Why Bother With a Credit Card?

When I turned 18 my dad got a credit card in my name and kept it to make small purchases, pay them off immediately, and start building my credit history. I still have that credit card but hardly use it – there’s no point! I get nothing for it except the stress of having to pay off a credit card once a month.

My husband however has no credit card and an in-the-middle credit score because of it. Now that our finances are fully merged and we’re looking to plan some vacations we decided to explore some rewards cards. I’m not a big lover of credit cards because I don’t want to spend beyond my means and I think they absolutely encourage over spending! Even if you’re an avid bank account watcher you can still be fooled by high balances if you have credit card payments lurking out there.  BUT I’ve proven to myself that I don’t let this happen so rewards card it is!

So it’s fortunate timing that Chris Guillbeau at The Art of Non-Conformity just wrote a great Q&A piece about managing miles. Here’s a snippet of his advice:

Q. I can only get 1-2 cards. Which should I get?

A. Different cards work better for different people, but long story short, my new favorite is the Chase Sapphire card. It offers a mega-bonus of 50,000 points which can be transferred to a variety of airline and hotel partners (including United/Continental and Hyatt), no foreign transaction fees, and the annual fee is waived for year one.

I also like the AA Citi cards and have been getting them for years on a 90-day cycle, reapplying after I’ve fulfilled the requirements for one card, getting the bonus, and then moving on to another.

Q. Do you cancel the cards after a year, when the annual fee comes due?

A. I usually keep them for a year, then see what happens. Sometimes I call up and say I want to cancel and they waive the fee. Other times, they shift the card into a no-fee version (which doesn’t earn as many points, but I don’t care since I’m not actively using it then).

On a couple of occasions, I’ve kept the card and paid the fee if I’m still using it frequently.

Q. Can I get a business card without a business?

A. Yes. One of the easiest ways to double your points bonus is to get both a personal and business card from the same issuer. For example, you can get the Chase Sapphire card mentioned above and receive a 50,000 point bonus—and you can also get the Chase Ink Bold card and receive an additional 50,000 points. The same strategy holds with the Starwood Preferred Guest Business card.

Similarly, you can get an AA card from Citi for a 30,000 mile bonus, and also add the AA Hilton version for an additional 40,000 Hilton hotel points. If you have a willing spouse or partner, they can do their own applications—so as you can imagine, the bonuses add up very quickly.

Q: What about cards for outside the U.S.?

A. There are some, but not many. In Canada we recommend the AmEx Business Gold card, which includes a 25,000 point bonus after completing an initial spend of $3,000, and the AmEx Starwood cards (two versions) which each offer an immediate 15,000 point bonus. If we find more for Canada or other countries, we’ll add them to the list.

We chose to go with Capital One Venture card because 1) no annual fee 2) decent APR (in case something happens and we can’t pay back immediately) 3) good rewards in our opinion. I’m not a fan of annual fees; in fact I booked it out of BoA when they started charging fees for using their debit cards. Blech! But I didn’t know you could get a business card without a business – did you??

Chris answers a question about managing multiple cards and I have to admit, I wouldn’t want to do that and I don’t see the benefit. As it is we all juggle our finances – remembering to pay bills on time, move money around to various accounts, track spending – so it seems like too big of a hassle to manage multiple credit cards especially when mismanagement can hurt you. However, if you’re up for the challenge, you can also reap some great rewards (especially if you’re a world traveler like Chris or aspiring to be one like me)

 

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Good To Be Home

Whew…it’s been a long & super fun journey and now I am married and honeymooned and excited to talk all about it.

Unfortunately there’s a lot to clean up. We had non-stop partying in our apartment for roughly 4 days and 2 weeks of dirty honeymoon clothes to wash up. SO! Today is repair and recover day (18 hours of traveling from Sevilla to Baltimore).

But this week I look forward to writing and posting pictures from the wedding and trip to Espana! I’m pretty psyched about my new job which I start on Monday and there’s a bit of commentary to make on Halloween and Occupy Wall Street.

Be Right Back

Well, it’s that time. The family is starting to roll in and wedding events will be commencing. This is serious business!

That means I need to take a little break from My Orange Chair. I will be back with stories and pictures!

Where I’ve Been

I’m usually wary of Facebook add-ons that you have to give access to all of your profile information. They feel like extra clutter to me in an already very busy cyber-connection grid.

