Category Archives: Chase

I Cancelled My Chase Southwest Card, and Chase Couldn’t Care Less

A few weeks ago I decided to cancel my Chase Southwest credit card. I got it almost a year ago because it had a 50K points bonus that was granted on the first purchase, which is almost unheard of these days, and even though I don’t fly Southwest very often I knew the points would come in handy at some point. FYI, the current offer is 50K points after $2K spend.

No, I'm not Gary Kelly. I don't know who that is.

No, I’m not Gary Kelly. I don’t know who that is.

Today I have about 40K of those points still in my account. While I admit the one Southwest flight I took was one of the more enjoyable economy class flights I’ve taken in a while, I also knew that Southwest flights aren’t in my future. Besides, Chase cards are valuable and there are plenty that I don’t have yet, so it might be a positive to lighten the Chase side of my wallet. I decided to call and cancel my card, and was curious what they’d offer.

In case you’re not familiar with cancelling cards that have yearly fees, you should know that credit card companies usually try to keep you on as a customer by offering something. Sometimes it’s waiving the annual fee, granting you extra points (that may have a value greater than the annual fee), or some other type of incentive to keep you from cancelling the card. I really had no plans to keep the card but I was still willing to hear an offer, in case it was worth my time.

The benefits of the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa. Not that great, but a pretty good bonus.

The benefits of the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa. Not that great, but a pretty good bonus.

I called in and said “I’d like to cancel my card.” The person, who was a real American and answered almost immediately (which I love about Chase), said “I’m sorry to hear that. May I ask why?” I simply said that I didn’t think I was using it enough to justify the annual fee. She responded “OK, I’ll go ahead and close your account.”

Okay, wait a second. Where was my retention offer? No points, no waived fee, no nothing. That part of the conversation literally happened in 45 seconds of talking. I was a little shocked, but I wasn’t upset since I really did want to cancel the card anyway.

Anyone who’s been reading about points and credit cards knows that a retention offer is very common. There’s an entire FlyerTalk thread on it. Points, Miles, and Martinis recently wrote that their very same Southwest card was being upgraded without them even calling in. Just Googling “Chase retention bonus” comes up with dozens of results from the various points blogs about the different offers available, yet I got nothing.

I found this interesting, but then I read InACents’ post regarding a similar experience (plus a lot more interesting information on referral links). Two cases in which nothing was offered to retain customers of a certain product, both from Chase. It’s hardly enough to say that Chase is cutting back on retention offers, but I did find it interesting.

But all was not lost. My credit limit on the Southwest card was only $3K. I knew losing this amount of available credit wouldn’t impact my credit score very much if at all so I wasn’t worried, but I didn’t want to lose that credit either. Thankfully the Chase representative asked me if I’d like to transfer my $3K credit line over to my Sapphire Preferred card. I said “well, I don’t really need that high of a credit limit on that card.” She responded that I might as well do it because there’s no credit impact, and if I were to ever request a credit limit increase later there would be. That’s a no-brainer, so I agreed to the transfer.

It’s worth noting that at least in my case, I did not put very much spend on this card. I wasn’t really a profitable customer as far as Chase is concerned. I basically took the points and ran, and Chase likely recognized that, so perhaps this was a huge consideration in me not being offered anything. Either way it worked out great for me because I got 50K Southwest points, worth over $800 in Wanna Get Away fares, plus I got to move my credit over to my Sapphire Preferred card, all for no annual fee.

Try not to expect a retention offer/bonus if you plan on cancelling a card soon. I find that it’s always better to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed, so prepare accordingly before making that call!

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When is the Freedom Card Better than the Sapphire Preferred?

Note that Mile Collector has written a post about this topic and has a very detailed database that you might find very useful.

Many points bloggers have noted the earning potential of the Chase Freedom card when used in conjunction with the Chase Exclusives program. For those that are unaware, if you have the Freedom card and also have a checking account with Chase, you can register (by calling – can’t be done online) for the Chase Exclusives program that provides some extra benefits.

One of these benefits is extra points on each purchase. Non-bonus category spend earns one point per dollar, and bonus category spend earns 5 points per dollar. The Exclusives program adds another 10 points per purchase AND an extra 10% on that purchase. For example, a $1 purchase would earn one point for the purchase itself, plus 10 points, plus another one point for the 10% bonus (it gets rounded up). That’s a whopping 12 points per dollar!

