Author Archives: Gomanson

Swissair Business Class (Airbus A321) DUB – ZRH

My Swissair Business Class flight from Dublin to Zürich was a breath of fresh air on my long journey to Europe.  It was my first time on Swissair and it left me with a very good impression of the airline.  Especially having come straight from a lounge-less layover and a long haul flight on a U.S. carrier, I was struck by the extremely friendly and professional service by the Swissair crew.  The food was a step above the business class fare from my previous flight on United, and the seat was comfortable and roomy.

A cup of good strong coffee and one of the famed Swissair chocolates.

This short flight from Dublin to Zürich was the second leg of my business class booking for my Euro2017 trip.  The booking also included the long haul flight from Chicago to Dublin in the new United Polaris class with a lie flat seat.  The whole thing cost me 57.5k United miles (most were transferred-in Chase Ultimate Rewards) and $8.10 in fees! To see more reviews and details on how I planned this trip, check out the main post containing links to related posts.

The seat

swissair business classJust like the British Airways flight Nicoleen and I took in 2015, my business class intra-Europe flight was in a medium range narrow-body Airbus jet.  And just like that British Airways flight, business class in Swiss Air leaves the middle seat in the 3-3 cabin configuration empty.  I was in seat A1 which meant I had to store my backpack in the overhead compartment during take-off and landing.

The seat itself was comfortable and I had virtually unlimited legroom due to the bulkhead row.  My neighbor in 1C had the same idea as me and we shared the middle seat’s tray table for extra shelf space.  Technically you’re not supposed to store carry-ons on the floor in a bulkhead row.  I set my backpack in the seat next to me for most of the flight and no one bothered me about it.

The meal

With only a 1 hour 30 minute flight time, I wasn’t sure if I would get a meal.  I should have taken a cue from my previous intra-Europe business class experience and expected that Swissair would do anything to give me something to write home about.  That meant a full lunch, followed by coffee and the famous Swissair chocolates.

swissair business class lunch meal

For lunch the options were chicken or pasta.  I ignored my own advice and ordered the chicken.  It was swimming in some sort of peach demi-glace and served with peach slices, pea pods, and what I can only describe as a semi-puffed potato cylinder.  The attendant salad featured high quality slices of roast beef, baby corn segments, and a tiny potato salad.  Like most things Swiss, the potato cubes seemed as though they were hand-cut to exact specifications.

swissair business class lunch saladThe bread, cheeses, and dessert were equally wonderful!

General impressions of Swissair

From the crew’s service and appearance, the captain’s announcements, and the food, to the gate employees and the airline’s website, Swissair screams one thing: professionalism.  I found an excerpt from the in-flight magazine that pretty much sums up what kind of operation Swiss International Airlines runs:

Those are some demanding requirements!

Those are some demanding requirements!

Of course one shouldn’t judge an airline as a whole based on just one flight.  And I’m sure the fact that I was in business class on a new and quiet Airbus A321-200 biased my opinion.  I happened to turn around and witness a few crew interactions with passengers in economy class and they seemed to receive the same level of service I did.

The only disappointing part of my whole Swissair experience was that the fabled Arrivals Lounge at ZRH was already closed up for the day when I landed at 3:00 PM.

I can’t help but to compare this flight once again to my only other business class, intra-Europe flight on a European airline.  Overall it was a welcome and unexpected treat at the tail end of my flight itinerary.

My almost-awesome picture of the Swiss army knife landscaping on the approach to Zürich. Swiss Air business class DUB-ZRH.

My *almost* awesome picture of the Swiss army knife landscaping on the approach to Zürich. Swissair business class DUB-ZRH.

This post is part of a series reviewing my [virtually] free trip to Europe.  For a full list of the posts in this series, and for an overview of the trip, check out the index page.

Semi-Monthly Update (August 3, 2017)

Here’s what’s in store for you in this update: Our household points and miles activity for July, a bit of travel news, some currently elevated credit card sign-up bonuses, and a new feature: free travel photo!

