Mountain Collective 2015/16 – 1 Extra Day Pass Nearly Sold Out

Right now the Mountain Collective Pass for 2015-2016 is offering two days at each of the included resorts plus an extra ONE DAY at any one of those resorts. The pass is showing as “Nearly Sold Out” and is now priced at $389 for adults and the child price of $99 remains IMHO the best ski lift ticket pass value in the business. Now based on how this has been marketed in prior seasons, once this “batch” sells out it won’t be marketed again until around September time at which point the third day will almost certainly have been removed, and the price will probably inch a little higher again.

I have already purchased my pass for the 2015-2016 season and have picked Aspen/Snowmass for my third day given that getting there from my home RDU base is going to be easier with United adding RDU service with onward connections to the small ASE airport at Aspen (and note most hotels like the Westin and St Regis offer free transfers from ASE)

And the list of included resorts keeps expanding with lots of new international options… while Valee Nevado in Chile (summer 2015 only) has been an option for a while, MC recently added Thredbo in Austalia and former Olympic site Hakuba Valley in Japan. While for the average Joe or Jane these might be very hard to reach destinations, for us travel hackers these are pretty accessible. I myself used my huge stockpile of AA miles (thanks Citibank, we still heart U) to book a trip this August to Chile and will be checking out Valee Nevado courtesy of my Mountain Collective pass.

Mountain Collective Ticket Details

Just as a reminder from my prior post, for $389 for adults and $99 for children the Mountain Collective Pass gets you:

  • Two days at Alta / Snowbird in Utah
  • Two days at Aspen / Snowmass (or Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands) in Colorado
  • Two days at Jackson Hole in Wyoming
  • Two days at Mammoth Mountain in California
  • Two days at Squaw Valley / Alpine Meadows in California
  • Two days at Sun Valley in Idaho (New)
  • Two days at Whistler / Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada
  • Two days at Lake Louise/Sunshine Valley in Alberta, Canada
  • Two days at Thredbo in Australia (New)
  • Two days at Hakuba Valley in Japan (New)
  • Two days at Valee Nevado in Chile (summer 2015 only)
  • All subsequent days at 50% off
  • No blackout dates. So perfectly fine during Christmas holidays, MLK or President’s Day weekends

Bottom Line

The Mountain Collective Pass continues to offer fantastic value as far as ski lift tickets are concerned. If you want to maximize the value and are confident you can use it, I suggest getting in now while you get that extra day in.

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Last Call! Sears 40% Cashback via Discover Deals ends 6/21 [Now Expired]

This has now expired and is no longer available

Currently Discover Deals is offering 10% cashback on purchases at The terms & conditions explicitly allow cashback when purchasing or using gift cards so you can double dip by first buying gift cards and earn 10% cashback, and then go again and make a purchase using the gift card for another 10% cashback. Under the current DiscoverIT double all your cash back promotion, the 20% earned will be doubled at the end of the promotion year for a grand total of 40% cashback on any Sears purchases. This is a fantastic opportunity to buy goods from Sears with a huge rebate.

Discover Extra Cash Back extracbb

However the 10% cashback via Discover Deals end 6/21. After that it will drop I presume to 5%. While that will still mean a potential 20%, I think 40% is nicer. There is some chance that the 10% will come back, but then again with the double your cashback promotion running they may sit this one out.

At the very least this may be a good time to stock up on Sears gift cards. You are going to get a 20% rebate on those, and you should then be able to get at least a 10% rebate when redeeming them if you use them for online purchases.

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St Regis Vommuli Maldives Opening in 2016

Starwood have just announced that they are going to be opening a St Regis in the Maldives – St Regis Vommuli Resort – some time in 2016.

St Regis Maldives

Spectacular Looking St Regis Maldives

Currently Starwood has two properties in the Maldives – the very mediocre looking Sheraton Full Moon Resort, and the higher end W Retreat and Spa Maldives. The latter is considered a “suite only” property by Starwood Preferred Guest, the SPG loyalty program for Starwood hotels, and requires a whopping 90,000 points per night, although there was a promo run where it brought this number down into the 50k range. I fully expect this new St Regis to be at a similar level from a redemption perspective, although it would be great to see if priced similar to other Category 7 St Regis hotels. One can hope :) And if redemptions are prohibitive but you are lucky enough to be able to afford a paid stay, at least you should be able to get points for the stay and any elite status benefits you may be entitled to.


