Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Chase (page 1 of 2)

Crazy Deal! Get a Southwest Companion Pass after only one purchase!

For a limited time, California residents have access to a phenomenal deal. Southwest has an open offer to all California residents that allows them to earn the amazing Southwest Companion Pass after opening a new Southwest credit card and making a single purchase.

I’ve previously written about Southwest Airlines being my favorite airline  (honestly, this is not really true anymore, but they are pretty amazing). We’ve even leveraged the amazing Southwest cancellation policy for some recent bookings.

Targeted Southwest Companion Pass California offer

Last week there were reports of a targeted credit card offer being sent to *some* CA residents where they could earn a companion pass after only one purchase. The amazing news is that this is now being extended to all residents of California.

Here is the link to the personal Southwest Companion Pass California card offer. The welcome bonus also offers 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.

Here is the link to the business Southwest Companion Pass California card offer. The welcome bonus also offers 60,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

(Neither of these are affiliate links)

Obviously, if you aren’t a resident of California, you won’t qualify for the Companion Pass offer.

Why the Companion Pass is *totally* worth getting

The Southwest Companion Pass is considered by many to be the “holy grail” of domestic (and some international) travel. It essentially gives you a 2 for 1 deal for both paid travel *and* award travel on Southwest airlines. It essentially doubles the value of all your Southwest RapidRewards points.

If you’re a traveling couple, you’ll only pay the points or fare for one person, plus the $5.60 TSA fee for both. If you’re a traveling family, you could fly 4 people for the price of 2 if *both* parents obtain a Southwest Companion Pass through this offer. This would be a mere $44.80 plus points for 2 tickets for a family of 4 round-trip anywhere in the U.S. Southwest flies! Talk about a phenomenal deal!

You can read up on the fine print of the Companion Pass here. But it honestly is as good as it sounds.

Southwest Companion Pass California offer targeted

Qualifying for the Southwest Companion Pass

Typically, you need to either fly 100(!) qualifying Southwest one-way segments in a year, or you need to accrue 110,000 qualifying points. Sound difficult? It certainly is for most people without a way to generate extra spending or without a business with significant expenses to charge. Here is the rundown on qualifying for the pass the traditional way.

The typical back door to getting the Southwest Companion Pass has been opening a new Southwest card and then spending the rest, or opening two Southwest cards in a year to meet, or nearly meet, the qualifying points requirement. The sign-up bonus for the card(s) counts toward the 110,000 point total needed.

Conclusion

If you’re interested in taking even a couple vacations next year, I guarantee that these offers will pay off the card fees required. Don’t pass up this Southwest Companion Pass California card offer!

Header image courtesy of BriYYZ under CC 2.0 license.

5 reasons the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the Best Starter Travel Credit Card

While many people have been singing the merits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card ever since it debuted last year, I still consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred to be the best starter travel credit card in the business.

If you’re new to this hobby, you really cannot go wrong with the card. It certainly made my list of best starter cards (SEE: 3 Great Starter Travel Credit Cards). Here are 5 reasons I will still recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred as the best starter travel credit card around:

Great sign-up bonus

When looking for a good travel credit card sign-up bonus, you should be looking in the $500+ range if possible. There are certainly some good cards out there with bonuses worth somewhat less than that and others that offer valuable ongoing perks. But $500+ is what I try to look for. The Chase Sapphire Preferred definitely calls in this range.

The standard 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards (UR) points offer for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is worth at minimum $500. That is a value if you simply cashed out the points. The same 50,000 points are worth $625 when redeemed through the Chase travel portal, and you can often get even greater value by transferring to travel partners.

In short, it is a solid sign-up bonus.

No initial annual fee

Some people new to this hobby may be turned off by the idea of paying an annual fee “just for a credit card.” I’ve actually written a post about some of the best no-fee credit card options out there (SEE: 5 of the Best No Fee Credit Cards for Travel).

The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives you the best of both worlds. Since the fee is waived the first year, getting the card doesn’t cost you anything up front. I’m hesitant to say it is “risk free” since credit card can indeed be risky if you don’t manage your finances responsibly! (SEE: 5 Commandments of Travel Credit Cards).

If you do, however, this is a perfect card that gives you a great sign up bonus, yet lets you put off deciding whether you want to pay a fee for the product. It gives you 12 months to decide if the card is a good one for you.

Flexible points

One of the best features of having a “premium” Chase Card (Ink Preferred, Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve) is the ability to use the points in multiple ways. The fact that the Chase Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee out the gate and has flexible options for using the points is a major reason I consider it the best starter travel credit card.

First, you can always cash them out for 1 cent per point, but I do not recommend this.

The second option is to use them to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards travel. You can book flights, hotels, and rental cars. You’ll receive greater value this way as each point will be worth 1.25 cents. For Sapphire Reserve cardholders it is 1.5 cents. But let’s focus on the Sapphire Preferred.

Last, but certainly not least, is the ability to transfer points to an array of partners. This is where most of the best value is found.

