Best Cities to Buy a Vacation Home for Post-pandemic Retreats

The coronavirus pandemic has made it tough to buy a home, including vacation homes. Homebuyer sentiment is at a ten-year low, and millions of families are struggling with unemployment or small businesses that are in trouble. They are forgoing their traditional week or two at the beach or mountains this year and staying home. Short term rentals built a whole new economy in popular vacation spots and many vacation homeowners count on revenues from short-term rentals to pay their mortgages.

Perhaps the only good thing about these hard times for vacation owners are the bargains that are opening up in vacation destinations nationwide. Home sellers have been in control for years, especially in the hottest short-term rental markets. If you are fortunate enough to be immune from the economic crisis that is sweeping the nation, now is the time to buy that vacation home you’ve been considering.

beach town vacation home post-pandemic buyingbeach town vacation home post-pandemic buying

Here are five of the nation’s most popular summer vacation destinations where bargains can be found.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida

Sales are 20% lower than last spring, and new listings are growing at a rate of 24 listings per 1000 households in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers market. Plenty of good deals are attracting a wave of buyers from Northern states despite the pandemic.

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers real estate market is rapidly growing, yet it still retains its small-town charm. Its quality of life, miles of Gulf Coast beaches, islands, and the economy continues to attract people. Homes.com lists more than 80,000 homes for sale in the Cape Coral area and about 9,000 in and around Fort Myers.

Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida

Through April, sales were down 20% from April 2019, creating buyers’ market conditions in Lakeland-Winter Haven offer a dense suburban feel, and most residents own their homes. Located 25 miles inland from the Tampa Bay area. November, April, and March are the most pleasant months in the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area. Click here to see available listings in Lakeland and in Winter Haven.

Santa Barbara, California

The California coast forms a crescent north of Los Angeles that connects breathtaking beaches, mountains, and vineyards. The Channel Islands National Park offers scuba diving, hiking, and whale watching. Santa Barbara’s downtown offers world-class shopping and dining.

Its real estate offerings feature a sizeable luxury home market and affordable houses as well. The pandemic is taking its toll. According to the local MLS, closings have declined from 142 closings between March 15, 2019, and April 15, 2019, but only 95 closings during the period this year. The drop in sales gives buyers an advantage in a market that features “Access Hollywood” quality listings. To see for yourself, check out Santa Barbara’s available local listings on Homes.com.

Saugatuck, Michigan

Not all excellent beach resorts are on an ocean. If you live in the Midwest, there’s a great one on the east coast of Lake Michigan. With sun, sand, and freshwater to offer, try Saugatuck. Saugatuck is a 150-old former logging town that became a local resort a century ago. Now Southwest Michigan ranks as one of Conde Nast’s 25 best places to go in 2020. Oval Beach on Lake Michigan, sand dune rides, a beach that is litter-less, a chain ferry across the Kalamazoo River, and hammocks on every porch make Saugatuck a great place for families to relax. Homes.com lists some beachfront properties that are more affordable than either coast. Best of all, it is an easy drive from Chicago and Detroit.

Ocean City, Maryland

This Mid-Atlantic shore town is straight from the 1980s with boardwalk, putt-putt golf, beach parties, and famous french fries. In fact, it’s one of the best boardwalk beaches in the US, according to National Geographic’s Traveler. Its real estate market is also more proletarian, featuring high rise condos and bungalows. The pandemic drove away sellers this year, and new listings fell 27% in April, a multi-year low, leaving fewer than 800 listings as the summer season opens. The pandemic also drove down asking prices, and the median new listing price is only $290,000, far below the median for the year, $352,000. Looking to buy? Browse available listings in Ocean City on Homes.com.

America is starting to open up just as the summer begins. As restrictions relax and more beaches open, 2020 might become a great year to get a deal on a beach property.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

Our Moving Expenses And Moving Checklist – Colorado Move Update

Moving To Colorado On A Budget & A Moving Checklist

Moving To Colorado On A Budget & A Moving ChecklistToday, I’m going to talk about our move to Colorado. It kind of popped up out of nowhere but now we are right in the middle of it all. I can’t believe how quickly everything is moving along and I am extremely excited.

Out of all of the moves we’ve done, this one is definitely the largest. We’ve moved a few times now, but they have all been fairly cheap and short distance moves.

However, after collecting, hoarding, and buying things over the last 5 years, we have many more items to move this time around. Even if we were just moving across town it would be difficult with all of our stuff.

Moving to Colorado will be our longest move as well as our most expensive. I’ve heard of people spending over $10,000 moving, and that is something we didn’t want to come anywhere close to.

