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Finding cheap last-minute airfare is rare, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try

Finding cheap last-minute airfare is rare, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try

In my last post, I mentioned a very cheap airfare I had found for $137 from San Jose to Boston that had allowed me to make a last-minute trip to San Francisco to see my girlfriend for New Year’s, using it as an example of cases where you may want to credit your fare to an airline other than the one you’re flying.

When talking about this with people, they were often very surprised. But in reality, I wasn’t too surprised that I was able to find such a cheap fare at the last minute.

In theory, one would think that airlines would apply heavy discounts to last-minute fares in order to maximize the chances of a full flight – e.g. if they have three seats left to fill, why not make them super cheap? In reality, this isn’t how it works though, as anyone who’s tried to book a last-minute flight likely knows. There are mostly two reasons:

First, if they did this, then everyone would just wait until the last minute to book their airfare, which would be a disaster for the airline in terms of a planning perspective.

But more importantly, the airlines want to make sure that there’s always a few seats left to allow for the chance of the traveler (usually a business traveler) who absolutely has to get somewhere at the last minute and will pay as much as s/he needs to (usually from a corporate account) to make that happen. In other words, an airline doesn’t want to be in the position of turning away a wealthy businessman who absolutely has to get from New York City to Los Angeles at the last minute and will pay $1,000 to do so because they already sold the last seat on that flight to some college kid for $100.

For example, right now, the cheapest ticket for two people traveling from New York City to Los Angeles today is a whopping $868, and it’s not even nonstop!nyc

Now, are all of these fares going to be purchased before the plane leaves? Highly unlikely (not to mention since all of these have connections, it’s likely that purchasing one of them could eliminate another).

But let’s say that flight gets filled by a last-minute captive traveler willing to pay anything one time out of every eight times. The airline then earns more money than if they had routinely discounted that fare to $100 and filled it each of those eight times.

Of course, the title of this post is not about why you shouldn’t look for last-minute fares, but rather why you should – after all, they definitely do exist, as evidenced by the fare I found. And given what I wrote above, it’s not surprising. Airlines tend to avoid having cheap last-minute fares because of the possibility of the captive business traveler, but there are certain times of the year (and routes) where it is very unlikely to have this kind of last-minute traveler. Saturdays would be one, as would the week between Christmas and New Year’s, which is virtually a dead week in the corporate world.

Another example would be Hawaii, which doesn’t tend to get much business traffic. That’s of course not to say you’ll find a cheap last-minute fare to Hawaii, just that it won’t be as much of a difference from a normal fare (which are already pricy).

Lastly, this practice of marking up last-minute fares is generally less common when it comes to ultra low-cost carriers, such as Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant. Given that many business travelers would rather miss an important meeting than suffer six-hours cross-country on Spirit Airlines (even though I don’t think it’s that bad), these airlines are generally less concerned about preserving their ability to gouge last-minute business travelers. Furthermore, as their profit margins are far tighter, they generally are better at filling up all seats in advance (as you can see from the screenshot, none of them have any availability).

Looking at a last-minute flight from Boston to Washington tomorrow morning (a very popular business route), Spirit is almost $50 cheaper than the next cheapest airline, and is selling the flight at a price ($103) not too much more than a typical flight on that route not bought at the last-minute. Nearly every business traveler I know would be able to pay the extra $46 to not fly Spirit, but for someone else more budget-conscious who may need to take this route at the last minute due to personal reasons, they may opt for Spirit:


On the other hand, if you look at this same route exactly three weeks later, the fare is not only cheaper, but other airlines are matching (or coming close to) Spirit:


As a reminder, for finding cheap airfares, whether at the last-minute or far in advance, I can’t recommend my initial post highly enough.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let me know!


Everything you need to know to go to Tibet

Everything you need to know to go to Tibet

Last summer, I continued my trend of going to off-the-beaten-path places and visited Tibet, an amazing place that feels as far away as you can get from China,from a political, geographical, scenic, and cultural standpoint.

However, since the defeat of the Tibetan army in 1950, Tibet has been considered part of the People’s Republic of China, albeit as an autonomous region, despite continuous pleas for independence. Furthermore, it’s no secret that China has been actively trying to erode Tibetan culture at the expense of human rights and make it more in line with the rest of Chinese culture. And herein comes the difficulties with visiting it.

