Freebie Friday – Weekly guide to making and saving money

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We will publish some easy money saving and making deals each Friday –

  1. SunTrust Bank $250/$500 Checking Account Bonus Promotion

SunTrust bank is offering up to $500 when you open a new qualifying personal checking account and complete the following steps –

  • Deposit at least $100 within 14 days of account opening.
  • Complete at least $2,000 in Direct Deposits* for a Signature Advantage account, or $1,000 for a Select Checking account, within 60 days of your account opening
  • Conduct at least 10 debit card purchases** within 60 days of account opening
  • Make sure to use promo code Q218CHECKINGOL
  • Bank will issue you a 1099-INT end of the year so you will be responsible to pay taxes on bonus but still easy money.

This offer is available only to U.S. Residents with a U.S. Address in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia

Here is direct link to the offer – SunTrust Bank $250/$500 Checking Account Bonus Promotion

2. Redbox offers a 1-Night Video Game Rental for Free. Valid for online reservations only. Add a game to your cart and during checkout it will deduct the price. Some exclusions may apply. Valid through 5/21/18.

3. Spotify.com is offering an Introductory Trial PromotionGet 3-Months of Spotify Premium for $0.99. If you have subscribed to the Premium or Unlimited service or have taken a 30-day free trial offer or 60-day free trial offer previously, you are ineligible for this introductory trial offer. This is a trial and after your first 3 months, you will be charged full price unless you cancel here

4. American Express via Amex Offers.com is offering select American Express Cardholders: $15 Statement Credit w/ Purchase of $30 or More on one or more transaction at Sams Club.com. Offer valid through June 14, 2018 or while promotion last.

Note, offer availability will vary by cardholder. Be sure to login to your American Express account to see if you’re eligible/qualified to activate the offer on your card. .

Plastiq.com Overview

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In the various forums, groups, blogs, and articles out there revolving around the world of points and miles, Plastiq is often mentioned as one of the tools that can allow an individual to pay a bill with a credit card.  In this post, I’m going to go over the basics of Plastiq, some considerations, and some additional tips on earning extra points through using this service.

plastiq1

What is Plastiq?

Plastiq is a company founded by two college students who in their words “believed that making a payment as important as tuition should be as simple as buying a coffee.”  The website launched in 2015 and since then millions of users have been making monthly payments covering everything from rent, utilities, mortgages, and phone bills to paying for a variety of additional services like contracting and landscaping, as well as the purchasing of goods.

This is done through simply creating an account with Plastiq and entering various credit cards and the billing information of institutions that need to be paid.  Bills can be scheduled in advance or paid immediately.  The overall process is quite simple and while Plastiq often offers promotional deals, the standard fee applied is 2.5%.  Plastiq will charge your credit card and then cut a check (or send an ACH payment) on your behalf.

Why use Plastiq?

For anyone that is hooked into the points game there is this pain felt anytime something is paid for and points are not earned.  One of the most common areas for this (and most individuals’ single largest monthly expenditure) is the home mortgage.  By being able to pay these kinds of bills with a credit card, no longer are these valuable points being left on the table.

What limitations exist?

Just because Plastiq enables the ability to pay virtually any bill doesn’t mean that it is a free-for-all without restrictions.  Currently Plastiq notes that the following payments are not allowed:

  • Payments to friends/family (note that payments for legitimate services from a business run by a friend/family member are fine)
  • Deposits into retirement accounts or other savings plans
  • Payments to be sent outside of the US or Canada
  • Credit card statements

Another item to note is that on occasion Plastiq will require verification of a legitimate recipient.  This issue came up for me when I entered the name of an individual for payment.  This individual has a construction business that is just his name and he had done work on my roof.  I received an e-mail from Plastiq asking for an invoice and I provided the invoice and resolved the issue in under 24 hours.  I have had tenants pay me via Plastiq and they provided a copy of a lease and they too had the issue resolved in under 24 hours.

Plastiq allows Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover to be used on the site, but while Mastercard and Discover can be used for any type of payment, Visa and American Express have the following restrictions:

Visa: can be used for any payee with the sole exception of mortgages

American Express: can be used on the following payee types (from Plastiq’s website) – “Government, Utilities, Education, Residential Rent and Club Fees and Memberships”

Fees and Spend Coding

The overall fee is 2.5% for credit cards and 1% for debit cards.  While I wouldn’t recommend using a debit card on Plastiq, do note that the fee is lower.  Visa, Mastercard, and Amex gift cards CAN be used to pay bills and are treated as credit cards and charged the 2.5% fee.  Occasionally Plastiq offers discounts for specific card types or bill types or for scheduling payments in advance.  Taking advantage of these promotions can add up to a decent amount of savings.

