Category Archives: Chase

Tighter Rules for Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

I’ve been using the credit card tactic to earn points and miles for about 5 years now.  This tactic has earned me thousands of dollars in cash and tens of thousands of dollars worth of free travel.  I’ve had a good run!  The vast majority of the points and miles I have earned were not from regular spending, but from the credit card’s sign-up bonus.  But the rules for credit card sign-up bonuses are getting tighter all the time.

Each credit card has its own requirement in order to get the sign-up bonus.  The most common requirement is a certain amount of spending on the card in a given time period, typically the first 3 months of card membership.  The bonus on each card can change periodically and is advertised on whatever page you click through when you apply for the card.  However, just because you’re approved for the card and make the required spending doesn’t mean you’ll get the bonus!

Tighter rules on chase cards

An example of a card’s “splash page,” listing the bonus and other benefits of the card.  Chase’s rules only allow you to get the bonus on their Hyatt card every 24 months.  The 2 free night deal seen here has been replaced with a 40,000 point bonus, and the $50 statement credit comes and goes.

Most of the following rules only apply to someone who has already earned the bonus on a particular card once before.  Getting a repeat bonus on a particular card is called card churning.

Current rules for sign-up bonuses

Each issuing bank has their own set of rules for if and how often you can get a sign-up bonus.  These rules for credit card sign-up bonuses have changed a lot in the 5 years I have been in this game.  I can’t think of a single example of a rule loosening up!  Like most complex systems, things only tend to get more restricted and more narrowly defined.


Chase is a points and miles powerhouse, with co-branded cards with United Airlines, British Airways, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, and International Hotel Group.  Chase also has their own transfer points, Ultimate Rewards, which are highly valuable due to their transferability.  Even getting approved for a Chase card has its own extremely limiting rule called the 5/24 rule.  If you can get approved for a Chase card, here are the rules on getting the sign-up bonus:

  • You cannot get the bonus if you already have that card (i.e. you can’t have two copies of the same card).
  • You won’t get the bonus if you have earned a sign-up bonus on the same card in the past 24 months.  Keep in mind this 24 month timer starts when you received the bonus, not when your account was approved.
  • Only one Sapphire product at a time.  This is more of a card approval rule, but I’ll include it anyway since the Sapphire Preferred and the Sapphire Reserve are both popular cards for their 50k Ultimate Rewards sign-up bonuses.  If you apply for any Chase card with the word “Sapphire” in the card title and you already have any Sapphire card, your application will be denied.


Citi is another golden goose of sign-up bonuses.  As of this summer they no longer have Hilton co-branded cards but they still have American Airlines cards with 40-60k mile bonuses.  Citi also has their own transfer points called the Citi Thank-You points.  While Citi used to have very lax rules regarding sign-up bonus illegibility, they now have some of the most restrictive:

  • Like Chase, Citi has a 24 month timer between bonuses on the same card.
  • A few months ago Citi added some new fine print to their applications that pretty much makes the above-mentioned timer a moot point.  The 24 month timer is now shared among all cards within the same point species.  (For example:  if you earned a bonus on the Citi Thank You Premier, you are not eligible for the bonus on the Citi Thank You Prestige for 24 months since they both earn Thank-You points.)  The same goes for their American Airlines earning cards.

But wait, there’s more. . .  The new language also changed the triggers that activate the timer.  The timer is no longer started by earning a sign-up bonus.  Instead, the 24 months start when you open, close, or downgrade an account.  This is asinine because it offers extra motivation to close an account right after earning the sign-up bonus.  The one saving grace is that business cards are given their own separate timer.

Citi Title

American Express

Amex has a horribly harsh, yet refreshingly simple rule for bonus eligibility:

  • One sign-up bonus per card, per person, per lifetime.

If you have ever earned the sign-up bonus on a particular card, you are permanently ineligible to receive a bonus on that card again.  For example, if you had the Amex Delta Gold card 8 years ago and cancelled it 7 years ago, you might be approved again for the card today, but you would not get the sign-up bonus.

If the sign-up bonus changes (like when the Amex Delta Gold goes up to 50k, as it does periodically) it is still the same card so you will still be ineligible.  It’s different if they release a different version of a card with a different name.  For example, if they stopped making the Delta Gold and instead created a new card called the “Delta 24 Carat Gold Card” then you could earn that card’s bonus even if you earned one for the old version.

Most points and miles earning cards periodically come with elevated bonuses. Since Amex sign-up bonuses are once-in-a-lifetime, wait for the best known offer on a given card before applying for it.

