Saturday, August 23, 2014

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.

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.

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 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.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Manufactured Spending- OneVanilla Prepaid

If you have a CVS nearby, OneVanilla Prepaid debit cards have long been the best option for generating spend with the giftcard-->money order-->bank method of manufactured spending.  The became slightly less valuable a while back when Sam Walton's chain of stores stopped recognizing OneVanilla cards as debit cards.  This meant that OVs could no longer be used to fund Bluebird cards or to purchase money orders.  Well, the door has cracked open again, because Wally World's self-service moneycenter kiosks are now recognizing OVs as debit cards.  FWIW, actual Money Center registers still treat OVs as credit cards.

UPDATE:  Reports of glitchiness today on Flyertalk.  I had the same issues that some Flyertalkers have mentioned: some OVs work, some are rejected as "debit unavailable."  No idea why that is.

UPDATED UPDATE: Still Glitchy.  Enough so, that I'll be letting this window of opportunity pass by unless I hear reports that things are improving.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Taxi Green - Lima

It recently came to my attention that I never got around to reviewing Taxi Green, the taxi company that Mrs. Pointsninja and I employed on our trip to Lima last fall.  Our experience with them was excellent, and I thought I'd take the chance to remedy my lapse. 

As Ben recently noted, taxi scams that exploit tourists are one of the dangers of international travel, and Lima is one of those cities that has a bad reputation in this area.  So, it was with some trepidation that I began researching transportation options.  The consensus seemed to be that Taxi Green was the best choice for getting from the airport into Miraflores.  They have a stand inside the airport just before the exit, though you'll likely be approached by one of their drivers before you get to it.  The stand has a list of the set prices to various parts of Lima.  As I recall the fare to Miraflores was 45 soles (about $16).  You could probably do a little better by exiting the airport and negotiating, but it's just not worth it to save a couple of bucks in my opinion.

Regardless, our driver got us to the Hilton with no trouble.  The route is kind of interesting as you descend from the plateau that most of Lima sits on to the highway that runs along the coast.  On one side the Pacific stretches away, and on the other sheer cliffs of stone aggregate hem you in.  Once you get to Miraflores you wind your way back up the cliff. 

Where Taxi Green really shone, though, was on our return when we ended up with an unexpected 12 hour layover in Lima.  We decided to check our bags and venture into the old town to see the Plaza de Armas.  Once again we took Taxi Green for a set price.  On our way into town, our very friendly driver mentioned that the traffic would be heavy due to a visit by the President of Brazil.  Security for the visit also meant that he would have to drop us off just outside the square.

As we approached the square, our driver asked how we planned to get back to the airport.  Well, since this was an unplanned excursion, I hadn't really thought about it.  He offered to meet us in front of the Cathedral a few hours later and drive us back to the airport at the same rate as the trip out.  That suited me just fine.  As we were getting out of the cab he handed us his card and reiterated that he'd meet us at the Cathedral at 18:30. 

It was at this point that something shocking happened.  Mrs. Pointsninja (who has better Spanish than I) asked if he'd like us to go ahead and pay and he said "No, you can pay me later."  I'll admit, I was astonished.  Perhaps it was his way of making us feel obliged to show up for the return trip, but I was floored.  Given the nightmare that is Peru traffic, and particularly considering the security issues surrounding  a presidential visit, I really didn't expect to ever see our driver again.  As he departed with a friendly wave, I said as much to my wife.

Still, after a great afternoon hanging out in Lima's El Centro, we made our way to the steps of the Cathedral, still speculating over whether our driver would actually show up.  Sure enough, he pulled up at 18:30 on the dot.  Despite some truly nightmarish traffic on the way back to the airport, he got us there in time for our flight.  In all, I would not hesitate to recommend Taxi Green if you're planning a trip to Lima.