A lot of people ask how these payments code on credit cards (are there category bonus opportunities) and currently I see the payments coding on my cards as “Utilities.”  Up until earlier this month the Citi AT&T Access More was coding as 3x, but that seems to have fallen off.  At this point, it COULD be reinstated, but I’d personally bet against that.

Plastiq also offers a referral bonus program where users can refer others and earn $1,000 fee-free dollars for themselves and $500 fee-free dollars for the new user.

Maximizing Value

Folks that are newer to the points and miles game might look at a 2.5% fee and view that as a losing proposition up against a card only earning 1 or 2x on the transaction.  Like most things in this world, “it depends.”  If you are using a straight cash back card, then yes, you are absolutely losing money.  In this instance, avoid using Plastiq.

However, for cards that earn airline or transferable points, even a 1x earn rate can be lucrative if you are able to redeem those points for greater than $0.025 each.  Many premium cabin redemptions using Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, SPG, or Thank You points can easily top $0.10 per point.  Another consideration is using Plastiq to hit the spend necessary to trigger the sign-up bonus.  This is a great way to knock out an extra thousand dollars that would otherwise be inaccessible to hitting the credit card.

Lastly, my favorite way to utilize Plastiq is to pay bills by liquidating gift cards.  I purchase gift cards using my Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Cash at office supply stores in order to earn 5x points and thus am effectively earning 5x on the payment of a mortgage.

Hypothetical Annual Earning 

Looking at monthly expenses that can’t typically be paid by credit card, we can get a sense of the value that Plastiq can add.

 Expense Monthly Amount
Mortgage/Rent $1,500
Utilities $250
Car Payment $400

This comes to a monthly total of $2,150, which on an annual basis can give you the following based on these respective earn rates:

1x : 25,800

2x : 51,600

3x : 77,400

5x : 129,000

At 2.5% in fees on $2,150 per month, the annual total in fees is $645.  The ability to purchase 5x gift cards at break-even or even negative cost can greatly bulk up that earning power and with close to 130K in points just from paying bills is enough for a first class ticket anywhere in the world.

Bottom Line

Plastiq is a great option to pay bills on a wide range of services and also offers a very reasonable fee for the service.  This can allow for a boost to the monthly points accrual, creating significant value provided solid redemptions are made.  One thing to remember is that while Plastiq does offer reasonable fees, there are some specialized payment services that do beat them.  For example, I had been paying my power bill via Plastiq until I realized that my power company charges a flat $1.65 to pay direct on their website (up to $1000 per payment).  As always, do your homework and know that Plastiq is a great additional tool to have in your points earning arsenal.

In the interest of full disclosure, we will earn a referral bonus for anyone that is approved from the link above.  These are publicly available offers and all claims made in this post as of the posting date can be found in the offer language for the card.  We only provide the best publicly available offers and thank you for your continued support.

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Act Fast: 35K SPG Business Amex Sign-Up Bonus until 3/28

One of my favorite credit cards, the SPG Business credit card from American Express is offering an extremely generous sign-up bonus of 35,000 points if you apply through March 28, 2018.

The required spend is $7,000 within three months, so including the bonus, you’d be sitting on (at a minimum) 42,000 points.

SPG.png

Why should you get this card?

  • SPG points are some of the most valuable transferable points available. They partner with over 30 airlines and offer a 25% transfer bonus when transferring 20,000 points.
  • We know that Marriott has acquired SPG. We know that American Express will continue to issue business cards.  We don’t know however, how the SPG and Marriott programs will be combined.  We also don’t know when this specific card will stop being issued.  In my opinion, get it sooner rather than later.
  • It will NOT count against Chase 5/24 rule as this is a business card (although you don’t need to have a business to get the card).
  • You get multiple perks:
    1. Sheraton Club Lounge access any time you stay at a Sheraton property (regardless of if you pay using this card). While the lounges vary in quality – they always offer a hot breakfast, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and complementary beverages.  Overseas they can offer some exquisite spreads and sometimes have free alcohol.
    2. Two elite qualifying stays and five elite qualifying nights towards status each year
    3. Unlimited Boingo WiFi
    4. Complimentary in-room premium internet access
  • The $95 fee is waived for the first year.
  • On the low end, the bonus of 35,000 points is worth ~$800

While this is a great bonus offer, the value of SPG points makes this card my go to for all my non-bonused spend.  You might as well get it while the bonus is hot and make it part of your suite of credit cards.  Last year I was able to redeem 40,000 SPG points for 50,000 Alaska MileagePlan miles which I then used to book a Cathay Pacific business class flight from JFK – HKG – MLE with a 10 day stopover in Hong Kong.  This flight priced out at $5,623.34 giving me a per point value on my SPG points of ~$0.14.  It is redemptions such as this that make the Amex SPG Business card one of my favorite credit cards currently available.

