Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Aadvantage Facebook, Free Miles!

Just stumbled across this on Facebook and scored an additional 200 miles this morning for simply liking the page!  Already AAdvantage has seen a 15k "like" increase in the last few hours just from this one contest, almost double the likes they started with back in mid-January.  A great place to keep up with Aadvantage promotions (besides this fabulous blog of course) so Like the page today!  http://www.facebook.com/#!/aadvantage

Enter the Mystery Miles contest by simply putting in your AA number and voila, free miles!  It's that easy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

You're a Star!!!

Well, you can be.  A Starwood cardholder that is!  I know I've mentioned numerous times and ways to earn miles using this card and why it's important to use it for additional mileage.  Because you get a bonus when converting points to miles, each dollar spent equals 1.25 miles per dollar, ON EVERYTHING.   May not sound like much but that's the difference between a domestic flight and an international one to the Caribbean or Mexico.  Hmm, for spending the same amount of money.  I'll take that extra passport stamp anyday. :)

   It's super easy to sign-up and every now and then, like now, they're offering an additional 5k points if you refer a friend and they sign up!  So your friend gets 25k bonus miles, no annual fee for the first year and you get an additional 5k miles, PER FRIEND.  Score! (friends, be on the lookout, mass e-blast coming your way shortly.  With love of course)

  Enough chatting Frank!  How do I sign up?  Here you go friends! :)

Get a Card! http://bit.ly/fYbXFv

Not my card number. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hungry for more?

One of our favorite ways to earn miles lately has got to be the AA Dining Program.  Every week, new restaurants are added that offer 3 or more miles per dollar spent making it very easy to earn miles for simply going to happy hour! 

  How does it work?  American has an entire website dedicated to it!  http://aa.rewardsnetwork.com  You enter the city you live in and select GO to see all of the places in your city/state/zip.  You can search by proximity to your office/house or if you're looking for something specific, like Sushi. (I capitalized it because it's THAT good) Another fantastic feature is the map function, which allows you to view the location of the restaurants listed on a map!  Again, very easy to see where something is in relation to where you are.  (And when you are searching for happy hours, this info is vital)  In addition to all of that, this allows you to filter by neighborhood, cuisine, price and what they're open for!  Don't believe me??

See?  Really handy when searching for places for miles.  So, you wanna take part, huh?  I don't blame you!  The great thing about this program is that to earn miles, you do NOT have to have an Aadvantage credit card.  Create an account and then go in and register every credit card and bank card you have active.  You will not earn miles unless the card is listed within the program.  (They're good but they can't use Satellite to track your dines for miles.  One day...)  It's very safe, no one is going to steal your stuff and even if they did, they don't have enough information to do anything with it.  You only give the number, not the expiration or security code.

  It's a great way to introduce yourself to new restaurants around the area you may have never tried before!  So many are jumping on board because it brings in customers plus you're getting miles for something you already planned to do. You get 3 miles per dollar, so if you treat your sweetheart to a $100 night out, you just scored 300 miles! 

  Any rookie would probably stop there.  But this is us you're talking about and well, we're what you call mile whores.  :)  The Dining Program has a VIP member level.  When you dine 12 times at AA restaurants, you earn VIP status and 5 miles per dollar spent!  I realize that's only 2 more miles but when you get into double and trip bonuses for dining and reviewing, we're talking some serious additional mileage.  For example: right now, for everyone, the current promotion running is "Make it a Double."  When you dine out 5 times between now and March 1st and review the restaurant you went to, (within 30 days) AA doubles the miles you earned!  If you're a regular member, that's 6 miles but for VIPs, it's 10.  Very difficult math I know.

  Again, still doesn't seem like THAT much huh?  Here's why you need to play the system properly.  Let's say between now and the end of March you chose to dine out for Valentine's day at an Advantage restaurant, (go you! and yes I know it's after) have a birthday for you or your special someone, have 2 business lunches and a happy hour scheduled.  Seems pretty normal huh?  I'm going to average that all of those events were about $75 each since they included business and a very pricey holiday.  That's $375 spent total and at 3 miles per dollar, you just earned 1,125 miles for simply signing up and registering your cards on AA.  Pretty cool!

  Let's say you took it a step further and were savvy by reading this life-changing blog and had already gained VIP status.  As a result you have now earned 1,875 miles!  Aren't you so smart!

