Free $10 from Bank of America Credit Card Holders aka Alaska Airlines Credit Card

The is an easy $10 from Bank of America. If you have a Bank of America credit or debit card you are eligible to enroll. The $10 is mailed to you in the form of a gift card. The offer is valid through December 4, 2014. Anyone who has the Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card can get in on this deal. It only takes about 2 minutes to register with Visa Checkout.


Loyal3 Ending Stock Purchases with a Credit Card

Got an email today from Loyal3. Bad news! The website will be terminating credit card purchases of stocks on Loyal3. The email states that as of 11/18/2014 you will no longer be able to use a credit card to purchase stocks. The email continues to say that monthly purchase plans using a credit card will be available until 12/11/2014.

I found it very interesting the wording in the email from Loyal3  "In order to put an end to the "gaming" of LOYAL3, and to maintain fee-free investing, on Tuesday, 11/18/2014, we will be removing credit and debit cards from the LOYAL3 platform. Automatic Monthly Plans (monthly recurring investments) using credit and debit cards will continue to be active until Thursday, 12/11/2014, to allow time to switch over to ACH (checking account transfers)."  Apparently, I'm one of those people "gaming"  Loyal3.



This is a big disappointment for me as I have been doing a significant amount of manufactured spending with Loyal3 over the past 4 months. So far I have purchased and sold more than $40,000 worth of stocks on Loyal3. All of the purchases were made using my Barclays Arrival Plus Mastercard which gives 2.22% back in points to be redeemed for travel related purchases. All together I have earned more than $888 in points from Loyal3 as well as very modest amount of capital gains totaling $177.

Through the process I had the Loyal3 account in my name shutdown because of my selling off the stocks too frequently. I am currently using an account under my partners name with a Barclays Arrival Plus Mastercard authorized user card.

Although the email from Loyal3 says that credit and debit cards will be removed from the Loyal3 platform on 11/18/2014, my understanding is that you will still be able to use a credit card to purchase stocks on Loyal3 until 12/11/2014 when automatic investment plans are also unable to use credit cards. You can do this by simply setting up an automatic investment plan to buy $50 worth of stock for today. Then go in a few days later and change the automatic investment plan to that day which will initiate another purchase. You can continue doing this with as many stocks as you want. 

The limitation is that you will only be able to make one $50 purchase of a single stock per day. That means only $50 of Google, $50 of Amazon, $50 of Walmart… I frequently purchase $200 of an individual stock per day by doing 4 different $50 purchases. I guess I will just have to branch out from the 10 stocks that I am currently purchasing.

I have found Loyal3 to be the easiest method of manufactured spending that is currently available. This method also comes with a certain amount of risk, but also reward. In my case I have made $177 in capital gains. I also could have lost $177. Last month when the stock market was experiencing a lot of volatility my portfolio dropped by about 4%. I was forced to hold onto stocks longer that I normally do at the same time I was purchasing more stocks. At one points I had more than $13,000 tide up in Loyal3. This is a lot of money to float. I held of selling any stocks until the values climbed back up.

The only stock that I have that is still down significantly is Discovery. My original $800 investment in Discovery is down more than $100. My total capital gains of $177 includes the cost basis loss of $100 in discovery. If it wasn’t for the Discovery stock my capital gains would be $277.

Deals come and go. The use of credit cards on Loyal3 is coming to an end in a little more than a month. If you need to make some minimum spending with Loyal3, get started soon!

[DEAD] Not to worry: Befrugal now offering $14 Cashback with Booking.com

[Update good offers for booking.com have been shutdown by shopping portals. At time of writing 4% cashback was the best available portal offer.] After my post several days ago: $14 Cashback with Booking,com through the Topcashback portal is DEAD I was disappointed that my favorite hotel deal while traveling in SE Asia was now gone and the best deal that I could find was $10 cashback at the time. Now Befrugal another reputable cashback portal is offer the same $14 cashback on every booking that topcashback was offering. The is great news! I have been consistently booking $20 USD per night hotels and guesthouses. After the $14 cashback I am really only paying $6 USD per night! If you use my referral link you will also get $10 just for signing up with Befrugal.

If you want to learn more about cashback portals checkout my earlier post!

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Happy travels!
BeFrugal.com Members

Great Deals on Hotels in Vancouver as low as $25 per night with AMEX Be Vancouver

By chance I needed to make a one night booking in Vancouver for a long overnight layover on my way home to from a trip to Thailand. I am in Thailand now and I came upon the Amex Be Vancouver link. The program is offering up to a $125 Amex gift card for every booking. The best deal I could find was Executive Hotel Vintage Park with a regular rate of $99.83 before a $75 Amex Gift card was offered bring the total cost down to $24.83 for a stay in a solid 3 Star hotel. On top of all of this, 1 out of every 10 bookings is free. You find out after you make the booking if your hotel stay will be free!  I am definitely going to take advantage of this deal!


The terms of the offer are as follows:

Make a booking at any of our hotels before November 16th 2014

Check-in must be before or on February 28th 2015

This Promotional rate is Pre-Paid, Non-Cancellable and Non-Transferable

The full amount of your booking will be charged by the hotel at the time the booking is made

If your booking is the 1 of 10 that is free, you will be alerted via email confirmation

Bookings can be made using VISA, MasterCard, or American Express

Guests will receive their AMEX Prepaid Gift Card per booking, not per night

Separate consecutive night bookings at the same hotel will not result in the guest receiving more than one AMEX gift card

A Maximum of 3 bookings per person is enforced - all subsequent bookings will be converted into normal Best Available Rate bookings (and will apply the corresponding Terms and Conditions) and the guest will not receive an AMEX Prepaid Gift Card

beVancouver Terms and Conditions Apply

$14 Cashback with Booking,com through the Topcashback portal is DEAD

I am currently traveling in Southeast Asia and I have been using this deal where I login in to my Topcashback account then link through to booking.com. I have received $14 cashback for every booking that I have made since I have been in Southeast Asia for the last 12 days. I wrote about this in an earlier post. Check it out here. I have been able to get the discount for every night because I have made a different booking for each night. If I want to stay in the same hotel for a second night I use my partners Topcashback account to make a second booking for the following night.

