Sunday, February 5, 2017
Today is going to be a good day. You woke up and decided to take the first step. Good attitude, good credit and an open mind. Make your coffee, add the Irish Cream and then now what…

This is where the wheels come off for most because of information overload. I live on my IPhone and you’ll find the app store has most of the following apps for free. I’m sure Android offers a similar venue. Either way, your screen is about to get cluttered.

The easiest way to begin is to choose a Hotel Chain. We’ll start with Hilton. Hilton was very intimidating because of well, it’s Hilton. Images of incredible Luxury and Expense plus it didn’t help with the pictures of Paris Hilton floating around cyberspace living a life of hedonistic opulence. Being cheap and maybe a little envious, this was my White Whale. Moving on…

Hilton is actually a mixture of Luxury AND value. Hilton owns/operates many hotels including Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, Doubletree and Waldorf Astoria. Next Steps…

1. Go to Hilton.com, explore the website and become familiar with the brands
2. Sign up, its free and provides you with a Hilton Honors Number. Welcome to the Party.
3. Play with the “search for a hotel” area. Choose a date, How many rooms you’ll need then turn on the “Use Hilton Honors Points” toggle. Finally you’ll arrive at the “Add Special Rate Code” section. The Three that most likely matter to you are the AAA, AARP and the Government/Military section. Toggle on all that apply.
***********Get AAA or AARP, the benefits/discounts are worth it especially the AAA. http://www.AAA.com and http://www.AARP.org
4. Don’t worry about accidently making a reservation, the system will warn you before it actually places the reservation.
*********** A Note about cyber security, these websites will ask you a lot of questions, the required questions usually have a red asterisk and the balance can be ignored. But let’s be realistic, your 12 year old neighbor, loaded with a can of Redbull and a few hours to kill, could probably dredge up more information about you on-line than you could ever imagine. Two takeaways: 1. Teenagers are evil 2. You can always call Hilton at 1-800-446-6677.

You’ve looked at Hilton and have seen the cost per night and/or points required plus you’ve had to choose how many beds and what kind of room it is and AAAGH! In the next post I will “dumb it down” and we’ll get knee deep in how to get the best value using either cash or PMs from a Credit Card…or both.

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I first dipped my toe into PMs (we’re going to be using the words “Points and Miles” a lot, so for my typing sanity, lets abbreviate) with Choice Hotels.  Choice Hotels consists of many brands, for example, Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge, Clarion and Quality Inn to name a few. You can see the complete list at Choicehotels.com.  I checked-in at a Quality Inn, signed up for something and they sent me a membership card in the mail.  Apparently,  I earned points.  Now I’m curious, mildly.  Let’s see, I got this many points for staying and I need HOW many more for a free night! seriously!? and into the junk drawer the card went (you keep them because they are excellent for opening doors that don’t have a deadbolt lock).  And so it goes…

Jump ahead a couple of years, I have one credit card and very little debt.  I’m still traveling, a lot, and putting it all on this…one…card.  The card was simple, a MasterCard, no Fee and 1 point per dollar spent, wherever, whenever.  The points could then be used at their on-line shopping mall.  Ignorance is bliss.  Such a waste.

So here we are!  Now that I have tortured you with the backstory, let’s move forward to today.  My world consists of at least a Bakers Dozen in various credit cards and about two million +- miscellaneous Hotel and Airline PMs.  How did I get here?  Well, the hard way.

My first mistake was to take an adversarial position with the Hotels and Airlines.  They had Points and Air miles and I wanted them.  My teachers were Sun Tzu (The Art of War) and Machiavelli (The Prince).  So with that in mind, I pounced, without a plan of course, you know, Half a League, Half a League, into the Valley of…and so on. The result, countless phone calls and a huge amount of well…whining.  So much for my master plan.

Lesson One:  Both the Hotel and Airlines WANT you to have their PMs and will go to great lengths to help you obtain them.  Hilton Hotels called one day and simply wanted to give me 10,000 pts just because I was a Hilton Honors member and I answered the phone. I literally interrogated that poor soul as to his motives and was dumfounded when I found nothing amiss.  I almost talked myself out of the points.  I clearly had a great deal to learn and an attitude change was definately in order (don’t think that it escaped my attention in the abbreviation I used for Points and Miles).  I’m a real peach now.