I received a surprise email from AMEX that my credit limit on my SPG Business Card had been increased.  Along with the email, they gave an interesting offer:

$3,000 in a month would be a lot for me, but maybe would apply to Christmas shopping.  However, I know there are those of you who do MS and this would be easy to achieve.  Plus, Starwood points are some of the most valuable points out there.  You can transfer them to Marriott at a 3:1 ratio or get a 25% bonus when transferring them to one of their many airline partners.  Of course, I like to use them to actually stay for free at Starwood hotels – that’s the best value in my book.

Now that I enrolled it will not let me get back to the offer page to post it for you, but be on the lookout to see if you get this or a similar offer.

 

 

 

Posted by glenn | No Comments

I have the best daughter in the world.  Yes, I know some of you think the same thing, but I am confident that mine is the best.  She is in her fourth year at Med School, her big upcoming activity is flying around the U.S. this fall to interview for residency programs.  As such, I have been saving up plenty of miles and points to help her out.

She tells me that many of her fellow students with less points & miles  savvy parents and are on their own to fund these travels.  Being smart – they are future doctors after all – they are tuned in to the benefits of getting credit cards for the free points & miles.  I questioned her on how they could get qualified since they are full-time students with no time for a job to get qualifying income.

She said they had researched the rules for what qualified as income and found that student loans are considered income by most CC companies.  Kind of makes sense since the money is available to the student for whatever their needs are including rent, car loans, food, etc.  Several of her friends have successfully received cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  I thought this was a good tip to pass along in case you, or your kids, are in the same boat.

Posted by glenn | 6 Comments

Just got a sweet offer in my inbox for my AMEX Business Platinum card.  I just completed the initial spend quals to earn 100,000 MR points by the end of April.  Spend went to other things in the meantime, but they are enticing me back with this deal:

 

 

Not too confident to go for all 50,000 points for $10 grand, but certainly can spend $5,000 to get 40,000 MR points!  I am still grandfathered in where I will get 50% of my points back on my preferred airline or Business/ First on any airline.  I don’t even need to register.

 

Anyone else get this offer?

Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

I received a survey from Alaska Airlines this week.  It was pretty in-depth in asking a lot of questions.  Most of the questions were directed at determining whether price, mileage earning, or upgrade chances had which priority.  Hopefully, this is not to gage whether people would go for the Basic Economy fares that the majors have adopted.  For me, the top priority was upgrade chance (and not to just Premium Economy!)

The more interesting part of the survey was the last part which asked about interest in a high value card at a high cost.  These have become pretty popular in the last few years and I have a few including the Citi Prestige (really miss not having AA lounge access now), AMEX Business Platinum, and waiting for 5/24 eligibility for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  Note that Bank of America is notably absent from those offerings and are the issuers of the Alaska Airlines card.  The current card is one of the best on the market and even exceeds the value of some of the other high value cards even though its annual fee is only $75.  My wife and I will fly a $1000 flight to Hawaii or Costa Rica and we get that second companion ticket for only about $200 so that’s a $800 value every year.  I know someone who has ten of these cards!  That’s not even counting the value of the miles you get as a sign up bonus.

What could they offer with a premium level card?  Assuming an annual fee of $450, I could see the following:

  1. Companion Certificate, maybe more than one use a year?  This is the thing that makes the current Alaska card one of the best deals out there even if you rarely fly Alaska.  Counting the annual fee of $75 and the cost of the companion fare plus taxes (~$121) you can get any economy fare for free.  This literally means any fare, so BOS-HNL? No problem.  Fly to Costa Rica from Anchorage? Sure.  AND you both get miles for status and redemption!
  2. Airline ticket credit?  Lesser value would be airline fee credit.  Other cards are in the $150-$200 range and this is one of the easiest ways to justify the high fee.
  3. Mileage rebate for flights.  Maybe 50% (or a little less) back on mileage redemptions for either all redemptions or just for Alaska flights.  I think the later is more likely as getting 50% back from my upcoming Emirates redemption would be over 50,000 miles back.  Well, one can dream right?
  4. Access tot he Alaska Lounges.  This already costs me $295/yr. and that’s with the Gold discount.  This would be a great way to offset the fee.  Alaska Lounge membership also includes access to all American lounges and some United.
  5. An alternative to the previous one would be Priority Pass membership.  This would give you access to all the Alaska Lounges and many others around the world.  The only drawback is that a number of lounges close access to PP holders if their capacity is full.  This includes Alaska Lounges very notably.
  6. A 10% discount on Alaska fares similar to what British Airways does with their credit card?  I would get $200-$300 value out of this in a year since it would include the tickets I buy for my wife and daughter.
  7. Grant Alaska MVP Gold status with a certain amount of spend?  This would be too good to be true as MVPGold status save me a ton of money since it allows free changes to any ticket at any time.  Not to mention that I have been upgraded over 85% of the time as a Gold.
  8. What do you think?

