Credit cards

by Finn

A recent exchange of posts with Lemon brought this article to mind:

5 Signs It’s Time to Shop for a New Credit Card

How often do you shop for new cards? What criteria do you use in selecting which cards you get, and which cards you use?

We try to pay our balances every month, so we don’t really look at interest rates. What we look at primarily are rewards and annual fees. We value cash rewards over airline miles, due to its versatility, and the fact that we can use even small amounts of cash. We also look for cards with no foreign transaction fees, but since we don’t spend a whole lot of time outside the US, and already have a couple cards without those fees, that’s not a primary consideration.

We value the Discover Card cashback over others, because we can redeem cashback there by purchasing discounted gift cards from places we shop (e.g., Gap, Lowe’s). We once redeemed some cashback by buying several $100 gift cards for a hotel chain for $50 each, just before going on a trip in which we used those gift cards.

If you’ve found a card that offers a particularly good benefit, please share!

Advertisements

142 thoughts on “Credit cards

  1. We just got Chase Disney cards. You make a $500 purchase in the first 3 months and get a $250 Disney gift card. I think there is also a 1% Disney gift card for rewards. I anticipated getting the gift cards (for use on cruise in January) and cancelling the cards. Famous last words.

    We also just cancelled a long-held United Card. The benefits weren’t that great (didn’t include the free checked bag that all the newer airline cards seem to have), and I hate flying United.

    Our workhorse card is the Chase Sapphire. We get points (about 1/dollar, but started with a 30,000 bonus). I convert them to Amazon dollars (Amazon actually does this for me – if I pay with the card at checkout, I can just use my points). 100 points = dollar. I actually spend it on things I was buying anyway, so that works for me.

    My brother has gotten into card churning and probably spends a 5 hours a week on that. He has great credit and it is working out well for him – he is generating bonuses to pay for girlfriend and him to take big trips a few times per year. If my trips didn’t always require 5 tickets and tight schedules, I could totally fall down that rabbit hole.

  2. Maybe 10(?) years ago when American Express first introduced their Blue Cash card we signed up for that. The structure we’re under is essentially 1% back for the first $6500 spent in a membership year (ours runs roughly November-October) and then 5% back on grocery, gas, pharmacy for the rest of the year. It works for us because between normal purchases (putting almost everything on the card), travel, and gifts we typically blow past the $6500 in the first couple of months and then capture the larger rewards for the next 10 months. The limit just got raised to an even more ridiculously high number so we rarely go above 15% usage.

  3. I do not spend a lot of energy on this – I am not interested in chasing lots of offers and switching cards frequently.

    I avoid cards with an annual fee & prefer cash back over any other rewards as well. We have the Costco card (the new Visa has better cash back than the old AmEx), and in the switch, we also opened a Blue Cash AmEx as the cash rebate on Groceries was good and there was a $300 cash back bonus for opening the card & using it which we captured.

    Since we don’t really travel all that much, some of the travel cards aren’t that appealing for us. And international travel is a once every few years thing at this point, so I don’t worry too much about foreign fees.

  4. I have two active cards – Discover cashback and Visa cashback through Wells Fargo. My partner has a separate Discover cashback and a Visa that I don’t know what the rewards are. I use the Discover unless the merchant won’t take it. Then, I may use my debit card or Visa depending on what it is – I do not use my debit online. I pay my cards off every month, so I don’t look at interest rates or balance transfer offers. I do make sure I sign up for the bonus cashback categories every quarter. I also use my cashback to purchase on Amazon. I also use the discover to buy discounted gift cards. In general, our Christmas budget is the cashback balance as of October statement.

    I once had a Southwest airline miles card when I was traveling a lot for work and inside the state. I think I ended up with one free flight. I just find that for us the flexiblity of cashback is more useful than any of the specific rewards.

  5. I went for a no fee card, but has no benefits. I’ve had it for more than 20 years and have never bothered to shop for another. My husband has a Capital One travel rewards card, which I love. There are no blackout periods – you just book your travel, then apply your points against, eliminating the charge. It is much more useful than the airline points. It’s been on my list to get added to the card for about 10 years. Should have put it on my Do It Now list.

  6. if you pay your balance every month, you definitely want some kind of rewards card

    I love the chase freedom card for cash back

  7. We only have USAA cash rewards that gives 1% cash back. I could do better, and even they just sent me something about their American Express card. But that means I have to go through the whole credit un-freezing hassle.

    The early retirement blogger Justin at RoG does an amazing amount of this churn. This is how he’s covering lodging expenses on their three-and-a-half-week summer roadtrip:

    Trip Budget

    We usually put together a rough budget for our big summer trips. For the 24 days we’ll spend traveling through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Canada, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia, we expect to spend around $2,100 after our valiant travel hacking efforts. Numbers for the curious:

    Lodging $476
    ◾12 nights Toronto Airbnb rental – $363 (after $220 airbnb referral discounts and $500 Barclay Arrival Card travel rebate/bonus)
    ◾3 nights Bowling Green, KY Airbnb rental – $47 (after $250 Airbnb gift card from credit card rewards)
    ◾1 night hotel in Nashville from Hotwire – $66
    ◾2 nights x 2 rooms Four Points by Sheraton Detroit Metro Airport – $0 (8,000 SPG points from Starwood Amex)
    ◾2 nights x 2 rooms Four Points by Sheraton Niagara Falls Fallsview – $0 (12,000 SPG points from Starwood Amex)
    ◾1 night x 1 room Aloft Dulles Airport North – $0 (4,000 SPG points from Starwood Amex)

    Oy. That’s a lot to keep track of.

    http://rootofgood.com/the-great-american-canadian-road-trip-summer-2016/

  8. We have a Fidelity card that gives 2% cash back, unlimited, on all purchases. The money gets dumped in a Fidelity account, but we can request a check be mailed to us. Love it. I’m in the market for a new second card. I have an Old Navy credit card, which is fine, but less useful as I shop less at Old Navy now-a-days.