Below are some updates for our move to Colorado, including our moving expenses and what’s left on our moving checklist.

Related:

Moving supply costs.

Moving supplies weren’t as expensive as I thought they would be. I highly recommend you shop around, as I found widely varying prices for moving supplies.

For instance, many moving companies charge around $5 per box, whereas places like Home Depot and Lowes charge between $1 to $1.50 per box. There are also moving box sets that usually end up being a better deal, such as with this one.

We also bought bubble wrap and lots and lots of tape. Our total cost for moving supplies was around $100.

We could have completely skipped any costs for moving supplies if we would have looked around though. You can often find free moving supplies on Craigslist, at stores, and so on. We would have gone this route but I will be honest and say I was a little lazy since the move sprung on us very quickly.

Moving To ColoradoThe cost of moving to Colorado.

Up until last week, we were set on renting a moving truck and trying to figure out a way for everything to work out. However, things just weren’t going to happen that way.

Our main problem is that we have two cars and a moving truck to bring to the new house, yet there are only two of us. And this is why we didn’t think a company such as UHaul or Budget would work for this specific trip.

Yes, we could tow one of the cars behind a moving truck, but we need a fairly large moving truck for all of our things. Towing a car behind it on such a long move (over 1,000 miles) and through steep mountains just seems like too much for us.

Then, Wes’s dad the other day said the company he works for uses UPack to move their employees, so I decided to look them up.

After debating for some time, we made the decision to use UPack for our moving to Colorado needs.

UPack was the easiest and cheapest option for us. UPack is a company that moves your stuff for you. They drop off a moving trailer at your home, you load it up, they pick it up a few days later, then they drop it off at the location you are moving to. They handle all of the actual moving, which is exactly why we chose them. We can make the whole 15 hour trip with only stopping one night, but I know if we drove a moving truck ourselves then it would require much more planning, more stops, and possibly even paying for car shipping because we would have to find a way to bring our second car to the new house.

Going the UPack route is pretty similar in pricing to renting a moving truck as well, and much cheaper than hiring a full-service moving company. I priced out several rental moving truck companies and once I priced everything out, it was very comparable to the pricing that UPack gave me. This is because once you factor in the extra lodging, the higher gas costs because we would have to drive a moving truck, insurance costs, and more, renting a moving truck quickly added up.

A UHaul moving truck rental would have been around $2,500 including the rental truck, insurance, gas, etc. Then, we would have had to still pay for extra lodging and somehow still transporting our second car to Fruita as well. I’m assuming that would have made our moving cost somewhere between $3,000 to $3,500 for the extras. The UPack expense from St. Louis to Fruita is $3,000, so it was an easy choice for us since it meant much less work on our end and a much safer way to move.

My Moving Checklist.

Moving to Colorado hasn’t been as stressful as I originally thought. While there are many things we have already completed on our moving checklist, everything seems to be going smoothly even with all of the tasks that are left. If you need a thorough moving checklist, UPack has one that I found very helpful.

What’s left on our moving checklist:

  • Arrange for the drop off of the moving trailer at the new house (and pickup a few days after). This is one of the more important things on our moving checklist because I need my stuff, of course!
  • Turn the internet off at our Missouri house. We’ve already cut cable.
  • Confirm with moving truck unloaders about what time they should be at the new house. Since it’s only me and Wes (and I am extremely weak), we need someone to help us bring all of our heavy furniture into the house.
  • Wait for Charter internet at the new house. Yes, this is getting installed within the first hour of moving into our new house. After spending all of that time actually moving to Colorado, I will need internet quickly set up so that I can continue working. I just can’t go without it!
  • Notify companies of our move. There are still a few more places we need to inform, such as our car insurance company, our bank, and more.
  • Run through the house one last time. Before we move, we need to run through the house and make sure nothing is left behind and we also need to make sure it’s perfectly clean too for the home sale.
  • New driver’s license. We also need to license our cars.
  • New health insurance. This is the last task on our moving checklist but also very important. Our current health insurance is only good at certain Missouri healthcare providers, so we definitely need this.

How much did your last move cost you? How did you try to save money? Are we crazy for moving to Colorado at the last moment? Is there anything I am missing from my moving checklist?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Underrated Reasons Why You Need a Best Western Rewards Premium Mastercard

If you’re a traveler looking for inexpensive but quality hotels, you’re probably familiar with Best Western. This hotel group spans 18 brands in about 100 countries.

Even if you stay only a few times per year, you should consider the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®. Not only will the card generate Best Western Rewards points toward future stays, but it also comes with a number of valuable, underrated perks.