It will be exciting to see a B of A premium product on the market.  Hopefully they won’t wait too long to roll this out.

Posted by glenn | 8 Comments

About a month ago, I mentioned a really good deal on the Barclaycard Gold Card. What made it a stunningly good deal was the fact that Barclaycard waives annual fees for active duty members, even if you obtained the card after joining active duty. In that same article, I referenced that Barclaycard and American Express were the two companies that routinely waive annual fees for cardholders even if they obtained it after they activated.

 

I have a new deal, this time coming from Amex. As you might know, I have the Amex Plat Mercedes Benz edition. I got this card not because I drive a Benz (I don’t), but because at the time it offered 50k Membership Rewards (MR) points vs 40k MR points for the regular Amex Plat.

 

We just learned on Friday (H/T to MMS and FM) that the Amex Plat Mercedes Benz now offers a 75k signup bonus after spending $3k in 3 months! (direct link here).

Mercedes-Benz Cards from American Expr_ - https___www262.americanexpress.com

This has the same benefits as the regular Amex Plat, such as access to the Centurion Lounge in select US Airports, $200 airline credits annually, Priority Pass Select, access to Fine Hotels & Resorts, etc.

 

This is not a good card for everyday spend, as it’s only category bonus is 5x MR points on Mercedes purchases; otherwise it only earns 1x. I would meet the minimum spend, then put it in the back slot in my wallet and just enjoy the benefits while getting the $475 annual fee waived.

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

First of all, I’d like to apologize for not posting in a while – I’ve been on deployment with predictably slow internet. Thankfully, BG Goddard has been knocking out the posts. Since I’m home for a while, it’s time I get back into the saddle!

 

I’ve got a ton of reviews upcoming over the next month or so, but before I get to any of those, I thought I’d come at you with a huge credit card deal, one that you should jump on before it no longer works.

 

I’d like to preface this post with some discussion about how credit card companies implement their SCRA (Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act) policies. Almost all credit card companies will waive annual fees on credit cards when you’re active duty, if you had the card before you became active duty, US Bank being the conspicuous exception to that. Chase, Citi, American Express, Barclaycard, Capital One, Discover and Bank of America will waive those fees for all previously held cards. Two companies that I know of, American Express and Barclaycard, will waive those annual fees even if you didn’t get the card until after you were already Active Duty. The latter company is the one I’m writing to you about today.

 

Barclaycard has for a long time had available the Black Card, a pathetic excuse for a high-end card, given that it’s benefits were clearly not as good as either the Amex Plat or the Citi Prestige, among others, with a similar annual fee, $495. However, within the past year, they’ve come out with two other pretentiously named “luxury cards”, the Titanium card and the Gold card.

Luxury Card I Made of Stainless Steel - http___www.luxurycard.com_

To broaden interest, they’ve positioned the Titanium card below the Black card, with a 10k point bonus and $195 annual fee, and the Gold card above it, with a 50k point bonus but an astounding $995 annual fee! What, might you ask, is the valuation of the points? Well, each point is worth two cents when redeemed for airfare. So, 50k could be redeemed for a $1000 plane ticket. Or, as Doctor of Credit reminded me, “You don’t need to apply the credit towards airfare, points are worth 2c when redeeming for statement credit with the gold card”. That totally makes up for the annual fee right?

 

Well, my news to you today is that Barclaycard waives this enormous annual fee as long as you’re active duty, and you didn’t have to have the card previously! I’ve confirmed this myself, by applying for and getting accepted, then asking to be transferred to the military benefits department. Also, Doctor of Credit, Derp Report, and Reddit churning have all confirmed it as well (hat-tip to all of them for inspiring me to apply).

