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Ultimate Rewards

Double Dipping With Ultimate Rewards & Bose MIE2i Headphone Review

Prior to my LA / Seattle trip, I came to the realization that I needed some new headphones.

Since the iPod came out during highschool, I have always just used the free headphones that came with my iPod or iPhone.

As long as they produced sound and stayed in my ear, they were good enough for me.

When I travel, I like to watch Movies and TV shows on my Computer, and when flying to Washington DC, I came to the conclusion that Apple’s iPhone headphones are not very good for that.

Over the years, I have read countless reviews from other Travel Bloggers that swear by Bose Headphones, so I thought I’d give them a try.

Ultimate Rewards 

Bose Headphones are a bit pricey, but luckily I had a Best Buy gift card, so I only spent $40 or so dollars out of pocket.

Since I knew I was going to be purchasing the headphones from Best Buy, I checked Evreward.com to see if there was any ways to get additional bonus points.

Ultimate Rewards was offering 1 UR Point per $1 Spent at BestBuy.com, so I opted for that.

I remember a post on FrequentMiler’s site talking about how sometimes if you use a gift card via Ultimate Rewards online shopping mall, it still processes as bonus points, so I decided to give that a try.

After logging into UltimateRewards.com and then clicking through the online shopping mall to BestBuy.com, I went ahead and purchased the Bose Headphones and opted to pick it up at the store.

I entered my Credit Card information, as well as my Best Buy gift card and hit submit.

Fast forward to this week, and I got an email from Chase saying I earned bonus points!

The Headphones were $130, and the tax was $13, so it seems that via Ultimate Rewards, you only get the Points for the actual purchase price and not the tax.

I paid $100 with the Best Buy gift card and then $43 out of pocket. 

This of course was my just my personal experience and Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV), but it seems that using Gift Cards via Ultimate Rewards does in fact earn you bonus points.

I know other Blogs talk about using Ultimate Rewards Mall to buy Gift Cards, and then use those same Gift Cards again on Ultimate Rewards, but I would just say be careful.

A FFU Reader emailed me to say he did that with Sears and bought $6,000 worth of Sears gift cards via Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall, and then went back through the Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall and used those Sears gift cards to buy merchandise.

Ultimately, only the 1st transaction posted and now he is stuck with $6,000 in Sears gift cards because he can’t sell the merchandise he bought!

I probably won’t go out of my way to buy gift cards and then use them on Ultimate Rewards, but if you just happen to have a gift card, then you might as well go thru Ultimate Rewards and earn some bonus points!

Bose MIE2i Headphone Review

As for the Headphones I bought, for those of you not familiar, this is what they look like.

The reason I went with these In-Ear Bose Headphones over the larger Over-The-Ear Bose Headphones (below), is that I wanted to use my Headphones all the time and not only for specific activities. 

The Bose Over-The-Ear Noise Canceling Headphones are great (I tried them at Best Buy), but unless you are sitting at home, at Starbucks, or on an airplane, they aren’t exactly practical.

With the In-Ear Headphones, I can wear them on the bus or while working out, and then quickly stash them in my pocket when I don’t need them. The same cannot be said about the Over-The-Ear Headphones. 

Also the price difference between the 2 types of Headphones is substantial.

The In-Ear Headphones I bought were around $143, the Over-The-Ear Noise Canceling Headphones were a cool $300 before tax!

While the In-Ear Headphones aren’t noise canceling, they do come with 3 different silicone ear bud pieces, so you can customize the Headphones so that it actually stays in your ear.

I think that is the single biggest problem with the free iPhone Headphones. Since they are a generic one size, they don’t fit in your ear properly.

The Bose In-Ear Headphones are identical to the iPhone Headphones in that they also have a volume control and mic for taking phone calls which is useful.

I had an opportunity to use my new Bose In-Ear Headphones on my flight to LA and from Seattle this past week, and over all I was pretty impressed by them.

While they obviously aren’t as good as the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones, the sound quality of the Headphones is exceptional.

Even with the custom silicone pieces in my ear, the low humming sound from the Airplane was still apparent, however once I turned my Computer or iPod on and there was actual sound, you couldn’t hearing the Airplane hum. 

If I was a serious Road Warrior who was constantly flying, then I’d consider getting the Over-The-Ear Noise Canceling Headphones, but for everyday use, I personally find these Bose In-Ear Headphones to be excellent.

I am sure there are other Brands out there that make far cheaper In-Ear Headphones but at the end of the day, you get what you pay for. 

I paid $40 and I am happy!

If you have either type of Bose Headphones, I’d love to hear what you think of them!

-Parag

The Benefits Of Point Based Systems Like Ultimate Rewards & SPG

If you have been following the Blog or following me on Twitter, you are aware of the struggles I had trying to find a cheap One Way ticket from LAX to SEA.