Vommuli Island is located in the Dhaalu Atoll which is accessible by sea plane (so easier transfers than the Park Hyatt, more similar to the Conrad Maldives) from the airport in Male. Dhaalu is a little further south of the South Ari Atoll that houses the Conrad, and is both a lot less developed than Ari and also, by all accounts, a spectacular location for diving. I know a lot of liveaboard trips make the journey into these waters.

St Regis Vommuli Island

Vommuli Island Courtesy of

It looks a good size island with a large lagoon that will no doubt soon be home to a host of overwater villas.

Bottom Line

St Regis Vommuli Resort will be a welcome addition to the Starwood lineup in the Maldives. While I expect redemption rates will be very high, it may be a great reason for me to step up the MS level on my Amex SPG card :)

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Small Targetted Discover 5% Cashback Offer

This one is barely worth mentioning but I got this in my email this morning. I got quite excited until I saw the “up to $1,000″ of spend. Damn these marketing people with their limits and fancy terms and conditions:

Discover 5% Rewards

Obviously I decided to go with CVS… I am sure I have some expensive “meds” I need to buy this weekend.

Check your email – maybe some of you got something more exciting? Still this one will pay for a free rental car in due course so can’t complain.

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Reselling is Horse…. or is it?

Buying and then reselling consumer goods as a means to manufacture increased credit card spending is something I have been taking a closer look at in the past couple of months, inspired by the likes of BigHabitat and TaggingMiles. However I have got to say every time I see an “opportunity” come up I have struggled to see how compelling the value proposition is. And this afternoon I saw that again. BigHabitat tweeted that BestBuy was having a flash sale on iPad’s with $100 off:

So intrigued I quickly started to work out the math. Now Chris at BigHabitat has already written up his rebuttal to my ensuing dissing of this opportunity, and his numbers differ from mine, but let me take you through how I came to my conclusion on this.

iPad Air 2

Analyzing the Resell Opportunity

My first step was to see how much these were selling for on Amazon. The iPad 2 Air 64gb seems the most popular model, with a retail price of $599.99 so $499.99 plus tax with this BestBuy deal. Now Chris seems to think they are selling for $578, but my search at the time he tweeted showed pricing at around $567-69:

Amazon Reselling iPad Air 2

Now of course just because it sells for $567 does not mean I would pocket $567. But apparently Amazon already thought of that and created a tool that let’s you calculate the net proceeds on a sale. Plugging in this item shows that I should net about $533 based on selling at $567.

So what is this baby going to cost me? Well here in NC I will pay 6.75% sales tax, so at a $100 discount I am getting it at $499.99 plus tax which comes out at…. well right about $533. Now I am guessing for guys like Chris and Trevor @ TaggingMiles who do this day in day out they are probably thinking breakeven is OK. But as a cynic over here, I am thinking a trade like this where I am just breaking even apart from the points sounds terrible. Oh and wait that calculator does not take into the account the cost of shipping this damn tablet to Amazon either. So I am already losing money at this point.

Let’s first play devil’s advocate and look at what is earned doing the deal:

  • 2% Best Buy rewards – so about $10 in short-expiring vouchers that require me to spend more at the big blue box store everyone loves to hate. Chris gets a bigger number because he does this more often and gets $15, but I go with what I would actually get not what someone else gets
  • Portal points / cashback – Chris goes the SouthWest route but y’all know what I think of those cattle herders, I would have gone with Discover Deals 5% cash back so $25 in cash which I can maybe get $50 worth of value on car rentals from. And when you rent a car you get to choose your seat too.
  • Whatever you earn on the card used to fund the acquisition. Let’s keep it simple and say I use a 2% cash-back card to earn another $10.66. Chris is working towards min spend on a credit card but I am basically discarding that as a bonus. Now he does make a valid point he could have juiced it up by running to a grocery store and getting a Best Buy gift card at 5% back, but that would not have worked here and just adds more complexity to an already complex proposal.

So at the end of the day I see the earning as $45.66 on $533 spend, a “return” of 8.5%. Chris used a whole bunch of more optimistic numbers than I did but came to something not so far off in he thinks he’s getting 9.5%. We are in the same ballpark. And that number sounds awesome right!? Well yes but….

