Category Archive for 'Credit Cards'

Chase United Explorer: 50,000 Miles For Spending $2,000 Plus 5,000 More Miles For Adding An Additional User!

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Chase United Explorer Linky

This has long been a targeted offer but is now available publicly.  This limited time offer will expire September 2nd. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.

You’ll earn 50,000 bonus miles for spending $2,000 within 3 months and an additional 5,000 miles for adding a free additional user card and making a purchase within 3 months.

Spend $2,000 on a new card and add an additional user and you’ll have 57,000 miles.

A short-haul United domestic award under 700 miles in distance is just 10,000 miles.  That’s a lot more than the BA 4.5K short-haul, but it allow for a longer distance and you are allowed to have connections for the same rate, something that BA doesn’t allow.

A round-trip ticket to 2 European or South American cities is just 60,000 miles round-trip thanks to a free stopover.  You’re even allowed a free open jaw on the same itinerary as a free stopover to really maximize your travel.

Best of all United never charges any fuel surcharges. Other airlines like American and USAirways collect massive fuel surcharges to fly on British Airways. Delta charges fuel surcharges to fly on some partners and if you originate in Europe and other regions. United will never collect a fuel surcharge and they have access to awards on 36 partner airlines which means better availability on more awards.

The United card is easily my favorite of all of the airline cards:

-It is the only card that gives expanded award ticket availability. Cardholders have access to expanded saver coach award availability (XN class), last seat standard coach award availability (YN class), and last seat standard business/first class award availability (JN class).

-You can read about examples of expanded availability in this post.
-You can learn more about searching for those classes in expert mode in this post.

-As you have better access to saver coach awards you’ll also have better ability to do Plan B awards. Plan B allows you to redeem for saver business and first class awards when there’s only saver coach available. Based on DDF reports and my own experience people have better than 95% odds of being seated in business class on a Plan B redemption.
-Read more about Plan B in this post.

No airline besides United offers a Plan B redemption.

-The United and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards are among the only cards that come 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.

No airline card besides United offers primary CDW insurance.

-The United Explorer card gives 2 free United Club passes every year for being a cardmember.

-The United Explorer card gives a 10K mileage bonus every year in which you spend $25K.  That means you’ll earn at least 1.4 miles per dollar spent everywhere if you spend $25K in a year. 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.

-Your miles will never expire as long as you are a United cardholder even if you don’t have any activity.

-A massive benefit for United elite members is that they can get free upgrades on coach award tickets on upgrade eligible routes if they have a United card.

Plus United is the only airline that assigns elite benefits to people that you redeem awards for.  That means people you book for have access to benefits like Economy Plus, lounge access, and more.

Last Friday morning I flew with my family from Los Angeles to Cleveland on 12.5K saver award tickets and all 4 of us were upgraded thanks to my elite status and having a United card!

Other card benefits:
-No foreign exchange fees
-Double miles on United purchases.
-Priority boarding so that you’ll have space for your carry-ons.
-First checked bag is free.

United has 36 partner airlines which means lots of award opportunities. However not all of them are currently bookable online, you’ll have to call (or use the Aeroplan or ANA sites) to get the full picture:

United partners that currently must be booked over the phone:
-Air India
-Brussels Airlines
-Cape Air
-Copa Airlines
-Great Lakes Airlines
-Jet Airways
-LOT Polish (An excellent option with great availability in coach and business for flights to Israel)
-Shenzhen
-Singapore

And here’s the list of partners currently bookable on United.com:
-Adria Airlines
-Aegean Airlines
-Aer Lingus
-Air Canada
-Air China
-Air New Zealand
-ANA
-Asiana Airlines
-Austrian Airlines
-Avianca Airlines
-Azul Brazilian Airlines
-Croatia Airlines
-Egyptair
-Ethiopian Airlines
-EVA Air
-Germanwings
-Hawaiian Airlines
-Island Air
-Lufthansa
-Scandinavian Airlines
-Shenzhen Airlines
-Silver Airways
-South African Airways
-Swiss International Airlines
-TAP Portugal
-THAI
-Turkish Airlines
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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), 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), the 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), and the Chase Marriott (70K signup points and a free category 1-4 night for a limited time plus a free anniversary category 1-5 night with no fee the first year).

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Reminder: Triple Points Per Dollar With Sapphire Preferred At Restaurants And Caterers Today

Friday, August 1st, 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 double points per dollar on airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, restaurants, catering, fast food, coffee shops, bars, lounges, cafes, taxis, Uber, parking, limos, buses, trains, EZPass, bridges, ferries, timeshares, etc.

If you opened your card before 07/20 you’ll also get a 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 bonus points by purchasing them today!

Need to pay a caterer? Do it today and pocket all those 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 every country in the world: Double points for car rentals, free primary CDW insurance with no deductible, and no foreign exchange fees).

Sapphire Preferred comes with a 40,000 point signup bonus and another 5,000 point bonus for opening a free additional user card. The $95 fee is waived for the first year. Having a Sapphire Preferred card allows you to transfers all of your Chase points (including points earned on Chase Freedom) to lucrative currencies like United (Star Alliance), Singapore (Star Alliance), British Airways (OneWorld), Korean (Skyteam), Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Priority Club, and Amtrak.

Read more about the Sapphire card’s benefits in this post.

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Bye Bye Bluebird

Monday, July 28th, 2014

I finally did it. I closed my Bluebird. And I joined ISIS.

No, not that ISIS. And no, DansDeals hasn’t been hacked Domino’s Pizza style by Islamic terrorists (though I love the person that made the Ninja Turtle connection).

I got an NFC SIM card from Verizon (you can get one in-store or order one over the phone for free) which allowed me to finally signup for the (unfortunately named) ISIS wallet app.

The ISIS wallet is a method of paying for items via NFC technology.  You can add your credit card to it to make payments with your phone. And you can signup for an AMEX Serve prepaid card in the app.

If you have Verizon and signup for ISIS and apply for an AMEX Serve card in the app by 07/31 you’ll get $25.  MY $25 credit showed up within minutes of opening a Serve card in the ISIS app. If you have AT&T you’ll get $15.  If you have T-Mobile there is no signup bonus. If you have Sprint you’re out of luck, ISIS doesn’t work with Sprint.

iPhones don’t have NFC and will require a special NFC case that you can buy from your carrier to work with ISIS.

You will also get $1 back every time you buy something $1 or more with your Serve card via the ISIS wallet. That offer is valid up to 50 times per month until 12/31/14, so a potential $300 can be had like that.

Serve vs. Bluebird:

Serve is a prepaid card from AMEX that is awfully similar to Bluebird. So similar that AMEX only allows you to have one of them.  If you have a Bluebird card you’ll have to first have a zero balance and then call to have it closed before you can get a Serve card.

Both Bluebird and Serve can be loaded at Walmart with gift cards like the ones sold by Staples. The limits are the same, $2,500 per day and $5,000 of loading per month in-store.

But Serve can also be loaded at Family Dollar with $500 of Vanilla gift cards per day. Vanilla gift cards are sold at CVS with a credit card. Some 7-Eleven’s allow credit cards to buy Vanilla gift or debit cards as well and they qualify for 5.5 points per dollar with Chase Freedom this quarter.

