Category Archive for 'Credit Cards'

Don’t Procrastinate…American Express Consumer Card Window Is About To Slam Shut

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Update: Just over 2 weeks remain until the new rules are implemented.  It can take up to 2 weeks for a card approval, so if you’ve ever had some AMEX cards in the past, now is the time to go for a last round of card applications as with the new rules you can’t get another bonus for cards approved after April 30th.
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DansDeals and DDF broke the news online a month ago that American Express would go from allowing people to get repeat bonuses on consumer cards every 12 months to never allowing someone to get a repeat bonus if they’ve ever had the card in the past.  This was leaked by their chat reps who are happy to quote new policies verbatim. The information that chat reps have is that the new rules will go into effect for cards that are approved beginning in May.

Indeed since then consumer applications have been updated to say, “This offer is also not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”

However:
-Chat reps are saying that those rules are not yet in effect and will go into effect in May. They say that it has been included on applications only in case the card isn’t approved before May.
-There are already several reports from people who have applied for a card in the past few weeks for a card with the new language and have already gotten the bonus, so that confirms what the reps are saying.

So if you want a card, now is the time to get it so that your approval get be processed before the new rules are implemented.

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HAS Advantage Points No Longer Transfer To El Al

Friday, April 11th, 2014

I have never been a fan of the HAS Advantage card.

I’ve spoken at seminars and written why many times over the years.  I write exactly why whenever I post a code to join El Al’s Matmid program for free. The El Al program is just not a good place for your points.  Just yesterday I actually had an argument with a commenter who didn’t like me calling out the HAS card and favoring the SPG card.

Or as I wrote in this post,

The Starwood card is much better than other cards (Like HAS advantage) for going to Israel. With HAS you are stuck with just the availability on El Al. Plus El Al charges hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges on award tickets.
With Starwood you have thousands of routing possibilities for free flights to Israel for less points than with HAS. And even if you want to only go to Israel on El Al you can just transfer Starwood points to AA and they will book you on El Al without any fuel surcharges!


At any rate, here is the awful news from HAS,

HAS Advantage is unable to process point transfers to El Al. Unfortunately a business dispute has arisen between HAS and El Al. At this time we can’t provide additional information about this dispute and while we are trying to resolve it, we are not very hopeful it will be resolved.

If you planned on using your points to fly El Al we recommend that you make other travel arrangements. We are extremely sorry about this sudden development. As a HAS cardholder we truly appreciate your support and you deserve better.

If you have a pending transfer, the points will be placed back into your HAS account.


Unlike AMEX, Chase, and Starwood which each have lots of transfer options in case a dispute were ever to arise, HAS only had El Al.

This news has no effect on AMEX points, which continue to transfer El Al.

At this point you should wait and see if they can get it restored somehow, but it seems likely that the best option will be to just take the 1% cash back that they are offering (sure beats the Blue Fringe CD redemption value ;) ). Which really, really stinks considering cards like the Barclay Arrival card give 2.22% cash back on everything.

There’s no longer any reason to keep using the card, that’s for sure.

Much better cards to get you to Israel include the:

-Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (25% bonus for transferring blocks of 20K points into miles.)
More on lots of ways of using Starpoints to Israel (from 20K round-trip) in this post.

-Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard (40K signup points plus 2.22% cash back on everything to use towards any travel related charge.)

-Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa Signature (40K signup points, 5K points for adding a free additional user, up to 3.21 points per dollar spent, points transfer to United for Air Canada or United flights for 85K miles with no fuel surcharges or to BA for Air Berlin or USAirways flights for 60K Avios round-trip with no fuel surcharges).

-Chase Ink Plus Business Card and Chase Ink Bold Business Card (50K signup points each, up to 5 points per dollar spent, points transfers to the same places as Sapphire Preferred including BA, Korean, United, Virgin Atlantic, etc.).

-American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card (25K bonus points, triple points on airfare, double points on gas and groceries, 15K bonus points every year you spend $30K, points transfer to Air Canada, Alitalia (80K miles in business class round-trip!), BA, Delta, El Al, Flying Blue (as low as 25K miles round-trip), Singapore (fly in a private suite) etc)

-Chase Freedom Visa (No annual fee, 10K signup points plus 2.5K points for adding a free additional user, up to 5 points per dollar spent or 5.5 points per dollar spent if you also have a Chase checking account, point transfers require that you or your spouse have a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus card.)

-Chase British Airways Visa Signature (50K signup bonus, 1.25 points per dollar spent, Air Berlin or USAirways flights are 60K Avios with no fuel surcharges)

-Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card (30K signup bonus plus 5K points for adding an additional user, 10K bonus points every year that you spend $25K, 85K miles with no fuel surcharges to Israel)

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An Updated List Of Gift Cards Sold At Lowe’s

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Related: A List Of Gift Cards Sold By Office Supply Stores

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Here is a new list (updated as of 04/03/14) of all gift cards sold by Lowe’s.  They have added several new cards since last year.  When buying anything at Lowe’s this quarter you’ll earn 5 or 5.5 points per dollar on your Chase Freedom card on up to $1,500 in spending per Freedom card.

Of course you can always buy Lowe’s (or Home Depot) gift cards with your Ink Bold or Ink Plus card at an office supply store to earn 5 points per dollar year-round on up to $50K in spending. However you can’t buy gift cards at Lowe’s when using a Lowe’s gift card.

For the sake of being comprehensive I have included all of the gift cards I saw, including to non-kosher restaurants.  For what it’s worth, the kosher Subway in Cleveland for example does accept Subway gift cards even though they don’t participate in any other national Subway coupons or promotions.

-AMC Theaters
-AT&T GoPhone
-Aeropostale
-Amazon
-American Eagle
-Ann Taylor
-Applebees
-BP
-Babies R Us
-Barnes & Noble
-Bass Pro Shop
-Bath & Body Works
-Bed Bath & Beyond/Buy Buy Baby
-Bob Evans
-Boost Mobile
-Buffalo Wild Wings
-Build-A-Bear
-Burger King
-Cabela’s
-Catherine’s
-Cheesecake Factory
-Children’s Place
-Chili’s
-Claire’s
-Coldstone Creamery
-Cracker Barrel
-DSW
-Darden Restaurants
-Disney
-Domino’s Pizza
-Facebook
-Fandango
-Fashion Bug
-Finish Line
-Foot Locker
-GNC
-Game Stop
-Gap Inc (Gap, Banana, Old Navy, Athleta, Piperlime)
-Golfsmith
-Google Play
-Groupon
-Hulu
-Ihop
-iTunes
-JCPenney
-Jiffy Lube
-Jo-Ann Fabric
-Justice
-Kohl’s
-Lane Bryant
-Little Ceasers
-Loft
-Longhorn Steakhouse
-Lowe’s
-MLB.com
-Macy’s
-Marriott
-Marshalls
-Michael’s
-MovieTickets.com
-Nascar Superstore
-Nike
-Nintendo
-Nook
-Nordstrom
-OfficeMax
-Olive Garden
-Outback Steakhouse
-Panda Express
-PFChang’s
-Panera
-Petco
-Petsmart
-Pizza Hut
-Papa John’s Pizza
-Playstation Plus
-Red Lobster
-Red Robin
-Regal Cinemas
-Ruby Tuesday
-Rue21
-Sephora
-Shell
-Southwest
-SpaFinder
-Sports Authority
-Staples
-Starbucks
-Steak ‘n Shake
-Stubhub
-Subway
-Sunglass Hut
-TGIFriday
-TJMaxx
-Toys R Us
-T-Mobile Prepaid
-Tracfone
-Uno Pizzeria & Grill
-Verizon Prepaid
-Virgin Mobile
-Xbox
-Zappos

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Activate Freedom Q2 Spending Now

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

The Chase Freedom Visa is an excellent no annual fee card.  They market the signup bonus as $100 for spending $500 in 3 months, but really it comes in the form of 10,000 bonus points which can be worth much more than $100.  Plus if you add an additional user and make a purchase within 3 months you’ll get another 2,500 bonus points, for a total of 12,500 points.

But the real beauty of the card is in the quarterly 5% categories. Again, while they call it 5% cash back you’ll really get 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent which can be worth much more than 5% cash. For $1,500 in spending per quarter you will earn at least 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points (7,500 points per quarter at 5 points per dollar spent).

I say at least because if you have a Chase checking account active by December you’ll get a 10% bonus on all points earned that year.  So if you spend the $1,500 per quarter and have Chase checking you will earn 33,000 points per year, or 5.5 points per dollar.  You’ll also earn 1.1 points per dollar on all other purchases that you make.

If you and your spouse only has a Freedom card you won’t be able to transfer points to airlines and hotels. However if you or your spouse has a Sapphire PreferredInk Plus, or Ink Bold card (or will get one in the future) you can transfer Freedom points over to one of those cards and then transfer them at a 1:1 ratio into much more valuable airline miles (United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, etc) or hotel points (Hyatt, etc).

Click here to activate this quarter’s Chase Freedom 5% categories.

The 5 point categories for the rest of 2014 are as follows:
Q2: Restaurants and Lowe’s.
Q3: Gas stations and Kohl’s.
Q4: Amazon.com, Zappos.com, and Department stores.

So go out to eat from now until June 30th and you’ll earn a whopping 5 or 5.5 points per dollar spent.  Buy a gift card from your favorite eatery to lock in savings.

Or buy gift cards from Lowe’s.  See this post for gift cards that they sell for all kinds of other stores where you’ll be able to earn 5 or 5.5 points per dollar.

Of course if you have an Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Ink Cash card you will earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent all year round on telecom, cable, internet, as well as everything from office supply stores, which includes gift cards to other stores and prepaid cash cards that can be used anywhere. With the Bold/Plus cards that’s capped at $50,000 per year and with the Cash card that’s capped at $25,000 per year. The cards also earn 2 points per dollar year-round at gas stations and either hotels (Bold/Plus) or dining (Cash)

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6 Cards=600K And Counting…

Monday, March 31st, 2014

The biggest card bonus out there now is the 100K bonus on the Citi AAdvantage Executive card.

I first learned about it and wrote about it on January 28th.

Since then my wife and I have already gotten 400K bonus miles with 2 cards each and just yesterday we were approved for our 3rd card each. That will bring our total to 600K bonus miles.  It’s more than enough miles for 2 people to take 16 flights in first class on an around-the-world OneWorld ticket. Been there, done that already.

Tidbits worth knowing:

-Yes, you need to figure out how to spend $10K in a short period of time. So this isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for big bonuses with less spending take a look at this post.

-Yes, the card carries a whopping $450 annual fee, though it’s refundable if you close it within 37 days of that being billed.  Sometimes the fee is billed on the first statement, sometimes on the second statement.   Sometimes the first statement comes right away, sometimes it takes a month. YMMV.

-You get a $200 statement credit which posts after you spend $200 on anything.

-Lots of people have reported that they had their American mileage account permanently closed with all miles forfeited for gaming this card by buying and cancelling refundable tickets.

-The miles sometimes post on the first statement after completing spending and sometimes don’t post until the 2nd statement after completing the spending. YMMV.

-Generally speaking you can apply for 1 Citi card per week and 2 per rolling 60 day period.

-I got lucky by racking up 3 million lifetime miles with American and getting lifetime Platinum status before 2011 when they stopped counting credit card miles towards lifetime status.  If they still counted it that way I’m pretty sure there would be a whole lot more lifetime Plats around this year :D

Stay thirsty, my friends ;)

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Final Days To Complete Chase Freedom Q1 Spending; Activate Freedom Q2 Spending Now

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Update, 03/26: Just 5 days left to complete spending in the Q1 bonus categories.
You can also now activate your Q2 Chase Freedom 5x categories.

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-Chase Freedom Visa-Earn 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $500 in 3 months.
There is no annual fee for Chase Freedom!
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I just got 24,801 points for $44.55 with these cards. 

1. You can click here to activate this quarter’s Chase Freedom 5% categories. Although they are called “5% categories” you really get 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent which can be cashed out for 5% cash. For $1,500 in spending you will earn at least 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points.

Make it a trifecta:

2. If you have a Chase checking account you will also earn a 10% bonus on all points earned during a calendar year on the following February statement.  That means you’ll earn a whopping 5.5 points per dollar in these categories or 8,250 points each quarter.

3. If you or your spouse has a Sapphire PreferredInk Plus, or Ink Bold card you can transfer Freedom points over to one of those cards and then transfer them at a 1:1 ratio into much more valuable airline miles (United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, etc) or hotel points (Hyatt, etc).  The $1,500 quarterly limit is per Freedom card.

The 5 point categories for 2014 are as follows:
Q1: Gas stations, Movie theaters, Starbucks (Activate starting 12/15)
Q2: Restaurants and Lowe’s (Activate starting 03/15)
Q3: Gas stations and Kohl’s (Activate starting 06/15)
Q4: Amazon.com, Zappos.com, and Department stores (Activate starting 09/15)

Here is a link that explains where you will and won’t earn the 5 points per dollar for this quarter.

Q1 Spending: You will earn 5 points per dollar on gas stations and on all items sold by gas stations.  Many gas stations sell a variety of gift cards and even vanilla reload and other prepaid cards.  Or you can lock in savings by just prepaying for your gas with gift cards to that gas station.  Added bonus: Gift cards usually pay the cash price!

I bought 9 One Vanilla gift cards at 7-Eleven on my Freedom cards.  Most 7/11s are categorized as gas stations even if they don’t have a gas station, you can confirm each one on the Visa merchant categorization site.  The system wouldn’t let me buy Vanilla Reloads but I was able to buy 9 $500 One Vanilla cards for $4,544.55.  Then I went next door to Walmart to load them onto Bluebird cards using the last 4 digits of the One Vanilla card as the pin number without needing to register the card.  I’ll get 24,801 points for $44.55.  $1,500 on a Freedom card earns 7,500 points plus 15 points for the additional $14.85 in fees for a total of 7,515 points.  Plus the 10% checking bonus equals 8,267 points.  Times 3 cards equals 24,801 points.  That’s 0.18 cents per point or in more practical terms that’s like buying a one-way short-haul flight on American for about $8.

Of course if you have an Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Ink Cash card you will earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent all year round on telecom, cable, internet, as well as everything from office supply stores, which includes gift cards to other stores and prepaid cash cards that can be used anywhere. With the Bold/Plus cards that’s capped at $50,000 per year and with the Cash card that’s capped at $25,000 per year. The cards also earn 2 points per dollar year-round at gas stations and either hotels (Bold/Plus) or dining (Cash)

Q2 Spending: Use your card at your favorite restaurant and earn 5 or 5.5 points per dollar spent.  Buy gift cards to lock in savings on future nights out.

You can also get 5 points per dollar at Lowe’s.  Click here for a list of gift cards sold by Lowe’s that I compiled last year.

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Ink Is Beautiful

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

The Chase Ink cards are some of the most powerful tools in any mileage junkie’s arsenal.  They are truly a must-have.

-Chase Ink Plus Card Linky
-Chase Ink Bold Card Linky
-Chase Ink Cash Card Linky

Many people don’t even realize that they can get a business card. If you or your spouse have any business, side business, or even if you are just in the planning stages of a business you can get a business card.  For example if Joe Smith sells items or wants to start selling items online and wants a credit card to better keep track of business expenditures he can open a business credit card for “Joe Smith Sole Proprietorship” as the business name. You don’t need to file any messy government paperwork to be allowed to do that.
Just be sure to select “Sole Proprietorship” as the business type and just use your social security number in the Tax Identification Number field as well as in the social security number field.

Here are some of the reason that Ink Is Beautiful:

1. The signup bonus.
Both the Ink Bold and Ink Plus offer a very generous 50,000 point signup bonus for spending $5,000 in 3 months.  The $95 annual fee on those cards is waived for the first year.
Not only that, but you can have the same card at the same time for different businesses, each with their own signup bonus.

The Ink Plus and Ink Cash cards are credit cards that can be paid off over time if needed.  The Ink Bold is a charge card that must be paid off in full monthly.

The Ink Cash card has no annual fee and a 20,000 point signup bonus for spending $3,000 in 3 months. It says $200 cash back but that’s just because you can use the 20,000 points for $200 cash back. I sure hope you don’t.

2. 5x points on telecom.
You’ll earn 5 points per dollar on internet/cable service and landline/cellular purchases.  That’s a nice rebate when you purchase a new cell phone and off your telecom/internet bills.

3. 5x points on office supplies.
You’ll earn 5 points per dollar at office supply stores.
Office supply stores like Office Max, Staples, and Office Depot sell gift cards to hundreds of other stores. You can click here to view a list I compiled last year.

By buying gift cards you can get 5 points per dollar at hundreds of places you shop at anyway, including Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond/Buy Buy Baby, Marriott (You can even use these to cater a wedding!), Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Whole Foods, and hundreds of others.

Plus Office Max and Staples accepts credit cards for Visa prepaid gift cards.  Even when there isn’t a sale the 5 points per dollar easily is worth more than the $6.95 fee on a $200 gift card.  But they often go on sale where they sell them for less than the $200 face value AND you get the 5 points per dollar.  They can be loaded onto Bluebird or just used anywhere you shop and you’ll still come out ahead.

On the Ink Plus or Bold card you can earn 5 points per dollar on up to $50,000 of spending per cardmember year per card.
On the Ink Cash card you can earn 5 points per dollar on up to $25,000 of spending per cardmember year per card.

4. Earn 5x points on Charity?

Your local school or other charity will be more than happy to accept donations of Amazon gift cards for supplies or any other useful gift cards for chinese auctions, raffles, fundraisers, etc.

They will give you a tax deductible receipt for the full face value-the price you paid for the gift cards.  And at the same time you’ll earn 5 points per dollar.  So while doing good you can still get a nice chunk of points and you’ll save on your taxes.  Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

5. Cash back on top of points.

Ink cards used to be issued as Mastercards though now they are all Visa cards.

Programs like Mastercard Easy Savings and the Visa Savings Program offer cash back on top of points at select stores just for registering your card.

For example with an Ink Visa you’ll get an additional 1% cash back on top of 5 points per dollar every time you spend $200 or more at a Staples store or online.  That makes gift cards even more lucrative!

With Visa you’ll also get cash back on top of 2 points per dollar at several gas stations and hotels.  You’ll even get a 4% cash rebate at Alamo and National rent a car.

With Mastercard you’ll 5% cash back at Avis or Budget and cash back at 19,000 participating gas stations nationwide on top of 2 points per dollar.

