Chase Freedom Second Quarter 2014 Bonus Categories Are Live!

The 2nd quarter of 2014 is upon us so that means a plethora of new bonuses and maybe some shuffling of spend.

As I wrote 2 weeks ago, the bonus categories are restaurants and Lowe’s home improvement stores.

You will receive 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent in the bonus categories, up to $1,500 in spend.

The 2nd quarter bonus runs from April 1 – June 30, 2014.

If you haven’t already activated your Chase Freedom for this quarter, activate it here.

Chase has definitely created exclusive agreements between certain retailers – Lowe’s for home improvement, Starbucks for coffee shops, etc. If you happen to like shopping at Home Depot or other home improvement stores, look into my post about this quarter’s Discover IT bonus categories.

Hawaiian Mileage Run: Ono Grinds

TRIP INDEX

One of the best parts of Hawaii… fine, one of the best parts of ANY trip is the food, also known as ono grinds (“delicious food”). Since this was our fifth time to Oahu, we were pretty well versed in the food offerings on the island.

There are a few staples that we MUST have whenever we come to Oahu – L & L, Rainbow Drive In, Side Street Inn, the North Shore shrimp trucks. Simple food but classically Hawaiian stuff.

Everyone loves food pictures (well at least I do) so this is just a post of da grinds we had on our quick trip.

Joann and I happily recommend each one of the dishes/places that gets a post here!

Shio Ramen - Ramen Nakamura

Shio Ramen – Ramen Nakamura

Spam & Eggs - Eggs 'N Things

Spam & Eggs – Eggs ‘N Things

Macadamia Nut Pancakes - Eggs 'N Things

Macadamia Nut Pancakes – Eggs ‘N Things

Chili & Loco Moco Plate Lunch - Rainbow Drive In

Chili & Loco Moco Plate Lunch – Rainbow Drive In

Kalua Pork Plate - Kono's

Kalua Pork Plate – Kono’s

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck

Romy's Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp!

Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp!

Spicy Chicken - Side Street Inn

Spicy Chicken – Side Street Inn

Fried Rice - Side Street Inn

Fried Rice – Side Street Inn

Pork Chops - Side Street Inn

Pork Chops – Side Street Inn

Loco Moco / Tasty Chicken Plate - The Alley

Loco Moco / Tasty Chicken Plate – The Alley

Ox Tail Soup - The Alley

Ox Tail Soup – The Alley

Ted's Bakery

Ted’s Bakery

Lemon Crunch Cake - The Alley

Lemon Crunch Cake – The Alley

Mistake to Madrid: Conclusion

TRIP INDEX

After the most painful flight we’ve ever taken, Joann and I were happy to at least bypass a pretty long line at Immigration thanks to Global Entry.

I’ll say it every time I mention it, get Global Entry! It only costs $100 for just over 5 years and is a savior when returning home from an international trip.

Also, since most domestic airlines are now implementing it with TSA PreCheck and the Trusted Traveler Program, it could save you a LOT of time at security.

Anyway, after waiting a long time for our bags (~45 minutes), we were picked up by my parents who were, coincidentally, flying to the Philippines later that day.

So instead of fighting back and forth with NYC traffic, we decided to hang around Queens and grab some grub before dropping them back off at JFK for their flight.

Nan Xiang Dumpling House

Nan Xiang Dumpling House (photo courtesy of Yelp)

If you want some good Chinese food by JFK, head to Queens! Nan Xiang Dumpling House is only 10 miles from JFK. It should only be 15 minutes but who knows with the nasty Van Wyck traffic.

Good, cheap, and fast Chinese food. The highlights are awesome xiao long bao (soup dumplings), tasty scallion pancakes, and crispy pan fried noodles. I think the bill for the 4 of us was around $50. Cash only.

Side Note

I mentioned before that my parents were flying to the Philippines. Months before, I had booked them in an all Business Class trip from JFK to Frankfurt to Bangkok to Manila for 2 months with a return via Seoul.

They would get to experience Lufthansa, Thai Airways on the new A380, and Asiana Airlines. It would be their first trip in Business Class together!

Thai Airways New A380 Business Class

Thai Airways New A380 Business Class (photo courtesy of Airbus)

In case you’re wondering, a trip to Asia in Business Class will set you back 120k United miles. They each racked up these miles by signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, United MileagePlus Explorer, and, gasp(!), actually flying!

They’ve since returned from that trip and told me it was a great experience. “Too much food!” I was glad to hear it.

Conclusion

To recap our short trip to Madrid, overall I’d give it a B.

It was a cheap fare. The flights were OK. The hotel was off the hook! The city itself had both historical and modern touches to it.

It gave us enough to do for 2.5 days. Anything more and I think we would have looked to venture to surrounding towns for day trips or visited another city totally like Barcelona or Seville.

Speaking of the mistake fare that got us this trip in the first place, I have to reiterate that you must act fast for mistake fares like that.

Follow me either on here, Twitter, or Facebook and I’ll be sure to update you when the latest fare alerts break. Hopefully, your next trip can be like our Mistake to Madrid for $284!

inside museo del jamon

Reminder: Chase Sapphire First Fridays 3x Points

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Reminder!

