January 2017 turned out to be an amazing time to travel. With the down season, many hotels and flights were at their year low. Redemption was on point too! Lets start with the best trip first:
Hong Kong at the highest hotel in the world (1,588 ft) for Chinese New Year (28 Jan 2017)
Flights were pretty empty and I was able to use 76,986 MR points for a round trip for my mom. This is for flight UA895/896 direct from ORD to HKG taking a whopping 15.5 hours per segment. If I had chosen my personal platinum card I would of gotten 3,849 MR points (5x for flights on personal only) on top of the 38,493 MR 50% refund with Business Platinum. With the 42,342 MR refund on 76,986 we would of only spent 34,644 MR for a $769.86 flight or 2.2 cents per point! However the 2 cents per point that I actually got is still pretty good.
The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong is a Tier 5 hotel costing 70,000 Marriott Points per night. Rooms facing Victoria Harbor go for around $600 a night making redemption at 0.8 cents per point which is just alright. These points came from the 80,000 bonus still going on for the Chase Marriott card for $3,000 spend. This card also includes a free night every anniversary in exchange for the $85 annual fee. I went ahead and used my cert on this trip for the Courtyard Hong Kong Sha Tin up by the river in the New Territories, which included free dim sum for gold members (free with AmEx Platinum via SPG Gold). This room goes for $110 a night which makes up for the $85 annual fee. Next year we will have two nights free at this hotel or any cat 1-4 hotel, and Gold members get a view of the lounge overlooking the Shing Mun river.
Now back to the ritz, the hotel was reported as super fancy by my mom who took advantage of their dinner buffet at Cafe 103 wth friends. The fees are broken down here:
Extravagant Seafood Buffet with Endless Bubbly
Café 103 is pleased to showcase luxurious and extravagant buffet, offering a series of succulent seafood, international delicacies. Our talented chefs have selected premium seasonal ingredients worldwide and present a truly enticing gourmet dinner with free flow of sparkling wine, juices and soft drinks.
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Price: HKD 798 per adult (Sunday to Thursday)
HKD 548 per child (Sunday to Thursday)
She wanted to share these amazing meals with me:
My brother chipped in by using his Hyatt Card free night at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui for my mom. This hotel is a Cat 4 and redeemable for the annual free night. The room usually goes for $193 which more than justifies the $75 annual fee.
Round trip flights to and from Hong Kong as well as three nights hotel all on points turned out to be a amazing redemption. You can give a loved one quite an adventure with points alone.
Los Angeles from Beverly Hills Glam to Echo Park Hipster
I was reading Brian’s (The Points Guy) blog on LA and his favorite places to go. It is in a need for a update as some of suggested places to eat have shut down. I tried to hit up the Knuckle & Claw as suggested by TPG, but sadly it closed just a few weeks prior. Flights were super cheap from ORD to SAN and didn’t bother to try to use points. I used $176.20 from my $200 travel bank funded by my American Express Platinum card using the old gift registry trick. Arriving at the San Diego airport I drove up the I-5 and parked at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center parking for $10 a day and walked to the SLS Beverly hills which was charging $42 a day for valet parking! What was nice with the SLS is the use of the M-Series BMW 740i that would drive you anywhere in a 2 mile radius for free. We would drive out and Uber back.
Hotel was nice, certainly very modern with an appeal to the flashy and flossy crowd. Nice bedding and good customer service. Usually $318 a night, but I used a combination of Marriott points transferred to SPG points at a 3 to 1 ratio for 20,000 SPG points a night (or 60,000 Marriott points) for a redemption of 0.5 cents per Marriott point or 1.5 cents per SPG point. Not the best redemption, but better then actually paying for it. This is all points from stays and some points form the SPG card from AmEx currently offering 25,000 Starpoints after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
Hotel was nicely located in Beverly Hills, but for contrast we stayed at the Comfort Inn at 2717 West Sunset Blvd on the hipster side of town (Echo Park). Much better street food, and entirely walkable. This hotel was only $143 a night with the AAA discount and with free breakfast. Didn’t even bother to use Choice Reward points for 1,000 AmEx Membership Rewards for 1,000 Choice Privileges points. The room would of been 20,000 Choice Rewards points at a pitiful 0.715 cents per point. You might as well transfer the 20K via Schwab AmEx for $250 cash at 1.25 cents per point and buy yourself the room and 100 food cart tacos at $1 each.
Ritz Carlton Atlanta Using Ritz Carlton Chase Card
The heavy weight of my collection is the Ritz Carlton Card which is made of solid brass weighing in at 1 ounce! The $450 annual fee is easily off set by the $300 travel reimbursement as well as the $100 discount on paired round trip flights as well as the 3 club level upgrades. Also with paid stays at the Ritz for 2 nights you get a nice $100 hotel credit. I decided to use up all these benefits in a single trip.
The downside to using the club upgrades is you must pay the full fare for a basic room before upgrading. This price is not published and you must call in to get the price. The Atlanta Ritz usually charges $140 a night for military, but to use the discount I was quoted for $273 for a night, but was able to upgrade to the club level which includes all food and drink.
The going price for the Club Rooms for that night was $500 a night! So we ended up saving $227 a night for two nights which more than makes up for the $450 annual fee. This card is not worth it if you never intend to stay at the Ritz. What does $227 a night buy you? First off we had embroidered pillow covers (for us to take) with our initials on them much like this couple reported here.
Of course cake and balloons to celebrate our upcoming baby! The service was above and beyond even that of the asian Ritz Carltons we have stayed at. The lounge has 5 separate services per day (including hot breakfast) as well as a nice cocktail service from Noon to 10 pm, they can make you any drink you want!
Atlanta is a nice town with many museums such as Coca-Cola and the Margaret Mitchell house with free admission for military.
Plus the subway from the airport to downtown is real easy to use. We also had the $100 credit for the hotel which we used on items at the gift shop.
The best part is the post departure gift that was sent to my house after I checked out! They had given us a digital photo frame of us photoshopped into various Atlanta landmarks for us to remember our trip. The certainly went above and beyond to allow them to “stay with us”!
The flight discount can be summed up in a previous post here. This means we paid $49 per segment to fly from ORD to ATL with the $100 credit provided by the card. This one trip made up for more than the annual fee.
Don’t let a name like Ritz-Carlton or SLS dissuade you from checking it out. You may not want to pay retail, but there are ways to stay at these places without breaking the bank. For example a combination of 2 nights at military rate along with the $100 credit would make the Ritz Chicago cost less than the Holiday Inn! I think a lot of the time these places are not considered for the sheer fact they seem too over the top. Pair this with a special occasion and two nights becomes cheaper than a pair of tickets for a Hamilton show.
Have fun out there!