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Chase’s Ultimate Rewards has quickly become one of the premier mileage currencies in short time.
They offer instant and fee-free transfers to excellent mileage and points programs at a 1:1 ratio.
Transfer partners include:
–United (Star Alliance) is one of the best mileage currencies around. They never charge fuel surcharges, they allow free date changes, they have very flexible routing rules, they allow one-way awards for half the mileage, they have a short-haul award for 20,000 miles, they allow for a stopover and an open-jaw so that you can really maximize an award trip into multiple free trips, they have an around-the-world award to visit tons of cities on one award ticket, 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 awards can be an incredible use of miles. 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. They allow one-way awards for half the mileage. There are no close-in expedite fees. Infants are only charged 10% of the miles on international trips instead of 10% of the full fare like US carriers charge. Plus they don’t collect fuel surcharges on AA within the western hemisphere, on Qantas within Australia, on Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Alaska, or LAN and you can transfer points to Iberia to limit fuel surcharges there as well.
–Korean (Skyteam) offers incredible first class availability 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 1.95 cents per point towards award travel. Plus points can be transferred to Airtran for flat-rate awards like business class upgrades, free tickets on Airtran, or even free tickets on any carrier worldwide.
–Virgin Atlantic typically has high fuel surcharges, though those have been lowered for coach travel. An interesting use of their miles is with their Hilton transfer option. You get 2 Hilton points for each miles transferred, so that’s 2 Hilton points per Chase point transferred to Virgin Atlantic.
–Hyatt is one of my favorite hotel award program. You can stay in fantastic world-class hotels that normally cost $1,000 per night or double that in a suite for just 22,000 points in a regular room or 33,000 points in a suite. Award nights start at just 5,000 points. Plus you can funnel points through Hyatt to Southwest to qualify for a free Southwest Companion Pass.
-You can also transfer points to Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Priority Club, and Amtrak.
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 $4,000 but you can use 60,000 miles for that same ticket, a value of 6.7 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 400,000 points per ticket.
-A last minute ticket or a ticket where you don’t stay for 3 nights from New York to Cleveland costs $1,200 in coach but just 9,000 miles. That’s a value of 13.3 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 120,000 points per ticket.
-A first class ticket to Asia can cost $20,000 but you can use 140,000 miles for that same ticket, a value of 14.3 cents per mile. If you were using Capital One points you would need 2,000,000 points per ticket.
-A night at a Park Hyatt in Paris, Sydney, or the Maldives can run $1,100 with tax but you can use 22,000 points for that room, a value of 5 cents per point. If you were using Capital One points you would need 110,000 points per night.
And that’s all besides for the fact that getting a Capital One card costs 3 credit pulls whereas you can get 3 Chase or American Express cards with just 1 credit pull.
Card tiers and transferability:
There are 2 tiers of Ultimate Rewards cards. The ones with annual fees can transfer points into airlines and hotels and the ones without annual fees cannot. However you can always transfer points from a card without an annual fee into a card with an annual fee and any point in time.
You can allowed to transfer points to your spouse’s credit card, so you can accumulate points on Freedom and transfer to your spouse’s Sapphire Preferred. However do not transfer those points to anyone but your spouse’s credit cards as Chase has been shutting down accounts of people that transfer points to other people’s credit cards.
It’s worth noting that so far Chase has not cracked down on people that transfer points directly into someone else’s airline or hotel account. They have only cracked down on people transferring or receiving points from direct credit card to credit card transfer.
Getting a business card is quite simple. If Joe Smith sells items on Ebay or on Amazon, or has any other side business/hobby and wants a credit card to better keep track of business expenditures he can just open a business credit card for “Joe Smith Sole Proprietorship” as the business name.
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.
A perk of business card spending is that it doesn’t count against your credit utilization, so you don’t need to worry about the credit affect of using up a majority of your credit line, something that is bad for your credit if done on a personal card even if you pay it off every statement (which is why I pay off personal cards multiple times per month).
It’s also worth remembering that the credit line (and utilization) of business cards are not reported on your personal credit report, thus closing them also won’t effect your score.
You can apply for multiple different cards at the same time from the same bank using different browsers, like Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. This helps with instant approvals and it limits the number of times your credit is pulled. With American Express you can mix consumer and business cards and only get 1 pull, though with Chase it seems like you will usually get 2 pulls if you apply for consumer and business cards.
Can’t hack the spending thresholds? Amazon Payments can help with that.
I have had no problem earning the bonuses from the same Ultimate Rewards cards multiple times.
Tier 1, Cards that transfer points into miles:
-Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa
This card offers a 40,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in 3 months. It also offer a 7% points dividend every February for the previous year’s purchases, effectively making the card 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, and 3.21 points per dollar if booking travel via the Chase booking tool. There is no foreign exchange fee. There is no fee the first year but a $95 fee thereafter.
-Chase Ink Bold Charge Card
-Chase Ink Plus Credit Card.
Both of these cards offer 50,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in 3 months. They also offer 5 points per dollar spent on up to $50,000 annually at office supply stores, and internet/telecom/cable bills. People like to buy gift cards to stores like Amazon or even prepaid cards that they can use at any store from office supply stores, that way they can earn 5 points per dollar on all of their purchases. You also earn 2 points per dollar on gas stations and hotels. A lounge club membership with 2 annual visits is included for free. There is no foreign exchange fee. There is no fee the first year but a $95 fee thereafter.
The Bold card must be paid in full each month and has a somewhat flexible spending limit while the Plus card allows for carrying a balance and has a credit limit.
Tier 2, Cards that do not transfer points into miles, unless you or your spouse also has a card that can transfer points into miles:
-Chase Freedom Visa
This card offers 10,000 bonus points for spending $500 in 3 months. It also has rotating 5% categories where you get 5 points per dollar on $1,500 in spending per quarter in categories like airfare, hotel, gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, and even Amazon, Best Buy, and Kohl’s.
The real beauty of this card is that if you are a Chase checking customer you also get a 10% annual bonus point dividend. The dividend is posted to your account every January or February.
There is no annual fee.
This is the bare bones versions of the Sapphire Preferred card and you can downgrade to them to not pay an annual fee.
-Chase Ink Cash
This card offers 20,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in 3 months. It also offers 5 points per dollar spent on up to $25,000 annually at office supply stores, and internet/telecom/cable bills. People like to buy gift cards to stores like Amazon or even prepaid cards that they can use at any store from office supply stores, that way they can earn 5 points per dollar on all of their purchases.
You also earn 2 points per dollar on gas stations and restaurants. A lounge club membership with 2 annual visits is included for free.
There is no annual fee.