And Serve can be loaded online directly with your credit card and debit card as long as your name is on them.  More on the limits for that below, but that’s easy free miles there!

Just like with Bluebird, loading gift cards online is a big no-no. You have to do that in stores.

Serve has a 2.7% foreign exchange fee. Bluebird has no foreign exchange fees.

Note that while Bluebird gives free checks that you can use to cash out your account balance, Serve has no checks. Instead you can pay off your bills and credit cards with your account balance.

However Serve allows you to withdraw cash ($750 per day and $2,000 per month) from a MoneyPass ATM for free. With Bluebird that would incur a $2 charge unless you have a direct deposit going to your Bluebird card.

You don’t need ISIS to signup for Serve but there are several advantage to doing that:
1. While Bluebird has no fees, Serve has a $1/month fee. That fee doesn’t apply if you live in NY, TX, or VT. It doesn’t apply if you have direct deposit. It doesn’t apply if you load $500 to it that month.
But for everyone else there’s also no fee for Serve as long as you keep a virtual Serve card in your ISIS wallet.

2. The regular Serve card allows you to load $200 per day online from a debit card and $200 per day online from a credit card. Those are both capped at $1,000 per month of loading.
However Serve with ISIS allows you to load $500 per day online from a debit card and $500 per day online from a credit card. Those are both capped at $1,500 per month of loading.
Don’t load Serve with an AMEX online as you won’t earn points for that.

I don’t have a physical Serve card yet, I just have the virtual card in my app now. It let me load $400 on the first day with my credit card and another $100 on the second day with a credit card. Once I activate my physical Serve card I’ll be able to load the full amounts.

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How Far Will The Chase Marriott 70K Offer Go For Hotels In Israel?

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Point hotels in Israel are hard to come by.

Not long ago Starwood had 13 properties that were all bargains with Starpoints. I stayed in many of them on a month-long trek across the holy land in August of 2007 spending just a couple thousand Starpoints per night to stay in Jerusalem, Haifa, Eilat, Tiberias, and the Dead Sea.  Now there’s just 1 left, the Sheraton Tel Aviv, and at 12K-16K points per night it’s not the bargain it once was.

It seems hotels don’t need to stay part of a loyalty program to fill up their rooms in Israel.  Hyatt had a Jerusalem hotel but now has nothing. Hilton has had several hotels in Jerusalem over the years that have come and gone. The David Citadel opened as the Hilton Jerusalem in 1998 but left Hilton in 2001.  It’s anyone’s guess as to how long the newly opened Waldorf Jerusalem will stay part of Hilton, but at 80K points per night it’s out of the budget of most folks.

Chase recently released a limited time offer on the Chase Marriott card for 70K bonus points for spending $2,000 in 3 months.  On top of that you’ll also get a free night at a category 1-4 hotel upon account approval.  You also get a free night at a category 1-5 hotel every year that you renew the card.

The $85 annual fee is waived for the first year.

The Marriott program is split into “categories” and “tiers.”

Marriott has 9 categories of hotels that range from 7,500 to 45,000 points per night or 6,000 to 40,000 points per night when they’re on PointSavers.

Marriott also has 5 tiers of Ritz Carlton hotels that range from 30,000 to 70,000 points per night or 20,000 to 60,000 points per night when they’re on PointSavers.

When you stay 4 nights you get the 5th night free.  You can browse hotels in each of those categories and tiers via the find button on this page. While there you can look at the additional free night you receive at signup besides for the bonus points at category 1-4 hotels.

You can also transfer points into miles here. The ratios aren’t great, but if you need some Southwest points for Companion pass status that can be worthwhile.

Marriott also offers miles+nights packages.

Israel has 2 Marriott hotels:
The Ritz-Carlton Herzliya is a luxury hotel that opened 7 months ago and has been getting rave reviews. It is a Ritz-Carlton tier 2 hotel which means that it’s 40,000 points per night or 160,000 points for a 5 night stay (32,000 points per night).

A standard room for a tourist from 08/10-08/15 is $2,750 or $550 per night.  Or you can use 160,000 points, a value of 1.72 cents per point.  The 70K signup bonus would be worth over $1,200 for a redemption at that value per point.

A standard room for non-tourists would run $3,245 for the 5 nights with VAT. Using points would yield a value of 2.03 cents per point.

Marriott allows free point transfers between spouses, so if 2 spouses both get a Marriott card and spend $2,000 on each they would have at least 144,000 points in one account and 2 free category 1-4 nights.  You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott, but in most cases there are better uses for Ultimate Rewards points.  After all you can buy increments of 1,000 points for $12.50 and Ultimate Rewards are worth more than that.  I’d rather buy the additional 16,000 points needed in that scenario for a 5 night stay for $200 than use 16,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

The Renaissance Tel Aviv Hotel is a category 7 hotel that goes for 35,000 points per night or 140,000 points for a 5 night stay (28,000 points per night.)

A standard room for a tourist from 08/03-08/08 is $1,475 or $295 per night.  Or you can use 140,000 points, a value of 1.05 cents per point. The 70K signup bonus would be worth $735 for a redemption at that value per point.

A standard room for non-tourists would run $1,741 for the 5 nights with VAT. Using points would yield a value of 1.24 cents per point.

2 spouses each getting the Marriott card would have more than enough points for a 5 night stay at the Renaissance Tel Aviv and they would still have 2 more free nights at category 1-4 properties.

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Sapphire Preferred Phasing Out 7% Annual Dividend, Adding Primary Rental Car CDW Insurance Worldwide

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is an excellent all-around card thanks to its generous double point categories that include airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, restaurants, catering, fast food, coffee shops, bars, lounges, cafes, taxis, Uber, parking, limos, buses, trains, EZPass, bridges, ferries, timeshares, etc.  On the first Friday of each month the dining/catering category is bumped up to triple points.  The card is made from metal and a real live human being answers the phone when you call customer service without having to navigate a phone-tree maze.

The card offers 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $3,000 in 3 months and an additional 5,000 points for adding a free additional user card. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.  There are no foreign exchange fees with Sapphire Preferred.

Unfortunately the 7% annual point dividend on top of all earning is being phased out.  Existing customers will still earn the 7% points dividend in February 2015 for 2014 purchases and one final time in February 2016 for 2015 purchases.

On the plus side though, effective today Chase is adding free primary car rental CDW insurance for every country in the world to the Sapphire Preferred card.  Almost every other credit card out there (besides for Chase United cards) only offers secondary coverage when you rent a car in your home country.

The difference between primary and secondary coverage is huge.  Secondary coverage requires that you file a damage claim with your own car insurance company and only if your personal car insurance denies the claim will the credit card pay out.  You would have to be crazy to file a claim with your personal insurance for a scratch on your rental car. With primary coverage the credit card will cover all damage done to your rental car and your personal car insurance will never have to find out-so you won’t have to file a claim with your personal car insurance and your premiums won’t go up.

Most credit cards also exclude countries like Israel from coverage, however all Chase cards cover you worldwide, including in Israel.  And they will give you a letter of coverage stating that you are covered in Israel so that you don’t have to argue at the rental car counter that your Chase Visa does give CDW coverage.

With primary worldwide coverage on top of 2 points per dollar for car rentals, there is no better card today to rent a car on than Sapphire Preferred.

