A Guide to Hotel Elite Status Matches

Elite status in a hotel loyalty program can get you perks like suite upgrades, points bonus on paid stays, executive lounge access and late checkout — but only at hotels within the chain. Stay with another chain and you will be treated the same as any other traveler, with no special perks and no prestige.

The solution? A hotel status match.

What is a hotel status match?

A hotel status match is an offer made by one hotel company to give elite status to a traveler who has elite status with a competitor. There are many different ways that a hotel status match can work, but often, the hotel chain will just grant you elite status at a level equivalent to your status in your current program. Sometimes, you have to do more, like make a certain number of stays with the new hotel group before qualifying for your new elite status. These offers are sometimes called “hotel status challenges.”

Why do hotels offer elite status matches?

Hotels (and airlines) offer elite status matches hoping to lure away their competitors’ best customers. For example, if you’re an elite member of the Marriott Bonvoy program, you’re less likely to stay at a Hilton family property because you would miss out on Bonvoy elite perks like bonus points and a chance for a free room upgrade. But if Hilton matched your status, you wouldn’t have to forgo elite benefits when you stay at Hilton. The hope is that you’ll try the competing hotels and like them enough to switch your loyalties.

How do I get a status match?

Like any promotion, a hotel status match offer can appear or end at any time. If you’re interested in staying at a hotel outside the brand where you have elite status, go to the other hotel’s loyalty program website and read the terms. As of early 2021, for example, Best Western Rewards is offering its Status Match…No Catch program to elite members. If you don’t see a status match offer for your chosen hotel group, you can contact the loyalty program directly to ask.

How do I take advantage of a status match offer?

To get a status match or to meet a status challenge, you usually fill out a form at the website of the hotel offering the match. For example, for the Best Western status match offer, you’ll be asked to supply your name, your Best Western Rewards membership number and information about your elite status program. If you’re not already a member of Best Western Rewards, you can just sign up first.

  1. Fill out the online form.

  2. Upload proof of elite membership in another program.

  3. Upload proof of having stayed at a hotel in that program sometime in the last 12 months.

  4. You’ll be granted either Bonvoy Gold or Bonvoy Platinum status for 90 days depending on your status level in the competitor program.

  5. Within 90 days, stay five nights at a Bonvoy property to get Gold status or 15 nights to get Platinum status through February 2022.

Hilton Honors has a similar offer. Elite members of IHG Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, Best Western Rewards, World of Hyatt, Accor Live Limitless and other programs can apply to get Hilton elite status for 90 days and, by staying at Hiltons, earn Gold or Diamond status through March 2023. To apply for this Hilton Honors status challenge:

  1. Fill out the online form.

  2. Upload proof of elite membership in another program.

  3. Upload proof of a stay in the last 12 months.

  4. Within 90 days, stay five nights at Hilton properties to earn Gold status or nine nights to earn Diamond status, both through March 2023.

The bottom line

If you’re an elite member of any hotel loyalty program, you may be eligible to get your status matched by a competitor program. Look for match offers from competing hotel groups to see if you want to experience what it’s like to stay at one of their hotels as a valued elite. Who knows? You may like it so much you switch to the new hotel group for good.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

What You Need to Know About Traveling to Hawaii During COVID

Hawaii has one of the consistently lowest COVID rates in the U.S., and the Hawaiian Islands opened back up to tourism in October. Southwest, American, Delta, United, Alaska and Hawaiian airlines all resumed flights to Hawaii from the mainland at that time.

But that doesn’t mean you can just hop over to Hawaii to enjoy the endless sun, beaches and mai tais. Here’s what is helpful to know about Hawaii’s COVID travel restrictions if you’re thinking of heading there.

Hawaii’s Safe Travels program

Before even booking your trip, you will likely want to have a strong grasp of Hawaii’s travel restrictions for visitors.

If you’re arriving in Hawaii from the mainland, you’ll need to quarantine for 10 days if you haven’t gotten a negative COVID test, registered with the state, answered a health questionnaire and taken some other steps outlined in Hawaii’s Safe Travels program.

Travelers from the contiguous U.S. who are heading to Oahu, Maui and the Big Island can avoid the 10-day quarantine requirement by following the steps below. Travelers to Kauai must complete these steps, plus meet some additional requirements.

Regardless of where you are coming from, all Hawaii visitors must:

  • Enter travel information for each leg of your trip.

  • Upload negative COVID test results from a Hawaii-approved testing facility no more than 72 hours before the last leg of travel (bring proof of your negative test to the airport).

  • Upload a recent picture (selfies are OK).

  • Fill out the Travel Health Questionnaire no more than 24 hours before departure.

  • Retrieve a QR code via email and put it on your phone or print it out.

  • Pass through screening at your arrival airport, showing your QR code, negative test results and other documents, and get your temperature taken via thermal screening.

  • Be prepared to present your QR code to staff at your hotel and rental car agency.

  • Wear a mask pretty much every public place you go except while eating, drinking or exercising safely away from others.

