Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Credit Cards (page 1 of 8)

Credit Card “App-O-Rama” in 2019: Recent Results

For a few years my wife and I amassed significant numbers of points by taking numerous credit card offers per year. While we managed to miss the true golden age of this hobby, where people were getting approved for multiple 100,000-mile sign up bonuses, the ability to apply for and be approved for many products allowed us to amass enough hotel points to spend a month in Europe and for me to take a solo adventure to Australia.

But things have gotten tougher. Chase started off the bad news by rolling out their infamous “5/24 rule”, and other issuers have followed suit by tightening up new account approvals in various ways. Last year we applied for far fewer cards. This year has seen just a couple business card applications, and two of those have been denied! However, I recently had my wife apply for a few new products, and the results were surprisingly good. I thought I’d share them.

A mini “App-o-rama” in 2019

Through 2015, 2016 and into 2017, the applications happened like clockwork. Every 3-4 months we would apply for 2-4 new cards each, and almost everything was approved. The denials were rare. American Express has still to deny us for anything we’ve applied for. But after 2017, it was time to cool off. We’d run the gamut of the best options, and I decided that the best thing to do was to get one of us back under 5/24 in order to attack the Chase products again.

This was supposed to be my wife, but I had her apply for a couple good products late last year that were irresistible. This lengthened the timeline for her, so I figured I’d stick to only business card applications and be the one to drop under 5/24 in late 2019. I’m still on track to do so.

With her credit reports in excellent shape, it was time for another app-o-rama. I settled on three cards with good sign-up offers.

Citi ThankYou Premier

In 2017 I picked up the Citi ThankYou Premier, downgrading to the Preferred when the annual fee came due. These points were useful in topping off my Asia Miles balance that was used for business class tickets on the recent trip my daughter and I took to Buenos Aires and Uruguay (SEE: Looking Forward to a South American Adventure with my Daughter). The flight from Montevideo to Miami was one of the sweet spots at the time, costing only 45,00 Asia Miles compared to 57,500 American Airlines miles.

With the array of Citi ThankYou partners in mind, or just $625 worth of travel booked through the Citi portal, having my wife pick up this card makes a lot of sense. With only a DoubleCash in her Citi lineup, there is definitely room for another card.

Status: We’ll contact you in 7-10 days.

U.S. Bank Radisson Rewards

The Radisson Rewards Visa is one that has fallen off the radar a bit, but it is a solid hotel card if you have the ability to use the points at hotels in their portfolio. There aren’t a whole lot of options in California, but I have put the points to good use at Country Inns a couple of times.

The current offer is an even sweeter deal than the typical sign-up bonus, and the main reason we went for it. Instead of the standard 85,000 points, the current offer is a highest-ever 120,000 points for this card. This would be my wife’s first card with U.S. Bank.

Status: Instantly approved!

Bank of American Premium Rewards

This is a card I had completely forgotten about. It is pretty lackluster, overall, but the sign-up bonus of $500 is solid. Offering 2x points on travel and 1.5x points on everything else, the earning rates aren’t anything to write about. But where Bank of America shines is if you invest in your relationship with them, as you can receive a significant bonus on your points earning.

We have no such deposits with them. The card is one that is worth getting for the perks and bonus for one year, and then either dropping or downgrading after that.

Status: Instantly approved!

Conclusion

Looks like you can still pull off an app-o-rama in 2019 if you’ve let the dust settle for a little while. I probably won’t try to have her apply for anything else for at least six months, preferably more. The results of this spree are enough to convince me that holding out to stay under 5/24 constantly has a significant opportunity cost. But Chase does have so many great cards, that cycling one of us under 5/24 for a period to pick up a few more good products does make a lot of sense.

The total value of the sign up bonuses from these applications is ~$1,375 (assuming the Citi ThankYou Premier is approved), which factors in the annual fees. Not a bad haul for 10 minutes of work. This does mean I have $11,000 of spending to do in the next three months, but with my reselling options, this shouldn’t be an issue.