Chase also announced that effective today trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance on the Sapphire Preferred card will go up from $5,000 per trip to $10,000.  Other card benefits include:
-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)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card earns Ultimate Rewards points and has the ability to transfer points into miles.  It also gives you the ability to transfer points from fantastic cards like Chase Freedom and Ink Cash into miles as well, as those cards can’t transfer points directly into miles without having the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus card.

Points transfer at an equal ratio to:
-United (Star Alliance)
-Singapore (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 And Caterers Today

Friday, July 4th, 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, timeshares, car rentals, taxis, Uber, parking, limos, buses, trains, EZPass, bridges, ferries, etc.

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 bonus points 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 exchange fees).

Sapphire Preferred comes with a 40,000 point signup bonus and another 5,000 point bonus for opening a free additional user card. The $95 fee is waived for the first year. Having a Sapphire Preferred card allows you to transfers all of your Chase points(including points earned on Chase Freedom) to lucrative currencies like United (Star Alliance), Singapore (Star Alliance), British Airways (OneWorld), Korean (Skyteam), Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Priority Club, and Amtrak.

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Last Day To Finish Freedom Q2 Spend And Last Day For Freedom Double Signup Bonus; Activate Q3 Categories Now

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

The Chase Freedom Visa has a 20,000 point signup bonus that will be going away midday Monday, 06/30. That bonus is marketed as $200 cash back as points can be used for cash back, though you would be wiser not to. Additionally it also offers another 2,500 bonus points (marketed as $25 cash back) for adding a free additional user.  You’ll have 23,000 points for opening a new card, adding an additional user, and spending $500.  That’s enough points for 5 free short-haul flights.

Chase Freedom is one of the best no annual fee cards.  It’s an easier card to get that most other Chase cards as it doesn’t require a Signature level $5,000 credit line. 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). The $1,500 quarterly limit is per Freedom card.

If you have a Chase checking account you will also earn a 10% bonus on all points earned during 2014 on your January or February 2015 statement.  That means you’ll earn a whopping 5.5 points per dollar in these categories or 8,250 points each quarter plus 1.1 points per dollar elsewhere.

Tomorrow, 06/30, is also the last day to complete your Q2 5% category spending.

Freedom alone can’t transfer points into much more lucrative airline/hotel/train currencies, but if you or your spouse has a Sapphire PreferredInk Plus, or Ink Bold then you can transfer points from Freedom to one of those cards and from there to your favorite travel currency.  You can read at the end of this post which currencies they can transfer to and why those points are much more valuable than just taking cash back.

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 5-5.5 per dollar spent.  Buy a gift card from your favorite eatery tomorrow to lock in savings on future dining

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.  You can buy gift cards for BP for example and best yet, you’ll pay the cash price at BP when using gift cards at the pump while you will have earned 5-5.5 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. Plus the Ink Visa cards earn 1% cash back on top of 5 points per dollar for $200+ purchases at Staples and other stores with Visa Savings Edge.  The cards also earn 2 points per dollar year-round at gas stations and either hotels (Bold/Plus) or dining (Cash).

Q3 Activation now open:

Additionally you can click here to activate next quarter’s Chase Freedom 5% categories. After activation you’ll earn 5-5.5 points per dollar at Gas stations (including gift cards and everything sold in the convenience store) and Kohl’s.
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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 (30K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, and it 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 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), and the Chase Southwest (50K signup points scheduled to end tonight!).

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both offer 50,000 signup points.  They 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. The Chase Ink Cash offers 20,000 signup points.

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Card Offers Ending Today And Tomorrow

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Don’t wait until after these offers are gone, they can disappear at any time.  Offers that expire on 06/30 can end mid-day, so grab them now if you want ‘em.

Scheduled to end after midnight tonight:

-Chase Southwest Premier Visa: Normally 25K bonus for spending $2K in 3 months, now 50K through 06/29.

Southwest allows you to book award tickets and cancel them for free and you still get 2 free bags.  Credit card points (and transfers from Hyatt via Ultimate Rewards) count towards companion pass status: Earn 110K in a year and bring along a companion for free whenever you fly on paid or award tickets until the end of the following calendar year. Annual fee: $99. More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/39279

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Scheduled to end at any time tomorrow:

-Chase Freedom Visa: Normally 10K bonus for spending $500 in 3 months, now 20K through 06/30. Plus get 2,500 more points for adding a free additional user

My favorite no annual fee card on the market.  Earn 5 points per dollar in rotating categories. If you have Chase checking that’s bumped to 5.5 points per dollar and 1.1 points per dollar elsewhere. More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/45449

-Barclays Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard: Normally 20K bonus for spending $5K in 3 months, now 50K through 06/30.

17K domestic first class awards, 35K Hawaii business awards, and much more.  $79 annual fee, but many people reporting success in getting this waived by asking an account specialist after opening the card. More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/43739

-Starwood Consumer AMEX: Normally 25K bonus for spending $5K in 6 months, now 30K through 06/30.

20K Starpoints transfers into 25K miles on dozens of airlines. Annual fee: $0 first year then $65. More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/45481

-Starwood Business AMEX: Normally 25K bonus for spending $5K in 6 months, now 30K through 06/30. Annual fee: $0 first year then $65. More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/45481

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Limited time offers that don’t have a published end date:

-Barclays US Airways Premier World MasterCard: Normally 30K bonus for spending $1, now 40K. This card is slated to be discontinued and no longer available for new signups at some point this year. $89 annual fee which may be able to be waived by asking an account specialist after opening the card.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/43739

-Citibank Executive American AAdvantage Card: Normally 50K bonus for spending $10K in 3 months, now 100K. Expiry unknown though the official landing page has been killed and only direct links to the application still work. Annual fee: $450.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/40107

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The American 100K Offer Is Not Gone, Roundup Of Expiring Credit Card Bonuses From AMEX, Barclays, Citi, And Chase

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Lots of wasted electronic ink out there today proclaiming the death of the AA 100K card offer.

While Citi may have killed the official landing page, I earned lifetime Platinum status on American back in the day by using direct application links that continue to work after a landing page is pulled.  And the direct 100K application page lives on for now:

-Citibank Executive American AAdvantage Card: Normally 50K bonus for spending $10K in 3 months, now 100K. Expiry unknown though the official landing page has been killed and only direct links to the application still work. Annual fee: $450.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/40107
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Other cards expiring soon:

-Barclays Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard: Normally 20K bonus for spending $5K in 3 months, now 50K through 06/30. $79 annual fee, many people reporting success in getting this waived by asking an account specialist after opening the card.

-Barclays US Airways Premier World MasterCard: Normally 30K bonus for spending $1, now 40K. This card is slated to be discontinued and no longer available for new signups at some point this year. $89 annual fee which may be able to be waived by asking an account specialist after opening the card.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/43739
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-Chase Freedom Visa: Normally 10K bonus for spending $500 in 3 months, now 20K through 06/30.. Plus get 2,500 more points for adding a free additional user.  Annual fee: Free.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/45449
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-Chase Southwest Premier Visa: Normally 25K bonus for spending $2K in 3 months, now 50K through 06/29.. Points count towards companion pass status. Annual fee: $99.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/39279
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-Starwood Consumer AMEX: Normally 25K bonus for spending $5K in 6 months, now 30K through 06/30. Annual fee: $0 first year then $65.

