The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card Now Offers Two Free Stays!

If you’re looking for free nights at a luxury hotel, you might want to consider the latest offer attached to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card from Chase.

The complimentary nights have been doubled from one night to two, making it twice as nice for the guy or gal looking to stay somewhere in comfort free of charge.

The new offer requires $3,000 in spending during the first three months from account opening to get the two complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel worldwide.

It’s pretty much all Ritz-Carlton locations aside from the Ritz-Carlton Reserve locations, which total six.

Obviously the value can vary quite a bit, but some Tier 4 Ritz hotels will run around $700 (or more) per night during peak periods, so you could get about $1700-$1800 in value out of the two free nights when you factor in all taxes and fees.

For example, the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay costs $765 per night during summer months on a weekend.
So if you’re looking to indulge for free, this could be the credit card for you. Other than the opening bonus, I doubt it’s something you’d want to hold for more than a year.

The downside to this offer is that there’s an annual fee of $395, which is not waived during the first year.

So your two free nights will actually cost you around $400, plus any resort fees that may or may not be included in those two free nights.

Once you spend the $3,000, the Two Free Night Stay E-Certificates will be automatically deposited into your Ritz-Carlton Rewards account. They expire 12 months after issue.

Tip: Watch out for the offer that requires $4,000 in spending. Find the $3,000 link before you apply by searching around!

How to Offset the Annual Fee on the Ritz Credit Card

Fortunately, there are several options to make that annual fee less painful.

This card provides a $100 hotel credit when you book a stay of two nights or longer at a Ritz-Carlton.

It can be used for dining, the spa, or other stuff at the hotel, though I believe alcohol is excluded, so think lunch by the pool or a discount on your expensive dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants.

There’s also a $300 annual travel credit, which can be used for a variety of things like baggage fees, seat upgrades, airport lounge fees, in-flight meals and WiFi, and Global Entry fees.

It’s obviously a bummer that you can’t just use the credit to offset straight up airfare or gift cards for airfare.

And many people probably already have lounge access and/or Global Entry credit via Citi Prestige or Amex Platinum, making this credit not as useful as it looks.

By the way, you get lounge access via the Lounge Club with this card anyway, so it’s a bit redundant unless you use an outside lounge.

Still, if you travel a lot you could probably get some use out of the $300, though it’s not a clear cut way to offset to your annual fee if you just want the free hotel nights with no strings.

What Else Do You Get with the Ritz Credit Card?

The Ritz-Carlton credit card also gives you automatic Gold Elite status during the first account year, which provides things like free room upgrades, late checkout, and exclusive point bonuses.

If you manage to spend $10,000 on purchases during your first account year, you can maintain your Gold Elite status. The same goes for years after that.

Assuming you spend money like it’s going out of style, aka $75,000+ each account year, you’ll achieve Platinum Elite status. This results in arrival gifts (think champagne and chocolates) and room guarantees, among other things.

Regardless of what you spend, you also get three upgrades to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level each year, which is basically a lounge within the hotel that makes your stay at the Ritz even more exclusive.

However, both this benefit and the hotel credit are for paid stays, so I don’t know if you can take advantage of these perks while using the free night certificates.

How to Earn Points with Ritz

ritz award chart

– 5 points per $1 spent at Ritz-Carlton hotels and partner hotels (Marriott and others)
– 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets direct with airlines
– 2 points per $1 spent on car rentals
– 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants
– 1 points per $1 on other purchases

You also earn a 10% “Annual Points Premium” on points earned throughout the year. It’s like the 7% Annual Points Dividend that used to be offered on Chase Sapphire Preferred.

So you’ll earn more than one point per dollar spent, and even more if you spend a lot in the bonus categories.

The chart above details how many points you need to redeem hotel rewards. You get the fifth night free if you happen to book five nights. In other words, you can snag five nights in a Tier 1 hotel for 120,000 points.

There’s also an option to book a room using a combination of points and cash, and a PointSavers program that requires 10,000 less points in each tier.

Is the Ritz Credit Card a Pass or Is It a Go?

In summary, with that hefty $395 annual fee in place, it’d be hard to justify keeping the Ritz-Carlton credit card in your wallet year after year unless you truly love staying at the Ritz and do so often.

And even applying for it to get the two free nights might be a stretch for some unless you have specific travel plans and really want to stay at a Ritz property. It could make sense for an anniversary or another special occasion.

You could treat the free nights less the annual fee as a subsidy I suppose. Of course, you’re still paying $400 for two nights, which many folks may not be comfortable with.

