The Cheapskate’s Paradox

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Play Spot The Churner Here

Apparently the average American Express Platinum holder has an annual income of $741k. When you’re at the SFO lounge good chances you are sitting among a few that don’t mind the $450 Platinum Card Fee or the $2.5k Centurion Card Fee.

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All Napa Valley Wines, for a great price of $0

However the paradox is this lounge is not full of ballers and CEOs, but rather a bunch of thrifty travelers such as myself. I would never pay for a $5 airport beer or a $7 airport wine. I sure as hell not going to pay $20 for breakfast or lunch. So I maximize the lounge as quite literally the cheapest meal in DFW, LAS, LGA, MIA, SEA, SFO, IAH. Yes there is the USO at a lot of places, but this one has the free cocktails, and the meals inspired by the local cuisine. The SFO one happens to have:

…cuisine designed by one of Zagat’s top 30 under 30 chefs, Cédric Vongerichten. Savor succulent dishes like Fried Chicken with a Honey Lemongrass Glaze and Chocolate Mousse with Mint Cream.

A graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, Cédric Vongerichten was recognized by Zagat as one of the top 30 chefs under 30 and has worked in some of the most celebrated kitchens in the world. After stints at Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental and El Bulli in Barcelona, he is now Chef de Cuisine at the renowned Perry St. in New York City.

I’ll take that over the usual USO fare thank you. It is simply amazing and served hot with a menu that changes seasonally.

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Again thanks to the Amex above and beyond SCRA annual fee waiver, this place actually becomes the cheapskate dining option. I do at least try to play along and dress up. For example I only wear a T-Shirts as an undershirt, tuck my shirt into my pants and wear long pants with a belt (if it has belt loops) with at least 3 pockets per the USMC guidelines for civilian dress. My wife and I are a big fan of TJ Maxx,  Marshalls, and the thrift store. She is quite the fashionista, but not willing to drop serious retail dough on designer tags. This lounge is a designer tag first class lounge at a 100% discount!

So check out the lounge if you are at one of these airports. It’s not just for the few Centurion card holders, but for any Platinum AmEx card holders (Business, MB too). I wanted to give a shoutout to The Cassey Excursion who was the first to give me this idea of the SCRA waiver for the AmEx Card. She is a line officer who has seen the world via the US Navy. Excellent blog, even incorporates fine naval tradition such as the Dining Out. If your a staff corps “baby LT” and want to learn about the real navy (you know being on a real ship) I encourage you to check it out.

-Derp

Free Newegg Premier for Military

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Usually it’s $49.99 a year, but it’s free with this link. As a Newegg Premier member, you will receive many benefits, including:

Free three-day shipping
Discounts on two-day and one-day shipping
Free return shipping labels
No restocking fees
Early notifications on sales and events
Exclusive deals
Dedicated Customer Service number

Best part is they ship to FPO/APO and will take 50% off. The membership is pricy otherwise:

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I’m very interested in this adding 4 friends and Free 8×8 photo book and 50 4×6 prints from Shutterfly when you sign up for Newegg Premier.

-Derp

DCA vs Lump Sum in TSP

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Who needs S,I,G,F, and F? C Fund to the moon!!

The conversation around my standing desk has been can you realistically beat the market using only TSP funds? We have several situations that you will find yourself in when it comes to how you manage your TSP funds:

  1. Never got around to contributing anything into TSP because you fell asleep during that financial education brief and/or already independently wealthy (why are you even here?).
  2. Never ever logged into your TSP because its a pain in the ass to wait for the mailer to come, then you forget the password, then you got to wait for another mailer for the pin. Everything goes into G fund since you were an O-1 . Your enjoying your 2% earnings since is super safe over in G.
  3. Just randomly shoved money into all 10 funds, Some how have money in the defunct L2010 lifecycle fund yet your an O-2. Don’t even know what the other letters mean.
  4. Doing the Dave Ramsey CSI: 60:20:20 because you heard him mention it one time when listening to the radio at 5 am on AFN. You also never question him and have cut up all of your credit cards. You truly believe you can be trusted with an officer’s commission, but can’t handle a credit card.
  5. You actually thought about rebalancing this thing since you get two transfers a month so why the hell not?