But first: The well-known reasons

  • Welcome bonus: Get 80,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 billing cycles after the account is opened, plus 40,000 points when you spend $5,000 every 12 billing cycles.

  • Automatic platinum status: Cardholders are upgraded to Best Western Platinum elite status, which gets you a 15% bonus on all points earned on eligible stays.

  • Earnings bonus: Cardholders get 20 points per dollar spent at Best Western hotels, as well as 2 points per dollar spent elsewhere.

Underrated reasons

Potential for an additional 40K bonus points every year

If you spend $5,000 in your first 12 months as a cardholder, the company will reward you with an additional 40,000 points.

Even better: This offer is good every year.

Your 12-month qualifying period begins the month after you enroll your credit card, and starts again on your card anniversary. With rewards nights ranging from 8,000 to 36,000 points, your complimentary stays could add up quickly.

Helps you keep an eye on your credit score

The Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® gives you access to your FICO Bankcard Score 9, which is the version of the credit score that the company uses to manage your account.

The card is light on fees

Credit cards sometimes offer lots of “free” perks, but then charge huge fees. This card is a little easier on the wallet. The annual fee is a relatively modest $89. Plus, it doesn’t impose a 1% to 3% surcharge on purchases made abroad or in a foreign currency. Since the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, it’s a good card to use when traveling abroad.

10% discount on every stay for rewards members

Sign up for Best Western Rewards in conjunction with your new credit card and you’ll receive a minimum 10% discount on the hotel’s flexible rate. This member-only discounted rate is available when booking online at bestwestern.com.

Points don’t expire

It can be frustrating to manage rewards points that have deadlines. Thankfully, the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® makes it easy: The points you earn won’t expire as long as you use your card.

What’s more, there are no blackout dates for reservations, taking some stress out of the equation for cardholders.

Flexible arrival and departure times

If you love to drop off your bags at the hotel before a day of exploring or prefer to take your mornings slow, this underrated perk of the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® will put a pep in your step: Cardholders enjoy early check-in and late checkout for every stay.

The bottom line

Adding the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® to your wallet is worth considering for travelers who stay at Best Western properties at least a few times a year. Not only does it give you automatic elite status and a strong sign-up bonus, but it also offers an opportunity to earn additional rewards points every 12 months. The card gives you these benefits with only an $89 annual fee and zero foreign transaction fees.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Track Your Spending on the Chase Freedom Flex 5% Cap

One of the key benefits of the Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card is a rotating 5% earning category. Every quarter, cardholders will earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in select categories. That’s up to $300 cash back each year.

The catch? Once you pass the $1,500 spending threshold, you’ll only earn 1% cash back on further purchases in these categories. So, it’s important to know how much you’ve spent toward the limit. That way you can switch to using a credit card that provides a higher return on spending once you hit the cap.

Here’s how to track your spending on the Chase Freedom Flex℠.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ 5% earning categories

Between January and March 2021, Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardholders earn 5% on:

  • Wholesale club purchases.

  • Internet, cable and phone services.

  • Select streaming services.

However, the rest of the 2021 bonus categories won’t be announced until less than three weeks before the start of the quarter.

This makes it hard to plan your credit card strategy for the year. However, it allows Chase to remain flexible and offer categories that are especially relevant for the time — from department stores around the holidays to select streaming services during the pandemic.

For reference, recent bonus categories have included:

  • Q4 2020: Walmart and purchases through PayPal.

  • Q3 2020: Amazon and Whole Foods.

  • Q2 2020: Grocery stores, fitness club and gym memberships, and select streaming services.

  • Q1 2020: Gas stations; internet, cable and phone services; and select streaming services.

3 steps to monitoring your category spending

1. First, check if you’ve activated cash-back earnings for the quarter

LOG IN AND HEAD TO CHASE ULTIMATE REWARDS®

First, log in to your Chase account and navigate to the Chase Ultimate Rewards® landing page. If you have multiple Chase Ultimate Rewards®-earning Chase cards, you’ll need to select your Chase Freedom Flex℠ from the list.

NAVIGATE TO THE 5% CATEGORIES SECTION

Once logged in, click the menu button (represented by three lines) at the top left corner of the page. Then select “5% Categories” from the menu list.

CONFIRM ACTIVATION

On this page, Chase shows whether or not you’ve activated your 5% cash back for the quarter and the following quarter if registration is open. Do so if you haven’t already. Right below the activation button for the current quarter, you’ll find that quarter’s spending tracker.

This bar will give you a visual approximation of how close you are to the spending cap for the quarter. However, it doesn’t give details on your exact progress. Instead, you’ll need to check another page.

