Friday, April 18, 2014

Go to Michigan!

This is a post by 9 year old Sam Dwyer
Sam with his largemouth bass fresh out of lake Osterhout 

Dedication


This book is dedicated to My Dad because he takes me on these vacations, pays for them and plans them so I made this in return for him.


Introduction


Go to Michigan! (not in the winter!) Yes I know it shares a border with Canada and in the winter it gets fffrrrrreeeeezzzzziiiiiiiiinnnnnnnggggggg! Brrrrrrr. But in the summertime it gets really warm and it’s nice in South Haven (If you want you can call it South Heaven!!) Because it has a tropical environment with a harbor, marina, pier, a small shipyard, (yes a small shipyard!!!)

A sign at the jet ski rental place

And then at the harbor there is Jet-ski rental, speedboats, yachts and fishing boats. Plus there two beaches. The south beach, and the north beach. And two lighthouses. the red one which is older and is red, and there is a newer one that's green and has a small beacon that flashes on and off and the red one has a big beacon that goes round and round. The red one is on the north beach side and the green one is on the south beach side. Did you know that cruise ships from Chicago docked there! There’s also a pirate ship that goes out to sea and shoots a cannon into lake Michigan and sails back to the dock! Ok it might be a little hard to fall asleep but they only do it once. “But where do you sleep?” you ask well there are condos and summerhouses. there are lots of good ones including ones that are right next to the beach and the harbor!

Entertainment


The Mayor of South Haven riding in a car at the parade
In South Haven (or heaven) there is lots of fun entertainment. There is a parade where they throw candy, blueberry picking, cherry picking, fireworks, and much much more.

The Pirate Ship leaving The Harbor
The pirate ship is awesome because they go out to sea. Just plug your ears because they shoot a cannonball out of a cannon off the side into the water! People gather up on the piers and watch them shoot it. Now if you want lots and lots of fun then rent a jet-ski! Just think about it. If you buy one then you will pay a lot more money plus you need to give it oil and fuel and get it fixed plus you need a trailer to carry it around. So it’s totally worth it! Yes I know that the water can be pretty cold but it usually not too too bad. You can also just rent a bike and zip around. I've even seen people who got a moped and sped around. Wow that sounds really fun!

Dining and Food


Sam and his mom at Clementine's 
In Michigan “where will you eat” you ask. Well, there is lots of good restaurants like Clementines which is the most fine dining in South haven by my opinion. They also have the best onion rings in South Haven. Ok that’s also by my opinion too! Then there is Su casa which means your house in Spanish. They have the best tacos in town.
Everyone at Subs n' more 
At Subs n’ more they have okay pizza, great subs, cheesy french fries and FREE CANDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! okay they don’t really have free candy they just have a broken jelly bean machine that gives you free candy. We go there because it’s right behind our condo so we just take the elevator down to the underground parking garage, walk up the stairs, walk past the trash room, past the pool, out the back of the condo, across the street, across the parking lot, and in the back door. Can you believe all of this food? i better take a run! What if you want to make your own food? You can go to the Village market which is an everyday supermarket. looking for seafood?


Captain Lou's
Then go to Captain Lou’s. I think they have fresh fish caught off the pier! If you just want to get something basic they have Taco-bell and Domino's pizza.

Everyone on The Idler 
The opposite of that is the Idler and it is a restaurant and bar on a boat! It’s in the harbor and has great food. But what will you do for breakfast? Well, you can go to the Golden brown and get the best and only doughnuts in town. “What’s for dessert?”

Will getting to eat a Pig's dinner
Well you can go to Sherman’s dairy because they have the best ice cream in the universe!!! Wow can you believe how much food there is!

The People


The people in Michigan are really upbeat and kind they are never mean to me. Hmmmm let’s think there’s lot’s of sun so there happy. I’m not surprised because of all the good stuff!

