Southwest Summer 72 Hour Fare Sale

Southwest Summer Fare Sale BannerSouthwest is having what will probably be their best sale for summer fares.  If you have summer travel planned, it is probably worth booking now to lock in the low prices and then you can cancel and rebook if the prices happen to go lower with no penalties.  If that happens, you will end up with a credit on Southwest for the difference in price.

This is the best type of sale that Southwest has where the price is set by the distance you fly for a one way flight.  Here is an example of how this sale works from Miami.  If you are in the middle of the US it can work out even better!

Southwest Summer Fare Sale

You can also use the sale prices for points redemptions which is great if you have a ton of SouthWest points like the 189,000 I got from shopping at Sears.  I will probably be booking my flight back from Burning Man during this sale (for only 8200 points one way no less). Here is what a round trip to Burning Man would look like using points and available seats.

Burning Man SWA

If you have summer travel planned within the US, think about booking now!  This sale ends on Thursday but a lot of the cheaper fares can sell out so don’t hesitate too long. Some of the other airlines such as American and United are matching these fares so if you would rather put the miles on those carriers or have status, then check the routes and see if it is included.

If you want to get some Rapid Rewards points quickly, then start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  It gives you 40,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $3,000 in 3 months.  You can transfer the UR points at a 1:1 ratio to Southwest Rapid Rewards points and then take advantage of this sale. Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card here.

Eurotrip 2013: Part 1 – How I am taking my Dad to Ireland, Scotland, and Wimbledon in London in Business Class for $137!

wimbledon court

This is the first post in a series about my 2013 trip to Ireland, Scotland and Great Britain. Part of the free plane tickets were funded by the 40,000 point sign up bonus of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

My Dad loves tennis.  Like really loves it.  Like he Tivos two different tennis matches while he watches a third.  He watches the tennis channel.  Back around Christmas time, I was trying to come up with an over the top gift for him and I was trying to think of a trip we could take together.  As I watched him watch recorded tennis matches, I thought about how he had never been to Wimbledon in London, which I consider to be the most epic tennis tournament each year. He is also an avid golfer and I knew that some of the best and oldest courses in the world were in Scotland including the famous St. Andrews. He is also a history and genealogy buff and I knew that my ancestors the Butlers lived in Kilkenny Castle in Ireland for 600 years.  On a selfish note, I had been to London several times, but had always wanted to visit Ireland and Scotland.

kilkenny castle

So my plan was hatched: For Christmas, I would give him a trip to Ireland, Scotland and Wimbledon!  Since Wimbledon was in the last part of June / early July, I had time to get the flights in business class.  I knew that I could use my 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points I received from my Chase Sapphire Preferred card as an annual bonus along with some of the 264,000 points I got by shopping with Sears to go round trip to Europe for 100,000 miles on United (and other Star Alliance carriers). I checked some flight times and printed out a sample itinerary which I presented to him on Christmas day.  I was waiting to book it just in case there was a problem with the dates or anything.

He was thrilled but I didn’t end up trying to book it until mid March.  Once I started looking using United’s Award Seat system the frequent flyer tickets quickly started disappearing daily! Since I was leaving from Miami and him from Nashville, I knew we would probably have to meet from one of the gateway cities such as New York or Charlotte for the trip across the pond.  I found some flights on US air, but when I researched their business class seats on the plane available, I saw that they were not the fully flat which makes it hard to get any good rest (you end up feeling like you slept in a lazy boy chair).  I searched many alternate routes and ended up finding some business seats on Brussels Airlines on the way there and on Lufthansa on the way back.

The main trip was for 7 nights in Ireland, 4 nights in Scotland and 4 nights in London.  This would allow us enough time to tour the Irish countryside, see the ring of Kerry and the castle where the Butlers lived, play a couple of rounds of golf at some famous Irish and Scottish courses and fully experience Wimbledon in London.  I was able to include an overnight in New York, an all day layover in Brussels, an overnight in Frankfurt, and a free one way in first class to San Diego in the winter.  These are sort of complicated topics so I will write additional articles about them, but I ended up quite pleased with how the trip worked out.

