All You Need To Know About Southwest Companion Pass…

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Who doesn’t like Buy One Get One, especially an Airline Ticket?  This is what exactly a Southwest Companion pass means, a really lucrative benefit offered for the loyalty towards Southwest airlines.

What is Southwest Companion Pass?

Southwest Companion pass is a benefit offered by Southwest Airlines for its Rapid Rewards members. This benefit allows you to choose a person to fly with you at no airline cost (Taxes and fees have to paid for the companion ticket) when you purchase a ticket or redeem points for a flight.

How to qualify for Southwest Companion Pass?

To qualify for Southwest Companion pass, you need to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights on southwest or earn 110,00 qualifying rapid rewards points in a Calendar year. Companion pass will be valid for the following full calendar year plus the rest of the calendar year, which means if you could earn the companion pass during the start of calendar year, that will be close to 2 years of flying with the Buy One Get One (You will still have to pay the Taxes and fees for the companion)

Can you Change the name of the Companion?

Southwest allows you to change the name of the companion for up to 3 times during a calendar year. Note that you must fly along with the companion to be able to make the ticket free

How to earn Southwest Companion Pass?

Flying 100 qualifying one way flights on Southwest is a lot of flying and is not a possible feat for most folks. Thankfully, there are ways to earn 110,000 qualifying Rapid Reward points with a little effort

1. Southwest Credit Cards

Southwest co-branded credit cards offered by chase are probably the easiest way to earn Companion pass. The best part is Signup bonus and the regular spend on the card are counted towards the 110,000 rapid rewards points requirement for earning Southwest Companion pass.

Southwest

There are 4 versions of credit cards available

  1. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premium Credit Card
  2. Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit card
  3. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit card
  4. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

As on the day of writing this post, there is an increased signup bonus for all the 4 cards offering 60,000 points. With personal cards, you could earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening and earn an additional 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases within your first year.

With business credit card, you could earn 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Note that Chase allows only one personal and one business Southwest credit card per person. Southwest credit cards falls under the 05/24 rule, so use caution before applying for these cards. By signing up for one personal and one business credit card and completing the minimum spend requirement, you could earn enough points for a companion pass.

The potential challenge here is spending $12,000 to earn that 20,000 bonus points. But you could supplement with the other methods to earn the remaining points

Important Note: To maximize the Companion pass, you should aim at getting the companion pass as early as possible in 2019, so you could enjoy for the rest of 2019 and the full 2020. Ensure that you complete the minimum spending requirement on your credit cards, such that the signup bonus posts only in the new year – 2019.

2.  Referral bonus points for Southwest Credit cards:

Chase frequently runs promotions for referring your friends or family members to sign up for the Southwest credit cards. Referral points earned counts towards the Southwest Companion pass requirements.

3. Shop & Dine

Apart from the signup bonus from credit cards, regular spend on the credit cards & points earned through travel, you could also earn qualifying Rapid Rewards points through the Rapid Rewards shopping & Rapid Rewards Dining.

Rapid Rewards Shopping: Just like any portal, you could earn rapid rewards points for shopping at your merchants through the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal.

You could earn Rapid Rewards points at over 850+ stores and occasionally, there are bonus points offered.

Rapid Rewards Dining:     You dinner at your favorite restaurant could earn you Rapid Reward points.

  1. Enroll for Rapid Rewards Dining program
  2. Register up to 12 credit cards to track your purchases
  3. Locate Participating restaurants, dine and pay with one of the registered cards
  4. You could earn 3 points per dollar spent, as long as you opt in for email communications

Note that the points from Rapid Rewards Dining and Shopping may take up to 6 weeks to post to your account. Bonus points do not count towards the companion pass requirement.

3. 1-800 flowers

You could order gifts from  www.1800Flowers.com/rapidrewards and earn 1000 points for every order of $29.99 or more.

It may take up to 8 weeks for points to post to your account

4.  Home & Lifestyle

You could also earn Rapid Rewards Points with participating Home & Lifestyle partners. Note that these partners may change over time. At this time, you could earn points with the following partners.

NRG

Reliant

Makeitcount

 

Next Steps:

Once you met the requirements for the companion pass, you can login to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account and add a companion of your choice.