To apply, click here: Apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card

 

In the interest of full disclosure, we will earn a referral bonus for anyone that is approved from the link above.  These are publicly available offers and all claims made in this post as of the posting date can be found in the offer language for the card.  We only provide the best publicly available offers and thank you for your continued support.

Earn Elite Status With These Credit Cards

When it comes to Credit cards, the first thing that gets attention in this hobby is the sign up bonus.  Other benefits offered by these credit cards are often overlooked and one such benefit is the opportunity to get “Elite Status” with the Airline and Hotel Loyalty programs.

In this post, we will review the credit cards that would help you accelerate towards the Elite status with Airlines and Hotel Reward Programs

1. Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard:

 

AAdvantage Executive card

 

Apart from the signup bonus and other benefits. You could also earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM’s) when you spend $40,000 or more in eligible purchases with in a calendar Year.

This card comes with an Annual fee of $450.

Here is a summary of requirements for various levels of AAdvantage elite status.

AA

Summary of AAdvantage Requirements

 

2. Amex Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit card

 

Delta Platinum Card

 

Through 04/11/2018, there is an improved signup bonus of 70,000 miles with the Amex Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card.  You can also earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. This card comes with an annual fee of $195.

you can also earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 or more in eligible purchases on the Card in a calendar year. Earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $50,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in a Calendar year for a total of 20,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs.

Here is a summary of elite status requirements.

Delta Elite Status

MQD requirement is waived, if you spend $250,000 or more in a Calendar year with Amex Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit card.  In theory, you could earn Delta Silver status with just credit card spending.

3. Amex Delta Reserve Credit card

Delta Reserve

American Express offer 3 variants co-branded Delta credit cards.  Another card that helps you earn elite status is Delta Reserve Credit card. You can earn 10,000 MQM’s when you spend $3,000 or more in eligible purchases with in first 3 months.

This card carries a hefty annual fee of $450.

You can also earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 15,000 bonus miles after you spend $30,000 on purchases on your Delta Reserve Credit Card in a calendar year. Earn an additional 15,000 MQMs and an additional 15,000 bonus miles after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your Delta Reserve Card in a calendar year.

This card also waives MQD requirement, if you spend $250,000 or more in eligible purchases in a calendar year.

 

4. United MileagePlus Presidential Plus Credit card:

 

United MileagePlus

You can earn 1,000 Flexible Premier qualifying miles (Flex PQM) for each $5,000 you spend on your Card. You can use these Flex PQM to help maintain your Premier status or elevate it, up to Premier Platinum. Flex PQM earned through credit card spending is valid in the calendar year they are earned and an additional 39 months before they expire.

Here is a summary of the requirements for United Premier status.

United Elite

United Premier Status Requirements

 

5. Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business MasterCard:

Barclays AA Business

 

Earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $25,000 on purchases each calendar year. This card comes with an annual fee of $95.

6. AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard:

Barclays AAdvantage Silver

You could earn 5,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM’s) for every $20,000 you spend annually (up to 10,000 miles each year)

You could also earn  $6,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars when you spend $50,000 on purchases each calendar year. You’ll earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $25,000, and another $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $50,000

This card comes with an annual fee of $195. This card can not be applies directly, but only available as upgrade to Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard.

With all the 3 variants of AAdvantage cards, you could potentially earn 20,000 EQMs  and $9,000 EQDs after a combined total spend of $115k in eligible purchases across the 3 cards, which gets you Gold status comfortably and well on the way towards Platinum status.

