credit cards

Introduction to Manufactured Spending

Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland, Ohio

Manufactured spending can be defined as spending money without actually spending money. In other words, the credit card company thinks that you have spent the money, but you have not actually spent any cash, as the money was simply transferred to  another form of currency. Manufactured spending is most often used to obtain credit card reward points, either through regular rewards when spending, or bonuses after hitting a certain amount of spending within a time frame.

For example, one form of manufactured spending has been to send money to another party through Amazon payments. When this occurs, the amount will be charged to your credit card, and the money will be made available to the party of your choosing. This is applicable to manufactured spending, as you can simply send the money to a friend, have the friend write you a check for the amount of the spend, and then this money can be applied to the credit card that was used to send the money using Amazon payments. All in all, this results in $1,000 in spending on your credit card without much work at all.

Manufactured spending can be used to hit sign-up bonuses for credit cards that would be out of the range of your regular expenses. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred often has a bonus of 40,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Even if you don’t have enough expenses to reach this spending amount in the time period, manufactured spending can help you reach this goal and you can obtain this lucrative bonus, which is worth upwards of $500 in travel rewards. See this post for some common manufactured spending techniques.

Overall, with some creativity and planning of purchasing, along with manufactured spending, you can be on your way to rewards in the form of free all inclusive travel and cash back.

 

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The Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus September 2014: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred Sign-Up 40,000 Points Bonus

Overview
There are two ways to get points on credit cards: the first is to spend as you normally do, and the second is to obtain bonus points by making a set amount of purchases within a certain time frame. The latter is most often more lucrative as credit cared companies will entice customers with large amounts of cash back in exchange for the customer to sign up for the card. As I am a major component of responsible credit card spending, I see these offers as a great opportunity to receive bonus points that can applied to travel, cash back, and even statement credit in some cases.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
In this post I am going to go over the Sapphire Preferred Card that is offered by Chase, and the associated sign up bonus. This is one of the best cards out there due to its large sign-up bonus, flexibility of the Ultimate Rewards program, and the face that the card is a Visa Signature Card, which can be used almost anywhere throughout the world. In addition, one of the perks of the card is that it does not have foreign transaction fees.

Bonus 
As of the time of this writing, the readily available bonus for the card, which can be seen below, is 40,000 points after $3,000 of spending in the three months after opening the card. This is easily obtainable by focusing your spending on this card. In addition, there are various ways to “Manufacture Spend” and hit this goal without any financial outlay. A quick google search will yield plenty of results on this topic. When these points are used for travel on the Ultimate Rewards website, they have a cash value of $500. Additionally, these points can be taken as cash back, with 1 cent equal to 1 ultimate reward point, which would result in $400 in cash back.

Ultimate Reward Flexibility
Overall, one of the largest benefits of the Ultimate Rewards program is the ability to transfer points to Hotel and Airline partners. These include United, Hyatt, Marriot, and many other useful travel options. This means that you can take advantage of these programs to get the most out of your Ultimate Rewards points, as this offers tons of flexibility when it comes to redemption.

In my case, I was recently able to book a stay for an upcoming wedding that I will be attending in September at a Hyatt property. The hotel would have gone for $229 a night, but I was able to book the room with 8,000 ultimate rewards points, which resulted in a value of almost 3 cents a point! By utilizing this rate for the bonus on initial sign-up, you can see just how much the 40,000 points could potentially be worth.

First year fee waived
An additional bonus of the card is that the annual fee is waived in the first year, which would be $95. This essentially makes signing up for the card a no-brainer. When the end of the promotion period comes, you can decide to keep the card and continue to receive the great benefits that come with it, or you can simply downgrade to the no-fee Chase Sapphire card or even the Chase Freedom Card.

Conclusion
Overall, based on the flexibility of reward points, high amount of bonus, waived fee in the first year and relatively obtainable minimum spending amount required to receive the bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a great candidate for the credit card with the best sign-up bonus at this time.

How to Receive a Vacation at an All Inclusive Resort for Free

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One of the best ways to travel these days are by the way of all inclusive stays, because who wants to worry about money on vacation. Like most things however, this type of convenience often comes at a high price. To get around these fees, I was able to take advantage of credit card sign up bonuses to book a room at a Caribbean resort for no charge. This is one of the key items mentioned in my previous post on easy ways to save money. This is because both the room and food are included with the room booking.

Hyatt Credit Card 
The first step in this process was singing up for the Hyatt credit card through Chase. This credit card gives you two free nights upon spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening, which is pretty obtainable by putting regular spending on the card. You can also use methods like Amazon payments, American Express Serve, and gift cards as noted in my previous article on manufactured spending. Once this is done, you will have two free nights to use at any Hyatt hotel in the world, which could have a value of up to $1,000 a night for some of the more luxurious properties. For this post we will focus on the all-inclusive options, but see this post for some other ideas on where the reward can be used.

Hyatt All-Inclusive Properties
Hyatt has recently gotten into the all-inclusive resort game, which is a great thing for those of us who have accumulated Ultimate Reward, Hyatt free nights and Hyatt points. Not only will the reward cover the room, but it will also include all food and beverage during your stay. This is fantastic for a frugal travel as you will avoid the often high costs of food while traveling, as you are often in a tourist area with high prices, which is often the case when you are out of the country.

