Category: Barclay Uber Visa

Why Have the Alaska Card?

If you have taken a flight with Alaska Airlines recently, you have heard about the Alaska Airlines Signature Visa card from Bank of America. Flight attendants, who receive a commission if you apply on-board, will tell you about the exclusive and remarkable benefits available to cardholders, and their inflight entertainment systems even now include commercials advertising the card too.

What is the Card?

The card itself is one of the most basic on the market. The annual fee is $75.00/year, it earns 3x Alaska Miles on money spent with Alaska and one mile for everything else. Notably however, the card offers a Companion Fare benefit that permits you to add a second ticket to your Alaska reservation for just $121 (taxes and fees) once a year.

Should I Use It Everywhere?

No!! It causes me physical discomfort to see so many people using this card as their everyday spending card; especially when dining out. The earn rate on this card is abysmal at less than 2% per transaction. Compare that with the no-fee Uber Visa Card (4% back on dining) or the AMEX Gold Card (8% back on dining AND supermarkets), and you’ll see money being left at the table each trip. Though purchases directly with Alaska Airlines would net you 6% back, this is still not competitive compared to the American Express Platinum card that offers 10% back on airfare purchases (for all airlines)! If you are most interested in simplicity, then this card is fine for you to use as an everyday card. But if you’re looking to maximize rewards on typical spend, this isn’t the one to keep in your wallet.

Worth Having?

I encourage folks to have one Alaska Card for each companion fare they need each year. Bank of America is not very restrictive when it comes approving cards; allowing folks to have 4+ accounts open simultaneously. If you will use the Companion Fare, the $75 card more than pays for itself each year. In addition to that, you will receive a sign up bonus worth between 30,000-40,000 miles after meeting spend requirements which makes each card especially valuable in its first year.

The Companion Fare

The Companion Fare is relatively straight forward to redeem, as long as you are booking a flight that is fully operated by Alaska Airlines (and not its partners). It even allows for stopovers. For instance, when we traveled from Seattle to Nashville with a companion fare, we connected through San Francisco on the return trip for 36 hours; the companion fare allowed us to book this creative trip at no additional cost.

In order to use the companion fare, the person who earned it must either be flying, or paying for the two tickets. That means if you have a family of four, two Alaska cards may make sense since you can use them to buy two tickets, and receive two for just the taxes and fees.

Wrap Up

If Alaska Airlines flies out of your airport, and you like to travel to one of their destinations each year, you need this card; or multiple. Save your bonus miles (they won’t expire as long as you have the card) for your next big trip, and don’t use the cards for everyday spend unless you can’t beat the 2% earn with another card in your wallet.

Making the Switch to T-Mobile

I’m No Loyalist

I’ve said it before, but I’m no loyalist. As a consumer, life is too short to stick with a company that isn’t at the top of their game. When it comes to phone plans, I’ve had them all. Having grown up with Sprint, I opened a Verizon account in college because they had the most competitive plan; only to move to AT&T six years ago to improve my monthly bill. This week, I made the move to T-Mobile.

Why?

T-Mobile offers several companies their new Amplified plan that offers unlimited data, talk and text (even internationally.) I was fortunate that my employer is on that list, and if yours is too, here’s what you can expect:

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 6.18.43 AMThe unlimited talk, text and data in the US, Canada and Mexico may be worth the switch alone, but they just kept sweetening the deal. Notably, this plan includes a 2-screen subscription to Netflix valued at $10.99/month and a Gogo Unlimited plan that is otherwise $599.00/year!  In addition, T-Mobile’s rates are all-inclusive. So when it says $60/line for two lines, it means my card is charged $120/month; without additional taxes or fees. And by using my Uber Visa card to make the payment, my phone is insured up to $600/year.

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T-Mobile’s rates are all-inclusive. So when it says $60/line for two lines, it means my card is charged $120/month

Beyond that, T-Mobile will even reimburse any early termination fees your old carrier charges you as part of the switch from your current plan.

My Experience Making the Switch

Day 1

  • Because I was currently taking advantage of the AT&T Next payment installments, I had to make one-time payments to satisfy the balance on both phones with AT&T so that they could be unlocked
  • I called T-Mobile to setup my new account which took less than 15 minutes
  • I paid $25 + tax for each sim card being shipped to me (5-day Ground Shipping)

Day 2

  • AT&T requires its customers to wait 48 hours between their final installment plan payment, and placing a request to “unlock” their phone which allows customers to take an existing AT&T iPhone to T-Mobile
  • I placed these requests online under “Manage my Device” after just 24 hours and they were accepted
  • AT&T sends an email confirming your request to Unlock your phone. I confirmed, and immediately received a confirmation message that my lines had been unlocked

Expedited Day 2

  • Normally, the sim cards from T-Mobile arrive in the mail five days later. I would install them in our phones, remove the AT&T sim cards, and call T-Mobile to complete the activation process
  • Instead, I stopped by a T-Mobile store to see if they could expedite the completion of this process; and they did! I was in and out of the store in less than 15 minutes
  • This “porting” of our phone numbers automatically closed our AT&T account

Alternate Approach

If you don’t want to keep your existing phones, T-Mobile will instead pay for the remaining balance owed on any phones with your old carrier and claim the phones from you. You will then need to purchase (outright or on a payment plan) new devices from T-Mobile directly which start at $30/line after a down-payment.