With in few days, you should get an envelope with your actual Companion pass

Note that a person can have only one companion pass. When you are ready to travel, you must book your reservation first and then add a companion by going to the “My Trips” tab or you can also call 1-800-248-4377 to complete the booking

Tips & Strategies:

You can change your companion up to 3 times in a calendar year. Note that, per the terms, it may take up to 21 days to process the companion change request.

You will not be able to add new companion, until all the travel with previous companion is complete. You could still book the ticket for yourself , but add new companion after completing the travel with previous companion

If you are a family of 4,  Wife and husband get companion pass each and add their kids as companions or  wife and husband could companion pass alternately and maximize the travel.

Conclusion:

Southwest Companion pass is arguably the best perk in the  travel industry. with a little planning and effort, one could get a companion pass valid for close to two years. With Companion pass, you just need to pay the taxes and fees for your companion – which is $5.60 for a one way ticket within USA.

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The counter-intuitive approach to Chase Sapphire cards

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By now, you would be aware that the Chase 5/24 rule has been extended to each of the Chase personal credit cards, including it’s co-branded cards.
 
In August 2018, Chase changed the sign-up bonus eligibility criteria for its Sapphire series of cards. Traditionally, you would be eligible for a new sign-up bonus on a Sapphire card after 24-month from your last Sapphire bonus. The Conventional path was something like this –
 
Conventional Chase path
Now, the current language states that one can only get a sign-up bonus for the Sapphire line of cards after 48 months from receipt of the first sign-up bonus. For most people in the hobby, 4 years is a long time to hold Ultimate Rewards without using them, since any form of points and miles almost always depreciate. We are also assuming that within these 4 years, you have become seasoned at the points and miles game and understand that the Sapphire Reserve card is something you cannot not have!
 
So, with the new sign-up bonus rules in place, I adopted a lesser known, counter-intuitive approach –
 
New Chase path
While the obvious difference is the missed sign-up bonus on the second card, I see it differently here; Chase would have only allowed me to get one sign-up bonus in 4 years. How would I maximize the value at the least cost?
 
First, I started out with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which helped me accumulate 50,000 sign-up bonus points, same as the Sapphire Reserve, but without any annual fee in the first year. I decided to get my account seasoned, deep dive into the hobby, understand the benefits of the CSP vs. CSR, and then when the annual fee hit for the second year, I simply upgraded my credit card from the Preferred to the Reserve.
 
So, same sign-up bonus, avoided annual fees for the first year, and landed in a better position to redeem all the accumulated Ultimate Rewards, albeit at a higher redemption rate of 1.5x (CSP redemption is at 1.25x). You also save end up saving a very important slot in the 5/24 rule since you are not applying for a new card. This becomes even more important now that Chase has started considering most of its personal credit cards under 5/24.
So if you try to redeem your Sign-Up bonus via the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal, here is how it looks with the two cards –
Redemption via Chase UR portal
 
By following my strategy, you will be able to save annual fees in the first year, and then hop on to a card which offers incredible premium benefits for an effective annual fee of $150 (after the $300 travel credit), or just $50 once every 4 years, if you choose to enroll for the Global Entry program and pay the fees using the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
 
Let me provide a more realistic view – If you are like me, casually trying to accumulate points and have only been in the hobby for a year or so, or are just starting out and intending to slowly build up your Ultimate Rewards points, here is how your points would look at the end of the year  –
Existing UR summary
The Sapphire Reserve (image, above) truly shines with a little over the 200,000 UR’s in my possession. After upgrading to the Reserve yesterday, here’s my redemption calculation –
Personal UR Redemption calculation
Yes, this simple upgrade increases the value of my points to more than the Annual Fees of this card, and it also offers me Priority Pass access (one trip a year is also worth it) and many more benefits!
Not Convinced Yet?
What are the factors holding you back from getting a Sapphire Reserve?
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Maximizing Credit Card Rewards: Meeting Minimum Spend, Category Bonus and Holiday gifts for friends and family, all for free!!!

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One rule all travel hackers in this hobby swear by is to spend the least amount of time and money possible to accumulate points. Over the last five months, members of our Facebook community (free and paid) have used a couple of websites to meet the minimum spend on their new cards, meet the 5% category bonus on cards like Discover IT, which has 5% cashback on all Amazon.com and Wholesale Clubs purchases from October – December 2018, accumulate tons of points, and save lot of money on household products they would’ve otherwise purchased. And with Christmas just around the corner, many members nabbed products that would make great and expensive gifts, all for free(or almost free). You can also donate them to a charity.

