Chasing A Dream

Ouch!

Fake Dictionary, Dictionary definition of the word hubris.

 

For the first time In My Life, I was denied personal credit.  And it hurt.  Even though it’s partly my own fault; I did not heed the warnings of those who had gone before me. I just went in, balls to the wall, full of arrogance and my 808 credit score and was promptly shot down.

Let back up a bit, for some context.

Back in June, many bloggers (like MMS, and Mommy Points) and Flyer Talk reported that Chase was cracking down on approving applications for people who they felt had opened too many new accounts in the past 24 months.  And this is from ANY bank! Not just Chase.

At that time it seemed to mostly affect Ultimate Rewards earning cards such as Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Preferred.  The airline and hotel cards (United, Marriott, Holiday Inn etc) issued by Chase seemed to be ok for a while.

I had a busy summer.  I spent it with my family and we went on a few great trips.  I did not spend as much time as I maybe should have reading blogs and Flyer Talk (or updating my own blog).  So I knew Chase had tightened up, but I really didn’t think about it possibly getting worse.

I booked Australia!

(yay! I’ll tell you about it later!) Yes I did manage to get that done over the summer.  In fact, I booked my flight to Australia using the Delta Mobile app on my phone while we were driving down to Mammoth Cave.  If you know me at all, you know I am not comfortable doing things like that anywhere but my ginormous desktop computer.  Mobile sites just make me uneasy for some reason.  ANYWAY I am going to need some United miles and British Airways Avios for traveling within Australia and to get from Australia to Thailand.  (yes, I’ve added a whole ‘nother trip to Australia)  So I thought this would be a good time to apply for the British Airways card for myself and the United Card for Matthew.  Both had 50,000 mile sign up bonuses which would more than cover what I needed.

I applied online using a friend’s link for the British Airways card and got the dreaded screen telling me to call in to further process my application.  I didn’t think much of it. Most of my applications have been automatically approved, but I have had to call in a couple of times to verify information.

After verifying my address, SSN and phone number, the Chase agent started getting serious.  She asked about the income I stated on the application and where it comes from.  I told her most of it was from my husband, but a small percentage of it was mine from self-employment.  She asked what my “self- employment” was.  I told her I was a part time tour guide.  (this is true)  Then she put me on hold for what felt like forever while she “reviewed my credit history”.  This is when I started to sweat.  She told me I had applied for 9 cards in the past 12 months.  This is not true.  And I am almost positive she said 12 months and not 24 months.  She then asked “Why did you apply for so many cards? Why do you need so much open credit?”  I told her I don’t need that much open credit and I would be happy to shift some around to open this card.  She was having none of it and said I would not be approved.  I asked if I could close the Southwest card to get this one open.  She said “No.  You have more than enough credit for your needs”

Wow.  She was tough.  And she was not backing down.  I asked if being an Authorized User on my husband’s cards was counting in this denial and she said “No.”  Good thing, because that would have probably put me over 20!

I have always said I am a CONSERVATIVE credit card churner and “Manufactured Spender”.  And I still believe that to be true.

In the interest of full disclosure, let’s look at how many cards I have actually applied (and been approved!) for since August 2013.

August 2013 – SPG Amex

Sept 2013 – Citi AA Visa (closed), Barclays Frontier MC (closed)

March 2014 – Citi AA Executive (closed), Chase Sapphire Preferred, US Bank Club Carlson Visa

June 2014 – Wells Fargo Amex (closed)

August 2014 – Skymiles Business Gold Amex (Business card should not be counted), Chase Marriott (closed)

December 2014 – Chase Southwest Personal

January 2015 – Chase Southwest Business (again, Business card)

June 2015 – Citi AA Mastercard, BoA Alaska Airlines Visa, Barclays Frontier MC

Ok.  That’s 14 cards in the past 24 months.  But 2 business cards should not count.  So that’s 12.  She said 9.  I’m thinking maybe she did not count or see the ones from August and Sept 2013.  That would make the count accurate.

What now?

I’m a little torn over what to do now.  Should I just lay low and not apply for any cards until maybe mid-2016?  That way many of my apps will drop off.  Or should I apply for cards from other banks before the whole thing explodes?  I am leaning toward the last option.

 

Bursting-Bubble

 

I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I really think this game is dying.  I know when something dies, something new always comes along.  Every once in a while someone will say, “Do you remember a few years ago when everybody was buying coins from the US Mint?” Well, I think a few years from now people will say, “Do you remember when everybody was getting hundreds of thousands of miles from credit card sign up bonuses? Ah..those were the days”

I mean, look at what has happened recently.  American Express limits sign up bonuses to once per card per lifetime.  Citibank will not give a bonus if you have opened or closed the same card in the past 18 months.  And now Chase is not approving applications if you have opened more than 5 cards in the past 24 months.  What’s next?  Will they all eventually go the same way as American Express? Once per lifetime?

So I think this might be the time to just go for it.  Grab what you can and be happy with what you get before the bottom falls out.  And it will.  If this hobby had remained a secret society, things might still be easy.  But you’ve got too many big name bloggers spewing all the down and dirty details.  Mommy Points was on Nightline for crying out loud!  And even with all the approval crackdowns, they are still pimping their Chase Credit Card affiliate links.  At least the newbies can get some miles.

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Sorry.  I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom.  I think the Chase denial just got to me.  Just last month I went through all the trouble of opening a new checking account with Chase and giving up a 20 year relationship with my credit union!  Chase offered me $300 to do this, but that’s beside the point.  I also haven’t completely cut the cord with my credit union and after this mess, I probably won’t.

So let’s see what happens next.  I’m still $10 ahead from my last MS adventure with ordering American Express gift cards.  (Oh yeah…you know the portals stopped paying out cash back, right?) So I think I will buy a couple Visa Gift Cards with my Chase Sapphire and load them to RedBird.  That will give me 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points.  I need all I can get to transfer to United!  After that…who knows.  If I decide to apply for some different cards in the next couple weeks, I will let you know.

 

Trip Report: Khao Lak, Thailand

Thailand Trip Reports

 Sunday March 30

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We had an 8am flight on Air Asia from Bangkok to Phuket, followed by a 90 minute drive north to the town of Khao Lak.

I was getting tired of crowded cities and was so happy to see the ocean when we landed.  We were ready for some beach time and …… scuba diving.

I had arranged taxi service in advance from Boss Cheaper Than Hotel Taxi.  Weird name, I know.  But his prices were quite a bit cheaper than regular taxis and he had excellent reviews on TripAdvisor.  We paid 1300 Baht (about $41) for the trip from Phuket Airport to our hotel in Khao Lak.

