Saturday, March 1, 2014

Credit Where Credit Is Due

My friend Linda is the credit whisperer. She has a ferret-nose for credit cards that can get her free travel, and she loves to travel. She's got all the cards stacked up in a spare room somewhere and if you visit she can fan them and ask you to pick one out and put it back and then she shuffles them again and says "is your card the Southwest Air VISA ending in 4498?" and then you're all "that's amazing." Periodically a 747 pulls up outside the street and a uniformed gentleman hops out and rings her bell and asks if she'd like to pop over to Italy for the weekend for free, and she says no thanks she's having people over for dinner, and he says well all right but please accept this complimentary tray of hors d'oeuvres, and then he bows and gets back in his plane. I've known Linda for over forty years and in all that time I've never known her to pay a finance charge on a card or spend money on an airline ticket.

I, on the other hand, have no such army of cards working for me night and day. When airlines started offering frequent flier programs I signed up for them. I had accounts with MiracleMiles and SkyStash and OpenFly and none of them would let you set your password to "oh shit," which is the only way I could remember it. You could only get points by flying but I never seemed to fly the same airline twice, and after about fifteen years I had enough points on several airlines to bump me up to an extra bag of pretzels. Once I got all the way up to free-ticket status on the Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Company and went to cash them in, only to find out that they'd been bought out by Consolidated Amalgamated and they had a whole different program. Then I got up to the threshold 25,000 EaglePoints on Patriotic Air and went to cash them in, and the minimum had been bumped up to 35,000.

After a while, credit cards started offering rewards programs. My own credit card was generally sacked out on the sofa watching reruns so I kicked it out and got a Nordstrom credit card. It didn't offer much but at least it was something, and it seemed to make the nice fragrant lady in the store happy, and my kind of person is very intimidated by fragrant Nordstrom ladies. Every time I spent $2000 they'd send me a $20 gift certificate, redeemable only at Nordstrom. You can't actually buy anything at Nordstrom for $20, so whenever it came around I'd go give them the gift certificate plus ten bucks and come home with a pair of socks.

So I was ripe for the picking the first time a salesman at the airport wanted me to sign up for his airline's reward card. Why, I would get 10,000 points just for signing up, if I did it right then and there and didn't consult anyone. The mileage points inched up imperceptibly with my regular purchases, but I never seemed to use that airline again. I got another airline card that gave me even more points, but I kept switching back and forth because I'd already gotten a head start on the first one. My goal is to keep all my cards at an approximately equal level below redemption level. I'm sixty years old and I've never cashed in any frequent flier miles.

I make Linda visit me.

33 comments:

  1. I never got sucked into that rewards program stuff, I knew from the beginning I would never shop enough to earn any points worth cashing in. Then my one department store card got changed when the store affiliated with a different credit company. Now I have a shiny new store card that can earn me reward points. All I have to do is shop....
    Not happening! I don't need stuff. I keep the card purely for emergency use, for instance if all my clothes fell apart in the wash I would use it to buy a few things to wear. Maybe. I could probably get by with cutting a few holes in a tablecloth or sheet and belting it around me..

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    1. That's always been a good look in certain parts of the country.

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  2. I have a Marriott card and do like it because it can apply to lots of different things. I have used it for hotel rooms at the lower end Marriott chains because the high end are REALLY expensive. I have also used the points for travel but I put everything on the card. My supermarket also gives me points for gas and the other day we got 40 cents off a gallon. I only have three credit cards that I use, though.

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    1. The only thing I can say for myself is I've never paid a finance charge. They'll probably catch up to me sooner or later.

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  3. We have flown all over the world with flyer miles. Takes planning and flexibity but it is doable.

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  4. What you can do Murr is move to a country with only one major airline... let say Canada, you will have so many points so fast... but then, why would you want to go anywhere when you are already in paradise hahahaha

    Sorry for my comments, its so cold outside, all I can do is pick on the neighbor! :)

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    1. Shoot, I'd live there for the maple sugar alone!

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  5. Why is it that you can't fly five thousand miles on the five thousand air miles the credit card just gave you? I hate flying; if I ever go to Europe again I will probably swim. I also hate credit cards - like a cell phone they should be only for emergencies.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. Credit card miles aren't like real miles. They're more like kilometers. Mythical.

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  6. Mrs. C was once able to use points and kick us up to first class...it was my birthday present. They have really good pretzels in first class.

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  7. "OpenFly"! Bahahaha!!! I bet you get a really good ride when you accumulate enough points there.

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    1. Do I want a long ride, or a thick ride?

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    2. And is it a single segment, or do you have change carriers partway through? But I guess the good news is if you get on, you're pretty much guaranteed to get off...

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    3. I'm officially ceding this thread to Diane.

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  8. We use the kind of air miles our grocery store hands out, where we can get cash discounts on groceries and drug store items. It's a small, closed loop system that pleases me no end, especially since I am a terrible traveller and air miles for actual flying would be wasted on me in any case :)

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    1. I don't travel enough to feel real bad about my situation.

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  9. My credit card is accustomed to its lonely and solitary life. It is a hermit, and a recluse - and will stay that way.
    Flying? Shudder. If I have to. Really have to. And probably not otherwise.

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    1. My credit card is best buds with my health care card and thinking of chatting up my library card.

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    2. Both my health care card and my library card get out and about a LOT more often than my credit card.

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  10. Not having flown since I last visited your part of the world in 1980, I'm immune to those credit card offers. I have a lovely Visa that earns a rebate for every dollar spent; the money accumulates on my account statement and I can cash it in whenever I please. I usually wait until my balance is a little on the high side and then have them apply it to my payment. Since I always pay the balance in full every month, and therefore pay no interest, they're actually giving me money to use their card. Now that's an offer I can't refuse!

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    1. Nor should you. You haven't flown in 34 YEARS?

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  11. I have the best deal. My husband flies places for work. Usually Memphis, but next month, Mexico, and this fall, the UK, and Romania. And we get to keep the mileage credits. Next year is our 30th anniversary, and I am planning a trip to Hawaii. He can come with me.

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    1. Gee, we had our 30th last year and I think we just walked around.

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  12. I only travel once every 5 or 10 years, but I go long and far. I have nearly enough for a free one since I go the distance, but since I am getting older I want to be sure to get one last one in before it's too late. You know, just in case.

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  13. I know you are a humor writer (and a darned good one, I might add) and I'll take this in the vein in which you intended (I think). yet it touches a sore point with me. Why cannot merchants and vendors peddle their wares without all the nonsense. Fair, straightforward pricing, i.e., I pay what you pay. And here I go again.

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    1. You know, J.C. Penney just went with that very strategy, and had to give it up because they were losing money so fast. Weird.

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  14. Himself talked me into putting all our groceries, gas, pharmaceuticals (legal), etc., on a points card. Apparently we're going to get some big honking amount of money on our anniversary date and we can go somewhere with it or buy new snow shovels or something. A big Canadian grocery chain did bring in a points system, however, and last week I got $20 off of my grocery bill. Now that made my ruby slippers sparkle!

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    1. A good pair of Nordstrom's socks would do that, too.

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