Note: This is not intended to be a guide to what to see in Tibet or an overview of attractions; this will come at a later point.

Booking a Tour

Unless you’re a Chinese citizen, you will be required to visit Tibet as part of a tour. While there is no official resource (that I know of) that lists all Tibet tour operators, you should of course research any organization before booking with one, and try to find one actually based in Tibet, rather than outside of Tibet (in order to ensure more money goes to the Tibetan people).

I booked with Budget Tibet Tour as their price was affordable and had good reviews. The tour was $780 (not including tips), included a Tibet visa (mandatory to fly into Tibet), lodging, guides, national park entry fees, and transportation. Food was not included. Unlike certain other countries, you will have a fair amount of independence and freedom, as you will be free to roam around and explore at night, and be given a time and place to meet the next morning. Obviously, like any guided tour, the sky is the limit for cost, depending on how luxurious you want it to be.

Getting there

While your tour company will often offer to take care of this for you, it is far cheaper to handle it yourself. You basically have two options: take a train there, or fly there. Though I can’t speak from personal experience, if time is not an issue, the train is supposed to be an incredible experience, and you can say that you’ve been on the highest railway in the world (so much that they will pipe in oxygen during high altitudes). The only downside is that it can take up to 48 hours from many major cities in China.


For those of you on a tighter schedule, you will want to fly into Lhasa Airport (LXA). As the only major carriers flying here are Air China, China Southern, and China Eastern, your route will most likely be either on Star Alliance or SkyTeam (sorry oneworld!) The good news is that Air China always has a plethora of award seats available, so if you have United miles (or miles with another Star Alliance carrier), it’s actually not too hard to book an award flight here, as I did last year.

Getting a Chinese Visa

As Tibet is legally part of the People’s Republic of China, you will also need a Chinese visa (assuming your country of citizenship requires it). However, if you’ve done this before (but now have an expired visa), it may be a little more difficult this time. Typically when getting a visa for China (or any other country requiring a visa), the process is to fill out an application, attach proof of airfare and lodging, and give or send it to your closest embassy/consulate.

But when it comes to Tibet, China does not want to encourage Tibet tourism, and therefore if you put Tibet on your China visa application, it will most likely be denied. Therefore, I would strongly recommend booking a fully refundable ticket to somewhere (else) in China, printing out the confirmation, and then canceling your reservation (if you don’t want to put that much on your credit card at once, as refundable tickets can be quite expensive, you can also cancel a nonrefundable for free within 24 hours of booking your ticket if you book on a US-based carrier). You can then do the same for hotel lodging.


Tibet is part of China, and therefore uses the RMB. Major banks and ATMs can be found in bigger cities like Lhasa, less so in other parts. Credit cards are not very widely accepted.


As you will be with a guide for most of the tour, you will also have a translator for all your needs. While older residents only speak Tibetan (a fairly difficult language to learn which will not have much use to you otherwise, though the alphabet will help slightly in Bhutan), younger residents also can speak Mandarin, and if you can speak a little Mandarin, you will be able to converse slightly with local residents. Very little English is spoken, and even tour guides’ English can be difficult to understand at times.

Politics/Sensitive Topics

Avoid discussing any of the following topics with your tour guides: Tibetan independence, political status of Tibet, exile of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese government, the relationship between the Chinese government and Tibet, decreased human rights for the Tibetan people, and so on. The police state is even more prevalent in Tibet than in the rest of China, and if you ask about one of these topics, at best you will get nervous laughter from your guide, at worst, a stern lecture. Many guides are constantly operating under the assumption that the Chinese government is monitoring them, and they can be severely punished for speaking out.


As is often the case with police states, there is practically no risk of any violent crime happening to you. On top of this, Tibetan people are among the friendliest in the world, and are thrilled to have non-Chinese visitors (and may constantly ask to take photographs). Your bigger concern is the air. And I don’t mean air quality, which would normally be a concern in many other parts of China. Rather, Tibetan air is incredibly pure and clean. The issue here is elevation. When you land in Lhasa, you’ll be at an elevation of 11,710 feet, and regularly be at elevations far higher than that throughout your trip. If you have any breathing issues whatsoever (such as asthma), bring all necessary medication and more. On top of that, it may be a good idea to buy some of the canned air sold at most stores in Lhasa in case of an emergency. Be careful of doing anything that exerts too much physical effort at once; I had to catch my breath after 15 seconds of playing soccer with some kids in town.


