BUDGET TRAVEL BLOG

Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards Canada 2019

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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?
AMEX Business Gold Rewards
No 30K Min spend 5K in 3mths No No No No
AMEX Cobalt
No Up to 30K No No No No
AMEX Gold Rewards
No 25K min spend $1,500 in 3mths No No No No
AMEX Platinum
No $699 50K min spend 3K in 3mths $200 yearly travel credit No No Yes
BMO Air Miles World Elite
Yes 3000 Air Miles No Yes No Yes Priority Pass
BMO World Elite
Yes 35K No No No Yes Lounge Key
MBNA Alaska Airlines
No $75 25K No Yes 1 annually for $121 No No
RBC British Airways Infinite
No $165 $50K spend 5K in 2mths & keep for 1yr No Yes must charge 30K in 1yr No No
RBC Westjet World Elite
No $119 $250 flight credit Yes 1 guest pass/yr $99 No Yes Lounge Key
TD 1st Class Travel Infinite
Sometimes conditions apply 40K min spend 1K in 3mths No No No No
TD Aeroplan Infinite
No $120 15K Yes on rewards flights only 1 per year 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 50K min spend $1,500 in 3 mths 1 FREE ngt/yr No No No
MBNA Best Western Rewards
No annual fee 20K 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    

Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards 2019

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According to CreditCards.com, 31 million Americans haven't changed credit cards in more than a decade - and two thirds are still using their first credit card. If this 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?
AMEX Delta SkyMiles Platinum
No $195 10K per $25K charged, max 20K miles yr Yes Yes $75 max Yes SkyClub $29/Visit
AMEX Gold Delta Skymiles
Yes 35K min spend 1K in 3mths Yes No Yes SkyClub access for $29
AMEX Platinum
No $550 60K min spend 5K in 3mths $200/yr travel credit No No 15mth Uber credit
AMEX Premier Rewards Gold
Yes 50K min spend $2K in 3mths $100 credit/yr *See Terms No Yes No
Barclaycard Arrival Plus Word Elite
Yes 70K min spend 5K in 3 mths No No Yes No
Barclaycard Lufthansa Miles & More
$50K min spend 5K in 3mths Yes 1 per year Yes Yes 2x/year
Barclays Hawaiian Airlines World Elite
No $99 50K min spend $3K in 3 mths Yes $100 OFF 1 guest tkt/yr Yes No
BoA Alaska Airlines Signature
No $75 30K Yes Annual pass fr. $121 Yes No
BoA Premium Rewards
No $95 50K min spend 3k in 3mths $100/yr travel credit No Yes No
Capital One Venture
Yes 50K min spend 3K in 3 mths No No Yes No
Chase British Airways Signature
No $95 100K min spend 20K in 12 mths No Yes min spend 30K/yr Yes No
Chase Ink Business Preferred
No $95 80K min spend 5K in 3 mths No No Yes No
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Yes 50K min spend 4K in 3mths No No Yes No
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
No $99 60K min spend 12K in 12mths FREE to check bags 1yr unlmtd need 110Kpts or 100 flights /yr Yes No
Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer
Yes 50K min spend $3K in 3mths Yes No Yes No
Chase United MileagePlus Club
No $450 50K min spend 3K in 3mths Yes No Yes Yes United Club
Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite
Yes 50K Min spend 6K in 12mths Yes - domestic flights No Yes No

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 100K min spend 1K in 3mths No No Yes No
AMEX Hilton Honors Ascend
$95 150K min spend 3K in 3mths 1 wknd ngt/yr, 15K min spend No Yes No
AMEX SPG
Yes 75K min spend 3K in 3mths 1 FREE ngt/yr No Yes FREE premium internet
Barclays Choice Hotels Privileges Signature
No annual fee 32K (up to 4 FREE ngts) 1 FREE ngt/yr No No No
Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus
No $95 75K min spend 3K in 3mths 1 FREE ngt/yr No Yes No
Chase World of Hyatt
No 60K min spend 6K in 6mths 2 FREE ngts/yr 15K min spend No Yes No

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    


Find Your Next Trip at the Travel and Adventure Show

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Pondering where to travel in 2019? There's no better place to dream, plan, and book your next vacation than at the best series of travel shows in the United States - the Travel & Adventure Show:



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




Here's a glimpse of what I'll be talking about along with travel show highlights: 