6. Double point categories.
The Bold and Plus cards offer 2 points per dollar for spending on gas and hotels.
The Cash card offers 2 points per per dollar for spending on gas and dining.

7. Free lounge visits.
The primary cardholder and additional cardholders (which are free!) can each get a free Lounge Club membership that allows access 2 free lounge visits per year.

There are participating lounges all across the globe.

A recent addition to Lounge Club is the new Art & Lounge in Newark. That lounge is intended for use by El Al business and first class passengers and offers exclusively kosher food. With a Platinum card you can get unlimited free access to this lounge.

8. No foreign exchange fees.

The Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards have no fees for using their cards when abroad. Just opt to pay in the local currency and you’ll always get the best exchange rate with no fees.

9. Spending won’t hurt your credit score.
The really great thing with these business cards is that they don’t report your spending on your personal credit report.

On personal cards if you spend money on your card, your credit score will be hurt even if you pay your bill on time. A whopping 30% of your credit score is based on credit utilization. You can pay off your card before your statement is generated to avoid that, but that takes a lot of effort and laying out money well before you have to. Additionally it’s good to have the statement close with a few dollars to show the card is active and being paid every month.

On an Ink business card it’s just not reported, so you can wait until the money is due without it having a negative effect on your score. That makes life a lot simpler.

Plus if you close a business card it won’t ever have an effect on your score.

10. A year of 0% APR

The Ink Cash card offers a full year of 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers.  So do many other cards.  The difference is that because spending on the Ink cards won’t show up on your credit report (unless you’re delinquent), carrying a balance on an Ink card won’t hurt your credit score like it will on other cards.  The 0% APR is just icing on the cake.

Note that there is a one-time 3% balance transfer fee. If you want a card with 0% APR and no fees for balance transfers you’ll want to look into Chase Slate which gives 15 months of 0% APR. However that is a consumer card, so carrying a balance there will hurt your score.

11. The Chase Trifecta.

Years ago I coined the term “Chase Trifecta.”

It refers to having a:
-Chase checking account
AND
-A Chase Freedom card
AND
-Either a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, a Chase Ink Plus card, or a Chase Ink Bold card.

The reason is that the Chase Freedom is a very generous no annual fee card thanks to its rotating 5 point categories (such as gas stations, restaurants, etc).  Plus if you have a checking account you’ll even get an annual 10% bonus making those 5.5 point categories and making all purchases earn 1.1 points per dollar.

The problem is that Chase Freedom points can’t be transferred into much more valuable airline miles and hotel points.  To rectify that either you or your spouse has to have either a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, a Chase Ink Plus card, or a Chase Ink Bold card.  That way you can transfer the Freedom points to one of those cards and from there into airline miles or hotel points.

12. Chase UR points are still awesome.

Chase Ultimate Rewards offer instant and fee-free transfers to top-notch mileage and points programs at a 1:1 ratio.

Transfer partners include:
-United (Star Alliance) is still an excellent currency, even after their devaluation last month.  They never charge fuel surcharges, have very flexible routing rules, they allow one-way awards for half the mileage, they have a short-haul awards for 10,000 miles, they allow for a stopover and an open-jaw so that you can really maximize a single award ticket into several free trips, and they have dozens of partners to fly on, most of which can be booked on their website.
-British Airways (OneWorld) is awesome for short-haul awards. Just 9,000 miles for a round-trip zone 1 or 15,000 miles for zone 2 short-haul award.  The zone 3 award for 25,000 miles round-trip can also be a bargain, for example for flights between the west coast and any of the Hawaiian islands or between Boston and Ireland with no fuel surcharges.  Flights to Israel on Air Berlin are 60,000 miles with no fuel surcharges. They allow one-way awards for half the mileage. There are no close-in or expedite fees.  You can cancel an award for as little as $2.50. Infants are only charged 10% of the miles on international trips instead of 10% of the full fare like US carriers charge. Plus they don’t collect fuel surcharges on AA within the western hemisphere, on Qantas within Australia, on Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Alaska, or LAN and you can transfer points to Iberia to limit fuel surcharges there as well. Read more in the BA knowledgebase. Next week you’ll have access to book USAirways flights with Avios. See 102 places you can go to nonstop from NYC with Avios.
-Korean (Skyteam) offers the best first class availability of any airline in the world (777+A380 First Class Trip Report here), it’s truly incredible.  Did you know that they fly to 13 US cities as well as Tel Aviv and the Maldives?  They also have amazing bargains on partner travel, just 30,000 miles to fly round-trip on Hawaiian or Alaska to Hawaii in coach or 60,000 miles in first.  And it’s just 20,000 miles to fly to Alaska in coach or 40,000 miles in first. You can even get a free stopover on the way to or in Alaska!
-Southwest offers award travel without capacity controls, though the value per point will dip effective 03/31. It will still offer a great value for award flights and they don’t charge for changes or cancellations. Plus you get 2 free checked bags and you can even get a point refund if the price of your flight goes down. You can also transfer points to Airtran for flat-rate awards like business class upgrades or free tickets at a flat rate instead of a rate that corresponds to the ticket price. From Airtran they can even be converted back into the old Southwest program that also offers flat rate awards.
-Virgin Atlantic has some niche uses like discounted awards on Delta and Cyprus Air.  For example a round-trip from Tel Aviv to Cyprus is just 5,000 miles!
-Hyatt is a powerful hotel currency. They have added a new cash and points option that offers some excellent values and more importantly those stays earn points, elite stay credits, promo credits, and you can use suite upgrades on cash and point stays as well.  It remains far less expensive for high-end hotel stays than any other hotel program, a $1,500/night villa at the Park Hyatt Maldives would run just 25,000 points or 12,500 points+$150.
You can also funnel points through Hyatt to Southwest to qualify for a free Southwest Companion Pass which gives you a free companion every time you pay for or redeem for a free ticket.
-You can also transfer points to Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Priority Club, and Amtrak. I’ve never been on an Amtrak in my life, but some people have reported getting some really nice bargains on Amtrak travel via their program.

When you use your points for travel you can get far more value out of them than when you sell them or cash them out.  It’s easy to get an insane value from your points when flying in business or first class or staying in 5 star resorts.  But even when you are in a pinch and need a last-minute ticket, a one-way ticket, or a ticket with stopovers in several cities, you can do far better using real miles than booking with cash or proprietary bank points that directly correlate with the cash price of the travel.  That $1,200 last-minute coach ticket would cost 120,000 Capital One points versus 9,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

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Final Days For American And USAirways Lounge Access Via The Platinum Card; Is Platinum Still Worthwhile?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Lose lounges, make $100-$500.

The final day to use The Platinum Card® from American Express to enter an American or USAirways lounge will be this Friday, 03/21.

Some people got emails with a $200 of $500 credit towards any American or USAirways ticket fees or lounge memberships.

I didn’t get that so I used the live chat option while logged in on AmericanExpress.com to ask about that and the agent gave me a $100 credit for incidental spending on American or USAirways between 03/22-12/31.  Others have gotten the $100 credit by calling as well.

Post your results in the comments!

It Plat still worth it?

So what does the card still do to justify its hefty annual fee? Well it does have a 40K signup bonus but with American Express bonuses apparently going to once in a lifetime that isn’t something you can keep on counting on getting in the future.

Airport Lounges. Kosher food in Vegas, Newark, Tel Aviv and more:

The biggest addition are the American Express branded Centurion lounges.  American Airlines was furious when the first Centurion lounge opened in Dallas.  There is also a Centurion lounge in Las Vegas and more lounges will be opening in LaGuardia, S. Francisco, and other airports in the near future.  There are also Centurion lounges throughout Central and South America though those aren’t as luxurious as the US lounges.

Originally these lounges were designed for free access only for Centurion cardholders, you know them as those black cards that cost a ridiculous $2,500 per year with a $7,500 initiation fee that used to give elite status on airline like Continental and USAirways but no longer do.

But once the Platinum card started losing airline lounges they opened it up to Platinum cardholders for free as well. You can bring your spouse and kids into the lounge for free. Or you can bring in any 2 other people with you for free.

What can you get there?

There are lots of DDF reports on the Vegas lounge that you can read here.

-In the Las Vegas Centurion lounge there is a full stocked kosher menu from Haifa restaurant.  And it’s all free of charge.  DDF members have reported that they stock Hot Roast, Schnitzel, Grilled chicken, Baked Salmon, Pastrami Sandwiches, Mashed potatoes, cooked vegetables, salad, fruit, rolls, and desserts.  If you call beforehand they can heat the food up for you (it’s all double-wrapped) and have it waiting.  Otherwise there are cold options or you can wait for it to heat up while you wait.  Reports about the food quality and service have been excellent.

If you call a couple days in advance they will even order fresh kosher meals for you, free of charge.

And you can top it off with top-shelf booze, also free of charge.  A DDF member said he did quite a number to their Glenlivet 21 year old single malt!

-In the Dallas lounge they offer a spa with a free clothes-on massage and other spa services.

-In all Centurion lounges they can help you with any AMEX account issues.  You can even access the lounge if you forgot your Platinum card as they can look it up with your ID.

-You can take a shower in the lounges as well and from what I’ve heard they’re a while lot better than the showers found in the airline lounges.  Plus they have L’OCCITANE toiletries which is a whole lot better than the single dispenser of mystery goop found in some airport showers that magically work as soap, shampoo, and conditioner as if it’s manna from the sky.

With amenities like that who needs airline lounges with their low end food and beer?

-Platinum cardholders also get a free Priority Pass membership.

There are over 600 lounges worldwide that accept Priority Pass and you can access all of them for free.

For example:

-In Newark you can access the Art & Lounge.  That’s the same lounge that El Al provides for their business and first class passengers. It has exclusively kosher food and Israeli art.

-In Tel Aviv you can access the Dan lounge.

See the Priority Pass site for their complete list of lounges. Note that you can’t access United lounges with the Priority Pass membership that you get from the Platinum card.

You don’t get any free guests, but secondary Platinum cardholders can get their own free Priority pass membership.

Airspace lounges:

Currently there are Airspace lounges in Baltimore, Cleveland, and JFK (JetBlue terminal).

These are modern lounges with free premium coffee and self service soft drinks.  Additionally you and every guest also gets a gift card valid towards purchasing premium alcohol, local craft beers, cocktails, and meals.

You can access these even with an inactive Platinum card until the card expires 4 years from the date of issue.

Delta SkyClub:

Currently you can bring your spouse and kids into Delta lounges for free when flying Delta. Or you can bring in any 2 other people with you for free.

Effective 05/01 you will not be able to bring in guests for free.  However secondary Platinum cardholders can access Delta lounges for free as well. You can a Delta lounge even with an inactive Platinum card until the card expires 4 years from the date of issue.

Secondary cardholders:

You can add 3 additional users onto a personal Platinum card for $175 ($58.33 per additional cardholder per year).  Secondary users do get full lounge access so they will have access to Delta and Priority Pass lounges for themselves and they will be able to guest others into Airspace and Centurion lounges.

Annual fee:

The annual fee on this card is a doozie, $450.  But it’s not as painful as it sounds.

As with annual fees from most banks, they are refundable if cancelled within 60 days.  It is also pro-rated if cancelled after 60 days and you have another American Express card (i.e. if you have the card for 3 months and then cancel you would get a $337.50 refund), and it is pro-rated if you downgrade the card even if you have no other American Express card.

$200 per calendar year airline fee credit.

Every calendar year you can get a $200 airline fee refund.  That means in your first cardmembership year you can get a $400 refund thanks to a $200 credit in 2014 and a $200 credit in 2015.

You can use it to buy airline gift cards in $100 increments.

Or you can just get it all in cash via the PGGM or the CHFFGM as described here.

Only the primary cardholder get the airline fee refund.

Global Entry Fee Refund

It costs $100 to apply for global entry which lets you bypass the customs line. If you charge it on your Platinum card the fee will be refunded.

If you have Global Entry you also get TSA Pre-Check, which allows you to avoid the nude-o-scope machines and lets you leave your shoes on and laptop in your bag.

Additional cardholders qualify for a Global Entry  fee refund as well.

Starwood Gold Elite Status:

Platinum cardholders get Gold elite status for free.  That gets you free Wi-Fi or you can get a 250 point rebate every time you stay at a Starwood hotel-even if you are on an award stay!

It also gets you free upgrades and 4pm late checkout.

Lost Item Protection:

If you buy something on your Platinum card up to $10,000 and lose it within 90 days of purchase it will be fully covered.  No other card I’m aware of offers lost item protection.  Many cards offer stolen item protection, but that requires a police report to be filed and often it has a cap of just $1,000.

Car Rental Perks:

A 4 hour late return fee-free grace period at Hertz and fee-waived Gold Plus membership, National Executive guarantee upgrades and faster free award rentals, Avis free weekend certificate with 2 rentals, and more.

The card also comes with free checked baggage insurance and it has no foreign exchange fees.  And of course it comes with all of the amazing purchase protections that other American Express cards have as well.

So, is it all worthwhile? It’s not for spending, frankly I value Starpoints earned from the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express more than the Membership Rewards points from this card.  Bizarrely even the less expensive American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card earns more Membership Rewards points than the Platinum card thanks to its bonus categories.

But the Platinum card does continue to have very unique benefits. I’ve laid most of them out for you and you’ll just have to decide for yourself if its worth it based on your own situation :D

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Are Major Changes Coming To American Express Consumer Card Bonuses?

Monday, March 10th, 2014

-DDF user shmebeble was the first to report being told that effective May 1st you will only be able to earn a signup bonus from an American Express card if you have never had it in the past.
-DDF user Drago then learned from their Twitter reps that starting May 1 there will be new ‘acquisition incentive control rules’.
-DDF user Redbull3 then confirmed with their chat agents that something is in the works as well.

I jumped onto the American Express chat to learn more. I asked about the exact language for the new ‘acquisition incentive control rules’.
I was told that,

Effective for consumer card applications on May 1st, acquisition incentive control will be declined if the Card Member has ever had the same card and cancelled it. We no longer limit the timeline to look back 12 months.

The rep continued,

You may be wondering why we are doing it. I know it’s a great loss to people who genuinely take advantage of it. Of recent though, we have seen some misuse of it. I.E. people getting Cards, spending the required spend limit, and then canceling. In the meantime, we are trying to work on something else. To see if we can offset it. No eta as of yet.

I pressed on and the rep said,

For example, if a Cardmember has been with us for a while and does not have a history of hit and run, so to say (I’m using my own language), then that requirement may be relaxed. I can’t guarantee that will be one of them. But it’s a possibility.

Just to confirm I asked “So all consumer card bonuses will be once in a lifetime starting may 1st?” And the rep answered:

Basically, yes. Now, that’s not to say that won’t change or that exceptions can’t be made.

Just to be certain I jumped onto chat one more time with another rep who wrote,

Let me provide you the details. Accounts opened before April 30, 2014 – bonus will be declined if the Card Member: Has the same Card or Cancelled the same Card in the last 12 months.
Account opened on or after May 1, 2014 – bonus will be declined if the Card Member: Has the same Card or cancelled the same Card.

All of the above is only for consumer cards.  I got conflicting information about business cards about whether this is eventually coming, whether the status quo remains, or whether it might even get easier to get a business card bonus, so I’m not going to speculate on what’s going on there…#Developing!

So there you have it. At this point nothing is 100% confirmed and we won’t really know anything for a few more months to see if this will be enforced.  But we have confirmations from phone reps, Twitter reps, and chat agents that changes are likely coming.

In the meantime if you have had cards like these in the past it may very well be your last chance to get another bonus on them:
-Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (10K bonus points for spending $1 plus 15K bonus points for spending $5K.
-The Platinum Card® from American Express (40K points for spending $3K)
-American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card (25K points for spending $2K)
-Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (30K miles for spending $1K plus a $50 Delta flight credit)
-Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express ($100 and free Amazon Prime for spending $1K)
-Blue Sky from American Express®

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Credit Cards For Dummies: 10 Frequently Asked Questions

Monday, March 10th, 2014

-Find more posts like this by clicking on the “Credit Card Posts” tab and find credit card offers in the “Credit Cards” tab above of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
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I’ve been blogging about deals for over 9 years now, but my passion is in miles and travel, I live and breath those deals and am a hopeless addict.  There can be worse addictions, I’ve been able to fly with my wife and kids on hundreds of first class flights and stay in 5 star hotels for practically nothing.  There’s no great secret in how I accumulated over 20 million miles and points as well as several lifetime elite status levels. It’s just about taking full advantage of everything from signup bonuses to dollar coins to Wendy’s cups to Faster Free Nights to………….

Many people are scared of credit cards for a variety of reasons but only one is valid: buying things they can’t afford and falling into debt.  Once you fall into a debt trap the entire thing will become a net loss, guaranteed.  Otherwise they represent the lowest hanging fruit in the miles and points world.

Here are some of the most common questions I get asked:

Q: Isn’t it bad for your score to close a card?
A: I have a FICO in the 800s, among the best scores in the country. And I’ve closed hundreds of cards.

Understanding how your score works is key here. The 2 primary factors making up 65% of your score are your payment history and the amount of money you owe. So always make sure to protect those.

A credit card continues to benefit the length of your credit history (the 3rd most important factor at 15% of your score) for 10 years after its been closed.

The only negative outcome of closing a card is losing the credit line, which can hurt your credit utilization. That can be avoided in several ways. Many banks allow you to move a line of credit onto a different card. Some banks may be more willing to approve you for another card contingent on moving part of line of credit from an older card onto a newer card. Or they may want to completely close out the older card and move the entire line onto the newer card.

Now you have to strike the right balance between your income and your total credit. You don’t want to have too much total credit. So don’t sweat it if you have to close a card, you can always get another to get your credit line back up to where it was.

Note that while you can close a card via secure message or chat without having to call up, typically if you call up, the retentions department may offer to waive the fee for another year or give you miles to keep the card.  Even if they don’t do that many cards can be downgraded to a free version and you’ll get a refund of the annual fee.  You have between 30 and 60 days from when an annual fee is billed to have it refunded if you close a card.

Q: Isn’t it really bad to close your first ever credit card?
A: Perhaps.
It’s a good idea to start off with a no-annual fee card as your oldest card so you don’t have to close it.  For example, Chase Freedom is a great no-fee card.
If you have one card which is wayyy older than other cards then you will want to keep it open and that establishes your credit length.
However, if your oldest card is not that much older than the next card, it won’t make a big difference.

