Credit Cards

Category Archives for Credit Cards.

Chase Freedom Flex Vs Freedom Unlimited: Which Is Better for Your Spending?

chase freedom flex vs freedom unlimited

Chase has 2 great no annual fee cards that pair nicely with premium Ultimate Rewards cards: Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited.

The Freedom Flex card earns 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points in rotating quarterly categories on up to $1,500 per quarter in combined spending. The Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases with no cap.

Chase Freedom Flex Vs Freedom Unlimited

Really gonna depend on bonus categories and how much you typically spend

Lots of peeps ask which is better. To which I always answer: it depends on how much you like the bonus categories. But there’s a longer answer beyond that: how much to you plan to spend on the card each year?

Let’s talk about the break even point and which is better for your finances.

Chase Freedom Flex Vs Freedom Unlimited

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What’s your credit card and points strategy these days? (The 3 cards I want now)

credit card strategy

I’ve always said, “earn and burn.” Meaning earn your points and miles, then burn them in short order. I keep my points balances low – having 100,000 points is a good enough minimum cushion for me.

Because with that amount, I can get to most places in business class one-way (and to a few in business class round-trip). It’s also enough for me to begin planning a trip. And if I need more, I can start earning what I’ll need. Usually, the easiest way is to open a new credit card.

credit card strategy

I’m accumulating points but have no idea how to use them

These days I can earn, but there’s no way to burn. I have a few cards I want, but keep waiting to apply for them. It feels pointless to have a storehouse of points and miles when most places are closed to Americans and there’s uncertainty about when we can travel again.

But my wanderlust is kicking up big time and I know when I’m able, I’ll be off like a rocket. 🚀

I’m torn between earning lots of points while I’m still in lockdown and waiting to see what happens. Who knows what devaluations and program changes are coming down the pipeline, especially with basically every airline and hotel chain massively struggling right now? It’s keeping me in a holding pattern. Not only with this topic, but with pretty much everything.

My current credit card strategy

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Inventory: The 23 credit cards I currently have – and why

Dang, the last time I did a full credit card inventory was three years ago. Can you believe?

Back then, I had 29 cards. These days I have 23, and currently have my eye on three more (ironically, all cards I’ve had before: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Premier, and US Bank Altitude Reserve).

Of the 29 I had, some I closed, some were discontinued, and others were canceled for me. And I still have a lot of them today. Let’s hop to it!

Recent mainstays

I set up each section with:

Name of card – annual fee amount – # of years I’ve had it – keep or cancel

Amex

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Reminder: Put a charge on all your credit cards every so often (Oops!)

use credit card

There are a lot of promotions out there right now. Due to coronavirus, many banks added bonus categories to their cards to encourage more use – which is great! The downside is it becomes easy to forget your other cards.

I often recommend downgrading cards with annual fees to their no-fee counterparts to preserve the credit line and history. Older accounts in particular can age your overall credit and lower your utilization rate, which can help your credit score.

But! Because these cards are free to keep, it’s easy to stick ’em in a drawer and forget about them. Like I just did with my US Bank Radisson Rewards Visa. 🤦🏻‍♂️

I got a letter in the mail saying my card was closed effective immediately and to destroy it because the account was inactive. Dang, US Bank – you know how to break up, don’t you? Give a guy a warning!

use credit cards

Goodbye, valiant soldier

So this is your reminder to use ALL your credit cards. Especially if you have a couple dozen floating around out there like me.

Use credit cards at least once a year

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Plastiq Payments Earn 5X Points (up to 7,500) With Citi Prestige Promotion

If you have a Citi Prestige card, there’s a promotion running through the end of August 2020. You can earn 5X points per $1 spent on “online purchases” – up to 7,500 Citi ThankYou points.

My friend Angie tipped me off that Plastiq payments are working to trigger the bonus points, so I took the opportunity to make a $1,500 auto loan payment. Plastiq is a bill payment service that allows you to pay most bills (and even individuals providing a service) with a credit card.

citi prestige plastiq 5x

Details of the Citi Prestige 5X promotion

Sure enough, I earned 7,500 Citi ThankYou points for the payment. So while that’s great, a word of caution. Plastiq is increasing the payment fee from 2.5% to 2.85% on July 1, 2020.

If you wanna get in on this easy win, you only have a few more days!

Citi Prestige Plastiq 5X points

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Citi retention offer: A quick call got me 3X ThankYou points everywhere (up to 35K)

I’ve written how everyone with a Citi card should call at least once a year and check for a Citi retention offer – particularly if the card has an annual fee.

My Citi Prestige annual fee recently posted. I called, and no joy. This week, the fee on my beloved AT&T Access More card posted, so I called again.

This time, I got my favorite retention offer so far: an extra 2X Citi ThankYou points on all spending, with a max of 35,000 points.

