TravelWhimsy and I took her parents to the amazing country of Costa Rica during Thanksgiving week. Two of our dearest friends, M & P, who had recently retired there, hosted us at their new home. M & P expertly planned almost every single aspect of our trip, so this is not going to be my typical trip report involving much about miles and points strategy. Instead, I will share a few notes I jotted down along the way that could help you better plan your future trips to Costa Rica. If you have never experienced PURA VIDA, don’t wait too long. It only takes 30-35,000 miles per person, and you won’t regret it!
Check out my “What’s in My Wallet?” guest post/graphic on TravelSort! If the graphic is too small, here is a link to a larger version. Hilary was kind enough to also add a written summary of all the cards I included.
I currently don’t have any of my own affiliate links to those cards that I mentioned, except for the American Express Permanent Prepaid Card, which can help you earn 5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points for almost everything you buy. If you don’t already have the American Express Prepaid Card, you can get a free $25 gift card before August 31, 2012 by loading $200 or more onto the card at the time of order. I will earn a few dollars if you use my referral link, and appreciate your support of the blog!
One of the questions I get asked most often is how to think about canceling a credit card. If you have read my “Miles & Points 101” series and understand how credit scores work, then the key question to ask before canceling a credit card is “How do I make sure it helps (or at least does not hurt) my credit scores?”
This past weekend, TravelWhimsy and I visited Vermont again. After our Friday night red-eye flight from San Francisco to Cleveland (CLE), we stopped by the United Club at CLE and picked up 6 fee-free codes for the new United MileagePlus Club Card to give away to our readers. The Club Card normally charges $395 annual fee but gives you a full year of United Club membership. Key card benefits I value (I don’t have any affiliations with Chase):
- No close-in fee ($75 per ticket) charged for award tickets booked within 21 days of departure (award spaces typically open up as the travel dates get closer);
- 1.5 United miles for every dollar spent: this might be interesting to those of you who don’t want to deal with prepaid gift cards to get almost 5x points for all your purchases.
Besides the giveaway details, this post will also discuss how you might be able to get two years of United Club membership and Star Alliance Gold status for free.
Before revealing our two winners for the Chase Ink invitation codes, let me go over a few more things for you to consider before plunging into buying $500 gift cards at Office Depot.
For those of you who have no clue what I am talking about, read the following two posts first:
**Giveaway of two invitation codes for Chase Ink – bonus points after first purchase with no minimum spend required!**
To get that 5% cash back or 5x Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points I talked about yesterday, you need a Chase Ink card (Bold for $95, or Classic/Cash for free). If you opt for the free Ink card, you will ALSO need to have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card in order to turn those points into free travel.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how you could use your Chase Freedom Card to get 5% cash back for your purchases at Walmart & Target. Recently, I also did a follow-up post on what credit cards you might need to maximize the return on your everyday purchases.
A couple of days after I wrote the Walmart post, I updated it with my own experience of purchasing a $500 VISA gift card at my local grocery store and then using it to buy gas. If you don’t mind the trouble of buying and using a prepaid gift card, you will be on your way to earning 5% (5x points) for almost all your purchases. [I started this post over the weekend, but today Frequent Miler posted his new discovery, and I will go over his strategy later in the post, too, for those of you interested.]
Quite a few readers who are ready to embark on the miles & points journey asked about how to get started with credit cards. This post is meant to be a follow-up to our initial beginner series on credit & what credit cards to consider for beginners. We will go over two tables, the first of which helps you determine what card(s) might work best for your various spending habits, while the second shows you what cards I personally use most often.
Before we start, I would like to quickly talk about cash back cards. Some of you may be aware of the fee-free Fidelity Rewards American Express Cards, which give you 2 cents back (2%) for every dollar you spend (There are also other Amex, Citi, or CapitalOne cash back cards with bonus spending categories). I personally don’t use cash back cards, because I can usually get 2 cents or better from using most miles & points. But if one or more of the following describes you, then a straightforward 2% cash back card might work better for you.
Our Twitter reader Chris asked us for help with planning his upcoming 6-day/5-night trip from Washington DC to London in October with his girlfriend to celebrate his graduation from graduate school (Congrats, Chris!). I thought that this topic might be helpful to some of our other readers who might be considering a similar trip.