How to get a 55 Day Interest Free Loan

I have been doing some research recently with the best ways to get low interest money for borrowing needs.
Studies show that 39% of Americans do not pay off their credit cards every month. This means they are subject to the very high interest rates on most credit cards some as high as 29%. With the average credit card debt for US adults at $4,878 there is a lot of interest being paid to credit card companies.

Some people in need of quick cash pawn something, probably not the best idea. This can carry significant interest rates. Some people take out cash advances on credit cards. Also not a good idea. Not only are there up front fees, but the interest starts accruing immediately often at rates of 29% per year.

If you are need of temporary loan, this is possible through your credit card. It is possible to get an interest free loan for 55 days. How does this work? Every credit card has a billing period which is generally 30 days. After the billing period is the grace period which is usually 25 days. If you were to make a large purchase or use other techniques to get cash from your credit card on the very first day of the billing period, you could have an interest free loan for 55 days.

Even though you would officially get the loan for 55 day interest free, it can take several days to get the money into your bank account. Planning for 50 days is a safer option.

I am not recommending that anyone just go out and do this, but there may be circumstances where this is the best option. I remember when I was a sophomore in college. I was poor and broke. I once took a $500 cash advance on a credit card from an ATM. What's even worse is that this was a credit card that I had a balance on that was not paid off at the end of the month. At the time I did not completely understand exactly how much I was paying, but I likely paid over $150 to borrow $500 by the time I paid off the credit card balance. Remember that if you take a cash advance there are usually up front fees as well as high interest rates that start accruing immediately. There is no 25 day grace period. Also, you pay off the lowest interest borrowing first when you pay your bill. This means that if you already have a balance for other purchases, you will not pay off the cash advance until all of the other credit card debit is paid off first. This can get you into trouble quickly. I just want people to be aware of how this works and do NOT take a cash advance on a credit card.

There are other much less costly methods for getting access to cash quickly.

If you need cash for something like rent that you cannot pay with a credit card directly you can use Amazon Payments to transfer up to $1,000 per month to another person with a credit card for no fees. See my previous post: How to Meet Minimum Spending Requirements for Credit Cards - Amazon Payments  for more information.

You can also use the method outlined in this post: How to Meet Minimum Spending on Credit Cards - Debit Gift Cards to Money Orders. This method will incur an upfront fee that varies depending on the fees for the $500 gift cards. A $5.95 fee is 1.2% fee on $500. If you need to get access to more than $1,000 cash.

It is easy to figure out when the first day of your billing period begins. Just look at your past credit card statement, and it will show the billing period as well as the due date. This will be the same days every month.

I am planning on testing out the benefits of this 55 day interest free loan with Loyal3. I wrote about how to use Loyal3 to make minimum spend requirements. You can check that out here. I am going to test out how much money I can push through Loyal3 in a 55 day period by buying stocks with a credit card for no fee, then selling those stocks. Churn, repeat. I will let you know the results when I finish my experiment.

If you have any questions or comments, please comment away!

How to Meet Minimum Spending on Credit Cards with Loyal3

Using Loyal3 to manufacture spend comes with some risk, but I have been churning credit card transactions with this method successfully for a profit for the last several months.

This is the fourth post on how to meet minimum spending requirements for credit cards. For links to my other posts on the subject see below.

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

Loyal3 is stock broker where you can buy a limited number of brand name stocks for no fees using a credit card. Loyal3 is able to do this because they batch process all of the stock orders received for the day into one order. So your stock purchase order will be combined with all of the other Loyal3 investors that want to purchase a particular stock on that day. The downside is that you do not get to pick the price that you buy the stock for. If you submit your purchase order before 2 PM EST, your stock purchase will be processed by the end of market close on that day.

There are only a limited selection of stocks available for purchase. My favorites to purchase are Google, Intel, Apple, Walmart, Berkshire Hathaway, and Microsoft. These are high volume stocks that tend to be very stable meaning the stock price does not vary much.

Most brokers charge fees from $4 to $12 per stock trade. This makes buying stock for the purpose of manufacturing spending not worthwhile. Also, you are not able to buy stocks with a credit card at any stock broker.

Loyal3 charges no fees to buy or sell stocks. Their website is very user friendly and easy to navigate. If you want to buy stocks with a credit card, you are limited to $50 per transaction. This means that you will be buying fractional stock shares. My method is to select my favorite stocks and buy $50 at a time with a credit card. You can buy multiple times at $50 for the same stock. You just need to wait a few minutes between purchases or the website or it will think that it is a duplicate purchase. There is a maximum of $2,500 purchase for each stock in a month which not too many of us will be concerned with. You are reducing the risk by purchasing several stocks rather than just one or two.

