March 30, 2017

3 Confusing Things About New York City Subway System

Our trip to New York City relied heavily on the Subway system to get us around the city. I carefully planned on How Much To Put On The NYC MetroCard and that worked out really well for us. Besides how old and dirty NYC Subway is, we find the system is very confusing for tourists. Here are my 3 confusing things about NYC Subway system:

New York City Subway Number 7

1. Uptown Vs. Downtown
If you have ridden Subway in D.C. or Chicago, even in Europe, you would know that each Subway station's platform will clearly mark the "destination" that the train goes to. So if you want to go to another station along the line that reaches that destination, you know that is the train that you want to get on. New York's Subway, on the other hand, goes with the station numbers and letters. Each platform is marked with whether Uptown or Downtown. If you live in NYC, you would figure out quickly whether Times Square is uptown or downtown from the airport and vice versa. But for tourists, how are we supposed to know that?

2. Express Vs. Local
The title says it all! Express means fast train by skipping some stops, whereas local is the regular slower train that has to make each stop. Express and Local words can be seen outside of the train itself. If you miss seeing that on the arriving train and you accidentally get on the Express train, there are only two things can happen. One, the train makes the right stop for you by skipping the ones that you don't want to stop at so you arrive quicker. Two, you are going far far away and need to figure out how to get back! The confusing part about this Express and Local trains is the fact that tourists are not going to know which stations that the Express train skips. So stick to the local trains to be sure.

3. Two Sides of Platform
This only happened to us once while we were there. Basically, some stations have two sides of platform that's divided by the train track. Once you enter the station and swipe your MetroCard just to realize that you are on the wrong side of the platform and the station is not connected to the other side of the platform. You will have to exit and re-enter the other platform by re-swiping your MetroCard. This means that you will be paying twice. So make sure it's the right station that you want to enter and read the  marked signs carefully whether you want to go uptown or downtown, then swipe your MetroCard to enter. What we did was we went ahead and got on the wrong direction's train and simply got off at another station that the station connects to the other side.

Conclusion
Although we find the New York City's Subway System is rather confusing, we will still use this public transportation method for our next trip to the Big Apple. Things can still get confusing, but we will just need to figure them out. After all, that's what being tourist is all about - get confused, get lost, and have fun! Subway is a great way to get around the city and it sure is cost-savings!

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March 29, 2017

Requesting Missing Miles Flown on Singapore Airlines and Crediting Those Miles to United Airlines Instead

Question Asked: 
"I just flew with Singapore airlines and I want to accrue miles. But I don't want to accrue Singapore airlines miles. I fly more in the States and therefore can I credit those miles to a U.S airline instead?"

You can earn miles through International airlines if the airline has partnership with the U.S. airlines. To answer the above question, yes you can! if you fly with Singapore Airlines but because you don't fly Singapore that often and therefore it does not make sense to accrue their miles, you can credit those miles with United Airlines instead. Both airlines have partnership under the Star Alliance.

Given the above example with Singapore and United Airlines. If you did not have a chance to ask Singapore Airlines agent to put your United Mileage Program number on your reservation, then you certainly can request those missing miles later on after you have flown the flight. The tricky part is that you can't do that directly with Singapore Airlines. They require you to have KrisFlyer account (Singapore's mileage program) in order to request missing miles. This makes sense only if you want to credit those missing miles into KrisFlyer account. However, you want to credit those missing miles into your United Mileage account.

Here are the steps to do that:
  1. Make sure you saved your boarding passes because there's a ticket number on each boarding pass. If you don't have the boarding passes, check online booking management and your email/receipt to get the ticket number. If all fails, call up Singapore Airlines at 1-800-742-3333 and they should be able to help you locating the ticket number. Singapore Airlines ticket number starts with 618.
    1. Please note that if you fly with Silk Air, you cannot accrue United miles. That's because Silk Air partners with Singapore Airlines, but not with United. Silk Air's ticket number starts with 629.
  2. The next step is to verify what type of "fare class" your ticket is. Each class earns different type of award miles. You can view this information here (LINK) on how many United miles you earn through flying with Singapore Airlines. To check the fare class, look at your email/receipt, online booking management; otherwise call up Singapore Airlines. 
  3. Once you have those two information, make sure you know the flight number, flight dates, and from where to where. 
  4. Call up United to provide those information to request those missing miles. If you prefer to do it online, head over to United site for requesting miles credit and fill out the online form with the information that you have gathered above. 
  5. You are all set and wait for your eligible miles to be credited. According to United, it takes approximately 14 days to request missing miles from partnered airlines. 
Editorial Notes: 
  • If you are into this collecting miles program, every time you purchase a ticket, make sure your desired mileage program is entered. If both airlines have partnership, you can earn miles through one program or the other but not both. 
  • After the flight, you can request missing miles. However, to request those miles, you actually will contact the airline that you want the miles to be credited to with all necessary information outlined in the steps above. 

