Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Long Weekend trip report and a few tips on using Credit card benefits

3 days long weekend is not long enough to take a flight for the family size like ours, however, it’s long enough for an excursion from Redmond, WA(where I live) to Portland, OR. I found out that every time I learned some tips and tricks with regards to how to max out our credit card benefits and/or wisely use the benefits on the right time and the right place. Here are some.

1.      Saved ~30% on a new iPad 3 16gb Wi-fi

I live in a county which has the most expensive sales tax 9.5% and I live close to the a state which has ZERO sales tax, Oregon. If I were to buy a retailed iPad 3 16GB wi-fi, it would cost me $499+9.5%~=$550, I managed to get the same with only $400, a close of 30% saving. How?
1)      Citi Thank you points regularly has promotion on Macys redemption, last time, I took the advantage of 20% saving, say, I redeemed 40,000 points for $500 Macy's giftcard instead of $400 giftcard
2)      Macy's sells Apple iPod Touch, iPad on their Kiosk machines. You can only use one Macy's giftcard per transaction, however, you can use multiple cards to purchase one “giant” giftcard by asking the cashier @ Macy's.
3)      OR has zero tax

Tip: Monitoring Thank you promotion closely, sometimes, they throw in 20% off some retail giftcard there.
Cynthia can't let iPad go even in sleep. :-)

2.      Priority club pointbreaker

I stayed one night at Holiday Inn Portland airport by taking the advantage of recent PC pointbreaker promotion by spending only 5000 points. I value PC points 0.7 penny, so, $35 including all tax for a night is not too bad.
Million Miles Secrets has a GREAT post on how to use this pointbreaker

Tip: pointbreaker hotels list is subject to change, bookmark their list for future reference, if you need 80,000 PC points, apply for this Chase card.

3.      ClubCarson 138,000 points promotion

For those of you who are not familiar with the recent promotion of Clubcarson, you should. Literally, I paid $80 total for one night in Country Inn and Suite near Portland airport which our family enjoyed a good overnight rest and a great breakfast, but also, we got 44,000 points, plus online booking 2000 points for Elite member, which is enough for 3 nights for some of nice hotels here(15,000 points per night)
You join club with Red status, but you can email them and ask for matching your Hilton/Marriott/Hyatt elite status, and they will do it within 3 days. J this is how I got additional 2000 points.
Annie/Cynthia enjoyed the hotel and tiny falls.

4.      Tax saving and credit card spending

It’s a high time for this trip as we not only saved ~10% tax on everything we bought, also, we managed to meet Irene’s two recent credit cards spending requirement which is ~$4000 we need.

   a. try to  use your trip to meet credit card spending requirement is the most efficient way.
   b. if your trip involves a big portion of shopping like us, write down the list of things you want to buy in advance, by doing this, it controls your spending, in other words, you really don't want to meet the credit card spending to "buy" a lot of stuff you don't need in the future.

Cost/Saving Analysis

In terms of having fun with the whole family, I know I shouldn’t do the cost/saving analysis, as the experience is priceless. However, I can’t help doing this. J
Gas:$150, Food: $200, hotel stay: $80, total: ~$400
Tax: $400, iPad: $150, free three nights Hotel stay: $60x3=$180, one free night at Holiday Inn: $60. Total: ~$800

In a nutshell, I took the whole family enjoyed three days trip and I was ~$400 ahead. Unbelievable! J

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The toughest reconsideration call with Chase and $150 statement credit for AA Citi clarification

1.      Southwest Business/personal VISA ($69 one) re-consideration call

Per my previous note that I anticipated that Southwest/Chase will revoke the 50,000 points link and lower to 25,000 points, yes, they did it around last week and I can’t find a 50,000 link no more. However, if you have a bit of patience, I am very positive these kind of offers will come back soon.

You can opt-in Southwest email offers/promotions, sometimes, they mail those targeted offers.