BNA-DUB

And the cost for this amazing trip?  100,000 united miles and $137! I used my Business Gold Rewards from American Express to pay for the $137 since I get triple miles on airfare charges.  I have a feeling the memories we are going to create will be priceless!  And we just so happen to leave the day after Father’s Day so it will be even more special. Why don’t you get started today so you can surprise someone you love with something amazing!  I can help!

Christmas came early! Almost 40K points for my annual bonus on Chase Sapphire Preferred!

chasesapphirepreferredannualbonusI received my February statement a little while back and it had a big bonus on it! The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of my favorite cards due to the 2X earnings on Dining and Travel, nice 40K sign on bonus, and almost as importantly access to the Ultimate Rewards shopping mall.  You can access my full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card here.

chasesapphirepreferredfocus7percent

The feature that got me this 38,198 bonus on this month’s statement was the 7% annual dividend on all points earned!  This meant a bonus on all of my earnings on this card for the last year including my 264,000 UR point Sears bonanza and shopping for 25,000 UR points along with 189,000 Southwest points. When you add that onto the normal spend I had on the card and all the other Ultimate Rewards Mall shopping I did, it really adds up! I have the Chase Ink Bold card as well, but if there is the same earnings on the merchant at the Ultimate Rewards Mall, I always use my Chase Sapphire Preferred to log into Chase’s site so I can take advantage of the 7% bonus.

Get your Chase Sapphire Preferred so you can get a great bonus next year and a 40,000 point sign on bonus now!

Edit: I just saw over at the awesome Frequent Miler site that it is now possible to get a 10% bonus with the Chase Freedom card if you also have a Chase Checking account.  I will be looking into this because an extra 3% would have been an extra 16K points in my case for last year!

 

How I paid $5 instead of $370 for a last minute ticket.

I had the unfortunate need to be in North Carolina for a funeral recently and I was reminded of yet another use for frequent flyer miles that you don’t typically think of. I found out on Thursday that I needed to be in Raleigh on Sunday and the flights were priced at $370 round trip from Miami for the last minute travel. I knew that American and United both charged 25,000 miles for domestic award travel. US Air was also an option at a cost of 20,000 miles since I have the US Airways Mastercard which gives a discount of 5,000 miles off of their flights. However, I knew that the cheapest option would probably be to use British Airways miles since they use a distance based chart and the distance from Miami to Raleigh was only 700 miles. As you see from this chart, this meant that it would only cost 15,000 miles and $5 for the security fees.

Avios Award Chart

Since British Airways is a member of the Oneworld Alliance, the flight would actually be operated by American Airlines. So I saved 10,000 frequent flyer miles versus booking directly with American for the exact same flights! Even better, British Airways doesn’t charge any fees for last minute bookings like United does so I wouldn’t have to pay any additional out of pocket other than the $5 in taxes / security fees. I still had miles leftover from my 100,000 mile British Airways card that I applied for a few years back that I used for this booking. If you are short on miles though, luckily, BA is a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards which means all of those miles I get from paying my rent I can transfer to British Airways for bookings like this. You can also use the 50,000 point sign up bonus from the Ink Plus card, the 50,000 from the Ink Bold card, or the 40,000 from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for BA Transfers.

This redemption gave me a value of 2.4 cents per mile which I was happy with. You can get better value by redeeming for business and first class tickets but that doesn’t always meet with your travel needs. Points and miles are about meeting YOUR travel needs and saving you money which were both accomplished in my case. So if you find yourself in the situation of needing last minute airfare for family illness or worse, keep in mind to look at using your miles for an alternative to paying last minute prices.

Holiday shopping for miles and profit via online shopping portals!