There’s only one place we’ve found that Chase provides an exact figure of how much you’ve spent toward the quarterly $1,500 spending cap.

2. Find the Rewards Activity page

Navigate to the Rewards Activity page. Then, click the “5% cash back” tab on the top menu to scroll down to the tracker.

Here, you’ll find details on how much cash back you’ve earned toward the $75 cap. However, the figures can be a bit confusing. The values listed for each merchant represent the 4% cash-back bonus for the quarter, and the 1% base earning is listed separately.

You don’t have to add up these values to see your bonus category cash-back earnings, though. In the example above, the cardholder has earned $58.48 of their $75 maximum cash back for the quarter.

3. Figure out how much you can still spend toward the cap

It takes a few calculations to determine how much you can still spend before hitting the spending cap.

Nerd tip: Subtract the amount of cash-back earnings so far from $75; you’ll need to divide this amount by 5% (0.05) to find out how much more you can spend before hitting the cap.

In the example above, we need to subtract $58.48 from $75. Then, we divide the $16.52 result by 5%, which gets us $330.40. This is the amount the cardholder can spend in bonus categories this quarter to maximize their cash-back return.

Other bonus categories of the Chase Freedom Flex℠

While the two cards share similar names, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a substantial improvement over the Chase Freedom®.

The Chase Freedom® also earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter in select categories, but only 1% cash back on all other purchases. The Chase Freedom Flex℠, however, improves on this by offering the following earning categories:

  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3% on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services.

  • 3% on drugstore purchases.

Even if you opt to swap this card for one with a higher return after you reach the $1,500 spending cap in a quarter, it is wise to keep it handy for any of the above purchases.

The bottom line

To get the most out of your Chase Freedom Flex℠, you’ll want to max out your 5% cash-back earnings each quarter. But, there are plenty of cards that earn better than 1% cash back on spending. So, you’ll want to switch to using another card once you hit the $1,500 limit.

To improve your chances of maximizing your cash-back earnings, continually monitor your progress toward hitting the spending cap each quarter from your Chase account.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Is the Amex EveryDay Credit Card Worth It?

The $0-annual-fee Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers some solid value. Terms apply. But should you sign up? Here are some things to consider when deciding whether this card is worth getting.

Valuable perks of the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Rewarding welcome offer

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers a welcome bonus: Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

NerdWallet values Membership Rewards® Points at around 1 cent each, depending on how you use them, so this bonus is worth about $100.

Swipe more for greater rewards

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card earns 2x points at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year, then 1 point per dollar after that. You’ll also earn double points on eligible travel purchases made through American Express Travel. Terms apply.

Those points payouts are pretty standard for a travel rewards credit card in this price range. What sets this card apart is that you can earn even more rewards by using it a lot.

Make 20 or more charges to the card during your billing cycle and you will earn 20% more points for those purchases. That makes the U.S. supermarket purchase 2.4 points per dollar and all other purchases 1.2 points per dollar. Terms apply.

Points transfer to airline and hotel programs

It is rare for a $0-annual-fee credit card to have full access to valuable airline and hotel partners. For example, Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardmembers can’t transfer their points to Chase’s airline and hotel partners the way the holders of more expensive Chase cards can.

But in the case of this credit card, you have ample transfer opportunities. The points you earn with the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card — American Express Membership Rewards® points — can be transferred to 18 different airline partners and three hotel partners. Sometimes, booking award travel directly through the airline or hotel can cost fewer points than if you redeemed the points directly through American Express Membership Rewards. This ability to transfer points means you can choose from two prices when booking award travel, which can sometimes mean significant savings. Terms apply.

Further, American Express lets you pool points from other Membership Rewards-earning credit cards into one account. So if you want to cancel a pricier AmEx card, the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is an opportunity to save your hard-earned points while shedding the other card’s high annual fee.

Money-saving offers

AmEx Offers are a great way to save money or earn more points at many different merchants. When logged into your American Express card account, you can browse dozens of merchant-specific offers for travel, dining, grocery, gas, merchandise and more. Simply click to add available offers to your card and you’ll get discounts or bonus points when you spend at those merchants. New deals are added regularly. Eligibility for these offers is limited. Enrollment is required in the AmEx Offers section of your account before redeeming.

The ability to earn more rewards (or save money on items you were purchasing anyway), in addition to the credit card rewards you already were earning, is a great benefit for a $0 annual fee credit card.

American Express Plan It payment option

While not a benefit that should be used frequently, the Plan It option that comes with the card gives you flexibility for paying for larger purchases. When you spend $100 or more on a purchase, this benefit allows cardmembers to split the charge into monthly payments over a fixed period of time. Instead of paying interest, you pay a fixed monthly fee. There may be up to three duration options. Terms apply.

