Category

Citibank

Most Recent Round Of Credit Card Applications

Inventory

Last week (pre SEZ-DUB mistake fare), I began thinking about my future travel plans for Fall and Winter 2013 / 2014.

While I have a pretty decent stockpile of miles / points, the one thing I always try to stress is the value of long term planning.

Much like retiring where you don’t just wake up and decide you are ready to retire, you need to slowly save money in your earlier years, the same thing applies to traveling on miles / points.

In order to use miles / points to take a free trip, you need to start earning and saving in advance!

Currently I have the following balances:

Airlines

  • United – 108,000 miles
  • AA – 50,000 miles
  • British Airways – 170,000 miles (family account)
  • US Air – 55,000 miles
  • Delta – 16,500 miles
  • Southwest – 46,000 miles
  • Hawaiian Airlines – 72,000 miles

Hotel Points

  • Hyatt – 7,000 points + 2 free nights in a Suite certificate
  • Club Carlson – 17,000 points + 1 free night certificate
  • Starwood – 18,000 points
  • Hilton – 2,000 points
  • Priority Club – 7,000 points
  • Marriott – 600 points

Although it is a very diverse collection of various miles and points, one big trip could deplete my balances (little did I know how big of a trip it would be…). Therefore I figured last week, it would be a good time to start build a reserve for future travel.

My two big trips planned (prior to SEZ-DUB) for Fall 2013 & Winter 2014 were going to Asia to visit my Brother while he studies abroad in Singapore and going skiing in either Colorado or Canada.

Those trips are still on but now Africa / Europe is included.

Asia

While for most flights to Europe, I will suck it up and fly in Coach.

I have also done Australia and India in Coach and it was not fun. Therefore my rule is anything above 12 hours, I try to do Business Class if possible. I don’t really care about the food, service, or alcohol, I really only care about the seat and if it is a lie-flat.

Typically the difference between Coach (80,000 miles) and Business (120,000 miles) to Asia is only 40,000 miles (or 20,000 each way), so in my opinion it is well worth it to be able to sleep in a lie-flat seat.

I currently have 108,000 United miles, so to fly to Asia in Business Class, I will need another 12,000 United miles.

Depending on availability, I could also do a one way using United miles and come back on Cathay Pacific using British Airways Avios.

As for Hotels, I currently have 3 free night certificates which will be useful in expensive cities like Tokyo.

Skiing

I talked about going skiing last year and all the different options available. Unfortunately those plans fell through, so I will try again this year.

Since the distance to ski resorts isn’t that far, depending on where I am going, I will either use Southwest Points (in the US) or British Airways to Canada.

Given how expensive ski resorts in Colorado and Canada can be during the peak winter season, this also would be a great use of hotel points or free night certificates!

Africa / Middle East / Europe

Given that the SEZ – DUB fare just happened, I haven’t really begun researching much for it. Given we will probably be gone for close to two weeks, hotel points and free night certificates are going to be a necessity to minimize our out of pocket expenses.

To fly Business Class to Africa will take 60,000 United miles (One Way) and coming back from Dublin should be around 25,000 – 35,000 Avios in Business Class on Aer Lingus. Just finding availability will be tricky!

Credit Card Applications

I actually applied for all the Cards below last week with the belief I was going to use them for Asia and skiing.

Plans obviously changed but because I am always working towards to collecting miles and points even if i don’t have a destination in mind, I should still be fine.

Chase

Chase INK Plus – 50,000 points after $5,000 minimum spend requirement in 3 months

Link To Application

Since I currently only have 108,000 United miles, I know I will need another 12,000 United miles to redeem for a Business Class ticket to Asia.

I picked up this Chase INK card because it earns Ultimate Rewards Points that can be transferred to United. As for the leftover 38,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, I might transfer them to Hyatt for a 2 free night hotel nights.

To complete the $5,000 minimum spend requirement, I plan on buying Chase giftcards for free and then loading them onto Bluebird.

Fairmont – 2 free nights after $1,000 minimum spend requirement in 3 months

Link To Application

While this Fairmont Card is not heavily advertised on travel blogs (primarily because there is no affiliate link…), in my opinion the Fairmont Card is as good as the Hyatt Card.