This morning I went to Topcashback to link to Booking.com to make another reservation when to my surprise I could not find Booking.com as partner with Topcashback anymore. Apparently, this deal is dead. It was working great for us as we were staying in many hotel and guest houses that cost only $25 USD or less per night. After the $14 cashback we were really only paying $11 or less.

Good deals come and go. Fortunately, I was able to take advantage of this one for a while before it ended. Did anyone else use this deal?

After I found that the offer through Topcashback had been shut down, I found a similar offer with Mr. Rebates offering $10 back per booking with Booking.com. So this deal is $4 less per booking that it was through Topcashback, but it is still a great deal for areas with budget hotels.

If you haven't already sign up for Topcashback and Mr. Rebates. There are some really great cashback deals out there. You can check out the post I did on cashback portals to learn why you should sign up for cashback portals here.

Mr. Rebates

Get All Your Travel Fees Reimbursed with Feecation - Up to $1,250 Value

Feecation is a subscription service that offers to reimburse all of your travel fees. The reimbursement applies specifically to airline fees (max. $500/yr), hotel fees (max. $250/yr), rental car fees (max. $250/yr), and WiFi fees (max. $250/yr). A maximum total of $1,250 per year. You are limited to $10 maximum per claim, but there is not a limit on the number of claims that you can submit. You submit your claims via an online form and email a receipt. It takes 3 to 6 weeks to receive your rebate by written check.

Other bloggers are posting on this service, but I have a slightly different strategy to this service. Reasonably it is possible to sign up for this service for free for one month. In order to maximize this deal, sign up for free the day before departing on a trip. Some of the more valuable covered fees that I recognize are the airline in-flight meals, airline wifi, airline tv in-flight, and hotel resort fees. See below for full list of covered fees.

You could reasonably purchase as much food on a flight as you wanted for free. You would just need to limit your purchases to $10 per transaction. So if you wanted two sandwiches for $8.99 each you would need to make two separate transactions with two separate receipts (Your flight attendant might hate you). I'm not sure if alcoholic beverages would qualify for a reimbursement, but I will try it.

You have 30 days to submit a travel fee charge. If you have a trip that lasts less than 30 days, cancel your subscription before the end of the 30 day period and avoid paying the first $14.97 fee.

On a single trip with one round trip ticket it would be possible to gain up to $100 value. Not sure yet if you would be able to sign up multiple times (possibly use a different email address) for each separate trip.

There is a 30 day free trial with a $14.97 monthly fee after that. The website states that you can cancel whenever you want easily on their website (no phone call):

"Satisfaction Guaranteed!

You are always protected by our Satisfaction Guarantee! If you are ever dissatisfied during your review or thereafter, simply sign in to cancel your benefits, no questions asked. Your membership will then expire at the end of your current term, and there will be no future charges to your account. "

Here is a list of covered fees.

Details for Air related fees:
Air related fees include fees incurred when booking a flight, at the airport and/or in flight. This does not include Government fees or taxes. Feecation.com covers up to $500 per yearly subscription, and $10 per instance for Air associated fees.
We cover $10 per instance for the following Incremental Airline Fees
  • Checked bags
  • Overweight bags
  • Seat upgrade
  • Extra leg room
  • Early check-in
  • Early/priority boarding
  • TV in-flight
  • Ticket change
  • Cancelation
  • In-flight meals
  • Convenience
  • Blanket/Pillow
Details for Hotel related fees:
Hotel related fees include fees incurred when booking your accommodations, during your check-in or check-out process or over the duration of your hotel stay. This does not include Government fees or taxes. Feecation.com covers up to $250 per yearly subscription, and $10 per instance in hotel associated fees.
We cover $10 per instance for the following Incremental Hotel fees
  • Booking
  • Resort
  • Use of fitness center
  • Early check-in
  • Early check-out
  • Late cancelation
  • Baggage holding (bellhop)
  • Parking
  • Convenience

Details for Car related fees:
Car related fees include fees incurred when booking your car rental and/or during your pick-up or drop –off process. Feecation.com covers up to a total of $250 per yearly subscription, and $10 per instance in car associated fees.
We cover $10 per instance for the following Incremental Car Rental fees
  • Late cancelation
  • Airport concession
  • GPS
  • Drop off (returning car to different location)
  • Additional driver
  • Equipment rental (ski rack, car seat, etc.)
  • Early return
  • Convenience
Details for Wi-Fi related fees:
Wi-Fi related fees include fees for Wi-Fi services incurred at any point in your trip, from the airport, to in-air, to your hotel, and anywhere else you happen to need to pay for access. This does not include residential internet charges. Feecation.com covers up to a total of $250 per yearly subscription, and $10 per instance in Wi-Fi associated fees.
We cover $10 per instance for the following pay-for Wi-Fi services (Up to $250 per membership year)
  • Airport
  • In-air
  • Hotel
  • Restaurants
  • Conference Centers

Sign up for Feecation right before your next trip and reap the benefits.

New to miles and points? Check out my guide to miles and points here.

New to Miles and Points Earning? Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding Miles and Points

I talk to many people about earning miles and points. What I hear from most people that I talk to is that they don't know where to start. First it should be noted that collecting miles and points is not for everyone. Largely because signing up for credit cards is the primary method for earning miles and points. Many people should not be signing up for credit cards or maybe cannot sign up for credit cards because they have no credit or bad credit.

I have put together this post for absolute beginners to collecting miles and points. This will be set up as a step-by-step process for anyone interested in signing up for rewards credit card to receive points to travel the world for almost free.

