Update: This deal is already operating differently than it did an hour ago for me, so let’s let the dust settle and see what happens.  Lots of gift cards are now out of stock and the $25 discount doesn’t seem to be working the way it did earlier this morning.  I’ll update if/when the dust settles a bit.  Man things get hit fast these days. 

If you want to purchase a $100 Visa gift card for $81.95 without leaving your house or messing with any coupons and potentially earn about 409 points in the process if you pay with a card that earns 5x on the category of office supplies, then listen up.  That’s some free money and free points and a great way to start a Wednesday morning.  All you have to do is use Visa Checkout and the $25 coupon for Staples online purchases will automatically be added to your cart.

Visa Checkout

It took me maybe 60 seconds to get set up with the Visa checkout system and then the order processed with the $25 discount.  When you go pay for your Staples order just select the Visa checkout option.

Visa CheckoutAs you can see below, the coupon was automatically included once I selected the Visa checkout option and a shiny new $100 Visa gift card is heading to my house.  I’m sure some folks will find a way to ‘maximize’ this and it could result in the rules changing, but for now it worked just fine.  Of course you don’t have to order a $100 Visa gift card – you could order a $200 Visa gift card and earn 2x the points that a $100 gift card would earn.  You could also order a gift card to one of the many retailers such as Southwest or Home Depot (which have no fees for email delivery), or whatever else.  The $100 Visa card is just an example.

Staples discount

Thanks to @microflier for tweeting me about this opportunity!

 

Posted by Mommy Points | 13 Comments

Here in the dog days of summer as they are called, we have been home for several weeks running just staying busy locally and enjoying the variety of activities that summer has to offer.  In late July we aren’t yet tethered to the rigor of a school schedule, the days are long, the nights are short, the water is warm, and the child’s energy is almost boundless – somehow despite the 100+ temperatures.

Being home for a while has allowed us to reconnect with friends and explore some local activities that we sometimes miss when our attentions are turned toward other destinations further from home.  Being home for a while is good not only because you can explore and appreciate the places around you, but because it gives you time to reflect on where you have been, and where you want to go.

I want to spend a little bit of time on both of those issues, even if it may just serve to clear my own mind.  They may seem to be two unrelated topics, but for me they are very intertwine.

Swimming in the Blue Lagoon in Huntsville:

First, if you are in the Houston area and have the itch to explore an hour or so north toward Huntsville, a spot not to be missed is the Blue Lagoon.  We just went with friends for the first time this morning and really loved it.  This place has warm, calm, clear, blue water and caters to divers and SCUBA instruction, but it does permit a limited number of regular old swimmers as well.  Be warned, there are kinda steep entrance fees considered it is just a place to swim in the middle of nowhere, but that also helps to keep the place very calm and not at all crowded.

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Whether you want to SCUBA or just swim in a beautiful spot with your family, this can make for a memorable outing that makes you forget you are even in East Texas!  This was seriously a gem find that not everyone visits, or even knows about.  Check out their website if you are interested and be ready to arrive before they open to line up for a spot.  During the weekdays it doesn’t seem to be too hard to get a spot, but the weekends are apparently a different situation for non-divers.

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Where to Next:

Second, what has been on my mind a lot as we have had several weeks at home is where we really want to go next.  Sure we already have multiple future trips on the books, but I have been making more selective decisions about where we want to go, and not just jumping on some of the crazy low sales or great bargains that run across my Twitter feed.  There is a time and a place for jumping on a deal just because it is a deal, but I’m not really in that place right now.  More importantly, our family just isn’t in that place right now.

Outside of work commitments, I either want to go somewhere because we really want to go there, or we just want to be home making smoothies, swimming, and enjoying a normal(ish) schedule.  I don’t want us, or especially my kid, to miss out on a good grounded life here in our community for the sake of always being somewhere else.  It’s a balance I will never totally master, but I am trying to not book trips that we don’t really, really want to take.  Given that we are genuinely looking forward to everything we have planned, I think we are doing okay.

