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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,, 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,, 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?

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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Chase Freedom has named its 5% cash back categories for 2014.

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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 20,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $500 in three months on the card.

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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 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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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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A reader wrote to me:

For credit cards, HSBC is by FAR the best for foreign purchases but not sure if it is because it is HSBC Premier rather then regular HSBC. HSBC Premier gives me the same exchange rate as what they get when exchanging money between other banks with no mark-up. It is crazy how much I save. I’ve found Chase to be the most expensive and American Express somewhere in between. The difference in exchange rates negates any benefit from earning miles etc even though all the cards say no foreign transaction fee.

Many American credit cards charge a 3% fee when the origin of the charge is foreign. This is frustrating, and swamps the value of the miles you earn usually since one mile is rarely worth three cents.

You’ll get hit with the fee even when the charge is in dollars, as I found out when I paid a 3% fee on the taxes charge on an Avios booking made at in dollars.

But there are several cards that advertise no charge for foreign transactions. The Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, and Ink Plus all mention the benefit in their marketing.

But there are two ways banks make money on foreign charges. The first is the fee they might charge. The second way banks make money on your foreign purchases is by converting the purchase into dollars at a bad rate for you. This is what the emailer suspected Chase was doing.

To test out how much of that was happening, I’ve made two purchases with my Ink Plus in New Zealand.

The first purchase was NZD 260 for a 440 foot bungee jump. The second was NZD 109 for a Milford Sound cruise. In both cases, those amounts were the exact amount charged to me since New Zealand follows the enlightened practice of including all taxes in quoted prices.

Both are showing as pending in my Chase account online.

Doing a little math, the conversion rate was 1 NZD to $0.8289. (I’ll be using “$” to denote US dollars and “NZD” for New Zealand dollars.)

How does this compare to the prevailing rate? The easiest way to check is to google “1 NZD to USD.”

Google says I would need to spend 84 cents to buy 1 NZD. Chase sold me 1 NZD for less than 83 cents! For whatever reason, Chase offered me a better deal than the prevailing rate.

Maybe you could see this more easily if we look at one $1 should buy me according to google and Chase.

Google: $1 = 1.19 NZD

Chase: $1 = 1.21 NZD

Chase is clearly giving me an incredible deal. Even more so when you compare it changing money on the street.

Street Rate

Banks throughout Auckland and Queenstown show their prices for buying and selling dollars. The one I saw today in Queenstown would sell NZD for $0.8815. This is about 4% worse than the prevailing market rate according to google. (Remember the fewer dollars we spend for 1 NZD, the better.)

If I had taken dollars to a New Zealand bank and changed them to NZD to book my tours, I would have needed 369 NZD total. That would have cost me $325.27 at the bank. Chase charged me only $305.86.


Today in Queenstown, New Zealand, I was way better off paying for tours with my Ink Plus than I would have been changing American dollars or using another card with a 3% foreign transaction fee.

I’ve made that conclusion very specific because I am very surprised by the results of my experiment. I expected Chase to offer me about the same rate than if I had changed at a bank.

Clearly my results were different than the emailer’s experiments of splitting foreign charges halfway between Chase and American Express cards. He found both to offer a bad rate with American Express offering a slightly better exchange rate.

I do think New Zealand’s banks and change houses offer bad rates for cash, implying about a 3% fee. I generally notice rich world countries offer way worse exchange rates than developing countries. For instance, in Arequipa, Peru there are dozens of change shops that have only a 1% spread between their dollar buy and sell prices, meaning they are only shading about half a percent on each side.


Today in New Zealand dollars, I got a better deal by charging to my Ink Plus than I would have gotten from an exchange house. Your exchange rate may not be as good when you use a credit card for a foreign transaction.

But I was very happy to see that a “no foreign exchange fee” card like the Ink Plus didn’t try to make up for that lack of a fee with a bad exchange rate. A reader’s email made me fear that “no foreign exchange fee” cards might be a scam, but in my experience they aren’t.

I got a great exchange rate and paid no foreign exchange fee.

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I’m busy preparing for the first ever live seminar in Honolulu that starts in 10 hours, so I’ll summarize a few interesting nuggets you may have missed.

We all get jealous when we hear that other people have been targeted for better sign up bonuses than the best publicly available credit card offers. Thepointsguy has a way to check whether you’ve been targeted for any Chase offers lately. It’s a good back up in case you’ve tossed a great offer as junk mail accidentally.

Frequent Flier Bonuses flags 2,500 free Avios for signing up your children for an Iberia frequent flier account. After 90 days those free Avios can be transferred to a BA account, which can be linked to your household BA account. So you can get those 2,500 Avios ($42.50) for yourself.  Cue jokes about your kids finally paying you back.

