I booked Air Canada Rouge from Vancouver to Los Angeles to connect to my Singapore Suites ticket from Los Angeles to Melbourne. To see the full details of my itinerary, see my post on how I booked these flights.

Before my flight I headed to the lounge. First, I stopped at the Transborder Air Canada counters at YVR to verify my documents and print out a boarding pass. Even though I checked in online, I think most passports require a verification of documents at the airport, although that could also be done at the gate.

IMG_9516

I then went through security and US pre-clearance, which had one of the longest lines I’ve ever seen at YVR, although to be fair, it was a Monday morning and it was time for lots of families to head out on trips. The NEXUS security line was open, which was a complete lifesaver, although it was also the crew line and I kept on getting cut by lots of legacy carrier crews.

At this point I was extremely tired thanks to having a crazy night with some miles/points friends who were in Vancouver, so I apologize if photos don’t come out as well as they should. Some of the photos here are from previous visits to the lounge. The YVR Plaza Premium Lounge in the Transborder concourse is located a short walk after the US pre-clearance immigration area.

Vancouver Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder

YVR Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Entrance

YVR Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder

This lounge is free to Canadian American Express Platinum holders, and also partners with Priority Pass.

Amex Platinum Vancouver Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder

Amex Platinum YVR Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder

Once the lounge agent swipes you in there’s a short hallway to the lounge area.

Vancouver Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Hallway

YVR Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Hallway

The lounge had lots of empty seating, a refreshing change from many jam-packed domestic lounges.

Vancouver Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Seating Area

YVR Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Seating Area

Vancouver Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Seating Area

There were no tarmac views although the windows did feature a view of the immigration arrivals area and the amazing lovely CBSA agents.

View from the Lounge (look at that line!)

View from the Lounge (look at that line!)

The lounge is slightly more dated than the MLL but it had some decent breakfast selections, including fruit, yogurt, salad, and sandwiches. There was also a juice and coffee machine, as well as cereal, pastry, and bread selections.

Vancouver Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Breakfast

YVR Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Breakfast

Vancouver Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Breakfast

YVR Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Breakfast

There were also two hot options, which were scrambled eggs and a baked beans dish.

YVR Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Hot Food

YVR Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Hot Food

The only drawbacks for some maybe the lack of separate wifi access, as this lounge uses the same free Internet that’s provided by YVR in the terminal. I think this lounge is better than the Maple Leaf Lounge transborder, as there are generally fewer people resulting in peace and quiet, as well as a better food and beverage selection. The tradeoff is that you don’t get tarmac views and lounge-only wifi.

I had a few coffees, tried to stay awake, and then headed to my very first Rouge Flight!

As a Canadian, you can get enough miles for this flight with just a single credit card application with the American Express Aeroplan Gold Card, which offers 30,000 Aeroplan miles after $500 of spend within 3 months.

Previous Segment: Planning and Booking

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Alaska Airlines is offering up to a 40% bonus on purchased miles. In previous offer periods, the bonus has usually been 30 or 35%, so this is the highest tier of bonuses when selling miles during these promotions. The last time they offered a 40% bonus was back in March.

Buy Alaska Miles Promotion

Alaska Buy Miles Promo

Alaska Buy Miles Promo

The bonuses are based on the amounts of miles you purchase:

  • 5,000 – 19,000 miles, get a 20% Bonus
  • 20,000 – 34,000 miles, get a 30% Bonus
  • 35,000 – 40,000 miles, get a 40% Bonus

It makes most sense to purchase a larger amount of miles, as for a top up usually I’d recommend transferring miles from Starwood.

Cost to Buy Alaska Miles

Cost to Buy Alaska Miles

Alaska normally sells miles at 2.75 cents each, so this means that purchasing 56,000 miles will cost you $1182.50, inclusive of all taxes on the miles and purchase costs. This will mean miles cost 2.11 cents each at the 40% bonus level.

Note that Canadian residents are charged GST/HST, although you can always “move” to the US. As well, only credit cards with billing addresses in North America will be able to purchase miles. Again, your best bet is to find a North American friend and borrow their credit card if you live abroad and don’t have access to Canadian/American credit cards of your own. Points.com processes the purchase in USD, so no category bonuses will apply. If you use a Canadian credit card also make sure you use a non-forex credit card.

