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The Best No APR/Balance Transfer Credit Card Out There Right Now

The credit card rewards game is meant to be played by those who can afford to pay off their balances in full each month. The cards that offer the biggest bonuses generally also have the highest interest rates.

The bank wants you to be lured in by the big bonus and then keep a running balance that quickly gives that bonus money right back to the bank. But let’s say you are in a little debt and you want to get out of it while also dipping your toes into the points world. There is one card that stands out among the pack: the American Express EveryDay card.

It offers 15 months of no interest on all purchases and balance transfers. One of its best perks: there is no balance transfer fee. With most cards, the balance transfer fee is between 3-5 percent. That’s a good chunk of change if you plan on transferring a few thousand bucks.

Incredibly, it also comes with a signup bonus. This is very, very rare for a card that already offers no interest. The official bonus is 15,000 Membership Rewards (conservatively valued at $200 when used for travel) points for spending $1,000 within the first three months. Check out my referral link here. It may actually offer 20,000 MR points as the bonus as it did when I opened it on a different browser. Just note that if it does, the spending requirement is $2,000. If it shows 15K points, you may want to copy and paste the link into an incognito/private window using a different browser and see if the 20K offer shows up. For some reason this trick can sometimes trigger a larger offer.

Obviously with the no interest offer, the bank wants you to run up your balance real high and then start paying hefty interest when the 15 months if up. So be careful with these kinds of cards. Have a plan to pay them off before the no interest period is up.

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Citi Premier Credit Card Review

The Citi Premier credit card has a special place in my heart. It was my real rewards earning credit card.

I did have a Sheetz credit card while living in Virginia in 2005 and I would sadly spend enough at Sheetz to earn $25 gift card rewards once every few months. That $25 was not chump change since I was making $10 an hour at the time working as a reporter at the Hanover Herald-Progress, but I digress.

I opened my Premier card in 2007 and for a few years, I used Citi Thank You points, earned with the Premier and other Citi cards, to rack up nearly $6,000 worth of travel and gift cards. Nowadays, Citi cards usually don’t offer enough in the way of ongoing rewards to make them worth keeping long term.

That’s the case with the Premier card. It has a $95 annual fee (though it’s waived the first year). It gets you 3% back on gas stations and travel as well as 2% back on restaurants and entertainment. Certainly not bad, but Chase Sapphire Preferred has the same annual fee and similar cash back categories. The difference: Chase UR points are much more valuable than Citi Thank You points.

The Citi Premier card is one I’d recommend solely for the signup bonus, which is certainly worthwhile: 50,000 Thank You Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Those points are worth $625 for flights booked through thankyou.com, which basically offers all the same flights you’d find on Expedia or you can redeem the points for $500 in gift cards.

The verdict: get the signup bonus (application link here), book your free flights, toss the card in your sock drawer and then cancel it before the annual fee hits for year 2. Two years after you close the card, you can apply again and receive the bonus again. This is a beautiful game, isn’t it?

 

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How I Get 5% Back on Almost Every Purchase

Hello to my 12 readers (4 of whom I am not related to). A few months back I wrote about how everyone should be getting at least 2% back on every purchase. Now that is the bare minimum. If you aren’t get 2%, well then you just don’t like free money. But for those who do, I want to run down how I get 5% back on almost every purchase I make. Now should you go apply for all these cards right now? No. Some may make sense for you. Others won’t.

Chase Ink Business Preferred: I have an older version of the Chase Ink that gives 5% back on cellphone bills. I actually switched it up recently after learning that the Chase Ink Business Preferred offers free cellphone protection if you pay your bills with that card. You get up to a $600 per claim in cellphone protection against covered theft or damage. There’s a maximum of 3 claims in a 12 month period with a $100 deductible per claim.

The Chase Ink Preferred also gives you 3% back on phone, internet and cable bills. In my mind, the 3% plus the cellphone protection beats out the 5%. The Ink Preferred also has one of the best signup bonuses out there – 80,000 points after spending $5K in five months. Those are worth $800 in statement credits or more than $1,500 worth of travel if transferred to frequent flyer or hotel programs. A reminder you don’t need a traditional business to open a business credit card.  Application link here.

Chase Freedom/Discover IT:  Both of these cards have rotating 5% cash back categories that change each quarter. Right now, the Chase Freedom has 5% on gas stations, drugstores and tolls. The Discover has grocery stores. The great thing about that drugstore category is CVS counts and you can buy $500 gift cards to rack up those points. Discover often offers 5% back at Amazon in Q4 each year and it’s already on the schedule again for 2019. We buy pretty much everything on Amazon so when Q4 rolls around, I buy $1,500 worth of Amazon gift cards so all my holiday shopping is getting 5% back.