There was a bit of drama when we arrived at the airport because Boss was not there.  I was really surprised, considering his reviews and the fact that he has a huge fleet of taxis throughout Phuket.  I walked up and down the sidewalk in front of the airport for about 30 minutes looking for a “Boss” taxi.  I was followed the entire time by at least 4 taxi drivers asking me if I wanted a ride.  I kept telling them I was waiting for Boss, but none of them seemed to know who he was.  They were offering me rides for 1800 Baht, which is only about $15 more.  I had not paid Boss in advance and was just about to take one of them, when he appeared.

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No explanation was really offered and we were just glad to get out of the blistering 10am heat.  And after our previous week of scary tuk-tuk rides, it was nice to be in a nice, clean, air conditioned vehicle!

 

 

We had booked 5 nights at the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort using 100,000 Marriott points.  I used 25,000 points per night and got the 5th night free.  The room rate was about $250 per night and it is now a Category 6 hotel requiring 30,000 points per night.

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Happy to finally get some pool and beach time!

We spent the rest of the day at the pool and ordered a very expensive lunch from the pool bar.

Later that afternoon we checked out the Kid’s Club at the hotel.  I was a bit disappointed with how small it was, but the minute we got there, Parker wanted to stay.

They had a small ball pit with a slide, a room to do crafts and a TV room.  Not much, in my opinion, but kids are easy to please.  Use of the club itself is free for guests, but you have to pay for their meals and any crafts they want to do.  You also have to pay to have them open early.  They seemed kind of taken aback when I asked about this.  As if, nobody has ever done it before.  They open at 9am and the dive boats leave at 7am  – so nobody with kids has ever dived there before?  At any rate, we worked it out and the babysitter was scheduled to pick Parker up at our room at 6:50 am on Tuesday and take him to the hotel restaurant for breakfast and then to the club.

Monday March 31

We spent the morning in the ocean with Parker.  He loved it.  The pool is actually rather deep and it’s hard for him to relax and have fun when he can’t touch the bottom.  The hotel gift shop was selling swim rings for $15.  You know I would never pay that.  We’ll just swim in the ocean instead.

In the afternoon we took the hotel shuttle into the town of Khao Lak to check out the Tsunami Memorial and the market.

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Khao Lak was the coastal area of Thailand hardest hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Most of the coast was completely destroyed.  They have rebuilt a lot in the past 10 years, but evidence of the tsunami is still all around.

Police Boat 813 was washed inland and beached 2km from the ocean, across from the Bang Niang market and has become a memorial site for the tsunami victims.

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We decided to eat a late lunch at a restaurant across the street from the market.  They had some good chicken satay with peanut sauce!

khaolak5And, of course, Parker got chicken nuggets and fries.  He was starting to really get back to his “old self” so I was happy to see him eating.

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The Bang Niang market is pretty big with lots of stalls.  We found all sorts of things for sale.  Including an Iron Man swim ring for about $2!

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Although their display of “knock off” handbags left much to be desired.

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Sad

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Bang Niang market

It was a really hot afternoon and we were anxious to get back to the hotel pool.  Instead of waiting around for the hotel shuttle to come back, we decided to catch tuk-tuk back to the hotel.

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A great way to spend the afternoon

Tuesday April 1

Today is the anniversary of our first date – 25 years ago!  Wow.  And what a day this will be.

All week I have been nervous about diving and my sinus congestion.  I loaded up on Sudafed and thought my head felt clear so I was ready to go.

The babysitter showed up promptly at 6:50am and we were off to the dive shop to catch the 7am shuttle to the dive boat.   It was a 25 minute drive to the pier and then a 2.5 HOUR boat ride to the dive sites of Koh Tachai and Koh Bon.  My fear slowly slipped away and I was excited about our first dive at Koh Tachai.

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The beginning of the dive to end all dives

The first thing I realized I should have done before the trip was learn how many kilograms 12 pounds is.  I had no clue and nobody else could figure it out either.  I ended up being underweighted for the dive, which could have been a big part of my problem.  I went in with only 4.5kg which is just under 10 pounds.  Believe me, that 2 pounds makes a HUGE difference.

I was surprised that I had no ear issues on my descent.  Like, none.  I also saw more fish on this dive than I have ever seen on any Caribbean dive, probably combined!  I saw my first clown fish! (Nemo!)  But the best/worst part was the end.

As we were ascending and approaching our 3 minute safety stop at 15ft, I started feeling pressure over my right eye.  Terrible pressure I had never felt before.  At the same time, due to my tank now being quite empty and only wearing 10 pounds of weight, I was not able to control my ascent.  I did not shoot up out of control, but I did ascend faster than I should have.  If I could have gotten my dive buddy’s attention I could have held on to him! But he (and everyone else) was distracted by the most beautiful site I have ever seen.  Not one, not two , but THREE  manta rays and a whale shark swimming right past us!  Absolutely incredible.

Wow.  I completely forgot about my ascent, my ears, my squeeze – everything.  I was completely in awe of these beautiful creatures.  Below is our video, shot with our Go Pro camera.

Worth an ear blowout?

When we got back on the boat,  the squeeze was gone and I was feeling a little fullness in my right ear, but I didn’t think it was that bad.  We had almost an hour on the surface so I thought I would be ok after that to do the 2nd dive.

The 2nd dive was Koh Bon.  We were told that sometimes the Green Monster makes an appearance at Koh Bon.  Yikes.  That doesn’t sound good.

Again, I had no problems equalizing on the way down.  This dive was rather anti-climatic after seeing the whale shark and manta at Koh Tachai.  But there were still loads of fish and clear blue water…until….The Green Monster.  The Green Monster is a dense, cold cloud of plankton that that surges in from the deep.  It’s COLD, it’s murky, it reduces visibility.  Just all around horrible.  The upside is that the plankton sometimes attracts mantas and whale sharks, but not today.  I tried as hard as I could to swim away from it, but that’s impossible.  I was freezing and so ready to get back to the boat, but at the same time I was afraid of another squeeze.  I had added some weight to my belt, so I knew I could go up as slow as possible.  And I did.  I felt some squeeze but not nearly as bad as the first dive.

When we were back on the boat, my nose started bleeding.  This has happened to me before, so I wasn’t overly concerned, but it was still scary.  I also started getting that full feeling in my right ear and made the wise decision to sit out the 3rd dive.

