California Residents: Southwest Credit Card Companion Pass Shortcut Offer

Southwest Premier Credit Card ArtIf you are a California resident, check out this special offer on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Card that provides a shortcut to the SWA Companion Pass:

The Companion Pass lets a designated person fly with you for free on all your Southwest flights – both paid and award flights! (You must still cover taxes and fees from $5.60 one-way.) Usually, you have to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points within a calendar year in order to qualify. However, this special offer lets you get it after applying for a new card and making a single purchase of any amount.

Here are some additional things to consider:

  • How California residency is determined: “Individual must have a valid California address as evidenced by their application for the Rapid Rewards® Credit Card.” PO Boxes are not allowed as billing addresses. You should probably have the same billing address on your Rapids Rewards account.
  • You must open the card by 11/30/17, and allow up to 8 weeks after your first purchase to receive the Companion Pass. The pass will be valid until 12/31/18.
  • Chase has a rule that they will automatically deny approval on this credit card if you have 5 or more new credit cards from any issuer on your credit report within the past 2 years (aka the 5/24 rule).
  • Not available to either (i) current cardmembers of any Rapid Rewards Credit Card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of any Rapid Rewards Credit Card who received a new cardmember bonus for a Rapid Rewards Credit Card within the last 24 months.
  • Rapid Rewards® points won’t expire as long as your card is open or you have flight-earning or partner-earning activity at least once every 24 months.
  • You must still pay the annual fees of $69 or $99, depending on the card.

Southwest recently announced that they plan to start flying to Hawaii, but the flights probably won’t be until late 2018 or early 2019. Therefore, you might try to time your purchases so that you get the 40,000/60,000 point bonus in 2018 as part of a larger plan to earn 110,000 points throughout 2018 and get another Companion Pass good through the end of 2019.

Practical Advice on Identity Theft and Removing Unauthorized Accounts

bankshowerThe boilerplate advice I keep reading at the end of every article about the Equifax hack is… Everybody freeze their credit! That certainly is an option, but perhaps it might be overkill to expect 150 million people to do that? The credit reporting agencies seem to make it an painful experience on purpose, charging you $10 a pop x 3 bureaus for freezing/thawing. Some good news: Equifax just announced a new free instant lock/unlock feature, which probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for this breach.

For a more practical perspective, I recommend bookmarking the post Identity Theft, Credit Reports, and You by Patrick McKenzie. He has real-world experience in helping others deal with the credit bureaus and navigating the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). My notes:

  • You don’t need to do anything just because your data was leaked or might have been leaked and nothing has actually happened.
  • Don’t pay money for credit monitoring.
  • If you find unauthorized charges on an credit card you opened yourself, just call your bank or card issuer. This shouldn’t be a big headache.
  • If you find an account NOT opened by yourself, either due to fraud or some sort of clerical error, then read the entire post for detailed instructions. You need to create a paper trail because this could easily turn into a big headache.

A lot of nuance is covered and sample text is helpfully included, such as:

On August 5th, 20XX I accessed my credit report from Experian, numbered 1234567. It shows an account with your institution in my name, with account number XXX123. I am unaware of the full account number. I have no knowledge of this account. I did not open it or authorize anyone to open it.

Please correct this tradeline and confirm this to me in writing within the timeframe specified by law. If you cannot correct this tradeline, provide me with your written justification for why your investigation concluded that this tradeline was accurate.

Here are some important things to note if you have to deal directly with a financial institution regarding an unauthorized account:

  • Do not call. Communicate only via written letters sent by postal mail to their official address. Create a paper trail. Keep a scan/copy of everything.
  • Never pay debt which isn’t yours, even if you are being harassed.
  • Never speak to debt collectors on the phone, either. Just ask for their address and hang up so you can communicate in writing. You are not breaking any laws if you hang up on them.
  • You can do this. In his experience, most issues were resolved after 2-3 letters send via certified mail/return receipt.

