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Amazing new welcome offer for the HSBC World Elite Mastercard - Up to 100,000 points with first year free! (Quebec gets 130,000 points with fee)

HSBC has just come out with their biggest and best offer yet for the HSBC World Elite Mastercard and in fact the bonus for Quebec resident...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Air Miles raises Gift Card redemption rates

First off I want to thank one of our readers who commented on our popular "Air Miles adds expiry rule and instant redemption option" post for alerting us about this latest change.

Sometime earlier this month Air Miles raised the redemption rates for their gift card reward options. It wasn't too long ago that the rates for the gift cards were increased and the majority of the catalog gutted to remove primarily non-sponsor gift cards (the sponsors pay Air Miles a lot of money to give out Reward Miles only to have their members redeem for gift cards to the sponsor's competition is main argument for that change). It was inevitable however that this increase would come along because of the new Air Miles cash option otherwise known as instant redemption. The new Air Miles cash option values 95 Air Miles Rewards Miles at $10 where as most gift cards were around 85 Air Miles for $10 (well 170 for $20 but I divided that by 2 to make the comparison equal). As you can see the better deal was to redeem for Gift Cards rather than use the Air Miles cash option and based on the responses to our post and other online forums many of the savvy collectors realized this. So to make the Air Miles Cash option more appealing it is obvious Air Miles had to raise the Gift Card rate to match. This is an unfortunate aspect of the loyalty business in that the programs have free reign to steer you towards options you may not like but will utilize because of the lack of other reward options. This happened early on when Air Miles moved from primarily offering travel rewards to adding tons of merchandise rewards which afforded a healthier profit margin over the original Air Miles reward: Flights. And they drove customers to the merchandise catalogs by raising redemption rates for the flight rewards. Now we see it again in this case as it appears the push may be on to move redemptions to the Air Miles cash option by limiting the Gift Card catalog and removing the redemption advantage the gift cards had over the cash option.  Why would they do this? To push the consumer to their sponsors to spend even more money, with the Air Miles Cash option you are actually completing a purchase and chances are you are going to spend more than the amount of miles you are redeeming for (or you will end up buying more items than you originally planned thereby increasing you spend)

Looking at it from the loyalty industry side, this move will appear good on paper as it is a way for the loyalty program and its sponsors to make more money but from the consumer side they will take it as being screwed over again and they may actually walk away from using that program as much as they did in the past. For Air Miles I would assume they are hoping for a healthy balance of the two but with the many changes that have occurred with Air Miles over the past 24 months it may lean more towards the consumers side. I have to admit after my last Air Miles flight redemption in mid-2011 I barely use Air Miles anymore and only collect miles if I happen to be using a sponsor I had to shop at and didn't go out of my way to go to. My total for the past 12 months would have be at or below 100 Air Miles Reward miles earned.  

Overall only time will tell what these changes mean to Air Miles. I would like to hear what you think! Please feel free to comment below on this newest change or any of the other Air Miles changes that have happened over the past 2 years.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Redemption Stories The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Aeroplan Summary

I asked and you responded. Welcome to the summary of Rewards Canada's first Redemption Stories: The Good The Bad and The Ugly. For the first go around I picked Aeroplan and our readers spoke out. Surprisingly to me there weren't as many 'Ugly' incidents as I thought there would be based on the number of complaints I receive each month but the balance of responses do fall into the 'Bad' category. Of course these are categorized by me, so what I think may be 'Ugly', could just be 'Bad' to someone else or vice-versa, either way I hope this post helps shed some light on Aeroplan redemptions

Some interesting notes from these comments tell us how your hotel status may still be applicable on an Aeroplan hotel redemption while we see another person avoiding Aeroplan and using the not-so-well known Aegean Airlines method to achieving Star Alliance Gold Status, someone so fed up with Aeroplan they redeemed all their miles for merchandise and one other person actually choosing a tight fitting airline seat for a direct charter flight rather than redeeming Aeroplan miles for a connecting flight that incurred large fuel surcharges.

I would love to hear more comments and stories from Aeroplan members, feel free to do so at the bottom of this post and finally I want to thank everyone who contributed their stories, without you this post would not be possible! Be sure to watch for the next Redemption Stories request in early April.


THE GOOD

via e-mail
I recently redeemed Aeroplan miles for a great two night stay at the W Hong Kong and it was well worth it.

No problems at check in and once my SPG Gold info was added to my reservation, I had an upgraded room as well with awesome view of Kowloon harbor.

My minor disclaimer is that I'm already an Air Canada Elite frequent flier so it's easier to upgrade to business class than it is to try and find one via Aeroplan.

