Friday, December 6, 2013

End Justifies the Means ??

Let’ s get straight to the point – Is there an ethical boundary in the travel hacking game? What would you do and not do to earn points and miles? Are there clear black and whites or are they just a bunch of greys all around? Where do you draw the line?

What Calvin Thinks. (I do not have the copyright to this image)
These questions have been swirling around in my head the last few days. I read a few blogs about people calling up the credit card companies after completing their spend challenges and telling them they had registered for a higher sign-up bonus, when in reality that sign-up bonus had expired before they applied for the card and they had signed up for a lower sign-up bonus. Is this right? You know you are lying. The credit card company knows you are lying. They still let you have it (or sometimes they don’t) because they want your business. But just because they let you have it, does it make it right?

In the same vein, is using someone else’s RSVP code for credit card application, justified? The person receiving the credit card offer was the one the bank was targeting. Is it ok for someone else to use their RSVP codes and get the benefit of the offer?

One must be wondering why these questions are doing the rounds. Well, here’s the reason. A few weeks ago I noticed that one of my CC companies had stopped crediting points for my purchase. I called them and asked them to credit the points for my purchase. After a quick research the customer care personnel informed me that it seems there was a glitch and the system did not calculate and credit my points for one full month. They apologized and assured me it would be done soon. No harm no foul, so far.

Forward one week later, I check my account balance and lo behold they have calculated my points and credited it to my account. Only, instead of one month, they calculated for the last 2 years. Yes, the CC company credited me points for all my purchases in the last 2 years. And here’s where my dilemma is – Should I call them and make them aware of their mistake or simply enjoy the free points? I took time and effort to call them to credit what was rightfully mine. Do I not owe them the same courtesy when they make a mistake in my favor?


I can’t figure out what to do. What would you have done in my position? Are there other clear black and white’s in the obsessive game or there are no rules at all?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Using AVIOS to my advantage

Now that the credit cards are applied for, the money has been spent and the points have posted, I was sitting and wondering, what do I do with these points. I did not want to spend them right away but I wanted to just go out and do some award searches in real life and see how it feels. Can I get the better of the airlines ?

One such opportunity came along last week when my friend called and said he needs help with his Honeymoon ticket planning. He wanted to use his miles and not money. It was like dream come true for me. 

So here were the challenge parameters:

1.       Travel from Delhi (India) to Manila (Phillipines)
2.       Tickets were costing Rs. 74,000, return (that’s $ 1233, for the forex challenged).
3.       We had some BA Avios (70k approx.) and some Miles and More points (50k approx.), which we could use. Throw in some more Jet Privilege miles. Period. No other miles.
4.       The dates were not very far out (Feb 2014). But we had the flexibility of a few days here and there. No fixed dates agenda.

So my friend did the first round of award searching. As it turns out, there are no direct flights from DEL to MNL. And so it began.

The obvious thing to do was look at the BA website. The only option that came up was Cathay Pacific, with their huge surcharges. The flight was via Hong Kong and the total was coming to 80000 Avios plus taxes of Rs. 44000 ($733). That seemed like a bad deal from whichever angle I choose to look at it. Plus we din have 80k Avios. We looked at using Miles and more, came to some ridiculous number of miles. Jet Miles were only useful till Hong Kong, with more ridiculous tax.

We tried searching BA again. Same old Cathay Pacific. No Malaysia airlines, no JAL. Just when I thought we are out of options, it struck me. BA was pricing the flights individually. So I could do the same. And we struck gold (well silver..!!). We looked for a DEL HKG and HKG MNL. The result wasn’t much different. 

But now that I knew I could do it, we tried again. This time DEL KUL and KUL MNL. And Jackpot. Now I had Malaysia Airlines result, just like I wanted. Net result: 90k Avios and Rs 13,000 ($216). Now we were getting somewhere. We were just short of 20k Avios. Thanks to BA miles+cash chart, this wasn’t much of a problem. I was borderline orgasmic.

