Showing posts with label credit cards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label credit cards. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Big Bonus Miles on AA Credit Card

Note: I am NOT compensated for this post.

The Citi AA Executive card is offering a 75,000 mile sign up bonus.  The card also comes with an Admirals Club membership, Global Entry fee waiver, and a slew of other perks.  The card costs $450 a year. Also $7,500 in net spending is required in the first three months for the bonus miles.  Not a bad deal for frequent American Airlines flyers who can put $2,500 a month on the card, but I'll pass.
I'll Let This One Go By, View From 747-8 Top Deck

Saturday, August 29, 2015

IHG Rewards Credit Card Extra Bonus Points

The IHG Rewards card I picked up earlier this year is still paying out bonus points.  The sign up offer I received was for 80,000 points after $2,000 spent (any offer less than 70,000 isn't worth taking).  IHG ran a promotion when I signed up that gave me an extra 2,000 bonus points for acquiring the card. All these points counted to status and I earned Spire Elite status which comes with 25,000 bonus points (or gift Platinum status).  I thought 80,000 points was a good credit card bonus, but I actually earned 107,000 points.  I wish other credit cards had extra bonuses like this.
I Have a Few Free Nights to Enjoy

Saturday, August 17, 2013

$400 Cash Back From Chase

Note: I am not compensated for this post or for Chase referrals.

I signed up for the Chase Sapphire card and the 40,000 point bonus for spending $3,000 in three months (I have a business trip coming up, so that will help).  That's enough points for $400 in rewards or 40,000 United, Southwest, Hyatt, or Marriott points.  I like flexible cards, the SPG Amex is another example, and I could use a new sign up bonus.  I sign up for 4-6 cards a year depending on the offers to maximize my earning potential.  Some card have good bonuses, but are poor regular earners, so they don't all become long term daily cards.  Interestingly I haven't seen a negative impact to my credit score for having a number of short credit card histories.  The points game is only if you don't carry a balance, it won't pay back if you owe finance charges.
Cash Back or United Miles

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chase Freedom Rewards Poor Values

The Chase Freedom card is my oldest credit card because it has no annual fee and provides consistent value.  The 5% bonus categories are usually great deals and Chase will send me a check (or statement credit or direct checking account deposit) with my rewards.  The program also lets you destroy value with gift card rewards.  3,000 points earns a $30 check or a $25 gift card.  Even if gift cards were 2,500 points, you still lose out because you aren't earning points on that purchase.
Cash Back Via Check or Direct Deposit
Gift Card Values

Friday, November 16, 2012

Good Chase Credit Card Sign Up Bonus

I am NOT compensated by Chase for this post.  

I don't want to be one of those bloggers that pushes credit cards ad nauseum to try and make a buck.  I just thought this is a good deal worth sharing.  

I applied for the Chase Ink Bold card this week to grab the $500 bonus on the card after spending $3,000.  I have enough United miles for now and cash is still more versatile.  If you don't think you have a business, you're wrong.  Firstname Lastname Consulting (or Photography/Racing/etc.) is a Sole Proprietor business with your SSN as the tax ID.  No fee for the first year and no reason to keep it a second.

https://www.chase.com/online/business-credit-cards/ink-business-credit-cards.htm
Happy Travel Daydreams

Saturday, October 6, 2012

JP Morgan Palladium Card Disappointment: 2012 Hotel Guide

A small envelope from JP Morgan was in my mail box today.  This is always an exciting proposition; the last card like this I received was an invitation to a series of receptions at Christie’s in New York.  I opened the card (heavy card stock naturally) to find that it was a link to the 2012 Destination Guide that lists hotels that give preferential treatment to card members that book through the JP Morgan Palladium Card concierge.  This is a serious disappointment.  Last year they sent out a hard cover book, a 26MB pdf is hardly a reasonable replacement.  This rather unimaginative and pedestrian action leaves me feeling disappointed.  Not the customer experience they should be creating.  The annual fee on this card should be enough to cover the printing costs.  I hope JP Morgan doesn't devalue the card experience further or it might not be worth renewing (my card renews in January and it wasn't on my mind until today).
JP Morgan Palladium Card Hotel Guides 2011 (Left) & 2012 (Right)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tips for Reaching the Minimum Spend for a Credit Card Sign Up Bonus

