Category Archives: Credit card

Why I LOVE going to the grocery store – not what you think!

As most of you know by now, the majority of our travel is from earning and burning points and miles from our various credit cards. We don’t earn too many of them from travel but rather from strategically using our credit cards as well as credit card sign ups.

As I have mentioned in the past, one of my favorite combination of credit cards is the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card with the Chase Freedom card. The Freedom card by itself is a money back card but if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or one of the Chase Inks (business cards) then the Freedom card will earn the Ultimate Reward points that can be transferred to airlines and hotels and formerly AMTRAK.Freedom

What is unique about the Freedom card is that they have different category spending per quarter. The second quarter of this year is 5 times points at grocery stores and big box stores like Sam’s Club, BJ’s Warehouse, Costco, etc.

I need to have a few windows replaced and had Lowe’s come over and give me an estimate for the window replacements – over $2,000.00. Hmm, my local grocery stores sells Lowe’s gift cards and if I purchase them this quarter, I’ll get 7,500 ultimate reward points rather than just the 2,000 points from paying Lowe’s directly.  Note:  you are limited to spending $1500 per quarter to get the bonus points.  Do I hear a Cha Ching!

That got me thinking.  What else do I ordinarily spend money on that I could purchase a gift card for during this quarter? I always need gas so a few BP gas cards went in my basket as well as a few restaurants gift cards and movie theatre gift cards and of course, those lovely and ever so versatile VISA $500 gift cards. Luckily, Blogger Hubby also has a Freedom that that we can use for all these extra points.

This should be a banner month for me with it all ending on June 30th. I hope you have the Freedom and and have taken advantage of this quarter’s bonus categories. If you don’t have it and are interested in one, please leave me a message in the comment section.

UPDATE:  Mommy Points has just written that Chase Freedom will continue to pay 5 x points when used at wholesale club stores through the end of the year.  You can read her post here.

Hyatt or Marriott – Did I choose one?

In my last blog post I wrote about Chase’s upcoming rules as it relates to their co-branded credit cards.  As I mentioned in this post, I already have 5 personal Chase credit cards and didn’t think that I would qualify for anymore.  In addition to that, I was debating whether I wanted to apply for the Hyatt credit card or the Marriott credit card from Chase .  This would only happen IF I closed one of their credit cards.

Coincidentally, Frequent Miler wrote a blog comparing and contrasting both the Hyatt and the Marriott credit cards.  What do they say about great minds thinking alike?  I glanced at his post but needed to make up my mind as to what would work for me.

I just received Diamond status from Hyatt when they matched the status that I have with IHG in December.  I do not often stay with Hyatt because it generally is more expensive than what I want to pay.  I’ve been happy staying at Holiday Inns or Radissons yet when I stayed at a Hyatt in Fort Lauderdale last month, it was really nice being upgraded to a nicer room with a nicer view and a very nice breakfast.  Blogger Hubby does feel a little out of his element in some of the higher end hotels.  He’s more comfortable in the moderate priced hotels and that is where we stay most of the time but it sure is a treat for me when we do stay at the higher end hotels

Marriott would meet his need for moderation.  I have no status there and probably would not qualify to get it.  For whatever reason I have never been a Marriott fan and I don’t know why.  With their buyout of Starwood, will that change?  Who knows.

I thought more about closing my Freedom and having my husband apply for one but he doesn’t have another Chase card to get the Ultimate Reward points.  We had closed out his CSP thinking he would reopen it 25 months after closing – you know what they say about the best laid plans – and then Chase changed the rules.

I read another blog about a woman who also had 5 Chase personal credit cards and she decided to try for the 6th.  After she was told that her application was “pending” she called up the reconsideration telephone number, moved some credit around and was able to get her 6th.

I thought that I would do the same.  I filled out the application for the 6th card and after I filled it out, I too was given the “pending” status.  I waited about fifteen minutes and then called the Chase reconsideration telephone number (888-245-0625).  They asked a few income questions, how much was my mortgage, gave me my existing credit line and asked if I would consider moving some of credit from one credit card to the new one.  I agree and before you knew it, I received my 6th personal Chase credit card.

Are you wondering which card I chose?  Here it is:

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Now where am I going to go to use my two free nights?

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Rules for Chase Credit Cards

I receive no compensation of any type from JP Chase – in fact, they probably don’t know anything about me.  The views below are mine entirely.

Chase is tightening up their rules for obtaining one of their credit cards.  This past summer/fall, they began implementing the 5/24 rule.  If you opened 5 credit cards from any bank within twenty four months, you would most likely be declined for any of Chase’s own credit cards.  This was exclusive to their own credit cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom card and any of their cards that are not co-branded with another company such as Marriott.

 

If you are new to credit card churning, then I would suggest before you get to the 5 card you apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, one of my favorites of all time.  I do not have an affiliate link as I do not have a business relationship with them but if you are thinking of getting their card, I would receive 5,000 Ultimate Reward points if I refer you.  If interested, just drop me an email and I’ll begin a dialogue with you.  If not, I still HIGHLY recommend this credit card because of its flexible Ultimate Reward points.

Now Chase is changing the rules AGAIN!  Their co-branded cards will follow the same 5/24 rule sometime in April.  If you are on the fence or thinking about applying for one of their co-branded cards, my advise is to do it within the next month to six weeks.  In fact, I would do it sooner than later. Some of their co-branded cards include British Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, Ritz Carlton,  Disney, Southwest Airlines and United Explorer.

I have been thinking about getting both the Hyatt card and the Marriott card but my problem is that you can only have five personal credit cards from Chase.  Which card to close is my dilemma.  I already have the United Mileage Plus Select card (a co-branded card) which is my oldest credit card dating back to the early 1990’s.  It is a card that is no longer available and for those of us that have it, it makes it worthwhile to keep it.  I certainly do not want to close that card out since I have had it as long as I do – always keep your oldest card!

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I also have the IHG card ( a co-branded card) which gives me Aspire elite status with IHG (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, etc) and I do participate a few times a year with their promotions and there ALWAYS is a step that has you paying with your IHG credit card.  Also, this card gives me one free night a year and the annual fee is only $49.  I have only had the card about ten months now and do not mind paying the $49 for the one free night, which we will use in Brussels.

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I currently have the Freedom (one of Chase’s cards, not co-branded) which I do love for the revolving quarterly bonus categories.  It has been particularly useful to me before the holidays as Amazon has been one of the bonus stores.  That might be the one that I will consider closing and perhaps my husband could get it instead.

Freedom

In December I applied for and one month later  approved for the United Explorer credit card which gives me free checked bags when I fly on United.  Since I tend to fly United the most, that will be particularly useful to me.  Since I have had that card only about a month, obviously I do not want to close it.

Finally, I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  Thinking that I might never be approved for it again, I’m keeping it.  I love the Ultimate Reward points and since am boosting my United points with my new Explorer card, I can use those UR points for other airlines, like Singapore Airlines.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred

So if I want the Marriott or Hyatt card, I’ll have to close one of my Chase cards and it will probably be the Freedom, much to my chagrin.

Have you thought about applying for any of the Chase co-branded cards before the 5/24 rule takes effect?  Are you having the problem that I am as to which card to close?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Book a United Award Ticket and Save in Two Different Ways

Blogger Hubby received an invitation that he would not refuse a few weeks ago.  Blogger Son #2 went out to Bozeman, Montana from the East Coast with his family the middle of June to begin work on his Masters in Science Education.  Spending some time in the West with his wife and two little children had been something he had wanted to do.  Combine that with his desire to begin his masters and the two ideas were able to come together this summer.  Of course, since he doesn’t live in Montana he will continue to work on his masters online and to go back out next summer for more classwork.

Blogger Son #2 recently took up fishing although he did have some lessons a few years ago from my husband in fly fishing.  Additionally when he was younger we took a family vacation in Montana at the 9 Quarter Circle Ranch and he watched his older brother take an avid interest in fly tying and flyfishing.

Knowing that my husband loves, did I say loves, flyfishing, he invited him to go to Montana and join him for some fishing in the Madison and Gallatin Rivers.  The Gallatin River was made famous in the movie “A River Runs Through It”.  Blogger Son #2’s family would be flying home while our son would be driving the family van back to the East Coast.  The plan was for my husband to overlap with our daughter-in-law and their two children then to spend some time alone with our son after his family left.

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The only airline that made sense for him to fly was on United using our Ultimate Reward points that we earned with our Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.  Actually, United had good flights out but not any returning.  Instead, he would fly Delta home now that they had one way flights for half the points.  I quickly transferred our American Express Membership Reward points over to Delta and booked the return since we didn’t have many options.

For the flight out there United didn’t have any economy seats so I was forced to consider First Class but since he was only doing it one way, I was going to have to use 25,000 points AND have to pay $80 in fees.  Yikes, I could do the 25,000 but $80 in fees.

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Then I began thinking.  What if I transferred the points over to Singapore Airlines; would that change how many points I would need?  I called up Singapore Airlines and was told that it would be 20,000 points and 7.50 Singapore dollars which I quickly converted to be $5.49 USD.

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Instead of transferring my Ultimate Rewards points to United I would be transferring them to Singapore Airlines.  I called up Chase and it took about 5 minutes to do the transfer since I already had a Kris Flyer (Singapore’s Loyalty Program) account although the points did not show up in my Kris Flyer  till about 12 hours later.  Once in my account I called up Kris Flyer to make the reservation.  The seats were still there luckily but one thing that I didn’t know was that since the points were in my account with Singapore Airlines, I needed to “nominate” my husband to be the recipient of my points.  That was easily done online and then I quickly called up Singapore to continue booking.  I asked for the Record Locator number so that we could go on the United site and reserve his seat.

Final analysis was that I saved 5,000 Ultimate Reward points and $75 dollars.  Sounds like a successful award booking to me.  Remember, even though you might to fly on United, it might be better to book the trip through Singapore or another Star Alliance airline.

Target RedCard Primer for Newbies – how to Manufacture Spending for Points

UPDATE:  This is, unfortunately, no longer available.

It seems that lately a lot of people have asked me about how Blogger Hubby and I are able to travel as we do.  Between credit card sign-ups, shopping through credit card shopping portals  and knowing bonus categories for each of our cards we do pretty well.

I do like to make sure we have enough points by doing what is known as manufactured spending (MS).  The Target Prepaid  Redcard (pictured below), affectionately called Redbird certainly helps us and it can help you to travel the world for almost free by racking up frequent flyer points/hotel points.  It is so easy and I often wonder why more people don’t do it.  Really, it’s that easy.  In addition, when you use it at a Target for purchases, you get an automatic 5% off your total.  That’s a WIN – WIN proposition for me.

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Get the right card – Target has several cards (credit card, debit card) but the one you want may not be in YOUR Target as it is still be tested in several markets throughout the country.  It has to look just like the one pictured below.

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Locating – To find the nearest Target to you that sells the Prepaid Redcard, please refer to this map.  If there isn’t one near you, you might be able to purchase one on Ebay or find a friend who does live near a store that sells them and have them get a card for you.  You can load them at any Target store even stores that do not sell them.  I have heard that you cannot load them  in North Carolina if the store does not sell them but I have no personal experience.  If you look at the map you’ll see that there are several Targets in  North Carolina that do sell them.

Purchasing – When you go to Target you are purchasing a temporary card.  In purchasing it, you need to activate it at the store.  The register will ask for your social security number and you can put yours in or a fake number – at this point it doesn’t matter but it will later on.  You should load it with some money – either cash, debit card or credit card.  Even though it says you can only load it with cash, you CAN load it with a credit card, debit card, VISA or MasterCard gift card or cash.  When you load it with your credit card, you are earning points on that card.   You will not be able to reload till you have registered it online though can can reload once registered but before your permanent card arrives in about a week.

Loading your Redcard – I use either a SunTrust debit card which gives me Delta points; any of the Chase cards that I have which give me hotel or airline points; and any of my American Express cards where I can earn Membership Reward points.  I find that I’m using my American Express SPG (Starwood) card more frequently because  I can get Starwood status based on my spending and their points are very valuable.  I have also used VISA or MC  gift cards that I have purchased at grocery stores (where I get 5 x points with certain cards).  With some gift cards I have to set a pin first though with others I just make one up the first time I use it.  You can always call the number on the back of the card to change a pin if you want to.   HINT:  you might want to let your credit card know that you will be making a large purchase at Target otherwise it might trigger a fraud alert.  If, when you try to load money on your credit card, it gets declined, wait a minute and see if you get a text message from your card asking you if this is your purchase.  There is no fee to load money onto your card.

 

Registering your card on your computer – You cannot register a Prepaid Redcard if you have an active Bluebird or Serve account.  They must be closed first.  You are allowed one Prepaid Redcard account per social security number.  At this point you will need to go to a computer and register your card on the website.  Here is the link for it.  You must use your social security number – no fat fingers allowed.  You and your spouse can each have one and your children can have one in their names as well.

Lately a lot of information has come out as to how to use and load your Redcard.  Previously I was loading about $1000 per visit but then it was suggested that I do odd amounts so that it wouldn’t look suspicious as to what I was doing.  Now I am loading $912.56 or $869.44.  It was also suggested to not just pay your credit card bill that you used to load your card with online but use it for other purchases.  Now when I go out, I’ll use this card as a debit card and pay for my small purchases.