    DH has a United credit card, for business travel, but dislikes the card and grumbles about it. I will recommend he look at the Capital One card that MBT has.

  9. “My brother has gotten into card churning and probably spends a 5 hours a week on that.”

    how often is he getting new cards?

    seems like the churn will catch up with his credit score eventually (# of new accounts, length)

  10. I love the hyatt card for earning free nights, hyatt has become our go-to hotel chain

    it does have an annual fee, but it is waived the first year

  11. I’d like to get an airline card after we find and close on a house

    looking at apartments for now, 5 weeks with the inlaws

  12. I have Chase Sapphire and I’ve thought about looking around but haven’t. The one thing I did was move almost all debit card purchases to credit card. I don’t use the rewards program – just use the cash back. I would love the extra rewards from churning through the cards and offers but don’t have the bandwidth to deal with it.

  13. We have had Chase Sapphire for about 10 years (or more?) and we’ve been really happy with them. No annual fee, easy cash back – you can get a check, have it applied to your credit card balance, or redeem it for any kind of travel – hotel, flights, etc. Generally 2 – 3 times/year I just take the cash, but right now we are in point accumulation mode. We are planning to go to Japan or China in the next couple of years, and I want to fly first class, so I’m trying to let those points just add up until we get there. (I’m also reconsidering our current approach of pay cash for all of our day to day purchases so we can earn more points.)

    Also, their customer service is outstanding. I’ve made some stupid mistakes over the years (completely forgot to send a payment once, another time added an extra zero when making a payment on-line !!!!!!!!!!!) and they’ve never been anything but 100% accommodating and helpful. A live person answers the phone.

    We also do not carry balances month to month so I don’t know what their interest rate is.

  14. Winemama, you are now perfect candidates for a Property Brothers episode. They always seem to be families staying with inlaws.

  15. I wish MBT, I think they only do shows in the northeast

    I’d love to be on HGTV

  16. off topic, anyone watching Stranger Things on Netflix? we watched the first 4 episodes this weekend

  17. Speaking of living with inlaws, I have an ask the Totebag question. We were going to sell our house earlier this year (went as far as signing a listing agreement and having the pictures taken), but a family who has a house on our street had knocked down their house to build a new one and moved in with family members. That didn’t work out very well, so when they found out that we had moved out and were going to list, they asked if they could rent our house. They were willing to pay us quite a bit to be on the street while their own house is being constructed and to get out of the inlaws’ house. So we agreed to it. They were supposed to be moving back to their house later this year, which worked well for us because we are in a suburb that will experience a lot of real estate activity with a new administration. New house is now delayed. Not going to be in until next year. Lease allows us to get them out at the end of the term this year. Totally jerky move not to let them stay?

  18. I have a few store cards for the points (nordies, bloomies, banana, pottery barn) and then the LL Bean visa and the Bank of America rewards one. The LL Bean card gets us points that we use to buy backpacks, winter coats, etc., and the BoA is just for cash back. We have never thought of getting a travel rewards one since we don’t travel much. ;)

  19. “They always seem to be families staying with inlaws.”

    Yeah. Middle class young people need to do something to come up with down payments, and if HGTV is indicative, living with parents (even as a couple) is one popular option. We spent Saturday with DW’s cousin and her fiancé. Oh the endless fodder I get from these two… They’re complaining that they want to buy a house (probably a townhouse, and it doesn’t need to be big, maybe 2,000 sf, and they like new ones) but they don’t know how to come up with a down payment. Except neither has ever had a roommate after college (until they moved in together), they both rented in fairly nice, new apartment complexes (I did, too, so I can’t criticize that too much), and now their current 2-bedroom place is something like $2400 a month, plus they need a storage unit for all their crap, so add another $300 or so. I suggested that they rent a cheaper place, but their current lease requires 60 days notice, but no new landlords are willing to wait that long. They’re hilariously fragile people. The problem is that they grew up in an upper-middle bubble with VERY coddling parents (and he’s worse than she is by a country mile) yet the parents don’t have any money to give them now. They’re the type of kids who would not be able to paint a bedroom without hiring someone.

  20. Believe it or not, I have had the same card since my 20’s. I pay my bill every month in full, so I don’t worry about the interest rate. They have some kind of program where you can get money off on various products, but they are never products I especially want, and I don’t have time to really worry about it. I am also in various airplane and hotel loyalty programs, but I never accumulate enough to get me anything because I never seem to fly the same airline twice. I did use a hotel program recently to get free wifi, but usually when I travel, it is for a CS conference where they have already negotiated free wifi in the hotel rate. My biggest problem, in fact, is that I can’t remember which loyalty program I am in, and I never know my login or password or number.

  21. “Lease allows us to get them out at the end of the term this year. Totally jerky move not to let them stay?”

    Hell no. The lease is up. Tell them to pack up their shit and get out.

  22. We use the United card that gives miles. So we have a ton of miles. One reason is that we wind up giving miles away as gifts. So at Christmas DH gives his secretary 50K miles so she can visit her sister in Florida, and when lower-income people from church or wherever need to get to a funeral, we give miles (because no one will accept a $250 round ticket but they WILL accept miles, even if by some measure the miles are more expensive). I played matchmaker to a friend once by providing miles to the guy in another state she’d met online and they wound up getting married. So we’re all about the miles.

  23. So for you guys with all the hotel/airline loyalty program memberships, how do you keep track of them? Like I said, I never can remember what I am in. I also have trouble with membership numbers. When they send out email, the number is always blacked out. To get that free wifi, I had to waste time sifting through my gmail archive to find the loyalty program, then call and spend time on hold in order to find out my membership number, and then finally I had to set up an account. I probably wasted an hour on that – was it really worth it?