Most restaurants serve traditional Tibetan cuisine, though there are some restaurants serving Sichuan, Nepalese, and Indian cuisines, all reflecting their proximity to Tibet. Yak meat is especially prominent in Tibetan cuisine, though thanks to the Buddhist influence, it’s not impossible to get by as a vegetarian. What will be hard is if you only like eating “Western” food, as there is very little Western influence or restaurants in Tibet (though there are some knockoff versions of popular Western snacks sold in stores). Make sure to try butter tea at least once! Most meals will cost around $5-$6 USD.


Fried yak momos (dumplings)

So is Tibet for you? If you don’t mind getting out of your comfort zone, sacrificing some of your autonomy and exploring somewhere that doesn’t have the amenities you may be used to (but has more than enough culture, history, and beauty to make up for it), then yes. And more importantly, you may walk away being able to say you’ve seen a Tibetan mastiff in Tibet!


How I managed to get top-tier elite status with Hilton without ever paying for a hotel stay at any hotel

How I managed to get top-tier elite status with Hilton without ever paying for a hotel stay at any hotel

Even after I started getting into the points and miles game, earning “status” was never something I cared about too much. Despite it now being very easy for me to fly anywhere I want for free using frequent flyer miles (thanks to years of studying!), I don’t earn any miles on those award flights, nor do they count toward earning status on any airline (if it did, it would be very easy to earn status for free with just one or two award trips). Sadly, airlines want you to actually be paying for your flights with them to get status (which makes sense, as frustrating as it is). Given that my biggest priority has always been flying for free, this never appealed to me.

However, as I’ve recently learned, earning status with hotels is a very different ballgame, and much easier. As I mentioned in my last post, many co-branded hotel credit cards will offer you a lower to midrange level of status as long as you hold that card. But given the fierce competition for loyalty among both airlines and hotels (especially with a particularly beloved brand being recently bought out by a less beloved brand), airlines and hotels will often offer what’s called a “status match”, where, if you present proof of holding a certain level of status with one brand, they will automatically match that status to an equivalent level with their own brand, incentivizing you to switch over. (Alternatively, some will offer what’s called a “status challenge”, where they will match your status after staying a certain amount of nights with their brand).

Note: While I do not encourage forgery or deception, if you’re wondering, yes, you can sometimes be matched by photoshopping proof of status in the hopes that they don’t verify it. However, results have been mixed, and consequences can be severe if caught.

Recently, I got word that Hilton was doing a status match which required proof of elite status with another hotel program, and proof of stay with yet another program in the psat year. While I already was Gold status with Hilton (which comes automatically with the American Express Platinum card, as does Starwood Gold status), I figured it would be fun to see how high I could go.


As I already held the second-highest level of status with IHG (thanks to the IHG credit card), I figured I would submit that, though in retrospect I could have also used my Platinum Hyatt status (thanks to the Hyatt credit card) or Starwood Gold status (thanks to the American Express Platinum card). For my proof of stay, I submitted the reservation I made last year at a Marriott hotel using my annual free night certificate from the Marriott credit card (which also gave me Silver status).

The next day, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Hilton informing me that I had been matched to their highest status level, Diamond. I felt a little bit like the “One Red Paperclip” guy, having gotten there without paying anything:


Now, to be fair, the top-level status varies from program to program. In reality, Diamond status with Hilton doesn’t offer much more than the next-highest status, Gold, other than the fact that I earn 50% more points per reservation rather than 25% more points. My first stay as a Diamond member (at a suburban Homewood Suites) yielded only a welcome bag with two bottles of water, two Milano cookie packages, and a letter welcoming me with 250 bonus points, almost worthless:


Where this kind of elite status can come in handy is at nicer hotels with luxury suite options. For example, in the Penthouse Suite at the Conrad Bali (pictured at top), one night costs $1,377:


This is more than 10 times what the cheapest room there would cost:


But if you have top-tier status, you just might be able to swing this upgrade for free (and while obviously nothing is guaranteed, there have been successful reports of this happening).