ATM – Lastly, it was also suggested to use the card at an ATM.  That I hadn’t done but was successful in doing it today.  Yesterday I tried using it at my bank and it kept failing.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted the withdrawal from my credit card or checking account.  I tried both and it still failed.  Last night I did a little research and found that I could only do it at Allpoint ATM’s.  There is no fee to use the Allpoint ATM machine.  I found where they were located and one was in the 7/11 near my home.  When I walked in the ATM said it was Citibank – didn’t see anything that indicated that it was Allpoint.  Nevertheless, I inserted the Redcard, typed in my PIN, indicated that it was coming from a checking account and put in the amount that I wanted to withdraw.  Again, no fee.

Fees and Limits – For a list of all the load and withdrawal amounts, please follow this link.  You find out how much you can load per day/per month as well as withdrawing.

Remember the family that loads their Redcards together,  flies together!

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them.  I’ll do my best to try and answer them

Whew ….the Holidays are over for Us

It’s been quite the month for us.  Blogger Hubby was in the hospital, I was sick for about 5 weeks (sinus, bronchitis) and feeling crummy, being up in DC helping Blogger Son #1 by taking care of our 11 month old grandson while his mommy was traveling.  With several weeks of us being out of commission, the holidays came upon us very quickly.  Cards were never bought and so we are going to do a Happy New Year card instead.

With four grandchildren ages 3 and under, it was a fun, hectic, loud and a special day for us.  This was the year we did not have our children for the actual Christmas Day but instead we had it the Saturday morning before Christmas.  Family means so much to me since I am an only child and I am very happy that my children (yes, they are all in their 30’s) made an effort to get together with Blogger Hubby and myself as well as with their siblings.

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What was helpful to me this year while doing my holiday shopping was the fact the my Chase Freedom card gave me 5 times points while shopping at Amazon.  With that and the fact that we are Amazon Prime members, most of my shopping was done through Amazon.

If what I wanted wasn’t on Amazon for the price I wanted, I then went to stores either through the Chase shopping portal or finally, through Ebates for cash back.  I did not make a single purchase where I received only 1 point per dollar.  Either it was multiple points or cash back through Ebates.

When I went through the Chase shopping portal I printed off a copy of the page that told me how many extra points I would receive as well as my order summary.  I’ll check back on my account to make sure that I got all the extra points.  If I don’t then I have proof of what they were offering as far as points as well as having my order summery.  I can hear the Cha-Ching in the recesses of my mind.

I also downloaded a holiday gift tracker download from I Heart Organizing.  I had one for each of the families I was purchasing gift for.  It kept me organized as far as what I purchased, my budget for the item and where I purchased it.  I took this a step further and stapled the receipts for each family onto their family gift tracker.  When someone wanted to return an item, it was easy for me to get their family tracker and pull off the receipt.  So much easier than going through the mountain of receipt that i normally have.

Did you have any special strategy for maximizing your points during this holiday time?

American Express Small Business Saturday – a Boom to your Wallet, Nov. 29th

Around Thanksgiving time, those of us shopping for holiday gifts know about the deals on Black Friday, Cyber Monday (my personal favorite) and for the past four years the Saturday after Thanksgiving is known as Small Business Saturday.

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cyber monday

Small Business Saturday began in 2010 by American Express to encourage us to remember our local merchants and their brick and mortar stores when shopping for holiday gifts.  Each year that they have sponsored it, those of us who have synched our credit cards to the American Express offer, have received a credit on our bill when we shopped these local merchants.

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This year you will get a $10 statement credit  after spending  $10 or more in a single transaction (must be in store and not online) at any qualifying merchant on Small Business Saturday.

Not every small business takes part in Small Business Saturday.  American Express does charge the merchants the highest in fees.  To be sure that your merchant does participate, make sure you go here after you register your card:

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To use this, “erase” the New York when it comes up on the screen and add in your zip code.  You’ll see top recommendations but you can also choose dining, shopping, services, etc.  When I went to dining, I found 10 pages of restaurants that I could purchase gift cards for and then get a statement credit.  That’s my plan for Small Business Saturday.

Register your card on November 16th by going to this link.  I’d do it sooner than later as they limit the number of registrations.

You can link ALL of your American Express cards.  I’m told that even your Bluebird card could be linked though not your Target Redbird).  If you have an American Express Hilton card, you can link that.  The same with the SPG American Express card.

As I mentioned earlier, we plan on buying restaurant gift cards, get the credit and then eat out during 2015 – sounds like a winning plan to me.

What will you be purchasing on Small Business Saturday?

How I scored 5 x Points for Paying my Lawn Care Man and City Water Bill

Disclosure:  I do not receive any compensation of any kind by expressing my own personal opinions about credit cards that I have.

Last week one of the big office supply stores had a sale on SEARS gift cards.  If you bought a $100 gift card, they would take 20% off and only charge you $80.  I had my Chase Ink Business card with me that would get me 5 x points on any purchase that I made at an office supply store so I proceeded to purchase two SEARS gift cards.

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I’m not a big SEARS though I do like their Lands End line and many of their appliances (as long as Consumer Reports rates them high).  But what was I going to do with two gift cards?

I drove myself over to our closest SEARS store and looked around the store.  I found their gift card rack, and many times there are more than one of them, and found VISA debit cards in a $200 denomination.  My SEARS gift cards were worth $200.  I purchased the VISA gift card and walked out of the store ahead by $40 less $5.95 for the VISA gift card.  SCORE….but the story goes not end there.

Today I went to my local grocery store that sells money orders.  I ordered one money order to pay my city water bill and then another to pay my lawn care man.  These are both bills that I would have paid by check and received no points.  Each money order cost me .76.   Total net gain was $32.53 and 800 points.

Yes, for some that is not worth it but got me thinking.  I could purchase VISA gift card at an office supply store or another type of store where you would get 5 x points on your credit card (even without the deal on SEARS cards), go to my local grocery store and purchase a money order and pay my dentist, doctor, even my church pledge – it is still valid, legal tender and one that gets me 5 x points.   Obviously this instance was worth more because I received money for this venture because of the sale on SEARS gift cards.

When you are shopping or reading store flyers, look for items like this – items that are “like” money that you could purchase, make a little money and receive points for your future travel.

What are your stories about gift cards?

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Continuing on with the credit card theme from yesterday, we are moving on to my Number One favorite credit card – the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.  Every time I use this card I get lots of compliments because it is a heavy card with metal between the plastic front and back.  This is the card that both Blogger Hubby and I each applied for two years ago to get enough points to fly to Australia in business class with the lie flat seats.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred

With the Sapphire Preferred card, you get 2 times points on all travel and dining charges and on the first Friday of the month you will get 3 times points on dining.  Another perk is an additional 1 times points (for a total of 3 times points) on travel when you book your travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.  One benefit that I think is important to any traveler is no foreign transaction fees.  That alone can save you lots of money.

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Now you ask, what are Ultimate Rewards.  This is the part that I REALLY like.  When you use a Delta credit card, you receive Delta miles; when you use an American Airlines card you receive American Airlines points.  When you use Chase Sapphire Preferred card and a few other cards from Chase, you receive Ultimate Reward points.

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Ultimate Reward points are flexible points.  Chase gives you options of where you can transfer your Ultimate Reward points to and I like options.  I can transfer these points to United Airlines and consequently to all of the Star Alliance; to Southwest Airlines which we have used twice in the past year and had never used before; British Airways which gets you into the OneWorld Alliance; Korean Airlines which gets you into the SkyTeam Alliance; Virgin Atlantic and just added (and one of my favorite airlines that is also in the Star Alliance – Singapore Airlines.  For those who take the train you can transfer you points to AMTRAK.  There are also hotels that you can transfer your points to though in my opinion you get more bang for your point by transferring them to an airline.  However if you need hotel points, you can transfer them to Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton and IHG which is Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza and more.

Currently if you are approved for this card you need to spend $3000 in the first 3 months to earn 40,000 miles.  If you are interested in this card, leave a note in the comment section and I’ll forward to you my referral code where I would receive 5,000 points for the referral or if you would rather not, you can go directly to the Chase website and fill out an application there.  Either way, this card is definitely in my wallet and is my favorite.

Chase Ink Business Credit Card

I’ve been accused of not spending enough time writing about credit cards so to the readers that have written me about it, this post is for you.

I absolutely love the Chase Ink Business card.  Although I do have a business (I rent a condo) when I applied for some reason I didn’t even consider my rental as a business.  Instead I said that I sold homemade items at craft shows and did some lunch catering for the elderly.  I answered the questions truthfully, called myself a sole proprietor and submitted by application.  I was approved.  I’m sure that many of you have a business without even thinking about it?  Do you babysit, tutor, do side jobs, write a blog, etc  There are so many circumstances that would qualify for a “business”.

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What I really like about the Chase Ink credit card is that it gives me 5 times points when I pay my landline, wireless bills as well as my internet bill and (drum roll please) office supply stores.

Yes, my greatest points come from office supply stores.  You may wonder how I do that.  It’s easy — I shop the gift card section of office supply stores for upcoming shopping or dining that I will be doing.

My Office Max is located next door to one of my favorite stores – TJ MAXX.  I go into T J MAXX and put what I am going to purchase in a cart then head next door to buy my TJ MAXX git card.  Yes, it is an additional step but I will earn 5 times points at Office Max toward my purchase at TJ  MAXX.  I will also pick up restaurant gift cards as well as gas station gift cards.  One of my favorites is Amazon gift cards or those that are Amazon Kindle gift cards (those can be used on Amazon and not just on their Kindle product).  I’m finding that I am spending more and more time shopping on Amazon particularly for new reads for my Kindle so why not get the most points that I can?

The Chase Ink Business card is just that – a charge card which means that you need to pay your balance in full each month.  For those of us in the points hobby, we know how important it is for your credit score to pay your charge or credit cards in full each month.

Currently the Ink Business card is offering 50,000 Ultimate Reward points when you spend $5000 within three months.  Now wait a minute, before you say that you can’t spend $5000 in three months, remember some of the ways that we “manufactured spending”.  I have purchased variable VISA debit cards at stores (many office supply stores do not sell these cards but many grocery stores do) where you can load anywhere between $20 to $500 on these cards.  I then call a number on the back of the card to set a PIN.  What I do next is go to my local grocery store and purchase a money order using the debit card to fund the money order.  Later I’ll deposit the money order in my bank account so I can pay the Ink Business card charge that I made for the debit card.  To break it down further:  I used my credit card (and got points for this) to buy a VISA/MasterCard debit card and I would put $500 on it.  I would then take that VISA card with $500 on it and purchase a money order.  I would then later take the money order and deposit it to my bank account so I could pay the credit card bill.  Personally I wouldn’t do more than $1500 to $2000 on money orders per month.  Now you have met your $5000 spend to earn your 50,000 points in opening up your Ink credit card.

Finally, when you make application online, you may not get an immediate response. That is not unusual.  I simply call their reconsideration line.  They may need more information and by speaking with them, you can give them all the information they need or perhaps explain.  Do not wait longer than a week.  I’ll go as far as saying that I call the same day that you applied.  Secondly, make sure that you have a good reason to apply for the card.  Do not say that you like the bonuses that they are offering.  You might say that you are planning on some foreign travel and the no foreign transaction fee is important to you.   You could also say that a friend of yours has the card and highly recommends it.  If you do not have enough credit available, offer to reduce your credit line on another card with the same bank – in this case Chase.  The telephone number that you want to call is 800-453-9719.

If you are interested in applying, here is a link  I do not receive any compensation from Chase or any other company.  These comments are purely my own.

 

 

Chase Freedom 3rd Quarter

I am such a fan of the Chase Freedom credit card; particularly since I have both the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card as well as the Chase Ink business card.  I say particularly so because rather than getting cash back from the Freedom card I get the points and to me, points are extremely valuable.

Freedom

What I like love, about the Chase Freedom card are the different bonus categories that they have each quarter that will give you 5 x points.  This quarter is a repeat of first quarter’s gas points as well as Kohls.

Before this quarter ends. I’ll be sure to purchase some gas gift cards at the gas stations that I go to.  This way I’ll continue to get 5 X points since the gift cards were purchased during the 3rd quarter bonus period.

Don’t forget to activate your Chase Freedom card.  Just follow this link and it will take you to the activation page.

Amazing Deal – Citi American Airlines Credit Card 100,000 points!

Occasionally a great deal will come our way.  Last year for 2 days only, I received 100,000 miles from American Express.  Those miles took Blogger Hubby and I to Hawaii in Business Class seats with 40,000 miles left over for a future trip.

Now Citi is offering a similiar deal – you can earn 100,000 American Airlines miles with a $10,000 spend in three months.  This offer comes with the following benefits:

  • $200 in statement credits — earn $1 in statement credits for each $1 spent on purchases within the first 12 months of membership.
  • Admirals Club membership (a membership value of up to $500)
  • Earn10,000 Elite Qualifying Milesafter spending $40,000 in purchases each calendar year
  • No foreign transaction fees  on purchases
  • Earn two AAdvantage miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, including US Airways codeshare flights booked on aa.com
  • Priority Boarding and 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases
  • Your first eligible checked bag is free
  • SmartChip technology Expert Concierge Service
  • $450 Annual Fee – not waived but with the $200 statement credit it will help offset this expense

You will notice on this page, which will take you to the application page, that it asks for a referral code  – you can leave it blank.

aadvantage deal

Remember that US Airways and American Airlines are merging so more routes would open.

