Honestly, when you look at how my time is spent, there’s not a ton of time left over to become a credit card Points Pirate:
There are plenty of people who have made credit cards points a hobby, even going so far as to bend or violate the rules of the credit card terms, usually at their own peril. Sometimes they’ll sign up for the hefty point bonus and then get rid of the card, known as “card churning.” This might work a few times but banks are hip to this scheme and are cracking down. Everyone wants something for nothing, I suppose, and initially that seemed like what I’d be getting into.
But then Mr. Los Angeles framed it to me like this: we could get first class tickets, hotels and travel basically for free.DING DING DING sign me up because I am on BOARD.
- 40,000 point signing bonus
- an addional 5,000 points when you add the first authorized user (I think they’re trying to cut down on spouses signing up for two cards as opposed to one joint account)
- Double points on restaurants and travel
- 1:1 point transfers on travel partners. That list currently includes British Airways Executive Club, Korean Air SKYPASS, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Amtrak Guest Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, IHG Rewards Club and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards. The list becomes broader when you factor in that many of the frequent flyer programs will transfer (example: Korean Air SKYPASS points will transfer to Delta, BA Executive Club can transfer to United, etc). It’s a complicated redemption but more on that later…
- No foreign transaction fees.
- Chip and Signature enabled (which is still not the Chip and Pin we’re looking for when we travel. Try using a chip and signature card at a gas or train station in Europe. Good luck!)
- $95 per year
- Note: I’m going to be speaking about this card in terms of points, although the default reward is cash back. By redeeming your rewards through UR, you are then able to combine your points on both cards
- $100 signing bonus
- 5x points on rotating spending categories
- 1 point per dollar on all transactions
- When combined with your Chase Sapphire Preferred, you are able to redeem your points on all the aforementioned travel partners
- No annual fee
So I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred on almost everything, and the Chase Freedom when there’s a spending category that’s relevant to me.Simply earning a point per dollar and calling it a day is the easiest way to go. But I wanted my Paris tickets and I didn’t want to wait years to earn enough points.
But I am not willing to cut into my breakfast burrito time in order to play this game. Below are the easiest ways to earn points that don’t sacrifice time spent discussing the virtues of Tapatio*:
- Took advantage of signing bonuses: back in the day, they were offering as much as 50,000 if you signed up. Those can fluctuate greatly. Take note of the terms of the signing bonus, which usually means you have to spend a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time. For my husband and I, that wasn’t difficult as we had committed to putting as many transactions as possible on our cards. It’s become such a regular thing that I hesitate when entering my PIN number because I use it so infrequently.
- Use the Ultimate Rewards Mall: Think of the UR Mall every time you shop. I buy a ton of stuff within the Gap family (Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy and Athleta). While you usually earn 1 point per 1 dollar on purchases, the UR Mall contains links to your favorite online retailers where you can get anywhere from 1-50 additional points per dollar. That means when Banana Republic is having a sale, my $100 purchase will earn me 300 UR points as opposed to 100 (that means I get the normal 1-1 points plus the 2 additional points per dollar as described in the UR mall). Even at Apple.com you can earn one additional point per dollar, which means my laptop purchase racked up over 6000 points. Of course, not every major online retailer is in the UR mall but there are enough to make a difference and earn you some serious points.
- Take advantage of the Chase Freedom categories: each calendar year, the Chase Freedom card offers five extra points per dollar on specific categories and/or specific retailers. At this moment, they’re offering this bonus on gas stations and Kohl’s (yawn, especially since I have a Prius) but starting in September they’ll have Amazon! Your bonus points max out at $1500 per category and there are some options for both the lazy and the ambitious:
- Lazy Mode: Take a look at the spending categories. Mark your calendar to remind yourself to use your Freedom card. Do you have an extra 10 minutes? Do you see a retailer or category that you frequent? Set a reminder to buy some gift cards in that category** (maximum of $1500) so you can earn the 5x bonus and use them later. Call it a day.
- Ambitious Mode: Do the Lazy stuff, then take a look at the spending categories for the year. Figure out which retailers sell gift cards besides their own. For instance, I saw gift cards for grocery stores at gas stations. I definitely won’t max out the gas category in the time allotted, but I can get some gift cards at a gas station and take advantage of the 5x bonus.