Travelers who don’t meet these requirements before they arrive will be subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine. Travelers who quarantine still have to fill out the Safe Travels Form and, additionally, must do a daily quarantine check-in, following instructions that are sent via email.

Hawaii quarantining does not operate on the honor system — Hawaii state agents often knock on hotel room doors to ensure guests are complying with quarantine requirements. On our recent trip, we saw numerous different patrols that came to the hotel to make sure that people had not left their rooms. Plus, hotel staff or anyone else who sees you breaking quarantine can report you.

If you break quarantine, you can be fined up to $5,000, sentenced to up to a year in jail or both.

Special travel requirements for visitors to Kauai

The island of Kauai requires travelers to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival — even after going through all the steps above and supplying proof of a negative COVID test. However, a new Kauai “resort bubble” option can cut quarantine down to three days.

Travelers must stay at an approved “resort bubble” property, without leaving, then take a post-travel COVID test — in addition to the pre-travel test they took before heading to the islands. If the post-travel test comes back negative, the traveler will be allowed to leave the property.

Because of these tough restrictions, some flights from the mainland to Kauai have been canceled, but there are still ways to get there, including inter-island flights.

How to get started

Register at Hawaii’s Safe Travels website

Before you travel, you must register at the state’s Safe Travels website, where you’ll submit information about your COVID test, lodging in Hawaii, flight information and more. Once finished, you’ll get a QR code that you may be required to show to your travel providers. Do not delete or lose this QR code.

On a recent trip, when we checked into our hotels and picked up our rental cars, we were required to show the form so employees could document our whereabouts and confirm that we weren’t breaking quarantine.

Get a Hawaii-approved COVID test

You can’t go to just any testing facility or get just any kind of test to travel to Hawaii. You need to pass a nucleic acid amplification test administered by one of the state of Hawaii’s approved testing providers, including:

Submit negative results from one of these labs at the Safe Travels website and prepare to bring a digital or paper copy as well.

Pack your mask

You’re required to wear a mask in public spaces in Hawaii, with a few exceptions, such as when eating or drinking, exercising at a good distance from other people or engaging in a few other exempted activities. See this state of Hawaii webpage for specifics, including exemptions for children and for health reasons. If you don’t wear your mask when required, you could be fined or jailed.

What to expect at the airport

Arrival

No one at our departure airport checked our information, but as soon as we landed in Hawaii, we were escorted to a secure area to be checked.

Some travelers on our flight had not done the work ahead of time. They were sectioned off to finish their paperwork — a process that clogged the system, affecting other travelers. So do your paperwork before you fly.

Nerd tip: If you fly Alaska Airlines to Oahu or the Big Island, you can skip the screening process when you land by signing up for the Alaska Airlines Pre-Clear Program before departure. Because of this partnership, you can get a wristband that will allow you to skip the screening line at Honolulu or Kona airport. Alaska will send travelers an email prior to departure asking them to confirm that all adult travelers in their party have completed the required steps in Hawaii’s Safe Travels program.

The interview

If you’re not flying Alaska Airlines or you are and haven’t pre-cleared, you’ll need to head to an interview station to speak with a representative of the Hawaii Department of Health after you land. They’ll scan your QR code and make sure that you have all the required paperwork uploaded.

Photo by Jon Nickel-D’Andrea.

Approval

If everything is in order, a health department rep will give you a piece of paper showing that you are exempt from quarantine. Keep this paper with you through your journey. You will need to show it if you are asked to do so.

If you have not finished your paperwork or something is not correct, you must fill out a quarantine form. Then you must head directly to your hotel or lodging and stay there until you’ve completed your quarantine.

Frequently asked questions

How to travel between islands

If you want to travel between islands in Hawaii, restrictions vary depending on where you’re headed and where you’re coming from. For example, if you first landed on Oahu, but then you want to head to Kauai, the Big Island or Maui, you must test again at your own expense before you move on to the next island. But if your first entry point is Kauai and you complete your quarantine requirements there, you can head to Oahu without retesting. Check the Hawaii Department of Transportation website for requirements for your specific islands.

Want to choose your island based on COVID risk? You can check the state’s COVID information webpage, where you’ll find that Oahu currently has a higher infection rate than the other islands.

So … should you travel to Hawaii during COVID?

In the COVID pandemic, all travel is a risk. But Hawaii’s strict requirements mean that many — or maybe all — of the people on your flight recently tested negative. At your destination, the people around you will have either tested negative or quarantined for 10 days, or they will be residents of a state with a relatively low COVID rate. And you’ll all be wearing masks.

But only you can decide. Weigh the possible benefits of a trip to a tropical destination against the risks of travel, especially through your home airport, keeping in mind that the safest option is to stay home until the pandemic is under control.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Is the AmEx Business Platinum Card Worth Its Annual Fee?

Perks of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

New cardmembers can collect a stack of welcome bonus points. Earn 85,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. Plus, cardmembers earn points for every purchase.

You’ll get:

  • 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com.