The bonus on purchased miles will run until October 14. If you do need miles, purchasing Alaska miles are one of the easiest ways to unlock cheaper international business and first class tickets. Alaska miles are one of the most valuable airline miles out there, because of the variety of aspirational partners, reasonable award chart levels, and no fuel surcharges (except on British Airways).

You are able to make multiple purchases (of 40k + bonus chunks of miles), so you can buy Alaska miles to fly basically anything on their award chart. One of my favourite redemptions is Emirates First Class to Asia for 100,000 miles, with a free stopover in Dubai. For example, this means you can fly Hong Kong - Dubai (Stopover) – Los Angeles (23 hour layover) – Vancouver, which goes at retail cost over $15000 one-way assuming there’s award availability.

Buy Alaska Miles for Emirates First Class

Buy Alaska Miles for Emirates First Class

Award availability is a bit tight but if you’re flexible there is space available close-in or 10-11 months out for their other North American gateways such as SEA, DFW, SFO, JFK, IAH, or ORD. Alternatively, if you can find award space, Qantas and Cathay Pacific First Class which are also good deals.

As with most miles purchases, I would purchase miles only with a specific purpose in mind, and not speculatively. These mileage promotions allow you do purchase tickets for not more than what an economy ticket would cost, so there is definite value if you enjoy business/first class.

Earning Alaska Miles through Credit Cards

Canadians can also apply for the MBNA Alaska Airlines credit card to earn Alaska Airlines MileagePlan miles. If you are purchasing miles at 2.11 cents, this means the signup bonus is worth over $500.

Buy Alaska Miles Mastercard

Alaska Airlines Mastercard

Even if not, it does make sense to apply for this credit card as it gives 25,000 miles just for signing up and getting approved. Americans also have access to a similar co-branded Alaska Airlines card. You can also transfer SPG miles to Alaska miles at a 1:1 ratio.

You can buy Alaska Miles through this link.

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Introduction
Planning and Booking
Air Canada Premium Rouge Vancouver to Los Angeles
Los Angeles TBIT Star Alliance First Class Lounge
Singapore Suites Class Los Angeles to Tokyo

This is a continuation of my live trip report for my Asia/Pacific trip.

My plan with salvaging the trip was basically keeping the trans-pacific segments the same, since it’s incredibly difficult to find something adequate 2-4 weeks before departure. Of course, with certain carriers like OZ, CX, JL, NH, and BR, the closer you get to departure, the higher likelihood there will be award space if loads aren’t full. Since my trip was only around two weeks, I definitely preferred booking the outbound as soon as I could.

KrisFlyer has extremely reasonable change fees, being only 12 USD for a change of any nature on a Singapore Airlines only award, so that was easy. American has no change fee either as long as origin and destination stay the same, so that was easy as well. I decided on trying to go to Australia as I have friends there I wanted to visit, and I really loved Sydney last August when I visited.

First I looked at just Tokyo to Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane options, but there wasn’t much that was a good value from North Asia, as CX didn’t have space, KE has a poor product to Oceania and high award chart prices, and United prices were fairly high as well.

Then I thought about modifying my Krisflyer award, and luckily there was award space to Melbourne via Singapore. Another plus was that SQ does have their new products on the 777-300ER (77WN) on the SQ637/638 Narita – Singapore route, so I was looking forward to trying the new First Class. Then Singapore to Melbourne was on their refitted 777-300 with the “regular” First Class. I’ve never flown Singapore First Class (although I’ve done Business multiple times), so this award would let me fly all three products in one go, which was pretty nifty.

While this routing wouldn’t be bookable online, there was a error with the online award booking tool which wouldn’t let me keep my Los Angeles to Narita seat while adding on Narita – Singapore – Melbourne. It’d try to search for another seat, where there was none since I already snagged the one award seat available quite a while ago. I ended up calling and received both the 15% online discount as well as the lower price for online award change fee, which was extremely reasonable at $12 USD.

The total price with a 15% discount was 119,000 miles. Given the devaluations of many programs, this was actually quite reasonable and comparable with United, Aeroplan, and American (which requires two awards when routing via Asia). The fuel surcharge was a bit high at $468, which brought a total of taxes to around 650 Singapore Dollars (~$520 USD), but for a last minute award where I was scrambling to find options, it wasn’t too bad.

