Please Don’t Open A Macy’s Credit Card, Mom!

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I’m in Florida visiting my parents right now. Let me start by saying that I love them very much. That’s partly why I want to be sure I’m helping them maximize the benefits they get out of credit card spend.

I do what I can to set them on the right path when it comes to credit cards. Rather than getting them credit cards for each possible bonus spend category, I try to keep their wallet simple so that they’ll remember which cards to use for which purchases.

Which leads me to two scenarios I’ve had in the past 24 hours:

Dinner with parents last night

When I’m with my parents I try to pay for dinner. They’ve done so much for me, and it’s the least I can do for them. I manage to win that battle about 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time my mom gets stubborn and tells me how she feels horribly if I pay, and that she should be paying. So I give in… once in a while.

Last night my dad pays, and I nearly crapped myself when he pulled out his Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card to pay for dinner.

Me: “Dad… look at the credit card you just put down and tell me what’s wrong with this picture.”
Dad: “Did I miz somesing on za check?”
Me: “No, look at the card you’re using. Don’t you remember which card you’re supposed to be using for dining purchases so you get double points?”
Dad: “Yes, zha Alaska Airlines Card I sought?”
Me: “No, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers double points on dining.”
Dad: “Oh, okay, I forgot.”

So he puts the Alaska Airlines Visa Card back in his wallet… and replaces it with the Ink Plus® Credit Card!

Me: “Dad, wait a second, that’s not the Sapphire Preferred.”
Dad: “Yez it is, zhis is the Chase Card, Benny.”
Me: “But it’s the wrong Chase Card for dining.”
Dad: “Vhat iz the Chase Sapphire Preferred then?”

So we go through his wallet and find the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and now I’ve realized that he has been making all of his dining purchases on the Alaska Airlines Visa Card. Grrrr!

I love you, dad, and am trying to help you here, but c’mon!

Explaining to mom why she shouldn’t open a Macy’s Credit Card

For some reason we had a family outing to Macy’s yesterday. On the list of things I enjoy doing, shopping ranks only slightly above hearing my dad’s play-by-play of a colonoscopy.

So there’s a sales associate helping us at Macy’s, and he tells my mom that she can save an additional 15% if she opens a Macy’s Card. Her eyes light up and she says “okay I will do this.”

I stop her for a second.

Me: “Mom, how much do you think your purchase will cost?”
Mom: “Maybe $500.”
Me: “So you’re saving maybe $75, that’s totally not worth opening a credit card for.”
Mom: “Why, it’s $75 free dollars.”
Me: “Yes, and that’s all the value you get out of the card. There are so many better cards you could apply for that have bigger bonuses.”

She eventually agrees not to.

Then as we’re checking out the associate tells her that if she applies today she’d actually get 20% off her purchase. At this point my mom’s eyes light up the same way they did the first time around.

Me: “Mom, even for $100 I promise you it’s not worth it.”
Mom: “But it’s $100 free dollars.”
Me: “Well remember the Citi Executive AAdvantage Card we just signed you up for? That got you 100,000 miles which are worth probably $1,500.”
Mom: “Yes, but those are miles and this is money. It’s $100 for free.”

$&^%!

Bottom line

I love my parents. But being a good son can be exhausting sometimes. 😉

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Comments

  1. I think for your Mom, signing up for the Macy’s card would have been fine. Not everyone can live around the whole miles thing. They’d rather save cash, and maybe travel less first class? Just a thought.

  2. @Callie, I think the point is that miles are just a form of currency like any other. While they have their greatest utility in paying for air travel, 100K AAdvantage miles are worth more than $100 in almost any conceivable usage. First Class air travel is just one of thousands of possible uses.

  3. I agree. $100 is not a bad haul in this situation. Certainly 500 miles are not worth $100. So that’s a trade that makes sense to me.

    It’s not like there’s a fee to have the Macy’s card. And they likely offer other discounts throughout the year.

  4. Totally disagree with you Ben. It’s not a huge deal, and if your mom wants to save a few dollars, so be it. Sometimes people would rather save actual money that realize implied value of miles/points

    BUT- the Macy’s cards are kind of joke. I was buying a $500 watch a few weeks ago, and thought about getting a card to save 20%, but then found out it’s only 20% of your first $100, not a great deal.

  5. Chase Freedom beats Chase Sapphire Preferred all year for restaurant spend.

    Chase Freedom has 5X on restaurants half the year and 1X the other. That’s an average of 3X all year.

    Chase Sapphire Preferred has 2.14X all year.

  6. My mom LOVES her Macy’s card. They send her like 5000 coupons every week and she is obsessed with maximizing the value of the stupid coupons. It may not be the most valuable card, but the pleasure she gets out of it makes it totally worth it, I think.

