Category Archives: Credit Cards

Semi-Monthly Update (June 16, 2017)

In this update:  A plethora of increased sign-up bonuses, another exciting excuse from yours truly, a travel update, and a recap of recent ValueTactics blog posts.




Credit Card News

The summer weather is heating up and so are the credit card sign-up bonuses!  Across the board, banks are rolling out some of their cards’ typical increased sign-up bonuses.  Whatever your overall card strategy is, the elevated sign-up bonuses can either simplify or complicate your decision matrix.  Either way, it’s nice to see these bonuses return; it indicates that card issuers are still hungry for your business!

  • Citi AAdvantage Platinum MastercardCiti’s AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard currently has an increased sign-up bonus of 60,000 American Airlines miles.  The usual bonus is 40,000.  To get the bonus miles, you must spend $3,000 in the first three months.  The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
  • Citi’s business version of the American Airlines card listed in the previous bullet point is also at 60,000 miles for a limited time.
  • The AAdvantage Aviator Red from Barclaycard doesn’t exactly have an increased sign up bonus, but it is available with a nice 50,000 mile bonus.  This card was previously not available for new account holders; it was only available in a converted form from an old U.S. Airways card.  The $95 annual fee is not waived the first year, but the bonus is earned after your first purchase!
  • Barclaycard’s Arrival+ currently has an elevated bonus of 50,000 points after spending $3000 in the first 90 days.  The usual bonus is 40,000.  These points are redeemed for reimbursements of travel purchases made on the card.  You get 5% of redeemed points back in your account, so the current bonus on this card is worth $588.  The $89 annual fee is waived the first year.

YouTube Channel Update

todolistAnother update, another excuse!  🙂  I have acquired a key piece of equipment I need to produce high quality videos.  However I haven’t managed to acquire the time needed to put it to use.  I promise you, as soon as I’m able I will start releasing useful and entertaining videos for you to watch and share!

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

Barclaycard Aviator RedKeep or Cancel: Some Examples is a great post for helping you decide whether to keep a credit card when its annual fee is due.  It’s impossible to cover every variable for every situation, but this post shows some examples of how I work through the decision.

Travel News

Over the past week I’ve been struggling to book airfare for our fall trip.  It’s not that there aren’t any good options; there are plenty that would work.  It’s that I’m coordinating with a friend and we both want to get the best deal possible.  It should be pretty easy once we can both get a free hour or two together to work through it.

One thing is for sure. . . our planning is going to result in quite the spreadsheet!  Once I have it, I’ll be sure to share it on the ValueTactics Facebook page.

Now you’re updated.  Go employ some Value Tactics!

Keep or Cancel: Some Examples

Keep or cancel?  It’s the perennial question that comes up every time your credit card’s annual fee is due.  Should I pay the fee and keep the card?  Should I cancel it?  Or should I fish for a retention offer and base my decision on that offer?  All these questions can really be boiled down to one:  Will keeping this card another year be more valuable than the annual fee?




The answer to that question can be determined with some simple math, although assigning a dollar value to some card benefits gets a little subjective.  For example, the impact of cancelling a card on your credit score is hard to quantify.  Likewise, banks have different rules on how often you can get a sign-up bonus.  Keeping a card too long could hinder your future points-earning potential.  You need to consider these and many other factors when you calculate the value in each scenario.

Discussing all the different ways a card can provide value is beyond the scope of this post.  Instead, I will use a few recent examples of keep/cancel decisions that Nicoleen and I made to highlight some of the thought processes involved.

Credit cards on the chopping block.

All credit cards eventually end up on the chopping block.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum MasterCard

Recent action: CANCEL

The annual fee for Nicoleen’s Citi AAdvantage Platinum was charged on the May statement.  She’s had this card for 3 years and has never paid the annual fee.  The previous two times the fee was due she called and fished for a retention offer.  Both times she was successful in getting the fee waived or reimbursed.  We even got a few bonus miles out of the deal.

chaos pool

Citi phone reps are pretty easy to deal with, in general.  But I would still recommend finding a quiet place to make these phone calls!  This was not ideal, but it all worked out in the end.