We got back to the hotel around 5pm.  I was happy to see Parker, but really just wanted to go to bed.  I was exhausted and my ear was starting to throb.

Wednesday April 2

Woke up to terrible pressure in my ear. We took Parker to the kid’s club and went to the town to try to find a doctor.  We passed a couple closed clinics (most doctors spend their days at the hospital and have office hours at night) and after about 10 more minutes of walking in the 100 degree heat, we found an open one.   You have to take your shoes off before entering the building and all the patients and the doctor are barefoot.  There is also no air conditioning in the building.

The receptionist and the doctor spoke minimal English, but we managed to communicate.  Dive, ear, owie.  He looked in my ear and said I had a middle ear infection.  I actually had a middle ear barotrauma…but who’s splitting hairs?  He gave me some amoxycillan and pseudo and sent me on my way.

To jump ahead a bit, when I got home I went to an ENT who discovered I had a cyst on my adenoid on the right side.  This was partially blocking the eustachian tube and not allowing air to pass through during the dives.

I spent the day in the room watching Netflix (thanks to Spotflux) and sleeping, while Matthew took Parker to the pool.

Thursday April 3

We had originally planned to dive the Boonsung Wreck today and I told Matthew he could go on and do it, but he decided to stay with me.  I was in considerable pain and I could not hear at all out of my right ear.

We went to the pool for a while, until it started to rain.  We took Parker to the kid’s club and we walked down the beach to a massage hut.  Matthew got a $12 massage that I thought looked incredibly painful, but he said was awesome.  I got a $5 blue manicure.

The ibuprofen was helping a bit, but I had to keep on top of it or the pain became unbearable.  I was looking forward 8 days…would I be able to fly home?

We ate most of our dinners at the restaurants just outside the Marriott on the beach.  They are mostly small shacks, but they served good and inexpensive food.

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Phen restaurant. My favorite.

This was our last night in Khao Lak.  I wish I could have enjoyed it more.  It was really a beautiful place.  I hope someday to go back.  I still want to dive the Similan Islands – once was not enough!

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Here is a list of expenses for this part of the trip:

  • Air Asia flight from Bangkok to Phuket for 3 people – $0  ($169 erased with Capital One Rewards Purchase Eraser)
  • 5 nights at JW Marriott Resort Khao Lak $0/ 100,000 Marriott points
  • Boss taxi from Phuket Airport to Khao Lak $41
  • Marriott Pool Bar lunch – $36 (ouch!)
  • Babysitting on dive day – $15
  • Parker’s meals on dive day – $25
  • 1 roundtrip and 1 one way trip on hotel shuttle bus – $11
  • 3 tank dive for 2 people, Koh Tachai, Koh Bon, Premchai Wreck – $420

There were many other charges for meals and massages that I paid cash for and did not write down.  But as you can see, the diving was the most expensive part of this trip!

 

 

Will 2015 Be A Better Year?

Let’s hope so!

When I started this blog in early 2014, I had high hopes of sharing my travel hacking skillz, my adventures in traveling with a child skillz, and my ADEPTNESS at saving loads of money while traveling the world skillz.  But 2014 was not the greatest year in this game.  It could arguably have been the worst year.  There were major devaluations and the downward spiral of manufactured spending made it hard to meet the spend requirements that come from acquiring 4+ credit cards at one time.  Those glory days are long gone I’m afraid.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! It just can’t be!

There are a few (small) things to look forward to in 2015.

  1. Evolve Money is supposed to start accepting credit cards for bill payment sometime in 2015.  I have never used Evolve, but their list of billers seems rather small.  The only one I could pay through Evolve is Duke Energy.  Using Bluebird, I can pay my small town Water and Sanitation bill and my Trash pickup.  Plus there is also the fear that credit card companies will charge a cash advance fee for bills paid via Evolve.
  2. The Target REDbird card has crept its way into my area.  I will have to schlep myself to Cincinnati to get one, but I can reload at my local store.  I will have to cancel my Bluebird to do this, but from all accounts, this seems to be a worthwhile thing to do.
  3. Delta is going to allow one way redemptions for half price.  Finally.  As you may know, I have quite a stash of Delta miles that I need to burn.  I’m hoping to use them for a Christmas trip to Germany next year.  IF (and that’s a big IF) I can find 3 business class low level redemptions.  (don’t laugh) It really hurts to pay 125,000 miles for business class to Europe when every other airline only charges 100,000 miles.  But I can just burn them and be done with them before Delta devalues them even more.
  4. Matthew traveled so much on business this year that he has Platinum status with Marriott and Silver status with American (once they merge with US Airways) and United.  Silver isn’t such a big deal to all the Diamond Elites out there, but he was upgraded to first class on his last United flight.  Without asking for it, or even knowing he was able to! That was nice.
  5. I hope to earn the Southwest Airlines Companion pass in 2015.  It would allow a companion to fly with me at no cost, whether I pay cash or book with points.  I applied for the Southwest Personal Premier card and have completed the minimum spend on that and I am waiting for my approval (I hope) on the business version of the same card.

 

Summer 2015 – done!

I finally made a decision on our summer trip for this year.  We are going to do a quick Arizona/Utah canyon tour, spend a couple days in Las Vegas and end our trip in Northern California.

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Parker was excited when I told him we could go see “Thor’s Hammer” in Bryce Canyon!

This trip is actually going to be a bit on the pricey side, and I’ll tell you why.

Flights for Parker and I were booked on American Airlines using miles.  I had to pay $22 in taxes.

We are flying into Albuquerque because Matthew’s work trip ends there on the day we are starting our trip.  Since he is already there, we don’t have to pay to get him out there.

But we are flying out of San Jose 10 days later.  That means we have to do a one-way car rental.  And they don’t mess around with those drop-off fees.

We are picking up the car on Friday in ABQ and dropping it off in Vegas on Tuesday.  That 4 day rental with drop off fee started at $498!  There doesn’t seem to be any way around the drop off fee.  I recently checked again and found a better rate, so now we are at $415.  That’s better, but still includes a $250 drop fee.  If anybody knows any tips or tricks to get around that, please let me know!

I am paying cash for our room at the Grand Canyon.  I got a very good rate at the Holiday Inn Express for $112 a night.  The regular rate was $207 or I could get it on points for 35,000 per night.  I did not think that was a good use of points.  IHG points are valued around 0.7 each.  I will earn 4600 IHG points for my 2 night stay.

