New Valuations: Cash Is King Again

I am a sucker for sure, because I went ahead and signed up for a new Charles Schwab Brokerage One account using the front page link for $10,000 deposit for a measly $100. I could of just used this link here and put in $1,000 for a cool $100. My mistake is your datapoint. I did all of this for another $200 airline fee waiver and to convert every one of my worthless (since I can’t travel anymore) MR points for a not too shabby 1.25 cents per point. This made me reconsider the current offers and bonuses that AmEx is doing in terms of 1.25 cents per point. You can find a XLS of all the raw data here. First off if we look at MR bonuses alone, you can make a cool $4,198.50 on a $41,000 spend! You also get $900 of your airline fee waived per year.

Best Bonuses Cash Back Spend Return Free $
Biz Plat $973.50 $20,000 5% $200
Biz Gold $625.00 $5,000 13% $0
MB Pt $625.00 $3,000 21% $200
Schwab Pt $500.00 $3,000 17% $200
Personal Pt $500.00 $3,000 17% $200
Blue Cash Pre $350.00 $3,000 12% $0
Prem Reward Gold $312.50 $2,000 16% $100
Every Day Pre $187.50 $1,000 19% $0
Every Day $125.00 $1,000 13% $0
Totals $4,198.50 $41,000 10% $900

Of course you would spread that out over a few years to make sure you hit the minimum spends. Everything is calculated assuming you convert all of your points into cash using the Charles Schwab Platinum Card. I went ahead and summarized the best categories with the assumption of now getting 1.25 cents per MR point. I combined all the other cash back categories from the other cards I have or are thinking about getting.

Card Category Cash Back
CS, MB, Reg Pt Airfare 6.25%
Mer Benz Pt MB Stuff 6.25%
Blue Cash Pre Groceries 6%
Chase Amazon Amazon 5%
CostCo Anywhere Gas 4%
Biz Gold Shipping 3.75%
Biz Gold Computer 3.75%
CostCo Anywhere Restaurant 3%
CostCo Anywhere Travel 3%
Any AmEx Pt AmEx Travel 2.50%
USAA Limitless Everything 2.50%
Barclay Gold Everything 2%

You can see everything gets at least 2% I am not in a state that USAA has rolled out their Limitless card. Keep in mind that all the AmEx cards waive for military via SCRA, Chase, Citi, and Barclays will not unless you had the card before you joined. This may not be worth it if you must pay these annual fees. Please use the links above to apply for a product to support the site.



BRS Part 2: Opt-IN Course

Looks like the first part of the mando training has been release for those that have the balls to switch to the BRS. The training can be found here, and is required for those who want to, and are eligible to switch to BRS on o1 January 2018.

Summary of my understanding:

  1. Switching to BRS is only for those who have less than 12 years of service on 31 Dec 2017
  2. If you become active duty on or after 01 Jan 2018 you must do BRS
  3. If you are none of the above you must do 20 years or more to get 2.5% of you base pay per year served
  4. If you are in BRS you will only get 2.0% per year served after 20 years (20% pension cut)
  5. If you do BRS you will automatically get 1% and match up to 5% into your TSP (will be traditional TSP)

More to come once I finish my training.


How To Survive The Below Basic Bitch Fare

This week I was able to finally use a trip booked using the $100 credit towards round trip flights for 2 to 5 people that is given on the  Visa Air Discount site. This site is open to all that have the recently upgraded Ritz Carlton Card from Chase. Be careful with booking because the Delta segments will some times come up as class E which is their most restricted Basic Economy Class. This means the E Class ticket holder must follow these rules:

  1. Pretty much can’t pick a seat until 24 hrs before the flight
  2. No window or aisle seats can be picked at check in
  3. Board behind the last group, must stare at shoes
  4. Charged for checked luggage
  5. No upgrades whatsoever for status or cash
  6. No changes
  7. No refunds
  8. No lounge access
  9. No making eye contact with other passengers j/k

Continue reading

The Perfect Combo: My Extended Airport Restaurant Week

Some times things just line up like a solar eclipse or Christmas and Hanukkah on the same day. Today was one of those days where three unlikely things lined up:

  1. Had to pick some one up from the airport
  2. Checked in for a departing flight within 24 hours
  3. Free access to Terminal 5 for the annual Ticket to Taste event

With much thanks to my friend Dan for letting me know about Restaurant Week and the Chicago Department of Aviation opening up terminal 5 for curious epicurean adventure. I registered for it last week and got a conformation via email, it happened to fall right on the day I had to pick up my father in law to watch the kids when we fly off to our baby-moon the next day. Since I already checked in to my flight for tomorrow, I had an electronic boarding pass so I could technically use my Priority Pass Select Card at the two lounges of Swissport and Air France in terminal 5.