You should be getting miles or cashback for every single purchase you make this holiday season.  There.  I said it.  If you play your cards right, you could get earn enough miles for a free vacation just by spending what you were going to spend anyways! Wouldn’t you rather get 10,000 miles for that LCD TV you are going to buy for $1000? Well, pay attention, because I’m going to write about four different ways to get miles or cashback today.  After that will go over some advanced ways to combine the options to really kick things into high gear!

  1. Miles Earning Credit or Debit Cards
  2. Cashback Credit Cards
  3. Online Shopping Portals for Miles
  4. Online Shopping Portals for Cashback

1. Miles Earning Credit or Debit Cards

This is one you should be familiar with if you have been reading this blog for a while. At a minimum you should be getting 1 mile or point per dollar spent. Almost every card on our Top Credit Cards page that lists miles or points as its type will give you this. You get miles for every dollar spent so you should be putting everything you buy on one of these credit cards (and then paying it off right away of course).  Some of my favorites are:

  • SPG American Express (25K sign on bonus) which gives 1 Starpoint for every dollar spent.  For hotel stays these are some of the most valuable points and I have been getting at least $0.05 per Starpoint when I redeem them for Cash and Points stays.
  • Amex Premier Rewards Gold (25K sign on bonus) which gives 1 Membership Rewards point for ever dollar spent. This are great because of the flexibility to be able to transfer to several different airlines and hotel programs.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred (40K sign on bonus) which gives 1 Ultimate Rewards point for every dollar spent.  These points I would value even higher than the membership rewards points due to their flexibility via a higher number of transfer partners (airlines and hotels).

But you can do better than 1% a lot of times!  The Chase Freedom card gives 5X Ultimate Rewards points on Best Buy and Kohl purchases for example The Chase Ink Bold gives 5X UR Points on Office Supply purchases (OfficeMax, Office Depot, and Staples) so it can add up quickly on computers or tablet purchases.

Even if your credit needs work, you can still get 1 miles per dollar spent by using the Suntrust Delta Debit Card I wrote about.

2. Cashback Credit Cards

These cards don’t give you miles, but instead give you cold, hard cash.  I started with cash back, but realized that there is much better value in the miles cards if you want to travel the world.  Not everyone is the same though so cashback might be a better option if you hate to fly or something. Some of my favorites are:

  • Discover It Card: Up to 1% cashback on all purchases.  They have an additional bonus for the 4th quarter for 2012 of 5% at all online shopping and department stores up to $1500 in purchases which can be combined with shopping portal earnings.
  • Amex Business Simply Cash Card: 5% in Office Supply Stores, 1% at most other places.
  • OPEN Savings from Amex Business cards such as the SPG Business Amex: If you have a business Amex, their OPEN program gives you almost instantaneous cashback with a few key vendors.  The one that I have used multiple times is 10% back on purchases of $250 or more at Officemax.com.  It is only the total purchase amount that matters so gift cards, clearance items, and coupons all work in conjunction with this. Other choices are some Marriott properties, Hertz and Hyatt.

3. Online Shopping Portal for Miles.

This is where the big miles earning opportunities come into play.  The way this works is instead of going directly to a merchant, like for example, Homedepot.com, you would instead log into your shopping portal first then click on their link to Home Depot.  By the power of cookies the site can tell that you came from the shopping portal and the merchant gives the shopping portal a referral fee, that they rebate to you in the form of miles.

Some of these portals you can use any credit card you want, such at the Southwest Rapid Rewards Mall. I used this mall to get 189,000 miles by shopping earlier this year! Other examples are the American AAdvantage Shopping Mall, the United Mileage Plus Shopping Mall and the Delta Skymiles Mall.

One of the best malls that I have made hundreds of thousands of miles with is the Chase Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall. Due to the flexibility of the Ultimate Rewards points, this is often my top choice for purchases even if another site has a slightly higher multiplier.

