Last week, Chase announced the Freedom’s 5% cash back (or 5x Ultimate Rewards points) categories for 2013! Yippee. I can’t believe 2013 is just around the corner. 2012 was a great year to earn points & miles, but I can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store for us. Hopefully, more ways to earn valuable Ultimate Rewards...
Last week, I wrote about the new Ink Plus® Business Card coming out. Before that, I wrote a blog about getting 2-3-4 Ink Bolds. Great news: now it’s even easier to pad your Ultimate Rewards balance. If you’ve already applied for the Ink Bold, you can now apply for the new Ink Plus 50,000 offer under the same...
Happy Monday, Noobs. Today, I have a special treat to help beat the work week blues. Check out this sweet confessional video by Noob reader Chase, a musician from Austin, TX, and see how he is traveling the world Noob style- for pennies. Chase has, as he said, entered the “Noob Zone” and is balling out of control with...
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards have been very popular for points redemptions since their introduction a few years ago. The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card gives you 2.2 points per dollar back on all restaurant and travel purchases (7% annual dividend), the Freedom has 5x rotating categories, and the Ink cards have a variety of lucrative category bonuses, making it easy for any budget to rack up points for award travel quickly!
One aspect of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program that some may overlook is the ability to book with cash (or points) for specific flights, hotels and car rentals, instead of transferring to Chase’s many hotel partners. Let’s dive in and see what some of the best deals are, in comparison to other travel booking sites like Kayak or Hipmunk.
In most cases, transferring Ultimate Rewards points out to travel partners is the best way to maximize Ultimate Rewars points. However, bookings made through the Ultimate Rewards site do count towards your elite status, and open up the possibility of flying airlines that aren’t transfer partners of Ultimate Rewards.
To test Chase’s flight booking engine, I chose a sample trip from Los Angeles to New York City from June 21st to June 28th.
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Portal
The flight search grid came up as so:
So, taking a look at the data, the cheapest flight is a non-stop from LAX to JFK and a one-stop from La Guardia to LAX for $436.70 on American Airlines. You can also use 43,670 points (1 cent per point), which is nearly double what an award flight on American would normally cost. Keep in mind American isn’t a partner of Chase.
However, United Airlines is a partner, but their flight is over double the amount of points needed for an award flight. The redemption rates are truly awful, so I would not recommend using your points for booking a specific flight, unless it is an emergency and all award flights are taken. Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Ink Bold® Business Card,or Ink Plus® Business Card members do receive 20% off points used for booking travel, but it’s still not a great deal.
In addition, Chase provides Chase Freedom® Visa or Mastercard users a 2% cash back option for booking through their portal, which will come in handy later for our verdict.
Using Kayak, the same American Airlines flight, at the same price, was returned during my search.
Using Hipmunk, the same American Airlines flight, at the same price, was returned during my search.
Verdict for Flights:
Using Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal is superior than the other travel booking sites, simply because Chase Freedom gives its users 2% back (a savings of $8.74 on this itinerary). So, not big money savings, but you do earn. Don’t forget you also earn 2.2 points per $1 on travel purchases with the Sapphire Preferred.
So, a week in New York City will cost you a pretty penny if staying in Manhattan (or a lot of your hard earned points!) Let’s see what booking engine is best to save you money!
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Here’s what Chase’s booking engine came up with, in a simplified form:
Wow! Those are some expensive hotels! The cheapest hotel within 10 miles of New York that Chase could find was the La Guardia Plaza Hotel, a sub-prime location available for $175 a night. If you wanted to stay in Manhattan, the cheapest was the Eurostars Wall Street, at $289.91 a night (or 23,100 points).
Let’s see if the other sites had better luck finding hotels.
Kayak’s search came up with multiple Manhattan-area hotels for less than $200 a night, including some near Central Park. That’s not to say that these are world class hotels, but I would pick a Comfort Inn near Central Park over a hotel that’s LGA-adjacent any day of the week!
Hipmunk also had similar success finding cheaper hotels than Kayak. I would say the list is more “curated” than Kayak’s, though, so you may not be seeing the cheapest hotel possible, but a combination of location and reasonable price that they dub “ecstasy.” Check out the site to see if it fits your needs, because the user interface is top-notch.
Verdict for Hotels:
I have to give it to Kayak on this one. While I like the Hipmunk user interface a lot more, Kayak’s search appears to find the absolute cheapest rooms. You can then decide if you want to spend a little more money for a better hotel from there. Hipmunk was a close second, though!
Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal
Now, for a week in Manhattan, it would be crazy in my opinion to rent a car, unless you’re doing some exploring around the area, but since we’re doing comparisons here, let’s check to see what’s the best option!
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal does not allow for one-way drop offs, so for the purposes of this comparison, we’ll use JFK as a round trip destination.