The bottom line

While the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers good value, there could be more rewarding American Express cards for your lifestyle.

If you spend a lot of money at U.S. supermarkets, consider The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, which offers higher rewards for spending at U.S. supermarkets while charging a $95 annual fee. But if you don’t spend a lot of money each month on credit cards, or if you often make 20 or more small charges in a month, the $0 annual fee on this credit card could offer the right balance of rewards and affordability. Terms apply.

All information about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

All information about The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express is no longer available through NerdWallet.

To view rates and fees of The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, please visit this page.

To view rates and fees of the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, please visit this page.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

A Guide to Southwest Flights to Mexico

Southwest Airlines serves over 100 destinations, most of which are within the United States. But, it also operates flights outside of the country, including flights to and from four airports in Mexico. If you’re planning a trip south of the border, you might consider booking with Southwest.

Here’s what you can expect when booking Southwest flights to Mexico.

Where in Mexico can I visit with Southwest?

Southwest has a few destination options within Mexico. Travelers can fly to Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta. These locations are geographically separated with two on the west coast and two on the east coast, giving travelers several options to see different parts of the country.

What about Southwest flights to Mexico City? Southwest used to fly to Mexico City but stopped flying there on March 30, 2019.

Does Southwest offer nonstop flights to Mexico?

Yes. Southwest has direct flight options to each of its four Mexico destinations. Some locations have more offerings than others. If there aren’t nonstop flights from your home airport, you’ll need to book a connecting flight.

West Coast travelers will generally have an easier time getting to Los Cabos or Puerto Vallarta. Those in the middle or eastern parts of the U.S. will find Cancun the most convenient. It might also be easier to fly to one destination over another, depending on your departure area.

What’s the best city in Mexico to visit?

The trip experience you want to have can help you decide which destination to visit. Here’s some information about each destination to help you pick a spot.

Cancun

In addition to the beaches, Cancun is known for its shopping, nightlife and dining. Whether you want to sit back and relax or spend your vacation partying, there’s always something to do. Plus, you’ll get the sandy beaches and Caribbean Sea weather. Be aware of hurricane season as well (typically June-November).

Cozumel

Also on the Caribbean coast, Cozumel is the largest inhabited island in Mexico. This is the place to go diving and check out the impressive coral reefs and marine life. Cozumel also has plenty of Mayan ruins to explore and Playa del Carmen is just a short ferry ride away.

Los Cabos

San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are two cities that make up the Los Cabos area. Sunset sailing, whale watching cruises and afternoon beach days are a must. If you’re looking for nonwater adventures, a visit to the historic San José del Cabo Arts District is recommended along with the plentiful nightlife in the city.

Puerto Vallarta

This destination also offers a lot to see and do. Stroll down the streets of Old Town, check out the incredible views of Banderas Bay, explore the Malecon boardwalk or check out the food scene. Puerto Vallarta is also home to beautiful beaches up and down its coastline.

Nerd tip: Consider the airport location at your destination of choice when booking Southwest flights to Mexico. For example, Los Cabos International Airport, which serves the Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo areas, is a significant distance from Cabos San Lucas. The airports for Puerto Vallarta and Cancun are much closer to their city centers. Cozumel’s airport is nearest to the city, which can be a great option for added convenience.

The bottom line

No matter where you decide to visit, all of these destinations are worth visiting and have a lot to offer. If you’re planning a trip, booking Southwest flights to Mexico is a great option. The airline offers flights to several cities and does have quite a few direct flight options. Southwest also provides useful perks like allowing two free checked bags no change fees.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Reach Southwest Airlines Customer Service

No matter which airline brands you choose to support and do business with, it’s essential to be able to get a hold of the company’s customer service team during a time of need. Even if the brand provides excellent customer service, there may come a time when something goes wrong — whether you need to make contact for help with reservations, baggage issues or have a question that needs to be answered.

If you fly with Southwest Airlines, you’ll be happy to know that they have several customer service options. This makes it more convenient for you to get help when you need it. Here’s what you need to know about how to utilize Southwest Airlines customer service.

Ways to contact Southwest Airlines customer service

Phone

You can call the Southwest Airlines customer service phone line 24/7. To reach a representative, call this telephone number: 1-800-I-FLY-SWA or 1-800-435-9792. Since help is available 24 hours a day, you can call when it’s most convenient for you. For customers who need to call while outside of the United States, additional customer service phone numbers are available.