End result – 70K Avios + Rs. 28,000 ($466) and we had ourselves a honeymoon ticket, with a sweet 3 day layover in Kuala Lumpur. The trick was to break the sectors, into individual sectors. We tried JAL too, but the tax was too much again. The avios gave us a Rs. 0.67 value (1.1 cent). Given what the prime objective was (save money), I think we did a decent job.

How would you have done it ? Do you think we could have or still can do it better ?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why Hertz is my go-to car rental company

I have been renting cars for personal and business purpose for the last 3 years. By most people’s standard that might not be a long time, but long enough for me to be able to try all the well-established car rental agencies. After 3 years of regular usage, I can confidently say that Hertz is the best car rental company out there. This is not to say I have not had the occasional “bad experience” with them, but in the larger scheme of things, they are the best. Here’s why I like them over others:

1.       Ease of booking: the first and foremost thing. After all, to get car you need to book it. And that’s where Hertz scores over the others. Their website is user friendly and intuitive. Doesn’t take long to make your booking and it’s easy to modify it from any stage of the process. They have an app also, that provides similar ease of booking. So even if I am on the road and want to make a car reservation for pick up, I can do it. The only issue, sometimes it doesn’t let me book car for the very hour I want it. Thankfully, the on the spot rates at the Hertz locations aren’t all that bad.

2.       Rates: To me, this is the most important part of the rental. I am very cost conscious. I always look for the cheapest deals. My loyalty is to my wallet first and then to any car rental agencies. This is where Hertz almost never disappoints. Their rates are always very competitive against any car rental company. Best of all, they always have some great discounts listed on their website. Find the one which suits you and you are on your way to saving money. And if you want to find more, there are some more at website like flyertalk. Find the coupon codes that works for you and suddenly the good rate Hertz was giving you becomes the lowest rate available. Voila, you are in business. And best of all, they don’t have slimy charges not mentioned on their contract. No extension charges or the likes. The only charge I probably don’t like in US- The daily rate for using EZPass is atrocious.

3.       Quality of cars: Now that I have booked it easily at the cheapest rate possible, I want the best possible car for myself in that category, or may be better. And hertz never disappoints here either. Their car classes usually have the best cars in each category and most are new. I can hardly remember ever getting a car that had more than 20000 miles on the meter. But I can surely remember cars having below a 1000 miles. And atleast 2 instances where the cars were brand new – less than 100 miles. And if I don’t like the car they offer me I simply ask what else they got- they are more than happy to help me switch. That allows me to try all sorts of car – from the Chevy Cruze to the Rav 4, the VM Passat to the Ford Fusion, the Kia Optima to the Audi, I have driven them all.

One of my more recent rentals with Hertz


4.       Customer Service – This is the icing on the already delicious cake. Most of the hertz customer reps at the local editions are well behaved and willing to help out. Any issue, any request, you can rest assured they will hear you out and try to help you as much as possible. As is true for any customer service, sometimes they are unable to help or you bump into that occasional person who doesn’t want to help. But that’s more of an exception than the rule. In case they can’t help you and/or your issue can be handled after the rental, just email them. They will take some time to respond, but they will solve it for you. My personal experience ranges from getting $400 damage charges removed from my CC to renting a car and returning after 30 minutes to return it due to sudden change in plan and not being charged for it. If they can, they will help you.

5.       Miles and Points: You got the cake, you got the icing. All that is left is the cherry. Here’ it comes. Hertz has a great membership program (Hertz Gold Plus). Earn points as you rent and once you get to 500 points, you can get a free car for yourself for a weekday day. The always have some promotion or the other going on, increasing the rate at which you earn your points, so that you get to the free car-FASTER. And if you are the occasional renter, then you can always get credit for your rentals to your choice of Airline or Hotel Miles. Their hotel list is tiny, but their airlines miles partner is looonngg. From American to Skymiles to Flying Blue to Miles and More to United. They got it all covered. They help you rake up those stray miles that convert 58000 miles to 60000 miles in your FFP account and get you the ticket you want. I used to initially take all my points on my airlines program, but once I discovered the benefits of taking them on Hertz Gold Plus, I switched and I don’t regret it one bit. I have enough points to cover my car rental for almost a month. That’s more than $1000 in value.

