Friday Open Discussion 5/9/14

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Post your questions and thoughts about travel or anything else. I will answer and help you on anything from credit card churning to manufactured spending. Happy Friday!

48 comments for “Friday Open Discussion 5/9/14

  1. Henry
    May 9, 2014 at 7:12 am

    Do you see any problem using the camera app to load money orders to
    the accountnow card?
    Thank you,

    • May 9, 2014 at 7:15 am

      Sorry I haven’t used that card and heard people often get shutdown.

    • RJP
      May 9, 2014 at 8:31 am

      My bank’s mobile deposit app doesn’t like money orders. According to my bank, the way the amount prints out on a money order, and other fraud-protection features of a MO, reduce contrast to the point where the image isn’t good enough to utilize. They also suggested that there is a greater fear of fraud with a MO that was deposited by image capture (you’d still have the paper in-hand) than with a check, since the MO doesn’t really come from anyone’s account. Harder to track down after the fact vs “Check 154 drawn on the Chase checking account 98765432 owned by Mr & Mrs RJP.”

  2. Shawn Ye
    May 9, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Hi, Rom, I am looking to book 3 round trip flights from Boston (BOS) to Beijing (PEK), leaving early November and returning early December. I have about 210,000 Chase ultimate rewards and no other points from AMEX, SPG or any other airlines. Based on your experience, how I can best use my point in this case? Thank you!

    • May 9, 2014 at 7:31 am

      I would book BOS-JFK-PEK or through LAX on air china roundtrip for 3. 70K per person in economy.

  3. Temo
    May 9, 2014 at 7:20 am

    Top of the morning Rom, what’s your recommendation if flying to Hong Kong or Tokyo? Airline preference, cabin, best miles to use? Thanks!

    • May 9, 2014 at 7:32 am

      Cathay pacific business or first and either Singapore, ANA to nrt or JAL. Usually only business is available for those for two. JAL F is possible but not many seats. Depends where you live too…

      • Temo
        May 9, 2014 at 7:44 am

        Thanks Rom. I’m based out of DFW but I can get to the west coast with other miles if need be.

  4. Jeremy
    May 9, 2014 at 7:34 am

    What is your best advice to someone whose eye’s have just been opened to this amazing world of ms & churning?
    Also, aside from reaching a spend limit, is the staples 200 visa card worth it with credit cards aside from chase ink. I’m new to calculating the expenses that go into MS vs the value of your return in points to determine the overall pursuance value.

    Additionally I’m trying to plan an exotic vacation this year, have around 100K+ in United, 15K UR, & random 5K points or less balances across a few other programs. Please share your wisdom & suggestions, would love to start constructing a plan.

    Thanks so much for everything! Keep it up Rom!

    • May 9, 2014 at 8:22 am

      Take it slow and scale up. Get AA miles too. Don’t hang on to gc too long. Keep liquidating with Walmart and amazon payments and evolve

      • May 11, 2014 at 5:21 pm

        Nice advice, do you think AA will be devalued again before the merger is complete?

        • May 11, 2014 at 8:48 pm

          I don’t think so, but you never know.

  5. Ang
    May 9, 2014 at 7:36 am

    Hi Rom! I have a two part question. What do you think is the best way to get back to NYC from Hawaii? It could be from HNL/OGG. Of course I would prefer a direct flight on the united lie flat at 40,000 miles, but there are none for my dates in late Sept. (Around 9/28, give or take a few days. I have a flight there already so getting there isn’t an issue.) These are my options so far with what I’ve found. What would you do if you were me – 1) AA business 37,500 miles, but there are 2 connections one flight is 5 hours and the other two are about 3 or so; 2) United with one connection economy at 5 hours and change for each flight at 22,500? I am thinking I’d rather do the economy flight since it’s less miles and I only have one connection. Also, 5 hours and change for each flight isn’t too bad. I also have some Avios, but I don’t think it’s cheaper to use that or is it? I have AA/UR points so that’s why I am focusing on those two airlines. I have some US Airways miles, but I am saving that for another trip. I don’t have an Alaskan, Frontier or Hawaiian CC so miles there. Thanks in advance for letting me pick your brain!