Bank of America Premium Rewards Card Review – 50,000 Bonus Points

bofa_premium225After some sneak peaks and rumors, the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card is now officially live. This card is a new addition to Bank of America’s rewards card line-up, and the question will be if the added benefits outweigh the $95 annual fee. This card also participates in the Preferred Rewards program, which gives you better rewards if you give BofA more of your business. Here are the highlights:

  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus ($500 value) after making $3,000 in purchases in first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases.
  • Earn 1.5 points for each dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Reward points can increase by 25 to 75 percent on each purchase for clients enrolled in the bank’s Preferred Rewards program.
  • Up to $100 annual airline incidental statement credit for qualifying travel purchases such as seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight services and airport lounge fees.
  • Up to $100 airport security statement credit towards TSA-Precheck or Global Entry Application fee, every four years.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • No limit to earning points, and points don’t expire.

Tips on qualifying for Preferred Rewards. The Preferred Rewards program is designed to rewards clients with multiple accounts and higher assets located at Bank of America banking, Merrill Edge® online brokerage, and Merrill Lynch® investment accounts. Here is a partial table taken from their comparison chart (click to enlarge):

bofa_pref1

Bank of America’s interest rates on cash accounts tend to be much lower than highest-available outside banks, so moving cash over to qualify may reduce your interest earnings. Pass. Merrill Lynch advisory accounts also usually come with management fees. Pass. However, if you have brokerage assets like mutual funds and ETFs, moving them over to Merrill Edge may actually reduce your costs because at the Platinum and Platinum Plus levels they will actually give you 30 to 100 free online stock trades every month.

A couple years ago, I did a partial transfer of a little over $100k of brokerage assets (Vanguard funds) over to Merrill Edge to qualify for Platinum Honors. (You could also do $20k to qualify for Gold, or $50k to qualify for Platinum.) I should mention it may take a while for your “3-month average combined balance” to actually reach the $100k level and officially qualify for Platinum Honors. Only after that will the 75% rewards bonus on credit card rewards kick in.

(Side note: Stack this offer with their Merrill Edge brokerage sign-up bonus.)

I realize not everyone will have this level of assets to move around, but if you do then it is worth considering. Both Platinum and Platinum Honors levels allow you to reach tiers that effectively give you over 2% cash back on all purchases. Here’s are the cash back rates after the Preferred Rewards bonuses:

  • Platinum Honors (75% bonus): 3.5% cash back on travel and dining, 2.625% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Platinum (50% bonus): 3% cash back on travel and dining, 2.25% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Gold (25% bonus): 2.5% cash back on travel and dining, 1.875% cash back on all other purchases.

Rewards comparison. This card has a more flexible rewards structure than their BankAmericard Travel Rewards card in that the points don’t have to offset a travel purchase. You can redeem at a flat 1 point = 1 cent value towards a statement credit or deposit into eligible Bank of America or Merrill Lynch® accounts (including deposit, investment or 529 accounts).

Getting a flat 2.625% (Platinum Honors) or 2.25% cash back (Platinum) on all purchases is a very solid base earning level. In terms of the competition, there are now multiple cash back cards in the 2% cash back range such as the Citi Double Cash Card with no annual fee. That means I wouldn’t bother with this card for everyday purchases if I wasn’t Platinum or Platinum Honors.

Also note that you can also earn similar levels of everything rewards (minus the travel/dining bonus category) but restricted to offsetting a travel-related purchase with the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card – except with no annual fee. The question then reverts back to if you can offset that $95 annual fee with the $100 annual incidental airline credit good towards seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight services and airport lounge fees. (Do I pay that much in baggage fees every year? Sadly I did this year.) If you can get max value out of that airline incidental credit every year, then that removes the major disadvantage when compared to the BofA Travel Rewards card. You can then enjoy the added perks like the $500 value sign-up bonus, $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit once every 4 years, and the higher rewards on travel/dining bonus.

Bottom line. The Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card is rather average in basic form, but is elevated into an excellent card if you can qualify for the Platinum or Platinum Honors tiers of their Preferred Rewards program for up to 3.5% cash back on travel and dining and 2.625% cash back on all other purchases. The $500 initial sign-up bonus is nice, but note the the $95 annual fee is not waived for the first year. Consider your ability to use up the $100 annual incidental airline credit.