Either way it will take 10 years after closing your oldest card until it falls off your report. So even if your oldest card is 2 years older than your next card in 10 years from now that won’t make a big difference.

Note that AMEX always reports every card you open as being opened in the year that you first got an AMEX card.  So if an AMEX was your first card then don’t sweat it as you can always get that date again by just opening a new card.

Q: Isn’t it bad for your score to open a card?
A. When you apply for a card a credit inquiry or hard pull is done on your report. New credit is one of the 2 smallest factors in your score.  It makes up 10% of your FICO score and a hard pull can lower your score by a few points. However, the negative effects of a hard pull lessen after a few months and most banks only care about the number of hard pulls from the past 3 or 6 months. After 2 years they fall off completely.

A new account will also temporarily lower the average age of your accounts, a subset of the 15% of the length of credit history category.  However that card will eventually improve your average age as it continues to help for that even if you close it for 10 years after you close it.

More importantly, when you get a new card, you get a new line of credit. 30% of your score is made up of amounts owed and credit utilization so the more credit you have, the better your score.

So the answer is that in the short-term your score may go down slightly, but longer-term your score will only go up.

Once you use that pull and apply for a card be sure you actually get that card!  It can take several tries, but typically calling or writing (via SM or even snail mail) to reconsideration departments can turn a denial into an approval, especially if you are an existing customer.

Q: Are there any tricks to raise your credit score quickly?
A: There are a few.
1. Try to pay off your credit card bills before the statement prints. Once it prints the amount owed can severely hurt your score even if you pay it off on time. I try to pay off everything but $1 so that when I get the bill in the mail I have a $1 amount owed. That shows the card is still being used, but that it’s not being maxed out.
Even if it’s too much for you to do this try to at least keep your spending when the statement closes under 25% of the credit limit of your card.
Amounts owed is 30% of your score, so this is a quick and easy way to get a nice bump.

2. 10% of your score is made up by the types of credit you have used. Have cards from multiple banks and have other kinds of loans as well.
For example, even if you can afford to pay for a car in cash you should finance it. First of all, you can usually get a nice instant rebate by financing and there’s typically no penalty to pay if off early. Second of all, once it’s paid off you’ll get a nice score boost.

3. Use business cards. Amounts owed on business cards from banks like AMEX and Chase aren’t reported on your personal credit report. So even if the statement closes with a large amount owed it won’t hurt your score like that would on a personal account.
If you even just have a hobby or want to start a business you can open up a card as a Sole Proprietor and just use your social security number instead of the Tax-ID number.

Q: I don’t make my own income, how can I get a credit card?
A: Recently the CFPB ruled that as long as you live in the same household as someone who you can rely upon to provide from their income you can include all of that household income when reporting your income on a credit application.
Income isn’t listed on your credit report, it’s based on what you report.

Q: I don’t have any cards yet and always get rejected, how can I build up my credit?
A: Start by having someone in your household or a relative add you as an additional user onto their account. Be sure that the account has been open for a while and is used responsibly and not maxed out.

After a couple months you should get a nice boost from that. Start by applying for a store card like from Gap, Kohls, Macy’s, Target, etc. as those can be easier to get approved for than real credit cards. Use the store card for a couple months (making sure to just leave $1 or so for when the bill comes to you) and then try for a real credit card.

Still not having any luck? Get a secured card. A secured card functions as a debit card except that unlike a debit card it helps your credit score. Most of these cards don’t offer miles but some like the USBank LAN card at least offers something decent.

Some banks offer a student card like Discover It Student that can also be easier to get than regular credit cards.

Q: Why is my credit score different depending on where I check it?
A: There are thousands of sites offering to give you your credit score for free. They just want your info to be able to sell you ads and other products. Their scores are called FAKOs and are basically meaningless. They look at your report and based on their own criteria make up a score on the spot. No creditor is ever going to use that score.
The only place where a consumer can buy their real FICO credit score is from MyFico.

You should always keep tabs on all 3 of your reports by using annualcreditreport.com, the only government sanctioned credit report site. If there are mistakes then be sure to dispute them!

There are 3 credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and Transunion, so you will have a FICO score for all 3. Some banks, like Barclays and Discover, allow their cardholders to view one of those scores for free. Some cards, like American Express Starwood and Delta also give you your FICO Experian score via mail when you apply for a card.

To make things more complicated there are different versions of FICO scores based on criteria set in ’98, ’04, or ’08, but that’s getting way beyond the scope of this article.

Q: 3BM? AOR? What in the world is everyone on DDF talking about?
DDF, or the DansDeals Forums is chock full of good info when it comes to credit cards. The acronyms thread can help you decipher the maddening abbreviations used there. The Start here thread offer a good place to start learning more as well. Take a look at the FAQ thread as well.

In short though, a 3BM means using 3 web browsers, like Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox, to apply for 3 different cards from the same bank, as close to each other as possible. Personally I’ll fill out the application form on all 3 browsers and then hit submit on all of them within a few seconds. This way you can get 3 cards with just 1 credit pull. There’s no guarantee you’ll get accepted to all 3 or that you won’t get more pulls, but this increases the odds of getting multiple cards with 1 pull.

An “AOR” or app-o-rama is the process of using multiple 3BMs from multiple banks as quickly as possible, in order to get approved for more cards from more banks. People sometimes stagger their AORs every few months to get more approvals.

Note that when applying for a Capital One credit card you will get 3 hard credit pulls every time you apply for a card, making them one of the more hated banks out there.

Q: So Capital One checks all 3 bureaus, but where do the other banks check?
It generally varies based on your home state. This DDF thread tried to make sense of the madness.

If you’re in a state where one of your reports is getting hard hit you may want to freeze that report and have a bank check another more seldomly used report to increase the odds of getting approved for a card. More info on freezing from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Note that some banks, like American Express, won’t be willing to check a different report and you may have to try a few times to find a rep from other banks to do it as well.

Q: But so and so expert says to always use debit cards and to cut up your credit cards?
A: If you can’t control your spending on a credit card then he’s right.
Otherwise that’s terrible advice. Not only do you throw away valuable miles by making purchases with a debit card, you also lose out on the protections that credit cards offer.
When fraud happens on a credit card you are not responsible for it while it’s being investigated. On a debit card those funds are immediately taken out of your checking account and you have to fight to get them back.
Plus credit cards offer awesome benefits like return protection and warranty extension that you won’t get from your debit card.

So just use them responsibly and reap the benefits!

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Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Card: Get 50,000 Points

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

From the Southwest blog:
-More international Airtran flights switch to Southwest-which makes them eligible for redemption and companion pass usage.  And the international expansion is only just beginning.
A companion pass lowers the cost of a nonstop flight from NYC/Islip to Fort Lauderdale for example from under 11,000 points round-trip per person to under 5,500 points round-trip per person. (Sample date 03/31-04/07)
-You can now book flights through October. You can always redeem points now and rebook if the price drops or cancel if your plans change, all without paying any fees.
-Yisrael LUVs Southwest and catches their attention.
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Originally posted on 01/09/14:

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Chase Visa Signature Card

Signup offer and anniversary bonus:

You can get 50,000 points when you spend $2,000 within 3 months of getting the card. They’re marketing this as 2 roundtrip flights but in fact it is enough for up to $970 of flights on Southwest.

For example a one-way Los Angeles-Las Vegas flight on 05/07/14 is $62 with tax.
It can also be bought for 3,060 points plus $2.50 tax.
So 3,060 points gets you a value of $59.50 ($59.50 airfare less the $2.50 tax required on the points ticket)
So each point is worth 1.94 cents (59.50/3,060), valid for redemption on all flights. so you can stretch out those 50K points points for as many as 16 flights with Southwest’s low prices or 32 flights if you earn a companion pass.

Note that effective for booking made on or after 03/31 the value of Southwest points will be going down.  For the flight in the example above you will need 3,570 points.  For that route the value per point will be 1.67 cents (59.50/3,570).  However you can still transfer points into the old program which isn’t being devalued-see below for more.

Free changes and cancellations. Lock in low fares with no penalty:

While other mileage currencies now charge $200 to cancel an award ticket, Southwest continues to allow you to cancel an award flight and redeposit the points in your account for future use without any penalties! Coupled with 2 free bags per person and that’s a lot of added value. A family of 4 needing to cancel award tickets on another airline would set you back $800 versus it being a free change on Southwest. A family of 4 checking 2 bags each would run $480 round-trip on another airline versus paying nothing on Southwest.

Thinking of taking a trip but not 100% sure about it? With Southwest points you can lock in a good rate and just cancel the trip free of charge at any point before the flight if you can’t make it!

You can use the points for yourself or book award tickets for anyone else you want to give a ticket to.

Airtran flights:

You can also use your points for Airtran flights as well! Plus because you will be booking the Airtran flights via Southwest.com you will get 2 free bags and free changes and flight cancellations as well!

Don’t fly?

You can also use 50,000 points to get $500 worth of gift cards to places like Alamo, Amazon, Avis, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Bloomingdales, Brooks Brothers, Budget, Carnival Cruises, Children’s Place, Express, Fairmont, Gap, Hertz, Hyatt, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Marriott, Motherhood Maternity, National, Nike, Office Depot, Saks, Sea World, Sears, Shutterfly, Staples, Starbucks, Toys R Us, TJMaxx, Walmart, Zappos and many others.

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With Southwest’s Rapid Rewards “2.0″ program you can redeem points for any seat on any flight. There are no blackout dates or capacity controls.

The value per point will depend on your route, but points always seem to be worth more than 1.8 cents each for discounted fares.

When Southwest has a fare sale the amount of points go on sale as well as it tracks to the price of the ticket. Best of all Southwest will refund your points if the price of your award ticket falls!  Just rebook your trip online for the same dates or give them a call for the credit.

You get 1 point per dollar on regular purchases and 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, including hotel and car rentals via Southwest.

Companion pass:

Plus you get a free companion pass if you earn 110,000 points in a year from most sources, including earnings from credit card signups and credit card spending! If you earn 110,000 Southwest points in 2014 the pass will be good until 12/31/15. The pass allows you to bring a companion with you for free whenever you fly Southwest, even if you are flying on a free ticket! There is no limit to the number of free companion flights that you can take.

Points transferred from Ultimate Rewards to Southwest don’t qualify towards companion pass status, but points transferred from Ultimate Rewards into Hyatt and then into Southwest do qualify. So you can transfer 50K Ultimate Rewards points into 50K Hyatt and 50K Hyatt transfers into 30K Southwest.

In other words if you get 50K points from signing up for this credit card you can transfer 100K Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and then into 60K Southwest points, worth about $1,170 towards Southwest travel. Plus then you’ll have a companion pass so that you can bring your companion for free whenever you fly Southwest, so that $1,170 toward Southwest is really doubled to $2,340 because of the free companion ticket. Not a bad value for a 100K Ultimate Rewards transfer.

See this post for more info on the Ultimate Rewards program and associated credit cards.

Transfers to Airtran and Rapid Rewards “1.0″:

You can transfer increments of 1,200 Southwest points into 1 Airtran credit. Here is Airtran’s award chart, which does not price awards according to the cost of the flight. Thus you can get an international round-trip award ticket for just 19,200 Southwest points. These awards are capacity controlled however. A business class upgrade on Airtran is just 4,800 Southwest points.

Once they are in Airtran you can also transfer them back into Southwest’s old Rapid Rewards 1.0 program. In this program awards are just 16 credits (19,200 points) round-trip, no matter how expensive the flight is. These are also capacity controlled, but for some flights you will come out far ahead with this old program.

And as always, Southwest:
-Gives 2 free checked bags per passenger.
-Does not charge change fees to switch your flight. Whether you are on a paid or an award flight you can change without penalty!
-Does not charge a cancellation fee to cancel your flight (you will get Southwest credit for the full amount paid, even on non-refundable wanna get away fares) or to cancel and redeposit your award flight.
-Refunds the fare or point difference if the price of your flight goes down after you buy it, just call to get the credit at any time before your flight!

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Other Chase consumer cards you can get at the time as the Southwest card include the Chase Sapphire Preferred (40K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, no fee the first year, plus 2.14 points per dollar on travel and dining with no Foreign Exchange fees), Chase British Airways , Chase Freedom (which gives 5 points per dollar in rotating categories and 10% bonus points if you have a Chase checking account), and the Chase United Explorer (which gives free luggage, free primary car rental insurance in most countries worldwide besides Israel, expanded saver and standard award ticket availability, priority boarding, and more).

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both give 50,000 signup points and offer 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and office supply stores, 2 points per dollar for gas and lodging, no foreign exchange fees, free lounge visits, and a waived annual fee for the first year.

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Will Sapphire Preferred’s Annual Fee Be Going Up For New Applicants?

Friday, March 7th, 2014

DDF user AAFlyer first reported seeing an annual fee of $149 on Chase.com for the Sapphire Preferred after the first free year. Then BarryLincoln said that he saw a $125 offer.

Indeed by using a couple of different browsers to go to Chase.com I was able to replicate both of their findings:

$149 annual fee:

sapp1

$125 annual fee:

sapp2

 

 

 

 

 

 

For now, my affiliate Chase Sapphire Preferred link is still showing free for the first year and then a $95 annual fee:

sapp3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the cards have the same offer of 40,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in 3 months plus 5,000 additional bonus points for adding a free additional user.

I don’t have any information on pricing changes, but in the past changes first occur on Chase.com and then for my affiliate link. That has happened with the Ink card, Freedom card, etc.

Indeed the Southwest offer direct from Chase.com is now back down to 25K while my affiliate Chase Southwest link is still showing the 50K bonus…for now.

Maybe they’re testing different levels, maybe a change is coming for everyone, hard to say at this point. But if you do want to lock in the lower fee now seems like a good time to apply.

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best all-around cards out there with a great signup bonus, great year-round spending bonuses, and great benefits.

It gives free primary car rental insurance in Israel while offering 2.14 points per dollar spent and no foreign exchange fees.

Sapphire Preferred cards have an EMV chip so that you’ll be able to use your card in more places when abroad.  The card is made from metal and feels awesome.  Plus when you call the number on the back of your card a human being answers right away. No phone maze to fight with and no hold time.

Besides for the Sapphire Preferred’s excellent signup bonus the card also offers:
-No foreign exchange or transaction fees so you’ll always get the best possible rate.
-2.14 points per dollar on all airfare, including tickets bought from travel agents and online agencies.
-2.14 points per dollar on timeshares (just in case you’re a real sucker)
-2.14 points per dollar on car rentals.
-2.14 points per dollar on hotels.
-2.14 points per dollar at restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, bars, lounges, and cafes (3.21 on the first friday of the month)
-2.14 points per dollar on catering (3.21 on the first friday of the month)
-2.14 points per dollar on transportation including trains, buses, taxis, limos, ferries, bridges, tolls, and parking.
-1.07 points per dollar elsewhere.

Sapphire Preferred also offers protections including very generous travel protections when the trip is charged to your card:
-Trip cancellation insurance ($5,000 per individual trip or $10,000 per family trip).
-Lost luggage protection ($3,000 per person)
-Trip delay protection ($500 per person for trips delayed by 12+ hours or that require an overnight stay)
-Baggage delay protection (If delayed 6+ hours: $100 per day per person up to 5 days)
-Travel accident insurance
-Price protection ($500 per item that drops in price within 90 days of purchase)
-Return protection ($500 per item for 90 days)
-Purchase protection ($500 per item damaged or stolen for 120 days)
-Extended warranty protection ($10,000 per item for an extra year on original warranties of 3 years or less)

Points can instantly at an equal ratio transfer to:
-United (Star Alliance)
-British Airways (OneWorld)
-Korean (Skyteam)
-Southwest
-Virgin Atlantic
-Hyatt
-Marriott
-Ritz Carlton
-Priority Club
-Amtrak

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Reminder: Earn 3.21 Points Per Dollar With Sapphire Preferred At Restaurants Today

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Today and on every first Friday of every month you will earn triple points with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card on all dining purchases. Normally you earn 2.14 points per dollar on dining, airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals.

This program was introduced in 2013 and has been extended for 2014 as well.

Together with the 7% annual dividend that means 3.21 points per dollar. For example if you spend $100 in any restaurant you’ll get 300 points on your next statement plus 21 additional points as part of your annual dividend.

Dining on the Sapphire Preferred card includes all sit-down restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, catering, bars, lounges, and more.

Don’t want to eat out today? Ask your favorite eatery if they sell gift cards or will allow you to have a credit balance in your name and lock in 3.21 points per dollar by purchasing them today!

Need to pay a caterer? Do it today and pocket the extra miles!

Are you outside of the USA? Not to worry, the Sapphire Preferred card does not charge any foreign transaction fees. (Which also makes it the best card for car rentals in Israel: 2.14 points per dollar, free primary CDW insurance with no deductible, and no foreign use fees).

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The Unique Benefits Of The United Explorer Card: Expanded Award Space, Primary CDW Insurance, And Much More

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Update, 02/27: It’s worth making an update to this post to note that if you use United.com’s “Remember Me” button it can cause your award searches to exclude your expanded availability.

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You must be logged into your mileage account to have access to expanded award availability. If you check the “remember me” option it will look just like you are logged in, but after a short period of time it will stop searching for expanded awards.

I was searching for an award flight to Tel Aviv on 01/25/14 while logged into my account with “Remember Me” and got this goose egg:

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However after logging out and back in again that same search came up with award seats:

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Using expert mode (as described in the original post below) you can see exactly what’s going on:

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There are no award seats available for non cardholders (X class) but there are at least 9 award seats available for cardholders (XN class).

Same thing happened when I searched yesterday for an award from Cleveland to Fort Lauderdale for Pesach and expert mode shows why, 3 seats available just for cardholders or elites who are logged in without remember me:

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Moral of the story is simple, don’t have United.com remember you if you have elite status or a United credit card.

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Originally posted on 01/15/14:

The Chase United Explorer card and the United Club card are the only currently available credit cards that gives you access to expanded award ticket availability.

It also is one of the only cards that comes with primary rental car CDW insurance.  Almost every other card only has secondary coverage when you rent a car in your home country. This means that if you damage your rental vehicle you must file the claim with your own personal insurance policy first, and only if they won’t cover the damage will the credit card cover the damage.  Even additional cardholders get primary coverage when they rent.

