Chase Ultimate Rewards Points vs. Amex Membership Rewards

If you’re in the market for a new rewards credit card, you’ve probably compared options from Chase and American Express, as they offer the biggest sign-up bonuses out there.

But their rewards points are very different, so you can’t just say one is offering more points and is therefore the better option.

Instead, you need to determine what you’ll use the points for before applying for the card in question to avoid any wastage.

Assuming you want to book a trip, namely a flight, both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards are transferable to airline partners.

Both allow you to convert your credit card points to airline miles at a 1:1 ratio. So if you have 100,000 points with either issuer, those are effectively 100,000 miles with a number of different airline partners like United or British Airways.

That’s the good news. However, you have to look at the airline partners before you make grand travel plans.

Amex Has More Airline Partners than Chase

At first glance, you’ll notice that American Express has more airline partners to transfer to than Chase.

However, the way airlines work these days, it’s pretty easy to book flights on just about every carrier thanks to code sharing.

For example, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards from Chase to United, then use those United miles to book flights on Turkish Airlines, Air Canada, etc., even though they’re not explicitly listed as travel partners with Chase.

The same goes for Membership Rewards points with Amex. Their list of airline partners can be expanded similarly once you start doing award searches with partner carriers.

So they’re still basically offering the same benefit when it comes to travel. Plenty of airline partners and the same transfer rate.

Amex Might Charge a Fee

One negative for Amex MR points is that they charge a small fee when transferring points to a U.S. airline ($0.0006 per point transferred with a maximum fee of $99).

Chase doesn’t charge this fee when moving UR points to an airline. That’s one win for Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Another win for Chase UR is the fact that the points can be transferred into cash at a 1:1 ratio. In other words, 100,000 UR points are worth $1,000 cash. Yes, just cash them in and use the money as you wish.

With Amex MR points, you can’t do that. The best you can do cash-wise is convert the points to an Amex gift card, and the ratio is a less than favorable 2:1. That means 100,000 MR points are worth just $500 in gift card value.

Chase is the big winner here because any excess points can be used for straight cash with no hoops to jump through. And there’s a very good chance you’ll have some extra points lying around after redeeming for airline miles.

Really, if you don’t transfer your Amex MR points to airlines, you basically lose out because every other redemption value is less than 1 cent per point except a few things like Uber, third-party gift cards, and some flights booked via the Amex Travel website.

Chase Offers a Redemption Bonus on Flights Booked via Their Portal

Meanwhile, Chase will give you a bonus when you redeem UR points via their travel portal. With Chase Sapphire Preferred, a $625 flight booked via their portal requires only 50,000 points. That’s a 25% bonus.

With Chase Sapphire Reserve, the bonus jumps to 50%, so 100,000 points are worth $1,500 toward travel.

The new Ink Business Preferred offers the same 50% bonus.

It should be noted that Amex finally caught up to Chase on this by offering a 50% point refund when you use Pay with Points to book travel with an Amex Business Platinum. That means it only costs 50,000 MR points to book a $1,000 flight, a value of 2 cents per point.

However, this feature is only found on the biz version of Amex Platinum…the good news is all your MR points can enjoy this redemption rate, even if they weren’t earned via the Amex Platinum Biz card.

Chase vs. American Express: Other Travel Benefits

If you consider other travel benefits, like the $300 travel credit with Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. the $200 with Amex Platinum, Chase wins again.

Chase gives you instant statement credits for any travel purchase, while Amex asks that you designate an airline first and only reimburses airline incidentals like baggage fees (not airfare unless you buy a gift card that triggers the credit).

Additionally, Chase UR points can be easily transferred to a spouse or relative, whereas Amex MR points can only be transferred to an authorized user account. And authorized user accounts often come with hefty annual fees.

This means it’s easier to pool together Chase UR points than it is Amex MR points, another advantage for Chase cardholders that need a higher point total for a certain redemption.

