Where My Peeps At?

I just checked the Google Analytics on this lil’ site and my head just about fell off:

Out-and-Out-traffic

This is awesome

 

That’s the US traffic for Out and Out! ZOMG!

It’s so weird/cool to see this site, which I’ve been sorely neglecting get a good amount of traffic from all over the country. I guess I just want to say thanks for reading… and I’d love to get to know more of you! Besos!

Just Got Two New Cards 5-3-13

OK. So I had another tequila-driven round of two new credit card applications.

The two cards I’ve been eyeing for a while are the Chase Ink Plus and the Barclay Arrival card.

I drunkenly logged into the Chase website and located the card I wanted. I like the Plus over the Bold because it’s a credit card as opposed to a charge card, which gives me a bit of flexibility just in case. There’s also a pre-defined limit which is good for when the credit line is reported to the credit bureaus. Maybe I’m completely misguided here, but both cards are identical except for the credit vs. charge feature. So it comes down to personal preference anyway.

There it was: my bounty.

Ink-Plus-card

I honestly don’t remember filling out the application. It’s been on my mind for so long, I think I did it on autopilot. I hit submit and waited. Not instantly approved. More info needed. Crikey.

So then I headed over to the Barclays website thinking I’d be approved instantly. I’ve had an Icelandair card with them since 2007 and never missed a payment, so thought that would be a show of good faith on a new card. Same thing. Filled out the application, hit submit, and got a similar message about needing more information. Wah.

barclay-arrival-card

The next day, I called Chase and they asked me a ton of questions about my business. I answered confidently and honestly. The rep placed me on hold for a few minutes, then came back and said I’d been approved with a $5,000 credit line. I was ecstatic. She said I’d receive the welcome packet in a few days.

Then I called Barclays. What a shitshow. The rep sounded like he didn’t have a clue what was going on and just to wait 10 days. Hung up and called again. Same thing, except she gave me a website to visit: myapplicationstatus.com. Thanks. The website says the same thing. I swear the reps at Barclays are all robots.

Robot talk

Robot talk

Even though I don’t have an official confirmation, I’m sure I’ll get the card (pretty sure, anyway). I’m super excited about getting 50,000 more Ultimate Rewards points as well at $400+ dollars to spend on travel. Holla.

Bottom line

This is my last round of apps for a while, maybe a year or so. My next financial goal is to save up a good down payment on a house and to pay down my student loans, so I’m gonna let my credit simmer for a bit while I get it in order and let a few hard inquiries fall off. Plus, I’m a working boy now!

Unless there’s an amazing deal that pops up, I’m done with credit cards for now. I’ll probably eat my words later, but at this moment in time… I’m happy with my current credit card lineup. 🙂 Can’t wait to get the cards next week! Will update when I receive them.

Mo’ Avios, Mo’ Problemz

Since meeting the first spending requirement on my new British Airways Visa Signature, I have become Avios-rich to the point where I don’t know what to do with them all. It’s introducing all sorts of new issues, including problems I love to have (see: Dilemma of the Day: Which Caribbean Island?).

Almost 64,000 Avios!

Almost 64,000 Avios!

What could I do with 64,000 Avios?

  • Take 7 trips to Montreal, Toronto, Boston, DC, Charlotte, or any other number of cool cities
  • Take 3 trips to islands in the Caribbean
  • Visit Vancouver for a long weekend
  • Go back to Hawaii

After I meet the next set of spending requirements, I’ll have well over 100,000 Avios and can do even more. I’ve also just discovered the BA eStore, which includes a few merchants I shop regularly at great payouts. I’m really getting into Avios for their practical purpose of short-haul flights (and for getting to Ireland on the cheaps!).

Now the only problem is finding the time to use them all…

I Got a Job

Yup. A full-time, big boy job at a PR firm in Manhattan. The hours? Monday to Friday, nine-to-five. Basic. I started the new position on April 1st. It’s all button-ups and staff meetings, conference calls, and a whole lot of Outlook calendaring.