Step 1 - Ensure that You Have NO Credit Card Debt
Step 2 - Know Your Credit Score
Step 3 -  Determine if Your Credit Score is Good Enough to be Eligible for the Best Rewards Credit Cards
Step 4 - Understand How Applying for Credit Cards Affects Your Credit Score
Step 5 - Pick Your First Rewards Credit Card(s) to Apply for
Step 6 - How to Apply for the Best Credit Cards
Step 7 - Meeting Minimum Spending Requirements


The first step to entering the miles and points world is to first Ensure that you have NO credit card debit, and you are able to pay off your credit cards in full every month! So if you want to get into the miles and points world you need to first focus on paying off all your credit card debit. I personally have 15 credit cards and I have not maintained a credit card balance since I got out of college in 2007.

After you have ensured that you have no credit card debt and you can pay off your credit cards every month, you can move on to the next step. Know your credit score! There are a lot of services out there that offer you a free credit report. All of these are pretty much scams. The will give you a free credit report without a credit score and expect you to pay additional for the credit score.  I use two absolutely free services. The first one is Credit Karma. This a great website that offers a free credit report and credit score. The other website is Credit Sesame. This is another great website that offers a free credit report and credit score. Credit Karma is a great site because it provides very good detail on the workings of your credit report. Credit Karma also offers a free TransUnion credit score (only updates once per month) which is one of the three major credit reporting agencies

In comparison, Credit Sesame offers you your free Experian Credit Score once per month. If you want it updated more than that you have to pay. Credit Sesame does not offer the same credit report details that Credit Karma does. Ultimately, I use both services, and I check them regularly. Sign up today!

After you know your credit score, the next step is to Determine if Your Credit Score is Good Enough to be Eligible for the Best Rewards Credit Cards. As a general rule, a score 700 or greater is desired if you are going to apply for the top rewards credit cards. It is quite possible to get approved for top rewards credit cards with a credit score of less than 700. If your score is sub 700, your focus should be on trying to improve your credit score before going out and trying to earn miles and points.

When I tell people about applying for credit cards to reap the rewards to travel for almost free, one of the first questions I am asked is, "doesn't applying for credit cards hurt your credit score?" The answer is yes and no. Step 4 is Understand How Applying for Credit Cards Affects Your Credit Score.  Our credit score is derived from a number of different factors, some of which are proprietary. What you should know is that applying for a credit card results in a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries show lenders that a person has been looking for new credit. A single hard credit inquiry can reduce your score from 2 - 5 points depending on the make up of your individual credit report. The impact of individual credit inquiries to your credit report diminishes after 90 days. The hard credit inquiries will still be recorded on your credit report, but they will no have much impact on your credit score after 90 days. Credit inquiries stay on your credit report for two years. So 90 days after a hard credit inquiry your credit will likely go up all other factors held constant. This is how applying for credit cards can decrease your credit score.

You credit score is made up of five main factors: payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, new credit, and types of credit used. The hard credit inquiries fall into the new credit category which makes up 10% of your overall score.



On the other side, getting new credit cards can actually increase your credit score in the long run. This is because another important make up of your credit score is the credit utilization or amounts owed. Credit utilization is the ratio of total credit being used compared to total credit you have available. In other words if you have one credit card with a $5,000 credit limit and during the month you spend $2,000 on your credit card this would be a 40% credit utilization. The lower the credit utilization the better. Generally anything over 20% utilization is a negative factor. When you apply for a new credit card your total available credit increases therefore your credit utilization decrease which is a good thing. Amounts owed makes up 30% of your overall credit score.

Applying for new credit cards will also impact the average length of credit history which makes up 15% of your credit score. If you have only one open line of credit (credit card, car loan, student loan, etc..) which you have had for five years and you open a new credit card, your average length of credit history would go from five years to two and a half years which would reduce your credit score.

Be aware that in the short run your credit score will go down as a result of applying for credit cards. Also, you are at risk of being declined new credit if you have too many credit inquiries in a short period of time. Proceed with caution!

Now it is time to Pick Your First Rewards Credit Card(s) to Apply for. When starting out in the miles and points game begin with just one or two credit cards for your first applications. Make sure you can meet the minimum spend requirements, pay off your credit cards in full, and pay credit cards on time before getting too zealous and damaging your credit or getting yourself in trouble by not being able to pay off your credit cards in full.

There are many, many different rewards credit cards. There is a much smaller number of rewards credit cards that are considered the great rewards credit cards. Which credit card(s) you decide on first depends on your location and travel goals.

My recommendation for the top airline rewards credit cards available right now are:

Chase Sapphire Preferred

This is my top pick credit card for beginners to the miles and points game. Not only does it earn great flexible rewards in the Ultimate Rewards Program with many different Airline and Hotel Partners, but the 2x categories on dining and travel are great perks as well. United Airlines is the best transfer partner with the Ultimate Rewards Program. With the 40,000 bonus points, 5,000 additional points for adding an authorized user, and the $3,000 minimum spending you will earn a total of 48,000 points or 48,000 United Airlines miles.

         
  
  • 40,000 Ultimate Rewards Points after $3,000 spend in 90 days
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 5,000 additional UR points after adding an authorized user
  • Fee free first year then $95
  • 2x Points on dining and travel


Citi Platinum Select Aadvantage World MasterCard


The standard offer for this American Airlines credit card only offers just 30,000 miles, but this offer comes with 50,000 bonus miles. A great card that can get you two domestic round trip tickets for free.




  • 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in first 90 days
  • $95 fee waived for the first year
  • one free checked back on American Airlines flights

Before you actually apply for any new credit cards you should know How to Apply for the Best Credit Cards. First be aware that all credit offers for the same credit card are not created equal. As above, the standard offer for the
Citi Platinum Select Aadvantage World MasterCard is just 30,000 miles, but a little bit of research will show that there is a much better 50,000 mile offer available. Do not apply for a new credit card without first making sure you are applying for the best available offer. 

