Credit Cards for Travel and Study Abroad

Below are some of the foreign transaction fees charged onto my “Everyday” Amex.

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^ disgusting.

Credit cards for studying abroad should have zero foreign transaction fees and embedded EMV chips. EMV technology is globally standard in credit card processing. You will be better with than without the chip.

EMV cards with No Annual Fee and No Foreign Transaction Fee

The following are absolutely free to keep. If you are studying abroad for a college term, you’re probably around my age (20) and with a nascent credit history. Maintain your account after your trip by intermittently using the card in order to nourish and preserve your credit score.

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The Capital One VentureOne earns 1.25 miles for every dollar and offers a 20,000 mile bonus (worth $200) after spending $1000 on the card within 3 months of account opening. Accrued miles can be redeemed as statement credit towards travel related expenses such as flights, hotels, cruises and car rentals. You can also claim miles by booking through the Capital One Rewards center.

The $1000 is easily met by flight or living arrangement costs. If you spent $8000 over the course of your semester abroad, you will have earned $300 in cash rewards (with the bonus), or saved 3.75%.

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The Bank Americard Travel Rewards earns 1.5 points per dollar. Apply online for an exclusive 10,000 points sign up offer (worth $100) after spending $500 within 90 days of account opening. Similar to the VentureOne, you would redeem points in the form of statement credit towards travel purchases like flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars and baggage fees. Additionally, having a checking or savings account through Bank of America boosts your earning rate to 1.65%.*

Using the same $8000 example spend, you earn $232 in cash rewards (with the bonus and BoA checking) or 2.9% savings. If you decide against pairing the card with the checking account, the potential is as follows: $220 earnings (with the bonus) or 2.75% savings.

The best card to take with you is the VentureOne, hands down. You will continue to come out ahead in cash earnings with the VentureOne because of its sign-up offering until you theoretically charge an exorbitant $30,000-ish sum on the Bank Americard with a BoA checking account. Without a BoA checking account, the Bank Americard will only beat the VentureOne at $40,001 spend.

Both cards are enshrined by Visa Signature Benefits. Having one of these in your pocket gives you 24/7 access to concierge and assistance. If you need help, the number on the back of your credit card is your 911. Visa Signature offers roadside and emergency assistance and insures your travel, rental car and luggage. There is an extensive hotel programme, discounted movie tickets and you may receive complimentary upgrades. They offer extended purchase protection and security–essentially a back-up warranty.

Bank of America has unique safeguarding technologies against fraud and identity theft. SafePass is a 6 digit passcode and ShopSafe generates temporary card numbers to keep your real numbers private.

I like Capital One because they provide a credit tracker on their account summary page. Checking one’s credit rating is a rather noble splurgist quality. It also demonstrates to credit scoring agencies that you are a responsible borrower.

Personally, I feel that either card listed above should be gracefully placed on the backburner (as in, that hidden wallet pocket you shove gum wrappers into) after you get home. A flat 1.25 or 1.5% cash back isn’t deplorable but there are higher cash back earnings cards for everyday splurging.

EMV cards with No Foreign Transaction Fee and a Reasonable Annual Fee

Annual fee cards bait subscribers with higher sign up bonuses and an introductory fee-waived year. However, the fees will cut into your rewards earning over the course of card membership. Marc’s Amex costs $500 annually with an earnings pittance of 1% which is some inexcusable anti-splurgist bs if you ask me. He is tremendously placated by the fact that his go-to card is unfailing… for his sake, I hope so too.

Credit scores are maimed during account closing because it lowers the total amount of credit available to you and raises the portion of credit utilized. For that godly 850, you ideally want your oldest line of credit to be alive and breathing for 25+ years. Being 20, my credit history is pitiably 2 to 3 years long and still volatile.

Anyway, if you have a more resilient credit score and savor the crisp snap of cutting plastic, the following may better serve your needs. I’ll provide comparisons on the estimate cash back potentials when having the cards open for 1 year vs. for 10 years.

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The Chase Sapphire earns 2 points per dollar spent on Travel and Dining with a 40,000 pts bonus (worth $500) after spending $4000 within 3 months of opening. When redeeming towards travel, values are boost to 2.5 points per dollar. Waived annual fee the first year.

Say the trip costs $5000. You will be reimbursed $625 or effectively save 12.5%. Owed to subsequent upkeep fees at $95 each year, the initially impressive 2.5x earnings rate is realistically 1.8% if the bulk of card usage is during that one big trip each year. However, if you dine out a lot and travel frequently, earnings hover in the 2.3% range.

Even though the Chase Sapphire is widely lauded as an everyday card and offers one of the most generous sign-up bonuses, I am only mildly enamored with it. And even then, only for its aesthetics–the metallic blue facets are ceaselessly admirable in person. The double cash back categories (travel and dining), though prudent and relevant, exclude my splurge affairs with shopping and supermarkets. I imagine that jetsetters still visit pharmacies, buy souveniers and shop for groceries occasionally, non?