No matter how good a company is, there is always that random incidence that leaves your with a bad memory of the company you are dealing with. I have had my share and then some. The extra rude agent at a local HLE in London, the damage charge that I thought was plain wrong, the upgrade that never came and so on. But you gotta look at the bad ones alongside the good incidences and see which is more. In my case, my good experiences with Hertz far outnumber the bad ones.


So, which is your preferred rental company and why? Have you had a good experience with Hertz that made you a loyalist? Or did you have a very bad experience with them and vowed never to rent with them again? How do you decide on your car rental ????

Monday, August 26, 2013

2B or 22B

A few weeks ago, I started hoarding miles and points from different airlines and hotel programs through credit card spend. My AoR went pretty well and the miles and points did start pouring in. While I am enjoying the process and the miles are coming in thick and fast, I am stumped by what to do with those miles. With the spend bonuses, the actual spend miles, my personal flying miles and other bonus you get from various sources, I have enough miles to buy myself some free flights.

Question is, do I want to have one flight in 2B (Business Class) or 2 flights in 22B (Economy Class).
Let’s do the math- a free ticket from EWR to DEL in United will set me back by 40,000 miles if I fly economy. That’s 16.5 hours in a Boeing 777 with a 31” seat pitch clubbed with 18” inch widths, 4.0 recline and the economy class service (source: Seatguru.com). Add an additional 20,000 miles, and now I have a flat bed with 20” widths, 76” pitch and the full blown business class service. A return flight this way would set my back by a total of 40,000 miles, which is good enough for another free economy ticket. While this may not seem much, but when this is multiplied in favor of 10 return business flights anywhere in the world, it boils down to this – do I want to visit a few places in style or do I want to a few more places in the regular way.

Photo source: CNN travel - Cathay Pacific Gallery
The question is not for those who have been in the game for years and years and those who churn and burn a million miles an year and travel all alone. They probably don’t care. But for people like me, who are relatively late to the game, have to spend miles not just on self but also on our family members sometime, trying to play the game where the bonuses are dwindling and the rapid devaluation of the miles is only making matters worse, it’s a huge dilemma.

I gave this considerable thought and reached the following conclusion for my own purpose – I can do a bit of both. I have BA miles to burn, but they charge huge surcharge on their redemption tickets, specially the one’s flying out of LHR. So why not use my BA miles, when I fly BA on a paid fare, and use it to upgrade myself to business class. On the other hand, United miles, the best of the miles out there have little surcharge on them, so should use them to buy coach tickets for a vacation. So what if I am in coach for a vacation. Won’t be my first time in coach and won’t be my last for sure. The idea is to use them as fast as I earn them. With the speed at which miles are being devalued, they are best spent now than later. And it takes a lot more time to earn miles for 2 people flying to-fro in business class than coach class. And isn’t that the whole point of earning miles – using them up and not saving them for that flight of fantasy that might never happen.

But what works for you? How do you prefer spending your miles?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Am I Meeting Those Spend Requirements

2 months ago I plunged head first into my first A-O-R. Before I knew it, I was approved for 5 credit cards and was looking at meeting hefty spend requirements to get those mouthwatering bonuses. It was scary. $12,000 to be spent in 6 months. That was a lot of money to be spent really fast. But once the enormity of it had dawned and then passed away, I sat down to devise a plan to meet this requirement.

The first and foremost thing I did was lay my cards out in the order in which I would meet the spend requirements. Amex SPG had the heaviest amount but also the longest tenure - $5000 in 6 months. So it went right to the bottom of the pile. But it also had a first spend bonus. So I made a mental note to make one small charge on the card. The other 4 cards each had 3 months to meet the various spend requirement. So I laid them in order of amount. Net result

1.      First expense on Amex SPG
2.       Chase Marriott ($ 1000)
3.       Chase United ($1000)
4.       Amex Gold ($2000)
5.       Citi AA ($3000)
6.       Amex SPG ($5000)

And now the game began in earnest.

