Category

Ultimate Rewards

Chase INK Plus Minimum Spend Drops & Earning 5x On Everything

As you have probably seen, the Minimum Spend Requirement for the Chase INK Plus Card has dropped from a whopping $10,000 in 3 months to $5,000 in 3 months.

For signing up for the Chase INK Plus you get 25,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, and if you complete the Minimum Spend Requirement, you get an additional 25,000 UR Points.

Link To Chase INK Plus

I suspect this a glitch because Chase.com is still showing $10,000 Minimum Spend. I don’t know when they will fix this, so if you have thought about getting a Chase INK Card, now would be the time.

For those of you not familiar with the Chase INK Plus, it is a “Business Card” and is identical to the Chase INK Bold except that it is a true Credit Card, and not a Charge Card like the Bold.

That being said, many of you may be reading this saying I don’t have a Business and there is no way I can spend $5,000 in 3 months, so why are you telling me this.

Well for those of you at the Chicago Seminars who sat in on Frequent Miler’s presentation on Gift Card Churning, you are aware that the Chase INK Plus or Chase INK Bold is central to easily earning 150,000+ Ultimate Rewards Points a year for next to nothing.

More information on that is below, but since the the Minimum Spend has been cut in half on the Chase INK Plus from $10,000 to $5,000, if you don’t have a Chase INK Card now would be the time to get one, so you can get in on Frequent Miler’s current points extravaganza.

I don’t know how long this reduced Minimum Spend is going to last, it might just be a glitch, so I’d suggest signing up ASAP if you are interested.

Using the Amazon Payments trick and Frequent Miler’s gift card tricks below, you can easily clear this Minimum Spend in a month or two without even putting any actual spend on the Card.

I currently have the INK Bold and got it in Spring 2012, when the Minimum Spend Requirement was still $5,000. I am extremely happy I did so because it has been extremely useful at Office Depot.

Between my Sign Up Bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase INK Bold, I was able to earn over 110,000 Ultimate Rewards Points!

Frequent Miler’s – One Card To Rule Them All

First, I have to give credit to Frequent Miler’s and his amazing post called “One Card To Rule Them All”.

If you have any questions, check out his post because there are 300+ comments with answers.

I just did this entire process yesterday, so I am just going to recap my experience and throw in some information that I learned from the Chicago Seminars.

Basically what Greg (Frequent Miler) figured out is that because the Chase Ink Bold and Chase INK Plus both earn 5x UR Points at Office Supply stores like Office Depot, you could buy pre-paid Vanilla brand gift cards there, and then use those gift cards like it is your normal Credit Card, and essentially earn 5x Points everywhere.

It is really genius because by purchasing a pre-paid gift card with a Card that earns 5x UR Points, you are basically “transferring” that 5x earning power to the gift card. So when you go out and fill up gas, groceries, restaurants, you are essentially earning 5x Points!

If that wasn’t cool enough, Greg then discovered that you could get a free permanent AMEX Pre-Paid card, that is essentially a Debit Card that has a PIN. So you can make ATM withdrawals, etc. You can load those AMEX Pre-Paid Cards with the Vanilla Pre-Paid Gift Cards you bought at Office Depot with your Chase INK Card that earns 5x UR Points.

So basically not only can you earn 5x UR Points for buying Pre-Paid Gift Cards, but there is also a way to extract the money off of them via an ATM.

Then this past week, Walmart & AMEX announced a partnership of a new Pre-Paid Card called Bluebird. With this Card, you can do online bill pay, ATM withdrawals, etc, and you guessed it, you can load it with the Vanilla Gift Cards.

Step By Step Instructions

If you are interested in earning 5 UR Points per $1 spent on every purchase, here are the steps.

Again for any questions or more detail, check out Frequent Miler’s post.

1. Get A Chase INK Card

Without a Chase INK Card, you can’t earn 5x UR Points at Office Supply Stores, so if you don’t have one, you need to sign up for one.

The 2 options are either the Chase INK Bold or Chase INK Plus. They are identical except the INK Plus is a Credit Card while the INK Bold is a Charge Card.

I’d recommend the Chase INK Plus since the Minimum Spend is only $5,000 instead of $10,000.

