Barclaycard

Friends return from an Amazing Family trip to Italy

The most satisfying part of writing a travel blog and the hobby of earning Travel Rewards is  helping friends and family travel the world creating memories without breaking pocket. One of our best friends Steve and Joi along with their two boys (Bradley < 2 yrs and Lucas < 1 yrs) returned after spending two weeks in Italy. They visited Rome and Sorrento (Amalfi coast). Steve and Joi are well traveled around the world but recently got on board with the travel rewards program earning miles and points utilizing  credit card sign-up bonuses and implementing other strategies that I now offer via my Travel Coaching program.

Rome Coliseum

Outside the Coliseum in Rome

Introduction

Steve is my office mate and also partner in crime (taking trips to Simon mall for manufactured spending). If you want to learn on ways to stay organized in this hobby Steve is your go to man !! We’ve also taken few family trips together including a recent road trip  to Washington DC where we actually got paid to stay at the Hilton right next to the White house. Steve and Joi signed up for the following cards for their vacation to Italy

Credit Card, Account  Miles or Points Type Benefits
Chase British Airways Avios

100,000

 Avios Companion ticket after spending 30K in calendar year
Barclay Arrival World Mastercard

x 2

40,000 X 2

Travel Miles 2X points on all spending and easy travel redemption, $800 + in Travel credits from two cards one each for Steve and Joi
Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Card

2 Free Nights

Free Nights 2 Free Nights at Hilton Hotels Worldwide
Chase INK Business Card

50,000

UR Points Points can be transferred to several airline and hotel partners or redeemed for travel discount via UR portal
Bradley Business Class

Bradley had his own seat in the Business Class of British Airways. Getting pampered at a young age

They flew Business Class on British Airways from Washington DC to Rome. Steve used 100,000 Avios and the Free companion ticket he earned by signing up for the Chase British Airways Avios Card to book these seats. British airways does charge almost $1000 fuel surcharge on award tickets which is a potential drawback.

Waldorf Astoria Rome

Bradley treated like Royalty at Waldorf Astoria in Rome

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The executive lounge at Waldorf Astoria – Complimentary Breakfast, Booze and hors d’oeuvres is what they enjoyed every day!!

They utilized combination of the two nights earned from the Citi Hilton cards along with cash and points to stay 4 nights at this magnificent Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri (probably one of the best hotel in Rome) costing less them  $300 out-of-pocket  for the entire stay including access to the spa and executive lounge serving awesome gelato, wine and snacks round-the-clock. A one-night stay at this hotel can easily cost  $500 a night with all the upgrades they had so its a saving of more than $1700 for a four night stay!!! And guess who was sharing the pool with them at the Hotel – Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. Steve was able to keep the cost of their  stay at Waldorf Astoria this low by using combination of sign-up bonus from the two Barclay Arrival cards, two nights free from the Citi Hilton Reserve card and few trips to Simon Mall for manufacture spending Barclay Arrival miles.

Lunch Italy

Enjoying a relaxing lunch in Amalfi, Italy

BA Business Class

How do they look so fresh and happy after a long International flight? Oh let me guess – they traveled Business class on British Airways

They used Ultimate Rewards (UR) points for the Hop-on Hop-off tour in Rome. You can use UR points to book airline, hotels, car rental and trust me even Hot air balloon ride!!! You earn UR points by signing up for Chase INK business card, Sapphire Preferred and Freedom card. I love UR points as they can be transferred to several airline and hotel partners and if you have the Chase INK card you can ramp up your UR account balance very quickly as the card offers 5X points at office stores and also telecommunication bills (phone, internet, cable etc) and 2X on gas.  I love my Chase INK card and I have paid the annual fees of $95 on this card for the last two years (of-course after earning a retention bonus of 10,000 UR points when annual fees is due).

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Pompeii, Italy

They stayed at the Hotel Capodimonte in Sorrento. This hotel is not part of any major hotel chains such as Hyatt, Hilton etc so they charged entire stay on to the Barclay Arrival Card. Steve has up to 120 days to redeem this charge (~$2000) and he has been able to secure red card/serve from family members that will help him to  rack up serious manufactured spending and after redeeming the miles this stay will cost him only $800!!!

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Beautiful Amalfi Coast

Positano

Day Trip to Positano

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PS – Lucas is holding a lemon and not a Watermelon!!

They were not ready to come back after spending quality time in Italy. The above picture of Bradley and Lucas sums up the whole trip.

Bottomline

Steve and his family had an amazing vacation in Italy. This vacation could have easily costed $20,000 ++ (including business class in BA, Waldorf Astoria Hotel stays, car rental, etc etc) but by smartly using bonuses from credit card sign-ups and maximizing mileage redemption this vacation will roughly cost them $3000 (or less). As part of my Travel Rewards service I can help you and your family to get to you next dream destination for pennies. Send me a note to get started with the Travel Rewards program where we will communicate over phone/skype for a few minutes to better understand your needs and then customize a game plan. Let’s make your dreams come true!!!

