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Did everyone survive the cold yesterday? I decided to work from home, but Ken braved the cold (including waiting for the bus!) in the frigid temperatures. It gave him a good excuse to try out his new coat and long underwear we purchased for our trip to Russia next month!
Last month, when temperatures were much warmer, I made an impulse decision to do a new credit card app-o-rama (AOR) before the new year. What brought on this impulse?
Well, we met the minimum spending requirements for Ken’s September AOR sooner than I expected, so adding some new minimum spending amounts wouldn’t add any problems. Then there was the unexpected increased sign up bonus for the Chase Freedom card. Plus, I’ve depleted some of my travel points and miles reserves (like my Chase Ultimate Rewards points thanks to our awesome weekend in NYC and highly anticipated stay at the Ararat Park Hyatt in Moscow), but I’m swimming in other points (Hello 200,000+ AmEx Membership Rewards points and 140,000 AAdvantage miles). So, I’ve decided to diversify my approach a bit.
I decided to do something sacrilege in the miles and points earning world.
I am incorporating some cash back credit cards into the mix. (Gasp!)
Now, by “some” cash back credit cards, I mean one. And because I can’t just apply for one credit card in a single day, I applied for three others which are mostly travel focused.
AmEx Blue Cash Preferred. I opted for this cashback credit card because I spend an ungodly amount of money at the grocery store, especially just for a family of two. I like to cook, I frequently try new recipes with ingredients lists a mile long, and I’m terrible at shopping the sales. So, I decided to add some benefit to my out-of-control grocery spending. The AmEx Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% cash back on up to $6000 annually at grocery stores. This card also offers 3% cash back on gas and at select department stores. While I will probably use this card for getting gas, I spend very little on gas because I commute to work using public transportation. So this is now my go-to card for grocery store shopping. We bought several gift cards as Christmas presents at the grocery store using this card, earning us 6% cash back as well.
Here are the details at the time of my application:
- Bonus: $100 Cash Back after spending $1000 in the first three months
- Approval Details: Immediately approved with a $17,000 credit line
Chase Freedom Visa. At the end of November, Chase announced a temporary increased signup bonus of 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points (or $200 cash back) instead of its normal 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points (or $100 cash back). I’ve been wanting to add this card to my arsenal for a while. I like its 5% cash back rotating categories for each quarter, which can really help supplement my Chase Ultimate Rewards points balances! I was a bit worried applying for this card, because I had been declined for a Chase AirTran A+ Rewards business visa back in July (apparently Chase didn’t like me applying for a personal and business card in the same day. I was approved for the AirTran personal card, but not the business). So I thought they might decline me again for trying for another Chase card just over four months since my last approval (and decline). But I was approved with no problem.
- Bonus: 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $500 in the first three months
- Approval Details: Immediately approved with a $22,000 credit line.
Hilton HHonors Reserve Card. With many recent devaluations in the miles and points earning world, I’ve come to value cards that offer flat out “free nights” that don’t require a certain number of points to redeem. The Hilton HHonors Reserve card does just that. It offers two free weekend night certificates at pretty much all Hilton properties. I was very impressed that the list of excluded properties is quite small, considering how many Hilton properties there are around the world.
I’ve been itching for a trip to Key West, so I think redeeming our stay certificates at the Waldorf Astoria property in Key West, Casa Marina, might be in order some time this year! For reference, that hotel would cost us at least 60,000 points per night, so the “flat rate” option of the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card weekend stay certificates are great in these scenarios!
- Bonus: Two free weekend nights after spending $2500 in the first four months
- Approval Details: Received a “pending decision” message. I do have five active Citi cards, so I assumed I would have to close out some old cards or move around some existing credit lines to get approval. It was late, so I didn’t feel like calling the reconsideration line right away and decided to call in the morning. But by the time I went to call, I had been approved with a $7500 credit line, one of the smallest credit lines ever given to me by Citi. I guess I should close out some of my existing credit with them.
Barclays World Arrival Mastercard: I have to admit, I had seen this card mentioned a lot in the past year, but I still didn’t quite understand it. I would read about how great it was, but I just kind of glossed over it. Well, I was trying to spread this AOR around multiple banks (as usual), and decided to try for another Barclay card, even though I had just gotten another US Airways Barclay card back in July. So, I read and read about the Barclay World Arrival card, and finally understood its value. There are many other more detailed posts about this card, but I’ll try to sum it up in a few sentences. Use this card to purchase travel tickets. Airfare, train tickets, hotels, cruises, whatever. Then, when you see those purchases show up on your World Arrival credit card statement, you can use your points accrued as a credit for those purchases. So for instance, we’re planning on taking a train next month from Moscow to St. Petersburg. I expect the tickets will be around $300 for the two of us. I will pay for them using my Barclay World Arrival Mastercard (Thanks to no foreign transaction fees!). Then, when the train tickets show up on my statement, I can redeem 30,000 points and basically get a “refund” for our $300 train tickets. Plus, you get a 10% bonus on all points redeemed. So after redeeming 30,000 points, another 3000 points will be added back to my account. You earn 2x points on ALL purchases, so there’s no tinkering with quarterly bonuses or anything.
- Bonus: 40,000 points after spending $1000 in the first 90 days
- Approval Details: Immediately approved with a $17,000 credit limit. I was pretty surprised, as Barclay is usually pretty strict on approving credit to card churners like me. So the instant approval and relatively high credit line was a nice surprise.
So, there you have it. Luckily Christmas shopping has helped us with meeting the minimum spending requirements!