Category Archives: Card Reviews

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 ValueTactics.com, 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!

Conclusion

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.)




Card Review: Chase Hyatt

The Chase Hyatt card is a giant among hotel cards.  A look at online reports of where people have used the free night certificates earned with this card could inspire just about anyone to take up the credit card hobby.  After spending $2000 in the first three months, you will get two certificates good for a free stay at any Hyatt in the world.  There’s also an annual free night bonus good at any Hyatt, category 1-4, for paying the $75 annual fee.  Regular spending on the card earns Hyatt points, which can easily be redeemed for over $0.025 per point.
Hyattcard

Basic Stats

  • Issuer: Chase
  • Logo: Visa Signature
  • Points earned: World of Hyatt (formerly called Hyatt Gold Passport)
  • 1 point per dollar on all purchases
  • 2 points per dollar on airline tickets, car rental, and dining
  • 3 points per dollar on purchases at Hyatt
  • Annual fee: $75

Sign-up Bonus and Annual Free Night

Like most credit cards, the majority of the Hyatt card’s value is in the sign-up bonus.  After spending $2000 within the first 3 months with this card, you get 2 free night certificates for any Hyatt in the world.  Depending on how you use the free nights, this bonus can be incredibly valuable!  (Like $3000+ valuable – read on . . .)

Getting an authorized user card within the first 3 months and making one purchase with that card will also earn you 5,000 bonus points.

The free night certificates are good for 12 months from the date they are issued.  Unlike many sign-up bonuses, these will appear in your Hyatt account a few days after the minimum spend is met.  You don’t have to wait until the statement closes.

Hyatt properties are classified in categories 1-7 and there’s no category limit on the free night certificates.  This means there is enormous potential value with these certificate redemptions.  But, it also means you can really miss out on a lot of value by not doing your homework.

For example, you could use the certificates on a $225 two-night stay at the Hyatt Place in Milwaukee in October (LOW VALUE WARNING).  Or, you could use them on this:
hadahaa-bathroom hadahaa-pool hadahaa-dollars
. . . a $3,153 two-night stay at Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.  As you can see, this card’s value can drastically vary, depending on how you plan your certificate redemptions.

My experience with the Chase Hyatt card

I have known about the potential value of the Chase Hyatt card since my earliest days of playing the credit card game.  I put off getting the card until I had a good plan for using the free nights.  My plan all along was to get the card at the same time as my wife so we would have 4 free nights total.  Four free nights would make a nice vacation but 6 would be even better, so I wanted to get another card that came with free hotel stays, the Citi Hilton Reserve, at the same time.

hyatt-hilton-smallEverything lined up nicely in November 2015.  Nicoleen and I both got the Chase Hyatt card and she got the Citi Hilton Reserve at the same time.  This was the set-up I had strategized in order to plan a whole vacation with the free nights from these cards.

There was a promotional deal when we applied for this card.  The annual fee was waived for the first year and there was a $50 statement credit after making the first purchase on the card.  The bonus spend was also lower than the current requirement of $2000.  We only needed to spend $1000 in the first three months to get the free night certificates.

(Read more about our round of card applications here.)

  How we used the free nights

After some thorough planning, we used our combined four free nights at the Andaz Maui at Wailea.  The cash value of our 4-night stay was $2,158.24You can read my full review of this amazing property here.
maui andaz pool 1

  How we used the free anniversary night

When it came time to pay the annual fee on the Hyatt card, we had to decide whether to cancel it or pay the $75 fee and get the anniversary night.  We didn’t have any firm plans to use the Hyatt category 1-4 free night, but we were sure we could find something that would be worth the $75 annual fee.

I ended up throwing together a long weekend trip to Costa Rica, to stay at the wonderful Andaz Peninsula Papagayo.  We used both our anniversary nights and paid for another night with points.  For the full report of this trip, click here.
papagayo

The bottom line – total value of the Chase Hyatt card

Since Nicoleen and I both got this card and used the benefits together, I calculated the value of the card by totaling everything and dividing by 2.  Keep in mind this is the value I received from the card.  It should not by used as an absolute value for the card.  Your mileage may and will vary.

