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RewardStock Exposed …and for that Reason, I’m Out!

RewardStock Review

In November, The travel company RewardStock was featured on the hit ABC TV show “Shark Tank”. Shark Tank is a television show that features entrepreneurs looking to find investors in their company. On the show, RewardStock introduced their company with this pitch.

“RewardStock helps travelers earn, track, and book trips with reward points like frequent flyer miles, credit card rewards and hotel points. Don’t have any points? RewardStock creates customized plans to help you get the points you need quickly, saving money on travel and empowering you to experience more.”

 

Here’s what RewardStock Says they Do

  • Algorithm-powered search results
  • Search best reward deals for many popular destinations
  • Easy, expert-assisted reward bookings
  • Strategic earning guidance
  • Customize parameters for your situation

“RewardStock will save you more money on travel than any other site. That’s a fact!”

 

In the end, shark Mark Cuban (known for owning the Dallas Mavericks) invested $320,000 in exchange for 10% ownership of the RewardStock company. This means that RewardStock is valued at $3.2 million.

 

A friend of mine mentioned the upcoming episode to me, knowing that I’m deep in the travel points community. As I watched the pitch live, I had a hard time believing that what they were claiming they did was even fully possible. I also wondered how, if they had this service, I had never heard of RewardStock before. I literally follow hundreds of travel blogs on a daily basis in order to keep up with the industry.

 

Honestly, as I watched the episode live, I was astonished that any of the sharks invested. After RewardStocks CEO, Jon gave his pitch, there was a definite concern about the suggested valuation of $4 million, but two of the sharks were still interested. RewardStock said that their revenue over the past two years had been $50,000. They make their money through referrals to credit cards and membership fees. Kevin O’Leary offered $200,000 for 10% of the company, but Mark Cuban came in to make a deal at $320,000 for 10% ownership.

 

Knowing the travel points industry, I know how many different factors go into booking a flight with points. It’s not a cut and dry formula that could easily be turned into an algorithm, which is what RewardStock claims they’ve done. After the Shark Tank episode aired, I decided to pay the $29 membership to see if they could really stand by their promises.

 

Why was I astonished that Mark Cuban Invested?

  1. Being involved in the travel rewards world for the past six years, I understand how complicated award flight booking can be. I also understand that booking reward flights isn’t always a cut and dry formula. Sometimes, there are a lot of variables that go into booking a flight that would seem to be hard to automate.
  2. The valuation of RewardStock seemed nothing less than absurd to me. Mark Cuban paid $320,000 for 10% of the company (+1% in advisory shares). That means that they valued the company at approximately $3.2 million!
  3. rewardstock valuation
  4. Really?!? What the… OK (deep breath), time to dig deeper into this service. Let’s find out if RewardStock seems like a company that should be worth $3.2 million.

 

Don’t get me wrong… What RewardStock claims that they offer would be AMAZING if they could truly do it. But, as I figured, after signing up for an account to see how in the world they did it, I realized that they are far from what they claim to be. Their $29 service is far from valuable for most people, including me. It straight up doesn’t work correctly. In fact, there are free tools and services online that work better than RewardStock does. I’ll tell you about those too.

 

Booking a Flight on RewardStock

The main feature of RewardStock is booking award flights all over the world with their “proprietary algorithm”. Let’s find out how this algorithm works. We’ll analyze whether it’s easy to use, and if we can really find the best deals with it.

 

What RewardStock Flight Booking is Supposed to Do

RewardStock is supposed to allow you to easily book award flights using the least amount of points possible. This is the procedure to search for award flights on RewardStock:

 

  1. Search your destination at the top of your account. (No date selection – you can only input a requested month)
  2. RewardStock takes a minute or so to find a flight. (It’s SLOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW and don’t leave that tab or it suspends your search)
  3. RewardStock comes back with a result. (Often the flight dates are terrible. Like a 1 day trip to Bangkok or a 27 day trip to Las Vegas… only at this point can you change your dates)
  4. Change the dates that you’d actually like to fly – one at a time. Then search again. It’s very clunky.
  5. Get your flight results. (Unfortunately, they usually aren’t actually the best option. So much for that proprietary algorithm…)
  6. If you like the results, click “Book Now”
  7. Enter your passenger information, your tolerance to a price or point change, and your credit card info for payment of taxes & fees, including a $10 booking fee.
  8. Schedule a booking call. (They are typically 2-3 days out)
  9. RewardStock will conduct any points transfers needed.
  10. RewardStock will book your trip within approximately 48 hours.
  11. You will later have to finalize seat selections and trip details for yourself.

 

When you begin to search, you quickly realize that RewardStock does not support all locations. After looking at their frequently asked questions, I found that they only support 35 points of origin (only in the US) and 30 destinations worldwide. Quickly, the value of RewardStock is diminishing.

 

Here are the 35 RewardStock cities of origin. (If you don’t live near one of these airports, RewardStock is of no value to you)

  • ABQ (Albuquerque, NM)
  • ANC (Anchorage, AK)
  • ATL (Atlanta, GA)
  • AUS (Austin, TX)
  • BNA (Nashville, TN)
  • BOS (Boston MA)
  • CHI (Chicago, IL – ORD, MDW)
  • CLE (Cleveland, OH)
  • CLT (Charlotte, NC)
  • CVG (Cincinnati, OH)
  • DEN (Denver, CO)
  • DFW (Dallas, TX)
  • DTW (Detroit, MI)
  • HNL (Honolulu, HI)
  • IAH (Houston, TX)
  • LAS (Las Vegas, NV)
  • LAX (Los Angeles, CA)
  • MCI (Kansas City, MO)
  • MCO (Orlando, FL)
  • MIA (Miami, FL)
  • MSP (Minneapolis, MN)
  • MSY (New Orleans, LA)
  • LGA, JFK, EWR (New York, NY)
  • OMA (Omaha, NE)
  • PDX (Portland, OR)
  • PHL (Philadelphia, PA)
  • PHX (Phoenix, AZ)
  • PIT (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • RDU (Raleigh, NC)
  • SAN (San Diego, CA)
  • SEA (Seattle, WA)
  • SFO, OAK (San Francisco, CA)
  • SLC (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • STL (St. Louis, MO)
  • DCA, IAD, BWI (Washington, DC)

 

That’s quite a few large airports in the US that RewardStock covers. I’m happy with those locations to start a trip from. The problem though is their lack of destinations. There are only 30 destinations that RewardStock will book your vacation.

