Medieval Sweden – The Annual Visby Festival

Medieval Sweden

The Annual Medieval Festival in Visby

I’m going to try to write occasionally about some of the interesting but less well known places I’ve visited. This time around it’s the annual Visby Medieval Festival. This is an annual affair that takes place from Sunday to Sunday in the 32nd month of the year (beginning of August). There are about 22 000 people who live in this lively Medieval city. The number of visitors during the festival however is close to 40 000! Visby is on the Swedish island of Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea.

Medival play in Visby - a Jester watches a KingAbout Medieval Visby

UNESCO calls Visby “the best-preserved fortified commercial city in northern Europe”. It was the centre of Baltic commerce from about the 11th to 14th centuries. Visby was partially burned in the 15th century but retains 17 Medieval churches (2 outside the walls). There are also over 200 other buildings with substantial Medieval elements remaining. The 12th century Visby cathedral predates the city wall. There is also the 3.4km long 13th century wall remains intact today.

The Medieval Festival

The Medieval festival in Visby is taken a bit more seriously than the more touristy Carcassone in south-western France. It was interesting to see that some of the visitors left their money “somewhere else” and camped rough in the Botanical Gardens, taking on the role of Medieval beggars. The tourists wearing Medieval clothing appeared to outnumber those of us who foolishly wore jeans and t-shirts. Perhaps this is an exaggeration, but there are thousands who do dress up. Those who forgot, can buy or rent their clothing and sandals, made locally in the Medieval tradition. Much of the food and drink offered is the same as was offered in the 14th century. And of course those selling crafts during the festival can only sell those they made themselves using Medieval techniques.

Medival peasants in Visby sit at a tableNo Medieval festival would be complete without jousting, jesters, music and the occasional reenactment where a woman gets built into the wall for having let the Danes in.

Visby Medieval Festival - Death stalks a peasant girlWhat Else for the Tourist?

Visby boasts some very nice restaurants that are far from Medieval by any standards. The Botanical Gardens are another must see (Swedes call Visby the City of Roses). The island of Gotland is quite flat with a sparse population. This makes it an ideal place for cycling from place to place. There are a number of sights including Medieval churches (if you didn’t get enough in Visby) and some pleasant beaches. Visby and the rest of Gotland make an excellent 1-2 week escape from modern times.

Average Age Of Credit Cards With Multiple Cards

Average Age Of Credit Cards With Multiple Cards

Part of your Credit Score

The Average age of your credit cards is a factor on your credit score. If you regularly apply for new credit cards it is worth understanding how it might affect your score. This is primarily an exercise in crunching numbers to get a feel for how opening new credit and cancelling credit might change the average ago of credit cards and other credit accounts. There is no conclusion, just a better understanding of the numbers.

Impact on Your Score

The length of your credit history will account for 15% of the average person’s credit score. This 15% is not a hard and fast rule as the percentages change based on your profile. The score includes the following:

  • the age of your oldest account
  • the age of your newest account
  • the average age of all your accounts
  • how long ago specific accounts were established
  • how long ago since specific accounts were used

Even with the potential variation in that 15%, the average age of credit cards is going to account for a small percentage of your overall credit score. This is especially true if you have other accounts, such as lines of credit, which also factor into the average age.

Impact of Cancelling on the Average Age of Credit Cards

The age of a credit card (or any revolving account) is based on the month it was opened. When you cancel an account it does not immediately impact the age of the account or the average age of credit cards and other accounts you hold. The account will continue to age until it drops off of your credit record. In Canada this normally occurs 6 years after being closed. In the United States it is 10 years for an account closed in good standing. The maximum age of an account is therefore 6 years plus the age at which you cancelled it in Canada.

Calculating Average Age of Credit Cards

I tried calculating the average age of credit cards with a spreadsheet but it was just too difficult. After thinking about it (always a good thing) I realized that the math was very simple. As an exercise, let us assume you have no credit cards and apply for any number of cards today and cancel them in one year. The average age of those cards in 1 year will be 1, in 5 years will be 5 – it doesn’t matter how many cards as long as it’s the same number every year. The oldest those cards will be is 7 years, just before they age off (1 year open + 6 years closed before aging off). If you don’t cancel them, then after 7 years your average age of credit cards will keep going up.

If you apply for the same number of cards (let’s say 3) at the same time every year and cancel them after 1 year, the average of your cards will be:

  • year 0: 3×0/3 = 0 years
  • year 1: (3×1 + 3×0)/6 = 3/6= 0.5 years
  • year 2: (3×2 + 3×1 + 3×0)/9 = 9/9 = 1 year
  • year 3: 18/12 = 1.33 years
  • year 4: 30/15 = 2 years
  • year 5: 45/18 = 2.5 years
  • year 6: 63/21 = 3 years
  • year 7: 84/24 = 3.5 years

Note that the age is actually done in months, not years, but the numbers are bigger and look a lot more ugly. What you will find is that after 7 years the average age will climb from 3 to 3.5, then drop to 3 and repeat as cards age off. If you get a different number of cards every year then there are way too many options and you’ll have to do the math yourself ;).

If you have cards you plan to keep then add all their ages to the numerator and the number of cards to the denominator (remember those pesky math terms?). The numbers above will go up any time you don’t cancel a card. If you have a 20 year old card when you start cycling 3/6 cards per year, the average age of your cards would be:

Cycle 3 cards Cycle 6 cards
year 0 20/4 = 5 years 20/7 = 2.9 years
year 1 23/7= 3.3 years 26/13= 2 years
year 2 29/10 = 2.9 years  38/19 = 2 years
year 3 38/13 = 2.9 years  56/25 = 2.2 years
year 4 50/16 = 3.1 years  80/31 = 2.6 years
year 5 65/19 = 3.4 years  110/37 = 3 years
year 6 83/22 = 3.8 years  146/43 = 3.4 years
year 7 104/25 = 4.2 years 188/49 = 3.8 years

So the more cards you cycle through, the less effect older non-cancelled cards have. That’s pretty obvious. But if you’re always cycling through the same number of cards you won’t ever drop below an average of 3 years after you reach year 6.