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. I can share the following testimonials from people who attended my 2018 tour:

"I'VE BEEN TO BOTH THE NEW YORK TIMES TRAVEL SHOW IN NYC AND THE PHILLY TRAVEL SHOW MANY TIMES AND YOUR SESSION TODAY WAS ONE OF THE BEST I'VE BEEN TO IN A FEW YEARS. THANKS FOR ALL THE TIPS, I ONLY LEFT THE SHOW A FEW HOURS AGO AND AM ALREADY LOOKING INTO SOME OF THE THINGS YOU MENTIONED FOR MY UPCOMING MY TRIPS!" 
- PHILADELPHIA TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"I HAVE NEVER LOVED A CHEAPSKATE UNTIL I MET RUSSEL HANNON!" 
- DARLENE, SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"MOST USEFUL PRESENTATION AT THE SHOW THIS WEEKEND!" 
- ELAINE, SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"HE WAS VERY EFFICIENT BUT ALSO VERY INFORMATIVE, I HAVE HEARD MANY OF THESE TRAVEL SPEECHES BUT HIS WAS STUFF YOU CAN APPLY RIGHT AWAY, LOVED IT." 
- RAJA, SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"LOVED YOUR ABSOLUTELY INFORMATIVE SEMINAR AT THE BAY AREA TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE SHOW THIS SATURDAY. THANKS FOR LENDING YOUR ADVICE!!!"
- VIRGIL, SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"OUTSTANDING PRESENTATION! COVERED A LOT OF USEFUL MATERIAL IN A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME. LOOKING FORWARD TO USING YOUR TIPS."
- RICK, PHILADELPHIA TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"MY HUSBAND AND I HEARD YOU AT THE TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE SHOW IN SANTA CLARA TODAY AND GREATLY APPRECIATED YOUR MANY SAVING TIPS ON TRAVELING. WE ARE NEWLY RETIRED AND ARE ITCHING TO TRAVEL BUT NEED TO BE WATCHFUL OF COSTS. THANK YOU FOR YOUR INSIGHT. WE LOOK FORWARD TO RECEIVING YOUR LIST OF 99 WAYS TO CUT TRAVEL COSTS."
- JANET, SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"I ENJOYED YOUR PRESENTATION TODAY. IT WAS EXTREMELY INFORMATIVE."
- JANET, SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"AWESOME PRESENTATION!" 
- HARRY, DENVER TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"GREAT PRESENTATION AND WATCHED YOU ON LOCAL TV." 
- LOUISE, DENVER TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"SAD I MISSED YOUR FIRST HALF OF YOUR SESSION.LEARNED SO MUCH IN LAST HALF. THANK YOU." 
- DEBBIE, BOSTON GLOBE TRAVEL SHOW ATTENDEE

"GREAT INFORMATION IN DENVER! CAN'T WAIT TO READ THROUGH THE WHOLE PACKET. THANK YOU." 
- SHELLY, DENVER TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"I REALLY ENJOYED YOUR SUGGESTIONS REGARDING SAVING MONEY AT TODAY'S BOSTON GLOBE TRAVEL SHOW."
- RHOMEY, BOSTON GLOBE TRAVEL SHOW ATTENDEE

"GREAT PRESENTATION! LOTS OF INFORMATION AND VERY CLEAR! THANK YOU!"
- CAM, BOSTON GLOBE TRAVEL SHOW ATTENDEE

"ENJOYED YOUR SEMINAR TODAY AT THE DENVER CONVENTION CENTER. VERY INFORMATIVE." 
- GAYLE, DENVER TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"ENJOYED YOU PRESENTATION AT THE DENVER TRAVEL SHOW AND MEETING YOU AT YOUR BOOK SIGNING. I'M SURE I WILL USE MANY OF YOUR TIPS TO TRAVEL MORE OFTEN - MAYBE EVEN VISIT CALGARY!" 
- SHARI, DENVER TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW

"I ENJOYED YOUR SATURDAY TALK AT THE SANTA CLARA TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE SHOW. THANK YOU!" 
- TONYA, SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA TRAVEL & ADVENTURE SHOW ATTENDEE

"I ENJOYED YOUR PRESENTATION AND LOVED THE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR COATS/BAGS. I BOUGHT YOUR BOOK AND LOOK FORWARD TO FUTURE TRAVELS."
- JULIA, BOSTON GLOBE TRAVEL SHOW ATTENDEE


All talks are immediately followed with a book signing for my budget travel bestseller 'Stop Dreaming... Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less'.
 I can also answer your 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'.