We are spending 1 night in the Bryce Canyon area at the Best Western East Zion Thunderbird Lodge. I’m paying cash for that one too at $98 per night.  Best Western is supposed to come out with a new credit card product this spring.  I hope it is a good one.  Best Western has hotels all over Europe and I would love to rack up some free nights for our Christmas 2015 trip to France and Germany!

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I love anything that’s pink!

We are spending 3 nights in Las Vegas at the Flamingo.  Again, not a hotel I can use points for.  After the resort fees and taxes, it is going to cost about $94 per night.  Although I may have enough points left over in my Wells Fargo Rewards account to cover at least one night of that.  (I’m using the bulk of my Wells Fargo points for a 4 day Disney World ticket during Spring Break!)

And finally we will use some hotel points to stay at the Towne Place Suites in Milpitas, CA.  They have a great deal at 10,000 points per night but we will each use our “Free Night in a Category 4” certificate we received when we applied for the Marriott Rewards VISA card last year.

We are flying from Las Vegas to San Jose, CA on Southwest.  The retail price was $291, but I had a $100 travel credit on my Wells Fargo Propel card that I used to buy a $100 Southwest gift card to apply to that purchase.

So, all in, I’m paying $1,446 for air, car rentals and hotels for our 11 day trip.  I know it’s not free, but the retail cost of what I’m doing is $4,645.  I doubt anybody would actually pay that for this trip and/or do all the crazy things I’m doing to make this trip work.

New Year’s Resolution

I do not normally make New Year’s resolutions because I believe that all they do is set you up for failure.  But…I resolve to write more in this blog in 2015.  I had so many great ideas and plans when I started, but somehow I lost the motivation.  I still have things rattling around in my head and hopefully I can get them written down!

I know we’re 12 days in, but I want to wish everyone the HAPPIEST of New Years! Make it the best one yet! Get out there and travel!

 

Trip Report: Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand Trip Reports

Horrible start

We were still dealing with a sick child.  Parker was absolutely miserable and by the time we were ready to head to the airport to catch our 7:50pm flight, Parker was absolutely exhausted and ready to go to bed.  He was a complete zombie at the airport, literally sleep walking through security and to our gate.

Before leaving home, I read many Trip Advisor posts and other travel blogs about taking taxis in Bangkok and to always insist they use the meter.   We went to the taxi stand at the airport to get a taxi and the driver told us it was something like 500 Thai baht (I no longer remember the exact amount) to get to the Marriott Sukhumvit.  We argued with him for a while about using the meter and he finally agreed.  I knew from looking at Google maps that the airport was about 40 minutes away.  It took us well over an hour to get there and the final meter price was about 125 baht Higher than what he quoted us at the airport.  He purposely took the long way around to get the higher fare because we insisted on the meter.  OK.  You got me.  At that point I really didn’t care because I had a sick baby sleeping on my lap and all I wanted to do was get to our room and go to bed. (it was now almost 10pm)

The Bangkok Marriott Sukhumvit was such a welcome sight! A Beautiful hotel (in a rather odd location) and very friendly staff.  They immediately brought Parker a cool towel and took our bags to our room.  They knew we needed to get him to bed as soon as possible and the check-in process only took about 3 minutes.

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I think I will write a separate blog entry about the Bangkok Marriott Sukhumvit because it was my favorite hotel of the entire trip.

Parker got a good night’s sleep and on our first morning we went outside to find a taxi to take us to the Grand Palace.  The taxi driver said he could not drive near the Grand Palace because of the protests and it would take too long to go around.  He suggested we take the boat instead.  He said he would take us to the pier for 100 baht (about $3) and I knew the public boat was only 20baht (80 cents) so it sounded like a good deal.  As cab drivers usually do, he tried to get us to stop into a tailor shop for 10 minutes and he would cut the fare in half.  He kept on about that for the whole ride and we just kept saying “No no no”

When we got near the river, he drove down a side road toward a dock, but it did not look like a public ferry dock.   I kept asking him if this was the public ferry and he kept saying yes.  It wasn’t.  It was a private boat operator (more kickbacks for the driver for bringing people there I guess) who wanted 1500 baht for a 1 hour ride.  They refused to tell us where the public ferry dock was but after some chatting with a shop owner down the road, we found out it was only about a block farther down.

I felt like a total travel newbie, getting taken by 2 cab drivers in less than 24 hours.  But the 2nd one was totally not a big deal and actually saved me money from taking a cab the entire distance.  The first one was worse because of Parker being sick, but again, not a “trip ruining” experience by any means.  Travel is an adventure and you always have to be willing to learn as you go along.

Once we got to the Grand Palace, we walked around for about an hour in 100 degree heat. Parker was a good sport about it and was starting to feel much better.  Although the heat there will take anybody down.  I wouldn’t say the Grand Palace is a great place for kids unless they are really into Thai temple architecture.  Once I started to get bored, I knew Parker would be more than ready to leave.

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Family selfie at The Grand Palace

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I love those trees!

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Tourist! But at least he’s feeling better!

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Mommy it’s so hot. Can we please go back to the pool?

Since it was so beastly hot, we committed another Thailand Travel Faux Pas and caught a taxi right outside the Grand Palace.  “Oh don’t ever do that! They will rip you off.  You can get one cheaper if you walk a couple blocks down the street!”  Forget it! It was 100 degrees and the taxi had his A/C blasting.  Best 350 baht I spent on the whole trip!  “WHAT?? I would never pay more than 100 baht for a ride to ANYWHERE in Thailand.” Whatever.  After a while I get sick of hearing that.  In general, the cab fares over there were much cheaper than you would pay in the States. And everything is relative.  If I think it’s worth it to spend $10 on a taxi right in front of me, rather than walk another 10 minutes in ungodly heat to save $3, then it’s money well spent.  As you know, the same is true for how you use your miles and points.  They are worth what they are worth TO YOU.  Not how much some blogger values them by doing complicated math equations.

We spent that afternoon in the pool at the Marriott and even ordered lunch poolside!

After swimming and a short nap, Parker was ready to go explore so we took the BTS (train) to the ferry dock and headed to Asiatique.  Asiatique is Thai for “tourist trap”, but kids love it.  They have lots of shops and restaurants and of course, a giant ferris wheel.  Does every major city have a giant ferris wheel now?

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Parker found a guy making balloon animals and he made him this most awesome Minion balloon!

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When we left Asiatique, we took the public ferry back to the dock to catch the BTS train. When we got to the top of the escalator, the security guard said that we could not bring the Minion balloon on the train!  What the? I told Matthew I was going to noballoonsgo back down and stuff the Minion in my bag and then come through again.  The security guard probably heard me say this and was conveniently not there when we came back up. It’s a crazy rule, but I guess there is a reason for it.  I’m glad I didn’t argue with the guard too much because apparently in 2012 an Irish passenger was badly beaten by BTS security guards for trying to bring (a big bouquet of ) balloons on a BTS train.

