Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Review: 100,000 Points Bonus = $1,500 in Travel, $450 Annual Fee

chasereserve200newChase has a new ultra-premium credit card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, which has headline features of Visa Infinite benefits, 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points sign-up bonus, and a $450 annual fee. That’s a huge sign-up bonus and a big annual fee. Is this expensive travel-focused card designed to compete with the American Express Platinum and Citi Prestige worthy of your attention?

Card highlights:

  • 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • $300 annual travel credit. Each year, automatically receive up to $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card.
  • Up to a $100 statement credit towards your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.
  • Priority Pass Select membership. Provides free access to 900+ VIP lounges in over 400 cities worldwide.
  • Earn 3X points per $1 spent on travel & dining worldwide.
  • Earn 1 point for every dollar in other purchases.
  • 1.5 cents per point value when redeemed towards travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 1:1 points transfer to various frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs.
  • Annual fee is $450, not waived the first year. Additional cards are $75 per year, each.

Details on Ultimate Rewards points redemption:

  • Cash rewards. Cash redemptions are a bit ordinary but easy… 100 points = $1.
  • Points redeemed towards travel are worth 1.5 cents when applied towards any hotel, flight, car rental, or cruise available on their travel portal UltimateRewards.com. Redemptions can also be maximized because you can book wherever you want and simply pay the difference. For example, 25,000 points can be used for any ticket up to $375, but if say you wanted a $400 ticket you could just pay the $25 difference. You’re able to use every last point on this program, and you don’t have to worry about room or flight availability.
  • This means the 100,000 point sign-up bonus is worth $1,500 towards any travel booked through Chase.
  • This also means your existing Ultimate Rewards points balance could be increased in value by getting this card.
  • This also means that if you also have the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, you’d be getting 2.25% back on all purchases when redeemed towards travel through Chase.
  • This also means that if you also have the Chase Freedom card, you’d be getting 7.5% back on the quarterly rotating categories when redeemed towards travel through Chase.
  • Points can be converted to frequent flyer miles a 1:1 basis to the following airlines: United Airlines, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France.
  • Points can be converted on a 1:1 basis to the following hotel loyalty programs: Hyatt, IHG, Ritz-Carlton, and Marriott
  • Sharing points. Ultimate Rewards points are instantly transferable to other accounts like family members, as long as they have their own Chase card with Ultimate Rewards as an authorized user (free with Chase Freedom). This way, you can pool points together for transfers and redemptions if you like.

Other card benefits:

  • Dedicated customer service line with a live person that answers the phone 24/7. No waiting or complicated phone trees.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Primary car rental collision damage waiver insurance. Decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. Most other cards only offer secondary coverage that kicks in only after the deductible of your individual insurance policy is used.
  • Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement. If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket
  • Enjoy special car rental privileges from National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar when you book with your card.

This is still a new card, but there is reported success in people “upgrading” their existing Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards to this new Sapphire Reserve card. If you convert, you will not be eligible for the 100,000 point sign-up bonus, but you will still get the standard card features like the $300 calendar year travel credit which can still offset the $450 annual fee.

Note that Chase has a widely-reported but unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards 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). This rule is designed to discourage folks that apply for high numbers of sign-up bonuses.

As for the $300 annual travel credit, “annually” means the year beginning with your account open date through the first December statement date of that same year, and each 12 billing cycles starting after your December statement date through the following December statement date. So it’s not exactly by calendar year, but roughly close and you can likely get this twice under the first year’s annual fee.

In terms of first-year value, this card is probably one of the highest in recent memory. You get 100k points worth $1,500 towards travel booked through Chase, $300 in travel credit that can be used once in 2016 and again in 2017, Priority Pass Select membership, up to $100 Global Entry application credit, and more…. all for $450 annual fee. Your potential net value for the first year is easily over $1,650. If you spend enough to trigger the sign-up bonus and the annual travel credit, can redeem the points for something you want, and haven’t racked up 5 new credit cards in the last 24 months, this is quite a deal.

Discount Mags Employee Discount Sale

moneymag2016DiscountMags.com is having an Employee Discount Sale which actually has some good prices for many popular magazines. Their prices also don’t require auto-renewal, which I like as you don’t have to remember to cancel and it allows you to easily shop again for the best deal later on. If you compare with MagazinePriceSearch.com, many of the prices from this sale beat the lowest prices shown on the price comparison engine.