 

Here’s the list of the 30 RewardStock destinations. (If these destinations aren’t of interest to you, RewardStock is of no value)

  • AKL (Auckland, New Zealand)
  • AMS (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  • BCN (Barcelona, Spain)
  • BKK (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • CHI (Chicago, IL – ORD, MDW)
  • CPT (Capetown, South Africa)
  • CUN (Cancun, Mexico)
  • DPS (Bali, Indonesia)
  • DUB (Dublin, Ireland)
  • DXB (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
  • HKG (Hong Kong)
  • HNL (Honolulu, HI)
  • KEF (Iceland)
  • LAS (Las Vegas, NV)
  • LAX (Los Angeles, CA)
  • LON (London, England)
  • MAD (Madrid, Spain)
  • MBJ (Montego Bay, Jamaica)
  • MCO (Orlando, FL)
  • MLE (Maldives)
  • LGA, JFK, EWR (New York, NY)
  • PAR (Paris, France)
  • PPT (French Polynesia)
  • PUJ (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic)
  • ROM (Rome, Italy)
  • SEA (Seattle, WA)
  • SFO, OAK (San Francisco, CA)
  • SIN (Singapore)
  • SYD (Sydney, Australia)
  • TYO (Tokyo, Japan)

 

With only 30 destinations, RewardStock leaves a lot to be desired. I feel like the people who would use this service would want many more destination options.

 

How RewardStock Works in Reality

Initially, I have a few concerns about this process. First off, why can’t I choose dates that I want to fly or even a range of times to fly within from the beginning? For some reason, you must wait until the search has completed before changing the departure date or return date. You also must do these changes one at a time, which is very clunky and sometimes doesn’t even work.

 

The next concern is that booking is not immediate and is delayed by multiple days to conduct the booking call and for them to transfer points. Well, if you’ve booked flights with points before, you know that what’s available now can be gone the next day or even the next hour. What happens if they transfer your points from your Ultimate Rewards account to your Southwest account and then the flight is no longer available?

 

The biggest concern I have with RewardStock is that their algorithm doesn’t actually give search results with the best flight options. I did multiple searches for flights using only Southwest Rapid Rewards as my points. Here are the results compared to results directly from Southwests own award search.

 

PDX-LGA Roundtrip for 2 passengers (May 21-27)

Search Results on RewardStock: 76k Rapid Rewards + $22.40 + $10 fee 

rewardstock flights

 

PDX-LGA Roundtrip for 2 passengers (May 21-27)

Search Results on Southwest.com: 57.9k Rapid Rewards + $22.40 (24% Less points than RewardStock)

rewardstock review southwest flights

 


 

Obviously, RewardStock did not bring back results for the best flights possible using points. Let’s try again…

 

PDX-LAS Roundtrip for 2 passengers (May 23-27)

Search Results on RewardStock: 58k Rapid Rewards + $22.40 + $10 fee

rewardstock search

 

PDX-LAS Roundtrip for 2 passengers (May 23-27)

Search Results on Southwest.com: 33.3k Rapid Rewards + $22.40 (43% less points than RewardStock)

rewardstock review southwest airlines

 


Let’s See Which Flights RewardStock Chose as the Best (Highlighted Green)

rewardstock southwest results

 

rewardstock southwest search results

 

Now, I’m no proprietary algorithm, but those don’t look like the best flight options to me. In both directions, there were available options that had fewer stops and were offered for far fewer points than the options that RewardStock chose as the “best”.

 

After comparing these flights to Southwest directly, I have just one question for you. Would you want RewardStocks algorithm choosing your flights?

 

Tracking Your Reward Points on RewardStock

RewardStock has an area in your account for tracking all of your loyalty points. You can add programs and then enter the number of points or miles you currently have. Everything in the points tracker must be input manually. Every time you use or earn points, you’ll need to manually update the balances.

 

Another service called Award Wallet does this as well, but everything is automated. They pull the info from your real loyalty accounts to update your balances. Award Wallet also keeps track of expiration dates for your points and allows you to login to your loyalty programs without having to remember all the passwords.

 

On RewardStocks point tracker you cannot add more than one account in each loyalty program. This means that if you have multiple accounts or want to add your spouse’s loyalty account, you’ll need to make another RewardStock account.

 

RewardStocks “Personalized” Credit Card Recommendations

(This is Hilarious…)

One of the main features of RewardStock is their personalized credit card recommendations. They say they will find the perfect credit card specifically for you, taking into effect your travel preferences, current reward portfolio, monthly credit card spending, and other factors.

 

They say this feature is what “sets RewardStock apart from other tools or travel hacking blogs is that we don’t make blanket recommendations. We make personalized, credit card recommendations. Our proprietary algorithm determines the best credit card for you based on your unique portfolio.” Their words, not mine. This is a pretty comical statement. You’ll see why in a second.

 

What Does RewardStocks Credit Card Recommendation “Algorithm” Really Do?

I tested out their so-called “Personalized Credit Card Recommendation Algorithm that sets them apart”. What did I find out?

 

No matter what your travel preferences, current reward portfolio, or monthly credit card spending look like, they recommend THE EXACT SAME CARDS FOR EVERYONE! How’s that for setting themselves apart?!?

 

I tested out their credit card recommendation tool with different credit cards and awards in my account already and found that the results were the same every single time. Does that sound like it’s personalized to you? It doesn’t to me…

 

It Gets Even Better…

The RewardStock “algorithm” is actually just a simple list of credit cards that they recommend in order, leaving a card out if you already have it. Here’s RewardStocks recommended credit card order, no matter what your specific travel needs are.

