Sunday News Roundup 11/24/19: 10 Quick Takes On Travel; Phone Charging Scam, AMEX Loves Sapphire, Making Amtrak Great Again, Hyatt Private Island, And More

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Previous roundups:

Featured trip reports of the day:

  • DDF member and resident photographer Something Fishy shares in this short and sweet DDF trip report how he spent 36 hours on Hawaii’s Big Island shooting video for a tripod ad. The ad is great, but the pictures are even better. Mimi and I spent a week on the Big Island on our month-long Hawaiian honeymoon some 11 years ago and the pictures of Mauna Kea and Waipio Valley sure bought back some good memories!
Waipio Valley on Hawaii’s Big Island. Photo: Moishe Hersko
Sunrise in Waipio Valley on Hawaii’s Big Island. Photo: Moishe Hersko
Sunrise at Laupahoehoe Point on Hawaii’s Big Island. Photo: Moishe Hersko.


Rome’s Colosseum. Photo: Dan Eleff


Some stories and deals don’t get their own post, but should get some coverage. Here are some quick takes on stories that caught my eye. Click on the headline in each blurb to read the full article.

Think Twice Before You Charge Your Phone On The Road

I miss the days when I was able to travel with a spare battery for my phone that I could swap in. But those days are never coming back, thanks Steve Jobs.

I carry a power bank with me when I travel now. So should you.

Plugging into a USB charger leaves you exposed to malware. So-called juice jackers can gain access to your email and drain your financial accounts within minutes.

Another version of this scam is SIM-swapping, where a criminal manages to transfer your phone number onto their SIM card. That can be done through social engineering when calling a phone company if someone knows your name and number or it can be done by bribing a company employee. With many accounts able to be reset with a text message to your phone, hackers can access your email and drain your financial accounts. Using a phone number to gain account access may not be the best idea after all.

It’s a brave new world out there, it pays to take all the precautions you can take advantage of.

Think Twice Before Washing Your Hands On A Plane

It’s not much of a surprise to most people that water on a plane is not clean. Like, really really not clean.

But seriously though, get your coffee fix in before you board your flight.

Big bottles of water scare me ever since I saw a flight attendant refilling one with plane water. I always bring my own Hydroflask of ice water on a plane. (Life hack: You can bring ice or any frozen product through TSA screening).

But for whatever reason, it never occurred to me that I also shouldn’t wash my hands with water on a plane.

Current recommendations are to bring your own hand sanitizer onto a plane as it makes little sense to wash your hands with water that may be contaminated with E. coli or coliform.

At the very minimum, use the hand sanitizer after you wash your hands.

Do you avoid washing your hands on a plane?

AMEX Is Paying Big Bucks To Get Businesses To Accept Their Cards

AMEX has long been trying to catch up to Visa and Mastercard when it comes to card acceptance.

I know locally there were some stores that had registers that didn’t take AMEX year-round, but magically on Small Business Saturday they would be able to take AMEX cards.

The WSJ reports that AMEX is paying between $10,000 to $450,000 for businesses to start accepting AMEX card. They’re also pledging to match Mastercard and Visa fees.

Alas, the DansDeals ads department already accepts AMEX and the rates are in fact often lower than Mastercard and Visa.

But with these payouts, perhaps the day may be near when AMEX will be accepted everywhere you want to be?

AMEX Digs The Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The launch of the Sapphire Reserve brought some major changes to AMEX Platinum cards. The Consumer Platinum pumped up its air travel bonus to 5x and added Uber and Saks credits. The Business Platinum added a 50% points rebate (though that was trimmed back down to 35%) Dell credit and WeWork membership. The annual fees of both cards were hiked as well.

I was dubious about the changes, but they worked. While AMEX lost business when Sapphire Reserve was launched, they saw 60% growth increase after they added the new benefits. While the new benefit surely helped, AMEX also says the growth was thanks to millennials discovering the perks of Sapphire Reserve and hunting for other premium cards with big benefits.

With the cost of the Centurion card jumping to a whopping $5,000 per year, it sure seems like there’s an opportunity for a card laden with benefits and elite status at a cost of $1,000 per year or so. The only question is will Chase or AMEX get there first?

