The Best Rewards Credit Card Is The Citi ThankYou® Card

Citi ThankYou Rewards Credit CardThe main reason I opened a relationship with Citibank in 2001 was because they are an international bank with good customer service. I use to travel overseas twice a year for my job and wanted to access a Citibank branch wherever I went. Chase couldn’t do that at the time, neither could Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Bank of The West, and frankly most banks.

When my Citibank ATM card was stolen in Beijing back in 2003, I was able to get another card sent to my hotel room two days later with all erroneous charges expunged. I’ve got a whole story to tell about this incident, which I’ll save for another post. It was then that I knew I would be a Citibank customer for life.

My Citi ThankYou® Preferred credit card is my main personal credit card. I try and put everything on the card because of the rewards points and the clear monthly consolidated spending statement. The goal is to easily track my expenses and maximize my rewards points.


The Irresponsibility Of Borrowing Money To Borrow More Money

Swans With Their Babies In San FranciscoIf you want to know what’s wrong with people’s personal finances, just observe those who are willing to borrow money in order to borrow more money!  One example is using a credit card you can’t pay off in full each month, for a downpayment on a car.  Since the limit for credit card use for buying at the car dealership is usually $3,000, and given most downpayments on vehicles range from $0 to $3,000 to buy or lease, using the credit card is a tantalizing proposition.

Forget the fact that these car buyers don’t make 10X the value of the car in annual salary.  They can’t even pay cash for the car or come up with even 10% of the value of the car as a downpayment!  Look, I know more than anyone how alluring it is to buy a nice car.  I used to be a car addict with 7 different cars in as many years.  It’s just irresponsibile of consumers to use their credit card for a downpayment when they don’t have a healthy savings account balance to match the entire value of the car before purchase.


Reducing Credit Card Spending One Month At A Time

Airplane On TarmacAfter January/February’s credit card spending blow out of around $3,100, I’ve successfully reduced my latest credit card spending by 61% to $1,200!  $1,000-$1,500 is the target credit card spending range I have every month.  If I can spend just $1,000 one month, it’s like building a $500 buffer to be able to spend $2,000 ($1,500 upper range + $500) the next month.  By spending $1,200 in Feb/March, I “gain back” about $300 from the $3,100 credit card blowout in Jan/Feb.

So what changed this last statement?  Well, I didn’t go on vacation to Hawaii, which saved me $500-$700 right there in flights, food, and extra discretionary spending.  The other thing I learned after meeting my accountant is that some of my expenses can be classified as business expenses.

For example, if I am to write about the best resorts in Lake Tahoe, technically, the costs associated with going to Lake Tahoe (gas, lodging, meals) to do my due diligence is expensable.  Think about the workers of The Lonely Planet and Rick Steve’s travel guides.  Of course all their travel expenses are business expenses!

Hence, I should really write more about the places I love and the things I like to do.  Nobody says I can’t enjoy myself while working.  In fact, one of the main goals is to find work that you enjoy doing, so it doesn’t feel like work.  This type of enjoyable work is writing online!


Credit Card Spending Gone Overboard!

Mediterranean CroatiaShoot, I’ve spent too much on my credit card at a time when I shouldn’t because I got less of a 2011 bonus than expected.  January’s statement reminds me how easy it is for people to spend freely only to feel regret one month later.

January saw the first huge storm that dumped 2.5 foot of powder in Lake Tahoe.  As a storm chaser, I just had to go last minute because there’s nothing quite like riding on 2+ feet of powder.  You’re floating on a cloud as you barrel down the shoot without a fear of crashing because everything is so soft.  I stayed at my place and spent around $150 on gas and another $100 on food for a couple nights.

I also took full advantage of a ridiculously low airfare by Hawaiian Airlines and booked a round-trip ticket for only $360 after taxes and fees just 7 days before departure!  Originally, I was going to go from Saturday to Saturday, but due to the storm up in Lake Tahoe, I decided to go from Tuesday to Saturday (Tahoe Sunday Monday).  It was quite surreal going from powder to the beach the very next day.

Of course, once in Hawaii, I met up with friends every other night for dinner and drinks.  The Korean BBQ and Hawaiian food are incredible there!  I guess things could have been worse since I didn’t have to pay for lodging for a week.


Using A Credit Card To Buy A Car

BMW X1 2013The last five cars I’ve owned have all been purchased by cashier’s checks. I loathe going into debt on an asset that is guaranteed to depreciate. In fact, I dislike buying anything that is guaranteed to depreciate!

I stopped by the BMW dealer on the way home from golf one day and checked out their new 650i coupe series. If someone could figure out a way to bottle that wonderful new car smell, they’d make millions off fanatics like me!

Given this particular 650i coupe was priced at $104,000, I decided to check out the more moderately priced 2014 X3, 2.8 litre engine SUV for $48,000.  Same new car smell for half the price. Score!