Big List of Ways To Protect Your Credit: Free Credit Monitoring, Credit Locks, Fraud Alerts, and Credit Freezes

eq_hackAs you probably know, Equifax was hacked and literally half of all Americans could be affected. It seems like every media outlet has a “what you should do now” article, but I’ve also gotten some e-mails asking for my personal take (for which I’m flattered). Here goes…

Free credit reports. Everyone should take advantage of the free copy of their credit reports (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and their bank report (ChexSystems, TeleCheck) available every 12 months. I would also add LexisNexis to the ones I personally check. This free access is mandated by the government. Here again is my Big List of Free Consumer Reports.

Free credit monitoring. There are many offers nowadays for free credit scores and partial snapshots of your credit report. These are provided by private services, either in partnership with or as a subsidiary of the major credit bureaus. In addition, some offer credit monitoring, where they will e-mail or text you when a significant change occurs (new accounts, etc). I choose to take advantage of this, knowing it is in exchange for some ads. Here’s a recipe for credit monitoring coverage across all three major bureaus:

Free credit locks. The credit bureaus now have a feature that allows you to instantly “lock” and “unlock” the credit report of a specific credit bureau and thus prevent access. These are nice because you can unlock it for a day or so when you need, but otherwise keep it locked. Again, if they are free, they are probably supported by ads and/or upsells (which is fine by me, I will stick with free).

Free 90-Day Fraud Alerts. If you are concerned that your personal information is compromised (you should be!), you can contact any one of the three major credit bureaus and ask for a “Fraud Alert” to be placed on your credit report. This lets all potential creditors know that you are at high risk and that they need to do extra identity verification. Be sure that they have your current contact information as they will call you every time someone tries to check your credit report.

This is free of charge. It will expire automatically after 90 days, but you can call in and renew by submitting a new request within 30 days of your current alert expiring. (If you are a documented victim of identity theft, you can ask for an Extended Fraud Alert of up to 7 years.) By law, you should only need to contact one of them, and they are supposed to contact the other two companies and thus have the Fraud Alert active on all three accounts. Taken from FTC.gov:

Credit Freezes (Fees may apply). This is the most comprehensive but also tedious and potentially-costly measure to take. Once you initiate a credit freeze, it will stay on there permanently in most states (or at least 7 years in others). In order for a business to check your credit report, you must manually “unfreeze” your credit temporarily. To initiate, this may cost around $10, but Equifax is waiving this fee for the next 30 days. Temporary unfreezing may cost another $5 to $10 each time, depending on your state. Finally, it may cost another ~$10 to lift the freeze permanently. Now possibly triple those fees, because you have to pay separately for each bureau. Here is the Equifax fee schedule by state [pdf]. If you are a documented ID theft victim with police report, fees may be waived. You can do this online, snail mail, or by phone. You must contact each credit bureau separately.

My take. That’s the menu; I would start at the top and pick what works for you. I tend to open a relatively high number of credit and bank accounts throughout the year, often for a time-senstive promotion, so I choose to decline the extra hassle and cost that comes with a credit freeze. If you rarely get new accounts or simply feel otherwise, go more extreme. I initiated a free 90-Day Fraud Alert this week to try it out (through Equifax since they should do the extra work).

eqalert_sample

I already access my credit reports/ChexSystems/LexisNexis every 12 months, and I continuously monitor my own credit using the services listed above. Here’s a sample free alert I got from CreditKarma just the other day.

ck_sample

I then cross-referenced with a similar free credit monitoring alert from CreditSesame (TransUnion) that included more info like date and card issuer:

cs_sample

By the way, yes I decided to set up the free TrustID Premier service for the free Equifax locks. I know there was a lot of concern about the forced arbitration clause as part of TrustedID, but Equifax has since removed that clause. Also, I didn’t like how they made me come back to activate (without any reminder). Of course, even after being patient and coming back on my assigned date, they are making me wait some more…

trustid_sample

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard Review: 40,000 Points = $400 Limited-Time Bonus

AFB_ARF_card_rRGB_ArrivalPlus_Fee_WE (1)UPDATE – This offer is now EXPIRED.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card with a limited-time offer worth at least $400 and the annual fee is waived the first year. Here are the card highlights:

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days – that’s enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Redeem for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise.  Redemption values vary.
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Chip technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 17.24%, 21.24% or 24.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers
  • Complimentary online FICO® Credit Score
  • $89 annual fee waived for the first year

Rewards program details. With this card, you earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. There are no special categories. These miles (easier to think of them as points, really) are then redeemable towards travel booked from any merchant or retailer classified as Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies. You can redeem towards any airline on any date.

