Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve Annual Fee Worth Paying Over the Preferred?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve – Can’t ignore the talk of the town. Like I tell all my friends & coworkers, if any major bank is offering a signup bonus of 100,000 points, I’m 99% getting it. It’s a no brainer. Even at a high $450 annual fee (which is really just $150 after a $300 travel credit), the bonus is still worth it. I’ve paid more for points.

The next question you should ask is if the Reserve is worth keeping over the Preferred (which you should be a mainstay in your wallet). That’s why I quickly created a Google Doc that answers that for you.

Link: Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Preferred Calculator

Instructions are simple:

  • Download as Excel or make a copy to your own Google Drive
  • Enter how much you spend per month for each of the cards’ bonus categories – travel & dining
  • Results update on lines 10 & 11 and are based on an entire year of spending

Obviously, this is based on points earning alone. There are other benefits associated with the card that may be of value to you that you should also consider.

Hopefully, this is a quick and dirty way to determine if you’re going to downgrade your Preferred to a regular Sapphire (or perhaps a Freedom Unlimited) or keep it and cancel the Reserve next year.

My Biggest Mile Manufacturer – TD Go

During a time where Joann & I have more miles & points than we do vacation days, I’m looking for easier ways to manufacture these points instead of ways to just amass a stockpile of them. Notice my emphasis is on easy. 

I’m not a fan of driving to Walmart to load my American Express Bluebird 2-3 times a month.

I don’t enjoy driving to multiple CVS stores to find $500 gift cards (and then driving to Walmart to load them to Bluebird).

Buying $200 gift cards from Staple with my Chase Ink is pretty easy, but then I’m stuck with several small denomination gift cards to liquidate.

Enter TD Go.

This is a prepaid product that is intended for parents to issue their “teens” debit cards with certain limits.

The main advantages are that this debit card can be funded by a credit card online and TD is very lax on what they consider a “teen.”

The main disadvantage is that this card is ONLY offered in the following states:

CT, DC, DE, FL, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA

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Pay Bills & Earn Miles/Points with Evolve Money

In the realm of Manufacture Spend (MS), Evolve Money is a small-time but reliable service. It is basically a Bill Pay service that allows you to pay certain bills with debit or Visa/MasterCard gift cards. To be clear, you cannot pay off credit card bills with Evolve.

Obviously, you can see the value proposition here. You can buy gift cards with points-earning credit cards and use those gift cards to pay bills you normally can’t pay via credit card. This is one of the reasons I love my Chase Ink Plus card.

Getting 5x points per dollar spent to pay my mortgage is something I’ll take every time!

Things To Know

  • Sign up is free
  • $1,000 daily limit or Bill Pay (the day is based on midnight PST)
    • If paying the same payee, wait at least 10 minutes before sending a follow-up payment or it may fail, leaving you with funds in limbo for at least a week.
  • Several types of payees are available
    • Mortgage – Wells Fargo, Bank of America, PNC
    • Student loans – Sallie Mae, ACS, Mohela
    • Auto loans – Chase, Honda, TD, Acura, Mercedes Benz, Volvo
    • Gas/electric/water utilities – PSE&G, ConEd
    • Retail store credit cards – Macy’s, Gap, Kohl’s
  • Standard payments ($0 fee) are delivered in 2 business days
  • Express payments ($1.50 fee) are delivered on the same day
  • An app is available for Android & iOS

evolve-slide-02-phone

Caveats

Not every service provider is in Evolve. You’ll have to create an account and try to search for a provider. There’s no comprehensive list. If you can’t find your provider, there is a form you can fill out to let them know and they will hopefully add it.

Mortgages can be tricky with the $1,000 daily limit.

With my bank, Wells Fargo, any separate payments that don’t equal my monthly mortgage payment will be held as “Unapplied Funds.”

Two things can happen to Unapplied Funds (UF). If it’s before your monthly payment is due, UF goes directly to principal. If it’s after your monthly payment is due and you haven’t made the payment, UF will be held until it equals the amount of your monthly payment and then applied towards it.

What worked for me is as follows:

  • Mortgage due Sunday, June 1
  • Sent several payments on Friday, Saturday, & Sunday from Joann’s & my Evolve account totaling our monthly payment, adhering to the $1k daily limit
    • Remember, make sure payments arrive AFTER your usual due date
    • Note: Wells Fargo has a 15 day grace period before they will hit you with a late fee
  • Payments arrived on both Monday June 2 and Tuesday June 3
  • Once the last of the payments posted on June 3 totaling our monthly payment, they were all applied to the monthly payment and everything posted as normal.
Multiple Evolve Payments

Multiple Evolve Payments

Wrap Up

Evolve Money is a great addition to any MSer’s portfolio. With the death of Vanilla Reloads, I find it harder to reload my Bluebird account and pay bills that way. This way is much less effort, albeit less scalable at only $1k a day and limited payees.

