Monday, March 31, 2014

Evolve Money: pay your bills with a debit card

If you are an independent adult, chances are that you are responsible for paying bills on a regular basis.  Some bills we are responsible for monthly include: mortgage, water, electricity, gas, cell phone, health insurance, and others.

As you know, we try to optimize all of our spending on rewards credit cards to help us earn free flights, hotel stays, and even a free cruise vacation.  Since we earn points with every credit card purchase, I am always excited when I can pay any bill with my credit card and I always try to pay my bills as soon as I receive them.  

There are a few bills where I can’t pay with my credit card such as my mortgage, water, electricity, and gas bills.  For these bills, I regularly use my Bluebird account to make payment after I fund it with Vanilla Reload cards, Vanilla Visa gift cards, or Visa Debit gift cards

Pay your bills with Evolve Money

With Evolve Money, there is a new option for paying your bills online with a debit or prepaid card, with your computer, smartphone or tablet.  Evolve Money offers the ability to pay many of your bills from one place, with free standard payments delivered in two days or less.  They also offer same day payments for $1.50.  Payments are securely made online, so there’s no risk of losing a check in the mail.

The Evolve Money website is easy to navigate.  You simply add a bill by searching for your payee, and then entering your billing account number. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

No more Vanilla Reload purchases with credit card at CVS?

This picture is from the source @Ringsthecaddy
Looks like the credit card fun may be over at CVS.  There is currently a lot of buzz about CVS stores no longer allowing for purchases of several types of reloadable cards (including Vanilla Reloads and Paypal Reloads) made with credit card starting on Monday, March 31st, 2014. 

You can read more details and speculation on Flyertalk here and Dan’s Deals here

I will make a personal trip to CVS tomorrow (3.31.2014) to see if this is true.  If it is indeed true, tomorrow will be a sad day.

3/31/14, 1:15pm update: No problems purchasing Vanilla Reload cards with my Barclaycard Arrival MasterCard today.  There are mixed reports on flyertalk: many individuals can still make purchases with their credit card, while some cannot. 

3/31/14, 2:45pm update:  My wife tried to buy some more Vanilla Reloads from a CVS location we regularly frequent, and the register blocked her credit card.  Vanilla Reloads (and other prepaid cards) are now cash only.  This is definitely a game changer.

3/31/14, 8:14pm update:  After dinner, I decided to swing by another local CVS to try to buy some Vanilla Reload cards.  This time, I was able to buy a few without issue.  I’ve read mixed reports on Flyertalk indicating that some CVS stores are now hard coded for cash only purchases of Vanilla Reload cards.  Others have mentioned that the systems will complete their update on April 4th, 2014.  In the meanwhile, get them while you can!

4/1/14, 6:00pm update:  Many Flyertalk members are still reporting being able to successfully purchase Vanilla Reload cards with a credit card.  I visited 2 different CVS locations in my area tonight and it looks like the racks are cleaned out of all the Vanilla Reload cards!
Empty racks where the Vanilla Reload was once plentiful

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

PayPal Business Debit MasterCard and My Cash reload cards

As part of our free cruise challenge, we have been looking for different ways of manufactured spending. 

Currently, we have been regularly racking up points by purchasing Vanilla Reload cards and loading the money into our Bluebird accounts.  Since me and my wife each have a Bluebird account, we have been able to max out the $5,000 monthly limit of Vanilla Reload deposits for $10,000 worth of manufactured spending each month. 

We also rack up around $2,000 worth a month of manufactured spending with Amazon Payments.  

I’ve been slowly exploring other options on ramping up some more manufactured spending.  Today I will talk about my experience with PayPal My Cash cards and the PayPal Business Debit MasterCard.

Friday, March 21, 2014

American Airlines AAdvantage Passport Challenge

I just found out on flyertalk that American Airlines is giving away free AAdvantage frequent flyer miles with their new promotion, the AAdvantage Passport Challenge. 

