Category: Money

The Best Credit Card For Travel Perks? Chase Sapphire Reserve Review

chase sapphire reserve

Writing about a specific credit card offer isn’t something I thought I would ever be motivated to do but the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is an incredibly enticing offer for travelers who take as little as one flight per year. In other words, you don’t need to be a very frequent traveler to get some serious travel benefits that will save you money, get you free flights, travel insurance, plus a lot more.

What you do need is to be a resident of the United States; so although I am generally hesitant to post an offer that omits 95% of the world’s population, if you can get this card and travel occasionally, here’s why you should seriously consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Points, Miles, Or Both If You Choose

Before I get to the upfront travel perks, let’s start with the Sapphire Reserve’s big hook, 100,000 bonus points. To claim them, you’ll have to spend $4,000 within the first three months of being approved for the card. $1,333.33 dollars a month goes pretty fast especially if you live in the U.S., eat, make car payments, pay an electrical bill, or exist in general.

Travel points can be a confusing system but Chase’s is relatively straightforward. Your first bonus points are equivalent to about $1,500 in the Ultimate Rewards store where you can purchase airfare plus shop at the Apple Store, Amazon, for hotels, and more. Those points can also be converted, one for one, directly into frequent flyer miles for most programs as well. (You should really be using these 3 programs to maximize your earning.) As an example, 100,000 miles with Untied Mileage Plus gets you two round trip tickets from the U.S. to Europe or three, one way tickets, if you use multi-city flights to see more for less.

Points can also be used to put cash back into your account, the first 100k being roughly equivalent to $1,000. Once you get the Sapphire Reserve card, you continue earning points by spending: 1 point per dollar on most purchases; 3 points per dollar on travel and dining related expenses. Like the bonus points, you can convert any points into cash, miles, or for use in the Ultimate Rewards tore.

Fees And No Fees

Let’s get Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card fee out of the way because it probably puts a lot of people off at first sight. The annual fee is $450. Although you may balk at first, if you travel at all, $300 is offset by a credit on any travel or dining costs. Essentially, the first $300 you spend on travel every year is credited back to your account – effectively making the annual fee $150.

prague view

On the other side, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has no foreign transaction fees, which can add up quickly if you travel internationally often.

Now The Coverage Perks

There are a few benefits the Sapphire Reserve has that really make it a unique offering, starting with the travel and purchase coverage:

  • Included Travel Insurance – (Outside of the U.S. only.) This coverage includes medical (up to $100,000) for you and any immediate family members traveling with you.
  • Car Rental Insurance – (Worldwide) So long as you use your Sapphire Reserve card to pay for a car rental, you can turn down the rental companies collision and theft insurance (up to $75,000 protection).
  • Small Item (Electronics) Coverage – Anything you buy with the Sapphire Reserve card is insured against damage or theft for the first 6 months (up to $50,000 per year).

iphone 6s charging case

You really shouldn’t be traveling without insurance but many people neglect to do it because it can cost $60 a week or more depending on where you’re traveling. When you book with the Chase Sapphire Reserve it’s a cost you no longer have to consider. There is also other coverage, you can see all that’s included here.

Priority Pass Into 900 Airport Lounges Worldwide

On its own, an unlimited Priority Pass membership costs $399. You’ll be able to enter over 900 lounges in at these airports (and hopefully remember to share wifi details with your fellow travelers). Also, if you decide to sign up for Global Entry or TSA Pre, you’ll be credited back $100, effectively making them free.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a travel card with a lot of benefits (no, nobody paid me to write any of this) but isn’t the credit card you want to use if you carry any balance from month to month. Interest rates are high (16-23%) plus there are cards without annual fees. In case you’re not eligible or interested in the Chase Sapphire Reserve, remember there are plenty of ways to earn frequent flyer miles without getting more credit cards.

Use This Tip To Save Yourself Up To An Hour When Landing At Havana’s International Airport

Havana Cuba Jose Marti International Airport

The first thing almost all tourists will need upon arriving in Havana, Cuba’s Jose Marti International Airport, is cash. This is particularly true for Americans, whose ATM cards won’t work; nationals of other countries have no guarantees either. And everyone can pretty much forget about using credit cards in Cuba’s heavily cash-based society.

As a visitor, it’s practically a necessity to take all the cash you’ll need with you for the duration of your entire trip prior to departing for Cuba. Unless you’ve got a prepaid ride waiting to pick you up at the airport, you need to convert some cash (e.g. dollars, euros, etc.) into the tourist-local Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Since everyone else has the same idea long, long, lines form outside of the exchange office in the arrivals hall.

