Category Archives: Ultimate Rewards

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.)




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:

Airlines:

  • 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!

Hotels:

  • 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:

BEWARE THE DREADED 5/24 RULE

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!

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.

Our Jamaican All-Inclusive Vacation

In the spring of 2015 Nicoleen and I spent 4 nights at Couples Resort in Negril, Jamaica.  Although we got the airfare for free by using the points and miles tactic, we paid to stay at the resort.  In this trip report I’ll go into detail on how we got the free airfare and give a review of the resort.

Nicoleen and I in Jamaica, 2015

Origin of Concept

I graduated the U of MN in June 2013 and gained full time employment in January 2014.  My graduation present to myself was my trip to Europe that next summer.  But even before that trip was planned I was scheming to surprise Nicoleen with an unforgettable 10th anniversary vacation for the summer of 2015.  I figured the best way to make it a surprise was to create a decoy vacation, since she would probably be expecting some sort of trip for our milestone anniversary.

Aside from the decoy plan, I also thought Nicoleen and I deserved a vacation (which we hadn’t done in years) since I finally had year round, full time income.  My points and miles balances were still getting established at the time.  I had no hotel points at all, so I started shopping for an all-inclusive resort at a destination we could reach by using miles.

The Planning Phase

Since this trip was a surprise for Nicoleen, I wanted to tailor it to her preferences.  She loves warm, tropical, pool & beach type vacations.  The trip was a decoy, so I needed it to be fairly short.  But it had to be long enough for her to believe this was “the” anniversary vacation.  Here was my thought process:

Timing:

The “real” anniversary trip to Europe was to be in the summer, so this trip had to be in the spring.  I can’t take time off in the spring because my new job requires me to be available during Minnesota’s wildfire season.  Late February is the latest I could take time off.

Destination:

Nicoleen loves warm weather vacations, but if she’s going to swim, it has to be actually hot.  So I needed a destination with a definitively hot climate in late February.  That ruled out anything north of Key West.  It also had to be somewhere relatively quick to get to, which ruled out anything outside of North or Central America.  The Caribbean met all these requirements.

Accommodations:

I had no hotel points or free night certificates at the time, so that whole aspect of planning was a non-factor.  I was shooting for a 4 night stay, so I didn’t want too much time locked up in logistics or ground transportation.  An all-inclusive resort seemed to fit the bill nicely.  We wouldn’t have to worry about finding places to eat or finding our way around with local transportation.  With an all-inclusive, you can basically get to the resort and stay there the whole time.

Couples Resorts:

Once I decided on all-inclusive resorts, my list got pretty short.  There are the big ones: Beaches, Sandals, Club Med, etc.  But I was looking for something a little less circus-like.  After a few hours on TripAdvisor and other review sites, one resort chain stuck out.  Couples Resorts has 4 locations, all in Jamaica.  All rooms are double occupancy, and no kids are allowed!  (I just sold half of you on this place with that one line 🙂 ) Couples resorts have almost universally positive reviews online.  They are priced similarly to the giant all-inclusive chains, but they have fewer hidden fee amenities.
Couples Resort, Negril
After some extensive searching I reverse-engineered most of their pricing structure.  Each day of the year is priced according to demand, with prices changing in 2 week blocks or longer.  A stay spanning two different price levels will show the average price for the stay, applied to each night individually.  The different promotions listed on their website pretty much all result in the same discount, so I felt like I was getting the best price available.

Flights

Since I was splurging on a fancy all-inclusive resort and paying cash, I needed to get a stellar deal on the airfare.  I set my budget at “free” and was able to stay within that budget!

At that time, my points and miles balances weren’t very built up, and I didn’t have much diversity in point types.  I mainly had Chase Ultimate Rewards to work with, so my major airline options were United or Southwest.  Both airlines are transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, with a 1:1 transfer ratio for points to miles.  Southwest had recently started flying to Montego Bay, Jamaica, and they offered the cheapest flights, points-wise.
sw_ua_xfer

Southwest Flights and Couples Negril

The flights on Southwest were unremarkable.  We forgot to check-in online 24 hours before the flight, but we still got to sit together.  For a full review of the wonderful and relaxing Couples Negril resort, see my review post!
sw_flightjamaica1

Cost Summary

Airfare: $223.40
Other transportation: $30.00 (tips)
Lodging: $2,102.00
Souvenirs: ~$100.0

Total cost for 5 day, 4 night Jamaican all-inclusive vacation: ~$2,913.80
Total cost we paid: ~$2,455.40
Savings from using value tactics: $458.40
Points earned on trip: 4,651 Ultimate Rewards

Cost Breakdown

Airfare:
The airfare for both of us cost 40,880 Southwest Rapid Rewards, which I transferred from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account, earned mainly with my Sapphire Preferred card.  Award tickets still incur taxes and fees, which came to $223.40 for both our round trip flights.  The cash cost of both tickets would have been $681.80.  That’s still a really good price and some may argue I should have saved the points for a better redemption value.  I stick with my decision to use transferred UR points on the airfare.  Free airfare at a slightly inefficient redemption rate is still free airfare!