  24. even without the credit card, hyatt loyalty program will mail you a card with the member # on it

    log in and have your computer remember you

  25. We have a Southwest Visa that we use for everything and also fly Southwest most of the time (personal and business). So we have a ton of miles, and some years we get the free year long companion pass. (We made DS the companion last year and used it to have him fly free on college visits). So it works well for us.
    I also have a Target brand Visa that I use just to get the 5% off at Target.

  26. We have an Amex Gold and Chase Freedom. Looking for a card that has the best bang for our buck. Especially for travel. Chase has good rewards, but I don’t like that they only have certain categories for rewards each quarter.
    We have got into a habit of putting all out purchases on Amex, and not sure it is the right move. Between DHs travel, we put a ton of money on it. We have huuuuuuge amount of points on it and now confused about how to redeem them.

    We usually travel internationally every year ourselves or end up buying tickets for close family members.

  27. On the other hand, Anon, what I’ve always read is that the anticipated real estate boom from a change in administration is more legend than reality. Perhaps indicative of the infamous Beltway bubble culture, usually all the new people to a new administration are already here. But your specific neighborhood may be an exception.

    You could also just raise the rent. A lot. Tell them you wanted to sell at this point, so if they want to stay on month to month, or for four more months, this is what it’s going to cost. Take it or leave it.

  28. spend time on hold in order to find out my membership number

    Did the “I forgot my membership number” link on their web site not work?

  29. I suggested that they rent a cheaper place, but their current lease requires 60 days notice, but no new landlords are willing to wait that long.

    They won’t just give their notice and go and look for something?

  30. I got a Delta Skymiles Amex card last year because they offered me 60,000 Skymiles if I charged a certain amount within the first three months (which was easy, since I put all my purchases on cards anyway). I took the offer because we will likely fly Delta out of Boston next year if we go to Europe. I have about 60,000 points on another Amex card that I can also transfer to Skymiles, and a few large expenses are also going on the card, so hopefully we can reduce our family’s airfare for the trip a bit by using miles. After the Europe trip is over, I will probably cancel the Skymiles card, and just use my Capitol One Quicksilver Visa, which gives 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

    Anon, I agree with Milo — unless you want to extend the lease because doing so would be beneficial to you, I wouldn’t feel bad about telling your tenants that you’re not going to renew the lease. I might try phrasing it slightly diplomatically than Milo, though. :)

  31. Milo – spouse feels like you do. I am sympathetic to them because they have kids and it sucks moving with kids. Especially multiple times.

    Our agent swears we will sell very quickly during the admin change. I am not sure why it really matters since you would think there would be a lot more houses on the market, too, but he us pushing is to list then (and I am sure he wants to get his $ ASAP). I would be fine waiting for the spring market.

  32. Slightly MORE diplomatically, I meant to say. My brain is on summer mode today.

  33. “They won’t just give their notice and go and look for something?”

    That’s what DW and I said? WTF is wrong with them? There are so many of these little things with them. Her mom is an obsessive planner about every detail for something for months in advance, so I think knowing that their lease is up and they have no place lined up would be an unbearable level of uncertainty. This is someone whose first job, in a suburban medical center in Maryland, required her to rent something over an hour away in a different suburb (for a lot more $) because there was not a single “safe” place to live closer to work in that entire county.

  34. Mooshi: Just change your main credit card to one with a rewards program that you will actually use–like cash back.

  35. “So for you guys with all the hotel/airline loyalty program memberships, how do you keep track of them?”

    I create a v card with the membership numbers.

  36. I tried to do the cash back cards but it just doesn’t work for me as it feels too much like actual money. If I’m spending airline or hotel points I feel much better about spending them as it feels less “real.”

  37. @winemamma – my brother has a long, perfect credit score. I think the damage to your credit is pretty small, and easily fixed by stopping for a year. He is unlikely to require credit for anything other than an auto loan in the next five years, so I doubt it’s much of a concern. He is also the kind of guy who was probably checking his credit score monthly.

    My take on this is that for people with “excellent” credit, churning credit cards may lead to “very good” credit. Having bought a house with “excellent” credit, I don’t think I got much benefit compared to the people with “very good” credit.

  38. We have a Capital One MC with 1.5% cash back, and DW and I both have Amazon cards which give 3% back on all Amazon purchases, and we also signed up when they were giving a double sign-up bonus. We also have a card that gives us miles on Frontier, which we don’t use that much because it’s the no-fee 1/2 point per dollar one. But we’re closing in on 20,000 points so I’ve been using it a bit more.

    I hate doing the points stuff because it always seems like we can never use the rewards. When we travel, we can’t get the flights we want because we aren’t very flexible, and we never stay in hotels. We could play the game to change cards to get better rewards, but it doesn’t seem to be worth the time it would take, plus we have some bills on auto pay that would be a pain to keep changing to new cards.

  39. “spouse feels like you do. I am sympathetic to them because they have kids and it sucks moving with kids.”

    Eh. If they have enough money to buy in a very expensive neighborhood and bulldoze the existing house, they can afford Two Guys and a Truck.

    Which reminds me of DW’s cousin, and something DW pointed out. She noted how my brother’s renting a U-Haul next week to move almost all of the stuff into his new 8,000 sf palace, while these two needed to hire movers to get into this apartment. And they mentioned the cost of hiring movers again if they were to go somewhere else to save money. But the guy really is — I’ll try to put this in a politically correct way — not a physically tough, can-do sort of man.

  40. Rhett, the “forget my membership number” link said to call the phone number, which is exactly what I did.

  41. Dell,

    I use the card of whatever airline/hotel combo I’m using for a given project. So, if it’s Hyatt/Delta then I use the Hyatt card for the hotel stays and the Delta card for the tickets. If it’s American and Marriott then I use my AA card and the Marriott card.

  42. Milo – our movers came again last week to move the stuff from the storage unit to our new house – they hadn’t been able to fit it in during the other 2 days of the move. OMG – there is SO MUCH STUFF that we had packed in there! (It was a 9’x10′) I hope my younger sibling has kids soon so I can pawn off all the baby clothes on them. :)

  43. I tried to do the cash back cards but it just doesn’t work for me as it feels too much like actual money. If I’m spending airline or hotel points I feel much better about spending them as it feels less “real.”