Household Points and Miles Activity for July

It was a busy month for points transfers and redemptions!  Here’s the breakdown:

  • earned 10,778 hotel points
  • earned 3,139 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • transferred 62,000 Ultimate Rewards to Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • redeemed 62,015 Southwest Rapid Rewards for airfare worth $1,039.90
  • redeemed 15,990 Citi Thank-You points for airfare worth $200.27
  • redeemed 6,462 Sun Country miles for airfare worth $58.65
  • redeemed 17,092 Chase Ultimate Rewards for airfare worth $256.40

Travel News

booking-vidIn case you couldn’t figure it our from our monthly points and miles activity, we’ve been busy planning our fall trip.  All of those transfers and redemptions were for airfare to and from Orlando for Nicoleen, me, and our three oldest kids.  (The kids don’t know yet, so SSSSHHH!!)  I tried to make a video of the booking process and the rationale, but I butchered several parts of it.  If I have time to edit it thoroughly enough, it may end up on YouTube eventually.

Credit Card News

There are a couple of elevated sign-up bonuses going on right now.

  • The Citi AAdvantage Executive card is up to 75,000 miles on the sign-up bonus, but with an increased spending requirement of $7,500 in the first three months.  This is Citi’s ultra-premium American Airlines card and it comes with a hefty $450 annual fee.  The 75k sign-up bonus is unquestionably worth more than the annual fee, but $450 is a lot to stomach for most people, not to mention the higher spending requirement.  For an in-depth look at this card in light of the current promotion, check out MileValue’s post here.
  • Another Citi ultra-premium card, the Citi Thank-You Prestige, recently underwent some changes.  One of these changes was an increase of the sign-up bonus from 50,000 to 75,000 Thank-You points.  This card also comes with a $450 annual fee but it has a suite of benefits that easily cover the fee (at least for the the first year).  The Prestige was a good card to begin with, but I think the recent changes make it a top contender for my next round of credit card applications.  Again with the deets, here’s MileValue’s post on the recent changes.

Free Travel Photo

Being the first ever Free Travel Photo, I figured I would start at the beginning. This is the breakfast that was waiting for me in Switzerland on the first morning of my first ever points redemption, in 2014. European breakfasts are still one of my favorite things to look forward to when traveling (for free) across the pond!

Being the first ever Free Travel Photo, I figured I would start at the beginning. This is the breakfast that was waiting for me in Switzerland on the first morning of my first ever points redemption, in 2014. European breakfasts are still one of my favorite things to look forward to when traveling (for free) across the pond!

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

Euro2017 – My Free Trip to Europe is the main page where you can find reviews and articles related to that awesome trip.  Links will become active once each article goes online.

Now you’re updated. Go employ some Value Tactics!

Euro2017 – My Free Trip to Europe

In July of 2017 I took a trip to Switzerland, Austria, and Germany to visit friends, hike in the Alps, drink good beer, and try to salvage my waning German language skills.  I call it a free trip to Europe because by staying with friends and booking award flights, I ended up with very few expenses.  I flew business class on the way over and economy on the way back, with a total out-of-pocket cost of $215.52!

My free trip to Europe - Euro2017

Navigating my content

This post is the touchstone page for all of my trip reports and other posts related to this trip.  Below you will find links to the individual posts, similar to the page I made for our First Class to Europe Anniversary Trip in 2015.

Here’s a basic outline of my vacation so you can get your bearing when browsing the other blog posts:

  1. Fly economy class on American from Minneapolis to Chicago
  2. Fly business class on United and Swiss Air to Zürich via Dublin
  3. Visit friends in Zürich
  4. Overnight stay in Tirol, Austria at Hochzeiger Haus mountain hut
  5. Visit a friend’s mom in Konstanz, Germany and travel by train to Frankfurt
  6. Visit more friends in Frankfurt
  7. Return flight in economy class on France Air, Frankfurt to Minneapolis via Paris

Here are the individual posts and reviews for various parts of the trip, including a detailed explanation of how I planned it, what points and miles programs I utilized, etc.  (Links will become active once the posts are published):

  • Planning a Free Trip to Europe
  • Euro2017 – Cost and Value
  • Lounge Review:  United Polaris Lounge at Chicago (ORD)
  • Flight Review:  United 757-200 Polaris Business Class ORD-DUB
  • Euro2017 Field Report: First Post From 38,000 Feet!
  • Flight Review:  Swiss Air A321 Business Class DUB-ZRH
  • Hotel Review:  Hochzeiger Haus
  • Flight Review:  Air France A340-300 Economy Class CDG-MSP

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Semi-Monthly Update (July 24, 2017)

Boo hoo, I’m home again. 🙁  The vacation hangover is in full swing and it’s been a whirlwind few days.  The day after I returned home from my Euro2017 trip I hit the ground running at work and home.  I haven’t had much time to reflect on the trip, write for ValueTactics, or catch up on my regular blog or forum reading.  Accordingly, this will be a short update but I needed to get something going to knock the rust off the ol’ typewriter!

