Can I Interest You in a Free Glass of Sparkling Wine, or Perhaps Free Dessert?

MasterCard Concierge App
MasterCard Concierge App, Free on iTunes

If you have a World or World Elite U.S. Mastercard, you may be interested in the new MasterCard Concierge app available for free on iTunes.

The App is your key to finding special offers and discounts at restaurants at select locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Most of the restaurants included to date are fancy steak houses or expensive French bistros, but there are also Japanese, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern offerings.

MasterCard Concierge App
MasterCard Concierge App

The typical offer is for a free glass of sparkling wine or a free dessert to accompany your meal.

You’re not going to get rich off these offers.

But the Concierge app may come in handy some day if you find yourself headed to a participating restaurant in a big city like Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Montreal, or Las Vegas.

You must call or email the MasterCard Concierge to access the offers.

Credit Cards Eligible for the MasterCard Concierge Program

Examples of cards that may be eligible include the Barclaycard Arrival and Arrival Plus, as well as the The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® and the The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard®.   

The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is currently offering  40,000 bonus miles after your first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee.

This is a pretty good deal for accruing U.S. Airways Dividend Miles, because there is no minimum spend requirement to worry about.  40,000 Dividend Miles could come in handy with the American/USAir merger underway, and the upcoming merger of their frequent flyer programs.  I got this card for that very reason.

The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® offers 35,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

 

 

15 is My Limit on Schnitzengruben, ahem, Rewards Credit Cards

Fifteen is my Limit
Fifteen is my limit . . .

I love to read those silly What’s in My Wallet blog posts.  I guess it’s because before I got into points and miles, I would not have believed that you could open an insane number of rewards credit cards without ruining your credit.

It does raise some questions, though:

  • How could the banks keep extending you credit?
  • How many times can you earn big bonuses?
  • How do you remember which card to use for which purchases?
  • How could you possibly keep track of all those credit cards without missing a payment?

15 is My Limit on Schnitzengruben, I mean Credit Cards

I recently counted 14 credit cards in my wallet from five different banks.  That is crazy!  I don’t recommend that for anyone.

Miss a single payment and you will be socked with a $35 fee and a major ding to your credit score.

With fourteen active credit card accounts, it is taking too much of my time to track expenses and pay the bills.  Let’s face it; my office is cluttered and my wallet barely closes.

I am looking to thin out my collection.

Rewards Credit Cards Aren’t for Everyone

Travel rewards credit cards aren’t for everybody.

First off, you need to have a stellar credit score to be eligible for the best offers.

Most people prefer to carry only one or two cards, to simplify things and minimize the hassle.  There is merit to this approach, particularly if you are disorganized and don’t keep current with paying your bills.

A perfectly reasonable strategy is to earn free travel is to focus on one airline or one type of flexible rewards such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points or cash back travel cards like the Capitol One Venture Card, or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.

But if you have a credit score in the excellent range, and you pay your bills on time and in full every month, rewards credit cards can be incredibly lucrative.

Once you have experienced the large bonus offers for opening a new credit card, which can be worth $500 or more, it is easy to get sucked into to opening more and more accounts to earn free travel.

Know Your Credit Score

FICO credit score
Barclay’s Offers Free Access to Your Transunion Credit Score

From personal experience, I have watched my credit score progressively improve the further along I got in this game.  Barclay’s bank offers its credit card customers free access to their official FICO credit score once every three months.

My most recent FICO score is 837, with 14 open accounts, and five additional credit card accounts that I have closed in the past year or so.

That is because my credit line has increased dramatically with all these cards, and my monthly spending is just a small fraction of the available credit.

The banks appear willing to extend me credit well beyond my annual income.  Be careful.  Like with the mortgage crisis, a lot of people get in debt over their heads from credit cards and can’t make the payments, or end up paying exorbitant amounts of interest, at rate as high as 28 percent annually.

This much is clear:  the banks are making plenty of money, but probably not from people like me.