The fastest way to boost your mileage balance is with credit card sign up bonuses.  I get three or more every year and it helps me travel as often as I do.  The problem here is that some cards have a minimum spend before the miles are awarded.  Hitting $500 in three months isn't a problem, but $5,000 in three months (Chase Ink) is a serious challenge.  Here are some tips to boost your credit card spending, without buying anything more than you would already purchase.
  • Use your new card whenever possible.  The more you spend with it, the faster you reach the minimum spend mark.  Simple first step that may be all you need.
  • Prepay your cell phone / internet / cable / etc. bills for a month or two.  AT&T et al won't mind if they get your money early.  This lets you move spending forward; you aren't spending more.
  • Buy gift cards to places you shop regularly to move spending forward.  Grocery stores and other retailers with large gift card displays are great locations to pick up a bunch of cards in one stop.  Safeway lets you buy gift cards with Safeway gift cards, so you can retain some flexibility.
  • Car insurance is an opportunity.  If you are up for renewal, pay the six month rate; it is usually cheaper and you bring all that spending forward.
  • Buy American Express Gift Cards.  Accepted everywhere Amex is taken.  Some cards don't have a purchase fee.  It works out as and even trade, so you are just turning part of your savings account into Amex gift cards while earning points and moving closer to the minimum spend mark.
  • Do your Christmas and birthday shopping early or treat yourself to that thing you want, but are waiting for.  If you were going to buy it anyway, it's not really an extra cost.
  • Put dinner with friends on your card.  Lots of people just toss down cash for their part of the check, you can put the bill on your card and pocket the cash.  It also saves on trips to ATMs. (I also hate to see those potential points vanish)
Keep track of how close you are to the spending mark.  Returns are deducted from your total, so remember to subtract that from your tracking spreadsheet.  Remember, if you carry a balance on your credit cards, this game is not for you.  Rates on rewards cards are much higher than other cards.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Delta Skymiles Amex Card Fills Mileage Balance Gaps

I am not the biggest fan of Delta, but SkyMiles are becoming more useful as Delta’s domestic network grows.  I’m not going to be flying Delta to collect SkyMiles (all my Delta and American flights are credited to Alaska), so their Amex card seems like the best route to earning miles. 

There is currently a lull in the credit card sign up game.  No one is offering the 50,000 to 100,000 point sign up bonuses any more.  Since I am unable to grab large numbers of miles, my new strategy is to strategically fill some gaps in my miles balances (I have a large pile of Starwood points that transfer to most airlines, so I’m never really in trouble, but I am hesitant to use them unless as a last resort).  SkyTeam is my largest gap so I picked up the Delta SkyMiles Amex to fill that gap.  It has a decent sign up bonus and no fee the first year.  It is a perfect fit for my needs. 
Delta Flight at MKE
I still recommend the Starwood Hotels Amex above all others.  If you don’t have it, you should grab it first.
Delta CRJ Needs a Visit to the Paint Shop

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fairmont Rewards Chase Credit Card Program

Fairmont Presidents Club (FPC) is less about rewarding spend and more about customizing the onsite experience (I did score a four night stay in Barbados from them for spending 61 nights in a year along with 4 other free nights and several meals, so it is somewhat rewarding).  Since free nights are awarded based on number of nights stayed, not dollars spent, this model doesn't work for a credit card points program. Rather than fit into FPC, Chase made up their own program.  I confirmed with Fairmont that FPC is not switching to Chase's model and all hotels will be ranked the same in FPC.  I don't think Chase's chart is the most rewarding award chat around, but it isn't terrible. The sign up bonus is two free nights, not bad, but I don't need to stay at a Fairmont any time soon, so I won't get the card.  Also, The Plaza in New York has special rules constraining awards, so don't plan on booking a free night there soon.
View from Outside the Fairmont San Francisco
Here's the trick for booking The Plaza.  There is a limited number of free nights Fairmont is allotted at The Plaza per month. You can call Fairmont, find a month that's open, usually six or more out, and book a room for the number of nights you want.  This holds those free nights for you.  Call back later and shift the reservation to another time that month when your plans are finalized, the nights are yours and you can use them any time that month.  There is no fee and as long as standard rooms are available on your new dates, no hassle.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Priority Club Visa, No Thanks