A better alternative could be the Chase Hyatt credit card, which offers two free nights after spending just $1,000, and waives the annual fee the first year. And there are plenty of nice Park Hyatt hotels worldwide.

However, ~$400 might not be a bad deal for two nights at the Ritz-Carlton of your choice, just try to take advantage of all the freebies to offset that cost.

(photo: prayitno)

Some Dude Has Nearly 1,500 Active Credit Cards

If you’re always chasing the latest credit card deal, you might think you have a lot of credit cards.

But if you compare your tally to that of Walter Cavanagh’s, you wouldn’t even come close.

The Guinness record holder reportedly has 1,497 “valid” credit cards in his wallet (just kidding, they’re not all in his wallet, I think).

Oh wait, most of them are in his wallet because he holds the record for world’s longest wallet too, at a staggering 250 feet.

Apparently the massive credit card holder weighs 38 pounds and can accommodate 800 credit cards.

But most of the cards are kept in safe deposit boxes at the bank, probably to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Applying Since the 1960s

If you’re wondering how long it takes to accrue about 1,500 credit cards, think lifetime. Cavanagh has been doing it since the 1960s, or for more than fifty years now.

He told ABC News that it started out as a friendly wager between him and a friend, and somehow the guy was able to get 143 cards in just the first year alone.

His pal could only muster 138, which is still pretty admirable in my book.

It’s unclear if you can get that many cards today, though I’d venture to say no based on the recent crackdown on credit card churning.

What’s kind of lame about this guy’s story is that it doesn’t appear to have helped him earn cash back or free worldwide travel.

Instead, he seems to only be in the game to win obscure world records, as he only uses one of the 1,500 credit cards in his possession. I wonder which one by the way…

He has roughly $1.7 million in available credit at his disposal and credit cards from just about anywhere you can think of.

One is from an ice cream store in Texas, which is certainly one of the most peculiar credit cards I’ve never heard of.

Others are made of paper, some aluminum, and one sterling silver. Some are even collector’s items.

His lowest limit is $50 on one card, which makes the card pretty much worthless unless it’s used for very small purchases.

I also kind of wonder why the banks and credit card issuers haven’t shut down his cards for inactivity, but I digress.

Only Denied Once

If you’re wondering how many times he’s been denied, according to him, just once. A company called J.J. Newberry Co. supposedly told him he had too much outstanding credit back in the 1970s.

Of course, he only had about 100 credit cards at that time. Now if a credit card issuer rejects him he appeals by explaining his world record. And I guess they oblige.

If you were wondering how many credit cards you should have at any given time, I’d say a lot less than 1,500. And a lot less than 150 for that matter.

In fact, 15 or less might be just fine, especially if you need to keep track of them all and avoid any missed payments.

For the record, this guy says he has perfect credit, despite all the cards, so having too many may not be an issue.

Just keep in mind that this guy doesn’t actually use them all (and he stores most in a safe place), so he doesn’t have to worry about making on-time payments or having his precious credit card information stolen. Or maxing out the cards

Discover it Miles vs. Discover it Cash Back: The Differences Discussed

Not too long ago, Discover launched a second major credit card in it’s “it” series, the Discover it Miles card.

It joined the existing Discover it Cash Back card that was the first come along. And now that there are two, I figured it’d be prudent to compare the two to assess the pros and cons.

This is a rather interesting match-up because at first glance, the cards are very similar aside from a few key differences.

1% Cash Back or 1.5 Miles Instead?

The biggest difference is that Discover it Cash Back offers 1% cash back on all purchases, whereas Discover it Miles gives you 1.5 miles on every purchase, or 50% more.

For the record, the miles aren’t really miles, they’re fake miles, meaning they’re just worth a penny each and can be redeemed for a statement credit for travel purchases or you can deposit the cash in your bank account.

Conversely, Discover it Cash Back can be redeemed for gift cards, you can pay with your Cashback Bonus at select retailers, give it to charity, redeem for a statement credit, or deposit it in your bank account.

In other words, there are more options with Discover it Cash Back, but the fact that Discover it Miles allows you to move the cash to your bank account means it’s pretty much awash.

The only real potential advantage is that gift cards on Discover are sometimes discounted, so you could save money via that redemption method. Of course, you can also just buy discounted gift cards elsewhere and probably save even more.

Discover it Cash Back Has a $50 Sign-Up Bonus

Another difference is the sign-up bonus on Discover it Cash Back. You can currently earn $50 upon making your first purchase, whereas Discover it Miles offers no sign-up bonus whatsoever.