With primary rental car CDW insurance you will not have to file anything with your own insurance company. Chase will cover the entire bill for any damage to your rental car. Just be sure to decline the rental agency’s CDW coverage.  This primary coverage applies in every country in the world.  The Sapphire Preferred is what I use in Israel and other foreign countries, but that’s just because of the 2.14 points per dollar it awards on car rentals.  In the US the United card is the way to go.

How do you find expanded award availability? All you need to do is login to your United.com account before you search for award flights.

How do you know if your card is properly linked to your account? Just login on United.com and then hover over the words “Mileage Expiration”

If your card is properly linked you will see the following message that your miles won’t expire as long as you remain a cardholder:
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If your card isn’t properly linked then you will see the following message that your miles will expire if you don’t have activity every 18 months:

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Expanded saver coach example:

When logged into an account with a United Explorer card there is 40K saver award space from Newark to Tel Aviv on November 23, 25, and 30:

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When not logged in or when logged into an account without a credit card or elite status there is no space on any of those dates.

Just how much space is there?  Using this link you can click the box to enable United.com expert mode.

After enabling expert mode you can search for a paid flight from Newark to Tel Aviv on 11/23 and then click on “fare class” which will bring up the available cabins box:

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Everything in that alphabet soup stands for important stuff but all we care about right now is XN and X class availability. There are at least 9 XN seats, meaning there are at least 9 saver award seats available to someone who has a United Explorer card or who has United elite status.  It never shows more than 9, so 9 means 9 or more.

There are 0 X seats, meaning that if you don’t have a United credit card and want a seat on that flight you would have to book a standard award for 75K miles.  Those 75K coach standard seats actually come out of the HN bucket for non-cardholders, so there are at least 9 of those.

Expanded standard coach and business example:

When logged into an account with a United Explorer card there is 75K coach standard award space and 150K business standard award space from Newark to Tel Aviv on the red-eye flight on 04/12.  This is an extremely popular flight for people flying to Israel for Pesach.

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When not logged in or when logged into an account without a credit card or elite status there isn’t even standard award space available for that flight. The flight doesn’t even show up when performing an award search from such an account.

How many seats are available for cardholders and elites?

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HN class is standard coach availability for non-cardholders, no seats there.  ZN is standard business availability for non-cardholders, no seats there either.

YN is standard coach availability for cardholders and elites, at least 9 seats there. JN is standard business availability for cardholders and elites, at least 9 seats there.  In fact as long as there is a seat on the plane you can use the standard mileage award for get it if you are a cardholder.

Expanded saver business example:

Only United Platinum, 1K, and Global Services elites have access to expanded business class award availability (IN class as shown in expert mode).

However anyone can use United Plan B to book a business saver award even if there is only coach saver available. 

As United cardholders have more coach saver award space available they will automatically have more business saver award space as well thanks to Plan B.

Other card benefits:
Besides for the signup bonus of 30K miles for spending $1,000 and another 5K miles for adding a free authorized user, the primary CDW insurance, and the expanded award space, there are other nice benefits of the Explorer card:
-First checked bag free.
-Priority boarding so that you’ll have space for your carry-ons.
-No foreign transaction fees.
-2 free United passes per year.
-10K mileage bonus every year that you spend $25K, a 40% mileage bonus which means you’ll have earned 1.4 miles per dollar everywhere. Spending $25K in a year also waives the requirement to spend $2.5K on United flights to get Silver status, $5K on United flights to get Gold status, and $7.5K on United flights to get Platinum status. You only need to fly the 25K, 50K, or 75K miles like in the good old days.
-Double miles on United purchases.
-Elite members can get upgrades on coach award tickets on upgrade eligible routes if they have a United card.
-Miles don’t expire as long as you are a cardholder.

The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.

-You can also get the business version of the Chase United Explorer card.  Just click on “Are you a business owner” in the top-right of the Explorer card link.

-Want a 2nd free bag, a 50% mileage bonus per dollar spent everywhere, United club access for you and your entire family, post-security terminal access without a ticket, priority baggage handling and priority security access, and waived award expedite fees? The United Club card comes with all of that.  Just click on the MileagePlus Club tab at the top of the Explorer card link.

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Other Chase consumer cards you can get at the time as the United card include the Chase Sapphire Preferred (40K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, no fee the first year, plus 2.14 points per dollar on travel and dining with no Foreign Exchange fees), Chase Southwest (50K signup points), Chase British Airways (50K signup points and 10% off BA flights), and Chase Freedom (which gives 5 points per dollar in rotating categories and 10% bonus points if you have a Chase checking account).

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both give 50,000 signup points and offer 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and office supply stores, 2 points per dollar for gas and lodging, no foreign exchange fees, free lounge visits, and a waived annual fee for the first year.

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Current Mega Signup Bonuses From Chase

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

A quick roundup of mega signup bonus offers from Chase. Did you know that all Chase cards give free car rental CDW insurance in Israel?

-Chase Sapphire Preferred
Signup bonus: 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for spending $3,000 within 3 months plus 5,000 points for adding a free additional user. The annual fee is waived for the first year.

The Sapphire card is a great all-around card thanks to no foreign exchange fees and a 7% annual points dividend which means that you’ll earn at least 1.07 points per dollar spent. You will also earn 2.14 points per dollar spent on restaurants, airfare, hotels, car rentals, charges in airports, travel agencies, caterers, timeshares, trains, buses, taxis/limos, ferries, bridges, tolls, and parking. On the first Friday of every month this year you earn 3.21 points per dollar on dining.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are extremely flexible.  They can be transferred instantly to several great airline and hotel programs like United (Star Alliance), British Airways (OneWorld), Korean (Skyteam but they also have a great Alaska and Hawaiian Air chart partner chart), Southwest, Hyatt, and more. You can even transfer points to Amtrak if that’s your thing.

Those program each have their niches where your points can be worth a ton.  A $1,300 last minute ticket can be had for as little as 9,000 points, a $6,000 business class ticket for 115,000 points, or a $1,500 hotel room/villa for 25,000 points or just 12,500 points plus $150 with points and cash.

Read more about the Chase Ultimate Rewards program in this post.

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-Chase Southwest Visa Signature
Signup bonus: 50,000 Southwest points for spending $2,000 within 3 months.

There are no foreign exchange fees.

Southwest charges a variable amount of points based on the airfare. Starting 03/31 this will get a bit pricier.  For example a flight from Los Angeles to S. Francisco from 03/12-03/18 is currently $116. Or it’s points it’s 5,358 points plus $5.  So 5,358 points saves you $111 or a value of 2.07 cents per point.  On other tickets you may only get a value of 1.8 cents, but it will stay within that range.  On 03/31 that ticket will cost 6,252 points for a value of 1.78 cents per point.

If you don’t fly you can also get $500 in gift cards to dozens of stores for the 50,000 points.

The great thing about Southwest is that you can cancel award travel tickets and have the points redeposited into your account for free.  That means during a fare sale you can speculatively book a ticket and not worry if your plans don’t work out.  Or if the paid fare goes down just rebook your ticket and get back points.

And everyone gets 2 free checked bags.
If you collect 110,000 Southwest points in a year from select sources (including all points from Southwest credit cards and transfers from hotel programs like Hyatt) you can to bring along a companion for free on all of your Southwest flights for the remainder of the year and for the entire following year. That’s good on paid flights and on award flights, so you can effectively get twice the value out of your points .
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-Chase British Airways Visa Signature
Signup bonus: 50,000 BA Avios for spending $2,000 within 3 months.

There are no foreign exchange fees.
With short-haul flights starting at just 4,500 Avios you can get a TON of free travel from your Avios. Plus BA doesn’t charge any last minute expedite/close-in fees, doesn’t collect massive fuel surcharges for flights on American within the Western Hemisphere, Qantas within Australia, or worldwide on Aer Lingus, Alaska, Air Berlin, or LAN, and only charges $2.50-$10 (just the 9/11 fees) to cancel a domestic award online.

This program has great one-way bargains like 4.5K miles from Miami to the Caribbean, 7.5K miles from JFK to Bermuda, 12.5K miles from the west coast to any of the Hawaiian islands, and 12.5K miles from Boston to Ireland, all without fuel surcharges.

In just a month from now you’ll also be able to book all USAirways flights with Avios.
Cardholders also get 10% off paid BA tickets and can earn a companion award ticket if they spend $30K.

Want to learn more about the BA Avios program? I’ve written up an entire knowledgebase of facts that you can peruse.

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-Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards.
Signup bonus: Both of these cards give 50,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points each for spending $5,000 within 3 months.  The Ink Plus is a credit card and Ink Bold is a charge card.

They both have no annual fees for the first year, no foreign transaction fees, and 2 free lounge visits per year.

But even more importantly you earn 5 points per dollar at office supply stores, where you can find hundreds of gift cards to other online and retail stores. And that’s besides for 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and internet as well as 2 points per dollar on gas and hotels.  Plus you also get cash back on top of points with Visa Savings Program and Mastercard Easy Savings

50,000 signup points and 5 points per dollar earning makes the Ink cards a must-have for any mileage junkies.

Read more about getting business cards and the credit benefits of using business cards in this post.

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Other awesome Chase cards with lesser published signup bonuses that you can add onto a “3BM” (using 3 different internet browsers to apply for 3 different cards from the same bank at the same time) include the Chase Ink Cash (which has no annual fee and has 5 point per dollar and 2 point per dollar categories along with free lounge passes), Chase Freedom (which has no annual fee, gives 5 points per dollar in rotating categories, and 10% bonus points if you have a Chase checking account making it 5.5 points per dollar), the Chase United Explorer (which gives free luggage, free primary car rental insurance in most countries worldwide besides Israel, expanded saver and standard award ticket availability, priority boarding, and more). There is also a business version of the United Explorer (click on “are you a business owner” on the Explorer application) and a Club version of the United card (click on the Club tab on the Explorer application) that gives 1.5 miles per dollar spent, 2 free checked bags per person, a United Club membership with unlimited free lounge and airport terminal access for you and your family, and waived expedite fees on United awards.

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Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard Spend Threshold Requirement Will Go Up Soon

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard Linky

Currently this card offers 40,000 points for spending $1,000 within 90 days. The buzz across the internet today is that this card will very shortly require $3,000 of spending within 90 days to get that signup bonus.
If you apply while the application page still shows $1,000 then you will only need to spend $1,000 even once the offer changes.

At 2.22 percent this is one of the best cashback cards out there.

There are no foreign transaction fees.

This card will only require 1 hard pull as opposed to cards from Capital One which cost 3 hard pulls. Best of all Barclay will typically pull from your Transunion credit report.  Most banks pull from Experian though this does vary by state.  If you are NJ or NY based you shouldn’t have almost any credit pulls on your Transunion report if you don’t have Barclays bank cards.
If you are denied you can call reconsideration at 866-408-4064.

By having this card you will also get your real FICO score for free every month!

The card gives 2 “miles” for every dollar you spend on anything plus a 10% refund when you redeem miles so that you effectively earn 2.2 “miles” per dollar spent.  The 10% refund means that the 40,000 points signup bonus is really 44,000 points as you’ll get 4,000 of those points back after you redeem the points for a cash refund.  Of course when you redeem those 4,000 points you’ll also get a 400 point refund, etc. The 10% refund posts within 1-2 weeks of making a redemption.

Miles is a misnomer, really they just mean cents with each mile being worth 1 cent. The way it works is you book travel via any booking site and then you can just go online to your Barclays account and request that the purchase be refunded using your points. You can refund any purchase that is categorized as “Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies.”

If you want to convert your points into cash you could just book a refundable ticket like a Southwest Anytime airfare, select to redeem points to give you a check equal to that purchase, and then just refund the Southwest ticket.  All of your points can be redeemed for 2.2% cash back that way.

If you spend $420 on a plane ticket and have 42,000 points from opening the card and spending $1,000 you’ll get a $420 cash refund.

2.2% cash back on all of your spending is excellent, but still I personally prefer real airline miles over bank miles due to their versatility. However this card is probably the best you’ll get for bank miles and it can make sense for people who don’t travel or who redeem for coach tickets that are purchased in advance.

-The no annual fee version of the BarclayCard Arrival World Mastercard also has no foreign transaction fees which is great for a fee-free card and it currently only requires $1,000 in spend.  It has a 20,000 point signup bonus that will also receive a 10% point refund with every redemption.  But it only earns double points on travel and dining purchases.

HT: Sowhat, via DDF

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Delta Cards Improve But They’re Still (Generally) Not Good Cards For Spending

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Effective 05/01 the Delta American Express cards will no longer charge a foreign transaction fee and will have a chip to make spending abroad easier.

It’s can be worth getting the card for the signup bonus and having the card for the benefits.  Those include a free checked bag for you and 8 other travel companions and getting to board early which can be the difference between having space for your carry-on or having to check it to your destination. The Delta Platinum and Reserve cards also give a free annual companion ticket.

However it’s generally not worth spending on Delta cards as Skymiles are one of the worst mileage currencies out there.  (I say generally because the Delta Platinum and Reserve cards can earn elite qualifying miles based on spending.  Plus if you spend $25K on any Delta card you can earn elite status for 2014 even without spending the new required flight spending amounts on top of required flown miles)  But even if you do want Skymiles (there are some decent uses such a business class to Tahiti or Australia or getting a free stopover within the US) you can earn them faster on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express as 20K Starpoints transfers into 25K Delta Skymiles.

The points earned from the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card transfer to Delta as well and that card earns 3 points per dollar on airfare (as well as 2 points per dollar on gas and groceries and a 15K annual bonus for spending $30K).

Of course both of those cards charge foreign transaction fees.  Hopefully that will change soon, but in the meantime if you want miles the best cards to use abroad with no foreign transaction fees include the Chase Sapphire Preferred , Ink Plus , and Ink Bold. The Sapphire card earns 1.07-3.21 points per dollar and the Ink cards earn up to 5 points per dollar and those points can be transferred to several airlines and hotels, though not to Delta.

Or if you just want cashback the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard earns 2.2% cash back without foreign transaction fees.

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Redeem Starpoints For Courtside Suite Tickets At Madison Square Garden

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Update: Tickets have now been released for the rest of the season!

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Originally posted on 10/22:

Related:
-Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: 10,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $1 plus 15,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $5,000 which will leave you with 30,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000!
-Using Miles For Sports Experiences
-Starwood auctions
-United auctions
-Delta auctions
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Redeem Starpoints For Courtside Suite Tickets At Madison Square Garden

FAQ Page

Starwood has an event level courtside suite at Madison Square Gardens and you can experience it as a VIP with your Starpoints!

The best games are quickly selling out, so grab this while it lasts! DDF guys have gobbled up tickets to the Heat game among others.

You will get 2 seats in the Event Level Suite seating section tickets with access to the SPG Luxury Suite at Madison Square Garden.
In the suite you will get complimentary food and beverages.
You can request kosher food as well! Just include that in the “Other notes” section when redeeming for tickets.  Kosher food is available catered from Abigael’s or the Carlos and Gabby’s stands.

2 tickets to Rangers games can be had for 25,000 Starpoints.  That includes 2 of the best seats in the house and kosher meals!

2 tickets to Knicks games can be had for 35,000 Starpoints.  Premium games may go for an extra 10K points.

These are “buy-it-now” rates, not auction rates and they’re first come, first served.

There are other sporting and music events as well and they start at just 5,000 Starpoints for 2 tickets including kosher food if requested!

HT: damaxer91, via DDF

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Citibank Executive American AAdvantage Card: Earn 100K Miles Plus $200 Cash Back!

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Update: Please see FAQ in the comments here.

My wife and I both got “application pending” (hmm…maybe because we got lifetime AAdvantage Platinum status thanks to the grand old days of 3BM Citi AA applications and that we both have several active AA cards) but I called 800-695-5171 and they were able to approve both of us on the spot and confirm the 100K signup offer for spending $10,000 in 3 months!
They asked for my app ID which I didn’t have but they were able to lookup our application via our SSN.

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Citibank Executive AAdvantage Card Linky

All you need to do is fill out your name and click proceed to application, the other fields are not required to access the application.

Be sure to save screenshots of the offer in case of any issues getting the 100K!

This card does have a $450 annual fee.

You need to spend $10,000 within 3 months to get the 100K mileage bonus.  The $200 will post as a statement credit once you spend $200 on your card.

This card comes with an Admirals Club membership which also allows access to USAirways lounges. There are no foreign transaction fees and you get a free bag when flying on American

HT: plainbochur, via DDF

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Chase Eliminates Excluded Car Rental Countries; Israel Now Covered On All Chase Credit Cards!

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Update: 01/26/14: Some people reported problems getting the car rental agency in Israel to waive the CDW purchase requirement because the Chase letter of coverage didn’t specifically mention that Israel was included. 

I’m happy to report that you can now request a letter that specifically states that coverage in Israel is included.  Just call the number on the back of your card to be forwarded to the department that can instantly email you a letter of coverage.  You can also try calling 888-880-5844 to get that letter of coverage. That number is intended for the United card but should work for all Chase cards.

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Originally posted on 11/01/13:

Effective today all Chase cards, Visa or Mastercard, now offer free car rental CDW insurance worldwide!  Gone are the exclusions on rentals in countries like Israel, Ireland, and Jamaica.

CDW covers any damage or theft to your rental car.

If you renting a car outside of your home country you will receive free primary coverage on rentals of up to 31 days, so Chase will cover you even if you have your own insurance without having to file a claim with your own insurance.

Additionally Chase will now provide primary coverage on leisure rentals on business cards when renting outside of your home country.

Additional drivers that are listed on the contract are covered as well.

Secondary cardholders also get primary coverage when they rent.

Note that in Israel even if you decline the CDW all agencies still require to buy liability insurance for damage to other property or people.  But you’ll still save money by having a card that provides its own CDW coverage.  Israeli car rental agencies are notorious for charging over and over again for the same scratch.  Even if you buy the CDW from the car rental agency you’ll still have to pay for the scratch as they have a high deductible on their own CDW coverage.  When you use your Chase card and decline the car rental agency’s CDW coverage you’ll have zero deductible.  If you do not decline the car rental’s CDW coverage then your credit card will not cover your rental.

-The best card to rent a car with abroad is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It offers 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all dining and travel expenses, including car rentals. It also has no foreign exchange fees, so you’ll always get the best possible exchange rate without any fees.  You’ll have free primary coverage when renting anywhere outside of your home country and secondary coverage to your own insurance when renting within your home country.  If you don’t have your own car insurance policy then coverage is primary worldwide.

