Reader Question: How to pay for son’s tuition with a credit card?

I love receiving emails from readers with questions about the best way to earn miles and points while going about their daily life.  I received this question from someone in my community who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting in person… yet!  She’s looking to pay her son’s private school tuition with a credit card, but they don’t accept Visa credit cards.

 

Reader Question

Hi, I have seen you and your posts on the Anaheim Hills Buzz.  I have even subscribed to your blog.  So, I have a question.  I want to use my Capital One Venture card to charge my sons private school tuition on.  I will get double points, essentially 13500 points when done.  However, the FACTS tuition website doesn’t take visa! grrr.  I don’t want to miss this point opportunity, is there a way to do this where I can still use the card?  They only take mc, discover, and amex. What ideas do you have for me?

 

My Initial Thoughts

It is frustrating when a vendor won’t accept your preferred method of payment.  I’ve actually encountered the same issue when paying for my wife’s MBA tuition.  I’m not sure what vendors have against Visa.  This totally flies in the face of Visa’a “It’s everywhere you want to be” advertising campaign from a few years ago.

More importantly, this reinforces the point that you need to have diversity in your wallet.  Different cards provide different benefits.  For example, I like saving money buying gas at Costco, but they only accept American Express.  I’ve seen special discounts and benefits for Visa Signature cards, like complimentary wine tasting at multiple wineries in Sonoma county.

 

My Response

Hi Laura, thank you for writing and for following my blog.  If you want to use your Capital One Venture card, the best way would be to buy MasterCard or Amex gift cards in $500 increments from CVS or a grocery store, then pay the tuition with those gift cards.  Unfortunately, you would have to pay approx $4.95 per $500 gift card.

I wouldn’t do it that way due to the costs associated with the gift cards.  I’ll show you a better and easier way that will get you way better benefits.
Depending upon your timing of when you need to pay your tuition, you are better off getting a couple of new credit cards that are of the MasterCard or Amex variety to maximize the points you will earn.
Here’s why I suggest this.  Capital One’s Venture card will provide you 13,500 points for paying for the $6,750 tuition bill.  When you go to redeem those points, that is only $135 worth of airfare based upon a 1% redemption value.
In that scenario, you are much better off using a card like Fidelity’s Investment Rewards card which pays you 1.5%-2% in cash on your purchases.  Then, you can spend your money however you like, not just travel.
Fidelity Investment Rewards
If you did an App Party, you could net well over 100,000 miles with a few cards and meet the minimum spend very easily with the tuition payment.  An App Party is where you apply for multiple credit cards across several banks to earn mega amounts of miles and points.  A good rule of thumb is to only apply for 1 card from each bank… although you can get a personal and a business card from each bank during the App Party, which I often do.
Barclays FICO 2014-03-28
I do an App Party every 4-6 months and my credit score is still great!  Currently, it is at 823 according to the free FICO score I receive from Barclay because I have a couple of their credit cards.

Suggested cards to apply for:

 

Barclaycard Arrival Mastercard
Barclaycard Arrival Mastercard - 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 within 90 days (similar to Capital One Venture where 40,000 points = $400 in travel)
There is a no-fee version of the Barclaycard Arrival Mastercard as well, but you only receive 20,000 points.
Citibank American Airlines Platinum Mastercard
Citibank American Airlines Mastercard - 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 within 90 days.  50,000 miles are good for 2 domestic MileSAAver round-trip tickets or a MileSAAver round-trip to Japan (10/1 – 4/30).  40,000 miles is an economy ticket to Europe in off-peak (10/15 – 5/15).  (http://www.aa.com/i18n/disclaimers/free-ticket-award-chart.jsp)
American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card
American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles - 30,000 miles when you spend $1,000 within 90 days.  25,000 miles is good for a domestic US economy ticket.

Conclusion

With these 3 cards, you’ll earn 120,000 miles and points for $7,000 in credit card spend.  Your travel using these miles and points could be worth well over $1,500, depending upon where you want to fly… which would be more than 10x better than if you used the Capital One Venture card.
I hope that this helps!  If it does, please share with your friends.  I would love to help them make their travel dreams a reality as well!!!
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Earn American Airlines AAdvantage Miles on Facebook Passport Challenge contest

American Airlines is holding a contest where you can earn AAdvantage miles for answering trivia questions in the American Airlines Passport Challenge on Facebook.  It took just a few minutes to answer all the questions.

I’m earning 1,150 miles for earning 20 “stamps” on my virtual passport.