How to Get Luxury 5-Star Hotel Deals

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Travel is an industry that sells you temporary luxury. It's why a one-week vacation for a family of four costs the same as their monthly at home cost of living. Fortunately, the price of attaining luxury can vary substantially, and high end resorts rarely change the same rates across the board for the same rooms. Whether you want to stay at the Four Seasons, the Fairmont, Ritz Carleton, or the Mandarin Oriental, here are proven ways you can snag great luxury hotel deals. 


Over Water Bungalows
If over water bungalows have been beyond your financial reach, you need to know about the AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort. Just 10 minutes from the Kuala Lumpur airport, these over water bungalows go for as little as $83 U.S./night ($102CDN). In the screenshot below you can see this fare in my search result which is accompanied with over 5,000 reviews and a 7.2/10 guest satisfaction rating.


If you love this deal, but aren't keen on going to Kuala Lampur, PriceOfTravel.com compiled a list of the worlds's 28 cheapest over water bungalows with the bulk of them being in the Maldives, Malaysia, and the closest one to North America being in Panama. View the full list here.


Luxury Downtown Hotels
Looking for a metropolitan experience? Luxury hotels located near convention centres routinely offer discounted blocks of rooms for conference goers, with the best luxury hotel deals being for conferences attracting high net worth professionals (i.e.: executives, lawyers, doctors, dentists, entrepreneurs).

Now you never heard the next part from me, but you can get these discounts even if you aren't attending the conference. Of course, your stay has to be during the conference dates to qualify, but all you need to do is call the hotel, say you will be attending the conference, and say the conference quoted you the group rate you saw on their website, and that they told you to call to book your room. 

How to Find Group Discounts at Luxury Hotels:
1. Lookup the upcoming events at the city's biggest convention center. For example, here is the list of upcoming events at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver:


2. Look for conferences that attract high net worth professionals. For example, I'm going to select the Rocky Mountain Dental Convention, and you can see the convention center has a link to the conference website which I'm going to click:


3. Once on the conference website, lookup the section for exhibitors, and it almost always has a tab with accommodation options: 


4. This is where you will find the discounted conference rates. In this case:

  • 36% OFF at the Four Seasons ($235 v.s. $368 standard rate)
  • 23% OFF at the Hyatt Regency ($199 v.s. $259 standard rate)


5. To book a room at these discounted fares, you need to book you room direct with the hotel:
  • If the conference posted a discount code, use that code on the hotel's website when booking your reservation.
  • If no discount code was posted, call the hotel, say you will be attending the conference, and that you were told to call the hotel to get a room at the conference group rate.

* Before you Do This: Every conference agreement is unique, and you will occasionally run into unexpected roadblocks. But with the sheer volume of conferences taking place in every big city, you will occasionally snag better luxury hotel deals using this hack than with other strategies.


Hidden Luxury Hotel Deals
Before you book any luxury hotel, always compare the price you found to Priceline which sometimes offers deeper discounts than other websites. You will often get a better fare for a 5-star hotel in the same area as the one you were considering. The catch is, Priceline does not reveal the exact hotel until you pay a non-refundable booking. This isn't as crazy as it may sound, as Priceline does reveal: 

  • City name and area of town (i.e.: Central Park South, NYC)
  • Hotel category (i.e.: 5-stars)




Keep the 3rd Party Commissions for your 5-Star Room
Anytime you book a room on a third party website, that website earns a third party booking fee from the hotel which can add up to as much as 30% of your fare. Hotels choose not to undercut these websites because it boosts their profits for direct bookings, and it inflates all hotel costs across the board. 

To get a cut of this booking fee, hotel booking websites Triphop.com and TRVL.com split the commission they receive from hotels with you. Better yet, they disclose how much you will get in your search result, which can be upward of 10 - 20% of your room rate:

This Triphop.com listing at the 5-star Park Hyatt Dubai offers $102.39 in cash back (18.5% of the total fare) for a 3-nigh stay.


