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8 Easy Tricks to Earn & Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

This one’s for my friends who say, “I never earn enough points to get a travel reward,” or, “Points are useless once you have them.”

The truth is you don’t have to invest a ton of time into learning how to use your points. You can do well by using 1 or 2 tricks to earn and redeem for travel.

And if you do that, you will still come out way ahead of most people.

I used Chase Ultimate Rewards points to stay in San Francisco this April

These “tricks” require very little finesse – just that you pay attention. Perhaps now is a good time to form a habit loop?

Even if these methods are ALL you ever learn, they’re an incredible place to begin. And once you’re comfortable, you can build from there – baby steps.

4 ways to EARN Chase points

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I Bought the Wrong Gift Card – Then Broke Even With Points & Raise

My little brother came to visit recently. We went to the mall because he wanted to buy a new pair of shoes – in cash. He’s one of those “sneakerheads” so his purchase was likely going to be around $100.

My little mind started wondering how to get some points out of the whole deal. Then I remembered MileagePlus X!

sell gift card raise

An app you really need to download

And because I have the Chase United Explorer card (see it here), I knew I could get a 20% mileage bonus on any gift card I purchased through the app – even if I didn’t pay with that card.

We went into a dozen stores – Nike, Finish Line, Journeys, Foot Locker, and a couple of department stores. I’m not much of a mall shopper, so my head was spinning. When he finally decided on a pair of Nikes at Finish Line, I licked my chops and bought a Nike gift card on the MPX app. But realized the second the transaction processed I was in the wrong store. Guh!

My brother paid cash and I… had a Nike gift card I couldn’t use. “It wasn’t that much,” I told myself. But then remembered… I could sell it online. Maybe that would make it OK – and at least break me even – with the points I’d earn in the mix.

I ended up selling the gift card on Raise. Here’s how it went!

My experience selling a gift card on Raise

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Kohl’s Deal Results: What I Learned & How It Turned Out

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A few times per year, Kohl’s sells small kitchen appliances at a steep discount. With card category bonuses, shopping portals, promo codes, and rebates, it works out to better than free – especially if you can resell them. It’s the ultimate in deal stacking.

I ordered 40 appliances. (Do I sound crazy yet?)

kohl's deal results

“What have I gotten myself into now?”

While I’d love to say the whole thing went off without a hitch, that’s not exactly true. Here’s what I learned about stacking. And how it all turned out.

Stacking is like jenga

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Get an Extra 3X on Gift Cards at Staples (So 8X If You Have a 5X Office Supply Card)

Update: Wow, instant response! Chuck from Doctor of Credit let me know this may or may not work. So for now, I think the best thing to do is start slow at your local Staples (like try $5 and see if it works) and go from there, should you decide to try this. Thanks all for any info you want to add!

I was poking around as I am wont to do and assembled an 8X combination that I think will work.

Now, I haven’t done this myself, but it seems totally do-able.

What you’ll need to get started is:

  • The MileagePlus X app (which I’ve written about) AND
  • If you want 8X points, a Visa or MasterCard that earns 5X at office supply stores

Such as:

You can also get 5X on top of what you’ll earn from any other card with the exception of a couple of Amex cards.

Or, if you’re trying to meet a minimum spending requirement and want to get an extra 3X at office supply stores, this should work nicely.

Stack 3X through MileagePlus X with 5X on another card

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The Top Card for Beginners? Yeah, the Chase Sapphire Preferred

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I’m sure it’s happened to you at some point. A friend asks, “How do you do it?” Take all these trips to places like Hawaii, Tokyo and Osaka, Dublin, Barcelona, and more. How do you get free hotel rooms that cost hundreds of dollars a night?

“I want to travel like you do,” they say. “Where do I start?”

Chase Sapphire Preferred. You can stay at the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Philly with Chase Ultimate Rewards points

You can stay at the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Philly with Chase Ultimate Rewards points

And you have that moment where you’re thinking inside, “Well for starters, using that debit card for everything you buy isn’t helping anything.” *cough* Kierstin *cough*

You ask about their spending habits. “Do you shop online?” Definitely use a shopping portalget free miles for clicking a link.

And sign up for dining rewards while you’re at it because you never know when you’ll get some extra miles in your account – especially if you live in a mid-sized to large city.

As far as cards go… where to begin?

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Booking Hawaii: Part 2 – Using Citi ThankYou Points for Award Flights on Delta and United

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When last we parted, all was happy and good. Flights for 4 people were booked to Honolulu. Then life, as it does, got in the way.

Jay went back to New York for a too-good-to-pass-up film job. That’s right – I am now in Dallas alone. *cue torrential tears*

That was a whole other wrenching experience, but it also had consequences for this planned trip.

“So no Hawaii trip?” “I can’t.” Crap.

No Honolulu for you?

No Honolulu for you?

I called Connexions Loyalty (the travel agency Citi uses to book flights with ThankYou points) to ask if I could transfer the ticket to my little brother. I knew it would be a long shot, but worth trying.

The best they could do was cancel the ticket and give Jay the credit – no transferring, no name-changing. Oh, and there would be a $200 fee to redeem the credit. That stung, but at least part of the ticket will be put toward eventual travel.

By the time this all shook out, I accumulated more Citi ThankYou points. And continue to earn 30,000 to 40,000 ThankYou points per month.

Then I thought, why not take my little brother anyway?

How to add another person to the trip?

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App-O-Rama: 4 New Cards and ~200,000 Points

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Oh man, looking back on my first AOR 3 years ago is such a stroll down memory lane.

Still the best high I've found

Still the best high I’ve found

I was still newish to points and miles, new to blogging, still finding my voice and figuring out my travel goals.