The first thing to do was put the cash in my wallet - away. Every dime from this point onwards was to be spent through credit card. $2.13 for grocery - credit card; $0.99 in Dunkin donut – credit card. This approach made sure that every cent helped me reach my sign up bonus. In the last one month, I have spent just about $27 in cash. The rest all went to my credit card sign up bonus fund. I also got add on card for all the credit cards and gave it to my wife. Since she is not down on the Credit Card game yet, all her expenses were also going towards my purpose.

Once I had this sorted, the next thing to do was find out big expenses that I could channel to my credit card. This is where friends are really helpful. Having lunch with friends? Offered to pay for it with my credit card and collected cash from everyone. Friend needed to borrow cash? Paid through Bluebird cheque and Amazon payments. Friend needed to make some expense online but didn’t have a credit card – offered mine! My friends who knew what I was doing were supportive. The ones, who didn’t know, couldn’t care less. So it was a win-win. Overall I made more than $3000 in payments to friends and group lunches and only $60 of it was actual expense. The rest was just expense on my credit card that my friends paid for.

Next up, pre-paid expenses. I looked for store and accounts on which I made regular expenses to see if I could pre pay something. Telephone bills, grocery store, online stores, anything that we knew we would be spending at any which way. There was just one for us – Movie. My wife and I love watching movies, so I purchased $100 worth of fangando gift cards. They also had an offer on, so I paid just $80 to buy $100 worth of cards. That is what I knew I would easily spend in 4-6 weeks.

But this was still not going to cut it out and I needed to pull out the big guns – enter Amazon Payments and Amex Bluebird.

Amazon payment is an online payment system introduced by Amazon to pay for goods and services to others, specifically for purchases that are not through Amazon website. So if I needed to pay my house help her payment and she has an Amazon payment account, I could pay her through Amazon payment. The beauty of it lies in the fact that you can make the payment through a credit card. Upto $1000 every month, without incurring any charge. This was really helpful in channeling a lot of payments that I would have otherwise made in cash. Any purchase, from a second hand TV to a payment for household help, all could be channeled through Amazon payment. The other person can withdraw the cash to their bank account at no charge.

And the biggest weapon in the arsenal – Amex Bluebird. It’s a checking account alternative by Amex that was the most important to meeting those spend requirements. Bluebird allows loading cash on the account through Vanilla Reload card, which in turn can be purchased through a Credit Card. The VR cards do cost $3.95 for each card, upto a maximum of $ 500 per card. Once I had the money in the bluebird account, I could pay bills online, pay rent, taxes or any other such amount that required a check payment. How ? - Bluebird gives you a check book for payments. And the check books were free till 8/13. So now my rent, which was being paid through check from my checking account, without earning me any points, was now paid through my BB account, helping me get my spend bonus. There is ofcourse the additional 0.79% cost for loading the VR cards, but that’s an expense I chose to bear. Whether I would do it after I have met the spend requirements, is something I haven’t thought about yet. This is the single biggest expense method through the credit card that could be the difference between meeting all the spend requirements and not being able to meet the spend requirements. However, being able to load BB through VR is highly dependent on finding the VR cards at a store that accepts CC as a payment method. And you also run the risk that your credit card company MIGHT classify the transaction as a cash advance. So one needs to be careful.

How I am tracking my expense !!
I made some big mistakes in the process and I would be careful next time around. I was afraid I will not be able to meet the spend requirements and so I went all out in the first month itself. Amazon payments, Bluebird, prepaid expense, group lunches, loaning money, paying for others – everything in one month. My BB could have been locked for excessive transactions. Same for my Amazon payments, thereby locking me out of my money. I could get pulled for financial review. There could also be a fraud alert on my account. Thankfully nothing happened, but it doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened. I needed to pace myself. If my average requirement was $ 7000 in first 3 months and $ 5000 in next 3 months, then that is what I should have done. Spending $ 5000 in first month, $ 4000 in second month and $ 3000 in third month, got my work done quicker, but also gave me a constant headache. So I would need to be better behaved next time. I also ignored the percentage of my total credit limit that I am using and was way above my personal 20% mark. Infact at one point I was 30% which is too high for me.