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March 28, 2017

Arizona Planning: How To Book Antelope Canyon Tour?

We are going to Arizona soon. Antelope Canyon in Page town is one of the natural wonder that has always been on my list to go see. But this Canyon is not something that you can do it yourself type of thing. It's located in the Navajo Parks & Recreation and requires tour company to take you there into the Canyon. In other words, you can't just drive straight to the park and enter the Canyon on your own, you must book a guided tour.

Upper Vs Low Antelope Canyon
There are two parts of the Antelope Canyon. The Upper Canyon is probably the most popular one as any first time visitors will likely attend this tour. Hence the tour is more expensive and more crowded than the Lower Antelope Canyon. My advice is, don't get too hung up on the comparison of the two. If it's your first time visiting the Antelope Canyon, go for the Upper Canyon and if you still have time, see if you could do the Lower Canyon as well. It’s all about how much time you have, your priorities, and what is your budget. We’ll talk about the cost of the tour later in the article.

Timing
Another common question that visitors have is “when” is a good time of the day to go see the Antelope Canyon. It is suggested that the Upper Canyon is best seen from 10am-12:30pm of the day because of the "Light Beams” that reflect into the canyon. Check out the photo below.

Courtesy of Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours
Tour Cost
As mentioned, a guided tour is required to see the Antelope Canyon. Currently, you will find the price of the tours offered are around $48/adult plus $8/person for the park's permit fee. Personally, I don’t mind paying for fees to support preserving nature, but I really don’t like it when a tour company tries to make extra money by charging more for those that want to go see the Canyon during the so-called “Prime Time/Hours” - in this case, if you want to enter the canyon around 10am-12:30pm to see the "Light Beams", you will pay extra around $10 more.

There’s also another type of tour that includes photography. This tour, however, requires that you have a very good camera and tripod. This tour obviously costs much more because the guide will take you into the Canyon and show you how to take great pictures of the Antelope Canyon.

Reservation
Each tour company has limited capacity of how many visitors they take into the Canyon during available time slot per day. You certainly can try walking in to the tour company upon arrival in Page for the next available tour. During peak season, you can possibly wait for several hours or risk not being able to see the Canyon because the tour is sold out on that day. My advice is, if Antelope Canyon is on your must do/see list, you might as well make reservation with the tour company either online or on the phone. The nice thing about some tour company is that they do offer 100% refund for cancellation made during their allowed time. See recommended tours below.

Recommended Tour Company

UPPER ANTELOPE CANYON

Below are the approved tour company with my side notes based on my personal experience trying to book the tour with them.

Adventurous Antelope Canyon PhotoTours
Website: www.navajoantelopecanyon.com
Phone: 928-380-1874
Payment: Your credit card is NOT charged during online reservation. It’s mainly for holding the reservation. Pay with cash upon arrival; otherwise 5% fee for debit/credit card payment.
Cancellation: 72 hours prior to receive 100% refund.
Note: They offer several tours that go by the tour numbers that range from photo tour to just sightseeing tour. If you just want to just enter the Antelope Canyon, then look at the Tour #9 or 10 under “Sightseer” menu. I have to say, their website is poorly designed. There’s no way to tell if the tour is sold out or not. Therefore, you just need to reserve then you should receive confirmation email. But to be safe, re-confirm with the tour company just to make sure. The price for this tour company for both prime and non-prime time include the $8 park's permit fee. So it’s quite reasonable compared to the other company.

Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours
Website: www.navajotours.com
Phone: 928-698-3384
Note: This is another poorly designed website. One page says the cost is $40/adult but on the reservation page, it is $48/adult. The only good thing about this site is that their scheduler does indicate the time that the tour is available, but no where to be found about the cancellation policy. I tried to call them but no answers. You can try as you may have better luck than I did.

