When Plastic Is Good (aka how we flew free for the wedding)

Ok, I felt bad leaving you high and dry while we’re off running around Costa Rica playing with spider monkeys and hiking active volcanoes, so here’s a little surprise for your Thursday morning.  Don’t tell me I never did anything for ya.

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I don’t do “informative” posts – probably because I do everything I can to do things the opposite way recommended.  Y’all don’t come here for training plans, recipes, or home security advice – you come for the travesties that come with me attempting them.

Also with the consistency that I sit down with a beer or glass of wine while I write – well that kind of diminishes any hopes of credibility.

(… quickly hides Corona under the desk)

Anyways, I’m going to share something with you.  I may be playing devil’s advocate here, and advanced apologies to any recovering plastic-holics out there, but I’ve got to get this out in the open.

CREDIT CARDS CAN BE YOUR FRIEND.

Don’t freak out.  Put your purse down.  Close all the JCrew & Amazon browsers you just opened.  Let’s be reasonable here for a second.

I got my first credit card sophomore year in college.  I knew the importance of building credit, learning to pay bills, and generally becoming a responsible adult.

(WHEN IS THE REST OF THE WORLD GOING TO JUMP ON THIS TRAIN???)

It was a Victoria’s Secret card, and about 92% of every TGI Friday’s paycheck went towards that monthly bill.  I paid it as soon as I got it, because I was petrified of what would happen if I was late.  I overdrew my bank account once by 13 CENTS and got hit with a $28 fine – Figured the VS Angels’ pimps would come punish me if I didn’t pay off my unmentionables on time.

When I realized there was more to life than lacy underwear and push up bras, I applied for an American Express Blue card.  It took me like three weeks of comparing, but eventually I settled on that one because it was clear and awesome looking.

That card was good to me.  I used it (and paid it off) religiously for YEARS.  On top of building my credit, I took full advantage of their Rewards Points program – Christmas gifts, hundreds of dollars in iTunes gift cards, a North face jacket – all for using their card for things I would have bought anyways.

At the beginning of this year, when the realization of how much damn money we’d be spending on the wedding, we decided to re-analyze our credit options.  Afterall, a billion dollars in iTunes credits isn’t really practical.

Living so far from home, we wanted to fully commit our rewards-earning to travel.  I looked into American Express’s other options, a few airline cards, and did some review reading before settling on The-World’s-Most-Annoying-Commercials card.

(sources : 1, 2)

To my credit, they hadn’t hired the Baldwin when we signed up.  What a creep.

(If you’re next to a viking that looks like the robber from Home Alone and YOU’RE being called the creep, you’re a creep.)

As with the Amex, we use our Venture card for EVERYTHING.  Groceries, gas, $.75 ice cream cones at McDonalds.  Utilities, phone bill, rent.  Many thousands of dollars in one transaction to the Hyatt in Cleveland.  Anywhere we can, we use it.  Swipey swipe swipe.

Why am I blathering on about our financial policies?

Capital One’s Travel Rewards Program paid for round trip airfare for two to Ohio, checked bag fees, and three airport shuttles.

FREE.  As in, zero dollars.  No dinero.  Freezy.

JUST FOR USING THEIR CARD.  For putting that god-almighty-expensive “party” on one little piece of plastic.  For not having change jangling around in the bottom of my purse or the floors of my car.

The best part of all, is that you can request credits for previously booked travel – ANY travel, not just flights or hotels, through any merchant – rather than booking through them.  No blackout dates, limited availability, or restrictions. 

EASY.  LOVE IT.

Ok but this isn’t a pitch for Capital One – it’s a pitch for responsible credit card usage.  ESPECIALLY if you’re about to drop a shit-ton of money on something you can’t really get out of.  If you’re going to spend it anyways, might as well get something in return, right?

RIGHT.

* * * What’s your take on credit cards?  Do you use them?  Any success/horror stories?  Are you into identity theft and somehow de-crypted my really fancy pixelating of my account number on the card above and are currently buying antique Tiffany china on eBay while I’m helplessly phone & internetless?

Sarah OUaL

But really, don’t be a dingbat.  I don’t want to be held responsible for anyone’s newly acquired credit card debt or you hiding shopping bags from your husband in the trunk of your car.  The world only needs one Becky Bloomwood.

