Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Credit Cards (page 1 of 6)

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.

Best ever offer for the Hilton Honors Surpass Card!

The best-ever offer is back for the Hilton Honors Surpass card from American Express. We routinely see various increased offers for this card, but the past couple iterations have been especially rich.

The offer

Currently, the card offers a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. Additionally, you can earn a free weekend night after paying the card fee on your first card anniversary.

The card carries and annual fee of $75. If you factor in the free night on the first anniversary, you’ll essentially be paying $150 for one hotel night and 100,000 Honors points. Not a bad deal.

Assuming that you get $150 out of the free night (but you can likely get more), I estimate the value of the bonus points to be $500 (0.5 cents per Hilton point). You *can* get a lot more out of Hilton points, however (SEE: Travel hacking win: booking last-minute eclipse travel).

If you’re interested in the card, I would appreciate it if you would apply via my referral link. I’ll receive a bonus if you do. 😉

Card details

The Hilton Honors Surpass card isn’t a fantastic one for everyday spending. Due to the low value of Hilton points, even earning 3 points per dollar isn’t all that hot.

However, the card does earn 6 points at grocery stores, which is fairly reasonable. It also earns 12 points per dollar at any of the Hilton hotel brands. What the card is sadly lacking, though, is no foreign transaction fees. This means you get hit with a 3% fee if you use it abroad, even for Hilton stays.

One of the biggest perks of the card is that it grants you Hilton Honors Gold status. This will give you free breakfast at most full service Hilton hotels, room upgrades, and other perks.

This is a great card if you stay at Hilton brand hotels even a handful of times per year!

Getting Your First Credit Card

I’ve talked with many people over my years of travel hacking who are amazed at what my wife and I are able to do, yet are a bit skeptical about credit cards. There are even expressions of horror when I mention that my wife and I have 36 (!) open accounts between the two of us. But is getting your first credit card really all that scary?

Sure, credit cards have the potential to get you into trouble. But with even a small amount of financial discipline, they are far more of a tool than a liability.

Credit card basics

Before getting for your first credit card, I highly recommend that you first check your credit report and score. You can get your report for free at freecreditreport.com, or you can often sign up for a trial membership with Experian and pull both your report and your score for $1. Totally worth it.

There are 5 factors that go into your credit score. Make sure you understand these. It is good to have an idea about how likely you are to be approved for a given card. If you have too many negative factors influencing your score, you may need to work on repairing your credit before moving into travel hacking.

Identifying a good credit card

There are many cards on the market, some great, some not so much. If your credit isn’t good, you probably won’t qualify for (m)any of the best products.

If you have good credit and are interested in travel, I would definitely suggest a card with transferable points as your first travel credit card, and then maybe moving into an airline card later. However, this *completely* depends on your own personal preferences. It’s your credit. The best plan is to identify a specific trip or travel goal, and then obtain the cards that will help you meet that goal.

If you don’t have any idea where to start, though, I’ll always suggest my favorite travel card (SEE: 5 Reasons the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the Best Starter Travel Credit Card).

Getting your first credit card chase sapphire preferred

Applying for a credit card

Before you apply for a card, make sure that your credit score is in the range that will likely result in approval. You should also keep application restrictions in mind, such as Chase 5/24 or Citi’s 8/65 rule. If you have poor credit or simply no credit history at all, getting your first credit card is sometimes challenging. You may need to look for a secured card or one through your local bank with a low limit before shooting for travel rewards cards.

When you apply for a card, you will get one of 3 results: instant approval, application pending, or denial. If you are approved, congratulations. Now just wait for your card to show up and then start spending to meet your bonus criteria.

If you’re immediately denied, I would wait for the letter to come explaining why. You can potentially get this overturned, depending on the situation, but you’ll need to call the reconsideration line of the bank.

If your application goes to pending, it could be for a few reasons:

  • The bank needs to confirm some information with you
  • An actual person needs to review the application rather than a computer algorithm
  • You’re actually denied, and they’re not telling you so (in at least Chase’s case)
  • Or potentially other reasons

If your application is pending, I suggest following whatever the confirmation screen tells you. Sometimes it says to call in as soon as possible. At other times, the response will ask that you wait for a decision in the mail. Whatever the case, I would follow the advice before calling reconsideration.

Actually getting your first credit card

Assuming that you’re approved immediately, or that you are able to get successfully approved by calling reconsideration, actually getting your first credit card (in the physical sense) usually takes about a week. You’ll need to then activate the card, which typically means signing up for online access, something I highly recommend. I find it is much easier to manage your card online than it is over the phone.

Once your card is activated, it’s time to earn that bonus.

Earning the card bonus

You’ll now need to spend the amount required by your offer within the timeframe required by the bonus offer to earn the sign-up bonus. Most of the time this is 3 months or 90 days. Make sure that you track the required amount of spend and that you stay on track!

DO NOT miss out on the sign-up bonus! This is one of the reasons you got the card! Additionally, you may not be eligible for another bonus in the near future (or ever). I’ve sadly missed out on one Delta bonus, something I can never get again since it is an American Express card. :'(

Use your points!

