Published FCAA, January 2018
Author: Erik Greenawalt
So you really want to attend that particular chalk festival. Maybe it’s because it draws a
massive crowd. Maybe it’s because it’s at the beach and you need a temporary escape from
the cold Northern winter. Or maybe it’s because you want to see what it’s like to chalk a mile
above sea level. Unfortunately, though, the event doesn’t have a budget to bring you in – or
perhaps you need an extra hotel night than what the festival is providing.
What’s an artist to do?
I remember signing up for my first credit card. I had just turned 18 and was catching an Orioles
game at Camden Yards. By giving the MBNA representative a little bit of personal information –
my name, my Social Security number, my income (a measly $2,500 a year I made as a bus boy)
– I became the proud owner of a Cal Ripken Jr. beach towel. Hey, I figured it was a better
choice than an inflatable baseball bat.
My, how times have changed when it comes to credit card sign-up offers. If you apply for the
right card and cross a certain spending threshold over a certain length of time – typically 90
days from when the account opens – it’s incredibly easy to reap $1,000 or more in travel
benefit, redeemable for a couple of flights or a week at a hotel. (Of course, using credit cards
requires discipline. My wife and I rarely carry cash and we charge everything – but we only use
only one card at any given time, we keep within the spending limit we set for ourselves, and we
make sure to pay off the bill in full each month to avoid any interest charges.)
Making the best use out of Point Reward Programs
That said, I’ve learned the ins and outs of this by becoming a devoted follower of The Points
Guy (www.thepointsguy.com), who is, by far, the Web’s top resource for rewards programs. If
you want to know how to best use points and miles, he’s your man. Brian Kelly started his
travel blog more than seven years ago; today he gets more than 5 million unique visitors a
month. His team posts 10-20 articles every day, always looking for the latest deals.
What follows are some of the top credit card offers out there right now – one airline-specific
card, one hotel-specific card and one broad-based card:
Southwest Rapid Rewards Card
I love to fly Southwest. That’s probably because I make a lot of trips to the Tampa are, and SWA has several direct flights a day between Pittsburgh and TPA. This is a card to keep an eye on, because the reward offer is always changing. Right now, however, if you sign up for the Rapid Rewards card and spend $1,000 on it within the first 3 months, you’ll get 40,000 bonus Southwest points. What do 40,000 points translate into? It depends on where and when you’re traveling, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility to turn
that into three or four free roundtrip flights. (I just booked a roundtrip nonstop flight from PIT
to TPA in January for less than 10,000 points.) The card comes with a $69 annual fee, but you
can easily cancel the card before your first anniversary – after you’ve earned your sign-on
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
f you like the Marriott brands of hotels (as well as Starwood since the companies recently merged), this could be a great card for you. Spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening and you’ll get 80,000 points credited to your Marriott Rewards account. The 80,000 points can convert into five free nights at a Level 3 hotel (think a Residence Inn or Courtyard Inn); at $150 per night, that translates into roughly $750 of
value. The card comes with an annual $85 fee (again, cancel before the anniversary), but it’s
certainly a winner for some cheap hotel stays.
Chase Ink Business Preferred Card.
If you spend $5,000 within the first 3 months of opening the card, you’ll get 80,000 points credited to your Ultimate Rewards account. This is one of my favorite rewards programs, as the Chase points can be redeemed virtually anywhere – you pick the airline, hotel chain (even some Disney hotels), or car rental agency through the Chase site – at a rate of 1.25 cents per Ultimate Rewards point. The 80,000 points translate into $1,000 worth of travel. The card comes with a $95 annual fee; because the points are tied directly to Chase, you’ll want to switch to a no-fee Chase card before the anniversary, so you can keep
your points but avoid the charge after the first year. Chase is very loose with their interpretation of “business” – if you don’t have a Taxpayer Identification Number for your
street painting business, you can easily apply as a sole proprietor using your Social Security
If you plan to Chalk and Travel its worth the research
As you may have noticed, my favorite cards are all offered by Chase, which has been known to
limit the number of rewards you’re eligible for to two within a 24-month period – so pick your
programs wisely. Many other banks are offering great rewards right now, too – some with
hefty annual fees but which offer travel credits or free TSA pre-check membership. I’d
encourage you to check out what The Points Guy is featuring on his site for the most up-to- date
information. It’s also possible to earn bonus rewards through referral programs, so be sure to
ask around before applying to see if you can both earn an even bigger reward.
See you at the airport!
Chalk Artist, Pittsburgh PA
Website : www.thechalkingdad.com