BUDGET TRAVEL BLOG

Dream Honeymoons that Don't Break the Bank

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If you are getting married,
a survey of 2,000 newlyweds suggests you may be more excited about your honeymoon than the wedding itself!

  • 67% look forward to the honeymoon MORE than the wedding.
  • 84% would skimp on their wedding if it meant a fancier honeymoon

CNN Money found the average wedding costs $28K. When you consider many newlyweds are early in their careers where salaries aren’t as high as they one day will be, it’s no surprise many feel they may need to scale back on their honeymoon.

Truth is... you don’t need to toss your budget out the window to have a dream honeymoon, nor do you need to skimp on your wedding to make it economical.

CLICK HERE to see me on Breakfast TV discussing ways to have a Dream Honeymoon that doesn’t break the bank, or read on for extra details below:

                                           


Agreeing on a Destination
A fun way to narrow your list of honeymoon destinations is to have your
fiancé and yourself try
this Honeymoon & Romantic Survey and share your results. The survey suggests honeymoon destinations that align to your travel type.

Registries
Wedding registries were traditionally used to help newlyweds settle into their new home. Today, couples live together long before they get married, and already have pots, pans, toasters and blenders.

Instead, use your registry to fund your honeymoon. 
Honeyfund.com for example is a crowdfunding platform specializing in honeymoons and you might have seen this website on Shark Tank where Shark Kevin O’Leary invested in the company.                                


W
hat's great about Honey Fund is that it enables you to extend your reach beyond your wedding party to everyone in your social network. Their biggest success story comes from a Chicago couple who funded a full year trip-around-the-world for their honeymoon.

There is no charge to setup a basic crowdfunding profile, but you can add some bells and whistles to your profile for a small fee. Honey Fund retains a small percentage of the donations made a service fee which is how they make their money. (Of course, if Kevin O’Leary is investing, they must be making money).

In Canada, you can setup a honeymoon registry with 
FlightCentre.ca you can use toward a Flight Centre vacation (Click here for registry details). People can donate to your registry online, by phone, and at any Flight Centre store:

 

Inexpensive 5-Star Resorts
When it comes to destinations, this Price of Travel survey ranked the top 100+ cities with the least expensive 5-star resorts, and ranked Bali, Indonesia at the top of the list. With lavish 5-star resorts available for as little at $24/night U.S. Bali is a place where you can have 5-star accommodations on a 2-star budget.

Consider Low Currency Countries
Whatever you want to get out of your honeymoon, look for destinations that offer those things in low currency countries.

Let’s say you want to go to the tropics, much of the Caribbean is pegged to the U.S. dollar. Alternatively, South East Asia has just as amazing tropical islands and counties there have the lowest valued currencies of any place you will visit in the world. In Vietnam, the U.S. dollar will earn you 15K Vietnamese Dong which has miles of white sandy beaches and rock formations similar to those you will find in Thailand.

For more ways to stretch your travel dollar in low currency countries, 
CLICK HERE to see me share my favorite Inexpensive Alternatives to Top U.S. Travel Destinations on Breakfast TV.

Leverage your Wedding Costs to Fund your Honeymoon
I often preach you can multiply your savings by using leverage. So what can newlyweds leverage? The cost of the wedding of course! Some online retailers offer big time travel points (as many as 15 points per dollar spent) to lure you from brick-and-mortar stores. You can buy almost anything you need for a wedding online from rings, dresses, invitations, photo albums and even flowers.

To see which online stores have the best promotions, you can browse point promotions at
EVreward.com:

                                                                

 This is how I learned that a few times a year, shop.ca offers 15 Aeroplan points per dollar spent:
                              

 
By purchasing 10K of wedding expenses during this promotion, you will earn 150K points, enough for two economy round trip tickets anywhere in the world. Shop.ca does not announce these promotions in advance, so the best way to keep current is to sign up to their newsletter, and you will get an email notifying you of every promotion.

