Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Points Miles & Martinis - Martinis Down Under – Exploring the Great Barrier Reef

We set aside 6 days to explore the Cairns/Port Douglas area. The first observation I had was its striking resemblance to Hawaii. Beach, forest, and mountains meet in a beautiful, relatively unspoiled region.

While the area is gorgeous, the real treasure resides under the sea. Port Douglas is one of the most convenient launching points to experience the Great Barrier Reef. One misconception I had was that the Great Barrier Reef was relatively close to land. In reality, it requires a one hour boat ride in each direction with a high powered boat.

We scheduled six dives across two different companies. We went with Poseiden for our first dives. I had been certified outside of Washington DC in a quarry the week before so this was my first Ocean dive. The entire day we felt extremely rushed with Poseiden as compared the operator we chose the second day. I was surprised they had a first time diver doing some pretty intense diving activities such as taking us through an extremely tight cave without warning and a drift dive off a moving boat into a current that was extremely powerful. Had they warned me about these things I probably would have said no as a first time diver, but having "just done it", admittedly it was pretty cool and something I will never forget.

The second day we went with Quicksilver and it was a total 180. They were relaxed and let us enjoy our day so much more. The diving itself was absolutely phenomenal. My dive buddy who has 100+ dives under her belt said this was her favorite diving ever. We saw Reef Sharks, Turtles, a billion fish and this super sweet puppy dog fish that comes up to you for hugs. I know you are never supposed to touch fish but this guy makes that decision for you.

Back in the downtown area of Port Douglas, there was a fun little restaurant/bar street to grab drinks after a day of diving.

On one of the days we didn't dive we drove into the rainforest and enjoyed the scenery. The road signs throughout the drive were pretty funny. Watch out for the Cassowaries!

If you have the physical capacity and time/money commitment to get certified for SCUBA diving, I would highly recommend it. For many years, I assumed since I dislike snorkeling that I would feel the same about SCUBA diving. That turned out to be a poor assumption. SCUBA diving is extremely easy from a physical perspective and opens a whole new water world most never experience.

Port Douglas is a beautiful area that closely resembles Hawaii to me. If you are a SCUBA enthusiast, I would say this is a can't miss location. If water activities are not your thing, I would say this is a beautiful area but you can probably find similar scenery elsewhere in other exotic locales.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Regular Miler - The brand new king of the Best Rewards Mall

In order to increase my stage earnings this month for Million Mile Madness, I downgraded my Chase Sapphire Preferred card to the Chase Freedom card.A This way, I could take advantage of the Freedom cardas 5X pharmacy earnings this quarter.A Well, last week my new card came plus a brochure listing the cardas benefits.A And, in the brochure I found something new: What I discovered interesting was the written text having said that a10% advantage each year.. only for Chase checking customers.A When you have both Chase Freedom and Chase Checking, you could earn an extra 10% on the cash back youave already earned each year as a bonus.aA This is interesting and unexpected in my experience since I knew that Chase no longer offered their Chase Exclusives program which used to reward Freedom consumers & checking account owners having an extra 10 points per transaction and a 10% reward on bottom points earned. When triggering my new card, I asked about this 10% bonus.A I do have a Chase bank checking account after all.A Is it only on bottom points earned?A I asked.A No, it is for all points earned on your Freedom card.A What about points earned through the Greatest Rewards Mall?A Yes, any points earned on the Freedom card count.A I was so suspicious of this that I asked to talk to someone in the advantages team who then answered the exact same way.A Yes, she explained, Ultimate Rewards Mall earnings may depend. Wow.A This is great.A This is quite just like the Sapphire Preferred cardas annual seven days dividend, but it is 3 percentage points better, as long as you've a Chase examining account.A This implies that when you earn 10X bonus points through the Ultimate Rewards Mall, you will really earn 11X bonus points (in addition to 1.1X base points ).A Similarly, when you earn 5X with the Freedom cardas revolving classes, you will now really earn an overall total of 5.5X when bonus points post at the conclusion of the year. The Points Guy also recently wrote about this new benefit here: Changes to the Chase Freedom 10 percent Bonus And What It Means For Your Points Strategy.A He didnat mention the Best Rewards Mall therefore I thought it was worth expanding coverage of this new benefit. If you have numerous Chase Ultimate Rewards cards attached to the same online account, you will be expected to pick one when you head to the Ultimate Rewards Mall.A In the past, there were often different reward earnings for different cards therefore it was always best to pick the account with the highest earnings, but recently Chase generally seems to have maintained the stage earnings the same across cards.A As long as that holds true, the best account to select when planning to the Ultimate Rewards Mall is now your Freedom account (if you have Chase checking ).A Next best is the Sapphire Preferred. If you already have and use a Preferred card, its unlikely that the three percentage point difference in the annual bonus between the Freedom card and the Sapphire Preferred will make much difference.A For example, suppose you earn 20,000 points in one year.A If those points were earned on the Sapphire Preferred card you'd get 1400 bonus points at the end of the year.A If those points were earned on the Freedom card, you would get 2,000 bonus points.A The difference isnat huge.A Of course, if you earn hundreds of thousands of Ultimate Rewards points in a year, then that difference will add up fast! Also keep in mind that the Freedom card does not earn reward points for travel and dining, or does it allow you to exchange points to airline & hotel programs.A I do believe that the very best strategy for many families is always to keep one Sapphire Preferred account and one or even more Freedom accounts.A Log in to the Freedom account for on the web shopping.A Use the Sapphire Preferred for travel and dining.A Use the Freedom card for all 5X types (around $1500 per quarter) and for all non-category spend (in order to get 1.1 points per dollar ).A And, of course, if you have a Ink card, use it for all cable, telecom, web, and office supply purchases (at 5X) and fuel (at 2X). I discovered the Freedom cardas Ultimate Rewards Rules and Regulations here.A Iave offered a number of the relevant text and bolded parts that I find interesting: Gaining Rewards: You will earn 1 base point for each $1 of Net Purchases. An additional 1 point will be earned by you for every hotel lodging Net Purchases and $1 of airfare when you book at chase.com/ultimaterewards. You'll also earn a 10% Bonus on new factors earned along with your Chase Freedom card during payment rounds within the Year when you, because the primary cardmember, were the only or joint proprietor of an open Chase bank account. Your 10 percent Bonus is determined after your billing cycle with a closing date (aYeara means the a dozen billing cycle period starting the day after your billing cycle with a December closing date through your billing cycle with a closing date of the next year.) Your Chase examining account must be open, and your Chase Freedom card account must be open and not in default, at the conclusion of the Year. Your 10 % Bonus points will be on your January or February billing statement. You will not earn the 10% Bonus on new account benefit points, previous 10% Bonus points awarded, or points transferred in to your account. (aNet Purchasesa means purchases of goods and services made by you or any authorized user in your Account minus any earnings or refunds.) Point accrual will begin upon the Enrollment Date in the Program. (aEnrollment Datea is the day where as an Application member.) we agree you No retroactive points will soon be honored. You don't make points on balance transfers, income advances, cash-like charges such as people checks, foreign exchange, and money orders, any checks that are accustomed to access your Account, facility advances, interest, unauthorized or fraudulent charges, or fees of any kind, including fees for products that protect or ensure the balances of your Account. Things is likely to be deducted for any results or credits made in your Account. Factors can look in your monthly statement. Notice above that new points earned on the Freedom card count except these earned from a sign-up advantage or transferred from other records. Follow me on Twitter / Like me on Facebook If you are new to gathering miles, click here for the free newsletterIf you are new to Frequent Miler, start here

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