OPEN Lounge Has CLOSED at Chicago’s McCormick Place!

Closed as of June 2018

I was hoping to check out the little slice of heaven that was the AmEx OPEN lounge at Chicago’s McCormick Place durning the TradersEXPO this weekend only to be given the news that the lounge has closed as of June 2018. I sent an email to the rep to see if it would be open and I got this response:

Hi Derp,

This is Bradley Bean responding on Andrea’s behalf as I now receive her emails. Unfortunately, the American Express Business Lounge at McCormick Place is no longer open as of June 2018.

We greatly appreciate you stopping by over the years and hope you enjoyed your experiences at the Lounge. The Lounges at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Javits Center in NYC are still open, so keep an eye out for us if you’re ever at a show at one of those locations.

Thanks,

Bradley

Oh I will miss your tiny bagged snacks and super thick plastic cups!

I guess I will just have to head on over to the Greater NY Dental Meeting in November to get my fix!

-Derp

Military Money Manual Guest Post

CAPT Spencer of the USAF reached out to me from reddit to write a guest post on his blog militarymoneymanual.com . He also has a book on Amazon, and has great articles on becoming financially independent by the age of 40. I am looking forward to this collaboration, and it should be better than the spotty and sarcastic relationship we got with www.trainwrecktrader.com! So I asked Spencer what the good folks at the USAF are interested in and he wrote:

I was thinking about a blog post on how many AMEX Platinums a smart servicemembers could have, how to get them (PC non Platinum cards, pick up the non-Vanilla flavors of Platinum), and how much all that would be worth annually (Schwab + Ameriprise + Vanilla + Green (PC) + PRG (PC) ) and then times 2 if you have a spouse could be $2000 in airline credits a year, $2000 in Uber credits annually, etc.

Spencer made me realize I never made a combined SOP post on how to get multiple platinums to multiply the annual benefits of the card. So here goes my first guest post to be cross posted to militarymoneymanual.com !


One of the greatest perks of being active duty is the generous interpretation of the SCRA from the good folks at American Express. They are not obligated to waive the $550 annual fee on their AmEx Personal Platinum charge card, but they have been doing for many years. I can only assume they do this because they make money on the back end, on retailers that take AmEx. With more card members spread across thew world, this waiver is the cheapest PR they are going to get when every service-members has one of these in their pockets for no annual fee.

I also like to think that the majority of AmEx Platinum holders do not take advantage of any of their benefits and pay the $550. Where just the savvy few actually maximize these things on an annual basis. We are also some of the most financially responsible members of the workforce seeing how we would lose our security clearance if our credit score started to dip. This post is to outline the many approaches to getting multiple Personal Platinum and Biz Cards to maximize these benefits.

Each AmEx Personal Platinum card pays dividends in the form of these annual benefits:

  1. $200 in Uber Credits (good for rides and uber eats) paid in the form of $15 each month (with a $20 extra bonus in December) into the Uber account the AmEx card is added to. I added all of my 11 personal cards to my wife’s Uber account so she sees a credit of $165 on the first of each month ($385 in December). This credit must be used by midnight Hawaii time at the end of the month or will be lost.
  2. $200 in flight fee reimbursements for an airline of your choosing. This resets every 01 January, which means if you get a new card in November, you can hit the benefit again in January. I use all 11 of mine for $2,200 in AA gift cards, some people use it for Delta or Southwest gift cards. The current airlines and what AmEx pays for are found here: AA Thread, AS Thread, B6 Thread, DL Thread, HA Thread, UA Thread, WN Thread
  3. $100 at Saks 5th Avenue payable in a $50 credit from January to June and another $50 from July to December. This credit expires at the end of each period and does not require any minimum spend.
  4. $100 for global entry which presumably should only be used every 5 years for yourself, but some reports of any charge of $100 for any application will be covered without any limitation (try at your own risk). I would just use one $100 credit per card per 5 years.

Each AmEx Business Platinum card has only the $200 in airline fee reimbursements among other things such as the 35% points back which we have discussed on other posts.