Ready to jump in?

The two resources we’ve been using are RebateKey (affiliate link) and Extreme Rebates (affiliate link). On these websites, you get product discounts ranging from 50%  ~ 100%. You must be wondering why? The simple answer is, a lot of sellers want to make sure that their product is highlighted on platforms like Amazon, eBay, Overstock, Groupon etc and the fastest way for a product to become popular is through higher sales and user feedback. By providing these discounted, and often free products which you purchase from, say, Amazon, their product gets more hits. The platforms above have different models, but in the end, you get all the benefits.

(1) RebateKey.com

This is perhaps the most polished version of a Rebate website, and most of us have received thousands of dollars in Rebate back. You simply look up the products listed on the website, purchase them at full price (no coupons to be applied), submit the order confirmation number within one hour, and after 35 days, you receive your money towards the order as a check from RebateKey. Yes, that’s it.

I received this check two weeks ago, worth $903.67, and I am all set with gifts for Thanksgiving, Return of the White Elephant, Christmas and also Diwali!

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 11.16.31 AM

It also provides a dashboard of all the checks you’ve received, and future payouts.

RebateKey only has three conditions, and none of them will break your bank –

  1. Buy product at full – price (Do not apply coupons, even if available on Amazon)
  2. Products cannot be resold
  3. Once you click the ‘Buy Product’ button, you have one hour to purchase the product and submit the order number.

How does the math work out?

With my Discover it card, I was able to earn a $75 cashback reward by spending $1,500 on Amazon (via RebateKey) this quarter. So basically, I earned $75 without spending a single cent after receiving my reimbursement check from Rebatekey!

Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 10.39.35 AM

You can make a better profit (5% cashback – no upper limit!) if you hold the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card by Chase  or the Amazon.com Store Card .

And by using almost any other card, you will accumulate at least 1 point/ $1, so yes, free miles! You could also consider buying Amazon giftcards from grocery stores if your local store offer fuel points ad save more money .

(2) ExtremeRebate.com

The other website we’ve been exploring is ExtremeRebate, which has a greater product range and feature set. A few items require you to write a review in exchange for a rebate, and the more reviews you write, the more products you can request from the website. The sellers also have some control over who they want to give out the product to, and if you have a blank Amazon public profile with no published review, sellers might refuse to send the product to you. Still, worth a try as you don’t pay for requesting products.

Similar to RebateKey, you make a purchase once the seller approves you to buy their product, and enter the order number to begin the rebate process. On the plus side, you receive a rebate within 7 business days of ordering a product. It’s important to note that ExtremeRebate sends the money via PayPal Business, so we bear a cost of 4.4% of the total rebate + 30 cents. Yes, there is a cost involved, but I’ve been able to buy products costing $200 in Home Depot for $9 from ExtremeRebate and receive the money within a week.

How did I maximize these two resources?

  • $75 cashback from Discover it (Earn $50 bonus by using this link) for spending $1500 at Amazon (Bonus Category Changes each quarter)
  • Use Amex Business card like Business blue that earns 2X MR points on first $50k each year or the Amazon Prime card for 3% rewards.
  • Saved $1200 on Holiday gifts and household items I would’ve otherwise spent money on.
  • Meet minimum spend on my AMEX Blue Business Preferred (10k MR sign-up bonus using the link) . This card is awesome as has no annual fees plus 0% introductory APR for 15 months and Chase will not count it towards 5/24 as it is a business card

Let’s get the ball rolling and score Free points and products!

Here are the links (affiliate) for you to get started with these groups –

Rebatekey

Extremerebates

Please consider using our Affiliate links, it helps us support the website and continue to bring such great tips and resources to you.

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Bonus Spending offer on AmeX Business Open Platinum upto 35k MR points

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After logging in I stumbled upon an offer to earn additional 35K Membership Rewards (MR) points after spending a total of $10k by 10/15/18. The term requires two tier spending – first $5k gets 25K points and the second $5k for additional 10k points. I think this is a  terrific offer to rack up some membership reward points. Combine this with some amazng ongoing Amex offers like 2X MR points at Best Buy, Staples, 10% off upto $100 max at several stores like Lowe’s, Staples you could really rack a lot of points and save money.