Cities with Cheapest 5-Star Hotels

This study by PriceOfTravel.com ranks 104 cities with the least expensive 5-star resorts in the world. Number 1 on the list is Kuta which in the outskirts of Bali, Indonesia, with 5-star hotels going for as little as $24/night. Kuta overtook Phuket which dropped from the top spot to number 4.

As incredible as this deal is, you might not be willing to fly to Bali for it. Here's what you can do instead:
  1. Start at the top of this list of cities with the world's cheapest 5-star hotels.
  2. Scroll down until you find a destination you'd like to visit. That is where you should take your next 5-star escape.
  3. To deepen your discount, leverage the above mentioned hacks using Priceline, conference discounts, and/or collect 3rd party booking commissions.

Luxury Furnished Condos

How does two hours of your time sound in return for upwards of 50% OFF a fully furnished condo for a 3 or 4 day stay? I routinely stay in furnished condos at deep discounts in return for attending timeshare sales presentations - and often leave with freebies which have included dining vouchers, discounts on excursions, hotel gift cards, and it's even how I got my DVD player!

Two ways to get invited to a timeshare sales presentation
  1. IntervalWorld.com has a list of vacation ownership companies you can browse. These websites often post deals on their homepage, and you can contact them directly to book your ownership presentation.
  2. Timeshare companies also exhibit at consumer travel and vacation shows where they have contests you can sign-up to. Although I've never won a prize this way, I always get a follow up call offering me a discounted stay at their resort if I agree to attend their ownership sales presentation. 
Once you book your ownership sales presentation, watch this video for details on what to expect, and how to navigate the presentation to not buy anything.


5-Star Hostels

Before you frown at the mention of hostels in a luxury travel article, meet HostelGeeks.com co-founder and world traveler Matt Kiefer who may be the world's most hosteled person. In every major city, Matt found the best, swankiest and classiest hostel, ranking it as a '5-Star Hostel. "From roof-top swimming pools, to stunning set-ups in former wineries and art galleries, we have certified one amazing hostel in almost every major world city" Matt says. His acclaimed list of 5-star hostels includes Captain Coconuts located in Gilli Air, Indonesia (picture below). Click here to see a video of the hostel:

                 

Leverage Strategies to Multiply your Savings
The following video shows how I got 60% OFF at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier by leveraging a corporate rate I was entitled to, with gift cards I got from from Costco and a BMW test drive:


Summary on Getting Luxury Hotel Deals

Unlike most luxury travel articles that tell you where to stay, this article empowers you to find luxury hotel deals anywhere in the world. This is your 'how-to' guide for planning 5-star luxury vacations online, and is sure to land you lavish digs at enviable rates.


Here's to Toasting in Luxury Hotel Lounges!


P.S.: If you do this, consider accessing Triphop.com via a link within this article. I earn a small commission at no cost to you, enabling me to offer free content without any ads.



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  

Ways to Save on a Weekend Escape

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When's the last time a trip cost less than you expected?
This travel spending survey says 68% of travelers overspend when on vacation. If you're like most people, you likely don't get to travel as much as you'd like to. And when you finally do break away for a quick escape, you justify overspending using the logic you deserve it, and that you won't let a dollar deprive your long overdue holiday. 

TRUTH IS you don't need to spend a fortune to have a great vacation, and here are some quick and easy ways you can save money on a weekend road trip. 

                                                                
CLICK HERE to hear me discuss ways to cut the cost of a weekend road trip on CBC.


WAYS TO SAVE on ROAD TRIPS

                                                             
To find the best price for gas at nearby gas stations,
Gas Buddy is a GPS integrated app that lists all nearby gas stations with prices by fuel grade and directions from your current location.


If you are a Costco member, just about every Costco store sells discount coupons redeemable at nearby restaurants, hotels, spas and attractions in the form of $100 pre-paid gift cards you can purchase for $80, and also in bundles of 3 for the price of 2. You won't always find these discounts on the store's website as they are local deals, so you can call a store in your destination city to find out what discount coupons they have, or simply stop into a store once you arrive: 



If you subscribe to either Groupon or Living Social,
two weeks before your trip, change your hometown in your account to the destination you will be visiting to get emails with discount coupons that target locals. These deals target locals and tourists are often unaware of them:



For 2-for-1 coupons and upward of 40% OFF 
activities, restaurants, golf, spas, hotels and excursions in most major U.S. cities, travelzoo.com has more than 1,600 discount coupons neatly organized by city. On their homepage, simply type the name of the city you will be visiting in the search field, then browse all the discount coupons specific to that destination. I did this prior to visiting New York City and scored 2-for-1 tickets to the Lion King on Broadway:



To find inexpensive things to do,
before your trip, run a google search using the name of the city you will be visiting with the words 'events newsletter.' When your google search returns all the local events newsletters, sign-up to those that interest you. This is a clever way to learn about free and inexpensive events most tourists do not know of. I did this before traveling to Phoenix, and it's how I learned of a Major League Baseball Cactus League festival taking place in old town Scottsdale. The festival was free to attend, and I would have never known about it had I not signed up to that newsletter:



If you are looking for a last-minute flight,
air traffic are prices are heavier on long-weekends, so being flexible is important to getting a good deal. I find great flight deals by following a handful of newsletters and social media pages that scour thousands of online deals and share the crème-de-la-crème for you to cherry pick from. They consistently impress me with great deals, and I list them here.

The most common mistake travelers make on a weekend escape is trying to do too much by cramming as much as you can into the little time that you have.  Yes I get that you want to make the most of your weekend escape, but don't discount the value of rest and relation.

CLICK HERE to hear me discuss ways to cut the cost of a weekend road trip on CBC.


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                  

Pocket Commissions When Booking Your Hotel

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Do you book direct with hotels to avoid paying third party booking fees? If so, I hate to break the news that you still pay these fees even when booking direct. 

That's because hotels bake the cost of commissions they pay to third party websites (i.e.: Expedia, Priceline, Hotels.com) into their rack room rate. This is one reason fares posted by hotels are not lower than those offered on third party websites, but there are other factors...

Third party websites would go broke if they charged more than the hotels themselves for the same rooms. The reason hotels do not undercut these websites is they get a lot of business from these websites they would not otherwise get. So it's in the hotel's best overall interest to keep prices at par.

Difference between booking direct v.s. a third party:

   Commissions Loyalty Rewards 
 When Booking Direct  Hotel bakes 3rd party commission costs into room rates  Entitled to points per the chain's loyalty program
 Booking via 3rd Party  Website gets a commission from the hotel  Not entitled to points when booking via 3rd party websites



Earn Commission When Booking Your Hotel

Triphop.com splits with you the booking commissions they receive from hotels for your hotel booking. Although commission amounts vary by hotel, you can realistically get 10 - 12% of your room cost back as I did while visiting Colorado Springs:



Cash back payouts of 10% or more are hands down better value than what the top loyalty programs offer, which is 1 free night for 10 nights paid. If a 10% incentive isn't enough to sway you, Triphop.com rewards are paid in cash, whereas points offered through loyalty programs limit your redemptions to rooms within their chain and catalogue items. 


 

 
Business Travelers

If you travel for work on the company dime, book your hotel on  Triphop.com using your personal credit card, then claim those expenses for reimbursement from your company. Since Triphop.com releases your cash reward to your Triphop.com account upon checkout, you get 10% or more of the cost of a room you didn't pay out of pocket for. 



Cheers to earning commission when booking your hotel!

P.S.: If you do this, consider accessing Triphop.com via a link within this article. I earn a small commission at no cost to you, enabling me to offer free content without any ads.



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  

Leverage Business Travel to Fund Personal Trips

READ MORE


N.B. If you book a room on TripHop (to pocket half the booking commission paid to TripHop by hotels), consider using the link in the article. I get a small referral commission at no cost to you, enabling me to offer free content without any ads.


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 I later used for personal travel 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 employees at preferred corporate rates. These companies often encourage employees book personal travel through their corporate travel agent. Booking your personal travel this way usually entitles you to:    
  • Corporate rates that average 10-15% off hotels.
  • Flexible terms to cancel or make changes at reasonable fees.
  • Unlimited mileage on car rentals.

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 associations' 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 for funds to 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 claim those expenses to your company for reimbursement. 

To get the most value from your credit cards, shortlist those that offer at least three travel related benefits in addition to points/miles per dollar spent. To quickly find which travel rewards credit cards have the best combination of benefits for you, Click Here to browse my list of Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards.