Of course, I didn’t just stop once I received Diamond status with Hilton. I proceeded to email Best Western, Club Carlson, and Choice Hotels to politely ask them to match my Hilton status, attaching the email from Hilton as proof of my Diamond status. Best Western is known for having one of the most generous status matches, and they emailed me back the next day letting me know I had been upgraded to their top-tier status (which again, isn’t too different from their second-highest tier other than more points). Club Carlson is a little stingier with status matches, only matching me to Gold Elite status, though still good for upgrades. Choice Hotels matched me to Elite Platinum, which, sadly, is not good enough for an upgrade.

Regardless, as a result of smart credit card utilization as well as making other hotels compete for my business, I now have mid- to top-tier status at eight different hotel chains – despite never once paying for a hotel stay! Even though I rarely stay in hotels when traveling for personal reasons, this still is extremely useful as I travel a few weeks a year for work, not to mention often stay in hotels when attending weddings.

In short, if you’ve managed to earn elite status with a hotel or airline (regardless of if you do it the old-fashioned way or with a credit card), don’t just stop there. Make other airlines and hotels compete for you and see just how far they will match you. But no matter what status you get, don’t be this guy:

Why everyone should have and keep at least one hotel credit card (even if you don’t plan on using it)

Why everyone should have and keep at least one hotel credit card (even if you don’t plan on using it)

The picture above is from the InterContinental Hotel in Bora Bora, Tahiti. If you had to take a guess, how much do you think it costs to stay there for one night? $300? $500? $800? Try $1,000 (one dollar equals roughly 105  CFP Francs).


What if I told you that you could stay there once a year for $49? You might think I was crazy. And I probably would have too before I started getting into the credit card game. After all, that’s cheaper than getting a private room at a hostel in Tahiti:


But unlike airline credit cards, which are rarely worth keeping after the annual fee hits following the signup bonus, most hotel credit cards are actually worth keeping and paying the annual fee on every year, given that every year often comes with a free hotel night.


In this particular case, I’m talking about the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, which for a $49 annual fee (waived the first year), gives you one free night every year at any IHG property in the world. On top of this, there is a signup bonus that often ranges from 60,000 to 80,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months (though it’s not always publicly available and may require some research to find this offer), which is good enough for two nights at a reasonably nice hotel, or one night at an extremely nice hotel. On top of that, you’re instantly granted Platinum status (the second-highest tier) as long as you have the card, which increases your chances of receiving an upgrade.

Of course, in the interest of not bankrupting IHG, it’s not as if you can get this and then use your free night at any property in the world on whatever date you want. IHG does limit the amount of free nights it allows per night per hotel, so if you want to use it at a place that regularly goes for $1,000/night, you might have to be prepared to book it almost a year in advance. That being said, hotels that don’t quite regularly go for quite as much often can be booked with less advance notice.

While the IHG credit card is the only hotel credit card that offers a free night every year at any property in the hotel chain, several other hotel credit cards offer more restricted free nights that can still come in handy.


While the Hyatt credit card also offers a free night every year (though it has a slightly higher annual fee of $75), this is limited only to Hyatt properties in Categories 1-4. Of course, if you’re familiar with the Hyatt brand, you know that unlike other hotel chains, it exclusively focuses on higher-end offerings. In other words, while you may not be able to stay at the absolutely nicest Hyatts in the world, you’ll still get to stay at a really nice hotel for free. Thankfully if you do want to experience one of the top tier Hyatts (select Category 7), this card usually comes with a signup bonus of two free nights at any Hyatt in the world (I recently got this card and am currently looking at using my free night at the Hyatt Andaz in Tokyo, where rooms can go for $1,000/night). It also offers Platinum status as long as you have the card.


