Monthly Archives: February 2019

I Added Another Credit Card to my Portfolio

I didn’t think I would.  I told myself I wouldn’t.  But I did.  I added another credit card to my already quite full portfolio of cards.  I wanted to get to a point where I would be below 5/24 for Chase credit cards but I succumbed.  I applied for and was approved for the Citi Rewards+ Mastercard. Screen Shot 2019-02-24 at 9.22.57 PM

I applied and was approved and promptly entered the approval date on my Excel spreadsheet that I wrote about a few days ago.

What made me do it?  This is: Screen Shot 2019-02-24 at 8.23.38 PM

I have other credit cards that give me more points at gas stations but for those smaller purchases, or purchases that makes sense rounding up it would be perfect and give me more points!

Now when I go to McDonald’s to get a $1.00 Coca Cola, Citi will round up my purchase so that I get 10 points instead of one!  The points that this card gives me are Thank You points and they can be redeemed for basically airline points.  For many of them they are airlines that aren’t as easy to find transfer partners.  Follow this link to see the partners.

I have another Citi card, the Citi Premier,  that gives me Thank You points and it will be nice to add to them.

I do not earn anything by writing about which cards I apply for nor do I have a link for you other than a public one. Here is the public link 

Are you thinking of adding any cards?  What are you looking for in your next card?

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Keeping Track of your Credit Cards and your Points

I have a very good memory.  Ask my husband, my friends and they will tell you that also.  It’s at times a little irritating that they will say to me “How do you remember that” and I’m thinking “How do you NOT remember that”.  No special trick.  It’s a blessing and a curse because I just can’t forget, particularly if I have been hurt.

Back to the subject at hand.  When I first began this hobby of collecting credit cards, points, miles I never wrote anything down.  I just remembered when I signed up for a card.  For those that are unfamiliar when you sign up for a credit card you are given so many days in which to do a minimum send to get the points/miles that they are dangling in front of you enticing you to sign up for the card in the first place.  What I didn’t know then was that it was the date you were approved for the card, nor the date you received the card nor the date you activated the card.  Also at that time, if you had closed a card, you could reapply for a new card and new bonus after the card had been closed for a year or two.  This is where I got myself into trouble.

I had an American Express Gold card.  I did the minimum spend, received the points, kept it open for eleven months and then closed it.  A year later I applied again, did the minimum spend and never received the bonus points.  I called AmEx up and asked “What’s up , why no points?”  Turns out that when I reapplied I was ten days short of it being two years since I closed the account.  I was angry but more at myself.  I wasn’t quite still a rookie but just relied on my memory – which let me down this time.  Vowing to never, ever let that happen to me again I knew that I had better come up with a system so I could record everything.

I developed, with the help of Blogger Hubby, an Excel Spreadsheet.  Going down the first row I listed the credit cards I had, the next row over I wrote the date I was approved for the credit card.  I then had the card number, security code and the expiration date.  The next row was in red and it was the close date.  The next rows were the different point currencies I had like UR (Ultimate Rewards), MR (Membership Rewards), UAL, SW, Delta, AA, Alaska, Flying Blue, etc.  I then began with the Hotels like Hyatt, Hilton, Radisson, Marriott, etc.  Finally, it was the credit cards that gave me cash back such as Arrival.  When that section was down for all my cards with the information we did another section for Blogger Hubby’s cards.  We listed his, date approved, card number, etc.  Through the formula that Blogger Hubby came up with excel was able to combine all the UR points that Blogger Hubby and I had individually and together.  The same for the other currencies.  At the far right corner Excel was able to total all the points and miles we have across the board.  I know that Award Wallet can do a lot of it for you but for me this works great.  I can see both of our accounts at once, I see totals for the individual points (like United) as well as the points combined for United.  I also like seeing the combined points that we have for all of our cards and loyalty accounts – makes me feel rich.  Here is part of my spreadsheet with my information deleted (hopefully). 

Never again will I not be eligible for a bonus due to a mistake I made.  What do you do to stay organized?

Which Travel Books Do You Use?

When Blogger Hubby and I begin to travel we use a lot of different resources to help us plan our trip.  Of course, the internet is a big help for us and we rely on it but for some really basic help we use guide books?  Do you use them and if so what are your favorites?

My kids love the Lonely planet and I tried using those books but I just didn’t connect with them.  Must be an age difference between us.  We have found that the Rick Steves series is just perfect for us and our style of travel.  I almost want to call it travel for dummies.

As some of you may realize from reading my blog posts, Blogger Hubby and I prefer to use local public transportation to get around.  While in Copenhagen a few years ago we felt that we needed to get out of the city and there were many places that we were told to visit.  These locations were about an hour or so outside of the city.  We walked to the train station, purchased our tickets and sat back to wait for our stop.  You may wonder why I am telling you all of this when I’m writing about travel books?  The answer is simple.  Reading in the Rick Steves book about the location we were going to, he gave explicit directions.  He wrote that when we walked out to turn left, look for the TI office and then turn left again.  Yes, we could have found it on the map but it was so easy just to read it from the book.