This Flyertalk thread has a wealth of information on using Loyal3 for manufactured spending. Follow the link for more info on Loyal3.

These were my results with my last three batches of buying and selling with Loyal3. I bought $1550 worth of various stocks over a seven day period. I then sold all of the stocks on the same day. I bought the stocks with my Barclays Arrival Plus World Mastercard which give me 2.22% back on all purchase redeemed for travel. I received $34.41 in travel credit for the purchase with my credit card. When the stocks sold I received $1546.62 which means I sold my stocks for a loss of $3.38. My travel credit of $34.41 - $3.38 in stock loss = $31.03 profit or a 2% profit in little more than a week.

For my next batch of purchases I bought $2,300 in various stocks over a 10 day period. I sold all of the stocks on the same day for $2,326.80. So I made a $26.80 profit from selling the stocks plus the 2.22% for another $51.06 for a total profit of $77.86 or 3.39% in less than 2 weeks.

My third batch of purchases included $2,450 worth of stock purchased over seven days. I sold all of the stock on the same day for $2,449.38 or a $0.62 loss. With the 2.22% that I made from my Barclays Arrival Plus World Mastercard I made $54.39 - $0.62 = $53.77 in profit or slightly more than 2%.

There are some delays. After buying your stocks it can take two business days before they show up in your account. When you sell your stocks it will take at least 3 business days before the sale is finalized and the funds are available to transfer to your bank account. Once the funds are available, it will take another 3 business days for the funds to be deposited into your bank account.

As I said before, this method is not without risk just as any stock purchase has inherent risk. If some of the stocks you purchase drop in price after you buy them you can hold on to them until the price goes up if you are able to float the cash. Buying a variety, say five different stocks can help reduce your risk. One or two stocks may drop in price, but some of the others will likely increase in price evening out any losses.

This can be an easy way to meet minimum spending requirements for your credit card and even make a profit in the process.

If you have any questions or comments, I am always happy to hear from readers!

How to Meet Minimum Spending on Credit Cards - Bluebird

This is the third installment of "How to Meet Minimum Spending on Credit Cards." See the links for earlier installments.

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

Bluebird is a bank checking account alternative from American Express. Bluebird is a re-loadable debit card of sorts, but with many added benefits including:

  • No fees
  • Fully functioning Bill Pay
  • Direct Deposit
  • ATM withdrawals
  • Online check deposits
  • Reload ability at Walmart cash registers

Bluebird is a staple in the manufactured spender's wallet. The primary reason is that Bluebird allows loading your account with up to $5,000 per month from debit cards including debit gift cards. You can do this without any fees. Once you load your Bluebird at Walmart you can then login to your account and set up a free bill payment to pay your mortgage, student loans, car payment, or other expenses that you cannot pay with a credit card directly. I pay my mortgage and condo dues every month with my Bluebird. Its free to apply and open up an account. Do not bother with the $5 temporary Bluebird card sold at Walmart. You still have to apply for a permanent card online.

I frequently use my favorite credit card to buy debit gift cards and load my Bluebird. Then I immediately login to my Bluebird and set up a bill payment to pay off the credit card that I just used to buy the gift cards.

Before several months ago, you were limited to loading a maximum of $1,000 per day to your Bluebird. Now Bluebird has increase the daily loading limits to $2,500 per day. This means you only have to visit Walmart only twice per month to load the maximum monthly load amount of $5,000. My fiance is also signed up for a Bluebird card. I am able to bring both of our Bluebird cards two Walmart and I load $2,500 each to two Bluebird cards included $2,000 in money orders during the same visit. I am able to liquidate a total of $7,000 in one Walmart visit.

You are restricted to four card swipes per transaction at Walmart cash registers. This means the maximum you could load to a Bluebird account at one cash register is $2,000 with four $500 debit gift cards. It will be necessary to go to several check out counters to load $5,000 to two different Bluebird cards.

There are many places to buy gift cards to use to load your Bluebird, but you cannot just buy any gift card. You are looking for Visa or MasterCard gift cards that say "Debit" that allow loading up to $500. American Express Gift Cards will not work for this method. AMEX gift cards are never set up for debit transactions. Visa and MasterCard debit gift cards are the only ones that will work for this process. If they do not say "debit" than they will not work. 

All of the gift cards have a fee which varies from $2.95 to $6.95. Find the gift cards with the lowest fee possible. Grocery stores and department stores often sell gift cards with a $5.95 fee. You can buy variable load debit gift cards at some gas stations, drug stores as well. Look at the local stores in your area and see what is available.

