Florida Travler

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by Kighty33, Jan 28, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. Kighty33

    Kighty33 Active Member

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    Hello to the entire MP community, what a wonderful site! I'm new to all of this and have been trying to read up as much as possible but my head is spinning a bit. I was wondering if anyone could steer me in the right direction? A bit of info about me...

    - I don't have a specific destination in mind I just love to travel as much as possible but am limited by vacation days (only 11 per year + holidays)... so I generally have to base my vacations around weekends or holidays

    - My home airport is PBI, but I am more than willing to fly out of FLL, MIA, or MCO. I generally fly out of the larger airports since I got married last year, as the cost for two round trip tics from PBI has become to expensive for us under most circumstances

    - The only frequent flyer program I have right now is Skymiles. I got their AMEX so my wife & I could check our luggage for free (I signed up for Sun Country & Jet Blue also, but only have taken 1 rt on each)

    - I have outstanding credit, the wife on the other hands is awful

    - My goal is to travel for free or as little as possible

    - I do not travel for business

    - I do travel to DTW several times per year to visit family

    - I did sign up for an IHG account, but I only have a couple thousand points so I'm not loyal to any hotel chain.

    So were should I start? What credit cards should I apply for? I already have 4 credit cards (2 Visa, 2 AMEX), what is the maximum # of cards I should have at once? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated =)
     
  2. ariosto

    ariosto Silver Member

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    First Welcome to the Community:cool:.

    Second it is best to start off with a Goal or plan of a dream trip or ideal vacation as depending on this the recommendations of the community can vary widely as for example i would recommend AA for europe, United for Asia. depending on this MP can recommed which CC signup bonus you should try to get as per your ideal trip.

    Enjoy and keep reading
     
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  3. MSYgirl

    MSYgirl Gold Member

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    Welcome to MP! :) Congratulations on your recent nuptials.

    *Note: All of the colored words link to the destinations described to save you from having to hunt around.

    I'd suggest starting with the Forums button next to the Home button on the main navigation bar. Since you have already used some programs/accumulated points, you can click on the section for airline programs, hotel programs, and much more. If you find a subforum (for example, Delta Skymiles program) that you'd like to watch for new content, there is a "Follow Forum" function located under the top right "Post New Thread" button. You can choose how you are notified and unfollow it at any time. This is optional, but it is helpful if you want to stay updated on all Delta posts and threads.

    Under the section Forums/Airports, click on U.S. airports to view the South Florida Airports (PBI is included). These subforums usually contain information about the airport itself, but sometimes other information is posted.

    From the forum menu you can find the credit card discussion area (located here) to read what is already there and ask questions as needed. I can't help you in this area, but rest assured there are many experienced flyers here that can assist you.

    To keep up on all things MP, you can view the sidebar after clicking the Forum tab or use the "What's New" feature to see a list of active threads. I toggle between both, so see which you prefer. Feel free to add more questions as they arise either here or in the corresponding area for your inquiry.

    Other links:
    Sun Country doesn't have it's own subforum, but you can find information about the airline in this area.
    JetBlue area is located here.
    And here is your IHG link.

    Here is one example of what a year with MP's awesome members can produce, although YMMV (your mileage may vary). Also, you can highlight or double-click words to see a definition displayed in the top right of your screen. It's awesome, but unfortunately only works on here.

    Take a deep breath, exhale, and relax. In time these areas will become familiar, and you will learn very useful information (and perhaps make some new friends).
     
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  4. Kighty33

    Kighty33 Active Member

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    Thanks aristo, my ultimate dream trip would be a vacation to Europe! Due to time constraints I would specifically like to focus on Western Europe for my first trip. A few others I have high interest in are...

