Citi Prestige Possibly the Best Thing to Happen to Mattress Running Since???

The Citi Prestige card is getting lots of virtual ink out there with the new 50,000 point sign up bonus–and rightfully so.  50,000 Thank You Points are worth $800 worth of flights on AA/US Airways or can be transferred to Citi’s transfer partners:

  • Hilton (1.5:1)
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Eva Air Infinity
  • Etihad Guest
  • Air France/KLM FlyingBlue
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flier (side note: Garuda should hire a branding expert)
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flier (maybe they should too?)
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore KrisFlyer
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Citi Prestige Card

Citi Prestige Card

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Italy 2015: Dulles to Munich Lufthansa First Class

This is probably my favorite flight to Europe from DC because it leaves so late (10:30pm). It’s very hard for me to sleep on the 5-7pm ~6 hour flights to Europe that basically land at 1am “body clock time.” Munich is also “deeper” into Europe, so it’s more like a 7-7.5 hour flight, too, which is nice. The downside, of course, is that you arrive in Europe on the later side–particularly if you have to connect where you’re pretty much going to lose the whole day and probably not end up in your hotel room til about dinner time.

In our case, we didn’t really care, though, since we just needed to be in Naples by the following morning, and had no real desire to spend much time in Naples which is known for the smell, the petty crime and the pizza–pizza being something we could get elsewhere.  Instead of a ~2 hour layover and arriving mid-evening, we actually planned a ~9 hour layover and planned to take the train into Munich, go for a run, grab some German food and beer, and then just fly to Naples to sleep.

We arrived at Dulles around two hours before departure and found the first class line (around the backside of the business and economy check in counters) unstaffed.  Luckily, there was only one party ahead of us in the business class line. so not too much of an inconvenience, and they even had first class ticket jackets to give us.

My golden ticket

My golden ticket

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Italy 2015: Preview & Costs

During this trip report, I’ll be reviewing:

  • Lufthansa First Class IAD-MUC
  • Lufthansa First Class Lounge & MUC Airport
  • Lufthansa Business Class MUC-NAP
  • Hotel Excelsior Naples
  • Santa Caterina Hotel Amalfi
  • Palazzo Avino Hotel Ravello
  • Lufthansa Business Class NAP-MUC
  • Lufthansa First Class MUC-IAD

It was an amazing trip–probably my favorite we’ve ever taken, though perhaps because we visited the town in Italy where we’re getting married later this year (Ravello).  I really think Ravello is my favorite place I’ve ever been–just so relaxing and charming, but I’ll get to that later on.

Ravello, Italy

Ravello, Italy

It was also the only trip we’ve been on recently where most hotel costs were out of pocket instead of on points, but there aren’t many chain hotels on the Amalfi Coast, so we pretty much had to.  So with that said, the trip costs were:

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Getting the US Airways card this week is almost a no brainer … but I’m not doing it

The Barclaycard US Airways card is going away after this week when the US Airways and American frequent flier programs merge, and everyone that has one is going to be issued a new American Airlines card.  But Barclays will no longer have the rights to issue *new* American cards, so this is your last chance to get it.

Use AA miles to book Etihad first class

Use AA miles to book Etihad first class

In an effort to ramp up applications before they’re shut out, they’ve increased the sign up bonus from the typical 40,000 miles to 50,000 (after paying $89 annual fee).  The other benefits include things like free checked bag, zone 2 boarding, etc.

Getting it now, before it goes away is almost a no brainer because:

  • It doesn’t preclude you from getting any sign-up bonus on a Citi-issued card at a later date (or even today).
  • The card is going away, so it’s truly your last chance this week.
  • The 50,000 miles requires no spend at all (just payment of annual fee).
  • Barclays usually pulls your Transunion credit report, which almost no other bank uses (for credit card purposes), so it’s a “free” credit pull.

So, essentially, you’re just buying 50,000 miles for $89–a cost of 0.18 cents per mile–since you’re not really incurring much in the way of an opportunity cost as it pertains to other methods of earning AA miles.

Here’s the Application Link: US Airways Mastercard

However, I’m still not applying for the card.   [Read more…]

Dubai & Mauritius 2014: St. Regis Mauritius

We were the first ones through immigration thanks to disembarking first. After collecting our bags, which took a little longer than I hoped, we met the St. Regis representative. I read in advance that St. Regis transfers were a little more costly than taxis (roughly $100), but much more comfortable.  The hotel offered either:

  • Luxury Coach – 5500 MUR (~$150)
  • Audi Q7 or Range Rover – 8000 MUR (~$220)

We chose the Luxury Coach (described as a minivan via email), but we were upgraded to the Range Rover at no additional charge.  I saw the Q7 on property, in fact we were “upgraded” to it on the way back to the airport, but I never saw a van, so I’m skeptical whether or not it actually exists or whether they are just happy to take an extra $70 from some people who don’t know better…

St. Regis Mauritius Range Rover

St. Regis Mauritius Range Rover

The ride to the St. Regis Mauritius Resort took just over an hour and the sun set toward the end of the drive–most of which was through the middle of the island and not terrible picturesque, though the last 20 minutes or so were mostly along the water.  Our driver, I forget his name but he’s pictured here in the right of the frame was awesome.  As we found out on the ride back, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a smooth ride, and this was great.  Not only that, but he gave us a great history of Mauritius and lots of info on the island.  The hotel also provided a complimentary hot spot in the car which was nice given that data pricing is outrageous there.