  And here's why taking advantage of those bonus offers, which you have to elect into btw so login often to check them out, pays out.  By simply reviewing the restaurant with either a simply checked box of "I Recommend" or a full blown review if you feel compelled to, you just earned 2,250 miles as a regular member and 3,750 miles as a VIP!  That's the equivalent of flying from Dallas to Hawaii for "butt in seat miles" and MUCH cheaper I might add.  Plus, you already planned on going out for those events so you didn't really spend anything more than you already would have!  Tie in Aadvantage to your corporate cards as well and you'll earn miles without spending a penny. 

  The dining program runs promos like this ALL the time and usually has a running list of restaurants that are offering double miles per month in addition to this.  http://aa.rewardsnetwork.com/bonus.htm?promoId=hotDeals&detail=y  That also means that if you are very lucky, enrolled in the double miles program AND dine at one of these restaurants, you're looking at doubling your double miles.  This will be me in NYC in 2 weeks and I will report back with a mileage update. 

 Need more??  Use your Advantage credit card for an additional mile per dollar or your Starwood card for 1.25 miles per dollar.  This is taking full advantage of the system. It all adds up so quickly this way because you're not really doing anything different and yet you're earning over 4k miles! If you're doing this month, and participating in double dine challenges, that's easily a free domestic ticket each year!

Oh Clooney.  Racking up Airline miles from dining.  You are so damn pretty, er,  I mean smart.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cruisin' on a Sunday Afternoon....

Need a break?  Want to get away?  Does the thought of TSA rummaging through your personals make you ick though?  Sick of Canada-grade weather in Texas?  Sounds like you need a cruise.  And you're in luck my friends!

American Airlines sent me an email today that's got us looking to the high seas.  And there are miles involved.  (insert girly squeal here)  Now through March 10th, cruises you book through AA.com will earn you up to 25,000 AA miles!  Uh oh, up to.  Yeah I thought that was a bad sign and depending on what cruise you plan on booking, it can be.  Here's how American is breaking down the bonus miles:

Book your cruise before Mar 10, 2011 and get up to 25,000 miles to pay for a second trip! Enjoy a relaxing, all-inclusive cruise vacation and start planning how to spend your 25,000 AAdvantage bonus miles now! Applicable on all 2011 sailings. 3-5 night balcony sailings receive 1,750 bonus miles. 3-5 night suite sailings receive 2,500 bonus miles. 6-12 night balcony sailings receive 7,000 bonus miles. 6-12 night suite sailings receive 10,000 bonus miles. 13 night or longer balcony sailings receive 17,500 bonus miles. 13 night or longer suite sailings receive 25,000 bonus miles.

 The good news is that you can travel anytime this year, a very nice gesture on American's part.  Yes, you must book by March 10th but hey, that's a month to plan a trip! :)  I thought the 25,000 mile bonus would be for really expensive trips, over $10k, since you must book in a suite for 13 nights or more, HOWEVER, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they're not as bad of a sting as you may think.  They're not cheap, but if you're already budgeting for a cruise, why not earn miles while you're at it! :)

Breakdown of a few cruises to show you how this works.  For the purpose of these, I am planning based on using a Starwood Amex card to earn 1.25 miles per dollar for maximum mileage potential.

3-5 night cruise, Suite- earn a 2500 mile bonus
Royal Caribbean Eastern Caribbean cruise- Miami-Grand Turk-Half Moon Bay, Bahamas- Nassau, Bahamas-Miami
$779 per person for a Suite, total
Earning 1 AA mile for booking through AA.com, additional 1.25 for using Starwood plus 2500 mile bonus = 4253 miles total for this booking.  That means you are "paying" $.18 per mile! 

7 Night cruise, Suite- earn a 10,000 mile bonus
Carnival Cruise Line Exotic Western Caribbean cruise- Miami-Cozumel-Belize City-Roatan, Honduras-Grand Cayman-Miami
$929 per person for a suite, total
Earning 1 AA mile for booking through AA.com, additional 1.25 for using Starwood plus 10,000 mile bonus = 12, 090 miles total for this booking.  That means you are "paying" $.07 a mile!

Interested in a transatlantic cruise?  You might be after this! :)

16 Night cruise, Suite- earn a 25,000 mile bonus
Carnival Cruise Line Transatlantic Westbound cruise- Barcelona-Palma De Mallorca, Balearic Islands-Malaga, Spain-Canary Islands-Galveston
$2849 per person for a suite, total
Earning 1 AA mile for booking through AA.com, additional 1.25 for using Starwood plus 25,000 mile bonus = 31,412 miles total for this booking.  That means you are "paying" $.09 a mile!