Starting Out with Rewards Credit Cards:  The Chase Freedom Card

When I started my environmental consulting business 15 years ago, I opened the Chase Freedom credit card in order to keep my business expenses separate from my personal expenses.  Chase Freedom is a personal, not a business credit card but I was using it for business purposes.  It carries no annual fee, and earns 5x rewards on select categories of spending.  This is a card that I would highly recommend for someone just starting out.  The points can be taken as cash back on your next statement, or used as Ultimate Rewards Points.  Ultimate Rewards Points are quite flexible and can be transferred to many airline and hotel loyalty programs but you need to have one of the premium credit cards from Chase to enable transfers.

If you are just starting out with travel hacking, the Chase Freedom card is a great place to begin because you can earn cash back or travel rewards, depending on your needs.  Because the card has no annual fee, you can keep it forever, thus increasing the length of your credit history over time.   This card earns 1x points on all purchases, and 5x points on select categories, that vary each quarter on up to $1500 of purchases per quarter.  Generally, the 5x points is good for gas purchases for six months of the year.  This spring, the card offered 5x points on restaurants, and sometimes you can get 5x points on Amazon.com, Lowes, or Kohls.

Right now, Chase is offering a $100 bonus for new applications, but I have seen this bonus go as high as $200 after spending $500 on initial purchases within three months.  From time to time there is an extra $25 incentive for adding an authorized user to your account.  There are cards with bigger bonuses but they usually entail annual fees and larger initial spending requirements.

Pick a Card, Any Card!

Whenever I show anyone what credit cards are in my real wallet, they look at me like I am crazy.  I often get looks as I fumble through my wallet looking for the card that earns bonus points at this store or that.

Because I run a small business, I am eligible to apply for business credit cards.  This allow me to “double dip” on account bonuses.  I travel for both business and personal reasons and must keep my expenses separate for tax purposes.  I caution you that business cards can only be used for genuine business expenses and they lack some of the consumer protections of personal credit cards.

What’s in My Wallet?

Here’s a quick rundown of what is in my wallet and why, and which cards are candidates for culling.

Chase Rewards Credit Cards

Quicken Rewards, personal  (authorized user):  The credit card I’ve had the longest is the Quicken Card issued by Chase Bank.  We opened this card over 15 years ago because at the time, it was the one of the few cards that allowed you to download your statements into the Quicken personal accounting software.  The Quicken Rewards card pays cash back rewards and carries no annual fee.  This cash back card pays 2x drugstores, restaurants, and office supply stores, and 1x points on other purchases.  Redemptions for airline tickets can be worth up to 1.25 cents per point, but only if you redeem at the top of a price bracket, e.g. a $500 ticket for 40,000 points.  This is a keeper.

Freedom, personal:  I love the Chase Freedom card because I can earn 5x points on practical things like gas and restaurants and there is no annual fee.  It is a keeper because it pads my Ultimate Rewards point balance, and contributes to the length of my credit history, which is a factor that improves my credit score.

Ink Plus, business:  The Chase Ink Plus is my primary business credit card.  When I opened the card, I earned 50K Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in 3 months.  This card pays 5x points at office supply stores and on telecommunications and 2 points on gas stations and hotels.  The points easily transfer to Amtrak, Southwest Airlines, and United — three of my preferred carriers.  Chase offered me a fabulous retention offer which I declined, but I plan to keep the card open.

Ink Bold, business:  This is a charge card, not a credit card.  The differences is that balances must be paid off every month.  I opened this card for my blog business in June 2014 when there was a special bonus offer of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in three months.  This card has a $95 annual fee which is waived the first year.  This card has the same bonus categories as the Ink Plus.  The usual bonus is 50K points.

Southwest Rapid Rewards, business:  I opened the Southwest Rapid Rewards card for the 50,000 mile bonus.  That is an offer that rolls around every couple of months. Southwest claims that you can get two roundtrip flights for 50K miles, and that has been my experience.  The Southwest Rapid Rewards card has a $69 annual fee that is not waived the first year.  You get 3,000 bonus miles every subsequent year.  Last year, I was offered an additional 3,000 points as a retention bonus, and this year I received this offer again!  I highly recommend the Southwest Rapid Rewards card for budget domestic travelers because of the excellent availability of award tickets on Southwest Airlines.

United Mileage Plus Explorer, personal (authorized user):  This is my husband’s card.  He opened it because there was a targeted offer for 50,000 miles.  The card carries an annual fee of $95 which is waived the first year.  When the fee came due, he was offered a retention bonus of 15,000 miles which offset the annual fee, and then some.