While $50 might not seem like a big deal, remember that Discover now doubles all cash back earned during the first year, meaning $50 becomes $100.

Additionally, Discover cardmembers can refer one another, so you can earn $50 for referring a friend or family member. And that means you can get $100 too if you’re a new cardmember enjoying double cash back the first year.

In other words, a couple can snag $200 extra dollars just from the sign-up bonus via the original Discover it Cash Back credit card.

However, you only earn 1% cash back on all purchases, doubled to 2% via the special promotion of double cash back the first year.

The Discover it Miles card also comes with double miles the first year, so cardmembers will earn an effective 3% cash back on all spending during the first 12 months.

So while you might miss out on the sign-up bonus, you’ll actually earn an additional 1% on all purchases. Of course, it’ll take $20,000 in spending to make that $200 up.

If you take advantage of Discover’s ApplePay promotion, whereby you get an extra 10 miles or 10% cash back for every purchase until the end of 2015, you’ll earn 23% cash back via the Discover it Miles card and 22% via Discover it Cash Back, assuming it’s doubled.

Discover Deals Portal, Rotating Categories, Free Wi-Fi

There are some other important differences as well. For starters, only Discover it Cash Back has the 5% rotating categories each quarter. This gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 10% cash back (if it’s doubled) on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter.

Discover it Miles cardholders don’t get this benefit. Instead, they just get 1.5 miles per dollar all year round.

Additionally, for some reason the Discover Deals shopping portal has a lot more deals for Discover it Cash Back cardholders than it does for the it Miles cardmembers.

This is an obvious drawback if you like to use shopping portals, but you can always use a third-party portal instead and probably get similar cash back, though it won’t be doubled.

Lastly, only Discover it Miles customers get a $30 in-flight Wi-Fi statement credit each anniversary year, so if you like to travel and use the super slow Wi-Fi, the Miles card wins there.

Aside from these differences, the cards are pretty similar. Both carry no annual fee, offer 0% APR for some promotional period (generally 12 months), give you access to free FICO scores, and allow you to freeze the card if it’s lost or stolen.

Can I Have Two Discover Cards?

If you already have one Discover card, but want another, perhaps to take advantage of double cash back or miles the first year, not to mention the ApplePay promo, you can do it.

I recently applied for Discover it Miles after being a Discover it Cash Back cardholder for a few years.

The reason I applied for a second card was to take advantage of the double miles promotion and the ApplePay deal. It was a no-brainer for me, though it did result in another credit inquiry.

The only caveat here is that a year must have passed before you apply for your second Discover card. Not sure why, it’s just their internal policy. So you can’t apply for two Discover credit cards in one year.

Additionally, if you already have a Discover card, be prepared to have to call in when attempting to get approved for a second card.

You probably won’t be instantly approved. Instead, they’ll want to know why you need a second Discover card, especially seeing that they’re so similar, as we just discussed.

However, there are many differences too, as mentioned, so tell them any of the above and they’ll probably gladly approve you if you have good credit.

There is a chance you’ll need to reallocate your existing credit limit though, so if you have a $10,000 credit line with your first Discover card, you may need to move some portion of that to the new card.

They may also ask if you want to migrate your existing card to a different card product…that’s up to you, just make sure they’ll still give you the sign-up bonus (if applicable) and the double miles/cash the first year.

Discover Will Soon Work with Apple Pay: Time to Apply and Earn 23% Cash Back?

It was announced last week that come September 16th, you’ll finally be able to use your Discover credit card(s) with Apple Pay.

While this is surely welcome news to Discover cardholders who want to use their phone instead of their credit card while checking out, there’s even better news related to the delayed launch.

When Discover goes live on the Apple Pay platform, Discover cardmembers will earn a 10% Cashback Bonus on all purchases made in-store via the payment service, up to $10,000 in purchases, from now until December 31st, 2015.

This is on top of whatever you’d normally earn in the way of cash back from rotating categories and the standard cash back all Discover purchases earn.

And for those with Discover it Miles, Miles, or Escape, you’ll earn an extra 10 miles per dollar on up to $10,000 of in-store purchases when using Apple Pay.

It’s their way of saying thank you for your patience, and also a way to encourage Discover cardmembers to add their Discover credit cards to the payment service.

In order to use Apple Pay in stores, you need an iPhone 6 or better. I currently have the iPhone 5s, but I’m due for a free upgrade (or subsidized upgrade) in late October.

I’m definitely going to take advantage of this deal to get 23% off all my purchases made with Apple Pay.