Ultimately, Chase UR points are worth more than Amex MR points in many situations, though it does depend on your specific travel goals, assuming travel is your redemption of choice.

But one last thing to consider is how easy it is for you to earn points in the two programs. If you can earn points more easily in certain categories like office supply stores and on certain utilities, Chase might allow you to earn many more points much quicker.

Conversely, if you can score tons of MR points at grocery stores and gas stations, Amex might be the way to go for you.

You really have to sit down and map it all out to determine which points mean more to you. For me personally, Chase UR points are more valuable, but that’s because I like the flexibility and the lower annual fees.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Advantages

– Large sign-up bonuses with relatively low annual fees
– Easier to transfer to spouse or family member
– More 1:1 redemption options including cash
– Better travel credits to offset annual fee
– Lots of ways to earn 5X UR points per $1 spent
– Points can be worth 50% more than used on Chase Travel website

Chase Ultimate Rewards Disadvantages

– Fewer transfer partners

American Express Membership Rewards Advantages

– Large sign-up bonuses to earn lots of points fast
– Tons of travel partners to transfer points to
– Amex Biz Platinum now offers 50% points back when used at Amex Travel website

American Express Membership Rewards Advantages

– High annual fees
– Bonus categories not as good as Chase for most cards
– Harder to combine points across different user accounts
– Fees charged for certain point transfers
– Redemption values generally poor if not used for travel
– Travel credit not as lucrative/flexible

Good Time of Year to Apply for Credit Cards with Calendar Year Benefits

Did you know that fall is a great time to apply for a new credit card? If not, allow me to explain.

Many credit cards these days come with an annual calendar year benefit, such as an airline credit or a travel credit.

These benefits aren’t based on when your card anniversary is – rather, they’re simply based on the calendar year so all customers are in the same boat, regardless of when they got the card.

This means everyone gets a use it or lose it benefit annually, no matter when they applied for a credit card.

Take the $300 travel category credit from the new Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

It’s a calendar year benefit, meaning you get $300 in statement credits every calendar year. So if you applied for the card sometime in 2016, you’d get $300 in credits until December 31st.

Then the credit resets on January 1st, 2017.

$600 in Credits with One Annual Fee

For the savvy credit cardholder, this is an ideal time to apply for a card like Sapphire Reserve. Why?

In short, you can get $300 in travel credits in 2016 and another $300 in 2017, all while only paying one annual fee of $450.

Assuming you max out the credit, you’d come out $150 to the good, eclipsing that pesky annual fee and giving yourself time to enjoy the benefits of the card before canceling when the second annual fee comes up late in the year.

You could do the same thing if you applied in say June of a given year, but then you’d only get six months to use the subsequent year’s credit before the next annual was due, instead of nearly 12 months.

Of course, you do have to have a plan for using the credit this year to ensure you don’t miss out, or waste some of it with just a month or so remaining.

But you can also use two credits in a short period (e.g. December 16 and January 17) for the same vacation, instead of waiting a year for the credit to reset.

For example, book the flight in late 2016 and the hotel for that same trip in early 2017.

Holiday Shopping Helps Too

Aside from giving yourself more time to enjoy the credit, this time of year is also a heavy spending period for most folks.

That means it’s also a good time to hit the minimum spend on a new credit card.

Sometimes people struggle to come up with ways to spend X amount in three months, but with holiday shopping virtually unavoidable, it’s a good way to knock out some of the burden.

There also happens to be a lot of holiday travel, and since these annual credits are travel-related, it’s probably a good time to use them.

Sure, you can just buy airline gift cards or take lots of Uber trips to get the credits, but it’s nice to use them for something you were going to spend regardless in one fell swoop.

Anyway, once you get two year’s worth of credits, you can cancel the card while paying a single annual fee, assuming you have little use for the card thereafter.

Yes, the benefits on these cards are good, but at $450 per year, most will probably balk at keeping them in their wallets long-term, especially when there are always competitive alternatives popping up.