-Starwood Business AMEX: Normally 25K bonus for spending $5K in 6 months, now 30K through 06/30. Annual fee: $0 first year then $65.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/45481

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Chase Freedom Signup Bonus Doubled For A Limited Time

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Update:  This offer will end on June 30!

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The Chase Freedom Visa now comes with a 20,000 point signup bonus. That bonus is marketed as $200 cash back as points can be used for cash back, though you would be wiser not to.  This is double the previous signup bonus and is available for a limited time only.

Additionally it also offers another 2,500 bonus points (marketed as $25 cash back) for adding a free additional user.

DDF members are already reporting success getting matched from the 10K offer to the 20K offer by sending a secure message.  Typically if you applied within the past 90 days Chase will match your bonus to the current bonus offer.

Chase Freedom is one of the best no annual fee cards.  It’s an easier card to get that most other Chase cards as it doesn’t require a Signature level $5,000 credit line. 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).

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 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.

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 your choice of either a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Chase Ink Plus Card, or Chase Ink Bold 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.  That means you’ll earn an effective 5.5 points per dollar on purchases from the 5 point categories and you’ll earn an effective 1.1 points per dollar everywhere else.

Freedom alone can’t transfer points into much more lucrative airline/hotel/train currencies, but if you or your spouse has a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold then you can transfer points from Freedom to one of those cards and from there to your favorite travel currency.  You can read at the end of this post which currencies they can transfer to and why those points are much more valuable than just taking cash back.

If you use those points for a trip worth where they are worth 2 cents each and then you’ll have effectively earned 10-11% back on those “5 point categories.”  My coach tickets to Kansas City this week were worth 3 cents each, which means I really get 16.5% back from purchases in “5 point categories” thanks to the Chase trifecta.
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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 (30K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, and it 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 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), and the Chase Southwest (50K signup points).

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both offer 50,000 signup points.  They 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. The Chase Ink Cash offers 20,000 signup points.

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Last Days To Register For Freedom Q2 Bonus Spending

Friday, June 13th, 2014

The Chase Freedom Visa currently has a 20,000 point signup bonus. That bonus is marketed as $200 cash back as points can be used for cash back, though you would be wiser not to.  This is double the previous signup bonus and is available for a limited time only.

Additionally it also offers another 2,500 bonus points (marketed as $25 cash back) for adding a free additional user.  You’ll have 23,000 points for opening a new card, adding an additional user, and spending $500.  That’s enough points for 5 free short-haul flights.

Tomorrow, 06/14, is the last day to activate your Q2 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. 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, Singapore, etc) or hotel points (Hyatt, etc).  The $1,500 quarterly limit is per Freedom card.

If you have a Chase checking account you will also earn a 10% bonus on all points earned during 2014 on your January or February 2015 statement.  That means you’ll earn a whopping 5.5 points per dollar in these categories or 8,250 points each quarter.

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 5-5.5 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. Plus the Ink Visa cards earn 1% cash back on top of 5 points per dollar for $200+ purchases at Staples and other stores with Visa Savings Edge.  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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Buy Miles For Under A Penny A Piece With Giftly!

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Update: Giftly has been cancelling all gifts made today.

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Giftly allows you to send money to a friend for a 1% fee.

I sent my wife 2 gifts of $999 each with my United Club credit card for a $10 fee each time.
She then cashed them out right away. She sent one $999 gift directly to her paypal account (from where she’ll have it sent to her bank account) and another $999 gift to a credit card that she doesn’t normally use (from where she’ll request a refund check). Soon they will even support transfers to debit cards so that it will go directly to your checking account. It takes a few days to get the funds.

Probably a good idea to make the payment and then collect the gift from a different IP address.

If you’re trying to meet a spend threshold Giftly is a no-brainer, but even without that it’s a great deal.

For example if you have a Chase Freedom card and a Chase checking account, a $999 purchase+$10 fee will earn you 1,110 miles. That’s buying miles for .9 cents each.

If you have a Chase Sapphire card, a $999 purchase+$10 fee will earn you 1,080 miles. That’s buying miles for .93 cents each.

If you have a Barclaycard Arrival Plus a $999 purchase+$10 fee will earn you about $22.42 cash back.

With a United Club card (click on Club card on the right side) , a $999 purchase+$10 fee will earn you 1,514 miles. That’s buying miles for .66 cents each.

Of course you can “buy” miles for .47 cents with Visa gift cards at Staples, but that takes more effort to cash out.  With Giftly it goes directly to paypal  You can read examples of awards you can get when buying miles for .47 cents here, just run the numbers on your credit card to see the cost per mile and what those awards would cost you.

I don’t see any limits for Giftly, which means it probably won’t last long in its current form. Enjoy it while it lasts!

HT nate, via DDF

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Chase Freedom Earns More Than Sapphire Preferred At Restaurants On This “First Friday”

Friday, June 6th, 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.

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.

However through June 30th you can earn 5 points per dollar when eating out with your Chase Freedom card, so if you aren’t going to max out the $1,500 in quarterly spending at Lowe’s you’ll be better off using Freedom at restaurants. That bonus is bumped up to 5.5 points per dollar if you have or will open a Chase checking account in 2014.

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 bonus points by purchasing them today!

An exception will be if you are catering an event.  You’ll likely blow past the $1,500 limit on the Freedom bonus, but the Sapphire bonus has no limit, so consider putting $1,500 on Freedom and the remainder on Sapphire Preferred today to take advantage of the first friday bonus.

Another exception will be if you are located outside of the USA.   The Freedom card has a 3% foreign transaction fee, but the Sapphire Preferred card does not charge any foreign transaction fees.  (That also makes it the best card for car rentals when abroad: 2.14 points per dollar, free primary CDW insurance in every country in the world with no deductible, and no foreign use fees).

While Freedom points can’t be transferred into lucrative airline miles or hotel/train points that are worth far more than 1% cash back, if you or your spouse has a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus card you can transfer points from Freedom to one of those cards and from there to an airline, hotel, or train program.

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Final Day For Increased Signup Bonuses On Chase Ink Cards

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Update: DEAD!

Related: Ink Is Beautiful: 12 Reasons You Should Have A Chase Ink Card
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Originally posted on 05/01:

-Chase Ink Plus Credit Card 60K Limited Time Offer
-Chase Ink Bold Charge Card 60K Limited Time Offer
-Chase Ink Cash Credit Card 30K Limited Time Offer

The Chase Ink business cards are some of the best credit cards out there.

For a limited time only you can earn additional bonus points for signing up for them.
Last week the limited time increased bonus for these cards lasted just 1 week, though I don’t have any information on when it will end this year.

The bonus for the Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards is temporarily increased from 50,000 to 60,000 points for spending $5,000 within 3 months.
The bonus for the Ink Cash card is temporarily increased from 20,000 to 30,000 points (they advertise this as $300, but it comes in the form of 30,000 points which can be far more valuable than cash) for spending $3,000 within 3 months

Typically if you got a Chase card within the past couple months and the offer increases they will match the better offer for you. Just send a secure message to request that when logged in at Chase.com.

Here is a chart with the differences between these cards.