-When renting within the US the United Explorer card is the way to go thanks to its primary coverage. It also is one of the only cards that comes with primary rental car CDW insurance in the US.  Almost every other card only has secondary coverage when you rent a car in your home country. This means that if you damage your rental vehicle you must file the claim with your own personal insurance policy first, and only if they won’t cover the damage will the credit card cover the damage.

Of course if you do rent on a United card and you return the car with no damage you can have the car rental agency counter change the card to Sapphire Preferred so that you get the 2.14 points per dollar spent.

Sample Chase cards that have no foreign exchange fees:

-Chase Sapphire Preferred
-United Explorer card
-Chase Ink Plus
-Chase Ink Bold
-Chase British Airways
-Chase Marriott Premier
-Chase Southwest Premier

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Another Downgrade For American Express Platinum

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Delta has just announced a few changes to their lounge access policy.

-Regular club members who shell out $450/year can no longer bring free guests, they will have to pay $29 per guest or upgrade to a $695/year “executive” membership that still allows guest access.
-Effective 05/01 American Express Platinum and Delta Reserve cardholders will have to pay $29 extra for each additional guest they bring into the lounge.

The hits don’t stop coming for the American Express Platinum card.  03/21 is the last day to get free access to American and USAirways lounges and now 04/30 is the last day to bring your entire family for free into a Delta lounge.

You can add 3 additional users onto a personal Platinum card for $175, so if you do want to bring family members into the lounge for free you can add them onto your account.  Secondary users do get full lounge access.  And Platinum cards still give access to Airspace and Delta lounges even if the card is no longer active until the card expires in 4 years from when you get it.

It’s a surprising move even though we’re so used to Delta devaluations that the frequent flyer community calls their miles SkyPesos.  Delta is very close with American Express and for them to hurt American Express’ premium card like this right when American and USAirways did the same is almost shocking.

Perhaps the airlines are running scared of the Centurion lounge network that American Express is rolling out?  The airline lounges simply pale in comparison to these lounge. These lounges are already open in Dallas and Las Vegas and lounges in LaGuardia and San Francisco are up next with more locations to follow. Centurion lounges have premium drinks, food, and in Dallas you can even get a 15 minute clothes-on massage.

People have even been able to call ahead and get free hot kosher meals in the lounges!

Now that American Express has a competing and far superior lounge product all of the airlines have really given them the cold shoulder.

I think if American Express wants to keep the Platinum card competitive they’re going to need to speed up their roll-out of these lounges nationwide or else they’re going to bleed customers.

What else does the Platinum card still get you?
-You still get free access (along with your entire family or 2 guests) to Airspace lounges in Baltimore, Cleveland, and JFK. More Airspace lounges are set to open as well. And each guest gets a gift card to spend on items sold in Airspace lounges with every access.
-You still get a free Priority Pass membership which for now gives free access to USAirways lounges. It also gives access to hundreds of other lounges worldwide. Priority pass only gives free access to the cardholder but additional cardholders also can get priority pass membership

Other card benefits remain in place:
-1 free year of Amazon Prime membership when you open a new Platinum card (This is actually a new benefit and also applies to the Blue Cash Everyday and Blue Cash Preferred cards)
-$200 of airline fee credits (or airline gift cards in $100 increments) per calendar year (PGGM continues to live on quite nicely for $400 cash back in your first cardmembership year which covers almost all of the $450 annual fee).
-$100 global entry expedited customs (5 year membership) refund.
-Other benefits include Starwood gold elite status (with a point rebate even on award stays), car rental perks at Avis, Hertz, and National, lost item refund protection (up to $10,000 per lost item), checked baggage protection, no foreign exchange fees, and more.
There is a $450 annual fee. As with all annual fees they are refundable if cancelled within 60 days, they are pro-rated if cancelled after 60 days and have another American Express card (i.e. if you have the card for 3 months and then cancel you would get a $337.50 refund), and they are pro-rated if you downgrade the card even if you have no other American Express card.

HT: chff, via DDF

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Chase Card Improvements: Freedom Now Offering A 20K Signup Bonus And Sapphire Preferred Now Offering 40K Points + 5K Points For Adding An Additional User!

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Update, 4pm: The Freedom 20K offer is now dead.
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Originally posted on 11/18:

Chase Freedom

Chase Sapphire Preferred Linky

Chase has sweetened the signup bonus on 2 of their excellent consumer cards.

-On the Freedom card you can now get 20,000 points worth $200 cash back.  This is double the previous signup bonus and is available for a limited time only.

-On the Sapphire Preferred card you can now get 40K points for opening a Sapphire Preferred and spending $3,000 plus an additional 5K points for adding a free additional user and making a single purchase within 3 months.

The Freedom card has no annual fee.

The Sapphire Preferred’s fee is waived for the first year and is then $95.  There is also a non-preferred version of the Sapphire card that you can downgrade to if you don’t want an annual fee.  After 12 months you can also turn a Sapphire Preferred card into a fee-free Chase Freedom.

I coined the term “Chase Trifecta” several years ago and it still applies today.  It refers to having a Chase checking account, a Chase Freedom card, and a Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

The Freedom card earns a 10% annual point dividend every February on all points earned during the previous calendar year if you have a Chase checking account.  Plus it offers lucrative 5 point per dollar rotating categories throughout the year (For 2013 Q4 those include Amazon.com and department stores. For 2014 Q1 it will include gas stations, Starbucks, and movie theaters).  That’s bumped up to 5.5 points per dollar thanks to the dividend.

Thus all spending inside the US should be done on Freedom if you have a Chase checking account.  However Freedom by itself is unable to transfer points into more lucrative miles, you need a Sapphire Preferred for that. Though the business Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold cards can do that as well.

You’ll want to do spending in Sapphire Preferred bonus categories and spending outside of the US on Sapphire Preferred as Freedom has a 3% foreign transaction fee.

By default new Sapphire Preferred cards will be issued with an EMV chip so that you’ll be able to use your card in more places when abroad. You can call to request this for your existing Sapphire card.

The Sapphire Preferred card is still made from metal and feels awesome.  Plus when you call the number on the back of your card a human being answers right away. No phone maze to fight with and no hold time.

Besides for the Sapphire Preferred’s excellent signup bonus the card also offers:
-No foreign exchange or transaction fees so you’ll always get the best possible rate.
-Primary car rental insurance everywhere outside of the US, even in Israel!
-2.14 points per dollar on all airfare, including tickets bought from travel agents and online agencies.
-2.14 points per dollar on timeshares (just in case you’re a real sucker)
-2.14 points per dollar on car rentals.
-2.14 points per dollar on hotels.
-2.14 points per dollar at restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, bars, lounges, and cafes (3.21 on the first friday of the month)
-2.14 points per dollar on catering (3.21 on the first friday of the month so pay that wedding bill on December 6th!)
-2.14 points per dollar on transportation including trains, buses, taxis, limos, ferries, bridges, tolls, and parking.
-1.07 points per dollar elsewhere.
-The Sapphire Preferred earns the 7% point dividend even if you don’t have a Chase checking account. The Freedom earns a 10% dividend only if you have a Chase checking account.

Sapphire Preferred also offers protections including very generous travel protections when the trip is charged to your card:
-Trip cancellation insurance ($5,000 per individual trip or $10,000 per family trip).
-Lost luggage protection ($3,000 per person)
-Trip delay protection ($500 per person for trips delayed by 12+ hours or that require an overnight stay)
-Baggage delay protection (If delayed 6+ hours: $100 per day per person up to 5 days)
-Travel accident insurance
-Price protection ($500 per item that drops in price within 90 days of purchase)
-Return protection ($500 per item for 90 days)
-Purchase protection ($500 per item damaged or stolen for 120 days)
-Extended warranty protection ($10,000 per item for an extra year on original warranties of 3 years or less)

Points can instantly at an equal ratio transfer to:
-United (Star Alliance)
-British Airways (OneWorld)
-Korean (Skyteam)
-Southwest
-Virgin Atlantic (and from there to Hilton with a 100% bonus)
-Hyatt
-Marriott
-Ritz Carlton
-Priority Club
-Amtrak
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Other Chase consumer cards you can simultaneously include the Chase British Airways (50K signup points, 1.25 Avios per dollar, and an annual companion award ticket if you spend $30K+ in a  year), and the Chase United Explorer (which gives free luggage, free primary car rental insurance including in the US, expanded saver and standard award ticket availability, priority boarding, and more).

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both give 50,000 signup points and offer 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and office supply stores, 2 points per dollar for gas and lodging, no foreign exchange fees, free lounge visits, and a waived annual fee for the first year.

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Are You Opening A Delta Card For Your Trip?

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Thousands upon thousands of folks have glitch tickets booked with Delta.  I’m not fan of Delta as they run a very stingy mileage program but I have to stand up applaud their class-act behavior in honoring glitch tickets even from people who weren’t ticketed this past Thursday.  They have gone above and beyond the call of duty and their agents have been working around the clock to make everyone happy.  So first off, kudos to Delta!

While I’m no fan of their Skypesos program, if you are traveling with your family it can definitely make sense to open the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.

You get 30K miles for spending $1,000 in 3 months.  You’ll also get a $50 statement credit for making a Delta purchase. The annual fee is waived for the first year.

But perhaps the biggest benefit is that you’ll get a free bag for up to 8 people traveling with the primary cardholder. That’s a massive savings even on just a single family vacation.

You’ll also get priority boarding so that there will be space in the overhead for your carryons. Plus you get 20% off In-flight food, drink, headphone, TV, and movie discounts.

So it’s a nice card for the fringe benefits, but even if you collect Delta miles it’s not a good card for spending.  The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is far superior as those points have better uses and they give a 25% bonus, so that 20K Starpoints can transfer into 25K Delta miles.  Though there are far better mileage currencies out there for you to transfer your Starpoints to rather than Delta.

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Chase Freedom Reminders And News

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Update:
-If you want to get in the limited time Freedom offer with double the normal signup bonus then you should do that soon…
-Plus don’t forget that you have less than a week left to get 5 or 5.5 points per dollar in this quarter’s rotating categories.
-There’s also less than a week to open a Chase checking account to get the 10% bonus on top of 2013 earnings.
-You can also now register for 2014 Q1 5x  categories!

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Originally posted on 12/03:

Chase Freedom is probably the best no annual fee consumer card that exists.  It’s a easy card to get approved for and for a limited time only it comes with a 20,000 point signup bonus instead of the normal 10,000 point bonus.

2 things make the card so lucrative:
-Every quarter you can earn 5 points per dollar on up to $1,500 in quarterly spending in rotating categories.  Currently that includes department stores as well as Amazon.com. That’s up to 30,000 points per year.
-If you have a Chase checking account you will get a 10% bonus on top of all points earned during the previous year. That means you’ll earn 1.1 points per dollar everywhere and 5.5 points per dollar in the rotating categories.  That bumps the bonus category earnings to 33,000 points per year.

Those points can be cashed out for a penny a piece though that’s borderline criminal as the points can be worth so much more when transferred to miles.  If you or your spouse has or will get a Sapphire PreferredInk Plus, or Ink Bold card in the future you can transfer Freedom points over to one of those cards and then transfer them at a 1:1 ratio into much more valuable airline miles (United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, or Virgin America), hotel points (Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Priority Club), or Amtrak points.  You can read more about the Chase Trifecta and why miles are better than cash back in this post.

At any rate:

1. You must register for the Q4 category bonus by 12/14 and complete spending by 12/31.  Registering now will retroactively credit you for any bonus category purchases made since October.

2. The bonus category list for 2014 will be:
Q1: Gas stations, Movie theaters, Starbucks (Activate starting 12/15)
Q2: Restaurants and Lowe’s (Activate starting 03/15)
Q3: Gas stations and Kohl’s (Activate starting 06/15)
Q4: Amazon.com, Zappos.com, and Department stores (Activate starting 09/15)
With $6,000 of spending that’s 30K points or 33K points with a Chase checking account.

There are 2 quarters with gas stations and that includes items bought in gas station stores as well.  Last time I maximized that by buying One Vanilla gift cards at 7-Eleven on my Freedom cards.  Most 7/11s are categorized as gas stations, you can confirm each one on the Visa merchant categorization site. Then I went next door to Walmart to load them onto Bluebird cards using the last 4 digits of the card as the pin number without even needing to register the card. You can read more about Bluebird in this post.

That’s 8,250 points (per Freedom card) for $14.85 in total fees or 0.18 cents per point. In more practical terms that’s like buying a nonstop one-way business class ticket to Israel on United for $108 or a one-way short-haul flight on American for $8.10.

Lowe’s also sells gift cards to other stores and gas stations.  And your favorite restaurant will always be happy to lock in your money as well.

Department stores like Sears also sell gift cards to other stores.  You effectively you can spend all $6,000 on gift cards to other stores.

Of course if you have an Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Ink Cash card you will earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent all year round on telecom, cable, internet, as well as everything from office supply stores, which includes gift cards to other stores and prepaid cash cards that can be used anywhere. With the Bold/Plus cards that’s capped at $50,000 per year and with the Cash card that’s capped at $25,000 per year. The cards also earn 2 points per dollar year-round at gas stations and either hotels (Bold/Plus) or dining (Cash).  More about Ink benefits and how you can get an Ink card in this post.

3. As long as you have an open Chase Freedom and Chase checking account on 12/31 you will get the 10% bonus for everything in 2013.  Now is the time to open those accounts if you don’t have one yet!

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Alaska Airlines Miles Already Posting

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Update #2: Alive again with this link.

Update: DEAD!

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The Alaska Airlines credit card currently has a 50K signup bonus.

I haven’t posted about it yet as it was a targeted offer sent to Washington residents (where there is an epic battle heating up beating them and Delta.)  It also says that people who have applied in the last 12 months are ineligible.

But several non-targeted DDF members not from Washington have already gotten signup bonuses for the card even though they have applied in the past 12 months.

You get 25K miles for signing up and another 25K for spending $1,000 in 3 months.

The annual fee is $75 and they will not waive it.

The card is issued by BOFA which typically checks your hard-hit Experian credit report.  DDF members have had success freezing that report and getting approved by calling reconsideration at 866-530-9829 and having them pull a report with fewer inquiries.

Note that with BOFA you will only get the bonus if you are approved for a Signature level card with a $5,000 credit line.  If you only get a Preferred or Platinum level card you will only get a 3,000 or 5,000 mile signup bonus.

What makes Alaska unique are their partner airlines.  They aren’t part of any alliance but their partners include Aeromexico, Air France, American, British Airways. Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates, Fiji, Korean, KLM, LAN, and Qantas. They only assess fuel surcharges for travel on British Airways.

Every partner airline has their own award chart when using Alaska miles and many are very good.  The good thing is that you can book one-way tickets and they can even have a free stopover.  The bad thing is you can’t mix airlines on a single ticket, so forget about flying Emirates first class from JFK to Milan and then flying another airline to Israel.

When flying Delta for example it’s usually a good idea to credit the flight to Alaska as Alaska miles are far more valuable than Delta Skypesos.

Alaska is also partners with Starwood, so you can transfer 20K Starpoints into 25K Alaska miles.

HT: MilesNpoints, via DDF
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There are several other mega bonus credit card signup offers going on now:

-Chase Ink Plus offers 50,000 points for spending $5,000.

-Chase Ink Bold offers 50,000 points for spending $5,000.

Learn more about getting a business card like Ink in this post.

-Chase British Airways offers 50,000 Avios for spending $2,000.

-Citi AA Mastercard offers 50,000 miles for spending $3,000.

-Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 40,000 points for spending $3,000 AND another 5,000 points for adding a free secondary user.

-Barclay Arrival Mastercard offers 40,000 points for spending $1,000 (plus a 10% rebate every time you redeem points.

-Chase United Explorer offers 30,000 points for spending $1,000 AND another 5,000 points for adding a free secondary user.

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Limited Time Credit Card Offers Ending Soon

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

-Until sometime tonight you can still get The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard which offers 20K miles for spending $1 and another 30K miles for spending $5,000 within 3 months.  The normal bonus is 20,000 points but with this bonus you’ll have 55,000 miles after meeting the spend threshold.  That’s more than enough for 4 free domestic one-ways in United coach, 3 free domestic one-ways in United first, or a free one-way lie-flat business class ticket to Europe. Barclays cards also come with your free FICO score for free for as long as you’re a cardholder. Read more in this post.

-For a limited time only you can still get 20,000 points on the Chase Freedom card for spend just $500 in 3 months.  The Freedom card is my favorite no-annual fee credit card and it has a normal bonus of 10,000 points.  The exact signup bonus promo end date has not been announced so it can be pulled at any point.  You can earn 5 points per dollar in rotating categories throughout the year which adds up to 30,000 potential points per year for just $6,000 in easy spending (see the related post links below for more on that).

You also get a 10% point dividend in February on top of all points earned in the previous year if you have a Chase checking account.  If you have a Freedom card but don’t have a checking account yet be sure to open one by 12/31 to get that dividend!

Freedom points can be redeemed for 1 cent cash back each but I really hope you don’t do that.  They can transfer into far more valuable airline miles or hotel points if you or your spouse has (or will get) a premium Chase card like Chase Sapphire Preferred , Chase Ink Plus , or Chase Ink Bold. Points transfer instantly between cards and into miles.

More on the Freedom card in this post as well as in this 5x post.

Don’t know where to use each of your cards?  This post highlights the bonus opportunities.

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Reminder: Earn 3.21 Points Per Dollar With Sapphire Preferred At Restaurants Today

Friday, December 6th, 2013

You will earn triple points today with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card on all dining purchases. Normally you earn 2.14 points per dollar on dining, airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals.

Together with the 7% annual dividend that means 3.21 points per dollar. Spend $100 in any restaurant and you’ll get 300 points on your next statement plus 21 additional points as part of your annual dividend.

Dining on the Sapphire Preferred card includes all sit-down restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, catering, bars, lounges, and more.

Don’t want to eat out today? Ask your favorite eatery if they sell gift cards and lock in 3.21 points per dollar by purchasing them today!

Need to pay a caterer? Do it today and pocket the extra miles!

Are you outside of the USA? Not to worry, the Sapphire Preferred card does not charge any foreign transaction fees. (Which also makes it the best card for car rentals in Israel, 2.14 points per dollar, free primary CDW insurance with no deductible, and no foreign use fees).

