Category Archives: TIPS

How to “cook” / do laundry properly in hotel rooms

I will tell you my “secret” how to do laundry in hotel rooms, while making sure it is the same standard as a commercial laundry washer.

First, you need to buy the purex laundry sheets: they pack the same amount of concentrated laundry soap in a carry on friendly format. Do not bring powder soap or liquids, they are either too heavy, and they all tend to spill.

purex laundry sheets

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second, make sure the bathtub is clean and can be plugged so then water does not drain.

Third: use 1-2 sheets (3 maximum for extremely dirty clothes), put laundry in the tub, pour HOT water into the tub directly onto the puex sheets.

make sure it is HOT water, and of course you should only bring “travel” friendly clothes by now ( the ones  that are fast drying, wrinkle free, and can tolerate heat without shrinking)

stir the tub as if you are cooking ! for at least a few minutes, then repeat a few times during the next hour.

leave the clothes to “cook” for at least 30 min to 1 hour, while stir it

Fourth: drain the water

then rinse with clean warm water for 1-2 times by filling the water into the tub, and stir it while rinsing.

what is important is  : use proper laundry soap + heat + (stir )friction = same principles as your home or commercial laundry. You will be surprised how much dirt you can clean with this method. You can add the hotel’s perfumed soap and shampoo if you want it to smell a certain way.

How to dry? by now you should always travel with small packable dryer line. The advantage of drying clothes inside the room: you have an automatic humidifier (hotels rooms are always so dry, putting you more at risk of catching a cold because of the dry air)

The best way and cleanest way to dry the clothes is: under the SUN. It is extremely clean with the sun drying, as the UV will also sanitize your laundry. (even cleaner than your home dryers)

Unless you are extremely wealthy, can afford $10 per piece of clothing for the hotel to clean for you ( $200 per load), then it is just faster, simpler and CLEANER to do your own laundry (you really do not want them to touch or clean your laundry, as they will clean it with very low heat, and very quickly as they do not have time and do not want to ruin any guest’s clothes. Only bed sheets and towels etc that the hotels may clean properly and use bleach)

so next time, do not be surprised to see this in a fancy suite costing $1000 and up :

:-)

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Why i love the prepaid visa cards, despite their high fees

i really like the prepaid visa cards that you can buy at your local groceries store. It is pre loaded, and the spending limit is fixed.

they have a LOT of hidden fees, and for most of the time, it is not worth it to buy it.

BUT, if used properly, it can create values:

for example, i just bought some scuba gadgets at scuba.com : the foldable snorkel, diving socks. ( the foldable snorkel from aqualung looks great : it can be rolled into a small round tube container, and you can carry it in your BCB pocket and take it out when needed. They said snorkel saves lives! but who really want to carry it on their face while diving? that’s why the foldable snorkel is great)

at check out, after paying, they have a promo if you fill their survey, you get $100 worth of magazines!

of course there is a “catch”, you have to enter your visa so then to pay $2 for shipping per year, and after the initial free period over, then they will automatically charge the visa for full price. (and who really have the time and energy to remember to cancel before next year?

enter the prepaid visa card, with a limit of… $10 (or what ever the rest of my previous limit on prepaid visa, as long as it is under $10)!!! how can they charge the visa next year if there is no more funds??

free magazines to send to families in USA, then all i need is the shipping label to be able to view the magazines online on my ipad as well. Everybody in the family wins.

Worst case scenario: we only receive a few issues intead if the whole year : we can still access the issues online with the shipping label codes.

You can also use the prepaid visa in case of foreign weird sites, or site where they may automatically have a recurrent charge that you do not want.

in the past, in USA, for some promo from some airlines, people have also been buying prepaid visa or debit cards strategically, as they earn so many extra bonus points, worth a lot more than the value of the points even when buying straight from the airlines ! They essentially get free money to spend, while buying the points for business or first class travel, traveling in style while costing less than paying cash for economy tickets…

There is even one person that buy $5000 worth of pudding to get 1 million points. (1 million air points = normally 4-5 first class tickets), while donating the pudding away.

(i did buy $300 worth of pudding for “charity” before :-) )

usually those promos are not well advertised or promoted in the blogs, even by the bloggers. Too many people, and the promo may not be honored, or pulled out too soon.

That is why it pays to READ.

 

 

 

Why it is waste not to funnel money through credit card spending?

Why it is waste not to funnel money through credit card spending?

Well, as a retailer or merchant, you are not allowed to charge customers extra if they pay with some credit cards. Everybody pay the same price for the same product. For reference and example $100. It does not matter if you pay cash, debit, check, credit, all customers pay the same price :$100

Yet the cost to the retailer is greater if you pay with premiums credit cards (the ones where max value for customers : amex spg, amex rewards, premium visa etc). For example, if you pay with amex, it cost the merchant min 2-4 percent as transaction fee, (3% usually) so the $100 product is only a sale of $97 for the merchant.

While visa and mastercards cost are lower, at 1-2 %. You pay with visa, merchant get a sale of $98.5

You pay cash for the products? Merchant get a sale of $100.