Aeroplan works for my strictly personal travel despite the now hefty 50,000 status mile requirement. On the other hand, it's currently easier to accumulate miles thanks to my proximity to Spokane plus I already have approximately 33,000 status miles towards 2013.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
I think aeroplan can be an excellent program if you have the means to accumulate a large number of points, if you can plan well in advance, if you want to travel in J/C, if you are flexible and if you have SE status. We have redeemed trips without SE status, but those trips were booked almost a year in advance. If you don't accumulate many points and you can only redeem in economy I don't think that the product is necessarily worth it - unless it's on a very expensive route - the taxes and fees on some routes are more than the fares and this doesn't seem like good value. I actually find the starwood program more beneficial, not for flights, but for hotels. Anyone can join, you can easily earn and use points and I have found that you can get excellent value.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
Overall I've had good experiences with Aeroplan including 7 trips to Europe, 3 to Mexico, 3 to San Francisco, 3 to New York, 1 to Costa Rica (never again), about 6 Vancouver to Toronto. My main complaint is about hidden charges, what else is new. Right now we don't book on Aeroplan to Europe or AC for that matter because of the horrendous fuel surcharge. Other than that they have been way better than most others including WestJet and Alaska Air. They at least have choices. You get what you pay for, seems to true all the time.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
I redeeem Aeroplan points about once every year or two for flights from Ottawa Vancouver and have never had any issues. Always helpful phone staff, and will make suggestions regarding other options for flights that don't always show on the website. We recently travlled business class Ottawa to Phoenix, and Aeroplan allows access to AirCanada lounges which was a plus. I wasn't impressed with the US Airways and American Airlines, for level of service for business class.

Yes, there are fees/surcharges/etc but I would be paying those even if I booked seat sale prices.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
We collect Aeroplan points primarily through credit cards, which we use for everything We have been to South America this year, China and Singapore last year and to Europe several times before that all Business Class all at basic points. It's an incredible value - flights that would literally have cost tens of thousands of dollars for a few hundred. You do have to be flexible and patient, however...

THE BAD

via e-mail
I have nothing good to say about Aeroplan, although i like Air Canada. I am an elite flier with Air Canada and as a result have more chances to redeem for flights. It is still ridiculous trying to get a flight for basic points. I either spend double miles for the every flight which means my points are worth half their value or i spend them on merchandise and hotels for one cent per point which makes them worth one one hundredth the value aeroplan promises.
Next year aeroplan will further reduce the value of their program by moving my status from star alliance gold to silver, less benefits, less value. I am cancelling my aerogold visa with CIBC as i don't want more points with aeroplan.

via e-mail
From the Aeroplan webpage I've had no success in finding air travel or
car rental that fits my schedule. You have to continually enter dates
and locations that do not match anything available. It's like a
lottery that I've never won with no information that helps you improve
your chances of using the points that have to be used before they
expire.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
I have been Aeroplan Elite with Air Canada for over 20 years. The only Aeroplan miles I collect is when I fly to retain my status because they are just too difficult to redeem. Also, with credit cards such as Aventura, when I redeem my points for a flight I receive Aeroplan Miles on the flight - unlike Aeroplan tickets (even though Aeroplan and Air Canada are quick to point out they are two separate companies). I can also pick any airline with no blackout dates and in the rare occasion I do find a flight on Aeroplan, I can always convert my Aventura points to Aeroplan on a 1 to 1 basis. (Same with Amex Platinum).

via the Rewards Canada Blog
I have several hundred aeroplan points and as soon as I use them up, I will be dropping my CIBC credit card in favor of another program. I used to fly a lot for work, maintained elite membership and amassed a considerable number of points. Traveling on points used not to be a problem. I find now, however, that since Air Canada introduced their "Classic Plus" awards there are never any awards at the Classic level available and this includes being totally flexible and booking almost a year in advance. Aeroplan used to be a great program and maybe it still is at the elite and super elite level, but for those of us who fly less after retiring, the program is a disappointment. Just when we are flexible and can/will fly anytime, the program lets us down. Air Canada may want our loyalty, but they sure don't show any to us.


via the Rewards Canada Blog
I had a CIBC Aerogold for years but cancelled it when I finally came to my senses. We now collect via CIBC Aventura and we can actually USE our miles during peak periods and on short notice. The selection via Aeroplan is so limited unless you're willing to pony up 75,000 for a short-haul domestic flight! I had lots of success booking on Aeroplan many years ago (over 7-8) but now that I don't fly overseas very much, there is significantly less value derived from the points.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
if aeroplan did not charge the fuel surcharge on Air Canada flights and charged 50% of the miles on one way flights like other airlines it would be great. On united mileage plus you can book Air Canada flights without the fuel surcharge. I find this a bit ridiculous as Air Canada owns Aeroplan and it charges its loyal customers more money.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
I have about 150K Aeroplan points that I plan to get rid off over next 12 months by travelling to California and Hawaii. I used to have Amex Aeroplan card which I have now cancelled, replaced by free Amex Costco. In 1986, when you would redeem aeroplan points, they would put you in first class if there was room on the plane ... Times have changed. Surcharges to Europe + taxes are several hundred dollars ...