First, visit any booking site (Delta.com, Expedia.com, Hilton.com, Hotels.com, etc) and buy a ticket with this credit card. You don’t need to use any specific portal. Let’s say you buy an airplane ticket for $250. Then, you visit your Barclaycard account website and you’ll offset your purchase. You’ll redeem 25,000 “miles” and see a $250 statement credit on your statement. (Accruing those 25,000 miles would have taken $12,500 in accumulated purchases, if not part of sign-up bonus or other incentive.) I’ve done this multiple times, and it always went smoothly with no issues.

Travel statement credit redemptions start at 10,000 miles for $100 toward a qualifying travel purchase of $100 or more made within the last 120 days. For example, you could use 10,000 points for a $100 credit towards a $200 plane ticket, if you wished.

On top of that, the card gives you a 5% miles rebate when you redeem for any travel. So if you redeemed 50,000 miles, you would get 2,500 back in your account after about a week. Although this adds a layer of complexity, you can calculate that technically getting $500 of value out of 47,500 miles at 2X miles/$ spent works out to 2.11% cash back towards any travel. Everything else (gift cards, merchandise) offers a worse redemption ratio, so don’t bother.

Comparison with alternatives. 2X miles is nice and the rebate adds a bit extra. However, this card also has an $89 annual fee that is waived for the first year. So for the first year you’re good, but the competition offers multiple cards earning close to 2% cash back with no annual fee at all. A few examples:

Again, the math says that you would have to put over $80,000 in purchases on this card annually in order to get the 0.11% advantage to offset the $89 annual fee (after the 1st-year waiver). That’s a big number. Now, Barclaycard did offer me a second fee-free year when I called in to cancel the card a couple years back (your results may vary). This bought me enough time to spend all my miles. I could have also used 8,900 miles to offset the second year $89 annual fee. A final option is to downgrade the card to the no annual fee version after a year.

Bottom line. $400 value sign-up bonus towards travel. 2.11% effective rewards card towards travel. Long-time readers know that I want to see a $500 net value over the first year before I try out a new credit card, and this card satisfies that hurdle and paid for a chunk of my summer travel. However, past the first year of ownership, I do not like the idea of eventually paying an $89 annual fee with a theoretical max of 2.11% back when I can get 2% back with no annual fee from other cards.

Equifax Hack Check Tool, Free Year of Identity Theft Protection and Credit Monitoring

equifaxlogoEquifax announced that they were hacked between May-July 2017, exposing the personal information of potentially over 143 million people. As one of the three major credit bureaus, they have a lot of data: credit card numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. Essentially, everything you need for identity fraud.

Equifax has a Potential Impact Tool that lets you check if they believe your information has been exposed. You must provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. It seems that unless they say “you’re not affected”, then you should assume you were affected. No matter what, they are offering everyone a free year of Equifax TrustedID Premier service, which includes:

  • 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports
  • copies of your Equifax credit report
  • the ability to lock and unlock your Equifax credit report
  • identity theft insurance
  • Internet scanning for Social Security numbers

They’ll give you a date and you’ll need to come back to activate. I suppose they need to make a queue with that many new “customers”. Equifax also set up a dedicated call center at 866-447-7559, open 7 days a week, 7am–1am Eastern time.

So the business that gets to collect all my personal data (and then charge me for a credit score based on that data) lost my data, and as an apology gives me a temporary subscription to their own identity protection service (which people pay for because… their data gets hacked). Does anyone else feel like there needs to be more of an incentive not to get hacked? This benefit only lasts for a year, so you may want to sign up for other free credit monitoring services. Also see the Big List of Free Consumer Reports on how to get a free full copy of your credit and other consumer reports.

