Friday, January 29, 2016

55,000 bonus points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card for my wife

When people ask me what my favorite rewards credit card is, one of the first cards I always recommend is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. 

This is a card that offers a big sign up bonus: currently 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (my favorite kind of points) after spending $4,000 within 3 months as well as 5,000 points after adding an authorized user and having your authorized user make a purchase.  This card earns 2x points on travel and dining expenses, has no foreign transaction fees, and has points that can transfer to several airlines and hotels (British Airways, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and the Ritz Carlton).  This card also gets 20% off travel when redeeming for airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards travel, giving the 50,000 points a cash value of $625.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is such a great credit card that I’ve applied for it, my wife has applied for it, and I even recommended that my mom apply for one as well (we were all approved of course)!  A little known secret about churning the Chase Sapphire Preferred card: if you’ve previously earned a sign up bonus with the Sapphire Preferred over 24 months ago and you no longer own the card, you can apply for the same card again and earn another sign up bonus!  The only annual fee that we currently pay for is my Chase Ink Plus – since we both share our Chase Ultimate Rewards points, no need to pay more than 1 annual fee for a premium Chase card.

I tried unsuccessfully to apply for another Chase Sapphire Preferred card 6 months ago.  This was due to an unwritten new “rule” Chase made up to curb bonus churning.  Starting around May 2015, Chase began denying applications for its Ultimate Rewards earning personal credit cards if the applicant has opened 5 or more credit cards in the prior 24 months.  This rule is unofficially known as the “5/24 rule”.  See this Flyertalk thread for more details on applying for Chase credit cards.

While I had opened 5 or more credit cards in the last 2 years, my wife had not.  Since we planned on doing around $7,000 worth of renovations in our home (new energy efficient dual pane windows), we figured that now would be a perfect time for my wife to reapply for another Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  Note: she downgraded her previous CSP card a few years ago to a regular Sapphire card to avoid the annual fee after the first fee-free year was over.

Since we were going to make a large credit card purchase, the best way to maximize our return on points was to combine the large payment with a new sign up bonus.  By signing up for a new Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card and adding me as an authorized user, my wife will earn 62,000 points (7,000 purchase + 50,000 sign up bonus + 5,000 authorized user bonus points).  That is getting around 9% cash back for the transaction.  The other option for making the purchase would have been to earn only 7,000 points with one of our existing credit cards or $140 with our Citi Double Cash card, for 1-2% cash back.

I’m happy to share that my wife applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, got approved, and with the first statement already received her 55,000 Ultimate Rewards points bonus!  We paid for our home remodel with 2 payments, one before and one after completion - only the first payment showed up on my wife’s statement.  If we wanted to go big, we could have applied for another credit card and split payments between 2 cards to get 2 big sign up bonuses!  Always pay off your credit card statement completely in full.  If you can’t afford to pay something with cash on hand, you can’t afford to use your credit card to pay for it. 

We don’t have any big international trips planned in the near future, so we are slowly stocking up on points.  You can apply for your own Chase Sapphire Preferred here. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dollar cost averaging our investments during market volatility

The market over the last 3 months
For those following the stock market, things have been getting very volatile.  In just the first few weeks of the new year, US Stocks are down about 8% and international stocks are down even more.  The financial news headlines make it sound like we’re going back to another recession.  We’ve lost over $16,000 in our portfolio in just the last few weeks.
Here’s the thing with investing in stocks: there will always be risks.  On any given day, the market may go up or it may go down – affecting your portfolio value.  Many investors rush to buy when they hear how the stock market is doing well (paying high prices) and then sell when they hear how the stock market is doing poorly (selling low).  Paying high prices for stocks and then selling off stocks at low values is a good recipe for financial ruin.  
No one can predict the future of the financial markets: not tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, or the next ten years.  Tomorrow your investments may plunge in value – or they may soar.  Any decrease in your portfolio is only a paper loss.  You still own all of the index fund shares that you’ve purchased.  You only really lose money when you sell at a loss, and lock in your paper losses.  If you are investing for the long-term, short-term market fluctuations really should not worry you.  No one out there can consistently time the market.  But that’s okay, because you don’t have to time the market perfectly to be a good investor.     
The market from 1928 until today
The long-term trend has been that the market always pushes further upwards.  If you are diversified in your investments, you can count on them to reward you in the long run.  Most decreases in your portfolio are only temporary and eventually rebound.  Our investments are made up of 90% stocks (70% US stock market, 30% international stock market), and 10% US bonds.  This includes over 6,100 US stocks, over 6,400 international stocks, and over 5,800 bonds.  We are comfortable with this asset allocation and we sleep well at night knowing that we are well diversified.  
If you find yourself in this situation, the value of your portfolio doesn't matter
Worst case scenario, if the stock market really loses ALL of its value, and ALL of the companies collapse, it will be the end of money.  Even cash saved under the mattress will have no value.  If such a meltdown occurs, the only thing you can count on will be your own survival skills, food, shelter, and weapons for protection.  Losing portfolio value will be the least of your concerns.  I don’t see that type of apocalypse happening anytime soon.  Remember: life is long, plan accordingly.           

Friday, January 8, 2016

My second time using the AMEX Airline Fee Credit

Last year, I applied for an American Express Premier Rewards Gold card for the 50,000 Membership Rewards sign up bonus.  You can read more information on how to apply for your own Premier Rewards Gold card with a 50,000 point sign up bonus here on Slickdeals.