There certainly aren’t as many Fairmont properties (map) in the world compared to Hyatt, but what Fairmont lacks in quantity they make up in quality.

There is a really nice Fairmont property in Whistler that I have visited (not stayed at unfortunately), which could be a good use of the 2 free nights.

Also Fairmont has these cool Safari Resorts in Africa that look pretty amazing. I am not sure if you can use the 2 free nights at those properties because the safari in included in the price, but if you could that would be unreal!

American Express

Delta Gold AMEX – 30,000 miles after $500 minimum spend in 3 months

Link To Application (if you aren’t seeing the offer, try clearing your cookies or using a new browser. I was having problems earlier)

To be honest, I have never gotten a Delta credit card before.

This is because it is fairly common knowledge that Delta SkyMiles are called SkyPesos for a reason.

That being said, there weren’t really any great AMEX offers available that I hadn’t already applied for. Also given that the minimum spend was only $500, it was a hard offer to pass up.

Since I currently have 16,500 SkyMiles, might as well add another 30,000 and hopefully be able to use them for something in the future.

Bank of America

Alaska Airlines – 25,000 miles after 1st purchase

Link To Application

Alaska Airlines is probably one of the strangest frequent flyer programs out there, in that they aren’t part of an alliance but seem to be partners with every airline.

This Card was also like the Delta AMEX in that I don’t really have a need for Alaska miles but I figure they are good to have since they can be redeemed on Delta and American Airlines.

In addition, the card comes with a $99 companion certificate that could be useful.

Since there wasn’t any minimum spend requirement and the Card is issued by Bank of America, there wasn’t any really downsize to getting this card.

US Bank

Club Carlson – 85,000 points after $2,500 minimum spend in 3 months

Link To Application

US Bank just recently got into the hotel credit card business with their Club Carlson card.

While Club Carlson’s brand of hotels isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, their card is fairly lucrative in that 85,000 points can get you 2 – 4 free nights at some of their Radisson Blu properties.

In addition, with the card if you redeem points for 2 nights or more, you get the last night free! So if you only stay for 2 nights, then the 2nd night is free!

Not to mention that every year you renew the card, you get 40,000 additional points!

While the card is great, unfortunately US Bank is EXTREMELY STRICT and won’t approve you if you have too many credit card applications, regardless of your credit score.

Unfortunately I fell into that category and was denied for this card which stinks because I could really use the points in Europe and Middle East!

I am guessing this credit vigilance by US Bank is to stop people who just sign up for credit cards for the sign up bonus and then cancel them later.

However the irony is that this card is so lucrative with the 40,000 point annual renewal bonus and “Stay 2, Get 1” perk, that most people (including myself) would probably pay the annual fee and keep that card.

Barclays

US Airways – 30,000 miles after 1st purchase

Link To Application

For those of you paying attention, this is the same exact US Airways card I got back in November during my last round of apps.

From what I have heard, Barclays will approve you for the same US Airways card again if you tell them you need the new card to keep your “expenses separate”.

For me, I didn’t even have to call in and was approved online!

The best part is that there is no minimum spend on the card!

I already have 55,000 US Airway miles so another 35,000 will be nice.

Worst case is that my 90,000 US Airway miles turn into AA miles after the merger, which wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Citibank

Hilton Reserve – 2 free weekend nights after $2,500 minimum spend in 4 months

Link To Application

While Hilton has severely devalued their hotel points program, this Hilton Card comes with 2 free weekend night certificates.

There are some limitations on where you can’t use the weekend night certificates (full list here), but it actually is a fairly small list and mostly covers Hilton Vacation Club properties and all inclusive properties.

That being said, from my understanding you can use the free weekend night certificates at any of the non-excluded properties like the Conrad Maldives, which is famous for its underwater restaurant, not to mention the ridiculous scenery.

Recap

All in all, I was approved for 6 out of 7 applications.

Besides for the Fairmont card, all the other cards were approved without having to call the reconsideration line!

In total, I will receive around 135,000 miles / points and 4 free night certificates after completing $9,000 in minimum spend requirement in 3 months.