Shopping


In Michigan there’s lot’s of shopping from dollar stores to sporting stores. Here's great advice: DON’T GO TO FAMILY DOLLAR OR DOLLAR GENERAL!!!!!! Because at Family dollar everything is expensive (so it’s not a dollar store) and it’s dirty so don’t go there and at Dollar general It’s just expensive (so it’s not a dollar store either.) If you're looking for a good dollar store then go to Dollar Tree (don’t worry it’s a genuine dollar store.)

A nice patch of fresh Michigan blueberries
Like blueberries? Well then there’s a place for you! You can go to The Blueberry Store. everything there is made from blueberries. From blueberries to blueberry gum-balls! If you like sports visit Dunham's sporting goods. They have great sports stuff to play with.

Transportation


In Michigan how will you get around? I mean transportation is really important. Well, it depends on how you get there. If you get there by plane it’s about two hours. If you get there by car and take breaks to rest at hotels it will take you about 48 hours!!! If you don’t want to pay much then drive because all you have to pay for is tolls and fuel. It’s worth it because you see landmarks on the way. If you want to pay more and have it take less time then go on a plane. The only way to be able to drive around to get places in South haven is to get a rental car. Just rent from Hertz. But if you can find a good deal and do a bit of research then you can just get it. And that’s how you will get around

Weather


In Michigan the weather is nice. Usually in summer the weather is hot and nice so don’t forget your sunscreen. But too much humidity brings a summer storm but that’s not too bad. Just bring along an umbrella. But in the winter it’s always cold or snowing. And that’s the weather report!

Exercise


The red pier in the morning 
Okay so remember all that food? Well, you don’t want to get overweight do you? If you don’t I recommend that you take a walk through the harbor or down one of the piers to work off last nights desert. For a real athlete you can run down the red pier and then go over the drawbridge and down the green one and back to the condo!

Will skimboarding

You also can boogie board and skim board. But don’t worry it’s not salt water so no sharks. No salt just sand. And that’s why you should go to Michigan!

Ending


So if you want to go to paradise then just stop reading and plan a trip to Michigan!

Acknowledgments


Thank you Matthew for giving me ideas for chapters, writing “Go to Bahamas” and reading this over for me. And for Mason for looking at me while I typed this up. And to Mrs. Theriault for liking this and saying I could just type this instead of making me write more persuasive stories. And last but not least My Dad for taking me there!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

10 Lessons Learned While Racking up 1,000,000 Points & Miles

Points & miles has been an area of interest I've been exploring the past couple years. I'd estimate that you can make roughly 10-20%+ of your annual income in deeply discounted travel by navigating this space. And it's one of those things where you can get 80% of the benefit with 20% of the work so it's worth learning about even if you don't make it a hobby.

I'm naturally predisposed to playing this game. I'm open to considering any deal - just tell me the terms and I'll let you know if I think it's a good deal. I also think I'm genetically predisposed to it. My 99 year old grandmother has an upright electric organ in her living room. Over the years every one of her children and great-grandchildren have enjoyed playing on that thing. And she got it by, you guessed it: Signing up for a checking account.

In the past year I've leveraged a variety of techniques to earn 1,000,000+ points and miles. I wouldn't say it's "easy" but I will say that anyone who is interested in this game can do it. As long as you're 18, have a job, and a good credit score (more here on whether signing up for credit cards hurts your credit score) you can start playing this game. Just start slow, read a lot, and do what you're comfortable with.

See also: 10 Reasons why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is my favorite travel credit card

Here are 10 lessons I learned on the way to 1,000,000+ points & miles...

1. Credit card signup bonuses are where it's at (and there is more leverage in points & miles than cashback)


Say you spend $3,000/month on credit cards. If you get 2% back on all your purchases that's $720 a year - hardly enough to fly a family of four on a single vacation.

A better use of your credit card spending is towards meeting minimum spending requirements on new credit cards. The signup bonuses are more lucrative for travel rewards cards than cashback cards and there are more of them. Plus, when it comes time to redeem points & miles there is potentially more leverage in points & miles than cashback. Cash is king but it takes a lot of cash to fly internationally - especially in premium cabins. Points & miles make these things possible so there's more leverage in points & miles than cashback.