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred
  2. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card (personal) Learn More >>
  3. British Airways Visa Signature
  4. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite
  5. American Express Gold Card Learn More >>
  6. *Chase Ink Plus – Huh?!? WOW, this credit card hasn’t existed since 2016 when it was discontinued! This alone, says a lot about RewardStock…
  7. Alaska Airlines Visa Signature (personal)
  8. CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select
  9. Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite
  10. **Hilton HHonors Surpass Card – Yet, another discontinued credit card being recommended by RewardStock. Obviously, these aren’t “personalized recommendations”.

 

* FYI: The Chase Ink Plus was discontinued in 2016. Its replacement card in the Chase-branded credit cards line is the Ink Business Preferred, which we consider to have the best current signup bonus.

** FYI: The Hilton HHonors Surpass card was discontinued in 2018 and replaced by the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend card. Learn More >>

 

I’ll stop there as I’ve seen enough in the first ten cards. As I mentioned above, this is the list of cards that RewardStock recommends in order that they recommend them. It doesn’t matter what your travel profile looks like, you’ll get these exact same recommendations, in this exact same order from RewardStock. Nice work…

 

What is RewardBoost?

RewardBoost is a feature of RewardStock that you can activate in the “My Cards” tab. To activate RewardBoost, you must give them your personal, financial, and business information. According to RewardStock, after activation, they will find the perfect card for you each year. Supposedly, then they’ll automatically apply for you after confirmation of your “perfect card” (seems legally unsound, but I’m no lawyer).

rewardboost

 

After seeing their recommended cards above I don’t know that I would want to see my “perfect card” for this year. I’m going to call off investigating this feature a little prematurely, simply because I don’t trust them with my financial information. They claim that your information is secure from their SSL encryption, but with all the data breaches at large companies lately, I doubt that’s entirely true.

 

Want a Real Personalized Travel Credit Card Recommendation?

If you actually want a personalized travel credit card recommendation, you can check out our 100% free Credit Card Consultation. It’s simple. Here’s how it works. You answer a few quick questions about your travel preferences, your current credit cards, and whether you can apply for business cards or not. Then, we research the current travel credit card offers in the market and pair them up to your travel preferences to find the top 3 travel credit card options for you.

 

Our service is actually personalized as I do the research myself for each individual person. Did I mention that it’s FREE?

 

Don’t Want to Wait? Here are the Best Overall Travel Credit Card Offers

Credit Card Introductory OfferAnnual FeeOur Thoughts 
Chase Sapphire Preferred60,000 points$95Best first travel credit card.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
Capital One Venture50,000 miles$95 (waived year 1)Great travel rewards credit card for simplicity.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
Chase Sapphire Reserve50,000 points$450Best premium travel rewards credit cardLEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
Amex Platinum60,000 points$550Best ultra luxury travel rewards credit card.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
Ink Business Preferred80,000 points$95Best business travel rewards credit card.LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>

 

What People are Saying that Have Tried Using RewardStock

From my own review of RewardStock, it’s obvious that they aren’t what they say they are. I give them credit that it’s a good idea. I’d also love to see them make their algorithms work the way that they say they do.

 

If RewardStock could truly automate booking flights with award points getting the lowest fares, everyone involved in award travel, including myself, would use their service in a heartbeat. Paying $29 a year to be able to book any flights with points at the click of a button would be nothing short of amazing. I’m skeptical that RewardStock will ever be able to accomplish that, considering the variables of booking award flights.

 

Because I don’t want to rely just on my own review of the RewardStock system, I searched the internet for other people who have attempted to use RewardStock. Here’s what they had to say.

 

“I tried the site the same evening the episode aired and quickly realized that it didn’t come close to properly utilizing miles nor calculating pricing. There is so much potential for a site like this, but they need folks like me on board.”

[email protected] (twitter)

 

“I was a beta user for RewardStock but haven’t really used it in the past year. I personally was never able to find the award space they claimed to have.”

-Amy

 

“I signed up and paid the $29. It was a big waste. You cannot pick specific dates of travel – only months. You cannot pick the time of trip – you have to go with the dates they provide. It will not provide the flight numbers to verify. It does not provide the hotel options. Its a massive push towards affiliate credit card offers. I emailed – no response. I had to set an appointment in their automated system for 2 weeks out before I can speak with someone. I’ll be canceling and disputing the charges. Nothing about what they said they provide is accurate.”

-Michael

 

“I paid the $29, entered my points, linked my accounts, etc. I was horrified when I got a pop-up asking me to accept their ability to link to my Gmail account. It said by accepting, I agreed to allow them to read, compose and delete my emails. I’m not sure it was really their site or if somehow I was redirected to another fake site, so be aware and cautious.

I could not link my Sapphire Reserve account and only one of my Alaska Miles accounts, fair enough, the other is my wife’s. She would require her own account. All other accounts linked ok. My Hilton Honors card is the only one that actually updated. While trying to book a trip to Kona, it could not find the airport (KOA). I decided to book a fake trip to see what it would cost. I did MUCH, MUCH better on my own.

Airfare to the Maldives cost me $34 plus 554,000 points one way, one flier. I was able to book 2 round trip for 165,000 points on my own. I’m a Point junky. I have over 4 million various points that I’m hoarding for retirement. I have a spreadsheet to help me track everything. That said, it was very easy for me to save way more than RewardStock could. I plan on calling AmEx in the morning to have them stop payment and I’ll cancel my account. Maybe Mark Cuban can invest in making the site work as intended.”

-Jim C

 

“It’s a shame that they don’t seem to offer any sort of free trial period either.”

-William C

 

After looking around at different sources, it was clear that RewardStock customers aren’t very happy with the service. RewardStock clearly has a lot of room for improvement.