Remember you don’t need a “Business” to get a Business Card. Anything counts as a Business, including a future business idea and you can use your Personal Social Security Number when you apply.

A Step By Step Guide on how to apply for a Chase Business Card can be found here.

Even if you recently signed up for a Personal Chase Card (Hyatt, United, Sapphire Preferred), you can still get a Business Card because Chase treats them separately.

Link To Chase INK Plus

2. Visit Your Local Office Depot

After you get your Chase INK Card, you will need to go to Office Depot to purchase the Pre-Paid Gift Cards below.

The reason why you have to go to Office Depot is because they sell these Pre-Paid Gift Cards, and Office Depot qualifies as a “Office Supply” store so it earns 5x UR Points.

Not all Office Depots carry the Pre-Paid Cards. In downtown Chicago, I was unable to locate the Cards, so I had to trek out to the suburbs.

3. Look For The Vanilla Pre-Paid Gift Cards

Once you are inside Office Depot, look for a rack of gift cards. Normally they are near the register or door.

On the rack, you will see a couple types of Pre-Paid Gift Cards.

The ones you want are called Vanilla.

There are a few type of Vanilla Gift Cards, so this is where it can kind of get confusing.

OneVanilla Pre-Paid Gift Card

The Vanilla Pre-Paid Gift Card looks like this. It costs $4.95 and you can load up to $500 on it when you purchase it.

This is an actual Visa Card, so once you register it online, you can use it at gas stations, grocery shopping, eating out, etc and technically earn 5 UR per $1 spent, since you purchased it with a Chase INK Card.

Vanilla Prepaid Reload Packs

Office Depot also sells Vanilla Prepaid Reload packs. Basically as the name implies, these are just reload packs that you can use to re-fill the OneVanilla Card above, or you can use the packs online to re-fill your AMEX Pre-Paid Card, which is below.

If you buy the Vanilla Prepaid Reload, you CANNOT use this as a Everday Card when you go out because it doesn’t come with a Card. These Reload Packs only come with a PIN number that you use to re-load your OneVanilla Card or AMEX pre-paid Card.

The Vanilla Prepaid Reload costs $3.95 and you can load up to $500 on it. It looks like this.

What I suggest is purchasing 1 OneVanilla Card, so you have an actual Card that you can use when you for Everyday Purchases, and then reload it with the $3.95 Vanilla Prepaid Reload packs.

Although there are some nominal fees to purchase these Cards, because you are earning 5x UR Points for the purchase, when you purchase a $500 Vanilla Card for either $3.95 – $4.95, you are earning 2,500 UR Points!

When you scale it, you could easily earn 250,000 UR Points and pay only $495.00 for all these gift cards…

4. Order An AMEX Pre-Paid Card

If you are happy just earning 5x on all your Everyday Purchases, feel free to stop here.

It can get kind of complicated going forward, so if you are new to this, I’d suggest first doing the steps above before advancing.

The reason why it is important to get an AMEX Pre-Paid Card is because the OneVanilla card has a $500 limit and doesn’t have a pin for ATM withdrawals.

So if you have a big purchase, such as Tax Payments, etc, you would only be able to do $500 in payments via the OneVanilla Card.

That is why you want to get a free AMEX Permanent Pre-Paid Card.

AMEX has 2 options, a regular Pre-Paid card & a new Bluebird Card.

Both are free and can be loaded with the Vanilla Reload Packs.

AMEX Pre-Paid Card

The AMEX Pre-Paid Card is similar to the OneVanilla, however you can load up to $2,500 on the Card and it allows for ATM withdrawal (up to $400) a day.

This is essentially an AMEX Card, so you can use it anywhere AMEX is accepted.

The best part is that you can load the AMEX Pre-Paid Card online with the Vanilla Prepaid Reload Packs!

The only limitation is that you can load up to $1,000 in a 24 hour period and there is a limit of $2,500 that can be loaded every 28 days. However, you are allowed to have 3 of these cards, so $7,500.

Even with the $2,500 a month limitation X 5 UR Points X 12 Months, that is still 150,000 UR Points a year.

You can either buy the AMEX Pre-Paid Card at Office Depot for $3.95 and then order a permanent card online, or you can skip that step / fee and simply order one online below for free.