So indirectly, if you are not using the most valued credit cards to pay for the purchase, if you pay with cash debit, even visa, you are indirectly subsidizing the customer that pay with expensive amex or premium visa cards.

And that amex or premium visa customer get an indirect minimum rebate of 2% to 10% (if properly redeem points), all thanks to all other customers paying cash or with cards costing less!

Is it fair to the merchant? Is it fair to the customer paying cash? It is fair to the amex customer?

Depends on which type of customer you are… :-)

That is why in some countries, like australia, merchants and goverment are moving to alllow to charge customers that pay with premiums cards.

Of course luxemiles assume that you will pay your credit card in full and on time, avoiding bank fees.

Are you a business owner? Or self employed? If yes, you should act like luxemiles

Are you a business owner? Or a tennis star? Or an althlete? Or anything where you are self employed?

If yes, then You should be aware that:

Since you are spending money anyway for your business or travel, or supplies, you should get some value back as points. You should “funnel” all spending on the credits cards that offer the most value back. Why?

Because it would be a waste not to. And because you can indirectly get minimum 2% value out TAX FREE!

Tax free : would you like it if you can automatically earn 2 percent tax free, ie equivalent to withdrawing money from business tax free?

Supposed these following options:

A. Supposed If you had paid business supplies with your company check, and did not get rebates for not using credit cards from suppliers,

B. or even if you get rebate from suppliers at a usual rate of 2% for not paying with credit cards, pay with check.

C. Or Pay business spend with credit cards cash rewards (with cash back rewards)

D. Or if you had paid those supplies with a credit card earning frequent points reward, especially the amex rewards or spg rewards,

which one bring the most value?

It is D. Pay with credit cards earning strategic points. Why? Rewards points are not taxable.

While option C. cash back rewards for business credit cards spending may be taxable, (as the reward is Cold hard cash, or cash equivalent, it can be taxable) !!

Option A. Is obviously not the best, no cash back, no value back for spending. Option B. Sounds good, but 2 percent back in a company, taxable is worth less than the same amount out of the company, tax free.

Option C. The cash back is usually capped at maximum 2%, while smart travelers can usually get MORE than 2 percent value back with strategice redeemed points.

Not all credit cards offer the same value. Even in different frequent traveler reward points, not all points are the same. (Future post)

The minimum value that you can get through points should be 2%, but if you use the points properly, it can be much more.

How would you like to feel if your normal business spending pays for either yours or your staff luxurious vacations and trips… Tax free??!!

It is always funny to see people of all backgrounds, rich to poor, to dismiss the points collection scheme. For them, they are too “rich” or too busy to focus on minor details intangible like points reward maximization. But yet, the same peopke would do anything to gain 1-2 extra percentage points return on their stock porfolio… All while they could have consistenly gain min 2% value back for just spending or funneling on credit cards.

There is one person that managed to get each year, 20 MILLIONS spg points.. Apparently rumours are that he is in NBA… So when he spend to book the players rooms, parties, supplies etc, he made sure to get lots of value back, even if obviously he could have said he is too “rich” or too “busy” to collect points.

What is 20 millions spg points? Well even at the max rate (there are ways to lower) 30000 points spg get you one free night at one of the TOP hotels in paris ie : prince de galles, or top hotels in maldives, tokyo etc.

For around 200 k spg points, you can go around the world in first class.

But you need to pay your credit card balance in full.

Popular finance phrase: it is not how much money you make, it’s how you save it… Luxemiles says: Wrong!! It is HOW you spend it

It makes me smile whenever i read blogs or articles about personal finances.

It is usually the same ideas and ideology repeated differently… From the rich dad poor dad, millionaire next door, to the wealthy barber… Etc… all the same concepts being preached… Yawn..

Now it seems there is a proliferation of blogs and books showing people how to save:

Or which cash back credit cards they should get:

While the traditional personal finance concepts are time tested and applies to everyone, rich to poor : spend less than you earn, save min 10%, save on costs, invest in asset producing passive income etc…

It is still traditional thinking, They do not push the thinking further enough, the luxemiles way should be:

It is not how much you make, it is not how much you save, nor how much you spend, it is HOW you spend it.

Every body have to spend resources, money, time, health energy. If you have to spend it anyway, then why not maximize it the luxemiles way?

There are some college kids and stay at home moms that travel for free and luxuriously in first class, they travel like a millionaire while earning minimum salary. And there are millionaire, even billionaires, that travel the same way as the college kids while spending the same amount as them….

Notorious examples: there is a blogger, ben, at one mile at a time, that use points accumulated from just credit cards applications, and other travel hacks, to often travel in first class around the world while still in college.

Then there is the story of newly minted billionaires, founder of whatsapp text messaging services, that refused to pay cash full price for a first class tickets, instead redeeming his points for a lufthansa first class tickets, costing him less than economy prices…

Especially in usa, where one credit card application produce enough bonus points (100k points for some cards) to go first class across the ocean, one does not need cash or money, or to be rich or wealthy to travel like a wealthy person.

