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!

TSA PreCheck adds 11 new airlines

As many people know, TSA PreCheck allows you more of the former airport experience while going through security, such as:

  • Keeping your shoes on.
  • Not taking your laptop out of your bag.
  • Your liquids and gels can be anywhere, just as long as they are less than 100 mL.

So, it is wonderful news whenever new airlines sign on to the program. As Gary Leff is reporting today, 11 new airlines have added the benefit to their booking process. The website currently lists the following airlines but has put out a press release for the rest: 30precheck

Notable new airlines include:

Make sure to sign up for Global Entry first as it comes with TSA PreCheck included. Some credit cards even provide a fee credit for signing up (notably Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve).

How Chase helps keep my business

While I am definitely not beholden to any given bank for my credit card usage (I have AMEX, Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Barclays cards at this point) I will point out that Chase does a pretty good job of locking in my loyalty for a few reasons. One of them was emailed to me two days ago:

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Kudos to them for reminding me how many points I have on my Chase Sapphire Preferred account. Even if I may forget at times (or miscalculate) they are there to remind me what I have and how I could use those points. Just look at that photo – it’s quite enticing, to say the least.

Additionally, they keep me in line with their unfortunate 5/24 rule: essentially that any credit card applicant who has opened five new cards (from any bank) in the past 24 months is restricted from certain cards in their repertoire. For example, despite me coveting the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I was denied because of all my card openings (we didn’t even bother for my wife to try for the same reason).

In conclusion, they are keeping my business for both positive and negative reasons. Fascinating.

What’s in my wallet?

I had a fun and quick conversation over dinner last night about credit cards and points: I met a couple who are probably going to get engaged in the near future and they were fascinated by the idea of using credit cards to pay for their wedding and earning sign-up bonuses in order to pay for their honeymoon. I told them it’s what I did with my wife and it’s how we paid around $1,500 for a variety of flights/hotels instead of around $46,000.

In that regard, I often get asked what credit cards am I currently using because – as those in this game know – you don’t use all the cards you have all the time. So, here is a brief summary of what I am currently carrying.

The first thing to note is that I am currently using the Secrid Miniwallet. While in Paris over our honeymoon I went into a store that sold a variety of leather goods and got a chance to hold it in mind hands. I love the fact that it is slim, it carries multiple cards, has space for some cash, and has a handy flicking tool that extends five cards into your direct reach at any moment. I find this immensely useful in daily life.

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I’ll start from inside-out:

  1. Citibank Debit Card. I don’t feel completely beholden to one bank or another but I do find it useful to have this Citibank account since there are ATMs in both Philadelphia and New York (two cities I frequent). Because my wife and I signed up for a joint account three years ago I haven’t gone through with any kind of change. But, I keep it in order to take money out of ATMs and because the Park Slope Food Coop doesn’t take credit cards (more on that later).
  2. Chase Ink Plus Card. I got this card when the sign-up bonus was 60,000 points (usually it’s 50,000) and keep it because it yields some amazing returns on office supplies and technology expenses (5x!). Since I’m a teacher I am constantly buying office supplies (paper, pencil sharpeners, letter trays, etc) and so I maximize the use of the points. It also gives 2x the returns on gas purchases without foreign transaction fees (useful when renting a car abroad, which I do frequently in Toronto). Despite it’s $95 annual fee, I am fairly certain I get the returns necessary to make it worthwhile. Plus, I can refer others to the card and get a hefty bonus.
  3. Chase Sapphire Preferred. This is by far the most used card I have for travel and restaurant expenses since it earns 2x returns on all of those purchases. Whenever we go out to restaurants, stay at hotels (as long as I don’t have a hotel card for those stays), go flying with bookings through Orbitz or Momondo, this is my go-to card. I find it incredibly useful in order to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to variety of airline partners (not so much the hotel ones) and love the fact that when I call the number on the back of the card I get a person without a wait or computerized menus. Finally, this card came in handy this year for me to get back quite a bit of money (around $600) from hotel stays and plane tickets we couldn’t use during our honeymoon because I got sick.
  4. AMEX Business Gold Card. I am currently putting most of my spending on this card in order to earn 75,000 Membership Rewards points that can be transferred to a variety of airlines (including American Airlines, which is my plan). In addition to the bonus and spending on the card, AMEX is currently running a promotion offering 2x the points for small business purchases. I just signed up for Plastiq in order to pay our rent a bit cheaper through a credit card and it actually counts as a small business! By the end of this time, I should have about 90,000 points to play with.
  5. Park Slope Food Coop Membership Card. My wife and I are members of the Park Slope Food Coop, a grocery store and community that has been supportive of us in sickness and health. They sell some amazing produce and food at very low prices and are almost entirely membership run. You simply volunteer 2.75 hours of your time once every 4 weeks (or you can bank time in advance, like I do) and you can get access. It’s a great deal.

I have a variety of other cards that I use sometimes and am constantly reevaluating whether it’s worth it to keep them. I’ll keep you updated as things change.

