spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Quinceañera Trip Report Part 4:one day more

I just reread the ending of my last post and cried again!  Jeez, I need to get it together.  OK, let’s continue…

Today was Saturday, our bonus day to do whatever we wanted before traveling home to Honolulu on Sunday.  We definitely slept in.  We had only one concrete plan for this day besides packing, and it was to eat at Olive Garden.  Did you know that Guayaquil, Ecuador has an Olive Garden, and the US state of Hawaii doesn’t?  I would like to enjoy overpriced chain-restaurant Fauxtalian food, too, you know!  There was a location planned for Kapolei Commons, but it is on indefinite hold.


“Patience, Iago.”

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Disney T-A-G, and a personal bag

It’s been a rough time for me emotionally, though of course my suffering is infinitesimal compared to those who actually died/were injured/are missing in the Earthquake.  No new (safe) donation opportunities haves popped up specifically for Hawaii.  I sent money to my cousin’s car service, and from what I understand, it was helpful.  I will continue to send aid in that manner.  It was really great to see that communities with lots of Ecuadorians (NY, Miami, etc), were getting together Facebook Groups to organize donation drives via the airlines or local travel agencies.  There have been lots of inspiring stories of rescues, international aid arriving, and huge quantities of donations from the less-hit areas of Ecuador.  The inevitable political sniping and accusations of favoritism are alive and well, too.  There is still along ways to go towards rebuilding, of course.  Time to put those donations to work and get on with it.  Ok, Disney time! Read the rest of this entry »

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Bits & Pieces: more SPG drama, a good Amex Offer, new Citi Costco card

  • Previously on Merger Drama 2016Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) were going to merge, then the Chinese company Anbang submitted a superior bid, then Marriot counter-bid, leaving us all in suspense as to whether Anbang could (or should) increase their offer?  Well, they did!  And then, they didn’t!  So as of right now, Marriott emerges victorious.  Should be official later this year.
  • I got this good Amex Offer in my account: 10% cash back when using my Amex (this is my SPG card) to pay my wireless bill online. cell offer

According to the fine print (always read it!), the statement credit should appear within 90 days of 6/30/16, so it’s not an instant statement credit like other Amex Offers.  Also, it’s limited to $30 total that you can get back.  Make sure you don’t use a third-party vendor, as it might not trigger the credit…use the provider site directly.  This is a good offer, since we always pay the phone bill online with a CC for the points/miles 🙂

  • We also received some information about the TrueEarnings Costco Amex’s upcoming conversion to Citibank.  I was all ready to cancel the card and just use other Visas that we already own for our Costco visits.  But…they’ve improved the terms, to include 2% back at Costco, which we can’t beat with any other no-annual-fee card.  So we’ll be accepting the new card.  This post from blogger One Mile at at Time sums it up quite nicely.
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American Express stuff: Small Business Saturday and Amex Offers

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

tragedy comedy

I personally like to hear the bad news first, so I am temporarily bummed but still have the potential to be cheered up.  I’ll list the news thusly, then…

BAD NEWS: If you aren’t already aware of the American Express promotion Small Business Saturday (SBS), here’s a quick history.  They started the promotion about 4 years ago to try and give local stores/restaurants/service providers a chance for more business during Thanksgiving weekend.  Of course, Small Business Saturday was scheduled for the day after Black Friday, when many people shop the big-box stores, chain department stores, and wholesale retailers for good deals on holiday gifts.  It was also a chance for Amex cardholders to save a lot of money, because some sort of statement credit was usually involved.  Last year it was a $10 statement credit for any purchase of $10 or more, up to 3 times, on each participating Amex card.  Between my husband and I, we had the Costco Amex, we each had an Amex Serve card, and I had the SPG Amex- that meant a total of 12 different $10 statement credits available to us.  We searched the SBS site for local business and identified which we wanted to patronize.  In some cases, we just bought a $10 gift card to use on another day- free money.  In other cases, we waited to purchase something we wanted from the store, and got it at a $10 discount that day (I’m looking at you, Ono Cheese Steak).  This year, they are still promoting Small Business Saturday, but are not offering any statement credits for Amex cardholders.  Bummer!  They do still offer lots of resources for small business owners to market their services, and seem to be very supportive of local shops.  We all should, and this is pretty important in Hawaii- the whole Shop Local thing.

Now for the good news: Amex Offers are a yearlong perk to having an American Express Card.  Basically, they are targeted offers that differ depending on your zip code, spending patterns, or whatever other information Amex gleans from your credit card applications and statement.  Many times an Offer includes a statement credit, such as “spend $50, receive a $15 statement credit.”  Occasionally they will have a special offer for cardholders, such as “Omaha Steaks package for $45 with free shipping.”  You can go to AmexOffers.com to log in with your Amex card login, or FB/Twitter.

amex offers1

Scroll down, and simply select an offer that is on your list.  In some cases, the offer has a hashtag associated that will add the offer to all of your Amex accounts.  I don’t do Twitter, so I just look at my list.

amex offers2

You can click the offer to see the terms and conditions.  ALWAYS read them- they can be very specific, restricting what qualifies as a purchase for the offer, plus they contain an expiration date.  Usually, there is not problem with starting your shopping trip at an airline shopping portal, or something like Ebates, which can make your deal even sweeter.

amex offers3

Once the offer is added and you use it correctly, you’ll get a confirmation email, generally within minutes of the transaction:

amex offers4

Then you just look out for your statement credit!  A few tips:

  • again, always read the terms and conditions.
  • if you have multiple Amex cards, there are usually different offers for each card.  Check all of them!
  • check your statement- technically they have up to 90 days to post the statement credit, but I usually see them within 3 days.
  • keep an eye out for the confirmation email.  In rare cases, you won’t get an email.  You can either reach out to Amex or wait about a week to see if the credit posts on its own.
  • the minimum amount required is based on the total charged, including taxes and shipping costs if applicable.

GOOD NEWS: One of these lovely Amex offers just popped up for transactions at Undercover Tourist!  See my screenshot of the offer above- it’s a $30 statement credit when you spend $150 or more.  You may remember that we purchased our Disney and Universal tickets on the site not long ago.  They are authorized to sell tickets to all these cool places, and even more, like local whale watching trips, and even rental cars:

•Walt Disney World
•Universal Orlando
•SeaWorld Orlando
•Legoland Florida
•Kennedy Space Center
•Universal Studios Hollywood
•Six Flags Magic Mountain
•Knott’s Berry Farm
•Madame Tussauds Hollywood
•Pirate’s Dinner Adventure Anaheim
•SeaWorld San Diego
•Legoland California
•San Diego Zoo
•San Diego Zoo Safari Park
•Sea Life Aquarium

I think you know what I’ll be looking to purchase using this offer!  San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, baby!  I should know by the end of December -when the offer expires- when we can take that trip.  Looking at the (what else?) terms and conditions of the e-tickets sold for the Safari Park, for example, they are only valid “during the calendar year when purchased.”  So I don’t want to buy them too far ahead of time.

So there you have it- the highs and low of credit card perks: Amex edition.  As always, I don’t get any compensation/special stuff for talking about it.  See my disclaimer.  I just want everyone to get a good deal.  Have fun shopping!

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