An Ex-Delta CEO Is Trying To Make Amtrak Great Again

Richard Anderson shook things up at Delta. The airline turned into an operational success and profit machine. It became so successful that it no longer felt the need to have a valuable mileage program, as people would fly them anyway.

This profile of Anderson and Amtrak is fascinating. If anyone knows how to fix Amtrak it’s likely Anderson, but he’s sure to anger train enthusiasts as much as he angered the mileage community.

When Uber Helicopter Is Cheaper Than A Car:

This reminds me of having to search for first class awards even when only desiring a coach award, as the first class award can be cheaper if it’s available as a saver award when the coach award isn’t available in saver class.

Uber has apparently been dynamically pricing their helicopter option cheaper than catching a car at times. That makes sense if they have the space on a helicopter that will otherwise go empty. And it’s a good reminder to check the pricing for all ride options!

Tesla has over 146K reservations for their Cybertruck:

Despite the awkward unveiling and epic fail when Tesla managed to break the armored glass:


Over 146K people put down $100 to get themselves on a waiting list for a Cybertruck, all without Tesla spending a dime on advertising.


Looks ugly to me, but I guess I’m not in the target market.


I know Elon is a big Atari fan, so is this based off the tank in Battlezone?



I’ve had my Model 3 for a year now and despite bumps along the road it’s truly a remarkable car. It gets new features every week via software updates and it’s unquestionably a superior car than the day I got it, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. Last week my car got 10% faster and got a convenient new hold mode that makes driving even more pleasurable. Not having to buy gas and support the regimes that export it is just a bonus compared to the thrill of hitting the accelerator on a Tesla. If you want one, the federal tax credit expires this year and you need to take delivery of the car by 12/31. You can use my referral link to also get free supercharging.

Even renting a luxury car that cost multiples times the Model 3, feels like stepping back into the stone age. Electric cars are the future of driving and Tesla has one giant lead, though their customer service issues will be what lets other companies catch up…one day.

Use your Hyatt points for a private island (Sort of)

The Calala Island is an SLH hotel that is now bookable with Hyatt points.

It’s advertised as a private island, and with just 4 rooms in the entire hotel, it sort of is. 3 of the 4 rooms are bookable with points. It certainly looks beautiful from the pictures.


The points value is incredible. Instead of paying $3,150/night:


You can use 40K Chase or Hyatt points, a value of 7.9 cents per point:


There are minimum stay requirements that vary based on the time of year, which makes hunting for award space a challenge.

The rate also includes the flight and boat transfers from Managua International Airport

Food and even alcoholic beverages are included, as are boats and snorkeling gear.

It’s not quite your own private island as there will be dozens of staff members around, but it sure does seem neat! As an all-inclusive hotel though you will lose out on some of the value if you keep kosher. C’est la vie.

Will you book a getaway to Calala Island?

A Royal Jordanian Nightmare?

One DansDeals reader shared this video of a Vlad, a Royal Jordanian ground agent in Tel Aviv, causing problems when a reader is trying to bring a carseat onboard for an infant booked as a lap child.


I’ve run into carseat issues on some airlines and I always buy a seat for my infant children because of stores like United flight 232. I’ve written about our airport strategy here.

I wouldn’t call this story a nightmare, as the reader writes that they did get a seat for a lap child due to the in-flight crew going to bat for them. Losing out on a dirt cheap business class trip to London and getting stuck in an airport overnight with your kids is closer to my idea of a nightmare. But it’s certainly scary to deal with agents like Vlad.

The reader played it right by taking a video of the incident. Having concrete video evidence always helps in case things go wrong, though it can escalate a situation like this. Another alternative is to record and hold the phone in your hand without the camera in the person’s face so that at least you get audio of the interaction.

We flew in first class to Buenos Aires using miles on American back when we had just one newborn. There was an empty seat, but the flight attendant said that they can’t just give a $20,000 seat to an infant for free and that we would have to hold Rafi. Mimi explained that Rafi wasn’t going to sleep if he wasn’t in a carseat, but that fell on deaf ears. At least until he cried and the flight attendant asked if he would be quiet if she gave him the seat…

But from then on I just buy a ticket for our infants. The savings isn’t worth the flight.

Have We Loved Frequent Flyer Miles To Death?

No surprises in this article. Mileage tickets cost more than they used to. Airlines are trying to tie the cost of award tickets to the price of a ticket in order to remove value from miles. Airlines are removing award charts to move towards dynamic pricing that keeps people in the dark.