Priority Club mailed me (I do enjoy direct mail) an offer for 80,000 bonus points for signing up for their Chase issued Visa.  Three years ago I would have jumped on the offer (www.priorityclub.com/visa), but not today.  Priority Club recently devalued their award chart by letting Intercontinental hotels go for up to 50,000 points, up from a cap of 40,000.  Crowne Plazas are more expensive now too (my ‘if all else fails’ chain of choice, not bad really and nicely scatted around Europe).  IHG hotels were my backup chain up until awards went up in price (Hilton is now #2).  I also had some poor experiences at some of their flagship properties.  A new Holiday Inn Express will still be a good stay, but I can't get excited over earning points with them now.  I still have 150,000 to burn, so I’ll have 3-30 nights (award nights range from 5k to 50k) before I’m broke and thinking about their credit card.
The Craptastic Intercontinental Santiago Chile

Monday, June 4, 2012

What is a Point or Mile Worth?

What is a point / mile worth?  It’s a simple question with a complex answer.  A mile or point in every program will have a different value too.  Also, miles might not have any value until a certain number are collected.  Ultimately the value is different for each person, but here are my answers and how I got to them.
Jets Lined Up at FRA
Miles and points are a currency that can be exchanged for goods and services.  These goods can also be purchased for cash, making it a simple equation: Total Value / Total Points = $x.xx per point.  If a flight to Europe is $1,000 or 50,000 miles, then each mile is worth 2c.  The denominator will always be known, but the numerator gets fuzzy when you are buying awards that you would never buy with cash.  A first class trip to Europe costs $13,000 or 135,000 miles; yielding almost 10c per mile in value!  But I would never pay $13,000 to fly to Europe, so what is it really worth?  Priceless is the best answer, but it doesn’t help with the math.  I just total the perceived value of the experience and that’s the value.  The means a first class award is more like 3-6c in value; still a good deal.

Do the math for yourself and use your answers to decide if to spend miles or cash.  For example, I would use miles to book a $450 domestic round trip, but use cash for a $300 ticket.  It’s a gray area for borderline redemptions.  I’ll lower my threshold if my balance still has a large number of miles.  Also, if your credit card doesn’t earn at least 2c in value for every dollar spent, just use the fee free Fidelity Amex. It has 2% cash back on every purchase and cash is accepted by any airline.
Sun Rise at ORD
SPG – 3c
Starwood Hotel (SPG) points are my favorite.  With the Cash & Points redemption option, SPG points are consistently worth about 4c each, while full points awards run 2-3c.  The SPG Amex (business card has the better sign up bonus) earns one point per dollar and two points for spending at SPG hotels.  Points can also be transferred to about 30 airline programs with a 25% bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.  This makes the SPG card better for earning American or Delta miles than the airlines’ own credit cards.  SPG is my favorite program and currency because of its high value and flexibility. 
W South Beach Miami Hotel View
Drawbacks: There aren’t SPG hotels everywhere and the top level hotels cost too many points to have any value.  The cobranded credit card is an Amex and not everyone takes those (like my local liquor store).  Mile awards with United and Southwest are poor value. 

Minimum balance of 4,000 needed to achieve top value.

United – 1.75c
United miles are the best in the air.  They are part of the Star Alliance (25 airlines and growing) and have a few other strategic alliances for miles redemption (Aer Lingus has great availability to Europe).  Their reservations people are very good and the website can be used to find and book complicated award trips.

Minimum balance of 12,500 needed to achieve decent value.
United Airlines Jets at EWR Sunrise
American – 1.5c
American is a oneworld partner and doesn’t charge excessive fuel surcharges on awards.  They allow one way bookings and have a decent award chart.  American availability, coach and first, to most places not over the Atlantic, is second to none.  Good off season discounts and a cheap oneworld partner chart (80,000 miles in first London to Australia).  oneworld coverage is spotty and fuel surcharges pop up on European carriers.

