Category Archives: Weekly Updates

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.
july5deal
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!

Semi-Monthly Update (June 4, 2017)

In this update: our monthly points and miles activity, a YouTube update/excuse, some recent blog posts, and some minor travel news.




Household Points and Miles Activity for May

It was a pretty uneventful month for points earning/using.  Here’s how we did:

  • earned 738 hotel points
  • earned 2,941 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • redeemed 80,000 Marriott points for a $1,061 hotel stay

YouTube Update

I apologize for the delay in officially launching the ValueTactics YouTube channel.  All the standard excuses apply: lots of kids, busy at work, busy working on house, etc.  I also need to acquire a halfway-decent microphone, which I have been putting off.

youtubedash

I will do my best to have the channel launched by the next semi-monthly update.  I know some of you really are anxiously waiting for this thing to develop.  After all, who wants to expend all that effort reading when you could just zone out and stare at a video?

New ValueTactics Blog Posts

Our Hawaiian Get-Away 2016 is the main page for the amazing, value-packed trip we took in September.  This post explains exactly how we planned the free nights and airfare, and how the plan all pieced together.  You can also find links to individual hotel reviews here.
The Mistake that Cost me a $690 Hotel Room is the cautionary tale on how I *almost* booked a sweet free room to cap off our anniversary trip to Europe.  Free travel is a fickle thing, and deals can slip through your fingers if you’re not careful.  Read this post for some tips on how not to make the same mistake as I did!
Hotel Review: Maui Seaside Hotel is my review (with lots of pictures) of the “burner” night we spent right after landing in Kahului on Maui.  This was the only hotel on the trip we didn’t use points to book.

Travel News

The blaster shower at Timberlake Lodge that drains entire lakes when all the shower heads are turned on.

The blaster shower at Timberlake Lodge that drains entire lakes when all the shower heads are turned on.

I only have some tiny news to report on the travel front.  I’ll be traveling for business for a couple days in Grand Rapids, MN.  I look forward to this trip every year and I’m excited that I reserved my room early and had my choice of hotels.  I got into what is hands down the best hotel in town, the Timberlake Lodge.  This place is head and shoulders above the rest of the in-town options.  You can read my review of the Timberlake Lodge here.

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

Semi-Monthly Update (May 18, 2017)

In this update: Current credit card elevated bonuses, my card dilemma, recent blog posts, around the web, and website news.

First, a change of plans-  My plans for a huge garage sale this Saturday have been postponed due to weather.  You’ll have to wait a little bit longer for a report on how many giant soccer balls and Menards free stuff I will be able to move.  No one wants to go garage sale-ing in crappy weather, which is what’s forecast through Saturday.
weather

Credit Card News

There are a few cards with higher than usual sign-up bonuses at the moment:

ValueTactics reader Nidakeed sent in this pic of the offer he received for the brand new US Bank Altitude Reserve.

ValueTactics reader Nidakeed sent in this pic of the offer he received for the brand new US Bank Altitude Reserve.

Now for my dilemma:  Notice two of these three cards are from Chase?  I cannot get a Chase card because of the blasted 5/24 rule.  And any good card offers I take advantage of from other banks would put me even further into the hole on 5/24, putting these great Chase offers even further out of my reach.  I stand by my original assessment of this 5/24 rule: it IS a game changer.

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

Hotel Review: Hilton Amsterdam is a long overdue review of the free night we spent in Amsterdam at the end of our 10 year anniversary trip.  The stay was free, plus we got some nice perks!  Worth a read.
Why my Shed is Full of 40″ Giant Soccer Balls  Well . . . if you’re wondering what this one is all about, just read the post! 🙂

Around the Web

I came across this little gem this week whist surfing my frequent read list.  Regular readers already know how much I love MileValue, and this post is a perfect example of why.  Scott compiled this table comparing the miles required by different major frequent flier programs over a year ago.  He keeps it updated and I regularly use it as a reference.  Here’s the link; it’s worth a bookmark:
Comparison of United, Delta, & American Airlines Latest 2017 Award Charts

Website News

Drumroll please . . .YouTube_logo_2013.svg

I’m expanding to YouTube!

The ValueTactics YouTube channel will feature custom content: card reviews, trip reviews, strategy, tactics, news, etc.  Basically the same things covered here, but in a different format.  There are several reasons for this new expansion, which I will explain further in an upcoming post when the channel goes live.  In a nutshell: it’s easier to explain this stuff verbally than to write about it.