That said, there's nothing wrong with working some cashback into the mix if you have a card that earns 5% cashback buying cash equivalents. You can then take that cashback and either buy travel if the price is right or buy points & miles if award availability is favorable. More on this approach here.

2. The path to what you want is often counter-intuitive


If you're in the market for a rewards credit card, you'd think it would make sense to get co-branded credit cards from companies you enjoy doing business with. Say for example you enjoy going to Disney and flying JetBlue - you'd think it would make sense to get a Chase Disney card and the JetBlue AmEx. That's actually a rather poor approach.

It's not that the cards themselves are so terrible (trust me I've had them both). It's more a mater of there being better options out there. And each credit card you apply for takes up a "slot" from each issuing bank. And each credit card you apply for requires a hard credit pull which temporarily diminishes your credit score.

When I first started out in this game I didn't want to rack up a bunch of United miles to fly in the grey cramped seats on the back of their airplanes for vacation. But I found I could United miles to fly in premium cabins to Europe on Lufthansa. Great deal!

Conversely I could use Lufthansa miles (obtained by signing up for a Barclays Lufthansa Miles & More credit card and transferred from the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest program) to fly on United domestically in First Class for just 17k miles each way (a much better deal than 25k each way United charges). Similarly I could transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Singapore Airlines for 40k roundtrip domestically on United in First Class.

Or I could use British Airways Avios to pay for short haul domestic flights on American Airlines. Or Avianca Miles to fly on Star Alliance partners. Or credit Star Alliance flights to Aegean Airlines for Gold status. The list is goes on and on.

More than anything, it baffles me when a company has a credit card that isn't even the best option to use when spending money with that company. For example, it's better to use a Starwood Business card to pay for a Hyatt stay than a Chase Hyatt card. Bizarre. Co-branded card really should be the best way to pay for transaction with the company.

As a consumer, it pays to figure out the most common angles for high value redemptions for the travel you want to enjoy.

3. Getting a feel for historical signup bonuses is important (so you know when to pounce!)


If you sign up for a credit card for a 40k bonus and the next day you see an offer for the card for 100k you'd be mad you only got 40k. Some credit card companies will retroactively give you the heightened signup bonus within a reasonable timeframe (Chase) but many (like American Express) do not. So it's important to catch a signup bonus at a historical high.

Furthermore, some credit card companies will only give you a signup bonus for a given credit card once per person lifetime. Credit card companies frequently create new "products" (and sometimes a Visa or Mastercard variation of a card constitutes a new product) but still - there are only so many cards out there so when you do sign up for a card you'll want to make sure you caught it at a high point.

I don't know of a good resource out there that tracks these things over time. I think a site that charted standard and targeted signup bonuses of the most popular cards would be tremendously useful. But I bet credit card companies disallow that in their affiliate terms so the most likely people to do this can't without losing their lucrative affiliate relationships with banks.

One way I've tried figuring out if a given credit card has ever been offered with a higher signup bonus than what's currently available is to perform Google searches for logical increments above what's now available. Say for example the Chase Sapphre Preferred (great card) is available with a 40k signup bonus. I'd do a Google search for "chase sapphire 50k" or "chase sapphire 100,000" (dare to dream!). Often these searches will turn up now expired offers. But if they weren't too long ago I'd get the feeling the heightened bonus might come back.

For now, the best way to get a feel for historical signup bonuses and stay informed of heightened bonuses is to follow the Boarding Area blogs (and a few of your other favorites) and read FlyerTalk. Especially this thread. It would be hard for something to sneak past if you follow those two.

