Category Archives: Credit card

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 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!

Credit Cards primer..a useful tool for free travel

For those that are already into the game of credit card churning, you will not need to read this post…..skip it and come back another day.  For those of you that have just one or two credit cards, would like to travel for free, travel in Business or First Class or use your points for upgrades, then please read on.  This is how we were able to travel to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore for almost free.

Most all credit cards give something back to you -points, miles, cash back or a travel allowance.  I do not have any cards that give me cash back, I would rather have the points/miles for free travel.  Since I don’t have any of the cash back cards, I won’t address them at this time.

I have some credit cards that will give me points, miles or a travel allowance.  Many of the really good cards do charge an annual fee and most of those credit card companies waive the fee for the first year.

In my mind, credit cards are divided into three main categories.  There are some that are revenue based (like Capital One Venture card) and others that are miles based (United Mileage Plus Explorer) and other that are points based (hotels, Sapphire Preferred).

A revenue based credit card, in my opinion, is not worth it.  Generally speaking, one cent equals one point.  When the Venture card first came out, they offered to match the miles you would have in another credit card reward program up to 100,000 miles.  I did sign up, got my 100,000 points.  That 100,000 points was equal to $1,000 that I could apply to travel.  I would apply this to an airplane ticket purchased through their website powered by Travelocity.  The good thing about this program is that there are no blackout dates – if a seat was available I could “purchase” it.  In my scenario,  I want to fly from Washington Dulles to Honolulu in Business Class.  A business class ticket would cost me $3518 which means that I would need 351,800 points with my Venture card from Capital One in order to purchase this ticket.  That’s a lot of points to accumulate.

If instead I chose to use my miles that I have earned with the United Mileage Plus Explorer card with United  then I would use 80,000 miles roundtrip and pay $5 in taxes and fees.  The 80,000 miles translates into $800.00.  Who is getting the better deal?   When using miles you do have to have some flexibility with your travel dates as your preferred dates may not be available in the preferred cabin choice.

Finally, I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card and it gives me Ultimate Reward points. These points are transferable to 5 different airlines (and it gets you into their alliances) as well as AMTRAK and 4 different hotels.  I find on the United Airline Award Booking Chart that I need 80,000 miles to book that trip to Honolulu.  I call up the number on the back of my Sapphire card and ask them to transfer 80,000 points to my United Frequent Flier account.  It transfers at a 1:1 ratio and is instantaneous.  I  can then book online for my award travel or call up the United and get transferred to the award booking department.  They will help you for $25 per person.

  For the Capital One Venture card,they will give you 10,000 points when you spend $1000 in 3 months and the points you earned in making that spend as well as no foreign transaction fees.   Your first year fee is waived.

The United Mileage Plus Explorer card through Chase would give you 30,000 after you spend $1000 in the first three months plus the points you earned is meeting that spend, your first checked bag free when you fly United, and no foreign transaction fees.  The first year fee is waived.United MileagePlus(Registered Trademark) Explorer Card

If you are interested in signing up for a Chase Sapphire credit card, as of today you will earn 40,000 Ultimate Reward points when you spend $3000 in three months.  You will also earn points from the spending that you do with this credit card and an annual 7% bonus points based on all purchases you made with the card.  You are then effectively earning 2.14 miles per dollar spent.  The first year fee is waived and finally, no foreign transaction fees.

Post image for Chase Sapphire Preferred Review: Turn 40,000 Points into $500

 NOTE:  These bonus sign up points were correct at the time this blog was written.  They have probably changed by the time you read this.