 

Free Alternatives to RewardStock that Actually Work Better

Award Points Flight Search: AwardHacker

  • Find out how many points are needed from each airline to fly certain routes
  • See where you can transfer points from to get the points needed for a flight
  • Compatible for ANY routes
  • 100% Free

 

Award Point Tracking: Award Wallet

  • Track unlimited award point accounts
  • Includes all programs: credit card points, airlines, hotels, others
  • Award points expiration notifications so you don’t lose any points
  • Tracks travel vouchers and upgrades
  • Updates point balances automatically
  • Auto-login feature for your award accounts
  • Free (option to upgrade to paid account for $30/year for extra features)

 

Personalized Travel Credit Card Recommendations: Travel Freedom

  • Free travel credit card consultation
  • Personalized to each traveler’s needs
  • Get the top 3 travel credit card recommendations within a day or two

 

As you can see, there are free alternatives to each feature that RewardStock offers. These free services are actually much better than RewardStock, in my opinion. Plus, there’s no fee to use them which is always nice.

 

Decision Time: Was Mark Cubans Investment a Good One?

I can’t say that it was. At this point, all signs lead to this investment being a waste of Mark Cubans money. If RewardStock doesn’t improve their service tremendously over the next year, I would imagine they will have an extremely high churn rate. Meaning that no one will re-up on their subscription to RewardStocks service.

They would likely already be seeing this type of behavior if they gave refunds to unhappy customers. Most good services I’ve ever used offer at least a one-month money back guarantee, but here’s RewardStocks terms:

“Note that membership fees are non-refundable, but you will not be billed in the future after you cancel.”

 

What surprises me the most about Mark Cuban investing, is that RewardStock also received an investment of $350,000 during their seed funding in 2015 (according to Crunchbase.com). They don’t seem to have done much with that original $350,000 considering barely anything they offer works well.

 

The CEO, Jon, said that the money would be for the development of RewardStock by programmers, so maybe they will be able to improve it drastically. We’ll have to wait and see…

 

In the future, I hope to retest RewardStock in the hopes that it’s improved and will be something very useful. In the meantime, I’ll still be booking my flights manually.

Amex Travel: Understanding Why it’s Not Always the Best Option for Travel

amextravel

There are so many travel booking portals that I can’t keep up with all of them. Credit cards have them, airlines have them, hotels have them, Cash Back websites have them… They’re all basically the same thing. You book travel through their portal and in return you’ll get something extra. Some cash back, extra perks, or more points earned. AmexTravel is no different. It’s essentially a search engine for booking travel.

 

I like to use points for travel whenever possible, but occasionally it just doesn’t work out. When I’m forced to spend money on travel expenses I shop around on a few different travel portals. Typically they all have similar prices.

 

What is AmexTravel?

AmexTravel is a travel booking portal just like Expedia, Kayak, Hotwire, and Trivago. I’m sure you’ve seen TV commercials for about a million different versions. You can book flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and vacation packages. If you book your travel with AmexTravel you’ll likely be paying a fee. Flights and travel packages, for instance, will cost an additional $6.99 domestically and $10.99 internationally (except if you’re a Platinum cardholder).

 

We’ll take a look at the features of AmexTravel and see if it’s worth using their service to book your next vacation. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it won’t be, but I’ve been wrong once or twice before. There may be times and certain situations when it does make sense.

 

 

amex travel

 

Prices on AmexTravel

For most people, the most important thing when it comes to booking travel is the price. AmexTravel isn’t known for its great prices. Typically, you’ll pay the same amount or more than you would on another travel booking portal when paying with money. If you’re an Amex cardholder you will earn bonus points on purchases made through AmexTravel. So, if the price is the same as elsewhere, you can earn extra Membership Rewards points while paying the same price. In this case, it would make sense to book through AmexTravel because you’d get something extra at no cost.

 

Periodically, Amex Offers will have a special discount for using AmexTravel. They’ll offer something like 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you book travel of $500. This would make it worthwhile to use AmexTravel. 10,000 Membership Rewards points can be worth more than $200 depending on how you redeem the points.

 

AmexTravel Customer Service

While they aren’t known for great prices, it seems that AmexTravel has been known, in the past, for their customer service. If you are someone who doesn’t want to have to worry about anything on your trip, booking with AmexTravel might be for you if you can connect with a good rep. They will be able to rebook anything that goes wrong on your vacation. Likewise, you can call them with any issues that may arise and talk to a live human to get your problem solved.

 

The problem is as of recently I’ve seen a large number of bad reviews online, claiming that the customer service is now terrible. Many people within the past year have mentioned that the customer service reps don’t care and make a lot of mistakes. While AmexTravel apparently used to have great customer service, it doesn’t seem that way anymore according to the comments a few review sites I found.

fine hotels and resorts

 

Benefits of Booking on AmexTravel

If the pricing is not great, and the customer service is subpar as of late, you may be wondering what the benefits of AmexTravel are. Well, there are two main benefits that make AmexTravel an option to consider.

 

First, you can earn extra Membership Rewards by booking with them. If you can find a good priced booking and can get over the bad customer service, there are easy points to be had.

 

Second, some bookings will give you extra benefits or perks at hotels and on cruises. Booking through AmexTravel may offer extra perks like onboard credit, free specialty dinners, or other added bonuses to cruises. At hotels, you might get early check-in, late check-out, free breakfast, wi-fi, room upgrades, or unique amenities. If either of these perks outweighs the difference in price, booking with AmexTravel might be worth it for you.

 

Combine Membership Rewards Points & Money to Book

Another nice thing about AmexTravel is the ability to use both points and money in the same transaction. Say you have some extra Membership Rewards points and need to use them up. You can use those to bring down the cost of your vacation.

 

When you use Membership Rewards in the travel portal you will only be redeeming them for one cent per point (which is the lowest redemption rate possible). It only makes sense to do this if you won’t be able to use those points for a more valuable redemption elsewhere.