High-value transfer partners

Of the three major bank programs that have an array of travel partners to which you can transfer your points, I’ll readily argue that Chase is the best. American Express Membership Rewards isn’t all that far behind, but I still consider Chase to be top dog.

Chase has several high-value partners, including United, Hyatt, Korean Air, FlyingBlue, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, and Virgin Atlantic (SEE: 5 Best Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners). The ones that are both exclusive to Chase and  high value are United, Korean Air, and Hyatt.

best starter travel credit card

We had a great stay at the Hyatt House Portland for only 12,000 UR points transferred to Hyatt!

Hyatt is by far the best hotel transfer partner of the Ultimate Rewards program, often giving you twice the value from your points as either Marriott/Ritz or IHG.

Ability to transfer points from other Chase cards

The ability to transfer points between UR-earning cards is another great perk of the Ultimate Rewards program. This isn’t exclusive to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but it comes in especially handy.

To transfer points between Ultimate Rewards accounts, you must either transfer them to one of your own other accounts, or to an account of someone who is a member of your household.

For example, I have transferred points several times from my Chase Freedom card to my wife’s Chase Sapphire Preferred. Given that I don’t have a Sapphire Preferred, this lets us use the points I earn from my Freedom card for travel and for transferring to partners. If I didn’t have this option, I could only cash the points out at 1 cent each. For a full rundown on transferring UR points, see this article.

Convinced that it’s the best starter travel credit card?

There are certainly other cards that offer a bigger sign-up bonus or better perks. But few have all the qualities that make the Chase Sapphire Preferred the best starter travel credit card.

In case you think I get paid to push this product, I have no affiliation with Chase. I don’t make money from credit card referrals (but who knows…I may someday). This is solely my own personal opinion, and still my recommendation after 5 years of being in this hobby.

If you’re interested and want to support me, send me a note via the contact me page and I can send you a referral link! (Yes, this is different than an affiliate link, as it is a personal referral).

5 Best Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

Chase Ultimate Rewards is my favorite flexible points program. The points are redeemable for 1.25 cents (1.5 cents if you have a Sapphire Reserve) each in travel through the Chase travel portal, or redeemable for cash at 1 cent each.

Or you can transfer them to travel partners, which is where some of the greatest value lives.

Best Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

I consider the following five transfer partners to be the best among the bunch. This is primarily because of the value you can get out of your points plus the availability/flexibility of the awards you can book with them.

  1. United MileagePlus – United miles are hands-down my favorite way to use my Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. As a Star Alliance partner, United miles can be used to fly pretty much anywhere. And nearly all awards are bookable through the website. They are also the best miles for Humboldt-based travelers, in my opinion. United awards also never pass on fuel surcharges, which is another reason I like them so much.
  2. HyattHyatt is the one good hotel program among Chase’s partners. I find that I can typically redeem my Hyatt points for at least 1.7 cents each, as they have a favorable award chart. Hyatt doesn’t have quite the number of properties that Marriott and IHG have, but their hotels are top notch. They certainly have plenty of coverage is most major international destinations.
  3. Korean Air Skypass – This is not a program that I am terribly familiar with, but it is one that some people use to great advantage. Their award chart has some great sweet spots, including East Asia to North America for 80,000 miles one-way in first, and North America to Hawaii for 25,000 miles round-trip. The trick with the latter is that Korean Air doesn’t treat Hawaii as different than the rest of the United States.
  4. Singapore KrisFlyer – Singapore recently made some changes to their awards, effectively increasing the price of many awards, but reducing fuel surcharges. Their points are still quite valuable, however, especially for aspirational redemptions like flying Singapore Suites, as they are the only effective way to attain them.
  5. FlyingBlueFlyingBlue is the loyalty program for both KLM and Air France. The program has some great sweet spots, including North America to Israel and North America to Hawaii/Caribbean. Do some research. The program treats some interesting places as “Europe” for award price purposes, including Israel and North Africa. FlyingBlue also offers promo awards that change every couple months. Promo awards reduce the points cost of specific redemptions by 20% to 50%, which can really let you stretch you UR points!
Best Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners - United Award

I recently topped off my United miles using some UR for a ticket to Australia

For all partners, points are transferred at a 1:1 ratio in increments of 1,000. To transfer you points to Chase’s partner’s, log into Ultimate Rewards using your Chase credentials and click ‘Use Points’ and then ‘Transfer to Travel Partners’.

From there you can transfer your points to any partner, and even save your loyalty numbers so you don’t have to input them in the future.

What about the other partners?

These are the best 5 partners across the board. I’m not saying you can’t find value in transferring to British Airways Avios, Southwest RapidRewards, and Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub, but it’s a bit tougher, in general.

As far as the other hotel partners go, I would avoid transferring UR points to them. It *might* make sense in Marriott’s case, if you are really close to a specific redemption or travel package.

In IHG’s case, I don’t really see an upside. You will nearly always get better value by doing a “points and cash” night rather than converting some UR points to get the last few you need for a full redemption.

Conclusion

Take some time and become familiar with the Ultimate Rewards partner loyalty programs. It will help you immensely in the long run since you’ll be better able to maximize the value of your points.

