I’m not really done optimizing…

You guys knew this post was coming. Last night, I applied for the Chase Freedom Visa and the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard. Why? I’ll get a $200 statement credit for spending $500 on the Chase Freedom Visa in the first 3 months and $400 worth of points for spending $1,000 on the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard. I have about $1,100 of planned spending in the next few weeks that doesn’t take American Express, so that’ll be perfect for the Barclaycard. I was also pretty excited because the Chase Freedom Visa is now my highest limit card – it’s over $10,000! And I was instantly approved for BOTH of them!! That has NEVER happened to me before. You guys, my credit is finally good! Maybe my income being just shy of $200,000 helps a bit too and me actually declaring that. Since it’s so close to the end of the year, I used this year’s income including RSUs, interest, and investment dividends. Earlier in the year, I was using last year’s W-2 income which was much lower.

My plan is to use the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard for just enough purchases to meet the $1,000 limit and then leave it alone until I make a travel purchase of $400ish and then I will probably cancel it after a year.

My plan is to use the Chase Freedom card for my first $500 of purchases after I satisfy my debit card requirements and then only for the quarterly categories:

  • Jan-Mar Gas stations, movie theaters, and Starbucks
  • Apr-June Restaurants (and Lowe’s)
  • July-Sept Gas stations (and Kohl’s)
  • Oct-Dec Amazon.com, Zappos.com, and select department stores (looks like it includes Nordstrom, Macy’s, and JC Penney)

I’ll probably keep it around as a long-term card for now and just use it for the rotating categories. For the last quarter of 2014, I almost don’t even need to keep it in my wallet since I can set it up to just automatically pay for all of my Amazon.com purchases instead of the only 3% my Amazon.com visa gets. It’s also not that annoying because it has the same login information as the Chase Amazon.com visa I already have. It’s also not like you can get the bonus again and there’s no annual fee, so it’s not that bad to keep it.

It also looks like if you have a Chase checking account, you get 10% bonus points still! So now I’m on the lookout for a bonus to open one of those in early 2014 since it’s a new calendar year! Otherwise, I won’t open it because my estimated return on $1,500 by doing that is 0.48% and would be < $10. So if I did open the checking account, I would possibly still close it after 6 months. Now to go back to cleaning my actual apartment since I am off work…

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  1. #1 by harry campbell on December 22, 2013 - 11:17 am

    Awesome – just did the barclay card for my fiancee. It’s a pretty good card to use if you travel a lot since you get 2.2% back on ALL purchases(2% plus point bonus redemption). I would def cancel before the AF hits :)

    The Chase Sapphire card is pretty awesome too, I think there’s a 55k offer out there right now and the points are super valuable plus 2x back on dining and travel(incl taxis and public trans)

    • #2 by Leigh on December 22, 2013 - 11:24 am

      Did you do the barclay card too? Oh I saw the two options as downgrade or cancel. Will probably just cancel. It’s pretty sweet that they give you a free FICO score!

      The Chase Sapphire card does sound like a good deal! I’m not sure how much travel I’m going to do in the next year though, so I’ll hold off for now until I’m sure I can even use the Barclaycard points.

    • #3 by Leigh on December 22, 2013 - 11:26 am

      I’m unsure about using it for too much in case I can’t spend the points. I guess it’s still about equal to the Fidelity Amex, so not that bad overall.

      • #4 by Tim on December 22, 2013 - 11:39 am

        I like the Fidelity AMEX cards myself, 2% back on everything and I don’t have to keep track of what %’s are where.. The easy redemption into the 401K is nice.. though its not much but every little bit is nice.

        I have a Citi dividend card I use mostly where I can’t use AMEX. I get up to 5% on that depending on the purchase.

        • #5 by Leigh on December 22, 2013 - 1:20 pm

          Yup, I love the Fidelity Amex…except for the places that don’t take Amex. So I’ll use these two cards for the places that don’t take Amex until I hit the required spend and then ignore them most likely.

          I think you mean easy redemption into your IRA or investment account?

        • #6 by TJ on December 30, 2013 - 10:20 am

          I have the Fidelity Visa for the places that don’t take the Amex. Maybe it’s my region, but I find that there are very few places that don’t take Amex. Then again, I have better cards for dining, so maybe some of the mom and shop take out places wouldn’t take amex.,,,

        • #7 by Leigh on December 30, 2013 - 1:00 pm

          @TJ I haven’t found *that* many places that don’t take it, but it has added up to just over $3,000 of spending in the last 6 months of 2013. There have been a few restaurants, but I just use the Chase Amazon.com visa that gets 2% there then. Some of the places that didn’t take American Express were the bike repair shop (~<$100), my insurance company (~$1,500), parking at work (~$300), street parking somewhere ($2), a couple gyms (~$600), a movie theater ($30), my electricity company (~$200), and my physical therapy place (~$500). All in all, it's about a $15 loss so far, so not worth getting another card over. Just annoying. I'm going to re-evaluate the American Express experiment after a full year, in July.