  • 1.5x points on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more.

  • 1x points on all other eligible purchases.

Other benefits also help make the card worthwhile:

  • Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee credit.

  • 35% points refunded when you redeem them for eligible flights.

  • Airport lounge privileges.

  • Elite status in participating hotel and car rental loyalty programs.

  • $200 annual airline fee credit.

  • $200 annual credit for qualifying Dell purchases.

  • Travel and consumer protections including rental car coverage and baggage insurance.

  • Flexible ways to use your points, including transferring points to partner airlines.

Terms apply.

The annual fee is worth it if you …

Earn the welcome bonus

Membership Rewards points are redeemable for travel booked directly through American Express, gift cards, statement credits or online shopping, or you can convert them into airline miles with partner programs.

Depending on how you use them, NerdWallet estimates those points are worth anywhere from 0.5 cent to 1 cent each. That means your welcome bonus is worth several hundred dollars and can offset the annual fee for the first year if you use your points well. Terms apply.

Use the annual airline fee credit

Every year, you can charge up to $200 in incidental fees with one airline, and those charges will be automatically reimbursed in the form of a statement credit.

First, you select an airline (you can change your designated airline in January every year). Then, just use the card to pay for checked-bag fees, seat assignment fees or in-flight refreshments.

Take full advantage of this benefit every year and it essentially puts $200 back in your pocket. Terms apply.

Get reimbursed for Global Entry or TSA Precheck

Like other ultra-premium credit cards, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers a statement credit for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck. Because Global Entry comes with TSA Precheck, it makes sense for most people to get Global Entry if they have a passport.

The card reimburses you $100 every four years when you use the card to pay the application fee for Global Entry. Or, you can get reimbursed $85 every 4 1/2 years if you opt for TSA Precheck. If you don’t already have this benefit from another credit card, figure this perk has a value of around $25 per year. Terms apply.

Spend strategically

With The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, every purchase can earn you Membership Rewards points — but some purchases earn more than others.

The 5 points per dollar you earn on flights and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com can offset a big portion of your annual fee. For example, if you spend $4,000 per year this way on flights and hotels, you’ll earn 20,000 Membership Rewards points, worth several hundred dollars depending how you redeem them.

If your business needs to make big purchases — anything over $5,000 — those buys give you 1.5 points per dollar. Making two qualifying $6,000 purchases on the card every year would get you 18,000 Membership Rewards, worth a couple hundred dollars depending on your specific redemption. Terms apply.

Maximize the 35% point rebate

Redeem your points in the American Express travel portal for any first or business class flight, or on any class of flight on a single airline you preselect, and you’ll get 35% of your points rebated back to you. This means you can stretch your points even further. Now, that 50,000-point flight will cost you only 32,500 points. Terms apply.

Use your lounge access

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express allows you to access five different kinds of airport lounges, including:

The value that you’ll get from this benefit depends on how much you travel and what other airport lounge access you already have. It’s hard to put a dollar value on this benefit, but a conservative method is to think of what you would spend in airports on food and drinks without lounge access.

If you’d shell out $15 on average for a sandwich consumed at a crowded gate, free food and drinks in an airport lounge 10 times per year would put $150 back in your pocket (with the added bonus of a quieter, more spacious area to enjoy them in). Terms apply.

Get elite status with hotel and rental car companies

Holders of this card qualify for elite status in several hotel and rental car loyalty programs:

But don’t assume your new elite status kicks in automatically. For example, you have to take steps to request your Gold status in Marriott Bonvoy. Once you do, you’ll enjoy perks like possible room upgrades, accelerated points earning and a chance for late checkout on every qualifying stay at a hotel or resort in the Bonvoy program. Terms apply.

You know your purchase and travel protections

The rental car coverage, baggage insurance, extended warranties and other travel and purchase protections that come with this card can be extremely valuable if you know how to use them.

For example, when you rent a car, you must decline the collision damage waiver offered at the rental car counter in order to get coverage from your card benefits. Spend some time learning about your coverages so you can get the most out of them, hopefully further offsetting your card’s annual fee. Terms apply.

The bottom line

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express’s $595 annual fee is undeniably high. But you can put that much and more back in your pocket if you make the most of this card. Points earning, fee credits, loyalty program status and travel and purchase protections can easily offset the cost for users who can take full advantage of them.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Best Credit Cards to Get Free Room Upgrades

Free room upgrades are a great benefit of elite status in a hotel loyalty program. Road warriors can earn elite status by racking up lots of paid stays, but for the rest of us, there is an easier way.

Many co-branded hotel credit cards offer automatic elite status, which can mean a free upgrade to a bigger room, a room with a view or even a suite.

How to get a hotel room upgrade through credit card perks

Some credit cards give you free hotel status upgrades just for being a cardholder. This can mean immediately gaining high enough status to score free room upgrades upon check-in at hotels in the program.

Status doesn’t guarantee that you will get a room upgrade every time you stay, as upgrades are typically based on availability at check-in. But from our experience, your chances are pretty good — especially when traveling in the off-season.