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22 thoughts on “When Plastic Is Good (aka how we flew free for the wedding)

  1. I, too, signed on for the AMEX Blue card because it was clear and amazing looking. As soon as I whip that bad boy out, SOMEONE makes a comment. I mean, that’s how I roll.

    Kudos to you for responsible credit card usage–I too am a “pay off the entire balance every month because otherwise the evil credit fairies will come and erase points from my credit score” kind of girl. I have seen what bad credit can do to people—I have a friend who has to make BI-WEEKLY car payments because his credit was too bad to get a car loan from a legit dealership without a co-signer. CRAZY!

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  2. I used my Venture rewards (which wasn’t up to much at the time), plus Swagbucks and a few gift cards to basically pay for my full Garmin. Right now I am in a little bit of Credit Card debt, so I am paying it all off before using my card, but once it is paid off, I will start using it responsibly again to gain rewards. It can be a good thing if you can manage it.

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  3. Yay for away blog posts ;) ! My cousins do that and take amazing trips on their rewards. Unfortunately, we use ours and DON’T pay it off. So it quickly, oh, so quickly, racks up. We did good with NO credit cards for about a year, and now, in the span of three months, we’re back up to 5k in debt. UGH. And the $138 in credits from that doesn’t outweigh the interest we’ll be paying. So, for us, credit cards are a no go. But I’m happy to see how it works in reality for those of us smart enough to use them wisely :) !!

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  4. OO thanks for sharing and thanks for blogging, I thought I was losing you for a couple weeks (wipes tears away) psh no I’m not crying

    I will have to check into Capital One in the future.

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  5. I agree on your thoughts here.

    1) Pay off your bill in full every month.
    2) I would add to not make purchases just because you have the card. I am always conscious of “Do I normally buy this? Or am I buying it for extra points?” Those are the areas I think a lot of folks screw up in.

    I’ve only had one CC, a Kroger Mastercard. I’ve had it for about 8 years now and get about $200 in free groceries at Kroger per year for using the card on my normal purchases. I only missed my bill one time and it was because the dingbats never sent my invoice!

    Would consider an airline type card down the road perhaps when we travel more. Right now I have no need for airline tickets. Groceries work good. Must eat.

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  6. Umm, I shouldn’t even comment here. I had a stint of buying everything imaginable when I didn’t have the money to pay for it. Serious trouble… ugh.

    Angela is so good with her credit cards though. She always pays her credit cards off and we get miles for her purchases. I was telling her we should put everything on the credit card (i.e. groceries, gas, races) to earn more miles but we haven’t started that yet. We almost have enough miles for our costa rica trips to be paid for. WAHOO!

    Hope you’re having fun with the spide monkeys!

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  7. i have american express blue! right now we have the jetblue cards though, just for the free flights. i may have to check capital one now…

    this month, i had to cut back on the credit cards and try to pay everything in cash simply because we are now a one-income family. blah! but i like using the cards and paying them off right away. before eric, i never carried a balance. he just makes me broke : P

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  8. Right now I’m working on paying off a bit of 20something credit card debt (Express/VS/Best Buy) but I use a Cap1 Rewards CC for groceries & gas to earn $$. As soon as I make a purchase with the CC, I transfer that same amount out of my regular checking acct and into an acct marked CC PAYMENT. Then at the end of the month, I pay it off in full. I’ve learned my lesson from spending $$ you don’t have, and I’m MUCH better about it now.

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  9. That’s awesome you were able to fly for free!

    When I first got a credit card, I was definitely NOT responsible. I paid the minimum balance on everything and racked up several thousand dollars. But, since getting married and having (a thrifty) someone to be accountable to, I can now use a credit card like you – buying things I would have bought anyway and earning rewards. My husband and his family are big hunters/fishers so we have a Cabela’s card and he definitely puts those points to good use.

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  10. I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time & I love it! Your sense of humor always makes me laugh.

    Glad you could post a senseable response on credit cards:) so many people are completely impulsive or simply are broke as a joke & use them without thinking clearly.

