Category

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Best Cards To Have While Traveling

Chip & Signature

Prior to my trip to Madrid and Istanbul last week, I had heard that AMEX Platinum Cardholders were eligible to get a Chip & Signature Platinum Card for free.

For those of you not familiar with Chip & Signature (or EMV) technology, it is a variation on Chip & Pin technology. Basically when they run your Chip & Pin Credit Card, you have to enter a Pin (similar to what we have to do for a Debit Card). With the Chip & Signature, you just have to sign (no Pin).

In the US, we don’t really use Chip & Pin or Chip & Signature Cards, but abroad Chip & Pin is used almost exclusively.

While most Restaurants and Hotels abroad will allow you to use a regular US Credit Card, many of the automated kiosks at the Train Stations, etc, will only take Cards that have Chips. 

In Montreal, I could not get my Chase INK Bold to work at any of the Train or Bike Stations and it was horrible.

When I saw that AMEX Platinum Cardholders could get a Chip & Signature Card for free, I jumped on it and simply called AMEX to request one. AMEX was great and overnighted me the new Card.

None of my other Cards have Chip & Signature technology, so I was excited to try out my new AMEX Platinum in Europe.

Overall, I was EXTREMELY HAPPY to have a Chip & Signature Card because I had ZERO issues using it at the automated kiosks at the Train Stations in London or Madrid.

At the kiosks, I just popped in my AMEX, and even though you are suppose to enter a Pin, it worked without issue.

It was also useful to have at Restaurants, since the Waiters were far more accustomed to running Chip Cards than having to physically swipe the US Cards.

If you don’t have a Chip & Signature Card, it isn’t the end of the World (unless you don’t have any Cash and are at a Train Station), but it is a nice feature to have.

If you have a AMEX Platinum Card, I’d strongly suggest getting the new Chip & Signature Card since it is free.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

While I did have my AMEX Platinum and Chase INK Bold with me during my trip, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t really maximizing my Points earned while traveling because I didn’t have a Chase Sapphire Preferred!

Once upon a time, I did have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa but downgraded it to the free Chase Sapphire Card when the Annual Fee came due.

If you haven’t had a Chase Sapphire Preferred before, I highly suggest getting one.

Link to Chase Sapphire Preferred

The reason for this is simple.

On my last trip, I concluded that 95% of my purchases were either related to Food, Lodging, or Transportation!

All of those categories earn 2x Ultimate Rewards with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

While my INK Bold earned me 2x at Hotels, we spent quite a bit at Restaurants and on London Cabs, etc and it would have been nice to earn 2x UR on those purchases too.

While the difference between 1x or 2x on your purchases may not sound earth shattering, you do have to factor in that Ultimate Rewards Points are some of the most valuable “Points” out there.

The Chase Sapphire also has a whole host of other features, like no Foreign Transaction Fees, that make it extremely worthwhile to have while traveling. A full breakdown of the Card can be found here,

As I said earlier, I already had the Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa, so after I apply for the Hyatt Card this month, the next Chase Card I get will be the Chase Sapphire Preferred Mastercard.

Even though both the Visa & Mastercard Sapphire Preferred Cards are issued by Chase, apparently the Visa & Mastercard distinction qualifies them as “different Cards”, so you can get the 40,000 Point Sign Up Bonus again without issue!

More information on how to get the Mastercard version of the Chase Sapphire Preferred can be found here.

Hopefully this will work out perfectly because my Chase INK Bold’s Annual Fee will be coming due around April, so I will downgrade that Card and get another Chase Sapphire Preferred in the process!

Recap

Although you don’t have to get an AMEX Platinum (there are other Chase Cards that have the same Chip & Signature technology), if you are traveling abroad, I’d highly recommend getting at least 1 Credit Card that doesn’t have Foreign Transaction Fees AND also has Chip and Signature technology.

While the majority of foreign retailers will accept your regular U.S Credit Card, I have found myself in situations where my Credit Card wouldn’t work because it didn’t have a Chip and I couldn’t get any cash out of the ATM. Let me just tell you that it isn’t a fun experience!

Even if you don’t plan on using your Chip & Pin Card as your “everyday” Card while traveling, it is always good to have it as a back-up option in the event that you need it.

In a perfect World, the Chase Sapphire Preferred would come with Chip & Signature technology, but at this current time that is not an option!

In the mean time, as a consolation prize, feel free to sign up for another Chase Sapphire Preferred Mastercard to get another 40,000 Ultimate Rewards Points!