    - New Zealand
    - Costa Rica
    - NW US & Vancouver
    - Alaska
    - Brazil, specifically Rio
    - Montreal
    - Boston
    - Yellowstone

    I'm sure I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, but what can I say... I'm excited :)
     
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  5. Kighty33

    Kighty33 Active Member

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    Thank you for your awesome post MSY!! That was really nice of you to link everything for me, and your suggestion on double clicking words is great! Very thorough, and much appreciated =) I have to get to work but it sounds like I have some homework to do tonight, lol.
     
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  6. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    Welcome to MP. I found that there are many posts here that will be both interesting and helpful.
    I travel to your area often as I have family near PBI. I have generally found that FLL tends to have a greater availability of lower fares than PBI, but that flexible dates and shopping a bit can save many dollars. Its also helpful to know what is in season and where. I have found many bargains in the US in early to mid June and the last week of August as the school year affects travel plans. Europe also has bargain periods such as the US Thanksgiving. Good Luck and have fun traveling.
     
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  7. milchap
    Original Member

    milchap Gold Member

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    I can help with info on Vancouver and Montreal.
     
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  8. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    Welcome to Milepoint. There are several considerations with credit cards. Citi has a great offer for 100,000 bonus miles on AA, but you have to spend 10k within 3 months. If that is not a problem, I would highly recommend starting there. If the spend is an issue, you may want to look at many of the forums that talk about manufactured spend, such as vanilla reload cards. There is a cost, but in relation to the miles earned from this bonus, the cost is minor.

    There is really no maximum to the number of cards you should have, but you do not want to apply for too many at one time, or your credit will take a hit and you may get rejections because of too many applications. Do keep your oldest credit cards as they are very helpful to your credit score, assuming they are always paid on time.
     
  9. Kighty33

    Kighty33 Active Member

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    I have noticed the same thing 8MiHi, FLL is generally my cheapest option for domestic travel on the East Coast, while MCO tends to be a bit cheaper for the West Coast.

    Thanks for offering your help milchap, those are 2 places I would love to work towards :D

    That sounds like a great card marcwint55! That said I will have to do some research on the manufactured spend as this concept is new to me & there is no way I could meet the min spend in 3 months. I will keep my oldest cards active, ty for the advice.

    I'm going to do some more forum browsing but I do have a few more questions if anyone is willing to take a whack at them...

    - Where can I find an explanation of how to manufacture spending?
    - Is this the preferred way to accumulate points or is there a benefit to legit spending?
    - How many cards should I apply for at once?
    - Do you guys generally cancel your CC's before you have to pay the annual fee?
    - How often do you apply for CC's?

    I certainly don't want to abuse the Vanilla/Bluebird methods so please feel free to let me know what you all think is an acceptable amount to spend on a monthly basis?
     
  10. Kighty33

    Kighty33 Active Member

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    Thank you for not flaming me! I read through about 10 blogs as well as several threads on here &TOBB... I spent roughly 6 hours trying to educate myself last night. I'm trying to pick up on all of this, but the abbreviated lingo has been the hardest (thanks to whoever had the idea to add the double click feature to MP!). My apologies for asking so many questions without doing more research, I'm new to forums and had no idea that was frowned upon so much :-( I still haven't been able to answer a few questions though, so if anyone could answer these or give me a little direction I would really appreciate it! I have no problem reading through a forum link... and yes I've tried the search feature. It seems as if there are lots of people out there that don't want new people ruining a good thing (not saying MP, as y'all seem to be much nicer than others) so I just want to figure out the small nuances.

    - Regarding MS, what do you guys think is best way to recirculate the funds? I know I buy the VR & load to BB, but do I transfer back to my Checking, withdraw from ATM, or pay CC bill directly from BB? I'm just trying to be as cautious as possible so I don't get flagged by FP.
    - I got the opinion most of you use this for legit spending (rent, mortgage, student loans, etc.) unless you need help to meet the mins. I don't want to contribute to ruining a good thing for everyone, so what ratio of normal spending to VR do you recommend? Lots of people out there are suggesting to utilize the entire 5k with BB as well as the 1k with AP... to me that sounds like you're asking to get flagged! Some people really don't have any common sense, lol.
    - I've read most of you suggest the App-o-Rama method, but being that I've only opened CCs over a 10 year period shouldn't I start small and work your way up? Any suggestions on how many I should try for initially... I was thinking 2?