This has all led to me thinking harder about where we want to go, and ultimately I realized the next “big” trip I want to plan isn’t big because it is to somewhere far away, or involves a complex award booking, or anything of that nature.  It is big because I want a bunch of our family members to be there.  Planning a big trip involving lots of people is far more difficult than planning a journey for yourself to many different countries or destinations.  Far more difficult.

What I really want is a Christmas Eve in a big house with my dad’s family in Telluride.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all sides of my family equally, but the magic of Christmas and Colorado is firmly connected with that side of the family.  Telluride specifically is a special place for all of us.

What I want is the smell of Christmas cookies baking in the kitchen.  The sound of Christmas carols from the piano, or at least from Pandora.  Mix-matched stockings from all the cousins and second cousins stashed all over the living room.  Giggles of 3, 4, 5, and 6 year olds who can’t wait for Santa to come the next morning.  Hearty laughs from the parents and grandparents remembering the wonderful Christmases from a generation or two ago.  The magic of knowing, as it is happening, that spending a night like that together in a place so special to all of us will not ever be forgotten, or likely recreated.  And if we are lucky, really lucky, maybe through the huge glass windows of the grand house we could some white snow falling to dust the ground like a freshly laid out set for our Christmas morning to unfold.

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Of course there would be skiing, sledding, snowman building, snowmobiling and more to fill the days.  That would all be fun, but it would also all be secondary to the magic that would be created in the grand rented house, on the grandest of weeks, in the most special of places.  Christmas presents would take a backseat to Christmas memories.

I want that more than Australia, over water villas, lie flat seats, passport stamps, deluxe room service breakfasts, sightseeing, you name it.  Of course, just because I want it doesn’t mean I can have it.  I can make all the above listed things happen, but getting a group of people to go anywhere at the same time is hard (and expensive).  Getting a select group together during the holidays when everyone is usually pulled in several directions is harder.  Maybe too hard.  Maybe too expensive.  I’m okay knowing things may not fall in a way that makes it possible, but I’m nowhere close to giving up this travel dream because it is bigger than just a travel dream.

I can’t just sign up for a credit card or two and have the miles to make it real, but I’m going to wallow in the idea a bit longer and imagine how good it could be.  I’m going to smile knowing how excited my grandparents would have been knowing that we are all at least even considering making it a reality.

In the meantime we are going to keep playing local, but dreaming big.

What travel dreams are making you smile?  Have you ever been able to turn a travel dream into a travel reality?

 

Posted by Mommy Points | 12 Comments

If you have been around this or other deals related blogs for any length of time, then you have undoubtedly heard of American Express Small Business Saturday.  If you haven’t, it happens the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and for the last several years American Express has given a statement credit on each of your unique American Express cards (including authorized user cards) when you shop at a “small business” on that date.  For a while it was a $25 statement credit when you spent $25 or more in one transaction – which was huge!  Last year it dropped down to a $10 statement credit per card which was a bummer, but hey, it’s “free money”.  How cool when the credit cards we got to help us travel want to give us bonus free stuff?!

Anyway, looks like the Small Business movement is spreading to beyond the holiday shopping season and into…August, at least in select cities.  The select cities include the metro areas of Houston, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, and Sacramento

Shop Small August

According to this site, between Aug 1 and Aug 31, 2014, American Express is offering cardholders the opportunity to get a $5 statement credit when they register any eligible American Express Card and then use it to spend $5 or more in an in-store transaction at a qualifying American Express Card accepting small merchant listed on our Shop Small August Offer Directory in the metro areas of Houston, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, and Sacramento. Limit three $5 statement credits per card. The offer directory will be available starting on Aug 1, 2014. Offer terms apply.