Travel News

I recently returned from my Euro2017 trip, which I describe as relaxing, fun, and enlightening.  It was a nice break from my regular daily duties at home and work, and I saw a nice variety of people and places.  The food was great, the weather was great, and the political discussions were way more interesting than the screaming match we call American politics!  Look for some blog posts about this trip in the coming days and weeks.

St. Lioba Schule

Sitting in front of the school I attended as an exchange student in 1998. Bad Nauheim, Germany.

Swiss goats are friendly and inquisitive.  Selbstständige Ziege, Zürich-Oerlikon, Switzerland.

Swiss goats are friendly and inquisitive. Selbstständige Ziege, Zürich-Oerlikon, Switzerland.

The majority of the planning for our fall vacation is finished.  I will be booking return flights in the next several days.  I plan on recording the process in real time so you can see how I look for award flights.  The video will end up on the yet-to-be-officially-launched YouTube channel.

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

The Best Credit Card (Right Now) explains why the Chase Ink Preferred is the best single card out there.  This would be the card I would recommend to almost anyone in any scenario.  Read the article to find out why!
Euro2017 Field Report: First Post From 38,000 Feet! is pretty self-explanatory.  This was the post I wrote from high above the North Atlantic, on my United Polaris Business Class flight to Dublin.

Credit Card News

I only have a bit of personal news to report.  Last night I updated my big spreadsheet and discovered I have completed the spend requirement for the second half of the bonus on my Amex SPG card.  That’s another 10k SPG points, bringing the total earning for that card to just over 40,000.  That’s worth an entire 3-5 night vacation somewhere awesome from just one card’s sign-up bonus!

Now you’re updated.  Go employ some Value Tactics!

Euro2017 Field Report: First Post From 38,000 Feet!

I paid $18 for an internet connection, so I thought, “why not publish a quick post?”


I’m currently at 38,000 ft altitude, over the Atlantic, approaching Ireland.  I’m in seat 3A on a Boeing 757-200, on a United flight in Polaris Business class.  It’s just after midnight back home and the sun is rising here.  Local time is 6:26 AM.  I was able to sleep a couple hours thanks to the lie-flat seat, but it’s hard to trick the body into thinking the night has passed.



The best way to prevent jet lag is to force the body into the new time zone, right?  What better way to do that than a hearty free breakfast at 12:30 A.M. (physiological time)!

The food was pretty good, despite not being very hungry.  I hope the coffee and the view of the sunrise will get me ready for my 3 hour layover in Dublin.  All in all, it’s been a pretty good experience in Polaris Class so far.  And the price was right at 57.5k United miles + $8.10!

Time to go

So long for now. . . I think we’ll be descending soon.  Time to stow all large electronic devices.


The Best Credit Card (Right Now)

A family member recently asked for my recommendation for a good points-earning credit card she could use for her business expenses.  She spends around $1000 a month on product for her small business.  Right now she’s using a non-points-earning bank card.

This family member is in a pretty common position.  She doesn’t want to dive headfirst into the points and miles game, but she understands there’s value to be gained when making those purchases.  She doesn’t want to juggle multiple cards or frequently open new accounts.  In a case like this the decision of which card to get is actually simple.  All you have to do is find the single best card out there.

The best credit card, period.

The Chase Ink Preferred - The Best Credit Card out there!

When I started thinking about which business card to recommend, my first reaction was the Ink Business Preferred from Chase.  For various reasons (which I explain below) I thought this would be the best option for someone who only wants to get one card.

The more I thought about it, I realized the Ink Preferred is probably the best business card out there regardless of how many cards you want to juggle.  Old, weathered, card-churning veterans should want this card just as much as a newbie who wants to keep it simple.