 

Credit Cards that Earn Bonus Points on AmexTravel

As mentioned above, one of the main reasons to use AmexTravel for booking is to earn extra Membership Rewards points. You can earn bonus points on your flight and hotel purchases if you use certain American Express credit cards. With the Gold and Platinum cards from American Express, you’ll earn from 3-5X points per dollar spent.

 

Amex Platinum Card

LEARN HOW TO APPLY NOW >>
INTRODUCTORY OFFER
You’ll earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months.
REWARDS
You’ll earn 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel. You’ll earn 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
BENEFITS
Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month (bonus $20 in December).
Enjoy access to the exclusive Global Airport Lounge Collection.
$200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 every calendar year with one qualifying airline. Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your card. Enrollment required.
Fine Hotels & Resorts Access.
Hilton & Marriott Gold Status.
Discounts on First/Business/Premium Economy tickets.
FEES
$550 annual fee.
No foreign transaction fees.
Terms Apply
TRAVEL FREEDOM THOUGHTS
With a large introductory offer, statement credits, and airport lounge access, this is an excellent premium travel credit card.

 

Amex Business Platinum Card

LEARN HOW TO APPLY >>
INTRODUCTORY OFFER
You’ll earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards points. 50,000 after you spend $10,000 in the first 3 months, and another 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending an additional $15,000 in the first 3 months.
REWARDS
You’ll earn 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel. You’ll earn 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
Earn 50% more points on purchases over $5000. (up to 1 million bonus points.)
BENEFITS
$200 airline credit.
Global Lounge Collection access.
TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
Get 35% back when booking a flight with Membership Rewards on a select airline.
Two $100 statement credits from Dell annually.
1 year of Platinum Global access to WeWork. (enrollment through 2019)
FEES
$595 annual fee.
No foreign transaction fees
Terms Apply
TRAVEL FREEDOM THOUGHTS
If you have many high ticket purchases yearly, this card will earn you a good percentage back. The WeWork membership could be very valuable, if you need a place to work for a year.

 

Amex Gold Card

LEARN HOW TO APPLY NOW >>
INTRODUCTORY OFFER
You’ll earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.
REWARDS
You’ll earn 4X points at restaurants globally, and US supermarkets. (up to $25k in purchases per year) You'll also earn 3X on AmexTravel.com
BENEFITS
Get $10 in statement credits per month for purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House.
$100 airline fee credit on selected airline.
No foreign transaction fees.
FEES
$250 annual fee.
Terms Apply
TRAVEL FREEDOM THOUGHTS
If you spend a lot of money on food and travel, this card will be worth the annual fee. If not, it probably isn't worth paying $250 per year.

 

American Express Business Gold Card

LEARN HOW TO APPLY NOW >>
INTRODUCTORY OFFER
You'll earn 35,000 Membership Rewards after spending $5000 in the first 3 months.
REWARDS
You’ll earn 4X points on 2 select categories that your business spent the most on each month. ($150k limit per calendar year)
BENEFITS
Get 25% points back after you redeem points for an eligible flight booked through Amex Travel.
1 year free subscriptions to G Suite Basic for up to 3 users and Zip Recruiter Standard.
Pay over time on purchases of $100 or more.
Access expense management tools like Quickbooks and SpendManagerSM.
Additional employee cards at no cost.
FEES
$295 annual fee.
Terms Apply
TRAVEL FREEDOM THOUGHTS
If your business spends a lot of money and takes advantage of the included tools, this card can pay off big. Especially if you use your points to book flights on Amex Travel. Also, the introductory offer is substantial.

 

Fine Hotels and Resorts

Fine Hotels and Resorts is a program exclusively for American Express Platinum cardholders (personal or business). The Fine Hotels and Resorts program is aimed at high-end leisure travelers who are looking for luxury.

 

When you book a hotel or resort room through the Fine Hotels and Resorts program you will get the following extra benefits:

  • Early noon check-in, when available.
  • Room upgrade, when available.
  • Daily breakfast for two.
  • Guaranteed 4 pm late checkout.
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi.
  • A unique amenity at each property.

 

Prices are typically identical to booking through the hotel directly on a standard reservation. This usually means that by booking through the Fine Hotels and Resorts program you’ll be paying more than a prepaid booking elsewhere. Early purchase and Prepaid bookings are typically much cheaper than standard rates. It only makes sense to book through this program if the extra perks are worth the price difference.

 

When booking through the Fine Hotels and Resorts program you will still earn hotel stays through the hotels’ loyalty program. You’ll also receive elite benefits that your hotel status earns.

amex travel card

 

Amex Hotel Collection

The Hotel Collection is a program for certain American Express cardholders that gives extra benefits at certain hotels. All four Amex credit cards listed above grant access to The Hotel Collection. It has separate hotels and resorts than the Fine Hotels and Resorts program, so there is no overlap.

 

When you book a hotel room through The Hotel Collection you will get certain perks including:

  • $75 Hotel credit for dining, spa, room service, pay-per-view and resort activities.
  • Room upgrades, when available.
  • Extra Membership Rewards when booked with Amex Gold or Platinum.

 

American Express will guarantee that they have the lowest public rate for these hotels. All bookings are prepaid. Usually, the prices are a few dollars cheaper than booking directly with the hotel or through other travel portals. When booking with The Hotel Collection you, unfortunately, will not earn points or get elite benefits through any hotel status you may have.

 

If you don’t already have elite status at your desired hotel, it makes sense to book through The Hotel Collection. You’ll earn the hotel credit and have a chance to be upgraded to a better room. If you do have elite status, you’ll want to compare which route gives you the best benefits.

 

amex travel hotel benefits

 

AmexTravel Insurance

While all of the credit cards mentioned above provide different levels of travel insurance, American Express also offers their own travel insurance. It offers things like coverage for trip cancellation, travel medical coverage, lost or delayed baggage, and more. You’ll receive 24-hour travel assistance by phone and can get covered as an individual or for a group package. You don’t even have to be an American Express cardholder to purchase travel insurance through them. American Express travel insurance is for residents of the United States but gives coverage for trips worldwide.

