How much do I have to spend to make a premium card break even?

A few months ago, we looked at up-front justification (or at least softening the blow) of the annual fees on some premium credit and charge cards. This was mainly intended to show that most of these cards have up-front benefits that compensate for the $450+ annual fees.

Several conversations on online travel and rewards forums have shown that the distinction between the annual fee and the potential value of the card are not as clear as they could be. And some people are looking solely at the sign-up bonus vs the annual fee.

So today we’ll take a deeper look at how to determine if one or more of these cards is for you.

Spoiler: If you don’t travel in a way that you can use your own cards, odds are none of these cards will be of much use to you beyond the first year, if that. 

Recap

We reviewed the American Express Platinum charge cards (both personal and business), the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, and the Citi AAdvantage Executive credit card.

Continue reading “How much do I have to spend to make a premium card break even?”

Quick Take: Who needs a phone in a hotel bathroom?

A recent business trip brought to mind one of the most baffling concepts we’ve had to consider while traveling:

Why do so many hotels have telephones in their bathrooms?

Update: We got an answer to the question! See the end of this post.

The hotel we stayed in this week had a washroom in the entryway and the full bath, and both toilets had handy wall-mounted corded telephones. This was in addition to the bedside phone and the desk phone.

We can understand a television or a music player, especially with a luxurious bathtub to relax in after a long day of work or sightseeing.

We can almost understand a charging port for a phone or tablet, although we wouldn’t necessarily want an expensive mobile device connected to power in close proximity to a toilet or shower.

We could even accept a speakerphone, for those romantic nights whispering “no, you hang up” when you’re apart from your beloved, or when you need to learn what your children have done with the dog in your absence.

But the thought of the toilet phone is just downright disturbing. Is it just us?

Even if the phone is cleaned regularly, you never know who’s done what in there, and if it’s not sanitized between every guest, do you really want that appliance that’s 2-3 feet from the toilet touching your face?

And while our last hotel did not have this anachronistic feature, we’ve seen some hotel toilet-phones with modem jacks. We’ll admit to taking a cell phone in to keep those social games going or read Twitter or our blog comments, but we’ve never thought “hey, I need to dial into Compuserve while I’m on the toilet.”

This one we really want to hear from you about. Have you seen phones in the hotel washrooms you’ve been in recently? And when was the last time you used one of them?

As an aside, we could see the need to get help if one had an incident in the bath… but in those cases, having the phone as far from the tub or shower as possible, while good for protection from water damage, seems counterproductive. Maybe retrofit the phones with intercom functionality or a simple call button?

Whoa, an answer?

Update: Shortly after posting this, we heard from our friend Howard Marks of Deep Storage who had a logical and accurate answer. Here it is (expanded a bit; any details and links are not his fault).

The American Automobile Association and affiliated clubs have a well-known Diamond Rating system that has been operational since 1976. Until recently, the standard for a 4-Diamond or 5-Diamond rating included a specification that there would be a telephone in the bathroom. We found this in a version of the guidelines posted on the Canadian Auto Association Quebec website.

aaabathroom

This requirement is a qualification for 4-Diamond status, and 4-Diamond criteria are a prerequisite for 5-Diamond.

A newer version of the guidelines was posted in April 2018 and appears to adapt for the changes in technology. There is no mention of a phone in the bathroom section at all. In fact, even the guest room descriptions no longer mention telephones (but they do mention USB charging ports from the 3-Diamond level up).

It’s unlikely that hotels will rip out the phones even if they are no longer required for this status, but I would guess that new properties being built to these aspirations will be less likely to be littered with telephones.

 

 

Celebrating two years of rsts11travel

Two years ago, on December 31, 2016, we launched rsts11travel. For a couple of days the posts were a category on rsts11.com, before the new domain and blog were set up.

Two years and almost 50 posts later, the blog is chugging along and drawing pretty good readership. Some posts strike more of an immediate chord, but others keep drawing your eyes two years later. We definitely appreciate you sharing our posts and tweets wherever they show up, whether you follow us here, on Twitter, on Facebook, or by following our primary writer Robert.

Note that sometimes we throw quick notes up on Twitter or Facebook that never turn into posts here. Sometimes there’s a quick social media promotion from a travel provider, or a blog post from one of the bigger travel bloggers that we want to point you at. So it’s not just post updates, and we try to keep those channels high value/low noise.