Some merchants even allow you to buy gift cards and get points, then to go back through and get points again on the gift card use.  I took advantage of this strategy at Sears when I got double dipped to maximize my miles and got a companion pass in the process.

Two great sites for comparing the miles (and cashback) are EVReward and Cashbackholic. You just have to put the store name in the search box and it will come up with an array of miles and cashback sites.  Keep in mind that when you redeem airline miles, you will often get at least $0.02 per mile and Hotel Points closer to $0.01 (except for Starpoints which I value around $0.03.)

4. Online Shopping Portal for Cashback.

This is even more simple than the miles portals.  You sign into the portal, then click through to the merchant and then get a % back in cash in usually 4-6 weeks, but it can sometimes be longer. EVReward and Cashbackholic are still the best spots to compare all of the options in one place.  My favorites for cashback are:

ShopDiscover: Has 10% for Groupon that I use all the time, and during the holiday season it bumps up the cash back on a lot of its sites to 3-4 times what everyone else is offering (think 15% instead of 5% cash back for instance). I make several hundred dollars per year just on Discover Cashback so with no annual fee, this card is staying in my wallet.

UPromise: Has a larger selection of stores than almost any portal and the tracking of your clicks is rock solid.  Even though it bills itself as cashback for education, there are several ways to get the cash back into your hands.

TopCashBack: This cashback site has some of the highest cashback out there, including a whopping 21% recently at Intercontinental Hotels. In my experience the points are a bit slow to post, but eventually it pays out as it should. I use Upromise if the rate is about the same, but will still use this site if it is the highest %.

Advanced Strategies.

Once you have the basics above down, you can combine them to find the best option.  When I got almost a quarter million Ultimate Rewards points and $1000 cash, I bought gift cards for 10X points using the Ultimate Rewards mall (from section 3) and my Chase Sapphire Preferred card for 1X points (from section 1) and then used those gift cards after clicking through UPromise for 5% cashback (section 4).

You can buy $500 Visa gift cards at OfficeMax or Office Depot getting 5X Ultimate Rewards points (from section 1) then go through Southwest’s Shopping Portal (from Section 2) to get 7X miles from Shoes.com

You can buy $1500 in gift cards at Sears.com on your Discover card getting 5% back on online shopping (from Section 1) using their ShopDiscover portal for 10% cashback (from Section 4) then use those gift cards through UPromise (from Section 4) for another 5%.  That is a whopping 20% off of anything total up to $1500 at Sears!

You can go through UPromise to OfficeMax.com (Section 4) to get 5% cashback then use your Amex with OPEN savings to pay for your purchase of $250 or more and get 10% back in a statement credit. (Section 2).  15% off any total at Officemax and that is after any coupons or sales!

Conclusion

If you can’t see the value after reading this article, then go back and read it again!  Or ask any questions that you have in the comments.

How I made 264,000 Ultimate Rewards points and $1000+ with Sears

Disclaimer: I know most of you won’t have the credit to do something like this, but this is an example of what is possible when you are careful with your credit and are able to jump on an opportunity when it comes available. By following the steps in our Credit Repair 101 article, you can start your way back to a credit line that can make something like this possible for you.

Back in August, the Ultimate Rewards Mall was having a special on Sears.com where they were giving 10 points for every dollar spent (currently 5).  I had previously gone big on Sears.com purchases and scored 189,000 Rapid Rewards points and wanted to do so again with this promotion. You needed either a Chase Ink Bold, a Chase Ink Plus, a Chase Sapphire Preferred, or a Chase Freedom card to have access to the Ultimate Rewards Mall.  The general process I used was:

  1. Log into my Chase Sapphire Preferred account, access the Ultimate Rewards mall and click through to Sears
  2. Buy enough $500 gift cards to purchase the amount of goods you want to buy.
  3. Log into your UPromise account and click through to Sears a second time.
  4. Use those gift cards to buy items from Sears.com
  5. Once you receive the items, sell them on Amazon.com using their Fulfillment By Amazon program