Most hotel credit cards that come with the status level to get you room upgrades will have an annual fee. When applying for one of these cards, consider whether the card perks are worth the cost.

Our favorite rewards credit cards for room upgrades

If your goal is to get a hotel upgrade for free, add one of these rewards credit cards to your wallet.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

If you are aiming for Hilton’s top status tier, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is the right choice. This premium card has a hefty $450 annual fee, but it comes with excellent travel perks, including automatic Diamond status in the Hilton Honors loyalty program. With this status, you’ll not only enjoy free room upgrades but also get executive lounge access and earn 100% bonus points on stays, along with a few other perks. Terms apply.

Other benefits of this card include:

  • 14x Honors points per dollar when you use the card at Hilton hotels.

  • 7x points spent on travel and at U.S. restaurants.

  • 3x on all other purchases.

  • Up to $250 in Hilton resort credits on your card each anniversary year.

Terms apply.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has a $450 annual fee but packs a punch when it comes to benefits. Cardmembers receive automatic Gold Elite status, which grants you free room upgrades when available, complimentary Wi-Fi, 2 p.m. late checkout when available and 25% bonus points on paid stays.

Other details of this card include:

  • Welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

  • 6x Marriott Bonvoy points on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.

  • 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines and at U.S. restaurants.

  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.

  • Up to $300 in statement credits each year for eligible purchases at Marriott hotels.

  • Earn Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status after making $75,000 in eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year.

Terms apply.

The World Of Hyatt Credit Card

With an annual fee of $95The World Of Hyatt Credit Card offers cardholders complimentary Discoverist status as one of its main perks. With World of Hyatt Discoverist status, you can get upgraded to a room with a better view, on a higher floor or a corner room.

Discoverists also get complimentary internet access, 2 p.m. late checkout when available and elite check-in.

Other benefits of the card include:

  • Welcome bonus: Earn 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 total within 6 months of account opening.

  • Free nights start at 5,000 points.

  • One free night at any Category 4 or lower Hyatt property after your cardmember anniversary.

  • Extra free night at any Category 4 or lower Hyatt hotel if you spend $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year.

  • Automatic World of Hyatt Elite status and five qualifying night credits every year.

  • Two qualifying night credits toward tier status for every $5,000 you spend on your card.

  • 4 bonus points per dollar on Hyatt stays (on top of 5 base points for a total 9x points).

  • 2x for spending on restaurants, plane tickets purchased directly from the airline, local transit and fitness club memberships.

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

As an IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card holder you’ll get automatic Platinum Elite status with IHG Rewards Club — a loyalty program that includes the likes of Holiday Inn, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Kimpton, EVEN and Indigo hotels. Platinum elites get free room upgrades based on availability upon check-in plus 50% bonus points earning, elite rollover nights and more.

The credit card comes with an annual fee of $89. The perks you get include:

  • Welcome bonus: Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening

  • One award night after each account anniversary.

  • One award night when you redeem points for a stay of four or more nights.

  • Additional 15 points per $1 spent on IHG hotel stays (on top of 10 base points, for a total of 25x points on stays).

  • 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants. 1x points on all other purchases.

  • Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a card member.

The bottom line

Quite a few hotel credit cards come with elite status that can get you upgraded to a better room for free. Weigh all the benefits of a credit card, including possible upgrades, against the annual fee to decide whether one of these cards is worth getting.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

A Guide to Southwest Flights to the Caribbean

If your travel plans include booking a Caribbean getaway on a budget, your choice of airline matters. Southwest flights to the Caribbean are worth a look if you’re interested in securing low fares, avoiding change fees and saving on baggage fees.

Southwest Airlines flies to a number of Caribbean destinations, including some very popular tourist spots. If you’re enrolled in the Rapid Rewards program, you can redeem your points to book flights and/or earn bonus points when you book your trip with a Southwest co-branded credit card.

Curious about how Southwest flights to the Caribbean work? Here’s a closer look at what you can expect.

Destinations

The Caribbean islands feature a diverse mix of scenery and things to do, and Southwest makes it easy to explore all they have to offer.

When you fly Southwest to the Caribbean, you can book flights to:

  • Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

  • Havana, Cuba.

  • Montego Bay, Jamaica.

  • Nassau, The Bahamas.

  • Oranjestad, Aruba.

  • Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

  • San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Fly direct

It’s helpful to know which airports Southwest flights to the Caribbean will take you through. If you want to fly direct to the islands, you’ll need to depart from one of these airports:

  • Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI).

  • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW).

  • Denver International Airport (DEN).

  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).

  • Nashville International Airport (BNA).

  • Orlando International Airport (MCO).

  • St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL).

  • Tampa International Airport (TPA).

  • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU).

Say you wanted to fly to Aruba in May, but you live in Seattle. You couldn’t fly directly out of Seattle, but you could book a flight to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), then make a connecting flight from there. Doing so may mean factoring a layover into your travel plans, but that may be necessary if you’re not able to fly direct from your local airport.