    I just do the account credit with the cash back so I never really see the money.

  44. @Milo – That kind of stuff silently infuriates me because the lack of common sense and the inability to “adult” (as the kids say). We have similar family members, and I find myself literally biting my tongue sometimes to keep from insulting them. You also got me with the “2BR apartment for 2 people, PLUS $300 storage unit”. How much CRAP do these people own? Can you imagine how packed with sh*t their house will be when they have kids if they are like this now?

  45. ” I hope my younger sibling has kids soon so I can pawn off all the baby clothes on them. :)”

    DW had the intention of giving baby clothes to either this cousin or DW’s younger brother. But we decided that cousin probably wouldn’t want them, and (after brother moved) we figured nobody is going to be driving out to Colorado to bring a bunch of old baby clothes. So they went to the church consignment sale or Goodwill.

  46. Our area has gone in phases of how difficult it can be to move with the notice on one end and the securing another place on the other. I haven’t leased in a while, but the last time I moved, I ended up paying for both places for two weeks. Everyone was surprised that my overlap was that small. The benefit was I had 30 days notice on one end and on the other the landlord was doing some repair work that would take three weeks. But, even though my rent was less, the double rent for two weeks, plus cost of moving utiities and my stuff took me a couple months to pay off and realize the lower costs. I had savings, but so many people seem to load up those costs on credit cards and then are not realizing the lower costs because of the interest paid.

    Anon – Do not feel bad about not renewing the lease. But, do not delay in letting them know. You have your family’s financial plan to work and if the timing of the sale needs to be when the lease is up, then tell them and move on. Don’t be one of my old landlords who sold the rental property, the new owner gave us 30 days notice to move in a super tight rental market and was then coming by almost daily with companies to bid on work to redo the duplex. Then he wanted to charge us a carpet cleaning fee, when the carpet was documented to have stains at move in AND he had just signed the contract in front of us to have the carpet pulled up and replaced, pad and all, two days after we moved out.

  47. Oh, btw, that giant storage unit was only around $150/month. So they must have a ton of stuff!

  48. So what is a “great” cashback rate? 1.5%? My H loves his Amazon card because he buys so much from them, and from another comment he’s probably getting 3% from those purchases.

    I get Rhett’s comment about how points feel better than cashback. Currently we have tons of points on our Amex card, and we talk about them in terms of future trips.

    I also find it hard to track reward programs. Or, more precisely, to be organized enough to plan ahead when making travel plans with particular programs in mind so that I can maximize perks and save money. Overall, I’m not very good at planning this stuff.

  49. Milo – the sibling and spouse do live close by and are all about vintage/thrift clothing, so I am counting on them to take it all. :)

  50. Ivy – The thing is, I know it’s popular to blame Mom for all a person’s faults, but I really do blame their parents here. DW’s uncle is the kind who, for many years, would never agree to a restaurant that did not accept reservations. And this was during an earlier era when DW’s parents were living much more frugally, with one [government] income and two kids, vs. two corporate incomes and one kid, so the story is famous with DW’s family. He would just say that he’s the kind of person who can’t wait 15 minutes for a table, even on vacation.

    But they’re very good people, I mean they’ll fight a lot of traffic to come to my kids’ birthday parties, yet when they get there, he has this look of shock and will comment on how *noisy* all the kids are. Well, yeah, they’re six years old.

    What astounds me is the degree to which so many people end up marrying someone exactly like their mothers or fathers. In many ways, DW did just this.

  51. We have the Amex blue card and DH just signed up for the Costco Visa since we don’t have another Visa. I have a SkyMiles which every year I swear I’m going to get rid of because I rarely fly Delta and an old Mastercard from college. We do all of our charitable giving/camp paying in January so we get to the $6500 right away on the Amex. We usually earn around $1K back a year and I just apply it to my year end statement (offsets Christmas gifts). We don’t stay in hotels enough to make any travel card worth it (usually rent houses through VBRO or stay at my dad’s house on Cape Cod).

    I am still on Cape Cod – ended up extending my stay an extra week (oh the fun of not having a job anymore!).

  52. Regarding baby clothes–I donated all my baby and toddler stuff to the local battered women’s shelter. The donations were much appreciated.

  53. Speaking of junk. I spent some time this weekend cleaning out a closet, and I’ve decided to give in to my weakness of saving travel maps. You know, the handy, colorful maps you can usually only get at the destination? I came across some from an old trip and they stirred up vivid memories, so I’m going to go ahead and try to save a few from each trip and keep them in a box.

  54. after handing down clothes through 3 kids, the clothes were no longer fit to donate!

  55. I have about 7 boxes of boy clothes that my sisters would like me to save in case they have a boy. I’m tempted to just give them away and give them gift cards to Gymboree or something. The clutter in my closet is driving me crazy.

  56. CoC – I save travel maps too! They bring back fond memories.

    On topic – we have airline reward cards, but don’t travel enough to really get much value from them. I’ve had a Citi MC forever, so get 1% back on purchases with them. We also have an AMEX, but DH uses it. Must have been his before we married, and mine was the Citi MC because he rarely uses the Citi MC.

    We are in the midst of organizing the kids school stuff (reports, half-used notebooks, artwork, etc.) and it has expanded to include all their stuff. We’re going to have a stoop sale in August, sell some stuff via Craigslist, and donate a bunch.

  57. I use an Amex that gives cash back. It is fine but I could probably do better.

    I don’t save baby/kids clothing. I keep a pile of stuff that no longer fits and when it reaches a critical mass, I find someone to take it or donate it. I do this every couple months because I hate clutter/saving stuff. My husband was trying to convince me to save boy clothing for a family member who just had a baby boy. The kids are 4+ years apart. Who knows if the seasons/sizes will ever match up. Not keeping it!

