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The Chase Ink Plus, one of the best business cards on the market, has long offered new applicants no annual fee for the first 12 months, then a $95 annual fee.

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Today I noticed two other offers on the Ink Plus being split tested by Chase (and there may be more.) By repeatedly going to the Ink Plus’ page in a Chrome Incognito browser, I got three different offers.

They were:

  • $0 annual fee for first twelve months, then $95 (current standard offer)
  • $95 annual fee (ie not waived for first 12 months)
  • $0 annual fee for first twelve months, then $150 (ie a bigger annual fee)

As far as I could tell, only the annual fee varied. Every other aspect of the offer was the same.

Here’s the non-waived annual fee offer.

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Here’s the $150 annual fee (waived year one) offer.

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Clicking the Pricing & Terms link brought up this page, which confirmed the annual fee of $150.

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You can access that page by clicking this link.

Companies split test offers all the time. If Chase finds that people sign up for the worse offers at the same rate as the better offer, they’ll surely switch to a worse offer as a profit-maximizing company. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

In the meantime, if you go through an affiliate link to get the Ink Plus, you will get the best offer of $0 annual fee for 12 months, then $95. Affiliate links are not being split-tested to my knowledge.

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The Chase Freedom is offering 20,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $500 in the first three months. This is double the normal sign up bonus.

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It is also offering up to 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for existing cardholders who refer their friends to the Freedom.

I have the Freedom. The sign up bonus is puny, but the card has no annual fee, and has 5x bonus categories that rotate every quarter. I got it to hold forever and to maximize the 5x category each quarter to the tune of 30,000 Ultimate Rewards per year.

  • How can you maximize category bonuses with the Freedom?
  • What card do you also have to have to maximize the value of a Freedom?
  • How can you sign up for the 20k offer while getting another 5k bonus points for someone else?
  • How can you get your referral link into this post?

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Chase Freedom is offering 5% cash back at amazon.com, zappos.com, and dozens of department stores from October 1 – December 31, 2014. You must activate those category bonuses, and you can do so now.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 11.19.01 PM(It’s too late to activate the 5x at gas stations and Kohl’s that runs through September 30. If you haven’t hit $1,500 in spending yet, hurry.)

The Freedom markets itself as a cash back card, but it actually earns Ultimate Rewards that do NOT transfer to airline or hotel partners like United and Hyatt.

You can, however, transfer the Freedom’s Ultimate Rewards to your Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold account or your spouse’s. From there, you can transfer the Ultimate Rewards to a dozen incredible airline and hotel partners like United and Hyatt.

That means that if you play this right, you can earn 5x United miles per dollar at amazon.com, zappos.com, and select department stores for the fourth quarter of the year.

  • How can you register for the Freedom 5x categories?
  • How can you indirectly transfer the Freedom’s Ultimate Rewards to airline miles and hotel points?
  • Why is transferring the points more valuable than cash back?
  • Who are the Ultimate Rewards partners?
  • What department stores will earn 5x? Which are excluded?

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Whether you’re looking for free luxury hotel stays, first class flights, flights home to see family, or big rewards on gas or groceries, there are some fantastic credit card bonuses out there.

I’m writing this post from Raleigh, North Carolina near the end of a six-week world tour that would have been completely impossible without miles and points earned from credit cards.

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My trip is taking advantage of American Airlines miles, Starpoints, Ultimate Rewards, Lufthansa miles, and Arrival miles, all of which I got from credit cards.

How can you earn rewards for the trip of your dreams? What are the best credit card offers for March 2014?

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Activate your Chase Freedom 5% cash back categories for 2014 to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations, movie theaters, and Starbucks until March 31.

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Each quarter, you can earn 5x Ultimate Rewards per dollar on your first $1,500 in the bonus categories as long you register your Freedom card. Max out the $1,500 each quarter, and you’ll earn 30,000 Ultimate Rewards.

That’s on top of the current sign up bonus of 10,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $500 in three months on the card.

All these Ultimate Rewards on the Freedom can be redeemed for 1 cent cash back, so 50,000 Ultimate Rewards would be $500. Or the Freedom’s Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed at a much, much better rate.


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There is currently an offer for 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $3k in three months on a new Chase Sapphire Preferred. Plus you can get 5k more points by adding an authorized user.

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This is one of the absolute best personal card offers on the market, so I would recommend folks jump on this offer before it disappears, which may be very soon, if they’re in the market for a new rewards card.

Where can you apply? What else is different about the offer?

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The Chase Hyatt Credit Card no longer has an annual fee the first year, a $75 savings.

The Hyatt card has my 11th favorite sign up bonus from Chase, but it’s a solid card to hold forever, and one that I have. The big draw is the sign up bonus of two free nights at almost any Hyatt worldwide after spending $1,000 in the first three months. In fact, I just booked my two free nights today.

What 10 Chase cards have better sign up bonuses? What are the other perks and drawbacks of the card? Where did I use my free nights?