Plastiq Promotion: Pay Mortgage With Mastercard for 1.5% Fee

plastiq_logoPlastiq has a new 1.5% promo rate (standard fee is 2.5%) if you schedule 3 or more mortgage payments with your Mastercard by end of this 2017. You must pay the standard 2.5% first, and then discount will come in the form of a rebate check sent by January 5, 2018. The check will be sent to the name and billing address associated with your Mastercard used for the promotion. Max rebate is $200. Their instructions:

  • Schedule 3 or more monthly mortgage payments by checking the box next to recurring.
  • Use a Mastercard.
  • Set up the first 3 payments so they are set to process between September 5, 2017 and December 31, 2017 11:59 p.m. EDT.
  • Look for a notification of eligibility on the payment review screen.

Here are some ways that this promo may be useful…

Sign-up bonus spending requirements. Sign-up bonuses on credit cards usually have spending requirements. For example, you might get a $500 value bonus but need to spend $3,000. Well, that’s effectively 16.7% back so if you need a little help to get over that hurdle, it’s okay to pay a 1.5% fee.

2% cash back credit cards, or similar. If you have a rewards credit card that offers 2% cash back (or equivalent value in points), then you can still make a slight profit by putting them on your credit card. A current example is the Citi Double Cash Card. For example, if you have a mortgage bill of $5,000 and you earned 2% cash back while paying a 1.5% fee, your net 0.5% is $25. You could also get another month or so of “float” before the your credit card bill is due.

Combine a rewards card + 0% APR on purchases. Many credit cards offer 0% APR on purchases for an introductory period of 12 months or longer. If the card also has a half-decent rewards program on purchases, the combination of purchase rewards and spreading out the payments over a year at no interest could be attractive.

Referral program. Plastiq has a somewhat confusing referral program. If a new user signs up via a referral link and pays $500 worth of bills, they will then get $500 “fee-free dollars”. So first you’d have to pay the fee on a bill, and then on your next bill, $500 of it will be “fee-free” (at 2.5% that’s a $12.50 savings). The referrer will get $1,000 in fee-free dollars. If you take advantage of the promo above, that should trigger the bonus. Here’s my referral link. Thanks if you use it.

Discover Card: Free Social Security Number Monitoring and New Account Alerts

disc_ssnDiscover has a new free alert service available to Discover cardholders on an opt-in basis. I must have missed the initial announcement. This is not complete identity protection (which usually costs a monthly fee of $10 or more) but the following subset:

  • Social Security Number Monitoring. Discover scans the internet including the “dark web” where stolen SSNs are often traded and sold for the purposes of identity theft and fraud. If your SSN is found, you will receive an alert.
  • New Account Alerts. Whenever a new account (credit cards, mortgages, car loans or other credit accounts) is reported on your Experian credit report, you will receive a notification. If you don’t recognize the new account, that can be an indication of identity theft.

You must authorize Discover to access your credit report, but since they are doing so on your behalf, this will not affect your credit score in any way. Opt-in and activate these alerts here. You can choose e-mail and/or text alerts. Deactivate here.

Bottom line. If you are a Discover cardholder, this is a free service that alerts you to new accounts and thus potential identity theft. I keep my Discover it card open for its rotating 5% cash back rewards.

Citi Prestige Card Review: 75,000 Point Offer, Feature Changes

Citi ThankYou Prestige Card Art

This offer is now EXPIRED.

Our partner Citi has a limited-time offer on the Citi Prestige® Card, their premium ThankYou point rewards card. The sign-up bonus is now 75,000 bonus points after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Here are the updated highlights:

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • 75,000 ThankYou® Points are worth over $900 in airfare when redeemed through ThankYou.com or through Citi Prestige® Concierge. Or, you could get $750 in statement credit.
  • Annual $250 Air Travel Credit, valid for flight-related expenses charged to your card including airline tickets, baggage fees, and upgrades.
  • Global Entry/TSA Statement Credit. Receive a statement credit, up to $100 every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
  • Complimentary 4th night stay at any hotel of your choice after a minimum 4-consecutive night booking through ThankYou.com or the Citi Prestige Concierge (based on your average night stay, exclusive of taxes and fees).
  • Airport Lounge Access. You and your authorized users get access to hundreds of VIP lounges through Priority Pass™ Select.
  • Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
  • Earn 3x Points on Air Travel & Hotels.
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment.
  • Early 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on Purchases.
  • $450 annual fee, not waived the first year.