 
Ink Bold
Ink Plus
Ink Cash
Signup Bonus50,00050,00020,000
Spend Threshold$5,000 in 3 months.$5,000 in 3 months.$3,000 in 3 months.
Type of cardCharge Card: Must be paid off in full every month.Credit Card: Can be paid back over time. Credit Card: Can be paid back over time.
Annual FeeNone for the first year, then $95None for the first year, then $95None
Points transfer into miles?YesYesNo, but they can be transferred if you or your spouse also has a Ink Bold, Ink Plus, or Sapphire Preferred
Annual limit for 5 point per dollar categories$50,000 of spending.$50,000 of spending.$25,000 of spending.
Double point categoriesGas and HotelsGas and HotelsGas and Dining
Foreign Transaction Fee0%0%3%
APR for purchases and balance transfer.N/A15.24%0% intro APR for 12 months then 13.24%

As you can see, there’s no major difference between Ink Bold and Ink Plus other than charge versus credit.  One advantage of Ink Plus would be that you can shift credit lines to that card to get it approved and if you ever decide to close it, you’ll be able to shift the credit line elsewhere.

A great thing about 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 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 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 12 months you can owe money without having any negative effect on your credit score.

Benefits on all Ink cards:

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. Lounges include the Dan Lounge in Tel Aviv and the Art & Lounge in Newark which both have kosher food.

Ink cards are now all issued as Visa cards, so you can register them for Visa Savings Edge.

With that program you earn cash back on top of points.  You’ll earn 1% cash back at Staples, Chevron, and Texaco, 2% cash back at TigerDirect, 4% cash back at Alamo and National, 5% cash back at Lenovo, Sony, and several hotel brands, etc.

Plus 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? 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, Gap, Groupon, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Marshalls, Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, TJMaxx, etc? 5 points per dollar.

At Staples of course you would earn 1% cash back plus 5 points per dollar.

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.

You can buy $200 Visa gift cards (now sold online from Staples) that earn 1,000 points and can be used to pay bills with EvolveMoney, uploaded to Bluebird or used for cash back, bill pay, money orders, etc. Or you can use them for everyday spending thereby getting 5 points per dollat on everything you buy anywhere via the Visa gift cards.

The Bold and Plus cards offer 2 points per dollar for spending on gas and hotels (plus 1%-5% cash back with Visa Savings Edge)
The Cash card offers 2 points per per dollar for spending on gas (plus 1% cash back with Visa Savings Edgeand dining.

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:
-Singapore (Star Alliance) offers private walled-in first class suites that can only be booked with their miles. A suite one-way from JFK to Europe is 57,375 miles. Travel to the US48, Hawaii, Alaska, Europe, and Israel can all be had on the cheap. There are no close-in booking fees and changes and cancellations are very cheap. Fuel surcharges apply when flying on most airlines besides United. More info here.
-United (Star Alliance) is still an excellent currency, even after their devaluation a few months ago.  They never charge fuel surcharges, have very flexible routing rules, they allow one-way awards for half the mileage, they have 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 USAirways or Air Berlin are just 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 USAirways, Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Alaska, or LAN and you can transfer points to Iberia to limit fuel surcharges there as well.
You can read more in the BA knowledgebase. And you can see 102 places you can go to nonstop from NYC with Avios.
-Korean (Skyteam) offers unbeatable first class availability (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 a value of about 1.7 cents per point towards award travel.  Plus you get 2 free checked bags, free flight changes or flight cancellations. 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 with 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.

The beauty of miles over points or cash-back:
The great thing about being able to transfer points into airlines or hotels are the incredible values you can attain.
-A first class ticket to Hawaii can cost $3,000 but you can use 60,000 miles for that same ticket, a value of 6.7 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 300,000 points per ticket.
-A last minute ticket or a ticket where you don’t stay for 3 nights from New York to Detroit costs $1,500 in coach but just 9,000 miles. That’s a value of 16.7 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 150,000 points per ticket.
-A first class ticket to Asia can cost $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 $1,500 with tax but you can use 25K-30K points for that room, a value of 5-6 cents per point. Or you can use less points and get even better values with cash and points. 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 several Chase cards with just 1 credit pull.

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

For example if your name is Joe Smith and you sell items online, or if you have any other side business/hobby and want a credit card to better keep track of business expenditures you can just 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’re like me and you run more than one business you can get the same type of card for each business to manage each businesses expenses separately.

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Other Chase consumer cards you can apply for 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 (30K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, and it 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 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), the Chase Southwest (50K signup points, 2 free checked bags, no award expedite fees, and no award cancellation fees), and the Chase Freedom (which has a limited time offer for 20,000 point for spending $500 plus 2,500 points for adding a free additional user, it also gives 5 points per dollar in rotating categories and 10% bonus points if you have a Chase checking account).

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Expiring Credit Card Bonus Roundup From AMEX, Barclays, Citi, And Chase

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

-Starwood Consumer AMEX: Normally 25K bonus for spending $5K in 6 months, now 30K through 06/30. Annual fee: $0 first year then $65.

-Starwood Business AMEX: Normally 25K bonus for spending $5K in 6 months, now 30K through 06/30. Annual fee: $0 first year then $65.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/45481
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- The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®: Normally 30K bonus for spending $1, now 40K. This card is slated to be discontinued and no longer available for new signups at some point this year. $89 annual fee which may be able to be waived by asking an account specialist after opening the card.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/43739
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-Citibank Executive American AAdvantage Card: Normally 50K bonus for spending $10K in 3 months, now 100K. Expiry unknown. Annual fee: $450.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/40107
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-Chase Freedom Visa: Normally 10K bonus for spending $500 in 3 months, now 20K. Plus get 2,500 more points for adding a free additional user. Expiry unknown. Annual fee: Free.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/45449
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-Chase Southwest Premier Visa: Normally 25K bonus for spending $2K in 3 months, now 50K. Expiry unknown. Annual fee: $99.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/39279
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-Chase Ink Plus Credit Card: Normally 50K bonus for spending $5K in 3 months, now 60K. Expires today, 06/01. Annual fee: $0 first year then $95.

-Chase Ink Bold Charge Card: Normally 50K bonus for spending $5K in 3 months, now 60K.Expires today, 06/01. Annual fee: $0 first year then $95.

-Chase Ink Cash Credit Card: Normally 20K bonus for spending $3K in 3 months, now 30K.Expires today, 06/01. Annual fee: Free.

More info: http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/43804
http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/44310

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It’s Back: 30,000 Starpoints Signup Bonus On Both The Starwood Consumer And Business AMEX Cards

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Update: DEAD!

-Starwood AMEX Consumer Linky
New AMEX Consumer Terms: “This offer is also not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”

-Starwood AMEX Business Linky
AMEX Business Terms: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product within the last 12 months.”

This offer expires 06/30.

With this offer you will get 10,000 bonus points for spending $1 and 20,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 within 6 months. So spend $5,000 within 6 months and you’ll have 35,000 Starwood points.
The $65 annual fee is waived for the first year.