Last word of caution to anyone planning to use BB or AP for spending – Please be mindful of what you are doing. There are a lot of blogs out there which give a details risk and reward analysis of these payment methods. There are a lot of grey areas of what is legal and/or allowed in the terms and conditions and what is not. Make sure you read as much as possible and are aware of the risks and the terms and conditions before you make your move. This entire activity for me is one big game. I wouldn’t like to risk a dime of my money or my security, credit report or legal file for this game. I have acquired the knowledge out there to determine what I think is right and wrong and made my choices accordingly. You need to make yours an informed choice.

Next up – What am I doing with those sign up bonuses.



Friday, August 2, 2013

Credit Score Tools

Last time I wrote about how I got started on a credit score. To follow it up, here are the 4 best tools I have come across for finding out your credit report and credit score. If you know of any other and better tools, do tell.

1.       Credit Bureaus (Experian, Equifax, Transunion, myfico.com) – The most accurate way of getting your credit report and credit score, is directly from the credit bureaus. You can go online to the website of these credit bureaus or to myfico.com and order your score. From what I understand, you are entitled to one free credit report from each bureau every year. But that report doesn’t include your score. The score you need to buy. But the report is a great place to start and make sure that all the information is correct. And if you need more than one report in a year from the same bureau, there is a way for that too. If you apply for a credit card, the bank will send you a letter with your credit score and the bureau they used for getting your score. You are allowed to call them within 60 days and demand the credit report. This I believe is over and above your own annual entitlement of the credit report. If there is anything on the report that you think is wrong, you can contact the credit bureau and get it rectified. Also, myfico.com has a free 10 day trial. So you can get your score for free one time and then cancel, if you don’t want to continue the subscription. The subscription is $14.95/month.

2.       Creditkarma.com and creditsesame.com – These are your true blue FREE credit report website. They will give you your score and your credit report online for free. Creditkarma pulls its details from Transunion, while Creditsesame uses Experian. Take the scores here with a pinch of salt, as these websites use own scoring mechanism to build the score. But it’s a great indicator of what your actual score might be.

3.       Creditsecure.com – If you have an American express account then you can access creditsecure.com and have your credit score form all three bureaus. Its $ 14.99 per month, but it also comes with a trial for $ 1 for first 30 days. If you want, you can get your score one time and then cancel the subscription, if you don’t want to continue after 30 days.


4.       Freecreditscore.com – Another website that offer to get you all 3 bureau score for $29.95 per month. But again, there is a free trail for $0 for first 7 days. Haven’t got any reviews on this website yet. If anyone does, do share.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

How I got started on a Credit Score

I came to US a year ago and I immediately wanted to get started on getting all the credit cards out there, that would give me all the miles and points I needed to go for that ever elusive trip and also travel in style, while I am at it. Oh was I na├»ve.. I soon realized that you need a Social Security Number to apply for any credit card or any credit application – including a postpaid mobile connection. That social security number would in turn be associated with my credit score. Banks would use that credit score to determine if I am worthy enough to get their privileged credit card. This was required even for the most basic credit card, notwithstanding its paltry $300 limit and no benefits or points whatsoever, leave alone the miles and points credit card that I actually wanted.

Once the realization dawned, I applied for a social security number (SSN) immediately. In case you don’t have one, you should get one, or this is game over for you before it begins. The struggle doesn’t end here, but actually begins with the SSN. A fresh social security number also means a blank credit score. One needs to start building his score from scratch and that’s what I set out to do. I soon realized that building a credit score is a catch-22 situation. You need a credit card or some form of credit to start building the score. You need a credit score to get the credit in the first place. What came first, the hen or the chicken?