Credit Card Travel Benefits
All travel is booked online so you have to have a credit card. Since major travel operators all partner with credit cards that offer travel benefits, you can use these benefits offset your honeymoon expenses.

My favorite credit card benefit for honeymooners is the Companion Pass that entitles you to bring a guest with you on one a round-trip flight every year. Terms and conditions vary by card, but the companion pass generally requires you to pay a fixed rate to redeem it, it usually only applies to economy fares, and does not cover surcharges or taxes.

Cards with Companion Pass Benefits:
  • The Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Reserve cards (U.S.) have a hefty $195 annual fee, but come with a plethora of travel benefits including a free annual companion pass, free checked bag, priority boarding and discounts on in-flight purchases.
  • Alaska Airlines has credit cards with Visa (U.S.) and MBNA (Canada) come with an annual companion pass you can redeem for $121.
  • Westjet RBC World Elite Master Card (Canada): Companion fare varies from $99 in Canada and Continental U.S. to $399 to for London.
  • Lufthansa Premier Miles & More Barclaycard Mastercard (U.S): comes with an annual companion pass benefit for round-trip flights crossing the Atlantic. A weekend surcharge fee may apply. CLICK HERE for full details.
                                   

For more information about credit card travel benefits, CLICK HERE and scroll down to ‘Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses.’

Indulge Selectively
Take a moment to think about what you are willing to compromise, so you don’t need to skimp on what you want most. In other words, pinch your budget where it doesn’t hurt, so that you don’t need to pinch it where it does.

Finally – Don’t forget to mention it’s your honeymoon! People tend to soften up when they know it’s your honeymoon, and you might just return to your room to find a complimentary bottle of bubbly and chocolates.


CLICK HERE to see me on Breakfast TV in Montreal discussing ways to have a Dream Honey Moon that Doesn’t Break the Bank: 

                                      

Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, America Tonight, CBS, CTV, CBC, the National Post, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows.

He is also the author of amazon.ca Budget Travel #1 Best Seller ‘Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less' available at
stopdreamingstarttraveling.com


FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the Best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight' at breakthetravelbarrier.com.

What Airlines Do With Lost Luggage

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Ever lost your luggage?
 Whether your suitcase failed to make its way to the carousel, or you left your sunglasses in the seat pocket, before you write them off as lost, there's one last place to check. You might be surprised to learn there is a place where all airlines in the United States send lost and unclaimed baggage and items left on planes.

Find out what happens to all lost luggage that goes unclaimed:



How it Works...
Laws require that airlines spend 90 days trying to reunite lost and unclaimed baggage with their owner. This does not apply to carry on bags and items left on board, as airlines are not responsible for unchecked items. You will be relieved to learn that 99.5% of lost bags are successfully reunited with their owner. In fact, 90% of them are returned within 48 hours, meaning the more time goes by, the less likely you are to get your luggage back.

Once 90 days pass, airlines generally come to a financial settlement with the customer. Once a settlement has been reached, bags found after that technically belong to the airline, but they often still try to return them. In these cases, owners sometimes deny owning them either because they have illegal (and incriminating) goods packed, or they sometimes overstate the value of their luggage during their settlement.


So Where Does Lost Airline Luggage Go?
Airlines are not in the business of managing lost luggage, which is where the Unclaimed Baggage Center saw an amazing opportunity. They signed exclusive contracts with all major U.S. airlines to purchase all their unclaimed luggage and abandoned carry on items.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is a super sized 40,000 sqft warehouse located in Scottsboro, Alabama, located 45 minutes east of the charming town of Huntsville (aka the Rocket City). It is one of Alabama's top tourist attractions, drawing over 1 million visitors annually.

What Do They Do With All This Lost Luggage?
Every day at 2:30pm, the Unclaimed Baggage Center puts on a demonstration where they open suitcases and show how they sort all items into one of three piles:

  • Garbage
  • Donate
  • To be cleaned

The best items make their way into the cleaning pile, which are put up for sale once cleaned. Electronics are also erased per privacy protection regulations, so don't worry about someone walking out with your long lost iPhone with access to your social media and bank accounts. 