I will spare everyone my soapbox rant about how ridiculous it is that some One Way fares cost almost if not more than a Round Trip Ticket, for another day.

First, I used ViewFromTheWing’s advice and tried looking for Hidden City Ticketing.

However since Seattle is so close to the Canadian Boarder, most of the cities that used Seattle as a Hidden City were in Canada, so I wasn’t able to find anything that was cheap.

With only 2 or so weeks until departure, I was starting to think that I might just have to suck it up and drop $250 on a One Way ticket.

I did one last search of Saver Availability on United, AA, and Delta (who wanted at a minimum 60k SkyMiles for a One Way that should cost 12.5k), and came up empty handed.

While doing a final Fare Search on Kayak.com, I saw they had listed Southwest in the sidebar but didn’t publish the fare, so I thought what the hell, maybe they have a cheap $100 One Way fare.

Unfortunately Southwest’s prices were in line with everyone else’s.

However Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Program is “neat” in that they used a fixed formula to determine how many “Rapid Reward Points” it will take for a free flight.

Whereas United, AA, and Delta have a fixed redemption Award Chart, meaning that the cheapest One Way ticket in the U.S will be 12,500 Miles regardless if the actual fare costs $25 or $25,000.

Typically, the fixed redemption Award Chart is better for Customers since most flights these days cost way more than the value of the miles.

For Southwest’s “Wanna Get Away” Fares, the formula to determine the amount of RR Points needed is the Base Fare (not including Excise Tax) X 60 Points Per $1 = Rapid Rewards Points Needed

So my base fare (not including the mandatory Excise Tax) was $170 X 60 Points Per $1 = 10,200 Rapid Rewards Points Needed.

I of course don’t fly Southwest so I didn’t have 10,200 RR Points laying around. I only had 520 Points from some free promos I had taken advantage of.

Normally this would be a HUGE issue and I would have just had to shell out the $250 for a One Way but because I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred I was in luck.

Southwest of course is a Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner, so I simply logged into Ultimate Rewards and transferred over 10,000 Ultimate Rewards Points to Southwest Rapid Rewards Points at a 1:1 ratio.

The best part of this is that even if had I been able to find any Saver Award availability on United, AA, or Delta, it would have cost me at a minimum 12,500 miles.

So although I did have to shell out 10,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, I figure I still came out ahead because I was planning on spending 12,500 miles anyways!

The Point Of This Story

When I write about the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase INK Bold, and SPG AMEX, I consistently talk about the HUGE benefit of flexibility in these programs.

This is because they earn “Points” which can be transferred to Airline Frequent Flyer Accounts or Hotel Points typically at a 1:1 Ratio.

For those that are new, please do not confuse the above 3 Cards & their “Point” systems with any point earning Cards from Capital One, Citi, Bank of America, etc because they are not the same thing.

Cards from those issuers allow you to earn points but those points CANNOT be transferred to any Airlines at a 1:1 ratio and typically have a fixed value. Therefore they are not very valuable programs and you should avoid using or signing up for any of those Cards.

The best part about earning “Points” via Ultimate Rewards, SPG, or AMEX Membership Points, is that you can keep your Points in your central account until you need to transfer them.

No one really talks about this because it isn’t very sexy.

However this flexibility is HUGELY UNDER RATED.

While Chase’s Ultimate Rewards came to the rescue today with Southwest Points, Ultimate Rewards really has only 2 main Airline Transfer Partners, United and British Airways (which you can use for free flights on AA in the US).

However Starwood Preferred Guest is really where the flexibility is at, as they allows you to transfer to over 31 different Airline Partners.

Via Starwood’s SPG program, for domestic flights you can transfer your Starpoints at a 1 : 1.25 ratio to American Airlines, Delta, US Airways, British Airways (to use for AA domestic flights), and at a 2 : 1.25 ratio for United! 

Unfortunately Southwest apparently did not make the cut with SPG.

Similarly for International Flights such as to Europe, with SPG you have the ability to transfer to a minimum of 12 Airline Partners.

These 12 Airline Partners include AA, US Airways, United, Delta, British Airways, Air France, KLM, Iberia, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Air Berlin, or Air Canada. 

That list of 12 Airline Partners does not even include any Asian (Singapore, etc) or Middle Eastern (Etihad, Qatar, Emirates, etc) Carriers that fly from the U.S with connections in Europe.

The great thing about having all 12 of those Airline Partners as transfer options is that it covers every single Airline Alliance (Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam).

Therefore if you are flying to Europe, you should be able to find at least 1 Airline of those 12 Transfer Partners that has availability.