  58. On decluttering, today’s NYTimes Room for Debate is on the trendiness of decluttering.
    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/07/18/the-marie-kondo-cleaning-phenomenon?ref=opinion

    Personally, I despise Marie Kondo and her books. Sorry, but the kids toothbrushes, soccer shin guards, and underwear do not spark joy. The snow shovels and lawnmower do not spark joy. My flipflops, businesswear pants, and bathrobe do not spark joy. If I only kept posessions that spark joy, I would end up with a stack of travel/baby photos and my mother’s artwork. Most possessions are around to be useful, or because other people in the house need them, not to bliss me out in some weird Japanese Buddhist minimalist way.

  59. @MM – I only have one kid, and his clothes have not been fit to donate since he was around 4, He wears holes through the knees of every single pair of pants before he grows out of them, for one. And then there is the dirt & paint & grass stains and everything else. His winter coats usually last him 2 years, but they are beat up at the end. I do donate the one nice outfit that I buy him in each size as it gets no wear.

  60. Milo – I would have had I been able to fit them in our van on our trip up. Shipping them would probably be expensive. I should just donate them when I get back.

  61. Ivy, that might be part of the problem – my first two were fairly easy on the clothes but DD kills everything. She has holes in every pair of jeans, and her shorts all have smudges on the backside

  62. Anothertwinmom – there is a difference between normal decluttering and Marie Kondo’s obsessiveness.

  63. I was recently reading the NYT time article on Marie Kondo. I like how she folds stuff but overall not my thing. Clearly does not work with kids.

  64. My father is absolutely crazy about them grocery store fuel points reward. You get a Point for every dollar you spend accumulate 1000 points you get a dollar off per gallon of gas, up to 35 gallons. He drives a truck with a 32 gallon tank and he will time it so that the tank is almost empty and he will bring a 5 gallon can to fill up, to get the full value of his b to get the full value of his benefit.

    I seriously do not have the bandwidth to manage what my current fuel points balance is vis a via my current fuel tank status. I started entering my parents’ phone number when I check out at the grocery store so they get credit for my points. It makes them unbelievably happy.

    As an aside, the amount of bandwidth that my parents dedicate to minimizing their gasoline costs makes me crazy

  65. Ada – We do a little bit of that. It’s the same 10 cents off per $100 spent, but the original price is usually a few pennies more than the 7-Eleven, so it’s not even quite 10 cents, really. Still, I’ll try to bring the van when its 20-gallon tank is nearly empty. It makes me feel good.

    Some boaters will transport gasoline to the dock in these

    in order to avoid paying $3.29 per gallon filling up on the water.

  66. Austin – I will let them know soon. I am still leaning towards letting them stay, but it is good to know that we aren’t total jerks if we don’t.

  67. “Not going to be in until next year. Lease allows us to get them out at the end of the term this year. Totally jerky move not to let them stay?”

    Have they been good tenants, e.g., always pay rent on time, taking good care of your house? If so, my suggestion is to let them know, ASAP, that at the end of the lease, they are welcome to stay, but on a month to month basis, and that the rental agreement will need to be amended to allow for showing of the house to prospective buyers, and that if you find a buyer, they will need to find another place to live.

    “Our agent swears we will sell very quickly during the admin change. I am not sure why it really matters since you would think there would be a lot more houses on the market, too, but he us pushing is to list then (and I am sure he wants to get his $ ASAP). I would be fine waiting for the spring market.”

    Perhaps your agent can be the jerky one.

  68. “So for you guys with all the hotel/airline loyalty program memberships, how do you keep track of them?”

    Spreadsheet.

  69. “I have had the same card since my 20’s.”

    Ditto. I got my Discover Card when Sears first introduced it. It was the first cashback card I’d heard of, and it’s still one of my primary cards.

  70. I don’t even keep track of which gas stations are cheaper.

    ATM – I wonder if Marie Kondo has kids, by how much will she change her tune?

  71. The only place in our house where there has been buildup of stuff is the pantry. It is due to the excess stocking of non perishables. We used to be confortable with much less on hand but now the seniors in our house will prefer to stock rather than risk running out.

  72. We just get our gas at Costco which is always cheaper but if it’s midweek and I’m not going to Costco until the weekend, I’ll put $10 in wherever. My husband loves saving money on gas but has no problem spending beaucoup bucks on wine. He also would keep the AC at 78 if I would let him to “save money”. Everyone has their little area where they want to get a deal I guess.

  73. We buy gas at Costco because it is usually . If we are on a road trip, we buy whatever is convenient. I used to obsess more about it when I commuted by car 60+ minutes each way, but now it’s really not worth it to spent a second more of mental energy on gas prices (if it ever was). We don’t use much gas – Mint says we spent about $500 in the 12 months, and with gas in the $2.XX range it seems even less worthwhile. Totally understand why people would bring a portable tank to fill up a boat though.

    I read the Marie Kondo book. I liked it overall, but I never intended on following all the steps to the letter. She is a bit extreme, but the whole idea that you shouldn’t hold onto stuff because you feel guilty or feel like you should like/use it was good for me to let go of some stuff that had been sitting in my closet along with boxes of letters from college and stuff. I liked that she said that you shouldn’t feel like you have to hold onto bad gifts too. I did not take the suggestions about “sparking joy,” about thanking your possessions for their use or the fact that your socks need rest literally.

  74. Looks like the end of my sentence got cut off. We buy our gas at Costco because it is usually cheaper than the alternatives near us. We also live about a mile from Costco, so it’s convenient anyway.

  75. I’ve posted in the past about how much we love the Amex platinum card even with the fees. It has to make financial sense though because the benefits really are worth it if you travel to certain hotels, use TSA pre etc. We use so many of the benefits that the cards easily pay for themselves, and they make our life easier. For example, three hour delay in airport last week, and we just find the platinum lounge.

