You Can’t Unsubscribe from All Credit Sesame Emails

File this one under annoying, bizarre, and perhaps a little backwards. And that’s being friendly.

I am a member of Credit Sesame, a helpful service that provides you with a free credit score and some level of credit monitoring.

It’s pretty similar to Credit Karma, though the latter is more robust when it comes to free services.

Anyway, I receive emails from Credit Sesame periodically, usually notifying me that my credit score has changed. It’s a call to action for me to visit their site and see what’s going on. Totally fine in my book.

While I’m there, I might take an interest in related credit card products and apply, earning them a commission.

Or sign up for some premium services, like credit monitoring or a tri-merge credit report. Again, all fine.

I Can’t Unsubscribe

preferences

Here’s the problem, at least in my humble opinion. You can’t unsubscribe from Credit Sesame emails. If you want to maintain your membership, you must continue to receive at least two emails from the company per month.

One is a mid-month summary and the other email is a monthly Score and Data Refresh notice. If you are a Credit Sesame member, you may have noticed these emails and looked to opt-out.

Unfortunately, the ubiquitous unsubscribe button at the bottom of these emails isn’t anywhere to be found. Instead, there’s just a line about you receiving the email because you’re a member of Credit Sesame.

And that if you want to change your email address, to visit the Alerts section of your account page at Credit Sesame.

There’s nothing about stopping the emails entirely. This isn’t true of other emails they send, which you can opt-out of, such as offers, surveys, special promos, and advice.

When you opt out of those, it will reiterate that you will still receive “essential account related-info.” In other words, you’ll still get those two pesky emails every month.

How to Stop the Credit Sesame Emails

delete

Now if you want to stop all Credit Sesame emails, you have to close your account. Yes, they’d rather you close your account with them than just stop receiving a couple of emails.

To do this, once logged in to their website, hover over your name in the top-right hand corner and select profile. There you will see the option to “Delete My Account.”

If you do decide to delete your account, you’ll have to wait a year to become a member again due to their arrangement with their data providers, as noted in the screenshot above.

And perhaps this gives us a clue as to why they want to keep those emails coming. Chances are they have to pay for the data included in your free membership, so if you sign up and never visit their site, they’re going to lose money. Or certainly not make any money.

I checked out competitor Credit Karma’s policy to see if this was an industry thing or just specific to Credit Sesame, and it appears to be the latter.

Once I logged in to Credit Karma, I noticed I could stop all emails. And my most recent email from them also had the standard unsubscribe button at the bottom, which was reassuring.

With all the emails we get these days, it’s nice to have full control over what is sent to you, without feeling pressured to continue receiving them.

(photo: Shawn Campbell)

The Chase Marriott 150,000 Point Bonus Isn’t as Good as It Looks

You may have seen ads for a 150,000-point bonus on the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier credit card lately. That sounds like the best bonus ever offered on the card and one that can’t be missed.

It’s well above the 100k offers seen in the past and the current 80k bonus.

Heck, 150,000 Marriott points is just about enough to book a 5-night stay at a category 8 hotel. Think a tropical getaway like Maui or a ski-trip to Breckenridge.

It costs 160,000 Marriott points for four nights in a category 8 property, and Marriott gives you a 5th night free when you redeem four nights.

Marriott award chart

But sadly, the devil is in the details.

150,000 Marriott Points Is Not the Sign-Up Bonus

When I first saw the ad for the Chase Marriott card offering 150,000 bonus points, I was kicking myself for only getting the 100,000-point bonus.

However, upon closer inspection, my deal for fewer points was actually the deal. Allow me to explain.

The current 150,000-point offer is more style than substance. You see, the smaller print next to the 150,000 bonus points says, “Earn up to.” Darn it! I hate it when that happens.

Yep, it’s not as awesome as it first appeared. In fact, unless you’ve got deep pockets, or have great manufactured spending skills, it’ll be tough to actually earn all those points.

Here’s the deal. With the 150k offer, you earn 5X Marriott points on all purchases within your first year up to $30,000 in spending.