I mentioned them at the time:

My travel goals for this round of apps are Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Dublin, Seattle, Alaska, and eventually, Australia. I’d also LOVE to fit in Vienna/Prague sometime this summer.

I made it to all of those places with the exception of Prague (which I mentioned recently as a possibility with Hilton points, so it’s still on my radar):

It goes to show the power of setting a goal.

But I should take a little wisdom “Three Years Ago Harlan” because my recent round of applications were rather scattershot. After I get settled in Dallas, I’m gonna need to plan a lot of trips with all the points and miles I’ll earn from this newest AOR.

4 new cards!

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MileagePlus X App: Earn Bonus United Miles at Amazon, eBay, & More

So I just got the Mileage Plus X app and am kicking myself, because it’s been available for points-earning potential since 2014.

But better late than never. And I’m discovering all these cool uses for it.

mileageplus x app

MileagePlus X – oldie but goodie

If you have the Citi AT&T Access More card, you can use it as a payment method on the app to earn a total of 5X miles on Amazon and eBay.

And, a step beyond, you can use it as a defacto shopping portal to get a better payout either in-person OR online.

I got some ‘splainin’ to do!

What’s MileagePlus X?

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United Miles Versus Singapore Miles: Which Star Alliance Partner Awards Are Cheaper With Each Program

I’m getting more into Citi’s ThankYou program recently (because Citi ThankYou points are so easy to earn).

And while I can’t totally abandon Ultimate Rewards (for access to United Airlines, British Airways, and Hyatt), I’ve been thinking of award flights where collecting Citi ThankYou points instead of Ultimate Rewards might actually make more sense.

Why Singapore Airlines miles?

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16 Points & Miles Predictions for 2016

Happy New Year! I thought I’d hop on the bandwagon with the predictions. So here’s my effort.

"Everyone else is doing it, so why can't we?"

“Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t we?”

2015 was a crazy year

A portrait of the Fidelity AMEX card

A portrait of the Fidelity AMEX card

Out and Out’s Points and Miles Predictions for 2016

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Is United allowing discounted 1-ways and stopovers on award flights?

I was poking around the United website and messing with the award search cuz duh that’s an awesome way to spend a Saturday night.

I noticed something weird. I’m not sure if it’s a glitch or pricing error or a legit award booking or what.

But I wanted to share it with you guys in case someone has a better answer.

Here’s what I found.

United is discounting First Class round-trip award flights with a one-way added

Here’s what I searched:

  • LAX-NYC-LAX (round trip)
  • LAX-IAH (after a stopover)

Pricing at 65,000 miles.

Now, United isn’t supposed to allow free one-ways or stopovers on domestic itineraries any more according to Milevalue (although you can still get a free one-way on international itineraries and mainland US to Hawaii award flights).

So following that logic, 50K is the standard price for a round-trip First Class award.

And a one-way would be 25K.

But instead of pricing as 2 tickets, it’s letting me book all 3 flights for 65,000 miles. A 10K discount.

Round-trip First Class award with a discounted one-way LAX-NYC-LAX-IAH

Round-trip First Class award with a discounted one-way LAX-NYC-LAX-IAH

It gets weirder when I mix cabins. A free one-way?

When I book the 1st flight in economy and the next 2 in First Class, the price it spits out is 50,000 miles.

That means I’m paying for 2 legs at the price of 25K for a First Class one-way.

But what about the leg in economy? It’s free.

A free one-way after a stopover on a domestic award booking?

A free one-way after a stopover on a domestic award booking with mixed cabins?

Also weird was that I was able to replicate the pricing with partner awards on European award flights.

When I looked into it, I can book something like:

  • AMS-CDG in economy
  • CDG-AMS in business
  • AMS-somewhere else in business after a stopover

It prices at 45,000 miles. 

Round-trip awards in business are supposed to be 60,000 miles.

Partner award flights are pricing weird, too

Partner award flights are pricing weird, too. Instead of 60K round-trip it’s 45K

So not only do I get a free one-way, but I get a 15K mileage discount, too.

What else is glitching?

This is as far as I’ve gotten. But I’m wondering if you can add the free economy one-way after a round-trip First Class award flight (I couldn’t find any examples… yet.)

FWIW, I can replicate the discount from the all-First Class example with all-economy flights, too:

This "should" price as 37,500 miles, but

This “should” price as 37,500 miles

But it’s more like a 2,500-mile discount.

On the beta website, it prices the 1st leg at 17.5K miles. And then the next 2 at 8.8K miles each.

Same results on the beta site

Bottom line

I haven’t actually booked any awards, so it could all error out before the final pricing screen.

I tried to find info about this on the ye olde interwebs but couldn’t find anything, so apologies if this is old news.

It seems United is pricing 1-ways and stopovers as either free or with a discount. I can force this with partner metal, mixed cabins, and all-domestic itineraries.

Is this a known error… or a new glitch?

Anyone know anything about this? 

Get FREE Airline Lounge Memberships Through Business Programs

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I love going to the Admirals Clubs. And I also love not paying for them.

I’ve written about this before. But now my membership has expired, and I’m about to redeem for another free year of Admirals Club membership.

I don’t have the Citi AAdvantage Executive card or the Citi Prestige card. They’re fine in their own right, and I’ve had my eye on the Citi Prestige for a sec, but I won’t need it for its lounge perk.

The Admirals Club @ CLT can be a nice place to hang and get some work done

I’ve been doing this since the Amex Platinum Card nixed the benefit at AA Admirals Clubs a couple of years ago.

If you book travel for other people (who don’t care about the points), you can easily build up enough to get a free membership yourself.

All the award opportunities

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