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United Targeted Points Bonus Offer 40 to 96K MR miles

Thanks to chenistry and his/her post on r/churning I got offered 40k bonus miles when I spend $2000. Click here to see if you qualify, it looks like its targeted to those with any United Premier Status. I am currently silver and got this offer:

Messages Image(713809340)The offer is customized based on your spend already done. As this is the offer for my Premier Gold Wife:Messages Image(1097361080) And this is for Alex an avid reader of the Derp Report, he is 1K:Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.43.18 PM

I asked my normie non status friend Davey from TrainWreckTrader.com and he verified that he got a easier deal than myself:

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Looks like in all cases those with higher offers spent and booked major flights the day/week before, not sure if this triggered the invite, but looks like United is trying to capture our spend for the second remaining half of 2016. Best of luck out there!

-Derp

 

Data Point: Barclay Bank Gold Luxury Card World Elite MasterCard Still Shines

Good news! For those that got the 50K bonus along with the military waiver you can actually make $1,180 on a $9,000 deposit to NRL Federal Credit Union. That is a sweet 13% return on “investment” with zero risk.

pass (1)Application is easy, just join the American Consumer Council (ACC) that is a member of the FCU, then upload a photo of your drivers license, set your cash advance fee to zero by calling 866-408-4064 (Barclays Credit Department). Charge the max of $9,000 to your Gold Card to satisfy the $3k in 90 day spend requirement for the 50K points. You will get 9,000 points for the $9k spend earning 59,000 points redeemable at 2 cents a point for $1,180 statement credit.7kkk

The good news doesn’t end there, I booked a reservation on United for my cat for $125 on the card and it was reimbursed 100% AUTOMATICALLY! This comes out of the $200 as an annual airline fee credit.Untitled

Note above the $200 charged on Amazon Gift Cards on MPX does not get reimbursed as it has the merchant spent on the charge. However this trick does work for amex platinum.

So if you got the bonus, good for you, if you missed the boat, shame on you because $1,000 is a lot of money you just denied yourself for being lame. Well at least you can get $180, and repeat this for a checking account.

Lastly there have been some reports of a gold pen  being sent out to card members. However no one at FPO/APO had gotten theirs. Its been a month thinking its a UPS issue, but I called up my trusty CDR friend in Florida who reports also not getting a pen.

The O-5 called Barclay Concierge who said that only a select few card holders get Luxury Gifts as they come out. So there is your answer! Better luck next time!

-Derp

My Last Hurrah! ORD to NRT UA Business First for $600 and 30K Miles

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Row 10 is rear facing, forcing you stare into the abyss that is “Economy Plus” ewwwww, jkjkjkjk

I have finally amassed enough money in my United Travel Bank Gift Registry to finally get round trip for both of us to and from Chicago. Now before you dump any money into this using your 3 AmEx Platinum Cards (MB, Reg, Biz $200 each), or Premier Rewards Gold ($100) check here to make sure its still auto reimbursed. Because one day they will fix the glitch and your stuck with non reimbursed charges.

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Better than a toaster

There are so many restrictions on using these travel bank points. If any segment is on a partner airline you can’t use the bank at all! So for this trip I had to book a separate Experience Japan round trip OKA to NRT ($98 a segment) on a different ANA itinerary. I did this right after I booked my $1,200 ticket on United from NRT to ORD with my Travel Bank and used the ticket number to be eligible.

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Because of the strictness, next year, I might start using the MPX loophole  for Amazon Credit as it will be much harder for international travel with my studies. Again, if it dries up please don’t call up to AmEx and complain. I just let the auto reimburse robot give me that statement credit without question. I know one day its gonna dry up, so be it, since the annual fees were waived anyways.

Since I got this free flight home and back, I went ahead and applied for a Business First Upgrade for the return segment for $600 and 30k miles per ticket. In less than 12 hours my upgrade was confirmed! Essentially I got Business first for $600 and the sign up bonus on my United Explorer Card, netting me a sweet 1,200 MP miles per ticket by putting it on my United Club Credit card.

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Using seat guru as my guide I was able to get a nice seat! I will have a report soon enough regarding the value of such a redemption. Just for comparison these tickets booked alone would cost $3,017 each one way!