Link To Order AMEX Pre-Paid Card

I personally would just order it online because even if you buy it in the store, you still need to go online to upgrade it to the permanent one.

The in-store version looks like this and has a $4.95 fee.

When you order your AMEX Pre-paid Card, you don’t have to load any money on it online. They will simply send you a blank AMEX Pre-Paid Card that you can load with the Vanilla Reload Packs when it arrives.

AMEX Bluebird

Bluebird is a new Pre-Paid Card that is a partnership between AMEX & Walmart.

As Joe Biden would say, “This is a BIG F$^i%NG DEAL”!

Full information about the Bluebird Card can be found at Frequent Miler.

It is very similar to the AMEX Pre-Paid Card above, but it has way more features and allows you to store up to $10,000 on it.

Additionally you can load up to $5,000 via Vanilla Reload Cards every month.

$5000 X 5 UR Points X 12 Months = 300,000 UR Points A Year

It is free to order a Bluebird Card and you can do so here.

Since both Cards are free, to diversify risk, I just went ahead and ordered both Cards.

Tying It All Together

So if any of that was complicated, here is a summary of what to do.

In short, using your Chase INK Card that earns 5X UR Points at Office Supply stores, you go to Office Depot and buy Vanilla Pre-Paid Cards. You can either use the OneVanilla Card as a “Everyday” Card and earn 5x points everywhere or you can use the Vanilla Pre-Paid Reload Packs to fund your AMEX Pre-Paid or Bluebird Card. If you choose, you can then use your AMEX Pre-Paid or Bluebird Card as your “Everyday” Card and continue to earn 5x everywhere. However since the AMEX Pre-Paid Card & Bluebird allow for ATM withdrawals, you can very easily withdraw some of your money out in cash and deposit it right in the bank!

Hopefully that makes sense!

Recap

Although there are a few moving parts to this and it does take some work, the potential for this is huge.

Back in the day, I did the Mint thing where you could buy $1 coins with a Credit Card and deposit them straight at the bank but I think this is much easier because it is all electronic.

I just went to Office Depot yesterday and bought 1 $500 OneVanilla Card and then 4 $500 Vanilla Reload Packs.

That $2,500 purchase earned me 12,500 UR Points, which is almost a free Round-trip on Southwest or British Airways, or a free One Way on United!

Although all the steps in this process do have to be done in moderation, as I stated earlier even doing $2,500 a month would earn 150,000 UR Points a year.

When was the last time you earned 12,500 Miles a month for less than $20.75 in cost?

One thing I will caution is that I know Chase reads the travel blogs and is fully aware of what we are doing, so in the event of protecting yourself, I’d recommend transferring out any UR Points from your Chase INK Card as they come in.

Transfer them either to a Mileage Program, or transfer them to your Chase Freedom, Sapphire, or Sapphire Preferred, if you have any of those Cards.

I haven’t heard of Chase closing anyone’s account for this, but to be safe, in the event that your Chase INK Card does gets shut down, you won’t loose all your UR Points because they will be in a separate account.

I just transferred out my 74,000 UR Points from my Bold to my Freedom last night.

Anyways, hopefully you take advantage of this offer and I strongly suggest checking out Frequent Miler’s many posts on this topic.

-Parag

Why British Airways Avios Are Awesome For Domestic Flights

How To Avoid BA Fuel Surcharges

A few Readers who got in on the British Airways 100,000 Avios offer in June (currently is 50,000 at BA.com), have emailed me with their frustration of getting hit with a massive fuel surcharge when they go to book an Award Ticket to Europe.

Although the fuel surcharge is extremely annoying, there are ways to avoid it.

All these articles and more are in the FAA Archive, but the easiest ways to avoid any large fuel surcharges on BA is to fly Aer Lingus, Iberia, start your trip in Brazil, or use it for other destinations like South America, etc.

When the British Airways 100,000 Avios offer was available, I pointed out that for me, the offer was amazing because you can use British Airways Avios for flights on American Airlines.

With any other Airlines (besides Delta), 100,000 Miles would be enough for 4 Roundtrip tickets to anywhere in the Continental United States, however because British Airways Avios is a Distance Based Rewards Program, you could really stretch your Avios.