That breaks down to 3X points per $1 spent on up to $17,500 spent in non-bonus categories. And 5X points per $1 spent for online purchases (which are a bonus category with this card). Wow.

Citi retention offer

Gosh I love this card

I immediately queued up mortgage, HOA, and car payments with Plastiq (because it’s a MasterCard, which you can use for those payments) and moved the card into my wallet – a place it hasn’t been for a looong time.

3X Citi ThankYou points for everyday spending is an awesome return. I value that at 6% assuming each point is worth 2 cents each.

Morever, earning an extra 35,000 ThankYou points is worth $700 to me by that same metric. AND this card earns an extra 10,000 Citi ThankYou points when you spend at least $10,000 in a cardmember year. Because this offer will also trigger that bonus, I value it for an additional $200.

So yes, this quick call recouped the card’s $95 annual fee nearly 10 times over. And is a great reminder why you should always always call Citi about retention offers.

Note: The Citi AT&T Access More card is no longer available. Nope, not even for product changes.

Citi retention offer details

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Balance transfer cards 2020: A godsend when you need more time (but don’t fail the test)

Hi lil lovies. The holidays were wild, eh? I’m writing this in a medicated haze with flu-like symptoms. But I wanted to write. And I’ve been meaning to talk about is how I’m using balance transfer cards to:

  • Meet my current financial goals (which I need to update)
  • Smooth out large, unexpected expenses (like when my AC quit in July and I had to get a new HVAC system)
  • Give myself a jump-start to purchase big items when I want them (I bought myself a rowing machine because I really really wanted one and I’ve been using it regularly)

This is because I didn’t have enough in a savings account, which will change this year. So hopefully I won’t have to rely on them in the future.

But for now, they’ve helped me consolidate a lot of balances spread over several cards with big interest rates. I paid a one-time balance transfer fee, and have a 0% APR rate through April 2020. So I haven’t paid a dime of interest since. And honestly? It’s been the one thing that’s given me time to get caught up.

balance transfer cards

Balance transfer cards aren’t a perfect solution. But they’ve bought me time and helped me avoid a ton of interest while I got my plans together

The test, of course, is paying them back before the 0% promotional rate expires. If you don’t, you’re right back to where you started. 🌀

The good thing is these rates are a year or more (usually more). A lot can happen in a year.

While I’m glad balance transfer cards have been available to me as a financial tool (which is absolutely how I think of them), moving forward I want to depend on savings rather than having to buy myself time.

Balance transfer cards 2020 – should you, could you, would you?

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Is Citi Double Cash Now the Best Card for Plastiq Payments? (Mortgage/Rent, Auto, HOA)

citi double cash plastiq

Plastiq is an online service that allows you to pay nearly any bill using a credit card. And now for the “gotchas:”

  • There’s a 2.5% fee to send a bill payment
  • You can’t make loan payments (rent, car note, etc.) with a Visa or Amex card, but residential rent and HOA fees are OK
  • You CAN make loan payments with a Mastercard or Discover card
  • Capital One cards currently don’t work in their system right now
  • Most cards only earn 1 point or mile per $1 spent, which doesn’t make the fee worth it

That said, there are a lots of situations you’d want to use Plastiq despite the fee:

  • To complete minimum spending requirements in literally seconds and earn a sign-up bonus
  • When they run a promotion for free or discounted payments
  • When paying the fee gives you wiggle room for unexpected expenses
  • To reach a big spend bonus for a free hotel night/airline elite status credit, depending which card you have
  • If your card issuer is running a promotion for bonus miles/points/cash

And there are two cards with a 2X earning rate that work with Plastiq. The first is the Amex Blue Business Plus, which earns 2X Amex Membership Rewards points on all purchases, up to $50,000 spent per calendar year. That’s cool, but many peeps don’t qualify for small business cards, or don’t want to pay personal bills with a business card.

I value bank points at 2 cents each, so earning 2X points per $1 spent is a 4% return.

If you maximize your per-point value, it can easily offset Plastiq’s fee. Like when you get an international long-haul flight in a premium class. For that reason, I’ve been using my Amex Blue Business Plus on Plastiq a lot – but as noted above, I can’t pay my mortgage or car payment.

Enter the second option…

Citi Double Cash Plastiq payments

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Yes! Just Got the Chase Ink Business Preferred 80,000-Point Offer!

chase ink business preferred

The Chase Ink Business Preferred offer in this post is NO LONGER AVAILABLE. Click here to see the latest travel card deals!

On September 1, I applied for the Chase Ink Business Preferred 80,000 points offer. And lord, it was a long time coming. I’m now under 5/24 for the time in eons, and haven’t opened a new Chase card in literally years.