Categories: Barclaycard, Chase Ink, Citi Credit Cards, Friends Travel, Italy, Travel coaching | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Update on AAA No purchase fees Visa gift cards – Next Steps

The Deal

I continue my exploration  of AAA no purchase fees gift cards  to help readers and fellow frequent mile earners. I stopped by the local AAA office to buy the gift cards in the hope of generating lot of points and miles for free. Early this year I canceled my AAA membership  after my insurance company provided a good deal for unlimited road side assistance bundled into my insurance policy. As per my conversation with the agent at the local AAA office you need to have a active membership to purchase these gift cards without paying fees (promotion ends June 30th). 

What should you do?

I started exploring ways to maximize my savings and found a way you could maximize on this offer by buying a AAA membership and then purchasing gift cards to make a profit. The basic AAA membership costs around $55 for 1 person and you would pay another $22 or more to add a second member. But I would show you a way of how you can add 2 people on the same AAA account for a total of $47 so if you share  with a friend your net cost is ~ $24 per person. Use the link here to sign up for AAA membership : Link

1. In the promo code section enter RS23
Screenshot 2015-06-12 at 11.17.25 PM

2. Continue filling up the form – choose the basic option and select 2 household members. Select auto-renewal to get additional $5 off. You can always cancel the membership next year before fees is due

Screenshot 2015-06-12 at 11.20.18 PM

3. Continue with the form by entering information for the two drivers and press continue. On the next page you would see payment information and here comes the surprise where the secret code knocks off the membership cost for  associate member. My cost for annual membership for two people drops from $96 to $47.

Screenshot 2015-06-12 at 11.29.06 PM

4. Finalize the purchase by entering your credit card information. You will receive picture of the temporary card. Make a copy of it as you would need it to purchase gift cards. You would not only get AAA membership but this would also allow you to now purchase the no fees gift cards and also there are other savings on hotel stays ,car rentals, vacation packages etc that comes with the AAA membership so all-in-all a good deal.

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Next steps and which credit card to use?

I’d be revisiting the local AAA office tomorrow to purchase the gift cards. I’d be definitely using the Barclay Arrival World Elite Mastercard to buy minimum of $5000 in gift cards i.e 10 gift cards with $500 each and $0 purchase fees (Woo hoo) netting $100 in Travel credits. Another good card is the Club Carlson Visa card as you earn 5X on all purchases and $5000 gift cards would help you earn 25000 club Carlson points for free. A couple of these trips to AAA office and you could spend a night in some of these fancy hotels for free after earning 50,000 Club Carlson points.

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Radisson Blu Shanghai 44000 points per night

Blu aqua chicago

Radisson blu aqua Chicago 44000 points per night

Bottomline

To its members AAA is selling no purchase fees Visa debit gift cards until Jun 30th. The gift cards can be purchased using a miles and points earning credit card and unloaded on to bluebird, serve or redbird thus may help you earn a lot of miles and points for free. You can also purchase a AAA membership implementing the trick I discussed in this article where a associate can be added for free to further maximize savings.

Categories: AAA, Barclaycard, Gift Cards | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Credit Card hacked – Someone booked a $2800 stay using my card

Last Friday afternoon I received a security notification from Barclay Fraud department (which btw has a top notch security alert system). They wanted to clarify a few recent charges on my Barclay Arrival World Elite Mastercard. I ignored the voicemail for a few hours as I had  purchased gift cards from Simon mall worth $7500 to manufacture spend some valuable Barclay miles and I assumed this purchase triggered the security alert. Barclay wanted me to call in and clear recent transactions before I wa able to use my card again. I wanted to sort out the situation asap so called the fraud department and they had  question on a $2800 ish charge on my card for Hotel Perla (which after googling I found out is in Prague another place on our bucket list). They went through all my recent transactions and confirmed if it were me or one of the authorized users who charged the card.

Hotel Perla

Someone enjoyed a $2800 stay using information from my credit card

I did not panic because all major credit cards come with Fraud protection and you are never responsible for any unauthorized charges on your card. I know some folks avoid applying for credit cards for the very reason of dealing with fraud but knowing credit card companies always back you up for  fraudulent transactions keeps me alive in this game.

Long story short, Barclay cancelled existing cards (including authorized users) on my Arrival card and have expedited new sets of card that should arrive here shortly. I did not have to pay anything for the unauthorized stay of $2800 at Hotel Perla which was charged on my credit card.

Can you avoid Credit Card skimming?

