Category

Chase

Chase Freedom – 5% Back At Restaurants & Movies

Quarter 2 Activation

Given that it is a brand new Quarter, I thought I’d take the time to remind everyone to activate their Chase Freedom 5% (or 5x UR) for Quarter 2!

Link To Activation

The Chase 5% bonuses on the Freedom Card rotate every Quater.

Last Quarter it was 5% back at Gas Stations, Drugstores, and Starbucks.

As I talked about in January, by spending $1,500 at CVS on Vanilla Reload Cards + $12 or so in fees, you could easily earn 7,500 Ultimate Rewards Points!

Quarter 2 isn’t quite as lucrative but is certainly far more practical with 5% back at Restaurants, Movie Theaters, and Lowe’s.

I probably won’t be using my Freedom Card at Lowe’s (unless they sell giftcards, which they might…), but I will definitely be putting all my Restaurant and Movie Theater purchases on my Freedom.

Although I probably won’t spend $1,500 in the next 3 month at Restaurants, it will be nice to earn 5% back for purchases I plan to make anyways.

Ironically with this 5% back promotion this Quarter, if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, it is actually BETTER to use your Chase Freedom over your Chase Sapphire Preferred. The Sapphire Preferred only earns 2x Points at Restaurants while the Freedom earns 5x Points this Quarter!

5% Cashback vs 5x UR

I have gotten a few questions about Ultimate Rewards, Chase Freedom, and what the difference is between 5% Cashback & 5x UR, so I will attempt to clarify.

Basically the term, 5% Cashback and 5x Ultimate Rewards Points are interchangeable with the Chase Freedom.

Ultimate Rewards Points are the currency that you earn any time you use any of the Chase Sapphire, Chase INK, or Chase Freedom Cards. They all earn Ultimate Rewards Points!

Since the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase INK Plus, and Chase INK Bold all have an Annual Fee, as a “perk”, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards Points to Airlines & Hotels at a 1:1 ratio with those Cards.

The Chase Cards that earn Ultimate Rewards but DO NOT have an Annual Fee, like the Freedom and Sapphire (Regular), DO NOT have this ability to transfer to Airlines or Hotels.

Instead you can redeem your Ultimate Rewards Points for Giftcards OR Cashback (Insider Tip: DON’T DO THAT!)

If you convert your Ultimate Rewards Points into Cashback, then 1 UR Points = 1 Cent Cashback.

Therefore with the 5x Quarterly Bonus on the Freedom this Quarter, if you wanted, you could transfer those 5x Ultimate Rewards Points that you earn into Cashback, resulting in 5% Cashback.

While a 1 Cent per 1 UR Point Cashback rate isn’t terrible, there are FAR BETTER ways to redeem your Ultimate Rewards Points, so I would AVOID getting Cashback.

If you have a Chase Freedom and DO NOT have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase INK Cards, instead of getting Cashback or silly Giftcards, simply get a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase INK Card.

Once you have either of those Cards, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards Points from your Freedom to those Cards. Then you can transfer those Ultimate Rewards Points to Airlines and Hotels, making them FAR MORE valuable!

Basically, Ultimate Rewards Points can be transferred and combined between all your various Chase Credit Cards that earn Ultimate Rewards Points! 

But What If I Don’t Have A Chase Freedom

If you don’t currently have a Chase Freedom, I highly suggest getting one!

However instead of signing up for the Chase Freedom like you typically do for other Chase Cards, the best idea is to instead DOWNGRADE to the Chase Freedom when your Chase Sapphire Preferred Annual Fee comes do.

This way, you:

1) Avoid the Annual Fee on the Chase Sapphire Preferred

2) Avoid closing your Chase Sapphire Preferred account history

3) Avoid a new Credit Inquiry for opening a Chase Freedom

4) You get the Chase Freedom which is a great No Annual Fee Card that lets you earn Ultimate Rewards

Doing the downgrade trick, you will not be eligible for the $100 Sign On Bonus for the Freedom, but that is only equivalent to 10,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, so it isn’t that great of a Bonus to begin with!

Recap

The Chase Freedom in my opinion is the BEST No Annual Fee Card out there due to the 5x rotating categories.

As I pointed out last Quarter, using my Chase Freedom, for about $12, I earned 7,500 UR Points at CVS thanks to the 5x Bonus! No other Credit Card offers that!

The best part about the Chase Freedom is that even though you can’t transfer your UR Points to Airlines & Hotels, if you ever get a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase INK Card, you can simply transfer all your Freedom Points to either of those Cards and then transfer your Points to an Airline & Hotel! All without paying an Annual Fee!

If you don’t have a Freedom, I highly suggest you get one! Just remember to downgrade to it, instead of opening it online!

-Parag

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British Airways 50,000 Point Offer / Why Using BA Miles On AA Is Awesome

British Airways 50,000 Point Offer

Last week, I talked about the Southwest Card & the Companion Pass and what an amazing offer it can be if done correctly.

Well I got a few emails from Readers saying Southwest doesn’t fly into their home Airport, so are there any other good offers.