23% Off All Apple Pay Purchases with Discover

Here’s how you can earn a stellar and unbeatable 23% cash back until the end of 2015.

Step 1: Open a Discover it Miles credit card.
Step 2: Add the card to Apple Pay.
Step 3: Use the card when you pay with Apple Pay at stores (not online).

That’s it! You’ll earn 23 points per dollar spent from September 16th until December 31st, 2015.

[highlight color=”yellow”]The points break down as follows:[/highlight]

– You earn 1.5 miles per dollar with Discover it Miles
– You earn an additional 10 miles per dollar when using Apple Pay during the promotional period
– All miles are doubled the first year for new Discover it Miles cardmembers

That works out to 11.5 points per dollar when new cardmembers select Apple Pay to pay for purchases, which are doubled to 23 points per dollar on your cardmember anniversary.

Put another way, that’s 23% cash back because each mile (they’re not really miles but who cares!) are worth a penny each.

If you spend the entire $10,000 by the end of the year via Apple Pay, you’re looking at a $2,300 payday, which is pretty darn incredible.

This can’t really be missed. I applied for the Discover it Miles card this morning because I want to take advantage and see if I can earn the full $2,300.

I spoke with a Discover chat rep who confirmed that the 10 bonus miles are also doubled for new cardmembers.

For the record, I already have the regular Discover it card, but I still get double miles because I’m a new Discover it Miles cardholder.

Basically once I get my new iPhone, I’m going to do my best to maximize this deal in November and December. It’s definitely a good time of year to do some spending, so I think I’ll be able to get the full value.

Where to Save

where to shop

The only problem is that Apple Pay isn’t accepted everywhere, so I’ll need to research which stores I can get the most mileage out of. The screenshot above shows just some of the possibilities.

I may buy a new MacBook for 23% off to get things going, and maybe take 23% off my gas at Chevron on my way to the Apple Store.

How to Earn 30% Cash Back

discover chat

If you have the Discover it CashBack card, it may be possible to earn even more cash back if you purchase items from select stores in the 5% cash back rotating categories and use Apple Pay.

For example, if you shopped at Bloomingdale’s you’d get 5% cash back when using the Discover it card.

You’d also earn 10% cash back for using Apple Pay, and if you’re a new cardholder, that 15% combined would be doubled to 30% cash back. The only caveat is that the 5% rotating categories only allow for $1,500 in total spending per quarter.

And yes, this can be combined, I even asked a Discover rep via chat.

I’ve seen people mention 32% cash back, but I think they’re adding the 1% cash back you get on every purchase with the 5% rotating categories. That’s not how it works. You just get 5% instead of 1%.

Anyway, I will update this post with my shopping results when they come in.

Tip: Discover is a pretty conservative card issuer so if you aren’t instantly approved, give them a call. If you already have a Discover card, they may ask that you move some of the existing credit line to the new card, which is totally fine.

A Cautionary Tale: Using the Schwab Visa Platinum Debit Card Abroad

I recently came back from a nice little trip to Europe, relying on my handy Charles Schwab Visa Platinum Debit Card to get me through my vacation ATM-fee free.

After all, none of the banks I do business with here in the United States have ATMs in far out places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, or France. At least none that I’m aware of.

Why Chuck Is Good

atm rebate

If you sign up for a Schwab One Individual Brokerage plus Schwab Bank Investor Checking account you can get your hands on the coveted Charles Schwab Visa Platinum Debit Card.

This special piece of plastic refunds all ATM fees, worldwide, with no limit. The caveat is that you need to sign up for the aforementioned account, which is somewhat time consuming (as that long name implies).

Once you get your account package in the mail, you’ll also need to fund your Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account to get your debit card. I just deposited $50 to get the ball rolling.

After receiving the card, I put in a couple grand for my Euro trip so I could avoid ATM fees and not think twice about pulling out money.

Had I used my Wells Fargo ATM card, I would have been hit with a $5 fee every time I pulled out cash since ATM cash withdrawals outside the U.S. are levied with exorbitant fees.

You may also get hit with a foreign transaction fee for purchasing Euros with dollars.

And because it’s not wise to pull out a ton of cash all at once, you tend to use ATMs frequently while traveling.

Unless you want to cruise around with $1,000+ cash in your wallet and be a sucker.

This makes the Schwab Visa Platinum Debit Card a veritable no-brainer. It’s a free interest-bearing checking account and you receive a rebate for all ATM fees with no limit. What’s not to like?