via the Rewards Canada Blog
Aeroplan Elite or SE with CIBC Aerogold. Collect about 250K per year in miles (flights plus CIBC card). If it were not for buying my retired inlaws flights across the country to visit us twice a year, I don't know how I would ever use the miles. Inlaws very flexible (hey free flight up front), but as far as booking for my family forget it. Phone staff is great, on line basically is depressing - never anything available unless you want to fly for 18 hours with stopovers (in laws will do it, my five year old would not). I know there are seats, but AC won't release them. Once the inlaws don't want to travel as much, cancelling CIBC card, and AC will see less of me...

via the Rewards Canada Blog
I used to use my aeroplan points for flights but it doesnt really make sense with $ 200+ per ticket for redemption fee, tax, etc. I cashed them all out for gift cards and bought the kids beds, tv, ipods, etc. Easier and just use a cash back credit card now.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
I don't generate a lot of miles as I only have my credit card to earn miles. I have tried for a number of years to book flights at the regular rate but always find they aren't available and then have to use 1.5 times the miles. Even when I tried booking 355 days before the flight, I couldn't get the regular rate - which tells me that certain flights aren't offering seats at the regular mileage. I gave up and switched credit cards and don't collect Aeroplan anymore except at the gas station.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
I have no problem with Aeroplan itself, but I think the "reward" value is misconstrued. Advertisements for travel reward programs all tout "free airfare", yet when you come right down to it, there is no such thing as a free airline ticket. It is nearly impossible to collect enough points for a reasonable redemption with regular (not business) purchases unless one also holds a premium credit card; even then, it will generally take more than a year to collect enough points for an average couple to book a flight. Once the cost of the card ($125 per year) plus taxes, plus fuel surcharges are factored in, the ticket price can easily surpass what one would pay during a seat sale. Convenience must also be considered -- point redemption requires planning, and there is also the extra protection (insurance = more $$$) that can be purchased lest one's points be lost if a cancellation occurs. All in all, it may not be as good a deal as one would think.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
True, we have been able to redeem Aeroplan points for flights, but in all cases we were booking 5-6 months in advance. What I object to is going on the Aeroplan website, seeing flights are available, but being told I can't book a portion of the flight. All this means I have to call, and pay their agent for booking the flights I should have been able to book online. Another beef is the limited access to partner airlines often having to fly on very inconvenient Air Canada flights when a partner airline would have given me a a more direct and shorter duration flight. I plan to use up my remaining points and switch to another bank card.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
I looked at an AC flight to Europe on Aeroplan website and I would have to pay the fuel surcharge. I went on the United website and found the EXACT flight available to their mileage plus members and there is no fuel surcharge. How can Aeroplan collect fuel surcharge from it's members on behalf of AC and United does not have to??


THE UGLY
via e-mail
You'll laugh at this one - it was from a few years ago, and I was looking to use some Aeroplan points to fly from Toronto to Kelowna and return.  For two people the number of points was 25,000 per person, or 50,000 in total.  But, I had 126,000 miles and was looking to use more.  So, I entered that I wanted to book for three people - the number of points required was 193,500 - in other words, the third person cost 143,500 points.

I assumed there was a system issue, and phoned their customer service hotline.  The agent confirmed that the 143,500 was correct, and couldn't understand why I felt it was unreasonable!  No matter what I said, it was still that many extra for one more person.

Needless to say, we went ahead with the two person option on points.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
Two years ago, I was sitting on 200,000+ Aeroplan points. I wanted to book my family (4 tickets) to Orlando and back. I was flexible: any time in the next year. Didn't care. The search came back showing NOTHING was available. I got really mad, went online and redeemed all my points in about 3 minutes acquiring random merchandise - patio heaters, exercise equipment, etc... it all arrived in literally a few days. Their merchandise arrives faster than the Air Canada planes.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
Cleaned out the account with a 90,000 point J redemption on CO for very low (comparative taxes) after lucking out with dates. Had grown disillusioned with the program long ago when the much-vaunted short haul system went wonky and decided to turn YOW-YYZ flights into epic YOW-YUL-YYZ flights that took longer than a VIA rail train. Now proud user of RBC Avion Infinite (former Aerogold customer) and Aegean (booked to hit *G by end April), after abandoning Aeroplan in December. That will make it 25,000 miles in a shade under 5 months this year - only 6k on Air Canada. Should hit Aeroplans new *G threshold (50k miles) later this year. Just not with Aeroplan. For me, its a fail.