What Can I Expect to Find?

Don't confuse the Unclaimed Baggage Center with a second hand store. Unlike thrift stores that sell worn looking clothing and dated items that people voluntarily parted with, the merchandise in the Unclaimed Baggage Center were people's best clothes for their vacation or business trip and involuntarily parted from them. You'll find designer clothes, luxury footwear, cameras, iPods, books (including bibles - possibly taken from hotels?), toys, musical instruments and of course, suitcases.

Most Plentiful Items: Electronic accessories (namely chargers).

Fastest Selling Items: Smartphones and tablets.

Hidden Jems: If you watched the video, Kayla from the Unclaimed Baggage Center spoke about treasures stocked at their store. These include lost art, jewelry (including wedding bands) and wedding dresses.

A Few Things to Know
Prices range between 20-80% below retail, averaging 40% off MSRP. The store does not sell merchandise online, so you have to visit the store in person to buy things. It is located at 509 West Willow Street in Scottsboro, AL., and their website is unclaimedbaggage.com

     *PS: Share this with anyone you know who's lost their luggage while flying.

WANT MORE? Sign up to our newsletter at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com for all this and more:
 - FREE GUIDE: Beat the Best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight
 - 99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping

If you've ever lost your luggage, share your story below.


Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He's been on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight with Kate Delaney, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. Russell has appeared at the New York Times Travel Show, the Travel & Adventure Show, and is the author of 'Stop Dreaming... Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less' available at
StopDreamingStartTraveling.com.


Leverage Business Travel to Fund Personal Trips

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This Fortune survey says 46% of business travelers extend business trips for personal time and 54% occasionally bring a partner, friend, spouse or kids. Vacation-starved business travelers are reclaiming work-life balance by mixing business with pleasure, and are stretching their travel dollar at the same time.

When leveraged properly, business travel can afford you a travel lifestyle that might otherwise be unattainable. In my early corporate audit days, I stockpiled hundreds of thousands of points and traveled inexpensively by:                                  

  • Paying business expenses on a personal credit card, and later getting reimbursed by the company. 
  • Enrolling to the loyalty program of every travel operator I stayed with.
  • Extending business trips by a few days to explore the area on my own dime. 

These strategies earned me more than 20 FREE trips and elite status with a number of travel operators. 

      CLICK HERE to hear me discuss how to do this on Corporate Talk with Charlie & Eva.
                                               
                                                  


If you work for a large company
, chances are your employer has a corporate travel agent that books business trips for all the employees at preferred corporate rates. These companies often encourage you to book your personal travel through your corporate travel agency entitling you to:   
  • Paying business expenses with my personal credit card, and later getting reimbursed by the company. 
  • Corporate rates that average 10-15% off hotels.
  • Flexible terms to cancel or make changes at reasonable fees.

If you have a professional designation, you likely have to earn continuing education credits on an ongoing basis to maintain your standing. A great way to piggy back your vacation with your conference is to lookup your association’s event calendar and look for conferences scheduled in cities you would also like to visit. The best time to bring this up with your boss is the year prior to the conference so that the funds can be budgeted.

If your company won't cover the cost of traveling to your conference, you might be able to at least claim the cost as a deductible expense. Seek the expertise of a tax professional for your specific situation.

If you travel for work, the easiest and most effective way to stockpile travel rewards for personal use is to pay your business expenses with a personal credit card that offers points/miles per dollar spent, and later have your company reimburse you for the expenses. Some company policies require you to use a company issued credit card, but will still reimburse you for occasional business expenses charged to your personal card.

My favorite credit cards are those that offer at least three of the benefits below in addition to points/miles per dollar
spent:
  • A sign-up bonus of at least one free round-trip flight, or two hotel nights 
  • No annual fee the first year
  • Free checked-bag benefit or companion pass
  • Waived foreign transaction fees
  • Car rental collision insurance
  • Trip Cancelation Insurance

         Click Here to browse the top travel rewards credit cards.