Nine to Five 1

While I’m grateful to have it, it IS going to cut into my travel plans, big time. I sorta wondered about the direction this blog would take now that my travel is going to decrease. But you know what? I’m still earning miles and points, still researching trips, and still deeply curious about the world and about travel. So the conclusion I’ve come to is that nothing really has to change. And if anything, it’ll give me a chance to talk about life, art, and New York a bit more. But the focus will remain squarely on travel.

I also realized I have a ton of trips coming up. I’m headed to Easter Island May 18-24, Anchorage August 22-27, and I’m sure I’ll squeeze in a quick trip to Toronto or Montreal using all my new Avios points. 🙂

While I’d love to be getting out more, it’ll be good for me to save up some cash, pay down my student loans, and carefully plan the next phase of my life. So if anyone’s wondered why I’ve been quiet lately, that’s why. But I’m back and feeling more focused than ever.

 

Other new developments:

YOGA

  • I’ve been doing a ton of yoga. Slowly getting more flexible, and already feeling so many positive health benefits.

BREAKFAST

  • I never really could eat breakfast. I got a blender, specifically a Magic Bullet (from drugstore.com after clicking thru the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal for 5x points/dollar), and have started having protein-rich smoothies to get my metabolism going at 7:30AM. I’ve also been slowly weening myself off coffee, which has been so hard and so full of headaches. It’s ultimately for the best, but it’s another step toward health.

BOOK/ART

  • I’ve been editing a new book of essays and want to get that out ASAP. So that’s been taking up the bulk of my writing time. And after that, I want to start painting again. A LOT. Maybe grad school is in the cards?

 

So life is changing for the better. It’s slow and steady, and chugging right along. And I can’t freaking WAIT to go to Easter Island in two weeks (!). C’est la vie.

 

Can't wait to see them heads!

Can’t wait to see them heads!

Got the Staples Rebate Checks, But Not the AAdvantage Miles… Yet.

See original posts here and here.

So I did get those darn Staples checks after all. Yup, two checks for $250 each. Buying that software helped me to meet the minimum spend on my Citi AAdvantage Amex, and I’ve received my 50,000 bonus miles + $150 statement credit for my upcoming trip to Alaska. All good things. But, I clicked through the AAdvantage shopping portal before buying the software, and to date, have not received the additional 1,000 miles. Grrr.

I wrote to them a week ago, and immediately received an auto-reply that said to give it an additional 4-8 weeks for research and processing. So, I’m still holding out hope that I make good on my original post and get 1,500 free AAdvantage miles.

Now that my balance is reaching 70,000 miles, I’m torn between an awesome redemption or saving up for an around-the-world Explorer Award. TO BE CONTINUED.

 

Triple Membership Rewards on Amazon.com and Other Online Purchases?

So today I worked up enough energy to call Amex about the odd number of Membership Rewards on my first Premier Rewards Gold statement.

To recap, I spent $1,083 – enough to hopefully trigger the signup bonus for getting the card, even though I technically didn’t qualify for it, per the T&C.

I was expecting to get 1,083 Membership Rewards points this month. But then I noticed I had 2,221 pending points and called an agent for an exact points breakdown. Here’s where it got interesting.

I had only five charges on my first statement:

All the spend for this statement cycle

All the spend for this statement cycle

 

But apparently, I earned triple points for the online purchases, including for Amazon Payments.

Line by line:

  • BirchBox: $20 – 60 MR (3/dollar)
  • EZ Laundry $10.49 – 10 MR (1/dollar)
  • Amazon Payments $500 – 1500 MR (3/dollar)
  • CVS (Vanilla Reload card) – $503.95 – 504 MR (1/dollar)
  • Fab.com $49 – 147 MR (3/dollar)

Totals: $1083.44 – 2,221 MR points

 

WTF?

WTF?

 

Bizarre, right? I asked if that was some sort of special spend category, as none of it was airfare, gas, or groceries – and should have only generated 1 point per dollar spent.

The agent told me that because I had a Platinum Card, the Premier Rewards Gold card was generating three points per dollar with all of my online shopping – including for Amazon Payments.