Here are some sample prices for magazines:

  • Bloomberg Businessweek 1 year, 55 issues for $14.70 ($0.27/issue). MPS best price was $28.99 ($0.53 per issue).
  • Consumer Reports Magazine 1 year, 13 issues for$19.74 ($1.52/issue). MPS best price was $24.07 ($1.85 per issue).
  • Money Magazine 1 year, 12 issues for $7.48 ($0.62/issue). Amazon.com price is lower at $5 for 12 issues, but with auto-renewal required.
  • Outside Magazine 1 year, 12 issues for $4.73 ($0.39/issue). MPS best prices was $16 ($1.33 per issue).

Ting Review: Bring Your Existing Phone, Referral Discount, Now Cheaper Data

tinglogTing provides mobile phone service with a “pay-only-for-what-you-use” and “bring your own phone” structure. I recently switched my parents over to Ting from Republic Wireless so that they could use our older iPhones (easier for them, easier for us to do tech support). Ting recently updated their pricing structure to include cheaper data, so I am updating my review.

Who can save money? Ting works best for overall moderate usage, especially spread across multiple users. Why pay for unlimited minutes and texts when you don’t need them? Why pay for 5 GB every month if you often use less? Sample rates:

  • $12.00 per line ($26 total) per month for 2 lines sharing 500 minutes, 100 texts, and no data. (This is the typical bill amount with my parents.)
  • $27.50 per line ($55 total) per month for 2 lines sharing 1,000 minutes, 1,000 texts, and 2 GB data.
  • $9.50 per line ($38 total) per month for 4 lines sharing 500 minutes, 1,000 texts, and no data.
  • $16.75 per line ($67 total) per month for 4 lines sharing 1,000 minutes, 1,000 texts, and 2 GB data.

Put your own numbers into the Ting interactive rate calculator to see if you can save money. Each line is a flat $6 and all lines share a bucket of either minutes, text, and data.

Here’s a screenshot of their NEW rate breakdown:

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Here’s a screenshot of their OLD rate breakdown. You can see that their data used to be much more expensive, working out to $19 for the first GB, $29 for 2GB, and then $15 per extra GB of data (billed pretty much down to the penny). As of 8/5/2016, the numbers are $16 for the first GB, $20 for 2 GB, and now $10 per extra GB of data (billed in $10 increments). The price drop applies to everyone and pretty much no matter what, the new data plan is cheaper than the old data plan.

Ting realized that they were being known as “good if you don’t use a lot of data”.

Ting uses both Sprint CDMA and T-Mobile GSM networks, so you can bring over any used Sprint phone, used T-Mobile phone, or any unlocked GSM phone. Use their Ting phone compatibility checker tool. If you bring your own GSM phone, you’ll need a SIM card. Prices change with time and promotions, but they currently cost $9 + free shipping via USPS Priority Mail.

Bring Your Own Phone. You can buy a refurbished iPhone 5 directly from Ting for about $200, but you can also buy a used iPhone 5 for about $109 from Swappa. A used Samsung Galaxy S4 from Ting costs about $180, but they are about $100 on Swappa.

Being able to bring over the same phone you’ve already been using is the best way to save money. We had an old Verizon iPhone 5, which is also GSM unlocked. We just bought a SIM card, popped it in, and starting using the service immediately.

Refer-a-friend discount. New Ting customers get a $25 credit with a referral link (that’s mine). Thanks in advance if you use it, you’ll be saving my parents some money on their next bill.

Bottom line. Ting’s strengths are transparent, metered monthly plans and a flexible bring-your-own-phone policy. They recently dropped their data prices. “Pay for what you use” means that you don’t need to pay for 3 GB tier every month if most months you only use 1 or 2 GB. The math works out best for shared plans. You can bring over any used Sprint, used T-Mobile, or unlocked GSM phone. Not everyone will save money, so use their rate calculator to compare your own situation.

Republic Wireless Review: New $20/Month Plan, Phone Options, SIM Cards

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Republic Wireless provides mobile phone service, specializing in making phone calls seamlessly over WiFi. They are not afraid to make big changes and take risks in trying to be more competitive in their offerings. While their 2.0 Refund plans received a mixed response (we switched out during this transition), they recently announced their new 3.0 Clear Choice plans with the T-Mobile network and a wider selection of phone options. Here’s a look at the changes.

Who can save money? Republic Wireless still works best for heavy talk and text users with frequent WiFi coverage. Data usage can be anywhere from none to relatively heavy (10 GB). The plans are priced per person, so they work well for individuals that can’t take advantage of family or shared plans. Here are all of their newest Clear Choice plan options:

rw3_plans3

In their opinion and mine, the sweet spot of their plan is the $20/month offering, which includes unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 1 GB of 4G LTE data. For $15 a month, you can get unlimited talk and text with zero data.

Phone options. One of the weak spots of Republic Wireless was that they need to use special software to run their WiFi voice calls, so they restricted you to specially-modified phones. You had to either buy a new phone from them, or try to find another RW-modified phone on the secondary market.