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Register now for the Chase Freedom’s fourth quarter category bonuses. From now through December 31, 2013, you’ll earn 5x Ultimate Rewards per dollar on purchases at amazon.com and these department stores.

Every quarter, the Freedom has a new category or categories in which you can get 5x Ultimate Rewards up to $1,500 spent. Maximize the category throughout the year for 30,000 Ultimate Rewards.

The Ultimate Rewards earned on a Freedom are not transferable to airlines or hotels. That’s why to get maximum value from a Freedom, you need to have a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus. Transfer the Ultimate Rewards from your Freedom to one of those cards, and then you can transfer them 1:1 to United, British Airways, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Amtrak, and more.

The Chase Freedom comes with 10,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $500 in the first three months.

The Freedom has no annual fee.

A few weeks ago I wrote that Chase is offering folks 5,000 Ultimate Rewards to refer the Freedom to their friends. Here’s my referral link–and one from a loyal MileValue reader–to earn me or him 5,000 Ultimate Rewards if you get a Freedom:


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Update: Several–if not all–of these offers have expired. For the current best offers for free travel, see Best Credit Cards Offers.

When signing up for a credit card, I think there are four factors to consider:

  1. What is the value of the sign up bonus?
  2. What is value of putting my pattern of spending on the card? (category bonuses and the value of the base point earned)
  3. What are the benefits of holding the card? (lounge access, free checked bags, discounted awards, etc)
  4. When is the deal disappearing?

All things equal, you should apply for a card with a limited time sign up bonus over one that is stable. You can get the stable card next time.

With so much excitement around the disappearance tomorrow (9/3/13) at 5 PM ET of the SPG cards’ 30k offers, I thought it would be useful to compile a list of other cards offers that are soon to disappear.

What are the top nine credit card offers that are about to disappear? When are they disappearing? And how much worse will the upcoming offers be?

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From now until June 22, Chase is increasing the sign up bonus on the Ink Bold and Ink Plus to 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in three months.

These are two of my absolute favorite cards. I’ve gotten the Ink Bold for two of my businesses and the Ink Plus for one, earning about 200,000 Ultimate Rewards in the process that I’ve used to book Rookie Alli on her first flat bed business class experience, my United Global First flight to Australia to see the Aussie Open, and my upcoming trip in Thai First Class on an A380 with an hourlong massage on the ground.

What’s the full deal, how can you use 60k Ultimate Rewards, and what has my experience been with the Ink Bold and Plus?

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For me, first class flights would be out of reach without miles. I can’t spend $10,000 for a first class flight on an airline like Emirates.

Luckily I don’t need to because I have plenty of miles, and I could fly economy class in a pinch.

Fancy hotels are similar. I can’t pay $1,000 a night for a hotel like the Park Hyatt Sydney.

And luckily I don’t ever need to stay in fancy hotels. When I travel, all I need is a roof and a pillow. But for those special occasions when I want to indulge in absolute luxury, I can by opening a single credit card.

What are the three best credit cards for luxury hotel experiences?

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The second you move abroad, you become a lot more popular! That far flung country looks a lot better to family and friends as soon as they know they’ll have a free bed and tour guide. My sister wanted to come visit me in Argentina in mid-May, so we set out to find her the best award ticket possible. Only one minor problem. As of two months ago, she had zero miles.

We ended up booking her n roundtrip from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires for a weeklong trip for 60,000 United miles. We even added a free oneway to Hawaii for next year for no extra miles and only $2.50 in taxes. This Anatomy of an Award should illustrate how to get from zero miles to a dream trip in two months, United free oneways, United’s hold policy, and the secret United award space open to United card holders.

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred will offer three Ultimate Rewards per dollar on dining expenses on the first Friday of each month until the end of 2013. Those are some nice free points.

As an award booker, I love Ultimate Rewards for their flexibility. Ultimate Rewards can be transferred 1:1 to United, Southwest, British Airways, Korean, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Amtrak, and many more.

I eat out a lot, and especially on Friday nights (and especially on First Fridays when I am in Honolulu!), so this deal will be great for me. I also notice that most of my bar spending is coded as dining by the Chase Sapphire Preferred, so it will earn 3x points on First Fridays also.

But in the scheme of things this promotion is unlikely to earn you more than 1,000 Ultimate Rewards, so it doesn’t make a huge difference to the value of the Chase Sapphire Preferred. In fact, I can think of 10 better reasons to get the card.

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This is the eleventh post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously An Easy Way to Meet Multiple Minimum Spends at Once.

Transferable points programs are loyalty programs, usually run by banks, that allow a person to earn points that can be transferred to several different airline or hotel programs. The three most important programs are American Express Membership Rewards (MR), Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR), and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Starpoints.

First I’ll describe the basics of those three programs, then I’ll talk about how to make the most of your transferable points.

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express Platinum, Gold, Green, Centurion, and Corporate cards earn Membership Rewards points.