Bonus details. The initial sign-up bonus was formerly 60,000 ThankYou points, and this is the highest that I’ve seen it. The spending requirement is also higher than before. Note the following fine print:

Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

Since you can only get one or the other, you should compare this offer with the Citi ThankYou Premier Card as the annual fee is waived during the first year and includes gas as a 3X category.

Annual $250 Air Travel Credit details. Unlike other cards, airfare counts as well as baggage fees, lounge access, and other incidental purchases. This renews every calendar year, so it can be used to help offset the annual fee every year. New cardholders may also qualify for the credit once in 2017 and again in 2018.

This statement credit is an annual benefit available for purchases appearing on your billing statements from December through the following December. Pending transactions that do not post in your December billing cycle will count towards the next year’s Air Travel Credit.

What can you do with ThankYou Points? Citi has been trying to improve the value and flexibility of ThankYou points, so here is a rundown of what you can do with them.

citty20

Bonus towards flexible airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises. You get a 20% discount on the standard number of points needed for a travel redemption. The reverse math means 1 ThankYou point = 1.25 cents towards travel. Note that this 25% bonus applies all of your points from all Citi cards linked to the same ThankYou account, thus boosting the value of all your other points.

That means 75,000 ThankYou points will get you $937.50 in airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises book through the Citi Travel Center, which in my experience had the same total price with taxes as compared to Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Since you can book any flight that can be otherwise purchased with cash, there are “no blackout dates”.

This can be even more flexible because you can use it across multiple flights, multiple passengers, and you can even do partial redemptions. Let’s say you found a ticket that want for $200 = 16,000 points, but only have 10,000 points available. Citi now lets you pay the difference, so in this case you can get your $200 ticket for 10,000 points and $75. This makes it much easier to use up all of your points at a 25% premium.

75,000 points = $750 in statement credit. The Citi Prestige finally offers you a simple 1 ThankYou points = 1 cent redemption towards a statement credit.

Hotel points and airline miles transfer options. Citi ThankYou points are also now available to transfer to certain airline mileage programs on a 1:1 basis including JetBlue, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Etihad, Flying Blue by Air France and KLM, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, EVA Air, Jet Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Thai Airways. For example, 50,000 TY points can get you 50,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. If you know how to redeem this points wisely, you can get a lot of value for international flights.

What happened to [perk]? If you read about this card in the past, you should know that the Citi Prestige card no longer offers some features. These include the (1) American Airlines special redemption value at ThankYou point = 1.6 cents in American Airlines airfare, the (2) 1 ThankYou point = 1.33 cents in airfare (the value ratio is now 1 ThankYou point = 1.25 cents), (3) American Airlines Admirals Club lounge access (Priority Pass Select benefits remain), and (4) free rounds of golf benefit.

Bottom line. This is a high sign-up bonus historically, but it’s also harder to get due to the higher spending requirement and the fact that you can’t have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months. If you can meet these hurdles, you should then compare this offer with the Citi ThankYou Premier Card – 50,000 Bonus Point offer. The Citi Prestige has a bigger sign-up bonus and more valuable perks if you can take advantage of them ($250 annual airfare credit, Global Entry credit, Priority Pass), but with a higher spending hurdle and you must pay the $450 annual fee. The Citi ThankYou Premier has a smaller sign-up bonus but the spending hurdle is lower and the annual fee is waived during the first year.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.”

Limited-Time Offer: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® 50,000 Mile Bonus

Citi AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard Art

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, from our partner Citi, is their premium American Airlines co-branded card that includes Admirals Club lounge access. The card currently offers an impressive 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus, which you can think of as offsetting the annual fee. Here are the full details …

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Admirals Club® membership included for you and guests with you*
  • Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge Access for authorized users
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Receive a statement credit, up to $100 every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or The TSA PreCheck®
  • $450 annual fee

Note the following fine print:

American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.

As mentioned, this is the highest level Citi/American Airlines card. The 50,000 miles are nice and can be converted to several hundred dollars (or more) worth of airfare. $100 for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry is nice. But the annual fee is a hefty $450. The special features of this card that the lesser cards omit are Admirals Club lounge membership and the opportunity to earn Elite Qualifying Miles towards status.