Credit Cards with Calendar Year Benefits

Amex Platinum ($200 airline credit with chosen airline)
Amex Biz Platinum ($200 airline credit with chosen airline)
Amex Premier Rewards Gold ($100 airline credit with chosen airline)
Chase Sapphire Reserve ($300 travel category credit)
Citi Prestige ($250 airline credit)

(photo: joelanman)

You Have to Opt-in to the Lounge Access with Chase Sapphire Reserve

Just wanted to throw out a Public Service Announcement (PSA) regarding the lounge benefit associated with Chase Sapphire Reserve.

While you probably remember hearing about “complimentary airport lounge access” when you applied, you might be wondering how you enter the lounges.

Do you just flash your metallic credit card and saunter through the door? Or do you stop at the front desk and tell them you’re a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder and ask them to look you up?

Well, if you guessed either of these you’d be wrong. The lounge access benefit isn’t automatic. Instead, you have to enroll by visiting the Chase website.

This differs from Citi Prestige, which is an automatic benefit that is mailed to you once you get approved for the card.

How to Enroll in Lounge Access with Chase Sapphire Reserve

travel benefits

While you may have been disappointed if you made assumptions and just showed up at the airport lounge, it’s fortunately an easy fix.

All you have to do is head over to the Chase website and login. Then click on the Ultimate Rewards box on the right sidebar and select your Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

At that point you’ll be presented with Your Rewards Dashboard. Above that you should see something about elevating your travel and a big green “Learn More” button.

Simply click on that button and you’ll see the many travel benefits associated with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, including airport lounge access.

Mouse over to it and click to activate. That’s it, you’re done. Now you just have to wait for the Priority Pass Select card to arrive in the mail.

You’re All Set!

activated

It can take a couple weeks to receive the card so activate as soon as possible to avoid missing out.

If that method doesn’t work for you, there’s also this link that takes you to the Travel Benefits section of Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Just scroll down to Complimentary Airport Lounge Access and click on it to expand the section, then click on Learn More. You’ll be prompted to login and then you have to select your Reserve card, then activate the lounge benefit.

Once you receive the card in the mail, you’re good to go. Just be sure to take it with you on your travels. While Priority Pass does allow you to put a digital copy of the card in your smartphone’s wallet, it isn’t accepted at all lounges.

Also note that your Chase Sapphire Reserve must be open and not in default to maintain membership in Priority Pass. Now go and enjoy those free drinks, food, Wi-Fi, and all that peace and quiet at the airport that is anything but. It completely changes the travel experience!

Tip: The Travel Benefits page also contains information about Global Entry and TSA Preè, the hotel benefits you receive when using your Reserve card, and the car rental privileges you can take advantage of.

(photo: Michael Coghlan)

How to Track Your Ultimate Rewards with Chase

For a long time, it was next to impossible to see how many Ultimate Rewards you had earned with Chase until your statement closed and the points posted to your account.

This was frustrating for a lot of people who wanted to keep a close eye on things and make sure they were swiping as efficiently as possible.

After all, no sense in continuing to charge one card if it no longer earns bonus points, or if there’s a different card that is earning at a higher rate.

Unfortunately, Chase didn’t make it easy to see all these details. In fact, it was hard to see if a purchase earned points in a bonus category, even after the statement posted.

But that has totally changed thanks to a retooling of the Chase Ultimate Rewards website. If you’re a Chase cardmember with a UR-earning card, you should definitely check out the new changes.

Chase Finally Makes It Easy to Track Rewards

bonus earn

Once you log in to the Chase website, simply click on the Ultimate Rewards box on the right sidebar.

Then choose one of your accounts (if you have multiple UR-earning credit cards) and you’ll see a summary of your points and upcoming points.

You can also can see how many points you have remaining in bonus categories that are capped, which is super helpful to avoid any wastage.

