Chase Freed 5x Bonus Category for Q4

Every three months the Chase Freedom card rotates a set of 5% cash back bonuses for spending at specific types of stores. For Quarter 3 (i.e. summer months) it was restaurants and movie theaters, presumably because of the increase in number of people who go out during that time frame. You can always check out the bonuses at their website here. 

The aspect of this scenario that many people don’t know, however, is that if you have a premium Ultimate Rewards card from Chase (i.e. Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve, or Ink Plus Preferred) then you can transfer those points to travel partners and potentially earn more than the standard 1 point = 1 cent ratio. When I transfer points I do my best to beat their current valuation, with normal redemptions for award travel being between 1.6-2.5 cents per point.

Make sure to activate your Q4 bonuses now in case you plan on spending at department stores this fall!

Utilizing the IHG Free Reward Night to its utmost

I am a part of a wonderful math teacher fellowship called Math for America (not to be confused with Teach for America) and every year they host an annual gala event at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Manhattan. For the past two years I’ve thought about staying over but either a) didn’t have enough points or b) the free night as part of the Chase Marriott Rewards card was not for that tier of hotel.

Enter: the IHG Rewards Credit Card. Every year it gives a free reward night for use anywhere in the world. There is not the same kind of limitation as with the Marriott card. So, I found the InterContinental Hotel around the corner from the gala and booked a night there. As you can see, for the night in question it would have been a whopping $629.99!

Instead, we are paying $0. The card itself has a $49 annual fee, so I would argue this makes it all worth it.

Even if we didn’t have the card, we would probably use that night somewhere else during the year for a wedding or small trip somewhere. It definitely makes the $49 worth it.

New TSA electronics security requirements coming for domestic flights

The TSA announced today that they are “raising aviation security baseline” by creating more hoops to jump through at security checkpoints. Where before only laptops were taken out of backpacks and placed in their own bin for screening, now any “electronics larger than a cell phone” will get the same treatment. Yes, this will mean longer lines, slower screening, and more packing up after going through security.

Perhaps this is to make up for the fact that the TSA has actually missed over 95% of items that could be dangerous as they pass through security. An article from CNN in 2015 and more recent one from the Washington Times in 2017 attests to that fact. It is really outrageous.

That being said, I personally doubt that this type of screening will pick up much more of the dangerous items that our “security theater” is said to be there for.

And, luckily, those of us with TSA PreCheck do not have to worry about this at all.

Amtrak Mastercard back to 30,000 point bonus

Normally the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard has a 20,000 point bonus after $1,000 of spending in the first three months (as seen below, compared to the Platinum version of the same card):

Right now, thought, there is an increased bonus option that will earn you 10,000 points more for the same cost (total of 30,000 points). My wife just applied and was accepted for the card – something I’m very grateful for as we travel between Providence, RI and Philadelphia, PA pretty frequently. Since you can often find deals within the Northeast corridor for only 2-3k points those extra 10,000 will go a long way.

I’ve recently been thinking of cancelling mine and getting another one to get the bonus again. If I do, I’ll take a closer look at some of the rules for re-applying as it seems Bank of America has changed them in the past.

Travel Ban restrictions altered against Trump administration’s wishes

When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on the Travel Ban they issued a statement that essentially allowed parts of the ban to be enforced. Specifically, they said that anyone who did not already have some kind of tie to the United States would not be allowed to enter until their ruling had been given later this year. They even specified examples of the types of people “with ties” to the country. Their words were that the ban applies to “foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Unfortunately, the Trump administration set forth guidelines on what that meant in relation to family ties. For example, siblings-in-law would be allowed in but grandparents would not.

As someone who just lost two grandmothers in the same year I can’t begin to tell you how awful this ruling can be for people. Just the thought of not being able to see my grandmothers makes me feel upset.

So, I am happy that a Federal court in Hawaii has ruled against that specific limitation. Interestingly, the definition of “close relative” does not yet include a fiancé.

Jet Blue Plus anniversary bonus: awesome!

I was pleased to see this image in my inbox this morning:

Some may not know that the JetBlue Plus card comes with a variety of benefits: a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points, 6X the points when you pay for JetBlue plane tickets outright, as well as your first checked luggage free of charge. What some may not remember or realize is that you also get 5,000 points at each anniversary! As The Points Guy values these points at 1.2 cents/point, that means you are getting back $60 of worth back every year. So, essentially, after flying roundtrip only once per year this card because completely worth it.

I recently had the pleasure of booking a number of flights to/from Florida in the Fall and only spent around $30 in taxes + fees because of this card. I’m definitely keeping it for next year!

Electronics ban lifted in many countries

In Act 3 of the security theater of the electronics ban, international airports are now being let off the list of locations where US-bound flights are required to put all electronics bigger than a cell phone into checked luggage (even a Kindle!). The airlines now permitted to arrive with electronics in the main are:

  • Emirates Air (Dubai, UAE)
  • Eithad Airways (Abu Dhabi, UAE)
  • Kuwait Airways (Kuwait City, Kuwait)
  • Royal Jordanian (Amman, Jordan)
  • Qatar Airways (Doha, Qatar)
  • Turkish Airways (Istanbul, Turkey)

The airlines still restricted are:

  • EgyptAir (Cairo, Egypt)
  • Royal Air Maroc (Casablanca, Morocco)
  • Saudia Arabian Airlines (Jeddah, Saudia Arabia)

Back in May there was a brief worry that the ban would be expanded and members of the administration hinted at more potential terrorism. All the while, airlines were worried of lithium ion batteries exploding in cargo holds, causing more likely damage. In the end, the rumor that there would be security increases to get off the list came true and we can now fly “safely” from these countries back to the US.

The whole thing is really unfortunate as TSA agents are failing at their jobs 95% of the time that it actually matters. Here’s hoping we can figure this stuff out in the US soon.