Movie Night Tomorrow with Visa and Fandango

If you are a Visa Signature credit card holder, you may want to make tomorrow a movie night. Throughout the summer Visa has been running a Friday 2-for-1 deal with Fandango, whereby its Signature members who buy two or more tickets for the same show through this link get one of them free. This deal is only valid for same-day purchases on Fridays, and tomorrow August 17th is the last day.

Several cards under the Visa brand are Visa Signature cards, including the Chase Sapphire, a United Airlines and an Alaska Airlines card, and even the Capital One Venture card. Just look in your wallet and if you find any card that says “Visa Signature” on it, it should qualify. If you’re still not sure, Visa/Fandango can let you know; before buying your ticket you are required to enter your credit card number and you should get a message saying whether it is a Signature card or not.

2-for-1 Movies from Visa and Fandango

As for the rest of the rules, the main catch is that in order to get the 2-for-1 deal you have to book through Fandango, incurring its convenience fee. However, the 2-for-1 does include the fee as well, so that at least you’ll only pay for half of it. And half a fee is likely cheaper than a whole other ticket. The discount covers up to $19.50 and is only valid once every 30 days, so you can get in on this deal tomorrow only if the last time you took advantage of it was Friday, July 13th or earlier.

If you have a Visa Signature card but are not planning on watching a movie tomorrow or have already used the deal in the last 30 days, you can still get a discount: Signature cardholders get $5 off each purchase of $25 “Fandango Bucks” through the same link. “Fandango Bucks” are essentially Fandango gift cards, which must be redeemed through but can be used any day and do not expire. Visa Signature card holders can buy up to $100 worth of Fandango Bucks each month until October 31, 2012. If you frequently buy tickets through Fandango anyway – particularly if you catch movies on weekends when they are first released and may get sold out before you reach the theatre – this can be a nice discount.

If you’re looking for something to do tomorrow, a 2-for-1 deal on movie tickets just might do the trick. But if you’re enjoying the sun and it doesn’t seem like the right day to be indoors, you can still load up on some discounted “Fandango Bucks” and save them for a rainy day.

Get a Movie Break with Fandango and Visa

It’s summer time, and I’ve probably watched more movies over the past month than I did all of last year. There’s nothing like a dark, heavily air-conditioned room to make me feel like I am far away from this year’s unbearable East Coast heat. And Fandango’s partnership with Visa makes this much appreciated escape a little cheaper.

With a Visa Signature card (which I have through the amazing British Airways offer that was available two years ago), you can get 2-for-1 tickets through Fandango every Friday until September 30, 2011. All you have to do is buy two tickets through on a Friday for any movie that same day and one of the tickets will be free of charge. Granted, this offer requires that you actually buy through Fandango, which charges a convenience fee, but I sometimes would rather pay the convenience fee than stand in line while I miss the first few minutes of the movie, or, even worse, have the movie be sold out by the time I get to the movie theatre. Besides, the 2-for-1 deal also applies to the convenience fee; with your Visa Signature card you are only charged the fee for one ticket.

The 2-for-1 deal only works on Fridays, but for all other days, a Visa Signature card also gets you $5 off a purchase of $25 “Fandago Bucks,” the Fandango equivalent of a gift card/ voucher. This discount is only being offered until Sept 30th, but Fandango Bucks never expire, so you can buy the vouchers now and use them whenever you get tickets through Fandango in the future.  Or you can just hold onto them and give them away for Christmas if you run out of gift ideas.

the two offers, stacked up

Now the technical stuff: To find out whether you have a Visa Signature card, just look at your credit card and see if it says “Visa Signature” on it, check out this page showing most of the Signature cards offered by Visa, or enter your card number on the Fandango/ Visa Signature page to verify. The discount only applies if you buy through and pay with your Visa Signature card. And you can only get one 2-for-1 deal per month with each Visa Signature card you have, but you can buy up to $100 Fandango Bucks (for $80 with the discount) each month.

Summer break might be almost over, but the heat is probably staying for a while longer. If you need a weekend activity that involves being outside for the least time possible but that is also affordable, going to the movies with Fandango/Visa isn’t a bad deal. And considering the insanely high concession stand prices, a 2-for-1 deal on movie tickets or the $5 discount may even free up some cash so you can actually afford popcorn or a snack.

