Also see: Rom’s Deals take on a retention offer Screenshot 2014-05-14 08.45.39

Oh man, I have so much to tell you guys about. The trip to Paris, BA lie-flat biz class, and thoughts about Amex, interest charges, and assorted travel fun. But first things first.

The sitch

I think I mentioned that I bought a couple of Amex gift cards via the Barclaycard RewardsBoost portal before. Anyway, I did. I bought two for $1,000 each. The first time, I paid $8.95 in shipping and activation fees, while the second time, I didn’t (I signed up for a 90-day trial of the premium shipping plan). Before buying, I made sure to click through the RewardsBoost portal given by my Arrivalcard. Then I waited for 8 weeks.

Nothing.

I bought other things through the portal too, from J. Crew and drugstore.com. Those all posted fine.

I am now well-dressed

I am now well-dressed

But I was still waiting on eight thousand points to post worth over $88 in travel redemptions (4x points x $2,000 of spend).

Then, somewhere along the line, I got hit with the $89 annual fee and was sent a new Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard.

The “in”

After 8 weeks passed, I gave ol’ Barclays a WTF call. 8,000 points isn’t a ton of points, but it also ain’t nothin’. I gave them my Amex order numbers and the exact amounts of the purchases. They’ve promised to post the missing points in the next 7-10 days.

Then, right after, I mentioned how the annual fee had just hit and asked if there was any way I could continue evaluating the card fee-free due to the recent error and subsequent over-two-month wait in getting points posted.

At that point, I was transferred to a manager.

I explained that I’d been waiting for over 8 weeks on some points, had just received a new World Elite MasterCard, and was still a little on the fence about where to direct the bulk of my spend. I mentioned using the card recently on a trip to Paris, and how I would’ve normally given that spend to Chase instead.

The agent reviewed my account, reviewed my recent spend, and then really impressed me. She waived the $89 annual fee, said she’d personally follow up on the missing 8K points, and gave me an additional 5,000 points for the trouble. I had a moment where I was so impressed with the customer service that all I could say was “Wow.”

Why I think I was offered this

The “in” was the trouble with the portal points posting. BUT, I have been using the Arrivalcard for regular spend. Barclays is a bank that really values engagement with their products. I’ve had a card with them for over 7 years now (the ill-fated Icelandair MasterCard), and made sure to ramp up the spending on the Arrivalcard to demonstrate my willingness to have a banking relationship with them. Their motto is very literally “show me the money.”

Knowing this, I also think they would’ve said they couldn’t waive the fee had I not spent anything on the card in the previous six months. The points trouble was my “in” but the relationship was the kicker.

I really value that. I like knowing that they want my relationship and that they’ll take care of me for giving them my loyalty.

Bottom line

Barclays offered to fix their error, bounced me 5,000 points for the trouble, and waived the $89 annual fee on the new Arrivalcard World Elite MasterCard  - just for making a phone call. They are a bank that looks for relationships with the customers, and in the end, I have to say I really respect them for the way they treated my (very minor) issue.

I’m super impressed by this level of customer service and will definitely be funneling some of my non-bonused spend through this card, especially in conjunction with their super lucrative RewardsBoost portal (and definitely when they offer 4x points on Amex gift cards).

Has anyone else gotten an offer like this? Or had any experiences with Barclays lately?

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From the I’ll-never-use-this files (similar to my previous pondering about Alaska’s MileagePlan), I stumbled upon the Shell Fuel Rewards Network and wanted to share an overview of the program because it looked really interesting.

Stop me if you’ve already heard about it and I must also disclaim: I live in New York City. I don’t have a car. I don’t even know where the closest Shell station is. But I signed up for the Fuel Rewards Network program all the same.

Why?

Automated savings

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You're interesting

You’re interesting

I’ve been curious about Alaska’s MileagePlan program for a while. Between trying out Delta, then racing to qualify for status on American, Alaska has always been that airline that I’ve known about but never really explored. MileagePlan was discussed quite a bit at April’s FTU, and since then, I’ve been looking into the program more.

Pros and Cons

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Just the Tip(s), Queer and There

I’ve written before about the benefits of FoundersCard.

Quick overview of current bennies

They partner with American Airlines to offer a unique benefit each quarter. In the past, they’ve had discounts of 5% or 10% off most fares on AA metal, which can be quite a nice break with you fly American a lot.

