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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Update: Unfortunately Uber has fixed the glitch. You may still be able to find your rating if you talk to a driver (who will see your rating).

One of the apps I carry on my phone and use quite frequently when I’m travelling is Uber. For those of you who don’t know, Uber is a great car service where you can use in many cities worldwide to order a car with your smartphone.

New users can earn up to a $30 credit on their first ride. If you haven’t already signed up, this is currently and historically the most credit that Uber gives from a referral code signup. I get a free ride if you take one too – thanks for your support!

I find the UberX rates in the US really reasonable, especially if you get a black car. Just earlier this month when I was in DC I ordered an UberX and stacked with a promotion code (which unfortunately has expired), my ride to DCA Airport cost $7. The car that came and picked me up was a Mercedes S-Class too, so it’s pretty much as good as it gets when you’re paying a similar cost to public transit. ;)

At the end of each rate, you can rate the driver on a rating out of 5. But drivers also rate you after your ride. Uber has never released those ratings but there’s a website glitch which was posted on medium.com you can leverage to see your rating.

Here’s the steps the article provides for you to retrieve your rating:

Edit: Uber is currently trying to fix it. Hurry to find your rating!

Uber has rating system for Drivers and Passengers. Both can rate each other.

Uber doesn’t give any easy way for users to find their rating.

Follow steps below to find your rating. Either download the chrome extension or follow instructions manually.

Steps

  1. Go to https://m.uber.com and log in.

Sign In

2. When page below loads, open console (CMD + option + j on Chrome).

Open Console

3. Paste Javascript code into your console.

if(window.Uber.pingData === false) { location.reload(); } else { alert(“Name : ” + window.Uber.pingData.client.firstName + ” ” + window.Uber.pingData.client.lastName + “\nEmail : “+ window.Uber.pingData.client.email + “\nPassenger rating is : “+ window.Uber.pingData.client.rating); }

4. The first time you paste code, your browser will reload. Keep the console open and once the page loads again, paste code again. If you are successful, popup below will appear.

The code shows up a bit weird on my post – see the medium post if you can’t get it to work.

My rating was 4.8.

Uber Rating

Uber Rating

I thought it was amusing, so thought I’d share. What rating did you get?

If you don’t already have Uber, you can sign up here.

Tip of the Hat to Amol

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Membership Rewards is the points currency of some American Express Cards which I think is one of the most valuable points in Canada.

Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards

Earning Membership Rewards

The American Express Gold Card is at the moment the only card that gives you Membership Rewards points as a signup bonus essentially free. This card offers 25,000 points after a $500 minimum spend, with a waived annual fee for the first year.

The American Express Platinum Card both offers 60,000 points after $1000 in minimum spend. While there is a hefty annual fee, the travel benefits on the card is unsurpassed. See my review for more details.

Read More…

Posted by Canadian Kilometers | 5 Comments

Aeroplan has had problems booking EVA Air award space for the past few weeks, which was a major source of frustration for many members, as they had excellent fuel surcharge free transpacific award space access.

Availability is now back online and bookable by the phone on aeroplan.com for all routes, including transpacific and intra-Asia flights.

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Starwood has been sending out targeted offers for free nights and/or points, which I find incredibly lucrative for those targeted yet penalizing on non-targeted members.

Starwood Exclusive Rewards Promotion

I received this in an SPG email for one of the accounts I manage.

Exclusive Offer

Exclusive Rewards

That led me to the Exclusive Rewards Promotion website. Loyalty Lobby says that there’s three version of the offer, which is targeted and thus not public.

Starwood Exclusive Rewards Offers

1. Free Night Cat 1-6 Certificate After A Stay (Max 3 Certs After 3 Stays)

Eligible member must register by August 31, 2014, 11:59 p.m. EDT. Members can earn one (1) Free Night Award after they book and complete one (1) eligible stay, a second Free Night Award after they complete their second (2nd) eligible stay, and a third Free Night Award after their third (3rd) eligible stay from July 15, 2014, through October 15, 2014 (the “promotion period”). This promotion is not transferable. Bookings made prior to the promotion period are eligible, but only eligible stays consumed during the promotion period will earn a bonus.

An eligible stay is a stay with at least 1 eligible paid night at any of the over 1,100 participating Starwood hotels and resorts paying an eligible paid rate during the promotion period.

2. Free Night Cat 1-6 Certificate After Two Stays & Additional Certificate After 3rd And 4th Stays (Max 3 Free Night Certs After 4 Stays)

Eligible member must register by August 31, 2014, 11:59 p.m. EDT. Members can earn one (1) Free Night Award after they book and complete two (2) eligible stays, a second Free Night Award after they complete their third (3rd) eligible stay, and a third Free Night after they complete their fourth (4th) eligible stay from July 15, 2014, through October 15, 2014 (the “promotion period”). This promotion is not transferable. Bookings made prior to the promotion period are eligible, but only eligible stays consumed during the promotion period will earn a bonus.