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  11. Why did you have to post this after I spent a crap ton of money on my apartment??! My credit card rewards suck. They brag about triple points but those are all for places off the radar and places I would never go. Capital one it is! Have fun in costa!!!!! xoxoxo

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  12. Love the Old School reference :)

    VS and Express were my first credit cards when I was 18. I did good until jr/sr year of college – I had a year or so of irresponsible spending/not paying in full, but got my act together once I moved in with my boyfriend (now my husband – who is a saver not a spender) and we had combined our finances. Turns out I didn’t want to have to justify stupid extra clothing purchases to someone else, so I stopped spending so much money on them.

    We pay our cards off every month. We used our credit card for wedding stuff too! We milked that for all it was worth…we put the flowers, cake, ENTIRE reception bill on there. Because of the kind of card it was, we were able to redeem “points” on service on our cars, on the purchase of a new or used car (we ended up needing that), or convert the points to gift cards, we got one for J&R and it paid for our flat screen tv, a minor upgrade from our 50lb 15″ tv from the 90s. They must have realized we were getting way too many rewards from it so they ended that program about a year ago, now it’s a lame reward program, we kept the card b/c of credit history but don’t use it much.

    We have a Chase Continental card which we are using for most of our purchases and including those bonus sign up miles, I’m up to 87,000 miles and counting. That’s got our next vacation written all over it. And after that, we expect to be using/accruing miles on airfare between our future new-city (wherever that ends up being) and visiting family in NY.

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  13. So we did the exact same thing to give us the hook up after our wedding. We have a Chase, Starwood Amex, and a Capital One card. We used the Amex for as much as possible for our wedding which paid for our hotels in Malaysia and Hong Kong (did not spend a dime thanks to points). We use our Capital One card when we travel. . .which brings me to how in the middle of the Celebes Sea (aka middle of damn nowhere) we discovered that despite our CYAing our arses with Capital One before leaving the US they still turned off our card. This is how at midnight I ended up in a hotel lobby trying to hold my sh*t together while explaining what “calling collect” was (which doesn’t translate in Malay) and then spending an hour on the phone with our friends at the Capital One fraud department. To this day they still can’t tell me why they turned off our card “Oh well yes Alexa I see here you called twice and emailed us with your travel plans. . .I have no idea how this card was turned off. . .oh you’re in Malaysia. . .you’re not paying for this call right?” **

    Anyways, we’re points and mileage whores all the way and still use all three cards and pay them off every month.

    **Oh and even with the BS with Capital One we still use them because I refuse to pay international transaction fees – I’m cheap :)

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  14. We have two credit cards and for the most part they are paid off in full every month. The sad thing is that I pay my kids daycare with my CC and then turn around and pay it off right afterwards; we have a lot of points thanks to the daycare! I’m hoping maybe the hubby will see how many we have and sweep me off my feet and take me to Hawaii someday. Even more sad is that in probably a couple of years we could actually use those points to do that. A girl can dream can’t she! ;)

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  15. I have a handful of credit cards and I use them for EVERYTHING. But I pay off every cent at the end of the month. I never let a balance roll over. Ever. Like you, I’m terrified of interest and what will happen if I don’t pay it all at once haha. I figure if I HAVE to pay it off every month (I don’t even give myself the option not to) I’m more likely to pay closer attention to my spending and not rack up insane amounts of money.

    So basically I’m agreeing with you – credit cards are good, when used responsibly!

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  16. I’m just catching up, so I get to be the person commenting 4 days late. I’ve always been afraid of AmEx because you have to pay it off completely monthly and can’t hold a balance. Also, I think the yearly fee is $50 and I think it sucks when companies charge you yearly to use their card. But I’m in the market for a card that gives me more rewards than the one I have (which is just a Bank of America card). Something needs to pay for my trip to Vegas in Dec.

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  17. I’ve always paid my cards every month unless I happen to get something with a 0% promotion then obviously I wait it out. A little over a year ago I opened 2 cards, an American Airlines Mastercard and a British Airways Visa. Both got me 100,000 miles on their respective airlines. In April I flew first class from London to Heathrow. Like, my seat folded out to a bed and I got an ice cream sundae with whipped cream and strawberries mid flight. I flew coach home so I could save miles for a different trip and also purchased a flight for a friend for a grand total of about $300 in taxes/fees. I still have 100,000 miles on BA waiting to be used.

    I love credit cards.

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