Most people will spend countless hours and energy to save on small items, for example on groceries… They may compare prices across merchants, actually drive to differents store just to save $10, while the gas cost alone may be already $5 ! They forget to factor in ancilliary costs, like gas, parking, and opportunity costs like time and energy.

While it is important to save on costs, you need to factor in all variables (time, energy, gas, AND rewards points !!)

Points is an elusive system. Most people will not have any concepts of value and opportunities of points. Like how much each points is worth (IN) and how much value can you get from the points (out).

Points system also count on the fact that human are usually not patient enough, and want rewards right away. Most will not have the patience to wait for their points balance to reach a critical amount where the value is maximized, and most will not know how to maximize the points value when redeemed.

FIRST, back to the grocery cost debate: luxemiles thinking is why would you waste time and energy to save a few bucks on groceries, while you can easily shop at one store, and save min 20-40 per cent off on already low prices? How?

Learn how it works. Know how managements think. Become either an extreme couponers (yes those people deserve praises, as they READ all the small details on the coupons, understand the system, and come up with a plan), OR just be “lazy” the luxemiles way: efficiently :

Shop at newly opened safeway store that are not busy. We shop at windermere safeway, and because it is dead, because of the competition nearby from big retailers like walmart, the prices are already lower. PLUS each time we go, we wait until we can aim for a min spent of $100, and a maximum spend of… $100 exactly. ( we go around the store with a calculator). More than $100? Drop the extra items and come back later.

From what we see from that safeway store, Most people will not wait until they need to buy $100 worth of groceries, and most will come in whenever they WANT something. And most will keep on spending above $100, usually if they buy groceries above $100, most likely it will be $150-$200 range. Exactly what the retailer wants, that you spend more (while getting the same amount of rewards back)

Why? For spending $100, you get 200 air miles reward miles (www.airmiles.ca). It is different from amex points, or airlines points.

What is the value of 200 air miles? You can redeem right away for 90 miles = 10$ off, or you can stash it to redeem for golf (250 miles: free golf : $90), or wait until you redeem for flights etc… So min of 20% off to 40% value later. It is all how to maximize the OUT value: redemptions, while minimizing the cost (IN)

SECOND, Back to the credit card debate: cash back is great for most people as most want to see the cash and reward right away. They prefer to see the MAXIMUM 2% cash back when they spend. And 2 per cent is and will be always the maximum value that they can get. They cannot get more than that.

While the smart travelers like the college kid, or the billionaire, when they spend money, they will use the credit card that will bring them the most value when redeemed, as they always think about the value proposition, the exit (out). And usually the most value comes from redemptions for travel in expensive business or first class, or expensive hotels. For Worst case scenario, They know they can always get min 2 percent value back. But usually they will get 10-20 percent value back when it is properly redeemed.

if you are a business owner and have to pay for expenses, you should get some value back just for spending money! You should focus on HOW to spend it.

THIRD, if you have to spend resources anyway, then luxemiles way is you should spend ONLY to get value back somehow. But It is not always about cash or points.

Luxemiles Value is defined as:

1. Usage, Pleasure or satisfaction from services or products. If you are happy with what you got, even if it cost more than usual, you get personal value from it.

2. Time value : if it save you time, or make you more efficient, you get more value

3. Health value: if what you get brings you mental or physical joy or happiness, then you get value from it. If you need to spend to stay healthy, at the dentist or the medical doctor, or the eye doctor, you get tremendous maximum value from it, because luxemiles rule number one is: no health no wealth.

4. Timeframe value: if what you spend is something that you will enjoy for a long time, and will bring you either happiness or health over that long timeframe, then it is worth it. Remember that resources like Your time on this earth is limited, as well as money and health, so you need to use it efficiently.

5. Efficiency value: if it can reduce your waste in resources like time, money, health, then it brings value. If it maximize usage of resources like time, money and health, it brings value.

6. Improvement value: if what you do or buy improve your knowledge, thinking, health, or help other people, it brings value

But luxemiles value is NOT defined as : spending for show or outside status. You should have No need or reasons to buy that expensive purse or car for show. You will save more resources if you do not need to spend for show.

It is better to spend a little more to buy something that you will personally use or enjoy for a long time. It is not OK to buy something else just because you use it to show social status.

It is better to spend money for that regular eye exam or health check up, on that medication that you need, then spending on that expensive purse or cars

My pharmacist friends tell me stories where patients will come in, yell at them, refuse to pay for a $25 dollars antibotic medications that they need, all while carrying luis vuitton purses and drive a bmw…

Or stories where people drive around with old expired glasses or prescriptions, seeing nothing or not clearly, all while getting new expensive bmw lexus cars every 3 years. For them it is a “necessity” as it is for “safety reasons” with the latest gadgets, all while their risk of potentially causing accidents greatly increases because they cannot see anything …

Or stories of competitive moms and dad spending tons of money to put their kids through special schools or programs, while neglecting the kids’ teeth or eyes. If the kids cannot see clearly at school first and foremost, what is the point of spending time money and energy on special programs?