I know that you might be put off with the $10,000 spend but my plan is (yes, we got this card yesterday) to buy Vanilla Reloads and pay my mortgages with them and then pay my credit card that I used to get the VR’s with the money that is in the bank that I was going to use to pay my mortgage.  Between paying bills, grocery shopping, and even paying for federal/state taxes with my credit card.

Is this something that you are planning on applying for – if yes, I’d recommend doing it sooner than later.  Great deals like this do not last long.

Target and Free Credit Monitoring – might be worth your while

In the wake of the security breach at Target during the holiday season, they are offering a free year of credit monitoring for all customers who shopped at their stores in the US.  I shopped only once during the holiday season and for that reason I did register with Target to get the free credit monitoring.  You must register to get the credit monitoring.

target

Here’s how to sign up:

■ To request an activation code, enter your name and email address on Target’s website, creditmonitoring.target.com. The deadline to request the code is April 23. Credit reports are for a person, not a credit card number, so people who used multiple credit or debit cards at Target only need to sign up once.

■ Within one to five days, Target will send an email with a unique activation code and instructions on next steps. If you request a code and don’t receive one in five days, check your junk or spam folder. I received mine within 24 hours.

■ Once you receive the activation code, go to http://www.protectmyid.com/target to register the code with Experian. As part of the registration process, customers will be asked for their Social Security number. This is done to verify the person’s identity and ensure no one else has access to the information, according to Target. Payment is covered by Target, so no payment information is necessary to register. The deadline to register the code is April 30.

As part of the one year of free credit monitoring, customers will get a free copy of their Experian credit report. The free credit report will be available online for 30 days to those who sign up online. The report does not include a credit score.

As part of the credit monitoring, consumers also will get alerts that reflect changes to their Experian credit report during that year. That includes new inquiries, newly opened accounts and new derogatory information.

If you are confirmed to be a victim of identity theft you will be assigned an Experian fraud resolution agent, who will help walk them through the fraud resolution process.

Victims of identity theft relating to the Target data breach also will be covered by a $1 million insurance policy that can help cover costs, including lost wages, private investigator fees and unauthorized electronic fund transfers for a year.  I wouldn’t be surprised if down the line they didn’t cover more than one year.  A recent report that I heard on television said that these hackers could hold on to your information for a while before using it.  If you are worried, you might want to ask your credit card issuers to give you new credit card numbers but remember, the real risk is your stolen identity with your address, etc.  Be diligent and monitor your credit card charges every week.  Access to personalized assistance from a fraud resolution agent will continue after the one-year ProtectMyID membership expires, Target said.

Target said people will not automatically be re-enrolled after a year. However, customers can choose to continue the coverage at their own expense.  If you are not already covered by  credit monitoring, then you should consider continuing the coverage.

Kiva – loaning to others worldwide while you are meeting your minimum spend

Have you heard of Kiva?  Our sons introduced us to it years ago.  Kiva is a non-profit micro-lending organization that connects folks around the world who need a loan with people who are willing to make those loan, often at $25 increments.  Their mission is to try to alleviate poverty by loaning money to vetted individuals throughout the world to make them more able to provide for themselves and their families.  It’s a loan that will change their lives.

kiva

According to their website, “Kiva field partners vet, administer and disburse funds”.  Kiva’s Field Partners have expertise in their local markets and they know their local communities.  They do all the leg work required to get Kiva loans to the borrowers posted on the Kiva website.  The Field Partner collect borrower stories, pictures and loan details, and upload them to Kiva. The loan requests are reviewed and published to the Kiva’s site.

By combining microfinance with the internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending. Kiva was born of the following beliefs: people are by nature generous, and will help others if given the opportunity to do so in a transparent, accountable way; the poor are highly motivated and can be very successful when given an opportunity; and by connecting people we can create relationships beyond financial transactions, and build a global community expressing support and encouragement of one another.

kiva 2

Since Kiva was founded in 2005 they have had 1,039,131 Kiva lenders that have made a total of $516,426,650 in loans to people in 73 countries and they have had a 99.00% Repayment rate.  I am amazed at this and am thankful that generous people are able to believe in others and lend a helping hand.

I mentioned that you can meet your credit card minimum spend by becoming a lender with Kiva and that’s because you can make your loans via a credit card.  In case you are wondering,  Kiva is very highly rated by Charity Navigator.

Have you thought about helping someone out with a small loan?  If so, please go to the Kiva site.

Barclay’s Arrival World MasterCard

Thanks everyone for staying with me.  I know that I haven’t posted much since the past few weeks.  Between family get togethers, having a new grandbaby and then having a sinus infection for three long days I’m finally feeling like I can get my life back on track.     Jane

Most of the credit card offers that I have written about in the past have been with credit card partners where you redeem a certain number of points for a fixed value.  Let me explain, if I was going to redeem my Ultimate Reward points with United I know that 25,000 miles would get me a roundtrip cross country trip in economy; I know that 22,000 points with Hyatt would get me one night at a category 5 hotel.

Other credit cards are what we call Revenue Based.  What that means is that the points convert into dollars and you can then apply them against your travel.  The more you spend, the more points you’ll have that will equal money for you to apply against your charges.  Going back to my cross country trip on United – that flight might cost me $569.  With the revenue based credit cards, I would need 56,900 points for that same ticket.  That generally is something that I would not want to waste that many points on UNLESS I had to be at a specific place and there were no award seats available on my flight to book for the 25,000 miles.  With revenue based, there is no blackout dates AND you are credited for the miles flown.

We had a revenue based card, the Capital One Venture card and only used it twice.  The first time was when we were in Singapore last year and stayed at a hotel that was not part of a loyalty club.  The hotel was in a great location and was highly recommended by our travel agent.  We paid the bill with our Venture card and when we came home we used their “Purchase Eraser” to deduct the points against the charge.

barclaycard

Barclay has a new card that is generating some talk – it is the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard.  In fact, Blogger Hubby got his in November.  He received 40,000 points (that equal to $400) after spending $1000 in 90 days.  What makes this card different than other Revenue based credit cards is that you get a standard 2X miles per dollar on everything!  For the $1000 that he needed to spend to get the 40,000 points, he earned 2,000 points – total was 42,000 after the $1000 minimum spend and a waived fee.

Barclaycard-Arrival-Offer

Additionally, when you redeem your points, you get credited back to your account 10% of the miles you redeemed.  Finally, with your card you are given a complimentary Tripit Pro subscription.  This is the premium version of Tripit which organizes all your travel.  The extra features that Pro provides is:

  • organize and share your itineraries
  • tracks your mileage and travel reward programs
  • receive instant flight alerts on your phone
  • find out when you’re eligible for a flight refund
  • sync with your calendar

If you are interested in this credit card, here is a link for you to follow.  I do not receive any compensation for recommending any of these credit cards.  They are just what is in my wallet and that I use.

For those who have the Chase Freedom card, you can now activate your first quarter bonus categories by going to this site

Freedom

IHG is offering another Big Win.  During the Fall I participated in it and ended up with over 150,000 which also includes the points I received from staying at the hotels – not bad.  Sign up for it even if you don’t think you are going to any hotel stays.  We just found out today that we will be staying at a hotel the first week in January so I will book it at a Holiday Inn.  Even if I don’t finish the promotion, I’ll get extra points from at least this stay.  Go here to register.

ihg big win

Delta Airlines listens to its customers and says a resounding “no” to allowing in flight cell phone calls.  I do not want to be sitting next  to someone talking loudly especially if I am trying to rest.  Thumbs up to Delta.

Sorry these posts have been brief.  I’ve been caught up in the holidays and have found myself behind in b

Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses that you Need to be Aware Of

This is a quiet time for travels for me so I thought I would bring you some news of different credit card sign-ups. I urge you not to sign up for any credit cards if you are not able to make the minimum spend, have any large purchases (cars, home) in the next two years and don’t pay your bills on time and in full.  Only you can decide whether to sign up or not.   I do not receive anything from the credit card companies.

1. Alaska Airlines – a Visa credit card that offers you 50,000 mile after $1000 spend.  This is the highest offer ever.  You might be thinking that you do not travel Alaska Airline but what is sweet about Alaska is who its partners are.

alaska airlines cc

Although it is not part of any alliance, it does have some partners that might interest you with the main ones being :

  • Aeromexico
  • Air France
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Emirates
  • Fiji Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • LAN
  • Qantas

I don’t have this card but am seriously thinking of adding it to my wallet.

2. Lufthansa Miles and More – offers you 50,000 miles after you spend $5000.  This is a great card to have in your arsenal of credit cards if you want to fly Lufthansa and the Star Alliance.  Miles and More, like many airlines, does charge fuel surcharges on award tickets but not for those that are domestic tickets.  You can avoid some of these fuel surcharges by flying domestically and within Canada; flights to the Caribbean, flights to the Central and South America, US Airways flights to Europe as long as US Airways is still in the Star Alliance (I would book sooner than later – they join One World Alliance on March 31, 2014); and a few United flights to Asia.  Their award booking for domestic in the US is fewer miles than if you had booked directly with United or US Airways.  When we flew to Hawaii this fall, we booked our business class tickets through Singapore Air on United for 60,000 miles rather the 80,000 that United wanted.  I believe that this is set to expire on Dec. 15th so if you want this card – apply NOW!

lufthansa miles and more

3. British Airways Visa – 50,000 bonus Avios points when you spend $2,000 then you can get 25,000 additional bonus Avios after $10,000 in purchases within the first year of account opening,and a final 25,000 bonus Avios after you make an additional $10,000 in purchases also within the first year of account opening.

ba cc

Together all three cards will net you 150,000 miles.  Are you thinking of adding more credit cards to your wallet?

Expiring miles and how to extend them

As I mentioned before, one of my very good friends has about 500,000 UAL miles.  She was concerned this fall because she knew that her points were going to expire at the end of the year.  She had me over her house to try to book a trip for her so her miles wouldn’t expire.  She didn’t need to go to that extreme.

If you are close to having your miles expire, there are several easy ways to save your miles without having to take a trip.

To keep your airline miles from expiring you must have some type of activity within your account.  If you have a co-branded credit card and use it at least a few times a year, that is sufficient activity to keep your airline miles from expiring.

united airlines

You can also go through your airline shopping portal (AAdvantage, United Mileage Plus, Delta Skymiles Shopping)  purchase something like flowers for your mother, significant other and it is a win-win situation – you get points for sending flowers as well as extending your miles 🙂

aadvantageeshopping_logo

Another way is by dining.  You can also earn miles when you register your credit card on your airline’s dining  site (American, United, or Delta).  All you need to do is to pay with that credit card at a participating restaurant, and you’ll receive miles in your account.  You can register your card with all three and get miles with both United, American and Delta.  Again, a win-win-win situation.

dining

You can also transfer miles into your airline accounts from either Ultimate Reward points you have, AmEx Membership Rewards or even hotel points from  Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, Priority Club, and Starwood Preferred Guest.  You do not need to transfer a lot into your account – remember you just need some activity in your account to keep it active.

You can fly on a partner airline and credit it to the airline of your choice that is in your alliance.  When we flew US Airways, I credited the miles to United – kept those miles current.  I did not have many miles on US Airways so I wasn’t losing anything on US Airways.

Hope this has helped you in keeping your miles current.

 

Synching Your American Express card to Money Back Deals

Synching is a new concept to me.  For those who are also unfamiliar with the term, it means to link together.  American Express has several offers out there but you have to first synch your card to the offer.

How do you find the offers?  First you need to go to American Express online and sign in.  This will take you to your account information.  Under your account information you will see this:

synch

Click on “Offers for you”.  Here you will see all the offers that can be synched to your AmEx card.  Open them up, explore what you need to do and get familiar with this tab.  Once you find one or more that you like  click on “Save Offer”.  It’s as simple as that.  When you shop at the store that you “synched” to your AmEx card, make sure that you do in fact use your AmEx card.

amex plat

You can synch through your Facebook account, Twitter, Four square or Trip Advisor.  Here is a link that will help you get started.  Follow the link and decide how you want to sign in.  You might want to sign in with all of the above mentioned accounts because they can and will be different.  When I sign in with Trip Advisor I get a credit on my AmEx account for reviews that I had written.  For others I need to shop, dine, etc.

Don’t forget when you are shopping online, it might be possible to double dip – go through your Chase shopping portal but pay with your AmEx card that you synched.  It doesn’t work all the time but enough that it is worth going there OR go through Ebates for money back.  If you use my Ebates link, I will receive a small bonus.

Here are a few of the offers that I have seen:

  • Best Buy – spend $250 get $25 back
  • Kohls – spend $50 get $10 back
  • Costco – spend $115 get back $15
  • Exxon – spend $30 get back $5
  • Lowes – spend 50 and get back $10

It’s worth it to take the time to synch your cards.

I know that the title speaks of Amazon but that was a mistake.  The Amazon deal was last week and I guess it stayed in my mind.  There are other great offers but not Amazon.  I’ll do better editing in the future.    js

Chase Freedom Quarterly Bonus Categories for 2014 Announced

Chase has just announced their quarterly bonus categories for their Freedom card.  Some people are disappointed in their categories but I’m happy – any opportunity to earn extra points is great for me.