I was nervous to apply after so long. But the chance to snag 80,000 valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points was too much to pass up. And applying for new credit cards is seriously better than any drug for me. So I was getting that sweet adrenaline fix after submitting my application and watching this screen:

Chase Ink Business Preferred 80,000 points offer

Serotonin and dopamine ACTIVATED

Then was disheartened at this message:

YOU’RE WELCOME FOR MY REQUEST

Dang it. I knew this screen was common and the best bet was to sit tight and wait it out. I figured I’d give it a couple of weeks, and check back.

NOT. (Did you really give me credit for being that chill? 😹)

You know I logged into my Chase online account 4,000 times a day hoping the card would appear. After a week, I started to get down on my luck. After all, I already had seven other Chase cards. Would they really give me an eighth?

But then!

A white unmarked envelope from Westerville, Ohio, appeared in my mailbox. The joy and horror when I saw it!

Was it a thin rejection letter or a fat welcome packet? My fingers reached at warp speed. It was a fatty! There was a card inside! Perhaps it was a cruel marketing scam? Could it be?

I ripped through the paper and just starting laughing right there at the mailbox. I couldn’t believe it.

Just like that, I was back in the game. I had a new Chase Ink Business Preferred in my hot little hand.

Chase Ink Business Preferred 80,000 points offer

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Review: 3 Ways the Amex Platinum Card Is Worth the $550 Annual Fee

If you can’t tell, I’ve been thinking about ultra-premium cards a lot lately. Which ones to keep and pick up… and my overall card strategy.

All roads lead back to the Amex Platinum Card (learn more here) – the original, and a current stronghold.

Several years ago, it was my first card that had a big annual fee. Lots has changed in the industry since, but it’s held up remarkably well. It’s still the card to have if you’re seeking lounge access (though admittedly denigrated a bit in the past few years).

Among ultra-premium cards, it holds its own – especially if you can get maximum value from the long list of benefits.

There are three main ways to approach recouping the cost of the $550 annual fee: through lounge access, with statement credits, or from ancillary bennies.

In each case, the card earns its keep – making the rest of the perks gravy. 🤤 Let’s dig in a bit more.

And don’t forget the 60,000-point welcome bonus, worth ~$1,200 by itself!

amex platinum card review

Use the Amex Priority Pass to take a nap in airport Minute Suite locations – and many other lounges around the world

Here’s my expert analysis. 🧐

Amex Platinum Card review – how to make the $550 fee worth it

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PSA: Don’t Make This Mistake With US Bank Altitude Reserve Travel Credits

Upon logging into my US Bank online account, I noticed something weird.

I have a decent amount of points from using mobile pay at Costco for 3X points (a 4.5% return because each point is worth 1.5 cents toward travel). And I have my Real-time Rewards threshold set to $10.

So when I make a travel charge over $10, I get a text asking if I’d like to redeem points to “erase” it.

altitude reserve travel credits

Just say the magic word and your charge is gone. (The magic word is “Redeem”)

I used this for a few Uber rides recently. Great, great, love it.

But then… I noticed my $325 annual travel credit had recently reset – and doubly covered the charges.

~$82 of charges got double credited – one from Real-time Rewards, the other from my travel credits

Not only did I redeem points for those charges, but somehow it ate up ~$82 worth of my travel credits, too. If I’d known this would happen, I would’ve saved my points.

So when your travel credits reset, DO NOT use Real-time Rewards to erase your charges. You’ll end up paying double!

Oh, and US Bank was beyond lame when I alerted them to what happened. So lame that I’m thinking of dumping this card altogether – after I drain the remaining credits and points, of course.

US Bank Altitude Reserve travel credits don’t play well with Real-time Rewards redemptions

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Does Your Biz Spend $6,000+ a Month? Get 95,000 Points, $700+ in Credits, Lounge Access, Elite Status…

Who’s never had the small business version of the Amex Platinum Card? *raises hand*

This card doesn’t count against your Chase 5/24 status. But I didn’t include it on my list of 6 best cards if you’re over 5/24 because:

  • It will only appeal to a small segment of people
  • The minimum spending requirement to earn the welcome offer is $20,000 (!) in the first 3 months of account opening

But there are several huge reasons to get this card, namely 75,000 Amex Membership Rewards points as a welcome bonus. Plus it comes with a long list of benefits – like $200 in airline credits, 5x points on flights, and 35% points rebate on an airline of your coach (for coach flights, and any airline for Business or First Class).

You can learn more about the card here.

amex platinum business

I always make sure to eat full meals and enjoy a couple free cocktails at Amex Centurion Lounges

The annual fee is NOT waived the 1st year. But man, if you make good use of the lounge access and annual statement credits… it’s a total GOAT.

Amex Platinum business 75K card offer

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