 


Pocket 10%+ of your Hotel Cost: Hotels pay booking websites a commission for rooms booked through their website. To get a piece of the commission earned from your hotel booking, book your room on hotel booking website TripHop which splits their booking commission with you. Commissions amounts vary by booking, yet it is not uncommon for your portion of the commission payout to exceed 10% of the rooms' cost:



TripHops' cash back payouts of 10% or more yields you a better return than what the best loyalty programs offer, which tend to be 1 free night per 10 nights stayed. Better yet, TripHop's cash back offer beats those free night programs because you your cash back upon checkout, and can spend it on anything you wish.

PRO TIP When booking business travel on TripHop, use your personal credit card to pay for the room and claim the expense using your checkout receipt. Not only will your company refund you the amount paid for the room, but TripHop will also credit you half the commission  they earned, which can be 10% or more of the room cost - that's free money in your pocket!

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 Rewards Inc. 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

How to Find Cheap Flights Online

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How to Find Cheap Flights Online





Are airfare costs are keeping you from booking a trip?

Are you sure you're getting the best available fares?



Keep this article within arm's reach next time you plan a trip to quickly find cheap flights online. Even if you have no issue with what you pay for airfare, odds are others are getting better fares on the very same flights, due to a combination of the following strategies:

A Common Mistake that Costs You Money When Booking Flights
 is deciding where and when to go before looking up airfares. The problem with this seemingly innocent approach is that you emotionally commit yourself to an itinerary that is likely to cost much more than equally satisfying alternatives.

Regardless of what website, strategy or tricks you use, the following illustration shows where the cheap flights are, and why you aren't getting them:
     

You may think you're being flexible by departing at 6am to save a few dollars. Maybe you're willing to shift your vacation ahead or delay it by a few days to save a bit more. Truth is, any savings you get this way hardly scratches the surface of how cheap flights can be when you really open up your options. 

Let's say you want to escape the cold every winter for a beach vacation. If you give yourself a four-month window (flexible on dates), and are equally open to the Caribbean, Mexico and South-East Asia (flexible on destination), you will open doors to the sorts of jaw dropping flight deals you will rave about, and your friends will envy.


Best Time to Book Flights for Cheap Flights

People will have you believe there's a magic time to book travel to get the cheapest flights. Don't buy into this myth. Reality is, millions of people have varying travel plans and there are just too many moving parts to have a one-size fits all best time to book travel for best fares.

Lucky for you, there are free online tools that crunch data specific to your desired itinerary, and they tell you how and when the best fares will be available as follows:

  • If Your Travel Dates Are Firm: The Hopper app. and Kayak.com crunch historical flight data specific to your itinerary, and not only tell you the best fare available now, but whether the price is likely to rise or drop with time, and if so, when and by how much. These forecasts are based on historical data, so they cannot account for current events (airline strikes, fuel prices). Still, it's valuable intelligence to have when deciding whether to hold off for a better fare.
  • If Your Travel Dates Are Flexible and it doesn't matter to you whether you visit Paris in 6 months, next year or in two years' time. There are websites where you can enter your desired flight route along with the most you are willing to pay, then the website continuously searches for flights meeting your criteria, and send you a notification anytime it finds a match. AirfareWatchdog.com, FareCompare.com and Yapta.com all do this, and I recommend you setup e-alerts for all cities you want to visit, and that you get aggressive with your price ceilings. This way, you're giving yourself options and can prioritize your trips to cities with filler airfare deals. This also buys the website time to find killer fares to your other bucket list cities. 

Finding Cheap Flights - When You Aren't Flexible:





1. No single website returns the best fares every time. So, run your search through three or more websites. I use Kayak.com, Skyscanner.com, and Hipmunk.com, but I also know many people who swear by Google.com/fights, Momondo.com and Matrix.itasoftware.com. We won't break these websites down into detail, but you should experiment with them all, and try to keep a given flight search to 15
minutes.

If you aren't crazy about the fares in your search results:

2. Toggle between one-way and round-trip as airlines sometimes charge different fares each way. If this happens to you, consider flying each way on separate airlines. You can easily look into these options using Kayak.com as their search engine automatically mixes and matches different airlines to get you the best fare each way.

3. Expand your search to include all neighboring airports. I am certainly willing to drive three hours to another airport if it saves me $250 on an overseas flight. 

