 in cash. In other words, when it comes to Gold Status, the Surpass card is almost always the better value.

Bottom Line: Gold Status can be had for as little as a $75 credit card fee, and Platinum Status requires the least spending of the programs that I am going to discuss today.

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines

And then there’s Delta, whose highest levels of elite status are among the most valuable, but also the most difficult to obtain. Again, credit card spending is the only way to do it, and the cards’ aren’t cheap.

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card

It’s $195 per year and doesn’t give a ton of value, but it is a good option for those who are trying to earn elite status. This card only has the potential to get you status the first year you have it, since it gives 5,000 medallion qualifying miles (MQMs) once you hit your initial $1,000 in spend, as well as 10,000 after you spend $25,000 in that first year and another 10,000 after you spend another $25,000. That’s it, though. You have an opportunity to earn Silver Status the first year at 25,000 MQMs, but that’s it. The second year and thereafter, you can only earn the 20,000 MQMs from $50,000 in spending. In other words, you can earn status just with the card, but it may not be the best way to do so.

The Delta Reserve Credit Card

And finally, there’s the Delta Reserve card. It costs $450 per year and comes with lounge access, so it’s best for hard-core Delta travelers. But if you aren’t, and you feel like laying out the cash, it’s similar to the Platinum Card above. When you hit the initial spend requirements the first year, you’ll pick up 10,000 MQMs. After that, you’ll earn 15,000 miles toward elite status after the first $30,000 in spend, as well as another 15,000 when you hit $60,000. Ouch.

Bottom Line: It’s costly, but technically you could earn Gold Status by spending $645 in annual fees and spending $100,000 on the card. Wow. Gold status doesn’t get you much, and the rewards that you earn by spending that $100,000 elsewhere would be well worth it.

There are a number of programs that have products that help you get to elite status (but can’t get you all the way there), but who wants those? Elite status is fun, and as a Silver Member of the Driscoll’s loyalty program, I can attest to that.


*The basis for these thoughts is actually a sad story. Our family eats a lot of berries, and I recently discovered that Driscoll’s, a berry supplier, actually has a loyalty program based on filling out a quick quality when you finish a pack. Last week, they told me that I had filled out enough surveys to become a Silver Member, meaning that they would  send me a $.75 coupon after each survey, rather than a $.50 one. And if I fill out ten more 2-minute questionnaires, I will become a Gold Member and get $1.00 each time. And, for just a second, I got excited about having elite status with a berry company. Sadly, it does not let me cut to the front of the line at the supermarket.



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Sep 19

Club Carlson Offering Double Points!

I’ve often referred to Club Carlson as the little program that could. It’s not the biggest loyalty program in the world but it offers excellent redemptions and promotions at a wide range of hotels, including Radisson and Park Plaza, among others. Before any elite status bonuses, you earn 20 points per dollar spent and room nights start at 9,000 points, so it’s possible to spend just $450 and get a free room ($450*20 points/dollar=9,000 points). The rate of return is better than any of its competitors’, and it isn’t close, and it gets even better if you have elite status.

Double Gold Points

club carlson

Earning Double Points with Club Carlson

The terms and conditions for the promotion aren’t entirely clear, but it does appear to be a straight double points promotion through December 31, with a possible exception for Country Inns & Suites (which would require Sunday through Thursday), meaning that as little as $225 can earn you a free room. Otherwise, it’s a no muss, no fuss promotion.

As mentioned above, Club Carlson isn’t as big as its competitors but it does offer excellent value in the upscale and upper-midscale categories, as well as broad geographic diversification. When combined its the huge returns and easy redemptions, Club Carlson is one of the best loyalty programs in the lodging space.



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Sep 18

Increased Airline Elite Status Through The Starwood/Marriott Merger (Or Vice Versa)

Mergers are generally not viewed as favorable for consumers. By concentrating power in fewer, rather than more, suppliers, the merged companies are often able to increase pricing, since there are fewer competitors.

Sometimes, though, combining benefits can work in your favor. Such is the case when it comes from earning airline elite status* through your hotel status.

Earning Airline Elite Status through your Hotel (Or Vice Versa)

marriott, united

You’ll have to hunt to find this page, but it’s there

Both Marriott (Marriott Rewards, or “MR”) and Starwood (SPG) offer you airline perks if you achieve their highest level of elite status.

