Voiceover: You're listening to the Miles To Go podcast, the go-to source for travel tips, news, and reviews you can't afford to miss. Now, here's your host, travel expert Ed Pizza.
Ed Pizza: Hey guys. Welcome back to the Miles To Go podcast. We're talking credit cards and icebergs today, like one does on a cold day in February. I'm digging into Iceberg Alley and how our family can plan a trip there once the international borders reopen. I'm digging into a reader question about which credit card he should hold on to. Before we dive into that, I just need 60 seconds of your time. If you haven't left us a rating and a review, there's a link in the show notes that makes it super easy to do. Those ratings and reviews help us out big time when it comes to attracting new listeners. As you're settling in for this week's show, I'd really appreciate it if you told a friend about Miles To Go. Word of mouth is just one of the best ways possible for us to grow our audience.
As always, if you have questions, you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org and you can find me on social media, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, all at Pizza In Motion. Okay, let's dig into this reader question. Mike sent me this week's question. I've known Mike for a long time and he's certainly come a long way from when we first met and he didn't have a single credit card in his wallet that was earning him the right sort of rewards for what he wanted. Mike's question revolved around two nearly identical cards in his wallet that didn't really use to be identical. Who knows? Maybe I got excited about Mike's question just because it gave me a reason to reminisce about Starwood Preferred Guest. Anyway, Mike's question, he holds the Amex Bonvoy credit card, as well as the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase.
I happen to know that Mike also has the Chase Sapphire Preferred and a Southwest airlines credit card. When he applied for that Amex Bonvoy card, it was actually the SPG American Express card, a card that I had in my wallet for, gosh, I mean probably 15 years. He also applied for that Marriott credit card at some point. Then, when Marriott acquired SPG, he ended up with two cards earning the same points, and he's wondering if he should keep both. Both of these cars offer remarkably similar benefits for the $95 annual fee. They offer six points per dollar on Marriott stays, two points per dollar on everything else. I've got a link to a story that I wrote about this in the show notes if you want to dig in in more detail.
There's a couple of key benefits. You get silver elite status, which I don't think is worth a whole heck of a lot. It gives you the path to spend on the credit card to earn gold status. With gold status, you're starting to get to something that's a little bit more useful. Then, the shortcut to elite status, 15 elite night credits per year, that's a nice benefit if you're trying to stretch to some of the upper levels like platinum or titanium, having that 15 elite headstart, definitely a big deal.
Mike's question was should he keep both cards or should he get rid of one. If the answer is yes, which we'll get into a little bit more in a minute, I would say one key difference today makes the choice easy. It's sort of a short-term thing. American Express has rolled out a $10 dining credit per month on a wide array of credit cards right now, including this Amex Bonvoy card, sort of a way to convince people to keep the cards in their wallet during the pandemic while they're not traveling and getting much value out of these other benefits.
I mean, Mike's not traveling. Not much use for him to have extra spending on Marriott stays and certainly no big benefit for elite status if he's not stepping foot in a hotel. I mean, that's not forever. That's only through the end of 2021. Chase had similar benefits for certain cards last year. They just haven't really re-upped anything for 2021 yet. Certainly, could see something come out. In this case, if we're just making a decision on keeping one and killing one, right now I'd say to kill the Marriott Bonvoy Balance Card for two reasons. One, that $10 credit that Mike's getting from American Express for dining, which essentially can be redeemed at any restaurant, it's just a statement credit charge more than $10 and you'll get $10 on your statement. If he brings that up every month this year, February through the end of the year that that credit is available, well that's $110 and his annual fee is $95. The card is essentially paying him to keep it.
The other thing is that when Marriott and SPG merged, or when Marriott acquired Starwood, the cards got shuffled around. This card, the Amex Bonvoy card is a card that Mike can't actually apply for again if he gets rid of it. I have it as well in my wallet, thought about getting rid of it. When I sat down to answer this question for Mike, I guess I was selfishly answering it a little bit for myself. I left one other benefit that I think is key to the end of this discussion, because I think it's a great argument that the answer for Mike and maybe for you as well isn't whether he should keep the Amex Bonvoy card or whether he should keep the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase. It's whether he should keep both.