Most points and miles earning cards periodically come with elevated bonuses. Since Amex sign-up bonuses are once-in-a-lifetime, wait for the best known offer on a given card before applying for it.

Bank of America

BoA is famous for it’s Alaska Airlines card, which has been the go-to card for compulsive churners for years.  There are reports of people getting a new card every 2 months and earning the sign-up bonus each time.  Bank of America just released it’s new Premium Rewards card, which indicates they may be making a foray into the more competitive group of banks issuing premium travel cards.

  • Some Bank of America cards have no specific fine print related to repeat bonus earning.
  • The brand new BoA Premium Rewards card fine print says you can’t earn the sign-up bonus if you have earned it within the past 24 months.

There is evidence that BoA is starting to get wise about abusive card churning, and several recent reports indicate a general clamping down, like the 24 month timer on the new Premium Rewards card.  It’s still fair to say that Bank of America cards are more churnable than not, but let common sense be your guide on when to try for a repeat bonus on cards without specific language.


Barclay has several good points and miles cards including the Arrival Plus and the American Airlines Aviator series.  Barclay has no publicly defined policy on bonus eligibility for many of their cards  However, Barclay seems to have more of a human touch when it comes to approving new accounts.  Unless you leave some evidence of regular and legitimate card use, it may be difficult to get approved for a new card, especially if you appear to be doing it just for the sign-up bonus.

Is the situation getting worse?

Yes.  It’s not the Wild West anymore.  Many value tacticians who have been around longer than I have remember the days when you could get 4 different versions of an American Airlines card from Citi every 6 months, racking up 300-400k miles a year just from bonuses!  And of course there are the ancient heroes like Pudding Guy, who found a pretty big loophole that earned him over 1.25 million miles by buying and donating $3k worth of pudding!

In my 5 years in this game I have seen a lot of new restrictions come into play.  The most drastic of which have been from Chase and Citi.  This makes sense since these banks have some of the most lucrative bonuses out there.  They need some way of limiting people like us who pay attention to the details and want to maximize these offers.  Limiting bonus earning is a key way they can do that.  The other method banks use to limit churning is with rules on card approvals.  I’ll address this closely-related issue in another post.

How you can still beat the game

Credit card bonuses are an incredibly valuable resource.  But like all resources, they become harder and harder to extract as time goes by.

Signal Hill CA active oil field 2011

Signal Hill CA active oil field 2011. CC Image courtesy of haymarketrebel on Flickr.

Tighter rules on getting sign-up bonuses are just one factor.  Getting approved for some cards is becoming more difficult all the time as well.  Points and miles, like currency, are in a constant state of inflation.  Mileage devaluations and new award charts decrease the value of the points you’ve already earned.  Loopholes are closing across the board at a pretty steady rate.

The solution to all this is to adapt and update your strategy.  Speaking for myself, every card application for me or my wife is very carefully considered.  I have a long term schedule of cards we would like to get, but it’s also flexible.  Elevated bonuses come and go, rules change, and the value of particular points and miles change.

  • If you’re already playing the credit card game, pay attention.  If you got away with willy-nilly card applications in the past, you can’t anymore.
  • If you’re still sitting on the sidelines, get in the game.  I sound like a broken record but I can’t stress this enough.  The crazy world of credit cards, points, and miles is getting more complicated all the time.  But the opportunity is still there and still awesome!  Get in while the gettin’ is good!

🙂  For those of you still on the fence about the credit card game, here’s some general motivation to get your blood pumping: 🙂

Here are some other resources with similar information (minus the awesome motivational video):

Some images in this post made available through a Creative Commons license. Click here for info.

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.)

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!

Chase Marriott Premier Bonus now at 100k

The Chase Marriott Premier card I recently reviewed now has an elevated sign-up bonus of 100k pointsThe higher bonus comes with a steeper spending requirement; $5k in the first 3 months.  The $85 annual fee is not waived the first year.

Click here for the Flyertalk wiki containing links to the 100k offer.
Click here to read my review of this card.

Coincidentally, in tomorrow’s update I will report that I cancelled my Marriott card yesterday.  The annual fee had just posted and I didn’t think it would be worth it to keep it another year.  Chase will remove the annual fee since I cancelled within 30 days of the fee posting to my account.  According to many reports, my annual free night will still be credited to my Marriott Rewards account even though I cancelled the card.

What is 100k Marriott Rewards worth?