American Airlines Passport Challenge contest

And, I have the ability to earn thousands more if I had any scheduled flights on American, US Airways, or any partner airlines with miles credited to American before May 23rd.

American Airlines Passport Challenge 2500 miles

I’m waiting for American Airlines to update my profile to see what my Elite Qualifying Points goal would be to earn 2,500 bonus miles.  However, since most of my paid flights are with Southwest, I doubt that I would shift over to American to earn these bonus miles.

Will you take advantage of this promotion?  At least earn your “passports” for the 1,000 or so miles to boost your American Airlines balances.

 

Earn up to 40,000 US Airways Dividend Miles… which can be used on American Airlines’ flights

Another way to quickly boost your balances with an offer that is going away soon is the Barclay’s US Airways Premier World Mastercard that gives you 30,000 miles with your first purchase!

Barclays US Airways Premier Miles and More World Mastercard

30,000 miles with 1st purchase

As you’ll learn on the American Airlines Passport Challenge, these US Airways Dividend Miles can now redeemed for flights on American Airlines, and vice versa.  At some point in the near future, your Dividend Miles will merge with AAdvantage miles.

I recently received this card and used my miles to book a flight from Orange County to New Orleans for a September conference I’m attending.

 

 

What’s the FIRST THING you should do when you get a new credit card

I do an App Party every 4-6 months, so I get anywhere from 10-20 new cards every year.  These cards are great ways to earn miles.  However, there are hidden miles and points to be earned that you won’t get if you don’t do this simple step once you activate your new cards.

Unexpected Points

What I like best is receiving unexpected points for trying out new restaurants!

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining Weiland Brewery Underground

I register every one of my credit cards, gift cards, and debit cards because you never know when you may use a card and earn hidden points.

Airline and Hotel Dining Programs

Most airline and hotel rewards programs have partnered up with Rewards Network to offer miles and points when you dine at participating restaurants.  Some will even offer you an extra incentive of 1,000 or 2,000 points if you spend a certain amount within a short timeframe.

You can only pick one program to register each card in.  You can register different cards with different programs, or you can register every card with one program, depending upon how you want to approach this.

Either way… make sure you register each card in some program!

American Airlines AAdvantage Dining

American Airlines AAdvantage Dining

Delta SkyMiles Dining

Delta SkyMiles Dining

IHG Rewards Club Dine & Earn

IHG Rewards Club Dine & Earn 2014

Mogl Loyalty Services

You can earn up to 10% of your meal price back in rewards.  For instance, Hawaiian Airlines will give you 40 miles for every $1 you earn.

Hawaiian Airlines MOGL Dining

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

United MileagePlus Dining

United MileagePlus Dining

US Airways Dividend Miles Dining

US Airways Dividend Miles Dining

Super Size Your Rewards

You can super size your rewards by using an affiliated credit card or one that provides 2x or 3x spend when dining.

I generally use my Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa or Barclay’s US Airways Premier World Mastercard because my goal is to earn bonus miles with those programs.

Another card to use is the Chase Sapphire Preferred because it offers 2x on dining, plus an additional 7% annual bonus of the points you’ve earned throughout the year.  Through the end of 2014, you will earn 3x on dining on the 1st Friday of each month.

For restaurants that I know I’m going to frequent, I’ll buy gift cards from Staples or Office Depot with my Chase Ink Plus to earn 5x rewards on those gift card purchases.  Unfortunately, you won’t receive additional dining points with this method, but you will earn 5x points every time you buy the gift card.

Conclusion

Some people choose the restaurants they dine at based upon which ones participate in these dining programs.  I generally do not, instead preferring to be pleasantly surprised when an email notice comes through telling me that I’ve been awarded dining rewards.

 

 

Earn 1,000 Lufthansa Miles & More miles for Sixt Car Rental emails

If you subscribe to Sixt Auto Rental emails using this link, you will earn 1,000 miles from Lufthansa’s Miles & More program.

The web page is not in English, but Google Chrome translated the page for me.

Original text in German:

Registrieren Sie sich jetzt und freuen Sie sich auf viele exklusive Aktionen von Sixt im kommenden Jahr.Und das Beste: Für eine erfolgreiche Registrierung werden Ihnen automatisch 1.000 Prämienmeilen auf Ihr Meilenkonto gut geschrieben.

With translation:

Register now and look forward to many exclusive promotions from Sixt in the coming year.
And the best part: For a successful registration you will automatically be 1,000 award miles credited to your mileage account.

