Plan before you Churn Credit Cards!

There is a lot of talk around the blogosphere about credit card churning, where you utilize sign up bonuses to get some pretty sweet perks. Once you collect the bonus, close the account, find a new credit card sign up bonus and repeat the process.

Well, I’m here to tell you…. Plan before you Churn.

When I started my new job, I also signed up for a new credit card. The offer for opening the card was pretty sweet, but for it to be sweet you have to spend $3500 in 3 months. I thought I could make it. I really did. Well, my 3 month period is nearly up and I’m not going to make it.

Please learn from my mistakes.

Here are a few things you need to think about before Churning.

1. Get your Significant Other onboard. 

My husband had been paying for nearly everything before I got my job. For at least the first month of my Churn, he challenged me every time I tried to pay for anything. He’d say things like “Are you sure?”, “You don’t have to do that.” or “No, let me get it.” I kept telling him it was fine, that we will balance it later. But he didn’t like it. He didn’t like me reaching into my wallet to pay for things. He didn’t want people to think that he couldn’t provide for me.

He also didn’t open up his spending. I could have been paying for his cell phone (which earns me double points) and his gas fill-ups this whole time.  I know some of these kinks are due to the fact that we hadn’t fully integrated our finances, but these last 3 months would have been a lot easier if he was onboard the whole time. His extras may not have fully put me over the edge, but it would have made the final stretch possible.

2. Know Their  Terms.

Credit card offer terms vary. Make sure you know all the details before you sign up. Specifically, how long do you have and how much do you have to spend? I was 100% convinced I had 5 months, not 3, to reach my goal. Five months would have been easy peasy. Three months is hard… especially when I thought I had 5.

3. Know Your Spending.

You need to have a good grasp on how much you spend every month and any major upcoming expenses. We paid our 6 month car insurance bill a week before I was offered my job. That could have helped a lot in reaching $3500. I had a rough idea of our monthly spending, but rough doesn’t cut it. During this time, we started following a budget to see where our money was going. We plugged any identified leaks. This does not bode well for meeting a spending limit.

4. Learn the Loopholes.

Before I started this failed attempt, I didn’t know much about credit card churning. I understood that you needed to spend a certain amount in a certain period of time but I didn’t know that there were so many creative ways to do that.  Until the last week or so, I didn’t think about buying gift cards to places where I already shop to spend later. Oftentimes you can do this at grocery stores, where I earn double points anyway. Others use Bluebird by American Express, a prepaid debit card. There is also Amazon Payments, where you can allegedly send anyone money using a credit card with no fee. If you want to churn, you should probably learn about these things.

5. Watch for other Promotions.

If I had waited a week to sign up for my credit card, I would have earned half of the promotional bonus without spending a dime. This was on top of the regular bonus. So instead of getting a sweet bonus and a half, I am getting nothing. Churn Fail.

6. Don’t Spend more than you Normally do. 

During my churn, I spent money on things I normally wouldn’t have. My husband and I went on a few extra (cheap) dates. I ordered a drink places I normally would have ordered just water. I love the dickens out of my Momma, but I bought her flowers for Mother’s Day that were delivered to her work. They ended up being more expensive than I planned because I wanted to earn frequent flyer miles on top of using my credit card.  If I would have just picked up a bouquet on my way to her home, I would have saved money and I could have seen her face when I gave them to her. Daughter failure. At least now she gets to be the envy of the office because her daughter is so wonderful. (<- This is what I keep telling myself to make it okay for what I did)

If I add up how much I’ve spent to try to get the perk, I may have spent more than the perk is worth. That feels icky so I refuse to tally up my frivolous spending.  Don’t feel icky. Don’t spend extra just to reach your spending limit.

Please learn from my mistakes if you are going to churn credit cards!

Have you tried to churn a credit card? Do you have any tips?


Medical expenses strike back…

My husband’s BFF had a bit of a going away gathering this week. This gathering involved seeing a lot of friendly faces we haven’t seen in a long time. It was so fun to catch up with friends and give this BFF a proper send off.

While I was chatting away, I heard my husband telling his “back pill story.” I know what you are thinking, we are a blast at parties.

In short, over a period of like 6 months, he started bruising like crazy. “Someone is beating him while I’m away” crazy. It seemed like everyday he came home with a new deep dark purple bruise. I panicked and thought he had Leukemia (logical reaction). Then I had my ah-ha moment. He’d been taking an aspirin based pain pill to help cope with his back pain for the exact same period of time. Once he switched off the aspirin, the bruising stopped almost immediately. Blood thinning is real people.

I thought that was the end of the story. Apparently, it wasn’t. He went on to say that his back is still “killing him” on a regular basis and is really bothering him.

Um… What?

Shouldn’t he be talking to his wife about this? Not someone he sees once every few months.

[insert serious marital discussion here]

While I was in school, money was tight and any medical expenses we could “comfortably” delay, we did. After our discussion, it became clear that we have a few medical expenses we need to address. Soon. I don’t think we’ve done any lasting damage, but taking care of these things needs to be priority #1.

The next day at work, I increased my paycheck deductions for my HSA to the max. I have no idea how much all of this is going to cost, but I prefer my medical expenses tax-free. My paycheck will take a hit with the extra deduction, but hopefully this won’t set us back too far on my debt elimination goals.

We are in the process of making appointments. Wish us luck.

Have you been sidetracked by medical expenses?

April 2014 Recap

Hello April! Goodbye April!

April was a frustrating month, at least weather wise. There have been a few bright days, but its mostly been a cold, rain/snow mix. Toward the end of the month, it started to feel like Spring and I was excited to get out of the house and enjoy it. My area has excellent biking trails and I was looking forward to exploring them. I picked up my bike from my parents house…. and it has rained every day since. Bummer.

If you haven’t read, I published my 2014 goals this month. My stretch goal this year is to Quarter Max my Roth IRA. Prior to setting my goals, I was contributing $58/month… I have no idea why $58. I’m sure I had some logical reason at the time! To reach my goal, $58 was not enough, so I bumped it up to $140/month. Then I actually added the money to my account!

One of my other goals for the year was to complete a 5k. I’ve upped the ante. I was given the opportunity to run one of the most popular (and most difficult to enter) 10 mile road races in my area. 10 miles is a LONG way, but I think I can do it. Even if I can’t, I’m sure going to try. To run 10 miles, I’ve committed to 3 – 5ks.  The first one is Memorial Day weekend! Eek! There is a lot of running in my future.

As for debt repayment, April was another big month. But the extra bigness is due to a technicality. I get paid on the last day of the month and I’ve been overcomplicating how I should deal with it. Some months, like this month, I’m on top of my business and I’m able to shift money from my check to my loans on payday. Other months, like last month, I’m not quite so on top of things and the payment is made in the next calendar month. My delayed transfer effectively gave me three paychecks this month. My debt repayment number is high as a result.

I guess my enthusiasm for getting rid of these beasts is stronger than my desire to have consistent debt payments every month.

Oh well.

Debt Progress

End of March Debt: $38,650

End of April Debt: $34,985

That’s $3665 paid off this month!

Someone find me a mountain top. I want to scream from it! I OWE LESS THAN $35,000! That is such a sweet, sweet milestone.  It’s amazing what reckless abandon can do for paying down debt. Throwing every penny I can find at it sure does seem to be doing the trick.

We’ll see if I can keep up this pace. Doubt it, but I might as well enjoy it while I can!

How was your April?