Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Almost time for my next app-o-rama

This month I will be attempting my most ambitious app-o-rama since I have begun this "game."

In my last mini app-o-rama in January, I applied and was approved for two new credit cards. This time I hope to get four new cards. Note: if you plan to attempt this, I recommend a credit score at or above 750 and you should always pay off your credit card bills in full on time every month.

Here's a chart I made with what cards I have previously applied for (the red row means the card is closed) and what I plan to apply for this month:

Chase Hyatt
I will be applying using a link from a targeted email I got with the first year fee waived. For those interested in this card, but don't have such an email--I have read that if you go through the Hyatt website as though you're making a reservation, you should see an offer on bottom of the page where you enter guest information for the credit card with a $50 statement credit after your first purchase. You don't actually have to complete the reservation booking. This brings the net fee down to $25.
I paid the fee for the Chase Southwest card last year and it is now up for renewal. I will not be keeping this card, however, I wanted to wait and apply for the Hyatt card first. This is in case I am denied for the Hyatt initially I would call the reconsideration line and ask to close the Southwest card and transfer the credit line. If I am instantly approved, I will still call in and close my Southwest card. I do expect to be approved for the Hyatt card either way.

Barclays US Air
I will be applying with a link from Flyertalk. Barclays is notoriously finicky about approvals especially for people who frequently open new accounts. However, this is the first Barclays card I have ever had, so I hope to be instantly approved. I don't fly on US Airways too often, but since they have purchased American Airlines, these may be AA miles in the near future and this card will no longer be available.

Citi AA Business
I will be applying with a link from Flyertalk. I don't think I should have trouble getting this card. However, I am a bit sad to have missed out on the 50,000 miles that was available up until very recently.

Club Carlson Business (US Bank)
Like Barclays, US Bank is finicky about approvals. They have also been known to approve applicants for a lesser card than they applied for. That's why I am applying for the business instead of the personal version because there is no lesser business version. I will be applying through the public link on Club Carlson's website. Unfortunately, the fee is not waived, but I am willing to pay because 85,000 miles is pretty good and the card has a number of good benefits such as 5 points per dollar on all purchases and if you redeem two or more award nights, the last night is free. I doubt I will be instantly approved as I may have to call in and provide some information on my business.

In conclusion, if I am approved for all four cards, the spending requirement would be $6,500 in three months. I could never do this just from my day-to-day purchases, but thanks to some manufactured spend, I should I have no problem. I will report back with my results as well as how I hope to use these miles and points.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Free money tally—my March snowflake report

March was a great month for my snowflake gathering!
Here’s the rundown
  • $125 –opened a Chase savings account using a code from a targeted mailer
  • $58.76 –Amazon sales
  • $25 –gift card promotion for test driving a Kia
  • $20 –bonus gift card rebate for buying McAfee software

Total $228.76

My best month yet (thanks mostly to more free money from Chase Bank).

Here’s a refresher if you’re not familiar with what “snowflakes” are and why I’m tracking them.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Changes coming to Priority Club Rewards program...best of all is free Internet

"Exciting changes" (their words, not mine) are coming to the Priority Club Rewards program, beginning this summer. First, the program has been renamed to the IHG Rewards Club (yawn). Second, they've added a slew of new benefits that should please most members.

As pictured in the screenshot above, new benefits include:
  • Free Internet worldwide--apparently this perk is not just available while staying in an IHG hotel, but even if you're just stopping by for a coffee. The free Internet is supposed to start for Platinum and Gold Elite members in July 2013 and for all members in 2014.
  • Fast track to Elite status when you stay in two or more IHG brands.
  • Reward nights counting toward Elite status.
  • Nights earned beyond Elite status will count toward Platinum Elite status the next year.

I am most excited about the free Internet benefit. This is a huge benefit as many of their hotels don't currently offer free Internet. I have an award stay coming up in Italy in July. (I am Platinum Elite thanks to the Priority Club Rewards Visa). Hopefully, there will not be any glitches and this benefit will start at the beginning of July.

The other new benefits don't matter to me so much, since, as I just mentioned, the PC credit card comes with Platinum Elite status (here's my post about when I signed up for the card).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Add a PIN to your Visa/MasterCard gift card

Miles and points junkies who manufacture spend by using gift cards recently got some good news (via jk2 at Flyertalk). Thanks to new guidance from the Federal Reserve (read about it here), consumers can add a PIN to Visa and MasterCard gift cards purchased after March 31, 2013.

Here’s some helpful info from the FAQ about adding a PIN to a Visa Gift Card issued by either MetaBank or University National Bank (which I have found at my supermarket).