  7. Actually, if she shops at Macy’s a lot, the card is a good idea. I have one that predates my interest in miles collecting, but I keep it. They give all kinds of ridiculous discounts to card holders and often tell you that you don’t even need to actually use the Macy’s card to get the discount (depends on the cashier).

    I generally have both cash and % off coupons from Macy’s in such large quantities I can never use them all. If you ever pay full price for something at Macy’s, you’re missing out. (Also, they often give back the coupon when you’ve used it.)

    Watches/jewelry tend to be excluded from a lot of the discounts, however.

  8. LOL!!! So funny!!! I’ve been there. My mother in law managed to open a Macy’s card. Not a big deal if she lived in the US, had a S/S, credit score, etc… Don’t ask me how she did it but one day a bill arrives in the mail in my house and I ask. My wife: WTF is this? She had no clue. What a mess!!! You should place labels on the back of your father’s credit cards saying like “restaurants”, “office supplies”, etc… so he can see what that card is for before he uses it.

  9. My wife has a Macy’s card and I sometimes cringe about it too.

    However, cardholder benefits include discounts and special offers at Macy’s stores. Thus the savings is not just a one time $75 or $100. If your mom regularly shops at Macy’s then it’s not necessarily a bad card to have, is it?

  10. Little round sticker on cards telling your parents where to use them…i.e…”Dining”. Problem solved…you’re welcome! 🙂

  11. Dude, i can hardly remember which card to use anymore, cut your dad some slack 🙂 Its not like he did something silly like take consecutive mileage runs to Brazil on Delta. But if it was dining, i would be using Freedom this quarter as Lantean mentioned above.

  12. Actually, the Macy’s card can be pretty good. Yes, the signup bonus isn’t great, but they often have pretty significant discounts on stuff if you pay with the card. For example, when buying jewelry for my mom and mother-in-law for our wedding, a $300 set was already marked 50% off, but we would have saved another 15% just for using the Macy’s card if we already had one. Yes, this case is just $45 for the two sets, but if you shop at Macy’s a lot, it’s a good card to have.

    It’s only my list to get eventually, maybe during a lull in travel award cards available to me. (And after I finish this whole home loan process… haven’t applied for a new card since last June as preparation, and it’s been tough!)

  13. I can totally see this with my family, so I must admit I got quite the chuckle with your exasperation. Haha. $&^%! Indeed.

  14. I’m really into collecting miles and hotel points, but I have to say I’ve received some really good value out of Gap card recently. They have consistently been offering 3x points on all purchases recently, which makes an Amazon Payment worth $30 in free clothing. Combine that with some grocery store gift cards and the repeat 55% off stackable bonuses for Banana Republic–I’ve been using this card a lot when I need new clothes.

  15. @Lisa / @Ripper3785: my wife also had a Macy’s card which she strategically opened for a large purchase so the 20% discount was a great value. The problem I see with Macy’s is that yes they send coupons for cardholders which it says “1 day sale only” which kind of renovates everyday so every day is a one day sale but at least in our case 99% of the brands we would eventually buy at Macy’s are excluded from the offer so we never find use for it.

  16. Does getting the Macy’s card preclude her from getting other cards? There’s no Min Spend is there? I don’t understand your point. Are you just referring to the fact that time is money? (Opening the card and paying the bill = time spent on opening other cards.)

  17. I have a Macy’s card from years before I ever started playing this game. You do get really good coupons year round if you have it, so if you shop at Macy’s a lot, it can be worth it. But if you plan to apply for new cards and play the game in the immediate future, probably not worth applying for it.

    (As for your father, I’ve only finally trained my husband on which card to use where. Took two years, so keep at it with your dad!)

  18. I was pretty surprised to see at FTU that many travel hackers use cash or debit cards for restaurant transactions? Why? Because they rarely eat out, or don’t want to deal with small transaxtions on their cards.

    My mom has a Macys card and uses it frequently — if it’s a store she frequents and a way for her to save money regularly, who am I to say no to that?

    Which reminds me, I still have $7500 of spending left on “her” latest Citi card 😛

  19. Remember, the Macy’s card is an Amex, so there is huge value there because of the many Amex sync promotions. Both Macy’s and Bloomies are free cards so there is no reason not to have them (assuming you can take another hit on your credit report). I absolutely would never use them for everyday spend, but the coupons and special promotions for card members are pretty significant. Coupled with the Amex Sync promotions they are a must have, in my opinion.

  20. Isn’t there an app now that lets you know which credit card to use for which purchase? Maybe even one that TPG is developing?

  21. and this why taking a travel blogger’s advice on credit card strategy is not always the best one. The travel blogs have one perspective on value, but it is a niche one compared to most people. Just because a card doesn’t give miles, doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Many stores have special discounts and sales that are available only to their credit card holders. For the vast majority of people, they will probably get more benefit from these sales then trying to earn a few hundred miles a month and saving years for a free trip.

