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.

sunshine

 

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.

 

April 2015 (Mini) App-O-Rama

It’s been awhile since I have posted (or done) one of these.  Gone are the days of 6 apps in one day.  With the demise of amazon payments, Vanilla Reloads and Serve CC loads, I’m not sure I could do $20,000 worth of spending in 3 months.  Maybe.  But let’s see if I can get through this $10,000 in 3 months.

Matthew Apr 15 AORThis AOR was all for Matthew.  He only had 5 cards open in his name, which is not good for the credit score.  Before this AOR, his FICO score was 791.  I will be curious to see if it goes up in the next few months with $57,000 of available credit added.

I chose the Citi AA card because the 50,000 mile sign up bonus is pretty good and the 10% back on redeemed miles will be great when we redeem  his miles for Australia next year. Although, there is a 10,000 mile limit on that benefit, so I will probably get this card as well and redeem some of the miles for the trip from my account.

Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card to have.  Ultimate Rewards points are infinitely valuable as they can be transferred to Hyatt and United.  My goal is to get a few United cards from Chase in the next year, combined with these Ultimate Rewards points and possibly go back to Thailand or maybe Fiji.  In business class this time!

The Capital One Venture card is often overlooked in the Miles and Points community.  I’m not sure why.  I had the card for several years and got in on an awesome sign-up bonus they had.  They were offering to match the miles you currently had in another program, up to 100,000 miles.  I had 100,000 miles in my Delta account so I earned 100,000 Capital One points.  At 2 points per dollar spent, I quickly had 150,000 points in my account which I used to buy United miles for one of our Thailand tickets last year.  My plan with the card this time is to use it for car rentals or other travel expenses that are not covered with airline or hotel miles.  Using their “Purchase Eraser” makes it easy to “erase” all sorts of travel expenses.

Spring Break 2016

Spring Break 2015 is in the books.  Disney was exhausting, but fun.  I am now working on Spring Break 2016.  With the recent devaluation of the Club Carlson program (discontinuing the bonus night) I feel the need to burn the 300,000 points we have.  So I am considering the Radisson Resort in Aruba.  Southwest flies to Aruba, so that is an added bonus with the Companion Pass.  Or the Radisson Blu Resort in Sharm el Sheikh Egypt.  Parker is fascinated with Egypt and my plan would be to spend a day or two in Cairo at Le Meridien Pyramids to see the pyramids and then head down to the Red Sea for some diving and R&R.

I have some planning to do!

Happy Travels!

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

To Swede or Not To Swede

Routing Is Everything

When I booked our flights to and from Thailand, (in April 2013) I wanted to get the best routing possible for the least amount of points.  At the time I booked, United had VERY generous routing rules. They have changed them a bit since then, but they are still quite generous.

Up until this past summer, United allowed an unbelievable number of connections to travel from the US to Asia.  It was never officially published, but I heard it was as high as 15.  Let that sink in for a minute while we define layovers and stopovers.

A layover on an international ticket is any time period between flights that is under 24 hours.  A stopover, is simply longer than 24 hours. UNLESS, you arrive on the last flight of the evening and then depart the following morning.

So now, think about this.  United allowed 15 connections on a roundtrip award from the US to Asia.  And you are allowed to fly to Asia from the US via the Pacific or the Atlantic.  That opens up some nice possibilities in Europe for a stopover, or better, a long layover as most flights from the US arrive in Europe in the early morning.

But United started tightening up on it’s routing rules last year because the lines between a round trip award and an around the world award were starting to get blurry.  So, since things are different now, let’s talk about what you can do if you were to book today.

On a roundtrip ticket, you are allowed 5 segments each way between your origin and destination.  That’s still 10 connections, and still pretty cool.

For example, if I wanted to fly from Cincinnati to Singapore and see a couple European cities along the way, I could easily do so for one 80,000 mile US to Asia roundtrip award.  (It was only 65,000 miles when I booked.  What a shame)  With some creative use of the many, many Star Alliance partners that service Asia from Europe I could theoretically do this:

Cincinnati – Chicago – Paris – Istanbul – Singapore  And actually that’s only 4 connections.  I could probably throw Bangkok in there as well.  As long as none of the layovers are longer than 24 hours, I am not using up my stopover.

However, I am much too old to do that.  I would probably die of exhaustion, but for the more adventurous types, it can be done.  I would be more keen to do something like this:

UAcvgsinThat is a pretty simple flight from Cincinnati to Singapore with a layover in either Zurich or Frankfurt for 12 hours.  The best way to do this, is to fly business class for 140,000 miles so you can get some decent sleep.  But if you are able to sleep in coach, you can do it for only 80,000 miles.