4. Get to know the easiest, most reliable ways to manufacture spend


"Manufacturing" spend is buying things on your credit card that can easily be converted to cash. One of the greatest manufactured spend schemes of all time was when the US Mint sold dollar coins with free shipping and allowed them to be purchased fee-free with credit cards. You could buy them and deposit them at your local bank again and again, racking up as many miles as your credit limit, back, and patience would allow.

Manufactured spend is most useful when applied towards meeting minimum spending requirements on new credit cards without spending more than you otherwise would. For big spenders or those with high levels of reimbursed spending they can put on their personal credit card manufacturing spend isn't needed. But credit card issuers have been increasing the minimum spending requirements of their most lucrative cards. For situations like this, manufacturing spend can be handy.

There's an entire FlyerTalk forum devoted to Manufactured Spend. Vanilla Reloads purchased at CVS and liquidated through Bluebird is a current favorite. Amazon Payments is probably right behind that. And there are many many more ways to manufacture spend for those interested in making this an ongoing hobby.

Learning how to manufacture spend isn't necessary. But it sure beats spending more than you otherwise would to rack up points & miles.

5. You never know how plans might change (so diversity and flexibility is key)


When I first started collecting points & miles it was with the intention of getting the family from Boston to Munich for European Delivery. You can save quite a bit on a new car this way but if you spend $6k to fly 4 people the savings goes out the window. Since I wanted to use points & miles to get us there I started to focus on racking up United miles so I could fly on their Star Alliance partner airline Lufthansa. I'd need 60k x 4 miles (240k) to get there.

But while working on earning those miles I noticed a lot of other heightened credit card signup bonuses. I went for them, and things have turned out great for the most part. Especially ones with flexible redemption options like Chase Ultimate Rewards, AmEx Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest (which can be transfered 20k to 25k airline miles through a ton of partners).

Worst case, Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards can be converted to cashback or gift cards worth around $0.01 a point. But the highest leverage redemptions come from transferring flexible points to airline partners for premium cabins awards. So these programs provide the best of both worlds: A floor value of a penny a point and upside beyond that if you can find a great reward redemption.

It may be possible to spread things around too much if you have just a few points & miles in a bunch of different programs. But as long as you have enough critical mass to get a reward ticket I don't see any harm in diversifying. The majority of the trips we've taken the past two years weren't on my radar screen two years ago. Especially since points & miles have enabled trips I wouldn't have otherwise been able to justify in my mind.

6. Award charts can change at any time, and they represent a best case scenario


In the past couple years almost every airline and hotel program has devalued their loyalty program in some way. People hem and haw about it when this happens, suggesting the airlines need to make it easier to earn points if they're going to increase award costs. I'm thinking to myself: I can get signup bonuses for a Chase United card, a Chase Sapphire Preferred, a Chase Freedom, a Chase United business card, and multiple Chase Ink business cards that all transfer to United - and someone wants United to make it easier to earn miles? You can fly your entire family to Europe or Asia on credit card signup bonuses alone and consumers are arguing for more? I don't get it but I understand it: When a loyalty program changes beneath you while you're working towards a reward it stinks.

Yes, United devalued their premium cabin redemptions on partner airlines. But they're still a good value. High quality partners, above average award availability, and tons of ways to earn miles without stepping on a plane. We're still in a golden age for credit card signup bonuses.

But finding award availability can be challenging. And this is the part that can still drives me bonkers. I feel like if I rack up enough points & miles for a certain reward and I've got a reasonable amount of foresight and flexibility I should be able to get the reward. For example, if I'm willing to rack up 300k AA or UA miles to fly from Boston to Hawaii in Business/First class some time during my kids' school break (plus or minus a few days) a year ahead of time I should be able to find that award. And sometimes, even looking very far out and having date flexibility certain awards aren't available.

Some airlines are better than others. This chart does a fair job of comparing award availability at saver levels on various carriers. For the most part - I think they get it right. Keep this in mind when considering which miles to collect.