The best one I could find, and one I actually forgot was still around, is the British Airways 50,000 Point Offer.

Now if you aren’t familiar with the British Airways offer, I have written extensively about it before, so feel free to check out some of the old posts.

The current offer is 50,000 Avios after you spend $1,000 in 3 months.

You can get 25,000 bonus Avios after you make $10,000 in purchases within the first 12 months of account opening. Plus an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after you make an additional $10,000 in purchases also within the first 12 months of account opening.

Basically if you can spend $20,000 on this Card in 12 months, the total bonus you can get is over 100,000 Avios!

While most people might not be able to do that (or want to spend their $20,000 on a different Card), the 50,000 Avios for spending $1,000 in 3 months is still a great deal! 

The reason why Avios Points are so valuable is because you can use them for free Award Flights on AMERICAN AIRLINES!

As you will see below, for Domestic Flights, 9/10 times it is cheaper to use Avios for AA Flights rather than using AA Miles for AA Flights…

Getting The Bonus Twice

Typically with Chase Cards, you are supposed to only get the Sign On Bonus once.

My Friend and I both got in on the British Airways 100,000 Mile offer back in 2009 when it first came out. After earning our 100,000 Miles, we closed the Cards before the Annual Fee came due.

When the current offer of 50,000 Avios came back this year, my friend decided to try his luck and sign up for it again. To both of our surprises, he was awarded the Sign Up Bonus again!

This is a situation where Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) but there are lots of reports on FlyerTalk and Twitter about people getting the Sign Up Bonus again after closing the same Card 2 years.

If I wasn’t gunning for the Southwest Companion Pass, then I’d definitely get this Card again for the 50,000 Avios bonus because the Points are so useful on AA.

Using Avios For Award Tickets On AA

Using your Avios Points to book Domestic Award flights on American Airlines is fairly easy!

A full step by step tutorial that I did can be found here.

The reason why Avios Points are valuable for use on Domestic American Airline flights is because British Airways operates a distance based Award Chart.

So instead of a fixed 25,000 Mile Domestic Award like on United or American Airlines, the cost of a British Airways Award depends on the distance between the 2 cities.

British Airways has a calculator which can tell you how many Avios you need for an Award, but a more practical example is below.

Assuming you are based out of New York City, using Avios for roundtrip flights on American Airlines, it would cost you the following amount of Avios:

  • Boston – 9,000 Avios
  • Washington, D.C – 9,000 Avios
  • Miami – 15,000 Avios
  • Chicago -15,000 Avios
  • Dallas – 20,000 Avios
  • Las Vegas – 25,000 Avios
  • Seattle – 25,000 Avios
  • Vancouver – 25,000 Avios
  • Los Angeles – 25,000 Avios

As you can see, for the short haul flights, like NYC-BOS or NYC-WAS, it is only 9,000 Avios roundtrip!

If you logged into AA.com and used American Airline Miles, those same flights would be 25,000 AA Miles, instead of 9,000 Avios!

Real Life Example

For my Brother’s birthday next weekend, he wanted to go to NYC to visit my Niece and Nephew.

My Parents couldn’t take him, so I volunteered.

The first place I checked for tickets was Southwest. The price (in points) for 2 Award Tickets was reasonable but given how valuable Southwest Points can be, I decided to save them and check if there was anything available using British Airways Avios.

I had my Parents get the British Airways Card last year and we have a Family Account which allows us to merge all of our BA Accounts together, so we have over 100,000 Avios.

Using Avios, I was able to find 2 Award Tickets on American Airlines for only 30,000 Avios + $10 TOTAL, or 15,000 Avios per a person, which is a steal!

As I talked about above, for Domestic Flights, even though you are flying on American Airlines, using Avios can be far cheaper than using American Airline Miles.

Just how much it will save you is fairly astonishing…

I searched for the SAME EXACT AWARD FLIGHT on AA.com, and for 2 tickets, AA wanted a whopping 50,000 Miles AND $160 in taxes ($5 each) and “close-in ticketing” fees ($75 each).

Luckily British Airways doesn’t charge any Close-In Ticketing Fees!

So not only did I save $150 in non-sense fees BUT I also saved 20,000 Miles since I got the same exact flight for only 30,000 Avios instead of 50,000 AA Miles.

To put that in perspective, with those extra 20,000 AA Miles I am saving, I could spend another 15,000 Avios AND GET ANOTHER FREE FLIGHT!

So for 45,000 Avios I could get 3 Award Tickets on AA OR for 50,000 AA Miles & $160 I could get 2 Award Tickets on AA…

Not a hard decision!

As always, I did a quick search on Kayak.com for my flight to see how much it is retailing for.

For our flights next week, they are going for $600 each.

Basically for 30,000 Avios & $10, we got $1,200 in free flights!

Recap

Although most people only think to use British Airways Avios for trips to Europe (absolutely terrible deal by the way), the real value of Avios Points lie in the ability to use them for Domestic Flights on American Airlines.

By using Avios Points, not only do you pay substantially less for an AA Award than if you had used AA Miles, but you also avoid all of AA’s ridiculous close-in ticketing fees!

Talk about a win-win!

-Parag

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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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