  • Earn Marriott Platinum status and they will grant you United Airline Premier Silver. It’s not much, but it does get you a free bag, upgrades and priority airport services (check-in, security, boarding, etc.). Note that Increased Airline Elite Status Through The Starwood/Marriott Merger (Or Vice Versa)you’ll need to dig a bit on Marriott’s site to find reference to this benefit. You’ll also get a 10% bonus on one of the best unknown uses of MR points: Travel packages, which allow you to get airline miles at a highly advantageous rate when redeeming points for a hotel.
  • On the other hand, SPG Platinum status gets you some important Delta benefits. You won’t get Delta’s Silver status, but you’ll get one SPG point per dollar spent, as well as other airport services, including check-in, priority boarding and a free first checked bag.**
  • It also works in reverse. SkyMiles Silver and Gold members earn one mile for every dollar spent at Starwood, and Platinum & Diamond members get the benefits that a Starwood Gold member would at SPG hotels. Meanwhile, United Gold, Platinum and 1K members get matched to Marriott’s mid-tier Gold status. Hey, it’s enough to get you lounge access.

And Now What?

The merger between Marriott and Starwood means that earning status at one gets you the equivalent status at the other. For example, if you have Marriott Platinum status, it will automatically give you Starwood Platinum status as well, as long as you have linked your accounts. That also means that you’ll have twice the opportunity to earn airline elite status (or the benefits from it, in the case of SPG).

Does it even matter? It may not. Most people who stay enough at hotels to earn status also have status on at least one airline. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll always fly that particular carrier. You may be loyal to American but, if you need a non-stop from Fort Lauderdale to Denver, you’ll probably find yourself on United. Trust me, the free bag and improved seats make a difference!


*Beginner’s Hint: *If you are new at miles or need a brief refresher, read this post on elite status.

**Starwood also has benefit agreements with Emirates and China Eastern.


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Sep 16

American AAdvantage eShopping Contest

A light promotion for the weekend relating to American Airlines eShopping, and it’s another “you have nothing to lose” type promo. Yes, the world of mileage is quiet.

AA Getaway Giveaway

american airlines

Happy people in the picture not included with the prize.

A few days ago, I wrote a piece on a potentially targeted United deal that would give you miles for participating in their eShopping program. Now, American has put forth a similar offer, although this one comes in the way of a contest.

Enter the Getaway Giveaway by September 29 and you can win up to 100,000 miles plus $2,500 to help offset the taxes. Three other folks will get 20,000 miles. Enter by filling out the form on the link. Okay, here’s what you need to know:

  • You’ll get an entry just for signing up (There’s a link if you are already signed up.) and 100 entries for subscribing to their email list.
  • For every $50 that you spend with a participating merchant through AA’s online shopping mall, you’ll receive 20 entries.
  • You probably won’t win, but it doesn’t cost you anything to enter. Might as well.


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And finally, you can apply for credit cards through this site. All card proceeds are donated to charity, so please do well by doing good!

Sep 14

Marriott’s Greatest Dessert Ever

Yesterday, I wrote a post in defense of Marriott. Today, well, I’m not sure…

Donut Disturb

donut disturb

“Hi, room service? I’ll have the Caesar Salad (dressing on the side) and a Diet Coke. Oh, and a 10-pound doughnut.”         Photo: Creative Commons


I’m assuming that this is one of those products created to generate publicity, like the $5,000 hamburger or the Golden Opulence Sundae.

Yes, all your decadent dreams can now come true as you and 37 friends munch on a 10-pound doughnut, delivered directly to your room at the JW Marriott Resort & Spa. And you can’t spell “Funfetti doughnut” without “fun” or, for that matter, “fet,” which sounds like the French word for party, “fête.”

And what will this treat cost you? That’s the best part. It’s a measly $219, and not only does it come with a couple of milkshakes but you’ll also get a $50 hotel credit which can be used for hotel dining if you’re still hungry. And while $219 may sound like a lot of money, consider this: The average doughnut weighs about an ounce and costs about $1.25. So ten pounds of doughnuts, or 160 of the suckers, would run you $200 at your average Dunkin Donuts. So for the additional $19, you are getting two shakes and $50. That is a deal if I’ve ever heard one.

Okay, technically it’s not a doughnut, but rather, a cake with a coffee lacquer to give it that new-doughnut smell (or appearance, as the case may be). But hey, anything that comes with sprinkles the size of a tricycle can call itself whatever it wants.