via the Rewards Canada Blog
I was going to use my points for a return flight, Toronto to Lisbon. 60,000 points and $500 in fees, over $300 of that the fuel surcharge. I had to route through Frankfurt. I found a direct flight on Air Transat for $686 including all fees and taxes. I'm going to use up my points on North America flights where the fuel surcharge is much lower. I've already switched credit cards and if I fly Air Canada, I earn points in one of their partner airlines. My 20 years of active membership in Aeroplan is coming to an end.

via e-mail
I had been redeeming Aeroplan Points for years by calling them the first week of August to book a flight to Fla. so that we could take a winter cruise in Jan. or Feb. All went well until 2 years ago. I gave them 5 different cruises that I wished to coordinate with and they couldn't find me a flight unless I wanted to pay a premium of 15,000 points on top of the 25,000. Both I and all our family members cashed in and cancelled our Aeroplan accounts!

via e-mail
I have been trying off and on for months to find suitable flights from Kelowna to Ottawa. There is almost nothing (classic reward) that does not require wither being at the airport at 5am, doing a red-eye or overnight, having to stay over a week or doing many many stops. For years, as long as I booked ahead, I used to have no problem getting this route at all. For instance, in September and October it is impossible to be able to go over a weekend (say Thursday to a Monday), unless I am willing to use 10x the points to get there.

I was looking for 2 classic reward flight tickets unsuccessfully on line. Usually if I was willing to book close to a year in advance I could get your pick of routes. Not this time. I called in and spoke with an agent and, on another day, an agents supervisor who both told me that, starting this past August, there was a change to the way the Aeroplan seats were being released. Instead of releasing the entire percentage the 300 & some-odd days in advance (as they always did before), they were now only releasing them as a ratio of fully-paid seats are sold.

Anyhow, all I know is that a flight that would have been easy to book is now impossible (without spending over 100,000 points for what should be 25,000 points).

via the Rewards Canada Blog
Aeroplan rewards? Not even on the best day! "Rewards" are actually a money grab, not only from the vendors (sorry, suckers) that pay Aeroplan to give YOU miles, but wait until you see what Aeroplan charges you for SERVICE FEES. I just booked the same identical 60,000 mile reward using United Mileage Plus for Cslgary to Copenhagen and return. I paid $447 LESS in fees that had I booked with Aeroplan!!! Same exact flights, same exact days, same class of service. And to top it off, both transatlantic flights are on Air Canada! When I asked for an explanation, some supervisor bimbo from Aeroplan in Montreal (named Mindy) could only make excuses and give no answers.




Monday, March 26, 2012

Capital One updates the Aspire Travel™ Platinum MasterCard®

There is an exciting change happening tomorrow in the no-fee travel points credit card category which to be honest with you has been quite stagnant for the past couple of years. Capital One is going to up the game in this category by going directly after the mainstay card the American Express Blue Sky Credit Card which has taken our top pick for the no-fee category for three years straight. The Blue Sky card has offered its cardholders 1.25 miles/$ spent since its inception and Capital One is going to match that on their Aspire Travel Platinum MasterCard although with a different method. Unlike the Blue Sky card, the Cap One Platinum will continue to offer 1 Mile/$ spent but instead of a 1,000 mile bonus on the cardholders anniversary Capital One will award 25% bonus miles on all eligible spending done on the card up to the anniversary date which brings the card's earn ratio to 1.25 miles/$.

This change is timely with the 2012 Rewards Canada Travel Rewards Credit Card ranking coming out in a few months and it will make my work a little harder for this category. Right now the pros for The Capital One Aspire Travel™ Platinum MasterCard® is that it  offers a much better insurance & benefits package while the pros for the Blue Sky are the partial redemption option (Cap One you have to have the full amount of points to redeem) and access to all your points right away as Capital One you will have to wait until the end of your billing year to be awarded those extra miles. Watch closely for our rankings in July to see which way I go!

