Credit Cards That Fit My Life

After a couple of weeks of dithering – which is both symptom of my Brain Cloud and my fear of making financial mistakes – I pulled the trigger on getting new credit cards. I suppose this means I technically have four now, and here’s why:

OLD: Citibank Dividend MasterCard

I’ve had this card since 2001. Would be 1989 if I hadn’t tried some other card of theirs for a while, which apparently counts as something totally different. I get 1% cash back, and for the first time ever I opted into their quarterly 5% bonus categories…which is a load of crap, it should be automatic. Anyway, it’s nice this quarter because it includes drug stores and I had that plague-flu. The interest rate on this used to be good pre-2009, but now it will never be less than 17% or something like that – doesn’t matter because I pay it in full every month. No annual fee. This card had a limit of $7800, which I just had lowered to $4000 in preparation for getting new cards.

OLD: Bank of America Signature Visa

I have a really low prime rate-based interest rate on this card, no annual fee. I got this card in 2000 because my brother’s tuition from 1995 had been sitting on my previous Citibank card at 17% interest, with my mom making the payments. Then a year or two before declaring bankruptcy in 2004, my mom used it to for a $3K car repair. Since bankruptcy, this has been my mom’s card for big stuff, like flights or helping out with my sister’s wedding expenses, and she always checks with me before using it. I don’t mind because having a card that carries a balance with 5-7x the minimum paid each month probably makes me look like a more profitable customer than I otherwise am with my pay-it-off-immediately habits. Two weeks ago I took my $12K limit down to $3K, sparking one of the funniest displays of fake sobbing from my mom about cutting her credit off.

NEW: United MileagePlus Explorer (Chase) Visa

ChaseExplorerI got this card for a few reasons, all related to United Airlines. First, it gives me 50,000 airmiles if I spend $1000 in the first 3 months, plus an additional 5000 for adding a second card holder. A friend of mine had her washing machine die completely the day before my card arrived in the mail, and I put her new one on it – $1290. I’ve already received a check from her for half, and the other half will arrive in a couple of weeks when the billing cycle closes. DONE. Second, it gives a free checked bag on United flights. United is the only airline servicing Aspen at the moment, where both of my sisters live, plus I have a “niecephew” due next month. There will be at least two visits to Aspen this year. Aspen is a VERY expensive domestic destination, rarely less than $540 roundtrip. This is by far the best use of airmiles because of that. The annual fee is $95 but waived the first year, and we’ll see how this card suits me between now and the fee coming due for 2014. I was given a limit of $15,000, which I promptly had reduced to $5000 when I activated it because I was initially rejected for…

NEW:  Chase Ink Plus Visa

ChaseInkNot 100% sure I have this, because there have been a few hoops to jump through. First, they said I had applied for too many cards, when I had applied for the above one (personal) and this one (a business product). So I called the reconsideration line and answered their probing questions; I was submitted for approval with a $5000 credit line. Then someone called me two days later claiming the previous representative didn’t ask me enough Patriot Act questions. So I scanned and emailed copies of my EIN number and bank statement. I’m waiting to hear, but since I am legitimately incorporated and that’s not even a requirement, it shouldn’t be a problem. To get the 50,000 Ultimate Reward points (which I’ll convert to United airmiles), I need to spend $5K in 3 months. Right now I’m holding off on about $700 in purchases so that I can put them on this card as soon as I get it. Why do I want this one? Well, the airmiles – duh! – plus you get 5 points per $1 for phone/internet/cell services and office supply stores. I can juggle my spending habits to earn 1500 miles per month on like $250 of stuff I buy anyway. I like! I anticipate this will be a card worth keeping and paying the $95 fee for.


I was going to get rid of the Citibank card because the BofA one is older, but it now looks like the average age of your credit card accounts is what gets recorded on your credit report rather then your oldest account. Am I right? So if I keep them both, the average age will be 6 years and that seems okay to me. Since applying, I realized there is another more appropriate Chase card for me that I might swap out the United one for next year…we’ll see. And yet another card that delivers some awesome cashback for my spending habits, though no cool intro offer (well, at the moment).

MoneyMate >>> TravelMate?

Hey, personal finance readers. I used to love what I call “micro” finance blogging, but I’ve suddenly gotten very nervous about having my money info out there for the world to see and possibly use against me. Bear in mind that I’ve had an IRS audit pending for the past 7 months or so, and an absentee CPA making it difficult – so difficult that I now have a docket number in tax court and a list of sliding scale tax attorneys. Ugh, my grandfather was one of those back in his day, and he was a crotchety geezer. But I digress.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter¬†know that I’ve been battling a “brain cloud” of severe clinical depression, which became quite debilitating in September. I’m still not out of the woods, but it’s no longer completely paralyzing. There are some costly ramifications from those months of being a complete wreck and unable to deal with the IRS audit (up to $10K in taxes and fines), a lab bill from September that got sent to collections before I was capable of attempting negotiation (they want QUADRUPLE what they accept from Blue Cross for the same stuff), and loss of income from being in no state to work some days.

Blog Re-Focus

GlobeTrotting1In November, I went to South Africa for three weeks and…it saved me. Yes, bungee jumping off a 700-foot bridge got me out of my head so successfully that I got some clarity and peace that had been lacking for years.

The only thing that has, without fail, made me happy to do or even think about is, unsurprisingly, TRAVEL.

This doesn’t mean I’m not still doing a little Rite Aid couponing or shoving money into my Roth IRA or savings accounts – I am. I’ve been financially responsible all my life and that won’t change. But from now on, I’m going to write about spending/saving for what makes me happy. So there will be a lot of travel focus – where I’m going, why I want to go there, how I’ll live, different things I do to make it affordable, that sort of thing. I hope you all don’t run for the hills.

Image courtesy of