  • Sign-up bonus:  4 nights at Andaz Maui: $2,158.24 – $106.40 for mandatory valet parking = $2,051.84
  • Anniversary night:  2 nights at Andaz Peninsula Papagayo: $994.40 – $150 for annual fees = $844.40
  • Points redemption:  15,000 points for 1 night at Andaz Peninsula Papagayo: $546.92

Between the two cards we earned 19,883 Hyatt points.  Using our one redemption as a model, the points are worth $0.0365 each, so 19,883 points is worth $724.96.

(2,051.84 + 844.40 + 724.96) / 2 = $1,810.60

In our specific case, the value we reaped from each of our Chase Hyatt cards is $1,810.60 each!
The sign-up bonus alone (not counting any points earned) was worth $1,025.92 per card.

Click here for the Flyertalk wiki on the Chase Hyatt card, where you will find links to the application page.

Should you get this card?

IMPORTANT:  Because of the Chase 5/24 rule, when you get this card matters.  Chase summarily declines any credit card application if the applicant has opened 5+ cards from any bank in the past 24 months.  Therefore, carefully place your application for the Chase Hyatt card into your overall credit card strategy.

  If you ever stay at hotels for any reason

YES.  Even if it’s for your great great grandma’s out-of-town funeral or your cousin’s hairdresser’s kid’s graduation party 4 hours away, most of you find SOME reason to stay in a hotel once or twice in a year.  The Hyatt portfolio of hotels is pretty extensive, especially in large cities.  You would be hard pressed to not make your annual fee back by staying two nights free at even the cheapest Hyatt properties.

  If you aspire to free travel greatness

YES.  This should definitely be one of the key cards in any value tactician’s strategy.  BUT, I highly recommend having a good plan in place before you apply for it.  If there are two of you and you can both apply, all the better.  Just take a second look at my experience with this card to see why.

  If you somehow never plan on staying in a hotel, ever

NO.  All of the Chase Hyatt card’s benefits apply to hotel stays.

Click here for the Flyertalk wiki on the Chase Hyatt card, where you will find links to the application page.

As always, feel free to contact me privately or on the ValueTactics Facebook page for personalized advice or discussion on any credit card or points related topics!

 

Card Review: Chase Marriott Rewards Premier

The Marriott Rewards card from Chase can be a very valuable addition to your hotel points portfolio.  It comes with a lucrative 80,000 point sign-up bonus and it has some lasting perks that might make it worth keeping in your wallet.

The Chase Marriott Rewards card has a metal core, just like the Sapphire Preferred!

Basic Stats

  • Issuer: Chase
  • Logo: Visa Signature
  • Points earned: Marriott Rewards
  • 1 point per dollar on all purchases
  • 2 points per dollar on airline tickets, car rental, and dining
  • 5 points per dollar on purchases at Marriott
  • Annual fee: $85 (NOT waived the first year)

Current Sign-up bonus

80,000 Marriott Rewards points after $3000 spend in 3 months.  You also get 7,500 points for adding an authorized user and making one purchase with that card.

However, there are several variations available through public offer pages, according to the Flyertalk wiki on the Chase Marriott Rewards card.  We’ll discuss whether one of these variant sign-up bonuses might be a better value for you below.  Unless otherwise noted, this review will assume we’re talking about the “standard” bonus.  This is the bonus I got on the card, and the same bonus you can get by applying through my referral link.