Ink Preferred and stacks of cards

Whether you want one card or many, the Ink Preferred is the best!

After even more thought and some discussion with a couple of my card buddies, it hit me: The Chase Ink Preferred is the best card out there, period.  It not only beats all other business credit cards, but all personal ones too. It’s the best whether you’re just dabbling in the credit card game or if you’re a Value Tactics fanatic.

Let’s look at the reasons why the Chase Ink Preferred is the hottest card out there right now.

80,000 Ultimate Reward point bonus

Unless this is your first visit to, you know that the majority of a credit card’s value is in the sign-up bonus.  The Chase Ink Preferred is no exception.  After spending $5,000 in your first three months with this card, you’ll earn 80,000 bonus points.

Any card with an 80k bonus would be worth looking into, but these are Chase Ultimate Rewards we’re talking about!  To give you an idea of how much this bonus is worth, here are my last 3 Ultimate Rewards redemptions and their values:

  • For our weekend get-away to Costa Rica in February, I transferred 5,000 UR points to my Hyatt account so I had enough a third night at the Andaz Papagayo Peninsula.  The room value was $546.92/night, so those Ultimate Rewards were worth 3.65 cents each.
  • mini-polarisFor my upcoming trip to Europe, I booked a Polaris Class United flight with miles transferred from Ultimate Rewards.  The value of this redemption works out to 5.82 cents per point.
  • mini-planningI am almost ready to book flights for our fall vacation.  I will either be transferring Ultimate Rewards to Southwest for a value of about 1.7 cents per point, or using points at the Ultimate Rewards travel portal to buy airfare at a rate of 1.5 cents per point.  Let’s split the difference and say 1.6 cents per point will be the value for this Ultimate Rewards redemption.

The worst possible way to redeem Ultimate Rewards is for cash, where you’ll get 1 cent per point.  As you can clearly see, Ultimate Rewards are worth well over 2 cents per point when used wisely . . . and that’s being conservative.  My personal lifetime average for Ultimate Rewards is 2.86 cents per point.

After the $5,000 required spend to get the bonus, you’ll have a minimum of 85,000 points. At my lifetime average redemption rate of 2.86, 85k points is worth a whopping $2,341!  Even at the crappy cash-out rate, 85k points is still worth $850.  And all this for paying the initial $95 annual fee and making the minimum spend. Not bad at all!

If you’re going to apply for the Ink Preferred, I would appreciate it if you click through this link. You get the same 80k offer and I also get some bonus points for sending you there. Thanks!

Other benefits of the Chase Ink Preferred

Besides the amazing sign-up bonus, the Ink Preferred is a strong contender based on its other perks.  These perks include bonus categories for regular point earning, a bonus when redeeming points for travel, and various protections on purchases.  This card also has no foreign transaction fees, which comes in handy when traveling abroad and can save you some money when ordering from foreign websites.

Bonus Categories

The regular earning rate on the Ink Preferred is 1 point per dollar spent. From the above analysis you can see that this is probably worth more than even a 2% cash back card because the value of Ultimate Rewards is easily more than 2 cents per point. But the Ink Preferred really shines when it comes to bonus categories.  You earn 3 points per dollar spent on:

  • Travel (fairly broadly defined)
  • Shipping purchases
  • Internet, cable, and phone services
  • Internet based advertising charges

Using a valuation of 3 cents per point for Ultimate Rewards, you could look at it as an automatic 9% discount in all of these spending categories.

The Ink Preferred is the latest version of Chase's "Ink" business card line. I currently have the Ink Plus (pictured). The Preferred has the best bonus I've ever seen on an Ink card, 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

The Ink Preferred is the latest version of Chase’s “Ink” business card line. I currently have the Ink Plus (pictured). The Preferred has the best bonus I’ve ever seen on an Ink card, 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

Travel redemption bonus

If you’re satisfied with a 1.25 cent per point redemption rate, you can use your points at the Chase travel portal.  Cardholders get a 25% bonus on these redemptions, so 8,000 points is worth not $80 but $100 in travel expenses (when booked through the service.)

Purchase protections

When making purchases with the card, you will be covered with the following: trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, roadside dispatch, auto rental collision damage waiver, cell phone protection, purchase protection, extended warranty protection, and price protection.