Can I obtain a PIN for my gift card?
Yes, you may add an optional Personal Identification Number (PIN) to your card through the website or by calling the number on the back of the card. Note the PIN can only be used for purchases and cannot be used to obtain cash at ATM’s or cash back with a purchase.

Can I use my PIN to withdraw cash at ATM or merchant locations?
No, this PIN number is for debit purchases at merchant locations only.

How do I create my optional 4 digit PIN?
Simply select “SET PIN” from the menu options on the Home Page and follow the prompts. If you have an existing Visa Gift cardholder account, for your security, you will be required to log-in before you are able to “SET PIN”. Retain this PIN in your personal records, as this PIN will not be stored anywhere in your Cardholder Account. You may change this PIN at any time, as long as your card is still active.

How is this helpful to manufacturing spend?

 Let’s say you have a credit card that gives bonus points (be it 2x, 3x, 5x, etc.) for spending at certain stores (such as office supply or grocery). You use your card to buy a gift card at said store (fees are usually between $3.95-$6.95) depending on the store and amount of the gift card.

Once you have added a PIN to your gift card, take the gift card to Walmart use it to load your Bluebird card. This is considered a debit card load and is free at Walmart. Then…well, hopefully you know what to do with Bluebird from reading my recent post.

You can apparently also purchase money orders (and deposit them in your bank account or use them to pay bills) with a debit card (i.e. your PIN-based gift card). I have never done this personally, but it is an option.

I’ll be posting again soon about how I personally have used a gift card with PIN to manufacture some spend.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Chase adds Virgin Atlantic as new transfer partner

Yikes! It's been a full month since my last post. I'm totally slacking...anyways, this is semi-old news as I received an email from Chase last week and it's been mentioned across the blogosphere, but Chase has added Virgin Atlantic as its newest transfer partner in its Ultimate Rewards program.

That means if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card or an Ink Bold/Plus card, you can now transfer your points to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio.

This essentially provides a way to transfer Chase UR to Hilton points as Virgin Atlantic miles transfer to Hilton at a 2:1 ratio. Of course, Hilton has recently undergone a huge devaluation, so their points aren't as valuable as they used to be, but it's always great to have new options.

As far as flying on Virgin Atlantic itself with miles, I'm no expert but everything I've read says it not the best redemption due to high taxes and fees. For example, flying New York to London round trip in economy will cost 35,000 miles and up to 400 GBP which is about $600 USD.

However, Virgin Atlantic does have a number of airline transfer partners, including Virgin America, which has some decent redemptions on short-haul flights. Examples would include 10,000 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco and 12,500 miles from San Francisco to Vegas.

I'd say it's definitely worth looking into to see if there are any transfer partners that help you get more bang for your buck (or miles, in this case).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Said goodbye to my CSP

I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa last year back when Chase was offering 50,000 points for spending $3,000 in three months (current offer is 40,000 points).

This is a wonderful card—not only is cool-looking thanks to the metal inside—it has benefits like no foreign transaction fees and the ability to transfer points directly to airline/hotel programs, including United, Southwest, British Airways, Hyatt, Priority Club and Marriott. The card gives double points on all travel and dining purchases and there’s a 7 percent annual points dividend on all new points earned on purchases throughout the year – even points that have been redeemed.

Why did I say goodbye? Well, the card’s $95 annual fee was coming due soon (it was waived the first year) and I just didn’t feel I used the card enough to justify paying that. In fact, I hadn’t made a purchase on it in six months.

I seriously considered paying the fee to keep it, however, back in November, I signed up for the Chase Ink Bold business credit card, which has a lot of overlapping benefits, including no foreign transaction fees and direct transfer to other reward programs. Now, you do need some sort of legitimate business to open this card (even small operations like freelance writing or selling on Amazon or eBay).

The Ink card also has some pretty awesome 5X categories, including at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV (on the first $50,000 spent annually). Then there are 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and for hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel. This card is also $95 per year, but the first year is free.

Now I could have downgraded my card to the no fee regular Chase Sapphire card, however, I had read reports of some folks getting a bonus for both the Preferred Visa and MasterCard, so I wanted to give myself the opportunity to possibly open the MasterCard later this year. So I opted to cancel completely. I didn’t attempt a retention offer the way I did with Citibank, I simply requested to close my card and transfer the credit line to another one of my existing Chase cards.

My hope in transferring the credit line was that my credit score wouldn’t take a hit (sometimes cancelling a card can lower your credit score because it can increase your debt to credit ratio, even if you pay it off monthly). Also, I wanted some potential leverage in opening additional Chase cards. If given a low limit on a new card, Chase allows you to transfer some the limit from your existing cards.

So, while I’m sad to have said goodbye to my CSP, I hope we’ll meet again in the future.