Free Travel & Lodging for your Honeymoon

The following is from an email I sent to two friends getting married this year. This will work for just about any couple with good (720ish) or better credit. Everyone’s situation is different, but I am happy to chat with you if you have questions.

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The first thing I tell anyone who is asking me for credit card help and suggestions and planning is the key to ALL of this is paying your WHOLE BALANCE in FULL at the end of EVERY MONTH. NEVER carry a balance on an interest bearing credit card (unless you absolutely have to). If you start paying interest all these points you are earning become less valuable because you are now essentially “paying” for those points with the interest. The reason credit card companies give out these bonuses is to entice people to open cards in a hope they fall into debt. But that WON’T happen with you guys. You’re too smart for that!!

The key is, don’t live beyond your means. Just because you have a shinny new credit card doesn’t mean that you have to use it. I have more than 18 cards currently open and the only one that carries any balance month to month is a zero interest card [the slate card (discussed below)] at like $900. I’ll have that paid off shortly. I only carry a couple of cards in my wallet and the rest are sitting in a drawer.

If you do all this correctly, your credit will only suffer slightly, for a period of about 3 months. It will then rebound and should actually be higher within 6 months – 1 year. My score is higher than it’s ever been because I have shown that I can manage credit and not fall into debt. The most important component to your credit score is on time payments. 

Credit inquiries (like applying for a new card) will drop your score a couple of points for a short period (about 3 months). As mentioned, it should rebound right back, without a problem… as long as you pay off all your balances (that doesn’t mean paying the minimums, that means paying them in FULL!)

Here are the cards and “strategies” that I am recommending. I didn’t make this all up. I read blogs on this shit every day and these methods are proven. I also would never recommend something to someone that I would not do for myself. I have each of the cards that I am suggesting. If you follow this simple (it seems complex, but I promise its not) plan, you will have YOUR FLIGHTS to Thailand and YOUR HOTELS all paid for on points and miles and you’ll be sitting pretty sipping cocktails on a beach in phuket or trying not to get run over by a scooter in the streets of bangkok before you know it. 

I am recommending 3 cards each. Starwoods from Amex, American Airlines from Citibank and Chase Sapphire Preferred from chase. I am also recommending that one of you get the Slate card from chase to transfer any current balances that you are paying interest on.

I understand this all might be overwhelming but I PROMISE that it is worth it. Also, I know it might seem scary to open all these cards but again, I PROMISE it’s worth it. Don’t worry about your credit. You have enough time before you are buying a house (18-24 months before getting a mortgage is the recommended cut off for opening new cards). It’s also good that you are doing this now and not waiting until later this year because you have plenty of time to gather the points you need to essentially pay for all your travel and lodging with those points.

Here is the nitty gritty. Any questions that you have, I’m happy to help. I have already helped a few couples do this and its all worked out great!

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Slate Card
0% interest for 15 months on balance transfers
https://creditcards.chase.com/credit-cards/slate.aspx?freedomsplit=2&
Just get one of these cards in R’s (name removed) name and transfer any and all current balances on any of your cards or T’s (name removed) cards. Also, if you can’t afford to pay everything for your wedding right now, feel free to transfer some of your wedding balances (from the cards below) to this card also. Depending on the credit line you get approved for, you may need to open another in your fiancés name.

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Blue bird checking account and vanilla gift cards

Bluebird
https://www.bluebird.com
Each of you should set up an account. You will need to wait to get their debit card in the mail to fully activate the account. But set one up each now so when the credit cards we are going to get you arrive, you will be all set. This is just like a normal citibank or chase or td bank checking account. The only difference is it is all online. There is no physical location to go to. You can cut checks with online bill pay or order a free check book and write checks that way. 

The idea here is this checking account replaces your current ones and you should use this to pay all the things you are currently paying out of your old checking accounts. This is rent or bills or wedding expenses, etc. The only thing you should use your old checking accounts for is to pay your credit cards (which i explain below).

Vanilla Gift Cards

ok, so the way this works is as follows.

You take a points earning credit card or a card that you are trying to reach a minimum spend on. Minimum spends are set by the Credit card companies in order to get your bonus of XXX miles or points. For example, there is an american airlines card (below) from citibank that requires 10,000$ in spend over a 3 month time frame in order to get 100,000 american airlines miles. This is a HUGE bonus and won’t last long, that is why I got one and suggest you do the same as shown below.…. Using your points earning credit card you go to CVS and buy these cards (I’ll explain how to find them over the phone the next time we chat). The cards are purchased at $500 per card with a $3.95 activation fee. You will have to present your ID when you buy them. Don’t worry, this is normal. You are buying 10 cards at $500/card each month at about $39.50 in fees per month.

note on limits #1: there is a $5000/month PAY OUT limit set by amex on the blue bird account. this means you can only pay 5K per month towards bills or whatever from your blue bird account. if this limit wasn’t there, i would be racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars / points using this method. but, 5K is max.

note on limits #2: there is a $1000/day max set by the vanilla (gift) cards that you can load into the bluebird account. you will buy 5K in gift cards per month and you need to load them to your bluebird account $1000 per day over 5 days. 