Above are the Lounge Buddy profiles on the two lounges that I have never gotten access to. This is because I always fly United Airlines out of Terminal one. As some of you know, ORD is a weird place that segregates some of it’s international carriers while others are stuck behind in the blah domestic terminals. This means no access to the two Priority Pass lounges for many of the domestic and international trips I take. If it wasn’t for the USO, occasional Delta Lounge, CAC entry to American Admirals, or my United Club Card, I would be waiting in line to be buying weak $5 coffee like a sucker.

Now I have ascribed to my new philosophy of becoming the datapoint I want to see. There has been no reports of success of using a domestic ticket to get into the lounges simply because you would never make it past terminal 5 security with a domestic ticket. This is how the third coincidence comes into play, I had that golden ticket for terminal 5 for the Event!

I checked in at the counter and received a badge and escort. Security was a bitch, because there was no pre-check and I had to take my shoes off and do the mili-wave scanner. I eventually got into terminal 5 which by far is the nicest and cleanest terminal at ORD. Low ceilings, but just kept really clean. Now this is when things get kind of silly. I had to wear my pass the whole time, and there was an EXTREME Chicago Police presence. The second I wandered off to the gate area, 4 to 5 police would yell at me to come back to the food court area. this happened on both ends of the terminal. When I found the lounges, I waltzed into the Swiss Air lounge with my boarding pass and Priority Pass in hand was was instantly DENIED!

NOT Swissport, Not for Priority Pass!

There was a CSP member at the Swiss Air lounge with his Priority Pass Select that was also denied entry for the same thing, we both had confused Swissport with Swiss Air! The front desk attendant was kind and directed us to the Swissport and the Air France down the hall. At Air France I showed my digital boarding pass (to ATL) and swiped my Priority Pass and helped myself to their massive drink selection:

Now I was told there was a 3 hour limit, she noticed I was only 20 hours early for my flight. I assured her I would be done in about 10 mins. I had a few snacks and left to go to the other lounge across the hall.

I tried the Swissport lounge and was told exactly the same thing about the max time. So either no one cared I had a domestic ticket, or they assumed ATL was for the lost city of Atlantis which was international (the digital boarding pass does not specify where ATL is). Reminiscent of the Futrarama episode on the same subject.

Now I went and checked out the show which was not bad. They had free food samples, cooking lessons, and discounts at most places at the food court. I even got some nice chocolates at a 15% off here:

I wish I had more time to watch the demos, but had to pick up my FIL in terminal 2. On the way out they gave me validated parking good for 24 hours, a spatula and an oven mitt. I even got a nice recipe book, and a story to write about! Can’t wait till next year, hope to see some of you Chicago Churners out there trying the extended Ticket to Taste!


Airspace San Diego: More Rules Than a Strip Club

Thank you San Diego for a wonderful week! Too bad I picked the rainiest and most miserable time to visit, but the warmth of the locals made up for the 50 degree days. With nothing else to do on a rainy day, I got the the airport early to figure out the rules of the Airspace lounge located between the United and American sides of terminal 2 behind security. This lounge is often overlooked by AmEx Platinum users because they only have 3 locations in the world. Cleveland, New York JFK, and San Diego. It is not a Centurion Lounge and not on the Priority Pass list so most people don’t even know it exists.