Additionally, do not buy One Vanilla Visa Gift cards. I use to buy these frequently from Walgreens. These gift cards no longer work as debit cards at Walmart.

Recap: If you want to be able to pay your mortgage or other expenses where a credit card is not allowed. Purchase $500 debit gift cards at the lowest possible fee (shop around). Go to Walmart and load up to $2,500 per day to your Bluebird. Set up a bill payment to pay your mortgage or other expenses. This is a great way to make the minimum spending requirement for your credit cards.

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

Buy Debit Gift Cards and Liquidate with Money Orders at Walmart

This method is the bread and butter for many manufactured spending enthusiasts. There are many places to buy gift cards, but you can not just buy any gift card. You are looking for Visa or MasterCard gift cards that say "Debit" that allow loading up to $500. American Express Gift Cards will not work for this method. AMEX gift cards are never set up for debit transactions. Visa and MasterCard debit gift cards are the only ones that will work for this process. If they do not say "debit" than they will not work. 

All of the gift cards have a fee which varies from $2.95 to $6.95. Find the gift cards with the lowest fee possible. Grocery stores and department stores often sell gift cards with a $5.95 fee.

Once you buy the gift card(s) you will have to set up a pin. The process for doing this depends of the debit enabled gift card. Many of them you just call the 1-800 number on the back to set one up.

After you set a pin, you go to the money center at Walmart and ask to buy a money order. Money orders cost $0.70 each. Money orders at Walmart have a maximum of $1,000 and you are limited to two money orders per day. To minimized the fees as a percentage of the total being manufactured it is best to do a $1,000 money order with two $500 gift cards. If you paid a $5.95 fee each for two $500 gift cards plus the $0.70 money order fee your total cost for manufacturing $1,000 is $12.60 or 1.26%. This is fine as most points are valued at more than $0.01 per point. And you are doing this to get a large sign up bonus. You probably would not want to buy $500 gift cards with a $5.95 fee just to earn the points unless you have a category bonus with your credit card for example that gives 2x points at grocery stores.

Note: Walmart is not the only location that sells money orders with the ability to use debit cards, but Walmart is one of the cheapest locations to buy money orders.

Additionally, do not buy One Vanilla Visa Gift cards. I use to buy these frequently from Walgreens. These gift cards no longer work as debit cards at Walmart.

Hint: I usually ask for a money order at Walmart for $999.30 which is two $500 gift cards minus the $0.70 fee.

Once I have the money order in my hands, I fill it out with my own name on it and deposit it to my bank account just like you would a check.

If you have any questions or comments, leave a comment and I will be happy to respond!

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

For many people wanting to apply for several rewards credit cards at one time, the primary barrier is the inability to meet minimum spending requirements. Most rewards credit cards have a minimum spending requirement that must be met within the first 90 days of account approval.

As a result of not being able to meet minimum spending requirements, a person will not apply for a credit card or will only sign up for one or two credit cards at a time so that they can meet the minimum spending requirement with there every day credit card spending.

In comes manufactured spending! 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.

Earlier this year I signed up for three new credit cards and my fiance signed up for two credit cards for a total of five credit cards. These are the five credit cards we signed up for:

1  Citi Executive Aadvantage World Elite MasterCard - $10,000 in 3 months
2  CitiBusiness Aadvantage World MasterCard  $3,000 in 3 months X 2
2  Chase British Airways World Elite MasterCard   $2,000 in 3 months X 2

This comes up to a minimum spending of $20,000 in 3 months. I have no where near $20,000 in regular credit card spending in 3 months. My average regular credit card spending is closer to $1,000 per month.

I use manufactured spending techniques on a regular basis. Over the next few posts I am going to describe in detail my most used methods of manufactured spending. There are many other methods of manufactured spending with different prepaid cards and other financial instruments. In my posts,  I am only going to talk about the manufactured spending techniques that I am currently using and I know work for me.

Amazon Payments

This is the lowest lying fruit. Sign up for Amazon Payments and you can send up to $1,000 per month to anyone else who has Amazon Payments. I do this every month and generate an easy $1,000 in manufactured spending. The best part is there are no fees for doing this. Many other types of minimum spending that do result in fees over 1%. This is a great way to create no fee manufactured spending. If only you could transfer more per month!

After you sign up, you will need to link a bank account so that you can withdraw your funds to after they are transferred from another user. To avoid your account getting too much attention, send a maximum of $500 per payment and make sure to select "goods & services" as the reason for the payment. Once you get set up with Amazon Payments it is an easy process to add a bank account and transfer the funds into your bank account.