We decided to spend Friday indoors to beat the heat.  We went to some of the big shopping malls that honestly were not much different than the malls at home.  Mostly high-end stores.  We did make our way over to MBK which was a bit different.  Knock-off haven.  The most popular knock-offs in Bangkok were Polo and Ray Ban.  We bought some “Polo” shirts and shorts for Matthew and Parker and I got a pair of “Ray Bans” for about $3 that broke after about a week.

Terminal 21 was probably my favorite mall.  Each floor is themed like a different country, Japan, England, France, USA etc.  Very neat concept and they had some great restaurants and interesting bathrooms.

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Saturday morning we went to the weekend market known as Chatuchuk Market.  I am not a fan of flea markets in general, and this was no exception.  There was nothing new or unique there that I couldn’t have bought at MBK.  I read a lot of travel reviews about Chatuchuk and how much kids would enjoy it.  Parker didnt.  He was hot and still sick and there really wasn’t much there of interest to him.  Plus it gets so crowded! We only stayed for about an hour and then took the BTS back to Taksin pier to catch the ferry to Wat Arun.  If you get off the ferry at Ta Tien, you can catch another ferry to take you across the river for 20baht.

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Parker enjoyed climbing the steep stairs at Wat Arun

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Very steep.

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I made it to the top!

Before heading over to Wat Po, we found a vendor on the street with a nice assortment of food.  I should mention, we had been having a very hard time getting Parker to eat.  A very hard time.  It’s not that he just wouldn’t eat Thai food, he wouldn’t even eat Western food (McDonald’s) because he said it tasted different.  He got better as the trip went on, but in the beginning he ate very little.  It could have been because he was sick, so I can’t write him off as a picky travel eater….yet.

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It all looked delicious to me!

I got a few things that looked like chicken nuggets and hoped that Parker would eat them.  He did eat a few bites, but then started spitting it out.

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My picky eater

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Wat Po

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Reclining Buddha

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Shoes off….shoes on

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On our last night, I had to go to Khao San Road.  Backpacker paradise that I first read about 15 years ago and was always a “Bucket List” destination for me.  I’m not 25 anymore, but I still had to check it out.  It’s not easy to get to because it’s not serviced by the BTS.  We took the ferry there, which was easy, and took a cab back to the hotel.  It wasn’t as “cool” as it was in my daydreams, but I’m still glad I went.

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Khao San Rd

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Parker loved the “sawasdee” Ronald McDonald. Even though he didn’t care for his food.

I think Parker enjoyed Bangkok.  He loved saying “hello” and “thank you” in Thai.  He played with Thai children in the parks and loved all the attention he got from the adults.  They love little blonde-haired faring babies!

He loves public transportation and liked buying his own tickets on the BTS and trying to figure out which train we needed to take by looking at the maps.

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Is our train coming? That tall building in the background is the Bangkok Marriott Sukhumvit

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People on the Bangkok trains are very polite. They always gave up their seat to Parker and kept their bags in their laps. And there’s always that one guy on the train….

Next up: Khao Lak

American Express Gift Cards

Just a quick post so you know I’m still alive and to share my recent experiment.

American-Express-Gift-Card

I have heard of people buying American Express gift cards online through cash back portals, but I had never done it myself until last month.  I tested the waters by buying a $200 gift card using the AMEX Sync offer of $10 back on the purchase of AMEX gift cards.  I went through BeFrugal (<that is my link)  and also earned $5 cash back.

I signed up for a 3 month trial of free shipping from American Express, but I still had to pay the $3.95 purchase fee. I paid $203.95 for the gift card.  I was almost immediately issued a $10 credit on my American Express statement and I have $5 pending at BeFrugal.  I liquidated the card via Amazon Payments because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of trying to buy gift cards with it.  (and spending more money to do so) So…after my credits, I paid $188.95 for a $200 gift card.  Not bad.

A couple days ago, I got a bit braver and went for a $1,000 AMEX gift card.  I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which wasn’t the best decision.  I’m trying to build Delta points to burn on a trip to Europe next year and those Ultimate Rewards points won’t help me do that.  But, nevertheless, I did it.  I paid $1003.95 for the card and used my free shipping.

For the $1,000 gift card, I earned $27.50 cash back via BeFrugal. I will use this AMEX gift card to purchase 2 $500 VISA gift cards at Walmart and load them to Bluebird.  Stay tuned for an update or a new post to see how that goes.  I hope to do that today or tomorrow.

I will pay $4.94 for each VISA gift card.  Plus the $3.95 purchase fee on the AMEX card.  I have spent $13.83 in fees BUT I am getting $27.50 cash back.  I am $13.67 ahead of the game.

I just made $27.34. Why didn’t I start doing this years ago?

As long as I do not have any hassles buying VISA gift cards with the AMEX gift cards, this is going to be my “new thing”.

Do you buy American Express gift cards online through shopping portals?  Let me know in the comments!  I would love to hear your experience.

Of course none of this is helping me meet my minimum spend on the last Citi Executive card.  (DO NOT use Citi cards to buy American Express gift cards or you will be charged a cash advance fee!) I’m still a couple thousand short on that minimum spend, but I have until Sept 26, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

I am going to write more.  I am going to write more.

I keep telling myself that.  And I will.  Now that Parker has started 1st grade, I have about 8 hours of “free” time every day.  I have a lot going on.  My paranormal group Gatekeeper Paranormal just started doing tours of Bobby Mackey’s Music World, so I am busy scheduling and conducting those.  I am also trying to plan our spring break 2015 trip to Disney World.  And a trip to Europe next summer.

I also plan to apply for a few cards at the end of this month so I need to sort out which ones are the best.  I know for sure we will each be getting a Marriott Premier Rewards card (not my link) offering 70,000 points after spending  $2,000 in 3 months.

I’m also working on the rest of my trip reports from Thailand! It really was an incredible trip and I want to share all the details!

**UPDATE** I just returned home from Walmart where I purchased two “Birthday Candle” VISA gift cards for $495 each – using the $1000 Amex Gift Card.  I then loaded the VISA gift cards to Bluebird with no problems!