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Mr. Steves gives, in my opinion, very good recommendations on hotels to stay in.  We used one of his in Lyon and we most likely would have never found or considered it but it was perfect.  Great location, friendly staff and clean.  The only slightly negative, and it is really meaningless, is that the furniture was outdated and older.  The price we paid was very good compared with what other hotels were charging and our excellent location.  He didn’t overwhelm us with too many hotel recommendations.

We find the same thing when looking through his tour books for restaurant recommendations.  There are usually so many around that it gets a little overwhelming.  We just turn to Rick.Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 11.24.40 PM

I have seen his travel shows on PBS and before we took our first trip to Europe we went to the public library for some travel books and DVDs.  We brought the DVD home for Germany and it was so outdated and if I remember correctly, it was in black and white.  It was very disappointing to me.  A few years ago on his website and Facebook page, he had a sale of his set of DVDs.  Apparently he was updating them and the sale price was fantastic.  I ended up purchasing and donating a set for our public library. The librarians were delighted to get this addition to their DVD collection.

I have actually sailed with Rick on one of my cruises.  He had never written bout cruising and that fall we did the Western Med on one cruise line and did the Eastern Med on a different cruise line (the one I was on).  He came and spoke to our Meet and Greet with Cruise Critic and was very impressed with our very active Roll Call.  What I remember best is everywhere we went in Istanbul, Rick would show up about 15 minutes later including where we went for lunch.  I knew that day we had hit all the good spots.

Enough about Rick, what guide books do you use?

 

A New Roof Almost Gave me a Round Trip to Europe – My Strategy

I’m always on the lookout to get more points for my husband and I to travel.  My friends good-naturedly make fun of me when I even charge my .99 cent Coca Cola with the credit card that gives me 3 times points for dining.  Rather than get one point, I’ll get three.  I know that doesn’t sound like much but as my grandmother used to say “Watch your pennies and the dollars will follow.”  I feel the same way about my points.

With all the rain that we have had here in the Mid-Atlantic area my roof developed two leaks.  While I was initially disappointed that we would have to spend a lot of money, I decided to turns those lemons into lemonade.  How could I get points for getting a new roof?

All roofers here want cash and I could purchase VISA gift cards and convert them into money orders to pay the roofers but I wanted more than one point per dollar.

I called Lowes to get an estimate of what the roof would cost us.  Since we had two skylights in the roof, we decided that we would replace those as well.  We did that because we learned when a few years earlier that when a skylight on a separate roofline cracked that you have to replace the roof when you replace the skylight.  These skylights on the main portion of the roof are about 20 years old so replacing them seemed like a prudent thing to do.

The estimate came to about eleven thousand dollars. We signed the contact to have Lowes do the roofing and replacing of the two skylights and we added into the contract that we would be paying with Lowes gift cards.

First thing I thought of was my need to purchase as many Lowes gift cards that I could.  I went into my friendly Staples with a bag of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to give to the store manager.  He knows what I do and does help me.  He gave me all the gift cards he had.  He then offered to stop at another Staples near his home and take what they had and bring them to his store for me to purchase.  These purchases were with my Chase Ink Business credit card which give me 5 times points on anything I purchase at an office supply store and that includes gift cards.

With the gift cards that I had, I was still short about four thousand dollars.  I decided to go to a Staples about 45 minutes away but before I went, I called and asked if they had any Lowes gift cards and how many they had.  The manager said he had plenty and not to sorry about it.  I arrive at that store and went directly to the gift cards.  The manager came over and asked if I was the one he spoke with.  Unfortunately they only had about two thousand dollars worth of gift.  The manager asked why I didn’t just supplement what I needed with VISA gift cards.  When I mentioned that they had a $6.95 activation fee he offered to waive the fee on the remaining amount that I needed.  Wow, I never had that happen before and it was about $70 that he was waiving.

I spent the morning before going in to Lowes to pay, scrapping off the silver strip that covered up the pin number so that would not hold us up at the register.  I had 97 gift cards so that took awhile.

A register was saved to do just my order.  It took about 45 minutes to enter all the gift cards and by the time it came to print out the receipt, the register froze.  Apparently it had timed out.  The poor sales lady had to call tech support and they wanted her to credit back each gift card which she refused to do.  They were able to look further and see in their records that the gift cards were applied and that my sale was paid – they just didn’t have a receipt for me.  I easily solved that by having the store manager write on my order form that my order was paid in full, sign it and date it.

Thought this took awhile, I ended up with 55,000 Ultimate Reward points, almost an economy flight.

