ultimate rewards

Tag Archives for ultimate rewards.

Chase Ink Plus Vs. Ink Cash: What Are the Differences?

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I haven’t written about the Chase Ink cards very much, but I’ve been thinking about picking up a Chase Ink Cash lately. I already have a Chase Ink Plus. It’s possible to get both because they’re technically different card products.

They have a lot in common. But there are a few differences that make or break the value you’ll get from them.

Biggest similarities

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Discover it® Cashback Match™ Is an Amazing Cashback Card (For the 1st Year at Least)!

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My new Discover It card came in the mail this week, in very nice packaging.

I activated it online and got about to exploring Discover Deals now that I have full access.

And I might have to change my tune now.

I’ve long heralded the Fidelity AMEX as the best cashback card.

But now I’ll refer to it as the best ongoing cashback card. Because, the 1st year at least, the Discover It has it beat by a mile.

I’ll still get great use out of the Discover It card the 2nd year, albeit much reduced.

The 1st year, this card is good for an easy $600, at least. And I’m even thinking this no annual fee card has the potential for over $1,000 back.

Getting the Discover It card

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Use Avios for Connecting Flights to Save Money

I’ve been thinking about taking a trip down to New Mexico recently and it got me thinking about fare constructions and how to get to regional airports as cheaply as possible.

There's still lots of value to be had from Avios

There’s still lots of value to be had from Avios

The idea here is to fly on Oneworld into a hub city or cheap destination, and then use Avios for the (usually) more expensive, shorter leg of the itinerary.


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My experience renting a car in Ireland (Woof!)

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Thinking about renting a car in Ireland?

verb: to declare something bad, ugly, terrible, or nasty.
interjection: use as an expletive to express disgust or surprise.
Can be a replacement for damn that sucks!

Upon landing at DUB, I knew the next step was to go pick up the rental car.

So here’s how I did it (made the booking not picked up the car).

The booking

I ran a quick search on the Chase Ultimate Rewards website – they generally have fantastic rates on rental cars. That’s how I got such a good deal in Hawaii. Keep in mind that they ONLY service airport locations and you MUST pick up and return to the same location.

They quoted me at ~$325 for a 6-day rental. Not bad.

But when I hopped on kayak.com to compare and they had rentals pricing out at 9 Euros per day. And 85 Euros for the 6-day rental (~$97). Now that was a screaming deal. I booked a car at Dollar via priceline.com.

renting a car in ireland

My Kayak to Priceline to Dollar car rental booking – 85 Euros

My only criteria were:

  • 4-door (for ease of getting luggage in and out)
  • Automatic transmission
  • Unlimited kilometers (I wanted to drive a lot)

So, I did it. I thought I’d gotten a better deal than what the Chase Ultimate Rewards site was displaying.

Now that I’m back safe and sound, I’m not so sure any more.


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Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Boston

Hyatt Regency Boston reviews

Since the BOS-DUB flight on Aer Lingus tonight flies out of, um, Boston, I decided to build in a day to explore this culturally rich city. As a base, I decided on the Hyatt Regency Boston.

It’s a Hyatt Category 3 hotel, meaning it’s 15,000 Gold Passport points per night, and also eligible for use with the annual free night certificate given as a perk to cardholders of the Chase Hyatt Visa.

Since I’d already redeemed my annual free night certificate earlier this year at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, I redeemed 15,000 Gold Passport points.

Daily rate was $313/night

Daily rate was $313/night

This saved me $313 for a one-night stay, which means I got a value of 2.1 cents per point – and meets my 2 cents per point minimum. However, since I’m a Chase Hyatt Visa cardholder, I’ll get 20% of those points back due to a promo they have going on right now until July 31st (but you had to register by March 31st). That gives me even more value out of the points redeemed – closer to 3 cents per point. Considering how easy it is to earn Ultimate Rewards points, I consider Hyatt stays one of the best uses of Ultimate Rewards – especially with this 20% discount going on.

Getting there and check in

After getting off the Amtrak train at Boston’s South station, it was a short 10-minute walk to the Hyatt Regency. The streets in Boston drive me absolutely batty. I’m a lover of the grid. Well-planned cities like Chicago and Phoenix appeal to my sense of order greatly. I can deal with New York’s mish-mash of a kinda-sorta grid. But Boston is something else altogether.

Once I found the Hyatt Regency, I entered through the sliding glass doors. You have to take an elevator up to the lobby on the 3rd floor, and from there, you have to take another elevator up to your room. So to enter and/or exit, you always have to take two elevators. This design feature/flaw was not my favorite thing in the entire world, and I can see how it could be confusing to some.