Any of the AmEx Platinum and Centurion Cards gets you access. Upon checking in you have to meet with the AmEx specialist located at the 3rd most inner desk that scans your boarding pass and swipes your AmEx Platnum card. I found out you only get one shot to use the lounge per day, per boarding pass. I asked if I had multiple AmEx Platinum cards if I could get $10 for each card. Which he quickly dismissed, he said their special system logs in when you enter and on what boarding pass. No multiple entries with food credit here.

all items but soup and boozes can be carry out

I went ahead and helped myself to some cheeses and veggies with some ranch dressing (very keto friendly diggs). At the bar I put in an order for some charcuterie and olives for a $13 total. Now I guess the front desk check in staff had given me $20 in credit, which was the equivalent of myself and one guest. When I went to pay the waitress asked if I had brought a guest (which I honestly said no), and she quickly “corrected” the over sight and charged me the $3 and tax over the $10. She explained that if I had brought in 2 guests I could of had a $30 credit. So there you go, next time grab two random people from the crowds outside. What a strange rule really. There are also signs posted on how closely the internet is monitored and not to mess around with torrents:

Some serious business here. Most of had issues on the past of muchers doing multiple entries to the lounge and zaping up all the bandwidth.

All in all it was good, they packaged up the meal really nice and included some forks and napkins in a bag for my flight. Even had self service to go cups for the Peet’s Coffee. Don’t be a sucker and pay for food and coffee out there in the gate area. Let the SCRA waive your $450 annual fee and make AmEx to pay you $2,200 ($200 Airline Credit and $2,000 in flights with the 100k sign up bonus) to get the AmEx Business Platinum so you can eat and drink for free whenever you fly from SAN airport.

I went ahead and ate my preflight meal and drank my free whiskey at the United Club. I went ahead and got in with my United Club Credit card (waived with SCRA since I got it before I joined). However, there is good data points of letting in active duty members with CAC alone. I then had my dinner brought from the Airspace on the plane. Not worth it to use the $10 on boozes if you can get unlimited drinks at the United Club.


AmEx 5x and 50% Biz & Personal Pt Combo

NOTE: NO LONGER WORKS, must chose the Biz Plat to get 50% back!

Looks like if you choose your personal card to pay with points you get 5x on top of the 50% back! It’s all right here on r/churning!

I was choosing my biz plat and shorting myself out of the 5x. Turns out as long as you have a busisness card related to the awards account you will still get the 50% back! I noticed that this spend counted towards my minimum for bonus. I guess it worked out in the end.

In the future I will choose my personal plat to get the 5x and 50% MR back!

Better get the busisness platinum before the 100k expires soon.


Schwab Pt AmEx Points Exit 2.0

Sorry for the break in content, it has been awhile since posting due to TAD and vacation. I am out in the b(w)est coast visiting this dude, and some good family friends we met while stationed in Okinawa. This trip may be my last hurrah before the next baby comes putting me in the dilemma of what to do with these points. I had made many claims that I am transitioning towards cashback cards, For those keeping score, it has been half a year since I said I would stop, and no one has called me out on it. I have been waiting for an intervention ever since getting my mom to add me as an AU for the CSR.

31 airports in 9 countries while stationed in Okinawa alone

Although I have become well versed in travel in the last 3 years in Okinawa, but now I am missing the kiddos and family back home in my stateside travel. Even a week away has felt like too much time. My wife has been amazing for simultaneously growing a child and taking care of one alone over the course of a week. It would be very remiss of me not to feel a bit guilty about it while rolling around Beverly Hills in the house BMW 740i provided by the SLS hotel. I think this travel has to go on temporary hiatus until the kids are more manageable in a travel situation (like when they turn 25).

Not the 740Li, my feet unfortunately bump into the front seats

While I had ridiculed readers before on taking cashback on points, I am becoming quite keen to the idea of cash of points. I get it now, cash is king and I had been a sucker for buying into these dreams of seeing the world using points. There just simply not enough time or leave left to see the world. I have just become a points hoarder with no solid plans on usage. So comes rule number one that I had violated:

  1. Have an end goal, plan on the redemption before earning the needed points

I have had my adventures, stayed at thousand dollar a night hotels on points, flown for free many many times. It’s now your turn to make these same adventures, and I invite anyone who wants to contribute to post to this blog on redemption. I had failed to budget in time in for all of my adventures. As mentioned before, time is our only precious non renewable resource that no amount of money can buy.