San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino gardens

When I got the Marriott card the bonus was 80,000 points.  I didn’t do much additional spending so I had around 93,000 points when I went to book a room.  If you book 4 award nights with Marriott, the 5th night is free.  To maximize my bonus points I wanted to find a hotel where I had enough points for 4 nights.

Marriott has price breaks at the 5k point marks.  That meant I was limited to 20k/night hotels.  If I would have earned 100k bonus points instead of the 80k, I could have expanded my search to include 25k/night hotels.  I would have had a lot more options.  Play around with some searches on Award Mapper and Hotel Hustle to see where 100k points could get you!

Is 100k here to stay?

There’s speculation (that I largely agree with) on Flyertalk that 100k might be the new standard bonus for this card.  With Marriott and Starwood now merged, 100k Marriott points equals 33.3k SPG points.  Historically SPG cards have periodically gone up to 35k, so the 100k Marriott bonus would help to keep that card relevant in the post-merger era.

There is also a chance that the elevated bonus will precede a devaluation of Marriott Rewards points, and by extension Starwood Preferred Guest points.  I wouldn’t quite bet on this happening yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me either.

Is now the right time to get this card?

chase marriott smallNow would be a great time to get the Chase Marriott Premier card if you are planning to ever get it. Even if the 100k bonus turns out to be either permanent or regularly recurring, I typically advise people to get Chase cards sooner rather than later.

Any credit card strategy needs to consider the Chase 5/24 rule.  Getting approved for Chase cards becomes virtually impossible once you exceed the rule, so getting your Chase cards approved before other banks’ cards is a sound tactic.

Also notice that there’s a 7.5k point bonus for adding an authorized user.  If your authorized user also plans on applying for any Chase cards, you might want to weigh the cost of that 7.5k bonus.  Authorized user cards also count toward the 5/24 rule.  Adding another household member who isn’t planning on apping any Chase cards soon might be another option for you.


The Chase Marriott 100k bonus is an increase of 20k points above the regular bonus.  The ability to link accounts and transfer Marriott Rewards to Starwood Preferred Guest makes this card even more desirable.  As with any credit card application, make sure it fits into your overall card strategy, and that you’re solid on credit card tactical fundamentals.

Click here for the Flyertalk wiki containing links to the 100k offer.
Click here to read my review of this card.

An Updated Look at Ultimate Rewards Versatility

Over a year ago I wrote a post praising Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) for their versatility.  I gave several examples when Ultimate Rewards were crucial to my trip planning efforts.  In these examples, the versatility of these points made all the difference.

The original blog post: Chase Ultimate Rewards – Versatility Matters

Having a stash of Ultimate Rewards made the following trips possible:

Nicoleen and I in Bad Nauheim, Germany, on our 10 year anniversary trip.

Nicoleen and me in Bad Nauheim, Germany, on our 10 year anniversary trip.

Ultimate Rewards still proving themselves

Since writing the original post on Ultimate Rewards versatility, the incredible usefulness and value of this points currency has continued to manifest itself.  Since publishing that post, Ultimate Rewards have been instrumental in planning the following trips:

  • Our long weekend in Costa Rica.  I used UR to back-fill my Hyatt account so we could book a third free night at the Andaz Papagayo.
  • Nicoleen’s surprise birthday vacation to Miami Beach.  I transferred UR points to British Airways to book the outgoing American Airlines flights and transferred UR points to Southwest to book the return flights.
  • My upcoming summer trip to Europe.  I pumped up my United Airlines account with UR points so I could book a 1-way business class seat to Zürich.
All our airfare (Southwest and American) for our recent Miami Beach trip was paid for with transferred Ultimate Rewards.

All our airfare (Southwest and American) for our recent Miami Beach trip was paid for with transferred Ultimate Rewards.

What makes Ultimate Rewards so valuable?

Chase Ultimate Rewards are considered a transfer point, meaning their most valuable use is to transfer to one of their partner programs.  Partner programs include airline frequent flier and hotel loyalty programs.

How do you get more value by transferring points?

When cashed out, Ultimate Rewards are worth 1 cent each.  1,000 points will get you $10.  When used to book travel through the Chase travel portal, the value per point gets a little better.  Depending on which Chase credit card you have, they are worth 1.25 or 1.5 cents each.  (1.25 for Chase Sapphire Preferred card holders and 1.5 for Chase Sapphire Reserve card holders.)   When transferring to a partner program, the sky’s the limit.