-Parag

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Chase INK Cards Minimum Spend To Change

2 Days In The Sky Comes To An End

Namaste from Bombay! Only 48 Hours after leaving Chicago, I finally made it to Bombay. All in all the entire experience was awesome and I have already begun the Trip Report for it. There is so much content that the Trip Report is basically going to need its own 8 Part HBO Mini Series to give it justice.

Also as I write this post from India, I’m fairly certain I have inadvertently outsourced my own job. This is great because I can now pay myself less to do the same job!

Internet Access is somewhat sporadic in India, so I am not going to be able to post every day. I am also going on a tour of Rajasthan later in the week and I have no idea what the internet situation will be there. My current plan is type out posts in Microsoft Word and then upload them whenever I can find a internet connection.

Chase INK Cards Minimum Spend Changing

For some reason or the other, Chase is going to change the Minimum Spend Requirements on the Chase INK Bold and INK Plus Cards back up to the original $10,000 in 3 months from the current $5,000 in 3 months!

The date is not set in stone yet, but from what I have heard, it will be sometime after December 31st, 2012.

Normally the Company that manages all the affiliate links never gives any advance notice on the exact date of these changes, so if you have thought about getting an INK Card, now would be the time.

Link To Chase Ink Plus

Link To Chase Ink Bold

Out of all the Cards that earn Ultimate Rewards, the Chase INK Plus and Chase INK Bold currently both offer the highest Sign On Bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points after spending $5,000 in 3 months.

Ultimate Rewards are some of the most valuable “frequent flyer currency” out there and can be transferred to United, British Airways (for use on AA), Southwest, Hyatt, Priority Club, Marriott, etc.

Although the $5,000 MSR is high, it is certainly way better than the usual $10,000! 

Also for the average family, when you factor in all monthly expenses including food, mortgage, clothes, car insurance, gas, etc, I think most families easily spend around $5,000 over 3 months. The trick is getting all those expenses charged onto your Credit Card.

The Double Play

To anyone that has a future trip planned out in their mind but doesn’t know how to achieve it, the number 1 suggestion I can give is to get both a Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase INK Card.

The reason you can do this is because the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a Personal Card, while the Chase INK Cards are Business Cards.

Even if you don’t have a “traditional” business, you can still apply for a Chase Business Card as a Sole Proprietor. It is extremely easy, you don’t have to file any additional forms or taxes, and you can even use your personal Social Security Number. You can find the step by step tutorial here.

Just this past weekend, I helped my Friend sign up for the Hyatt Card and the Chase INK Plus. Although my Friend has a real job and doesn’t own a “traditional” business, he is a Chicago Bulls season ticket holder and occasionally re-sells his tickets. In an “attempt to keep the transactions separate” for his “business” of re-selling tickets, he applied for the Chase Ink Plus and was approved!

Signing up for both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and a Chase INK Card can really be an enormous windfall.

If you sign up for both Cards, you will get the following:

Link To Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • 40,000 Ultimate Rewards after $3,000 MSR in 3 Months
  • 3,000 Ultimate Reward for completing $3,000 MSR

Link To Chase INK Plus

  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after $5,000 MSR in 3 Months
  • 5,000 Ultimate Reward for completing $5,000 MSR

Total = 98,000 UR Points after $8,000 MSR in 3 Months

With 98,000 Ultimate Rewards Points you can transfer them to United and get 1 Free Economy ticket anywhere in the World or 4 free US Domestic Economy tickets.

If you earn another 2,000 UR Points, you would have 100,000 Ultimate Rewards which would get you 1 Free Business Class ticket to Europe which normally costs close to $6,000.

Additionally, if you have enough Airline Miles and don’t need anymore, 98,000 Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to Hyatt and would be good for 4 FREE nights at any top Hyatt properties including the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome which starts around $1,000 a night…

How To Complete The MSR

For anyone that follows FFU, you are aware last month I did my first App-O-Rama and racked up around 420,000 Miles & Points via 8 Credit Card Sign Ups. However to get all those Miles & Points, I needed to spend around $14,000 in 3 months.

Obviously, I don’t have $14,000 in actual expenses over 3 months, so I had to get creative.

Amazon Payments

Amazon Payments is my go to for this kind of stuff. It basically allows you to move $1,000 a month from your Credit Card to someone else FOR FREE. So at a minimum, over 3 months, you can “spend” $3,000 for free. If you are crafty and set your family members up with Amazon Payment accounts, you can easily do $3,000 – $4,000 a month for free!

A full guide on doing this can be found here.