Rules of the game:

  • AmEx has a lifetime (de facto 7 year rule) limitation on bonuses to be paid for a new product. If you ever got the bonus for getting a card at any time in your life they will NEVER pay that bonus again.
  • You can’t apply for a product you already have. If you have a Green AmEx, they won’t give you another green AmEx or if you have one personal Plat, you can’t apply for another.
  • You can only product change after one year of having the card to another card you have
  • Co-Branded cards are considered separate products. the Morgan Stanley Platinum Card is not the same as the Charles Schwab Platinum Card. You can get the sign up benefit for both.
  • Your annual fee will get waived for AD and reservists, but if you are in a state that doesn’t have common property rules your non active duty spouse may not get a waiver.
  • Some co-branded Platinum Cards require relationships to keep open (Schwab and Morgan Stanley, but not Ameriprise)
  • There appears to be no limit to how many CHARGE cards you can have, there is a 5 CREDIT card limit.
  • Manufactured spending will get you shutdown, buying only gift cards and paying with multiple accounts is suspicious for bust our fraud.

Strategy:

  • Always get the highest product first, then the lower compatible product to product change in the future.
  • DO NOT product change to a product you haven’t gotten yet
  • Go slow and make sure you hit the minimum spend for the bonuses, it will take many years to get to where I am now
  • Have a plan lined up and stick with it!

Best Practices Sequence:

  1. AmEx Platinum Direct Application (100k offers do exist or use my 60k links hereherehere, and here to support the site)
  2. AmEx Biz Plat Direct Application (Use referral links: here, here, and here to toss some points my way)
  3. Open Schwab account with code ‘refer’ for $100 free dollars ($1k min) and then apply for AmEx Charles Schwab Platinum 
  4. Open Morgan Stanley Account ($5K min) then apply for AmEx Morgan Stanley Platinum Card
  5. Apply for Ameriprise Platnium Card Directly without opening an Ameriprise account (No bonus)
  6. Apply AmEx Green then Product Change in one year, use my link here.
  7. Apply for Biz Gold and Upgrade to Plat in one year
  8. Apply for AmEx Gold, then Product Change in one year
  9. Apply for Ameriprise Gold Card Directly then product change in one year

Theoretical Unproven Sequences:

  1. Apply for MS Credit card and PC to another Plat in one year (Have not tried this yet)
  2. Apply for Charles Schwab Credit card card and PC to another Plat in one year (Have not tried this yet)
  3. Apply for another Green and Gold after Upgrading and PC in one year

Unicorn Cards:

  1. Goldman Sachs AmEx Platinum (Been working on this for years)
  2. Mercedes-Benz Platinum (Discontinued March 2018)

Predicting how much free money you need 

I asked my O-6 select friend what he thought the number of cards you need are and he said “infinite”. However I am framing this in the terms of maintenance, as each card requires time investment to maximize the benefit. Otherwise the effort will be for a benefit you have no time to use. Using the below chart you can see how many cards you will need to fit your life style:

# of Pts $ Uber/ Mo $ Uber Dec Airline Saks 6 mo Total Yr
1 $15 $35 $200 $50 $500
2 $30 $70 $400 $100 $1,000
3 $45 $105 $600 $150 $1,500
4 $60 $140 $800 $200 $2,000
5 $75 $175 $1,000 $250 $2,500
6 $90 $210 $1,200 $300 $3,000
7 $105 $245 $1,400 $350 $3,500
8 $120 $280 $1,600 $400 $4,000
9 $135 $315 $1,800 $450 $4,500
10 $150 $350 $2,000 $500 $5,000
11 $165 $385 $2,200 $550 $5,500
12 $180 $420 $2,400 $600 $6,000
13 $195 $455 $2,600 $650 $6,500
14 $210 $490 $2,800 $700 $7,000
15 $225 $525 $3,000 $750 $7,500
16 $240 $560 $3,200 $800 $8,000
17 $255 $595 $3,400 $850 $8,500
18 $270 $630 $3,600 $900 $9,000
19 $285 $665 $3,800 $950 $9,500
20 $300 $700 $4,000 $1,000 $10,000

Take your time, it took me 5 years to have 13 Personal and 3 Business between my wife and myself.

