Tag Archives: Credit cards

Shout out: Chase Visa Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

I had tried not to use the name of the card too much out of fear that my readers might think that I endorsed the card, but I am really in love with this credit card!

If anyone has ever boarded a plane before, he/she will know that the boarding zones are helpful in preventing everyone from barraging the plane at once. However, one will notice that within your boarding zone, chaos often ensues, as numerous people with seats in the same area are fighting to put their bags into the overheads at once.

Wouldn’t it be cool to be the first one in your boarding zone to board the plane, and be able to put your bags up and get comfortable before anyone else arrives? Well, with VISA Signature cards on US Airways, that’s a benefit you have, or at least I had for my connecting flight between Orlando, FL and Charlotte, NC. I was able to flash the back of my card and was allowed to board the plane as if I had some special VIP wristband. Needless to say, I was happy I had brought this card with my for my travel (tip: you shouldn’t bring them all).

This is the same card that allowed me to book my hostel reservations for Vienna, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin in GBP(£) without charging a foreign currency conversion fee.

This is also the same card that saved me hundreds of dollars on my transatlantic plane ticket with easily earned rewards points.

This is the same card that’s made out of some weird hard plastic or flexible metal that makes the eyes of every dining cashier (double points at fast food, sit-down, and take-out restaurants) sparkle with interest.

This is also the same card that earns double points on travel, and whose points are worth about $0.01. 1 cent doesn’t sound like a lot, but after paying for tuition, groceries, and utility bills for a month, there’s no way you won’t rack up enough points to at least exceed the $95.00 annual membership fee. Besides, even if YOU don’t spend that much, you can always add trusted friends or family members to the account, with them each receiving their own personalized cards.

One downside of the card is that with its almost blank outer side (numbers are printed on back), it’s easy to see scratches on it. After the first few weeks of using it stopped telling cashiers not to scratch my card out of fear of sounding pretentious, and because I realized it was futile.

p.s., I am not offering financial advice. Please bear in mind that high credit scores are necessary for the card, which offers higher balances (it is for travel after all). Applying for and obtaining or not obtaining the card will all possibly affect your credit score. My personal advice is, however, to use credit wisely and NEVER charge/borrow more than you can pay back.

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Using Your Money Abroad

One of the most important parts of your travel must-have list is your access to money while abroad. As a first line of defense, I withdrew some cash the night before I left, that way if they were any problems with the ATM, I would have been able to find another as opposed to if I had tried to get to one on my way to the airport this morning.

Cash

It is extremely important that you balance your need to for cash with the security risks involved with having it on you. You therefore do not want to withdraw less than the amount you know you will need when you exit the airport on the other side. Nor, do you want to get too much, as this would create additional risk of theft or robbery. If your destination country or countries do not use the same currency as your home, you should plan to make your withdrawal days before so that you can purchase the foreign currency. If you are keen on getting the most for you money like I am, you will want to monitor the varying value of your purchase currency relative to your purchasing currency. A website that I used a lot to track the EURO was http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert/?Amount=1&From=EUR&To=USD.

Electronic Funds

Credit Cards

As discussed in an earlier post, I researched credit cards that offered no foreign transaction fee and made sure to get one, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to be exact. The foreign transaction fee is an ugly and inconvenient one that is tacked onto every foreign currency purchase you make and on any purchase you make outside of the home country. For some cards it’s a flat rate per transaction, and for others it’s a percent of the transaction. When this fee is absent, your credit card company via the VISA, MasterCard, etc network is able to convert your foreign currency transaction to the value of your home country’s using the best rate for that day. This should obviously save you money that you may have lost doing the conversion yourself (purchasing fees, seller using highest rate for the day or an average, etc.)
I realized afterwards, that I also had another card that offers this benefit, as most Capital One cards do. I was happy to still have gotten the second one though, as it is obviously geared towards travelers with its rewards points and double bonus points on travel charges (airlines, car rentals, train tickets) and dining (fast food restaurants, fancy restaurants, etc). In addition to these benefits, I now also have a back-up source of credit in the event my first card gets lost, destroyed, or compromised.

ATM Cards

You may need cash after you’ve run out of the amount you’ve taken with you. You should not want to be charged other bank ATM fees while outside of the country. These are another annoying fee that financial institutions use to raise revenue, that some banks have actually decided to waive or reimburse for certain reasons. My Charles Schwab account, for instance, does not have commercial branches like other banks as their commercial arm operates primarily online. What results is a savings on administrative costs that is passed on to the consumer as higher saving interest rates on checking accounts, whereas many banks do not even offer interest on checking accounts. Another result of this is that there are no Schwab ATMs for customers to use to withdraw the funds they’ve deposited their via mail or other-bank transfer. To account for this, Schwab reimburses charges you incur as other bank ATM fees.
Another bank account that will come in handy on my traveling is Bank of America’s. This bank participates in an international banking agreement, Global ATM Alliance, that allows customers of any of the participating banks to use the ATMs of most of the others without being assessed the other bank ATM fees.