That is where the HOW you spend is more important.

And of course, luxemiles assumes that you are already doing the basics: spend less than you earn, save min 10%, save on costs, pay your credit cards in full, invest in asset producing passive income etc…

How to get maximum value from one credit card, american express platinum card

How to maximize amex platinum card value with the calendar year hack

The amex platinum card cost $700 per year, but it is especially worth it when amex give huge bonus points for applying:

50000 Amex points when spend min $1000 in first 3 months

Or get a referral by another amex platinum member and get 60000 points instead of 50000.

What can you do with 50k points? When transfered to aeroplan, you can book return tickets anywhere in NA for 2 in economy : worth value min $1000. Or one return biz class in na : value $2000. So the points are worth min $1000 alone!

Or keep it until you reach 100k for return europe biz class. As usual, the points are always worth more if redeemed in biz or first class international long haul.

How to get referral for more bonus points? 60 k instead? You can send me your email address and i can refer you. All i need is your email address.

What else you get with amex platinum?

  • Priority access, lounge access to canada lounges, to amex centurion lounges, and plaza premium lounges. Plaza premium lounges access are also for family members! Plus unlimited free access to almost most of lounges internationally with free priority pass membership (free access for one person only).
  • Priority pass unlimited lounge card alone are worth $400 annually
  • Usual insurances, car rental, travel delay cancelation insurances.
  • Get spg gold membership for free. Spg gold : rooms upgrages, more spg points, late check out.

Before, last year, you also have free gold cathay one world card: normally reserved when you actually fly 50k mikes with cathay or one world airlines : priority access, lounges, luggages allowances etc.. Not this year.

The best part is the fast track to fairmont platinum status: stay 5 nights, get fpc platinum.

How to maximize fpc platinum?

Apply for amex plat before calendar year end, like now in october. Stay 5 nights at cheaper fpc properties (cities) for around $130 per night with special rates (caa ama, great rates great dates etc..). You have to stay before year end, or asap… Why? Keep reading.

Total spent in fpc hotel after 5 nights : 5 x 130 = $680

But as soon as you stay 5 nights, you get platinum fpc status right away (normally reserved if you stay 10 stays or 30 room nights, in a calendar year), which you can and should use before calendar year end :

  • get a free nights : worth $500 if redeemed in maui, new york, london (harder to redeem) or other expensive properties
  • Get $200 in either dining or spa in fairmont properties.
  • Get 2 free suites upgrades, which you can confirm for suites upgrades for 5 nights each certificate. For example, you can redeem fpc suite for banff, lake louise, or hawaii for 10 nights! Worth : min $500 to $3000 for price difference between normal room and suites. Fairmont suites are really nice, especially overseas (hawaii, china, egypt, singapre etc)

Total value for fairmont fpc platinum status : $ 1500

So if you stay and attain fpc platinum status now, before year end, you have min $1500 in fpc platinum value alone. AND the best part is that you also get automatic fpc platinum status for next year, starting in march! No need for another 5 nights stay. Another $1500 value for next year! Fpc platinum status are valid until feb 2016 if you become fpc platinum before december 2014.

Also, now amex is promoting fairmont hotel by giving you another $100 statement credit when you spend min $500 before december 2014!! You have to register for this promo at their website

BUT amex plat also give you each CALENDAR year $200 off any travel booked though their platinum site. So you can book a hotel or flight worth $200 before december 31, and get $200 statement credit. AND Starting in january, you get another $200 credit !!

So if you apply amex plat before calendar year end, and keep the amex plat card for one year or less, (before next october), and IF you decide to cancel before they charged you another $700 annual dues, here is what you get:

So you have Spent $700 for amex platinum + $680 (5 nights hotel fairmont) = $1380 (Invest IN)

You Get back: value out :

  • 2 x $200 amex travel credit
  • 2 year worth of fairmont platinum status : 2 free rooms, 4 suites upgrades, $400 dining spa credit : value min $3000
  • Priority pass membership for this year and next : $400 x2 :$800
  • 60000 amex points ( if referred) worth min $1200
  • Plus other benefits, (spg gold, lounges access, priority access, insurances).
  • $100 statement credit for staying at fairmont hotel (and for spending $500)

Total value back : $400 + $3000 + $800 + $1200 +$100 = $5500 MINIMUM value back.

Is it worth it for $700? You get to experience up to 20 nights at suites at fairmont hotels, free dining or massages, bypass wait lines at airport, wait comfortably in lounges all over the world, points for flying biz class later… Etc etc…

This value proposition is ONLY worth it if you get min 50000 amex points, and if you apply and get fpc platinum before CALENDAR year end.

Enjoy the benefits with the CALENDAR travel hack.

P.s as soon as you receive your amex platinum, call fairmont and said you want to fast track to platinum with the special code that amex plat will send you. THEN book the cheapest 5 night “escapade” at fairmont hotels before calendar year end.