For example, my Chase Ink Plus card now shows how many of the 50,000 bonus points I’ve amassed for the 2X categories and the 200k bonus points for the 5X categories.

ink spend

It does so from your account anniversary date so you can see if they’re close to being maxed out for the year. If they are, you can move spend to a different card as you see fit.

Additionally, Chase now lets you easily see which purchases were in bonus categories with a handy “Bonus earn” listed next to each purchase. That is pictured above.

So I can clearly see that my Time Warner Cable bill earned 5X Ultimate Rewards points. It even shows the exact amount, which should put any neurotic mind at ease.

Chase Freedom Quarterlies Tracked to a T

freedom bonus

If you happen to have Chase Freedom, you can see how much of the 5% cash back category has been earned each quarter.

Same concept here with a nice little progress bar to show how close you are to the $75 quarterly cap.

You can also drill down into your activity and see which transactions earned the “Bonus earn” like I demonstrated with the Chase Ink Plus card.

I also have Chase Sapphire Reserve, and I’m assuming a lot of readers do too. Sure enough, you can track rewards in all the bonus categories and also see if you’ve spent enough to earn that 100,000 point sign-up bonus.

It’ll tell you what you’re expected to earn on your next statement, and if it’s six-digits, you’ve likely spent enough for the bonus.

Also, you can track your $300 annual travel credit to ensure you use it all up each year and don’t overuse it. Each time a qualifying purchase is made, the little circle will get a little more complete until it’s full.

travel credit

Remember, it resets each calendar year, so you can earn $600 in less than 365 days, enough to offset that pesky $450 annual fee.

I’m glad Chase finally did this. I wish American Express would do it too, especially with the Old Blue Cash card that can be real tough to track.

Sometimes Using the Wrong Credit Card Is the Right Choice

A while back, I applied for the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Business card from Chase because it was offering a generous 100,000 points when I spent $3,000.

That was a 25% premium over the current 80k offer, so I jumped on it, knowing I’d be able to use the points haul for a nice little vacation.

I wound up with around 110,000 points when everything was said and done because I spent in some bonus categories and spent more than necessary to hit the bonus.

However, the particular Marriott hotel I have my eye on costs 40,000 points per night. And because Marriott gives you the 5th night free, you might as well try to stay at least four nights.

That meant I needed 160,000 points to get five free nights at the hotel in question. Unfortunately, I was short some ~50,000 Marriott points.

The cool thing is Marriott lets you reserve the booking as long as the point shortfall is taken care of at least eight days before your scheduled arrival.

Now let’s talk about earning those necessary points…

Keep the Marriott Card in the Sock Drawer

point shortage

Your first thought in this situation might be to spend more with the Marriott credit card to up your point balance. It is, after all, the card that got you all those points to begin with.

But it turns out you might be better off leaving it in the sock drawer and swiping and dipping with a different card instead.

For example, the Chase Ink Plus card earns 5X points on things like office supplies, internet, wireless, cable TV, and landline.

Meanwhile, the Chase Marriott card only earns 5X points at Marriott locations worldwide. And the next highest earning category only earns 2X.

Chances are you won’t be spending money at a Marriott before your trip to a Marriott, unless you’re a big time traveler.

So in this case, it might be better to keep spending with a card like the Chase Ink Plus in the higher bonus categories and then transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott.

Indeed, you can transfer your UR points at a 1:1 ratio to Marriott, so it’s basically the same value, though with the added step (work) of transferring the points.

More Flexibility, Less Waste

However, that means you’ve got a lot more flexibility too. And it means the points won’t go to waste.

If you overspend on your Marriott card and wind up with too many points, you’ll be stuck with some random amount of points, probably not enough for a free night or anything spectacular.

Conversely, if you wind up with too many UR points (is such a thing possible), you’ll be able to redeem them for any number of things, or combine them with your other points to redeem a large reward.