 

With Hotel Reward programs, it is fairly straight forward. In most instances, you get the status just for holding the card. Here is the summary

Credit Card Annual Fee Elite Status offered
Amex Platinum Charge Card $550 SPG Gold Status
Hilton Honors Gold Status
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit card $95 SPG gold status with $30,000 spending in a Calendar year
Hilton Honors Amex Aspire Card $450 Hilton Honors Diamond Status
Hilton Honors Amex Ascend card $95 Hilton Honors Gold Status
Hilton Honors Amex card $0 Hilton Honors Silver Status
Hilton Honors Amex Business card $95 Hilton Honors Gold Status
Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit card $0 for first year and $85 afterwards Receive 15 Elite night credit enough for Marriott Silver status and an additional 1 Elite night credit for every $3,000 spend
Chase IHG rewards Club select Credit card $0 for first year and $49 afterwards IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite
Chase Hyatt Credit Card $0 for first year and $75 afterwards Hyatt Discoverist Status
Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit card $450 Ritz Carlton Gold Elite status for the first year. Spend $10,000 your first year and each subsequent year to maintain your Gold Elite status.
Elevate to Platinum status when you spend $75,000 or more in an account year
Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature card $75 Radisson Rewards Gold Status
Radisson Rewards Visa Signature Credit card $50 Radisson Rewards Silver Status
Barclays Wyndham Rewards visa card with no annual fee $0 Wyndham Rewards Gold Membership
Barclays Wyndham Rewards visa card with  annual fee $75 Wyndham Rewards Platinum Membership

 

What is your favorite card and the elite status?

 

 

 

Here Are The Best Cash Back Credit Cards And How To Maximize Their Benefits

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No matter how much we love the rewards from Airlines and Hotel programs, “Cash is King”. There are many cards in the market that offer Cashback as a reward for your spends.

Here is a quick comparison of all the popular Cashback credit cards available.

Cashback on purchases 5% Rotating Categories? Annual Fee Redemption Options
Consumer Cards
Citi Double Cash 2% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Chase Freedom Unlimited 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Chase Freedom 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Discover it 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Discover it Miles 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
American Express Blue Cash Everyday 3% cash back at US supermarkets,
2% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores
1% cashback on all purchases.
No $0 Statement Credit
American Express Blue Cash Preferred 6% cash back at US supermarkets,
3% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores
1% cashback on all purchases.
No $95 Statement Credit
Bank of America Cash Rewards 1% cash back on all purchases,
2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs,
3% at gas stations
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
Bank of America Premium Rewards 1.5 – 3.5% No $95 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Capital One Quick Silver card 1.5% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card 3% First year, 2.5% after No $0 for first year and $59 after that Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Small Business Cards
Capital One Spark Cash 2% No $0 for first year and $95 after that Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Capital One Spark Cash Select 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Capital One Spark Classic 1% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services.
2% cashback at Gas Stations and Restautants
1% cashback on other purchases
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards, Better value by redeeming for Travel
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard credit card 1% cash back on all purchases,
2% at Restaurants and wholesale clubs,
3% at gas stations
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
American Express SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card 5% at U.S. office supply stores, 3% on a select category you choose and 1% on all other purchases No $0 Statement Credit
  • Citi Double Cash Credit card:

Citi DoubleCash

$0 Annual fee and earn 1% cashback when you buy and an additional 1%  cashback when you pay for the purchases.

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited:

Freedom Unlimited

$0 Annual fee and earns 1.5% cashback on all purchases.

  • Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom

$0 Annual fee and earn 1% cashback on all purchases. You can also earn 5% on rotating categories that change every quarter, up to a maximum of $1,500 in combines purchases.

chase 5%

5% Cashback calendar for Chase Freedom card holders

  • Discover it:

Discover it

$0 Annual fee and earns 1% cashback on all purchases. You could also earn                         5% cashback on purchases when you activate and spend at different places that change every quarter, up to a maximum of $1,500 in purchases.

Discover 5%

Discover 5% Cashback calendar for 2018

For the first year of card membership, Discover will match the Cashback.

Also, when redeeming your cashback, Discover offers the option of buying various merchant Gift cards at a discounted price.

Discover_Gift_Cards

Some of the gift cards you could buy with your Discover Cashback

  • Discover it Miles:

Discover it Miles

Even though this card is called as Miles card, it is effectively a cashback card that 1.5% on all purchases.

Similar to Discover it card, your rewards will be matched by Discover at the end of your first year membership.

  • American Express Blue cash Everyday:

Blue Cash Everyday

3% cashback at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 2% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cashback on all purchases.

$0 Annual fee

  • American Express Blue cash Preferred:

BLuecash Preferred

6% cashback at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 3% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cashback on all purchases.

$95 Annual fee

  • Bank of America Cash Rewards:

BankofAmerica Cash Rewards

1% cash back on purchases everywhere, every time, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/ wholesale club/ gas purchases each quarter.

