Category Archives: Weekly Updates

Semi-Monthly Update (November 23, 2017)

I’ve been a busy boy, and unfortunately that means I didn’t get a lot of writing got done in the past few weeks.  One thing keeping me occupied has been a handful of short work trips.  Last week I stayed at a questionable hotel in southern MN.  I should probably write a semi-satirical review like the one I did for BUILDING 7-73.  Here’s a preview:

To give you an idea of how swamped I’ve been with non-VT stuff, this post was originally dated November 11th and the date has changed about 5 times.  When it takes several tries and almost 2 weeks to write an update post, you know I’m hurting for time!  And it’s not like there aren’t things to write about. . .

In this update I’ll report on our October points and miles activity, talk about some general and personal credit card news, share some happy reports from readers, and give a travel update.  We’ll top it all off with the latest free travel photo.

Household Points and Miles Activity for October

  • earned 87 hotel points
  • earned 5,710 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 35 Citi Thank-You points
  • earned 55,433 “other” points

I managed to complete the $3000 bonus spend on my new Bank of America Premier Rewards card in the first month (in fact I met the spend with a single purchase), yielding the 50k bonus “other” points.

Credit Card News

General News:

Lately I’ve been infatuated with the idea of free annual nights as a credit card benefit.  This is how I booked one of the two $700+ nights at the Z Ocean Hotel (pictured below in the free travel photo) this spring.  For a mere $49 annual fee, the Chase IHG card gives you a free night at any IHG property worldwide.  Our tropical weekend get-away to Costa Rica in February was also partially booked with free anniversary nights from our Chase Hyatt cards ($75 AF).

One of the few cards offering this type of benefit is about to be replaced with a new version with different benefits.  The present (and last ever) sign-up bonus on the current version of the card is at an all time high of 125,000 points!  I’m talking about the Hilton Surpass from American ExpressCheck out my previous post for a full run-down of the situation with this card.

Personal News:

October 27th, the day before our Florida trip, I applied for the Synchrony Cathay Pacific card during its highest-ever bonus of 50,000 Asia Miles.  I got the “pending” message many applicants have reported.  I received no e-mail communication since I applied but I finally got a letter on November 9th:

cathay pacific letter

And then on the 10th, the card arrived!

(If the FB post isn’t showing up, click here.)

ValueTactics Reader Success

ValueTactics reader Jamie recently told me about an upcoming vacation where she got a sweet deal on airfare to Ft. Myers.  She booked 4 round trip flights for only $44 and 68,000 miles!  That’s an awesome value; great job using the points and miles tactic, Jamie!

Travel News


We’ve been back from our Florida vacation for 3 weeks now.  The trip was so awesome!  I have to admit it was less relaxing than I anticipated, but at the same time it was more fun than I expected.  Disney really does do things above and beyond all of their competition.  After being there it’s easy to see that all other theme parks are trying to imitate what Disney has created.

the club

Besides two theme parks and the Kennedy Space Center we also experienced a free hotel stay and two free airport lounges.  (Well, “two lounges” is a stretch since one of them was a quick grab and go affair.)  This trip should generate a few different blog posts, one of which is mostly finished: a complete outline of how we planned this trip for so little money.

Of course getting back from a vacation also generates the dreaded vacation hangover, and regular readers will know how I like to cure that. . .   🙂

Free Travel Photo

After our family vacation to Disney, Nicoleen and I are ready for

After our family vacation to Disney, Nicoleen and I are ready for a break. . . like maybe a vacation with just the two of us?  Our last adults-only trip was her birthday surprise trip to Miami Beach in April.  I love this photo because I managed to fit everything into one shot from our private rooftop terrace: the moon shining on the ocean, the night lights of lively Ocean Drive, the unique pool at the Z Ocean Hotel, and our complimentary bottle of champagne.  What an awesome free trip that was!

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

Semi-Monthly Update (October 26th, 2017)

Wow!  There have been lots of developments in the ValueTactics sphere of interest in the past couple of weeks.  Some credit card deals have disappeared and others have materialized.  Card issuing banks continue to modify their terms and policies.  An airline announced some potentially exciting news.  Personally, I have been very busy strategizing my own points and miles earning and usage.  Nicoleen and I have almost earned the sign-up bonus on both of our new cards.  And on top of all this, we leave for our family Disney trip in 2 days!