Antelope Canyon Tours
Website: www.antelopecanyon.com
Phone: 928-645-9102
Cancellation Policy: They have various applicable cancellation fees depending on what type of cancellation you will make. See their FAQ page.
Note: The website is easier to navigate and more professional, but I don’t like their cancellation policy.

Grand Circle Adventures
Website: www.antelopeslotcanyon.com
Phone: 928-645-5594
Payment: Credit card will be charged right away upon making online reservation.
Cancellation Policy: 24 hours prior to receive 100% refund.
Note: The website is professional and they have a very generous cancellation policy. I also had the opportunity to talk to them on the phone. The girl was very professional and helpful. The tour cost does not include the $8 park permit fee.

Overland Canyon Tours (Canyon X)
Website: www.overlandcanyon.com
Phone: 928-608-4072
Note: This website is rather confusing. I didn’t get to look at it much so I really don’t have much opinions about this tour company.

Tse Bighanilini Tours    
No Website
Phone: 928-698-3285 and 928-310-9458

LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON

These are the approved tour operators for the Lower Antelope Canyon. As I said earlier, this tour is less busy and cheaper than the Upper Canyon’s tour. If you end up doing both the upper and lower tours, make sure to keep your receipt that you already paid for the park’s permit fee for one of the tours and then all you have to do is, pay for the touring fee only for the second tour.

Dixie Ellis
Website: https://antelopelowercanyon.com
Phone: 928-640-1761

Ken’s Tours
Website: www.lowerantelope.com  
Phone: 928-606-2168 and 928-640-0032

Lower Antelope Canyon Tours     
No Website.
Phone: 928-640-1761

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March 27, 2017

Limited Time Offer: 80,000 Bonus Hilton Points No Annual Fee With American Express Hilton Honors Credit Card

Disclaimer: I don't earn any commission from the links nor I am affiliate with any credit card issuers below. Just love great deals for traveling. 

The standard offer for this no annual fee American Express Hilton Honors Credit Card is only 50,000 Bonus Hilton Points. But now through May 31, 2017 - the offer has increased to 80,000 Bonus Hilton Points after $2,000 spent on the card within the first 3 months of card membership.

If you are looking for a higher sign up bonus, consider the American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Card, which currently offers 100,000 Bonus Hilton Points plus 1 free weekend night after the first year's card anniversary with an annual fee of $75. The offer has the same deadline of May 31, 2017.

Personally, $75 for 100,000 Hilton Points for the first year, then another $75 to get one free weekend night at a nice fancy and expensive worldwide Hilton property, that annual fee is worth it. But each person's priority is different and some may prefer the no annual fee card. Keep in mind also that American Express sign up bonus offer is once per lifetime.


Here's the synopsis of this card's offer and benefits:

Hilton Honors Card
  • 80,000 Signup Bonus Hilton Honors Points after $2,000 spent on the card within the first 3 months of card membership. 
  • 7 points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels. 
  • 5 points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations in the U.S.
  • 3 points per $1 spent everywhere else. 
  • Upgrade to Gold Status when $20,000 or more spent on the card in a calendar year. 
  • Receive 500 bonus points when the card is used to book online and pay for stay at Hilton hotels. 
  • $0 annual fee.
  • Link
Be sure to check out the Master List of Credit Card Issuers Rules about American Express to best use of your application time.

This offer has been added to the Current Travel Promotion page.


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Limited Time Offer: 100,000 Bonus Hilton Points Plus 1 Free Weekend Night With American Express Surpass Credit Card

Disclaimer: I don't earn any commission from the links nor I am affiliate with any credit card issuers below. Just love great deals for traveling. 

This is the highest sign up bonus on American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Card that I have seen. The offer is 100,000 bonus after $3,000 spent on the cad within the first 3 months. Plus, earn a free weekend night award after your first anniversary of Card Membership. The annual fee on this card is $75 and not waived for the first year. When the second year arrives, once you pay for the annual fee to keep the card, you will receive a free weekend night at worldwide Hilton properties.

This offer ends on May 31, 2017.


Here is the synopsis on the card's benefits and the offer:

Hilton Honors Surpass Card
  • 100,000 Signup Bonus Hilton Honors Points after $3,000 spent on the card within the first 3 months of card membership. 
  • Plus, earn a free weekend night award after your first anniversary of Card Membership.
  • 12 points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels. 
  • 6 points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations in the U.S.
  • 3 points per $1 spent everywhere else. 
  • Gold Status. 
    • Upgrade to Diamond Status when $40,000 or more spent on the card in a calendar year. 
  • Receive 5,00 bonus points when the card is used to book online and pay for stay at Hilton hotels. 
  • $75 annual fee.
  • Link
Be sure to check out the Master List of Credit Card Issuers Rules about American Express to best use of your application time.