Most U.S. banks will hit you with the ATM fee and another fee for foreign transactions at said ATMs, so it can get expensive to pull out cash.

And yes, cash is a necessary evil when traveling abroad, even if many places do accept credit cards. I often find it easier to just use cash rather than deal with plastic, especially for the many small purchases I make along the way.

Think a bottled water here, a metro ticket there, a beer at a bar, a small bite, etc. You won’t want to keep swiping, and merchants will probably tell you to take a hike if you try.

At the end of the month, Schwab reimburses you for any ATM fees you paid. You’ll see them on your monthly statement around the last day of the month.

I actually only had one ATM fee reimbursed because none of the ATMs in Europe charged me a fee. So it seemed like nothing actually happened.

But I used an ATM six times during my 10-day trip. That would have set me back $30 just for the foreign ATM fees, and possibly more if Wells Fargo decided to hit me with a foreign transaction fee as well.

The $3 fee you see rebated is actually from a Wells Fargo ATM I used stateside to test the card before setting off on my trip. It’s always good to test.

Now the Bad News

Before I left, I told Schwab I was going to Europe so my debit card would actually work when I got there.

I patted myself on the back for being responsible and was excited to use the card once I arrived.

As noted, I used the card to withdraw money on multiple occasions, only pulling out small amounts like $150 here or $200 there to pay for certain things in cash.

Had I been carrying a card that charged me every time, I’d have probably pulled out larger amounts and been more stressed.

Unfortunately, about a week into my trip, the Schwab debit card stopped working. I tried multiple ATMs and kept getting a vague notice on the machine that said something like, “Not available at the moment.”

I assumed the ATM machines were screwy and kept trying. Finally, when I was down to just a small wad of Euros and some loose change in my pocket, I inquired with the banks.

They weren’t much help, what with the language barrier and the fact that I wasn’t a customer.

Finally, I went to my hotel and called Schwab via the international collect call number listed on the back of the card.

I got a rep fairly quickly and asked what was up – they noted that I attempted to use my card at an ATM that is blacklisted, despite being a large Italian bank’s ATM.

As a result, Visa apparently told Schwab to freeze the card so I couldn’t withdraw any more money.

That itself was fine, but what wasn’t okay was the lack of a notice. I literally attempted to pull cash out of like 10 ATMs before calling Schwab.

Had they texted, called, or e-mailed me about the breach, I wouldn’t have had to waste my time running around Paris trying to withdraw cash.

That’s where Schwab failed me. It’s great that you’re protecting my account, but clue me in next time! I asked my I wasn’t notified and the rep pulled one of those silly, “We didn’t? Do we have your phone number on file?  Is that your current mobile phone?”

Trust me, you have my e-mail address…how do you think I get those near-daily promotional e-mails from your company?

They had plenty of accurate contact info but didn’t bother using any of it. Don’t give me the runaround. Admit you screwed up and we can move forward.

Moral of the story is to carry a backup debit card because it doesn’t sound like this is an uncommon situation.  And if your card stops working contact Schwab right away, if you can.  Also avoid shady looking ATM machines. Perhaps use the ones inside bank branches as opposed to the ones outside on the street.

Fortunately, I was able to get by on plastic the rest of the trip, and it was kind of fun, perhaps even money-saving, to avoid using cash the rest of the way.

Good, Bad, and Ugly Credit Cards for Gift Card Redemptions

There are a variety of ways to cash in credit card points and miles. One of the most common methods is to redeem for a statement credit, which is essentially a rebate for all your purchases (this is why they aren’t taxable).

Nothing beats cash, right? Well, not always. In some cases, it might actually make sense to redeem for a flight or even a gift card if the redemption values make sense.

But it certainly depends on the credit card in question. Let’s take a look at some instances where it’s good or bad to redeem credit card points for gift cards.

Discover Offers Bonus Money on Gift Cards

discover gc

One of the coolest things Discover allows is statement credits for any amount you choose. So you can redeem your CashBack Bonus for odd amounts like $13.04, instead of fixed amounts like $25 or $50.

This makes cashing out super easy and convenient, and might make cardholders forget about other options like gift cards.

But Discover actually gives you a better value when you redeem for gift cards instead of cold hard cash.

One example is car rental gift cards, which Discover often doubles. For $20, you get $40 with companies like Alamo, Enterprise, and National.

Or you can redeem your points for a $20 Gap gift card valued at $25. A $45 Starbucks gift card will give you $50 in coffee.

There are tons of discounted gift cards in the Discover redemption center, making it a good value for cardholders.

