Status Seeker

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American Express used to say, or maybe they still do, that membership has its privileges. It turns out that’s only half true in their lame rewards program. But it’s very true when it comes to airline elite status.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but being at the airport is an enormous fucking pain in the ass. Elite status is awesome because it makes everything faster and easier and more tolerable, even at the lowest tier. I don’t know if that’s true on every airline, but it’s certainly true on United, as I learned when I became Premier Silver. (United calls elite status “Premier.”)

What I get by being Premier Silver is the following fanfuckingtastic perks. I’ve put in brackets what you can also get by holding the appropriate Chase United card, or other alternative methods. Continue reading

Bonus Round

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Everything I’ve written until now is all about how to get free travel points by just spending on the shit you’d be spending on anyway. This post is now the effort round, where you can earn extra Chase Ultimate Rewards points and United Miles proactively, as opposed to passively charging away like a goddamn lemming hurtling off the cliffs of capitalism. (If you’re not a Chase/United person, there are probably equivalents for whatever crap you prefer. This is America.) Continue reading

Something Ventured, At Most 2% Gained

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So what about those cards which earn “double miles, any airline, any time” like the Capital One Venture? Sounds awesome. Are they any fucking good, like Alec Baldwin says in the ads? Kinda: they’re simple and flexible as promised, but not super rewarding. They pay off a little better than Chase or Amex cards for cheap and moderately priced tickets, but they pay off quite badly for expensive tickets. The “miles” these cards earn are really points, which can be used as currency, pinned to the cash price of a ticket. The “miles” (points) can’t be transferred to actual frequent flyer miles with any airline, like Chase and Amex and Citi and SPG points can, so you miss out on kick-ass award tickets. Continue reading

Ok, Fine, I’ll Look at Amex and Citi and Other Crap Too

I think I’ve made my case that you want a points-based rewards card rather than a frequent flyer miles card, because the points are more flexible, and are worth more, and can be combined with family members, and you can earn them faster. And you know I think Chase Ultimate Rewards are full of win and rule the Pointsdom. But here’s a quick rundown of what else is out there, which you can contemplate if you aren’t well served by United, or Chase disses you because you’ve opened more than five cards in two years. Continue reading

Cutting to the Chase

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What makes Chase Ultimate Rewards so fucking great? Thought you’d never ask. These reasons (updated Feb 2019):

  • If I’ve got both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Freedom Unlimited cards, I can earn around 2 points for every dollar I spend, which I can transfer to United frequent flyer miles. (That’s at least 50% more than what I’d get if I spent the same on an actual United MileagePlus Explorer card.)
  • If I don’t feel like flying United, I can transfer the points to eight other airline programs and three hotel programs.
  • If none of those programs do it for me, or redeeming United miles doesn’t pay off, I can buy tickets with points, for whatever airline I want to, at an advantageous rate (67 points per cash price dollar).
  • Caroline and I can freely consolidate our points.
  • I can just claim the points as cash, at a better rate than other points cards offer (100 points per dollar back) if there’s some travel thing I can’t book through Chase or a frequent flyer program.

Since math hurts, let me put this all another way: We’re now getting much more bang for our buck from our credit cards without having to do anything or pay significantly more. That means business class instead of economy, or two trips instead of one. And if United doesn’t cut it, we can fly someone else. Because I can always convert the Ultimate Rewards points to United miles anyway, there is no downside as compared with using a United branded card. And there ain’t no other rewards program that provides all of the above as favorably. It’s like my MileagePlus or Amex card on roids.

If you just want to know what you need in order to earn Ultimate Rewards points, because you’re too lazy and impatient to read the rest of this:

Get a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and a Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Spend $4,000 in the first three months on the Sapphire Reserve, and $500 on the Freedom Unlimited. Once you’ve hit those, use the Freedom Unlimited for everything; you’ll get 1.5 points per dollar spent. Or, if you’re more ambitious, use the Sapphire Preferred specifically for restaurants, travel, lodging, and transportation (including taxi, MTA, AirBnB, parking, rental car, etc); you’ll get 3 points per dollar spent. The end.

You’re still here? Continue reading

Points Are Better Than Miles, Dammit

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On this Independence Day, I’m going to celebrate living in a free country by planning to exercise my right to travel to other ones. It’s a pretty good way to appreciate what we’ve got here, especially after you’ve been to truly fucked up places like North Korea.

In the interest of not burying the lede, this post is about how you don’t want to earn miles on a United card, or any other airline card. You do want to earn points in the right credit card rewards program, which, if you sometimes fly United, is Chase Ultimate Rewards. Hear me now, believe me later. Continue reading