This offer has been added to the Current Travel Promotion page.

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March 26, 2017

Master List of Credit Card Issuers Rules and Application Time

Before applying for a credit card in order to take advantage of the huge sign up bonus, it's very important that you understand each credit card issuers rules and develop strategies to know when is a good time to apply for the card and how not to waste credit hard inquiries/pulls.

American Express:
  • You can only receive sign up bonus once in a lifetime. So it’s very important that you apply for the card when the past highest sign up bonus re-appears. 
  • American Express does not care about the number of hard pulls on your credit report; however, you must have a credit history of 6 months prior to applying for their card. 
  • American Express only approves one credit card per day and two credit cards within 90 days. These rules, however, do not apply to their charge cards. 
  • Multiple applications on the same day will result in one hard pull. So you may apply for one credit card and one or more charge cards on the same day, and that will result in only one hard pull. 
  • You can apply for one personal and one business card on the same day. Although that will result in only one hard pull, but American Express will only approve one card per day. So it serves no purpose to do that. However, this rule does not apply to charge cards.
  • You can keep at most 5 American Express credit cards, but charge cards are not counted against that limit.  
  • If your application is pending or denied, you can call the Reconsideration Line at 877-399-3083 though they may just tell you to wait for decision in the mail. 

Chase:
  • If you have 5 or more credit card accounts opened with Chase or any other banks in the past 24 months, Chase will deny your application. However, this 5/24 rule only apply to certain Chase credit cards that are not listed below. Some cards are excluded from this rule and they are: 
    • Chase AARP
    • Chase Amazon
    • Chase British Airways
    • Chase Disney
    • Chase Fairmont (discontinued)
    • Chase Hyatt
    • Chase IHG
    • Chase Marriott Premier Business
    • Chase Ritz-Carlton
  • You are not eligible to receive sign up bonus again if you previously received sign up bonus within the last 24 months. Be sure to read the offer terms.
  • Within 90 days after you opened Chase credit card, if the same credit card increases sign up bonus and the link is publicly available, you can send secured message to Chase to request matching the higher bonus. Read my experience on this here
  • Chase does not approve more than 2 credit cards within 30 days.
  • Multiple applications on the same day will result in one hard pull. However, applying for one personal and one business card will result in two separate hard pulls.
  • If your application is pending review or denied, you can call the Reconsideration Line at 888-270-2127. They will work with you on your application right away. 

Citi:
  • You can only apply for 1 card every 8 days and 2 cards every 65 days, whether approved or not.
  • You can, however, apply for one personal and one business card on the same day, but that will result in two separate hard pulls.
  • You are not eligible for sign up bonus if you have opened or closed any same rewards earning card in the past 24 months. Be sure to read the offer terms.
  • Citi does care about the hard pulls on your credit report in the past 6 months.
  • If your application is pending or denied, you can call the Reconsideration Line at 800-763-9795. 

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March 25, 2017

New York City Planning Part 3: How Much To Put On MetroCard?

I am a big fan of taking public transportations, especially the subway in New York City. What bothers me is the fact that I never know how much to put money on the the MetroCard there each time so that after my trip, I don't have any remaining money on the card unused as it's not refundable and will expire. That's how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) makes money off expired and unused MetroCard. So I took some time to do a little bit of research on how to prevent this from happening for my next trip to the Big Apple!

New York MetroCard Vending Machine

Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard

If you are going to be in New York City just a few days like I will, and will take a few public transportation to get to places there, then getting the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard makes more sense than the Unlimited Rides MetroCard.

As the name suggests, Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard allows you to add money to the card at the self-service vending machine, then use it to pay for each bus and subway rides in New York City. The thing that I love about this type of MetroCard is you can use it for multiple people. So if you have more than 1 person in your group, you can simply get one card, put the money in it, and use it for everyone in your party. That way you will save money on getting the card in the first place. It costs $1 to get a MetroCard if you don't have one yet. That fee is all calculated in when you try to get the card and put money on it at the vending machine.

How Much To Put On MetroCard?

