Saturday, 11 August 2018

An expensive but worthy travel hack

So here's how to get instant hotel chain status and get free access to airport lounges. It's an investment, and it will set you back some 350 euros in the first year (and be warned, some 700 euros per year after that). There's another catch: you need to earn at least 5,000 euros gross a month (i.e., in the Netherlands). If you're prepared to pay the hefty fee, it will get you an American Express Platinum card (kickback warning).

Now your first question should be: what idiot is going to pay so much money for a credit card? Well, me, for starters. This is the result of cold calculations. There's two main benefits for this card:
  • It will get you unlimited lounge access on airports. For (often) low-cost flyers like my wife and I, this is a great way to escape the crowds at airports. Buying lounge access will easily set you back 25 euros per person, and the Priority Pass that you get normally costs 400 euros a year.
  • It will get you gold status at Hilton, SPG/Marriott and a handful of other, smaller hotel chains. What's the benefit? You usually get breakfast for free, room upgrades and early check-in and/or late check-out. Book the cheapest room against the lowest (non-flexible) rate and you often can stay at 4 or 5 star properties at rates below 100 euro, and then benefit from your perks.
Then there's the smaller things that still count:
  • A yearly travel voucher that entitles you to a discount of 150 euro on a minimum spend of 500 euro on the American Express travel website. Now I cannot say that I'm a huge fan of that site. It will take some effort to get a good deal out of this as other websites often provide better fares and better hotel rates. 
  • A sign-up bonus in Amex points. Now their value can vary considerably, so it's hard to put a price tag on it, but some 80 euros for 20,000 points seems to be safe.
With approximately 10 trips a year and some 30 hotel nights per year it doesn't pay to be loyal to a particular airline or a particular hotel chain (it usually doesn't pay anyway, the only reason people are loyal to an airline or hotel chain is that their employer pays the bills). Getting the instant statuses and lounge access pays out, however, especially with this home-grown 'bring your friends' travel hack.

The second platinum card holder - my wife - gets most of the benefits as well, without an additonal fee. So she has her own card, but also her own Priority Pass, which entitles her to take a guest into the lounge for free, and she has her own gold status at Hilton, which hopefully gets us two room upgrades with free breakfast, free lounge access on our next trip to Venice in January together with friends. Enter: easyJet and the Hilton Molino Stucky, a huge property on Guidecca with a very interesting story that can be read here

How about the second year of membership? I don't think it will be there. And some part of me hopes that the benefits at Priority Pass and the hotel chains will trail a bit - current information on membership suggests they will. 

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