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The Barclaycard Arrival plus earns 2 miles per dollar with a 40,000 miles bonus (worth $440) after spending $3000 within 3 months. Free for the first year but $89 each year thereafter. Redeeming towards travel expenses ups the earning rate to 2.2 miles per dollar.

Closing the card within the first year after a $5000 trip earns you $550 (with the bonus) or 11% savings. After the first year, the returns are significantly diminished by the $89 annual fee. Keeping the card open for 10 years and limiting its use to travel would only reimburse you at a 1.48% rate. Adopting the Arrival+ as your everyday card would power its cash back to a respectable 2%.

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The Capital One Venture earns 2 miles per dollar with a 40,000 miles bonus (worth $400) after spending $3000 within 3 months of account opening. Free for the first year, $59 per year thereafter.

Closing the card within the first year after a $5000 trip earns you $500 (with the bonus) or 10% savings. Keeping the card open for 10 years and using it exclusively for travel ($50k spend) would reimburse you at a 1.74% rate after annual fees. When used more extensively as your go-to everyday card, earnings are a slightly sweeter 1.93%.

The Venture and Sapphire are Visa Signature products while the Arrival Plus is a Platinum MasterCard. MasterCard provides comparable service although from a quick browse I don’t see any purchase protection. Tsk.

After fastidious deliberation, I would personally rather have either the Venture or Arrival+ in my arsenal because they transition seamlessly off the plane–they’re true lifestyle cards. Once the blinding euphoria from the sign-up bonus dissipates, the Sapphire is, at the end of the day, an expensive wanna-be Diners Club card.

In an upcoming post, I will rave about a solid 2.36% cash back credit card, even after averaging in annual fees.

Julie

*Higher redemption possibilities are available to Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards clients with net assets over $20,000 in BoA holdings. The rewards earnings would be 1.875% at $20k, 2.25% at $50k and 2.625% at $100k.

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To Lease or to Finance?

A significant portion of our contemporary lives are spent within the confines of a car. Driving is so thoroughly integrated into our day to day that being able to enjoy that experience is paramount. Splurgists get around in comfort and in their beautifully engineered car.

The definitive method to car drivership is to lease.

I drive this bimmer below. It is made affordable and thusly accessible to me through BMW’s navigable programmes. Leasing wisely allows us to drive the cars we want at lower costs than with financing.

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Flexibility.

First of all, you are not locked into lease terms. Swapalease.com and LeaseTrader.com facilitate lease transfering. Ultimately, the option exists to buy your leased vehicle and resell it at your leisure. You would contact the manufacturer for the buy-out figure and apply for an auto loan to purchase.

Mileage.

Leasing allowances range between 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year. Typically, Americans drive 14,000 to 16,000 miles each year. For high-mileage drivers however, a lease that offered insufficient miles at the beginning can have additional end-of-lease mile charges. You are not limited by the miles stated at time of leasing. Audaciously ask your dealer how they price extra miles and whether they can be added at sign up. For example, BMW sells extra miles upfront as part of their financial services.

New car advantage.

The reassurance I feel when driving a new car is priceless. That sense of security is attributed to the vehicle being under warranty. When leasing, your car and its parts will be guaranteed by the manufacturer’s warranty during the entirety of the lease.

Anti-splurgists consider their cars as investments (albeit depreciating ones) and would rather finance a new car. However, they should take to heart the length of coverage under warranty. After the warranty expires, car owners are monetarily responsible for any and all mechanical failings. Though their beloved car inevitably depreciates, the parts and labor to fix do not become cheaper with time. Anti-splurgists can still spend thousands of dollars fixing their car over the course of ownership.

The cost to fix major issues can even rival the whole value of the car. I had to total my used 2001 Lexus IS300 after it suffered a catastrophic engine failure owed to a headgasket leak. I could not go through with the $8000 repairs because of the then-current value of the car and its susceptibility to additional failures.

Trade-in/resale worth.

Though anti-splurgists purchase to own, they eventually trade in that same car in order to get a new one. Habitually financing and trading in after a few years time hits them with greater losses than when leasing over a comparable period of driving the same vehicle. Leases are frequently subsidized by the manufacturer when they artificially raise the residual value in order to offer lower monthly payments.

Splurgists, you essentially wash your hands once you give the vehicle back to the dealership at lease termination. You’re unencumbered in your next pick of car.

Zero Down

Financing may require a higher down payment upfront with a lower credit score. Initial down payments can be as high as 10% to 20% of the sticker price for a financed purchase, not including taxes and dealer fees. Down payments are anti-splurgist: they’re an awful way to sock dollars away because they obstruct potentially higher savings. While down payments may seem to save you some on the car loan, that amount pales in comparison to dividend earnings from investing that initial dollar amount into stocks and retirement.

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Splurgists, when selecting the best lease deals, look for the highest residual and lowest money factor, or interest rate. Never MSRP, or sort cars by sticker price. Lease specials are subsidized by the manufacturer and displayed their websites. The residual value will be declared, though less noticeably, in the fine print. Aim for residuals over 65%.