This time she wasn’t fishing for a retention offer.  She just needed to cancel.  One main factor dominated this decision.  Before I explain that factor, here are the basics of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum MasterCard:

  • This card earns American Airline miles; 1 point per dollar on regular purchases and 2 points per dollar on American Airlines purchases.
  • The standard sign-up bonus is 30k miles with a $3k spend in the first 3 months.  The fairly frequent increased sign-up bonus is 50k miles (and rarely 60k).
  • Annual fee is $95 but is waived the first year.  Historically it’s been a very easy card to get the annual fee waived just by calling.
  • The most noteworthy fringe benefit is free checked baggage on American Airlines flights.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Mastercard

Long before my time, this card was one of the most churnable miles cards out there.  There were several card versions and each had their own sign-up bonus.  Some people would open multiple cards in a year and have several accounts of the same card at once.  Citi was very lax with the rules on opening accounts and getting sign-up bonuses.  It was the Wild West!

By the time I got in the game, a more typical strategy for these cards was thus:  String along annual fee waivers in order to keep the account open for free.  Doing so helps your credit score by adding to both your average account length and your credit-to-debt ratio.  Some time after 24 months (Citi’s old minimum time limit between sign-up bonuses for a given card), close the account and open a new one for another 50k American Airlines miles.

But recent changes have made that strategy invalid. . .

The main factor

Late last year Citi dropped a bomb on credit card churners.  It wasn’t quite the MOAB that Chase dropped with their 5/24 rule, but it was disruptive enough to change my strategy on Citi cards.

The minimum time between sign-up bonuses is still 24 months, but it no longer applies to each specific card.  The 24 month timer is now shared among all cards of a given point type.  For example getting any Hilton sign-up bonus with Citi precludes you from getting the bonus on any other Citi Hilton card.

What’s worse is that the 24 month timer isn’t only reset by earning a sign-up bonus as it previously was.  It now also resets any time a card is cancelled or downgraded.  This is nonsensical to me because it incentivizes people to cancel their cards right after getting the sign-up bonus instead of continuing to use it for the following year(s).

The fact that it will be at least 2 years before Nicoleen can get any American Airlines co-branded card from Citi dominates all the other factors.  Any value she would get from keeping the card, even if Citi waived the annual fee, would pale in comparison to getting that timer going ASAP.  With Citi’s new bonus policy, cancelling this card was an easy decision.

NOTE: One silver lining of cancelling the Citi AAdvantage Platinum was that Nicoleen was able to transfer the credit to one of her no-fee Citi cards.  Therefore there will be no impact on her credit to debt ratio, which helps maintain a good credit score.





Barclaycard American Airlines Aviator Red

Recent action: CANCEL

Another American Airlines card and another history of having annual fees waived.  Like Nicoleen’s Citi card, I have successfully had the annual fee waived twice on my Barclaycard Aviator Red.  Usually my retention offers also came with some nice bonus miles for easy spending requirements.  Last year they waived my fee, gave me 5k miles, and bonus miles on my upcoming spending.

Barclay’s generosity with this card seems to be coming to an end, however.  According to reports on Flyertalk, retention offers are gradually drying up.  Nicoleen found this out first hand when she was offered nothing late last year.

A little about the Barclaycard Aviator Red:

  • The Aviator was originally the result of the American Airlines / U.S. Airways merger.  Barclay had a U.S. Airways card which was converted to the Aviator after the merger.
  • Until recently, the only Aviator Reds that existed were grandfathered U.S. Airways cards.  Now Barclay is taking new applications for the Aviator line of American Airlines cards.
  • Current offer is for 50k miles with no minimum spend, but the $95 annual fee is not waived the first year.
  • Notable fringe benefits are free checked bags on American, and 10% of redeemed miles refunded back every year.

Barclaycard Aviator Red

Other than the usual benefits of keeping a card open (credit score maintenance) the most compelling reason I had to keep this card was the frequent and generous bonus mile offers that came around.  –Read about some of these in this post.–  But without the annual fee waiver, the possibility of bonus offers definitely wouldn’t be enough incentive to keep this account open.