As we all know, 5X$30,000=150,000. So that’s how they’re able to advertise that big, juicy number to prospective customers.

In reality, it could say something to the effect of, “Spend $30,000 and earn 150,000 bonus points.” Of course, that wouldn’t sound very appealing, would it?

But that’s exactly what the offer really is.

My 100k offer on the Marriott Rewards Premier Business Card was 100,000 points after spending $5,000 during the first three months, a much more attainable goal.

It has since dropped to 80,000 points when you spend $3,000, also an easily attainable goal and a decent points haul at that.

You spend a tenth of the required amount and wind up with more than 50% of the points, nothing to sneeze at.

The pro to the 150k offer is that the annual fee is waived the first year, and only $85 thereafter. My annual fee was charged on day one and is $99 annually.

Additionally, you can earn 7,500 points for adding an authorized user in the first three months, thereby pushing up your points tally to 157,500, just shy of the amount necessary for 5 nights at a luxury hotel.

Other, Better Options to Nab Lots of Marriott Points

As mentioned, unless you like to churn hardcore, the 150,000 Marriott offer probably isn’t for you. But I know some people out there can probably hit the $30k in spending in a week or less and get all the points. In their sleep no less.

For the rest of us, it might make sense to look at other Ultimate Rewards-earning credit cards from Chase that allow 1:1 point transfers to Marriott and other brands.

Take Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offers 100,000 points after you spend $4,000. Those 104k points could just be transferred to Marriott and used for hotel reservations, if you were so inclined.

Have a spouse apply for the 80k Marriott offer and you’ve got nearly 200k Marriott points at your disposal. And the leftovers won’t go to waste because they can be used for other redemptions, not just Marriott redemptions.

Other cards like Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Ink Preferred could accomplish the same feat. The latter gives you 80k UR points when you spend $5,000.

What I’m getting at here is that you don’t always need the co-branded credit card because the Chase Ultimate Rewards program allows you to transfer points to a large number of hotels and frequent flyer programs.

I mentioned this in another post about being short some points for my Marriott redemption.

The takeaway here, as always, is to take a hard look at the offer to ensure it’s actually a good offer. And then to compare it to other available offers to determine what the best route to the points is.

For some folks, this 150k offer might be just the ticket to earn a boatload of Marriott points without having to pay an annual fee. While others will find the road to 150k fruitless because of the enormous spending requirement.

(photo: Herry Lawford)

Just a Few More Days to Snag a Credit Card Triple Dip

Ever heard of a “credit card triple dip?” While it might take on several meanings, the one I’m referring to takes advantage of calendar-year benefits.

What Is a Credit Card Triple Dip?

In a nutshell, you can get up to three calendar year benefits while paying only a single annual fee.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with a $300 annual travel credit. It’s possible to get this credit three times, for a value of $900 total, all while paying only one annual fee of $450.

The same is true of the $250 annual airline credit with Citi Prestige, which gives you a $250 credit per calendar year for all airline-related purchases, including airfare.

With Prestige, it’s possible to get $750 in credits while paying just one $450 annual fee.

There’s also the $200 airline credit with Amex Platinum, which can be triple dipped for a total value of $600, more than offsetting the $450 annual fee.

In all these instances, you can come out ahead, despite the massive annual fee tied to these prestigious credit cards.

You’ve only got a few more days left to pull this off. It might even be possible to still do this if you apply for a card today, assuming you can get a card expedited to you. We’re talking overnight shipping (or two-day) to ensure you can get the card, activate it, and make a charge to trigger the credit.

In fact, this would be ideal timing because it would allow you to get three credits without the second annual fee being charged. And even if it were charged, you’d likely have a 30-day grace period to get it refunded.

This might work for Amex Platinum, whose credit resets on January 1st, but not Citi Prestige and Chase Reserve, which reset after your December statement date.

My Chase Reserve December statement date was on December 23rd, so I’m now actually earning the $300 travel credit for 2017. In fact, I’ve already burnt through about $100 of it and it’s still December 2016.