The solution lied in simple patience. I started with a simple checking account. Most decent banks would let you open a checking account without a credit score. Infact most banks offer a good bonus, for opening a checking account with them. I got a $200 bonus from Chase when I opened mine. I got another $200 bonus from Capital One for opening a checking account with them. Make sure you maintain it. In case you can’t get any of the regular banks to open an account with, try American Express Bluebird. It will give you the checking accounts benefits and also help you when you need to meet the minimum spend requirements later. 

Once my account was about 4-6 months old, I was ready to risk a credit card account application. However, by then I had made the rookie mistake of applying for 2 store cards and 2 cell phone postpaid connections. All credit applications involved credit score pull on my credit account and each pull is a drop in credit score. That ensured that my credit score had started dropping even before I had the chance to build it up. Oh, and if you must know, I got rejected on all 4 counts.

Once I had waited it out for 6 months, I decided to apply for the Bank of American secured credit card. I would have to deposit $300 and there was an annual fee involved, but I would have a credit card and would start building on my credit score. However, I got lucky. A friend gave me a pre approved Capital One application ( thank you Jay). It was in my friends name but I still decided to try it. Applied online and voila I had a credit card. And so began the process of slowly but steadily building my credit score. I spent a decent amount of time on Transunion, Experian and Equifax website to understand what are the components of a credit score and what boxes I need to hit for my score to go up and what needs to be avoided to make sure the score doesn’t go down. I also opened an account on Credit Karma and Credit Sesame to monitor my score. Based on the feedback on the blogosphere world, I understand that they are not cent percent accurate, but they give you a good idea of where you are and they are FREE. Most importantly, I realized there were some serious mistakes in my credit report. I called Transunion and got those rectified.  I also got my annual free credit report from Experian to ensure that all my data is correct. Once all was in order, I set out to build my credit report.

Credit Score Components (Image courtesy: myfico.com)
2 months of spending a little amount on my credit card and paying it on time ensured that the scores were headed north. After 2-3 payments had hit my account, I ventured out and applied for the Discover card and the Barclays NFL card. Got approved for both. Now I had 3 cards that were helping me build my score. The good thing about these cards is that they are free of annual charge. So I am never going to cancel them. NEVER. This will ensure that my credit history has age on its side. They are the backbone of my credit history and score and they shall remain so.

Another 2-3 months of using all cards, keeping my spends below 20% of my credit limit and paying the bills on time ensured that my credit score was gaining speed. The only box that wasn’t gaining speed was average age, but then something’s can only be changed with time.

One year of time invested and some research on which cards are the best one out there at the given moment, I went for my A-o-R and boy was it fun.

The A-o-R has resulted in some fluctuation in my credit score. It’s dropped a few points because of the credit pull, picked up a little after a few weeks of no activity and dropped sharply after 3 of the credit cards showed up on the account with huge outstanding balances. But I am not worried. It will smoothen out in a few weeks when the payments post and they are always on time. I did go overboard in meeting the spending requirement and so I ignored the percentage of my total credit outstanding that I am utilizing – another rookie mistake. But it’s just been a month and I have the option of correcting it shortly. And so I shall. Time to keep building that credit score and meet those minimum spend requirements to get those big fat bonuses.


What are you upto ???

Monday, July 8, 2013

MY VERY FIRST APP-O-RAMA


I did it! I finally did it!!

I read, researched, understood and retained some information, din understand and couldn't retain a lot more, but after all the bed time reading and day time reading and work time reading and then researching my life away, I took the leap of faith and entered the field  for my first unsupervised-by-any-expert, not-sure-how-it-will-end App-O-Rama.

I won’t make you read all the way to the end to figure out how it ended – from my perspective it went well. Applied for 7 credit cards on the same day, got rejected by one, approved from another five and application declined for the last one (that is not a reject).

So net score of 5/7. I would say that’s not bad for a first app-o-rama.

Let’s go through my card choices, the reason I chose them, the process as it unfolded and some mistakes I made.