    I'm really trying my best to absorb this info (I think I've come pretty far in 2 days) the best I can, but what would really be helpful is a guide.

    Thanks again everyone!
     
  11. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Your reaction to manufactured spend is wise. You do need to ensure taht whatever you do you do not do anything taht will not pass the "smell test". Many people here and elsewhere advocate app-o-rams and churning generally, but the biggest advocates get referral fees so they're looking for benefits to themselves. Others are more objective. Either way you run substantial risks of damaging your credit by opening lots of accounts and closing them once you've received your bonuses. If you're generic credit score is above 780 or so you probably will not be in a bad spot, but if your spouse has poor credit (say <700 on the same generic FICO) you'll find there will be some linkage happening, especially with the more astute issuers. You do not mention which issuer issued your Visas or American Express cards, but if you have major issuers they all monitor usage and performance quite closely. American Express maintains account holder history essentially forever (my maintained history with them goes back to 1969) but they're happy to have you close accounts and open others from time to time. They will keep track! Other issuers behave less compulsively perhaps, but they do keep track.

    Speaking form the perspective of the industry, which uses such arcane tools as Behavior scores (probability of entering collections status); LGD (Loss Given Default- mandated by regulation from the Basel Accords, which came in three flavours I, II and III); Propensity scores (various types from activation, use, retention, profitability etc). There's no reason to learn all that garbage, except for people like me who make a living figuring out how to do them all as well as possible:D. But, it is important to know your generic credit score, not because issuers use it to decide whether to approve you or not because they do not,; they all have their own custom processes, but because that is the easiest shorthand to see how most credit evaluators will see your results.

    As you continue on this journey always remember common sense, as you already said yourself. regardless of what anybody says on public boards, including me, nobody who knows exactly how approvals are done will say how it works precisely. That is because this is highly proprietary stuff and subject to draconian NDA's. Keep in mind that whatever an agent on the telephone will tell you they do not know precisely how this all works in their own company. The exact processes are strictly compartmentalised. However, sales and marketing people are not usually well-equipped to say they do not know and anecdotal evidence is distinctly not helpful in the world of statistics where large numbers rule.

    There is a large fallacy in app-o-rama behaviour, however. They are designed to allow people to apply for multiple accounts at exactly the same time so the inquiries from all of these do not show up simultaneously, thus triggering a credit score drop. They miss the point. The credit score drop is not the issue. triggering black list and/or mandatory rejections is the serious issue. For your own sake never do an app-o-rama. They are a stupid idea at best and can engender catastrophic results at worst. At one major issuer with whom I have worked on this issue app-o-rams type behaviour can and does trigger a lifetime ban from new accounts and also a refusal to renew accounts when cards expire. The advocates of such behaviour never tell about such cases and may not know about them.

    I apologise if my tone is strong. You sound as though you're a prudent person already. Just keep being prudent and you'll have a ball optimising your miles and points and getting lots of nice benefits in addition to free trips. This stuff is addictive!:cool:
     
  12. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    Kighty33, one thing to keep in mind when you read the blogs, Milepoint, etc. is that most of what you are reading is written by people who travel A LOT - for work and for pleasure. And much of what you will read is written by people who are sometimes a bit fanatic about acquiring miles and points.
    So, please do not feel that you have to imitate or follow everything you are reading. It is perfectly okay (and preferable in my humble opinion) to go slowly. Keep doing your homework and keep learning what works for you.
    Concerning credit cards, please pay heed to what jbcarioca has said above. My advice is to apply for mileage/points earning cards slowly over time. (And only you can know what pace is appropriate for you). There is no reason to get into manufactured spending unless you are in a rush.
    I've been acquiring miles and points slowly but steadily for about 5 years now, and virtually all of my travel is free. Of course, my situation is different from most people, but the point is you should do what feels right and comfortable to you.
     