Currently, the typical fare for a subway or local bus ride is $2.75. When you put $5.50 or more on your card, you will receive a 5 percent bonus. That's great, but it makes the math harder trying to determine how much initially to put on the card so that you don't have too much money left on the card unused at the end of your trip. Thankfully, MTA has developed an online calculator to help us out with that.

The calculator can do the math and calculate the balance for you by telling you how many rides you can get out of the amount you put on your MetroCard. It also gives you an option whether you are refilling or purchasing a new card. It is pretty handy.

If you want a zero balance on the MetroCard at the end of your trip, you will need to pay $21.95 at the vending machine for a new MetroCard or $20.95 if you already have the MetroCard. Here's the breakdown:
  • New MetroCard: $1
  • Put money on the MetroCard: $20.95 + 5% Bonus = $21.9975 or $22 (Total money on the MetroCard)
  • $22 divides by 8 rides = $2.75 each ride (Each ride with MetroCard costs $2.75)
So, if you don't have a MetroCard yet and you put $20.95 on the card, you can ride 8 times on local buses or subway. After the 8th trip, your MetroCard will have zero credit on it.

Keep in mind that within two hours of the time you paid for your fare, you may transfer free from subway to bus, bus to subway, or bus to bus. Subway stations transfer is free as long as you don't exit one station and enter a new station.

As a reminder, you can use one MetroCard for multiple people. So make sure to multiply the bolded amount in bullet #2 with the amount of people in your group, then use the total plus $1 if you have not had a MetroCard.

Go play with that online calculator. It even gives you other suggestions that will give you zero balance on the card. With the current fare set by MTA, the lowest amount of ride that will give you zero balance is 8 rides.



Learn how to purchase New York Metro Card here:
How To Purchase New York Metro Card?

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March 24, 2017

Successfully Matched 100,000 Bonus Marriott Points

Earlier in the year, I wrote about Top 3 Cards for My New Year's 2017's Resolutions. The verdict is I applied for those cards and got all approved. One of the cards that I applied for was the Personal Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. At the time, the sign up bonus was 80,000 Marriott Points after $3,000 spent in the first 3 months from account opening and additional 7,500 Marriott Points for adding an authorized user. Up until earlier this week, there was another higher sign up bonus of 100,000 Marriott Points after $5,000 spent in the first 3 months from account opening and the same additional 7,500 Marriott Points for adding an authorized user. Unfortunately, that higher offer was a targeted offer so it wasn't publicly available.



Up until today, the 100,000 Marriott Points sign up bonus offer is now publicly available (Link). Right after I learned that information, it hit me right away to go check 'when' I opened my Marriott card. The reason for that is because Chase has this policy that if you sign up for their credit card and the sign up bonus is increased within 90 days, you can request Chase to match you to that higher sign up bonus.

My card was opened on January 4th, 2017 - that means I am still in the 90 days window and thus I do qualify for requesting Chase to match that higher sign up bonus. I went ahead and used secured message to ask Chase to match and they promptly responded the following:

"Thank you for contacting us to match the 100,000 bonus 
reward points offer.

We will be glad to match the new sign up bonus offer of 
100,000 bonus reward points on your account, if you spend 
the total amount of $5,000.00 in 3 months from the account
open date.

We request you to reply to this e-mail on spending 
$5,000.00 in purchases within 3 months from account open 
date and we will add 20,000 bonus reward miles to your 
account."

My previous offer was only 80,000 bonus points after $3,000 spent in 3 months. But because this new 100,000 bonus points offer requires $5,000 spent in 3 months, I have to spend additional $2,000 before April 4th, 2017 in order to get additional 20,000 Marriott Points. Fair enough! So, it's time for me to be productive on how to put additional $2,000 dollars on the card prior to April 4th.

Conclusion:
This is the highest sign up bonus of Chase Marriott Premier Credit Card that I have seen.
  • If you have not had this card and have been wanting to apply for it, I'd pull the trigger now but only if you do not have 5 or more credit card accounts on your credit report as Chase will deny you for that simple one reason. For more information about the benefits of this card, read my Best Hotel Credit Cards article. 
  • If you have applied for this card in the past 90 days with lower sign up bonus, send secured message to Chase to request that they match you to this 100,000 bonus points. If you have not spent $5,000 on the card, you will be required to spend additional $2,000 in order to get that additional 20,000 points. Even if you don't think you can spend additional $2,000 now, just go ahead and request for the match now and worry about the spending later. 


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