The property that I will be focusing on is the Hyatt Zilara Cancun, which is a luxurious adult-only all-inclusive resort in Mexico. The Hyatt also has the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, which is family friendly. The Hyatt Zilara, with rave reviews on the service, location, and food, which makes it a no brainer for a great vacation. Every room has an ocean view, and the surroundings are paradise. In addition, the rooms hover around $500 per night, which gives you a great value when using your free stays. In addition, you can book rooms for 25,000 points/night by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points (sign-up offer) or Hyatt points earned through the card.

Rooms can be booked by calling into the Hyatt Gold Passport customer service, which can tell you availability and book your room very easily. Overall, this is a fantastic value and a reason alone to sign up for the Hyatt Credit Card.

Conclusion
I hope that this post has proved that traveling luxuriously can be obtained on a budget, as the above solution results in two nights at a fabulous all-inclusive property for nothing out of pocket. Hyatt’s entrance into this space is a welcome addition to the hotel scene and is a very reliable way to take advantage of reward points that have been earned through responsible spending.

How to Get Your Credit Score Free On a Monthly Basis

A credit score is something that is somewhat elusive and cryptic in personal finance, but simply ignoring your score can harm your finances, and potentially lead to financial ruin. Although advertisements for services such as FreeCreditReport.com proclaim free access to your credit, these often do not come with an actual score, and often lead to monthly fees. One of the trends that has been occuring within the credit card companies is to offer a free score every month with your statement. This is a great tool to take advantage of as it will give you an updated score on a regular basis to use for your resource. Listed below are credit card companies that offer your FICO score on your monthly report and a recommended card for each.

One of the best things that Discover has going for it is their customer service. All of my dealings with the company have been nothing but pleasurable. In addition, they offer an online chat service in which you can directly chat with a representative that is more than willing to address any questions.
One of the great things about the BarclayCard is that points can be used for any travel expenses, which can include hotel stays, flights, and even taxis. This means that, unlike many other rewards systems, hotels and flights can be booked at a discount from sites like Kayak or Hotwire, and the points are then used to reduce the amount on your monthly statement. This is a great resource for thrifty travelers as you save the hassle of booking through the specific reward sites, which are often cumbersome and timely.

5 Factors to a Healthy Credit Score

Your credit score is a very cryptic but important thing. From buying a house to obtaining a job, your credit score can play a role in how well these events turn out. In this post, I will describe the various factors that factor into your credit score, with upcoming articles that focus on how to improve in these areas. Feel free to voice in the comments your tips or questions!

Credit Card Utilization – Lower is better
This is one of the most confusing aspects of your credit score. Utilization is how much of your credit you are using when it is reported to the bureaus. Most often, this occurs a few days before of after your billing date. A good utilization is generally in the 1-20% range. Some people interpret this to mean that you should carry a balance month to month. This is not the case, as the your balance is reported, and you can simply pay before the payment date with no interest incurred. By utilizing a small percentage of your credit at any given time, it lets potential loaners know that you can effectively use the credit that has been given to you within a set limit.

Payment History – Regular, on-time payment is preferred
One of the most important aspects of your score is your payment history, which is what it sounds, the actual payments that have been made on your debt accounts. An effective payment history is one that has established on time payments over a variety of accounts.

Age of Credit History – Older is better
This factor is most often out of your control, as there are few things that can improve this category other than simply the time that your accounts have been open. Overall, this category is the average amount of time it has been since you opened your credit cards. This is important to the bureaus because it tells them that you have maintained credit lines for a set amount of time and negates the risk that your are opening and closing lines recklessly.

Total Accounts – Higher number is better
This category of your score is based on the number of debt accounts that you have open across a variety of institutions, including credit cards, car loans, and mortgages. Institutions often like to see a larger amount of accounts as it indicates that your debt is established across a variety of uses, and also indicates that you are responsible in handling different instances of debt.

Credit Inquiries – Lower is better
When you apply for a credit card of other type of lending instrument, there is what is called a “hard pull”, which means that the institution is obtaining your credit score. These hard pulls are accumulated and factor into your score. A lower amount is preferable as it indicates to a lender that you are applying for credit in a responsible manner and not abusing the lending process.

Derogatory Marks – Lower is better 
This is a more obvious category but should not be taken lightly. Derogatory marks on your credit appear as a result of collections, bankruptcies, civil judgments, and liens and can potentially harm your score for years if they occur.

Overall, some of the categories may seem somewhat counter intuitive when it comes to evaluation of your score, but when you think about it from a lenders perspective, a large number of accounts that have had regular, on-time use and payment is what they are looking for.

Amazon Payments Removing Free $1,000 Monthly Transfers | The Points Guy

This is a very disappointing development, as Amazon Payments could be used to send up to $1,000 per month to a friend on a credit card for free. There is no doubt, however, that there will be other methods of sending money that will pop up.

Amazon Payments Removing Free $1,000 Monthly Transfers | The Points Guy.