American Express Isn’t Good for Gift Card Redemptions

amex gc

Now let’s look at American Express, which allows you to redeem Membership Rewards points for gift cards.

You can get a $25 Amex gift card for 5,000 points. In other words, your MR points are worth half a penny each, as opposed to Discover, which offers values of two cents per point in some cases.

In other words, Amex doesn’t provide good value for gift card redemptions, so you’re better off using your points for something else, such as travel or Uber, which provides a one cent per point redemption value.

Some of the offers are better, like 2,941 points for a $25 Cheesecake Factory gift card, but that still represents a sub-one penny per point value. Boo!

Citi Is Better Than Amex, But Not Great

citi gc

If you’ve got lots of Citi ThankYou Points, you can redeem them for gift cards via Thankyou.com.

The redemption values are generally a penny per point, so a $50 Marshalls gift card will set you back 5,000 points.

So clearly it’s better than Amex, but not as good as Discover, which offers reduced redemption costs, as noted above.

However, Citi does sometimes offer deals on gift cards like Discover so in some cases it can be worth cashing in your TYP for a gift card.

Chase Gives You a Penny per Point

chase gc

Much like Citi, Chase Ultimate Rewards points used for gift cards redeem at a value of a penny per point.

So a $10 Best Buy gift card will set you back 1,000 UR points. The good thing about Chase is the low redemption amounts. You can redeem for as little as 500 points for a $5 gift card.

And they sometimes have sales on gift cards, though it’s generally slim pickings. If you want to see what’s “on sale” you can quickly filter the results, which is handy.

Of course, transferring your UR points to an airline or simply redeeming them for cash back at a penny per point also makes sense.

After all, once you’ve got the cash you can buy discounted gift cards online and get more value for them that way.

Barclaycard Lacks Selection

barclays gc

Over at Barclaycard, it’s best to use miles for travel purchases because you get a better redemption value.

It’s a little deceiving at first because it generally takes 5,000 miles to redeem a $25 gift card. But you earn two miles per dollar spent on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus.

So in reality gift cards are still worth a penny per mile, which is the same as Citi, better than Amex, but not as good as Discover.

Unfortunately, they don’t have much of a selection when it comes to gift cards, and the travel redemption is a much better value, even if they are fake miles.

In summary, redeeming credit card points for gift cards isn’t the best value for your points in most cases, though Discover does make it a more compelling option.

Just be sure to explore ALL your options before burning your hard-earned points!

100k Amex Platinum Offer Seen in the Wild

How to Get the 100k American Express Platinum Deal

Every once in a while, American Express offers an unbeatable 100,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus via their Platinum Card.

I say unbeatable because it’s the highest sign-up bonus for the lowest amount of spend you’ll come across, even if it does come with a $450 annual fee.

Typically, they only offer 40,000 MR points so this is a 150% point increase folks.

The specific details of this latest Amex Platinum offer were 100,000 MR points after spending just $3,000 during the first three months.

Sure, there have been 150,000 bonus-point offers in the past via the business version of Amex Platinum, but that required a hefty $20,000 in spending.

For some, spending $20k in three months (or three minutes) is easy, for others it’s next to impossible. Or at least seemingly so. Either way, it’s nothing anyone really wants to do if they don’t normally spend that kind of money.

The 100k offer is a much better value for a very reasonable amount of spend, and one I’m bummed to have missed out on (again!).

After all, 100,000 MR points translates to $1,000 of free Uber rides, or even more money if I transfer the points to an airline partner and fly first class around the world.

You can try to access the offer through the standard protocol of opening the application link in an incognito window on Firefox or Chrome.

Here is the basic link to the Amex Platinum card. If you open it in a private window as noted, hopefully the 100k offer comes up. If not, you keep trying until you give up.

Sometimes credit card issuers toggle different offers to test the market and I suppose even out their generosity.

Earlier this year, Chase did exactly that with the annual fee on its Ink card, toying around with a $150 fee, a $95 fee, and a $0 intro fee.

So really any time you’re thinking about applying for a new credit card, you should check to see all the offers that exist and determine the best way of getting the biggest one.

Now if you weren’t able to pull up the 100k Amex Platinum offer today (like me), you can call Amex and ask for the deal explicitly or do so via their online chat.

I mentioned it to a customer service representative via online chat and was told that the offer wasn’t in my account, but that I could ask to be targeted for it.

Obviously I said yes, go for it, but it remains to be seen whether my efforts will bear fruit. It didn’t take long to speak to the rep and hopefully whatever they did on their end will actually pay off.