First thing first, I researched all cards that were presently available in the market. I found 16 credit cards that offered fairly decent number of miles with various airlines, hotels or with their own reward program. Here’s my list:

By Airlines (Bank-Airlines- Points Program):

1.       Chase – United – Mileage Plus*
2.       Chase – British Airways - Avios
3.       Citi – American Airlines – AAdvantage*
4.       Barclays – US  Airways – Dividend Miles*
5.       Amex- Delta Airlines – Sky Miles*
6.       Bank of America – Virgin Atlantic – VA Miles
7.       Barclays – Lufthansa – Miles and More

By Hotel (Bank – Hotel / Points Program):

1.       Chase – Hyatt – Hyatt Gold Passport Points
2.       Chase – Priority Club*
3.       Chase – Fairmount
4.       Chase – Marriott Rewards
5.       Amex – Starwood Preferred Guest*
6.       Citi – Hilton Honors*
7.       US Bank – Club Carlson

By Bank Reward Program:

1.       Chase – Ultimate Reward Points*
2.       American Express – Membership Reward Points*

My first and foremost criterion was that I will not select any card that doesn’t waive the first year fee. No exception. I don’t have a lot of cash this month and also, since this is my first foray into CC App world, I did not want to put any money on the line. So that left me with about 9 choices (refer to the ones marked with * above)

Second criteria was choice of type of points – my ranking list was- Airline miles, Hotel Points, Credit Card points. And last but not the least, the spend requirement or challenge total at any point shouldn't cross an average of $2000 per month. As my first app-o-rama, I wanted to play it safe.

And so I set out to apply for cards.

I started with Barclays US Airways. I found the 35000 after 1st spend link with first year fee waived. And considering it would soon disappear given the merger, I liked it even more.  I need AA miles – I have a travel coming up on their flight. The application was not approved instantly. But I was armed with the information and I knew this was to be expected. I called their re-consideration line and spoke with a specialist. He reviewed my case and responded that I already have a Barclay card and the limit on that card is the max they can give me. Plus my small length of credit history doesn’t appeal to them. I discussed about my need to keep my office expenses separate and so the need for two cards and my upcoming travels. I also offered to move my credit from my current Barclays card to this one, but it did not work. So I got rejected. I was disappointed but I didn’t give in just yet. I hung up and called back a little later. Same conversation was repeated and I offered to reduce the limit on my current card, but the specialist said it won’t help. I decided to pursue this further and called Barclays credit card help line and got my credit limit reduced by $ 1000. After a little wait, I called the reconsideration line again and started the conversation as if I have called the first time. The specialist immediately started off with – You have already spoken with two of my colleagues. This was my clue to stop acting smart and get straight to the point. I told her that I did speak and they pointed out the limit issue and so I got my limit on my credit card reduced. She wasn’t impressed and said all the same stuff and said due to the length of my history, she can’t approve me. My recent reduction in credit line for this purpose did not appeal to her one bit. So after a many months of strategizing and reading and finally applying the end result of my first application of my app-o-rama was this – A credit pull from my account, a reduction in the current credit card limit and no new credit card. Score 0/1

I was really upset. I was on the all-these-bloggers-are-liars mode. I was ready to write a scathing note to ‘Just another points traveler’ and ‘mommypoints’ and ‘milevalue’ (I love their blogs the most..!!!). After a coffee I calmed down and thought to myself – I already have one credit pull on my account. If I apply for any more cards, there won’t be any pull. What’s there to lose? So let’s go ahead with this and let’s see how it ends.

Next up, Citi AAdvantage card. Applied for the card and was not approved immediately. Called reco line and after the initial discussion, they said they are unable to verify my details with my SSN (I just moved to a new address). So was asked to fax or mail a utility bill. I asked if I could email and they answered in affirmative. So I emailed a CC bill immediately. The rep said it will take sometime for them to track it and evaluate my application. So need to call after 10 days. – Update here – I called regularly every 2 days, to see an update, but none was given. After 5 days I gave up and just waited for the rejection letter. In the meantime I received other confusing mails for sending more documents, which I ignored. After about a week of waiting and giving up, I received an email saying my application has been approved. Note though, this is one week after my application, so on the day, I am still thinking that I have 2 applications and 2 rejects, probably. Score 0/2