While these may not be the BEST way to earn miles, it's certainly something to look into if you're already planning on cruising this year.  Why not earn extra miles on a trip you already planned to book! :)  For more information, click on the link below and book your cruise today! 


Monday, February 7, 2011

Top Mile Earning Opportunity Yet

Ready for the greatest mile earning opportunity EVER?  Of course you are! This costs you absolutely nothing and the only requirement is a mile-earning credit card. 

Flyertalk, remember that glorious website with all things miles related we talked about, posted a thread that once again changed how we earn miles.  Tonight we finally pulled the trigger on this so I'll report how it turned out in about a week or so. 

I know, I know, get to it already Frances!  Here goes:  did you know that there was a place where you can order money, using a credit card, that requires no credit card "fee" and the money ships for free?  And did you know that this was a government agency of all things?  Yeah, me either.  Well apparently the US Mint falls under these points!  For the past few years now, extreme mile-ists (I made up that word) discovered a program that allowed you to order coins from the US Mint, "pay" for them with a credit card (that AAdvantage card) and then turn around and deposit the coins you just bought at your bank.  The perks?  For starters, you have miles for money you never really spent.  You didn't have to pay a penny more since there are no credit card fees for buying the coins and shipping is free.  You're helping circulate the coins that the US Mint desperately wants in the public's hands. 

Seems like it's cheating the system, huh?  It is and it isn't.  The US Mint is very aware that over $1 million each year are purchased from mile-ists and yet they don't seem to mind.  (it's been going on since 2008)  I think that's because they really want the coins in circulation so they'll take that risk, hoping you only deposit half of it and then go out and spend the rest. 

Here's the full post from Flyertalk that answers just about any question you may have, including which cards consider these "cash advances" and therefore do not allow miles to be earned.  Any other questions I can hopefully answer in about a week or so once we've deposited the cash. 

What is the URL I should use to buy the coins with free shipping?

Is it possible that my order from the US Mint might be treated as a cash advance?
Absolutely not. The only way for something to be treated as a cash advance is by using a PIN code, by using a card issuer's "credit card checks", or by going to a bank and asking for a cash advance.

But the mint says (or said): "The purchase of $1 coins under the Circulating $1 Coin Direct Ship Program is a cash equivalent or cash-like transaction. Ordinarily, such purchases are not eligible for credit card rewards, cash-back, cash rebate, and similar programs."
Note that this says "cash equivalent" or "cash-like". Neither of these things are anything like a cash-advance (which incurs special interest treatment and goes against your cash advance limit).

So, will my purchase from the US Mint be treated as a cash equivalent? What would that mean?
As of now, only one card has treated the purchase as a cash equivalent. If a purchase is treated as a cash equivalent, it is the same as any other purchase (costs the same, no special interest treatment), but you would not earn miles/points. See the last question below, which will contain a list of cards currently reported to be treating the purchases in this way.

How many boxes can I order?
The Mint's limits are currently 4 boxes ($1000) every 10 days. The 4 boxes do not need to be of the same type of coin. The 10 days starts when you order the coins, not when they are shipped.

The Mint has not explained how they enforce the limit.

Is the limit per person/address/email address/account/credit card/etc?
The Mint has recently changed their terms and now the limits are per household.

What’s the process after I submit my order?
If the coins are not backordered, the order will usually hit your credit card as an authorization (but not a charge) within a day or two. Also, usually within 3 days, the Order Status will go from “Your order request is on hold” to “In process” at The Mint’s website. When the Order Status goes to “In Process”, you no longer have the option to cancel the order. At this point, it usually takes 2 or 3 days for the coins to ship but can take much longer. All orders ≥ $500 are shipped UPS next day air, unless you are shipping to a Post Office box, with the shipping charges waived.

When will my card be charged?
Your card is usually charged within a day of the coins shipping, however it can take a few days or more.

What if I’m not home to receive the package?
The coins are shipped with a signature required. In most instances, they’re shipped UPS. If you’re not home, UPS will attempt 3 deliveries before holding them at their local distribution center for 5 business days. After 5 days, they will ship them back to The Mint. After 1 delivery attempt, you can reschedule the delivery for another date or location, but UPS charges a fee for this.