This is just a reminder that today is the first Friday of June and, through the end of the year, every first Friday of the month offers 3x points on Dining when you use your Chase Sapphire or Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card!

I wrote about this several weeks ago when Chase first announced it. It’s just a little bump in bonus points from the usual 2x you’d earn from using your Sapphire Preferred for Dining purchases.

Ways to Take Advantage of This Promotion

I personally don’t like going out to eat on busy weekends. What I’ll probably do is visit a restaurant that I plan on eating at in the future and just buy a gift certificate from them using my Sapphire Preferred card. That way, I can avoid all the crowds of the weekend and still earn the 3x points on today’s promotion.

I know it might be hard to find a restaurant you like that actually has their own gift cards (aside from chain restos), but it’s worth a shot.

Then again, the simplest way is to just go out for a nice meal and pay for it with your Sapphire!

OpenTable

Again, Chase is running this promotion with OpenTable, but you do not have to use it in order to get the bonus.

See my original post for some information on OpenTable and why it’s a nice rebate if you go out to eat a lot.

Mistake to Madrid: Food in Madrid

TRIP INDEX

Food in Madrid

When people think of food in Madrid, they think of jamón, tapas, and wine. At least, that’s what we thought of initially. While that might pigeonhole a destination, there’s nothing with pointing out the bright spots of a city!

Like any major city, there were places to grab a quick bite and also places where you could sit down and have a masterfully crafted meal. Joann and I usually like to experience a bit of both whenever we go anywhere.

Museo del Jamón

Museo del jamón

Museo del jamón

As I said before in a previous post, this was THE first thing we ate in Madrid. It was on our way from the subway stop to the Westin Palace. If you visit Madrid, you must visit one of their handful of locations.

It’s a great place to stand at the bar, have a 1 Euro beer (that come with free mini sandwiches) and eat some Spanish ham. Is it the best quality stuff? Of course not, but for the price, there’s no reason you shouldn’t pop in every time you pass one.

Jamón y queso bocadillo

Jamón y queso bocadillo

Jamón ibèrico from Museo del Jamòn

Jamón ibèrico

Bodega de la Ardosa

Bodega de la Ardosa

Bodega de la Ardosa

This was on the radar when I was doing some research. When Anthony Bourdain paid the authentic and very old venue a visit on No Reservations, that helped push it to the top of the list.

It’s a very small bar that is all standing room only. To get to the back section, you have to duck under the bar, right past the bartenders. Weird, and I never would have known that if I didn’t read some reviews.

Salmorejo

Salmorejo

Croquetas de jamón y queso

Croquetas de jamón y queso

Amazing tortilla de patata

Amazing tortilla de patata

This was another great stop for some small bites and more vino. The service is quick and you should brush up on your Spanish a little bit.

Chocolatería San Ginés

Chocolate con churros

Chocolate con churros

Another Madrileño institution, Chocolatería San Ginés started serving this beautiful snack in 1894. It’s so simple but also delicious.

The churros are the perfect texture, especially when you get them right out of the fryer. The hot chocolate is so rich and decadent, definitely unlike any hot chocolate you’d get in the US. Its viscosity is almost that of melted chocolate bars, perfect for dipping hot churros.

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel is another tourist spot of Madrid. It was definitely worth a visit.

It is set up as a large market with many vendors throughout. If you can’t find something great to eat in here, you must be doing it wrong. We started off with some paella, which was delicious. The toasty socarrat was definitely my favorite part; the rice, most importantly, was cooked perfectly.

Paella y vino

Paella y vino

The market isn’t cheap by any means. The picture above was about 5 Euros; I guess that’s not terrible considering that wine came with it as well.

Various fish tapas

Various fish tapas

The bites above were pretty awesome as they were only 1 Euro apiece. Plenty of flavor for a 2-bite snack.

My favorite part of the Mercado de San Miguel was definitely the jamón ibèrico. It was amazingly, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It was definitely leaps and bounds ahead of Museo del Jamón in terms of quality.

I wish I could take that pig leg home!

I wish I could take that pig leg home!

Beautiful jamón ibèrico

Beautiful jamón ibèrico

Le Cabrera

The restaurant so nice we went there twice! Yes, this has actually never happened before. We’ve never gone back to a pricey restaurant on such a short trip, but Joann and I felt that the creativity and quality of food warranted a return visit.

A classically trained French chef, fluent in French, Spanish, and English was very passionate about the food that night (and I’m sure every night). Chef Ben was eager to explain each dish to us and you could feel the sense of pride beaming from him as he served us each course.

We dined at the bar, which was right in front of the kitchen, and I’m glad we did. We were able to see each part of the meal come together and the care with which each part of the dish was created. It was a really great culinary experience!

Pan con tomate & anchoas w/passion fruit vinaigrette

Pan con tomate & anchoas w/passion fruit vinaigrette

Rabbit risotto

Rabbit risotto

Falafel w/house made mustard

Falafel w/house made mustard

I forgot the name of this dish but it was eggplant with some creme fraiche... second best dish!

I forgot the name of this dish but it was eggplant with some creme fraiche… second best dish!

Bombon de carne w/caramelized foie gras & truffle cream... #1!

Bombon de carne w/caramelized foie gras & truffle cream… the reason we came back!

"Cheesecake" in a mason jar

“Cheesecake” in a mason jar