     

    If you are a small business owner, imagine how many points you could stockpile by charging your payroll to a credit card that offers points per dollar spent. Jeff Young from Payroll by Credit Card explains you can do exactly that by having a third party middleman charge your credit card and transfer the funds to your payroll account.

    But
    be warned, you will have to absorb any credit card vendor charges which range from 1.5 - 3% of the transaction value. Costs measured as a percentage balloon quickly when dealing with six and seven figure payrolls.


    Before purchasing global travel insurance, check to see if your medical benefits offered through your employer extend includes global coverage.



    CLICK HERE for an article I was quoted in on how to Piggyback your Vacation on your Next Business Trip.


    Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, America Tonight, CBS, CTV, CBC, the National Post, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote ‘Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less.’

    FREE GUIDE: Download ‘Beat the Best Online Fare – Every Time, Every Flight’ at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com

    Dream, Plan, Book your Next Trip at a Travel Show

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    The most exciting new year's resolution people are talking about is to travel more!
    If this describes you, this is a great time to dream, plan and book your next trip as travel show season is about to kick-off where you can:

    • Meet hundreds of destinations, tourism bureaus and travel operators.
    • See the biggest names in travel speak from the stage.
    • Learn how to travel easier, safer, smarter and cheaper.
    • Book a trip on the spot at specially discounted travel show-only rates.

    Travel Show Calendar
    San Diego Travel and Adventure Show, Jan 13 - 14
    DC Travel and Adventure Show, Jan 20 - 21
    New York Times Travel Show, Jan 26 - 28
    Boston Globe Travel Show, Feb 9 - 11
    ChicagoTravel and Adventure Show, Feb 10 - 11
    San Francisco Bay Area Travel and Adventure Show, Feb 17 - 18
    Toronto Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show, Feb 23 - 25
    Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show, Feb. 24 - 25
    Vancouver Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show, Mar 3 - 4
    Philadelphia Travel and Adventure Show, Mar 10 - 11
    Ottawa Travel and Vacation Show, Mar 17 - 18
    Dallas Travel and Adventure Show, Mar 17 - 18
    Calgary Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show, Mar 24 - 25
    Denver Travel and Adventure Show, Mar 24 - 25
    Edmonton Travel Show, May 5
    Montreal International Tourism and Travel Show, Oct 19 - 21
    Minneapolis Star Tribune Vacation & Travel Experience, Nov 10 - 11


    Still paying off your last trip? Are you holding off on booking your next trip due to the cost?; If so, you need to see my acclaimed talk '99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping' at any of the following events - use the promo code provided for a discount on admission:
    • Boston Globe Travel Show, Feb 9 - 11, Seaport World Trade Center.
    • San Francisco Bay Area Travel and Adventure Show, Feb 17 - 18, Santa Clara Convention Center. 
    • Philadelphia Travel and Adventure Show, Mar 10 - 11, Pennsylvania Convention Centre. Get $5 OFF admission when you buy your tickets here.
    • Denver Travel and Adventure Show, Mar 25 - 26, Colorado Convention Center. Get $5 OFF admission when you buy your tickets here using the promo code RUSSELL.



    Most speakers cover 10-12 strategies during a talk, so you might be wondering how I can possibly pack 99 tips into a 45-minute talk. I don't want to spoil the surprise...but I am giddy at how much you are going to take away from my speech.

    Each talk will be followed with a book signing for my budget travel bestseller 'Stop Dreaming... Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less', and will be answering questions at the on-site bookstore:

    Hope to See You at a Travel Show Near You!


    Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote 'Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less'.

    Fly Away

    Find Your Next Trip at the Travel and Adventure Show

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    Pondering where to travel in 2018? There's no better place to dream, plan, and book your next vacation than at the Travel & Adventure Show - the biggest series of travel shows in the United States.