What kind of package are these shipped in? How much do they weigh? It doesn’t say “The Mint” on the package does it?
$250 coins are shipped as 10 rolls of 25 coins/ea in a brick-sized box. Up to 4 of these boxes are shipped in a larger shipping box. A shipment of 1000 coins weights ~19 lbs (approx 53 coins/lb when you include the shipping materials). The shipment has a 4 character name on the return label, which is the government contractor in charge of shipping the coins. There is no indication on the outside of the box that cash is inside (tell the UPS guy you’re ordering batteries if he asks…)

As I go through the order process, it still shows a shipping charge even though I’m buying $500 or more. How can I get this waived?
On the last page of the process, the shipping charge should be $0.00, even if it shows as $4.95 on the first page. If they do charge you the $4.95, a quick call to The Mint will get it waived.

Is the backorder date accurate?
Not always. It’s usually a good indication, but the coins have a tendency to ship a few days before the original backorder date.

Why is The Mint still doing this? They have to know people are buying the coins for credit card rewards and not putting them into circulation, don't they?
The Coin Act of 2005 states that The Mint must produce a specific number of coins per year. The intent is that these will get into circulation and reduce the number of $1 bills required. Coins are much cheaper for the government because they last much longer than a bill.

What’s the best way to deposit the coins at the bank?
That’s for you to decide. Some banks will take no $1 coin deposits, while others will take deposits upwards of $50,000. Some banks require you to break open the rolls, others take them rolled, etc. There are varying policies even within different branches of the same bank. It seems like lots of people take in a few thousand at a time to avoid becoming high on the radar of any bank, but others make special arrangements with branch managers to bring in a dolly full of coins at once.

Do I have to unroll the coins to take them to the bank?
It all depends on your bank. Some banks take the brick-sized boxes of $250 as they are shipped from The Mint, some like the packaging material removed and $500 (20 rolls) packed in a box, others want X rolls in a bag while others require you to open each roll and have X coins per bag. It is recommended that you take a small deposit (500 or 1,000) into your bank and talk with the head teller or manager to see what they’ll require or desire. The consensus has been NOT to use coin machines to count them because they have a tendency to be off and mis-count some coins. It’s much better if the bank takes The Mint’s word that there is truly 25 coins per roll.

What’s the best rate of return for buying these coins?
Again, that’s up to you. It depends on how much value you put on an airline mile, hotel point, Thank You point, etc, and how many points/dollar your card gives.

Are my rewards taxable?
You’re best getting this answer from a reputable tax professional. It’s been stated on FT that non-cash rewards (airline/hotel points, etc) are not taxable, but cash-back rewards might be because you’re buying cash (dollar coins) at a discount for resale (deposit to your account). None of the answers here are legal advice, just reiterating what’s been discussed in the thread previously.

My coins aren’t shipping after a week or two, even though they’re in-stock. What can I do?
If your Order Status still shows as "Your order request is on hold" after 10 days there is a problem with your order, you can either cancel and re-order or call the Mint and ask. Orders that are "on hold" long enough will eventually be automatically canceled by the US Mint. Reasons an order can get stuck in "on hold" for long periods include failure to process the credit card you gave them, ordering more than 1000 coins and ordering more often than every 10 days.
    If your Order Status shows as "Processing" be patient, there are no reports that orders that reached the Processing stage didn't eventually ship.
How long will this coin thing go on?
That’s a major unknown of this program because The Mint could end the dollar coin sales or free shipping at any time. The Coin Act of 2005 states that 4 presidents are to be produced per year through Reagan. This allows for the coins to be produced through 2016 (the President must be deceased for 2 years before a coin can be produced… so there could be a few more before 2016 to extend the program a bit). However, because the coins are scheduled to be produced for another 7 years, this program of obtaining them at face value might not last that long, or Congress could pass another act to repeal the 2005 act.

My bank won’t take my coin deposit. Aren’t they legally obligated to?
Banks are private institutions and aren’t required to take any deposit that they don’t want. Even though coins are legal tender for the
repayment of debt, most banks organize their credit card divisions as a separate company and your local branch is not who you owe a debt to.

What’s the trail that the coins take once I give them to my bank?
The Mint produces them and ships them to you. If you deposit them at a branch, they can try to distribute them to other customers, but this is rare in my experience. If the branches don’t distribute them, they go to the Federal Reserve (maybe at stop at the bank’s central vault first). The Federal Reserve stores them in reserves until a bank orders them. They do not go back to The Mint from The Federal Reserve.