Freedom

Here is the full list:

January – March (Activate starting December 15, 2013)  –  Gas stations Movie theaters Starbucks

April – June (Activate starting March 15, 2014)  –  Restaurants Lowe’s Home Improvement

July – September (Activate starting June 15, 2014)  –  Gas stations Kohl’s

October – December (Activate starting September 15, 2014)  –  Amazon.com Zappos.com Select department stores

For the first quarter we have gas stations, movie theaters and Starbucks.  I’m always happy when gas stations are on the bonus category list.  What I did last summer in preparation for the next quarter when gas stations would no longer be on the bonus listing is purchase gas gift cards at the gas stations.  That way, in the following quarter, I could still get the 5 x points.  Also, gas stations many times will sell other gift cards that you could use elsewhere or even just purchase a VISA gift card for use later.  For those who frequent Starbuck, you can do the same thing that I do with gas stations – purchase Starbucks gift cards so you can use them later and can still get the 5 x points later in the year.  With many movies coming out for the holidays, if you wait a few weeks, you can see them in January with the increase in points.

I think having Lowe’s in the 2nd quarter is helpful since that is when we are doing spring cleaning of our gardens and preparing our bed and lawns – we make many trips to our local Lowes for mulch, grass seed, plants and so much more.

The third quarter is a little weak with having gas stations again and Kohls.  Kohls seems to be for the last year or so, always at 10 x points through the Chase shopping portal and with the additional 5 x points in this quarter you will be able to get 15 x points but I am not sure if there is much more to purchase at Kohls.  I think it is time to replace Kohls with a different store – like Target 🙂

The 4th quarter looks promising with the select department stores that they have currently and with the addition of Zappos and Amazon it could be a productive quarter for us.

For more information, please click here

Don’t forget to enter my free giveaway of two United lounge passes – worth $50 each.  They expire on Dec. 31st.  To enter, leave a comment on this post.  Drawing is Tuesday at 8 PM EST.

Spend $75 on Amazon and get back $25 from American Express

Updated – I’ve been told by some of my readers that the deal is now “dead”

American Express has partnered with Amazon in rewarding its card holders by crediting their AmEx accounts with $25 when you spend $75 on Amazon using your AmEx card after you have registered your card with American Express.  An “Eligible Card” as defined by American Express is a valid American Express Card issued in the U.S. by American Express, Department Stores National Bank, Bank of America, First National Bank of Omaha, Citibank (like the AAdvantage card), USAA Savings Bank, Barclays Bank Delaware, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, and GE Capital Retail Finance; however, certain Cards are not deemed Eligible Cards, including corporate cards (this doesn’t mean a business card – corporate cards are different) and all prepaid card products like Bluebird (other than American Express Serve®).  My co-branded AmEx cards, like my SPG card, my Hilton Honors card an my Delta Skymiles cards are incuded.  I’m not sure if AmEx gift cards are included.  When in doubt, try registering your card to see if it is an eligible card

amex plat

You can register all the cards you have.  Registration begins December 1st and continues through December 31st although as AmEx states in their T&C “if you order an item during the offer period but it is not sent to you until after December 31, 2013, it may not count towards determining whether your purchase qualifies for the $25 rebate”.

We happen to have six cards between us and I’ll be registering those cards today.  If you have an authorized user on your account, it is my understanding that you can register that card as well.   This also applies to business cards.

amex business

In order to get the $25 back, you first need to register your card here

Spend $75 Get $25 Back

After you register you will get a confirmation and then you can begin shopping at Amazon.  I would recommend that you do this today and as soon as possible.  Sometimes AmEx will limit participation in such promotions.  I plan on purchasing a few Amazon gift cards to be used at a later date.

What’s in your wallet?  Today, it is just American Express cards.

Flexible Travel Points with American Express Spg

By now most of you know that  love the flexible points that certain credit cards have.  Some of the Chase credit cards give you the Ultimate Reward points that you can use for 5 airlines, AMTRAK and 5 hotels and  American Express gold and platinum cards give you Membership Reward points.  Another card that I really like that also gives me the flexibility that I crave is the America Express SPG card.  SPG stands for Starwood Preferred Guest which is the loyalty brand for Sheraton Hotels, Four Points, Westin, aLoft, St. Regis and  W Hotels.  Of these hotels I have stayed at the Sheraton as well as aLoft.

American Express will have from time to time increased sign-up bonuses for this card.  Currently it is 10,000 points after the first purchase and then an additional 15,000 after spending $5000 within the first 6 months.  Click here for a link to the card.

What I really like about this card, as I mentioned earlier, is the flexibility that if offers.  I can transfer points to Hawaiian Airlines and then book a flight on American Airlines through Hawaiian.  We have three major alliances with the airlines and some non-alliance partners.  Once you transfer to one airline in an alliance, then you have access to all the other airlines within that alliance.  Plus, for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred within the same transaction, Starwood will automatically add another 5,000 Starpoints!  This means that up to 94,999 Starpoints can be transferred into your frequent flyer account, with most airline partners, making a free flight that much closer.   Please keep in mind that only one airline transfer transaction per member, per airline program, is permitted within a 24-hour period.  For more information, go to this link

spg

Vanilla Reloads and CVS – a dilemma

The other day I walked  into my local CVS to pick up a prescription.  While I was there, I thought I would also get two Vanilla Reloads.  I asked the pharmacy cashier to load them with $500 each.  At the end, she asked to see my identification – this was not a surprise to me.  What was a surprise is what she did next – she scanned the bar code of my license.  I quickly asked her why and she told me that the machine told her to.  I was shocked – what were they going to do with my information?  Now you might think that I am haphazard with my personal information since I purchase items online but I make that decision.  Also those decisions don’t have very personal tidbits of information like how tall I am or how much I weigh etc.  When I asked what they did with the information, the cashier couldn’t help me so I asked for the store manager.

cvs

A woman came out and she really didn’t have any more information other than to suggest that I call 1-800 CVS or something like that.  I suggest that SHE call since others may have the same questions that I do (and I was busy trying to correct a prescription).  She came back and told me it was a FEDERAL law that the stores collect information on our purchases as it relates to money laundering.  Hmm, not true I told her as I had just purchased a lot more a week earlier.  She also said that VISA is requiring her to do this.  Again, doesn’t sound likely since I had used the same card the week before.  Finally she said they do nothing with my information – they don’t even keep it.  Hmm, once it is in the system, it’s always in the system.  Since she knew nothing other than what she was being spoon-fed by whomever she spoke with, I let it drop and went home.

It was still a thorn in my side so I called the corporate offices of CVS today.  I had a really nice young man help me and he got it.  He had to go to other departments, including the store, to get the information.  I asked three questions – could I have been told prior to them scanning my bar code that they would be doing it so I would then have an option whether I wanted them to do it or not?  Secondly, what do they do with the information on my license and thirdly, why are they doing it.

To answer the questions he called the store.  They said that there is a sign posted for the employees to read that indicates that purchases of Vanilla Reloads of $1000 or more require a scan of the bar code however that is not in a place where customers can see it.

Secondly, what do they do with the information.  He was a little hazy on this but basically they don’t do anything with it.

Thirdly, why do they do it?  Apparently there is a lot of fraud around and money launders are finding this a great means to cleanse dirty money.  They want to have a record in case something fishy should occur down the road and they can show that they took means to get identifications.  To help, they ask for identification when you buy $1000 or more in reloads.

A way around this is to go in and buy 2 Vanilla Reloads – load one for $500 and load the other for $490.  With the $3.95 fee, you’ll be below the $1000 threshold that CVS has imposed on many of its customers.  I use VR’s to pay my mortgages, long term care policy (checks only, no cc’s), etc.  So from now on, I’ll just be getting $10 less each time I go into CVS.

Have you had any issues?

My Award Booking Trip to South Africa and…….?????

Let me begin by saying that  I could have never put this trip together without hiring Andrew from the Point Pros (Andrew@pointspros.com).  If you are looking to hire someone to help you book a complicated award ticket or any kind of an award ticket, I would HIGHLY recommend Andrew.  Andrew works under Ben (aka Lucky) who writes One Mile At A Time

What I had thought would be a simple trip to South Africa with a free stopover in Scotland on our way home turned into so much more.  Getting to Scotland was very difficult and costly with UK passenger and landing fees.  We had hoped that if we deleted that portion of our trip it would be easier to book, but it wasn’t.  We’ll save Scotland for some other trip.  Deleting Scotland has allowed us to think about adding in a different stopover city.  Remember, on long haul trips, you get a free stopover for as long as you want.

Apparently South African Airways hasn’t released any award booking seats from the United States to South Africa during the time period we wanted to go.  We needed to patch together an itinerary to get us there on the 16th as we were flying from Johannesburg to Nelspruit for our safari on the 17th.   Unfortunately, the closest we could get  to Johannesburg on an award booking was on the 14th. With award booking you have to remain flexible – you most likely will not get what you want with more exotic destinations.  Though Blogger Hubby hates to waste money on hotels I’m rather happy about it – it gives me time to adjust to the time changes before we go on safari on the 17th.

Put on your seat belt and get comfortable as you read about these flights.

seatbelt

We will be flying from Detroit to Washington Dulles where we will have about a six hour layover (any friends want to pick us up and take us out of the airport for the afternoon?).  From Dulles we’ll fly in business class overnight to London Heathrow and where we have a (gasp) 14 hour layover.  Rather than stay in the airport that long, we’ll probably take a train into London – a place I have never been.  We’ll actually have two overnight flights, like we did flying into Sydney.  We’ll  return to Heathrow and take an overnight flight down to Johannesburg on South African Airways.

After spending a few days in Johannesburg and meeting our son, our daughter-in-law and baby to be, we’ll go on two different safaris in Kruger.  Looking forward to this but a little concerned about the 4 AM guided safari tours – that’s very early!

safari car

For the return home, and this is the part that gets ugly, we will be returning from Cape Town (an Open Jaw flight).  Using award miles to get out of South Africa was not easy.   The choices were either EgyptAir (which had poor reviews) or Ethiopian Airlines in economy but on the new Dreamliner.  We’ll fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then onward to Addis Abba, Ethiopia.  We’ll have a layover and then fly on to Rome, on Ethiopia Airlines in Business.  From Rome we’ll fly to Copenhagen, Denmark on Scandinavian Airlines.  What a day of traveling.  We’ll spend 6 nights in Copenhagen.  We’re open to lots of suggestions including whether it is worthwhile to take the train or ferry over to Sweden.

copenhagen

For our flights home from Copenhagen we’ll fly into Toronto on Air Canada’s Executive First Class suites which have a 1-1-1 configuration.  Click on the link and you’ll see what I am referring to.  A short hop to Chicago and then a shorter hop to Detroit and we’ll be back from where we started from.  I guess you can see why we needed help.  Through Expert Flyer we have listed several other flights that we’d like to be on if seats become available.

All this for 240,000 miles total (Ultimate Rewards points transferred to United)  and $212 per person.  If we were to pay cash for this exact itinerary, it would be over $21,000.  Granted there were shorter ways to fly (direct from Dulles to Johannesburg) but that cost more money and since we are retired, we have time plus I get to fly into Ethiopia.  We will fly 22,439 miles on this epic journey.  We can pay and make changes to this itinerary but if we make any changes after February 1st, that will put us into the new award chart and would end us costing us many more points.

Finally, again many thanks to Ben and Andrew from the Point Pros and I would HIGHLY recommend them.

Here is what our trip will look like:

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British Airways 100,000 point credit card offer is back

I know many of you are tired of reading about credit cards yet many are interested.  I need to walk a fine line between the two.  Regardless, I DO NOT get any compensation or benefit for writing about offers that are out there nor do I encourage you or want to discourage you from getting these cards.  You know what your financial situation is – not me.

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British Airways is back with a tempting offer – 100,000 Avios points for opening a credit card.  However, you need to know that you get 50,000 miles once you spend $2,000.00 in the first three, an additional 25,000 points after spending $10,000 in the first year (the $2,000  .is included) and another 25,000 when you spend $10,000 in the second year that you have the card.  The fee of $95 is not waived.

I’m not a big fan of BA – they charge huge fuel surcharges which could be more costly than you were expecting.yet they afe good for using on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines for short hauls within the United States.

For a great explanation, and since I am still really sick with this stomach bug, I suggest you head over to Million Mile Secrets.  Darius does a great job of breaking it down.  Here is the link for his blog.

Credit Card Tips for the Week

Here’s what happening on the credit card front -remember  I DO NOT receive any compensation from any of the credit card companies.  You may or may not want to take advantage of some of these deals.

IF you are so inclined, now is the time to apply for the 50,000 miles Souhwest Airline credit card. I do not have this card but will be applying for it – deadline for approval is October 30th.  I would apply today!  Why is this great you ask?  Because if you get 110,000 you get a free companion pass that you can use within two calendar years.  To get the most out of this card, make sure you complete your $2000 minimum spend AFTER your December statement closes – that way it will be credited to January and you will have 2014 and 2015 in which  to use your companion pass.   It doesn’t matter if you book your flight with points or with cash, your companion just pays the taxes.  Here is a link to the credit card courtesy of Million Mile Secrets:

American Express is back with a 20% British Airways transfer and  30% Virgin Atlantic transfer from now until December 31, 2013. I wouldn’t transfer unless you have a trip planned and need extra points.  I try to stay as flexible as possible nevertheless, it is a good way to get extra points.