For more details on the Aspire Travel™ Platinum MasterCard® please visit Capital One

The card has an Annual Interest rate of Prime +16.8%

“The interest rates, fees, rewards details, benefits and other details of the Capital One product(s) described in the article may have changed since the time of publication. Please consult the product information pages on the Capital One website for accurate product details. In the event of any conflict between the product details in this article and the Capital One website, the details on the Capital One website shall prevail.”
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hotel Review: Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas - Maui

Sunset from Ka'anapali Beach
For the fourth time in a little over four years my family and I opted for a winter vacation in Maui. Every time we have gone, including this time, we have stayed at the Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas. When we first visited Maui in October of 2009, we really wanted to stay in the  Ka'anapali/Lahaina area and we liked what we saw and read about the Ocean Resort Villas. What more could you ask for as you get the best of both worlds in the fact the place is like any other hotel resort on the island with multiple pools, restaurants and amenities yet the rooms are condo style with kitchens/kitchenettes and each one has their own washer and dryer (makes it easier to pack light!).

The only issue we saw the first year was price since I didn't have enough Starpoints for a full redemption or Cash+Points redemption. That is when I found Maui Hawaii Vacations, a third party agent for the Ocean Resort Villas, which we used for the first booking and all the others since then. Not only do they have rates up to 50% off what Westin/Starwood charge including SPG35, Better Tomorrows and other promo rates offered by Starwood/SPG. Above that, they also offer amazing service. Naomi, who takes care of all the Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villa bookings, has always been extremely helpful and has gone out of her way to meet our requests and address any and all concerns we ever had. For this latest stay I originally booked us a Studio for $220/night (we had been in a Studio the 3 trips prior) but when we got there we weren't happy with the location of the room we were assigned so we asked what other rooms were available in Building 5 which is our favourite building in the complex. We were told that there was only a 1 bedroom villa available which Westin initially wanted an extra $150 per night but they said they would do it for $100 per night. I accepted it to not lose the room but knew that a phone call to Naomi should get us the room for their nightly rate. A quick call to her with a quick explanation of the situation got the ball rolling. Around 10 minutes later she called me back saying all was taken care of and we had the room at Maui Hawaii vacations rate of $265 or an extra $45 per night over our original Studio rate. One caveat about booking through Maui Hawaii vacations is that you will not earn Starpoints on the room rate, which for me is not a big deal as the cost savings are worth more than the points but you do earn Starpoints on incidentals charged to the room. Some other highlights of booking through MHV is that the rates include daily housekeeping and parking. Owners or people who book stays via VRBO are unlikely to get daily housekeeping unless they pay for it and I believe that if you book via Starwood/SPG you have to pay the daily parking fee. I can't say enough about Maui Hawaii Vacations and no I did not receive any compensation from them for this post, just great service!

Now on to the actual stay!Once again my family flew on Air Canada's direct flight between YYC and OGG, only difference this year was the flight timing. The flight now leaves Calgary just after 8am versus the early afternoon departure last year. The new departure time allows for arrival into Maui just after noon. By the time we deplaned, got our luggage and rental car, at lunch and made the drive to Ka'anapali it was 3pm. The Resort Villas check in is at 4pm and our room was not ready (after the upgrade process noted above) so we made our way to Whalers Villages for some Yogurtland (seriously, someone needs to open one of these up in Calgary and even more so an Ono Gelato) At about 4pm we got a call from the resort letting us know that our room was ready so back to the resort we went.
The Ocean Resort Villas North
After getting our room keys we made our way to the 1 bedroom villa in Building 5. This is the first time in our four stays where we did not have an ocean front or ocean view as this one bedroom looked onto the main pool. Apparently the resort was near capacity and no ocean fronts/ocean views were available for our full length of stay. We could have tried to switch a few days later but once your settled in it is a pain in the butt to move rooms. Honestly, we spend very little time in the room anyways so the view is not that critical. I must say however that we will never go back to the studio villa as the one bedroom provides way more room especially with my girls growing up, we needed the extra space! Over the past 4 years the decor has not changed with a King Size Westin Heavenly bed and a pullout sofa but the one bedroom gave us a much larger lanai with 4 chairs and a table (vs 2 chairs and a side table for the studio), a larger dining table and a full size kitchen. The bathroom has a separate shower and jetted tub and other than being bigger than a Studio bathroom with the same amenities, the one bedroom has dual sinks instead of a single sink.





Interior photos courtesy of Starwood Hotels
Compared to our first stay in 2009, some of the room amenities are starting to show their age like the carpet plus our sofa had a bunch of orange stains on it as if a child had coloured beyond the pages of their colouring book. However when I look at the room and resort overall I would have to say the hotel management has done a very good job of keeping the place up. During our stay we only encountered one annoying issue and that was due to the fact that our room had the electrical panel not only for our room but the studio next to us. For some reason a breaker for the room next to us kept tripping so maintenance would have to come to our room to reset the breaker. Not a huge deal except for the second time it happened around 10pm one evening and the knock on the door from maintenance woke up one of my kids.