Possible Regret and A Couple Good Bonuses

I hope I don’t regret this

Until midnight last night, you could transfer SPG points to American Airlines or US Airways and receive a 20% bonus.  This was on top of the 25% bonus you already get for transferring SPG points to airlines.  I have just over 40,000 points, so I could have turned those into 58,000 AAdvantage miles.  (or Dividend Miles)

Conventional Wisdom in this game tells you not to transfer miles unless you have immediate plans to use them.  I don’t.  Plus I am pretty flush with AAdvantage Miles and Dividend Miles right now thanks to 3 Citi Executive cards and Matthew’s recent bump in business travel.  I have more than enough for my planned trip to Australia (in BUSINESS class) in 2016.  But this was a heck of an offer to pass up and one that may not return for some time.

I have lots of hotel points in other programs, so I don’t necessarily NEED SPG points for hotels; although you can sometimes find some Great Redemptions.

I would also probably not transfer the points to any other airline.  Except maybe Delta if I needed some points to redeem some of their ridiculously over-priced awards.

Too late now to do anything about it.  It’s just something I decided to think about this morning.  I will probably end up using my SPG points to stay at the Westin in Whistler, which is why I got the card in the first place.

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The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler

Rooms at the Westin Whistler are 16,000 SPG points per night during Christmas break and most of ski season, but you can find rooms for 9,000 points per night in late ski season.  As long as I have my SPG American Express card open, I will get the 5th night free when I book 4 on points.  So, I still need to earn 24,000 points to get enough points.  SPG points aren’t easy to earn, but if I concentrate some MS on the card over the next year, I should be able to do it.  (then I will watch for the inevitable devaluation)

A Couple Good Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses

Right now, Chase is offering the United Explorer card with an increased sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 in 3 months.  I would love to get this one, but Matthew and I just canceled our previous United Explorer cards in July of 2013.  The wait time for churning Chase cards is generally 24 months.  So hopefully next summer they will offer a similar bonus.  But if you have not had a Chase United Explorer card in the past 2 years-go for it!

Chase is also offering the Marriott Rewards Premier VISA card with an increased sign up bonus of 70,000 points PLUS 1 Free night at a category 1-4 hotel after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months.

Matthew and I will definitely be signing up for the Marriott card.  We both just canceled the basic Chase Marriott Rewards card, but this Premier card is a different product so we are eligible for the sign-up bonus even though it has not been 24 months.

Incidentally, I do not earn any commissions if you use the links above.  Those are just public links that I copied and pasted.

Happy Travels!

How To Leverage The Timeshare System For Free Travel

Or, at the very least, extremely cheap travel.

Over the years, my husband and I have sat through many timeshare presentations.  They were usually offered to you when you signed up at the mall to win a “free car”.  Once you dropped that entry form in the box, you could usually expect a call in a couple weeks from a timeshare company.

Back in the 90s, the “giveaways” were pretty awesome.  We scored a 4 night Carnival cruise to Mexico for sitting through a 2 hour presentation.  (and that’s about the only way you will EVER get me on a cruise ship – if it’s free!)  We also got many restaurant and hotel gift cards and some free airfare and hotels.  The airfare and hotels were difficult to book, but if you are flexible you can work it out.

Nowadays, the hotels have gotten in on the timeshare game and most of the majors have their own vacation clubs.  They will usually contact members of their loyalty programs and offer you a “vacation” at one of their timeshare properties in exchange for sitting through a 90 minute presentation.  In my experience, the hotel timeshare sales people are not nearly as aggressive as the independent timeshare brokers.  What I call “independent” are ones like BlueGreen Vacations and Diamond Resorts.  These are ones that are not directly affiliated with a hotel brand.  There are many more, but those two come to mind because I have recent experience with them.  My father-in-law is a Diamond Resorts owner and we have stayed in several of their properties and they have all been very nice.

If you are interested in taking advantage of the hotel Vacation Club offers, I encourage you to sign up for the loyalty program of each hotel.  Even if you don’t have the co-branded credit card.  But I think it will help you get contacted if you earn some points in their program one way or another.

Marriott Vacation Club

About a year ago I received a call from the Marriott Vacation Club.  I was surprised that the call came to me and not my husband.  He had many more Marriott points than I did, and makes a lot more money! But nevertheless, the call was for me.

They offered me a 4 night stay at one of their top Vacation Club resorts for $499.  I don’t remember all the destinations they offered me, but most likely Orlando and Las Vegas were included.  After searching online while I was on the phone with them, I found the Marriott Newport Coast Villas in Newport Coast, California.  Rooms at that resort range from $400-$600 per night and it is a Category 7 hotel (35,000 points per night!)  I thought the resort looked absolutely beautiful, sitting high on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

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Marriott Newport Coast Villas

I was planning a trip to Disneyland for the following summer, using the “free one way” I added on to the end of our Thailand award tickets.  Newport Coast is about 25 minutes from Disneyland, so there are closer places to stay, but….how could I pass this up?

I knew we could never afford to stay at a hotel like this any other way, and $125 a night was a pretty good deal!  Since it was SUCH a good deal, I added 1 extra night to my stay for $199.  So in the end, I paid $698 for 5 nights.  That is a lot more than I like to pay for a hotel these days, but still, at $140 a night it’s not a bad deal.

The Resort

In a word, beautiful.

We were given the standard 2 bedroom, 2 bath villa (I believe that is the only room type they have) with a view of the road.  Ocean view would have been nice of course, but those rooms are booked years in advance by Vacation Club owners.  And to be honest, even our view of the road was nice.

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Our view of the road

Our villa was huge.  We had 2 bedrooms on opposite ends of the unit, each with their own private bathroom.  The bathroom in the master bedroom had a large bathtub and a huge shower with 2 shower heads.  We had a large living room with a pull-out sofa and 2 chairs.  There were a total of 3 flat screen TVs with DVD players.

The kitchen had everything you could possibly need to prepare your own meals and save on the cost of dining out in uber-expensive Newport Beach.  Although to be honest, the last thing I want to do on vacation is cook.  I don’t even want to cook at home most of the time! So we used the kitchen to store milk in the fridge and donuts on the counter.

There was also a washer and dryer in the room and they provided the detergent.

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The only picture I took of our room

I really don’t need to say any more about the accommodations.  They were superb.  The room was clean, well designed and properly maintained.

The property has a “Kid’s Club” that in my opinion is not really a “Kid’s Club”.  They have activities for kids throughout the day, but you have to stay with your child at the Kid’s Club.  We like to use Kid’s Clubs at hotels to get a break for some “adult time” while Parker has some fun “kid time”.  My husband and I were looking forward to having a quiet lunch together one day and were very disappointed that we were unable to.