This works great for a couple. One person transfers $1,000 per month in two $500 transactions to the other person. Do not transfer both ways as this will look suspicious and could lead to getting your account shut down.

Doing $1,000 per month is an easy way to generate $3,000 in 90 days of manufactured spending for absolutely no fees. Some people get more creative and do a four person transfer. Person 1 transfers $1,000 to Person 2 who transfers to Person 3 who transfers to Person 4 who the transfers back to Person 1. If you can work together with a couple or a whole family this is an easy way to manufacture $4,000 per month at $1,000 per person. Make sure to use a credit card with your name on it to make the payment. Do not use a credit card with your significant other's name on it to pay from your account.

Note: Before you are able to transfer the full $1,000 per month (this is a rolling 30 day not the calendar month) you will need to verify you bank account with trial deposits.

Follow along over the next few days and I will post other methods of manufactured spending to meet minimum spend requirements on credit cards.

The Best Travel Debit Card in the Entire World!

I want to let you in on the little known Checking linked to brokerage account with debit card from Charles Schwab. This debit card/ checking account includes:
  • No monthly fees
  • No account minimums
  • Unlimited fee rebates from any ATM worldwide
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Free bill pay on and Schwab Mobile
  • Apply for Schwab Mobile Deposit™ to deposit checks from anywhere
  • Free standard checks and a Visa® Platinum debit card once the account has been funded. 
  • FDIC insurance up to $250,0003
  • A linked Schwab One® brokerage account with no fees or minimums

What this means:  If you travel internationally and withdraw money from an ATM you will have no foreign transaction fees and the ATM fee charged by the local ATM will be refunded at the beginning of each month. You also receive a competitive exchange rate better than you will receive at money changers. Even if you travel in the USA you will have all ATM fees reimbursed.

In my opinion this is hands down the best debit card to have for international travel. If you plan to travel internationally for any extended period of time this is a great money saver and stress reliever.

Most of us use debit cards to at least pull cash from ATMs occasionally. If you have been in the miles and points game for long, you will almost never pay for anything directly with your bank debit card because you will be using your points earning credit card of course! Even in the USA we have to deal with ATM withdrawal fees of $1.5 - $6.00 depending on the ATM if you are not using your banks ATM.

For those that have traveled outside the USA before you probably know about foreign transaction fees. Many times these fees are an extra 3% of the amount withdrawn. Some banks also charge a flat fee as well for each ATM withdrawal. On top of that you also have to pay the local ATM fee which are often very expensive.

I know in Thailand the standard fee is 150 baht which is $4.66 USD. For example if you have a Bank of America debit card and you withdraw the equivalent of $300 USD in Thailand you will pay a $5 fee plus 3% of $300 so $9.00 plus the $4.66 local ATM fee for a total of $18.66 to withdraw $300 or 6.22%. Talk about ridiculous!

Credit Unions usually charge less foreign transaction fees than traditional banks. Visa and Mastercard charge 1 - 2% which is generally just passed on to credit union members without a markup. Traditional banks on the other hand add even more fees.

My first time in Thailand I had a debit card that charged a 2% foreign transaction fee plus the ATM fees to withdraw money so I was paying 2% of $300 so $6.00 plus $4.66 ATM for a total of $10.66 for a 3.55% which is still really high when you do not have to pay anything!

Outside the USA credit card usage is not nearly as popular. Especially in less developed countries, credit cards or debit cards may not be accepted at all for point of sales transactions in most places. This makes withdrawing money from ATMs with debit cards necessary. Some people like to bring USD and exchange them once they arrive in the foreign country which is an option, but you will often pay currency exchanges a hefty spread of 1% - 10% for the service.

How much can the Charles Schwab Debit Card save you? I travel a lot. I will often withdraw $2,500 per month from ATMs.  This is very dependent on the country. Before I signed up for the Charles Schwab Debit Card I was paying about 3.5% in fees for my ATM withdrawals. On $2,500 of ATM withdrawals a month I saved $87.50 per month. This adds up!

There is also the added benefit of not being concerned about how much to withdraw from ATMs. If I do not pull enough the first time, I'll just find another ATM and withdraw more money no having to worry about paying more fees. I also do not have to withdraw as much cash each time to maximize the high cost local ATM fees. I'll be safer carrying less cash. I can also know that I received the most competitive exchange rate.

So if you are not sold yet on the Charles Schwab Debit Card you can get a free $100 bonus for signing up if you deposit $10,000 in the first 45 days. Not everybody can deposit that much, but if you are able to that is an extra 1% on your money. You this link to sign up for the $100 bonus.