Finally, if you don’t already have one, open yourself an Iberia frequent flier account here. Why? After it’s open 90 days, you can transfer BA Avios there at will, which will let you fly from North America to Europe without the crippling surcharges on BA Avios awards. More info on Iberia Avios to Europe redemptions in a future post, but for now sign up for an Iberia account to get the 90 day clock started.

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This post will tell you how to book any hotel on the list of Priority Club’s PointBreaks for only $35 per night.

Whenever Priority Club announces its new list of PointBreaks hotels, the miles’ world pays attention. The hotels on the list that may ordinarily cost hundreds of dollars a night go for 5,000 Priority Club points for a limited time. The new list is valid for stays through July 31.

As loyal readers know, I’m not big on hotel rewards programs; I usually get a better deal pricelining as I explained here. But PointBreaks are a great deal since Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to Priority Club (not instantly, in about 14-19 hours). And you can also transfer Amex Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio until June 30 when the relationship ends.

I value 5,000 MR at $127.50 until the 50% Avios transfer bonus ends on May 31 and 5,000 UR at around $100. Those are pretty low prices for some of the PointBreaks hotels, but we can do better. We can stay at any hotel on the PointBreaks list for $35 just by exploiting one loophole!

The basic premise is that Priority Club lets you buy its points for 0.7 cents each when booking an award night with cash and points. Then you can immediately cancel the award night you purchased with cash and points. Instead of refunding your cash, Priority Club will let you keep the points you just purchased for 0.7 cents.

Hopefully this example will show you how you can book any PointBreaks hotel for $35/night:

I scoured the new PointBreaks list to see if any of my travel plans coincide with any of the hotels, and they did in one case: I will be in Krakow, Poland and the Holiday Inn Krakow City Centre is on the list.

I’ll be in Krakow June 6 – 9, and I didn’t have a hotel booked. While the Krakow Holiday Inn is hardly the nicest property on the PointBreaks list, its cheapest room June 6 is 531 Polish Zloty, which is $153.

As a PointBreaks hotel, the same room that night is 5,000 Priority Club points. Having no Priority Club points, I could transfer in 5,000 Ultimate Rewards, book the hotel room, and be satisfied by saving a few bucks. But we can do even better than booking this property for 5,000 Ultimate Rewards; we can book it for $35!

To do that, we need to buy Priority Club points for 0.7 cents, which you cannot do through ordinary point buying. The way to buy Priority Club points for 0.7 cents is to make a cash and points award booking then cancel it. To make a cash and points booking, you need to have some Priority Club Points, so I transferred 5,000 Ultimate Rewards into my new Priority Club account. The transfer took about 14 hours to post.

Once I had a Priority Club account with 5,000 points, the next step was to book a 15,000 point award. Why? When booking a 15,000 point award, you are given the option to purchase the 10,000 point shortfall for $70, which is 0.7 cents per point. Here is such an award:

As you can see, this award costs 15,000 points or 5,000 and $70. Having only 5,000 points in my account, I selected 5,000 points and $70 and paid for the award. The confirmation screen made it very clear that the $70 was going towards buying 10,000 points that would be immediately used to book the award.
















After booking, I immediately cancelled the reservation online by following a link from the booking confirmation page. That brought me to this screen:

As you can see, my reservation has been cancelled. As you can also see in the top right, the points immediately credit back to my account. My account now has 15,000 points, 5,000 that I transferred from Ultimate Rewards and 10,000 that I just bought for $70 while making a dummy booking.

The 10,000 points I just bought for $70 are enough points for two free nights at any PointBreaks hotel, meaning that you can stay at PointBreaks hotels for $35/night using this trick!

Now that I had some extra points, I went to book the night at the Holiday Inn Krakow. I would have been willing to book two nights, but while there was award availability June 6 and June 8, there was none June 7. In the end, I just booked one night June 6.

As you can see, the night cost me 5,000 points, which I had just bought for $35, and my account balance was back down to 10,000 points. I’ll be sure to use those 10,000 points if future PointBreaks lists coincide with my future travel plans!


You have to have points in your account to “buy” points for 0.7 cents each. Buying points is a much better deal than transferring in your UR or MR that are worth way more than 0.7 cents each, but you may have to transfer in 5,000 to start the point-buying madness.

Not all hotels are on the PointBreaks list. Not all nights are available as 5,000 point award nights at the hotels that are on the list. Check availability before buying points.

Bottom line:

I just booked a $153 hotel room for $35. And there are much nicer, more expensive hotels on the list of PointBreaks hotels. There are Intercontinentals that go for over $400/night that you can get for $35/night using the technique outlined in this post.

Which hotel will you stay at for $35/night?

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