No annual fee

Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account.

  • Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card:

BofA Premium Rewards

2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

$95 Annual fee

Preferred Rewards customers get an additional 25%-75% rewards bonus on every purchase

BofA Preferred

Three tiers of Bank of America relationship

If you could maintain a balance of over $100K+, you can enjoy 75% rewards bonus for being a Platinum Honors member. That means you could earn up to 3.5 % per $1 on travel and dining purchases and up to 2.62 % per $1 on all other purchases.

Remember this is tax season, you could pay taxes using credit card using services like Pay1040.com for a fee of 1.87%. When you compare 1.87% fee with the possibility of earning of 2.62% cashback, you could make money on your tax payments.

  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card:

Cash Wise

Unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on net purchases

$0 Annual fee

  • US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card:

US bank Cash+

5%cashback on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter on two categories you choose.

2% cashback on one everyday category, like gas or groceries and 1% on all other net purchases.

$0 Annual fee

  •   Capital One Quicksilver card
   Capitalone Quick Silver

Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

$0 Annual fee

  • Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit card:

Alliant

Earn 3% cashback on all purchases during the first year of membership and 2.5% after that

$59 annual fee, waived for the first year

 

Small Business Credit cards

If you own a small business, you could get one of the small business credit cards that earns Cashback.

 

  • Capital One Spark Cash credit cards

There are three variants of this card and offers varying amounts of cashback.

Capitalone business

Three variants of Capital One Spark Cash credit cards

  • Chase Ink Business Cash Credit card

chase Ink

Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year.

Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn

No Annual fee

 

  • American Express SimplyCash Plus Business Credit card

Amex Business card

5% at U.S. office supply stores, 3% on a select category you choose. On purchases up to $50,000 at 5% and 3% per calendar year, then 1%

No Annual fee

 

How to maximize the benefits?

All the above mentioned cards offer cash back on all purchases ranging from 1-3.5% on all purchases. However, there are a few cards that offer additional cashback on purchases that falls in specific categories like Gas stations, Grocery stores etc..

For example, Discover it and Chase Freedom card offers 5% cashback on rotating categories that change every quarter. You could earn 5% cashback on  up to $1,500 in purchases when you activate.

Here are a few tips you could consider to maximize the

  1. Purchase Gift cards – Many Grocery stores sell gift cards of various merchants like Restaurants, Gas stations, Amazon, prepaid visa/Master gift cards etc. You could purchase gift cards and buy stuff from that merchant, effectively earning 5% cashback on that purchase.
  2.  Many gas stations also sell gift cards and could be a great opportunity to maximize your purchases.
  3. If you purchase regularly, you may consider stocking up the gift cards of that merchant for future use or you could buy items in bulk for future use.

Which cashback credit card do you hold and how do you maximize the benefits?

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Comparison of Amex Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards vs. Citi ThankYou Points.

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It is a known fact that Amex, Chase & Citi are big players when it comes to issuing credit cards. These banks not only have co-branded cards but also issue cards under their  proprietary rewards program. These are considered as flexible currency as they offer a lot of flexibility in terms of how we can spend these points.

Here is a comparison of all the features of the three programs – Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi ThankYou points.

  Amex Membership rewards Chase Ultimate Rewards Citi ThankYou points
Cards that will earn the reward points
  • Amex Platinum Card
  • Amex Business Platinum
  • Amex Premier Rewards Gold card
  • Amex Business Gold Rewards Card
  • Amex Everyday
  • Amex Everyday Preferred
  • Amex Blue Business Pus Credit Card
  • Amex Green Card
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Chase Freedom
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Chase Ink business preferred
  • Chase Ink business cash
  • Citi ThankYou Premier
  • Citi Prestige
  • Citi ThankYou Preferred
  • AT&T Access Card From Citi
  • AT&T Access More Card from Citi ( possible with product conversions only)
Airline Transfer Partners (1:1 except as noted)
  • AeroMexico Club Premier: 1,000 MR points =  1,600 Premier points
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Flying Blue
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • ANA
  • Asia Miles
  • British Airways
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • El Al: 1,000 MR points = 20 Matmid points
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus
  • TrueBlue points (250 MR Points = 200 TrueBlue Points)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • United MileagePlus
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • Singapore KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Flying Blue
  • JetBlue TrueBlue: 1,000 TY points = 800
  • Turkish Airlines Miles & Miles
  • Asia Miles
  • Avianca Life Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • Eva Air
  • Flying Blue
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Jet Privilege
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Hotel Transfer Partners (1:1 except as noted)
  • Choice Privileges
  • Starwood Preferred Guest (1000:333)
  • Hilton  Honors (1000:1500)
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • World of Hyatt
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Ritz Carlton Rewards
None
Cash Redemptions 0.6 Cents per point towards Statement Credit 1 Cent per point towards statement credit or ACH transfer 1 Cent per point towards statement credit
Redeem towards travel (Air travel, Hotel and Car Rental on the respective portal) 1 Cent per point. (Get 35% of the points back if you hold Business Platinum card and booked with qualifying airline) 1.5 Cents/Point with Sapphire Reserve or 1.25 Cents/Points with Sapphire Preferred 1.25 cents per point (with Prestige or Premier card)
Points Sharing Points Sharing not allowed Points can be shared with another household member Can be shared with anyone holding ThankYou card. Transferred points expire after 90 days of transfer