Admirals Club lounge membership value and details. Admirals Club membership usually costs ~$500 a year on its own, and this is now the only card that gives it to you as a complimentary feature. Here’s the full cost chart:

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This membership allows both you and your immediate family (or up to two traveling guests that accompany you) to access over 50 Admirals Club locations worldwide. You don’t even need to be on an American Airlines flight! You can even give your spouse or trusted friend/family an authorized user card and they’ll get lounge access too, even while traveling separately from you. (Authorized user cards have no additional fee.)

You can be flying on any airline, and if that airport has an Admirals Club you and your family can go inside. Lounge access might save you money on certain things like comfortable seats, free food/drink, WiFi, and sometimes hot showers. Mostly it just makes the overall flying experience more pleasant. I’ve been to Admiral’s Clubs with special kids rooms; perfect for families during delays or layovers.

American Airlines elite qualifying miles. For those that know you can generate the required $40,000 in spending in a calendar year . I’ve given up status chasing for the time being, but if you’re an elite on American, you probably already know the value of accumulating these type of miles. 10,000 elite qualifying flight miles is like going from Honolulu to Los Angeles, roundtrip, twice.

Bottom line. The 50,000 bonus miles is nice, but this remains a niche premium card. If you can take advantage of the Admiral Club lounge access, this can be a great way to get it for you and your travel companions. If you don’t care about lounge access and aren’t trying to achieve elite status on American, this card is probably not for you given the relatively high spending requirements.

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Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Card Review: 80,000 + 5,000 Bonus Points Offer

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The Chase IHG Rewards Club Select card has upped their public sign-up bonus to 80,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. You can get an additional 5,000 bonus points when you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase in the first three months from account opening. The annual fee is waived for the first year, then $49 a year afterward.

Sign-up bonus details. 80k is a solid offer historically, but I should mention that there is also a targeted link for 100,000 bonus points after $2,000 in purchases within 3 months. The problem is that if you click on “Apply Now” you probably won’t get an actual application. However, there are reports that if you ask Chase nicely to match a better offer that you happened to see, they will agree. Worth a shot, but don’t count on it. Use their secure online messaging and create a digital paper trail.

This card is NOT subject to any “5/24” restrictions (where Chase limits you to less than 5 credit cards opened in the last 24 months. Our household strategy is to have one person only apply for Chase 5/24 cards, and the other person applies for everything else. You must not have had this specific IHG card within the last 24 months, however:

This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

IHG stands for Intercontinental Hotel Group which has over 5,000 hotels including the following brands:

  • Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts
  • Crowne Plaza®
  • Holiday Inn®, Holiday Inn Express
  • Staybridge Suites®
  • Candlewood Suites®
  • Hotel Indigo®
  • EVEN Hotels

Free hotel night upon annual card renewal. Upon paying the $49 annual fee, you will get a free night certificate good at any IHG hotel worldwide. Assuming you can use it within 12 months, it is actually a good deal for $49.

Anniversary Free Night is valid at hotels in the IHG® Rewards Club Family of Brands and must be redeemed, and stay must be completed, within 12 months from date of issue. Anniversary Free Night is valid for one standard room night rate and applicable taxes only. Rooms are limited, subject to prior sale and availability of allocated resources and may be unavailable during high demand periods.

Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a credit cardmember. Perks include priority check-in and complimentary room upgrades (that actually happen). You also get 10% back when you redeem your points, up to 100,000 points each year.

Rewards on card purchases. Here’s the tiered rewards structure:

  • Earn 5 points for each $1 spent at IHG hotels
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
  • Earn 1 point for $1 spent on everything else.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Based on the value estimates below, I would not put all your everyday spending on this card.

IHG point value estimates. IHG Rewards Club puts out a new list of PointBreaks hotels every few months where you can redeem a hotel night for only 5,000 points. That means 80,000 points could technically earn you 16 free nights! If those hotel rooms would otherwise cost $100 a night including taxes, you’d be getting $1,600 value from 80,000 points. This is how you can see valuations anywhere between 1.5 cents and 2 cents per IHG point.

But that’s not very realistic. There are some nice hotels on the list, but the locations are very specific and few people are sufficiently flexible with their travel to constantly take advantage of these deals.

