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Bye, REDbird; Hello again, Serve

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From the I-knew-if-was-too-good-to-be-true files…

Well, consider this a data point if anything.

Oh, kwitcher cryin'

Oh, kwitcher cryin’

Tonight, I decided I was done messing with the REDbird card in New York City. It’s just too hard. The closest Target to me is the one at Atlantic Terminal, and they no longer accept credit cards for reloads – only cash and debit cards – which makes this product useless to me.

I’ve heard the one in Harlem is still accepting credit cards, but from my vantage point in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, it might as well be on the other side of the moon. I will go far for points and miles – but not that far.

At about 6 hours round-trip (yes, I am serious. New York City is huge and the MTA is a nightmare), I have to weigh my opportunity costs as well as my time. And while loading $5,000 per month is obviously more than $1,000 per month, at least I can run my Serve reloads from the app on my phone while I’m still lying in bed.

Time required: seconds. Opportunity cost: slight delay on coffee in the morning. 

My REDbird story

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Money transfer works between REDbird and Serve

Screenshot 2015-02-02 11.40.35

The funds were sent from REDbird

There’s nothing too remarkable about the image above, except that I received funds in my Serve account – and they were sent from a REDbird account.

It’s not surprising given that it’s literally the exact same interface copy and pasted (and turned red instead of blue).

To send money between Serve and REDbird, you just click “Pay & Transfer” then “Send Money.” Just be sure to use the email address associated with the account, and you should have no issue. The funds transferred right away, and I logged into my Serve account and paid a bill with the online bill pay.

Just make sure the emails or phone numbers match

Just make sure the emails or phone numbers match

This might be useful for some.

I am in the middle of loading up my Serve for the last time (day 2 of 5 right now), after which, I will cancel my account online and activate my own REDcard. The timing is great because I can max out the limits on both cards in February – even if it is a short month!

I know some of you are currently waiting on REDbird to arrive or don’t have a Target nearby – but in case you need to send from from Serve to REDbird, or vice versa, you’ll be totally fine.

Bottom line

Just wanted to throw this up, PSA-style, in case anyone else was in an in-between phase with these two cards and needed to send money to a friend or family member. I suspect it would also work with Bluebird, but I’d do a small transfer (like $5) just to test it out before I went full hog.

Having this transfer capability allowed me to pay my rent on time this month, and I was glad the two cards “talked to each other.”

In any regard, between Serve, REDbird, and PayPal My Cash cards, I am pretty well set for this month.

I *do* want to make sure US Bank cards are good with REDbird at Target because I really love Club Carlson points. I’ve heard US Bank is super weird about the REDbird reloads, so aside from that – now that I’m 100% I can load REDbird in NYC – I’m ready to get my permanent card and start this ball a-rollin’.

Using credit cards + REDbird to pay off large debts – and earn major points

This topic came up a lot last night at the NYC Miles and Points Meetup, so I thought I’d do a post about it.

Lots of people were planning to use REDbird + points/miles credit cards to pay off large sums of debt, meet minimum spend requirements, and reach threshold bonuses offered by certain credit cards.

It’s an incredibly easy but effective idea.

Run all your bill payments through REDbird

REDbird

REDbird

REDbird lets you load up $5,000 per month – for free – using a points or miles credit card.

If you max that out for a year, that’s $60,000 run through a credit card.

My own personal example is my student loan. I’m so tired of it hanging over my head and I’m about ready to turn around and kick that sucker in the face – but I’m gonna get a free vacation out of it!

For roundness or whatever, let’s say you owe $50,000 to:

  • Student loans
  • Your car payment
  • A mortgage
  • Medical bills
  • Credit cards
  • Or any or company or even person

You can add any company as a payee on the REDbird website.

At the top of the site, hover over “Pay & Transfer” and a dropdown menu will appear.

Where to add payees

Where to add payees

From there, click “Add Payee” and get rockin’ and rollin’.

What you get out of it

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What’s in my wallet? (Evaluating credit cards and travel goals)

As I begin to figure out my points and miles strategy for 2015, I thought it would be helpful assess what I currently have in my wallet.

Pre-warning: this is a very text heavy post. No pretty pictures to look at, just a whole lotta straight talk (1,200 words worth).

By bank:

American Express

  • Platinum Card
  • EveryDay Preferred

I just got a new Platinum Card in hopes that I’ll actually get a bonus for opening it – but I’m not holding my breath. In any regard, I already cashed in the $200 in airline incidentals on AA gift cards in 2014 and will do so again this year, so I will make back most of the annual fee right away.

I occasionally use Priority Pass Select on lounge visits that would otherwise be $50 a pop, and love dipping into the Centurion Lounges where I easily drink over $50 in cocktails alone (not to mention the spa treatments).

I also have utilized the Fine Hotels & Resorts program a time or two, and really love the near-constant Amex sync offers. So, I’m keeping it.