In summary, there are two benefits to spending with other credit cards. Flexibility in redemption and a quicker way to earn points.

Take the time to think through your point-earning strategy before limiting yourself to the loyalty program you’re trying to earn points in.

Tip: You can earn points to send to Marriott via the Chase Sapphire Reserve card as well, and even Chase Freedom if you have one of the aforementioned cards.

Are You Better Off Paying Fees to Meet Minimum Credit Card Spend?

I’ve been working on some minimum spend lately, thanks to a new Chase Ink card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Those two cards mean I have to spend $9,000 in the span of 90 days, which can be a bit harrowing for some and a breeze for others.

Once I was approved, and had yet to receive the cards, I began brainstorming ways to meet the spend to earn the bonuses.

Whenever I’m faced with a spending challenge, my mind gets going like it’s some sort of exciting new adventure. It will consume me until the job is done. And usually I overshoot the target.

But something occurred to me recently – was I spending unnecessarily to meet these spending thresholds?

Was I going out of my way to find new methods to spend money, and in effect, losing at the game of credit card bonuses?

Most importantly, was I wasting time?

Be Careful How You Spend

When you’re faced with a big spending requirement, you might throw caution to the wind and get cavalier with your cash.

For example, you might agree to buy everyone a round of drinks, or pay for dinner, knowing you’ve got to spend $4,000 in a hurry.

Hey, I can earn 3X on dining so let me pick up the tab. Fail.

You might even be excited when the price tag is higher than you expected. If that’s the case, you might want to give pause.

After all, if you just agree to pay some small fees you can accomplish the spending without buying anything you don’t need. Or without buying things for other people, not that generosity is a terrible thing.

There are numerous ways to meet spending requirements that are free, but also many others that require a small fee.

If you want to avoid getting in over your head, you can just pay the fees and move on with your life. And it won’t really be so bad.

Just Pay the Fees and Move On?

Take Plastiq. The service allows you to pay your rent or mortgage for a small fee. Without the promo, it’s 2.5%. If you happen to spend the entire $4,000 on it to pay rent you’ll be set back $100.

Yes, $100 is money and it’s not free. But at the same time, you’d be done and earn your bonus. And you wouldn’t have to research ways to meet the spend, drive around town buying gift cards, go shopping, etc.

Then you’d have your 100,000+ Ultimate Rewards points in your account and you could move on with your life.

While it may be cliché, time is indeed money, and if you’re spending a lot of time figuring out how to spend your money, is that not a double whammy?

As noted, you could get careless and overspend in one place and easily drop $100 or more on something you don’t need.

So sometimes it might just make sense to bite the bullet and pay the fee.

Another example is GiftofCollege.com, which allows you to contribute to a 529 account for $5.95 per $500. If you really wanted to beef up your kid’s college account, you’d be looking at $47.60 in fees.

I’m sure you wouldn’t need to do all $4,000 because of regular spending on bills and other stuff, but just to illustrate, that’s less than $50 to hit the bonus.

Again, one stupid move trying to meet the spend could easily cost you more than $50.

My point here is that sometimes it might just make sense to pay the fee and move on with your life…because you’ve got better things to do, and it might just save you some money.

Why Aren’t Credit Cards Instantly Approved?

It seems everyone wants things instantly, including approval for their newly applied for credit cards. But we aren’t always told right away if we’ve been approved or not, even if it’s a so-called pre-approved offer.

While it’s frustrating not to receive the “Congratulations!” e-mail in your inbox within seconds of applying for a credit card, there are reasons why credit card issuers sometimes send the dreaded “Thanks for your application.” one instead.

Reasons You Weren’t Instantly Approved for a Credit Card

[badlist]

  • Applied for too many credit cards recently
  • Have lots of open credit cards
  • Have too much credit with specific card issuer
  • Have too much outstanding credit card debt
  • Recently changed jobs
  • Recently moved
  • New or undefined business (if biz card application)

[/badlist]

There are many reasons why you might not get approved instantly for a credit card, some of which I’ve listed above.