Adapted from the Flyertalk wiki:

There are currently 3 noteworthy offers. They all have $3k minimum spend in 3 months and do NOT include a one-night category 1-4 certificate the first year, but they do include a category 1-5 certificate in subsequent years:

  • 80k + 7.5k AU, AF not waived first year.
  • 40k + $200 credit for first purchase + 5k AU, AF waived first year.
  • Two initial cat 1-5 certs + $200 credit (both contingent on $3k spend/3mos) + 7.5K AU, AF waived first year

Sign-up Bonus and Annual Free Night

The 80,000 point sign-up bonus is the main reason the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card is worth considering.  It’s a difficult task to assign values to hotel points, due to the vast differences in redemption options.  That being said, I use 0.85 cents per Marriott point as a rule of thumb.  Using this valuation, if a 10,000 point award night would cost more than $85 cash (don’t forget to include taxes!), you’re getting a good value with your points.

Here’s the current Marriott Reward redemption chart:
marriott-reward-chartIf you add an authorized user you’re up to 87,500.  And by making the minimum spend of $3k to get the bonus, you’ll have at least 90,500, not including any category spending bonuses.  As you can see, you could stretch 90,500 points a long way!

Redemption Example #1

11 nights in February at the AC Hotel in Guadalajara, Mexico
AC-guad
It’s a Category 2 property, so 10,000 points per night. 90,500 points is enough for 9 nights, but every consecutive 4 award nights booked with Marriott gets you a 5th free night. That makes 11 nights in this example. The cash value (with tax) for the same room is $109.48/night, for a total value of $1204.28!

Redemption Example #2

5 nights in October at the Courtyard Orlando at Vista Center, Florida
buena-vista
This Category 4 property is 20,000 points per night.  80,000 points gets you 4 nights and the 5th night is free.  The cash value for the same stay is $587.25.

Redemption Example #3

2 nights in July at Domes Noruz Chania, Autograph Collection, Crete
Crete-resort

Every standard room at Domes Noruz Chania has its own plunge pool.

Every standard room at Domes Noruz Chania has its own plunge pool.

I went all out when looking at this amazing Category 9 resort on Crete.  With the Chase Marriott Rewards card your 90,000 points will get you two nights at this paradise.  A cash value of $777.12. (exchange rate as of this writing)

Click here to apply for the Marriott Rewards premier card from Chase

Do some example searches on www.awardmapper.com or look up hotels by category at the Marriott website to see what this card is worth to you!

Keep or cancel?  After one year of card membership, the second year’s annual fee will be due.  The anniversary night bonus is good for any Category 1-5 property.  With a few quick searches it’s pretty easy to see how you could get more value than the $85 annual fee would cost you.  Of course if you have no use for a free night stay at a Marriott property in the upcoming year, the annual fee might not be worth it for you.  If you already spend a number of paid nights at Marriott properties throughout the year, the 5x category spend bonus will add to the value of keeping this card for more than the first year.

My experience with the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier

In a recent update post I promised to include the total value I personally gained from each of the cards I review.  This post proves me a liar!  I have over 90,000 Marriott points from this card’s bonus and a bit of spending, but I haven’t redeemed them yet.  For a hint on how I plan to redeem these points, look at my example redemption #2 above.  It will be something very similar.  And if you happen to know my kids, KEEP YER MOUTH SHUT!  🙂  (They don’t know yet!)

Should you get this card?

Yes, but with caveats.  It should be pretty evident to you by now that the up-front $85 annual fee is nothing compared to the potential value of this card’s benefits.  I would recommend the Chase Marriott Rewards card to anyone as long as they can find a way to use the bonus points.  This is even easier to do now that Marriott and Starwood are currently undergoing a merger.  You can use Marriott Rewards at a 3:1 ratio to redeem for Starwood award nights from now until the merger is complete.

However, because of the Chase 5/24 rule, when (and if) you get this card matters.  For example, if you’ve already been approved for 4 new credit card accounts in the past 24 months, the 5/24 rule says you can currently only get one Chase card.  If you don’t already have one of the more valuable cards from Chase, like the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, skip the Marriott card for now.

Which sign-up offer should I take?

Near the top of this post, I listed several alternative sign-up offers currently available.  Links to these offers can by found on the Flyertalk wiki page.  The top offer is identical to the one described in this post, and for which I have a referral link (click below!).