Note: I signed up for Charles Schwab Debit Card a couple of weeks before my last international trip. You have to remember to transfer funds out of the brokerage account into the checking account before you will be mailed the debit card. When I added funds to the account they were deposited in the the brokerage account first.

FEES Charged by Different Financial Institutions

InstitutionFee Structure
ATM WithdrawalPOS Purchase
Ally Bank1% of amount1% of purchase
Bank of America$5 + 3% of amount3% of purchase
BB&T$5 + 3% of amount3% of purchase
BBVA Compass$2 + 1% of amount3% of purchase
BMO Harris Bank$2 + 3% of amount3% of purchase
Charles Schwab BankN/AN/A
Chase$5 + 3% of amount3% of purchase
Citibank$2 + 3% of amount3% of purchase
Citizens Bank$3 + 3% of amount3% of purchase
Comerica$5 + 3% of amount3% of purchase
EverBank1% of amount1% of purchase
Fifth Third$5 + 3% of amount3% of purchase
HSBC$2.50 + 3% of amount3% of purchase
Capital One 360N/AN/A
KeyBank$2.50 + 1% of amount1% of amount
M&T BankGreater of $5 or 3% of amount3% of purchase
PNC$53% of purchase
Regions$53% of purchase
SunTrust$5 + 3% of amount3% of purchase
TD Bank$3N/A
TIAA Direct$2 + 2% of amount2% of purchase
USAA$0* + 1% of amount
*Up to $15 of other banks’ charges refunded each month. No USAA fee for the first 10 withdrawals each month. $2 USAA fee applies to subsequent withdrawals.
1% of purchase
US Bank$2.50 + 3% of amount3% of purchase
Wells Fargo$53% of purchase
Credit Unions
Affinity Federal Credit Union$1.50 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
Alaska USA Federal Credit Union1% of amount1% of purchase
Alliant Credit Union1% of amount1% of purchase
America First Credit Union$1.50 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
Boeing Employees Credit Union (BECU)1% of amount1% of purchase
Desert Schools Federal Credit Union$21% of purchase
Digital Federal Credit Union$1.50 + 2% of amount2% of purchase
First Tech Federal Credit Union$2 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
Kinecta Federal Credit Union$1 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
Logix Federal Credit Union$1.95 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
Mountain America Credit Union$2.50 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
Municipal Credit Union$1.50 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
Navy Federal Credit Union$1 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
Northwest Federal Credit Union$1N/A
Patelco Credit Union$1.75 + 2% of amount2% of purchase
Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union (PSECU)1% of amount1% of purchase
Pentagon Federal Credit Union$1.50 + 2% of amount2% of purchase
Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union$1N/A
Redstone Federal Credit Union$1 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union$1 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
Security Service Federal Credit Union$1.50 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
SEFCU$1.25 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
Space Coast Credit Union$1.50 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
State Employees’ Credit Union$0.75 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union$1.50 + 1% of amount1% of purchase
The Golden 1 Credit Union$1.50 + 1% of amount1% of purchase

Last Minute Hotel Apps

The Last Minute Hotel Apps are a recent development in the travel world.  The phone apps release discount hotel rooms the morning of the hotel stay. So obviously very last minute. The cities included in these websites are limited to larger cities, but if the city you want to stay in is included you can get some really great deals last minute. You can often book more than one night.

Hotel Tonight

This is really the market leader in the last minute hotel room apps and the first one. The only way to view the hotel rooms available is to download the mobile app. Hotel Tonight has hotel offered in most major cities in the U.S.A and around the world. Their room offerings tend to be on higher end and thus fairly expensive. They advertise giving deep discounts from the regular rates. You are able to book more than one night but you have to include the current day in your booking. If you want to sign up you can use my referral code THILLYER1 and get a $25 credit. With the credit it could make sense to use it once.

Hotel Quickly

This is another mobile only app. The cities are restricted to Southeast Asia and Oceania only. Inlcuding Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Phillipines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Macau, Taiwan Australia, and New Zealand. They offer some really great rates. Much of the Southeast Asia is quite budget friendly. I found that with Hotel Quickly you could get a three star hotel for the price of a budget hotel. I saw rates for three star hotels as low as $12 USD. I'm headed for Southeast Asia later this year and I plan to use Hotel Quickly once I get there. Use promo code THILL to get $15 off your first hotel.