The big miles post: comparing what we paid for what we would have paid

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I truly love finding a great miles/points deal. So when my wife and I started planning our honeymoon I realized this was the opportunity of a lifetime to use our points to maximize our enjoyment of flights and hotels wherever possible. While we couldn’t use them all over the places we visited (specifically, in Indonesia) we received such benefit that our honeymoon was that much better and that much cheaper.

This all started about 2 years ago when I got involved in the miles/points game. We started signing up for credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom, Chase Ink Plus, and Chase Ink Cash. Each had a lucrative bonus of Ultimate Rewards points that we stored away for safekeeping. I also signed up for the Citibank American Airlines cards (both personal and business) in order to get 100,000 AA miles to supplement some I had from before the US Airways merger. I added the CitiBank ThankYou Premier card as well as Citi Prestige to get 100,000 ThankYou points as well. Finally, we signed up for a few hotel-based cards: We got the Starwood Personal and Business cards when the bonuses were 30,000 and 35,000 instead of the base level of 25,000 and we also both got the Chase Marriott cards. Sufficed to say, we had a lot of points to spend.

So, in this post I want to analyze the difference between what we paid and what we should have paid if we hadn’t used any points.

The first use of our points was our flights from New York-JFK to Denpasar, Bali. We decided to use Korean Airlines because they are a transfer partner of Chase as long as you have either the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Plus. We took two flights to get there: one from New York to Seoul and another from Seoul to Bali. We decided to take a one day layover in Seoul so the flights below are not entirely accurate.

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The total cost using miles was 190,000 points + $166 in taxes. 

If we bought the tickets outright, the cost would have been significantly higher.

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As you can see, the tickets from New York to Seoul alone would have been $20,063.60 in total. For some reason I can’t seem to price out the Seoul->Bali ticket right now, but it likely would have been at least $2,000 each.

For our next major journey on miles we flew from Singapore to London on British Airways. We used American Airlines miles to purchase these tickets before the big devaluation it actually cost us less than quoted below: only 70,000 American Airlines miles each.

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With taxes and fees, the total cost was 140,000 miles + $588.40 in taxes and fees.

Running total: 330,000 miles + $754.40.

The actual cost would have been much more (although less than Korean Air):

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Total cost for this flight with two people: $13,057.60.

Running total: $33,121.20

The last major flight was our return home from Frankfurt to New York-JFK with Singapore Airlines. Our two tickets used quite a few miles because the saver award was not available. I had two transfer over 100,000 Citi ThankYou points and Chase points to get it, but it was well worth it.

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With conversion from the date of purchase, the total cost was 221,000 miles + $621.62.

Final total for flights: 551,000 miles + $1,376.03.

From the example below our flight cost would have been $10,183.12.

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Final total for flights: $43,304.32.

One major aspect of this travel I am not including in cost was all the lounges we visited. As a first class passenger we had access to a number of lounges at each airport and with the Citi Prestige we had access to even more through the Priority Pass network. Even in Lombok Airport – a tiny blip on the screen in Indonesia – there was a Sheraton Lounge that took it. We must have saved a few hundred dollars on food and time due to this benefit.


Now we can start discussing the hotels we stayed in because they were also heavily discounted. The first use of points was at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Singapore. As it is a newly rebranded hotel there was a discount in the price although we used our points anyway. We booked to stay for 3 nights on points instead of paying the full price.

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Total hotel points used: 30,000

If we had paid for it outright, the cost would have been around $120/night, totalling $360.

Next, we stayed at a wonderful Sheraton property in London called the Park Lane Hotel. It is a beautiful old world hotel that has been converted to a Sheraton but retains much of its charm. Since we decided to stay in London for five nights we benefited from Starwood’s 4 nights + 1 free promotion when redeeming points. Normally the hotel is 20,000 points/night but it averaged to 16,000/night due to this deal.

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Total hotel points used here: 80,000. Running total of hotel points: 110,000.

Had we booked our room and paid fully, each night would have been a whopping GBP £218. Based on when we booked the hotel (i.e. before the Brexit), that would have been $316/night. Total cost would have been: $1,580. Running total: $1,940.

In Paris we switched gears a bit and stayed at a Marriott Hotel instead since we had all those points to use. I found a great location with the Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel. It was conveniently located to many restaurants, museums, and right on public transit lines. We stayed four nights there at a cost of 40,000 points/night.

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Total was 160,000. Running total is: 270,000 points. At this point it is important to mentioned that not all points are created equal, especially when it comes to hotels. Obviously Marriott properties require more points than Starwood ones. Just keep that in mind for the future.

Had we stayed there paying outright, the room would have been 243 Euro/night, translating to $275/night. Total cost: $1,100. Running total: $3,040.

For our last night we stayed at the Hilton City Centre Frankfurt. I had accumulated many Hilton points and even had Gold Status due to the Surpass Card I had signed up for two months prior. While the standard room rate is 50,000 points I actually found a discounted Deluxe Park View room for even less!