Ground floor entrance of the Hyatt Regency Boston

Ground floor entrance of the Hyatt Regency Boston

Check-in area on the 3rd floor

Check-in area on the 3rd floor

The desk agent was very, very welcoming and acknowledged that I was Platinum with Hyatt. After just a couple of minutes, we headed up to our room.

The room

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Booking Dublin: A Change of Plans

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Major change of plans is more like it.

Thanks to The Points Guy, I caught wind that an award I’d long had my eye on, BOS-DUB in business class on Aer Lingus, was widely available for booking with Avios points.

The good news: it still is.

I immediately transferred over some Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards (I love combining them when I can and British Airways is perfect for that – so is Singpore) to my British Airways account, and called in to book my dates.

Get 'em while they're hot!

Get ’em while they’re hot!

Throughout April and May, and possibly into the summer months, award availability is peppered here and there.

Business class award availability on Aer Lingus

Business class award availability on Aer Lingus (Click to enlarge)

That screen shot was taken just now. There are still some flights out there.

The best way to book this is by checking availability on the United website, then by calling British Airways to book over the phone.

I called them post Avios-hack (to change a different set of flights), and my hold time was less than 5 minutes. In fact, I was all booked and set up with flights in under 15 minutes (pre-Avios hack).

If you’re interested in booking, you have either one month or when availability runs out, beginning today. The Avios program is changing on April 28th, and this particular award will go from 50K round-trip in business to 75K, which is a pretty staggering change.

I’ve been interested in experiencing Aer Lingus business class, and visiting Ireland, for a very long time, so it’s all very serendipitous.

But what about the Delta flights?

Of course I had a pretty severe schedule change with Delta.

The mighty schedule change

The mighty schedule change

I was willing to get down to DC to take advantage of an awesome fare that Delta had earlier this year. I was even thinking I could spend a day or two in DC, maybe catch the tail-end of the cherry blossoms. But when the Aer Lingus award availability came around, I was then willing to get myself to Boston, and am now thinking of spending a day there instead.

I called Delta and explained that I had a schedule change of over 4 hours, and that those times no longer work for me – could I please cancel and get a refund? They immediately canceled the ticket and said to expect a refund in 5-7 business days. Awesome. So those are done.

It was a great deal, but then again, so is the Avios redemption on Aer Lingus, and even more so now that it’s time-sensitive.

The 2 round-trip flights would’ve been over $10,000 had I paid for them. Instead, I got nearly 11 cents per point of value by booking with Avios. An incredible deal – get on it if you can!

BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus business class

BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus business class

Getting to Boston

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I’m dumping the Chase British Airways Visa – and you should, too

For a long time, the Chase British Airways Visa has offered 1.25 points per dollar on non-bonus spend.

But starting April 30th, 2015, the card will become worthless. And you should dump it.

Rest in pieces

Rest in pieces

I’ve seen a lot of other bloggers saying how you can still get 50,000 Avios, without paying the annual fee of $95 the first year, and that the card is still worth it for that reason alone. No.

Dump it

I’ve long been a supporter of the Chase British Airways Visa. I’ve even toyed with the idea of putting $30,000 of spend through the card to trigger the Travel Together companion certificate, despite the outrageous (!!!) fuel surcharges. I even researched Fifth Freedom flights, in part to defend the usefulness of Avios.

But this new earning structure, combined with the changes to their business/first class award redemptions, renders the card completely useless.

In fact, many other cards offer better earning rates for British Airways Avios:

  • The Chase Ink Plus will continue to offer 5 Avios (Ultimate Rewards points) per dollar on office supply and telecommunication spend
  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred will continue to offer 2 Avios per dollar on all travel (a very broad category already) and dining (also very broad)
  • The American Express EveryDay Preferred will offer 4.5 Avios (Membership Rewards Points) per dollar on all grocery spend up to $6,000 per year (after 30 transactions per month), 3 Avios per dollar on gas, and 1.5 Avios on all other spend – this alone beats the socks off the Chase British Airways Visa – and it has the same annual fee (!)

Other thoughts

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Points and miles as insurance – why it’s good to have a stash

Everyone knows I’m Mr. Earn and Burn: I typically like to keep my miles balances as close to zero as possible.

I don’t trust any mileage or point program, really. Not for a second. Every major airline has had a drastic, no-notice-given change to their mileage program this year.

That being said, I like to have a little stash.

Where to keep the stash and how many to tuck away

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Getting to Europe on points: Ultimate Rewards Vs. Membership Rewards

[This post is meant as an broad overview, not an in-depth look into each individual program.]