 

This is huge! Up to $1k in airfare reimbursed! In addition, you get $200 towards airline purchases separately, and $100 towards global entry application, in addition to other benefits. Also, Derp Report has confirmed that the $200 airline credit can be used directly for airfare, and not on gift cards or registry or anything else.

 

It’s a $3k minimum spend within 3 months, which is doable, although tougher now that there is essentially no easy manufactured spend.

 

I say go for it if you can meet the minimum spend, as it’s up to $1200 in reimbursed airfare!

Posted by glenn | 56 Comments

Many readers buy and use gift cards to make minimum spend or just to get some discount that is being offered.  However, you need to be aware of scams and thieves out there who want to take advantage of your habits.

Thieves record the gift card information and then call the toll-free number in a few days to check the balance.  Once they know it has been activated and the remaining balance they can use it themselves.  Think how easy it would be for a clerk or someone behind you to take a cell phone photo and blow it up to read the numbers.  Note that if thieves use the info to shop on-line, you don’t have the same protection against fraud that you would have with a credit card.

Another way if for thieves to use a small handheld scanner to read the serial number embedded in the card.  After returning home, they can then use that data to reprogram a used card and steal the value.  Lastly, clever thieves can carefully remove new, inactive cards from their packaging and replace them with used cards.  They keep the numbers from the used card and when the shopper activates it, they have access to your money.

8 tips to protect yourself:

  • Inspect the card you purchase carefully and pass if it shows any suspicious signs of tampering.
  • If possible, ask for a card that is not on the rack, but behind the counter.
  • Inspect and scratch-off areas to ensure they are intact.
  • Do not give out your Social Security Number if the clerk asks for it (they never should).
  • After activating your card, ask the clerk to scan it so you can verify the amount on the card.
  • Keep your receipt as proof of purchase and the value you put on the card in case of theft.
  • Buy on-line cards only from the issuer and not a third party.
  • Never buy GCs from an online auction site as you have little protection that the card isn’t stolen, counterfeit, or has less value than promised.

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Hey gang, I’m going on deployment soon, so this will be my last post for a while (this is Andy btw). I wanted to go over how to get some free points on your Credit cards if you’re in a rut. With many bloggers declaring the end of manufactured spending, which it truly is, credit cards are still the best way to accumulate points and/or miles. Unfortunately the death of the golden age of MSing (RIP Vanilla Reloads, Serve, Amazon payments, Coopera, REDbird) means it’s incredibly difficult to hit the signup bonuses of 5 or 6 credit cards at once for most normal people. Why not try to utilize some of the credit cards we already have and save our hard pulls for huge signup offers instead?

This is where the reconsideration call for a credit card comes in – you call to say you’re thinking about cancelling your credit card, whether or not you actually are. Banks generally try really hard not to lose a customer, so sometimes they’ll try to “enhance” the cards rewards for a period of time. Not all banks do this (US Bank will cancel your card in the blink of an eye), but Citi is generally known to give the best offers. As long as you call and use the buzzword “cancel”, they’ll transfer you to a “specialist” who will usually give you some tempting offers. I’m waiting for my Transunion hard pulls to go down (I’m at 20 from 24 last Fall, yippee!), so I figured instead of applying for a new card, why not see what Citi can offer me?

I called and said straight up, “hello, I’d like to speak to the reconsideration dept, as I am considering cancelling one or more of my credit cards”. I find that honestly usually works best, and indeed, they transferred me right over. The specialist with whom I talked could not have been more considerate or accommodating, and he patiently offered deals on my 5 personal cards and 1 business card. They were as follows:

Citi Prestige

  • $200 statement credit with $4k spend in 6mo
  • 4TY points/dollar
  • 4/dollar at supermarkets/drug stores/gas up to 50k TY points
  • 1/dollar on all eligible purchases up to 50k
  • or 10k TY points for $3k in spend

I took the last one on that; I was planning a big trip to Vietnam (in an upcoming post) and was going to be spending some money.

Citi Premier

  • $1k/month for 3 months gets $95 statement credit and 1k TY points/month
  • or $1k/month gets $95 statement credit

obviously I took the first one.

Citi Hilton Reserve

  • $750/mo for 3 months gets 750 Hhonors points per month (blech!)
  • $1k/mo for 3 months gets 1k Hhonors points per month (nope!)
  • 3Hhonors points/dollar at restaurants

I took the last one, although I doubt I’ll use it; indeed I might be either downgrading this to the Citi Dividend or just outright cancelling it soon since I used the two free nights already at the Conrad Hong Kong (review upcoming).

