A visit from St. Nicholas, who’s really into points and miles

st nicholas

(With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
I was checking AwardWallet with care
In hope that points and miles soon would be there
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of gift cards danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my pajamas
Had just settled down for an epic app-o-rama
When out on the internet there arose such a clatter,
I opened a browser window to see what was the matter.
I glanced at stuff about pricing mistakes,
$9 fares to Hong Kong and PointBreaks.
Thousands of points for new credit accounts
And frequent flyer miles in increasing amounts
When my wandering eyes couldn’t help but pause,
On a Saverocity Forum user named mr_claus
With a forum id so lively and quick
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his credit cards came
And he typed out each one of them by name:
“Now, Citi! Now, Chase! Now Wells and B of A!
On, US Bank! On, Capital One! On, Amex and Barclay!
To heck with my FICO–I’m getting them all!
Not approved? Then it’s Reconsideration I’ll call!”
As I finished reading, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He wore Vanilla Reloads from his head to his foot,
And his carry-on was tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of cards he had in his hands
All held together with big rubber bands
He said, “I gave toys all over the nation
But my Hilton points are worthless with that last devaluation
I have many Avios but I can’t get a flight
Since American’s inventory has nothing in sight
My dream vacation may now unravel
‘Cause I can’t figure out the art of cheap travel”
Though I wanted to watch cat videos on Youtube
I couldn’t help but take pity on this noob
I booked his hotel and straightened out his flight
And with a free Uber credit he finally saw the light
He said, “Thanks so much! I’ve now got the gist!
And you’re no longer on my naughty list!”
And I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”


High-value, low-cost toys for toddlers and small children

I wrote a brief guide to baby stuff a while back in honor of Matt’s young ‘un. It’s been several months, so it’s probably a good time to write a guide to toys for small children, especially with Christmas on the way. This is coming from the perspective of someone with four children, currently ages 1 through 7.

Taking your kids to the toy store to see what they like can be helpful at times but can also be misleading since they will often be attracted to flashing lights and things that beep. They usually get bored of these five minutes later and NEVER EVER PICK UP THE TOY AGAIN EVEN THOUGH YOU JUST SPENT $30 ON IT, not that I’m bitter.

This guide is written with an eye toward avoiding that phenomenon. I also prefer toys that are durable, well-designed, not too expensive, and possibly even fun for adults. Different kids go for different things, so of course YMMV. Any Amazon links are affiliate links, and your support via said links is always appreciated. Here we go….

Geomag GBaby: These are magnetic toys. They are sort of pricey, but they are well designed, tough, easy to hold, and safe. You can stick them on the fridge, take them into the bathtub, and they’re even somewhat fun for parents on account of the fact that they have magnets, and anything with a magnet is fun.

Physical Therapy / Exercise Ball: I got one of these for physical therapy a few years ago when I hurt my back, but it turned out to be a big hit with the kids. Depending on how big a ball you get and how big your kids are, this ball may be about as big as they are, which makes it a lot more fun that those boring ol’ regular-sized balls. Not recommended for cramped apartments.

Stackable doughnut toy: Cheap, durable, chewable, and good for babies through toddlers.

Ball popper: This has been a favorite for all our kids. Our first one broke after a lot of use, but we’re getting another one for our baby’s birthday in a couple of weeks. This toy has a fan that shoots balls up into the air, after which they fall into the tray (well, sometimes they fall in the tray) and roll down the ramp to be shot up again. It’s a loud, chaotic toy. I also confess to enjoying this one as well.

The Going to Bed Book: Every one of our kids has loved this book, and all the ones who can speak probably know it by heart now. We’re currently on our second copy as the first one was loved to death. Second favorite book in the PFD household: Hug. And Peek-a-Zoo is good for the very young.

Peek-a-blocks shape sorter: We have several shape sorters, but this one has proved to be the most popular.

B Meowsic Keyboard: A great starter keyboard. They sell these at Target, though they’re also available on Amazon (for a few dollars more, alas) if you have some gift cards–possibly obtained working lucrative credit card promotions at Best Buy–to burn. The strongest point of this toy is that it attracts a wide range of ages. I can’t think of any other toys regularly played with by both our 1-year-old and our 7-year-old. It’s pretty durable, as this one has survived heavy use for many years. It’s not as good as a regular keyboard (for example, you can only play a maximum of two notes simultaneously) but then we also have a regular keyboard and the kids don’t play with that one anywhere near as much.

Turtle night light: They’ve been sleeping with this in their room for years. It’s probably the most fought-over toy in the house.

A cardboard box: Whatever you buy, make sure it’s sent to you in a big cardboard box–the bigger, the better. Great for fort-building!

And finally: this isn’t a toy, but I’d recommend a battery organizer if you have kids.


Banana Republic / Old Navy / Gap credit card has a nice promotion

After reading about the Banana Republic credit card’s generous marketing promotions over at MilesAbound, I was inspired to get my own to see what would happen. I can’t complain–I’ve received maybe $50 worth of clothing with minimal effort–but it hasn’t been amazing either.

I was therefore delighted to see the following promotion show up in my mailbox yesterday:banana republic nov 14 promotion 2

Wow! 200 bonus points for every credit card purchase. 1,000 points gets you a $10 gift card, so that’s $2 for every purchase.

I was considerably less delighted to see the following condition for this promotion:

banana republic nov 14 promotion 3

Well, nuts. But still: 25 purchases get me $50 of free clothing. Plus Old Navy / Gap / Banana Republic are always doing promotions with coupons, cardholder discounts, and the like so you can increase your yield.

Here’s a question: how much annual benefit does a card need to make it worth getting? If this card gave away $5 worth of clothing every year, nobody would care. If it gave away $500, there would probably be a lot more interest. Is $50 worth it? $100? What’s your cut-off point for getting a card with no sign-up bonus?