My Credit Cards World

 

Introduction

I’ve talked a lot about credit cards lately. It feels like I am living in a credit cards world. Actually, this for two reasons. One is because I have wanted to learn everything I could about them, credit scores and credit reports, too. The other reason, probably the most important one, is that credit cards have become one of my most important survival tools.

credit card world
Alison D. Gilbert, The Credit Card Maven
The Credit Card Maven

As a result of my intense interest and need to know everything I can about credit cards, I’ve even created a Facebook page called The Credit Card Maven. This is where I post information as I have researched and sourced it. I have found a number of websites, blog posts, Facebook pages (listed here) and groups that are extremely helpful resources in my quest for knowledge as The Credit Card Maven in my credit card world. Included are:
Credit Card Mastery
Credit Karma
CreditCards.com
NerdWallet
Wallet Hacks
Wise Bread
 

credit cards world
Viper Tool Storage Box Survival Toolkit as part of My Credit Card World
Credit Cards as a Survival Tool

As I mentioned at the start of this post, credit cards have become a survival tool in my credit cards world. It was not by design that this came to be.

It was more a matter of circumstances. Once I got a feel for how useful and profitable using credit cards could be, my desire to use them and master it increased. Let me give you an example.

I have had a cash rewards credit card for a number of years. I can accumulate up to about $40. in a two month period. That was a good beginning. Then I decided to get a travel rewards card in anticipation of someday going to visit my family in Colorado. I used it and kept on accumulating points.

Credit Card Currency

When I went to check on the conversion to paying for an airplane ticket, the results were not impressive. I had to find something better. This time by design, I set out to find the best deal I could for air travel benefits using a credit card. I found one that I ultimately used for my flight. It rewarded me with 30,000 points and a $100. discount on my airplane ticket. This was such a great deal that I have enough points to return to Colorado for free, right now.

credit cards world
Credit cards currency from 123RF.com
Now that’s what I call using credit cards as currency. If I could do that with a travel rewards credit card, I wondered what other benefits and rewards I could manifest in my credit cards world. I familiarized myself with a few other travel rewards cards as part of getting a second ticket for my husband and having funds for other things related to our vacation. All in all, my activities resulted in a savings of between $400 and $500 for our trip.

 

 

Credit Card Investing

Let me present one more situation where the skilled use of a credit card became very profitable. I found an offer for a cash rewards credit card that would refund $100 on spending $500 within 90 days of acquiring the card. That would be a 20% profit. I had never accomplished that in the stock market. It seemed like a very good investment to me. I wasn’t sure if I would be granted another card as I had accumulated quite a few by this point. But it came through. I fulfilled the requirements. Now I am just waiting for my investment to pay off.

credit cards world
Credit Card Monthly Rotation represented by a photo from blog.taxact.com
Credit Card Monthly Rotation

I made another discovery. It may seem a bit confusing. In fact, I am kind of surprised that I am even able to do this. I am calling it credit card monthly rotation. It is based upon a combination of the nature of credit cards themselves and good credit card hygiene.

Each credit card has a closing date and a payment due date. Since I have several credit cards and they have different closing and payment dates, I can use them and not have to pay them at the same time. If I make my purchased and schedule my payments using my monthly rotation system, I have a revolving credit situation. In other words, if my budget in a particular month needs to be exceeded, I can use a card that has a closing date that will allow payment the following month. I just have to make sure the funds will be available then.
 

credit card world
Brian Cain’s Credit Card Mastery Course
Credit Card Mastery

What is credit card mastery? Have I achieved it? It turns out that this term exists. I did not invent it as I thought I had. There is actually a course called Credit Card Mastery that costs $97. Much of it seems similar to my own system. Although I have not taken that course, it looks very comprehensive. This is an introduction to the course and an explanation of it by founder, Brian Cain.

Based upon my understanding and goals to achieve Credit Card Mastery, I believe that I am on my way but I have not achieved mastery yet. When will I achieve it? There are several requirements that I have established for myself:
• My credit scores average will be over 800 again. It is only about 10-20 points from that now.
• My monthly rotation system will have proven itself to work and I will have a sense of mastery in my credit card world
• My Credit Card Management Chart will be complete and committed to memory. As a result, I will have a firm grasp on all my cards and a natural flow for their use in rotation as needed.