 

Key Things to note:

Some of the cards offer all the features when combined with a premium card. For example, Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited alone can not unlock the full potential of Chase Ultimate Rewards program, but when combined with Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve. Similarly, Citi ThankYou preferred offers full value when combined with ThankYou premier or Prestige card

It is generally not a good idea to redeem points towards Merchandise or gift cards

Singapore Airlines Krisflyer, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club & KLM/Airfrance – Flying Blue are common transfer partners for all 3 reward programs – so you could pool points from the three rewards programs for something big.

Which rewards program is best?

The true answer is “It depends“.  Each program has its own advantage depending on your requirement and type of cards held. For example, if you have Chase Sapphire Reserve card – you get more value when redeeming towards travel rewards like flight, hotel & car rentals.

You should also consider that the card issuers have recently tightened the rules around the new card approvals, so it may be worthwhile to invest in all the 3 programs.

But, here are some of the strong aspects of each program in different scenarios:

Best program for transferring points to Hotel loyalty programs:

World of Hyatt is associated with Chase Ultimate Rewards and could offer great value when redeemed thoughtfully.  Transferring to Marriott Rewards, Ritz Carlton Rewards and IHG Rewards Club is not generally NOT recommended as it is very easy to earn these  points at less than 1 cent/point.

Best program for transferring points to Airline loyalty programs:

This is very tough one, as there are sweet spots with each airline loyalty program. But, here are our recommended Airline transfer partners for each program that could offer great value

Amex Membership Rewards: Air Canada -Aeroplan, Delta Sky Miles, British Airways Executive Club, ANA Mileage Club, Singapore Krisflyer, Asia Miles

Chase Ultimate Rewards: United MileagePlus, British Airways Executive Club, Southwest Rapid rewards, Singapore Krisflyer

Citi ThankYou points: Avianca Life Miles, Singapore Krisflyer, Etihad Guest, Asia Miles

Best Program for Travel rewards:

All three programs allowing Flight, Hotel & Car rental bookings through their respective portal. In this case, the best program would be Chase Ultimate Rewards (If you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve – 1.5 cents/points) or Amex membership Rewards  (If you hold Amex business platinum cards – 1.54 cents/point).

If you do not hold the premium cards, then Citi ThankYou Points (1.25 cents/point) and Chase Ultimate Rewards (1.25 cents/point) offer great value.

What is your favorite program and your consideration for choosing that program?

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Chase 5/24 Rule, Cards Exempted And Exceptions

Every bank has a set of unpublished rules when it comes to approving for credit cards. It is always important to know these rules so we could maximize the return of the hard pulls in the credit pulls.

What is Chase 5/24 rule?

Around 2 years ago, Chase  tightened rules when it comes to approving for certain credit cards in their portfolio. With this 5/24 rule, a credit card application will not be approved if the applicant had opened more than 5 new cards in the last 24 months from not just Chase but ANY bank.

Even Authorized User (AU) cards could impact your ability to get the new card as this also shows up as a new account in your credit report. However, there may be a chance that this can be pleaded and your application may be approved if you are over 5 account due to AU cards

This rule does not account for the number of hard inquires on the credit report, but the number of new accounts (across all banks) added to the credit report in the last 24 months, which means that this new rule is intended to limit the number of sign up bonuses received.

How to Check your 5/24 status?

There is an easier way to check, if you have opened more than 5 cards in the last 24 months.

Step 1: Login to Credit karma

Credit karma is free service which provides credit monitoring and credit scores from your Transunion and Equifax.  If you dont have an account yet, you could sign up in a few minutes.