Minimum balance of 12,500 needed to achieve decent value.

Delta – 1c
Delta has a three tier award chart and every time I want to redeem, my flight is in the second or third tier, destroying the value of my miles.  They are a Sky Team partner and Virgin Australia partner, so It’s best to redeem miles with Air France/KLM or Virgin Australia.  I wound up cashing in my miles for Economist subscriptions, 3,200 for a year or 3c in value.  Not bad considering my options.

Minimum balance of 25,000 needed to achieve decent value or 3,200 for a year of The Economist.
Not Every Trip Is Glamours
Alaska Airlines – 1.6c
I credit my Delta and American flights to Alaska.  Alaska isn't part of an alliance, but are partners with most airlines you would want to fly not in the Star Alliance.  The award chart is downright cheap in places too.  The flexible earning and redeeming of miles makes Alaska a great program to have miles in.  One ways are allowed and there is a cash and points option.  Partner awards have to be a single carrier plus Alaska to get you to the gateway city.  Not Star Alliance good, but close.  Other than flights and credit card spend (not a good deal), it’s hard to earn miles with them (SPG transfers mostly).

Minimum balance of 12,500 needed to achieve decent value.

US Airways – 1.7c
Star Alliance member with a reasonable award chart (more reasonable than UA to Asia in business).  Only allow round trips.  Can’t book partner awards online, so be prepared for an hour long call with reservations.  Great deals on off peak awards.  The Mileathon promotion runs annually and is a great way to stock up on miles.  US Airways also runs frequent mileage purchase promotions.   I constantly fear award chart devaluation. 

Minimum balance of 25,000 needed to achieve good value.
Use BA Miles to Fly LAN Around South America
British Airways - .5c or 2c
BA is great for short one segment trips on American or LAN.  BA has a distance based award chart, allows one ways, and has partner booking online.  For long flights (less generous pricing), connections (each segment is charged, not total distance), premium cabins (x2 for business, x3 for first), or trips in Europe (steep fuel charges) don’t bother.  Good deals are found mostly in the America’s. The scary high fuel charges take the value out of any BA, Iberia, of Finnair award.

Minimum balance of 4,500 needed to achieve decent value.

Other Carriers – 0-10c
Southwest will sell any seat at 60 points per dollar so they have a fixed value of 1.67c per point (not bad really).  Other airline programs can be anywhere.  My Frontier miles might only be good for a magazine subscription.  Foreign carriers could have no value or tons of value, depending on if you need to use those airlines.  If you are going somewhere only Emirates flies, then those miles will be worth much more.  It’s too subjective for me to give a definitive value.
Southwest and US Airways Jets at ABQ

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

JP Morgan Palladium Card Events

The JP Morgan Palladium card always does things better and last week they out did themselves.  JP Morgan mailed me an invitation for a series of receptions at Christie’s in New York.  The event I attended was wonderful.  About 250 other people joined me for a function focused on Latin American painting, just casually looking at works with appetizers and drinks (amazing DeLeĆ³n Tequila).  All of this was free and not open to the public; a truly exclusive event.
Christie's New York JP Morgan Palladium Card Event
Other credit cards, from Chase and others, offer what they term “exclusive” events.  A typical event would be a wine tasting or dinner that would cost about $150 a person.  More of a gimmick than an actual benefit.  I’ve never signed up for one of those events, but they provide an excellent contrast to make the JP Morgan Palladium card look better.  The Palladium card is the best credit card and I am thrilled to have one.