What else can I do/buy with the coins that I cannot use my miles earning credit card for?
Use your imagination. Some things discussed are paying your local taxes (again, they're a debt and the coins are legal tender), buying money orders at the USPS or Wal-Mart (they aren't required to take them, though), tips, gifts, street vendors, and more!

Which cards do not accumulate miles/points for the dollar coin purchases?
Both US Bank’s Flexperks card and Comerican Bank (Elan Credit) have been reported as not earning points for Mint purchases. If you encounter others, please send a private message to iahtraveler so that this list can be updated. Please DO NOT post which cards still accumulate points/miles in the open coin thread.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How to earn miles

  The biggest question that Curtis and I get about traveling is "how on earth do you earn so many miles?"  Talk about a question with so many possible answers.  Truth is, there is no one way we earn miles; we carefully seek out deals, promotions and forums on ways to constantly earn these miles.  One extremely helpful website that we reference almost daily is Flyertalk; a community based solely around helping each other earn as many miles as physically possible and/or REALLY cheap deals on hotels.  (ex: they post hotels around the world that offer $1 a night rates all the time)  It's also a wonderful forum for learning about places you plan to go!  These are all dedicated and experienced travelers looking to help each other out.

  Like I've mentioned before, we earn American Airlines miles because they have one of the best FF (frequent flier) programs out there.  Why?  AA miles are tied into almost every facet of life now, from meals to shopping to credit cards and bank accounts.  They also have what's called the One World Alliance, a collection of airlines that all agree to allow customers of their FF programs to fly on any other partner airlines.  So why does AA's program rank so high in our eyes?  Here are the partners:

Included in that list are Cathay Pacific and Qantas Airways, winners of the 2010 top 10 Wold Airline Awards.  Japan Airlines is also consistently noted for it's service as well.  The rest are nice airlines but from what we have discovered, the One World Alliance is worth using miles just to fly on these airlines alone.

So how exactly do we earn these miles?  We try with literally every penny we spend. 

1.  The easiest way to accrue maximum airline miles, and the fastest, without leaving the ground, is through credit card sign-ups.  Curtis and I are avid credit card users, paying off the balances each month in full, to maximize benefit and minimize cost.  (those miles you earned from a credit card are only worth it if you're not paying interest each month, otherwise your dollar per mile cost skyrockets)  Most AA credit cards offer a 30-50,000 mile bonus just for signing up and then run promotional campaigns where certain items and services earn 2 or more miles per dollar spent.  40,000 miles is a free ticket to Europe, btw.  These cards are with Citibank and until recently, you could signup for as many offers as you wanted to, cancel the card when the annual fee is due (we don't pay annual fees.  call and threaten to cancel; if they don't remove it, cancel the card) and sign-up again after 2 months for more miles.  Citi has since changed that but you CAN sign-up for multiple types of cards.  We each have Citi Mastercards, Visas and American Express'.  Assuming each card gave a bonus of 40,000 miles (we usually aim for promotions with 50k or more) that's 120,000 miles for each of us, just for signing up for 3 credit cards. Many banks are now offering miles for checking accounts as well if that's more up your ally.  
*tip: don't sign up for the cards you see on the AA or Citibank website.  Citibank has been sending out emails to those expressing interest in their cards for upwards of a 75,000 mile initial bonus on first time Citi card AA holders.  See Flyertalk for the most up to date listings. 

2.  So now you have 3 credit cards and a handful of miles.  The next step is maximizing the mileage potential through items/services you already planned to spend money on.  This is where American kicks it up a notch.  :)  The things that one can earn miles on these days is endless.  Below are the links to sites American has where you can earn miles doing just about anything from shopping to hotels to dining. 

AAdvantage eShopping
Earn AAdvantage miles for shopping online or in store with more than 300 brand name retailers

Fly and earn miles on American Airlines, American Eagle or one of our AAdvantage participant airlines.

Earn miles with your donations to non-profit organizations.

Credit and Debit Cards
Earn miles by using credit and debit cards.

Thousands of participating restaurants offer AAdvantage miles when you dine.

Financial Services
Earn miles when using a variety of financial service providers.

Earn miles with our hotel participants around the world.

Phone & Internet
Earn miles through our telecommunications and Internet service partners.

Real Estate & Mortgage
Earn miles with our real estate and mortgage participants.

