Last Thursday I’ve mentioned a rumor that Chase executives are seriously considering doing away with the ability to pool Ultimate Rewards points between household accounts as well as cards. Judging by comments and emails I’ve received, people are very concerned that this plan will come to fruition. That’s understandable. Most of my readers rely on this feature when actively collecting UR points via everyday spending, and this development would undermine their ability to do so.
However, it’s important to keep two things in mind. First, the rumor has been circulating for years. It doesn’t mean that it won’t actually become reality this time around. Banks don’t operate in a vacuum. Surely Chase is aware that Amex doesn’t allow pooling points. Still, there is a big difference between banks considering changes and actually implementing them.
Second, I will be shocked if Chase doesn’t provide plenty of notice if they decide to go this route. I can’t imagine a scenario where you will be logging into your accounts and all of a sudden discover that pooling the points is no longer possible. So, for now, I recommend you go about your business and not think about it too much.
That said, it’s always good to look into other options, which is why I wanted to feature one particular email from my reader (with her permission). I think many of you will be able to relate to her situation.
“I have been reading your Membership Rewards posts to get a better handle on what this program can look like for my family.
I feel comfortable using and keeping my Chase Ultimate Rewards cards as I’m getting a lot of value out of those. I am just curious about MR points and if they can make sense for my family, and potentially have some additional value. We still have a LOT of Ultimate Rewards (134k in my account, and around 120k in husband’s), so I’m going to prioritize using those for now, but want to consider Membership Rewards as well.
The rumor that Chase will limit points transfers has me spooked and looking at AmEx. I know you like Amex Everyday Preferred card. I’m pretty sure I can hit the $6k grocery bonus each year, and I’m conservatively estimating 45,000 MR points from this card each year (grocery max-out, and $1k/month in non-bonused spend). I’d keep other spending on my Chase Freedom if it is a bonus category. And, I would keep some spending available for sign-up bonuses, though I don’t get new cards too often.
My issue is, we’re a family of 5 and we all travel together. No parents-only trips, no “dad is taking 1 kid abroad” kinda travel. So, seeing other bloggers and their examples of 190k MR to fly one child to Asia in business class…those aren’t redemptions we would do.
My home airport is Indianapolis (IND), and to save a lot of money/miles, we could be persuaded to drive to Cincinnati (Delta hub) which is 2 hours away. For a huge savings (I’d need probably $1k savings, tbh) we could perhaps drive to Chicago to fly somewhere.
I do think we will be sticking with domestic trips for at least the next 2-3 years. After that we may venture abroad. My kids are still kind of young and I’m only so brave/patient.
Now here is where MR points come into play, perhaps:
I know I can use them to transfer to Delta program. I can also use British Airways Avios miles for flights on American, but I have only been able to find points availability to LAX. I know there are many more partners, I just haven’t identified practical uses for me yet.
So my question for you:
Given that I won’t likely need MR points for domestic travel (except maybe to top off miles for a Delta trip), does it even make sense to play in the MR sandbox? Should I just stick with Chase for now until I have a trip in mind that will need MR?
Is using MR currency for Delta domestic redemptions a crap deal? I know there is an excise fee, but is it just a so-so deal or is it truly garbage? Or, does it make sense to start earning MR, knowing that they will come handy in a few years when I’m ready to go abroad?
Even just using Amex Everyday Preferred for a few years and holding on to those points will add up, and later I can boost it with PRG or Platinum sign-ups when it is closer to travel time. But, my concern is paying the $95 annual fee without any immediate perks if I go that route (of course, AmEx Offers for You could potentially offset it).
I just know that with typical spending, I can probably get 250k MR points in 4-5 years. That will make for some decent overseas travel. I am WAY overthinking this, but I value your opinion and I know you’ll give it to me straight. Thank you for your time and thoughts.”
The short answer to your question is this: if you can easily maximize grocery bonus by using Amex Everyday Preferred, you probably should. Don’t think of it in terms of whether you will be able to utilize MR points in a near future, but rather that you will be getting 4.5 points per dollar. Well, assuming you have the required number of transactions each billing period. Read about the card here
As long as that spending doesn’t cannibalize your 5% category on Freedom, it’s a very good deal. After all, you can always redeem MR points on various gift cards, where the ratio is 100:1. One example: 10,000 points will get you a $100 Home Depot gift card.
Plus, you can always redeem points toward airfare via 100:1 ratio, as long as you are using at least 5,000 points. Sure, there is $95 annual fee, but bonus MR points from grocery spend will more than make up for it. The upside is that you will also have the points available for mileage transfers.
UR is an overall stronger program for normal families, but MR can be great in certain circumstances. Delta program is actually a very good option for economy flyers Availability has improved greatly in the last few years, and they occasionally have sales on mileage rates. Some routes start at only 5,000 miles one-way.
MR program also partners with Jet Blue, though I imagine it’s not a viable option for your neck of the woods. It can be good if you are willing to fly to one of its hubs, though. Jet Blue has great coverage to Caribbean from New York and Florida. Points are worth 1.3-1.8 cents apiece, depending on the route. See other good uses of Membership Rewards when it come to average family.
If you truly don’t believe that you will find a good use for MR points in connection with transfer partners, you may want to look into Amex Blue Cash Preferred instead (read about it here). It earns 6% cash back on groceries on up to $6,000 per year. You won’t be able to transfer the points to airlines, but cash can be used for anything, including travel. So it just depends on how much you value flexible points.
Of course, there is something to be said about keeping things simple. If you don’t want to complicate your life, there is nothing wrong with throwing your energy towards accumulating UR points and calling it a day. Well, until they make negative changes to the program, at which point you can always reconsider.
Leana is the 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.