Key benefits:
-The card doesn’t have bonus spending categories except in SPG hotels, but you get a 25% bonus when you transfer points into miles. Note that SPG point transfers can take from 2 days to 2 weeks to complete.
-Starwood has gutted the cash and points program, but the regular hotel redemption rate can still be a bargain in some hotels. Starwood charges insane amounts of points at their high end hotels though. While the Park Hyatt Maldives is 25,000 Hyatt/Chase points or 12,500 points+$150 per night, the W Maldives would run at least 90,000 Starpoints per night. Room rates at either resort are more than $1,000 per night.
-AMEX benefits like return protection, warranty protection, etc.
-Promotions like Twitter savings and Small Business Saturday that work on primary and secondary cards.
-The business card gets open savings cash rebates.
-Just by having a Starwood card you earn Preferred Plus status. This status earns you the right to checkout at 4pm at Starwood hotels.
-If you spend $30,000 in a year on either Starwood card you earn SPG Gold status.
-Cardholders get 2 elite qualifying stays and 5 elite qualifying nights towards earning Gold or Platinum status.

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0% APR Cards

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

People often ask me about 0% APR cards.

There’s a reason I don’t talk about them often.  Credit card interest is why the house always wins.  0% is just a teaser to get you to fall into a very dangerous trap.  People that treat a credit card as anything different than cash are only fooling themselves.  If you don’t have cash on hand to pay for an item, then don’t buy it.  It’s a really bad idea to use your plastic as a way of getting an item you can’t afford.

Banks would love nothing more than to charge you 20 or 30% interest on your purchases and those charges will easily overwhelm the benefits of signing up and spending on a card.  If you can’t control yourself to spend within your limits than you’ll be far better off not even applying for a credit card.

But if you already do owe money that you can’t pay back right away, a 0% card can be a good thing in the short-term.

Here are some of the best ones out there:

1. The Chase Ink Cash Business card offers 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months.
If you have to carry a balance then this is a fantastic card to do it on as the credit utilization isn’t reported to the credit bureaus on Chase business cards. While on other cards carrying a balance can have a negative effect on your score while the balance is there you won’t have that issue with this card. However there is a 3% fee for transferring a balance to this card.
There is no annual fee for this card.

The great thing about this card are the rewards. Besides for the signup bonus you also earn 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and office supply store (including gift card) purchases and 2 points per dollar on dining and gas. Plus cash back
Additional cardholders are free and each one of them gets 2 free airport lounge visits per year.

The difference between this card and Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Bold (besides the signup bonus and spend threshold requirement) is that you or your spouse must have an Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Sapphire Preferred card to transfer the rewards points into miles.
Additionally the Plus/Bold cards don’t have a foreign transaction fee while this card does. And the Plus/Bold cards have a cap of $50,000 in annual spending that can earn 5 points per dollar (for 250,000 points) while this has a $25,000 cap (for 125,000 points)

You can read more about business card benefits in this post.

2. The Chase Slate Visa offers 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months.
The awesome thing about this offer is that if you transfer a balance to this card within 60 days of opening it there will no fees at all!  Almost every other card out there will charge a balance transfer fee.

There is no annual fee for this card.
The reason this card doesn’t earn the number one spot is that it doesn’t have a signup bonus and doesn’t earn any points.

Ink Cash or Slate? If you care about keeping your credit score higher you will be better off with Ink Cash which also has a signup bonus and earns points on purchases.  If you care more about saving the 3% fee and less about your score and the points then you’ll be better with Slate.

3. The Chase Freedom Visa offers 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months.
There is a 3% fee for transferring a balance to this card.
There is no annual fee for this card.
The great thing about this card are the rewards. Besides for the signup bonus you also earn 5 points per dollar in quarterly rotating categories. Plus if you have a Chase checking account you’ll also get an annual 10% bonus on top of all point earnings.
Like with the Ink Cash card, you or your spouse must have an Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Sapphire Preferred card to transfer the rewards points into miles.

4. The Barclays USAirways World Mastercard offers 0% interest on balance transfers only for 15 months.
There is an $89 annual fee for the card. This card will be discontinued soon, but for now you can still get 40,000 USAirways miles, which will soon be convertible into American miles.
There is a 3% fee for transferring a balance to this card.

5. The no annual fee version of the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard offers 0% interest on on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months.
There is no annual fee for this card.
There is a 3% fee for transferring a balance to this card.
You earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining and 1 point elsewhere. You also get a 10% points rebate every time you cash out your points.

6. The Discover It card offers 0% interest on purchases for 6 months and 0% interest on balance transfers for 18 months.
There is no annual fee for this card.
There is a 3% fee for transferring a balance to this card.
This card offers 5% cash back in rotating categories.

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Ink Is Beautiful: 12 Reasons You Should Have A Chase Ink Card

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Update: The Ink limited time offer will end on Sunday, 06/01. Grab the limited time offer while you can, the last time it was offered was a year ago so it probably won’t return for another year.

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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 own a business, even if it’s not your primary source of income, 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.
For a limited time only the Ink Bold and Ink Plus offer an extremely generous 60,000 point signup bonus for spending $5,000 in 3 months.  The $95 annual fee on those cards is waived for the first year.

If you are approved for an Ink card, you will get the signup bonus even if you have had an Ink card in the past, simple as that.

You can also have the same Ink card at the same time for different businesses, each with their own signup bonus.

If both spouses are involved in the same business, they can each apply for their own card and they will each get the signup bonus.

The Ink Cash card has no annual fee and for a limited time only has a 30,000 point signup bonus for spending $3,000 in 3 months. It says $300 cash back but that’s just because you can use the 30,000 points for $300 cash back. I sure hope you don’t.

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.

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 , Evolve Money, or just used anywhere you shop and you’ll still come out ahead.

You can buy the $200 Visa gift card from Staples here.

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 and Gifts.

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.

You can also gift a useful gift card as a gift. What Bar Mitzvah kid wouldn’t want an Amazon gift card to buy whatever they really want instead of what you might think they want? Plus you’ll get 5 points per dollar!

5. Cash back on top of points.

Ink cards used to be issued as Mastercards though now all Ink cards are issued as 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 earn 1% cash back at Chevron, and Texaco, 2% cash back at TigerDirect, 4% cash back at Alamo and National, 5% cash back at Lenovo, Sony, and several hotel brands, etc.

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 kosher food.

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:
-Singapore (Star Alliance) offers private walled-in first class suites that can only be booked with their miles. A suite one-way from JFK to Europe is 57,375 miles. Travel to the US48, Hawaii, Alaska, Europe, and Israel can all be had on the cheap. There are no close-in booking fees and changes and cancellations are very cheap. Fuel surcharges apply when flying on most airlines besides United. More info here.
-United (Star Alliance) is still an excellent currency, even after their devaluation a few months ago.  They never charge fuel surcharges, have very flexible routing rules, they allow one-way awards for half the mileage, they have 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 USAirways or Air Berlin are just 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 USAirways, Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Alaska, or LAN and you can transfer points to Iberia to limit fuel surcharges there as well.
You can read more in the BA knowledgebase. And you can see 102 places you can go to nonstop from NYC with Avios.

Don’t forget about these 22 things to keep in mind when using Avios!
-Korean (Skyteam) offers unbeatable first class availability (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 a value of about 1.7 cents per point towards award travel.  Plus you get 2 free checked bags, free flight changes or flight cancellations. 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 with 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.