How to get cheap fairmont rates? Search with ama, corporate, caa, or great rates great dates… (http://www.fairmont.com/offers/internet-only/)

In our family, we get lifetime fpc platinum status already for one (through the bank) so we just apply and keep only one amex platinum card.

And of course, you need to pay the credit card balance in full, avoiding any bank fees, otherwise you will just “buy” points in a extremely expensive way.

The downside with reward miles and frequent flyer programs : gambling

There are downsides and potential minefields with frequent reward programs:

  • the program, or the airlines administering them, can change the rules ANY time they want. They can change the levels, the miles required, the routing, apply new restrictions: your points that you accumulated for a while, saving for a round the world trip in business or first class, or that special hotels that you planned, suddenly get more expensive: it is a devaluation.
  • In the Miles “game”, like a casino, it is inherently rigged in favor of the “house”: the airlines, the hotels, : they can restrict or release any numbers of seats they want. They can apply blackout, release seats only at least minute, or only at 333 days out, applies surcharges, extra fees, change the terms, etc. The house always win long term.
  • Like gambling, the “house”, hotels and airlines, tried to lure as many people to play as possible, to collect points, luring them with big rewards like possible first class travel, suites upgrades etc… They count on the fact that most players will lose, and will not have the time to learn, to maximize the value of the points.
  • To lure you to spend more money with them, the airlines are masters at luring you with potential upgrades, which does not cost them much more.They are usually unsold seats anyway.
  • Like a central banker, the airlines and hotels can print unlimited amount of reward miles and points without restrictions, devaluing the value of the points anytime. They are in firm control of their costs.
  • Similar to gambling, when you play the game, you cannot sue the house. The contract of reward points is tilted in favor of the airlines and hotels. It specifically said that they can change the terms and conditions of the programs anytime as they wish, when they wish, because it is the only agreement between you and the reward program. You can only “potentially” sue only under the terms of their contract, their rules.
  • to get the maximum value for the rewards points, it is complicated enough that you may need to hire consultants to help you. There are so many rules, restrictions, routing, different classes (not all first class are “equal”)

So why should you spend the time for the reward points game?

1. Unlike in a casino, where luck and probability are the  rules, if done properly, a small group of savvy travelers can always maximize the value of the rewards points.

2. Competition between airlines and hotels create opportunities

3. Human errors, omissions, managements mistakes, create unexpected deals

Once the initial learning curve is mastered, the rest is pretty standard and similar. Once familiarized to the way the reward system works, with any changes of any reward programs, it is very easy and efficient for you to get answers, to understand how to maximize the value of the reward programs.

IF you have time and health, and want to learn, to search, to travel, then it is worth it. The savings, or value, per hour of “work” spent on the rewards points is invaluable. It allow you to explore and experience the world, different cultures, different cities, to try aspirational products like international first class, hotels suites, at a fraction of the normal cost.

 

Stop dreaming to be rich ! and how to start traveling like if you are wealthy

 

It seems most people want to amass wealth. Being wealthy for most people means having x amount of money, be financially independent, be a multi millionaire.

A newspaper article said a million dollar is not what it used to be. So now most people aspire to be multimillionaire, and not only millionaire.

But first let’s clarify and redefine wealth in the luxemiles way: you are wealthy when you have time, health and some money:

Rule #1: if you do not have health, you do not have wealth.

Rule # 2: if you do not have enough time, you do not have wealth. Rich people think differently about time: if they can do something more efficiently. Or if their time is worth more money than doing other task where they can delegate someone else to do it for less money, then they will spend money to save time. But some rich people are so busy that they do not have enough time to travel. For them, being rich only means having money.

So if you are not money wealthy yet, how can you travel and enjoy the way the rich do, and most importantly NOT spend the way they spend?

Contrarily to popular beliefs, it is not about having lot money! It is not about generating lots of money though businesses. It is not about the accumulation of wealth through lifetime of savings. You just have to follow the proven secrets of smart travelers:

No 1: Decide to travel like the rich do:

You have to mentally stop being jealous of people traveling in business and first class, and start asking yourself the question: how do I travel like they do, but not pay what they pay?

Once I heard some young fellow travelers, passing by our first class cabin and said loudly: “ look at those stupid people, what a waste, they pay 10 times what we paid for the same flight, and we all end up going to the same destination”… Well, he would be partially right, it would be a waste to spend more money for the same product: going from point A to point B.

But he is also wrong as:

A. Most travelers in the business class cabin are being paid by their companies, or can deduct the expenses.

B. Some travelers like us paid little to nothing by knowing the secrets, the system, and properly redeem our points. Who would be stupid? Us that paid little or nothing and fly first class, or them that paid actual money, a lot more than what we paid, and fly economy?

We have been on most of the first class cabins, travel 200k to 300k miles annually on first class, stayed at expensive suites, all for little or no money relatively compared to the market prices, by applying what most smart travelers already know.

No2: Get rid of the thinking you need money:

The travel industry is the only few industries where most people pay the average cost, some pays a lot more (the wealthy), and a minority pays very little to nothing (hopefully soon you).