1.login

Step 2:  View Score details

Once you login, you would be able to see a Dashboard showing your TransUnion and Equifax credit score details.  Click on the “View Score details” on the bottom of either score.

2.Dashboard

Step 3:  View “Credit Usage”

On this page, you will see all the factors impacting your credit score.  Click “View Details” below the credit usage section.

3.Details

Step 4: Count the number of accounts in the last 24 months

Here you could see all the open credit card accounts. You could count the number of cards opening in the last 24 months.

4. Count the numbers

If you have 5 or more cards opened in the last 24 months, you could not get selected Chase cards.

One more thing you could notice is that business cards are not reported to the credit bureaus. This is true with most business cards and business cards would not impact your 5/24 status as long as it is not showing up in your credit report.

Which Business cards do not show up on credit report?

Several banks do not report business cards in your credit report unless there is an issue with your business card account.  As of the day of writing this post, only CapitalOne and Barclayard (conflicting reports) seem to report business cards to credit bureaus.

Here are a couple of flyertalk threads for more information and datapoints

A list of Business cards which earns miles and points

5/24 – Chase  & non-Chase churning strategy

If you had applied for business cards in the last 24 months, you could exclude the business cards, when you count your 5/24 status as mentioned above.

Which Chase cards are exempted from this rule?

Thankfully, there are several Chase cards that are not covered by the 5/24 rule.  This flyertalk thread has all the current updates and data points. As of today, the following Chase travel rewards cards are exempted from this 5/24 rule.

British Airways Visa Signature card

The Hyatt credit card

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit card

Ritz-Carlton rewards credit card

Marriott Rewards Premier Business credit card

If you are less than 5/24, you should focus on other chase cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred etc.. before applying for the above listed cards.

What are the potential exceptions to this rule?

Note that the below listed options are not guaranteed to by-pass this 5/24 rule, but will improve your chances significantly.

  • The most probable approach for by-passing the 5/24 rule is, if you are pre-approved for a card. This is usually informed by the  the teller during the branch visit.
  • If you are 5/24 due to Authorized user cards (AU) in the last 24 months, it may be a good idea to ask the primary card holder to cancel these AU cards issued against your name and request these bank to notify the bank to remove these cards
  • If you received a targeted mailer with an exclusive invitation code, you could potentially get away with the 5/24 limitation
  • In the past,  having Chase Private Client status used to by-pass the 5/24 rule, as the relationship manager used to work with the credit analyst and get you approved. However, recent data-points suggest that it does not work any more.

Conclusion:

Chase has  an unpublished rule, which is famously called 5/24 rule. As per this rule, a Chase credit card will not be approved if the applicant has opened 5 or more cards with any issuer (according to the credit report) in the last 24 months.

There may be limited exceptions to this rule, if you apply for pre-approved offer in the branch or through a targeted mailer.

If you have opened less than 5 credit cards in the last 24 months, you may want to prioritize Chase cards before getting other cards.

Credit Cards With Lounge Access Benefit

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During Air travel, there are instances beyond our control where we end up with a long layover or the flight gets delayed at the last moment and we end up having to wait for a long duration at the gate.

To ease the discomfort, Lounge access could come to the rescue. While US domestic Airline lounges may not offer huge value, there are several lounges that offer attractive amenities including complimentary drinks, snacks, food, showers etc..

Unless we are an elite member or flying in business/first  class, access to lounges is not complimentary and the cost multiplies when we are traveling as a group. Fortunately, there are several credit cards that offer complimentary lounge access as one of the benefit. This benefit is often offered through Priority Pass membership. For starters, Priority Pass does not own lounges, but is affiliated with over 1,000+ lounges across the globe and provides you complimentary access or negotiated rates depending on your plan.

If you were purchase Priority Pass membership on your own dime, here is what it would cost you. There are several types of membership you could get with Priority Pass depending on your requirements.

Priority Pass Memberships

Standard membership costs you $99 per year, then you could enjoy a flat fee of $27 for every visit, while the Prestige membership costs $399 per year and would get you unlimited free visits to its affiliated lounges. Note that none of the plans offer complimentary visits for our guest.

The cost effective option would be to get the lounge access through these credit cards. There are several cards that offer premium membership plan Priority Pass Select as one of the benefit. We will discuss the details and the weigh the cost of the card membership fees when compared to the Priority Pass Membership fees. A few airport restaurants recently got added to Priority Club – Corona Beach between Gates D23 and D24 at Miami Airport, Timberland Steaks and Grill at Denver Airport , Capers Cafe Le Bar, Capers Market , House Spirits Distillery and Alaska Lounge at Portland Airport.