-Derp

$75 Girl & The Goat 10 Course Tasting Menu with AmEx Global Dining

AmEx’s Concierge for their Global Dining Collection under promised and over delivered again! We got a complementary bottle of wine and a black truffle course at The French Laundry last time I used the system. Last night we went to The Girl & The Goat in Chicago expecting just a regular dining experience, but it turned out to be special. When we sat down they offered a special tasting menu that had smaller versions of 10 courses. Naturally we went for the chef’s menu since everything looked good, and It wasn’t until about an hour into the meal that I noticed no other table had the same deluge of food as ours. The food was very good, worth the hype. Even a dish like duck tongue (of which I have had in chinatown many times) was reinvented and improved. Service was on par, never a moment I didn’t feel unattended in a packed lively house.

In the end of the meal (1.5 hours and 10 courses later)the bill came, the only food charge was “AmEx” at $75 a person. I asked the host and she informed me that the 10 course tasting menu is exclusive to tables booked with the AmEx concierge. So there you go, impressed again by these little hidden perks! I went to the website after the fact, and it mentioned both Duck Duck Goat and Girl & The Goat have a special tasting menu. Little goat has a free beer flight!

I got the table last night by reserving at platinumrequests@concierge.americanexpress.com in April.

The whole experience was wonderful because it was incidental. My usual route to book dining is using Open table, but for this particular place It is only open one or two months ahead at terrible times. For example if you were to try to book today:

You got to wait till August 13th, 2018 for one table at 9:15 pm. The only other reservation that is open is in September:

This 10 September 2018 date is at awful old people dining times of 16:30 and 16:45. I went for the AmEx concierge because they let me book in April for July. I called AmEx and made the reservation on April 2nd and on April 3rd I got this email back confirming the reservation:

Dear Dr. Derp,

Thank you so much for speaking with me this evening so that we could secure a reservation for you. When you mentioned you live in the area I thought about how you are close to so many amazing restaurants, and there are many that we work with regularly, so it is great that you have reached out to us for assistance. I am excited to confirm your reservation at Girl & The Goat. The details of your booking are listed below — please note the cancellation policy.

Should you need any changes to your reservation, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make your request with the restaurant. If you need transportation, we would be happy to assist you.

Enjoy your dinner, and please share any feedback with us.

Your Reservation Details:

Girl & The Goat
809 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Chicago/West Loop
312-492-6262
http://www.girlandthegoat.com/
Cuisine: American, Contemporary, Small Plates
Dress code: Casual

Date/time: Friday, July 13, 2018 at 7:30 PM
Number in party: 2
Reserved under:
Reservation No.:
Cancellation policy: Your credit card was not required for this reservation, so there is no charge if you wish to cancel. We do ask that you contact us at your earliest convenience if your plans change as a courtesy for the restaurant.

I hope that you both have a wonderful time at Girl & the Goat in July. If you need any more reservations in the future, just remember Concierge is about more than getting a reservation or booking your next special dinner. With the Global Dining Collection you can enjoy access to these additional benefits: exclusive culinary events with our handpicked team of world-renowned chefs, customized experiences at celebrated restaurants around the world and special table access for Platinum Card® Members

If you have any questions or need any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us, we are always happy to help. We can be reached at the number on the back of your card, option 2. Alternatively, if you would like to contact us via email, we can be reached by replying to this email or at platinumrequests@concierge.americanexpress.com. We look forward to being of assistance to you in the future. Thank you for being a loyal American Express Platinum Card® member.

Sincerely,
Laura Clark

All of her restaurants are featured on the global dining site as the only ones for Chicago. They are also doing 2 events for her this year:

and this end of year one:

The best part about the night is I got to pay with my CSR to get 3x UR points! If you don’t already have the AmEx Platinum, please use my link here, here, here, and here to apply. The $550 annual fee is waived for military, so you can live like this guy from lounge to lounge for free.