Citi AA Exec

  • $1.5k/mo spend gets $50 dollar statement credit/mo for 7 mo max up to $350
  • $1k/mo gets additional 1k miles for the next 16 billing cycles
  • $1.5k spend in the next 3 mo gets 5k miles and $100 statement credit
  • $1.5k spend in the next 3 mo gets 15k miles

I decided to take the first one because I’m awash in AA miles and there’s poor overall availability. Doubt I’ll hit $1.5k per month, but we’ll see.

Citi AA Plat personal

  • 5 separate purchases of at least $20 earns $95 statement credit
  • $500 spend in 3 mo for 3k miles

I took the first one; simple and easy. 5 x $20 Amazon GCs.

Citibusiness AA Plat

  • $2.5k spend/mo gets additional 2.5k miles for up to 16 cycles
  • $1k spend/mo gets additional 1k miles for up to 16 cycles
  • $5k total spend in 6mo gets 10k additional miles
  • $95 total spending in the next month gets $95 statement credit

I took the last one; again, easy day, Amazon GC, and I don’t need AA miles at the moment.

Of note, I applied for and opened all these cards before I came onto active duty in August. I applied for and received SCRA benefits on all these cards, meaning I don’t pay any annual fees on them, even the big guns like the Exec and the Prestige! Here is how to get your annual fees waived if you’re going active duty. Of note, Citi is very strict about it – they will only waive your fees if you opened the card before going active duty; I haven’t heard of any exceptions.

When I get back sometime in about 2 months, I’ll post about the results from this, and also will detail my reconsideration call to American Express and to Chase!

Did anyone get any better deals than I did?

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Here is a guest post by Christian.  It’s his first time at bat here at TMFF so let him know if you want more.

My name is Christian.. I’ve been on active duty for about 4 months. I enjoy the points/miles world, personal finance, early retirement, and travel. I’m been a fan of the Military Frequent Flyer for some time. I also write on 2 blogs. 1. My13cents.com and Discounts-deals4military.com. I happy to write a guest post today and hope you find it useful/interesting.

Military Star Card 10% Off First Day’s Purchases

About 2 months ago I walked into the main PX and was asked by an employee if I wanted to apply for the Military Star Card. I said, “No thank you“.

I’m pretty selective when it comes to getting any new credit cards and this card does not come with any sign up bonus offer. I like to “save” my credit report hard hits for larger more lucrative credit card bonuses.

She continued trying to convince me to get the card and she mentioned 2 things that caught my attention:

1.  There is only a soft credit hit when applying for the card

2.  I would get 10% discount on all my FIRST day purchases. The only exclusions were that the purchases had to be at any of the military stores/gas stations/etc.

There are also some other nice perks of having the card. For example, I get 10% off food court purchases on my post, discount on gas, 2% rewards on all purchases, and other seasonal promotions.

This was enough for me to go ahead and get the card. I was instantly approved (I don’t think that is hard to do) for a credit line of $4500 (max CL is $6500).

The plan for using this card was to max out the credit limit on day ONE for the 10% discount. Of course I don’t spend thousands on gas, shopping, etc. That would be pretty stupid to spend thousands on shopping to get a 10% discount (unless there were things you were already planning on getting). I was going to go straight to the GIFT CARD RACK.

Some of the gift cards available at the gift card rack at the Exchange (Ft. Bliss):

  • Tons of restaurant gift cards
  • Hardware/shopping stores
  • Vanilla Visa Gift Cards (including some variable load up to $500)
  • PayPal My Cash
  • Other miscellaneous cards

I wasn’t really interested in any of the restaurant/hardware/shopping gift cards because I can get discounts on those any time with gift card reselling sites.

My 2 other options for maxing out the $4500 in one day were the Vanilla Visa Gift Cards and PayPal MyCash reload cards. Vanilla Visa GC are issued by Bancorp, which have become very difficult to liquidate lately, especially with the Target Redbird card going the way of the dinosaurs. I could unload them on to my Bluebird/Serve cards at $49 at a time, but that would be very painful. Soooo….I decided to go with the PayPal MyCash reload cards.

I’ve never purchased these before, but there are some issues with this option. PayPal is known for closing down accounts if these cards are repeatable purchased and loaded onto your PayPal account. Once your account is closed, it could be a huge headache to deal with PayPal to get any funds remaining back to you. It can take months I’ve heard. Usually the do give you a warning or two before they shut down you account.