If you choose to apply for more than one new credit card for your first round of applications you should apply for all credit cards at the same time. This means when you sit down to fill out the credit card applications you should do so simultaneously with both(all) credit card applications. You want to do this because submitting a credit card application results in a hard credit inquiry on your credit report. If you make sure to submit your applications at the same time this will ensure that the new credit inquiries do not appear on your credit report when it is pulled for the application. Too many hard credit inquiries will result in being denied new credit cards even if you have an excellent credit score. Fill out the applications together so that one application page does not time out while you are completing the other. Once both applications are completed, submit one right after the other.

Once you have submitted your applications, hopefully you will receive immediate approval. Congratulations! If you do not receive immediate approval, don't freak out! This happens frequently, that you will see a response that says your application is pending. If this occurs you should call the credit card company reconsideration line immediately to try to get your application approved. The most frequent reason that I have not been approved immediately was because of the many change of addresses that I have had. Once I confirmed my mailing address, I was approved over the phone. Here is a link to the back door reconsideration line phone numbers for all major credit card companies thanks to The Points Guy.

Once you have been approved for your new credit card(s) you still have to Meet the Minimum Spending Requirement before you receive your bonus points. All of us have a monthly amount that we naturally spend on credit cards. For me this is around $1,000 per month. If I sign up for one credit card with a $3,000 spending requirement over the next three months, I can meet the minimum spending requirement without a problem. Now if I apply for two credit cards that require $3.000 each over the next 3 months now I have a problem. I do not naturally spend $2,000 per month on credit cards. What to do? This is where manufactured spending comes in.

Manufactured spending is the term used to describe spending money on credit cards without really spending money, or purchasing cash equivalents with a credit card for the purpose of earning points, then liquidating to cash as quickly as possible.

I have blogged several posts on methods for manufactured spending. Here are a few links to previous posts:

How to Meet Minimum Spending Requirements for Credit Cards - Amazon Payments

How to Meet Minimum Spending on Credit Cards - Debit Gift Cards to Money Orders

How to Meet Minimum Spending on Credit Cards - Bluebird

How to Meet Minimum Spending with Loyal3

Hopefully, this post will give you a basic understanding of miles and points. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

Great Rewards Credit Card - Citi Platinum Select Aadvantage World MasterCard

The Citi Platinum Select Aadvantage World MasterCard is a great rewards credit card. I used the miles that I received for signing up for this credit card for two free mileage tickets to Lima, Peru.

The standard offer for this American Airlines credit card offers just 30,000 miles, but this offer comes with 50,000 bonus miles. A great card that can get you two domestic round trip tickets for free. Domestic round trip tickets start at just 25,000 miles.



The Citi Platinum Select Aadvantage World MasterCard offers:
  • 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in first 90 days
  • $95 fee waived for the first year
  • one free checked back on American Airlines flights

Do you own a small business? Sign up for the business version. The CitiBusiness Aadvantage World MasterCard also offers 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. This link is only the landing page and does not show the terms of the offer. Flyertalk users are reporting success with receiving the 50,000 miles with this link.

I have both the personal and business versions of this credit card. I received 100,000 American Airlines miles from these two credit cards.

Useful American Airlines related links:




Update: Using Loyal3 to Make Money and Meet Minimum Spending Requirments

[Update: Loyal3 has ended the use of credit cards to purchase stocks therefore making the us of Loyal3 uselsess for miles and points enthusiasts] I have posted before about the opportunity that Loyal3 offers to manufactured spending enthusiasts. My earlier post: How to Meet Minimum Spending Requirements with Loyal3 gave details on how to use Loyal3 to meet minimum spending requirements.

As a recap, Loyal3 lets you buy a limited selection of stocks for a maximum of $50 at one time (fractional shares) for no fees and lets you use a credit card. What's the catch? Loyal3 has two business days before it has to initiate the purchase meaning you do not know what price you will buy in at. Also, when you choose to sell your stock the sale will go through by the market close of the day you initiate the sale which means you won't know exactly what your stocks will sell for.

I have been playing around with earning miles from Loyal3 over the past two months. So far I have had great success using Loyal3 for manufactured spending. To date I have manufactured more than $20,000 in spending through Loyal3. Not only have I gained the valuable rewards from my credit card, but I have also managed to turn a small profit on the buying and selling of the stocks. These profits are very small. For the $20,000 of stocks that I have bought and sold, I have made approximately $90 in profits.

I have used my Barclays Arrival Plus World MasterCard exclusively for all of my purchases on Loyal3. This credit card gives a return of 2.22% back to be used for travel related purchases. This means that my $20,000 in manufactured spending on Loyal3 earned me $444.44 in travel rewards plus another $90 in short term capital gains. All this in less than two months.

I must add in that I am not a professional investment adviser. Proceed at your own risk. It is possible to lose money in the stock market.

I will share a little more about how I am doing this. First, my strategy has been to buy in for $5,000 per week at $1,000 per weekday. I need to select at least 10 different stocks. This is because there is a $2,500 maximum purchase of each stock per month. If I buy $100 of a stock each weekday for a whole month I will purchase around $2,200 per month of an individual stock. You run the risk of getting your account audited if you accidentally try to purchase more the $2,500 of an individual stock in a one month period.

Purchasing $1,000 per day requires 20 purchase transactions at $50 each. When I do this manually it takes me about 13 minutes every day.

Tip: Want to save yourself some time. Check out iMacros for Firefox. This add on allows to to record and replay repetitious browser tasks. That's what I'm using.

I try to sell frequently. My strategy has been to track all of the stocks that I have purchased with the portfolio tracker with Google Finance. Every weekday I look to see which stocks are up for the day. I sell the stocks that have made small gains more than the price I paid for the stock with Loyal3. Some sales I might only gain $1.00 on $500 worth of stock.