Analyzing the Regular MS Opportunity

This is where I had to stop and think a little. Because a simplistic comparison would be to see how this compares when manufacturing spend using the same kind of 2% card. But that fails to address that there are still many 5x opportunities in the general MS world. At the very least it now seems we can do $50k at 5x on the old Amex Blue Cashback card, and of course you can do $50k at 5x at office supply stores using Chase Ink. And it is very possible to get multiples of these cards if you have willing family members etc. So I am going to compare with MSing on a 5x card, as the scale of these cards definitely compares to the scalability of the resell opportunity.

So let’s consider a simple MS turn – buying one visa gift card at a drug store and then using that visa gift card to buy a money order which is then used to pay the funding 5x card. In this case the economics break down as:

  • Spend $504.95 at 5x earning cash back of $25.25
  • Assume money order cost at high end so $0.99
  • “Sell” the gift card for the money order netting you $499.01
  • Net profit = $25.25 cashback less $4.95 GC fee – $0.99 money order fee = $19.31 or 3.8% of spend

Comparing Reselling vs Regular MS

When I started to write this post it was titled “Reselling is Horseshit”. However this is where blogging can be quite enlightening as when you take the time to analyze the opportunity in detail and think about the risks and rewards in more detail, you can ultimately change your opinion. I still think at the end of the day for me reselling is not that appealing, but it’s definitely a useful arrow in your quiver. Here are my thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of each method:

Simplicity: Regular MS is much more simplistic, you do not need to set up Amazon selling accounts, you don’t need to understand the pricing of anything. Regular MS definitely wins out on simplicity.

Accessibility: Regular MS can be very easy or very hard depending on where you live. I have written in the past how I thought NYC was an “MS wasteland” and on the flip side my hometown of Raleigh makes life very easy. However reselling is generally do-able from anywhere, though some in-store deals are geographically specific. But overall I’d say reselling has the edge in terms of accessibility.

Time: While BigHabitat points out that driving around looking for GC’s can be tedious when there is a great deal on, doing “regular” MS is very time efficient. Many people can slot a stop off at a grocery store or drug store as part of their regular commute. On the other hand I know that some of the reselling gang can literally spend their entire evening looking through Staples or Sears for resell opportunities. Then once the goods arrive they have to be shipped to Amazon, and then you have to track your sales and track returns and so and so fourth. Without doubt reselling is more time consuming.

Risks: I think BigHabitat does a pretty good of assessing the risks in reselling. However many of his points were very specific to this product (the iPad) opportunity – that the item sells quickly, that Amazon does not sell it directly. But either of those could actually change really quickly. The best way to simplify the description of risks in reselling is that the risks are complex. There are a host of factors that can significantly affect what you might ever get back for an item you buy and understanding these takes expertise. But gift cards are pretty straight forward. They are not entirely without risk either, but generally you are not going to buy a $500 gift card and then because you waited a couple of weeks before cashing out you suddenly find it’s only worth $300 because the issuer came out with a new style of card and there was a price war on the old one.

Profitability: In this example of a good resell opportunity vs a good regular MS opportunity the resell op comes out on top. There are some great resell opportunities that can be better, but there are also some amazing regular MS opportunities where you basically get paid to generate points. But comparing the base levels while I think reselling is more profitable I think I see this as a tie. Let me borrow an oft used and rarely understood phrase from my investing career – I think the risk adjusted returns are about the same. Now while I am not using any fancy formulas to reach that conclusion, what I am thinking is that after you take into account what I feel is the additional risk taken and time required to do reselling effectively, I think the returns are about the same. Yes one may make 8.5% while the other makes 3.8%, but over the long run the time I spend getting my 3.8% and the chances of things going wrong and me having to deal with that make up for that.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day I think reselling is a good additional tool for generating fake spend that can be more profitable in absolute terms. However given the additional risk and complexity involved I still think it’s an “experts only” area and you should only get into this activity if you are willing to put in the time and effort to really understand the nuances of this little cottage industry. It may not be absolute horseshit, but it is a niche that takes some mastering.

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Staples at 16% Cashback from Ebates, today 5/13/15 Only


I am sure this is not the first place you will read about this but this one just has to be worth a mention. I had to rub my eyes when I saw the email this morning. For today only you can get 16% cashback on your orders via ebates:

Staples 16 Ebates


I’m not going to really go into any details… I am in the middle of writing a rebuttal to BigHabitat’s excellent response to me dissing reselling, and now that post is going to take longer because I am going to be spending most of the day ordering crap from Staples.