THE GOOD THINGS:
The beauty of having a condo is two-fold, food and laundry! We hit Safeway on our first full day and filled the fridge primarily with items for breakfast and lunch including some items to BBQ. Speaking of BBQing, the Westin provides seem great BBQ areas to enjoy fresh food off the grill with family and friends:
BBQ Area near the Pirate Pool
The resort also features 3 restaurants, 2 of which we ate at during this trip (most meals if not BBQed were enjoyed in Lahaina or Whalers Village). The third restaurant we only used to order drinks from during our days at the beach or beside the pool.
Pailolo: This is the restaurant we only ordered drinks from. According to my kids they make killer smoothies and virgin lava flows. In the past we have eaten here but the food was mediocre at best.
Pulehu: This would be considered the fancy restaurant of the hotel which offers an Italian menu. I would recommend the Tomato Bisque!
Ocean Bar & Grill: We ate here on the first night we arrived and my Satay Beef was delicious. On past trips we ate breakfast here enjoying their breakfast buffet, which is quite good, especially if you don't want to leave the resort in the morning.

POOLS & BEACH:
As you would expect with a resort of this caliber there are multiple pools including kids pools (one with a cool pirate ship that has slides and water spray jets, an adult pool and others in-between) The pool at the South Towers also has a waterside. The pools are perfectly suitable for families as most them are only 3 to 4' deep, which meant my kids could touch the bottom and enjoy themselves without me hanging on to them when they chose not to swim.

The Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort is situated on the North portion of Ka'anapali beach which was rated as one of the best in the World by Conde Nast. This is beach is less protected than some of the South Maui beaches so the waves can get a bit rougher here. When my kids were small I had to hang on to them but those days were gone this trip as the girls could handle themselves. I did notice that the waves this trip were probably the calmest we had out of our 4 trips. Because of this we spent more time in the ocean then the pools. The beach is great for whale watching with humpbacks breaching, tail slapping, pec slapping and more on a daily basis. We were also witness to a female humpback and her newborn whom we assumed had just been given birth to as they were surrounded by 'blood red' water and the mother was still holding the newborn on her nose. Wildlife is not limited to whales,  in the evening the beach is littered with thousands of crabs just North of the resort plus you can see Sea Turtles poke their heads out of the water and if you are lucky enough you can even see Spinner dolphins like we did:

Our trip was also filled with lots of trips to Lahaina for lunches, dinners, shopping and treats like Gelato from Ono Gelato and Hawaiian Shave Ice from Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice. We did our annual whale watch excursion with Pacific Whale Foundation, snorkeled at Baby Beach (great for the kids) and most of all lots of relaxing. Overall our fourth trip to Maui didn't disappoint and I would definitely stay at the Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas again in a heartbeat. Perhaps I should try somewhere else on the island but when you and your family like a place and are familiar with the surroundings, why change?

The Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas
SPG Category: 6
Points required for a free night: 20,000 - 25,000 Starpoints
Cash+Points Requirement: 8,000 Starpoints + $150 per night

Links:
The Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas
Maui Hawaii Vacations

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Earn 1,000 Bonus Starpoints for stays at renovated Starwood Hotels in the US & Canada

Looks like Starwood has dropped the continuous double Starpoints offer for stays at renovated Starwood locations Worldwide (the old url was www.sheraton.com/renovated) to an offer that requires registration and has a time restriction. Still this bonus offer of 1,000 Bonus Starpoints can worth more than the old double points offer especially on shorter length stays plus if I recall correctly the old promo was tied into a specific rate whereas this new one is not. For this version of the promo you can earn the bonus points are over 25 locations in the U.S. and Canada until June 30. You must register by June 15 to be eligible for the points. Complete details including the registration link can be found here. Similar to this renovation offer is Starwood's ongoing Double Starpoints offers for stays at new Starwood locations worldwide, for more detail on the new hotel offer see here.

The participating properties in the Renovations Worth Celebrating - Earn 1,000 bonus Starpoints promo are:

CANADA

British Columbia
Four Points by Sheraton Kamloops

Ontario
Four Points by Sheraton Toronto Mississauga
Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel
Sheraton Gateway Hotel In Toronto International Airport

Quebec
Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel

UNITED STATES

Arizona
The Phoenician, Scottsdale

California
Sheraton Delfina Santa Monica Hotel
The Westin Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego
Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, Los Angeles

Colorado
The St. Regis Aspen Resort

Florida
Four Points by Sheraton Orlando Studio City
Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort

Hawaii
Sheraton Kauai Resort

Illinois
Sheraton Chicago O'Hare Airport Hotel

Indiana
Sheraton Indianapolis Hotel at Keystone Crossing

Massachusetts
Sheraton Needham Hotel

Michigan
Sheraton Detroit Metro Airport

Missouri
Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center

Nebraska
Sheraton Omaha Hotel

New Jersey
Sheraton Parsippany Hotel
The Westin Governor Morris, Morristown

New York
Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers
W New York - Union Square