If getting your first credit card lands you a great versatile card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you may quickly have enough points for a quick weekend away. But whether you burn your points immediately for a quick trip, or save them for a couple years for a fantastic round-the-world adventure, make sure you enjoy them. Sometimes the name of the game is maximizing their value. At other times it is simply taking the trip you want to take…for free!

Just don’t burn them on a toaster. There are plenty of resources out there for maximizing your points.

SEE5 Best Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

SEE6 Best Amex Transfer Partners

My admonition

DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT get yourself into debt trying to obtain free travel. It will no longer be free. While it may make sense to pay an annual fee on a card, it *never* makes sense to end up paying interest and/or late fees while trying to earn miles or points. The fees will completely negate the value of your points (and more).

Make sure you know the 5 Commandments of Travel Credit Cards (or any credit card).

Conclusion

My final disclaimer is that you should NOT sign up for a credit card simply because some guy on the internet told you to do so. Make sure the card is a product that will work for you, and that you will indeed get value out of it.

Using lucrative credit card offers to obtain amazing travel is fantastic. Getting your first credit card can easily get your addicted to the miles and points hobby. Just be responsible, and remember that this hobby is a marathon. Try not to treat it like a sprint.

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 of the Best No Fee Credit Cards for Travel

Many people balk at the idea of paying an annual fee for a credit card. I’d like to convince you that fees aren’t all bad, especially if you are getting great value for even a $95 fee. But if you want to jump into the “travel hacking” world without paying a fee, consider one of these best no fee credit cards.

Technically, I’ll still suggest getting a Chase Sapphire Preferred as your first card. It’s introductory fee is $0 for the first year, so there really isn’t a downside. You’ll have 12 months to decide if you want to pay the fee. But if you want to start with something truly free, these are some of the best no fee credit cards you can get:

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is one of the best no fee credit cards if you are new to this hobby. The card typically carries a sign up bonus of $150 (really 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points), and it earns 1.5 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points on all purchases.

If you have a premium Chase card (Sapphire Preferred, Ink Preferred, Sapphire Reserve), you can transfer these points to one of these cards and then to travel partners. You can also use them to book travel directly through the Chase travel portal. If you don’t have a premium card, you can simply use them for cash back.

The points have substantially more value when redeemed for travel, which I one reason I suggest getting a Chase Sapphire Preferred card. But if you are adverse to fees, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a decent card.

American Express EveryDay

The American Express Everyday card shines as the best no fee credit card for travel that actually earns transferable points. It typically comes with a sign up bonus of 10,000 points after $1,000 in spending, but occasionally you can find a higher offer. Obviously, getting a higher bonus is great since you can only get it once due to Amex’s once-per-lifetime bonus limit.

The American Express EveryDay card earns 2x points per dollar at supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year of spending. It earns 1x on all other purchases. However, if you make at least 20 purchases in your billing cycle, you will earn an additional 20% bonus on your points. This equals up to 2.4 points per dollar spent on supermarket purchases, which is quite good.

If you do a lot of spending at supermarkets, the EveryDay Preferred may be the better way to go. But it has a fee.

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom card is similar to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, except it earns 5 UR points per dollar in quarterly rotating categories. It earns 1x points on all other purchases. The quarterly categories are capped at $1,500 in spending, which mean you can earn a maximum of 7,500 UR points at the bonus rate each quarter.

Again, the Ultimate Rewards earned from the Chase Freedom card can only be used for travel if you have one of the premium cards. You can also transfer them to the account of someone in your household if you are an authorized user on one of their premium cards.

Best no fee credit cards

Citi DoubleCash

While not specifically a travel credit card, the Citi DoubleCash card is one you should consider adding to your wallet. The card doesn’t offer a sign up bonus, but is does offer unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases. The earning is split: 1% when you buy, 1% when you pay. Rewards hit your account at the end of each statement cycle.

Often when I can’t decide what travel card to use for spending in a non-bonus category, I’ll simply pull out my DoubleCash. It’s hard to beat straight 2% cash back (although my SPG American Express gets some love as well, but it *does* have a fee).

Which of the best no fee credit cards should you get first?

Out of these best no fee credit cards, the only one with which you can earn flexible, transferable points is the American Express EveryDay card. It is one of the cards I suggest getting and keeping, especially considering American Express’ “once per lifetime” limit on credit card bonuses.

However, it may not be the best choice as a first card for a couple reasons. First, you may want to get Chase cards first due to the Chase “5/24” rule (SEE: Trying to Understand the Chase 5/24 Rule). Second, the Freedom or Freedom Unlimited will provide better value in the long run if you ever get a premium Chase card. I’ll reiterate that the Chase cards must both be paired with a premium card to get the full value out of the points. Otherwise you’re just looking at them as cash back cards.

Remember to use credit cards responsibly. The rewards you earn are only worth it if you pay your balance in full and on time every month (SEE: The 5 Commandments of Travel Credit Cards – or really any credit card).

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