Here are the current airline benefits:

  • Virgin Atlantic: Complimentary Flying Club Silver Elite Status & Fast Track to Gold Elite Status
  • Virgin Atlantic: Up to 20% off US & Vancouver originating Flights to the UK
  • Cathay Pacific: Complimentary Marco Polo Club Silver Tier Status
  • Cathay Pacific: 5-25% off flights
  • JetBlue: FoundersCard Members save 5% on fares (excluding multi-city trips)
  • Qantas: FoundersCard Members receive up to 25% off travel between US, Australia, and New Zealand. Discounts are available on most classes of service
  • Emirates: 5-15% off fares for US originating flights
  • British Airways: 10% off most roundtrip US, UK & Canada originating airfares

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Also see:

Screenshot 2014-05-14 08.45.39

A new World Elite

I’d already decided last month to keep the Barclaycard Arrival for another year. This weekend, I logged in to see if some points had posted for the gifts cards I purchased on a recent spree of manufactured spend.

I was asked to verify my address and contact info – no biggie, didn’t think too much of it. And then, I noticed the logo of the Arrival card looked a little different. It was now a Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.

Surely enough, the entire blogosphere exploded with this news. I’m not one to parrot news, so I’d recommend reading this post by Million Mile Secrets that outlines all the new changes. I already have a World Elite Mastercard (the Ink Plus from Chase), but having two of a nice product never hurts. Read More

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AMEX-Serve-Logo

Ah, my adventures in Serve.

They are doing their best to make sure the product is secure, I’ll give ‘em that.

When I originally got the Serve card, I wanted to find out which banks charge cash advance fees for reloading with a credit card. My idea was to load $5 from each bank’s credit card and report the results. Not so fast.

One card

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Also see:

I just reviewed my latest post and I’ve written about Amex a LOT recently. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. Chase’s products are functioning smoothly and as they should; I still love the Arrival card; still jammin’ on my Club Carlson Visa. The only anomaly recently has been with Amex.

Smell ya later, PRG

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I was a bad boy for both flights and showed up at the airport in time to hop into the boarding lane and sit down at my seat. The events leading up to both points were harried. Teeth were knashed, hands were wrung, but I made it. I didn’t have time to make a visit to the new SkyClub at T4, though I was very close it. I’ve been there before and wasn’t overly impressed. If anything, I would’ve liked to’ve seen if the recent Amex Platinum Card changes have thinned the ranks somewhat, because last time was a crowded, near-hellish experience. And at SEA, I didn’t want to miss any of FTU so left as late as possible.

I do have to give it to Delta. They’ve got things figured out. Their operations are great, they’re profitable, and the flights I were on were damn near full. Good for them.

I wish Delta’s SkyMiles program was different. I wish they treated their partners like partners and not bastard stepchildren (American, by contrast, treats their partners very well). I wish they’d step off of this revenue kick they’ve been on lately and keep things like how they were before. But that’s all “wishful” thinking.

The flights

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I wrote yesterday about the new ability to see category bonuses on the Amex website. I also wrote previously about a secret/hidden benefit of the PRG card – that online transactions were posting at 3 points per dollar. In introducing this new category bonus transparency, Amex revealed two things: 1) the unpublished 3x bonus was long-lived and 2) it is now gone.

Screenshot 2014-04-28 12.19.08

3 points per dollar for Amazon Payments? Yes, please!

 

Screenshot 2014-04-28 12.23.29

 

In the first photo, from May 2013, you can see that I had luck getting 3 Membership Rewards per dollar for all online transactions, including Amazon Payments. As you can imagine, this was a boon for my manufactured spending. I also got the 3x bonus for Birchbox, an online subscription service.

In the second photo, from March 2014, I got the standard 1 point per dollar – but it is coded as an internet purchase, NOT a cash advance, which is good to know – and it did earn me Membership Rewards points.

Bottom line

I was hanging on to the PRG card for this unpublished benefit. Now that it’s gone, and I have the EveryDay Preferred card, I have no use for this card any mre. And at $175 per year, it screams “cancel me.”

Going forward, I recommend the EveryDay Preferred card unless you know you’ll meet the $30,000 spending threshold to get the 15K Membership Rewards bonus. In all other cases, default to the EveryDay Preferred. You can read more of my analysis of these two cards in this post.