Like the Hyatt and IHG cards, the Marriott Rewards Premier credit card also offers a free night every year, in any Marriott property in Categories 1-5. Unlike Hyatt though, Marriott propertiets span a much wider gamut, and most hotels in Categories 1-5 in the US tend to be in suburban areas, or very cheap urban areas (though obviously in countries with a lower cost of living you’re more likely to find something in a major city). The signup bonus often runs as high as 80,000 points (usually after spending $2,000) with a $85 annual fee waived the first year, which is nice enough to redeem at any Marriott property in the world, as well as a free night certificate at any hotel in Categories 1-4. It also offers Silver status as long as you have the card.



Unless you spend a lot of money a particular hotel chain every year, I wouldn’t recommend making a hotel card your primary card, but if that is the case for you, there are several more hotel credit cards that offer a free night every year after spending a certain amount of money in the year, like the Best Western, Choice Hotels, Hilton, and La Quinta credit cards. The Wyndham credit card will also give you almost half the amount of points needed for a free night every year with no spending threshold.


Have a question? Story to share? Feel free to post in the comments below or email me.


While I have yet to set up my site with credit card referral links that will pay me a commission if you sign up for a credit card through my links (as is often common on these sites), if you’re interested in getting on of the cards mentioned here and want me to get something for it, let me know and I’d be happy to refer you.


Iceland has the best hot springs in the world

Iceland has the best hot springs in the world

Yesterday I took some time to write about the Grjótagjá hot springs cave in northern Iceland, which I felt was so amazing that it deserved its own post. Of course, there are far more hot springs in Iceland than this one.

Blue Lagoon

The most famous one by far is the Blue Lagoon, which has extensively been used in many marketing campaigns and has been written about thousands of times. Given the surfeit of information available about it, I’m not going to spend much time on it here. Rather, I’ll leave it at this:

If you have time, it’s a fun yet expensive ($40) way to relax. While it is man-made, the striking blue color of the water is natural, and forms a beautiful contrast with the black basalt rock walls. However, if you are looking for an authentic Icelandic experience, this is not it. The only Icelandic people here are the staff. And unlike most other hot springs in Iceland, the atmosphere inside the pool is loud and raucous with free-flowing alcohol, a contrast to the serenity of other hot springs. But given its proximity to Keflavik airport, it can still serve as a fun welcome to Iceland, or one last way to relax before getting on a plane. If you are planning on going, advance tickets are a must regardless of the time of year. You will almost definitely be turned away if not.

Myvatn Nature Baths (pictured above)

If you like the pretty milky blue color of the water at the Blue Lagoon but hated the feeling of being overrun by tourists, this is the place for you. Located an hour or so east of Akureyri (and very close to Grjótagjá), admission is half the price of the blue lagoon, and provides a much quieter atmosphere, with the bathers consisting mostly of Icelanders and German tourists (the Germans really leave no stone unturned when traveling).



The beautiful mountain landscapes provide a great backdrop which one can look at for hours on end. On top of that, the cafeteria inside serves an unspectacular yet filling lunch for a very reasonable price (hard to find in Iceland if you want to eat something besides hot dogs). You also might see them selling something called “geyser bread”, which is bread that has been cooked in a volcano. It is extremely dense and bland. Don’t be tempted.

Secret Lagoon

Despite its proximity to the famous Golden Circle, this is rarely mentioned in conjunction with the various stops on the Golden Circle. Given its name, this is probably somewhat intentional, and I wouldn’t mind keeping it this way either.

It can be a little hard to find (especially in the winter when road conditions are less than ideal), but once you get there, you have a beautiful outdoor geothermally heated hot spring. Unfortunately, I didn’t get many pictures because there was so much steam everywhere:

IMG_20160306_173927IMG_20160306_173936Nonetheless, this is a great way to relax after a long day of driving around the Golden Circle, as you can dig your feet deep into the squishy mud below you. There is also a small boardwalk that goes around the pool where you can see mini geysers “erupting”, but I wouldn’t recommend dipping your feet in any of these, as the water is around boiling temperature.

Seljavallalaug Hot Springs

I would recommend this only for people looking for a true “off-the-beaten path” adventure. While geographically its not very far from the main Ring Road that encircles the highland, and quite close to the famous Skógafoss waterfall, it does take a little bit of (easy) hiking to get to. Thankfully, unlike Grjótagjá, Google Maps is very accurate for directions to Seljavallalaug:


Depending on what kind of car you have and what time of year it is, you should be able to follow pretty far up the road (Highway 242) until you can’t go any further. From there, all you have to do is stay on the path above, and you will eventually come to it.