Which offer is right for you is a matter of simple math.  Calculate the value you think you will get for the bonus offerings, and take into account whether or not the annual fee is waived for the first year.  The only way to calculate this is to do some sample hotel searches.  I went with the 80k point bonus with the annual fee not waived the first year.  If you want to apply for the same offer and support your favorite website, ValueTactics.com, at the same time, please use my link to apply!  🙂

Click here to apply for the Marriott Rewards Premier card from Chase

The Best Credit Card Offer. . . Ever

NOTICE: The 100,000 Ultimate Reward sign-up bonus will change to a 50,000 bonus on January 12th.  The 11th is the last day to apply for the 100k offer.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has received a lot of attention since it became available.  I have mentioned it a few times like in this update post, but I haven’t done a full write-up yet.  I figured those of you serious enough to apply for a card with a $450 up-front annual fee would know how to look up the details yourself. 🙂  However, the bonus offer which gives this card its unbelievable value is being reduced, so I feel compelled to alert my audience before it’s too late.

reserve-smallHere’s why the Chase Sapphire Reserve is widely accepted as the best credit card offer ever:

  • 100,000 Ultimate Reward bonus after $4k spend in 3 months
  • 3x Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent on dining and travel, including gas station purchases
  • $300 annual travel expense reimbursement, with a generous definition of travel expense
  • $100 toward Global Entry or TSA Pre-check registration
  • Priority Club airport lounge access membership
  • 1.5x Ultimate Reward redemption rate at the Chase travel portal
  • No foreign transaction fee

That’s crazy!!  If you can stomach the $450 up-front annual fee, the benefits of this card could be worth thousands of dollars.  The 100k UR bonus alone is worth a minimum of $1000 (if cashed out – don’t do this).  It’s worth $1,500 at the Chase travel portal.  But by taking advantage of airline and hotel transfer partners I value 100k UR points at well over $2,500!

450fee

The benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve laugh in the face of the scowling $450 fee!

That’s not to mention the travel reimbursement benefit, which is based on the calendar year; not the cardmember year.  It’s pushing it, getting the card in January; but it’s still possible to get the $300 reimbursement for 2017 and 2018, and then cancelling before the next annual fee is due.  That tactic would put you $150 in the black without even considering any other benefits.

If you can’t stomach a $450 up-front annual fee, there are still other great cards that can earn you tons of valuable Ultimate Rewards pointsCheck out my Card Offer Page to see a few.

All good things must come to an end

As I stated, the 100k UR bonus is ending after tomorrow.  I would still recommend this card though.  As I just explained, the other benefits could still easily outweigh the annual fee.  Even the reduced bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards more than makes up for the annual fee.

For those of you who live near Chase branch locations, the 100k deal is extended through March 11th for in-branch applications only.  Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for my fellow Minnesotans, as I point out in this post on the regional nature of deals.

No Reserve for me, but my fair lady. . .

Thanks to Chase’s insidious 5/24 rule, I am disqualified from getting this card with the 100k bonus.  However, Nicoleen got down to 4/24 in November!  I wanted to wait until February, so getting the 2 years’ $300 travel reimbursements would be easier to time.  But as soon as the 100k deal’s end date was announced, we had to pounce!  On Saturday Nicoleen applied online and got the 7-10 day pending message:

The best credit card offer ever!

Annoying, but expected.  She had planned on calling the reconsideration line but then last night (Monday) she got a UPS message that a package was on it’s way.  We logged onto her account and Eureka!  The Reserve had been added to her account:

So beautiful . . .

So beautiful . . .

If you want to get more info on people’s recent experiences applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, check out the Flyertalk thread on the topic.

If you’re ready to apply, here’s the direct link to card offer splash page.

Card Review: Chase Ink Plus

UPDATE: This card has been replaced with the Ink Business Preferred.

chase ink
The Ink Plus is Chase’s Ultimate Rewards earning business credit card. With a new standard sign-up bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points, this card is a heavy hitter in terms of value potential. And the value of the Ink Plus doesn’t all lie in the sign-up bonus either; it has generous 5x and 2x category bonuses as well, making this card one you may want to keep in your wallet for the long haul.