Let’s talk about a few of them to understand why. If you’ve applied for a lot of credit cards lately, but still have an excellent 800 credit score, the issuer may not approve you right away.

You’ll either have to wait the 7-10 business days for a response, or call them immediately via the reconsideration line.

Tip: Each credit card issuer has a reconsideration phone number. Use Google to find the one you need if applicable.

Anyway, you might have to explain why you want yet another credit card if you already have a bunch. I had to do this with my Discover it Miles card because I already had the regular Discover it card.

Along those same lines, you might not get instantly approved if you already have the max credit limit with the issuer. A given credit card company will only provide a certain amount of aggregate credit.

For example, say Chase will only provide you with $40,000 in total credit, but you already have three Chase cards totaling that amount.

If you apply for a fourth Chase card, you might not be instantly approved because you’ve reached the max credit limit they’re willing to dole out.

Instead of simply giving up, you can ask that they move some of your existing credit line to the newly applied for credit card. So if an existing Chase card has a $25,000 credit limit and you barely use any of it, ask for $10,000 to go to the new card.

Who Are You, They Wonder?

You might not be approved instantly with an issuer you’ve never done business with because of credit cards you have open with other banks.

To get around this, you may have to call and speak to the issuer and explain why you want their card (so bad). Usually it just requires a friendly and professional phone call to explain yourself and you’ll be on your way.

I remember shortly after I purchased a new house I applied for a credit card and didn’t get instantly approved. I was annoyed because I wanted to meet minimum spend with new furnishings and other stuff I knew would be necessary to adorn my new digs.

The issue that time had to do with the address change – my credit report didn’t have any information regarding the new address so I had to explain myself to gain the approval.

You could also encounter this type of delayed approval if you were recently hired at a new company and it shows up on your credit report, or if it doesn’t. The issuer will want to get the facts straight to determine an appropriate credit line.

When it comes to business credit cards, it’s very common not to get instantly approved, often because individuals either get a card for their own self-employed company, or because their business credit isn’t established.

Don’t be surprised if you have to call the reconsideration line to explain your business. Be prepared to answer questions such as what exactly your business is and does, how long it’s been established, and how much it makes.

Don’t Put Your Head in the Sand

At the end of the day, an instant credit card approval is clearly ideal but often it just takes a single quick phone call to get approved. Sure, it may not be instant, but it’s still same day approval.

So don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen for you. Know what action(s) to take and don’t just sit around waiting for a denial letter to show up at your door.

Find the appropriate reconsideration phone number and call immediately after receiving the not-so-encouraging “Thank you.” e-mail.

Often it just takes some clarification on your part to turn a suspended application into an approved one. And you may never know what could have been if you don’t take the time to plead your case.

Just sitting around and hoping probably won’t get the job done. It’ll also mean less time to meet minimum spend if you delay your application any more than it needs to be.

Tip: Sometimes you just won’t get approved and there’s no way around it. The Chase 5/24 rule is very rigid and difficult to circumvent.

Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers Are Utter Nonsense

So you got a letter in the mail saying you were “pre-approved for a credit card.” Or an e-mail inviting you to apply for the latest credit card.

You jump at the chance to get approved for a credit card and apply immediately assuming you’ll be given the thumbs up in a matter of seconds. But after filling out the online application form you see the dreaded “Thanks, we’ll let you know…” page.

What went wrong? After all, you were pre-approved and “invited,” so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be instantly approved, right?

Why do they need more time? They already said you were approved so what gives?

Pre-Approved Does Not Equal Approved

Well, the truth is, pre-approved does not mean approved. Otherwise it would just say approved wouldn’t it?

What credit card issuers mean by “pre-approved” is that based on the information they have at the time of sending you the invitation, you should be approved for their credit card.

Unfortunately, the information they have may not be all-encompassing or totally current, especially depending on when they got the info and when you subsequently apply.

