Thought I’d throw this out there. I’ve been dealing with a lot of last-minute Christmas-related… stuff, and went the gift card route to give as gifts for a few family members.


prime

I saw this pop up as an option, and it’s quite a good one: gift someone a year of Amazon Prime Membership.

The main benefits are:

  • Prime Photos – unlimited photo storage
  • Prime Music – stream music for free directly from the website
  • Prime Instant Video – stream movies and TV shows (they are coming out with original programming next year)
  • Kindle Owners’ Lending Library – “rent” a book per month on your Kindle
  • FREE TWO-DAY SHIPPING

The biggest draw is definitely the free two-day shipping. Their products are competitively priced – and I am a huge comparison shopper. They also offer discounts for recurring subscriptions to certain products.

I have been an Amazon Prime member since 2010. My first year was free because I was in college at the time (this is still a thing… link below!). They didn’t have any of the media stuff included with the membership back then. It was just the shipping perk.

I’ve used it enough the past few years and am happy to continue paying for it. I know the free shipping I’ve gotten just this year would’ve cost me quite literally thousands of dollars. I got a lot of furniture items shipped, and that ain’t cheap.

I have also ordered a few single items here and there, simply because I know I can. There’s no pressure to meet a minimum shipping threshold, and you can try something out quickly and cheaply, which I appreciate.

Two other things

If this isn’t timely, or is too much to commit to, there are two other things to try:

A 30-day free trial

OR

Get it for free if you’re a college student! (Must have a .edu email address and submit proof of enrollment.)

The free version for college students is what got me hooked. But even if you’re not in school, the 30-day free trial can at least get you free two-day shipping to have some “sorry I’m late” gifts delivered slightly after the Christmas holiday.

Bottom line

This post is niche even for me, but just wanted to throw this out just in case. I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled craziness after the holiday and have some very big news for the blog coming up in the New Year!

Warmest holidays to my readers!

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Yesterday, I was out with a friend for lunch. When the check came, I threw down my Chase Sapphire Preferred to get double points on dining. He put down a Barclays US Airways World MasterCard. I was kind of surprised, since I didn’t know he was into points and miles.

“That’s a pretty good card,” I said, thinking about how I’d just gotten it the week before.

“The points are useless,” he replied. “I never earn enough to actually go anywhere.”

Ummm… I definitely don’t have this problem.

Also see:

My habit loop

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I recently got a thoughtful email from a reader with a few questions about FoundersCard benefits (HT: Kevin).

I’ve written before about the many benefits FoundersCard offers.

Also see:

I thought I’d turn my reply into a blog post as others might have similar questions before deciding to sign up for the card.

His email:

Let me get your advice…

1.  I am already BA Gold (Emerald) but could use a bit of VS Silver and CX Silver headstarts… and definitely could use the 10% off on US-originating BA flights to the UK (and the rest of Europe?).

2.  I’m already Avis Presidents’ Club so not sure about the Car Rental benefits.

3.  Especially keen on the hotel discounts, eg Park Hyatt Tokyo, SLS in Los Angeles.   Would you be able to share with me as a prospect what the rates are at these properties if you have the FoundersCard?

Awesome questions! I’ll go in order.

#1

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Off the heels of Chase’s recent refer-a-friend program, American Express is letting cardmembers refer new members to cards they currently hold.

American Express Refer a Friend landing page

American Express Refer a Friend landing page

I’m down to two American Express cards at the moment – the Platinum Card, and the Amex EveryDay Preferred (which I love).

Here’s what my offers look like:

Screenshot 2014-12-09 00.20.07

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Last week, I finally bit the bullet and got the US Airways MasterCard with 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase and payment of the annual fee.

I made my first purchase, and then the annual fee hit. I paid it. And while waiting for my 40K miles, I saw that a new, better offer had come swimming along: 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase and payment of the annual fee.

Grrr. Hate when that happens.

Now, in the past, Chase has always been so kind about things like this. I wanted to see if Barclays would match me to the new 50K offer.

I spent maybe 2 minutes logging into my account and writing them an email.

Screenshot 2014-12-08 23.34.26

They replied with a few hours and said they would match me! Here is what I wrote them and their reply:

Screenshot 2014-12-08 10.15.38

How cool is that? I wrote on the night of 12/4, got a reply back on 12/5, and guess what happened on 12/6?