Basic Stats
– Issuer: Chase
– Logo: Visa Signature
– Points earned: Ultimate Rewards
– 1 pt per dollar on all purchases
– 2 pts per dollar on gas and lodging
– 5 pts per dollar on phone/internet/cable, and at office supply stores
– No foreign transaction fee
– Annual fee: $95 (NOT waived the first year)

Current sign-up bonus
60,000 bonus points after $5000 spend in 3 months

In 2014 I flew to Europe and back for 60,000 United miles, transferred from Ultimate Rewards. The bonus alone on the Ink Plus could get you the same flights!

A planted giant sequoia at Insel Mainau gardens in Konstanz, Germany

A giant sequoia at Insel Mainau gardens in Konstanz, Germany

Click here to apply for the Ink Plus business card from Chase

This card has been replaced with the Ink Business Preferred.

Can I get a business card?

This question probably scares away a lot of potential card holders of this and many other business cards with lucrative sign-up bonuses. Lucky for most of you reading this, we live in the USA, where having a “business” can mean many different things. Basically any side income that you earn that doesn’t show up on a W-2 can count as a business for the purpose of applying for a business credit card.

I have heard of many examples of businesses used to apply for these cards, some more legitimate than others. I have done ceramic tile and stone installation for over 10 years and even though it’s now an form of infrequent weekend income, it definitely qualifies. I have expenses and I earn income; that’s basically all that’s required. Others I have heard of include: bicycle racing expenses and winnings, online sales (amazon and ebay), running a website, and even inconsistent odd jobs. All of these could qualify you for a business card.

When applying, my advice is to embellish where needed, but never outright lie. If you are just starting a business or online sales effort you can use projected or expected income on your application. Be optimistic about your income figures and don’t skimp when you’re asked how much you expect to put on the card. When it comes down to it, unless you have a thriving business with employees, the bank will probably base most of its decision on your personal income and credit score (if you don’t have a federal tax ID, you will use your personal SSN for the application.)

Sign-up and category bonuses

The 60,000 Ultimate Reward bonus is incredible! Even considering you pay the first year’s annual fee up front, this card’s sign-up bonus is more valuable than its non-business counterpart, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. After the initial spend of $5k, you’ll have at least 65,000 UR points. That’s enough for:

. . . And that’s just the minimum points you’ll have after meeting the $5k spend. If you have $250 in monthly cell phone and landline/cable/internet bills on this card, you’ll earn 1250 UR points a month, or 15,000 a year. That doesn’t even consider other spending you may put on the card, including the 2x point earning on gas station purchases and lodging.

My experience with the Ink Plus

When I got the card it had an elevated sign-up bonus of 70,000 points. This deal has been seen before (and even higher, but with higher minimum spends) but the 60,000 UR bonus is one of the best around, so I wouldn’t wait for an elevated bonus. I just had lucky timing.

I have had my Ink Plus for over a year. I calculated the 5x category bonus on our cellphone and internet bills just about paid for the annual fee. So additional value I get from having the card is basically free. I also use this card on business expenses (tile supplies purchased for clients) and some fuel purchases. For me the category bonuses might make this card more of a keeper than the Sapphire Preferred. I will have to make that decision soon, as my Sapphire Preferred annual fee is due soon. (Always remember to transfer your UR points to another UR account in your household before you cancel an UR-earning card!)

Should you get this card?

Yes! The total value from getting this card is easily over $2000 and can be much higher if you redeem your transferred miles tactically. If you have absolutely no travel plans in your future, the card is still worth at least $650 in the cash-out value of your points, all for a $95 annual fee. That’s $555 profit just for getting one card and making sure you meet the minimum spend. (Don’t redeem for cash though . . . the UR points are worth much more when transferred to a partner program!)