Math shows that this benefit diminishes as your purchase price increases. For example, a $5 purchase would earn 5 points for the purchase itself, plus 10 points, plus another one point for the 10% bonus (rounded up). This means you earned 16 points for your $5 purchase, or 3.2 points per dollar. Clearly that’s a huge decrease from the 12 points per dollar example above, but still better than most other cards.

So when you’re making a small food purchase, for example, how do you know which card is the one you’re earning the most points with?

Points per Dollar breakdown

As you can see from the chart above, the points earned from the Freedom card diminishes very quickly as you get to the $10 mark, where you’re “only” earning 2.1 points per dollar spent on non-bonus category purchases.

If you’re at a cheap restaurant (fast food, etc.) then you’re better off using the Chase Freedom card instead of the Sapphire Preferred card for purchases up to $9. Any restaurant purchases over $9 should go on your Sapphire Preferred card.

I also added the Bluebird card for a reference. As I’ve mentioned before, the Bluebird card isn’t for everyone and not everyone has a Chase Ink Bold card to earn 5x everywhere, but if you do you can see you’re almost always better off using Bluebird vs the Freedom. It’s only worth it to use the Freedom card over Bluebird for ultra-small purchases under $3.

Of course if you’re making a purchase in one of the Freedom quarterly bonus categories, it is ALWAYS better to make the purchase on the Freedom vs the other options (up to your $1,500 maximum). The only reasons to consider using different cards in this case is if you’re trying to meet a minimum spend requirement or if you don’t value Ultimate Rewards points highly (hint: you SHOULD value them highly).

What about large purchases?

Points per Dollar for Large Purchases

While the Freedom card’s 10% bonus may sound like an impressive amount, all it really does is add .1 points per dollar to your purchase. Still, if you’re deciding between using the Sapphire Preferred or the Freedom card for large purchases in a non-bonus category (i.e. not restaurants, travel, or Freedom’s quarterly bonus categories), it’s marginally better to use the Freedom card. As you can see above the Freedom will earn you 1.1 points per dollar and the Sapphire Preferred will earn you 1.07 with the dividend. Again, this difference very marginal and not likely to add up to much of a difference unless you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, but more is more.

Note that for simplicity I compared only Chase cards and assumed that the Freedom card user also has a card with Ultimate Rewards (like the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Bold).

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Bucket List Activity – Fly a Helicopter (through Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall)

This is a guest post written by frequent contributor B.Positive.

“Learn to Fly a Helicopter” Experience from Cloud9Living.com (via Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall)

Happy October!

If you’re a Chase customer and are looking for ideas for adrenaline filled activities, the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall (accessed through my Chase Freedom card) has an Experiences section which you can browse through. I found the “Learn to Fly a Helicopter” in the aviation section of the rewards mall and decided to give it a go. Here’s how it went:

Background

I was bored at work and felt like my life was stuck in a rut so I decided to look for things to fill the big void in my life. Being a Chase Freedom credit card holder since early 2010 and have been accruing points – enough points to cause me to wander onto the Ultimate Rewards Mall to see what goods, services, and/or experiences I could consume to help me feel less miserable about my life. That’s when I stumbled across the “Experiences” section of the Ultimate Rewards website and found plenty of awesome activities to purchase using points, cash, or to bid on (for those experiences that are being auctioned off).

I’ve never flown a helicopter before and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. An hour of flying a helicopter for 25,900 points or $259?  Considering how expensive maintaining, insuring, and renting a pilot to fly a helicopter with you, I considered this to be a fair price and took the bait. (Update – the 1 hour flight price has been increased to $305 on Cloud 9 living’s webite as of 10/18/2012).

An important note on purchasing Ultimate Rewards: The rewards mall doesn’t give you any kind of points leverage when purchasing goods or experience straight through the rewards mall. The points redemption rate of this experience was $0.01/point. You might as well save your points to transfer to airline miles for cheaper flights (refer to marZ’s articles on the value of leveraging points to purchase flights for cheap).

Once I signed up for the flight lesson via the ultimate rewards mall for a lesson at the Long Beach Airport (this location no longer seems available as of 10/18/2012), I received a confirmation email and a nice receipt enclosed in its own case from Cloud 9 Living. (I didn’t actually know what company I was paying for the experience until after the experience was booked – a good move on Chase’s part to avoid having consumers go straight to the retailer). The experience with Cloud 9 was pleasant overall and I’d recommend going straight to Cloud 9 Living to look for and book experiences unless you’re adamant about spending points at a terrible redemption rate. (To improve your redemption rate, try gift card churning or buying gift cards at 5 points per dollar on the Chase Ink card before buying this experience).