I asked for more details about this. Was it all online shopping? Was it a new category? A special promotion? The agent had no answers other than all of my Membership Rewards points were now included in the Membership Rewards First program because of having the Platinum Card.

Even still, this could be really beneficial, as I shop online a lot. BirchBox and Fab.com are “deal” sites, and Amazon Payments I use for paying back friends or generating spend on new cards. I wonder if this will continue, and for how long. I’ll keep an eye on it, as this is a totally new spend category I didn’t know about until I called today.

The agent also said the category was added as part of the promo I got when I applied through creditcards.com. He also said – knock on wood – that I’d be getting the signup bonus next month of 50,000 Membership Rewards points!

He also specifically said I would get triple points on all shopping through Amazon.com.

I don’t know why or how, but I’m surprised at this newest development with the MR program.

Anyone else noticed this? Surely I’m not the only one.

 

American Express Vs. Chase: Why Chase Is Winning

Quite simply: signup bonuses with no BS.

I’ve been hating on Amex a lot lately, and with good reason. I now have four Amex cards, three with Amex as the actual issuing bank, and with two of those three, I’ve had to make numerous phone calls, write emails, and send tweets to their support team about not getting a signup bonus. After a lot of back and forth, they usually award me a fraction of what I missed out on as “good will”, but it always leaves a bad taste behind and is like pulling freaking teeth with them.

In my opinion, if an Amex cardmember holds the Platinum Card, their most premium card offering with a hefty $450 annual fee, any other cards should automatically come with an enhanced signup bonus. Something extra. Instead, we see this sentiment in a lot of the T&C:

Eff u 2!

Eff u 2!

What?! Why? That’s so stupid to punish people for wanting to open more cards. This is where Chase excels.

They have a few cards that feed into their Ultimate Rewards program the same way Amex has multiple cards that can be linked to Membership Rewards. But Chase doesn’t impose rules on signup bonuses with multiple cards. You can get a Freedom, a Sapphire, an Ink, and whatever else you want to get and get the FULL bonus on all of them. If anything ever goes awry, just give them a call and it’s taken care of almost instantly.

Not with Amex. They’re notorious for their Financial Reviews and for not awarding bonuses… at all. They’re also really slow and claim to have to “research” your claim. Not only that, but their Membership Rewards program has lost a few key transfer partners in the past couple of years, along with a few other consumer unfriendly changes while Ultimate Rewards continues to improve.

There are a few sweet spots with Membership Rewards. For me, it’s the British Airways Avios. They’re a transfer partner for both Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, which is pretty fantastic. Membership Rewards also transfer instantly to Delta, which would help me out a LOT with my dream trip to Australia if Amex would ever give me the points I deserve as a customer and card holder.

It goes beyond this, though. It’s about how the customer starts to view the company after a while. I’ve been screwed over by them a few times by now to the point where I’m thinking of switching all my spend over to Chase and giving Amex the finger. I wish it weren’t like this, though. Delta is pretty much forcing their customers to have a co-branded Amex to avoid the upcoming dreaded MQD component of the SkyMiles program, and I love having lounge access with the Platinum Card. But Chase always treats me so right while Amex continues to kick me to the proverbial curb.

So to Chase, I’d say keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working, and it’s so great. I have such a positive association with the company at this point. And Amex. Oh, Amex. Step up your game, because you’re getting your butt beat. I look forward to the day where I’m down to just the Platinum Card. In fact, Delta’s bid for more revenue is kinda sorta slowly driving me over toward American. But that’s a post for another day, and that post will be highly speculative.

When I think of Chase: I trust them, like them, want more of them.

When I think of Amex: Starting to shudder, need energy to deal with them, apprehensive about continuing to use their products. TOO. BAD.

Winner = Chase, hands down. Thoughts, anyone?

Birchbox Is Rocking My Face (and Hair)

I just got my first Birchbox in the mail this week. The March box included a great styling paste for hair, shaving cream, a beer koozie, awesome bottle opener, and set of two leather coasters.