There is some lead time when using Loyal3.  For me there is generally a 10 day period from the time of purchase to the time the money form the sale makes it to my checking account. For each step in the process it takes time:

  • Purchase stock - 2 business days until stock is purchased posted to your account
  • Sell Stock - 3 business days until the sale is finalized and funds are available in your Loyal3 account
  • Transfer Funds form Loyal3 to your bank account. Most funds transfers can take up to 3 days to complete
With these time restrictions, it is not possible to cycle through the process within one week so a weekend will be included. This makes for some delays.

When I use my Barclays Arrival Plus World MasterCard I get 2.22% back for travel related purchases. If I invest $5,000 per week and $20,000 per month, getting 2.22% return each week this comes out to a great return of 8.88% per month.

With an expectation of an 8.88% monthly return there is really no reason to want to hold on to any of the stocks. I doubt there are any stocks analysts predicting any stocks to make an 8.88% return per month.

You need to be careful though or you run the risk of getting your account shutdown. Here are some reason that may lead to your account being shut down:

  • Changing credit cards frequently for purchases
  • Attempting to purchase more than the maximum of $2,500 per stock per month
  • Selling stocks with no regard for profits and losses
  • Selling stocks too quickly (I try to hold onto the stocks for at least two days)
Also be aware that starting out by purchasing $1,000 in stocks (that means 20 $50 transactions) with Loyal3 may initiate a fraud alert with your credit card. Start slowly.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

Amazon Payments Fee Free $1,000 Person to Person Payments Ending Oct. 13!

Just got the word via The Points Guy that the $1,000 fee free transfer by credit card from one person to another is ending as of October 13, 2014. Bad news for those using this for manufactured spending. This gave and easy $12,000 of credit card spending each year utilizing the maximum $1,000 per 30 days.

Amazon Payments allowed users to transfer up to $1,000 per month with a credit card to another Amazon Payments user. This worked by transferring funds to a friend or partner, even creating a loop with several individuals to return funds back to your account.

I wrote about using Amazon Payments to meet minimum spending requirements in a previous post: How to Meet Minimum Spending Requirements for Credit Cards - Amazon Payments.

This has been a great way to meet minimum spending requirements and I am sorry to see it go. I will make sure to do my last $1,000 before the deadline. Make sure you do too!


Top Four Free Hotel Credit Options

Here is my list of the top four deals for earning free hotel credit. Planning on booking a hotel room in the near future. Use these deals to save big money on hotel bookings.

Hotel Engine


$25 free hotel credit with hotelengine.com. Hotel Engine is a new hotel booking site that is still in Beta. They are offering a referral program that gives $25 free credit for anyone who is referred to sign up. The referrer gets $25 when the referred makes their first booking with the site.



Many bloggers are posting about this deal. I have a different twist on Hotel Engine. You can get multiple $25 free credits. You can first sign up with my link. Then use your own referral link to refer yourself with a different email address. Don't have a second email address? No problem. If you have a google account, you can just add a period plus other characters to the beginning of your email address. Google sees it as the same email address. So if your email address is johndoe@gmail.com you could use 1.johndoe@gmail.com. Continue the same process of referring yourself and get as many $25 sign up bonuses as you want.

As you start to use the $25 credits from your referred accounts, the referrer account will receive the additional $25 after a booking is completed. You can earn $50 per account!

Booking.com


Right now you can sign up with TopCashBack shopping portal and earn $14.00 cash back on every booking with Booking.com. This method for earning $14.00 cashback by linking to Booking.com through the TopCashBack shopping portal has recently hit the blogging world. I don't expect this deal to last very long.

TopCashBack is a website that offers cashback for retail purchase just for linking through to the site through their cashback portal. TopCashBack shares the referral commissions that they receive from the retailers and passes some of that on to you.

With this deal it is possible to get free or almost free hotel nights in certain parts of the world where accommodation is very cheap. This would include Southeast Asia, parts of South America, and Eastern Europe.

There is no minimum spending or minimum number of nights. It will take several weeks before the cashback is deposited into your account.

This will only work the US Booking.com site. In order to get in on this deal first sign up with TopCashBack. Then search for Booking.com within the TopCashBack site. Link through to Booking.com and book your reservation. In order to get the most out of this deal you will want to make multiple single night bookings so that you will receive $14 for each booking.

Orbitz


Receive a $25 free hotel promo code for signing up with Orbitz. There is $50 minimum purchase before taxes. Still a really good deal. Only for first time sign ups. It is possible to refer yourself with multiple email addresses.

TravelPony


Get $35 Hotel Credit when you make a minimum $200 before taxes. When this offer first came out there was no restriction on the minimum in order to use the credit. This can still be a great deal for the right situation. It is possible to refer yourself with multiple email address and receive the $25 referral credit for yourself. Officially for first time users only.

How to Find the Cheapest Rental Cars

For the longest time I used Kayak.com as my primary search engine when looking for rental cars. I have recently found several better options to use when searching for a rental car.

Kayak does a really good job of finding rates for all the major car rental companies in a particular area. Recently, I have found several sites than can offer you more options to save even more money on car rentals.

Hotwire is also a great source for determining the lowest price available for a rental car. Hotwire requires that you pay up front so the rates shown are often cheaper than other sites that let you make an unpaid reservation.

As a general rule it is best not to pay up front for your rental. It is better to have the option to pay for your rental when you arrive at the check in counter to pick up your vehicle.