I figure if nothing else I have some ammunition going forward if I see a similar offer in the future. Next time I miss out I’ll be able to tell the next rep about my previous encounter. And that might just give me some mileage (literally!).

It certainly doesn’t hurt to call/chat with Amex to let them know you’re interested in such offers so when they do come around you can take advantage of them (make sure you’re opted in).

Especially without having to do weird browser tricks that could potentially nullify your bonus if you weren’t the intended audience.

I’ll let you know if my chat session ever pays off – that 100,000-point bonus sure sounded sweet, though to be honest, I don’t have a need for the points at this very moment. So maybe it’s better I missed out today.

There’s a 150k Amex Platinum Bonus Point Offer Too

Some even luckier folks may come across a 150,000-bonus point offer from American Express Platinum via snail mail. Yes, you read that right.

Who cares about 100,000 Membership Rewards points when you can 50% more via the 150k offer.

American Express has also been known to mail out these insane offers to business owners via the business version of Amex Platinum.

Don’t throw it away if you receive one. Just note that, as mentioned, the minimum spend could be as high as $20,000 in three months, or perhaps just $15k.

So you should have a plan setup before you apply, and also a purpose with regard to all those MR points.

250k Amex Platinum Bonus Offer Now Available

Even better news to report…there’s a 250,000 MR point offer floating around to targeted business owners. It’s the business version of Amex Platinum and it comes with an opening bonus of 50,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months of account opening.

You also earn 20,000 points for each $5,000 purchase you make during those six months.

In other words, you can hit two bonuses in one shot if your first purchase (or any purchase I suppose) is $5,000 or more. Assuming it were, you’d hit the opening 50k bonus and earn 20k bonus points at the same time.

That means you’d earn 75,000 points with one $5,000 purchase:

  • $5,000 in spending = 5,000 MR points
  • $5,000 single purchase = 20,000 MR points
  • $5,000 in total spending = 50,000 MR points
  • Total = 75,000 MR points

American Express is giving cardholders the chance to do the $5,000 purchase up to 10 times during those first six months for a total bonus of 200,000 MR points (250,000 with the opening bonus).

In all, you can snag 300,000 MR points with this crazy offer if you are able to make 10 extra large purchases (250,000 bonus points plus 50k points for the $50k in required spending).

Even if you were targeted though, it’d be tough to pull it off. I’m sure some folks could handle the one-time $5,000 purchase to unlock 75k MR points (maybe by purchasing a car or something), but multiple $5,000 purchases would be tricky for many.

Read more: You can apply for Citi Prestige and Citi Premier over a span of eight days and get 100k+ bonus points too.

New Credit Card Offers 0% APR for 40 Months!

Credit card issuers are constantly attempting to outdo one another, especially in United Kingdom on the 0% APR front.

But I’ve never seen something like this…for a limited time, Virgin Money is offering 0% APR on balance transfers for a staggering 40 months. Yes, you read that right. An entire 40 months!

That’s nearly four years if you do the simple math, enough time for seemingly anyone to pay off their credit card debt. Or so you would hope.

The promotion is only available for 20 days to celebrate Virgin Money’s 20-year anniversary in the financial services biz. It ends on September 9th, 2015.

The caveat is there is a 2.99% balance transfer fee and it must be executed within 60 days of opening the credit card account.

Of course, if they offered 40 months at 0% APR with no fee, they’d be completely out of their minds.

I think it’s already borderline outrageous that they’ve upped the 0% APR period to 40 months.  Although it does beg the question, does another card issuer dare take it to 48 months, or four years?

Doubtful, but you never know these days.

The Terms of the Deal

Cardholders must make a minimum payment of £25 each month, or their entire balance if it is less than that. The good news is every single penny should go toward paying off the debt, as opposed to interest.

This means cardholders can actually get out of debt, instead of simply trying to keep up with fees and interest month after month.

The card comes in a variety of cool, if not infamous, flavors, including a variety of Sex Pistols themed cards, a cassette tape card, and some other colorful numbers.

I say infamous because some folks claimed rock n’ roll died the day the Sex Pistols credit cards were released.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter which design you choose because it’s a balance transfer credit card, meaning it should never really leave your wallet, let alone your home.

Remember, don’t commingle balance transfers and purchases or you’ll be in for a nasty surprise when you attempt to pay off the charges.

Stateside, the longest 0% APR credit card offers seem to be capped at 21 months, which is fairly weak compared to the UK.