(I'd like to thank Mary from Pies Etc. for the picture; her superior eye and iPhone 4Gs are appreciated.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I Picked Up The Chase Sapphire Card

My new Chase Sapphire Card is coming in the mail!  I picked up the 50,000 point sign up bonus (not on Chase.com any more, but on some banner ads still).  I just need to spend $3,000 in 3 months.  I’m excited to have it because my JP Morgan Palladium card didn’t have a sign up bonus and my Ultimate Rewards (Chase points program) balance will be too small to do anything, but a cheap 1 way on Southwest.  That will change soon.  I’ll have a more detailed review after I have a little time with the card.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

JP Morgan Palladium Card Detailed Benefits Explanation

“Welcome to one of the most desirable and most exclusive credit card programs in the world.”
J.P. Morgan Palladium Card
JP Morgan Palladium Card - FrequentFlyerGuy.com
This story starts innocuously enough.  I called Chase to cancel my British AirwaysVisa card.  I explained my situation and the agent told me I couldn’t have my annual fee waived.  I asked to have the card cancelled and then inquired if there are any other Chase cards with a smart chip (I almost starved in Denmark last year because everyone took chip and pin cards, but no one took swipe and sign cards).  I asked about Freedom, Sapphire, Continental, and United cards and they do not have chip versions.  The agent suggested the Palladium card as a smart chip card I could have.  I said I was intrigued and she emailed me an application that I needed to return by fax (strange I thought, but I’ve never gone through the phone channel for a new card).  
JP Morgan Palladium Card Box
JP Morgan Palladium Card Box
The application was like any other credit card application and has the standard disclosures and legal writing.  Unlike other applications, there was very little detail about the card benefits.  This line did jump off the page, “Receive 35,000 bonus points when you spend $100,000 annually and make another purchase within that year,” as did the $595 annual fee.  I looked for more details, but could not find a page about it on chase.com or jpmorgan.com.  To find out what this card is, I had to apply.
JP Morgan Palladium Card Box
JP Morgan Palladium Card Box
The application faxed, I sat around for a letter saying I was rejected.  I didn’t want to ruin a shot at a Sapphire card and 50,000 bonus points, but this mysterious card seemed too good to pass up.  When checking my accounts online, I saw a new credit card on my page.  I was approved! The next day UPS delivered an overnight box.  I opened it to find the best card presentation ever.
JP Morgan Palladium Card Box
JP Morgan Palladium Card Box
The card arrived in a silver JP Morgan box with a tan felt liner.  It is very impressive.  The card is the focal point when you lift off the lid.  Under the card is the glossy benefits guide and all the paperwork, neatly packed in a folder.
JP Morgan Palladium Card Box
JP Morgan Palladium Card Box
The JP Morgan Palladium Card is the same size as a normal credit card, but metal.  Not just any metal, 23kt gold and palladium (Pd, number 46 on the periodic table).  It is rigid and much heavier than expected.  The card information is laser etched on the front and the signature is etched on the back (it arrives activated since the signature is on it).  The JP Morgan signature on the front and customer service numbers on the back are engraved in the card.  The card feels impressive and special and is made for the holder to feel the same way.

The 58 page guide to the J.P. Morgan Palladium benefits guide starts with an overview of the “J.P. Morgan Palladium card experience” that strives to go beyond expectations.  Here are the details:

Airport Lounge Access
The card comes with a Priority Pass membership (good guide to PP).  There is no lounge copay and guests are free up to the lounge limit.  Prepare for some irony coming up.  American Express uses Priority Pass for their lounge access benefits too.  Chase controls United (well most of their debt and can buy miles for their cards in advance to ease liquidity issues, or not and create leverage) and didn’t want Amex customers receiving lounge benefits at United.  So now all Priority Pass United Clubs come with this message, “Note: Members holding a Priority Pass Select membership card and Priority Pass cardholders in the U.S. that receive their membership through a U.S. financial institution will not be allowed access to this Lounge.”  So in Chase’s efforts to block Amex, Chase’s top customers are hit in the cross fire.  I didn’t find this out until after my card arrived and I am extremely upset that I can’t go into a United Airlines lounge (I rationalized the fee by subtracting out the cost of a United Club membership and I almost exclusively encounter United Clubs in my domestic travels).  I called to request a Priority Pass card, but have not received it yet.

The J.P. Morgan Concierge
The guide claims that “We are able to provide you with a virtually limitless array of unique offers, time-saving conveniences and personalized insider expertise.”  I haven’t found a situation to put them to the test, but it sounds like a fun challenge to see what impossible dinner reservations they can make for me.  They also provide travel planning services, ticket procurement, travel assistance, and airline, hotel, car, and cruise reservations.  I am really excited about this benefit and how far reaching it goes.