Air Travel News

Southwest Airlines has announced it will begin flying to Hawaii in 2018!  More options are always better than fewer.  This could mean cheaper flights across the board to this destination.  It’s definitely good news for those of us who collect Southwest Rapid Rewards or their surrogate transfer point, Chase Ultimate Rewards.  But I don’t know, could you endure the at least 6-hour flight to the islands with no meal service or assigned seats?  Let me know in the comments below!

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

Tighter Rules for Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses explains how to tell if you’re eligible for a particular sign-up bonus on a credit card.  The banks are making it harder and harder to play their game.  Read the post to see the exact rules for each of the main rewards card issuing banks.

Credit Card News

As I reported in the last update post, Nicoleen recently got the Chase Ink Business Preferred and I got the Bank of America Premium Rewards card.  I already hit the minimum spend on my BoA card, earning me $550+ worth of their cash-only rewards points.  Nicoleen still has a bit of spending to do before earning the massively valuable 80,000 Ultimate Reward bonus on the Ink Preferred.  I could use another card already but I’ve been agonizing over the decision of which one to apply for.  The rules and limitations like I describe in the post linked above are really making it a difficult process to maximize the value of the credit card tactic.

There are currently several noteworthy elevated sign-up bonuses on co-branded airline cards:

  • The AAdvantage Aviator Red from Barclay is up to 60k American Airlines miles with no minimum spend requirement (well, actually you have to make one purchase of any amount.)  American Airlines has been notoriously stingy with award space lately, but American miles is still worth having if you have flexible travel dates.  With 60k miles you could fly round trip to Europe or get 2 domestic round trip flights in economy and have points leftover!  Link to offer
  • The United MileagePlus Explorer card from Chase is back up to 40k United Airlines miles after $2k of spending in 90 days.  This offer bounces back and forth between 30k and 50k, but the 50k public offer hasn’t been around for over a year.  Link to offer
  • American Express’s Delta Gold comes with a 60k Skymiles bonus after spending $2k in the first 90 days.  This offer is the highest ever seen for this card.  When Nicoleen and I got this card the bonus was only 35k, and occasionally it goes up to 50k.  With a once-per-lifetime limit on American Express bonuses, now is a great time to apply for the Delta Amex Gold!  Link to offer  EXPIRES 11/08/2017

Travel News

walt-disney-world-2066168_640On Saturday we leave for our trip to Florida!  For our family of 5 (2 kids are staying home) the airfare and hotel combined only cost us $155!  The entertainment and dining, on the other hand. . . let’s just say Orlando is an easy place to nail that required spend for a credit card sign-up bonus.  😉

I’ll try to post a field update or two from our trip.  No promises though; something tells me I won’t have a lot of downtime!

Free Travel Photo

Kids are funny

One kid attempting to strap down the other kid to our luggage rack during our family vacation last summer.  As we prepare for our Florida trip, I am reminded of our last family trip to South Dakota last summer. It had a few value tactics sprinkled in, like a free hotel night and gas savings along the way.

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

Semi-Monthly Update (October 3, 2017)

I love to start my day with a cup of coffee and an online credit card application.  Here’s the lovely sight I was greeted with this morning:
BoAPremiumRewards approved
Ah, the thrill of instant approvals!  It never gets old.  Nicoleen, on the other hand, got the always loathsome “pending” on her application last night for the Chase Ink Preferred.  🙁

This round of new card applications is just the jump start I need to get the website rolling again.  (If you want to hear the rest of my whiny excuses for the recent lack of new material, I put a list at the bottom of this post.)  In this update:  our household points and miles activity for September, a look at the current good credit card deals, some details on our upcoming trip, and another free travel pic!

Here’s our September household activity totals.  Pretty average month with no bonuses and no points spending:

  • earned 456 hotel points
  • earned 5,786 Chase Ultimate Rewards

Credit Card News

  • The Chase Southwest personal card currently has the 60k elevated bonus.
  • The Citi Thank-You Prestige bonus is now at 75k Thank-You points  (permanently or temporarily, no one knows), but with a $7.5k minimum spend and a $450 annual fee.
  • Bank of America just busted on to the scene with a new premium travel card: the Premium Rewards card.  The points can only be redeemed for cash, but with the 50k point bonus and some other benefits I estimate the card is worth $600-750.