Barclays Reward Credit Cards

Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®, personal:  I have the no annual fee version of the Barclaycard Arrival.  I opened it because of a targeted offer for 40,000 bonus miles and the ongoing benefits including 2x points on restaurant and travel spending.  You get a ten percent rebate on your travel redemptions, so this card effectively pays 2.2 percent cash back.  I love the access to my free credit score and the free TripIt Pro subscription.  The card now pays a bonus of 20,000 miles for new applicants.  This is another keeper.

The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®, personal:  I opened this card because it offered me 35,000 miles after making a single purchase.  There is an $89 annual fee which is waived the first year.  My version of the card awarded 10,000 bonus miles on your anniversary.  It has a number of additional benefits such as one free checked bag for up to four family members, a free lounge pass, and 5,000 fewer miles needed for reward tickets.  With this card, you can get 2 companion passes for $99 each, but there are  lots of strings attached.  I just received the 10,000 mile annual bonus.  I called to cancel the card because I did not want to pay the annual fee.  This card currently pays a 40,000 mile bonus after the first purchase, but does not offer the annual 10,000 bonus points.  It has an $89 annual fee which is waived the first year.

US Airways Dividend Miles, business:  I opened this card by “accident.”  I had applied for a different version of the US Airways card, but was informed that that it was not possible to have two different personal cards.  I was able to switch my application to this business card, and earn 25,000 Dividend Miles upon the first purchase.  The annual fee of $89 is waived the first year.

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Six Terrible Reasons Why My Husband Opened the Wrong Credit Card

Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200I’ve been married almost 20 years but my husband never fails to surprise me.

Today we were coming home from the 4th of July picnic at my Mom’s nursing home when he mentioned something about a Kohl’s charge card.

You have got to be kidding!   Store-branded credit cards are almost always a bad idea:

  • the rewards are limited to the store at hand
  • the opening bonus is insubstantial
  • you are taking a hit on your credit score for a very limited benefit

If you have a good to excellent credit score, and you pay your bills on time and in full every month, there are far better offers out there.

This is the same guy that has been refusing for months to consider applying for a travel rewards credit card — one that would provide a sign-up bonus worth hundreds of dollars and put us not the path to our next vacation.

 Travel Rewards Credit Cards and the Noncompliant Spouse

Kohl's Credit Card
Honey, you shrunk the credit card bonus.

Okay, so this is my hobby, not my his.  After 20 years, I’ve learned to live and let live.

But lordy, lordy, a Kohl’s charge card?

There are a million and one better options that provide flexible rewards that can be redeemed for travel.

My husband is an independent thinker who has his own opinions about things.  He has told me he didn’t want to keep track of another credit card and that is that.

The Six Worst Reasons, Ever, to Open a Kohl’s Charge Card

Here are the reasons my husband offered for opening the Kohl’s Charge Card.

  1. the 20 percent discount on that day’s purchase
  2. a 15 percent discount for a future purchase
  3. cardholders get special coupons
  4. he shops at Kohl’s four or five times a year
  5. the card is a nice color
  6. the checkout girl was cute

Do the Math, Folks

We probably spend $500 to $600 per year at Kohl’s, if that.  Generously assuming a 20 percent discount on all purchases, we would be saving $120 per year at most.

Contrast that with the $400 bonus and cash back savings on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.  This card pays 2x points on all purchases!  

Plus you get 10 percent of your redemptions credited back to your account.

Say we charge $10,000 of purchases in a year.  That would be $200 cash back when redeemed for travel expenses.

So, in the first year, when the annual fee is waived, we’re looking at $400 plus $200, plus $60 for a total $660 in rewards toward travel expenses.  You can read my full review of the pros and cons of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® here. 

There are numerous other bonus offers that may be even more lucrative, and other credit cards like the Amex Blue Cash Preferred that offer 3x bonus points on all department store purchases, including Kohl’s.

 

Why We Chose Wildwood Crest for Our Jersey Shore Vacation

Doo Wop in Wildwood, NJEvery town on the Jersey Shore has a distinct personality.

One summer, we landed in Wildwood because of our interest in neon signs and mid-century architecture.

The thing that attracted us to Wildwood  were the dozens of mid-century motels still standing, though sadly, many have been razed to build condos.