New York + Restaurant Week + AMEX + foursquare = $5 off

If you’re in New York this summer, make sure to check out its Restaurant Week event. What originally started as a week in which higher-end restaurants offer affordable fixed-price deals has been extended in several cities, such as Boston and Philly, into two-week events. But New York has taken it to a new extreme – the city’s 2011 Restaurant Week was scheduled for July 11-24, but has since been extended for another six weeks.  The NYC Restaurant Week Extension runs from July 25th to September 5th (excluding Saturdays and, depending on the restaurant, Sundays as well) with lunch specials for $24.07 and dinner for $35.

And American Express and the social media enterprise foursquare have stepped in to make this summer deal even sweeter. If you are a foursquare member, you can get a $5 credit on your Amex statement when you use your Amex card at a participating restaurant.

To get the credit, you have to register (“sync”) your Amex card to your foursquare account, and “check-in” at a participating restaurant during the Restaurant Week Extension period. When you do so, you will automatically get an offer on your phone. After accepting the offer (“Load to Card”), if you spend $24 or more – which you probably will, considering that the lunch deal is $24.07 and dinner is more expensive anyway – and pay with your Amex card, you should get a $5 credit on your credit card statement within 5 business days.

If you don’t have a foursquare account, you can download the program onto your phone for free. Note, however, that Prepaid and Corporate Amex cards and payments using Amex’s ExpressPay feature are not eligible for this offer. And if you have multiple Amex cards, you can only have one “synched” with your foursquare account at a time. Also, you can only earn one of these $5 statement credits per participating restaurant, though there’s no limit to how many credits you can earn if you go to a different restaurant each time. Almost all restaurants in participating in the Restaurant Week Extension are part of the Amex/foursquare statement credit offer, but for a list, click here.

If are in New York before Labor Day, be sure to check their Restaurant Week Extension offer. The list of participating restaurants may be a good place to start if you’re just looking for a place to eat. And even if you already have your dining plans set, you never know – you could find out that the restaurant you are visiting just happens to be participating as well. Then don’t forget to check-in and use your Amex card to get $5 back.

Bikes on a Plane

In a recent conversation with a friend, I learned that she was considering taking a 9-hour-or-more bus ride from Boston to Washington, DC, to bring her bike down. The alternative, she thought, was limited to having it sent through Fedex or UPS.

Little did she know that most airlines actually allow you to check-in a bike when you fly. Though taking the bus may still be the cheapest way to travel between DC and Boston, if you decide to face that trip with a bike, it should at least be an informed decision, with the knowledge that your bike could make it on a plane and of how much that would cost too. Moreover, airlines do not charge extra when flying bikes cross-country instead, while Fedex and UPS prices will be higher and the bus may be a much less realistic option.

Below is a table with some of the main US-based airlines and their rules for checking-in bikes. Make sure to look at it before moving, or if you find a great bike deal when visiting friends or family in another town, or when, like my friend, you want to rescue the bike that has been sitting in your relatives’ basement for all of those years in which you were living a transient life for school and work.

