Tag: Citi Bank

Credit card strategies for uniformed services personnel

Credit card strategies for uniformed services personnel

How do you maximize awards travel and credit cards in relation to the Uniformed Services? One of the laws protecting all seven branches of the Uniformed Services is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or SCRA for short, which provides a host of credit-related benefits to servicemembers. Among them are a cap for APR for credit card balances and more importantly in my perspective, a waiver of annual fees associated with credit cards.

Unfortunately, SCRA for the most part only guarantees a waiver of annual fees for credit cards you had prior to entering active duty. This means you cannot enter active duty and pick up all the credit cards you want and expect to pay $0. You have to plan out accordingly (especially with a company like Chase and their 5/24 rule), but if you play your cards right (no pun intended), you could potentially enter active duty with a handful of high annual fee cards and have all their fees waived.

Prior to entering active duty, I had a Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa, Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Visa, Chase IHG Rewards Club Mastercard, and Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard. Post-commissioning, I called Chase and Barclay and requested SCRA benefits to be considered for my accounts. The process was simple: the companies would verify my active duty status (https://scra.dmdc.osd.mil/scra/#/single-record) and notify me within 30 days of my SCRA status. Within two weeks, both companies wrote back to inform me that (as I expected) I am eligible for SCRA benefits, and all the annual fees (since starting active duty) associated with those cards were waived and will continue to be waived for the duration of active duty! Talk about exceptional value when the Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa card bears a hefty $450 annual fee!

Is there another side to the “for the most part?” how SCRA is applied? While most credit card companies (e.g. Chase, Barclay, Citibank) follow the SCRA law to the letter, American Express is unique and is very active duty-friendly. Per the experience of active duty coworkers, American Express will waive fees for cards even if you applied for and received them after entering active duty, meaning American Express will (uniquely) go beyond the minimum requirement of SCRA. I have my eyes set on applying for the American Express Platinum card ($550 annual fee), a valuable addition to any awards traveler’s wallet, in the near future.

To summarize: in regards to SCRA, if there is a non-American Express card you want, obtain it before entering active duty. For American Express cards, you’ll get SCRA benefits regardless of when you obtain it.

More recently in September 2017, a new act was enacted called the Military Lending Act (MLA). With provisions very similar to SCRA, the MLA also guarantees a waiver of annual fees for cards obtained after September 2017, which means that if you qualify for MLA, you can apply for a card you want now and have its annual fee waived. Unfortunately, the wording of MLA is specific in that it only applies to the Armed Services (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard), making PHS officers like myself excluded from the act (see your eligibility at https://mla.dmdc.osd.mil/mla/#/single-record). When I called Chase, Citibank, and US Bank, they confirmed verbally that MLA only covers the Armed Services. But, do you know someone who is currently active duty in the Armed Services? They will be eligible for MLA! Encourage them to apply for a card that best suites his or her travel needs!

These three cards alone can earn you enough miles to fly anywhere in the world in business class

These three cards alone can earn you enough miles to fly anywhere in the world in business class

American Airlines is unique among air companies in that it has made co-branding agreements with two banks: Citi and Barclays. As a result, you can apply for credit cards with both banks and combine the signup bonus into your AAdvantage account. And it so happens that both banks have their highest public offers available right now. If you follow the plan laid out below, you can collect 180,000 AAdvantage miles in signup bonus, enough for round trip travel to anywhere in the world in business class.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi(R) / AAdvantage(R) Platinum Select(R) World Elite(TM) Mastercard(R) - Citi's Best Airline Credit Card with American Airlines AAdvantage(R) miles

  • 60K AAdvantage miles after making $3000 in purchase within the first 3 months of account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Preferred boarding, up to four on the same ticket, on domestic AA flights
  • First checked bag fee waived
  • Double miles on American Airlines purchases
  • Reduced mileage awards
  • Receive 10% in miles back when redeeming miles for flights, up to 10K per year
  • Annual fee of $95, waived for the first year

Besides earning one-time bonus offer, one of the noticeable features is free checked bag and priority boarding on domestic American Airlines flights. With Delta, United, and American all broadening their reach in Basic Economy fare, card holders can dip into the lowest fare without having to be constrained by the lack of carry-on privilege. You can just check in your bag instead. I personally also find 10% miles back beneficial. If you maximize your rebate (ie, redeem 100K miles on award tickets), 10K AA miles saved more than pays for the annual fee.

60K sign up bonus is the highest I have seen for the public. Apply yours here. It’s important to note that Citi bank has a 24-month window policy. If you have opened or closed any AAdvantage-earning Citi card within the past 24 months, you might be approved for the card but NOT be given the sign up bonus.