    • May 9, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      I would do the United with one connection. Ideally I would use SQ miles which cost 17,500 one way instead of 22,500. I’m guessing you don’t have any SQ miles, you can get them from AMEX SPG or AMEX MR points.

  6. toni
    May 9, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Hey Rom,

    I have the MasterCard version of Chase Ink Plus. I want to get in on the 60,000 signup bonus right now. Do I just apply for the new card or do I need to close down my MC first? Thanks!

    • Ang
      May 9, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks so much Rom! I don’t have any SQ miles unfortunately. I don’t have any MR points or an SPG card either. I won’t be getting one until later this year.

    • May 9, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      you can have both, I didn’t have to close my mastercard version down.

  7. RJP
    May 9, 2014 at 8:23 am

    A vexing problem I’ve not seen adequately addressed:

    What’s the secret – if any – to using US Bank variable load MasterCard GC’s to load funds to BlueBird and/or GoBank accounts at Walmart? I’ve tried multiple times and never seems to work. Get either “payment type not allowed” or “incorrect PIN” errors. (I’ve set the PIN on the phone.)

    MetaBank Visa variable load cards work with no problem. But my local grocery store (which has a ‘no fee with coupon’ offer on GCs) doesn’t seem to get anywhere near as many of the Visa cards as the MasterCard counterpart.


    • RJP
      May 9, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Subscribing to thread for updates,

    • HT
      May 9, 2014 at 9:38 am

      MC cards are ‘difficult’ – I avoid them – must be there coding.

    • May 10, 2014 at 8:08 am

      I think you’ll have to buy money orders for those to liquidate or other method

      • RJP
        May 10, 2014 at 4:20 pm

        MC GC’s don’t seem to work at any of the three WM’s near me – not for BBird, not for GoBank, not for MO’s.

        • May 10, 2014 at 4:31 pm

          Unfortunate, you will have to use amazon payments or another way.

          • RJP
            May 10, 2014 at 4:37 pm

            They go through Evolve with no problem, but would be great to be able to liquidate them as easily as Visa cards. I have access to them with no fee (actually at a discount from face value) but the run out of the Visa cards in about a week. keep asking them to order more, to which they say “We probably should…” but they never do.

        • Jerry Mandel
          May 10, 2014 at 4:42 pm

          GIFT cards NEVER work at Walmart. Only DEBIT cards, such as One Vanilla or gift cards converted into debit cards with a PIN.

  8. Maury
    May 9, 2014 at 8:31 am

    I bought 10 $200 Visa gift cards at Staples through the UR portal and the shipment went out. I am waiting for the points to post as pending.

    • May 10, 2014 at 8:08 am

      Should post from other reports I’ve heard

      • Maury
        May 14, 2014 at 4:47 am

        Just posted.

  9. May 9, 2014 at 8:33 am

    What’s your take on Evolve money? Do you think it will work with the Paypal Mastercard Debit Card (as a credit purchase vs a debit purchase)? They don’t ask for PIN, just the CVV number on the back of the card. I tried with another debit card and it looks as though it went through as credit, so that made my MS radar go up a little more…

    • Elena
      May 9, 2014 at 11:47 am

      I love Evolve money. I’ve used it to pay different utilities and mortgages on there with no issues. I’ve also used the PayPal Mastercard Business Debit Card through Evolve Money and it processes as cash back for me.

      • May 9, 2014 at 12:54 pm

        Do you know if Evolve accepts Amex giftcards?

        • Elena
          May 9, 2014 at 1:40 pm

          I’ve never tried it because from what I’ve read Amex giftcards are not considered debit cards (no PIN) so it would not work on Evolve.

  10. Carey
    May 9, 2014 at 8:49 am

    How do you keep track of your credit cards? Assuming a spreadsheet or Google Doc. What specific details do you keep track of (application date, issued date, renewal date, annual fee, etc). Any chance you have a template or example you could share via Google Docs?