4. When flying abroad, run your search through at least one airfare search engine commonly used in your destination country. For example, when traveling to Europe, CheckFelix.com/uk allows you toggle between countries, and it converts your airfare to that country's currency. Now you can compare the relative price by factoring the currency differential, and you can book your flight in the currency that gives you the lowest overall price:


*If you do this: Pay for your flight using a credit card with a 'No Foreign Transaction Fee' benefit. For a list of credit cards that waive foreign transaction fees, Click Here.  


Booking your Flight

Before you book a flight on an airfare search website, go to the website of the airline you will be flying on, and if the airline's website offers the same fare or better, buy your ticket direct from the airline to cut out the middleman, avoid stickly third party terms and conditions, and potential complications should a customer service issue arise.


"What if Prices Drop After I Book my Flight?" 

If the airline's fare is higher than the one you found elsewhere, you may be able to game any of the following policies the airline may have:
  • Best Price Guarantees are policies where the airline will match a better fare found elsewhere for an identical booking. 
  • Price Drop Refund Policies protect you from missing out on savings you otherwise would have missed out on should airfares drop after you book your flight.
An issue with these policies is the onus is on the passenger to submit a claim (slimy I know). Fortunately, Yapta.com has a free service where you key your flight itinerary and price paid, and if the price for your itinerary later drops to a level that entitles you to a refund, Yapta automatically notifies you, and all you need to do is contact the airline to claim your refund:



*Did You Know
: Anytime an airline notifies you of even the slightest change to your booked itinerary, that's your gateway to get out of your booking altogether at no charge. Simply call the airline when you get a change notification, and say the change does not suit you, and that you want to cancel - which they will do at no charge when it's due to an itinerary change initiated by the airline.


Beat the Best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight

Some airlines not only offer price drop refunds, but also give you flight credits on top of the refund for you to use toward future flights. A number of airlines that offer this benefit, but the terms vary by airline. So, I break down step-by-step how to game the system and claim these credits in a FREE guide you can download from the homepage of BreakTheTravelBarrier.com:



Ultra-Low Cost (ULC) Airlines

If you play the ULC airline game right, your flying future is going to be a lot less expensive. Budget airlines generally work like this:
  • Your base fare entitles you to a seat, the space under it for a bag, and washroom access.
  • Anything else costs extra from printed boarding passes, use of overhead bins, water and snacks, priority boarding priority boarding and seat selection - except for Southwest where you choose your seat as you board.
Airlines that work this way include Spirit and Southwest (U.S.), Flair, SWOOP and Jetlines (Canada), and abroad you have AirAsia, Norwegian, Ryan Air and WOW Air.


Challenges Comparing ULC Fares v.s. Traditional Fares:

  1. In-flight discretionary surcharges can quadruple the cost of your base ULC fare.
  2. ULC airlines do not show up in airfare search engine results as their pricing model is not easily compared to standard fares. Also, their bare bones fares may also limit their ability to pay third party booking commissions.
  3. Since ULC airlines are excluded from most search engines, you may need to the go the website of your departing airport to see if any ULC airlines fly your desired route.

Comparing ULC fares to traditional posted rates requires you to factor in all surcharges you anticipate incurring on an ULC flight. Personally, I feel ULC airlines are best flown for short haul flights for a short escape where you won't be on the plane long, and can fit everything you bring under your seat.


Where to Find Cheap Flights

I am a regular radio guest where I call in from home, and I am commonly asked what the best flight deals are out of that city. These are sometimes places I have not been to or spent little time in. Fortunately, I am connected to a network of travel deal newsletters and Facebook pages solely devoted to finding and broadcasting jaw dropping flight deals. I list the ones I follow in my article Where to Find the Best Travel Deals.


Credit Card Travel Rewards

Since all travel is booked online, you have to have a credit card. In fact, I recommend you travel with two cards, and that you keep them separate to lessen the likelihood of losing them both at the same time.

With so many travel rewards credit cards to choose from - each with different benefits - it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which ones are best for you. I recommend you first identify three (3) common travel credit card benefits that you most desire, and get the card that has the best combination of those benefits. Then do the same for your second card, but this time choose three other benefits not offered by your first card. You can quickly narrow down which cards have the best combination of benefits for you using the credit card travel rewards matrix in this article where I compare the benefits of the top travel rewards credit cards.

If you follow these strategies, you will hands down land better fares over people who don't. And should we ever cross paths on a plane, I look forward to seeing who paid the least. Meantime...


Here's to Inexpensive Flights!

Fly Away


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