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 | 51 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 | 7 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

So I received my SCRA letter from US Bank regarding my two cards, both my Club Carlson Visa Signature card and my REI card. The letter said that all fees such as foreign transaction are waived, and that APR was a max 6%. It did not mention annual fees though. I called their military support center, and unfortunately, they do not waive annual fees for their cards. They are not required to under the SCRA, but it’s still unfortunate. I will be downgrading or cancelling my Club Carlson card later this year when the annual fee comes due.

 

(unfortunately in all the chaos of packing household goods, I lost the actual SCRA paper from them, so I can’t scan and upload it…sorry)

 

I do have the paper from Citi though, and I have some good and some bad news. First, the good news. Annual fees are indeed waived on almost all their cards, including the Prestige, the Premier, AA Platinum personal and business, and their Hilton cards. The bad news is that it is not waived on the Citi Exec, like I reported earlier this year. That is too bad. I got doubly screwed on this one, because I thought I’d be receiving the 75k bonus after spending $7.5k, but they said because I’ve had this card already (thrice actually, last year) that I was ineligible for the bonus this time around. I wish they’d told me that before I applied. Whomp whomp whomp 🙁

 

Here is the letter they sent me for the Prestige; I received similar ones for my other cards:
SCRA

Posted by glenn | 9 Comments

Hey gang, sorry for the paucity of articles from me, I’m currently PCSing to Okinawa, so things have been rather hectic. Fortunately, our astute readers have been sending us article ideas.

 

One reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, but might be a senior chief, sent me an example from his USAA account of a great targeted offer. As you can see below, he’d get a $100 credit to his USAA World Mastercard after spending $1k per month for 3 months:

usaa

It’s not the greatest offer I’ve ever seen, but if you’re already using that card, it’d be worth it for the extra $100.
Make sure you check out your offers – just google “USAA offers” and then log in to your account, or even easier, check them out on your USAA phone app. I didn’t have this particular offer unfortunately. Please let us know if you get any more intriguing offers!

Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

I received an email from USAA touting their USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Credit Card. I almost immediately deleted it, because I just figured it wouldn’t be that worthwhile getting, but the thought of you, my faithful readers, made me keep reading. I’m glad I did.

 

It’s got some interesting category bonuses, ones that are very germaine of us living near a base, which I think is probably most of us. They include:

 

5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined

 

2% cash back on your first $3,000 in supermarket purchases per year

 

Unlimited 1% cash back on everything else

FireShot Capture - USAA _ Welcome to USAA_ - https___mobile.usaa.com_inet_ent_mob

These are really strong category bonuses; if you max out the first one, that’s $150 back on activities that you’d likely be doing anyways, and $60 back on the 2nd category.

 

What I can’t figure out is whether on-base commissaries count towards the first or the second category bonus. Anyone have any insights on that? Anyone going to get this one? I think I just might!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by glenn | 4 Comments

One of the most popular subjects that Andy has written about is the ability to get hefty credit card fees waived for Service Members.  Obviously, anything that can save our readers hundreds of dollars a year while still getting great benefits and thousands of miles and points should be taken advantage of.  The process, however, is not as simple as many would like and we have reports of some being approved for a waiver and some denied.

One of our readers, Robert, wants to share his technique for success.  He created form letters for each major credit card issuer and we are attaching them for your use.  Here is the language from his email to me that sums up his technique and his success:

I’ve slowly started to open claims with each bank, its been slow and difficult as many have commented throughout your blogs.  Persistence is key and each bank asks for different documentation initially however the SCRA specialists on the phone do not seem to review the documentation.  I’ve had the best results using my DD Form 4/1 with travel orders for Amex.  AT Orders were OK for Barclays.  Citi asked for travel orders and recently inquired about my DD Form 4/1.  Currently pending is Citi, Chase, BoA, and US Bank. Another interesting note is Barclays applied SCRA benefits to my wife’s account which is not a joint account or an authorized user.  I’m trying to see if they will honor similar benefits to her personal accounts.

Here are the cover letters he used.  Don’t forget to tailor them to your specific cards and other details.

AMEX Letter

Barclays Letter

Bank of America Letter

Chase Letter

Citibank Letter

US Bank Letter

Good luck with your submissions and please report back on your success!

Posted by glenn | 4 Comments

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