I booked then a 9000 avios award in business class from Melbourne to Sydney, which is a great use of avios and only $13 in taxes. I paid for business class instead of economy because I don’t have elite status and the priority/lounge access would be very useful. To connect from Vancouver to Los Angeles, I spent 25,000 miles on Premium Rouge with Aeroplan. This was an incredibly hard redemption to make as I knew how many other good options Aeroplan had on long-haul redemptions, but to connect to three segments of Singapore First Class I just couldn’t resist.

Then, from Sydney I booked Thai First Class back to South Asia. This cost 40,000 miles and around $75 USD. It’s slightly higher than the 32,500 miles required prior to the devaluation if you flew Sydney-Bangkok-Tokyo-Guam, then threw away your segments, but still cheaper that the “normal” pre-devaluation price, which was either 55,000 or 60,000 miles. This then connected to my AA Award on Cathay Pacific First from Singapore, which was 67,500 miles and a nominal ~$100 dollars in taxes.

I’d like to think I’m a loyal Hyatt fan, so I booked the Grand Hyatt Singapore, Park Hyatt Melbourne, and Grand Hyatt Melbourne on cash and points, and spent 60,000 points for two nights at the Park Hyatt Sydney. I also booked the Mercure Narita at a discounted rate for $47. I had layovers in Bangkok, Osaka, and Los Angeles which didn’t need hotels, and for my stopover in Hong Kong I didn’t need a hotel.

Certainly this wasn’t a trip that didn’t cost very many miles as opposed to my trip last year which cost a TOTAL of 90,000 miles in business/first class, but I think this one is still worth every single penny (and mile). The total flight and hotel costs were around $1000 for Singapore, Thai, and Cathay International First Class as well as short-haul business class on Air Canada Rouge and Qantas, and Park/Grand Hyatts in Singapore, Melbourne, and Sydney. Overall, this definitely wasn’t a “free” trip by any measure, but certainly it was a lot cheaper than what normally people would pay, given flights to Melbourne in economy at this time of the year at least $1600, which is more than my whole trip would cost.

Previous Segment: Introduction

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Introduction
Planning and Booking
Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver Transborder
Air Canada Premium Rouge Vancouver to Los Angeles
Los Angeles TBIT Star Alliance First Class Lounge
Singapore Suites Class Los Angeles to Tokyo

Usually, I’m incredibly awful with posting Trip Reports consistently. This time, I’m going to try and write it live so I actually finish it instead of writing one part and then giving up. :P

I’m the type of person that religiously monitors award space and books pretty much 11 months before departure. This is good when everything is planned, but when I forget to plan all flights and hotels, I’m in a pretty big pile of crap. I also tend to take big gigantic trips, and they tend to be intricately complicated. I haven’t listed all the flights, hotels, and lounges I’m reviewing, but with this trip (and all my previous big trips) there’d be at least 25 segments. So we’ll see how it goes.

This trip originally started pretty innocently 10 months ago when I had more Singapore KrisFlyer and American AAdvantage miles I wanted to hold, so I decided to burn some to Asia in First Class. That was before KrisFlyer become a slut and started partnering with Chase, Citi, and pretty every imaginable transferrable currency except American Express Membership Rewards Canada, so space was pretty easy to get.

I originally booked Los Angeles to Narita in Singapore Suites, and Singapore back to North America on Cathay First Class, and a free one-way to San Juan in the future with AA First Class. I had originally planned on patching Vancouver to Los Angeles with Avios, which would normally be 7,500 miles, and the intra-Asia segment with a Cathay First Award with Alaska Miles or a intra-Asia Aeroplan business class redemption with the one-way to be left for future use.

Somehow, I forgot (I probably remembered, I just didn’t book anything) that I hadn’t booked hotels or flights, and fast forward to the beginning of August there was no more Avios space, and no award space at some of the hotels I wanted to stay at.

I refuse to pay change or cancellation more than $60 (i.e. no changes for non-Avios and similar bookings), and elite status not a good investment of my money, so I was scrambling to fix my trip. In this next segment, I’ll outline how I scrambled to find flights and hotels two weeks before departure. While the end result wasn’t perfect, I think it was pretty good for booking 32,000 miles of flights and 11 flight segments two weeks before departure.