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The Best Cards From Barclays Bank

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Update: The Lufthansa 50K card offer is slated to end December 15, 2013.
Several DDF members as well as commenters on this post are reporting that Barclays has agreed to waive their $79 annual fee by just calling and asking them to, so if you have gotten the card already definitely give them a ring!

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Originally posted on 10/17/13:

Barclays bank has several great credit card offers. Best of all they typically pull from your Transunion credit report.  Most banks pull from Experian though this does vary by state.  If you are NJ or NY based you shouldn’t have almost any credit pulls on your Transunion report if you don’t have Barclays bank cards.

If you are denied you can call reconsideration at 866-408-4064.

-The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard offers 20K miles for spending $1 and another 30K miles for spending $5,000 within 3 months.  This means you’ll have 55,000 miles after meeting the spend threshold.

You can enroll in the Miles & More program here.

The card has no foreign exchange fees.

What can you do with the signup miles? Lufthansa miles have a few sweet uses:

3 one-way domestic first class flights on United:
You can fly on Star Alliance partner United in domestic first class for just 17,000 miles each way with no fuel surcharges.  United flies many flights between JFK or Newark and Los Angeles or S. Francisco that have lie-flat seats in business class.  Plus you can still order hot kosher meals on these routes in business class!  United charges 25,000 of their own miles each way for these seats, so you’ll save 8,000 miles each way via Lufthansa.

Remember to book one-way flights as a round-trip business class is 35,000 but they charge half the price and round down for one-way so it’s only 17,000 each way.

You can also always transfer 20,000 Starwood points into 25,000 Lufthansa miles if you need more miles.  Which means that the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express actually can earn you more points per dollar spent than the Lufthansa card.  Though the Lufthansa card is great for the signup bonus and for the lack of foreign exchange fees.

4 one-way coach tickets:
A one-way coach ticket within the US on United or USAirways will run 12,000 miles.

Business class to Europe:
Business class to Europe is 52,000 miles each way and there are no fuel surcharges on USAirways (which has a very nice lie-flat Envoy Suite in business) and Lot Polish (which flies 787s with an excellent lie-flat business class to Warsaw.)

Coach to Israel:
Coach to Israel is 40K each way and business class is 67K each way, again with no fuel surcharges nonstop on USAirways from Philadelphia.

Business to Hawaii:
Business class to Hawaii (including lie-flat seats on most flights from Houston, Newark, and Washington DC) is just 35,000 miles each way when booked with Lufthansa miles flying on United or USAirways with no fuel surcharges.  That’s a 10,000 mile savings on a round-trip flight.  Coach is 20K miles each way.

Other uses:
The only current way to book Swiss First Class is with Miles & More.  I flew it a few years ago when it was still bookable with partner miles and it was fantastic. However it’s quite pricey now at 85,000 miles plus fuel surcharges each way. You’ll have to act quickly as Swiss First has to be ticketed in 2013, come 2014 it will be blocked to non-elites.

Lufthansa First Class has significantly better availability when booked with Miles & More as opposed to programs like United.

There is also better availability on other airlines like Singapore’s top-notch business class when booked via Miles & More as opposed to programs like United.

Barclays cards can be churned, so you can always start saving up for a big trip.
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-The Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard offers 40,000 points for spending $1,000 within 90 days. This is advertised as a limited time offer though the end date is unknown.

At 2.2 percent it’s one of the best cashback cards out there and it offers a nice signup bonus unlike the other cashback cards.

The card gives 2 “miles” for every dollar you spend plus a 10% refund when you redeem miles so that you effectively earn 2.2 “miles” per dollar spent.  The 10% refund means that the 40,000 points signup bonus is really 44,000 points as you’ll get 4,000 of those points back after you redeem the points for a cash refund.  Of course when you redeem those 4,000 points you’ll also get a 400 point refund, etc. The 10% refund posts within 1-2 weeks of making a redemption.

Miles is a misnomer, really they just mean cents with each mile being worth 1 cent. The way it works is you book travel via any booking site and then you can just go online to your Barclays account and request that the purchase be refunded using your points. You can refund any purchase that is categorized as “Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies.”

So if you spend $420 on a plane ticket and have 42,000 points from opening the card and spending $1,000 you’ll be able to get a $420 cash refund.

2.2% cash back on all of your spending is excellent, but still I personally prefer real airline miles over bank miles due to their versatility. However this card is probably the best you’ll get for bank miles and it can make sense for people who don’t travel or who redeem for coach tickets that are purchased in advance.

-The no annual fee version of the BarclayCard Arrival World Mastercard also has no foreign transaction fees which is great for a fee-free card.  It has a 20,000 point signup bonus that will also receive a 10% point refund with every redemption.  But it only earns double points on travel and dining purchases.

You are able to book a refundable travel itinerary to get your points converted to 2.2% cashback without actually needing to travel.  After redeeming to cash out the points you can refund the itinerary and pocket the cash for your points.

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-My affiliate link for the USAirways card offer 30,000 miles for spending $1 however if you go through this link without a landing page (which I have not personally tested but others have) it should give 35,000 miles.

USAirways will soon marge with American and these will be convertible to valuable American miles.  In the meantime there are several sweet spots on the USAirways award chart like off-peak awards and on the Star Alliance award chart like 90,000 miles in business for a round-trip to Asia or 110,000 miles in business for a round-trip to Australia.

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AMEX Small Business Saturday Will Return 11/30/13; Statement Credit Will Be $10 This Year

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Update: Today is the big day, don’t forget to register your cards below before shopping!

Small Business Saturday Registration Linky

Small Business Saturday Qualifiying Stores Map

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Originally posted on 10/01/13:

Small Business Saturday FAQ

-You will be able to register your American Express Cards at www.shopsmall.com at 12:00 A.M. MST (Mountain Standard Time) on 11/24/13 until 11:59 P.M. MST on 11/30/13, unless the registration limit is reached sooner.
-Registration is limited.
-Use your registered cards on 11/30/13 to spend $10 or more in a single in-store transaction at a qualifying small business that appears on the Small Business Saturday Map. Online transactions do not qualify.
-The Small Business Saturday Map will be available from 11/21/13-12/1/13.
-Card Member will receive a one-time $10 statement credit for that transaction from American Express within 90 days after 11/30/13.
-Consumer and small business cards are eligible. Corporate cards and prepaid Card products (other than American Express Serve) are not eligible.
-If the qualifying purchase is returned or cancelled, the statement credit may be reversed.

From past years’ experience this should still work with 3rd party AMEX cards like those from Citi, however if for whatever reason you do not get credit automatically getting it manually will be extremely difficult. With AMEX issued cards it’s easy to be credited manually.

This should also work with primary and secondary cards directly from AMEX, but not with secondary cards from 3rd party issuers like Citi. Of course each card must be registered separately but you are able to use the same email address.  An American Express card can have up to 99 additional users though people have reported going through a financial review for adding too many additional cardholders to their account.

HT: sara

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There’s still time to signup for additional cards (and add additional users to each of those cards) to take advantage of this promotion.

Consumer cards include:
-Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
-TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express
-American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card
-The Platinum Card® from American Express
-Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
-American Express® Gold Card
-Blue Cash Preferred Card® from American Express
-Blue Cash Everyday Card® from American Express
-Blue Sky from American Express®

Business cards include:
-Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express OPEN
-Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN
-The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN

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Not Targeted For An AMEX Savings Offer? Just Chat!

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

AMEX offers great savings to select stores throughout the year.

Of course the big one is Small Business Saturday valid at any small business.

Many store offers can be registered by anyone thanks to Twitter, the current list is here.

Here is a list of AMEX offers I found in my AMEX account and how to find them.

However the offers that show up in your account can vary by person.  In my account there are offers for $10 off $50 at Macy’s, $20 off $79 at WalMart, and $25 off $250 at Best Buy.  However my wife has none of those offers.

She logged into her account just a few minutes ago, clicked on the envelope icon in the top right, and clicked “Ask a question.”  AMEX no longer does secure messaging, but a chat button came up instead.

She told them about those 3 offers that a colleague had received that she didn’t see in her account and the agent advised that those are targeted offers.  When my wife asked if it would be possible for it to be added to her account that agent said he would be happy to notate her account and told her to spend the qualifying amount on any of her AMEX cards.  Afterward she was advised to just chat again and she would receive the credit for all of those offers as well!

Be sure to take a screenshot of the chat and note the time and date in case you have any issues getting the credit.

Gotta love AMEX customer service!

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Chase 5x Cards: Where The Points Really Add Up

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Related post: The Best Credit Card For Spending In Every Spending Category.
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Chase has several cards that earn up to 5 points per dollar. Spending in 5x categories can really add up quickly so trying to focus spending there is obviously a smart move.

On the consumer side there is the Chase Freedom which normally has a 10,000 point signup bonus but for a limited time has a 20,000 point signup bonus for spending $500 in 3 months.  But even bigger than the signup bonus are the bonus points you can earn annually.

The Freedom card has no annual fee.

For the remainder of the year you can earn 5 points per dollar for up to $1,500 of spending on Amazon.com and at department stores.  Department stores like Sears sell gift cards for other stores as well that will earn 5 points per dollar.

Plus if you have a Chase checking account you’ll get a 10% bonus in February on top of all points earned during the previous year which means that you’ll really earn 5.5 points per dollar.

Every quarter the Freedom 5x categories change, but if you max them out with $6,000 of spending in a year you’ll earn 30,000 points per year without a checking account or 33,000 points per year with a checking account.

I have multiple Freedom cards thanks to converting Sapphire Preferred cards into Freedom cards and each get 5.5x on $1,500 of spending per quarter.

For Q1 of 2014 you’ll earn 5x at gas stations, movie theaters, and Starbucks.  Last quarter also had gas stations and I bought 9 One Vanilla gift cards for $500 each and cashed them out by loading them onto my Bluebird card. That’s the easiest 25K points you can get without applying for a new card!

The only problems with Freedom?
-It has a 3% foreign transaction fee.
-The Ultimate Rewards points it earns can be used for cash back but they can’t be transferred into far more valuable airline miles or hotel points.

Why are airline miles far more valuable than cash back?
-A first class ticket to Hawaii can cost $4,000 but you can use 60,000 miles for that same ticket, a value of 6.7 cents per mile. If you were using say, Capital One points, you would need 400,000 points per ticket.
-A last minute ticket or a ticket where you don’t stay for 3 nights from New York to Cleveland can cost $1,200 in coach but just 9,000 miles. That’s a value of 13.3 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 120,000 points per ticket.
-A first class ticket to Asia costs $27,000 but you can use 135,000 miles for that same ticket, a value of 20 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 2,700,000 points per ticket.
-A night at a Park Hyatt in Paris, Sydney, or the Maldives can run $1,000-$1,500 with tax but you can use 22,000 points for that room, a value of up to 7 cents per point. If you were using Capital One points you would need 150,000 points per night.
And that’s all besides for the fact that getting a Capital One card costs a minimum of 3 credit pulls whereas you can get 3 or 4 Chase or American Express cards with just 1 credit pull.

However if you or your spouse has a Sapphire PreferredInk Plus, or Ink Bold card (or get one in the future) you can transfer your Freedom points there and transfer them into airline miles or hotel points.

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On the business side there are the Chase Ink Plus , Chase Ink Bold, and Chase Ink Cash cards.

The Bold and Plus cards have very generous 50K signup bonuses and all of them offer highly lucrative bonus categories:

-The Ink Plus card is a credit card that can be paid over time.  It has a 50K signup bonus for spending $5,000.  The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. It can transfer Ultimate Rewards points into miles. It has no foreign transaction fees.

-The Ink Bold card is a charge card that must always be paid in full. It has a 50K signup bonus for spending $5,000. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. It can transfer Ultimate Rewards points into miles. It has no foreign transaction fees.

-The Ink Cash card is a credit card that can be paid over time. It has a 20K signup bonus for spending $3,000. There is no annual fee.  It can’t transfer Ultimate Rewards points into miles without a Sapphire Preferred, Plus, or Bold card. It has a 3% foreign transaction fee.

All Ink cards give 2 free lounge visits per user, even on free additional user cards. Here is a link to find valid lounges worldwide.

-All of the Ink cards offer 5 points per dollar on internet/cable service and telecom purchases, so that’s a nice rebate when you purchase a new cell phone and off your cable bill.

They also earn 5 points per dollar at office supply stores. There are hundreds of gift cards sold by office supply stores.

-Upgrading at your local carrier’s store to an iPhone or Galaxy S4? 5 points per dollar.
-Buying gift cards for gas? 5 points per dollar plus you’ll pay the lower cash rates at the pump.
-Buying gift cards for Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond/Buy Buy Baby, Gap, Groupon, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Marshalls, Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, TJMaxx, Whole Foods, etc? 5 points per dollar.

-You can save even more money at Staples thanks to bonus points with Plink.

-Plus you can buy $200 Visa gift cards that earn 1,000 points and can be uploaded to Bluebird or used for cash back, bill pay, money orders, etc. Or you can use them for everyday spending thereby getting 6-7% back on everything you buy anywhere via the Visa gift cards.

I run through more of the math behind buying gift cards in this post.

You can 5x points on up to $50,000 in annual spending on the Plus or Bold card and on up to $25,000 in annual spending on the Cash card.

-Ink Bold and Ink Plus also earn 2 points per dollar on gas and hotels.  Ink Cash earns 2 points per dollar on gas and dining.

-All Ink cards can also earn cash back on top of points thanks to Mastercard Easy Savings and the Visa Savings Program.

Yes, the Ink cards are business cards. But you may be already running a business that qualifies for a business card and there are several huge advantages that business cards have over consumer cards as you can read here.

If you have a side business or even if you are just starting one you can get a business card.  For example if Joe Smith sells items on Ebay or on Amazon and wants a credit card to better keep track of business expenditures he can open a business credit card for “Joe Smith Sole Proprietorship” as the business name. You don’t need to file any messy government paperwork to be allowed to do that.
Just be sure to select “Sole Proprietorship” as the business type and just use your social security number in the Tax Identification Number field as well as in the social security number field.

If you do run more than one business you can get the same card for each business. I’ve been able to do that myself.

The really great thing with these business cards is that they don’t report your spending on your personal credit report.

On personal cards if you spend money on your card your credit score will be hurt even if you pay your bill on time.  A whopping 30% of your credit score is based on credit utilization. You can pay off your card before your statement is generated to avoid that, but that takes a lot of effort and laying out money well before you have to.  Additionally it’s good to have the statement close with a few dollars to show the card is active and being paid every month.

On a business card it’s just not reported, so you can wait until the money is due and even max out your line without it having a negative effect on your score.  Plus if you close a business card it won’t ever have an effect on your score.

On a card like Ink Cash with 0% APR for purchases and balance transfers for 6 months you can owe money without having any negative effect on your credit score.

Point Currency:

Chase Ultimate Rewards offer instant and fee-free transfers to top-notch mileage and points programs at a 1:1 ratio.

Transfer partners include:
-United (Star Alliance) will still be an excellent currency, even after the devaluation coming next February.  They never charge fuel surcharges, have very flexible routing rules, they allow one-way awards for half the mileage, they have a short-haul awards for 10,000 miles, they allow for a stopover and an open-jaw so that you can really maximize a single award ticket into several free trips, and they have dozens of partners to fly on, most of which can be booked on their website.
-British Airways (OneWorld) is awesome for short-haul awards. Just 9,000 miles for a round-trip zone 1 or 15,000 miles for zone 2 short-haul award.  The zone 3 award for 25,000 miles round-trip can also be a bargain, for example for flights between the west coast and any of the Hawaiian islands or between Boston and Ireland with no fuel surcharges.  Flights to Israel on Air Berlin are 60,000 miles with no fuel surcharges. They allow one-way awards for half the mileage. There are no close-in or expedite fees.  You can cancel an award for as little as $2.50. Infants are only charged 10% of the miles on international trips instead of 10% of the full fare like US carriers charge. Plus they don’t collect fuel surcharges on AA within the western hemisphere, on Qantas within Australia, on Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Alaska, or LAN and you can transfer points to Iberia to limit fuel surcharges there as well.
-Korean (Skyteam) offers the best first class availability of any airline in the world (A380 First Class Trip Report here) and they also have true bargains on partner travel, just 30,000 miles to fly round-trip on Hawaiian or Alaska to Hawaii in coach or 60,000 miles in first.  And it’s just 20,000 miles to fly to Alaska in coach or 40,000 miles in first. You can even get a free stopover on the way to or in Alaska!
-Southwest offers award travel without capacity controls though the value per point will dip from roughly 1.9 cents to roughly 1.65 cents come next April. If you prefer points can be transferred to Airtran for flat-rate awards like business class upgrades or free tickets at a flat rate instead of a rate that corresponds to the ticket price.
-Virgin Atlantic has some niche uses like discounted awards on Delta and transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio.
-Hyatt will also remain a powerful currency even after its upcoming devaluation in January. They definitely made things less painful by adding a new cash and points option that offers some excellent values, but more importantly you will earn points, elite stay credit, and will be able to use suite upgrades on cash and point stays.  It remains far less expensive for high-end hotel stays than any other hotel program. Or you can always funnel points through Hyatt to Southwest to qualify for a free Southwest Companion Pass which gives you a free companion every time you pay for or redeem for a free ticket.
-You can also transfer points to Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Priority Club, and Amtrak.

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Chase United Mall Lounges

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

For the holiday season Chase United cardholders can access lounges while shopping in malls in S. Francisco and Short Hills, NJ.

November 23 – December 24, 2013, 11:00 am until mall closing
SF location: The Westfield San Francisco Centre, Dome level near Bloomingdale’s
NJ location: The Mall at Short Hills, located on the first floor near Macy’s and Guest Services

The VIP Lounge is open to all Chase United Credit Card members and features complimentary gift-wrapping, coat and bag check, and snacks and beverages, including fresh baked goods, packaged snacks, soda, bottle water, and coffee, plus café-style seating and flat screen TVs.
Football Sundays: Check out live game-day action every Sunday.
Toys for Tots Tuesdays: Cardmembers may bring a new, unwrapped toy in its original packaging, on the following Tuesdays, December 3rd, December 10th and December 17th and you will receive one United Club pass. Bring two toys and receive two United Club passes.

-For entry, present your valid Chase United Credit Card and a valid ID.
-Each Cardmember may bring up to three guests.
-If you have recently applied for a United Card you may bring your confirmation page to the lounge, and you will be granted access for the entire duration of the VIP Lounge.