There are three distinct towns on the barrier island:  North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest — where the greatest concentration of mid-century modern resorts still operate.  The motels, are themed, with Vegas-like neon signs, plastic palm trees, and fantastical architecture.

The Wildwoods
The Wildwoods — Great for a Family Beach Vacation
Photo by Joel Shprentz

Doo Wop Motels in Wildwood Crest

In Wildwood Crest, which is the family-oriented southern stretch of beach, you’ll find the Jolly Roger, the Astronaut, the Apollo, the Gondolier, the Safari, the Aztec, the Tangiers, the Viking, and many others.

The architectural style is known as Doo WopGoogie, or Populuxe.  These  terms describe the kitschy style of Wildwood’s 200 motels built in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Barclaycard Arrival: New Features, New Technology

Barclaycard Arrival Plus with Chip and Pin Technology
Barclaycard Arrival Plus with Chip and Pin Technology

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s the graphic on the updates to the Barclaycard Arrival credit card announced today.

You can see the advertising video with an explanation of the new Chip & Pin payment feature here.

Chip & Pin is the state-of-the-art security feature that is especially useful if you travel abroad.

You can find my full reviews of the pros and cons of the fee version, and no annual fee version of the card here.

Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®

I have the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® which comes with a $200 credit towards travel expenses if you spend $1000 in the first three months after opening the card.  This card has no annual fee, and pays two times “points” on purchases at restaurants and for travel purchases.  I like the bonus earning on restaurants and on Priceline purchases.  I also like that this is a no annual fee card, so I can hold on to it forever, thus aiding the length of credit history on my credit score.  This card does not have the chip and pin feature.  

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

There is another, probably better, version of the card, now called the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® that offers a $400 bonus toward travel expenses if you spend $3000 in the first three months.  This card has an annual fee of $89, which is waived the first year.  It pays two times points on all purchases, which is really a fantastic value, especially because you get ten percent back on all redemptions for travel expenses.  This card does have the new chip and pin feature, making it useful for purchases and ATM withdrawals abroad.

 

Which Cash Back Credit Card is Best for Priceline Purchases?

southwest  credit card bwi

Would you buy a used car(d)
from this woman?

I call myself the Priceline Queen, so I thought it would be fun to do a little analysis of which credit card is best for Priceline purchases.

On the face of it you might guess that The Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card is the best bet, but that is not always the case.

For purposes of this analysis, I focused on three cash back, no annual fee credit cards issued by Barclays.

The three contenders are:

  • Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®
  • The Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card
  • Upromise World MasterCard®

Ultimately, I decided not to publish the quantitative analysis, because the results were completely dependent on the hypothetical assumptions.  It makes more sense for you to consider your individual spending patterns.

Instead, I prepared a comprehensive table comparing the three options, considering the pros and cons of each of these cash-back, no annual fee credit cards from Barclay’s Bank.

In Brief

The Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card pays 5 percent cash back on all Priceline purchases, and it offers a $100 bonus for new applicants, after spending $1,000.

The Upromise World MasterCard® pays 3x points on gas purchases at Exxon/Mobil and 5 percent cash back on online purchases via the Upromise shopping portal, plus an additional 5 percent or so depending on the vendor, and it offers a $50 bonus after the first purchase.  A ten percent payout on many travel purchases sounds pretty good, if you have faith that the Upromise shopping portal will pay out benefits.  That’s a big if!

The Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® offers a $200 bonus after you make $1,000 of purchases within the first three months.  It pays 2x points on all travel and restaurant purchases, and you earn back 10 percent of the points your redeem for travel expenses.

You can shop through the Upromise shopping portal using any credit card, but only the Upromise World MasterCard® pays the extra five percent.

Upromise is for Everyone

You don’t have to be a college student or the parent of a college student to take advantage of the Upromise savings program.  Rebates from the credit card and the Upromise shopping portal are available to anyone registered with the program.  You can request a check when your rewards balance is $10 or more.  The catch is that you have to remember to go through the Upromise shopping portal, and that shopping portals are not always reliable in issuing the promised rebate.

Table Comparing Three No Annual Fee Cash Back Cards

This table is large, so please click through to see the complete analysis.