As expected, when I called I got no retention offers and decided to cancel.  I moved my credit to my Arrival card to minimize the impact on my credit score.  Now that the Aviator Red is available for new accounts, I may end up getting the card again sometime soon.  After all, I technically never got the bonus on this card, since my bonus was on the U.S. Airways card before the conversion.




More examples

Stay tuned for Keep or Cancel: Part II where I’ll show examples of cards we recently decided to keep.  I will explain what went into the decision and I’ll show just how much value we reaped from these cards to make them worth the annual fee.

My Easiest (and Quickest) Credit Card Cancellation

I recently did my monthly update to my big credit card spreadsheet and discovered I had two cards with annual fees about to hit.  After a brief analysis I decided that at least one of them, my Capital One Spark Business, had to go.  I had never cancelled a Capital One card before so I had no idea what I was in for.

The Card

The Spark Business from Capital One was my first card from that heavily advertised bank.  “What’s in your wallet?”  Not many Capital One cards.  For reasons I won’t get into right now, they have historically been relatively unpopular with those of us playing the credit card game.

spark

In a nutshell, the Spark Business earns 2% cash back on all purchases.  The sign-up bonus after spending $4.5k in 3 months was $500 cash!  That’s a pretty sweet deal, and the 2% cash back isn’t bad either.  But in my case, I wasn’t putting much regular spending on the card so the $59 annual fee wasn’t worth it for me.  The fee was waived the first year, but my first year was almost past.  It was time to cancel.

Easy (and fast!) Cancellation

I always dread cancelling cards.  This is an irrational dread since most of the time it’s pretty painless.  But once in a while you’ll get a customer service rep who wants to convince you to keep a card.  If you don’t make your intentions clear right off the bat, you’ll have to endure their run-through of the card’s benefits, or their pitch to downgrade the card or convert it to another type altogether.

In some cases, you’re fishing for a retention offer, so the personal customer service is what you want.  But other times you know you want to cancel and you just want to get it checked off your list.  In those cases, the human interaction could bog things down.

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about how easy it is to cancel Citi cards online.  At the time this was my only experience cancelling a card impersonally.  (After all, who really wants to talk to a human when you could hide behind digital anonymity!)  When I called Capital One to cancel the Spark Business I stumbled upon an even easier way to cancel cards!

I prompted the automated phone system by saying the reason for my call was: “close account.”  After I verbally affirmed a few things, the system read me a description of what closing the card would mean.  It even proactively notified me that any annual fees posted to the account in the past 30 days would be automatically refunded.  (A nice reassurance even though my fee had not yet posted.  Overall the call took less than three minutes!

Credit card cancellation in record time

As far as I know, only Capital One allows card holders to perform a credit card cancellation over the automated phone system.  I’m sure it was faster than cancelling my Citi card online and it was even more impersonal . . . if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you’ve had similarly convenient or quick experiences cancelling credit cards, please let me know by commenting on this post or on the ValueTactics Facebook page.

Thanks for reading!

Online Shopping: How to Avoid My Biggest Mistake this Holiday Season

burning-money
I leave a lot of points and miles sitting on the table.  It can happen at any time but it’s more noticeable this time of year with Christmas shopping.  I’m not talking tens of thousands of points, like you would be wasting if you screwed up a credit card bonus offer.  It’s not that huge of a mistake.  I call it my “biggest mistake” because it’s easy to avoid, yet I still manage to screw it up regularly.  I’m talking about online shopping portals.

Virtually Free Points and Miles with Online Shopping Portals

With online shopping portals you can earn potentially thousands of bonus points for about 20 seconds of work and a few keystrokes.  Many credit card points and frequent flier miles programs offer these online shopping portals, where you can earn bonus points for clicking through their link before shopping online.  You make the purchase on the retailer’s website just like normal, but you get bonus points for whichever program you used to click through to the retailer’s site.  Here’s an example:

You are about to make an electronics purchase at my favorite online computer store, newegg.com.  You remember you can earn bonus Ultimate Rewards if you shop through the portal at Chase’s website.  You log on to your Ultimate Rewards account and click “Shop through Chase:”
Online Shopping Portal

Search for newegg.com in the “earn more” area:
portals2

You’re in luck!  Newegg.com is one of the retailers in the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal program.  In this case, you earn 2 additional points for every dollar you spend on newegg.com

Click through the link to newegg.com and shop like usual.  (If I go afk and I get signed out of either the shopping portal or the retailer’s site, I usually start over again.  This probably doesn’t matter but I wouldn’t want to lose out on points because something weird happened.)  I normally get my purchase researched and ready to buy, close the browser tab, and then start over with the shopping portal to actually make the purchase.