With their 3.0 structure, they have introduced a large list of GSM phone options. Here’s their initial launch list, and they hint at more phones to come. I’ve highlighted the most expensive and cheapest options.

  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge – $799
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 – $699
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 – $179
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 – $549
  • Nexus 6P by Huawei – $499 (on sale from $599)
  • Nexus 5X by LG – $349
  • Moto X Pure Edition – $349
  • Moto G4 – $199
  • Moto G4 Plus – $299

In addition, starting 8/11/16, you will be able use a SIM card with your own unlocked GSM phone if the model number specifically matches their restricted list. There are still no Apple phones on the list (hopefully this changes one day).

Bottom line. Republic Wireless is making some big changes, so it’s worth taking another look at them. The cell network is now T-Mobile for new customers, not Sprint. The $20 a month plan for unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB of LTE data is very competitive. There are 9 new Android GSM phones available starting at $199, a new SIM card option, but still no Apple phones.

Best Buy: 10% Off All Prepaid Phone Cards

bbprepaidBest Buy has a sale offering 10% off prepaid phone cards. The “top-up” options include Verizon Prepaid, T-Mobile Prepaid, AT&T GoPhone, Cricket, Net 10, Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, TracPhone, Simple Mobile, Locus, and H20.

Cricket Wireless (uses AT&T network) offers a $40 a month plan ($35 net after $5 AutoPay credit) with unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 2.5 GB of LTE data. The data speeds are throttled to 8 Mbps for LTE and 4 Mbps for 4G HSPA+, which is still pretty fast to me but is a way that they save money. With this promo, you can buy a $40 topup card for $36, theoretically taking your net outlay down to $31 a month.

If you want to buy a lot of cards, you can stack this with the previously-available AmEx Offer for $25 off $250 at Best Buy. California residents should note that Best Buy will charge the MTS surcharge (basically sales tax) on prepaid card purchases.

Pay Your Rent with Credit Card With No Fees With RadPad and Android Pay

radpad0With a new promotion by RadPad and Android Pay, you can pay your rent with a credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) and earn points/miles/cash rewards through the end of 2016. Your landlord will simply receive a check on your behalf from RadPad.

Android Pay requires an NFC-enabled Android device running KitKat 4.4+ and the Android Pay app. A partial list includes LG G4, LG G5, HTC One M9, HTC 10, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7, and Moto X. Here is a 3rd-party list of NFC-enabled phones.

You must log into Pay with Radpad from an Android device or use the RadPad app, and then pay using Android Pay.

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If you have a compatible phone, this promo seems like an easy way to rack up some extra frequent flier miles or satisfy a bonus requirement. You can schedule payments ahead of time if you wish. The standard fee is otherwise 3.49% for credit cards and free for debit cards. (You can now search for an apartment, sign your lease using Docusign, and pay rent using your debit card for free, all through Radpad.)

Free Two-Month Pandora One Subscription

pandoraoneGroupon is offering a free two-month subscription of Pandora One personalized streaming radio service, which usually costs $4.99 per month. This upgrade from the free version offers no ads, fewer station pauses, and more skips.

This is essentially a free 2-month trial, as you the plan will automatically renew to $4.99 a month unless canceled. Still, easy to grab and no ads for two months is nice. Set a calendar reminder to cancel. Not valid for current customers. While supplies last, over 25,000 taken already. Thanks to reader Jared for the heads up.

Google Photos: Unlimited Free Photo and Video Backup + Free Up Phone Storage

Updated August 2016. I have been using Google Photos as a free online backup for an Apple iPhone for a year, and it has worked very well and saved me money on iCloud. The app has a new-ish feature called “Free Up Space” that automatically identifies which pictures it has already backed up online for you, and will delete them off your Android or iOS device in order to save space. (I’m a bit paranoid about my photos, so I do a physical backup to hard drive as well.)

You may see this commercial during the Olympics (directed at 16GB iPhone users):

Original post:

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Google may already see all your search queries, have access to all your e-mails with Gmail, and now it wants to store all your photos. Why would you let them? How about unlimited space. Free. From the Google Blog:

Google Photos gives you a single, private place to keep a lifetime of memories, and access them from any device. They’re automatically backed up and synced, so you can have peace of mind that your photos are safe, available across all your devices.

Google Photos will store unlimited images for free, with a few conditions. You can choose from one of two options:

  • High quality – Unlimited free storage. Recommended for phones or point-and-shoot cameras that are 16 megapixels (MP) or less. Good for typical printing and sharing. Will be compressed using their special algorithm. Anything under 16 megapixels will have minimal degradation of quality, supposedly it is optimized so that visually you can’t tell the difference. Anything bigger than 16 megapixels will be downsized to 16 megapixels, which can be significant for DSLR users.
  • Original quality – Limited free storage: Uses your Google Account’s 15 GB of free storage. Recommended if you take photos with a DSLR camera and want to maintain the exact original quality. Recommended for printing large banners or to store your original files. Store your photos and videos exactly as you captured them.