7. Your points balance may outpace your available vacation (if so, go for the premium cabin redemptions)


One of my favorite things about points & miles is how it enables travelling in Business or First Class. For some reason, most airlines charge a lot more for Business/First when paying with money. When paying with miles premium cabins aren't nearly as much of a premium. And award availability is often better in Business/First which makes justifying the splurge easier. This is a rather irrational thing to "like" about points & miles - I admit it - but who doesn't want premium service at a deep discount?

Now, some might say Business/First isn't worth it. That they'd rather have two vacations instead of one. I see their point. But since time off work and school is limited for us, and I figure I'd rather burn miles I have now than hoard them while they devalue beneath me I figure I might as well earn 'em and burn 'em. I can always earn more miles later. Or if this gravy train stops I can pay cash or take different vacations that don't involve long distance flights.

8. Strategies when feeding a family


It's hard to rack up enough points & miles to fly a family on multiple vacations each year, especially when travelling at peak school vacation times.

The good news is each adult can separately apply for the same credit cards and both can receive the bonuses. Even if someone is an authorized user on a given credit card they can apply for the card on their own and qualify for the bonus. So any sign-up bonus discovered can be taken advantage of twice as many times as it otherwise would which makes times spent reading about this stuff more efficient.

Typically, one person is more interested in playing this game than the other. In cases like this I find it convenient to sign up the less interested partner for cards with lower spending requirements and fewer cards in general. And I'll limit the number of cards my less interested partner has at any given time to 2. For example: "Use this for gas and groceries, and the other for everything else." Then swap them out when new cards come in.

I'll add myself as an authorized user to help meet high minimum spends, but a word of caution before you add yourself as an authorized user on all of your spouse's cards: The balance on the card will show up on your credit report so when you're ramping balances to meet minimum spend it could negatively impact your credit score at an inopportune time! To avoid this problem, only add yourself as an authorized user when absolutely necessary and pay the card off a few days before the statement closes.

9. Set dollar and time thresholds


A long time ago I created a "$20 rule". I wouldn't stress myself out about any transactions that were less than $20. For example, if I bought something at an out of the way store and was overcharged $5 for the item, I wouldn't invest a lot of time or effort to rectify the situation. If I could just submit a claim online or send an email - fine - but I wouldn't get in a car and make a special trip for something unless it was worth more than $20. It just isn't worth the time.

As it comes to chasing points & miles I think about things like this at well. It's super easy to stop at a CVS as part of my normal activities and takes less than 5 minutes to grab a few Vanilla Reloads a few times a month. So I gladly do it. But schemes involving trips to Wal-Mart and the Post Office and interacting with people who look at you like you're doing something shady are non-starters for me. I just won't go there.

My point is that you should set a dollar threshold beneath which you won't sweat a transaction that's gone awry. Or perform a point-earning activity that takes too much time relative to what it pays. Milenomics has done a great job expanding on this and more.

10. Consider: Where would you go if travel was nearly free?


One of my favorite things about playing the points & miles game is it gives me a chance to constantly be planning (and dreaming about) awesome family vacations. Once you take away the financial restrictions associated with paying for air travel and hotels it enables a whole new level of vacationing.

But it's kind of like saying you wish you could write the next great novel if only you had the time. The thing that's hard about writing a great novel isn't time off work: It's really hard to write a great novel. Similarly with travel - I found I was planning many of our vacations assuming airfare cost a certain fixed amount. Once that gets paid for, and I can viably consider literally the entire world it opens up some incredible possibilities. Now I'm more concerned with flights being too long (rather than costing too much) or subjecting the family to a locale that's too foreign or exotic as to induce travel anxiety.

But if you (and your family) can reasonably travel to anywhere you want in the world at deep discount, where would you go? It's a really fun question to consider.

And for now, credit card companies are willing to pay to fly the world in premium cabins if we're willing to sign up for their cards and meet the minimum spends. It's probably not going to last forever but for now I'm enjoying the ride.

Continue reading: "Lessons learned while (trying to) redeem 1,000,000 points & miles".

I'd love it if you subscribed to keep informed of future updates. 

