Thursday, September 18, 2014

Club Carlson Visa- Great Card but "Meh" Bonus Points Promo

Other bloggers have covered the Club Carlson Visa Card extensively and I've previously covered it HERE, so I won't go into it in depth about the card in this post.  The signup bonus for the card is 85,000 points (approx. $4-500 value).  The card carries an annual fee of $75, but is offset by an annual 40,000 point ($200+ value) bonus on the renewal date.  The card also confers Gold status in Club Carlson's program and earns a respectable 5ppd on all spending.  Of course, as many other bloggers have noted, the card also carries one other killer benefit: the last night of any multi-night award stay is free.  For instance, I'm using the card to book two nights in a "business class" room at the Radisson Blu Zurich Airport, a booking that would ordinarily cost me around $800 or 150,000 points.  But since I have the card, it is only costing me 75,000 points. 

Club Carlson doesn't have the greatest mix of hotels, but the do have some pretty decent properties (generally Radisson Blu hotels in Europe) where you can get real value out of your points.  I'd recommend as a card to consider for anyone looking to diversify or planning a trip to Europe.  All three of the blogs on my sidebar will have links to the current best available signup offer.

All that said, I've had the card for more than a year and while I really like it, I'm consistently underwhelmed by  the promotions that US Bank (the card issuer) puts on for actually using the card for ordinary spending.  Today, I received a letter notifying me of a (targeted) bonus promising that I can "EARN 1 BONUS POINT PER DOLLAR SPEND THROUGH OCTOBER 31st."  Sounds great, right?  Well, in the smaller print, it turns out that the offer is more complicated.  You have to register first.  Then, you have to spend $2,600 dollars to trigger the additional 1ppd on the next $2,000 you spend before October 31st.  So, the bonus is really an extra 2,000 points for spending $4,600 dollars on the card.  That works out to a significantly less impressive 0.43ppd.  That's better than a kick in the teeth if you were already planning to spend that much on the card.  But if you weren't I'd hardly call it strong motivation to put nearly $5,000 spending on one card in 60 days.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Eine Kleine Götterdämmerung- Amazon Payments is Going Away

The single most lucrative manufactured spending opportunity ever was The Mint.  Many people netted millions of miles and points courtesy of the Golden Dollar boondoggle.  When The Mint shut down, it was if the world were ending.  Yet, people found new ways to meet spending requirements and earn miles cheaply.

Now word comes that we are about to lose another lucrative avenue for spending: Amazon Payments.  For years, Amazon has allowed users to make payments, up to $1,000 per month, with a credit card and has not charged a fee.  Though this wasn't an enormously lucrative opportunity, it was an extremely reliable way to meet spending requirements for new cards.  Over at One Mile at a Time, Lucky reports a change in Amazon Payments terms and conditions that signaled the demise of this opportunity, effective October 13.  This is bad news.

As Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying, "If something can't go on forever, it won't."  The free transfer option was a money loser and had to come to an end eventually.  But since no one knew when it would end, MS-oriented users had the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads for years.  Amazon Payments was a golden goose that laid reliably for years and almost no one wanted to kill it by abusing the system.  Consequently, many users refrained from having multiple accounts, sending money directly to themselves, or other practices that, being verboten under the Ts & Cs, could get their accounts shut down.  But, as Justice Marshall said, "The value of the Sword of Damocles is that it hangs - not that it drops."  This particular sword has dropped and, as a result, I predict a lot of misbehavior between now and October 13.

UPDATE:  Just reviewed the revised Terms.  This seems to be the operative language:



UPDATE to the UPDATE:

So, I looked at the old terms and conditions.



They provide the following with regard to personal accounts:


That's intriguing.  If I'm reading this right, personal accounts weren't supposed to be able to receive credit card payments prior to the October 13 update.  However, those with personal accounts have been able to do so.  It appears that the new language removes the right to receive any payments of any kind if you have a Personal Account.

I guess we'll have to wait until next month to see whether Amazon's coders can do what what Amazon's lawyers want done.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

EXPIRED- Delta Amex 50,000 mile offer

I'm a bit evangelistic about frequent flier miles, and often can't help butting into conversations about travel and offering advice.  Last night while waiting on a pizza, I briefly talked with a couple of folks about some of the better signup offers out there at present, one of those is Amex's current offer for the Delta Amex.  View from the Wing covers it HERE.

In short, Amex is currently offering a 50,000 Skymile signup bonus for getting their Gold Skymiles card and spending $1,000.  There's no annual fee for the first year.  The spend low enough that it could be covered either through normal spending, or you cold just knock it out with Amazon Payments.  Also noteworthy is the $50 statement credit for your first Delta Purchase.  As I mentioned HERE, that statement credit can be used to purchase a $50 Delta gift card.  So the offer is really 50,000 Skymiles + $50 in Delta Credit.

Now, this is what I consider a "dresser drawer" card.  The rewards for spending just aren't all that great at 1 Skymile per $1 spent.  Consequently, when I got this card some months ago (with the identical offer) I met the required spend, and promptly put the card away in favor of cards with better earn ratios.  Just my two cents.