I have to admit, I need to look more into these kinds of benefits on all of my cards that come with them.  The restrictions, limitations, exclusions, and other terms involve quite a load of fine print on all of these.  However, I know people who have used them and saved hundreds of dollars.  You can read the fine print yourself to see if these coverages make a big difference in your overall picture of this card.  Personally, I look at these coverages as a nice little bonus but I’m not going to let them affect my decision on whether or not to get a particular card.

Should you get the Chase Ink Preferred?

Yes!!  What kind of question is that?  I just explained how it’s the best single card out there!  Ok, ok. . . let’s nuance my answer a bit.

Do you have to be a business owner?

Yes but you might be surprised to find out what qualifies you as a business owner.  Obviously Brenda from “Brenda’s Hazmat Services” is a business owner.  If you are John from “John’s Christmas Tree Farm and Flu Vaccine Emporium” you are also obviously a business owner.

But here are some examples that would qualify you as well:

  • Do you earn bicycle racing prize money and have expenses to support your racing?
  • Do you run a website that generates ad revenue?
  • Are you in a construction trade and make income with side work?
  • Do you sell giant soccer balls on amazon and ebay and have related expenses?
  • Do you spend weekends buying and selling antiques at flea markets?

These are only a few examples.  One beautiful thing about the United States is that there’s no clear line that says when you are in business or not.  Use that to your advantage when applying for business credit cards.  My usual advice is to use your full name and personal SSN if you’re not incorporated, and use your honest income figures or estimates of your income from whatever endeavor you are calling your business.

When to get the card

It’s a pretty easy decision in my opinion.  If you don’t currently have it and you are eligible to get it, get it now.  (Of course this assumes you have a plan to meet the $5k minimum spend requirement in the next 3 months).  Since it’s the best credit card available at the moment there are few, if any, reasons to prioritize any other cards above it.  By not prioritizing the Ink Preferred, you also run the risk that the 80k bonus will downgrade to 60k, which is the historically typical bonus on Chase Ink cards.

The Chase 5/24 rule applies to this card.  If you have had 5 or more new cards opened (even as an authorized user on someone else’s account) at any bank within the past 24 months, your application will be denied.

If you’re going to apply for the Ink Preferred, I would appreciate it if you click through this link. You get the same 80k offer and I also get some bonus points for sending you there. Thanks!


The Chase Ink Preferred is currently the best credit card out there.  The fringe benefits and category spending bonuses are valuable, but the major value is in the 80k sign-up bonus.  Ultimate rewards are so versatile that they fit into any points and miles strategy.

Since the 80k sign-up bonus is probably temporary, I would recommend almost anyone to apply for this card.  As I explained above, most people probably qualify for a business card one way or another, so that shouldn’t deter you.  (If you really can’t make any case that you need a business credit card, check out the similar personal card, the Sapphire Preferred.)

Semi-Monthly Update (July 5, 2017)

In this update: A Delta Amex promotion ending tonight, monthly points and miles totals from our household, travel news, and yet another YouTube delay (but hopefully the last).

Last Chance for Delta Amex 60, 70k Offers ENDS TONIGHT

The big summer rush of elevated credit card sign-up bonuses is starting to fizzle out like yesterday’s fireworks.  The Platinum gets you 70k Delta Skymiles and the Gold gets you 60k.  Today, July 5th, is the last chance for these two Delta Amex offers, which are the highest for each card, as far as I can remember.
Since Amex limits you to one lifetime sign-up bonus per card, now would be a good time to get either of these.  (Of course any card application should also fit into your overall card strategy.)  To see a few more details on these offers, check out this MileValue post.

Household Points and Miles Activity for May

My initial 25k bonus from my Starwood preferred Guest Amex hit last month.  There’s another 10k bonus waiting for me once I spend an additional $2,000 before September:

  • earned 27,858 hotel points
  • earned 3,485 Chase Ultimate Rewards

Travel News

I am very excited that my Euro2017 trip is less than a week away!  By no means the only thing I’m excited about, but one that’s been on my mind today, is my United Polaris business class flight from Chicago to Dublin.  I found this flight for 57.5k United miles + $8.10.  The exact plane I will be flying in is slightly older than the one in the video but all of the amenities are the same.  The Polaris lounge in Chicago will be the exact one pictured in this video:

I will be busy visiting with friends, wandering in the Alps, drinking good beer, and answering questions about U.S. politics, but I will try to find some time to get a field report or two up on the website.