Having that bonus for online transactions was a good benefit. Now that category bonuses are visible on the website, it seems that this benefit has been removed.

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Dear readers, I have two things hanging around that I know I won’t use. You all know how much I love Kohl’s, and I have $10 in Kohl’s cash that I’d like to give away to someone who’ll use it, as well as a promo code for shoes.com

Kohl’s Cash

Screenshot 2014-04-29 15.05.34

It’s only $10, but I’d hate to see it go to waste. It’s good until May 3rd. Leave a comment here on this post with your email, and I’ll send it over on Thursday, May 1st. Be sure to specify whether you’d like the Kohl’s Cash or shoes.com code.

Shoes.com

I bought some Chucks and got a promo code included for $15 off any order over $75. If you hit it right at about $75, this equates to ~20% off. This one’s good until May 31st. Leave a comment here on this post with your email, and I’ll send it over on Thursday, May 8th. Be sure to specify whether you’d like the Kohl’s Cash or shoes.com code.

Bottom line

And that’s it. I know it’s not a lot, but I’d rather give these away that let them expire.

Thanks for reading Out & Out!

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Also see:

Background

It’s no secret that Amex LOVES to screw me out of signup bonuses due to incompetent phone agents, and (admittedly) my own love of drunken app-o-ramas whereby I don’t properly read the T&Cs.

But, I am happy to report, I HAVE RECEIVED AN AMEX SIGNUP BONUS for the EveryDay Preferred card.

Interesting to note: the bonus posted when the statement closed, which is unusual for Amex. The bonus usually posts about two months later after being tantalizingly viewable in the “Pending points” section of Amex for over a month.

In fact, I was SO not expecting that I only found out about it via an email from AwardWallet (which everyone should have if you don’t already).

Screenshot 2014-04-28 15.05.36

 

Sure enough, this was reflected on my Amex account:

Screenshot 2014-04-28 12.21.38

 

Notes/Observations

My rewards accounts are always low. That’s because I earn and BURN. Don’t trust any program for too long. They can and WILL devalue.

15K Membership Rewards is enough for a round-trip ticket to Toronto or Montreal from NYC, or any other short-haul flight on American or US Airways via British Airways Avios. It is also enough to fly to the Caribbean one-way from NYC.  It is also enough for a domestic one-way with lots of other programs (Aeroplan and JetBlue come to mind) . Be sure to review the full list of Amex partners and keep all your options open as they have 17 airline partners.

This bonus isn’t hefty or anything, but the earning potential sure is. Now, if they’d only increase my credit limit, I’d be a total happy camper.

Bottom line

Yay for Amex! And bonus points (not the kind that you can use for travel) if you immediately knew the title of this post is a quote from Romy and Michele. :)

Amex is the company I hate to love and love to hate. Finally, after over two years, I have received an Amex bonus. The earth is moving.

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prg-bonus-activity

While poking around the Amex website today, I headed over to the Membership Rewards section and saw something I’ve never seen before. They’ve added a super helpful new feature that shows you an exact breakdown of every points-eligible transaction for each statement period. Chase has had this functionality for a few of their cards for a while, so kudos to Amex for adding this.

Screenshot 2014-04-28 12.17.01

Here’s an example of activity from my Premier Rewards Gold account. I paid $7.50 for taxes on my recent award ticket to Seattle for FTU when I burned all my SkyMiles. Airfare earns 3 points per dollar, and sure enough, that earning structure is reflected in this transaction.

It also shows activity for gas, grocery, and other bonus category purchases (depending on the card). Also interesting is that it worked for all of my Amex accounts. I have four at this point: Delta Platinum SkyMiles, the Platinum Card, the EveryDay Preferred, and the PRG (as in the pic above).

To view your activity, click the “Rewards” tab, then “Activity Detail.” Your recent statements will appear with a note that says “See Card Bonus Detail” if you had eligible purchases in that statement period.

Bottom line

While not earth-shattering, this is a nice perk that helps you to track benefits more efficiently. It has also lead me to plan a rewrite for a previous post about a possible hidden benefit of the PRG card.

Curious if this works for ALL of their cards or just some of them. Does anyone else see this new bonus category breakdown when they log into their Amex accounts?

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Twits

    Random Travel Quotes

    “The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
    G.K. Chesterton