Rental Cars
Earn and use miles with participating rental companies.

Retail and Gifts
Earn miles by shopping, sending flowers, gifts and much more.

Vacations & Cruises
Earn and use miles for vacations and cruises.

Additional Partners
Additional AAdvantage mile earning opportunities with select participants.

One of our favorite programs is the dining program because after only 10 dines a year at a restaurant listed, you get VIP status, which means you are earning almost double what you would have without it.  I can't tell you how many times we've gone to dinner and earned upwards of 500 miles for it.  Not because we ate $500 in food, but because of the VIP dining status, allowing us to earn 10 miles per dollar spent.  Use your Citi AA card with that, during a promotional week of 2 miles per dollar spent and that's an additional 100 miles!  You just earned 600 miles for a sushi dinner. 

3.  This is something we haven't tried yet but many, many people on Flyertalk do.  It's called a mileage run.  When airlines release ridiculously low fares, last minute, to random destinations, you purchase the ticket, request the longest route possibly and simply fly all weekend.  When you pair this with a bonus mile weekend (either bonus miles or double miles) some have earned as much as 75,000 miles just doing this alone.  Stranded at the airport for a delay?  Instead of yelling for a refund, request miles instead.  The airlines don't mind because so many go un-cashed and you've just earned even more miles on your mileage run.  As the video posted at the end of this post, start thinking of miles as currency.  Because they are.

As new opportunities for miles arise, I will be sharing them with you!  These are just some of the main ways to earn a lot of miles in a short period of time.  We came across this video and I thought it would be appropriate to include it in this entry. :)  Enjoy!

Questions?  Leave them in the comments and I'm happy to help! 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A break from the cold

So, like the rest of the US, it's ridiculously cold and icy here right now.  It's unusual to have a solid week of this in Texas as we normally have at least a day or two of "thawing" before it gets below freezing again.  Our neighborhood is completely iced over and we can't leave our driveway, even if we wanted to!  We took a walk around earlier today and ended up helping someone who was trying to leave our subdivision and almost went over an embankment into a creek from the ice!  I'm not sure why anyone would drive in this and we couldn't believe how many people were running into curbs, fences and through stop signs and stoplights.  Snow isn't a problem, it's the ice that's killing us!

That's snow, on top of ice.  The gray is NOT the road, it's the 2 inches of ice on the road.  

Under the pile are the children that scream every morning outside of my window waiting on the bus.  

As I sit in front of the fire answering emails and watching the Food Network, (it's a mild obsession) I tried to let my mind wander to all the warm places we could be right now!  If this weather doesn't make you want to book a beach vacation, I'm not sure what else will.  And so, without further ado, a little eye candy to warm us all up!  Enjoy! :)

Virgin Gorda- British West Indies
Kefalonia- Greek Isles
Positano Beach- Amalfi Coast


Turks & Caicos- Providenciales- Grace Bay
Warm yet?  :)  This will be here before we know it!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Aussie Hotel Mate!

The most recent hotel we booked was in Sydney, Australia, the last leg of our trip.  This was the other hotel we used Starwood points for and after seeing it, it took all of about 10 minutes before deciding to book! :)  The location is perfect, the view is stunning and there is so much to do around the area.  It's the Four Points Sheraton at Darling Harbour. 

Because this hotel is in a notoriously expensive city, and in a prime location, it was a bit more to do the cash/points option.  That doesn't mean it wasn't worth it or more affordable than anything else we saw!  We are using 2800 points per night, for 5 nights, totaling 14,400 points overall.  Because we're using Starwood points again, that makes the out of pocket cost of the hotel just $45 a night for a hotel that books for $230 a night. Not too shabby!

Beautiful view of the hotel at night!

Rooms overlook the harbour

Modern, clean rooms

Darling Harbour at night

One of the first pubs in Sydney.  Lots of history here!
I'm really excited about this hotel because it's withing walking distance of the famous Sydney Opera House and surrounded by so many unique pubs, restaurants and shops.  We would never splurge on a hotel like this as we prefer to spend our cash on activities rather than hotels so this will feel like a real treat!  Starwood has really opened up so many possibilities for us on this trip and as a result, we plan to focus more energy on collecting Starwood points for future travels. 

5 more months and I'm already counting the days! :)

How we did it:
Starwood Points + Cash option: 2800 points per night, 14,400 total
$45 a night, $225 total
Saved over $925 using Starwood points!