Using the gift card/bluebird combo, you are able to increase your monthly spending by $5000 per person, making CC minimums like 10K in 3 months totally doable.

OK, now you each have $5000 in your bluebird accounts, now what???

You now have $5K per month in money to “play” with. When I say play, I mean pay bills like rent and car loans (or wedding expenses) that you normally would have to use your checking accounts to pay. Bluebird is a full service checking account and it lets you write checks direct through the website, or order a check book and pay with that.

My suggestion is as follows: Take all the things you normally write checks for and now pay them through blue bird. Pay any of your wedding expenses out of blue bird.

Any money left over goes to pay back your CC that you used to buy the vanilla cards to begin with. Whatever balance is left on those CC’s is paid with your regular checking account.

It all seems very complicated, but believe me, once you get through the set up of everything and make your first month or two of payments, it is SUPER easy.

EXAMPLE:

you take your american airlines card (shown below) and you buy $5000 in vanilla cards.

you load that $5000 in vanilla cards into your blue bird checking account ($1000/day).

you pay (from bluebird) your rent (lets say $2000/month). your car loans (lets say $500/month). your cable/electric/gas (lets say $250/month).

so, you have paid $2750 out of your bluebird account.

you take the remaining $2250 that is left in bluebird and pay that towards your balance on the american airlines card (just like you would with your normal checking account, with online bill pay)

$5000 in purchases on AA card – $2250 in payments towards card =$2750 left due on AA card.

now, take the $2750 that you would have paid from your normal checking account, and pay that towards the balance due on your AA card.

your AA card balance is now $0. you have paid your monthly bills. and you have fulfilled $5000 of the $10,000 in minimum spend to get your CC awards.

easy, peezy.

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Cards to get:

Starwoods from Amex

each of you should get the starwoods card from american express.
requirement: $5000 in spend in 6 months = 25000 star points
star woods card <–link here
This card is great. you can use it to get free hotel nights or use “cash and points (which i prefer)” to seriously reduce the cost of a nights stay.
The other benefit of this card is it has a TON of transfer partners that you can push points to like airline and hotel partners. The flexibility of starpoints makes this one of the most useful point programs out there.

Total info for 2 cards: $10K/6 months = 60,000 starpoints (50,000 starpoints from the bonus + 10,000 starpoints from your spend)

American Airlines cards

https://creditcards.citicards.com/usc/Travel/AA/2013/q3/Exec/GA/default.htm?BT_TX=1&ProspectID=8289431BF5BC49478648B92A43DF07A8
After a very quick search, American airlines round trip to Bangkok in business costs 55K miles each way. The card I would recommend is worth 100K miles. With the $10K in spend needed to satisfy the minimum, you will have your 110K miles needed for your roundtrip. BAM!! See how easy that was?
Total info for 2 cards: $20K/3 months = 220,000 american airlines miles (200,000 miles from bonus + 20,000 miles from your spend)

Required spend for 2 cards each = $30,000 ($20K in 3 months, $10K in 6 months)
WOA!! thats a lot of money.. right? nope… If you each did $5000 in vanilla gift card purchases each month for the next 3 months, that would be $5000*3(months)*2(people) = $30,000

All done. NICE AND EASY!

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One more card each… why not
There is one other card that I would recommend for each of you: That is the chase sapphire preferred. It is not absolutely necessary, but it will help you out with hotel bookings or if you need to find flights domestically to take a short trip or vacay or minimoon, etc)

Chase Sapphire
https://applynow.chase.com/FlexAppWeb/renderApp.do?SPID=F7F8&CELL=6H8X&AFFID=xDpEzOEw4a4-QFtiFRcoAwbhiC9pmAqVmg&pvid=F520151379&jp_cmp=cc/307156/aff/3-10002111/na
This card earns Ultimate Rewards points. they are very similar to starpoints because their points are transferable to a bunch of partners.
This card has a minimum spend of $3000/3months to get 45,000 points. again, you’ll have at least an additional 3,000 points after you spend the required money to get the points.
total info for 2 cards: $6000/3 months = 96,000 ultimate rewards points (90,000 starpoints from bonus + 6,000 starpoints from your spend)

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so, lets update the “what you need to spend” chart
$30,000+$6000=$36,000/6 months ($26K in the first 3 months, $10K in the next 3[for those starwoods cards])
$10,000 in vanilla purchase would take approximately 4 months to hit your spends
(note: make sure to hit the sapphire and american airlines cards spend first because you have an extra 3 months on the star woods cards).

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Where this will leave you points and miles wise:
You will have approx 220,000 american airlines miles – enough for 2 roundtrip tickets to bangkok (or similar) in business class
You will have approx 96,000 ultimate rewards points which are transferable to partners such as hyatt, marriott and airline partners
You will have approx 60,000 starpoints which are also transferable to a bunch of partners or usable at starwoods properties all over the world (there are some very nice ones in thailand)

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