I’m live social media-ing most of this trip, so follow me on Twitter and Instagram if you already haven’t!

Next Segment: Booking

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I’m in Melbourne right now, and yesterday I stayed at the Park Hyatt, which was pretty stunning and a very decent Park Hyatt. Today, I’m at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne and when I checked in the Club Lounge, the “upgraded” room I received seemed very standard, both to me and a friend who was staying with me. Perhaps it was the higher expectation that was set coming from the Park Hyatt. Obviously, I know that the Park Hyatt a “step” higher than the Grand Hyatt, but the room I received seemed quite small, and not the upgrade that Hyatt Diamonds are supposed to receive, which is the best room category, not including suites (although suite upgrades sometimes do happen).

I don’t want to seem entitled (perhaps I seem like it) but I have no problem with requesting the rooms that the explicit terms & conditions of the loyalty program permit as a top-tier elite member.

So I tweeted Hyatt, with no expectation of anything except to clarify the issue. The resulting chain of events was very impressive. Hyatt on Twitter contacted the hotel for me, and then the assistant front office manager, Mahak, personally stopped by in the club lounge and resolved any questions I had. She in detail explained the different hotel categories and the upgrade process for Diamond guests while actually listening to my thoughts and being polite, genuine, and understanding. The chat we had was VERY impressive and much better than any standard form apology email/tweet/DM/letter that I’d think other hotel chains or properties *hem SPG hem* would give. Even though I do use points to maximize my travel dollar, I didn’t feel like a second-class guest and I was just extremely impressed by the way Hyatt addressed the issue.

I think at the end of the day while hotel properties can be stunning, it’s really the people that make your experience (very much similar to flights). The way Hyatt delivered in addressing the service matter was extremely impressive. They have one of the best elite programs, valuable points, a good selection of properties, which I’m just totally in love with.

Have you had similar experiences?

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There’s been quite a bit of buzz about T-Mobile unlimited international data roaming both in the miles/points world and in the mainstream media. Previously, I’ve talked before about using KnowRoaming, which is a pretty ingenious SIM-sticker which works internationally. KnowRoaming has pretty high rates for Asia ($0.31/mb for Japan) so I wasn’t really keen on paying that. Amol had T-Mobile international data on one of his recent trips and he reported that it worked quite well, so I thought it’d be worth be worth getting one. I’m in Tokyo right now for a quick overnight, so I had the chance to try it out.

I want to preface this post with saying that there are two things I detest, and that is having slow speeds and paying too much for data/talk abroad. The most I’d be willing to pay is $3-4 dollars a day for data. As a benchmark, T-Mobile prepaid charges $3 a day for unlimited talk and text and up to 200mb for 4G data in the US, which is very reasonable. Generally, most prepaid sims worldwide are approximately the same cost if not less if you’re there for at least a week.

Getting T-Mobile International Data Roaming

T-Mobile has free international data roaming with their Simple Choice postpaid plans. The individual plans start at $50 a month inclusive of talk, text and, data for a wireless customer in the US, but what I got was the mobile internet plans which was only $10/month. This is intended for use on a tablet but also works on unlocked phones, and has 1GB of data per month at LTE speeds in the US, and unlimited international data roaming. This is actually a pretty sweet deal if you’re don’t have a plan with T-Mobile because two prepaid SIMs are likely going to be more than $10, so you’re pretty much breaking even just for travelling to two countries a month.

T-Mobile International Data Roaming Simple Choice Plan

T-Mobile International Data Roaming Simple Choice Plan

The worst part about the plan is actually getting it in the first place. You need a US credit report, and if you’re a new customer there’ll be a hard pull on your report. So this means you need to find a very nice American friend who will take a credit inquiry for you. ;)

Using T-Mobile International Data Roaming

My friend sent me the SIM by mail, so I didn’t get any of the packaging. But the SIM looks like any other prepaid SIM you’d get abroad. Using it is very straightforward. You’d put it in your unlocked phone, and it was pretty much ready to go after taking a few moments to find a carrier. T-Mobile would then send you a free text message if your roaming country is one of the 120 they cover.