If I had to pick one of these two cards, though, the Freedom is the winner. It has a $150 signup bonus after spending $500 in three months and Chase UR points are much more valuable than Discover points. That said, the Discover card doubles your cash back earned for the first year. That means 2% on everything and a huge 10% on anything on the rotating categories. Do note that there’s a maximum of $1,500 in spending in each category that earns bonus points. Chase Freedom link here. Discover IT here.

American Express Gold Card: This card gives 5% back at supermarkets and restaurants all year. But here’s the big caveat: there’s a $250 annual fee that isn’t waived the first year. My annual fee is coming due soon and it will be a tough call on whether to keep it or not. The pros: there’s a signup bonus of 40,000 Membership Rewards points after $2K spending 3 months. That bonus alone makes this card worth getting for at least one year. 40K Amex points can easily get you $600-700 worth of travel.

The card also gives you $10 a month in statement credits when you pay with the card at participating dining partners, which include Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Shake Shack locations. We sure as hell don’t bring two kids to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, but we get that $10 credit every damn from from Grubhub. So right there with the dining credits, that brings the annual fee down to $130. You also get up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits toward incidental airline fees like checked baggage when you charge them to your card.

So yeah, tough call on this one when it’s renewal time. Big fee, but also big benefits. I will say if you are big spender at restaurants, this is likely a card you want in your arsenal despite the annual fee. Application link here.

The one big nut I have yet to crack: how to get 5% back (or anything back) on my mortgage payment. If someone has figured that out, well, you are my new best friend.

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Citi American Airlines Cards Are Lucrative And Churnable

I applied for my first credit card in a while today. I was letting my credit reports “cool off” a little bit, which really isn’t necessary, but I’m trying to be a bit more selective in the cards I apply for. I applied for the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage
Platinum Select World Mastercard today and was instantly approved. That was a little surprisingly because a lot of times with business cards you get a pending status and need to call in or at least wait a week or two to be approved.

The bonus on this card is 50,000 miles after $3,000 spend in three months and then another 15,000 miles after a total of $10,000 spend in the first year. The annual fee of $99 is waived the first year. I value AA miles at about 1.5 cents a piece so you are looking at about $1,000 worth of flights for this bonus.

When applying, I just used my name for the business name. I’ve sold a few hundred dollars worth of items on eBay in the past year so I put that down as my revenue and used my social security number as the tax ID number. As I’ve mentioned before, you would be surprised at what qualifies as a business.

The great thing about business cards is they don’t show up on your personal credit report. This is especially important when it comes to staying under Chase’s 5/24 rule, i.e. you can’t be approved for any Chase card if you have been approved for more than 5 cards from any bank in the past 24 months. Chase generally has the best bonuses so I do my best to always be under 5/24. With business cards, though, I can open as many as I want (except for those from Capital One, Discover and TD Bank as those do show up on your personal credit report) and Chase won’t see them on my credit report.

If you really don’t have anything that qualifies as a business, Citi also has a personal AA card that offers a bonus of 60,000 miles for $3,000 spending in three months.

Another great thing about Citi AA cards if they are churnable, meaning you can get the bonus on them more than once. Here’s what the terms say for the personal card: American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than an AAdvantage MileUp℠ or CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months. It’s the same deal for the business card. If you haven’t opened or closed a Citi AA card in the past 24 months, you can apply and get the bonus again.

My strategy with my new card will be to keep it open for 10-11 months, enough time to spend the $10,000 to get the full bonus and to not piss off Citi by looking like a bonus chaser (even though I am one) by getting the bonus and then closing it right away. Once I close it, I will make a note on my credit spreadsheet to apply for it again in two years.

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Everyone Should Have an Amex SPG Card

Hyatts are great for redeeming points. The Hyatt award chart often makes it easy to get 2 cents per point when redeeming and that’s pretty much the holy grail for maximizing credit card points.

But here’s the rub: Hyatt has about 800 hotels worldwide. You can find at least one in pretty much any major city, but there will be times where it just won’t be feasible to stay at a Hyatt and if you only have Hyatt hotel points, you will have to pay cash to stay at another hotel. We do not pay cash to travel. Repeat that. I have not spent a dime on hotels or airfare for a dozen years (Disney is the only exception since you can’t redeem points at Disney properties). The only way to pull this off is to have points spread out across a wide array of reward programs.