Another mobile only app. This app offers last minute hotels for Asia only. There are some good deals on hotels. I found that Hotel Quickly offers more budget friendly options than In2Nite, but there are a few budget friendly options on In2Nite as well. Some hotels in Bangkok were selling for $37 USD for a three star hotel. You can use my invite code to get $10 in free credit. Just enter this code after you download the app. inv-53968417d89c7


Hotel Tonight is the only App that is good for the US or any area outside of Southeast Asia and Oceania. If you plan to visit Southeast Asia, you can manage to stay in some very nice hotels for budget hostel prices.

Cash Back Portals: You Should be Using them for All Your Online Purchases

What are cash back portals?  They are shopping portals that offer cash back to the buyer just for linking to a particular site through the portal. It is as simple as that. Most portals offer 1% or more cashback for a large number of websites.

Before you make any purchase online including, hotels, rental cars, airline tickets, office supplies, sporting goods, anything; you should first go to both of the sites. Start by searching these sites for the retailer that you want to shop at and see which shopping portal offers the most cash back or points.
These sites will show you which portal is offering the best cash back. From there you can go to the particular cash back portal and search for the website that you want to shop at again. Link to the site through the cash back portal and save!

I was able to find 7% cashback at REI. I found 5% back from Walmart. 5% back for Target. Get 3% back at Amazon. Most web retailers will be included in shopping portals. It would be more surprising to find an online retailer that was not included on a cash back portal.

I stayed more than 100 nights in hotels and guesthouses in 2014. I saved a lot of money by using cash back portals to link to sites like and

There are a large number of cash back portals out there. Here is a list of the more popular cash back portals. To get yourself organized here are links to sign up. Once you sign up you can add your different accounts to Awardwallet to keep yourself organized. In fair disclosure, I do receive referral bonuses for some of the links.

BeFrugal  Earn $5 for Signing up
Ebates  Earn $10 Gift Card for Signing up with this link
Big Crumbs
Mr Rebates Sign up and get $5 after first purchase
Simply Best Coupons  $5 bonus on your first order

So to recap. Before you purchase anything online, first got to:
Find the cash back portal giving the highest cash back. Go to that particular cash back portal, sign up if you haven't already,and find the retailer you are looking for in the cash back portal. Link to your retailer through the cash back portal and save!

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment. I enjoy hearing from readers!

How I Find the Best Deals on Budget Hotels

In 2014 I spent more than 100 nights in different hotels and guest houses in five different countries. Most of these nights were in budget hotels and guesthouses. If you want to know how to find a good deal on a budget hotel or guesthouse when traveling I am somewhat of an expert in that area and I want to impart some of what I have learned and the methods that I use.

The internet has come along way in the last five years. When I first started traveling internationally in 2007 I would usually use my guidebook and walk door to door once I arrived in a city to find a guesthouse or hotel. Now you will find that even many of the small guesthouses are listed on hotel booking sites. As a result, I now almost always book ahead when traveling to a new city even when I am backpacking for extended periods of time.

The largest directory of hotels in the world with more than 507,000 hotels listed worldwide is I always include in my hotel searches. This is because it is one of the largest hotel booking sites with lots of reviews and includes most of the properties in the area with exception of a few hostels and AirBnB listings which I will get to later. The website also has one of the best property filters available so you can sort on geographic area within a city, price, review score, accommodation type, and many other factors.

The next site that I always include in my hotel searches is Hotels Combined. This site is very popular with people looking for mistake rates, but also includes results from all of the major hotel search engines as well as many smaller websites. Hotels Combined does a great job of  comparing the prices between different websites.

A third website that is still in Beta is called All the Rooms. This site is really growing on me as I only recently started to use it. This website claims itself as The World's Most Comprehensive Room Search Engine. This website also includes listings from AirBnB so you do not have to open that site separately if you use All the Rooms.

AirBnB has become very popular recently. On AirBnB you kind find individuals renting out there own spaces. This includes private rooms, studios, entire apartments and even houses. You can find some pretty great value on this site. I have used AirBnB one time when I went to Oktoberfest in Germany. My friends were staying in a hostel dorm room with 7 other people and paying 70 Euro a night per person. My girlfriend and I were able to find a private room with easy access to the event for 70 Euro for both of us. It worked out great!

If you are interested in checking out AirBnB use my referral link: AirBnB and you will get $25 off your first booking of $75 or more.

I generally start all my searches filtering on price. I do not necessarily stay in the cheapest place available, but it is a good starting point to know what the cheapest place available will get you and how much the cheapest place available costs. From there I look at reviews, location, amenities, etc.. To find the best place within my budget. If you utilize these sites, you will definitely find the best price for the hotel you are looking at. Another piece of advice is to go directly to the hotels website once you have identified your best option. I have found that in some cases the hotels website offers a cheaper rate than is posted on major hotel search engines. This is especially true of smaller hotels and guesthouses. 