    We use our Delta Amex for the first half of the year, or until we reach our max points benefit. They allow DH to count some of these earned to miles towards his FF status on Delta. We were both upgraded for free to first class on both of our flights due in part to this card.

    I’m flying for free next week to a city where we couldn’t find a reasonable fare, but the Delta card comes with one free companion ticket per year. We are easily making money on this card because we check bags for free, use lounges etc.

    We still need a Visa for all of the places that won’t take Amex so we have a cash back from B of A. We try to use that for all groceries and has since there is extra cash back.

    I just carry one Amex and one Visa card. It’s easy to keep track of because we try to charge as much as possible to a card to get benefits.

    My father just got new Citi Visa for Costco. The benefits sound great even if it’s just for a year or two until they’re established.

  76. We have relatively few expenses that can be paid by credit card (~$1000/month average credit card bill, including the months with plane tickets for 6) so I mostly use a Citibank with Thank You points. Your points have more value used for gift cards than directly at Amazon, so I get Walmart gift cards with them. I buy Amazon gift cards during 4x gas points in November when Mr WCE is filling his truck frequently for hunting and then we use them for Christmas and throughout the year.

    Mr WCE has had trouble using our no foreign exchange transaction fee card in Europe and has no bandwidth/desire to troubleshoot so we’ve ended up paying fees, since it seems almost nowhere there or here takes Amex. (Amex is his corporate card, but since lots of places don’t take it, it’s not very useful.) Our credit union charges 1% for cash withdrawals in Europe, which seems reasonable.

    Our trip to Europe in 2003 was paid with with frequent flier miles for getting cards with fees and bonuses. We’ve had a few frequent flier mile tickets in the past 5 years, which we’ve mostly used for funeral travel.

    The NY Times article on Marie Kondo helped me understand a difference between Mr WCE and me that I never recognized. I need empty space (for the practical reason that I’m the one that mostly organizes the house and because I like empty space) and he is unbothered by clutter and sees “more space” as the solution to expanding clutter.

    Hopefully Marie Kondo’s book will discuss getting rid of clutter when living with hoarders.

  77. As I’ve mentioned before, my DH is obsessed with looking at low interest rates, even though we pay in full each month (I think he likes to think that if the $&!# hits the fan, we burn through all our savings, we don’t change our spending habits, and family cuts us off, we’ll at least be able to charge it and get low interest rates?) He also hates cards that have a fee. Now I have my own card (low interest rate) that I’ve had for probably 15 years. I only use it for internet purchases and kid camps/activities, so not often. I don’t get any rewards on it, but now I’m thinking I should look at changing cards and charging more. And although we pay the card in full, my DH requirements are low interest rate and no annual fee. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    Ada – in addition to the Disney CC, you can buy Disney giftcards at Target and save 5% using your redcard, and use those to pay for your trip. I believe you can also buy them on discount at Costco too.

  78. I am completely unfamiliar with this discounted gift card perk that many of you have mentioned. Have just not been paying attention, I guess.

  79. Costco sells a lot of gift cards at a discount ($10 x 5 Starbucks cards for $40). They seem to have a lot of local chains as well. I’m terrible about accumulating and losing gift cards, so I don’t buy unless I have a specific plan.

  80. “We have relatively few expenses that can be paid by credit card”

    I don’t understand. Grocery store? CVS? Gas? Hardware store? Restaurants? Phone bills? Kid/adult clothing for the household? All of those go on the credit card. Now the Costco bills can go on the cash back card (visa) too, so I pay for almost everything (except the auto-pay which requires an electronic check) on cards.

  81. “We have relatively few expenses that can be paid by credit card”

    Like L, I am a bit mystified about expenses that can’t be paid with CC. I can see mortgage, taxes, utilities, etc., but like L, we pay for most of our other expenses with credit cards.

  82. I charged $2.45 at the post office today. I try to charge everything to a credit card unless it’s a store that has a sign. Those are generally the small business places like my local dry cleaner so I won’t charge unless I hit the minimum.

    Our camp takes a credit card, and they aren’t smart enough to charge the additional 3% fee like our day camp. I just wish the bat mitzvah vendors would take a card, but EVERYONE wants cash or certified checks.

  83. Our expenses are ~$5k/month.
    Childcare/housekeeper/piano teacher are ~$1400 by checks, credit cards not accepted.
    Amortized taxes/insurance are ~$750/month, credit cards not accepted.
    Groceries are ~$700/month, grocery store with 50% of spending doesn’t take credit cards and neither does Homer.
    Garbage, internet and cell phone go to credit card; electric, natural gas, water don’t take credit cards.
    Netflix and gas/auto go on credit card.
    Rental cars, plane tickets and internet shopping go on credit card but those are intermittent.
    75% of kid clothes are purchased at Kohl’s and go on that card for 30% and free shipping. Remainder of kid clothes/shoes are internet purchases and go on credit card. I spend ~$1000/year on kid clothes/shoes.
    Home Depot is either gift card or credit card. I’m buying deck stain tonight with the monthly $45 Visa cash gift cards I get for letting Google observe my Internet habits.

    Between the two of us, Mr WCE and I average ~30 debit transactions/month and we don’t use much cash. Maybe we’re just heavy check writers?

    And we get ~$15/month each for using our debit cards 12 times, so I have more benefit from putting the ~$300/month I spend at grocery stores that take credit cards on debit than credit.

  84. Nor does it include healthcare/medical expenses. When we have medical expense, I put all significant expenses on the credit card, in part so if I experience billing issues or difficulty getting refunds for overpayment, I can use the credit card company to press my case.

  85. I paid an expensive jewelry purchase with credit card. It did trigger the fraud warning but the store spoke to the card company and it wasn’t an issue. I could/should have called the card company in advance. They also tell you to call if you are traveling on vacation. Here even the ethnic grocery stores accept cards. All the small businesses, food trucks etc. accept cards since they go through square.

  86. We don’t escrow on our mortgage. Denver lets you pay property taxes with a credit card, and we pay the homeowner’s insurance with a card as well.