It’s obviously not worth getting a United Explorer card for a mall lounge but there are some nice perks of the card besides for the signup bonus (30K for spending $1,000 and 5K for adding an additional user):
-Expanded saver award availability is a huge benefit of being a cardholder. I’m always finding award flights that are only available to cardholders or elites. Cardholders also get last seat standard award availability, something that is capacity controlled for non-cardholders/non-elites.
-As long as you have the card your miles will never expire.
-This is one of the only cards that gives primary car rental insurance in the US. Almost every other card provides secondary coverage which means you have to file a claim with your personal car insurance. The United card covers claims without ever notifying them. Coverage is primary in every country in the world.
-No foreign exchange fees.
-If you spend $25K in a year you get a 10K mileage bonus, meaning you will have earned at least 1.4 miles per dollar on all purchases.
-Free checked luggage and priority boarding on United.
-2 annual lounge passes
-Upgrades for elite cardholders on award tickets

HT: Moes Tavern, via DDF

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Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Card: Get 50,000 Points!

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Update: This offer will be ending at some point tomorrow, 11/18.
Now is the best time to get these cards as with just 2 Southwest cards you can get over $4,200 of free travel thanks to an unlimited use companion pass that will be valid for both paid and award tickets throughout the entire 2014 and 2015 if you play you cards right, read on for more info!
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Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Chase Visa Signature Card Linky

With just 2 Southwest cards you can get over $4,200 of flights thanks to an unlimited use companion pass that will be valid throughout 2014 and 2015 if you play you cards right, read on for more info!

Signup offer and anniversary bonus:

You can get 50,000 points when you spend $2,000 within 3 months of getting the card.  They’re marketing this as 2 roundtrip flights but in fact it is enough for as much as $975 of flights on Southwest, so you can stretch out those 50K points points for as many as 15 flights with Southwest’s low prices or 30 flights if you earn a companion pass.

There are in fact 4 unique Southwest credit cards that are all offering 50,000 points for spending $2,000.  There is the consumer Plus and Premier cards and the business Plus and Premier cards. You can access them all at the bottom of the application link under “Additional Southwest Airlines Credit Cards”

The difference is that the plus cards have a $69 annual fee and offer 3,000 bonus points (~$57 towards travel) every year as an anniversary bonus.  The premier cards have a $99 annual fee, have no foreign exchange fees, and offer 6,000 bonus points (~$114 towards travel) every year as an anniversary bonus.

Free changes and cancellations. Lock in low fares with no penalty!

While other mileage currencies now charge $200 to cancel an award ticket, Southwest continues to allow you to cancel an award flight and redeposit the points in your account for future use without any penalties!  Coupled with 2 free bags per person and that’s a lot of added value. A family of 4 needing to cancel award tickets on another airline would set you back $800 versus it being a free change on Southwest.  A family of 4 checking 2 bags each would run $480 round-trip on another airline versus paying nothing on Southwest.

Thinking of taking a trip but not 100% sure about it? With Southwest points you can lock in a good rate and just cancel the trip free of charge at any point before the flight if you can’t make it!

You can use the points for yourself or book award tickets for anyone else you want to give a ticket to.

Airtran flights:

You can also use your points for Airtran flights as well! Plus because you will be booking the Airtran flights via Southwest.com you will get 2 free bags and free changes and flight cancellations as well!

Don’t fly?

You can also use 50,000 points to get $500 worth of gift cards to places like Alamo, Amazon, Avis, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Bloomingdales, Brooks Brothers, Budget, Carnival Cruises, Children’s Place, Express, Fairmont, Gap, Hertz, Hyatt, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Marriott, Motherhood Maternity, National, Nike, Office Depot, Saks, Sea World, Sears, Shutterfly, Staples, Starbucks, Toys R Us, TJMaxx, Walmart, Zappos  and many others.

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With Southwest’s Rapid Rewards “2.0″ program you can redeem points for any seat on any flight.  There are no blackout dates or capacity controls. For the regular “wanna get away” fare it costs 60 points for each dollar of airfare.  In practical terms this means for example:

A one-way Los Angeles-San Francisco flight on 10/15 is $58.90 with tax.
It can also be bought for 2,880 points plus $2.50 tax.
So 2,880 points gets you a value of $56.40 ($58.90 airfare less the $2.50 tax required on the points ticket)
So each point is worth 1.95 cents (56.40/2,880), valid for redemption on all flights.

The value per point will depend on your route, but points always seem to be worth more than 1.8 cents each for discounted fares.

When Southwest has a fare sale the amount of points go on sale as well as it tracks to the price of the ticket.  Best of all Southwest just like Southwest will give you a credit if the price of your paid ticket falls they will refund your points if the price of your award ticket falls!

You get 1 point per dollar on regular purchases, which is equal to a rebate of 1.95%.
You get 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, including hotel and car rentals via Southwest, which is equal to a rebate of 3.9%

Companion pass:

Plus you get a free companion pass if you earn 110,000 points in a year from most sources, including earnings from credit card signups and credit card spending! If you earn 110,000 Southwest points in 2013 the pass will be good until 12/31/14. The pass allows you to bring a companion with you for free whenever you fly Southwest, even if you are flying on a free ticket!  There is no limit to the number of free companion flights that you can take.

You can open 2 versions of the Southwest card to get to the 110,000 points in a year.  If you open 2 cards and spend $5,000 on each you’ll have 110,000 points.  That’s $4,290 worth of flights due to the free companion pass!

If the 110,000 points post to your account in 2014 then the free companion pass will be valid through 12/31/15!  If you’re going for a companion pass you’ll want to wait to finish your $2,000 in spending until after your mid-December statement closes. The signup points post on the statement after you complete the $2,000 in spending.  You have 103 days from when your account is approved to complete that spending.

Points transferred from Ultimate Rewards to Southwest don’t qualify towards companion pass status, but points transferred from Ultimate Rewards into Hyatt and then into Southwest do qualify. So you can transfer 50K Ultimate Rewards points into 50K Hyatt and 50K Hyatt transfers into 30K Southwest.

In other words if you get 50K points from signing up for this credit card you can transfer 100K Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and then into 60K Southwest points, worth about $1,170 towards Southwest travel.  Plus then you’ll have a companion pass so that you can bring your companion for free whenever you fly Southwest, so that $1,170 toward Southwest is really doubled to $2,340 because of the free companion ticket.  Not a bad value for a 100K Ultimate Rewards transfer.

See this post for more info on the Ultimate Rewards program and associated credit cards.

Transfers to Airtran and Rapid Rewards “1.0″:

You can transfer increments of 1,200 Southwest points into 1 Airtran credit.  Here is Airtran’s award chart, which does not price awards according to the cost of the flight.  Thus you can get an international round-trip award ticket for just 19,200 Southwest points.  These awards are capacity controlled however.  A business class upgrade on Airtran is just 4,800 Southwest points.

Once they are in Airtran you can also transfer them back into Southwest’s old Rapid Rewards 1.0 program.  In this program awards are just 16 credits (19,200 points) round-trip, no matter how expensive the flight is.  These are also capacity controlled, but for some flights you will come out far ahead with this old program.

And as always, Southwest:
-Gives 2 free checked bags per passenger.
-Does not charge change fees to switch your flight. Whether you are on a paid or an award flight you can change without penalty!
-Does not charge a cancellation fee to cancel your flight (you will get Southwest credit for the full amount paid, even on non-refundable wanna get away fares) or to cancel and redeposit your award flight.
-Refunds the fare or point difference if the price of your flight goes down after you buy it, just call to get the credit at any time!

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Other Chase consumer cards you can get at the time as the Southwest card include the Chase Sapphire Preferred (40K signup points, no fee the first year, plus 2.14 points per dollar on travel and dining with no Foreign Exchange fees), Chase British Airways (50K signup points, 1.25 Avios per dollar, and an annual companion award ticket if you spend $30K+ in a  year). Chase Freedom (which gives 5 points per dollar in rotating categories and 10% bonus points if you have a Chase checking account), and the Chase United Explorer (which gives free luggage, free primary car rental insurance in most countries worldwide besides Israel, expanded saver and standard award ticket availability, priority boarding, and more).

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both give 50,000 signup points and offer 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and office supply stores, 2 points per dollar for gas and lodging, no foreign exchange fees, free lounge visits, and a waived annual fee for the first year.

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The Best Credit Card For Spending On…

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Without getting into signup bonuses and the fringe benefits of having each card here’s a refresher of which cards to use for spending on:

…Airline tickets:
In the US: American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card
Why: The Premier Rewards Gold card gives 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar with no limit plus you’ll get a bonus 15K points if you spend $30K on anything in a year (effectively 3.5 points per dollar).
Abroad: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why: 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees.

…Car Rentals:
In the US: Chase United Explorer or Chase United Club (Click on Club tab)
Why: The United Explorer is one of the only cards to give free primary car rental insurance coverage in your home country. If there is damage to your rental car it will be covered without ever having to file a claim with your personal insurance. Most other cards offer coverage secondary to your own car rental insurance when renting in your home country. The United Explorer earns 1 mile per dollar though if you spend $25K in a year on United Explorer you get a 10K bonus for an effective 1.4 miles per dollar) while the United Club earns 1.5 miles per dollar everywhere.
Note that assuming you didn’t damage your rental vehicle you can switch your method of payment at the end of the rental to Sapphire Preferred to bump your earnings from just 1 mile per dollar to 2.14 points per dollar.
Abroad: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why: Most cards give primary insurance when abroad but the Sapphire Preferred also gives 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and it has no foreign exchange fees.

…Dining out or catering an event:
Worldwide: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why: 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar (or 3.21 on the first Friday of the month) and no foreign exchange fees.

…Gasoline:
In the US: Chase Ink Plus , Chase Ink Bold , Chase Ink Cash , American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card , Blue Cash Preferred Card® from American Express , TrueEarnings® Business Card from Costco and American Express , or TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express
Why: 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the Chase cards plus 1% cash back at select stations with MasterCard Easy Savings or Visa Savings Edge.  2 Membership Rewards points per dollar on the Premier Rewards Gold plus you’ll get a bonus 15K points if you spend $30K on anything in a year (effectively 2.5 points per dollar). 4% cash back on the Costco business card and 3% cash back on the Blue Cash or Costco consumer card.
Abroad: Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Bold.
Why: 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees.

…Gift Cards:
See “Office Supply Store Purchases” whether you want store gift cards or Visa/MC gift cards.
You can also read this post on gift cards from office supply stores or this post on Bluebird.

…Grocery shopping:
In the US: Blue Cash Preferred Card® from American Express or American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card
Why: 6% cash back on the Blue Cash though that’s capped at $6,000 of spending per year.  The Premier Rewards Gold card gives 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar with no limit plus you’ll get a bonus 15K points if you spend $30K on anything in a year (effectively 2.5 points per dollar).
Abroad: Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard or Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why: Take your pick based on your typical point usage between 2.22% cash back or 1.07 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar with no foreign exchange fees.

…Hotel stays:
Worldwide: Chase Sapphire Preferred , Chase Ink Plus , Chase Ink Bold
Why: Sapphire Preferred offers 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees. The Ink cards earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and you can earn cash back on top of the points at select hotels with MasterCard Easy Savings or Visa Savings Edge.

…Office Supply Store Purchases:
In the US: Chase Ink Plus , Chase Ink Bold , or Chase Ink Cash
Why: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar
Abroad: Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Bold
Why: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees.

…Purchases that may need to be returned, disputed, warrantied, or protected:
In the US: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Why: Because there’s nothing better than knowing you’re fully protected and Starpoints are the best currency issues by an American Express card. This is definitely a post you should read for more on this topic.
Abroad: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Why: AMEX card with no foreign exchange fees.  Note that the Platinum card also insures against lost items and it also has a higher limit for protections.

…Rotating 5x Discover Categories:
Worldwide: Discover It
Why: 5% cash back and a bonus if you convert cash back into gift cards.  For 2013 Q4 all online spending (even Amazon Payments) counts.
There is no foreign exchange fee.

…Rotating 5x Freedom Categories:
Worldwide: Chase Freedom
Why: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar without a checking account or 5.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar with a Chase checking account. For 2013 these quarterly rotating categories included Amazon, Amusement Parks, Department Stores, Drugstores, Gas, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Movie Theaters, Restaurants, and Starbucks.
Even if you are abroad the 5 or 5.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar well exceeds the value of the 3% foreign exchange fee.

…Telecom/Internet/Cable/Cell Phone:
In the US: Chase Ink Plus , Chase Ink Bold , or Chase Ink Cash
Why: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar
Abroad: Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Bold
Why: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees.

…Transportation including trains, buses, taxis, limos, ferries, bridges, tolls, and parking:
Worldwide: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why: 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and no foreign exchange fees.

…0% Intro Purchase APR
In the US: Chase Slate Visa (15 months), or Chase Freedom (15 months), or Chase Ink Cash (6 months), or Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard (12 months), or Discover It (6 months).
Abroad: Discover It (6 months) has no foreign exchange fees.

…0% Intro APR for Balance Transfers
Worldwide: Chase Slate Visa or Chase Ink Cash
Why: The Slate Visa offers 15 months of 0% APR and doesn’t have a BT transfer fee.  The Ink Cash card only offers 6 months but having a balance on a business card doesn’t hurt your credit utilization.

…Purchases not in a bonus category:
In the US: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express , or Chase Freedom with checking , or Chase Sapphire Preferred , or Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard.
Big spenders may also consider or Chase United Explorer , or American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card , or Chase United Club (Click on Club tab)
Why: Well this is complicated.  Take your pick based on your typical point usage between:
-1 Starpoint per dollar (which can be used at hotel or converted with a 25% bonus into miles).
-1.1 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar if you have Freedom with a Chase checking account with Freedom
-1.07 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar with Sapphire Preferred
-2.22% cash back with Barclays
If you can meet spend thresholds then
-Spend $25K per year on United for 1.4 miles per dollar
-Spend $30K per year on Premier Rewards Gold for 1.5 points per dollar
If you spend enough to justify the annual fee (which can be waived for the first year) you may want to look into the United Club card as all purchases earn 1.5 miles per dollar.
Abroad: Chase Sapphire Preferred , or Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard. Big spenders may also consider Chase United Explorer or Club
Why: Same as before but only including cards without a foreign exchange fee.
Alternatively: See this post for a more cumbersome yet rewarding everyday purchase strategy which was made even better thanks to Plink.

Of course, if you have a signup bonus threshold to meet that will always be the place to spend!

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Current AMEX Offers: Save At WalMart, Best Buy, Rue La La, Dell, Lowe’s, BP, Forever 21, And More

Monday, November 11th, 2013

American Express is always running fantastic promotions.  Along with their incredible purchase protections it makes having their cards quite valuable.

Of course the big one is Small Business Saturday.  While this year’s promotion only offers $10 of free spending per card it will continue to work on authorized user cards which are free with cards like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, or the Blue Cash Preferred Card® from American Express.
Frankly I’m happier with the promotion being $10 and continuing to allow authorized user cards to participate than it staying at $25 but disallowing authorized user cards.

At any rate here are the current offers I see when I login to my AMEX account, click on my Starwood card, and then click on “Offers for you.”

Be sure to save the offer to the card you want to use before spending on the card.

dell

 

 

 

 

 

-Spend $79, get $20 back at Walmart.com through 12/31
You can buy a $79 physical gift card or a $79 eGift card and get the $20 credit!
Both cards can then be used in-store or online and never expire.

-Spend $100 or more, get $20 back at Rue La La through 12/31.
If you’re not a Rue La La member I’d definitely appreciate if you join with my referral link.

-Spend $250, get $25 back at Best Buy through 12/31.
Could be useful if they have any decent sales this holiday season.

-Spend $50 or more, get $10 back at Lowe’s through 11/15.
You can always save another 10% off at Lowe’s (or any competing store) with the coupon in the change of address packet you can get from any post office.

-Spend $599 or more at Dell, get $50 back through 11/15
Valid at Dell Home or Dell Small Business

Other offers in my account (Different cards in your account may have different offers):
-Every time you spend $25 or more, get $5 back at BP through 12/31.
-Spend $30, get $5 back at ExxonMobile through 12/31.
-20% off Audiobook Membership through 12/31.
-Spend $15 or more at FedEx Office, get $5 back through 12/31.
-Spend $25 or more at Forever 21, get $5 back through 12/31.
-Spend $150 or more at 1-800 Contacts, get $30 back through 12/22.
-Spend $50 or more, get $10 back at Teavana through 12/31.
-Spend $100 or more at Rent the Runway, get $50 back through 11/15. More info here.
-Spend $65 or more at Personal Creations, get $20 back through 01/03/14
-Spend $100 or more at Guess, get $30 back through 12/24.
-Spend $125 or more at Sharperimage.com, get $25 back through 01/31/14
-Spend $5 or more at Murphy USA, get $5 back through 12/31.

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Bluebird Tweets On; WalMart ATM Gets Even Easier Than Before

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

The naysayers said it wasn’t sustainable, but 13 months later Bluebird from American Express is still going strong.

The Bluebird thread on DDF has over 6,200 posts, the most of any DDF thread.

Bluebird is a checking alternative where you can get free checks, pay your credit card bills, pay your mortgage, etc.  You need a social security number to get it but there is no credit check or hard pull.

Vanilla Reloads:
If your local CVS has Vanilla Reloads loading your Bluebird is easy. You get a $500 Vanilla Reload for $503.95 and load the $500 to your Bluebird online. You can buy up to $5,000 per day.
If you’re going for a signup bonus this is a no-brainer.
But let’s say just using your Starwood card and not trying to meet the $5,000 needed to have a total of 30,000 Starpoints. You are buying 500 Starpoints for $3.95. With the 25% bonus for transferring Starpoints into miles that’s 625 miles. That’s like buying miles for 0.63 cents each.
-You can use 60,000 ANA miles for a round-trip to Israel on United or USAirways without fuel surcharges. If you did that with Vanilla Reloads it would cost $378 for the 60,000 miles for the round-trip.
-You can use 25,000 Flying Blue miles plus $280 in fuel surcharges for a round-trip to Israel. If you did that with Vanilla Reloads it would cost $157.50 for the 25,000 miles plus the $280 in surcharges or $437.50 for the round-trip.
-You can use 90,000 ANA miles for a round-trip in business class to Israel on United or USAirways without fuel surcharges. If you did that with Vanilla Reloads it would cost $567 for the 90,000 miles for the round-trip.
-You can use 90,000 USAirways miles for a round-trip in business class to Asia without fuel surcharges. You can even get a free stopover in Israel for as long as you want along the way. If you did that with Vanilla Reloads it would cost $567 for the 90,000 miles for the round-trip.
-You can use 135,000 American miles for a round-trip in first class to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific without fuel surcharges. If you did that with Vanilla Reloads it would cost $850.50 for the 135,000 miles for the round-trip. That’s a flight that would normally cost $25,000.