With Chase Ultimate Rewards portal (and I believe all other programs’ shopping portals) you can use whatever payment method you want.  In other words, you don’t have to use the card tied to that points program to make the purchase from the online retailer.  This comes in handy when you want spending on a particular card but would like bonus points for another program.

Do as I say, not as I do

The key to getting these bonus points is simply remembering to get them!  As this article title suggests, I am horrible at this.  Many times I don’t realize I lost out on points until weeks or months later.  It’s one of those things where you just have to get into the routine and it will become second nature.

Don’t throw away free points and miles!  Check if your credit card or frequent flyer miles program has an online shopping portal BEFORE you make those last minute Christmas shopping purchases.

Small Business Saturday 2016 . . . Another Year, Another Disappointment

This year American Express has expanded Small Business Saturday to the entire holiday shopping season.  But, for the second year in a row, they are not offering any statement credits for AMEX purchases at small businesses.  In previous years, American Express enticed shoppers to patronize small businesses by offering $10-30 in statement credits after paying with your AMEX card.  Last year was the first since 2012 that no statement credit was offered.

Scraps from the table

In an effort to salvage what was undoubtedly a less successful effort last year, American Express is offering a consolation prize.  A few days ago I received an e-mail offer for double points when using an AMEX card at small businesses through December 31st, 2016:

Small Business Saturday 2016

My Hilton HHonors card from American Express

My Hilton HHonors card from American Express

Most American Express cards are included in this offer, but you have to register each card to activate the deal.  Cards that already earn more than 1 pt per dollar on regular purchases will also double their points.  For example, my AMEX Hilton Reserve normally earns 3 points per dollar.  During the promotion it would earn 6 points per dollar at small busineses.  However, the same is not true with category bonuses (such as dining or travel) that some cards earn.  Check out the full official FAQ here.

Not a remarkable deal

For some people this promotion will be worth something.  If you already frequent retailers on the small business list, it might be worth it for you to get the double points with your AMEX card.  On the other hand, you may still get better value using another card at the same store.  This is especially true at the many restaurants that are part of the promotion, since some credit cards already earn extra points for dining establishments.  This is not even to mention other bonus offers that might be running on one of your cards, like the frequent promotions the Barclay Aviator runs.

Do the math before automatically assuming your AMEX card is the best one to use at one of these small businesses during the promotion.

The moral of the story

As I wrote about in my post about last year’s American Express Small Business Saturday, there is a lesson here.  And it’s an important one at that.  For several years people came to expect the statement credit.  Now it appears to be permanently gone.  If you count on deals, offers, bonuses, etc. to be there for you in the future, you’re misplacing your confidence!  All value tactics change and some disappear.

I liked what I wrote last year so here it is again: The key to capturing and creating value is to recognize and take advantage of good deals when they exist, and to move on and adapt when the current opportunities change or disappear.

Card Review: Chase Ink Plus

UPDATE: This card has been replaced with the Ink Business Preferred.

chase ink
The Ink Plus is Chase’s Ultimate Rewards earning business credit card. With a new standard sign-up bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points, this card is a heavy hitter in terms of value potential. And the value of the Ink Plus doesn’t all lie in the sign-up bonus either; it has generous 5x and 2x category bonuses as well, making this card one you may want to keep in your wallet for the long haul.

Basic Stats
– Issuer: Chase
– Logo: Visa Signature
– Points earned: Ultimate Rewards
– 1 pt per dollar on all purchases
– 2 pts per dollar on gas and lodging
– 5 pts per dollar on phone/internet/cable, and at office supply stores
– No foreign transaction fee
– Annual fee: $95 (NOT waived the first year)

Current sign-up bonus
60,000 bonus points after $5000 spend in 3 months

In 2014 I flew to Europe and back for 60,000 United miles, transferred from Ultimate Rewards. The bonus alone on the Ink Plus could get you the same flights!

