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Offsetting the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s Annual Fee

Earlier this year, I wrote about getting rejected for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and its bonus that I’ve since started calling the “Mother of All Credit Card Bonuses” because of having too many recent accounts opened in my name.  Luckily, however, my wife was able to get this card because she had not run afoul of the infamous 5/24 rule that Chase has instituted.

This led to our getting enough bonus points to book a round-trip flight with stops in four European cities on United Airlines for only $165–and most of the points came from this one signup bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the top five travel credit cards for 2017, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve annual fee is quite high.

The big downer for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, however, is the massive $450 annual fee. This would cause many people to take pause. If you time your application and travel purchases right, you can also do much to alleviate this annual fee. You can actually get a $300 credit for travel each calendar year (defined by the statement end date). This means that you could possibly actually earn $150 in free travel for the first year you have the card, in addition to the huge sign-up bonus. I was running down to the wire, but as the article linked above regarding booking our tour of Europe noted, I still had to book a flight from Prague to Lisbon.

How I Offset The Chase Sapphire Reserve Annual Fee

I searched on Expedia.com for flights and the date that I wanted because the aggregator shows just about any flight that you can take on any airline. For a bit, the best price on this trip was a $127 direct flight on TAM Airlines, a Portuguese carrier. Just a couple of weeks ago I ran the search again, and a $95.50 flight on Czech Airlines came up. I snagged it and dutifully used both my wife’s and my Delta  Skymiles frequent flyer numbers in the process. I’m not a huge Delta loyalist, but I try to get every single mile or point

I can and I figure that I’ll be flying Delta at some point in the future for one of the trips that I have planned after 2017. It took awhile for the charge to go through, but when it did, it automatically refunded.  Furthermore, while doing a bit of traveling to visit family for Christmas, I had to stop at a hotel. Thanks to the remainder of the $300 credit, I paid a whopping $6 for the night, all while earning some Marriott Rewards points in the process.  Here’s a graph that shows we completed the credit for 2016.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Travel Credit of $300

I’ll have to stop at a hotel on the way back. Marriott will be the chain of choice, because one more stay before January 15 will result in the regular points for the stay, a credit for the night since the $300 calendar year rebate clock will start over again, and 5,000 bonus points that are a part of Marriott’s Fall MegaBonus. That’s what I call stacking rewards that are beneficial to my both my bank account and my rewards account. How have you been able stack rewards like this? Let me know in the comments.

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Verdict–Rejected

Last year, I wrote an article about saving money with credit cards.  I know that some of the leading financial gurus in the US, most notably Dave Ramsey, want every credit card that has ever been created to be cut up into very tiny little pieces. They then want the very tiny little pieces of what used to be credit cards burned in a giant bonfire so that no one can ever use one again for any purpose at any time. I tend to disagree, because I can get some pretty cool benefits if I score some big signup bonuses and pay of my cards on a monthly basis so that I’m paying nothing in interest payments.

Already this year, I’ve been on a couple of pretty cool international trips. I had a week-long jaunt across the pond for Spring Break, visiting Madrid and Paris along the way.  While I spent some money on this trip, I literally saved thousands on what the retail cost would have been because points and miles paid for my flights and hotels.  Just a couple of months later, I found a killer sale on Southwest flights to Puerto Vallarta from the major airport that’s nearest my home.  A round-trip ticket was slightly more than 5,600 Rapid Rewards miles apiece. I found a really, really nice Marriott resort for $97/night and pulled the trigger.  I would not have been able to take these trips without the frequent flyer miles and hotel points that I’d accrued over the past couple of years.

When I started reading about the rumors over the past month or so that Chase Bank was going to have a super-duper premium credit card that earned Ultimate Rewards points, my interest was definitely piqued. The rumor was that for a $450 annual fee, cardholders could earn 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 (above the annual fee) within three months. Additionally, users would get a $300 credit on travel expenses each calendar year. The card was supposed to come out in August, so my thought was that I could get two $300 credits for one $450 annual fee. This would, in effect, mean that I could actually GET PAID $150 to get the card, in addition to the massive sign-up bonus that could come very close to getting my family a one-way saver trip to Europe or Asia all by itself.