 

Reviews of Amex travel insurance don’t seem to be the greatest. A better option to consider for travel insurance is World Nomads travel insurance. It is trusted by travelers around the world and companies like Lonely Planet and Nomadic Matt.

amex travel insurance

 

Our Concluding Takeaway: You Likely Shouldn’t Book on AmexTravel

AmexTravel can be a useful travel booking portal if you’re looking for extra perks or you want to earn more Membership Rewards points. Often, AmexTravel doesn’t have the best prices. If you’re paying with an Amex Gold or Amex Platinum card it may be worth paying slightly more due to the extra points you’ll earn.

 

The other reason you would use AmexTravel is for the comfort in having someone to contact about your travel plans. If you have any issues along the way, you can call up their customer service and have someone working for you 24/7. If you’re willing to pay a little bit more for extra service, this service might be for you.

Rocketmiles Review: Earn Airline Miles for Hotel Stays with Rocketmiles

Rocketmiles is a hotel booking platform with a twist. When you book a hotel room on Rocketmiles, you’ll earn miles or points with your favorite airline or loyalty program. For instance, you can book a Hyatt hotel and earn thousands of Alaska Airlines miles instead of Hyatt points. This can be a nice change if you don’t want to earn points from that specific hotel’s loyalty program. There are good and bad things about their program. We’ll analyze all of them for you.

 

Will You Find the Lowest Price on Rocketmiles?

Often, you won’t find the best price for a given hotel on Rocketmiles, but surprisingly, sometimes you do. They don’t claim to have the lowest price. It’s aimed at giving the customer bonus airline miles or loyalty points for hotels bookings instead of having the lowest price. But, on occasion Rocketmiles has the lowest price and offers airline miles with your booking. It’s the best of both worlds.

When searching for hotels, definitely compare to make sure that it’s worth earning the miles. You don’t want to pay extra just to earn miles that aren’t worth the difference. While doing a few searches I found some hotels that were more expensive and some that were substantially cheaper than the competition.

 

Rocketmiles Hotel Search Results for San Diego (Feb 14-18)

Rocketmiles Grand Hyatt San Diego

Hyatt.com Search Results for San Diego (Feb 14-18)

Not Rocketmiles Hyatt San Diego

 

As you can see, there is quite a large price discrepancy. Rocketmiles, to my surprise, was 36% cheaper for these dates than booking directly on the Hyatt website. On top of the discount, you get 5,000 Southwest miles (which is the loyalty program I searched with) that are valued at around $75. In this instance, choosing to book on Rocketmiles is a no-brainer.

This isn’t the norm though. Most often you’ll find lower prices elsewhere. Sometimes you might get lucky and find a great rate (like the one above) with Rocketmiles, which is why it’s always worth checking. Even if the prices are similar, earning extra airline miles might make it worth booking at Rocketmiles. I’ve actually seen bookings that earn up to 40,000 miles for a few nights stay.

 

Are All Hotels Available?

Rocketmiles seems to focus on high-quality hotels that are typically in popular business markets. If you’re looking for a budget hotel or hostel you likely won’t find them. While searching for hotels in San Diego I noticed that they include many Marriott/SPG hotels, Hyatt, Best Western, Hilton, as well as many privately owned hotels. San Diego is a large market, but Rocketmiles comes up with 209 results to choose from.

 

Get a 1000 Mile Bonus on your First Booking

On top of earning the typical amount of miles for a hotel booking, you can also get 1000 bonus miles on your first booking by using the referral link below. By using our Rocketmiles referral link, you will get an extra 1000 miles or points when you book your first hotel. We’ll also earn 1000 miles for referring you, so it’s a win-win. Also, once you have an account you can refer your friends so you both can earn even more miles.

Rocketmiles Book hotels. Earn thousands of loyalty miles and points per night. (signup now to get 1000 bonus miles on your first booking) Rocketmiles

 

How Many Miles are Earned Per Booking?

There seems to be no formula for how many miles are earned according to the amount spent nor the hotel chain. Some hotels will earn 1,000 miles per night and others 10,000 miles. Higher priced properties do typically seem to earn more miles though. The hotels that I have seen earning 10,000 miles per night cost in the multiple hundreds of dollars per night. Lower-priced hotels usually earn a lower rate at 1-2,000 miles per night.

The number of miles earned also differs between which airline or loyalty program you search with. It’s possible to search a hotel with Alaska Airlines as your loyalty program and earn a different amount than you would with Southwest.

 

Comparing Search Results of Different Loyalty Programs

Since there seems to be no particular rhyme or reason why different loyalty programs allow you to earn more or fewer miles for the same booking, let’s take a look at some search results. What I’ve found is that it pays off to search all of your favorite loyalty programs to see which one earns the most miles. Below, are the results of a search for Hyatt hotels in San Diego on Valentines Day weekend (Feb 14-18). Let’s see what we can find. I searched for hotels using a few of the top loyalty programs that Rocketmiles offers. Here are the results that I found for searches with United, American, Southwest, Alaska, and Emirates.

 

Rocketmiles United Airlines Search Results (Feb 14-18)

Rocketmiles United

 

Rocketmiles Southwest Airlines Search Results (Feb 14-18)

Rocketmiles Southwest

*If you have a Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll essentially be earning double the points. This is because you’ll be able to use points to book a flight and then add your companion for free on every flight.

 

Rocketmiles Alaska Airlines Search Results (Feb 14-18)

Rocketmiles Alaska Search

 

Rocketmiles American Airlines Search Results (Feb 14-18)

Rocketmiles American Airlines

 

Rocketmiles Emirates Search Results (Feb 14-18)

Rocketmiles Emirates

 

The Surprisingly Best Option

Since American Express Membership Rewards are the newest loyalty program on Rocketmiles, I decided to search with them also. I figured Amex Membership Rewards would have lower results because their points are so valuable. Membership Rewards are worth about 2 cents each (higher than any of the other airline partners). They’re worth so much because you can transfer Membership Rewards points to their 19 travel partner airlines and hotels.

