I think a lot of folks in the FIRE community who engage in “travel hacking” feel a little guilty over exploiting the credit card companies and their free offers. We sign up, charge, pay them off immediately, get the bonus points/miles and then drop them like a “hot potato.” It almost feels like stealing. We comfort ourselves with the fact that the credit companies must be making money offering this, and our small percentage of “hackers” is just a drop in the bucket to their massive profits. Still…..
Well, in August, I added another card to my bank of cards, the Hilton Am. Express card. I stay in Hilton’s a lot for my company, and the offer was a card with no annual fee, and 60,000 points if you spent $1,000 in the first month. With a lot of my business trips causing me to spend that in one week, it was a no-brainer. Sign up and go!
Well in late August I went on a business trip, and had some business expenses. I tend to pay my credit cards off several times a month. When I get my travel reimbursement back, I transfer that exact amount onto the card (so I can track what got paid for business and what still needs to get paid for personal). It’s just the way I keep work.
Unfortunately, American Express wouldn’t let me do this for the first 30 days of the card. They told me that it was an issue at the beginning, but would end after the first 30 days. I was OK because I had gotten the money back for my travel reimbursement and paid the $1K bill for that on Sep 12th. The date for the new bill was Sep 16th. I also tried to finish paying the card off entirely on Sep 15th (even though these charged had happened on Sep 10th). Again, as a travel hacker, I knew I wanted to pay the card off as soon as possible, even if I could have let it “ride” for another couple of weeks.
Well, I finally get to the point where its past 30 days, and I can pay a second time within the 30-day period, and I see a charge for $14.29 on a remaining balance of under $200. What the heck? Turns out that I needed to pay my bill by Sep 11th, not the 16th (when the printed the bill) and because they wouldn’t let me pay twice in the first 30 days, I had extra funds still on the card – funds I could have paid off but they wouldn’t let me.
Well, that was “outside of enough” for me. I had the bonus points already to my Hilton account, so I called them up and asked to cancel the card. They said they’d pull the interest rate charge out and apologized, but I believe that if they played these games in the first 30 days, they’d keep playing them. I may have been at fault for not reading all the fine print (i.e. knowing that I had to pay the bill by the 11th) but not being able to pay the bill multiple times a month and track my spending really irritated me. Best to be done with them.
So I did the good travel hacking thing, got the points and cancelled the card – and I don’t feel any guilt about this one.
Other posts of interest
Mr. 39 Months