I could potentially use all of 2017’s credit before it’s actually 2017. Weird.

The Credit Card Double Dip

Even if you aren’t able to pull off the triple dip, you can still easily do a double dip no matter when you apply for the aforementioned credit cards.

I mentioned this in a post about the Citi Prestige, where you can earn $500 to offset the $450 annual fee. It’s pretty easy. Just spend $250 in one calendar year and another $250 in the subsequent calendar year, before the annual fee is charged again.

This is perhaps easiest when you apply for a card late in the year. For example, if you get approved for one of these cards in say November, you can get the credit, then get the second credit a couple of months later, then enjoy the card until the annual fee comes up 9-10 months later.

At that point you can cancel the card and move on to something else.

I applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve back in September because I had some big-ticket items I could charge and easily hit the minimum spend, so it made sense to apply then.

As a result, I’m able to double dip in December 2016 (right this second) for my second $300 annual travel credit.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to triple dip because my annual fee will hit several months before 2017 ends.

Had I waited until late November or early December, it would have been feasible to triple dip, but all is not lost.

Some credit cards pro-rate the annual fee, so even if you let a few months go by, you can still triple dip and come out ahead.

Making Money By Paying Two Annual Fees

Take the Citi Prestige card…if you opened the card in November 2016 and got the $250 airline credit, you could get it again anytime in 2017. Then you’d be hit with the annual fee in November.

You could then get the airline credit again (a third time) in January 2018 and then cancel the card and receive a prorated refund.

If they only charge you for two months, you’d get $375 back. So even though you paid the annual fee a second time, you’d only pay $75 of it on the second go-around.

And if you got the $250 airline credit, you’d come out $175 ahead.

In summary:

First annual fee: $450
Second annual: $75 ($375 refunded)
Three airline credits: $750 (credit)

Total: $225 in credits

So you could potentially triple dip and come out $225 ahead with Citi Prestige, even while paying two annual fees (one partial). In fact, it’d maybe in your interest if you applied late in the year to keep it and pay the second annual fee if you had an airline purchase that could trigger the credit.

The same isn’t true with other cards because they charge you the annual fee in full. They don’t pro-rate it. However, some credit card annual fees can be refunded with a grace period, such as 30 or 60 days.

This makes it possible to triple dip, even if you go over your time allotment and get charged a second annual fee.

But before you try to pull off a triple dip, do your homework and time it accordingly to avoid any mishaps. If you do mess up, you can always plead with the card issuer to offer a good faith refund.

Just make sure you use the card naturally, otherwise they might not want to do business with you in the future.

Another Trick to Get Approved for Chase Credit Cards Beyond 5/24

There’s yet another trick to get past that pesky 5/24 rule at Chase, this according to a Reddit post.

The way it works is actually pretty simple, though it does require a visit (or two) to a Chase banking branch in order to get the job done.

You also have to be an existing Chase customer.

Before we get started, you have to actually be above 5/24 and not pre-approved for any of the sought-after UR-earning Chase credit cards like CSR or Chase Ink or Freedom.

If you are pre-approved for those cards, there’s no reason to read this post. Go get those cards!

Step 1: Go to a Chase Branch to See If You’re Pre-Approved for Any Cards

The first step here is determine your 5/24 status with Chase. If you know you’re way over the limit or you’ve been recently denied due to 5/24, you don’t necessarily need to go to a Chase branch.

But if you’re on the cusp or just over 5/24, there’s a chance you can successfully apply for a Chase credit card regardless of that status.

Going to the branch to check your credit card pre-approval status basically confirms the need to follow the next two steps.

If you go to Chase and there are no pre-approvals waiting for you, read on.

Step 2: Update Your Income on the Chase Website

location

The second step is to update your income on Chase’s website. To get there, either click on the three horizontal bars in the top corner of the newly updated website, then profile, then personal details.

If you have the older version of the Chase website, like me, click on customer center at the top of the screen, then update annual income in the top section.

You’ll then be presented with a screen where you can enter your gross annual income and any additional income you make.