  13. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    As usual, more gently said than is my wont, and excellent advice. I suspect I speak for all of in saying I have learned a huge amount here and on TOBB, and my travelling life is better for it. That is not to mention the friends I have made which really is the best part.
     
  14. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    I appreciate your insights as you have such helpful and insightful "inside" info. And, indeed, we are cultivating friendships as well as sharing useful info. :)
     
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  15. Kighty33

    Kighty33 Active Member

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    Thanks for the advice jbcarioca & miles and smiles (great name btw)! I consider myself a pretty frugal person (I pay my cards in full every month) so I'm trying to absorb as much info as possible before jumping in. At this time I have 2 BofA Visas (Platinum plus & Cash Rewards) & 2 AMEXs (Delta Skymiles Gold & Corporate..the basic Green one). I had planned on closing the Platinum Plus long ago but that is my oldest card with the highest limit and was informed that would be a bad idea (after doing more research that was great advice). I'm ashamed to say I haven't checked my credit score in a couple years so I need to check into annualcreditreport.com, would you guys also suggest paying for a FICO score? Several years ago I was around 760 and I have excellent payment history...although I never realized the corporate card may affect my credit as well, duh! I do handle quite a bit of purchasing for our company on a monthly basis (usually 2k-8k) so I'm wondering if it would be beneficial to apply for another AMEX card first since I have great history with them? My thinking here was I would most likely need to do a bit of the MS to meet those mins as I generally only charge between $500-$800 per month. Hopefully I can meet the mins I need by paying my car payment via BB from now on. If I do need to do a small amount of MS, what do you guys think is the safest way to circulate? I'm going to take your advice and move slow, 1 card initially. Thanks again for everyone's insight :)

    With that, does anyone have a recommendation on a shiny new CC? I mentioned some ideal destinations above, but I'm willing to be patient and take advantage of whichever promotions are the best right now =) I would love to go for the AA Citi card marcwint55 suggested, but that min isn't possible for me without doing quite a bit of MS... and since I've never owned a Citi card I wasn't sure if that would be the best idea? Is my logic sound on this theory? My spending on the AMEX corporate is so erratic, I thought it may be easier to blend in some MS on another AMEX card? Thoughts? Consolidating my expenses on 1 card I could probably reach around $1,500 per month...more if I did my mortgage, but I don't want to cancel my bimonthly plan as it's going to save me some serious $$ and shorten my term by 6 years (not to mention I like to know this payment is auto deducted so I'm never late). 1 last thing... my mortgage is through Citi if that helps me in any way?
     
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  16. Kighty33

    Kighty33 Active Member

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    P.S. - I just received an email for IHG® Rewards Club Select Visa, which is offering a 80,000 point bonus after 1k spending in 3 months. I did a random search and the same card was offering 60,000 point bonus so... I guess they're offering me more since I'm already a member? Seems like a good place to start! What do you guys think?
     
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  17. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    Virtually everyone is getting the 80,000 point IHG offer. I got 80,000 points over 3 years ago. Personally I think it is a great card. But since you are wanting to go slowly and have a low monthly spend, you should do even more research and set your priorities as to which cards and when.
    I've never done any manufactured spend, so I can't comment there.
    Yes, you should check your credit score before doing any applications. There are a few credit services that will give you your score and a free trial for seven days. But you need to read the fine print on these services carefully and cancel before their steep fees set in.
    You can also get an estimate of your credit score for free from services like credit karma and credit sesame.
    And definitely get a copy of your credit report (at annualcreditreport.com) before applying. Make sure there are no mistakes on your credit report before your proceed with any applications.
     