Durning our west coast meet up Davey suggested that the points conversion to cash would be a best way to use these relatively worthless points. The points are worthless because my personal value in travel has changed. Now I can use the points for useful things like food and diapers. Right now you only get to use the points at 1 MR point for half a cent in a statement credit. You would have to spend the money first, then “pay with points” later.

gone the way of the CostCo AmEx (now a visa)

I have decided to convert points is not as a statement credit, but rather a deposit into a brokerage account with Charles Schwab. The old Fidelity AmEx Pt card has now become the Schwab AmEx Pt which allows you to convert points to cash in your brokerage account at a 1 MR point to 1.25 cent ratio. That means the 40k bonus with $3k spend for getting the card is like getting paid $500! Then you get another $200 to use in your United Gift Registry. The best part for the military members is the SCRA still counts for this co-branded card fee waiver. You are getting paid $700 for a new AmEx account, combined with the $100 offer for a $10k deposit you can be getting $800 for this deal. Not sure if a 1099 will be issued for using points to deposit into Schwab. Not bad for 8% return on a $10,000 investment with zero risk.

Take it as a hiatus from travel, these points converted may only get 1.25 cents per MR point, but that money can be invested, putting it in a index fund or ETF for 1o years may yield more than 2 cents per point. Hell, shoving it into just a Money Market account or government bonds will had less impact in inflation or points devaluation versus having it sit with AmEx.

Time to take the money out of my mattress and finally putting it in the bank!


Did We Break USAA on The New 2.5% card?

BLUF: No, I’m a dumbass and it is not broken, even DoC said:

Pilot Program

This is a pilot program and only available in select states at the moment, currently it’s available in: LA, NM, KS, ID, PA, SC and WA.

Here is what I originally thought:

Dave’s suggestion of the USAA Limitless 2.5% cashback card has broken the site! Also lots of buzz at Doctor if Credit! Any luck for anyone else on applying?

Both Commander in FL and myself in Illinois are unable to apply online right now. I called 1(210)531-8722, turns out it is targeted, and I am not eligible for it because I’m in Illinois, and isn’t part of the roll out. However the states of AK, AZ, CO, GA, ID, IN, KS, LA, MI, NM, PA, SC, TN, and WA are eligible.

Not sure when it will expand!

Going to have my friends in those states apply, best of luck out there!


Restaurant Week Gate Pass for Terminal 5 ORD

If you are a plane geek like me, now is your chance to see the inside of Terminal 5 and get some restaurant specials on Thursday 24 Jan 2017 for Chicago Restaurant Week! I have always flown United from ORD which means I have never set foot in the departure side of Terminal 5. You can pick an entry time by registration here for terminal 5 only. If you are actually flying somewhere you can check out the specials here for the other terminals and below for terminal 5.

Might even try entry into the Air France lounge with Priority Pass!

Bon Appétit!


5% Chase Amazon Rounds Off The Collection

All over r/churning and other tech blogs have announced the 5% cash back card for Amazon Prime Card Holders. Unfortunately for me this is a Chase product subject to the 5/24 rule. I’m thinking about getting this card to finish off my collection as it is exempt from the 5/24 rule (thanks jackgopack4 for the update)! As of today I am at 24/24, that’s 24 cards in a 24 month period. I won’t even try for this card as it would be embarrassing for both myself and the Customer Service Rep when I call to inquire why I was denied (we both know why). Not worth the hard pull on the credit report.

However as I try to spend all of my points in the next couple years I am planning on transitioning into realm of cash back cards. As of now I have the following breakdown:

  • 6% Groceries with the AmEx Blue Cash Preferred card (waved for military)
  • 5% on Amazon on Chase as long as I have prime ($99 a year)!
  • 4% Gas with the CostCo Anywhere Visa by Citi (free with CostCo membership(also free after coupons))
  • 3% Travel and Dining with the CostCo Anywhere Visa by Citi
  • 2.5% USAA Limitless on everything as long as I have DIrect Deposit to USAA of $1000 a month
  • 2% everything else with Gold Luxury card (free if you got it before you joined or got the SCRA before Nov 2016)
  • 2% everything else with Citi Double Cash Back (no annual fee)

USAA has a few products that seem promising, like the Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card, but in my cross compare, falls short to the Blue Preferred, except for gas.

This card suggested by Dave looks really good:

Hope that helps for all the non-travelers out there. Whats in your wallet, did I miss any?