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.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

February snowflake report

"A dolla make me holla"

If you read "Tracking my snowflake money," then you know I'm keeping track of all the extra money I can get to come my way this year.

Here's how I did in February
Amazon sales $.76 (I know, lame, March will be much better)
Rebate cards (moneymakers due to sending in regular rebate and "upgrade rebates," here's some info on the deal I did) $80
Staples MM $10.91
Total $91.67
The inspiration for my caption above

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I signed up for a Bluebird

I haven’t been posting much about my strategies for manufacturing spend, or more simply, ways to buy stuff (for the miles/points) and get my money back. Early on I posted about free after rebate items (here and here) and I am certainly still doing that as often as possible.

Another tactic I’ve been using as of late is Bluebird. This is fairly old news in the points and miles world and a quick Google search of American Express Bluebird brings up lots of discussion board chatter and blog posts about this prepaid card from American Express and Walmart, but I’ll discuss my tactics. First off, Bluebird has no activation fee, no monthly fee and no annual fee, which are all good things.

With Bluebird, I’ve been able to get points by paying my mortgage, HOA fees and credit card bills. How? Mainly through a little card known as a Vanilla Reload. I buy these cards with a credit card at a popular pharmacy that is sometimes referred to as Convenience, Value and Service. I take the card to the register, ask the cashier to load it with $500, pay the $500+$3.95 fee for the reload and am sent on my way.

Then, I go online to load the funds from the Vanilla Reload to my Bluebird. Bluebird is most awesome thanks to its easy free online bill pay, something that most other prepaid cards don’t offer. That is how I can then pay my mortgage, HOA fee and other bills that don’t accept a credit card.

Bluebird also accepts debit card reloads and another good way I have found to use this resource is through my Nationwide Visa Buxx card. So I guess it’s a good thing I held on to my Buxx card after signing up during this promo last year. Anyhow, I load my Buxx card with my credit card (there a $2 fee for this), then head to Walmart and load my Bluebird for free by swiping the Buxx card and entering my PIN. Should you decide to skip the Walmart part and just do a debit card load online there is another $2 fee and a $100 daily limit, so I wouldn’t recommend this route.

Now, of course, there are limits to Bluebird as the maximum amount of funds you can add to your account via Cash Funding Sources (like Vanilla) is $1,000 on any day and $5,000 in any calendar month. I’d certainly suggest taking a good read through the member agreement before attempting to go hog-wild. And the Buxx card is limited to $1,000 per month.

Bluebird has some additional perks such as ATM withdrawals and the ability to send money to someone or even to your own bank account. I don’t do any of that, but these are certainly some benefits to keep in mind.

Now since Bluebird is not a real checking account and has no FDIC insurance, I am wary of leaving large sums of money in it for long. I think it’s best to load it and use it relatively quickly. And throw in some actual swipes for purchases using the Bluebird card (it has the American Express logo) from time-to-time to diversify your usage.