The Chase Southwest card is a great deal at 60k, but personally I am waiting on the Southwest cards until I can get the companion pass by earning more than $110k points in a year.  I would be all over the Citi Prestige, but Citi’s newest restriction says that I can’t earn any Thank-You points bonuses until 24 months have passed since my last Thank-You point bonus.  I’m currently at around 22 months.  My new Bank of America Premium Rewards card from this morning should be in the mail soon!

I’ve had several people recently ask me what the best single card is right now.  I’m sticking with the Chase Ink Preferred if you can make the case you have a business.  If not, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still at or near the top of the list due to the generous 50k sign-up bonus of the highly versatile Ultimate Rewards points.  If Southwest Rapid Rewards are valuable to you, the Chase SW card (see link above) is an easy way to earn a lot of those points.

Travel News

nicoleenfloridawarmupWe’re mere days away from revealing our fall Florida trip to the kids!  Nicoleen is incidentally in Orlando this week for work, and she’s getting the place ready for us.  🙂

Free Travel Photo

Big caption

A selfie I took in front of the dolphin pool at Hilton’s Grand Wailea just over a year ago.  I chose this photo because I realized that the two cards we used to get the free hotel stays on our amazing Hawaiian get-away last fall are no longer available.  The bonus on the Chase Hyatt is no longer 2 free nights, and the Citi Hilton Reserve doesn’t exist anymore.  Yet another lesson to take advantage of these deals while they’re around!!  Anything else would be a tactical error.

Excuses for only writing one blog post last month and for not launching the long-promised YouTube channel:

  • We have 3.5 kids who just started the school year (one is 2-day pre-K).
  • I was working on a tile job (my previous profession) for 2 weeks every day after my day job.
  • Fall cleaning around the house and my own bathroom tile project.
  • A lull in enthusiasm for value tactics due to no new vacations on the horizon and no new credit card bonuses.  It happens to everyone once in a while!
  • Solo parenting this week while Nicoleen is in Florida.
  • General lack of focus and a hearty dose of writer’s block.

We’re back at it now though!  The recent credit card apps have fueled my enthusiasm once again.  Our upcoming value-filled trip to Florida should keep me motivated as well.

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

Semi-Monthly Update (September 1, 2017)

In this update I will show you our points and miles activity for August, we’ll look at some awesome credit card deals currently available, and I’ll give a travel update.

Household Points and Miles Activity for July

  • earned 104 hotel points
  • earned 455 airline miles
  • earned 6,122 Chase Ultimate Rewards

I was a little puzzled when I saw I had earned 455 American Airlines miles.  I didn’t remember using my Citi AAdvantage Bronze card last month.  Then it dawned on me: for the first leg of my trip to Europe I flew an American flight to Chicago.  It wasn’t an award booking, however.  I paid with a gift card I got for free with my Wells Fargo Propel card.  I am so used to earning points and miles with credit card bonuses and regular spending, I forgot the original way people earn miles: from flying!

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

Swissair Business Class (Airbus A321) DUB – ZRH is my review of this wonderful little flight that capped off my trans-Atlantic itinerary this summer.  Swiss quality isn’t limited to watches, chocolates, and pocket knives. . . read the review to find out why!

Credit Card News

  • The biggest news recently is that Chase has once again tightened the rules for getting approved for their best cards.  As of a few days ago, applications for new Sapphire line cards (Sapphire, Sapphire Preferred, and Sapphire Reserve) will be denied if the applicant already has another Sapphire product.  Additionally, the Chase 24 month sign-up bonus timer is now shared among all Sapphire products.  This means you can’t get the bonus for both the Sapphire Preferred and the Reserve within a 2 year period.  I’ll write a full post about this change in the near future.
  • Barclaycard Aviator RedThe sign-up bonus on the Barclay Aviator Red has been increased to 60,000 American Airlines miles.  The minimum spend requirement is one purchase of any amount!  The card does come with a $95 annual fee NOT waived the first year.  If you have the Aviator Red that was transmuted from the old U.S. Airways card, you are still eligible for this bonus since it’s considered a different product.  For more details, check out MileValue’s report on the bonus increase here.
  • In personal news:  In light of the recent Chase rule change and other changes in the past year, I decided I needed to reevaluate my current card strategy.  As the restrictions on new card applications pile up, and as terms and bonuses on popular cards change, it’s getting more and more complicated to maximize the value of credit card bonuses.  I won’t bore you with the details of our specific scenario, but soon I will write a post outlining some of the new challenges of making a card strategy / app schedule.