My Point

Our flight to Thailand is routed through Europe with an almost 6 hour layover in Stockholm. Stockholm! That has never been a city I have given serious thought to visiting.  Occasional visits to Ikea to buy Flarkenkrap are enough for me.  But if I have the opportunity to see it, for basically nothing, why not?

It is easy enough to get from the airport into Stockholm on the Arlanda Express train.  It’s a 20 minute journey with trains leaving about every 15 minutes.  One drawback (for me) is the cost.  Roundtrip for me, Hubby and P is $87.  That seems crazy high for an airport train!

Another reason is the temperature which is currently in the 30s with snow.  We are traveling to Thailand with temps in the upper 90s.  I really don’t want to carry around heavy  clothes in our luggage for 3 weeks.

And finally, we will be in Stockholm on a Sunday.  In the early morning.  Our flight is scheduled to arrive at 7:50am (but historically arrives around 7:30-7:40) and our departing flight is at 1:30pm.  By the time we get through the airport and to the train and into the city it will probably be around 9am.  We would have to get on the return train by 11:15 at the latest.  That only gives us about 2 hours in a city where, most likely, everything will be closed.  And cold.

It was just in the past few days that I decided to scrap the idea of going into the city.  I’m just not sure how we will feel when we get there and if it will even be worth it to try.  We’ll see.  Since we have all that time, we may just exit the airport, breathe some Swedish air and then go back inside!

And guess what?! Our complete routing is Cincinnati – Chicago – Stockholm – Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Phuket – Seoul – Chicago – Cincinnati.  (and then 4 months later to Los Angeles on the same ticket!) So we are literally flying around the world!

mapHappy Travels!

 

 

Thailand – Inspiration and Planning

Thailand

14 years ago I saw a film called “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  Mediocre film, incredible scenery.  It was filmed in and around Phuket, Thailand.  At the end of the movie I said to myself “I have to go to Thailand”.  Long before people started (over) using the term “Bucket List”,  Thailand was on mine.

Thailand

Maya Bay “The Beach”

At the time, I was working for Delta Air Lines and I honestly have no idea why I didn’t just hop on a plane and go (for free)(most likely in Business Class).  Most things in Thailand are relatively cheap, but I think in the back of my mind I thought it was too expensive.  Or too far.  I don’t know the reason, but we didn’t go.

Fast forward to 2011 when I am just getting into collecting miles and points and I start thinking about Thailand again.  By now I have a 3 year old son and getting there seems more difficult than ever.  Or is it?  In late 2011, Hubby and I each applied for a Chase United Mileage Plus credit card that was offering a 60,000 mile sign up bonus.  A round-trip ticket to Southeast Asia was 65,000 miles.  Easily do-able.  For two.   I had no idea how I would get that third ticket.  In March 2012 Capital One was offering a “mileage match” on their Venture card.  If you applied for and were approved for the Venture card, they would match the miles you had in another airline Frequent Flyer program up to 80,000 miles.  Remember, I’m the girl sitting on over 300,000 Delta SkyMiles.

Capital One Venture card offers a “Purchase Eraser”.  Basically, you buy airline tickets, hotels, train tickets, car rentals etc,  and they will “erase” the purchase using your points.  80,000 Capital One points would “erase” $800 in travel expenses.  Doesn’t sound like a great deal except A) those points cost me nothing and B) you earn 2 points for every dollar spent on the card.  Earning an additional 50,000 points on that card would not be that difficult with some Manufactured Spending and using that card exclusively for the next year.

I started looking at United availability during different times of the year.  United has a very good and flexible mileage program.  They allow a stopover AND 2 open jaws on international award tickets.  You can also get a “free one way” when you use your United stopover creatively.  (as I did!)

Stopover – when you stop at a city for more than 24 hours on the way to your destination.  Your stopover can last up to 1 year.

Open Jaw – flying into one city and out of another

Routing

Since it takes so long to get there, I wanted to spend 2-3 weeks in Thailand to feel like I “got my miles worth”.  I wanted to see Chiang Mai, Bangkok and of course Phuket.  Hubby and I are also Scuba Divers, so we wanted to get in some diving in the Similan Islands.