Last week, I just booked myself an Award Ticket to Europe (more on that booking process later this week), and I can attest to what a pain in the butt it can be having only 1 Airline Currency (United Miles in my case) at your disposal.

In my case, since there was no availability for my dates, I had to painstakingly piece together each leg separately and ended up with a flight to Europe that has 4 connections going each way.

So 8 plane changes total for an Award Flight that could easily have been just 2 or 3 connections total if I simply had more Airline Partner transfer options!

The worst part is that I don’t even earn any miles for all those stops : (

Recap

Basically, the point of this post is to remind people to not over look the benefits of the flexibility Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, AMEX’s Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest programs bring to the table.

As you saw with my last minute Southwest hail mary, transfer flexibility can really get you out of a bind!

If you think about it, just by having 1 Chase Card that participates in Ultimate Rewards and also an SPG AMEX, you have the ability to transfer at a 1:1 ratio into almost any Airline Frequent Flyer program in the world.

That is pretty cool!

-Parag

Fake Out: Chase Sapphire Does Not Allow You To Transfer UR Points To Airlines Or Hotels

While I enjoy sharing my knowledge about frequent flyer miles and how to earn them for free, I am the first to admit that I don’t know everything.

Thankfully, FFU has some very astute Readers who caught a crucial mistake in my post from Tuesday when I talked about downgrading my Chase Sapphire Preferred to the fee-free Chase Sapphire.

Thomas left a comment:

“Isn’t there also a difference in transferring your reward points when going from the Preferred to the basic Sapphire? I thought not all of the transfers were available (such as hotels), although I could be wrong.”

Followed by Adam:

On Chase’s own site, they advertise this for the CSP card:
“1:1 point transfer to participating frequent travel programs”

…but this is conspicuously absent on their Chase Sapphire card description page:
https://creditcards.chase.com/sapphire/?CELL=6RRW&MSC=IQ35084719

…and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard from multiple sources in the past that the free card does NOT allow you to transfer points to airlines and hotels. You can only use the points in the Ultimate Rewards Center to buy gift cards, pay for travel (1 point = 1 cent), etc.

From the marketing material I have seen and read for Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, I was under the impression that the Ultimate Rewards redemption options on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card were the same across the board for all Chase Cards that earn Ultimate Rewards Points such as the Chase Freedom and fee-free Chase Sapphire.

I was in fact 100% wrong!

Only the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase INK Bold Cards allow you to transfer your hard earned UR Points to Airlines and Hotels!

Although it is extremely annoying that the fee-free Chase Sapphire doesn’t allow you to transfer UR Points to Airlines or Hotels, I grudgingly have to give credit to Chase for figuring out how to encourage their Customers to not downgrade or cancel their Sapphire Preferred Cards.

Well played Chase, well played…

Thankfully for me because I have a Chase INK Bold Card in addition to the MileagePlus Explorer, Chase Freedom, & Chase Sapphire, I can still move all my Sapphire and Freedom Ultimate Rewards Points into the INK Bold account and then transfer them to any Airline or Hotel so crisis averted. 

However I understand that most people don’t have INK Bold Cards, so now before downgrading or canceling your Sapphire Preferred, you really have to look at your options.

When your $95 Annual Fee comes due for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you now have 3 options:

  • Pay The $95 Annual Fee – This option will ensure that you continue to have all the benefits of the Sapphire Preferred including 7% annual dividend, no foreign transaction fee, and the ability to transfer UR Points to Airlines and Hotels at 1:1 ratio. Yes this option is not favorable, however the annual fee was originally waived for the first year and you did get 50,000 or more Ultimate Rewards Points for free, so $95 isn’t a terrible price to pay. This is probably the best option if you have no immediate travel plans coming up because for $95, you will have the flexibility to hold off transferring your UR Points until you know exactly which Airline or Hotel programs you want to use them for. 
  • Empty Out Your Account – This option would be best if you know you need a certain type of miles or hotel points in the next couple months. For example if you are 100% certain that you need United miles for an upcoming trip, then you might as well transfer all your UR Points to United and then downgrade or cancel your Sapphire Preferred Card.
  • Downgrade or Cancel Without Doing Anything – This option isn’t really recommended since you are losing the ability to transfer your UR Points to any UR Airline or Hotel partners. If you do downgrade to the fee-free version of the Chase Sapphire, you will still get to keep all your UR Points, but you will only be able to redeem them for gift cards, statement credits, vacation packages, etc. This is not recommend because all those redemption offers are worth substantially less than if you transferred your UR Points to Airline Miles or Hotel Points. 

I am curious to hear from Readers what their take on this is and what they plan on doing when their Annual Fee comes due.

Are there any other options I am forgetting?

-Parag