While this round of applications wasn’t as lucrative as last time (due to the 85,000 point Club Carlson denial), the 4 free hotel nights will be useful for my future trips and it will be good to diversify some of my other accounts like Delta, US Airways, and Alaska.

Thankfully, the minimum spend requirement isn’t as steep as last time. I should be able to do almost all of it with Chase giftcards / Bluebird, Amazon Payments, and the new Google Wallet service. If I am a little short, I can always hit up CVS and buy some Vanilla Reloads.

All in all, although it wasn’t the best round of credit card applications, I am glad I did it because I am going to need more miles and hotel points for the new Africa / Europe trip.

Although I applied for these cards without knowing of the upcoming trip, it just goes to show you the importance of long term planning.

You never know what deal could be coming down the pipeline, so it is best to be prepared!

-Parag

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5% Cash Back Sign Up Reminder!

5% Cash Back Sign Up Reminder

While many serious mileage collectors frown at “Cash Back” credit cards, I actually think they are pretty useful if you know how to use them!

9/10 times I will take a credit card that offers 1 mile per $1 spent over 1% cash back because of the value proposition.

If you spent $25,000 on your credit card, with a cash back credit card you would only get $250. However with an air miles credit card, you could if needed redeem those 25,000 miles for a flight that costs significantly more than $250.

Basically the value of 25,000 miles > $250.

However, in recent years credit card issuers like Chase, Discover, and Citibank have added rotating quarterly 5% cash back categories to their cash back credit cards.

Depending on what Quarter it is, these 5% cash back categories can significantly change the game.

If you spent $25,000 on a pure mileage credit card like the United MileagePlus Explorer, you would earn 25,000 miles. If you “hypothetically” spent $25,000 in the respective 5% categories of any of the cards below, you would get $1,250 in cash back. I say that “hypothetically” because all of the cards below have limits on how much 5% cash back you can earn. Obviously $1,250 in cash back is far more valuable than 25,000 miles because there aren’t that many domestic flights that cost more than $1,250. With that $1,250 you got in cash back, you could actually buy 3 domestic tickets!

Now while I have personally have both the Chase Freedom and Discover More credit cards, I have had them both for over 5 years and signed up for them years before I knew anything about earning miles from credit cards.

Therefore I would not recommend signing up out of the blue for any of the cards below unless you are a student that doesn’t have any credit history.

Instead, as I have stated before (especially for the Chase Freedom), I would recommend trying to downgrade to the any of the cards below. If your Chase Sapphire Preferred’s annual fee is coming due and you don’t really want to pay it, simply ask Chase if they will downgrade you to the Freedom. It is a win-win for both sides because you get the Chase Freedom and don’t have to close your credit card (which would slightly hurt your credit score), and Chase doesn’t have to lose a Customer or provide you with another sign up bonus for getting the Chase Freedom.

I used a similar strategy with my Capital One Venture card where I asked to downgrade to their CapitalOne VentureONE card that did not have an annual fee instead of closing my account!

Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom is offering 5% cash back on purchases at any Grocery Stores and Movie Theaters between April 2012 – June 2012.

Typically I put almost all my grocery and movie theater purchases on my Chase Sapphire Preferred. However because I have a Sapphire Preferred card, Chase Checking account, and Chase Freedom, I qualify for a special program from Chase called Chase Exclusives specifically for purchases on my Chase Freedom. I can opt for cash back or UR points.

So instead of 1 point per $1 spent on my Sapphire Preferred, using my Chase Freedom this quarter, I can earn 5 points per $1 spent at Grocery Stores and Movie Theaters. Additionally because of the Chase Exclusives bonus, I also get 10 UR per a transaction plus 10% bonus on transactions made on my Chase Freedom.

So for a $50 purchase at Whole Foods this quarter. With my Chase Sapphire Preferred, I would earn a lowly 50 UR points. If I put the same $50 purchase on my Chase Freedom, I would net 310 UR points.

$50 purchase X 5% cash back (or 5x UR points) + 10 UR points per a transaction + 50 UR Points (10% Bonus) = 250 + 10 + 50 = 310 UR points!

From this example, you can see that just by switching your spending from one Chase card to another, you can increase the amount of points earn by almost 6x!