Lufthansa & Sixt 1000 mile email offer

Earn Even More Lufthansa Miles

To earn even more miles from Lufthansa, check out the Barclay’s Premier Miles & More World Mastercard.

Barclays Lufthansa Premier Miles & More Mastercard

  • Earn up to 35,000 award miles with qualifying transactions
  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer
  • Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Companion Ticket after first purchase, then annually thereafter
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $79 Annual Fee, waived for SEN and HON Circle Members

 

My Experience with Sixt

Sixt is a popular car rental agency in Europe and in Australia.  They are the equivalent of Avis or Budget in America.

In fact, I used them the last time I went to Australia in 2009.  It was quite an experience driving on the “wrong” side of the road.

First time driving…

Finally getting the hang of it…

 

 

Southwest Contests from Spirit Magazine February 2014

I flew to San Francisco for work and conference last week, so I thumbed through the Spirit Magazine in the seat pocket.  There were 4 great contests that Southwest and Spirit Magazine were running.

 

Las Vegas Getaway to see Penn & Teller

The contest to see Penn & Teller in Las Vegas provides 3 days and 2 nights hotel accommodations at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, dinner for two at Voodoo Steak, and 2 VIP tickets to see Penn & Teller.

Unfortunately, Southwest tickets to Las Vegas are not included with this prize package.

 

Two Night Vacation Package in Newport Beach, CA

This contest for a vacation package in Newport Beach, CA offers a two-night stay at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach, including full breakfast for two adults in SHOR Restaurant, and one round of golf on the hotel’s 9-hole, par 3 Executive Back Bay golf course, including rentals.

Unfortunately, Southwest tickets to Las Vegas are not included with this prize package.

 

Alan C. Fox’s book People Tools

This contest offers 10 winners a copy of Alan C. Fox’s New York Times’ best selling book People Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity.

Unfortunately, Southwest tickets to Las Vegas are not included with this prize package… just making sure you’re paying attention.

 

Trip to the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival

This contest offers a trip for two to the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

You will win:

  • Two $500 Southwest Airlines gift cards for travel to the festival.
  • Three night stay at the Hilton Clearwater Beach with daily breakfast for two April 10-13, 2014
  • Two tickets including VIP Meet and Greet with Winter the Dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium
  • One Sugar Sand & Sunsets VIP Dining Experience for two on Thursday, April 10, 2014
  • Two Unlimited Guest Passes for the Sugar Sand Walk Sand Sculpting Exhibit

 

 

 

2014 Travel Goals

I know, it is March 1st, and I’m just now posting what my goals are for 2014.  In my book, that just means I have to work 20% harder since I have only 10 months to accomplish my 2014 goals because the rest of you had 12 months to accomplish yours!

At least I was able to publish my 2014 personal finance goals on BaldFinance.com a month ago.

 

My 2014 Travel Goals

BaldThoughts.com

First, and foremost, my #1 goal is to continue to develop content for BaldThoughts.com that is interesting, timely, and useful.  I hope that I’ve done a good job so far… and I think I’m making good progress, given that February’s website traffic was 28% higher than January’s!

Beyond that, there are many, many posts I’ve been meaning to write, but travel and life keep getting in the way.  Since I’m guilty of setting a high bar for myself and making to-do lists that require 36 hours in a day to complete, I know I won’t get to all of them in the timeline I want to, but I will surely make great progress towards catching up.

 

Travel

I am a big-time planner, so all of our major travel plans for 2014 were set in 2013.  Because we often travel using our timeshares, I book immediately once the window opens (10-13 months out, depending upon destination) so that I have the best chance of getting the dates and locations I want.

  • We spent a 6 days in Cabo at our timeshare in early January.
  • Followed by a whirlwind European trip I took with a college buddy to Germany, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris.
  • Flying to North Carolina and New York to run two Spartan Sprint races – NC with my bro and newphew and NYC with David.
  • Australia in Business Class with my wife.
  • Family trip to Orlando — timeshare booked, just waiting for the Southwest booking window to open.
  • Flying to, and staying at, FinCon (financial bloggers conference) for free

 

We also have a few weekend trips with friends planned for our timeshare locations near Santa Barbara Wine Country and Palm Springs.

So, at this point, my focus is on booking trips for 2015 and whatever business trips come up for the rest of 2014.

Our 2015 travel plans are to return to Cabo with a group of friends for my 40th birthday and to use an expiring timeshare week to go someplace fun… most likely to a location with snow so our son can take snowboard or ski lessons for the first time.