Summary

What does all this mean? That depends on a lot of factors. You don’t need an average age of 2 years to have a score over 700 if you manage the other factors well.

Not cancelling cards that don’t cost you money will help the average age. Just use them occasionally as if they aren’t used they factor less into your score and may be cancelled.

A higher average age of credit cards (or rather all your accounts) will help. How much better is an average of 3 over an average 2, or worse than an average of 10? Unfortunately I’ve not found much out there that tells you. The formulas are proprietary and there isn’t enough data showing people who have an old credit card, a variety of credit products, keep low balances and yet have a low average age of credit cards.

Keep in mind that the average age of accounts includes more than your credit cards. This should at least give an idea of the effect on the average age of credit cards if you get new cards regularly.

AeroplanPlus Gold Bonus to drop by March 31?

AeroplanPlus Gold Bonus to drop by March 31?

Points may drop from 30K to 20K

NOTE – APRIL 2: Looks like it was just a rumour … bonus points no longer count for Distinction but the referred bonus has stayed at 30K. The non-referred bonus has gone up to 25K from 20K until July 14th but it’s still better to get referred.

It’s just a rumour for the moment but there is the possiblilty that the Amex AeroplanPlus Gold Bonus may drop back to the regular 20K points. Hopefully this is not true but the possibility must be considered. The date provided was March 31, 2014.

The Aeroplan Plus Gold card is also currently free for the first year as are supplemental cards. After the first year the card is $120 for the primary and $50 for supplemental cards. You can cancel this card after 6 months if you don’t wish to pay the annual fee. The card earns 1 Aeroplan point per $ for the first $10K spent, and 1.25AP per $ thereafter.

If you are not referred by someone with the card then the bonus is currently 20K Aeroplan points. However, there is an added 10K (30K) total if you are referred by someone with an card of the Amex Aeroplan family (AeroplanPlus, AeroplanPlus Gold, AeroplanPlus Platinum).

The only official word from Amex is that the AeroplanPlus Gold bonus may be Aeroplan Distinction eligible until April 1, 2014. If you don’t already have this card it might be better to err on the side of caution and get it, as the bonus is one of the best available in Canada. The bonus is awarded after spending at least $500 in the first three months after acceptance.

Get Referred Now for Points and Distinction

If you have a friend or family member with the Amex Aeroplan Gold card have them send you a recommendation through their account. You will get an extra 10K points and your friend or family member will get an extra 10K as well (15K if they have a the AeroplanPlus Platinum card). If you don’t know anyone with the card you can use my Amex AeroplanPlus Gold referral to get the bonus 10K (I won’t complain about any extra points :-) ).

Once you have your card you can start to refer friends and family right away to get bonus points. There is no need to make your minimum spend for the 30K points before you start referring. If the rumour is true then you and your friends/family can get the extra points. If the rumour isn’t true, then you should at least have Aeroplan Distinction eligibility.

Business Gold Rewards from Amex Free No Longer

Business Gold Rewards from Amex Free No Longer

Today Amex has changed the terms of their Business Gold Rewards card. They have removed the first year free offer and have increased the annual fee to $250. Furthermore the required spending to receive 25 000 reward points has gone from $3000 to $5000 in the first three months.

The Amex Business Gold Rewards card is no longer an interesting offer for Amex points. You would be much better off getting the Amex Platinum card with offers 60K points on referral for $699. If you make use of the 2x $200 travel credits you will be effectively paying $299 for 60K points with a minimum $1K spend instead of $250 for 25K points and a minimum $5K spend. You would also have much better benefits!

BMO World Elite Bonus Deadline Extended

BMO World Elite Bonus Deadline Extended

Offer is good until June 1, 2014

The credit card competition is going strong in Canada, at least relative to the traditional situation. The latest is the Bank of Montreal extending their deadline for the BMO World Elite bonus of 30K points and first year free from March 3, 2014 to June 1, 2014. There are a number of competing offers and it looks as though BMO doesn’t want to be the first one to pull back their offer. Not when CIBC and TD are posting that new credit card sign ups are exceeding expectations.

Is this a good card to get for the bonuses? Without question it is.

The highlights of the sign-up

  • 30 000 points that can be redeemed for $300 via BMOs travel service for flights, hotels etc
  • First year free
  • Priority Pass lounge membership with 4 free passes

What makes the card interesting to use

Points are a clear 2% of all purchases (not just groceries/gas/pharmacy) like some cards. Depending on your spending, it may be worth keeping this card even if you have to pay the $150 per year fee. The Capital One Aspire is the competition.

The BMO World Elite insurance for trip cancellation, trip interruption and rental car collision is valid if you pay with points or the card and even if you only partially pay with either. Most credit card insurance policies require the full purchase to be made on the card.

Travel medical insurance on the BMO World Elite Mastercard is valid up to 21 consecutive days (extendible to 31 for $29 per trip if you and your spouse are under 65), unlimited times per year. While no where close to the National Bank Platinum’s 60 day limit, this is free insurance for the first year.

Conclusion

The $300 is easy to use for anyone who travels while the lounge passes and Prioity Pass membership may have additional value for others. The extension of the deadline means you can sign up for other cards now and have three months for your credit score to breathe.