The wealthy, because they want to save time, they usually spend the most money, buying business class seats, paying at last minute, to fly the most direct route. It is a well known fact that business seats generate the most revenue and profits for an airplane company.

The rest, the vast majority of people actually subsidize travel for a small minority, by paying average prices, by collecting frequent flyer points and not actually knowing how to use them properly.

No 3: what you need is knowledge, and by that you need is to READ:

IF you have some time, then use it to save money by reading what you need to know. There is tons of free information, blogs and forums where similar minded people gather and share tips. You need to read everything that relate to the offer, or deal before properly making a decision if that deal is good for you. There is no point of buying a product that you do not use or need, as there is no point of accumulating points in some hotels that you will not likely stay.

Only you can determine if a certain program or deal is a good value or not, as only you know what pattern, limitations and lifestyle that you have.

You are going to get a travel job? Well better start reading! Do not let the points go to waste like most business travelers! Know when and how to get maximum value for the points that you worked hard to accumulate.

For example, if you are planning to have kids in the next year, that mean you will likely travel less, so there is no point of buying into a timeshare just because they offer tons of Hiltons points ! One of my friends once called me at last minute, as they wanted to pull the trigger on a timeshare that offer 2 million Hilton points with the purchase. We calculated that they would have 52 free days in top hotel in Maldives, Tokyo, or Paris (pre 2013 hilton devaluation), or equivalent to a rebate of 52 days x $600 value per day = rebate of $ 31500. Only problem is that they plan to have baby next year. And most smart travelers know, as with any points program, earn and burn is the number one rule. You should not let points accumulate for too long, as they can be devalued anytime! 2 months after, Hilton announced that the required points will triple!

Long time ago when I started university, when I got my first Scotia bank visa gold, I remembered that I read everything on the contract and any other offer that they sent me.

The bank sent offers of using their special checks to transfer balances from another bank, with the special offer of bonus points, WITH NO limits on how many times you can use the checks and NO limits on bonus points! Now normally it would be a bad idea to transfer money or use cash back option from visa cards, by reading the contract at that time, i knew that the bank not only charged full 18% interest from the day the transfer is made, but also the grace period on previous visa purchases is also gone as soon as you use any cash back or transfers, so you ALSO effectively start paying interest on all purchases, retroactively to the day when the purchase was made!.

But I used it anyway, but making sure to deposit money into visa to cover the full balance AND transfers BEFORE the special checks are made. By transferring money around visa to bank to visa to bank, I paid zero fees to the bank, zero interests, and I got enough points every year to travel for free, or option of cash back up to $1500, courtesy of the bank.

No 4: Stop spending and paying full fare

No one want to pay full fare if it is possible to pay a lot less, even the rich and wealthy do not want to pay full prices for something that they can get at a discount.

No 5: Do not focus all your energy on chasing prices and discounts:

To travel well at low prices, you need to know they way the system works. You need to learn the dynamics and relations of variables that can affect prices, supplies and demands.

For example, business hotels cost less on weekends because … there are less business travelers. Know when to book: Shoulder seasons or low seasons cost less…

Do not travel when everybody else is travelling: spring break, Xmas… it would be too busy, and too expensive. Potential for problems like delays, stranded, bad services, lost luggage greatly increases during those period.
There is a hurricane? Well prices are going to be cheaper after ! We went to Bora Bora and Fiji after a major hurricane. The advantages: prices are cheaper, local people are friendlier, and it is a lot less busy. It felt like a private luxury resort!
A bank launches a new visa? Likely it will have good promo on extra bonus points! Apply! (but also check when was the maximum bonus points available during past year, you want to get the max bonus points for applying)

A small airline joins star alliance? Or some airlines want to increase their frequent flyers memberships? Well they may offer status matches! You can get free status match and get free perks like priority boarding, free luggage allowance, free lounge access etc just because the other airline want to attract “high paying customers”. For example, before going to Australia a few ago, we got status match to virgin Australia, and with that, we got free Hilton GOLD (free breakfast at Hilton hotels, upgrades), free lounge access at Sydney and Melbourne, and did not have to wait in line at check in, as we have priority check in and boarding, and more frequent flyer points when flying with Virgin… all that because we read, plan and sent a quick email that took 5 minutes.