 

Miles and Points

I love my Chase Southwest Visa because of the point opportunities to renew the Southwest Companion Pass (110,000) and my Southwest A-List Preferred (70,000) status.  So, I am going to focus spend on that card until I am confident I will hit the points necessary.  With a few business trips and what I’ve spent so far, I’m sure it won’t be a problem.

Southwest A-List and Companion Pass Tier Progress 2014-03-01

The Companion Pass is even more valuable now that Southwest is flying to more destinations with the AirTran destinations being merged into their system.  I was able to fly to San Juan Puerto Rico in November and Southwest announced the next wave of international destinations starting July 1, 2014:

  • Aruba
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Nassau/Paradise Island, Bahamas
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

 

AirTran continues to operate Mexico flights, but those should be merged into Southwest by the end of 2014:

  • Cancun, Mexico
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

 

The rest of my miles and points are generally earned through App Parties or special promotions.  I’ll be focused on earning miles and points and transferring into programs to position us for trips in 2015 and 2016 to Cabo, Italy, and Ireland.

 

App Parties

My last App Party was in December 2013 where I earned 235,000 miles and points, so I’m looking to do the next one in April 2014 so I can keep on a pace to do 3 per year (4 months apart).  Some people do App Parties every 3 months, but I like to space mine out to 4-6 months in between, depending upon what else is going on in my life — like refinancing a house or buying another rental.

My goal is to do 3 App Parties this year to earn at least 700,000 miles combined, so I’ll need to catch a couple of large promotions, include 5-6 cards per App Party, and/or apply for cards with large annual fees that offer big miles and points.

 

Conclusion

When thinking about this post, I didn’t think I had that many travel goals for 2014, but as I started writing about them, I realized that I better get cracking!  There’s a lot of work to do… and I’ve already lost 2 months.

How are your travel goals for 2014 coming along?  Have you been able to book the vacations and get the cards that you wanted?  Let me know if I can help.

 

 

Do you keep miles if you pay credit card off before the statement date?

On our other Facebook page for BaldFinance, one of my readers (and good friends) submitted a question wondering whether she would receive her miles if she paid her balance off before the statement date.

 

The Question

One of our readers is the wife of a friend I used to play softball with a few years ago.  I haven’t seen them since they moved to Arizona several years ago, but through the magic of Facebook, we’re able to keep up with each other’s lives.  Here’s her question:

I have a question.. With the Chase Southwest premiere card….if we were to pay balances on the card before the end of the statement period, would we still earn points on that spending? 

I also wanted to say thank you for taking the time to divulge your tips and tricks. We’ve already hit our 50k bonus thanks to the use of bluebird and vanilla reloads. I was bummed when I realized I couldn’t pay the rent or our car payment (our two highest monthly expenses) with a credit card but only days later saw your article on the reloads. It quickly turned my frown upside down. ;)

 

The Quick Answer

The short answer is yes, you do get to keep all your points, no matter when you pay your bill… as long as you don’t pay late and cause the bank to forfeit your points.  The other way to lose points is if you return an item, that is why the credit card companies use the term “net spend”.  Net spend is the amount you spend on the card, minus any returns.

 

Her Situation

Corrina has the Chase Southwest Visa, which is my favorite card because it earns points towards the coveted Southwest Companion Pass that allows my wife to fly for free everywhere I fly.

Chase Southwest Premier Visa

Application link – The Chase Southwest Visa currently offers 50,000 points when you spend $2,000 within 90 days of approval.

She read my series on the American Express Bluebird account and how you can use credit cards to pay for bills that normally can’t be paid with a credit card or where they charge really high fees.

 

The Long Answer

Corrina is paying her bill off before the statement is generated, which is really smart if you’re looking to boost your credit score!  Banks report the balance as of the statement date and if you are paying your account on time, not whether or not you pay your balance off in full each month.

Here are two scenarios of people that look exactly the same when reported to a credit bureau:

  • Person A no longer uses their credit card, but carries a balance of $3,000 and pays the minimum payment of approx $100 each month on time (for simplicity, I am assuming all $100 goes to interest and nothing towards the balance).
  • Person B charges $3,000 per month and pays off the balance in full each month on time.

 

BOTH of these people would have their credit card reported to the credit bureaus as “paying as agreed” and with a $3,000 balance.

In Corrina’s case, if she’s paying the balance off before the statement is generated, her balance would report as $0.  Doing so reduces the overall debt reported to the credit bureaus, which decreases debt utilization.  How much you owe vs your credit limits (aka debt utilization) is worth 30% of your FICO score.