However, a friend of mine recently used one called “Where I’ve Been” and it said that he had traveled 5% of the world. I think statistics like this are fascinating and I was curious about my percentage.  The application got some very strange data about where I had lived, been, and wanted to go (30% of which was not accurate).You are able to change your information on an interactive map so I went in and corrected it.

Here’s my map – I left out where I want to go because that’s basically everywhere. http://www.whereivebeen.com/map.php?uID=1292091&iID=432f71c7edf9e6886708f514acac8da2

*that’s 4% of the world I have been to*
The feature I particularly enjoy about Where I’ve Been is the Travel Bucks. Now this may seem really silly – but it’s what I consider a very cool way to include philanthropy in a facebook app. By interacting with Where I’ve Been you earn travel bucks that you can use to: 
* Save a square foot of rainforest
* Feed a child in mali 
* Adopt a manatee 
and a lot more. 
Not only do you get to create a virtual passport with which you can flex your traveling skills, but you can do some good while you’re at it! 

Going Abroad

For two years now I have worked with an organization that places foreign students from all over the world with American families for a year. This year I am working with one girl who has been here for about a week and already feels like giving up. She says it is a flaw in her character – that she is not homesick, but just doesn’t feel like this is an experience that will give her anything. 

I imagine that at that age, it’s really hard to see past the immediate problems. If it’s hard it’s hard, if it’s easy it’s easy and there’s no middle ground. 
I tried to share with her how I felt when I was in Ghana. There were many times where I felt lonely, hot, and anxious. There wasn’t always much to do, school wasn’t particularly challenging — traveling was the only thing that made me really happy and it wasn’t feasible to do that on my own so I had to rely on other people’s schedules. Halfway through my semester, I came down with malaria and it was awful, absolutely awful. When I break down my experiences like that, I can think of times when I was unhappy and I can think about everything I didn’t like. In fact, there was a time, immediately after the malaria when I wanted to come home and nearly did. But when someone asks me, “How did you like studying abroad in Ghana” my immediate reaction is, I loved it! I would do it again in a heartbeat! 

 I made friends with whom I will have a life-long connection.

I went on amazing adventures, some of them a little dangerous. 
And I learned a great deal about another culture and another side of the globe. When someone talks about Ghana, or West Africa, my ears perk up and I pay attention. I feel inexorably connected to that part of the world. 
I hope that this student who is feeling so overwhelmed will stick it out and be able to look back on her experiences instead of going home early and regretting it. 

In Preparation for Spain

After the upcoming nuptials, Mike and I will be heading to Spain for two weeks.

Apparently, the only thing that rivals the expense of a wedding, is the honeymoon!

I have to say, I was not completely prepared for the sticker shock that came with planning this trip. I’ve always done past travels on a shoe string budget; it’s pretty easy to be cheap in Ghana. However, as I plan this new trip with my hubby, I find myself completely unwilling to shack up in dorm-style hostels and eat granola bars for 2 out of 3 meals.

So, certain expenses come with those choices:

Airplane tickets for two — This one was hefty but we bought them many months ago so it doesn’t seem like a financial burden now.

Two weeks worth of hotels ranging from $50-$150 a night –Roughly $1,500

Meals — Unclear as of yet. Probably a lot. Have I mentioned that we’re foodies? We’re budgeting $2,500.

Car rental — It was important for us to take these two weeks to go on lots of adventures which means that we want to travel all over. That also means, realistically, a car rental. Roughly $500 for the 2 weeks.

We’ve got some money set aside for museum tickets etc. but our goals aren’t really to see all the “guide book” sights. Mostly we’ll be hiking, meandering, figuring out the agenda day-by-day.

In preparation – I needed good walking shoes ($70). I do mean “need”. This wasn’t just a good excuse to buy some new cutsie shoes. I also bought a cotton dress good for walking around and going out at night too (less of a need, but still, I categorize it as a honeymoon expense @ $50). Luckily Mike has had fewer needs!

During my “OH MY GOD I”M FREAKING OUT ABOUT MONEY” phases Mike is wonderful and says, “you know honey, we can cancel  the honeymoon if we need to”

N-O, NO! That is not an option. One, we’d regret it. Two, we’ve already sunk money into the plane tickets. Three, I want to go!

We haven’t traveled abroad together before traveling is such a passion for both of us so I can’t imagine a world in which we don’t go on a honeymoon.

Obviously, all of those expenses add up – We aren’t going into any debt to cover them (or the wedding) but we will come back with significantly less in our savings.