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  18. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    The IHG card is a mediocre card overall. To me, that means it has some pretty good benefits and some pretty bad ones. The fantastic benefit of the card, and the reason everyone really gets it, is because for a $49 annual fee, you can get a certificate every year for a free night at any of their hotels worldwide. That value could be as much as $500-700! The part that prevents me from ever using the card for spending is that it doesn't offer much in the way of bonuses for spending, and IHG points are some of the least valuable in the industry. The exception to the points value is the "IHG Points Breaks", where every 2 months a list of properties are released that only cost 5,000 points per night. However, you don't need the credit card to take advantage of that promo.

    I agree with everyone else here - that you need to actually mock plan trips that you'd like to take (what's your top 5 destinations/sights/activities/etc etc), research the airlines that could take you to those destinations, and see if you notice a pattern. If AA/US doesn't fly to many/any of those destinations, then it makes no sense to start with the AA 100k miles card. Do the same with hotels, research all the nearby hotels and reviews, and again, look for patterns. Does Hilton or Hyatt have a great presence there? Also when it comes to hotels, know what you're looking for. Do you need fancy? Pretty much all the bloggers promote is the luxurious side of travel, but if you're okay with Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn (i'm pretty frugal too, and in MCO for now) then see how many points you need for a night at those places, and you'll start to get a feel for what your goals should be. THEN, and only then, do you formulate a credit card strategy.

    I have 24 active credit cards, so don't worry about 4-5 being any kind of an issue. The more you get into the game, the more you'll realize how ridiculous the banks are with their generosity.
     
  19. Kighty33

    Kighty33 Active Member

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    Thanks miles and smiles, and servo... I do value your input! Step # 1, thorough credit check =) I didn't realize there was such a large difference between the value of points, thanks for pointing that out servo. I did list several destinations above, but I guess I need to mock them out in more detail? My wife would love the ritzy hotels, but I'm fine with a Holiday or Hampton Inn personally... probably something in between the 2 such as a Courtyard Marriott would be ideal. I'm even curious to know which CC you guys think is the most useful/best benefits (promotions aside)... I guess my initial thinking was that I'm so open minded to traveling almost anywhere so long as it's safe for my wife (if it's free it's for me, lol) that I was focusing on starting with whichever is the best CC promotion running right now. I have the luxury of 4 international airports within a 2 hour drive and I've flown from all 4 multiple times. I thought MAYBE there was one of those offers out there that I should jump on while it was available, but your explanation makes a whole lot of sense :cool: Thanks again & feel free to keep those opinions rolling! Haha.

    Should I sign up for all airline & hotel rewards systems now so I get targeted emails with better promotions? I hope everyone has a nice weekend! Take care =)
     
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  20. moongoddess

    moongoddess Silver Member

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    There IS one offer you might want to jump on, if you're considering American Airlines as your frequent flyer program. As you know, US Airways and American Airlines are merging. Right now Barclaycard is issuing a US Airways card with a decent signup bonus, but at some time in the not-too-distant future that card is going to go away. Eventually US Airways and American Airlines are going to merge their frequent flyer programs, so those US Airways miles will someday become American Airlines miles. Getting both a US Airways card and a Citibank American Airlines card would be an easy way to earn lots of miles fast (although you'd have to wait until the frequent flyer programs merge to use them optimally). Then you could add to the pile later with an American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card; Starwood points transfer to lots of programs, including American's. But don't get the Starwood card now; wait until late summer/ early fall when the signup bonus goes up to 30,000 points.

    Star Alliance has the most flights to Europe, but Oneworld (American Airlines' alliance) can get you there too (especially if you're flexible about what European airports you arrive and depart from). Just stay off British Airways, as they charge high fees on award tickets. And if you don't mind flying in Economy and going off-season, American has. Off season Saver awards which cost half the usual number of miles. They are a real bargain!
     
  21. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    Actually it has been reported that Barclay's will continue to offer the USAir card until 2015, so there is still plenty of time to get that one.
     