ATTRIBUTES
BARCLAYCARD ARRIVAL
PRICELINE CREDIT CARD
UPROMISE CREDIT CARD
BASICS & FEES
Credit neededExcellentExcellentExcellent
APR - Interest rate0% APR for 1st 12 billing cycles; then, APR of 14.99% or 18.99% based on credit worthiness. 0% APR for 1st 12 billing cycles; then, APR of 14.99% or 20.99% based on credit worthiness. 0% APR for 1st 12 billing cycles; then, APR of 12.99% or 20.99% based on credit worthiness.
Annual fee$0$0$0
Foreign transaction fee0%3%3%
Card brandWorld MasterCardWorld MasterCardVisa Signature
INITIAL BONUS
Initial bonus points05,000$50 after first use
Minimum spend for bonus points$1,000$1000 in 1st 90 daysUse card within first 90 days
Bonus points awarded for meeting minimum spend20,000 5,000
Total bonus points after meeting minimum spend20,000 = $200 statement credit toward travel expenses10,000 = $100 statement credit$50 rebate
REWARDS EARNING STRUCTURE
Earn rate2x points on restaurants and all travel expenses; 1x points on everything else. 5x points on "eligible" Priceline.com purchases; 1x points on everything else.5% off on online purchases at Upromise.com; 3% off gas at Exxon/Mobile; 2% off movie theaters; 1% off everything else.
Bonus earnings10% bonus points on travel redemptionsNone, but could shop through Upromise or other online portal for extra savings.

Earn extra points from merchants in shopping portal. Many online travel agencies, hotels, cruises, and car rental agencies can be found in Upromise portal.

Priceline payouts: 6% on Name Your own Price hotel; 5% on Hotels; 3.5% on Activities; 3.5% on Cruises; 5% Name Your Own Price Car; 3.5% on Rental cars; 3.5% Vacation Packages; 3.5% Name Your Own Price on Airfare; 1% on Airfare
REDEMPTIONS
Redeem for statement creditYes, in increments of 2,500 ($25) or more Yes, for any purchase of $25 or moreRequest a check;

Deposit in 529 college savings account.
Restrictions on redemptionsMust have 2,500 points minimum to redeem. To redeem for a $100 statement credit, for example, you must redeem your points towards a purchase of $100 or more.Quarterly checks if balance exceeds $10.
Other redemption optionsCan redeem points for statement credits or gift cards at half the value of travel redemptions (not recommended).Use to pay off Sallie Mae student loans.
ADDITIONAL BENEFITS
Free FICO Credit Scoreyes, 4 times a yearyes, 4 times a yearyes, 4 times a year
Purchase and Travel Protectionsyesyesyes
1 year free TripIt Pro subscriptionyesnono
LIMITATIONS
Can only redeem points at full value for travel expenses. Earn only 1x point for Priceline.com purchases on cruise bookings, non-Name Your Own Price® car reservations, and hotel reservations designated as Pay When You Stay.Payouts from online shopping portals are often unreliable.

Hard to remember to go through shopping portal.
OTHER FACTORS
Initial bonus worth $222;

Subsequent earn rate of 2.2% on all travel and restaurant purchases can pad your travel funds;

Relatively easy to cash out points for statement credits for travel purchases, but may require calls to customer service;
Initial bonus worth $100 toward Priceline reservations. 5% off prepaid hotel reservations on Priceline.com. $50 initial bonus. 3% savings on some gas purchases. 5% savings on purchases through Upromise shopping portal, plus extra payout from many travel vendors and 900 other merchants.
MY TAKE
Good for budget travelers that prefer flexible paid travel over reward redemptions.Good for heavy users of Priceline. Best earning rate (app. 10%) on online travel purchases, except direct purchases from airlines and some hotel brands.

Good option if you do a lot of online shopping.

You need to consider your own spending circumstances to see which credit card makes most sense for you.  Where do you come out?

Click here to compare current rewards credit card offers.

50K Frequent Flyer Miles x 2

Free FICO Credit Score from Barclaycard Arrival
Free FICO Credit Score from Barclaycard Arrival

My favorite feature of the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® is free access to my  credit score every quarter.

If you are opening a lot of credit cards to earn points and miles, you definitely need to stay on top of the impact on your credit score.