Understaffed hardly ever open on time, here’s how you can forgo up to an hour of waiting in arrivals at Jose Marti International Airport after you land.

Go Upstairs To Departures

Walking into the arrivals hall your first stop might not seem like the departures hall upstairs, but it should be.

The departures hall (which will be deserted) has several staffed currency exchange booths and not a single person using them. Walk up, exchange enough money to get yourself where you’re staying, plus some extra. The exchange rate at the airport is often the same, if not better than most of the hotels in town (the primary place to exchange money in Havana) so it’s not a bad idea to convert larger amounts.

cuba old car taxi

Once you’ve converted your money, you can go back down to arrivals. Just past the massive line full of tourists waiting to get CUC will be a taxi that can take you into town. Now you’ve got an extra hour to explore Cuba, which might not be what you think it is.

Small Tips Often Pay Big

Because Havana airport only has a relatively small number of flights, arrivals and departures don’t overlap significantly which is why one is usually empty when the other is not. Keep this in mind when departing Jose Marti International Airport, currency exchange in arrivals is likely to be much less busy.

Many travel tips are as simple as this but go a long way in saving you money, time, or enhancing an experience. For instance, you should do this before visiting the Tesla Museum in Belgrade, find this restaurant in Kosovo, and can save a lot on trains in Japan before ever leaving home.

Backpackers Not Spending As Much As Other Travelers Is A Myth And Why That’s Important To Local Economies

istanbul cafe laptop

One of the biggest travel myths is that backpackers are cheap tourists who don’t provide economic incentives for tourism boards to focus on catering to them. At first glance, it’s easy to see why many make this assumption, most backpackers take great efforts to spend as little as possible, trying to stretch every cent efficiently at the cost of numerous comforts. The opposite perception is that luxury travelers pay top-dollar for resorts, dumping loads of cash into local economies over packed weekends at seaside resorts.

For a long time, backpackers weren’t really studied in terms of their spending habits but growing evidence shows budget travelers spend as much as luxury ones. Additionally, figures indicate a larger percentage of backpacker money spent goes to benefiting local economies. Tourism boards around the world: take note.

Time Versus Money

Many people in sectors of the travel industry often harbor a slight disdain for backpackers, complaining they are practically useless for their overall bottom lines since they “don’t spend.” According to researchers from MIT, people around the world tend to spend the same percentage of their overall time, and budget, traveling. Called the “Time Travel Budget” Theory, anthropologists have determined that the more free time we have – the more we travel; independent of our economic class.

kosovo clock tower pristina

Spending The Same Over A Longer Period Of Time

Even in the most liberal of European nations, vacation times around the world for full-time workers tends to top out at around a month. The average backpacker travels for nearly twice that time – about 58 days. Although these figures vary from country to country, it’s estimated the average American spends about $3,251 for a 12-day vacation.

bogota journalist park

According to budget travel expert Nomadic Matt, $50 a day for a backpacker is a reasonable goal. (Keep in mind all of these numbers include transportation, meals, lodging, etc.)

Adding it all up, backpackers and regular travelers spend about the same amount on traveling annually; just over different periods of time.

Spreading The Wealth

There’s also growing evidence that larger percentages of money spent by backpackers goes to local economies. Most resorts and international hotel chains in third-world countries are owned by foreign companies. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) estimates that only 20-60% of first world income makes it back to local economies from traditional travel expenditures. Studies like these on the tourism leakage effect are why nations like Malaysia and South Africa are focusing more on enticing backpackers.

bogota fruit vendor

Getting off the beaten path is also a backpacker trait and when they do, they also spread the money they’re spending outside of large cities and traditional tourism hubs according to this study of Australia. (Backpackers add 3.2 billion U.S. dollars annual to the tourism industry there.)

Why It’s Important

Backpackers are often under the perception of being economic leeches. Such misconceptions have lead tourism boards globally to dismiss catering to this growing portion of travelers; plus all the money they spend locally. Like the myth that Americans travel less than other people around the world, backpackers not having a positive economic impact has lead many poor countries to focus on luxury travelers – a group of visitors who might spend a bit more in less time but whose cash goes a little further out of local range.

All Of The Bizarrely Large And Controversial Monuments Around Skopje, Macedonia

stone bridge skopje

You may not think of Macedonia’s capital city Skopje often, but once you’ve been there one thing nearly impossible to forget are the Mario-super-mushroom sized statues everywhere. Massive bronze statues sitting high up on stone pillars with the central Macedonian Square lit brighter than the near side of the sun, you can’t initially help but be impressed.