First BirchBox

First BirchBox

 

The idea behind Birchbox is that they send you deluxe samples of nice grooming products once a month for $20. What’s in the box is worth more than $20, but then if you like a particular product, you can buy a full size of it at a discounted rate. Great idea, and awesomely progressive way of marketing. The boxes are packaged really well, and they give you the chance to tell them what you like so you’ll get targeted items in your box.

I loved my first one, and will definitely keep it for a few months to see the progression of the products through a couple of seasons. Sign up using this link and I’ll get a small referral credit, which is much appreciated. They have a version for both ladies and gentlemen. A cool little box of treats loaded with samples every month? Yes, plz. Gotta rep the NYC love too, cuz they’re based here. 🙂

I put the subscription charge onto my British Airways Visa to help meet the ginormous minimum spend requirement to unlock the full bonus and to pick up a few more Avios every month. It all adds up!

Dammit, Amex! No Signup Bonus, and an Odd Amount of Membership Rewards

So my newest batch of pathetic Membership Rewards points have posted following the acquisition of the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card during my recent app-o-rama. Even though the T&C clearly stated I wouldn’t get the bonus because I already have the Platinum Card, I, like a fool, didn’t read it and got the card anyway. To be clear, it was completely my fault for not being more thorough. But, I thought there might be a glimmer of a chance that the signup bonus would post somehow, so I went ahead and met the $1,000 minimum spend on the card.

In fact, I spent $1,083 on the card during the first month.

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 10.26.37 PM

 

OK. So the spend was not on ANY reward categories. I sent $500 thru Amazon Payments and got a $500 Vanilla Reload card at CVS. The other stuff was online subscriptions. No airfare, gas, or groceries. So I should’ve gotten 1,083 Membership Rewards points, right?

Here’s where it gets weird.

WTF?

WTF?

I have no idea how I’m getting 2,221 Membership Rewards points. Unless CVS counts as a grocery store somehow? I’ll definitely call Amex when I have more energy, but I want a breakdown of how that worked out. I was, admittedly, a little disappointed it wasn’t 52,221 points. I will try to request the bonus anyway, even though I know Amex are stingy little bitches with retroactive signup bonuses. They should give MORE of a signup bonus for opening another card as a Platinum Cardmember, not less (or none!). Grrr.

Looks like I will never accrue a decent amount of Membership Rewards points. Not this year, anyway. I should probably go ahead and cancel this stupid card. I definitely will after I get that free $25 credit for Small Business Sunday in November. After that, I’ll chuck it. I plan on putting the bulk of my spend this year on the British Airways Visa. I want those Avios. And by the time I meet that spend, I know Amex will slam that $175 annual fee right down. So I basically got 2,000 points for getting this card.

I much prefer Chase as a credit card company at this point. They have so many amazing cards, and are so good about giving out their signup bonuses. In fact, Amex has really been letting their credit cards go downhill a lot lately. At any rate, it makes one wonder… *le sigh*

Best Credit Card for American AAdvantage Miles

Right now, as of writing this on a cold, damp day in Brooklyn, the BEST credit card for quickly accruing AAdvantage miles is this one: 

 

Citi Select® / AAdvantage® American Express® card

Citi Select® / AAdvantage® American Express® card

 

Here is the link to the application. Note that it goes directly to the landing page and does not specify the terms of the application, but here they are:

  • 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within four months
  • $150 statement credit on an American flight (I used mine to book a trip to Anchorage)
  • 2 Admirals Club lounge passes
  • $85 annual fee waived the first year

You also get the usual perks:

  • 1 free checked bag
  • Priority boarding
  • 10% of miles redeemed back (up to 10,000 miles per year)

Note that this card does carry a foreign transaction fee of 3%. So don’t pack it when traveling internationally.

There are two versions of this card, those being a Visa Signature and an Amex. The both have the exact same signup bonus, but I picked the Amex.

Here’s why: Small Business Sunday. Amex gives you $25 to spend for FREE every year at nearly any small business. I now have four Amex cards, so that’s $100 worth of free gifts from local businesses. And that’s pretty amazing. Amex also gives you the opportunity to sync your card to your Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook and offers lots of perks and statement credits for checking in, tweeting, etc. Having a Visa Signature gives you access to concierge service and the Visa Signature Hotels collection, but since I already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, I don’t need another card with the same perks. I’d much rather have the $25 credit, which, when you think about it, brings the annual fee down to just $60. The ability to have access to sales and promotions throughout the year is also just a really nice way to stay engaged with the card. And, all else being equal, that’s why I picked the Amex version.