Barclay’s offers free access to the real FICO score from Transunion.  You are also eligible for a free FICO credit score from Barclay’s if you have the The US Airways Premier World MasterCard®.  

This benefit has been available for the past six months, so I have been able to watch my score gradually increase over time as I took a break from opening new credit cards.

At first blush, you might think that your credit score would go down from opening a lot of rewards credit cards.  It does.  Your score temporarily drops a few points for each credit inquiry on your credit report.

Components of FICO Credit Score
Components of FICO Credit Score

However, if you pay your bills on time and in full every month (and you should only be in this game if you do) your score could actually increase over time.

That is because an important component of your credit score is credit utilization, or how much of the total credit line is being used.

If your total credit line increases as you open more cards, and the percent of credit utilized decreases, that can have a positive impact on your credit score.

Free FICO Score from Barclaycard Arrival:  My Credit Score Increased Over Time

Free FICO Credit Score from Barclaycard Arrival
Free FICO Credit Score from Barclaycard Arrival

Six months ago, when I first gained access to my official FICO score via Barclaycard, my score was roughly 779.  That is in the excellent range.  (Sorry, I don’t have a screen shot.)

I wanted to give my credit score a rest, so I stopped applying for new credit cards for a while.  As credit inquiries gradually dropped off my report, my score rose to 810 in January 2014.

Three months later, in April 2014, my credit score rose again to 825 out of a maximum score of 850.  This is amazing considering the large number of credit cards I have applied for over the last several years.

Stay Alert for Offers for 50K Frequent Flyer Miles

My “strategy” when I first got into this game was to look for rewards cards that offered 50K bonus miles for new applicants.  First, I applied for the Southwest credit card for 50K, and then the Southwest business card for 50K.  Next I applied for the Delta card for 50K, and then the Delta business card for another 50K.  After that I applied for the United card for 50K, and the United business card for 50K.

I am self-employed so I am eligible for small business credit cards because of my environmental consulting business.

I got a lot of free flights from these airlines!

Actually though, I think a consolidation strategy makes more sense for a lot of people, especially leisure, budget travelers.

Nevertheless, I didn’t follow my own advice, and last summer I applied for the American Airlines AAdvantage credit card for 50K bonus miles.

With my credit score now well above 800, I was now ready to consider applying for additional travel rewards credit cards.  So this weekend, I applied for the American Airlines AAdvantage business credit card for 50K bonus points.  This card has a $3,000 spend requirement in the first three months to get the bonus, and it has a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year.  There are other offers out there for “Executive” versions of the AA card, but they had higher spend requirements than I was comfortable with.

Eyeing the Barclaycard Arrival

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Save 20% on iTunes Gift Codes

20% Discount on iTunes Cards at PayPal
20% Discount on iTunes Codes at PayPal

If you have a PayPal account you may be eligible for a special 2-day offer:  20% off an iTunes code, redeemable for yourself, or sent as  a gift.  Try this link to pull up the offer.

The 20% off offer is only applicable to one iTunes Code valued at $25, $50 or $100.  Please note that this is an e-code only; this offer is not for a physical gift card.

The offer is only available from March 20, 2014 (6 am PST) to March 21, 2014 (7:00 pm PST).   Hat tip to SlickDeals

Gift Card Purchases to Meet Minimum Spend on Rewards Credit Cards

Sometimes gift card purchases are helpful if you are trying to meet the minimum spend requirement on a new credit card to qualify for the rewards bonus.  Essentially, you can front load your purchases of essentials like groceries, or in this case iTunes credits, for use on future purchases.

For instance, the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® offers new applicants $200 toward your next travel redemption, after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days after opening the account.  A few gift card purchases for items that you know you will need in the near future can help you meet the minimum spend requirement.

Caution:  In no circumstances should you open a credit card for the rewards if it will cause you to spend more than you would otherwise.  Furthermore, if you do not pay off your bills in full and on time every month, you will be socked with high interest fees that far outweigh the value of any rewards.  

Rumors about the Barclaycard Arrival Credit Card Offer Confirmed

BarclayCard ArrivalJust days after I posted my definitive one year review of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® rumors started circulating on the internet about changes to the card’s minimum purchase requirement.

Today, those rumors were validated.