While unsubsidized leases have lower residuals of around 50%, you can still negotiate costs down further. Transaction details, such as car value and money factor, should be dictated by you, the emboldened splurgist consumer. I will teach you how to negotiate car purchases in a future post.

To demonstrate leasing superiority, I will compare the cost of leasing a luxury midsize sedan to the cost of financing an everyday midsize sedan.

We’ll be leasing a 2015 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro Premium with a MSRP of $37,325 as our luxury vehicle. Its current lease special is $310 a month for 36 months with a $3490 down payment.

For comparison, we’ll finance the purchase of a 2015 Kia Optima LX with a MSRP of $22,565. The manufacturer is offering $2000 off the sticker price which brings the financing cost to $325 a month for 60 months with a $2000 down payment.

There is a negligible monthly difference of $15 between the Audi A4 and the Kia Optima LX. However, the Audi A4 comes standard with a 2.0 L turbocharged engine that powers an AWD drivetrain with 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque that sweeps you to 60 in 6.6 seconds. And with enhanced with leather power front seats, 10 speakers and Xenon headlights.

The Kia Optima is equipped with a larger 2.4 L engine yet produces only 192 hp owed to its lacking a turbocharger. The FWD drivetrain and the sluggish 0 to 60 in 8.5 seconds would be noticed and sorely felt by driving enthusiasts. The Optima LX, with its cloth seats, 6 speakers and projection headlamps, is overall mildly unimpressive.

Even with Kia’s 9% generous price cut, the Optima LX still has the higher total cost of $21,500 compared to $14,650 for the lovely Audi A4 you should be driving.

Splurgists, you deserve the most vroom for your buck.

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Marc

The Ebates Add-on

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As a child, I would place orders online–sparingly–with my parents’ credit cards and reimburse the expenditures with my cash allowance. My mother being the lovely, managing woman that she is, I eventually went around the middlemen and relied on a circus ring of small sum iTunes and Amazon gift cards and $5 surcharge prepaid cards from the local RiteAid. When my mother presented me with my first debit card, I felt empowered by a novel, precious sense of autonomy. I was able to do what I’d always wanted–that is, to shop online. My preference to buying things online was initially owed to my adolescent timidity in clothing stores. Later, that preference was driven by discount codes. I enjoyed scouring the internet for stackable codes to gain free shipping and additional price cuts. Because of that, I have held an Ebates account for longer than I have had my oldest credit card line.

Being so click-happy, however, I have missed out on cash back in the past by not reentering sites through Ebates’ shopping portal during check out. But you, dear splurgist, need not entirely dampen your shopping experience with the task of remembering to ebates (the act of proceeding through their dedicated affiliate link in order to receive cash rewards). Firstly, create an Ebates account and select one of the complimentary sign up bonuses, either a $10 gift card to Target, Kohls, Macys or Walmart, or a $5 Ebates equivalent to dollars that can be used however you wish.

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Going through the provided link or banner above will result in my earning a $5 referral amount which I’d appreciate immensely because it would feed my cat for a week.

Secondly, add the Ebates extension to your Chrome, Firefox or Safari browser here. An icon appears to the right of your search bar in Chrome and will flash red and drop a green bar that informs you of Ebates’ cash back offer for that partner site, if any. Having installed and run the extension for the better half of a year, it has truly ingratiated itself to me. The cash back bar functions as a free reminder so that I miss out on Ebates rewards less often. Additionally, constantly receiving these reminders has made me accustomed to crosschecking the Ebates website as a precaution, moreso than before having the extension.

That being said, the drop down bar does not appear universally. It does not work on Amazon webpages–you’ll have to proceed through the Ebates site to gain cash rewards for specific categories on Amazon.com. And I still frequent the Ebates website to keep my login details current and would rather proceed through the links on the Ebates site to ensure that the script is running for that shopping trip.

On a related note, I have downloaded the Ebates iPhone app previously and do not consider the app deserving of valuable storage space. I can head onto the Ebates website on Safari and accomplish my goals just as well.

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Though the cash back amounts are usually <10%, the rewards on shopping trips will add up. Should you return the merchandise, I believe that Ebates will withdraw the proportion of the refunded amount. When your cash pending amount hits the $5.01 minimum every 3 months, Ebates will send you your cash reward as a mailed check, as a fund in your Paypal account, or even as a third option that seems convoluted to me (a gift to a charity organization or family member). I opted to receive payments via Paypal for easy transfer and use.

Ebates is absolutely free and can be stacked with promotional codes while gaining additional benefits from a rewards credit card. Lastly, I do not believe that Ebates can work concurrently with Discover Deals, shopping through Chase or with the more-expansive-yet-less-exciting Mr. Rebates. I advise you to go through just one shopping portal, preferably the one that stacks most advantageously with your credit card, promo codes and has the superior cash back offer at the time, to submit your electronic order. Depending on the time of the year, Ebates will offer double their usual cash back deals, such as 10 to 12% at major department stores and up to 52% at Magazines.com.

My fellow splurgists, Ebates is the ultimate shopping buddy.

Julie