About the signup bonus: the link above is the exact same one I used to apply. I was a little leery about not getting it, but I’m close to making my spend, and called Citibank to confirm I’d get a statement credit before I booked the Anchorage trip. The rep went over the details of the signup bonus, and they were exactly what’s written above. 50K miles, club passes, $150 statement credit. When she told me, I hit the “Pay Now” button as I had my flights pulled up on aa.com at the same time. Also of note was that the call was answered immediately with no hold time. Pretty nice.

This offer will probably not be around for much longer, and 50K is as generous as the signup bonus gets. The usual offer is just 30K, so if you’re thinking of getting this, I’d go ahead and pull the trigger on it. As with all offers, YMMV, so make sure you keep an eye on your AAdvantage account when you expect the miles to post.

American has quite a few sweet spots in their award chart, including a discount for cardmembers every quarter and 10% of redeemed miles returned every year. This can really add up to some great discounted trips. I really love the idea of taking Qantas to Australia, airberlin to Europe, or Finnair to somewhere in Scandinavia. Of course that’s just the trip of the iceberg. I wish AAdvantage miles were easier to earn. Nevertheless, this card is a huge step in the direction of a great award booking, and, in my opinion, the best offer available at the time of writing.

Do You Get Double Points on Chase Sapphire for MTA in NYC?

Answer: YES. Absolutely. As a fellow disgruntled forced loyal MTA rider (like most of NYC), I always use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card when I load up my MetroCard. I also use it on all my other travel and restaurant spend, except when I’m trying to meet minimum spends on other cards.

You’ll also get double points for these other travel expenses:

  • Rental cars
  • Anything remotely related to air travel (tickets, drinks on the plane, baggage fees, change fees, booking fees [OK – any fees], gift cards, and some points purchases)
  • TAXIS (important to also know in NYC!)
  • Any type of car service (for the Brooklyn people)
  • Public transportation anywhere (Tube in London, BART in SF, CTA in Chicago, etc.)
  • Hotels, even including Airbnb – I confirmed this with a phone rep

Restaurants is another huge category:

  • Fast food
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Catering
  • And pretty much anywhere that’s coded as an “eating place” – meaning they serve food (or drinks!). I use my Sapphire in bars all the time.
Eating Place

“Eating Place” (also, I love Mexican food)

 

Interesting to note something that’s not included in the “travel” category, though: GAS. If you fill up your rental car with gas before returning it, you’ll only earn one point per dollar. Better to use the Chase Ink Plus/Bold or the American Express Premier Gold Rewards card for those transactions since they do earn two points per dollar at gas stations.

Since travel and restaurants are my two biggest spend categories, I love love love the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Worth every penny of the $95 annual fee.

Booked: Anchorage in August!

Yes! Thanks to this alert from The Flight Deal, I went ahead and pulled the trigger on this one. It’ll be a trip for my birthday, which is August 26. 🙂

As with everything travel-related, I had a few reasons for going through with this one:

  • Great deal, obvi. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska
  • I just got the Citi AAdvantage Amex and called to confirm I’d get a $150 statement credit. I will, which made it a no-brainer. I also get 2 miles/dollar spent, and this counts toward the minimum spend to get 50,000 more AAdvantage miles
  • I plan on being Executive Platinum by that time and hope to get upgraded automatically, or can use e-certificates to upgrade the fare
  • It’ll will net me about 10,000 RDMs and EQMs, nearly halfway to a free R/T domestic trip
  • I have BusinessExtrAA, and get points there, too

Check out this sweet itinerary:

Screen shot 2013-03-11 at 9.14.27 PM

 

Looking forward to the trip, and to seeing how American fares on a long-haul flight. Be sure to sign up for The Flight Deal’s daily newsletter – they’ve been on fire with the great deals lately!