Chase

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Many people can get a small business credit card. Opening small business cards roughly doubles the number of amazing miles and points cards available to you.

Every small business credit card I’ve gotten I opened by putting my social security number as the tax ID, and by saying that my business is a sole proprietorship. I got many of the cards when my business revenue was very low.

Check out my post on How to Be Approved for Business Cards.

If you have a business, make sure you are opening the right business credit cards to maximize your free, discounted, and luxury travel. Here are the top four cards, broken down by Best Sign Up Bonus, Best Category Bonuses, Best for Everyday Spending, and Best for Perks.

Best Sign Up Bonus

The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months.

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American Airlines miles are currently the most valuable because United and Delta jacked up the number of miles needed for premium cabin awards last year, but American Airlines has not.

Just the sign up bonus on the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® is enough miles for a roundtrip to Europe, South America, or Asia.

The card offers double miles at office supply merchants, telecommunications merchants, and car rental merchants and a 5% mileage bonus every year you renew.

The card also comes with a free checked bag and priority boarding on American Airlines flights.

The annual fee of $95 is waived the first 12 months.

Application Link: CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard 

Best Category Bonuses

The Chase Ink Plus offers 5x Ultimate Rewards per dollar for purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services. The card also offers 2x points at gas stations and hotels.

The Ink Plus offers 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the card. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, Virgin Atlantic, and more.

The annual fee of $95 is waived the first 12 months.

(Note that Chase is split testing higher annual fees for the card, so make sure you get the best offer.)

Best for Everyday Spending

The Starwoord Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express OPEN earns 1 Starpoint per dollar on all purchases.

Starpoints transfer to over 30 airlines, most at a 1:1 ratio. Whenever Starpoints transfer at a 1:1 ratio, you always get 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred. That effectively means that you are earning 1.25 airline miles per dollar on all purchases with this card. Key 1:1 transfer partners:

  • American Airlines
  • US Airways
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Many More, but NOT United

Here is how to transfer Starpoints to airline miles.

The card comes with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first six months. Points can also be used for free hotel nights, Cash & Points stays, and Nights & Flights awards.

The annual fee of $65 is waived the first 12 months.

Best for Perks

The Business Platinum Card from American Express is the king of perks for business cards. The card comes with:

Here is how to set up and maximize those benefits.

The card comes with 40,000 bonus Membership Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. It earns 1 Membership Rewards per dollar on all purchases with no category bonuses.

The card has a $450 annual fee that is NOT waived.

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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?

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.

How?

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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 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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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 BA.com 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.

Conclusions

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.

Recap

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 MileValue.com 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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