Remember to use one of your Chase Ink Bold’s for 5 points per dollar, if you have any left with available credit after all the fun at OfficeMax and OfficeDepot the past week or so.

Oh and be sure to keep good records on this one… offers this good tend to lead to “mistakes” in tracking etc.

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Impact of Credit Card Churning on your Credit Rating

There are many blogs and sites that discuss the impact of obtaining multiple credit cards on your credit score. They largely focus around the simple concept of what happens to your credit score when you have an inquiry, and how that lowers your score a little but then that score dip recovers shortly after and you are back to normal. And that largely makes sense if you get a couple of new credit cards from time to time. But those of you that know me know that I tend to be a little more hardcore about this hobby than average. Whenever someone asks me which one credit card they should get for this game I always answer “never get one, get them ALL”!

Anyway over the past twelve months, for reasons way beyond the scope of this post, I have obtained four different mortgages and attempted to obtain a couple of auto finance deals. I figured it would be worth sharing my experiences here as some of them shed a light on the impact of obtaining multiple credit cards on your ability to obtain other forms of credit.

Impact on Mortgage Applications

I have obtained four mortgages in the past twelve months. One was a refinancing of an existing mortgage where I was paying down the balance (i.e. my new borrowing was lower than my prior borrowing), the other three were for new properties. I was approved for all four.

In each application I ended up having to provide an explanation letter – not about the new accounts, but about the new inquiries. This seemed odd to me but hey I am not the one doing the underwriting (personally I would be more interested in actual accounts opened and credit obtained than requests for credit).

For each inquiry I simply had to provide a simple explanation along with a statement of whether new credit was obtained. In most cases I simply stated “Rewards credit card” and that new credit was obtained.

You can click here to see a redacted copy of one of these letters of explanation. I never had any follow up inquiry after this and the mortgages were all approved.

Impact on Auto Loan

In addition to the mortgages I have had a variety of auto loans or auto leases over the past several years. I have never had the large number of inquiries or accounts on my credit report even come up as a question let alone an issue on any of these until my most recent attempt at getting a cash-out auto loan from PNC. It may be down to a cash-out financing being viewed as more risky (I was essentially looking to borrow money using my wholly-owned and unencumbered vehicle as collateral) or that PNC is just a more risk averse lender (I suspect the latter), but I was ultimately declined for this loan application. This is despite having a long stand and strong banking relationship with PNC and having the local branch manager appeal the decision. The denial letter was highly comical:

PNC Auto Loan Denial

I particularly enjoyed the colorful language of my apparent “pyarmiding of indebtedness” – using pyramid as a verb is certainly a new one to me. Thanks PNC! On the back of the same letter was details of the credit report used and as you can see there was certainly no issue with my credit score:

PNC Credit Score

At the time of applying I also had approximately five times the amount of my loan request in cash in my checking account, so even with that 792 credit score, no recurring debt, a history of on time payments and so on I was still consider one pyramid of debt too much for their taste.

Bottom Line

In general I have been quite aggressive in pursuing credit card deals and churning credit cards to earn miles, and over the years it has had very little impact on my ability to obtain credit including very large home and auto financing. However my clean run has come to an end and the lesson for me is that there will be certain lenders who just do not feel comfortable with the kind of actions we engage in and their impact on our credit reporting. Hopefully these real insights will help you make a better decision as to whether or not you continue to engage in this kind of credit card churning when you are seeking more significant financial borrowings.

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United adds twice daily DENver Service to RDU

United is adding not just once but twice-daily service between RDU and DENver starting September 13th 2015.

RDU DEN United

It’s great to see United extending their service at RDU. Currently DEN has only been accessible with SouthWest and y’all know what I think of those wahoos.

This is of particular interest to me with my ski obsession as United offers onward connections from DEN to some of the ski resorts such as ASE for Aspen/Snowmass and EGE for Vail and Beaver Creek. Right now award availability is wide open on this route and the onward connections to the ski resorts for the 2015/2016 season so I may just have to start dropping some United miles for next years ski trips.