Simply like their page on Facebook and play trivia and other games to earn miles.  You can earn up to 700 miles playing trivia and games and up to 350 miles if you share and complete some social actions. 
American Airlines hopes you can learn more about their frequent flyer program with trivia questions.  I noticed that even if I answer many trivia questions incorrectly, they still gave me full credit.  When you share something on Facebook, don’t forget that you can choose to share to “only me” if you don’t want to spam all of your friends.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Being thankful

I’m sitting here in the Alaska Airlines lounge at the Portland Airport (PDX) writing this post (our lounge club access from my previous JPMorgan Palladium card expires at the end of the month). 

Me and my wife had a great time this weekend visiting my in-laws in Portland, Oregon.  We enjoyed great food and great company with family and friends.  We have an hour to kill before we board our flight and I thought this would be a great time to write a quick post. 
A cool sign in Pioneer Square, Downtown Portland
We booked this trip a few months ago with our Barclaycard Arrival credit card miles.  As I watch the planes fly by from my window view, I can’t help but feel amazed at what a wonderful time of technology we live in.  It’s so incredible that we can travel over 1,000 miles in 2 hours to visit family.  There is so much to feel thankful for.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Free cruise challenge: halfway done!

$550 statement credit towards our cruise

As some of you may know, me and my wife (and several friends) are going on a 7-day Caribbean cruise next month.  We are always trying to travel for free or as cheaply as possible. 

By booking each of our tickets separately with our own Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite Mastercard®, we are able to use our Arrival miles for cash back on our purchase.  The total cost after taxes for our cruise came out to be $573.51 per person.  While this was an excellent deal for a 7-day cruise with balcony rooms and $100 on board credit, redeeming our Arrival miles towards our purchase gives us an even better deal!

Here’s a reminder about what to expect when redeeming Arrival miles for statement cash back:
  • You redeem your Arrival miles after you make a travel purchase.
  • The Barclaycard Arrival credit card earns 2 miles per dollar spent if redeeming miles for travel related purchases.
  • Barclaycard posts your miles pretty quickly after your purchase charges clear; there’s no need to wait for your credit card statement to close to see your earned miles.
  • Arrival miles can be redeemed for partial credit, only one time.
  • There is a minimum redemption of 2,500 miles for $25 cash.
  • You have 90 days from your travel related purchase to redeem for cash back.

To go on our cruise for nearly free, we are each eligible to earn a $550 statement credit by redeeming 55,000 miles each. 

I’m happy to report that I just received a $550 statement credit towards my cruise purchase! 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Free flights and hotel stay in Florida

We are looking forward to our upcoming 7-day Caribbean cruise in April.  Our port of departure is Miami, Florida.  To get there from Southern California, we will be using Southwest points.  For those of you who routinely book free flights on Southwest with your Rapid Rewards points or your Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you know how easy the process of booking free reward travel can be:
  1. Search on for your reward flight options.
  2. Check to see how many Rapid Rewards points you need for your flight.  If you have enough points in your account already, you can directly book the flight.
  3. If you don’t have enough Rapid Rewards points in your account but you do have enough Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer the points into Rapid Rewards points.  Point transfers must be made in increments of 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points to 1,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points.  The point transfer should be instant after you login to your Rapid Rewards account.

When booking free reward travel, I’ve always found that booking in advance is always the better option.  The earlier I book with points, the lower the total point cost will be.  The longer I wait to purchase a flight, the more points I will have to spend. 

One of my best friends booked 2 tickets from Los Angeles to Miami, Florida for only 12,500 American Airlines miles each, an incredibly valuable use of American Airlines miles.  When I finally went to book the same flight, they were out of tickets.  Darn. 

It always helps to diversify your points and miles balances.  Even though we could not take the same flight, I found the next cheapest option: booking our flight through Southwest. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

February side hustles

It’s the beginning of a new month, and it’s time for another monthly summary of our side hustles. 

To quote myself from my previous post

“The great thing about generating extra income with side hustles is that you can hustle on your own terms.  The more work, time, and creative effort you devote, the extra money you can bring in.  You can hustle as little or as much as you want, whenever you want.  It’s your money, and you can choose to spend it with purpose, or without.”

Now on to the February side hustles!
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