Previously, if you spent $1,000 within 3 months of opening the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, you would get 40,000 bonus points worth $400 toward any travel purchase.  That is a very generous offer for opening new credit card.  What’s more, you’d earn 10 percent back on all redemptions for travel expenses, so the payout is worth $440.

In my definitive one year review, I argued that I know of no other credit card with such a generous bonus offer for such a low minimum spend requirement.

Now, the minimum spend requirement is going to be increased to $3,000 in a 3 month period.

Does an increase in the minimum spend requirement affect my evaluation of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®?

Absolutely!  Arguably, $1,000 in spending over a 3 month period is fairly doable for many households.  Triple that requirement, and you would have to move your major purchases to the new credit card, which is not always easy to accomplish.  If you are not easily able to meet the increased minimum spend requirement, you might want to hold off applying for this card until you anticipate some major expenses.

Cash back credit cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® are not worth it if they cause you to spend more money than you would ordinarily.  An increase in the minimum spend requirement makes this offer less accessible to many people.

If you have been considering Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, you can read more about my take on the pros and cons of this offering here.  

Here are the specifics of the offer as of today:

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Barclaycard Arrival: The Definitive One Year Review

IMG_0590

2/20/2014 Update:  The terms of this offer were changed today.  In order to earn the 40,000 bonus points, you must spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening the card.

Is Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® the Best Travel Rewards Credit Card for General Spending?  

Over the last couple of months, my family has had a number of major expenses pop up some of which may resonate with you:

  • the check engine light came on in my 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid:  $5000 repair bill
  • ditto for my husbands 2003 Volkswagen Passat:  $3800
  • my daughter got braces:  $4650
  • the heat pump finally gave out:  $6995

Granted it is unusual to have so many large, chargeable expenses totaling $20,000 in a two month period.  But it it is easy to anticipate similar health, home maintenance, and auto repair expenses over the course of a year.

In our case, the car mechanics, the orthodontist, and the HVAC installer all accepted credit cards for payment, but only MasterCard or Visa, not American Express.  That mirrors my experience with other small business vendors where we have regular large expenditures, such as the dog kennel or the vet.  

None of these household expenses are considered “bonus” categories with any credit card product that I am aware of.  Except the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, that is.

(There is a Fidelity credit card that pays 2 times points, but it is an American Express card, which is not accepted everywhere.  There is a Capital One Venture card that pays 2 times points; the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® effectively pays out 10 percent more than that — 2.2 percent.)

Earn 2.2 Points on All Charges, if Redeemed for Travel Expenses

BarclayCard ArrivalIt’s a bit redundant, but the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® — pays 2 times points on everything.  There is no limit on the amount of points you can earn.

In my case outlined here, with $20,000 in expenses we could earn 4o,000 points.  40,000 points can be redeemed for $400 worth of travel expenses (the points are worth half that if redeemed for cash).  You earn a ten percent bonus on redeemed points, so 4,000 points are redeposited in your account, worth another $40 toward travel expenses, for a total of $440.  The ten percent bonus provides an incentive to keep using the card in order to redeem all your points.

How Much Travel Can You Buy for $440?

Exactly $440 dollars worth!  Depending on your bargain hunting skill and preferences, you can use this money for budget hotels, rental cars, train tickets and airfare.

You can travel when you want, and where you want, without worrying about limited award availability or blackout dates.

What’s more, you will earn frequent flyer miles and loyalty program points on your purchases!

I was an early adopter of the Barclaycard Arrival — I received a targeted offer and opened the card a year ago.  I have written about it on and off, but I wanted to share my experience with the card one year out.

By comparison, with a miles earning credit card, my recent charges would earn 20,000 miles  — perhaps enough for a one-way ticket on Southwest Airlines or two roundtrip tickets on Amtrak, but hard to redeem for much else.

Get a Sign-Up Bonus Worth $440 Towards Travel

Some credit cards are good for everyday spend, others provide generous sign-up bonuses.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® does both!

Beyond the 2.2 percent payout rate for general expenses, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® offers an excellent signup bonus.

If you spend $3,000 within three months of opening the card, you get a bonus of 40,000 points, which can be redeemed for $400 worth of travel.  Furthermore, you earn 10 percent back on all redemptions for travel expenses, meaning another 4,000 points are awarded, making the initial bonus worth more than $440.

Other Benefits of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

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