I find it very handy to pay bills that can’t be paid for free with a credit card – my student loan, my gas/electric bill, and my mortgage. As long as you have a good source of gift cards (hopefully at 5x), this can be a long lasting points generator.

My Plan for the American Airlines Fast Track to Elite Status Promotion

American Airlines logo

The Promo

Last Week, American Airlines accidentally made public a promotion that was supposed to be targeted. I was alerted to it thanks to AAdvantageGeek. The details of the Fast Track to Elite Status promotion were pretty straight forward:

Fly a certain amount of miles between September 1 & December 31, 2013, and receive Gold, Platinum, or Executive Platinum status.

Fast Track to Elite Status Requirements

Fast Track to Elite Status Requirements

After going viral, the promotion was quickly pulled, but I did sign up Joann and myself.

At a glance, it doesn’t seem like much flying to reach Gold or Platinum. I can get about 6,000 miles from one LGA-DFW-SEA-DFW-LGA trip.

However, Gold or Platinum don’t really interest me. Per the Elite Benefits Chart, Gold and Platinum give you cool things like bonus redeemable miles, free checked bags, and waived award booking fees. Good stuff but not anything I’m willing to exert extra time and money for.

Now, American’s top tier, Executive Platinum, takes a bit more flying (30,000 miles) but those benefits are what Joann and I want.

Why are we going out of our way to fly 30K miles on American Airlines?

Great question. I think it’s a combination of a few things.

1. We like flying and traveling. There seem to be enough affordable fares on the weekend, which is our only free time until the end of the year.

2. More importantly, we’ll be able to utilize all the benefits of Executive Platinum status, especially the 8 Systemwide Upgrades that we’ll receive upon qualifying.

American’s Systemwide Upgrades upgrade any revenue ticket to the next cabin up (Coach->First, or Business in a 3-cabin aircraft).

Systemwide Upgrades can get you from Coach to here - AA 777 New Business Class

Systemwide Upgrades can get you from Coach to here – AA 777 New Business Class

Our status will last until February 2015 so we plan to take full AAdvantage of the perks like the aforementioned upgrades and also the Complimentary Upgrades on domestic flights.

3. And the last reason we’re going all the way to the top with this promotion? Because we want to! It sounds like fun so we talked it over and want to do it.

How We Plan to Fly 30K Miles in 4 Months

Simple. A combination of one existing vacation that we’ll now fly on American and a bunch of Mileage Runs.

We planned a trip to New Orleans in 3 weeks, but since the flight was booked using Southwest points, we can easily cancel and get all our points back.

We decided to change that trip to somewhere farther… and tropical. I found a decent fare to from LGA-HNL via DFW. Over 10K miles in one shot! We’ll be 1/3 of the way there.

In order to make that trip a bit more fun,  I had us upgraded to First Class using a Systemwide Upgrade. I’ll get into that in another post ;).

So that is our only “real” trip booked for this promotion. Currently, we only have one other trip booked, a mileage run to LAX that will give us about 8 hours to putz around before heading home on a red eye. With those two trips,  we’ll have flown 15K miles,  halfway to the 30K needed to make Executive Platinum. Now I just need to find a few good mileage runs to get the rest of the way.

The Last Time We Were In Hawaii!

The Last Time We Were In Hawaii!

How To Find Mileage Runs

One of the best ways to find mileage run fares is to follow The Flight Deal, either on their web site or Twitter.

AAdvantageGeek posts 9 Mileage Run tips that one should know when trying to complete this promotion,  or any mileage run for that matter.

I use most of these tips, but I mainly just scour ITA Matrix to find good fares.

I’ll definitely be writing new posts on Mileage Runs as I find them,  specifically for this promotion.

Conclusion

All in all,  this should be a fun promotion.  We’re pretty excited for the journey and of course the “prizes”  at the end of the rainbow!

So that’s what’s in store for the end of our 2013. Should be a pretty interesting second half of the year.

Happy flying whether or not you were able to register for this promotion. If you have, let me know your plans.

Using Airline Schedule Changes in Your Favor

Airline schedule changes happen. That’s just a fact of life. Sometimes they’re minor. I’ve had changes of 5 minutes that really don’t affect original plans at all.

Other times, schedule changes can really throw a wrench into your plans.

Some people cringe when they see these emails in their inboxes. Not me, I see it as a free pass for flexibility.

Delta itinerary has changed

The emails I love to see in my inbox

If you wanted to make a change otherwise, you’d have to pay change fee upwards of $150 depending on the airline!

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