3 Great Intro Travel Credit Card Offers

As I’ve been invested in the award travel world for quite a while, I often lose track of the best travel credit cards for the award travel novice, mainly because I am ineligible for virtually all of them. But there are some great offers out there if you’re interested in picking up your first card or two. Here are the current 3 best travel credit card offers for those just jumping into award travel, or who have only picked up a couple other products:

Chase Sapphire Preferred

This card is the perennial best card for the award travel novice. The sizable sign-up bonus, plus a handful of strong transfer options, and the ability to simply book travel directly through Chase makes it a great first card. You can get a feel for all the potential travel rewards credit cards offer with little downside.

The typical sign-up bonus is 50,000 points, worth either $500 cash or $625 in travel, after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months. This is typically offered with a $0 annual fee the first year.

However, there is a current offer for 60,000 points as a sign-up bonus, but the annual fee is *not* waived (LINK). This is a wash, in my opinion, as I would rather have 50,000 points scot-free, rather than paying $95 for 10,000 more Ultimate Rewards. You could always redeem points to offset the fee, but this would cut the extra bonus down to 500 points. Hardly worth writing home about.

But…if this $95 would go toward paid travel anyway, you can argue that the 10,000 points, worth at least $125, is a decent play. You’re netting an extra $30.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred also earns 2x points on dining and travel and 1x on all other purchases. You can read why it is a great into card in a previous post (SEE: 5 Reasons Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the Best Starter Travel Credit Card).

Remember that the Chase Sapphire Preferred is subject to the infamous Chase 5/24 rule (SEE: Trying to Understand the Chase 5/24 Rule). In a nutshell, if you’ve opened 5 or more new credit accounts in the past 24 months, Chase will not approve you for a new card. Also, if you have either the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, you are ineligible for a new Sapphire Preferred account. Lastly, the Sapphire products have their own 48-month restriction between bonuses; more than 4 years must have passed since your last bonus on one of these products to be eligible.

Citi ThankYou Premier

This card is back with a 50,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which is an excellent deal for this card (LINK).

This is Citi analog to the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Their points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed for travel through their portal, or you can transfer them to a number of partners. The best, in my opinion, are Singapore KrisFlyer, Avianca LifeMiles, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Etihad, and British Airways Avios.

The 50,000 bonus points are worth $625 in travel if booked through Citi’s portal. This makes the offer pretty comparable to the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The annual fee is waived the first 12 months.

Citibank has a decent array of transfer partners, but are lacking in the hotel arena, without any good options. Chase has Hyatt. But this is not to say that transferring your points to partners isn’t the way to go, as some offer great value (SEE: 3 Best Programs for Short-Haul Awards in the Western U.S.).

Barclaycard Arrival+

The Barclaycard Arrival+ has amazed me by continuing to offer the best intro bonus I’ve ever seen on the card, a whopping 70,000 miles. These can be yours after you spend $5,000 on the card in the first three months. The annual fee is $0, but $95 thereafter (LINK).

Note that Arrival+ “miles” are generally redeemed as a statement credit for travel purchases, which makes them more like cash back that actual miles. The card offers an excellent sign-up bonus, but is not a long-term keeper, in my opinion, unless you want something that earns essentially travel cash. But you put a lot of spend on it. As you get 5% of your miles back when you redeem them, this makes the return a hair better than a simple 2% cash back card. But the annual fee reduces this utility basically to zero.

However, the Barclaycard Arrival+ does have other benefits, such as no foreign transaction fees and collision coverage for rental cars, so even if you value these benefits marginally, these may make the fee worth it. Still, the ease of a 2% cash back card with a $0 annual fee cannot be understated (SEE: 4 reasons why you shouldn’t overlook cash back cards).

Conclusion

These are still the current best travel credit card offers for those just jumping into award travel. All three cards have the benefit of being useful for a variety of needs, as the points are flexible and can be used for cash bookings, or, in the case of Citi and Chase, transferred to partner programs. These are also also recommendations from personal experience, as I’ve held all three of these great products previously.