My argument is if Mike thinks he's going to travel, and I might not have said this earlier in the pandemic, but I'd say it now, because I see a light at the end of the tunnel and it doesn't look like a train. It looks like vaccines and the ability to travel normally someday. This Amex Bonvoy card comes with a free night award every anniversary year that you pay the annual fee, as does the Marriott Bonvoy Balance Card. That free night is capped at up to 35,000 points. Marriott has a chart that has standard award pricing and also has peak and off-peak pricing. The 35,000 point threshold doesn't necessarily tie directly to a level in the program because of those off-peak and peak award charts. Things get a little bit murky in terms of exactly what sort of rooms you can get for this card at certain times a year, but suffice to say that anything category five standard award and below would work for this.
You're probably saying, "Well, what's a category five property?" There are a lot of category five and below properties in the program. I mean, thousands of them. Probably not all ones that you want to stay at, but maybe some that are good for a night when you're going to visit family little road trips, stuff like that. There's also aspirational properties in here. I picked a couple out for the article that I wrote that we'll link to in the show notes. The Sheraton inaudible Coconut Beach Resort in Hawaii is $35,000 per night if you can find standard award availability, which was a little tough for me to find, but I did find it. That property, the searches that I ran, it was coming up at or more than $300 per night. A 35,000 points certificate gets you a free night worth, call it $300.
You're paying a $95 annual fee for the card. Well, I mean, that's easy math to me. The St. Kitts Marriott Beach Resort, another great example, this property a little bit cheaper than the Sheraton Kauai, but still well over $200 a night consistently when I was looking for rooms. Again, 35,000 points, $200 to $250 in value on a free night. That card with a $95 annual fee is paying for itself to be in your wallet. Certainly, it's a good card to spend on if you're staying at Marriott properties to get those bonus points. I think it's a different discussion as to whether or not you should put regular spending on this card. The two points per dollar spending level there. I mean, I don't love this for everyday spend. Again, it sort of depends on what your goals are.
I'd rather that everyday spending was on a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, or maybe an American Express Membership Rewards Card so that you have some flexibility with the points, because once they're in the Marriott program, while you can push them out to airlines, it's not as flexible if you have them at Chase and you've got all the transfer partners or same thing with American Express Membership Rewards and all the membership rewards partners. I think it's also a good exercise in that not all points are created equally, in that we're having this discussion about two points per dollar on the Marriott card and we're talking about rooms at nice properties in Hawaii and the Caribbean that are 35,000 points per night, but the Marriott redemption chart stretches all the way up to 100,000 points per night for some of their best properties.
Whereas a chain like Hyatt, which happens to be my favorite, their chart only goes up to 30,000 for the vast majority of their properties. There's a small chunk that are 40,000 from the small luxury hotels collection. Your points go a lot further when you're talking about a transferrable currency, like a Chase Sapphire Preferred earning ultimate rewards points. You kind of want to do the math on what a Marriott point is worth to you and whether getting to Marriott points per dollar on say an everything else category, everyday spending, like if you're going to the grocery store if you don't have a credit card that earns bonus points for groceries, versus earning a point per dollar on say the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Again, your mileage may vary, but I want you doing that math.