-Derp

 

Hard To Quit The Churn, Taking a Break

There was a Churnout Burnout confession on r/churning today that kind of touched my heart. I has been almost three months since my last new card, and a full month since my last travel. User aksurvivorfan  laments:

Psychologically I think I’ve become a “worse” person since I started churning. I find myself looking at the world through a lens of churning which is admittedly very exploitative and selfish. I’m constantly thinking of little ways I can score a few dollars here and there in deals and it’s not healthy. I’ve done some scaling back (I don’t do little deals that DoC posts about that are under $50) and would like to do more. Overall I think churning is something that has gone beyond where it belongs in life (for me) and I need to step back so it’s literally only a hobby that has some time devoted to it (much like time I set aside for going rock climbing or watching Survivor or other hobbies), instead of letting it permeate my entire life like it has been.

My three month break from the game certainly has realigned my perception of reality. Have my super aspie ways finally caught up to me? Had I just become so immersed in the numbers and valuations game I had forgotten what was truly important? Meh, maybe, but certainly it hasn’t made me anymore of a calculating maximizer asshole than I was before. I just have more time for other stuff once I have no card to meet spend.

I have met the minimum spend months ago on my Iberia card, I switched back to my old cards for once, and this has been one of the biggest time savers by just putting all of my purchases on these categories:

  1. Dining & Travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve for 3 points worth 4.5% Cashback in flights
  2. Supermarket: 6% AmEx Blue Cash Preferred for 6% Cashback
  3. Costco: Citi Costco Anywhere card for 2% back on top of another 2% for Executive Costco
  4. Gas: 4% on Citi Costco Anywhere card
  5. Airline Tickets (Direct): American Express Personal Platinum 5x for 7.5% cash back for flights when linked (for 35% pints back) with the American Express Business Platinum
  6. All Amazon locked on to the Amazon Chase card for 5% back
  7. Everything else: 2.5% on the now defunct USAA Limitless Card

I had also gotten a request from reader Calvin who asks:

Hello, can you post an update on your current card collection and what your strategies are? Thanks!

I wrote about my 5 AmEx card strategy here and here is how I look for AmEx, keep in mind you can have only 5 credit cards per person, but unlimited charge cards. Here is where we are and where we are going:

My wife and I: Charge Cards (Unlimited)

  1. Business Platinum x3 [Keep]
  2. Personal Platinum (Vanilla x4, MS x2, MB x2, CS x2, APx1) [Keep]
  3. AmEx Green [Upgrade to Plat in October 2018]
  4. Ameriprise Gold Card [Upgrade to Plat in March 2019]

Credit Cards (5 max including business)

Wife:

  1. SPG Personal [Product change to SPG Luxury]
  2. Delta Platinum [Product change to another Delta Reserve]
  3. Hilton Ascend [product change to new Aspire]
  4. AmEx Everyday Preferred [Replace with Hilton Aspire]
  5. Freespace for New Delta Reserve or SPG Luxury

Me:

  1. Blue Cash [Keep for 12+ years of history]
  2. Delta Reserve [Keep for free first class companion]
  3. SPG Business [Keep for free night or Replace with SPG Lux]
  4. Hilton Honors Aspire [Keep for free night and $250 credits x2]
  5. Delta Platinum [March 2019: Product change to another Delta Reserve]

On the other cards:

  1. Barclay AAdvantage Silver [Keep Because Waived]
  2. Old Arrival+ [Keep because waived]
  3. Wyndham Fee [keep]
  4. Amazon Chase [keep for amazon/wholefoods]
  5. British Airways [close]
  6. Hyatt x2 [close or upgrade or keep for free nights]
  7. IHG [keep for free night]
  8. Chase Ink+ [keep for 5x UR categories]
  9. Chase Marriott [keep for free night or close and reopen for plus]
  10. Chase United Club [keep for lounge access]
  11. Ritz x2 [keep for $300 credit, MLA waived]
  12. Sapphire reserve [keep for 3x and $300]
  13. Iberia [close]
  14. Aadvantage Executive [keep for lounge spit 10 ways]
  15. Costco [keep for 4% gas]
  16. TJ Maxx [keep]
  17. Alaska [keep for companion pass]