Conclusion

To many people, understanding credit scores and reading credit reports are overwhelming and confusing. There is no need to not have transparency and clarity about your credit cards world. Credit cards are an important tool and can even be crucial for personal survival and business development. Study the resources provided. Take the Credit Card Mastery Course if you can. Having one’s finances in order and being able to live solvently in a credit card world are not luxuries. They are necessities and everyone deserves to have them.

credit card world
The Cool Piggy Bank property of The WalletHacks.com and the cover image of their facebook page
Sources & Resources

CreditCardMastery.com, a course developed by Brian Cain
CreditCards.com, find a credit card that’s right for you
CreditKarma.com, free credit scores and more
NerdWallet.com, Best Credit Cards of 2017
NextAdvisor.com, all about finances
WalletHacks.com, founded by Jim Wang
WiseBread.com, great blog post advice about credit cards and everyday frugal living

FICO SCORE AND CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES
Equifax
Experian
Transunion
Identity Guard

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Our Frugal Vacation for Members of the Former Middle Class

 

How We Took A Frugal Vacation As Members of The Former Middle Class

This fact is in spite of what Erika Rawes wrote in The Cheat Sheet entitled, ’10 Things the Middle Class Can’t Afford Anymore’. At the very top of her list was the word, VACATION.

This blog post will disprove her statement. In addition to disproving her, I also pronounce that the Middle Class she referred to is disappearing and becoming The Former Middle Class. Even with that added financial burden, it is possible to take a frugal vacation.

It is different from a Middle Class or Upper Middle Class vacation. I will not dispute that. Actually, it involves actions that a middle class person would not take or need to take. Nonetheless, it is still a vacation. I have proof. That proof is what this post is all about.

frugal vacation
10 Things The Middle Class Can’t Afford Anymore by Erika Rawes

I had not seen most of my family for six years. They live in Colorado. In fact, the last time I had been to Colorado was for my nieces weddings. Their four children were not yet a gleam in anyone’s eyes. We were long overdue to visit now that I had become a great-aunt. Since we had become member of The Former Middle Class, I did not know how that was going to be possible. As it was, we were barely making ends meet.

But as my husband and I told ourselves, life is short. We are both hovering about our seventh decade and live a day at a time. So one never knows how many days, weeks, months or years that might be. Time was of the essence even if the funds were not apparent. I was determined to make this the year we would return to Colorado, it’s beautiful mountains, past great fly fishing experience and now three great nephews as well as a great niece.

This Is How Financing Our Frugal Vacation Came Together

Pay close attention to this part because this is how to create the opportunity to take a frugal vacation. There are essential ingredients to this alchemical formula. They include and are primarily:
• Travel Rewards Credit Cards
• Promotions
• Help from family
• Help from friends

TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARDS
Without having any idea when a trip to Colorado would happen or what it would cost, I went ahead and signed up with our first Travel Rewards Card, The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card. It was with a highly reputable bank and the one we also had other cards with. After using it for a little while, we accumulated a few hundred travel rewards points. One ticket was charged on that card. This card happens to be the top card recommended by Wise Bread in this article.

frugal vacation
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card

 

I then took advantage of another promotion towards realizing our frugal vacation. It was a Travel Rewards Card from Capital One, Venture One.

frugal vacation
The Capital One VentureOne Travel Rewards Card

By the time I had paid for the airline tickets, I did not need to use the equivalent in travel points of $200.plus. I called Capital One and they were able to upgrade me to the Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card. This became the equivalent of cash I could use anywhere for anything. It actually paid for our out of pocket expenses on our trip.

frugal vacation
The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card

frugal Vacation
Delta Skymiles Credit Card
In continuing my Travel Rewards Credit Card research, I came upon a number of articles about what were considered the best cards for travel rewards. One in particular recommended the Delta SkyMiles Credit Card. It just so happens that Delta Airlines flies to Denver. Also, the promotion for this card included $100 off the first trip and 30,000 additional points if a certain amount of money was charged within a certain amount of time. From past experience, I knew this would be manageable. Due to some confusion with signing up, I ended up with two accounts, saved $200 on our flights and am now working on the 30,000 travel rewards points.

OTHER PROMOTIONS
When it came time to go home, we decided to try the SuperShuttle. We had taken the newly completed light rail system from the airport to the hotel. It was a bit grueling as it happened to be raining and snowing that particular day in May. Although it was a thrifty $9. for both of us. Using that method of return transportation was out of the question.