Free Travel Photo

Nicoleen and I have recently been discussing what to do with our 2 free Hyatt anniversary nights from our Chase Hyatt cards. Last spring we used them at the Andaz Papagayo Peninsula in Costa Rica. We were impressed when we saw that room service had taken the time to coil up our cords that were scattered around the desk!

Nicoleen and I have recently been discussing what to do with our 2 free Hyatt anniversary nights from our Chase Hyatt cards. Last spring we used them at the Andaz Papagayo Peninsula in Costa Rica. We were impressed when we saw that room service had taken the time to coil up our cords that were scattered around the desk!

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

Semi-Monthly Update (August 3, 2017)

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

Household Points and Miles Activity for July

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

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

Travel News

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

Credit Card News

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

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

Free Travel Photo

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

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

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

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

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

Semi-Monthly Update (July 24, 2017)

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

Travel News

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

St. Lioba Schule

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

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

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

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

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

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

Credit Card News

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

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

Semi-Monthly Update (July 5, 2017)

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

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

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

Household Points and Miles Activity for May

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

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

Travel News

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

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

YouTube Update

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

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

Semi-Monthly Update (June 16, 2017)

In this update:  A plethora of increased sign-up bonuses, another exciting excuse from yours truly, a travel update, and a recap of recent ValueTactics blog posts.

Credit Card News

The summer weather is heating up and so are the credit card sign-up bonuses!  Across the board, banks are rolling out some of their cards’ typical increased sign-up bonuses.  Whatever your overall card strategy is, the elevated sign-up bonuses can either simplify or complicate your decision matrix.  Either way, it’s nice to see these bonuses return; it indicates that card issuers are still hungry for your business!

  • Citi AAdvantage Platinum MastercardCiti’s AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard currently has an increased sign-up bonus of 60,000 American Airlines miles.  The usual bonus is 40,000.  To get the bonus miles, you must spend $3,000 in the first three months.  The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
  • Citi’s business version of the American Airlines card listed in the previous bullet point is also at 60,000 miles for a limited time.
  • The AAdvantage Aviator Red from Barclaycard doesn’t exactly have an increased sign up bonus, but it is available with a nice 50,000 mile bonus.  This card was previously not available for new account holders; it was only available in a converted form from an old U.S. Airways card.  The $95 annual fee is not waived the first year, but the bonus is earned after your first purchase!
  • Barclaycard’s Arrival+ currently has an elevated bonus of 50,000 points after spending $3000 in the first 90 days.  The usual bonus is 40,000.  These points are redeemed for reimbursements of travel purchases made on the card.  You get 5% of redeemed points back in your account, so the current bonus on this card is worth $588.  The $89 annual fee is waived the first year.

YouTube Channel Update

todolistAnother update, another excuse!  🙂  I have acquired a key piece of equipment I need to produce high quality videos.  However I haven’t managed to acquire the time needed to put it to use.  I promise you, as soon as I’m able I will start releasing useful and entertaining videos for you to watch and share!

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

Barclaycard Aviator RedKeep or Cancel: Some Examples is a great post for helping you decide whether to keep a credit card when its annual fee is due.  It’s impossible to cover every variable for every situation, but this post shows some examples of how I work through the decision.

Travel News

Over the past week I’ve been struggling to book airfare for our fall trip.  It’s not that there aren’t any good options; there are plenty that would work.  It’s that I’m coordinating with a friend and we both want to get the best deal possible.  It should be pretty easy once we can both get a free hour or two together to work through it.

One thing is for sure. . . our planning is going to result in quite the spreadsheet!  Once I have it, I’ll be sure to share it on the ValueTactics Facebook page.

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