Direct Link to offer – https://amex.co/2LMFF23

 

amex biz registration

Caution – I would avoid purchasing any Visa giftcards as Amex has been known to shut  down accounts lately.

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Reader Success Story – Free (Almost) All-inclusive trip to Cancun and Hyatt Zilara Review

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Today on the blog we are featuring readers Renish and Anjali who are just back from Cancun using miles and points. There you go Anjali and Renish –

We recently took trip to Cancun, Mexico for 4 days 3 nights from May 19th -22nd and stayed at Hyatt Zilara Cancun- All Inclusive Adults Only Resort. I want to thank Amit for helping us plan this beautiful getaway, which was mostly paid for in points except the taxes for the flight (under $90 per person) and the taxi from and to the airport ($55).

Flights:

We booked our flights with Southwest using points and companion pass. Round trip nonstop from BWI to CUN costed us 17,628 points plus tax per person. All thanks to Southwest companion pass, all we paid was taxes for second person. We have been utilizing the companion pass a lot this year. This was our second trip since we got the companion pass and already planning the third trip. The companion pass can be earned by earning 110k Southwest Points in a calendar year. The sign-up bonus of 50k to 60k on each of the Southwest cards can help you score the companion pass.

20180519_075858

Top Cancun Shuttle:

After a lot of research, we booked our round trip private shuttle with Top Cancun Shuttle. It was $55 for round trip from CUN to Hyatt Zilara, which was cheaper since one-way trip was $35. Options for payment were to pay online through PayPal or pay upon arrival. We chose to pay through PayPal and received the confirmation right away in our email. Once reached at the airport, they were waiting for us with board with our name.

Cancun 3

The shuttle was equipped with AC and easily accommodate seven people. It was very comfortable and scenic drive of 30 minutes. On our way back to Airport from resort, they were right on time to pick us up.

Hyatt Zilara Cancun- All Inclusive Adults Only Resort:

We stayed at Hyatt Zilara Cancun- All Inclusive Adults Only Resort. Staying at Hyatt Zilara was the best decision. We looked at many all-inclusive resorts, but nothing could have beat the experience. One of the main deciding factor for us was that all the rooms at Zilara had balcony with ocean view and jacuzzi in the room. So, unlike other resorts we didn’t have to pay extra for the upgrade to get the ocean view/ balcony.

We booked Junior Suite King at Hyatt Zilara Cancun through Hyatt portal for 25,000 points/night. Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt is 1:1 point transfer, so we transferred 75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to book three nights. We earned a lot of Ultimate Rewards points by signing up for Chase cards like Chase Business Ink Preferred, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Plus Business cards.

We booked Junior Suite King at Hyatt Zilara Cancun through Hyatt portal for 25,000 points/night. Chase to Hyatt is 1:1 point transfer, so we transferred 75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to book three nights. The rooms can be booked only over the phone.

We had requested early check in and we got email to check in online 24hrs prior. It was helpful to check in online because our room was ready even before we reached the resort.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with welcome drink and refreshing cold towel and then guided to front desk for check-in. Upon check-in, we were provided with schedule of activities and map of resort. Also, we were given opportunity to make reservation to restaurant where required. We went ahead and reserved our spot for Teppanyaki at Asiana Restaurant, which is the only restaurant that requires reservation. All the other restaurants are walk ins and first come first serve basis.

Bar & Lounge:

The drink quality at all the bars were top notch and menu were different at each bar. We utilized Tradewinds and Lobby Bar the most. Tradewind was swim-up bar, which was main bar at the infinity pool. They had so many different types drink on menu and the bartenders made amazing drinks. Lobby bar was used mostly in the evening and night to hangout after dinner. It was the best place to sit down with coffee from the Coffee House or grab few drinks. We recommend tipping the bar tenders and servers every few drinks.

Also, I would highly recommend not to miss their Foam Pool Party, which was very different experience.

24hr. Lounge:

The lounge was stocked 24hrs with snack and drinks. The alcoholic drinks were served until 2am.

Restaurants & Room Service:

cancun 18

Food at all the restaurants and even room service was excellent.

