Tuesday, March 12, 2013

American Airlines Contest

FYI:  American is running a Facebook contest Here.  First prize is 100,000 AA miles.  Also offered are GoGo wifi passes and 100 mile prizes.  Naturally, I won the 100  mile prize.

(HT: Gary)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

GOES Global Entry- Thank you Amex

Just recently I was approved for Global Entry after applying online and completing the in-person interview.  Global Entry is Customs and Border Protections "trusted traveler" program that provides "expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States."  In essence it allows pre-screened travelers to bypass long lines by using an electronic kiosk to clear customs and immigration.  Global Entry applications cost $100 and are valid for 5 years.

You start by opening a GOES account at the link above.  The site guides you through the process and at the end you select Global Entry as the program you're signing up for.  At that point you are prompted to pay the $100 fee that covers your application and membership for five years.  There is no refund if you are not approved for some reason.  Amex Platinum will reimburse you for one Global Entry application a year.  In my case the statement credit showed up 2 or 3 days after the payment posted.

After submitting the initial application you'll be notified by e-mail if you are "conditionally approved."  At this point you'll have to schedule an in-person interview at one of their enrollment centers.  Interviews are held during business hours on weekdays.  The interview covered my criminal history (happily old and extremely trivial) and included having a photograph taken for the Global Entry card and being fingerprinted.  From what I understand, even a misdemeanor arrest could result in disqualification if it occurred in the last ten years.

I was pleased with the efficiency of the CBP officer who conducted the interview.  After arriving early, I was called in before the scheduled time for my interview and didn't have to wait around.   The e-mail notification of my final approval arrived shortly after leaving the interview.

The first use of my newest "status" card will come during an upcoming trip to Ireland.  I'm really looking forward to dodging the long queue for immigration!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Amex Business OPEN Savings- Change to T&Cs

I logged into Amex today to check up on an OfficeMax purchase that I made with my Amex Business Platinum card.  As you may know, Amex OPEN offers 10% cashback on all purchases over $250 at OfficeMax.com.  Usually the credits post automatically a few days after the purchase.  Well, in this instance it didn't, so I decided to make sure that T&Cs of the OPEN savings program hadn't changed.

Well, they have.  But not necessarily for the worse.  Here are the new T&Cs for OfficeMax:

Automatically get up to a 10% discount OR up to 4 additional Membership Rewards® points for each dollar spent on eligible purchases at OfficeMax®.com
Get rewarded on office supplies, ink and toner, furniture, technology products and more. Use your Business Card from American Express OPEN on eligible purchases at OfficeMax.com and automatically get a 5% discount credited to your American Express statement or get 2 additional Membership Rewards points on every dollar spent of $250 or less and 10% or 4 additional points on every dollar spent more than $250.

So.  More options are usually better, but I'd have a pretty hard time choosing 4 MR points over 10% cashback.  That's valuing the MR points at 2.5CPP, which is about a penny too high in my estimation.  I haven't figured out how to "choose" the cashback yet, but I've sent in a Secure Message to find out.  I'll update this post with the answer.


I received a response to my SM.  Here's the relevant portion:

"Yes, you are absolutely right! You can get up to 4 additional Membership Rewards points for each dollar spent on eligible purchases at OfficeMax.com.

As of February 22, 2013 OPEN MR enrolled accounts will have the option of selecting their OPEN Savings currency preference of additional Membership Rewards points or discount (statement credit). Cardmembers will be notified of the change in the April 2013 - Changes to the Cardmember Agreement.

Use a Business Card from American Express OPEN on eligible purchases at OfficeMax.com and automatically get the following:

- 2 additional Membership Rewards points on every purchase of $250.00 or less 
- 4 additional points on every purchase more than $250.00

However, I assure you that you will continue to receive statement credits (up to 10%) unless you switch to the Membership Rewards option. 

It looks like Amex is changing things up a bit with cashback remaining the default.  Bonus MR points are bound to be better for their bottom line than cash discounts, so we'll see how long that lasts.  At least the discounts aren't going away just yet.  Losing them would be a serious blow to the Amex business program.