An eligible stay is a stay with at least 1 eligible paid night at any of the over 1,100 participating Starwood hotels and resorts paying an eligible paid rate during the promotion period.

3.Maximum Of 7,500 Bonus Starpoints After 3 Stays

Eligible member must register by August 31, 2014, 11:59 p.m. EDT. Member can earn 1,500 bonus Starpoints® after one (1) eligible paid stay, 2,500 bonus Starpoints after the second (2nd) eligible paid stay, and 3,500 bonus Starpoints after the third (3rd) eligible paid stay. As part of this promotion, member may earn a maximum of 7,500 total bonus Starpoints for three eligible stays from July 15, 2014, through October 15, 2014 (the “promotion period”). This promotion is not transferable. Bookings made prior to the promotion period are eligible, but only eligible stays consumed during the promotion period will earn a bonus.

The above offers were originally on Loyalty Lobby’s post.

My Thoughts

If you are targeted for the first two offers, that is an amazing deal, and in my opinion, worth mattress running. It has been a long time since a promotion has been “mattress runnable” where the benefits from completing an promotion will be worth more than the value of the hotels. Most likely, this is a promotion to target inactive members or those that may consider SPG (and don’t use it as their primary chain). It’s highly unlikely that elite members who earn their status from stays will receive this offer, unfortunately.

A Category 6 hotel goes for 20,000 SPG points or 25,000 SPG points in the peak season. Most people would value a Starwood Point at a minimum of 1.5 cents per mile, so this means each night you stay gets you a return of at least $300. Even if you don’t normally pay that much, for a hotel night, I’m fairly sure that’d there’s no other offer where you can pay around $100 for a cheap hotel near you (or if you head down for a weekend trip somewhere), and get a free hotel night to use in Paris, Sinagpore, Mauritius, and many other outstanding locations.

For example, the Westin Paris is going for over 550 euros for some dates later this year.

Westin Paris

Westin Paris

If you were targeted for the third offer, it’s a nice bonus if you were planning travel and might be worth switching chains for, but doesn’t justify mattress running as much. This offer should also stack with the Earn Away double/triple points promotion that SPG is also running as their Q2 chain-wide promotion.

The best credit card to accrue SPG points in Canada is the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express which offers 1 point per general spend plus a 25% transfer bonus when you transfer 20,000 SPG points to airline partners. Currently the card also offers 10,000 bonus points after $500 spend within the first three months, at an annual fee of $120.

Check if you are targeted here. (I hope you are!)

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You can earn 100 miles from a free SMS subscription with a chance to win 50,000 miles.

Update: Only Canadian phone numbers seem to be eligible.

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I have a confession to make.

I’m a trust fund baby who has 16 million dollars to spend on first class suites thanks to sending a Nigerian prince a wire transfer and getting quite a bit in return.

Okay, I’m joking, but I think I definitely have been brainwashed by miles and points. Let me tell you why I think that.

Read More…

Posted by Canadian Kilometers | 7 Comments

Lifemiles is one of my favourite frequent flyer programs, and while I’d like to think that they are, it seems that they continue to deteriorate the value of their miles.

Changes in the Star Alliance Award Chart

Effective October 15, Lifemiles is modifying their award chart for regions including Europe, South America, and North America.

Those changes are partially posted on their website, but the fact that they don’t disclose exactly what will happen concerns me.

The website mentions the following changes to Star alliance awards:

As for changes in air ticket redemption with Star Alliance member airlines, these include increases up to 13.000 miles in Economy Class and up to 26.000 miles in Business Class. Both cases apply for roundtrip flights from North America.

For roundtrip flights from Mexico, there will be reductions up to 15.000 miles and increases up to 14.000 miles in Economy Class, also reductions up to 20.000 miles and increases up to 28.000 miles in Business class.

Current rates on Lifemiles for travel to Europe from North America on Star Alliance partners are 60,000 miles and 105,000 miles roundtrip, in economy and business respectively. The devaluations raises the price slightly. I really don’t like that they’re not disclosing any changes to any other regions, such as North Asia, and for first class redemptions as well.

The best redemptions on Lifemiles are long-haul international first class routes, as well as heavily discounted routes (although that’s another story). If Lifemiles isn’t disclosing the changes those charts (if any), that means there could be a significant devaluation to those redemptions.

Lifemiles Blocking Lufthansa First Class

Recently I’ve noticed that Lifemiles has been blocking Lufthansa First Class redemptions on their website. I’m hoping it’s a temporary issue, but at this point nobody really knows what’s happening. Up to this point, Lifemiles was one of the cheapest ways to fly Lufthansa First, and a 1.5 cents per mile during the transfer promotion and purchase promotions, that made a first class ticket only ~$1200-1300.

I suspect that this happened because there was a trick that was available for Lufthansa First Class that allowed you to fly it for under 20,000 miles per segment, which many people (including myself) took advantage of. In fact, I can count six bloggers who flew it and kept it a secret. ;) Given how many bloggers have flown it, I can only imagine how many FTers and other people have.