Maria Marie:

Contemporary Mexican Cuisine. It was different and new twist to all the food that we tried. If you don’t have anything from this restaurant, this desert is must have. Tequila Borachito!

Asiana Restaurant:

You should reserve your spot for Teppanyaky. The experience was great, but don’t expect it to be extraordinary. Being Vegetarian, there weren’t much options but the food we were served was good.

Teppanyaki Restaurant:

We enjoyed the sit in restaurant more because there were so many options. If you are vegetarian, then I would recommend the restaurant more than teppanyaki. The food was delicious and vegetarian options were good.

Spice:

This is a buffet restaurant and they had various cuisine for all meals. The menu changed every day and for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, they also had different themes every day.

Coffee House:

Your go to place for coffees and deserts all day long.

Room Service:

Room service menu was different for breakfast, lunch/dinner, and late night. We could order the room service as soon as we checked in the room and the service was available 24hrs.

We stayed and explored resort for our whole stay. The experience was worth every penny and points that we used. If you are planning trip to Cancun and just want to relax and enjoy the view, this is the best choice you can make. The resort is even more beautiful in person, you have to be there to experience it all.

The total cost out of pocket for the entire trip was under $200 for two people that otherwise could have easily costed us couple thousand dollars. We can’t thank Amit and Credit Card 101 community enough to help us plan this getaway. Credit Card 101 rocks!!

 

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Freebie Friday – Your weekly guide for making and saving money

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It’s Friday and we are back with out weekly guide to help you save or make money. I just placed order for $400 in groceries using  SHIPT on-demand grocery delivery service and saved $200 using Amex offers which is a whooping 50% off so super excited.

  1. Sign-up  with SHIPT and get at least $20 in free groceries when you use this link. I had my wife refer me so on my first order not only I saved $20 but an additional $50 as I had Amex offers on  several credit cards for $50 off $100 order so  got groceries for 70% off!! Check all your Amex cards and see if you have been targeted for this offer. Amex offers have saved me several thousands in the last few years where we have been able to source all kind of things from discounted giftcards, free wines, savings on gas and much more. Also, for SHIPT I chose the annual billing plan where my first two weeks are free and can cancel anytime. So I did not have to pay any delivery fees as well. Act fast as this Amex offer ends in 3 days. Make sure you add the offer to the card before using it for transaction.

SHIPT

2. BOGO at IHOP – IHOP is offering offering Buy One Entree Get One Free when you text IHOP to 888111 for a mobile coupon valid at participating locations. Coupon expires after 7 days. Not valid w/ any other offers. Limit one coupon per table. Don’t forget to purchase discounted IHOP giftcards from websites like Raise to save even more.

3. HSBC bank upto $750 in sign-up bonus with new checking account and qualifying activities. The $350 offer seems doable. Remember with bank bonuses they will issue you a 1099-INT so you will have to pa taxes on any earnings as they are accounted as interest. Still some easy money to be made.

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Can you possibly avoid a Chase shutdown?

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Since beginning of 2018 Chase has been notorious in shutting down accounts without any warnings. The latest report is from this thread on Reddit where a user was shutdown without any warning and he only found out after his transactions on Chase Sapphire Reserve card were getting rejected.  There have been random data points all across the board as to what triggers shutdown but still no definite answer. Some shutdowns were obvious (too many cards in last six months) but others have no  backbone whatsoever.

lpl-tech-frustration-772x485

One of the admins of Credit Card 101 had Chase shutdown all his accounts. He barely does any manufactured spending , applies for may be one or may be two cards in a year and has a stellar credit history with a credit score in 800’s. The Chase shutdown not only impacted his relationship with Chase but he was asked to submit financial documents from other bank as a result of nasty remark Chase left  on his credit report after closing his accounts – ” Account closed due to unsatisfactory relationship” whch obviously was not true . He eventually went through a long tedious process with Chase to reinstate all his accounts after a secondary review.

I have three business  and six personal credit cards open with Chase. These cards have allowed us to take some really fancy vacations around the world and I would be shattered if I had to ever face a Chase shutdown . Here are some steps I plan and suggest what others may consider although no guarantee this could help but are more of commonsense steps than anything else.