Since this is an entirely self-funded blog (except for the occasional work trip that inspires a post), we use affiliate programs to help with the costs of items and events we review. Using the links in our posts and sidebars, like this generic travel search or a more specific like the Anker Powerstrip Pad for travel power extension (including USB-C Power Delivery!) that we just got in this past weekend, brings us a few bucks a month without costing you any more.


Speaking of affiliate programs and shameless plugs, we kept acquiring new carry-on style luggage this year. You may find the Solo Duane 15.6 hybrid bag useful, even though we haven’t reviewed it on the site yet.

Solo Duane 15.6 Inch Laptop Hybrid Briefcase, Converts to Backpack

It holds a chunky 15.6″ laptop (like the Lenovo Thinkpad P50) and an iPad Pro plus the chargers and accessories. Of course you can put a smaller laptop in, like an XPS 13 or XPS 15, or a Macbook of any size made in the last 9 years. Additionally, it works as a messenger/crossbody style bag, a standard laptop “briefcase” bag with handles, or even–get this–a backpack.

Buy it through our Amazon link and we get a little bit of a commission to help with the next item to review. And at $30, or $25 with a current Solo holiday coupon on Amazon, it’s an impressive value.


A couple of weeks ago, we reviewed 2018’s most viewed posts on Twitter. Not surprisingly, three of the top five were from our first week. Somewhat surprisingly, the most viewed post in 2018 was a “quick” update on Caesars Entertainment changes to their Total Rewards program.

(Follow @rsts11travel on Twitter or rsts11 travel on Facebook to get the latest updates, or just follow this blog on WordPress.com.)

Some of our goals for this year are to try out the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas (which replaced the Mandarin Oriental through a management change in late August 2018), cover some more local travel (parks and beaches in California, for example), provide some more newbie help on credit card and travel rewards optimization, and of course keep up with the latest changes in loyalty programs and benefits.

Happy Anniversary to #rsts11travel

Greetings, readers.

A year ago today, rsts11travel spun off of the main rsts11 blog. Between that New Year’s Eve welcome post and today, 32 posts have come up on the blog, with an unsurprising focus on Las Vegas travel and benefits/loyalty programs. But there’s been more than that.

We brought you trip reports from Washington DC, Beverly Hills/Hollywood California, and three Las Vegas adventures with Jimmy Buffett, Gordon Ramsay, and the Burgers of Las Vegas.

We looked at Internet on the Road in a two part (1, 2) crossover feature with rsts11. We helped you save up to $179 a year on your CLEAR membership. And we helped you make your conference stay in Vegas a bit more comfortable.

In the year ahead, we’ll continue to carry loyalty program news, especially when it’s of particular interest to us (we can’t cover all the programs, but we’ll try to help you with the main ones). As new travel and caffeine technology comes out, we’ll be watching and writing about that as well.

A few of you have helped support our reviews by buying through our Amazon Affiliate links, and for that we thank you. We have a number of other ways that you can thank us for our coverage, over on the support page. Every little bit helps.

If there’s a topic or focus you’d be interested in seeing, or seeing more of, in 2018, let us know in the comments. And remember that you can join the conversation on Facebook at facebook.com/rsts11travel or on Twitter @rsts11travel (Facebook may get a more timely interaction).

Safe travels… we’ll see you in 2018.

Happy holidays from rsts11travel, and a quick offer from FoundersCard

Update for 2018: The FoundersCard $295 promo is no longer available, as noted below, but you should be able to get the $395/year rate going forward. 

Happy December, everyone. Robert Novak from rsts11travel here.

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of rsts11travel as its own site. It’s been a good travel year, but things have slowed for my work travel, and most of the personal travel also sloped down after June. So the last couple of months have been lighter, and I expect that to continue until February 2018.

I keep an eye out for travel deals and concerns to share, as you’ve seen in the past year, and if anything particularly interesting comes up, I’ll get a newsflash posted here. Feel free to subscribe here on WordPress, or follow the site on Facebook and Twitter, for updates when they happen.

I do have a deal to share, and it makes me very happy to have it to offer.

Great deal on FoundersCard membership through my link

As some of you who’ve asked privately will remember, I offer my FoundersCard referral code on our support page and privately, but have suggested you wait for a better offer than the usual referral you get through my link. I don’t think I get any FCPoints if you do that, but I’d rather you get the best deal even if I just get a nod.