This has already been a long-winded way to say the Amex Starwood Preferred Guest credit card is one everyone should have. The signup bonus is 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Marriott bought Starwood in 2016 and their reward programs merged last year. Those 75,000 points can be used at nearly 8,000 hotels around the world so unless you are traveling to a remote desert, you will always be able to find a Marriott or SPG hotel nearby. You can easily get $500 worth of value out of those points and as I’ve mentioned in the past, that’s really the minimum amount of value you should be looking for with every credit card you apply for. Do not apply for the Target credit card to get 10% off your $20 purchase!

In the example below, you can redeem 70,000 points for two nights at the Courtyard Boston Downtown on a summer weekend. It would cost you over $700 in cash.

Amex cards also unlock Amex offers, which can be very lucrative and can easily make up for the $95 annual fee on the card. That fee is waived for the first year. You also get a free night each year (awarded on each card anniversary) in a hotel up to 35,000 points. So clearly, as long as you use that free night each year, this card is one that is worth getting and keeping long term.

Apply for the SPG card here.

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Citizens Bank Offering a $450 Checking Account Signup Bonus

Some checking account bonuses can be a true pain in the ass to obtain. You need a bunch direct deposits, use a debit card 10 times and then keep the account open for 6 months or pay an early termination fee, etc etc. Thankfully this is not the case with a new offer from Citizens Bank.

The offer is available to residents in CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. One direct deposit of $1,000 or more within 60 days of account opening gets you a $450 bonus. If you can’t swing a DD of more than $1K, there’s a $200 bonus for one direct deposit of $500 or more. The Platinum Checking account that gets you $450 has a $25 monthly fee, but it’s likely not charged for a month or two and I can’t find anything about an early termination fee so once that bonus hits (it may take up to 90 days after the direct deposit according to the terms), just transfer the money out and close the account.

A reminder that bank account bonuses do count as taxable income so you will get a 1099 form for any bonus you receive.

Here’s the link to the offer

 

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My 2019 Credit Card Signup Bonus Strategy

First post in a while as at least someone in my family has been sick for the last few weeks. My son vomited on me twice, including once pretty much right into my mouth. Alright, TMI and that’s not what you’re here for. Since it’s the first day of 2019, I figured I’d outline my personal strategy for the year when it comes to credit card bonuses.

Now my strategy almost certainly shouldn’t be your strategy as I am more limited in the cards I can get since I have had so many over the years. For example, American Express now only lets you receive a signup bonus once per lifetime per card. There are still several Amex cards I have never received a bonus for, but none of them have a signup bonus that’s worthy of using a credit inquiry on at the moment.

Chase’s 5/24 rule, meaning you can’t be approved for any Chase card if you have gotten 5 or more credit cards from any bank in the past two years, is a big factor in what cards I will be applying for. Up until a few years ago, I could apply for 12 cards a year and not have to worry about being limited by Chase. Now I have to be more careful. Over the past two years I have applied and been approved for 7 credit cards. But 3 of those cards have been business cards and those do not count toward the 5/24 rule.

So basically I want to hit as many business cards as I can this year, thus “aging” my personal cards so come next year, I should be at 2/24 and able to apply for two new Chase cards. The beauty of Chase cards, at least for most of them, is that you can receive a bonus for the same card every two years. The one exception that I know of that was recently added is on the Chase Sapphire, which has a four year waiting period to get a second bonus.

My last credit card application was for the Southwest Premier Business card, which gives you 60,000 Southwest points after $3K in spending. I will complete the minimum spending later this month and then I am considering applying for the personal version of the Southwest Premier card. That would put me right at 5/24, but after hitting the minimum spending, I will have earned 120,000 SW points, which is enough to obtain a Companion Pass. That pass, which allows a family member or friend to fly free with you an unlimited amount of times on Southwest through the next calendar year after you earned the pass, can be worth thousands if you fly a lot.

I also have my eyes on the Citi AA business card. It’s currently offering 70,000 AA miles (those can easily be worth more than $1,500 in travel if used wisely) if you spend $4K in four months. The $99 annual fee is waived for the first year.

A reminder that many things count as businesses when it comes to applying for business credit cards.

That’s basically my plan for the first half of the year. During the second half, I will keep my eyes out for any huge bonuses and then I will have to decide if they are worth going after even if they are going to add to my 5/24 total and possibly delay my next Chase application.