Questions or comments? Drop me an email or ping me on Twitter: @RobertDwyer

(Image courtesy of millbill.com)

Related Reading:

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Credit Card Companies Invite us to Refer Friends...for Inferior Signup Bonuses? (and how to work around the situation)

Chase and American Express offer some of the best credit cards available in the market today. They've got generous sign-up bonuses and reward ongoing spend. They like to get more people to sign-up and use their cards because many of them carry an annual fee and they all generate swipe fees.

In order to encourage more people to sign up for their cards, banks offer affiliate links to websites which meet their criteria. You need to have a lot of traffic, and a professional website aimed at their target market. Family blogs like this don't qualify. Even high quality travel websites don't always qualify - you've got to have sufficient traffic for them to want to maintain a relationship with you. This is different than the Amazon model where almost any website can become an affiliate - they just pay at a higher percentage for sites that refer more revenue-producing traffic.

If you're like me and you talk to a lot of family and friends about which credit card sign-up bonuses are best there's another option besides affiliate links and that's Refer a Friend programs. Both Chase and American Express offer these options but there's one a catch:

The signup bonuses are almost always inferior to the best available option.

What kind of friend would refer a friend for a bad offer? This is a terrible way to run a referral business. You want to refer a friend for a great product with a great signup bonus.

I wish the credit card companies provided ways for referrals of the best offers. I'm sure this is a common complaint of affiliates as well: "Give us the best links if you want us to promote your products."

There's nothing I can do to change this, but I can offer up an assessment of the current referral offers available for some of the best credit cards out there along with suggestions of how to work around the problem to get the best signup bonuses -and- a referral bonus as well.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase offers a referral option for some of their cards, for certain cardholders. If you have this card you can check whether you're eligible to refer friends here: http://chasereferafriend.com

Chase invites you to refer your friends -
for an inferior signup bonus!
Refer a Friend Offer: 40k Ultimate Rewards (this is my referral link)
Better Offer: 40k + 5k for adding an authorized user, $95 annual fee (this is the standard link)

Workaround: None. If you refer a friend for the 40k offer the best you can do (with a lot of persistence) is get Chase to match the 5k authorized user bonus.

Guidance: If you're averse to arguing about signup bonuses go for the 40k + 5k authorized user bonus. You can probably go through a referral link and then request a match on the 5k authorized user bonus, effectively getting both the referral bonus and the 5k authorized user bonus. There was a 50k offer with a $125 annual fee for this card for a while there but it seems to be gone now unless you call in.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold

American Express offers a referral option by logging into http://americanexpress.com then Rewards - Refer a Friend. If you're eligible you should see this:

AmEx's referral program also has inferior offers
sent through emails you can't customize
The way AmEx does referrals is a little quirky. You have to send an email to your friend which includes a personal link. Since it's new to me I'm unsure if the resulting link in the email can be used by multiple people. But since the referral links for the best available offer for the Platinum and Gold cards I wouldn't recommend using them anyway.

All three of these cards are terrific - but only if you catch a peak signup bonus. Even then you may want to consider which cards to apply for concurrently because AmEx blocks signup bonuses for products from the same family. For example, if you currently hold a gold card you can't get the signup bonus for a platinum card. More on strategies related to this in a future post. (subscribe for updates)

Refer a Friend Offer: 25k
Better Offer: Card Match or Targeted 50k

Workaround: None. In my experience AmEx is not friendly about matching better bonuses. I even had to fight with them to get the standard 25k bonus on the AmEx SPG I signed up for this year.

Guidance: Check https://www.creditcards.com/cardmatch and/or log into http://americanexpress.com in an incognito browser window then go to Cards - Learn About Charge & Credit Cards - Your Special Card Offers

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest

25k might seem like a weak signup bonus compared to the big numbers other cards offer. But it's because Starwood points are very valuable. I'd estimate their worth a $0.02 a piece so even a 25k signup bonus isn't bad. Starwood points can be redeemed at their properties at favorable rates and - perhaps strangely for a hotel loyalty program - they can be transferred to a ton of airlines at a 20k to 25k ratio. Then, for example, you can redeem those points on Lufthansa for 34k roundtrip domestic flights within the US on United. Crazy, right?