If you can’t set your Family Members up, then the next best thing is to use Bluebird and Vanilla Reload Cards. Although the awesome 5x via Office Depot is long dead, you can still buy the Vanilla Reload Cards at CVS without issue (for the time being).

Bluebird / Vanilla Reload

Before I left for India, I went into my local CVS and bought $4,000 worth of Vanilla Reload Cards across 4 different Credit Cards.

Once I got home, I simply loaded the Vanilla Reload Cards onto my Bluebird and had Bluebird mail the Credit Card companies a check. There is a $3.95 fee per $500 Vanilla Reload Card, but in my eyes, that is a steal!

Putting It All Together

Say you got both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase INK Plus, you would have to spend $8,000 in 3 months to get the full 90,000 Ultimate Rewards Points.

Well using only 1 Amazon Payment account, you can “spend” $3,000 in 3 months for free.

For the remaining $5,000, you could easily buy $5,000 in Vanilla Reload Cards for around $40 in fees.

For those $40 in fees, you would reach the $8,000 Minimum Spend Requirement to earn the full 98,000 Ultimate Rewards Points (including the MSR).

$40 in fees for 98,000 Ultimate Rewards which can get you a free $6,000 Business Class flight to Europe, is not a bad deal!

Recap

If you have been thinking about getting a Chase INK Card, now would be the time before the Minimum Spend Requirement goes back up to $10,000.

Although the current $5,000 is high, using Amazon Payments and Vanilla Reload Cards, you can easily hit the Minimum Spend Requirement without much effort.

I think once I get back form India, I am going to get the Chase INK Plus (already have the Bold) and Hyatt Card.

I have depleted my Ultimate Rewards reserves, so I will gladly “spend” $5,000 to fill it back up with 55,000 Ultimate Rewards Points. I will probably go to Europe in the Summer, so at minimum, I can use those UR Points for a free Economy Trip to Europe!

-Parag

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Where To Buy Vanilla Reload Cards

No More Office Depot

So if you haven’t heard the news, “supposedly” Office Depot has stopped carrying Vanilla Reload Cards.

The reason I say “supposedly” is because I have been on the Star Mega DO 4 all week and haven’t had a chance to check my local Office Depot yet. My Office Depot always was in stock with Vanilla Reloads and never had any issues, so I have a extremely tiny flicker of hope that maybe they still have some left…

It is unclear why Office Depot pulled the Vanilla Reload Cards since they were a hot item and Office Depot wasn’t losing anything by selling them.

It would have been hilarious though if these flimsy pieces of plastic that we know as Vanilla Reload Cards, suddenly made the news as the “Must Have Item” for this year’s Holiday Season.

Although it is a surprise that Office Depot pulled the Vanilla Reloads Cards, (I personally thought it was going to be Chase that stopped the 5x UR Points at Office Supply Stores), it was going to happen eventually.

This is really unfortunate because for the time being, it means no more earning vast sums of Ultimate Rewards Points for pennies.

On The Bright Side

Although the situation may look bad, it isn’t as bad as it seems. I promise!

As I stated last month, even if Office Depot or Chase pulls the Vanilla Reload Cards and the ability to earn 5x UR Points per $1 spent, Vanilla Reload Cards and Bluebird Prepaid Card are still AMAZING!

The reason for this is because OTHER stores still sell Vanilla Reload Cards, you just don’t earn 5x UR Points.

Why this is important is because it can help you substantially if you are trying to hit any Minimum Spend Requirements.

With Vanilla Reload Cards, you can purchase them with a Credit Card, then load your Vanilla Reloads on to your Bluebird Prepaid Card, and then simply use Bluebird to mail a check to your Credit Card company!

More information on that here

My Experience

My 8 Credit Cards from my most recent App-O-Rama were waiting for me when I returned from the Star Mega DO 4, so I have been trying to start to meet the monster $14,000 Minimum Spend Requirement.

I was walking to Dinner on Friday Evening and stopped in to Walgreens to see if they had any Vanilla Reload Cards.

I was able to find the Vanilla Pre-Paid Cards (that you CAN’T load onto Bluebird), but was unable to find any Vanilla Reload Cards. I thought Walgreens must have pulled those too, but then when I went around the display, all the way at the bottom, I found the Vanilla Reload Cards. It was almost like they were hidden.

I then simply went up to the Register and asked to load the Vanilla Reload Card with $500. The Cashier did it without hesitation and I was able to use my American Express Platinum Card to make the purchase.