Availability

When booking Southwest flights to the Caribbean, you’ll need to factor in flight operating schedules to make sure your chosen dates can be accommodated by checking the low-fare calendar for flight availability.

Southwest doesn’t always operate flights to individual Caribbean destinations daily — in fact, the availability for departure and return flights may differ significantly across locales and desired travel dates.

By dates

For example, say you wanted to schedule a winter getaway and fly round-trip from Atlanta (ATL) to Punta Cana (PUJ). A look at Southwest’s low fare calendar shows no available departure flights until mid-March. However, if you were to book the same trip from Atlanta to Punta Cana for May, you’d see that you could only fly out on a Saturday, but you could book your return flight for any day of the month.

By destination

Your departure destination and arrival location may also influence flight availability. For example, say you’re departing from Baltimore (BWI) and traveling to Aruba (AUA) in the month of May. A look at the low-fare calendar shows there are more flights to choose from compared to the Atlanta to Punta Cana options in May.

Booking Southwest flights to the Caribbean

Southwest fares to the Caribbean can vary based on where you’re departing from, where you’re traveling to and your travel dates. You can use points or cash to book Southwest flights.

Dynamic pricing

If we go back to the example of the Atlanta to Punta Cana flight mentioned earlier, you’ll see that it’s much cheaper to book flights in early May versus late May. Fast-forward to July and you’ll see fares peaking even higher.

That’s assuming you’re paying cash, but remember — you can also use points to book if you’re a Rapid Rewards member. The amount of points you’ll need again depends on your travel dates and destination.

For the Punta Cana trip, you’d need 7,800 points to book a departure flight at the beginning of May, but if you book around the first of July, you’d need 14,742 points instead.

Fees

Keep in mind that even when you book with points, the prices don’t include applicable taxes and fees. On the bright side, Southwest has a reputation for being fee-friendly. There are no change fees and your first and second checked bags fly free. But you’re still responsible for federal excise tax of 7.5%, a $4.10 federal segment fee, a $5.60 security fee per one-way trip and airport-assessed passenger facility charges.

Earn points faster with a credit card

If you’re interested in saving money on Southwest flights to the Caribbean, the right travel rewards card can help. Southwest offers several co-branded credit cards to help you rack up points toward free flights on purchases.

Card options include:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Earn up to 80,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: Earn up to 80,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Earn up to 80,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months.

Aside from earning points on Southwest purchases, each of these cards allows you to earn points on everything else you spend. When comparing cards, first decide whether a personal or business card is more appropriate. Then consider the annual fees and card benefits to help you choose the right one.

The bottom line

Southwest is a top-rated economy airline in the U.S. and the option to fly to the Caribbean may be appealing if you’re interested in low-cost flights or don’t mind foregoing business- or first-class amenities. You can visit eight Caribbean destinations when flying Southwest, and flights can be booked with cash or Rapid Rewards points. Joining the Rapid Rewards program and opening a Southwest Airlines credit card can help you earn points toward free Caribbean flights faster.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

15 Reasons to Invest After Retirement

March 16, 2018 &• 6 min read by Josh Smith Comments 0 Comments

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Advertiser Disclosure

Disclaimer

The time has finally come: you’re ready to retire. For many, this means living off savings or social security, but in reality, now that you’re unemployed it’s time you started making real money. Investing after retirement is a great way to continue making income, cover expenses in lieu of a regular paycheck, and stay plugged into the booming American economy.

  1. Social security is drying up

If you plan on retiring any time after the next 20 years, you shouldn’t count on social security funds. A 2014 report estimates that social security will no longer be able to pay full benefits after 2033. This means that those that retire after this demarcation point should expect to supplement federal aid with individual income — such as investments.

  1. Life expectancy is increasing

Clean living, improved healthcare resources, increased social awareness, and many other factors have all contributed to a steady increase in life expectancy over the years. Today, being young at heart means more than ever — retirees can expect to live an additional 15 – 20 years into their twilight years. The average life expectancy today is 80, which is almost a decade older than the to 71 year life expectancy of 1960.

  1. Investing is fun

Many retirees will take up new hobbies to fill the time previously occupied by professional obligations. Why not make your daytime hobby making money? Day trading stocks is the perfect retiree activity because it’s just as complicated as you want it to be. You can trade casually, and pick up some minor gains here or there. Or, go in full bore and make it your new job. After all, investments provide extra money, so have some fun with it.

  1. Delaying social security payments boosts your benefits

Let’s say your investments are performing exceptionally well, and maybe you don’t necessarily need social security yet. Your social security payout increases by 8 percent for every year you delay payments. So if you’ve held off on social security, and it has come time to cash out investments, your federal retirement benefits will be worth far more than usual.

  1. Moving

Want to spend the next chapter of your life in Myrtle Beach? Naples, Florida? Now that you’re retired, you’re free to live anywhere you want — unfettered by professional constraints, the world is your oyster. But there’s one problem: how will you afford it? Your savings account should be preserved for medical expenses, and you already checked the couch cushions for loose change. Well, investments with high yield interest rates or dividend payments are a good way to boost your income and gain a little extra cash.