The BEST Site for Organizing All of Your Miles and Points Accounts

One you really dive into the game of collecting miles and points you find yourself having to keep track of a large number of different miles and points accounts. Without question in my opinion the best site for organizing all of your miles and points accounts is Award WalletAward Wallet lets you add all of your frequent flier accounts as well as hotel points accounts in one spot. The site will securely store your passwords for retrieval just in case you forget them (which does happen on occasion). You can even add lesser known award programs to the site including many cash back portals. Pretty much every popular award program is supported. All the airlines, all the hotels, all the credit card points programs, etc...

Award Wallet even lets you track separately the miles and points program of your family or friends. I manage the frequent flier accounts for my family so I can see everyone's balances in one place.

There are a few airlines that will not allow their miles to be tracked on Award Wallet which include United Airlines and Southwest Airlines. This is only a minor hiccup and you can still add the balance manually so that you can still track your balance.

Sign up with my link and use promo code:  free-qjlgm   to get a free upgrade that adds more functionality to the site. Award Wallet is a must have for any miles and points collector.

If you have any topics you would like me to cover in the blog or other suggestions, please feel free to comment. I really enjoy getting feedback!

Currently the Most Used Credit Card in My Wallet

There are so many credit cards out there, and many of us have many credit cards that it can be difficult to chose which credit card to pull out of your wallet when the time comes. The credit card that I pull out of my wallet most frequently right now is the Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard card. This is my favorite card for every day spending. Why is that? Almost exclusively because it give what comes out to 2.22% back on all purchases. There is no other credit card out there right now that gives that much back on everyday purchases. Officially the Barclays Arrival card gives 2x points for all purchases. The points can be used as statement credit against any travel related purchases including hotels, flights, rental cars, and train tickets.

So if you purchase a $400 flight with your Barclays Arrival card you could redeem 40,000 points and receive a $400 statement credit. On top of that you receive a 10% refund on all points redeemed for travel. In this case you would receive 4,000 points back. When those 4,000 points are redeemed you would receive 400 points back. That what makes up the 2.22% return.

What also great is that you do not even need to buy the travel related items through the Barclays Portal. You can just purchase your flights from the airline or rental car comapany, etc... As long as the credit card purchase codes to travel you can use your points to redeem for statement credit.

So why am I using this card over my Chase Ink Bold credit card. The Chase Ink Bold is a great credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards points. Many travel hackers value Ultimate rewards points about 1.5 cents per mile. This isn't nearly as good as the Barclays Arrival card as this give 2.22 cents per mile for all purchases. If I am able to use my Chase Ink Bold for purchases in special categories like the 5x at office supply stores then the Chase Ink Bold is definitely the better choice because 5x  X 1.5 cents/mile = 7.5 cents per mile. But you can not get the category bonus on most of your everyday spending. That is why most of my purchases go to my Barclays Arrival card.

That isn't all! Sign up and get:

  • 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $89 annual fee waived for the first year

The App-O-Rama

So what is an App-O-Rama? An App-O-Rama is applying for multiple credit cards in a short period of time. The reason for this is because you receive a hard credit inquiry on your credit report every time you apply for a credit card. When you do an App-O-Rama you ensure that your credit score will reflect the highest score that it can for each application. If you apply for one credit card today, then apply for a second credit card tomorrow, your score will have decreased and a hard credit inquiry will show up on your credit report. There is some debate about how quickly hard credit inquiries show up on your credit report. This generally happens quite fast and hard credit inquiries may show up on your credit report in less than one hour. That is why it is important to submit all of your credit card applications in a very short period of time.

I usually have multiple browser tabs open and complete the applications together. When I finish, I submit all the applications almost simultaneously. Even if you have an excellent credit score, too many credit inquiries will result in declined credit card applications. So even if your credit score is 750, you could still be refused a credit card because you have too many hard credit inquiries in the last 90 days.

The strategy should be to apply for all credit cards in a short period of time, lets say within 15 minutes. Then you need to wait 90 days before apply for any other credit cards.

Credit card companies are concerned about recent hard credit inquiries because this shows that you have been pursuing new credit. Because you have done this recently, the new credit that you received may be showing up yet on your credit report. For this reason, even people with great credit scores will get declined for new credit if they have too many recent hard credit inquiries.

How many hard credit inquiries in the last 90 days is too many? This varies by banking institution. Sometimes just one other hard credit inquiry is sufficient to get you declined for a new credit inquiry. More than two hard credit inquiries is very likely to get you declined for a new credit card.