In arranging for our $38. Super Shuttle ride to the airport, there was a prompt on the phone that gave us the opportunity to receive two $20. refund coupons. I usually ignore these kinds of offers. But as a Former Middle Class, I felt it was my duty to investigate. We signed up for $1 to try the greatfun.com website. If we didn’t like it, we could cancel within thirty days and we would receive no other charges. I have to make sure I contact them before June 23. If not, the fee goes up to $16.99 per month.

THANKS TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Our family treated us royally providing food and lodging. Friends drove us to and from the airport, lent money to fill in the gaps and one friend in particular lent us two suitcases which she then said we could keep. Let me not forget our neighbor who took in our mail for the time we were gone so we did not have to deal with the post office.

We already miss the mountain view outside our hotel window. With all the travel points we are now accumulating who know how soon we will have a snow capped view when we look outside. We hope and plan that it will be soon.

frugal vacation
View of Snow Capped Rocky Mountains Looking West From Denver by John Bielick on Flickr
CONCLUSIONS
From when we first started pricing our trip, the flight costs rose daily. My husband searched for several days and became dizzy between all the various supposed discount options, Orbits.com, Travelocity.com, AARP.com and others. For some reason, I decided to try again. It seemed to me that there had to be a way to get to where we wanted to go and back for under $1200. By the time I finished the research, locked in our fares and got promotional discounts, our airfares were $650 including flight cancellation insurance. Now that we have shared some of the ways to took our frugal vacation, we hope you will find these tips helpful so you can take a frugal vacation, too.

SOURCES & RESOURCES
Cheat Sheet Article

No Hassle Travel Rewards Card With Highest Results

5 Top Travel Rewards Cards

Delta SkyMiles Rewards Card

Super Shuttle

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USING CREDIT CARDS

 

Credit Cards
WARNING, using credit cards can be like carrying a loaded gun. At the same time, they can be financially beneficial if you know how to shoot. On the other hand, they can be deadly if you don’t. In fact, many people do end up in debt using them. The interest that accumulates can make it impossible to ever pay them off. Groups that help people get out of debt prohibit their use altogether.

credit cards are a financial survival tool for the poor middle class crisis
Credit Cards from Linkedin.com

But in my case, using credit cards is part of my financial survival toolkit. With this caveat, I also strongly suggest the following. If you are not able to be vigilant using them by never missing a payment, do not include them in your financial survival toolkit.

 

How I Make Money Using Credit Cards
Yes, I have actually learned how to accumulate cash or credit towards purchases using my credit cards*. So far, I have discovered two ways to create income. If you know of others, please let me know. I have the following cards:
• a cash rewards card
• a travel points card
* The ‘income’ from them, the cash rewards are not taxable because the money is a discount or purchase rebate, not income itself.

 

Cash Rewards Credit Cards
Some banks offer credit cards that accumulate cash points for purchases. The points are a percentage of the expense. They range between 1% and 3%. I have been able to earn about $20/month with this system.

the poor middle class crisis financial survival toolkit
The Chase Freedom Unlimited Cash Back Visa
* Mention of this card is in no way an endorsement of it.

 
Travel Rewards and Sky Miles Credit Cards
I signed up for a travel rewards credit card when the bank had a special promotion. If I charged a certain amount of purchases within three months, I would receive 20,000 in travel points. I did this. The travel points will go towards a trip out of state to see family and friends.
Financial Survival Toolkit for the poor middle class crisis
Five Star Sky Miles Credit Card
* Mention of this card is in no way an endorsement of it.

 

Sources & Resources
Here is a list of the best credit cards for a variety of categories. You can explore these websites for even more suggested card categories.

Excellent Credit Scores:
Excellent Credit Score Cards

Cash Back:
Best Credit Cards for Cash Back | Compare Cards

Travel:
Best Travel Credit Card-BankAmericacard Travel Rewards

Credit Karma | Best Travel Credit Cards

General use:
Best Credit Cards for 2017 | Compare Cards

Credit Karma | Best Credit Cards

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THE POOR MIDDLE CLASS CRISIS: Introduction

 

INTRODUCTION
The Poor Middle Class Crisis is the story of The Poor Middle Class. It is designed to be a resources guide for the Financial Survival of the Poor Middle Class. This guide is an instruction manual for building resources known as a ‘financial survival toolkit’. It also encourages readers to start or find and participate in a ‘financial survival support group or community’.