Getting to the Airport and Orientation

I arrived at the airport on the day of my lesson and actually had a very difficult time finding the person I was supposed to contact for my flight. At the airport, there was a giant hangar with no sign out front to tell me where to go. This experience really isn’t advertised (I later find out that these “experiences” are done as a promotional offer at cost to the flight company to help promote awareness of the company and to encourage customers who get serious about learning to fly to sign up for private lessons there).

After running around and panicking I finally find my instructor and get our 30 minute class portion started.

The instructional portion revolves around introducing me to the basic mechanics of how and why a helicopter is able to fly and to provide me with the layout of the controls and how they affect the helicopter’s ride. Bottom line is, a helicopter is an inherently unstable aircraft (let go of the controls and you will crash and burn) and requires constant attention to ensure that the helicopter is on course and not getting itself into a dangerous situation.

After a (very) brief introduction to the instruments and controls, we head out to the runway to meet our ride (a 2-seater Robinson 22). The cabin was very cozy – imagine sitting in a cramped Mazda Miata (if you have never been in one, imagine sitting in the middle seat between two sumo wrestlers). The instructor filled the fuel tank, did the systems check, and took off from the airport before handing the controls over.

Flying a helicopter. For Reals.

After flying  a safe distance from the airport, the instructor handed me the controls. This being the first time flying a helicopter, it’s safe to say I experienced a massive sensory and information overload. It feels like driving a car for the first time – you’re so worried about the road, your speed, and other cars that you forget that your blinkers are on, your emergency lights were accidentally pushed, and you’re worried that your sweat soaked palms are going to slip off of the steering wheel and cause you to veer  into a pole. It’s kind of like that except that you are 1000 feet in the air and have to also worry about wind speed, yaw (helicopter angle), elevation changes, and many more things that affect the aircraft’s behavior in the air.

Thankfully, with the help of the experienced instructor who seems to keep his cool no matter how terribly I’m directing the flying Miata.

View of PCH around Palos Verdes

The hour long helicopter ride afforded us the opportunity to head out of Long Beach with a sweeping loop around Redondo, Palos Verdes, and then back to the airport. The views were even more incredible provided the fact that I was seeing the California coast from a very unique perspective.

Back at the airport, I witnessed (tried not to pee my pants while seeing) an emergency landing maneuver that felt more like the drop of a roller coaster and was able to practice hovering a few feet off of the ground. Hovering may look easy, but I can assure you it is not. Again, because of the sensory overload, I struggled to get the Robinson from burying its rotors into the ground or keeping the helicopter level, straight, or even at the same height. (This is why helicopter training is so important. And expensive ~$19,000 to get licensed).

Final Thoughts

Overall, this was an amazing experienced referred to by Chase and provided by Cloud 9 Living. I’m incredibly glad I got this off of my bucket list and has only strengthened my desire to become  a pilot. The freedom, exhilaration  and the experience of flying is like no other. I found this experience to be totally worth the price (don’t pay in points) and would recommend this to ALL of our readers interested in flying.

Until next time,

B.Positive

P.S. The GoPro Hero3 is out. Not only has their cameras gotten better but so has their commercials. I want to go do everything they’re doing in this video!

The Little Things Matter

I just want to take a moment to say that sometimes a small gesture may end up having a big impact. I received this letter in the mail this week from Chase:

Letter from Chase

I obviously know the benefits of having the Sapphire Preferred card, and yes there is some marketing in here as well, but two things are important to me:

  1. A “thank you” goes a long way.
  2. The note at the bottom that reminds me that when I call Chase, I always speak to someone that speaks perfect English and can get things done quickly, as I experienced recently.

Yes it’s simple, but it’s also very much appreciated. It’s a nice breather from the junk offers we normally get from credit card companies!

How I Chose Credit Cards for My Churn

In my last post I walked you through my first credit card churn and included some details about what my credit score was, what cards I was deciding on, the ones I actually chose to apply for, and all the approval decisions. Today I’ll walk you through my thought process regarding why I decided to apply for the cards that I did.

I think it’s important to give you a little background on my current credit card list and what airline and hotel loyalty programs I have elite status with.