As unusual as the sight is from afar, things get even strangers the closer you look.

Rapid Rise And Transformation

All of the gigantic monument construction in Skopje began in 2011, as part of a government project to rebuild landmarks lost in a large 1963 earthquake. Within 2 years, more than 20 new buildings and 40 statues had been constructed, including a 22-meter (72 feet) tall Alexander The Great in the middle of Macedonia Square. Oh sorry, it’s called “Warrior On A Horse” wink wink, so as not to completely piss off Greece, who among many things has a problem with Macedonia calling itself Macedonia.

skopje macedonia construction

Locals also have a strong disdain for the gross displays of manufactured nationalism with money that might be better spent elsewhere. Estimated costs for the Skopje 2014 project range from 90-565 million US dollars; nearly 6% of the Macedonian GDP in a country with 25% unemployment. Such large ranges for costs estimates usually indicate unaccounted money – in other words, corruption – in a nation that doesn’t score well in that particular category internationally.

There is something to be said however for the potential tourism effect; since Skopje 2014 began, the country has seen an increase of 500,000 annual tourists, up three times the 2011 average.

skopje big statue skopje man on horse statue

Arch Of Abortion

Macedonia is clearly spending all of this money, upwards of 168 million dollars a year, to bolster an infant tourism industry. That makes one particular inscription, a quote by Mother Teresa who was born here, on its iconic Porta Macedonia Arch odd indeed:

porta macedonia arch

“I think that abortion has become the greatest destroyer of peace today.”

Not the kind of message you expect to see on a tourist monument. Maybe, “welcome to Skopje” instead? Or perhaps another quote by Mother Teresa, “Never travel faster than your guardian angel can fly,” seems a little more travel-related?

Look Down On What Goes Up

The more you ask about Skopje’s newest landmarks with a dopey traveler’s naivete, it becomes increasingly clear Macedonians are very skeptical. You know there’s a big doubt when people look up at the 66-meter tall Millennium Cross (worth visiting I must say) and curse the government for building it while trying not to get struck by lightening.

skopje millennium cross

Though as a traveler passing through, you are drawn to the spectacle that illuminates memorable experiences like watching the universe from Macedonia Square. Skopje in particular becomes much easier to recommend because of the artificial ambiance that is contagious for everyone who visits these sights. A lot like Austin, Texas, Macedonia has chosen to keep Skopje weird, though I’m not sure how intentionally.

The Romanian Streak Ends: Lisbon, Portugal Wins The 2016 Best City To Visit Travel Tournament

lisbon at night

For the first time in 3 years, the winner of The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament is not a Romanian city. Despite Targu Mures moving all the way to the final, Portugal was able to win the competition for the second time ever. Back in 2011, Porto won The Best City contest, and your votes will send me to Lisbon some time this year. Lisbon got a lot of help from Visit Portugal, the country’s official tourism board to counter a great Romanian effort.

best city 2016 bracket

Romania Not Gone

Starting with Sibiu back in 2013, followed by Craiova in 2014, then Targu Jiu last year, Romanians enthusiastically voted their cities the best, sending me to the beautiful country multiple times. I’ll be writing about Targu Jiu in the coming weeks, as well as highlighting why Romania’s wins aren’t so surprising, especially if you’ve been there before. For now though, the Romanian three-in-a-row streak ends and several trends still hold.

  1. No city has ever won back to back tournaments.
  2. No person has ever won back to back tournaments.
  3. No city has ever won twice.
  4. Prior to them winning the tournament, I’ve never been to the winning city.



A Prize For Lisbon

Congratulations to Mira, who originally nominated Lisbon several weeks ago. Back then I announced the person who nominated the winning city would win $500; in addition I would donate $500 to a local charity. Mira’s asked me to use her portion of the prize to contribute to a non-profit she’s selected. I’ll be writing about the organization when I visit Lisbon this year, hopefully to make the $1,000 contribution in person.

Thank You Everyone

The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament has grown every year thanks to your nominations, votes, and participation. Your involvement over the past few weeks and every year is greatly appreciated and I look forward to an even bigger contest next year!

Let me know if you have any suggestions or would like to see any changes to the tournament in the comments below. And if you’ve been to Lisbon or are from there, send me your travel tips too!