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I think we got the upgrade right away due to our *A Silver and Gold Status, but I think its because no one want to fly on a Tuesday. Think about taking your leave over the weekdays, no lines anywhere! However I wonder if I would be more comfortable in First Class:

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Maybe some day…

-Derp

TSP Showdown Accepted: Trainwrecktrader.com

Davey's Yacht "YOLO"

Davey’s Cardboard Yacht “YOLO”

When I told www.trainwrecktrader.com I was paying $16.95 a month for a TSP Pilot newsletter he scoffed and declared he could easily beat both my portfolio as well as the TSP Life Cycle Fund. Thus this bet and his website were born. The rules of the bet are as follows:

Whereas, the Derp and I share half-birthdays.  The bet shall fore to beginth no later than the first day of the first month from whence I turn 32 (which is next week so bet starts June 1st 2016) and performance bets shall be analyzed the first day of the month after our birthdays (June 1st and December 1st of each year)

The method of determining value of each TSP portfolio allocation will be based upon a $1,000 starting value, no additional contributions, and based off the official TSP share/price performance and conversion charts .

TSP allocation rules shall be followed including a maximum of 2 allocation changes per calendar month and allocation change will be calculated the following day, whenever the daily changeover occurs

Well I am sworn by penalty of death loosing my subscription without refund in the user agreement to not disclose the allocations stated by the TSP Pilot newsletter. I will however calculate my earnings based on these said allocations and post that. You just got to trust I haven’t cooked the books, hell you can subscribe to TSP Pilot and follow along as well. I wish I would get some sort of bonus for referrals.

On the flip side Davey is giving his allocations away for free because thats the guy he is, also it seems to be what the fed trader and tsp allocations.com are doing. Ultimately there is the third option of 60:20:20 C:S:I from Dave Ramsey ensuring dollar cost averaging as well as time in the market trumping timing of the market. So maybe were both idiots compared to what dumb money says we should blindly do.

Ramsey was 20% right about S Fund

Ramsey was 20% right about S Fund, should be 80%

Since the reallocations are free on TSP and you get two a month, why not take a bet like Warren Buffet did with the hedge funds. Although the stakes are a little less than his, Let the best TSP allocation win!

-Derp

Book Weirdo Hotel Brands With AmEx MR Using Choice Hotel Points

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The Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort costs $600 a night during peak season, but it can be all yours for 55,000 AmEx Points a night when you transfer points form AmEx to Choice Rewards:

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You can use your 100k free MR points for Choice Privileges now!

I would not of ever considered Choice Hotels until they offered Status Matching to any program with 10 nights stay. They matched to my Marriott Gold that I got for free with my Ritz Carlton Card. Then my 10 nights were all award nights anyways so there you go, not a penny spent for status once again. There is an excellent write up at “travel is free” by  who goes really deep into the program. He talks about transferring points from Chase UR to Amtrak then to Choice. This is no longer an option as Chase and Amtrak had a huge break up last year when they switched to BoA as their bank.  You can however still transfer 5k Amtrak points to 15k Choice Privileges points:

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The “travel is free site” is dated and a lot of the links no longer work. The main source of these points are going to be from my American Express cards such as the Gold, Platinum, and Everyday. So not to double dip with the Travel is free article has to say, Choice rewards with the free Platinum Status match comes with some nice luggage tags, 75 days advanced awards booking, but it also gets you free snack and beverage at check in. This is all peanuts compared to some crazy ass redemption:

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For example they want $2059 for the Times Square Comfort Inn June 8 to 10 ($270 govt rate) for 30,000 points or 6.8 cents per point! I can only think this is some weird fluke. Because why the hell would you send more than the Ritz Carlton Tokyo for a Comfort Inn? I guess its for the free breakfast or whatever. But what stood out is you can use these points for a group of independent hotels called preferred hotels. To make these reservations you can check the link here and call 888-770-6800 to make the reservation. Not really any good redemption this way, for example some nights at the Hotel Metropole Brussels run $200 a night but can be booked for 35,000 choice points which is half a cent per point. Terrible redemption, but the value in this system is every little town has a Choice Hotel. For example if you were going to visit your kid in Champaign Urbana you got a free room at the Quality Inn and Suites for 8,000 points a night. This is particularly useful for high demand times like graduation time. Another situation is if your going camping at Yosemite national park and are sick of camping. The COMFORT INN YOSEMITE AREA is normally $220 a night or 25,000 points (.9 cents a point) so best to wait till a busy season to get your money’s worth.

This program has some pretty okay redemptions, but far from luxury or baller hotels, also its not a good value like Hyatt. My plan is however to use up my half million Amex points flying and staying in Europe. It seems to be the best use of these choice points according the the points guy.

-Derp