A planted giant sequoia at Insel Mainau gardens in Konstanz, Germany

A giant sequoia at Insel Mainau gardens in Konstanz, Germany

Click here to apply for the Ink Plus business card from Chase

This card has been replaced with the Ink Business Preferred.

Can I get a business card?

This question probably scares away a lot of potential card holders of this and many other business cards with lucrative sign-up bonuses. Lucky for most of you reading this, we live in the USA, where having a “business” can mean many different things. Basically any side income that you earn that doesn’t show up on a W-2 can count as a business for the purpose of applying for a business credit card.

I have heard of many examples of businesses used to apply for these cards, some more legitimate than others. I have done ceramic tile and stone installation for over 10 years and even though it’s now an form of infrequent weekend income, it definitely qualifies. I have expenses and I earn income; that’s basically all that’s required. Others I have heard of include: bicycle racing expenses and winnings, online sales (amazon and ebay), running a website, and even inconsistent odd jobs. All of these could qualify you for a business card.

When applying, my advice is to embellish where needed, but never outright lie. If you are just starting a business or online sales effort you can use projected or expected income on your application. Be optimistic about your income figures and don’t skimp when you’re asked how much you expect to put on the card. When it comes down to it, unless you have a thriving business with employees, the bank will probably base most of its decision on your personal income and credit score (if you don’t have a federal tax ID, you will use your personal SSN for the application.)

Sign-up and category bonuses

The 60,000 Ultimate Reward bonus is incredible! Even considering you pay the first year’s annual fee up front, this card’s sign-up bonus is more valuable than its non-business counterpart, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. After the initial spend of $5k, you’ll have at least 65,000 UR points. That’s enough for:

. . . And that’s just the minimum points you’ll have after meeting the $5k spend. If you have $250 in monthly cell phone and landline/cable/internet bills on this card, you’ll earn 1250 UR points a month, or 15,000 a year. That doesn’t even consider other spending you may put on the card, including the 2x point earning on gas station purchases and lodging.

My experience with the Ink Plus

When I got the card it had an elevated sign-up bonus of 70,000 points. This deal has been seen before (and even higher, but with higher minimum spends) but the 60,000 UR bonus is one of the best around, so I wouldn’t wait for an elevated bonus. I just had lucky timing.

I have had my Ink Plus for over a year. I calculated the 5x category bonus on our cellphone and internet bills just about paid for the annual fee. So additional value I get from having the card is basically free. I also use this card on business expenses (tile supplies purchased for clients) and some fuel purchases. For me the category bonuses might make this card more of a keeper than the Sapphire Preferred. I will have to make that decision soon, as my Sapphire Preferred annual fee is due soon. (Always remember to transfer your UR points to another UR account in your household before you cancel an UR-earning card!)

Should you get this card?

Yes! The total value from getting this card is easily over $2000 and can be much higher if you redeem your transferred miles tactically. If you have absolutely no travel plans in your future, the card is still worth at least $650 in the cash-out value of your points, all for a $95 annual fee. That’s $555 profit just for getting one card and making sure you meet the minimum spend. (Don’t redeem for cash though . . . the UR points are worth much more when transferred to a partner program!)

Here are some things to consider when working the Ink Plus into your overall card strategy:

  • IMPORTANT: You have to prioritize applications for Chase cards because of the 5/24 rule.
  • Ultimate Rewards points are very versatile so having a stock of them early in your value tactics career would be helpful.
  • The 60,000 UR sign up bonus is worth more than the 50,000 point bonus on the Sapphire Preferred personal card, even when accounting for the up-front $95 fee.
  • The $5000 spending requirement may be a challenge for you to meet, especially if you have other bonus spends cooking at the same time. (REMEMBER, the $95 annual fee does not count toward your bonus spend.)

The Chase Ink Plus is an amazing card for it’s category bonuses, fringe benefits, and extremely valuable sign-up bonus. If you can make the case that you have a business (not very difficult – see above), I would highly recommend that you get this card early in your points career!

