Chase Ultimate Rewards

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!


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!


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Chase Freedom – 5x UR At Drugstores This Quarter

Yesterday as I was activating the rotating 5% quarterly Cash Back Bonus for my Discover Card and Chase Freedom Card, I saw something extremely interesting.

For Chase Freedom this Quarter, you can earn 5% Cash Back (or 5x UR) at DRUGSTORES!

Link To Activate 5% Cash Back Bonus

If you are wondering why this make me the tiniest bit excited, it is because Drugstores include the following:

Vanilla Reload 5x

Over the last few months, I had been using Vanilla Reload Cards (VRC) that I purchased at Walgreens and CVS, to hit the $14,000 in Minimum Spend Requirement for my App-O-Rama.

Unfortunately, at $8 per $1,000 worth of VRC, in my opinion it only makes sense to purchase the VRC to complete the Minimum Spend.

However now with this 5x Ultimate Rewards Bonus for Quarter 1, if you bought 3 $500 Vanilla Reload Cards at CVS or Walgreens, you would earn 7,500 Ultimate Rewards for around $12!

Unfortunately there is a quarterly cap of $1,500 in spend on the 5x bonus for Drugstores, so this won’t be another Office Depot extravaganza but it is still an easy way to get 7,500 Ultimate Rewards.

I haven’t done Vanilla Reload Cards at Walgreens or CVS in a couple of months, so I am not 100% sure if you can still buy them with Credit Cards but my guess is that YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

If you can’t find any Vanilla Reload Cards then you can also buy the regular Vanilla Prepaid Cards and “liberate” them via Amazon Payments.

If You Don’t Have A Chase Freedom

While you can always sign up for a Chase Freedom Card here, I’d personally recommend not wasting a valuable Chase “Sign Up” opportunity.

Instead if you have any other Chase Cards that have an Annual Fee coming due like a Chase Sapphire Preferred, instead of canceling that Card, simply request to “downgrade” to the Chase Freedom which doesn’t have an Annual Fee.

This way you can keep your Credit Line open, get a Chase Freedom Card, avoid paying an Annual Fee, not have to waste an Application on the Chase Freedom, and still take advantage of this Q1 promotion.

You have until March 14th to get your Freedom Card and register it for the Quarter 1 promotion!

Additionally if you have a Chase Checking account, then you are eligible for Chase Exclusives, which gives you an additional 10% bonus on Chase Freedom purchases. Not sure though if that 10% bonus is on your actual purchase or is on the 5x UR bonus.


Although there is a $1,500 cap on the 5x UR at Drugstores, this is a still a phenomenal way to “buy” 7,500 UR Points for around $12.

This is a pretty amazing deal when you consider that if you had to buy 8,000 Miles from a Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner like United Airlines, it would cost you $301.


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Things To Do Before The Ball Drops On 2012

It is hard to believe that it is almost once again a New Year.

In anticipation of 2013, it is always good to get your Frequent Flyer house in order and tie up any loose ends, so below are some things to take advantage of before 11:59PM December 31, 2012.

1. Chase INK Cards Sign Up With Reduced Minimum Spend

Rumor has it come January 2013, Chase is going to bump up the Minimum Spend on the Chase INK Cards back up to $10,000 in 3 months, instead of the current $5,000 in 3 months.

Although there are no hard details yet, typically these “rumors” are spot on and follow the pattern that Chase has done in the past where they lower the Minimum Spend for a month or two, and then bump it back up.

I have talked about the INK Cards many times before, and if you have thought about getting one, now would be the time.

Link To Chase INK Bold

Link To Chase INK Plus

Although $5,000 sounds like a lot, with Amazon Payments and Vanilla Reload Cards, you can complete the Minimum Spend with minimal effort and easily earn 55,000 Ultimate Rewards.

My Friend was interested in the Card so he signed up 2 weeks ago, and using Amazon Payments and Vanilla Reload Cards, he was able to do the entire $5,000 Minimum Spend in 5 days!

This is an extremely easy way to get 55,000 Ultimate Rewards, which you can transfer to United, British Airways, Southwest, Hyatt, etc.

Do not be one of those people who waits to see what happens and then is disapointed when the Minimum Spend returns to $10,000!

2. AMEX $200 Airline Credit Reimbursement

If you have an AMEX Platinum Card and haven’t already taken advantage of your annual $200 Airline Credit Reimbursement, I suggest you do so.

The reason why it is important to do so in 2012 is because the $200 Credit resets every Calendar Year. That means you can get $200 this year (2012) and also in (2013).

I have written about the entire process here, as well as my success getting $200 in United Gift Cards.

This is an easy $200 in Airline Gift Cards, so make sure you take advantage of it for 2012!

3. Mail In Your Sky Guide Executive Club Receipts

If you have been on a mad year-end dash to buy 12 Airline Lounge Passes for Sky Guide, remember to submit your receipts before January 1, 2013, so they count towards 2012.

Unfortunately, the terms for Sky Guide Executive Club are changing come January 1, 2013, so make sure you get your receipts in so they count towards 2012 or you might not be able to get them reimbursed in 2013.


Hopefully everyone takes advantage of all the above offers. If I am forgetting anything, please remind me and I will update the post!

Hope everyone has a Happy New Years!