  22. I think your mom opening the Macy’s card is fine if her shopping patterns maximize the benefits.

    For example, if she shops at Macy’s a lot (in the clothing section). I have a friend with a Macy’s card, and they are always sending her high value $20 off $50 coupons (with the infamous long exclusion list, of course), so Mom can save quite a bit of money.

  23. Lucky, I think this is a great example of why the credit card game isn’t for everyone. Sounds like your parents should just have a Sapphire card, for example, and put all their spending on that, even if it’s not maximizing the value of each dollar spent in all circumstances.

    Sometimes simplicity is better than maximizing value, especially when the dollar amounts aren’t very large.

  24. the macys coupons for 20 off 50 or a 10 off 25, will beat the credit cards out. After all who can give you 40% off your purchase. Sometimes the money saved is better than the miles in its place.

  25. I’m a guy and I LOVE my Macy’s card. I shop here all the time. Constant deals. I really laugh because Macy’s markets more then anyone I know. It pays off because I do shop here often. Yes I have the Citi AA card (100K) I have the Alaska card for EK miles.

  26. Lucky: Your not alone, many of us deal with this all the time with our parents, spouses, friends etc!

  27. My parents and I live 600 miles apart. There are *some* travel costs involved. I like, uh, buy tickets on AirTran because they fly nonstop and I’m not going to burn a Chase inquiry on something that can only be used for domestic travel.

    My mom calls me the other day and says “I got the Amazon card and saved $30 on my purchase!” I really couldn’t pat her on the back and say “good job.” I told her that when I burn an inquiry, I get *at least* $400 in value from it. Next time, mom, will you call me?

    They’d do fine with a cash back card (or WN Visa) considering they pretty much only travel to see me. Although, I did con dad into getting an AA card, for which he used some miles to travel Asia with me, so I was happy about that. (And so was he.)

  28. @Lucky, if you are missing your Boba Tea, the Bamboozle Tea Cafe downtown and the Tea Lounge in Channelside are really good.

  29. Lucky, every time you write about your family I can not stop thinking about how sweet your parents are and how much love there is in your family.
    You make it so easy for a reader to simply fall in love with your mom and dad! Really!:) Thank you for writing and sharing this lovely family with us.

  30. Can your Mom buy Macy’s gift cards at Staples with the Ink? It is a bit of a hassle but you get the same lower price available as paying with the Macy’s card and the 5x. But overall it sounds like your parents have a lot of good cards and certainly are getting some great sign-up bonuses.

  31. I have been there…what is worse is when mom brags how she saved $40 getting an Amazon card- it was too late…AND my folks have lots 10+ each every year…My wife has her Macys and also loves the coupons, lucky she has had it for many years…

    Anyway, I feel your pain…
    P.S. I use a 5 point Forward card for restuarants and “save” the Chase Freedom for Lowes gift cards…

  32. I think you should let your mother make these decisions. Having been in your position before, I can say that your loved ones will definitely find this side of you exhausting.

  33. “I love my parents. But being a good son can be exhausting sometimes.”

    Ben, I think your Mom probably found your behavior exhausting as well.

  34. That of course is very sweet of you to look after your parents. But this is also a great example of why most people are best oflf in the fidelity amex with no AF and 2% back on everything.

  35. Why don’t your parents speak to you in German? And if they so, why on earth to you translate them a horrible American accent??

  36. I feel like your mom. I have been following travel bloggers for a year now and feel overwhelmed by all the different cards. I have accumulated a lot of cards and miles. I’m ready to actually go somewhere with them and I’m like uhhhhh? I think the decision making process slows with age. I got the macys card and had fun saving my 20%. It was a lot less complicated. :-). Wished I had a son that could plan for me. She’s a lucky Mom!

  37. I gave up a long time ago. My parents will never get it and they can just keep paying for their trips in intl coach class, even after I show them what’s possible with my pics in intl biz/first. Sad 🙁

  38. I also don’t think that having a Macy’s card is the worst thing in the world, especially if your mom doesn’t apply for a ton of CCs. However, shopping at Dillard’s usually beats Macy’s even after coupons based on my mom tells me (and she’s very, very good at maximizing discounts/sales/etc).

  39. Hey – if your parents want to save some real money- have them go shopping at a thrift store. Many times the clothing is ‘brand new’ and if not – it could be a once worn designer item that was tossed by those that PAY full fare for first class travel.

    And with the occasional 40% off for seniors days that some outlets have – it is like shopping for free.

  40. I had 15 hard inquiry per year. Not affect my credit score much. So just apply it and use the coupon. Hard inquiry wont hurt you much if you have 20 or 30 credit card.

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