Another Credit Card Dispute

explorer card

I have alerts set up on my credit cards for basically every single charge. But I also check my card charges online every week or so. And I always check to make sure credits show up. 😉

Last week, a booked a trip to Florida on United using my Explorer card. The next day I noticed that United had charged me twice for the trip. Luckily, you can dispute charges online with the Explorer card. It’s easier than having to call them. Within a few hours a customer service rep called me to let me know that the 2nd charge would be reversed while they investigated.

I’m a little alarmed that this happened in the first place. I’ve never had this happen with United before. But, I’m optimistic it will stay resolved with both them and Chase. I’m pretty vigilant, so it’s unlikely that I wouldn’t have caught this. But, honestly, I know people who don’t go through their statements carefully and something like this, especially if you charged lots and were used to big numbers, could easily be missed.

7,500 Customer Care Miles

Mileageplus_newlogoAfter all the troubles I had with United on my recent trip, I emailed customer care to complain. As a result, they added 7,500 “goodwill miles” to my account. Didn’t give me too many warm fuzzies, but it’s better than nothing.

I would have appreciated a club pass to replace the one I used in Denver, too. But I pursued the issue and got something and I’m moving on. Live and learn. And think hard about scheduling a trip to Calgary in the bitter winter.

Understand Merchant Category Codes (MCC) to Maximize Credit Card Rewards

Credit card rewards (whether cash back, miles, points) are often based on Merchant Category Codes, known as MCCs. For example, my Chase United MileagePlus card earns double miles for groceries, gas, dining and home improvement. My Chase United Explorer business card earns double miles for travel, dining, gas and office supplies.

How a purchase is categorized is based on the MCC associated with the merchant and is spelled out in the fine print of the credit card features/benefits.

For example, I’m looking at the BankAmericard application that came in the mail recently. The rewards for this card are 2% cash back on groceries, 3% cash back on gas, and 1% cash back on everything else (with quarterly limits). If I go to the fine print on the back of the application, I see that “Eligible merchants and the associated MCCs…are the following: (a) Grocery Stores (MCC codes 5411, 5422, 5441, 5451, 5462, and 5499); and (b) Gas Stations (MCC codes 5541 and 5542). Purchases made at a merchant that does not process transactions under these codes will not qualify and you will not receive the bonus cash rewards.”

The trick is to figure out what the MCC is for a merchant you shop at and make sure you use the card that maximizes your rewards. This comes with experience and research. Asking the cashier what their MCC is will usually not get you anywhere! 😉

Reviewing your year end statement, which breaks purchases into categories (at least with my Chase cards) is very helpful. That’s how I discovered that purchases at my local Target (which has a grocery section) and Walmart are categorized as groceries. Handy to know!

There’s also this handy website which tells you exactly what the MCC is for any “supplier” that takes VISA:

Have at it!

Travel Travails – part 1

unitedSo, I went to Calgary this past weekend and I now have a host of things to remember. And a host of things to complain about to United. My 3:15 pm flight out on Friday was canceled due to aircraft maintenance It was, at first, delayed by about an hour and a half. When I received notice, via text, we were already pulling up to the airport two hours ahead of the original flight time. I was kicking myself for not having remembered to bring one of the United Club passes I had. I get two every year for having the United Explorer card.

I checked in and, being TSA prechecked, walked right up to security. No wait. Yay! Except I “failed” what I think was a gunpowder residue test. I overheard one of the TSA employees make a comment about “that’s why I don’t use that machine”, referring to the testing machine used to test the strip they swiped my hands with. It took about 15 minutes for further testing the pat down in a closed room. Wow. Good thing I wasn’t in a rush.

Once through I got the bright idea to call Jay to ask him if he could take a picture of my United Club pass and send it to me. He did, and that got me into the Club. Not 10 minutes later, as I was getting ready to charge my iPhone, I got a text from United saying my flight had been canceled. I was at the customer service desk in the Club in about 20 seconds and was immediately booked onto the next flight, leaving at 7:42.

That flight was delayed in order to wait for incoming connections and because it was such a cluster getting everything sorted out. When they scanned my boarding pass, it indicated that I hadn’t paid for the ticket and it took a minute or so for the gate check person to sort that out. Ultimately, United thought I still had an open ticket days later – whatever that means.

I think they substituted a larger plane in order to accommodate as many passengers from the canceled flight. However, the standby list had about 18 people on it. Not sure how many were left behind to try for another flight on Saturday. Anyway – after 7+ hours at the Denver airport, I did get into Calgary. The roads were terrible and it was too late for my designated ride to come get me. So, I had to pay $70 for a cab.

Lesson #1 – bring a Club pass (if I have one) just in case you’re stranded for hours or you need quick access to customer service.

213,000 Miles/Points Earned in 2014

Last year we earned 161,000 miles/points. But we used up SO many miles in 2013 that, we ended up going from a balance of almost 500,000 down to 167,000.