How many new credit cards can you apply for at one time? This will vary on the individual person. This depends on a host of factors including your credit score and ability to make minimum spending requirements. In general the maximum credit cards that you should be applying for at one time is one personal and one business credit card for each credit card issuer. This means that you could apply for one personal Chase credit card and one business Chase credit card, one Citi Personal credit card and one Citi Business credit card. Then you could also include two American Express credit cards. I have read of people applying for more than six credit cards, but I would not recommend it. I personally have never applied for more than four new credit cards at one time.

Keep following the blog. I will post a lot more great information on strategies for applying for credit cards.

If you have any specific questions, please leave a comment and I'm happy to respond.

How Does Applying for Credit Cards Affect Your Credit Score?

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. 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 - 7 points depending on the make up of your 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.

There are many strategies for how, when, which, and how many credit cards to sign up for at one time which I will discuss in more detail in a future post. 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!

When starting out in the miles and points game begin with just one or two credit cards for the first 3 months. 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. Keep following future posts, I and will discuss in detail best strategies for applying for new credit cards.

The Little Known Credit Card Every Alaskan Should Have

In my earlier post I discussed the Best Credit Card for Alaskans. This credit card was the Alaskan Airlines Visa Signature from Bank of America. Today I want to write about the little know British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card issued by Chase. Most people would think why would I want a British Airlines credit card if I live in Alaska where British Airways doesn't even fly to. The reason is that Alaska Airlines and British Airways are mileage partners allowing you to use your British Airlines Avios points to fly on Alaska Airlines flights.

This is not the only reason that you should own this credit card. Many intra state flights within Alaska cost only 4,500 Avios Points each way. That is significantly cheaper that the base award rate of 7,500 Alaska Airlines miles that Alaska Airlines charges for a one way intra state award.

British Airways Avios points work differently than many other airline reward programs in that British Airways Avios redemptions are base on a distance award chart. The Avios award chart says that you can book any flight less than 650 miles for 4,500 Avios points with British Airways partners. Because Alaska Airlines is a British Airway partner you can book many award flights within Alaska for just 4,500 Avios points. This includes route such as Anchorage to Juneau, Anchorage to Fairbanks, Anchorage to Bethel, Anchorage to Yakutat, and Juneau to any other Southeast Alaska town.

The next level is only 7,500 Avios for flights under 1151 miles. This includes routes such as Juneau to Seattle or Ketchikan to Seattle. Even a flight from Anchorage to Seattle only cost 10,000 Avios each way which is still 2,500 points less than Alaska Airlines charges for the same flight.  Check out the Avios Calculator to see how many points it will cost to get between your two cities.

The British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card give 50,000 Avios after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days of account opening which is an easy minimum spend for most of us to make. There is a $95 fee which is NOT waived for the first year, but these points are definitely worth the yearly fee for the first year. The card also comes with 2.5 Avios per $1 spent on British Airline tickets and 1.25 points per $1 spent on everything else. You can also enjoy no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.

With just the sign up bonus from this credit card you can get up to 9 free one way tickets on Alaska Airlines for intra state travel.

Best Credit Card for Alaskans

Living in Alaska we have limited options for which airlines service our state or our city. Many blogs advertise the Southwest Credit Card or the Virgin America credit card to their readers. These are great credit cards... if you live in an area serviced by one of these airlines. So what are the best credit cards for people living in Alaska?

I think it is probably just a gimme, but most Alaskan educated on the subject would suggest that the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card is the top credit card for Alaskans. Alaskan Airlines has the largest presence in Alaska with flights as far north as Barrow and as far south as Ketchikan This credit card offers:

  • 30,000 Alaska Airlines miles after first purchase
  • valuable $99 companion fare
  • 3x miles on Alaska Airlines purchases
  • $75 fee is NOT waived for the first year
Most of the offers publicly available are for only 25,000 miles so this offer is 5,000 miles greater. Yes, the $75 fee is not waived for the first year, but 25,000 miles is sufficient for a round trip domestic ticket. This is well worth the $75 fee.

The $99 companion ticket is also quite valuable. It works like this:

  • Works only flights on  Alaska Airlines flights only
  • Purchase one ticket and received the second for $99 plus tax
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card was my first credit card and I have kept it ever since. Some people find that they are not able to use the $99 companion ticket before the 1 year expiration date (you get a new $99 companion ticket every year you have the credit card).  I see that many people sell their Alaska Airlines companion ticket on craigslist. The going rate is around $175. A reminder that this practice is not completely legitimate from the perspective of Alaska Airlines, but many people do it.

So if you do not have this credit card already, you should definitely consider signing up!