  1. You earned it

What has decades of penny pinching amounted to if you can’t spend your savings during retirement? Part of the reason you budgeted so carefully in your professional years is to ensure security as you grow old. Well, here you are, and it’s time to tap that sacred savings account. As you assess your finances in old age, consider how much savings you’re willing to gamble on the market — what do you have to lose?

  1. There’s no better time to invest than now

This is not to say that the market is particularly ripe for new investors right now — although 2017 saw record high economic numbers — but more so that anytime is a good time to invest. You can guarantee the market will fluctuate in your 15+ years of retirement, but that’s not the point. As long as you build a portfolio that can bear a bear market, you will be in good shape to weather market slumps. As they say, “don’t play with scared money.”

  1. Grandchildren

Your kids are all grown up, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. As a retired grandparent, you’re in charge of vacations, dinners out, movie nights, and other fun activities with the grandkids. And, you guessed it, one of the best ways to bankroll fun money is through thriving investments. In fact, while it might not be the most exciting prospect for the kid, a safe, slow-maturing investment is a great grandkid birthday gift.

  1. Jumpstart a startup

Are you passionate about the future of tech? Small philanthropies? Artisan dog treats? Whatever your calling may be, there is likely a startup that you can help get off the ground. One study found that 100 million startups try to get off the ground every year, and they need your help. Invest in a cause you care about, and in the process make someone’s entrepreneurial dreams come true.

  1. Broaden your horizons

Now that you’re retired it’s time to read those books you never got around to, learn a new skill, travel the world, and, most importantly, diversify your portfolio. Financial experts suggest that retirees pursue many different types of assets to help offsite potential market volatility.

  1. Travel

For most, vacation tops the list of most anticipated retirement activities. It’s easy to get swept up in fantasies of cold beer and catching rays on the beach, but you you need a way to pay for it. Investments are a good way to compound your savings, and make a little extra vacation money.

  1. Health

Studies show that retirees require upwards of $260,000 to cover medical expenses as they age. Maybe, thanks to years of frugality, you have this kind of money in savings, but it never hurts to stash away a little extra cash. The population nearing retirement needs to be able to expect the unexpected, so use the stock market as an opportunity to compound your emergency fund in case of expensive medical bills.

  1. Taxes

Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you can avoid the taxman — after all, according to Benjamin Franklin, alongside death, taxes are one of the two certainties in life. While you no longer have to pay payroll taxes, you will still pay taxes on social security benefits. Plus, you are required to pay taxes on IRA withdrawals. Tax season can feel extra overwhelming if you are without a reliable source of income, so avoid the April financial crunch and tap investment gains to pay taxes during retirement.

  1. Support a company you care about

If you’re on the verge of retirement you probably had a long, prosperous career. Maybe you jumped around to different positions, or maybe you logged a couple decades at one company. Either way, chances are there is a company you want to be involved with that you never got a chance to work at. Investing in a company is a good way to gain a sense of belonging, and do your part to support a company dear to your heart — even if you never actually worked there.

  1. Stay sharp on market trends

All of the financial benefits of investments aside, investing in the market gives you a reason to care. One of the scariest prospects of retirement is the threat of complacency, so fend off apathy by giving yourself a reason to stay up-to-date. You are far more likely to take a keen interest in economic trends when you have a little skin in the game.
If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

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Source: credit.com

How to Use Your Wanderlust to Build Credit

June 15, 2016 &• min read by Jill Krasny Comments 0 Comments

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Advertiser Disclosure

Disclaimer

Love to travel? Good news: There are ways to put that wanderlust to use with a travel rewards credit card.

Though travel rewards cards aren’t the easiest to get approved for as they require an excellent or good credit score, those who are able to snag one can use it to build better credit. (Just remember, before you apply it’s important to know where you stand so you don’t get turned down only to see your score suffer as a result of the inquiry.)

Travel Rewards Cards & Credit

A travel rewards credit card lets accountholders earn points or miles that can be put towards hotel stays, airfare and other travel expenses. These rewards can help travelers lower the cost of vacations, and the card itself can be a good tool for building credit.

If you make payments on time, eventually your score will begin to rise because this behavior creates a positive payment history, an important factor in credit scoring models. The card’s credit limit will also count toward your credit utilization rate, which is another big factor in scoring models. Your credit utilization rate is how much debt you carry versus your total available credit. For best credit scoring results, it’s recommended that you keep your debt below 10% and at least 30% of your credit limit(s). So if you charge a vacation and then pay most or all of the purchases off right away, your score could benefit.

You can keep track of how your usage and payments are affecting your credit by signing up for Credit.com’s free credit report summary. Beyond seeing your credit scores, you’ll be able to check how you’re doing in five key areas of your credit report that determine your credit score, including payment history, debt usage, inquiries, credit age and account mix.