Ground Transportation:
Couples Resorts offers free shuttle service from the airport in Montego Bay to the resort in Negril.  Through a weird turn of events I won’t get into here, we discovered that we had a connection to the contract transport company.  Instead of waiting in the Couples lounge at the airport, we were whisked away in our own private van!  I think between both trips we tipped $30.

Lodging:
As this trip represented the last vestiges of my old, unenlightened ways, we paid cash for the resort.  (By “cash” I mean we paid the full price, but obviously we used a card to pay).  This guilty splurge was $525.50 a night, totaling $2,102.

Food and Shopping:
Otaheite dessert - Couples NegrilFood, drinks, entertainment, beach amenities, and even oceanside drink delivery were all included!  That’s the beauty of an all-inclusive resort like Couples.  Our only out-of-pocket expenses were purely optional and included a professional photo and some souvenirs.  Even the formal dinner and the sunset catamaran cruise were included!

Couples Negril sunset cruise

Overall we had a wonderful time!  I think if I had to straight-up pay for a resort stay again, I wouldn’t hesitate doing so at Couples Negril.  The weather was fantastic, and we met some fun and interesting people.  Using points to book the flights made the sting of the resort cost a little less painful too.

Chase Ultimate Rewards: Versatility Matters!

(This is a data recovered post, originally published on July 5th, 2015.)

How my Ultimate Rewards points have bailed me out 3 of the 4 times I have been short on points/miles

My first major credit card sign-up was the Chase Sapphire Preferred (see my full review here). I had heard and read about how great Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points were, and if you’re a regular on points blogs you’ll know that UR points are consistently touted as the most valuable points out there. The most commonly cited reason for this value is their versatility. I didn’t really understand why this was such a big deal until I booked my first flight with rewards.

Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred, with no penalty (i.e. a 1:1 ratio), to 11 different partner programs. This means if you are short points for a purchase with one of these programs, you can back-fill your balance with transferred UR points. Or, like I did with my first ever award flight, you can fund your whole purchase with transferred UR points.

I used UR points to fund my United Mileage Plus account for a trip to Europe before I had ever earned a single United Airlines mile. My Southwest Rapid Rewards account balance was only 750 points when I discovered that Southwest was the only airline that worked with my schedule for our Jamaica trip earlier this year. For yet another flight booked through United, my wife’s United Mileage Plus account had enough mileage for the award ticket but mine was a few thousand miles short, so once again UR points saved the day as I was able to back-fill miles from my Chase UR account to book my ticket.

In each of these cases there was very limited award seat availability and the ability to quickly get the points/miles where I needed them (I should mention the transfer only takes a matter of seconds!) probably saved my travel plans.

This versatility to transfer to partner programs, $0.01 cash redemption value, and discounted travel booking redemption make Chase Ultimate Rewards a strong contender for the most valuable type of points or miles out there.  And if things didn’t already seem too good to be true, they are also some of the easiest to get.  All Chase Sapphire and Ink products earn UR points and these cards consistently have great sign up bonuses, like the current 45k bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

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

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

Building up UR points is a valuable tactic to accomplish your overall miles and points strategy.

Weekly Review (March 8, 2015)

It was a good weekend at Menards! Today there were 5 simultaneous ad flyers going, including a Crazy Days sale. (Crazy Days are Fri-Sun sales, usually with several free items) The total retail value of items I bought for free this weekend is $133.40.

My free gas total for the week was $6.81 using free gas tactics. One of the coupon flyers we get in the monthly junk mail has a few 15 cent coupons which are valid Sundays only. With gas prices edging slowly back up, I’ve been filling up on Sunday nights to save every dollar I can on gas.
gas240
Travel News
My wife and I returned on Tuesday from a 4 night, 5 day trip to Couples Resort in Negril, Jamaica, to celebrate our 10 year anniversary!

The main pool at Couples Negril

The main pool at Couples Negril


We splurged a bit on this all-inclusive resort. I planned the trip between April and August of last year and at the time I didn’t have many points or vouchers built up for lodging. So I decided to bite the bullet and make this my last “full price” vacation before starting to reap the rewards I’d been accumulating with points and miles. Although we paid for the resort (got a decent early bird sale price) we did get the airfare for free! $618.69 in airfare for FREE by redeeming 40,880 Southwest Rapid Rewards I got by transferring points from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account. Yes, if you’re doing the math, that’s less than you’ll get with just the sign-up bonus from Chase’s popular Sapphire Preferred card! With just this one card’s bonus you could fly to a Jamaican paradise with your wife, girlfriend, or mother-in-law. Then when that person gets the card too, they can return the favor and fly you two back there next year!

The trip was exactly what we needed after a long winter full of cold weather and stress. The resort was outstanding and the weather was great. I’ll do a full review coming soon. I’ll also do a breakdown of how we flew for free and what the whole trip cost us. Stay tuned. . .

New Deals
The only newsworthy change in the card world this week was a negative one: it looks like the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card is back down to 25,000 bonus points with every public offer I could find. This card had been at 50,000 points for some time, which it will almost certainly be back to in a few months, as this card is one of the most predictable as far as bonus offers go.

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