[Top photo by: Lacobrigo]

How To Travel The World With Literally No Money

empty coin jar

There are plenty of low budget tricks to solve big budget problems but this isn’t a guide on how to save money to travel but rather how to do it without using currency. You don’t need a cent to travel the world and there actually ways to travel without using money. While elements of “traveling for free” might sound fantastical, it’s more than a thought experiment since it’s been done successfully before.

Barter Your Way From A To B

Although we’re talking about traveling without money, you will need skills, stuff, and a bit of extroversion to make the penniless conversion. German comedian Michael Wigge, a former live chat guest on this site, started off the hard way before realizing bartering was a viable solution for his travel plans:

“At first, Wigge scrounged for food from garbage bins, but he soon realized that “Dumpster diving wasn’t necessary. I could walk in and do a barter. I offered to clean the floor or the shelf or wash the dishes in the restaurant in exchange for an old sandwich.”

Michael notes that his bartering strategy differ depending on where he was in the world:

“In Latin America, he found that “people were very helpful if I went to their door and said, ‘Can I sleep here?’ There was this helpfulness, this hospitality, maybe because many people there are poor and they know how it feels. They didn’t care about my story. But in the U.S., it was more about the story. They would say, ‘This is cool. We want to help you reach your goal.”

how to travel with world free

How to Travel the World for Free: One Man, 150 Days, Eleven Countries, No Money!

amazon buy now

You can use some of Michael’s advice, which took him to through 11 countries and over 40,000 kilometers, to barter your way around the world. Here are some of the strategies he suggests on his website, How To Travel The World For Free.

panasonic lumix dmc zs 45

  • Bring a camera – Ideally a video camera, as it makes you look more important and professional, increasing the likelihood a stranger would want to work with you.
  • A notebook – Michael used his to develop an extensive contact list so he could arrange barter opportunities through a friend-of-a-friend method.

Essentially, Michael turned the endeavor into a project he was able to get others on board with. Take note of that, as a developing a good website or travel blog prior to your trip, along with a healthy list of media contacts, might be enough to for you barter your way around the world with.

Work On A Cruise Ship

Not only is this a great way to earn a lot of money (up to $6,000 a month) working on a cruise ship also allows you to travel to a number of locations around the world without expenses for room and meals. Most cruise lines offer staff some time to explore the destinations they stop in, plus you’ll have the opportunity of meeting a lot of international staff. (Remember the usefulness of contact lists mentioned above.)

hurghada beaches

Probably the hardest part of getting a job on a cruise ship is figuring out how to do it. There’s a lot of misinformation and even more shady sites you don’t want to waste time with. My friend and fellow blogger Wandering Earl began his world travels working on cruise ships and his book, How To Get A Job On Board Cruise Ships has all the information and forms you’ll need to get started.

How To Get A Job On Board Cruise ShipsHow To Get A Job On Board Cruise Ships

amazon buy now

Cruising around the world is also one of the healthier ways to travel if you make use of the crew-only gym and ligher food options.

Couchsurf, Hitchhike, And Camp

Potentially three terrifying words for some people, traveling for free isn’t always easy. Some parts of the world are also more favorable for hitching and camping in particular. Author Tom Parry hitchhiked across Australia with his girlfriend describing the difficulties, mostly in waiting around for a ride in his book, Thumbs Up Australia. Tom also shared some valuable lessons for any hitchhiker to improve their chances of getting a ride when I interviewed him.

nevada extraterrestrial highway

“There are certain essentials: get up early; find a good spot a substantial walk outside the town limits, preferably on a straight stretch of highway; attempt to be presentable but not too well-dressed; most importantly of all, have enough provisions for a lengthy wait in heat and/or heavy rain. If one is hitchhiking for a long time one should familiarize oneself with the possible routes and be prepared for any number of unexpected diversions.”

Once you get to your next stop however, you’ll need a place to stay. CouchSurfing is a site where members offer travelers a place to stay for free. GloboTreks has an excellent guide on how to CouchSurf around the world pointing out not to neglect the social opportunities (contact list!) and that it’s a lot safer than you may be thinking. Though if you’re still not convinced or would like to try it out before your freebie travels, Adventurous Kate describes how to CouchSurf without Couchsurfing.

Not For You? How To Get Closer To Free

You’ll notice that traveling without money means sacrifices, mostly to your timing, plans, and privacy. Obviously bartering around the world isn’t for everyone and you’ll need at least a tablet with an Internet connection to accomplish most everything mentioned above. You can of course work on saving more, even if you live on a third-world income, make random accumulated currencies useful, and learn to travel on $50 or less a day.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More

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