Barclay’s AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

AAdvantage Aviator Red

  • 60K AAdvantage miles after making a purchase within the first 3 months of account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Preferred boarding, up to four on the same ticket, on domestic AA flights
  • First checked bag fee waived
  • Double miles on American Airlines purchases
  • Reduced mileage awards
  • Receive 10% in miles back when redeeming miles for flights, up to 10K per year
  • Annual fee of $95, NOT waived for the first year

As  you can see, the terms are almost identical to Cit’s Platinum Select card. The biggest difference is with Barclay, annual fee is assessed before the first statement is cut, but sign up bonus is awarded with just one purchase in any amount. Follow the link to apply.

Since Citi and Barclay are different banks, applying for one does not affect the other, besides usual new credit pull on your credit report.

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

Please note, this the business version of the Platinum Select personal card discussed above. I argued in my previous post that business card is not necessarily limited to profitable business owners.

  • 60K AAdvantage miles after making $3000 in purchase within the first 3 months of account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Preferred boarding, up to four on the same ticket, on domestic AA flights
  • First checked bag fee waived
  • Double miles on American Airlines purchases
  • Reduced mileage awards
  • $99 Companion fare, good for domestic flight only, after $30,000 spending in a year
  • Annual fee of $95, waived for the first year

There is not much meaningful difference between the business and personal cards. I don’t value $99 companion ticket that much as I may not have a chance to use it.

Here’s the link.

Three AAdvantage-earning cards offering maximum sign up bonus miles at the same time is not common. This will be a quick way to accumulate sizable amount of American Airlines miles. Even though AA domestic award seat is very limited, their OneWorld partners still offer reasonable redemption choices.

Following American Airlines’ award chart, from the US, the most expensive region for award redemption, South Pacific, costs 80K AAdvantage miles one way in business class. The sign up bonus from these three cards will take you anywhere in the world American Airlines or its OneWorld partners fly.

Are you interested in applying for these cards?

2014: Chicago/Washington D.C. Round Trip

2014: Chicago/Washington D.C. Round Trip

Trip Synopsis

Round trip Economy Class Chicago to Washington D.C. on American Airlines for 9K British Airways Avios

MMB analysis

Redeeming British Airways Avios on domestic short haul on American Airlines often results in excellent values. BA used to charge 4500 Avios for flights less than 650 miles. Assuming a regular revenue ticket of $200 between the two cities, this redemption yields better than two cents/Avio.

How will it work out today

British Airways has rolled up 650 miles and under to 1150 miles range and charge 7500 miles instead for US domestic tickets, although the ultra short distance is still available outside of the US.

Trip Metrics

From To Distance (Miles)
Chicago Washington, D.C 612
Washington, D.C. Chicago 612
Total 1224

MMB Highlights

  • American Airlines Admirals Club lounges

I turned serious at travel hacking in 2014. Don’t take my words for it, I have my $450 annual fee Citi American Airlines Executive World Elite MasterCard that I obtained that year to prove, the most expensive card in my possession ever. It was an extraordinary offer when it was rolled out: an unprecedented 100,000 AA Advantage Miles for a whopping $10,000 in spending! I will not go into details how the spending requirement was satisfied but one of my teeth answered the call with a crack that resulted in dental implementation. Anyone who had been through or teetered on that procedure would know the rest.

Besides generous points offering, the card also came with $200 statement credit on travel (read: annual fee reduced to $250) and American Airlines Admirals Club membership, with lounge admission privilege extended to card holder’s family. Taking American Airlines flights between Chicago and Washington Reagan airports, both with Admirals Club presence, fed into the travel plan.

American Airlines Admirals Club entrance between Concourses H and K

Elevator the AC

Snack and drink (sorry, real food not included)

Shower facility at Chicago AC

A couple of hours later, we visited another Admirals Club at Washing Reagan airport.

Compared to Chicago, Reagan airport lounge was noticeably smaller with less patronage.

The card has faded in many travel hackers’ radar after it removed perhaps the best benefit associated with its ownership: last night free for any award booking of two or more days at Club Carlson hotels, which include Radisson Blu, Radisson RED, Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, and Country Inns & Suites. Our weekender involved only two nights, yielding the best award redemption value.

Card holders also receive Carlson Gold Elite status, eligible for room upgrade. At Country Inn & Suites at BWI Airport, we were lucky to have actually received King Suite upgrade. Total cost: 28,000 Gold Points for two nights. The signup bonus of this card alone, 85,000 Gold Points, was nearly enough to pay for this stay three times.

With free flights and free hotel stays, we enjoyed our meetup with friends who we hadn’t seen for over 10 years at L.P. Steamers, Baltimore’s premier place for steamed blue crabs. Blue crab season run from April through November. Crabs were meaty, I can assure you, during our visit in late August.

Beer and crab on the deck at L.P. Steamers.

We liked the crabs so much that we feasted in our upgraded room for a second time the next day.