Citi is the most aggressive issuer at the moment, though Discover had a 24-month offer for a while not too long ago.

I’m sure the 0% APR offers will get extended over time as competition heats up again, but for now, just under two years is as good as it gets.

Sorry Americans, the Brits won this battle.

Read more: Should you pay off your entire credit card balance?

(photo: jon jordan)

Collar Stay Punch Puts Your Old Credit Cards to Good Use

It’s been some time since I’ve written about a credit card gadget, so without further ado, I present to you the “Collar Stay Punch.”

This is actually more a device that makes use of old credit cards than it is a credit card gadget, but it’s still really cool and useful, especially if you work a 9 to 5 job.

When I used to wear dress shirts daily (I don’t as often these days thank goodness), I remember the collars sagging on my shirts after one or two wears.

Typically, the culprit was a missing collar stay, those little plastic doohickeys that are inserted in the collar to keep it nice and crisp and shapely.

The problem is that they fall out when you either wash your shirt or take it to the dry cleaners, and who actually has collar stays at the ready?

Okay, some people probably do, and kudos to them for being so organized and prepared, but there’s a new solution to this age-old problem, and it involves your unwanted credit cards.

Turn Your Credit Cards Into Collar Stays

cs tool

With the Collar Stay Punch, available from CoolMaterial.com for $29.95, you can turn your old credit cards, gift cards, or any sturdy piece of plastic into a collar stay.

So when you’re faced with that all-too-common dilemma of needing a collar stay to look sharp, you can simply whip out your Collar Stay Punch and go to town on your old credit cards.

This actually solves two problems at the same time. Or maybe even three, depending upon how you look at it.

You get your collar stays (for free), you recycle your old credit cards, which is good for the environment, and you essentially “cut up” your old credit cards, thereby making them useless to anyone trying to nab your info.

[What to do with unused credit cards.]

Based on the video presentation over at their website, you can get about two collar stays from one credit card, so basically you’ll never run out of collar stays again!

For the record, this company appears to be behind the Guitar Pick Punch as well, which is another nifty gadget that allows you to create guitar picks out of old credit cards.

Put simply, very cool, super helpful, and also a nice green product that could help keep more plastic out of trash bins worldwide.

Read more: How to eat with your credit cards as utensils.

Get $20 a Year for Good Grades via the Discover it Student Credit Card

If you’re a good student in need of a credit card, you can get awarded simply for maintaining a solid GPA.

It’s part of the new “Good Grades Reward” promotion from Discover, which gives students a $20 Cashback Bonus for each school year in which they maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

The $20 bonus is available for up to five years, meaning students enrolled in the program for their entire college tenure can earn $100.

Additionally, because new Discover it cardholders are now earning double cash back for their first year, students can snag $40 via the Good Grades Reward during year one.

At the moment there’s a $50 bonus (find the right offer link) after you make your first purchase on the Discover it Student card, so it can be a pretty lucrative offer, especially for a student credit card.

In order to be eligible for the promotion, you need to apply for either the Discover it or Discover it chrome card and indicate that you are currently enrolled in college (undergrad or graduate school).

This should be auto-populated in the application (as your employment status) if you apply for a student version of the cards mentioned. You’ll see “not a student” text in the application to indicate you’re in the right place.

A Discover online chat representative told me, “You do have to have to be approved for a student version to qualify for this.”

So be careful to apply for the correct version of the card to ensure you actually receive the bonus.

As stated, you also need a GPA of 3.0 (or equivalent) during a given school year (September – August).

That equates to a “B” average or 85% or higher if it’s based on a 0-100% scoring range.

How to Get the Good Grades Reward

good grades

Once you’ve signed up for one of these cards (it only applies to new cardmembers of as July 23, 2015), you have to log into your Discover account online and enter your GPA or equivalent grade for any term during the school year.

Within 1-2 billing periods, you’ll receive the $20 Good Grades Reward in your Cashback Bonus account.

As far as verifying your GPA, Discover said it may request additional documentation to verify that you did indeed maintain the grades necessary for the bonus.

Your account also has to be open and in good standing at the time of requesting the bonus, meaning no late payments!

For the record, the student versions of Discover it also come with the rotating 5% cash back categories, along with 1% cash back elsewhere.

And as noted, new cardmembers get double cash back the first year, which also applies to the $20 Good Grades Reward.

All in all, this is a great offer for a student credit card because most offer little to no cash back bonus.

However, if you’ve got good credit and can apply for a traditional credit card you might be able to get your hands on a much better opening bonus.

Either way, study hard and get good grades!