  11. HT
    May 9, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Any recommendations for RTW trip in F? Since AA has taken that option down what should one do? I have miles from all major players.
    Starting point should be JFK. THX

    • May 10, 2014 at 8:12 am

      Really tough now. Probably united last min Lufthansa JFK-fra-bkk. Maybe business back? Bkk to tpe to JFK? 110K plus 80L

  12. Jerry Mandel
    May 9, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I read and read and read about Amazon (needs two persons), Bluebird, Serve, Gobank, Evolve, Kiosks, and more and they all seem to me to be too complicated, too many steps, and wasteful of time. I meet my minimum spending in one quick round trip. One Vanilla at a CVS which stocks them. Money Orders in a Walmart money center. (Pay MO fees in cash.) Deposit in my bank. Pay bills free online using bank bill service. Not near a Walmart? Try postal money orders or any store which will sell them with a debit card.

  13. susangol
    May 9, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I’d like to book 2 FF flights for 2015, both for 2 people in biz class – 1. NYC to Capetown and 2. NYC to Tahiti. If possible, I’d love to sneak in a week in Russia somehow. I currently have 135,000 AA points, 156,000 BA points, 113,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, and 7,500 AmEx Membership Rewards points, and am open to getting new credit cards. Any suggestions as to which airlines to fly and where to aim for new points? Thanks!!

  14. Stanhope
    May 10, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Hi rom
    I booked a rt economy flight for my dad from Miami to nyc on AA with my avios. Is there a way to get him a free checked bag since I have the citi aa exec world MasterCard? Thanks!

    • May 10, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      I believe all avios tickets have priority access. He should get a free bag. You can also try adding your ffn to the reservation on

  15. AMANDA
    May 10, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Looking to booked Biz / First on British Airway with companion ticket to Singapore. Home airport is LAX. Any suggestions?

    • Jerry Mandel
      May 11, 2014 at 9:13 am

      Absolutely never fly on BA. Horrible fuel surcharges and UK air taxes will eat you alive. Use Avios on partner airlines and do not fly to or via UK. Companion ticket is worthless. Only flying via UK and on BA.

      • AMANDA
        May 11, 2014 at 11:46 am

        Yes unfortunately I have already earned the companion ticket, therefore I am trying to find the best way to use it instead of flying it domestic in the US. I am aware of the surcharges, but it might be worthwhile if its Biz / First with companion pass?

        • Jerry Mandel
          May 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm

          Read my last sentence and the fine print. BA does not fly domestic here. It is only good via LHR. Greedy BA has higher surcharges when flying Biz?First than flying Coach. Of course no more fuel is used to carry you.

        • May 11, 2014 at 8:50 pm

          It is quite expensive with fuel surcharges, but might be worth it still. You can also do one way LAX-LHR, which is less taxes because you don’t pay UK departure tax.

  16. Billy L
    May 12, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    I heard Cathay Pacific has a great business class product. I’m trying to book a flight on Cathay Pacific using AA miles from New York to Tokyo. It seems Cathay Pacific goes from the US to Hong Kong, then Tokyo. When I called AA, they said the price would be 85K miles instead of 55K because I’m going back a zone (55K to Hong Kong, then 30K from Hong Kong to Tokyo). Is it possible get to Tokyo from New York on 55K AA miles on Cathay Pacific business class? If not, what are other good options using AA miles or Chase Ultimate Rewards points?

    • Jerry Mandel
      May 12, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      You can go on AA and JL to Tokyo with AA miles.

    • May 13, 2014 at 8:42 am

      Just go jal NYC or BOS to NRT

      • Billy L
        May 14, 2014 at 7:18 pm

        Thanks for the advice. We had a slight change in plans. Our final destination is Taipei but we want a 4 night stopover in Tokyo. I can, of course, still do JAL or AA from NYC to NRT as suggested, and then book another award from NRT to Taipei (maybe 20k Avios + $208 fees). Is there a better alternative? Can it be done on one award?

        I have Cathay Pacific business class coming back on this trip from Taipei -> Hong Kong -> NYC for 55k AA miles.

        One thought was maybe I could have done a United round trip with a stopover in Tokyo (70k economy, 160k business class). But I don’t have enough Chase UR points or United miles to pull that off. Plus, it seems more expensive than the above anyway.

        Thanks again for all the help.

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