Airline Cost Packaging Requirements/ Restrictions
AirTran $79 Must be packed in a box
Alaska Airlines Bikes are treated as regular or oversize luggage. There is a $20 charge for the first 3 checked luggage items. Oversize items measuring 63-80 inches incur an additional $50; items smaller than 62 inches do not have an extra fee and those between 81 and 115 inches incur a $75 fee. Can be packed on any soft or hard case designed for transporting bikes
American Airlines $150 for any bike larger than 62 inches or over 50 lbs. Smaller bikes are treated as regular checked luggage, at $25 for the first item. Can be packed on either a hard-sided case or a bike bag, but bikes not in a hard-sided case are considered “fragile,” meaning that the airline does not accept liability for damages.
Continental $100 for domestic flights and $200 for international flights for any bike larger than 62 inches or 50 lbs. Smaller bikes are treated as regular checked luggage, with the fee for the first item at $25 in domestic flights and free internationally. There are strict rules for packaging, including fixing the handlebars sideways and removing pedals, and the airline is not liable to damage if these are not followed. Interestingly, Continental also sells bicycle boxes for $25 at all of its airport desks except for the one at Reagan National in DC.
Delta Airlines $150 flying out of a US airport or other airports around the world (excluding Canada and the EU); 150 Canadian dollars when flying from Canada; and 150 Euros when flying from the EU. The only exception is for travel to/from Brazil, for which the fee is $75. Excess fees apply to bikes weighting more than 70 lbs. Can be packed in a cardboard or canvas container.
Frontier Airlines A bicycle may be treated as overweight, though not oversize checked-in items. As such, it incurs the base $20 fee for being a checked-in item, and, if it weighs more than 50 lbs, another $75 as well. The airline is not liable for damage to bikes not packaged in a hard-sided case.
Hawaiian Airlines $35 for flights within the state of Hawaii, and $100 for flights between Hawaii and the Continental US, Japan, and Hawaiian’s other Pacific destinations. If you are flying more than one of these segments, such as from the Continental US to Japan via Hawaii, you will be charged the fee for each segment. Bikes weighing more than 50 lbs incur an extra charge: $25 when flying within Hawaii and $50 when flying to/from or within the Continental US. Bikes must be packed in a box or hard case. They are also transported on a space-available basis, meaning that the bike might not make it on the same flight as you, and, if not, Hawaiian is not responsible for the ground transportation to get it delivered from the airport to you as it is for suitcases.
JetBlue $50 for domestic flights and $80 for international flights. Bikes are not accepted on flights to/from the Dominican Republic. Bikes under 62 inches and 50 lbs count as a checked bag, to which JetBlue’s “first checked bag free” policy applies. Bikes can be packed in hard-sided cases, plastic foam, or a cardboard box. The airline is not liable for any bike lost or damaged.
Southwest $50 for bikes larger than 62 inches or 50 lbs. Smaller bikes count as regular luggage and can be checked-in for free. Bikes can be packed in a hard-sided case, a cardboard box, or a soft-sided case, but the airline has limited liability for bikes packaged in the latter two.
Spirit Airlines $100 plus a checked luggage fee starting at $28 (actual price depends on whether it is paid online or at the counter) Must be packed in a cardboard or hard-cased container
United $100 for travel within the US, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands; $200 when traveling from the US to other continents. The maximum allowed weight for bikes is 50 lbs, and they must be packed in a “durable, protective case, bag or box.”
US Airways $200 for bikes over 62 inches. Bikes smaller than 62 inches count as a regular checked bag, with fees starting at $25. Bikes can be packed in a cardboard, hard-case bike container, or wrapped in plastic or foam. If it is only wrapped, the passenger must sign a form releasing the airline from any liability.
Virgin America $50 if it weighs up to 50 lbs. If it weighs more than 50 lbs, the additional overweight fees assessed range from $50 to $100 and depend on the weight as well as the total number of suitcases you are checking in. Bikes should be packed in a hard case or a padded bike case. The airline also accepts but is not liable for those packed in cardboard boxes or foam.

JetBlue’s Unlimited Travel Pass make Autumn Jet-Setting a Breeze

If you are looking at a lot of pre-Thanksgiving travel, counting all of the weddings, family reunions, and long weekends, – or would just like an excuse to take more trips this Fall – you may want to look at JetBlue’s new BluePass tickets. These passes offer unlimited travel to and from Boston and Long Beach, CA, from August 22nd to November 22nd. BluePass tickets will be on sale until the end of August, or while supplies last, and flights can be booked starting on August 15th.

There are three BluePass options: Boston All, Boston Select, and Long Beach Select. The Boston All ticket goes for $1999 plus taxes and allows unlimited travel between Boston and all airports served by JetBlue from Boston, including several cities in the West Coast and many Caribbean destinations such as San Juan and Aruba (direct) and Saint Lucia, Montego Bay, and Cancun (connecting).

The Boston Select ticket ($1499) is more tailored towards business travel, allowing unlimited travel between Boston and 13 other cities, Chicago being the furthest West. Other valuable cities for business travelers included in this ticket are Washington, DC (both Dulles and National airports), New York JFK, and Pittsburgh. But this doesn’t mean this ticket can’t be used for fun too: you can also fly to/from Jacksonville and Bermuda this Fall with the Boston Select ticket.

From the West Coast, the Long Beach Select ticket ($1299) has some great destinations as well. The ticket covers unlimited pre-Thanksgiving travel between Long Beach and Las Vegas, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle, Austin, and Chicago.