  87. “Denver lets you pay property taxes with a credit card”

    Our local governments charge a fee, 3% I think. Same with college tuition. But I think I’m missing the boat on other bills. I should check.

  88. A handful of times I have gotten fraudulent transaction texts from my Chase Sapphire – “You have attempted to charge $126.71 at TJMAXX Chicago. Is this really you? Respond 1 if yes, 2 if no.” I respond “yes” (they’ve always been for purchases 1000 miles from home, or other less ordinary stuff) and then the charge goes through. Technology these days. Amazing.

  89. BTW, both of the main cards I use will rush a replacement card to me, either 2-day or overnight. I seem to recall this question coming up in the comments recently. I was surprised that many other companies take a week or more to get you a replacement. Over the last 6 months we’ve had to replace cards at least 3 or 4 times due to fraud or losing them.

  90. Helping an elder parent with some finances, recently obtained POA to start managing bills, etc. This has been a long effort – parent has had utilities shut off several time in past year due to non-payment (has money, can’t manage it). Found out that he is paying live-in caregiver under the table. Not a surprise, but wondering how much effort we should go to remedy the situation. Parent would resist, as thinks everything costs too much already. Caregiver might resist, even if we upped the wage to make it “cost” nothing.

    Despite the POA it is still the parent’s choice and forcing the issue could disrupt a fragile financial solution (child paying bills with POA). Can’t seem to find any info on how big of a risk this is in terms of IRS, etc. It seems like most people don’t pay and few get caught. Any advice?

  91. Atlanta – I’m so sorry I didn’t get to meet you in Cape Cod. It is really good that DH and I were there for my mom on Sunday, and we spent a good part of Monday morning helping my dad with the accident reports. They had to leave their car there to be repaired and fly home.

  92. Winemama – we watched the first two episodes of Stranger Things and enjoyed it, but I feel that it seems a little more 1978-1980 than 1983. I get that it is small town Indiana, but I don’t think they played Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree on the radio very much then.

    I’m also a little scared about the sci-fi stuff. Are you enjoying it?

  93. Anon: I’d leave the caregiver arrangements alone. There might be other issues to address in the future, and this one doesn’t seem worth fighting about.

  94. Keep paying under the table. Carelessness is not a crime, and it’s hard to imagine any prosecutor bringing charges for that.

  95. Austin, was it you who asked about SAT subject tests?

    Columbia has dropped that requirement, although they will still accept scores.

  96. I am pretty risk averse and have always paid everyone above board. I wouldn’t change the arrangement your parent has.

  97. WCE – wow, I have never heard of a grocery store not taking credit cards! Also sounds like you are using the debit cards where we would normally use a credit card.

  98. When I was growing up, it was considered to be a sign of poor money management if you paid with a credit card at the grocery. It meant you had no money in your checking account. So I cannot bring myself to do it. I use a debit card.

  99. Another vote to leave caregiver arrangement alone. Even more so if it is working well.

  100. @Mooshi – you have to convert to credit card use for groceries. That’s a lot of points you are letting go. You can pay off your credit card right after you return from the grocery store. The use of credit cards for their rewards has expanded so much that as Lauren mentioned even small amounts are being charged.

  101. L, the highest volume grocery store in town takes debit cards but not credit cards due to the higher fee on credit cards. According to their surveys, ~70% of the grocery dollars spent in this town are spent there. They definitely have the area’s best prices on Keystone Light and ramen noodles. I like them because of their bulk section, with Ghirardelli chocolate chips and Bob’s Red Mill grains, and cheap canned goods, but I tend to buy produce and meat elsewhere.

  102. @Mooshi – you have to convert to credit card use for groceries. That’s a lot of points you are letting go. You can pay off your credit card right after you return from the grocery store. The use of credit cards for their rewards has expanded so much that as Lauren mentioned even small amounts are being charged.

    There’s an argument to be made that the increased credit card use has caused merchants to increase their prices to cover the processing fees, so the rewards are just getting us back to where we would be with lower prices if everyone paid cash. The only ones coming out ahead are the banks and the credit card processors.

  103. Does no one else have a Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa? You can get a free Companion ticket for any paid SW flight after x amount of spending, for the rest of that calendar year and the entire following year. There are bonus miles for signing up, recently $50K for signing up at an airport. Not a free card but the fee is modest.

  104. Anon – Let the caregiver payment arrangement go, but watch the cash in and out of the bank account to protect your parent. My mom converted all her checking accounts to joint so when she stopped paying the bills I just started using the checkbook and set up online access and bill pay. That was completely legal. I had a POA but didn’t have to invoke it. She relinquished trusteeship of her grantor trust to me, the successor trustee, so wrote those checks and managed those investments. I also set up online access to her single credit card and charged a few things and kept track of it. Not legal.

    I use AMEX and a BofA cash back card. I have a dedicated Citbank card as well for small or new online purchases, to isolate the menace. I can’t be bothered to keep track of hotel loyalty programs, but I dutifully enroll for the free wifi or occasional upgrade, or free comfort inn night. When I have expiring airline miles or hotel points, I just redeem them for kitchen gadgets. I use Jet Blue a lot now, so I might get a free ticket or two for my kid visits.

  105. Thanks – seems like there is a lot of agreement on the payment of the caregiver. Appreciate all the opinions.

  106. Anon, we got a few prepaid Visa cards for MIL so that the caregiver can make small purchases without having access to her cash. We found $400 in a dresser drawer one day and suspect that there may be cash in other parts of the house too. If you can convince your parent to put you as a joint account holder, that helps a lot.

  107. “There’s an argument to be made that the increased credit card use has caused merchants to increase their prices to cover the processing fees, so the rewards are just getting us back to where we would be with lower prices if everyone paid cash. The only ones coming out ahead are the banks and the credit card processors.”