Were the rumors too good to be true? It turns out that they were not. The benefits of the card were just as impressive as advertised. However, there was concern that the infamous 5/24 rule would be in effect for the card. This unwritten and unofficial secret squirrel rule means that if you’ve opened 5 cards from any bank over the past 24 months, Chase will most likely deny your application for many of their best travel cards, although, as with most rules, there appear to be some exceptions. I read several of my favorite travel blogs to get an idea of whether to expect this possibility. I thought that I had only opened four in the past 24 months regardless. However, I forgot that I’d held a card as an authorized user. Unfortunately, these count against the 5/24 rule that Chase won’t even confirm exists.  Another problem was that the blogs indicated that many people who had opened more than 5 cards were getting denied, although there were some spotty approvals for people who had opened more cards, sometimes many more cards.

Regardless of my fears, I decided to pull the trigger when the application link became available this week. I applied on the first day that I could have gotten a Sapphire Reserve, hoping to score the massive 100,000 point bonus with lots of Ultimate Rewards points added to my account. I love these points, because I can transfer them to airlines like United and Southwest (I’ve used them both for reward trips over the past couple of years). I can also transfer them to hotel loyalty programs like IHG (best known for the Holiday Inn chain), Marriott, and Hyatt. I once scored three nights at a Hyatt House about 10 minutes from Disneyland for only 8,000 points a night after using another Southwest sale to fly to LAX.

Anyhoo, to make a long story short, after I hit the submit button, I got the dreaded “We have to review your application and we’ll get back to you in 7-10 days” message that usually indicates that an applicant is going to get a big thumbs down on his or her attempt to score a card. I decided to call the reconsideration line, and my concerns were well-founded. Too many cards opened in the last 24 months was the verdict. One of my cards should fall of the list in October. At that point, if the bonus stays high enough, I might just attempt it again.

Did you attempt to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card? How did it work out?

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Why You Should Always Grab Every Loyalty Point Available

I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in mid-America. Missouri to be exact. My total cost for this hotel room and the breakfast I’ll be eating tomorrow is exactly  $0. My current stay is in a Best Western hotel. All of the Best Westerns that I’ve stayed in have been clean and reasonably comfortable. It’s a decent chain by all accounts.

However, I generally stay at Marriott properties. How did I get my free night at the Best Western? From loyalty points. I earned a nice chunk about seven years ago from a stay at the Best Western Carolinian (I think that the hotel has changed hands since).  I stayed in a one-bedroom condo that week. I also stayed in a Best Western in Kentucky about six years ago and at the Best Western in Wall, SD, a couple of times (this is the city that’s home to the world famous Wall Drug).

This is not my hotel, but it is a hotel. Mine is free.
This is not my hotel, but it is a hotel. Mine is free.

All of my previous stays added up to just north of 16,000 points, so I looked for a Best Western along my route for my current trip. I found one in the city that I frequently stay at during a trip east that I take a couple of times a year for a family visit. Total cost $0. That’s hard to beat. Many people ignore the option to earn points for every stay at a hotel  chain that has a loyalty program. Even if it takes years, these programs can pay off. I had to spend the night somewhere tonight, and it’s better that it’s free.

Usually, when I stay at a Marriott property, I use the chain’s co-branded credit card from Chase. This gives me bonus points. I have no such card for Best Western, even though one is available. I don’t even intend to get this card at any time in the near future. Had I made any purchases in the sundries shop, I would have put them on my Chase Sapphire card, which earns 2 points per dollar for travel expenses. Hotel stays definitely qualify in this regard. I always try to maximize the points that I earn, because they can lead to free nights at a Best Western that’s close to very little. They can also lead to trips to Europe or Mexico that cost way less than most people would think.

