Mar 05 2017

Adding 2 more credit cards for at least $1,200 in benefit

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We’ve added two more cards:

Chase Freedom Unlimited

We’ve finished the minimum spend for my husband’s Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the points posted when the statement closed. He is keeping this card long-term as long as the perks don’t go away, and he recently opened a Chase Freedom Unlimited as well. The Unlimited card will give 1.5x points on all purchases and has no annual fee, so it also is a long-term keeper card. When paired with a Sapphire Reserve and used in the Ultimate Rewards portal, it becomes an effective 2.25% back. Further, the points he earns on the Unlimited can be transferred to partners since he has the Reserve. Without it, nope.

The Unlimited comes with a sign-up bonus of 15,000 points when you spend $500 in three months. Easy (and let me know if I can send you a referral!).

So now, all of his travel and dining purchases will go on the Reserve, and his other purchases will go on the Unlimited.

My Chase Sapphire Reserve

I opened my own Sapphire Reserve card. I went to a Chase branch because the in-branch sign-up offer is still 100,000 points when you spend $4k in 3 months (good through March 11 for the in-branch offer). It is 50,000 if you sign up online. This card gives you 3 points per dollar on dining and travel, and travel seems to be a broad category. It is 1 point per dollar on all other spending.

For reference, 50,000 points can be redeemed for $500 cash, or you can use it for 1.5x the value when booking something in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal if you have the Reserve. 50k points = $750 value in the portal. 100k points = $1,500 in the portal. You can also transfer your points 1:1 to many travel partners. If we transfer, it will most likely be to Southwest, Hyatt, or Marriott.

I plan to get TSA Pre-Check with my card (an $85 expense fully reimburseable by Chase). My husband already has TSA Pre-Check, so our whole family will be able to go through the Pre-Check line since my kids are all under age 12. There’s a Global Entry option, but I’m not going to get it since we aren’t likely to go overseas much in the next 5 years (if at all?) and we’d need Global Entry for each family member.

I’m planning to cancel my AAA auto club membership if they will issue a pro-rated refund. The Sapphire Reserve roadside assistance is just as good or better than my AAA basic membership, and I don’t seem to get much in the way of discounts with AAA.

The trip cancellation/interruption, emergency evacuation, primary rental car insurance (so, you wouldn’t need to get your own auto insurance involved in a claim!), baggage delay perks for a 6-hour delay, trip delay reimbursement for a 6-hour delay, Priority Pass airport lounge access…the benefits of this card really are something to look at if you are a business traveler or travel a few times per year. These card benefits are better than the Sapphire Preferred. The Reserve is a better card, all-around.

Thanks to the huge sign-up bonus, the $300 calendar year travel credit (I can double-dip this for $600 in travel credit before my next annual fee is due!), and the general perks of the card, the math makes sense for me to keep this card for awhile, despite the annual fee.

Annual Reserve fee, not waived: $450 (gulp, right?)

Subtract $300 travel credit, good each calendar year brings the effective annual fee to $150. (Note that the $300 in travel spending to earn the travel credit will also net 3x per dollar, so that us 900 points or $9.) That puts it at $141.

Subtract $85 value of TSA Pre-Check and we’re at $56 for the first year

Pro-rated AAA refund ought to be about $50-60, so I could argue that my first year’s fee is basically zip. Feel free to disagree if you don’t think the AAA should be a factor.

I figure the minimum spend at just 1 point/dollar will get me to 104,000 points, but likely I will have some 3x per dollar for dining or travel in that first $4k. This is $1,040 if cashed out.

The total value of our points won’t be realized until we actually book trips, but the cash value of the Ultimate Rewards points is just a minimum of what we might see. At minimum, the sign-up bonuses with minimum spend for those two cards will be $1,200, but I think we can get it closer to $2,000 in value, if not more. So excited at the possibilities! Though some people cancel a card before the second annual fee hits, I will keep this one unless they strip the benefits. I could be an authorized user for $75/year on my husband’s card, but I’m planning on keeping it for at least two annual fees as a “thank you for the ton of points and upgraded vacations you’re giving me!”