To buy any of these BluePass tickets, you need to be a member of TrueBlue, JetBlue’s frequent flier program for which you can sign up for free. You will then get 12,000 TrueBlue points if you buy the Boston All ticket, 9000 for the Boston Select and 8000 for the Long Beach Select ticket. Unfortunately, these are the only miles you will get for the BluePass tickets; JetBlue is not giving points for the actual flights taken with these passes.

Nonetheless, these passes come with a lot of flexibility. Flights can be booked or canceled up to 90 minutes before the scheduled departure time, which allows for last minute changes as well as spur-of-the-moment trips. Also, a no-show fee of $100 will only be assessed if you don’t show up for your trips twice within a 7-day period. In that case, your pass will only be reinstated once you pay the fee.

This is not a mileage run deal, but we are right in the middle of wedding season, and if you are starting to resent all those events for which you have to fly, these BluePass tickets may soften the blow. Besides, if one of these BluePass tickets is already financially worthwhile given the trips you expect to take before Thanksgiving, adding more trips on will just make it better. And if you legitimately have consistent business travel to or from Boston or Long Beach, getting work to pay for a BluePass ticket could be a great perk. Once you have the ticket, let the fun begin. With unlimited travel, it’s ok to take several weekend breaks and fly to the beach just because.

This Week’s Five Loyalty Deals

Loyalty programs are already set up to reward customers for their frequent patronage by offering points, miles, or exclusive discounts.  But sometimes there are periodic promotion periods in which the reward system is ramped up either to pick up sales during a down time or simply to encourage continued customer loyalty.  Either way, there are savings to be had or extra points or miles (eventually converted into extra savings or a freebie) to be earned.

Here are five loyalty deals for this coming week or longer:
Continue reading

The MarketPlace is Not Unique, but Isn’t Bad Either

MasterCard has been heavily advertising its new MarketPlace online portal, and it in fact offers some valuable deals.

When it comes to online shopping, portals for discounts, cash, points, or miles already abound.  These are websites that, if you visit an online store through one of their links rather than by typing the store’s name directly, you can get a credit towards your account with the portal.  Even before the MasterCard MarketPlace, there were already many around, including Borders Rewards Perks, Fatwallet, ShopDiscover, Bank of America’s Add It Up, Amtrak’s Points for Shopping, and AAdvantage eShopping, to name just a few.  But one thing the portals have in common is that they all require payment by credit card at the online store, and the portal owners are paid a commission on the purchase their facilitated.  As a credit card company, MasterCard has launched MarketPlace as a way to cut out the middle-man and get a cut not only for the usage of its credit card, but also for the referral through its portal. Continue reading

To Get Your Money Back, Persistence is Key

A few weeks ago, I came across the Consumerist‘s 2010 March Madness-themed bracket for “Worst Company in America.”  It is currently in the Elite 8, with strong contenders including Bank of America, Comcast, and Ticketmaster (to see the full bracket, click here).  This competition is great, as it gives consumers a vehicle for expressing their dissatisfaction with service received from less-than-great companies.

But the fact is that none of the consumers will get their money back simply by voting against companies – the only one who can give you your money back is the company that has disappointed you, and they will only know that if you get in touch with them directly.  And persistently. Continue reading

Start Lining Up Your Date Nights

For the last quarter of the year (October 1 to December 31, 2009), Discover is offering a 5% cashback bonus on up to $400 in purchases made at grocery stores, restaurants, movie theatres and video rental services.  If you make the maximum amount of $400 in eligibile purchases, you will get $20 in cashback, which can be turned into a $25 gift card from certain retailers such as Banana Republic and Brooks Brothers.  So remember to sign up.  Then get out there and start making plans for some great date nights!

Bring the Picnic Blanket: This Weekend, Last Call for Free Visits to National Parks

Visiting a national park is among one of the cheapest day-long recreational activities available, but this weekend it will be even higher up that list.  August 15-16 is the last of three summer weekends in which the National Park Service will be waiving entrance fees for over 100 national parks around the country.  Participating parks include Yosemite and Yellowstone as well as the Appomattox Court House in Virginia (visit the reconstructed McLean House, where General Robert E. Lee surrendered and ended the Civil War) and the Eleanor Roosevelt and the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Sites, both in New York.  Several concessioners inside the parks are also participating, offering discounts and free items to visitors.  With good weather and longer hours, the summer is a great season to visit a national park, and getting in for free can only make it better.

Visit the U.S. National Park Service website for a list of participating national parks, and click here for concessioner deals.