An airline that announce a new route ? Well more space for points reward redemption seats, even sometimes possibly errors by management,  allowing more rewards seats to be redeemed than usual = First class on Singapore airlines! First class on Lufthansa for the whole family!
A new grocery store open, a Safeway ? It may offer up to 200 air miles for just buying $100 dollars of grocery. 200 airmiles can be redeemed for movies tickets worth $30 dollars, or have instant cash back of $20, or future savings for flights. An instant minimum 20% to 40% value back? Why not..?
No 6: if you have health, and some time, you have the means to travel well:

First, as previously said, if you have no health, then you have no wealth, and will be very difficult for you to travel well. So if you are healthy currently, then you are already ahead of rich people that are not healthy.
Second, you do not need to have money now. IF you have some time, you are ahead of people that are rich but do not have time. You can use time to save money:
a. By flying indirect routes instead of direct flights. Direct flights cost more. Instead of paying money, or paying full fare, we have been redeeming our us airways points to fly the most indirect routes possible, as we have time to spend on airplanes. For example, we have been flying to Australia in first class, instead of taking the direct route Vancouver to Sydney, we flown Vancouver to Paris to Bangkok to Sydney.. taking 2 times longer, but all in first class comfort, paying similar prices (by buying extra points) as an direct economy ticket from Vancouver to Sydney.
b. By using time to plan properly in advance: If you buy a last minute ticket, it will cost you a lot more. Most “money wealthy” people do not have time, they tend to spend money to save time.

The most common excuse for not maximizing the value of miles is: poeple do not have time or are too busy.  Are you too busy to spend 1-2 hours, “saving” or creating equivalent value for a retail cost of $20000 to $30000 first class ticket around the world?!! Supposed the max cash cost of points is $3000 for that  first class ticket, you are too busy to “save” $8500 to $ 13500 per hour? Even if the cheapest paying cash economy ticket is $2500-$3000, return from north america to australia in january?

So unless you are truly money wealthy, and you can generate more money per hour working, to the tune of thousands of dollars per hour, especially after tax,  (don’t forget to account that a dollar saved is worth more as it is after income tax !), than preferring to “save” the money , then you should have enough time to plan, and to save

ironnically, most people will spend more time researching savings on clothes, electronics, small items, than trying to learn how to save on a major purchase, especially about travel.
c. if you have time, you can plan in advance your trip an redeem your points way in advance instead of paying cold hard cash.
d. If you have time, you can plan to accumulate enough points for a certain redemption in the future, by reading, and checking the offers and deals

NO 7: shift the focus to investing to get maximum VALUE:

people said, the rich don`t spend money, they invest. You buy cars, the rich have company cars or can deduct their cars.

You go on a trip, paying with after taxes money. The rich go on business deductible trips, paid with pre tax money, then mixed it with leisure after hours, and they charged their business expenses on their points cards, getting minimum 2% value back…
You spend money to go on vacation, the rich spend their points that they accumulated through their business travel and business spending to go on vacations for free. You spend your frequent flyer points to get a microwave, the rich the same amount of points to go around the world in first class.

You spend years saving points, the rich find ways to get more points, by business spending, promotions, even buying points.
The rich always consider the difference between the cost, and the value that they get. For example, If it cost 1.5 cent per points to buy, and the lowest paying cash economy seat are $750, the reward seat required is at 25000 points, then the cost of the seat is at $375 min (or less if points are accumulated by other means, visa, promos, bonus). But for the same amount of cash, $750, a business seat go for 50000 points, then the value proposition go much higher: paying business seats are usually at 3-6 times, min $2100!
If you can get business or first class seats for the same prices, or a little more than the cost of the economy tickets, either in cash or points, than the value of using those points increases !
Similarly, buy hotels points when it makes sense. For example, right before Hilton devaluation, i bought 90K points for $900. I transferred 40k spg points to 45k virgin atlantic points to 90k Hilton points. Total of 180K Hilton points, (cash cost to me was $900) equivalent to 6 free nights at top Hilton hotels worldwide (Maldives, Tokyo, paris, where the lowest prices for the year is $600-$800 dollars per night).

NO 8: to get maximum value, Don’t diversify, focus and concentrate on a few program:

pick the program , visa, bank airline, or hotel where you will most likely spend money and accumulate the most points in the shortest time. Like that you will avoid spreading yourself too thin, having too much points at many programs and not enough points to do anything.  When you have enough stays at a certain hotels brand, you get top tier benefits (free suites upgrades, free breakfast, free internet, free late check out etc)

Another advantage of hotel status is upgrades: we have been upgraded to suites costing $15k, because we are top tier status, while paying only $150 ! when you are top tier status at hotels or airlines, you get double to triple the points!

to get status, and free upgrades, while traveling, we have been known to switch hotels around every night!We normally do not “unpack”, even in 5 star hotels with butlers, as we prefer that our clothes stay clean inside our suitcase, wrapped in plastic to avoid any bugs, than displaying all over the place inside the cabinets. We do not want to bring potential bed bugs home

A few years back, to get spg platinum status, we went back and forth in bangkok hotels westin and sheraton bangkok, as they are both cheap and right across the street. The value? Spend 150$ a night, but there was a promo to get a free night at top hotels after 3stays. One stay :1 night at a different hotel. So after switching for 3 nights, spending $450,  we have one free night at maldives, worth $600! We racked up so many free nights during thst promo that we treat our friend to maldives! And we get so many extra bonus spg points with each stay, worth 1500 points after 3 nights!