Nerd tip: Southwest Airlines has a flexible cancellation policy. As long as you call at least 10 minutes before a flight’s scheduled departure, you can cancel your flight and get travel credits for a new flight. In this kind of situation, calling customer service is probably best if you don’t have immediate access to your Southwest app or online account.

Email

Southwest also offers an email customer service option. Customers can go to the email section and choose whether they have a complaint, a question or a compliment. They will then be able to type up a message and include any relevant attachments. Requests may take up to 48 hours to be answered.

Twitter or Facebook

If you prefer to contact Southwest Airlines customer service through social media channels, you have options. Customers can contact the airline through Twitter by sending a direct message to @SouthwestAir.

Southwest Airlines also has a Facebook page. You can reach out to the customer service team via Facebook messenger.

Send a letter

For anyone who prefers a more old-school approach to contacting the Southwest Airlines customer service team, letters can be mailed to the following address:

P.O. Box 36647-1CR,

Dallas, Texas 75235.

Visit the Southwest Airlines Community

Finally, Southwest has an excellent online community. Within this web portal, customers can check the knowledge base for answers to common customer service questions. This is a great place to check before sending a message or making a call, especially if the problem isn’t specific to a reservation. If you’re unable to find an answer, you might try calling or sending a direct message on social media.

The Southwest Airlines Community also provides a discussion board and blog. This is a good place to learn more about the brand and see what other travelers are saying about it. You can communicate with other travelers and read about important brand news and updates.

Southwest credit card customer service

Southwest customer service won’t be able to assist with questions or issues related to a Southwest credit card. Instead, you’ll want to contact Chase, the bank that issues the co-branded Southwest credit cards.

Here’s a list of Southwest credit cards that you can call 1-800-792-0001 for customer support:

The bottom line

There are many ways to contact the Southwest Airlines customer service team. Whether you’re social media savvy, prefer to call or like to send mail the old-fashioned way, there is no shortage of ways to reach a customer service representative when you need assistance.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Is IHG Ambassador Status Worth It?

IHG Ambassador status is a niche elite status tier that many travelers have never heard of. It provides exclusive benefits at InterContinental Hotels, plus automatic IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status for perks at other IHG brands.

Though there aren’t many hotel loyalty programs that offer elite status that you can buy, you still need to ask yourself: Is IHG Ambassador status worth it?

What does IHG Ambassador status include?

Benefits at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

When you sign-up for IHG Ambassador status, you’ll receive a suite of benefits that are good at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts locations around the world.

These benefits include:

  • Guaranteed one category room upgrade.

  • Complimentary weekend night.

  • Automatic IHG Platinum Elite status.

  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout.

  • Complimentary mineral water and internet.

  • Single room rate for double occupancy.

In China, there are additional benefits for Ambassador members. Mainland China hotels provide complimentary breakfast for one person each night that you stay, while Greater China (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) properties include a welcome fruit platter.

These benefits are exclusive to stays at InterContinental hotels, so they do not apply for reservations at other IHG brands. Through Dec. 31, 2021, Ambassador benefits will also apply at participating Regent Hotels & Resorts.

Free weekend night extended to Kimpton and Regent

In 2020, IHG extended the complimentary weekend night so that it could be redeemed at Kimpton and Regent properties as well. In fact, the free weekend night is actually more flexible at these other brands because it can be used any night of the week. At Kimpton and Regent, you are not restricted just to the weekends.

When you book your Ambassador free night, do not be alarmed if the full price is listed on your reservation. The second night will be manually adjusted and credited to your bill so that you’re not charged for it.

Perks at other IHG brands

When staying at other IHG brands, Ambassador members receive the benefits included in the complimentary IHG Platinum Elite status that comes with your membership. Many of these benefits are similar to what you’ll receive as an Ambassador at InterContinental properties.

Platinum Elite status includes:

  • Complimentary room upgrades.

  • Guaranteed room availability.

  • Extended checkout, when available.

  • Elite rollover nights.

  • 50% bonus earnings on top of base points.

  • Free internet.

How to get Ambassador status in IHG

Unlike most other hotel loyalty programs, IHG Ambassador status is not earned by points, hotel nights stayed or how much you spend on the hotel’s credit card. So, here’s how to get Ambassador Status in IHG.

Buy it

IHG Rewards Club members can buy Ambassador status by paying $200 or redeeming 40,000 IHG points per year. You can purchase it online on the IHG Ambassador page or at any IHG hotel property, and your membership is good for 12 months from the date you sign up.