 

Rocketmiles Amex Membership Rewards Search Results (Feb 14-18)

Rocketmiles <a href=Amex Membership Rewards” width=”1269″ height=”430″ />

 

 

To my surprise, Amex Membership Rewards came back with the best results by far. The Rocketmiles searches using American Express Membership Rewards (arguably the most valuable loyalty rewards available) earn 40-60% more points per night than the other programs. Earning Membership Rewards also allows you to earn airline miles that are otherwise not available on the platform. Delta is not available to earn directly on your hotel bookings, but because they’re a transfer partner with Amex, you can transfer your earned points to their program.

For instance, if you booked the Hyatt Regency using Amex Membership Rewards as your loyalty program, you’d earn about $200 worth of points. To earn Membership Rewards points through Rocketmiles you must have and use a Membership Rewards earning American Express credit card. Below you can see the results side-by-side.

 

 UnitedSouthwestAlaskaAmericanEmiratesAmex
Andaz San Diego5,0005,0003,5005,0004,0008,000
Hyatt Regency Mission Bay6,0007,0007,0007,0005,00010,000

 

Popular Rocketmiles Airline Mile Partners

Other Popular Loyalty Program Partners on Rocketmiles

Is Rocketmiles a Good Choice for Booking Hotels?

If you are going to book a hotel, Rocketmiles is definitely worth comparing to other options. Sometimes it has the best price, but even if it doesn’t, the miles earned might make it more valuable to you. Know that when booking through Rocketmiles you will not receive any hotel loyalty night credits nor get any of your elite status benefits if you have them. If you have elite status at the hotel you’re looking to stay at, this is another thing to compare. It’s also noteworthy to mention that you can book through Rocketmiles for other people and earn miles for yourself.

Rocketmiles is a great hotel booking source if you don’t have elite status at the hotel and you want to earn airline miles instead of hotel points for your stay. Like we mentioned before, it might even make sense for you to pay a slightly higher rate to earn a large number of miles. Rocketmiles won’t always be the best option, but it’s worth comparing when searching for a hotel.

Costco Travel Review: A Lesser Known Costco Membership Perk

costco travel review

You’re probably familiar with the Costco brand due to how prevalent they are in many places. Costco is a membership-only wholesale store that sells things such as electronics, furniture, appliances, and much more. You can buy bulk products at a steep discount and it has become one of the go-to stores for many people. People pay a yearly membership fee in order to enjoy these discounts at the Costco warehouses. Anyway, we’re going to be doing a Costco Travel review. Maybe you’ve heard of their travel program, but maybe you haven’t yet.

 

Costco does allow some non-members to shop at certain locations but that situation varies depending on where you live. What we’re going to be talking about today is the intriguing Costco Travel program. If you haven’t heard of this before, then it may seem a bit unusual that Costco offers a travel program at all. This is usually a wholesale store so travel booking may seem a bit outside of Costco’s wheelhouse.

 

Today we are going to do an in-depth Costco Travel review. You’ll be able to learn about what the program offers as well as whether or not it is worth your time. This is a travel program that has some interesting features and you’ll need to really dig into the particulars to see if it’s going to work well for your situation. Read on and you’ll be able to learn everything about this program.

 

Costco Travel Overview

Those who make use of the Costco Travel program are going to be able to book themselves luxury vacation packages. The idea behind this program is to save money by buying in bulk. That is the general philosophy of just about everything that Costco does. If you’re a Costco member, then you’ll be able to take advantage of this.

 

Costco Travel sells these vacation packages exclusively to Costco members. You also have to be a current member who is residing in the United States. This works a bit differently than a standard vacation package booking agency. Costco is actually going to be using their expertise and position to negotiate the best possible price on the market.

 

Trained travel professionals will be helping you to plan and book your vacation. It will allow you to choose from many of the most sought-after destinations in the world. There are cruises, fabulous hotels, and much more. Costco offers travel packages that will guarantee you a quality vacation experience.

 

More Than Just Travel Packages

With Costco Travel you’re able to book more than just vacation packages. You can also book a few things separately. The two main bookings are for hotels and car rentals. I’ve found that Costco Travel often has very competitive prices.

 

Booking Rental Cars through Costco Travel

At Travel Freedom, one of our favorite places to book car rentals is through Costco Travel. Their selection is great and they often have the most affordable pricing. I typically will check both Hotwire and Costco Travel to get my comparison started.

 

Booking Hotels through Costco Travel

The hotel feature on Costco is lacking a bit. It seems that as of now, they only feature hotels within the Hyatt brand of hotels. It does although have very good prices on those hotels compared to the competition. Another option to compare when booking a hotel is Hotels.com.

costco travel car rental

 

Pros of Costco Travel

There are actually many benefits to making use of the Costco travel program. This is going to allow people to book travel in a very convenient and hassle-free way. If you like being able to take care of things quickly, then this way of booking travel is ideal. You’ll be able to enjoy simple 24/7 booking that is very streamlined.

 

Picking a location is going to be quite simple too. Costco Travel offers many great destinations that are all of the highest quality. For the most part, the offered packages are all going to be at big vacation resorts. The cruise packages are going to be booked with renowned cruise lines as well so you’ll be getting a proven travel experience that should meet your expectations.

 

To add to this, there are many great perks that you’ll be enjoying as part of the overall package. You should be able to receive free breakfasts, various tour credits, and Costco vouchers. This can all help you to stretch your money as far as possible. If you’re looking to book a luxury vacation without having to spend an abundance of money, then this is going to prove to be an ideal option.

 

You may even wind up receiving some nice perks such as convenient theme park tickets. If you’re visiting a location that is near an amusement park of some kind, these packages will often include free tickets to the park. If you were planning on going to the amusement park anyway, then this can save you some cash. It’s a nice little perk that will make the whole family happy.