A few weeks ago, I debated doing my own Reserve vs. branching out and trying another premium card to diversify our household points options. I considered the AmEx Platinum, but the recent changes to the card are not appealing to me for my travel purposes. The Citi Prestige or Chase Ritz-Carlton cards were also on my radar, but for now I am really happy with this combination of Chase cards that we hold.

I still have and use my AmEx Starwood card, and I won’t be surprised if the card goes away in 2018 when the Marriott merger is finalized. Just a wait-and-see.

Next cards

Unless something changes, I think that’s it for new card applications for awhile. Between my husband and I, we have the Chase trifecta I’ve been seeking to maximize our regular spending (Reserve, Freedom, and Freedom Unlimited). For now, the aim is to just bank up Starwood points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Eventually, I will likely add some hotel cards for the discounted annual night certificate and sign-up points (Marriott, Hyatt, and IHG are contenders). With Alaska Airlines coming to my home airport in Indianapolis, it is possible they will target Hoosiers for better sign-ups for their card. I signed up for their airline loyalty program to let them know I exist.

 

(Current Chase Freedom bonus promo: 10% back on hotels and car rentals booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal through the end of March. Makes sense for certain hotel bookings, especially if you aren’t trying to rack up hotel loyalty points (I don’t think you can do both, but maybe I’m wrong). However, if my husband needs to rent a car, he needs to stick with the Reserve thanks to the primary insurance offered on the card. Way better than getting our own car insurance involved, should it come to that.


Feb 14 2017

Everything You Should Know About Filing Your Taxes for the First Time

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Everything You Should Know About Filing Your Taxes for the First Time

Filing your taxes for the first time can be a nerve-racking experience.  After all, the IRS means business when it comes to taxes.  Perhaps you fear that you will make a mistake and the secret IRS police will come into your classroom and take you away.  Or rather, you may be unsure as to whether you are actually getting the most out of your return.  You may have many preconceived notions about what the IRS is like, making you terrified of making a mistake when you file.  However, these issues should not burden you.  This article is meant to dispel the common fears regarding tax season by educating you on everything you need to know about filing your taxes for the first time.

Obtain all of your W-2 Forms

Many students start off working multiple jobs.  This is often the case in college or during summer breaks.  Perhaps you started with one job, found you had extra time or did not make enough money, and then you gained another.  Or perhaps you quit one job for another, higher paying job.  You may have easily gone through three jobs in a year, so it is important to keep note of the jobs you have had.  Furthermore, make sure all of your jobs, past and present, have updated information as to your current address.  Make the process smoother by having the human resource department send your W-2 directly to you and not to your parents or an old apartment.

Check for Mistakes

The first thing you should do before you file is to check your statements for any errors.  Your human resource department will not always be perfect, so it is always possible that they will make errors on your return.  Check your W-2 for any errors in the spelling of your name, job position, and especially your social security number.  If there is even one mistake, it is best to let your human resources department know so they can fix it and you can receive a new W-2.  Secondly, you should check for any errors in your filing status and any taxes withheld.  If it doesn’t match with your original W-4, let your job know to prevent further discrepancies with the IRS.

Remember You Cannot Claim Exemptions if you are a Dependent

Unfortunately, you will likely not get as much out of your return if you are still listed as a dependent.  If you are unsure, ask your parents before filing.  This is a common mistake students make.  The IRS states that a dependent is either a qualifying child or qualifying relative who meets age requirements, full-time student status, or income.  Investigate the details to be sure you are not a dependent.

Always File

Whether you owe or you are owed a return, you should always file.  Tax law states that any student who earned less than $6,100 in the tax year does not have to file.  This may be a relief to you if you forgot to file, however, you are missing a huge opportunity if you choose not to file.  Because that amount makes up for such a small income, you can earn much of that money back. Not only that, but filing every year will get you in the habit of making it a priority so you always have accurate records.

Reach Out for Help

Many students reach out for extra assistance when they go to file their taxes.  If you already find yourself in a complicated tax position, it is especially important. While accounting software can help you itemize all of your taxes and deductions, a tax professional can teach you so much more.  By hiring a professional or talking to companies that help people with tax debt, you can get services with a human touch.  You can ask questions to a live person who can educate you on tax law and help outline your financial future.

Filing your taxes doesn’t need to be scary. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be an old pro at filing in no time.

 


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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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