Well lo and behold, Avios came to the rescue today!

After attending the Chicago Seminars this past weekend, the main thing I took away from it is that I need to start traveling more!

That being said, yesterday I spontaneously decided to go to New York with my friend in 2 weeks and also go to Frequent Traveler University at the end of November!

New York

To most people’s surprise, Chicago to New York is only 731 miles!

Unfortunately, because it is such a busy route, Airlines love to charge $300+ for it.

Similarly for Award Tickets, it will cost a cool 25,000 Miles for a Saver Ticket.

I wasn’t in the mood to pay $300+, so I decided to use miles.

My de-facto Mileage Program is United because they almost always have availability, but in recent months I have realized how valuable their miles are for International Premium Cabin travel, so I have tried to avoid using their miles domestically.

Additionally United and American Airlines, both have $75 close-in ticketing fees on Award Tickets if they are booked 21 days to departure! Annoying!

So using United or American Miles, it would have cost me 25,000 Miles + $75.

In recent months, as I have unequivocally declared, I have become a Southwest convert. I have no problem flying them, but because the amount of Points needed for an Award Ticket is directly correlated to price, I still would have needed 16,000 – 20,000 SW Points for an Award Ticket.

Since I don’t have any Southwest Points, I would have had to transfer them from Ultimate Rewards, which as you know are even more valuable than United Miles!

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do because I thought I had exhausted all my options until I remembered that I had a ton of Avios laying around!

After logging into BritishAirways.com, I searched for my flights.

Although the flights on Friday and returning Sunday departed at 6AM, there was some decent availability on Thursday and returning Monday.

I can work from anywhere, so I decided to just take those options.

As I stated earlier because British Airways has a Distance Based Rewards Chart, the number of Avios needed is determined by the distance between the 2 cities.

While this can be bad for flying around the world, it is amazing for flying short hops like Chicago to New York!

So instead of 25,000 Miles & $75 on United or American, I got a free non-stop flight on American Airlines using British Airways Avios for the rock-bottom price of 15,000 Avios and $5!

If that is not amazing, I quickly ran the flight numbers on Kayak and the absolute cheapest fare to get to NYC was $232 on Spirit.

While the exact AA flight I am going to be on was a whopping $382.

Los Angeles

Since I am based out of Chicago, I only had to pay $85 to attend the Chicago Seminars.

I didn’t have to fly in or stay at a hotel, so I had no idea how expensive these types of events can be for people coming in from out of town!

The ticket for Frequent Traveler University is $99, which isn’t too bad, but then the hotel is $100 a night if you don’t split it, and then you still have to add in the cost of your flight.

So you can very easily spend $600+ to attend the 2 1/2 day FTU seminar.

When I did a search for flights, the cheapest price I could find was $287

Even with splitting the Hotel with someone, that is still almost $472!

I figured if I could cut out the cost of the flight, it would be far more reasonable.

Identical to how I searched for my New York flight, I first went to United.com, then American, then Southwest and ran into the same issues.

Did I really want to spend Ultimate Rewards Points or United Miles for this trip when I could save them for something more valuable?

The answer led me right back to British Airways Avios.

Luckily for me, I have never had any issues finding ORD – LAX flights on AA using BA Avios, and this time was no exception.

Basically everything was wide open, so I picked a flight that left early Friday from Chicago and then a red-eye from LA that gets into Chicago early Monday morning.

While on United or American this would cost 25,000 Miles for an Economy Saver, because of the British Airways Distance Based Award Chart, it was only 20,000 Avios + $5.

The same exact flight on Kayak costs $349!

Recap

While saving 5,000 Miles here and 10,000 Miles there, doesn’t sound like a lot, in my case these 2 flights only cost 35,000 Avios instead of 50,000 Miles on United or American.

When the average Credit Card Sign On Bonus is only 30,000 – 50,000 Miles, a savings of 15,000 is extremely substantial.

When you think about it in terms of trips, it is even more impactful.

With that 15,000 Avios I saved, I potentially could take another free trip to New York if I wanted!

3 free trips or 2 free trips is quite a large difference.

All in all, for 35,000 Avios, I saved around $731 in airfare.