A list of the Global Alliance members and their service countries, care of Wikipedia, is found below:

  • Bank of America (United States)
  • Barclays (United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, Pakistan, Gibraltar, Ghana, Kenya, and other countries in Africa)
  • BNP Paribas (France)
  • BNP Paribas Fortis (Belgium)
  • Deutsche Bank (Germany, Poland, Belgium, India, Spain, Portugal and Italy)
  • Scotiabank (Canada, Caribbean, Peru, Chile and Mexico)
  • Westpac (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New
  • Guinea and Solomon Islands)
  • Westpac Banking Corporation (Australia, Fiji, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu)
  • Westpac New Zealand Limited (New Zealand)
  • Westpac Bank – PNG – Limited (Papua New Guinea)
  • Westpac Bank Samoa Limited (Samoa)
  • Westpac Bank of Tonga (Tonga)
  • ABSA (South Africa)
  • UkrSibbank (Ukraine)

Update: Timing is Everything!

Wed, March 7th

So, I bought my tickets on Tuesday! I am so excited!

I was even more excited about the price I paid. I paid about $600 less than I had originally budgeted largely thanks to my credit card points. But the awesomeness of it all is that the same tickets were being sold for about $500 more only hours before on my credit card rewards portal page! By waiting until early Wednesday morning, I was able to capitalize on the credit card company updating its systems (midnights) and the adventitiously late updating of United price schedule.

So, in the end the price I paid to visit a family members graduation before I head over to Europe was the same price of the ticket to Europe from where I live the next day. Lesson learned: timing is crucial, don’t wait too long, but don’t rush things either!

Facts:

  • United doesn’t charge a fee for your 1st checked bag on a transatlantic flight. (I plan to backpack so I’ll definitely save money there!)
  • United is partners with the national flag carrier of one of the countries I’m stopping in. Definite savings there!
  • When airlines say they offer internet access on board, it only counts for that portion of your trip that’s over the continental U.S. (not over the ~5-hour segment above water) on a transatlantic flight.

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Money Tip: When to Buy?

 

Update: Almost bought airline tickets today

I was going to, but…

Okay, so I haven’t explained one of the ways I plan to save a great deal of money on my airline tickets. About 3 months ago I made sure my credit score was impeccable, and then I applied for one of the most beautiful credit cards I’ve ever seen… I’ll decide later if to tell you what card it is :P. Anyway… so the credit card offers no foreign transaction fee (this will be awesome if I ever need to use it on the other side), and it gave me quite a bit of cash back within the first three months because I was able to buy a ton of stuff for friends, for which they made immediate repayment. For every cash back dollar I apply to a airplane ticket, I actually get to redeem for $1.25. So, with all these in consideration, my plane ticket should be substantially lower than otherwise! Of course I have to factor in that the card charges an annual fee and that if I don’t pay any balance in full, I get charged interest. 

So, this brings me to my dilemma.

For the dollars to be worth more, I have to purchase the tickets through the credit card company’s online booking system. Using http://www.travel.bing.com (like I suggested in a previous post), my ticket is supposed to cost around $1,400 – $1,600. But, checking the online booking system today I saw that their lowest ticket for the same dates cost about $1,800! Of course, I then went into bargain-finder overdrive! Because the ticket that I am getting is a multi-city ticket (I want to go to my sister’s graduation and visit some family in London), I tried rearranging dates and schedules to figure out of that would lessen the cost. Well, after a while I found a fix. Instead of flying into London from my home town, I would fly into Dublin instead. Because the London airports are a lot busier than Dublin’s they charge higher landing fees and other charges for the airlines, thus inflating my ticket price. Now, the point of flying into Dublin was because I remembered the jewel of a website I had found the other day, http://www.RyanAir.com. They provide domestic flights at really low prices <– already stated haha. Connecting time looks great and because I was already using the company to get from London to my study abroad in Spain, I would be able to purchase them together.

However, after all this chaos, and the creation of an awesome plan B, I remembered that I had forgotten the first rule of airline ticket shopping! I was buying a ticket on a Sunday! Everybody knows that weekends are the worst days to buy tickets! Well, at least for domestic flights that is. So, instead of rushing for plan B, I’m going to wait to check prices (and my luck) on Tuesday!

I’ll update you guys on Tuesday with what happened.