Pre-churn cards (oldest to newest):

  • Bank of America World Points Visa
  • Amex Premier Rewards Gold
  • Amex Business Gold
  • Chase Southwest Visa
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Chase Freedom
  • Amex Business Platinum

Loyalty Elite Status

  • US Airways Gold
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Silver
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum
  • Hilton Honors Gold
  • Priority Club Gold

As you can see, I have elite status with two Star Alliance members and at least mid-tier status with three hotel programs. I’m also pretty well spread out among Amex and Chase credit cards.

Now, here’s the list of which cards I was considering for my churn:

  • Citi AAdvantage Visa and Citi AAdvantage American Express cards using the two browser trick (50K points each after $3K each in 4 months; 100K total)
  • Chase Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards (50K points after $10K in 3 months)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Personal (limited time 30K after $5K in 6 months)
  • Chase United MileagePlus Explorer (50K after $1K in 3 months)
  • Barclay’s US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard (40K after first purchase, 10K every anniversary)
  • Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card (2 free weekend nights anywhere and automatic Gold status after $2.5K in 3 months)

Here’s my detailed thought process in the exact order that I thought about it:

  1. I know I’m getting the Ink Bold card for sure. It’s a powerful card that can provide 5 points per dollar on nearly every purchase (more on this in a future post).
  2. Unfortunately, the spend requirement for the Ink Bold is $10K in 3 months, so my remaining cards have to make it relatively easy to hit the spend requirements.
  3. I immediately eliminated the Citi American Airlines cards. Adding another $6K in 4 months didn’t sound feasible for me, plus I’ve seen those bonuses as high as 75K each in the past. I’ll pass on these.
  4. I’m already an SPG Platinum member, and I could definitely make use of the benefits. The $5K spend is high, but I have 6 months to do it, which definitely seems reasonable. I’m picking this card up for sure now.
  5. So far, I’ve picked one Chase and one Amex card. Maybe I should diversify.
  6. The Barclays US Airways card seems perfect at the moment. It’s a different bank, gives the bonus on the first purchase, and is the card for the airline I have elite status with. This is going to be my third card.
  7. I may not apply for a fourth card if the first three approvals don’t go as planned, but in case they do, I want to be ready. My last two options are the Chase United card or the Citi Hilton Card.
  8. The Chase United card has a lower spend requirement, which is very attractive. But I also have a lot of Chase cards already. The Citi Hilton card has a great perk in that it gives Gold status automatically, but I already have that. The two weekend nights would be great, but they’re a little inflexible since they have to be on the weekend.
  9. I’ll go with the Chase United card to continue to stockpile Star Alliance points, and hopefully Chase won’t mind one personal and one business card in the same day.

Now that I’ve picked the cards, it’s time to start applying right? Well, not for me…not just yet. I wanted to pick the order in which I was going to apply. Am I over-thinking this? Maybe…but I wanted to plan for a scenario in which I would end up getting denied a card and unable to get all  four. Here’s what I was thinking, and my thought process is definitely debatable:

  1. Chase business cards almost always get a “pending” decision. For this reason I’ll leave the Ink Bold for last, even though it’s the one I want the most.
  2. I have a good relationship with Chase already, so I’ll go for the Chase United card first.
  3. The card I wanted most after the Ink Bold is the SPG Amex card, and I have a good history with Amex. I’ll make this my second card.
  4. The Barclays US Airways card is kind of my wildcard…not sure how this one will work out. It will be my last personal card application today.
  5. I’ll apply for the Ink Bold last, regardless of what happens earlier.

Note that if I got denied on any of the first 3, it would have completely thrown off this plan. If I got denied on either one of the first two cards I definitely would not go for the US Airways card.

Thankfully I was approved for all four cards, and three have already arrived. I’m now in the process of carefully laying out my plan for meeting the rather heavy spend requirements of $11K in the first 3 months (Ink Bold and Chase United) and $5K in the three months after that (SPG Amex). I can always buy a pack of gum with the US Airways card since the bonus is given on the first purchase.

I’ll be sure to explain my plan for meeting the minimum spend requirements since that is always one of the main questions beginners have. Spending $10K in 3 months for a signup bonus sounds extremely daunting if you’re not a big spender, but believe me…I’m anything but a big spender (ask my friends).

In my next post I’ll be sure to explain the reconsideration hotline numbers that I’ve mentioned in my earlier posts, and how my experience went with the Chase Ink Bold reconsideration call.