  1. If you are just starting off GO SLOW. This is a marathon not a sprint. I would limit myself to applying no more than three cards with Chase in the first year. In the past it was a different story. I personally applied for five to six Chase cards in a year but this was back in 2013 when things were “very” different.
  2. Try to keep total inquiries  on all three credit reports below six in the last six months. Chase (and other banks) often conduct a soft pull on your credit report every few months. If they notice a large number of inquires on your report it raises  red flags.
  3. Try consolidating your credit limits especially on Personal credit cards. Chase is extremely generous when it comes to extending credit card limit. I plan to cancel my Disney Credit card  that I barely use and reduce my credit limit by almost 30% across all Chase accounts from where it is today. Make sure to never cancel your oldest credit card it has the greatest impact on your score (length of credit /average age of credit).
  4. Do not apply for the same card second time you’ve previously received a sign-up bonus with Chase. I have personally applied for the British Airways Card twice in the last four years each time they offered 100K sign up bonus. Chase requires you to wait two years from the time bonus was earned on similar product. My last card with Chase was the Marriott Business card. I was planning to get one of the newly launched Avios card for 100K sign up but not going to apply for any more Chase cards till the dust settles.
  5. Keep manufactured spending to a minimum. Lately Office Depot/Max and Staples offered extremely lucrative deals on purchase of visa giftcards. If you have a 5X Ultimate Rewards earning card like the old Ink plus Business or Ink Business cash avoid maximizing the 5X category in a short period of time (under six month). I’d spread  transactions across other cards and banks to take advantage of these offers.
  6. Don’t call Chase to negotiate annual fees. I am quite proactive when it comes to negotiating annual credit card fees to see if banks have any retention offers especially with Citibank and American Express. I have not called Chase asking for any retention offers for the last two years. This possibly stands true today because last thing you want is a pair of eyes looking at all your accounts and spending habits triggered by your desire to waive $95 annual fees. Plus its OK for Chase to make some money from me as well especially for someone who never carries any balance. Today I pay annual fees on Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450), IHG ($89), Marriott Personal and Business ($95, $99). Each card offers some terrific benefits  that easily outweighs the annual fees.
  7. Do not add more than one authorized user on your card at any given time and only add people who you could trust. A recent shutdown from Chase was triggered when someone added both their in-laws at the same time (go figure). If you are adding an authorized user do not provide their SSN to Chase as it is not needed.
  8. Keep your credit utilization on personal cards under 20% and most preferably under 10%. This is a good article to read on bust out fraud basically a white paper from Experian that draws a nice correlation between a lot of factors. Banks lost millions if not billions when people where declaring bankruptcy left right center in late 2000’s after racking up tremendous credit card debt. If they see your utilization is going up from what your normal spending pattern is they may consider you as a high risk customer and shut you down.
  9. Keep credit card applications with other banks to a minimum as well. For someone starting of I’d recommend to not get more than six personal credit cards in any given year.
  10. Develop a banking relationship with Chase and do a direct deposit with them if it makes sense. Having some money in savings with Chase could  help you establish as a “good” customer.

Again these are just a few precautionary steps that may  help to avoid a Chase shutdown and its better to be safe than sorry! Feel free to add anything else you know has or could triggered shutdown.

Freebie Friday – Weekly guide to making and saving money

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We will publish some easy money saving and making deals each Friday –

  1. SunTrust Bank $250/$500 Checking Account Bonus Promotion

SunTrust bank is offering up to $500 when you open a new qualifying personal checking account and complete the following steps –

  • Deposit at least $100 within 14 days of account opening.
  • Complete at least $2,000 in Direct Deposits* for a Signature Advantage account, or $1,000 for a Select Checking account, within 60 days of your account opening
  • Conduct at least 10 debit card purchases** within 60 days of account opening
  • Make sure to use promo code Q218CHECKINGOL
  • Bank will issue you a 1099-INT end of the year so you will be responsible to pay taxes on bonus but still easy money.

This offer is available only to U.S. Residents with a U.S. Address in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia

Here is direct link to the offer – SunTrust Bank $250/$500 Checking Account Bonus Promotion

2. Redbox offers a 1-Night Video Game Rental for Free. Valid for online reservations only. Add a game to your cart and during checkout it will deduct the price. Some exclusions may apply. Valid through 5/21/18.