The beauty of miles over points or cash-back:
The great thing about being able to transfer points into airlines or hotels are the incredible values you can attain.
-A first class ticket to Hawaii can cost $3,000 but you can use 60,000 miles for that same ticket, a value of 6.7 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 300,000 points per ticket.
-A last minute ticket or a ticket where you don’t stay for 3 nights from New York to Detroit costs $1,500 in coach but just 9,000 miles. That’s a value of 16.7 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 150,000 points per ticket.
-A first class ticket to Asia can cost $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 $1,500 with tax but you can use 25K-30K points for that room, a value of 5-6 cents per point. Or you can use less points and get even better values with cash and points. 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 several Chase cards with just 1 credit pull.

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Evolving; Thoughts On Glitches

Friday, May 16th, 2014

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Gift cards that have evolved.

I’ve written about Evolve Money several times this year.  It’s a great service that’s intended to let you use debit cards to pay bills like your mortgage, property tax, auto loan, health insurance, utilities, store charge card (Gap, Macy’s, Target, etc).

I wrote about buying Visa gift cards from Staples to pay bills with Evolve to get miles for dirt cheap. (Of course Bluebird continues to work for that as well).

What I neglected to write was what was already brought up more than 3 months ago on DDF, that you can also use credit cards from many banks with Evolve.  The reason for the neglect is simple, it’s not the intended use of the product and I don’t break news on hacks that could last for a long time if they’re not written about explicitly.  I cover glitches like airfare that are always short-lived.  It’s not like $50 first class tickets to Hawaii, all expenses paid Vegas vacationsBahamas vacations, or $300 United (and Delta, El Al, and USAirways) tickets to Israel are going to just stick around because they’re not blogged about. And I talk about some mileage glitches at seminars where the info can be better contained.  But in the wild, wild internet it’s just stupid to break the story on glitches that will be killed by the coverage just for the benefit of a few extra clicks.

A couple weeks ago I covered the news that USAirways wasn’t collecting fuel surcharges on British Airways only because other major sites were covering it as as well and once that happened I felt that it was on borrowed time. Indeed within a week that loophole was plugged.  I posted it here at that point because once it was going to die anyway, my readers ought to benefit from it as well.

I covered the news that my United award hack was incredibly successful despite naysayers saying it would never work. Once it did work people didn’t like that I wrote about it, but it was a simple bet that United wasn’t going to spend the resources to close a loophole that was already closed to people that didn’t listen to me while it was still open. And it still works for those lucky folk.

At any rate many other sites are now posting this Evolve glitch as breaking news. A glitch like Evolve taking credit cards is really one that anyone worth their salt in the mileage game should have figured out on their own months ago even if they weren’t on DDF.  All it entailed was trying 1 bill payment with a credit card instead of a gift or debit card just to make sure that it worked and posted as a purchase and not a cash advance.  That’s barely even thinking outside the box, it’s just making your box a little bigger.

I have no idea how much longer credit card payments will last, but it’s on borrowed time now, so enjoy it while it lasts.  Then again the entire Evolve business model makes little sense.  Especially because the box is bigger than just paying bills you owe.

The truth is that while it’s really nice to be able to use credit card payments to meet minimum spend thresholds for a signup bonus, you’re still better off generating 5x the miles plus cash back thanks to $200 Staples gift cards when you’re not trying to meet a spend threshold.

In short, don’t expect to be spoonfed every aspect of a deal, don’t necessarily believe terms and conditions or what reps tell you, get involved on DDF/make new friends, and learn to expand your box by testing the fences for yourself.

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How To Use And Decrypt United’s Powerful Expert Mode

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

-Find more articles like this by clicking on the “Mileage Posts” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
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United.com’s Expert Mode can tell you a lot about a flight. Here’s how to use it.

Step 1: Enable it by clicking this link, logging into your United account, checking to enable expert mode, and then saving your preferences. You’ll only have to do this once though you will always have to be logged into your United account to access Expert mode results.

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Step 2: Search for a paid flight and then click on “Fare Class” which should be highlighted in blue once you enable expert mode.  In this example I searched yesterday for a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv on 08/04/14:

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Let’s zoom in a bit on those expert mode results:

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Here’s what that alphabet soup means for United flight 84:
J9: Paid bucket. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to sell at full fare.
JN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to allow elite members and United cardholders to use standard miles for.
C9, D9, Z9: Paid buckets. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to sell at these fare levels.
ZN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to allow non-elites to use standard miles for.
P0: Paid bucket. United is not willing to sell any business class seats at this discounted level.
PN0: Award bucket. On domestic flights this is the number of seats that United is willing to give to 1K/GS elites as an instant upgrade from an M class fare or to any elites an an instant upgrade from a paid Y or B class ticket. This bucket is also the upgrade bucket for GS elites for all domestic and international upgrades, in this case there are no upgrades available for GS elites either.
R0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow non-elites to have instant upgrades using miles from coach to BusinessFirst. (Also used for complimentary elite upgrades on domestic routes.)
RN0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow elite members to have instant upgrades using miles or upgrade certificates from coach to BusinessFirst. (Also used for complimentary elite upgrades on domestic routes.)
IN0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow Plat/1K/GS elites to redeem Saver level miles for a BusinessFirst seat.
I0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow non-elites/lower tier elites to redeem Saver level miles for a BusinessFirst seat. This is also the only business award bucket that partner airline miles can access.
Y9: Paid bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to sell at full fare.
YN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to allow elite members and United cardholders to use standard miles for.
B9, M9, E9, U9, H9: Paid buckets. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to sell at these non-discounted fare levels.
HN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to allow non-elites to use standard miles for.
Q9, V9, W9, S9, T9, L9, K9: Paid buckets. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to sell at these discounted fare levels.
G0, N0: Paid buckets. United is not willing to sell any coach seats at these discounted levels.
XN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to allow elite members and United cardholders to use saver miles for.
X1: Award bucket. There is 1 coach seat that United is willing to allow non-elites or non-cardholders to use saver miles for. This is also the only coach award bucket that partner airline miles can access.

You’ll notice a few differences for the next flight, United flight 90.
1. United isn’t willing to sell any D or Z paid BusinessFirst seats, this flight will be more expensive to book in business class as the minimum fare class is C. (D0, Z0)
2. United isn’t willing to allow non-elites to use standard miles for BusinessFirst seats on this flight (ZN0)
3. United has 4 seats on this flight for elite members and United cardholders to use saver miles for (XN4)
4. United has no seats on this flight for non-elites or non-cardholders to use saver miles for. And that means no partner awards as well for this flight (X0)

 

Notes:

1. Fare classes can’t be added together.
Just because there is 1 seat in X class doesn’t mean there are 10 seats in XN class. If the X seat is booked the XN class may go down to 8 or it may stay at 9.

2. On a United flight with 3 classes of service there are more letters to know about.

F is full fare paid first class. FN is a first class standard award. A is discounted paid first class. ON is upgrade space into first class. O is a saver first class award.

3. Forget “Remember Me”
If you click “Remember Me” then it will looked like you’re logged in, but after a short period of time you will no longer have access to expert mode results.  I never use remember me as it also messes up my award searches by excluding the elite buckets from the calendar.

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4. A Plan B BusinessFirst saver award requires X or XN class availability. Read all about that awesomeness here as XN class really helps cardholders sit in front of the bus for saver miles.