According to Points, Miles and Martinis American Airlines is offering  a bonus on purchased miles.  The more you purchase the greater the bonus is. If you purchase 15,000 – 29,000 miles you’ll earn a bonus of 4,000 miles; 30,000 – 49,000 miles you’ll earn 8,000 miles.  Click here for more details.

Lufthansa has a 50,000 sign-up bonus for its credit card.  This is a good deal because it gets you access to better  First Class award seats on its partners such as Swiss Air. Here is a link for the credit card.

Chase Marriott Credit Card – Renewal Time, What to Do?

No, this isn’t a post extolling you to get this credit card but instead it is one where we were thinking about canceling this credit card since it is time for our renewal and the $85 fee and what are options were.

Blogger Hubby enjoyed using some of our points that he received when he first signed up for this card last year – in fact, if he hadn’t had the points, he would have not stayed at a hotel and instead would have gotten up very early in the morning to drive to the airport.  It made it very convenient for him to have those points in the bank and use them when he ordinarily wouldn’t have.

A few minutes ago he just called the number on the back of the card and mentioned to the person that answered the phone that he was thinking of canceling his card and could he speak with a retention specialist.  He was put right through and explained that he was thinking of canceling unless they could convince him otherwise.  With renewal you automatically get one free night stay at a Category 1-5 hotel so right there, that was worth the renewal fee.  Then to sweeten it for us, they said if he made 15 purchases in the next three months, they would credit our account with 5,000 points.  The purchases can be for any amount. We readily accepted.

The point of this is when you are thinking about whether to keep or cancel a credit card consider what benefit you may gain out of keeping it: is it worth the annual fee, in this case $85, for the benefit you might derive out of it (a free night stay and for us 5,000 points0?  Only you can decide that.

Hilton Waikoloa Resort north of Kona, Hawaii

After our trip to Kauai, we flew into Kona for our final three nights of our Hawaiian vacation.  Kona is a very small airport with limited roofing and sides to the building.  We know this because when we landed, it was a torrential wind driven rain storm.  The pilot had us wait inside the plane for a bit since there are no jetways.  After wading through 3 inches of water and getting our rain drenched luggage, we went to Alamo to pick up our rental car.

We were shortly we were on our way up Rt. 19 to the Hilton.  As we pulled into the Hilton property all we could see were lots of cars.  In fact, they were hosting an event.  We pulled up and we unloaded our luggage while my husband found out that we had to pay $17 per day for self parking or $22 for valet service.  We chose the valet service since the property was so large.

The lobby was extremely busy for after 9 PM.  We checked in, given a room in the Ocean Terrace and told we needed to take the monorail to our complex which would be the end of the line (3rd stop).  There was a boat we could take but they don’t allow luggage.  Since there is one track, we needed to wait about 30 minutes for the train.  Blogger Hubby wasn’t pleased about that!  Looking at the photo below, he Ocean Terraces are the three circles that are interlocking.  There is only one stop at this location and it is at the far right.  We felt like we ended up walking quite a bit to get to our room.

KPC Hilton Waikoloa

This hotel looked dated, no microwave, single sink and for me a big disappointment was no lei greeting like we had at the Hyatt. The balcony was very small with two chairs and a small, short round end table.  There was a coffee machine like the Hyatt had but unlike the Hyatt, they did not offer tea and I am a tea drinker.

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We were woken up very early in the morning and multiple times due to about a million birds screeching.  They did it many times and it lasted a long time.  We met several people who changed their rooms/complexes because of the loudness of these birds.  If I was staying longer or had children with me, we would have changed as well.  The other side of the complex had the dolphins which I’m sure a lot of children would like to be near to see the interaction or to swim with them.

Rather than waiting for the monorail, we walked to the lobby, about a 10 minute museum.  The boat only ran from 2 PM till 10 PM.  It was, in our opinion, very inconvenient to have to wait a long time to go to your room.

The pools here didn’t seem as inviting as the one at the Grand Hyatt Kauai – there was no lazy river and a small water slide.  The “lagoon” where you could rent kayaks, paddleboards did have a natural environment where we saw green turtles swimming with paddleboarders a few inches, or so it seemed, right above them.  There was water around the complex that you could not go into – such as the waterway for the boat.

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We did attend the Luau that they had and it was quite good.  There really is no need to pay for the higher end seats as there is no bad seat at this luau. When you enter you get your choice of two drinks and are escorted to your seat.  The higher end seats did receive appetizers (nachos and chips among them).  The food was very good for being mass produced: short ribs, pulled pork, salads, fruit and desserts.  The show began a little hokey but that was okay.  The entire affair probably took about 2 hours.

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Hilton5We enjoyed our time but would not consider returning to this location.  It really was just too large for us and we felt like we spent quite a bit of our time waiting for the monorail, waiting for our car from valet (everyone on the monorails went to the car valet for their cars).  The hotel, just to give you an idea of how large it is, covered 63 acres!  Too big for us.

We were able to do this because we have the Hilton Honors American Express card where you get 5 times points at grocery stores (buy VISA gift cards there and use for other spending) as well as opening a Bank of Hawaii and Hawaiian Air credit cards.  With a minimum spend of $1000 we earned 35,000 and they each transferred over to Hilton at a 1:2 ration – those two cards gave us 140,000. Rooms went for 50,000 points per night so the points from the Hilton AmEx topped off what we had already earned.

Grand Hyatt Kauai

grand hyatt

I had read about this hotel and was very anxious to see what everyone was talking about.  We were able to stay here since we had opened our Chase Hyatt credit card that came with two free nights at any Hyatt anywhere around the world.  The Hyatt that everyone talk about are the Grand Hyatts in Sydney, Tokyo, Paris and Kauai.  Using it in Kauai was the natural choice for us.  With the free nights and since we have the Hyatt card, we did not have to pay the $25 per day resort fee or the wifi for our room.  There is free complimentary parking or a for charge valet service for your car; we chose the free parking.

In preparation for our stay in Kauai, I emailed the concierge at the Hyatt for a list of suggestions and ideas of what we should do and see.  One of the suggestions was a dinner cruise along the Na Pali Coast.  That sounded like something we would do and since he didn’t say that reservations were important to make ahead of time, we decided to wait since they were having heavy rain and flash floods in Kauai.  More about this later.

We were able to catch an earlier flight out of Honolulu and arrived on Kauai about an hour earlier than planned at 9:00 AM.  As Blogger Hubby was getting our rental car, I called the hotel and inquired if we could have an earlier check-in.   After a few minutes on hold, I was told that we could drive over to the hotel and they would accommodate us.  Before we drove to the airport, we took the rental car shuttle driver’s advice and had breakfast in Lihue at the Tip Top Cafe.  I had macadamian nuts pancakes and Blogger Hubby had oxtail soup.

Hyatt

The hotel is about 20 minutes from the Lihue airport on Kauai.  Very easy to get to.  As were pulled up to the front of the hotel in our rental car, the doorman greeted us, put a beautiful orchid lei around my neck and a black beaded lei around Blogger Hubby’s neck.

Check-in was easy and before we knew it, a bellman had our luggage and as he walked us to our room, he told us a bit about the resort and showed us around.  We were on the first floor with a pool view on the Shipwreck Beach side.  We had two queen size beds, 2 refrigerators and a microwave in our room.  The common bathroom area was quite large with two sinks.  To the left was the bathtub and shower and on the right was the toilet.  Our balcony had two chairs and an eating size round glass table.  Close to our door, was a swimming pool and the pool cabanas.  The grounds were beautiful, multi-level with bridges across the water and pools on different levels.  They even had a lagoon with a sandy beach so you felt like you were in the ocean of which I didn’t see anyone in it.  There is what I call a lazy river that you can float a long way in and even go on a water slide (yes, I went on the slide).  It was a fun way to spend a day.  The hot tub is in a lava rock pool.  I really liked this hotel.

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                                        bathroom
view from our room
                                                                 view from our room

The Hyatt also has the Anara Spa but it is so much more than just massages.  It is a place to go that is quiet and peaceful with a multi lane lap pool, cushioned lounges around, jacuzzis, lava rock showers, a locker room with a vanity with products so you don’t have to bring your own.  Along the “bar” by the pool they have fruit infused water for he taking as well as a few tables so you can order a meal to eat.  Soft relaxing music compliment the spa.  This is where we hung out after we checked out of our room and didn’t have to be to the airport till 4 hours later.

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lava rock shower in the spa
         lava rock shower in the spa

We never made it to the NaPali Coast because when we went to the concierge desk after arrival we were told that we had to pre-reserve the tickets of which nothing was said in the emails that I had received.   We were very disappointed in not having the information early enough to know to make reservations in advance of our trip. Also, when I asked about different luaus on the island, I was only directed to the one sponsored by the Hyatt.  Turns out the concierges are not Hyatt employees but are employeed by Travelocity.  Not sure if this is good thing or not but it is what it is.

I was very pleased with our stay.  They do a lot of little things to make me want to spread the word at how good it is and to come back.  In our room, we had a recycle trash container; nightly turn down service with chocolates and orchids on our bed; our refrigerator had complimentary water and it was restocked twice a day; all the water that was in the pool complex was for our recreation and swimming and not just for show; our room was easily accessible to the main lobby; their beach towels are a very good size, and there was a guitarist each evening that we listened to.  There is so much more about this facility that I could go on and on. Oh, and did I mention that they have a wonderful Camp Hyatt for children.  The ONLY negative that I would say is that there were not enough outlets for me to sit in the very comfortable chair and plug in my computer while using it.

I do want to acknowledge an employee who always had a smile on her face and always seemed to be working at the front desk – Malaika.  I would see her in the

Malaika  -my favorite hotel employee of all time
Malaika -my favorite hotel employee of all time

mornings, afternoons and even the evenings.  She was never bothered with me asking questions and generally wanted me to have a wonderful vacation.  She certainly personifies the hospitality that Hyatt is know for.  If you are looking for a hotel in Kauai, look no further because you should spend your vacation here.

Planning the Trip to Hawaii with Points and Miles

As some of you know, we recently had an opportunity drop into our lap – a friend of Blogger Hubby offered us their timeshare in Oahu for a week at the end of September.  I have never been to Hawaii and Blogger Hubby had been there a L  O  N  G time ago.  This offer was made to us a few days before Labor Day so we needed to get our act together and fast.

First, since we were still in Michigan we needed to find flights on our points.  None of the small airports near us had flight the times that we needed for a connection in Detroit.  Our next option was to drive the 4 1/2 hours south to Detroit Metro Airport.  I was saving our UR and UAL points for our trip to South Africa for next summer and therefore needed to use our American Express Membership Reward points.  Looking at many of the airline schedules and using the ITA Matrix, United appeared to be our best bet.

American Express membership points do not transfer to United Airlines though they do transfer to Singapore Airlines which is in the Star Alliance with United.  UAL requires 80,000 points to fly in Business Class to Hawaii; Singapore Air, through their award chart only requires 60,000 points.  To me, a frugal point saver, that is a significant difference.  Miles were transferred to Singapore Air (I did it online, you can do it online or by phone).  A quick phone call, once the points were deposited into the KrisFlyer account that I had previously opened, and my seats were booked.  I had spent some time on the UAL award site choosing my flights that had award availability, and those flight numbers were given to KrisFlyer.  Seats were booked!  A tool to help you find the number of award miles needed from many airlines is Milez.Biz

krisflyer

Next up….planning what to do and where to go after our week in Oahu.  We knew we only wanted to go to two islands but the three that came to mind was Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.  Before we made that decision, we needed to see where our hotel points would take us to.  We seemed to have more options for Kauai and the big Island so that made our decision process a little easier.  In Kauai, it was a no brainer for us.  We had opened the Chase Hyatt credit card last fall and when you do, you get 2 nights free at ANY Hyatt worldwide.

I had heard so much about the Grand Hyatt Kauai that I wanted to spend two nights there.  We arranged an early morning flight on Hawaiian Air (7:40 AM) so we could maximize our time in Kauai.  We were able to stay here since we had opened a Chase Hyatt credit card last year and you get two free nights at any Hyatt in the world.  Since these would expire in November, we thought this was a good use of those two free nights.

Next up, where to stay on the Big Island.  As I had mentioned in a previous post, Blogger Son #2 had WWOOF’ed in Kona and he suggested that we stay around that area.   I had lots of Hilton points so we booked the Hilton Waikoloa Village for three nights.  We had arranged a late afternoon flight from Kauai to the Big Island so that we would have almost 3 full days in Kauai and since we were flying home from Kona at 9 PM, we would have almost 3 full days on the Big Island as well.  We used our points from the Hilton American Express card – about 50,000 per night.  I had lots of points as I had just purchased a number of Vanilla Reloads at a grocery store and as most of you know, you get 5 times points at a grocery store when you use this card.  Knowing your bonus categories really help.  I had also opened last year a Bank of Hawaii and a Hawaiian Airline credit card where I received 35,000 from each card.  Nothing spectacular but they transferred over to Hilton at a 1:2 ration – for every Hawaiian mile, I received two Hilton points.  Did all this for a total of 140,000 points.

Next up, it becomes a reality and you’ll read about the flight to Oahu.

Cruising….another way of vacationing

While I am traveling this week and part of next week I will be republishing some of my older and earlier posts.  It seems that I can’t always get to a computer – it might be because the sun and surf are calling my name.  Thank you for continuing to read some of these older posts.