Here are some things to consider when working the Ink Plus into your overall card strategy:

  • IMPORTANT: You have to prioritize applications for Chase cards because of the 5/24 rule.
  • Ultimate Rewards points are very versatile so having a stock of them early in your value tactics career would be helpful.
  • The 60,000 UR sign up bonus is worth more than the 50,000 point bonus on the Sapphire Preferred personal card, even when accounting for the up-front $95 fee.
  • The $5000 spending requirement may be a challenge for you to meet, especially if you have other bonus spends cooking at the same time. (REMEMBER, the $95 annual fee does not count toward your bonus spend.)

The Chase Ink Plus is an amazing card for it’s category bonuses, fringe benefits, and extremely valuable sign-up bonus. If you can make the case that you have a business (not very difficult – see above), I would highly recommend that you get this card early in your points career!

Click here to apply for the Ink Plus business card from Chase

This card has been replaced with the Ink Business Preferred.

Card Review: Wells Fargo Propel

propel cards2Wells Fargo’s flagship points earning credit cards are the Propel World and Propel 365.  The Propel World has a $175 annual fee with a 40,000 point sign-up bonus, and the Propel 365 has a $45 annual fee with a 20,000 point sign-up bonus.  There are some differences in category bonuses as well, but the annual fee and initial bonus are the biggest differences.  This review is for the card my wife and I have, the Propel World.

Basic Stats
– Issuer: Wells Fargo
– Logo: AMEX
– Points earned: Wells Fargo Rewards
– 1 pt per dollar on all purchases
– 2 pt per dollar on hotel stays
– 3 pt per dollar on airfare
– Foreign transaction fee: no
– Chip: yes
– Annual fee: $175

Current sign-up bonus
40,000 bonus points after $3000 spend in 3 months
– 1st year annual fee waived
– 0.0% APR for 12 months

Wells Fargo’s Propel World and Propel 365 cards have received relatively little attention on the card blogs.  The Propel World is worth potentially $630 in bonuses alone.  The card has a pretty stiff annual fee, and some people have reported trouble getting approved if they don’t have any relationship with Wells Fargo.  But I think the biggest reason this card is underplayed on the major card blogs is that there doesn’t seem to be any card application referral links.  Ok, so that’s a bit cynical, but it might have some truth to it.

After hitting the bonus spend you’ll have at least 43,000 points.  Some flyertalk users report waiting over 2 months for the bonus points to post to their accounts.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you don’t enjoy maximizing complex redemption schemes) the best way I found to spend the points is to simply take the cash.  Points can be redeemed for $0.01/pt in $25 increments so 43,000 points are worth $425.  You have the choice of taking the cash as a statement credit or having it transferred to your Wells Fargo bank account.

Orphan Points

wells fargo rewards summary
Points leftover after redeeming for cash (i.e. any balance less than 2,500 pts) aren’t casualties of war as I thought they would be.  Some helpful folks at the flyerfalk forum on this card brought up the fact that you can buy gift cards with any combination of points and dollars.  In my example I bought a $25 Subway gift card for 1,277 points and $12.23.  Since I would have spent $25 at Subway eventually anyway, I view the points used as basically being converted to cash.

The Airline Bonus

wells fargo airline credit
Besides having no foreign transaction fee and a few other minor travel perks, the Propel World’s most valuable benefit is the incidental airline expense reimbursement.  The card will reimburse up to $100 in airline fees every card member year.  This pretty much includes anything charged to an airline other than airfare.  When I got the card there was hardly any information online about which purchases count as an airline purchase.

– My first test was a miles transfer fee with American Airlines.  The whole fee was reimbursed.

– For my second test I purchased a wi-fi connection on an overseas flight on American Airlines.  As I suspected, the purchase was charged to T-mobile, not the airline.  This was not reimbursed.

– My third test was an in-flight food and beverage purchase aboard an Air Canada flight.  This was not reimbursed and my statement showed the charge coming from a third party food vendor company.

