The biggest challenge in running a miles and points blog is adequately addressing the needs of everyone in your audience. Here is the deal. On any given day, we have:
1) Newcomers, aka those who have no clue about miles and points.
2) Those who know a few things, but are no experts by any means.
3) People who know way more than me (tough crowd) and who are looking for challenging and unique content.
4) Folks who just like to read crazy rants written by self-absorbed bloggers.
How do you address the needs/wants of everyone? Well, the truth is, you can’t. The blogging format just isn’t a good fit in that respect. It’s not like a textbook where material is presented in a logical order.
With that, this particular post is definitely meant for newbies. Perhaps you came across my blog and would like to give this hobby a shot.
First things first. What is miles and points hobby? Well, it can be different things to different people. For some, it’s all about signing up for credit card bonuses and switching cards constantly. For others it’s about optimizing everyday spending. Certain folks just like to take advantage of various points promotions and leverage lucrative deals. Some ultra-organized people do all of the above.
Let’s say you are interested in collecting sign-up bonuses. Perhaps you don’t know where or when you’ll be using the points. You are not loyal to any hotel chain or airline, you just want to save money on travel. In any given month Nancy and I may review as many as ten credit cards. Should you sign up for all of them?
Like I said before, different readers have different needs. Let me suggest a possible two-year strategy for newcomers.
Chase the Chase
Because Chase has 5/24 rule, this is probably where you want to start. The good news: some of the most lucrative bonuses are offered by that bank.
A possible alternative: start with US Bank Altitude card (direct link). Even though US Bank doesn’t have 5/24 rule, it is sensitive to multiple credit inquiries. However, keep in mind, you do need to have a relationship with US Bank in order to apply. Plus, the annual fee is not waived.
Personally, I would focus on Chase first and start with:
1) Chase Sapphire Preferred if you don’t have a business. You’ll get 55K UR points bonus.
2) Chase Ink Business Preferred if you do have a legitimate business (read about it here)
The current offer on Chase Ink Business Preferred is higher (80K points), so I believe it’s more likely to be reduced at some point. But both cards come with a sizable sign-up bonus and are absolutely worth considering.
You get Ultimate Rewards points, which you can redeem for cash, transfer 1:1 to various airline programs (including Southwest) and Hyatt. You can even redeem points on travel at 1.25 cents apiece and not worry about award availability. Ultimate Rewards is my favorite currency on the planet.
If you have a spouse, you can each apply in your own name and double dip on rewards. Important! Don’t add your spouse as an authorized user to your credit card because it counts towards 5/24 limit. Instead, pick a family member or even a friend who is not interested in this hobby. You don’t have to hand them the credit card, just let them know about your plan in advance.
Your second Chase card
If you have a real business:
If you’ve previously applied for Chase Ink Business Preferred, now apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred or vice versa.
If you don’t have a business:
Assuming you already got Chase Sapphire Preferred, you have several options:
1) Let’s say you’ve decided that you want to focus on accumulating Ultimate Rewards via everyday spending for the foreseeable future. In that case, apply for Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Freedom. I wrote a comparison between the two cards and you can read it here. One caveat: I’m assuming that the sign-up bonus on Chase Sapphire Reserve is 50K points at that time. If it’s increased, consider applying for that card instead.
2) Apply for Chase Sapphire Reserve with the bonus of 50K points. I do think it’s a lucrative offer even at that level, I just have a hunch that Chase will increase it at some point. When? It’s anyone’s guess. Here is a non-affiliate link for the current offer.
The end of year one
Let’s say both you and your spouse each got Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred. You also have Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited. You’ve got four cards with an annual fee coming up for renewal, and you need to decide which (if any) you should keep. Well, the good news is, you only need to have one premium Chase card in the family in order to transfer to airline and hotel partners. I wrote a CSP vs. CSR renewal guide that will hopefully make your decision easier.
OK, you got rid of all but one premium Chase card. Now what? Well, you need to decide which other Chase offers you should pursue. My recommendation is to consider Chase Southwest co-branded cards. They are subject to 5/24 rule, but you shouldn’t have any issues being approved…yet. Remember, you’ll be fine as long as you stick to getting five Chase credit cards within a two-year span. If you have a spouse, that’s ten cards total.
Of course, I’m assuming that you don’t have any urgent need for United flights, Hyatt or Marriott stays. You are still not totally sure what you’ll be doing with your points. Why the Southwest offer? It’s the best program for families and one I wholeheartedly recommend, especially if you live near an airport served by Southwest.
You can book any seat as long as it’s available for sale. Bags fly free, and tickets are fully refundable on “Wanna get away” fares. Flights can also be dirt cheap at times. Just a few months ago I booked one-way flights from Jamaica to Orlando for 2,600 points apiece (plus tax).
Better yet, if you can get approved for personal and business version at the beginning of the year, you will be well on your way to acquiring a Companion Pass. That means you can bring someone with you for close to two years and they will pay nothing for their flights.
Another reason I really like Rapid Rewards program is due to the fact that you can redeem points on gift cards as long as your Chase Southwest Visa is open. For example, 10,000 points=$100 Walmart gift card. This option will provide flexibility to families who may not fly all that often and who are tight on money. So, if you get a bonus of 50,000 Rapid Rewards points, at the minimum it will equal $401 Walmart or Amazon gift card once you deduct the annual fee on Premier version.
OK, both you and your spouse already got Southwest credit cards. Now you should look into mileage and hotel offers. If the bonus on United credit card is 50K miles or higher (like it is right now), consider pulling the trigger. I do recommend you have some sort of a plan, otherwise, you may be better off going after Marriott credit card. Marriott has a terrific footprint, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to use up the points. Both offers are subject to 5/24 rule.
So, it will really come down to your upcoming plans. The beauty of collecting UR points and Rapid Rewards is that you can redeem them on cash or valuable gift cards. No such thing with United or Marriott offers. Well, technically, you can transfer Marriott points to SPG and then redeem them on Amazon gift cards, but I don’t recommend it.
If at all possible, you should always go for points that can be easily converted to cash or cash equivalent (like Walmart gift card). I will warn you, though, deciding where to spend your UR points can drive you mad. So in a way, focusing on brand-specific currency can potentially take a lot of stress out of your decision-making process. Definitely don’t be like me and overthink every stupid little thing. Just have fun with your points, OK?
Transferring 30,000 UR points to Hyatt program so you can stay two nights at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort in March is a fantastic deal!
You can read about Chase Sapphire Preferred, United and Southwest co-branded cards on this page. I also recommend you stop by Chase branch because they may pull up a targeted offer that is higher than the one listed on my site. Note that all of the mentioned cards do pay us commission if you want to support the blog. Thanks if you choose to do so!
I’m also assuming that there won’t be any spectacular offers from other banks coming our way. Otherwise, forget Chase. Also keep in mind, in this post I specifically focused on cards that currently fall under 5/24 restriction. Chase has other good offers, but you can apply for them later on.
We are here to help
This is just a short primer that’s not meant to cover everything. If my post seems confusing to you, please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com If you give more details on your situation, I will be able to provide tailored advice. As I’ve said earlier, this hobby is not one size fits all!
Grizzled hobby vets, what would you change about the above advice?
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.