For Chase, the cheapest car is a Dollar Rent A Car Chevrolet Aveo for $34.25.
For car rentals out of JFK, Kayak’s best find was a Ford Escape SUV for $72 a day. That’s rough and more than double Chase’s booking engine gave us!
Verdict- Car Rentals
Ultimate Rewards by a landslide. More than half the price of Kayak, though there’s no option to return a car to a different location.
In summary, I found that the Ultimate Rewards portal can be good for booking flights and great for car rentals, but not great for hotels. You’re best served looking at Kayak or Hipmunk for the other options. Hipmunk has the best user interface of the group, but still has more features to add if it’s going to take on Kayak as the #1 booking site on the web.
Those this was just a sample trip, and other trips may price out differently, I think it gives a great overview of what is available to you as a Chase cardholder and only adds value to your wallet!
(Disclaimer: the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Ink Bold® Business Card, Ink Plus® Business Card, and Chase Freedom® Visa provide a referral credit to the blog. Only apply through the links if you’re satisfied with the service Noobtraveler provides. Thanks for the support if you do!)
— Noob MasterRead More
Yep, more JetBlue love on this hump day.
Earlier today, I posted about a promotion JetBlue is running that ends today. You can book flights for as little as $59 each way, if booked by today for travel between 6/4/13-8/28/13. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of that opportunity, here’s more incentive.
If you’re not yet a TrueBlue member (JetBlue’s rewards program), you can receive a 7,500 point bonus for signing up and flying your first round-trip flight by 6/19/13. They offer one-way flights from as little as 5,000 points (plus taxes and fees), so that’s not too shabby.
Some important Terms & Conditions for this promo:
Offer valid for new TrueBlue members only. Must enroll as a TrueBlue member, register for this promotion at trueblue.jetblue.com/web/trueblue/jointrueblue, and purchase and fly a roundtrip JetBlue flight, all between now and 6/19/2013. Must enroll and register prior to booking. TrueBlue number must be entered at time of booking. New bookings only.
Oh, and in case you didn’t know, American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to TrueBlue. So, if you have some Membership Rewards points collecting dust, you could use them to top off your TrueBlue account for a round-trip flight. The conversion rate isn’t great (200 TrueBlue points = 250 MR points), but it could still make sense for you.
If you’re looking for a way to earn Membership Rewards points, I recommend pouncing on one of the random LTO offers that come and go. The best public offers currently are the Mercedes-Benz, and The Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN.
[I do receive a referral credit if you choose to apply through my link. Thank you for the support if you do!]
— Noob MasterRead More
Noob contributor, Ethan (a Marriott elite), updates us on the newest breakfast perks with Marriott.
If you’re a Marriott loyalist like myself, you probably know that the breakfast perks aren’t exactly the best in the business. But they got a bit better today for Gold and Platinum elites, when Marriott announced that they would start offering free continental breakfast for 2 people 7 days a week at JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, and Marriott branded hotels.
Previously these benefits were only guaranteed during the week, and a few hotels had lounges open on the weekend. Now gold and platinum elites will be offered breakfast in the lounge if it’s open, and if the lounge is closed they can select from continental breakfast in the restaurant or 750 rewards points.
Unfortunately, the offer still excludes resorts, and also still does not open up breakfast benefits at Courtyard hotels, which is a huge gap in my eyes. Courtyards are mid-tier properties, and when everyone gets breakfast at most hotels below that (Springhill Suites, Fairfield Inns, and Residence Inns), it’s a tough pill to swallow when you stay 50 nights with the chain. I’ve written about some of my issues with Marriott, though they have been getting better and I have some higher-end stays coming up this summer.
This still doesn’t bring up Marriott’s standards to that of other chains, like Hilton who offer breakfast to gold members (which you can get by just having the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card) or Hyatt (The Noobmaster’s fave), who offers a full breakfast for up to 4 people, rather than just a continental breakfast for 2. That said, it’s still a step in the right direction, and for those like me who like weekend trips they can use points for, it offers a great opportunity to get breakfast on those weekends!
— Ethan CarterRead More
Sometimes it makes sense to purchase tickets (even though it goes against my nature), if there is a good enough deal out there. This may be one of those times. Honestly, I’ve never flown Jet Blue, but Jordan has, and she had good things to say.
They’re running a special on flights from 6/4-8/28, but they have to be booked by today. It looks like there are some great deals to be had if you have some peak travel plans. The only kicker is, the travel has to be on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
I looked at a flight from AUS to SFO on 6/19, and it would only be $99 one way. Not bad, especially for peak season.
I then looked at the same flight on Southwest Airlines for comparison, and the cheapest flight was $201. Yep, double the price.
So, this deal might make sense for you, if you have the cash to spare and you’re wanting to save your miles for another trip.
Hope this helps!