When it comes to traveling to Europe, which points program has better offerings: Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards?

Let’s compare redemptions popular European destinations to see which one comes out on top.

Before we begin though, let’s assume we want the best value for our money overall (points or miles + surcharges) and we want to fly in economy. Here are each program’s airline transfer partners that fly to Europe.

Ultimate Rewards: 

Ultimate Rewards airline transfer partners

Ultimate Rewards airline transfer partners


British Airways and United are the front runners here. While Korean does partner with Air France, that airline doesn’t have the greatest award space. It’s also difficult to book award space on Korean, and there are a lot of blackout dates and complicated rules.


Membership Rewards: 

Membership Rewards selected transfer partners

Membership Rewards selected transfer partners


Now to the good stuff!


I picked Paris because it’s a pretty common European destination. What’s availability like with Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards partners?

With Ultimate Rewards:

Go ahead and throw out Virgin Atlantic since they don’t fly to Paris (they’d be great if we wanted to go to London). Throw out British Airways unless you want to pay the fuel surcharges they impose. The best option in this program for this redemption is United, by far.

Yellow and green means lots of space on United + partners!

Yellow and green means lots of space on United + partners!


30K miles + $77 to get to Paris one way

30K miles + $77 to get to Paris on outbound



30,000 miles + $88 to fly back on Air Canada with a stop in YUL


Final price: 60,000 miles + $166

I like how United always shows how much an itinerary would have cost if purchased. I like to always make sure I’m getting at least 2 cents of value out of each points. This redemption meets that criteria at 2.5 cents/point. Not much over, but if I really wanted to take this trip, I’d feel good about redeeming at the given rate.

With Membership Rewards:

So many choices: Delta, Aeroplan, ANA, Iberia… this could go a number of different ways.

We can go ahead and throw out Delta. Their new award chart recently devalued and would now costs 60,000 miles. Not bad, same as United, but we can do better.

Aeroplan offers flights in economy for 60,000 miles round-trip, too, but their fuel surcharges can be prohibitive. Throw them out, too.

Aeroplan award chart (the OLD one – US-Europe is still current, though)

That leaves ANA and Flying Blue, the program of… Air France. Logic would lead you to believe that Air France would be the best way to get to Paris, right? Let’s narrow this down a bit more.

50,000 miles on Air France with Flying Blue

50,000 miles on Air France with Flying Blue


Sounds pretty reasonable!

50,000 miles + $257

50,000 miles + $257


Alright, 50,000 miles + $257 isn’t terrible. At this point, it’s between Air France and United, with its price of 60,000 miles + $166. Is it worth it to pay $91 to keep 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points? Since 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth .02 each, or $200, the answer is YES. Air France (Membership Rewards) is winning!

Can ANA have a come-from-behind victory? Even if not, Membership Rewards is the way to go here.

ANA has a distance-based reward award. JFK-CDG is 3,635 miles.

ANA Award Chart

ANA Award Chart


We can see JFK-CDG would be just 22,000 miles each way, or 44,000 round-trip, already saving 6,000 Membership Rewards points over Air France’s 50,000 miles. ANA does NOT charge fuel surcharges on US Airways flights, so for 44,000 miles and a small copay, you could be on your way to Paris!

WINNER: Membership Rewards

Bottom line:

With Ultimate Rewards, the best award redemption we could find was on United for 60,000 UR points. With Membership Rewards, the best award we could find was on ANA for 44,000 MR points. By flying on Star Alliance partners through ANA, we save ourselves 16,000 points, which is pretty nice!

This is only ONE example of potentially hundreds. It all depends on availability, surcharges, and your own personal preferences. This example goes to show that it’s good to have a few different points currencies for all the various award tickets that are out there. As always, do what makes me most sense for you and be sure to really dig into the details of your preferred program as there are always little tricks and tips that can get you even MORE value out of them, and, to quote Million Miles Secrets (one of my favorite blogs)- travel BIG with SMALL money! 🙂

Just Got Two New Cards 5-3-13

OK. So I had another tequila-driven round of two new credit card applications.

The two cards I’ve been eyeing for a while are the Chase Ink Plus and the Barclay Arrival card.

I drunkenly logged into the Chase website and located the card I wanted. I like the Plus over the Bold because it’s a credit card as opposed to a charge card, which gives me a bit of flexibility just in case. There’s also a pre-defined limit which is good for when the credit line is reported to the credit bureaus. Maybe I’m completely misguided here, but both cards are identical except for the credit vs. charge feature. So it comes down to personal preference anyway.

There it was: my bounty.