I’ve used the SIM so far in Canada and Japan, and I have to say the speeds are absurdly slow. I knew that it was capped at 2G speeds going into this, but it was so absurdly slow. It was probably slower than in-flight wifi. My phone says that I have 3G, but they throttle the speed so it’s similar to 2G. The several speed tests I did gave around 0.10 Mbps for Download and Upload.

SpeedTest

Speedtest

In actual terms, it took between 10-30 seconds to load a webpage, 15-30 seconds to load maps, and 5-10 seconds to load Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. Thankfully, sending messages on chat apps were fairly responsive. T-Mobile does partner with major carriers in the countries (so far) I’ve travelled to so coverage is excellent and only the speed sucks. T-Mobile does offer passes for faster data, but the cost makes it probably cheaper to buy prepaid SIM cards.

If you are currently with AT&T/Verizon/Sprint, I don’t think it’s worth switching just for international data roaming, so getting the $10 plan makes the most sense. My thoughts on this is that paying $10 a month is reasonable, and having slow data is better than nothing. The speed however are just so off-putting especially since it makes me feel like somehow I’ve using mobile data from 10 years ago. Like miles and points, it’s best to diversify, so I can put this in the growing number of SIMs I have.

T-Mobile International Data roaming for no extra charge is a great marketing tool by T-Mobile. It’s the only reason I bothered to jump through the hoops to get a SIM and once you’ve got it doesn’t seem worth it to cancel since you’ve already taken a hard pull. So I will continue holding on to the plan until their promotional pricing ends Dec 31 and should they decide to increase the price.

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Back in December, Singapore Airlines removed all business class partner award space to Australia and New Zealand, only releasing them to partner airlines 14 days prior to departure. Singapore Airlines previously had good award availability on their new business class seats out of Singapore to/from Sydney, Auckland and Christchurch, as well as new regional business class seats out of Singapore to/from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. So, as you could imagine, one of (and in some cases, arguably the best) business class Star Alliance award travel options to/from Oceania disappeared overnight – such a shame.

A few days ago, Singapore Airlines announced a new seasonal twice-weekly frequency out of Singapore-Changi to Christchurch, complementing their existing daily service. Last month, they also announced new frequencies to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – all less than daily, seasonal additions for December and January. However, unlike the other additions (possibly a glitch… but you didn’t hear it from me ;) ), Singapore is currently releasing far-out award space on the new 2/weekly Christchurch frequency for partner airlines in business class.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-08-18 um 22.23.47

Singapore Airlines Business Class Award Space Singapore to Christchurch

Award space on this route is good (for the two months that it operates), with availability for one passenger almost every day, and for two passengers on around half the dates. Again, the period is rather short, so we’re not talking a huge sample size, but for December and January travel to New Zealand, this is almost an unbeatable deal.

The flight is operated with a Boeing 777-200ER, featuring Singapore’s current long-haul business class seats.

Singapore Airlines Business Class Seat Map Singapore to Christchurch

Singapore Airlines Business Class Seat Map Singapore to Christchurch

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-200ER Business Class

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-200ER Business Class

A round trip redemption from Singapore to Christchurch in business class costs 90,000 Aeroplan miles, which of course is combinable with a Singapore Airlines intra-Asia flight. Singapore Airlines also release award seats on their long-haul business class seats to Hong Kong, as well as their new regional business class to Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan. As with all Singapore Airlines redemptions, there are no fuel surcharges when booking with Aeroplan.

The best ways to earn Aeroplan miles are by flying, credit cards or transferring them from American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. Credit card offers useful for accruing Aeroplan include:

Both of these cards have the annual fee waived for the first year. Alternative cards include the American Express Platinum Card (Canada) which comes with a 60,000 point signup bonus, as well as the Starwood Preferred Guest Card (Canada) which comes with a 10,000 point signup bonus.


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I love Hyatt, and I’ve had a fairly enjoyable experience with them since I completed a Diamond Challenge with them. Even with their devaluation, I feel their points are fairly valuable because top-tier hotels are still adequately priced (unlike Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton) and their points and cash rates are very attractive. Hyatt is currently offering up to a 40% bonus on purchased points.