Mauritius Sunset

Mauritius Sunset

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Why is BMO Harris shuttering Diners Club accounts?

Reader Jake recently asked if my Diners Club account was affected as part of the massive sweep of closures BMO Harris enacted of the “Elite” version of their new consumer credit card that earns Diners Club Rewards points.

A few months ago, I asked why nobody was talking about the card.  The math, after all was quite compelling if buying Visa gift cards at your local drugstore is your cup of tea.  For a $4.95 “activation fee” and a $0.99 money order fee, one could acquire 1505 Diners Club points.  That’s a cost of only ~0.39c per point — or about $390 to earn 100,000 points which could be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to Alaska Airlines, Aeroplan, British Airways, Delta, etc.  Not only is that a crazy cheap “price” for the miles, but the 3X multiplier made the entire experience much more efficient.

Roughly $400 for potentially two flights in Emirates First Class makes it very much worth it…

Emirates A380 First Class

Emirates A380 First Class

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Dubai & Mauritius 2014: DXB to MRU Emirates A380 First Class

If I’m honest, a real factor that influenced our decision as to destination was the ability to fly in first (as opposed to business) class all the way there.  It’s actually not doable that often when you’re talking about leisure destinations–and it makes sense that airlines do that.  Premium aircraft should be used on routes that command premium fares.  But for whatever reason (probably mostly because they can), Emirates runs a double daily A380 service to Mauritius.  Considering they only fly to DC once/day–and with a 777–that’s remarkable.

I was really excited for another segment in Emirates A380 first class–particularly on a completely day time flight where I didn’t plan to spend much time sleeping (Dubai and Mauritius are on the same time zone, so I wanted to stay up and not confuse my body any more).  And just as much I was looking forward to checking out the full A380 terminal that Dubai airport built for Emirates (though codeshare parter Qantas also uses it).

Emirates Chauffeur

Emirates Chauffeur

Our Emirates provided chauffeur picked us up right on time, and brought us right to the premium check in area of Dubai airport. [Read more…]

Dubai & Mauritius 2014: Grosvenor House Dubai

This was our second trip to the UAE after visiting Abu Dhabi last year (St. Regis and Park Hyatt reviews), and we were much more looking forward to our Dubai trip since we found Abu Dhabi a little boring.

Despite our early arrival, the hotel gladly checked us in to our pre-upgraded room.  The room featured a separate bedroom and living room which is always nice–I really don’t like the word “junior suite” because it’s a contradiction (discussion for another day).

Bedroom

Bedroom

Living Room

Living Room

There was also a small kitchen/bar area and breakfast nook-type space off of the living room:

Breakfast Nook

Breakfast Nook

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Dubai & Mauritius 2014: JFK to Dubai Emirates First Class Suites

We boarded from the lounge and the entire time down the jet way to describe me as a kid in a candy store would be a vast understatement.  I’ve flown some amazing products in the past few years, but I’ve never been more excited for a single flight than this one. It’s basically the definition of an aspirational redemption–completely unnecessary in every way but just awesome.  That said I’ve read some reviews that paint a picture of Emirates as being style over substance, so I was anxious to see if I find that to be true.

Spoiler: We completely didn’t think so at the end of the flight.

The Emirates first class cabin consists of a 14 suites in a 1-2-1 configuration on the upper deck.  The center suites form a nice pair with a retractable wall between the seats which we found great for traveling in pairs.  We were easily close enough to speak to each other with just a slight head turn.

Emirates Suites

Emirates Suites

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Dubai & Mauritius 2014: Emirates Lounge JFK

Our chauffeur was a nice lifetime New Yorker (when he heard I was from Virginia, he recounted a tale from decades ago of going into a grocery store in Richmond and only finding a single brand of marinara sauce that was in the “ethnic food” section … whereas in New York of course there’s almost a whole aisle of marinara sauce) and very funny guy. Based on the Flyertalk thread which reports lots of SUVs, I was expecting a Suburban/Escalade, but we were picked up in a late model Cadillac sedan which was just fine.

He dropped us off in front of the terminal, and we made our own way to the single first class check in desk.  According to our driver, there was supposed to be “bell staff” to help us with our luggage, but we couldn’t find anyone, and our suitcases had wheels anyway.  We checked in, got boarding passes, and were given directions to the lounge located on the second floor above the terminal.

Emirates Lounge JFK

Emirates Lounge JFK

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