On one hand, it’s not much more than a concrete pool fed by the runoff of volcanically heated water. On the other hand, part of what makes it so special is the feeling of accomplishment you get when you’ve been hiking for a while and come across something like this, not to mention the views of the nearby mountains aren’t too shabby:


I was quite at ease, and as you can see, you certainly don’t have to worry about being overrun by tourists.


While there certainly is more to Iceland than hot springs, it certainly is one of the country’s more unique attributes, and provides a great way to relax as you tour the country. Happy bathing!

The above is in no way meant to be a complete rundown of all the hot springs in Iceland; rather, it’s just my attempt to highlight a few particularly noteworthy yet different ones. There are many many more ones in Iceland that could be explored with enough time, and I’m sure there are even more that have yet to be discovered!


If you like hot springs and caves, Iceland’s Grjótagjá is paradise

If you like hot springs and caves, Iceland’s Grjótagjá is paradise

Other than seeing the Northern Lights, one of the things I was most excited to see on my recent trip to Iceland was the Grjótagjá hot springs cave.

While you’ve probably never heard of it before, if you’re a Game of Thrones fan you might recognize it from a particular scene (insert joke here about eight inches of Snow).

The cave itself has been around for centuries and served as a popular bathing spot, but in 1975, a volcanic eruption rendered the cave unswimmable, due to an extreme rise in the temperature of the water. Thankfully, the cave has been cooling slightly every year since then, and is now tolerable for swimming (albeit still very hot).

Getting there

First, I would only recommend going here if you are spending a week or more in Iceland. It is located in the less-traveled northern part of Iceland, which takes quite a while to reach by car. (Though if you only have a few days in Iceland but really want to see it, you can always book a cheap flight from Reykjavik Airport (RKV, not KEF) to Akureyri Airport).

While Grjótagjá is easier to find in the summer, it can be a bit difficult finding it in the winter, especially given that it is not listed correctly on Google Maps. The blue star indicates where it actually is; the red pin indicates where Google thinks it is:


Highway 860 is clearly marked with a sign for Grjótagjá from both the entrances on Highway 1 (the Ring Road) and Highway 848, but you’ll want to enter from the Ring Road, as the road does not go all the way through certain times of the year.

Once you turn onto the road, be on the lookout on your right for a parking lot. There will usually be a few other cars there but if not, looked for a paved/groomed area where you can pull off. It is not very well-marked.

In addition to a small sign, there are two very nondescript entrances, looking like nothing more than a crack in the ground.IMG_20160310_163523IMG_20160310_172826

Getting down there

While you don’t have to go too far down, it is still somewhat of a scramble (especially in winter conditions), and you should wear appropriate shoes with sufficient traction. Do NOT go down in just your swimsuit, as it is extremely cold. It might also help if you have a flashlight of some sort, as it can be very dark.

The cave

Once you finish getting down, you will be rewarded with a spectacular sight like no other:


Be very careful! It is very slippery on the rocks down there!


While the sign outside instructs people not to swim in the cave, this is generally disregarded. However, as I mentioned before, the water is very hot! While I did not have a thermometer with me, the temperature of the water is estimated to be roughly 113 degrees Fahrenheit, or 45 degrees Celsius. This is getting pretty close to the upper limits of what the human body can tolerate. Though I highly recommend getting in the water, you will not want to move around very much, instead just staying still and relaxing. The more you move, the more the temperature of the water will hurt.


Also, while nude bathing is generally not very common in Iceland, there is an expectation here for people to not wear any clothes into the water, solely to avoid contaminating the water with anything that might be found on a bathing suit. Obviously there is no one here to enforce this rule and no one will be stopped from entering with clothes, but it’s always a good idea to respect the local customs when traveling in a foreign country.

Getting out

Follow the sunlight!


There are all sorts of crazy cheap flights on Frontier today…if you can fly mid-week

There are all sorts of crazy cheap flights on Frontier today…if you can fly mid-week

To a lot of people, $40 might be the cost of a nice meal, or an aggressive night at the local bar.