Ultimate Rewards
The guide book spends 10 pages on Ultimate Rewards, about 8 too many.  The JP Morgan Palladium card Ultimate Rewards site is the same as the Chase Sapphire card and allows 1:1 point transfers to United, Continental, Southwest, and British Airways along with a $.01 per point cash option and merchandise rewards.

The JP Morgan Palladium earns 2 points per dollar on travel spend and 1 point everywhere else.  There is no sign up bonus, but if you spend $100,000 annually, you get 35,000 bonus points.  If you are in it for points, get the Sapphire card.  I don’t think airline miles are worth much thought to the target audience because of the next benefit.

Complimentary Flight Hour from NetJets
First time Marquis Jet Card purchasers get an extra hour free when paying with their JP Morgan Palladium card.  On the cheapest card (Embraer Phenom 300 maybe?), this is worth $4,636; an amazing benefit that I can’t use unless someone else comes up with the $116,000 for the other 25 hours.

Unsure what private aviation solution is best for you?  The card also offers a private aviation consultation.  "A Marquis Jet executive will begin to understand your travel needs and learn when and where you fly to help you select the best private aviation solution for you. If you are unsure about your needs, we will help you to select the NetJets aircraft type that will provide you with maximum flexibility."

Hotel Privileges
Using the card and booking through the J.P. Morgan Concierge service can bring some benefits similar to what top tier status brings.  These benefits differ by property.  This is another benefit I look forward to exploring.

Travel Protection
The card (like many other cards) comes with many different insurance benefits when traveling.  There is a few pages of fine print on these, but at a high level the card provides: primary rental car coverage, roadside assistance, emergency evacuation, $1,000 for repatriation of the cardholder’s remains, supplemental medical and dental coverage, travel accident insurance, trip interruption insurance, trip delay insurance, baggage delay coverage, lost luggage reimbursement, and hotel burglary (forced entry) insurance.  If you have any questions or want more detail on these, please leave a comment with your question.

Purchase Protection
I you find something on sale within 90 days of buying it with the Palladium card, you can be refunded the difference.  This feature is capped at $1,500 a year and the fine print refers you to other fine print, so it might not be as simple as you would like.  Also, as with most cards, the card holder in not responsible for unauthorized purchases.

Financial Flexibility
The target JP Morgan Palladium card customer is one with large balances with JP Morgan and Chase.  JPM has your money and are making a fortune off you, so they have very few fees with the card so you feel special and not nickel and dimed.  There are no foreign transaction fees, no cash advance fees, late fees, over-limit fees, return payment fees, or advance check fees.  This card exists to build a stronger relationship with JP Morgan.  Fees don’t further that goal.  There is a $595 annual fee though, so not every fee is waived.  Additional card members are $100.

The “No Preset Spending Limit” does not let me walk into an Aston Martin dealer and leave with a DB9.  My limit is three times my normal Chase card limit and purchases in excess of that will be evaluated before approval.

Summary
I’m really excited to have this card and explore all the benefits.  I just received it this week, so I can’t say if it is worth the $595 annual fee.  Ask any questions you have in the comments section and I’ll try to answer them.

Update - 2/16/12
After the Priority Pass membership worked in 2 out of 21 opportunities (a United Club card would have worked for 21 out of 21), I called to complain.  The agent said I could buy a United Club annual membership and have it reimbursed.  The usual policy is that only day passes are reimbursed, but I was able to have an exception.

Update - 3/2/12

I need to remove my card to pass through metal detectors at airports.  I tried going through with the card as the only metal on me and it set off the alarm.  The TSA agent gave me a quizzical look when I said my credit card must have set it off.

Update - 12/5/12
My card data has been stolen again. The Palladium card is a very high profile target and not difficult to copy or photograph.  Chase has stopped all the fraudulent charges before they posted (except one which was promptly removed), but it's starting to get annoying to change my card on file with Hertz, Avis, United, Paypal, etc.

I now use the lower profile (not low profile) plastic version when traveling.  Same info as the metal card, just plastic with a smart chip.  The Palladium team will send you one if you ask.