Although in-flight purchases like meals and wi-fi may seem like it would count toward the airline charge reimbursement benefit, be careful to check whether or not it’s actually the airline charging you, or a partner company.  The primary way I have seen reported to take advantage of this benefit is to buy a gift card from an airline.  There have been some mixed reports of this method too, however, so do your homework before you make your purchase.  Flyertalk has a thread on the card, which contains many reports of using the airline benefit.

One last note on the airline benefit: for those who want to really maximize this card’s benefits, there are reports of people getting the $100 airline reimbursement, waiting until their anniversary date and getting another $100 reimbursement for their second year of card membership, and then cancelling the card before the annual fee posts.  Of course if you plan on keeping the card and paying the annual fee, you have a whole year to get the benefit again.

My experience with the Wells Fargo Propel World

My wife and I both applied for the Propel as the AMEX part of a “big 3” application round, along with Citi and Chase cards.  She was instantly approved and I got “pending.”  I called the next day and after some verifications, the rep approved the account.

The cards came about a week later in a some pretty nice packaging.  We each got an authorized user card for the other’s account to help coordinate hitting both bonus spends.  Around the time of the first payment due date, I was pleasantly surprised to find out about the 0% APR period, which I had failed to notice earlier.  These turned into our go-to cards when our cash flow was lagging, and we soon intentionally racked up balances that would sit there until the end of the promotional 0% period.
Wells fargo welcome packNear the end of our first year with the Propel, as the $175 annual fee loomed ahead, it was pretty easy to determine that keeping the card was not worth the fee.  Both of my attempts at using the incidental airline benefit on my card had failed (see above) so I wanted to capture the value of this benefit before closing the card.  A $100 American Airlines gift card did the trick.  I also used the rest of my orphan points on a Subway gift card, squeezing the last bit of value from this card.  Before the statement with my annual fee closes, I’m going to try and get another $100 AA gift card for my 2nd year airline benefit.

Nicoleen’s card already had a few airline mile transfer fees reimbursed and I was too lazy to check her statements to see how much was left of the $100 benefit.  Additionally, I had her statament closing date wrongly recorded and by the time she was going to call and cancel the card, her annual fee had posted to her account.  I discovered this while at work and I panicked, directing her to call right away and try to get the fee removed.  She did so, and only after I received the news did I realize I had forgotten to have her get a $100 airline gift card for the 2nd year reimbursement benefit.  Oh well…we missed out on a free $100 in airfare but still avoided the $175 annual fee.  And all that was on top of the $450+ in value we got from her card; so yeah…I can’t really complain 🙂

Should you get this card?

Yes.  Although Wells Fargo Rewards points are non-transferable and basically only worth the cash, $425 in points for a $3k spend is a good value any day of the week!  Add the airline benefit and a little extra spending and you’re up to a $650 value for getting this card.

So where would the Propel fit into an overall card strategy?  Of course that depends on your situation, but here are some things to consider:

– The bonus has been the same since this card’s inception so timing (vis a vis an elevated bonus offer)probably doesn’t matter
– All reports indicate your chances of being approved are higher after having some history with Wells Fargo.  A few months with a free checking account might do the trick.
– If your planned app round already has a Citi, Chase, and/or Barclay card, this could fit the AMEX role.
– If you know you’ll be paying for some miles transfers or purchases, having the incidental airline expense reimbursement benefit on this card can cover those costs, up to $100/year.
– If you currently don’t have a card that waives foreign transaction fees and you have international travel on your horizon, the Propel might be good to have.

