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Toys R Us increases credit card rewards to 10%

I wrote a few weeks ago about Toys R Us making 8% its new normal for credit card rewards. Now, it’s possible to do even better: on Saturdays in November and Thursdays now through January 2015, you can get 10% back on your purchases made with your store-brand credit card at Toys R Us and Babies R Us.

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Obviously, when you see phrases like “10%” and “credit card” in close proximity, you’ll start wondering if the gift card game is on. The terms and conditions exclude gift cards, though I’m not sure if they’re talking about Toys R Us gift cards specifically or other retailers’ cards as well. I did take a picture of the gift card rack the last time I was there and it was disappointing:

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Commenter TJ left a comment on my last post:

*Some* Toy R Us sell Kindle gift cards, but many don’t. Even when they do they don’t carry a large number or restock fast (as discovered by slickdealers during Amex sync deals). My local Toys R Us has another gift card rack you missed with “gaming” and cell phone gift cards – stuff like karma coin, facebook, zynga, and various prepaid cell phone providers.

Incidentally, this is not the first time Toys R Us has run a 10% promotion–they did one over the summer as well. I don’t know whether or not you can count on them happening regularly, but the powers that be are apparently happy with the results thus far. Note that this card is issued by Synchrony Bank (aka The Artist Formerly Known As GE Capital), so your credit line will probably be low.

Who owns the credit card blogs?

“A company that helps you find the perfect credit card is now worth $1 billion,” said a recent headline in Business Insider:

Credit Karma, a credit-tracking personal finance site, raised $75 million on Monday in a new round of funding that values the company at more than $1 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The new funding, coming just six months after its $85 million Series C, was led by Google Capital, Tiger Global Management, and Susquehanna Growth Equity. The 7-year-old company now has raised over $193 million.

Credit Karma is one of the big players in credit card affiliate marketing. Another big one is a company called Bankrate.com. BankRate owns CreditCards.com, a credit card marketing site disguised as a credit card advice site. [click to continue…]

Why falling gas prices are good news for Marathon Visa cardholders

marathon card

I wrote about the Marathon Visa earlier in the year. Unlike a lot of gas station cards and rewards programs which give you rebates based on the amount of gas you purchase, this card rewards you based on your total Marathon (and Kangaroo) purchases. I’ll quote my earlier explanation here:

Take all your Marathon purchases–not just the gasoline, but the cigarettes, coffee, and ice cream as well–and divide that by the average price of a gallon of gas to come up with your calculated gasoline purchase amount. You then multiply that by the appropriate rebate amount, which is determined by the tiers we discussed above.

Let’s do a simple example. If you spent $1,000 on cigarettes, coffee, and ice cream with your card, and the average price of a gallon of gas is $3.50, your calculated gas purchase is a little under 286 gallons of gas. A $0.25 per gallon rebate on that amount works out to be $71.43, just a bit over 7%.

I’m writing about this card for two reasons. The first is that I decided to get this card after I wrote about it, and it does indeed work as I described. I got it when there was a promotion for 50 cents per gallon instead of 25 cents, meaning the rewards were actually 13-14% assuming you spent enough to get into the highest tier. I know that there are some folks out there who like to buy gift cards with a credit card to get points, and all I can say about that is that in my area, they’re pretty good about enforcing that policy. Your mileage may vary.

The second reason is that gas prices are falling. And because of the way in which rewards are calculated for this card, that means the rewards actually will increase. You can look here to see the gas price used in Marathon’s calculations, but in September the average price per gallon had fallen to $3.48 per gallon, and it will certainly be lower in October. An average price of $3.00 per gallon would equate to 8.3% rewards, while an average price of $2.50 per gallon means rewards go to 10%. So hopefully the Saudis will keep sticking it to the Russians (or whatever the heck is going on over there).

An underpublicized benefit for Hilton HHonors members!

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Our hobby keeps showing up in political news! Today’s points-n-miles update comes to us from a Washington Post story about the Secret Service scandal:

IG investigators reviewed information that pointed to Dach. An agent said he saw Dach with a woman he believed was a prostitute, and another had information after reviewing records that showed he had registered a woman into his room.

Nieland’s team also found that hotel officials had waived a fee normally charged to guests staying overnight. Hilton Worldwide officials in Virginia said their records showed Dach “was not charged for additional guest as a benefit of Hilton Honor Member.” [emphasis added]

So there you have it, straight from HQ: hookers stay free at Hilton! (Or should they be referred to as “hhookers”?)

As some of you know, I recently got in trouble with the affiliate powers that be, so in an attempt to get back into their good graces, I’m going to try to spin this into some good marketing copy. Here goes:

The Citi ® Hilton HHonors ™ Reserve Card gets you complimentary Hilton Gold status, allowing you to bring Colombian ladies of the evening to your room — totally free! Also, the Hilton HHonors™ Surpass® Card from American Express comes with Hilton Silver status, which means you won’t have to pay a dime for some of South America’s hottest prostitutes to spend the night! And if your Cartegena hooker happens to accept plastic, you’ll earn 3 HHonors points for every dollar spent — meaning you’ll soon be on your way to a free night! 

Citi? Amex? What do you think — am I in?

 

Congress to clamp down on frequent flyer mile devaluations?

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Over at CreditCards.com there’s an interesting interview with Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL). Grayson, like most members of Congress, is a frequent flyer, and he’s not too pleased with how airlines have treated their loyalty programs. Check this out:

Q: What specifically needs changing?

A: One element is the frequent devaluations. The programs went in some cases for decades without devaluing. Now, they do it once or twice a year. Another element is the lack of availability at the touted award levels. In some areas, you can look almost a year in advance and you don’t see a single seat available at the award level that the airlines claim is available when they are advertising these programs. Another element of it is changes without notice. Historically, airlines gave changes with a year’s notice. The National Association of Attorneys General recommended that be the standard, and now we’re seeing in some cases changes with no notice whatsoever. All of those activities are deceptive.

Q: What is it you would like to have done? Simply an investigation or are you looking for particular policy changes?

A: There is clear evidence at this point that there is misleading and deceptive activity on the part of the airlines. The frequent flier programs need to be reformed, either voluntarily or through regulation. The best case scenario is that everyone realizes — either voluntarily or through regulation — that there should be one year’s notice to changes in these programs, that there should be availability on every flight at the advertised levels and that the devaluations either stop or occur at very lengthy intervals, with some kind of business justification.

Grayson does not seem concerned with hotel or credit card rewards programs, only airlines:

Q: The majority of frequent flier miles are actually earned not by flying, but through credit card partnerships or other partnerships. Is part of the scope of this looking into other forms of miles and point currencies created by credit cards or hotel programs?

A: By far the largest of the loyalty programs that involve these kinds of arrangements are airline programs. This is the focus of activity. In recognition of that, the banks have paid literally billions of dollars to try to hook up with airlines to promote their frequent flier programs to credit card holders. Although credit cards are a very large part of the program, they aren’t the focus of the deceptive elements of the programs. The deception comes from the fact that they’ve essentially created a private currency, and the airlines are cheating their customers by devaluing it.

The whole interview, plus the background, is here.

What do you all think? Should the feds intervene in the frequent flyer frequent devaluations?