        • #8 by TJ on December 30, 2013 - 1:15 pm

          @Leigh, your electric company lets you put it on a card? That’s nice. Is your insurance company a tiny regional one? That’s crazy.

          When you think about it, it’s kind of funny the way we all obsess over optimizing credit card rewards. How many of us would stop and pick up a penny or two off the ground? ;-)

          The quarterly bonus cards are a bit frustrating, but it doesn’t take that much effort to switch out cards. I only really seem to use Chase Freedom during the 2nd quarter when they have the dining category. Same with Discover, which is usually first quarter.

          BTW, as far as the Barclay Arrival goes, if you don’t have any travel plans, but you fly Southwest, you can buy southwest gift cards, they never expire. Probably true for other airlines as well.

        • #9 by Leigh on December 30, 2013 - 1:27 pm

          @TJ and that’s why most of my optimizing happens in a spreadsheet rather than in reality – it’s far easier to stop if I run out of the time. The funny thing too is that the only real way to get more credit card rewards is to spend more money. People who are self-employed have such great opportunities to bring in the credit card rewards. But even at what I think is a high level of credit card spending of around $23,000 for the year, the most optimal setup I could find would be $700 of rewards per year. That’s less than two days’ pay for me… But it’s better for me to be optimizing this than actively trading, right? ;)

          My electricity company lets me auto-pay it to a card, but only Visa/MasterCard. My insurance isn’t local that I know of? I’m not sure.

          Yeah I think the Chase Freedom is a card I’ll keep for a while and never close, but just put it in my wallet during the useful quarters, set it up on auto-pay, and otherwise ignore it. The limit is a bit higher, so that should be helpful to get the limit raised a bit more on my Fidelity Amex in another 6 months :)

          I’ve looked at the Discover card, but it seems annoying because so many places don’t take it…even more than American Express.

          I don’t really ever fly Southwest – I’m trying to figure out how to make those miles not expire because I haven’t flown with them in two years. I’m working on some travel plans, don’t worry!

        • #10 by TJ on December 30, 2013 - 1:48 pm

          @Leigh That’s weird, I haven’t had many issues with DISCOVER being accepted.

          You don’t necessarily need to spend more money to get more efficient, I think the best way to optimize is to target the cards with huge signup bonuses, regardless of how useful the card will be on a regular basis. it might even be worth paying fees. If I were just starting out, I wouldn’t waste my time with say the Discover card, but since I already have it (I actually didn’t even know that I applied for it – I was in college) and do not have any new signups to re-allocate to, i might as well take the 5%.

          Example:

          I recently signed up for Navy Federal Flagship Rewards, it was giving 60,000 points for $3000 spend within 3 months. The 60k points is good for $450 cash or $600 air credit.

          I don’t normally put anywhere near $3k on a card over a 3 month period, so in addition to regular spending, I charged my property taxes and paid estimated taxes. I paid around $50 in fees to charge those taxes, but it’s still an easy extra $400-$550.

          I usually seem to find one or two $400 signups every year, which I think is a lot more than whatever cashback I got from just spending, but honestly I don’t think I put more than $15k on cards per year (I haven’t actually kept track since 2011)

          But if you make over $350 per day, maybe an extra $400 isn’t that exciting. :-D

        • #11 by Leigh on December 30, 2013 - 3:21 pm

          That’s a good point on targeting cards with huge sign-up bonuses and otherwise not really caring. I think that the Fidelity Amex and the 1% base cards I have are sufficient otherwise. My estimate is that with my regular spending on the base cards and these two sign-up bonuses, I should get about $1,000 in credit card rewards next year! The sweet part about it though is that credit card rewards are tax-free, so they’re actually worth more than that! There’s also no worry of the 3.8% net investment income tax on them (I’m still a ways off single, but I would be if I got married).

          I would never get the Chase Amazon.com visa now, but there is no point in getting rid of it because it is one of my oldest cards, on auto-pay, and already set up with my Amazon.com account.

          I dunno, an extra $400 is still exciting :) I definitely don’t find interest on savings accounts nearly as exciting as I used to though. I do spend $3k on credit cards in 3 months, so I wouldn’t pay fees to put my property taxes on them. The 2% cashback from the Fidelity Amex is pretty cool because it adds up so much faster than it did/does on my 1% credit union visa. I will probably try to get the credit limit on the Fidelity Amex card raised because it isn’t quite high enough for two high months of regular expenses.