Finally, none of these links pay me anything. I recommend these cards because I truly see them as the best general travel credit card offers. However, if you want to support this blog, I do have access to some referral links that I can generate for you, I just can’t post them. Just send me a note through the Contact Me page.

One week left for this great hotel card offer!

Since its launch in late summer 2018, the new World of Hyatt Visa card has been offering a sign up bonus of 60,000 points. Valuing Hyatt points conservatively at 1.3 cents each, the bonus is worth nearly $800, and potentially much more, depending on how you use the points.

Yesterday I learned that the current bonus will be pulled starting January 9. So there is only one week left to jump on this offer! The new bonus will still be valuable, as it is only being cut by 10,000 points, but those 10,000 points are potentially 2 free nights at Category 1 properties!

Details on the World of Hyatt card offer

The 60,000-point bonus currently offered by the World of Hyatt Visa is awarded in a tiered structure. You will earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of card membership, and then an additional 20,000 bonus points after spending another $3,000 within the first 6 months. Other benefits and terms of the card include:

  • 4 points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels
  • 2 points per dollar spent on local transit (including ridesharing), restaurants and coffee shops, and airfare
  • 1 free night at a Category 1-4 hotel every year on your account anniversary
  • 1 additional free night at a  Category 1-4 hotel if you spend $15,000 or more on your card each anniversary year
  • Discoverist elite status
  • 5 elite qualifying night credit each year for holding the card
  • Ability to earn an additional 2 elite night credits for every $5,000 in net spending on your card
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee, not waived the first year

Personal referral application link.

If you’re looking for hotel points for your future travels, this is one of the best offers currently on the market. I don’t know of any offer than can get you more than 12 nights, aside from the 150,000-point bonus on the Hilton Aspire card. And to get that many, you’d have to find Category 1 Hilton properties, which are way less common that Category 1 Hyatts.

Timberline Grille Denver Airport: Priority Pass Restaurant Review

During one of my work trips to and from the East Coast earlier this summer, I was able to finally stop by the Timberline Grille Denver Airport. The restaurant is one of those within the Priority Pass network. Priority Pass has been on a spree lately when it comes to restaurant additions to their network, which I think is a major plus for travelers. The latest are in San Francisco (SEE: Two SFO Priority Pass restaurants added to network!), which I hope to stop at next time I pass through there.

Timberline Grille Denver Airport: How to use Priority Pass

The Timberline Steaks and Grille is located in Concourse C of Denver International Airport. Since all of DEN is accessible from a single security checkpoint, you can easily access the restaurant even if your flight is from a different concourse. Just take the train there, but give yourself enough time to get back to your gate.

The restaurant is located in the center of the concourse. The hours are from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

timberline grille denver airport

Priority Pass membership will give you and each registered guest $28 off the final bill. Depending on the membership, guests may be free or you may be charged. With my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, I can bring two guests into a lounge for free, which would give us $84 off the final bill. This is plenty for three people at this restaurant.

To use your Priority Pass membership at the Timberline Grille Denver Airport, you must present your Priority Pass card and same-day outbound boarding pass. Some lounges let you access them on arrival, but it may be that the Timberline Grille does not. Since I was connecting to San Francisco, I had an outbound boarding pass.

When you get your final bill, $28 will be deducted per person registered with the Priority Pass account. If you register people beyond whatever number of free visits your membership provides, you’ll be charged $32 per person, so you’ll actually be paying extra.

Food and drink

The menu offered by the Timberline Grille Denver Airport is excellent. Rather than the typical domestic airport lounge which offers small bites, snacks, and other fairly cheap fare, the Timberline Grill has a full menu or steaks, burgers and other offerings.

The steaks will eat up most, if not all of the Priority Pass credit, so you may still end up paying a little. But for a sit-down airport meal, it’s still a fantastic deal.

I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, which came with a salad. The food was very good.

The view of the airport was nice as well.

The Timberline Grille Priority Pass credit can also be applied to drinks. It turned out that the sandwich and a glass of wine fell a few dollars short of the credit. My server still happily ran my card so I could tip her.

