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How Many $400+ Annual Fee Cards Is Too Much (or Just Enough)?

Right now, I have 3 ultra premium credit cards with annual fees of $400 and up:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – $450
  • Citi Prestige – $495 (though mine renewed at $450 for one more year)
  • US Bank Altitude Reserve – $400

That’s $1,345 in annual fees! 😵

Still, I find myself wanting the Amex Platinum biz card ($595, but $450 through January 2019) and Amex Hilton Aspire ($450), both for vastly different reasons.

But I can’t justify getting another ultra premium card with a big annual fee. Am I capping out at 3?

I’m really considering downgrading my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Getting a 4th – or 5th – would be overkill, wouldn’t it?

ultra premium credit cards

No way I’m dumping the best card for Costco shopping! All my high AF cards have a special utility

Here’s a rundown of the major cards with annual fees – and how I get value from them.

Ultra Premium Credit Cards – How Many Does One Need?

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Booking Puerto Vallarta 2.0: $3,000+ Vacation for 131,000 Citi ThankYou Points, Prestige 4th Night Free, & AA Business Extra

Last February, I spent 3 glorious nights at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. And next month, I’ll spend another 4 nights there! For $0 out of pocket, I used:

  • 131,088 Citi ThankYou points + 4th night free to save $1,721 on the hotel stay
  • 4,000 American Airlines Business Extra points for $1,423 flights
  • Citi Prestige annual travel credits to cover ~$187 in taxes and fees

The total cost would’ve been $3,331. And I used ALL my Citi ThankYou points.

But after slipping the Citi Prestige card back into my wallet this week, I can build up my balance with new 5X earning on airfare and dining. Plus, they’d been hanging around for a while.

Learn more about the best travel rewards cards here.

puerto vallarta points 2019

This time, I saved over $3,000 to go back to Puerto Vallarta for 4 nights 🍹

Here’s how I put it together!

A $3,000+ vacation to Puerto Vallarta for $0

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‘Tis the Season to Use 0% APR Cards to Avoid Interest for up to 21 Months (If You HAVE to Carry a Balance)

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s 2019! I’m working on travel plans and my credit card strategy – and soon I’ll have gigantic news to share.

If you spent too much over the holiday season, and carrying a balance is inevitable, consider transferring your balance to a new card with a 0% APR period.  They vary from 12 months to a staggering 21 months! This will hugely minimize the interest you’ll pay.

Depending which card you get, you won’t have to pay it off until January 2020 at the shorter end – or October 2020 at the longer end. That’s awesome!

Or if you have a big purchase coming up, opening a card with a 0% APR period gives you time to pay it back.

I’ve used both strategies successfully. But beware – pay close attention to the dates (which are listed on every statement you’ll get), or you’ll be right back where you started.

Still, it’s a LOT better than carrying a balance and paying huge interest rates. NEVER carry a balance if you can help it!

balance transfer cards

Paying interest negates any rewards you earn. Your balance will grow and you’ll get stuck on a debt treadmill – don’t do it!

Here are card options for balance transfers and big-ticket purchases. Because yes, life happens. Just try to control the damage as best you can.

Get unstuck with balance transfer cards

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$3,000 or 225,000 Airline Miles From ONE Sign-Up Bonus – But They’re Not for Everyone

Update: This offer is no longer available. Check here to see the latest card offers!

Capital One shook things up this week when they announced mondo 200,000-mile sign-up offers on their Spark Miles and Spark Cash cards. And on the Spark Miles card, those rewards will become transferable to 12 airlines starting December 2018, which is stellar. It’s always good to have more options – especially with flexible rewards programs.

In fact, peeps looking for a single-card solution to most points dilemmas finally found their match. You can redeem the points for 1 cent each, and with the Spark miles card, transfer them at a 2:1.5 ratio to useful airlines like Air Canada, Etihad, and Qantas.

They’re excellent deals if you want a rewarding small business card without hassle.  You’ll end up with $3,000 or 225,000 airline miles after the minimum spending is complete.

capital one spark miles

The required spending and opportunity cost are high with this one

But they’re NOT for everyone. I’ll explain why.