5. Expert mode can only be accessed when searching for paid flights.  However you can verify the results by searching for an award flight.

I searched for awards and clicked on “Nonstop flights only.”  Note that nonstop button will only work if United.com can find nonstop awards for that day.  If it doesn’t find any for that day you need to find a day with awards and then resubmit the nonstop search with that date.

Here’s what it looks like from a cardholder’s account. As you can see, there are saver awards available on both flights.

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Here’s what it looks like from a non-cardholder’s account. As you can see, there is a saver award available on only the earlier flight, UA84:

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Of course those screens don’t give the complete picture as they don’t say how many awards are available.  As you now know from expert mode the XN (elite or cardholder) bucket has 9 seats on UA84 and 4 seats on UA90.

The X bucket has just 1 seat on UA84 and no seats on UA90.

6. A quick way to verify if United.com recognizes you as a cardholder:

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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7. Award space and fare buckets are extremely fluid. 

Those buckets chang multiple times per day based on people booking up awards and United releasing more awards as the flight gets closer when they feel they won’t sell the seats to someone else.  Newark to Tel Aviv is one of the toughest awards in United’s entire network, but by diligently checking award space and by having a United card you can vastly improve your odds of nabbing seats.

8. 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.  If you have the discontinued Presidential Plus card that will work as well.

The extra availability is significant, I’ve booked saver awards to Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles this year where there was lots of space for cardholders while there was none for non-cardholders.

The cards have other great benefits besides expanded award space:
-Your miles won’t expire as long as you remain a cardholder.
-It 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.
-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.

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 on the right side of the Explorer card application page.

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Other Chase consumer cards you can apply for at the time as the United card using multiple browsers 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 (50K signup points and 10% off BA flights), Chase Southwest (50K signup points), 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 60,000 signup points if you apply this month 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.
The Chase Ink Cash business card gives 30,000 signup points if you apply this month and has no annual fee.

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The Best Cards From Barclays Bank

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Update: The Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard is being rebranded as Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Mastercard.  It will now come with Chip & Pin technology to allow you to use your card more easily when abroad and you’ll now have 120 days to claim a refund with your points for any travel related purchase.  There are also more 2.2% redemption categories that have been added and I’ve updated the redemption section below with that info.   Current cardholders can request the new card version online or over the phone.

It’s probably the best card out there for people who redeem for round-trip coach tickets in advance.

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Originally posted on 04/30:

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.

Additionally Barclays is very good about waiving the annual fee on cards like Lufthansa and Arrival. Just ask for an account specialist.

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

The 3 best Barclays Bank cards today are the:

-Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
-Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard®
-The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®
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-The US Airways Premier World MasterCard offers 40,000 signup miles for spending $1.

There is an $89 annual fee.  This card will soon be discontinued as part of the American merger.

USAirways has a very generous award chart:
-Domestic awards on USAirways flights are just 20,000 miles round-trip for cardholders thanks to the 5,000 mile discount.
-Off-peak coach awards to the Caribbean for cardholders are just 20,000 miles and to Europe or South America are just 30,000 miles round-trip if you fly on USAirways. Off peak First Class/Envoy awards to the Carribean are just 45,000 miles and to South America are just 55,000 miles round-trip if you fly on USAirways.
-Lie-flat first class seat at American’s new A321T aircraft flying between JFK and Los Angeles or S. Francisco is just 50,000 miles round-trip with USAirways miles! These are personal seats in a 1-1 configuration with nobody sitting next to you at all! You would need 65K American miles or 75K BA miles for the same seat.
-120,000 miles to Asia in First Class on a world-class airline like Cathay Pacific or 110,000 miles in business class or 140,000 miles in first class to Australia. Plus you can get a free stopover along the way!
-Round-trip coach to Israel is 80K, business to Israel is 120K, and first class to Israel is 180K. With the card USAirways flights to Israel are 75K in coach and 115K in business.

The merged AA/USAirways will only have Citibank issuing cards, so the Barclays version of the card will only be available for a limited time.  However even after the programs are combined the Barclays version will still earn AA miles, it just won’t be available for new applications.

Like with all Barclays cards, you can earn the bonus again even if you’ve had it in the past.

Currently USAirways doesn’t even collect a fuel surcharge for travel on British Airways, though it’s unknown how long that will stick around for.

By having the card you get:
-5,000 miles off USAirways flights.
-1 free checked bag for you and up to 4 companions.
-An annual lounge pass.
-An annual companion certificate good for up to 2 guests to travel with you on a US Airways flight at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
-Priority boarding on US Airways operated flights so you’ll have space for your carry-ons.
-Checkin at the first class counter with shorter lines.
-10,000 elite miles for spending $25,000 per year.
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-The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard

You can enroll in the Miles & More program here.

The card has no foreign exchange fees.

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.  All United flights between JFK and Los Angeles or S. Francisco and several flights from Newark have lie-flat seats in business class.  Plus you can still order hot kosher meals between JFK and Los Angeles or S. Francisco 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.

4 one-way coach tickets:
A one-way coach ticket within the US on United 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 Lot Polish which flies 787s with an excellent lie-flat business class to Warsaw. (Note that United.com can’t search for LOT Polish flights if you use that to search for Star Alliance awards).
Availability is excellent.

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

Coach is 20K miles each way, a 5,000 mile savings on a round-trip flight compared to using United miles.

Israel based account:

If your Lufthansa account is registered with an Israeli address then you can book tickets from Israel using the much cheaper Europe award rates.  A flight from Israel to the US will be prices like a flight from Europe to the US.

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

There is also much 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 dream trip.
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-The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Mastercard offers 40,000 points for spending $3,000 within 90 days.

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 $89 annual fee is waived for the first year and people have had success getting it waived in successive years as well just for the asking.

For advance purchase round-trip coach tickets to Israel for example, you’ll probably be far better off with this card than with real miles.

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, Buses, Campgrounds, Cruises, Ferries, Hotels, Motels, Passenger Railways, Rental Cars, Resorts, Steamships, Subways, Taxis, Timeshares, Tourist Attractions and Exhibits, Trailer Parks, and Travel 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.  You have 120 days after purchasing travel to claim a refund for it with your points.

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 definitely make sense for people who don’t travel or who redeem for coach tickets that are purchased in advance.

Don’t travel? 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 liquidate all of your points into cash.

You’ll also get a free TripIt Pro subscription just for being a cardholder, a $49 annual value.

-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.

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

Friday, May 2nd, 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.

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.

Note that through June 30th you can earn 5 points per dollar when eating out with your Chase Freedom card, so if you aren’t going to max out the $1,500 in quarterly spending at Lowe’s you’ll be better off using Freedom at restaurants. That bumps up to 5.5 points per dollar if you have or will open a Chase checking account in 2014.

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 bonus points 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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An Updated List Of Gift Cards Sold At Lowe’s

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Update: While Lowe’s doesn’t sell Visa or Mastercard gift cards, they do sell Staples gift cards.  I finally burned the $1,000+ in Staples gift cards that I got from this promotion on Visa gift cards that are now sold online from Staples.com :D
It’s a great way to complete your Freedom spending if you don’t spend that much on restaurants and don’t need gift cards to the other stores listed below.

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

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
-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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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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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:

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$125 annual fee:

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

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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 Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

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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