A credit score (and credit report) is a moving target that can change from day to day based on all sorts of stuff.

Once you apply for the credit card in question, the card issuer will still pull your credit and it will result in a hard inquiry.

From there they’ll be able to see if you still have the excellent credit they were expecting you to have, or the excellent credit you had when they bought your info from the credit reporting bureaus.

If you don’t for any reason, you might not actually get approved. You’re still pre-approved though…if that’s any consolation…it’s not, I just felt like being cheeky.

What Went Wrong?

Well, there are a number of things that can happen between the time credit card issuers get your info and you apply for one of their offers.

Perhaps you missed a credit card payment or ran up a bunch of debt. Or, maybe you applied for too many credit cards in a short span of time. That new 5/24 rule from Chase is a perfect example of how pre-approved can be utter nonsense.

I will use my own personal story to illustrate. I recently applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred after receiving an e-mail from Chase inviting me to apply.

I knew I had opened 5+ credit cards in the past 24 months, so I assumed I’d get rejected. But I wanted to test it just to be sure. I don’t really care about the inquiry. My credit scores are just fine.

Unsurprisingly, I was rejected. I got that annoying screen saying they’d let me know, and an equally annoying e-mail from Chase thanking me for submitting an application. Way to let me down easy…

Ultimately I knew my application was DOA because of their new rule regarding too many accounts opened in recent history.

To test the rule even further, I went to a Chase branch and spoke to a banker I know fairly well there. She tried to push my application through using a special consideration form.

This form basically highlights your other accounts with Chase in hope of garnering approval as an existing, valued customer.

Rejected Three Times!

I knew it was a shot in the dark and it did turn out to be a waste of time, other than creating content for this post. I essentially got rejected a second time in-person and was put on the phone with a Chase rep who wanted to tell me so a third time.

I asked why I was rejected (I knew, but I still love to ask) and was told I had opened too many accounts. I prodded further, asking how many was too many.

There was a moment of silence, then the rep asked if he could put me on hold. I said something to the effect of, “Why do you need to put me on hold? How many is too many?”

He hesitated, then reluctantly (but quickly) told me five was probably the magic number. I already knew this, but it’s always nice to hear it uttered.

I followed with something like, “But you guys sent me an e-mail telling me to apply.” And he said something like, “Yes, but we didn’t know the contents of your credit report. And now that we do, we can’t approve your application.”

So there you have it folks. Even if you are “pre-approved” you may well get rejected. Don’t be surprised if you do.

To avoid such surprises, check your credit report before applying (you can do this for free now using services like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame).

I believe in August a couple of credit cards will be older than 24 months and I should get approved for Chase Sapphire Preferred. Looking forward to trying again…

How to Get Your Credit Card Annual Fee Refunded

There are plenty of folks out there who are down on credit cards, and even more who are down on credit cards with annual fees, for obvious reasons.

But one perhaps lesser known fact about credit card annual fees is that they’re often refundable.

Like other fees you might pay in advance, such as insurance or a cable bill, you can get a prorated refund if you cancel or downgrade your credit card before the year is up.

So take the Citi Prestige card for example. It has a hefty $450 annual fee, which is a big turnoff for a lot of people. The good news is that you get a healthy sign-up bonus and $250 in airline credits each calendar year.

In practice, you can get a ton of value out of this card and more than offset the annual fee.

You Can Come Out Way Ahead

Say you open the card late in the year, maybe October. You spend the required amount to hit the sign-up bonus and buy $250 in airline gift cards, which is quickly refunded by way of statement credit.

The $450 annual fee is charged during your second statement and must be paid in full to avoid any finance charges.

Still, you’re only down $200 at that point because you took advantage of the $250 airline credit. Fast forward to January and you get another $250 airline credit. If you use it, you’re now $50 in the black.