I spent a week at a Staybridge Suites in Austin with my family and it was great. The room felt like an apartment with a living room, full kitchen, and separate bedroom. Every morning there was a buffet breakfast with eggs, bacon, cereal, bagels, fruit, yogurt, juice, and so on that I could grab and bring back into my suite where the kids could run around. I’ll be returning and willing to pay the going rate again, so how much would it cost me in points?

Here’s an actual rate quote for 8/9 to 8/16 for the same Staybridge Suites:

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Keep in mind that the quote doesn’t include taxes, which would make the $138 average nightly rate into $159 with taxes. The 30,000 points per night does include taxes, so that work outs to roughly 0.53 cents per IHG point. At that rate, 80,000 points would be worth $424.

You can perform the same calculations for hotels that fit your needs. I tried a bunch of other various combinations and always got between 0.5 cents and 1.1 cents per point equivalent value.

Bottom line. The 80,000 upfront sign-up bonus can be conservatively valued at $400 in hotel stays (although you may do much better). Grab the easy 5,000 points for first authorized user as well. IHG has a wide selection of hotels around the world, from Holiday Inns and Staybridge Suites to luxury InterContinental hotels. The annual fee is waived the first year, but upon $49 annual fee renewal you get a free night certificate good at any IHG hotel (based on availability).

Hyatt Credit Card – Two Free Nights Offer Changing to 40,000 Points on 6/29

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The Hyatt Credit Card is changing their sign-up bonus on 6/29/17. For now, you can get two free night awards after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months from account opening. The free nights are valid for a standard room at any Hyatt hotel worldwide with no blackout dates, no resort fees, but expire within one year of issuance. You can also get 5,000 Hyatt points after adding an authorized user and having them make a first purchase in the first 3 months from account opening. This alternate link adds a $50 statement credit but says nothing about an authorized user bonus. Take your pick.

The new offer is supposed to be 40,000 Hyatt points after spending $2,000 within your first 3 months of cardmembership. The question is then:

What is better: Two free nights at any Hyatt hotel or 40,000 Hyatt points?

The overall answer is you should apply for the current offer if you have an aspirational hotel you want to stay at within the next year or so. Here is a screenshot of their award chart:

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As you can see, the best Hyatt hotels cost more than 20,000 Hyatt points per night, with a cash cost of $500+ per night. Some examples of these Category 6 and 7 properties:

There are about 50 hotels worldwide that at Cat 6 and Cat 7. If you don’t want to stay at one of those, then you should take the flexibility of the 40,000 Hyatt points. You don’t need to use them within a year, and you can also use Points + Cash redemptions if you want.

If you have any problems booking your award nights, I would first try using the phone and calling. If that doesn’t work, use the power of social media and contact their Gold Passport “Concierges” @hyattconcierge on Twitter.

Card highlights.

  • $75 annual fee. Not waived the first year.
  • Free Category 1-4 award night upon renewal. Upon annual fee renewal, you will also receive a free night certificate valid for Category 1-4 hotels. Category 3-4 hotels can easily run $200 to $300 per night.
  • Free Discoverist member status. Automatic as long as your card is open. This gets you minor room upgrades when available, premium internet access, and late 2pm checkout.
  • Explorist status after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year. Perks include guaranteed room availability up to 72 hours in advance, 4 Club lounge access awards and more.
  • 3 Bonus Points per $1 spent at all Hyatt hotels and resorts. 2 Bonus Points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies. 1 Bonus Point per $1 spent on all other purchases made with your card.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Restrictions. This Chase Hyatt card is not subject to “5/24” restrictions, although it will count as an opened card for other 5/24 cards. Our strategy is to have one person apply for Chase 5/24 cards, and the other person applies for everything else like these. However, there is this language:

This product is available if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

Bottom line. I enjoy using hotel awards to stay at luxurious places where I would balk at paying the full cash cost. Nights-based awards are nice for such aspirational stays. You can get $1,000+ value out of two free unrestricted night awards. The award certificates do expire after a year though, so you might prefer to wait for a points award with additional flexibility. I might even wait for an improved limited-time offer or something. But if you’ve been waiting on this bonus, you need to make a decision soon.