Gift Cards at WalMart:
Yesterday at one of my local WalMarts I was able to load $2,000 onto 2 Bluebird cards using the ATM. Previously I had chosen to load my WalMart Money Card and the machine would require an override to load more than $1,800 within about 30 minutes.  When I had used the Bluebird option previously it didn’t work.  This time the “load Bluebird” option worked perfectly.  Even better, when using this option it had no problem with the $2,000 of back-to-back-to-back loading.  Plus it didn’t give me any errors and it seemed to work a lot faster than with the WalMart money card option.

If the ATM machine is broken at your local store be sure to file a complaint with WalMart corporate.

Today some people on DDF reported issues loading using a WalMart cashier so I went back to try that as well. I’m happy to report no issues at all. At customer service last time they asked if it was a gift card and I replied that it was a debit card with a pin, which is the truth. They said it wouldn’t work but of course it did. This time I just went to a regular cashier and loaded it with them without problems. On occasion a regular cashier won’t know how to do it-just tell them to use “70 action code” to process a Bliebird load, they should know what the means.

Gift cards at other stores:
I’m sitting on a nice pile of gift cards and Bluebird has a $1,000 daily load limit at WalMart so I also went to a grocery store to buy a money order. The store charges 58 cents for a $500 money order.  WalMart also sells money order and has a billpay option without going through Bluebird, but those are tougher to do thanks to the customer service counter often rejecting gift cards and frowning upon split tender transactions when you use more than one card at a time..
I had no problem splitting the charge using 4 gift cards to get a $500 money order for $500.58. I won’t be depositing it into a checking account with a bank at which I also have credit cards.

Many of these gift cards came from when Chase was still offering free gift cards. But I also have lots of gift cards from Staples and Office Max bought on Ink cards.
A $200 Visa gift card costs $206.95. At Staples you can get an automatic $3 rebate on each card thanks to Plink.
The pin on these gift cards is the last 4 digits of the card number, no need to set anything.

Again, if you’re just trying to reach the spend threshold this is a no-brainer.
But let’s say just using your Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Ink Cash card and not trying to meet the $5,000 needed to have a total of 55,000 points. Thanks to quintuple points on cable, telecom, and office supplies you get 1,035 points for each card purchased.
You are buying 1,035 points for for $3.95 ($6.95 fee less $3 plink rebate). That’s like buying miles for 0.38 cents each.
-You can use 22,000 points transferred to Hyatt for a $1,500 villa in the Maldives. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $83.60 per night.
-You can use 30,000 points transferred to Korean for a round-trip to Hawaii on Alaska or Hawaiian. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $114 for the round-trip.
-You can use 30,000 points transferred to Southwest for about $570 worth of paid flights. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $114 for those flights.
-You can use 80,000 points transferred to United for a round-trip to Israel. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $304 for the round-trip. (Effective 02/01 this goes up to 85,000 or $323)
-You can use 120,000 points transferred to United for a round-trip business class ticket to Israel. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $456 for the round-trip. (Effective for tickets bought after 01/31 this goes up to 140,000 on United or $532. On partner airlines this goes up to 160,000 or $608.)
-You can use 160,000 points transferred to Korean for a round-trip in Kosmo Suites class to Asia. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $608 for the round-trip. That’s a flight that would normally cost $20,000.  Just be sure to enjoy the open bar with $200 bottles of scotch :D

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Credit Card News Roundup

Monday, November 4th, 2013

News I haven’t covered yet…

-The Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa now has a EMV chip version available so that you’ll be able to use your card in more places when abroad. Definitely a useful feature for a card with no foreign exchange fee.
It’s not available in a Mastercard so you’ll need to apply for the Visa or have them switch your Mastercard into a Visa to get a card with a chip. A week ago that would be a bad idea, but now all Chase credit cards give rental car coverage worldwide so there’s no benefit difference between Visa and MC.

-If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express you can have your Hilton status upgraded to Gold by calling the number on the back of your Platinum card by 12/31/13. The status will last until 02/28/15.

With Hilton Gold you get free breakfast, WiFi, and upgrades.
If you have a stay on the account you can also match it to top-tier Hyatt Diamond status where you can get confirmed suite upgrades and even free kosher breakfast in some hotels.

Now is a great time to get a Platinum card as you can get a $200 airline fee refund for 2013 and a $200 refund for 2014.  See this thread for more on that topic.

It also comes with a $100 global entry expedited customs (5 year membership) refund, platinum card airline club access (American, Delta, and USAirways) for you and your entire family for at least 4 years, priority pass worldwide unlimited lounge membership, Starwood gold elite status with a point rebate even on award stays, car rental perks at Avis, Hertz, and National, lost item (up to $10,000/item) refund protection, checked baggage protection, 3 additional Platinum users (with 4 years of free platinum card lounge access, priority pass membership, and global entry refund) for just $58 each on the consumer card, no foreign exchange fees, and many more free benefits.  There is a $450 annual fee.  As with all annual fees they are refundable if cancelled within 60 days, they are pro-rated if cancelled after 60 days.

The Platinum card also now gives free entry to top-of-the-line Centurion lounges worldwide including in Dallas and Las Vegas and other US airports coming soon.  There are also lounges in Argentina, Brazil, India, and Mexico.  You can even get a free spa treatment in the DFW lounge!

-There is an offer for 100K Avios with BA again though it requires $10K spend to get up to 75K and $20K spend to get up to 100K.  Several DDF’ers have had success getting matched to the new offer. Gone are the days when just $2,500 in spend got 100K I suppose. Whether it’s worth spending an extra $10K to earn a 25K bonus will probably depends on whether you have other spend requirements to meet to earn a bonus with a lower threshold.

-You can now transfer American Express points over to Emirates.  Though if you really want to fly on their planes with a shower spa onboard you will do better transferring Starpoints to Alaska or JAL or Chase UR points to Korean as they generally charge fewer miles and it should help avoid paying fuel surcharges.

-You can now see exactly how many points you earn with each charge on the Sapphire Preferred card.  Just click on a transaction online and you’ll see if you correctly earned double or triple points.  For example I was able to tell that The Bagel Shoppe in Cleveland isn’t properly coded as dining but a quick SM earned points to compensate for that and then some, so it’s definitely worth checking your online activity.

-Via Gary, on select Barclay cards, like the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard (one of the top cashback cards at 2.22%) are now giving cardholders their Transunion FICO score free of charge.  Just login to your account and check it out.  It will update automatically when there is a change. Note that this is TU-08 which is the score that Barclays uses but not many other banks do. Still it’s useful to know and it is a legit FICO score. The ’98 and ’04 FICO models are still more commonly used that ’08.
The ’08 model FICO:
-Penalizes you even more for a high utilization ratio both individually and collectively for your cards.
-Lessens the effects of a single late payment but increases the effect of multiple late payments.
-Debts that were originally under $100 will no longer have a negative effect on score.
-Gives more weight to the variety of credit accounts that you have.
-Takes away the benefit of being an authorized user on a non-family account.
-Gives more points for having more accounts in good standing and takes away points for having only a few total accounts.
-Accounts that have ended the month with a 0 balance for a long time will factor less into your score.

You can click here to enable FICO tracking on select Barclays cards.

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Reminder: Earn 3.21 Points Per Dollar With Sapphire Preferred At Restaurants Today

Friday, November 1st, 2013

You will earn triple points today with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card on all dining purchases.  This promotion runs on every first Friday of the month at least through the end of the year.  Normally you earn 2.14 points per dollar on dining, airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals.

Together with the 7% annual dividend that means 3.21 points per dollar.  Spend $100 in any restaurant and you’ll get 300 points on your next statement plus 21 additional points as part of your annual dividend.

Dining on the Sapphire Preferred card includes all sit-down restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, catering, bars, lounges, and more.

Don’t want to eat out today? Ask your favorite eatery if they sell gift cards and lock in 3.21 points per dollar by purchasing them today!

Are you outside of the USA? Not to worry, the Sapphire Preferred card does not charge any foreign transaction fees.

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Maximizing Discover’s Q4 Category Bonuses

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Update: Several commenters below have reported getting even more lucrative offers in the mail, so if you do have a Discover card keep your eyes peeled for stackable offers via email and snail mail as you’ll likely need to register for each of them!

Related:
-Discover it®
-Discover it® for Students

-Need To Meet A Spending Threshold Deadline? Send And Receive $1,000/Month With No Fees Using Amazon Payments!

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Discover cards are great for building credit as they’re easy cards to get. They even have a student card as an option. But everyday spending only earns 1% cash back on the Discover it cards which is easily beat by any mileage earning card.

They are useful for a few things though. They have rotating 5% cash back categories. Through the end of the year you can earn 5% cash back on any online purchases up to $1,500. That even includes Amazon Payments!

Additionally if you have a Discover card be sure to check your email today to see if you are targeted for a promotion that will earn you an additional $30 cash back on purchases of at least $1,000 between 11/01-12/31.  You can earn the $30 bonus 3 times.

If you are targeted you can send a friend $1,000 via Amazon Payments next month and you’ll make yourself an easy $80 cash back thanks to the stackable promotions (1,000x.05=$50+$30).  Do it again in December and that transaction will earn you $60 cash back ($500x.05+500x.01=$30+$30).

When using Amazon Payments between friends it’s always a good idea to include at least a few people in a circle so that you don’t just send money back and forth between each other. It’s also not a good idea to logon to multiple Amazon Payments accounts from the same IP address.

Another nice thing about Discover? No foreign transaction fees and they do cover rental car insurance in Israel.  Just be aware that Discover will only cover up to $25,000 of damage to a rental car.

They also give you a bonus on your cash back if you redeem for a gift card.  You can use $40 cash back for many different $50 gift cards like Bed Bath & Beyond/Buy Buy Baby, Brooks Brothers, Children’s Place, Gap Inc, Staples, and more.  There are also other levels like $70 for $75 at Shell or Whole Foods.

So that $80 of cash back (8%) from a $1,000 Amazon Payment can become $100 (10%) when redeeming for gift cards instead of cash.

I still love my mileage earning cards, but those numbers are nothing to sneeze at.  I only got a Discover card because as any Clevelander will tell you, you need to have one so that you can shop at Marc’s.  But I’ll admit to enjoying these stackable opportunities as well.

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Chase British Airways Visa Now Free For The First Year

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

Update: The waived annual fee limited time offer for this card was supposed to have ended almost 3 weeks ago.  This limited time offer was the first time the BA card was offered with the annual fee waived for the first year.
If you’re on the fence and don’t want to miss this offer there’s no better time to apply than right now!

-Want to learn more about the BA Avios program. I’ve written up an entire knowledgebase of facts that you can peruse. Read it and you’ll probably find an answer to your question!

-You can click to view a list of every nonstop flight from:
Chicago
Los Angeles
Miami
NYC (EWR/JFK/LGA)
that can be booked with Avios along with whether there will be a fuel surcharge for that flight.
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Chase British Airways Visa Signature Linky

Signup bonus:
-50,000 British Airways (BA) Avios for spending $2,000 within 3 months.

-With this new offer the annual fee is waived on this card for the first year. It is $95 thereafter.

-You will earn 1.25 Avios per dollar spent everywhere and 2.5 Avios per dollar spent on BA tickets. There are no foreign transaction fees and the card includes a chip to use when abroad.

-BA Avios are awesome.  They effectively fill the gap that is left by the major programs like American AAdvantage and United MileagePlus.  The major programs provide a fantastic value for long-haul flights, especially for one-way flights, last-minute flights, or flights in business or first class.  But programs like American are not great for short flights.

In 2011 BA launched the Avios program which provides an incredible value for short-haul flights.  I’ve booked probably a dozen short-haul tickets in the past year for myself using Avios for travel on their partner, American.  A Cleveland-NYC ticket can cost $1,200 round-trip if you don’t stay for at least 3 days or if you book last-minute.  But BA allows me to use just 9,000 Avios for that same flight, a whopping value of over 13 cents per mile.  Now I can hop over to Chicago or NYC on a whim without any kind of mileage regret like I used to have in the pre-Avios days.
-50,000 Avios has gotten me flights that would have otherwise cost over $6,500. Or those same exact flights would run some 140K American miles not even accounting for the $75 expedite fees and $150 cancellation fees that American would charge with their own miles compared to $0 expedite and $2.50 cancellation when booking an American flight with Avios!

-Cardholders get 10% off paid BA tickets with promo code: CARDOFFERU

-You can earn a free companion award ticket every year that you spend $30K though it’s only valid for travel on BA or Open Skies.  The companion travels in the same class of service, so if you redeem Avios for a first class ticket your companion flies in first as well for 0 Avios but taxes and fees will be owed.

-Avoiding fuel surcharges:
-There are no fuel surcharges for travel on American Airlines within the Western Hemisphere
-There are also no fuel surcharges for flying on Qantas within Australia.
-There are also no fuel surcharges for flying on Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, Alaska, or LAN worldwide. You can fly to Europe without fuel surcharges for as little as 12,500 Avios each way in coach or 25,000 Avios each way in business.
-Flights within Europe also have no fuel surcharges as long as you have earned a single Avios mile in the past 12 months.  That means you can fly to Ireland on Aer Lingus for just 12,500 Avios each way and then fly around Europe from just 4,500 Avios without any fuel surcharges.  Or fly to Israel on Air Berlin with no fuel surcharges for just 30K Avios in coach or 50K in business each way.  Bear in mind that Aer Lingus and Alaska Air flights as well as many connecting flights must be booked by calling them, they can’t be booked online though because of that they are willing to waive the phone fee.
-Fuel surcharges on award-winning carrier Cathay Pacific are also pretty low and you don’t even need to fly all the way to Hong Kong (though you should-great city with awesome kosher food, airport lounges with kosher food, and a business or first class flight you’ll never forget!) to get a taste of their awesome service, seat, pajamas, and amenities. They fly a daily 777 nonstop between JFK and Vancouver which I reviewed in this trip report.
-You can significantly cut the fuel surcharges when flying on Iberia by transferring your BA Avios into Iberia Avios. Not that in order to do that you’ll first need to transfer 1,000 points from AMEX MR into Iberia to activate that account.
-British Airways 5th Freedom Flights (flights that don’t depart from or arrive to the UK) have significantly lower fees. For example even though Singapore-Sydney is a longer flight than NYC-London the fees in first class on Singapore-Sydney are less than half of those from NYC-London.

Advantages of BA Avios over most traditional mileage programs:

-There are no expedite or close-in fees for last minute award ticket bookings with BA Avios.

-You can book one-way tickets for half of the miles of a round-trip!

-You can cancel tickets and redeposit miles for the lessor of $40 or the taxes you paid.  That means you pay just $2.50 for cancel a one-way domestic itinerary (and it’s why I always book cheap domestic flights as one-ways).

-British Airways only charges 10% extra miles for a lap child flying internationally, even when traveling on AA. AA and other domestic carriers charge a whopping 10% of the full fare, which can add up to be a small fortune.  When flying domestic you should add the infant at the airport for free.

-It’s easy to top-off your BA Avios account thanks to their partnerships with all of the transferable points programs. You can transfer Starpoints to BA at a 20K:25K ratio with the built-in 25% transfer bonus or American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards to BA at a 1:1 ratio:

-With short-haul flights starting at just 4,500 Avios you can get a lot of free travel from your Avios.

Award bands include:
Band 1: Flights that are 1-650 miles cost 4,500 Avios.
Sample routes: LGA-Cleveland, LGA-Detroit, LGA-Montreal, LGA-Toronto, Miami-Cancun, Miami-Key West, Miami-Nassau, London-Paris, Melbourne-Sydney, Los Angeles-Las Vegas
Band 2: Flights that are 651-1,151 miles cost 7,500 Avios.
Sample routes: JFK-Bermuda, Los Angeles-Cabo San Lucas, LGA-Chicago, LGA-Miami, LGA-West Palm Beach, Philadelphia-Miami.
Band 3: Flights that are 1,151-2,000 miles cost 10,000 Avios.
Sample routes: JFK-S. Maarten, JFK-Cancun, JFK-S. Juan, Los Angeles-Chicago, Berlin-Tel Aviv, Hong Kong-Singapore
Band 4: Flights that are 2,001-3,000 miles cost 12,500 Avios.
Sample routes: Boston-Dublin, JFK-Los Angeles, JFK-Vancouver, Los Angeles-Maui, JFK-Costa Rica, Pittsburgh-Los Angeles
Band 5: Flights that are 3,001-4,000 miles cost 20,000 Avios.
Sample routes: NYC-London, NYC-Berlin, Chicago-Dublin, Dallas-Maui
Band 6: Flights that are 4,001-5,500 miles cost 25,000 Avios.
Sample routes: NYC-Buenos Aires, NYC-Rio de Janeiro, London-Johannesburg
Band 7: Flights that are 5,501-6,500 miles cost 30,000 Avios.
Sample route: NYC-Amman
Band 8: Flights that are 6,501-7,000 miles cost 35,000 Avios.
Sample route: S. Francisco-Hong Kong, JFK-Hong Kong
Band 9: Flights that are 7,001 miles or more cost 50,000 Avios.
Sample route: Los Angeles-Sydney, JFK-Sydney

Be sure to read the BA knowledgebase for tips and tricks to make some flights cheaper.

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Other Chase consumer cards you can get at the time as the BA card include the Chase Sapphire Preferred (40K signup points, no fee the first year, plus 2.14 points per dollar on travel and dining with no Foreign Exchange fees), Chase Southwest Visa (through 10/30 you can get 50K signup points and potentially much more, click here to read about it), Chase Freedom (which gives 5 points per dollar in rotating categories and 10% bonus points if you have a Chase checking account), and the Chase United Explorer (which gives free luggage, free primary car rental insurance in most countries worldwide besides Israel, expanded saver and standard award ticket availability, priority boarding, and more).

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both give 50,000 signup points and offer 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and office supply stores, 2 points per dollar for gas and lodging, no foreign exchange fees, free lounge visits, and a waived annual fee for the first year.

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