If you want to locate the best deal on a rental car follow these steps:
  1. Search Kayak.com
  2. Search Hotwire.com
  3. Search CarRentalSavers.com
  4. If you are a Costco member search the Costco Travel site (some additional discounts may be available for members
  5. Select the cheapest car rental
  6. Do a separate search engine inquiry for "discount code" and "promo code" for the particular rental car company that is offering the cheapest rate. Is is usually possible to find an additional 5% to 10% discount code available
  7. Once you have located the cheapest car go to CashBack Monitor to see if the rental car company or the referring site is available for cash back. If so sign up and use the portal offering the highest return to link the the car rental website. Sites such as Hotwire, Priceline, Travelocity offer cashback.
  8. Try to make a non-prepaid reservation.
  9. Go to Auto Slash and add your reservation number under Track a Rental.
  10. If you get a notification from Auto Slash that they have found a cheaper rental re-book and return to step 7.
If you have any comments or suggestions, I'm always happy to hear from readers!

Update to the Best Travel Insurance Worth Getting

Yesterday I published a blog post titled: The Best Travel Insurance Worth Getting. Today when I went to update some links in the post I discovered that the Trip Deluxe travel insurance plan with Allianze Travel Insurance was no longer available and their product offering had changed. What are the odds that the day after I post about a particular product they changed the program. Fortunately not all of the changes were for the bad, infact some of the changes make the new Classic Plan with Trip + an even better product than before.

Allianze is offering four different travel insurance plans: Essential Plan, Basic Plan, Classic Plan, and Classic Plan with Trip +. In my opinion the first three plans do not offer much and the Classic Plan with Trip + is the closes plan to the original Trip Deluxe plan that was previously offered. Classic Plan with Trip + offers:


The best part is that the price is less. For the plan with a trip cost of $500 and for people 30 years old and under the plan is only $39. Where the old plan was $48 per month, this plan costs just $39 for an entire year! A three month trip originally would have cost $48 x 3 = $144, now it costs just $39 for trips up to one year in length. The premium amount goes up as age increases. For people 31-40 years old the price is $45.

The biggest difference between the old plan and the new plan is that the old plan included a $50,000 collision/damage waiver. The new plan does not include this benefit.

As before there is no cost savings for having multiple people on the same policy so it is best to have a different policy for each person.

There are more popular travel insurance programs including World Nomads. I price quoted a one month policy with World Nomads and it came out to $110 for one month coverage and $161 per month for the more robust program. The cost was three to four times as much as the Allianz Classic with Trip + plan.

[EXPIRED] Best Travel Insurance Worth Getting

Over the past two and a half years I have spent more than one year of that time outside of the United States traveling. Since my first long term overseas travel adventure I have been using a little know travel insurance program that offers great benefits for a very affordable price. I discovered this travel insurance at my local AAA office. Allianze Travel Insurance offers several different travel insurance products. My favorite and the one that I chose every time I travel out of the country for an extended period of time is TripAssist Deluxe.

TripAssist Deluxe offers a wide variety of excellent travel insurance benefits including:

 When I was traveling with TripAssist Deluxe, I had more medical insurance coverage than I did when I was at home in the United States because I did not have coverage because I had quit my job. The best part is that it only costs $48 per month for trips up to $500. That means it only covers prepaid expenses up to $500. This is never an issue for me because I usually only book a one way ticket and only the first few days of my hotel stays are every per-purchased. Even that the trip amount is only covered up to $500 you still get the $2,500 baggage coverage as well as the $1500 trip delay coverage. All of the other benefits are included as well up to the listed amounts. The $500 trip amount is the minimum. There are also no benefits for having multiple people on the same policy so it is best to have a different policy for each person traveling.


There are more popular travel insurance programs including World Nomads. I price quoted a one month policy with World Nomads and it came out to $110 for one month coverage and $161 per month for the more robust program. The cost was two to three times as much as Allianze Travel Insurance TripAssist Deluxe policy.

In order to get the best value out of the TripAssist Deluxe policy it is best to have a 30 day policy. A 15 day policy costs the same $48 as a 30 day policy. The policy gets prohibitively more expensive for trips over 30 days, so all you need to do is get multiple 30 day policies. Just have one policy pick up where the other 30 day policy ends. I have taken out four policies covering a four month period at one time. Basically two different 30 day policies will cost less than one 60 day policy.

Also the policy premiums will start to climb slowly for those people over 50 years old. A policy for a 50 year old was just $3 more at $51 per month.

You can purchase a policy online or visit your local AAA office to get it set up.I would highly recommend grabbing the Allianze Travel Insurance TripAssist Deluxe policy before your next big trip, I know I will.

$25 Free Hotel Credit with HotelEngine.com - Act Fast!

Great opportunity to receive $25 free hotel credit with hotelengine.com. Hotel Engine is a new hotel booking site that is still in Beta. They are offering a referral program that gives $25 free credit for anyone who is referred to sign up. The referrer gets $25 when the referred makes their first booking with the site.


Many bloggers are posting about this deal. I have a different twist on Hotel Engine. You can get multiple $25 free credits. You can first sign up with my link. Then use your own referral link to refer yourself with a different email address. Don't have a second email address? No problem. If you have a google account, you can just add a period plus other characters to the beginning of your email address. Google sees it as the same email address. So if your email address is johndoe@gmail.com you could use 1.johndoe@gmail.com. Continue the same process of referring yourself and get as many $25 sign up bonuses as you want.

As you start to use the $25 credits from your referred accounts, the referrer account will receive the additional $25 after a booking is completed. You can earn $50 per account!

The website only includes hotels in the USA for now. Might change in the future. So you can only book hotels within the USA. Also, there is a $50 minimum purchase before taxes in order to use the full $25 credit. So for a cheap hotel you are looking at a maximum of a 50% discount, but likely less because of the taxes.

This worked for a while with Travel Pony, but got restricted to a $200 minimum purchase in order to use the free credit after so many people signed up. Get on this deal quick before it disappears. Make sure to use my referral link to get $25 hotel credit with Hotel Engine.

First seen at Extreme Hotel Deals

[DEAD] $14 OFF All Hotel Bookings Regardless of Price - ACT FAST!