Chase says on this screen to “add your income and update it whenever it changes.”

update income

Once you input the income figures, hit save and you’re all set, at least for step 2.

Tip: Obviously your income should be on an upward trajectory here – if you enter a lower figure than you did previously, this whole thing likely won’t work.

Step 3: Visit a Chase Branch Again

Now you’ve got to get in the car, grab your bike or skateboard (or hoverboard), or simply throw on some moccasins and head to the nearest Chase banking branch.

If all goes according to plan, you’ll be pre-approved for credit cards you weren’t previously approved for thanks to the income update.

The personal banker should be able to check status again and let you know the cards you’re now pre-approved for. From there, you can apply for said card(s) and ideally get approved.

This worked for the original poster of the “trick,” who was apparently at 13/24 when he got approved for CSR and Freedom Unlimited.

Yes, he had opened 13 new credit cards in the past 24 months, but still got approved for new Chase cards simply by updating his income on the Chase website.

Another trick, previously mentioned here, is to look for pre-approved offers via the new Chase website layout.

Good luck out there!

Should I Add an Authorized User to My Credit Card Account?

Credit card Q&A: “Should I add an authorized user to my credit card account?”

These days, credit card companies are constantly urging us to add an authorized user. In fact, they’re even incentivizing us to do, offering 5,000 bonus points in many cases.

For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred card holders can get an additional 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points if/when they add an authorized user and that individual makes a purchase within the first three months of account opening.

And there is no annual fee for the authorized user, only the primary cardmember.

Seems pretty easy, doesn’t it? That’s a minimum of $50 in value for simply adding a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife to your account. Why not, right?

Authorized Users Aren’t Responsible for Repayment

Well, here’s the first problem with adding an authorized user to your credit card. They aren’t responsible for the repayment of charges they make.

However, they have the same exact charging privileges as the primary cardmember. Kind of scary, no? In short, it means they can go on a spending spree on your dime.

Of course, you have the power to cut them off at any time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do some serious damage in a matter of a few hours.

They can effectively ruin your credit (and only your credit) if you’re unable to pay back the charges they make in a timely fashion. It can affect them too, but they might be able to remove the delinquent account from their credit report if they claim they’re simply an authorized user.

For the record, American Express is the only credit card issuer that actually lets you set fixed credit limits for your authorized users. Other card issuers just let them charge up to whatever your credit limit is.

Do You Want 5,000 Points or 100,000?

Another downside to adding an authorized user is the fact that the card will likely wind up on their credit report, which can limit their ability to get approved for credit cards in the future.

For example, the Chase 5/24 rule, which bars you from getting approved for UR-earning credit cards if you’ve opened five credit cards in the past two years, includes authorized user accounts.

So say you add your wife as an authorized user and she had opened four credit cards in the past two years. The authorized user card would push her total to five, and that could lead to a denial under the 5/24 rule.

You’d maybe get those 5,000 bonus points, but lose out on her being able to apply for a new Chase card with a massive bonus.

In short, would you rather get 100,000 extra points for your household or 5,000? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Authorized User Fees by Credit Card

Additionally, many credit card issuers charge you a fee to add an authorized user on a premium credit card.

Here are the authorized user fees charged annually for a select group of popular credit cards:

Amex Centurion: $2,500 for each authorized user
Amex Gold: $45 for up to 5 additional cards, $45 for each additional card thereafter
Amex Platinum: $175 total for up to 3 authorized users, $175 per additional authorized user
Barclaycard Arrival Plus: $0 for authorized users
Chase Freedom: $0 for authorized users
Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards: $0 for authorized users
Chase Sapphire Preferred: $0 for authorized users
Chase Sapphire Reserve: $75
Citi Prestige: $50 for authorized users

Note that some of these cards have annual benefits like travel credits, which are calculated on an aggregate basis. That means the $300 travel credit for Chase Sapphire Reserve is allocated across the entire account, not per user. You only get $300 total amongst all users combined.