    Better Yet - If cost is keeping you from taking your dream trip, or you find yourself returning from trips to huge credit card bills,
     I'll be giving my acclaimed talk '99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping' at following Travel and Adventure Shows:

    • Philadelphia, Mar 10-11, Pennsylvania Convention Center. Get $5 OFF admission when you buy your tickets here.
    • Denver, Mar 24 - 25, Colorado Convention Center. Get $5 OFF admission when you buy your tickets here and use the promo code RUSSELL.
    Here's a glimpse of what I'll be talking about and I also tease highlights the Denver Show: 

                                        

    Most talks offer 10-12 strategies, so you might be wondering how I can possibly pack 99 tips into 45 minutes. I don't want to spoil the surprise...but I am giddy at how much you are going to take away from my speech. All I'll say is my latest talk in the San Francisco Bay Area was packed with all seats and standing room taken:


    Each talk will be followed with a book signing for my budget travel bestseller 'Stop Dreaming... Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less'
    and I will be answering questions at the on-site bookstore:




    See you at a Travel and Adventure Show Near You!

    Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote 'Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less'.

    Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards 2018

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    Still using THAT card?
    Odds are you're leaving points on the table.

    According to CreditCards.com, 31 million Americans haven't changed credit cards in more than a decade - two thirds of them still use their first credit card. If that describes you, you're missing out on a bonanza of free flights, complimentary travel incidentals, VIP benefits and perks big banks dole out to entice you to sign-up to their credit cards. The latest up-and-coming benefit; an annual travel incidental credit you can apply against any incidentals fees charged to your card. 

    Sign-up bonuses aren't as generous as they once were, but the sign-up incentives alone offered by the credit cards in the chart below add up to 28 free round-trip flights and a dozen free hotel stays. Every year, I earn a few free trips this way, and in the following video, I share how I did this to pull off a trip for taxes only:


                      


    FINDING THE BEST CARD FOR YOU

    To quickly find which credit cards offer the best overall value to you:

    1. Decide which benefits are most valuable to you.
    2. Filter the following list of cards down to those that offer the best combination of those benefits. (You must be a U.S. resident for the cards below. If you are Canadian click here for cards that apply to you).
    Due to space restrictions in the chart, insurance benefits were not inserted. But you can review any card's insurance benefits by clicking 'APPLY' and reading the insurance benefits on their homepage:

    FLIGHT REWARDS - U.S. RESIDENTS

    Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
    AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite
    Yes 60K Must spend 3K in 3mths Yes on AA domestic flights No Yes No
    Alaska Airlines Signature
    No $75 30K Yes Annual pass from $121 Yes No
    AMEX Delta SkyMiles Platinum
    No $195 10K Must spend 25K/yr Yes Yes $75 max Yes Yes $29
    AMEX Gold Delta Skymiles
    Yes 30K Must spend 1K in 3mths Yes No No Delta Skyclub access discount
    AMEX Platinum
    No $550 60K Must spend 5K in 3mths $200/yr travel credit + $15mth Uber credit No No No
    AMEX Premier Rewards Gold
    Yes 50K Must spend $2K in 3mths $100/yr credit for airline fees No Yes No
    Barclay Arrival+
    Yes 40K Must spend 3K in 3 mths No No Yes No
    BoA Premium Rewards
    No $95 50K Must spend 3k in 3mths $100 annual travel credit No Yes No
    British Airways Signature
    No $95 75K Spend 3K in 3mths + 10K/1yr No Yes Must spend 30K in 1/yr Yes No
    Capital One Venture
    Yes 50K Must spend 3K in 3 mths No No Yes No
    Chase Ink Business Preferred
    No $95 80K Must spend 5K in 3 mths No No Yes No
    Chase Sapphire Preferred
    Yes 50K Must spend 4K in 3mths No No Yes No
    Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
    No $99 40K Must spend 1K in 3mths FREE to check bags 1yr unltd. after 110Kpts or 100flights /yr Yes No
    United Mileage Plus Explorer
    Yes 50K Must spend $3K in 3mths Yes No Yes No
    United MileagePlus Club
    No $450 50K Must spend 3K in 3mths Yes No Yes Yes