Citi Prestige Card:

Citi Prestige card is one of the premium travel credit card in the market with several benefits and one of the key benefit is the Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership that offers unlimited access to its affiliated lounges including 2 guests or immediate family members.

Other key benefits of the card include $250 travel credit every year and 4th Night free. This card comes with an annual fee of $450 and each authorized user card will be an additional $50. If any of your friends, family member needs lounge access, you could add them as an authorized user and simply share the Priority Pass Select card only. The lounge access benefit for the authorized user would be same as the primary card holder, which means one could get lounge access at $50 per year.

HK

Plaza Premium Lounge – Hong Kong

American Express Platinum Card:

American Express Platinum card revamped its benefits recently and one of the key change is the enhancement to lounge access benefit. You now get Priority Pass Select membership which gives unlimited lounge access to the primary card holder and 2 additional guests.

The other feature of this card is the access to Amex centurion lounges that are probably one of the best domestic lounges you could find in the US. You get great food, drinks and facilities.

As of today, Centurion Lounges are currently at the following US Airports

  1. Las Vegas (LAS)
  2. Dallas (DFW)
  3. Houston (IAH)
  4. New York (LGA)
  5. Miami (MIA)
  6. San Francisco (SFO)
  7. Seattle (SEA)

You could find Centurion Lounges outside of US as well,

  1. Mumbai (BOM)
  2. Delhi (DEL)
  3. Buenos Aires (EZE)
  4. Mexico City (MEX-3)
  5. Monterrey (MTY-2)
  6. Sydney (SYD)
  7. Toluca (TLC)

The next upcoming locations are Hong Kong (HKG) and Philadelphia (PHL)

Centurion Lounge

Centurion Lounge – Las Vegas

You also get access to the Delta sky club lounges when flying with Delta.  The annual fee for the card is $550 as it offers several other benefits like $100 incidental travel expenses like Baggage fees, seat selection fees etc. and $200 in Uber credits and more…

Chase Sapphire Reserve:

In the past, Chase used to offer co-branded premium credit cards only. About a year ago, this has changed with the introduction of Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The annual fee for this card is $450 and one of the key benefit of the card is the $300 in travel credit.

This card also offers Priority Pass Select membership as a benefit, which grants lounge access to you and your guests. As per the terms, there seems to be no set limit on the number of guests that could accompany you.

Siem Reap

Plaza Premium Lounge – Siem Reap

Ritz Carlton Rewards credit card:

Ritz Carlton Rewards credit card also offers Priority pass select membership that grants complimentary lounge access to you and its guests. The annual fee of this card is $450 and offers $300 towards incidental travel credits like baggage fees, seat selection fees. You could even purchase lounge access passes towards this travel credit.

KAL Lounge

KAL Lounge – LAX

US bank Altitude Reserve card:

This card is probably the newest card in the premium cards segment. Currently, this card is available for the current US bank customers only. This card offers priority pass select membership which gets you 4 complimentary visits and an additional 4 visits for your guests at participating lounges.

Given that this card comes with a $400 fee, Lounge access benefits is mediocre. But there are other card benefits like up to $325 annual travel credit that may be interest a few.

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard:

This card is for someone, who primarily travels with American Airlines and have access to more than 50 Admirals clubs across the globe.

This card comes with an annual fee of $450 and gives unlimited access to Admirals club to the primary card holder and up to 2 guests or immediate family members. Authorized users also get unlimited access to the Admirals club.

United MileagePlus Club card

This card offers United MileagePlus club membership as the key benefit that lets you , as the primary card member, and your eligible travel companions will enjoy access to all United Club locations and participating Star Alliance affiliated lounges worldwide.

Annual fee for this card is $450.

Crystal Visa Infinite Card

This is probably the least known credit card issued by City National Bank.  getting this card is through a paper application and may not be straight forward, you may check this flyertalk thread for more data points. Annual fee for the card is zero for first year and $400 from the second year of membership

This card offers lounge access through Priority Pass Select Membership. Card holder can choose up to 2 members that can get Priority Pass Select membership and there seems to be no restriction on the number of guests each member can take as long as the  specific lounge accepts.

 

Conclusion:

There are several premium  cards in the market that offer lounges access as one of the key benefit through the Priority Pass Select membership or membership to the respective lounge club.

It may be tough to rank the best card with respect to the lounge access benefit as the individual circumstances may vary. Which card would you like to hold for the lounge access?