The Poor Middle Class, itself, is a relatively new phenomenon. Our personal membership was precipitated by the 2008 stock market crash the same week as a primary income earners job layoff. For others families, becoming affected by the poor middle class crisis may have been due to the subprime mortgage scandal. It cost many families their homes. The Poor Middle Class are composed of people who were once middle class, who likely have college degrees or advanced degrees, had careers and good jobs, had homes with equity in them, had pensions, had good health insurance and savings.

the poor middle class blog
45 million Americans rely on food stamps, 1 million about to lose them – report from @Jim Young/Reuters

The Challenge for The Poor Middle Class
Financial survival has become a critical issue for the Poor Middle Class. This is a crisis that has led to the growing need for new, resourceful financial survival tools. These tools are not exclusive to one demographic, one age group, a particular sex, or one location. But because I am a ‘senior’ living in New York State, some of the tools and resources may apply specifically to people in this demographic.

As a result, I especially welcome your comments and additional suggestions to expand the resources for anyone’s financial survival toolkit. Therefore, I invite you to visit and participate in my companion Facebook page, The Poor Middle Class Crisis & Resources.

poor middle class crisis
‘The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans’ from ‘My Secret Shame’ from The Atlantic by Neal Gabler

Financial Survival
Now, we have almost nothing left of that life. But we are not technically poor. Therefore we do not qualify for the level of government benefits reserved for those living in poverty. But we are no longer middle class, either. We are in a place where we cannot meet the obligations of a middle class lifestyle. But we are not poor enough to get enough assistance to survive, either. We also are unable to find or maintain jobs like we had before the financial crisis began. The result is that we need to become very resourceful to survive. Therefore, I needed to gather new financial survival resources. I have created a ‘Financial Survival ToolKit’ in my mind to transform this crisis into an adventure rather than a place of fear.

poor middle class crisis
From ‘Americans on Food Stamps’

My Financial Survival Toolkit
It has taken me years to compile the resources, tips and suggestions I have in my financial survival toolkit. In addition, I continue to add to it. I am a visual person so I find it helpful to choose visual tools to help me implement concepts and ideas. I love the cabinets and tool boxes created by the The Viper Tool Storage Company. Therefore I chose one of their set ups to be my virtual financial survival toolkit. Many of my real tools are based on my own experience. Some are based on ideas and tips I have gathered on my financial survival journey. There may be resources that you already use. Other tips and tools may be new, hopefully useful suggestions. I also welcome any input and suggestions you may have. Please enter them in the comments section.

 financial survival toolkit for the poor middle class crisis
A Financial Survival Toolkit for gathering all my Finaincial Survival Tools that can be bougt at the Viper Tool Storage Company in mnay cheerful colors

Financial Overview
I keep an overview of my monthly finances at all times. This means that I monitor my income and expenses with the benefit of online banking, automatic bill paying and computerized bookkeeping. It includes payment of most of my bills by autopay after my monthly income becomes available. There is a flow to all of this. It has taken me some time to create a system to coordinate the ins and outs of it. Sometimes I feel like a juggler. At other times, I still feel like a beginner.

The Poor Middle Class Crisis And Solutions
There are plenty of financial survival tools following this post in the series, The Poor Middle Class. The next post is A BUDGET: THE MOST ESSENTIAL FINANCIAL SURVIVAL TOOL FOR THE POOR MIDDLE CLASS. Read it and others on The Alison D. Gilbert Blog.

 

 

 

Sources & Resources
I’m Middle Class and Poor: It wasn’t supposed to be that way

5 Charts That Show How the Middle Class Are Disappearing

Americans on Foodstamps

Subprime Mortgage Crisis

Lest We Forget: Why We Had A Financial Crisis

The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans

My Secret Shame from The Atlantic by Neal Gabler

Your Stories of Financial Struggle

Americans are trapped in a ‘cycle’ of financial insecurity

Young Invincibles, Financial Health

Report on Financial Health of Young Americans

How To Combat The Senior Poverty Epidemic

White Working Class Poverty

Parents Taking on Child’s College Debt and Putting Themselves at Financial Risk

5 Great Jobs for Retirees

Viper Tool Storage Box aka My Financial Survival Toolkit

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