Sort of like what brought this whole discussion up is periodically, I want you going through your wallet and making sure those credit cards are earning their place in your wallet. If I don't earn, if I don't use the free nights that these cards come with, say that Amex Bonvoy Card that I hold in my wallet, if I'm not going to use that free night this year and it's going to go expired, then I'm certainly not getting the $95 in value out of that card and it needs to get out of my wallet, even if I can't apply for it again. Sometimes you just got to cut bait. I really enjoy breaking down discussions like this. If you have a question about your wallet or maybe what sorts of trips you should be planning in the future, drop me a note email@example.com, or you can find me on social media, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, all at Pizza In Motion. Okay. On the other side of the music, we'll be talking Iceberg Alley with Becky Pekora, from Sitedoing.net
Back on the Miles To Go podcast. It seems like when I've had time to let my mind wander during the pandemic, which quite frankly is often, I keep adding places to my bucket list for future travel. It was already plenty long enough. Glaciers and icebergs have always had a theoretical place on my list. As in, I want to see glaciers. I've never had a destination in mind. My wife and I spent some time in Banff and some other points North of Calgary, and got to walk on some glaciers that were anchored in land between Lake Louise and Jasper. Definitely can't say I've seen an iceberg float by me. During a recent conversation on Twitter, my friend Becky from Sitedoing.net mentioned icebergs in Newfoundland. She's joining us today to share some knowledge on how you and I can make a trip to see some icebergs come to life. Hey, Becky, welcome back to the show.
Becky Pekora: Hi Ed. It's always great to be back. Thanks for having me.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. This one's a fun one. I have family that live up in this general area. They live in Nova Scotia, so just South of Newfoundland proper and you had what looks to be an incredible trip up to the region. I guess let's first start with, as you framed it up in your article, which we'll link to in the show notes, where is Iceberg Alley?
Becky Pekora: Iceberg Alley is actually a huge body of water, for lack of a better term. It's how the channel of water comes around the Newfoundland coast. For people who don't know, Newfoundland is an island, and iceberg alley goes from the top tip of the island all the way down and then kind of around the East coast. These icebergs float down that entire channel, obviously starting in the North towards the beginning of the iceberg season and then making their way farther South and East as the season progresses.
Ed Pizza: That's a great segue into talking about the season. This is, I say, where I've enjoyed having you on every time you've been on the show, because I think when you write things up like this, you're always keen to point out some very valuable points. I would not have guessed that the season, the iceberg season, went as long as it did.
Becky Pekora: To be fair, this is mother nature we're talking about. The season can vary quite a bit from year to year. Generally speaking, iceberg season is Spring. If you're kind of thinking about the science behind it, the icebergs break off when they kind of melt just a little bit and have that tension so that they're breaking off from the bigger sheets of ice to begin with. That happens in Spring as the weather warms up, and they will eventually, as Spring and Summer kind of move through the year and things get warmer, they will melt down smaller and smaller until they no longer exist at all. You can start to see them at the beginning of Spring. In fact, I think the whole reason this conversation started between the two of us to begin with was because there's one lonely iceberg that has already broken off and started moving. That's very early compared to other years. Usually, you'll start to see them in the North around April and then farther South. The peak of season is about mid May to mid June, but they can go into the beginning of July also.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. I should have known that June and July would be an appropriate time for it. It didn't cross my mind at first. My father always made the joke when we went to visit family in rural Nova Scotia that they had two seasons up there. It was the Winter and 4th of July. I mean, it certainly is cooler up there in May and June that an iceberg could certainly survive for quite a while.
Becky Pekora: Yes. Some of it is also that the icebergs can just drift farther out to see where you won't see them from the island of Newfoundland itself. Even if they don't melt right away, they might just be too far away from shore for visitors to see easily.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. In your article, you sort of touched on that you can see the icebergs from the shore in certain places and that you can also do boat tours up there. You definitely talked about the ways that you can do both. I'm curious from a perspective of somebody who hasn't done it before, if you were going again, would you, and assuming the weather cooperated, would you definitely recommend a boat tour?
Becky Pekora: I think, yes. I did not see any icebergs from the water when I was there. Although, I have seen them in other trips in other places I've taken and it's unreal to be in the water next, literally as close as you can safely be to one of these icebergs. They can be as large as a house. I mean, they are gigantic.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Becky Pekora: If you think about being in a boat, you're obviously not right up close to it. The Titanic will kind of tell you that's maybe not the smartest idea, but if you can get kind of close to it without pushing the limits too much, you can still have more of that sense of scale of just how big they can be. Also, icebergs, this is going to sound crazy, but they do make noises. You can kind of hear pops and sizzles and streams of water and things like that and you won't hear that unless you're up close.
Ed Pizza: I never thought about that, my kids would get a huge kick out of that.