Now I have been good with not applying for cards for my wife so she can get these 5 MLA waived annual fee Chase Cards that are 5/24 restricted:

  1. United Club Card (lounge access)
  2. Chase Sapphire Reserve ($300)
  3. Marriott Plus (free night, 100k points)
  4. Southwest card (60k miles)
  5. Chase Freedom (5x transfer to UR)

I am going to take it easy from now on and try to spend down some of these points. I know I tried doing this before, but I am focused on just getting my SPG Luxury card when it comes out in a month.

See you all then!

-Derp

 

Saks Credit Takes 5 Days To Post

The $550 Annual Fee on AmEx Platinum can be justified by its annual $100 in Saks 5th bonus, $200 in Airline Bonus, $200 in Uber bonus, airport lounge access, and $100 for Global Entry. For active duty military and reservists the $550 fee is waived meaning the card actually pays you $600 in bonuses each year! Use my link here if you don’t already have the card.

I bought $50 worth of goods at Saks using the SOP here and got the $50 credit from AmEx today. It only took two days to post the charge, the ordered was delivered after 3 days via shop runner, and then 3 more days to get the credit! I also went for the free gift wrap, and it looks amazing!

Note that the items ordered are reported to AmEx, so they must be keeping track of if you buy a gift card or merchandise. Also note that gift cards are ineligible for the credit:

The Saks AmEx offer even works when you spend less than $50:

On top of that I got 4% cashback on Ebates for the order minus tax:

This was on my Ameriprise Platinum Card, and on my Morgan Stanley card as well. Please use my link here If you are trying to get your first platinum card, consider getting the Green AmEx card today and upgrading to another Platinum in a year if you want to double did this offer.

Make sure you remember doing all of this again in January!

-Derp

2% Online, 4% In-Store for Saks To Stack With Amex

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Right as I was about to check out today, my 4% Ebates cash-back at Saks 5th online dropped to 2%! However a new feature came up where you can link a credit card and earn 4% in store. I went ahead and linked my remaining AmEx Platinum Cards to the Ebates site and hope to earn 4% on the many food items that do not have free shipping online.

For example all the Godiva Chocolate is exempt for free shipping as it is shipped form the manufature:

When you try to check out you get this message:

The shipping method that you have selected is not valid for this promotion. Please check the terms of this promotion before continuing checkout or call customer service at 1.877.551.7257 for further assistance.

Now these things you can buy directly at the store and get 4% off. Use my link here to sign up!

-Derp

Weirdo Buyer Protection from AmEx and Fanatics.com

Reader Big Danny Bru came across this interesting perk from AmEx and Fanatics.com shown above. If you buy a Jersey and the player gets traded within 90 days you will get a new one with the new team or same team with a different player! Terms below:

Offer. If you purchase any jersey on www.fanatics.com that is embellished with the name of a currently active professional player (each an “Original Jersey”) that is identified as being covered by our Jersey Assurance™ Program at the time ordered (“Covered Jersey”) and the player whose name and number appears on the Original Jersey is officially traded or signs with a new team as a free agent (“Prior Team Jersey”) within ninety (90) days after your Covered Jersey was purchased, then you may request an in-stock replacement jersey that is embellished with (A) the same player’s name on a jersey from the new team in exchange for a returned Prior Team Jersey, or (B) the name of a different, current player on the Original Jersey’s team in exchange for a Prior Team Jersey (each of (A) and (B), a “Replacement Jersey”), in each case subject to all of the following terms and conditions (“Offer”), including the need to return the Covered Jersey to us.

Extended Amex Offer for NBA Jerseys.  If you purchase an Original Jersey for a currently active professional player that is part of the National Basketball Association on www.store.NBA.com, www.fanatics.com or the NBA Flagship Store located at 545 5th Avenue in New York City, New York using your valid American Express payment card which is also a Covered Jersey and the player whose name and number appears on the Original Jersey is officially traded or signs with a new team as a free agent within three-hundred and sixty (360) days after your Covered Jersey was purchased (each an “Amex Covered Jersey”), then you may request a Replacement Jersey, in each case subject to the Offer Terms and Conditions below.