Cruising is a wonderful way to take a vacation for many of us.  You can do as much or as little as you want and yet you are still on vacation and visiting several different countries while staying on the ship.  For some of my friends that are mobility challenged, this is ideal.  For others that are very active it is ideal as well.  For families there is so much to do for kids, adults and their parents.

I’ve taken many Caribbean cruises and have enjoyed them.  Most of them were not spectacular but more of an enjoyable vacation, good food, entertainment as well as seeing a different island each day.   After a number of Caribbean cruises it seemed to us that the islands all tended to blend in to each other and was difficult to distinguish one from the other….If this is Tuesday it must be Martinique.

Royal-Caribbean

Nevertheless, there are so many great benefits about cruising.  I do enjoy seeing something different each day without the hassle of packing and unpacking  I always know where I am going to sleep at night and not have to drive or walk or sit at an internet cafe to find lodging for the night.

carnival

Same benefit for meals.  Although we are generally not being served regional food from the area that we are cruising to,  we do know where we are going to eat every night. There are several dining options on a cruise ship but the two primary ones are fixed seating and open dining. With fixed seating you eat at the same time, same table and the same table mates every night. There is Early Seating and Late Seating and you need to let your travel agent know which you want at booking.  Generally that works out for me but one time my daughter and I were cruising and at our table was a couple my age (the parents) and a couple her age (their daughter and her fiance). They were on a back to back cruise and the younger couple was going to get married on the second portion of their cruise. All through dinner they talked about the upcoming wedding. We were very happy for them but it was not a conversation that we felt part of and nor should we. We went to the dining room maitre d’ and requested another table.  We were fortunate that the new table had both passengers my age and my daughter’s age.  You do not have to sit and suffer.  The other main option is Open Dining or Anytime dining.  Theoretically you could go to the other dining room any time and get a table.  In theory that sounds great but it doesn’t always happen that way.  Many people do like to dine at 6:30 and you can get a table after they dine if you prefer a little later.  You can make reservations but not for any time you want.  With this type of dining you will be seated at a different table every night and with different people.  Blogger Hubby and I did it that way one time when we were traveling by ourselves.  It was a great way to meet other people.  We found one couple that we really liked and arranged to make a reservation with them for the following night.  Other dining options are to eat at the Lido buffet or one of the specialty restaurants that have an extra charge for and in my opinion it is well worth it.  We always do a specialty restaurant once per cruise.  The last option is room service of which there is no charge for but you do need to tip the person bringing your food to your room.  A nice dinner on your balcony watching the sun set is a very romantic option.

celebrityOn the ships there are many venues for entertainment.  Whether it is in a lounge for classical music, the Piano Bar for a rocking good time, the movie theatre to see a first rate movie, listening or dancing to a small band, the casino for a spin with Lady Luck, or the theatre for a production show – there is always something to do.

norwegian

In addition to these cruise lines, there is also Celebrity, Norwegian Cruise Line, Crystal, Costa, Disney Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas, and others as well as smaller cruise lines such as Oceania and Azamara.

Holland America

When choosing to cruise, learn about the different personalities that each cruise line has and see if it fits in with your needs, expectations and personality.  Some are geared to the younger crowd, some to the young, the middle-agers, some to a senior crowd and some to families. They all do have a combination of ages which makes it convenient for family trips but generally with an emphasis on one of the age groups.

What is not included in your cruise price is any wine, beer, specialty coffees, smoothies, hard liquor that you consume.  Some lines allow you to bring wine and champagne on board with Celebrity allowing 2 bottles per stateroom and Holland America allowing you unlimited.  I also bring on board soft drinks for my consumption and bottled water.  If you choose to play the casino or Bingo, those charges are not included in your cruise and would be extra.  Also any tours you take while on land is not included.

In future posts I’ll talk about how to book a cruise and how to book excursions  either booking with the cruise line or on your own.

Chase Freedom 4th Quarter Bonus Categories

For those that have the Chase Freedom card (one of my top 3 cards) you can activate the 4th quarter bonus categories today.  From October 1st though December 31 you can earn 5 times points on purchases made with these merchants.  Go to your Chase site to activate your card.

They have some very attractive stores in their bonus category for the 4th quarter where you can earn 5 x points.  Some of the stores are Amazon, Macy’s, Nordstroms, Bloomingdale’s, Loehmans, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Ave and Off 5th, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Sears and more.  For the complete list click here.

As a reminder, if you go to the Ultimate Rewards mall, with some merchants you’ll get additional points plus the 5 times points from using your Freedom card.  This is how I bump up my points.

Freedom

Bluebird and free checks 1/1/2014

I’ve shared with you a few times my love of Vanilla Reloads (VR)  and AmEx Bluebird (BB).  For those of you who are new to this blog, you can go to this site to read up on it in more detail but very quickly VRs are a transfer means. What I do is to go into a store that sells VRs and they MUST look like this:   Load them

Must look like this
Must look like this

up to $500 each with my credit card that I am either trying to meet the minimum spend on for the sign up points or a credit card that I am trying to get more points on.  I then transfer the money that is on the VR to my Bluebird (BB) and I am able to do it online in the comfort of my home.  Once the money is in my BB account, then I can pay bills electronically.  BB advertisers itself as a debit and checking alternative.

bluebird

Last spring BB introduced free checks.   To use one of BBs checks, you enter the check information on the BB site.  Basically what BB does is preauthorize the check amount and they debit it from your balance.  You can never be in an overdraft position because the check has to be pre-authorized.  This is also handy because some payees do not accept credit card payments (IRS, anything I pay at City Hall, church donations, etc).

You can order free checks now until January 1, 2014.  You have a choice of 50 or 100 checks and since they are free, I would order 100 checks.

bluebird checks

If you go to the VR site you will find a list of stores that supposedly sell VRs.  Now I say supposedly because WalMart is listed and as far as I know they have never sold VRs.  Click on all the stores because there are many names that I did not recognize them but they were the “holding company” and some of their stores were ones that I was aware of and had shopped at.

Do you use Bluebird and Vanilla Reloads?

American Express and Small Business Saturday

I’m a firm believer in supporting our local businesses as much as I can.  I was really excited last year when I found out about  Small Business Saturday and the role American Express plays in it.   Small Business Saturday, this year on November 30th, is all about supporting your local businesses; those Mom and Pop stores, the independent retailers that most of us have in our communities.  It’s a day to get people out and to shop at these stores. The idea of Small Business Saturday was created by American Express in 2010.  Too often we order online while our local businesses are suffering from low sales.  To encourage American Express cardholders to shop locally, American Express, in the past, has given  a $25 credit on your statement if you made a single, in person transaction of at least $25 total on Small Business Saturday with a registered small business.  We expect the same this year as it has been in the previous years. Just notified that it is $10 for 2013 – make a $10 purchase and get $10 credit.

This incentive applies to both business and personal American Express cards and you are not limited to just one card. I have two cards and my husband has four.  We just need to register each of those cards by the date given by American Express (and I’ll let you know when it is) and use them at a registered small business on November 30th

To find out if your favorite local store is participating, you will need to go to this site and highlight and then delete the city that is showing.  Add your city in and you will see who is participating so far.  Not much showed up for me till I went to the different categories (Dining, Shopping, etc)  Remember more and more merchants will be joining so review the list periodically.

Last year we frequented a local restaurant that was identified as a Small Business by AmEx.  We went in and bought a $25 gift certificate for a future visit and received the $25 statement credit.  It was great – we had two evenings out for the price of one.  You too can purchase merchandise or gift certificates for a future purchase and take advantage of the credit.

 

More Reader Questions

More reader questions answered for you……..

1. Is there a way to link actual miles flown to the ultimate rewards account…or would you have to fly on a star alliance carrier as the way to be able to eventually pool those miles flown with the miles you would get by converting ultimate reward points?   There is no way to link miles flown with your Ultimate Rewards.  UR points can be transferred to the following airlines – British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest, United, Virgin Atlantic.  Of these airlines, only United is a Star Alliance member.  Korean Air is part of the One Sky Alliance.  British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have partners but are not in an alliance.  Southwest has no partners and are not in an alliance.  If you were interested in Star Alliance, you would have to fly United and then you could transfer you UR points to United in order to fly with one of the Star Alliance members.

2. On hotels, what is the best way to begin getting free hotel stays…would you recommend just joining the hotel loyalty programs, signing up for a hotel rewards credit card, or both?  The best way to begin getting free hotel stays is to sign up for their loyalty program.  That way you’ll learn about their promotions which will give you multiple points/free nights if you follow the terms of the promotion.  Hotel credit cards are another way of getting free nights.  Hyatt will give you two free nights, Marriott will give you 50,000 points and you will have to check the other credit cards to see what you will get.

3. Is there a way to combine the Chase ultimate reward points for free hotel stays, or is it a better use of those points to save them for flights?   You can transfer some of your UR points to Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, Ritz-Carlton.  Whether you think it is a better use to use your UR for airlines or hotel stays is up to you and what is important to you. Personally I prefer to use my points for long distance business class airline travel.

4. If my spouse also gets a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, will we be able to combine our points?  Yes and no.  You will not have a family account but you can transfer yours into his and vice versa.  When we flew last year, my husband transferred his to my account and we made one booking that way.

5. What specifically do you mean between the difference in free flights versus status? I think I am most interested in being able to book free travel, and if possible in business class.   You get free flights from using your points in your airline account.  For status, you generally get it from flying with your butt in the seat – that’s why people do mileage runs.  You do have the opportunity to get an upgraded seat when you have status.  You could have purchased a coach ticket as a gold member.  If there are business class or premium economy available, you’ll get on the upgrade list.  Whether you get it or not depends on how many seats available, and how many elites are ahead of you.

6. I think I know what you mean by mileage run, but in practical terms, would you just pick a weekend and book a bunch of travel and fly all weekend, or would you do it by strategically picking a far away destination and traveling there over a weekend but making a short vacation out of it…or maybe both depending on circumstances? You could do both.  If you were going on a greater distance, you would have the opportunity to add in a bunch of stops, many times for a nominal amount, for the sole purpose of getting miles.  If you wanted to go from IAD to SFO  you might want to try routing IAD through Boston to Chicago to Houston to SFO.  See how many more miles you would get?  Go to Great Circle Mapper and see the difference.  Now my husband’s cousin picks a destination and makes a short vacation.  She is going to Hong Kong for the miles.  My brother-in-law and his wife went to Aruba to preserve her diamond level.  So, it’s entirely up to you.

7. Question about currency exchange. We will be going to Europe in the fall. Would it be better to get a bunch of Euros before we go or to use a debit card (no ATM charge) at banks in Europe?   I like to have some currency when we go to a new country – in fact, enough to last a few days.  I buy it at my local bank over several different months so hopefully I catch it when the rate is the most favorable.  While I am traveling I use my Charles Schwab bank debit card.  They reimburse you for ALL you ATM fees and it is a favorite of many travelers.  If you are interested, call Chuck and set up your account.

Answering Readers Questions

I recently received some questions from a reader.  You might have some of the same questions in your mind. Hopefully I can answer them for you..

1. Generally speaking, what would you say is the best approach for accumulating significant ultimate rewards points?  In my opinion, the fastest way to accumulate significant UR miles is through credit card churning BUT only if you can do the minimum spend in the allotted time and be able to pay your bill off entirely each  month and you are not going to be making a major purchase in the next two years as hard inquiries stay on your credit report for two years.  Remember, in doing this you want to protect your credit. Last year I applied for and was approved for the Sapphire card (50,000 points), Explorer card (40,000 points), Ink Bold (50,000 points) and Chase Freedom (10,000 points).  Right there is 150,000 points just from the sign-up and not including the points earned while doing the minimum spend.  Add in the cards that my husband opened, and we have over 300,000 points from the credit cards.  We have begun to close a few of our cards – something you should do if you do not want to pay the fee and don’t care about the extra perks, in 8-11 months after opening.  The Chase Mileage Plus Explorer card gives you one free checked bag and two passes to the United Lounge each year.

2. My takeaways from your blog are to: use the card on everyday expenses, use the card especially through the rewards mall and especially with stores that offer the highest points, and booking travel through the ultimate rewards site (although I am not clear how to do this)  When you go to your Chase credit card site, click on the right side to go to Ultimate Rewards.  When you get to this page you will see a blue box on the left side.  You want to click on “Book a Trip”.  Follow the directions and you can then book a trip using miles.

3.  Are there other methods for accumulating a lot of miles in a relatively short time span?   As I wrote about in an earlier blog, Vanilla Reloads are a way that I use to pump up my monthly totals.  Read this post to find out how to use it.  Another way is to have one of the Chase business credit cards where you get 5X points in office supply stores.  You can go in, purchase a $500 VISA gift card and use that for your spend in places where you are only getting 1X points – you’ve just bumped up your total points you would have earned.  Additionally if you have the business credit card, pay for internet, landline and wireless phone bill since you’ll also earn 5X points.

4. Is there a way to link actual miles flown to the ultimate rewards account…or would you have to fly on a star alliance carrier as the way to be able to eventually pool those miles flown with the miles you would get by converting ultimate reward points?   Your actual miles flown would stay with the airline that you’ve flown with.  You would pool your points with an airline of the alliance you want to fly.  Let’s say you have UAL miles, you could transfer your UR points to your UAL account when you want to fly on Star Alliance booking through UAL.  You can only transfer your UR points to one of its transfer partners and then you can use their alliance.  UR points can transfer to Korean Air.  Go to Korean Air and see what alliance they are in (SkyTeam) and who you can transfer to within their alliance.