Becky Pekora: Yeah. I'm older than your kids by a long shot but I got a kick out of it too.
Ed Pizza: All right. Let's talk a little bit about getting to the region and I'll qualify this for folks. If you're listening to this right now, we're going to discuss a couple of options that are not available immediately due to the pandemic, but we believe reasonably likely will be available. The obvious one here is there's a small airline in Canada called Porter. Porter has service to some of the airports out in this neck of the woods. Porter chose to ground their entire fleet during the pandemic. They're not flying again yet. We believe that they will, but there's still a chance that that service doesn't come back. Let's talk a little bit because you've got, especially with the way the coastline lines up, there are a couple of different airports that folks can fly into and a couple of different airline choices.
Becky Pekora: Sure. I'll start with the most obvious option, which is St. John's. This is the biggest city in Newfoundland and it's over on the East coast. If you're heading there to see the icebergs, you probably do want to aim for that middle to late end of the season, because it is farther South and East. This is the airport that's going to have the most service. They have service not just from Porter, which you mentioned, but also Air Canada and WestJet. That's two other options to get out there. Air Canada is a Star Alliance Airline. Lots of opportunities to use miles for that. Then, West Jet is a Delta partner, so you can use some sky miles would be find open seats for that. Then, of course, Porter has some limited service there also.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. As you mentioned, Air Canada, they just redid their program. I think are some advantageous ways to use the new program for hops like this. These flights, at least in my experience, because we've talked about planning a trip to St. John's. These flights can be affordable. It just depends on when you're going. Porter definitely has a lot to do with that in that they'll sometimes have sales to St. John if you're connecting through Toronto, Billy Bishop Airport, where they have the majority of their fleet. You can watch Porter for fare sale opportunities, but other times I've seen the fares to St. John's can be quite high. That's where the potential for using Air Canada's Aeroplan Program, which is also a membership rewards transfer partner can be a good option as well. You mentioned WestJet and Delta, which I think is another solid option to consider for St. John's.
Becky Pekora: Correct. There are a few ways to get there. I flew out of Toronto Pearson on Air Canada, and I will just remind people, even though these are both in Canada, it's actually a pretty far distance. If I recall, it was about a three hour flight.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, sounds about right.
Becky Pekora: People forget how large of a country Canada is, but you are going quite a bit East.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. This is a completely different time zone. I mean, from a geographic standpoint, it's, Nova Scotia is the Atlantic time zone, so an hour earlier than where I live and where you live. Newfoundland is another magnitude further East than that.
Becky Pekora: Exactly.
Ed Pizza: It's a decent hike. Three hours sounds about right. Then, if you wanted to focus on the West side, you've also got Deer Park Airport, sorry, Deer Lake Airport.
Becky Pekora: Yeah. Deer Lake Airport. The advantage to that, first of all, would be if you wanted to combine your trip not just with icebergs, but also to do any sightseeing or hiking in Gros Morne National Park, which is beautiful, and I think the largest national park on Newfoundland. That would also allow you to kind of go up that, it was like a finger on the West side of Newfoundland that kind of goes up North towards St. Anthony. That would allow you to kind of go and do that part of the island as well.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. As a last resort, when Porter comes back to service, they do service Stevenville, which is the Southwestern tip of Newfoundland. If you really want to get adventurous the way our family was going to do it was we were actually going to fly into Halifax, Nova Scotia, and drive out to Cape Breton Island, which is the Eastern part of Nova Scotia. Then, there's a ferry that goes from Cape Breton to the Port of Basks on the Southwest corner of Newfoundland. There is a drive option from Halifax, but it's definitely a time commitment.
Becky Pekora: Yeah. It's not really fast going anywhere on the Island. There's not a lot of roads for one thing, but also just again the sense of scale is a lot bigger than you might expect. If you are traveling from one end of the island to another, people should allow plenty of time.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. If you look at it on a map, there's really no such thing as a straight road on the island.
