Thursday, July 30, 2015

50,000 Membership Rewards points with the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

The latest credit card that I’ve been approved for is the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card.  The best current offer is an extremely easy to achieve 50,000 point sign up bonus after spending only $1,000 within the first 3 months.  This card earns 3x points on airfare and 2x points at restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations.  There are no foreign transaction fees with this card.

My first AMEX Charge Card
The Premier Rewards Gold card is a charge card, which means that you do not carry a balance.  All charges made within a statement period need to be paid off in full.  In my last few years of credit card bonus chasing, I have never applied for an AMEX Gold Card.  The snazzy look of this card always appealed to me, but I’ve never been a fan of the American Express Membership Rewards points program.  The point system always seemed too inconvenient and confusing to me.  Even the AMEX membership rewards points page is a mess of confusing information.  You cannot share points with anyone. 

With the availability of the recent 50,000 point sign up bonus, the AMEX MR point system is worth another look. 

How much are AMEX Membership Rewards points worth?
Some bloggers value AMEX MR points at 2 cents each point (or more), but it can be tricky to figure out the best way to redeem your points. 

Do not cash out your points
Cashing out your points provides a terrible return at 1 point = 0.6 cents.  That means 10,000 MR points can only be cashed out for $60.  Compare this to Chase Ultimate Rewards points, where cashing them out provides a return of 1 point = 1 cent.  10,000 UR points can be cashed out for $100. 

Gift cards
Membership Rewards points can also be redeemed towards gift cards, up to 1 point = 1 cent.  Gift cards include restaurants, car rental companies, hotels, and retail stores.  It’s a shame Target doesn’t seem to be on that list. 

Uber rides
MR points can be redeemed towards free Uber rides at 1 point = 1 cent. 

Online shopping
Transferring MR points to Amazon or Best Buy only yields 1 point = 0.7 cents. 

Airline and Hotel transfer partners
The most valuable redemption of AMEX MR points is going to be transferring the points to any of the 16 airlines or 4 hotel transfer partners.  To me it looks like 1:1 point transfers to the Singapore Airlines Krisflyer may be the best value.  My biggest flying fantasy is to be able to travel in the extremely luxurious Singapore Airlines Suites Class.   Transferring AMEX MR points to FlyingBlue or ANA looks very valuable as well.  AMEX sometimes offers transfer bonuses that give you better return for your point conversion. 
AMEX airline transfer partners
AMEX hotel transfer partners

$100 airline fee credit
An interesting benefit of the Premier Rewards Gold Card is that it offers a $100 airline fee credit per calendar year.  Go here to select a qualifying airline before making your purchase.  Since we are in the middle of 2015, this means that you can get two separate $100 airline fee credits before your first year of card membership (one for 2015, and one for 2016).  That’s $200 in free airline credits. 

Many people have been able to buy airline gift cards and get reimbursed for those purchases.  I’ll probably buy a Southwest or American Airlines gift card. I ended up buying a $100 Southwest Airlines gift card and received the $100 credit shortly afterwards.  Edit: New data seems to suggest that AMEX is no longer crediting airline gift card purchases. Credit works again.

The Premier Rewards Gold card has a hefty $195 annual fee.  The $100 airline fee credit helps to offset the annual fee somewhat.  The first year of card membership does not have any fees, so you can test out whether this card is worth keeping, downgrading, or cancelling next year.  Working with the AMEX Membership Rewards points system can be a hassle, but there is definitely a lot of value in a 50,000 point sign up bonus.  You can read more discussion about this card and offer on Slickdeals and Flyertalk.  See this reddit post on different ways to use AMEX MR points.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I just hit my limit with Chase credit cards ☹

There’s been some anecdotal evidence and rumors that Chase has started to crack down on people who abuse their credit card sign up bonuses. 

The new Chase credit card application rule appears to be:

If you have opened 5 or more new credit card accounts with any credit card issuer within the past 24 months, you will NOT be approved for a Chase branded card (Freedom, Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus or Chase Ink Cash.  Being an authorized user on someone else’s account does not count against you.

I decided to test this theory last night by trying to apply for another Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, one of my favorite personal credit cards.  The bonus on this card can be opened after 24 months have passed since the first bonus points were awarded.
I was looking forward to earning another 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Before applying, I checked Credit Karma and Credit Sesame to make sure my credit score was still good.    
My Credit Karma score
My Credit Sesame score
I have excellent credit history, absolutely no credit card debt.  Despite this, my application for a new Chase Sapphire Preferred card did NOT get automatic approval.  I received the following message:

Sunday, July 26, 2015

50,000 ThankYou points with the Citi ThankYou Premier Card

With the arrival of baby Benjamin, it’s been very busy these past few weeks.  Most of our time has been dedicated to taking care of the little one.  Credit card bonuses, earning points, and manufactured spending have been low on our list of priorities.

Now that the little guy has been sleeping slightly more, I’ve decided to pick up a few extra points.  Citibank has been offering a 50,000 ThankYou point bonus on the Citi ThankYou Premier Card for a while now.  It’s an easy bonus to earn: one just needs to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of card membership.  50,000 ThankYou points are worth about $500 in gift cards and cash, or $625 in airfare.  This makes the Premier card a strong contender against the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which currently only offers 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in 3 months.