But today only, Frontier is offering $20 one-way flights on a number of their routes (and generally cheap fares on their other routes)…if you leave Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

For example, you can fly $40 roundtrip between San Francisco and Phoenix (though remember that Frontier has a number of fees that they add on, including for checked bags).

sfo phx

Naturally, given that Frontier is headquartered in Denver, you’ll have the widest variety of cheap flights to choose from if you’re flying to or from Denver:


And while people in the Western United States will benefit more from this deal, there are a few great East Coast fares, such as the following between New York and Denver for $168:


This sale goes until midnight tonight, but it’s likely that many of these routes will be sold out well in advance (some already are), so get on it soon, if you have that kind of flexibility!


If you found a great fare, feel free to post about it in the comments.


If you travel to or from the East Coast once a year, the new JetBlue credit card is a good idea

If you travel to or from the East Coast once a year, the new JetBlue credit card is a good idea

Last year, American Express lost two key credit card partners: JetBlue, and Costco. While the Costco loss was more concerning to most people, I was personally more concerned with the loss of the JetBlue partnership, being based in Boston.

Thankfully, the new JetBlue card from Barclaycard is even better than the previous one from American Express.

There are three cards available: a personal card with an annual fee of $99 and a signup bonus of 30,000 TrueBlue points after spending $1,000 in the first three months, a business card with the same benefits, and a personal card with no annual fee, but only a bonus of 10,000 TrueBlue points.

Now, even if you’re not planning on making it your primary card (which I wouldn’t recommend), the personal card with the annual fee is still worth applying for and holding on to, thanks to its other benefits.

But first, what does the signup bonus of 30,000 points get you? As JetBlue’s award travel is directly correlated to the cost of the flight, it’s worth roughly $400-$500 of JetBlue flights, enough for at least a roundtrip coast-to-coast flight plus maybe an additional one-way flight back.

For example, after you spent the $1,000 on the card to get the bonus, you’d have 31,000 TrueBlue points, which could buy the bottom flight in the image below for 10,400 points (normally $179) almost three times. (For more on their relatively easy award booking process, go here).


But wait, there’s more! If you get this card, you also 10% of your bonus points back. So if you were to use 10,400 points to buy the flight above, it would essentially only cost you 9,360 points, as you would have 1,040 (10%) points returned to your account. This means that the signup bonus of 30,000 points is essentially closer to 33,000 points, which can get you as much as $567 of flights! Not a bad deal for a $99 fee.

“But why should I keep paying the fee after the bonus?”

Definitely a legitimate and understandable question. On most of my cards, I often will downgrade them to a no annual fee card once the annual fee hits for the next year (for more on this, go here).

However, this is one of the rare co-branded cards where it might be worth paying the fee, as you get an anniversary bonus of 5,000 points every year (which essentially becomes 5,500 points with the bonus).

5,500 points, while much less than 33,000 points, is still more than enough to get you a free one-way flight on shorter routes, such as Boston to DC (normally $84) or SF to LA (normally $72)


Now, if you wouldn’t normally make one of these flights in a year, the no-fee card might be a better option. But if you already were, then it makes sense to continue paying the annual fee every year in exchange for a free short-haul flight.

On top of that, if you like to check your bags, the savings increases, as you and up to three others get your first checked bag free, a value of $60! And if you want to get the party started on board, the card also gives you 50% off in-flight purchases.

As I mentioned earlier, you should almost never make an airline card your primary credit card, as they tend to have little to no bonus categories. But considering that this card will also give you double points for purchases at restaurants and grocery stores (as well as 6x points on JetBlue purchases), this might actually be worth considering. The only other way to accumulate JetBlue points through credit card spending would be through the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card (but always try to find a link for 50,000 points), which, while it has a slightly higher signup bonus, only transfers to JetBlue at a 5:4 ratio, meaning those 50,000 points are only worth 40,000. The cards are equal in that they both have double points on restaurants and groceries, though the PRG also offers triple points on airfare and double points at gas stations. But in the long run, putting all of your spending on the JetBlue card will yield more TrueBlue points.

And given that JetBlue still offers the best domestic in-flight experience of any carrier, who wouldn’t want that?