As for the EveryDay Preferred… it really has become by “EveryDay” card – I use it constantly and get 1.5-4.5x Membership Rewards points on everything I buy, which is pretty sweet. The earning is decent for non-bonus spend and is great for groceries, gas, and even more sync offers. (Email me if you’d like a referral to this card!)

If only Amex would up the points-earning power of the Platinum Card, I might actually put a buck or two of spend on it.

Barclaycard

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Top 10 Out and Out Posts of 2014

Here we are: 2015. Another year of life and travel.

2014 was a big year for this little blog. I experimented a lot, and threw a lot up on the wall just to see what would stick. The readership from 2013 to 2014 quadrupled (!) and more readers started interacting via email and social media – which was awesome.

The posts that made the Top 10 were the ones that mined some little data point, were compilations of research, or simply anecdotes about an experience. A couple of them were written in 2013, but widely read in 2014. I find the data fascinating. The more I learn about what sticks with readers, the more I realize I can’t calculate what will be a “good post”  – a fact which drives me to keep evolving.

With that spirit, cheers to a new year of life and travel. I hope to keep growing the blog and writing more. Thank you for reading!


The Top 10

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State of the Game: What I’m Looking Forward To (MS, Points/Miles, & Status)

No doubt that the landscape of “the game” has greatly changed recently. Alas, there is no more Bluebird, Vanilla reloads are long gone, and even our trusty Serve is taking a knocking from cash advance fees. Oh, and Amazon Payments finally closed down its cash cow. Yet it trundles on. Here are a few things I’m looking forward to and can’t wait to write about in the upcoming months:

REDbird

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Cut the Crap: The Fidelity Investment Rewards Credit Card is THE BEST cash back card!

Fidelity-Amex

You da best

Had to get this off my chest.

There’s always a lot of talk in the points and miles world about which cashback card is “the best.” The speculation is constant, rampant.

  • Bank of America recently introduced a card where one could get 2.65 points per dollar so long as they dump $100,000 into an investment account.
  • The Barclaycard Arrival always gets mentioned because it’s an effective 2.22% cashback on travel purchases.
  • Citibank has a new one too: the Citi Double Cash card.
  • Freedom gets a mention due to its rotating 5% categories, which yes, is a good deal, and yes you can cash it out (but keep them for Ultimate Rewards transfers!).
  • Then there’s the Fidelity Investment Rewards Amex.

Why it’s the king

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Snap: An Awesome App for Saving Money on Groceries

A friend of mine (HT: Jason) shared this link with me last night, and I thought I’d pass it along to you guys because I know I will definitely be using it in the future. It’s called Snap, from Groupon.

Snap

Snap’s a new app for saving money on groceries – at any grocery store. You locate a coupon you want to use, “snap” a picture of the receipt, then upload it through the app. After it’s approved, they add money to your account, and you can request a check once you hit the $20 mark, which seems really easy to do as some of the coupons are for unlimited use.

And a lot of the coupons are for household staples. Here are some screenshots: Read More

Canceled the PRG card and Amex let me switch credit allocations

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I just reviewed my latest post and I’ve written about Amex a LOT recently. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. Chase’s products are functioning smoothly and as they should; I still love the Arrival card; still jammin’ on my Club Carlson Visa. The only anomaly recently has been with Amex.

Smell ya later, PRG

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“Secret” Benefit of Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card is Gone

I wrote yesterday about the new ability to see category bonuses on the Amex website. I also wrote previously about a secret/hidden benefit of the PRG card – that online transactions were posting at 3 points per dollar. In introducing this new category bonus transparency, Amex revealed two things: 1) the unpublished 3x bonus was long-lived and 2) it is now gone.

Screenshot 2014-04-28 12.19.08

3 points per dollar for Amazon Payments? Yes, please!

 

Screenshot 2014-04-28 12.23.29

 

In the first photo, from May 2013, you can see that I had luck getting 3 Membership Rewards per dollar for all online transactions, including Amazon Payments. As you can imagine, this was a boon for my manufactured spending. I also got the 3x bonus for Birchbox, an online subscription service.

In the second photo, from March 2014, I got the standard 1 point per dollar – but it is coded as an internet purchase, NOT a cash advance, which is good to know – and it did earn me Membership Rewards points.

Bottom line

I was hanging on to the PRG card for this unpublished benefit. Now that it’s gone, and I have the EveryDay Preferred card, I have no use for this card any mre. And at $175 per year, it screams “cancel me.”

Going forward, I recommend the EveryDay Preferred card unless you know you’ll meet the $30,000 spending threshold to get the 15K Membership Rewards bonus. In all other cases, default to the EveryDay Preferred. You can read more of my analysis of these two cards in this post.

Having that bonus for online transactions was a good benefit. Now that category bonuses are visible on the website, it seems that this benefit has been removed.