I’ve told this story several times and people are amazed at how many points I have and at times they seem envious.  Truth be told, I do put work into getting these points and in this experience with the roof, I spent time going to different stores to get the gift cards, scrapping off the silver strip, and spending about an hour and half at the store paying the the roof.  It wasn’t difficult, it just took time and many people couldn’t be bothered doing it.  If you want options when you travel, if you want free/discounted hotels, free flights, choice of economy or business/first then this is a hobby you should get into or at least a little more knowledgeable when yo make purchases like I did with my roof.  Rather than earning 11,000 points I earned 55,000.  It is relatively inexpensive to do what I do but it does take time – nothing is free and I’d rather spend my time than my money to go where I want and stay where I want.

What are your thoughts?

A Day Visit to Boston

I admit it.  I’m a tourist through and through even when visiting my “hometown” of Boston.  I recently had the opportunity to go back home when I was on a New England and Canadian Maritimes cruise.

When Blogger Friend and I docked in Boston on a warm Saturday morning with bright blue skies we decided to go off on our own rather than booking a tour with the cruise line.   I could do it easily since I was familiar with Boston but really anyone could do it.  For those not familiar with a city they are going to, google top attractions in Boston (for example).

Rather than take a Trolley Tour of Boston as many passengers decided to do, we decided to visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.  We walked out of the terminal and hopped into an awaiting taxi.  Being a Saturday morning, traffic wasn’t that bad.  It is about a $25 cab fare to the Library.  I did try Uber but the driver was unfamiliar with the cruise port and didn’t know where to find it or us.  Since taxis were already there, it was easy to get a ride in one.

The library is located on Columbia Point in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston.  You can get there by subway and shuttle bus but it was much easier and faster taking the cab directly there.

I was eight years old when President Kennedy  was elected and being from the Boston area , JFK was one of  “our own”.  I remember my grandfather writing to the President as one Irish Catholic from Boston to another about what was happening in the country including the KKK, supporting the Freedom Fighters, the bombings, the killings that were in the south and urging him to do something about it.  I remembered the glamor of Jacqueline Kennedy and her tour of the White House.  Of course, being a child myself I remember their children and how exciting it was to have children in the White House.

Walking through the Presidential Library I was overwhelmed by some of the back stories, the memorabilia, the photographs, and the videos.  To me it was particularly moving to listen to his inaugural address and how he brought our country together after what was then the closest presidential election ever.  Listening to the address, those words hold true even more now than they did in 1961.  We could all take a lesson from his speech.

If you are in Boston for a stop on a cruise or in to visit the city, take the time to go to the Presidential Library.  I would give it about half a day.  There is a little cafe that you can grab something small to eat.

Following our visit, I decided to take my friend to something iconic for us native Bostonians – pizza at Regina’s in the North End, the Italian section of Boston.  We Ubered there and immediately jumped into the line that wound outside  the building.  After about 30 minutes we were able to get two seats at the bar.  This restaurant has certainly changed from when I went there frequently while in college.  It now has more booths, tables and younger waitresses.  In my earlier time, the waitresses were old Italian women all wearing black dresses.  There were changes in the almost 50 years from when I began eating there but the pizza was just as good as I remembered.

After filling up on pizza, we needed to walk it off and what was better than walking through the narrow windy streets of the North End.  Of course we headed over to Hanover Street, one of the main thoroughfare of the North End, to purchase our pastries at Mike’s.  If the line is too long there, try Modern, across the street and down a little.  With a wide variety of cannoli, you can almost choose any flavor you want.  I stayed with the original with mini chocolate chips.

From there we headed to the wharf area walking past the Old North Church and the Paul Revere house.  So much history here in Boston.  How could anyone be not know what to do or see – the problem is that there is just so much it is difficult to narrow down what you can do in one day.

We continued walking toward the harbor in fact, it was about a ten minute walk if you aren’t pokey or don’t stop and look around or go into the shops.   Once at the harbor we found benches to sit on.  It is so restful at the harbor looking out at the water, the boats and of course, people watching.  Of course, eating our cannolis made it even better along with the delightful weather and blue sky.

When it was time to head back, we walked through the Marriott on the Waterfront and called another Uber and met him our front.  A quick 7 minute ride back to the ship bringing with me my box of Italian pastry goodies from the bakery.  I’ve certainly missed rum babas, pizzelles and assorted Italian cookies.

One of the places that I love to go in Boston, and didn’t on this trip, was to the Boston Public Gardens.  There they have the famous Swan Boats giving you a ride around the pond in the Gardens.  The island is the middle is where the duck family lived from the children’s classic book, “Make Way for Ducklings”.  Walking around the Gardens, you will come across the Momma Duck and her eight ducklings.  I could go on and on about what to see and do in Boston and perhaps I will in a future post.

For us it was a great day.  In retrospect, I’m glad we did not do the Old Town Trolley as so many others did.  Apparently the Boston roads were gridlocked and no one got off the trolleys fearing they couldn’t get back on.  Those passengers did not have a good day.  Don’t be afraid to go off on your own particularly when you are going away from some of the major tourist attractions or the downtown area.