FICO Score Debt Utilization

 

Suggestion

Since Corrina has already met the minimum spend for the Chase Southwest Visa personal card and earned her 50,000 bonus points, if she earned the 50,000 points this year, I would recommend that she also apply for the Chase Southwest Visa business card to earn another 50,000 bonus points.

Both 50,000 point bonuses count towards the 110,000 points qualification for the Southwest Companion Pass.  So, if she earned both bonuses this year, she would have 100,000 from bonuses + 4,000 from minimum spend requirements = 104,000 points.  She would only need 6,000 more points to earn the Southwest Companion Pass that would be good for the remainder of 2014 and all of 2015!

Southwest resets the counter each January, so if she earned the personal card 50,000 points in 2013, the business card would still give 50,000 bonus points, but she would be only halfway towards earning the Southwest Companion Pass.  Using the American Express Bluebird and Vanilla Reloads to pay her mortgage and other bills, however, would still enable her to earn the Companion Pass, provided that she put approximately $58,000 in spend on the card (110,000 – 50,000 bonus – 2,000 spend).

 

Not everyone has a business… or do they?

While not everyone has a business, you can still qualify for a business card if you are starting a business!  And, there are many things that we do every day that count as a business.  For example, I own rental properties, so those are my businesses which enable me to have business cards.  My friend works an electrician for a company, but does some electrical work on the side for friends and family, so he has a business.  Another friend fixes up computers and sells them on eBay, so that is a business as well.

Even if you aren’t doing anything today, you can always start something tomorrow!  When you apply for the business card, just be honest and don’t inflate your revenues since lying on a credit application is a federal offense.  Miles and points are not worth federal prison time!!!

Just fill out the business application and estimate the amount of revenue you would earn the first year, even if it is only a couple thousand dollars.  When they underwrite your application, since it is a new business, they’re really focused on you, your credit score, and your income from your primary job.

 

Conclusion

By paying off your bill before the statement closes, you will still earn the points for that month’s credit card spend.  The added bonus is that your credit score will be a little higher thanks to a reduction in the amount you owe being reported to the credit bureaus.

Great job Corrina in being financially focused and earning some great miles towards family vacations!  You deserve 5 out of 5 Razors. =)

Razor5

 

 

 

Trip Report – Booking Hotels for Mercedes Benz S550 European Delivery

My buddy and I had the opportunity to fly to Germany to pick up a Mercedes Benz S550 from the factory in Stuttgart.  We turned the trip into a European tour, with stops in Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris.

  1. Booking Tickets To Germany So We Can Drive Across Europe in a Mercedes Benz S550
  2. Booking hotels for Mercedes Benz S550 European Delivery

 

So, we needed hotel rooms in each city along the way.

  • Stuttgart Marriott Hotel Sindelfingen (Germany)
  • Wyndham Garden Duesseldorf City Centre Koenigsallee (Germany)
  • Radisson Blu Hotel Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  • Sofitel Arc de Triomphe (Paris, France)

Continue reading ‘Trip Report – Booking Hotels for Mercedes Benz S550 European Delivery’

Chase AirTran Visa no longer available

In July, I wrote that the Chase AirTran Visa is one of the two cards that you should apply for right away before it goes away.  AirTran was purchased by Southwest and that means that their credit card would only be available for a short time afterward.  I checked on their website this evening to grab the link for a friend and it is no longer available.

 

Why would you apply for the Chase AirTran Visa?

The Chase AirTran Visa offered 32 credits after spending $2,000 within 90 days.  AirTran charges 16 credits for a round-trip, or 8 credits one-way.  That means that this credit card would give you 4 one-ways or 2 round-trips!

AirTran flies to both domestic US and some local international locations.  My wife, son, and I flew to Cabo in January 2014 using AirTran credits, which saved us well over $400 each.

Continue reading ‘Chase AirTran Visa no longer available’

How to book a Bonus Time reservation on Worldmark by Wyndham timeshare

One of the little-used features of your Worldmark by Wyndham timeshare ownership is the ability to reserve units for cash when you don’t want to use points and are within 14 days of your travel dates.

Worldmark San Francisco entrance

 

Worldmark by Wyndham Bonus Time

An Owner favorite! Bonus Time allows Owners to pick up any available units or last-minute cancellations 14 days prior to arrival for a nominal fee.

The limitation when using Bonus Time is that the locations and or units that you want may not be available.  However, if there are units available, you will get them at a significant savings!!!

Continue reading ‘How to book a Bonus Time reservation on Worldmark by Wyndham timeshare’