Click here to apply for the Ink Plus business card from Chase

This card has been replaced with the Ink Business Preferred.

Don’t Hoard Points


Adam Sandler’s character in “Punch Drunk Love” working on hoarding 1,000,000 miles through a loophole in a product label promotion.  He’d better spend some before the next devaluation!

In last week’s update I mentioned that I recently realized I had close to 1 million points and miles in various airline, hotel, and credit card programs.  Being a points millionaire might seem like a fun title to have, but in fact it’s dangerous.  No, I don’t mean you would need a bodyguard and a home security system; I mean your huge points and miles balances are a liability because they are only worth something when you redeem them, and redeeming them gets worth less and less as time goes by.

881

Too many points saved up? Maybe . . .


1. Devaluations

Frequent flyer and hotel rewards programs routinely devalue their points by raising the average number of points needed for a given flight or hotel stay.  This is their way of accounting for inflation.  If the dollar’s real value is decreasing by 3.1% per year (the average over several decades), it means we’re spending 3.1% more nominal dollars per year.  If every dollar we spend on a co-branded credit card earns us x points or miles, we are getting more and more redemptive power as time goes by.  At the same time, the hotels’ and the airlines’ real cost of granting you the free flights and hotel nights stays the same.  To account for this they raise the points needed for their redemptions.

Then there’s the unpleasant but unavoidable fact that websites like mine, other blogs, and forums like Flyertalk (along with the general increase in communication since these programs were started) are making these programs less lucrative for the airlines, hotel chains, and credit card companies.  As more and more people learn how to maximize the value of these programs and work every angle down to the finest detail, the companies have to push back to maintain their profits.

There are a variety of factors that cause points and miles devaluations, but it’s a fact that they will continue to occur.  No one should be surprised by this.  I agree with most of the big time bloggers on the subject, where the consensus is: It’s ok to devalue your points, but don’t try to hide it from your customers.  A recent Southwest devaluation seems to have done just that.

Points and miles gradually lose their value over time, so spending them sooner rather than later is one important tactic to maximize their value.

2. Mergers

Last year U.S. Airways was absorbed into American Airlines.  Earlier this year it was announced that Marriott will be purchasing Starwood.  Each frequent flier and preferred guest program have their unique benefits and redemption tricks.  When mergers happen, these program nuances are usually lost.  Sure, you may gain some new program benefits when you lose others, but on the whole it seems like the new entity always manages to come out on top.

For example, Starwood is famous for its awesome redemption rates at hotels ($0.02 per point, compared to Hilton’s roughly $0.003 per point rate).  The fate of everyone’s Starwood points after the Marriott merger is still unknown, but the travel community seems to be preparing for a net loss of value.

While mergers are usually known well in advance, putting all your eggs in one basket – a basket that may get dumped into another basket – is probably not the best idea.

3. Known or unknown transgressions (account closure risk)

This one is tough.  Everyone has to formulate their own ethical code of conduct when dealing with credit card bonuses and points earning strategies.  I personally play it pretty safe.  I don’t get new cards every three months like clockwork, I’m not into blatant manufactured spending, and in general I try to play by the rules.  Of course I explore the limits of the rules, but that’s the fun part!  I get a lot of value from these programs and I don’t want to risk being blacklisted.  In short, I don’t want the powers that be to like me; I want them to not even notice me.

Then there are those who play hard ball.  People who spend thousands a month on manufactured spending.  People who get authorized user cards for their dogs and cats to get the bonuses some cards offer.  People who attempt tactics such as getting the bonus spend the first day they get a card, waiting for the bonus to post, and then cancelling the card before the first month’s bill closes to avoid paying an up-front annual fee.

These people really have to worry about the future of their stored points and miles!

It’s not unheard of for accounts to be summarily closed without warning.  While many people who report such closures claim they’re completely innocent, I have a feeling most of them have done something to get on the radar of the credit card companies.  Chase seems particularly ruthless toward program abusers.  There is even a huge Flyertalk thread just for reports of Chase Ultimate Rewards accounts being wiped.