However, things like lounge access apply to each authorized user, which can be a plus. And reimbursements for things like Global Entry can apply to any of the authorized users.

Just be sure to carefully review the benefits for authorized users to ensure you aren’t misinterpreting the rules and spending money unnecessarily.

Authorized Users Can Help with Spending

At the same time, an authorized user can help you meet minimum spend to earn a mega credit card bonus. The Chase Sapphire Reserve requires $4,000 in spending, a tough feat for many people to be sure.

But if you add a responsible family member or boyfriend/girlfriend, that goal is more or less split in two. Can two people each spend $2,000 a lot faster and ensure the necessary spend is met to earn the bonus?

This is one of the main advantages of adding an authorized user when a big bonus is involved.

In the process, you can also give the authorized user some other perks, such as airport lounge access if the card offers that.

I know a guy who made his long-distance girlfriend an authorized user so she could use the lounges when she comes to visit.

That’s a nice gesture, but perhaps she should have applied for the card herself and earned the massive bonus and avoided the $75 fee (and gained access to the lounges!).

You Can Boost Authorized User’s Credit Scores

One final benefit to adding an authorized user is the ability to boost their credit scores. If someone lacks sufficient credit history to generate a solid credit score, you can add them as an authorized user and start generating positive account activity.

Once they’ve been an authorized user for a few months, any good payment history should reflect in their scores and boost them accordingly.

This is a good way to help someone either establish their credit initially or simply improve upon existing scores that need a little shot in the arm.

Of course, if this is your intention it might be wise to add them onto a card that doesn’t charge a fee to include an authorized user.

In summary, be sure to only add authorized users you know and trust. As noted, you’re giving them a lot of responsibility and it is you and you only that is on the hook for their actions.

Also, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of adding an authorized user versus just having them apply for their own credit cards. You might find that it’s a lot more beneficial to have them open their own card to collect more points and card benefits.

Credit Karma Wants to Do Your Taxes, for Free

Most folks have heard of Credit Karma, the free credit score website. They basically killed off those other free credit score websites by providing a free credit score (and credit report) without the need for your credit card info.

It revolutionized the credit scoring game.

Well, now they want to do the same thing with…your taxes. Sounds strange, doesn’t it, but alas, it’s true.

It appears Credit Karma is now planning to go head-to-head with the likes of Intuit’s TurboTax, a bold move to be sure.

Introducing Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma tax

Let’s learn more about “Credit Karma Tax,” shall we. In short, Credit Karma is offering to do your taxes for free in return for a better understanding of your financial situation.

In other words, the more they know about your finances, the better they’ll be able to assist you in applying for offers that land them a commission.

Like their credit scoring product, gaining information about you helps them “suggest better credit cards, loans and insurance products.”

Of course, you aren’t obligated to listen to them, and there are times when their suggestions don’t make a lot of sense. I think this is one of the shortcomings of artificial intelligence. There’s probably not an actual human cross-checking these suggestions.

Credit Karma Tax Is 100% Free

Anyway, the Credit Karma Tax product is 100% free, and includes both federal and state taxes, unlike other “free” tax services that charge you for state and provide federal free of charge.

There are no upsells or hidden fees associated with the product, unlike other so-called free tax services out there.

The product is website-based, not a download, so it’s completed like TurboTax where you can save your info and revisit it as you work through it.

You have to be a member of the standard Credit Karma service to do your taxes with them, and if you want them to do your taxes, you have to add your name to this waiting list.

They plan to roll out the service in January 2017 to I suppose the lucky few that are chosen initially. It’s unclear how many slots there are, it might just be a beta type rollout initially.

For the record, you can e-file (Credit Karma is an authorized IRS e-file provider) or print out your taxes and mail them in to the IRS. It’s free either way.

However, not everyone is eligible for this new service, only those with the following tax schedules:

• 1040EZ
• 1040A
• 1040

And those who are self-employed and/or own a small business can use the service, with the following forms supported:

• 1040 schedule C (sole proprietorship)
• 1040 schedule E (partnerships, estates, trusts, multi-member LLCs, S corporations, C corporations)
• 1040 schedule SE (self-employment tax)

But Credit Karma Tax doesn’t support those who need to file small business forms or businesses that file as an S-corp, C-corp, partnership, or multi-member LLC.