Use credit card perks, maybe

Some data points suggest that the $200 fee codes as travel, so you may be able to use your credit card’s travel credits to cover the fee. Otherwise, you can earn 10x points per dollar when you use the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

Exclusive Invitation: IHG Royal Ambassador Status

Although you can buy IHG Ambassador status, IHG Royal Ambassador Status is by invitation only. IHG rewards their most loyal guests with this top-tier elite status based on an undisclosed formula that factors in qualified activities at Kimpton, InterContinental, Regent and participating Six Senses locations.

IHG Royal Ambassador status is based on a calendar year and includes the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed two category room upgrade.

  • Free night at any IHG property up to 70,000 points.

  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. check-out and 10 a.m. check-in.

  • Club InterContinental lounge access.

  • Complimentary weekend night.

  • Automatic IHG Spire Elite status.

  • Complimentary minibar up to $50 per day.

  • Premium internet.

  • Choice of snack or fruit.

  • 24-hour room guarantee.

  • Waived destination and amenity fees.

  • Single room rate for double occupancy.

  • Invitation to Kimpton Inner Circle.

The complimentary weekend night is good for 12 months from the date of issue, and is valid on the second night of a minimum two-night stay over a weekend. The weekend night can be redeemed at any InterContinental hotel around the world, except InterContinental Alliance Resorts.

Benefits of IHG Royal Ambassador status are only available at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. However, the benefits you receive as part of your automatic IHG Spire Elite will apply to your stays at all other IHG brand properties. Through Dec. 31, 2021, IHG Ambassador benefits are also available at participating Regent Hotels & Resorts.

The bottom line

Is IHG Ambassador status worth it? Travelers who frequent InterContinental Hotels & Resorts should invest in IHG Ambassador status. It provides exclusive perks when staying at InterContinental hotels, plus automatic IHG Platinum Elite to receive benefits at other IHG brands.

Although Ambassador status costs $200 or 40,000 points per year, the benefits outweigh the cost. Simply redeeming the complimentary weekend night should cover that upfront investment, and that’s even before factoring in other perks like room upgrades, $20 in dining credits per stay and guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out.

For IHG members who don’t typically stay at InterContinental properties, you can receive the same Platinum Elite status automatically by having the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. With an annual fee of $89 and an annual free night, it is the better deal for you.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Underrated Reasons Why You Need an Orbitz Rewards Visa Card

If you’re a travel enthusiast or have ever booked a hotel stay online, then you’ve probably come across the virtual booking platform, Orbitz.

The company’s loyalty program, Orbitz Rewards, offers plenty of travel benefits, many of them well-known. But did you know that you can get even more value out of your Orbitz bookings by adding the Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card to your wallet?

Here are a few underrated reasons you might want to sign up for this no-annual-fee travel credit card.

But first: The well-known reasons

There are several reasons to get the Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card whether or not you’re already a loyal Orbitz customer.

The card includes perks like:

  • Earn more Orbucks on every booking and purchase: With the Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card, you can earn even more, including up to 9% back in Orbucks on eligible hotels and activities booked in the Orbitz app.

  • 5% back in rewards on other eligible Orbitz purchases: This includes cruise bookings.

  • 2% back in rewards on all other purchases: For non-Orbitz purchases, you’ll still earn a solid rate back on your everyday spending.

The underrated reasons

Other benefits and perks that come with this card are buried a little farther down in the details or aren’t so well publicized, but they make it even more attractive.

No annual fees or foreign transaction fees

Feel free to travel the world with your card, because no matter where you use it, you won’t incur foreign transaction fees on your purchases. You also won’t pay an annual fee for this rewards card.

Automatic Gold status

Cardholders’ Orbitz Rewards accounts will automatically be upgraded to Gold status, so you’ll receive all the perks that come along with it, such as Wi-Fi, breakfast and benefits at VIP Access properties. And you’ll maintain Gold status as long as you make at least one purchase on the card every 12 months.

Attractive welcome bonus

Receive a $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 with your Orbitz Rewards® Visa® in the first 90 days of account opening. This is a nice discount for a future hotel stay.

Travel insurance coverage

Lost and stolen bags are covered up to $3,000 when you use the card to book travel. The card also covers you in the case of accidental death or dismemberment on travels if you paid for your bookings with it. These perks can offer peace of mind for your next vacation.

Free trial of Clear (and a discount afterward)

Cardholders can enjoy a free six-month trial of Clear for faster security checkpoints at the airport, then a $60 discount on automatic renewal afterward (usually $179).

Orbucks less likely to expire

While most Orbucks expire after 12 months, as long as you use your Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card at least once every 12 months, your Orbucks will stay in your account where they belong. This perk is available only to cardholders.