Ok, my wife applied both business VISA and personal before those links got expired, however, as expected she got both denied. I separated two strategies to call Chase for re-consideration

1)      Business card

I believe it’s easier to get this card as Irene doesn’t have a business card yet. It was much tough than I expected, long story short. The agent verified both my wife’s full-time job and the business she is running. She does help me run a few ebay selling and a few websites she hosted for some of the friends/clients. She was very honest with Chase’s agent about revenue and month expenses. (a few hundred $, it doesn’t really matter, just be honest with Chase, they understand). She also explained why she is eager to get this card because Seattle is a hub city of Southwest and she has some expense of office products that she’d like to charge to Staple, OfficeDepot around $200~300 a month.
She got approved after 35 minutes on the phone with the agent. J

2)      Personal card

The person card was even tougher and I have to ask her to call three times during the day. One of Chase’s concern is within 6 months, why did so many inquires populate on her credit report? Such as Maycs, Target, Kohls, I told my wife to convince the agent that “it’s never too many store cards for women”. She also was very polite and had mini-conversation with the agent. (cheer them up is SUPER important as I’ve pointed out a few times).

Now, we are looking at companion pass for two people in the family, it also means, for the next year, our family (fourpeople) will travel in US literally only use two rewards tickets.(I have 130k and Irene will have 110k points to burn)

The feeling = Priceless.

2.      Citi $150 statement credit

When I got the Citi AAdvange Visa/AMEX using two-browsers trick, there was a statement that you will get $150 when you make eligible AA purchase. I got my $150 via giftcard purchase, however, when I purchased the luggage tag, I didn’t get the $150 statement credit.
1)      I sent Citi SM(Secure Message), it doesn’t work well
2)      I called them and one of nice agent conferenced AA and told me it does count.
Hence, I’d suggest buy the giftcard and $150 will be automatically populate on your next statement.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Target Delta AMEX offer

check your offer here, I have the 45,000 miles offer , you can apply for both personal and business cards, which gives you 90,000 miles.

Earn 25,000 bonus miles after your first purchase on the Card.
Earn another 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 in the first six months of Cardmembership.
Receive a $100 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase in the first three months of Cardmembership. 

You can also enjoy all of the following:
  • Your first checked bag free for you and up to eight others on your itinerary
  • Priority boarding on Delta flights. Get on early, stow your bag and settle in sooner for a pleasant trip
  • Save 20% on in-flight food, beverage and entertainment purchases on Delta flights (Your savings will appear as a credit on your statement)
  • $25 Delta Sky Club® access
  • Receive a domestic Economy Class Companion Certificate for discounted travel each year upon renewal
  • Double miles on Delta purchases and one mile per eligible dollar spent for everyday purchases
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Southwest Visa cards might end, heads-up announced that the VISA cards will end today, heads-up. I've applied my Southwest Premier and my wife's both personal and Business cards just in case.

60,000 United offer in the mail (extended to June 30 2012)

I just got an mail of the 60k United Explorer VISA offer has been extended to June 30,2012. you may want to go to based on the screenshot below to apply. for those of you who are not familiar with this great offer, see my previous post here and here.
I am also testing doubling up the netflix 4k miles offer by using my old United card # which is all digi. I will post back to confirm the additional 4k miles is doable or not.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Free one-way on United when you book your reward tickets

I was poking around United for stop-over and open-jaw ticket as I am planning my trip with my wife to Tokyo later this year and found out that you can actually get one-way ticket free. Here is what I found
1. I want to fly from SEA-->NRT(Tokyo) on Nov 2012 and come back 7 days later
2. I chose multiple destinations option and chose SEA to SFO in April as the one-way ticket, the result is

what does it mean to you? it means you use the same amount of 65,000 miles for an international coach round trip ticket and United throws in an one-way ticket for you for FREE in a near future. wouldn't that be nice?

I am still working on figuring out the rules and tricks, as the above example, First Class doesn't work out for me. I believe it's all about availability. I also believe the round trip booking unlocked the one-way free ticket, all you have to do is to keep searching. see ya!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How to fly domestic FREE for your partner an entire year

One of my friend told me he applied for Alaska Airline BoA card and got a $99 companion pass, he is very happy about it. While I feel happy once my friends are happy, I pointed him out how to fly domestic free for a year. His jaw was dropped on his way back to get the deal. :-)

Southwest has two version of VISA card, personal and business, your goal is to get two, one personal, one business, each earns you 50k points and you need another 10k to reach 110k companion pass requiremnt.

Here is a shorter version of HOW, for full detail, please refer below link

1.     Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier.
Both the personal and the business versions of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier offer 50,000 bonus points (worth up to $833 in free travel), but they have a $99 fee which is not waived during the 1st year.However, you get a 6,000 annual point bonus which covers the cost of the $99 fee.