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So the total amount of points spent overall for 13 free hotel nights was 311,157 points.

Had we paid out-of-pocket for that room it would have cost 139 Euro, or $157/night. Total cost of hotels would have been: $3,197.


This was a truly amazing trip. The sites we saw were fantastic (and more blog posts to come in that regard). The transportation we took was lovely and speedy. And the places we stayed were welcoming and enticing. I can’t wait to do this again in the future!

Getting ready for Singapore Suites

suitesThis morning I finally booked the homecoming leg of my honeymoon this summer: a sort-of holy grail I’ve been striving for since I started playing with miles and points almost a year and a half ago. Today, I booked passage for my wife and I on Singapore Airlines A380 in Suites class. For those unaware of what that can look like, feast your eyes on the amazing image to the left.

 

Yes, that is what it looks like: a double-bed in the champagnemiddle of an airplane, covered in rose petals and a bottle of champagne. Now, I’m not sure we will get the flora but we will definitely enjoy the choice of what we want to drink, along with many other amenities.

The total cost of this endeavor should be around 10,000 Euro for the two of us.

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We ended up paying significantly less:Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 7.52.57 PM

Yes, we had to spend a butt-load of miles on this trip (transferred from CitiBank ThankYou points and Chase Ultimate Rewards Points) but we are going to get such joy and comfort by returning home in serious luxury. And, if you do the math, we are getting a pretty darn-good redemption value from those points (22.9 cents/point).

I am more psyched for the 5 week vacation I get with my wife, but now I also know we get to return home in style.

Got declined from a new card? No problem – just give them a call!

When you are as deep into the credit card points + miles game as I am you will inevitably run into an issue where a bank will deny you a new credit card. Sometimes it’s because you have too much credit from the bank already with not enough income or sometimes it’s because you have received too many “hard” inquiries in the recent past.

Something like that happened to me recently when I applied for the new Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Card. I received a letter in the mail a week ago explaining that the bank had denied my new application for a variety of reasons. I neglected to keep the letter but I still called their customer service line and spoke to a “Reconsideration Specialist” who asked me a few questions about my recent credit history in order to reevaluate whether or not I should get this card.

He asked two main things:

  1. What’s up with all the credit inquiries? Basically, he wanted to know why I was applying for all these credit cards. He listed not just the Chase applications but also the US Bank and CBNA cards I have as well. I was honest with him and said that I wanted to reward points in order to get to/from various weddings and trips over the next few months.
  2. How come all the credit? He wanted to know how much money I wanted to spend on the card and I told him the truth: not that much. I only really want to spend a few hundred (up to the threshold of $3,000 for the 80,000 points) and didn’t need to do a lot with it afterward.

In the end, he approved my application and just asked to shift over some credit from my other accounts to this new one. In 1-2 weeks I’ll be receiving a letter to this effect and my new shiny card!

Can you get a refund on an annual fee after it has posted to your account?

Last year I was convinced to get the Chase / United Mileage Plus Club Card, a card with loads of benefits and a whopping $395 annual fee (now up to $450). At the time, if you walked into a Chase bank to request the card, the annual fee was waived for the first year so I thought, “Why not?” I received a new, metal-backed card (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred) that came with 1.5 miles/$1 spent on any purchase – a big benefit in a world where not everything is within a bonus category. For a full year I used the card to pay my rent (yes, a huge windfall for us) and earned thousands of United miles every month. But, when it came time to pay the annual fee, I called to get more information because it was not worth that much money for me to keep the card.

First, before canceling a card you should consider downgrading it to a lower tier (if it exists) so that your credit history retains the length of the account. Barring that, ask the company to transfer your credit to another card within their system and then cancel the card. I had $18,000 of credit on this card so I transferred all but $500 to another one before I cut it short.

Now, in the case of Chase / United cards, you can cancel the card within 60 days of the annual fee posting and still get a full refund of the annual fee. Doctor of Credit has a wonderful summary of all the bank’s rules. So, 14 months after I got the card, I made sure there were no new charges on the account and canceled it. About a month later I received a check in the mail from Chase for $395 that I deposited back into my bank account.

Be wary: some banks only return a portion of the fee; others have restrictive rules. Make sure you know what the rules are for a card you are applying for before you apply for it. Good luck!

Chase Ink Plus 60,000 signup bonus offer

Many other sources have linked to this so I do not feel the need to go into depth.

The Chase Ink Plus credit card is a great card if you want to get the following:

1) a great signup bonus (usually it’s 50,000 points – here it is 60,000)

2) lots of points earning potential at office supply stores (5x), gas stations (2x), and hotels (2x)

3) no reporting on your credit (since it’s a business card, it remains separate)

It has many of the other features credit cards have nowadays including no foreign transaction fees as well.

There is a $0 fee the first year, $95 annual fee every year after.

I have one of these cards and use it a lot for getting gift cards at Staples to churn through the Target Prepaid Redcard.