If you have a Chase Freedom, to maximize this deal starting April 1, 2012, my advice would be to go to your grocery store and make a regular purchase. Once you are home, check your statement to see how it is coded (FYI places like Wal-Mart Super Centers and other big box grocers like Target, do not typically categorize as grocery stores). If your purchase is in fact coded as groceries, then next time you go to that grocery store, buy gift cards up to $1,500 (which is the limit for 5% cash back for this promotion). You will earn almost 7,500 UR points and can use your gift cards through out the rest of the year!

I plan on doing this exact strategy on April 1, 2012 at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

Link To Activate 5% Cash Back

Discover

To my knowledge, Discover was actually the pioneer of the rotating 5% categories. While I have been generally happy with my Discover More card and their rotating 5% cash back categories, there is one thing that REALLY annoys me about Discover!

It is the fact that they are extremely deceptive in their marketing practices for their cash back program!

I have had my Discover More card for over 5 years now and take pride in my extremely nerdy in-depth knowledge of credit cards. HOWEVER, it was not until a few months ago that I realized that I was NOT in fact earning 1% cash back on my purchase for the last 5 years!  Instead, Discover operates on a tiered spending structure which they aren’t really forthcoming about! I say this because in their commercials and advertisements, they promote the 1% cash back in huge numbers and then put “Up To” in front of it, however they never specify what “Up To” means. It is up to you, the Consumer, to go investigate. Of course Discover makes it really to investigate by conveniently not mentioning this tiered structure anywhere on their site until you look at the super fine print.

Oh what a great deal 1% cash back……………..but wait, you have to read the fine print!

It’s actually .25% up to $3,000, then 1%!

So for your first $3,000 you spend on your Discover Card, you get a WHOPPING total of $7.50 cash back!

Don’t spend it all in one place!

I think if most Discover Cardholders knew about this shady practice, they would stop using their Discover Card and switch to something else like the Chase Freedom which offers a full 1% on all purchases!

Imagine if Chase came out with a credit card that said “EARN up to 25 UNITED MILES PER $1 SPENT”.

Most of us would be salivating, only to find out after signing up, that you only earn 25 United miles per $1 spent after you have surpassed $1 million in spending for the year. For spending below $1 million, you only earn .25 miles per $1 spent!

That is more or less what Discover is currently doing, just on a smaller scale!

Even though Discover really annoys me with that specific provision of their cash back program, I have had the card for 5 years, there is no annual fee, and their customer services is pretty good, so the card just sits in my drawer.

Back to the point of this post, Discover does have 5% cash back on Restaurants and Movies between April – June.

Although again, it is diff
icult to know if this is really 5% cash back or if it is “up to 1% cash back” + 4% bonus.

Link To Activate 5% Cash Back

Citibank

Citibank or as a certain HBO Real Time host likes to call them, Shitibank, also offers rotating 5% cash back categories on their Citi Dividend Card.

For Quarter 2, Citibank Dividend Card is offering 5% cash back at Home Depot between April – June.

I personally don’t have any Citibank accounts or cards, so I can’t give any personal opinions on my experiences with their program or card, however in looking over the 5% bonus for this quarter, something did catch my eye.

While this may sound like a good deal if you are planning on doing some Spring remodeling or buying some appliances, my 6th sense for credit card malfeasance went off when I saw “Home Furnishing” and “Home & Garden” purchases.

Now I personally do not know what Citibank considers “Home Furnishing” or “Home & Garden”, but the fact that they specifically mentioned those 2 categories makes me feel suspicious that they might consider an expensive refrigerator purchase more an “Appliance Purchase” instead of a “Home Purchase”.

If you are planning on taking advantage of this promotion by purchasing any large items, my advice would be to call up Citibank first to get some clarification before making your purchase!

Link To Activate 5% Cash Back

 

2500 Free Citi Thank You Points

Although I do not have any Citibank credit cards, or as I like to call them ShittyBank, Gary at ViewFromTheWing points out that Citi is giving away 2500 Thank You points to existing card members who link up their Facebook accounts. Since I’ve never had any Citi cards, I’m not sure what the value of a Thank You Point is but i’m guessing it is decent, not to mention free so if you have any cards that earn Thank You Points be sure to take advantage of this promotion!

Link To Gary’s Post

-Parag