Right now you can sign up with TopCashBack shopping portal and earn $14.00 cash back on every booking with Booking.com. This method for earning $14.00 cashback by linking to Booking.com through the TopCashBack shopping portal has recently hit the blogging world. I don't expect this deal to last very long.

TopCashBack is a website that offers cashback for retail purchase just for linking through to the site through their cashback portal. TopCashBack shares the referral commissions that they receive from the retailers and passes some of that on to you.

With this deal it is possible to get free or almost free hotel nights in certain parts of the world where accommodation is very cheap. This would include Southeast Asia, parts of South America, and Eastern Europe.

There is no minimum spending or minimum number of nights. It will take several weeks before the cashback is deposited into your account.

This will only work the US Booking.com site. In order to get in on this deal first sign up with TopCashBack. Then search for Booking.com within the TopCashBack site. Link through to Booking.com and book your reservation. In order to get the most out of this deal you will want to make multiple single night bookings so that you will receive $14 for each booking.

If you want to learn more about cashback portals check out my earlier post on the subject.

Happy shopping!

First seen at Extreme Hotel Deals.

How to Get Cheap United Club Lounge Passes

Access to the United Club Lounges costs $50 per person if you show up at a United Club Lounge and want to buy admission. I don't know why anyone would actually pay $50 to enter the lounge and I doubt there are very many people that do.

There are a number of ways to get access to United Club Lounges. You could apply for the Chase United MileagePlus Club Card Visa. This credit card gives you access to all United Club Lounges. But this credit card comes with a hefty $395 annual fee which is NOT waived for the first year. No thank you.

Those that apply for the Chase United Explorer Credit Card receive 2 free United Club Lounge passes every year. This will get you two passes, and this is actually a great credit card to apply for. The bonus is temporarily increased to 50,000 points over the regular 30,000 bonus points.

Because the Chase United Explorer Credit Card offers two free United Club Lounge passes is part of the reason you can come by United Club Lounge passes very cheaply. Where? Ebay!

There are many of the United Club Lounge vouchers available on Ebay. The prices vary, but the closer the vouchers are to their expiration date, the cheaper they sell for. I have been able to buy United Club Lounge passes on Ebay for as cheap as $10 each. To find them just go to Ebay and search "United Club Pass." Make sure you are aware of the expiration date.

If you have trip planned that you know has a long layover in an airport that has a United Club Lounge then this could be a great option. The top price I am willing to pay is about $13. The United Club Lounge offers free alcoholic beverages (limited choices) and complimentary snacks. You will also have access to free wifi.

For a list of United Club Lounge locations look here.

[EXPIRED] Free Hotel Rooms with Hotels.com - Seriously !! Act Quick

Holy Crap! I think this is possibly the best hotel deals I have ever seen! This is not a joke!  Right now Hotels.com  is offering amazing coupon codes that will pretty much bring your cost down to $0 for a night stay. The discount applies to 3,4, and 5 star hotels only.



You get:
  • 3 Star Hotels - $30 Off with coupon code 3STARUS
  • 4 Star Hotels - $40 Off with coupon code 4STARUS
  • 5 Star Hotels - $50 Off with coupon code 5STARUS
This deal is available to book only until August 31, 2014 for stays between 8/15/14 and 12/31/14. So the deal is available for hotel bookings until the end of the year, but you only have until 8/31/14 to make your reservation.

If you want to get the best value from the coupon codes to get almost free rooms, visiting certain destinations such as Las Vegas, Southeast Asia, Middle East, and Eastern Europe. You will only have to pay the taxes. I found many rooms available for only $1 - $5 per night.

In order to maximize the deal you will want to make single night bookings only. If you want to stay at the same place more than one night just make multiple bookings for the same place.

To add the coupon code. Do a hotel search for the area you want to stay. I usually search from price low to high and include only the 3,4, and 5 star hotels. Select Book now for the hotel you want to look at, then select book room. You will see a place to enter the coupon code on the right hand side before you have to enter any personal information.

The terms of the offer restrict the hotels to only participating Best Rate Guarantee hotels, but from my experience most of the hotels offered on Hotels.com  are in this category.

If you plan to stay multiple nights I assume you could just book many single night bookings one after the other.

Right now I am so mad at myself that I am working right now and not out traveling! This deals means I could get three and four star hotels for almost free until the end of the year!

If you have anything to add, please leave a comment.

Original posting courtesy of Extreme Hotel Deals.

I Made a Mistake While Trying to Collect Miles

I have been doing some research lately around investing and return on investment. Back in March I signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act because my current job did not provide health insurance.

When you complete your application you are given a subsidy amount that is calculated based on your income. You can choose how much of the subsidy you want the government to pay directly for your health insurance. Thinking I was being smart I opted to not accept any of the subsidy that I am likely to receive to help pay for health insurance now. Instead, I will receive all of the subsidy that I am eligible for when I do my taxes in January 2015. I did this because my health insureance premium is $333 per month and I can use a mileage earning credit card to pay for it. The way I looked at it, I was able to make 2,997 points from my health insurance premiums. If I had take the subsidy each month then I would have to pay less up front but I would receive much fewer miles. Even with my Barclays Arrival Plus credit card which gives 2.22% back for travel credits I would receive $66.53 worth of statement credits for travel.

What I failed to consider is that the federal government does not pay interest on the money that it holds for your. If I would have invested the $333 per month into the stock market assuming an 8% long term return over the 9 month period from April to December I would have made around $100 in compounded interest. So I gave this up in return for only $66.53 in credit card rewards.

Tomorrow I am going to try to figure out how to get the subsidy paid every month so I can keep more money in the bank. Before you make any decision regarding earning miles and points you have to consider the opportunity cost. In this case I did not consider the opportunity cost of have my funds tied up for 9 months without receiving any interest.

