Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Here comes the long post...

I'll be leaving for Australia next week as part of a study abroad program (I've mentioned this briefly in some older posts.) I've been very busy preparing for the trip, but one of the things I've made sure to do is to read up on www.flyertalk.com, www.freefrequentflyermiles.com, and www.webflyer.com. These are great sites with some terrific discussions and ideas about making the most of travel in every way (but especially financially.)

I've never been into frequent flyer miles, but my interest has definitely peaked as the anticipation for my trip builds. (Reading the above sites may also have something to do with it.) I'm considering extending my ever-growing credit portfolio into some frequent-flyer based cards. Most intriguing is the Citi AAdvantage Mastercard and its 15,000-20,000 signup miles with the first year's fee waived. I wouldn't pay to have this card, but I would get the bonus miles, use it for a year, then cancel ;).

American Airlines is my preferred airline. I will be flying with them domestically and to Australia (and within Australia) I will be travelling with Qantas, a partner of AA. Because I booked my flights through the school, I may or may not receive mileage credit for my flights. And because I'm flying deep, deep discount economy class on Qantas, I will (at best) qualify for only 50% of the actual miles I fly. Still, I'll be flying about 25,000 miles total, so hopefully I'll get some miles credited.

Of course, the AMEX Starwood card also looks great. I signed up for the SPG program through Starwood and got an email offering 6,000 bonus Starpoints upon applying. This card offers an exciting 5,000 point bonus upon converting 20,000 points into airline miles (including AA at an excellent 1:1 ratio,) but it would take me a long time to reach 20,000 miles, even with the 6,000 mile bonus. "If" I do decide to go for this card, it will be a few months into the future. I recently accepted an invitation for an AMEX Gold Rewards Plus card with the first year free, and I don't want to jeopardize my relationship with American Express by going for too much credit too fast. They're picky.

All of this applying will have to wait until after I return from Australia, so as to let a couple credit inquiries pass the important 6 month mark.

If anyone has any suggestions or comments about frequent flyer programs, please post: I'm all ears. They are my new fascination.

As I mentioned in the comments of my last post, my T-bill purchase did go through 5/04/2006.

Unfortunately, my identity was not adequately identified by my bank. Actually, the bank didn't use the correct stamp/seal. The ID verification form has to have the bank's official seal on it; apparently the stamp my bank provided wasn't enough. A CSR emailed me and politely requested another copy be mailed in with the seal. This isn't a big deal because this T-bill will be rolled over into a new 28-day bill upon maturity. Remember, TD securities can be purchased while the identity verification is pending, but they cannot be redeemed.

The CSR did attach another blank form for me to fill out and take to the bank. Surprisingly polite service, especially for a government employee.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Recently, I began exploring investment opportunities through the US Treasury at www.treasurydirect.gov. This week, I:
  • Set up an account at TreasuryDirect
  • Scheduled an ACH debit to occur on the May 2 auction
  • Ordered a $1000 28-day T-bill
For whatever reason, TreasuryDirect has asked me to go to a bank and have them verify my identity. In the mean time, I can purchase T-bills, but I can't redeem them, so instead of rolling my first purchase over into another T-bill, it will just go back into my HSBC account.

I chose the 28-day term and $1000 amount mainly because I am doing this to "test the waters" and get the hang of how it all works before I commit (if I commit) to a longer term bill. So far, the process has been really smooth.

This week, I received the $100 check from the Charles Schwab credit card promotion. I also received my check for $61.46 from cashing out the rewards on my Citi Dividend card. To top it off, I got a gift certificate from Amazon.com courtesy of Citi's ThankYou Network.

I love getting free money from my credit cards. :)

In preparation for my trip to Australia, I have purchased a new digital camera and a number of accesories to go with it. I'm looking forward to taking some nice shots once I get down under.

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