Additionally, Credit Karma Tax does not support the following stuff:

• Multiple state or non-resident state returns
• State filings w/o a federal return
• 1040NR (non-resident federal filing)
• Foreign earned income credit
• Non-dependent earned income credit
• Married filing separately (MFS) in common law states
• Estate and Trust income from K1 forms

But, they do support joint filings, which is a plus. You can see a complete list of forms they support here.

Should You Use Credit Karma Tax for Your Taxes?

This is the million-dollar question, and one that will vary based on your unique financial profile.

For those with simple taxes, typically W-2 employees with no major investments or complicated tax structures, a product like Credit Karma Tax would probably work out just fine.

But if you’re self-employed and have lots of investments, real estate, etc., it might not be the best way to go unless you’re also well-versed in tax law.

Of course, if you are the latter person, and you do your own taxes through TurboTax or a similar automated system, Credit Karma’s version will likely be pretty much on par.

They do claim to have some support on the product, but also note that they’re not tax advisors, and as such won’t be able to provide personal or legal tax advice.

There’s a chance products like TurboTax might offer more robust services like audit protection and advanced support features (for a cost).

At the end of the day, it comes down to how much you want to pay (or not pay) to do your taxes and how much privacy means to you.

This Is Why Credit Card Issuers Give You 100k Bonus Points

Ever wonder why credit card issuers are so generous? You know, offering you 100,000 points simply for spending $4,000?

If we do the math, they’re giving you over $1,000 in exchange for a much smaller annual fee, say $450. That’s less than half the cost.

A smart consumer could go out and spend $4,000, pay it back, and come out $550 ahead simply by cashing out the 100,000 points.

This is an option with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, so it’s not just hypothetical.

Chase makes the deal even sweeter by offering a $300 annual travel category credit, meaning the same smart consumer could offset the annual fee.

They could push it down to $150 in year one using that credit, and climb $150 into the black in year two before the second annual fee is charged.

All told, they’d come out $1,150 ahead if they cashed out the points and took advantage of the credits, then canceled the card. Does this mean Chase is going to start operating at a loss?

Not Everyone Does What’s Described Above

card debt

Here’s the thing. You are smart, but not everyone else is. In fact, a lot of people aren’t very smart when it comes to credit cards, let alone their personal finances.

For every smart person, there are probably three suckers who are, for lack of a better phrase, doing it wrong.

Instead of carefully meeting minimum spend as to not overspend, they’re spending frivolously and beyond their means. And as such, they’re going to pay interest, lots of it.

Yep, Chase is happy to give them the 100,000 points in exchange for years of finance charges. Oh, and Chase will make money via interchange fees on all those swipes and dips too. So no sweat off their back.

If you don’t believe me, just consider that indebted households have average credit card debt of $16,061.

They aren’t all churning and burning, cashing checks and breaking necks. Nope, instead they’re paying finance charges.

That ~$16k balance is the highest it has been since before/right around the financial crisis that ensued in 2008.

And the current average APR on those balances is a sky-high 18.76%, with the typical American household paying some $1,292 in credit card interest annually.

Are Those Credit Card Points Costing You?

So you have to ask yourself, are you actually winning here, or are the billion-dollar banks winning?

If I had to guess, I’d go with the latter, even if there are indeed thousands of super savvy, smart churners out there. They’re still outnumbered and always will be.

But before I sound too sad about it, this is actually a good thing for those who are responsible. It means the mega credit card bonuses will continue to roll in, despite credit card issuers taking huge losses on them from time to time.

Yes, I should add that Chase expects the Chase Sapphire Reserve to reduce the bank’s profit by between $200 and $300 million in the fourth quarter of this year.