The article blames credit card miles and airline consolidation, but surprisingly the article doesn’t mention using bank points, or Hybrid Points in DansDeals speak, in order to hedge against mileage inflation.

By doing that you can take advantage of outsized mileage values when they’re available, and of increased bank points value when miles are offering a poor value for travel.

Share your thoughts on these stories or post a comment about what other stories that I missed!

Leave a Reply

30 Comments On "Sunday News Roundup 11/24/19: 10 Quick Takes On Travel; Phone Charging Scam, AMEX Loves Sapphire, Making Amtrak Great Again, Hyatt Private Island, And More"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.


The “regime” you’re supporting when buying gas is that of the US, which is now energy self sufficient, and even an exporter, thanks to fracking. And how do you think the electricity that charges your car is generated.


Did he get any compensation from Royal jordanian?


What’s this about plane water??


@Dan and others,
I wasn’t raised observant. But have always wonder about this.

The “think twice before washing hands on board”. I’ve kinda of wonder how you performed netilat yadayim on longer international flights [carts and FA between seat and WC] as well as lie flat sleeping crossing IDL and upon rising. As well do you carry a ‘Go Wash’ type silconce collapsible cup ?

This provided a nice segue to ask you how you’ve observed and or the challenges of frum flying how you’ve observed on board, with bread, sleep, etc. I imagine you’ll still wash but use hand sanitizer post.

If I was observant and had a LOR I would ask, but it has impressed me with your BYOKM, as well as how you’ve overcome and helped out others with the challenges to fulfill the obligations.


Just putting it out there

As per my LOR it’s better to wash straight from the tap in the bathroom and make a Bracha outside bec the tap is a real keili and it’s not “mechubar l’karka” than to use plastic cups (even 2 of them)

Thanks for the deal

Dan, thanks as always for the thorough guidance. Two questions:
1. I have Chase Freedom and United cards and will sign up for three more. Any reason not to open one account in my name and one in my wife’s? Will we be able to pool the miles?
2. Any chance that the credit card companies and airlines “discontinue” these promotions and all of this is for naught?

All the best



Re: 24 Hour flight to nowhere – even with vouchers or CSR flight delay insurance – often it’s not worth the hassle of transferring to a hotel if an option or even available (fully booked) for a few hours or waiting for 6 hours to pass; worse if it is on a long Int’l layover and jet lagged or the endless reset of flight delay after delay.

Now we always travel with at least one for every two family members. Klymit Static V Ultralite SL Sleeping Pad about $50 from Amazon. The size of a bottled water 2.5″ x 6.5″ about 11.9oz 72″ x 20″ x 2.5″ also a youth size 50″L. A 15-20 min power nap can do wonders when you haven’t slept in 36+ hours. It’s hard for me to sleep if I’m not horizontal.

Ariel A.

Amtrak was never great to begin with, but hopefully Anderson will be able to correct some of the issues. The thing is that when you have a big and clunky beurocrazy (misspelled on purpose), it becomes really difficult to initiate any changes.


Link the thread where he posted the clip of royal Jordanian?


Hmmm.. First few roundup was more interesting. This is not the exact place where I go for safety tips etc. same goes for the rest. Tesla’s scoop was appealing though. I would say that no news is good news, and certainly better than boring news.
Just a piece of honest constructive critic.


From a enthusiastic follower, noteworthy to add.


OK boomer


For charging on the go, you can also use a port data blocker to protect yourself. These couplers strip out the data transmission lines and only allow power to your device.


Hey Dan, I recently booked the La Compagnie flight you posted from Newark (thanks!), then a Transavia flight from Orly to tlv. I saw that transavia is a subsidiary of KLM and allows you to book with flying blue miles, but I could not find an option to add my frequent flyer number in order to earn miles for the flight. I reached out to customer service and received a reply (via email) that it costs 5 Euros to add your flying blue number. Have you ever heard of such a practice? Frequent flyer programs are supposed to reward/encourage customer loyalty…


“…Another alternative is to record and hold the phone in your hand without the camera in the person’s face so that at least you get audio of the interaction.”

Smiling to myself. Made it!


That’s actually a great idea.


I wasn’t saying it’s not. I was smiling that my suggestion to Dan made it into his post.