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  22. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    In my opinion, the best way to see the best credit card offers is to read the blogs and message boards like Milepoint and Flyertalk. You might get a good targeted offer by signing up for lots of emails or you may just get a ton of junk email.
    Everyone has their own approach to acquiring miles/points. Personally I value the flexibility of having miles and points in a variety of programs, because I am an infrequent flyer with no hope of becoming an elite. Also, flexibility gives me the option of flying with whichever airline has the best flights and availability for me or whichever hotel has the best availability at the lowest point cost for when I want to travel. But it's important to note that it has taken me a few years to develop a sufficient stash to meet my travel needs. There are moments when it is good to jump on a special offer, but do so in the context of knowing what your long term strategy is. There is little reason to acquire points or miles that you will never use.
     
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  23. Free2travel

    Free2travel Silver Member

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    Quick question, what do you suggest in place of an app-o-roma? I've applied for 2-3 credit cards at a time the last two churns. Should I limit myself to one cc every 6 months instead of 2-3 every 3-4 months or do you suggest being even more conservative?

    Thank you!
     
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  24. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    IMHO the first thing to remember is YMMV. A lot depends on whether you want to have new cards with the same issuer for different purposes/affinities. Several major issuers (Chase, Citi, Bank of America, American Express and others) will happily allow you to have multiple cards with them and will help you allocate your credit limits between them. Applying for more such cards is no problem at all, although a new one every six moths or so is probably a good idea.

    Much depends on what you do with the old cards. if you keep the accounts open and active keeping them is normally fine, so long as you do not carry revolving balances. Carrying revolving balances is normally a lousy idea financially. It is a mixed factor for credit history because carrying balances is hugely profitable for banks so long as you pay as agreed. NEVER, NEVER make a late payment on anything!!! Sorry for shouting, but that rule trumps most others.

    If you watch those principles and make sure you have a good reason to apply for a new card you can open several with no harm.

    I have opened as many as five in short order (a week) myself when I had a series of major purchases and had large day-of-opening store incentives. Three were from the same issuer (my client!) and all were approved instantly. The other two were both from the same different issuer, also approved instantly. My bureau FICO did not change. I have now closed all fine since that purchasing event is completed.

    In short, watch carefully and do try to avoid blitzes if you can. The app-o-rama logic is fallacious anyway because the hard inquiry history is not a major factor for people with good credit anyway, and once an issuer has taht history they know your habits anyway, if they want to. You really do not gain much with that tactic other than a clear proof that you regularly try to game the system. If you value your reputation, apply when you need/want the product and avoid trying to game the system.

    Please keep in mind that some of the bloggers say they've been doing app-o-rama for years with no ill effects. Anything is possible, I suppose, but I can name more than one large issuer who'll have them on blacklists if they repeat such tactics more than once or twice. At least of them even catches them the first time out. Some credit bureaux sell hard inquiry data as happening and provide online reporting. Most issuers do not use taht data, but some do. For those that do you really have a tough time gaming them.
     
  25. dstober

    dstober Gold Member

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    Welcome, Kighty33! I agree with all the great info and advice posted above, especially go slow, stay prudent, and if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In terms of CC, maybe take a look at Chase's Ink Bold or Sapphire Preferred? They give points that can be used in a number of places (UA, BA, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG) with good conversion rates. The Sapphire current offer is 40K signup bonus and the Ink Bold has a 50K bonus right now, which isn't exceptional but not shabby. I've had the old Chase UA Signature Visa for years (they don't have it anymore), which I still use for UA purchases (I'm kind of UA hub-bound), but I use the other two for my everyday spending.
    As you've found, MP is pretty open and friendly, which is why I make my travel forum home here. People are willing to share their knowledge pretty freely and for the most part, there isn't much flaming going on. :)
    Enjoy adding to your knowledge and see you around the threads!
     

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