I figured it would take a full year to get back up to my comfort level of having a balance of 300,000 miles/points. I was right. But, we managed to get there and we even had enough to spare so I could book a post-Christmas trip to Calgary using miles. 😉

Here’s a summary for the miles/points we earned in 2014:

Ink Bold – 36,681

MileagePlus – 35,613

Explorer – 50,830 (of which 10,000 were bonus miles)

Sapphire card for me – 46,103 (of which 40,000 were bonus points)

Sapphire card for Jay – 44,031 (of which 40,000 were bonus points)

Total: 213,258!

Our spend of $81,624 was about $6,300 less than last year, but we earned around 52,000 more miles/points thanks to the bonus points from our Sapphire cards. Next year, I hope our spend will be even less – though I’m not sure it will be as I’m switching a couple of large payments from online checks to our credit cards. I’m certain we’ll accumulate fewer miles/points as I’ll be waiting another year to try and apply for new Sapphire cards. Hence, there will only be our usual 10,000 bonus miles from our Explorer card.

I’m also contemplating cancelling our MileagePlus card. It’s an old card and I’ve been reluctant to cancel it as it’s the only United card that gives you 2X miles for groceries and restaurants. For the two of us it costs $140/year for card fees and I have to decide if the 12,000 extra miles we earn are worth it. I’m leaning towards no. It doesn’t renew until April, so I have awhile to think about it and won’t cancel until then, anyway.

Trip to Calgary and Not Using Miles?

photo4I’m planning to head up to Calgary in August to spend a week at Windermere with my Mom. I checked flights yesterday and, including taxes, I can fly for around $450 – which is pretty darn good. I might not use miles! Often, the flights are $800. Or $1,300 if you have to fly with no notice.

I depleted my miles account by 325,000 miles in December and am slowly but surely building my balance back up. I’ve earned about 100,000 in the past six months with another 40,000 bonus points for Jay’s Sapphire card coming in June. But, it’ll take a couple of years before I have a large enough balance to cover another emergency.

So, when I can get a flight for under $500 I just might put it on my Explorer card (earning 2x miles for the purchase) and save my miles for another day.

Collared Polo Shirts

polo shirtI hate clothes shopping. But I also hate not having anything decent to wear – something that happens far too often. In preparation for my trip to Florida (and for spring/summer in general) I went through my closet and drawers. Luckily, I have some capris that are in decent shape. And I have a couple of decent dresses/skirts. But, my “shirts/tops” situation was dire. Most need to go and, luckily, Goodwill is coming in a couple of weeks so I’m forcing myself to get rid of them.

I went to Macy’s and picked out a couple of cute and casual tops – all long sleeved. I wanted some short sleeved tops, too. Not t-shirts, though. I don’t wear t-shirts anymore. But I do like collared “polo” shirts. Trouble is, the ones at Macy’s were horrible. They flared out at the bottom – probably to accommodate big hips. But I don’t have big hips. 😉

I decided to check out the mens department. Bingo! They had a huge selection – lots of colors and better construction. They were more expensive (ie. $20 each vs. $11), but I bought three. (There’s a Staples across the parking lot, so I first bought a $50 Macy’s gift card there, using my Ink Bold card to get 5X points.)

I also found some collared polo shirts in the mens section of H&M, for $10 each. I bought three there and will decide which ones to keep and will return the others. I’m pretty hard on shirts. I shrink them. I stain them. If the H&M ones look good enough, I might consider keeping them, buying new ones every year. It’s a plan that should be easy to follow through on, and it will keep me from wearing old shirts that are an embarrassment.

To Check or Not to Check?

checked bagI’m going to Florida with friends and we’re not flying on United. So, I don’t get to check my bag for free. I think it’ll be $25 each way, which means I will, likely, pack everything into carry on bags.

There are five of us and I might throw out the idea of having one of us check a bag that all of us can use for our sunscreen and liquids, so we don’t all have to buy travel size shampoos, etc. Also, a large checked bag would allow us to not have to pack so frugally. It’s a good strategy when there are a number of travelers and you can get away with one checked bag among you.

I’ll see. If I suggest it, it will be my checked bag, and I will pay for it and the chances of everyone paying me back are slim to none. 😉

Today I Saved 62% at Bed Bath and Beyond

bedbathbeyondThe original cost of the 17 items I bought came to $101.83, before tax. I used 17 Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons – all 20% off ones.

I had nine coupons I had clipped from the weekend inserts. They took $18 off the total.

My total, before tax, came to $63.43. That’s a 62% discount – even better than the 45% I saved last April! And I paid for most of it with a $50 Bed, Bath and Beyond gift card I bought on my way to the store, at Office Max using my Ink Bold card to get 5X points.

Applied For Another Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

sapphireI recently got a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, in order to get the 40,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in three months. I had one, previously, but cancelled it a couple of years ago. My plan was to get the bonus points with my new card (I did) and then see if Jay could get his own card and get another 40,000 bonus points.

Well – he applied and was instantly approved. So, we are waiting for the card to arrive in the mail. We will use it to pay the second half of the property taxes on our three Denver rentals.

We will cancel both cards before having to pay the annual fee. They are free for the first year.

Slowly, but surely, we are building our United miles/points balances back up.