PC magazine did an article on how you can “possibly” avoid scammers steal your credit card information. A lot of credit card companies are switching to “chip-based” technology which is supposedly “safer” but that did not help in my case as Barclay does have the chip technology but somehow someone was able to retrieve information from my credit card and not sure if they booked an advance stay or used the card after the stay was completed and got a freebie. So bottomline is you probably cannot avoid skimming of your card but the best you can do is to stay alert.credit card smikker

A good habit is to check you account every couple of days and look for any charge that looks suspicious and contacting the bank right away. Make sure you email address and telephone numbers with the banks are updated so in a situation like this they know how to contact you and you are not left stranded without a credit card especially when traveling.

Have you ever had someone skim steal your credit card information?

Categories: Barclaycard, Citi Credit Cards, Miscellaneous | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

How applying for and using credit cards wisely can actually improve your FICO score?

[Disclosure: I do  earn referral for some of the credit cards in this post. Thanks for the support if you ever apply through the site.  To find other top deals check out the top credit card offers or you can also check offer at creditcards.com.]

What is a FICO Score?

I have been helping a lot of friends and family in the last few days  plan their next travel  via credit card sign-up bonuses  and it has come to my realization thay lot of people have  reservation applying for  new credit cards. This reservation is valid if you were to carry a debt and pay high interest on carry forward balances. But, if you are good with finances you can actually use credit card sign-up offers to really travel big while paying pennies.

 

Eiffel

Making dreams come true

 

So, I thought I should write an article of how managing my credit cards and applying for credit cards actually has put my FICO score in top 1% and help me secure other loans (auto and mortgage) at the lowest interest rates while saving us thousands of dollars long-term.

The most widely used credit scores are FICO® Scores, the credit scores created by Fair Isaac Corporation. 90% of top lenders use FICO® Scores to help them make billions of credit-related decisions every year. FICO® Scores are calculated based solely on information in consumer credit reports maintained at the credit reporting agencies.

By comparing this information to the patterns in hundreds of thousands of past credit reports, FICO® Scores estimate your level of future credit risk.

Base FICO® Scores have a 300–850 score range. The higher the score, the lower the risk. But no score says whether a specific individual will be a “good” or “bad” customer. There is no single “cutoff score” used by all lenders and there are many additional factors that lenders use to determine your actual interest rates.

How wisely using credit cards can actually boost FICO score and get you better interest rates ?

In 2014 I applied for a total of six credit cards (and five for my wife) which helped us earn over 700,000 miles, which some may argue is on a high side but honestly I was conservative (compare to other I personally know applied for 10+ and still have an excellent score). We were able to take some fantastic trips in 2014 and 2015 is just about to get better!!!

Spanish Paella

Enjoying cuisines around the world – my new favorite Spanish Paella!

Below is a snap shot of my credit score and history from the last year. You can find your FICO score for a small fee by visiting myfico.com but is available free of charge if you are holder of either the US Airways Premier World Mastercard or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

amit fico score

Free FICO score from the Barclaycard website

fico score history

FICO Score History since Feb 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My score in Feb 2014 was 786 and now almost after a year stands at 814 . The maximum score anyone can attain is 850 but in my knowledge a score of 750+ will qualify you for best interest rates for auto and home loans and long term save you thousands of dollars. I always pay off my credit cards in full and keep my utilization ratio less than 20%. Refer to my article on credit 101 for more information.

Bottomline

Applying and smartly utilizing credit cards can actually help you improve your FICO score and benefit you financially long-term if you pay off your credit card in full and keep your credit utilization low. Signing up for credit card can help you earn miles and points and travel the world for pennies.

 

Welcome Le Meredien Barcelona

Warm welcome at Le Meredien Barcelona Suite

 

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities

Categories: Barclaycard, cheap travel, Credit cards, FICO, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Deal Alert – United – $556: Chicago / Washington D.C. / Boston – Istanbul, Turkey. Roundtrip, including all Taxes

Per the Flight Deal there is an awesome sale to Istanbul, Turkey from major US hubs – Chicago, Washington D.C and Boston.

The deal is valid for travel on outbound from January, 2015 – March 27th, 2015. Must purchase at least three days in advance of departure. You can check the ITA Matrix for far availability.

Istanbul-HD-Wallpaper

Istanbul

I did a sample search for travel in March for a 5-night stay and here are the results –

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Sample travel dates via ITA Matrix

You can also use another powerful travel tool Google Flights to perform a similar search and here are the results

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Search results for flights to Turkey from Washington D.C via Google Flights

Bottomline –

You can get to Turkey next year for a really decent fare of under $600. I am not sure how long these fares would last so you may want to act on it NOW!!. You can also consider applying for one of my favorite travel rewards credit card the  Barclaycard Arrival Plus Mastercard and earn $440 towards travel credit which could help you bring the cost of the travel tickets further down.

Categories: Barclaycard, Turkey | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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