Hyatt Purchase Points

Hyatt Purchase Points

The bonus is as follows:

  • Purchase 5,000 to 19,000 points and receive a 20% bonus
  • Purchase 20,000 to 39,000 points and receive a 30% bonus
  • Purchase 40,000 to 55,000 points and receive a 40% bonus
Hyatt Purchase Points Promotion

Hyatt Purchase Points Promotion

The purchase level of 40,000 to 55,000 is most attractive, which allows you to buy a maximum of 77,000 points for a total of $1320 USD. The cost for each point thus works out to around 1.71 cents each with the promotion. A regular points purchase would be 2.4 cents each.

The form on the landing page requires you to fill in your Hyatt number, so it restricts the bonus to Platinum and Diamond elite members. If you’re a normal member, you’d be purchasing points at 2.4 cents each, which isn’t that great of a deal. I personally think that this restriction is good as it doesn’t allow the majority of “normal” members to acquire large amounts of points thus increasing the likelihood of another devaluation.

For example, this means that for select cases it may be worth purchasing miles. It isn’t cheap, definitely. But it might be worth it if you’re already planning to pay money on luxury properties.

Outright purchasing points to use at properties would be the following costs:

  • Category 1: $85
  • Category 2: $136
  • Category 3: $204
  • Category 4: $255
  • Category 5: $340
  • Category 6: $420
  • Category 7: $510

Using Cash and Points at properties would be the following costs (including the cash portion from non-purchased points):

  • Category 1: $92.5
  • Category 2: $123
  • Category 3: $177
  • Category 4: $227.5
  • Category 5: $295
  • Category 6: $365
  • Category 7: $555

Your best values are probably Category 7 on outright purchased points, which may give you a savings if you did intend to stay at a top-tier property. For example, the Park Hyatt Sydney in January is over $900, while available with 30,000 points. The other use is to top up accounts that don’t have quite enough points for a redemption, but that which means you’re still valuing each property at close to the amounts listed above.

Park Hyatt Sydney

Park Hyatt Sydney

So if you were planning to shell out more than $500 a night for a hotel, it could be worth it here, or at other similarly expensive properties such as the Park Hyatt Paris. Another good use of purchased points at the Park Hyatt Maldives would be a very good value, when rates are over 1200 dollars. That’s a saving of a few hundred dollars, whether on a cash/points rate or just a full points redemption.

Park Hyatt Maldives

Park Hyatt Maldives

With points redemptions, you do forego any benefits you’d get with a paid stay, such as elite stay credit, points earnings (although Cash and Point Rates do get those), Fine Hotels and Resorts benefits if applicable, and any other promotion that would apply during a paid rate. If you live in the US, it is much easier getting Hyatt points through credit card signup bonuses, UR transfers, or manufactured spend, but if you live in places where it is hard to generate cheap Hyatt points, it may very well be worth it. With cash and points redemptions you’re at least willing to “purchase” points for 1.2-1.33 cents per mile, so that does mean that you’re it’s only a fraction of a cent more per mile through this purchase bonus. I’m around 90% sure that I’m not going to purchase points during this promotion, but if you do have a bigger travel budget than I do, you might find value in purchasing points during this promotion.

It’s worth noting that these purchases are processed by points.com, so you won’t be able to earn category bonuses nor apply miles that rebate travel spend purchased with the card. You can purchase Hyatt Points at this link.

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I’m probably one of the most connected people when travelling, and one of my biggest concerns about hotels is having slow internet speeds. I’m not the person that actively checks wifi speaks nor actively avoid hotels for wifi speeds, but it is nice having fast speeds.

Usually, I don’t pay for wifi anyways because I am an elite status member in the chains that I’m loyal too which are primarily Hyatt and to a lesser extent SPG.

There’s this cool new site which popped up and claims to display the wifi speeds of the hotels which based on user reports. So far, they have a bunch of cities listed in their database which include New York, London, Singapore, Amsterdam, and others.

I’d definitely take this with a grain of salt because I have no idea how they verify this and certainly the confidence of their speed estimates isn’t very reassuring:

Check Hotel Wifi Speed Andaz Amsterdam

Check Hotel Wifi Speed Andaz Amsterdam

I was just at the Andaz AMS last month and they definitely had decent internet, so this could be true? Most chain hotels do have brand standards though which include wifi, so I guess this website is great if you’re especially picky with your wifi speeds, and you do need a 50mbps or higher connection.

You can access HotelWifiTest here.