Location Location Location

Newport Coast is located about 22 miles from Disneyland,  5 miles from Laguna Beach and is about an hour south of LA.  The lovely town of Newport Beach and Balboa Island is about a 10 minute drive north.

Directly across the street from Marriott Newport Coast Villas is Crystal Cove State Park. My son loved playing in the tide pools on the beach and climbing on the rocks.  He also thought it was super cool to be in Scooby Doo’s “hometown”!

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We were even lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins swimming right offshore!

The hotel runs a free shuttle to Crystal Cove every hour during the day.  This is a huge convenience because the parking area is quite far from the beach and you have to pay a $15 parking fee!

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On the cliff overlooking Crystal Cove is Ruby’s Shake Shack! It’s a bit of a climb up the hill, but the delicious food, chocolate shakes and view are totally worth it!

 

 

The Dreaded Presentation

This is the part of the trip that nobody looks forward to.  Sitting through a timeshare presentation can be boring and sometimes very intimidating.

I had originally scheduled the 90 minute presentation at 9am on Wednesday, but then I decided Wednesday would be a better day to go to Disneyland so I changed it to Tuesday. The only time they could offer me on Tuesday was 2pm.  Not ideal to cut your day in half but it ended up not being that bad.  We spent the morning at the beach, took the 90 minute “break” and then went out for shopping and dinner.

The sales area has a proper kid’s club with supervision.  Of course! They want to make sure they have your undivided attention.

Our presentation started promptly at 2 and the salesman was very polite and nice to talk to.  About halfway in, he found out about my little hobby of collecting miles and points.  He still didn’t really understand it and had never heard of “travel hacking” or “churning credit cards”.  In fact, at one point he pointed out that this particular Marriott property was 35,000 points a night and at 1 point per dollar on my Marriott card, I would have to spend $35,000 for one night.  I didn’t really bother trying to explain it to him in much more detail.  The clock was ticking and I wanted to be out of there at 3:30!

After the tour we went back to his office for the hard sell.  I love how they tell you this is a “one time offer” and the “prices are going up soon”.  Yeah right, like if I really wanted to buy this next year, you wouldn’t sell it to me!

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Newport Beach loves their cars! Even tiny ones!

I don’t remember all the numbers and they of course don’t let you keep the paper they are scribbling numbers on.  But I do remember something like an $18,000 buy in at 15% interest.  Holy Moly! He pointed out that, of course, I could do my own financing and probably get a lower interest rate.  Sure.  Say I financed at 7% for 5 years.  My payment would be about $350 a month.  For 5 years! That’s $4,200 a year! Not to mention the maintenance fees, which I believe were about 43 cents per point.  At 3,500 points that’s $1,500 a year! Plus club dues which are a couple hundred a year.  So right now I’m in for about $6,000 a year for the next 5 years.  After that, it would be a more reasonable amount per year and he kept pointing out that this is “deeded property” that I can put in my will.  Parker: “Thanks Mom for the monthly maintenance payments!”  Plus, by the time you pay off that initial buy-in, you will usually be tempted to buy another package of points and then the financing starts all over again. My father-in-law has done this and so has the salesman.  The salesman was up to the highest level of something like 20,000 points a year! He logged into his Marriott Rewards account (you can convert the Club points to Reward points and use them at any hotel) and my heart skipped a beat when I saw he had about 800,000 Marriott Rewards points.  800,000!

Timeshares just make no financial sense to me.  But you probably didn’t need me to tell you all that and that’s not what this blog is about anyway!

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Marriott Newport Coast Villas

My point here is – take advantage of one of these offers if it is presented to you.  Sit through the presentation. Tell them you NEVER pay for travel, but thank you for the cookies and lemonade and the tour of your beautiful property!

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The main pool at the Marriott Newport Coast Villas

If the bottom ever falls out of the miles and points game (heaven forbid!), I would maybe consider something like this.  Maybe.  But I would NEVER buy directly from the resort.  You can get a much better deal on the secondary market. (when people sell their timeshares once they realize they were conned)

I will leave you with one last look at the view from the resort.

Happy Travels!

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Making and Meeting Spending Goals

Time to make a plan

I will be the first to admit that my spending, both regular and manufactured, has always been rather erratic.  I have written a lot about my “mad organizational skillz” and ability to keep track of multiple accounts, but when it came to setting a goal and then spending to meet that goal, I wasn’t doing it.  So I decided to write this post, not only to help my readers better understand the POINT of doing all this, but also to help myself to better organize my spending.

First I want to list the active, open credit cards in my binder for both myself and my hubby.

  • American Express Delta SkyMiles Platinum (me)
  • Chase Marriott VISA (me and hubby)
  • American Express Starwood Preferred (me and hubby)
  • Barclay’s US Airways Premier World Mastercard (me and hubby)
  • Chase IHG Holiday Inn (me and hubby)
  • Citibank American Airlines Visa (me)
  • Barclay’s Frontier Mastercard (me)
  • Bank of American Alaska Airlines Visa (hubby)
  • US Bank Club Carlson Visa (me and hubby)
  • Citibank American Airlines Executive Mastercard (me and hubby)
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred (me)

That’s 17 active credit cards.  See why organization is so important?

I am about to cancel three cards:

  1. My Barclay’s Frontier card.  Frontier awards proved very hard to redeem.
  2. Hubby’s American Express Starwood Preferred.  He has used all the points in the account and there is no benefit to renewing this card.
  3. Hubby’s Chase Marriott Card. He has earned Gold status on his own this year and next year he will apply for the Marriott Premier Rewards card which offers better benefits than the basic card he has now.

That will leave me with 14 cards to spread out my spending.

Credit-Cards

 

My (Immediate) Plans

And by “immediate” I mean within the next 2 years.

Summer of 2015 I want to take a trip to Europe.  I’m thinking most likely Croatia and either Italy or Greece.  I want to fly (business class) to Australia in 2016.  Those are my 2 big ones.  There will be some domestic trips thrown in that I will most likely just pay the airfare for (I save my miles for expensive international travel), and possibly a Caribbean or Hawaii trip on miles.  It is going to be harder to travel now with my son entering 1st grade later this year.  We will be relegated to summer travel with the masses and maybe a Christmas ski trip.  I am not opposed to pulling him out of school to travel, but I will try to keep that to a minimum.  However I do plan on taking a January or February ski trip to Whistler in the next couple of years and I will pull him out for that.