(And a hat tip to Flyertalk for the original article)

And the Credit Cards Are Back!

After a discussion with my credit card affiliate, I once again have links to credit cards. The site is still under construction, but you can get cards through the “Find Your Adventure Faster” banner on the Credit Cards for Charity page.

As a reminder, when you get a card through my link, it generates a commission. All commissions are donated to charity. For the past several years, all proceeds have gone to Cradles to Crayons, a non-profit that has received four stars from Charity Navigator. Cradles to Crayons provides kids with free essentials, such as clothes and school supplies. So the next time you need a credit card, I hope you’ll visit the page and do well by doing good.


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Sep 13

In Defense Of Marriott…

“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
-William Randolph Hearst

There’s nothing that generates clicks on a website faster than the hint of a good story (Come to think of it, I should have titled this page, “Four things you didn’t know about Marriott. #2 will horrify you!”). Whether it’s the Spanish-American war or an eclipse, we’re always drawn to a good story.

Did Marriott Really Strand Non-Guests?

frenchman's reef

Frenchman’s Reef.                                                                  Photo Credit: Creative Commons

It’s no surprise that Marriott has received some harsh publicity for allegedly leaving non-guests after Hurricane Irma demolished much of the island of St. Thomas. It made for a great headline: Evil corporation strands people because they didn’t pay to be rescued. But there’s likely a lot more to the story, as always seems to be the case after a natural disaster. People want a villain, and a tale this good creates one, even if it later turns out to be wrong (For more reading, see: Trump, Melania.). But there are multiple sides to every story, including this one, although the more mundane explanations don’t play nearly as well.

Since none of us knows who was say what to whom in at Marriott Headquarters, I’ll go with what makes the most sense to me.

Media has centered on the fact that Marriott did not board non-guests on a ferry boat to Puerto Rico, despite the fact that there was room for hundreds of people. That is a fact, one that Marriott has acknowledged. The discussion, though, has centered on the “why.” Explanations have ranged from “Marriott didn’t want the liability” to “bureaucracy.” Most of the reports in the press came from individuals who had heard the story third-hand, with a number of the quotes starting off with lines like “They told us that the Marriott CEO had said…”

What Makes Sense and What Doesn’t

Okay, a few things don’t make sense. First of all is the idea that the CEO said anything during the situation about denying travel. My guess is that the CEO wasn’t even involved. Not because he doesn’t care (I assure you, he does.) but because he would not have been even close to the best person to handle the situation.

Second, the that Marriott would strand people because they didn’t want the liability is ridiculous. First, they’re going to be liable for the 600 passengers that they had picked up. If they really didn’t want any liability, they wouldn’t have sent any boats at all. Second, let’s compare the relative outcomes. Marriott had to know that a story like this one would come out. The bad publicity it is getting is far more costly than anything that they could have been sued for (And what is that “anything,” anyway?).

Occam’s Razor

In this case, the simplest explanation is most likely the correct one.

Marriott owns a hotel, not the port. In order to get onto the ferry (in fact, even to get past the dock’s gates), a passenger needed to be on the manifest. Despite the storm, the company was still required to submit a guest’s personal information. Marriott had that information for its guests when it created the manifest ahead of time. It did not have that information for the others at the dock.

According to a Marriott spokesperson, they were told that they had to leave immediately, due to the potential impact of Hurricane Jose.

Marriott’s explanation makes perfect sense to me. In the best of times, travel is filled with red tape. As you can imagine, this was a worst of times nightmare. There simply is no game plan for the situation. If the government says that you need to be on a manifest to get out of the country, the dock worker is not going to be the guy to overrule them. The idea that somebody heard that somebody else heard that the CEO didn’t want any liability is ludicrous, although it makes for a great read.

But Here’s What Else I know

In the real world, I know a number of senior Marriott executives personally. Without exception, every single one of them would have been out on the boat personally, helping to evacuate anyone who they could find. “Hospitality” is not a buzz word at Marriott. If you don’t live it, you don’t work there, period. They care about their guests and, more importantly, truly care about their employees.

So Who Are The Real Heroes?

CEO Arne Sorenson could not, of course, be there to evacuate the passengers. So who are the real heroes in the situation? I think you’ll already know the answer to this one, but if this piece from a guest does not make you want to visit the island, I don’t know what will.


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And finally, you can apply for credit cards through this site. All card proceeds are donated to charity, so please do well by doing good!