Becky Pekora: Yeah. You'll actually appreciate that if you get there. You'll notice it's because you are driving around some mountains and lakes and gorgeous forests that they've decided to keep as wilderness areas. Although it might not be fast travel, it certainly is scenic travel.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. That was one of the reasons why we had talked about potentially driving from Halifax and just committing a number of days and saying we were going to take sort of the long way around to get to St John's and just explore the island. We certainly hope to do that when the pandemic reopens. We had talked about doing that as a potential camping trip, because my family has some RVs up in Canada, but you and I were talking before we hopped on the air and we had talked a little bit about that there are some options to use points if you want to redeem points for hotels on Newfoundland.
Becky Pekora: Yes. By far, the vast majority of the points hotels are in St. John's. I know for a fact that there's IHG Hilton and Marriott hotels there. I think Wyndham has one or two lower end properties as well. If you are staying in St John's, that is an option that's available to you. St. John's itself, first of all, it's kind of a walkable city. Some great food and breweries and things like that. Some museums, so that's worth a day or two. It's also about an easy day trip away from Witless Bay, which is another place to see icebergs as well as to go on a Puffin cruise, if you would like to see those cute little birds.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Becky Pekora: If you're only going for, for example, a long weekend, something like that, St. John's is a great option because it is pretty easy to do. If you have a longer time, there are definitely other places that might give you more of that remote feel for not just the icebergs, but some of the other nature oriented activities in Newfoundland.
Ed Pizza: You did a great job stealing my last question. You mentioned long weekends, if you, and knowing that you can do it in a long weekend if you can work out the flight connections, give me your ideal number of days that somebody should plan for to hang out in Newfoundland.
Becky Pekora: Gosh, I would say four or five days would be about best. I would spend one day for sure in St. John's proper to do some of those city type activities. Just because you'll meet the most people there, and if Canadians are a friendly bunch, then anybody in Newfoundland really takes that cake. They're just, they're wonderfully hospitable. You'll probably have conversations with more people in an hour than you do in a week at home. If you do that, and then a day trip down to Witless Bay, that's already two days. The other area I really enjoyed would be going towards the town of Trinity, which is a historic town, very quaint, beautiful on both from scenery and architecture and then into the Bonavista Peninsula. That's another great place to see puffins. Then, Terra Nova National Park is in that region as well to kind of do some of that more outdoorsy type things. That would round out about five days, maybe four, if you really pushed it. From St. John's to that area is about a three hour drive each way.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. We had actually looked at camping in Terra Nova. That was one of the areas that we looked at because there was a camp grounds there. I think it was a national park where it had some like really cute yurts and tower camping solutions and stuff like that the kids thought would be just super, super fun.
Becky Pekora: Yeah. Well I know you are the camping expert these days.
Ed Pizza: Hey now, hey now, dragged into it kicking and screaming.
Becky Pekora: Yeah. If anybody did want to go kind of farther North or farther West, I would say you easily need 7 or 10 days just to cover that distance. It's one of those places where, unless you do have an extended time, you'll want to narrow it down to a more manageable region.
Ed Pizza: Awesome. Well, thanks for sharing all that with us. You've made it a little bit easier for when I plan the trip, although it does make me sad that we had to cancel it for 2020, it just, it remains on the radar. Until we have you back on the show again, tell folks where they can track you down.
Becky Pekora: I am at Sitedoing.net. I do have a couple of articles to plan your Canadian adventure. I'm also on Twitter @Sitedoing, so people can feel free to reach out there. I'm always happy to talk travel, regardless of where the destination is.
Ed Pizza: Awesome. Becky, thanks again for being on the show. Hopefully we'll have you back on again soon.
Becky Pekora: Thanks, Ed. Happy travels.
Ed Pizza: We'll be right back on the Miles To Go podcast. That's a full wrap on this week's episode. You can find links to everything we discussed today in the show notes. A big thanks to all of you for tuning into this week's show. If any of you have questions or suggestions for a future show, you can drop me an email Ed@pizzainmotion.com or hit me up on social media, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, all at Pizza In Motion. You can find me blogging daily at Pizzainmotion.com until we upload again, we've got miles to go.
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