YouTube Update

Ok, ok. . . this is getting silly.  What can I say?  It’s summer and there’s lots to do.  And launching a YouTube channel is no cake walk.  Here’s a screenshot I took minutes ago.  We’re getting very close . . . 
ValueTactics YouTube video production

Now you’re updated.  Go employ some Value Tactics!

Last Chance: Mere Hours Left to get 2 Hyatt Free Nights

Starting tomorrow the sign-up bonus on the Chase Hyatt card changes from 2 free nights to 40,000 points.  40k Hyatt points may get you more than 2 nights at low to medium end Hyatt properties, but there’s no question that the value potential of the 2 free nights is higher than the 40k points.

Consider this. . .

My wife and I each used our 2 free nights at the Maui Andaz at Wailea.  The value of those two night stays were around $1,075 each.  The same stay would have cost 50,000 Hyatt points.  This inspirational trip could be accomplished with the current bonus, but after tonight, the 40k bonus would not cut it.

maui andaz grounds 3

Speaking of inspirational, one of my bucket list dream trips will no longer be possible after tonight.  I’m talking about a 4 night stay (using the 2 free night bonus from 2 of these cards) at Park Hyatt Hadahaa in the Maldives.  In this extreme case, the 2 night bonus is worth over $3000!  – Read more about this proposed free night usage in my card review –

Of course there are many less-awesome Hyatt properties are under 20k points per night.  (And some notable “sweet spot” pricing on some more-awesome properties like the Andaz Papagayo for 15k per night.)  If that’s more your style, the 40k bonus that starts tomorrow might be a better deal for you, because you could get the 2 free nights and still have some points leftover.

But less-awesome hotels and limiting myself to sweet spot deals isn’t the reason I’m in this game-  I do this to stay at resorts where you would picture the Wolf of Wall Street spent his vacations!  So for me, the 2 nights deal is more valuable than the 40k deal.

If you want the 2 free nights,

You need to apply for the card tonight.  I don’t know when the actual change will occur, but to be safe I would get my app in before midnight Eastern Standard Time.  For a link to the application page and for the most up-to-the-minute reports on when the offer has changed, visit the flyertalk wiki and thread on this card.

NOTE: The Chase Hyatt card is NOT subject to the Chase 5/24 rule.  If you have over 5 new credit cards in the past 24 months, you will not be automatically declined.  However, the card will of course still count toward your 5/24 limit for future applications.

Information to help your decision

To see what other bloggers are saying about this bonus change, check out some of these blog posts.  Without these guys keeping tabs on this stuff, I would miss a lot of these news items, so I tip my hat:
Milevalue: LAST DAY FOR 2 FREE NIGHTS ON HYATT CARD: Sign Up Bonus Changes Tomorrow
One Mile at a Time: Last Chance At A Sign-Up Bonus Of 2 Free Hyatt Nights

HyattcardCard Review: Chase Hyatt
My full review of this card, including my valuation of the 2 night bonus which expires tonight. All the relevant card stats are also listed. At the end I include some help in deciding if and when to get this card.

Our Hawaiian Get-Away 2016hawaii-get-away
The dream vacation we were able to engineer, largely based on the free nights from the Chase Hyatt card.  In this post is a complete explanation of how we planned the trip and got thousands of dollars of free hotel stays from credit card bonuses.

Relaxing in Costa RicaA Long Weekend in Paradise . . . Why Not?
This trip to Costa Rica this February was how we used another valuable benefit of the Chase Hyatt card, the annual free night after paying the $75 annual fee.  Detailed valuation analysis is included here as well.

For some general advice on choosing credit cards for their bonuses, read my post on Which Card Should I Get?

Don’t Panic

Last but not least, don’t panic.  The Chase Hyatt card will by no means become worthless tomorrow when the bonus changes to 40k points.  The decision to get the card or not will pretty much remain the same.  If anything, the timing will be less important.

40k Hyatt points is still worth a whole lot.  But if you see the 2 free nights as an invitation to maximize some extreme value out of this card (as I do), then tonight is your last chance to do so!