3. Spotify.com is offering an Introductory Trial PromotionGet 3-Months of Spotify Premium for $0.99. If you have subscribed to the Premium or Unlimited service or have taken a 30-day free trial offer or 60-day free trial offer previously, you are ineligible for this introductory trial offer. This is a trial and after your first 3 months, you will be charged full price unless you cancel here

4. American Express via Amex Offers.com is offering select American Express Cardholders: $15 Statement Credit w/ Purchase of $30 or More on one or more transaction at Sams Club.com. Offer valid through June 14, 2018 or while promotion last.

Note, offer availability will vary by cardholder. Be sure to login to your American Express account to see if you’re eligible/qualified to activate the offer on your card. .

Plastiq.com Overview

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In the various forums, groups, blogs, and articles out there revolving around the world of points and miles, Plastiq is often mentioned as one of the tools that can allow an individual to pay a bill with a credit card.  In this post, I’m going to go over the basics of Plastiq, some considerations, and some additional tips on earning extra points through using this service.

plastiq1

What is Plastiq?

Plastiq is a company founded by two college students who in their words “believed that making a payment as important as tuition should be as simple as buying a coffee.”  The website launched in 2015 and since then millions of users have been making monthly payments covering everything from rent, utilities, mortgages, and phone bills to paying for a variety of additional services like contracting and landscaping, as well as the purchasing of goods.

This is done through simply creating an account with Plastiq and entering various credit cards and the billing information of institutions that need to be paid.  Bills can be scheduled in advance or paid immediately.  The overall process is quite simple and while Plastiq often offers promotional deals, the standard fee applied is 2.5%.  Plastiq will charge your credit card and then cut a check (or send an ACH payment) on your behalf.

Why use Plastiq?

For anyone that is hooked into the points game there is this pain felt anytime something is paid for and points are not earned.  One of the most common areas for this (and most individuals’ single largest monthly expenditure) is the home mortgage.  By being able to pay these kinds of bills with a credit card, no longer are these valuable points being left on the table.

What limitations exist?

Just because Plastiq enables the ability to pay virtually any bill doesn’t mean that it is a free-for-all without restrictions.  Currently Plastiq notes that the following payments are not allowed:

  • Payments to friends/family (note that payments for legitimate services from a business run by a friend/family member are fine)
  • Deposits into retirement accounts or other savings plans
  • Payments to be sent outside of the US or Canada
  • Credit card statements

Another item to note is that on occasion Plastiq will require verification of a legitimate recipient.  This issue came up for me when I entered the name of an individual for payment.  This individual has a construction business that is just his name and he had done work on my roof.  I received an e-mail from Plastiq asking for an invoice and I provided the invoice and resolved the issue in under 24 hours.  I have had tenants pay me via Plastiq and they provided a copy of a lease and they too had the issue resolved in under 24 hours.

Plastiq allows Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover to be used on the site, but while Mastercard and Discover can be used for any type of payment, Visa and American Express have the following restrictions:

Visa: can be used for any payee with the sole exception of mortgages

American Express: can be used on the following payee types (from Plastiq’s website) – “Government, Utilities, Education, Residential Rent and Club Fees and Memberships”

Fees and Spend Coding

The overall fee is 2.5% for credit cards and 1% for debit cards.  While I wouldn’t recommend using a debit card on Plastiq, do note that the fee is lower.  Visa, Mastercard, and Amex gift cards CAN be used to pay bills and are treated as credit cards and charged the 2.5% fee.  Occasionally Plastiq offers discounts for specific card types or bill types or for scheduling payments in advance.  Taking advantage of these promotions can add up to a decent amount of savings.

A lot of people ask how these payments code on credit cards (are there category bonus opportunities) and currently I see the payments coding on my cards as “Utilities.”  Up until earlier this month the Citi AT&T Access More was coding as 3x, but that seems to have fallen off.  At this point, it COULD be reinstated, but I’d personally bet against that.

Plastiq also offers a referral bonus program where users can refer others and earn $1,000 fee-free dollars for themselves and $500 fee-free dollars for the new user.

Maximizing Value

Folks that are newer to the points and miles game might look at a 2.5% fee and view that as a losing proposition up against a card only earning 1 or 2x on the transaction.  Like most things in this world, “it depends.”  If you are using a straight cash back card, then yes, you are absolutely losing money.  In this instance, avoid using Plastiq.

