Credit Card Minimum Spend Strategies

Rainbow of Credit (photo credit, badumtss)

Rainbow of Credit (photo credit, badumtss)

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In the last year or so we’ve opened 9 new credit card accounts, 7 in my name and 2 in Winnie’s. We have plans to add several more in short order.

Many of these cards have great benefits in their own right, but the primary appeal is the generous signup bonuses which saved us nearly $10,000 on our recent trip to Europe.

Normally the signup bonus is dependent on spending a minimum amount within a specific time period, e.g. “Spend $4,000 on the new card in 3 months.” Our 9 new accounts came with a minimum spend requirement of $23,500, no small amount.

How does one meet these minimum spending requirements without breaking the bank? Inquiring minds want to know.

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The Credit Card Annual Fee Debate

It All Becomes Clear

It All Becomes Clear

I’m a big fan of financial efficiency. If it is possible to get a discount on something I’m going to buy anyway, I’m all for it.

So it isn’t a big surprise when people inquire about call me out for paying annual fees in comments and email.

“Why would you pay a credit card company just for the privilege of making them money?”

“Isn’t it a waste to pay an annual fee when there are so many free credit cards out there?”

“Why would you pay a credit card annual fee? That is just dumb.”

I can certainly relate to the sentiment behind these questions. But if we strip away the emotion and just use the cold hard reason of accounting, it all becomes clear. We pay a fee now with the expectation that we will get something of equal or greater value.

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Cost of 4 Months in Europe

Causeway Coast in N. Ireland (Over yonder way be Scotland)

Causeway Coast in N. Ireland (Over yonder way be Scotland)

For the 4 months from mid-April to mid-August 2016, we explored a healthy portion of Western Europe.

We started our journey in spring in the South and worked our way North as summer arrived. Our plans were very loose… we had only booked flights from Asia to Portugal (via Amsterdam) and from Iceland to the US. Everything in between we made up as we went along.

Our main goal for the trip was simply to enjoy some fine European cuisine. If we happened to discover a place that we could later happily spend months or even years, that would be a nice bonus. We definitely accomplished the former, and perhaps even the latter.

Roughly speaking, we spent a month each in Spain, Italy, and the UK / Ireland, and a week or less in the Netherlands, Portugal, Czech, Germany, Denmark, and Iceland; 10 countries in total.

Our European Trip

Flights, Trains, & Rental Cars – Our European Trip

Not surprisingly, this cost a bit more than our excursions through Latin America and SE Asia. Here is the full cost breakdown:

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An Airbnb Tour of Europe

High over Ireland

High over Ireland

For a long time, I wasn’t a great fan of Airbnb. Whenever I looked for short or medium term housing, their prices were high and their fees numerous and excessive. We were always finding better deals elsewhere.

That changed on our ~4 month European tour. We stayed 77 nights in 20 different private apartments across 19 cities in 7 countries, with an average price inclusive of fees of ~$106/night. (We also spent 8 nights with friends, 16 nights in free hotels, and another 14 nights in paid hotels (average $104/night.) Average price for the whole trip was ~$84/night.

The private apartments found on Airbnb were incredible value compared to hotel options across Europe, with full use of a kitchen, a living space for lounging and computer time, and a bedroom for Jr’s naps, all in an ideal central location for easy walking and access to public transit.

We had a wide range of amazing experiences and a few that were lessons learned (more details below), but we would definitely choose Airbnb for future travel in Europe.

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16 Months, 16 Countries

"Hey, You!"

“Hey, You!” (Top of Old Town Hall Tower, Prague, Czech)

GCCjr recently achieved the ripe old age of 16 months. By coincidence, he also recently visited his 16th country. (Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Vatican City, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, UK, Ireland, Iceland, US… Taiwan apparently is not a country.)

At current pace, he should be able to visit all 195 countries of the world by the time he is old enough to drive, making him the youngest person ever to achieve that milestone. But accumulating passport stamps just for the sake of passport stamps isn’t a goal, so our pace is likely to slow. Still, he’ll probably be a full member of the Traveler’s Century Club.

When we first started traveling with the little guy we didn’t really know what to expect. Based on the numerous questions we’ve received during the past year, it seems many others are in the same boat. So here are some thoughts on traveling with kids based on 16 countries worth of experience.

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