Strangely enough, some routes involving connections with Lufthansa First Class is still available, although it’s nothing I’d want to fly alone. Ironically you’d still get fairly significant discounts on those routes too.

Lifemiles Tricks and Strategies

I still have a fair amount of Lifemiles in my account, which I can’t do anything with, because most of the good redemptions are gone. However, if you’re not aware, there are still options to fly to Asia, Europe, and the Middle East for only 25,000 Lifemiles. As well, there are other one-way redemptions which reduce the cost normally required for the miles.

Still, Lifemiles for the most part has lower award redemption costs than United, and no fuel surcharges on all airlines unlike Aeroplan. If you don’t have much of the either, buying Lifemiles at 1.5 cents (and soon to go up) may still be a good value, although you’d want to redeem immediately given the changes that have occurred and will occur.


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While the Middle East is one of Oneworld’s stronger focus areas, service to Israel tends to be more scarce, especially in the premium cabins. British Airways and Iberia offer service to Tel Aviv, but high fuel surcharges often make award travel unattractive. One of the lesser-known non-Oneworld partners of American Airlines is El Al Israel Airlines, the flag carrier of Israel and arguably the best AAdvantage redemption for award travel to Israel.

Using American AAdvantage for travel on El Al

El Al AAdvantage Redemption Routes

In addition to a comprehensive network to Europe, El Al offer long haul service out of Tel Aviv to/from the following destinations:

  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Toronto
  • Mumbai
  • Beijing
  • Bangkok
  • Hong Kong
  • Johannesburg

El Al Israel Long Haul Route Network

Aircraft and Service

El Al operates Boeing 747-400 aircraft featuring fully flat beds in business class on their routes to/from New York-JFK and London Heathrow.

Fully flat beds on El Al 747-400 Business Class to New York JFK and London Heathrow

Fully flat beds on El Al 747-400 Business Class to New York JFK and London Heathrow

However, on Boeing 747-400 routes to BarcelonaParis-Charles de Gaulle and Bangkok, El Al offers an angled flat business class product, identical to the SpaceBed seats formerly found on Singapore Airlines business class.

Fully flat beds on El Al 747-400 Business Class to Barcelona, Paris-CDG and Bangkok

Fully flat beds on El Al 747-400 Business Class to Barcelona, Paris-CDG and Bangkok

Angled flat seats are also offered on all Boeing 777 aircraft which currently serve Los Angeles, Newark, London-Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Hong Kong. While they are not as conducive to sleeping as fully-flat seats, angled flat seats still offer a decent amount of comfort for lounging.

All other routes operated by El Al will feature recliner-style seats in business class – a throwback to the olden days indeed (but not in the good way!) Routes operated by the Boeing 767 do offer iPad entertainment in business class, these aircraft serve the remaining long-haul routes including Toronto.

Booking El Al AAdvantage Awards

The well publicised “transit through a third reason rule” that AAdvantage has essentially ensures that El Al award travel is only practical if you are terminating/originating in Tel Aviv. If you wish to transit/stopover in Tel Aviv onwards to a connecting flight on El Al, two awards must be purchased instead. Note that AAdvantage awards are not available for El Al First Class.

One way AAdvantage award prices for travel on El Al out of Tel Aviv to/from:

  • Los Angeles, Toronto and New York – 45,000 miles in Economy Class or 67,500 miles in Business Class
  • Europe – 20,000 miles in Economy Class or 30,000 miles in Business Class
  • Johannesburg – 30,000 miles in Economy class or 45,000 miles in Business Class
  • Beijing, Hong Kong and Bangkok – 22,500 miles in Economy Class or 30,000 miles in Business Class
  • Mumbai – 17,500 miles in Economy Class or 25,000 miles in Business Class

Award travel on El Al is combinable with other AAdvantage award partners. That means you can add on free positioning segments on American or US Airways to your North American gateway city, or other combinations with other partners on the one award ticket.

Adelaide to Tel Aviv via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific and El Al for 45,000 AAdvantage miles in Business Class

Searching El Al Award Space

The “conventional” way of searching for El Al award space is via ExpertFlyer, but as the saying goes – the best things in life are free. So again I recommend the FlightStats Seat Availability Tool for searching award seats on El Al.

The fare bucket for business class award seats is X and economy class award seats is E. El Al tends to release a maximum of two business class seats on North American routes, while up to nine on all other routes. Economy class award space is plenty, with nine seats across the board.

Two business class and nine economy award seats on El Al from Toronto-Pearson to Tel Aviv

Two business class and nine economy award seats on El Al from Toronto-Pearson to Tel Aviv

The best credit card to accrue AAdvantage miles in Canada is the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express which offers 1 point per general spend plus a 25% transfer bonus when you transfer 20,000 SPG points to American AAdvantage. Currently the card also offers 10,000 bonus points after $500 spend within the first three months, at an annual fee of $120.


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