At Max, we believe there’s an optimal way to do everything. Here are three of our favorite ways to optimize your time, your money, and your experience in-flight.
Debit cards bewilder us. Why have money debited directly from your bank account when credit card companies will happily give you an interest-free loan for upwards of 30 days? (Especially when you could earn 0.90% on that cash via Max?) Furthermore, credit cards offer rewards points or other bonuses that tend to deliver an effective rebate of approximately 1%. But these points differ by card, by merchant, and even by month of the year. Who has time to keep track of which card to use in each situation?
One way to optimize your credit card points is to sign up with Wallaby, which essentially chooses the right card for you on a per-transaction basis. The service helps you figure out which card makes the most sense when you shop online. A smartphone app does this for you on the fly, so you can decide which card to pull out when you’re in a store or restaurant.
Soon, the company promises, the Wallaby Card will launch, with a single card to carry in your wallet. In the background, this card is linked to all of your existing credit cards, so when you swipe the Wallaby card in a store or at a restaurant, the Wallaby system will automatically route the purchase to the most logical one of your credit cards.
In our testing, Wallaby seems to prefer our Starwood Amex Preferred Guest card for most purchases. This is because the points this card generates can be redeemed at Starwood hotels globally, with no blackout dates. In many cases, this delivers substantially more than the industry-standard penny-per-point of value. But for some stores, seasonal bonuses put other cards ahead, and Wallaby makes the smart choice.
A great way to optimize your time is with this ride-hailing service. It’s ideal for anyone who needs to get somewhere urgently. By avoiding the hassle of hailing taxis — especially in places where it’s impossible to flag down a yellow cab — you reach your destination quicker and with less stress. Team Max recently tested Uber after a New York City charity benefit on the U.S.S. Intrepid, the warship-turned-museum anchored off Manhattan’s West Side Highway. It’s a notoriously tough place to grab a cab, but our Uber pulled up just a few minutes after we used the Uber app to reach out for a car. We’ve had similar results recently in Chicago and Boston — where UberX, which uses regular cars instead of taxis or livery cars, is considerably less expensive than cab fare yet offers better customer service, more convenient invoicing and greater transparency.
Using the app means that you can request a car at any time, see the driver’s photo and ratings, watch on an animated map as your car approaches, and then follow the route on your phone as you sit in the back. You can even send a link to a friend or relative and let them track your ride — perfect for trying to anticipate when a friend will arrive from the airport, or to ensure your teenager makes it to her destination safely. After your ride is done, your credit card of choice is automatically billed and you receive an itemized receipt by email.
The Uber network is fanning out around the world. This summer, the company is offering cars between New York City and the Hamptons as well as the Jersey Shore. Ubers are also available in each of the New York-area beach resorts. For a July 4th weekend promotion, Uber worked with Blade, a helicopter service, to shuttle revelers between Manhattan and the Hamptons, with Uber cars to run passengers to and from the helipads. Cost per 5-passenger copter: $2500 each way.
Do you care deeply about where you sit on a plane? You should. In the same fare-class cabin, there’s a vast difference between a flight when you can be productive (or relaxed) and one where you’re crammed into a middle seat next to the restroom. Amenities like power outlets, wifi, and overhead luggage space matter. If you know where to look, you can make sure you’re getting as many benefits as you can for the airfare you’ve purchased.
Seat Guru is the savvy traveler’s go-to website to understand how differences in planes, routes, and airlines will affect your trip. It’s worth your while to check this site before you select your seat (or have your assistant factor in Seat Guru recommendations when booking each flight). Travel is about serendipity, but the fewer surprises on your flight, the better. SeatGuru tells you exactly what to expect on a given flight based on the model of aircraft scheduled to be flown, and rates each seat by comfort level and amenities.
Seat Guru is smart and helps optimize your experience in-flight. It matches up airline schedules with aircraft configurations and tracks which seats fully recline, which have power outlets, and — if you’re stuck on an old 757 that doesn’t have seat-back in-flight entertainment — which seats are within easy view of the centralized TV screens. More importantly, you’ll know whether your seat is a bulkhead seat (tradeoff: more legroom vs. no stowage for your laptop) and whether you’re situated next to the galley. Even in First and Business, where the seats tend to be more uniform, you can find out whether your British Airways seat to London faces forward or backward, whether your lie-flat seat offers 180 degrees of recline, or a skimpy 170 degrees, and whether your pod has individual access to the aisle.
Smart seat selection is the difference between a productive flight and a miserable redeye. Seat Guru can help.
The Max Blog is purely editorial, not advertising. We showcase products, destinations, and solutions we think Max members will find useful. Max does not receive compensation for mentions on the Max blog.
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