Click here to apply for the Propel World AMEX from Wells Fargo

Card Review: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Our well worn Sapphire Preferred cards (pre- chip+PIN)

Our well worn Sapphire Preferred cards (pre- chip+PIN)

Basic Stats
– Issuer: Chase
– Logo: Visa
– Points earned: Ultimate Rewards
– 1 pt per dollar on all purchases
– 2 pt per dollar on travel & dining
– 3 pt per dollar on dining (1st Friday of every month)
– Foreign transaction fee: no
– Chip + PIN: yes
– Annual fee: $95

Current sign-up bonus
40,000 (50,000 as of 11-17-15) bonus points after $4000 spend in 3 months
5,000 bonus points with addition of authorized user
– 1st year annual fee waived

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the gold standard in premium credit cards.  It’s been around a long time and has remained a good deal for years.  Chase has a reputation for excellent customer service and Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) are the single most valuable points out there.  Besides being incredibly versatile, UR points do not expire and they can be transferred among your accounts, any business accounts you may own, and your spouse’s account for free.  Besides the sign-up bonus and regular spending, you can also rack up UR points be using Chase’s online shopping portal, which will get you at least 1 extra point per dollar at most major online retailers.

And remember, the minimum bonus spend also counts towards regular points accrual, so by the time you get the bonus for this card, you will have earned at least 44,000 54,000 UR points.  Add an authorized user when you apply and make one purchase with the second card for another 5,000 bonus points.  Make some of those purchases at restaurants or hotels and you can get to 50k 60k quite easily.

Here are some examples of how you could use the UR points you earn from this card:

  • 3 nights at Hyatt Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort in Costa Rica; $1695 worth of lodging for 45k Ultimate Rewards transferred to Hyatt Gold PassportHyatt Andaz Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica
  • One-way business class on Canada Air 787 Dreamliner, Minneapolis to Zurich; A $5006 flight for 57.5k Ultimate Rewards transferred to United Mileage Plus

    Business class on Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner

    The lie-flat business class mini-suite in Canada Air’s 787 Dreamliner

  • Round trip from the continental U.S. to the Caribbean in economy class; 35k Ultimate Rewards transferred to United Mileage Plus
  • Depending on where and when you fly, 49k Ultimate Rewards transferred to Southwest Airlines could get you 2 round trip flights.Southwest map
  • 49k 59k from your bonuses & required spend gets you $588 $708 in travel from the Ultimate Rewards Travel Booking service
  • 49k 59k from your bonuses & required spend is also worth $490 $590 credited to your account.  This is the least efficient redemption method, but you could use it if you really want the cash.

My experience with the Chase Sapphire Preferred
This was the first “premium” credit card I applied for, way back when I was starting out and mainly focused on getting my debt on to 0% interest cards.  I figured as long as I was apping cards, I should go for one with a nice bonus and points program.  Creditkarma says the average credit score to get approved for the Sapphire Preferred is 730.  I was right around 760 and got instantly approved online.  My wife applied at the same time and was also approved online.

metalcards

The metal core of the Chase Sapphire Preferred

When we got our cards in the mail, we were pleasantly surprised at how cool they looked!  (Trust me, once you’re a full blown card fanatic you’ll care about how they look, too).  The unique thing about the Chase Sapphire Preferred is that it’s metal.  That’s right, not only will this card get you some valuable points, but it may save your life someday if you ever get shot in the wallet.  We still enjoy the comments we hear when handing the card to a cashier to pay for something.

We both hit our bonus spends and the points earned eventually funded my very first points redemption, airfare to Europe with UnitedPlus miles transferred from Ultimate Rewards.  UR points have bailed me out several times since then, with their incredible versatility (Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to 11 different partner programs.)

My wife ended up downgrading her card to the regular Chase Sapphire to avoid paying the annual fee after the first year, but I have paid the fee twice on my Sapphire Preferred (a rarity in this game).  It hasn’t left my wallet in 3 years and is still my go-to card for dining purchases.

GET THE CHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED
I’m not cool enough to have credit card affiliate links but I can get bonus points of my own if you apply through my referral link.  If you got some value from my review, I would appreciate it very much if you applied through the link, which has the same terms and bonus as the public offer.

Click here to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred!

Even if you don’t use my link, I highly recommend this card to anyone as it offers a nice pile of Ultimate Rewards, no foreign transaction fees, 2x points on travel and dining, and no annual fee for the 1st year.