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Since interest rates for travel rewards cards tend to vary depending on creditworthiness, you’ll want to be mindful about carrying a balance. Doing so could hamper your credit goals, and the interest you pay could exceed whatever you’ve managed to glean from rewards. Many travel rewards cards carry annual fees, too, so you’ll want to make sure your spending habits justify the potential cost. (You can read about the best travel credit cards in America here.) Of course, making purchases on your card and paying them off quickly (and on time) will generally boost your credit.

Remember, if your credit is looking a little lackluster and you’re having a hard time qualifying for any type of credit card, you may be able to improve your scores by disputing errors on your credit report, paying down high credit card balances and limiting new credit inquiries until your score bounces back.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: Geber86

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Source: credit.com

Money-Saving Hacks to Beat the System

By

Laura Adams, MBA
January 3, 2017

David Pogue is one of the world’s bestselling how-to authors with over 3 million books in print. He has 120 titles in the Missing Manual series, a collection of funny computer books, and he wrote or co-wrote seven books in the “for Dummies” series.

David is a former New York Times columnist, the tech critic for Yahoo Finance, and he writes a monthly column for Scientific American. He’s worked in TV as the host of science shows on PBS’s “NOVA” and as a correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning” since 2002. He’s the recipient of prestigious awards like multiple Emmys, Webbys, and a Loeb for journalism.

In this interview. we talk about his most recent title Pogue’s Basics: Money – Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) About Beating the System. It covers 150 simple tips and tricks to stop leaving money on the table every day. You can pick up a copy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, or Booksamillion.

[Listen to the interview using the audio player in the upper right sidebar of this page or on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify]

Free Resource: Laura’s Recommended Tools—use them to earn more, save more, and accomplish more with your money!

You should never buy anything but refurbished computers. – David Pogue

I had a great time chatting with David about some of my favorite money-saving tips from the book. Here are some of the topics we discuss:

  • The right way to purchase computers and laptops
  • Whether you should pay for extended product warranties
  • Tips to save money on insurance
  • How to get free money from Amazon programs
  • Places to turn unused gift cards into cash at sites like CardCash or Cardpool
  • How to leverage credit cards for cash back

No matter how much or little money you have, you’ll take away easy tips and shortcuts to outsmart retailers, leverage savings programs, and keep more of your hard-earned money!

Get More Money Girl!

Want to know the best financial and productivity tools that I use and recommend to save time and money? Click here to check out 40+ tools I recommend!

To connect on social media, you’ll find Money Girl on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Also, if you’re not already subscribed to the Money Girl podcast on iTunes or the Stitcher app, both are free and make sure that you’ll get each new weekly episode as soon as it’s published on the web. The show is also on the Spotify mobile app!

Click here to subscribe to the weekly Money Girl audio podcast—it’s FREE!

There’s a huge archive of past articles and podcasts if you type in what you want to learn about in the search bar at the top of the page. Here are all the many places you can connect with me, learn more about personal finance, and ask your money question:

Click here to sign up for the free Money Girl Newsletter!

To learn about how to get out of debt, save money, and build wealth, get a copy of my award-winning book Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich. It tells you what you need to know about money without bogging you down with what you don’t. It’s available at your favorite bookstore as a paperback or e-book. Click here to download 2 FREE book chapters now!

Hands Taking Out Money image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Laura Adams, MBA

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Moving Guide Travel

The Guide to Priority Pass Lounges at LAX

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Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX, is the second busiest U.S. airport by passenger traffic and the busiest on the West Coast, serving about 84.5 million passengers every year. With that many people passing through, you might be looking to escape the terminal’s hustle and bustle and find a bit of peace (not to mention a snack and beverage) at an airport lounge.

At LAX, members of the Priority Pass network — including credit card holders whose cards come with a Priority Pass Select membership — have access to three airport lounges and two restaurants where Priority Pass membership pays part of the bill.

Here’s a look at your options to help you figure out which is the best Priority Pass lounge at LAX for you the next time you’re there.

Note: Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, some lounge benefits and/or hours of operation may be temporarily altered or unavailable. Always check directly with the lounge or Priority Pass website for the most up-to-date details on availability.

Priority Pass network options at LAX

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

Location: Terminal 2, Level 4, above the departure gates

Hours: 5 to 11:50 a.m.

Conditions: Maximum stay is limited to three hours. Children younger than five are admitted free. Complimentary alcohol is limited to beer and wine only.

Priority Pass members are admitted to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse only in the morning, but if you have an early flight out of Terminals 2, 3 or Terminal B (they’re connected airside by a shuttle bus), it’s a nice place to relax with a cup of coffee or grab a muffin, oatmeal or yogurt before you board.

Alaska Lounge

Location: Terminal 6, near Gate 64 on the mezzanine level

Hours: 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Conditions: Access permitted up to three hours prior to departure. Limited to two guests or immediate family (spouse and children younger than 21) per cardholder. Children younger than two are admitted free.