Well, FoundersCard reached out today and said that, through the end of December 2017 (December 29, actually), if you sign up through my referral link, you’ll get the $295/year “charter” rate.

That’s pretty cool. Continue reading “Happy holidays from rsts11travel, and a quick offer from FoundersCard”

Quick Take: Save on CLEAR with Delta Airlines SkyMiles and Amex

If you live near an airport that has CLEAR, you probably know the benefits. For a $179 annual fee, you get to skip most of the line, using biometrics and your boarding pass to skip the initial TSA checkpoint. With TSA PRE or one of the other services that offers it (like Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS, etc), you are dropped right into the PRE line, and can easily make it from ticket counter to the other side of security in 5 minutes or less.

There are a number of options to save on CLEAR. For example, if you’re a FoundersCard member, you get six months free and a $140 annual rate after that. FoundersCard is a bit pricy on its own, but there are a couple of ways to make it pay for itself. [Click here for our referral link, which will save you $100 on FoundersCard membership.] Most airports with CLEAR have codes advertised for two free months, and members have referral codes (ours is here) that can get you free months and/or a similar discount.

The best way we’ve found, and the way we use ourselves, is through the Delta Air Lines partnership. If you’re a Delta Sky Miles member (even if you just joined last month), you get an annual rate of $99. If you are Silver, Gold, or Platinum with Sky Miles, or have one of the three top Delta Amex cards (personal or business), your rate is $79. If you are Diamond Medallion with Sky Miles, your CLEAR membership is free.

If you’re already a Delta Sky miles member and want to join CLEAR, this is definitely the way to go. Worst case, you save $80/year. Best case, you get your membership for free. And if you’re not a member, go ahead and sign up, wait a few days, and then use your Sky Miles number to get that $80/year discount.

Full details and signup are at https://www.clearme.com/delta

Obviously if you’re not in, or often flying from, one of the 20 or so airports that have CLEAR, this won’t be worth it. Note that there are also CLEAR lanes at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, Miami’s Marlins Park and American Airlines Arena, Denver’s Coors Field, and Comerica Park in Detroit, so sports fans and concertgoers might benefit even without booking a single flight.

Disclosure: If you use our affiliate links for CLEAR and/or FoundersCard, we may receive valuable consideration, but the recommended option in this article does not benefit us in any tangible way.

Quick Take: Rideshare partnerships to double/triple dip

Most of our readers are rideshare users, whether Lyft or Uber or both. And most of you also use other travel providers, right? What if you could take advantage of multiple promotions to make the most of your rideshare usage?

Well, you can, and in this quick take we’ll point you toward the ones we know about. If we miss any, let us know in the comments and we’ll update accordingly.

Lyft

We’ve found two Lyft partnerships that you can sign up for as a rider, and one driver promotion as well. Check your Connected Services page while logged into Lyft to see if you’re already registered.

JetBlue (Lyft, JetBlue) offers 30 TrueBlue points for every airport ride you take with Lyft. Incidentally, rides near an airport may count; we’ve seen a number of Las Vegas Strip rides report the 30 point credit in the app, even going from hotel to hotel, although this may only apply if one of your ride endpoints is adjacent to the airport (i.e. Mandalay Bay complex).

Delta (Lyft, Delta) offers 1 Delta SkyMile per dollar spent on rides, and through November 1, 2017, 3 SkyMiles per dollar on airport rides.

Shell Fuel Rewards (Lyft, Fuel Rewards) has a special offering for Lyft Drivers only (not riders). If you’re in the driver’s seat for Lyft, this one will be worth looking into, but for riders/travelers, it’s not so useful.

Uber

We’ve found two Uber partnerships that you can sign up for, and two you may already be getting. Check your Rider Profile page to see if you’re already connected.

Starwood Preferred Guest (Uber, Starwood) lets you earn 1 Starpoint per $2 spent with Uber anytime, and 2 Starpoints per $1 spent with Uber during a Starwood stay. There is a catch, in that you have to have one qualifying Starwood stay before the points promo will be effective. Also, it appears that only paid nights on “eligible rates” qualify to activate the promotion.