The charge card offers a yearly $100 Airline Fee Credit for airline fees charged by the airline you select for your card.  You need to select an airline by clicking here; you can select a different airline every calendar year.  Different airlines you can choose include: Alaska, American, US Airways, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Jet Blue, Spirit, United, Southwest and AirTran.  Last year, I received the $100 statement credit by purchasing a $100 Southwest Airlines gift card.  You can purchase Southwest gift cards here.

While your airline fee credit can be used for various incidental airline fees like checked bags and in flight food and beverages, many charge card holders prefer to just buy an airline gift card and be done with it.  That’s what I did last year and what I did again this year. 
On January 3rd, I bought a $100 Southwest Airlines gift card. 
By January 5th, I received a $100 statement credit from American Express.
With a 50,000 point sign up bonus and two $100 Southwest Airlines gift cards, the Premier Rewards Gold charge card has one of the most lucrative sign ups.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Free one night stay in San Diego, CA thanks to Starpoints

One of my good friends is celebrating her birthday in San Diego, CA next weekend.  From where we live, it’s about a 2 hour drive to San Diego without traffic.  Since we are driving all the way out to San Diego, we might as well spend the night for a quick getaway.

I’ve been going to first when booking hotel rooms, since we’ve had plenty of Starpoints to burn.  Starwood offers several hotels in San Diego, with the Westin San Diego most conveniently located to where the birthday dinner is located.  The hotel is in the heart of downtown San Diego, near several attractions and plenty of restaurants.  This hotel offers spacious rooms, free Internet access, rooftop pool, and a fitness center.

The starting price for rooms per night was $161.  We booked the room for free by redeeming 10,000 Starpoints, giving us a Starpoint value of 1 point = 1.61 cents.  There are no extra fees when booking with Starpoints.  By using our points to book the hotel stay instead of spending cash, we can spend our cash on other entertainment expenses. 
We are both looking forward to our first short getaway of 2016.  This will be the first time our son visits the Birch aquarium.  Where will your points take you in 2016?

Side note:
Most frequent travelers may have already heard that announcement back in November 2015 that Marriott announced plans to buy Starwood Hotels in 2016, creating the world’s largest hotel chain.  Currently no one has any idea what’s going to happen to the future value of Starpoints, which are currently significantly more valuable than Marriott points.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but I have a feeling that Starpoints will go down in value.  As I always suggest when it comes to points: earn and burn. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year, December side hustles 2015 and year end summary

Happy New Year and welcome to 2016!  This past year has flown by so quickly for us, what about you?  Did you do anything fun last night?  For the first time in a long while, we stayed in and slept early.  When you have a newborn at home, going out to party doesn’t sound very appealing. 

This has been such a big year for our family.  We picked up our first rental property and became new landlords.  My wife gave birth to our son and we became new parents.  We’ve already started investing in our son’s college education and saving money on childcare costs with a Dependent Care FSA.  We’ve redeemed credit card miles and points towards free flights to Portland, San Francisco, Vancouver, Canada and even paid for my father to visit from Taipei, Taiwan with points.  On the investing side, I hit a major milestone by reaching 100K invested in my 401K, and that balance continues to grow.    

While 2015 has been a pretty flat year for the stock market, we continue to invest regularly with a long term outlook.

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

Cash Back
On 12.1, I received a $50.20 PayPal deposit from Mr. Rebates cash back shopping portal
On 12.3, I received a $9.36 PayPal deposit from Giving Assistant cash back shopping portal
On 12.3, I received a $15 statement credit on my Chase Freedom credit card from a Visa Checkout promotion (spend $15, get $15 back)
On 12.13, I received a $10 statement credit from AMEX Offers on my American Express Premier Rewards Gold card (spend $50 at, get $10 back)
On 12.14, I received a $10 statement credit from AMEX Offers on my American Express Blue Cash card (spend $50 on cable internet services, get $10 back) Even though my bill is less than $50, I overpaid the bill up to $50 to earn the cash back.
On 12.16, I received a $15 statement credit from AMEX Offers on my American Express Blue Cash card (spend $35 at, get $15 back)

On 12.18, I received a $60 direct deposit in my checking account from cash back earned on my Citibank Double Cash card, which effectively earns 2% cash back on every purchase.

Search and Win

On 12.11, I received a $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks (500 points = $5 Amazon gift card)
On 12.30, I received a $3 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks (300 points = $3 Amazon gift card)
On 12.30, I received a $10 Amazon gift card from MyPoints (1,700 points = $10 Amazon gift card)

Side Job
On 12.7, I received a check for $412.50 from the local university where I teach part time.

Rental Income
On 12.1, we received a net profit of $430 from our rental property

Miscellaneous Income
On 12.21, I received a $50 Visa gift card from Ford for a test drive promotion
On 12.22, my wife received the same $50 Visa gift card from Ford for a test drive promotion
On 12.24, I received a $300 statement deposit from Discover Online banking for their new Discover Cashback Checking account sign up bonus.

Monthly Totals:
Our side hustles increased slightly in November.
We earned $169.56
We earned $18 worth of Amazon gift certificates from Search and Win sites
I earned $412.50 from my side job teaching at the local university
We earned $430 from rental income
I earned $400 from miscellaneous income

All of this totals $1,430.06 from our side hustles for the month of December.   Are you doing any hustling on the side for extra income?

2015 Side Hustles Totals:
This is the second year now that I’ve been documenting our side hustle income.  For 2014, we earned a total of $28,663.42 on the side.  For 2015, we earned a total of $19,178.54!  We didn’t earn as much on the side in 2015 as we did in 2014, but I think we still earned a respectable amount. Despite living frugally, side hustle money continues to help us live a rich life.

I hope you had a good 2015.  May 2016 be abundant and prosperous for you in health, wealth, and happiness.
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