That’s without any marketing of the hugely popular offering. But don’t worry, they still expect to make about $5 billion in profit…

While it’s a loss now, it’ll be a gain later. They have time to make good on their investments, and are expected to break-even on the card in about 5 ½ years. Stretch out the timeline a little longer and they’ll likely be making a killing on the outstanding card balances.

In summary, strive to be one of the smart credit card holders who wins the game, but understand the risks involved. And take a hard look at why credit card issuers are seemingly giving away money. The reality is they’re not, they’re actually loaning it to you for a massive profit.

Credit Card Issuers Really Want Us to Redeem Our Points for Gift Cards

I’ve noticed something lately. Credit card issuers really want you (and me) to use your valuable credit card points for things that are not so invaluable.

For instance, I receive e-mails all the time urging me to redeem my lucrative credit card rewards for gift cards. Gift cards? Seriously? Why would I want a gift card?

Shoot, I probably had to buy gift cards at some point to get those credit card rewards to begin with. Yep, that’s one of the many ways you can meet minimum credit card spend without spending needlessly on things you don’t want or need.

So there’s a good chance I won’t want more gift cards. Even worse, some credit card issuers actually give you a less than 1:1 ratio for your points when you redeem them for gift cards.

As I pointed out in this post, gift card redemptions can be good, bad, and flat out ugly. Some will give you a bonus amount over the card value, such as Discover, while others, like American Express, will give you a redemption as bad as 2:1.

In other words, your points might be worth only a half a cent each, which is a terrible value considering what else is out there for the taking.

Even Chase will urge you to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for gift cards, despite the fact that you can just cash them out. Why would you get a gift card if you could just get cash instead, then buy whatever you want, including gift cards (at a discount)?

It’s Probably Cheaper for Credit Card Issuers

My guess is that certain redemptions are a lot cheaper for the credit card issuers than others. Perhaps the most expensive are the transfers to frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs, seeing that you can get tremendous value.

We’re talking 2+ cents per point if you want to be conservative about it, and potentially a lot more if you find some good award space.

I’m not sure what it costs the card issuers, but I’m guessing there’s a reason they’d rather you redeem your points for a blender, or ear buds, as opposed to cash and airline miles.

You never hear or see them insisting that you transfer your points to an airline so you can fly first class. Or push you to cash out your points for money. I doubt they’re keen on writing you a check.

Heck, they probably earn a referral fee or get a reduced rate if and when you redeem your points for gift cards or random merchandise from a catalog.

The worst part is that they give you the poorest redemption rate on something that probably costs them the least amount of money. That’s kind of a slap in the face.

Ultimately, this is just another trap the credit card issuers hope you’ll fall into. Redeeming your points for less than their potential value. That, along with overspending and paying interest, is why they offer these mega bonuses to begin with.

So be sure you research the card in question and determine exactly what you plan to do with the points beforehand to assess their true value to YOU. Otherwise you might get less than your bargained for.

Apparently New Chase Website Lets You Circumvent 5/24 Rule

There are swirlings in the blogosphere that the notorious Chase 5/24 rule can be circumvented thanks to the rollout of the bank’s new website.

If you notice your Chase website design has changed, chances are you can take advantage of the new credit card approval process that is both quick and easy and also a potential workaround the 5/24 rule, which stipulates no new Chase UR earning cards if you’ve opened five new credit cards or more in the past two years.

Get Approved for Chase Credit Cards Simply by Entering Your Income

your offers

With the rollout of the new Chase website, existing customers (yes, you already have to be a customer), will see “offers” that are pre-selected for them, this according to the Travel Sisters website.

Once you’re logged in, you might see a banner ad on the screen that tells you a certain card, such as Chase Freedom Unlimited, has been “selected for you.”

From there, you can click to view your offer and related terms. What’s even cooler, you simply have to enter your gross annual income to submit your application.

Instead of the typical long-form application that requires things like your address, social, employment info, and more, you enter one piece of information and hit submit. Yes, just one thing!

That’s the beauty of being an existing client, they already have all your info so they only require one updated thing to get the ball rolling.