My initial plan was to fly into Phuket and use my stopover for a week or so in Bangkok.  I thought we would take the train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.  But after thinking about it, I decided that was not a good use of my stopover and I wasn’t taking advantage of the Open Jaw flexibility.  So I changed my plan to fly into Chiang Mai and out of Phuket,  taking a train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and flying a domestic carrier from Bangkok to Phuket.  It worked on my award routing, but the paid ticket (that I planned to erase with Capital One) was pricing at over $4,000.  There was no way to get the routing I wanted at a price I could afford.  The cheapest option was to buy a ticket directly in and out of Bangkok or Phuket (with no open jaws or stopovers) for around $1,600.  But that would require a lot of back and forth domestic travel in Thailand and I thought there had to be a better way.

A month or so later I got an e-mail from United about a promotion for buying miles.  They would give you a 50% bonus on purchased miles.  I had around 10,000 United miles left over and I needed 65,000 miles.  I was 55,000 miles short. I could purchase 37,000 miles (for around $1300) and they would give me a bonus of 18,500 and then I would have the 65,000 miles needed to redeem the 3rd ticket.  I verified with Capital One that they would erase the mileage purchase before I went through with it.

If you think about it, even if I did not have the option to erase the purchase, $1,300 to get the routing I wanted was still cheaper than paying $1,600 for the not-so-great routing.

Booking

We now had enough miles for the trip, but I wanted to go at “just the right time”.  I wanted my son to be old enough to appreciate it and I also wanted to travel at the right time of year for the destination.  Unfortunately, the best time to travel to that part of Thailand is December through mid-April.  My son was about to start kindergarten and we would become slaves to the school schedule.  I have long been a believer that not all learning is done in a classroom and an experience like this one would well be worth a couple weeks out of school.  I spoke with the principal of his school before even enrolling him, and she agreed to excuse a 2 week absence prior to Spring Break, so we would have 3 weeks to explore Thailand.

Most airlines release seats 331 days in advance.  In late April 2013, I started checking the United schedules every day.  The very minute the schedule opened up for my dates, I booked it.  After I booked the award tickets, I priced them out as paid tickets and they came to $4,195 each.  Absolutely incredible that they cost me nothing other than $79.50 each in taxes.

We are flying from Cincinnati to Chicago to Stockholm.  We have a 6 hour layover in Stockholm and my plan is to go into the city for a couple of hours.  Just to say we’ve been there.  We then fly from Stockholm to Chiang Mai with a 1 hour layover in Bangkok.

On the way home, we fly from Phuket to Chicago with a 2 hour layover in Seoul.  We have a 4 hour layover in Chicago before our flight to Cincinnati, but our United cards gave us 4 passes to the United Club where we can shower and stretch out after the 12 hour flight from Seoul.  In coach.

Yes we are flying coach.  It would have cost 55,000 more miles per ticket to fly Business class.  That’s 165,000 more miles.  It would have taken much longer for me to earn that many more miles and as I have said, we believe the destination is more important than the journey.  Yes it will most likely be uncomfortable, unpleasant and long.  But we are going, and that’s what matters.

Oh yeah, about that Free one way ticket

Last year for Spring Break we went to Disneyland in California and loved it.  We love California in general, and will go there any chance we get.  Why not go back to Disneyland?  I’m sure my son would be all for that.  So…our stopover on the Thailand ticket is Cincinnati.  I added a flight from Cincinnati to Los Angeles departing on June 7 (2 months after we get back from Thailand).  Of course we have to get back home from Los Angeles, but there are many airlines that offer one way awards.  So, if we had booked roundtrip award tickets to go to California in the summer (which I was thinking about doing anyway), it would have cost 25,000 miles per ticket.  I booked 3 one way award tickets at 12,500 each.  So adding that “free one way” onto our Thailand tickets, I saved 37,500 miles!  Sometimes it can be hard to book the free one way ticket online and you may have to call in to do it.  But don’t let it slip away! It is an awesome advantage to booking United award tickets and there are plenty of creative ways to take advantage of stopovers and open jaws on United awards.  I will try to write a post on doing that in the near future.

Two weeks from now we will be leaving on our “Trip of a Lifetime” to Thailand.  My son is at the perfect age for this.  He is starting to understand geography and different languages and cultures.  I think it will be an incredible trip for all 3 of us and I do not have any regrets about pulling him out of school to do it.

Below is a chart of how I got our $15,808 trip to Thailand for $580.  I will do another post soon on the hotels and of course I will post a full trip report when we return!

Thailand

Thailand 2

 

Happy Travels!