Taxation without representation and hotel points 7

Just read an article by my friend James over at RetirementSavvy  on the fairness of taxes. I think I lean the same way. This year I paid zero in US taxes and feel a little guilty about that (I’ll write about this one later) but for some reason my old homestead, The Netherlands, took some of my hard earned money, 19 years after I left it. Talk about taxation without representation.

This year my Dutch passport expired. No big deal, I’ll hop over to the consulate in Chicago (one town over) and get it like I did 5 years ago. I wish, as part of spending cuts in the Netherlands (everyone was hit by the recession) they stopped issuing passports in several of the Dutch consulates. I had to appear in person in Washington DC, Miami or San Francisco.

So what would that cost me?

  • Passport fees: $140.00
  • Shipping fee (when completed): $20.00
  • Single day round trip to Washington DC: $503.00
  • Taxi: $140.00
  • Food: $25.00

Total cost for renewing my passport: $828.00

That’s right, simply renewing my passport would cost me over $800.00. What do I get for that? I guess the privilege to travel but that is about it. Unfortunately, I need that privilege as most of my relatives still live there. Family first ,then …..

I certainly hope that all Dutch expats in the US are doing really well. I am, but being retired and living on a tight budget this still represents a lot of money.

Did I settle for that? No, I actually turned this into something great (and surprisingly not much more expensive). Instead of flying out on my own to Washington DC, we decided to make this a road trip. A family of 4 packed in the Prius for a 6 day trip from Milwaukee to Washington DC. It had been many years since Mrs MI10 was there and it’s important for the kids to visit such a great place.

How did I turn a one person trip to DC for over $800 into a 6-day vacation for four into an endeavor that ended up maybe a $40.00 more? It’s all about the hotel points. Bet you were wondering when those came in.

My former career as consultant meant I spent half of my first 17 years in the States on planes and in hotels. Out on Monday, back on Friday. My air-miles were depleted during our last vacation to the Netherlands but I still had loads of hotel points. Mostly from my previous stays but also lots from my affiliated credit card.

Here is what the trip for 4 ended up costing us:

  • tolls: $74.54
  • 2 nights stay Doubletree Cleveland: $0.00 (actual price $272.00)
  • 3 nights Embassy Suites DC: $0.00 (actual price $1,053.00)
  • parking: $114.00 (not covered by points)
  • Passport fees: $140.00
  • Shipping fee passport (when completed): $20.00
  • metro passes: $124.00
  • Food: $329.56 (bit steep at $66/per day)
  • Gas: $69.00 (that’s right 1600 miles at 44 miles/gallon. Go Hybrid)
  • All the great sites: FREE (Washington DC is awesome to visit)

Total cost for our 6 day road trip to DC:  $871.10

Cost without hotel points would have been: $2,196.10. Hotel points saved me $1,325.00.

Point of this article? Well first and foremost: Whenever you stay at a hotel, sign up for their loyalty program. Every point left behind is money wasted.  Being a fan of credit cards, I even get thousands of hotel points without a single night’s stay.

Secondly, I guess it is expensive to be Dutch but that won’t apply to most of you.

Thirdly, the road trip explains the absence of new posts in the last 2 weeks (well that and 2016-04-04 11.55.43the fact I completed my self-made 3D printer. If you think it’s done when you built it, you’re sorely mistaken. It takes a lot of calibration. but I digress).



Good luck reaching your financial goals.

feature photo source


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About Maarten van Lier

Maarten came to this country with a suitcase and a diploma. He created a financial plan and goal to become a millionaire in 10 years. He successfully turned his financial goals into reality, wrote a book about it and now blogs actively in hope of inspiring other to do the same.

7 thoughts on “Taxation without representation and hotel points

  • James

    Good, good stuff. Thanks for the mention and I’m glad you took the time to stop by and check out the post. Nice job of turning what might be lemons into lemonade with respect to your road trip.

    As someone that travels frequently, I am all over airline and hotel membership programs. In fact, I’m super close to achieving Lifetime Platinum with Marriott, my preferred hotel chain.

    Here is a picture from our most recent stay at a Marriott property, the Ritz Carlton in Arizona:

    Late Afternoon Snack … Drinks A photo posted by @retirementsavvy on Mar 4, 2016 at 2:22pm PST

    The printer is looking good, my friend!

    • Maarten van Lier Post author

      Room with a view (and a drink), those are the best. I used to be a Hilton guy myself. For us, with little kids, it’s pretty much all about the pool. I learned early on not to skip any programs. I initially thought, well I’ll never be back at Kimpton again. That is, until I was, at which point I missed out on hundreds if not thousands of points. I’m close to 2 years in retirement now so many of my points are running out. Glad I had them and I will certainly miss them.

      • James

        I travel quite a bit in my current job and hence my big push to cross the Lifetime Platinum – Marriott’s highest level – goal line before I retire.

  • Mark

    I love my hotel points as much as I love my airline points. One note, being special matters. I used to sign up for any hotel program, but consolidated to Marriott about 10 or 12 years ago. They now earn faster (I get bonuses) and I get specials along with special treatment even when traveling on points. I turned points into 2 weeks in Hawaii… saved way more than $1,300 🙂 and a few years later 2 weeks at the Grand Flora in Rome… again, huge savings. Makes me happy.

    • Maarten van Lier Post author

      Hey Mark, thx. It seems Marriott is getting the preference here. I happened to have Hilton’s close and kinda stuck with them. My very first IPad was bought using Hilton points (that was long before the kids). Other than through my credit card use I’m no longer collecting a lot of points (that’s good and bad). We did make it to the Bahamas once, all on points. They say nothing in life is free but points sure make it feel that way.

    • James

      I was working quite a bit in Hawaii a few years ago and had accumulated a lot of points with American Airlines and of course, my Marriott points. On a trip that covered the period of my wife and brother’s birthdays – only one day apart – I flew them both over strictly on American points and got my brother a room on Marriott points. A sweet, low-cost, vacation!

      • Maarten van Lier Post author

        That’s awesome. Are you sure you want to retire? Hawaii could get me back to work. I do like the fact that these rewards are transferable to (or at least to be used for) friends and family.

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