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 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).