2.     Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus.
Just like the Rapid Reward Premier card, you get a 50,000 point sign-up bonus (worth $833 in free travel) with the personal and business Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card.
But the annual fee is $69 which gets you a 3,000 point yearly bonus.If you plan on keeping the card for more than 1 year, the Rapid Rewards Premier card is the better choice since the $99 fee is worth exactly 6,000 points.

3.     Get the 10k extra points
In order to get the companion pass you need extra 10k. the above link has 10 ways to get the points. I’d like to point out that my exp is using the card plus paying attention to Southwest RR promotion (for example, paying cell phone bill get you 1000 points, sign on email and etc..).
If you need a quick 10k, yes, convert the hotel/ultimate points as above link.

4.     Once you have 110k(check out your RR account to make sure 110k is achieved). You will get notified by Southwest on the next step.

You need to get the 110k in a calendar year, churning two personal/business cards is YMMV, I don't see the reason you want to get above four cards for 200k points. (you will get declined anyway and i don't think calling reconsideration line will help).
I’d get just two cards every 12-18 months to cover your entire life companion pass. J that’d be sweet!

Updated: 7/26/2012, you can actually get all four cards now by calling recon line.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

SPG 5000 points referral a friend

If you have applied SPG card before, check out your AMEX online and they might send you an offer to refer your friend and you got 5000 points.if you don't have the SPG card, I am gratefull if you can apply via my link. :-)

for details of SPG, please click here.

My wife is approved for Chase Sapphire Mastercard

Last month, my wife Irene applied the Chase Sapphire Mastercard for 40,000 bonus and $3000/3months spending(this offer has been expired and only VISA version is avail.)
She got declined as "too many requests" as you guys normally received from Chase, most people will dump the letter and forget, no, don't, the fun just gets started. :-)

Our family doesn't have a MasterCard, i decided to use this reason to call reconsideration line @ Chase
 For those of you who are not familiar with reconsideration process, please see my previous post.

Irene: ring, ring
Chase: thank you for calling Chase........blah blah
(verify Irene's info....)  how can I help you?
Irene: I got a declined letter and re# is xxxxxxxxx

Chase: Let me take a look.....(within 15 seconds) oh, it's because you applied for UA VISA not long ago.
Irene: Understood, but you know what, my husband has the Sapphire VISA and it's very elegant design and our family doesn't have a similar Mastercard, could you reconsider the decision? Thank you so much!

Chase: can i put you on hold for 3-5 minutes?
Irene: Sure.
(you can put me on hold for 30 minutes as long as you approve. LOL)

Within 3 minutes....
Chase: Irene, good news, we approved your card and you will get it within 5-7 business days. and we confirm the 40k points and $3000/90days spending requirement. is there anything else i can help you?
Irene: nope, thanks a lot, you make my day. :-)

The whole talk is 5 minutes including being on hold. I will highly suggest you do the same, any question such as "how do I convince Chase to reconsider my case?", email me, I may have some advise.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

138K Club Carlson points/Radisson hotels Mega deal

Please refer to below the slickdeals for details.
for those of you who are not familar with Club Carlson group, there are hotels are listed above. if you join now, you will get 4500 points for free.
in a nutshell, Starts on mid-night 5/15/2012,Check out by 7/15/2012
1.Stay at participating hotels, one night at Radisson, one night at Park Inn, one night at Country Inn & Suites
2. Earn 138k points (I am thinking about staying half a month at a hotel for free).
3. These points can be redeemed at any Radisson, Park inn, Park Plaza and Country Inn & Suites

Tuesday Travel Top 10: How to Use Miles for the Best First Class Products reviewed top 10 First CLASS cabins and none of America airlines, not surprised to me at all. I'd rather fly business cabin of one of those airline vs some of the America airlines First class for apparent reason: hardware, food and services. take a look at below and you will know which partner airline first class cabin you should book next time. :-)
Tuesday Travel Top 10: How to Use Miles for the Best First Class Products

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How-to max out my United VISA card benefit

If you follow the link below, you might already have applied for this card and got 50k miles + $50 credit
Here are a few other quick steps to get more benefits of the card
1.      What if I applied the 40k offer
Send Chase a SM(Secure Message) as below and kindly let Chase bump and use the screenshot above link as reference.