Points are transferable to dozens of air and hotel loyalty programs including Delta (1 MR to 1 SkyMile), British Airways (1 MR to 1 Avios), Singapore Airlines (1 MR to 1 KrisFlyer miles), and SPG (3 MR to 1 Starpoint)

There are near constant transfer bonuses, which temporarily improve the transfer ratios of certain programs.

Membership Rewards can be frustrating if you want premium international travel because Delta has the worst award space of major US carrier, and the other airline transfer programs charge huge surcharges on redemptions.

There are ways around these frustrations, depending on where you want to go. Tahsir and I are in the process of publishing a series on Membership Rewards transfer options, so you can better understand your options. The first post was about transferring to Singapore Airlines.

Your Membership Rewards can be transferred to anyone’s loyalty account. This is why when I sometimes do giveaways on Twitter, I give away Membership Rewards that I transfer to the program of choice of the winner.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, Freedom, and other Sapphires and Inks earn Ultimate Rewards.

Points earned on the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, and Ink Plus are transferable to several air and hotel loyalty programs including United, Southwest, British Airways, and Hyatt–all at a 1:1 ratio.

Points earned on the Freedom and other Sapphires and Inks are not transferable to those loyalty programs, but they are transferable to your other Ultimate Rewards accounts. So you could transfer your Ultimate Rewards from Freedom to your Sapphire Preferred, and then from there to United.

Chase has not gotten into the transfer bonus game yet.

Ultimate Rewards can be combined among your Chase accounts and your spouse’s. You can also send the points to your airline or hotel accounts or your spouse’s. But Chase prohibits sending points to anyone else and has shut down accounts for transfers that don’t comply with Chase’s rules.

SPG Starpoints

Starwood Hotels’ loyalty program is a much-loved transfer program. Many hotel loyalty programs let you transfer your points to airlines, like many airlines let you transfer your miles to hotels. However, it is almost always a bad deal. By contrast, SPG points transfer to airlines at a good rate, so it is an outlier.

The SPG AMEX card earns 10,000 Starpoints on first purchase and 15,000 more after $5k spending in the first six months.

A complete list of airline transfer partners is here. Notable 1:1 transfer partners include American, British, Delta, US Airways, Alaska, and Hawaiian.

And the reason everyone loves SPG points is that you can do better than 1:1 on airline transfers.

For every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, you get a bonus 5,000 miles in the transfer partner’s miles. Example: If you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to American, you receive 25,000 AAdvantage miles. Thus if you transfer in exactly 20,000 Starpoint increments, all the 1:1 transfer partners are really 1:1.25 transfer partners!

Starpoints can be transferred to anyone’s loyalty accounts.

Now that you know about the big three, let’s talk about how to get maximum value from transferable points programs.

1. Keep you points in the transferable points program until you have an award in mind, then transfer. Holding on to your points in the transferable programs retains your option value: you can still transfer them to any of the partners. Once you transfer, that option value is destroyed, so don’t transfer until you have an award in mind. Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards make following this easy because points transfer instantly to most partners. Starpoints do not transfer instantly, so you have to transfer with some anticipation, but still you should hold those as Starpoints as long as you can before transferring.

The one exception to this hold-the-points approach is if you close your last Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards earning card. The points disappear in that case, so send them out first.

(This is not a worry with the SPG AMEX and Starpoints because those points are in your SPG hotel account. Nor is this a worry with airline cards like the Citi American Airlines Visa because your AA miles are in your AA account.)

2. Make sure the award you plan to book with your transferred points is worth more than your other transfer options. For instance, you can transfer UR points to United and Southwest. Checking the Mile Value Leaderboard, we see that a Southwest Rapid Rewards point is worth 1.69 cents. If you’re transferring to United for an award worth less than 1.69 cpm, and you should check that at the Mile Value Calculator, you’re probably making a mistake and could get more value from a transfer to Southwest.

3. Make sure the award you plan to book with your transferred points is worth more than your other non-transfer options. For instance, your other best option with Starpoints is hotel stays. Many people report getting several cents per point from using their Starpoints for hotel awards using the Cash & Points option–even after its recent devaluation.

4. The best use of a transferable program is often topping up an account that is just short of an award. If you’ve got 85,000 United miles and want to book a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe, your miles are practically useless. Transferring in 15,000 UR points to reach 100,000 provides immense value, taking you from having no ticket to having the business class ticket in hand.

And this is often the best way to think about the transferable-points programs. Don’t get the Ink Bold thinking it’s 50,000 more United miles or 50,000 Southwest points. Instead pursue strategies to get huge amounts of United and Southwest miles other ways, and use your 50,000 UR points when you’re just short of the miles needed for an award in one of its partner programs.

I love transferable points programs for their flexibility and immense value. They should be a key component of any miles enthusiast’s strategy for exploiting frequent flier miles.

Continue to Category Bonuses.

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