UPDATE:  This deal has now expired.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Shop Small August - Miami

This is pretty brilliant:
Shop Small for Chocolate at DansDeals

A chocolate company in Miami is offering to make 3x$5 charges on each of your Amex cards to take advantage of Shop Small August.  Of course, it requires you to hand over your card numbers to a unknown merchant, so I don't think I'd recommend it.  Clever marketing all the same, as there are probably a good number of people in the audience of DansDeals that are likely to jump at the chance to get some chocolate compliments of Amex.

Note: This was a paid advertisement at DansDeals, a commercial site that promotes credit card signups, etc. I don't receive any compensation for sharing it, I just think it's clever marketing.

Friday, August 15, 2014

American Express - Shop Small August (limited markets... or is it?)

As much as I can love any credit card company, I love American Express.  Their well-known Small Business Saturday promotion was one of the most generous promotions out there for several years, offering a $25 statement credit per Amex card for purchases at small businesses on the last Saturday in November.  Though the promotion was scaled back to $10 per card last year it is still extraordinarily generous.

Amex runs similar, less known promotions throughout the year, usually focused on one town or event.  On Flyertalk, I learned that Amex is running a "Shop Small August" promotion that offers $5 statement credits for up three purchases of $5 or more at small businesses in Houston, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, or Sacramento.  Three beers per card at your local micro-brewery?  Three discounted sandwiches at your local lunch spot?  Just make sure each charge is run separately and its more free money from Amex.

One thing that Amex usually does very well is to develop useful websites to go along with their promotions.  The website for the promotion is here: Shop Small August. As of this posting, registration is still open.  So it's a no-brainer if you live in one of the featured cities.

Shop Small August
Too see where the credits are available, scroll down the page for a link to a map of qualified businesses in each city.

 screensave
 Interestingly, at least some airport locations are included in the list of qualified "small businesses."  For instance, Shipley Donuts and Famous Famiglia Pizza at IAH are both included.  Bizzarely, TACA airlines also appears on the list:
I'd assume that some airport locations in MIA, SNF, and MSP might also be on the list, so if you're transiting any of those airports before the end of august, this deal might be of some use to you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Credit Score Management

Credit card signup offers are the single easiest way to earn a large number of miles or points with little effort.  Personally, the majority of my miles come from manufactured spending, but in the past year Mrs. PointsNinja and I have gotten some really great card sign up bonuses:

  • Barclay Arrival Card -         40,000 points ($400)
  • Delta Amex -                         50,000 miles
  • United Explorer Visa -          50,000 miles
  • Lufthansa Visa -                     50,000 miles
  • AA Executive Mastercard - 100,000 miles
The key to being able to take advantage of bonuses like these is to maintain an "Excellent" credit score (generally above 760).  In talking with folks who are just getting interested in points & miles, I find that many have a misconception about the effect that new credit accounts have on their overall credit score.

Generally (Ed.: Really, really generally), your credit score is based on five factors:
  1. Your Payment History:  This is the big one, accounting for 35% of your score.  Obviously lenders are going to be interested in whether you're consistent about paying back what you owe.  Pay every month, on time, and you'll be in good shape.
  2. Credit Utilization:  This is another big one, accounting for 30% of your score.  This factor is made up of two parts.  First, the percentage of your available credit that you're currently using; i.e. if you have $100,000 in available credit across all your cards and your monthly balances amount to $25,000, you have 25% utilization.  Second, you percentage of available credit used in each individual account, i.e. a $1,000 balance of a card with a $2,000 limit is 50% utilization.
  3. The Length of Your Credit History: Now we're getting into the smaller factors.  The average age (older is better) of your accounts makes up 15% of your score.  This is a good reason to keep older cards, especially if they have no annual fee.
  4. Credit Mix: This is another small category, accounting for 10% of your score, that takes into account whether you have a mix of installment (e.g. mortgage) and revolving (e.g. credit card) accounts.
  5. New Accounts: The number of "new" (one year old or less) accounts in your credit file makes up the final 10% of your score.  These are generally tracked based on when the card issuer makes a "hard pull" of your credit file to gauge your creditworthiness.  Hard pulls generally stay on your credit file for 2 years, though they have a diminished weight as time goes on.
Applying for a new card can affect your score in several ways.  The new account can shorten the average length of your credit history and the inquiry will be appear as a "new account."  But, as a bit of an offset, the new credit line may actually decrease your credit utilization.

So what does all this mean?  Well, I'd say it means that you shouldn't be unduly worried about the effect that a new card will have on your score.  As a rule of thumb, expect that a new card application will result in a temporary (drop your score by 3-6 points.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hooray!

At One Mile at a Time this morning, I saw some of the best news I've heard in a while... relatively speaking.

Delta Eliminating Onboard Duty Free Sales

 I'm sure somebody buys that stuff, but I haven't the faintest idea why.  The last thing I want while trying to relax on a plane is some poor flight attendant trying to hawk overpriced booze, cigarettes, and perfume.  I'd rather shop in Skymall.