The ThankYou points program is Citibank’s credit card point currency.  Just like Chase Ultimate Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards, ThankYou points can be redeemed towards gift cards, cash (via student loan or mortgage payment), airfare, or Hilton HHonors program.   ThankYou points transfer 1:1 to the following airlines: Cathay Pacific, Asia Miles, Malaysia, Qantas, Qatar, Garuda Indonesia, Flying Blue (Air France and KLM), EVA Air, Singapore, Thai Airways, Etihad, and Virgin Atlantic.  ThankYou points transfer 1 point to 1.5 Hilton HHonors point.  I’m not too familiar with most of the airline transfer partners, but they are definitely worth exploring in the future. 

See this Flyertalk thread for more in depth discussion on ThankYou Point transfers.

The ThankYou Premier card easily earns bonus points with 3x points on travel (including gas) and 2x points on dining out and entertainment.  This card has no foreign transaction fees.  This card has a $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year. 

One nice benefit of the ThankYou points program is that the points can be shared with any other ThankYou account.  This is great for families and friends to share points.  For comparison, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can only be shared with one spouse or significant other.  The only downside of ThankYou point sharing is that transferred points expire after 90 days. 

I’ve already almost spent enough to earn my 50,000 bonus points.  I’m sure we will find a great use for them in the near future! 

You can apply for the ThankYou Premier card here.  I’m not affiliated with Citibank and do not earn any commission from your application.

Here's an updated pic of our little guy:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Earning Pampers Rewards points for our son

Everyone knows that I’m all about points programs.  I especially love earning points on the things I normally purchase. 

We received a lot of Pampers diapers and baby wipes as gifts from our baby shower.  We’ve also heard from many of our friends who are parents that Pampers makes the best quality diapers.  Pampers diapers and wipes packages contain special codes.  
This is a sample code found on the diaper packaging.  No need to try it, code has been used.
These codes can be submitted online to earn Pampers Rewards points.  You can also earn points for watching promotional videos, reviewing products, or reading articles online.  One blog I subscribe to is: Totally free points from non-travel programs, which often posts free Pampers Rewards points from time to time. 

Different types of diapers and package quantity earn various amounts of points.  You can read more about point values here.  You enter the codes online or via your smartphone app.  
There are lots of different rewards that you can redeem your points for, including free photos, toys, baby supplies, books and more. 

In 5 weeks, we have already earned 595 points in our son’s Pampers Rewards account.  I don’t expect to get rich with these points, but it’s nice to get a little extra back from all our diaper purchases.   

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June side hustles 2015

The great thing about doing side hustles to generate extra income is that you can hustle on your own terms.  The more hard work, time, and creative effort you put in, the more extra money you can make.  You can hustle as little or as much as you want, whenever you want.  It’s your extra money, and you can choose how you want to spend it.  Instead of focusing on what ideas don’t apply to you, try focusing on different side hustle ideas that you can implement to work for your situation.

Welcome to July, a fresh new month.  June has been a slow side hustles month for us as we’ve both been so busy at home taking care of our newborn.  In my downtime, I’ve been doing a lot of reading from my favorite blogs and message forums.  I’ve also enjoyed listening to NPR (National Public Radio) as well as various podcasts and TED talks.

Here’s our monthly summary of side income that we have generated in the previous month of June.

Cash Back
On 6.1, I received $25.04 Paypal deposit from Mr. Rebates
On 6.9, I received a $10 statement credit from AMEX Offers (Spend $75 at AT&T Wireless, get $10 back)
On 6.20, I received a $50.88 direct deposit into our checking account from my Citibank Double Cash credit card.
On 6.23, I received a $1.07 statement credit for cash back earned from my AMEX SimplyCash credit card.
On 6.29, I received a $20 Visa gift card from Staples for a gift card promotion (buy $300 in Visa gift cards, get a $20 rebate)

Search and Win
On 6.10, I received a $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks
On 6.29, I received a $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks

On 6.5, I received a $5 Amazon gift card from Bing Rewards
On 6.17, my wife received a $5 Amazon gift card from Bing Rewards
On 6.24, I received a $5 Amazon gift card from Bing Rewards

Paid surveys
On 6.4, I received a $3 PayPal deposit from PineCone Research
On 6.19, I received a $3 PayPal deposit from PineCone Research
On 6.29, I received a $6 PayPal deposit from PineCone Research

Side Job
On 6.23, I received a check for $137.50 from the local university where I teach part time.

Rental Income
On 6.1, we received a net profit of $430 from our rental property

Monthly Totals:
We earned $106.99 in cash back
We earned $25 worth of Amazon gift certificates from Search and Win sites
We earned $12 in cash from paid surveys
I earned $137.50 from my side job teaching at the local university
We earned $430 from rental income

All of this totals $711.49 from our side hustles for the month of June.  This is not too bad, considering that the two of us have just been staying at home most of the whole month.  The side hustle income has been covering our baby supply and diaper purchases.   We’ve saved a good amount of money by hardly using any gas, and not eating out at any restaurants or spending money on entertainment.  Getting paid time off this whole month has also been pretty sweet.

As our baby starts to sleep more hours, I’ll be looking to ramp up on the side hustles this month.          
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