Screenshot 2014-12-08 11.31.51

Bottom line

I value all my points and miles at 2 cents each, so this extra 10,000 miles is worth $200 to me. It’s almost enough for a free domestic one-way or 1/3 of a round-trip off-season award ticket to Europe or South America (when they eventually become AAdvantage miles). Not bad for typing a few sentences and asking.

Sometimes the best way to get points and miles is simply to ask for them. If you’ve gotten this card recently (past ~90 days), it’s worth a shot to get an extra 10K miles. Anyone else been able to bump their bonus?

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I have set up an Airbnb here in NYC as a new income stream.

There has been a lot of spilled ink about Airbnb lately, especially in New York where it is a VERY hot topic, to say the least. I work in real estate, so am particularly close to the issue.

I found an ideal one bedroom apartment in New York’s East Village neighborhood for $2,300 a month. And then I spent a lot of money on it. This post is about exploring the investment and starting up this side income stream with a focus on numbers. REAL numbers (except my electricity bill which I have to estimate.)

Cash outlay

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No doubt that the landscape of “the game” has greatly changed recently. Alas, there is no more Bluebird, Vanilla reloads are long gone, and even our trusty Serve is taking a knocking from cash advance fees. Oh, and Amazon Payments finally closed down its cash cow. Yet it trundles on. Here are a few things I’m looking forward to and can’t wait to write about in the upcoming months:

REDbird

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Be the elephant

<3

While brainstorming for my previous post, 7 Awesome Uses of Evernote for Travelers, I found some really inventive ways to use this app in ways other traveling and thought I shouldn’t keep it to myself. Thus, this entry. So pardon for the Evernote bonanza!

Evernote is one of those apps that found its way into my life gradually, then suddenly, and now I use it all day every day, for hundreds of tiny things. It really is my external brain, and increasingly, as I use it to remember the things I love and the goals I hold dear, my external heart.

Here are some other things to use Evernote for.

1. Brainstorming.

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Be the elephant

Be the elephant

It’s no secret that I love Evernote. It’s available on every platform and every device. The web clipper is a godsend. I use it for so many things, including my obsession interest with points and miles and to help me while traveling. Here are 7 uses that never get old.

1.  Make a notebook of every one of your trips.

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Ladies and gentlemen, one of the craziest things I have ever done (other than using Airbnb as a verb in the title).

I just rented an apartment in Manhattan for the express purpose of listing it on Airbnb. 

airbnb-log-100009316-orig

As some of you know, I work in real estate in New York, so I’m privy to rentals and have seen a lot of spilled ink on the whole Airbnb debate. It’s a very hot topic in the city right now.

I heard of an apartment in the East Village that was sitting there, easy approval, beautiful block, door was open if I wanted to go check it out.

A few people in my office have Airbnb apartments and seeing their calendars full of green (which means days booked) got me thinking.

So when I walked into that apartment, I quickly ran some numbers and just like that, decided to go for it.

Starting up

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Everyone knows I’m Mr. Earn and Burn: I typically like to keep my miles balances as close to zero as possible.

I don’t trust any mileage or point program, really. Not for a second. Every major airline has had a drastic, no-notice-given change to their mileage program this year.

That being said, I like to have a little stash.

Where to keep the stash and how many to tuck away

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Fidelity-Amex

You da best

Had to get this off my chest.

There’s always a lot of talk in the points and miles world about which cashback card is “the best.” The speculation is constant, rampant.

  • Bank of America recently introduced a card where one could get 2.65 points per dollar so long as they dump $100,000 into an investment account.
  • The Barclaycard Arrival always gets mentioned because it’s an effective 2.22% cashback on travel purchases.
  • Citibank has a new one too: the Citi Double Cash card.
  • Freedom gets a mention due to its rotating 5% categories, which yes, is a good deal, and yes you can cash it out (but keep them for Ultimate Rewards transfers!).
  • Then there’s the Fidelity Investment Rewards Amex.

Why it’s the king

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    Random Travel Quotes

    “There is a certain amount of comfort and confidence that you gain with yourself when you go to this new place and start all over again, and a knowledge that — come what may in the rest of your life — you were capable of taking that leap and landing softly at least once.”
    What happens when you live abroad - Thought Catalog