But it can get even better if you cancel the card well before the year is up. If you cancel before your anniversary rolls around, you’re looking at some portion of that $450 back in the form of a check when you close your account.

Obviously, the faster you cancel, the larger the amount of the refund. However, Citi may also frown upon you canceling the card right away after grabbing statement credits for airfare and TSA Pre.

You’ll also want to make sure that you get your ThankYou Points out of there before canceling the card, and get the account balance down to zero to avoid any hiccups along the way.

The takeaway here is that the annual fee may not be as high as advertised if you don’t actually keep the credit card a full year.

Annual Fee Refunds Vary by Issuer (and Maybe Even by Card)

Just note that credit card annual fee refunds vary by card issuer, and they may in fact even vary from card to card.

Most credit card issuers will issue you a full refund if you cancel the credit card within 30 days (one statement period) from the date the annual fee posts.

So even if you goof and forget to cancel the card in time, you generally have some sort of grace period to cancel the card and get the annual fee reimbursed in full.

Some issuers, such as Barclaycard and Chase, may give you a full 60 days to get the annual fee reimbursed.

Once you’ve gone beyond that time period, you might get an annual fee refund on a prorated basis, as I already addressed above. As noted, the quicker you close the higher the refund.

Ways to Get the Credit Card Annual Fee Refunded (In Full or Partially)

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  • Cancel the card before the annual fee is due
  • Cancel the card during the grace period (30-60 days after annual fee fee posts)
  • Cancel the card before a year passes and receive a prorated refund
  • Downgrade the card to a no annual fee version
  • Ask for the annual fee to be waived

[/checklist]

How to Increase Your Discover Credit Limit in 30 Seconds

Discover is quickly becoming the most beloved credit card issuer out there because they’re so customer friendly. The ability to redeem any amount of cash back is awesome and unmatched!

However, they also tend to be one of the most conservative credit card companies in terms of doling out credit card limits.

For example, when I applied for the Discover it Miles card last year to take advantage of the Apple Pay promo and the double miles the first year deal, I only received a $5,000 credit line.

Typically, I receive a credit limit north of $20,000 on my newly opened credit cards so it was a bit disappointing to receive a limit this low. It was also entirely expected.

I wasn’t at all surprised because I knew Discover had a reputation for delivering low credit card limits. But it was semi-annoying in that I had to pay down my balance mid-statement to free up credit while going after that promo.

I did still get the job done and walked away with about $1,600, but Discover didn’t make my life any easier with their paltry credit limit.

How to Increase Your Discover Credit Limit

credit line increase

The good news is that this issue can be easily fixed in a matter of seconds, literally.

To increase your Discover credit card limit, simply log on to the Discover website and hover over “Account” on the top menu then click on “Credit Line Increase.”

You’ll be directed to the page above where you simply need to enter your total annual gross income, your employer name (self if you’re self-employed), and your monthly housing or rental payment.

Once you fill in those fairly straightforward responses, you simply hit submit and within seconds your credit limit is increased.

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I did this today and increased my credit limit from $5,000 to $8,000. Still pretty low overall, but I never get close to using my limit and it’s still a 60% increase. For the record, they don’t let you choose an amount.

If you’re looking to boost their credit score in a hurry, this credit line increase should certainly help, especially if you’ve got a balance on your Discover card.

It will help your credit utilization, which could be quite high seeing that Discover credit limits are so low. And as mentioned, it literally takes less than a minute to do it.

I actually increased my regular Discover it card as well and it took me less than 30 seconds from start to finish. Yes, I timed it to be sure.

So if you have multiple Discover cards you are able to increase the credit limits on both in the same day. Just be consistent in your answers to ensure a smooth process.

And don’t expect a giant increase; similar to the opening credit limits, the increases are pretty conservative as well. But it’s better than nothing!

Lastly, because these cards carry no annual fee, they can stay in your wallet for as long as you’d like, building positive credit history over time and helping to keep utilization ratios down.