Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wallet Status Update - Reserves

Yesterday, we talked about the rock star credit cards that currently are the stars of our wallet. They have the most promising spending benefits and are worth paying the fees to keep them active. We use those cards regularly for just about all our regular spending needs.

However, no good team is composed of just stars alone. Sometimes you need backups.

Reserve Bench
Similar to a baseball team, there are some situational specialists that come off the bench at appropriate times. Here's our reserve bench.

1. Citi Thank You Premier - My father originally signed up for this card about a year ago. It was offering a 50,000 Citi Thank You Point bonus, but it was structured as a two part bonus. First, you'd earn 20,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months of the 1st year. Then, you'd earn another 30,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of the 2nd year, but would require paying the $125 annual fee when the first year ended.

A month ago, my father contacted Citi via their online Secure Messaging system so that he would have a written record of when the second year technically started. They confirmed that March 18-June 18, 2015 was the window where he would have to spend the $3,000 to meet the second year bonus. So our plan was to delay a lot of big purchases and bills until we were in that window and then quickly hit the minimum spend. So in one day, we made several large payments for outstanding balances due on my father's small business, health and auto insurance payments.

Additionally, this card is changing some of the terms, including reducing the annual fee to $95, so we'll receive a $30 statement credit on our next statement.

However, since my mother also has this card, there's no sense in us paying a second annual fee for duplicate benefits, so we'll cancel hers before it comes due later this summer.

2. Chase United Select Visa - This is an old card that my father applied for years ago, but is no longer offered. Fortunately, instead of just converting this card to another current product with different benefits, Chase kept this as is and we were grandfathered in. So we paid the $95 annual fee though we did also received the annual bonus of 5,000 United miles, which we value at about $100. So breakeven.

The card earns a 3x bonus on all purchases, so when we're not spending our Citi Thank You points (see above) or redeeming our flight vouchers for being bumped, we use this card for our United flights. Spending $25k a year on this card also allows my father to qualify for United elite status without spending the minimum Premier Qualifying Dollar amounts ($3,000 for Silver and $6,000 for Gold). Since we almost always fly on cheap United fares, we'd never qualify for the Premier Qualifying Dollar thresholds. Of course, spending $25k seems a lot for a small family, but we have our schemes.

3. US Bank FlexPerks Visa - This is a very underrated card. Since it's not as well known, we find their rewards program is pretty compelling, though not without its limitations. Basically, each FlexPerk you earn can be worth up to 2 cents/pt if you find a flight package that is just under $400, $600, $800, etc...

The best part is, however, their bonus earnings. We receive 2x on gas and groceries (which is up to 4 cents per dollar spent) and 3x on non-religious charity (up to 6 cents). Through our active use of, we are able to rack up a serious volume of FlexPerk points each month because it qualifies as a charity (3x).

The challenge is that my family likes to travel under the same itinerary so for us to use FlexPerks to buy a flight (similar to how we use Citi Thank You Points), we have to have enough points to book 3 tickets, so reasonably we need at least 50,000 Flexperk points.

Citi, however, allows you to use cash to supplement your flight purchases if your Thank You point balance falls short. Given US Banks's fixed tier redemption scheme, we can't do that.

But since we can't transfer these points, we have to keep the card open (and pay the $49 annual fee). Otherwise, we'd lose all our FlexPerk points (about 25,000 so far).

4. Chase Ink Bold - Note: the Bold version is no longer offered, but the Plus version is almost identical. These cards are great specialists. We know we're going to need it every month to pay for our Verizon cell phone and Time Warner cable/internet bills. Those bills rack up each month and by the end of the year, my father cringes at how much we spend on these two categories.

Additionally, we have a Staples located a few blocks from our apartment, so we often stop by before we shop at retailers like Amazon, Macys, Sephora and Gap/Old Navy. By purchasing their gift card at Staples, we earn 5x Ultimate Rewards instead of 1x on our Starwood Amex (or 3x Citi Thank You during this special promotional period). Since we value 1 UR point at 2 cents each, that's like a 10% rebate.

We actually have two of these cards (one for each of my father's small businesses). Realistically, when the no fee first year ends for the second Ink Bold card, we'll close that one down but keep the first one open. We could also consider downgrading from the $95 fee Ink Bold card to the $0 fee Ink Cash card (which would earn the same 5x), but unfortunately, that card will not allow you to transfer the UR points to airlines or hotels, which limits their value to just 1.25 cents/pt instead of 2-4 cents/pt if transferred.

No comments:

Post a Comment