After Dinner, I decided to go back and try my luck again with a different Cashier. I did the same thing and asked for another $500 Vanilla Reload Card. It went through but then my AMEX Fraud Protection kicked in and the screen asked for manual override with a “Voice Verification”.

I didn’t even know they did this kind of stuff, but the Walgreen’s Manager had to call the Phone Number on the back of my AMEX and said he needed to Voice Verify. After about 10 minutes, he handed the phone to me and the AMEX Agent asked me for the last 4 digits of my Social Security Number, and then asked me information from my Public Record such as what Streets have I lived at. After I answered the questions, I was “Voice Approved”, so the AMEX Agent gave the Walgreen Manager a manual override code and he entered it on the screen and the transaction went through.

When I got home, I had a missed call and email from AMEX Fraud Prevention. I simply called them and told them I did in fact make the purchase.

If you are reading this and getting freaked out, don’t be. The only reason this happened is because it was 2 large purchases at the same location, for the same exact amount with a few hours of each other. At a minimum, to AMEX it could have looked like a Walgreens computer glitch. Had I simply bought two $500 Vanilla Reload Cards at the same time, it would have gone through without issue.

If you are planning on making a big Vanilla Reload purchase, just call your Credit Card company and give them a heads up. As long as you tell them in advance that you are going to be making a big purchase (don’t have to say what it is), you shouldn’t have any issues

As soon as I was home, I simply scratched off the PIN on the Vanilla Reload Cards, loaded them onto my Bluebird, and then sent a check to AMEX for $1,000.

I also used Amazon Payments Friday night to complete another $1,000 in free Minimum Spend. So in the span of my Friday Evening, I was able to clear $2,000 of my $14,000 Minimum Spend Requirement (MSR) with a trip to Walgreens, $8 in Vanilla Reload Fees, and a couple clicks of the mouse. Not bad!

In fact those $2,000 in “purchases” combined with my LA and Star MegaDO Trip have me almost past the $3,000 Minimum Spend Requirement mark on the AMEX Platinum. That is fairly astonish because I got the Card in my hands only 10 days ago!

The point of this post is to encourage people not to freak out about not being able to get 5x at Office Depot but instead look at this as an opportunity.

In my case, if I did 5x solely with Office Depot and a Chase INK Card, my $14,000 MSR would net me 70,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, which isn’t bad.

However because I can purchase the Vanilla Reload Cards anywhere, by getting 8 Credit Cards and “spending” $14,000, I can earn 420,000 Miles / Points. This is 6x more than I’d earn if I only used an INK Card at Office Depot!

Where To Buy Vanilla Reload Cards

So I went in to Walgreens on a hunch that they might sell the Vanilla Reload Cards and allow you to use Credit Cards to purchase them. In this case, I just happened to be right.

You may go into your local Walgreens and they might not carry them, or the Cashier might not know how to ring it up with a Credit Card, etc. Basically YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary), but you just have to find 1 Store that works for you.

If you don’t have Walgreens near you, try Duane Reade, or CVS. I have read on Twitter that CVS works well.

You can also try most Big Box Retailers like Walmart, Target, etc or even Gas Stations or Grocery Stores.

You can literally find Vanilla Cards everywhere, it is just finding a Store that will let you pay with a Credit Card.

How To Take Advantage Of This

One of my Friends asked me today if he should sign his Girlfriend up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred or INK Card.

The Sapphire Preferred gets 40,000 UR Points after $3,000 MSR in 3 months while the INK Cards get 50,000 UR Points after $5,000 MSR in 3 months.

Although the INK Cards have $2,000 in additional MSR, you also get 10,000 more Ultimate Rewards Points! The best part is that with Vanilla Reload Cards, you can easily “spend” an additional $2,000 more for $16 in fees! Not bad for an additional 10,000 Ultimate Rewards Points!

Anyways if you haven’t done an App-O-Rama or gotten a Chase INK Card, I’D HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT! As I said above, you can purchase Vanilla Reload Cards at most Retailers with a Credit Card and complete the entire Minimum Spend Requirement with Amazon Payments & Vanilla Reload Cards in 3 months for $16 in fees and earn 55,000 UR Points (after you complete the MSR)!

That is almost enough miles for a FREE Economy Trip to Europe!

Link To Chase INK Plus

Link To Chase INK Bold

To put this all into perspective, if I was to do my entire $14,000 Minimum Spend Requirement with Vanilla Reload Cards (which I’m not doing but am doing a substantial amount with them), it would only cost me $98 in fees for 420,000 Miles & Points!

I’ll let you be the judge if that is a good deal or not…

-Parag