    HOTEL REWARDS - U.S. RESIDENTS

    Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
    AMEX Hilton Honors
    No annual fee 50K Must spend 1K in 3mths No No No No
    AMEX Hilton Honors Surpass
    $95 ($75 till 01-18-18) 75K Must spend 3K in 3mths No No Yes No
    AMEX SPG
    Yes 25K Must spend 3K in 3mths No No Yes + FREE premium internet No
    Chase Hyatt
    Yes 40K Must spend 2K in 3mths + 1 FREE ngt/yr No No Yes No
    Choice Privileges Signature
    Yes 32K + 1 FREE ngt/yr No No No No
    Marriott Rewards Premier
    No $85 80K must spend 3K in 3mths + 1 FREE ngt/yr No No No No
    Ritz- Carlton Rewards
    No $450 2 FREE ngts must spend 4K in 3mths $300 annual travel credit $100 OFF multi flier bookings Yes Yes

    MAXIMIZE YOUR POINTS

    You should also factor how many points your card earns for everyday purchases. Most cards offer bonus points for purchases made at certain stores in addition to bonus points (or point multipliers) for purchases at select restaurants, with certain travel operators and for gas.

    To accelerate your points earnings:
    • Use your credit card for all everyday purchases so long as you pay off your balance each billing cycle. Otherwise, the interest you pay on outstanding balances will erode the value of points you earn. *A secret way to charge rent, tuition and income tax payments to your credit card is to pay those bills with a Plastiq account linked to your credit card.
    • Sign-up to two or more cards. I recommend traveling with two credit cards (especially when traveling alone). Leave one in your bags as a spare in case anything happens to your primary card.

    To collect your sign-up bonus, you are usually required to first charge a pre-defined dollar value to your card within a set number of billing cycles. This is referred to as minimum spend, and the minimum spend requirement varies by card. Most cards that come with an annual fee require to to spend $3,000 within three months of activating your card. Prestige and business cards tend to offer more enticing sign-up bonuses, but they come with higher annual fees and higher minimum spend requirements.


    AVOID FEES

    Any credit card with generous benefits comes with an annual fee. Some cards waive this fee for your first year upon subscribing, but you might not know how to have this fee waived when it comes due for renewal on your card's anniversary:
    1. Call your credit card company and ask them to cancel your card.
    2. They'll try to keep you from canceling by offering to either waive your renewal fee or give you points for keeping your card active.
    You should make this call every year before your card comes due for renewal - you'll be amazed how often it works!
     

    Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote 'Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less' available at stopdreamingstarttaveling.com.


    FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight at breakthetravelbarrier.com    


    Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards in Canada 2018

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    If you've been using the same travel rewards credit card for years
    , odds are you can get better value from another one. A creditcards.com survey found 21 million people never change credit cards, and 32 million more have been using the same credit card for 10 or more years. In most cases, without a thought as to whether other cards may have benefits that better suit their needs.

    Credit card companies offer big time incentives to get their cards into your hands offering everything from free flights and hotel nights, to elite status, airport lounge access, companion flight passes, free checked-bags, insurance coverage, waived fees and more. 

    In the ever-changing world of credit card travel rewards, one of the newer benefits is an annual credit you can apply to any of a number of travel incidental charges to your credit card. If you've been blindly loyal to your current card, it's unlikely that you've assessed whether this flexible benefit could better meet your needs. 