2.      What if I didn’t apply the $50 credit
Send a SM to chase

3.      Lounge pass
I’ve got 4 one-day passes, if you really don’t need it, sell it on ebay for extra $80.
4.      Add an authorized user to get 5,000 miles
Send chase a SM after you added an auth user

5.      Sign up Netflix to get 4,000 miles

Okay, now you got 50,000+5,000+4,000=59,000 miles + $50 credit + 4 passes(easily sell $80 on ebay if you don’t need it). What a deal! My best card this year. J

Sunday Success Story – Asia in Style

Sunday Success Story – Asia in Style

Listen to the story of a retiree couple of the Free travel experience. it's so true, spend a bit time do the homework, you and your family travel for free, why not? don't make it complicated.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Credit score, What’s all about?

I primarily use free or credit sesame for my credit alert and monitoring. There are some paid services credit score companies which earn you thousands of points/miles and I haven’t decided to take one yet as the paid services representing true FICO score than those free ones, like creditkarma or freecredit or credit sesame

Anyway, after a few credit cards opened and big chunk of $$$ charged to those cards lately, my credit lowered 20-30 points. Whew? Take it easy, relax. I will fix it and I will tell you HOW.
You can see that I am still “Good” as above 700, it means Lenders will consider your credit score satisfactory. You may qualify for new credit and loan offers, but they will likely not have the best rates. best rate? i don't need that, i need a YES or NO. er?

1.      Assumption

I’d point out first and again that you don’t want to apply a lot of credit cards if you are buying a house with mortgage, leasing a car, applying a loan and etc.. You need solid Grade A credit, above 740 to get the best rate. Chasing credit card sign-on bonus in the meantime will have impact of the rate you are getting. In China, we called it “in order to pick up sesame, you drop off watermelon”, Don’t do it.

2.      Credit score is short term

Normally, every hard acquire and credit card application will lower your score by 3-5 points, higher utilization of debts will lower even more. However, it’s short term and you need to monitor your credit score a few times a week and make sure they are above 700 in this case, once it’s getting closer to 700, stop the application and wait for it’s to recover, it will recover very soon. The reason why is if you are below 700, you have a good chance to get automatic declined by those lenders, you can call the reconsideration line of course, but wouldn’t it be nicer to get auto approval?

3.      What factors do impact score

a.      Open Credit Card Utilization: your goal is to keep it within 10% and it has a high weight of your credit
b.      On-time payment: should I say more? It’s super high weight
c.      History of credit: you’d like to keep your oldest card as many as you can, even sometimes you have to pay annually fee, as the history is avg based on your open accounts. The shorted, the lower the credit. If you have the avg >3 years, it’s a lot better.
d.      Hard inquires: even though it weights as low of your credit, my personal experience it is NOT. try to keep it within 3-4 every so often, I will suggest not apply for lots of cell phone plan via different carrier(stick to one), department stores, car dealers leasing quotations. Those will lower your credit, unless you have to.

4.      How to increase credit scores in a short term

There some ways to increase credit score rapidly, again, long terms, your credit will be self-heal, no concerns, okay.
a.      Pay the balance, if your utilization is >10%, keep them within 4-5% usually helps a lot. However, you need to understand it’s up to 30 days for the utilization reflecting to your credit report.
b.      If you know someone has decent credit(>740), if they are ok with help you, add you to one of their authorized user, it will lift your score very quickly.
c.      A big “no-no”, don’t cancel your very oldest credit card, it won’t help you, it will hurt you I promise you. You may want to use those card for a dinner or two just to keep them “alive”. I found it’s useful to dump credit rapidly.
You need to understand that there is no “magic” way to bump your score, say, X points by Y days, absolutely not, if anyone tells you and any paid increasing credit companies promised you, do not trust it. Credit score takes time to go up. However, if you keep the above a few hints, you can look at dump score by 20-30 points within 1-3 months. It also goes back to my #1 assumption that you don’t need >740 score to apply for mortgage/loans, if that’s the case, stop here, close my blog browser window. (don’t remove my blog from your bookmark , you just need it when your situation changed. LOL)

In a nutshell, you don't need very high credit score to apply those credit cards and enjoy the bonuses. why not take advange of your good credit? keeping 800 credit score doesn't fly you First class for free, those miles does. Right?