Pennsylvania
Sheraton Society Hill Hotel

Texas
Sheraton Dallas North Hotel by the Galleria

Virginia
Sheraton Premiere at Tysons Corner
Sheraton Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hotel

Washington
Four Points by Sheraton Downtown Seattle Center

Priority Pass adds Edmonton Transborder lounge to their network

Priority Pass, the independent airport business class lounge access program has added the Plaza Premium Lounge (USA Transborder) in Edmonton to their roster of lounges. Edmonton becomes the 6th Canadian city to have a lounge or lounges available to members of the Priority Pass program. The lounge is located airside near gate 88 and is open 4:30 - 18:30 daily.

The Priority Pass program allows anyone to join with membership fees ranging from US$99 to US$349 and lounge visits costing from US$27 to free depending on which membership you get. Some credit cards in Canada like Diners Club Club Rewards MasterCard and the BMO World Elite MasterCard give their cardholders the basic membership ($99) for free as part of their benefits package. For more information please visit Priority Pass (Priority Pass is running a promo right now for 20% off memberships until April 4)


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

American Express Gold Rewards Card Bonus Points have posted

As a follow to my post from late December on the American Express Gold Rewards Card and the ensuing comments about cardholders receiving a targetted bonus for completing a certain amount of spending, I am happy to report that I received my 5,000 Bonus Membership Rewards points earlier this week. When I checked the terms of the offer it did say it could take up to 60 days after the end of the promo (Jan 15) for the points to post and Amex kept to their T&Cs.

I would like to know if anyone else received their targetted bonus this week? Do so by commenting below

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Free Hertz #1 Club Gold Membership

The first 'elite' level of Hertz's Loyalty program which normally costs $60 is being offered for free until April 30th. Essentially the best feature of the #1 Club Gold membership is expedited service for picking up your rental car and at 40 specific airports worldwide you don't even have to check in at the counter, you just go straight to your car. This is a similar service to National's Emerald Club program.

To join Hertz #1 Club Gold for free please visit Hertz.com and apply by April 30.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Redemption Stories: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This will be a new feature on Rewards Canada where we reach out to our subscriber and viewer base to tell us their stories of reward program redemption. We want to hear good stories, bad stories and of course plain old ugly ones! We will compile a few of the stories together and post them right here on our blog. For our first post we might as well go with Canada's longest running frequent flyer program, Aeroplan.

If you want to share your Aeroplan Redemption story with the rest of Canada whether it is good, bad or ugly, please email us at info@rewardscanada.ca. You can send us a couple of sentences, a whole story or feel free to submit a video! Watch for the first Redemption Stories on Aeroplan to be posted within the next few weeks.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

1,000 Free Starpoints for a quick survey

As posted on Flyertalk by Starwood Lurker, SPG members can take a really short survey and be rewarded with 1,000 Starpoints. Note: Please add your SPG account number to the field for name and email address. The survey is open until March 9.

You can complete the survey here

Monday, March 5, 2012

Accor Platinum Status for free again? Perhaps....

Another free Accor A|Club Platinum status offer has been released for a specific target market but according to some other frequent flyer bloggers anyone signing up for the link is receiving the status. This is targetted to Citi Premier Miles World Elite MasterCard program in the United Arab Emirates so please use at your discretion but sign up sooner then later if you do as these offers tend to get pulled early. As always buyer beware as you may be asked in the future to provide proof of being a Citi UAE cardholder in which case you may have your status revoked.

To sign up for free platinum status visit Accor Hotels

Join Etihad Guest for a chance to win 2 Economy Class tickets anywhere they fly

Etihad Airways is making a push to have more people join their program. Normally promos like this require a flight or some mileage earning action but for this contest, all you have to do is join the Etihad Guest program for a chance to win two Coral Economy Class tickets to any destination in the Etihad network. For those of you who may not be aware, Etihad serves Toronto three times weekly from Abu Dhabi with an extensive network out of their U.A.E. that can be connected to.

To enter visit Etihad Airways

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hyatt Gold Passport dropping 4 airline partners, including Air Canada/Aeroplan

Taken from Hyatt:

"After March 15, 2012, Hyatt will no longer offer guests the option to earn miles with Aeroplan (Air Canada), Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines and US Airways for hotel stays. You may continue to earn miles with these airlines for completed stays through March 15. Additionally, after this time period, Hyatt Gold Passport members will no longer be able to convert Hyatt Gold Passport points to miles with these airline programs."