Earn Extra Money on Your Next International Flight as a Mule!

I recently stumbled upon the BackPack website. BackPack acts as the intermediary for people who fly internationally and want to bring products with them to sell in a different country.

It works like this: You go to BackPack and list the date and destination of your international flight. People wanting products from your home country contact you with specifics about what products they want to buy. You buy these products and carry them in your luggage on your flight. You meet up with the person once you arrive and they pay you directly for the products with you making a profit.

I have heard of this kind of thing being very lucrative especially with high end electronics like cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc... This is because some countries have very high import taxes and limited availability of certain high end electronic devices. This could work well if you were traveling right after Apple released its newest iphone or ipad.

Bringing in products to sell in another country isn't exactly legal. You run the risk of having the products confiscated or taxed on your arrival. Proceed with caution. Obviously, you would want to do some research about the legality of bringing in products to a particular country before giving it a trying. I'm going to post by next upcoming international flight on BackPack and see what kind of responses that I get. I'll report back what I find. In the meantime, if you have an international flight planned, sign up, post your flight, and let me know your experience.
 



Do NOT Cancel Your Old Credit Cards Unless You Have to!

One of the mistakes that many people new to the miles and points game make is to cancel their old credit cards too soon or unnecessarily.

There are many misconceptions when it comes to understanding ones credit score. One of those misconceptions is how cancelling a credit card will effect your credit score.

Some people think that having to many open credit cards will adversely effect their credit score. This is simply not true, and in most cases, the more credit cards you have the better off your credit score will be. This is because a major factor (30%) of your credit score is credit utilization. This is the amount you currently spend on credit cards compared to your total available credit.

In general it is a good idea to keep your credit utilization below 10% of your total available credit.

If you cancel a credit card, your total available credit will decrease which will increase your credit utilization and may decrease your credit score. Obviously, if you cancel a credit card with a low credit limit it will have a smaller effect than cancelling a credit card with a larger credit limit. If you already have very low credit utilization and high credit limits, then canceling one credit card that makes up less than 10% of your total credit limit is unlikely to adversely effect your credit score very much.

Another factor making up 15% of your FICO credit score is length of credit history. In the short term cancelling a credit card will have no effect on the length of credit history. Even closed accounts stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. But, many credit card issuers will remove record of old closed credit card accounts sooner than 10 years. Once the history is removed your credit score will no longer reflect this older account which may reduce your credit score. This is another reason to NOT cancel a credit card unless you must.

There are several good reasons to cancel a credit card:
  • You are unable to avoid paying the upcoming annual fee
  • You want to churn the same credit card again in the future and collect more points
  • You have too many personal credit cards with one credit card issuer and you cannot get any more credit cards until one is cancelled

First, I do not like to pay annual fees on credit cards, but I rarely have to. That is because I am able to get retention offers just by calling and saying that I am considering cancelling the card. I recently called to cancel my Citi Platinum Aadvantage card because the $85 fee was due. I was offer $95 statement credit and 2x points on the first $1,000 in purchase for the next 12 months. Of course I kept the card!

Another example: The $95 fee was due on my Chase Ink Bold card. I called to cancel because I was aware that there may be a retention offer available. I was told that there were no retention offers available to me. I said I would wait to decided if I wanted to cancel the card. I called back three days later and was offered 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in 3 months. I said yes to keeping the card. Spending $5,000 is not a problem for me because of the amount of manufactured spending that I do.

So before you cancel a credit card to avoid paying the annual fee. Call to see if a retention offer is available first. If you think you should be eligible and a retention bonus is not offered, hang up and call again a few days later. As a last resort cancel the card to avoid paying the fee.

Check out these Flyertalk links to see what retention offers are available for your credit cards:






Sometimes you may want to cancel a credit card because you want to churn the credit card again to get the sign up bonus again. This use to be a very common strategy. It was well known that you could sign up for the Bank of America Alaska Airlines credit card, receive the bonus miles, cancel the card, wait three months, sign up again, and receive the bonus again. This is getting harder and harder to do as many credit card companies are catching on to this and only allowing one sign up bonus.

Another reason to cancel a credit card is because you have too many personal credit cards and are not able to sign up for more until one is canceled. I know that Chase only allows a person to have five personal credit cards at one time. If you have reached this maximum you will have to cancel one credit card in order to sign up for another.

If you cannot avoid the annual fee and cannot get a retention offer, and decide to go ahead with cancelling a credit card; make sure to first transfer all of the credit limit from the card you are going to cancel to another credit card with the same credit card issuer (if you have another credit card with the same issuer). If you transfer the credit limit to a different card, you will mitigate the effect that reducing your total credit limits will have on your credit score.





















What Credit Cards Do I Currently Have Open?

I was doing some review the other day trying to figure out how many credit cards I currently have open right now. I have 13 open rewards credit cards. I have had many others, but I have since closed those credit cards. From these credit cards, I earned 645,000 points. These are not necessarily the top credit cards. There are many great credit card offers. Remember, before applying for any new credit cards, ensure that you are getting the best offer available.

They are:

Chase Ink Bold - 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points. Rumor of a 70,000 points offer

Chase IHG Rewards Club Select - 80,000 points, currently only 60,000. may be better offer available

Chase British Airways Visa - 50,000 points

Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite - 40,000 points

US Bank Club Carlson Premier Rewards - 85,000 points

US Bank Club Carlson Business Rewards - 85,000 points

US Bank LANPASS Visa Signature - 30,000 points, currently only 20,000 points

Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature - 25,000 points

Bank of America Alaska Airlines Business - 30,000 points, currently only 25,000

Citi Platinum Select Aadvantage World MasterCard - 50,000 points

Citi Business Aadvantage World MasterCard - 50,000 points

Citi Executive Aadvantage World Elite Mastercard - 100,000 points currently only 50,000. May be better offer available.