Don’t worry though!  ValueTactics will remain a regularly updated blog as well!

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

Semi-Monthly Update (May 4, 2017)

In this update: An new elevated bonus on the Chase Marriott card, my recent card cancellations, our household monthly points and miles activity, and a teaser of some exciting website news!

Credit Card News

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.

In personal credit card news: In the past few days I have cancelled 2 out of 3 cards from my last app-o-rama.  Both cancellations were easy as pie.  I cancelled the Capital One Spark Business via automated phone system.  I also cancelled the Chase Marriott Premier over the phone, but I got a live rep.  She didn’t even hint at a retention offer and only asked once if the free annual night would make me want to keep the card.  The whole call was under 4:00.

Household Points and Miles Activity for March

spreadsheet

I recently did my big monthly spreadsheet update.  Between Nicoleen and I, here are the earnings and redemptions we made in March:

  • earned 5,358 hotel points
  • earned 3,787 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 466 Citi Thank-You points
  • redeemed 21,000 hotel points for a $110.02 hotel stay

New ValueTactics Blog Posts

My Easiest (and Quickest) Credit Card Cancellation shows just how easy and convenient some of these card-wrangling tasks can be!
An Updated Look at Ultimate Rewards Versatility explains why I value these points so highly.  I show examples of the many trips I have taken which were made possible by these versatile transfer points.
Chase Marriott Premier Bonus now at 100k looks at the latest bonus offer for this valuable credit card.  It might be a good time to get this card if you’ve been on the fence.  Read the post to explore the possibilities!

Website News

My readership growth has been steady but slow since I created this valuetactics.com.  Maintaining the site is a lot of work but I enjoy it.  With 5 kids and a full time job, I don’t have the time it would take to truly promote the site and gain greater readership.
Actual Sunrise
However, I have been toying with the idea to expand to another medium. . . a medium that will take more of my time but has the potential to greatly expand my audience.  This isn’t an official announcement and I haven’t even fully decided to go that route, but some of you can probably guess what I’m talking about! 😉

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

Semi-Monthly Update (April 25, 2017)

This was supposed to be a “mid-April” update.  Between the busy season at work, Easter weekend, and the vacation hangover from our recent Miami Beach trip, I have fallen behind.  In this update: another reader success story, a free gas tactic update, and some travel news.

Reader Success Stories

ValueTactics readers Alex and Sarah just returned from their first ever points redemption vacation!  This trip was planned and executed within a short time span.  Just over a month ago I helped Alex plan this spring Florida get-away.

Sarah and Alex cruising in their Camaro convertible rental car. When the flights and hotel are free you can splurge on other aspects of the trip!

Sarah and Alex cruising in their Camaro convertible rental car. When the flights and hotel are free you can splurge on other aspects of the trip!

They booked the hotel and airfare exclusively with Chase Ultimate Rewards points and other benefits from the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards.  I’ll try to coax a whole hotel review out of Alex in the near future.

Free Gas Update

Some of you have asked if I still use the free gas tactic.  I haven’t included my free gas tally in these updates for a while now.  This is partly due to my greatly reduced commute mileage since taking a new position at work a year ago.  But the primary reason is that it’s just not as exciting anymore since Super America cancelled double coupon Tuesdays.

That being said, it’s still a valuable tactic even if it doesn’t add up like it used to.  Twice in the past few weeks I’ve cashed in the “big coupon” for a $0.50/gallon discount.  Both times I brought gas cans to maximize the coupon’s 25 gallon limit.  Including other discounts I get $14.00 knocked off the total for the 25 gallons.
gas1250

Travel News

Nicoleen and just finished recovering from two hotel stays within a week.  The first was our “staycation” in Minneapolis for our friends’ wedding.  (Congratulations Thom and Pam!)  We used Hilton points to stay at the new Hampton Inn downtown.

Three days later we left for Nicoleen’s surprise birthday vacation to Miami Beach.  We had a blast in South Beach!  Our short vacation surprisingly seemed a lot longer than two nights.  Expect reviews of the hotel and the overall trip to be posted soon.
us im miami

New ValueTactics Blog Posts

Surprise Birthday Vacation to Miami Beach! is the post in which I revealed the secret trip I had been planning for months.  Nicoleen was blown away when I told her she would be lying in the sun on the beach on her birthday!

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