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Is a $695 Annual Fee Worth It?

travel hacking Apr 12, 2024

I was just approved for the American Express Platinum card last week.

The annual fee is $695.

Am I crazy?

Maybe a little - haha!

For me, as I calculated the benefits I’d receive from the card, I found that I would receive far more in benefits from the card than the $695 fee I would pay this year.

Here are a few of the benefits that are valuable to me:

  • 100,000 welcome bonus = ~$2,000 in free travel
  • 30,000 referral bonus (from my wife referring to me) = ~$600 in free travel
  • $200 in statement credits for hotels = $200 in value
  • $200 airline fee credit for incidental fees = $200 in value
  • $12.95/mo Walmart+ Credit ($0.10 reduction in gas at certain stations + free grocery/online delivery) = $155 in value (not including gas savings)
  • $20/mo Entertainment Credit (can be used toward my Hulu subscription) = $240 in value
  • $15/mo Uber cash + $20 in December (which we’ll use to cover some of our regular eating out budget each month) = $200 in value
  • $189 in statement...
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Does Applying for New Cards Hurt Your Credit Score?

travel hacking Apr 05, 2024

Many people think if you apply for too many new cards, your credit score will suffer.

That’s simply not true.

In fact, new cards add new accounts to your credit which can improve your credit score.

And new cards, and new credit limits, actually reduce your overall credit utilization which also helps your credit score.

Because of the “hard” credit pull when a credit card issuer pulls your credit, you may notice a few point temporary drop in your credit score, but it shouldn’t be long before it comes right back up again. So, don’t apply for a credit card the day before you go & apply for a mortgage (that’s two “hard” credit pulls back to back).

Again, long-term, more accounts help your credit score.

What keeps your credit score high is:

  • Making all of your payments on time
  • Not getting derogatory marks (from other types of bills going to collections)
  • Keeping your credit card utilization low

Don’t believe the myth that...

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Big Purchase? Choose A Card Strategically!

travel hacking Feb 09, 2024

We recently found a gas leak at our house. When the plumber came out, he found another one. And then another one. And then… you get the idea. No fun.

Total bill? $11,000. Ouch!

When he gave me the invoice, I asked if I could pay with a card instead of a check.

He had to call the office - LOL! I guess that doesn’t happen much.

He said they would accept a card (although it definitely wasn’t their preference).

I knew I needed to be strategic with which card I used because I knew I could earn the equivalent of a round trip ticket anywhere in the US by using the right one.

I wanted to use a card that had a high reward multiple on every day spend.

I have the Capital One Venture X card which earns 2x on all purchases. That is the one I used.

$11,000 x 2 = 22,000 Capital One Miles (easily a round trip ticket)

While we were disappointed in the big gas line repair, I was at least thankful to get a free trip out of it - haha!

Lesson: Always try to use a strategic credit...

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When to Cancel Your Credit Card

travel hacking Jan 12, 2024

I’ve written quite a bit about how to apply for credit cards, but not as much about when to cancel them. And canceling them at the right time is very important.

Many of the premium credit cards I recommend have annual fees ranging from $65-$200 per year.

These annual fees are totally worth paying in the first year because the welcome bonus on these cards is often worth thousands of dollars.

But what about in the second year, and third year, and so on?

It really just depends on the card.

I’d say, as a general rule, I cancel most of my credit cards at the one year mark from when I was approved for them.

A few weeks ago, I had 3 annual fees hit various cards since these cards are beginning their second year.

This is usually my reminder to decide whether I want to keep the card or cancel it.

The good news is that, for most cards, when the annual fee hits, you have about 30 days to cancel the card & get a refund of the annual fee. It’s very common for me to see an...

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Why You Should Never Get a Credit Card

travel hacking Dec 01, 2023

You probably did a double-take when you read the title of this newsletter.

How can the guy teaching us about travel hacking using credit cards tell us to never get a credit card?

Haha - great question!

Here’s the reason.

A great case can be made for never getting a credit card.

In fact, if you get a credit card or multiple credit cards, you should know you’re taking a risk.

Period. End of story.

Having credit cards is like playing with fire. Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea, but some people, through years of financial wisdom, have learned to “play” with fire in a way where the likelihood of getting burned is very low. They may choose to take the risk with significant guardrails in place to keep them from getting hurt.

They are the exceptions to the rule.