— Noob MasterRead More
Here are a few quickies:
1,000 free (not really) United miles w/ Small Business Network
I received an email last week from United, touting their Small Business Network and the perk of earning 1,000 United MileagePlus miles after enrolling.
You will earn 1,000 miles after you spend enough through United’s network partners to earn 100 miles by August 17, 2013. You will have to spend at least $10 to earn 100 miles, which will trigger the 1,000 United miles. Not terrible or great. Just, ehh.
There are promises that you will be able to eventually transfer your business miles to your personal account. This is a perk, but I will just keep my business spending through my personal account.
You can sign up as a sole proprietor, so that’s good news for those people who have businesses that aren’t incorporated.
Here are the full terms and conditions from United’s website:
This account will be separate from personal MileagePlus member accounts. Subject to terms & conditions and program rules.
*Enrollment bonus terms and conditions
- To qualify for 1,000 mile bonus, prior to 11:59PM CENTRAL on August 17, 2013, a business must:
- Enroll in MileagePlus Small Business Network
- Complete qualifying earning activity for 100 miles or more with Small Business Network partners
- Member must be a business that is duly organized and validly existing in the United States under the laws of the jurisdiction of its organization
- Offer subject to terms & conditions of the MileagePlus Small Business Network
- Bonus offer available one time per member account
- Earning points in connection with United PerksPlus will not count as qualified earning activity toward earning the enrollment bonus.
New Ultimate Rewards warning?
A few months ago, I wrote about Chase closing down Ultimate Rewards accounts for illegal transfers. You’re allowed to transfer points to same household members, but no one else. At the time, it seemed like it was still ok to transfer UR points out to travel partners outside of our household, but now I’m not so sure.
I was transferring some of my Ultimate Rewards points to one of their travel partners and noticed the warning on the confirm transfer page:
“Ultimate Rewards point transfer features are designed to allow our cardmembers to take advantage of the rewards they earn. The features are not intended to allow transfers to third parties other than a spouse or domestic partner of the cardmember. Transfers to unauthorized third parties or any other abuse of the Ultimate Rewards program may result in suspension or termination of the ability to participate in the program and forfeiture of points already earned.”
Maybe it’s been there for a while and I haven’t noticed, but it’s just a reminder to only transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to household members UR accounts and/or their loyalty program accounts.
I love the flexibility Jordan and I have with our Ultimate Rewards points earned from one of our many Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Ink Bold® Business Card, or Ink Plus® Business Cards. I’m sticking to only transferring points between our accounts, because it would be a crushing defeat if my Ultimate Rewards accounts were shut down.
Hyatt House new additions
Hyatt House had a PR release yesterday, announcing their new Very Important Residents (VIR) and two new additions for all members.
The new VIR program is for guests who have stayed 30+ nights at a Hyatt House. If that’s you, you’d receive these bennies:
- Personalized service: From learning guests’ personal preferences to building a relationship with them during their stay, each property is committed to making guests feel like they’re right at home.
- Pick-Your-Suite: Guests will have the opportunity to pick their own suite from available rooms in their room type at the time of their arrival.
- VIR Key Card: Each key card will reflect guests’ VIR status so that hotel staff can quickly recognize a VIR guest and provide them with above and beyond personalized service.
- VIR Tour: A personalized hotel tour from hotel management staff.
- “Favorites” Folio: A place to make note of guests’ likes, dislikes and special requests so HYATT house can personalize their stay in every way, every time.
- Grocery Shopping Service: By providing a grocery list to the House Host, the staff will stock guests’ refrigerators and kitchens with their favorite food items before their arrival or for when they come home.
- Grub Stub: Redeem for a $10 food and beverage credit from the H BAR or the Guest Market.
- Scrub Stub: This voucher can be redeemed for one washer and dryer cycle.
- VIP Welcome Amenity: Guests can select an amenity of their choice to be waiting for them when they arrive.
I’m kind of intrigued by the “grocery shopping service.” A refrigerator stocked with beer and ice cream is the way I want to be welcomed.
The other new announcements are:
The Morning Spread
The new complimentary Morning Spread offers a build-your-own Omelet Bar, oatmeal, yogurts, fresh fruit and other breakfast goodness. Guests will also find more balanced items, including vegetarian and gluten-free options. As always, breakfast is free for guests and served daily at HYATT house.
Hyatt Has It – Borrows
From curling irons to cell phone chargers to blenders – these commonly forgotten items are now available to borrow from House Hosts. An expanded list of items to borrow will be available June 1, including family-friendly board games, noise machines and laundry baskets.
Good news for those of you who can’t sleep without a noise machine. We’re those people.
I always like seeing Hyatt increase its benefits. I’ve never stayed at a Hyatt House, but if I was a road warrior and had the added VIR bennies, it might sway me to at least try them out.
— Noob MasterRead More