I honestly don’t remember filling out the application. It’s been on my mind for so long, I think I did it on autopilot. I hit submit and waited. Not instantly approved. More info needed. Crikey.

So then I headed over to the Barclays website thinking I’d be approved instantly. I’ve had an Icelandair card with them since 2007 and never missed a payment, so thought that would be a show of good faith on a new card. Same thing. Filled out the application, hit submit, and got a similar message about needing more information. Wah.


The next day, I called Chase and they asked me a ton of questions about my business. I answered confidently and honestly. The rep placed me on hold for a few minutes, then came back and said I’d been approved with a $5,000 credit line. I was ecstatic. She said I’d receive the welcome packet in a few days.

Then I called Barclays. What a shitshow. The rep sounded like he didn’t have a clue what was going on and just to wait 10 days. Hung up and called again. Same thing, except she gave me a website to visit: myapplicationstatus.com. Thanks. The website says the same thing. I swear the reps at Barclays are all robots.

Robot talk

Robot talk

Even though I don’t have an official confirmation, I’m sure I’ll get the card (pretty sure, anyway). I’m super excited about getting 50,000 more Ultimate Rewards points as well at $400+ dollars to spend on travel. Holla.

Bottom line

This is my last round of apps for a while, maybe a year or so. My next financial goal is to save up a good down payment on a house and to pay down my student loans, so I’m gonna let my credit simmer for a bit while I get it in order and let a few hard inquiries fall off. Plus, I’m a working boy now!

Unless there’s an amazing deal that pops up, I’m done with credit cards for now. I’ll probably eat my words later, but at this moment in time… I’m happy with my current credit card lineup. 🙂 Can’t wait to get the cards next week! Will update when I receive them.

American Express Vs. Chase: Why Chase Is Winning

Quite simply: signup bonuses with no BS.

I’ve been hating on Amex a lot lately, and with good reason. I now have four Amex cards, three with Amex as the actual issuing bank, and with two of those three, I’ve had to make numerous phone calls, write emails, and send tweets to their support team about not getting a signup bonus. After a lot of back and forth, they usually award me a fraction of what I missed out on as “good will”, but it always leaves a bad taste behind and is like pulling freaking teeth with them.

In my opinion, if an Amex cardmember holds the Platinum Card, their most premium card offering with a hefty $450 annual fee, any other cards should automatically come with an enhanced signup bonus. Something extra. Instead, we see this sentiment in a lot of the T&C:

Eff u 2!

Eff u 2!

What?! Why? That’s so stupid to punish people for wanting to open more cards. This is where Chase excels.

They have a few cards that feed into their Ultimate Rewards program the same way Amex has multiple cards that can be linked to Membership Rewards. But Chase doesn’t impose rules on signup bonuses with multiple cards. You can get a Freedom, a Sapphire, an Ink, and whatever else you want to get and get the FULL bonus on all of them. If anything ever goes awry, just give them a call and it’s taken care of almost instantly.

Not with Amex. They’re notorious for their Financial Reviews and for not awarding bonuses… at all. They’re also really slow and claim to have to “research” your claim. Not only that, but their Membership Rewards program has lost a few key transfer partners in the past couple of years, along with a few other consumer unfriendly changes while Ultimate Rewards continues to improve.

There are a few sweet spots with Membership Rewards. For me, it’s the British Airways Avios. They’re a transfer partner for both Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards, which is pretty fantastic. Membership Rewards also transfer instantly to Delta, which would help me out a LOT with my dream trip to Australia if Amex would ever give me the points I deserve as a customer and card holder.

It goes beyond this, though. It’s about how the customer starts to view the company after a while. I’ve been screwed over by them a few times by now to the point where I’m thinking of switching all my spend over to Chase and giving Amex the finger. I wish it weren’t like this, though. Delta is pretty much forcing their customers to have a co-branded Amex to avoid the upcoming dreaded MQD component of the SkyMiles program, and I love having lounge access with the Platinum Card. But Chase always treats me so right while Amex continues to kick me to the proverbial curb.

So to Chase, I’d say keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working, and it’s so great. I have such a positive association with the company at this point. And Amex. Oh, Amex. Step up your game, because you’re getting your butt beat. I look forward to the day where I’m down to just the Platinum Card. In fact, Delta’s bid for more revenue is kinda sorta slowly driving me over toward American. But that’s a post for another day, and that post will be highly speculative.

When I think of Chase: I trust them, like them, want more of them.

When I think of Amex: Starting to shudder, need energy to deal with them, apprehensive about continuing to use their products. TOO. BAD.

Winner = Chase, hands down. Thoughts, anyone?