 

If you pay with your Costco credit card, then things are going to be even better. You’ll be able to receive an additional discount that can help you to lower costs further. If you already have this credit card, then booking your travel through Costco Travel is an even more practical option.

 

One of the biggest positives about using Costco Travel is simply the cost-effective nature of everything. This is a good way to save yourself an ample amount of money. Travel packages such as this would likely be a lot more expensive when they’re booked through a traditional travel agency. Being able to go on a luxurious vacation without having to break the bank is a nice touch.

  • It is a very convenient way to book your travel.
  • Picking a location is easy.
  • All of the vacation packages offered will be with large and proven resorts or cruise lines.
  • You may receive special perks such as amusement park tickets.
  • Paying with Costco credit card allows you to receive a further discount.
  • This is a very cost-effective way to book a vacation.

 

Cons of Costco Travel

There are going to be some people that won’t find Costo Travel to be entirely appealing. One of the problems that you’ll encounter when booking travel through Costco is that the options are a bit limited. There are many good places that you can book vacations at but they’re all going to be large resorts or cruise lines. If you want to vacation at a smaller spot with a different aesthetic, then you may find the options to be lacking.

 

You’ll also be limited to one travel destination for the most part. Cruises may be a somewhat different experience due to the nature of going on a cruise. When you’re booking a vacation at a resort, you won’t have the option to book multiple destinations on the same trip. If you were hoping to see multiple places when visiting a certain country, this travel package plan may not be the best option for you.

 

Some users have also reported some issues with not being able to book certain activities ahead of time. For example, if you want to book a tour of the area, you may wind up having to wait until you’re actually there to do so. This may not be a huge deal but it can still be a bit of an inconvenience. It could be more of an issue if you’re traveling with many companions as you might have a hard time booking a spot on some tours.

 

Also, the fact that the tour packages being offered are so curated does limit the scope of what is available. A traditional travel agency is going to be able to offer you more options for places to visit. The trade-off is that you won’t be saving the same amount of money that you would if you booked a vacation through Costco. This is a good option as long as you go into things with the right expectations.

 

It’s also worth noting that Costco Travel only works with four different car rental companies. If you’re loyal to one of the other car rental companies, then this might not be ideal for you. You may also simply prefer another car rental company.

 

Finally, you should know that these packages do not include many extra expenses. Things such as alcohol purchases and dinners may come out of your own pocket. You need to make sure that you budget enough money to be able to have a good time while you’re at the resort.

  • Vacation packages are limited to large resorts and cruise lines.
  • You’re not able to book multiple destinations for your trip.
  • You might not be able to book certain tours before arriving.
  • The available vacation destinations are somewhat limited when compared to a traditional travel agency.
  • Costco Travel only works with four car rental companies.
  • Not all expenses are included in the vacation package.

 

No Need to Worry About Logistics

When you book your travel through Costco, you’re going to be able to book everything that you need in the same place. You won’t have to worry about renting a car once you get to your destination. Likewise, you won’t be buying your airfare separately. This is going to be a convenient way to buy the entire vacation package so that you won’t have to worry about a thing.

 

If you want to have the most convenient vacation experience, then this is going to be ideal. You won’t have to worry about handling the particulars. All you really need to do is pack for your trip and get ready to enjoy yourself. For vacationers who just want to unwind, this is going to be beneficial. It’s also great when it comes to allowing you to keep your costs low.

costco travel vacation

 

Somewhat Customizable Travel

Once you have booked your travel, you’ll be able to enjoy customizing your trip a little bit. The vacation package that you’ll be purchasing is going to have a basic itinerary that you can follow. It’s also possible to tweak little details to make them more to your liking. For instance, you can upgrade your room or try to change aspects of your flight if you wish to do so.

 

Being able to customize your travel experience a little bit can ensure that you’ll be happy with the vacation. The basic package that is being offered is likely to be sufficient for most people. It is possible to upgrade the flights to first class or to ensure that you’re booking a more luxurious room at the resort that you picked out. This isn’t a simple generic vacation package that has no wriggle room to make changes.

 

Also, once you arrive at your destination, it’ll be up to you to pick out what you want to do. You’ll be the one who is planning your activities. Most of the vacation packages will give you access to many things that you can choose to do. You might be able to take a tour of the area or you might even want to find a very adventurous activity such as a nature hike.

 

What you’ll want to do will depend on your personal tastes. This is your vacation and you’ll be able to determine how best to spend your time. Most large resorts will have plenty of on-site activities for you to participate in but you can also venture out into the nearby towns.

 

Alternatives to Costco Travel

The most logical alternative to Costco Travel is going to be booking a vacation with a traditional travel agency. Doing so is going to make it easier to book vacations just about anywhere in the world. Costco is going to have a somewhat limited scope in comparison to some of the large travel agencies out there. You should know that you’ll be able to customize your experience better at most travel agencies.

 

You’ll also be able to book a vacation that suits your tastes more perfectly. If you’d prefer to stay at smaller bed-and-breakfast accommodations rather than a resort, then you’ll be able to book something such as that at a normal travel agency. You won’t be limited to the resort experience or booking a cruise. If you like the idea of having more options on the table, then a travel agency is the way to go.

 

Our Costco Travel Review Final Thoughts

Depending on what you want, Costco Travel will either be a great experience or a bad one. If you’re looking to book a luxury vacation for a reasonable price, then this is going to be appealing. Costco Travel allows people to book vacation packages at the most competitive prices. It’s always going to give you a good deal and it’ll give you many top-tier vacation options to consider.

 

This isn’t going to be the most flexible experience, though. Sometimes it isn’t going to be the most cost-effective either. You could book a vacation where you stay at a smaller hotel and save yourself some money. It also might be more practical to pay with travel rewards points from your credit card or airline. This can make booking with another service a better way to go.

 

If you’d like to enjoy the most convenient way to book a nice vacation, then Costco Travel is a good bet. It just isn’t perfect for everything. This will give you an overall good experience but it isn’t going to be the only option that you should consider. Think about looking into various travel agencies so that you can weigh your options.

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