One note: I did find the Timberline Grille Denver Airport to be rather busy during my visit. I had to wait about 10 minutes to be seated. Luckily, I had a healthy connection and still wasn’t rushed. The wait might make stopping by a bit hard if you don’t have enough of a window of time to eat. I’m sure the fact that the Timberline Grille takes Priority Pass hasn’t helped the demand!

Conclusion

DEN doesn’t offer any other Priority Pass lounge access, but the Timberline Grille Denver Airport more than makes up for that. It’s a great place to stop for a meal if you’re passing through. And for mostly free. Which is obviously the best part. 🙂

3 reasons to consider the Citi ThankYou Premier card

The Citi ThankYou Premier card is the best card in the ThankYou Point-earning family, in my opinion. The Citi Prestige has its place as a premium product, but for the average Joe, the Citi ThankYou Premier is a solid enough card in its own right. And the current offer is nothing to sneeze at. Here are three reasons you may want to make it the next addition to your wallet:

Best sign-up bonus I’ve seen

The current sign-up bonus of 60,000 ThankYou Points is the highest public offer I’ve ever seen for this card. Previous offers have included both 40,000 and 50,000 bonus points, as well as an extended period where no bonus was offered.

The $95 fee is also waived the first year, which is huge. The Citi ThankYou Premier is much like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the card I tend to recommend as the best all-around starter travel credit card for most folks. It offers increased earning rates on travel (3x), dining and entertainment (2x). Travel also includes gas, so you earn 3x ThankYou Points (TYP) on these purchases as well.

The card also offers no foreign transaction fees, and you can use the points at 1.25 cents each when booking travel through the Citi Thank You portal, or you can transfer them to partner programs. In general, Citi’s partners aren’t quite as good as Chase or Amex, but there are a couple with great uses.

Two awesome transfer partners

While the Citi transfer partners are generally inferior to those of the other bank programs, there are a couple gems that make collecting ThankYou points a great strategy. My favorite is Avianca LifeMiles, mainly because of their short-haul award chart within the U.S. (SEE: 3 reasons I am SUPER excited for the new LifeMiles shorthaul awards).

LifeMiles awards on United metal are easy to book online, as long as they include only one connection. You can fly from California to anywhere within the western states (everything aligned with Colorado westward, with the exception of Montana) for 7,500 miles one-way. If you’re local to Humboldt County, these are an incredible value flying out of Arcata. We utilized Avianca LifeMiles short-haul awards for our flights to the Southwest in the spring (SEE: 2 Tips for Planning a Last-Minute Trip).

The second great transfer partner is Asia Miles. While the program saw a minor devaluation this year, there are still some great uses of the currency when flying with either Cathay Pacific or their Oneworld partners. For example, you can fly nonstop on American Airlines from Chicago, New York, Miami, Charlotte, Phildelphia or Dallas to a number of European destinations for only 45,000 Asia Miles one-way in business class.

There is also value in Flying Blue and Singapore KrisFlyer. Even Turkish Miles&Smiles has some sweet spots. But LifeMiles and Asia Miles are my top favorites. The biggest hurdle for people is learning how to use them effectively.

Diversification of points portfolio

Another benefit of picking up a Citi ThankYou Premier card is that you will have access to additional partners besides those offered by either Chase or Amex. Sure, I remarked that they are inferior to the other programs, but they are definitely not useless.

I’ve found that having a diverse portfolio of points is one of the best strategies for making trips happen. Don’t lock yourself into only one or two currencies (I always suggest having a plan). Bank programs with transfer partners are already a step above straight hotel or airlines cards. But holding more than one can make some sense. I love my American Express Everyday card as it is both free ($0 annual fee), yet earns 2x Membership Rewards points on groceries and leaves me the option of accruing Membership Rewards points. Having cards with all three currencies gives me a lot of options.

Conclusion

If you’re in the market for a new card, the Citi ThankYou Premier may be the way to go. With a $0 annual fee, you really can’t go wrong if you want to try the program out. If you find it isn’t for you, just drop it when you hit your first year.

As always, don’t apply because some guy on the internet told you to. Take a look at the offer and see if this card offers some value to you. 😉

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