Now all we need is for Delta to bring back Salt Lake City…

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OfficeDepot $20 off $300 Visa Gift Cards 5/3/15 through 5/16/15

OfficeDepot’s latest weekly ad is offering $20 off $300 in Visa Gift card purchases. Time to dust off those Ink cards again! Gosh I hope y’all have quite a few businesses that you are running ;)

Office Depot Visa Gift Card

It states the limit is two offers per person (i.e. $600 spend), but I am not even sure how that gets enforced, so could be a busy week ahead touring Office Depots



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Alaska Airlines is Coming to RDU!

Alaska Airlines RDU

Posts here at Milesabound are just like London buses… you don’t see any for ages, and then out of nowhere three of them all arrive at once!

Anyway I got really excited this morning when I saw from my Facebook feed someone posting to fellow-Flyertalker CMK10 that, via Airline Route, Alaska Airlines is adding service to a number of new destinations in the south-east including my beloved home town of RDU! I know this is a “local” event but I do know a lot of my readers are from round here these parts :)

Alaska Airlines RDU

You can also read the full press release from Alaska Airlines, but this is exciting for me for a number of reasons:

  • I have a boat load of $99 plus taxes companion vouchers under with Bank of America credit cards. I think we all know that good old BofA doesn’t mind the c-h-u-r-n word as much as many of it’s brethren
  • Those companion tickets ARE eligible for mileage accrual and upgrades
  • Alaska has a ridiculously generous status match program. I am fairly sure if you have most-visited-player status at your local bingo hall you can convince AS to match that to their upper tiers
  • Alaska is just a really nice place, and the airline is a really nice airline

So that’s it, it’s great to see Alaska expand into the south-east, those of you over in the Northwest now have easy access to some wonderful cities in Nashville, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill and Charleston. There is a very high probability I will be flying the inaugral of the RDU flight and will likely make a lot of use of this route. Now all I need to make life perfect is for Delta to bring back their SLC flight… :)

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Discover Card Extra Cash Back Offers

Discover Extra Cash Back extracbb

It’s been a while since I wrote about opportunities to earn some extra cash back with Discover. But I was just thinking about it recently and figured I would check my accounts and see if there was anything on offer.

Discover Credit Card Extra Cash Bank

You can see if you are eligible for any extra cash back earning opportunities by using the link That will direct you to a page to log in to your account and it will either give you the offer you were targeted for or noting if you are not so lucky. I control three discover credit card accounts and had an offer on one of them. Some sleuthing around the web shows some other offers available:

  • Extra $200 cash back for $1,500 spend per month between 5/1/2015 and 9/30/2015 (5 months) makes for an effective 3.67% cash back ($275) on $7,500 spend
  • Extra $150 cash back for $1,000 spend per month between 5/1/2015 and 9/30/2015 (5 months) makes for an effective 4% cash back ($200) on $5,000 spend
  • Extra $75 cash back for making $1,000 spend makes for an effective 8.5% cash back ($85) on $1,000 spend

All of the above assume you are spending at an earning rate of 1% cash back. If you can make some of that spend in Discover’s quarterly 5% cash back categories you may fare significantly better.

Discover Extra Cash Back extracbb

I value Discover cash back very highly as they can be redeemed at effectively double face value for some car rental programs, in particular National car. So having this will be nice (my one card got the $200 offer which is the lowest percentage earner but the highest absolute dollars earner I have seen – the other cards got rocks)

Discover Debit Card $0.20 Cash Back Per Transaction

If you have a Discover checking account (I do – signed up a while back for an easy bonus) you can always get $0.10 cash back per transaction up to 10 transactions a month. However from May 1st – July 31st (i.e. three months) they are doubling that to $0.20 per transaction.

Discover Debit Card 2x

Now hey this is definitely not as awesome as the legendary Banana Republic deal which gave uncapped $2 per transaction for two months (and they ran it twice – God bless them!) But it is definitely better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick and will add up to $60 cash back which as I note above is effectively worth $120 in National car rental certificates. Key is being able to find somewhere that allows small transactions. I will go back to paying my water bill one cent at a time so as to fully maximize this.

I’m guessing some of you may find this too time consuming for the reward, but hey a deal is a deal….

Bottom Line

I really love the Discover cards and checking accounts… bonuses galore, great cash back opportunities and the ability to lever up the returns with some of the redemptions. Be sure to periodically check to see if you have any goodies lined up for you.

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