          That $600 air credit is pretty sweet!

  2. #12 by StackingCash on December 22, 2013 - 1:57 pm

    I had to chuckle a little bit, personal finance is in your blood so you will be forever blessed to manage you money well ;-). In regards to chasing bonuses with credit cards, it’s nice in the meantime but I don’t like how they stick on your credit report for years and years after you close them. As far as credit is concerned, I’m surprised you ever had a problem obtaining it.
    I would have guessed that you would shredding a ton of credit applications from the mail like myself.

    • #13 by Leigh on December 22, 2013 - 2:21 pm

      Definitely! Well I never got a credit card in college, so I graduated at 21 with an empty credit report, plus very little record of income. So it’s taken me a while to build up credit history, compared to how much I spend, especially since I was trying to be cautious with mortgage applications. This was my fourth year out of college and I finally had high enough credit limits to put all of my spending on credit cards. I was paying bills with bill pay / checks / auto-debit the last few years. This is so much nicer! I’ve at last started getting credit card applications in the mail, but none that I want. Maybe some day!

      • #14 by TJ on December 30, 2013 - 10:15 pm

        I almost never get any in the mail. When I checked my credit reports, I noticed that I “opted out”, and that that’s expiring next year. We’ll see if I start getting offers…Wonder if any of the mailed offers are better than what you see online…

        • #15 by Leigh on December 31, 2013 - 8:55 am

          I finally opted out, so hopefully I shouldn’t have to keep shredding these all the time!

  3. #16 by Elroy McGregor (@MoiAndMoney) on December 22, 2013 - 2:04 pm

    Mouth, meet foot :)

    The sapphire preferred can take all the points pooled from the freedom and then transfer to their travel partners. Or you can just take a credit statement. If you need someone to help you spend the Ultimate Reward points, I can promise I will put them to good use.

    Also, don’t forget Lowe’s sells lots of gift cards to other places, amazon included :)

    • #17 by Leigh on December 22, 2013 - 2:29 pm

      :D I’m also off work and a bit bored right now… I should really be tidying and cleaning the apartment instead of optimizing things that are already fairly well optimized.

      Hmm I will check out Lowe’s then and see what kind of gift cards they offer. That might also be a good excuse to buy some items I have been looking for for the condo at the same time: a lighter (for birthday cake), a magnet whiteboard, and a plunger and a toilet bowl brush for the second bathroom.

      Hmmm interesting – I will look into the sapphire preferred later, once I’m done with the Barclaycard. I will at least consider hoarding the Freedom points for now.

  4. #18 by nicoleandmaggie on December 23, 2013 - 9:39 am

    If you were really optimizing, you’d have affliate links for those cards like all the other PF bloggers right now!

    • #19 by Leigh on December 23, 2013 - 10:29 am

      Oh I’m far too lazy for that!

  5. #20 by dan23 on December 23, 2013 - 5:38 pm

    Do you use your own spreadsheet or mint (or something else) for tracking expenses?

    • #21 by Leigh on December 23, 2013 - 9:23 pm

      A combination of my own spreadsheet and some code/scripts I wrote for a database.

  6. #22 by Keith on December 24, 2013 - 6:39 am

    Your optimizing has become a habit, not a bad habit for sure. But changing habits is hard. It takes conscious effort to do so. And who consciously wants to change good habits? However, I bet you won’t nit pick optimizing to the point of worry much anymore.

    • #23 by Leigh on December 24, 2013 - 4:22 pm

      It is hard. I mostly want to try to reduce optimizing because it does take some effort. Like that refinance last year did take a bit of time. Not a huge amount, but a fair amount.

  7. #24 by TJ on December 30, 2013 - 10:17 am

    You have to wait until 90 days after your last Chase checking account was closed.

    I just opened another one which has to be my 4th or 5th time getting the sign up bonus…it was only $150 this time instead of $200 though.

    • #25 by Leigh on December 30, 2013 - 12:41 pm

      My last coupon said 90 days after your last account was closed and one per calendar year.

  8. #26 by TJ on December 30, 2013 - 1:06 pm

    Yes, one per calendar year. I opened my last sometime in Summer 2012, so December 2013 was fine for me.. :D

    • #27 by Leigh on December 30, 2013 - 1:07 pm

      Yeah I meant to open mine in December 2012, but it turned into January/March 2013, oops… Ah well. I should be able to do it again in 2014 at least!

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