When people say they spent 100,000 Miles and got a Business Class ticket worth $10,000, you would obviously never pay $10,000 out of pocket.

In my example, if I didn’t have any miles, I actually would have had to pay around $500 – $731 for the flights because that was the cheapest fare.

So if there are 2 things to take away from this, they are:

  • Try and have as diverse of a bank of miles as possible, so in the event there is no availability, you can use a different program.
  • If you are transferring Points from Ultimate Rewards or Starwood AMEX, always try and think about which program will give you the most bang for you mile. It can be the difference between 2 free trips and 3!

-Parag

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750 Points For Signing Up With Southwest

When I took my Southwest flight 2 weeks ago, I was flipping through their in-flight magazine, ironically called Spirit (the other lower cost Carrier) and saw an offer for 750 Bonus Points for signing up for Southwest’s Frequent Flyer Program called Rapid Rewards.

Rapid Rewards = Awesome

Link To Sign Up For Rapid Rewards With 750 Point Bonus

While I know Southwest is not really on the radar for most Frequent Flyers because they don’t offer true “Elite Status”, don’t fly Internationally, or a member of any Alliance, I’d still recommend signing up with their Frequent Flyer Program. 

The reason for this is because Southwest is GREAT for One Way and Roundtrip flights using Southwest Points.

Since Reward Tickets on Southwest are based on the actual price of the ticket, you can get some great deals if you need a One Way or Roundtrip flights.

This saved my butt when I needed a One Way from LAX – SEA.

In the end I only paid 7,080 Southwest Points!

Real Life Example

I need a One Way from Chicago back to LA on October 2nd.

Doing a quick search on Kayak.com, the cheapest One Ways on AA and United are $129, which isn’t terrible.

The cheapest fare on Southwest.com is also $129.

If I didn’t want to spend $129 and instead chose to use Miles, this is where the real advantage of Southwest lies.

On United and AA, an Economy Saver One Way costs 12,500 Miles and $2.50 in taxes and $75 Close-In Ticketing Fee, so $77.50 total!

If AA and United were the only 2 options for redeeming Miles then obviously it would be far better to pay $129 for a Revenue Ticket, rather than spend 12,500 Miles and $77 in taxes/fees on an Award Ticket.

With Southwest, the cost of Award Tickets is based on the price of the Revenue Ticket Base Fare (not including the mandatory Excise Tax) X 60 Points Per $1.

So depending on the Price of the Revenue Ticket, you can find some amazing deals!

So in my case, the cheapest Revenue Fare Base Fare was $118 (total was $129 with Excise Tax) which when multiplied by 60, came out to only 7,080 Points!

The best part of this is that the taxes on Southwest are only $5 with no stupid $75 Close-In Ticketing Fees!

So not only is the Award Ticket substantially cheaper (7,080 Points) compared to AA and United (12,500 Miles), but the taxes/fees are only $5 compared to $77.

And if that doesn’t blow your mind, you get 2 Free Checked Bags on Southwest…

Why This Is Relevant To Anyone That Doesn’t Fly Southwest On A Regular Basis

If you are like most Frequent Flyers (including myself), you rarely ever fly Southwest.

Therefore you might be reading this and think that it is great that Southwest’s Reward Flights are cheap, but since you don’t have a Southwest Credit Card or fly Southwest often enough to earn Points, this isn’t really applicable to you.

False!

Since the Southwest Credit Card is issued by Chase, not surprisingly, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards Points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase INK Bold, to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio!

Link To Chase Sapphire Preferred

So in the above example, if your decision was either to use Miles for United or Southwest, it would be far cheaper to transfer 7,080 Ultimate Rewards to Southwest rather than transfer 12,500 Ultimate Rewards to United.

While One Way trips are fairly useful, Southwest really comes through on Round Trip Award Travel too.

A Economy Saver Award from Chicago to LA on United or American is 25,000 Miles.

On Southwest, the same route is only 14,160 Points!

Or in other words, only 1,660 more Points than a 12,500 Mile One Way on United or American…

Recap

So even if you don’t fly Southwest regularly or ever, I strongly suggest signing up for their Frequent Flyer Program because depending on where you are going, it can save you TONS on miles, money, and fees!

-Parag