American Express Platinum (Uber, Amex) also offers a valuable Uber benefit, as long as you have a Platinum charge card linked to your account (you don’t even have to pay for rides with it). As of Summer 2017, Amex Platinum cardmembers receive $15/mo in Uber credits, with a $20 December bonus (or $35 total for December), as an automatic benefit of the expanded annual fee. Uber VIP status is also granted where available. See our earlier coverage of the Platinum changes, and remember that Platinum *credit* cards like the Delta cards do *not* count for this benefit.

American Express Membership Rewards offers 2x MR points on Uber rides charged to an eligible American Express card that earns MR points, or you can use points to pay for an Uber ride. The earning is a better deal, in that your Uber redemption is only 1 cent per MR point. But you can choose on each ride when you apply an eligible Amex card.

VISA Local Offers (Uber, VISA) is also worth a look. This is a program that is tied to specific credit cards, and if you use a card registered with Local Offers at a venue offering the promotion, you are eligible for a credit to your Uber account based on spend at the venue. We’re not seeing this option in our app though, so your mileage may vary (or we may have already registered for it).

Credit card travel benefits may apply

Remember that some credit cards offer promotional bonuses for travel expenses including rideshare spend.

Cards like Discover, Chase Freedom, and the like offer quarterly categories that may include ground transportation, but you’ll need to register each quarter and keep track of the categories. It doesn’t look like Discover or Chase have any ground transportation promos for the rest of 2017 though, but check again in December.

Capital One has been known to offer promos with their Quicksilver cards.

Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred have a year-round bonus earn for travel spend (see right) which generally includes taxis and rideshares.

And of course, cashback cards are a reasonable option if you don’t have a better option, especially those like Citi Double Cash that offer a flat 2% back.

Did we miss any tips and tricks that you’ve used to optimize your rideshare benefits? Share in the comments and we’ll investigate and update appropriately.

Disclosure: All offers are valid as of September 5, 2017, as noted; no links in this post (above this disclosure) as of September 5 are affiliate or referral links. If you do still need to sign up for Lyft (RSTS11TRAVEL) or Uber (DHOVJ), you can use the codes/links  just mentioned, or the links at our Support Rsts11Travel page.

Travel tips for Cisco Live (and other summer Las Vegas conferences)

[See disclosure/disclaimer at the end if you’re into those things.]

Many of our readers will be headed to Las Vegas over the next couple of months. Whether it’s InteropITX, Cisco Live, VMworld, or something else, you may be curious about the quickest way to optimize your rewards and your stay while you’re there.

While reading all the other posts on rsts11travel would be the most thorough way to learn your way around Vegas, we figured we’d put together a unified list of things to do and think about as you head to what will be Tech City for much of the summer.

Continue reading “Travel tips for Cisco Live (and other summer Las Vegas conferences)”

A week of rsts11travel, and what’s to come

Hi folks. Thanks for coming back to rsts11travel. We’ve just entered week two, with a new site theme, and there’s plenty more to come this month.
powercore10000Our inaugural giveaway is complete, with visitor Elizabeth winning the Anker Powercore 10000 charging bank. Congratulations to Elizabeth and thanks to everyone who participated (over 8000 of you!). Watch for future, more targeted giveaways on the blog as we go.

The promised posts about mobile power and coffee on the go are in art edit now. They’ll be posted later this week. Watch our Facebook page for opportunites to get involved in future topics. And always feel free to make requests or comments here on the blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

We’d also like to point you toward our ‘support rsts11travel‘ page. There are a few affiliate links there that help us fund our active research. We are trying to keep the blog focused on the content and not the ads, of course.

Finally, for the technologists among our readers, remember the original rsts11.com blog is still out there. Some fresh content around networking and home lab gear, as well as a likely Peloton bike review, is coming to rsts11 in the next month or so.

Thanks for your support of this new venture, and we’ll see you on the road soon!

Welcome to rsts11travel.com

Greetings, and happy new year.

sylvester-1818861_1920

We are proud to launch rsts11travel.com, the RSTS11 travel blog. For now it will be a category within rsts11.com but that may change.

The goal for this sub-blog is to cover some travel-specific topics outside of tech, so that even friends and readers who aren’t technophiles or thought leaders or the like will be able to benefit from some of my adventures. Guest posts are a possibility; if you’d like to share a guest post let us know.

Watch for three Las Vegas-themed posts in the next week to start things with a pop. On the board to round out January 2017 are a mobile power post and a mobile caffeine post.

Continue reading “Welcome to rsts11travel.com”