Google Photos will store unlimited video for free at 1080p quality. This is pretty big for me, as my videos take up the most space and right now I don’t pay to back them up in the cloud – only on external hard drives. If you upload something 4K, it will downsize to 1080p.

As you might expect with Google, they have also tried their best to make searching through your huge image library as easy as possible:

VISUAL SEARCH: Your photos are now searchable by the places and things that appear in your photos. Looking for that fish taco you ate in Hawaii? Just search “Hawaii” or “food” to find it even if it doesn’t have a description.

There is even facial recognition that groups photos with the same face. The app automatically creates collages of similar photos, albums of photos taken at the same time and place, and even animations.

Amazon Prime members can get free unlimited photo storage, but only 5 GB of free video storage.

Here are the links for the Web interface, Android app, and Apple iOS app.

By $10 Starbucks Gift Card, Get $15 Value with Visa Checkout

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Starbucks is selling $5 boost on a gift card purchase of $10 or over if you buy them using Visa Checkout instead of credit card directly. If you can still buy a gift card at the link, the promotion is should still be alive. Otherwise ends 8/18/16. See terms:

Buy a $10+ Starbucks eGift Card using Visa Checkout and get an extra $5, courtesy of Visa Checkout. Your bonus won’t be reflected during checkout, but you’ll see it in your email receipt. Limit one per person, between 8/4 – 8/18, while supplies last.

The bonus will NOT be reflected in your checkout experience but will be confirmed in your email receipt. Limit one per person. See Terms and Conditions.

Free Airport Lounge Pass with LoungeBuddy and Visa

loungepass0Update: LoungeBuddy ended the offer really early. Sorry!

LoungeBuddy is a smartphone app that helps you navigate airport lounges around the world. Their new promotion offers a free airport lounge pass (up to $40 value) when you book with LoungeBuddy and pay with your Visa card. Valid until 10/31/2016 or until supplies last. One per customer.

Be sure to book online through LoungeBuddy.com/visa and not through their app. You will be limited to select airport lounge partners. For example, I only see one lounge for Los Angeles International (LAX):

loungepass

Here are the full terms and conditions.

I keep the LoungeBuddy app on my smartphone, and have found it very handy if you participate any sort of lounge access program and want to optimize your usage.

Google Play Promo: 75% off any Movie Rental

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Here’s another small but easy promotion. Get 75% off any movie rental on Google Play with code PAYPALCAUS. If you click on the link, it should already be applied. So a $4 rental will only cost you a $1. Redeem by 8/31/16 and rent by 10/31/16. Hey, it’s easier than dealing with Redbox.

Enjoy a discounted movie rental, compliments of Google Play and PayPal. Choose from thousands of titles in the Google Play Movies Catalog. Redeem your offer by August 31, 2016 and complete your movie rental purchase by October 31, 2016.

SPG 20% Transfer Bonus: 20,000 Starwood Points = 30,000 American Airlines Miles

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American Airlines (AA) has a new promotion on transferred Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Starpoints, where they will add a 20% bonus on any transferred AA miles from 8/1 to 9/14/16.

Starpoints are already quite flexible and transferrable to multiple airlines on a 1:1 basis (which is why everyone likes their credit card). Even better, when you convert a minimum of 20,000 Starpoints to miles, you get a 5,000 mile bonus. (If you only convert 19,999 Starpoints, then no bonus.)

Therefore, combining the two gets you this:

  • You ask to convert 20,000 Starpoints to 20,000 American Airlines miles.
  • Starwood will add 5,000 miles, and the miles will arrive in your account in 3-4 days.
  • American Airlines will add another 20% (5,000 miles) in 7 business days.
  • 20,000 Starpoints is now 30,000 American Airlines miles.

From the terms and conditions:

To earn the 20% conversion bonus, member must convert points from the Starwood Preferred Guest program. This offer is non-transferable and non-reversible.

Bonus miles will be posted by American Airlines to the qualifying AAdvantage® member’s account within 7 business days after the initial conversion activity has been posted by Starwood Preferred Guest. Bonus miles earned in this promotion do not count toward elite status qualification.

American Airlines also recently updated their award redemption rules so that they are less valuable in many instances, so be sure to check first before transferring. Also, note that you are allowed to place a free 5-day hold on award redemptions. Therefore you can hold an award first and then transfer over Starpoints, although the 20% American bonus portion may not arrive in time.