Perhaps that’s you and me.

I don’t think the “rule” is that people should have credit cards. I think it’s the exception to the rule.

I think the best general wisdom is...

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Best Card for Grocery Spend

travel hacking Nov 10, 2023

Like most people, we spend a lot of money on groceries.

Most cards don’t have great redemptions for grocery spend.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is 1 point per dollar spent on groceries

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is 1.5 points per dollar spent on groceries.

These are two of our main daily use cards & that’s not a great point redemption.

Recently, we applied & were approved for a new card that we chose mainly because of its grocery benefits.

Which card is it?

The American Express Gold Card.

It gives you 4 points per dollar spent on groceries up to $25,000 total per year.


With my Chase Freedom Unlimited card, I’d earn 37,500 points (1.5x) if I spent $25,000 on groceries in a year.

But with the AMEX Gold card, I’d earn 100,000 points (4x) on that same grocery spend! Whoa!

And those 100k points are worth about $2,000 in free travel.

That’s a nice extra vacation a year just by putting your grocery spend on a strategic card.

Now, if...

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Best Offer For These Business Cards

travel hacking Sep 28, 2023

If you want to earn more points to travel free, you’ve gotta check out these new card bonuses.

I just applied for one & was approved!

These are running an all-time high welcome bonus of 90,000 points for $6,000 in spend in the first 3 months.

You can redeem those 90,000 points for $900 cash OR you can use those points to redeem over $1,800 in free travel (if you have a premium Chase card like the Sapphire).

The name of the cards?

It’s 2 sister cards that are running this same bonus.

The Chase Ink Business Unlimited and Chase Ink Business Cash cards.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

I don’t have a business, so how can I get these cards?

I’d ask, are you sure you don’t have a business?

Is there anything you get paid to do on the side?





You may have a business in the eyes of these credit cards companies & you don’t even know it.

It’s likely a sole proprietorship. You haven’t...

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Using Google Flights to Find Discounted & Mistake Fares

travel hacking Aug 18, 2023

Have you used Google Flights before?

It’s a game-changer!

In this one place you can see multiple airlines, routes & prices to the places you want to go.

And if you look closely enough, sometimes you’ll see greatly discounted or even mistake fares.

A greatly discounted fare is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a fare that the airline is offering at a big discount because of a promotion they’re running or because they’re trying to attract travelers to that route.

A mistake fare is even better but it’s more rare. It’s when an airline actually makes a mistake in its pricing of a particular route. Maybe they forgot a 0 or someone made a typo. But this is where a $2,000 ticket might sell for $200.

Google Flights can help you find both of these.

It can even notify you about various routes when the ticket prices change.

In addition to looking for these yourself, there are others out there that hunt all day long & tell you about the...

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How to Fly Business Class at Over 90% Off

travel hacking Jul 28, 2023

Let’s say you booked an economy ticket overseas with points.

You’re taking your spouse on an anniversary trip and you’d love to splurge on business class, lie-down seats but there’s no way you’re going to pay over $10,000 for the seats.

Here’s a little hack you can try that recently worked for us.

Get to the airport on your day of travel much earlier than you normally would.

Instead of going to self check-in, go to the ticket counter and ask the rep if there’s any remaining business class tickets available to buy last minute.

If there are any, usually airlines are willing to apply significant discounts at this point to sell them.

Ask the agent how much the available tickets would be and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the price.

This happened to us recently on our trip back from the UK.

A one-way business class ticket would’ve been over $10,000 on this particular airline and I already had economy tickets booked for...

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Always Check Partner Airlines For Better Redemptions

travel hacking Jul 21, 2023

Most airlines are part of some kind of an alliance with other airlines.

This benefits you because you can sometimes get better airline award redemptions by booking the flight you want through the partners.

Confusing? Let me help.

I’ll give you an example from yesterday.

I was in the process of booking our flights to go skiing “free” again this Christmas on points.

The best airline to fly to this particular ski resort is American Airlines.

The problem is that their point redemptions are often not the best.

The good news is that American Airlines is in the same airline alliance as British Airways.

I looked up the flights on British Airways, and although British Airways doesn’t fly there, they showed me the same American flights (since they show partner award space) for a much better rate.

So instead of booking an American flight directly through American Airlines, I can book the same American flight through British Airways for fewer points.

Pretty cool,...

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