Cost:$450, value back:$600 + $15 to $30 value points extra + 1500 normal hotel points for stays ( $30) + value of getting top status.. for something that takes 3-5 minutes per day max ( remember, we do not unpack)
NO 9: Earn and BURN: Do not let those points sit unused too long. They can easily get devalued overnight! programs changes when the costs are higher.
NO 10: Do not follow the herd, Act like the minority do: pay your visa in full and know the opportunity cost:

There is no point of trying to accumulate frequent reward points if you are not using it. There is no valid reason to spend money on visa cards to get rewards points IF you are NOT paying it in full. Remember that you do not want to be the majority of credit cards customers, generating interests for the bank because you do not pay in full each month. You need to get value from the bank, not the reverse!

NO 11: READ READ READ: deals come and go, programs changes, points get devalued, etc.. but there are so may free blogs and forum that dumbs it down for you, saving you time and money…

 

 

How to stay connected abroad cheaply, get voice and internet, by using latest technologies

rule #1:  ALWAYS remember to remove the normal home country sim card before you leave to another country, or before you land at international countries, and ALWAYS remember to disable the data on your cell phone before, IF not you will incur A BIG roaming data charge, costing you thousands of dollars for checking your emails, using maps,  facebook etc..

now, if you remove your home country sim card, then how do you receive and make voice phone calls for cheap? how do you get internet access everywhere on you cell phone and avoid paying hotels internet?

1. Get FONGO app for android, bb, or iphone, ipad

2. Download and activate fongo app, that will give you a free canada phone number. You can get and choose your own area code, example 514-xxx-xxxx montreal area code.

3. Write down the new phone number that fongo provide you

4. Before you leave canada, on your cell phone, Forward all your canadian cell phone voice calls to the new fongo phone number. All your cell phone calls will then now ring on the fongo app, and since the fongo phone number is local to the area wherever you live, there is no long distance fees from your cell phone carrier.

if you are from other countries, usa, europe etc, get a local skype number, then forward call call to the skype number. Anyone that call your normal number will ring on your skype device

5. Once you arrive at the international destination, france, japan, Indonesia etc, buy a LOCAL country prepaid data sim card for your UNLOCKED phone. You can use ipad if your ipad has sim card slot. and of course your phone has to be unlocked. (you are travelling and do not have unlocked phones ??!!)

6. Activate the data on your new prepaid local sim card.

7. Start fongo app et voila! Now anyone that call you at your Canadian phone number will ring your cell phone through fongo app.

8. and if you need to call canada phone numbers, you can use fongo to call anywhere in canada for free. Voice mails are downloadable in fongo.

9. For call to local country where you are visiting, use the local sim card, or use skype.

 

ATT GLOBAL DATA PREPAID PASS :

If you travel to many different countries, more than 1 country,  the best, easiest and cheapest option is: ATT global data prepaid is an option, FOR $ 120 usd for 800 mb of data almost worldwide for one month. You get HDSPA 3g+ speed, (if available) instead of 1 or 2 G at sprint or Verizon option. ( I got 3g speed even in india)

it works easily and is fast everywhere.

why prepaid? because you can control how much data and how much money you want to spend overseas. if you are on roaming and are on monthly postpaid fees, your data usage can be unlimited and with unlimited costs.

You need to get the FREE USA ATT data sim card from an att usa store, or ask a friend in usa to ship you one. The SIM card has to be non –  activated, virgin. ( a lot of att staff will be confused and want to activate you the same day on some type of data or voice option, saying they need to do it before giving the sim card to you.

The ATT  sim card can be registered by the att staff in their system but insist that they are not to be activated. why? once they activated on the wrong plan, you cannot use or activate it on the global data pass)

Then you activate the att data sim card later before you leave the country.

You then can use FONGO or Skype apps to make cheap calls. https://buyasession.att.com

wifi hot spot, to avoid hotels internet charges: 

once you already have your att data sim activated, if you need to access internet from other devices, laptops etc, all you have to do is activate the wifi hot spot function on your smartphone or ipad. (Tethering)

Usually you will have access to 3g speed, anywhere. It will let you avoid internet scam charges from hotels.

another advantage of the att data sim card is that the att wifi hot spot use the same data allowance as what you already prepaid. On most home cell phone providers, they charge tethering data separately!

 

Iridium satellite phone:

if you mostly want a voice option that works anywhere, in the middle of the seas to the north pole, get an iridium satellite phone. The cost of the satellite phone is marginally more than a smartphone, and for yearly prepaid pass, the cost per minute of of a CALL OUT is cheaper (start at $1 usd to $1.75) than even your normal postpaid roaming charges from your home country provider (sometimes they charges as much as $2-$4 dollars per min.)

on your cell phone, if someone calls you on your normal home country phone number, and you choose not to answer, and if it gets transferred  to your voice mail, you get charged $2-$4 dollars per minute for someone to leave a voice message)

disadvantages of iridium phone:

1. cost of the phone ($500-$1200 for the new extreme)

2. need clear view of the sky. has to be outside when making calls

3. people calling you, calling IN your iridium phone number: very expensive, they pays $10-$14 usd per min, unless they know how to use 2 stage iridium calling.