In my case, I had a high credit limit on my Chase Sapphire Preferred card that had a zero balance so I timed my purchases to hit my account right when the statement cycle began.  This would give me almost 2 months before my payment was due and plenty of time to sell the tablets.  I decided to go big and bought $24,000 in Sears gift cards which would give me 240,000 Ultimate Rewards points.  I also picked up another 24,000 points for the spend.  I obviously got a call from Sears security department to verify the transaction but soon had 48 $500 gift cards available and a few weeks later 240,000 UR points!

I was able to catch a good sale on Sears.com for the Asus Transformer TF300 Tablets for $349.99 which after tax and free shipping cost me $374.49 each.  After logging into Upromise.com, which gives 5% cash back for Sears.com purchases, I bought 64 tablets for a total of $23999.36 and used the gift cards to pay for it.  I talked about UPromise cashback before in my iPhone 5 article so hopefully you already have an account with them.   I did have to break it into groups of 10 tablets per order. Since I am a member of their ShopYouWayRewards program, I also got 1% back in points (222,528 points that I can use as a $222.53 credit towards a future sears purchase). I received $1162 in cashback from UPromise for the order.

Once the tablets arrived, I immediately shipped (at a cost of $63) them off to Amazon.com for sale via their Fulfillment by Amazon program. They handle the marketing shipping and billing and take a cut from each sale.  I’m not going to delve into the details of that too much today, but I ended up selling almost all of them for $399.98 (1 cent less than the Amazon price) which after all of the Amazon fees netted me $374.99 per tablet, or $23999.36 or almost exactly what I paid! They direct deposit the funds right into my checking account two weeks after the sales which I then used to pay off the credit card.

So at the end of the day, I ended up with 264,000 Ultimate Rewards points, $1162 in cash back from UPromise, and $222 in credit for a future Sears purchase! So in essense I just got paid to get over a quarter million points! To put that in perspective, that is enough for 4 round trip coach tickets to Europe on United, or 26 round trip tickets from Miami to Cancun on British Airways! Wow!

Several things could have gone wrong with this plan such as the price on the tablets dropping a lot before I could resell but I figured I had 30 days at Sears to return if things started falling apart. If this sounds interesting to you then take a look at our Getting Started page and join me in the points and miles game! Feel free to put any questions you have about this process in the comments and I will answer them.

Radisson Buy One Get One – Making it Sweeter

After some digging around, I ran across a few ways to make the Radisson Buy One Get One deal from my last article even sweeter!

  1. Sign up for a TopCashBack account and get 8% cash back by signing in to their shopping portal then clicking on their Radisson link before booking (8% good for the next two days only, then it will go back to the normal 5% I believe). I have used them in the past and the cash back is somewhat slow to post, but it eventually arrives.
  2. Sign up for this Club Carlson promotion that gives you between 2000 and 6000 bonus points for nights you stay between October 1 and December 31, 2012
  3. Make sure to book online (which you will using the TopCashBack account from number 1) to get 1000 bonus points for entry level Red Members and 2000 for Silver or Gold members.
  4. Try using the bonus code 30PCTOFF with your reservation in the “Promotional Code” Box  to see if a special 30 percent off the standard rate applies for the Radisson you are thinking about.  But hurry because this offer also expires on October 9.
  5. And always make sure to use a credit card that gives you the highest rate for travel expenses like the 2% the Chase Sapphire Preferred does.

Hat tip to our friends over at Million Mile Secrets for bringing all these tips together.

1850 Ultimate Rewards Points and $15 for buying FAR Staples software.

Until August 18 Staples has a free after rebate software package that you can buy 10 copies of and the whole cost will get sent back to you in the form of a rebate check. You don’t even have to pay tax since it is downloadable software by choosing in store pickup in a state with no sales tax such as NH. To maximize this offer, you need to use your Ink Bold Card, but you also use a different card for less points.