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Hyatt Diamond is one of the best hotel elite top-tier statuses, in my opinion. I completed a Hyatt Diamond challenge with them last month, which requires 12 qualifying nights within a 60 day period.

Hyatt Diamond Card

Hyatt Diamond Card

Originally, a friend had transferred some points before the devaluation which I intended to use at the Category 6 Park Hyatts before the devaluation. (You can transfer points here). However, when the devaluation kicked in, the new cash and points options that had kicked in were pretty interesting, so I decided to consider a run at Diamond Status. You can still challenge for Hyatt Diamond – see the steps to do it.

I calculated the value for me the status that Hyatt Diamond was worth in this post, which was a very conservative valuation on benefits. For the most part, I don’t need suites, and there’s no way I’d pay $100+ a night to upgrade to a suite at a Park/Grand Hyatt unless it was a really special occasion, nor the typical $50+ upgrade costs for a club room (obviously it is nice to get that as a free upgrade).

A lot of people may value that higher (and actually be willing to pay more for club access/suites), so it does depend on your spending habits and your travel budget. Since I ended up valuing Hyatt Diamond at around $700, two years of this status (since mine expires February 2016) is worth roughly $1400.

This is where it gets weird, because if you asked me if I would pay $1400 outright for Hyatt Diamond status for two years, I’d definitely say no. But elite status through a diamond challenge makes you act differently that you normally would…

Anyways, I ended up staying 14 nights/9 stays during the period which I was able to do because I had a period of pretty heavy travel.

Hyatt Diamond Elite Status Treatment

Ideally as a Diamond guest I’d like my rooms to have a helicopter pad and a giraffe sitting service you want to feel valued as a top-tier customer. As Hyatt puts it, “you will experience the highest level of membership and have access to our most elite benefits and awards.” For my stays, my Diamond Status was acknowledged and the standard benefits were provided. I felt some of the North American properties seemed much more willing to go above and beyond, in my opinion.

The Park Hyatt Chicago gave me a fantastic Park Executive Suite on a Cash and Points Rate, which usually went for around $900.

Park Hyatt Chicago Executive Suite

Park Hyatt Chicago Executive Suite

The Grand Hyatt San Diego also gave me a fantastic suite for Mother’s Day which went for around $400.

Grand Hyatt San Diego Suite

Grand Hyatt San Diego Suite

The stays at the Andaz London, Andaz Amsterdam, and Park Hyatt Zurich were also quite nice.

Spend and Points from the Hyatt Diamond Challenge

I ended up spending around $2200, which was by no means cheap, but for a two week-long family vacations, was very reasonable. I had 3 cash and points stays while the rest were on cash. I ended up not redeeming for all of the top-tier category 6 Hyatts that I planned to, and rather ended up doing a few more cash and points reservations, so I still have a some points left for a few more stays.

As well, I was targeted for 5,000 points after 5 stays when Hyatt targeted members for a bonus promotion. This also stacked with the 6,000 bonus points from the Diamond challenge which everyone gets after completing their first six stays. Along with a few diamond points amenities and elite bonuses, I ended collecting just under 30,000 points, which is another ~$420+ rebate.

Given that I value Hyatt Diamond at around ~$1400 for two years, the benefits I received I think was definitely a significant rebate on the cost of my hotel stays and I would have ended up paying quite a bit more for suites/breakfast/etc. had I not done the challenge.

Hyatt Diamond in comparison to other Chains

Two other chains where I think it’s worth going for elite status is SPG Platinum and IHG Royal Ambassador, and both elite statuses have amazing benefits which are probably on par with Hyatt Diamond. For example, Starwood Platinums get standard suites on arrival depending on available. IHG RA gets guaranteed 8am early check-in and free minibar, as well as generally a 2-category room upgrade. However, both programs do have limitations. Royal Ambassador benefits don’t apply on award stays (although this is not always the case), and the redemptions for SPG higher category hotels tend to be exorbitant – especially specialty Category 7 and limited SPG participation properties.

That’s why Hyatt in my opinion does offer the best combination of value in regards to points, elite status benefits, and hotels. They have to, because of their limited reach worldwide. I don’t think there’s any other chain which will do cash and point at 12.5k + $150 on a room goes for $400+ and allow you do DSU that onto a suite that costs even more, and then give you free room service breakfast.

