Sunday, April 14, 2013

772 to 732 - Don't Close Your Oldest Account!

Back a few years ago, when I was just getting into the miles and points game, I decided to overhaul my credit card collection, removing cards that were expensive and weren't great for everyday spending (like the old First USA United Airlines card) and adding new cards (like the SPG American Express).

What I didn't realize is I actually owned my old United Airlines card since the 90's, giving me 10+ years of on-time payment history.  When I canceled the card, it didn't have much immediate effect on my score since it was still listed on my report.  The real penalty came just about a month ago when the card's history actually fell off my credit report.  Worse yet, the card fell off my report literally days before I applied to refinance my mortgage.

To give you an idea of the damage, my score on CreditKarma/TransUnion was at 772 prior to March, and it dropped to 732 a few days after the account fell off my report -- a total of 40 points.  A month later, my score hasn't even started moving back up.  Ouch!

Fortunately, the other credit reporting agencies didn't give me quite such a hit and my score was still sufficient to receive a good rate on my mortgage.  On the flip side, I'm seriously worried about applying for additional cards in the near future.

Learn from my mistakes, and don't close your oldest account.  If you want to get out of an annual fee on a card you don't use, ask your credit card company to switch you over to another no-annual-fee card under the same account.  Typically, they're more than willing to do so.

Monday, April 8, 2013

AviancaTaca Buy Miles 100% Bonus - Seriously, Go Buy Miles!

It's almost never a great deal to buy miles.  Except now.  It doesn't get much sweeter than this for outright buying premium class flights, and you can easily save $10,000+ per ticket.

AviancaTaca is a Star Alliance partner.  Right now, they're selling miles for 1.5 cents per mile (regularly 3+ cents).  To sweeten the deal, they offer cash+miles redemptions where you can buy up to 60% of the miles needed for 1.275 cents per mile.  If you buy 40% of the miles you need, and pay the rest when you book your ticket, you can effectively get miles for 1.365 per mile.

Their award chart is good, with no fuel surcharges.  They do charge some taxes plus a $25 booking fee if you're booking partner airlines.

To buy miles, visit Lifemiles.

Here's how it all plays out.  As you can see, you can fly anywhere in the world in business class for under $2000:

Prices w/ Buy Miles Promotion

Some restrictions to be aware of:

  • You must have been an AviancaTaca Lifemiles member before April 8 to get in on the promotion.  If you're not already a member, sign up now so you can take advantage of the next promo.
  • All of your travel must be in the same class of travel.  Domestic first class counts as business class.  No mixing.
  • No stopovers greater than 8 hours.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Need FREE Rental Car Coverage in Ireland? Get the Chase Amtrak Card!

In a couple of months, we're going to be taking a week-long trip to Ireland with Mrs. TIL.  This will be my second trip there, and I'm looking forward to being with my wife on her first trip.

If you've ever tried to rent a car in Ireland, you know it can be quite a hassle.  Like a number of other countries (Costa Rica, I'm looking at you), Ireland has a few notoriously bad sections of road, and car rental companies that love to charge an insane rate for collision and damage coverage (CDW).

To make matters worse, most credit cards explicitly exclude coverage in Ireland.  Visa is out.  American Express is out.  Even Amex's Platinum and "premium" rental car coverage excludes Ireland.  From what I've read, only a few select World Mastercards provide coverage, and the common Mastercards hoisted by points and miles junkies (the Barclay's US Airways World Mastercard, for example) provide their own coverage that excludes Ireland.

I love this card!

You might be surprised, then, to hear that the one card in my entire stack of points cards that does provide coverage in Ireland is the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard.  Yes, that wonderful no-annual-fee, rarely promoted, low budget card that everyone in the travel community seems to overlook.  Of course, the Amtrak card is also the key to some incredible hotel redemptions, but that's not what we're talking about today.

If you're traveling to a country like Ireland or Costa Rica, it's always a good idea to get a letter of coverage prior to your travels.  For MasterCard, you can simply call 1-800-MC-ASSIST and they'll email you a letter within a few minutes of your call.  Here's the one I received a few days ago:

Yes, it covers rentals in Ireland!

If you don't already have this card, the best way to find the current bonus offer is to create an account and sign in to the Amtrak Guest Rewards website.  Look at the bottom of the page and you'll find an ad for the card.  Currently, the bonus is 12,000 points.  I've seen up to 38,000, but 12k is still a pretty good bonus for a no-annual-fee card.

This little card continues to amaze me, and it blows my mind that its benefits often exceed even those of Chase's flagship Sapphire Preferred.  If you're planning a trip to Ireland, be sure to pick one up!

For your card's full terms and conditions be sure to call 1-800-MC-ASSIST.  The agent told me that benefits vary from card to card (and state to state?).