However, for cards that earn airline or transferable points, even a 1x earn rate can be lucrative if you are able to redeem those points for greater than $0.025 each.  Many premium cabin redemptions using Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, SPG, or Thank You points can easily top $0.10 per point.  Another consideration is using Plastiq to hit the spend necessary to trigger the sign-up bonus.  This is a great way to knock out an extra thousand dollars that would otherwise be inaccessible to hitting the credit card.

Lastly, my favorite way to utilize Plastiq is to pay bills by liquidating gift cards.  I purchase gift cards using my Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Cash at office supply stores in order to earn 5x points and thus am effectively earning 5x on the payment of a mortgage.

Hypothetical Annual Earning 

Looking at monthly expenses that can’t typically be paid by credit card, we can get a sense of the value that Plastiq can add.

 Expense Monthly Amount
Mortgage/Rent $1,500
Utilities $250
Car Payment $400

This comes to a monthly total of $2,150, which on an annual basis can give you the following based on these respective earn rates:

1x : 25,800

2x : 51,600

3x : 77,400

5x : 129,000

At 2.5% in fees on $2,150 per month, the annual total in fees is $645.  The ability to purchase 5x gift cards at break-even or even negative cost can greatly bulk up that earning power and with close to 130K in points just from paying bills is enough for a first class ticket anywhere in the world.

Bottom Line

Plastiq is a great option to pay bills on a wide range of services and also offers a very reasonable fee for the service.  This can allow for a boost to the monthly points accrual, creating significant value provided solid redemptions are made.  One thing to remember is that while Plastiq does offer reasonable fees, there are some specialized payment services that do beat them.  For example, I had been paying my power bill via Plastiq until I realized that my power company charges a flat $1.65 to pay direct on their website (up to $1000 per payment).  As always, do your homework and know that Plastiq is a great additional tool to have in your points earning arsenal.

In the interest of full disclosure, we will earn a referral bonus for anyone that is approved from the link above.  These are publicly available offers and all claims made in this post as of the posting date can be found in the offer language for the card.  We only provide the best publicly available offers and thank you for your continued support.

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Act Fast: 35K SPG Business Amex Sign-Up Bonus until 3/28

One of my favorite credit cards, the SPG Business credit card from American Express is offering an extremely generous sign-up bonus of 35,000 points if you apply through March 28, 2018.

The required spend is $7,000 within three months, so including the bonus, you’d be sitting on (at a minimum) 42,000 points.

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Why should you get this card?

  • SPG points are some of the most valuable transferable points available. They partner with over 30 airlines and offer a 25% transfer bonus when transferring 20,000 points.
  • We know that Marriott has acquired SPG. We know that American Express will continue to issue business cards.  We don’t know however, how the SPG and Marriott programs will be combined.  We also don’t know when this specific card will stop being issued.  In my opinion, get it sooner rather than later.
  • It will NOT count against Chase 5/24 rule as this is a business card (although you don’t need to have a business to get the card).
  • You get multiple perks:
    1. Sheraton Club Lounge access any time you stay at a Sheraton property (regardless of if you pay using this card). While the lounges vary in quality – they always offer a hot breakfast, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and complementary beverages.  Overseas they can offer some exquisite spreads and sometimes have free alcohol.
    2. Two elite qualifying stays and five elite qualifying nights towards status each year
    3. Unlimited Boingo WiFi
    4. Complimentary in-room premium internet access
  • The $95 fee is waived for the first year.
  • On the low end, the bonus of 35,000 points is worth ~$800

While this is a great bonus offer, the value of SPG points makes this card my go to for all my non-bonused spend.  You might as well get it while the bonus is hot and make it part of your suite of credit cards.  Last year I was able to redeem 40,000 SPG points for 50,000 Alaska MileagePlan miles which I then used to book a Cathay Pacific business class flight from JFK – HKG – MLE with a 10 day stopover in Hong Kong.  This flight priced out at $5,623.34 giving me a per point value on my SPG points of ~$0.14.  It is redemptions such as this that make the Amex SPG Business card one of my favorite credit cards currently available.

To apply, click here: Apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card

 

In the interest of full disclosure, we will earn a referral bonus for anyone that is approved from the link above.  These are publicly available offers and all claims made in this post as of the posting date can be found in the offer language for the card.  We only provide the best publicly available offers and thank you for your continued support.