How have you been able to save money through loyalty programs?  Let me know in the comments.

Please note that you can get into pretty heavy debt with credit cards. That’s why I would recommend that you avoid them if you cannot pay off all purchases on a monthly basis. 

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A Trip to Europe on the Cheap

This is a blog about earning money without putting in time in an office, a fast food joint, or on a construction site. I aim to earn money from home so that I don’t have to spend more time away from the house. I definitely believe that there is more to life than money, but that more money can make life easier and open up options that are not available without it. I believe that a personal finance blog can be a great opportunity to show people hacks that can make their lives better. While earning money in pajamas can improve life, it’s also possible to get some great experiences without spending much. Last year, I wrote a post on how to save massive amounts of money on great trips with frequent flyer miles and hotel points.

Last month, I was able to cash in a load of these points and miles to get a deeply discounted trip to Europe. I cashed in 240,000 American Airlines Aadvantage miles to get six (count ’em, six) off-season tickets to Europe. These came from a couple of American Airlines sign-up bonuses and a couple of bonuses from the old US Airways card. I had long had Paris on my bucket list, and chose to visit the French capital on my vacation. One of the coolest things about the American Airlines award tickets is the ability to purchase one-way awards. Therefore, I decided that it would be a great opportunity to visit another European city in the process. I had to make sure that the tickets were on American Airlines flights (not with a partner like British Airways) because of fuel surcharges that are pretty massive on partner flights. I checked out tickets for my available dates to see if Rome, Barcelona, or Dublin would work. I struck out on each of these, but was able to land a flight to Madrid. Four of the tickets would leave from one city and two would leave from another airport substantially to the east of where I would be flying out of.  The total cost of each of these flights was less than $90–the cost of taxes that are required even with an award flight.

Eiffel TowerObligatory picture of the Eiffel Tour, or Le Tour Eiffel as the French call it, taken from my personal phone. 

Because my flights to and from Europe had what is called in the industry an open jaw, I had to get from Madrid to Paris. I did not have enough points to get the flight for taxes. Therefore, I checked on Expedia, and I was able to land flights for less than $70 each on Iberia Airlines. I could have gotten a slightly cheaper flight on a budget carrier, but these flights nickel and dime passengers with fees for just about anything, including carry-on bags. The total cost of six tickets from the US to Madrid, Madrid to Paris, and Paris to the US was right around $1,000 total. That’s the power of points and miles.

The Royal Palace in MadridThe Royal Palace in Madrid, again, taken by me

I then had to deal with getting lodging while in Europe. I only had a night to spend in Spain before a trip to Paris. I was able to get two rooms at a Holiday Inn Express in the Madrid area for free with IHG points. I then needed five nights in Paris. I was just short of the 280,000 points that I needed to get two rooms at the Marriott Charles de Gualle Airport hotel. I wound up spending $87.50 for the points I needed to put me over the top. Two rooms, one of which was upgraded to a family room upon arrival, for five nights cost a total of $87.50. Altogether, lodging and airfare for six people was slightly more than $1,000. That’s hard to beat. Of course, there were other expenses that added up over the trip, including food, tickets to Disneyland Paris, Versailles, the Louvre, ground transportation, and a day trip to Madrid and Toledo. Overall, it was a great trip, and it cost a fraction of what it might have had I attempted to pay the rack rate. While this was not a result of earning money in pajamas, it was an instance where taking advantage of opportunities that were available got me some great memories at a great discount.

A few credit card applications, meeting some spending bonuses buying stuff that I would be buying anyway, and cashing in the points I earned were all it took to take a dream vacation to Europe. Please note that I only recommend this for people who are able to pay off their cards on a monthly basis, as interest payments can quickly take away any benefit that the points provide and lead to massive amounts of debt. Proceed with caution if you have a spending problem. Also, remember that it’s important to actually have a good credit score to qualify for the bonuses.

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