While most of these cases are probably warranted, I’m sure mistakes are sometimes made and unsuspecting decent folks have their points accounts obliterated without just cause.  The fine print associated with these programs usually gives the bank total authority over your points accounts.

Even if you’re not playing with fire, the chance exists that you could fall out of disfavor with a bank or airline and lose all your stockpiled miles.  Don’t take the chance . . . DON’T HOARD POINTS!

An AAvalanche of Bonus Miles Offers

American Airlines miles (AAdvantage miles) are some of my favorite points and miles. American typically has very good award seat availability, including premium cabins. AAdvantage miles are also easy to come by, partly because of some good credit card sign-up bonuses, and partly because of the frequent bonus offers promoted by American’s co-branded cards. I’m currently drowning in a flood of these bonus offers from the 4 AAdvantage earning cards that Nicoleen and I have open. (I know I just mixed metaphors – avalanches and floods – but I couldn’t resist the “AAvalanche” pun for this post’s title!)

Whenever I get e-mails or mailers for these bonus offers, I always weigh the benefits with the effort.  Not all bonus offers are worth pursuing.

Barclay Aviator’s 3×500/15k Bonus Offer

I’ve noticed that the Barclay Aviator card tends to have the best offers on a consistent basis.  The best type is their 3×500/10k, 3×750/15k, and 3×500/15k bonuses.  These are all variations of the same offer, whereby you spend at least $500 or $750 in three specific consecutive months and get either 10k or 15k American Airlines miles as the bonus.  The best is obviously the 3×500/15k bonus because for $1500 in spending you end up with 16,500 miles.  That’s close to the return you get on some sign-up bonuses!
3x500-15k
Despite needing to spend $8,500 to meet the minimum spends on my current card sign-up bonuses, I’ve decided to fit this bonus offer in.  It’s that lucrative.

Barclay Aviator’s Category Bonus

The second Aviator deal I got a mailer for was a category bonus.  After activating the promotion, I will earn 3x miles on gas, restaurant, and home improvement store purchases.  This is pretty good, as far as category bonuses go; gas and restaurants are very common purchases.  Nicoleen got the same offer for her Aviator card.  And the best part is that purchases in these bonus categories also count toward the 3×500/15k offer I just mentioned.
3x AA
…but wait, there’s more!

Barclay Aviator’s 1k/5k [retention] Bonus Offer

Now, for the triple dip…
In late May, in the middle of my 3×500/15k spending, I realized it was time to either cancel my card or have the annual fee waived/reimbursed.  When I called Barclay to try for a retention offer I was pleasantly surprised to be offered not only an annual fee waiver, but also an additional miles bonus offer!  The rep said if I spend $1k in the next 90 days I will get an additional 5,000 miles.  This will be easy since I’ll be automatically meeting that spend by taking advantage of the other offer.  That makes 21.5k miles for $1500 in spending (PLUS whatever extra I get from the 3x categories)!

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Category Bonus

Nicoleen and I both have the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, our other American Airlines miles earning cards.  We both got a mailer with a category bonus through June.  Any spending at home improvement stores, home furnishing stores, computer & electronics stores, and department stores, will earn us 3 miles per dollar spent.  With the spending requirement on the aforementioned Barclay offers, plus all the spending we have to do for my last round of card apps’ bonuses, we probably won’t be taking aadvantage of this offer.

One thing to note however, is that my last retention offer on this card last June is still in effect.  Any month I spend $1,000 or more on this card, I get a 1k mile bonus.  If I were in a different position and was going to actually put some spending on this card, the two offers would stack.  This means my month could look like this:

$400 normal spending = 400 miles
$600 spending in bonus categories = 1,800 miles
>$1000/month = 1,000 mile bonus
Total for month: 3,200 miles

When it rains, it pours.

aavalanche
It’s inconvenient to get bonus offers when you’re in the middle of making some sign-up bonus spending requirements.  But if the offer is good enough (the Barclay 3×500/15k deal) it might be worth the hassle to work it in to your strategy.

One thing’s for sure: I’ll be looking for ways in the near future to start burning my wellspring of American Airlines miles. 

Possibilities, possibilities! 🙂