Category Archives: Weekly Updates

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.
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!