Rules for getting some “free money”:

  1. Limit three (3) statement credits per American Express® Card. To be eligible, Card Members must register any eligible American Express Card for this offer at americanexpress.com/ShopSmallAugust. Corporate Cards and all prepaid Card products (other than American Express Serve®) are not eligible.
  2. The number of registrations is limited. Registration opens at 12:00 A.M. MST (Mountain Standard Time) on Aug 1, 2014, and will continue until 11:59 P.M. MST on Aug 31, 2014, unless the registration limit is reached sooner.
  3. Qualifying small business locations will appear in the Shop Small August Offer Directory, available beginning on Aug 1

I’ve been meaning to get some authorized users added to a couple Amex cards we recently acquired, and this may be a good time to go ahead and do it so I have more cards to get more free statement credits.  Getting Authorized Users added will also enable me to be able and transfer Membership Reward points to their frequent flyer accounts!  Getting $15 worth of free goodies per card in August is great, and fingers crossed that the real Small Business Saturday is again pretty lucrative (thanks to Million Mile Secrets for telling us it is coming back!).

If you live in, or will be traveling to, one of the included cities in August then stay tuned for some additional details when registration opens on August 1st!  Who else will be dusting off their Amex cards for some statement credits in August?

 

Thanks to Mommy Points reader Lyn and this Doctors of Credit post for sharing this info. 

Posted by Mommy Points | 5 Comments

A few days ago I shared info about a “rumor” I had heard multiple times relating to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card eliminating the 7% annual points bonus as a card feature for new account holders beginning on Sunday July 20th.  Turns out, as expected, this came to pass and I was just officially informed that “effective 7/20 they are no longer offering the 7% dividend benefit to new customers. … Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 18 Comments

If you are a tennis fan with some Starwood Preferred Guest points to spend, then be sure and check out the SPG Moments redemption opportunities that just came out for the US Open matches that will be happening in New York in late August and early September.  Some are auctions and some are fixed point redemption opportunities – I’m sure the final auction price will depend greatly on the associated… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 7 Comments

How do you get to or from Europe (preferably in business class) when you have a relatively low number of points and want to avoid paying hundreds of dollars in fees and fuel surcharges?  As I pointed out yesterday when discussing how we got my in-laws to Europe and back, you probably need to find a program that is a partner of the various types of point currencies you may… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 12 Comments

To celebrate the launch of the new Hyatt and M Life website “Make Vegas Yours“, I got to give away a $250 M Life gift card (courtesy of Hyatt) to one lucky Mommy Points reader. The winner was selected at random from the 816 entries that were submitted before the cut-off at midnight last night.  The lucky winner was #771 Rob P who said he likes “MGM restaurants! Thank you!”… Read the Rest.

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Recently I helped my in-laws book the flight portions of a big river cruise trip across Europe, and it was an experience that I think is worth sharing.  They are in their mid and late 60′s, and like most normal folks, had never flown in a lie-flat business class seat.  However, thanks to getting a bit deeper into the miles and points hobby (and seeing how possible this style of… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | One Comment

Happy Saturday!  As I usually try to do on Saturdays, let’s hop right to the points so you can get back to enjoying your weekend! New Higher TSA Fees on Monday: We are all probably used to the TSA fees of $2.50 each way for nonstop flights, and $5 each way for trips with connections via the “9/11 Security Fee”, but starting in two days the fees are going up… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 5 Comments

This won’t be earth shattering for most (or potentially any) of you, but it was just recently announced that there will be a new Westin hotel built in The Woodlands.  This is of interest to me as it is very much in my neck of the woods (pardon the pun), and an area that really has been playing catch-up with demand for hotel rooms.  There is currently a big Marriott… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 4 Comments

I’m having a little bit of a hard time just hopping right back into posting miles and points deals given the dark events of the last 24 hours in the world of aviation.  So many families who just thought they were heading on a big vacation.  So much loss.  So unnecessary.  So, instead of posting a half-hearted post about how to earn a few miles here or there, I think… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 22 Comments

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