Example 1

Ultimate Rewards transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio.  I value Hyatt points around 3 cents each, so in this case, the same 1,000 UR points you could have cashed our for $10 could be worth ~$30 in hotel stays instead.

Example 2

Let’s look at my upcoming one-way United Airlines Polaris Business class seat to Europe.  The flight was 57,500 United miles, most of which I transferred in from Chase at a 1:1 ratio.  Let’s assume for this example that every last United mile I had was transferred in from Chase Ultimate Rewards.  57.5k UR points is worth $575 in cash, or $718.75 – $862.50 when booking airfare through the Chase travel portal.  By transferring to United and booking the flight with miles, I got $3,346,66 worth of airfare with that same 57.5k points.  That’s a whopping 5.8 cents per point!

Intangible value as well

In the above examples it’s easy to see the incredible transfer value of Ultimate Rewards.  But that’s only half the story.  The real value in the variety of transfer programs associated with Chase.

Chase Ultimate Rewards has the most expansive network of partner programs of any transfer point.  Partners occasionally come or go, but most of them have been steady for years.  As of this writing you can transfer UR points to:


  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • United MileagePlus®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Don’t recognize your preferred airline?  Keep in mind some of these airlines belong to huge airline alliances.  For example, you can use United miles to book flights on Air Canada, Air China, ANA, Austrian, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, and 20 more!

You can even use Ultimate Rewards to book flights on United’s competitors.  Korean Air miles can book flights on their partner, Delta.  And British Airways Avios can be used to book American Airlines flights.  Pick almost any destination you have in mind, and Ultimate Rewards can get you there somehow!


  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards®
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®
  • World of Hyatt

Consider all the brands associated with these hotel groups.  Hyatt alone includes: Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Andaz, Hyatt Centric, Unbound Collection, Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Ziva, Zilara, Residence Club, and Miraval.

Marriott’s recent merger with Starwood Preferred Guest opens that entire portfolio of hotels up to Marriott Rewards members, and points are transferable between the two programs at a 1:3 ratio.

You can transfer Ultimate Rewards to Marriott Rewards, to Starwood Preferred Guest, and book an award stay at the Westin Punta Cana.  (Photo by VT reader Danie)

You can transfer Ultimate Rewards to Marriott Rewards, to Starwood Preferred Guest, and book an award stay at the Westin Punta Cana. (Photo by VT reader Danie)

This is where I have found the true value of Ultimate Rewards.  By having a stockpile of these transfer points, I almost never get screwed out of my vacation plans for lack of points.  If I’m short a few thousand points or miles in a particular program, there’s a good chance I can back-fill my account with Ultimate Rewards through one avenue or another.

transferred from

It’s easy to see how Ultimate Rewards have made many of my trips cheaper and more convenient.  Several of them wouldn’t have been possible at all if I had not had a pool of Ultimate Rewards to draw from!

How to get Ultimate Rewards

All the Ultimate Rewards earning cards we’ve had over the years

Some of the Ultimate Rewards earning cards Nicoleen and I have had over the years.

Ultimate Rewards are easy to come by, but you have to be nice to Chase.  More accurately, Chase has to like you.  The UR-earning credit cards from Chase are:


It’s impossible to know for sure if you’ll get approved for a Chase credit card.  But there is one way to know for certain that you will not be approved: by violating the 5/24 ruleIf you have opened 5 or more new credit card accounts (from any bank) in the past 24 months, you will be summarily denied any new Chase card. 

Even having an authorized user card for someone else’s credit account will count as a “new account” for determining your 5/24 eligibility.  There are a few exceptions to the rule but they are uncommon.

The value potential and versatility of Ultimate Rewards make them a desirable transfer point to have.  Stocking up on these points early in your free travel career is a wise move.  The difficulty of getting these points once you have a few cards under your belt is yet another reason to get these Chase cards sooner rather than later!

Thanks for reading and remember to “like” the ValueTactics Facebook page and check back often!  I love questions and discussions on all these topics!

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.

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.

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
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
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

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 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,, 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 introductory 100k bonus is long gone for the Sapphire Reserve.  The current bonus is 50,000 Ultimate Rewards, which is still a pretty nice bonus.  If you would like to apply for the Sapphire Reserve you can use this link, which earns us points for referring you! 

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!


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.

The terms and conditions of the Reserve changed in 2017.  The travel reimbursement is now only good once per cardmember year.

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 would like to apply for the Sapphire Reserve you can use this link, which earns us points for referring you!