$3,000 or 225,000 Airline Miles After a Boatload of Spending

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’Tis the Season for New Credit Cards – and Price Protection!

November is here, and in a couple of short weeks, it’ll be Black Friday. Peeps tend to naturally spend more during the holiday season for presents, travel, and organizing parties.

While there’s a moment of calm, consider you can turn all your holiday spending into 1,000s of points & miles by opening a new credit card and using it to meet minimum spending requirements over the next month or so. If you apply now, it’ll arrive in time for the biggest shopping season of the year.

Plus, with all the sales and deals going on, consider a card with 60- or 90-day price protection – and automate it – to save even more money.

Credit Card Price Protection

Turn those Amazon purchases into award travel! Now’s the time to jump on a new card offer

Here are a few worthwhile sign-up offers, and how to set alerts for price drops.

Holiday time now = an award trip in 2019

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Right Now Is a Good Time to Use Yearly Credits (Or Get Them 2X!) on Amex Platinum and Gold Cards

October – chilly autumn air, pumpkins, scary movies, the inevitable return of the holidays, then a new year. And for many cards, mainly the Amex Platinum and Gold cards, the last opportunity to use your statement credits. Such is Q4.

And if there’s a card you want, you still have enough time to apply, use the credits for 2018 – then get a fresh batch of credits to use in 2019. You effectively get double the credits for 1 annual fee, which is awesome.

amex statement credit

Treat yo self to an upgrade, checked bag, or something extra this year AND next for 1 annual fee!

Here are cards for an end of the year double-dip.

Get an Amex statement credit 2X in 2018 and 2019

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10 Easiest Signup Bonuses to Earn (7 Under $500, 3 With a Single Purchase!)

This one’s for peeps who think they can’t earn signup bonuses because the minimum spending requirements are too dang high.

When you think about, spending $3,000 (the usual spending requirement) is, of course, $1,000 per month for 3 months – or $250 per week. These cards tend to have the highest bonuses.

The problem with bank marketing is they throw out huge numbers and scare people off. But when you break it down, it appears way more manageable.

In any regard, there are plenty of cards with much lower minimum spending requirements. And some of them are genuine keepers!

cards with low spending requirements

Or rather, they look high – but most of them aren’t that bad once you break it down

Let’s look at 10 of the easiest signup bonuses you can earn.

10 cards with low spending requirements

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10 Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards – All With a 2% or Better Return

Everyone should have at least 1 credit card without an annual fee. When a card is free to keep forever, you never have to second-guess it. And the card works its powers on your credit report to increase available limits, decrease utilization, and help boost the average age of all your accounts.

My oldest credit card is from 2002 and has no annual fee. No matter how many new cards I open, I’ll always have a 16-year-old card to raise the average age of my accounts higher and therefore, my credit score.

When a card has a fee, it’s harder to justify keeping it – unless you get outsized value.

But having a card without an annual fee doesn’t mean you have to give up solid returns. All of the cards on this list can get you 2% back or better.

best no annual fee credit cards

Discover It is one of the best no annual fee cards – up to 10% cashback the first year. I’ll share my top 10 faves!

Here’s my list.

10 best no annual fee credit cards

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10 Tricks to Save EVERY Time You Shop at Sam’s Club

If you like big box stores, I completely understand the sentiment. Buying in bulk and getting a month of grocery shopping knocked out in one go saves time and money – both of which are always worth saving.

I ignore the naysayers who over exaggerate what it means to buy in bulk. I have memberships at both Costco and Sam’s Club and use them both equally – especially now that both are around the corner from me at my pied-a-terre in Austin.

Sam’s Club is, in some ways, better than Costco. Both memberships add value to my life

What I like about Sam’s Club:

  • They have self-checkout
  • You can scan your items as you go (with the, what else, Scan & Go app) and check out instantly
  • Receipts are stored digitally online
  • Club pickup – Costco does NOT offer this
  • Digital membership card on your phone and in Apple Wallet
  • Cheaper prices on tires
  • They accept every payment method, not just Visa
  • You can easily reorder your most common items
  • Their app is way better

But they don’t offer free shipping on most items online like Costco does. And their food court offerings tend to be greasy, calorie-laden fiascos whereas Costco seems a *little* healthier. And in general, I find Costco stores to be cleaner and better laid-out. Sam’s Club locations can be hit-or-miss, whereas I feel like Costco has more consistency between the stores.