Well, I’ve never bought these cards before and I’m not on PayPal’s radar, so I figured I would be able to at least liquidate $4500 between my account and my wife’s account. They are very easy to load onto PayPal and once on PayPal, you can send money to “friends”/family or use it to make purchases with. I plan on withdrawing it over about a months worth of time.

I was waiting to get the physical Star Card in the mail to make my DAY ONE purchase, but it was taking over a month to get to me. Then I saw that there was a promotional week that would give you 15% back on your first day purchases instead of the normal 10%. You are able to use a receipt with your card number to make purchases so I went ahead and purchased $4500 worth of PayPal MyCash cards.

Sure enough about 2 weeks later I got my statement with the 15% discount on the purchase! Here is a screen shot:
screenshot1

This also earned over $90 in rewards (the 2% rewards points on all purchases), so the net profit from this deal was over $700!

I don’t know if the 15% off first day purchases happens very often. 10% is still a pretty good deal though.

Questions/Comments

 

 

Posted by glenn | 10 Comments

I ride Amtrak occasionally when I need to go from D.C.  up to New York, but definitely not someone who rides enough to rack up a bunch of points in their program, Amtrak Guest Rewards (AGR).  Yesterday, I received an email from B of A to apply for their new Amtrak credit card.  You might think that I am not interested, but you couldn’t be more wrong.  The card comes in two versions, AGR World MasterCard and Platinum MasterCard.

Amtrak CC

The Platinum card has no annual fee and comes with a 12,000 point offer for $1,000 spend and little other benefits, so no thanks.  The World card is the one to get.  It has a $79 annual fee, but comes with a 20,000 point offer, and more importantly a Companion Coupon giving you a buy-get-one-free deal (with no extra fee unlike the airline version).  Here are all the key benefits:

Amtrak Benefits

You might be saying that you don’t live near an Amtrak route, but you should still get this card.  Why?  Hear me out.  Please read this post from my friend Greg at the Frequent Miler.  He and his family took a great overnight train ride from the Midwest to several of the national parks in Utah.  The trip report made it look spectacular.  Imagine doing that on two for one with your companion certificate.  I priced out Greg’s trip from Chicago to Green River, UT and it came in at $892 one way for a bedroom for two.  Using the companion ticket could easily be worth savings of  that much or more depending on how far you wanted to go.  Great for a family vacation.  More than two people traveling?  Then use  your 20,000 points for a free ticket for the extra people.  Got a big family and need more free tickets?  Just transfer points in from Chase Ultimate Rewards or SPG.  Rumor is that the Chase UR will be going away soon, so act on this fast if that is you strategy.

On top of that, the one ticket that you do buy for the companion fare can be at a good discount, either 10% for a veteran or 15% if you have the Veterans Advantage card.  My wife loves riding the train as she enjoys the slow travel aspect, so I am sure we’ll be using this card and its benefits.  Seems like a good idea for a nice relaxing vacation no matter where you live.

 

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

I wrote back in February about Visa Signature benefits that are well known such as free wine tasting in Sonoma Valley.  Well there are similar benefits for holders of World Elite MasterCard accounts.  That term may not be familiar to you, but if I name some of the credits cards that are World Elite MasterCards, I’ll bet you have at least one:

– Citi Prestige

– Citi Aadvantage World Elite MC

– Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MC

The first two come with a bunch of benefits which most people focus on such as Admirals Club access and discounts off of airfare, etc.  However, there is a plethora (don’t get to use that word too often) of little know benefits.  With any of these cards you can get:

World Elite Air Travel which will give you deals on business or full fare economy such as a guaranteed upgrade.  The one from Air China is a little weird, 25% off, but only if you fly from Houston.

World Elite Rental Car gives you discounts on Avis, Sixt, Eurocar, and National.

Luxury Hotels & Resorts get you different deals at each hotel and free breakfast for two at any of them.

Special Offers such as a fourth night free if you stay three at a participating Hyatt Place.

There are a bunch of others that might not be for the average person like discounts on a private jet, but you can check them all out to squeeze even more benefits out of your annual fee.  Or just get more free stuff if you have followed Andy’s method to get your fees waived at Citi!

 

 

Posted by glenn | No Comments

« previous home top