    I agree, but if you aren’t playing the rewards game, you are paying higher than everyone else

  108. “There’s an argument to be made that the increased credit card use has caused merchants to increase their prices to cover the processing fees”

    There’s that argument, but there’s also the fact that handling and processing large amounts of cash also uses resources. It takes longer to administer a transaction, count out change, more frequent cash drawer re-stockings, breaking open rolls of pennies, verifying large bills, sending excess cash to the safe, higher employee theft, more robberies, higher security costs, armored car transport to the bank…

    Additionally, card transactions can also be used to reduce merchandise return fraud.

  109. I am now inspired by y’all not to take the cash back but save it for rewards for my air fare next year. I fell into the habit of taking cash back once I realized it was an option but in the spirit of MMM lite, I will go for delayed gratification.

  110. “Winemama – we watched the first two episodes of Stranger Things and enjoyed it, but I feel that it seems a little more 1978-1980 than 1983. I get that it is small town Indiana, but I don’t think they played Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree on the radio very much then.

    I’m also a little scared about the sci-fi stuff. Are you enjoying it?”

    I’m really liking it, we finished the first 6 episodes.

    I was a baby in 1983, but I feel it is very 80’s-esque

  111. SSK – no problem, glad everything turned out ok. We’ll try again next summer if our vacation plans line up again.

  112. Winemama – yikes, I am so old!! I’m glad you like it; I think we will keep watching.

    Atlanta mom – sounds good, thanks!

  113. Additionally, card transactions can also be used to reduce merchandise return fraud.

    There is also the cost of credit card fraud, which ultimately gets passed back to the consumers in one form or another.

  114. I agree, but if you aren’t playing the rewards game, you are paying higher than everyone else

    Of course. I read a great article a few years ago about how the whole system has amounted to a tax on the poor, because they have the most difficulty in getting credit cards and are the most likely to pay cash. So they are subsidizing the rewards for the credit card users.

  115. “There is also the cost of credit card fraud, which ultimately gets passed back to the consumers in one form or another.”

    Yes, but does that get eaten by the merchant, the credit card processor, or the bank? I don’t know; I thought it was the processor/bank.

  116. There is a localish (Woodman’s) chain that only takes debit cards. We sometimes stop there when we are in the area because they have a crazy selection & carry some specialty items and specialty beers. I always have to remember to get cash because we do not even own a debit card. I use a CC for everything, and I don’t want a debit card linked to my checking account. Too easy for someone to clear out the account if the card is lost/stolen and bigger hassle than if there is fraud on a CC. Plus, no rewards. Near me though, even the small ethnic stores take credit.

  117. @Milo – that is my understanding. It is usually the bank that bears the cost of fraud.

  118. Ah, you have a cash card…or an ATM card… I guess that makes sense.

    As for me, I can’t imagine keeping money in my checking account. Significant amounts of cash are either in my brokerage account or our Capital One Savings account*.

    * Although, I’m thinking of moving from Capital One to GS Bank per Scarlett’s advice. They are offering very good rates.

  119. “Then how do you get cash?”

    Probably an ATM card? I very recently got a debit card because I needed it to use Apple Pay. Actually, I could use my Amex on Apple Pay, but I can get cash from some merchants using my debit card.

    “I don’t want a debit card linked to my checking account. Too easy for someone to clear out the account if the card is lost/stolen and bigger hassle than if there is fraud on a CC.”

    Maybe I should go back to an ATM card.

  120. Bank eats the cost of fraud unless the merchant isn’t complying with the new chip requirements and then the merchant does

  121. Yes – that’s right. I have a dumb ATM card. It can only be used for cash. It doesn’t have a Credit option, and it doesn’t have a PIN for debit use at merchants. The bank thought we were crazy when we requested one. I don’t think many people do. But I have been burned by stolen Debit cards before. Yes, we got the $$ back eventually, but after bounced payments and lots of hassle. We don’t keep much $$ in our checking account either, Rhett.

  122. If you have a PIN, how is a debit card less secure than a credit card? People can’t use the card without the PIN

  123. MM – I think the issue is that it is your money. For a credit card, I haven’t really cared because the issuer always removes the charge and “investigates.” Someone took a couple thousand out of my checking and it took a long time to get my money back. Definitely more annoying.

  124. We use Schwab. Recently my husband’s card was skimmed and whoever took a chunk out of our checking account. Schwab returned it within 2 days and could not be more helpful. They also reimburse cash withdrawal fees.

  125. “Schwab returned it within 2 days and could not be more helpful. ”

    Going back a little while to the thread on customer support, IME Schwab has provided consistently excellent customer service. Even my curmudgeonly FIL (get off my yard) was so impressed that he moved his account to them.

  126. Mooshi– there are legal protections for credit card holders that are not provided for debit card holders.

    A common one is for services paid for in advance, e.g., airline tickets. If you pay a travel agent for tickets with a debit card and the agent goes broke without paying for your ticket, you are SOL. If you use a credit card, your card company will have to credit you the amount of the ticket.

  127. “It takes longer to administer a transaction, count out change, more frequent cash drawer re-stockings, breaking open rolls of pennies, verifying large bills, sending excess cash to the safe, higher employee theft, more robberies, higher security costs, armored car transport to the bank…”

    Yes, it seems like cashiers always wait until I get to their registers to stop ringing up sales while they take a bunch of cash out of the registers to put in the safe.

    Apparently, not being able to accept credit cards, and having to deal with large amounts of cash, is a major problem for legal MJ dealers (probably for illegal dealers too).

  128. @Kate & Finn. Exactly. And in a couple of days in my checking account, my mortgage payment could bounce & cause a whole lot of hassle. A couple of days on a CC is no big deal.

  129. “Yes, it seems like cashiers always wait until I get to their registers to stop ringing up sales while they take a bunch of cash out of the registers to put in the safe. ”

    When I used to work for the McDonald’s Corporation, before they accepted card transactions, I remember how often my manager was walking across the parking lot to the bank with a big bag of cash. Probably several times a shift.

Comments are closed.