Step by Step

Start a new incognito window in chrome (to help with tracking) and log onto your Chase Ink Bold account and go to the Ultimate Rewards Mall.  Click through to the Staples link which should show 5X.

Search for item 368662 and it should come up with Trend Micro Maximum Security 2012 (1-User).  Change the quantity to 10 and then hit add to cart.

On the next screen click on the Add/Edit coupons link and add coupon 99618 to the order which should give you $15 off a $150 order.

After the order is completed, there will be a section on the page for Easy Rebates.  Click on the link given and it should autofill the rebate section with your order number and ship to zip code.  Put the rebate offer number of 12-14521 into the appropriate box and then hit next and then next again on the following screen.  They automatically get the quantity from the order number so you don’t have to enter 10 copies of the rebate. On the next screen, fill in the contact information where you want them to mail the rebate check and hit next.  Now the important part on the next screen, changing the rebate form from a visa gift card to a check. Click on the link that says “I would like to see other options for my reward [Rebate Check, Staples Gift Card]”

Change your desired selection to Check and hit next

The final screen will confirm all of your settings so hit Submit Rebate if it all looks right. All done!

So the way this breaks down is

  • 5X$185=925 points for going through the Ultimate Rewards Shopping Portal
  • 5X$185=925 points for using your Ink Bold card in an office supply store.
  • $200 back in a rebate check in 4-6 weeks

Since you only paid $185, this means you will have $15 profit plus 1850 points for free!  Can’t beat it! If you don’t have an Ink Bold, then get one! You can also use your Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Freedom but will only get 4X and no office supply bonus. Or use a card that you are trying to reach a spend requirement on since this is spending without actually spending since you get all of the money back!  Enjoy!

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card


Edit: This offer is now for 40,000 points.  But with the other benefits of the card, it is still one of my top recommendations.

Everyone asks me what the best card to get right now is and while there are many great offers right now, the best in my opinion is the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  The card itself has great benefits that I will cover in a second, but the real value is in the 50,000 Ultimate Reward Points they give you after spending $3,000 within 3 months of opening your card.

But what are Ultimate Reward Points?  They are super flexible points that can be redeemed at a 1% rate for cash, gift cards or merchandise.  However, if you want to use them for travel related expenses (hotel, car rental, airfare), you can book through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Mall for a 1.25% rate. This makes the 50,000 sign up bonus worth $625 in free travel. However, the best use of Ultimate Rewards points in my opinion is transferring them to airline or hotel partners such as British Airways, United Airlines, or Hyatt where you should be able to easily get 2 cents per point in redemption value (on my around the world ticket, I ended up north of 6 cents per mile so it is definitely possible).  This makes the 50,000 point  sign up bonus worth a minimum of $1,000 as long as you are smart about how you use it.

The benefits of this card don’t stop with the sign on bonus though.  You will earn 1 Ultimate Reward point for every dollar that you spend on the card, so the $3000 you will spend for the sign up bonus will get you another $3000 points.  You also earn 2X points on Dining and Travel which includes restaurants and a wide variety of travel such as train tickets, cab fares and the obvious such as hotels and airfare.

This card also has no foreign transaction fees (FOREX) which means you will not pay extra fees on currencies other than USD.  This makes it an ideal card to use while travelling internationally and is something most cards don’t include.

Like most great miles earning cards, it does have an annual fee of $95 a year, but that is lower than many comparable cards, and the fee is waived for the first year.

This card also has a very sharp look to it, and instead of plastic is made out of a piece of aluminum similar the the Amex Centurion Card.  The front just has your name and Chase Sapphire Preferred on it and the rear has your account number, expiration  and signature slip on it.  I get questions and compliments on this card every day I use it.

They have announced that the 50,000 point offer is only a limited time offer so applying sooner rather than later is the best course of option.

Apply today!