The Alaska Lounge works best for travelers departing from Terminals 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8, or the Tom Bradley International Terminal (Terminal B) — if you’re willing to walk. But before you make the trek, check that the lounge is open. The Alaska Lounge is notorious for restricting access to Priority Pass members. To avoid frustration, add your name to the waiting list. Keep in mind that access isn’t guaranteed.

KAL Lounge

Location: Tom Bradley International Terminal, on the fifth floor after security and a duty-free store

Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Conditions: Access permitted up to three hours prior to departure. Limited to two guests per cardholder. Children younger than two are admitted free.

Although the lounge itself is open longer, Priority Pass members aren’t allowed to visit outside of these hours. If your flight departs from Tom Bradley International Terminal later in the evening, you’re out of luck.

The KAL Lounge is the only Priority Pass lounge at Los Angeles International Airport that has showers. For many travelers, a quick shower can make a world of difference on a long connection before an international flight.

Rock & Brews

Location: Terminal 1, across from Gate 11B

Hours: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Rock & Brews is a restaurant that participates in the Priority Pass network. Members get $28 per person off their bill for food and drinks (limited to $56 per visit). To-go or grab-and-go orders aren’t eligible for the credit.

To use the perk, present your Priority Pass card (digital or physical) and a boarding pass when getting seated. If the bill exceeds the maximum allowance, you must pay the remainder. If you don’t use up the entire credit amount, it can’t be used toward gratuity, so make sure to have some cash on hand to tip your server.

Terminal 1 isn’t connected airside to any other terminals at LAX. If you’re flying Southwest Airlines, grabbing a bite at Rock & Brews is a solid option upon either departure or arrival in Terminal 1.

Point the Way Cafe

Location: Terminal 6, between Gates 65A and 65B

Hours: 1 to 11 p.m.

Point the Way Cafe is another Priority Pass restaurant where members can receive a credit toward meals and beverages. You’re limited to $28 off your bill per guest or $56 per two guests for dine-in only.

If your total exceeds the maximum credit, you’re responsible for covering the rest of your bill. Should you end up with remaining balance, it can’t be used toward a tip, so plan accordingly.

How can I access these lounges?

Priority Pass sells memberships starting at $99 per year, but the best option is to get Priority Pass lounge access for free as a credit card perk. Premium credit cards that come with a complimentary Priority Pass membership include:

Most of these cards offer Priority Pass Select membership, which includes unlimited visits to any of the more than 1,300 lounges within the network. Up to two guests can enter free of charge, but terms vary and you should pay attention to entry conditions. Additional guests are $27 to $32 per person.

For travelers with access provided by an American Express card, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, restaurants are excluded. This means that American Express cardholders with Priority Pass Select membership don’t receive any allowance toward their bill at participating restaurants. Terms apply.

The bottom line

Priority Pass members traveling through the busy Los Angeles International Airport have three lounges available to them, along with two restaurants where their membership will cover part of the check. The lounge nearest your departure gate may have limited hours or limited access for Priority Pass members, so check the Priority Pass website before you head to the airport.

With any luck, you’ll be able to spend some time relaxing with a drink or snack before your flight.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Travel

6 Myths That Are Costing You Money on Gas

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Does restarting your car use more gas? Do seat warmers waste energy? Find out the answers and more when we bust car maintenance myths one by one. 
By

Bruce and Jeanne Lubin
January 25, 2017

even in winter! Today’s cars are designed to warm up while being driven, so after you give the car 30–60 seconds of idling time, you can be on your way—just take it easy for the first few minutes on the road. You’ll save both time and gas!

Seat Warmers Waste Energy

Heated seats in your car may seem like a luxury, but they can actually be a huge money-saver. Heated seats don’t have to use as much energy (that is, gas) as your car’s heating vents to keep you warm. If they aren’t offered when you buy your car, consider getting a heated pad for your seat or even having heated seats installed after-market.

Changing Your Oil Less Frequently Saves You Money

Change your oil regularly and you’ll have to fill up on gas less often. As oil ages, it gets thicker and harder to push through the engine, causing more energy to be used. By changing your oil regularly, you’ll make sure you get the best fuel economy possible.

Premium Gas Makes Your Car Run Better

Only 5 percent of cars actually run better on premium gas as opposed to regular. Make sure to check your owner’s manual to see what it recommends.

“Topping Off” is Worthwhile

Have you ever “topped off” your car’s gas tank to round out the price at the pump? You should know that since the pump is only pumping out vapors at that point, they’re automatically sucked back into gas station’s tank. In other words, even though you now have exact change, you didn’t get any extra gas!

For more easy ways to take care of your car, follow our Car Tips board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Bruce and Jeanne Lubin

Bruce Lubin and Jeanne Bossolina-Lubin are the proud parents of three boys and more than a dozen books. After saving thousands per year using everyday tips and simple lifehacks, they started their own business in the hopes of sharing their knowledge with others. They have been known to go into their friends’ refrigerators to turn their eggs upside down so that they last longer.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com