Took a deep breath and moved on to Chase United. Application wasn’t approved immediately, so I called the reconsideration. After the Citi fiasco, I decided to use the address that was there on my SSN file, for this application. This rep also asked for address proof, and I came to the realization that I don’t have a current utility bill that would serve my purpose. Requested the rep to change my address on my application, but they refused to do that. So after a lot of discussion, I came to the realization that I won’t be getting approved for this one either. I left this application hang, and said I will try to get some sort of address proof. Score 0/3
At this point, I was really sad. The day just wasn’t going as per plan. 3 applications, not a single approval. I was very very sad.

It was time to move to the hotel’s point category. I started with the world’s favourite Amex SPG. Applied, using my new address and were instantly approved. This raised my spirits real-real high. No need to call the reco line or anything, just gave me the card. Score 1/4

Given how well Amex application went, I decided to sneak in Amex Gold Premier Reward, ahead of the other hotel card. Applied and got my second approval in a few seconds. Now I was on a roll and really happy. Score 2/5

Moved on to Citi Hilton. Free for life card. Seemed like a great option. Application was rejected immediately. Called reco line and was told I can’t apply for more than 1 Citi card in a day. So application was rejected right away without any consideration. I wasn’t sure if this was correct or not, but I decided not to pursue this any further. Score 2/6

Last card on my list was Chase Marriott. Applied and not approved immediately. Called the reco line and after the standard why I need the card and some talk about checking account and saving account with Chase for one year, I was approved. I asked the rep if he could also change the delivery address on my application, as I had used the old address. He gladly did that. Day was still going good. Score 3/7

At this point, I pushed my luck and spoke to the rep about my other Chase application, and how it has got stuck because of the address issue. He pulled it up, reviewed it and approved it. I couldn’t believe it..!! in a few seconds I had an approval on an application that I was sure will get rejected. The hang up and call back mantra seemed pretty good right now. Score 4/7

At this point I was pretty pleased with myself. I had got myself 4 new credit cards with just one credit pull. The spend requirement was $ 9000, which was below my threshold but I still decided not to apply for any more cards this day. In case Citi AA came through, it would touch exactly $12,000 and I din want to cross that line. As luck would have it, that got approved a week later. FINAL SCORE 5/7

A few days later, the cards started pouring in. Though I realized later Amex credit pull came on my account a day later. So I effectively have 2 pulls. But at this point I wasn’t bothered. I couldn’t change it, so what was the point of getting bothered.


Next post – How am I meeting those spend requirements on small monthly budget..

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fly From Scratch

Another blog after travel and Miles..??????????????

Yes indeed.. I have been reading and reading a lot about the travel blogs of the stalwarts and I decided to jump in and see if things are really as amazing as they sound..

So here's my story, as it unfolds, told my way..

Update: 04/16/2014 - I know I have been pretty random in my writing and updating the blog.. but Im trying to be more regular with my experience.. One of my quarter year resolution is to update a post every week and I have chosen the holy day of Tuesday for this noble purpose. So starting next week, you can expect a post every Tuesday (unless I am on a Holiday !!)..

Disclaimer - This is just my true of version on my experience as it unfolds on the miles game.. I am not being helped directly by any blogger nor am I getting any referral bonus or points or any benefits from any program that I mention in any of my blogs. My blog is my opinion in my words. Any factual information relating to any credit card and/or miles & points programs etc. mentioned here are based on my research and you are requested to do your own homework. I will not be liable for any information that turns out incorrect or changes with passage of time. My opinion of any program is also my own and based on my personal experience.

Images: The images used on blogs will have the source of the images mentioned. I don't own the copyright to any image, unless they are my personal images.
Right now the background image on my blog is the many planes image, found through google. The source/copyright owner of the image is unknown.
The current image background of my twitter page https://twitter.com/flyfromscratch is by Akshay Jain (thanks Akshay). You can access more images by Akshay @ https://www.facebook.com/AkshayJainPhotography