If you don’t already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa card, I highly recommend that it be your first travel credit card. If you want to apply, shoot me an email and let me send you a referral link. 🙂 The points are valuable, and you can maximize their value by transferring them to any of the best Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners above.

Increased Offer for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card!

Chase has temporarily increased the sign-up offer of the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa to 50,000 miles. The standard offer is 30,000 miles, so this is a significant increase.

The current offer will give you a sign up bonus of 50,000 MileagePlus miles after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months your account is open. You can also earn an additional 5,000 miles by adding an authorized user.

The card offers the ability to earn United miles, plus several other great perks, including:

  • Free checked bag on United operated flights (and any itinerary beginning with a United flight, as far as I am aware)
  • Priority boarding (group 2)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 2 United Club passes annually
  • 10,000 bonus miles after $25,000 in purchases in a calendar year
  • (Modestly) increased award seat availability reserved for cardholders
  • Primary car rental insurance (a great perk, in my opinion)

The card carries an annual fee of $95, which does NOT appear waived the first year. It typically is with the regular application.

NOTE: If you have opened more than 5 new credit card accounts in the past 24 months, it is *very* unlikely that you will be approved for this card. This is known as Chase’s “5/24 rule”.

Why apply for the United MileagePlus Explorer card?

This is one of the better offers for this card. The sign up bonus is worth two domestic round trip tickets, or you can have one round-trip to Europe with just a small amount of spending (60,000 miles).

The 50,000 mile offer usually comes around at least once per year. Sometimes it is accompanied with an annual fee waiver, which would be a slightly better offer than this one. Still, 2 domestic round trip tickets for $95 is a great deal.

For those local to Humboldt, this is one of the best airline cards you can have, if not the best. United offers the most flights out of Arcata, and the award availability is generally pretty good.

How to apply

The application link is here. However, if you are really interested in the card, I would love it if you would leave a comment, see my Twitter referral link, or send me a note via the Contact Me page to let me send you a referral link. I’ll get a bonus and you’ll get the same offer. 😉

Looking Beyond The Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase’s new premium card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, is probably the biggest credit card news of the year. Maybe of the last couple years. The hype has been insane! So many people were approved that Chase ran out of the metal cards and special boxes that they were shipped in!

Obviously Chase approved a ton of people for this awesome card product. But there are also many others silently weeping because of the firm stance taken by Chase on implementing their now infamous “5/24” rule. If you have five or more new accounts with any card issuer in the past 2 years, you are out of luck, unless you managed to be one of the fortunate people with a pre-approval offer in-branch.

I knew heading into the Sapphire Reserve debut that there wasn’t much of a chance that either my wife or I would be approved for the fantastic new card. Both of us are well above 5 new accounts in the past 24 months, so it would be a complete fluke if either of us was approved. My wife applied, and we got the rejection letter as about a week later. I didn’t even try.

The question for me now is: should we plan to eventually capitalize on the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR), by limiting the new accounts on either my or my wife’s credit, or should we simply look beyond it?

Who knows how long the killer 100,000 point sign up bonus is going to last. It may be for several months, or it may end this month (as is rumored). Without this, the card drops precipitously in value, at least for us. With the current 100k sign up bonus, we are looking at a value of at least $1,500 in travel redemption, plus two $300 annual travel credits, for a conservative $2,100 in rewards, for a fee of $450. Assuming we offset the fee using the Ultimate Rewards (UR) points, this would result in a net of ~$1,450, and no cash out of pocket. Insane either way.

united_airlines_b747-400_global_first

Had either my wife or I been approved for a CSR, we might be booking a United GlobalFirst award!

But I am assuming this won’t last. Sixteen months from now (the soonest one of us will be “below 5/24”), it will probably be more like 50,000 UR. Offsetting the fee still, our net gain will be about $650. Far more modest, but still a hefty bonus.

In those same 18 months, either my wife or I will have forgone quite a few credit card offers. Assuming that we apply every 4 months for a couple cards, we will potentially have foregone 3 Alaska card bonuses, a Citi Hilton bonus, and 2 BarclayCard bonuses, as a conservative estimate. Estimating the net sign up value each card at about $250, this would mean we have foregone $1,500 in card bonuses. Yes, the CSR may be a fantastic product, but the numbers are pointing us toward continued churning.

This analysis does overlook the other perks of the CSR. Since my wife and I don’t fly especially often (on the order of 4-6 times per year), I don’t value lounge access that highly, certainly not as something we would pay for, and therefore not having it isn’t any sort of loss. The Global Entry fee credit might be nice, and I have completely glossed over the 3x earning on travel. If I traveled continually for work, the CSR would provide a whole lot more value, and it would then simply make sense to upgrade one of our current Chase cards to the new product (if allowed). This would forego the sign-up bonus.

But currently it doesn’t. Churning still makes far more sense. Then again, if the banks keep tightening the rules and reining in the number of new accounts they are willing to open, the equation will shift toward the side of waiting. We will see how it plays out. For now, though, I plan to look past the CSR and toward other opportunities. Except for one secret trick I may have up my sleeve. I’ll let you know if it pans out.

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