Conclusion

It took less than a week, and while I won’t be saving many dollars each month since I previously took advantage of other promotions with AT&T, I will now be receiving much more from T-Mobile with unlimited service, a Netflix subscription and an Unlimited Gogo Internet subscription to use while traveling by plane; all for the same price as my previously limited one-track plan with AT&T. And with T-Mobile’s continued growth in addition to their customer-focused approach, I look forward to a long run with them.

Dining with Uber

You knew Uber could take you to dinner, or bring it to you, but did you know it could also earn you 4% back when you dined out anywhere? Since acquiring the Uber credit card on its release date, it has become my exclusive card for dining out, and with that representing our largest monthly expense, we’ve quickly noticed the benefits!

The Uber card is great for anyone who uses Uber for ride-share or food delivery; but it also serves as a cash-back card for those who don’t. Regardless of your relationship with the company, if you dine out frequently, you need this card.

In addition to receiving 4% on dining, this card also reimburses up to $50 in subscription products (think Netflix, Hulu) each year, insures your smartphone against theft or damage up to $600/year and has no foreign transaction fees. The kicker? No annual fee. They’ll even give you $100 as a sign up bonus!

The only downside is that you will not receive your $50 credit until after achieving a $5,000 annual spend on the card. The upside is that the card’s site makes it easy to track:

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Tip: Place any large charges (reimbursable business travel) on this card to help you quickly achieve the spend requirement each year.

In my experience, Barclay will also retroactively credit your account with any subscription-charges after you achieve the spend requirement each year:

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Redeeming your rewards is easy to do directly from the Uber app.

Ultimately, the card offers the most competitive cash-back on dining for a no-fee card, and is seamlessly integrated into the Uber apps so you can easily spend your cash back on your next trip or food order without syncing or transferring points.

Again, if you don’t use Uber, you can transfer these credits to your bank account as cash-back instead.

No referral bonus for me on this card, so if you’d like to apply for it, simply visit the main application site here.

 

2017 Rewards in Review

Annual Fees

In 2017, we spent almost $800 on annual fees for five credit cards. That number may seem staggering, but we used the rewards associated with those cards to redeem nearly $6,000 in travel! Often times, cards that carry an annual fee also carry several benefits that, when used appropriately, can make for quite the lucrative hobby. By budgeting $66.50/month for travel (used entirely on annual fees), our monthly vacation budget became worth $497.48/month thanks to the reward redemption and associated benefits.

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Note: The annual fees associated with the Alaska Air and Citi HHonors credit cards were paid in 2016, but some of the rewards were redeemed in 2017.

Return on Investment

We tracked every dollar spent and earned through this process using Mint, and as you will see from the charts, we netted $5,171.78 in 2017. The largest return was from our AMEX Platinum Card which originated a whopping 36 redemption this year; but that’s no surprise when you consider the list of benefits. A close second was the return from our combined Alaska Cards where we not only used companion fares, but redeemed miles as well.

Note: Our trip to Tokyo that we took last April was funded in 2016 using points so those are not reflected in the analysis above.

Trip Summary

Here’s a look at some of the ways we put these points to work:

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Three Trips to Las Vegas

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Tokyo, Japan

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Hyatt Olive 8 – Seattle

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A Private Island – New Jersey

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New Year’s at the Needle – Seattle

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50 Free Uber Rides

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Victoria, British Columbia – 2018

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Peoria, AZ – MLB Spring Training – 2018

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South Beach – Miami – 2018

Where will you go in 2018?

No matter how you plan it, you’re sure to come out ahead when you strategically manage your point and mile redemption. Use signup bonuses to skyrocket you to a top-level redemption, and ensure you’re using the correct cards on your daily spending so you never miss out on a point – don’t be afraid to label your cards to keep yourself organized!

Happy New Year!

Get Your Cash Back

I heard on the radio this morning that today is “Dump Day” which signifies the last day to break off your relationship with your significant other before the holidays roll around. Since my wife and I are solid, I decided I would use dump day to finish closing out any cards that had served their purpose in 2017 and who I didn’t care to spend the holidays with this season.

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Sure, you may look like a huge nerd. But labeling your cards will ensure you always use the right one in the moment and capitalize the return on your spending.

You may have noticed my new Uber card that arrived this week. I’m very excited about it: A no annual fee card that provides 4% cash back on dining and 3% on hotels in addition to its other perks. It’s the latest no-fee cash back card in my wallet, and one that I expect will stay for a while.

Most cash back cards don’t carry an annual fee, and allow you to use your earned rewards directly on your next statement. Whether you decide to redeem monthly, or you save them all year to pay off Christmas gifts is up to you.

Here’s a summary of how I earn cash back without paying annual fees:

Category % Back Using Card
Rotating categories including Amazon purchases and Groceries. 5% Discover It Card
Dining, Bars and Uber Eats 4% Barclay Uber Visa Card
Costco Gas 4% Citi Costco Visa
Hotels and Airfare 3% Barclay Uber Visa Card
All Else 2% Citi Double Cash Card

You’ll always want to ensure another card in your wallet doesn’t provide you a better return on a specific purchase before committing. For instance, my American Express Platinum nets me a nearly 10% return on airfare purchases so I don’t use my Uber card for airfare. However, 15% of your credit score is calculated using the length of your history with an account, so these no-fee cash back cards can be a real anchor in your collection and are a great solution for card users who are weary of annual fees.