It’s probably also probably the easiest chain to get elite status which also helps. Note that officially allowed only one Hyatt Diamond Challenge per lifetime, so make sure you take advantage of that.

Chase UR transfers into Hyatt, so if you do need points it’s not that hard to get. If you’re Canadian just find an American friend and move Hyatt points from their account into yours after they transfer UR. ;)

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One of the cards that I’m currently considering is the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite. This card is only available to Canadian residents with a Canadian credit file. While it doesn’t even have a signup bonus, it offers one of the greatest returns on certain categories of spending.

Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite

Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite

Highlights of the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite

The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card combines maximum cash back with a unique program of premium enhancements that tap into your lifestyle needs including:

  • Access to exclusive offers through scotiainfinite.com.
  • VISA Infinite complimentary concierge service available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day
  • Access to VISA Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection
  • VISA Infinite Dining Series with dining experiences in some of Canada’s top restaurants
  • Special access to unique offers and experiences
  • Maximum Cash Back
    The Scotia Momentum VISA Infinite card rewards you on your everyday spending with the most cash back of all our credit cards.

    • A full 4% cash back on all eligible gas station and grocery store purchases
    • A full 2% cash back on eligible drug store purchases and recurring bill payments
    • A full 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases

So, for the most part, a whole bunch of fluff. However, the 4% cash back is extremely attractive, especially if you’re going to spend heavily in that category. As well, through October 31 the annual fee for the first year is waived.

Earning and Burning

The card offers 1% for all purchases, 2% cashback on drugstore and recurring bill payments, and 4% cashback on eligible gas and groceries purchases. The 4% and 2% cashback categories are capped at $25,000 annually each. For the most part, I consider 1 Aeroplan/Avios/SPG point worth more than 1 cent, so I would not recommend spending in either the 1% or even the 2% category (especially since cards such as the American Express Gold Card do give 2 points/$ at drugstores as well).

However, the 4% cashback is the best in the market. If you do spend $25,000, this means you get $1000 cashback, which I’d think is worth more than 25,000 points of any kind. Cash is always king especially in regards to paid airline tickets or hotel reservations. The cashback would be credited to your account once a year. Of course, if you do want to “convert” your cash into your points you can always purchase Lifemiles at around 1.5 cents and SPG at 2.4 cents during their promotions, which means you can definitely “buy” more than 25,000 points with the $1000 if you want.

Other Benefits

The Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite also offers the following insurance benefits:

  • Travel Emergency Medical Insurance (up to 15 days)
  • Trip Interruption Insurance
  • Flight Delay Insurance
  • Baggage Delay Insurance
  • Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance
  • Rental Car Collision/Loss Damage Insurance
  • Purchase Security and Extended Warranty

I think the coverages offered by this card are pretty comprehensive and on par with most other premium credit cards in the market. I do like the extended warranty the card gives you on purchases.

Other Considerations

This card is very comparable to the Scotiabank Gold American Express, which also gives 4 points/$ on groceries and gas, and it might very well be worth getting that card instead. However, the only difference is that it functions as a travel credit rather than pure cash. On the other hand, it does offer a 30,000 points signup offer, worth $300. Unfortunately, AMEX acceptance is more limited, and the annual fee on that card isn’t waived (which is $99). The Scotiabank Gold AMEX also has a limit on the 4 points/$ bonus category you can earn per year, similar to the Visa Infinite, so it might be worth getting both (not at the same time) if you think you’ll exceed it.

The Canadian Kilometers Ranking

Score for the sign-up bonus – 0/10, as there’s no signup bonus.

Score for on-going earning – 8/10. The 4% cashback is surpassed, and cash is king. However, the regular earnings are fairly weak.

Score for benefits – 5/10. This visa has similar benefits to most other premium credit cards.

The Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite is a decent card for certain types of credit card spend and is unbeatable there, especially if you spend more than $50,000 a year in those categories, which makes it worth getting both Scotiabank card which give 4% back. The annual fee is waived, so there isn’t a cost to unlocking the strongest cashback rate in the Canadian credit card market.

Application Link: Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite

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Canadian Kilomters contains Terms of Use which maybe be applicable to your activity on this site. You agree to be legally bound to these terms when using the website, which shall take effect immediately on your first use of the website.

Posted by Canadian Kilometers | 4 Comments

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