    Although credit card sign-up bonuses in Canada are not as lucrative as those in the U.S., you can still stockpile more than a dozen round trip flights and a few free hotel nights from the sign-up bonuses offered by the credit cards listed below. As a Canadian, I earn a handful of free trips each year using this strategy alone, and I explain how ridiculously easy it is to do in this video:




    Choosing a Card

    With so many travel credit cards to choose from, here's an easy way to narrow which cards offer the best bang for your card:

    1. Pick three travel benefits that are of most value to you.
    2. Shortlist cards that offer all three benefits (Just a few cards will offer all three)

    To quickly do this, the following list of my favourite travel credit cards for Canadians shows each card's key benefits (Insurance benefits are excluded from the chart for simplicity as the many details cannot easily fit). To review a card's insurance benefits, click 'Apply' beneath that card's picture to view them on their website:

    FLIGHT REWARDS - CANADIAN RESIDENTS

    Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
    Alaska Airlines
    No $75 25K No Yes 1 annually for $121 No No
    AMEX Business Gold Rewards
    Yes 30K Must spend 5K in 3mths No No No No
    AMEX Cobalt
    No Up to 40K No No No No
    AMEX Gold Rewards
    No 25K Must spend $1,500 in 3mths No No No No
    AMEX Platinum
    No $699 50K Must spend 3K in 3mths $200 yearly travel credit No No Yes
    AMEX Scotia Bank Gold
    Yes 25K Must spend $1K in 3mths No No No No
    BMO Air Miles World Elite
    Yes 3000 Air Miles No Yes No Yes Priority Pass
    BMO World Elite
    Yes 20K No No No Yes Priority Pass
    RBC British Airways Infinite
    No $165 $50K spend 5K in 2mths & keep for 1yr No Yes Must charge 30K in 1yr No No
    TD 1st Class Travel Infinite
    Yes 50K Must spend 1K in 3mths No No No No
    TD Aeroplan Infinite
    No $120 15K given on 1st charge Yes AC Rewards Flight Only 1/yr AC Rewards Flight Only No Once Annually on Air Canada Rewards Flight Only
    Westjet RBC World Elite
    No $99 $250 flight credit Yes Yes 1 annual guest pass for $99 No No

    HOTEL REWARDS - CANADIAN RESIDENTS

    Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
    AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest
    No $120 20K Must spend $1,500 in 3 mths No No No No
    Best Western Rewards
    No annual fee 20K Must use card once No No no No

    Managing your Cards

    Some cards offer point multipliers on purchases made from specific vendors in addition to charges for fuel, restaurants and travel purchases. If you have multiple cards (and I recommend you do, and that you keep them in different places in case you lose one), you should know before you make any purchase which card will yield the most points for that specific purchase.

    To fast track your points earnings, charge everything you can to your credit cards to earn points per dollar spend as long as you can afford to pay your credit card balance in full each month. If not, any interest you pay will more than offset the value of any points you earn.  You can even double dip by charging purchases to vendors that offer points (like Air Miles) for purchases.

    Sign-up Bonuses

    To collect a sign-up bonus, you generally have to charge a pre-set amount to your credit card within a certain timeframe. This is called 'minimum spend'. Terms vary by card which require on average $3,000 in charges in the first three billing cycles. Business and platinum cards offer bigger sign-up bonuses and have higher minimum spend thresholds. Here are some tips to help you meet your minimum spend requirements:

    1. Don't apply for another card until you have met your current card's minimum spend requirement.
    2. Charge everything to your credit card as long as you can pay the balance in full each month. *A secret way to charge rent, tuition or income tax payments to your credit card is to use the PayTM app which links to your credit card. It has a $1,500/day payment cap.
    3. If you travel for work, charge all work-related travel expenses to your credit card, and have your employer reimburse you for those expenses to collect points for dollars spent on business travel.

    Annual Fees

    Most travel credit cards worth having charge an annual fee. Some cards waive this fee for the first year to lure you to sign-up, but a little known way to avoid paying annual fee on subsequent years is to call customer service shortly before your card's anniversary date, and say you want to cancel your card. Agents almost always try to keep you by offering to waive the annual fee or offer free points as an incentive to stay. 



    Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX,, CBS, America Tonight, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote 'Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less' available at 
    stopdreamingstarttaveling.com.


    FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight at breakthetravelbarrier.com    

    Economical Winter Escapes

    READ MORE


     
    Still paying off your summer vacation?
     Holding off on booking a winter escape due to the cost? If so read on because you are in the right place.