I wish all credit card applications were this easy…

Anyway, they reported that they were approved instantly without having to call in to check status (no pending nonsense to deal with here).

Circumvent the 5/24 Rule Too?

Perhaps more exciting, this new method of applying for Chase credit cards can apparently bypass the stringent 5/24 rule.

It’s not guaranteed, obviously, but anecdotal evidence provided by the aforementioned website claims the applicants were all “way over 5/24” and still got approved.

So this might be a new backdoor into a UR-earning Chase credit card if you’re a big-time churner.

I’m also curious how the credit inquiry process works on these applications. My guess is that they still run your credit, but it’d be cool if they somehow didn’t, and instead relied on all your info and the soft pulls they may perform from time to time.

The gals noted that this new offers feature is different than the pre-qualified offers tool you can use with Chase, because the same offers didn’t appear in both.

They also pointed out that the new Chase website doesn’t appear for those who have a linked business account in their profile.

So if you have Chase Ink, you won’t see the new website, at least not initially. I am one of those people, so unfortunately I can’t see these offers or the new design of the site.

But I also have to plan/desire to apply for a new Chase credit card anytime soon, so it’s not an issue for me.

I checked my wife’s account and she didn’t have any credit card offers.  Aside from the banners, you can go to the top-left corner and click the drop-down menu, then select “Your offer.”

To summarize, if you’re desperately trying to get approved for the new great credit card offers from Chase, including Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Ink Preferred, this might be the Christmas present you were waiting for.

 

Don’t Mess Up Your Minimum Spend with Bad Math

These days, it’s all about the opening bonuses when it comes to credit card rewards, not the paltry one or two percent cash back (or points) you can earn for regular spending.

After all, credit card issuers are offering up to 100,000 points for simply spending $4,000 on cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

It would take at least $20,000 in spending in 5X categories to snag that many points, something most normal people couldn’t and wouldn’t possibly achieve.

So you know the opening bonus is where the money’s at, but you don’t want to screw it up. Otherwise the credit card issuer wins. And trust me, they win a lot, otherwise they wouldn’t dole out these awesome offers.

You’re Keeping Too Much Track (You Think)

When I open a new credit card with a minimum spending requirement, I hammer it hard to ensure I get the bonus ASAP. I know you get three months (generally), but I like to hit that spend within a month or slightly longer.

I’m not about hitting it at the wire. Why? Well, for one, you might mess up your math because you worked so hard to get it just right.

There are some very particular people out there who track their spending to the last dime, thinking they’ve hit the minimum required, at which point they seize all spending on the card in order to not overspend.

But guess what? There are probably folks who do this, only to realize they didn’t subtract their annual fee from the math. Or a refund they made.

In the end, they only chalked $3,550 in qualified purchases, well short of the $4,000 required. So be sure to spend $4,450 on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card if you want the 100,000 bonus points.

I asked my wife what her balance was on the card recently, as she hasn’t met the spend yet, and she said she was close. I said did you factor in the annual fee they charged at the outset? No, she replied.

Whelp, looks like we have more spending to do than we thought…

Long story short, annual fees do not count toward minimum spend! They aren’t purchases.

Tip: Interestingly, Chase Sapphire Reserve has a travel credit that can make your spending appear lower than it really is. These purchases actually do count toward your minimum spend, even though they’re instantly refunded.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Along those same lines, it’s important to hit the bonus well before the three months are up.

As I’ve said before, the credit card open date is often several days or even a week or so before you actually receive the card.

It’s essentially the day you were approved for the card, though you don’t get your hands on the sucker until it’s sent through the mail.

You may have mistakenly assumed you had more time to hit the spend, only to get the bad news after your bonus didn’t post as expected.

When you apply for a card and get approved, ask when the card open date is. But perhaps more importantly, hit the minimum spend well before that time.

Sometimes transactions don’t go through on the day you made a purchase, and if you cut things too close, it could burn you.

End of the day, you should be aiming to hit the minimum spend within a couple months and nowhere close to the 90 days you’re usually given. It’s just not worth the risk.