5. On hotels, what is the best way to begin getting free hotel stays…would you recommend just joining the hotel loyalty programs, signing up for a hotel rewards credit card, or both?  I would join the hotel loyalty program so you can learn about all their promotions.  Generally they have 3-4 promos a year geared toward the season “The new Fall promotion…”  To jump start, get the hotel credit card and many times you’ll get points right off the bat and then when you stay with them you’ll get 5x or 10x points per dollar spent at the hotel.  Last year we stayed at a Marriott for a function that we were going to.  There was a cash bar in our function room so I couldn’t charge my drink to my room.  I walked down the hallway to the hotel bar, charged my drinks and got 5x points for each dollar that I spent at the bar.  I believe Marriott now has a promo that you have to register for that after two stays (remember the difference between a stay and a night) , you get one night free.

More questions and answers coming next week.  Keep them coming.

Chase Freedom Credit Card New Benefits

I have spoken off and on about several of the credit cards that I have and why I REALLY like them.  The Chase Freedom card is one of them for the quarterly bonuses and if you have a Sapphire Preferred or an Ink card, you can accumulate UR points and transfer them to the other cards.  Other than that, there is nothing else special about this card for me until………

Freedom

Today Chase announced new cardmember benefits that sound very appealing to me.

Firstly, they now have auto rental collision coverage included which means that theft and collision coverage is provided for most rental cars worldwide.  Check with Chase to see if the car you are renting has this coverage.   I know that before I rent a car, I always find out what my credit card covers and what I need to decline on the car rental forms. Some credit cards, if you pay an extra fee, will be the primary insurer when you rent (think American Express) which at times is important to me.  Here in the US, it doesn’t matter who pays first and who pays second in the case of an accident but when traveling abroad I want it to be as hassle free as possible.

Secondly, like some of the American Express cards, they are now offering to extend the manufacturers warranty by one year on items you purchase with your Freedom card.  I really like this benefit because I have had that happen to me – where an item was out of warranty period (mine was 90 days) and no longer worked (at 6 months).

Finally, eligible purchases are protected for 120 days against damage or theft. I jsut read a blog

To get more information, you would need to go to http://www.chasebenefits.com/freedomYP1 to download and read the Guide for complete details. If you have any questions, call Chase  anytime at the number on the back of your card.

Marriott and their MegaBonus Promotion

Marriott has a new Fall promotion and it is a MegaBonus –  you can earn a free night at a category 1-5 hotel, up to two free nights, for every second paid stay. Remember, there is a small difference between a stay and a night.  One night is a stay, two consecutive nights is one stay, 5 nights is a stay.  Some hotels will let you check in on one night, check out the next morning and then check back in again for it to be considered two stays – check with your hotel first as not all will let you do it.  The key is to get two different reservation numbers.

marriott

Whether you travel for pleasure or business, you need to sign up for this promotion.   Even if you have no travel plan, unexpected events happen that may cause you to travel and stay at a Marriott.

You must register up by Nov. 15th and have stays between September 15, 2013 and January 15th, 2014.  You can register here Marriott MegaBonus  If you are not a Marriott Reward member, you can sign up at the same link and become a Marriott Reward Member to take advantage of this promotion.

To give you more “free nights” from this bonus, you can sign up and stay your stays  for the bonus.  Your partner can do the same and you’ll end up with 4 free nights!  Sounds like a vacation to me.  Additionally, if you sign up for a Chase Marriott card, once you do your minimum spend of $1000 in three months you’ll earn 50,000 Marriott Reward Points.

Marriott Rewards(Registered Trademark) Premier Visa(Registered Trademark) Signature Card

Don’t forget to register so you can take part in this MegaBonus promotion!

Friday Specials with VISA

I love my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.  I know you’ve heard me say that over and over and over again.  One of the new features that they added this spring was the First Friday of the month Dining Out program.  They want you to go out with friends, try a new restaurant and you’ll be rewarded with 3 Ultimate Reward points per dollar spent.  Don’t feel like dining out tonight but have plans for tomorrow night and you are wondering how you can still get those points – no problem.  Just go to the restaurant and buy a gift certificate.  You’ll still get the 3 points per dollar if you purchase the gift card today and you can eat at the restaurant at a future date.  Remember with the Chase Sapphire card you get a 7% bonus on points at the end of your membership year.  Effectively you will be getting a 3.21% per dollar spent.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred

Fandango Friday – This is the lat night that Fandango will be offering this summer promotion.  You need to have a VISA Signature card (yours probably says Signature on the face of the card).  You need to purchase the ticket on a Friday for that same day’s viewing.  For more information, click here.

just one example of a VISA signature credit card
just one example of a VISA signature credit card

Waiting for the August Ultimate Reward Mall Bonus Points

As I have mentioned many times before, I can maximize my points by going through the Ultimate Rewards Mall that you can get to through your Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card, your Chase Ink or Ink Plus Business cards or your Chase Freedom if you have one of the aforementioned credit cards.  On the first of each month their bonus merchants change; some stay the same, some decrease and some increase.  I am anxiously awaiting August 1st to see what the merchants are offering us.

This past month, I would order  printer ink at 4inkjets.com getting 15  points per dollar; Famous Footwear at 10 points per dollar; Kohls at 10 points per dollar (I think they have been at 10 points for almost a year); magazines.com at 25 points per dollar;  if you are a ProActive user you can order the product and receive 30 points per dollar;  Snapfish (a favorite of mine) at 15 points per dollar and so many more.

Tomorrow is your lat day for the July specials.  Me, I’m waiting to see what August will bring.

As I said in another blog, you can always check evreward.com to see if there is anything better for you.

Credit Card Number Stolen

Yes, my credit card was recently compromised.  I received an email yesterday from a company whose bill I pay automatically with my credit card..  They informed me that payment was refused.  Huh?  What’s up with that?

I looked online this morning at my credit card activity and there were all these charges that I didn’t charge – and in California to boot!  I got a sick feeling and immediately called Chase to let them know that my card had been compromised.  I really don’t understand how it happened as I have the physical card and I am about 2,000 miles from California.

credit card

I rarely use this card – a few online automatic payment and then I used in person twice this past month.  Since we are in a small village in northern Michigan I can’t imagine any of the two Mom & Pop stores that I went into having any kind of scammer on their machine that they run cards through and would “capture” my card numbers.  Regardless, my account  is closed and a new card with a new account number will be winging it’s way to me.  I actually caught this before their fraud detection department did.  All of the charges were under $200 so I’m sure that it didn’t set off any alerts.  I generally check my cards about once a week though this was an exception since a charge had been denied.

About an hour later I receive a telephone call from a detective in Orange County, CA who was with the Auto Theft Task Force and they caught the guy!  Really.  He had just purchased something with my card and left the store in a stolen car.  They found a handmade MasterCard with my numbers and name on it. The detective had last night proactively called Chase to inform them (they didn’t tell me that though) that my card had been compromised and he had the fake one in his possession.  He was able to get my local phone number from Chase and call me to ask if I wanted to press charges – “Hell yes” I replied “and if you need me to come to California I suppose I could fly and rack in some extra points and miles”.  I really did say that.  When I asked him how the perp (too many Law & Order episodes, sorry)  got my number he suggested it might have been when I ran my card through a gas pump card reader.  I told him no way that would have happened.  I would have used the Chase Freedom card to give me the 5 points per dollar at a gas pump.  He chuckled.

jail

The morale of this story – stay ever diligent when it comes to your credit cards.  Check them online frequently and stay on top.  At the first sign of trouble, call the credit card company and talk to the Fraud Department.  They are very helpful and will make you whole again.

Ebates, Shopping Portals and more

Let’s say that I want to make a purchase at Macys?  Many times I would just go to either Ebates for cash back  or go to the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal for points.  I had often wondered if I should have checked other shopping portals.  For instance, should I shop through the Marriott portal?  Hilton Honors?   Big Crumbs?  American Airlines and so on.

Now there is help for you and me.  There is an online site called Evreward.  Once you type in the name of the store that you are shopping at, it will come back with all the loyalty reward programs as well as cash back programs.  From there you make the decision of which shopping portal you want to go through for your purchase. Like other sites, not all stores are listed but it does give you a good start at determining where you want to make your purchase from.   If you are interested, let me know and I’ll send you a referral link.

Another portal is TopCashBack that claims to be the most generous of all cash back programs.  This site is the only one that gives you up to 2% back when purchasing AmEx gift cards, even the custom $3000 gift cards.  You are getting money back for purchasing gift cards.  This is the gift that keeps on giving.  It is worth checking out.  If you are interested in this, please use this referral link:  http://www.topcashback.com/ref/schwalmie  When you register and buy you will receive a $10 bonus – free money and points will make all of us very happy.

Remember – never leave any points on the table; take every point you are entitled to.  They are there for the taking and for you to take trips!

Credit Cards, Churning and my Excel Spreadsheet

As I mentioned previously, between Blogger Hubby and myself we have over 20 credit cards.  It is very important to keep track of all the cards.

Some of the cards are churnable – which means if you close them, wait a year then you can reapply for the cards and get the bonus points again.  For that reason it is important to know when you closed them and when you can reapply for a new card

It is difficult to churn credit cards with the Chase products but I have had success with the American Express products.

amex

I opened an American Express Gold card  in January 5th for the 50,000 membership points.  I did my $3000 spend on it and was waiting for my points to be deposited into my account.  They never deposited so I sent a Secure Message to them through my online account.  AmEx had informed me that the Gold card I had last year had only been closed 11 1/2 months so I did not qualify for the bonus again.  I tried appealing their decision but to no avail.

I knew then that I needed to keep better track of my credit cards and came up with my Excel Spreadsheet.  I list all my cards, the account numbers, the date I opened it, the date I closed it, what the bonus points were, what the minimum spend was for those points, where I was to date in regard to the spend, the closing date for each month’s spending, and how many points I have.  I update it each month when I receive my bill.  I know that many of you don’t have many cards and don’t want to take the time to get organized but once it is set up, it doesn’t take much time to keep it updated and to not lose a single point because you didn’t know the date you closed an account.  I wish I had started it when I first began signing up for these credit cards rather than when I had about 20 of them.

Whenever you open a credit card your credit receives a hard pull on your report and your FICO score will go down about 3-5 points per hard pull .  That score will go up again in about 3 months.  Your credit score is extremely important ficoand you need to be diligent about keeping it healthy and understanding what affects it and when it recovers.  I hope you find this information helpful should you decide to churn credit cards.  BTW, I still have excellant credit.  I would not do anything that would hurt me in the long run.  Check your credit with QuizzleCredit Sesame, or Credit Karma to see where you are.

Chase Freedom Credit Card

I love credit cards that give me a bonus when I sign up for them. I particularly love the Chase credit cards since their sign ups bonuses are just what I need.  The bonuses they give are always worthwhile to me and they help me travel for almost nothing.   Some of you last month signed up for the Chase Ink Business credit card earning 60,000 Ultimate Reward miles after a $5000 spend in three months.

I mentioned earlier that one of the new cards that I got this year is the Chase Freedom.  There is no yearly fee and if you have another one of Chase’s cards that give Ultimate Reward points (like Sapphire Preferred, Ink, etc) then you can get the very valuable Ultimate Reward points (UR) otherwise you get 5% cash back on up to $1500 spent in bonus categories each quarter.  Either way – points or money – you are a winner.  If you are interested in this card, go on over to the Mommy Point blog and follow her Top Credit Card Deals tab.  Scroll down till you see the description of this card and the link to the application form.

Freedom

The reason why I really, really like this card is that you get bonus categories every quarter.  When you purchase an item from one of the bonus categories stores, you get an extra 5 times points.

January – March
Gas stations
Drugstores
Starbucks® stores

April – June
Restaurants
Movie theaters
Lowe’s® home improvement stores

July – September
Gas stations
Theme Parks
Kohl’s®
ACTIVATE BY
September 14, 2013
October-December
Amazon.com
Select Department stores
ACTIVATE STARTING
September 15, 2013

What’s exciting to me is that this month the bonus categories are gas stations (and who doesn’t need gas?), Kohls and theme parks.  Kohls just happens to be one of my favorite stores.

kohls

Since most of you have the Ink card or another Chase credit card that gives you UR points you need to log in to your account.  On the right side, click on Go to Ultimate Rewards.  This will take you to the shopping portal.  This is an important step.  Go to the Kohl site on the shopping portal and you will find out that by ordering this way , you will most likely get the extra 10 points per dollar.  You will definitely get the 5 times points by using your Chase Freedom card.  Can you imagine get 15 points per dollar spent?  That is huge and a quick and easy way to rake up UR points very quickly.  If you spent $100 you will most likely get 1500 points rather the 100 points the old way (before you started reading my blog) or even just the 500 points for using only your Freedom card.

Remember, do not spend if you cannot afford to pay the bill when it becomes due.  Only you know what your personal finances are.  Having great credit is more important than having points.