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How to Book American Airlines Award Tickets With Chase And Amex Points

There are numerous American Airlines branded credit cards and I’ve had several of them in my credit card points game career, but in most cases, the best cards are ones that earn transferable points, i.e. they are flexible.

If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points (earned through a “premium” card like the Sapphire or Ink) or American Express Membership Rewards points, you can transfer them to numerous hotel and airline programs. So then when you are planning a vacation, you can search for reward nights and flights across a variety of brands and find the best bang for your points. But American Airlines is not a transfer partner of either Chase or Amex. But don’t despair!

British Airways is a transfer partner and since American Airlines and British Airways are both part of the oneworld alliance, you can book American flights through British Airways after transferring your Chase or Amex points to BA at a 1:1 ratio (sometimes even as good as 1:1.5 when Amex runs bonus offers). The great thing about using British Airways Avios (their reward currency) toward American flights is you can often score some sweet deals, especially on short haul nonstop flights.

Any flight* of less than 1,150 miles can be had for 7,500 Avios. So you can fly from New York to Miami for what is essentially $75 worth of points when looking at the cash value of redeeming points for straight cash back or a statement credit. To book the same flight with American Airlines points would cost 12,500 miles.

Another huge benefit of booking AA flights with Avios: there is no close-in booking fee. Book an American flight with AA miles within 21 days of departure and you need to pony up a $75 fee. And that just ain’t cool. You can book the same flight with Avios, even just a few hours before takeoff and there’s no fee.

* Any flight that has seats available at the MileSAAver level when you search for reward flights on the American Airlines website.If you see they are available at the Super Saver level, then they should be available to book on the BA website. Frankly the BA website is awful and glitchy so I highly recommend searching for flights on AA first.

My wife and I flew business class on American to Cancun for our honeymoon in 2012 by redeeming 20,000 Avios + $20-30 in taxes. No way we would have paid $400 in cash for that one-way flight, but that’s the beauty of this game: you can live large in business class with those hot towels, a nice three-course meal and all the alcohol you can drink included and you barely spent a dime out of your own pocket.

 

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Disney With Points: 2 Credit Card Bonuses Cover Flights/Hotel For Family of 4

Disney World is expensive. But the pain of paying more than $100 a ticket to get into a theme park can be eased a bit if your airfare and hotel are free of charge. And it’s really quite easy to pull off with just two credit card signup bonuses.

Now this will be easiest for people who live near an airport served by Southwest. It’s also not going to be much help for those who insist on staying at Disney World owned resorts. You can’t use points for those. Now my wife will argue that the perks that come with staying on a Disney property are worth the cost. But I will argue that free is free so the Hyatt Place it is. (But seriously, Hyatt Places are great. Free breakfast and not just shitty cereals!)

Any way, here’s how to pull this off:

  1. Apply for the Chase Southwest Business Premier card here. Just like the Chase Ink I wrote about in an earlier post, it’s obviously a business card, but many things count as a business. The bonus here is 60,000 Southwest points after spending $3K in three months. You do need to pay the $99 annual fee upfront. As long as your dates are flexible (i.e. you don’t insist on leaving on the Saturday at the start of winter break), those points are likely enough to get a family of four roundtrip airfare to Disney. As an example, I can book 4 roundtrip tickets from Islip MacArthur to Orlando leaving on Feb. 26, 2019 and returning on March 5, 2019 for 48,000 points plus $44 in taxes. If I paid cash for those tickets, it would come to $775.
  2. Apply for the Chase Hyatt card here. This one gets you 40,000 Hyatt points after spending $3K in the first three months and then another 20,000 points after you spend a total of $6K within the first 6 months. Same deal with the annual fee here. It’s $95 and it will appear on your first statement. Those 60,000 points can get you 7 free nights in this lovely Hyatt Place near Universal Studios. To pay cash for 7 nights at that hotel comes to $1,158.

So basically pay a couple hundred in annual fees and $44 in taxes and get nearly $2,000 worth of travel value from just two credit cards! And that’s why I love the points game. Now once you get to Disney, all bets are off and you spend all of your money on autograph book pens that your 4-year-old daughter will keep breaking.

I will eventually devote an entire post on Chase’s 5/24 rule, which basically means you can’t be approved for a Chase card if you have opened more than 4 credit cards from any bank in the last two years, but for now, make sure to check out this post on the Points Guy if you do plan on applying for several cards in the near future.

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