 

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My First Real Credit Card “Churn”

For those that are new to the points game, a  “credit card churn” used to mean signing up for the same card over and over again, but the accepted definition now is this: the process of applying for multiple credit cards in the same day in order to minimize the impact on your total credit score and maximize the points you earn from sign-up bonuses.

I’ve mentioned in several of my previous posts that smart use of your credit can allow you to travel to world in style…with minimal cash outlay. A credit card churn is the one thing that can allow you to to get most or all the points you need for an amazing trip, all at once.

But first, a couple of quick explanations before I detail my cards and experience applying.

The reason a credit card churn minimizes the affect on your credit score is simply that the banks, those companies you’re trying to get your credit card from, report credit scores only ONCE per day. Meaning that if I apply for a credit card at 10am and another at 2pm, the credit check from 2pm will not know that I applied for credit at 10amIn essence, both credit checks should yield the same exact credit report and scores.

For this reason, there have been many, many, many people that apply for anywhere between 2 and 6 cards in a single day…and get approved for all of them. The prerequisite, of course, is having an outstanding credit score (as determined by those who check your credit) and responsible use of your current credit cards.

Personally, I just finished refinancing my mortgage before my churn, which brings up an important point. If you expect to buy a home and take out a mortgage or plan to refinance, it is recommended that you limit credit card signups in the 6 months leading up to the start of the mortgage process. And I can attest to the reason for this.

Luckily, my credit score was 740+, and 740 was the minimum needed to get the best rates from my lender (my 3 scores were 742, 744, 761 for what it’s worth). During the underwriting process, as the lender was asking me for all kinds of financial information like my taxes and paychecks and other items, I was also asked about a credit card that I’d opened and a credit line increase I requested in the last 6 months. They wanted a signed and dated letter from me explaining why I applied for each. It was pretty simple, but I can see how having 3+ new credit cards leading up to a new mortgage might cause some issues.

My loan funded on Friday 8/31, and I was eager to apply for new credit cards now that that process was over because I had been waiting for a long while to get that over with. My plan was to set aside some time on Labor Day to make it happen.

Here are the cards I was considering (in no particular order) based on the best offers currently available:

  • Citi AAdvantage Visa and Citi AAdvantage American Express Cards using the two browser trick (50K points each after $3K each in 4 months; 100K total)
  • Chase Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards (50K points after $10K in 3 months)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Personal (limited time 30K after $5K in 6 months)
  • Chase United MileagePlus Explorer (50K after $1K in 3 months)
  • Barclay’s US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard (40K after first purchase, 10K every anniversary)
  • Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card (2 free weekend nights anywhere and automatic Hilton Gold status after $2.5K in 3 months)

This was my thought process:

  • I know I want 3+ cards
  • I know I want the SPG Amex card for sure since I currently have elite status with them
  • I can probably only apply for one personal Chase card and maybe a business card as well (see Chase section here for further explanation)
  • My best bet would be to spread out among several banks
  • I value United Airlines miles and Star Alliance in general
  • I NEED to be able to hit the spending requirements, otherwise it will all be for naught

With that in mind, I decided on my cards, the order, and my general plan of attack. I would first apply for the Chase MileagePlus Explorer card, move on to the SPG Amex card, and assuming everything is going well, try for the Barclays US Airways card. And if all three of the above yielded approvals, I’d go for the gold with the Chase Ink Bold business card (which I knew wouldn’t give me instant approval based on almost everyone’s documented experience).

Here’s how it actually went down:

  1. Chase United MileagePlus Explorer – APPROVED with a $6K limit
  2. SPG Amex – APPROVED ($14.4K limit)
  3. Barclay’s US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard – APPROVED with a $3K limit
  4. Chase Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards – PENDING

Success! Well, almost. I knew I’d get the dreaded “Pending” from the Chase Ink Bold because Chase likes to be very thorough with their business applications. I knew I’d have to call the reconsideration line, and after a few questions, I was APPROVED with a $5K limit!

Now, I covered A LOT in this post and I already feel like it’s too long, which probably means I should have split this up into multiple sections. I’ll be sure to make two follow up posts to cover the following:

  • Why I picked the cards that I picked (i.e. my detailed thought process)
  • The Chase reconsideration line (this is kinda important), and why I wanted the Ink Bold card so badly

With the bonuses I’ll earn, I will be able to travel nearly anywhere in the world in business class or better and stay there several nights…essentially for free!