Also, there are more ways to save at Sam’s Club. A lot more ways. And that might seal the deal for some peeps, especially if both are nearby.

Let’s look at how to save money EVERY time you set foot (or web browser) in Sam’s Club.

10 ways to build your own discounts at Sam’s Club

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3 Chase Ink Small Business Cards: Which Is Right for You? (One Bonus Is Worth $1,000)

Chase has 3 Ink cards targeted at small business owners:

  • Preferred
  • Cash
  • Unlimited

Each accomplishes a different business goals by way of awarding bonus points in certain categories. And they all earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points – one of, if not the, most valuable rewards currency.

But only 1 of them gives you direct access to Chase’s travel transfer partners (it’s also the only one with an annual fee – the Ink Preferred).

chase ink business cards

The Chase Ink Preferred (formerly called the Plus) is the only Ink card with transfer partners

Let’s look at what makes these cards compelling.

Chase Ink Business Cards – What’s Alike and Different

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7 Tricks to Save EVERY Time You Shop at Costco

Dear light of heaven, I love Costco. Whereas to some it can seem like a gigantic warehouse with narrow aisles stacked to the ceiling with pallets, to me it’s a veritable wonderland.

love a good deal, and the best deals are often buying in bulk. When I mention I’m a Costco member, I’ve gotten scoffs and “Yeah but I don’t need 25 rolls of paper towels and 8 dozen eggs [or some other exaggeration]. Plus, where would I put it all?”

Ummmm… Costco was the cheapest place to shop in New York City, honey. If I can find space in a tiny Brooklyn apartment to store extra items and save some cash, you can too. And that’s what it’s all about: saving cash.

save at costco

In my element

Admittedly, Costco isn’t always the best deal. Sometimes they try to pull one over on ya and slip in some regular-priced stuff. But I don’t blame ’em for trying to make profit. Because when the deals are good, hoooo boy are they stellar (find me a cheaper avocado and I’ll eat my hat, and bananas cheaper than Trader Joe’s). That’s what keeps me shopping at Costco year after year: THE DEALS.

On top of already great prices, I’ve found ways to push them even further by making sure I always get a discount. 2% off, 5% back, even 10% rebates in some cases when I’m in the mood to plan a big shopping trip.

Here’s how I save every time I shop at Costco.

Stack these offers to build your own discounts at Costco

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Is It Worth Getting (or Converting to) the Chase Ink Business Preferred Just for 3X Plastiq Payments?

Update 8/19/18: 3X on Plastiq payments with the Chase Ink  Business Preferred stopped working on 8/16/18. So the method below doesn’t work any more. I’m glad I kept my trusty Chase Ink Plus after all!

There’s a bit of a known secret about the Chase Ink Business Preferred card – you earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on ALL Plastiq payments (that is, the ones you can use a Visa card for).

I currently have the old Chase Ink Plus card (no longer available) that earns 5X at office supply stores, and on cable, internet, and phone service.

But month after month, I find myself spending way more on Plastiq payments than on “office supplies” or my internet bills. I’m heavily considering converting to the Ink Business Preferred to get that sweet 3X. When I run the numbers, I know I can earn more Chase Ultimate Rewards points this way. But, I’m afraid:

  • Chase will change the 3X any second now
  • Of losing the Chase Ink Plus card – once I convert, I can never go back

Is it worth a risk long-term for a short-term gain? Ah, isn’t that always top of mind with this hobby (and everything, really)?

chase 3x plastiq

I’ve had the Chase Ink Plus since it was a MasterCard… but if I convert, it’ll go the way of my Blockbuster card: SO TOTALLY OVER

Along the same thinking, would it be worth opening the Chase Ink Preferred to earn 3X on Plastiq payments… for as long as the gettin’s good?

Chase 3X Plastiq payments

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