Items that are covered will have the Assurance logo below them, also you get free 2 day shipping with Shop Runner. I personally won’t be using this offer because I value the irony in having a jersey of former/disgraced player, but I am sure some of you sports fans will find this useful!

-Derp

AmEx Platinum $100 for Saks SOP

BLUF: $100 statement credit for Saks 5th online or in store. Must add offer in AmEx site per card. No gift cards, no Off 5th. The $100 is split into $50 every Jan to Jun and another $50 July to Dec. AmEx Personal Platinum Only, Co-Branded (MB, GS, CS, Ameriprise, MS). NOT offered on the Business Platinum. $50 only for basic member and any authorized users who charge to Saks will take off from the basic member’s credit. Stackable with 2 or 4% Ebates offer. No minimum purchase required, free shipping with shop runner which is also free with AmEx Platinum. Free gift wrapping on eligible items.

Note that Active Duty and Reservists are eligible for the annual fee waiver of $550 on the AmEx Platinum. Spousal fee waivers vary by state of record. However adding a spouse as a AU would get the AU fee waived.

  1. Obtain an Personal AmEx Platinum. Use links below if you want to support this resource:
    1. Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4
  2. Create online account, note each non co-branded personal Platinum needs its own log in.
  3. Register for the Saks 5th offer under Membership > Benefits tab
  4. Register for the Shop Runner offer under Membership > Benefits tab
  5. Register for E-bates using this link to stack 4 or 2% off
  6. Go to www.ebates.com
  7. Add eligible Platinum Card to use in store for 4% cashback
  8. Add Saks 4% offer to card to use in store
  9. Sign up for the Saks email list for a 10% of coupon, this takes 24 hours to generate
  10. Choose Saks 5th to activate 4 or 2% cashback, click shop now
  11. Find items that you want, you can search sales and limit to items under $50
  12. Stick with items that are shop runner eligible, or use code ‘freeship’
  13. At checkout make sure you log into shop runner to get free 2 day shipping
  14. GO ahead and add gift wrap for free for eligible items
  15. Make sure you use your Platinum that has Saks offer added
  16. Keep track of what Platinum Card you are using
  17. In 5 days a credit will post for the eligible card
  18. Repeat with other cards, then again in January/July

-Derp

$50 Saks 5th: How To Fix the Multiple Platinum Problem

If you are having trouble adding the Saks 5th deal to more than one AmEx Personal Platinum card you may need to make a new account for each card. I have multiple Platinums because I got one by applying for it, and the other Platinum I got when I did a product change from a PRG after one year. I did not have any problem adding The Saks credit to the Platinums that are branded to MS, CS, MB, Ameriprise, or GS.

When I tried to add the second card it kept on switching back to my other card and posting an error. However when I split up the Pt cards to a new account I was able to add the deal. Here is the go by:

Log in to AmEx and click Card Management, then remove card from online management:

Next find the card that used to be your PRG, Gold or Green card, and remove it form your account:

Then log out and create a new account:

You should be able to make a new log in for your second Platinum card as well as add the Saks offer.

-Derp

15k MR for AmEx Green Platinum, PC to Platinum in 1 Year

AmEx Platinum pays you $600 a year to have it, why not have multiple? Especially with the $550 annual fee waived for military members per the SCRA.

AmEx will not let you apply for another card that you already own, this goes for multiple Platinum Cards. However you can product change to multiple cards you already own after one year. For example you can get the AmEx Platinum, spend $5k in 3 months for 60,000 MR points:

Then get the AmEx green, spend $1,000 in 3 months for 15,000 points:

Then in one year from getting the green, call and product change it to another Platinum for another $200 in flights, $200 in Uber, $100 for global entry, and $100 for Saks 5th Ave credit. The SCRA waiver will continue to cover the new $550 annual fee.

-Derp