Club Carlson

How many of you have ever heard of Club Carlson?  Here’s a hint…it is a loyalty program of a hotel brand known as Hotel Rezidor.  I know that I never heard of them till last year.  In fact, it was May 2012 when I first heard of them via their amazing promotion to get their name and their loyalty program more well known.  Give up yet?  They are the loyalty program of the Radisson Hotels, Country Inn and Suites and the lesser known Park Inn.  We’ve all heard of the first two.

club carlson

Basically what they did last year is give you an amazing amount of points if you stayed just one night in their hotels within a two month period ending July 15th.  You had to register by May 15th with them and if you stayed at a Radisson for that one night, they gave you 50,000 points as well as points for booking online and points for staying with them.  They did the same thing with Country Inn and Suites and the Park Inn only for those two they gave you 44,000 points plus booking online points and staying with them points.  Both Blogger Hubby and I separately registered and we wound up with almost 300,000 points which would come in handy for our trip to Australia.  I was fortunate that during the summer we lived about 40 miles from a Park Inn and I had a coupon for 30% off.  We paid $54 for our night and for that we got about almost 50,000 points.

As we were making plans for our trip to Sydney, we needed to find a hotel to spend four nights in.  Up until I got involved with points and miles, we tended to stay at a little out of the way hotels that were clean and less expensive and we would take public transportation to get to the city sights.

With the points we earned we were had our choice of two Radisson Hotels in Sydney.  The Radisson Bleu is in the Central Business District (CBD) and closer to the waterfront.  The other was the Radisson Hotel and Suites still in the heart of Sydney but closer to Chinatown, stores and restaurants.  We chose the later and each night cost 50,000 points or $375 AU which at that time was over $400 USD.

Additionally, before we went on our trip I signed up for the Club Carlson VISA card for one very important reason.  If you stayed two consecutive nights using your points, they refunded you your last night’s points.  That’s right, we got one of our nights free.  In theory we could have booked two nights each;  under my Club Carlson membership number and gotten the second night free and then also book the next two consecutive nights under Blogger Hubby’s membership number and gotten his second night free.  I felt like we had done quite well with all the points the gave us and didn’t want to be too greedy even though it was legal under their T&C (terms and conditions).

Our room was great.  We had a one bedroom suite with a small balcony that overlooked the busy street below, a full size kitchen and living room.  We were within easy walking distance of Chinatown and all the food offerings they had.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were also close to a small grocery store, a wine store, easy walking distance to Darling Harbour, the free city tours that are offered in all major cities in the world, the Chinese Friendship Garden and almost around the corner from one of the main transportations streets – George Street that has a free tourist bus that takes you to Circular Quay. I was even happier when I heard how much friends of ours spent on meals and we got great meals in Chinatown for less than half of what they paid and ours was probably just as good.  We just had more choices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In addition to the free last night of a two night or more award stay, the Club Carlson VISA gives you 85,000 points after you spend $2500 in the first 90 days; 5 points per dollar on all purchases and 10 points per dollar for all purchases purchases at participating Club Rezidor Hotels (Radisson, Country Inn and Suites and Park Inn); 40,000 points each year at renewal time; and free Upgrade to Gold Elite with the credit car.

Although this hotel is not on par with a Hyatt it is, nevertheless, a very god hotel and we have certainly enjoyed our stays.  Currently they are running a summer promotion that you have to register for.  You need to stay two consecutive nights and they will give you 10,000 points in addition to those that you would earn for staying there.

I’ve become a Club Carlson convert.  How about you?

Chase 60,000 mile offer ends Saturday

I’ve heard from several of my readers that you have applied for the Chase Ink or Plus Business cards.  This offer ends on Saturday so if you have been on the fence about it, now is the time to make a decision.  If you are unsure if you are a business, you are if you babysit, sell things on etsy, ebay, tutor, give piano lessons, referee  – being a business is actually not as strict as some of us think.  Here is a primer from Million Mile Secrets instructing you on how to fill out a business credit card application. Again, the application link is here for the Ink Plus and here for the Ink Bold.

If you applied and did not get instant approval, my recommendation is to call the reconsideration line and see if they need more information or if you can clarify something for them.

A credit card tip – never cancel your oldest credit card because that is where most of your credit history is.  Use it once a year  to maintain your credit.

Shopping Portals

This is the last in a small series about using your credit card to make your travel free.

Most credit cards are affiliated with a shopping portal – in other words if you go through your credit card to stores that you are going to shop online with, you’ll get extra points.  If you are familiar with Ebates it is very much like that site.

With the Chase Sapphire, Ink Bold, Ink Plus you would go to Ultimate Rewards. Once on that page go to the search column in the upper right hand corner and put in the name of the store you want to shop at. For purposes of this demonstration, I am going to use Kohls. Kohls gives me an extra 10 points per dollar if I go through this portal. Theoretically you should be using your Chase Sapphire card to make the purchase BUT (and this is an important but) I have been successful many times in using the Kohls credit card, a gift card or some other means of paying for the purchase. If you do not want to take the chance, use the credit card who’s portal you went through.

What I will be doing next month is using my Chase Freedom card because if you remember from this post is that the Chase Freedom has bonus categories every quarter. The third quarter (July, August and September) Kohls is a bonus category and you will get an extra 5 x points when shopping through Kohls. You will then be double dipping – getting 5 x points for using the Freedom card and then an extra 10 x points when making the purchase through the Ultimate Reward shopping portal if you have the cards I mentioned above. Remember, it doesn’t work every time but it works most times. You then could be earning 15 x points per dollar – not too shabby.

When I want to see other options for shopping portal when shopping at Kohls, I would go to evrewards. I can then make an informed decision as to what shopping portal would be best for this purchase. You still have to know what your bonus categories are for the Chase Freedom card.

As Alec Baldwin would say:
Alec

Maximizing your credit card spend

One of the best way of earning more than one point per dollar spent on your credit card is to be aware of the bonus categories.  Most credit cards offer you more points on certain items.

The Chase Sapphire, one of my favorite cards and that of many others, offers 2x spending at restaurants and for travel.  In addition to the 2x earnings, this card also gives you a 7% bonus on all the points you have earned so actual the return on points is 2.14%.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred

If you only have the Chase Freedom card, you will then earn cash back BUT, and this is important, if you have the Chase Sapphire, the Chase Ink, the Chase Bold then the Chase Freedom card becomes a different type of credit card.  This card has different bonus categories every quarter throughout the year and you can earn up to 1500 points per quarter.  The first quarter of 2013, you could earn 5x earnings on gas station, drugstores and Starbucks.  The second quarter, it is 5 x at earnings on purchases made at Lowes, restaurants and movie theaters. You then need to have the Chase Sapphire, the Chase Ink, or the Chase Bold and then transfer the points that you earned with the Freedom (which are Ultimate Reward Points) into one of the other cards.  Confusing, slightly but it works.   If you do not have one of those credit cards, then you will be receiving a 5% cash back.

Chase Freedom
Chase Freedom

I just mentioned  the Ultimate Reward points that you get with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Freedom card and Chase’s business card.  The points you earn with these cards are called Ultimate Reward Points.  What is so great about UR points is that you have 5 airline transfer partners and 5 hotel/travel partners to transfer your points to .  The airlines that you can transfer your UR into are United (and therefore Star Alliance), Korean Air, Southwest, British Airways (and then you can book American Airlines through the BA site) and Virgin Atlantic.  These transfer over at a 1:1 ratio.  The other transfer partners are Amtrak, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton and Priority Club (Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and a few other hotels in their club), again at a 1:1 ration.

American Express has a co-branded card with Hilton hotels and with this card you will earn 5 x points on purchases made at gas stations, restaurants and supermarkets.

American Express Hilton Honors card
American Express Hilton            Honors card

The point of this is to know what each of your credit card’s bonus categories are and to try to use them to maximize your point earning ability.

Questions anyone?

Meeting your Minimum Spend on a New Credit Card

You’ve done it.  You have applied for a new credit card and after you spend $3000 in three months you’ll receive 40,000 points or whatever the card you are applying for is offering.  The problem is that you don’t need anything to purchase using a credit card that will total $3000 in the allotted time.  What’s one to do?  Hang on, I’ve got the answer to your dilemma.

Every month most of you have to pay rent, home mortgage or some other bill that you have to write a check for since they won’t accept credit cards.  Keep this thought in the back of your mind as I move forward with this thought.

American Express came out last summer with an alternative to checking accounts and debit cards.  It is called the American Express Bluebird.  You can pick one up at WalMart where they are exclusively sold. At my WalMart they are found a a display near the cashiers and cost $5.  You then go home and log on to their site www.bluebird.com and register for a permanent card OR just go to their site and order a permanent card for free.  You should receive it in the mail in about 10 days.

American Express Bluebird
American Express Bluebird

You will now need to “fund” it – in other words put some money on this card.

There are several ways to do this.  If you purchased it at WalMart you will need to put some money on it at the register.  If you have a SunTrust Delta debit card, you can use that and get Delta points for every dollar you put on the BB.  The same goes for the Alaska Air debit card.

Another option is the Vanilla Reloadable Card available at CVS and now at 7/11 stores.  *** Update – as of 4/14/14  you could no longer purchase Vanilla Reloads at CVS when using a credit card.  I have not seen Vanilla’s at 7/11 in a long time.  If you go to the Vanilla Reloadable website you can click on the tab for reload locations.  I primarily use CVS since they are always in stock at my stores near me.  You will find them in the gift card carousel.  There are a lot of cards that are called Vanilla – some are debit cards, some are gift cards – make sure your Vanilla Reloadable looks like this:

Must look like this
Must look like this

You can “load any amount from $20 to $500 all for a $3.95 fee.  I use whatever credit card I am trying to meet my minimum spend on or whatever card I want points or miles on.  I bring my card home and scratch off the silver bar over the pin number on the back of the card. I then click on the VR website and enter the number of my BB card. Below that I enter the pin number of my VR card. After I submit it, it is instantly loaded onto my BB card. You can only load $5000 per month and $1000 per day and you can only spend $5000 per month.  Basically the VR is a transfer mechanism for putting money onto your BB and getting points at the same time.

Once you have done all this you can then pay your bills just like you would with online banking. You enter the payee, the address, account number and the amount you want to pay. You cannot schedule a payment though. So, now I can get points and miles from purchasing VRs and then loading them onto my Bluebird and having the BB pay my bills for me. For your minimum spend, buy your VRs, load them onto BB, and then have BB send a payment to the credit card that you just used to purchase your VRs with.  This is called manufactured spending.

 

WalMart Money Center ATM machine
WalMart Money Center ATM machine

I personally would not take out all my money but rather do a mixture of debit for purchases and money out at an ATM.  I tend to use mine exclusively for bill payment.

Other methods are getting a Serve account and doing the same thing that you could do with Bluebird.

I would enjoy reading your comments and finding out if you find this helpful.  Please consider leaving a comment on this blog.

NOTE:  Since this was written there have been various methods of meeting your minimum spend that have come and go.  What I do now is purchase VISA gift cards in grocery stores, Simon Malls, etc in $500 amounts.  These are variable gift cards that you can load from $20 to $500.  Make sure they are issued by US Bank or Meta Bank.  IF US Bank, call the number on the back of the card to set a pin.  If Meta Bank, the pin is the last 4 digits on the card.  I then take the card and purchase a money order using the gift card, now operating like a debit card.  I’ll deposit the money order back into my bank account to be able to pay for the gift card that I initially bought.

Hot off the Presses – News from Chase

As I have mentioned before Chase credit cards tend to be my favorites for travel since they have United Airlines credit cards as well as others that give me Ultimate Reward points which I can transfer into United and therefore Star Alliance airlines.

Chase offers both personal and business credit cards.  I in fact have a business credit card from them – the Chase Ink Bold.  The benefits of this card, in addition to the 40,000 mile sign-up I received, is that it gives me 5 X points when I pay my landline, wireless, internet and cable with them.  I also get 5 X points for anything I purchase in an office supply store like Staples.  If I want to buy something at Target, I go to Staples first and buy a Target gift card at 5 X points and then proceed to Target.  Picture Charlie Sheen saying “WINNING”  You’ll be surprised at how quickly your points will grow doing this extra step.

Winning with the Chase Business cards
Winning with the Chase Business               cards

Early this morning Chase increased the signup points for their Business cards from 50,000 to 60,000 with a $5,000 minimum spend within three months.  In a post that I’ll send out tonight, I’ll teach you how to painlessly “Spend” $5000, be able to pay back your credit card – doing all this for  $40.

You might be wondering about the “business card” and thinking you are not a business – but you might be.  Do you sell items on Ebay, Etsy or craft shows?  Do you tutor?  Do you have a non-profit business?  Do you babysit?  When filling out the application form list your SSN as the EIN and fill it out as a sole proprietor with at least one employee – yourself.  Be honest about the income you derive from it.  Darius from Million Mile Secrets has the link for the credit card application (please use his link) as well as instructions on how to fill out a business credit card application here

One of the Chase Business card
One of the Chase Business card

Know which credit card you want. The Ink Bold is a charge card and you have to pay it off in full each month (as you should be doing anyway). The Ink Plus is a credit card and you can pay the balance over time. Remember – you have to be able to make the minimum spend and you should be paying it off in full each month. Don’t get in over your heads – your credit score is so important throughout your life.

Imagine being able to have two roundtrip transcontinental flights in coach and 10,000 points leftover for free!  You could fly to Europe round trip in economy.  Oh the Places you Can Go!