Free upgrades

Cardholders can get room upgrades for free at Visa® Signature luxury hotels, not to mention exclusive discounts at various retailers. This perk makes it possible to take your stay to the next level for less.

The bottom line

The Orbitz Rewards® Visa® Card offers more to cardholders than initially meets the eye. While you do have to be fairly loyal to the Orbitz booking platform (and app) to get the most out of the card, the extra Orbucks can add up quickly and mean real cash off of future bookings.

Between the statement credit, room upgrade options, travel insurance coverage and ability to keep your hard-earned Orbucks in your account — all for no annual fee — this card is an underrated option for those who regularly book hotels and activities through Orbitz.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Hard Truths About What to Pack as a Digital Nomad

The pandemic has transformed nomadism from an idea into a reality for many. And whether you’re just daydreaming about hitting the road full time or already doing it, you might have some questions. Where can you go? How do you pay taxes? And what should you pack?

I’ve been living as a digital nomad for over three years. In that time, I’ve lived overseas, with my friends, in the back of a van and, yes, with my parents (any digital nomad who says otherwise can’t be trusted). I’ve learned a few lessons about what to pack and, more importantly, what to leave behind.

Yet the term “digital nomad” is as vague as it is trendy. Some nomads hop constantly among remote beach towns. Others live in RVs and stay closer to home. And others embrace the “slomad” approach, spending more time and putting down roots in each destination.

So, we’ll break down our packing ideas by how you’re planning to travel and also cover some hard truths about what to leave off your list.

All digital nomads

Whether you’re headed to Bali or Birmingham, every digital nomad needs some essentials.

Pack

  • High-quality underwear. It might sound silly, but a pair of merino wool undies can be a game changer.

  • Good walking shoes. It’s a universally acknowledged truth that nomads tend to hit their step goals.

  • Packing cubes. I almost forgot to include this item, it’s so obvious.

Skip

  • Outfits. You know those shoes you can wear just with certain pants? Don’t bring those. You can pack only so many articles of clothing, so make sure they all go with one another.

  • Physical books. I love books, but an e-reader is a nomadic necessity.

  • Almost everything else. If you have a house or apartment full of stuff, you’ll be shocked how little of it you actually need on the road.

Nomads traveling by car, van or RV

Having a vehicle changes the nomad equation considerably. Not packing everything on your back, you’re much less constrained by weight and space. But, you need more to live and work comfortably.

Pack

  • Phone range extender. This device lets you call or video call into meetings from more remote locales, but keep in mind that it won’t work in areas with no cell service at all.

  • A very warm sleeping bag. Even if you’re not planning to sleep in your vehicle, you might have to at some point. And even if you’re in a warm destination, nights can be very cold.

  • An E-ZPass. Tollbooths are disappearing faster than office jobs.

Skip

  • A fancy backpack. Most packing lists for digital nomads obsess over getting the right backpack, but this is much less of a concern if you’re traveling by car.

  • Too much cookware. Camp cooking is fun, but cookware is bulky and cumbersome. Keep it simple.

  • Light-colored clothing. Don’t be fooled by Instagram influencers and their flowy beige linen tops. Living out of a vehicle is dirty work.

Nomads traveling by plane

This is the traditional digital nomad lifestyle. Keep things simple and light, and be willing to make mistakes. Course-correct if you don’t get it right on your first trip.

Pack

  • A good backpack. This is the biggest decision you’ll make, since everything else will have to fit in your pack. Do your research and don’t skimp.

  • One good power bank. During my first few years of digital nomadism, I packed about four mismatched low-quality power banks every trip, hoping one would have a charge. Learn from my mistakes and just get one good one that includes a charge indicator.

  • A clothesline. Get a cheap, packable clothesline for when you really need to wash your clothes in the sink.

Skip

  • Cotton. Cotton clothes are heavy, slow to dry and hard to clean. Wool is worth the premium.

  • More than two of (almost) anything. We’re so used to packing different clothes or gadgets for different occasions, but when you live out of a bag, it’s best to see how little you can make do with.

  • Bulky electronics. It’s tempting to bring a tablet, wireless speaker or SLR camera; these are not only heavy, but also easy to break.

The bottom line

This is far from an exhaustive digital nomad packing list. You’ll need more than a backpack and a pair of undies to make it — but not much more. Though potentially hard to swallow, let this serve as a starting place for inventorying your belongings if you’re considering this lifestyle.

The most important thing to remember is to keep it light, not only the physical weight of what you bring, but also your attitude toward packing. It will be much easier to tell what you can ditch — and what you need that you didn’t bring — after your first trip.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com