    Truth is, your last trip likely cost you five times more than it needed to. That's because travel is an industry that charges five times the local cost of living. For example, an average 3-star hotel goes for $160/night, compared to a one-bedroom apartment in the same area that rents out for $900/month (or $30/night). If you stay in that hotel, you are paying five times more than the local does who lives there. The same applies when you eating out three times a day while traveling, as it adds up to five times your at-home grocery bill. 


    CLICK HERE for my CBC interview on finding winter travel deals.


    Overwater Bungalows                                  
    Think overwater bungalows are beyond your travel budget? Rates at the AVANI Sepang Gold Coast resort in Kuala Lampur are as low as $102 CDN/night ($80 U.S.):





    All-Inclusive Resorts                                
    Seeking the tropics? PriceofTravel.com ranked the 17 cheapest all-inclusive resort towns in the Caribbean, and found Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic to be the cheapest. For details on all 17 destinations click here



    Cruise Deals

    To quickly find amazing cruise deals
    cruisesheet.com scours the best online cruise deals and posts the best ones on their website. I also recommend cruisecritic.com which 
    is the most comprehensive online resource for 'everything cruises' including tips, reviews, ship descriptions, sailing routes and destination information.


    My top money saving cruise tips
    are laid out in the article 'Cruising on a Budget - How to Find the Best Deals & Make the Most of your Next Vacation' which is sure to save you money and help you get the most out of your next cruise. This is the most in-depth  cruising article I've contributed to with fellow contributors Colleen McDaniel (Cruise Critic), and Tanner Callais of Cruizely.com.




    Best Day to Book Winter Travel
                                        
    Cyber Monday stands out above others for great winter travel deals. It falls on the Monday following U.S. thanksgiving, and i the online equivalent of Black Friday. This is HUGE for travel because all travel is booked online. My favorite Cyber Monday deals include 50% off at Atlantis Bahamas and 90% OFF hotels booked on Expedia's app. 

    To browse my favorite Cyber Monday Travel Deals Click Here. Y
    ou should also visit your favorite travel websites and those of any hotels/resorts that interest you as they may post Cyber Monday deals on their homepage. 


    Cheap Destinations with Great Winter Weather                            

    If your vacation dates are set, and you are up in the air on where to go, I met Roger Wade of PriceofTravel.com who was a fellow speaker at TBEX - a conference for travel bloggers. Roger specializes in making lists of cheapest travel options, and he broke down the cheapest destinations with great weather by month. Simply click the article for the month you plan to travel, and shortlist the destinations that interest you most:


    Discount Airlines                              
    A new website making an impression with amazing flight deals is Insanelycheapflights.com which boasts jaw dropping deals on their homepage. The website has has a search feature you can use to find the best fares specific to your desired route.

    In the U.S., I love Southwest for it's combination of inexpensive flights and being the last 'big' airline to not charge checked bag fees.

    Visiting Europe or Iceland? WOW air is an Icelandic discount airline selling one-way flights between Europe and the United States/Canada from $99 - $150 (tax included) with a free stopover option in Reykjavik. You can fly to 24 European cities from either Boston, New York City, DC, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto or Montreal.

    Speaking of Canada (one of the most expensive countries to fly in), 
    Flair Airlines (formerly GoNewLeaf) is Canada's first ultra-low fare airline. But there is a caveat:
    • You cannot book flights as far out as with major carriers.
    • Routes have limited fly days and generally only have one flight to chose from per route per day.
    • Checked bag fees are higher than with major carriers. 
    • Overhead bin storage costs range from $31 to $92. Bags that fit under the seat are free.

    Gojumpon.com allows you to bid what you are willing to pay to fly on empty seats on Flair Airlines. This is feasible if you are flexible and have time constraints because the way it works is that if your bid is accepted, you are only notified 48 hours prior to the flight's departure time.


    CLICK HERE for my CBC interview on finding winter travel deals.


    Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote 'Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less' available at stopdreamingstarttraveling.com


    FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com