So, having said that, I need to take a look at my inventory of miles.  Between the two of us we have:

  • 384,000 American and US Air miles (that will become “one” with in the next year)
  • 51,000 Alaska Airlines Miles (these can be used on American Airlines and Delta)
  • 308,000 Delta SkyMiles

To fly Business class to Australia using American Airlines Miles, we will need 375,000 miles.  As you can see, we have more than enough to do that after the merge.  But AA miles are probably the most valuable miles out there right now, so I want to concentrate on building as many of them as I can. Especially since we have so many American Airlines and US Airways cards.

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I will use my American Airlines miles to fly my family to Australia in business class!

My trip to Europe next year will be on Delta and most likely in coach (ugh, I know), which will require 180,000 miles for 3 tickets.  Again, I have more than enough.

I want to build more Alaska miles to supplement my American and Delta totals.  I can’t combine them, but I can get one ticket from the Alaska account and the other two from the American or Delta account.  To that end, I will probably apply for an Alaska card for myself during my next round of apps this fall.

Organized Manufactured Spending

The real goldmine in Manufactured Spending (MS) is using a Chase Ink or Bold card at office supply stores and earning a 5x point bonus.  If you bought $2,000 worth of Visa gift cards per month, you would be earning 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points.  Do that for a year and you have 120,000 points.  That right there is the bread and butter of most miles and points junkies.  And some (most) do way more than $2,000 a month.

Those 120,000 (or more) Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to United, Southwest, British Airways, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, Ritz-Carlton and even Amtrak.

There are some of us, however, who cannot get the Chase Ink or Bold or other business cards because we do not own our own business and do not feel comfortable lying to get one.  I have a part-time job that would probably qualify me for a Business card, but I applied for a Chase Ink last summer and was denied.  That really spooked me, especially with Chase.  So I am going to lay low with Chase for awhile – at least until next year, and then I might try again.

So where does that leave me and others like me without business cards? It leaves us to only earn 1 mile/point per dollar on most cards.  That can still be worthwhile though, and is better than earning Nothing.  So basically $2,000 a month in gift cards for one year will earn you 24,000 miles/points.  That’s a lot less than 120,000! But again, still better than Nothing.  You also have to factor in the cost of doing this, which is approximately $240 on $2,000 worth of gift cards.

By the way, I am using $2,000 because that’s what *I* do, on average.  That is just enough to pay my mortgage and utility bills.  Every once in a while I will do amazon payments or money orders with gift cards, but I try not to game the system too much and risk getting myself shut down or contributing to shutting down the entire system.

So here is my plan

For the months of June through December 2014, I have made a rotation of 4 cards per month, buying one $500 gift card on each card.  The cards I will rotate are both Citibank American Airlines Executive Cards, my Citibank American Visa, Hubby’s Alaska Airlines card, my Delta SkyMiles American Express and both of our Barclay’s US Bank Mastercards.  By doing 4 different cards per month, I can spread out the spend between 4 different banks.  And notice I am avoiding Chase on all MS activities.  Flyertalk threads like this one and this one really make me stop and think.  And if I want to eventually get that Chase Ink or Bold card, I think it is in my best interest to avoid them for now.

So by the end of the year I will earn just under 10,000 American/US Air miles, 2,000 Alaska miles and 2,000 SkyMiles.  Many people will say that is not worth it.  It’s not worth the $140 I will spend on fees or the trips to Walmart.  You would have to make your own decisions on whether or not it’s worth it to you.  I do not go out of my way to go to Walmart to do this.  But chances are that at least 4-5 times a month I am going to be near a Walmart and it takes me about 10 minutes to run inside and do the deed.  I don’t see that as a big inconvenience.  When you could still buy Vanilla Reloads at CVS, the Miles and Points junkies were running around to every CVS within a 50 mile radius of their home, only earning 1 mile/point per dollar spent on them.  The difference was that they didn’t have to go to Walmart to load them.  So really, that is the only thing that has changed.

The bulk of my “everyday” spending will probably go on my Chase Sapphire Rewards card.  Except for gas and groceries which will go on the Chase IHG cards (2x points in those categories) But of course I will throw a few charges here and there on the cards I am using for MS, just for good measure.

Recurring Charges

Before I go, I want to point out that I have several recurring charges each month that are automatically billed to different credit cards.  Our Chase IHG cards are charged for our Netflix account and our cat’s Wellness Plan at the vet.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred gets Direct TV and our cell phones (for now).  And the US Bank Club Carlson card gets my son’s karate class.

I also have certain credit cards assigned to different accounts such as Groupon, iTunes, and Paypal.

The good thing about setting up these recurring payments is that I can change it any time I want to.  Usually when I get a new card and have to meet minimum spending, I will change the Direct TV and cell phone payments (since those are the highest) to go to the new card until I meet the spending requirement.

So that’s it.  That’s my Master Plan.  Do you have a Manufactured Spending or Travel Planning strategy?  If so, please share it in the comments.  I, for one, am very interested in learning more about how other people reach their goals!  I know many people are loath to talk too much about MS in public forums.  But I think the cat is long out of the bag by now and there is not much classified information left.

Happy Travels!

One last personal note…because he’s just too darn cute not to share.  We got a new dog last week! He is a 2 year old Goldendoodle that we named Bodhi.  I occasionally foster dogs through the Stray Animal Adoption Program and this boy came up needing a foster home. We love Doodles so I grabbed him up and we decided within about an hour that we wanted to keep him forever!   Welcome to the family Bodhi!

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Bodhi

 

Laura’s May 2014 App-O-Rama

App-O-Rama Results: 170,000 points

If I haven’t mentioned this before, I am a very conservative App-O-Rama’er.  (is that a new word?) If you are unfamiliar with what an App-O-Rama is, see this post.

Most people do five or six cards at one time, I usually do three or maybe four depending on how good the offers are.  At this time, we seem to be in sort of a drought of good offers so I only applied for three. Continue reading

BOGO Movie Tickets!

A quick non-travel related post!

I love going to movies (and now P does too) , but it is getting so expensive! Here’s a great way to save some money on movie tickets this summer.

If you have a valid, U.S. issued VISA Signature card, you can get a buy-one-get-one-free movie ticket on Fandango on Fridays from April 25-August 8.

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Visit this site and enter your ZIP code for a theatre near you.  For my Northern Kentucky friends, Fandango issues tickets for Florence, Wilder and Newport! Select 2 or more tickets to a Friday showing and get the lowest priced ticket free! (up to $19.50)  You have to purchase the ticket on Friday as well as go to the Friday showing. Continue reading