Unfortunate for Aeroplan (and the other airlines) to lose Hyatt as a a partner, although for myself and most frequent travellers I believe this isn't a huge issue as there is more value in earning Gold Passport points on Hyatt stays rather than miles (except on the odd occasion where there were big mileage bonuses offered)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

RBC British Airways Visa Infinite: Up to 50,000 Bonus Avios

As we mentioned a couple of days ago, the new version of the RBC British Airways Visa was released today. The RBC British Airways Visa Infinite replaces the old BA Platinum card that has been around for a number of years. With the Infinite branding comes a better suite of insurance benefits (though not as complete as the RBC Avion Infinite and Infinite cards from other banks) and card perks namely 31 day out of province medical insurance. The sign up bonus remains the same at 15,000 Avios however to celebrate the launch of the card, 35,000 additional Avios will be awarded to any new cardholder who applies by May 31 and spends $5,000 within the first 3 months of card membership. This brings the total of the signup bonus to 50,000 Avios, which ties past and present offers for the AeroplanPlus Platinum card and the special RFD Capital One Aspire World Travel MasterCard as the highest mile/point offer for a credit card. The card comes with an annual fee of $165 for the primary card and $75 for supplementary cards.

What can you get for 50,000 Avios? A round-trip economy class flight to England on British Airways (+taxes/fees) from anywhere in Canada or 10 one way trips between Toronto and New York (+taxes/fees). There many other options as well including upgrading paid tickets to the next higher category on BA flights (i.e. Economy to Economy Plus; Economy Plus to Business etc)

Some additional details of the card are:
- Earn 1 Avios for every $1 CAD you spend on the card.
- Earn double Avios for every $1 CAD you spend on British Airways purchases
- Receive a complimentary Companion Award Ticket~ when you spend $30,000 or more on your card in any calendar year*.
- Enjoy Comprehensive Insurances including 31-day Out-of-Country/Province Emergency Medical Insurance.
- Minimum credit limit of $5,000 (provided income requirements of $60k personal or $100k household are met).

For more details or to apply for the card please visit: rbcroyalbank.com

In the next couple of weeks watch for a complete review of this card in our standard Rewards Canada fashion as well as the new features of the card to be added to all of our credit card comparison charts.

WestJet Rewards: Fly More Earn More Promotion + new WS/RBC Credit Card offer

I said it before and I'll say it again, WestJet is really starting to make some moves with their rewards program. First the name was changed from Frequent Guest to Rewards (which is a good move as frequent guest tends to refer to Hotel Reward programs and was actually used first by Scandic Hotels for their reward program). We've now seen a first flight bonus, eastern triangle flight bonuses and free flight offers to New York and now the Fly More Earn More promotion. This a really decent offer for those who find themselves flying WestJet especially if you hit the $6000 spend level as the bonus of $500 combined with your base dollars of $140 for a total of $640 WestJet dollars equates to a 10.6% return on the money you spent and that does not include the free flight you also receive.

Along with the Earn More Fly More offer, WestJet and RBC have a new sign up offer for their WestJet Rewards World MasterCard which combines the basic $100 sign up bonus with a $99 companion ticket that is good for flights in Canada and the Continental U.S.. This offer is more lucrative than last years $350 WestJet dollar sign up bonus if you use the companion ticket on flight that costs more than $349 which in today's market is not hard to do. Full details on these new offers can be found below straight from the WestJet press release:

Starting today, WestJet Rewards members who register in the Fly more, Earn more promotion will be eligible to earn one the following bonuses on WestJet-operated flights flown between March 1 and December 31, 2012:
Reach $1500 in qualifying spend and get a bonus of $100 WestJet dollars, or
Reach $3000 in qualifying spend and get a bonus of $200 WestJet dollars, or
Reach $6000 in qualifying spend and get a bonus of $500 WestJet dollars plus one round-trip flight anywhere WestJet flies in Canada or the continental U.S.

Full details of the promotion are available at westjet.com/earnmore.

Also starting today, WestJet launches an exciting limited-time offer of a $99 round-trip companion flight as well as a welcome bonus of $100 WestJet dollars for new WestJet RBC World MasterCard cardholders. To receive this offer, new cardholders must apply and be approved from March 1 to April 30, 2012, and make their first purchase by June 15, 2012.

This offer allows new cardholders to take one companion on a round-trip flight, on the same itinerary, for $99 (excluding taxes, fees and surcharges) to any WestJet-operated destination in Canada or the continental U.S., excluding Hawaii and Puerto Rico. What’s better, the $100 WestJet dollars welcome bonus can be used to pay for the round-trip companion flight. For more information, visit westjet.com/creditcard.