Refer a Friend Offer: 25k (my referral link)
Better Offer: None right now. Best signup I've seen lately for this was 30k this past fall.

Workaround: Sadly, this is the only card of the bunch where the referral signup bonus is on par with the current best offer. If you're in the market for this card now, 25k isn't a bad signup bonus. I'm not sure whether use of a referral link (that I generated by emailing the offer to myself) will make me eligible for a referral fee. But it's worth a shot.

This is a really strange way to design a referral program (email only? what about Facebook and Twitter?). If you'd really like to make sure I get the referral bonus (5k) drop me an email and I'll send you one.

Chase Freedom

As I mentioned in this post this is a great card with no annual fee.

Refer a Friend Offer: 10k Ultimate Rewards
Better Offer: 20k Ultimate Rewards (expired)

Workaround: Apply through the refer a friend link. Then when you're activating the card (or shortly after via secure message) ask them to match the 20k offer. Chase is good about this in a case like this where the signup bonus has increased and the offer is otherwise identical.

American Express Platinum

I wouldn't apply for this card for less than a 50k signup bonus. For even semi-frequent travelers the $450 annual fee is easily justified by lounge access, $200 in airline incidentals (or gift cards twice a year), Global Entry (worth $100, good for 5 years and includes TSA PreCheck), and its Starwood/Hilton/National status (which can be matched to Hertz Five Star).

Refer a Friend Offer: 25k Membership Rewards
Better Offer: Targeted 100k (but hard to come by)

Workaround: None.

Guidance: Check https://www.creditcards.com/cardmatch and/or log into http://americanexpress.com in an incognito browser window then go to Cards - Learn About Charge & Credit Cards - Your Special Card Offers

Conclusion


I understand that banks have to abide by regulations in place to avoid consumers getting duped by unscrupulous characters. But I wish they'd learn from how Amazon sets up its affiliates program. Almost anyone with a website is eligible to participate in the program. The more products you sell, the more your referral percentage goes up.

This seems like a bright way to run an affiliate program because as small sites grow they're already familiar with your program. And with social media we're all potentially affiliates aren't we?

I hope this is helpful in navigating your way to the best sign-up bonuses while, in some cases, maintaining your referral bonus as well.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pasta Genovese alla Nonna

Showing me the tricks of her trade, 2003
These days my sweet little Nonna remembers the faces of the people she loves but much else is just a haze.  Now that she doesn't cook, I am so grateful that 10 years ago I stood beside her in the kitchen and watched her make one of my family's beloved dishes.  To this day, mention of it makes my husband and my father's eyes light up.  

"Genovese" is what she always called it, though, there's no basil to be found.  This one is authentic from her childhood and is absolutely perfect for a cold Fall or Winter night.  This pasta sauce is "peasant style" which is the polite way to say it uses very inexpensive ingredients.  From humble beginnings come memorable cuisine.  It also happens to be super simple and one you should put on your must-try list.  


Pasta Genovese
2 lbs. of onions sliced thinly into strips
1 and 1/2 lbs. boneless chuck steak (cut the meat into 4 large cubes and remove visible fat)
1 lb. hot linguini cooked in salted water
Parmigiano Reggiano to taste

Cover bottom of a dutch oven or thick pot with olive oil
Warm the oil, season meat with salt and pepper, then brown the meat on medium high
Cook for 5 minutes then add the onions.
Add 1 cup of beef broth and bring to a boil,
Turn down heat to a simmer and cook, covered for 2+ hours, until meat is easily falling apart into sauce.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over hot linguini with lots of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

I hope you enjoy a small part of the legacy that is my sweet little Grandma.
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